Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Cal Ripken and Ayn Rand

From a NY Times story on Cal Ripken:
Since retiring as a player, Ripken, who turns 47 in August, has become a prime example of someone seeking self-improvement. He has an instinct for hard work and other charitable endeavors.

“My personal philosophy is to get a feeling of fulfillment through my work,” he said. “I have a desire to create something. I guess that’s why I’ve long been fascinated by two books, ‘The Fountainhead’ and ‘Atlas Shrugged.’ The leading figure in ‘The Fountainhead,’ an architect named Howard Roark, is someone I’ve thought about a good deal.”

Monday, July 30, 2007

Gus Van Horn Rounds Up

Gus Van Horn has put up a great roundup post including a discussion of what intellectuals should be advocating for regarding the war in particular and politics in general:
... The next obvious question the becomes, "What do we Objectivists do to affect the political debate?"

Tracinski's answer is "Take what you can get." This seems an acceptable answer, except that what he seems to mean is "Gauge what concrete measures you can 'get away with' advocating and base your arguments on that."

This is, in fact, not enough, for it leaves too many bad premises unchallenged and, in the case of Tracinski's war arguments, makes it appear that what Bush is doing instead of fighting ruthlessly is acceptable. (Actually, I may be overly generous here. Tracinski and company seem to actually believe this.) This is a grave mistake, for it allows the "welfare-state 'warriors'" to retain credibility for longer than they deserve and forestalls the debate about whether we as individuals and as a nation have the absolute right to defend ourselves -- a debate that will be the inevitable alternative to our ultimate defeat.

Conversely, I suspect that Tracinski would regard advocacy like that of John Lewis as futile. What concrete guidance does it offer us now, after all?


But Lewis et al. are doing what intellectuals do. In Lewis's case, a recent example of this is: compare the present war to a past one we fought and show how we once knew how to fight (and win) a war. Point out how and why we are failing now. At least get the rationale and the blueprint for the right approach "out there" so when the public is prepared for a real debate, the right approach might finally get some consideration.

I would even add that those in charge of military strategy -- if Lewis's argument got even wider currency today and they accepted it -- would understand that we would have to endure a period of strategic adjustment before we could really fight the war. But they would understand that we couldn't magically and instantaneously begin aping the[editor] our old, World War II selves.

And yet it it is Tracinski who faulted the other Objectivists generally and Leonard Peikoff in particular for being pessimists! Pardon me, but whose whole approach seems premised on the notion that Americans can't grasp arguments beyond the concrete level here, anyway?
In the same roundup Gus also links to this excellent column by Richard Ralston on socialized medicine. Don't miss it!

Buying Green

I liked today's ARI press release on the subject:
Environmentalists Against "Buying Green"
July 30, 2007

Irvine, CA--With organic food in every grocery store and hybrid cars on every stretch of freeway, "green consumerism" has become commonplace. But a backlash against such allegedly "earth friendly" shopping is arising; critics within the environmentalist movement are condemning the trend as superficial and contradictory. Says one environmental activist: "green consumerism is an oxymoronic phrase."

"This criticism is extremely revealing about the true nature of environmentalism," said Dr. Keith Lockitch, resident fellow of the Ayn Rand Institute. "For decades, many environmentalists have insisted that protecting the environment is not incompatible with industrial civilization. To make their ideology more palatable, they regularly promise that living 'sustainably' doesn't have to come at too great an economic cost or personal hardship. But when people finally begin to come on board and make allegedly 'pro-environment' choices, they are condemned as 'light greens' and 'eco-narcissists.'

"The truth is that environmentalism is not compatible with human flourishing. It does demand economic destruction and unbearable hardship. The claim that its goal is to protect the environment for the sake of mankind is a Big Lie. Its goal is to protect nature, not for man, but from man--to preserve an untouched environment as an end in itself, no matter what cost or hardship that imposes on human beings.

"Anyone who thinks that 'eco-chic' is consistent with the principles of environmentalism had better think harder about the true nature of the ideology they are trying to support. What environmentalism truly demands is sacrifice to nature--the rejection of our modern, industrial civilization in favor of the decidedly un-chic, unglamorous hardship of a primitive, pre-industrial, stone-age existence."

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Ayaan Hirsi Ali at Voice of America

Grant Jones links to an interesting interview of Ayaan Hirsi Ali at Voice of America. (As an aside, I hope that the interviewer isn't typical of VOA, as many of her questions are both idiotic and deeply appeasing.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Academics Still Scratching Their Heads: What Causes Terrorism?

In an article titled "Princeton Economist Says Lack of Civil Liberties, Not Poverty, Breeds Terrorism", the WSJ recently reported on the views of Princeton economist Alan Krueger, who has studied whether poverty causes terrorism (see his paper here, for example.)

This is of course ludicrous. It doesn't require statistical studies to dispel the myth that "poverty causes terrorism". Krueger's counter-hypothesis, that political oppression breeds terrorism, is equally wrong-headed. Over the past three centuries, poverty and oppression have led millions to seek to immigrate to America -- not blow up its buildings.

The notion that a person's beliefs and actions are determined by his material conditions (e.g. poverty) is simply stale left-over Marxism. In reality, it is the fundamental ideas that a person accepts which determine how he will evaluate the world, and how he will act.

Eager immigrants to America desired a better life here on earth, and valued America and its freedom for the chance to achieve that better life. In contrast, Islamists openly tell us that they love death and care nothing for this world. Far from seeing poverty as a negative, they view America's glittering material wealth as a sinful temptation, proof of America's moral corruption. Far from bristling at political oppression, Islamists proclaim their goal to impose totalitarian Islam on every corner of the earth.

The Islamists openly tell us what motivates them to attack us: their religious/philosophical beliefs. Why do we in the West have such a hard time taking them at their word?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Jerusalem Post Coverage

As a result of a talk Dr. Brook gave in Israel, the Jerusalem Post has two ARI-related stories, the first "You Don't Fight a Tactic" covers Dr. Brook's views on Islamic Totalitarianism and the West's reluctance to confront it, while the second is on Ayn Rand and her philosophy.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Citizen Counter-Terrorist

Still running behind, but I thought this was worth passing on (though I haven't yet read the source document) : "Out of Montana" which describes an interesting case of civilian counter-terrorism (HT Crossfit). I tend to agree with the sad observation (which could as easily have invoked the public's infatuation with Britney Spears and Anna Nicole):
Ironically if Rossmiller had been engaged in important sleuthing such as uncovering whether Scooter Libby had talked about Valerie Plame before or after Richard Armitage instead of the trivial pursuit of hunting down terrorists intent on mass murder or traitors selling their country's secrets, her story might already be the subject of a blockbuster movie instead of the obscure pages of Middle East Forum. Rossmiller would be on the Good Morning America and Oprah shows, pulling in money instead of shelling it out for personal security.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Used Books

Since there are a lot of avid readers in the audience, I wanted to mention that over the past year I've often used AbeBooks.com for purchasing used books and have been very happy with the site. The price is comparable to, and often better than, Amazon's, and while some listings are identical, I think Abe's has a wider range of offerings.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Subprime and CDO markets

Blogging will continue to be sporadic for the foreseeable future, but I wanted to put up two interesting links discussing the sub-prime and CDO markets: this week's newsletter from John Mauldin and a piece by Paul Tustain.