Thursday, June 26, 2008

Offshore Drilling Editorial Rant

The Sunday June 22nd Detroit Free Press has an editorial titled "Drill into the Future." Reading it, one gets the impression the editor was dragged kicking and screaming to write it. The tone of the editorial is that of an 8 yr. old spoiled brat who realizes that a tantrum isn't going to work this time and is reluctantly giving in to his parents wishes while making some demands like "This giving in to dumb demands by grownups is not sustainable." Within that context, I decided to parody my criticism of the editorial. Sometimes when I read an editorial like this, I can't just give a respectful critique. I feel the need to ridicule. In response to Bush's call for offshore drilling the editorial begins:
OK, let's drill for oil along the continental shelf.

But let's do it with extraordinary safeguards and let's also be clear -- as President George W. Bush has not been -- that sucking more oil and natural gas from deep water off the nation's coasts will not bring down the price of gasoline today or next month, and may not make more than a few pennies difference a decade from now.
Notice the hatred revealed by the use of the derogatory word 'sucking.' The spoiled brat is calling grownup activities stupid and wrong.
The sole reason to allow more offshore drilling would come in its political payoff, a splashy finish for an oil-soaked administration in exchange for real action on long-term energy sustainability.
More pouting about how grownups desires are soaked in stupidity (oil).

But wait, the brat has an idea (rationalization). He tells his fellow children: "If we give in to the adults on this, we might be able to extract some goodies from them. He offers four possibilities:
The trade offs could be:

• A floor on the price of gas, so America never again hops on the big car/compact car/SUV/hybrid rollercoaster.
Notice that the freep has no problem deciding how others should exercise their right to liberty (travel), i.e. grownups desires need restrictions so as not to be uneven.[?]
• An energy tax credit for low-income workers, who have been hit hardest by $4-plus prices.
We editors know that the poor are suffering--due to our past editorials. We really don't want to get rid of the source of their pain, just give them some aspirin.
• A massive energy efficiency push, not just on oil but natural gas as well.
Our chores need to be made easier.
• Grants for research and development that let all sorts of alternative energy ideas sprout. Not all of them will grow, but we've got to get far more serious about alternative thinking.
Increase our allowances and lets lobby the grownups to adopt alternative methods of parenting.

The editorial again dwells on how much the poor are hurt. But, it claims, the two solutions offered so far, dropping the gas tax for the summer and offshore drilling, do not address "...the question of how the country can live sustainably in an era when all the easy oil is already being pumped." In other words, the grownup's reasoned method of parenting is not sustainable but our whim worship is, so you adults need to adjust.

It is not the job of the Free Press or anyone else, to decide how the country can live sustainably. The whole 'sustainability' argument is based on false premises which have been exposed before. The one thing that is not sustainable is a government regulated economy. We continue:
Offshore drilling needs restrictions that keep rigs over the horizon and out of sight, and it must come with ample funding for the Coast Guard and other agencies to ensure proper inspections and the expertise to deal with oil spills if they occur.
That's right, oil rigs (like windmills) must be kept out of sight. Uncle Teddy said!

But then this feeble attempt at honesty:
But opponents of offshore drilling need to give the oil industry some credit, as well.
"Opponents of offshore drilling..."? Why who could they be? I don't see any around here, do you?
Raising the specter of the Santa Barbara oil spill, which happened in 1969, is no longer enough. Operations have been nearly blemish-free for almost four decades, including through Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.
Oh alright. I guess it's true after all, the grownups way of doing things is right most of the time. But enough with the facts already, lets get back to our feelings:
More exploration offshore does not equate, however, to tearing up whatever landscape the oil riggers covet.
Notice the slanting words. The phrase 'tearing up whatever landscape' projects an image of grasslands and meadows where deer and bunnies play being destroyed by oil CEOs. The word covet means to desire something one shouldn't or in excess. Like others, this sentence is not aimed at anyone's mind. Its target is the readers' emotions. Its purpose is to try and evoke an emotional NO! which the editorial hopes will translate into the same hatred of oil companies that the editorial so glaringly exhibits.

Since oil companies are so wantonly destructive:
Prime natural areas, including the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, must remain off-limits -- one position that presidential contenders John McCain and Barack Obama also agree on.
Unfortunately true. No hope anytime soon.
The Great Lakes certainly cannot come into play, even though Canada has, so far anyway, put rigs in Lake Erie without incident. The potential risk to self-contained lakes, which supply drinking water to millions, may be minimal, but it's a gamble that no one should allow.
Even though the threat is negligible, we must pretend it is so serious that we can't allow it. We simply can't let facts get in the way of our feelings.

The editorial ends with its proposed solution:
The question is what America should do. And the answer is to start on the long-term transition to more sustainable energy. If more offshore drilling can speed the plan that brings that day sooner, it will be a political bargain.
So if more offshore drilling will put and end to offshore drilling, then that's presumably a good thing. Hmmm. Perhaps this will allow the Free Press the future declaration "But I was against it before I was for it."

The real intent here is not sustainable energy but a desire to stop the use of fossil fuels like oil and gas and presumably coal too, even if these can sustain us for a long time. The goal is sacrifice. There is eternal sustainability in death.

There were no government regulators to declare whale oil or horse drawn buggies unsustainable; to call for the development of alternative technologies like oil and cars. Adult thinkers were a tad more mature back then. New technologies came about precisely because men were free to invent and discover new ways of doing things that individuals were willing to pay for. There were no government altruists trying to force the changes and thus causing economic hardship as is the case with the sustainability agenda today. If one wants sustainable development which is also friendly to nature-there is no other kind-one will advocate laissez-faire capitalism.

I once wrote about the spectacle of one toddler trying to do good to a second toddler by offering him a toy or cookie. But the second toddler doesn't want it. Feeling rejected and having been taught that giving is always good, the first toddler tries to force the object on the second causing animosity to develop. That's when an adult has to step in and stop the process. The first toddler needs to be taught that the good cannot be forced; that starting force violates the rights of the second toddler. The first needs to learn that the right to choose of the second must be respected.

But what if the adult did not so instruct the toddlers? What if the adult supported the first in his effort to force the good on the second? The child will of course grow up to be an aggressive brat convinced that starting force is ok if done for a so-called 'altruistic' reason.

Imagine that adult gaining control of the school system and every year turning out hordes of such brats. Some of these will stay in academe creating more copies of themselves. These in turn would go into the culture to places like the media who would champion that educational system; to the body politic who would cater to it, to the businessmen who would cave in to the stamping-foot demands of all the other brats. The result of course is America today. And when I look at the current candidates for president, Obama and McCain, I can see the toddlers will be in charge for awhile longer. Sadly there are no adults in sight, not even in the editorial pages of the Freep.

(A footnote:
As for the idea that oil is unsustainable and peaking out, a good refutation of this was abundantly clear recently. As soon a Bush called for offshore drilling, the Saudis announced they would increase production. The Saudis know only too well that we have massive amounts of oil at our fingertips and could easily replace the 10% of our supply we get from them if we get the government and enviros out of the way. They don't want that to happen.)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Book Recommendation With Comments

I just finished reading "The God of the Machine" by Isabel Paterson. The newest printing has an in depth introduction by Stephen Cox who, according to the back cover, "[I]s professor of literature and director of humanities at the University of California, San Diego. He is the author of 'The Woman and the Dynamo', a biography of Isabel Paterson published by Transaction." Although this book was published in 1943, it is even more relevant today. According to Cox's intro:
"On it publication in 1943,The God of the Machine appeared hopelessly old-fashioned. Today, it appears prophetic. It exposes the moral and practical failures of collectivism, failures that are now almost universally acknowledged but are still far from universally understood; and it identifies problems that continue to threaten the destruction of free societies." (Pg. IX of intro)
Miss Paterson refers to the dynamics of free trade among men as 'energy' and the 'free flow' of this energy as being determined by the amount of government interference in the economy (machine).The greater the government involvement, the greater the poverty and misery. The lesser the involvement, the greater the energy and thus prosperity.

Within this context, she goes back to ancient Greece and presents a historical perspective on why Greece and Rome had to fail, on why the middle and dark ages were stagnant, and why the Enlightenment succeeded. Through out the book Paterson refers to the futility of 'democracy' many times:
"Democracy is pure process,consisting of a series of pragmatical expedients, arrived at by majority vote, the verdict of numbers."
And:
"Democracy inevitably lapses into tyranny; but while in flux it may temporarily leave a wide margin of conduct and thought unregulated." (Pg 16)
This is true and one of the reasons people often confuse democracy with freedom; the deterioration can happen slow enough that people don't perceive it.

Even if a society erects a democracy with certain minority rights written into law, whenever these minority rights are invoked against majority wishes, the cry will always be: "Since when does a minority get to dictate to a majority?". We hear this complaint often today from liberals and conservatives as they try to force their idea of the good on society over the objections of various minorities.

Eventually, in a democracy, the majority will vote away the rights of all minorities. That's what majority rule means if not in theory, always in practice. The rights of minorities will be abrogated partly de jure and partly de facto. The later method has been at work in America for some time. The particular technique used to make it happen was identified by a onetime protege and admirer of Ms. Paterson-Ayn Rand. In her novel The Fountainhead, Ms. Rand's villain Ellsworth Toohey explains his technique to one of his victims saying in part: "Don't set out to raze all shrines--you'll frighten men. Enshrine mediocrity--and the shrines are razed."

This technique is being used by modern Tooheys to destroy individual rights and other American ideals. They don't attack individual rights, they simply ignore them. They enshrined need to be superior to rights just by focusing all policy on need and ignoring rights. When was the last time you heard your representative use the concept individual rights? The tool used to raze rights and enshrine need was switching rights from the individual realm to the collective. They had to destroy in the minds of the masses the idea that individual rights provides individual justice by getting them to accept in its place the notion that servicing social needs provides social justice. They don't attack individual justice. It's just that when the idea of justice is discussed, it's only meaning is the social variety.

Getting back to Ms. Paterson, she was quite perceptive regarding the nature what she called 'humanitarianism' and the nature of political do-gooders:
"An amiable child wishing for a million dollars will usually 'intend' to give away half of this illusory wealth. The twist in the motive is shown by the fact that it would be just as easy to wish such a windfall directly to those others without imagining oneself as the intermediary of their good fortune." (Pgs 153-154)
Today's Tooheys not only want to be the intermediary, they want to be the direct cause of everyone's fate. She continues:
"Carried into adult years, this naive self-glorification turns to positive hatred of any suggestion of persons helping themselves by their own individual efforts, by the non-political means which imply no power over others, no compulsory apparatus. The hatred has a deep motive back of it; for it is true that nothing but the political means will yield unearned public adulation." (153-154)
This snarling hatred is very evident with today's leftists and they control the Democratic party, the media and most of academe.

Among other things, Ms. Paterson talks about the fallacy of public property, why real money is indispensable--that is, backed by gold and silver--and about the mind destroying nature of public education.

The only things I would object to are 1. Mr. Cox's intro could have been a little shorter, and 2. Ms Paterson never identified altruism as a culprit of any kind. I think this may have been a result of her wanting to remain a deist. That's also one reason her and Ms. Rand parted ways. I have a few other misgivings but not of a major nature so I highly recommend the book which can be purchased here.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Of the Feelers, By the feelers, For the Feelers

At Rule of Reason, Edward Cline has part 4 of his essay "The Year of the Long Knives." In it Mr. Cline discusses the funding behind not only Obama's campaign but of most of the extreme leftist organizations. It is sad to see how many successful businessmen, men who used the principles of freedom and free trade to amass their wealth, using that wealth to destroy that freedom and free trade. Mr. Cline gives anecdotal evidence in the person of Mr. Wolf, CEO of UBS Americas, who supports Obama because doing so makes him feel good. It is amasing to me how such men can be so rational in the business world but so massively irrational when they step out of their office.

When I see or hear of a man like that I am reminded of a scene in an old movie-I think-called "The Vikings." The Kirk Douglas character is part of a love triangle. Standing atop a castle-from memory now-with the woman he loves, he looks down and sees his rival running up the steps to challenge him for her love. The Viking says "See how he hastens to his death."

That is what I see whenever I see any business people donating to any leftist, altruist, collectivist foundation. They do not understand that when a government is allowed to act on whims-feelings-one of the first changes to be made will be to the Wolfs of the world who will be changed from existence to nonexistence. But they don't feel this to be the case, so in their minds, it isn't.

Mr. Cline is also on the money when he compares the mindset of today's general population to that of the German people in the decades before the rise of Naziism. I am about halfway through the excellent book "The Ominous Paralells" by Leonard Peikoff which can be purchased here. (A deal at $13.45)

And I urge everyone to read parts one, two, and three of Mr. Cline's essay.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Obama vs McCain

I've been trying to stay away from blogging on the presidential candidates mainly because it's such a depressing subject. But I knew I couldn't stay away from it completely. So here are a few thoughts which I admit are mostly speculation at this point in time.

Barak Obama is a collectivist, altruist and statist. He is a rookie in politics and he doesn't seem to know much about history. He's a firm believer in sacrifice including forced sacrifices as evidenced by his 'we can no longer enjoy prosperity and expect others to like us' speech which also shows his second handedness.

If elected president, I see him being pulled in different directions. There will be those who will pressure him not to do anything that would hurt or destroy the chances of future black men to get elected. A 'once in a lifetime, ground-breaking opportunity so don't screw it up' kind of pressure will be present.

There will be those who will tell him he has a mandate to bring about 'change', the main slogan of his campaign. What kind of change? He will do what all sacrificers do when it becomes obvious that all previous sacrifices haven't worked: call for more and bigger sacrifices. A non-sacrificial course of action is alien to his mind.

I figure that because of his inexperience and second handedness, he will be somewhat paralyzed to move at least at first and will do nothing without a consensus of his cabinet. If his cabinet suggests one course of action, he will not go against it.

On foreign policy, the main driver will be to make other nations-including our enemies-like us. This will mean presenting to the world a militantly straight-spined, shoulders back, chin up image--while on one's knees posture. It won't make anyone like us of course, but the glee with which our enemies will view our moral cowardice and self-immolation will be viewed as approval and all will be right with the world in Obamaland, just as it was in Carterland.

What kind of concrete policies he'll propose is hard to say now but for sure appearances will mean everything. I think he will call for a world summit on Iraq with a view towards getting the troops out. Perhaps he'll call for a summit on world oil prices too. I don't see him nationalizing the oil companies ala Maxine Waters but I do see him appeasing her and her Marxist ilk with a windfall profits tax which will punish corporate greed. The press will swoon over this one. Do you see the republicans standing up to defend greed? Me neither.

On the domestic front--I call it a front because the intellectuals are at war with the general population--I'm wondering if he'll come out with some "Great Society" type of program. I think he's too green for that right now. Maybe in his second term. (Biting my tongue)

One thing I think he will do is offer a giant program to improve and/or save inner city schools most of which are utter failures. It will require a massive allocation of taxpayer dollars into such schools. Or perhaps, no taxes will be needed. Obama could easily use these schools' plight as an altruistic excuse for the windfall profits tax, the money from which would go directly to said schools. The media will kneel before him.

But like all the white presidents of the past, he will not even try to look for the root causes of those schools' failures: an irrational curriculum fostered by government encouragement. To do that he would have to take on the educational establishment. But that would be seen as political suicide and thus not happen. It won't happen even though taking on the educational establishment, that is, reincorporating phonics into the reading classes, structuring math classes hierarchically and providing a historically contextual science curriculum, would virtually guarantee his reelection. Sad.

When I look at John McCain I see an older and craftier Obama. He too is a collectivist, altruist and statist. They both believe in forced sacrifices. Whereas Obama wants Americans to be sacrificed to lower life forms and 'change' which means more and bigger sacrifices, McCain wants Americans to be sacrificed to lower life forms and the homeland. Whereas Obama wants Americans to sacrifice the products of freedom, SUVs etc., McCain aims directly at freedom itself via forced service to the homeland and his hostility to free speech.

Obama says we can no longer afford the prosperity of our freedom, McCain says yes we can but we must purchase our freedom in annual installments of self-sacrifice. In other words, we can buy our freedom by giving up pieces of it. This of course can have only one outcome: the loss of all freedom. That is why I think McCain is the more dangerous of the two.

Things will get a little clearer as the election draws nearer, maybe more so when each gives his acceptance speech at their conventions. I know I'll be blogging on this election a few more times but I dread the task.

(Speaking of dread, I was listening to a conservative talk radio show this morning and they were discussing the possibility of Obama, if elected, appointing Hillary to the Supreme Court! Talk about a nightmare!) [Is that even possible?]

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Speculators Perform Valueable Service

Galileo Blogs has a compact post on the value of market speculators. Lots of people seem to think that speculators are just irresponsible hustlers who do nothing but mindlessly gamble on whether some aspect of the market will go up or down. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In fact speculators actually help market downturns to correct sooner than they would if there were no speculators or if they were severely restricted by government regulations.

Walter Williams also has an article on the value of speculators at Capitalism Magazine.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Mass Preventive Medicine Prevents Individual Rights

In April, I reported that I had read the first 8 chapters of Gary Taubes's book "Good Calories, Bad Calories". I pointed out that those chapters are replete with evidence that "Government encouragement does not order men to believe that the false is true. It merely makes them indifferent to the issue of truth or falsehood." That quote is from Ayn Rand in her essay Establishing of an Establishment now in the book Philosophy: Who Needs It which can be purchased here.

I quoted two paragraphs of his book from the chapter "Creation of Consensus" which showed how evidence contrary to government policy tends not to get funded by the funding agencies, and often gets attacked by their spokesmen. Also, it is this pressure that causes some scientists to interpret the findings of their studies in a light favorable to government policy even when the studies themselves do not support it.

Today's post will look at how this indifference to truth is evolving into the destruction of the concept of health by moving it from the individual context--its rightful place--to a collective context. In other words, the concept of 'public health' is to be considered separate from and superior to individual health. And since you are an individual, your health doesn't matter and can be sacrificed to the good of the collective or the so-called 'common good.'

An example of this is provided by Sandy Szwarc at JunkfoodScience.com in a post about a conference at which it was advocated that medical ethics be replaced by social ethics. Summarizing it for us Ms. Szwarc writes:
Essentially, this philosophy argues that the obesity “epidemic” is such a threat to society and our quality of life, that to be moral and ethical, public health policies and preventive health must act in the name of the common good. Public interests are more important than those of individuals. The government must determine what is best for all, as individuals are incapable of protecting themselves. Society, most importantly, must act on behalf of children. Today’s public health has reached such crisis proportions, the viewpoint goes, that coercive policies that strip away individual freedoms and leave people no choice but to comply with “healthy behaviors” are now justified.
I recommend reading the whole short article. The desire of these people to employ the use of force against American citizens is obvious.

That the new concept of 'public health' is designed to sacrifice the individual to some higher entity like the 'common good' is indisputable. But in fact, there is no such thing as public health per se. Most people who use that term generally regard it to mean the sum of the health of all the people in a given society or at least a majority of them since someone is always sick somewhere. That would be a valid use of the term public health. That is not however the intent of the new concept in its collective context. In its new context, public health' is a tool to serve the concept 'common good' or 'public interest' the definition of which will be determined by the intellectuals. But is there such a thing as 'common good'?
When "the common good" of a society is regarded as something apart from and superior to the individual good of its members, it means that the good of some men takes precedence over the good of others, with those others consigned to the status of sacrificial animals. It is tacitly assumed, in such cases, that “the common good” means “the good of the majority” as against the minority or the individual. Observe the significant fact that that assumption is tacit: even the most collectivized mentalities seem to sense the impossibility of justifying it morally. But “the good of the majority,” too, is only a pretense and a delusion: since, in fact, the violation of an individual’s rights means the abrogation of all rights, it delivers the helpless majority into the power of any gang that proclaims itself to be “the voice of society” and proceeds to rule by means of physical force, until deposed by another gang employing the same means.-Ayn Rand Lexicon
Observe how Rand identifies the "good of the majority" as only a pretense and a delusion. This is so true and very important. The new concept of public health can mean anything the 'authorities' want it to mean. It can mean the sacrifice of a minority to a majority or of the majority to a minority. This last is its real meaning. To see how, I have to return to "Good Calories, Bad Calories" and Mr. Taubes' description of how the mass preventive medicine idea took hold.
"This strategy [collective medicine-ME] is credited to the British epidemiologist Geoffrey Rose, a longtime veteran of the dietary-fat controversy. "The mass approach is inherently the only ultimate answer to the problem of mass disease," Rose explained in 1981.

"But, however much it may offer to the community as a whole, it
offers little to each participating individual. When mass
diphtheria immunization was introduced in Britain 40 years ago,
even then roughly 600 children had to be immunized in order that
one life be saved--599 'wasted' immunizations for the one that was
effective....This is the kind of ratio that one has to accept in
mass preventive medicine. A measure applied to many will actually
benefit few." (Rose quote)

When it came to dietary fat and heart disease, according to Rose's calculation, only one man in every fifty might expect to avoid a heart attack by virtue of avoiding saturated fat for his entire adult life: "Forty-nine out of fifty would eat differently everyday for forty years and perhaps get nothing from it." (pp66,67)
So we see that 49 people will be sacrificed for the alleged benefit of one. That is collectivism. It is important here to understand how these collectivists think. By way of an analogy, collectivists see a barrel of 300 apples, (or 300 million people) and notice that 1 in 50 are bad. They see doctors treat each bad apple individually and return them to health. They see that the entire population has been improved. They wish to be as beneficial to mankind as those doctors are. But they seek a shortcut. Instead of treating individual apples to make them better, they look only at the whole population and dream of what it would be like to prevent those 6 apples from going bad. This would certainly be better for all of applekind wouldn't it?

Studies are done and a 'socially acceptable' range of sizes and colors for healthy apples is politically established. All apples must conform to these new standards for their own good. There is only one problem with this behavior on the part of apple authorities. It ignores the nature of apples. According to this web site, there are about 7500 varieties of apples each having its own nature. It's obvious that if any one-size-fits-all program of preventive medicine won't work with apples, it sure as hell won't work with humans. But this kind of thinking is what collectivists want to force or see forced on the public. Only this time the 'public' does mean every individual.

But the truth is they don't care about those 6 apples, or the 294 others whose forced sacrifices are now required. The real ideal of the collectivists is sacrifice, the sacrifice of everyone to everyone all the time. And the tool that will help them achieve this goal is mass preventive medicine as permanent government policy.

The only way a society can protect itself from them is to fight for a separation of state and economics and the best place to start is in medicine. Aside from a rare quarantine, the government has no business getting involved in medicine or public health in any way. The United States was founded on the principle of the primacy of the individual, not the collective or the state.

(As an aside, I recommend Good Calories, Bad Calories if for no other reason than that it's a good history of diet hypotheses and public policy. I don't agree with everything he says but in fairness, he calls for more randomized, double-blind, clinical trials to study refined carbohydrates in a quality way. While I'm not in favor of government funding of any science-except for defense-if it is going to fund some studies then it should fund this also.)