Monday, May 30, 2011

How the Ruling Class manages America's collapse

The inimitable Mark Steyn, in his inimitable style, connects a few dots from the news in order to sketch a telling portrait of America's decline. This time he provides both a macro- and micro-view of the workings, and staggering costs, of our Regulatory State -- designed and managed by Ruling Class grandees and bureaucratic caliphs. Sample:
Plucked at random from the ObamaCare bill:

"The Secretary shall develop oral healthcare components that shall include tooth-level surveillance."

"Tooth-level surveillance"? Has that phrase ever been used before in the entirety of human history? Say what you like about George III but the redcoats never attempted surveillance of Gen. Washington's dentures. Why not just call it "gum control"?

The hyper-regulatory state is unrepublican. It strikes at one of the most basic pillars of free society: equality before the law. When you replace "law" with "regulation," equality before it is one of the first casualties. In such a world, there is no law, only a hierarchy of privilege more suited to a sultan's court than a self-governing republic. If you don't want to be subject to "tooth-level surveillance," you better know who to call in Washington. Teamsters Local 522 did, and the United Federation of Teachers, and the Chicago Plastering Institute. And as a result they've all been "granted" ObamaCare "waivers." Rule, Obama! Obama, waive the rules! If only for his cronies. Americans are being transferred remorselessly from the rule of law to rule by an unaccountable bureaucracy of micro-regulatory preferences, subsidies, entitlements and incentives that determine which of the multiple categories of Unequal-Before-The-Law Second-Class (or Third-Class, or Fourth-Class) Citizenship you happen to fall into.

And yet Americans put up with it. According to the Small Business Administration, the cost to the economy of government regulation is about $1.75 trillion per annum. You and your fellow citizens pay for that – and it's about twice as much as you pay in income tax. Or, to put it another way, the regulatory state sucks up about a quarter-trillion dollars more than the entire GDP of India. As fast as India's growing its economy, we're growing our regulations faster. Oh, well, you shrug, it would be unreasonable to expect the bloated, somnolent hyperpower to match those wiry little fellows back at the call center in Bangalore. Okay. It's also about a quarter-trillion dollars more than the GDP of Canada. Every year we're dumping the equivalent of a G7 economy into ever more ludicrous and wasteful regulation.
As ever, read it all.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Amazon moves into big-time publishing

Robin Sullivan, who is attending BookExpo America (aka "BEA"), reports that the really big buzz so far is that Amazon is moving into publishing, big time.

In contrast to the legacy publishers, Amazon has demonstrated that it knows exactly what it's doing, which is how it has come to dominate, first, online book marketing, then the ereader market, and then the ebook self-publishing market. Now it is diving into print publishing, too -- first with "CreateSpace" for self-publishing authors, and now with a number of genre imprints for select titles.

As I've noted before, Amazon clearly has the goal of achieving complete "vertical integration" in the book business: from attracting authors and their manuscripts, to publishing (Kindle Direct Publishing, CreateSpace, and a host of print imprints), to creating great sales platforms (online and the Kindle).

Amazon has allowed authors to bypass the need to hire agents before getting published; they have allowed authors to avoid getting trapped in the endless "query go 'round" with traditional publishers, hawking their manuscripts for months or years and waiting desperately for acceptance; they have let authors bypass the need to have agents or lawyers parse the fine print of book contracts (by offering a single, simple deal to all); and they've allowed authors to bypass bookstores and still be able to generate big sales.

Amazon also has dramatically accelerated the process of book publishing (from edited manuscript to publication within weeks, instead of a year or more), of paying author royalties (monthly, with just a 60-day lag, instead of semi-annually or even annually), and of generating marketing attention (through online linking, reviewing, and recommendations). In short, they've made the process of book publishing completely painless and author-friendly.

Now, they're taking those same practices into the print business and are planning to seduce bestselling authors away from the legacy presses with better deals. To head up this operation, they've hired the former CEO of Time-Warner Publishing. How good will their contracts be for authors? Well, even Joe Konrath and Blake Crouch, two hugely successful self-publishers, have been offered a contract attractive enough that they've agreed to let Amazon publish a print version of their new collaborative novel, Stirred -- an inaugural title for Thomas & Mercer, Amazon's new mystery and thriller imprint. Amazon also has launched Montlake Romance, its imprint brand for the romance genre, and is about to unveil a sci-fi/fantasy imprint, too. These are added to Amazon's existing imprints: AmazonEncore (the company's flagship general imprint), AmazonCrossing (dedicated to literature in translation), Kindle Direct Publishing (for self-pubbed ebooks), and CreateSpace (for print-book self-publishing).

As a measure of how much Amazon is disrupting the book industry -- from publishers to agents to bookstores -- check out this piece in Publishers Weekly, commenting about the launch of Amazon's Montlake Romance imprint. You don't have to read between the lines to see how worried they are.

UPDATE The NYT reports on BookExpo America, saying, "There is a Wild West quality to the book business these days":
E-books have exploded, surpassing print sales for some new releases. The struggles for many brick-and-mortar bookstores have deepened as their customers began downloading books onto their e-readers from home rather than heading to stores.

Easily eliciting the most chatter was Amazon’s announcement on Sunday that it had hired one of the industry’s best-known veterans, the publisher turned agent Laurence J. Kirshbaum, to head a new imprint for Amazon that will publish general-interest titles. On Wednesday Amazon said it had acquired a book by the thriller writer Barry Eisler, who had announced this year, with much fanfare, that he was abandoning a six-figure contract with his publisher out of dissatisfaction with the traditional book industry.
But offering more probing and prescient observations, this guy calls the BEA shindig "industry dinosaurs on parade":
The New York Times claimed that “e-business is the buzz” at BEA. Not a chance. Read between the lines of the action on the floor, listen to the people in the trenches of publishing and selling books, and you see an industry that still hasn’t begun to comprehend the e-media revolution that is rapidly engulfing it. The industry is a mass of silent film stars telling each other that the talkies are no threat.

I attended BEA on Tuesday and found that, overall, interest in technology is superficial at best. In the eyes of the industry — that is, as one person put it, the old white men in their 60s and 70s who run the big publishers –- e-books and what they represent are a curiosity and maybe potential opportunity. But they aren’t vital to to the industry because its captains think they have all the time in the world to understand and exploit it.

Their focus is still on paper, on cutting deals and cutting costs, on keeping business, as much as possible, as it always has been. And, understandably, you can’t walk easily walk away from the bulk of your business. However, the publishers have fought progress rather than embraced it. Collectively, publishing decided to stick its big toe into the ocean just as a series of 8-foot waves are about to hit the shore. The result will be ugly.
That's how I see it, too.

UPDATE #2 -- Author Michael A. Stackpole explains why traditional publishers are going the way of the Dodo bird, and author & publisher Dean Wesley Smith adds his thoughts in a blog post and some appended comments.

Meanwhile, Publishers Lunch -- a quasi-official daily e-letter covering the industry from the vantage point of legacy publishers -- reports in its 5/26/11 issue the following:
Eisler's Next John Rain Novel to Amazon's Thomas & Mercer

At our Publishers Launch Conference Wednesday afternoon [at BookExpo America], [best-selling thriller author] Barry Eisler announced that, rather than self-publishing, his next John Rain novel THE DETACHMENT will be published by Amazon's new mystery/thriller imprint Thomas & Mercer in both digital and print formats. "What Amazon has offered is everything that was so great to me about self publishing on the one hand, but everything you want from traditional publishing," including marketing and distribution. "I get the best of both worlds," he added.

Amazon is also paying Eisler an advance, one "that was comparable to what St, Martin's was offering in the deal I ultimately decided didn't make sense." They [have] also given him "control over the packaging and consultation over the pricing of the book," with a royalty he called "much more favorable" than a traditional deal. (It's for world rights, and includes audio as well.)

The royalties offered for the print edition are also "comparable" to the St. Martin's deal, and Eisler suggested that "paper has become a subsidiary right" with "independent advertising value"....

When an audience member asked about the nature of Amazon's contract, Eisler (who is trained as an attorney) said "I've never seen a better publishing agreement than what Amazon presented me. It's readable, it's understandable, and it's transparent."
Eisler went on to explain that the ebook deal from Amazon was so sweet that he was willing to take more modest royalties on his print edition, so that the book would do well in bookstores and generate lots of attention for the ebook. This pricing strategy infuriated traditional booksellers at BEA:
In the following panel, however, ABA [American Booksellers Association] COO Len Vlahos took issue strongly with Eisler's contention that booksellers should be happy to sell low-priced print versions of books which Amazon publishes digitally. "Organizationally we could not disagree with Barry Eisler more." Vlahos objected to having "one entity [Amazon] basically use [print] books as a loss leader and devalue books.... I applaud his innovation, but I think it's grossly misguided. If you do the math on what he is talking about, Amazon is going to lose a lot of money on their contract with him, and you have to wonder about that."
To which I say: Ha! Amazon has demonstrated that it's anything but stupid. What really frosts the legacy press is the fact that Amazon is starting to woo away their bestselling authors with far better deals; that it will no doubt cut the cover prices of print books; and that it will still make money -- which they can't.

Major publishing executives confirm their utter incompetence

Executives representing traditional publishing companies, on an industry panel this week at BookExpo America, demonstrate their utter cluelessness about how to address the ebook revolution. Here's a sample, to give you a clear grasp of their self-admitted incompetence:
Though none of the panelists, publishers all, were ready to say they don’t care about consumers—Random House Digital President Amanda Close immediately responded that “we have always cared deeply about our consumers”—they admitted that they’re facing stiff challenges in getting readers to discover new e-books. “Publishers do not know how to market e-books yet,” said Evan Schnittman, Managing Director of Group Sales and Marketing at Bloomsbury. Or, rather, they know how to market the new titles that they’re simultaneously marketing in stores, but the older titles that publishers are converting into e-books present more of a challenge. “Let’s be honest with ourselves, we’ve never marketed backlist before,” Schnittman said.
"Backlist" refers to older titles, the ones that the publishers no longer push. The way the industry has worked to date, they throw out a book for a few weeks, wait for the sales (and unsold returns) from bookstores, then forget about it (and its author) and move on to the next book, hoping for a bestseller. For authors, this means that their books have little chance of being discovered by readers before their publishers abandon efforts to sell them, and they become "backlist titles" -- which one exec admits "we've never marketed."

The ebook revolution has allowed authors to (sometimes) reclaim from publishers the rights to these older titles, then self-publish them. Books that are years old are now discovering new readers as ebooks, and some are selling hugely. But traditional publishers are sitting on vast archives of these works, and haven't a clue what to do with them.

Here's another report about the same panel. Skim it, then try to answer two questions: (1) What the hell are these self-important idiots saying? and (2) What author in his right mind would entrust his work and career to this collection of lame-brains?

Monday, May 23, 2011

How independent bookstores might survive

A couple of posts down, I took note of the spiteful boycott by independent booksellers against "indie" authors Joe Konrath and Blake Crouch, because of their decision to publish a book with Amazon. Many independent bookstores regard Amazon as the Great Satan of the book business, the "enemy" who is putting them out of business.

This is stupid. It isn't Amazon that's putting them out of business; it's their customers. Customers want maximum choices and convenience, minimum prices and wasted time. Right now, Amazon does a much better job of giving them those things than do bookstores, including "indie" bookstores.

So, is there anything that independent bookstores can do to save themselves, in an era when so many of their customers are taking their physical book purchases online to sources such as Amazon, or to ereaders such as the Kindle, Nook, and iPad?

Maybe. But to survive, they'll have to get out of the way of the customer-driven bandwagon, and instead leap on board. If indie bookstores want to survive, then -- in addition to those suggestions offered by Konrath and Crouch at the linked blog post -- here are a few more things I would do if I owned an independent bookstore:

1. Turn your physical location into an advantage, rather than a liability. Change from being just another warehouse for books, into becoming a constant meeting place for authors and their fans.

This expands on a point made by Konrath and Crouch. There is a BIG niche market of fans who want to meet their favorite authors -- including local authors. I know fans (self included) who would drive many miles to spend time with their favorite writers.

So, transform your store into a literary meeting place -- not just in the evenings, but all day -- where authors meet with their fans. It benefits authors by cementing their bond with readers and peddling their wares. It obviously benefits readers. And, if the stores charged a small cover fee ($5?) for the event, as well as sell the author's books (including POD books on consignment), that would keep the lights on and pay the hired help.

Authors can also be invited to hold workshops about writing, self-publishing, etc. The authors could charge a fee, and the bookstore could take a cut.

2. Embrace indie/self-published titles, rather than banishing them. Many readers love novelty in novels (and nonfiction). They can buy Big6 bestsellers everywhere. But where can they get edgy, unusual, provocative, or unsung titles? Not in Barnes & Noble. And who there would know much about them?

So, become known as THE place that stocks and advises readers about indie titles.

3. Embrace ebooks. Hold classes for potential buyers to explain and demonstrate the various differences among various ereader gadgets, and how to use each device most effectively. Run hand-holding sessions for the technologically timid to introduce them to the Brave New World of ebooks and ereaders. Then stock and sell ereaders to your customers. Or rent them, by the day.

4. Partner. If all indie stores in a region worked together, they could coordinate their calendars of events so that they could run "tours" of authors among the various member stores in nearby towns. "Meet Author X at 10 a.m. in Store A." "Meet Author X at 1 p.m. in Store B." "Meet Author X at 7 p.m. in Store C." Advantage for the author: He can sell lots of books and meet lots of fans in a given region during a short period of time. Advantage for stores: a constant flow of interesting authors.

Will ideas like this save indie stores? I don't know. But it's clear their current business model won't work much longer. Either they transform themselves to embrace the current customer-driven changes, or they won't survive. That's the message they need to confront. Throwing temper tantrums against indie authors such as Joe Konrath is just trying to kill the messenger.

UPDATE -- Dean Wesley Smith really knows how to think outside the cliche -- and he has an absolutely fabulous idea. So good, in fact, that I think you'll soon see this one at stores everywhere: books in the form of GIFT CARDS.

UPDATE #2 -- News for chain bookstores on May 25 isn't great.

From Books-a-Million: Sales for Books-A-Million's first quarter dropped 11 percent to $104 million, with store comps falling 13.2 percent from last year (when the company reported a 3.6 percent drop from 2009.) The bookseller lost $3.5 million, compared to $2 million in profits at this time last year. Clyde Anderson, CEO, blamed "the growing effect of e-book penetration" and "the effects of the devastating tornado outbreak" that hit the Midwest and Southeast region in the early part of 2011. Yeah -- blame the weather.

Meanwhile, from Barnes & Noble comes news of an unspecified number of layoffs, including executives, at a New Jersey distribution center.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Time to demonstrate your faith

As I work feverishly toward the completion of my novel, I urge all those who truly believe that the world is going to end on Saturday, May 21, to consider making an irrevocable bequest of all their worldly goods to the Bidinotto Fund for the Advancement of Bidinotto.

After all, you won't be needing that stuff where you're going, right? And won't such a gesture be a grand demonstration of your faith?

UPDATE -- Except for Arnold Schwarzenegger, we all seem to have survived the weekend. Time to celebrate with a song.

Publishing worlds in collision

I've been chronicling the rapid, cataclysmic changes in the publishing industry for some months (scroll down here, and also check out the back entries in my Facebook page). But as the traditional book business disintegrates, many behind-the-scenes battles between the various factions -- traditional ("Legacy") publishers vs. self-publishing ("indie") authors, ebooks vs. print books, authors vs. their publishers and agents, online retailers vs. bookstores, etc. -- are now emerging into public view as open warfare.

The latest skirmish? Self-publishing guru Joe Konrath has accepted a deal with Thomas & Mercer -- a mystery-and-thriller imprint just launched by Amazon -- to issue a print-book edition of his new novel, Stirred. This has some independent bookstores (which regard online retailer Amazon as a threat to their survival) up in arms. Konrath writes about it here:
It's come to my attention that on a Yahoo group for booksellers there has been a call to boycott Amazon's new Thomas & Mercer imprint. I signed with Thomas & Mercer for STIRRED, the eighth Jack Daniels novel, co-written with Blake Crouch (who will chime in on this topic after me).

I've also heard that certain booksellers want to return any books of mine they have in stock as a punitive measure.

So signing a deal with Amazon makes me the enemy of bookstores?

Me, who has signed at over 1200 bookstores? Who has thanked over 1500 booksellers by name in the acknowledgements of my novels? Who has named five major characters in my series after booksellers?

Now I'm the bad guy, for wanting to continue my series and make a living?
Konrath and co-author Crouch offer a lengthy response at the link, advising independent bookstores about some of the steps they must take if they hope to survive in the new digital age. It's worth reading, not only as a heads-up about emerging trends, but as a microcosmic example of what happens whenever an Establishment confronts innovations that threaten their once-comfortable status quo.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Now, self-published audio books has just launched a program to let you narrate your own audiobook, or hire a professional narrator, then publish it yourself for either a flat fee (great!) or a 50/50 royalty split (not so great).

Check it out here.

Also check out some commentary about this program here.

I. Love. It.

UPDATE -- From a news release today from Amazon:
Today, less than four years after introducing Kindle books, customers are now purchasing more Kindle books than all print books - hardcover and paperback - combined. . . .

Recent milestones for Kindle include:

* Since April 1, for every 100 print books has sold, it has sold 105 Kindle books. This includes sales of hardcover and paperback books by Amazon where there is no Kindle edition. Free Kindle books are excluded and if included would make the number even higher.

* So far in 2011, the tremendous growth of Kindle book sales, combined with the continued growth in Amazon's print book sales, have resulted in the fastest year-over-year growth rate for Amazon's U.S. books business, in both units and dollars, in over 10 years. This includes books in all formats, print and digital. Free books are excluded in the calculation of growth rates.

* In the five weeks since its introduction, Kindle with Special Offers for only $114 is already the bestselling member of the Kindle family in the U.S.

* Amazon sold more than 3x as many Kindle books so far in 2011 as it did during the same period in 2010.

* Less than one year after introducing the UK Kindle Store, is now selling more Kindle books than hardcover books, even as hardcover sales continue to grow. Since April 1, customers are purchasing Kindle books over hardcover books at a rate of more than 2 to 1.
For authors like me, who will have his first novel self-published on Kindle (and elsewhere) in June, this is great news. It confirms that the market for ebooks hasn't even begun to be tapped, let alone "saturated." As prices for self-published ebooks continue to undercut the inflated prices of the Big 6 publishers, more and more customers are encouraged to buy more and more books, across more and more platforms.

More warnings and advice for authors

Prolific author and self-publisher Kristine Kathryn Rusch begins a new blog series advising established authors and newbies alike about the rapid changes in the publishing industry, and how to survive and thrive in this evolving world:
Traditional publishing has lost its monopoly. It used to control the distribution of books all over the United States and, indeed, all over the world. With the success of the e-reader and ease of electronic self-publishing, writers regained control over distribution.

Concurrent with that was the rise of a new model for print-on-demand. No longer does a writer have to purchase thousands of books at the cost of thousands of dollars. The writer can upload her novel at almost no cost out of her pocket, and not print a single copy until she has an order. In fact, the POD company, like CreateSpace and LightningSource, will produce the book and ship it for the author, so there is no warehousing, no pile of books rotting in an author’s basement.

In other words, all parts of the distribution chain are now available to the entrepreneurial author. Including, as of last week, audio books, since Audible has now instituted a system in which an author can do her own audio books.

Traditional publishers got blindsided by this. So did agents, who rely on their contacts in traditional publishing to make their living. And both groups are now in survival mode. They’re trying to hang onto their hefty incomes in a new world they don’t entirely understand.

Mostly, they’re doing so by making huge rights grabs from authors.
As ever, read it all.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

How George Soros bought the Mainstream Media

The next time you hear (or voice) accusations about "political bias" in the mainstream media (a.k.a. the "MSM") -- or you wonder why a unified chorus of media voices all arise, simultaneously and "spontaneously," to offer identical opinions (often in the same words) on a given topic -- consider The Source.

I have capitalized those two words, hoping that they become a form of rhetorical currency when describing left-wing billionaire financier George Soros and his role as mainstream media impressario. Soros has taken it upon himself to make sure that the MSM chorus all sing from the same page, in the same key, on any issue of interest to him.

The Media Research Center's Business and Media Institute is about to release a major report describing the astounding reach and influence of Soros's money in the mainstream media. Dan Gainor of the Center has just published a two-part series on that summarizes the report's findings.

In part one, we learn that Soros and his network of advocacy and funding groups have close ties with some 30 major media outlets–including The New York Times, Washington Post, the Associated Press, NBC and ABC. Big names in "mainstream" journalism sit on the boards of Soros's organizations and funding-recipient groups; millions of dollars from his foundations and funding conduits go into MSM "journalism" (read: propaganda) projects; and even so-called journalism "watchdog" groups and newspaper ombudsmen -- who are supposed to police the news media for bias and violations of ethics -- are in his hip pocket. Gainor notes:
Journalists, we are constantly told, are neutral in their reporting. In almost the same breath, many bemoan the influence of money in politics. It is a maxim of both the left and many in the media that conservatives are bought and paid for by business interests. Yet where are the concerns about where their money comes from?

Fred Brown, who recently revised the book “Journalism Ethics: A Casebook of Professional Conduct for News Media,” argues journalists need to be “transparent” about their connections and “be up front about your relationship” with those who fund you.

Unfortunately, that rarely happens. While the nonprofits list who sits on their boards, the news outlets they work for make little or no effort to connect those dots.
Part two of the series reveals that. . .
Since 2003, Soros has spent more than $48 million funding media properties, including the infrastructure of news – journalism schools, investigative journalism and even industry organizations.

And that number is an understatement. It is gleaned from tax forms, news stories and reporting. But Soros funds foundations that fund other foundations in turn, like the Tides Foundation, which then make their own donations. A complete accounting is almost impossible because a media component is part of so many Soros-funded operations. . . .

It turns out that Soros’ influence doesn’t just include connections to top mainstream news organizations such as NBC, ABC, The New York Times and Washington Post. It’s bought him connections to the underpinnings of the news business. The Columbia Journalism Review, which bills itself as “a watchdog and a friend of the press in all its forms,” lists several investigative reporting projects funded by one of Soros foundations.

The “News Frontier Database” includes seven different investigative reporting projects funded by Soros’ Open Society Institute. Along with ProPublica, there are the Center for Public Integrity, the Center for Investigative Reporting and New Orleans’ The Lens. The Columbia School of Journalism, which operates CJR, has received at least $600,000 from Soros, as well.

Imagine if conservative media punching bags David and Charles Koch had this many connections to journalists. Even if the Kochs could find journalists willing to support conservative media (doubtful), they would be skewered by the left.
Read the two-part series, and you'll understand exactly why the mainstream media have become members in good standing of our Ruling Class. Much of it can be traced back to The Source.

UPDATE -- As Gainor pointed out, consider how the media have been treating libertarian billionaires David and Charles Koch, brothers who have contributed heavily to classical liberal/limited government/free market causes and political movements:
The Koch brothers have been on the receiving end of non-stop attacks from liberal journalists and academics ever since Jane Mayer published a hit piece on them last year in The New Yorker purporting to show that their contributions were behind the rise of the “Tea Party” movement. This wildly exaggerated claim was meant to cast the Koch brothers as great villains, but villains possessed of a satanic combination of power and tactical brilliance. In a predictable course, Mayer’s fairy tale was circulated by the columnists and editorial writers of the New York Times and from there through a network of second-level columnists and political magazines until at length it came to the attention of the credulous foot soldiers of the liberal-left who have kept the pot boiling in recent months with ever more inventive and exaggerated versions of the original lie.
The media double standard is obvious: They'll trash the Koch brothers "non-stop," but not breathe a peep against George Soros. After all, you don't bite the hand that feeds you.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The future of libraries in the digital age

Bestselling marketing author Seth Godin has some provocative thoughts about what we need, and where we're headed, in the realm of information storage and searching.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

This is why we call them "the Ruling Class"

In its infamous Kelo ruling, a 5-4 majority of U.S. Supreme Court justices declared that you, Joe Citizen, no longer possess the right (guaranteed in the Constitution) to secure home ownership -- not if local governments simply want to take it from you and give it away to another private party (usually some politically connected corporation or other favored cronies). They thus expunged, de facto, the constitutionally mandated rationale of "public use" from the "takings" clause of the Fifth Amendment: Now, seizure of property could be for somebody else's private use -- as long as local politicians rationalized that such naked theft served some sort of vaguely described "public purpose."

The latest spectacle in judicial evisceration of the U.S. Constitution was provided this week by the Indiana Supreme Court. In a 3-2 ruling, the court decided that if a police officer enters your home illegally, you have no right under the Fourth Amendment to resist:
Overturning a common law dating back to the English Magna Carta of 1215, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Hoosiers have no right to resist unlawful police entry into their homes.

In a 3-2 decision, Justice Steven David writing for the court said if a police officer wants to enter a home for any reason or no reason at all, a homeowner cannot do anything to block the officer's entry.

"We believe ... a right to resist an unlawful police entry into a home is against public policy and is incompatible with modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence," David said. "We also find that allowing resistance unnecessarily escalates the level of violence and therefore the risk of injuries to all parties involved without preventing the arrest."

David said a person arrested following an unlawful entry by police still can be released on bail and has plenty of opportunities to protest the illegal entry through the court system. . . .

This is the second major Indiana Supreme Court ruling this week involving police entry into a home.

On Tuesday, the court said police serving a warrant may enter a home without knocking if officers decide circumstances justify it. Prior to that ruling, police serving a warrant would have to obtain a judge's permission to enter without knocking.
Note the excuse offered by the court: Resisting illegal entry is "against public policy" and "modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence." What is "public policy"? Why, it's whatever politicians now say it is. And what is "modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence"? Why, it's the obliteration of what the Fourth Amendment meant when the Framers wrote it.

Make no mistake: These rulings are part and parcel of the century-long effort by Progressives to annihilate the U.S. Constitution. Since the days of Woodrow Wilson, they have seen the Constitution as an impediment to their power to "do good." Systematically dismantling the Constitution therefore has been a central objective in their social-engineering efforts.

The Framers sought to root the Constitution in "natural law"; as one scholar describes it, "the idea that there are rational objective limits to the power of legislative rulers. The foundations of law are accessible through human reason and it is from these laws of nature that human created laws gain whatever force they have."

By contrast, the "legal positivism" movement, which has its roots in the utilitarian philosophy of Jeremy Bentham, holds as its basic premise "that there is no inherent or necessary connection between the validity of a law on the one hand, and ethics or morality on the other. Therefore, in legal positivism, the law is seen as being conceptually separate (though of course not separated in practice) from moral and ethical values, and it simply sees the law as being posited by lawmakers, who are humans." Another authoritative source declares that "positivism is the view that law is a social construction." While positivists disagree about many things, that premise -- that law is a matter of social convention -- opens the door for the kind of relativism we see underlying the court decisions I mentioned.

The stampede from "natural law" underpinnings of the Constitution to complete relativism accelerated with the "legal realism" movement, popular in the early Twentieth Century and identified with such noted figures as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Roscoe Pound, Justice Benjamin Cardozo, and Justice Louis Brandeis. The Supreme Court justices, in particular, issued rulings from this vantage point that serve as important precedents to this day. As one source notes, "legal realists advance two general claims: 1) Law is indeterminate and judges, accordingly, must and do often draw on extralegal considerations to resolve the disputes before them. 2) The best answer to the question 'What is (the) law?' is 'Whatever judges or other relevant officials do'."

It's not my purpose (nor within my qualifications) to comment further on jurisprudence. My only point here, briefly, is to take passing note of the kind of theories that could have led to anti-constitutional decisions such as those in Indiana and in Kelo. And in doing that, I hope one thing becomes clear:

Such theories are nothing more than formalistic rationalizations to allow the Ruling Class to exercise arbitrary, unlimited power.

The project of the Framers was to limit the power wielded by governmental officials: to constrain it so that it conformed to "natural law," by which individuals existed as ends, with certain "inalienable rights" to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of personal happiness. This entire worldview is anathema to our self-appointed elites, which presume to dictate to the rest of us (i.e, their inferiors) how we ought to live our lives, and toward what ends. That is why Prof. Angelo Codevilla correctly labeled these elites "the Ruling Class" in his indispensable essay.

We can see, naked and exposed, the outlook and objectives of our Ruling Class in these court "rulings." While progressives upend, even destroy, our lives with their grand technocratic schemes, we are commanded to sit still, take it, and not fight back. So, what remedy then remains for the hapless citizen who is manhandled by some governmental invader who bursts into his home, without a warrant, in the dead of night? The Indiana court has given the rogue officer the legal right to do all this, then mock his victim by saying: "So, go ahead and sue me!"

I worry that these corruptions of our constitutional order are pushing the citizenry to the point of open defiance and rebellion. If our rights are no longer guaranteed and upheld by the courts, if we no longer have legal recourse address to these outrages, then what options still remain open to us?

The Ruling Class should be forewarned: Americans are not the kind of people who sit still, take it, and don't fight back.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Timely warnings and advice to indie authors

Today, a number of great posts have appeared on some of the blogs of my favorite "indie" authors and publishers. Let's start with "success stories" and move along to nuts-and-bolts advice.

First, self-pub guru Joe Konrath hosts a guest post by Brit self-pub phenom Stephen Leather. Leather has "sold more than 250,000 eBooks on Kindle alone since Christmas, almost all of them in the UK." That is simply amazing. But he offers a sobering message that many writers won't want to hear, and should. "The vast majority of self-published eBooks are bad. Worse than bad. Awful. There, I’ve said it." The absence of any "gatekeepers" has allowed anyone to upload amateurish rubbish to Kindles and Nooks, the sort of stuff that would get an "F" in any high school English class (at least, any class that still grades on grammar, punctuation, coherence, etc.). Leather's message? Focus less on marketing, and more on learning the craft of writing. Hear, hear!

Next up, prolific indie author Kristine Kathryn Rusch offers a different cautionary post to writers: a five-alarm emergency warning about the scary changes in publishing that have been occurring in recent months. Drawing upon close examples of parallel changes that have occurred in the movie and recording businesses, she pleads with writers to understand how agents and traditional publishers are trying to reduce them to "indentured servant" status -- if they aren't careful. If you're an author or wannabe author, read this post.

Finally, on a more positive note, highly successful indie publisher Robin Sullivan provides sound advice to authors on how to price their ebooks to reap maximum profitability.

Many indie authors would gain the maximum benefit from this post by postponing their reading of the Rusch and Sullivan pieces, but rereading Leather's several times. I agree with him: Writers should focus primarily on becoming better writers.

UPDATE -- Just for the relief of providing some inspiration in the face of all the preceding warnings, here are profiles of (arguably) the four most prominent and successful superstars of the ebook Self-Publishing Revolution: Amanda Hocking, Barry Eisler, J.A. Konrath, and John Locke. You can only read this and say "Wow!"

Spenser's last case? Apparently not.

Robert B. Parker was a seminal figure in mystery writing. He died suddenly from a heart attack in January 2010 -- appropriately, at his desk, writing. With his passing, we lost a visionary who created a world we loved to visit, and characters we began to think of as friends.

He left behind three manuscripts, two final Spenser tales and a Jesse Stone story. But neither of his two detective heroes will die any time soon, if his estate and publishers have their way. In this fine tribute to the author and his creations, Larry Thornberry tells us, with grave misgivings, that a couple of writers have been enlisted to continue feeding the New York publishing cash cow. Read all about it.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Team Obama is trying to create a new housing bubble

Unsatisfied that its egalitarian Narrative has wreaked sufficient havoc already in the housing industry, the Obama administration is once again trying to force banks to loan money to bad credit risks.
At the Justice Dept., a new 20-person unit dedicated to fair lending issues received a record number of discrimination referrals from regulators in 2010 and has dozens of open cases, according to a recent agency report. Potential penalties can reach into the millions of dollars. "We are using every tool in our arsenal to combat lending discrimination," Thomas E. Perez, the assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Div., told a conference of community development advocates in Washington in April.

To some banks the crackdown has come as a surprise, say consultants and lawyers representing financial institutions in discussions with regulators. Like Midwest BankCentre, some lenders are being cited for failing to operate in minority and low-income census tracts near their branches, even when they have never done business there before. . . .

Bank lobbyists say the stepped-up government scrutiny could backfire if financial institutions decide to shrink their operations rather than yield to pressure to do business in areas that don't make sense for them.
Of course, if lenders capitulate to the government intimidation and make more bad loans, in the name of "non-discrimination," that will only inflate a new housing bubble: Unqualified borrowers will once again buy more house than they can afford, and that will set up a new scenario for another housing-market collapse.

When it comes to lending, "anti-discrimination" is just a euphemism for "lack of standards." It means that "loans" are no longer to be granted to qualified applicants, but instead are to be treated as a welfare program: as a government "entitlement" benefit to the unqualified, with taxpayers ultimately underwriting all of the catastrophic losses that will result.

Such facts and logic, supported by the bitter experience of the past few years, should offer obvious lessons to liberals. But how can facts, logic, and experience possibly compete with a Moral Narrative about "equality" that isn't drawn from reality, but from a fantasy that is imposed on reality?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Cancer's cruelty: Christopher Hitchens's lost power of speech

I want to link to this heart-breaking account by Christopher Hitchens of his lost ability to speak. This is such a cruel tragedy. His was the voice of a god; but now his cancer has robbed him, and us, of its majesty.

Yet still the man can write, probably better than anyone else wielding the English language. This poignantly personal essay is glorious proof.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Question for the Week

Why would it be moral to shoot Osama bin Laden in the face and blow his head apart, but immoral to pour a little water on his face and ask him some questions?

The Washington Post discovers the ebook self-publishing revolution

For those of you who have not yet read any of my previous posts on the topic of ebook self-publishing -- or for those writers who are considering the idea of taking the plunge themselves -- the Washington Post printed an excellent feature story this weekend that covers the subject thoroughly and informatively.

The long article also focuses on yet another hugely successful "indie" ebook author, romance novelist Nyree Belleville. I hadn't heard of her before, but her personal rags-to-riches story is compelling. A sample:
A thin, pretty brunette who majored in economics at Stanford, Belleville had been a singer in her 20s, but that career died, and now her writing career was so flat line that one of her old publishers had even given her the rights to her first two novels.

So, out of sorts and feeling blue, she sat down one morning and figured out how to self-publish one of those novels, “Authors in Ecstasy,” on Amazon’s e-reader, the Kindle, just to see what would happen. It was a pain. She had zero graphic-arts skills. She had to create a cover, write her jacket copy, figure out formatting and set a price. She did it and forgot about it.

A few weeks later, she checked her account. She had sold 161 copies. She’d made $281. She was astonished. . . .

She put her other old book online and figured out how to place both on other e-readers — the Nook, the Sony Reader, the iPad, Kobo. The next month, her royalties bumped to $474. Giddy, she self-published a new e-book in July. She made a jaw-dropping $3,539. It was like the best thing ever!

“Every day, as the numbers ticked by, my husband and I were floored,” she says.

She got the rights to two more old novels. She feverishly wrote another e-novel, “Game for Love,” about a bad-boy pro football player and his unexpected marriage. She popped it online Dec. 15.

Earnings for that month? $19,315.

In January and February, she e-published a trilogy of young-adult novels she’d written years earlier. She called the first one “Seattle Girl” and chose a new author name, Lucy Kevin, to distinguish it from the sexually explicit Andre books.

Here’s what her first quarter looked like: 56,008 books sold; income, $116,264.

Perched on the edge of a couch in her tiny writing office, which doubles as a playroom for her kids, Belleville says: “Isn’t this just awesome?!”
Oh yes.

I'm aiming to join the Self-Pub Revolution in early June, with HUNTER: A Thriller -- and then publish some nonfiction books later this year, as well as continue with a succession of follow-up novels. I must confess, I've never been so excited in my entire lengthy writing career.

UPDATE -- Here's another inspiring post by Robin Sullivan about the self-pub phenomenon, and why it's a boon even to traditionally published authors. Robin's blog is must reading for all writers.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

What works in promoting ebooks . . . or pretty much anything else

Joe Konrath, whom I've dubbed "the Pied Piper of Self-Publishing," has just posted a valuable, wonderfully written blog on how indie authors can successfully promote and market their work.

His principles can be transferred to many, many other kinds of promotion, salesmanship, and marketing. And his advice will surprise many.

But if they think about it for a while, maybe it won't.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Bin Laden's death enrages the West's Fifth Column

I've long thought that Osama bin Laden's success as a terrorist has been fueled by raging anti-Americanism -- not by any particular sympathy for his virulent Islamism. It's the same hatred that, for decades, has elevated a range of anti-American leftists internationally into folk heroes. Think Castro. Che. Allende. Chavez. And so many more.

Spit at the U.S., and you are beloved -- especially among an influential Fifth Column in the West. That's what the current controversy about "how" we killed bin Laden is really all about.

Take Michael Moore (please!). Here's a fat, rich Hollywood leftist creep who sings the praises of Canadian socialized medicine, and of Castro's Gulag socialized "medicine," solely to denounce our own. He makes the typical Hollywood pilgrimages to pay homage to anti-U.S. despot Hugo Chavez; he denounces our efforts to rid Afghanistan of terrorists; and now that we kill the world's most prominent terrorist, bin Laden, he denounces us for that, too.

Same with the Archbishop of Canterbury, who said that shooting mass murderer bin Laden lacked "justice," because he was -- at that moment -- possibly "unarmed." So, what would he prefer? That a SEAL challenge Osama to a duel, at twenty paces?

And then one Bob Ellis, a contemptible Aussie writer, who uses the death of bin Laden as an excuse to pour venom, not on the terrorist, but on America. "How shabby the Americans are," he declares. "How secretive and stupid. . . . What, we may ask, is [Barack Obama] now to say of a murder committed by uninvited American troops on foreign soil, illegally?"

These three creatures -- an alleged "American," a Brit, and an Aussie -- are representative of the large and loud Fifth Column operating in the West. All of them are members of the pampered Western cultural elite, gorged on the riches of capitalism; all of them hate the very system of liberty and free markets that brought them the good life and indulges their treason.

If you wonder at the spread of terrorism against the West, especially against America, then consider the fact that such traitors manufacture and validate all the excuses used by terrorists for their attacks against innocents. The bin Ladens of the world don't need to hire speechwriters when they get their best lines from the cultural leaders in our midst.

UPDATE -- I've just read a brilliant, principled response to the "chattering classes" and their hostility toward the U.S. takedown of bin Laden by Brendan O'Neill, editor of spiked. Many times the term "must reading" is applied to this article or that; but O'Neill's piece truly is "must reading," in its entirety. (If you are familiar with Angelo M. Codevilla's seminal essay, "The Ruling Class" -- another "must read" -- you'll see how O'Neill's article dovetails with it.) Some nuggets:
How did ‘I hate bin Laden and I’m glad he’s dead’ become the most shocking thing one can say in polite society?. . . .

Those who dare to celebrate his death – mainly young American jocks – have been denounced as ‘abhorrent’ and ‘sickening’, and now the main way you advertise your decency, your membership of the civilised, upstanding, oh-so-unAmerican classes, is by wondering out loud if poor old OBL shouldn’t have been arrested and put on trial rather than having a bullet planted in his head.

This pity-for-Osama lobby, this bishop-led congregation of ‘uncomfortable’ moral handwringers, might pose as radical, denouncing America’s military action in bin Laden’s compound as ‘Wild West-style vengeance’. Yet in truth it is fuelled by self-loathing more than justice-loving. These critics are not opposed to Western intervention in principle – indeed, most of them have demanded ‘humanitarian’, political or legalistic intervention in other states’ affairs at one point or another. No, it is a discomfort with decisive action, a fear of what such action might lead to in the future, and a belief that people in the West should douse their emotional zeal and learn to be more meek. . . .

Behind the high-falutin’ expressions of passion for justice over shoot-to-kill, much of the pity-for-Osama lobby is really concerned with expressing its moral superiority over apparently vengeful Americans. Where ‘them’ Yanks still have an attachment to nationalism and war, ‘we’ Europeans are post-nationalist, cosmopolitan, empathetic rather than vengeful, and are far more comfortable with having a man in a wig rather than a man with a gun sort out our moral and political problems. . . . Of course, such anti-Americanism is not confined to Europe. As we have seen in the 10 years since 9/11 it is rife within America itself, where the better-educated classes have long had an ‘uncomfortable feeling’ in relation to the antics and emotions of the American masses. . . .

It is extraordinary, and revealing, how quickly the expression of concern about the use of American force in Pakistan became an expression of values superiority over the American people. The modern chattering classes are so utterly removed from the mass of the population, so profoundly disconnected from ‘ordinary people’ and their ‘ordinary thoughts’, that they effectively see happy Americans as a more alien and unusual thing than Osama bin Laden. Where OBL wins their empathy, American jocks receive only their bile.
That's just a teaser. There's more, and it's terrific. Read it all.

My only point of departure with O'Neill is that he emphasizes simple cowardice -- the fear of provoking Muslim reprisals -- as the Ruling Class's primary motive in condemning the U.S. military action. In part, yes; but this doesn't ring entirely true to me as all, or even the dominant portion, of their motivation. I think he underestimates the stand-alone motivational power of what he described in the preceding excerpts: the Ruling Class's obsession to see itself as -- well -- the Ruling Class.

These are creatures desperate to envision themselves as a class superior in morality, sophistication, intellect, education, and taste to the lower-class rubes -- such as those who were celebrating Osama's demise in the streets. You get the same sort of response from this crowd whenever the name "Sarah Palin" is mentioned. I don't think they fear Palin so much as they celebrate a sense of self-congratulatory superiority whenever they can condescend to her. ("Oh, she said 'Gee whiz!' again, Jennifer. Can one even imagine such a hick in the White House? Hee, hee, hee. . .")

Of course, the passion to inflate their own self-images does mesh conveniently with the cowardice that O'Neill emphasizes. And we certainly do see plenty of cowardice on the part of the Ruling Class. But I think they are two separate motives, mutually reinforcing.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Indie publishing news: ebook mobile apps; why authors do not need agents

I've been following what has been called "the self-publishing revolution" for months, as my own first novel, HUNTER: A Thriller, nears publication. As many of you know, I am convinced for many reasons that self-publishing—especially via ebooks—is the best deal for most authors and also the wave of the future.

The latest exciting news on this front is that Smashwords, a major ebook distribution platform, has partnered with a company called ScrollMotion to develop individual mobile applications for Smashwords' Premium Catalog of over 34,000 original ebooks. ScrollMotion will create apps for these books for Apple iOS, Android, Windows Phone 7, and WebOS, among others.

This will allow the many thousands of "indie" authors now doing distribution through Smashwords (and I'll be one) to significantly expand the availability of their ebooks to a vast new range of mobile devices. Ebooks now will be readily accessible beyond the usual ereader devices (Kindle, Nook, iPad, Sony Reader, Kobo, etc.); and that will mean many more future sales for authors, and many more new customers for ebooks.

In other words, I couldn't be publishing HUNTER and future ebooks at a more exciting time.

The second bit of news in the rapidly changing publishing industry concerns the role of book agents. After 25 years of disgust at what is going on in publishing, outspoken indie author Kristine Kathryn Rusch has just published a brutal blog about the the industry -- and about book agents. "I hadn’t realized until a few months ago that the adversarial relationship that sometimes existed between writer and publisher had moved into the agent/author relationship."

This long blog is an eye-opening look behind the closed doors of the Legacy Publishing Industry, by an experienced pro who has studied some 10,000 book contracts and worked at every level in the business. If you are an author, or even a wannabe author, and if you are considering the traditional approach of hiring an agent to negotiate with a publisher, you must read what Ms. Rusch has to say.

Put it this way: These days, neither the publisher nor the so-called "author's agent" is really representing the best interests of the author. More and more, their contract terms are taking writers to the cleaners, in ways that eager, naive authors can't begin to fathom, until it's too late.

Why has this been happening? "The business is changing as we have discussed in these posts for some time now," Rusch explains. "And as the business changes, publishers and agents are running scared. They’re not sure where they will fit in. So they’re trying to reserve as big a piece of the content pie as they possibly can for themselves—at the expense of the content creators. The writers."

Read the entire blog. If you've got an ounce of common sense, you'll want to run like hell from any traditional big-name publisher and any book agent.

But what, then, is your alternative to getting into print? Consider joining the Self-Publishing Revolution, where thousands of writers are beginning to take full control of their own work—and reap the full rewards, too, without any useless or double-crossing intermediaries bleeding them dry. If you need information about this brave new world, start by checking out the blogs by Rusch, her prolific writing partner Dean Wesley Smith, wildly successful self-pub author Joe Konrath, and indie-publishing guru Robin Sullivan.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

How deeply has "Atlas Shrugged" penetrated our culture?

A measure of the success of the "Atlas Shrugged" film is how much it is changing the national conversation.

As I've noted here earlier, the left is so worried about this trend that they launched pre-emptive warfare against the movie, and have continued their assault to a degree that I believe is unprecedented in film criticism. The barrage has been so over-the-top, so unrelenting, that anyone not familiar with Ayn Rand and her novel would rightly wonder, What in hell is going on? If the film, its ideas, the book that inspired it, and the author who wrote the novel, were truly as laughable and insignificant as the Culturati almost unanimously contend, why not just dismiss it and move on?

For instance, the major online leftist rallying point, "Huffington Post," simply cannot shut up about the movie, or Rand, or her books, and especially her ideas. The sneering commentary, mockery, insults, satires, and denunciations pouring forth from that site are relentless. How relentless? I decided to do a Web search on the terms "Atlas Shrugged Huffington Post." See for yourself. The list of linked commentaries and articles goes on and on, page after page.

For a film so supposedly ludicrous, an author so allegedly contemptible, a novel so purportedly laughable, and a philosophy so self-evidently ridiculous, Ms. Huffington's collective seems to be granting it all an amazing level of attention. Methinks the lady (and her minions) doth protest too much.

Tucked between all the punchlines, though, we find commentaries that reveal more clearly what is really going on here. The grandees of the Ruling Class are, frankly, scared. They're scared that Rand's ideas and overarching Narrative -- which constitute the antithesis of everything they represent and hold dear -- are catching on with millions of people. They know that, if this continues, it will pose a grave threat to their entire self-aggrandizing racket. That is why they tried so hard to kill the movie with ridicule, long before it was even released.

And that is also why they, and their intellectual apologists, are trying to drive philosophic wedges between Ayn Rand and her many fans. For instance, we find this supposedly "moderate" college professor instructing conservatives about why they should reject Rand:
But given today's uncertain economic climate and our highly polarized political culture, objectivism is no longer a fringe intellectual force in the Republican party. One can see its influence in the mainstream media and see it on the screens of American cinemas. It's also popular among members of Congress, namely Paul Ryan and Rand Paul.

The objectivist perversion of classical liberalism, and their slavish worship of Rand, is at odds with the American conservative tradition and it threatens its political center, and unless moderates rise up to counter this intellectual poison, intelligent conservative thought will continue to decline and GOP party leadership will continue its drift toward the far right.
Of course, closet liberals, such as this professor, would love nothing better than for the Republican Party to continue on its philosophically anemic, "moderate" march to intellectual bankruptcy and political oblivion, by repudiating the free-market/limited-government agenda championed by Rand. They would love nothing better than for the GOP to continue to select standard-bearers like McCain/Bush/Dole/Snowe/Specter/Collins/Graham/etc. -- "moderates [who will] rise up to counter this intellectual poison." That would truncate boundaries of the political spectrum to conform to their own comfort zone, admitting only those who accept some variant of statist corporatism or welfare-state socialism. And that, in turn, would guarantee the enduring domination of our culture by the bipartisan Ruling Class.

What scares statists is that even influential religious conservatives -- such as Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Cal Thomas -- as well as a number of pragmatic neocons, like Fred Barnes -- have endorsed the "Atlas Shrugged" movie to their legions of fans and followers. Ayn Rand's name and slogans from her books frequently appear on signs and in speeches at Tea Party rallies. As the professor notes, Members of Congress and the judiciary (e.g., Justice Clarence Thomas and Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit) also count themselves as fans of Rand's works.

All this is worrisome to leftists, of course. But it also worries "compassionate conservative" statists, such as Michael Gerson, a former George W. Bush speechwriter, who felt compelled to attack the film, its ideas, and their author. "Reaction to Rand," he says accurately, "draws a line in political theory":
Many libertarians trace their inspiration to Rand’s novels, while sometimes distancing themselves from Objectivism. But both libertarians and Objectivists are moved by the mania of a single idea — a freedom indistinguishable from selfishness. This unbalanced emphasis on one element of political theory — at the expense of other public goals such as justice and equal opportunity — is the evidence of a rigid ideology. . . . Conservatives have been generally suspicious of all ideologies, preferring long practice and moral tradition to utopian schemes of left or right. And Rand is nothing if not utopian. In “Atlas Shrugged,” she refers to her libertarian valley of the blessed as Atlantis. It is an attractive place, which does not exist, and those who seek it drown.
But the Randian challenge goes well beyond politics. The film has also forced conservatives, especially religious ones, to wrestle with disquieting, even alarming, philosophical ideas. The Christian conservative Acton Institute, for example, responds with awkward ambivalence to the movie and to Rand's intellectual legacy. Another conservative Christian writer, Colleen Carroll Campbell -- like Michael Gerson, a former presidential speechwriter -- worries deeply about the growing influence of Rand on the right; in fact, she regards it as a "Battle for the Republican Soul":
Rand's resurgent popularity and the rising influence of radical libertarianism in the GOP do not bode well for a Republican party hoping to revive Reagan's big tent. Nor is respect for "the virtue of selfishness," as Rand called it, an adequate principle by which to govern a nation.

Tea Party activists who embrace Rand as the second coming of America's founding fathers forget that as realistic as our founders were about the dangers of intrusive government and the self-interest that motivates citizens, they also were convinced that a free society requires a vibrant moral and religious culture to sustain it. . . . Despite the fiscal focus that characterizes Tea Party gatherings, the movement includes many social conservatives who oppose abortion, embryonic research, euthanasia and the redefinition of marriage as a unisex institution. . . . Their belief in original sin makes them suspicious of the idea that our human condition can be perfected through the right government program or political ideology. . . . It's a sign of our narcissistic times that conservatives who see freedom and goodness as inextricably linked often are treated like skunks at the Grand Old Party, and in American public life in general. And it's all the more reason that Republicans eyeing the White House should spurn Rand's shrill exaltation of selfishness and turn to conservatism's deeper, more life-affirming roots to make their case for change.
Despite such misgivings, Rand's books are getting traction even deep within Christian circles. Let me close with the most amusing (to me) example to date: a feature article in the National Catholic Register, no less, titled -- believe it or not -- "What if the Church Went Galt?" It opens thus:
In the famous novel Atlas Shrugged, the capitalists, maligned and put upon by the overreaching hand of government, all suddenly disappear so that the world would discover how much they really needed the capitalists. They called it “Going Galt” after the man named John Galt who initially vanished.

Today, few groups are more maligned and put upon than Catholics both here in America and around the world. We’ve all heard it suggested that the world would be better off without the Catholic Church.

So this is my response. Not that it could ever happen but what if the Catholic Church went “Galt.” What would happen to the world if the Catholic Church just stopped. Everything.
When a writer in an official Catholic publication feels inspired to draw his metaphors and lessons from Ayn Rand's masterwork, you know that her influence is profound and growing.

And that is why the Ruling Class establishment cannot bring itself to ignore her any longer. The sheer volume and intensity of their intemperate mockery gives the lie to their claims that her ideas aren't worth bothering about. They are bothered, all right -- as they should be -- about a looming philosophic menace to their shaky hold on our culture.

Reports of the death of books are greatly exaggerated

Book publishing and sales are not in decline. However, the forms of their delivery are changing radically, as I have pointed out here repeatedly.

Editor and publisher Peter Osnos, writing in The Atlantic:
Robert Darnton, the Harvard librarian and our preeminent writer about books from the perspective of history, has a fascinating piece in the current issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education that, among other observations, demolishes the notion that books overall are in inexorable decline. Darnton quotes 2009 numbers provided by Bowker, the data agency for publishing, which records 288,355 new and reissued titles and speculates that the numbers for 2010 and 2011 will show continuing increases; a further 764,448 titles in 2009 fell into a "nontraditional" category of self-published, micro-niche, and print-on-demand books, according to Bowker. "However it is measured," Darnton wrote, "the population of books is increasing, not decreasing and certainly not dying". . . .

In fact, a recent Wall Street Journal survey on self-publishing concluded that e-book titles priced as low as 99 cents are making an increasing impact on the market. Jeffrey Trachtenberg, the newspaper's respected publishing reporter, wrote: "As digital sales surge, publishers are casting a worried eye towards the previously scorned self-published market. Unlike five years ago, when self-published writers rarely saw their works on the same shelf as the industry's biggest names, the low cost of digital publishing coupled with Twitter and other social-networking tools, has enabled previously unknown writers to make a splash". . . .

For those of us in all aspects of publishing, these are heady times--which is a mix of dizzying, exciting, and to be candid, somewhat intimidating, given the pace of transformation and the unknowable consequences of so dramatic a period of upheaval. One outcome is certain--there will be books and they will be read, one way or another.
Read it all.

Leading environmentalist admits that movement is "lost"

George Monbiot, a leading environmentalist writer, now acknowledges that the environmentalist movement's policy prescriptions are intellectually incoherent and utterly contradictory. Yet he still clings bitterly to the false Malthusian economic Narrative that underpins environmentalist theory.

Walter Russell Mead comments:
This is an awesome admission of categorical intellectual, political and moral failure. For two decades greens have arrogated to themselves the authority of science and wrapped themselves in the arrogant certainty of self-righteous contempt for those who oppose them. They have equated skepticism about their incoherent and contradictory policy proposals with hatred of science and attacked their critics as the soulless hired shills of the oil companies, happy to ruin humanity for the sake of some corporate largesse.

Monbiot has worked his way through to a cogent description of the dead end the global green movement has reached, but he has not yet diagnosed the cause. In particular, he remains a staunch Malthusian. . . . Economic growth is a cancer, in this view. Its bad effects are permanent and cumulative, its blessings are evanescent and ultimately trivial.

Malthusianism is a religious conviction that desperately needs to think of itself as a science. From Thomas Malthus and his mathematical certainties to Paul Ehrlich with his famine timetables and the Club of Rome with its ‘scientific’ predictions of resource exhaustion, Malthusians have made confident predictions about the future and claimed scientific authority for statements that turned out to be contemptibly silly. That is the brutal fate that often awaits people who can’t keep the boundaries between science and religion straight.

It is happening on a massive and humiliating scale to the world’s greens today.

Sunday, May 01, 2011


Blown up Shot down by our special operations guys in a town outside of Islamabad, Pakistan.

Fantastic news. Justice is done.

UPDATE: In the midst of my private celebration and salutes to all involved in the killing of this monster, one bit of sober reflection -- and that has to do with President Obama's statements telling the world that bin Laden's corpse will be treated with "all respect" in accordance with "Muslim practice."

First, I can't fault the theory behind the alleged burial at sea: Don't leave around a burial site for this bastard, so that it becomes an Islamist martyr shrine.

On the other hand, this business of treating his corpse with all "respect" in accordance "with Muslim tradition" is completely hypocritical.

Didn't President Obama himself say that Obama was not a true Muslim? Hasn't his argument all along been that bin Laden was a phony Muslim who had "hijacked Islam" -- and that no "true Muslim" would so warp the "religion of peace" by committing mass murders?


If he is not a Muslim -- if Islam is truly a "religion of peace" -- then you don't have to "respect" the carcass of this animal. You could show by your indifferent treatment of it (perhaps a public display to prove that he's really dead) that you do not take bin Laden to be a true Muslim, nor should the world.

But by these "respectful" acts, you do in fact treat him as a true Muslim -- which in effect elevates a mass-murderer as a representative and member in good standing of the Muslim faith. If so, then what becomes of its own standing as "the religion of peace"?

So, Mr President, which is it? Should the Muslim world believe your statements, or your actions, concerning bin Laden's status as a Muslim -- and therefore of Islam's status as a "religion of peace"?