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Gus Van Horn blog

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Everything posted by Gus Van Horn blog

  1. Four Things Five, counting the picture. What's this? My "Little Man dozes off on the couch" checklist, of course. See P.S.1. Answering a question from my daughter about whether chickens "poop out" eggs, I mispronounced the term cloaca, sounding more Roman than American in the process. (I blame years of Latin for this.) My wife quickly corrected me, advising Pumpkin to check with her for pronunciation of new words, but with me for spelling. As if our division of labor isn't weird enough already... 2. Pumpkin took her unicorn headband with her on an outing and, predictably, grew tired of it. Stuck carrying it, I put it on at one point and got her attention. "A manicorn does not look good," was her immediate verdict. 3. Pumpkin has often amazed me with her ability to spot things that blend into backgrounds. I recently inadvertently put that use. I had lost my black-framed eyeglasses earlier in the day, and was afraid that they might get damaged, so I warned the kids: "You don't have to go looking for them, but watch out for my glasses when we get home. I lost them, and I'm worried that someone might sit on them or step on them." Within minutes of getting home, my daughter piped up, "Daddy, I found your glasses!" Where were they? On a black step stool in the downstairs bathroom. 4. My kids are at their most talkative on the ride home from school. During our last couple of days in Baltimore, while we were using a hotel, my son relayed to me a most interesting dream he'd had the night before. He told me about how monsters were attacking his sister, and he fought them off by kicking them. I got a good laugh out of Pumpkin when I mentioned a strange coincidence: He had woken me up that very night, by repeatedly kicking me in the back. -- CAV P.S. What's up with the picture, Van Horn? I'm glad you asked. My son, who can sleep like a log, sometimes dozes off on the couch before bedtime. Rather than wake him, I just picked him up one evening and deposited him in his bed. Waking at two in the morning, he became quite upset that he was not in his pajamas. The next day, he created the pictured bedtime checklist for me, so I wouldn't forget that important step in the future. Two things about the image. (1) Kids his age flip things around from left to right, so I flipped it around for better "flow" (2) It's on moving paper, hence all the crinkles. Link to Original
  2. Writing at Inc., Suzanne Lucas brings up something too many in the public square frequently ignore or fail to account for, when the subject of ill-considered past actions and utterances comes up: We knew Finster was a bad apple the moment he swiped his older bother's hat. (Image via Pixabay.)Last week I was on the tram when a group of teenage boys came and sat near me. Their language was atrocious and they kept calling each other "gay." So, knowing that their behavior at 13 was indicative of how they would be for their entire lives, I took their pictures, followed them home, and got their full names and addresses. This way, when they try to get jobs or win awards or something, I can discredit them and point out that when they were young teens they were dumb and more interested in being shocking than anything else. Where's my community leadership badge? [links omitted]That something is called context. Lucas notes that many recent trials-by-media have used, as damning evidence, things people have said many years ago, and asks: Is there ever a point where we can say, "Okay, you've changed?" or "Okay, you've grown up?" Or is life simply a one-shot-and-you're-out game?All I can add to this line of thought is the following observation: It is particularly unjust to play this game regarding actions taken by people who were young at the time, before they have learned good judgement, and when they stand the best chance to change for the better. Lucas offers her own advice regarding such situations in the form of what really happened on that tram ride. Here is another: When you find someone pummeling another person over something -- non-criminal, and that doesn't cross some truly horrible line -- from their distant past, ask yourself what they might hope to gain by doing so. This goes double for those who dig up dirt on kids. -- CAV Link to Original
  3. Google has received lots of deserved bad press for helping oppressive regimes like China's censor search results, but its questionable decisions don't end at licking the boots of tyrants. The company also puts its motto to the lie by helping little dictators in Indonesia report blasphemy to the government by means of an app called "Smart Pakem," which is available in its app store. The below quote, from Indonesia's National Secular Society, deserves wide circulation: Screen shot.Indonesia's blasphemy law is a morally unjustifiable tool of repression which should be repealed as soon as possible. While this law exists anyone who believes in free expression should make it as difficult as possible for the Indonesian government to enforce the law. Google has greatly benefited from the freedom to share information globally. We ask it and other multinational companies to consider whether they can in good conscience profit from the repression caused by governments' crackdowns on free speech. According to Google Translate, pakem means "grip," which causes me to think of a pair of hands tightening around a neck. What a great metaphor for the horrible deed of abetting an assault on freedom of speech. -- CAV P.S. Irony alert: I also plugged smart pakem into Google Translate and got "smart standard" as a translation. Link to Original
  4. Dick Morris explains how seven Republicans who -- as of election day -- had won congressional seats in California, "lost" them weeks later: If you have a ballot lying around, he'll fix things for you. (Image via Wikipedia.)California sends ballots to every voter before Election Day, whether they request it or not. All the voter needs to do is to fill in his choices and mail the form back. But if the mail ballot is not received by Election Day, it can still be counted if a sealed, completed ballot is dropped off with elections officials by hand -- and the voter does not have to drop off their ballot in person. In 2016, California Gov. Jerry Brown opened the door to fraud by signing a law allowing anyone to drop off a ballot for another person. This gave rise to a new practice known as "ballot harvesting," in which Democratic Party canvassers visited people who had not voted on Election Day and collected their mail-in ballots and turned them in on their behalf. This year, a record 250,000 people voted by having someone else turn in their vote-by-mail ballots. [bold added]I am stunned, even in this day and age, that this law is even on the books. (Neighboring Arizona actually has a law making it a felony for anyone but a postal worker, family member, or caregiver to turn in a ballot on behalf of someone else.) It is clearly hopeless to change this law by legislative means in California, but it seems like something that shouldn't be necessary since this clearly violates the rights of voters. That said, a quick search shows no pending legal action against this law, although a site called Judicial Watch claims to be "investigating" the problem. (Posted there is a video, allegedly of a harvester in action. Quote from a partial transcript: "It's Lulu, I'm here to pick up your ballot. Yeah, we're offering this new service but only like, to people who are supporting the Democratic party.") I hope this law and others like it are challenged in court and declared unconstitutional. -- CAV Link to Original
  5. "Progressive" politicians in New Jersey are citing "discrimination" as their excuse to violate the rights of businesses such as Amazon that wish to set up cashless stores. The state, along with several municipalities, is considering forcing essentially all brick-and-mortar stores to accept cash: It is immoral to force anyone to keep piles of cash lying around, and impractical, if consumer interests really are a concern. (Image via Picabay.)As technology gives consumers more ways to pay, including with their smartphones, some businesses have gone cashless to improve efficiency and reduce the risk of robbery, among other reasons. But consumer advocates say cashless businesses effectively discriminate against poor customers who don't have access to credit or bank accounts, and seniors who aren't comfortable paying with plastic or digital devices. [bold added]As with other improper, rights-violating measures (e.g., the minimum wage and "ban the box" laws) foisted on the public in the name of addressing "discrimination," this will also fail to achieve its alleged goal. Off the top of my head: Have these "consumer advocates" not heard of "food deserts" -- poor areas in cities that lack grocery stores? Cashless stores alone would not solve the problem, but it's conceivable that the ability to operate without mounds of cash on hand might make it safer enough for at least a few businesses to enter or start in such potential markets. And as for "the unbanked" not being able to pay, I am sure some enterprising soul could come up with a pre-paid way for many of them to use such stores, if that hasn't been implemented already. But that's not even the half of how ludicrous such proposals are. For that, we can start to see this from a report in the British Guardian: I sat down to eat a curry I had bought (with old-fashioned cash) from another Hatch unit. Then, an Öl barman brought over a conciliatory glass of beer, on the house. I told him the bar's cash-free policy is elitist; who wants to be forced to put a pint on a credit card? He talked about time saved and how not having cash on the premises was safer for the staff. We politely agreed to disagree. Relating this later, to Öl's co-owner David McCall, I find him irrepressibly upbeat, as if everything is going to plan: "We have probably given away 10 beers to people who didn't have cards -- and a few when Visa went down. But we would rather give you a free beer than give the bank five grand, and we want our staff to feel secure. On our second week, we were broken into [overnight] with sledgehammers. All they could take was one iPad." McCall's Manchester coffee shop Takk takes cash. But opening Öl and a second Takk at the student-oriented Hatch was a chance to dispense with the £3,000- to £5,000-a-year in bank charges that the original Takk, like every business, incurs for depositing cash. "We pay above Living Wage [Foundation rates], but we want to pay our 25 staff more," says McCall. The savings made by going card-only will help with that. plastic or digital devices. [bold added]First, nobody is forcing anyone buy anything. Second, guess who loses when their employer's costs increase? Or is it "elitist" to make entry-level employees accustomed to higher pay levels? Another report from the same paper underscores how absurd this idea is: The smartest businesspeople I know don't need a state law telling them it makes the most business sense to accept all forms of payment.(!) If it's smart, why pass a law? And if we "need" a law (We don't, but still...), perhaps there's something we're missing. These points both come up even before we ask the following question: "By what right does the government force someone to accept any given form of payment?" One would imagine at least one of the sympathetic lefty reporters I'd read might appreciate the point: All dislike having to make payments in a certain way preferred by a businessman. And yet, I don't see any evidence that they do -- although I am sure none of these bloodhounds would appreciate being forced to receive their pay as cash. How hard is it to imagine that the businessman, a fellow human being, might likewise not appreciate being told what form of payment to accept? It is just as wrong for the government to tell a merchant he can't decide how he is to be paid as it would be for the government to tell all of us how to pay (or be paid), and for exactly the same reasons. -- CAV Link to Original
  6. Notable Commentary "Read With Me is a free app I created (available for iPhone, Android, or as a web app) to put the classics, and my guidance through them, at anyone's fingertips." [format edits and more below -- ed] -- Lisa VanDamme, in "Read With Me: Crime and Punishment -- A Sneak Preview" at Medium. "The real problem is not "Islamophobia", but Islamophilia, which is rampant in the West." -- Bosch Fawstin, in "I Became White After I Left Islam?" at FrontPage Magazine. "Wealth creation is the answer to global warming." -- Raymond Niles, in "The Power of Compounding and the Power of Scaremongering" at Medium. "[Trump's] dictatorial traits, displayed in his brutish coarseness, is prepping Americans for future dictatorship." -- Raymond Niles, in "Laying Down the Gauntlet of Dictatorship" at Medium. In Further Detail Every once in a while, my near-daily blogging routine turns up a real gem, and the app mentioned above appears to be one of them. Already wanting to resume my reading routine after our move, I will now have even more motivation to plow through all those boxes. I plan to install the app and pick a book. Here is an excerpt from the Android app description linked above: If I have a unique talent as a teacher of literature, it boils down to this: I am passionate about great books. Hugo wrenches my heart and makes me weep tears of anguish and of wonderment. Rostand stirs me to noble ambition in work and love and life. Tolstoy challenges me to think -- and to feel -- on planes higher than I had ever known. Ibsen, Dostoevsky, Balzac, Jane Austen, Maupassant, Rattigan, Sinclair Lewis -- all have helped me to see, in the words of English professor Mark Edmundson, "that life is bigger, sweeter, more tragic and intense -- more alive with meaning than I had thought." I derive profound personal joy from literature, and I have a knack for helping others do the same. That is why I started Read With Me. I know so many people -- thoughtful, intelligent, motivated people -- who avoid reading the classics. And for understandable reasons: they're busy, they don't know what to read, they've never been taught how to enjoy it, they have unpleasant memories of tedious discussions in high school English ... This sounds exciting and I am looking forward to this. -- CAV Link to Original
  7. In a recent column, John Stossel, discusses "The Creepy Line," a conservative documentary about leftist bias in social media companies. Fortuitously, he has his own war story of social media "censorship," which should serve as a lesson to anyone concerned about this problem. Stossel's war story comes to the following successful conclusion: Image via Wikimedia.We asked Google and Facebook to reply to accusations of censorship made by "The Creepy Line" and to explain why YouTube restricted my anti-socialism video but allows other videos that include violence. So far, they haven't replied to questions about bias, but right before this column's deadline, Google emailed us saying they will remove the age restriction on my video. Good. [bold added]Contrast Stossel's response to what too many conservatives wrongly call "censorship" to the solution proposed by the film's writer, Peter Schweizer. Schweizer wants to address this problem by "[putting] them under the same shackles as other media companies." Stossel correctly notes that this would place innovation in social media into the hands of bureaucrats. But that's not all it would do. Schweizer and others are wrong to use the term censorship -- something only governments can do -- to refer to one company's wrongheaded exercise of its property rights. By doing so, he is providing an excuse to deny those property rights and effectively impose actual censorship à la the old Fairness Doctrine on us all -- not to mention opening up the possibility of government bureaucrats serving as (actual) censors. This is a cure far worse than the disease. Many thanks to John Stossel for helping indicate the danger of conservative calls to regulate social media, and for demonstrating the proper way to respond: By publicly calling out such companies, while also standing up for free markets and freedom of speech. -- CAV Link to Original
  8. Just before the mayhem of moving (with bonus mayhem, and not even counting the holidays) started -- I ran across an thought-provoking piece at Jean Moroney's site, Thinking Directions. Moroney reports on her decision to test, for a few weeks, a "Rule of Six" planning tactic expounded by Chet Holmes in The Ultimate Sales Machine. Moroney lists five findings from her test, and closes as follows: Half a dozen is way too low a number for some kinds of tasks. (Image via Unsplash.)The concrete lesson? Six is not a magic number, but the discipline of listing a set number of to-do's each day can boost your productivity. The abstract lesson is more interesting. A productivity "rule" may sound arbitrary, but contain an important principle. You can find out the principle by experimenting with the rule, keeping your eyes open to see how it does or does not make your work more productive. [bold added]I'd forgotten about this post until yesterday, and am glad I flagged it for later review. As I experiment with a new project before the holidays, part of my goal is to figure out how much of the kind of work I can actually fit into a day. Six tasks may be too low or too high, depending on how I divide or measure the work. But the point that it is useful to list goals each day is well taken: It's really the only way to begin learning whether one's planning is realistic. -- CAV Link to Original
  9. Image via Wikipedia.Writing at American Greatness, Edward Ring outlines how central planning by entrenched environmentalists set the stage for California's latest rash of deadly forest fires. The whole thing is worth a read, and correctly calls out the most consistent greens for wanting to "destroy industrial civilization." Here's a sample: "For decades," [investigative journalist Katy] Grimes notes, "traditional forest management was scientific and successful -- that is until ideological, preservationist zealots wormed their way into government and began the overhaul of sound federal forest management through abuse of the Endangered Species Act and the 're-wilding, no-use movement.'"Although Ring unfortunately does not bring up the possibility of privatizing our forests and national parks, this is an opportune time to consider this long-range solution to the problem of widespread forest fires. I will not do so in depth now, but a few questions should show why I think so. Would the owner of a forest, valuing trees for whatever purpose, depart from proven best practices for managing his forest? Would he do so, knowing that nearby property owners damaged by such a decision, could sue him? Almost certainly not, on both counts, but people do have free will. And this leads to a final question: Without top-down planning, what would the chances be of widespread, entrenched mismanagement? Nil. Although these questions indicate that privately-owned forests and parks would almost certainly have prevented the wide-scale forest mis-management that set California ablaze, we should remember that this is a benefit. The underlying reason we should privatize our forests is that running parks and forests is outside the proper scope of government in the first place. -- CAV Link to Original
  10. Over at Unclutterer is a nice collection of travel tips that I recommend going over, and not just for the purpose at hand. Some of these generalize to other situations, particularly the packing checklist, as you will see: Image via Pixabay.Use a consistent packing checklist. I have used hand-written lists in the past, as well as the LobotoME Pack-Me List (pictured). Your packing checklist should be a standard template, not a fresh list each time. This helps you standardize your packing, which means less thinking and fewer on-the-spot decisions. [bold and link in original]I began packing for each trip based on a standard list long before I read this, and I was happy to be able to rid myself of that part of the stress of travel. I also realized three further good things about starting with a packing list template before each trip: As Monica Ricci implies, the template can be adjusted for particular trips, It can be expanded to include pre-packing (water plants) and post-trip (get keys back from house sitter) items, as well as notes for places one visits frequently (It takes several minutes for the shower at the McGillicuddy's to heat up.); and it should be updated on an incremental basis to make future trips go smoothly (Uncle Bill's kid has a peanut allergy.). To make the last thing happen, part of my post-trip checklist includes making any needed changes or additions to the template. -- CAV Link to Original
  11. Notable Commentary "Ayn Rand identified the philosophic truth that explains this: reason and force are opposites." -- Bob Stubblefield, in "LTE: Evil Stems From Non-Reason" at The Aiken Standard. "Now more than ever it's urgent that we understand, and learn to defend, the moral ideal underpinning freedom in America: individualism." -- Elan Journo and Jonathan Hoenig, in "What Is Americanism?" at Fox Business. Image via Wikimedia Commons."What 21st-century capitalism needs, as Ayn Rand argued over 60 years ago, is not a morality that apologises for the system, but one that celebrates the virtues responsible for the astounding improvements in human life that capitalism has created; the virtues of rationality, productivity and pride in individual achievement." -- James Lennox, in "LTE: In Praise of Individualism" at The Economist. "[W]e must not ignore how fears of false accusations of misconduct can adversely affect both women and men." -- Paul Hsieh, in "Could #MeToo Hurt Women's Health Care?" at Forbes. "There should be no home for those who threaten to rape and murder others." -- Bosch Fawstin, in "Saying 'Only Hitler Is Hitler' Is Offensive to Facebook" at FrontPage Magazine. -- CAV Link to Original
  12. I'm glad to hear that at least one Supreme Court justice can't believe that he is having to consider whether the Bill of Rights applies to state law enforcement: Image via Wikipedia.The court has formally held that most of the Bill of Rights applies to states as well as the federal government, but it has not done so on the Eighth Amendment's excessive-fines ban. Justice Neil Gorsuch was incredulous that Indiana Solicitor General Thomas Fisher was urging the justices to rule that states should not be held to the same standard. "Here we are in 2018 still litigating incorporation of the Bill of Rights. Really? Come on, general," Gorsuch said to Fisher, using the term for holding that constitutional provisions apply to the states. Justice Stephen Breyer said under Fisher's reading police could take the car of a driver caught going 5 mph (8 kph) above the speed limit.The case, Timbs v. Indiana, concerns a man whose $40,000 Land Rover was confiscated when he was arrested for a $400 drug deal. After reading the article, I think the argument that the fine is excessive is a good one. Interested readers can read a post at the Institute for Justice for legal background, including a timeline of the case. The post reads in part: The case shines a spotlight on the excessive fines and fees often imposed by governments, and showcases yet another example of the inevitable abuse of power that results when government employs civil forfeiture, a process through which police and prosecutors seize someone's property and keep the proceeds for themselves, thus giving law enforcement an incentive to maximize profits rather than seek the neutral administration of justice. The case has attracted amicus briefs from a diverse coalition of groups calling on the Court to hold that the Excessive Fines Clause applies nationwide. These groups include the Cato Institute, American Civil Liberties Union, Southern Poverty Law Center, NAACP, Constitutional Accountability Center, and Pacific Legal Foundation. All of the amicus briefs can be downloaded from the Supreme Court's website. [link in original]We should know the Court's answer by June, according to the report. -- CAV Link to Original
  13. Writing at RealClear Markets, John Tamny makes the following interesting point about recent calls for golfer Phil Mickelson to give his winnings away: This is not the image of virtue. (Image via Pixabay.)Crucial here is that tomorrow's brilliant companies are likely unknown to most of us, and it's safe to say that their eventual success will surprise even the most skilled of investors. Apple was a surprise. So was ESPN. So were Google, Facebook and Amazon. So once was GE and the lightbulb. All of these companies and their advances made it thanks to there being rich people capable of losing money on risky investments. Presently Phil Mickelson is being pressured by sports journalists with limited knowledge of basic economics to once again give his money to "good causes." They're confused. There's no better cause than progress when it comes to bringing the brilliance of the future into the present with great rapidity. Mickelson has the means with his millions to do just that, but only if he invests the fruits of his own genius rather than doing what the chattering classes say is "right," but that's plainly wrong. [bold added]All I might add to this piece is that the altruist chattering classes aren't just wrong about the idea that the best way to lift all boats is to give money away on the basis of need: The whole idea that anyone is obligated to do so is not even wrong. In addition, I think Tamny is being very generous towards many of them: See also Richard Salsman's recent piece, "Socialism Worked in Venezuela." But yes, as for the point that investment bests handouts as a means to help everyone, especially including the investor and the less fortunate, this article is worth remembering. As Ayn Rand once put it, "[T]here are no conflicts of interests among rational men." The stark contrast between effectively throwing money out the window and growing it is an excellent illustration. -- CAV Link to Original
  14. Writing at Forbes, self-described free marketeer Brian Domitrovic takes an interesting lesson from Donald Trump's election to the presidency: [O]ur domestic tax system inhibits labor and capital. It takes from those who earn (or might earn) and prevents investment. The deplorables ask in all but words: why does the free-market movement equivocate on free earning but not on free trade? Free-market advocates have reacted to the Trump tariffs by making exceptionally well-reasoned, good, and valid arguments about how bad tariffs are. In some cases, this has tipped into vanity and narcissism, where the free-marketeer marvels at how excellent the free-trade arguments are, and how mindless the tariff constituency is and how craven those who indulge it.Domitrovic is right: it is inconsistent to advocate one form of taxation while ruling out another. (I can think of at least one free marketeer who is not guilty of such a sin. Read on.) But worse, it is unprincipled. What do you mean by that, Van Horn? I can almost hear you ask. First, recall what a principle is: A principle is "a fundamental, primary, or general truth, on which other truths depend." Thus a principle is an abstraction which subsumes a great number of concretes. It is only by means of principles that one can set one's long-range goals and evaluate the concrete alternatives of any given moment. It is only principles that enable a man to plan his future and to achieve it.Domotrovic seems headed in the right direction, when he notes that, "It is no answer to say that the government must fund itself through taxation." And I started feeling hopeful when he stated, "[W]e should endorse an unending series of tax-rate cuts, indeed until rates hit zero." But the proverbial "other shoe" lands with the following thud: [A] major nation shorn of all forms of taxation can get all the revenue, in effect, it needs by issuing currency. Image via Wikipedia.I will leave it to others (such as the economist Richard Salsman) to argue against the particular form of central planning and taxation that is central banking, but I will note that the fundamental issue here isn't a squabble about how much money the government should take by force (be it by taxation or inflation), but whether the government should take money by force at all. A more productive place to start would be way further back than how the government funds itself to why -- at what the purpose of government is. Only then can one begin to see the outlines that Ayn Rand, the ideal capitalist, has laid out (and Craig Biddle has explored) for financing a proper government. While Domitrovic takes a step in the correct direction by noting the contradiction of free marketeers who advocate any taxation, that step will lead nowhere if it is made without an eye on the goal of a government limited to its proper function of protecting indiviual rights. -- CAV Link to Original
  15. Writing for Slate, Mike Godwin (former counsel for the Wikimedia Foundation) discusses an intriguing new way to conceptualize our relationship, as customers, with social media companies: [Yale law professor Jack] Balkin's ... "information fiduciaries" model ... says the companies that gather our data in order to subsidize services for users could adopt -- or Congress or the courts could impose on them -- a legal and professional relationship with users as, in effect, trustees of our personal data. Just as doctors and lawyers gather information about us in order to serve us better, the companies might be constrained by the creation of similar professional relationships based on the services they offer and the individual users they are serving. As "fiduciaries," Balkin argues, the companies would have "three basic duties: a duty of care, a duty of confidentiality, and a duty of loyalty." These are the same duties that doctors and lawyers have with regard to their clients. Care and confidentiality mean the companies holding your data need to keep it secure and not use it negligently in ways that might hurt you, even accidentally. A duty of loyalty -- again, the same duty that doctors and lawyers are bound by -- means that the company you trust with your data can't use it in ways that benefit the company while hurting your interests... [format edits, bold added]As any regular reader should suspect, I am absolutely not in favor of any company (or its customers!) being forced to have such obligations imposed by government force. That would be a violation of the freedom to contract. But, aside from the ridiculous idea that advertising robs us of free will, I think the article makes a good case for the idea that companies could and should abide by rules established by something like a professional association to ensure that something like the relationship one has with a doctor or lawyer exists regarding one's personal data. As an example, Balkin notes the following legal precedent: Image via Pixabay.Another possible benefit might be that Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and others might have standing as fiduciaries or trustees to defend our fundamental rights of speech and privacy. After all, as we know from a 60-year-old Supreme Court case, NAACP v. Alabama, our ability to speak collectively may depend on our privacy and anonymity. In that case, the Alabama state government tried to compel the organization to disclose lists of its members (including addresses and phone numbers and so on). The NAACP resisted, and the Supreme Court concluded that (a) the NAACP has standing to assert fundamental speech and associational rights on behalf of its anonymous members, knowing that if compelled to disclose membership this would have real-world consequences for those members, and (b) these fundamental rights are deeply grounded in the First Amendment. The case is obviously relevant in this century because our ability to speak freely online and our privacy online are so intimately related. Properly understood, the NAACP was a "platform" for political speech and action in 1958, just as Facebook and Twitter are today. The companies might have standing, just as the NAACP does, to assert that the free-speech rights of their subscribers depend on their fiduciary obligation to keep user data confidential. [format edits, bold added]I'd strike "collectively" from the above, as numerous cases of "doxing" should indicate -- along with the fact that freedom of speech is an individual right. Although there are several things I do not agree with in this article, I think it provides enough information to suggest an individual rights-respecting, free market solution to a modern problem caused in large part by a lack of uniform basic standards regarding what companies do with our information. -- CAV Link to Original
  16. As I am sure many Objectivists -- probably including myself -- have done and will do, I will commemorate Thanksgiving by reflecting on what Ayn Rand had to say about the holiday: Thanksgiving is a typically American holiday. In spite of its religious form (giving thanks to God for a good harvest), its essential, secular meaning is a celebration of successful production. It is a producers' holiday. The lavish meal is a symbol of the fact that abundant consumption is the result and reward of production. Abundance is (or was and ought to be) America's pride -- just as it is the pride of American parents that their children need never know starvation. This strangely appropriate image came from a search for report card on Pexels.One can say a hearty (and simultaneously humorous) Amen! to the above, but events this year led me to better appreciate the significance of celebration of successful production. It can be easy to forget that one is being productive when in the midst of a routine daily grind or a seemingly endless putting-out of fires, and this holiday is a great chance to pause and remember that fact. In my case, I am preparing to start what, for lack of a better term, I will call a "wrong job". Part of my preparations has been an effort -- which I have been tracking -- to improve how I plan and use my time. Facing the move and having had mixed success, I decided I'd give myself a break from grading myself on each week. "I'll have basically no control of my time, and it has nothing directly to do with my plans, anyway," I somewhat erroneously thought. The week after was a blur, starting with the realization that -- on top of all the other things I had to track or schedule -- I'd forgotten to schedule a cleaning for the old place. Then I learned I was required to have our fireplace inspected -- something I'd never even heard of until I asked the property manager about a completely different matter. And, at the end of the week, I faced an inspection with our landlord, who did not take our moving out well, and I was convinced would be looking for any excuse to bill us for repairs on move-out. The culmination of all of this was when I got a call from my cleaner, attempting to back out the day before my inspection: I talked her into coming anyway, and she did a great job. The inspection went well and I managed to get back on friendly terms with my landlord during the walk-through. This was lots of phone work -- which I hate; lots of creative planning -- which I have been working on; a little bit of management -- which I don't regard as my strong suit; and all me pursuing a goal. On reviewing that week in my planner, came across that note I made about not grading until the move was over, and wrote, "You deserve a[n effing] A for that week." In the grand scheme of things, this wasn't a huge deal, and probably most people could have found their way through a mess like this, but thinking about why I did so well helped me realize that I am quite effective when (1) I have a clear goal, and (2) I know what the steps are towards achieving that goal. I can use that knowledge to improve my approach to the "wrong job" by clarifying my purpose and breaking the job down into tasks I can hold better in my mind. Being thankful should not be an empty ritual directed towards an imaginary being: It can be a moment of contentment with profits and the happy realization that even better things can be around the corner, along with why that is the case. Happy Thanksgiving. -- CAV P.S. As I noted Monday, there is not yet internet service in the new Van Horn domicile, and won't be until Friday. So this post is it until the beginning of next week. Link to Original
  17. A blogger I encountered some time ago argues against something he calls the "collector's fallacy." The author argues that collecting things might feel like progress, but that it can hinder the pursuit of one's goals. His point reminds me of a connection I made long ago when playing cards in college: Being very long in a suit can, in some ways and circumstances, resemble being very short in it, because other players will be unlikely to lead it. Years later, I likewise noticed that my in-laws, who had moved a lot, had several copies of tape measures, screw drivers, and other tools. These were all things that are usually needed upon moving into a house -- but which they'd end up buying at moving-in time because they had been packed away. Having too much stuff or having it organized badly (or both!) gets in the way of using it, on top of wasting storage space, money, and time. The author's example of the graduate student who copies large numbers of papers that he ends up not reading will ring a bell for many; and his example of bookmarking material on the web that also doesn't get read will cover almost everyone else. Although I wouldn't call anything a "reward in itself" and have other reservations about some of what the author says, I think his proposed remedy for this common practice is worth considering: It doesn't have to be this bad to be a problem. (Image via Wikipedia.)Shorter cycles of research, reading, and knowledge assimilation are better than long ones. With every full cycle from research to knowledge assimilation, we learn more about the topic. When we know more, our decisions are more informed, thus our research gets more efficient. If, on the other hand, we take home a big pile of material to read and process, some of it will turn out be useless once we finished parts of the pile. To minimize waste, both of time and of paper, it's beneficial to immerse oneself step by step and learn on the way instead of making big up-front decisions based on guesswork.More broadly, I think one should keep one's purpose in mind more deliberately when acquiring anything, and proportionally to the cost of maintaining the collection. Too many physical objects take up space for example. Time spent hunting for things to bookmark could have been spent profiting from some of that knowledge. This is not to say that noting material one may or may not use -- or even surfing the web -- is inherently bad. I think letting one's mind wander from time to time can aid creativity, for example. But that, too, can be done more purposefully, be it by setting aside specific times or circumstances for doing so, and creating a regular routine for review, organization, and weeding-out. -- CAV Link to Original
  18. Image via Pixabay.Earlier this month when I said I was hedging my bets by allowing myself until today to return to blogging, the "unusual circumstances" I had in mind were all on the Maryland end. I could not have anticipated the delay in getting the kids back into school or not having internet until this Friday. Either of those things alone would have complicated things for me, but put together, they have been ... difficult ... in quite the synergistic way. That said, my being much more organized than on any previous move has kept all of this from being a disaster: I have even made decent progress unpacking the two most important rooms in the house -- the kitchen and my office. I'll post here through Wednesday this week and return to my normal schedule the following week, when the kids will be in school and we'll have internet. With that out of the way, the move looks really good for us so far. Three early highlights have been (1) my wife likes her new job (and has been home well before 9:00 p.m. every night so far), (2) there are lots of kids around for ours to play with in the new neighborhood, and (3) the parents of the kids seem to be good folks. The social atmosphere of the neighborhood is a welcome change from the somewhat hermetic existence I led in our previous situation, and I expect it to improve my writing along the way by helping me get in better touch with the concerns of the kind of people I regard as my audience. The move to Florida's First Coast looked like a no-brainer when the prospect arose back in May, but it looks even better now. If you're from that area or frequent it, feel free to drop me a line. But do give me some time to respond: I'm very excited about this move, but I'm still recovering from it. -- CAV Link to Original
  19. Editor's Note: The long-awaited move of the Van Horn family is underway! Unfortunately, this means no new posts from now until possibly as late as November 18. I hope to be back before then, but unusual circumstances on top of the move require me to hedge my bets. Notable Commentary Image via Amazon."Properly understood, individualism -- and its principle of individual rights -- is the foundation of America's unique politics." -- Jonathan Hoenig and Stuart Hayashi, "Introduction" in A New Textbook of Americanism: The Politics of Ayn Rand, Jonathan Hoenig, ed. (Elan Journo of the Ayn Rand Institute discusses this compilation, which includes previously unpublished material by Rand here.) "The cause [of the increasing use of violence] is the growing acceptability of forming conclusions -- whether about the guilt of an accused or about the truth of an idea -- in disregard of evidence. " -- Peter Schwartz, in "The Assault on Objectivity" at RealClear Politics. "Perverse incentives in the world of science can tempt researchers to promote fraudulent work that benefits the nudgers in the form of 'promotions, funding, and fame' -- but not necessarily benefitting those being nudged (i.e., ordinary Americans)." -- Paul Hsieh, in "When Government-Backed 'Nudgers' Go Bad" at Forbes. "Defaults, a cascading series of failures to pay, where one party cannot pay and that stresses his creditor to the point of not paying, and so on, will destroy a currency eventually." -- Keith Weiner, in "What Can Kill a Useless Currency" at SNB & CHF. -- CAV Link to Original
  20. Walter Williams takes the possibility of a Democrat-controlled House of Representatives as a point of departure for indicating that our nation is not a democracy, and why that is a good thing. Towards the end, he poses the following question, which more people would do very well to consider: Most people can be dangerously wrong about major issues. Democracy empowers such majorities. (Image via Wikipedia.)For those Americans who see majority rule as sacrosanct, ask yourselves how many of your life choices you would like settled by majority rule. Would you want the kind of car you own to be decided through a democratic process? What about decisions as to where you live, what clothes you purchase, what food you eat, what entertainment you enjoy and what wines you drink? I'm sure that if anyone suggested that these decisions should be subject to a democratic process wherein majority rules, we would deem the person tyrannical. [bold added]Williams also reminds us that the Founding Fathers regarded majority rule as a form of tyranny. I have considered similar questions before, and long ago came up with my own nickname for the phenomenon of people who support dictatorial measures: the "dictator fantasy (See last paragraph.)." In each case, wishful thinking is involved: Majoritarians imagine that most people think as they do, and "little dictators" think central planning will pan out they way they want it to. -- CAV Link to Original
  21. Via Hacker News, I ran across an article apparently focused on a how to convince others to try a new programming work flow its author developed. Whatever the merits of that work flow , the short piece suggests to me a thinking strategy one can use profitably for oneself when encountering new ideas: Image via Pixabay.The first step in objections as goals is to invert the statement, make it positive. "I can't make changes in small steps because sometimes I have to change a hundred files," becomes, "I can make changes in small steps when I can change one file at a time," or, "I can make changes in small steps when a single change can modify a hundred files."When using this for introspection, the goal is to explore the source of one's resistance to a new idea. The results won't necessarily always be to try the new idea, although that is one possible result, and can include trialing the idea or attempting to implement it more intelligently than one might have otherwise. One can also leave with a better understanding of why the idea is bad, or at least not suitable for the situation one might want to apply it to. A further realization could include leads on solving a problem -- the idea might help with something else, or the exploration of the objection might suggest a different solution altogether. Of course, nobody has time to do this with every new idea that comes down the pike, but it might be good to keep in mind for those times when one finds an idea surprisingly intriguing -- or when one is surprised by, say, the degree of resistance the idea arouses. If nothing else, such an exercise still can lead to valuable introspection about something other than the idea or the specific problems one is thinking about. -- CAV Link to Original
  22. Early on in the President's term, I reacted to Donald Trump's economic agenda as follows: "Get that man a copy of Economics in One Lesson yesterday!" Not to compare myself to Henry Hazlitt, but I now think he also needs to read an old PJ Media editorial of mine on immigration. Apparently, the President really believes that his Obama-esque pen-and-phone plan to do away with birthright citizenship will (a) have legal force, and (b) solve the problems he attributes to immigration. I fortunately have no need to rebut the first, and have already argued against the second, in the last two paragraphs of that editorial (with minor updates): The problem isn't that some people use "social programs." It's that we have "social programs" at all. (Image via Pixabay.)[Trump] is wrong because [he] targets illegal immigration when the real problem is the existence of the welfare state. Immigrants did not start socialized education. Immigrants did not force law-abiding emergency care personnel to accept non-paying customers. Immigrants did not make it illegal for some of us to ingest chemicals that others disapprove of. Americans, forgetting that their government was established to protect the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, passed (and support) these laws. Americans chose to plunder each other's pockets and run each other's lives. America has long benefited from freedom and immigration. She should re-embrace the former, not discourage the latter. Hard-working immigrants will appreciate this, while the lazy and shiftless will stay home.That said, I am not sure that full citizenship should be acquired by the fact of birth. I am undecided on that matter, but let's assume for the sake of argument that it shouldn't be. Trump is choosing to address the problem by a means that further entrenches the awful precedent of the misuse of executive orders and further erodes the American political structure -- and he does so for the wrong reasons. Whatever differences should exist between the rights of full citizens (e.g., participating in elections) and individual rights (which our government should protect for all), use of "social services" shouldn't even be a consideration. That's because a proper government would not take from one person to give handouts to another in the first place. It's the filthy bathwater of the entitlement state we should be throwing out, not the "anchor babies." -- CAV Link to Original
  23. Ayn Rand, through John Galt, the protagonist of Atlas Shrugged, noted of the term "human rights:" The modern mystics of muscle who offer you the fraudulent alternative of "human rights" versus "property rights," as if one could exist without the other, are making a last, grotesque attempt to revive the doctrine of soul versus body. Only a ghost can exist without material property; only a slave can work with no right to the product of his effort. The doctrine that "human rights" are superior to "property rights" simply means that some human beings have the right to make property out of others; since the competent have nothing to gain from the incompetent, it means the right of the incompetent to own their betters and to use them as productive cattle. Whoever regards this as human and right, has no right to the title of "human."Of course, this was back in 1957, when the left still at least offered lip service to freedom of speech. Today, even that is gone, with not just your property at the disposal of the needs of others -- but your right to speak your mind explicitly taking a back seat to the feelings of others. Exhibit A? A recent ruling by the European Union's Court of Human Rights: In Europe, directly quoting from the Koran can now get you into legal trouble. (Image via Pixabay.)Translation: Europeans are free to say only what they are permitted to say by the unelected judges of the European courts. Truth is irrelevant. As the jurists reasoned in the case of Mrs. S., a person's freedom to assert facts must be assessed in "the wider context" that balances "free" expression against -- I kid you not -- "the right of others to have their religious feelings protected," as well as "the legitimate aim of preserving religious peace." It is thus verboten to say things that might upset Muslims. Particularly offensive is mention of Islam's many doctrinal tenets that make us cringe in the 21st century -- approbation of child marriage, violent jihad, the treatment of women as chattel, the duty to kill apostates, and so on. That these tenets are accurately stated, supported by undeniable scriptural grounding, is beside the point. Or as the ECHR put it, reliance on scripture could be classified as "an abusive attack on the Prophet of Islam, which could stir up prejudice and put at risk religious peace." [bold added]Andrew McCarthy of National Review correctly identifies this as a threat to the exercise of reason and, thus to the future of civilization in Europe. That said, Peter Schwartz recently outlined a similar threat from the left in the United States. (He correctly does not give a free pass to the right, however.) Commenting on the Kavanaugh hearings at RealClear Politics, Schwartz noted a similar subordination of fact to emotion: The famed legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon has said: "I call it rape whenever a woman has sex and feels violated." (Emphasis added.) So it is a woman's feelings, not the facts, that determine whether rape has occurred. There is supposedly a female way of perceiving the world and a male way -- as there is a black way, a white way, a Hispanic way, etc. The truth, then, is not the product of reason, but of crude emotionalism -- i.e., the truth is whatever some group feels it is. Which is exactly what drives the safe-space movement on our campuses. Students are told that when they encounter an idea with which they disagree, they need not give any thought to it. They needn't judge whether it is right or wrong. Instead, it if clashes with the views held by their social class, they should be shielded from it. [bold added]As we see, the inexorable logic of the choice to subordinate objectivity to feelings in one area leads to a rejection it in other areas. We are facing a stark choice -- between whim-worship and objectivity -- these days. Worse, this is a choice that too many will find incredible -- and too many others will be ill-equipped to make wisely (if they can see it at all). -- CAV Link to Original
  24. Four Things 1. Fellow soccer fans might enjoy this list of 15 colorful soccer terms from around the world. My favorite was the fourth: Stofzuiger -- Vacuum cleaner (Netherlands) Neat work from the holding midfielder -- he hoovers up the loose ball and moves it on to a team-mate. Every side could do with a vacuum cleaner like him in their ranks to keep things tidy in midfield.The Brazilian idiom meaning where the owl sleeps is also good. 2. Forty years after he was killed, a man's body was found when a researcher became curious about an unusual tree: The tree was spotted in 2011 by a researcher who was curious as to how the tree had ended up in the cave and especially in a mountainous area where it was not usually found. While carrying out his research and digging around the tree, he was then horrified to find a human body underneath and raised the alarm. On digging further, police recovered a total of three bodies. Munur Herguner added that her brother was believed to have been the one that had eaten the fig, and blood samples from her family matched DNA fragments which confirmed it was her brother's final resting place.The murder weapon, a stick of dynamite, created the hole in the cave that admitted the sunlight required by the tree. 3. This PJ Media story on "The Five Most Overrated Beers" is spot-on, even about Yuengleng, the one on the list I sometimes drink: Also overrated. (Image via Pixabay.)I can't count the number of times I've asked, "Does the restaurant have any beer that I'll like?" only to be told by the individual recommending the restaurant, "Oh, yes. They have Yuengling." What makes that annoying is that most of my friends know me as a "beer snob." One of my first writing jobs was writing about beer for a music site. What makes that answer extra annoying is that it reveals that people assume that Yuengling is a legitimate craft beer and a good beer, to boot. It's neither...The list also reminds me that I haven't made any beer recommendations here in a long time. Maryland's blue laws are partly to blame, along with the fact that the only place that allowed me to build a six-pack from single bottles was off my beaten path. I'm not obligating myself to a time table, but we move to Florida soon, and both of those annoyances will disappear. Is it time for my excited-to-move-to-Florida list? 4. Statistician John Cook sums up his post on why programmers aren't paid in proportion to their productivity: The romantic image of an über-programmer is someone who fires up Emacs, types like a machine gun, and delivers a flawless final product from scratch. A more accurate image would be someone who stares quietly into space for a few minutes and then says "Hmm. I think I've seen something like this before."(Not calling myself a real programmer, but...) And then there are hacks like me who slap a few search terms into Google a few times and piece those results together into a script that ends up saving lots of time or effort. "I think someone else has seen something like this before," usually turns out to be true. -- CAV Link to Original
  25. We'll take a break from the wall-to-wall coverage of the fortunately clumsy or deliberately ineffective mail bomb plot and look at the government pension bomb, which John Stossel has done an admirable job of warning us about: What too many people don't have, thanks to mendacious promises and wishful tinking. (Image via Pixabay.)"The federal bankruptcy judge created a precedent that said pensions could actually be cut," says [City Journal editor Daniel] DiSalvo. "That was a shock to the unions. (It) called into question these strong legal protections that public pensions have so long enjoyed. They can't just sit back and say, well, we're going to get paid no matter what." Some politicians hoped that a rising stock market would fund their promises. Many assumed their investments would grow by more than 7 percent per year. Do you make that much on your savings? I don't. Seven percent seems like wishful thinking.This Stossel notes of the $6 trillion in unfunded pension liabilities at state and local government levels. To their credit, Di Salvo and his colleague Steve Malanga suggest private pension accounts as a long-term solution. I recommend reading the whole thing. -- CAV Link to Original