Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Gus Van Horn blog

  • Content count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Days Won


Everything posted by Gus Van Horn blog

  1. The municipalities of Silicon Valley have decided to stop letting tech companies offer their own employees free lunches in any new facilities they build. Demonstrating complete ignorance of both why people run businesses and the purpose of government, the executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association explains why she supports such government meddling: "With food being provided for free ... there's no competition in terms of choice, nor a reason for employees to leave their building," Borden said. "Perhaps that's great social engineering to get employees to work longer hours and never leave their offices, but it doesn't do much to support the city around them." Image via Unsplash.Whatever one might think of "social engineering", it doesn't hold a candle to the central planning Borden seems so fond of: At least these employers aren't threatening anyone with fines or imprisonment for participating in a particular kind of lunch arrangement. Government is supposed to protect freedom for everyone, making it possible for them to run a business or pursue any other activity that does not harm anyone else. By forcing "employees to leave the building" for a decent lunch, these laws are interfering with how many individuals plan their days. This will probably cause many to work less efficiently -- or stay at work later than they'd like, and perhaps eat out with their families less often during the week ... incidentally harming other restaurants. But that's beside the point. It's wrong to unleash the government on non-criminals for whatever purpose, no matter how kind one's stated intentions. -- CAV Link to Original
  2. Over at the Manhattan Contrarian is a connection I've never seen made in the immigration debate -- between immigration and the distribution of congressional seats among states with more vs. fewer immigrants: Image via Wikipedia. Granted, the effect of this phenomenon only registers with the decennial census, and nothing about new immigration this year is going to affect the apportionment for the 2018 or 2020 elections. Nevertheless, the overall effect is that Democrats get to represent in Congress something in the range of 15 to 20 million non-citizen immigrants, without those immigrants ever needing to vote. As a rough approximation, this represents about 20 or so seats in Congress, and it could even go up somewhat after the next apportionment. This swing dwarfs any possible effect of actual illegal voting. [bold added]In my own thinking about immigration, I have long advocated reform of the process by which immigrants can become citizens. Should we also rethink how we apportion representation? It might help to consider the hypothetical situation of this "bump" being in support of whichever party you find most congenial to America's best interests. I haven't thought for long about the issue, so won't offer an opinion on it now. Having said that, I do find it worthwhile to recall something frequently missing from conversations about immigration. As I noted some time ago: [T]he 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.The "freeloading" problem is one created by improper government rather than immigration. Likewise, the importance of apportioning our representation precisely might be less important were our government confined to its proper scope, leaving us less at the mercy of Democrats wanting to put their hands on our wallets, not to mention Republicans wanting to put their hands in our pants. In such a context, the strongest case I can imagine for representation reform along the lines the first quote suggests would be: Large numbers of immigrants in some area might sway voters one way or another on a foreign policy issue pertinent to an election. But I can see such an effect going either way, so even that case seems difficult to make. -- CAVLink to Original
  3. Or: Every Yes Begins With a Bunch of Nos I ran across a list of items by Greg Wilson on how to run a meeting, but that's not the take-home for this post. Rather, it was an aside near the end of his piece that caught my eye: Image via Pixabay.I once chaired a one-day meeting in New Orleans where I tried to introduce a whole bunch of meeting management techniques at once while also contributing. I did it so badly that they replaced me as chair at the mid-point, and were right to do so.This is interesting because so much of Wilson's own advice could be subsumed under the umbrella of delimitation: Have a purpose. Formulate a clear agenda. Lead with the most important topics. All of these things pertain to the need for the human mind to be able to focus in order to be effective. Each of these positive goals -- choosing a subject, concentrating on different aspects of that subject, and deciding what was most urgent about it -- required eliminating a whole host of other considerations. The cause of running an effective meeting is no different, although that might not seem apparent. To his credit and our benefit, Wilson admits this, and I think it's his most important point. Taking all of Wilson's advice at face value for the sake of argument, if one's goal is to run effective meetings, one can run with his anecdote and think of that goal as a meeting. What points about how your organization runs meetings depart furthest from this ideal? Which improvements would pack the most punch, and maybe even kill two birds with one stone? Start with those, most urgent first, order the rest, and create a time table for implementing improvements at a pace that will show results quickly enough to get others on board, but is slow enough to allow everyone to acclimate themselves to a set of changes before introducing others. Wilson has given us a wealth of information, but it, like the topics of a meeting, must be organized within the contexts of what an organization needs and how human minds can grasp and hold on to it. -- CAV Link to Original
  4. Blog Roundup 1. At Roots of Progress, Jason Crawford explores the transition, during the nineteenth century, away from the use of biological sources for many common materials. (He provides interesting synopses for ivory, fertilizer, fuels for lighting and smelting, and shellac.) The humpback whale, an unsustainable source of industrial feedstocks, in either sense of the term. (Image via Pixabay.)These are just a handful of examples. There are many other biomaterials we once relied on -- rubber, silk, leather and furs, straw, beeswax, wood tar, natural inks and dyes -- that have been partially or fully replaced by synthetic or artificial substitutes, especially plastics, that can be derived from mineral sources. They had to be replaced, because the natural sources couldn't keep up with rapidly increasing demand. The only way to ramp up production -- the only way to escape the Malthusian trap and sustain an exponentially increasing population while actually improving everyone's standard of living -- was to find new, more abundant sources of raw materials and new, more efficient processes to create the end products we needed. As you can see from some of these examples, this drive to find substitutes was often conscious and deliberate, motivated by an explicit understanding of the looming resource crisis. In short, plant and animal materials had become unsustainable. [bold added, link omitted]His exploration of the very common misuse of that last word is as timely as the rest of his post is interesting. 2. In "Sully vs Sully," the proprietor of You Can and Did Build That compares the book to the movie and finds the former far more profitable in terms of understanding the heroism of Sully Sullenberger, who famously saved all his passengers by landing his aircraft on the Hudson in 2009. [T]he passionate pursuit of excellence in a career, the commitment to a lifetime of choices directed at acquiring knowledge and improving one's skills, is as far from "selfless" as could be imagined. Sully's choices (including an awareness of his own motivations and self-critical appraisal of his own near misses) represent the creation of a self. Only devotion to one's own chosen goals over the span of decades could result in a man becoming the kind of person, the kind of character or self, who could accomplish what he did on the Hudson. [emphasis in original]Although I think I rate the movie higher than he does, I found the discussion of the kind of context required to evaluate an action quite enlightening. 3. At New Ideal, Ben Bayer of the Ayn Rand Institute argues that the "Trump-Kim Summit Betrays Victims of Dictatorship." The entire post is worth reading, but I think presenting two paragraphs of it in quick succession might show why. Bayer opens: In a video that went viral in October 2014, Yeonmi Park gave an emotional speech about her escape from North Korea. She recounts how she was nine years old when she witnessed the public execution of her friend's mother, thirteen when she saw her mother raped as the price for escaping the country, and fourteen when she had to bury her father secretly in China. [links in original]Later, comes the following after he notes Ayn Rand's commentary about Richard Nixon's 1972 meeting with Mao Zedong: Every word of this applies to Trump's meeting with Kim. This time the president has not only shaken hands with the dictator but has gone further by calling him "very talented" and a "funny guy" with a "great personality" who "loves his people." Asked whether it was wise to sit down with a killer, the most Trump could bring himself to disparage about Kim was to say "it is a rough situation over there." Asked how Kim could love his people and oppress them, Trump said "he's doing what he's seen done." [links in original]Regarding Trump's last remark in light of what Yeonmi Park and other North Koreans have "seen done," this is outrageous. That said, Trump doesn't own all of the blame for it. As unprincipled and coarse as he is, Trump is regurgitating (and acting on) the same kind of garbage leftists have spewed about criminals for the past few decades. But the juxtaposition should illustrate how disgusting this stew of determinism and moral relativism really is. Obscene notions left unquestioned lead to obscene actions. 4. At Separate!, Anders Ingemarson takes the impending Supreme Court nomination battleas his cue to consider an interesting question: With the range of views being closer to a bell curve than what media talking heads would like us to believe, is there an opportunity for breaking the supposed deadlock and come to some level of mutual understanding? Perhaps not tomorrow, next year or in a decade, but maybe in a generation? [bold added]This comes after a quick review of American polling data and a look at a couple of historical instances of religious people accommodating scientific discoveries in the West. I'm not as sanguine as he, but he raises good points to remember should Brett Kavanaugh be named to the Supreme Court. -- CAV Link to Original
  5. Image via Wikipedia.Or: Appeasing Socialism Always Fails The recent primary victory by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a golden opportunity to advance capitalism, but conservatives don't seem to realize it. Joe Crowley assumed voters would tolerate the status quo, disdained his opponent, and counted on inertia. This was a bad strategy against an energetic opponent. By contrast, Ocasio-Cortez seemed concerned with voters' problems, offered a means of solving them, and stood behind her solution. Yet, conservatives seem intent on channeling the defeated Crowley, despite the fact they could offer a real choice, instead. The following are poor ways to advocate capitalism: Repeating ad nauseum that socialism always fails, calling her voters stupid, and not challenging the principle that socialism is an ideal. This is unfortunate, because capitalism is the real alternative to our current stagnant mixture of freedom and smothering government control -- and the alternative to the century's worth of slavery, starvation, and death that is socialism. First came the smug jokes: The Democrats have gone "full Venezuela." "What could possibly go wrong?" "How many times do we have to learn that socialism doesn't work?" Unfortunately, the answer to the last joke is: As many times as we fail to oppose it on moral grounds.... To continue reading my latest column, please proceed to RealClear Markets. I would like to thank my wife and Steve D. for their comments on earlier versions of this piece. -- CAV Link to Original
  6. ... to Make Beggars of the Elderly Upon hearing of a recent protest by starving pensioners in Venezuela, the phrases "widows and orphans" and "throw them out into the streets" came to my mind from some time in my very early adulthood. I no longer recall the exact context, but someone bandied about such phrases in a show of horror after I'd expressed an admiration of Ayn Rand. I might have also admitted both my atheism and my admiration for capitalism. (I still am and still do to this day, only more so.) There are many sad things to comment on about the following story, but I will limit myself to an excerpt and one short comment: I fibbed: Socialism eventually throws everyone out on the streets. Hooray for equality! (Image via Wikipedia.)Perched on plastic lawn chairs and leaning on canes, scores of retirees protested Wednesday to demand payment of their retirement benefits in crisis-hit Venezuela. About 200 senior citizens blocked traffic on Urdaneta Avenue, a stone's throw from the presidential palace. "They are not paying people's whole pension. We are just getting two million" bolivars, worth 60 US cents at black market rates, said Basilio Octo, 68.There's nothing quite like socialism to throw the elderly out into the streets en masse. For starters: How many of these poor souls might have planned better for their later years absent the laughable guarantee of a government pension? Well, okay. Here's another: The whole idea that conservatives can't muster a response to insinuations that more freedom (or even the same amount we have now) would result in similar problems here is troubling, to say the very least. -- CAV Link to Original
  7. As part of her discussion of moral perfection in Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics, Tara Smith considers what that ideal really means: To complain that the dart is off by a fraction of a millimeter is silly. (Image via Pixabay. On Rand's view, a person is perfect when he does his best. A person's best must be understood relative to his particular circumstances, however. It cannot be identified apart from the individual's knowledge, experience, abilities, resources, or options. Notice that many everyday references to perfection recognize the importance of context. We do not dispute a test score as perfect simply because the test was not more difficult (being pitched to 4th graders, for instance, rather than 12th graders). We do not deny that a person has perfect vision because other animals or machines can see something that he cannot. The perfect is construed as the best possible to a certain type of being in a certain situation, on a reality-governed conception of the possible. (238-239)In her discussion, Smith also notes the damage caused by irrational, deity-inspired notions of perfection, which, among other things, undermine the morale of some and provide a ready-made excuse for moral failing to others. One just about cannot read this book without improving one's understanding at every turn, thereby attaining both hope for perfection and the knowledge of how to get there. -- CAV Link to Original
  8. Notable Commentary Image via Pixabay."Given the benefits of free trade, the best policy any government can adopt is unilateral free trade (with other non-enemy governments), which means: free trade regardless of whether other governments also adopt freer trade." -- Richard Salsman, in "Protectionism as Mutual Masochism" at Intermarket Forecasting. "[T]he best one can say is that the court unintentionally protected the baker's rights. " -- Don Richmond, in "Letter: Understanding the Nature of Rights" at Naples Daily News. "Opening immigration does not necessitate opening citizenship." -- Bob Stubblefield, in "Letter: Immigration Foes Should Learn From Civil Rights Movement" at The Aiken Standard. "We shouldn't just wait passively for [the dollar to collapse], we should change course if possible." -- Keith Weiner, in "The Great Reset" at SNB & CHF. "Proponents of free-market health reforms will need to persuade voters based on moral grounds, not just economic reasons." -- Paul Hsieh, in "Why the Idea of Single Payer Heath Care Won't Die" at Forbes. "My accompanying cartoon has actual comments from Muslims to me, about the Mohammad cartoon contest, and the fourth panel is about an actual Pakistani Muslim politician who wants to Nuke Holland over the Mohammad cartoon contest." -- Bosch Fawstin, in "Muslims vs. Free Speech" at Frontpage Magazine. -- CAV Link to Original
  9. Image via Wikipedia. ... but Still Want to Work Remotely I no longer remember where, but I recall someone writing of his remote work arrangement that the biggest irritant was figuring out where to spend the day. That doesn't bother me that much, but a change of scenery is still nice once in a while. With that in mind, I found a couple of pieces listing a total of fourteen alternatives to the coffee shop. A good one that could double as a shopping trip was IKEA, which is the first listed at the first link: Call me crazy, but I loved IKEA. I find the company's marketing and design work inspiring (gotta love the Swedes), and the restaurant is large enough that it's easy to get up and walk around, while still keeping an eye on your things. For much of the first year running my business, IKEA served as my "home office away from home." Of course, the electrical outlets at my Ikea were few and far between, which proved to be problematic. It can also get pretty noisy, which means no conferences at mealtimes... [link in original, minor edits]Justin Bariso's Inc. piece also mentions empty restaurants, which a startup is trying to coordinate via a smartphone app in some cities. In the meantime, Blake Oliver has numerous suggestions of his own, including Museums, in the second link above. That comment brought back memories of my Boston days, when I lived within walking distance of the public library at Copley Square. There were numerous good places to work there, including the cafe, all with wi-fi. -- CAV Link to Original
  10. Slate gleefully trumpets, as a "political own goal," a cost projection regarding a plan by wanna-be slave driver Bernie Sanders for "Medicare for All": The study was published by Charles Blahous of the libertarian Mercatus Center at George Mason University, who is known, among other things, for arguing that Social Security retirement benefits need to be cut. Blahous seems to have set out to show that, even if you assume switching to a single-payer system will lead to major cost savings on medical care and administrative expenses, it will still require a massive increase in federal spending. He calculates that if Sanders' bill delivered on all of its promises, it would increase federal spending on health care by $32.6 trillion between 2022 and 2031 -- which is, of course, quite a bit of money, and the number that conservatives are choosing to focus on. But as economist Ernie Tedeschi noted on Twitter this morning, Blahous' report also shows that total U.S. health care spending would fall by about $2.05 trillion during that time period, even as all Americans would finally have insurance, because the plan would reduce payments to doctors and hospitals to Medicare rates (which are lower than what private insurance pays) while saving on prescription drug costs and administrative expenses. [links in original, bold added]First off, advocates of individual rights can take this as an object lesson in not letting your opponents dictate the terms of your arguments. In other words, Blahous in particular and conservatives in general should take a cue from Ayn Rand and argue against schemes like this on moral grounds instead of or in addition to any analysis they might perform. Whatever socialized medicine might cost, it is wrong because it involves forcibly taking money from someone or violating their right to contract or both (as does Sanders's plan). Second, it would be amusing to see author Jordan Weissmann of Slate make such an argument if I weren't in mortal danger of having to live as he chooses to. Ayn Rand noted this folly in her 1957 novel, Atlas Shrugged, through the words of a character who was a brain surgeon: Do you want a doctor willing to work for whatever loot Bernie Sanders is willing to dole out? (Image via Pixabay.)"I quit when medicine was placed under State control, some years ago," said Dr. Hendricks. "Do you know what it takes to perform a brain operation? Do you know the kind of skill it demands, and the years of passionate, merciless, excruciating devotion that go to acquire that skill? That was what I would not place at the disposal of men whose sole qualification to rule me was their capacity to spout the fraudulent generalities that got them elected to the privilege of enforcing their wishes at the point of a gun. I would not let them dictate the purpose for which my years of study had been spent, or the conditions of my work, or my choice of patients, or the amount of my reward. I observed that in all the discussions that preceded the enslavement of medicine, men discussed everything -- except the desires of the doctors. Men considered only the 'welfare' of the patients, with no thought for those who were to provide it. That a doctor should have any right, desire or choice in the matter, was regarded as irrelevant selfishness; his is not to choose, they said, only 'to serve.' That a man who's willing to work under compulsion is too dangerous a brute to entrust with a job in the stockyards -- never occurred to those who proposed to help the sick by making life impossible for the healthy. I have often wondered at the smugness with which people assert their right to enslave me, to control my work, to force my will, to violate my conscience, to stifle my mind -- yet what is it that they expect to depend on, when they lie on an operating table under my hands? Their moral code has taught them to believe that it is safe to rely on the virtue of their victims. Well, that is the virtue I have withdrawn. Let them discover the kind of doctors that their system will now produce. Let them discover, in their operating rooms and hospital wards, that it is not safe to place their lives in the hands of a man whose life they have throttled. It is not safe, if he is the sort of man who resents it -- and still less safe, if he is the sort who doesn't." [bold added]Congratulations, Slate. You have helped legions of people who already agree with you continue to imagine that socialism will work "this time," and pat themselves on the back for how "smart" they are -- by focusing on something that supports their cause if lots of unrealistic assumptions hold and lots of people are willing to underpay their own doctors. Perhaps, rather than cheer on ripping off physicians, Weissmann would consider how lucky he is that he lives in a semi-capitalist system. Thanks to freedom of contract, he holds a job at all. Judging by his product, but thanks to the fact that someone is free to offer him whatever he's getting, he is way overpaid. -- CAV Link to Original
  11. Have this guy free to create new marvels -- or have a bunch of busybodies chain us all down behind our backs? (Image via Pixabay.)Writing for the the Foundation for Economic Education, economist Richard Ebeling writes an essay titled, "Socialism, Like Dracula, Rises Again from the Grave." Although the whole thing is worth a read, I think the most valuable point it raises pertains to how advocates of the capitalist alternative can make our cases. The example is negative, but it is part of the answer to what the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez seem to be doing, which is not quite as simple as shouting "free stuff!" just as people enter their voting booths. The below is the beginning of a section titled, "'Democratic Socialism' Means the Tyranny of the Meddler": Since everything would be politicized with government involvement even more than currently in America to supply this promised "free" life of material post-scarcity existence, democratic decision-making would be extended to, well, everything. The [Democratic Socialists of America] says the U.S. Senate should be abolished, and the entire electoral process replaced with a system of proportional representation in more directly democratically elected bodies. There would be "civilian boards for various government services, program councils (at the national, state, and local levels) for those who receive government services, and municipal and state-level citizens assemblies that would be open to all that would be tasked with making budget decisions." [bold added]Ebeling explores the implications of this further, noting that while most of us are busy with the work of our lives, the primary participants in these "civilian boards" would be "people with too much time on their hands possessing political and ideological axes to grind." (I recall reading that this happened during the height of the (initial phase of the) "occupy" movement, to the boards they used to run their encampments.) In other words, while the current crop of socialists are inviting people to imagine a utopia, Ebeling is improving their imaginations by grounding them in reality. As, I believe Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute once indicated in a podcast, many young voters support socialism because they mistakenly believe it will improve their lives personally -- an imperfectly selfish motive. Part of addressing this imperfection is to help some of these people see how their lives really will be affected personally, but long before the deadlier consequences of socialism begin setting in. (Although starvation and death are hazards, they seem far off to most voters, making it too easy for people like Bernie Sanders to plead that they aren't talking about the same thing as Soviet Russia -- or even Venezuela.) Indicating the more immediate negative consequences is a good point of entry, but we can improve on this by recalling what Alex Epstein has said in The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels about the way people argue today: There is a strong tendency -- often by people on the left arguing against some aspect or benefit of capitalism -- to focus on the negatives to the near exclusion of the positives (e.g., honing in on the fact that petroleum use can cause pollution, but glossing over the numerous benefits of same). Debunking socialism is important, but we must remember that much of its momentum relies on taking for granted the many benefits of the capitalist aspects of our mixed economy. In addition to debunking socialism, we should also speak up for capitalism at relevant points, including by more directly appealing to self-interest. Furthermore, such more direct appeals ought to clarify, whenever possible, that the rational pursuit of self-interest (which most emphatically does not include taking things from other people) is virtuous. As that last sentence demonstrates, there is great confusion about morality and politics in our culture today, to the point that advocates of the pursuit of happiness are practically dragged into a defensive posture at the outset, by the need to clarify basic terms. We have to learn how to quickly shift to offense, however, or we will allow ourselves to be defeated miss out on opportunities to win -- by making our case for justice and prosperity. -- CAV Link to Original
  12. Matt Gaetz, R-FL (Image via Wikipedia.)As if bringing back protectionism (a major cause of the Great Depression) weren't bad enough, Donald Trump and his cronies now appear to be breathing new life into another idea that has no place in a free society: the "Fairness" Doctrine. Taylor Millard of Hot Air reports that a couple of pro-Trump congressmen have "launched a multi-pronged attack on Twitter" over "shadow-banning" conservatives. Part of this attack is an FCC complaint that is all but explicitly hostile to Twitter's property rights. Regarding Twitter's alleged practice of making it hard for people to find conservatives, Representative Matt Gaetz stated: It gives advantages to our political opponents. It gives them access to the platform that we don't have.Since when does freedom of speech include entitlement to being given a platform for speaking? Twitter can run its own forum any way it pleases because it owns the forum. This is bad enough, but the following is a particularly disturbing development: This is, of course, a major problem and only likely to grow exponentially as "the mob" looks to regulate whoever can express what opinion. Democrats -- along with some conservatives -- suggested it was time for big data regulations due to Russia"s use of Facebook ads during the 2016 election. Republicans are now pushing for more government oversight because social media isn't giving "equal time" to certain Trump supporters. The hypocrisy is apparent, but no one cares because it's "owning the libs/cons."The phrase "equal time" hearkens back to the era of the so-called "Fairness Doctrine," in which the threat of the loss of a broadcasting license was used to violate both the property and free speech rights of the owners of broadcasting media. Philosophy professor Tara Smith recently discussed in great detail how confused our national dialogue on freedom of speech has become, as well as the great risk this poses to our republic. It becomes clear later in the Hot Air piece that this problem is deeper among the Republicans than many might realize. Trump and his unprincipled, grasping supporters, are making it much worse. -- CAV Link to Original
  13. Four Things Below are (just!) four things I enjoyed or found enlightening when I read A Mind at Play, the biography of the father of information theory, Claude Shannon, by Jimmy Soni and Rob Goodman. 1. Shannon's six methods for attacking a problem. 2. Shannon proved that a message could be sent with an arbitrarily small amount of error:That insight is embedded in the circuits of our phones, our computers, our satellite TVs, our space probes still tethered to the earth with thin cords of 0's and 1's. In 1990, the Voyager 1 probe turned its camera back on Earth from the edge of the solar system, snapped a picture of our planetary home reduced in size to less than a single pixel -- to what Carl Sagan called "a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam" -- and transmitted that picture across four billion miles of void. Claude Shannon did not write the code that protected that image from error and distortion, but, some four decades earlier, he had proved that such a code must exist. And so it did. It is part of his legacy; and so is the endless flow of digital information on which the Internet depends, and so is the information omnivory by which we define ourselves as modern. (loc. 104)The book makes the point elsewhere that Shannon had amazing powers of abstraction. That he did so very well is attested to by the myriad practical applications of the above insight. See also Item 1. 3. As brilliant as Shannon was, he benefited greatly by having a good mentor in Vannevar Bush:Finally, Bush took it upon himself to find a suitable dissertation project for Shannon in the field of -- genetics. Genetics? It was at least as plausible an object for Shannon's talents as switches. Circuits could be taught, genes could be taught -- but the analytic skill it took to find the logic beneath them seemed more likely to be inborn. Shannon had already used his "queer algebra" to great effect on relays; "another special algebra," Bush explained to a colleague, "might conceivably handle some of the aspects of Mendelian heredity." More to the point, it was a matter of deep conviction for Bush that specialization was the death of genius. "In these days, when there is a tendency to specialize so closely, it is well for us to be reminded that the possibilities of being at once broad and deep did not pass with Leonardo da Vinci or even Benjamin Franklin," Bush said in a speech at MIT. "Men of our profession -- we teachers -- are bound to be impressed with the tendency of youths of strikingly capable minds to become interested in one small corner of science and uninterested in the rest of the world. ... It is unfortunate when a brilliant and creative mind insists upon living in a modern monastic cell." (p. 48)At many points, Shannon would use insights gleaned from one interest to forge ahead in a seemingly unrelated area. I am glad that Bush saw the value of this practice. 4. A strong impression about Shannon I got from the book was of benevolence. In addition to the title they chose, the authors make note of this in their last chapter: Shannon demonstrates machine learning with Theseus in a Bell Labs short.He did none of this consciously; he wasn't straining to give the appearance of fun. Shannon simply delighted in the various curiosities that grabbed his attention, and the testimony of those around him suggests that it was a delight that, like his mind, was polymorphous. He could find himself lost in the intricacies of an engineering problem, and then, just as suddenly, become captivated by a chess position. He had a flair for the dramatic and the artistic; we see it in the flaming trumpet, Theseus the mouse, a flagpole he hand-carved out of an oversize tree on his property, the juggling clowns he built to exacting specifications. Shannon's admirers are just as quick to compare him to M. C. Escher or Lewis Carroll as they are to put him in the company of Albert Einstein or Isaac Newton. He turned arid and technical sciences into vast and captivating puzzles, the solving of which was play of the adult kind. It says something about Claude Shannon and his instinct for play that his work found its way into both the pages of journals and the halls of museums. In one sense, it may be impossible to draw anything from this. Shannon's enjoyment seems sui generis. But perhaps his example can still remind us of the vast room for lightness in fields usually discussed in sober tones. These days it's rare to talk about math and science as opportunities to revel in discovery. We speak, instead, about their practical benefits -- to society, the economy, our prospects for employment. STEM courses are the means to job security, not joy. Studying them becomes the academic equivalent of eating your vegetables -- something valuable, and state sanctioned, but vaguely distasteful. (p. 278) [link added]I cannot help but wonder if less "state sanction" -- less meddlesome prodding -- might allow more people to develop a genuine love for science. Perhaps Shannon's joy is normal, save in the scope genius affords. In any event, this book was a pleasure to read and comes highly recommended, in part for the same reasons the authors gave for wanting to write it:We are biographers, not mathematicians or physicists or engineers. The best we can say for this inexpert book of ours is that we've tried to write as we'd like to live. That is, we began with a nagging sense that there is something harmful in using without understanding, or at least trying to understand. We began with the idea that there is something ungrateful and grasping in enjoying our bounty of information without bothering to understand how it got here. (p. 283)We should never allow ourselves to become jaded by wonders that men like Shannon have made routine. -- CAV Link to Original
  14. Many of the same people who think punching a "fascist" is cool don't know that fascism has much in common with socialism, or that the policies they mouth allegiance to lead to really uncool food lines and worse. (Image via Wikipedia.)According to John Hart of RealClear Politics, the recent primary victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over Joe Crowley is "the most significant political upset since Tea Party Republican Dave Brat defeated then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in 2014." I agree, and I have to express my relief that a conservative is taking the event seriously. Rather than yielding to the temptation to dismiss Ocasio-Cortez as a fluke, or half-insultingly assume that young voters will somehow "grow up" to embrace free markets, Hart considers the broader political context. He then offers specific strategies for overcoming the ascendancy of the far left in the Democratic Party. Here's an example of one strategy I am close to agreeing with: The only path forward for conservatives is to appeal to millennials who are undecided about economic theory. For instance, a Gallup poll from 2016 showed a majority (55 percent) of Americans between the ages of 18-29 had a positive view of socialism. Yet, the same poll revealed that millennials view small business, entrepreneurs, the free enterprise system and capitalism more favorably than socialism. Free enterprise was viewed favorably by 78 percent of younger Americans while capitalism was viewed favorably by 57 percent. Gallup also found that millennials have a higher opinion of small business and free enterprise than Americans over 65. This is true, but ought to go father in two directions. First, there is no need to limit oneself to appealing to undecideds. Second -- and this is why the first is true -- the appeal need not and should not be restricted to economics. Ayn Rand and others have argued that capitalism (the "unknown ideal") is not just more practical than the alternatives, it is the most moral political system. It is not clear to me that Hart agrees with this assertion, but he does appreciate the moral dimension of this development: The heart of the Sanders/Ocasio-Cortez Democratic-socialist movement is a question more than a set of policies: Is it right and moral that in a modern and wealthy country some people are too poor to live? That is the right question. Conservatives have the best response and should welcome this struggle. [bold added]I am not sure I agree that this is the right question, but it is being asked. Regarding capitalism as a moral system, I will refer the reader to Ayn Rand (and previous two links) for the full argument. But, again, I mention this because one thing Ocasio-Cortez does on the campaign trail is uphold socialism as a moral system. This is a big part of what makes her so compelling as a candidate, and this is what pro-liberty politicians will have to become able to address if they are to hope to have real success at winning elections, making America freer, and ensuring our future prosperity. -- CAV Link to Original
  15. Over at Power Line is a sickening example of the deadliness of the altruistic premise that government exists to "rehabilitate" criminals: “Mercy” means an unearned forgiveness. -- Leonard Peikoff (Image via Pixabay.)[A]fter just two-and-half years in juvenile detention, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Doris Downs set [Jayden] Myrick free. She put him on probation and placed him in a special program whose director claimed could keep tabs on Myrick and reform him. Now, Myrick, age 17, is accused of shooting and killing a 34 year-old Washington, D.C. man during the course of another armed robbery, as the man was waiting for an Uber ride after leaving a wedding reception in Atlanta. Christian Broder is survived by his wife and a 9-month-old daughter. He would be alive today if Judge Downs hadn't stupidly subscribed to the tenets of those pushing sentencing reform. The judge explained that Myrick "has been in prison now for two and a half years and I don't think it helped him much, I haven't noticed a whole lot a change." Lost on the judge, as on many sentencing reform advocates, was the fact that the primary purpose of putting Myrick away was to protect society from his menace, not to help him. [bold added]Or, as Ayn Rand once put it, "The only proper purpose of a government is to protect man's rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence." Paul Mirengoff notes this as a case for minimum sentencing laws. I'm inclined to agree. It's too bad that this kind of thinking is so common today as to preclude investigation and some kind of remedy. This is something for which this judge deserves removal from office at the very least. And if the above isn't enough to convince you, do read further to see just how negligent this judge was, demented as she is by the kill-switch of altruism. -- CAV Link to Original
  16. Entrepreneur Sam Altman has been asked frequently-enough for productivity advice that he has relented, and posted on four general areas: What You Work On, Prioritization, Physical Factors, and Other Stuff. The first is the most important, and here is some of his advice: Delegate the others to people who want to do them. (Image via Pixabay.)I've learned that I can't be very productive working on things I don't care about or don't like. So I just try not to put myself in a position where I have to do them (by delegating, avoiding, or something else). Stuff that you don't like is a painful drag on morale and momentum. By the way, here is an important lesson about delegation: remember that everyone else is also most productive when they're doing what they like, and do what you'd want other people to do for you -- try to figure out who likes (and is good at) doing what, and delegate that way.He reiterates and summarizes at the end: [P]roductivity in the wrong direction isn't worth anything at all. Think more about what to work on.The piece overall is thought-provoking, although he does not consistently explain all his advice. But that may be for similar reasons he advises his readers to avoid "the trap of productivity porn." His piece is short, his main point is good and, and he spares you great detail on things (like "physical stuff") that you might need to figure out for yourself. -- CAV Link to Original
  17. Image via Pixabay.The New York Post carries an article titled "Elon Musk Is a Total Fraud," which passes along some pretty damaging information on both the amount of government loot Tesla is going through and Musk's "leadership" style. Regarding the former, Maureen Callahan reports that Tesla burns through half a million dollars an hour, receiving $4.9 billion in subsidies a year. Regarding the latter: Musk infamously does not take criticism well and refuses to be questioned or challenged -- three lethal traits in a leader. On a conference call with analysts in May, Musk dismissed questions about Tesla's diminishing capital and other dubious claims with name-calling. "Excuse me," Musk said. "Next. Boring boneheaded questions are not cool." Tesla's stock plummeted 5.6 percent after that performance. They also dropped 5 percent after an April Fool's Day tweet in which Musk announced Tesla had gone bankrupt. [bold added]These strike me as opposites of the kind of qualities someone would need to trade with others to mutual benefit, to say the least. Callahan also reports that a major investor is predicting that Tesla is headed for a "brick wall." I am inclined to believe that, and when it happens, it will be important to remember articles like this. When this loot-funded enterprise fails, some will inevitably blame it on "capitalism" -- even though companies like Tesla would not even exist under actual capitalism. The article casts further doubt on the Musk's character and the viability of his other enterprises, but it could have stopped with Tesla. We have, after all, become used to the idea of massive theft of our own money and assets by the government as well as its doling out of the same. We should be indignant about these practices, to say the least. Instead, the government gets away with theft and props up businesses built on unsound premises. Worse, if the conclusion stated in the title of this article is true, by doing the former two things, the government will have enabled a fraud to mimic success well enough to dupe people who could have put their money into a real business. That, too, is worth remembering, since Space-X going under could deal an undeserved blow to the cause of privatizing space exploration. -- CAV Link to Original
  18. Blog Roundup 1. At his Study Hacks blog, Cal Newport comments on a recent study of how the "open office" floor plan affects productivity: What is surprising, however, is the fact that face-to-face interactions declined so sharply in the first place. My critiques of open offices (c.f., Deep Work) assumed that removing spatial barriers would generate more face-to-face disruptions. In this study, removing barriers instead decreased these interactions while increasing the amount of electronic distraction. The negative impact is the same -- more interruptions = less deep work = poor return on investment in the organization's attention capital -- but the underlying mechanism is not what I expected.The authors of this study suggest that human beings require boundaries to "reduc[e] the potential for overload", among other things. I agree, but I'd also frame this in more positive terms: Workers in this situation are forced to be around other people, rather than having the freedom to seek them out when they realize they need to talk. Thus, regarding other people, the focus shifts to scrounging for whatever privacy one can get, rather than on the possibility of exchanging ideas -- or even just chatting. It's one thing to have water when you're thirsty or want to swim; it's entirely another to be thrown into a lake when you want and need to be dry. 2. Over at You Can and Did Build It, the author entertains an interesting question about America's founders:[They] made the most profound and historically significant choice: to break away from the dominant power on earth, and to govern themselves on the basis of reason and inalienable rights, rather than force and tradition. ... [But] did [the founders] see the connection between free will and reason? And much later: With regard to free will, then, the theme that emerges from studying the ideas of the Founders is their mixed views about it (in some cases explicit rejection of it), coexisting with an implicit embracing of free will in their major choices and actions.For examples and implications, follow the link above. 3. At Check Your Premises, philosophy professor Greg Salmieri asks, "How should philosophy professors approach Ayn Rand?" Here is part of his answer: So much, then, for [Skye] Cleary's refutation of Rand. But presumably the point of her short article wasn't so much to refute Rand as to motivate other philosophers to take up the project. I join her in encouraging them to do so. More generally, I encourage them to engage with her work. Philosophers interested in the task might consider making use of the Companion and the Ayn Rand Society's two books. All three books aim to facilitate intellectual engagement by bridging some of the gap between Rand's work and the literature that is more familiar to most English-speaking philosophers.Salmieri is motivated in part by deficiencies in Cleary's refutation of Ayn Rand, insofar as she "[took] for granted both that Rand's philosophy comes from a place of cruelty and that it 'should be easy to show what is wrong with her thinking.'" He is absolutely correct that even someone who fully engages Rand's work and leaves unpersuaded will come out better than someone who makes comfortable assumptions instead. 4. Facing a dilemma about a major decision? There's some worthwhile reading over at Thinking Directions regarding a common kind of confusion many unknowingly people face at such times: The choices are probably manageable than you think. (Image via Pixabay)The choice of career is an example of a complex decision that is made over a period of months or even years. You have too many questions about the future to make a decision per se. If you just try to ask yourself "which should I do?" you could easily find yourself stymied by the answer "I don't know." Indeed, the first step of my Eyes-Wide-Open decision process is to identify the choice you actually face. The choice you actually face is a choice between 2-3 options that you know enough about that you can act on now, as opposed to some vague desires regarding the future with many unknowns. You may think of your decision in terms of a complex choice involving the future. But this decision needs to be made over time by reducing it to a series of simple binary choices -- judgment calls -- that you can answer with confidence right now.When I was younger, it seemed like some people just figured this all out naturally (but couldn't really explain that they did something like this), some who could use such advice struggled with their choices, and some (most?) just defaulted to something everyone else did or expected them to do. I think this is great advice for the second and third groups. -- CAV Link to Original
  19. Two pieces on parental failure that might seem unrelated (but aren't) caught my eye today. The first, by Free Range Mom Lenore Skenazy, considers a nationwide decline in youth soccer participation. The story Skenazy quotes rightly blames the decline on pushing children into tryouts and highly competitive leagues at too early an age, before stating what it is that kids really need: Don't be fooled by the lack of a uniform... (Image via Pixabay.)Really -- what IS the point? If kids want to play soccer, they don't need a coach, a field, a uniform and a fee. All they need is some friends and a ball. And actually, as Carlo Celli and Nathan Richardson note in their book, Shoeless Soccer, they don't even need a ball. Pele, the soccer legend, learned playing barefoot, kicking a sock filled with rags. [minor edits, link omitted]I can't resist passing along a story about my baby brother, whose birthday it is today. My mother took him and a couple of his friends shopping when they were between six and eight, and they spontaneously began playing in a parking place next to her car as she loaded it. They used a dead frog as the ball. And, yes, one of them ended up heading it before she broke it up. The second story is by Evil HR Lady Suzanne Lucas, and concerns helicopter parents interfering with their teenagers' first jobs, even unexpectedly filling in for them (!) when they complained about being tired. Her commentary is spot-on, and includes the following: You are teaching your child many, many lessons in behaving like this. The first lesson is that your child is incapable of doing hard things. The second lesson is that mom does not trust them to solve their own problems. The third lesson is that mom will rush in and save them from any small difficulty. You know what this gets you? This gets you a 35-year-old living in your basement. [emphasis in original]Although the first story concerns pushing children too hard and the second helping them too much, both are about parents who control the lives of their children too much. This keeps them from developing their own interests on their own terms, thereby becoming motivated and self-confident. In each case, back off is excellent advice. -- CAV Link to Original
  20. Or: You Can't Recycle Your Time, Part 7084 A new logistical problem with government-sponsored recycling programs that prompted me to write a column earlier in the year is finally making the news. The LA Times reports (HT: Steve D.) that China's new standards for quality are causing ripples in the domestic recycling industry and sending lots of material to the landfills: In January, China began barring "contaminated" material it once accepted. And under China's new rules, if something is one-half of 1% contaminated, it's too impure for recycling. "This policy change is already starting to have adverse impacts on California," CalRecycle declared last month in a bulletin, "and is resulting in more material being stockpiled at solid waste facilities and recycling centers or disposed of in landfills." Eric Potashner, a government relations official for Recology, a curbside hauler that sorts San Francisco Bay Area trash for recycling, says, "There's no market for a lot of stuff in the blue bin. What we can't recycle we take to a landfill."Interestingly, although the focus of the article is China's new standards, those are hardly the only thing causing people to realize that recycling is uneconomical. "A year ago," Potashner says, "we were getting $100 a ton for newsprint. Now we're getting an average [of] $5 ... . Revenue has fallen off the cliff."And quality is being compromised by a practice called "wish recycling," in which people put things that can't be recycled into bins simply because they wish they could be recycled. But in my column, I argued that these programs are all "wish recycling": The only thing worth reusing in this picture would be the metal these bins are made of. (Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash)... Although you might think it was invented by hippies who, as Ayn Rand once put it, "would pollute any stream by stepping into it," recycling pre-dates China itself, and began the moment someone realized that it saved time, effort, and/or money to re-use an object or any of its raw materials. In fact, the practice was so economical that there was no need for scolds and government bureaucrats: People have made careers by buying, collecting and selling scrap metal, rags, and even human waste. Nevertheless, in the days of rag-pickers and night soil collectors, some things were recycled and some things were not -- because it was a waste of time, effort, or money. Tells, those large mounds arising after centuries of human habitation, attest to this in addition to accounting for many archaeological discoveries. But around the 1970s, hippies changed the goal of recycling from benefiting human life to preserving the natural world. Lest you think I quibble, consider how that affects even a simple choice: Toss out a cheap soft drink bottle -- or wash it and send it off to a recycling plant, regardless of whether it is quicker or cheaper to make a new one. [bold added]This goal has caused countless Americans to waste enormous amounts of time sorting through trash for decades now. If China's new standards cause us to see this, that country will have done us a great favor. -- CAV Link to Original
  21. Just swap a nice, juicy rib eye for that bottle, and see how little things change in a century. (Image via WikiMedia.)In case you haven't heard, WeWork, a company that provides shared workspaces and other infrastructure for startups and other small businesses, recently adopted a policy of refusing to reimburse employees for meat-containing meal items purchased while on business. (The policy is supposed to reduce WeWork's "carbon footprint," in case you were wondering why a company would try to pressure employees into eating like vegetarians.) Business writer Suzanne Lucas amuses by indicating much better ways the company could achieve its stated goal than by annoying something close to ninety-seven percent of its employees -- and by spelling out just what a hassle this will be: Imagine you're the person in charge of travel reimbursement. You now have to scour receipts to make sure someone didn't get chicken on those nachos. And what if an employee takes a client or a job candidate out to eat? Is the employee required to say to the client (or job candidate), "Hey, you can't order that spaghetti Bolognese. No meat!" Because that won't go over well.And that's just a sample. Even the exceptions the company is willing to grant will entail extra inconvenience and expense. Lucas is right that WeWork, as a private company, has the right to set whatever policies it wishes. And she is also right to mention that: f I was balancing two job offers and one would scrutinize my business meals for signs of hamburgers and the other would not, I might be inclined to turn down the offer from the company that cared more about what I ate on a business trip than what I accomplished. I suspect I'm not alone. [bold added] I think that there is an additional lesson here, though. Whatever you might think of WeWork's policy, at least they can only inconvenience themselves and (perhaps) those they do business with. When like-minded people demand similar policies of the government, they are asking that it force us all to live with their choices. This is not just wrong, it might be even more impractical than they realize. I don't know if WeWork sponsors organizations that seek fuel rationing or other government interference with what fuel I use, but at least they are doing two things: (1) suffering the consequences of their own foolishness, and (2) "'virtue' signalling" (by publicizing this), so I am aware that this company places other considerations above how best to offer me value for my money. -- CAV Link to Original
  22. Shortly after President Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, I came across a couple of analyses of his past record that indicate where he might stand on a couple of key issues. Regarding freedom of speech, Ken White of Popehat concludes: Image via Wikipedia. ... Kavanaugh's work on the D.C. Circuit show a judge strongly protective of free speech rights, and part of the trend of applying free speech doctrines both to classic scenarios and to government regulation. His stance on telecommunications and elections laws will get him painted as part of the "weaponize free speech" movement by results-oriented thinkers. He's strong on First Amendment limits on defamation law and his approach to anti-SLAPP statutes do not, as some have suggested, signal that he wants to make defamation cases easier. But though he might help upset applecarts by applying the First Amendment to regulatory schemes, and will not uphold broad speech restrictions, he will likely not overturn doctrines that make it hard for individuals to recover for speech violations.So far, so good -- for someone nominated by a President who doesn't exactly strike me as friendly towards this crucial right. Kavanaugh's record on abortion isn't exactly extensive, but he has been nominated by a President hostile to women's reproductive rights. Regarding how he might rule in an abortion case, we have the following from The New York Times In a case last fall that drew widespread attention, the appeals court voted to allow an undocumented pregnant 17-year-old in immigration detention to seek an abortion without delay; the Trump administration had wanted to first transfer her to an adult sponsor for guidance. Judge Kavanaugh dissented. He wrote that while the appeals court was bound to obey Supreme Court rulings that said that the Constitution protects a woman's right to choose an abortion, those precedents left room for the government to apply "reasonable regulations that do not impose an undue burden." He maintained that the government was within its bounds to choose a transfer to a sponsor instead of "forcing the minor to make the decision in an isolated detention camp with no support network available." Judge Kavanaugh accused the majority of wrongly inventing "a new right for unlawful immigrant minors in U.S. government detention to obtain immediate abortion on demand." He said that barred the government from intervening to connect minors with their immigration sponsors before making such a serious life decision. "The majority's decision represents a radical extension of the Supreme Court's abortion jurisprudence," he wrote. [links omitted]The fact that the case covers someone in government custody muddies the waters, but this falls clearly within the debate over the role a parent or guardian should play in whether a minor has an abortion. Kavanaugh's stand here doesn't tell me conclusively that he would vote to overturn Roe vs. Wade, but, given that many conservatives see government intervention with such involvement as a convenient means of interfering with the exercise of that right, this ruling doesn't look good I haven't made up my mind on whether I support or oppose this nominee, but I am concerned about the second issue. -- CAV Link to Original
  23. Image via Pixabay.Four Things 1. On the ride home from school back in June, my seven year old daughter made an odd complaint: she couldn't get a song out of her head. Yes: In the process of promoting a school trip to an Orioles game, her teachers managed to afflict her with her first earworm. The song in question was, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." 2. Some time in the past month, I had to explain to Pumpkin what a jackpot actually is, after she informed me that her little brother was sitting on it. 3. What you or I might call July 4 or Independence Day, Little Man was calling America Day. We spent the evening of ours on a beachside balcony in Florida's First Coast area watching fireworks. 4. Some time over the past few months, Little Man has taken to ... greeting ... squirrels by yelling "Hello!" and racing towards them. He's fast, but they're faster. At Disney World, he yelled an insult at a duck (not Donald or Daisy!), but didn't storm after it. He's otherwise a very good-natured little boy, and I have no clue where that came from. -- CAV Link to Original
  24. Lenore Skenazy writes of child abduction by complete strangers, something parents hear about on a near-constant basis and from every direction: Image via Wikimedia.It doesn't seem to matter to [Joey Salads] that he is reinforcing an idea that is already both rampant and untrue: Everyone is just waiting for the split-second opportunity to steal our kids. Stranger kidnapping is the rarest of crimes. Even if you wanted your child to be kidnapped by a stranger, you'd have to leave him outside, unattended, for 750,000 years before he'd be statistically likely to be snatched. But you wouldn't know it from Salads' shame-spreading, fearmongering videos, including his latest, in which he and a dad decide to teach the dad's wife about how horrible she is for letting their baby wait in the car for the few minutes it takes her to pay for the gas. [bold added]Skenazy also briefly considers those child abductions that do occur in a Wall Street Journal piece and notes that "The most common victims are girls aged 12 to 17, with sexual assault being the biggest motive," and that the vast majority of them did not live with their parents. -- CAV Link to Original
  25. For better or worse, there is often a time delay for me when it comes to processing ridiculous and unexpected insults. A good example of this came during our recent family vacation, which included taking the kids to Disney World for a few days. Having gotten up later than we wanted for a scheduled event, we rushed to the park. Just after, I saw an opportunity to buy everyone breakfast while my wife stood in line with the kids for a ride. After my kids (aged seven and five) and I got a place in line, my wife joined us. So I headed out the building to get breakfast. No more than a yard or two from the building, two young adult females with technicolor dreadlocks accosted me, asking me where my children were. Assuming them to be park employees of some kind, I said, "Oh, they're with my wife." Yeah. That's me around the thirty- and sixty-second marks."We're concerned that you're leaving them in line by themselves," one of them said somewhat brusquely. Thinking something was odd, but being in a hurry, I simply left for the coffee shop. Only at some point on the way did I realize that these two were almost certainly busybodies, rather than park employees, and that the answer they really deserved was something like a perfunctory, "That's rude." I am not a threatening-looking person. My kids are healthy and clean, and were dressed for the occasion. I wasn't yelling at my kids. They weren't crying or screaming. The only reason whatsoever I can come up with for any concern by an onlooker is that they saw me enter with my kids and leave without them -- a sight that anyone with a grain of sense would realize is not some rare phenomenon at an amusement park. I am sure plenty of other parents hand off their kids to the other parent, or even their older siblings, other relatives, or friends. A clean-cut, ordinary-looking man taking his kids to a line and leaving a few minutes later signals abandonment ... exactly how? And did this duo -- whose demeanor would give me pause about trusting my kids with them, to say the least -- spend any time enjoying the park? Did they worry themselves sick by appointing themselves guardians of every child in sight? Do they enjoy provoking parents? I don't know or care. But their assumption that I would skip out on my own young children in a crowded amusement park was either clueless enough or rude enough to merit an etiquette citation rather than an answer. -- CAV Link to Original