Wednesday, December 31, 2008

And a Happy New Year!

Hope your new year is more prosperous and happy, and that 09 brings us all more freedom instead of less.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all my readers. You make blogging worth it when you visit here.

Mike N

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sign of Things to Come?

Fred: I'm tired of standing in line all the time.

Sally: What this time, the unemployment line?

Fred: No

Sally: Job application line?

Fred: No.

Sally: What then?

Fred: The line to buy a newspaper!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Expanding

I have been honored to have been accepted as a contributor at The New Clarion with Bill Brown, Myrhaf and Dismuke for whom I have very high respect. My posts on political topics will be posted there. I will still maintain this blog for non-political subjects.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Government Interference and Encouragement

Speaking about governmental encouragement of the arts, novelist/philosopher Ayn Rand (link below) identified the principle that: "Governmental encouragement does not order men to believe that the false is true, it merely make them indifferent to the issue of truth or falsehood." This principle is equally true regarding other forms of governmental encouragement. But the truth of the above principle has never been so glaringly obvious as in the current mortgage crises which involves both government interference and encouragement. Government encouragement is usually in the form of government financing of various initiatives.

Governmental interference and encouragement in this fiasco is plentiful and widespread. It starts with the Federal Reserve bank which is a political animal created by the government in 1913. It would not exist in a free market. The Fed under former chairman Alan Greenspan held interest rates ridiculously low earlier this decade. That policy was continued by current chair Ben Bernanke. At his website economist George Reisman (link below) writes: "For the three years 2001-2004, the Federal Reserve drove the Federal Funds Rate below 2 percent and from July of 2003 to June of 2004, drove it even further down, to approximately 1 percent." This created an atmosphere of easy money and credit in the market place. Easy money here means money can be had at less than market rates would provide. It encourages a certain amount of recklessness in financing.

Add to that the government's implicit policy--ever since the bailout of the S&Ls--of bailing out companies that are deemed 'to big to fail' and you have even more encouragement to recklessness in financing. The Fed was seen as the lender of last resort and the congressional policy was seen as a corporate safety net.

But these encouragements weren't the only ones. There is Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac created by government to buy up risky mortgages and pool them with good ones and resell them for even more money that would be used to make more risky loans. The justification was to provide "affordable housing" to those who couldn't afford it. There is the Community Reinvestment Act which provided a rating agency by which mortgage companies would have to get a good rating in order to expand or merge. To get a good rating they had to have a certain number of risky mortgages. Again, these lesser encouragements contributed to and magnified the meltdown.

The pushers of 'affordable housing' were clever about their interference in the marketplace. They cited documents showing that a small percentage of people just under the economic threshold below which private banks would not lend are in fact able to pay off loans therefore the government must help this under served part of society with cheap loans. Of course none of this was needed. As Thomas Sowell pointed out, there are always some people in the poverty or working poor category who are there only temporarily through job loss or injury or just entering the job market at a low wage. These people don't stay there for long and don't need the government trying to saddle them with debt just because Congressmen and Senators want to feel good about themselves.

If no financial recklessness or greed existed in the market place, these governmental encouragements would--and did--create it.

When Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are cleaned up they need to be shut down. The Community Reinvestment Act should be repealed and the Fed can be eventually shut down as we return to a gold standard We do not need a central bank. A great deal of the encouragement is on the state and local level. I did a google search for 'affordable housing initiative' and got 339,000 results.

The solution is not more governmental encouragement but an end to it: a discovery of laissez-faire capitalism.

Sources:
1. Rand quote from essay "Establishing of an Establishment" in her book "Philosophy: Who Needs It."

2. George Reisman's Blog on Economics, Politics, Society, and Culture. "Essay on The Myth that Laissez Faire Is Responsible for Our Financial Crisis"

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Last Blogroll Update for 2008

As most already know, Myhraf has a new site called The New Clarion at which he teams up with Bill Brown for some very rational posts. I've added it to my blogroll.

I'm also adding "Wealth Is Not the Problem" where Beth posts on the similarities between now and the Great Depression.

The Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights (ARC) is the site of the new Washington D.C. office of ARI. They have videos and lectures available for those who want to know more about individual rights. They are advocating individual rights in the one place where they are violated the most and least understood, Washington D.C.

Next is Ms. Think hosted by Paula Hall who also posts sometimes at NoodleFood. Her latest post is about:
A group called the National Community Reinvestiment Coalition (NCRC) has filed a complaint with the the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, claiming that the ratings agencies Moody's and Standard & Poor's facilitated the subprime mortgage meltdown -- to the disadvantage of minorities. As stated by succinctly by Overlawyered: NCRC's claim is that "you rated our constituents as too creditworthy."
Why don't they sue Fannie and Freddie and the Community Reinvestment Act who really did rate people as too creditworthy? Blame everybody except yourself is what they're doing.

Another addition is The Sidereal Messenger where David posts a review of the 'epic' movie Australia. Dave suggests you save your money.

Still another is the site of Dr. Andrew Bernstein who has written an introductory book on Objectivism for those new to it or just curious. (Friendly plug--Dr. Bernstein's site is managed by Robert Nasir who is also on my blogroll--just in case you're thinking about improving yours.)

Next is Robbservations where Robb examines a long article by Roger Cohen who looks favorably on Castro's Cuba.

Lastly for now will be George Reisman's blog on economics and culture. His last post looks at a NYTimes article on the appointment of Larry Summers to Obama's cabinet.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Pathetic Congressional Hearings

While I was babysitting my 7mo. old grand daughter, I happened to catch the beginning of the Congressional hearings of the big 3 auto co. CEOs. UAW chief Ron Gettlefinger was in the same panel. What I saw was really sad, no, sickening. Three titans of industry groveling before an inquisition of people who were clearly their moral inferiors.

These men were begging for permission to continue to exist and then apologising for not having done the impossible--to make cars with super gas mileage, using alternative fuels, no emissions, affordable to the poor, and that everyone wants to buy.

What was really pathetic was how many of the Representatives insisted that they have to be careful with taxpayers' money. What a bunch of two-faced hypocrites. These are the same humans who a few weeks ago were tripping over themselves to give Henry Paulson $700 billion as soon as he cried wolf! But loaning $34 billion requires several weeks of intense interrogation examining every feather in the pillow. As if they really cared!

That $700 billion wasn't to bail out Wall Street. It was to bail out Congress. To bail out their own hides while blaming greed. And the American people are swallowing it whole. These hearings are just the icing on the cake that was the biggest congressional power grab and money grab ever.

In a way, I don't feel sorry for those CEOs. They deserve this treatment for not defending their rights or capitalism or free enterprise.

If you want, CSPAN is reshowing the hearings at 8 PM EST Tonight. They're about 6 hours long. No doubt, Cspan will repeat them later also. Take some Bufferin before watching.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Obama Seeks Power Sharing

The Detroit News of Tuesday Dec. 2nd carries a news analysis titled "Obama chooses 'strong.'" The subtitle is "Selection of Clinton, Gates, Jones for security team show his deference to pragmatism over ideology." So pragmatism equals strong. Strong what? No answer given but I can tell you that his picks are all strongly committed to abiding by any consensus that may arise. Why? Because it allows each of them to share power and this is what each one 'strongly' desires. The photo accompanying the article testifies to this fact at least for Hillary.

The first paragraph further reinforces this theme:
"The selection of experienced centrists -- Hillary Rodham Clinton, Robert Gates and James L. Jones -- to head President-elect Barack Obama's national security team points to the possibility that, on Iraq, the incoming commander-in-chief may take a more measured path to ending American military involvement than he described during the presidential campaign."
A 'centrist' is one who walks the middle of the road on everything; who takes a spoonful of poison with every spoonful of food and who is willing to compromise on every savage's claim that America is evil and needs to be reshaped into the savage's notion of ideal and most of all, that every American value is something that can and should be negotiated away for some temporary, range of the moment satisfaction.

Surrounding himself with 'experienced centrists' makes Obama's choices 'strong'? These 'strong' choices means there is no chance any of them will support extreme positions like individual rights, freedom, justice, equality under the law, earning one's way through life, letting people chose what's in their self-interest etc.. And what is "...a more measured path..."? Measured according to what standard? Compared to Bush's or the leftists who think Obama will pull the troops out right away? No. It's more measured than his campaign rhetoric which was only said to evoke emotions of approval. It worked nicely.
Obama likely will rely on Jones, who spent 40 years in the Marine Corps but has never served in the executive branch of government, to lay the groundwork by melding the views of Clinton and Gates.
What does 'melding the views" mean? How does one meld the views of "strong personalities and strong opinions" of Clinton and Gates? Can 'strong views' even be melded? These words are just meaningless nonsense meant to convey not ideas but feelings. One feeling is 'there, there now, daddy is here and everything is gonna be ok because daddy is doing everything right and he will take care of you.'

It's obvious that James Jones's job is to make sure that everyone shares in the administration of power and gets the appropriate prestige. Our government will be run by committee like baking an apple pie by committee. One person will decide what kind of apples to use, another how many to use, still another what temp to cook it at and still another how long to cook it while others will decide whether to cut in in 6 pieces or 8, and so on. And when it turns out to taste horrible, they'll all scream "It's not my fault!" That's what we have to look forward to.

The underlying theme of the article is that Obama will be getting the benefit of the best expertise possible and all will be well. Unfortunately, most of those people don't have a clue as to how to fix things except by more government intervention. It's going to be interesting to see how this power sharing works out in reality.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Advocating for Objectivism

There has been some good posts recently on the web and HBL discussing what objectivists should do to help spread Objectivism. It goes without saying that donating to ARI and its Free Books for Teachers program would be an excellent place to start. Also, at the ARI site click on the 'Support ARI' tab then the 'contribute' tab for more ways to contribute or click on the 'campaigns' tab for things to support.

There are other activist efforts to support as well. There is FIRM (Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine) and AFCM (Americans for Free Choice in Medicine) both of which could use help. The activities of these are sometimes updated at NoodleFood.

Writing to one's political representatives and LTEs to papers and mags helps as well. What with the Dems controlling Washington now I think it is vital that Objectivists concretize everything. If the powers that be utter a desired principle, then letter writers need to give concrete examples of what that principle will look like in the future. And if these same powers advocate a certain concrete activity, then writers need to identify the principle on which it is based, then concretize even more examples into the future. Projecting examples into the future is critical for I am convinced that anyone who can even partially think in principles will see events unfolding before them and be able to say something like "Hmm, they said it would look like this."

I know from experience that writing LTEs to papers shooting down what seems like an endless stream of awful ideas can get to be depressing. But to really feel good about oneself I recommend getting behind something good and giving a push. For example, put together $59 and give a gift subscription to the Objective Standard to your local public library or community college library. Or get behind some Objectivist newsletter like the Undercurrent and drop off some copies at your local college. Because education is so important, whenever Lisa VanDamme sends out her newsletter Pedagogically Correct, I post it in its entirety on my site and leave it there for a minimum of 24 hr. but usually 3 days. Know of an Objectivist radio show? Fire off an email to the Director of Programming at a talk radio station in your area extolling the virtues of that show and how it would be a great addition to your community's talk radio. Even when it comes to LTEs, sometimes, when I see a rational op-ed I'll send a short LTE to the effect "Kudos to professor Smith. His op-ed on inflation was spot on. We need more intellectuals like him." Giving the good a push re-charges one's batteries to keep on fighting the good fight.

I have been a little remiss on some of the suggestions above. So, I have decided that my 2009 New Year's Resolution will be to double my efforts at getting behind the good and giving a push.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Note

Brian Phillips at Live Oaks has an appropriate post for thanksgiving about the pilgrims and their discovery that self-interest is the way to survive. It's amazing that people see that and still think selfishness is evil. People learn nothing.

At Capitalism Magazine Craig Biddle says "don't say grace, say justice".

Blogging will resume probably this weekend. Meanwhile, the rest of today I'll be trying to make my abode look presentable for a house full of company for dinner tomorrow.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Global Warming Fear Mongering

The Sunday 11/16/08 Detroit Free Press had a global warming article by Scott Canon of McClatchy Newspapers that is pure fear mongering based on nothing but conjecture. The title proudly announces the article's speculative nature "Violence could mount as Earth's temperature rises."

The arbitrary assertions run wild in this piece. First we are told that:

"The Earth's fast-changing climate has a range of serious thinkers -- from military brass to geographers to diplomats -- predicting a spate of armed conflicts driven by the weather."
Of course these 'serious thinkers' have concluded that:
"Shifting temperatures lead to shifting populations, they say, and that throws together groups with long-standing rivalries and thrusts them into competition for food and water.

"It's not hard to imagine violent outbursts," said Julianne Smith of the Center for Strategic and International Studies."
This sounds like something out of a junior high school class. No evidence is provided for any of this, it's just asserted. I can imagine things too. I can imagine that just uttering the word green causes the storm clouds to part, the sun to shine through, birdies to sing and bunnies to play. And it would have as much relevance to reality as Ms. Smith's, none. Just reading this article could spark 'violent outbursts' from rational people.

Evidently Ms. Smith authored one of 4 major studies trying to predict the future:
"Each report predicted starkly similar problems: gunfire over land and natural resources as once-bountiful soil turns to desert and coastlines slip below the sea. They also expect violent storms to unsettle weak governments and set up dispirited radicals in revolt."
Yes! We must fear those touchy, dispirited radicals who will be set off by bad weather which, of course, will be all our fault.

The article continues with more arbitrary assertions and even leans on the notion that:
"...[T]he scientific consensus is that the industrial revolution increased global-warming gases that set off an unprecedented rate of climate change."
'Scientific consensus' is an oxymoron. 'Consensus' is a political concept. It is used in science only when there is no evidence for something and only opinions and conjecture are available. Michael Crichton got it right when he said:
"I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you're being had." (From his 2003 speech "Aliens Cause Global Warming")
To see more on how unscientific the concept 'scientific consensus' is see here.

The article goes on to make some more predictions starting with some possible good ones:
Growing seasons could lengthen. Frozen seas could thaw to make way for convenient shipping routes. Previously inaccessible spots could be ripe to gush oil. [notice the derogatory word gush--ME]

Meanwhile, wetlands could dry up. Rivers could disappear. Scientists already think that hurricanes, blizzards and droughts are more frequent and more severe. Rising sea levels could send tens of millions of people scurrying for higher ground.
No evidence, not even historical references, are given for these predictions. It is pure imagination. But to bolster their fantasy they rounded up some military generals and got their consensus:
"The former commanders concluded that war would be more likely, that the U.S. military needed to plan for the new threats, and that the United States had to reduce its carbon emissions."
I think it's safe to say that no one familiar with objectivism, or even semi rational, would take this article seriously. So who was it written for? Who would take it seriously? I think it is aimed at the ordinary Joe and Mary citizen; those 4 or so generations that have gone through our 'progressive education' system and have been taught not to respect authority but to submit to it. Or to be more precise, to respect authority is to submit to it. "Don't judge" or "Are you a scientist? No? Then how dare you question the experts", are just two hammers dropped on kid's minds.

Progressive education is all about socialization which means going along with any consensus. As the kids grow up, consensus becomes a signal word designed to evoke a response of submission or at least acquiescence. I have heard adults say things like "Who am I to know?" and "I'm just an ordinary person" and so on. Their ability to think and learn has been destroyed because their desire to learn has been destroyed.

What's depressing is that both of my Michigan US Senators, Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, have bought in to the 'GW will lead to disaster and is all man's fault' nonsense hook, line and sinker. Despite my Senators' support for global warming, I do think this article is evidence that the alarmists are starting to get desperate and resorting to pure scare mongering and never mind any evidence. Earlier this year I emailed them both urging them to start distancing themselves from the AGW mantra. So far neither has.

(footnote: I was saddened that Mr. Crichton passed away on Nov 4th. He was not of course an objectivist but like the scientists on my blogroll, had a strong reverence for facts and liked to stick to them. He'll be missed.)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Some Sunday Reading

Andrew Medworth has a link to an ARC essay 'Stop Blaming Capitalism For Government Failures' by Yaron Brook and Don Watkins. The reason I'm linking this way is because at the bottom of this short post Andrew has a link to an Oct post of his which looks at the moral roots of the crisis as well as a crash course of sorts on economics. He links to a book called Economics For Real People by Gene Callahan which is online in PDF. It is written for the layman. I downloaded it for future reading. I highly recommend both posts.

K.M. at Applying Philosophy to Life has a post on Worldviews and the World.
Only those who have consistent principles can provide the standards by which any particular issue is to be judged. Those who have consistent principles set the terms of the debate. The pragmatists do the shouting and think they have won.
So true. We can see this happening today as government and media scream that greed and selfishness are at fault for the meltdown, but not government interference.

Morgan Freeberg makes a good point, Food is Death. Yes it's about Palin's turkey shoot and weak liberal stomachs. As he points out, the media crew would never permit such scene with Obama or any democrat. The media takes care of their gods.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Obama's GW Plans Examined, Cullen culled?

I know this is a few days old but Lubos Motl at The Reference Frame has a post in which he fisks Obama's recent speech on what his administration will do about global warming. If I had only read the transcript and not saw the video, I would have swore these were Al Gore's words.

From that post's comments I found this new (to me) site called SBVOR in which he informs that Heidi Cullen's show "Forcast Earth" has been cut by The Weather Channel. See there is still some good news out there. It's unclear if Heidi is staying on perhaps in some other capacity. I hope not. I might take to watching TWC again. I was disappointed though that Cheryl Lempke was also let go. I think she was there from day one. If you wanted 'just the facts maam' she was it. I'm only speculating but perhaps she and others that were let go objected to TWC's increased hype and over-dramatizing of weather events like violent storms and such. We'll probably never know.

Friday, November 21, 2008

End The Fed Rallies

It's Friday night 11/21/08 and while surfing the net I found this site Free Advice by Bob Murphy. He links to a site called End The Fed which is holding rallies in Houston and other cities around the nation on Saturday. It looks like a libertarian effort to me but their list of endorsers features a mixture like Bush hater Cindy Sheehan, someone from the constitution party and someone from the green party and others. While I don't think getting rid of the Fed can be done without getting rid of Keynesian Economics, I think this particular effort might at least expose some people to the idea that the Fed may not be needed.

On the other hand, I think the press will ignore it. Detroit is one of the 38 cities where rallies are scheduled. So I'll be scanning the two dailies for any mention or coverage. Not holding my breath though.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

More Mass Preventive Medicine Urged

The Monday Nov. 10th. Detroit News carried an AP article titled "Cholesterol drugs lower heart attack risks." It is an example of mass preventive medicine in action. On June 1st I posted on this idea of mass preventive medicine quoting in part from Gary Taubes book Good Calories:Bad Calories:
"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) (End of Taubes quote.)

So we see that 49 people will be sacrificed for the alleged benefit of one. That is collectivism.
Now back to this Detroit News article. It says:
"However, some doctors urged caution. Crestor gave clear benefit in the study, but so few heart attacks and deaths occurred among these low-risk people that treating everyone like them in the United States could cost up to $9 billion a year -- "a difficult sell," one expert said.

About 120 people would have to take Crestor for two years to prevent a single heart attack, stroke or death, said Stanford University cardiologist Dr. Mark Hlatky."
So the government gets to start the use of force against 120 people for the alleged benefit of one. 119 people will be forced to take a drug which will do them no good, for the benefit of one mathematical artifact called a probability.

But notice the reasons given for opposing this policy; it's too expensive, about $9 billion yr. and we could be using the money for other forms of preventive care. Nothing is mentioned about how each one of those 120 people are to have their individual rights violated when doctors will be forced to put everyone on these cholesterol lowering statins. It is the sacrifice of all to all, not to achieve any real goal but as a permanent way of medicinal practice. Whether it actually prevents any illness is immaterial, it's the good intentions that count. It's also an example of children--who have never been taught that the good can not be achieved with the initiatory use of force--who are now grown up to be doctors and other professionals who see no reason not to lobby for using that force.

Readers of ME know that the collectivist mind doesn't see individuals like you and me. We don't count. They only see the collective whole as mentioned in the above link. They want to treat it without having to treat actual individuals.

For more information of collective medicine check out the web site of FIRM and their blog.

And to get an idea of the extent of questionable medical science today, I recommend JunkfoodScience by Sandy Szwarc.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Schiff Gets it Right

Billy Beck at Two-Four links to a 10 minute video showing how Peter Schiff was right all along. I wrote down the names of those who disagreed with him. It shall be called my low credibility list for financial smarts. They include Arthur Lafer, Mike Norman, Ben Stein, Neil Cavuto and his financial panel and Charles Payne to name just some. Perhaps Obama should select Mr Schiff as his financial advisor, then again, Mr. Schiff might be the last person he'd want advising him.

Friday, November 14, 2008

GOP Failure Revealed, almost.

Today's Detroit News editorial page carries an op-ed by US Representative Peter Hoekstra R-Holland (MI) titled "GOP loses by failing to acknowledge mistakes." In it Mr. Hoekstra does cite some concrete mistakes made but doesn't identify the underlying principles. He claims for instance that the GOP slide started with No Child Left Behind Act.
"Republicans began losing America with the passage and signing into law of the No Child Left Behind Act in December 2001. No Child was a massive shift from the previous Republican position, which would empower parents, teachers and local administrators. No Child rested on the wrong-headed premise that the federal government was better equipped to direct the education of our children."
This last sentence is true but he fails to see that the entire public school system is and has been based on that premise. I disagree that NCLB was a massive shift. It was nothing but a pragmatic (unprincipled) stab at fixing a failed school system caused by its equally pragmatic (unprincipled) philosophy of progressive education. He goes on to make another point:
"Republicans passed President George W. Bush's massive spending plans during the last eight years. If Republicans and the president had increased discretionary spending at the same rate as the Republican Congress and President Bill Clinton did during the 1990s, our deficit would be $363 billion less, a 32 percent reduction. Clinton could only have dreamed of the spending that Bush advocated and received."
Exactly! And that proves that whenever Republicans are in power they try to outdo the Democrats in enacting statist policies. He makes another observation:
"Americans are sick and tired of Washington excesses and government programs that don't work.

Instead, the Republican message was that Democrats were big spenders and Republicans were tax cutters. Based on the GOP record during the past eight years, no one believed us."
He's so close you could say he needs one number for a bingo. Is it coming?
"Republicans never addressed the issue that was compelling to America: Government is too big and doesn't work anymore. What good is an Energy Department that can't predict an energy shortage or a Treasury Department that can't anticipate a financial crisis? We failed to address what many people now believe: Republicans like big government as much as Democrats."
Bingo!

Unfortunately it's not a coverall. He goes on to lament:
"We left the American people, they didn't leave us."
True.

But he doesn't dig any deeper by asking why do the Republicans like big government, why do they outdo Democrats in expanding the size of government and spending? To do that would require looking at their basic principles, their philosophy. So-called Republican ideals like small government, low taxes, more freedom etc. cannot be justified on altruistic grounds. Mr. Hoekstra ends with this hope:
I'm confident about the future of our country. The check on a liberal federal government will not come via the currently rudderless Republican Party, it will come from the American people who love freedom and opportunity. A political party will develop to present the future the American people desire. I just hope it's the Republican Party.
If it is to be his party Mr. Hoekstra needs to get them to ditch pragmatism and start thinking in terms of principles which in turn will help them stand up to the onslaughts of government enforced altruism. One political and moral principle that will help right away is a dedication to the concept of individual rights and it moral base rational self-interest. They must learn that the concept 'inalienable rights' is not a concept of altruistic sacrifice but of self-interest.

One has to wonder how many other perceptive men like Mr. Hoekstra will continue to be disillusioned by the repeated failures of their party, simply because they aren't thinking in terms of principles.


(As a side note, I heard a few hours ago on the Michael Medved radio show that two men are currently vying for the party leadership. I didn't catch the name of one but the other was Mike Huckabee. Good Grief!)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Notes on Global Warming

I've been thinking about trying to put together a bullet type post on global warming where I state a claim followed by fact. These would have to be short and to the point. Here is my short attempt with a few comments at the end.

>Claim: The planet is warming.

>Fact: True. Earth is in an inter-glacial period in which warming naturally occurs.

>Claim: The more carbon dioxide we put into the atmosphere, the warmer the planet will become.

>Fact: This is backwards. Data shows that the planet warms first causing CO2 to be released into the atmosphere second. The whole AGW hoax depends on this erroneous assumption and falls apart without it. I could stop here but lets look at a few more of the alarmist's main points.

>Claim: Co2 is the main greenhouse gas.

>Fact: False, water vapor is by far the major one. CO2 is more plentiful than other greenhouse gasses but is still a weak one. Many scientists do not consider water vapor a greenhouse gas even though they should because clouds do hold heat from escaping to space.

>Claim: An increase in temp. of 3 to 6 degrees C will send the earth to or beyond a 'tipping point' from which it will not recover, becoming a runaway fireball.

>Fact #1: The earth's temp. has fluctuated between 12 deg. C (53deg. F) and 22 deg. C (72deg. F) Currently we are at about 14.5 deg. C or 58 deg. F. as an average. We still have 8 deg. to go just to get to the Earth's high ave. of 22 deg.C from which it has always moved to a cooling cycle.
>Fact #2: The planet has been in a Glacial Epoch for about 3 million years. Glacial epochs cause ice to form at the poles and migrate towards the equator for long periods usually 100,000 years called glaciations, interrupted by very short periods of warming called inter-glacials. We are in one now and it's almost over. You can forget about Al Gore's New York City under 20 meters of water, try NY leveled under about a mile of ice which will happen in the next glaciation as it has in the past.

To try and pick at all the GW alarmist talking points would be a waste of time. The whole scam depends on people not knowing two points: that the planet heats first, then CO2 increases, not the other way around; and that we are in a glacial epoch which are heavily weighted in favor of coolings not warmings.

Even if AGW were true, the government has no right to force anyone to do anything.

(I read somewhere that if one didn't like a one degree rise in global temp., the thing to do is to move about 100 miles north. But the idea that man can stop the Earth's climate from changing for the first time in its 4.5 billion year history is insane. AGW is just a money and power grab.)

Additional references:
Climate and the Carboniferous Period. on climate history.
Paleoclimatology, on Glacial Epochs and more climate history.
JunkScience.com. on CO2.
Science and Environmental Policy Project on the IPCC.

Update: Lubos Motl at the Reference Frame has a post which is another example of pseudo science in global warming.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Still More Blogroll Additions

It's that time again, for more blogroll additions that is.

First is Leonard Peikoff who posts a podcast of answers to listener's questions usually every Monday. These podcasts usually last around 14 to 18 minutes and are an excellent source of information from Objectivism's foremost authority.

Next is Quent Cordair Fine Art, Director's Corner. This is his own blog for his own thoughts. But if you would like to see a list of fine artists then visit his main site already on my roll.

Third is Politics Without God which is the blog of Coalition for Secular Government. This blog is manned by Diana Hsieh and Ari Armstrong and reports on the activity of the CSG which is a good activist site.

Fourth is Live Oaks hosted by Brian Phillips of no-zoning fame from Houston. He posts on property rights and related issues. His most recent one When Umpires are Biased, focuses on how government interference creates winners and losers and touches on why the Republicans lost the election.

Fifth is Atlantis by Eric Clayton whose most recent post advocates for more activism. I'm for that too.

Sixth is Edelweiss run by Chuck. His last post reports on a the involuntary servitude extolled at a site called change.com.

Seventh is Reddie Reasons hosted by Khartoum. His last post comments on
Allegedly, the members of the audience stormed out of a panel discussion hosted by the American University's Objectivists' free speech forum. The forum sought to discuss the nature of free speech and how totalitarian Islam was a threat to free speech.
Eighth is Ping-Ponging Toward Fascism managed by Adam Ross Cooke. I liked the 3 Ted Talks videos he has at the top of the blog.

Ninth is Sylvia Bokor Comments where her last post is a history lesson titled Lest We Return: The Rulers--Part I & II.

That's it for now. There are still others I'm looking at and maybe I'll add them next time in a month or two.

Friday, November 07, 2008

What Next?

Well, this ought to be an interesting next four years. I think a lot of people will be disappointed in Obama because he won't be able to live up to some of the things he promised to fix. He's a man not a god and cannot fix everything. In fact, as objectivists know, government can't fix anything economic unless it gets itself out of the way.

I think that Obama himself will be amazed at how many people expect him to provide their daily bread. He will be pulled in so many different directions that he will see no alternative but to throw all of them some crumbs, satisfying none. But I do think he will be loyal to a core group. Who might they be? Do you really think he looks at a Nancy Pelosi or a Barney Frank as the epitome of his leftist values? I for one don't think so. But he needs them and will continue posing as the consumate pragmatist to appease them. I could be wrong but I don't think he is a pragmatist at all. He is an idealogue and his ideology is collectivism and altruism. His desire to redistribute wealth proves he sees society as an entity, a body with some ailing parts. He sees his duty to redistribute the health enjoyed by the healthier parts to the ailing ones failing to understand that the healthier ones will no longer be healthy either. But he will not care even if made aware of it. He doesn't see individuals but only the collective whole.

It will be interesting to see with whom he fills his cabinet and other key regulatory posts. An early warning just went up last night when I heard that Obama has asked my Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm to be on his economic advisory committee. Damn! Is he nuts? Michigan's economy is the worst in the nation. I would however, agree with Frank Beckmann who, on his morning radio show today, said he would go along with her selection if she would go to Washington with her record as what not to do. Sigh! I'd like to think it can only go uphill from here but alas, I know better.

Staying tuned.

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.

Friday, September 26, 2008

CRA and Government Enforced Altruism

Via a post on HBL I learned of this article written 8 yrs ago and how forboding it was. Regarding the mortgage mess it could have been written yesterday. It takes a detailed look at the history of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) and its impact on the housing market.

It also shows how disastrous the morality of altruism and its requirement of sacrifice is so destructive of human values. Being sacrificed were the profits of businessmen, their shareholders and investors. Thanks to the Fed's implicit promise to bail out any company who fails, the homes and futures of thousands of Americans who would lose those homes to foreclosure and whose taxes will pay for the bailouts are now also being sacrificed.

Whenever you hear some congressman or senator or governor make altruistic pleas for sacrificing businessmens' profits, remind him of the housing mess caused by that same intention and that intentions don't mean squat in this world. Facts do. And when their intentions hurt people as they are now, these people need to be opposed.

I agree with Harry Binswanger and Yaron Brook, this collapse is the failure of a regulated economy. It's time for laissez-faire capitalism

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Math Magic

I believe it was Dr. Piekoff who said that the most critical need today is education. So in keeping with that value I repost an email I received from the VanDamme Academy today.


Pedagogically Correct Volume 3, Issue 2
September 24, 2008

"Pedagogy": The art and science of teaching.
:: Calling All LifeLong Learners: Learn Science the VanDamme Academy Way!
:: Recommend Pedagogically Correct to five friends, get Lisa VanDamme's e-book, "Reclaiming Education," for free!
:: Announcement: Pedagogically Correct Blog


Most math curricula are an absolute pedagogical mess.

I have long known that math programs treat children like human calculators, programming them with processes they use to input numbers and churn out results. But this became poignantly clear to me when I tried to teach my daughter long division this summer.

Confronted with a problem such as 2,832 divided by 8, I began my "explanation," hearkening back to the process that had been drilled into me in third grade. "8 goes into 28 how many times? 3. So you write a 3 above the 8. 8 times 3 is 24. Subtract 24 from 28 and you get 4. Then bring down the 3. 8 goes into 43 how many times?..." and so on. At the conclusion of my presentation, she said something simple but telling: "That is going to be a lot for me to remember."

Indeed, it is a lot for her to remember, because she is remembering, and not understanding.

If you want to grasp the poverty of your own education in math, I offer you the following challenge: explain long division. Explain it to a child, to an adult, to yourself—but really explain it. Use words to describe not the process, but the reason for the process: why each number goes where it does; why you subtract, or divide, or bring down; why the process works. It won't be easy. I maintain that if you had been educated properly in math, it would be.

One of the defining principles of the VanDamme method is a concerted effort to ensure that every item of knowledge possessed by the child is true knowledge, to ensure that he understands it thoroughly, independently, conceptually. To realize this goal in math will require a total overhaul of the standard curriculum. It will require that someone strip the program down to essentials, arrange the material with total faithfulness to hierarchy, and design assessments that are true tests of the child's understanding.

Meanwhile, we can take moderate steps in that direction, by requiring, for example, that the children give complete, verbal explanations for all that they do in math.

Mr. Steele, VanDamme Academy math teacher for a group of 7 & 8-year-olds, demands of his students that they not just blurt out answers, or crank through mechanical processes. He makes them explain the processes using the proper terminology and demonstrating that they understand what they are doing and why.

If, for example, he is teaching subtraction with borrowing, and puts a problem on the board such as 2700 – 350, someone in the class will invariably ask, "Can I just tell you the answer?" Mr. Steele's answers are charming—and pedagogically correct.

Sometimes he says, "I don't want you to do 'magic math.' I don't want you stare up at the sky, come up with a number, and blurt it out to the class. That doesn't help us understand, and that doesn't show me that you understand. I want you to explain how you arrived at your answer."

At other times, he says, "Let's play a game called 'Mr. Steele bumped his head and can't remember math.' Don't just give me the answer, teach me the process by which you arrived at your answer."

The students proceed with explanations that demand, among other things, that they use concepts of place value (if they begin the problem above by saying, "0 minus 0 is 0," he says, "That's true," and waits for them to tell him that you put a 0 in the ones' place before he writes a 0 on the board), and that they explain what they are doing when they borrow (if they say, "Cross out the 5 and put a 4, and put a 10 in the tens' place," he will ask, "What does that 10 represent? 10 what? 10 monkeys?" which will make them giggle and offer the correction, "10 tens silly!").

These children are not treated like human calculators, they are treated like thinking beings. And when they truly grasp the concepts they are using, when they can explain them fully and articulately, when they retain them because they are not memorizing, but understanding—that is real math magic.




Calling All LifeLong Learners: Learn Science the VanDamme Academy Way!
Now Anyone Can Understand The Fundamental Principles of Science Better than Most Scientists
"Fundamen tals of Physical Science: A Historical, Inductive Approach"
By David Harriman, Historian and Philosopher of Physics

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Here's what other Pedagogically Correct Readers are Saying:

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"It's perfect for someone relatively new to physics like myself; it's perfect for even advanced people who want a deeper historical perspective than is usually taught...I found Mr. Harriman's physics course to be an exciting walk through the fascinating world of physics."

"I think this type of course is needed for everyone, as in my experience, it's so far above the courses I've had throughout my life as far as the actual transmittal of knowledge is concerned...In short, this course has made science and math much more intelligible for me, and was completely worth the time and cost - I highly recommend it."

I was a physics major when I entered college, yet I can easily say that my actual understanding of physics is much greater as a result of this course than I can credit to any other class I've taken.

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With this course you will:
* Finally understand the world around you, the world of science and technology, in a way you never thought possible. (No, you don't have to be a math wiz.)
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* And have a great time in the process!

All thanks to a one-of-a-kind science teaching methodology available in no other course or textbook.


www.vandammescience.com


Recommend Pedagogically Correct to five friends, get Lisa VanDamme's e-book, "Reclaiming Education," for free!
Lisa VanDamme's educational career began when a group of parents, disillusioned with standard public and private schools, hired her to educate their children. In 1998, she chronicled her successes homeschooling and explained the methods that made them possible in a lecture, "Reclaiming Education." The audience, fascinated by her insights about education, and inspired by the stories she told, gave her a standing ovation. In 1999, she made "Reclaiming Education" available in written form, to the delight of thousands of readers. Since 1999, the essay version of "Reclaiming Education" has been unavailable. Until now.

For the first time in almost 8 years, we will make this remarkable work available. And we are giving it away for FREE as an e-book to those who help us grow Pedagogically Correct by recommending it to their friends. Just send enter the email addresses of at least five friends who might appreciate an invitation to receive PC--along with a brief personal note, or our standard note below. We will not add anyone to our email database without their permission.


Click here to refer five friends and get your copy of "Reclaiming Education."

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Check out our 'blog, which will contain much (but not all) of the material we sent out in our newsletters. Spread the word!




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Happy Learning!

VanDamme Academy--Experience the Power of a Real Education



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Monday, September 22, 2008

Obama Supporter Advises: Dumb it Down

The anti-conceptual nature of the left has been obvious for some time. But the Obama supporters in the media not only support such a mindset, they advocate it. The 9/19/08 editorial page of the Detroit News carries an op-ed by Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page titled "Obama must learn to give short, forceful answers." Notice the headline does not say correct or right answers but 'forceful' ones. The appeal here is not to reason but to emotion. The concern is not what Obama says but how he says it. He starts:
"As we enter the season of highest political advice, here's my advice to the Democrats: Dumb it down."
Why? Because it works for Republicans.
"I don't need to give that advice to the Republicans. They've been dumbing it down for years. That's why they keep winning."
So Dems need to stop being so intellectual and be more crass and mundane?
"Do I sound condescending? No way. It takes smarts to dumb the issues down well enough to help people to make an intelligent choice."
Huh? So to make an intelligent choice, the data must have a certain amount of dumbness? If an objectivist were to write that paragraph, it would say something like "It takes intelligence to deduce from a principle a concrete example of what that principle would look like in reality, or to infer from a concrete issue the principle on which it is based." But Mr. Page doesn't speak or think in those terms. What he's really complaining about is that Republican conservatives have been using (some) concretization over the years while Dems have been avoiding it like the plague preferring fog, obfuscation, and altruistic platitudes. So when Republicans use concrete examples, speak in plain English, they are dumbing down their communications. So us eloquent, educated people must dumb down our rhetoric so the simpleton masses can understand us like they do the Republicans. But there's more:
"Elite is a dirty word these days. It sounds too much like "elitist," which to most people is the same as a snob. Nobody likes snobs. Not even snobs."
Notice he is not discussing the relationship of elite to elitist so that we may understand it. He is concerned about how it 'sounds.' He's operating on the sensory/perceptual level. Also, the idea that snobs don't like snobs is false else Manhattan would be at war with itself.

After telling us how Reagan 'smiled' his way to two election victories--no examples of Reagan's dumbed down rhetoric, he just smiled his way into office--he says that Republicans have a chance to win because:
"A big reason, as everyone seems to know these days, is how McCain-Palin has outmatched Obama's elegant charisma in winning the support of working-class white voters."
How did Mc/P out match Obama? With more charisma? No answer. Notice the nudge phrase 'as everyone seems to know these days'--therefore you should know it too.... So why can't the Dems win these voters?
"It's not that Democrats don't share the values of ordinary hard-working Americans. It's just that their candidates sometimes have a hard time expressing those values."
Now that's very true but why do they have such a hard time? Could it be that the Dems in fact don't share those middle class values at all? Ayn Rand was right when, talking about the erosion of the American sense of life, she said that
"This is prevalent among the two groups that are the main supporters of the statist trend: the very rich and the very poor--the first, because they want to rule; the second because they want to be ruled. (The leaders of the trend are the intellectuals, who want to do both.)"*
This is true. Notice how today's intellectuals want to tell everyone else how to live, and get the government to enforce it, but also want to be led by 'charismatic' leaders like Obama. It is the middle class to whom the liberals cannot relate. So what does Mr. Page suggest Obama do about it?
"That makes the upcoming debates an acid test for Obama. He has shown great eloquence at speeches but uneven performances in past debates. He does not speak in bumper stickers. His speech often hesitates and ponders too much -- like someone who is still reconsidering their views. Debates are a time to speak not just eloquently but strategically. Even when you're uncertain, try to sound certain."
In other words, fake it. Notice too that Obama doesn't have bad performances, only uneven ones. And when he hesitates (stumbles, stammers and stutters), it's because he's too deep in thought (pondering). {So that's what Bush has been doing all these years!}

The last two paragraphs give a glimpse of the elitist mentality of our intellectuals:
That vision came to mind as I watched Governor Palin try to answer ABC's Charles Gibson's question about "the Bush doctrine." She obviously didn't know much about what Gibson was talking about, but she gave a decent boilerplate version of Bush's foreign policy. Synopsis: We got to get them terrorists.

That's the kind of answer voters tend to like. Short and strong. It sounds resolute, even if it lacks the nuance or flexibility that virtues like wisdom and experience bring.
Observe that Mr. Page is still on the emotional level; answers that are short and strong are the kind voters--not understand--but like. Their value lies in the fact that they sound resolute. Observe further that speaking in 'bumper stickers' or dumbed down rhetoric--Republican speak I suppose, lacks "...the nuance and flexibility that virtues like wisdom and experience[which liberal Dems like Obama-ME] bring." If you re-read that op-ed looking for nuance and flexibility, for slanting words and nudge phrases, you will find lots of them. But the theme of the op-ed is that the essence of successful political campaigns is to be as anti-conceptual and concrete bound as one can get. Such advice is doomed to fail though. Today's intellectuals can't go back and forth from what they see as their conceptual level, one of eternal nuance and flexibility, to the concrete, precise level of objective conceptualization which they see as only the dumbed down perceptual level of the masses. It is this op-ed that is an example of dumbed down conceptual level.


*(The above Rand quote is from her essay "Don't Let It Go" in the book "Philosophy-Who Needs It" which can be purchased here. A deal at $6.95.)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Spotted By Mike's Eyes Sept. 08

Donald Luskin at Conspiricy to Keep You Poor and Stupid ( Isn't that a fair description of all political campaigns?) posts on the truth of all the pessimistic, it's worse than the great depression, cries of Obama, his MSM, and even McCain with some interesting facts. One example:
"The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) database, which allows rigorous apples-to-apples comparisons, only goes back to 1979. It shows that today's delinquency rate is only a little higher than the level seen in 1985. As to the foreclosure rate, it was setting records for the day -- the highest since the Great Depression, one supposes -- in 1999, at the peak of the Clinton-era prosperity that Obama celebrated in his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention late last month. I don't recall hearing any Democratic politicians complaining back then."

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Next is a Monday Sept 15th Detroit News article "Hospitals gave $2.6B for care."
Last year, hospitals provided:

• $2.1 billion in un-reimbursed medical care to state residents, including $209 million in charity care for low-income patients who qualify for free services and $605 million written off as bad debt for unpaid patient bills.

• $94.5 million on voluntary programs and services such as free clinics, health screenings, immunizations and prescription drugs.

• $331.5 million for research, education and in-kind contributions.

• 224,000 free visits to hospital- and community-based health clinics at a value of $35 million.
And:
The spending break down on this year's report is similar to new reporting requirements set to go into effect in 2009 on tax forms filed by nonprofit hospitals. The new forms will require health systems to report detailed data about their community contributions to justify their tax-exempt status to the Internal Revenue Service.
So they have to buy their tax-exempt status with sacrifices to the 'community.' Government altruism always means forced sacrifices, and higher prices.
Caroline Sallee, a consultant and health care researcher with the Anderson Economic Group in Lansing, said the report puts a dollar figure on these community contributions.

However, it fails to point out that many of these hospital programs are also supported through taxpayer funding in the form of state and federal grants, she said. And many hospitals tend to raise rates for privately insured and uninsured patients to offset some of the losses incurred by bad debt.

"It's not that this is all free," Sallee said. "This isn't the sort of thing the hospitals are taking a hit. They have to make the money some way."
I'm reminded of Rand's phrase "How? Somehow."
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A tiny bit of good news: "Budget shortfall cuts spots in Peace Corps." Same edition of Det. News.
At a time when both presidential candidates have pledged to promote and expand national service, the popular humanitarian assistance program that sends thousands of Americans abroad annually is now planning to cut 400 volunteer positions in the face of an unexpected multimillion-dollar budget shortfall. With fewer spots, an increasing number of Peace Corps nominees who were expecting to begin service this fall have seen their deployments delayed at least until next year -- and in some cases indefinitely.
Should be permanently. Now there's a program that needs to be shut down.
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J. Kendall has a post titled "How NOT to Teach China a Lesson" at Crucible and Column. When other countries see things like the mortgage crises they will conclude that capitalism doesn't work and a planned economy is best. It will be because of capitalism's defenders. Sad.