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Post 140

Monday, October 31, 2005 - 4:55amSanction this postReply
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Casey writes:

There is a difference between the historical record and products SOLD by the ARI for learning purposes. The record is, IN FACT, preserved, but ARI has no obligation, and probably legitimate legal concerns about SELLING educational materials to which the Brandens contributed without remunerating the Brandens for such sales. Isn't that clear?

That's very clear, Casey, and very well put.

But let me repeat for the umpteenth time:  Ayn Rand herself never sought to alter the historical record of the books that are still being sold in which Branden's essays appear.  (And I don't believe Branden gets one dime of remuneration from the ongoing sale of such anthologies as The Virtue of Selfishness or Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal).   Indeed, the only thing Rand ever did was to remove the dedication she made to Nathaniel in Atlas Shrugged on post-1968 printings of the book.  This was entirely understandable, in my view... as was the cessation of sales of courses in which the Brandens were principal lecturers ("Basic Principles of Objectivism," "Principles of Efficient Thinking," etc.).  I suspect, however, that all of those recorded lecture courses are on file in the Ayn Rand Archives.

Rand was very clear in her anthologies that the Brandens were no longer associated with her or her philosophy, as I said earlier in this thread, but none of this required a rewriting of reality, even in the "SELLING" of what might be considered "educational materials to which the Brandens contributed."  Adam Reed is right when he emphasizes this as an outgrowth of Rand's primacy of existence view. 

If the Estate wished to continue the policy of keeping the historical record intact for saleable items, it could have done the exact same thing.  And if it chose not to do the same thing, the Estate could have at least informed scholars, like myself, who spent exorbitant amounts of money on lectures and audio courses that the material had been edited for content because earlier unnamed participants were no longer associated with Rand's philosophy.

Understand that heterodox non-ARI affiliated scholars like myself have to depend on the materials that the Estate offers for sale because we will never gain access to the archives where the historical record is being "preserved."  I'd like to be proven wrong.

Now James wonders why it is that those of us on this side of the divide aren't as upset by the "alterations" in the historical record perpetuated by the Brandens.  But Nathaniel Branden wrote a memoir, and Barbara Branden wrote a biography with heavy doses of memoir.  Neither of them has ever posed as a "keeper of the flame" and neither of them has a monopoly on knowledge or information about Rand.  The fact that a book has now been written and published that provides a starkly different portrait of Rand in many respects is proof that this enterprise will continue.  And there are other biographies in the works, including one being written by Shoshana Milgram, who has full access to the archives, and one being written by Anne Heller, who was denied access.  The Brandens may have offered the first word on Rand biography, but they will most certainly not be the last word.  Praise be to the proliferation of competition in the intellectual marketplace!

But competition is not something the Estate seems to want; it possesses a virtual monopoly on most of the written and oral record of Rand and her early associates and it heavily restricts access to that record. Those of us writing in the area of historical biography or on the evolution of Rand's thought and movement must depend upon that record, even as we must seek out alternative sources of information (like those being offered by the Objectivist History Project, with which I am associated).  If we are denied access to the historical record because we just don't have the proper credentials or know the right people, our dependence on the saleable record is clearly not enough.  Because that record is being edited, in some respects, heavily edited.

And, to repeat:  the practice of bracketing out people who are persona non grata from the "saleable" items is not restricted to the Brandens.  Until or unless the archives are opened to all bona fide scholars, we will forever be in the dark, guessing what has been excised and speculating, unnecessarily, for better or for worse, about the motives of those who do the excising.

So, James, you may justifiably feel that no injustice has been perpetuated by the editing of saleable items, but you've gone to the mountain top and you've seen the promised land.  You were granted access to the archives. 

The rest of us are still waiting.  And a part of me suspects that we will all be dead before any heterodox non-ARI-affiliated scholar gets into those archives.




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Post 141

Monday, October 31, 2005 - 6:14amSanction this postReply
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So, if Nathaniel Branden were to reprint "The Moral Revolution in 'Atlas Shrugged'" from WHO IS AYN RAND?, and then to have suppressed a credit reference to Leonard Peikoff in an original footnote within it, would that be same kinda thing being complained about here? (Thank you, Craig Ceely.)

As for "waiting," Chris, if the only value that you had sought was the verification of the newly published Rand materials, rather than the use of them yourself (and no one is saying that you have any duty to do this), such a request may well have been granted, it seems.

We are in a waiting/transition period. The Rand material will all likely be more widely available one day (hopefully soon.) Sorry if things aren't happening at your pace.




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Post 142

Monday, October 31, 2005 - 6:30amSanction this postReply
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James writes:

So, if Nathaniel Branden were to reprint "The Moral Revolution in 'Atlas Shrugged'" from WHO IS AYN RAND?, and then to have suppressed a credit reference to Leonard Peikoff in an original footnote within it, would that be same kinda thing being complained about here? (Thank you, Craig Ceely.**)

Absolutely.

Except that the one reprint of that essay was by The Objectivist Center, and Nathaniel Branden indicates explicitly that he made "a few cuts."  (He was not explicit about what the cuts were, but Rand herself was not fully explicit about the cuts she made to the 1959 edition of We the Living, so I'm not going to fault Branden for not providing an essay-length discussion of the cuts he actually made; the Peikoff note is only one of several.)

Branden also states in his preface to the reprint that the essay "was written at a time when my thinking was totally in alignment with that of Ayn Rand's, and thus none of the reservations or questions about her work that I would convey in later books and lectures is in evidence." 

In point of fact, however, "Basic Principles of Objectivism," Nathaniel Branden's recorded lecture course, which TOC currently offers for sale, and "Principles of Efficient Thinking" (a Barbara Branden lecture course) have both been sold in the years after the break, and neither course has been altered at all, in any way, shape, or form, to my knowledge.

---
**Added note:  BTW, Craig was also the one who reminded me recently about my screen credit in the "Sense of Life" documentary that I mentioned in this post.  Not that I needed too much reminding; seeing my name on the big screen, I admit, was a thrill. :)

(Edited by sciabarra on 10/31, 7:02am)




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Post 143

Monday, October 31, 2005 - 7:33amSanction this postReply
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Chris,

Kudos for not falling into the double standard applied by others.



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Post 144

Monday, October 31, 2005 - 8:03amSanction this postReply
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Thank you Chris!

James was declaring very loudly that your type of concern (historical accuracy) was completely insignificant - to the point of making sarcastic remarks about it.

I am curious as to the double standard he alludes to in others, however.

A note to James:

If you think that I don't wish to hold the Brandens to the same standard of historical accuracy that I complain about with ARI, you are sadly mistaken.

Nowhere in all of my posts will you see any endorsement of using their conclusions and speculations as fact. I have constantly stressed that Nathaniel and Barbara were writing autobiography and biography/autobiography respectively, with all the inherent limitations that such genre comes with.

I even hailed Casey's suggestion to publish Nathaniel's letters to Ayn Rand.

To me there is only one historical accuracy - not the ARI version or the Branden version. It is called the truth.

I, however, complain about the constant double standards you use in your own defense of the ARI position of historical rewrite. This specifically refers to context shifting - for example, talking about historical accuracy to talk bad about the Brandens during pre-1968, then when they are edited out of pre-1968 works that Rand herself endorsed, the context shifts to "education."

That's just one. There are many.

Michael





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Post 145

Monday, October 31, 2005 - 9:33amSanction this postReply
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Just to be clear about the cut that Branden made in the reprint of his essay. The footnote referred to this passage:

"The concept of an ethics based on man's metaphysical nature is not, as such, new. Many philosophers of antiquity, as well as many of the post-Renaissance system builders, claimed to have derived their systems of ethics from such a base. In their attempts logically to connect the specific values they advocated with their descriptions of man's metaphysical nature, one may discern two major trends.*"

And the footnote Branden cut was:

"I am indebted to my associate Leonard Peikoff for the identification of these two trends."

I hope that Peikoff does issue a statement explaining the reasons for excising the Brandens from various products sold by ARI.

I also think, especially with this example, that the effects of dissociation were sometimes justified, sometimes unjustified, and mutually so. Thems the breaks.

Chris: But in the end, this issue is a pretty thin reed to hang all the uproar against ARI on. If only there were the same uproar against the Brandens for not only omitting information, but mischaracterizing the historical person of Rand. What the Brandens did to the truth was positively distort it about very important things that had a direct effect on the reputation and historical representation of the character of Ayn Rand and by extension the philosophy she claimed was not only practicable but practiced by her to bring her such spectacular personal success in life. No such active and creative outcome was sought or achieved by the omissions of the Brandens from taped lecture courses. So this whole argument seems like a "Yeah, but..." argument without the "Yeah" part. And getting all hot about this and not about the Brandens' disregard for the historic record is a little hard for me to buy at this point.





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Post 146

Monday, October 31, 2005 - 10:08amSanction this postReply
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Casey - you write, "And getting all hot about this and not about the Brandens' disregard for the historic record is a little hard for me to buy at this point."

Maybe you were not here on SOLO back when, but I have written orders of magnitude more strongly in criticism of Nathaniel Branden than of the one or two people at ARI whom I have criticized here. I did it for years before anyone with full access to ARI archives even mentioned Branden's reprehensible behaviors in public.

As for the issue of the historical record, my only problem is that people such as Chris and I buy stuff on the reasonable presumption that tapes are accurate copies of the original recordings. It would have been more in keeping with Ayn Rand's own standard to mark edited tapes as "edited by So-and-So," or even just as "edited" or "condensed." Why give your real opposition such an opportunity for spin?




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Post 147

Monday, October 31, 2005 - 10:18amSanction this postReply
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Casey writes:  "But in the end, this issue is a pretty thin reed to hang all the uproar against ARI on. ... And getting all hot about this and not about the Brandens' disregard for the historic record is a little hard for me to buy at this point."

Sorry, Casey, what I'm saying is no thin reed.

As for the Brandens: It's not as if none of us was aware of the Branden deceptions prior to Jim's book.  And whatever you want to say about Rand's critics, there isn't a reputable scholar alive that I know who did not place the Branden books in their proper context as "first words" from witnesses who had a very personal stake in the events they described. 

We can keep debating this, but it will not be resolved to our mutual satisfaction.  I continue to maintain that what the Brandens did and what they have said about Rand pertained primarily to their personal experiences with her.  And they are not the only people who knew Rand and who have said unflattering things about Rand. 

But even if Rand were the biggest bitch imaginable or the kindest person who ever lived, it would not matter to me one iota in terms of my evaluation of the truth of her philosophy or my understanding of her intellectual origins or legacy.  I don't reduce my analysis of a philosophy to an analysis of the life of the person who forged it. And this is coming from somebody who spent an inordinate amount of time in Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical trying to come to terms with a specific aspect of Rand's life, namely, her early education.

It is because my attention is focused on Rand's philosophy, and on her intellectual origins, development, and evolution as a thinker, that the Ayn Rand Archives are important to me. 

Let me also state for the hearing of the world:  I actually send a small annual contribution to the Ayn Rand Institute, because I believe that they are doing important work. From their essay contests to their archival preservation, there is much to commend here.  That doesn't mean that they can't do better.

Perhaps if you better understood and appreciated the unnecessarily adversarial and often litigious relationship* of ARI to most non-ARI scholars (some recent promising changes notwithstanding at the Institute), you'd be better able "to buy" the passion that some of us bring to this discussion.

---
*The litigiousness pertains not to ARI, actually, but to the Estate of Ayn Rand.

(Edited by sciabarra on 10/31, 10:32am)




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Post 148

Monday, October 31, 2005 - 10:19amSanction this postReply
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Diana Hsieh and others have expressed their frustration and scorn for the lack of adequate support to Objectivist scholars shown by the Objectivist Center. To some extent, I agree with this.

However, it pales in significance to the blatant hostility to scholars shown by the Ayn Rand Institute in their airbrushing of the historical record, whether about Rand's journals or her recorded seminars and lectures. Chris Sciabarra and I have painstakingly documented ARI's re-writing of reality in these regards, and not surprisingly it seems to have had little or no effect on those who want instead to evade the issue by play the game of "lawyer" or "distraction."

I sternly disapprove of anyone misrepresenting the character of anyone, whether it is (allegedly) the Brandens falsely characterizing Rand, or (for instance) Valliant falsely and libellously characterizing Branden as a "spiritual rapist."

However, as a scholar, I am not concerned with any of that. I am concerned with getting an accurate, complete copy of the historical record.

When ARI presents and sells products that falsely purport to be that (or that do not caveat that they are not that), this is a slap in the face of every Randian scholar who wants to see the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. When ARI grudgingly offers to let Randian scholars see the historical record, but only if they promise not to use it in their writing, this gag order, however voluntarily agreed to, is another slap in the face of the scholarly pursuit of truth.

ARI prides itself on championing "intellectual activism" -- discovering the truth and putting it to use. Yet, when it comes to scholarly research, they pick and choose whom they will allow to be intellectual activists in regard to the historical record about Rand. And in the process, they intellectually castrate those they deny use of that historical record. (How's that for a rejoinder to the "spiritual rapist" charge!)

Diana really ought to consider -- and reconsider -- and reconsider -- just who it is that she is getting into intellectual bed with. She has a powerful moralistic capacity, but it needs to be directed toward those who most abuse Objectivist scholars: the Ayn Rand Institute.

Roger Bissell, Post-Randian musician-writer




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Post 149

Monday, October 31, 2005 - 10:23amSanction this postReply
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Wow! Looks like Chris and I were channeling the same spirit in our posts that appeared two minutes apart. Well said, Chris!

One note: when I said "blatant hostility to Objectivist scholars," I intended to say something more like "blatant scorn for Objectivist scholars," but a momentary fit of fatigue caused my wording to glitch a bit. However, I think both shoes fit ARI in this case.

REB




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Post 150

Monday, October 31, 2005 - 12:54pmSanction this postReply
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In The Ayn Rand Reader, editor G. Hull says "I have, of course, made no changes in AR's own words."  But, as I mentioned before, Hull removed the footnote from the excerpt in FTNI in which Rand thanks N. Branden.  Note that the paragraph to which the footnote is attached is included and, so far as I know, Rand did not remove the footnote from subsequent printings of FTNI.

Considering such an obvious change to a document in the public record (and misrepresentation by Hull), I think it is reasonable to ask what changes (if any) have been made to hitherto private records (Journals, Letters, etc.)




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Post 151

Monday, October 31, 2005 - 4:15pmSanction this postReply
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Some of the changes Neal Parille asks about are on record.  See #26 and #40 in General Forum / Ayn Rand Smeared Again.

Peter




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Post 152

Monday, October 31, 2005 - 4:50pmSanction this postReply
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Chris, you stated:

"Except that the one reprint of that essay was by The Objectivist Center, and Nathaniel Branden indicates explicitly that he made "a few cuts."  (He was not explicit about what the cuts were, but Rand herself was not fully explicit about the cuts she made to the 1959 edition of We the Living, so I'm not going to fault Branden for not providing an essay-length discussion of the cuts he actually made; the Peikoff note is only one of several.)"

What Nathaniel Branden said about the cuts he made was:

"Except for a few cuts of superfluous words or sentences, the essay is reproduced in its original form."

No one could guess that a footnote crediting Leonard Peikoff for a point that was still included in the reprint of the essay was "superfluous" or would be included in that kind of description of the cuts. Only by examining both versions could one discover that such a cut was made and no where else in the reprinted essay could one find out that Peikoff had contributed this point, so how could it be deemed "superfluous?"  (For the record.)

Chris states:
 
"As for the Brandens: It's not as if none of us was aware of the Branden deceptions prior to Jim's book. And whatever you want to say about Rand's critics, there isn't a reputable scholar alive that I know who did not place the Branden books in their proper context as "first words" from witnesses who had a very personal stake in the events they described."
 
Chris,
 
I'm glad they feel that way. However, I don't recall them raising the issue (at TOC or ARI!) and I think it is at least as important to make this concession in public as are the disputes about ARI removing references to the Brandens. With such deafening silence on the part of scholars who almost universally feel this way about the Brandens' books, as you say, smears like that cited on the "Ayn Rand Smeared Again" thread would have less currency, no? And ARI would have less reason to [omit] reference [to] the Brandens if their works were as universally (and publicly) characterized as unreliable from a historical perspective (except as studies of the Brandens' personal biases). As long as scholars remain silent about the serious problems in the Brandens' books, ARI has even more reason not to refer to the Brandens. Also, ARI might be more trusting of scholars outside of ARI if they showed more of the skepticism regarding the Brandens' works that you allude to.
 
Of course, I differ drastically from your view of the Brandens' books. Too many sweeping inferences were drawn from minutaie (dishwashing, careful cooking, marginalia, good luck charms, the single "trial" Rand attended that both Brandens reference and the occasional chuckle they evidence for her psychological authoritarianism, the anxiety about flying for the first time, etc., etc.) for me to believe they were not deliberately after an overall picture of a conflicted, hypocritical, psychological basket case whose volatile and unfair moralism inhibited them from dealing honestly with her. What you see as individual and discrete impressions honestly drawn if distorted by raw emotions, I see as an attempt to bolster a fabricated image of Rand out of dubious trivia. Not surprisingly, Rand's enemies, such as the author who wrote for Commentary, see it my way -- they immediately see the overarching caricature all of these "innocent observations" contribute to. If the Brandens were not trying to build up an overall psychological profile of Rand, the very one her critics have latched onto, then their individual observations and the conclusions they drew from them exhibit an unbelievably faulty judgement on their part, and each one of the amazing conclusions they reach from such paltry evidence just coincidentally contributes to a unified thesis. And the vast omissions from their accounts concerning the therapy sessions and what they reveal about what the Brandens were telling Ayn Rand, concerning their marriage and N. Branden's specific claims of sexual paralysis, etc., indicate more intentional crafting of their portraits that is very troublesome indeed. As much as Barbara Branden believes, as she stated on SOLO, that lying to her dying mother about the state of her marriage was appropriate, and as much as she may have felt it was important for the same reason to lie to Rand about the issue, the fact that she omitted this from her biography cannot be said to have a similar excuse, since Rand was dead by the time her book was published. I think you are confusing these lies with their motivations -- i.e., their feelings were raw and are reflected in their memories -- but raw feelings alone do not account for the next step of altering the truth that they certainly knew existed despite the emotions they were feeling. We could argue these points forever, I suppose -- but they should be argued.
 
(Substantive edits bracketed and bolded -- sorry, but I've had MSK trying to prove I am a hypocrite by referencing the fact that I edited posts, so, learning from his strict historical standards, I note the nature of the edit, a case of writer's dislexia, for historians. Please don't let it interrupt the flow of the sentence. -C)


(Edited by Casey Fahy on 10/31, 4:52pm)

(Edited by Casey Fahy on 10/31, 5:53pm)

(Edited by Casey Fahy on 10/31, 6:27pm)

(Edited by Casey Fahy on 10/31, 9:45pm)




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Post 153

Monday, October 31, 2005 - 4:52pmSanction this postReply
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Mr. Parille,

Then, I assume you are every bit as angry at Nathaniel Branden as you are at Hull and regard what he did as "misrepresentation." Even so, your assumption is a huge leap in logic -- unreasonable, in fact. Indeed, since Hull was working only with published Rand excerpts, it's fantastic.

Chris,

Nope. No one was "aware" of the extent or scope of the Brandens' deceptions -- only those they admitted in their memoirs -- until the release of my book. So much of this is brand new to all of us. And where are all of those qualifications from scholars to which you refer? Usually, it's like COMMENTARY's hit piece -- an assumption of the truth of the Brandens' claims.

The points that have been raised here are really only about the perception of the record by some people -- and, at best, the minor point about who was asking what question. Yeah, pretty thin. This is comparatively insignificant stuff (and, as you suggest, no evidence of dishonesty) in contrast to the important flaws identified now in the Brandens' accounts.

Mr. Bissell,

ARI does not "falsely purport" to be "historical records" much less accurate ones; by saying so, you are the one obviously doing the "false purporting" of the historical record. Failing to identify a single factual error in my book (I mean, there must be something...), and then accusing me of falsehood, is, of course, a form of falsehood.

Your empty insults are self-demonstrations of your own motives.




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Post 154

Monday, October 31, 2005 - 5:14pmSanction this postReply
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The theme I keep getting throughout this entire debate is the following:

Proposition: The Brandens made exaggerations and omissions. These resulted in damage to Rand's reputation.

Conclusion: ARI, Mr. Valliant (& Co.) must make exaggerations and omissions to combat the Branden exaggerations and omissions. Only thus can Rand's reputation be restored.

The implications are two:

1. Objective truth is not enough - it is not sufficiently effective - to combat any perceived falsehood in public.
2. The end justifies the means. (Where have I heard this one before?)

What is hidden is that exaggerations and omissions, regardless of how well-intentioned - can paint a distorted picture of Rand as imagined by ARI, Mr. Valliant (& Co.) .

Where is that any better than what they are allegedly combating?

I opt for objective truth. Let ALL the facts and ALL reasonable speculations - not just some of them - fall where they may.

Michael




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Post 155

Monday, October 31, 2005 - 10:04pmSanction this postReply
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Michael, you are not doing a very good job of defending anybody. You can't fight generalizations with only generalizations when the first set of generalizations is based on a raft of particulars. It is time you did a real book review of Valliant's book. So what if this discussion dies down for a while? After you do a review it will pick up again. I'm working on my own review, or something that will approximate a review, but a lot of reading is involved and I'll be lucky to be done by Thanksgiving. I may not publish it, though, out of a heavy heart. Btw, Who Was Ayn Rand?

--Brant




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Post 156

Monday, October 31, 2005 - 10:23pmSanction this postReply
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Dayaamm Brant!

What on earth are you trying to say? That was one hell of a post - pedalling all over the place, backward, forward and sideways.

btw - I am defending truth. Not a person or persons.

The defense of the person(s) is because of the double standards constantly being used in the name of reason. (And believe it or not, I also defend Rand - as I sincerely believe that any distortion of reality concerning her is not good for her legacy.)

I will get to my own review in due time. This issue ain't going anywhere. (How long do think it took to write PARC, a week? You need time to do a thorough job.) I have a couple of other priorities right now. My world does not revolve solely around PARC.

But I will not be silenced on a discussion forum either. Why would you even suggest that anyway?

Michael




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Post 157

Monday, October 31, 2005 - 11:42pmSanction this postReply
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Brant, like Michael, I see you blow every which way in your posts and wonder what the hell you're on about, or on. But your comment about a heavy heart tells me that the Valliant book has confronted you with some unpalatable truths, and you're on the verge of coming to terms with them. I wish you well. I know it's difficult.

Linz



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Post 158

Monday, October 31, 2005 - 11:46pmSanction this postReply
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And Michael, just for once, shut the fuck up & leave someone alone to reach his own conclusions. Yours are already formed. We know that. We know what they are. We don't need a zillion reminders. Put a sock in it.

Linz



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Post 159

Tuesday, November 1, 2005 - 4:39amSanction this postReply
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Thank you Linz for that fine example of argument from intimidation.  Now the thread is back on topic.



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