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  1. Four Things In which my six-year-old son steals the show... My son likes to "invent" things. This is the dispenser he made for his Halloween candy -- which he immediately altered when he realized the candy would just spill out at the bottom. (Image by the author. Feel free to re-use. Attribution appreciated.) 1. It was the morning of Crazy Sock Day in the lead-in to Halloween at my son's school and we hadn't picked a pair yet. So I explained the premise -- mismatched socks, as different as possible in as many ways as you can get, like color and pattern. He did a good job of that, and as I was about to set the unmatched second pair on his dresser, he took them from me and put them in the dirty clothes basket. Yes. He wanted both pairs back after the wash. 2. The kids learned about Veteran's Day at school, but as he has before, my son confused veteran with a similar-sounding word: On the day, he wished me a Happy Veterinarian's Day and gave me some hand-made cards. Later on, he told a neighbor that I had worked for George Washington. "I'm not that old," I chuckled, before explaining to him that Washington was our first President, but had died long ago. Good on him, anyway for remembering that the President is atop the chain of command, and for trying to put that together with something else that he learned about the Presidency. 3. My son likes to enjoy some screen time as he soaks in the tub, and I allow him to use an iPad sitting a few feet away on the toilet lid. One day, his battery was low, so I hooked it up to an external battery before his bath. "Don't splash around or get this wet," I told him. "It could start a fire." When I came to check on him a few minutes later, I found that he'd moved the iPad and the battery further away, to the top of a vanity -- and those were sitting on a folded towel. 4. We took the kids to Disney last weekend, and one morning, Little Man was in the mood to do something else at the moment we needed to leave for the first Fast Pass window of the day. "Disney is boring!" he complained. As wise and clever as he can be, he's still a little boy, and not long later, was excited to see Mickey Mouse in one of the many parades that seem to pop up out of nowhere all the time in the park. -- CAV Link to Original
  2. Just as leftists demand windmills, only to complain that they kill birds, so do they bite the corporate hand that feeds them the vegetable matter they're supposed to crave... Image by Syced, via Wikimedia Commons, license. I'd already heard that the meatless "Impossible Burger" patties at Burger King contained two things that are anathema to the Luddite branch of the food police: material from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and glyphosate (the harmless herbicide in Roundup). But, as they say in infomercials, that's not all. A vegan is suing Burger King because the patties were cooked using the same equipment as the real hamburgers. As Jim Treacher put it: That's right, this genius went to Burger King and bought a burger, and now he's suing them because it contained traces of... burger. Treacher correctly calls out adherents to the idea that "the natural" is inherently good -- as if man and his rational faculty aren't natural: "[T]heir entire philosophy is anti-human." And it should come as no surprise that this attempt at a meat-free burger that actually tastes good -- a marvel that requires lots of ingenuity -- would upset adherents to this belief. Let's hope this lawsuit gets thrown out as frivolous. To the extent that artificial meat could lower food prices in the future, this legal exposure is bad news. And may corporate America grow to understand sooner rather, than later, to stand up to the irrational demands of people whose self-contradictory desires make them impossible to please. To the extent that Burger King chose to sell this product in order to appease nature-worshipers, it made a poor decision: Treacher is right to note that some market segments are best ignored altogether. -- CAVLink to Original
  3. This is not a story I have followed closely, but for years, Chik-fil-A has had a bad reputation in some quarters, because (for example) its corporate values have been shaped by its Southern Baptist founder and it has donated to organizations that oppose same-sex marriage. I am nonreligious and oppose the government intruding on life-long committed relationships beyond its proper role in enforcing any contract arising from the same. I think that, until the day comes that the government is out of the business of saying who can and cannot get married, it should at least permit same-sex marriages -- for the same reason that other laws it shouldn't be making should be based on objective principles as far as that is possible. That said, while I disagreed with the ownership of Chik-fil-A on the question of marriage, I had some measure of respect for them for sticking to their guns in the face of often venomous and unfair attacks from the left. But I did hope they would change their minds -- and apparently, they have: Will they make money -- or come home to roost? (Image by William Moreland, via Unsplash, license). Chick-fil-A surpassed $1B in sales in 2001 and eclipsed the $5B mark in 2013, the year following Cathy's statement on gay marriage. The chicken chain became the third-largest U.S. fast-food chain this year with $10.5B in sales, according to Nation's Restaurant News data. Only McDonald's and Starbucks bring in more revenue among fast-food chains. But after years of "taking it on the chin," as a Chick-fil-A executive told Bisnow, the latest round of headlines was impossible to ignore. This time, it was impeding the company's growth. [link omitted]This reminds me a little bit of how Houston desegregated peacefully in the 1960's, after its leading businessmen realized how bad for business segregation was. Perhaps we are once again seeing a triumph of capitalism over bigotry. That would be a very good thing, both for Chik-fil-A and for capitalism. But hold on for a minute... Religious conservatives, like Rod Dreher, are unhappy. They see the change as a "surrender" to the left, who he says unfairly characterized the chain: y abandoning the Salvation Army and other charities, Chick-fil-A's corporate leadership signaled that it accepts the Left's critique. The company is trying to dodge this charge, saying that it is merely refocusing its charitable giving priorities, to focus on education, fighting hunger, and fighting homelessness. The Salvation Army doesn't have anything to do with education, but you will find no more effective and valiant fighters of hunger and homelessness than the faithful of the Salvation Army. Dreher does indirectly bring up a good point here: Chik-fil-A should have made a more direct, positive statement about the change -- and for precisely the reason that so many on the left are merely obnoxious nihilists, despite posing as supporters of the right to marry. Failing to do this certainly looks like a capitulation -- to its allies and admirers, to these barbarians, and to everyone else. (And if it is just a capitulation (as time will surely tell), it will only embolden the worst elements of the left. So, hooray for the power of boycotts and the profit motive to usher in cultural change. But beware: That power can cause change for the worse in many ways unless corporate leaders develop a spine. If the owners of Chik-fil-A have really changed their minds, they should say so. If not, they should have either admitted that their past practices were bad for business or simply stuck to their guns. There are no points with anywone for phoniness, and there is absolutely no such thing as appeasing a mob, which is what the left has increasingly become. -- CAV Link to Original
  4. In the course of some research, I ran across a mendacious smear piece in the "1619 Project" of the New York Times. The lengthy piece quite revealingly starts off with Martin Shkreli, the notorious scoundrel who gamed central planning (in the form of FDA rules) to charge extortionate prices to patients who needed a medication. Since the patents had long expired for this medication, it should have been available from multiple suppliers. And it would have been under capitalism, since that regulation would not have existed to impede the law of supply and demand. It is Shkreli -- no capitalist, and whom the Times plainly regards as a criminal -- whom the Times happily elevates to a quotable authority: [T]his is a capitalist society, a capitalist system and capitalist rules.The rest of the article proceeds accordingly, as you might expect of a journalist who doesn't even bother to define the term he is plainly denouncing. So let's take up that slack right now, before we go any further: Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned. The recognition of individual rights entails the banishment of physical force from human relationships: basically, rights can be violated only by means of force. In a capitalist society, no man or group may initiate the use of physical force against others. The only function of the government, in such a society, is the task of protecting man's rights, i.e., the task of protecting him from physical force; the government acts as the agent of man's right of self-defense, and may use force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use; thus the government is the means of placing the retaliatory use of force under objective control.This definition comes from Ayn Rand, author of Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. Matthew Desmond chose someone he despises as a representative of capitalism: He has no room to complain about my choice. With this out of the way, reading most of the rest of Desmond's hit piece will be like shooting fish in a barrel. Here are my notes on the rest of the piece: The idea of there being different "varieties" of capitalism, (e.g., "democratic to unregulated") is ridiculous. Also, regulation is not part of capitalism, and democracy is mob rule. There are, however many different examples of mixed economies in the world. It is simply wrong to call any or all of these systems "capitalism." The assertion that, "Slavery was undeniably a font of phenomenal wealth." is highly debatable, to say the very least, plantation millionaires (the seen) for example, not withstanding. Despite the opulence of its rulers, find me a Venezuelan who calls their brand of slavery a "font of phenomenal wealth.") The author gives a whirlwind tour of early American history, with emphasis on: (a) the brutality of slavery, (b) the fact that land speculators and plantation owners benefited from the often dishonest and inhumane treatment of Amerindians, (c) a quick portrait of the cotton economy, (d) the fact that many Northerners grew wealthy by trading with the plantation owners, and (e) assertions that many modern management techniques originated on plantations. This snow job proves absolutely nothing, except that the author wants us to think that "American capitalism" (whatever that's supposed to be) is a more or less direct descendant of the institution of slavery. (His discussions of management techniques read like he'd consign the world to starvation just because the Haber Process originated in Nazi Germany.) America is indeed scarred from its shameful legacy of slavery, but it is fatuous to damn it (or "capitalism") as if it has not made any meaningful progress since. At one point, after calling slavery "America's first big business," he followed with a particularly graphic and disturbing description of the punishments meted out for slaves not making their quotas. This is a calculated ploy to cause readers -- who may be too shocked to remember that people don't receive this kind of treatment in America today -- to wrongly associate brutality with capitalism. After all of this buildup comes the following paragraph, which may well sound aspirational to a reader, horrified at the brutality and overwhelmed by mostly irrelevant details by this point. In fact, it is quite ridiculous. It is about the "freedom" felt by poor whites who had been exposed to slavery. Like the rest of the piece, it mixes a grain of truth with an anti-capitalist agenda: It was a freedom that understood what it was against but not what it was for [true --ed]; a malnourished and mean kind of freedom that kept you out of chains [also true --ed] but did not provide bread or shelter. [See below. --ed] It was a freedom far too easily pleased. [true --ed]Pardon my French, but how in hell does an abstract concept like "freedom" "provide bread or shelter?" It doesn't, as Ayn Rand points out in a discussion of individual rights, which are protected under (actual) capitalism: Or pills, but copetition would lead to pricesthat made sense. (Image by Amanda Jones, via Unsplash, license.) There is no such thing as "a right to a job" -- there is only the right of free trade, that is: a man's right to take a job if another man chooses to hire him. There is no "right to a home," only the right of free trade: the right to build a home or to buy it. There are no "rights to a 'fair' wage or a 'fair' price" if no one chooses to pay it, to hire a man or to buy his product. There are no "rights of consumers" to milk, shoes, movies or champagne if no producers choose to manufacture such items (there is only the right to manufacture them oneself). There are no "rights" of special groups, there are no "rights of farmers, of workers, of businessmen, of employees, of employers, of the old, of the young, of the unborn." There are only the Rights of Man -- rights possessed by every individual man and by all men as individuals.When one is free, one has the opportunity to create or trade for these things with other free men. Goods, like food and shelter are produced by individuals, working alone or cooperatively. The only institution that "gives" anyone such things without actual effort is a system that -- like slavery to a greater or lesser degree -- forcibly deprives other men of those things. And so it is that this piece has said something I think I can agree with: Desmond is clearly against capitalism and, based on what he has the gall to claim freedom should entail, for slavery. -- CAV Link to Original
  5. Over the weekend, I finished reading Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart Into a Visionary Leader, by Brent Schlender and Rick Tetzeli. I highly recommend the book for anyone who wants or needs (1) the inspiration of a real-life story of someone who has triumphed over major mistakes brought on by errors in thinking or personality flaws, or (2) an awareness of what some of these obstacles can be and how to overcome them. This engrossing book delivers on those promises with aplomb, and I am very grateful. But it is so much more than that. The authors -- who speak in the first person as Tetzeli -- hint at this in the below passage: Captain of Industry. Human Being. (Image by Matthew Yohe, via Wikimedia Commons, license.) What I have always loved about business journalism, and what I have learned from the very best colleagues I've worked with, is that there is always a human side to the seemingly calculated world of industry. I knew this was true about Steve when he was alive -- no one else I have ever covered was so passionate about the creations of his business. But only in writing this book have I come to understand just how much the personal life and the business life of Steve Jobs overlapped, and just how much the one informed the other. You can't really understand how Steve became our generation's Edison and Ford and Disney and Elvis, all rolled into one, until you understand this. It's what makes his reinvention such a great tale. (p. 14) [bold added]This book is a major step in the right direction for giving justice to the memory of Steve Jobs. Job, widely admired though he is, has many more detractors than his own bluntness and errors would explain, and the authors go a long way in rebutting the caricature -- convenient to the evil and the lazy -- of Jobs as "half-genius, half-asshole." That said, it is possible to go further than this book, by considering the words of another widely-misunderstood genius, Ayn Rand. Rand saw no breach between the moral and the practical, because she saw that the purpose of morality was to offer man rational guidance for the purpose of his own flourishing. As highly as I regard Becoming Steve Jobs, its authors were not focused on fighting the near-universal stereotypes of "cold," "calculating" reason, or of the near-universal equation of the terms morality and selflessness. Late in the book, for example, Tim Cook, Jobs's friend and successor as Apple CEO, praised Jobs because he was not "selfish." Given today's cultural context, this is understandable -- but it does threaten to limit what one can learn from Jobs's extraordinary life. Just one example comes from late in the book, when Jobs, tired and in pain from his illness, is having to seek approval from the Cupertino City Council for his company's eventual headquarters: When one councilwoman tried to joke with him that perhaps the city should get free Wi-Fi in return for approving the move, Steve said, "Well, you know, I'm kind of old-fashioned. I believe that we pay taxes, and that the city then gives us services."It's bad enough that we have the coercive arrangement of the government taking money at all, regardless of pretext. It is revealing that this adult female shamelessly "joked" about taking even more money from Jobs and his company. But generations of altruistic and collectivist intellectuals and politicians have made this into a norm as Ayn Rand once put quite well in her essay, "America's Persecuted Minority: Big Business:" America's industrial progress, in the short span of a century and a half, has acquired the character of a legend: it has never been equaled anywhere on earth, in any period of history. The American businessmen, as a class, have demonstrated the greatest productive genius and the most spectacular achievements ever recorded in the economic history of mankind. What reward did they receive from our culture and its intellectuals? The position of a hated, persecuted minority. The position of a scapegoat for the evils of the bureaucrats.Here, I am sure the shameless little thief felt that Jobs needed to "give back" to the "community," despite the fact that he had already personally benefited millions of people around the globe through mutually beneficial (and consensual!) trades. It is currently en vogue on the left (whose proposals for the economy would make it impossible for even much lesser men than Steve Jobs to produce what we want and need) to speak of "othering" minorities. They should look in the mirror and think long and hard about how they treat -- and incite others to treat -- the productive, on the pretext that they have large amounts of money. They probably won't, but anyone who is "undecided" -- as an acquaintance of mine admitted he was -- between capitalism and socialism should consider how they would feel about having what they worked for taken away from them just because someone else didn't have it. More important, they should think about why someone would do this in the first place, and what to do about it. -- CAV Link to Original
  6. Four Things 1. If you haven't paid a visit to Project Gutenberg, let me recommend browsing its well-organized inventory of public domain, free (as in beer) ebooks the next time you're looking for something to read. I snagged a copy of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde there after the book came up on a list of "steampunk" science fiction. (Of course, it isn't really steampunk, but it very much has the feel of the genre.) The site offers a variety of formats, including the Kindle-compatible MOBI. To upload to your device, retrieve your Amazon account's email address and send the file there in an untitled, blank email. Currently, I'm reading a P.G. Wodehouse book I found there. A cursory look while preparing for this post showed collections of work by Henry Hazlitt (although not Economics in One Lesson, at least as a stand-alone book), and The Federalist Papers. 2. A humorous Twitter exchange between some kid and William Shatner serves as the point of departure for a column by HR expert Suzanne Lucas. It also reminds me of the ska song, embedded below and titled, "William Shatner," by the Scofflaws. I know. Okay, boomer. 3. It's time for another gem from Miss Manners. Scroll down or search "bridal shower" for the Q and A, if you wish, but here's the meat: If people are going to insist on taking all of the spontaneity out of present-giving not only by dictating the merchandise, but also by setting its timeline and means of delivery, Miss Manners can hardly muster sympathy for them when their guests obey their rules and show up empty-handed.Sometimes, when the truth sets you free, it also makes you smile. 4. Since I own a copy of the out-of-production Objectivism Research CDROM, I can perform searches through much of the work of Ayn Rand and the early Objectivists. (Even if I owned the Kindle edition of every single such book, this resource is infinitely easier to use than having to search books singly or guess where something on the edge of recollection might be.) But there are gaps, such as The Objectivist Forum (TOF), of which I own a bound copy. As far as I can tell, there is no electronic version. But I did at least find an electronic table of contents (with brief summaries) for TOF. That was quite helpful the other day when I wanted to read "The Possible Dream," by Harry Binswanger, but did not know where it was. I highly recommend reading it, by the way. (I had forgotten that TOF was not part of the CDROM set, so I then found it in the bound copy. That said, at least I don't have to lug that thing out just to look up where/whether it contains an article I have heard about.) -- CAV Link to Original
  7. Reproduction by William Stone, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain. I am grateful to Bruce Yandle of the American Institute for Economic Research for reminding America, in this age of tariffs, of the Boston Tea Party and what it implied to its participants: The Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773 was a powerful protest by a freedom-loving group called the Sons of Liberty against the British government's decision to impose a tax -- a tariff -- on tea imported from China to the Colonies. The protestors opposed an arbitrary government action, which they saw as an infringement on their rights as Englishmen.And, in case this historical review isn't sufficient to give the reader at least a sense of irony about our Chief Executive acting like an English monarch in his purported effort to "make America great again," Yandle makes things more explicit: Thomas Jefferson, the Enlightenment thinker who penned [the preamble to the Declaration of Independence], saw this new nation as an experiment in liberty, one where free people ... with rights ... could pursue happiness. And how might they go about doing so? By cooperating and engaging in mutually beneficial exchange in the world's marketplace. These free people would not be inhibited by government, but assisted by it in their happiness pursuits.This is a profound point: By dictating to the American people with whom they may trade and on what terms, our government is indeed doing the exact opposite of what it was intended to do. To make America great again, one must have some idea of what made her great in the first place. By imposing tariffs, Trump eloquently demonstrates that he does not fully understand his self-proclaimed mission. -- CAV Link to Original
  8. Writing at RealClear Markets, Jimmy Sengenberger of the Millennial Policy Center rightly calls the media on its predictable and incorrect adulation of nearly every left-wing program as "ambitious:" Minds change one at a time, and almost never all at once. (Image by Mael Balland, via Unsplash, license.) For some reason, massive entitlements and intricate bureaucracies are always and necessarily intrepid policy proposals. Yet there's nothing genuinely "ambitious" or "bold" about pitching complex, massive programs to give people "free stuff" and make "the top 1%" pay for it. The reality is that this path -- the big government path -- is truly the easy thing to do.This much is correct. Indeed, allowing for the confusion, common among conservatives, of "small" government with properly limited government, it is clear that Sengenberger's heart is in the right place when he goes further: "In truth, the hardest thing to accomplish is to shrink government -- its size, its scope and its power." Unfortunately the conservatives Sengenberger praises -- Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and Donald Trump -- are dismal failures. If these hollow men are his inspiration, he is doomed to fail in the efforts -- with which I sympathize -- to "unleash... the unlimited potential of every individual to improve their own lives." Take just the first of these, Ronald Reagan, whom Sengenberger quotes: As Ronald Reagan said way back in 1964, "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on Earth." Truer words were never spoken. How many federal programs have been created that have really gone away?Put that together with controls breed controls, and it sounds like we are doomed. We need to dig deeper back in time and look harder for better examples to have any hope. And fortunately, I can think of two things -- foreign tyranny and the institution of slavery -- that were each far worse than any federal program today. Despite the fact that they are so far back in the rear view mirror that even today's would-be defenders of liberty often seem to have forgotten them, they hold lessons for us today. In both cases, men who regarded liberty as a moral cause did everything in their power to persuade others of the merits of their cause and to join them. Unlike Reagan (and many of their contemporaries), the abolitionists didn't tsk and pretend that slavery was some sort of unchangeable condition of nature. Nor did they propose to "reform" the inherently corrupt system they opposed, as did George Bush. And they certainly didn't "take an ax" to the institution of slavery by, say, freeing a few hundred slaves and leaving it at that -- which would be the nearest equivalent I can think of to what Trump has done regarding the regulatory state. The restoration of liberty in America, if it is to occur, will require a significant minority of people to re-embrace the individualism that was once much more common in America. That may take some time, but it is a fight worth fighting in whatever way one can. My contribution of the moment to those passing by would be to point them to the thoughts of the philosopher and energy activist Alex Epstein regarding mass movements (worth the price of admission), historian Brad Thompson on the abolition movement, and novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand on the moral foundations of liberty. -- CAV Link to Original
  9. This morning, I experienced the spiral theory of learning in a humorous and productive way. Image by Xiang Hu, via Unsplash, license. Without going too far into the gory details of my writing setup, I have for years written and edited blog posts and the early stages of other pieces with (1) a great text editor first created in the 1960's, and (2) a script that adds an HTML header and footer to the (markdown) file. That file automatically refreshes every few seconds. This setup allows me to edit an HTML file and see the results in close-enough to real time for my purposes. It's clever, if I say so myself, and easy to use. I have also for years had an extension within the text editor that allows me to view web pages within the editor. It's ugly and not my first choice, but sometimes, it's a great way to quickly and cleanly view sites that are slow to load or that have bad visual design: I just see the text, and can access it with all my editing functions and macros if I want to. So this morning, due to a weird problem I had encountered, my mind was working on software in the background and I made a connection that had, oddly, eluded me all this time: I could try loading local files into the browser extension. (I think part of why this never occurred to me was due in part to how one of the text editing modes opens links: It had wrongly gotten into my head that my editor would always want to edit local files, but call an external program to view HTML links...) So I did this and very quickly realized that I could do everything -- edit HTML and see near-real-time results -- all within my edtior, and without the mild annoyance of having to open a browser, arrange application windows, re-size the browser, etc., etc. In Emacs, I just split my window and see the HTML on the left and the rendered text on the right. I thought, with a chuckle at my own expense: How did I not realize this much sooner? And then I proceeded to write this post that way. Lots of things just got even better in my writing software setup. -- CAV Link to Original
  10. At Jewish World Review is an article by Helen Carefoot on turning goals into accomplishments. The article draws from several productivity experts to offer both general advice and specific tips pertinent to becoming better organized and more effective -- but laudably mentions that different things work better for different individuals. Accordingly, it advises self-monitoring and adjustment. That last is indispensable. Over time, I have come to regard advice on productivity to be almost as difficult to evaluate and apply as advice on nutrition for the same kinds of reasons: Individual situations are variable enough and the science behind some of the advice (i.e., psychology or nutrition) is not well-enough established. Having said that, I regard this as the kind of piece that offers most people a chance of finding something valueable. In my case, I expect to put the following to good use the next time I have to deal with certain kinds of tasks that normally bring out the procrastinator in me: Image by Cristian Giordano, via Unsplash, license. Drumming up enthusiasm to accomplish even mundane tasks is half the battle, she said. Tying consequences and rewards to tasks helps them get done. "Think about the reasoning behind it and ask 'how can I find the "I want to" in that task,'" she said. For example, [Liz] Sumner recently obtained an Italian driver's license after several less-than-fun visits to the Italian equivalent of the DMV. Her motivation was being able to drive in her new home country, and she used that to propel her through steps such as making time to study for the test (which was given in Italian) and booking appointments. [bold added]I wouldn't call this (or advise?) "tying" consequences and rewards to a task so much as discovering and retaining awareness of those things. Yes, you could try to "gamify," but I think looking for a real motivation by love will work better, by tying the goal and actions to the rest of your knowledge and values. This advice reminds me of the visualization techniques Mark Murphy recommends in Hard Goals, but one can go further. If one has to sit and wait at the DMV in order to enjoy those scenic drives, why not also find a way to use or enjoy that time, in the likely case that the room is not filled with the world's most scintillating conversationalists? I did just this at the DMV a few years ago, when I wrote part of a blog post on a smart phone -- using the venerable, 1960's-era emacs text editor -- just to see if I could. -- CAVLink to Original
  11. Blog Roundup 1. At How to Be Profitable and Moral, Jaana Woiceshyn makes a good case for full legalization of cannabis (as opposed to the tightly regulated and taxed piecemeal "legalizations" we're seeing today). Along the way, she counters a common objection: It is also important to recognize that in a social system based on the principle of freedom, no one can be forced to pay for others' treatment, of for their food, housing, or anything else. Individuals are responsible for their own health care, for which there will be competing providers at different price points. (The truly destitute, which would be a tiny fraction of the population in a free market system, will have to depend on private charity. Historical evidence shows that private charity flourishes when government is not involved in social welfare). In a free society, no one is their brother's keeper by force.Her argument, incidentally, demonstrates just how self-defeating "libertarians" who really just want to smoke marijuana are: The stakes are far higher than that, and any narrow "win" on that very minor issue will be partial and temporary at best if we do not fight for the broader principle of freedom. 2. At the blog of The Harry Binswanger Letter is a post arguing that "All Trade Deals Are Bad Deals." In addition to explaining that such "deals" are fascistic by nature, Binswanger debunks the idea that our "trade war" with China is in any way justified by incidents of intellectual property theft: [T]oday's approach is the unjust practice of punishing a whole group for the misbehavior of one party. Imagine that Qualcomm were found to be stealing intellectual property from Apple. Would that justify slapping a tax on every American business in order to "play hardball" with Qualcomm? It's even more outrageous to tax all Americans in order to "play hardball" with Huawei. Punish the offending party, not the population at large.This is only one of several points Binswanger makes by using non-international examples to remove the confusion that the existence of international borders seems to cause for many people. 3. Bookish Babe briefly discusses Hidden Figures and follows up with a book recommendation: The author wrote a young readers version of Hidden Figures. I mistakenly purchased this version. I believe this is an excellent book that will inspire children to respect intellectual pursuits.I am grateful for both the reminder of an excellent movie -- which I managed to miss when it was out -- and the young reader's book. I need to see the former, and my daughter perhaps could use the latter down the road. She seems to be good at math, and might do well to see where that could take her. 4. At New Ideal, Ben Bayer briefly elaborates on Ayn Rand's views about religious faith, ending as follows: If you believe in that, I have a pair of cloth glasses to sell you...(Image by Kirill Balobanov, via Unsplash, license.) Rand's view that faith is fundamentally a fear of independence helps further distinguish her view from the idea that faith is simply trust we invest in others. Belief from fear is far from being belief that derives from an awareness of others' expertise or reliability. By the same token, it is also very far from some kind of divine light whereby God directly illuminates truths we contemplate in the privacy of our minds.Within the post are quotes by Rand (a) indicating what faith is (and why it is bad) and (b) regarding the psychological motives behind it. There is also a link to a webinar where the issue of what faith is came up. -- CAV Link to Original
  12. A 2016 article from Harvard Business Review discusses innovations in four very different fields as exemplary of what its authors (including Clayton M. Christensen, who coined the term disruptive innovation) regard as a way to focus one's inventive efforts: Know the jobs your current and prospective customers need done. (I have seen this abbreviated elsewhere as JTBD.) After a somewhat long lead-in -- which you can skip by searching "The Business of Moving Lives" -- the authors get to what I found to be the most interesting example. A building company had been having trouble selling condominium units to its target market of downsizers (e.g., empty-nesters and divorcing parents) and was unable to figure out why from any of the usual ways of investigating the problem, such as from demographic data. And attempts to boost sales, such as from changes to the units based on focus groups, were unsuccessful. So the company brought in Bob Moesta, an innovation consultant. Moesta's approach involved interviewing people who did buy units in order to see whether there were any common threads that might help him discover what job the units were successfully doing for the buyers. This is an important part of what he was able to piece together: Image by Annie Spratt, via Unsplash, license. n Moesta's conversations with actual buyers, the dining room table came up repeatedly. "People kept saying, 'As soon as I figured out what to do with my dining room table, then I was free to move,'" reports Moesta. He and his colleagues couldn't understand why the dining room table was such a big deal. In most cases people were referring to well-used, out-of-date furniture that might best be given to charity -- or relegated to the local dump. But as Moesta sat at his own dining room table with his family over Christmas, he suddenly understood. Every birthday was spent around that table. Every holiday. Homework was spread out on it. The table represented family. What was stopping buyers from making the decision to move, he hypothesized, was not a feature that the construction company had failed to offer but rather the anxiety that came with giving up something that had profound meaning. The decision to buy a six-figure condo, it turned out, often hinged on a family member's willingness to take custody of a clunky piece of used furniture. That realization helped Moesta and his team begin to grasp the struggle potential home buyers faced. "I went in thinking we were in the business of new-home construction," he recalls. "But I realized we were in the business of moving lives." [bold added] On reaching this understanding, Moesta came up with ways the company could make moving less traumatic for its customers. Upon implementing his advice, his client saw an impressive gain in sales despite terrible overall market conditions. The last bolded line of the above passage is the most important: Even when it seems obvious what one's job is, unexpected difficulties might be a symptom that one's assumptions about it are wrong. Or, to put it more broadly: Gaining and maintaining a firm grasp of the job-to-be-done is an active and ongoing process that is essential to occupational success. I highly recommend this piece not only for its obvious merits to businessmen, but also because almost anyone can learn from it to become a better trader, and at any point in a career. -- CAV Link to Original
  13. Over at The Bitter Southerner is a well-written and positive piece about how gas stations have managed to survive in the rural Mississippi Delta -- by addressing the need for restaurants and small grocery stores in a region that unimaginative "activists" and government bureaucrats know only as a "food desert:" Image by Nsaum75, via Wikimedia Commons, license. Other nearby operations have adjusted their business model to service both a hungry crowd and those needing fuel. Spend one day traveling the two-lane highways of the Mississippi Delta and you will undoubtedly come upon one of some 50 Double Quick stores scattered throughout the region. With nearly a century under their belt in the petroleum business, the Gresham family, owners of the Double Quick chain, have learned to accommodate the near-constant fluctuation in gas prices by operating these shops as full-fledged restaurants and occasional grocery stores. "We tend to think of ourselves as a food destination first, that just happens to sell fuel," says Damon Crawford, director of marketing for Double Quick. Customers in search of fried chicken tend to agree.And it's not all fried chicken: The combination of variety and quality in unexpected places reminds me a little of the first time I read about some of the hole-in-the-wall establishments described by the late Richard Collin in The New Orleans Underground Gourmet as a teen. A short list ranges the gamut from a particularly inspired take on the moon pie (not for me, but still), through boudin sausage, to Indian cuisine. As a native Mississippian, it wasn't the quality or variety of what was available so much as where it was showing up that surprised me. But I grew up in Jackson, and am not very familiar with that part of the state, despite the fact that my father's side of the family comes from there. But, should I happen to go through there, I look forward to making a stop or two for the food. -- CAV Link to Original
  14. Jane Fonda's been getting arrested -- for breaking the law in the name of "climate" activism this time. But has she been doing jail time? Not at all: Hell, she isn't even being fined. The following comes from a recent Brent Bozell column on the subject: Something is more than fishy about this catch-and-release policy. (Image by www.raubfisch24.de, via Pixabay, license.) This is nothing but an exercise in political vanity. Getting arrested sounds all naughty and risky -- but there are no risks. The Capitol Police does not allow demonstrations on the Capitol grounds without a permit, so these leftists come unauthorized and play Martin Luther King for a day -- unauthorized but not unannounced. Press attention (and adulation) is everything, so they make sure everyone knows they're coming. Protesters are put in single-use plastic handcuffs and usually taken to the Capitol Police garage. Fonda isn't sitting in jail over the weekend. No one's fining her $1,000 for the trouble. When Fonda was first arrested, on Oct. 14, the network morning shows were predictable stenographers to leftist protest. [bold added]I was at first mildly offended at Bozell's "play Martin Luther King for a day" -- until I realized that that is a perfect characterization of what is going on here. And there is cause for offense, but not directed at Bozell. Jane Fonda and Ted Danson hardly face the kind of risks that the civil rights protesters of the 1960's faced when they protested Jim Crow in the South. Their cause is not just: The science concerning climate, being science, is debatable. The notion of the government taking control of the economy and our lives -- given its proper purpose of protecting our rights -- would not follow even if "the science" unequivocally showed a crisis, which it doesn't. Ditto even if "renewables" could quickly take the place of fossil fuels, which they can't. Indeed, given how popular their views are among the government and the media, they aren't fighting at all. And on top of this, the Capitol Police are being used, at public expense, as stooges to help them pretend -- to themselves most of all -- that they are being brave. The fake arrests, on top of being a misuse of government, are an insult to the memory of Martin Luther King, and a sacrilege. As a professional actress, Jane Fonda is well practiced at pretense. Rather than fawn, more than one journalist should note this fakery. And rather than help her fool the young and the credulous, our negligent journalists should ask: What else about her understanding of the science and professed concern for politics might be phony? -- CAV Link to Original
  15. Over the weekend I accidentally had the pleasure of shutting down an annoying solicitor cold. On top of that, I gained a positive interaction with a neighbor and perhaps further small opportunities to support the enormous value of industrial civilization. At home with the kids while my wife was out helping her parents house-hunt, I heard a knock on the door. It was close to when I expected everyone back, so I half-expected my wife. Instead, I got one of today's equivalents of a patent medicine salesman: It was a representative of a solar panel installation company. Image by Vivint Solar, via Unsplash, license. We exchanged pleasantries, and then had something like the following brief conversation, picking up from the instant it became clear he wanted to push solar panels on me: Me, cutting him off in mid-sentence: No thank you. I am not interested in solar panels. Salesman: You're not interested in saving money? Me: I'm not interested in government subsidies. Also, I support the continued use of fossil fuels because I don't think solar technology is anywhere close to being able to replace them. Salesman: Would you like our brochure? Me: No thanks. Thank you for your time. Salesman: Have a good day. Me: You, too. I think this was an okay response, but not a perfect one, and I'm not going to beat myself up here: For one thing, I'm easing out of a long period of not having many face-to-face conversations like this. That said, I look back wishing I'd noted that solar is actively harmful because it destabilizes the power grid, and had a clearer idea about how the government "incentivizes" it in Florida. (I believe it's actually primarily through tax breaks, although I would hardly be shocked if the apparent dollar cost savings seen by a homeowner turned out to be unimpressive over the long run.) On the positive side of the ledger, I was firm, but polite. I successfully cut my time losses and spared myself a litany of green intellectual debris. I may have succeeded in doing my small part in countering the leftist trope that all opposition to environmentalism comes from knuckle-dragging troglodytes. And, perhaps the salesman at least knows that there are thinking people who question the premise that solar is a panacea. Best yet, a neighbor happened to walk by while I was doing this. I didn't know who it was until later, when, driving by while I was outside with the kids, she stopped to thank me for shutting this guy down so quickly. Although I think she was more impressed with the fact that I so quickly dispatched a solicitor, I did take the opportunity to reiterate my contention that solar is not a cheap or reliable power source, and I mentioned that Alex Epstein's The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels did a great job countering lots of garbage -- Yes, I used the term. No, I'm not sure that was the best time to use it. -- about energy and global warming hysteria. Will my neighbor follow through on my recommendation? Time will tell. Did others overhear me make it? Maybe. But the most important thing was that I didn't let the guy guilt me or leave thinking he was offering anything of value to me. Unlike anyone else on my block (that I know of), I will not so much as have this person darken my door again, and, knowing how my mind works -- slowly and in the background -- I will have an even better answer the next time this happens, if there is one. My main small regret is that I would have liked to more clearly register my moral disapproval of this racket in the moment, so as to avoid any staircase wit later on. -- CAV Link to Original
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