Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Rising Standard of Living

Don Boudreaux compares today’s Sears prices with the 1975 Sears catalog and finds that the average worker has to work fewer hours to buy many things.

Sears’ lowest-priced 10-inch table saw: 52.35 hours of work required in 1975; 7.34 hours of work required in 2006.

Sears’ lowest-priced gasoline-powered lawn mower: 13.14 hours of work required in 1975 (to buy a lawn-mower that cuts a 20-inch swathe); 8.56 hours of work required in 2006 (to buy a lawn-mower that cuts a 22-inch swathe. Sears no longer sells a power mower that cuts a swathe smaller than 22 inches.)

Sears Best freezer: 79 hours of work required in 1975 (to buy a freezer with 22.3 cubic feet of storage capacity); 39.77 hours of work required in 2006 (to buy a freezer with 24.9 cubic feet of storage capacity; this size freezer is the closest size available today to that of Sears Best in 1975.)

Sears Best side-by-side fridge-freezer: 139.62 hours of work required in 1975 (to buy a fridge with 22.1 cubic feet of storage capacity); 79.56 hours of work required in 2006 (to buy a comparable fridge with 22.0 cubic feet of storage capacity.)

Sears’ lowest-priced answering machine: 20.43 hours of work required in 1975; 1.1 hours of work required in 2006.

A ½-horsepower garbage disposer: 20.52 hours of work required in 1975; 4.59 hours of work required in 2006.

(HT: PrestoPundit)

State of the Union

I missed the President’s SOTU speech. Instead I watched the Lakers demolish the New York Knicks, 130-97. These speeches are generally two things: 1) warm, fuzzy banalities; and 2) a laundry list of how the President wants to spend other people’s money. Clinton’s SOTU speeches used to make me physically ill.

How is the state of the union? Damned shaky. Abroad, Iran has been at war with us since the hostage takeover of November 4, 1979, but the regime still exists to do us harm. At home, government power is growing a million ways. Individual rights are eroding. The American people are vulnerable to attack by our enemies and are shackled by our own government. We need radical change in the direction of laissez-faire capitalism.

That’s my assessment of the state of the union. Did I miss the President say anything like that while I was watching basketball?

UPDATE: Mike’s Eyes were on the President.

Jumping the Shark

As Tom Maguire notes, “24” will never jump the shark. Jack Bauer will kill the shark with his bare hands.

Sacrificial Lambs and Blond Beasts

Ever so often a Democrat will say something like, “We need to stop being nice guys. We need to be mean like the Republicans.” It sounds funny coming from the party that invented Borking, but they are sincere when they say it. They see themselves as moral and their opponents as immoral. They see themselves as victims of evil right-wingers. As I wrote in another post, a Democrat I know,

…used to express the fear that Jerry Falwell and the moral majority would put her in a concentration camp because she divorced her husband. Now, if you think about this for 10 seconds, you see how absurd her fear is. Concentration camps for divorcees? Those would be some mighty big camps. Among the prisoners would be Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh. That 10 seconds of reason was effort she never spent analyzing her fear.
She wasn’t interested in logic; she drew greater comfort in fantasizing about being a victim of right-wingers.

They see two moral alternatives, altruists or cynical egoists -- those who sacrifice themselves to others or those who sacrifice others to themselves. Since Republicans do not support socialism, but talk about a free market (or they used to talk about it; now they mumble about it sometimes), they must be cynical egoists, willing to walk over a mountain of dead bodies to get what they want. Every Republican success just confirms their immorality to the Democrats.

Leftists believe one can either be a sacrificial lamb to be slaughtered by the collective or a Nietzschean blond beast. Some on the left, such as the little Robespierre called Markos Moulitsas Zúniga (Kos), have decided to stop being sacrificial lambs and to become blond beasts. They think they are imitating Republican success by doing so. Woe unto America if these people ever claw their way to power.

There is a third moral theory, one that eludes both socialists and religious conservatives, rational egoism. By this theory, one should neither sacrifice himself to others nor others to himself, but treat others with reason. Anyone interested can read about it here.

Monday, January 30, 2006

So That's the Solution!

The UN has an ambitious plan to end health pandemics, poverty and global warming. How do we do that? Get rid of nations and give all power to the UN.

Republican Spending

John Fund wrote a remarkable piece, “The Republican Soul,” that looks at why spending has skyrocketed under Republican government.

The prescription drug bill may have temporarily taken Medicare "off the table" for the 2004 election, but Republicans will be bedeviled for decades by its rising costs and complexity. At current growth rates, Medicare, its cousin Medicaid and Social Security will consume a fifth of the nation's gross national product by 2020. That number represents the current size of the entire federal government.

So these geniuses, the Republicans, put through the biggest entitlement program since LBJ’s Great Society just so that Medicare would not be an issue in the 2004 election?

Here’s some more of their brilliant strategery:

What accounts for the dramatic increase in the number of earmarks? Jonathan Rauch, a columnist for the National Journal, says that after Republicans saw how difficult it was to reduce the size of government during the 1990s, Mr. DeLay and White House political adviser Karl Rove adopted a new model: First, build a political machine that would win a secure majority, and then tackle entitlement spending using free-market reforms.

Let me get their plan straight. They decided to increase spending so they could have a “secure majority,” then once they were “secure” they would decrease spending? But if increased spending is necessary for these titans of leadership to feel secure, you are asking them to feel less secure with subsequent spending decreases -- and how many politicians will vote in ways that threaten their power?

This is how the vaunted Republican revolution of 1994 ended up, with timid politicians expanding the welfare state in order to buy votes. It’s further evidence, if any was needed, that politics is the last place to effect meaningful change. First a culture’s philosophy must be changed; only then will politicians feel secure enough to vote for freedom instead of power.

(HT: Right Wing News)

Sunday, January 29, 2006

World Fascist Forum

The World Economic Forum met in Davos, Switzerland. Bill Clinton, Bill Gates and John McCain were there, as well as many beautiful celebrities. What is the World Economic Forum? Here is a statement on their web site:


The World Economic Forum is an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging leaders in partnerships to shape global, regional and industry agendas.
Leaders partnering with industry to shape their agenda? That’s socialism, specifically the form of socialism known as fascism.


The main characteristic of socialism (and of communism) is public ownership of the means of production, and, therefore, the abolition of private property. The right to property is the right of use and disposal. Under fascism, men retain the semblance or pretense of private property, but the government holds total power over its use and disposal. (Ayn Rand, “The Fascist New Frontier”)
Here is another statement:


The World Economic Forum is an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world. The Forum provides a collaborative framework for the world's leaders to address global issues, engaging particularly its corporate members in global citizenship.
What does all this vague, feel-good language mean? What does it mean to engage corporate members in global citizenship? I’m sure corporations are willing to sell their product to anyone in the world without the encouragement of the world’s leaders at the WEF. But helping corporations pursue a profit is not behind such warm and fuzzy words as “collaborative framework” and “improving the state of the world.” WEF is about some degree of state control of corporations to pursue altruist-statist-collectivist ends.

Bill Clinton knew who he was talking to at the Forum. As Michelle Malkin put it,

Clinton... kindled the fires of the Euro-pointy heads with lots of gooey "global society" talk--including ranking "climate change" and global inequality ahead of terrorism as the world's most serious threats and making insipid pronouncements about how "people basically want to know that we're on their side, that we wish them well, that we want the best for them, that we're pulling for them."

Good ol’ Bill, still feeling our pain. But to people whose heads are full of mush, mush sounds profound.

Reports Newsday:

"First, I worry about climate change," Clinton said in an onstage conversation with the founder of the World Economic Forum. "It's the only thing that I believe has the power to fundamentally end the march of civilization as we know it, and make a lot of the other efforts that we're making irrelevant and impossible."

Clinton called for "a serious global effort to develop a clean energy future" to avoid the onset of another ice age.

He also said the current global system "works to aggravate rather than ameliorate inequality" between and within nations _ including in the United States, where he lamented the "growing concentration of wealth at the top," alongside stagnation for the middle classes and rising poverty.

Clinton is pushing the scientifically dubious threat of another ice age to justify expanded state control over energy production. Then he laments the “growing concentration of wealth at the top.” What could that be but the veiled threat of redistribution of wealth?

I have stated repeatedly that the trend in this country is toward a fascist system with communist slogans. But what all of today’s pressure groups are busy evading is the fact that neither business nor labor nor anyone else, except the ruling clique, gains anything under fascism or communism or any form of statism -- that all become victims of an impartial, egalitarian destruction. (Ayn Rand, “The Moratorium on Brains”)
In Davos, Switzerland, Bill Clinton spoke to those who would be the world’s ruling clique.

Two Scenes

EXT. OLD STRIP MALL – NIGHT

Andrew and Colby walk past empty store windows. A breeze blows scraps of paper by them.

COLBY
This place is spooky.

ANDREW
Are you afraid?

COLBY
No. Yes.

ANDREW
I told you, I will find her if I have to scour the universe.

COLBY
That is a stupid thing to say. Absolutely idiotic. You want to know why?

ANDREW
No.

COLBY
I’ll tell you why. The nearest star to the sun, Proxima Centauri, is 4.22 light years away. Light travels six trillion miles in a year, so we're talking 25 trillion miles, give or take 100 billion. Traveling at .1c, one-tenth the speed of light, it would take you 42 years to get there, not counting time for acceleration and deceleration. .1c is 10,000 times faster than any man-made craft traveled in the 20th century. Therefore scouring the universe would take you, let’s see. [He takes a calculator from his pocket and punches the buttons.] Yes, scouring the universe would take until 10 minutes past the end of time.

ANDREW
I just hope I don’t have to drive to Orange County.

They stop in front of a club painted all black. Throbbing bass comes from the club.

COLBY
(reading the sign)
‘Hellfire. Abandon all hope.’ All right!


INT. HELLFIRE – NIGHT

Andrew and Colby look at the stalactites hanging from the ceiling. A crowd of DANCERS move in the gloom against dim red lighting.

A WOMAN IN BLACK LEATHER lounges in the corner flicking her cat o’ nine tails.

YVONNE, face powder white with black lips, falls into Andrew’s arms.

YVONNE
Would you stalk me in the black night, chasing me into an alley, where you threw my worthless body onto a pile of trash and raped me as rats scurried about us?

ANDREW
No.

YVONNE
Why not?

ANDREW
Because that would be evil?

Yvonne breaks away from him.

YVONNE
You pussy.

She disappears in the crowd.

ANDREW
What is this place?

COLBY
This is an S and M club. Your mysterious woman gets more interesting all the time.

Andrew sees Elise carrying a tray of drinks.

ANDREW
Elise! Elise!

Elise startles when she sees him. She flees into the crowd.

ANDREW
ELISE!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

$250 Billion Doesn't Buy What It Used To

Here’s a chart of the cost of American wars as percentage of GDP. As Hard Starboard puts it,

Turns out the cost to date of Operation Iraqi Freedom, as a percentage of GDP, is on a par with the Mexican War, Spanish-American War, and the 1991 Gulf War - a cumulative total of about 2% of a single year's GDP, or about $250 billion in today's dollars. This is in contrast to the War of 1812, Korea, and Vietnam (~10% of GDP), World War I (~25%), the Revolutionary War (~65%), the Civil War (~105%), or World War II (~130%).

(No future war will ever compare to WWII in dollar cost and lives lost. 1,020 Marines died taking some piece of crap atoll in the Pacific called Tarawa. Today we’d drop a fuel-air bomb, suffocate all the Japs and take the island with no casualties.)

(HT: Hard Starboard)

Kossacks On the March

The Kossacks have had it with Democrats pretending to be centrist in order to win elections. They’s going all out to push the party left. First, this piece in the Washington Post had this wisdom from a Dem lobbyist that outraged the Kossacks:

"The bloggers and online donors represent an important resource for the party, but they are not representative of the majority you need to win elections," said Steve Elmendorf, a Democratic lobbyist who advised Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign. "The trick will be to harness their energy and their money without looking like you are a captive of the activist left."

About which Kos wrote:

Here's notice, any Democrat associated with Elmendorf will be outed. The netroots can then decide for itself whether it wants to provide some of that energy and money to that candidate.

There's nothing "extreme left" with demanding Democrats act like Democrats, no matter how much these out-of-touch and self-important beltway insiders think it is.

A poll at Daily Kos asked, “Will you give money to an organization connected with Steve Elmendorf now?” 7% voted Yes, 93% voted “Not until Karl Rove marches in a peace protest.”

It will be interesting to see how much Kos’s threat hurts Elmendorf’s career.

Second, the Kossacks are pushing Democrat Senators to filibuster the vote on Judge Alito.

Politics, like economics is about gaining or losing at the margins. One of the fascinating things to be watching in the ’06 and ’08 elections is how the leftward push from internet activists affects swing voters. That’s if there is no economic or national security crisis. Such a crisis is the Democrats’ best hope for radically shifting opinion against the Republicans.

Pork Barrel Spending

Still laboring under the illusion that Republicans care about smaller government? Check out these graphs of pork barrel spending.

Big Things With Tentacles

It’s Gus Van Horn’s worst nightmare: giant octopus attacks submarine! There’s a scene in Victor Hugo’s Toilers of the Sea, which I have not yet read, involving a fight with a giant octopus. I thought the things were strictly fiction.

And then there is the giant squid.

(HT: Instapundit)

An Old Joke

Q: What's the worst thing about being an atheist?

A: There's no one to talk to when you have an orgasm.

Psychobabble

NewsBusters has a transcript of Keith Olbermann interviewing Maureen Dowd, a conversation between two paragons of liberal vacuity. Dowd reduces political-philosophical ideas to new age psychobabble. Here she is on Cheney and Rumsfeld:

What this is about, Dick Cheney wants to throw off all of these rules. He wants to go to war without permission, he wants to torture without permission, he wants to snoop without permission because he and Rummy were Ford officials at a time when presidential power shrank. They felt emasculated. They did not like it. They stewed about it for 30 years. Now they are trying to do everything they can to expand presidential power. So they're doing exactly what they want to.
On Clinton:

…when Bill Clinton would deceive, he would throw in a semantic clue that let you know he was deceiving. 'I did not have sexual relations with that woman.' We knew what he meant by that. You know, 'I did not,' about dope, 'I didn't break the laws of this country.' So it was sort of poignant and endearing. He would let you know he was lying, and then the right wing would come down so hard on him and overpunish him.
I guess she is saying the Republicans should have ignored Clinton because he is a pomo liar who shows a self-awareness of his lying as he lies. Instead, those thick-headed right-wingers were too obtuse to pick up his semantic clues, so they just treated his lies as lies.

And on Bush:

…he's just in a completely different reality. You know, they call us the 'reality-based community,' and they create their own reality, and so Bush is just in a bubble. And when you're in the bubble, you don't know you're in the bubble.
Cheney and Rumsfeld were emasculated, Bush is in a bubble -- it’s so much easier than thinking about the issues.

(HT: Michelle Malkin and Pajamas Media)

Initial Sexual Attraction

Here is a post I put up on the Forum for Ayn Rand Fans some time ago:

Initial sexual attraction is probably necessary for a romantic relationship to work, but it's not sufficient.

I once lived with a liberal woman. She was the only actor I had acted with onstage who was clearly better than I. I fell desperately in love with her talent and beauty. There was heavy sexual attraction in the beginning and we had good times together.

One day she said, "I feel sorry for the whales." I laughed. I thought she was joking! She was hurt.

The relationship was doomed, but I didn't know it. She would complain that I didn't respect her mind. I scoffed then, but now I see that she was right. I focused on her good qualities, hoping to ignore her lack of interest in anything deeper than the TV Guide. Doomed, doomed...

I was surprised when she left me. How could I be so blind?

It's Better Now

Looking through my old issues of The Intellectual Activist, in the June 9, 1983 issue I found a little piece on liberal bias in the media. The FBI released a report that supported President Reagan’s claim that Soviet agents had infiltrated the nuclear freeze movement. The FBI wrote, “The Soviets have initiated an ‘active measures’ campaign designed to penetrate, influence and mobilize the U.S. peace movement…. KGB officers have also collected personal and biographical information… to identify those peace activists who are likely to cooperate with the Soviet government….”

But that’s not how the media reported it.

“The FBI, contradicting assertions by President Reagan, has concluded that the Soviet Union does not ‘directly control or manipulate’ the U.S. nuclear freeze movement,” begand the Associated Press story. The FBI report “runs counter to President Reagan’s claim that the nuclear freeze movement is being manipulated by the Soviet Union,” said NBC News. The Times’ reporting was representative. Instead of stressing the findings about Soviet influence, it focused on another aspect of the study. It highlighted those quotes from the FBI refuting the straw-man allegation that the freeze movement is under absolute command of the Kremlin: “…we do not believe the Soviets have achieved a dominant role in the U.S. peace and nuclear freeze movements, or that they directly control or manipulate the movement…. The overwhelming majority of the nearly one million people that attended the June 12 rally were members of independent peace and civic organizations, and they attended the rally as an expression of legitimate concerns about nuclear weapons.” In the Times’ view, apparently, the important question is not whether Moscow has enough influence in the movement to suppress any mention of the Soviet military arsenal at a rally protesting the threat of nuclear arms; rather, it is only whether or not the hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in Central Park on June 12 were KGB agents.

The liberal media bias has not changed in 23 years. Unfortunately for the media, everything else has changed. In 1983 this kind of bias was noticed in a newsletter read by thousands; now it would be all over the internet and read by millions.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Two People Who Did Not Like Mozart's Music

Noel Coward
Ayn Rand

(I like the Requiem and some of the symphonies, but most Mozart gets boring fast. What I heard on the radio today as I drove to and from periodontal surgery had moments of interest surrounded by what sounded to me like filler. But you have to listen to music more than once to really appreciate it.

Happy 250th birthday, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.)

Another Blog Game

Here’s another, er, game (I refuse to use the M word) I stumbled across at this blog.

Four Jobs I've Had in My Life
Theatrical Carpenter (I was maybe the worst ever)
Bookstore clerk
Chinese Linguist
Radio Programming Analyst

Four Movies I Could Watch Over and Over, and Have
Ninotchka
M
Casablanca
Grand Hotel (first hour, anyway)

Four Places I Have Lived
New York City
Los Angeles
Okinawa
Lawrence, Kansas

Four TV Shows I Love to Watch
Lakers Game
Lakers Pre-Game Show
Lakers Post-Game Show
Lakers Halftime Show?

Four Places I Have Been on Vacation
Bajamar, Mexico
Las Vegas
Ashland, Oregon
Death Valley, California

Four Websites I Visit Daily
Gus Van Horn
Literatrix
Noodle Food
Instapundit

Four Favorite Foods
Cheeseburgers
Chinese food
Steak and Shrimp
Macaroni and Cheese
(Okay, I’m not a gourmet. I’m a middle class American.)

Four Places I Would Rather Be Right Now
Fiji
Hawaii
Australia
Between a woman’s legs
(I’ve only been to one place on that list.)

Four People I Am Tagging With This M---
I’d rather not bother people. Anyone who wants to play is free to.

About Kobe's 81 Points...

Kobe Bryant recently shot 81 points in a game, the second highest in NBA history, behind Wilt Chamberlain’s 100-point night. Forum Blue and Gold puts that performance in historical perspective:

On Wilt’s big night [100 points], it is rumored that the promoter for the game in Hershey wanted Wilt, with the collusion/cooperation of his teammates, to try to get as many points as possible.

His 78 point game was a triple overtime affair.

David Thompson’s 73 came as he was locked in a last night of the season scoring battle with George Gervin.

David Robinson had 9 guys (your Los Angeles Clippers) helping him eclipse 70, so he could overtake a young Shaquille O’Neal on the final night of the season for the scoring crown.

None of these things can be said about Kobe’s Herculian feat. No premeditation. No help from the other team. No scoring title on the line. No sideshow atmosphere of a game played in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

Just willing his listless team to a W.


Considering that there was no special circumstance, as in those other high scoring performances, one could argue that Kobe’s 81-point night was the single greatest offensive performance by one man in a game ever.

(Also, just for fun, check out this picture of Wilt Chamberlain. The referee behind him looks like a hobbit.)

Rayblogging

A summary of Ray Taliaferro’s opening monologue this morning:

Interesting morning. The Hamas victory in Palestine is the big story and will be for some time. There is a lot of concern from all around the world. Bush says we’re not going to recognize that democratic election unless Hamas renounces violence. Tony Blair said the same. Israel also says they have to renounce violence. Ray doesn’t know what they mean.

When did the United States of America ever renounce violence? Why have we spent trillions of dollars developing the biggest violence machine the world has ever seen? America is the only nation to drop atomic bombs. Total hypocrisy. Bush is the most hypocritical idiot we have ever had in the White House. His comments are not supported by his actions.

We committed violence to establish a democracy in Iraq. The only way that Bush and his gang of thugs and thugresses, that would be Condi, would talk to democratically elected people is if they are the ones he wants. Bush is about to be impeached in our democracy.

Think about the amount of violence Bush has used. We have become the biggest terrorist nation the world has known. He is such a bungling fool that he can’t even pronounce “renounce” correctly.

It is rhetorical excrement. He will only talk to the people that HE wants elected. Violence makes no difference. Hugo Chavez of Venezuela won his election. President Chavez has not once advocated pre-emptive strikes in Iraq, but Bush won’t talk to him.

They have to renounce violence. In other words, he wants Hamas to be better than the United States of America. He wants Hamas to have some form of democracy that is foreign to the neofascists who run the government of America. Bush tried to overthrow Chavez, even though he was duly elected.

Ray is opposed to violence. He’s opposed to Bush’s violence. Bush crushed hundreds of thousands of people on a pack of lies. Bush admitted he was wrong to invade Iraq.

So, what if democracy sweeps the middle east? And the Arab populations begin voting en masse for people and parties that the US doesn’t like? What do you think? What would the US do? Recognize those government or ask of them what they’re asking Hamas to do?

Why do you suppose George Bush is asking Hamas to renounce something that he will not renounce? He wants to use violence any time he wants to. The Palestinians threw out Fatah because they were corrupt. And Bush says he won’t recognize them unless they do what Bush won’t do? And what does it mean to renounce violence? Think about it.

Later:

Bush wants Hamas to get rid of its armed wing? Does that mean that Bush will get rid of the Pentagon? Does America not have an armed wing? Does not Bush kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people just because he wants to take over some country?

How did that bungling fool ever grab the reins of control of the US government, which has the biggest, deadliest, most destructive armed wing of any government in the world? So what does it mean to renounce?

Bush assaulted the democratic process in the US to gain control. That is so sad.

Something untold is going to happen. This is not a good time. This is not a happy time.

The renouncing of violence. The US does not renounce violence. Why should Bush expect other people to do so?

How can we demand of a duly elected government that it have better principles than we do?

(That was pretty much all of what Ray said in the first half hour of his show. A news reports, ads and four or five plays of a clip of Bush stumbling over his words filled the rest of the time.)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Super-Old Age

Let's consider a science fiction idea: super-old age.

If science ever gave humans the capacity to live many hundreds of years, I think the biggest challenge would be maintaining the will to live. Finding a reason to get out of bed in the morning would become increasingly difficult as the decades and centuries passed.

Once someone has met a challenge, and met it several times, the challenge loses interest. It becomes boring. The things that occupy most of us through life -- raising a family, financial security, career -- would have no appeal to the super-old one who has done all that once or twice. Anyone with half a brain would be rich by the age of 150, simply through the working of compounded interest; he could be irresponsible for his first century of life and still get rich in 50 years.

The super-old would turn to intellectual and artistic challenges to keep busy, but someday these would get old. If one has spent the years 224-235 of his life mastering ancient greek, will he be able to muster interest in latin? Or will he think, “Eh. Been there, done that.”

Let’s say a 90-year old with an active mind and a love of life develops a passion for sculpture. She wants to sculpt like Michelangelo and Milo. She dedicates herself to learning the art and after 20 years is pretty good. After 40 years she is the greatest sculptor that ever lived. She creates masterpiece after masterpiece -- 10, 50, 100… 200? At some point she will either get bored or find her artistic limit and begin repeating her early success, back when she was creating first rate art. Someday it will be time to move on, probably to mentoring young sculptors. The day will come when teaching loses interest.

Boredom is a minor nuisance to us now, but to the super-old, it would be a matter of life and death. Finding values, nurturing them and keeping them alive would become an industry in such a culture. People with active minds and a passionate love of life would do the best in super-old age, but even they would find their limits.

If humans could live to say, 400, I believe the greatest cause of death for those over 300 would be suicide. If everything has lost its value, what is the point of continuing existence? Sitting around all day bored out of one’s mind is no way to live. Those who lost the desire to move and eat would die; cause of death: terminal ennui.

The threat of bad philosophical premises would grow with age. To someone who believed this world is an illusion and the world after death is reality, super-long life would be sheer torment. Those who believe that man is by nature corrupt and doomed to fail would have a hard time finding and maintaining values to live for. It might be that only the exceptionally rational make it past a certain age.

Perhaps the greatest gift the super-old could have would be the capacity to forget. If one had a 40-year old body at the age of 340, and had forgotten the family he raised three centuries back, then getting married and raising children might appeal to him. People might even develop techniques to forget the past in order to keep values fresh.

These musings are science fiction now, but someday they might be very real concerns.

The Value of Non-Objective Art

When I worked as a paralegal/legal proofreader, walking the halls of big law firms in Manhattan, I wondered why they had non-objective art on the walls. Is it just social metaphysics, going along with the art establishment because that impresses people?

I’ve come to think that those law firms see a different value in non-objective art: interior decoration. A painting with colors, whether neat or sloppy, that do not represent something you would see in reality, is a high-priced patch of wallpaper. It’s pleasant and decorative, like the pattern in a bedspread.

Non-objective art can be ignored; it doesn’t demand the attention of a harried paralegal scrambling to get documents in order for a billion dollar merger. Real art would be distracting in a fast paced business environment.

Non-objective artists as interior decorators; it’s quite an insult, isn’t it? Let’s hope the con artists get plenty of dough from their Wall Street patrons. They need it to afford their psychotherapists.

Am I the only one...

…who thinks Cox and Forkum sounds like the punchline to a dirty joke?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Bureaucrats and Facts

Mike has some interesting points about government scientists’ disdain of facts.

As I mentioned in my post "Is that a Fact?" science today has become an establishment and in an establishment facts don't matter. In her essay "The Establishing of an Establishment" 1972 Ayn Rand Letter about government support for the arts Miss Rand wrote "Governmental encouragement does not order men to believe that the false is true: it merely makes them indifferent to the issue of truth or falsehood."

We can see this principle unfold almost daily right before our eyes in all the disaster predictions of our "reputable" scientists, politicians and media. But if you ever doubted the veracity of her principle, the next quote should remove that doubt once and for all. From the article:

"Speaking on a panel that included the agency's (EPA) current chief, Stephen Johnson, they generally agreed that the need to address global warming is growing urgent, and that the continuing debate over what percentage of the problem is caused by human activities is a waste of time.

'Why argue about things you can't prove?' said William D. Ruckelshaus, who served under Richard Nixon from 1970 to 1973 and Ronald Reagan from 1983 to 1985."

There you have it. "Why argue about things you can't prove" lets just go ahead and ram our agenda down the peoples' throats with a congressional gun. Facts? Truth? Falsehood? They're just "a waste of time."
Environmentalist bureaucrats act like philosopher kings who know better than everyone else because they have a special insight into the realm of platonic ideals. (Mike also makes a good point about Ruckelshaus and the DDT ban.)

Clinton and McCain

Lately I have read a flurry of opinions that Hillary will never be president. Big Lizards says it’s time for Hillary to move on. Arianna Huffington is anti-Hillary, as are Andrew Sullivan and Molly Ivins. Democrats don’t like her much.

I still think she is the one to beat, simply because she has the organization and fund raising might. But three years is a long time and anything could happen.

John Hinderaker thinks Hillary can’t win. In that post he also writes some positive words about John McCain:

Yesterday, I heard John McCain on Michael Medved's radio show. It was a reminder of how good McCain can be. And how conservative: the first caller said that McCain is regarded as a moderate Republican, and asked, what is the difference between a moderate Republican and a moderate Democrat? McCain responded, "Well, first of all, I'm a conservative. I have a lifetime rating of 82% from the American Conservative Union, and the only reason it isn't higher is because a lot of conservatives disagree with me on campaign finance reform. So, I'm a proud conservative."

Later, a caller asked McCain whether he was critical of President Bush's telephoning the anti-abortion demonstrators in Washington. McCain said not at all; this was a tradition that goes back to President Reagan. McCain said that he has a 27-year pro-life voting record. He was unapologetic and unequivocal.

McCain's age is an issue, but not an insurmountable one if he comes across as mentally and physically vigorous in three years, as I'm pretty sure he will. We and other conservatives have parted company with McCain on several important issues, most notably taxes and regulation of political speech. But he will be a powerhouse Presidential candidate, and it may not take too much to win over conservative Republicans like me. Especially if the choice comes down to McCain or a Democrat like Hillary Clinton, whom I'm pretty sure McCain would trounce.

This is depressing because it's a sign of how the Republican base will rally around McCain. Their loathing of Hillary Clinton is so great that they will easily forget his weaknesses. His popularity with the media, swing voters and the few moderate Democrats left makes him electorally attractive. He’d wipe out any Democrat. The Republicans, who care about power more than individual rights, will gladly back a sure winner.

I’ve written about McCain here. In a Clinton-McCain contest I’d vote for the Democrat in a hearbeat. A return to gridlock would remind Republicans that they used to stand for smaller government, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. I fear I am in a small, small minority among registered Republicans.

I think the next President of the United States will be a man who exhorts Americans to “sacrifice for a cause greater than self-interest.” And he means it. He has suffered greatly for America. He’ll make sure the rest of us suffer, too.

Today's Deep Thought

The Three Stooges were three ugly men who abused one another, with no love interest for the women in the audience. Can you imagine pitching that to a Hollywood studio today?

Planet Discovery

Centauri Dreams posts about the discovery of a rocky world 20,000 light years away through a process called microlensing. I guess that just five years ago such a discovery would have been thought impossible.

Sonnet 129

This sonnet by Shakespeare must be one of the philosophically worst things he ever wrote. See if you can figure out what it’s about. It’s a little hard to understand on first reading.

William Shakespeare, Sonnet 129

Th' expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action; and, till action, lust
Is perjured, murd'rous, bloody, full of blame,
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust;
Enjoyed no sooner but despisèd straight;
Past reason hunted, and no sooner had,
Past reason hated, as a swallowed bait
On purpose laid to make the taker mad;
Mad in pursuit, and in possession so;
Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
A bliss in proof--and proved, a very woe;
Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream.
All this the world well knows; yet none knows well
To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.

It’s a real medieval Christian attack on sex. Brilliantly done, too. The poem is technically stunning. Many lines have a Ciceronian balance on each side of the caesura. How much did Shakespeare believe it and how much was just an exercise in a standard literary conceit?

As this web site notes, other Renaissance poets took up the same idea. Here is Philip Sidney:

Thou blind man's mark, thou fool's self-chosen snare,
Fond fancy's scum and dregs of scattered thought,
Band of all evils, cradle of causeless care,
Thou web of will, whose end is never wrought;
Desire, desire I have too dearly bought,
With price of mangled mind thy worthless ware ...
Sidney, No.31, Certain Sonnets (1598).

What gorgeous language! It strikes me as ironic that he’s wallowing in the sheer, sensual beauty of the English language as he denounces sex.

With Shakespeare it’s always hard to tell exactly what he believes. He wrote something different in Antony and Cleopatra:

Kingdoms are clay. Our dungy earth alike
Feeds beast as man. The nobleness of life
Is to do thus, when such a mutual pair
And such a twain can do't.
AC.I.1.35-8.

That web site says about this passage, Shakespeare “was able to celebrate sexuality as a glorification of nature.”

Sometimes I think he was just a pure dramatist who was able to make any character say what was needed without putting his own beliefs into it. Ben Jonson was the opposite, a fiery moralist whose point of view breathes throughout his plays. Was Shakespeare able to compartmentalize his values from his plays? Could a passionate valuer do this?

My 10 Favorite Comic Artists

10. Bill Everett
9. Will Eisner
8. Barry Windsor-Smith
7. Frank Frazetta
6. Lou Fine
5. Jim Steranko
4. John Buscema
3. Steve Ditko
2. Jack Kirby
1. Alex Raymond

Four on that list are exquisite draftsmen with flawless anatomy: Frank Frazetta, Lou Fine, John Buscema and Alex Raymond. The other six are more cartoony but possess the visual imagination that made comics what they are: Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Jim Steranko, Will Eisner, Barry Windsor-Smith and Bill Everett.

My absolute favorite is Alex Raymond. He drew the Flash Gordon comic strip in the 1930’s. I never saw his art until I was 30. Walking through a comic store, I came upon a picture of Flash Gordon fencing with Ming the Merciless. It stopped me in my tracks. “That’s the way it’s supposed to look,” I thought. Since then I’ve bought many reprint books of his strips. His bodies are tall, heroic and beautiful, as no other artist has quite been able to imitate, although in the ‘40s they all tried. His thick brushstrokes are enough to make a comic art lover swoon. The worlds he created in Flash Gordon and Jungle Jim are the most romantic in the history of comics.

Alex Raymond created the superhero comic. His influence is all over Golden Age comics. Even in the Silver Age of the ‘60s you could see traces of his influence in Buscema, Kirby and Al Williamson. If he has a weakness, it would be that his characters are a bit too 19th century by the standards of what comics became with the great visionaries Kirby, Wally Wood, Ditko, Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino and others. Raymond’s characters lounge around in beautiful, relaxed poses like you might see in classical paintings. Superheroes need more dynamic, powerful poses.

One thing I regret about today’s comics is that they have gotten away from the thick brushstroke style of Raymond, with deeply spotted blacks that give realistic shadows. Contemporary style uses a thin ink line instead. (Windsor-Smith is one of the pioneers of the thin line, along with Neal Adams and George Lopez, but I give him a pass because the world he created in Conan is a triumph of imagination.)

And then there are those bleeping manga eyes that make comics look like Saturday morning cartoons. I can’t stand that; it’s un-American. Between the deterioration of the art and the influence of naturalism in the stories, the superhero comic is dead. Fortunately, we still have the product of comic art’s efflorescence, around 1935-1975, in reprint.

UPDATE: Rewrote this a bit.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Senator Boxer and John Ziegler

I heard a bit of the John Ziegler Show tonight. He went to a press conference held by Senator Barbara Boxer (D, California), in which she announced she would vote against Judge Alito for the Supreme Court. He asked the Senator some tough but fair questions.

In his first question he asked how Alito can threaten Roe v. Wade when there are not five votes against it yet. He asked her to name the five judges who would vote to overturn Roe and she named two, Scalia and Thomas. The Senator also said something to the effect that Ziegler is the only person in America who does not know the Alito vote is about a woman’s right to choose. (If I were Boxer, I would have said, “If Alito is not the fifth vote against Roe, then he is a step in that direction, a step we do not want to take.”)

In his second question he asked her about her comment on Alito’s ruling in a case concerning a black man whose jury was 12 white people. She did not think the black man was tried by a jury of his peers. Ziegler asked if she thought blacks and whites were not peers.

It’s interesting that twice, as Senator Boxer evaded his questions, she threatened to call his boss. Her response to questions from an unsympathetic journalist was intimidation. The implied threat was that she would use her power as a Senator to get him fired. Imagine the outcry on the left if a Republican Senator threatened to call a liberal journalist’s boss!

This is just another glimpse at what liberals really think of free speech rights. They love to talk in fuzzy bromides about free speech and civil rights, but there’s an iron fist in that velvet glove. If they can get away with it, liberals will use their power to shut up any speech they find inconvenient.

Just Wondering...

Thanks to Noodle Food to linking to my post on Matriotism. My traffic went up as a result. Now, how much traffic must I have to get one of those ads featuring hot women wearing right-wing t-shirts?

And speaking of hot women and blogs, I see that Day By Day comic strip by Chris Muir on various blogs. I have one question about it. Why do those beautiful women hang around dweebs?

The McCarthy Era

David Bernstein at Volokh Conspiracy does something novel -- he gives us some facts about the McCarthy era. For instance,

The first chairman of the House committee that was the predecessor to HUAC, Samuel Dickstein, was probably a Soviet agent.
And,

The first federal prosecution under the Smith Act (later used to prosecute CPUSA leaders) was the prosecution of eighteen leaders of the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party 1941. The CPUSA not only applauded this action; Party leaders assisted in the prosecution.
The old line says that history is written by the winners. The liberals must be the winner of the McCarthy era, for the story we’ve been told about it ever since has been a liberal myth about evil right-wingers persecuting innocent people. Check out the facts.

(HT: Pajamas Media)

Jogging to the Abyss

Matt Welch at Hit and Run links to this commentary piece by Veronique de Rugy and Nick Gillespie on Bush’s spending. Here is how Bush compares to presidents of the recent past:

In fiscal 1965-68, Lyndon Johnson raised discretionary spending a whopping 33.4 percent (all figures are adjusted for inflation and based on Office of Management and Budget data). He jacked up nondefense discretionary spending 34.2 percent and defense spending -- remember Vietnam? -- 33.1 percent.

Consider how some of the presidents after him performed.

Richard Nixon cut total discretionary spending by 15.2 percent, mostly by slashing defense spending almost a third. Over two terms, Ronald Reagan increased discretionary spending 15.3 percent, largely due to a 38 percent increase in defense spending. With the Cold War over, George Herbert Walker Bush's cuts to the defense budget allowed him to reduce total discretionary spending by 3.4 percent -- even as he goosed nondefense spending by a robust 13.9 percent. In his first term, Bill Clinton actually reduced total discretionary spending 8 percent; in his second term, he increased it a relatively modest 8.1 percent.

Then there's George W. Bush. In his first term, he increased total discretionary spending 35.1 percent and that percentage will actually rise: the final figures for fiscal 2005 aren't in yet, so we have to rely on the July OMB midsession review numbers. The final numbers will be significantly higher, especially since midsession figures do not take into account hundreds of billions in supplemental spending related to Hurricane Katrina and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

How has the president spent so much? Defense spending has greatly increased, by 37.2 percent over four years. But the president also increased nondefense discretionary spending by a humongous 37 percent. Even when you subtract homeland security spending, Mr. Bush and Congress boosted nondefense discretionary spending by 23 percent during his first term.



Bush has followed the governance of his father. In the Intellectual Activist issue of November 1, 1988, Peter Schwartz looked at George Herbert Walker Bush.

He is an old-line Republican liberal, one who when running for the nomination in 1980 attacked Reagan from the left, and whose campaign now consists of trying to appeal to the entire political spectrum.

In his “conversion” to Reagan conservatism, Bush has given up much of his former secularism and is now a staunch opponent of abortion and supporter of a Constitutional amendment prohibiting it. He also favors a Constitutional amendment to encourage prayer in public schools….

But there was much more in that speech designed to satisfy the liberals. He said: “I am going to do whatever it takes to make sure the disabled are included in the mainstream.” He promised the elderly that, with respect to Social Security, “I’m not going to let them it away from you.” He spoke about ensuring “equality” and "economic empowerment” for women. He talked about caring for the homeless, the urban poor and the environment….

Bush has a vast laundry list of liberal causes, half of which he may believe in, and half of which he probably defends in order to appease liberals. He wants a higher minimum wage, he wants hundreds of millions of additional federal funds to be funneled into the public school system, he promises farmers not to cut their subsidies, he vows to appoint a Hispanic to his Cabinet, and he says that “we have a moral obligation to assist the developing countries… [and] what is called for is a new wave of flexibility from banks, international financial institutions and governments.”

…He even argues that producing wealth is an ignoble activity unless it is put to charitable use. “It is legitimate to ask, what is the end purpose of this economic growth? Is it just to be rich? What a shallow ambition. Is there really any satisfaction to be had in being the fattest country?”

Every weakness of the current Bush -- pragmatism, liberal big government and religious conservatism -- is merely a continuation of his father’s policies. And his father’s policies grew out Reagan’s policies. Conservatism is a sham. The Republicans are a party of big government, just slightly not as big as what the Democrats want.

The Republicans Party’s greatest asset is their enemy, the Democrat Party, which has gone so far left that they make the Republicans look responsible. The Democrats want to sprint to the abyss of dictatorship; the Republicans want to take us there at a leisurely jog.

Judging by the record, the best situation for America is the gridlock that results from a divided government, with a Democrat president and a Republican congress. Under the gridlock of the Clinton years our race to the abyss slowed to a walk. Gridlock buys us time to spread a rational philosophy that I hope will change enough minds to turn us away from the abyss.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Democratic Battle Plan

Let’s take a look at Dr. Tom More’s “Democratic Battle Plan” as he wrote at Daily Kos.

1. The Republicans are incompetent. We know what we're doing.

The first sentence is true. I would like to see some evidence to support the second sentence.

2. The Republicans are corrupt.

Many of them are. If attacking corruption works, make the most of it. Republicans are getting most of the money from lobbyists because they have the power. Buying off Democrats has become a waste of money.

3. Leave Iraq Now.

Why? Do you want us out because our mission in Iraq is purely sacrificial with no benefit to America’s national security? I could be persuaded by an argument along those lines. Do you want us out because the war was started by imperialistic neocons in order to fill their bank accounts? I don’t buy it; I think the neocons are serious when they talk about America’s mission to bring freedom to the world.

4. Smart, strong national defense and homeland security.

You’ll have to get more specific than the words smart and strong to convince anyone Democrats really care about national defense. It’s better to avoid this issue as the Republicans have owned it since when, the Civil War? Homeland security is nonsense. The only way to make America safe is to destroy terrorist states.

5. Repairing alliances around the world.

Meaning that America should sacrifice its interests in the spirit of egalitarianism to every nation that is less powerful than us, which is every nation. I want the opposite: America should weaken alliances in order to show the enemy that we will let no consideration for any other country interfere with our self-defense. Let America stand alone, selfish and proud. Let those who would do us harm tremble.

6. Investing in America's future.

It is not the proper role of the government to invest in the future. The individual is responsible for his own future. If you want to make it easier for individuals to ensure their future, reduce the size of government and taxes.

7. Personal freedom and shared responsibility.

Personal freedom is good; I think you’ve got an issue here that will resonate with Americans. Shared responsibility is collectivism; this is a bad idea that I hope will go nowhere.

8. Don't be afraid.

First Molly Ivins talks about Democrats riddled with fear, now Dr. Tom More. I think you leftists have spent so much time and energy turning the Republicans into the evil boogieman that you have come to believe it. If Democrats are seriously afraid of Republicans, I have to say, that is pathetic. The Republicans are mostly backslapping deal-makers and no-nothing boobs. What’s to be afraid of? (I think the Dems are really afraid that voters will see how far to the left they are and reject them at the polls.)

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Matriotism

Cindy Sheehan has authored a statement of her ideology, called Matriotism. If I tried to explain it, you would think I was unfairly satirizing her position. You have to read it to believe it.

Sheehan doesn’t think much of patriotism.


…patriotism in the US means: exploiting others' love for country by sending them and their children off to sacrifice for my bank balance!
Why Matriotism?

Not everyone is a mother, but there is one universal truth that no one can dispute no matter how hard they try (and believe me, some will try): Everyone has a mother! Mothers give life, and if the child is lucky, mothers nurture life. And if a man has had a nurturing mother he will already have a base of Matriotism.

Of course, everyone has a father too, but… never mind.

Sheehan observes that we were on the path to Matriotism after 9/11, but something horrible happened.

After the tragedy of 9/11 we were on our way to becoming a fledgling Matriotic society until our leaders jumped on the bandwagon of inappropriate and misguided vengeance to send our young people to die and kill in two countries that were no threat to the USA or to our way of life. The neocons exploited patriotism to fulfill their goals of imperialism and plumder.
The important thing to remember here is that this new age drivel is not coming from some obscure crackpot, but from a crackpot who is a hero to the liberal-left. Last August the media kept busy during its slowest month (called by some the “silly season”) by shining its spotlights on Cindy Sheehan. She and people like her have a real influence on the Democrat Party, which is still one of the two major political parties in America. These people are forcing the party to the left, or at least forcing it to stop its centrist pretense.

I have to think that the wiser hands in the MSM will soon realize, if they have not already, that giving this woman publicity hurts the Democrat Party.

(HT: Little Green Footballs)

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Recent Rock Listening

1. “Topaz” – B52’s
2. “All I Want” – Cure
3. “Campaigner” – Neil Young
4. “And Your Bird Can Sing” – Beatles
5. "Roll Over Beethoven” – Chuck Berry
6. “Gimme Some Truth” – John Lennon
7. “Hold Me” – Ten Years After
8. “Morning Will Come” – Spirit
9. “Leave Me Be” – Zombies
10. “Nothing’s Changed” – Zombies
11. “Whenever You’re ready” – Zombies
12. “Gotta Get A Hold Of Myself” – Zombies
13. “Without Rings” – Neil Young
14. “On the Beach” – Neil Young
15. “Monkey Man” – Rolling Stones
16. “Charlotte Sometimes” – Cure
17. “In-Between Days” – Cure
18. “A Night Like This” – Cure
19. “Pictures of You” – Cure
20. “Letter to Elise” – Cure
21. “Painbirds” – Sparklehorse
22. “Rainmaker” – Sparklehorse
23. “Chaos of the Galaxy/Happy Man” – Sparklehorse

Advice from Inside the Liberal Cocoon

Molly Ivins is advising Democrats to be full-throated liberals, not Republicans-lite. This strategy has not been tried since McGovern’s landslide defeat in 1972 because of, well, McGovern’s landslide defeat in 1972.

She gives a lot of poll numbers to support her position:

What kind of courage does it take, for mercy's sake? The majority of the American people (55 percent) think the war in Iraq is a mistake and that we should get out. The majority (65 percent) of the American people want single-payer health care and are willing to pay more taxes to get it. The majority (86 percent) of the American people favor raising the minimum wage. The majority of the American people (60 percent) favor repealing Bush's tax cuts, or at least those that go only to the rich. The majority (66 percent) wants to reduce the deficit not by cutting domestic spending, but by reducing Pentagon spending or raising taxes.

The majority (77 percent) thinks we should do "whatever it takes" to protect the environment. The majority (87 percent) thinks big oil companies are gouging consumers and would support a windfall profits tax. That is the center, you fools. WHO ARE YOU AFRAID OF?

I don’t know where she gets those numbers, but if they are accurate, then an open, principled liberal should win in ’08 in a walk. So what’s wrong with the Democrats? Can’t they read poll numbers like Molly Ivins? She has an explanation:

You sit there in Washington so frightened of the big, bad Republican machine you have no idea what people are thinking.
Well, that explains it. The Democrats’ minds are so damaged by terror of Republicans that they can’t understand opinion polls.

Or maybe they know something about those poll numbers that Molly Ivins doesn’t know.

I would love nothing more than for the next election to be about the minimum wage, socialized health care, more taxes, bigger government and more regulations. Let’s have an exhaustive look at the arguments from both sides. Let’s just debate the issues and not have any politics of personal destruction from either side. Let’s get Paul Krugman to debate Thomas Sowell. Let’s get experts from the left against experts from the Ayn Rand Institute. I’ll take that any day.

Please, Democrats -- listen to Molly Ivins.

(HT: Real Clear Politics)

UPDATE: Mark Coffey and AJ at Strata-Sphere have thoughts on Molly Ivins.

Humor and Politics

Tim Blair links to an article exploring why the best humor comes from the right.

O'Rourke may have nailed the self-imposed shackles worn by "progressive" comics in the introduction to Reptile. There he wrote that when a conservative sees an old woman slip and fall on her butt he'll say, "You shouldn't laugh at that." But a liberal, in the American context, will say, "You cannot laugh at that." Implied, of course, is the threat to make such an admonition legally enforceable.

The Book Game

Gus Van Horn and The Secular Foxhole did the Book Game lately. When I started this blog I sacrificed a bull to Jupiter and vowed never to use the word “meme.” Since I don’t want to be struck by lightning, I’ll call it the Book Game.

Number of books owned: 3-4,000

Last book bought: Don Carlos by Friedrich Schiller, adapted by Mike Poulton. Still have not read it.

Five books that mean a lot to you:

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. My favorite novel.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. I linked to the out of print 1936 Cambridge Edition, which has been my companion for 30 years now.

Ibsen: The Complete Major Prose Plays, translated by Rolf Fjelde. Great romantic playwright, misunderstood in the 20th century as a naturalist. He used to complain that actors played his characters too small, that they didn’t understand his characters were titans of passion in realistic settings. Chekhov, a real naturalist, understood Ibsen and complained that people don’t act like that; by his standards, they don’t. Do not read the dry 19th century translation by Archer.

Playwriting by Bernard Grebanier. Best book on the subject, now out of print. His ingenious theory of plot construction helps in the difficult process of structuring a play. But there are no silver bullets that replace hard work.

Complete Plays with Prefaces by Bernard Shaw. I paid $90 to get this out of print set used. Yes, Shaw was a Fabian socialist, but he is such a mocker that he can’t seriously espouse anything. He is just a brilliant comic observer of human nature. His characters are witty and fun.

The speech at the end of “Too True to Be Good” (1932) is, I believe, the greatest speech in 20th century drama. It is a preacher lamenting that modern philosophy has killed everything to believe in and left western civilization with nothing but skepticism. Here is the ending of the speech:

No: I must have affirmations to preach. Without them the young will not listen to me; for even the young grow tired of denials. The negative-monger falls before the soldiers, the men of action, the fighters, strong in the old uncompromising affirmations which give them status, duties, certainty of consequences; so that the pugnacious spirit of man in them can reach out and strike death-blows with steadfastly closed minds. Their way is straight and sure; but it is the way of death; and the preacher must preach the way of life. [A white sea fog swirls up from the beach to his feet, rising and thickening around him]. I am ignorant: I have lost my nerve and am intimidated: all I know is that I must find the way of life, for myself and all of us, or we shall surely perish. And meanwhile my gift has possession of
me: I must preach and preach and preach no matter how late the hour and how short the day, no matter whether I have nothing to say --

The fog has enveloped him; the gap with its grottoes is lost to sight; the ponderous
stones are wisps of shifting white cloud; there is left only fog: impenetrable fog; but the incorrigible preacher will not be denied his peroration, which, could we only hear it distinctly, would probably run --

-- or whether in some pentecostal flame of revelation the Spirit will descend on me
and inspire me with a message the sound whereof shall go out unto all lands and realize for us at last the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory for ever and ever. Amen.

In a world in which modern philosophy has destroyed all absolutes, the mystic is left hoping for a revelation. Neither Shaw nor his character could conceive a better solution to the west’s predicament. (Historically this pendulum swing from skepticism to faith has happened time and again, in the Hellenic age, the Renaissance and now.) It’s philosophically flawed, but one does not read Shaw to learn philosophy. The portrait of a man struggling to find the way of life even though it is impossible is dramatically moving; it’s the best one could hope for in 1932.

UPDATE: I forgot Last Book Read: On the Razzle by Tom Stoppard. Hilarious farce.

Playing Hardball with Free Speech

The left is in a lather because Chris Matthews on “Hardball” mentioned the fact that Osama bin Laden in his latest message sounds like Michael Moore. Daou writes:



"Bin Laden sounds like Clint Eastwood" -- "Bin Laden sounds like Ron Silver" -- "Bin Laden sounds like Rush Limbaugh" -- "Bin Laden sounds like Bill O'Reilly"-- "Bin Laden sounds like Mel Gibson" -- "Bin Laden sounds like Bruce Willis" -- "Bin Laden sounds like Michelle Malkin"... Imagine the outrage on the right and in the press (but I repeat myself) if a major media figure spat out those words. Well, on Hardball, Chris Matthews just blurted out that Bin Laden sounds like Michael Moore. Simple: Matthews should apologize. On the air. This has NOTHING to do with Michael Moore and everything to do with how far media figures can go slandering the left.
Tom Maguire has more on the flap.

I must point out that leftists often compare Christian fundamentalists to the Islamic fundamentalists who are our enemies. They are right to make this comparison -- fundamentalists of the two religions do have similarities. Is it acceptable to compare the religious right to the enemy, but unacceptable to notice when Osama sounds like a leftist critic of Bush?

Matt Stoller writes:



This is not about Michael Moore, this is about what it means to be an American. Are we a country of strongmen who thrive on bullying and accusations of treason, or can we tolerate divergent views?
Chris Matthews did not accuse Michael Moore of treason. He did not suggest that Moore does not have a right to express his anti-American opinions. All he did was point out that Osama sounds like Michael Moore.

Stoller asks: Can we tolerate divergent views? We do tolerate them. Leftists are not persecuted by the state for expressing anti-Bush opinions. But that is not what they mean by toleration; they want the media to abstain from criticizing the left. The left holds toleration to mean freedom by the left from criticism of their criticism.

When Clinton was president, many of his critics found themselves audited by the IRS.



…the IRS audited Klayman's group and a long list of organizations and individuals critical of Clinton, including Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers, Juanita Broaddrick, former White House travel office head Billy Dale, and Katherine Prudhomme, who during an open forum asked Vice President Al Gore about Broaddrick's rape accusation against Clinton.
Also audited were:


…the Heritage Foundation, Concerned Women for America… the National Rifle Association, Oliver North's organization and dozens and dozens of other individuals and organizations that crossed the administration or threatened to do so.

The list is a virtual who's who of Clinton "enemies."


Coincidence? Or did Clinton use state power to persecute those who spoke out against him?

And remember the White v. Lee case in Berkley, in which HUD threatened a $50,000 fine against citizens protesting a homeless shelter?

The left is acutely aware of the importance of free speech because it is working against them. Now they use the banner of free speech to stifle speech they don’t like. Any speech they cannot tolerate, they label as "intolerant." It's a neat trick.

You want “Hardball”? If the Democrats ever get back in power, we can expect them to use the full panoply of government agencies -- FCC, SEC, HUD, IRS, EPA and countless others -- to crush dissent. Today's Democrats are to the left of what they were just 20 years ago. Leftists take to power like fish to water. They will see nothing wrong with using the power of the state to silence evil right-wingers. They’ll make Clinton’s use of the IRS look like softball.

UPDATE: Rick Moran of Right Wing Nut House looks at this flap.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The Coming War

Joe Katzman at Winds of Change has a long piece considering the possiblility of war with Iran.

I personally believe that we're very likely to see at least 10 million dead in the Middle East within the next two decades, with an upper limit near 100 million. I do not believe pre-emptive action will be taken against Iran. I do, however, believe the extremist mullahs in Iran mean exactly what they say. They are steeped in an ideology that believes suicide/murder to be the holiest and most moral act possible. They have been diligent in laying strategic plans for an offensive Islamic War against Israel, America and the West. Plans backed by 25 years of action, and stated no less clearly than Mein Kampf. I believe that Ahmedinajad's talk of 12th Imam end-times and halos around his head at the UN aren't the ravings of an isolated nut, simply an unusually public (and unusually noticed) expression of beliefs that are close to mainstream within their ruling class. That class of "true believer" imams and revolutionary guard types have been quietly consolidating their control over all sectors of Iranian society over the last few months, and I do not believe anyone in the world today has both the will and the capability to stop them. A key pillar of The Bush Doctrine is about to fail.

Fisking a Republican Gasbag

Peggy Noonan’s latest piece in OpinionJournal is called “Not a Bad Time to Take Stock,” subtitled, “Thoughts on the decline of the liberal media monopoly and the future of the GOP.” She is good on the decline of the liberal media monopoly but bad on the future of the GOP:

…the Republican Party--the party ultimately helped by the end of the old monopoly and the reformation of news media--must be a good party, a decent one, and help our country.
I imagine Republicans across the land are slapping themselves on the forehead and exclaiming, “So that’s what I should have been doing! Helping our country!” Every politician in America, including communists, neo-nazis and members of the Earth Liberation Front, thinks he is good, decent and helping our country.

Ms. Noonan explains what she means in the next paragraph, which begins, “That it regain a sense of its historic mission.”

That it stop seeming the friend of the wired and return to being the great friend of Main Street, for Main Street still, in its own way, exists.
I assume she means Republicans stopped being the great friend of middle class Americans and started seeming to be the friend of wiretappers and lobbyists.

That it return to basic principles on spending, regulation and state authority.
I think you’d have to go back to Goldwater to find a Republican who was strong on those principles. Reagan made a feeble effort, but the budget doubled during his presidency. He was a pragmatist at home and abroad who had a weak grasp of the principles he orated so well. And he empowered the religious wing of the Republican Party, which ever since has been a growing threat to freedom.

That it question a foreign policy that often seems at once dreamy and aggressive, and question, too, an overreaching on immigration policy that seems composed in equal parts of naiveté and cynicism.
When Peggy Noonan tries to sound profound her meaning gets vague. Is she saying the neocon foreign policy is unrealistic and brutal? How is Bush’s immigration policy overreaching? How is it naïve and cynical? What on earth does she mean?

That its representatives admit that lunching with lobbyists is not the problem; failing to oppose the growth of government--so huge that no one, really no one, knows what is in its budget--is. That they reduce the size and power of government.
That is a good point.

That they help our country.
That is a sissy thing to say.

Is that a sissy thing to say?
Yes.

Sorry.
Okay.

But today is the 25th anniversary of the coming to Washington of modern conservatism, and the rise to power of a Main Street romantic who was also a skeptic and an appreciator of human nature. Not a bad time to take stock.
It’s a great time to take stock, but a bad time to bloviate. She must be writing about Ronald Reagan here. She admires him. She thinks it is important that he was a Main Street romantic, a skeptic and an appreciator of human nature. What is her point?

Republicans in Washington struggle with scandal and speak of reform, and reformation. They would better think of words like regain, refresh, rebuild.
Ah, I see her point. Republicans should replace their old meaningless generalities with new, higher toned meaningless generalities.

If they don't, if Republicans don't choose to lead well, and seriously, and with principle, they should ask themselves: Who will? Seriously: Who will?
No one will. Seriously: No one. The same as it has been for the last 70 or 80 years.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

School For Statists

Steven Brockerman writes about a progressive education trend in homeschooling called “unschooling.”


Based on the premise that the child knows what, how & when he wants to learn, unschooling is child centered & child led--that is, the focus is on giving the child the "freedom" to control the curriculum & instructional methodology of his education.
What if a child doesn’t feel like learning the alphabet or the multiplication table, but instead wants to finger paint and play dodge ball? I suspect the teacher ends up wasting a lot time accommodating the child’s whims in order to get him to spend a some time on the important subjects.

Mr. Brockerman links to this opinion piece by Glenn Woiceshyn of the Ayn Rand Institute, “‘Socializing’ our Students for Anarchy.”

Progressive education has probably done more to destroy the American character of individualism than any other program or institution. This is not an accident. John Dewey explicitly stated the collectivist goals of progressive education.

The Progressive philosophy maintains that the cause of social strife is the unwillingness of an individual to sacrifice his convictions to the group. Dewey maintained that it is the insistence on distinctions such as "true versus false" and " right versus wrong" that generates social conflict. If only children did not hold strong ideas, disagreement and conflict would evaporate in the sunshine of social harmony. Truth, therefore, is socially fractious--while ignorance is bliss.

Hence, what the Progressives mean by "socialization" is the surrender of one's mind--of one's independent knowledge and judgment--to a "group consensus." According to Dewey, "The mere absorbing of facts and truths is so exclusively individual an affair that it tends very naturally to pass into selfishness. There is no obvious social motive for the acquirement of mere learning, there is no clear social gain in success thereat."

Progressive education is an explicit assault on independent thinking. It trains children not to look at the facts of reality to decide what is true, but to the consensus of the group. There can be no better method to destroy young minds. Instead of teaching children to think, progressive education teaches them to be part of a mob.

Progressive education does not promote social harmony, but plants the seeds for the use of force. As Leonard Peikoff writes in Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand,

...there are only two basic methods by which one can deal with a dispute. The methods are reason or force: seeking to persuade others to share one’s ideas voluntarily -- or coercing others into doing what one wishes regardless of their ideas.
To the extent a child’s capacity for reason is destroyed, he will turn to force, either his own or the state’s. Fortunately for “social harmony,” most children learn to think for themselves to a limited degree, despite the efforts of progressive education to turn them into group-thinking shmoo.

Freedom depends on rational individuals committed to dealing with other individuals through persuasion. Statism depends on force. Is it a coincidence that leftists favor a theory of education that destroys independent thought? Independent thinkers do not need to use force and do not need the state to use force on their behalf. The more progressive education kills children’s ability to think, the more statists it will create.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Conan the Grammarian

Here are a few mistakes in English usage I often see. Setting myself up as the grammar police is dangerous, because I make mistakes all the time. When you bang out a blog post, it’s easy to mangle syntax or let a solecism slip by. Now that I’ve covered my ass, let me get to the point.

1. Alright is not a word. It should be all right. People get confused by already, which is a word.
2. Most should not be used for almost, as in “Most everyone knows.” They are two different words. Using most for almost sounds too colloquial, like the writer is affecting a country hick persona.
3. Hopefully should not be used to mean I hope. The sentence “Hopefully, we will go” means “We will go full of hope.” At least, that’s what it should mean. In contemporary usage it means “I hope we will go.” This one is probably a lost cause.
4. Which or that? My sense is that the evolution on using these words has actually improved in the last half century. Old writers often use which when I would use that. I try to use that unless there is a comma, which prompts me to use which.
5. Disinterested does not mean lacking interest, it means not standing to profit.
6. Enormity does not mean big size. An enormity is an evil act of great size. Most people mean something like magnitude when they use this word -- and almost no one uses it right nowadays. The dictionaries have accepted the contemporary usage of enormity as big size, but I hate to see the original meaning lost.
7. “I feel badly about that” is accepted today, but I still use “I feel bad about that.” “I feel badly” makes me think “I don’t touch things well,” but that’s probably wrong too. Another lost cause.
8. Lite beer does not have less carbs, it has fewer carbs. It does, however, have less taste.
9. In “Touch Me” by the Doors, Jim Morrison sings,
“I’m gonna love you
Till the stars fall from the sky for you and I”.

In “When Doves Cry,” Prince sings,
“Dig if u will the picture
Of u and I engaged in a kiss”.

In both cases they should have written me instead of I. Writing u instead you, however, is perfectly fine. If u r a moron.

The Marketplace of Ideas

I once gave a piece on welfare by Neal Boortz to a lifelong Democrat to read. Her reaction was, “Neal Boortz seems like a bad man.” That was it. Instead of thinking about the points he made, her mind thought something like, “Boortz is a rich white man who doesn’t care about poor people. He is bad.”

Calling conservatives bad people is an obsession on the left. They can’t escape it. All their arguments sooner or later get to how immoral their opponents are. On the issue of Iraq, for instance, they think the chickenhawk argument is profound and important. Neocon politicians do not do the actual shooting and dying -- stop the presses! From the beginning of time old men have sent young men off to die in wars, but liberals seem to think this phenomenon began with neoconservatism.

When they turn abstract political issues into matters of character, they simplify the argument. How nice it must be not to have to think about complex issues, but merely to point a finger and say, "Bad person!"

That same Democrat I mentioned in the first paragraph used to express the fear that Jerry Falwell and the moral majority would put her in a concentration camp because she divorced her husband. Now, if you think about this for 10 seconds, you see how absurd her fear is. Concentration camps for divorcees? Those would be some mighty big camps. Among the prisoners would be Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh. That 10 seconds of reason was effort she never spent analyzing her fear.

This might sound cruel, but I think any liberal over the age of 40 is beyond hope of persuasion by logical argument. After so many years of sloppy thinking a mind is rendered incapable of thinking well.

It’s amusing that liberals boast of being the “reality-based community” because conservatives believe in God. It is true that conservatives are out of touch with reality to the extent that they believe in supernatural beings, but liberals are even more out of touch. They have been cut off from reality by concepts formed by modern, irrational philosophy. The political concepts of the Old Left were shaped by Marxism; the New Left by multiculturalism, feminism, environmentalism. Old or New, their ideas are altruist-collectivist-statist. Their ideas are at war with reality.

Young people today don’t fall for leftist ideas to the extent they did in the past. In the 1930’s and ‘40s, there really were no alternative ideas. The left had ideas, the right had bromides. Today our culture is different. What ideas you hear come from the right; the left is now the side with worn out bromides.

The competing ideas makes it a little harder for leftists to use the argument from intimidation. In the past they could shout "Bad person!" and young people would go along with the left, terrified that if they think something different, they will be called bad. I hope that all the competing ideas make it a little harder to accept the sloppy thinking that atrophies a mind.

Again, this will sound cruel, but I think America’s best hope for the future lies in aging leftists dying off. Some will be replaced, but not all. That’s progress.

Don't Ignore This Cassandra

Cassandra keeps track of MSM-DNC lies. What a great project! Gotta love the internet. She found 54 in 2005. I’ll bet she finds more in 2006 -- it’s an election year. (HT: Daily Pundit)

I Got Yer Reform...

Stephen Moore of Club for Growth supports John Shadegg to replace Tom Delay in the Republican leadership. (HT: Professor Bainbridge)

"We're going to find out whether Republicans have an appetite for a substantial reform agenda against pork spending, out-of-control budgets and deal-making politics as usual in this town." Those were the words that conservative Rep. John Shadegg of Arizona used when he announced his 11th-hour candidacy for the House Republican leader's slot vacated by Tom DeLay.
After decades of listening to politicians, I have come to regard the word “reform” as an empty generality like “motherhood” or “the environment.” Ross Perot’s Reform Party stood for nothing except that they weren’t Democrats or Republicans. That’s probably why Perot got 19% of the vote in 1992; had he actually taken a stand on any issue he would have gotten less of the vote.

McCain likes the reform banner. With him it means more government and less freedom.

Wasn’t Al Gore supposed to reform government when he was Vice President? That’s a sure sign that Gore had no actual function in the Clinton Administration. Being tasked to “reinvent government” is the domestic equivalent of being sent to funerals in Africa. What contempt Clinton must have had for Gore to put him in charge of reform!

Those who tout reform accept the premise of big government, they just want it done more efficiently. In the long run, reform never changes anything. At best it might make some marginal changes for awhile.

We need radical change, not reform. For instance, why does the Department of Agriculture exist? The annual budget is $19.1 billion and it has never grown an ear of corn. I remember an anecdote back in the ‘80s, I don’t know if it’s true or not, in which a Department of Agriculture bureaucrat was asked why he looked so sad as he sat at his desk doing nothing. “My farmer died,” he said. We could eliminate the whole department tomorrow and the only people to notice would be the bureaucrats who lost their jobs. The rest of us would only notice that our food got better and cheaper as the free market made agriculture more competitive.

How about the Department of Education? That’s an annual budget of $71.5 billion! We didn’t even have this department until Carter. Are we getting more education now?

Then there’s another Carter creation, the Department of Energy, with a budget of $24.3 billion.

That’s just the beginning of what must go. We could probably cut over $2 trillion before we got to a function that government should be doing, such as justice or defense. If we did that, our standard of living would soar through the clouds.

UPDATE: Amusing typo fixed. The budget of the Department of Energy is not $24.3, but $24.3 billion.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Basketball and Self-Interest

I’m a basketball fan. It’s a beautiful game. Watching the players move as a play develops is fascinating. And the athleticism is amazing.

I still remember the first time Michael Jordan caught my eye in the mid-‘80s. He was on the baseline and he jumped toward the basket. At the point that most humans begin their descent, he continued ascending.

Two things I hear all the time during broadcasts bother me.

1. Giving back. Basketball players talk about giving back to the community, meaning their charity efforts. This implies that they have taken something from the community in the first place. The money they took in salary and endorsements was a trade. Owners pay players because they expect to make a profit. Fans buy tickets to be entertained. Basketball players have taken nothing they need to give back.

Someone like Magic Johnson provided so much value to so many millions of people when he played that it is an injustice to imply that he owes anyone a damned thing. It is we who owe him gratitude for providing with his play the concrete image of human greatness. People struggling to pursue goals, sometimes overwhelmed by doubt of their eventual success, could look at Magic Johnson and see that values can be achieved on this earth.

Because altruism and collectivism dominate our culture, every NBA game has commercials full of basketball players doing social work, usually with children. It’s fine if they want to do spend time inspiring kids. There is nothing wrong with that -- although I suspect that a lot of players don’t really care about children, they just do these photo ops to improve their image.

Pictures of basketball players doing social work are not inspiring. Charity is insignificant compared to a their achievement on the court. When they play the game, that is when they give the most value to the world.

Those charity commercials disgust me. It is as if NBA players feel they have to apologize for their greatness by humbling themselves. “If we read to children and feed bums, will you leave us alone and let us play basketball?”

That is how the morality of sacrifice twists our culture. We make midgets out of giants.

2. Selfless play. When a basketball player passes a lot, he is called “unselfish.” Is it selfish to want to win the game? If passing helps a team win, then isn’t it just as selfish as shooting?

Some players such as Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson shoot a lot because they are great scorers. They put the round ball in the cylinder. Getting the basketball to their hands, especially at crunch time, helps win games. Players pass to them because they want to win.

Players who shoot too much to the detriment of the team are not selfish, they’re bad. They don’t last long on the team. They don’t get big contracts. They don’t win. What is so selfish about shooting too much when it does not help a team win? In the long run it is self-destructive.

It is ridiculous to hold passers as some sort of moral exemplar -- St. Lamar of the Hardwood, who sacrifices himself so that selfish Kobe can get all the glory! All elements of the game should have one purpose: to win the game. The educated basketball fan knows that a pass can be as important as a score.

The Poetry of Armando

The following is satire. I have taken lines from Armando’s posts at Daily Kos and put them into bogus free verse. No line has been repeated. I think this stuff is funny, but you might not.

This is not to be taken seriously. These “poems” are outrageously unfair to Armando. Lines and words have been ripped from context, distorting their original meaning.

Why Armando? Something in his writing spoke to me.


Wingnuts

wingnuts
wingnuts
wingnuts
wingnuts on parade
wingnut republican
wingnuts
wingnuts
wingnuts

wingnut hacks
wingnut nominees
wingnut handholding
extremist wingnuts
this particular wingnut
is a wingnut
if the wingnuts
from the wingnuts
more wingnut handholding

so it's a wingnuts stomp bush day
uh oh, the wingnuts aren't buying it
so much for the intelligence of the wingnuts
bush: the wingnuts' waterboy
they got their wingnut

what a lovely stink bomb to throw
into the middle of the wingnuts


Learn a Lesson

Learn a lesson from the Republicans.
The national message is
how bad the other guy is.
And how reasonable you are.
And how good you are on those things
they think you are good at.
It is an old story I know,
but it works.
Always has.


Don't Mess With Wolcott

Wolcott rips me.
Ouch.
You don't want Wolcott ripping you,
as I now can say from first hand experience.

Wolcott reteaches that lesson.

You never want Wolcott on your ass.
You definitely don't want Wolcott on your case.
Don't fuck with Wolcott.
Well in this case, there is a corollary –
don't capture Wolcott's attention,
if you are a Wingnut.

Don't mess with Wolcott.


Do Pigs Fly?

Do I expect the Republicans
and their pundit allies
to insist on defending
the principle of separation of powers,
after all their
pontificating on this principle
over the years?
Do pigs fly?

There is no emptier concept
than the idea of a principled Republican.
That is an extinct species.


Shame and Decency Have Disappeared

Horrible.
What a disgrace.
Simply ridiculous.
Despicable.
Despicable.
This is simply despicable.
Despicable.
Despicable.
Detestable conduct.
Disgraceful.
Disgraceful bigoted past.

In case we had forgotten.
Callous, worthless, despicable, heartless.
Have I told you lately that Republican politicians are
despicable?
It can not be said enough.

So far it is all rip. Now to take it up a notch:
Criminal.
What a douchebag.
Condescending, insultingly sexist and lost in space.
This boggles the mind.

Finalize the blame now.
Nothing is beyond Republicans. Nothing.
A new Republican low.
I think most Right Wingers are not happy.
The weakness is obvious.

Shame and decency have disappeared.

I have been merciless in my criticisms.


What Bush Likes

Yep, Bush likes
lunatic wars
with substantial American casualties,
destroying alliances,
building space-based missile shields,
quagmires,
poor performing economies,
tax cuts for the rich,
record budget deficits,
destroying social security,
ignoring the terrorism threat,
etc.

Yeah, big unpopular ideas like that.

Bush will never learn. Will you?


He Said That?

You gotta be shitting me.
He said that?
He has no clue.
Or he's a bald faced liar.
Or both.


The Problem

That's the problem
with being a shill –
you'll twist yourself
into such a posture of ridiculousness
you can't even tell when your head
has been firmly tucked
into your nether regions.
You weren't seeking the light anyway.


I’m Listening

Tell me what I am missing,
on all the issues.
What did I not understand?
What point did I unfairly dismiss?
Why?
Understand what I am saying here.
I don't mean did you not convince me.
What I mean is
where I simply did not
absorb and engage
your thoughts.
Talk to me.
I'm listening.