Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mixed Thoughts on the Election

First, I think that if Obama is elected, whoever the Repubs run in 2012 will appear to the American people like a George Washington and will be a shoe-in even though there will be no such resemblance in reality.

Second, Americans resoundingly rejected the redistribution plans of McGovern because he stated them explicitly just as Obama is doing now. Therefore, if Obama is not likewise resoundingly rejected, then I think America is in deep trouble.

Third, Obama is no fuhrer. But I do think there are fuhrer wannabes out there who are taking notes. They want to see what Obama can get away with; how receptive the American people are to explicit collectivist ideas; how much government encouraged class hatred Americans have bought into; do Americans still want to stand on their own two feet or do they want to be led; what is the nature of Obama's opposition and so on.

Fourth, these wannabes are watching McCain too. They want to see how, even if, McCain inspires opposition to Obama's policies. A potential fuhrer will notice that both parties favor involuntary servitude. Check. That's a requirement. But his biggest concern will be which party is most eager to do away with free speech. Right now, with their desire to silence talk radio, internet blogs, return to the fairness doctrine, and label dissent as hate speech, it is the Democratic party. He will notice too how well the people's thoughts are controlled by the press.

On the other hand:

Sixth, one of the things that may stand in Obama's way is the Democratic Party's own philosophy of pragmatism. I think some of them actually fear Obama going ideological on them. Pure pragmatists will see an ideological bent by Obama as being highly impractical and dangerous to the party's re-election chances in four or even two years. There's a good chance they'll side with republicans in opposition to Obama's 'extreme' policies. Others however, like the Pelosis, Reids, Schumers, etc. will get solidly behind Obama's 'extreme' policies because, despite their outward shell of pragmatism, they are ideologues. Their ideology is collectivism-altruism. That's the beauty of being a pragmatist: it allows its adherents to have their ideology--by labeling it as being 'practical'-- and eat it too--by claiming they don't have one.

Seventh, there is the Supreme Court. Now any institution that can sanction Eminent Domain, declare a life giving gas, carbon dioxide, a pollutant, is not an institution to be relied on for salvation. Nevertheless, they do exist and even though it may take years for a challenge to an Obama idiocy to reach the court well, like I said, they do exist. Also, there is the advise and consent of the Senate which could slow things down.

Eighth, if I were a fuhrer wannabe I would try to determine which party would provide the smoothest sailing to dictatorship, i.e. which party gets the most Resistance when in power. Let's see: the democrats have the press in their back pocket and this is great. But when in power they get stiff Resistance from the repubs. However, when in power, the repubs go out of their way to enact the Dems' agendas and get very little Resistance. So for the smoothest way to fuhrerhood, I should be a Republican. Folks, that's scary.

Ninth, there were times I thought America was finished but it wasn't. I thought we were done when Nixon declared wage and price controls. Again during the Carter years when his altruism paralyzed his response to the hostage taking and his ignorance of economics froze him to do nothing in response to skyrocketing interest rates.

The above is mostly conjecture and I could be wrong on much of it. As things stand right now, it looks like Democrats will retain control of congress so my intention is to vote solidly republican for all candidates to provide more resistance to dem agendas. I can't see myself voting for Obama. He's just too anti-American. I may vote against him by voting for McCain or I may leave that spot blank. McCain is a long term threat. Obama a short term one.

Still thinking.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

They Don't Understand Rights

In the Brisbane Times (HT Junkscience.com of Oct. 24th.)Bill Clinton claimed:
"Today's global food crisis shows "we all blew it, including me when I was president", by treating food crops as commodities instead of as a vital right of the world's poor, Bill Clinton told a UN gathering today."
So now 'others' not only have a right to health care, to an education, to a job, now they have a right to food too. Next will be their right to your life if you fail to satisfy their rights to your labor, your sweat, your dreams, your future.

There is no such thing as a right to a thing before one has earned it. "The concept of a “right” pertains only to action—specifically, to freedom of action. It means freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or interference by other men." (Ayn Rand Lexicon)

If one wanted to really help the world's poor, one would look for the root cause of their poverty which is almost always the same root--the lack of freedom by right; the freedom to produce the goods required for their survival and to use and dispose of those goods as they see fit. They don't have that freedom.

To feed them just for a day or a week only leaves the root cause (statist government) untouched and guarantees the the poor will still be there tomorrow or next week with the same needs. While this kind of caring is called 'altruistic' it has nothing to do with a genuine concern for the poor. A real concern for human life begins with a concern for oneself. One must always ask "Would I want to live like that in perpetuity? If not, then why make others do it? By giving them a fish for a day but refusing to teach them how to fish, one sustains poverty, even promotes it.

The giving of a fish for a day is good only if accompanied by efforts to teach them how to fish i.e. teach them the meaning of freedom by right and by reorienting their governments to protecting those rights. A rational self interest will accomplish this. Altruism will not. It isn't designed to. Altruism is designed to get people to accept sacrifice as a perpetual way of life. When one looks at the world's poor, one can see how successful altruism is at doing that.

Only a self-interested love of life will result in valuing those things that sustain and enhance life--like freedom by right instead of permission. But alas, thanks to the dominant philosophy of pragmatism, there is no one in American politics or academe who can teach the real meaning of rights to anyone. The only ones who could are the small but growing number of people who use the philosophy of Objectivism to guide their lives.

One last thought: the altruism of America's leaders today will definitely lead us to that same fish-for-a-day standard of living of the current world's poor. It's coming unless altruism is replaced by Egoism.

See How He Likes It!

All the Republicans are going to vote for Obama and tell McCain that they all want to be mavericks.

What a pleasant thought!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Harvard Gored?

Posting on the election is so depressing I've decided to post on a different absurdity: global warming, or climate change as the alarmists are chanting now. There is nothing funny about the election. But professional comedians often make their jokes so stupid they become amusing even hilarious. That's how I see the global warming nonsense.

At The Reference Frame, Lubos Motl reports on the latest example of the Gore Effect. Evidently, Harvard Democrats celebrated Harvard Sustainability by having Gore as their keynote speaker. Cambridge Mass. is predicted to be hit with their coldest weather in 125 yrs:
For tomorrow night, the temperature in Cambridge is forecast to drop below the freezing point to 28 °F which, if true, will beat the record low temperature set in 1883, which means exactly 125 years ago, when it was 29 °F.
But the organizers anticipated the weather (or the Gore Effect?) by advising followers to dress warm and providing hot cider. To which Lubos responded:
Cute! The best thing one can do when it's raining is to let it rain but the best thing one can do when it's warming by 0.6 °C per century is to fight the climate, to redesign the Harvard logo, to unravel the modern industrial civilization (if you allow me to exaggerate just a little bit), and to serve people hot soup and cider so that they won't freeze during the celebration of their heroic fight against warming.
Young children usually outgrow their fantasies when they learn to distinguish them from reality. These children didn't.

C. August at Titanic Deck Chairs has a post on an IBD (Investors Business Daily) article on growing glaciers. Of course, alarmists would claim that cold weather and growing glaciers are consistent with global warming. Which means of course that when I want ice cubes I should place my tray of water in the oven.

Update: corrected a few typos.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Roundup Oct. 18th

This roundup should provide some interesting reading for this weekend.

First, C August at Titanic Deck Chairs likens the tactics of Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson to those of a crooked city mayor who makes America's businessmen "an offer they can't refuse."
Picture a gangster movie set in the 1920s, where businessmen from a big city are called to a meeting by the mayor. The room is dark and smoky, and the businessmen are prepared to start arguing with the mayor to get him to clean up the corrupt police department and its protection racket. Before they can start, two cops with Tommy guns walk in and flank the mayor, and he says, "Not only will your payments to the boys in blue increase, gentlemen, but I'm proud to announce that you have just become generous contributors to my reelection campaign. Do we understand each other?"
This likeness of Paulson is right on.

Second is Spark a Synapse where Loriodendron says she is considering dropping her blog in favor of forming an activist group that would advocate laissez-faire in the food and nutrition industries. Go for it! I sure can support that.

Third is Rule of Reason which has a guest editorial by Edward Cline titled "Ayn Rand Avenged." He shows how precisely Ayn Rand's 1957 "Atlas Shrugged" foretold of today's events and their causes.
"In editorials, columns, and letters to the editor, Rand is suddenly being remembered as a philosophical soothsayer. The occasion? Chickens coming home to roost. Justice rearing its awful head. The bankruptcy of not only government-regulated economies and government policies, but of their altruist and collectivist foundations. Everything Rand ever said and wrote about the perils of statism is coming to pass."
And so it is.

Fourth is Lubos Motl's The Reference Frame. Today he reports on the 'peak oil' nonsense with which we are constantly bombarded by observing that Cuba is adding 1% to world oil reserves. I found the comments interesting too.

Fifth is Noodle Food where Paul Hsieh reports that Isreal is taking a firm stand against Hezbollah. Paul also posts on a NY Times article showing that the market does better under Democrat presidents than Republican ones. I would have to agree with one of the commentors that correlation is not causation.

Sixth is Myrhaf who asks "Who Is Barack Obama?" What scares me is that any future Fuhrer's ability to subjugate Americans into a fascist dictatorship has been partially paved by Bush.
"(The foolish George W. Bush has given statist Presidents a new tool to use in any ginned up "crisis":

On October 17, 2006, President Bush signed into law the John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007. The new law allows the President to declare a “public emergency” at his own discretion, and place federal troops anywhere throughout the United States. Under this law, the President also now has the authority to federalize National Guard troops without the consent of Governors, in order to restore “public order.” The President can now deploy federal troops to U.S. cities, which eliminates the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act. In short, Bush can now declare Martial Law anytime he pleases.)"
Now that's really frightening.

Seventh is Rob at The Morality War who reveals that a number of small banks are rebelling against Paulson's power grab. They are sound and don't need Paulson's money forced on them.

Eighth is Kim's Play Place where homeschooling moms may be interested in her techniques for teaching phonics. Today she tells us about "Finding Words With Specific Letters."

Ninth is Sarita at Kalamazoo Objectivist who is happy that "Canadians Choose Tax Cutter; Americans Choose Tax Raiser." Evidently conservative Stephen Harper won re-election easily by promising to cut taxes. Are you listening McCain and Obama?

Tenth is Capitalism Magazine which has two articles from Ludwig von Mises. The first is why there seems to be no depressions in totalitarian states, and second is why the enemies of capitalism keep smearing the gold standard. Pertinent reading regarding today's financial mess.

Eleventh is K.M. at Applying Philosophy to Life who has an essay on poverty and its causes.

Twelfth is Kindridest where Amy Nasir posts her evaluative essay from her Astronomy class and gets positive remarks from her professor. Way to go Amy!

If that's not enough reading to keep you busy over the weekend then go to Rational Jenn and peruse the latest Objectivist Roundup. Happy reading!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

stale--mates

I watched the debates last night and didn't see anything to get hopeful about. Both candidates want to establish mandatory service. Both want more government control over the economy. Both think greed rules the market place. Both have bought into the Global Warming nonsense, the obesity scare too.

I did see where McCain is in favor of Health Savings Accounts (HSA) where Obama was not. And McCain said he was in favor of vouchers and some kind of choice for parents to decide to which schools to send their kids.

I haven't been moved to vote for either one yet so I may still vote for Obama for pres and for straight Republicans for everyone else to give Obama more Resistance.

Or I'll vote for neither but since the Dems control congress, I might vote for Repubs just for balance. Republicans like to pretend they stand for something when they're not in power.

I was dismayed at how many so-called ordinary citizens who were interviewed afterward made their choice based on appearances, on how one or the other 'came across' or 'sounded.'

Sheesh! This is depressing.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Electoral Voices

I will be watching the debates tonight since I missed the first two, this despite the voice in my head saying Mike, you're wasting your time, you should watch the baseball game. Perhaps so. But another voice says maybe you'll see why it's important to vote for Obama because he is just a power craving second hander like the Clintons who may try some socialist nonsense but will cave in when resisting heat is applied ala Hillary Care. The voices went back and forth.

"You may see that McCain will be strong on defense."

"So? What good is defense if there is nothing left to defend; if all that's left is a nation of thugs, moochers and looters?"

"But McCain is the only one of the two who has said that Washington is part of the problem and he will make changes there. Obama doesn't even think in those terms."

"Ok. So he makes a few changes in Washington. So what? Reagan did that. Did it help capitalism? Nope."

"No but it did buy us about two decades in time to spread the right ideas and that's what McCain will do."

"No he won't. He's not another Reagan. Besides, it was 4 years of Carter that made the electorate embrace Reagan and that's what's got to happen now. Four years of Obama will make the people so ready for a McCain that it'll be 2 decades before another Dem is elected. EGADS! What am I saying?"

I told the voices to calm down till after the debates and I'll let them have input on my post maybe tonight or in the morning.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

"A Pygmalion of the Soul"

Once again from the VanDamme Academy Newsletter. While my own education of 12 years at a private parochial school was pretty good or so I thought, I can only wish that it had been this good especially in literature.



Pedagogically Correct Volume 3, Issue 3
October 9, 2008


Follow this link for the latest VanDamme Academy Newsletter, which features the following article "A Pygmalion of the Soul."



"It is a beautiful thing to mold a statue and give it life; it is more beautiful to shape an intelligence and give it truth." - Victor Hugo

The first work of literature read in Room 4 this year was Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw. The musical My Fair Lady was based upon this classic play.

Pygmalion is the story of a lowly flower girl who is invited into the home of a brilliant phonetician after he makes a bet that he can teach her the elegance and speech of a proper English lady and pass her off as a duchess at a garden party.

In the play's most comical scene, a favorite among the students, Eliza, the flower girl, ventures into society for the first time. Having been told to confine her conversation to the benign and inoffensive topics of weather and health, she discusses, with the utmost elegance of manners and articulation, her suspicion that her aunt who had allegedly died from influenza had actually been murdered over a hat. And so begins a comedy of errors, in which, as Higgins the phonetician says, the problem is not "how" she says things but "what" she says.

With more training, Eliza learns to curb her coarse speech, and she becomes thoroughly polished, dignified, and charming. Her debut at the garden party is a smashing and unmitigated success. She has become a proper English lady.

But in the last and most important scene of the play, we discover that though she has learned to be a lady, she has not yet learned to be a human being—an independent, self-sufficient individual with her own judgment and her own sense of self worth. She has learned how to conform to the standards of elite society, but she has not learned how to form her own standards.

It is only when she drops her decorum and stands up self-confidently against Higgins that he says, "By George Eliza, I said I'd make a woman of you; and I have."

Because for Higgins (and for Shaw), the mark of a worthy person is not conformity to the standards of the upper classes. Rather, a worthy person is one who has-in my favorite expression of the play—his "own soul," his "own spark of divine fire."

Teaching the play this time, it struck me as metaphorical for my own view of education.

Just as Eliza was taught in a way that allowed her to be passed off as a duchess at a garden party, the best of schools today teach children in a way that allows them to be passed off as educated at a cocktail party. But have they learned to be independent, self- sufficient, clear thinking, passionate human beings? Have they gained their own "spark of divine fire"?

That is our goal at VanDamme Academy. Our aim is not to teach the children a stock set of facts that will make them culturally literate. Our aim is to empower them with the lessons of history, to equip them with the tools of math and science, to provide them the fuel and inspiration of literature—to endow them with the wisdom that will give them the means to live the life of a rational, happy, efficacious human being.

That is why the following were highlights of my week.

First, when Room 4 read that last act of Pygmalion, we came to a scene in which Higgins calls Eliza a fool and she responds that the comment is "not proper." I put down the play and asked the class what Higgins's response to that would be. 11-year-old Taylor's bright eyes became incandescent with understanding and her hand shot in the air. "He would say he doesn't care what's proper!" In that moment, she had not just grasped something deeply important about the character, she had grasped something about Shaw's philosophic perspective on life. She had understood that Shaw cares little for conformity to social standards. And her expression revealed that that kind of understanding was thrilling.

Second, I was stopped in the hall one afternoon this week by the mother of a 7-year-old girl named Emily. She told me that Emily had related to her a story from her book Adventures of the Greek Heroes. Emily told her mother the tragic tale of Admetus the king and his true love Alcestis. Admetus was dying, and the gods declared that if he were to remain with his love, someone would have to die in his place. Admetus went to his loyal subjects, his soldiers, his servants, then even to his own parents, but all feared to die for him. Finally, in a tragic twist, his own dear Alcestis, the love for whom he wanted to live, gave her life for his. As 7-year-old Emily shared the story, her voice became halting, and her mother noticed that she had tears in her eyes. (And as her mother told me this story, both she and I both had tears in ours.)

Our goal at VanDamme Academy is not to produce students who are refined, polished, and superficially educated. It is to produce students who are thoughtful, passionate, and sincerely educated.

My favorite author, Victor Hugo, has a passage in which he describes the role of a teacher. He says, "It is a beautiful thing to mold a statue and give it life; it is more beautiful to shape an intelligence and give it truth." And he captures this whole metaphor in an exquisitely poetic description, calling a teacher "a Pygmalion of the soul."




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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Greed

On HBL there was a thread on greed and whether objectivists should defend it since many in politics and the MSM are blaming it for the meltdown. I don't like the concept greed as it is used today. It has become a non-objective concept meaning different things to different people. So when we start passing laws to punish greed we are taking one group's idea of greed and forcing it on the whole country and that is wrong. I'm told that the English Oxford dictionary says greed is 'hunger' or 'thirst' or 'intense desire.' While there certainly isn't anything malevolent about those words they are certainly not the meaning ascribed to greed today.

Some people think that the desire for anything above some acceptable level of necessity is greed and immoral. Others think that the businessman's practice of maximising profits is greed and should be smacked down with windfall profits taxes or treble damages or some such. Still others think greed is a matter of numbers; if a businessman makes millions he's successful and productive but if he earns billions he's greedy. And of course there are those who think that any business failure is automatically caused by greed, no further evidence needed. Naturally I don't subscribe to any of the above.

Even before I discovered objectivism I had a definition to which I still adhere: Greed is the irrational pursuit of a value. Greed then is not a rational thirst, hunger or desire but an irrational one like a con man who lies to get possession of another's money, or a man who pursues money by robbing a bank, or a politician who craves power to the point of lying to get elected, or the scientists who fudges his statistical studies to say something pleasing or favorable to the granting agency in order to get more grants or to get published.

But the concept greed seems to be morphing into a concept applicable only to money and wealth. Greed for fame, glory, or power are routinely referred to as lust for these things. It's as if the concept greed is being characterized as a monetary crime for which government punishment should be warranted.

When someone asks me "Do you think some banks were greedy?" I usually respond 'yes but that greed was a consequence not a cause.' I also like to add that greed as such doesn't violate anyone's rights and should not be outlawed. When greed leads to fraud or robbery it is those actions that are already illegal because they are rights violations.

It is obvious to me that greed is being honed into a concept through which self-interest can be attacked and condemned. So when someone starts condemning businessmen for being greedy, I ask them to define greed and I do not accept such notions as having or desiring too much money.

A lot of people don't understand the nature of money; that money represents survival time. Even when you point this out to people they still retort that some billionaire will never need all his money to survive and he should make it available to many others who could then survive. They don't understand that this making available is exactly what the wealthy people are doing when they put their money into banks and other investments. They also don't understand that the wealthy have a moral right to do whatever they want with their money and it is the failure to understand this right that causes them to envy the well being of others.

There is probably a lot more that could be said about greed but I will always offer resistance whenever it is brought up. Even the modest "I don't agree" is the minimum I'll do.

Update: about 24 hours later.

Thinking it over, I just want to add that the only social system that can actually punish and discourage greed--that is the irrational pursuit of wealth--is laissez-faire capitalism. Irrational practices will result in enterprises going out of business. The only way the irrational pursuit of money can continue to fleece the public is if it has some government backing or encouragement as is the case with the mortgage crises. Laissez-faire has never existed anywhere on this planet. It needs to be our future.

Friday, October 03, 2008

VP Debates

I watched the VP debates last night and wasn't impressed. What I saw was a typical liberal Joe Biden being very consistent in his advocacy of statist and collectivist principles and policies. No flinching on any of them.

Sarah Palin came across to me as a Reaganesque conservative sharing the same collectivist principles as Biden but wanting to be be a kinder, gentler regulator. When Biden said that the problem was Wall Street running wild, she agreed but claimed the government had some causal role in the mess. This is true but without identifying that role her claim was unconvincing.

When Biden said that man made global warming "is a fact" she agreed again. She did say that she didn't want to debate the merits of the causes of AGW. I think she was probably coached not to discuss the merits of the GW issue and perhaps also the merits of the mortgage mess ala Fannie and Freddie and the CRA etc. And this was probably done so as to avoid putting McCain on the spot over particulars and perhaps even policy.

If Mccain/Palin get elected I don't see them having any more success than Reagan did. In fact I see them having much less. When they try to dismantle some government program they will be attacked viciously on both pragmatic and altruistic grounds by the Dems and their henchmen at the NYTimes, WAPO, etc. They will cave in because they share the same altruistic values as the Democrats.

The one thing I did like about Palin was her statement that it would be wrong to sit down and talk to those who want to destroy us. Whereas Biden said we must always sit down and talk, talk, talk with our enemies, the usual liberal preference to defending America.

Could it be that McCain/Palin really believe that AGW is not all man's fault; that government meddling in the housing market via Fannie, Freddie and the CRA really needs to be reversed; that the greed we did see in some cases was the consequence of government interference and not a cause? I sincerely doubt it.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Intellectual Cartoon

Renee at Adventures in Existence found this video on you tube of an 8 min cartoon from WWII. I agree with her that it would not be aired today. I also agree with a commenter that it is very timely today, especially since so many people don't seem to know the difference between "Reason and Emotion" the title of the cartoon.