Thursday, April 29, 2010

Palm Pre Plus - Verizon gets WebOS

Yay. Finally got WebOS on Verizon.  Two major gripes fixed:
  • Keyboard seems to no longer ddoubblee uupp lleetteerrrs when typing.
  • GPS is now available to non-VzNavigator applications - most importantly - Google Maps.
Now if only they could boost general performance and fix the other gripes of mine.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Prophets and Death Threats

This was supposed to have been a quick piece about South Park being squelched on Comedy Central over the Prophet Muhammad but I've taken more than a few hours to write this so I guess it's not so quick anymore.  Ayaan Hirsi Ali provides the synopsis:

Last week, Zachary Adam Chesser—a 20-year-old Muslim convert who now goes by the name Abu Talhah Al-Amrikee—posted a warning on the Web site following the 200th episode of the show on Comedy Central. The episode, which trotted out many celebrities the show has previously satirized, also "featured" the Prophet Muhammad: He was heard once from within a U-Haul truck and a second time from inside a bear costume.

For this apparent blasphemy, Mr. Amrikee warned that co-creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone "will probably end up" like Theo van Gogh. Van Gogh, readers will remember, was the Dutch filmmaker who was brutally murdered in 2004 on the streets of Amsterdam. He was killed for producing "Submission," a film that criticized the subordinate role of women in Islam, with me.

Later in the article, Ali suggests "spreading the risk":

Another idea is to do stories of Muhammad where his image is shown as much as possible. These stories do not have to be negative or insulting, they just need to spread the risk. The aim is to confront hypersensitive Muslims with more targets than they can possibly contend with. 

This idea was previously presented and implemented by Dan Savage.  I think it's well meaning but I can't help but feel annoyed that I have to even think about this at all.  But it has to be discussed.

So I began by contemplating the creation of such a cartoon, which led to me asking this question about the cartoon campaign: In the process of spreading the risk and relieving your own stress, might you also be pandering to irrationality?  I don't think it's enough of a solution to give these people more targets.  Clearly, the most extreme among them have no qualms about orchestrating elaborate schemes to kill thousands in a single blow.

What we are dealing with here are thugs who are hiding behind the protection of religion.  Why do I say that?  Well... first of all, they decide that someone has broken some kind of moral law and they take the law into their own hands.  Regardless of the mental gymnastics that precede action, they decide that positive action to enact murder or injury is justified.  No trial, no jury, no rule of law.  This is the equivalent of gang "justice" on every level.

In a civilized society, the right to use physical force is the exclusive domain of the government.  The principle behind such a right is an individual's right to life and thus to retaliate against someone who initiates force against you.  It is delegated to the government for the sake of removing force from irrational whim and instead implementing an objective framework of laws which determine when it may be used.

You might say that examples of such violence are merely the actions of an extremist few.  But the whole process sounds systemic.  Some leader utters a few veiled threats and then waits for the lunatic fringe of their community to spring into action.

You've recently heard outspoken clerics tell the world that women cause earthquakes.  Where are the Muslim leaders who should be denouncing this lunatic fringe vocally and publicly?  Why don't they shame their lunatic fringe for their words and actions?

Moreover, do they have the moral standing to do so?  Maybe not.  According to Ali's article, murder would seem to be considered just so long as the killers are "commanding right and forbidding wrong".  And ultimately, I suspect that this is the root of the problem.

Faith is inherently non-rational.  It is the acceptance of beliefs and allegations which cannot be integrated from sensory evidence.  This isn't in itself a license to murder but you throw into the mix the right and duty to enforce your morals on others and you can no longer call your religion peaceful.  You may claim that they are misinterpreting it but articles of faith tend to be broadly interpretable and ultimately can be anything you want them to be - even if that means you get to be a killer and maybe a martyr.

I don't think it fights this system in any meaningful way to draw more comics starring the prophet muhammad.  This entire problem is the culmination of a long line of bad ideas.  Fundamentally, force must be answered in force.  However, for private citizens, action is also possible to to isolate the exponents of these ideas and to oppose them.

Can we enact sanctions against its organizations?  In the least, we should petition the government to withdraw tax exempt status for religious organizations of any kind, but since I don't expect tax laws to change overnight, we should start with cutting of any organizations that openly tolerate incitement to murder.  Further, I think that the company which provides name resolution and webhosting services should cut off and refuse to provide further services to groups such as if they wish to live their lives free of death threats whenever they encounter disagreement.

I also don't want to rule out change from within the Muslim community.  If you consider yourself to be a peaceful Muslim American, I call on you to denounce violence and murder (and incitement to the same) as vocally and publicly as you can, wherever and however it is suggested.  These killers are hijacking the ideas that you hold dear.  They must be opposed and cut off from your support - both moral and material.  Do not financially support any organization who would approve of or be silent about any kind of violent action.

Ultimately, we are Americans.  And as Americans, or anyone living in a free society, we should hold sacred our right to hold an idea, speak on it, and disagree.  People should be angry about any kind of gang justice that goes on in their own back yard - religious or not.  Force must be answered with force.  If not, the ideas underlying our our country are already a faint memory.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Quiet... I'm reading.

If it seems as though I've been a bit quiet these last few days, I apologize. I've been engrossed in reading some interesting writing by a gentleman named David Harriman, whom has published a series of articles on the relationship of Physics and the Inductive Method.

The Objective Standard has the following biosketch for Harriman:

David Harriman

Mr. Harriman is the editor of Journals of Ayn Rand and a senior writer for the Ayn Rand Institute. He has worked as a physicist for the U.S. Department of Defense and he has taught philosophy at California State University San Bernadino. He has lectured extensively on the history and philosophy of physics. He is currently writing two books: one demonstrating the influence of philosophy on modern physics (The Anti-Copernican Revolution), and another presenting Dr. Leonard Peikoff’s theory of induction (The Inductive Method in Physics).

I heard this guy's name while listening to Peikoff's 2007 Lecture of the DIM Hypothesis and I've been reading ever since.  I'm enjoying myself.  It's like a trip down memory lane plus some philosophical perspective.  :)

The articles are lengthy and I'm quite engrossed but I'll be back soon.  Promise!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Facebook Lockdown and Purge - How and Why I Do It

This is in answer to fellow Objectivist, Rachel Maegan, whom asked about my "Facebook Lockdown and Purge", that I describe my procedure and my reasons for doing so.

My procedure basically involves going through my list of friends, one page at a time, and asking myself how much I've been in contact with this person, how I presently value that contact, and what the prospects are for potential future social intercourse of the valuable sort.

I have a number of friends lists set up but I have designed a couple in particular that serve to restrict access to my profile and contact info.   I have one called "Limited" which cuts you off from my contact info, and I have another called "Super Extra Restricted" which only gives you the bare bones minimum of access to my profile.  If you are on this list, you are likely to be deleted in a future purge.

I roll through my friends list one page at a time, and if anyone jumps out as someone I haven't had positive interaction with in a while, I either put them on a restriction list or I delete them outright.  In some rare cases, I promote people by granting them access to my contact info.  These are generally people I see in person at least once a month.

Why lockdown rather than deleting?  Well, because Facebook is a social networking tool and sometimes it is easier to locate people when you have a friend in common, there are situations where you want to keep connected to someone who is a hub of a network without interacting with them.  That is a darn good use of "Super Extra Restricted".  At some point, when you have enough direct links to that network yourself, you remove the person you were using as a hub.

Why do I delete people I have friended?  Often times, I friend people on FB while I am still getting to know them initially.  I have met many people over the past couple years from dancing and it's a good tool for learning and retaining names (especially of that cutie you're hoping to get to know better).  Some of these people have even become good friends in non-dance capacities.  The ones that don't are likely to get locked down and eventually deleted.

Ultimately, I purge because I am not a collector of Facebook friends.  I don't use it as a promotional tool for my job as some people do to wonderful effect.  I use it as a facilitator of interpersonal relations.  When the relations wane, I cut the cord.  I get no ego boost from having a large list of people I don't care for as "Friends".

As for how I go about scheduling it, usually it happens after an unpleasant exchange on Facebook.  The kind where you realize that you've been ignoring the writing on the wall for too long.

My Comment to Anne Heller on her post "Why I Am Not an Objectivist"

Because this comment may never see the light of day on Anne Heller's Blog Post:

Miss Heller,

I would like to make a comment in regard to your reaction to Rand’s comment to Isabel Patterson: “It is possible that the entire human race, with the exception of me, might become collectivist–and I will then damn the whole bunch of them without damning man as such. I do not form any conception of the nature of man by counting numbers.”

I would like to suggest an alternate interpretation of that passage. When I read this passage, I see it as her recognition of the best that man is capable of and that no number of evil or flawed men can take that idea away from her. In effect, she is saying that it is not the proportion of good men to bad men that should make you judge men as inherently evil and that you can’t judge human nature by a statistical impression.

I don’t think this smacks of solipsism as you suggest. Instead, I consider it to be evidence of her integrity – that she stands firmly in her conviction that man is a rational animal fully capable of thriving in this world and living a full life.

There is much in your response that I find disagreeable, but this is the only piece I wish to bring to your attention at this time.

-Francis Luong

Money Quote: Peikoff on Egalitarianism

Egalitarianism pervades Western culture at present.  CEOs are decried for making too much money, which is presently being adjusted by the administration's pay czar.  We have redistribution of wealth for the justified by the egalitarion notion of health coverage for all, regardless of what it will do to the quality and availability of medical care.  We have public education for all, which has all but destroyed the American school systems and the ability of its products to think conceptually. (if you're a hiring manager, you know this first-hand)

And the first thing that people try to teach their kids is: share.  Your toys don't belong to you and you have no right to them.  Not "share because you want to enjoy the company of your friends".  Just "share because it's a commandment".

Our culture is broken and needs some TLC.

The following is from my listening to the 2007 Lecture of the DIM Hypothesis.  I think it is a brilliant summary of the philosophical ills of egalitarianism.

Summation of Views and Consequences - Voiced as an Objectivist:
Since the bottoms among men are held to be helpless we can gain the necessities of justice only from the tops.  And only by exploiting their abilities and expropriating their values while withholding gratitude or praise which producers never deserve. So in general, the rational, the competent, and the Western must be pulled down and/or frozen out so that we can pull up to equality their opposites.... Those who succeed in the pursuit of value are to be sacrificed to the non-succeeders because they are non-suceeders...

One egalitarian put the point as follows.  It essentially says that we bring down the "high fliers".  I don't think any communist would have said that.  And afterward, if you ask, what will happen to mankind, including all those low fliers that can't get off the ground, and by your theory's statement, they are doomed on their own to helplessness and failure in life?... What do you think is going to happen to the human race? 

Now I have found two answers from the egalitarians to this question:

The first is: "well, so what?  Consequences are irrelevant to morality, equality is what counts!"

I read an elequent statement of this particular answer from Pol Pot, the dictator of Cambodia, who was once an eglaitarian.  "After the first year of Khmer Rouge, foraging for food was denounced as a manifestation of individualism.  Some might wind up with more than others!  Better that all should starve equally"

The second egalitarian response I have heard to the prospect of mankind's destruction by this theory is: "Good!"  And this is given by the most consistent representatives of the movement, the new (I guess you have to call them) "Nature Lovers" of the ecology movement...

Conclusion and Progression
Egalitarians are obviously nihilists and ambitious ones.  They don't confine [themselves] to special fields, such as art, science, or education.  Their target is everything.  "Down with reality", they proclaim, "and with value, virtue, achievement, and the struggle to do better... to rise to the top.  Down with the high fliers, the requirements of survival, and the whole human race.".  And all of this, explicitly, not to reach any beneficial result but for its own sake as an end in itself.

Now just watch the following progression:
  • In the 19th Century, men entered the race of life at different starting points according to whatever assets they were given or had created.  Fairness, they held, is mens' equal freedom to run.
  • In the 20th Century, we were told that the race was fair only if everyone, through government aid, starts at the same point.
  • Now, at the dawn of the 21st Century, we are told that to be fair the men leading the race must have their legs broken so that the losers can catch up.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Random Physics Musing

As a schoolboy, I heard the idea that if it were capable to move away from a clock at the speed of light, that the appearance of the clock would never change.  I can't say I gave it too much thought back then but something reminded me of this recently and it seemed pretty silly this time around.  Here's why:
  • We understand light to have a particle-like nature - protons moving through space (setting aside the waveform-like properties for now)
  • The speed of light is understood to be finite and constant.  It can take a lot of time for light to move through very large distances. e.g. the light from stars.
  • When two objects have the same velocity held constant, where one is behind the other, the one that is behind does not get any closer the the one which is ahead.
Setting aside the idea that it is not possible to travel at the speed of light, if you're moving away from particles of light at the same speed which they are chasing you down, wouldn't that mean that they never get to you? 

Don't mind me - it's a completely random musing.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Ars Technica and Seidenberg: Forget About Penetration and Talk About Innovation and The Right to Make an Honest Buck

Ars Technica posted an article fact checking Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg's recent comments about broadband penetration.  The article begins by quoting a large swath of discussion by Seidenberg, which includes the following quote:

Seidenberg: "So my point is it's a fallacy to allow a regulatory authority to sit there and decide what's right for the marketplace when it's not even close."

I'd like to observe that I still think that Seidenberg made a fundamental mistake in arguing that the government was mistaken about conclusions and that, in effect, we're doing a good enough job so they should just leave us to it rather than publishing and acting on a national broadband plan.  He doesn't mention or even hint at the idea that the government shouldn't intervene because we're supposed to be a free society where no one is forced to do anything.  In a free society, people are able to do more things and get better quality goods and services than they can produce themselves because of of the alignment of self-interest into mutual win-win trade scenarios, which is possible only by a system which respects rights to property.

Ars gets stuck on numbers and never talks about ideas.  They don't take up the more important economic points that Seidenberg addresses:

MURRAY: Do you fear that that's going to stifle your ability to make the investments you need to make to build up --

SEIDENBERG: I fear that when industry -- not just us, but any company -- makes capital allocations decisions, if we start out with 2, 3, 4 billion dollars worth of government mandates that really don't have any reality in how the market works, I worry about that, because that just adds costs, it reduces our incentive to invest in this country, and it affects hiring, and you know all the other things that go with that.

This is a valid point and it has everything to do with rights and the morality of rational self-interest.  The internet is a technological marvel which requires a lot of technology and rapid innovation.  This is the sort of field where people have to go really deep, become serious experts, and create products based on their knowledge and their unique ideas.  But in order to go that deep, which is another way of describing an investment of lots of time and money, you need to know that someone isn't going to make you do it handcuffed and blindfolded and you need to know that someone is not going to come along and steal your lunch money after you've worked so hard.

What does that depend on?

  • It depends on the idea that it is right and good to earn profit by your honest hard work, i.e. by your research and investment.  To put this another way, profit is moral.  
  • And it depends on the freedom to acquire knowledge and to act on that knowledge such as it is without the interference of others.   To put this another way, you need to be free to act on your own judgment.  You need to be free of arbitrary regulation and government thugs which expropriate your profits (which were likely to serve as future investment capital - either your own or for someone else).
  • Unless you are independently wealthy, you will probably need investors which means that other people also have the right and moral sanction to risk their savings according to their own judgment in the hopes of making those savings grow.  To put this another way, they need to be able to profit too, otherwise, why bother with risk?

You might say that government has a role in ensuring competition, but competition isn't a primary when you're talking about the structure of a society.  Only a man's right to exist for his own sake is.  Moreover, competition is driven only by new entrants seeking profits, not by government regulation which usually serves to make cost of entry prohibitive to new entrants. For an example of this, you may compare the condition and cost of housing in rent controlled cities, vs. non-rent controlled cities which usually present you with a choice between outrageously expensive luxury free of regulation, and a tight supply of affordable but run-down slums.

You might say that the Internet has become indispensable and people can't live without it.  Therefore, the government now has the right to come in and tell us how to do things, how much to charge, and whom to provide service to.  But if you do, you are also saying a quite bit more:
  • You are also saying that the government can regulate or redistribute anything that is deemed useful to people.  
  • You are saying that anyone who produces something useful loses his rights to that which he has created by virtue of the fact that it is useful to others.  
  • You are saying that the good of some can be placed above the good of others whom must bear the expense for it and that this is to be implemented by force (i.e. that rights belong to the collective, but not to minorities or individuals).  
And the sum of all of that is that you are saying: don't create anything useful, it becomes public property.  And slowly, but surely, you will create stagnation by your government regulation.  For an example of this, you may observe the state of telecommunications between WWII and the 1996 Telecommunications Act.

This is the relationship between the right and moral sanction of making a profit by your judgment for your gain, and the unparalleled innovation that you find in this country decade after decade when the free market is permitted to operate.  And it is found in other countries when that condition is met as well.

Profit and Individual Judgment are moral, in that they are consonant with life as a rational being, which depends on existing in a society of rights, the protection of which should be the sole function of the government.  Government action beyond that sphere increases costs, reduces competition, and slowly suffocates profit and of innovation.  If we want the quality of the Internet and our lives as such continue to improve, we need to stop focusing on useless statistics about broadband penetration and focus on the real facts on which our lives depend.  And then we need to get the government back to it's proper task of the protection of rights and remove its involvement in economic matters.

Palm Pre Plus - It's Back

So rather than nabbing a Pixi Plus on Ebay, I decided to go after a Pre Plus since they were only about $50-$100 more.  I ended up acquiring one and I am very glad to be back on a smartphone.  The ENV2 feel really limiting after having a phone that can actually do stuff.

I've had it since Monday and it's good to be back.  Somehow it just feels better knowing that I'm not locked into this phone for 2 years by contract.  And I feel a bit better knowing that I have free wifi tethering.

It isn't everything I want it to be, mind you.  But it's a lot like having a Blackberry-style messaging phone with a usable interface for the browser and that makes it good enough to keep until some serious heavy hitter options hit the Verizon Wireless network.  A bonus: this one seems to have a slightly less troubled keyboard than my last one, which had an optional R key.

I just hope Palm keeps the updates coming and Verizon stops sitting on them

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Re: Sarah Palin's Boston Tea Party 2010 -- Too Soft Spoken - Current Administration's Agenda is Definitely Un-American

HuffPo quoted a couple of lines from Sarah Palin at yesterdays rally in Boston.  Clearly, she's trying to pander to somebody but her message still lacks a clear ideological position.

"I want to tell them, nah, we'll keep clinging to our Constitution and our guns and religion – and you can keep the change."

The right to keep guns is really not that important unless you're already at a point where you have no rights, in which case, you won't care what the government tells you that you have a right to anyway - it will all be smoke and mirrors.  As for the right to religion, that is protected along with the right to free speech and the right to be free from religion.  It is the same as the freedom to hold an idea and, when combined with rights to property, to act on your own judgment.

The article also quotes Palin pussy-footing around whether the actions and agenda of the administration are un-American:

"I'm not calling anyone un-American, but the unintended consequences of these actions -- the results -- are un-American."

I would have made a much stronger statement.  But you would first have to know what is, in fact, America's essential principles to know what is or is not un-American, which I doubt Palin fully grasps given her other quote.  (Incidentally, I wrote a long piece about this last year on Independence Day.  If you want to know America's essential principles, read Atlas Shrugged - or at least, the Declaration of Independence)

Once you know what is or is not fundamentally American, you can then demonstrate positively whether someone's actions and agenda are un-American in principle.  Given Palin's history of pandering to faith and religion and previous evidence that she is not particularly intellectual, I doubt she understands the concept of an objective proof either, so we will not hold our breath that the pussy-footing will stop any time soon.

I guess it doesn't much matter, Palin is not an ally of Reason or of Individual Rights.  She just the latest person to cash in on people who mistake smaller government, lower taxes, and so-called state's rights for a proper government limited to the protection of inviolable Individual Rights, for which only reason can define and demonstrate the case.

Faith gets you a blank check to believe whatever you damn well please or feel, no matter how little sense it makes.  Well, we've already had 8 years of faith-based government.  Remember that in November and remember it in a couple of years when Palin attempts a run for the White House.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

William Murchison Misses the Point: Individual Rights

In honor of the imminent tax deadline, William Murchison puts this swill as the "The Debate America Needs to Have":

In 2010, Income Tax Day finds Americans wondering, as is customary on Income Tax Day, whether we'll ever get right the dratted business of taxing incomes instead of goods.

We need to address the distribution of taxes?  First?  Really? Isn't this the same as deciding which route to take before you decide what your destination is?  Or deciding how much to allocate for a budget before you've chosen your goals? 

Murchison needs a wake up call.  As a country, we don't even agree on more the more fundamental issue of of founding principles, which require discussion.

We need to discuss whether we are born into bondage, owing a debt to every other man in society, whom must not be hungry before we can think of our own stomachs and whom must be healthy before we can provide for our own health.  The alternative to this is that we are born free men, because that is what our nature as human beings requires as precondition of our survival as rational beings.  The conversation we need to have is whether every man has a right to his life, liberty, and property so that he can make his way by his own industry, unhindered by unchosen debts to others or whether we're going to lose all distinction with the manifold of tyranny that preceded the founding of our nation and which still exists in varying forms today throughout the world.

Given that our leaders have demonstrated that they have abandoned this country's founding principles, which are embodied in the Declaration of Independence, it is imperative that we re-establish and re-affirm the answers to these fundamental questions based on the facts of reality, then and only then can we determine what the government is permitted to do and what it is not, and who must pay for it allocated by what method.

Before then, you're missing the point.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Trey Givens: On Love and Marriage

Objectivist acquaintance and favorite of mine on the blogosphere, Trey Givens, wants you single people to stop beating up on yourselves.  I agree very much with Trey.  It's almost as if he went into my head and just read the contents aloud.

"There is nothing wrong with being single. Furthermore, simply because one is single does not mean that someone is doing something wrong in their efforts to find love." 

"...if you want to be happy and have a good relationship, then there is little you can do to speed things along beyond knowing what your values are and acting accordingly."

I held this view of relationships in life before Objectivism.  It hasn't changed a bit.  I think that's because I was already pretty rational about it.  If you want to find a relationship, pursue your values.  Get out into the world and go live your life!  You'll meet people, end up in adventures.  It'll be a blast.  But the most important thing is that no matter whom you meet (or not), you're living your life.

Trey goes a good bit further than this, and you can find the rest on his blog which is named modestly, Trey Givens: A Blog about a Hero.

NRO: The Solution for Arbitrary Network Neutrality Regulation : the Non-Objective Regulation of Antitrust Law????

Following the decision against the FCC in favor of Comcast, the NRO has come out against Network Neutrality saying, quote:

"...competition directs broadband toward its most efficient uses... It would be a huge mistake to impose by fiat a single business model on the carrier side of the Internet"

The arguments that the editors of the NRO present to support its position are mostly economic in nature but it betrays an ignorance of economics by using the idea that Network Neutrality is "pro-consumer" because of  competitive pressure.  In any economy, there are no consumers unless there are producers and usually these people are one and the same.  You produce when you work, you consume to sustain your body and live your life.

The editors' focus on the consumer seems to imply that the interest of the consumer is to be achieved by competition alone implying fully that the producers, internet service providers, have no property rights and no say so long as there is adequate competition (by what standard?).

The article goes on to ominously indicate that the battle is not yet won and that the FCC may attempt to reclassify the Internet as a “telecommunications service”. This would seem to be a very arbitrary loophole but regulations are arbitrary to begin with.  For instance, by what right does the government claim to regulate how people dispose of their private property?  NRO doesn't ask, NRO doesn't care -- Blank out.

And just what does the NRO suggest?  That the magic bullet to solve this workaround is the mess of contradictions known as Antitrust law.

"we are sure to hear louder calls for Congress to regulate the Internet or to grant the FCC the explicit authority to do so. These calls should be ignored. The Internet has thrived in the absence of homogenizing federal regulations, and this organic development should be allowed to continue so long as competition can act as a check on anti-consumer practices. If the broadband market becomes insufficiently competitive, then — as Apple CEO Steve Jobs might say — there’s an app for that: The United States has antitrust laws for regulating competition and monopolistic access."

First, let us analyze the flaw in their position.  Competition they claim, is the only reason why we shouldn't let the FCC march right in and tell service providers how they have to run their networks.  (Rights? What rights?) Competition is not a primary consideration of a free society.  The primary consideration is whether you get to be an end in yourself - to live for your own sake.  Even if the government and the NRO ignore this, the people who control investment capital do not.

As for antitrust. Well, you can try to fight fire with fire but you're likely to get burned in the process.  I will let Rand's words speak for me:

The Antitrust laws—an unenforceable, uncompliable, unjudicable mess of contradictions—have for decades kept American businessmen under a silent, growing reign of terror. Yet these laws were created and, to this day, are upheld by the “conservatives,” as a grim monument to their lack of political philosophy, of economic knowledge and of any concern with principles. Under the Antitrust laws, a man becomes a criminal from the moment he goes into business, no matter what he does. For instance, if he charges prices which some bureaucrats judge as too high, he can be prosecuted for monopoly or for a successful “intent to monopolize”; if he charges prices lower than those of his competitors, he can be prosecuted for “unfair competition” or “restraint of trade”; and if he charges the same prices as his competitors, he can be prosecuted for “collusion” or “conspiracy.” There is only one difference in the legal treatment accorded to a criminal or to a businessman: the criminal’s rights are protected much more securely and objectively than the businessman’s.

If that sounds like a recipe for handing over massive amounts of control to someone else's whims, it's because it is.  Unfortunately, Conservatives have demonstrated time and again, they don't know or care to know the damage non-objective law does to the concept of rights.  But they need to learn it and why rights are fundamental.  It's either that or we continue with arbitrary government coercion depending only on which gang happens to be in control eventually resulting in disintegration and collapse of civilized society.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Network Neutrality and The Comcast Decision

Looks like the Courts decided in favor of Comcast.  I think it's a decision consonant with individual rights because really, I don't think the government should have a say in how people use private property.  I don't think something becomes public property merely by being a business open to the public.  This is a point made well in Ray Niles's article, Net Neutrality: Toward a Stupid Internet:

"To hold that the Internet is a “commons” or “public property” is to evade its actual nature; the Internet is a network of privately owned personal computers, servers, and cable. Ignoring this fact and pretending to themselves that the Internet is “public property,” proponents of net neutrality seek government control over private property—specifically that of Internet service providers."

Gibbs comes out on the side of regulation without consideration of even mention of rights.  Apparently, if you are a service provider, you haven't any.

"If you don't work for the telephone and cable companies, watch this mess carefully and speak out for regulation because if you don't, you'll watch Internet access prices go way up, choice decrease, innovation be stifled and your online freedoms trashed. If you do work for the telephone and cable companies, consider carefully what you'll support and why; it will affect your family, your society and ultimately, you."

I would like to suggest to Gibbs that he considers carefully what he supports, which will indeed affect all of us.  Namely arbitrary government regulation and a complete disregard for any kind of property rights.  Niles sums up neatly:

"...setting aside the fact that it will thwart competition and retard the Internet, we must recognize first and foremost that net neutrality violates the rights of private property owners—specifically Internet service providers. The fact that Internet access is a profound value does not justify government force against the ISPs that make it possible, any more than the fact that books are a profound value justifies government involvement in Barnes and Noble’s pricing, displaying, and stocking of books. The property of Internet service providers is theirs; as such, they have the moral right to use and dispose of it as they please, regardless of what their customers, FCC bureaucrats, and net neutrality advocates have to say about it."

If Gibbs wants to live in a world where political pull matters more than rationality, technological innovation, and doing what makes the best economic sense; if he wants the threat of constant pressure group warfare, he need only continue advocating government regulation of private property.  Without property rights, no other rights (life, liberty) are possible.

Rant: Bob McWhoGivezaratsass?

People seem to be making some kind of stink about some sort of proclamation of a Confederate History Month.  I think it's baloney.  If you've been following my writing at all, you might know that I think politicians aren't very important in terms of determining the direction of a society.  Quoting Rand:

"So long as a country is even semi-free the politicians are not its determining element.  They are what the electorate, or public opinion in effect, makes them; or what they think public opinion wants of them.  They have demonstrated that very clearly"

So big deal.  If you're pissed an you're a constituent, send him a letter.  I can't say I care enough to write him about it.  People are always trying to tell me when I should pause for reflection and of what:  New Years Resolutions.  Valentine's Day.  Labor Day.  Arbor Day.  Earth Hour.  This is just as pointless.

I look forward to a day when I can respect a politician for his ideas.  And even then, he ought to know that only I set the agenda for my own thinking, thank you very much.

Glenn Beck Calls Out Social/Economic Justice as Code for Collectivism (duh)

Looks like Glenn Beck is catching some flack for some comments he made:

"Look for the words 'social justice' or 'economic justice' on your church website. If you find it, run as fast as you can."

I'm not sure whether he realizes it but he is paraphrasing Ayn Rand (my favorite thinker and author).  It was in the Q&A session for her lecture A Nation's Unity, in reference to George McGovern:

"When you smell a collectivist, you have to fight for your life."

As for Beck, I applaud him for trying to defend capitalism.  It is lonely work.

I don't know his position well enough to know all of his philosophical positions but from what I can tell from his recent keynote speech at CPAC, he is a religious man and uses that morality when talking about how the government needs to change.  This won't work.  The backlash seems to indicate it.  His opponents have the moral high ground because he accepts their arbitrary version of morality.

Here is what Rand has to say about the justification for Capitalism:

"The moral justification for capitalism does not lie in the altruists' claim that it represents the best way to achieve the common good.  It is true that capitalism does... but this is merely a secondary consequence.  The moral justification of capitalism lies in the fact that is the only system consonant with man's rational nature.  That it protects man's survival qua man.  And that its ruling principle is justice."

And this bit is particularly pertinent to Beck, if I am right:

"...The guiltiest men today are those who, lacking the courage to challenge mysticism or altruism, attempt to bypass the issues of reason and morality and attempt to defend the only rational and moral system in mankind's history, capitalism, on any grounds other than rational and moral."

If Beck doesn't already know this, he might want to check it out.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Open Question: Church and State

I'm curious about what kinds of views people hold on this topic and I would like to hear your thoughts.
  • What do you think the founding fathers meant by the concept of a separation of church and state?
  • For what reasons do you think that the founding fathers instituted this separation?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Still Tempted by WebOS - Pixi? Maybe!

I have to admit it: I am still tempted by WebOS.

As many issues as I had with my Pre Plus, I am really feeling a bit naked being back in feature-phone land with only SMS as my capability.  I have been checking out the Pixi Plus of late and its keyboard is actually pretty amazing compared to the one on the Pre Plus.  There are a lot of drawbacks of the Pixi Plus:
  • Smaller and Dimmer screen (2.6" @ 400 x 320 vs. 3.1" @ 480 x 320)
  • Less memory (256MB vs. 512MB)
  • Lower overall performance (longer to load apps)
And yet there are things that are better
  • Way better keyboard
  • Satisfyingly Small Form-Factor
Combine with that, the fact that I get a bit less excited about Android the more I think about it.  Android is not without virtues.  The voice input is slick.  And it'd be nice to have a high res screen.  The hardware is nice, but I am not enthralled with the level of integration.

So where's that leave me? I am considering trying to purchase one on eBay for a couple hundred large.  Apparently, a $350 early termination fee and a 2-year contract extension makes me think $200-$250 out-of-pocket isn't too bad if I can make it happen.  What that leaves open is the possibility of upgrading if something else comes along later in the year or in 2011.  And it certainly seems cheaper than doing an upgrade to a Pixi Plus then trying to finagle an upgrade to a serious option in a year's time.

Anecdote on the projected impact of ObamaCare

I got a chance to meet an interesting gentleman this weekend who is the owner of a 7-month old physical therapy concern.  I asked him how the recent health care "reform" legislation might affect his business and he answered that it hasn't yet affected him but added frankly that once it goes into full effect, it might put him out of business. 

He made a comparison to existing clients he has which have coverage from medicare or state programs and he estimates that he makes no more than 10 dollars an hour from them. I am not an expert on the PT business but I think people at Starbucks get paid more than that.  He expected that the number of such clients would likely increase given the recent legislation and that it might be the end of his business.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Agnosticism and the Easter Bunny

I had a chat with a co-worker the other day about his upcoming wedding and he had confessed to me that he would be glad enough to simply do a Justice of the Peace ceremony without any religious officiant for the wedding.  However, his wedding was to occur in DC and he was frustrated because they make it hard to use a non-religious officiant.

It occurred to me that he had never mentioned anything about religion as long as I had known him. I was curious.  We continued to talk and I heard him describe himself as agnostic, so I shared with him my ideas on agnosticism, which one could sum up as this:
  • I have no reason to believe a god exists.  I don't have any evidence of it, nor does it square logically with the way that I think the universe works nor what life is about.  And no, I don't take it on faith.
Well, that as it happens is the cognitive summation of a-theism, which is nothing more than non-theism or non-(pro-position-on-a-god's-existence).  Atheism is the position that is consistent with reason (conceptual integration based fundamentally on sense percepts).

Well, agnosticism goes just a tad further.  It also has this bit as well:
  • I can't prove that a god doesn't exist and thus I am unwilling to call myself an atheist.
Well, this complicates things a good bit. But if you stop to think about whether you can ever prove a non-something, and what method you use to prove or validate anything at all, you can figure out the answer.  And the comparison I presented was this:
  • Do you believe that the Easter Bunny, this rabbit which delivers easter eggs (candy and toys) on a certain Sunday each year, exists?  Do you have any evidence of it?  No?
  • Can you prove that the Easter Bunny doesn't exist?  No?
  • Would you say that you are agnostic about it?  You're not sure whether the Easter Bunny exists or not?  (as it turns out, most people are not agnostic about the E.B.)
And the bottom line of belief comes down to this.  You use your reason to get there.  Facts get abstracted to concepts get abstracted to higher concepts.  Chair, Sofa, Furniture, Household Items, The Man-made.  You can also work the process starting from assertions and reverse-engineer it by stacking it against your store of conceptual data and looking for contradictions.  Basically, it is the same process.  If the data don't agree fully, you don't think the assertion is valid. 

If you think something probably is invalid based on your reason, that is called NOT believing it.  It is not agnosticism whether you are talking about a god, or jack-a-lopes, or man-bear-pig.  Even if you can conceive of its existence (and yes, the human mind is capable of pondering the preposterous - otherwise the entire field of comedy would be nonexistent and Eddie Izzard would just be a not-funny tranny).   That you can conceive of something doesn't mean it exists or that you believe it.

Agnosticism, as it turns out, is a non-position of wanting to have your cake and eat it too.  You don't believe something but you are not willing to own your position on the matter.  What makes agnosticism a non position is that you can never prove a non-existence without being omniscient.  But if you're omniscient, why bother with reason?

There you have it.  By taking some time to ponder the Easter Bunny this weekend, you might find that you're just a bit more rational.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Sharing Ideas on the Internet

I don't like to debate.  I am finding this more and more as people read things that I write on Facebook and think that somehow I am inviting any and all views which may be contrary or "other" than my own.  The truth is that I am not interested in your view merely because it is "other" than my own.  I might be interested if you can demonstrate that I have made a mistake in my thinking.  Or that I have missed a crucial and essential point.

Debating can be ugly.  That's why there are always so many rules.  I think that before people can engage in debate, you have to agree on scope.  Then to begin debating you have to define your terms and then lay out your argument.  This of course, presupposes that you want a person's honest rational agreement rather than an emotional response out of them.

I don't debate.  But when I write, I set out to share ideas.  These things are important to me.  And they are important because, to the best of my knowledge, I think they are true.  And I also think that there is no limit to which the ideas which a person holds, whether consciously or subconsciously, affects the course of a person's life.

It takes a good bit of time to write a blog post.  It takes editing, and much careful consideration.  You don't want to know how many times I take a piece offline again and again to touch bits up that I think are unclear so that I can be understood.  I would like to ask this level of rigor of your responses. 

If the depth or reach of your response is such that it would take an entire article, or multiple articles, to respond with proper definitions and demonstration, please respond by writing your own piece rather than making a lengthy but hasty comment.  By doing this, you will not only preserve your own writing for yourself in a very accessible and distilled form but your writing will stand on its own and will seem a lot less like a poorly thought out sound-byte.

Write your own piece, comment with the URL.  And if it is written with serious intent and with all of the thought it deserves, I will give it due consideration and, if the subject matters enough to me, you may see a response on my blog in detail.  This is one possible way that a civil exchange of ideas may occur on the Internet and I think it has merit to permit a serious exchange of ideas.