Sunday, April 29, 2007

Lil' Round Up April 29th.

Gus Van Horn has a tale of two cities, 1900 Galveston Texas and 2005 New Orleans and the different work and life ethics of the citizens of each city. To me it shows clearly the difference in behavior of people who live in one context where self-reliance is expected and those who live in a context where it is not.

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Lubos Motl has a post on the IPCC AR4 Working Group One and a link to the full text. I'm inclined to agree with Mr. Motl's evaluation of WG1. Steve McIntyre at Climate Audit posts on it as well.

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L Graham Smith at Ecomyths reports on two stories in the Canadian press. It's the second one that interests me. It's about 39 sealing ships stuck in ice off Newfoundland. "Penney says these are the worst conditions he's seen in the last 15 years and have caused one of the most intensive coast guard rescue operations." I wonder if Al Gore gave one of his "Inconvenient Truth" presentations there recently causing the famous "Gore Effect."

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The folks at Canadian blog The London Fog ask "When do trousers go for $65 million? When they belong to a lawyer." I wonder if he'd be that much of a stickler at doing taxes? Amy at Advice Goddess posts on this too.

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Mike at Abandon Caution announces that Dr. Peikoff will be interviewed on Austin, Texas radio Monday evening April 30th and provides a link to the audio.

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Nicholas Provenzo at Rule of reason reports on a Wapo business reporter who wants to cut down another tall poppy, Google, because their sheer size makes them a threat. An obvious case of hating the good for being the good.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Take Back The Weather?

On Monday April 23rd the Detroit News carried an article titled "Warning Signs" in which a mom claims she got tired of having to explain to her 4yr old why there was no snow on which to go sledding. So the mom put up 5 giant billboards around Detroit with the picture of a child and the words "If not for you, then for them. Take back the weather."

So, we controlled the weather once and now we don't so that's why we have to take it back. Of course! In response to someone who told her that he was just as happy it's warmer in the winter these days she replied according to the article: "And I said, 'Well that might be fine now, but what about in summer when it's 140 degrees?"'

According to this USA Today article the highest temperature ever recorded on the planet was 136 deg. F. in El Azizia, Lybia, a desert, and this lady thinks it's going to be 140 deg. F. in Michigan! Obviously she hasn't looked up any facts or studied any climate history. The article continues:
All of the "Take Back the Weather" billboards showcase little kids (one is Lily), generally looking aggrieved that there's no snow. One shows two disconsolate children standing with a sled on brown grass.

Another features the line, "Snow was never meant to be just in storybooks."
Meant? By whom?
"My position is neither Democratic nor Republican," she says. "But when we were growing up, my sister remembers jumping off the roof into snow drifts.

"And now," she adds, "you can't even have a snowball fight here."
So the earth's climate when her sister was growing up is the climate the earth is supposed to have permanently?

Oh well, I give her credit for doing this on her own dime instead of the taxpayer's.

For the record, Detroit had a slight snowfall the first week of Nov 06 and no more until the last week of Jan 07, but then we got dumped on in Feb with about a foot of snow in my Detroit suburb. So you could still go sledding and have some snowball fights, I would have told my 4yr old that we were just having a mild winter and might have a few more but eventually the snow will come back.

How do I know this? Well, according to paleoclimatology, we are in a glacial epoch. Glacial epochs are heavily weighted in favor of glaciations which means lots of snow and ice over the northern hemisphere. The fact that we are in an inter-glacial period where the earth warms and life flourishes is a good thing to be welcomed, not prevented.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Undercurrent Notice

I have been asked to post this notice for The Undercurrent, a college newsletter, written from an objectivist perspective. I recommend it to all of my college age readers.

Dear friend of Objectivism,

The Undercurrent is now welcoming orders for its upcoming issue. The issue will be mailed out at the end of April, and is intended for distribution from May through September. Orders can be placed at http://www.the-undercurrent.com/?s=distribute.

The issue will feature a penetrating interview on freedom of speech with Onkar Ghate, the Dean of the Objectivist Academic Center. The interview discusses, in depth, the nature and philosophic justification for the right to free speech.

In addition, the issue will include a campus commentary (by Kelly Cadenas) on recent free speech violations, an article arguing that capitalism is not only practical but moral, Peter Schwartz’s excellent ARI op-ed, “In Defense of Income Inequality”, and our regular ad for the Atlas Shrugged Essay Contest. Please visit our website to preview this content.

Remember, distributing the Undercurrent is not a major time commitment. All you need to do is take a few minutes once or twice a week to drop off the paper at a campus newsstand or coffee shop. If cost is an issue, let us know and we will work with you to find a sponsor in your area to pay for your copies.

Because May is exam period at most schools, it is a time when students are spending more time on campus, studying, meeting professors, waiting before and after exams. For this reason, it is a time when they are more likely than ever to pick up and peruse a paper like the Undercurrent. Please help us maximize this opportunity.

Please help us bring Ayn Rand’s ideas to your campus,

-The Undercurrent

Monday, April 23, 2007

"Do Something"?

Every so often the Detroit Free Press puts on its Sunday editorial section a page devoted to "Young Voices". On Sunday April 22nd the Freep carried its "young voices" section on the subject of the genocide in Darfur. It begins with this introduction
Teacher Laura Roth gave her geography students at Tappan Middle School in Ann Arbor a simple assignment that yielded an outpouring of critical thought. Her seventh-graders wrote about the genocide in Darfur, as they were instructed. But they also became advocates to raise awareness about the crisis. They're proof that American teens, properly inspired, will gladly look beyond themselves to embrace the world. Below are excerpts from some of their essays.
Pursuant to my previous post in which I objected to 9 yr. olds being scared to death by environmentalism I wrote
These kids are way too young to be introduced to such complex subjects as planetary climate systems not to mention all the political and ethical and social issues involved. Young minds like this cannot cope with the higher level abstractions required to make any kind of rational judgement.
I also think that 12 and 13 year old kids are still too young to be trying to formulate judgements on such complex issues as government, justice, war, peace, society, and so on and like the 9yr olds, can only respond to such issues emotionally.

There were 21 quotes on the page and admittedly they are excerpts from longer essays so I can't really say if or how badly they were taken out of context. But let's look at a few. First,Younkyoung Lee writes:
Civil wars have added plenty of tension in Africa, but now a genocide in Darfur has caused an unnecessary number of deaths and more than 2 million people to flee their homes. It has been four years since the genocide began, and after 21 years of civil war in Sudan, how much more do people need to suffer?

Too many of us seem to care more about entertaining ourselves and making money than people who need our help. Which do you find more important, a child dying in Africa or a celebrity shaving off her hair?
His first two sentences are correct but his last two indicate the acceptance of an unearned guilt. There were one or two others that echoed similar sentiments. I hope they check their premises when they get older. Most however did not share that viewpoint near as I could tell.

There seemed to be several themes that ran through all of them. 1) That the tragedy in Darfur and the prosperity in America are the metaphysically causeless given. 2) That somebody needs to "Do Something" as the headline in the print edition shouted.

There were only a few that blamed the Sudanese government's support of the Janjaweed for the genocide and even these did not address why this is so. But there were a few that impressed me. One by Murphy Austin who wrote in part: "The power of the leaders of our country comes from the people they represent, and it is high time that those people demand representation." That he understands where the government gets its power from is a good sign. But I was really impressed by student Nick Shannon who said:
UN forces won't go in simply because the Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir (who tops the list of the world's worst dictators) is denying them access to Sudan. The United Nations says it needs permission to help. What do you think of that? Should we get a killer's permission to allow us to stop him from killing?
Well now, if he wrote this without any adult help, I would say that this youngster will become a very rational adult.

The thing I object to the most is the theme of Do Something then asking kids for suggestions. They are simply too young to properly conceptualize cause and effect in terms of principles that would guide them towards rational solutions. Some of the kids suggested things like donating to humanitarian agencies or giving new cots or putting pressure on the Sudanese government via sanctions and so on. But these are all concrete bound ideas.

These kids are being encouraged to think in terms of concretes instead of principles. Without principles, "Do Something" usually translates into "Do Anything". It has to since without principles there is no way of knowing what that "Do Something" should be, so "Do Anything" substitutes for "Do Something."
And "Do Anything" is the prescription for altruism, the morality of intentions over results. They will grow up believing that virtue consists of performing an altruistic ritual of "It's not for me but for others" and when no real results are forthcoming they will believe that more people need to perform the ritual and the need for forced sacrifices will of necessity brew in their minds.

In closing I have two more objections: that a geography teacher should be teaching something other than geography to her students. If my child were a student of hers I would insist that she stick to geography and leave the political science for later in high school. It is good that these kids think something should be done but they need the guidance of principles not feelings. Secondly, I also object to the Freep's characterization of this as kids who are "properly inspired." There is nothing proper about it.

In a future year I would like to see a teacher have these kids identify all the nations with capitalism and free markets and those without and then measure the degree of prosperity of each. Now that would be a priceless lesson in cause and effect.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

New Animal Planet Series

As readers of my site may have guessed by now from my plugging of other nature series, I like nature shows. I have about 90 or so tapes from the 80s when people like Ben Wattenberg and George Page et al were narrating shows for PBS and others. So, for the benefit of the nature lovers among my readers, I want to announce that this coming Saturday April 21st, the Animal Planet network is doing a series on the arrival of spring. According to the email I received:
Beginning this Saturday, April 21, 2007, at 8 PM (ET/PT), Animal Planet debuts Spring Watch USA, a four-week, as-it-happens, multi-media, nationwide event. Filmed just prior to broadcast, this miniseries is a celebration of the arrival and beauty of spring across the nation. Hosted by Jeff Corwin (The Jeff Corwin Experience, Corwin’s Quest) and Vanessa Garnick (Caught In The Moment), viewers learn about the amazing mammals, birds and insects that herald the arrival of spring.
I don't know if there will be any climate change promos in this but the Animal Planet shows that I have watched have been pretty good about keeping nature and politics apart.

I am recommending this series because it looks initially like it could be a positive, uplifting, life-on-this-earth-is-good kind of documentary. There is promotional material here which includes 3 very short videos. (although I had some trouble with the sound I hope you don't.)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Child Abusers

The Washington Post has a disturbing even angering article on how young kids are being indoctrinated into the global warming is all mans' fault propaganda. Hat tip to JunkSciecnce.com. of April 17th. It is titled "Global Warming Scenarios Scare, and Motivate, Kids" by Darragh Johnson. It starts with:
The boy has drawn, in his third-grade class, a global warming timeline that is his equivalent of the mushroom cloud.

"That's the Earth now," the 9-year-old says, pointing to a dark shape at the bottom. "And then," he says, tracing the progressively lighter stripes across the page, "it's just starting to fade away."
And continues with:
Alex Hendel of Arlington County is talking about the end of life on our beleaguered planet. Looking up to make sure his mother is following along, he taps the final stripe, which is so sparsely dotted it is almost invisible. "In 20 years," he pronounces, "there's no oxygen." Then, to dramatize the point, he collapses, "dead," to the floor.

For many children and young adults, global warming is the atomic bomb of today. Fears of an environmental crisis are defining their generation in ways that the Depression, World War II, Vietnam and the Cold War's lingering "War Games" etched souls in the 20th century.
Although the article talks about college age kids, which is where I think subjects like nature and environment can be introduced to students, it goes on about the very young:
Parents say they're searching for "productive" outlets for their 8-year-olds' obsessions with dying polar bears. Teachers say enrollment in high school and college environmental studies classes is doubling year after year. And psychologists say they're seeing an increasing number of young patients preoccupied by a climactic Armageddon
These kids are way too young to be introduced to such complex subjects as planetary climate systems not to mention all the political and ethical and social issues involved. Young minds like this cannot cope with the higher level abstractions required to make any kind of rational judgement. The only way a child can respond to this kind of indoctrination is emotionally. And that's exactly whats happening with "...an increasing number of young patients preoccupied by a climactic Armageddon." And if any parent has a child obsessing about anything, it is the parent's job to be that "productive" outlet. What kind of parenting is going on today?

Sadly, there's more:
There was also last spring's effort by David Bronstein -- before he graduated and enrolled at St. John's -- to do 20-minute PowerPoint presentations on "the problem of global warming and how it's the challenge of our generation and what we need to do about it" to about 20 of Sherwood's government, English, social studies and philosophy classes.

"This message about global warming is so powerful," Bronstein says. "It gives me hope for the human race because people are responsive to it." He also encourages anxiety about the planet's future, comparing enviro-fears to "any suffering in your life: The first step is denial, and then there's a sense of doom, and then you have to get up and shake it off and change something."
But is it just the teachers who are destroying the kids minds? The article ends with:
Which is exactly what happened when 9-year-old Alyssa Luz-Ricca's mother returned from a business trip to Costa Rica with a T-shirt of a colorful frog and the words "Extinction is forever." Alyssa looked at the T-shirt and, she says, "I cried."

"She cried very hard," clarifies her mother, Karen Luz of Arlington.

"I don't like global warming," Alyssa continues, her eyes huge and serious behind her glasses, a stardust of freckles across her nose, "because it kills animals, and I like animals."

She dreams of solar-powered cars and has put a recycling basket for mail, office and school paper in the corner of her family's dining room. She made another recycling box for her third-grade English teacher's classroom at Key Elementary School and has persuaded her mother to start composting. At Key, she also organized an effort among her classmates to pick up playground trash at recess.

Marvel at any of her efforts, though, and she looks confused: Everyone should be doing all this -- and more -- to save the environment.

"I worry about it," says this girl who has yet to lose all her baby teeth, "because I don't want to die."
What kind of words can I use to describe the evil of scaring kids to death with a virtual non-problem? Unspeakable? Unthinkable? Even if GW were a problem, it would be the responsibility of adults to address it, not kids.

In the Jonestown mass sucide a mother was taped pouring poison down her child's throat. That mother was the naked essence of evil, the desire to destroy life. But destroying the minds of kids to form concepts and integrate them in an hierarchy, to know instead of believe, is to leave the kid's body alive while destroying the body's means of survival.

In closing I wonder if any of these teachers or parents know that the concepts nature and environment have two different meanings. I'll bet none. I hate to say this but I'm beginning to sympathize with those who are pessimistic of America's future.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Two New Anti-Concepts

Today's intellectuals are trying hard to create two new cognitive package deals, a form of anti-concept which perverts an existing concept by destroying its original meaning and substituting a new meaning. This new meaning is never defined explicitly and is always surrounded by some fog so that a listening member of the general public will say something like "Yeah, it could mean that." And that is all the intellectuals want from the public, the benefit of the doubt, because their goal is to change "It could mean that" to "It does mean that."

The two words are skeptic and denier. The use of these terms is intended to cast a negative image or light on a certain group of people, those who dissent or disagree with government funded, sanctioned and established agencies who declare a certain idea or theory to be true.

Both of these words, skeptic and denier, are valid concepts with valid meanings. Let's look at skeptic first. This I think is a word whose current usage lends itself to the corruption of package dealing. According to my Webster's New World College Dictionary a skeptic is "1) a member of any of the ancient Greek philosophical schools that denied the possibility of real knowledge of any kind, 2) any person who practices philosophical skepticism, 3) a person who habitually doubts, questions or suspends judgement on matters generally accepted, 4) a person who doubts religious doctrines especially those of Christianity."

Do you see what's missing here? According to this college dictionary there is no such thing as a rational skepticism, so any student who adopts these meanings will believe all forms of skepticism carry a negative connotation and implies an irrational doubting. So when this student grows into an adult and hears of say, global warming skeptics, the first image that pops into his mind will be that of an irrational (habitual) doubter, one who doubts regardless of evidence. (I suppose this is what happens when dictionaries are put together by people who don't know how to form an objective definition. But I digress, that might be material for a future post though.)

Of course there is such a thing as a rational skepticism. A skeptic can be one who doubts because of a lack of evidence or he may be aware of contrary evidence. This kind of skepticism is a healthy rational skepticism which every scientist, indeed every person, should cultivate.

(An irrational skepticism, ala the above Webster's definitions, is what is found in most colleges today where students are taught there is no truth, you can't be certain of anything, what was true yesterday may not be true today and on and on. This of course fits exactly the ancient Greek skeptics denial of the possibility of real knowledge.)

Since my Webster's is a 1968 edition, we can see that skeptic = irrational denier has had a long head start in our culture and that today's intellectuals are just cashing in on the ground work laid for them. The new meaning of skeptic is intended to be something on the order of "one who arbitrarily and habitually doubts the officially declared truth of the powers that be." Once accepted, the existence of a rational, justified skepticism will be lost to the culture. So when someone is labeled a skeptic, he will be considered a member of a lunatic fringe to be ignored and dismissed out of hand.

The same thing is happening with the word denier. According to my same dictionary a denier is 1)one who says no to a request, 2)a contradictor, 3) one who disowns a family member, 4)one who refuses to believe a doctrine, 5)one who refuses to give, and 6)one who indulges in self denial or abstinence. Another modern meaning not mentioned in my dictionary is one who is accused of error or fault who then denies the charge. This last carries the negative stigma of possible wrongdoing or erroneous behavior.

But if one looks at #4, one who refuses to believe in a doctrine, one can see that this is the correct identification of the global warming critics of today. This is the valid meaning that the intellectuals intend to obliterate by substituting the meaning conveyed by meaning #2, a contradictor, which implies the act of contradicting regardless of good or bad reasons. So the new meaning of denier is one who denies regardless of reasons, i.e. arbitrarily.

It looks to me like the liberal, secular left and the conservative, religious right have bought in to these package deals in an effort to destroy their common enemy, capitalism. Fortunately the general public hasn't bought it yet but there's no telling how long the public can hold up under the onslaught of the MSM who are some of the biggest package dealing pushers.

I'm somewhat optimistic because newspapers still present two sides of an issue in their editorial pages as pro vs con instead of fact vs denier or truth vs skeptic. On the other hand, modern thinking is so badly compartmentalized I can see where they could be cajoled into ascribing the new meaning to critics of global warming and the valid meaning to other forms of criticism. Thus the method of doing this could be, using the word critic when referring to other forms of dissent but using skeptic or denier when referring to global warming.

This attempt to give new meanings to those two words is ambitious because any success at all will put all related concepts under eventual attack.

Monday, April 09, 2007

GoodSearch is Good Find

To all my readers who may be Objectivists, students of Objectivism or friends of Objectivism, I want to urge all of you to make GoodSearch your primary search engine. Goodsearch donates about 1 penny for every search to your favorite charity. I have typed in "The Ayn Rand Institute the Center for the Advancement of Objectivism" as my favorite charity. (You only have to type in the name of your charity and hit verify as they have over 32,000 non-profits listed. You won't have to type it in again, as long as cookies are enabled.)

In all of 2006 GoodSearch donated $50.98 to ARI.

But through the first 3 months of 07 GoodSearch has surpassed all of 06 by donating $67.57. If this rate just holds steady, at the end of the year ARI will get a check for $270.28. And that's if the rate only holds steady. You can help swell that amount using Goodsearch as your primary search engine. GoodSearch is not a new inexperienced, fledgling operation. They are powered by Yahoo and I have found their search results comparable to Google.

So, if you have ever wondered what you as just one person can do to advance the spread of Objectivism, here is an opportunity to start helping out today, right now.

You can add GoodSearch to your bookmarks in your toolbars which is what I did. If you have a blog of your own you can put a GoodSearch logo like mine on your front page.

Or you can download their GoodSearch toolbar.

However you do it, making GoodSearch your main search engine will help ARI. Even if you just make it one of your engines it will help some. I for one am optimistic that GoodSearch can help a lot.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Idiocy? No, Altruism. & Some Thoughts

Rarely does the editorial staff of the Detroit News get downright irate. But Friday April 6th I smiled when I read this editorial headline: "An iPod for every kid? Are they !#$!ing idiots?"

The first paragraph says:
We have come to the conclusion that the crisis Michigan faces is not a shortage of revenue, but an excess of idiocy. Facing a budget deficit that has passed the $1 billion mark, House Democrats Thursday offered a spending plan that would buy a MP3 player or iPod for every school child in Michigan.
No it's really not idiocy. It's altruism, the morality of intentions over results. If one says the magic words "It's not for me but for others" (especially "children"), then anything goes. One can safely ignore any and all consequences no matter how disasterous. This sentence however caught Mike's Eyes:
We wonder how financially strained Michigan residents will feel about paying higher taxes to buy someone else's kid an iPod.
Good point of course, but this sentence demonstrates that today's editors can think in terms of principles when they want to. The glaringly obvious next question is: why not apply that logic to education itself? In other words, just repeat that sentence with the word education in place of iPod? So why don't they? It has to be altruism.

In my efforts to understand such a method of thinking here is what I came up with. In order to integrate the anti-life principles of altruism with the pro-life principles of the rest of one's knowledge, one must compartmentalize all of one's knowledge. This means never being able to make integrations between principles so that one recognizes that the above principle should be applied to both iPods and education. To accomplish this misintegration, the mind must have seperate, that is unintegrated, file folders or compartments.

For example, the above sentence with the word iPod, would be drawn from a folder marked "rational self-interest" whereas that same sentence with the word education would be rejected as invalid because the word education is not allowed to be placed in that folder. Instead it would be placed in a folder titled "altruistic self-sacrifice for children." Or to put it another way, iPod is not allowed to be put into the folder of things for which one must sacrifice. This is why I believe that such a mind can utter a rational statement and be unable to connect the dots by relating to other concepts. In such a mind, there are no dots to connect. To comparmentalize then, is to severely limit integration. One can also see how this makes structuring a rational hierarchy almost impossible.

Anyway, I'm happy to see the News really gettng ticked off. Perhaps they will blurt out other rational statements with which some readers may be able to connect their own dots.

(To get a better handle on this, I am re-listening to Dr. Peikoff's excellent lecture series The D.I.M. Hypothesis--to which this post is already indebted--which can be heard for free here. Just register and go to the registered user page.)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The New Enron...New Jersey

In my last post I emphasized the incompetence of government control over services like roads and bridges that would be run much more efficiently by private enterprise, and how people just don't seem to notice or even care and continue to worship government control.

Well Amit Ghate at Thrutch has a post on the state of New Jersey's badly managed pension funds for state workers. Evidently, this mismanagement has been going on for some time. Mr. Ghate correctly says:
Imagine if any business were to practice this type of behavior. The government and the public would call for their necks -- and probably get them. Yet no such calls go forth when the actors are government bureaucrats.
Yes, you can bet there will be no Sarbanes-Oxley type laws being brought to bear on these government officials. Why? Because they are government officials who automatically have pure motives and therefore, anything goes. He links to a NYT article with all the Enronish details. It's my guess we won't even hear a peep out of sirs Sarbanes-Oxley about these shady accounting practices.

Mr. Ghate nails it when he says:
The sad truth is that under altruism results don't matter, only motivation counts. So private businessmen who are pursuing their own values are evil by definition while conversely every bureaucrat can simply wave his "for the public good" wand to avoid any further questions.

To right this wrong requires nothing less than challenging the morality of altruism.
For sure.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Government Control Concretized?

Examples of why government control of the economy is not better than market control are becoming more plentiful all the time. In the April 2nd edition in the Detroit News is the front page article titled "Crumbling bridges tied to bad concrete." The story states:
The material was used for eight years in the 1970s before officials concluded it's prone to falling apart, said Richard M. Smith, manager of the agency's bridge inspection program.

The repair bill isn't cheap: $500,000 per bridge. Smith estimated as many as 1,300 bridges may be vulnerable. That would cost $650 million that a state in a budget crisis can't afford, and Smith said stopgap measures are the only option.
Had roads been privately owned it is highly unlikely the private owner would have used a new cement mixture without testing it for a number of years and only on a small number of bridges to make sure it holds up. His incentive of course would be the profit motive. Standing to lose a lot of money in law suits over crumbling cement not to mention higher insurance cost and the loss of subscribers to his roads due to bad press, there is no way he would use an untried mixture for 8 years on 1300 bridges.

But the state? No one in government stands to lose a nickel so the incentive to do it right isn't there. And yet we will always be told that providing roads is a natural and required function of government because private enterprise can't be trusted to do it right.