Monday, January 29, 2007

Humor In Ayn Rand's Non-Fiction

Recently Harry Binswanger of HBL (Harry Binswanger List) posted on some humor he experienced with Ayn Rand and her husband Frank O'Connor.

It reminded me of a passage I re-read recently in her non-fiction in which she achieved humor, with me at least, even though the achievement of humor was not her primary goal.

For example, in her essay "Don't Let It Go" (Philosophy Who Needs It) she compares Americans' respect for authority to that of Europeans by writing: "In England, the freeest country of Europe, the achievement of a scientist, a businessman or a movie star is not regarded as fully real until he has been clunked on the head with the State's sword and declared to be a knight."

Obviously the words 'clunked on the head' were meant to convey to her readers her disdain for the ritual of knighthood. Now she could have used the word knighted or even dubbed or some such concept. But she was able to project that disdain by conveying just the right amount of intellectual disrespect for the institution with those four words. I smile every time I read that sentence and marvel at how good she was at that art.

Now that I have looked at that phrase more closely, I get another impression: that a lesser writer might even have devoted an entire sentence such as "By the way, I have no respect for the institute of knighthood" and that she was saying in essence, "I will use only these four words because I don't want to waste any more time on the frivolity of ritual."

I have decided to margin note any more examples of this technique that I may find. I know there are lots more but offhand I don't remember where.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Even More Global Cooling

Lubos Motl is again posting on global cooling at The Reference Frame. Now before any of my scientist readers write in to tell me local and regional weather is not evidence of global climate change, let me say that I know that.

But that is not the problem. Establishment scientists (looking for more grant money), newspaper reporters and editors (looking to sell newspapers and magazines) and politicians (looking to posture as saviors of mankind--in order to get re-elected) incessantly bombard the public with the notion that every uptick of the thermometer is absolute proof of global warming. But when the temperature drops, they all look the other way and indulge in "The Silence of the Wolves."

(I like Mr. Motl's identification of the "Gore Effect" regarding Boston. Evidently Gore gave one of his GW speeches there and now they are iced over. This could be a new general principle: Al Gore says one thing and reality shows us the opposite. Seems to be working out.)

Anyway, if the statists are going to use every rise in temperature as proof of GW to an unsuspecting public, the least that rational people should do is put the facts of cold temps out there for the public to consider letting them know they are only getting part of the story from the gloom and doomsayers. Then encourage them to ask why they're only getting half the truth.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Two Good Posts Jan 07

Myhraf has an excellent post on the SOTU address with which I totally agree. He correctly points out that Bush is a true believer in sacrifice for sacrifice's sake. Bush actually believes that a higher value needs to be placed on our sacrifice than on our survival. I recommend reading the whole thing.

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Morgan Freeberg has an essay on global warming links at his site House of Eratosthenes. He talks about who is giving managerial support to Hiedi Cullen at the Weather Channel and has other links to more articles. Good stuff.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Republicans Asking for Help

No doubt everyone on the Republican Party's mailing list recieved the same email I got yesterday from the RNC asking for donations and for any ideas I might have towards helping them regain power. So, I fired off this somewhat condescending, nuts-to-you response. My respect is something the Repubs will have to re-earn.

"Republicans are out of power because they share the same primative beliefs of the Democrats. Americans don't want to be involved in a long self-sacrificial war where the lives of enemy civilians are given a higher value than the lives of our soldiers. General Patton once said that the way to win a war is to get the other guy to die for his country. Those are words of rational self-interest, not altruistic self-sacrifice. But there are no Republicans who understand this anymore.

When our founders said man has an unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, nobody noticed that this political ideal is based on the moral code of rational self-interest. It was never made explicit. But many Americans sense it and would be receptive to ideas base on it.

The morality of altruism and its requirement of self-sacrifice is killing the republicans' hope of ever regaining power. The Democrats want Americans to sacrifice for the state, The Republicans want sacrifice to god. But the concept of a non-sacrificial way of life has been abandoned by Republicans. Dems never embraced it.
So why does it matter that republicans never regain power? Because it is common knowledge that the Dems can't wait to bring a socialist dictatorship to America. And when they do, there will be no misunderstanding that it is the fault of capitalism, free enterprise, freedom, rights, etc.

Republicans are giving all those concepts a bad name by pretending to be for them while promoting socialist, self-sacrificial principles. When Dems insist that everyone has a right to say health care or whatever, you don't know how to answer them on moral and practical grounds. You compromise and give in.

If it seems like I'm asking you to take a very strong, principled, non-sacrificial, selfish (rational self interest) individual rightish position, I certainly am.
I witnessed a fine principled republican go down to a terrible defeat in 1964 by an uneducated public. But had America collapsed back then, no one would have blamed him for feeding America the poison that killed it. Does the current Republican Party want that kind of legacy?

You asked for ideas on how the Party could regain favor with the American people. Yes, I have ideas as well as moral and practical supporting arguements. But strategic ideas won't work unless based on a consistent world view, a philosophy. As long as Repubs share the same basic world view as Dems, and only offer Americans a different altar on which to sacrifice themselves, they will be attractive to no one."

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Goebbels wannabes

Gus Van Horn has a frightening post on how the New Democrats are trying to bring censorship to the internet. They want to have all bloggers with 500 or more visitors register with congress as a lobbyist.

Blair at the Secular Foxhole posts on this also (scroll down, it's part of a two-piece post).

Lubos Motl reports on The Weather Channel's Heidi Cullen who interviewed Dave Roberts who in turn wants Neuremburg-like trials for Climate Change skeptics. Heidi said she wants to have all weather broadcast persons de-certified if they disagree with the establishment's global warming dogma.

Yep! Now that the Democrats are back in power, all kinds of Goebbels hopefuls and witch doctor wannabes are crawling out of the woodwork. They can't wait to use force on their fellow human beings.

Ayn Rand once said that there are 4 requirements for a nation to be "...a dictatorship: one-party rule--executions without trial or with a mock trial, nationalization or expropriation of private property--and censorship." (From the essay "Collectivized Ethics" in the book The Virtue of Selfishness.)

The Republicans are no longer a viable alternative to the Democrats as they share the same moral code of altruism, so we almost have one party rule. The antitrust laws and all government regulations constitute non-objective law making mock trials possible. Fortunately, they haven't tried to execute anyone without a trial--yet. The government's power to expropriate private property was recently expanded via Kelo. And I can't think of a more blatent example of censorship than to threaten broadcast weathermen with de-certification if they don't toe the establishment line.

Yes, we are moving inexorably towards dictatorship. I would like to see a strong Republican president in office to resist Democratic statism but I just don't see Bush as that man. In fact, he's beginning to look more and more like the Republican version of Jimmy Carter every day.

In a way, I like the idea that these statists like Ms. Cullen and Mr. Roberts are getting this publicity. I believe there are enough intelligent Americans left who can see just what kind of intellectual savages they are and by implication, what kind of future they portend for America. And for those Americans who can't see it, there are Objectivists who are willing to inform them of it. I'm hopeful anyway.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Re-orientation of MLK Day

On Monday 1/15, the Detroit Free Press (Freep) ran an editorial in honor of MLK day. It seems that the Freep is trying to re-orient MLK Jr. Day to something other than a struggle for the individual rights of the black man.

Monday's editorial "Honor King with Action" starts with: "Honoring the life of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. ought to be a call to action and community service. Although King is often remembered as a dreamer for the enduring eloquence of the "I Have a Dream" speech, he was also a doer, a leader whose actions discomforted much of the nation that now celebrates his legacy."

Anyone who has lived through the civil rights era as I have, knows that Dr. King's essential characteristic was the struggle for racial justice. Other alleged goals such as helping the poor, improving education, etc., were secondary to his primary goal of equal rights for blacks. He believed that the achievement of equal rights would make the other improvements possible.

But that is not what the Freep is focusing on. We are told that to honor Dr. King we must take action in the form of "community service." The non-essential of community service is being made the defining characteristic of Dr. King while the essential of individual rights for blacks is moved to the non-essential. Now, when his "legacy" is discussed, it will be in a new but false context--service to the community--not individual rights. What kind of community service?

"Instead of shopping or kicking back, more and more Americans are observing King's birthday by taking part in thousands of community projects, including mentoring at-risk children, serving meals at a homeless shelter, registering organ donors, teaching seniors how to surf the Internet, organizing a neighborhood watch and cleaning up vacant lots."

Now there is nothing wrong with doing these things as such. There is everything wrong with pretending they are the essence of Dr. King's goals. While he would no doubt, approve of them, his main goal was to end forced segregation.

But there is something else being accomplished by doing all this community service; it obviates the need to focus on that which really needs to be addressed. There should be lectures, seminars and editorials all across the nation discussing such things as "What is racism?" "Why does it belong to the wider genus of collectivism?" "Why is collectivism evil?" What does it do to an individual and a community?" These and related questions will never be answered if we focus mainly on cleaning up vacant lots.

Unfortunately, this re-orientation of Dr. King's birthday is ongoing.

"State and local governments in Michigan should start thinking now how they, working with community agencies, can better promote service projects for the 2008 King holiday. Such efforts would foster a stronger sense of community year-round."

That this statement doesn't scare Freep readers does in fact scare me. State and local governments wield the power of force. They are being encouraged to promote "service projects" to "foster a stronger sense of community year-round."

If this is how MLK day is to be celebrated in the future, then today's intellectuals are trying to make him the nation's premier socialist by re-orienting his birthday into an orgy of self-sacrificial service to others instead of a struggle for rights.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Thoughts on Carl Sagan

Andrew Dalton has a post on the man-is-small orientation of Astronomer Carl Sagan. He takes issue with Mr. Sagan's view that man is an insignificant and petty speck compared to the vastness of the universe. I too don't see any reason to compare the size of man's immediate habitat to the totality. If one wants to be in awe of the universe and praise its size and many wonders, that's one thing, but I don't see any need to keep emphasizing man's relative smallness.

But I wondered, when he said "Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light.", was he attacking man's religious view of himself and earth, the view that humans are eternal and the rest of the universe is temporary?
If so why didn't he say so? Or was he attacking the view that man has the reasoning ability to know and learn the nature of the universe and is thereby committing a sin of pride in supposing he has some kind of greatness in competition with the greatness of the cosmos? He's not very clear on this.

I remember watching Sagan's series 'Cosmos' on PBS and the fact that I liked most of it. Over the years however, I got the impression that Mr. Sagan was more oriented toward the emotional than the factual. In the above quote Carl Sagan says: "To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known." Well, to me, 'kindly' and 'compassionately' are words of emotion. You'd think a man dedicated to reason would have appealed to same by saying something like "...deal more rationally with one another..." Kindness and compassion are consequences of a value system, not its cause.

He claims his religious identity is agnostic. According to this site, Mr. Sagan once said: "My view is that if there is no evidence for it, then forget about it. An agnostic is somebody who doesn't believe in something until there is evidence for it, so I'm agnostic." [Source:http://www.gr8st8.com/main_pages/atheists.htm]

Unfortunately his devotion to reason did not stop him from political advocacy. He was the lead advocate of a doomsday scenario he called Nuclear Winter which turned out to be wrong. Now there is nothing wrong with a scientist being wrong. The act of making mistakes is a process that tends to move one away from the false and closer to the truth--if one is devoted to truth. But when a scientist is confronted with evidence that he is wrong, and still clings to his theory, it means he is no longer dedicated to the facts.

About a month ago Russell Seitz at ADAMANT posted a lengthy but well worth it article on the history of Sagan's Nuclear Winter hypothesis. I recommend reading the whole thing.

(I like his characterization of the computer model that says lots of soot in the atmosphere will cause the planet to cool, as 'Garbage In, Gospel Out.' That seems to fit a lot of models.)

Well, for awhile anyway, I liked Mr. Sagan.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Detroit Free Press GW Propaganda

On Sunday Jan. 7th. the Detroit Free Press ran an editorial titled Ice Alert with sub-title "The melting Arctic Ocean may doom polar bears and get people and politicians into action." Of course the Freep has every right to its opinion. I'm not going to fisk the entire editorial except to point out a few of the fallacies
it routinely commits on this subject. It starts with:

"The polar bears must truly face trouble for the Bush administration to consider listing them as threatened species--and because of dwindling Arctic ice, no less. Such a designation requires a concession that global warming might actually have started having a major impact."

Right. It's not possible that Bush is caving in to 6 years of pressure from the Marxist press, enviros, Democrats and half his own party. Nope! Why if Bush says so it must be true. This from a paper that has opposed Bush as being wrong on almost everything since he was elected. The only reason the Freep now supports this Bush action is so they can get away with their blatent appeal to authority. It's true because the President says so.

They then give an anecdote: "Munising, which lies in the Upper Peninsula's usually reliable snow belt, has had its first snowless Christmas since 1911." Well, New Zealand just had its coldest December since 1928 and Marble Bar Australia had it coolest year in 92 years. So this is evidence of global cooling right?

Obviously, NZ and Marble Bar are no more evidence of global cooling than Munising is of GW. The Freep editors commit the fallacy of the small sample or 'hasty generalization.' To do this the editors must have a low opinion of their reader's intelligence. There is no way the editors can fail to know they are using logical fallacies. They know what they are doing and they're doing it deliberately

The editorial also advocates some common sense ideas we can all do to conserve energy and I do some but not to save the planet. I do them to save money. Anyway, on page 3 there was 10 replies from readers (via the net) on the editorial. Five of them were for government to start the use of force against businesses and the public to stop GW. Two were in favor of more conservation and three were opposed to government force.

On Wed. Jan 10th. the Freep ran 4 LTEs under the heading "Put global scare tactics on ice" in which 3 were rejecting the 'it's all man's fault' doctrine and one favored government force.

So, the final tally is 6 readers for force, 6 readers against force and 2 for voluntary conservation. I had thought that most readers would fall for the Freep's propaganda. At about 50/50, there is hope for a rational citizenry yet.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Lil' Round Up Jan 07

Dr. John Lewis's essay "No Substitute For Victory": The Defeat Of Islamic Totalitarianism, was published at The Objective Standard. In this post at Jihad Watch, he replies to some good questions posed to him:

(1) how can religion and state be separated in Islam, since Islam is a social / political / legal system as much as a religion, and (2) isn't the enemy stateless, i.e., without the centralized political state as controlled Japan?

To these questions he gives a short answer but promises an in-depth response to them in the next Objective standard. All the more reason to look forward to it. Grant Jones at the Dougout has a post on this as well.

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Blunt Blogger Billy Beck at two-four links to a Newsweek Article that takes a reasoned look at how much oil we really do have and might have. It seems we're not really running out of oil after all.

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I learned at Dennis Blog that Hugo's novel 'The Man That Laughed' has been posted on the net in its entirety. He has a few tempting quotes too.

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Myrhaf is recommending a book on songwriting called Tunesmith by Jimmy Webb. He even gets into chord progression a little.

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If the above isn't satisfying, Gus Van Horn has another good roundup here.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

More Global Cooling

Back in July of 06 I posted a two-part review of a Discovery Channel documentary called "Global Warming: What You Need to Know" by Tom Brokaw which reviews can be read here and here.

I followed those up with another post offering evidence in favor of global cooling. I wanted to show that the same kind of anecdotal evidence used by Tom Brokaw also exists to support global cooling and this was evidence Mr. Brokaw didn't think you needed to know.

Now, thanks to Lubos Motl's Reference Frame, there is more such evidence. He links to a report that:

"New Zealand has had its coldest December since the records began in 1928."

And,

"The 2006 average temperatures of 32.5 C in Marble bar, Australia, was the coolest annual temperature in 92 years of records, beating 33.5 C in 1978 by a whole Celsius degree and being 3 Celsius degrees below the average!"

He also links to a story on the freezing people of Qatar which says:

"DOHA • The city and its outskirts have been shivering under a prolonged cold spell, with the mercury dipping to record lows."

He then goes on to talk about the record snows in Colorado. So there you have it, more solid evidence of global cooling.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Football Lament

I watched the University of Michigan football game against Southern Cal yesterday as Michigan showed again why they are not championship material. UofM stayed with USC in the first half ending it in a 3 to 3 tie. In the 2nd half, Michigan fell apart as I thought they would.

Chad Henne was sacked 5 times that I know of. I turned the game off with 6 min to go, tired of the incompetence. I was frustrated because I didn't see any attempt by the coaching staff to call plays that would defend against the constant blitzing of the USC defensive line. One of the techniques used in football to stop the blitz is to use short timing patterns where the QB drops back only three steps and throws a quick out or slant to a reciever for a short gainer. I didn't see a single play like that used by Michigan. Chad Henne was dropping back 7 and 8 steps at a time and by the time he got to the 7th one a defender was tackling him. Most defensive lineman can run faster forward than a QB can run backwards. (Mike's law of football bodies in motion.)

There was a time when I would watch all Michigan games on TV. That hasn't been the case in several years. I realized then that the Big 10 Conference just didn't have the skill and talent level of such conferences as the ACC, SEC, PAC 10 and the Big 12. The Big 10 generally plays a conservative kind of football relying heavily on the run with some passing. They are simply not used to going up against teams that feature a prolific passing game and are not proficient at defending against it.

After the Michigan game I was treated to a really good game between Boise State, a newcomer to college prime time football and heavily favored powerhouse Oklahoma University. Boise State tied the game with 7 seconds left and then won it on a two-point conversion in overtime 43 to 42. Now that was a good football game. I wondered why Michigan couldn't play like that and then it occured to me: Michigan isn't coached to play like that. And that explains why Michigan has now lost 4 straight bowl games.

Big 10 teams like Michigan and Ohio State and a few others are good teams but seem unable to raise their game to the championship level and keep it there. You'd think that task would be easier in the Big Ten where conservative football rules. Well, I think this discovery has already been made by one Big Ten team--Ohio State. They seem to have added a more prolific passing game to their already good running game. And as further evidence, when was the last time Lloyd Carr beat a Jim Tressel team? It's been awhile.

There is one other thing. I think the Big Ten should push its season forward by three weeks. (Or is that back?) It is a fact of athletic life that a month and half layoff from competition makes it hard for any athlete to stay sharp. A body can stay fit with practice but it's the mental game that suffers in an extended layoff.

Next year I will watch a few Michigan games and probably watch them in whatever bowl they happen to be in, and hope.

( Yes this will hurt coach Carr's reputation. I can just hear the wise cracks now: "Why do they serve Lloyd Carr his oatmeal on a plate? Because if they put it in a bowl he'll lose it.")