Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Netflix Pick

For anyone (like me) who's running short of rental ideas in their netflix queue, I'd suggest Liberty! The American Revolution as an enjoyable and worthwhile documentary.

Cymbidium 'Untagged'


Monday, March 30, 2009

The Environmentalists' Goal

Noodlefood and the New Clarion recently featured some horrific examples concretizing the true goal of the environmentalist movement. I agree with their comments, and urge you to watch the video posted at Noodlefood.

But I also find it interesting to note that, while there are many similarities between the environmentalist movement and religions, in some cases environmentalists are actually more consistent (and thus perhaps more dangerous).

For example, it doesn't really make sense that a supposedly "all powerful" god would need weak and impotent humans fawning over him. Environmentalists recognize this contradiction, such that their god (Gaia) has no such need. Hence they're quite happy to simply get rid of us all.

And as an aside, these examples highlight why an ethics much confront the question: "what is the good?". Altruists essentially evade it, in a certain way making their position the weakest; religionists answer: "that which our god wants", and environmentalists answer: "untouched wilderness".

Ayn Rand, of course, answered:
"All that which is proper to the life of a rational being is the good; all that which destroys it is the evil."
She then went on to define the standard of value as:
"That which is required for the survival of man qua man”.
And elaborated that:
“Man’s survival qua man” means the terms, methods, conditions and goals required for the survival of a rational being through the whole of his lifespan—in all those aspects of existence which are open to his choice.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

National Servitude

Congrats to fellow OAC classmate and OActivist, Lucy Hugel, who just had an editorial on compulsory 'volunteerism' published in Pennsylvania's Patriot News. This is a vital issue which Lucy has been working tirelessly to oppose, so many thanks to her for her efforts.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Too much Freedom?

C. August has a good post up on Cass Sunstein's views on regulating the internet (and on freedom generally).

Did the Fed Cause the Housing Bubble?

Recently the WSJ held a "symposium" on the question. It's interesting that even one of the responders more sympathetic to the Fed had this to say:
I'm not claiming that we should have a Federal Reserve. We simply can't depend on getting another good chairman like Mr. Greenspan, and are more likely to get another Arthur Burns or Ben Bernanke. Serious work by economists Lawrence H. White of the University of Missouri, St. Louis, and George Selgin of West Virginia University makes a persuasive case that abolishing the Fed and deregulating money would improve the macroeconomy. I'm making a more modest claim: Mr. Greenspan was not to blame for the housing bubble.
Another finishes her post with:
At this point, dickering over whether Alan Greenspan should have formulated monetary policy in strict accordance with an econometrically determined "rule," or whether the Fed even has the power to influence long-term rates, raises a more fundamental question: Why do we need a central bank?

"There are numbers of us, myself included, who strongly believe that we did very well in the 1870 to 1914 period with an international gold standard." That was Mr. Greenspan, speaking 17 months ago on the Fox Business Network.

In the rules-versus-discretion debate over how best to achieve sound money, that is the ultimate answer.
Maybe we can realistically hope for a dismantling of the Fed in the not so distant future?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Ghate vs. Colbert

Well not exactly, but here's an interview where Onkar responds to Colbert's Word segment: the "Rand Illusion".

(And no, I never would have imagined linking to anything on HuffPost here.)

Hannan gives his PM the "What For"

Here's a fun video that's being widely circulated:

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wilderness Bill

I've noticed that Onkar prefers to use the term "wilderness" over "environment" when talking about what the environmentalists are seeking. The reason, I think, is that it emphasizes their total disregard for any of man's needs, and thus it better captures their philosophy and ends. So as bad as this latest bill is, it's nice to see that at least the man-haters are overtly identifying what they're after.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Anatomy of Volunteerism

I enjoyed this fictional story linking two evils: volunteerism (including its root, altruism) and public education. I'm not even a parent and yet the scenario horrifies me. Why do so few parents speak up?

Another Blow to Property Rights

From today's WSJ, yet another issue to keep on your radar screens:
In Empress Casino v. Giannoulias, the question involves the passage of a state law that took money from four riverboat casinos and gave it to five horse-racing tracks to use as purse money, among other things. According to the Illinois Supreme Court, the action cannot be considered a "taking" because it involved the transfer of money from one party to another, not the confiscation of land, as takings law has traditionally been applied. (The casinos are appealing to the U.S. Supremes, who will consider the certiorari petition soon.)

Property is property, however, whether it's the contents of a bank account, a factory, or a house with a white picket fence. If the Illinois Supreme Court ruling is allowed to stand, it could establish a precedent whereby the government may take money from any successful business to prop up a failing one. That means, in theory, the government could pass a law to take money from the successful dry cleaner on Main Street to subsidize the lousy one around the corner -- or from Barnes and Noble to subsidize the corner bookshop.

Broadly levied, wealth redistribution for public purpose has already been ruled Constitutional by the Supreme Court in the case of the income tax. Writ small, as it is in Empress Casino, it's a tool that might be wielded against unpopular industries and used by politicians to kiss up to favorite constituents. Think revenge of the aldermen.

Monday, March 23, 2009

More Caricatures of Ayn Rand

For those admirers of Ayn Rand who wonder if and why they should speak up, I submit this "symposium" of "experts" over at the NRO. Unless the conversation about Ayn Rand and her ideas becomes much deeper and more accurate, there is no hope of effecting the fundamental changes necessary to right our society. Everyone can and must play a role in it if time isn't to run out.
(HT OActivists)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

"Science Minister" a Creationist?

Another example of why science must be kept separate from the state if it is to objectively reach truth. Though this particular case is something I would have expected in the US not in Canada (which, whatever its flaws, is more secular than the US).
HT: LGF (and sad disclosure: this doofus minister is from my alma mater.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Yaron Brook on PJTV

This is a great interview, and it's nice to see it gain the recognition that comes with an Instapundit link.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

What Makes Ayn Rand 'Prophetic'

Two excellent articles on the topic which deserve widespread distribution, particularly to those who are discussing "going Galt". Yaron Brook in the WSJ and Greg Salmieri on the Rowman And Littlefield Publishers Blog. (HT GVH for the latter post.)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Boondoggle Age

Though I'm not a fan of Bill Bonner or his "Daily Reckoning", he sometimes has some pithy writing. Here's an example from yesterday.
Meanwhile, Congress has gotten into the spirit of the Boondoggle Age. It sent a $410 billion spending bill to Obama for his signature. Included in the bill were 7,991 "earmarks," or pet projects that didn't make it into previous bailout, stimulus and boondoggles programs. Included in the spending bill, for example, is a program to pay for eyeglasses for people who are supposed to be blind...and to increase funding for Amtrak. The passenger train system has been losing money for as long as it has existed. According to classical economics (and plain good sense) Amtrak makes us all poorer. It takes valuable resources - labor, steel, electricity and so forth - and turns it into a service - transportation - which consumers judge to be worth less than the resources that went to provide it. Yet, that is the whole theory of the Obama stimulus program! Spend money on things that are unprofitable. (If they were profitable, they wouldn't need public funding.) Somehow, wasting wealth is supposed to make us all better off.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


To anyone out there who's debating seeing the movie: DON'T! It's among the three worst movies I've ever seen. (After I get over the trauma of watching it last night, I might decide that it's the absolute worst movie I've ever seen.)

Monday, March 09, 2009

Clever and Biting Marketing

Prevagen Press Release:
A biotech company in Madison, Wisconsin is so concerned about the declining quality of memory among federal government officials that they have volunteered to give away free bottles of brain-enhancing supplements to any member of Congress or the incoming administration who has forgotten to pay taxes within the last 10 years.

“We realize that government employees in positions of responsibility have many important issues on their minds. so it’s easy for items on their personal ‘to-do list’ to slip through the memory cracks,” says Quincy Bioscience president Mark Underwood, formulator of the memory-boosting supplement Prevagen®. (www.prevagen.com)

“We’re confident that after 30-60 days of taking the supplement, most legislators and government officials will recall, without being reminded by aides or reporters, all tax periods for which they have forgotten to pay state or federal income taxes,” said Underwood.

Underwood says Prevagen is so effective at rehabilitating memory that most government officials will even recall times when they failed to make Social Security and Medicare contributions for undocumented household workers.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Debate on Ayn Rand's Ethics

I haven't listened to it yet, but the audio recording from Monday's debate between Onkar and Mike Huemer is now available as an mp3.

Update: Diana Hsieh, who by all accounts did a fantastic job of organizing the debate, has a discussion of the event up on her blog.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Pension Time Bomb

This is an interesting article detailing the looming failure of many state pension plans, including showing how government guarantees make much of their irresponsibility possible. The question, as I asked in my recent LTE, is why should they be able to enter into a "contract" with people, who by virtue of youth or not even having been born, have no way to consent? I know I never would have agreed to pay someone 75% of his average salary for having worked 30 years (which means he could retire at 50 and then live on taxpayer's work for the rest of his life). But of course the trick is not to ask the victim...

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Iwanagara Apple Blossom 'Golden Elf'

Not only is this a very pretty flower, but it also has a wonderful, subdued fragrance.


LTE in OC Register

I had the following letter published in today's OC Register (7th down):

Contract complexities

Your editorial, "Retiree health debt can't be ignored" [Feb 26], rightly notes the problem with changing contractual benefits after the fact. But some consideration should be given to how that supposed "contract" was entered into. Government employees made an "agreement" with minors or people not yet born, to the effect that if these employees work until they are 50, the young workers would pay them benefits for the rest of their lives.

The relevant question is: "Doesn't a valid contract need informed consent from both parties?"

Monday, March 02, 2009

Ayn Rand and the Tea Party Protests

Paul Hsieh has a short editorial up at Pajamasmedia connecting Ayn Rand and the recent "tea party" protests. I particularly like this paragraph, but be sure to read the whole piece:
Another reason for Rand’s appeal is her emphasis on the moral dimension. One of her themes was that no country can survive when its government constantly punishes good men for their virtues and rewards bad men for their vices. Americans correctly recognize that it is unjust for the government to take money from those who have lived frugally to bail out those who have lived beyond their means. Honest men should not be forced to pay for the irresponsibility of others.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

OActivist February 2009 Compilation

A summary of OActivist publications for February is now available.