By Katie Kieffer
American comedians are making a pile of cash with clean humor centered on guns, God and family.
As scandals from Benghazigate to the IRS-targeting of conservative groups shake our country, I think it’s important for us to periodically re-focus on the beauty of America; the beauty of humanity and the beauty of life. I know. It sounds so cliché; so Hallmark card-ish. But it’s true.
It is easy to become cynical and to think that everyone in the world has an agenda. It is easy to get down when we hear stories about our leaders lying and cheating. But not everyone in America is like President Obama. Not everyone in America is like Eric Holder. Not everyone in America is like Janet Napolitano. Most people have good hearts.
When you look at the sort of comedy that is succeeding in America today and the new reality-TV stars that are rising to fame, you should have hope in humanity. I will give you two examples: comedian Jim Gaffigan and A&E’s reality-TV show Duck Dynasty.
Jim Gaffigan, “The King of Clean Comedy”
The Wall Street Journal hails Gaffigan the “King of Clean Comedy.” He is funny, and he does it the hard way—without relying on heavy swearing or raunchiness. Here’s the best part: College students love him. Metropolitan night clubs love him. Midwesterners love him. Everyone loves his bit about Hot Pockets.
He starts out: “I’ve never eaten a Hot Pocket and then afterwards been like, I’m glad I ate that! It was like, I’m gonna die! …I paid for that??” Gaffigan’s Hot Pockets bit has been viewed almost 2 million times on the Internet; when he performs live, audiences don’t want him to leave the stage without doing it.
Gaffigan is not Brad Pitt. He probably does not have time to hit the gym as often as he should. He enjoys eating. So, he uses self-depreciating humor and food in his shows. The Journal described his recent live show in Montclair, N.J., ‘He apologizes for being sort of fat, but explains: “I’m preparing for a role. A cinnamon roll.”’
Gaffigan is laughing all the way to the bank. He wrote a book (out this month). He was nominated for a Grammy on his last album, “Mr. Universe.” And he launched a 16-city tour this year. Last year, Pollstar rated him among America’s top 10 touring comedians. Yes, he’s kind of a big deal.
Gaffigan is married and has five young children who travel with him on his tour bus. He apparently has a lot on his plate—both metaphorically and literally—but he turns his hectic family life into comedic material. (His book is titled “Dad is Fat.”)
Gaffigan tells the Journal: “…I felt like I wasn’t done writing the joke if I was relying on a curse word. It’s like, we’re all adults here, and some of my favorite comedians are really filthy. But I’m an eccentric observation guy. If you’re talking about minimuffins, is it really necessary to say f—?”
The Robertson Family: A&E’s Duck Dynasty
Willie Robertson is the CEO of Duck Commander, a duck call business founded by his father Phil Robertson. Willie and his three brothers, Alan, Jase and Jep as well as Phil’s brother Si all work for Duck Commander. They also own Buck Commander, a deer-hunting business. The Robertsons are born-again-Christians who drew the attention of A&E and now they have their own family-centered reality show (starring them plus their wives and children) called Duck Dynasty.
In its third season, which wrapped up in April, Duck Dynasty became the second most popular program on cable.
Willie was on Fox’s The O’Reilly Factor on April 13. Host Bill O’Reilly asked him why the show is doing so well. Roberton responded: “I really think it’s the family values, it’s something positive, kids can sit and watch, grandparents [can watch], there’s not a lot of filth on it, and it’s funny you know, it’s hard to be funny!”
O’Reilly said of their newfound success: “You are rich, but you don’t act rich and I think that might be the secret to your success.” Willie said: “We’re not all about money, we’re about family. … We try to stick to our roots. We grew up not rich at all; very poor. And so for us we can remember what it was like and so we try to stay humble, and Lord willing you know we’re doing it and we’ve been successful; God has blessed us.”
O’Reilly added: “And you do incorporate God in the show?” Willie said: “Oh yeah, we have a family prayer right at the end [of every show].”
I think the Robertsons are a testimony to the fact that growing up around hunting and guns does not turn children into mass-murderers. A loving family—not the absence of guns in the home—is the key to helping children grow up with values.
TIME Magazine recently interviewed Phil Robertson: ‘He believes that any attempt to limit weapons limits basic freedoms and that “it’s the hearts of human beings that are the problem [not guns].”’
So have faith. America is still a place where, as my cousin always tells me: “good things happen to good people.” Guns. Family. God. Amen.
By Katie Kieffer
President Obama and Sandra Fluke both call themselves lawyers and “reproductive rights activists” without giving you any indication that they understand the Constitution or basic biology.
I’m not a lawyer, but I understand the Constitution. I’m not a reproductive rights activist, but I aced Biology 101. So I can tell you that Sandra and Barack are wrong when they classify women in combat and contraception as “women’s issues.”
Military combat and contraception coverage are not women’s issues. They are freedom issues and freedom is just as important to men as it is to women.
Liberals love dismissing “freedom issues” as “women’s issues” because then it’s like WNBA games—guys check out.
Women don’t go to war by themselves; women fight alongside men. So the question of whether the government can draft men or women is a “freedom issue,” not a “chromosomal issue.”
When a guy turns 18, he must sign up with the Selective Service. The only purpose of the Selective Service is to prepare for a potential draft.
Currently, women are not required to sign up for the Selective Service, but Congress will likely change that now that the Pentagon lifted its ban on women in combat.
Drafts and the Selective Service violate your First Amendment rights of free speech and freedom of association. They also violate the Thirteenth Amendment, by making young people serfs of the government.
Philosopher Ayn Rand writes in the June 1966 edition of The Objectivist newsletter: “Statism needs war; a free country does not. Statism survives by looting; a free country survives by production. … Just as an individual has the right of self-defense, so has a free country if attacked. But this does not give its government the right to draft men into military service—which is the most blatantly statist violation of a man’s right to his own life. …a volunteer army is the most efficient army, as many military authorities have testified. A free country has never lacked volunteers when attacked by a foreign aggressor.”
Anyone who volunteers for a combat role and meets the qualifications should be able to fight. But we should not violate the freedom of young men or women by forcing them to sign up for the Selective Service. That’s point number one.
Point number two is that forcing employers to cover contraception is also a freedom issue, not a women’s issue. Women don’t impregnate themselves. Plus, Obamacare’s contraception mandate violates both male and female free speech.
Ironically, Obamacare is sexist because it teaches guys to be playboys. Now, if a guy pressures a girl to have sex and she gets pregnant, he’s off the hook because he can say: “Not my problem, you should have been using Obama’s free birth control.”
I think liberals like Fluke are hurting women by pushing a one-sided message of sex that gives young women a false sense of security about jumping into bed with guys who have incurable diseases.
One in four teenage girls has an STD. With so much focus on preventing pregnancy, teenage girls seem to forget about STDs. Birth control doesn’t prevent STDs. Even condoms and HPV vaccines are not 100 percent effective against STDs.
An unwanted pregnancy can end in adoption. But an STD can ruin a woman’s life forever.
Liberals will just say we need more government sex education. But, many types of STDs have increased even as the government has ramped up its prevention efforts. The federal government and politicians like Anthony Weiner have no business in sex education. That’s a role for parents and churches.
My overall point is that, as a conservative, you need to change the dialogue and stop letting the left classify “freedom issues” as “women’s issues.” Because when you allow liberals to define the terms, they win.
The way to promote women is not to compel women to sign up for the Selective Service or force employers to cover birth control. The way to promote women is to defend the Constitution and the freedom that men and women both enjoy.
Additional works referenced for this column: Judge Andrew Napolitano’s book “Theodore and Woodrow,” pages 48, 115-116, 121-122 and “Ron Paul on the Draft” – RonPaul.com – 02.12.2009.
By Katie Kieffer
Gays can be leaders. Women can be leaders. Without realizing it, I think gays and women inadvertently work against their own objective of equality when they force private organizations to support gay and female leaders.
As I wrote here, gays and women are already equal before the Constitution, which defines us by our humanity, not by our sexuality, and is silent on most personal matters like marriage. Furthermore, the more the federal government defines our rights, the less free, equal and human we all become.
Here is what generally happens when minority groups confuse social acceptance with equality and push their views on private organizations:
Step one: A group of individuals hold beliefs that a minority group disagrees with. These individuals happen to have an organization—social, religious, political or professional—where they formally express their beliefs.
Example: Some nuns are unhappy that the Catholic Church exclusively ordains male priests.
Step two: Minority groups launch a soft campaign of public assaults against this organization in an attempt to change its mission. If the organization holds its ground, the campaign often advances into slanderous accusations and lawsuits.
Example: Some gays are unhappy with the Boy Scouts of America’s ban on gay membership and leadership. So, they lobbied for the organization to change its views. But even when national Scouts officials predict that the organization will change its policy and allow local chapters to decide whether or not to include gays, some gay activist groups are still unhappy.
Step three: Politicians and the media become involved in a private matter of free speech and expression. Suddenly, something that should be a non-issue becomes a public issue.
Example: LGBT rights activists are unhappy that the CEO of the private quick-service chicken restaurant Chick-fil-A openly supports traditional marriage through his public statements and his company’s charitable foundation. Various politicians such as Rahm Emanuel make public statements condemning Chick-fil-A.
Step four: Neither group is equal. One group becomes an aggressor, using force to extort its victim into adopting its beliefs.
Leadership is not sexual
Apple CEO Tim Cook. PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel. Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres. These are three openly gay individuals who are leaders in their professional fields. They are good at what they do and it has very little to do with their sexuality.
DeGeneres did not need a special membership card to be accepted by the heterosexual housewives who have comprised her core television audience for nine years. Hollywood initially rejected her. She told Parade that it took a great deal of hard work to convince producers she was “a funny woman who happens to be gay.”
Likewise Thiel and Cook did not achieve success in business because their peers made a point of officially accepting them for being gay. Rather, they both worked hard and the people around them rewarded them with trust and responsibility.
To lead or help others, you must first be confident in your own self-worth. Thiel, Cook and DeGeneres do not derive their self-worth from forcing other people to adopt their views. They simply focus on doing what they do well and this self-confidence translates into the ability to lead.
Equality requires freedom for all
If gays and women want to freely exercise their beliefs, they must respect the right of others to do the same. If you use force such as legislation or defamation to restrict another’s free speech, then you are heading down a dangerous path. You are essentially saying that morality is relative and might makes right.
There is nothing wrong with a private organization setting its own rules, whether it is the Catholic Church excluding priestesses, or the Boy Scouts of America excluding gays. Neither the Boy Scouts of America nor the Catholic Church use force against gays and nuns. So, gays and nuns are not victims unless they make themselves victims.
Gays who want to lead young boys may start their own clubs; they are free to exclude heterosexuals. Likewise, women who want be priests may establish their own church where they are priestesses; they are free to exclude males.
Take it from South Park
The “Cripple Fight” episode of South Park explains why the force of law is not the proper way to convince other people to accept your moral beliefs:
Colorado Supreme Court Justice: “In the case of big Gay Al vs. Mountain Scouts of America, it is the ruling of this court that the Scouts must allow Big Gay Al and all gays into their club.”
Big Gay Al: “Thank you all very much. But I don’t want this.”
Crowd: “What? What’d he say? Huh?”
Big Gay Al: “Look, …this isn’t what I wanted. I’m proud to be gay. And I’m proud to be in a country where I’m free to express myself. But freedom is a two-way street. If I’m free to express myself, then the Scouts have to be free to express themselves too. I know these men. They are good men. They are kind men. They do what they think is best for kids. No matter how wrong we think they might be, it isn’t right for us to force them to think our way. It’s up to us to persuade and help them see the light, not extort them too. Please, don’t cut the Scouts’ funding. The Scouts help, and have always helped, a lot of kids. That’s why I love them! I will continue to persuade them to change their mind. But this is the wrong way to do it. So, I am hereby dropping my case and allowing the Scouts their right to not allow gays into their private club.”
I think that gays and women should strive for equality—not social acceptance—by using their freedom to form their own private organizations and live as they see fit without violating the rights of others to do the same. As Big Gay Al points out, the goal is equality and it is impossible for an aggressor to be equal to its victim.
By Katie Kieffer
The way to end abortion is to show women that abortion strips them of freedom. Abortion does not preserve choice; abortion pollutes choice.
Not All Free Choices Are Beneficial
Killing in the name of freedom does not preserve one’s own freedom. Women nearly always have the freedom to kill; they do not always have the right to kill.
Pro-choice activists tell women that in order to preserve their freedom, they must defend their right to kill their children. But the question is not whether an act is committed freely, but whether it is an objectively good act. If you freely choose to do something that harms your own life or the life of another, you are perverting your freedom.
For example, we do not applaud a lonely woman for freely choosing to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge and end her life. We applaud the woman who makes the harder choice to preserve her life by facing, treating and overcoming her isolation head-on. Nor do we applaud a destitute man for freely choosing to break into a wealthy family’s home. We applaud the man who burns the midnight oil until he can support himself.
Inconsistent Protection of Choice
We have a U.S. Supreme Court precedent (Roe v. Wade) which asserts that it is fine to kill babies when they are growing in their mother’s wombs. Many American women think that this precedent is ethical because it defends their freedom to choose.
However, this precedent does not defend female choice consistently. For, a woman cannot “choose” not to be a mother once the baby comes out and starts crying, pooping and peeing. Two women can make the same choice and the Supreme Court will applaud one woman for making the choice early and send another woman to jail for procrastinating.
American abortion precedent sends the mobster-like message: “You want to kill? Just make it quick and dirty and don’t tell nobody. Capisce?”
Choosing Life Expands a Woman’s Options
An unplanned pregnancy can be hard to face. For the woman, it can appear as though she should have the right to choose to end her baby’s life so that she does not need to deal with the expected inconvenience.
But how can we compare inconvenience to life? It seems like they can’t be weighed against each other in this way. How can the worth of a human being’s life be less than the (assumed) flexibility to be gained without the (assumed) burden of another life? If life itself is worth less than maneuverability, then life is not worth much at all—including the woman’s own life. And, using this logic, a single father could take his teenage daughter’s life if she became a “burden” to him.
In order to show women that choosing life can expand their field of choices, I think we should:
1.) Make adoption more attractive
More young women would say “yes” to life but “not yet” to motherhood if their doctors, friends and family members encouraged them to choose adoption over abortion.
2.) Tell women how their choice will hurt their minds and bodies
What woman would want to choose abortion if she knew the side effects of her choice, including permanent physical and psychological pain? Why don’t women’s magazines committed to “female health,” such as SELF, Glamour and Cosmopolitan tell women the truth about how abortion rips apart their bodies? After all, they devote most of their content to sex, and abortion is a choice women make after having unplanned sex.
3.) Admit babies in wombs are persons
When we tell women that babies in wombs are not persons (as Roe v. Wade does), we are not helping women to live “freely.” We are damaging their psyches by promoting a lie. This is because murder violates natural law, which comes from reason. And, if you believe in God, murder violates divine law (see the 5th Commandment), which comes from God.
As Judge Andrew Napolitano explains on FOX News, our culture needs to admit what science and reason tells us, that babies in wombs are persons.
I think the best way to convince women not to have abortions is to show them that abortion actually degrades their humanity and strips their free will rather than expanding their range of choices.
Elizabeth Neaton’s viewpoint
Here is the perspective of Elizabeth Neaton, a young mother and Vice President and Co-Founder of Minnesota Youth for Life:
“For so long we have viewed abortion as ‘women’s reproductive healthcare’ and it is the furthest thing from it. By using contraception and having abortions we are truly limiting our ability to be women. Contraception hormonally changes your body and also, studies have shown, changes your attraction to the opposite sex.
When looking at abortion over the past 40 years, science has truly shown us that a unique set of DNA is created at the time of conception, not only will that unique set of DNA never exist again, but it will remain in the mother’s body for the rest of her natural life, whether she has an abortion or not. Planned Parenthood and pro-choicers would have you believe that abortions are a “safe and effective” choice of birth control. The abortion pill, RU-486, is—medically speaking—more dangerous than a surgical abortion. Not to mention there is little to no follow-up with women after they have taken the abortion pill or had a surgical abortion.
Women who stood on the front lines fighting for women’s rights surely did not want women to be limited in their choices or physically and emotionally damaged by them. That’s not healthcare. Abortion and contraception are not only taking innocent lives so that we may “live as we please,” they are ultimately damaging the woman’s ability to be a woman and to fulfill the natural need and desire to reproduce. Being a woman is a wonderful and beautiful thing, having the ability not only create and grow a life inside you, but to be able to sustain that life once it is no longer in the womb is an amazing trait that only a woman has. We are not creating a better healthcare system by having on demand abortions, we are limiting a woman’s right to be a woman.”
By Katie Kieffer
Guns, guns, guns. Love, love, love. America needs guns and love.
As humans, we have an inherent right to life. Our right to life (or self-defense) is a natural right and does not come from any document, even the Constitution. The Bill of Rights or the first ten amendments to the Constitution simply acknowledge our natural rights. Specifically, the Second Amendment recognizes our natural right to bear arms for self-defense.
Guns are the reactive, defensive answer to evil in the world. Love is the proactive answer to evil. We need both—guns and love.
Good men express themselves through love; love for God; love for themselves; love for others and love for life in general. Life without love is effectively death. Indeed, hateful or mentally ill people commit mass murder because they are bereft of love.
Evil is less powerful than love. Love is real; evil is nothing. Love spreads and consumes like a wildfire. Sometimes it appears that evil is “spreading,” such as when we hear stories like the Newtown tragedy. However, what is actually happening is that people are choosing not to love because they are mentally ill, arrogant or afraid.
As a society, we are all responsible for mass violence. Because in some way or other we all fail to show kindness to one another:
We have sex without love and we pay doctors to kill the children that result. We become parents without love and babysit our children with graphic, violent video games. We get married without committing each day to love one another forever—and our children experience confusion, broken promises and instability. We walk around like zombies in our neighborhood, workplace and grocery store—without showing love in the form of a smile or wave.
Because we are unwilling to face our puerile behavior, we blame all evil in the world on guns. Guns are not the cause of evil or violence; guns are part of the solution. But first, we must love each other.
Because we are imperfect creatures, bad things will happen. And we need tools to protect our lives from evil men. In the past, those tools were clubs, bows and arrows and swords. Today, guns are simply the most efficient tools of self-defense.
Those who wish to control, register and ban guns (think Gabrielle Giffords, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Attorney General Eric Holder, and President Obama) make the false assumption that we live in a utopia where new laws will turn criminals into angels; a utopia where signs stating: “No guns on these premises” will scare madmen away from schools. But we simply cannot prevent all evil with laws and signs.
Almost anything could be used to commit murder. We do not need a law against owning guns any more than we need a law against owning cars.
The philosopher Thomas Aquinas argues that great care should be taken before creating new laws: “Wherefore … in establishing new laws, there should be evidence of the benefit to be derived, before departing from a law which has long been considered just.”
In the United States, there is zero evidence indicating that gun control laws benefit society or prevent mass murder. No law—save concealed carry laws, which actually permit people to bear arms—reduces murder rates.
Profs. John Lott Jr. and William Landes conducted a landmark study analyzing all multiple-victim public shootings in the U.S. between 1977 and 1999 showing that: “While arrest or conviction rates and the death penalty reduce ‘normal’ murder rates, our results find that the only policy factor to influence multiple victim public shootings is the passage of concealed handgun laws.”
Evidence does show that mentally ill people commit violence. But mentally ill people do not always use guns.
They use their own hands (think Erika Menendez who said she pushed a man in front of New York City subway train because “I thought it would be cool”). They use razor blades (think the female blackjack dealers who broke into a stabbing fight at the Bellagio last month). And they use hammers: FBI reports show that more criminals used hammers (496) than rifles (323) to commit murder.
Sometimes the “madmen” are politicians who become dictators. We need guns to protect ourselves from our own government should it become a dictatorship that rejects natural human rights. As Ayn Rand illustrates in her novel, Atlas Shrugged, a dictator only finds safety in “the sphere of violence.
The best thing we can do to prevent mentally ill people from resorting to violence is to love them. By smiling and sharing kind words with sad, lonely, depressed or impoverished people, we could prevent them from becoming violent.
From now on, we can proactively prevent violence by keeping our promises, spending time with our children and showing kindness to everyone, including strangers. And since we cannot prevent all evil in the world, we need guns to defend our natural right to life.
Key works referenced: Power Divided is Power Checked by Jason Lewis, pp. 103-105, Treatise on Law by Thomas Aquinas, pp. 108-109 and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, p. 1055.
By Katie Kieffer
Where is a man who can save us? A man of virtue and action who can rebuild our economy and culture? We must find a true-to-life John Galt.
I think America’s best shot at economic recovery and restoring constitutional freedom is to nurture men and women who emulate the virtues of John Galt, a hero in Ayn Rand’s magnum opus novel, Atlas Shrugged. Galt is a man of unparalleled virtue, intelligence and action in a fictional U.S. economy that is eerily identical to the present-day U.S. economy.
Galt is an American inventor who lives and breathes his philosophy: “I swear—by my life and my love of it—that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.” What Galt means is that he will earn happiness through his virtues of: “…rationality, independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness, pride.”
In Atlas Shrugged, college professors, state scientists and government bureaucrats advocate “shared sacrifice” which is code for theft, lust and brute force. In the novel, most American citizens choose short-term pleasure and a false sense of security over the truth, enabling the government to turn against productive entrepreneurs.
The government annihilates private property rights and passes regulations like the “Anti-dog-eat-dog Rule” that outlaw basic competition and free trade. The scientific community becomes a branch of the government (much like today’s situation with Obamacare, the HHA, the EPA and socialized green tech). And Americans who once drove cars are soon driving covered wagons.
The U.S., as depicted in Atlas, is similar to today’s reality where Americans are increasingly falling for the government’s anti-wealth mantra. Pew reports as of July 16 that: “By two-to-one (44% to 22%), the public says that raising taxes on incomes above $250,000 would help the economy rather than hurt it…[even among Americans who identify themselves as ‘Republicans,’ only a minority of] 41% say this would hurt the economy…”
And, like the government stooges in Atlas, our President is telling Americans that he will make business owners pay more taxes and this will somehow create jobs. Obama recently pitched his plan at a July 13 campaign stop in Roanoke, VA: “If you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. … If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that! Somebody else made that happen!”
What Obama failed to mention is that entrepreneurial Americans will not stick around and pay the highest effective corporate income tax rate in the world (a federal/state integrated rate of 39.2 percent). The U.S. government is even threatening foreign banks that allow wealthy Americans respite from our high tax rates. Beginning in 2012, “Foreign banks that once offered secrecy will have to report on their U.S. clients or else face 30% fines on their U.S. investments…” reports TIME Magazine.
Well, self-made entrepreneurs are packing up and saying, “See ya, Uncle Sam!” Think billionaire co-founder of Facebook Inc., Eduardo Saverin who renounced his U.S. citizenship in May to become a resident of Singapore. And Saverin is not alone. TIME reports that a record numbers of American citizens (1,788 individuals in 2011) are relinquishing their U.S. citizenship.
In Atlas, entrepreneurs flee to Galt’s Gulch—an isolated community where “men of the mind” go on “strike” and refuse to use their talents to advance socialism. Let’s prevent our country from heading toward this scenario—where we lose our best and brightest, as well as our freedom.
So what does America need to do in order to attract and retain the ‘John Galt’ types who will save her economy and culture? Here are my suggestions:
1.) Take Galt’s advice and “…start by abolishing all income taxes.”
2.) Stop devaluing the U.S. dollar. Rand describes an economy that is much like ours: “The wads of worthless paper money were growing heavier in the pockets of the nation, but there was less and less for that money to buy. …the printing presses of the government were running a race with starvation, and losing.” Galt tells the government, “…there are no funds behind your blank check.”
3.) Never believe force will inspire entrepreneurs to innovate. Galt tells government bureaucrats that an entrepreneur under force will “become a robot.”
4.) Let entrepreneurs produce. Consider adding Rand’s phrase to the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of production and trade…”
5.) Live the philosophy of thinkers like Rand, Aristotle, Aquinas and Locke. We cannot simply etch profound ideas into D.C. monuments and then forget about them.
6.) Eliminate all anti-business rules. As Galt’s sweetheart and entrepreneur Dagny Taggart counsels: “Start decontrolling. …Start lifting taxes and removing controls.”
Next week, I will continue this discussion. Meanwhile, I encourage you to read Atlas Shrugged.
Key pages referenced from Atlas: 68, 672, 932, 990, 993, 1008, 1010.
By Katie Kieffer
Strip poker is one of Attorney General Eric Holder’s favorite games. As in, he evidently enjoys stripping online poker entrepreneurs of their Fourth Amendment rights.
Holder is the head of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), which is currently stripping online gaming entrepreneurs of their intellectual property rights. Technically, online gambling has never been declared “illegal” in the U.S. and yet the DOJ is citing a hazy law in order to allege that online gambling is a crime.
On Monday, July 2, the federal government arrested Los Angeles native Ray Bitar as he landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport from Dublin, Ireland. Bitar is the CEO of Full Tilt Poker, an online gaming operation that is headquartered in Dublin. The DOJ accuses him of criminal activity, including allegedly running “an international Ponzi scheme” to take money from online gamers and enrich Full Tilt ownership. If convicted, Bitar faces a maximum sentence of 145 years in prison.
The Wall Street Journal points out: “The site’s users, thousands of individual poker players, had set up accounts with Full Tilt in order to have money to wager with, the government says. Yet toward the end of 2010, it became increasingly difficult for Full Tilt to transfer money due to the government’s crackdown on payment processing for poker.”
So it appears that the government played a role in exhausting Full Tilt’s funding and is now accusing Full Tilt of running a Ponzi scheme. Admittedly, Full Tilt ownership held out hope for revival and erroneously portrayed its operations as healthy to its players until late in the government’s investigation. But this seems like poor judgment, not a Ponzi scheme.
Holder’s game of “strip poker” began on April 15, 2011, when the DOJ and the FBI clamped down on the online gaming industry that does business in the U.S. The DOJ charged the founders of the three largest internet companies, Absolute Poker, PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, plus eight other defendants, with illegal gambling offenses, money laundering and bank fraud.
No individual player was charged with criminal activity, however, the DOJ seized five key internet domain names and put restraining orders on over 75 defendant company bank accounts that process payments, effectively freezing online poker in the U.S.
Holder’s DOJ cites the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in this prosecution. The integrity of UIGEA is suspect because dirty politics played a key role in passing it. On Oct. 13, 2006, presidential hopeful and then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist slipped UIGEA through Congress by attaching it to a high priority port security bill, in a clear attempt to win political favor. The New York Times notes that the law is vague and fails to explicitly articulate that online poker is criminal activity.
Additionally, portions of this prosecution cite state gambling laws while the three defendant companies operate overseas where federal law governs international commerce. So, it’s not entirely surprising that foreign-based poker companies persisted in servicing the U.S. market.
Furthermore, the Fourth Amendment forbids Holder from snatching private property from American gaming entrepreneurs like Bitar and his Full Tilt founding partner, professional poker player Chris Ferguson.
The Fourth Amendment grants all Americans the right “to be secure in” their private property without the threat of “unreasonable searches and seizures.” And private property includes intellectual property, such as internet domain names and online businesses. Running an online gambling business is “virtual” and “risky” but these factors alone do not give the federal government the right to seize the business and arrest the owners.
Interestingly, some of the online poker players with the most money tied up in Full Tilt do not seem as frustrated with Full Tilt ownership as they are with the U.S. government—and they have moved to Europe, where online gambling is legal.
For example, one of America’s biggest online gambling superstars (with up to $6 million currently tied up in Full Tilt) is Daniel ‘Jungleman’ Cates. Cates moved to London after the DOJ’s crackdown and he recently told the UK edition of PokerPlayer magazine: “It was just the (online) poker that brought me here, no offence to the UK. It’s a lot easier living in the US. But until they regulate poker in the US I will stay in Europe.”
Holder could be answering Congress’ questions regarding Fast and Furious. Instead, Holder’s DOJ is denying America thousands of jobs from the $6 billion U.S. online poker industry.
What’s the big deal if some Americans prefer gambling online to betting around an antiquated poker table? It’s about time that the federal government stops stripping online gaming entrepreneurs like Bitar of their constitutional Fourth Amendment rights by referencing state laws that have no jurisdiction over overseas operations and by pretending that gambling online is a crime.
By Katie Kieffer
Pixar just released its 13th number one opening movie in a row, Brave. Most people associate Pixar with blockbuster animations. Many people don’t realize, however, that two of the secrets behind Pixar’s success are capitalism and clean fun.
Capitalism is the foundation that allows Pixar films to come into existence. Without a free market—where small film studios can compete with global giants—we would still be watching ho-hum Disney films. Because of capitalism, Pixar (a startup with loads of talent) was able to compete with Disney (a giant resting on its laurels) as an equal.
Steve Jobs (the late billionaire tech entrepreneur and founder of Apple, Inc.) purchased Pixar from George Lucas in 1986. Pixar had not yet made a single movie, so Jobs took a considerable risk. He invested $50 million of his own into Pixar and nurtured its animation group to the point where Disney was willing to distribute its first big-budget film, Toy Story.
A week after Toy Story’s blockbuster opening (it was the top-grossing film of 1995), Jobs took Pixar public and his shares (80 percent of Pixar) were worth $1.2 billion overnight. Pixar’s ability to merge digital technology with art revolutionized animated films in the way that Walt Disney did when he released Snow White in 1937.
Disney’s animation studio was a mess. It was cranking out big-budget bombs and had all-but-abandoned Walt Disney’s legacy of innovation and wholesome fun. In fact, Disney almost killed Toy Story by demanding that Pixar animators make one of the heroes, Woody, a mean and jealous character. Woody’s voice, actor Tom Hanks, even exclaimed: “This guy’s a real jerk!” when he read the initial script. It was only when Disney backed off and let Pixar control the plot that Toy Story came to life.
After Pixar released subsequent blockbusters like Monsters, Inc. and Finding Nemo, Disney realized that it needed Pixar if it wanted to save its motion-picture business—the revenue source for its theme parks, TV programs, character toys and merchandizing. Disney purchased Pixar and allowed its animators to keep working independently at their own campus in Emeryville, CA. So, capitalism allowed the best animation studio to survive instead of getting squeezed out by the big guy.
Jobs told his autobiographer, Walter Isaacson that Pixar: “… successfully reinvented Disney’s business, turning out great films one after the other while Disney turned out flop after flop.” Jobs added, “My goal has always been not only to make great products, but to build great companies. Walt Disney did that. And the way we did the merger, we kept Pixar as a great [and independent] company and helped Disney remain one as well.”
I went to see Brave on opening night and I was struck by the diversity of the crowd; young couples holding hands, groups of teens and college students, families with children and elderly people. Pixar movies do well because they attract everyone—not just kids. The “draw” for adults and teens of both genders is the combination of mind-blowing technology with unadulterated fun.
Brave is a story about the tomboyish Scottish princess Merida, a skillful archeress who fights a bear, quarrels with her mother and learns a lesson in humility. The movie is punctuated by humor that everyone can “get,” like the pranks pulled by Merida’s pastry-gobbling brothers Hamish, Hubert and Harris.
Pixar’s hits like Toy Story, Up and Brave retreat from the modern era of Shrek and return us to the time of Disney’s Snow White. Instead of plopping random pop culture references and adults-only humor into medieval fairy tales, Pixar relies on clean humor and awesome technology to tell stories.
Shrek is not kid-friendly in the same way that Toy Story and Snow White are. For example, a little boy I know answered his parents’ telephone one time by singing: “I like big butts and I cannot lie!” His embarrassed mother explained that he had just watched the swamp karaoke dance party scene in Shrek where Donkey sings Sir Mix-a-Lot’s hit single, Baby Got Back. In contrast, after Toy Story came out, I think the catchphrase was: “To infinity… and beyond!”
I think Pixar’s technology captivates the mind and the eye more immediately and enduringly than the vision of Shrek’s plumpish princess Fiona rolling in the dirt and showing off her green cleavage. As Brave’s princess Merida runs through the forest, her locks of red curls sway naturally (even individual, unruly strands are animated) and the sunlight dances through the trees and lands on her face in a true-to-life manner.
TIME reports: “Brave is richer and more colorful than any previous computer-animated film” because Pixar keeps pushing the innovation envelope, developing technology to animate non-geometric shapes.
Pixar plays to our best instincts—the playful children we all once were and still are at heart. I think smartphone-loving teens and adults enjoy Pixar movies because they offer a high-tech dose of hope to drown out real-life disappointments. Disney, on the other hand, spent over a decade bleeding hundreds of millions on big-budget films like John Carter, Mars Needs Moms and Treasure Planet that tried too hard to create an edginess that would attract adults while neglecting to innovate in terms of animation.
Today, Pixar succeeds because it leverages the free markets to innovate clean, fun animation in the tradition of two of America’s finest entrepreneurs: Walt Disney and Steve Jobs. Now if only Washington, D.C. politicians would emulate these entrepreneurs.
Key pages referenced from Walter Isaacson’s “Steve Jobs:” 240, 286-7, 433-4, 437 & 443.
By Katie Kieffer
Forget chocolate, diamonds and flowers. Women want fathers.
Not every woman has a brother. Not every woman finds or wants a husband (today just 51 percent of all adults 18 and over are married compared to 72 percent in 1960). However, I think every woman needs and desires a male role model in her life.
Pink ribbons are plastered on everything from yogurt containers to NFL uniforms. And numerous “find the cure” organizations appear to be staying in business longer than necessary because they squander their funds on non-research projects (think abortions at Planned Parenthood), leaving women on their own to find the cure to breast cancer.
Not every woman gets breast cancer (a horrible condition and certainly worthy of honest research funding.) Fathers, in contrast, are important to the health and development of all women. So, I think that one of the best things we can do for women as a whole is encourage men to be good fathers and father figures.
Ideally a “father figure” is a woman’s biological father, but not always. A friend, adoptive father, uncle, husband, grandpa or a brother can become a male role model for a woman when her biological father dies or otherwise ducks out of her life.
Some biological fathers abandon their daughters; they get a woman pregnant and then leave her to change the baby’s diapers (after kindly offering to pay for an abortion, of course.) Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs initially fell into this category: He got his on-and-off girlfriend pregnant and refused to be an active father for the first ten years of her life. Jobs eventually assumed his proper role as a father and he deeply regretted his early behavior.
Jobs told his biographer, Walter Isaacson: “I wish I had handled it differently. I could not see myself as a father then, so I didn’t face up to it. But when the test results showed she was my daughter, it’s not true that I doubted it. I agreed to support her until she was eighteen and give some money to Chrisann [his ex-girlfriend] as well. I found a house in Palo Alto and fixed it up and let them live there rent-free. Her mother found her great schools which I paid for. I tried to do the right thing. But if I could do it over, I would do a better job.”
When Jobs married his wife, Laurene Powell Jobs, he brought his daughter into his own home and took her on a special father-daughter trip to Japan as he eventually did with all three of his and Powell’s children.
Jobs understood that his first daughter was still scarred by his behavior early in her life, even at his death, although they did reconcile. He told his biographer that the reason he wanted the biography was not to explain his entrepreneurial story with Apple: “I wanted my kids to know me. I wasn’t always there for them, and I wanted them to know why and to understand what I did.”
Jobs’ father abandoned him and gave him up for adoption. Because of this, Jobs struggled with a feeling of abandonment his entire life. Jobs ‘used to play [John Lennon’s song Mother] often,’ Isaacson writes. ‘The refrain includes the haunting chant “Mama don’t go, Daddy come home.”’ The behavior of his father probably played a huge role in Jobs’ behavior toward his own first daughter.
Fathers who only have sons are just as important: When men raise good sons, they do their sons’ future girlfriends, wives and grandchildren a huge favor. Fathers have the power to prevent or encourage bad behavior: When a young man cheats on his wife, it’s often because he saw his father cheat on his mother, confirms a 2011 study from the Charles University in Prague.
Likewise, when a young father is addicted to porn, it’s usually because his own father was a porn buff. In all, Jobs fathered three girls and one boy. He wasn’t a perfect father, but he genuinely thought about the message his actions sent to his children. Isaacson tells how, early on, Jobs insisted on a policy against porn apps for the iPhone. Jobs quipped: “Folks who want porn can buy an Android.”
Jobs’ decision to censor porn apps at his own tech company upset the editor of tech blog Valleywag, Ryan Tate. One evening, he poured himself a stinger cocktail and emailed Jobs: “I don’t want ‘freedom from porn.’ Porn is just fine! And I think my wife would agree.”
Jobs fired his own email back: “You might care more about porn when you have kids. It’s not about freedom, it’s about Apple trying to do the right thing for its users. By the way, what have you done that’s so great? Do you create anything, or just criticize others’ work and belittle their motivations?”
By sticking to his guns, Jobs impressed Tate, who later wrote: “Jobs not only built and then rebuilt his company around some very strong opinions about digital life, but he’s willing to defend them in public. Vigorously. Bluntly. At two in the morning on a weekend.”
A girl’s father shapes who she eventually finds herself attracted to. A girl whose father spoils her and stymies her with excessive attention will end up being irresponsible and incompetent. On the flip side, research shows that a girl whose father abandons her when she is young will prematurely reach sexual maturity and end up feeling both abandoned and sexually insecure. This insecurity could lead her to attach herself to smooth-talking bumpkins who use her and lose her.
I think the most influential man in every woman’s life is her father. Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. Be a father figure to your daughter—or a woman who needs one. You will change the world.
Key pages referenced from Walter Isaacson’s book, “Steve Jobs:” 51, 91, 551-552, 556-557.
By Katie Kieffer
Two months before Apple Inc. co-founder and CEO Steve Jobs died of pancreatic cancer, he told his biographer Walter Isaacson: “I’m disappointed in Obama.” President Obama disregarded Jobs while he was alive—while using Jobs’ iconic image and entrepreneurial success story to further his political interests. Now that Jobs has passed away (and is unable to defend himself), Obama continues to rip off Jobs—using him as a false poster boy for his socialist economic agenda.
Jobs was a long-term Democrat. In practice, however, Jobs was a life-long capitalist—not a socialist like Obama. Isaacson writes in his best-selling book, Steve Jobs: “Communal economics were not for him.”
Obama largely ignored Apple and dismissed Jobs’ ideas while he was alive. However, during his 2012 State of the Union address, Obama made a point of inviting Jobs’ widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, to sit in the First Lady’s box (along with token guests like Warren Buffett’s secretary). Obama never mentioned or honored Powell (who Jobs adored and whose persistent love enabled his work) within his speech. Instead, Obama repeatedly attacked the capitalistic tools that Jobs utilized to achieve the American dream.
If Obama truly admired and respected Jobs, why didn’t he phone Jobs to congratulate him after he launched the iPad? Isaacson says the iPad was Jobs’ “pet project.” It was the culmination of Jobs’ life-long ideas, dreams and hard work and “it embodied everything he stood for.” When Jobs was just 26-years-old, he told a classroom of Stanford students about his vision to develop a book-sized computer. When Apple finally developed the multi-touch technology needed for a tablet, he decided to utilize it for the iPhone first because “Tablets appeal to rich guys with plenty of other PCs and devices already.” Upon its 2010 launch, 15 million iPads sold in just nine months and it is considered to be “the most successful consumer product launch in history.”
Jobs “noted at dinner [on the night he publicly announced the iPad] that the president had not called him since taking office,” writes Isaacson. Obama delegated the apparently onerous task of congratulating Jobs on his historical entrepreneurial feat to his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. And Obama never made a personal visit to see Jobs in his home after he publicly announced his third and final medical leave from Apple in January of 2011; Larry Page, Bill Gates and Bill Clinton took care to pay respectful last visits.
The reason Obama initially met with Jobs was because Obama’s aids thought that the meeting “fit into [Obama’s] new emphasis on competitiveness.” Jobs initially didn’t want to meet. He felt that the President should have personally requested the meeting and he said: “I’m not going to get slotted in for a token meeting so that he can check off that he met with a CEO.” It took five days for his wife to convince him to go.
When they met for forty-five minutes at the Westin San Francisco Airport in the fall of 2010, Isaacson says Jobs advised Obama to reform education by busting up teachers unions. He also told the president that his anti-business regulations were forcing American companies to move manufacturing to China. He warned: “You’re headed for a one-term presidency.”
Jobs became passionate about trying to teach Obama how to reform his policies and foster American innovation; he set up a dinner for Obama to meet with tech CEOs. Interestingly, the president’s “shared sacrifice” staff co-opted Jobs’ menu and insisted that the dinner include an extravagant “cream pie tricked out with chocolate truffles … [because] the president liked cream pie,” writes Isaacson. (Clearly, the First Lady of Nutrition was not in attendance.)
Isaacson writes that Jobs offered job-creating advice to the President: ‘he stressed the need for more trained engineers and suggested that any foreign students who earned any engineering degree in the United States should be given a visa to stay in the country. Obama said that could be done only in the context of the “Dream Act.” … Jobs found this an annoying example of how politics can lead to paralysis. “The president is very smart, but he kept explaining to us reasons why things can’t get done. It infuriates me, [Jobs later recalled.]”’
At the dinner, Jobs also explained to the president that the reason Apple employs hundreds of thousands of people in China is because Apple couldn’t find “30,000” qualified American engineers. Jobs (a college drop-out turned billionaire) insisted that four-year degrees were unnecessary to train the engineers he needed. While Obama did call Jobs afterward to further discuss training engineers, he didn’t take actions to follow through on their conversations in a way that satisfied Jobs before he died.
Jobs initially tried to make Apple “all-American.” For example, early on, Jobs held a global contest for Apple’s general designer and he flew to Germany to review designer Hartmut Esslinger’s proposal. He loved Esslinger’s idea to design Apple’s products with a “California global” flair and create a “born-in-America gene for Apple’s DNA.” However, Isaacson says Jobs would only hire Esslinger “on the condition that he move to California.”
Apple has consistently tried to use American workers and facilities as much as possible, but it is no longer practical given the lack of skilled workers, excessive government regulations and the 35 percent corporate income tax rate.
Apple is only profitable and successful because it currently does business in China. Without China, there would be no Apple. Contrary to popular opinion, technology companies spend more on materials than on labor overseas. For instance, rare-earths are key components to iPods and iPads that can cost up to $130 per lb. The U.S. used to lead the world in mining rare-earths through a California mine called Molycorp. However, environmental regulations sent this mine into extinction and the U.S. lost her competitive technology advantage. Today, China produces roughly 97 percent of all rare-earths.
Jobs’ instincts were capitalistic. He was not a profiteer. Nor was he into sharing or redistributing; his goal was to transform the world by producing “insanely great” products that would allow the masses (not just rich people like Obama and Buffett) to access freedom-enhancing technology. As his wife told Isaacson, “…he cares deeply about empowering humankind, the advancement of humankind and putting the right tools in their hands.”
Steve Wozniak was Jobs’ friend and initial partner in building Apple. Wozniak was the shy engineering genius behind Apple’s initial technology. However, without Jobs’ capitalistic instinct, Wozniak’s ideas would never have created a single job (even for himself). Wozniak told Isaacson, “I designed the Apple I because I wanted to give it away for free to other people.” Isaacson writes: “If it had not been for Jobs, he [Wozniak] might still be handing out schematics of his [circuit] boards for free at the back of Homebrew [tech information swap] meetings. It was Jobs who turned his ingenious ideas into a budding business.”
2011 was Apple’s last year with Jobs at the helm and Apple even outdid big oil (Exxon Mobil) in per employee profits, reports The New York Times. Profits allow businesses like Apple to create jobs, offer valuable stocks to millions of individual investors and provide millions of Americans with cutting edge technology tools like iPhones, iPods, iPads and MacBooks at the lowest possible prices. Ultimately, profit is the most powerful tool whereby businesses improve society.
In his 2012 State of the Union address, Obama promised to make things even harder for companies like Apple who are forced to do business in China, saying: “no American company should be able to avoid paying its fair share of taxes by moving jobs and profits overseas. From now on, every multinational company should have to pay a basic minimum tax. And every penny should go towards [subsidizing the tax burden of smaller companies that only do business in America].”
Obama said his socialist plan of “shared sacrifice” would result in “an economy built to last” that supports “everyone who’s willing to work, and every risk-taker and entrepreneur who aspires to become the next Steve Jobs.”
And Obama “solved” Apple’s engineer issue by telling taxpayers to subsidize their educations: “Now you need to give more community colleges the resources they need…” Meanwhile, he bullied taxpayers to subsidize costly four-year college educations: “Extend the tuition tax credit … States also need to do their part [by increasing college tuition subsidies]. Higher education can’t be a luxury—it is an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.”
Obama even bragged about how he’s going to crack down on piracy; I think he should start by walking the walk. Before daring to misrepresent and mooch off Jobs by mentioning his name in the same sentence as his anti-business agenda, Obama should read Isaacson’s biography. As Gov. Mitch Daniels diplomatically said in response to Obama’s speech: “…he must know in his heart that this is not true.”
President Ronald Reagan bestowed Jobs and Wozniak with America’s very first National Medal of Technology. In contrast, President Obama largely ignored Jobs’ success and advice during his lifetime and then invited Jobs’ widow to hear him attack the capitalistic system that allowed Jobs to succeed. Obama has rejected Jobs’ pro-business ideas like lowering the costs of doing business (taxes), reducing regulations and reforming education. If Jobs is looking down on earth, I’m sure he is still “disappointed in Obama.”
Key pages referenced from “Steve Jobs” by Walter Isaacson: 39, 61, 73, 107, 192-93, 490-491, 495, 496, 498, 538, 543-545.