In 2001, Frederic Brochet, of the University of Bordeaux, conducted two separate and very mischievous experiments. In the first test, Brochet invited 57 wine experts and asked them to give their impressions of what looked like two glasses of red and white wine. The wines were actually the same white wine, one of which had been tinted red with food coloring. But that didn't stop the experts from describing the "red" wine in language typically used to describe red wines. One expert praised its "jamminess," while another enjoyed its "crushed red fruit." Not a single one noticed it was actually a white wine.That's ... um ... not impressive.
The second test Brochet conducted was even more damning. He took a middling Bordeaux and served it in two different bottles. One bottle was a fancy grand-cru. The other bottle was an ordinary vin du table. Despite the fact that they were actually being served the exact same wine, the experts gave the differently labeled bottles nearly opposite ratings. The grand cru was "agreeable, woody, complex, balanced and rounded," while the vin du table was "weak, short, light, flat and faulty". Forty experts said the wine with the fancy label was worth drinking, while only 12 said the cheap wine was.
Dear ARI Contributor:Fantastic!
I have outstanding news that I wanted to make you aware of as soon as possible.
As you may already know, Tom Bowden's op-ed, "Deep-Six the Law of the Sea," appeared in the November 20 edition of "The Wall Street Journal."
The impact of that op-ed has been extremly encouraging. Both Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Sen. John Kyl of Arizona have referenced Tom's article; see, for example:
This is a major milestone for the Institute--with not only our views making the editorial pages of one of the nation's most prestigious newspapers, but for that editorial being cited approvingly by two prominent U.S. Senators.
I believe that this is clear evidence of the extraordinary potential that we now have to make an impact on policy issues.
Who would have thought, five or ten years ago, that something like this would have been possible?
Our ability to continue to produce articles such as Tom Bowden's--and to get them published in the nation's leading newspapers, where they come to the attention of key policymakers--is directly related to the support we receive from donors such as you.
Likewise, your continued backing of our media and advocacy efforts is vital to our success; so I hope you will consider a special contribution to ARI to allow us to keep this momentum going; you can do so online at:
Thank you again for your support of our efforts!
President and Executive Director
The Ayn Rand Institute
Given Myrhaf's previous analysis of what makes Hillary Clinton a weak candidate, the "Huckabee vibe" (to capture the superficiality of many of the voters to whom he will appeal) frightens me.
The Republican Party is in trouble. The candidates are all mixed economy mediocrities, with the possible exception of Ron Paul, who is out in left field. None had specific, courageous answers about what Thompson called the "entitlement tsunami" headed our way. By all indications, the presidency of any Republican except Paul will be an extension of Bush's policies. [A Paul presidency would be both different and worse. --ed] Some made general statements about cutting spending, but only Paul gave specifics. The rest are too terrified of offending the legions of Americans who now suck off the federal teat....
The only two candidates who sounded like they had integrity were the libertarian antiwar candidate and the Christian big government candidate. The rest are the kind of middle-of-the-road hacks you would expect among Republican politicians. The candidates are in a welfare state bind: the only way to look principled is to risk angering some pressure groups full of voters; but being controversial is the quickest way to marginalization. It is impossible in today's America to be honest and principled about getting the government out of our lives and remain a serious candidate. I don't think I've ever been so depressed after a debate.
While each of these reasons may help to explain Originalism's appeal, none of them captures the heart of the issue. The deeper reason that Originalism will not die, I think, is that it has staked out the moral high ground, championing the objectivity of interpretation that is essential to the ideal of the rule of law. Anything other than fidelity to the written words, it seems, surrenders us to the rule of mere men (the individual justices on the bench).I have heard Dr. Smith speak on this topic before. This is a very interesting and important issue.
Or so things would appear.
What I will suggest is that the very objectivity which explains Originalism's appeal is misunderstood by Originalists themselves. And part of the reason that criticisms have not inflicted more crippling damage is that the leading alternatives also suffer from confusions about appropriate standards of objectivity in the legal domain -- which many people sense, I think, and which sends them back to the apparently safer harbor of Originalism. [bold added]
Most are thankful to God. I am thankful to man -- specifically, to those individuals who (over the centuries) have created the countless things I need for survival and enjoyment: automobiles, plumbing, mass produced food, medicine, electricity, computers, televisions … the list is endless. I know who many of those inventors are, and I can see, feel and enjoy the benefits of their inventions in my daily life. There are many inventors whom I don't know about -- some of them unsung heroes who never obtained the credit they deserve -- but whose contributions to the wealth and comfort around me are evident all the same.This is an excellent example of what Craig Biddle has called "saying justice".
By Don Watkins
The Federal Communications Commission recently asked Congress to hand it broad powers to regulate "excessive violence" on TV, the way it currently restricts "indecent" speech: broadcasters who violate the FCC's limitations on "excessive violence" will face crippling fines and, potentially, the loss of their broadcast licenses. Isn't it time to ask: How did a country that reveres free speech end up with a government agency that imposes continually expanding speech restrictions--and where will those restrictions end?
Free speech means the right to express the products of the mind (scientific conclusions, artistic creations, political views, etc.) using whatever words or images one chooses over a medium one can rightfully access, without interference by the government. It means the right of a publisher to publish a controversial novel; the right of a newspaper to run an article criticizing the government--and the right of broadcasters to decide what content will flow over their airwaves.
But in 1927, just as radios were becoming widely used, the government seized control of the airwaves, declared them "public property," and assumed the power to regulate them in the name of the "public interest"--an undefinable term that can be stretched to mean anything. Thus broadcasters' right to free speech was cut off at the root, as the government, having irrationally barred broadcasters from owning the airwaves they made valuable through their technological innovation and broadcast content, went on to dictate how those airwaves could be used.
Initially the government pledged that only "obscene" speech--materials that "depict or describe patently offensive 'hard core' sexual conduct"--would be barred from the air. But having abandoned the principle of free speech and established itself as the unchecked arbiter of what could be said on the airwaves, the government was later able to ignore its pledge and, in 1978's FCC v. Pacifica ruling, expand its speech restrictions to include the broader (and even more nebulous) category of "indecent" speech. Thus, broadcasters could be fined for anything from profanity to sexual double-entendres, to vague references to sexual acts. Now, advocates of censorship are appealing to this precedent in order to justify regulating "excessively violent" content as well.
Moreover, Americans had been assured that speech restrictions would apply only to broadcasters operating on the "public airwaves." But now, in its quest to regulate "excessive violence," the FCC is insisting that its regulatory mandate be expanded to cover subscriber-based media such as satellite and cable TV.
If we allow this progression to continue, it is only a matter of time before the FCC starts restricting "offensive" philosophic or scientific views (as some religious opponents of evolution would like). And having gutted free speech on radio and television, what is to stop the government from censoring the Internet, books, and newspapers?
What made this trend toward increasing censorship possible--and inevitable? When the FCC assumed the power to subordinate free speech to the "public interest," it declared, in effect, that individuals are incompetent to judge what speech they and their children should be exposed to, and so their judgment must be usurped by all-wise FCC bureaucrats, who will control the airwaves in their name. Given this disgraceful principle, it did not matter that the FCC's initial restrictions were supposedly limited to speech pertaining to sex: if the government knows what's best for us in the realm of sexual speech and can dictate what we watch or listen to, then there is no reason why it should not control what ideas we should be exposed to across the board. To reverse this destructive trend, therefore, we must do more than resist new speech restrictions--we must abolish existing ones and restore our commitment to the principle of free speech.
Does this mean that parents must be forced to let their children view programming they regard as indecent or violent? No. It is a parent's job, not the government's, to decide and control what his child watches, just as the parent is responsible for deciding what he himself watches. If a parent determines that a show is not appropriate for his child, he is free to change the channel, turn off the TV, or block his child's access to it in some other way. His need to monitor what his child views on TV no more justifies censoring broadcasters than his need to vet what his child reads justifies censoring authors.
Americans face a choice: free speech or censorship. There is no middle ground.
Don Watkins is a writer and research specialist at the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI) in Irvine, Calif. The Institute promotes Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand--author of "Atlas Shrugged" and "The Fountainhead."
"You seek continental domination" Uribe said, and "a Marxist FARC government" to replace Colombia's elected one. He also pointed out that it was prime time for Chavez to be trying this, with the Venezuelan's public support at home flagging just one week before a constitutional referendum to grant him absolute power.And about that "flagging support"....
What better way to make Venezuelans forget their problems than to whip up populist sentiment against Colombia. It also is noteworthy that he's rousing military support against the neighboring state, something he may really find use for as rebellion grows at home.
Weekend polls showed that ever since the king of Spain publicly told him to "shut up" in Chile two weeks ago, support for Chavez's move to seize absolute power in Venezuela has fallen below 50%.I suspect that the widespread dissemination of the King's good example has struck a nerve, and it is gratifying to see a little intolerance down there. But Chavez has already had his thugs open fire on the students.
Student protests have engulfed Caracas and other towns in protest against his dictatorship. Chavez has denounced them as "rich spoiled brats." But in reality, they often are a pivotal political force, particularly since they include young people from Marxist and lower-class backgrounds. [bold added]
"The first thing I will do as president is send Congress my comprehensive plan for energy independence," [Huckabee] proclaims on his Web site. "We will achieve energy independence by the end of my second term." The goal may sound admirable, but even if it's achievable -- and many experts doubt that it is -- Huckabee's plan for getting there is light on specifics. Rather than spell out what steps he would take, he talks of creating a market environment that encourages innovation, and he praises just about every energy source you can think of -- nuclear, "clean coal," wind, solar, hydrogen, biomass, biodiesel, corn-based ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, oil from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and other untapped domestic areas, and, yes, conservation too.Here's the only philosophic exchange in the ensuing interview:
A conservative Republican and devout Christian, Huckabee believes he has a biblical responsibility to protect God's planet from climate change, even though he's not convinced that climate change is largely human-caused. But mandatory limits on greenhouse-gas emissions make him squeamish.
What makes you the strongest Republican candidate on the issues of energy and the environment?Christian "stewardship" environmentalism seems particularly dangerous to me. The reason isn't just that Republicans are adopting bad Democratic policies. They've done that so often, including on environmentalism, that another instance hardly newsworthy.
For one thing, I'm one of the few people who's actually talked about the fact that as Republicans we have done a lousy job of presenting the case for conservation. We ought to be the leaders, but unfortunately we've been the last people speaking out on conservation.
Not only as a Republican, but as a Christian it's important to me to say to my fellow believers, "Look, if anybody ought to be leading on this issue, it ought to be us." We can't justify destroying a planet that doesn't belong to us, and if we believe that God did create this world for our pleasure and wants us to enjoy it, then all the more reason that we should take care of it.
In the more than slightly schizophrenic circumstances of the present era, global culture is divided into three opposing images of the human condition. The dominant one, exemplified by the creation myths of the Abrahamic monotheistic religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - sees humanity as a creation of God. He brought us into being and He guides us still as father, judge and friend. We interpret His will from sacred scriptures and the wisdom of ecclesiastical authorities.I set aside my major criticism of Wilson's essay -- that it makes the common error of mistaking science for rational philosophy (on whose foundations it depends) as the fundamental alternative to faith-based religion -- to focus on the crucial fact that it identifies: Man's conception of himself does indeed depend upon his most fundamental beliefs, be they based on evidence and reason or on faith.
The second world view is that of political behaviourism. Still beloved by the now rapidly fading Marxist-Leninist states, it says that the brain is largely a blank state devoid of any inborn inscription beyond reflexes and primitive bodily urges. As a consequence, the mind originates almost wholly as a product of learning, and it is the product of a culture that itself evolves by historical contingency. Because there is no biologically based "human nature", people can be moulded to the best possible political and economic system, namely communism. In practical politics, this belief has been repeatedly tested and, after economic collapses and tens of millions of deaths in a dozen dysfunctional states, is generally deemed a failure.
Both of these world views, God-centred religion and atheistic communism, are opposed by a third and in some ways more radical world view, scientific humanism. Still held by only a tiny minority of the world's population, it considers humanity to be a biological species that evolved over millions of years in a biological world, acquiring unprecedented intelligence yet still guided by complex inherited emotions and biased channels of learning. Human nature exists, and it was self-assembled. Having arisen by evolution during the far simpler conditions in which humanity lived during more than 99 per cent of its existence, it forms the behavioural part of what, in The Descent of Man, Darwin called "the indelible stamp of [our] lowly origin". [bold added]
Mankind 'shortening the universe's life'If this is the logical conclusion of integrating the current Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics with contemporary cosmology, then physicists really need to re-examine the philosophical foundations of their science.
...The startling claim is made by a pair of American cosmologists investigating the consequences for the cosmos of quantum theory, the most successful theory we have. Over the past few years, cosmologists have taken this powerful theory of what happens at the level of subatomic particles and tried to extend it to understand the universe, since it began in the subatomic realm during the Big Bang.
... [T]he cosmologists claim that astronomers may have accidentally nudged the universe closer to its death by observing dark energy, a mysterious anti gravity force which is thought to be speeding up the expansion of the cosmos.
The damaging allegations are made by Profs Lawrence Krauss of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and James Dent of Vanderbilt University, Nashville, who suggest that by making this observation in 1998 we may have caused the cosmos to revert to an earlier state when it was more likely to end.
... "The intriguing question is this," Prof Krauss told the Telegraph. "If we attempt to apply quantum mechanics to the universe as a whole, and if our present state is unstable, then what sets the clock that governs decay? Once we determine our current state by observations, have we reset the clock? If so, as incredible as it may seem, our detection of dark energy may have reduced the life expectancy of our universe."
Prof Krauss says that the measurement of the light from supernovae in 1998, which provided evidence of dark energy, may have reset the decay of the void to zero - back to a point when the likelihood of its surviving was falling rapidly. "In short, we may have snatched away the possibility of long-term survival for our universe and made it more likely it will decay," says Prof Krauss.
Some might think calling Hillary Clinton a Stalinist is overwrought, like calling President Bush a Nazi, as leftists regularly do. After all, she has never starved millions of kulaks to death. Her secret police have never disappeared someone in the middle of the night, tortured him until he confessed to being a spy, then put him through a quick trial and shot him.
Fair enough. If those are the minimum requirements of Stalinism, then no American qualifies (yet). It would be more accurate to call Hillary Clinton an American Stalinist. It is fascinating to see how she apes a communist dictatorship in an American context.
The American Thinker has an entertaining piece by Kyle-Anne Shiver on Clinton's attempt to create an American Pravda. With the MSM blatantly on her side, it's astonishing that she would feel a need to create Media Matters to attack her attackers. She is either paranoid or she understands the importance of propaganda -- my bet is on the latter. She believes that the end of power justifies destroying truth. Words are nothing but weapons to be used in the fight for power.
Media Matters writes laughably inept attacks on Hillary Clinton's detractors, notably Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly.
To give you an idea of what passes for headline-worthy at Media Matters, Hillary's hall-monitor brigade caught Bill O'Reilly a couple of weeks ago in this misstep: "Culture Warrior" O'Reilly, who chided Dean over Book of Job misidentification, says Revelation "was written -- what? Five thousand years ago?" A paid writer expended well over 1000 words explaining that the Book of Revelation was written a little less than 2000 years ago. I'm personally shocked that in a 3-hour live radio broadcast, this was the only error the listener-monitor could find to transform into a written tattle.
It doesn't matter that Media Matters's arguments are specious and illogical. Hillary Clinton is counting on a media phenomenon in today's subjectivist culture: getting a "balanced" point of view. If a reporter brings up Rush Limbaugh's point of view, then the reporter (or analyst or spin doctor) feels obligated to note Media Matters's opposing opinion. All the "verbose mountains out of molehills," as Kyle-Anne Shiver calls it, is there to give their side prestige and weight. As long as it looks official, reporters can pass this tripe off as a point of view worth noting.
Kyle-Anne Shiver writes about a bizarre, hair-splitting Media Matters attack on Wolf Blitzer:
As a student during the Cold War, I can tell you that this tactic - seizing the detail to the exclusion of the substance -- is highly reminiscent of the way Pravda (the official news outlet of the Soviet Communist Party) used to take apart news from the free world for its unwashed masses. And I am truly appalled to see this verbal excrement make its way into the mainstream of American political discourse.
It is appalling. Hillary Clinton deserves to be derided as an American Stalinist because she shares the communists' contempt for reason and their willingness to lie in the pursuit of power. Behind her lies is the firm conviction that only one thing really matters: force.
The Reverend Mike Huckabee is dangerous for wanting to mix religion and politics, but at least he is honest about wanting to do so. Paul pretends to be a secular candidate and does the same thing. In that sense, he is more dangerous to our secular republic than the Reverend, because he will fool some who would otherwise oppose the agenda of the religious right.The only qualification to this that I would add is that Huckabee is, of the two, more likely to get elected, and so more likely to find himself in a position to do some damage with the help of the government. In that sense, he is the scarier.
And I haven't even touched on the fact that as a libertarian, Paul is a poor proponent of individual rights generally and, in particular the philosophical arguments for them espoused by Ayn Rand, who is often mistaken for (or smeared as) a libertarian.
Huckabee represents compassionate conservatism on steroids. A devout social conservative on issues such as abortion, school prayer, homosexuality and evolution, Huckabee is a populist on economics, a fad-follower on the environment and an all-around do-gooder who believes that the biblical obligation to do "good works" extends to using government -- and your tax dollars -- to bring us closer to the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.Unfortunately, while Goldberg is correct that Huckabee's views are close to the mainstream, he gets things completely, disastrously wrong when he considers the stated political philosophy of Ron Paul:
For example, Huckabee has indicated he would support a nationwide federal ban on public smoking. Why? Because he's on a health kick, thinks smoking is bad and believes the government should do the right thing.
As for Huckabee -- as with most politicians, alas -- his personal preferences matter enormously because ultimately they're the only thing that can be relied on to constrain him.
Huckabee is much closer to the mainstream [than Paul]. And that's what scares me about Huckabee and the mainstream alike. [bold added]
And therein lies the chief difference between Paul and Huckabee. One is a culturally conservative libertarian. The other is a right-wing progressive.First, the notion that a libertarian can even be principled (i.e., an "ideologue") is a contradiction in terms. The whole premise of the libertarian movement is that there is no need to defend individual rights on any particular grounds of political philosophy, or indeed even to define the term! Paul's appeal to a document (that can be amended) in lieu of stating his position is in part a manifestation of this approach of evading intellectual arguments.
Whatever the faults of the man and his friends may or may not be, Paul's dogma generally renders them irrelevant. He is a true ideologue in that his personal preferences are secondary to his philosophical principles. When asked what his position is, he generally responds that his position can be deduced from the text of the Constitution. Of course, that's not as dispositive as he thinks it is. But you get the point. [bold added]
Today and tomorrow are pretty busy as I finish the week's work early for the Thanksgiving holiday. I'll be leaving tomorrow to go my cousins' for a feast and fun. Thanksgiving is a great holiday, an American celebration of abundance and achievement, in which we eat to surfeit, then watch boring football games.
And of course it's always great to see the family -- the liberals who think I'm a warmongering fascist and the Christians who think I'm an agent of Satan because I don't bow my head when they say grace. But aside from religion and politics, which it is best to avoid, these reunions are fun. I enjoy the games and camaraderie.
In a recent comments thread there was a lot of mockery, venom and insults. If my blog gets more popular and attracts more commenters, then I will certainly disable comments like Instapundit. I'm not going to spend time every day asking people to be polite -- or worse, deleting comments from nihilists and nutcases. Just look at Free Republic or Democratic Underground and you see that some people, left and right, are simply unable to comment about their opponents without insulting them. Some commenters at FR and DU have nothing of substance to say, but they will gladly take the time to deliver a gratuitous insult. The insults diminish the value of those forums and make them tedious to wade through.
For now, however, this blog is still peanuts, so I get few comments (and almost none from leftists). Most commenters have been civil, but they slip up now and then. I deliver the occasional insult myself, especially to the big ones like Hillary Clinton or George W. Bush, but I try to argue ideas. After years of effort I am much better at avoiding insults and ad hominem attacks than I was in 1996 when I discovered cyberspace -- a country that is still a rugged frontier.
Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. I'll be back next week.
Followers of my blog will note my fascination with the subject of psycho-epistemology, especially how it relates to mind-body integration (see The Psycho-Epistemology of Acting, Self-Love as a Prime Mover, Mind-Body Integration, The Benevolent People Premise, The Psycho-Epistemology of Sexuality, Are There “Bad” Emotions?). I love thinking about these topics, writing about them, and discussing them with friends. So I was very pleased recently when a new friend expressed an interest in my thoughts on the subject.
Before we got too embroiled in discussion, my friend smartly asked: “What is the ‘cash value’ of these theories?” He wanted to know what applications and implications could be drawn from psycho-epistemology. This is an absolutely brilliant question which can never be asked often enough. If one cannot apply his principles to his life, then his philosophical ramblings are nothing more than armchair rationalisms. With that in mind, I would like to offer an extended example of why the psycho-epistemology of mind-body integration is a very practical field of study.
If one understands the interrelationship between automatized physical, conceptual, and psychological units stored in his subconscious (see Mind-Body Integration and The Psycho-Epistemology of Sexuality Part III), then he is better able to “train” his emotions. If one’s emotional responses are not consonant with his explicit value hierarchy, then he can “retrain” his mind to respond appropriately. Consider an example:
A woman overreacts to minor disagreements with her husband. When he spills milk on the counter, she scowls at him and burns a hole into his head with her eyes. When he protests that she is overreacting, she becomes upset and defends her response by pointing out the value of a clean kitchen. She may not even realize that she was giving him a dirty look. A needless fight over spilled milk explodes.
If one asks the woman how much she values her husband, she would say that she loves him dearly. And she may freely admit that spilling milk on the counter is no big deal. Even when she acknowledges that she is overreacting, she may have difficulty bringing her emotions in line. Emotional responses are automatic, after all, and are not always easy to change. How should she proceed in “retraining” herself?
The first step is to get her priorities straight. She must learn to properly evaluate the relative importance of minor annoyances vs. the value of her relationship with her husband. She must introspect and determine with absolute certainty that she is in fact overreacting. She must introspect in the moment, while she is getting upset about something, and stress to herself her hierarchy of values. Over time, this will allay the intensity of her negative emotional reactions. But there is something else she can do that will help her “retrain”: she can make sure that her mind and body are integrated in her reactions.
One important element of her emotional reaction is the way her body responds. She automatically scowls and narrows her eyes at any minor annoyance. This kind of body language is often strongly associated with very negative evaluations and emotions. If the subconscious treats automatized physical motions, evaluations, and emotions as related units, then by scowling, she is actually communicating to her subconscious – telling it “I am very upset.” Her subconscious responds by stressing negative evaluations and emotions.
Assuming that she has brought her mind in line by clarifying her hierarchy of values, she can bring her body in line by controlling her automatized physical reactions. The next time her husband spills ketchup on the kitchen floor and she starts to get upset, she can monitor her facial movements, remove the scowl from her face, slow her breathing, and otherwise physically act as if she is not upset. Now she is sending a different message to her subconscious. Not only is she training herself to evaluate the situation properly, she is training her subconscious how to respond physically to the situation. Since mind and body are integrated in the way I have described, controlling the physical elements of an emotional reaction facilitates retraining. It can help effect a change much more quickly. As an added benefit, positive body language communicates the proper message to one’s lover as well as oneself.
Paying attention to the physical elements of one’s emotional reactions can be greatly beneficial in many areas of one’s life. It can help one become a better communicator, a better friend, a better lover and, most importantly, a better valuer. If one trains his mind and body to respond to values appropriately -- then he will be happier, more passionate, and more motivated.
Tune in next week, when I will offer another “cash value” example, this time relating to sexuality and romantic love relationships.--Dan Edge
Irvine, CA--Dr. Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute, denounced the anti-"predatory-lending" bill just passed by the House. "This bill purports to help lower-income borrowers--by making life impossible for anyone who would like to lend them money.
"The bill tells lenders that they may not engage in vague, undefined offenses like offering loans that are not 'solely in the best interest of the consumer' or offering loans that a borrower does not have a 'reasonable ability to repay.' Since there is no clear standard of a 'reasonable ability to repay' or the 'best interest of the consumer,' lenders could be held liable for any loan a borrower fails to pay off. All an irresponsible borrower or unscrupulous lawyer needs to do is convince a jury in hindsight that the lender should have known better--and both will be in the money at the lender's expense. To compound the injustice, the new law would apply not only to those who make failed loans, but to any financial institution that buys and pools loans made by others.
"If you were a mortgage lender facing this sword of Damocles for any loan that goes bad, what would you do? The same thing that mortgage lenders will do if this legislation passes: jack up rates to account for the high risk of lawsuits--and likely avoid lending to higher-risk candidates altogether. Is this going to help the lower-income home-buyers that 'predatory lending' opponents claim to care about so much?"
...[H]is proposal is remarkable because, by the arcane standards of particle physics, it does not require highly complex mathematics.In other words, it doesn't require invoking arbitrary new dimensions for which we have no evidence. Plus it makes testable predictions that are at variance with the so-called Standard Model. The New Scientist article states that his theory predicts:
Even better, it does not require more than one dimension of time and three of space, when some rival theories need ten or even more spatial dimensions and other bizarre concepts.
...[M]ore than 20 new particles not envisaged by the standard model. Lisi is now calculating the masses that these particles should have, in the hope that they may be spotted when the Large Hadron Collider - being built at CERN, near Geneva in Switzerland - starts up next year.David Harriman mentioned in his lecture to our Front Range Objectivism group last year that any physicist who wants to challenge the dominance of string theory will have a very hard time, since nearly all the grant funding in academia for such foundational issues is controlled by people who believe in string theory. It seems that this is borne out by Lisi's experience, as reported by New Scientist:
"This is an all-or-nothing kind of theory - it's either going to be exactly right, or spectacularly wrong," says Lisi. "I'm the first to admit this is a long shot. But it ain't over till the LHC sings."
Most attempts to bring gravity into the picture have been based on string theory, which proposes that particles are ultimately composed of minuscule strings. Lisi has never been a fan of string theory and says that it's because of pressure to step into line that he abandoned academia after his PhD. "I've never been much of a follower, so I walked off to search for my own theory," he says. Last year, he won a research grant from the charitably funded Foundational Questions Institute to pursue his ideas.For those who are interested in the details of his theory, here's the link to his paper (click on "PDF" on the upper right). The abstract reads as follows:
An Exceptionally Simple Theory of EverythingThose who want a semi-technical explanation (with video) can find one here. My own mathematics background is not strong enough to make an assessment of the merits of his theory. Nor do I know any more about the Foundational Questions Institute besides what's on their webpage. But FWIW, I did meet Garrett Lisi at a dinner party several years ago as a friend-of-a-friend, back when Diana and I lived in San Diego and he was still a graduate student in physics at UCSD. At the time, he struck me as an extremely intelligent man, so he would be a plausible candidate for someone who could have come up with a revolutionary new theory in physics.
A. Garrett Lisi (Submitted on 6 Nov 2007)
Abstract: All fields of the standard model and gravity are unified as an E8 principal bundle connection. A non-compact real form of the E8 Lie algebra has G2 and F4 subalgebras which break down to strong su(3), electroweak su(2) x u(1), gravitational so(3,1), the frame-Higgs, and three generations of fermions related by triality. The interactions and dynamics of these 1-form and Grassmann valued parts of an E8 superconnection are described by the curvature and action over a four dimensional base manifold.
How bad is Huckabee? Salon.com has a piece called Huckabee: God wants us to fight global warming.
A conservative Republican and devout Christian, Huckabee believes he has a biblical responsibility to protect God's planet from climate change, even though he's not convinced that climate change is largely human-caused. But mandatory limits on greenhouse-gas emissions make him squeamish.
If he has a biblical responsiblility to protect God's planet from climate change, even though he's not convinced that climate change is largely human-caused, then isn't he trying to protect the planet from the climate changes caused by God? Even by his own mystical standard, his position is incoherent.
But that last sentence in the quote, about him being squeamish on limits on greenhouse-gas emissions, is probably enough to persuade pragmatist Republicans that he is okay. After all, he's not an extremist!
Huckabee is currently running second behind Romney in Iowa. In New Hampshire, however, he is a distant fifth, behind even Ron Paul. It will be interesting to see if the best candidate, Giuliani, survives the early states, which do not favor him.
If an accident kills wildlife or people, punishment is meted out and restitution made. A host of regulators, lawyers, judges, activists, journalists and politicians help bring the wrongdoers to justice.This is a direct result of the altruistic morality espoused by these "ethics cops", who see the sacrifice of human beings to nature as a moral ideal, and this omission weakens the piece, because it is this morality which must be challenged before significant progress against environmentalism can be made.
But when it comes to policies and programmes that sicken and kill millions of parents and children a year, these ethics cops and eco-warriors are not just silent. They refuse to hold government agencies and activist groups to the same honesty and accountability standards they apply to for-profit companies. They even oppose programmes that would reduce disease and save lives.
Evolution wars take a bizarre twist
In a bizarre twist to the evolution wars, supporters of intelligent design are accusing the producers of a TV science documentary series of bringing religion into US classrooms. The Discovery Institute, based in Seattle, Washington, alleges that teaching materials accompanying Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial, broadcast on 13 November, encourage unconstitutional teaching practices.
The teaching package states: "Q: Can you accept evolution and still believe in religion? A: Yes. The common view that evolution is inherently anti-religious is simply false." According to Casey Luskin, an attorney with the Discovery Institute, this answer favours one religious viewpoint, arguably violating the US constitution. "We're afraid that teachers might get sued," he says.
A lawyer for WGBH in Boston, Massachusetts, which produces the show, says the package is covered by the right to free speech. He declined to comment on the claim that teachers risked lawsuits.
AAOIFI's members and shari'a board include Saudi Arabia's Dallah Al-Baraka Group, al-Rajhi Banking & Investment Corporation and Kuwait Finance House--all implicated in al Qaeda and other terror funding, according to former national counter-terror coordinator Richard Clarke. Other board members are the Islamic Development Bank, also known as the Bank of the Intifada for funding families of suicide bombers, whose principal owners are Saudi Arabia, Iran, Lybia and Egypt, and not one, but two U.S.-sanctioned terror states, Sudan and Iran. Islamic finance experts consider AAOIFI fatwas standards to which all shari'a banks and products, even in the U.S., must adhere. But UAE’s showcase Bourse on Oct. 22, 2007 denied its Islamic "purity" to the Partnership for New York City.That last passage reminds me -- for more than one reason -- of something Leonard Peikoff noted that we could have done over a half-century ago that would have prevented this from existing as an issue to begin with: protet American property rights.
Imposing shari'a--by proselytizing (da'wa) or jihad war--is obligatory.
U.S. banking and investment laws guarantee individual property rights, require full disclosure, and prohibit criminal or terrorist activities. Western bankers and businessmen, however, oblivious to shari'a and financial jihad history, clamor for Muslim petrodollars (supposed surpluses from overextended Middle Eastern exchanges) pouring into U.S. markets.
The first country to nationalize Western oil, in 1951, was Iran. The rest, observing our frightened silence, hurried to grab their piece of the newly available loot.This failure to protect the rights of our citizens consistently in the first place is now feeding on itself in the form of tempting investments that pragmatic businessmen will not resist -- or craven politicians dare to oppose.
The Crusades are a famous example of the violent conflict that characterizes the interface between Western civilization and the Middle East throughout history. In that series of religious wars stretching from 1095 to 1291, the powers of Western and Central Europe, then the most progressive elements in Western civilization, attempted to claim the Holy Land for Christianity. This is, of course, the basic storyline that most people are familiar with.Powell goes on to explain how this left Constantinople ripe for its eventual Moslem takeover, as well as to point out how such behavior has continued even to the modern day.
An episode from the Crusades from 1204 that I suspect most people don’t know about, however, demonstrates another long-running, trend in East-West relations, namely "West-West" backstabbing. Too often in the history of Western civilization, its own leading representatives have demonstrated a disturbing and tragic failure to grasp the unique virtues of their own Civilization, to see the fundamental values they share, and defend them. Instead they have acted to secure short-range benefits, usually at each other’s expense.
In 1204, this is exactly what happened. The Venetians, upon whom the Crusaders were relying for passage to the Holy Land, refused transport to the Western army because the Crusaders could not meet their price. Then, finding a convenient excuse in a contested succession at Constantinople, they convinced the knights to take the city on behalf on one the claimants, and by this means derive their desired profit. [bold added]
But the judges had decided to punish the woman further for "her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media," a court source told the Arab News.
Saudi Arabia enforces a strict Islamic doctrine that forbids unrelated men and women from associating with each other, bans women from driving and forces them to cover head-to-toe in public."
So the men who gang-raped this girl might get as little as a year in prison, while the victim is imprisoned, beaten, and humiliated by the Saudi government for "being in the car of an unrelated male." I am beyond disgusted. This kind of thing makes my blood boil. The Saudis deserve the very worst of our ire. What more evidence do we need that they are our enemies, not our allies? They are nothing more than 3rd world barbarians who stole a fortune in oil wealth from American companies back in the 50's.
Saidi Arabia is the spiritual heart of Sunni Islam (the same sect as Osama bin Laden), and as such they are our #2 enemy next to Iran.
Death to Islamic Totalitarianism!
The Dover trial was the latest in a long line of court cases involving the teaching of evolution, but it was exceptional in that it was the first case that tested the legality of teaching Intelligent Design in a science class. The decision at Dover determined that ID was unscientific and fundamentally religious. Tonight, the PBS show NOVA will will take a look at the trial in a show that includes dramatized reenactments of courtroom scenes.The article links to a speech by Don McLeroy, an advocate of Intelligent Design and the chairman of the Texas State Board of Education. Here's a small tidbit:
Not surprisingly, the organized ID movement has not been pleased with the Dover decision and has disparaged it at every opportunity (they're not fond of the NOVA special, either). Regardless of their opinion, however, the court's ruling was decisive, and no court cases regarding ID have made it to the trial stage since; Dover has become an effective threat to both hasten legal settlements and changes of policy.
That's not to say that the Discovery Institute and other ID proponents have packed up and called it a day; instead, they seem to simply be changing tactics. Recent developments indicate that the next wave of anti-evolution agitation will take a two-pronged approach. The first will be to try to foster doubt regarding evolution during high school education, while the second aims to explicitly carve a space for ID proponents at the college level by pressuring for their inclusion as a form of academic freedom. We'll take a brief look at both of these developments.
But what is the main target of intelligent design? What's the main target? Is it the chemical origin of life? Research? Well, it's not, certainly, origin of life spontaneously arose chemically is not supported by the Bible. It's not supported by the evidence, so maybe that is the target. But, in fact, it's the lack of evidence of chemical origin of life and the incredible complexity of life itself that played the major role in Antony Flew, that famous British philosopher that just said that he had to abandon his atheism. So it's very powerful, the origin of life, but that is not the main target of the intelligent design movement. Oh, it's neo-Darwinism. Neo-Darwinism is another description term for just evolution, common descent that talks about genetic variability so it gets it more precise. And is that the target? It's not supported by evidence, it's not Biblical, so that must be the target of intelligent design, but really it's not the main target either.In other words, the target of Intelligent Design is not just evolution, but the very metaphysics that makes science and technology possible -- not to mention respect for rights and secular government.
Actually, in intelligent design we are focused on a on a bigger target, and in the words of Phillip Johnson "the target is metaphysical naturalism, materialism or just plain old naturalism. The idea that nature is all there is." Modern science today is totally based on naturalism, and all of intelligent design's arguments against evolution and chemical origin of life it is the naturalistic base that is the target. And this is a quote from Phillip Johnson: "The important aspect of Darwinian evolution is it's naturalistic claim that life is the result of purposeless, unintelligent material causes. When Darwinian evolution and intelligent design stand in a complete antithesis. Intelligent design requires the designing influence to account for the complexity of life where Darwinian theory of common descent claims that life spontaneously arose."
Now I would like to talk a little bit about the big tent. Why is intelligent design the big tent? It's because we're all lined up against the fact that naturalism, that nature is all there is. Whether you're a progressive creationist, recent creationist, young earth, old earth, it's all in the tent of intelligent design.
Despite a succession of court decisions striking down university speech codes, they re-emerged thinly disguised as rules to prevent and punish "harassment," defined to include any speech deemed offensive by minorities, women, gays, or other preferred groups.It is exactly as I said upon first learning of FIRE's success:
I see this victory as temporary. UD will doubtless let the heat die down and reinstitute as much of this as they feel they can get away with when they can.Just as we are learning abroad that one cannot force people whose fundamental ideas are incompatible with individual rights to adopt Western forms of government in any meaningful way, we are learning it here. The multiculturalists see American society as "racist" and its institutions as tools of oppression, which they will attempt to subvert or destroy outright in the name of their code of morality. And in the meantime, they are attempting to make more of themselves by using our educational institutions to indoctrinate the young.
FIRE is watching this and this will slow them down, but the real way to stop this is to get more and more academics to oppose multiculturalism.
Wow! Glenn Greenwald makes a powerful case for supporting Rudy Giuliani! You would think that a liberal would be against any Republican, but look at some of the glowing praise Mr. Greenwald heaps on Rudy Giuliani:
The most transparent and destructive fallacy being recited by our Beltway media class is that Rudy Giuliani is a moderate or centrist Republican.
The very idea that Giuliani is a "moderate" or a "centrist" is completely absurd. Regarding the issues over which the next President will have the greatest influence -- foreign policy and presidential powers -- Giuliani is as far to what is now considered the "Right" as it gets. His views on foreign policy are far more radical and bellicose even than Dick Cheney's, and his view of presidential powers makes George Bush look like Thomas Jefferson.
A warmonger with authoritarian impulses and liberal positions on social issues isn't a "moderate" or a "centrist." He's just a warmonger with authoritarian impulses and liberal positions on social issues.
Whatever else Giuliani might be, "centrist" and "moderate" is not it. He is one of the most radical major candidates in memory.
And what exactly is so good about Giuliani?
He has one of the most extremist and war-loving foreign policy teams ever assembled for a major candidate. He has advocated or expressed openness to such radical policies as imprisoning American citizens with no trials, having Israel join NATO, and launching a first-strike tactical nuclear attack on Iran. And he speaks more glibly than virtually any individual in the country about torture.
All that and he supports torture, too? Enough, Glenn, enough -- I'm sold. Go, Rudy!
If you’re too lazy to read the bible, the second best way to become an atheist is probably to visit this place.
The top 1 percent of Americans received 21.2 % of all personal income in 2005... a big jump from 2004, when the top 1 percent's share was 19 %, and slightly above the 2000 figure of 20.8 %The problem with this type of analysis is that it is not measuring the same people. Those who were the "top 1%" in 2000 are not the same as those who are the top 1% in 2005. The same for the bottom 50%.
The bottom 50 percent of Americans got 12.8 %..., down from 13.4 % in 2004 and 13 % in 2000.
By Debi Ghate
Ah, Thanksgiving. To most of us, the word conjures up images of turkey dinner, pumpkin pie and watching football with family and friends. It kicks off the holiday season and is the biggest shopping weekend of the year. We're taught that Thanksgiving came about when pilgrims gave thanks to God for a bountiful harvest. We vaguely mumble thanks for the food on our table, the roof over our head and the loved ones around us. We casually think about how lucky we are and how much better our lives are than, say, those in Bangladesh. But surely there is something more to celebrate, something more sacred about this holiday.
What should we really be celebrating on Thanksgiving?
Ayn Rand described Thanksgiving as "a typically American holiday . . . its essential, secular meaning is a celebration of successful production. It is a producers' holiday. The lavish meal is a symbol of the fact that abundant consumption is the result and reward of production." She was right. This country was mostly uninhabited and wild when our forefathers began to develop the land and build spectacular cities, shaping what is now the wealthiest nation in the world. It's the American spirit to overcome challenges, create great achievements, and enjoy prosperity. We uniquely recognize that production leads to wealth and that we must dedicate ourselves to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. It's no accident that Americans have a holiday called Thanksgiving--a yearly tradition when we pause to appreciate the "bountiful harvest" we've reaped.
What is today's version of the "bountiful harvest"? It's the affluence and success we've gained. It's the cars, houses and vacations we enjoy. It's the life-saving medicines we rely on, the stock portfolios we build, the beautiful clothes we buy and the safe, clean streets we live on. It's the good life.
How did we get this "bountiful harvest"? Ask any hard-working American; it sure wasn't by the "grace of God." It didn't grow on a fabled "money tree." We created it by working hard, by desiring the best money can buy and by wanting excellence for ourselves and our loved ones. What we don't create ourselves, we trade value for value with those who have the goods and services we need, such as our stockbrokers, hairdressers and doctors. We alone are responsible for our wealth. We are the producers and Thanksgiving is our holiday.
So, on Thanksgiving, why don't we thank ourselves and those producers who make the good life possible?
From a young age, we are bombarded with messages designed to undermine our confident pursuit of values: "Be humble," "You can't know what's good for yourself," "It's better to give than receive," and above all "Don't be selfish!" We are scolded not to take more than "our share"--whether it is of corporate profits, electricity or pie. We are taught that altruism--selfless concern for others--is the moral ideal. We are taught to sacrifice for strangers, who have no claim to our hard-earned wealth. We are taught to kneel rather than reach for the sky.
But, morally, one should reach for the sky. One should recognize that the corporate profits, electricity or pie was earned through one's production--and savor its consumption. Every decision one makes, from what career to pursue to whom to call a friend, should be guided by what will best advance one's rational goals, interests and, ultimately, one's life. One should take pride in being rationally selfish--one's life and happiness depend on it.
Thanksgiving is the perfect time to recognize what we are truly grateful for, to appreciate and celebrate the fruits of our labor: our wealth, health, relationships and material things--all the values we most selfishly cherish. We should thank researchers who have made certain cancers beatable, gourmet chefs at our favorite restaurants, authors whose books made us rethink our lives, financiers who developed revolutionary investment strategies and entrepreneurs who created fabulous online stores. We should thank ourselves and those individuals who make our lives more comfortable and enjoyable--those who help us live the much-coveted American dream.
As you sit down to your sumptuous Thanksgiving dinner served on your best china, think of all the talented individuals whose innovation and inventiveness made possible the products you are enjoying. As you look around at who you've chosen to spend your day with--those you've chosen to love--thank yourself for everything you have done to make this moment possible. It's a time to selfishly and proudly say: "I earned this."
Two weeks after Olga Reyes danced at her wedding, her bloated and disfigured body was laid to rest in an open coffin -- the victim, her husband and some experts say, of Nicaragua's new no-exceptions ban on abortion.When I researched this issue about a year ago, polls showed that about 10 to 12 percent of Americans support a similar ban on abortion regardless of threat to the life of the mother. That's frightening.
Reyes, a 22-year-old law student, suffered an ectopic pregnancy. The fetus develops outside the uterus, cannot survive and causes bleeding that endangers the mother. But doctors seemed afraid to treat her because of the anti-abortion law, said husband Agustin Perez. By the time they took action, it was too late.
Nicaragua last year became one of 35 countries that ban all abortions, even to save the life of the mother, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York. The ban has been strictly followed, leaving the country torn between a strong tradition of women's rights and a growing religious conservatism. Abortion rights groups have stormed Congress in recent weeks demanding change, but President Daniel Ortega, a former leftist revolutionary and a Roman Catholic, has refused to oppose the church-supported ban.
Evangelical groups and the church say abortion is never needed now because medical advances solve the complications that might otherwise put a pregnant mother's life at risk.
But at least three women have died because of the ban, and another 12 reported cases will be examined, said gynecologist and university researcher Eliette Valladares, who is working with the Pan American Health Organization to analyze deaths of pregnant women recorded by Nicaragua's Health Ministry.
Spain's King Juan Carlos told Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez to "shut up" as the Ibero-American summit drew to a close in Santiago, Chile.I do not know Spanish, so would not be able to tell whether the king of Spain was, perhaps in exasperation, asking why Chavez would not shut up -- or asking the question by way of a suggestion for how to behave more like a civilized adult. Be that as it may, the question does come up: Why won't Hugo Chavez shut up -- at least in the sense of allowing others to speak in turn, and not gratuitously insulting them?
The outburst came after Mr Chavez called former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar a "fascist".
Mr Chavez then interrupted Spanish PM Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's calls for him to be more diplomatic, prompting the king's outburst.
Latin American, Portuguese, Spanish and Andorran leaders were meeting in Chile.
Mr Chavez called Mr Aznar, a close ally of US President George W Bush, a fascist, adding "fascists are not human. A snake is more human."
Mr Zapatero said: "[Former Prime Minister] Aznar was democratically elected by the Spanish people and was a legitimate representative of the Spanish people."
Mr Chavez repeatedly tried to interrupt, despite his microphone being turned off. The king leaned forward and said: "Why don't you shut up?"
According to reports, the king used a familiar term normally used only for close acquaintances - or children.
Later, Mr Chavez responded to the king's rebuke.
According to the Associated Press news agency, he said: "I do not offend by telling the truth. The Venezuelan government reserves the right to respond to any aggression, anywhere, in any space and in any manner." [bold added]
Dawkins is in some ways a terrible representative for atheism, which I'm glad about because a bad cause deserves a bad leader. He is also a terrible advocate for science, which I'm sad about because science deserves all the support it can get.If D'Souza is so confident in the reasonableness of his views, why not aim higher than a lightweight such as Dawkins? Perhaps it is because, as I have discussed here recently, D'Souza's own position can, by its nature, look rational only with a clown like Dawkins as an opponent.
Having debated Christopher Hitchens, I'd like the opportunity to debate Dawkins. I think I can vindicate a rational and scientific argument for religion against his irrational and unscientific prejudice. When I wrote Dawkins to propose such a debate, however, Dawkins said that "upon reflection" he decided against it. He didn't give a reason, and there is no reason.
In his writings on religion, Dawkins presents atheism as the side of reason and evidence, and religion as the side of "blind faith." So what’s he afraid of? How can reason possibly lose in a contest with ignorance and superstition? I have written Dawkins back offering him the most favorable terms: a debate on a secular campus like Berkeley rather than a church, with atheist Michael Shermer as the moderator, and a donor ready and willing to pay both our fees. [bold added]
Seven years ago, Time magazine featured the Swiss biologist Ingo Potrykus on its cover. As the principal creator of genetically modified rice -- or "golden rice" -- he was hailed as potentially one of mankind's great benefactors. Golden rice was to be the start of a new green revolution to improve the lives of millions of the poorest people in the world. It would help remedy vitamin A deficiency, the cause of 1-2m deaths a year, and could save up to 500,000 children a year from going blind. It was the flagship of plant biotechnology. No other scientific development in agriculture in recent times held out greater promise.What went wrong is that another "green revolution" is cashing in on the fact that in the West, facts and reason have slowly been disappearing from the public debate for some time. It's long, but read the whole thing.
Seven years later, the most optimistic forecast is that it will take another five or six years before golden rice is grown commercially. The realisation of Potrykus's dream keeps receding. The promised benefits from other GM crops that should reduce hunger and disease have been equally elusive. GM crops should now be growing in areas where no crops can grow: drought-resistant crops in arid soil and salt-resistant crops in soil of high salinity. Plant-based oral vaccines should now be saving millions of deaths from diarrhoea and hepatitis B; they can be ingested in orange juice, bananas or tomatoes, avoiding the need for injection and for trained staff to administer them and refrigeration to store them.
None of these crops is yet on the market. What has gone wrong? [bold added]
The alleged risk to health from GM crops is still the main reason for public disquiet—something nurtured by statements by environmental NGOs, who in 2002 even persuaded the Zambian government to reject food aid from the US at a time of famine because some of it was derived from GM crops. This allegation of harm has been so soundly and frequently refuted that when it is repeated, the temptation is to despair. But unless the charge is confronted, contradicted and disproved whenever it is made, its credibility will persist. The fact is that there is not a shred of any evidence of risk to human health from GM crops. [bold added]There will always be those who doubt the safety of new technology, but until the standards of credibility in the cultural debate improve, travesties like this will keep on happening. The burden of proof that genetically modified food is "unsafe" -- or that the drive for corporate profits is an inherently sinister motive -- lie with those who make the assertion.
Watching a segment about the U.S. Coast Guard today, I heard an agent describe the immigrant smugglers who bring people from Cube as “ruthless” men who “care nothing for human life.” That may well be true. Yet moments before saying those words, the agent intercepted a Cuban family moments before their attempt to seek a life of freedom would have been successful. They likely paid their life savings to the smuggler – and will probably be sent back to prison – or worse.
The smugglers risk their life to bring desperate people to a free society. The border agents casually condemn people to a life of persecution and oppression and force them to undergo a perilous and financially ruinous journey. If it were not for their persecution, the trip from
(By the way, as much as their are vilified, the smugglers have a strong incentive to keep their cargo alive and out of jail - so much that they provide free legal aid if they are caught. If they sometimes get too aggressive about making a profit, the migrants have only an uncaring and hostile immigration policy to blame.)
According to the latest poll averages at Real Clear Politics, Hillary Clinton leads the Democrat field with 45.9% of the vote. Obama is a distant second at 22.9%.
I might end up eating these words, but the election is over. The next President of the USA will be the Republican candidate, whoever he is. I'm not saying this is a good thing or that I will vote for the Republican, I'm just saying that Hillary Clinton will get the Democrat nomination and there's no way in hell she can win the general election.
Hillary Clinton's problem is TV. As Dan Rather said, the camera never blinks. TV is not the best medium for communicating ideas, but it is the best for showing who a candidate is. TV communicates a candidate's character, his personality, his sense of life. Voters have an instantaneous emotional reaction to a candidate they see on TV and for all too many voters their first reaction is their last.
Hillary Clinton has a remarkably unpleasant character. She is one of the coldest personalities I have ever seen in a politician. And she can't hide who she is on TV. When she tries to cover it up, such as the day she laughed a lot, she looks worse and ends up on You Tube.
Clinton is a statist through and through. She sees the American people as helpless, deluded creatures who need to be forced and controlled for their own good by altruist philosopher-kings like Hillary Clinton. She thinks of herself as having "compassion" and "caring for the common man," but when one thinks of people as inferior children who need to be lied to, there is another feeling just beneath the surface: contempt. Her contempt and condescension shine through on TV.
A Hillary Clinton candidacy would excite and mobilize the Republican base; it would bring out more Republican voters. At the same time, it would not excite the Democrat base much. If anything, Republican attacks on Clinton would motivate Democrats more than anything positive about their candidate. (Such is the sorry, hate-filled state of American politics.) I see very little enthusiasm for Clinton at Democratic Underground or Daily Kos.
That leaves the independents, who are least interested in ideology or party loyalty and are most susceptible to impressions of a candidate's personality on TV. In his piece on the case for Republican optimism in 2008, Jim Geraghty writes this about independents:
The Democrats have thrown away most of the reform issues that helped them a lot with independents: lobbying reform, ethics rules, earmarks, lack of disclosure, junkets, etc. The “culture of corruption” narrowly outranked terrorism on the list of voter concerns in 2006.
What can we infer about independents from this?
Placing "culture of corruption" above terrorism as a concern shows complete ignorance of politics and economics. The welfare state spends over $2 trillion a year on programs the government should not be involved in. The penny ante corruption of politicians is nothing compared to the scandalous injustice the state perpetrates legally.
People who can think at least a little in principle will evaluate whether they support the war and the welfare state and then choose their party accordingly. But people who ignore the war and the welfare state to place corruption as their number one concern are simply... well, maybe I'd better stop before I degenerate into profanity.
Why don't independents align with any party? For the most part, because they're ignorant. They don't give a damn about politics. They play video games and watch American Idol and take their kids to soccer practice and gossip about Britney and Paris. At some point in the fall they realize there's a campaign going on and they get their first glimpse of the candidates -- on TV.
So you see, Hillary Clinton is doomed. She can lie about her ideas, but she can't fake who she is. How ironic is it that a Democrat candidate will lose because a large part of the American electorate has been dumbed down by government schools (teachers unions being a huge bloc of the Dem base) to the point that they are actually too stupid to listen to Hillary Clinton's lies?
UPDATE: Slight revision. I can't believe all the typos I found in this post. In one sentence I meant to write stop but wrote the opposite, start -- a kind of conceptual dyslexia.
A leading authority of Saudi Arabia's hardline school of Islam has condemned camel beauty contests as evil, saying those involved should seek repentance in God.And heaven help the poor Islamist who feels pride in his earthly accomplishments. Contrast al-Barrak's view of "sinful" pride with Ayn Rand's:
Camel pageants have become major events in the desert kingdom in recent years as tribes hold ever larger competitions, with bigger prizes and wider publicity.
Delicate females or strapping males which attract the right attention during a show can sell for more than a million riyals (127,000 pounds). Sponsors spent 10 million riyals on prizes for one competition this year.
"Everyone must repent of these acts from which no good can come because of its evils, and they should beg forgiveness from God," said a fatwa, or religious ruling, issued this week by Sheikh Abdul-Rahman al-Barrak and a lesser-known sheikh.
"Millions of riyals are spent on buying camels just to feel proud and not for the reasons God created camels, like for food, drink, riding and work," he said, attacking the contests as a backward tribal custom from pre-Islamic Arabia.
The virtue of Pride can best be described by the term: "moral ambitiousness." It means that one must earn the right to hold oneself as one's own highest value by achieving one's own moral perfection—which one achieves by never accepting any code of irrational virtues impossible to practice and by never failing to practice the virtues one knows to be rational—by never accepting an unearned guilt and never earning any, or, if one has earned it, never leaving it uncorrected—by never resigning oneself passively to any flaws in one's character—by never placing any concern, wish, fear or mood of the moment above the reality of one's own self-esteem. And, above all, it means one's rejection of the role of a sacrificial animal, the rejection of any doctrine that preaches self-immolation as a moral virtue or duty. [Source: The Ayn Rand Lexicon]I say that if camel beauty pageants help lead men to reject the idea that they must pursue self-immolation as a virtue, let the camels be beautiful.
"Keep moving, please," the tour guide said. Her voice was cool, assured and a little bored -- it was obvious she'd given this tour many, many times.
"We now enter the 20th Century Room; this century was a little over 1,000 years ago. It is an odd century because science and technology made huge advances, whereas culture and art declined greatly. The 20th Century saw the coming of atomic power, airflight and the internet, but also saw the genocide of tens of millions by totalitarian states and the coming of non-representational art -- that is, art that is not really art because it does not recreate reality. The smears of color on the wall to your right were highly esteemed and valuable paintings in the 20th and 21st centuries. After the 2050's most of the works of that school were destroyed or neglected and finally lost, but these specimens have survived. We believe the large, splattered canvas in the middle was painted by someone called Jackson Pollack, but the other artists have been forgotten.
"In the 1960's what we now call the 'Cultural Dark Age' began. The CDA lasted about 80 years, into the 2040's. It was essentially an egalitarian movement that destroyed all standards. Before the CDA, fashion was quite stylish; after the CDA -- let me direct your attention to the exhibit on the left."
The crowd gasped. One man asked, "Are they cavemen?"
"These are the leaders of the Cultural Dark Age; they are called 'Hippies.'"
"Why do they look like that?" a high school girl asked. "Have they no pride?"
"The appearance of the Hippies is egalitarianism in style. When a culture destroys all standards, this is the result. I shall now play a sample of the primitive music of the Hippies.
The tour guide pressed a button on her belt and the music of the Everly Brothers filled the room. Members of the tour group cringed, grimaced and covered their ears. "Please, turn it off," the mother of three children shouted as her kids grabbed her legs in fear.
The tour guide shut off the music.
"Hard to take, isn't it? This music is called Rockie music. The name probably comes from the Rockie Mountains, where the music is supposed to have originated. This music features a heavy beat with some distorted harmony. The vocals are often screamed. The melodies are undeveloped and primitive. There are no melodic climaxes in which a soprano might show off her high B flat. The music has no sense of beauty, style or intelligence as our music today does."
"Does anyone still listen to that noise?" a voice in the crowd asked.
"Rockie music is listened to only by a small cult known as Deadheads. Deadhead communes can be found in the mountains of California and in the plains of central Canada. The music went out of style, thankfully, with the Neo-Romantic Counter-Revolution of the 2040's, which we will explore further in the 21st Century Room."
"I can't wait to get there!" a man quipped to general laughter.
"Then let us move on through the door ahead to that happier century," the tour guide said. "Keep moving, please."
UPDATE: Changed the artist from Van Halen to the Everly Brothers. Funnier that way.
I was perusing my blog notebook where I keep all manner of ideas for posts, and happened upon an old summary I had done when I was reading Robert Bork's Slouching Towards Gomorrah several years ago. Many of the posts I've done recently have looked at the idiocy of so-called conservative policies in an attempt to demonstrate that while the Democrats are no friends of Objectivism, neither are the Republicans. And they may actually be more dangerous to the cause than the Democrats.
What struck me about this essay was that it was all before the last elections, before Leonard Peikoff has convinced me that the Republicans and more importantly, their social/religious conservative base were as dangerous if not more dangerous than today's liberals. And yet, here was the same fundamental analysis which I'd put down on paper long before I understood the consequences of it enough to take action with conviction. The second thing that drew me to it was that here in Bork's thinking, published more than 10 years ago were the basic philosophic ideas clearly articulated that if perpetuated by the Republican party will make it a dangerous threat to liberty. So I transcribed it just out of sense of discovery...
2/7/04 - One of the things that has bothered me about most thought labeled as "conservative" is that while it has a tendency toward advocating more (though not consistent) free market policy and less socialistic policy, it seems to want to replace social policy with a more paternalistic, moralistic use of government. Interestingly enough, Robert Bork in his book Slouching Towards Gomorrah espouses just such a philosophical view on more philosophical grounds. I can clearly see the influence of his ideas and those like him on today's conservative thought...
Bork's thesis is that modern liberalism has "over-extended" two ideas: individualism and egalitarianism into mutated forms which he calls "radical". That the founders never intended and which are incompatible with a free society. He then claims that today's conservative thought represents "true" classical liberalism and that we must return to a more moderate form of these in order to survive as a culture. He then goes on to give examples of today's social and cultural decline and ascribes them to the two trends above.
In English, he claims that today's liberals use government (and change culture) to a) force equality, and b) not morality. Borks solution then is to a) stop forcing equality and b) start forcing morality [sic!]. It is Bork's second action that I have a significant problem with.
I believe that the big issue is in the intrinsic-subjective dichotomy, and that Bork's thesis is a crystal-clear example of intrinsicism run amok to the liberals subjectivism run amok. Today's liberals claim no morality is correct and want society to dictate equality in it's absence. Today's conservatives see one morality from God, but because it is arbitrary and absolute, (and divorced from reality) necessitates the force of it on society. Both views result in unnecessary force on society. The liberal's claim to it is bankrupt (and Bork rightly exposes it) but Bork's claim is equally wrong.
Which is more dangerous, a bankrupt ideology, or one that is gaining strength in the wake of today's religious fundamentalist movement?
By Alex Epstein:
Irvine, Calif.--As we witness large numbers of defaults on subprime loans--loans extended to those with no credit or bad credit--many are calling for the government to do something to stop the suffering. At the same time, many recognize that a bailout of struggling homeowners would be wrong. Those proposing a government solution claim that they can save the day without a bailout: "borrower assistance" programs to refinance defaulting mortgages, crackdowns on "predatory lending" practices, or laws restricting mortgages the government deems too risky.
"In fact," said Alex Epstein, an analyst at the Ayn Rand Institute, "regardless of how these proposals are described, all embody the essence of a bailout: they absolve individuals of responsibility for their bad decisions--and force those who did nothing wrong to pay the price.
"The government is not a savvy lender or mortgage expert able to contribute innovative financing strategies or new knowledge to the mortgage market. Its sole power, which all the proposed 'solutions' would utilize, is the power to forcibly compel some people to give up their money or freedom for the sake of others. This applies, not just to 'borrower assistance' (read: borrower bailout) programs, which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per 'assisted' homeowner, but also to measures to target 'predatory lending'--an undefined term that gives the government license to extract huge fines from any innocent lender it retroactively deems should have given better counsel to borrowers. The government is also punishing the innocent when it attempts to 'protect' future borrowers. For example, proposed prohibitions on future mortgages that the government deems overly risky punish individuals who manage risk well, many of whom will not be able to afford new homes without these vehicles.
"The proper response of the government to subprime problems is simple; commit to no new interventions in the housing market, and cease all existing intervention designed to influence home ownership--from programs like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to artificially low interest rates. Such a move would send a message befitting a free people: a message of responsibility. The current proposals in Congress send the exact opposite message."
|The Inspector||Diana Hsieh||David Veksler *|
|The Software Nerd *||Craig Biddle||Rational Jenn|
|Nick Provenzo||Andrew Dalton|
It is widely believed today that our cultural and political alternatives are limited either to the ideas of the secular, relativistic left -- or to those of the religious, absolutist right -- or to some compromised mixture of the two. In other words, one's ideas are supposedly either extremely liberal or extremely conservative or somewhere in-between. We at The Objective Standard reject this false alternative and embrace an entirely different view of the world.3. My father-in-law once suggested I write a primer on Objectivism for a lay audience. Onkhar Ghate (who is an authority on Objectivism), beat me to the punch with this four-part series in The New Statesman. (The regular feature name of "The Faith Column" where it appears is a rather amusing misnomer in this case.)
Our view is fully secular and absolutist; it is neither liberal nor conservative nor anywhere in-between. Our philosophy uncompromisingly recognizes and upholds the natural (this-worldly), factual, moral foundations of a fully free, civilized society.
Ayn Rand was a philosopher in the classical sense: she was intent not on teasing apart some random sentences, but on defining a full system of thought, from epistemology to esthetics. Her writing, accordingly, is extensive, and the range of issues she covers enormous -- so much so that it is often difficult for a reader to know where in her many books and articles to look for a specific formulation or topic. Even Miss Rand herself was sometimes hard-pressed in this regard.This resource is just one example of the superb work of the Ayn Rand Institute, which promotes the spread of her ideas in the culture. If you need an authority on Objectivism, this is the place to go.
The Ayn Rand Lexicon solves this problem. It is a compilation of key statements from Ayn Rand (and from a few other authorized Objectivist texts) on several hundred alphabetized topics in philosophy and related fields. The book was initially conceived by Harry Binswanger, who undertook it during Miss Rand's lifetime with her permission and approval.
Recently, I talked to a couple that has been married since 1951. That's a long time. The woman talked a lot. Our conversation was more like me saying one sentence and her giving a five-minute lecture on my statement. As she talked I noticed the husband checking a few times to see if I was getting bored.
After our conversation, I thought, "That poor guy has been living with this for 56 years."
I know a few other people who can talk about themselves for 45 minutes, no exaggeration, and if I put two sentences together in the conversation they get restless and bored. Then they remember all the other things they must do and have no time to continue talking.
I knew a woman once who, if you complained about anything, no matter what it was, would respond with, "You think that's bad? Listen to what happened to me..." I mean, if you had an accident and were in a coma for months, she would come up with something to one-up you in the misery contest. I realize now that I should have said to her, "I know a dreary woman who responds to any complaint with a story of even greater misery." Would she have gotten the message? Or would she have told me about another woman who was even worse?
How do these people fit into the Objectivist ethics, in which selfishness is a virtue? They are self-obsessed and can talk only about themselves. They have no interest in anyone else. Aren't they selfish?
It's hard to generalize because all the people in the examples above have their own personality and psychological problems. It's not a moral failing to want to talk about your day. Some people do it more than others. Some are self-aware enough to know they love talking about themselves and they make an effort to show an interest in others -- in order to buy time for them to talk more about themselves.
This might sound like a contradiction of Objectivism at first, but I think it is in one's self-interest to understand that the universe does not revolve around you. Objectivism is not narcissism. A sign of maturity is understanding that the facts of your daily life are not as fascinating to anyone else as they are to you. It takes a special talent and charm to make a story about doing laundry and getting the kids to school interesting.
One thing I had to learn as I grew up -- and I'm still learning it at times -- is that nobody cares about me as much as I do. Nobody cares. Why should they? Even people who love you will not care about your stubbed toe as much as you do because they don't feel it.
Real self-interest means understanding reality and evaluating it properly. Those who do this well would, I believe, be more interesting conversationalists. They have a heirarchy of values of which they have given some thought. They know that giving a laundry list of what they did that day is not important and therefore not interesting. They give these things some thought maybe before they speak.
Conversation is an art that involves give and take. It is in one's self-interest to be an interesting conversationalist -- if one values conversation at all. Those who bore people with monologues about their petty lives are not interesting conversationalists; they end up driving people away from them, which is not in their long-term self-interest. (Some gifted people can talk for half an hour and never cease to be fascinating. More power to them.)
Those are my thoughts. Tell me yours in the comments. Let's have a conversation.
In this talk, celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Atlas Shrugged, Craig Biddle presents the basic principles of rational egoism, contrasts them with the alternatives, and shows why everyone who wants to live happily and freely needs to understand and embrace rational egoism. This lecture is sponsored by the Boulder Objectivist Club.On Friday evening, Craig Biddle will speak at a a FROST supper talk in Denver on "The Principle of Purpose in Nonfiction Writing."
Craig Biddle on "The Principle of Purpose in Nonfiction Writing"I plan to attend both lectures.
Date: Friday, November 16, 2007 Time: 6:00 pm social hour, 7:00 pm dinner, 8:00 pm talk Location: Arvada Center for the Arts, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd, Arvada CO 80003 Cost: $55 for dinner and talk, $35 for students RSVP: Please RSVP to Lin Zinser via e-mail (email@example.com) or phone (303 431 2525) by November 13th.
Although not explicitly discussed in books or courses on writing, the principle of purpose properly dictates every aspect of the writing process. To write clearly, concisely, and convincingly, one must know, at every stage, what one is trying to accomplish and how it relates to the other parts of the broader project. From creating a laundry list of ideas to selecting a theme to writing an outline to concretizing an abstraction to structuring a paragraph to punctuating a sentence to editing a draft--the answer to the question "What is my purpose here?" properly determines how to proceed. Craig Biddle will discuss the omnipresence of this principle in regard to nonfiction writing and explain how understanding and applying it clarifies and simplifies the writing process. Whether you write or want to write articles, op-eds, letters to the editor, business letters, book or movie reviews, presentations, speeches, blog posts, or books--this discussion will help you either to improve your existing skills or to get started on the right track.
Craig Biddle is the editor and publisher of "The Objective Standard" and the author of "Loving Life: The Morality of Self-Interest and the Facts that Support It." He is currently writing a book on the principles of rational thinking and the fallacies that are violations of those principles. In addition to writing, he lectures and teaches workshops on ethical and epistemological issues from an Objectivist perspective.
Q. When were you first made aware of your race?This was, incidentally, the same student cited in the first FIRE report as having stated that she was tired "of having diversity shoved down her throat".
A. That is irrelevant to everything. My race is human being.
Q. When did you discover your sexual identity?
A. That is none of your damn business.
Q. Who taught you a lesson in regards to some form of diversity awareness? What was that lesson?
A. My grandparents sometimes make racial comments. And what the hell does that have to do with anything?
"Each one of you can do something about global warming," the Global Warming Warrior Princess told 450 young, eager minds at Olson Elementary School.It would take a global warming warrior-tyrant to transform an idea as simple as not wasting electricity because it costs money into yet another opportunity to jump on the man-caused global warming bandwagon. Steinmeyer explains her reasoning later in the article:
"Each one of you makes a difference when it comes to global warming."
The Global Warming Warrior Princess, as Bull Valley artist Nancy Steinmeyer calls herself, was introducing the Woodstock students to the idea of carbon dioxide and explaining that they could help remove it from the air by turning off lights and TVs, saving water and recycling.
Steinmeyer showed the students a large United States-shaped object covered with 4,500 black squares. Each time the students did something at home to help reduce their carbon emissions, Steinmeyer said, she would remove some of the squares, eventually revealing the collage she had painted beneath.
Olson Elementary is the first school where Steinmeyer has introduced what she calls the Map-Atmosphere Clear project. In the coming months, she plans to bring other global warming education tools to the school, including a global warming board game, a story she wrote called "Global Warming Warriors," a global warming art project and a global warming variety show.
"When I started this a year ago, there wasn't much going on [about global warming], and now it's everywhere, but it's all focusing on adults," Steinmeyer said.So only then was Steinmeyer able to take her act mainstream. One has to admire Steinmeyer's persistence in searching for an issue to push, if not her moral reasoning or scientific background. Yet notice that someone with more of a skill for green propaganda than for teaching the scientific method is allowed to address public school children and that her program is described by the press without any hint of disagreement or dissent. One would almost think that the topic of man-caused climate change or the larger aims of the green movement were utterly uncontroversial (and a perfect topic for discussion by grade-schoolers).
"I know that the way to get to adults is through kids ... Kids have time for this, and it gives them a chance to be a little bit in control."
When Steinmeyer moved from Chicago to McHenry County 13 years ago, she became interested in land use and preserving open space as she watched developers turn the land into homes. But because land use and growth are controversial issues, she had trouble finding a sponsor for a game she designed about land use, she said.
About a year ago, Steinmeyer changed her focus to global warming.
I'm interested in the rapid loss of natural land to new development and the environmental consequences of this change. Growth is unavoidable, but uncontrolled and unplanned expansion can have disastrous effects. Through my unusual three-dimensional painting I'm documenting the changes with the hope of raising viewer awareness to this problem.It is here that all the cards are laid upon the table. Steinmeyer decries "uncontrolled and unplanned expansion," yet did the people who developed the land not own and control it? Did they not plan to use their land for human benefit? Was the system of tort law that protects neighbors from actual damages to their lives and property somehow suspended? Or is it that greens don't yet have the power they seek to control and coerce the population at large-but should, so as to better enshrine the intrinsic value of wilderness? Coupled with Steinmeyer's admission that her overarching goal is to use children to influence their parents, all I see is the fruits of a corrupt ideological campaign, rather than attempt to provide children with a real education.
A great article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal highlighting more aspects of the idiocy of biofuels (e.g. biodiesel, and ethanol). From "Biofuel Costs Hurt Effort to Curb Oil Price" it seems that the costs of biofuel feedstocks, namely corn and oils such as palm oil are increasing with the increased demand for these products, preventing them from achieving cost-effectiveness in the face of rising crude oil prices.
A few years ago, many energy economists predicted that higher oil prices would ensure the success of alternative energies such as biodiesel or wind power by making them more financially attractive. In many cases, though, the opposite has occurred: Even as crude-oil prices approach $100 a barrel, some alternatives look less attractive than in the past.
One reason: Energy demand is now so intense that supplies of just about every kind of fuel are in short supply, driving up prices of the raw materials involved in making many alternative energies. Some biofuels also rely on agricultural commodities that already are facing higher demand as foodstuffs, a situation which drives up prices further.
Hmm, who'd have though that the price of corn would go up. Oh, wait, we forgot about a little thing called supply and demand. Not only that, but these feedstocks are commodities, meaning small changes in demand past the total industry supply capacity result in big changes upward in pricing (known as it's price elasticity). Biodiesel accounts for less than 1% of transportation-based fuel supply and already it's causing supply demand and pricing upset in the agricultural sector. Which also means the price of foodstuffs containing corn is going up as well.
What does this mean? Simple, the biofuels sector will stall. It will do so before it ever gets the levels of contribution predicted. Already, plants that were on the drawing boards are not getting built and government subsidies which are what made the entire sector even marginally attractive in the first place will dry up.
In Malaysia, an important center for palm-oil biodiesel production, the government has held back on plans to require biodiesel blends at petrol stations because of a fear it could drive palm-oil prices too high, imperiling the country's nascent biodiesel industry.
Malaysia issued roughly 90 permits for biodiesel refineries in the past three years, but only about five are in operation. It appears that most of the others will remain on hold until palm-oil prices come back down.
In Europe, officials are still committed to a plan to meet 10% of the region's transportation needs with biofuels by 2020. But Germany has cut back on some tax incentives for biofuels, and some EU officials have questioned whether subsidies for biofuel crops are necessary in the future. Spanish energy company Abengoa SA recently suspended production at one of its biofuel facilities in Spain because of high grain prices. Similar projects have stalled elsewhere, including Hungary.
The U.S. has its own alternative-fuel woes. The price of corn, a key raw ingredient, has increased even as the market price for ethanol has been held down by oversupply. That has squeezed the profitability of ethanol producers and forced new players to cancel or delay construction of more facilities.
Oh, and the final tidbit that folks haven't yet understood. Biofuels are energy neutral at best. This means that the total energy required to produce a unit of energy of biofuels is a similar unit of energy. And the energy used to produce it is: you guessed it, fossil fuels.
There is a raging debate on the exact level of energy neutrality, with many environmental types applauding studies that show that fuels such as biodiesel have reached the threshold of being energy positive. However, this threshold is useless. Why? because at energy neutrality, biofuels are still tied directly to the price of fossil fuels. If it takes 1 unit of fossil fuel to produce 1 unit of biofuel, then as the price of fossil fuel goes up, so too will the price of the biofuel produced from it, and by a commensurate amount. Again, this economic fact will contribute to the stall in share of biofuel. This doesn't account for the supply-demand driven increase in the feedstock which adds to the problem. Even a slightly energy positive profile for biofuels will not change the fact then that they are useless as a hedge against rising fossil fuel costs.
When biofuels are an economical alternative to fossil fuels, the market will not need cajoling or prodding to accept them, it will do so. Until then the only effect that mandated biofuel usage, such as California's recent law requiring 5% of the states needs to come from biofuels, will have one effect. It will drive up your costs of fuel, and it will do so as much if not more than the rising costs of fossil fuels. Government policy is not helping in this matter. It is only hurting.
When it comes to biofuel policy (and any other economic policy for that matter) you should advocate one and only one policy: laissez faire!
The key to Ayn Rand is that she pictured America largely from early films from Hollywood. As a young girl growing up in the grim world of communist Russia, she saw America as we dreamed ourselves to be, and she longed her whole life with a child's intensity to make this vision real, to live in it. We respond to her novels because they offer us one deep strand of American self-identity -- as individualists, yes, but individualists who together dream big dreams, conquer wild frontiers, invent the future, remake our very selves.Her rebuttal of the snide criticisms of conservative Terry Teachout is also quite delightful.
She understood, the way so many pampered Hollywood artists don't, that much of the romance of America is in business -- in our dreams of making it, by making big new things, things no man has ever made before. Rand is virtually alone in seeing businessmen as fellow artists: makers, creators, inventors. In her novels, the greatness of the artist was matched by the greatness of the architect, the scientist, the entrepreneur and the railroad executive. The Homer of our era, she sang the song by which so many Americans live our lives.
Harris can go on forever in this vein. Seeking to exonerate secularism and atheism from the horrors perpetrated in their name, he argues that Stalinism and Maoism were in reality "little more than a political religion." As for Nazism, "while the hatred of Jews in Germany expressed itself in a predominantly secular way, it was a direct inheritance from medieval Christianity." Indeed, "The holocaust marked the culmination of ... two thousand years of Christian fulminating against the Jews."To be fair, I have read Sam Harris's The End of Faith and do recall him offering evidence that Christians did "fulminate" against the Jews and that, for example, during the Third Reich, the Roman Catholic Church allowed the Nazis access to its records for the purposes of determining whether individuals had Jewish ancestry.
One finds the same inanities in Mr. Dawkins's work. Don't be fooled by this rhetorical legerdemain. Dawkins and Harris cannot explain why, if Nazism was directly descended from medieval Christianity, medieval Christianity did not produce a Hitler. How can a self-proclaimed atheist ideology, advanced by Hitler as a repudiation of Christianity, be a "culmination" of 2,000 years of Christianity? Dawkins and Harris are employing a transparent sleight of hand that holds Christianity responsible for the crimes committed in its name, while exonerating secularism and atheism for the greater crimes committed in their name. [bold added]
The thinness of the new atheism is evident in its approach to our civilization, which until recently was religious to its core. To regret religion is, in fact, to regret our civilization and its monuments, its achievements, and its legacy. And in my own view, the absence of religious faith, provided that such faith is not murderously intolerant, can have a deleterious effect upon human character and personality. If you empty the world of purpose, make it one of brute fact alone, you empty it (for many people, at any rate) of reasons for gratitude, and a sense of gratitude is necessary for both happiness and decency. For what can soon, and all too easily, replace gratitude is a sense of entitlement. Without gratitude, it is hard to appreciate, or be satisfied with, what you have: and life will become an existential shopping spree that no product satisfies. [bold added]First of all, this paragraph is, come to think of it, quite representative of the whole essay, warts and all. Some interesting points that leap out are: The common conservative notion (to which I do not subscribe) that one should avoid ideological consistency (or "extremism"); the notion that purpose necessarily comes from something "greater" than man; and the common idea that decency and something Dalrymple calls "gratitude" must necessarily come from religion. (I read "gratitude" as something like a love of being alive and a taking of joy from existence -- given that Dalrymple is also a nonbeliever.)
PLAYBOY: Has no religion, in your estimation, ever offered anything of constructive value to human life?And this is just one example of the thoughtful exploration of religion that Rand conducted over the course of her intellectual life. Here are just two others from the same page of The Ayn Rand Lexicon, which has just recently been published to the Internet:
RAND: Qua religion, no -- in the sense of blind belief, belief unsupported by, or contrary to, the facts of reality and the conclusions of reason. Faith, as such, is extremely detrimental to human life: it is the negation of reason. But you must remember that religion is an early form of philosophy, that the first attempts to explain the universe, to give a coherent frame of reference to man's life and a code of moral values, were made by religion, before men graduated or developed enough to have philosophy. And, as philosophies, some religions have very valuable moral points. They may have a good influence or proper principles to inculcate, but in a very contradictory context and, on a very -- how should I say it? -- dangerous or malevolent base: on the ground of faith.
Philosophy is the goal toward which religion was only a helplessly blind groping. The grandeur, the reverence, the exalted purity, the austere dedication to the pursuit of truth, which are commonly associated with religion, should properly belong to the field of philosophy. ("The Chickens' Homecoming," Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, 46)I will add, although it will seem repetitive to my regular readers, that Ayn Rand also extensively discusses the question of man's purpose in life. The answer, which she arrives at through reason, is both exalted and this-worldly, and it is within the grasp of any man.
Since religion is a primitive form of philosophy -- an attempt to offer a comprehensive view of reality -- many of its myths are distorted, dramatized allegories based on some element of truth, some actual, if profoundly elusive, aspect of man's existence. ("Philosophy and Sense of Life," The Romantic Manifesto, 25.)
Newton's genius had shown the power of man's mind to penetrate nature's inner workings, but no one had been able to articulate on a more abstract level the nature of the Newtonian triumph in science, and explain how it could be reproduced in other areas.Thus, as Powell intonates by the title of his series, history has become a duel between Columbus and Kant; that is, between men animated by rational ideas toward action and the proponents of a philosophy that says all man's ideas are inherently suspect simply because they come from man. Powell writes:
If historians were to pattern their work on the successful model of the physical scientists, they would need to find a means of transposing the methods of physics into the domain of history. The way to do this, however, was unclear. The historian, for example, could not create the controlled conditions of a laboratory to test his ideas, nor could the actions of human beings be reduced to mathematical principles. And yet, the challenge of deriving general knowledge from historical data is in some ways the same as that of finding general laws from observed physical phenomena. It is the challenge of transforming a plethora of concrete information, by some process of abstraction, into an intelligible system. The importance of this project was evident to the more philosophical historians. If natural science could find laws and a natural order in the physical world, could a social science not achieve the same for civilization (and thus derive the proper foundation of social systems)?
Unfortunately, in their quest to give history a Newtonian clarity, historians found no worthy ally among philosophers.
Kant's philosophical assault on man's faculty of reason paved the way for the historical assault on Columbus by preventing a key avenue of development from ever occurring in Western historiography. By aborting the general study of abstractions as cognitive tools, Kant prevented historians from adopting the epistemological stance necessary to define and defend the most crucial instrument in the systematization of history: historical abstractions.Yet these abstractions are absolutely necessary if one is to understand history. Powell explains:
When integrated into "the Renaissance," Michelangelo's David, for instance, ceases to be a single artistic datum in an unintelligible flux; it becomes a representative of a wider European cultural reawakening following the suppression of classical ideals. When George Washington's crossing of the Delaware becomes a part of "the American Revolution" it no longer exists merely as a miscellaneous military factoid; it becomes a pivotal action connected to a chain of revolutionary events giving rise to the birth of a new nation. Seen in the context of "the Civil War", the Gettysburg address becomes more than a speech for the dedication of a cemetery; it becomes one of a number of steps forward in the violent, climactic overthrow of slavery in America.In history, context is everything, so how then can such a power fail to be appreciated and investigated? Powell writes:
The answer is two-fold. First, it is not entirely true to say that historians have remained ignorant of the power of historical abstractions. Sadly, it is the subjectivists in history who have best understood this power and wielded it most effectively. Kant's offspring have taken up the philosophical tools he provided to dismantle the historical identification of key developments in Western civilization, including Columbus's unmatched efforts.So rather than serving as a tool for understanding how man's ideas shape his actions, history becomes a tool for distortion and for propagandizing someone's pet cause. In this light, outrages such as the University of Delaware's residence hall program, where students were to be indoctrinated in the view that all white-skinned people are inherently racist, becomes less surprising, if not less shocking. After all, the cashing-in has been going on for years and it will take a new generation of heroes to overthrow it. After all, such is the pregnant hope with those who study history . . .
With regards to that particular issue, for example, they have labored to elevate the irrelevant wanderings of the Vikings to a status equal to or greater than Columbus's discovery, and they are striving to raise awareness of the even more nonessential narrative of America's pre-Columbian neolithic primitives in people's minds. This shift in emphasis to a new groundwork of facts is designed to permit the fostering of a new perspective on the history of America, where every element of progress is underplayed and the focus is then placed on America's brutal conquest by Europeans. The ultimate purpose of this revision is a general historical indictment of Western civilization that includes the characterization of Europe's discovery and colonization of America as the greatest example of "genocide" in history.
One of the more disturbing things about Ron Paul’s popularity is his staunch opposition to legal and illegal immigration. I pick on him not because his views on immigrants are especially harsh, but because they stand in stark contrast to his reputation as an advocate of free markets and Austrian economics. On his campaign issues page, he warns that “current reform proposals would allow up to 60 million more immigrants into our country” and that “this is insanity.” I am surprised to see Ron Paul buying into this tired bit of socialist rhetoric. The idea that simply allowing 60 million would actually result in 60 million people rushing into the U.S. is absurd, but suppose it were true. What’s the worst that could happen?
According to the Malthusian theory subscribed to by socialists and environmentalists, the amount of resources and capital in a particular region is fixed, so the average income of individuals can be calculated by dividing the total resource/capital base by the number of people. A fixed resource base means a fixed number of jobs, so a large influx of immigrants means rising unemployment and falling standards of living.
Fortunately, it is socialism, not open immigration that is “insanity.” The premise that the resources available to meet human needs are fixed - that each new human being requires a fixed amount of land, metal, and fossil fuels to live - is absurd. Each additional individual creates not only new demand for the products of civilization, but also provides new resources and insight for meeting those needs. Every self-supporting worker produces more than he consumes, adding to total productive output and raising the real wage rate for everyone. Historically, the American standard of living rose fastest during peak immigration periods and continues to rise today. Our greatest source of wealth is not natural resources or the capital base, but the ingenuity and creativity of our entrepreneurs and workers.
By increasing the division of labor, immigrants free up workers previously employed in maintaining the capital base to invest their time in growing capital and efficiency. So for example, by lowering labor costs, new immigrant factory workers free up engineers to invest in expanding production and improving the efficiency of labor. This improves everyone’s living standards. A free society allows a growing capital and knowledge base to be multiplied by entrepreneurs who find new methods to improve human life, proving an exponential growth in prosperity.
A further complaint of Dr Paul is that “taxpayers should not pay for illegal immigrants who use hospitals, clinics, schools, roads, and social services.” I completely agree. However, this is besides the point. No one has a right to live of other people, regardless of where he was born. American welfare bums do not have any more right to my property than Mexican bums. It is the welfare state that is immoral, not immigration. Furthermore, the argument is misleading because illegal immigrants and permanent residents are generally not eligible for welfare, and already pay the property, fuel, and sales taxes that pay for schools and roads. Illegal immigrants don’t pay income taxes, which Dr. Paul believes we should eliminate anyway, but they often pay social security taxes via bogus social security cards - effectively subsidizing legal workers. Do people who oppose granting illegal immigrants driver’s licenses realize that they are for forcing citizens to pay for the illegal immigrants’ share of road-maintenance costs?
For more on the issue, read my case for open immigration.
Richard Dawkins's campaign urging atheists to 'come out' and be counted, is oddly reminiscent of an evangelical rally where born-again Christians are implored to rush down to the stage.There are two things wrong with such efforts. The obvious one Cummings indicates here: Whether there is a God is just one small question in philosophy. To attempt to do anything with others who answer "No." than (perhaps, within some narrow context) build an ad hoc alliance against various attempts to desecularize the government is in fact quite a stretch.
The desire to establish atheism as an alternative identity is ultimately conservative. Rather than joining together with others who share a positive vision of the future, self-styled atheists define themselves against an external threat.
Dr Toni Johnson-Woods says she and her colleagues found there is a prevailing belief that other planets and their natural resources are there simply to be exploited.Instead, the group urges that we practice "sustainability":
"The focus is on exploitation of the minerals. Basically, it's just Australia all over again," she said.
..."There's also an idea that there's nothing already on Mars, which I presume there isn't, in the same way that Australia had that terra nullius, like there's nothing in Australia, so, 'we're just going to go there, take what we need and leave'," she said.
The other thing is that space is not an infinite resource. If we go to the Moon and litter the Moon and wreck it, there's not another one just down the road.Even though space may not be infinite, it's pretty darned large. But the article does show the silliness of the view that there is a natural environment that has some sort of intrinsic value which must be preserved at the expense of human interests, even when there are no other valuers besides human beings.
According to the program's materials, the goal of the residence life education program is for students in the university's residence halls to achieve certain "competencies" that the university has decreed its students must develop in order to achieve the overall educational goal of "citizenship." These competencies include: "Students will recognize that systemic oppression exists in our society," "Students will recognize the benefits of dismantling systems of oppression" and "Students will be able to utilize their knowledge of sustainability to change their daily habits and consumer mentality."Note the clinical language, which simultaneously allows the University of Delaware to pretend that it is actually imparting objective knowledge, while attempting to dodge charges that it is forcing its students to be subjected to a campaign of badgering and brainwashing intended to make them adopt a certain point of view.
At various points in the program, students are also pressured or even required to take actions that outwardly indicate their agreement with the university’s ideology, regardless of their personal beliefs. Such actions include displaying specific door decorations, committing to reduce their ecological footprint by at least 20%, taking action by advocating for an "oppressed" social group, and taking action by advocating for a "sustainable world."
In the Office of Residence Life's internal materials, these programs are described using the harrowing language of ideological reeducation. In documents relating to the assessment of student learning, for example, the residence hall lesson plans are referred to as "treatments."
... [T]hey saw a decent man, a sometimes funny guy, and heard a low-keyed, intellectual speech that contained not one word of gratuitous hatred.Prager here demonstrates the power of politeness, an issue I once touched on here, but in a way I hadn't considered at the time: Why play the part your opponents want to assign to you when simply by acting benevolent and civilized you demonstrate to the people who count -- thinking adults -- that you are likely a man of substance?
First, I found his experience as a campus lecturer instructive: It is worth mentioning that following my lecture, the student who wrote the column comparing me to a Ku Klux Klanner came over to me and said he was writing a column of apology to me and asked to be photographed with me. This is not surprising. Students at most universities are almost brainwashed into being leftist -- and the way they are taught to disagree with their political opponents is by using ad hominem attacks. Conservatives are described over and over as mean-spirited, war-loving, greedy, bigoted, racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, homophobic, sexist, intolerant and oblivious to human suffering.
Such ad hominem labels are the left's primary rhetorical weapons. So when leftist students are actually confronted with even one articulate conservative, many enter a world of cognitive dissonance. That is one reason why universities rarely invite conservatives to speak: they might change some students' minds. [bold added]
First, the term is not anti-Muslim. One may object to the term on factual grounds, i.e., one may claim that there are no fascistic behaviors among people acting in the name of Islam -- but such a claim is a denial of the obvious.So far so good.
So once one acknowledges the obvious, that there is fascistic behavior among a core of Muslims -- specifically, a cult of violence and the wanton use of physical force to impose an ideology on others -- the term "Islamo-Fascism" is entirely appropriate. [bold added]
Second, the question then arises as to whether that term is anti-Muslim in that it besmirches the name of Islam and attempts to describe all Muslims as fascist. This objection, too, has a clear response.I have no problem with wanting not to label all individual Moslems as totalitarians. To do so would be just as wrong-headed as to pretend that there is not an Islamic totalitarian movement. It is with the notion that the term is good because it does not "besmirch Islam" I take issue.
The term no more implies all Muslims or Islam is fascistic than the term "German fascism" implied all Germans were fascists or "Italian fascism" or "Japanese fascism" implied that all Italians or all Japanese were fascists. Indeed, even religious groups have been labeled as fascist. During World War II, for example, Croatian Catholic fascists were called Catholic Fascists, and no one argued that the term was invalid because it purportedly labeled all Catholics or Catholicism fascist. [bold added]
U.N. diplomats are upset that Israel has begun to briefly cut off power to the Gaza strip in response to continuing indiscriminate rocket attacks. They do not believe in “collective punishment” they say. Israel has defended the policy by pointing out that the power cuts are moderate and do not affect critical services.
The morality of Israel’s policy can be judged under one of two scenarios. If Gaza under Hamas rule is an enemy state which is waging war on Israel, then Israel has no obligation to provide any services to the Gaza strip, and may in fact take whatever moves are necessary to destroy or discourage the enemy, including the destruction of military and civilian infrastructure. If, on the other hand, Gaza is under Israel’s sovereignty, and not subject to martial law (that is, it is not a war zone), then the standards of civilian rule apply, and cutting off badly-needed services could indeed be considered a moral atrocity. So which scenario applies to the current situation?
According to Israel’s policy, it is both. Hamas does operate a de-facto independent state inside the Gaza strip, and is actively engaged in a war with Israel. (It is not merely “terrorism” because the Hamas combatants are not fugitives within Palestinian territory, but members of the ruling regime, and enjoy the support of the population.) On the other hand, Israel has not recognized Hamas as a foreign regime, much less an enemy state, and acts diplomatically as if the Palestinian territories are part of its territory, and therefore the welfare of Palestinian civilians is its responsibility. (Hence the current “moderation” of the power cuts and the military response.)
Israel’s attempt to make a “practical” compromise by treating the Palestinian territories as a quasi-state puts it in the worst possible situation. It can neither take the proper military action to win the war, nor establish civilian rule under Israeli law in the territories and bring the criminals to justice. If Israel wants to find a moral way to end the bloody war of attrition that afflicts both Israelis and Palestinians, it must do one of two things:
One: Israel can recognize Hamas/Fatah as an enemy regime and wage a proper war against them. This means immediately cutting off all ties and trade with the enemy, the destruction of the current regime and its war-making infrastructure and breaking the will of the population to continue waging aggression. Victory may constitute occupation and the installation of a friendly regime, or simply isolation and a military blockade until the will of the population to fight is broken.
Two: Israel can recognize the Palestinian territories as a part of its territory, and establish martial law with the goal of making civilian rule possible. This means complete occupation of the territories and the destruction of all organizations which practice or advocate violence against Israel, or Israeli authority. This option requires a commitment to eventually giving Palestinians full rights as citizens of Israel, which makes it unlikely.
Every delay to the enactment of one of the two policies means more needless Israeli and Palestinian deaths and suffering.