Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Therapy Sessions has another brilliant post

on something I don't think I've talked about much since last year. In an article about drinking laws, he makes these points:
1. No one should make a law that can't be enforced. What's the point in making law that everyone breaks anyway? Prosecutions are unfair - because you have to target someone (like hapless Martha Stewart). The idea spreads the police are antagonists, not people who work for us.

2. Laws should be as simple as black and white. You should know - with absolute certainity - that you are breaking a law.

This'll help your writing skills, bro.

Check out this at the Bugbear Zone.

I fear I've been neglecting John Rogers

to whom I'll have to relinquish my title Old Whig, if I don't shape up soon. I once said that I haven't found anybody that I completely agree with, but this guy... He handles the news better than I do (though that's not entirely my gig), and I especially like what he says here about Cuba and the nature of government:
Once again, we find that economic "rights" are more important than the Bill of Rights in the hard left's thinking. If it means rewriting history and ignoring modern events to get that belief across, so be it.

The hard left is composed of fanatical devotees to the false religion that Marxism has become. It's got its myths, like the belief that wealth can be created by a confiscatory state that seizes wealth and uses it for the public's benefit. Or the idea that my neighbor's riches must have been taken from my pocket. The Marxist religion has saints who have done no wrong: Castro, Che Guevara, and Trotsky come to mind. And, of course, it calls for the subversion of the individual to the struggle, and it has a promised land of a socialist utopia.

Of course, Marxism has proven unworkable every time it has been tried throughout history and in every region of the world. This does not sway the believers: Marxist economic theory just needs some tinkering to work. The dismal data of the experiments? They can just be written away, as liberal journalists are attempting to do with Cuba.

But Marxism is unworkable because it is the concentration of power in the hands of a centralized state. History is clear that the dilution of power, to more people and to more types of people, is more successful in improving human rights and standards of living.

So, I've added him to my blogroll.
I've also added the titles Whiggarchy (rule by Whigs, which I define as those who seek to minimize the use of force on innocent people), Isonomy ((n.) Equal law or right; equal distribution of rights and privileges; similarity. BrainyDictionary) - under which I've placed SCOTUSBlog (SCOTUS stands for Supreme Court of the United States for those new to wonkdom) and the Volokh Conspiracy; and Fraternity. And, in case you don't get my use of those terms, the first two replace Liberty and Equality in the French Revolutionary slogan "Liberte! Egalite! Fraternite!" I can't think of anything wrong with "fraternity". The other two terms are too vague to base a political program on.

SDB does his best to apply Chaos Theory

everywhere, particularly to the economy. (BTW thanks for naming that previous post what you did, Steven. I was feeling like I needed some attention. I got it from the IT KGB when I clicked on that link instead of this one.)

Anyway, the kicker:

Oop! A little explanation first:

Chaos theory studies systems which are iterative, such that the system state at time Tn+1 is a function at time Tn, where the system has a property known as extreme sensitivity to initial conditions. Among other wonderful and pernicious results from Chaos Theory is that long term detailed behavior of such systems cannot be predicted, even if the system itself is fully understood and the behavior is deterministic. Long term prediction requires exact knowledge of the starting state, but in natural chaotic systems you can't actually know the starting state with sufficient accuracy. The more initial error, the sooner your prediction goes awry. There will always be some initial error, so your prediction will always go awry eventually.

So then:
That's true for capitalist economies. [ed. note: In context, the first sentence doesn't really refer to the quoted paragraph, but I don't think it harms the meaning] The world's economy is preposterously huge and complicated and intricate, and can potentially be affected by anything from solar activity to scientific advances to outbreaks of diseases to fads. Some stimuli end up having no effect at all, because the system apparently compensates. Other stimuli can cause radical changes. Sometimes the effects "ring" and then dampen out over time; sometimes they result in what seems to be a permanent change in overall state. A lot of the time it's damned hard to even know what happened.

It was originally believed that all systems eventually settle into a state of equilibrium, but we now know that's not true. Some systems naturally oscillate, and some systems are subject to long term alterations in behavior which seem to be permanent and irreversible which are not induced directly by external changes. And the long term behavior of some systems is naturally irregular.

And in fact, most other nations generally drive economic recovery using exports.

Which means they can't recover unless someone else is recovering who wants to buy lots of their stuff.

Which usually means the US, which has had a chronically high trade imbalance for a hell of a long time, causing some to predict that we're heading at high speed for a cliff.

I don't know. I don't think it's possible for us to maintain a huge trade deficit forever. But I'm not so sure that the situation is quite as straightforward as those doomsayers claim.
We can't maintain a huge deficit in our balance of trade indefinitely. But the Fed buys some bonds every year and injects some new money into the economy by doing so, because our economy is growing. As the world economy grows, then if it continues to rely on dollars as a de-facto international currency, doesn't that mean it would need a rising supply of dollars, gotten from us via a moderate trade imbalance?

I don't know. What I do know is that if we got radical about trying to balance our trade in the short term, we'd risk setting off a world-wide depression. Last one of those ended up setting off a world war.

I also know that anyone who claims they know for sure what will happen in any scenario is either lying or deluded. No one knows what's really coming. No one can know. And that includes the decision makers at the Fed.

Everything I can think of to say about that turns into a treatise. Which I should write someday, no doubt. If only for my own use. Consider it a favor not to have to read SDB's whole post (though I liked it, that's why I'm advertising it).

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

This'll get me in good with Ayn Clouter

The Angry Economist has a post on Law Without Government here. Here's the introductory 'graph for you:

If I had my choice of perfect worlds, there would be no government in it. People purchase protection from a private company of their choice. This company, in turn, subscribes to a system of laws which is privately written. Independent judges interpret the law fairly, or they don't get the business next time. Some legal systems will come into conflict, which will be resolved by a payment in one direction or another. The price one pays for a legal system determines the amount of conflict one bears. Poor people obviously get a cheap one which doesn't allow for much conflict. But it does cover them against the essentials -- no murder, no theft. In the end they get more justice by buying it in an efficient market than what they're currently getting through government -- arguably less than zero.

I like it. I've never read anything by Nelson that I disagree with. (Hence the link.) I don't know why I find him easy to read and David Friedman hard to read. (I will say that I don't like the way Friedman's website is organized. I suppose that's an opening for people to criticize mine.)

Do Health Authorities in this Country

Give a rat's ass about their credibility?

Some do and some don't apparently.

The Mayo Clinic Spreads Misinformation About Smokeless Tobacco

By John K. Carlisle

The Mayo Clinic is one of the most prestigious and affluent medical charitable organizations in the United States. Based in Rochester, Minnesota, its mission “is to provide the best care for every patient every day through integrated clinical practice, education and research.” But despite its many impressive medical achievements, the Mayo Clinic ignores scientific research showing the health benefits that result when smokers switch to smokeless tobacco. Nor does Mayo acknowledge important research conducted in Sweden and West Virginia that shows a correlation between high smokeless tobacco use and lower rates of tobacco-related cancer and diseases. The Mayo Clinic is world-famous because it has pioneered new ways of thinking about medicine and health. However, in its treatment of smoking prevention and cessation, its approach is disappointingly traditional.
In fact, smokeless tobacco products are less harmful than cigarettes and other smoking products. A 2002 report issued by the British Royal College of Physicians states, “the consumption of non-combustible tobacco is of the order of 10-1,000 times less hazardous than smoking, depending on the product.” Dr. Brad Rodu and Dr. Philip Cole, scientists at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, have refuted Mayo claims by pointing out that smoke -- not addictive nicotine -- is responsible for most tobacco-related diseases. In 1995, they published a summary of the latest research findings in Priorities For Health, the health journal of the American Council on Science and Health. Rodu and Cole noted that smokeless tobacco does not cause lung cancer or emphysema and other lung diseases; it doesn’t pose excessive risk of heart attack; and obviously it produces no second-hand smoke, which the American Heart Association claims is responsible for 40,000 U.S. deaths each year.

Yet Mayo has tried to frighten the public by asserting that smokeless tobacco use leads to “an increased risk of oral cancer.” Its web site observes that oral cancer includes “cancers of the mouth, throat, cheek, gums, lips and tongue. Surgery to remove the cancer from any of these areas can leave the jaw, chin, neck or face disfigured.” However, smokeless tobacco advocates never have argued that smokeless products are harmless. They acknowledge the increased risk of oral cancer. But they say that for those who cannot stop using tobacco it is safer to use smokeless tobacco than to smoke.

Who acknowledges the increased risk of oral cancer?
West Virginia Study Refutes Mayo Claims

There is also evidence in the U.S. indicating that extensive smokeless tobacco use correlates with lower rates of tobacco-related disease. In 1998, the Maxillofacial Center for Diagnostics & Research in Morgantown, West Virginia published an article, “Oral Cancer in a Tobacco-Chewing Population -- No Apparent Increased Incidence or Mortality,” that examined West Virginia, the state with the highest per capita consumption of smokeless tobacco. The article was written by Drs. J.E. Bouquot, D.D.S., M.S.D. and R.L. Meckstroth, D.D.S. Dr. Bouquot is the Director of Research at the Maxillofacial Center for Diagnostics & Research. He is also the former Dental Director at the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health. Dr. Meckstroth is a Professor at the Department of Rural and Public Health Dentistry at the West Virginia University School of Dentistry. Bouquot and Meckstroth hypothesized that cancer rates for West Virginians should be significantly greater than the U.S. average given their heavy use of smokeless tobacco products. About 15.6 percent of adult men in West Virginia use smokeless tobacco, compared to the national average of four percent. Surprisingly, the researchers found that West Virginia’s oral cancer rate is below the U.S. average. The cancer rate for the state’s males and females was 13.4 per 100,000 and 5.1 per 100,000 respectively. The U.S. average is 15.4 for men and 5.7 for women.

Well, well...

I loved Skoal Wintergreen Longcut. I only gave it up because of the horror stories.

Time to take up the old spittoon again. Skoal, brother!

The other week, I was listening to my guy

Dave Thompson on the radio doing the usual conservative rant about the liberal media and academe, when some chowderhead called up to ask a couple of rhetorical questions followed by a zinger. He asked, "Don't you suppose that reporters and university professors are highly educated people?"
Dave attempted to consider this novel proposition, but the guy interrupted with "They're liberal because their smarter than you stupid conservatives." Unfortunately I didn't get to hear Dave's answer. Dave is a practicing attorney, and hence has a doctorate in Law, and he probably answered adequately.
Now, I'm a libertarian, really, which means that I believe in being conservative with the taxpayers' money and conserving The Power of the People to individual citizens as much as possible. I especially dislike paying for the consequences of other people's laziness (e.g. welfare fraud) and stupidity (e.g. frivolous lawsuits), However, I don't care what anybody tries once, provided they alone experience the consequences of their actions and learn from them. They're welcome to share the happiness, but not the pain.
That's all to say that I felt the sting of The Guy's comment. So as a way to slap back here is a passage from a Rantingprofs post on a NY Times article by Edward Wong:
Of course, what Wong doesn't point out is that while everyone is hoping that the insurgents will suddenly decide the new government is legitimate, the Iraqi people, by wild majorities, already do view it as legitimate. So you can cloak the insurgents with some kind of romanticism if you like, what they are is anti-democratic killers, going against the will of the majority whether that will has been formally expressed through the ballot box yet or not. The fact that they may have started down this path because they had legitimate gripes about unemployment and electricity hardly justifies what they're doing.

Especially since, another point Wong doesn't bother to point out, its their attacks, on the infrastructure and the foreign workers fixing the infrastructure, and the general security environment that blocks foreign investment, that keeps unemployment high and the electricity off. These idiots with the RPGs are apparently too damn stupid to figure that out but one would hope a reporter for the New York Times might make the connection.

It's tough to get an education when you won't listen. Here's something from an educated guy, Frederick Hayek, Nobel Prize-winning economist:

All political theories assume, of course, that most individuals are very ignorant. Those who plead for liberty differ from the rest in that they include among the ignorant themselves as well as the wisest.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Here's what I was going to say, before I was goaded to distraction by my older bother:

[Sure, I meant to say 'brother'.]

Rosie has put me to work as her stenographer to make up her own bedtime stories. Tonight we began a tale about an Irish Frog and a Korean Toad. Who so far have eaten two flies named Thomas and Jojo. Each ate one, though we're vague about who ate whom. I tried to direct the story into an epic about the revolution this caused among the flies against the toads and frogs, requiring a great quest for knowledge about these heroes among the winged insects, including descriptions of mighty battles both external and introspective in which our protagonists were transformed into great peacemaking sages on the order of Ghandi.

But, she would have none of that. Instead she insisted that Thomas and Jojo were nobodies who were eaten and that's that. I was even prepared to compromise and write how they saved themselves with brilliant speeches about how they, as individuals, could assist the two bugeaters to raise all their standard(s) of living by working together.

But, noooo... We have a story about them meeting a squirrel named Gigi, who promptly gets chased up a tree by a dog. She wouldn't even let me have the Irish Frog say, "Begorrah, but that Thomas was tasty!"

For some reason, she decided she was tired and wanted to go to sleep at that point in the story. I wonder if she finds our interactions as funny as I do.

Post the Third In Which I Sucker for an odd Debate

Ron, you say that English of the First Millenium is almost like a foreign language compared to English of the Third Millenium. This strengthens your point more than mine I suppose.

From An Anglo-Saxon Reader, by Milton Haight Turk (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1927) I choose a passage for which I'm sure you have the translation (bear with me, I don't have my computer enabled to handle Anglo-Saxon characters, more's the pity):

Chapter I. Alfred as Lawgiver

From King Alfred's Law-Code. The texts is that of the Parker MS. (Corpus Christi College, Cambridge), which belongs to the second quarter of the tenth century [ed. (that's me) A.D. 925-950].

Dryhten waes sprecende thas word to Moyse on thus cwaeth: Ic eom Dryhten thin God: ic the utgelaedde of Egipta londe ond of hiora theowdome. Ne lufa thu othre fremde godas ofer me. Ne minne noman ne cig thu on idelnesse cigst minne noman. Gemyn thaet thu gehalgige thone raestedaeg; wyrceath eow VI dagas ond on tham diofothan restath eow; for tham on VI dagum Crist geworhte heofonas on eorthan, saes on ealle gesceafta the on him sint, ond hine gereste on thone siofothan daeg; ond for thon Dryhten hine gehalgode.

Did you get that? It's basically the first translation into English (Anglo-Saxon) of any part of the Bible. Specifically Exodus chapter 20, the first three Commandments.

Grammar rules that fail to promote effective communication for the majority of situations that the speakers of a language find themselves in, from the various scientific endeavors, to sports to housework, cannot be widely adopted. They will precipitate us into a situation in which people will barely be able to communicate with one another at all. As I said in the note below it is useful for teachers of English to teach in a prescriptive manner in order for them to promote the widest communication skills among their students.

Having said that, Ron, I haven't caught you dangling any participles. (Though I'm not going to waste any time examining your writings for them either.) Are you claiming that there is no situation in which precise understanding is necessary?

Oh, there will always be argots, which are terminologies specific to different activities, but the grammar doesn't vary greatly when exact understanding is needed to accomplish a task.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

What do you know, or have you heard,

about Max Weber? Would it make you think he'd say something like this?

It is horrible to think that the world could one day be filled with nothing but those little cogs, little men clinging to little jobs and striving toward bigger ones--a state of affairs which is to be seen once more, as in the Egyptian records, playing an ever increasing part in the spirit of our present administrative systems, and especially of its offspring, the students. This passion for bureaucracy enough to drive one to despair. It is as if in politics. . . we were to deliberately to become men who need "order" and nothing but order, become nervous and cowardly if for one moment this order wavers, and helpless if they are torn away from their total incorporation in it. That the world should know no men but these: it is in such an evolution that we are already caught up, and the great question is, therefore, not how we can promote and hasten it, but what can we oppose to this machinery in order to keep a portion of mankind free from this parceling-out of the soul, from this supreme mastery of the bureaucratic way of life.

-- Max Weber, Max Weber on Law in Economy and Society [1921]

Thanks to The Future of Freedom Foundation's Freedom Biographies.

I was a little depressed last week

because I knew I was going to have to get nasty with somebody, and I really didn't want to take the time. It was a pretty impersonal situation, so I didn't give a rats ass about their feelings, but it required work and preparation. That's behind me for now, we'll see what shakes out. They'll probably get out their big guns. I have no doubt that they have them.

Anyway, I feel better now. But I'm exhausted from trimming my hedge again. I found myself awake at 6:30 this morning, so I went to work on it. But it was way out of control because of all the rain and all the time I've spent out of town when it wasn't raining. So I quit at 3:30 this afternoon. I still have about 120 feet to go, but it's on the side of the guy who won't let me work in his yard, so I only have to do my own side and the top. I wonder if he realizes he's doing me a favor.

To answer a question that's been bothering us all

for far too long, I looked up "dangling participle". I was wrong to say that they don't bother me, it's just that I hadn't seen an adult write one for so long, I'd forgotten what they were.
Noun 1. dangling participle - a participle (usually at the beginning of a sentence) apparently modifying a word other than the word intended: e.g., `flying across the country' in `flying across the country the Rockies came into view'

And, as a bonus (or in lieu of one):
dangling modifier, misplaced modifier - a word or phrase apparently modifying an unintended word because of its placement in a sentence: e.g., `when young' in `when young, circuses appeal to all of us'

So now you've got all your danglies in order.

Courtesy of The Free Dictionary.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Glen Whitman makes the rules for rules

at the Volokh Conspiracy.
THE RULES OF ABSTRACTION: In the course of my research, much of which relates to selection of legal and ethical decision rules, I've often pondered the meaning of the word "rule" itself. What does it actually mean to have a rule, or to be guided by one? The more I think about it, the more I think that a rule means a prescription for action that relies on an intermediate degree of abstraction. When rules become either too abstract or too situation-specific, they begin to lose their rule-like character.

Take the rules of etiquette. One rule is to say "Thank you" when someone gives you a gift or performs a service for you; another is to say "Please" when you wish someone to do something for you; and so on. Now, imagine if we replaced these rules with a single, highly abstract directive to just "Be polite." That directive would not provide much useful guidance. Lacking more information, the decision-maker would have to decide for each and every interaction what would be a "polite" thing to do.

[Deleted boring comment. Oy. Gotta use that "save as draft" button more often.]

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Actually, contrary to what the graphic below says,

I'm not deeply concerned about anybody else's possessions. When they taught me the Ten Commandments in Sunday School, they told us that the Tenth was the key to obeying most of the rest. "Thou shalt not covet." I focussed my attention on that principle and succeeded in eliminating concern about my neighbor's stuff. I most certainly do not look at somebody's stuff and wonder whether they deserve it or not. It's none of my business

I do judge people, based on their desire and ability to help or harm me and/or my loved ones, yet I question the nature of those helps and harms. In particular, I question whether this or that free-market reform has truly harmed anyone. I notice that the people making those claims (I have a few in mind, though they shall remain nameless) are actually doing quite well now, whether they see it or not. One of them had to change the way he invested his money, another had to look for a new career and a third had to get off welfare. Actually, all of them changed because the reforms required self-respecting, honest people to make such moves. The reforms made it too obvious that they were leeching off either the taxpayers or the previous, unsustainable, corporatist arrangements of the New Deal and the Fair Deal.

Well, all right, their discernment was not so clear. It's true that they were inconvenienced, but the other option was to tax the hell out of the ones with jobs to pay for the then current welfare-state, which included heavy doses of corporate welfare. More than they were already taxed.

The Mises Daily Article today has an article slamming Bill Buckley and Irving Kristol for founding Neo-Conservatism (note that Buckley's not Jewish), but it has these two paragraphs that need to be disseminated widely:

Economics tells us how enterprise creates seeming miracles all around us. But it also tells us that real resources don’t grow on trees, that all government spending must take a bite out of the private sector in some way. Economics tells us that all attempts to control prices and wages will lead to shortages and surpluses, and that any intervention causes trouble. It tells us that you can't expand the money supply without creating distortions—among a thousand other points that contradict government wishes.

From the political point of view, economics seems like a series of strictures against doing things that politicians naturally want to do and intellectuals want to tell them to do. So it is no wonder that intellectuals and politicians resent market logic. And yet, economic logic is not a fiction.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Once again I have succumbed

to Ms. Clouter's wiles as she continues her effort to assist our secret rulers in profiling us all.

I feel no deep concern for I know I will ultimately triumph.

Welcome to

?? Which Of The Greek Gods Are You ??
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Mr. Pterodactyl's brother

Lance Burri, shows us how it's done.

This would seem to cast doubt on whether Pterodactyl is Todd's real last name.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Hey, sorry to disappear on you like that

but I had to go to a funeral for my Grandma Erkkila. She passed on rather quietly and suddenly on Monday. She was 87. The funeral was Friday.

I decided that it was stupid to announce in public that I'm going to be away. Occasionally my stepson is available to check the house, but at the moment he's persona non grata around here. That means we loaned him some money and he disappeared with it. Just a little, about $40, but we didn't have it to spare really.

After the funeral, we went to my cousin Brian's house, which is about 7 miles from Grandma's and visited. He's doing pretty well working as a machinist in Superior, but it's mostly because he has the mechanical and carpetry skills to stretch a dollar about three times as far as the average person. That's the advantage of having a father at home, especially when said father was raised on a farm. Dad, as I've mentioned, was a sailor, or rather, an engineer on "the boats". I learned an awful lot from him, but if he'd been home all the time, I'd have learned those things in spades plus the self-discipline and desire to apply them. Of course, then there'd be no Rosie or Aliina.

Grandma had rather a hard time of it these past few decades, starting with the cancer death of Uncle Donald at age 20 in 1980. We were friends at the end and I still mourn about that some. I was one of his pall-bearers. I find that a comfort Uncle Mervin died of a heart attack a few years later. Dad died in '94 of mesothelioma (asbestosis) and Uncle Jimmy (Brian's father) died a few years ago. Grandpa died not long before Uncle Jimmy.

There were some other matters Grandma had to deal with that should remain private, but they testify to a quiet sort of strength she had. She very joyfully received visitors and made you glad you came these last few years. I wish I could have seen her more often.

The house where we used to play (and, in my case once, fight) with Uncle Donald, is up for sale. I'll miss having the right to drive up and knock on the door and talk with them over coffee. (Though it's polite to call ahead.)

By the way, Garrison Keillor wasn't making anything up in Lake Wobegon Days. Nordic types in Minnesota and Wisconsin know it's all true, because we know those people. Finns are just like the other Scandinavians (ahem, probably because of that 700 years of Swedish oppression, but let's not talk about that).

Goodbye Grandma, God speed you to your home.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

I don't think I've ever read an uninteresting word

written by Mark Steyn (registration required; other stuff here).

Correlli Barnett has dismissed the entire ‘war on terror’ as a fraud on the grounds that one cannot wage war against a phenomenon. As it happens, the Royal Navy has quite a track record of waging war against phenomena — slavery and piracy. One can certainly make the case that that’s what the Bush administration is doing — after all, from Colombia to Sri Lanka, various longstanding terrorist campaigns seem to have mysteriously quietened down since 9/11.

Or course, slavery and piracy were (despicable) human activities, as is terrorism, but terror is an emotion.

But, in the broader sense, Barnett might be right — that the very name of the war was its first polite evasion, the product of a culture which has banished the very concept of ‘the enemy’. From grade school up we’re taught that there are no enemies, just friends whose grievances we haven’t yet accommodated. One sympathises with Bush’s difficulties: in the early days, every time he tried to name an enemy, he got undercut. When he denounced the Taleban, Colin Powell said, au contraire, we’re very interested in reaching out to moderate Taleban. So Bush switched to the more general term ‘evildoers’, and crossed his fingers that Powell wouldn’t go on Meet the Press and claim the administration was interested in reaching out to moderate evildoers.

Good thing I wasn't drinking anything when I read that.

The point of Steyn's piece is that Bush isn't selling himself and his policies, "He could use some Reaganesque clarity and toughness, plus a little more lyricism in the patriotic uplift. But one of the problems with the Bush Administration is that they think they’re so good at walking the walk they don’t have to bother talking the talk. Wrong. Last week conservatives were reminded of everything they’ve missed these last ten years."

It's easy for Steyn to wish GW was more like him, and we hear that a lot, though mostly as ridicule from those who find public speaking easy. It seems God is requiring us to judge wisely.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Psalm 2

1. Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?
2. The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
3. Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.
4. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision.
5. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.
6. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.
7. I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me. Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.
8. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.
9. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.
10. Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.
11. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
12. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

It's sort of a pet peeve of mine to see people misuse these, so here:

Biblical English grammar paradigm
Person Pronoun Verb form
1st I have am do come
2nd thou hast art dost/doest comest
3rd he/she/it hath is doth/doeth cometh
1st we have are do come
2nd ye have are do come
3rd they have are do come

"Thee" and "you" are objective; they always take the action of the verb or preposition.

Well, to recap the weekend

We spent it examining the wares at garage sales Up North. I bought a couple books, one on Lincoln called A Man for the Ages and one by Hermann Hesse, who wrote the existentialist classic (read: interminable naval-gazing while failing to take any positive action) Steppenwolf, called The Road to the East.

We also made a bunch of stuff we need for Rendezvous Reenactment camping. And, yes, that means we go around pretending to be Frenchmen, but of the braver sort, who had the wit to leave France. You can't walk very far in Minnesota without running into a reminder of the Voyageur Days.

So now we've got a bunch more junk in the house. Great.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Mister Pterodactyl has a post which

bears on Ron's arguments about many things and Mr. Pt. directs us to read this post by Steven den Beste.

First, to assuage the outrage of those who doubt my sanity in ever reading den Beste, I'll quote a bit of this refutation of the argument by at least one "liberal" ("liberals" promote collective liberty, or the rights of groups to inflict their will upon others; liberals promote the rights of individuals not to have others acts inflicted upon us) to remake Reagan in their image:

"...Carter was right but terribly unlucky. Reagan proved the old adage that it is better to be lucky than to be smart. He did everything wrong, of course, but somehow didn't get what he deserved. He kept falling into manure piles and emerging with gold rings on his fingers. Despite that, it was Carter who really had the right attitude about foreign policy.

President Bush should emulate Carter, but Diggins knows he can't laud Carter and expect anyone to take him seriously. So he is trying to claim that Reagan's achievements arose because Reagan got in touch with his inner Carter. That was his real essence, and it was Reagan's inner Carter which was responsible for Reagan's "enlightened foreign policy that achieved most of its diplomatic objectives peacefully and succeeded in firmly uniting our allies". And thus we are led to the conclusion that Bush should get in touch with his inner Clinton, and change his foreign policy to match.

But back to that most disturbing of topics, God: Real or Made UP? (which, to me, bears only glancingly on my topic of whether Rational Self-Interest can lead us to live a good life on earth):

Steven den Beste concludes an article about the nature of identity with this statement about the sacrifices atheists must make:

I do not harbor any doubt about my atheism. But it cannot be denied that atheism is cold and uncomforting, and that there is a price to be paid for believing in it. An atheist must at all times live with the idea that in the end nothing we think or do is really very significant, and we may not really matter at all.

I may just be a temporarily-active blob of protoplasm which deceives itself into thinking it actually is something more than that.

I, personally, don't find life that annoying even when I contemplate a Godless universe. I see a pretty benevolent place, though possibly only temporarily so, and I see a species with the capability of saving itself and other species as well when the universe rolls over in its bed on top of us.

I see our political institutions as the main obstacle to our growth beyond this one little planet.

I called den Beste's position a sacrifice, and in the standard parlance it is one. He sacrifices [a degree] of security, comfort and certainty in the belief that a ruthless pursuit of the truth will pay off in greater happiness for greater numbers later. Psychic security and comfort, that is. That's an investment strategy, not a sacrifice. It would be a sacrifice to invest in ventures that you knew were doomed to fail. Compte coined the term altruism pretty much with that meaning in mind; if you know that you stand to profit from an activity, then it's not a moral activity. Or, as Wikipedia put's it,

Advocates of altruism as an ethical doctrine assert that one's actions ought to further the welfare of other people, ideally to the exclusion of one's own interests. ...In practice, altruism is the performance of duties to others with no view to any sort of personal gain for one's efforts. If one performs an act beneficial to others with a view to gaining affection, respect, reputation, or any form of gratitude or remuneration then it is not an altruistic act. It is in fact a selfish act because the principal motivation was to reap some benefit for oneself. The desire of this benefit exists equally whether it is psychological, emotional, intellectual, or material - each form of desirable benefit is philosophically identical as a motivation.

"Not moral" is not necessarily immoral, it may be amoral, but ask yourself how you feel about amoral activities.

That is the nub of the rhetorical problem that Ayn Rand was attacking. Most of work life and quite a lot of home life (and 99.99% of politics) would be considered amoral and shading toward unworthy.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Ron wants me to defend my position

by taking on Mother Teresa.

Well, naturally I scampered off in the opposite direction and was swallowed up by a whale. Actually an errant whale shark... Really errant...

His name is Christopher Hitchens! Author of The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice (Verso, 1995)! An expose of just how Mother Teresa has carefully crafted her myth in order to achieve earthly sainthood, as opposed to heavenly sainthood.
It's unexamined journalistically - no one really takes a look at what she does. And it is unexamined as to why it should be she who is spotlighted as opposed to many very selfless people who devote their lives to the relief of suffering in what we used to call the "Third World." Why is it never mentioned that her stated motive for the work is that of proselytization for religious fundamentalism, for the most extreme interpretation of Catholic doctrine? If you ask most people if they agree with the pope's views on population, for example, they say they think they are rather extreme. Well here's someone whose life's work is the propagation of the most extreme version of that.

That's the first motive. The second was a sort of journalistic curiosity as to why it was that no one had asked any serious questions about Mother Teresa's theory or practice. Regarding her practice, I couldn't help but notice that she had rallied to the side of the Duvalier family in Haiti, for instance, that she had taken money - over a million dollars - from Charles Keating, the Lincoln Savings and Loans swindler, even though it had been shown to her that the money was stolen; that she has been an ally of the most reactionary forces in India and in many other countries; that she has campaigned recently to prevent Ireland from ceasing to be the only country in Europe with a constitutional ban on divorce, that her interventions are always timed to assist the most conservative and obscurantist forces.

Sorry, I forgot to mention that that interview comes from and contains this tidbit:
HITCHENS: I'm an atheist. I'm not neutral about religion, I'm hostile to it. I think it is a positively bad idea, not just a false one. And I mean not just organized religion, but religious belief itself.

Why is the United States so prone to any kind of superstition, not just organized religion, but cultism, astrology, millennial beliefs, UFOs, any form of superstition? I've thought a lot about it. I read Harold Bloom's book The American Religion: The Emergence of the Post-Christian Nation (1992) about the evolution of what he thinks of as a specifically American form of religion. There was a book by Will Herberg in the 1950s called Protestant, Catholic, Jew where he speculated that what was really evolving was the American way of life as a religion. And that this was a way of life that wasn't at all spiritual or intellectual but in a sense believed that all religion was valid as long as it underpinned this way of life. Somehow religion was a necessary ingredient. In other words, religion was functional. I think that's true but it's not the whole story.

Stew on that, I gotta go out of town, and may not get any blogging done.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

I be's stove up.

A guy my grampa knew in Oklahoma said that once. I forget the context.

Naw, I went an' got me another virus. Puttin' the old virtual prophylactics to the test. Not too impressed. I haven't been emailing anybody on purpose for the past few days, so if you get anything from me, *&^%^in' kill it instantly.

Hey! I got a visit from the EPA! They condemned my house, my truck, my parenting skills and my breath. Then they left.

Actually, SiteCounter popped up with the domain. I hope they didn't find me too insulting. I'll be taking breath mints just in case. The virus I got won't let me open two windows at once, so I have to make all my comments from memory. I also got a visit from a Marine. That impresses me. I'm a big fan of Marines.

Well, I guess I'd better get to work cleaning this thing out.

Night, all.

Sadly we've lost another great American today.

Ray Charles has left us.

Ray Charles, Pioneer of Soul Music, Dies at Age 73 (Update2)
June 10 (Bloomberg) -- Ray Charles, the blind musician who pioneered soul music by blending gospel and blues, has died. He was 73.

Charles died of complications from liver disease today at his home in Beverly Hills, said Eric Raymond, a spokesman for his publicist, Solters & Digney, in Los Angeles.

The world-famous ``genius of soul'' had been sidelined since last year by a hip ailment and underwent hip-replacement surgery in November. It was then that doctors discovered he also was suffering from liver disease, according to Raymond. Charles's last public appearance was on April 30, when the city of Los Angeles designated his music studios a historic landmark.

When he celebrated his 73rd birthday last September at his studios, Charles was feted with a cake in the shape of a piano, and joined by longtime friends Quincy Jones and Willie Nelson.

For his bravery above and beyond the call of duty

In posting literary works of prose, poetry and social and political commentary
In the face of almost insuperable opposition from the peanut gallery (or is it galley?)
By the power vested in me out of my own arrogant usurpation
I hereby pronounce LibertyBob
An honorary Superior Being.

The Staying in Bed poem (2004-06-08 Category: poetry)makes me want to use the term "ROFL".

Last five entries in one word each:


Are they in order? You decide.

My brother Ron objects to using the word "selfish"

in a favorable sense.

In reply to his comment I began (scroll down from his comment):

One could argue that the English language wasn't made by God, but by men. It may be the case that what the Bible writers meant, when they were condemning selfishness is not exactly the same thing as what modern English speakers mean.

The word "selfish", as commonly used, has quite a lot of meaning packed into it. And, as such, it is indeed objectionable.

Let me continue by unpacking the common meaning a bit. Looking for a dictionary definition I found a recent article from The Times of India, by Alan Cohen, author of Why Your Life Sucks:

You Must be Selfish
[ SUNDAY, MAY 23, 2004 12:07:17 AM ]
Your first priority in life has to be yourself

It seems to me that a good starting point would be to define ‘selfish'. Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary Second Edition states: caring only or chiefly for self; regarding one's own interest chiefly or solely; proceeding from love of self; influenced in actions solely by a view to private advantage; as, a selfish person; a selfish motive.

Most practitioners of sacrifice do not insist that you uphold their ideals consistently, only when it is feasible or practical. But when you hold something as an ideal and fail to practice it, you are condemned to Original Sin and a life of guilt. Although you know that you must fulfil your duty to that ideal regardless of the cost, you often pursue your self-interest instead. Any compromise or middle ground between selfishness and sacrifice is destined to failure, at the cost of your sanity.

That's almost a perversion of the doctrine of Original Sin as I learned it, but I'm not signing on as the guy's editor right now. Elide that sentence and you have a lot of Ayn Rand's argument. She also derides Original Sin - condemnation for the simple fact of having been born a human isn't Justice - but Cohen is trying to get it said, in his own words, in a short op-ed. Cohen is also not presenting himself as an Objectivist, though this article is very much in line with her teachings.

I propose a simple alternative to this life of suffering and guilt. To decide whether an action is right or wrong, use logic and reason to deduce its consequences on yourself alone. If the action benefits you, it is proper; and if it harms you, it is wrong.

This paragraph sounds more like Stirnerian S.E. Parker in a discussion with Freedom School founder Robert LeFevre (here's a good opinion piece by him).
The "Stirnerite," egoist standpoint is that a "right" action is simply one appropriate to the end desired, and a "wrong" action one inappropriate to the end desired. In other words, there are expedient and inexpedient actions for an egoist--nothing more. There is no question of moral "guilt" involved if an egoist makes a mistake and recognizes that he has done so. He merely corrects it if he can, and if he cannot he takes more care next time. How, from a logical angle, it follows that if there is no real "right" or "wrong" then a "Stirnerite" is "by definition" always "right" I fail to see.

Ayn Rand's defines selfishness as "concern with ones own interests," which I understand to be about the same as "mind your business." I left out "own" because MYOB has a narrower connotation, though that meaning is included in my phrase. "Mind your own business" and "take care of business" just about cover it.

Ayn Rand called herself a "radical for Capitalism," and ferociously attacked any doctrine that undercut purely free (and open) markets. That was her open agenda. Her argument was that the duty of government is to protect that freedom and enforce openness by prosecuting acts of force and fraud swiftly and certainly. Trying to protect people from acts that might be committed in the future is opening the door to tyranny. She believed that if people are taught logic, economics and history and the skills required to understand them we could handled fraud prevention ourselves. And prosecute when we discover otherwise.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

I have never understood the hatred

some people have for some particular politician, at least not an American politician. But Bill Clinton's working on it.

Man! You can take the Arkansawyer out of the trailer park, but you can't take the trailer park out of the Arkansawyer.

This demanding to speak at Reagan's funeral business... It reminds me of Nikita Khrushchev pounding his shoe on the table to intimidate the UN delegates, with his barbaric boorishness, into letting him take over the world.

[post now/ get links later]

Update: So Drudge is the source of that story. I usually wait for outside confirmation before quoting Drudge. I won't hold my breath.

"Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me... You won't get fooled again!" --you know who.

This is what qualifies Mikhael Gorbachev

as a great leader:

If you want to be a great leader, you must learn to follow the Tao. Stop trying to control. Let go of fixed plans and concepts and the world will govern itself.

- Lao-tsu, TAO TE CHING

He didn't use force to squelch the democratic revolution in the old Soviet Union, nor to retain its boundaries. Could he have done so? Maybe if he had tried, it would have welded the people together more strongly for democratic ideals as the Bible says the opposition of the Pharoah welded the people of Israel together.

Later thought: Not that 70 years of horrible oppression wouldn't. Maybe you can't ask for more.

Lileks links an article that objectivists will find very interesting

Read the Bleat and follow the links for the background. The radio broadcast on the War in Europe, as of late 1939, is especially interesting, but here's a paragraph from the article by Erma Proetz:

But someone will rise to say that there can be no dependence on the soundness of work done for a selfish purpose. Fortunately for the progress of the worl, this is becoming more and more to be realized by the great commercial organizations that the end of selfish activity--profit--cannot be accomplished unless the activity really renders service to the public. There is no substantial commercial organization in existence today that is so unintelligent as to undertake to make profit through expoloitations of a "fake" food. If you doubt that assertion look into the extent to which these commercial organizations maintain laboratories where scientifically trained people are testing the value of new things. You will find them submitting their problems to noncommercial laboratories for the purpose of checking the results which their own investigations give them.

Whoops, guess I'll have to quote one more, otherwise you'll just cite the tobacco and junk food industries at me and the argument will be dead:

The fundamental purpose of business organizations today is not to discover how the public can be fooled, but on the contrary, to discover how the public can be served.

I'd like to say, "Read the whole thing," but many of you won't (it's an article about food science and advertising, after all), so here are a couple more exerpts:

There has been, beyond doubt, a thought in many minds that there was an unavoidable point of conflict between the commercial organizations who sought to sell food for porfit and the trained teacher who sought to educate people on the subject of proper food. When we realize that there is no point of conflict; when we know that, whatever the primary or ultimate purpose may be, there is along the way a long road of parallel intent, then cooperation rather than conflict is the obvious relation that should exist in practice as it exists in theory.

This reminds me of Ayn Rand's conviction that there are no conflicts of interests between rational men. The point is to increase the number of rational men. I'm tempted to put quotes around "men" (like that, only, in this case I'm using quotes in accordance with the rules our English textbook used to teach), because Miss Rand wasn't excluding herself or any others of her gender.

The teacher of domestic science who realizes that commercial organization are interested in the same sort of education that she is striving to accomplish, will broaden the scope and strengthen the effect of her work by recognition of the fact. If she felt that all advertisements of foods were traps for the unwary, she would warn against them. If she felt that they are an educational factor of much good force, she will point to them for what they are. It is true, isn't it, that to know where knowledge may be found, and to be able to recognize it when found, is as important a phase of education as the mere acquisition of knowledge.
There is no purpose here to minimize the importance of teaching in schools the principles and practice of domestic science. It is the purpose only to point out that the field of real opportunity for worth while work for those trained in domestic science, is not limited to the profession of teaching. There is a big field for service, and for the profit which service supports, in the field of commercial activity. And those of us who have been living under the influence of the idea that the activity of business organizations offers opportunity only for the exercise of sordid selfishness will find a most agreeable surprise in excursions of thought and experience in the field of business.

Openness, honesty and honoring our neighbors' choices, as Dr. Mary Ruwart would say [the link is to the table of contents; if you read nothing else, read that], are the requirements of the Free-Market system. She emphasizes that neighborhoods and countries that practice these things are wealthier and happier than those in which aggression (either by private individuals or government) is rampant. I might say that God blesses us in this way, that when we act kindly and honorably we receive kindness and honor back in reward. When we produce something we are able to use that social interaction called trade to fulfill our needs and assist others in fulfilling theirs. God hasn't made such an imperfect world after all.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

I'm late to the dance on this one

But Mister Pterodactyl drew my attention to it and I finally got around to reading it. In case you're not up on your InstaPundit [or, in the case that you like me better than any of these guys, tell me when your birthday is; I'll send you flowers]:

"Every war with fascism is our business"

Mssrs. Pterodactyl and Chrenkoff have both written good introductions. Here's Chrenkoff's:3

Marek Edelman is the last surviving military leader of the heroic Jewish Uprising in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943. He recently spoke to a Polish television channel TVN24, and the interview has been re-published in a Polish weekly "Przekroj". It's not available anywhere else in English (or for that matter electronically), so I take this opportunity to translate and publish extensive excerpts from the interview. Edelman experienced evil many times in his long and distinguished life; he has also faced it and fought it bravely. What he has to say bears listening to.

We're well on our way to the

Silent Spring. It's June in Minnesota, people, and I have been bitten by one lousy mosquito. One stupid mosquito that had no inkling that I'd try to slap it. It's been raining cats and dogs, but the mosquitoes have checked out. I killed the bastard BTW.

Actually, it's not pesticides. Certainly not DDT, which, I've been convinced, the world needs more of and was only banned because of Rachel Carson's catastrophic, anti-human hyperventilations. (Can you tell I've been reading Lileks? I'm referring to the style, not the subject; he was talking about popsicles when I left him.) If it weren't for Minnesota's Own Norman Borlaug, the banning of DDT would have caused a collapse in human population. That means dead babies and poor people, people, and anybody out of favor with the ruling elite. [High pitched bleeding-heart liberal (BHL) voice, "Oh, no! Our ruling elite would only allow rich fat cats to die!"]

All that from a weather report. And, as you can imagine, he wasn't talking about any of that either.

The mosquitoes (spell-checker says I'm spelling that right, of course it wanted to make 'hyperventilations' into 'hyperfine' [what?!] and 'Carson's' into 'caressing') were killed twice by late frosts. Having May turn rainy was a blessing. I haven't wasted a nickel watering my lawn. An undeserved blessing from God, just like being born in America. But that's a whole nuther tirade. I'll get to that, I've been stewing on it for quite a while.

So. I'm against banning DDT. That must mean that I'm for polluting and poisoning and littering the Earth and all God's creatures.

Nope. I just believe that a complete ban on DDT was an overreaction. Here's the EPA's take:

Ruckelshaus said he was convinced that the continued massive use of DDT posed unacceptable risks to the environment and potential harm to human health.

No use isn't necessarily the proper response to massive use.

DDT was developed as the first of the modern insecticides early in World War II. It was initially used with great effect to combat malaria, typhus, and the other insect-borne human diseases among both military and civilian populations.

A persistent, broad-spectrum compound often termed the "miracle" pesticide, DDT came into wide agricultural and commercial usage in this country in the late 1940s. During the past 30 years, approximately 675,000 tons have been applied domestically. The peak year for use in the United States was 1959 when nearly 80 million pounds were applied. From that high point, usage declined steadily to about 13 million pounds in 1971, most of it applied to cotton.

The decline was attributed to a number of factors including increased insect resistance, development of more effective alternative pesticides, growing public and user concern over adverse environmental side effects--and governmental restriction on DDT use since 1969.

It sounds, as usual, as if the bureaucrats stuck their noses in so they could take credit after society had already solved the problem. Here's information on DDT's toxicity. I don't know how objective they are.

I wonder how it is that

these things aren't happening in America:

American shot to death in Saudi Arabia
Donna Abu-Nasr, Associated Press
June 8, 2004

The victim worked for Vinnell Corp., a U.S. defense contractor based in Fairfax, Va., the official said. Seven Vinnell employees were among the 35 people, including nine suicide bombers, who died last year in an attack on a Riyadh foreigners' housing compound.

I find it hard to believe that our security is that effective. If it is, why can't these oppressive regimes effect it. They certainly affect it.

Maybe it's that reputation we have as a bunch of gun-totin' cowboys.

Monday, June 07, 2004

There are many great tributes to Ronald Reagan

on the web. Allah Pundit slaps me for mine (not personally) and links to a pretty good one. The tributes and discussion in his comments section and the one to which he links, Jihad Watch, are well worth reading.

Joe Gandelman has quite a number of links, and a great slap at the extreme lefties' immoderate comments on Reagan.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

The Moderate Voice reminds me once again

of a failure on my part.

I have failed to include the Day by Day cartoon in my links.

Of course I forgot that the rotten machine, or rather rotten software, creates a huge gap whenever the image is wider than the space allowed for posting on the top of my front page, what with the links and all.
Image Hosted by
Now corrected.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

I have spent the latter half of my day

watching tributes to Ronald Reagan. [deleted non-sensical joke]

Ronald Reagan was the first president I was able to vote for. Jim Powell's book, The Triumph of Liberty, will tell you why I don't regret it one whit.

The tributes portray a true, American hero. I watched NBC. Tom Brokaw gave an account of Reagan's accomplishments that Rush Limbaugh can only envy. Of course I think they can afford to be generous when they're certain every "liberal" in America has turned to other entertainments. Here's the Washington Post.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who since 1962 from his seat in the Senate watched the rise of Reagan and with him the Republican resurgence, said: "We often disagreed on issues of the day, but I had immense respect and admiration for his leadership and his extraordinary ability to inspire the nation to live up to its high ideals."

Departing from the Democratic pattern, Kennedy went on to say that Reagan "will be honored as the president who won the Cold War." He also drew a direct connection between Reagan's handling of the Soviet Union and his brother's, saying that "his 'Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall' will be linked forever with President Kennedy's 'Ich bin ein Berliner.' "


“My family and I would like the world to know that President Ronald Reagan has passed away after 10 years of Alzheimer’s disease at 93 years of age. We appreciate everyone’s prayers,” Nancy Reagan said in a statement.

She had, and still has, mine.

To me, the greatest phrase ever uttered in public was "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

Update: I also think it's important to consider opinions from Black America Today.

MSNBC has a very cool Science blog

with many recent entries on the X-Prize, including Space race summer (what an awesome name, it deserves iconic status), Space race follow-up, Armadillo in the X Prize hunt and Space race readings.

For some reason it cuts off on April 30. The guy probably got the axe at the end of the month. Somebody'd better pick this guy up. He writes with such infectious enthusiasm, you just have to find out more.

Ah, he wasn't cut. For some reason I was stuck in there archive for April. I used my old pal Google to break out. ["He looked in the mirror to see what he saw. He took the saw and sawed the table in half..."]

Well, if you're sick and tired

of "the whips and scorns of time,
Th' oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay
," etc.,
sheathe that bare bodkin and submerge your consciousness in this:

Sausage-eating dog outsprints horse
From correspondents in London
June 3, 2004

A PERENNIAL bar-room debate among sports fans has finally been settled as a one-off inter-species race in Britain saw a top racehorse embarrassed by a retired, sausage-eating greyhound.

The 400m race at Kempton Park racecourse, just north of London, saw six-year-old horse Tiny Tim face off against canine hopeful Simply Fabulous, two years older and thus definitely middle-aged in dog years.

Tiny Tim entered the race as the bookmakers' clear favourite but was humbled on the track, with Simply Fabulous sprinting away to clinch the race by seven horse lengths - or around 15 dog lengths.

Thanks to Dave Barry and Catholic Packer Fan who led me to him via his links.

Friday, June 04, 2004

It looks like the feds are starting to abuse the PATRIOT Act

I came across this by following Ayn Clouter around. I started with her post here, then went to their main page where I saw this. A little Googling brought me to this article in the Houston Chronicle:

Biological art raises specter of terrorism
Associated Press

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Steve Kurtz's artworks look more like science projects than museum pieces. They offer social commentary along with objects such as corn plants and bacteria-filled petri dishes.

"It's not pictures on the wall," said Adele Henderson, head of the art department at the University at Buffalo, where Kurtz teaches.

And it's certainly not terrorism, the artist's friends say.

Last month, agents from the Joint Terrorism Task Force searched Kurtz's house after police who been called to his home to investigate his wife's death became alarmed when they found biological materials.

Kurtz says the material was for his art. But the stuff police found -- one of Kurtz's colleagues said it included lab equipment used for DNA extraction and amplification, as well as three types of bacteria -- was enough to trigger fears of bioterrorism.

Crews in protective suits spent two days removing materials from his Buffalo home. Testing for ricin, anthrax and plague turned up negative, according to the Erie County Health Department, which has since pronounced the home safe.

No charges were brought against Kurtz. Earlier this week, however, three of Kurtz's colleagues were subpoenaed to testify in front of a grand jury.

Kurtz has declined to comment. His attorney, Paul Cambria, did not return calls.

Officials with the FBI and U.S. Attorney's Office in Buffalo would not discuss the investigation.

Just so you know, here is a description of Kurtz's art (pictures available at that link):

Molecular Invasion

The current neo- and endocolonial initiatives by corporations attempting to consolidate the food chain and its markets from the molecular level on up presents anti-capitalist activists with a new biological front that requires a new set of tactical responses. Currently, activists are relying on traditional methods and means for slowing the corporate molecular invasion. While such activities are useful, they are also insufficient in and of themselves. Current radical practices, such as luddite oriented sabotage, seem to do more damage to the movement than to corporations. In our presentation, CAE will suggest new tactics and strategies that could be used to challenge corporate authority on the _molecular level_. CAE hopes to demonstrate that there is no place (physical, virtual, or molecular) that biotech corporations can act uncontested. By appropriating and reverse engineering corporate tools, resistant culture can effectively and efficiently fight the profit machine where ever it may reveal itself.

Now, I am not inclined to agree with Mr. Kurtz's politics and his fears - I think the Precautionary Principle is over-hyped - but I believe in the whole Bill of Rights, all ten Amendments, and it looks like the Feds are abusing the First in this case.

I got nothin' but this blog to offer for support, but if you can offer more check out

In case you don't ever check my links

- and, when I think about it, I try to make it unnecessary - here's a picture of Moller's Skycar. Or not. I can't seem to make it work. Maybe Image Shack got zapped for copyright infringement. Hey! I'm trying to help these guys advertise here!

Their servers are probably overloaded right now. Maybe if I click on some of their advertisers it'll help. If I get anything, I'll put it up as an update.

Here it is:
Image Hosted by

Ayn Clouter, a few days ago,

gave an example of government (in this case, actually the Kerry-Heinz family, but of course I see them as a branch of government - too bad they don't act as a check or a balance) screwing things up (disguised as a fix, sort of) so they could fix the resulting chaos:

Feed everyone beans at every meal, until the gagging of the olfactorily sensitive causes enough pressure to put through a heavy tax on the resulting constant farting. One part of the family takes your money to give you gas, which justifies the other taking more of your money to clean the air.

I still don't know exactly how to take that lady. I think I have ears to hear, but sometimes my service-worker's habit of practicing obtuseness in order to pass over rudeness on the part of my customers (though I am very pleased with the exceptional bunch I deal with these days) in order to continue serving them with a smile, spreads to other areas of my life. It helps me to remain happy, though sometimes it causes me to miss a good joke. And my main goal in getting a college degree was to make sure I didn't miss any jokes. Ah, such is life...

Things are moving along at Moller International

This shows how often I check in on my links.

Forbes Online

Vehicle of the Week
Flight Tech
Dan Lienert

The Skycar will debut at next month's WIRED NextFest in San Francisco. According to Moller, limited numbers of the Skycar are expected to be available within the next three years. These will be used for marketing demonstrators, special sales and military applications. A Skycar certified by the Federal Aviation Administration is more than four years away. In limited production (500 units per year) the Skycar is expected to sell for approximately $500,000, a price comparable to that of a four-passenger, high-performance helicopter or airplane. As the volume of production increases, its price could approach that of a premium automobile, $60,000 to $80,000.

Moller has over 100 reservations already for FAA-certified models. The Skycar's on-sale date will depend on how quickly the government certifies the vehicle. Presumably, lots of regulatory agencies will want to inspect the Skycar, which is expected to fly at over 350 mph with a range of 900 miles. As an aircraft, the Skycar will be easy for buyers to operate; a computer does the flying as the pilot simply moves the controls in the direction in which he or she wants to go. Still, the operator will need a pilot's license to use the Skycar.

Looks like the Brazilians might beat us in putting this thing into action:

Sao Paolo Renaissance

The only way to fully comprehend the sheer size of São Paulo is from a rooftop. Skyscrapers sit cheek-by-jowl for as far as the eye can see in all directions, and there's just as much activity in the air as on the ground. Because of the city's notorious traffic jams, the preferred way of getting around is by helicopter. The largest hotels, apartment buildings and office towers all have helipads, and the vista looks like something straight out of Blade Runner.

Only three times the size of Paris, São Paulo is the largest city in South America, and the third largest in the world. Its population has doubled in the past 30 years, and has now reached about 18 million people--including the largest Japanese population outside of Japan. What does that kind of space and numbers feel like? For the uninitiated, São Paulo is overwhelming. It's also not the most attractive city, with the majority of buildings showcasing decaying 1960's block architecture in shades of greige. The city has none of the natural beauty or carefree attitude of Rio de Janeiro. Conventional wisdom is to travel to Rio for fun and São Paulo for business, and the Paulistanos wouldn't want it any other way.

The world moves ahead.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

I see this point as well.

World Opinion Be Damned
America's attempts to appease "world opinion" are depraved and suicidal

By Alex Epstein

It is a testament to the perverse priorities of our politicians and journalists that the biggest American outcry over Abu Ghraib has been not about the gruesome decapitation of American Nicholas Berg by terrorists, but about the fact that many Arabs and Europeans are mad at us.

"We are the most hated nation in the world," laments Ted Kennedy, "as a result of this disastrous policy in the prisons."

The alleged solution to this alleged crisis of "world opinion" is to show more deference toward the rest of the world. Otherwise, we are told, the world's anger will bring more terrorist attacks and less "international cooperation" against terrorism.

All of this evades one blatant truth: the hatred being heaped on America over Abu Ghraib is *undeserved*. Throughout the Middle East, torture--*real* torture, with electric drills and vats of acid--is official policy and daily practice. Yet there are no worldwide condemnations of the dictatorships that practice such atrocities--let alone the Arab-Islamic culture that produces so many torturers. But when, during a war, a handful of American prison guards subject a handful of Iraqi POWs to comparatively mild humiliation--which the U.S. government denounces and promptly investigates--"world opinion" proclaims itself offended and condemns America.

That's not all of it, it's a copyrighted article at their website. Or will be soon. They didn't send me one I could publish myself, but at least I get advance notice.

Update: Ah! I should have known I'd find it here.

Here is a quick summary,

an exerpt of a summary, based on Ayn Rand's essay The Objectivist Ethics, from The Virtue of Selfishness:

...[W]hen one speaks of man's right to exist for his own sake, for his own rational self-interest, most people assume automatically that this means his right to sacrifice others. Such an assumption is a confession of their own belief that to injure, enslave, rob or murder others is in man's self-interest--which he must selflessly renounce. The idea that man's self-interest can be served only by a non-sacrificial relationship with others has never occurred to those humanitarian apostles of unselfishness, who proclaim their desire to achieve the brotherhood of men. And it will not occur to them, or to anyone, so long as the concept "rational" is omitted from the context of "values," "desires," "self-interest" and ethics." (30-31) "The principle of trade is justice." (31) People should earn what they get, not take it undeserved, and not give anything to anyone else who is undeserving. "To love is to value. ... The man who does not value himself cannot value anything or anyone." (32)

Emphasis mine. I'm not sure if the page numbers refer to the paperback or the hardcover, I don't have my copy with me.

Ayn Rand almost makes "selfishness" synonymous with "morality". But only if it is truly rational. And the key to rationality isn't only the ability to use formal propositional logic, though that's very important, but to have the words and concepts that you use refer to aspects of reality (as best you can).

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Sorry, I was too busy to

do any commentary on those articles. A lot of things came up today. Some of which it's against my unwritten rules to talk about, although this evening I was babysitting while my wife did some after-hours tutoring.

That was no chore, changing the baby and feeding her some cereal, and watching Rosie make things with red plastic plates, drinking straws and scotch tape. She made a raft with a mast and a couple of Jetsons-type houses. The she set them up in a little tableau, and sort of danced around them singing a story about what all the people were doing. Not very melodious, but very cute. When she gets going like that, I shut off the radio or the TV and just watch her. She'll be a great playwright someday.

These are things I value very, very highly. I will act to maintain my children's happiness as best I can. I would risk my life and defer many other pleasures for that higher pleasure. It also requires that I try to become a father that they can take pleasure in having. Long term and short term.

There are three articles out today

that more people need to read:

Productivity and the Ice Man: Understanding Outsourcing
by Anthony B. Bradley

Hysteria about job losses caused by overseas outsourcing ignores a crucial fact: Americans lose jobs primarily because people develop innovative ways to do things faster, better, and cheaper. In other words, human creativity is a double-edged sword, bringing productivity improvements and, very often, widespread job loss. The good news is that the net result is not fewer jobs, but more jobs—and more productive ones.

...Was the layoff caused by the introduction of a more productive technology, a smarter way to manufacture, or a shift in consumer preferences?

While the outsourcing issue has generated headlines, it is not the chief cause of job losses. Of the 2.7 million jobs lost over the past three years, only 300,000 have resulted from outsourcing, according to Forrester Research Inc., a technology research firm. Business Week Magazine reports that one percentage point of productivity growth can eliminate up to 1.3 million jobs a year.

Europe's new oppressors
By Richard W. Rahn

After the end of World War II, most European countries experienced rapid economic growth until the 1980s. Germany was considered an economical miracle because it went from wartime ruin to the highest per capita income in Europe.
The miracle came by abolishing price controls, instituting sound money, avoiding repressive taxes and regulations, and instituting the rule of law. Having achieved prosperity, the French, Germans and some of their neighbors began increasing taxes to redistribute income, and evolved into stultifying regulatory states.

Neocon Collapse in Washington and Baghdad
by Jim Lobe

While they were still riding high as U.S. troops consolidated their control of Iraq, the neocons' star began to wane already last August when it became clear that their and Chalabi's predictions about a grateful Iraqi populace were about as well-founded as their certainties about Hussein's ties to al-Qaeda and his WMD stockpiles.

Sensing trouble ahead, Rice asked former ambassador to India, Robert Blackwill, to return to the White House, where he had been her boss during the presidency of George HW Bush, the current leader's father (1989-93). By October, she and he had formed an inter-agency Iraq Stabilisation Group (ISG) that gradually wrested control of Iraq policy from the Pentagon.

It was a process in which Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) chief Paul Bremer, who had come to detest Chalabi and his neocon backers in Baghdad and Washington, was an enthusiastic participant and which was effectively completed with the announcement late last month that the State Department was taking over the $14 billion in reconstruction money for Iraq that the Pentagon has not yet spent.


The Objectivist take on Pat Tillman's "sacrifice"

From Pat Tillman: Fighting For His Self-Interest
by Joseph Kellard (May 29, 2004)

One must ask: why is Tillman's decision to fight anti-American terrorists to protect the freedoms and the country he loved not regarded as being in his personal interests? Why is his decision to put his life on the line in this war of self-defense considered "serving" his country's but not his own interests?

The main personal interest Tillman "sacrificed" by joining the army, according to every commentator, was the multimillion-dollar football contract he turned down. But Tillman valued, above all, his life and America, and that is precisely what made this decision selfish, not sacrificial. A sacrifice is an act in which an individual gives up a value for a lesser value or non-value. Tillman understood at some level that fighting the terrorists was of supreme, life-sustaining importance; that all other values will no longer exist if the terrorists win the war; that there will be no more football for him to play or millions for him to earned if they end his and our lives. Tillman thus put his life on the line in the war on terrorism, not because doing so was "the supreme sacrifice," but because he knew that life is the supreme value on which all lesser ones depend. He fought to preserve every rational value that was selfishly dear to him -- including all the achievements he attained -- and by extension his fellow Americans would benefit just the same.

"Sacrifice" is a dirty word to Objectivists, and I understand their reasoning which is well laid-out in this passage, particulary the sentence I've highlighted. Most people understand it to be a sacrifice when someone acts on a higher level value in their hierarchy, necessitating the foregoing of an action on a lower level value. This is in part because most people don't ever consider how their values are interrelated. Getting money is not worth much if the society, economy or country backing it is destroyed, or if the people with whom you want to share your wealth are killed.

This does not destroy a rational definition of heroism, which should be defined as acting steadfastly in support of your values in their proper hierarchy.