Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Gus Van Horn blog

  • Content count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Days Won


Gus Van Horn blog last won the day on February 7

Gus Van Horn blog had the most liked content!

1 Follower

About Gus Van Horn blog

  • Rank
    Junior Member

Previous Fields

  • Country
    Not Specified
  • State (US/Canadian)
    Not Specified
  • Copyright

Recent Profile Visitors

10584 profile views
  1. Four Things 1. Over at Hackaday is an articleabout difficulties you probably wouldn't have anticipated about colonizing Mars: Mars doesn't have a local electrical ground. The Earth does because the ground is electrically conductive and accepts charge from any charged object that comes in contact with it. Due to the large mass of a local Earth ground, it accepts this charge without becoming very charged itself. The moisture in the Earth ground aids its conductivity by enabling ions to move around. Mars' ground, however, is dry and while it contains ice, that ice further decreases conductivity.Yep. That one went right past me. Interestingly, that fact would affect architecture for any colonists. 2. Item One on this list of "Five Things You Must Not Do During Totality at the Solar Eclipse" is photograph it. For one thing, professional photographers will be all over this. For another, consult the rest of the list. 3. In an entertaining articleabout "The Confusing Way Mexicans Tell Time," a travel writer passes along the following method one American expat deals with the strange way they use the term ahorita, whose literal translation is "right now," but which is used quite differently there: ome expats living in Mexico just cannot get used to this more fluid way of measuring time. After moving to Mexico from the US, Elizabeth Wattson found a unique way of working with Ahorita Time. "Whenever my boss said 'ahorita', I would respond by asking 'ahorita when?'. I just couldn't work with this vague concept of something getting done at some indeterminate point in the future," she said. I think I'd pretty quickly start doing something like that, myself, in such a situation. 4. Forget everything you thoughtyou knew about lichens right now: He has shown that largest and most species-rich group of lichens are not alliances between two organisms, as every scientist since [Swiss botanist Simon] Schwendener has claimed. Instead, they're alliances between three. All this time, a second type of fungus has been hiding in plain view. Okay, so that was hyperbole: You're still right about them being compound organisms, but this recent discovery is still really neat, particularly if you have a biological, or maybe a botanical bent. -- CAV Link to Original
  2. Over at Unclutterer is a reader question with a more interesting answer than I expected, regarding the storage of someone else's possessions: What you legally can and cannot do with someone's stuff stored in your home varies by jurisdiction. It is also based on the relationship of the people in question. For example, former spouses are treated differently from landlord/tenant relationships. The actual items in storage may also influence what you can legally do with them. For example, cars and high value items like jewelry may be treated differently from clothing and low value household goods. Do not act hastily to dispose of Robert's stuff. You could be sued or accused of theft. It is unfortunate that this could be the case especially since you were trying to do Robert a favour.This certainly stands to reason. However, a preexisting relationship and sympathy might keep one from thinking of it, even if one has strong personal boundaries in the first place. Perhaps a good second line of defense when thinking about helping someone is to consider what could go wrong if one were helping a stranger or ended up doing so for longer than expected, and acting accordingly. Some people are flakier than they appear, and everyone has free will. -- CAVLink to Original
  3. Conservative blogger "Ace" makes a great point about the disheartening recent events in Charlottesville and the greater context in which they occur: ... Identity Politics of all kinds are odious and poisonous to the individual -- if your value is your race or gender, well, you have branded yourself as someone of extraordinarily low value, haven't you? But as John Sexton points out, you can't expect a culture to praise all sorts of Identity Politics -- flat-out racist groups and gender supremacists -- but say that one group doesn't get to play by the same rules. Either it's all poisonous garbage, or it's all got something of merit to it.Ace doesn't put it this way, but we also now have, with the Scalise shooting a few weeks ago, examples of domestic terrorism from both anti-liberty "sides" of the political spectrum. Regarding the white supremacists, it is indeed hardly surprising that, having been raised ignorant of American values and steeped in collectivism that some whites would end up behaving much as they have been taught -- and others have behaved lately:The phrase "Blood and soil" is a Nazi reference but the rest of the arguments sounds a lot like the identity politics of the left, it's even couched in the premise of whites being a minority group in the near future. As for clearing the park for the "white identity rally" that's completely un-American. It's also reminiscent of the University of Missouri protesters who created a "black healing space" by asking whites to leave and the treatment of students at Evergreen College who were told they should not enter a room or speak up during a campus discussion because they were white. [links omitted]It is wrong, but understandable on a level that some people, in reaction to feeling marginalized, would stand up for what they have been told they are all their lives. And it's very sad that, in doing so, they are abandoning -- or even failing to grasp in the first place -- their truest and most noble cultural -- does anyone actually understand the meaning of that term any more? -- heritage, that of free, individual Americans. The only loser in Charlottesville was what Ayn Rand called the smallest minority: the individual. That means you, me, and everyone, whether they know it or not. -- CAV P.S. Writing at The Federalist, Robert Tracinski argues in a similar vein, also discussing the role of the far-left protesters in this mess, further noting:We are in a state of emergency, and it's because we're letting our political debate be defined on illiberal terms. We're supposed to either back the guys who try to re-enact Nuremberg, or we back the guys who whip themselves up into a frenzy to "punch Nazis" -- and define "Nazi" as anyone who disagrees with them. We either want technology companies to conduct ideological inquisitions, or we've got guys chanting "Blood and Soil." We take a vicious murder by a racist and turn it into another opportunity to score partisan political points on social media -- as if we want racism to be a partisan issue rather than a common cause that transcends party. I wrote recently about the steps required to condition people to accept totalitarianism. One of those steps -- one of the last ones -- is that we get used to political differences being settled by a contest of force in the streets. We've been closer to that point before, during the 1960s, when the violent protests and race riots were far bigger. But that was the brink of a very deep precipice, and we should be doing everything we can, on both sides of the political debate, to pull back from it. [links and emphasis in original]Read the whole thing. Link to Original
  4. Over at Medium, Jeff Goins lays out "8 Simple Steps I've Used to Write 5 Bestselling Books." I think most of the advice is good, but am not so sure about Item 6, on setting a due date. That said, the following method of enlisting help to meet a deadline made me smile: A friend of mine, a talented writer, did this recently when he wanted to finish a book he'd been thinking about for years. Fearing he might never reach the last page, he wrote a check to a political candidate he hated, and post-dated it for X months in the future. Then he gave the check to a friend with strict instructions to mail it if he had not completed his book by that date.This is funny, and it seems to have worked for the writer who came up with it, but is this generally good advice? I think the answer here is: It depends. What problem is one trying to solve? There can be numerous legitimate reasons one can't complete a book by some deadline, particularly a first book, and particularly if the deadline is arbitrary in any way. So if one has not set a realistic, but still challenging time goal, this tactic can backfire. But if, knowing oneself to have a tendency to procrastinate, and knowing, further, that being nudged by others helps one past psychological inertia, something like this can be helpful -- IF one has found a way to set a reasonable deadline. On that last score, some advice on iteratively chopping goals in half I vaguely recall can probably help. (If anyone recalls the name of this process, or something that this sounds like, please feel free to leave a comment or drop me a line.) As I recall -- but haven't time to verify this morning -- one breaks the goal into chunks, and those into chunks and so on until one reaches tasks of known duration. Then one can construct a time line. Doing this would dovetail with Goins's other idea of creating a schedule, which would enable one to leverage very effectively having a set routine. -- CAV Link to Original
  5. ... What the U.S. Does to Education (Well, not exactly, but bear with me a minute.) Economists Santiago Levy and Dani Rodrik considerwhy Mexico's economy, despite some recent loosening of controls, hasn't grown more rapidly than it has. One distinct possibility has something to do with government-mandated "social insurance": A large part of the answer has to do with the Mexican economy's extreme dualism -- a problem that has been called the "two Mexicos." The bulk of Mexican workers remain employed in "informal" firms -- especially firms in which employees are not on salaried contracts -- where productivity is a fraction of the level in large, modern firms that are integrated into the world economy. [link added]And later: ... Firms and workers in the formal sector must pay for health insurance, pensions, and other employee benefits. But, because workers undervalue these benefits, the result is pure tax on formal employment. By contrast, when firms and workers are informal, workers receive a similar bundle of health and pension benefits for free. The result is that formal employment is unwittingly penalized, whereas informal employment is subsidized.So... Mexico's government subsidizes an inefficient part of its economy, in the process making it more attractive on price for individuals, even if it might serve them better to do business with more efficient competitors. The situation for "formal" employment in Mexico and private schools in the U.S. is somewhat analogous, with our system funding government schools on everyone's backs, including those who can afford or would prefer a private alternative. The analogy is hardly exact, but people in both countries would do well to consider, as individuals, the usual rationalizations for the policies behind both situations. How does it help me personally to foot someone else's bill? How does it help my quality of life, or that of anyone I care about, to give financial support to practices that hold everyone back? By what right is the government squandering my money, let alone taking it from me in the first place? -- CAV Link to Original
  6. Four Things 1. What will you see on eclipse day?Head over here, plug in your zip code, and find out. (via Geekpress) 2. I've been dealing with patents a lot lately, so it was with some amusement that I noticed my beer-themed page-a-day calendar commented on Patent no. 3827595. For what it's worth, the plastic beer keg has now been around for over forty three years. 3. The Chronicle of Higher Education, in an amusing report about a book manuscript that was thirty years overdue (but still wanted), notes the following: [David] Congdon's comically tardy book may seem like an extreme example of editorial generosity, but The Chronicle spoke to several people with lengthy tenures at university presses. They say that anyone who spends enough time in the industry, where a turnaround of several months to a few years for a book is the norm, will very likely encounter a project that is the not only years late, but decades so. "Oh yes, this is something that comes up with surprising frequency!" wrote Leila Salisbury, director of University Press of Kentucky.I've known academics to sit on results for years before publishing them as papers, but this takes the cake. 4. Get executed for 99 smackers?That's the "dangerous catch" an article about a startup called "Airmule" describeswhen it looks into its ultra-cheap flights to Beijing: If you're acting as an air courier, you ... could be fully liable for what you carry through Customs. So, that suitcase of apparel you're supposedly carrying for a fashion show? If it's loaded with heroin, that's on you, and the penalty for that in China is death (no ifs, ands or buts). The suitcase full of baby formula? If you didn't know that it's illegal to bring it into China, it doesn't matter: the massive fine is all yours if you get caught. Airmule takes a bunch of reassuring-sounding security measures. For example, they participate in a TSA inspection program which verifies that shipments are safe for air transportation. You do too -- by letting the TSA inspect your bag when you check it in (although in all fairness, there are some additional security measures cargo companies comply with, and Airmule says they do this). Airmule claims that they inspect shipments as well, and I think they probably do. However, while this provides reasonable assurance that whatever you're carrying won't cause the plane to crash, it doesn't provide as strong an assurance that what you're carrying is actually legal to carry into the country where you're carrying it.Hmmm. One of the conditions of the fare is that you give up a bag to Airmule, but I'm not sure I would have considered the above possibility. -- CAV Link to Original
  7. Image courtesy of Unsplash.While I don't recommend the title as general advice, it does hold a grain of truth, coming as it does from a participant in an "Act as If" exercise described in Barbara Sher's I Could Do Anything if I Only Knew What It Was. (I've heard similar things called "Fake It 'Til You Make It," but I prefer Sher's name for it because it correctly calls attention to the fact that this is an exercise in self-actualization, rather than self-deception.) The grain of truth comes not just from the author's observation that such exercises build confidence, but also from something she mentions in passing. At one point, she asks, "How did they learn so fast?" Any new skill has to be learned, and, while it is good to attempt to learn from others when acquiring the skill, the limitations of the human mind will likely prevent full recall of everything in the first few attempts for all but the simplest things. Action helps automatize what one knows, reveal strengths and weaknesses, and help one learn areas to work on -- as a small thing to improve upon rather than just one more item in an unfamiliar and easily-forgotten laundry list. A late winter storm gave me a good example of that last point earlier this year. I have some experience dealing with winter, but suburbia has thrown a few curves at me. Last year, our long driveway and three feet of snow taught me, among other things, to park the cars closer to the end of the driveway in order to minimize the amount of snow clearance I need to do before we can leave the house. This year, I was ready, or so I thought. Arriving home with the kids the night before a lesser storm, I parked the car halfway down the driveway, leaving enough room for Mrs. Van Horn to pull in behind me. The next day, we'd gotten about half the amount of snow we were told to expect, enough to close school, but not enough, I thought, to keep my wife from driving in to work if she wanted or needed to. Wrong-o. The day before, as I drove in, I noticed that other cars in the neighborhood were parked backwards (i.e., pointing out) in their driveways. I wrote it off as a local peculiarity since people seem to love parking backwards around here. I almost always see people doing this in parking lots -- often while I wait for them to back in and out of the spot they could have just pulled into. The next day, my wife got stuck at the end of the driveway trying to drive to work. I had to get her car out of the street and back into the driveway, which I did without much trouble, but it caused me to learn two new things: (1) everyone had parked funny for a reason, namely to avoid losing momentum when leaving the driveway; and (2) I should have had my car, which is all-wheel drive, closer to the street, rather than hers. We ended up stuck for the day it took for the snow plow to arrive, and perhaps we might have been stuck anyway, but it was nice to get another "rookie mistake" (as someone joked to me about where I parked the cars last year) out of the way. And I won't have trouble remembering this, although it went into my pre-snow checklist, anyway. Along with the above quote, this experience is something I plan to recall the next time I am confronted with learning a new skill that might seem daunting. Nobody learns everything at once, even relatively simple things (in the sense that there is lots one can do ahead of time) like preparing for a winter storm. -- CAV Link to Original
  8. As a conservative blogger at Hot Air has been putting it of a crusade I have long been suspicious of, "You didn't really think they were going to stop with the Confederate Battle Flag did you?" That blogger was speaking of the Gadsden Flag, about which the EEOC has recently had to issue a workplace ruling, well covered by Eugene Volokh. This is doubly interesting, given that I heard of this after I learned of the following from the Baltimore affiliate of CBS:Yes, even though Maryland was a Union state, the flag -- which is featured on the state's license plate and is a popular adornment for clothing and accessories -- does contain some Confederate symbolism.The "Confederate symbolism" in question was bolted onto the red-and-white quadrants of the banner of Lord Baltimore's (pre-revolutionary) coat-of-arms, which is, in turn, part of the state seal, which featured on unofficial state flags long before the Civil War. That said, the black-and-gold colors were more strongly associated with the state before the Civil War, and the corresponding quadrant was used by residents serving in the Union Army. Maryland-born Confederates used the red-and-white quadrant. The cherry-picking of historical facts to create "controversy" out of thin air should be apparent here: Yes, like many of the Founding Fathers, Christopher Gadsden owned slaves and, yes, some Confederates appropriated part of Maryland's symbolism. But no, neither fact has any bearing on the primary use of either flag at the relevant historical time. The Hot Air blogger quotes a conservative publication on the fatuousness:Other American slave owners include Benjamin Franklin. Is it racial harassment to wear bifocals? It is by the complainant's logic...And if the "thinking" behind this is bad, the practical results are worse, in the case of the Gadsden Flag: We can see, by the fact that the government is involved in this at all, and in the way that it is, that First Amendment and property rights are at the mercy of bureaucrats and the near-mystical snowflakes who sense this are trying to manipulate them. This is not to say that the symbolism is unimportant. A well-designed symbol of freedom, like the Gadsden Flag, can help us remember who we are as a nation. So it is revealing that the same people who spend their time looking for any excuse to claim the authority to say what such symbols "really" stand for seem hell-bent on disparaging symbols of (actual) freedom, not to mention "saving" those of tyranny, such as the swastika. -- CAV P.S. Do note further that one can tell which side is in favor of freedom by the methods they employ. The anti-freedom side is trying to use government force to squelch freedom of speech, whereas the pro-freedom side uses moral argument and boycotting. I am pleased to hear that the tee shirt company selling swastika shirts has pulled them after public outrage. The quick result is encouraging, but fragile. The other side is working more slowly but, since government can force us to act contrary to our judgement, any victory it wins, however small, is dangerous. Furthermore, given that fundamentally changing the government, requiring cultural change, is slow, such danger is greater and longer-lasting than it may seem. Link to Original
  9. Waaaay back, when this blog was a few years old, I'd occasionally vent about a bumper sticker I found particularly annoying. In fact, the last time I did that was (cough!) a decade ago. Having a blog caused me to feel less annoyed for a variety of reasons, leading to the demise of that series of posts. Probably the main reason this happened was that I knew I was engaging in a discussion about many of the very issues it seemed some people felt such a strong need to notify complete strangers about -- but zero need to have a give-and-take about. A bumper sticker quite common in my neck of the woods caused me to think about that the other day, ultimately causing me to decide to see what "psychology of bumper stickers" might come up with in a search. I found the following, from a law blog, had been published about a year after my last post about bumper stickers: I love the bumper sticker question in voir dire. I've met lawyers and seen journalists who are surprised by it, or think it's intrusive, but when you think about it, it's a no-brainer. If a juror holds an attitude so strongly that she'll paste it onto her car, you want to know what that attitude is. New research suggests you should be interested in something else, too. It isn't simply what jurors' bumper stickers say, it's whether jurors have bumper stickers at all. Writing in the June issue of the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, Colorado State University researchers suggest that people with bumper stickers are more likely to be aggressive and angry people, or at least aggressive and angry drivers. [format edits, bold added]That would make sense, given the widespread use of the imperative voice on top of the odd, other-focused (yet consequence-free) taunting inherent in the medium. Getting cut off by someone with a "Signal Virtue" -- I mean "Choose Civility" -- bumper sticker only seems ironic, for example. Who, valuing civility, needs to be told to choose it? Who, not valuing civility, is going to be persuaded to change his ways simply by being told to do so? Is this praise, unneeded since virtue is its own reward -- or a cowardly insult? This isn't, of course, to say that a bumper sticker can't provoke thought or that everyone who has one has issues with psychological boundaries. That said, I think there is often something more behind a bumper sticker than its captive audience. -- CAV Link to Original
  10. A couple of years ago, I commentedon how implausible-sounding to me it was that "unbreakable" blockchain contracts could see widespread application. As it turns out, even some of the less hyped-up aspects of the idea are impractical, as someone who understands blockchains far better than I points out. I'll quote the Gideon Greenspan, CEO of Coin Sciences, on the matter of guaranteeing payment at a certain time, since that was an aspect of the example I considered back then: Here's another proposal that we tend to hear a lot: using a smart contract to automate the payment of coupons for a so-called "smart bond". The idea is for the smart contract code to automatically initiate the payments at the appropriate times, avoiding manual processes and guaranteeing that the issuer cannot default. Of course, in order for this to work, the funds used to make the payments must live inside the blockchain as well, otherwise a smart contract could not possibly guarantee their payment. Recall that a blockchain is just a database, in this case a financial ledger containing the issued bond and some cash. So, when we talk about coupon payments, what we're actually talking about are database operations which take place automatically at an agreed time. While this automation is technically feasible, it suffers from a financial difficulty. If the funds used for coupon payments are controlled by the bond's smart contract, then those payments can indeed be guaranteed. But this also means those funds cannot be used by the bond issuer for anything else. And if those funds aren't under the control of the smart contract, then there is no way in which payment can be guaranteed. In other words, a smart bond is either pointless for the issuer, or pointless for the investor. And if you think about it, this is a completely obvious outcome.That's hardly the only difficulty the idea of smart contracts encounters due to the nature of blockchains. So I guess we will have to wait a little while for cryptolawyers... -- CAV Link to Original
  11. Notable Commentary "The altruistic theory of entitlement through need cuts the ground out from under the popular notion that the issue is whether or not charitable acts should be forced on us by law." -- Harry Binswanger, in "Don't Blame the Republicans" at The Jacksonville Daily Record. "[A trademark] is not a possessory estate like a fee simple, but rather it is a use-right secured to its owner by reference to the goodwill created and sustained by a commercial enterprise." -- Adam Mossoff, in "Trademark as a Property Right" (PDF, April) at George Mason Law & Economics Research Papers, no. 17-15. "As citizens, we must start demanding responsible thought leaders who will give us the whole picture that life-and-death energy and climate decisions require." -- Alex Epstein, in "Al Gore Can't Deny That His Climate Crusade Involves Great Suffering" at The Financial Post. "[Bitcoin] does not have a real bid at all, only the ever-changing bid of the fickle speculator." -- Keith Weiner, in "Bitcoin, Gold and Silver" at SNB & CHF. From the Blogs (1) "ICouldAndDid" opens a multi-part critique of Sam Harris's 2012 best-seller, Free Will. Here is how he summarizes Harris's central argument:With phrases like "atom for atom," "physical events giving rise to thoughts and actions," "in precisely the same state," and "brain-induced causes are fully effective," Harris paints a picture of mental activity as being fully explained by the brain and its chemistry/physiology. The main assumption here is that a physical state of being is equivalent to a deterministic cause. That is, if every atom or neuron is in some definite physical state, has some particular describable identity, then every action of the mind must be fully necessitated. In short, identity invalidates volition. Nowhere, however, does Harris even attempt to support this claim, let alone prove it. He assumes it is true without question, and he brings this assumption to his interpretation of everything related to free will. It is apparent that Harris views this point as so obvious as not to need any validation or even discussion.ICouldAndDid continues, in part, with the following observation: "A being that could choose would also have a physical identity, a describable physical state. How could it not?" Read the whole thing and stay tuned for more. On that score, note that ICouldAndDid publishes infrequently. Links to his posts automatically appear here on the blogroll, but there is an option to subscribe to You Can and Did Build It via email. (2) Over at Objectively Houston, J.P. Miller examines civil asset forfeiture in two posts. He concludes:We should eliminate civil asset forfeiture as now constituted. Asset forfeiture is proper only from a convicted criminal. Just as we protect a few innocent people with due process of law that requires proof of criminality beyond a reasonable doubt, we should protect the "few" innocent people from the horrors of civil asset forfeiture by requiring that they first be convicted of a crime and then take only the assets shown to be acquired by that crime.His reasoning is sound, and I urge my readers to see so for themselves. -- CAV Link to Original
  12. Richard Rahn, who is on the board of the American Council for Capital Formation, rightly calls for abolishmentof both the Federal Reserve and the SEC, after considering which of the two agencies might be doing more to kill innovation. A recent SEC move against "initial coin offerings" (ICOs) -- a form of IPO by digital currency companies -- prompts his informative and indignant column, which ends as follows: The dollar is now worth about 1/24 of what it was in 1913, after the creation of the Fed. That is, the Fed has destroyed about 95 percent of the value of the dollar -- which meets the definition of grand theft. Fed Chairman Yellen has been complaining that inflation is not high enough. She wants 2 percent per year or more -- i.e. more theft. Again, the Fed was supposed to preserve the value of the currency, not steal more. Many smart techies are trying to develop new private digital monies and payment systems to get around the government theft and tyranny. Ever-increasing regulatory costs for banks force them to increase fees on things like international money transfers. The result is that the techies are also developing global money transfer systems that go around the overregulated banks. What need to be abolished are not ICOs, but the SEC and the Fed, which are unnecessary dead weights on both our economic well-being and liberty. [link omitted]Opposing all economic regulation, I balk at the term "overregulated," but I otherwise find much to like and little to dislike about the piece. Not only does Rahn properly call inflation theft, he also notes that those functions of the SEC that are legitimate are, in fact, redundant. -- CAV Link to Original
  13. In an amusing column about the already-departed Anthony Scaramucci, George Will raises a better question than he may realize: [Attorney General Jeff] Sessions serves at the pleasure of the president, who does not seem pleased. Still, sympathy for Sessions is in order: What is he to do? If dignity concerned him, he would resign; but if it did, he would not occupy a Trump-bestowed office from which to resign. Such are the conundrums of current politics. Concerning which, there is excessive gloom. "To see what is in front of one's nose," George Orwell wrote, "needs a constant struggle." An unnoticed reason for cheerfulness is that in one, if only one, particular, Trump is something the nation did not know it needed -- a feeble president whose manner can cure the nation's excessive fixation with the presidency. [bold added]Interesting. Will elaborates a paragraph or so further: [T]oday's president is doing invaluable damage to Americans' infantilizing assumption that the presidency magically envelops its occupant with a nimbus of seriousness. After the president went to West Virginia to harangue some (probably mystified) Boy Scouts about his magnificence and persecutions, he confessed to Ohioans that Lincoln, but only Lincoln, was more "presidential" than he. So much for the austere and reticent first president, who, when the office was soft wax, tried to fashion a style of dignity compatible with republican simplicity. Fastidious people who worry that the president's West Virginia and Ohio performances -- the alpha male as crybaby -- diminished the presidency are missing the point, which is: For now, worse is better. Diminution drains this office of the sacerdotal pomposities that have encrusted it... [bold added]It would be nice if the President were to inadvertently help Americans look again to themselves to solve their own problems, and with suspicion on a government that sought to do anything more than ensure that they are able to do so. But is this the lesson they will learn and, if so, will it stick? Given current cultural trends, I have my doubts. Too many who oppose Trump favored a socialist, seemingly oblivious to the track record of socialism, with the latest catastrophe on display next door, right now, in Venezuela. Too many who want to work with Trump seem to think that the only problem with Barack Obama was that he was "incompetent." Both sides seem impervious to putting two and two together, to drawing usable truths from experience, to principled thinking. Or, to borrow Will's way of putting things: What are Americans to do? If principles concerned us, we would, perhaps mockingly, endure the next few years; but if they did, we would not have found ourselves facing the "choice" we did last November. I am of the opinion that Trump's fans will remain oblivious to his buffoonery, and that his detractors will imagine a savior to replace him with. Those of us who see that history isn't a matter of personalities don't need this lesson, and those who don't may be incapable of learning it. -- CAV Link to Original
  14. Jeff Jacoby makes a point you rarely see these days: "Research Isn't Tainted Just Because Industry Picks Up the Tab." Jacoby's point of departure is a new study about the health benefits of moderate drinking, which is largely funded by (gasp!) five major manufacturers of alcoholic beverages: s there any good reason for industry funding to be inherently suspect? Image courtesy of Pixabay. There is no indication that the corporate donors will have any involvement in the design or conduct of the study. The project's principal investigator, Harvard Medical School Professor Kenneth Mukamal, told the Times he hadn't even known about the companies' backing. "This isn't anything other than a good old-fashioned NIH trial," he said. "We have had literally no contact with anyone in the alcohol industry in the planning of this." Gemma Hart, an Anheuser-Busch vice president, concurs: "We have no role in the study. We will learn the outcome of the study when everybody else does." Of course it is wise to be wary of conflicts of interest; when corruption in research is discovered, it should be publicized and penalized. But "industry" and "corrupt" are not remotely synonymous. Business is indispensable to scientific exploration and employment. It is no more logical to automatically distrust research funded by industry than to distrust research funded by government, advocacy groups, or opinionated philanthropists. Research is expensive and someone has to pay for it. Chase away a major source of scientific funding, and the result will be less research. [format edits, bold added] I agree with Jacoby, although, I would have liked him to mention the following: When a certain agency with the power of coercion -- namely, the government -- both funds science and stands to gain more power if results can be made to justify (or appear to justify) a given policy position, there is a built-in reason to be suspicious that there is a conflict of interest. Most in the media not only automatically suspect business of being an untrustworthy backer of science; they turn a blind eye to this other possibility if they are aware of it at all. -- CAVLink to Original
  15. Is there a word for someone who fears other people weighing evidence and coming to their own conclusions? Sometimes, I think there should be, and if there were, it would apply to the angry leftist who recently threw up a post titled, "For The Ayn Rand Person In Your Life Ask This Question." "EisenBolan, SJW" asks a snide version of the very question Rand actually pretty ably answers in a video clip. But he does this before posting the clip. The real question is really a two-parter, which I'd put this way: "Should the government force people to pay for other people's education and, given that it currently does, how best would that money be spent?" Let's set aside the fact that, while he was writing, this admitted "social" "justice" "warrior" was (by his professed standards) failing to seek out and save random drowning strangers. The fact that he isn't content to let the alleged horrors of this video stand on their own is pretty typical of the smallness of the opposition to Rand and her ideas I have witnessed during my life: He feels the need to bias or turn away potential viewers by equating (his caricature) of selfishness to "letting people drown" and claiming that Rand "rails against money used to educate" handicapped children. In doing the latter, he omits the fact that Rand is against the twin injustices of money being taken by force (as it is to finance government schools) and then squandering that money in a way that harms everyone. In case this "warrior" doesn't realize it, "everyone" includes, yes, those who don't need help, but also those who need help the most. And in even greater context, Rand fought her whole life for capitalism, the economic system best suited to giving everyone the opportunity to live the most fulfilling life possible. The only question that really needs raising here is this one, and it isn't I who needs to answer it: Why? Why is someone else's misfortune supposedly the proper focus of my life and my effort? That's what petulant people like this are trying to hide with "questions" that are really their own underhanded way of putting words into our mouths. But such behavior is self-limiting: If anything, that kind of question will serve to motivate people to learn more about Ayn Rand. I do, after all, have a similar rant to thank for doing exactly this, decades ago. Whether they rate a special term or not, it makes me smile to know that such people sometimes serve as the unwitting Johnny Appleseeds of the Objectivist movement. -- CAV Link to Original