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Posts posted by Hermes

  1. A software upgrade broke the links to the Essay Contests sponsored by the Ayn Rand Institute. Those have been restored. You can read the winning essays 8th grade through university centered on themes in Anthem, The Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged.


    Start at the ARI homepage, select Students, and the scroll down and click the blue box for Essay Contests. 

    Scroll down again to Past Winners. There, you will find the selected winning essays as well as a roster of all notable entries. The inventory is for the years 2020, 2019, 2018, and 2017.

    Best Regards,

    Mike M.

  2. On 9/29/2015 at 10:30 AM, StrictlyLogical said:

    What direct value today's astronomy, physics, and astrophysics, may have to your decendants millennia from now and what wonders of technology and exploration they will produce due to the advances made now, and whether you care about that now... are hypothetical and very personal issues.  

    It can be the difference between life and death here and now if you are ever caught outside the city with a failed vehicle. Which way is north? 

    One of the direct applications of astronomy in the 18th and 19th centuries was establishing local lines of latitude and longitude in order to draw the borders on maps. Here and now, any certified training in surveying for real estate begins with knowing how to establish your local position without a pre-existing map.

    Again, the practical applications are secondary to your own eudaimonic gains. All of these arguments apply also to that other easy hobbyist toy, the microcope. Have you ever seen your own cells? If you think it does not matter, read about Do-it-Yourself genomic hobbyists who pursue their own treatments. (Biohackers reviewed on my blog here https://necessaryfacts.blogspot.com/2012/10/biohackers.html )


  3. The easy answer is that it does not need to have any other justification than that it makes your life better. If you find life-affirming enjoyment in the discovery and understanding then that is all that is required.

    On a deeper level, consider the simple fact that a modest telescope like a 4-inch refractor or a 5-inch reflector, even a 70mm National Geographic "department store" telescope will reveal that many stars perceived as solitary objects to the naked eye are pairs and multiples. For thousands of years - even 200 years after Galileo - we always assumed that the stars were individual objects, more-or-less randomly distributed. You can find the truth for yourself if you care to invest in the instrument and invest your time.

    I started another discussion on this here that garnered some response.


    And I posted this:

  4. On 1/30/2021 at 12:46 PM, MisterSwig said:

    [1] I took my girlfriend to the mountains to see Neowise. We saw it with the naked eye and through binoculars. She even got a decent photo of it with her phone's camera.

    [2] He even mentions the sort of professional-amateur collaboration that was done with data from the NEOWISE space telescope to find new objects and create maps. 

    [1] Yeah, they call it "seeing," the clarity of the atmosphere. It is more important than the nominal "power" of the instrument. The first night we went to "Moun Bonell" a bit a rise in the land in the city and we did not see it. A few days laters we went up into the hill country outside of town - still the suburbs - and I picked it out with binoculars. A woman at the same lookout off the highway said that she could see it naked eye, but I could not.

    [2] AAVSO - the American Association of Variable Star Observers - is a long-standing international group with a strong history of amateur-professional collaborations. There are others. Astronomy is one of the sciences where this has long been practiced. With satellites in orbit, there is more data in warehouses than professional scientisits to process it. They turn to crowd-sourcing and will train people to do the work. 

  5. On 1/30/2021 at 10:07 AM, dream_weaver said:

    [1] I selected a Bushnell 18-1561 as a gift option for 10 years of service. ...

    [2] After considerable effort, the telescope was aligned to take in my first personal sight of 4 of the moons of Jupiter.

    [3] My disappointment came shortly thereafter with the need to re-align the instrument every 2 minutes to maintain an active view.

    [4] Not long thereafter, Saturn was available for viewing. The "smudge" I was rewarded with ...  

    [5] ... I had not brought the telescope, being informed that I would be able to see it by the unaided eye. Alas, it was not to be for me.

    [6] I treasure having seen the moons of Jupiter.

    [7] After reading of Galileo's memoirs of the same, it gave his report substantially more body, having shared the experience.

    [7] That's an important reward for me: revisiting the paths of the pioneers. Jupiter and Galileo are top of the list there. But very many other sites are out there if you read the histories and follow the skies. 

    [1] [2] Your Bushnell 50mm x 1200 mm is a good beginner scope. It does take work getting used to them, no different than shooting a rifle or handgun, or shooting pool or bowling for that matter. Do you remember learning how to drive a car? I have a 10-inch x 2500 mm telescope in the garage on loan from my local club -- an option you might consider -- and it is going back to the equipment chair tomorrow. It weighs 65 lbs to my 68 kg and it's a bear to haul out and set up. My "everyday carry" is a 102mm (4 inch) that I can lift with one hand and carry with two. I also have a 70 mm x 700 mm National Geographic. Like your Bushnell, it is a bit smallish for some things, but it works great for most. Give your telescope some time. Use it. 

    [3] That's how they work. You may find that paying about $500 to $1000 for a larger telescope with a motor drive is more to your liking. The big 10-inch above was available because the tracking computer was blown out (vintage 1995) and no one wanted to use it and I did not care because I can do my own tracking.

    [4] Your telescope could have come with three lenses: 25, 10, and 6 plus a 2x Barlow. Saturn's rings should have been clearly visible in the 25. The 10 would put you right there in person. The 6 would be poor viewing for reasons of physical optics. The 25 and 2x would be a nice compromise. If you take your time with the focus you should get a sharp view, not a smudge. But it will be small, not Neil deGrasse Tyson on PBS zooming through the rings. Mars is even smaller. But - as a matter of objective epistemology - we understand our perception in the brain and the mind, not just the sensory organs. So, if you give it five minutes, you might be surprised at what you can see.

    [5] I brought binoculars.

    [6] See [7] above. Before i go outside, I make a plan and I often pause to give credit to the people of 1700 or 1750 who first saw this or that. Galileo also was the first to record about 30 stars in what had been the 7 stars of The Manger in Cancer. We call it The Beehive Nebula today. Your telescope will do that for you. Right now, you can check out the Orion Nebula. Galileo seems to have missed it because of the narrow view of his telescopes. If nothing else, look at the Moon. Get used to that with your array of oculars ("eyepieces").

    And keep them. You can used them with your next telescope. 

    Between Galileo and about 1870 or so, most of the viewing was in small telescopes within the budget of a dedicated hobbyist. In 1847 Maria Mitchell of Nantucket was awarded a gold medal by the King of Denmark for being the first person to identify with a telescope a comet that was not seen naked eye. Her scope was about the same size as yours, 3 inches for hers. 

    I mean for $6,000 to $10,000 you can own an instrument that would have been beyond most universities 50 years ago and just about all of them 100 years ago. And those are very small dollars now. For about a tenth of that, like $500 to $1000 you will cross into the median range of hobby scopes. My 102mm cost under $300 and I am very happy with it.

    It is a voyage of discovery. You have to leave the shoreline.


  6. It is easy to "like" astronomy. But that is not the same thing as being active in it. Astronomy is one of the few hobbies in which amateurs and professionals collaborate. A continuing thread in the history of astronomy is that it was generally a private pursuit, privately funded either personally or through non-governmental organizations. In the 20th century that began to change. But amateurs developed radio astronomy as a spin-off of ham radio; and they quickly jumped in on photography and eventually spectroscopy. 

    Most amateurs are backyard observers. Some do have distant, remote-controlled instruments in dark sky areas. However, most might travel an hour's drive or so to meet up with others away from the city. Even so, you can see a lot from the city, and more from the suburbs. 

    In 2014, my wife and daughter bought me a 130-mm (5-inch) Newtonian reflector. Last October I bought myself a 102-mm (4-inch) refractor. I chose that because I can lift it with one arm and carry it out of my office, down a hall, through the kitchen, out the back door, and into the backyard without hitting anything. I recently posted to discussion forums my views, drawings, and measurements of some binary stars. Although I live in a city of 1.8 million and I am a mile from a major shopping center, I can show you the Andromeda Galaxy as a naked-eye object. You just need to know where to look and to understand what you are looking at.

    For myself, that is a large part of my engagement. I am a member of the American Astronomical Society and in that I am a member of the Historical Astronomy Division because I relate to the development of theory, how we came to believe what we think that we know now. I also like learning about the people who made those discoveries. I also just earned a certificate in astrophysics from the Ecole Polytechnique Federal Lausanne through edX. For myself, no matter what kind of telescope you have, the stars are pretty at any magnification; if you do not understand what you are looking at, then you are a slack-jawed simian gaping up at an incomprehensible universe. 

    And there is an aesthetics to this. Many are the nights when I just lean back in the lawn chair and look up. 


  7. I serve as vice president of our local astronomy club. We received a general inquiry from a reporter for a culture magazine. My comrades on the executive committee were all in favor of taking this opportunity to speak out against light pollution. I started a reply, but did not send it because there was nothing I could gain from the engagement. However, the questions are worth considering. 


    We do not have the same perceptions with light that we do with sound. You can close your eyes. You cannot close your ears. So, we have laws against noise. We do need a rational theory of law to address noisy light. But not all light is pollution, any more than all noise is bad. After all, most people enjoy the sound of children playing and most so-called “light pollution” is equally benign.

    Moreover, you can see a lot from the city if you know where to look. I live in the city of Austin, one mile from South Park Meadows, a major shopping center. From my backyard, I can show you the Andromeda Galaxy. On hobbyist discussion boards, I have shared my views of binary stars. This is an endeavor that many hobbyists pursue, seeking out stars that look like single points to the naked eye, but which a modest telescope will reveal to be two or even four. 

    We backyard astronomers know the book, Turn Left at Orion by Guy Consolmagno, SJ, Ph.D. He had a doctorate from Harvard and taught at MIT, but never knew the sky the way an amateur does until a friend showed him the stunning yellow-blue double star known as Albireo at the head of The Swan (or the Foot of the Cross). His friend did that with a small portable telescope from within the glare of New York City in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Turn Left at Orion was written for the urban or suburban hobbyist. 


    One of our local leaders is a sun-watcher. With a special telescope costing four times more than a nice hobbyist instrument and ten times more than an entry-level telescope, he views our Sun, the closest star, and a very average star. Viewing in broad daylight, he never worries about light pollution.

    Astronomers also complain about “constellations” of artificial satellites, clusters and strings launched by private companies for communications, natural resource monitoring, economic research, and disaster response. When disaster strikes, we all want our cellphones to bring the responders to our exact locations by GPS. That convenience comes with a cost. 

    Apart from the hobby, serious astronomy has been carried out for 50 to 70 years with radio telescopes, or “dishes.” First investigated by amateurs just before World War II, radio telescopes receive wavelengths that are not blocked by light pollution (or rain). Today, radio astronomy continues to be a pursuit for some amateurs. It is a spin-off of ham radio. 

    Other leading edge research in astronomy is performed from orbiting platforms such as the Hubble and Hipparcos satellites. As enthusiasts of space exploration, the backyard astronomers do not complain about the consequences of building giant rockets to carry giant telescopes into orbit. 

    It is true that amateur astronomers collaborate with professionals. One way is by reviewing the data in computerized “warehouses” of numbers and images. We have more data than university professors can analyze. So, they turn to amateurs. Those hobbyists work from the comfort of their homes, consuming electrical power, and other resources, that also create light pollution.

    Amateurs also build their own remote-controlled observatories and monitor the views on high-definition video screens. Those installations are hundreds of miles from their homes where the amateurs enjoy the benefits of civilization. 

    Even deeper into the wilderness, some impassioned hobbyists travel to the darkest skies at state and national parks for their star parties. There, many of the instruments are custom-built, huge, complex telescopes, some of which need their own trailers to be hauled to the campsite. At those events, deep sky stargazers pursue “faint fuzzies” the galaxies and nebulas at the limits of viewing. For them, the planet Jupiter is light pollution. At a dark sky site, with no other competition, our solar system’s largest planet is bright enough to cast shadows. In the large “light buckets” built to gather the faintest glows from the farthest objects, the glare of Jupiter washes out the sky. So, one astronomer’s target is another astronomer’s light pollution. The same is true of the Moon. Some hobbyists do study it. It is not a dead world. But generally speaking most suburban hobbyists consider the Moon to be light pollution. 


    I am not insensitive to the problem. I believe that a correct political analysis begins with considerations of property rights. A couple of years ago, I wanted to arrange the loan of a large hobby telescope to a co-worker who recently moved into a rural area. Sadly, he declined the offer because his neighbor had just installed a security light, a mercury-vapor spotlight that illuminated her land, his, and much else. If the light waves were sound waves, she would be blasting rock ‘n’ roll at 2:00 AM. That is a problem that is easy to understand and any number of local ordinances (if not common sense and common courtesy) would put a stop to it. 

    We all want clear dark skies full of beautiful bright stars. Backyard astronomers also want telescopes, which are mass-production manufactured items, mostly from China. Even custom-made hobbyist telescopes two feet in diameter costing near $10,000 are built from precision glassware made in China. Backyard astronomers here do not mind if China's skies are polluted. 

    I admit that it was at the Austin Astronomical Society's dark sky site 80 miles away from Austin that I first saw the Milky Way from horizon to horizon. It was worth the drive. There is no shortage of dark sky for anyone willing to make an effort, invest resources, and put up with some minor inconveniences. That being so, absent the amenities of civilization, daily life 80 miles from a Level One trauma center could be precarious should you break your arm or have a heart attack. Like telescopes, modern hospitals are another product of our industrial economy. What formal logic calls the law of the excluded middle is commonly expressed as, “You cannot have your cake and eat it, too.

  8. Dave, you speak an Indo-European language, but your language has 6000 years of new meanings reflected in the many nuances of simple words and the very many new words that did not exist 4000 BCE. Yet, all of our words evolved from those. I especially liked this: "Then what is the mental fodder for reasoning which leads to this chain of conclusions?"

    "Fodder for reasoning" is highly symbolic. It is analogy, of course, perhaps also metaphor. "Analogy" and "metaphor" are Greek words, of course. There is a hobby of using old English. Look up "Star Wyes." Astronomy would be "heavenlore" and fiction is "playtruth." If this all seems irrelevant, then you do not speak German. Telescope is "Fernrohre" far-tube. We say "telescope" and the sound is a symbol. When a German speaks it, two existing words are brought together for a new meaning. 

    I do not disagree with anything you said, but everything you said has meaning only in context.


    Screen Shot 2021-01-21 at 8.07.23 PM.png

  9. I have several to match the clothes I wear. I have one with red-white-and-blue when I am in old GI clothes. I have one with constellations for when I have on an astronomy-theme T-shirt. I have one with a corporate logo that goes with the corporate polo shirts.

    We should have been doing this all along, but we accepted it as normal that people could come to work sick and pass their germs along to others. In the old days before connectivity, that might have been an excuse: we have to show up at work and work is important to our livelihood and the clients and their customers. But even if that was the case mid-20th century, back before 1985, I got a catalog book of software developers and most of them reported 1 or 2 employees and company revenues of $50,000 or $100,000 per year and locations in small places all over. Shortly after that, I joined my first BBS. But some years earlier, I actually got a message across my terminal at one college from a friend a different college. So, we could have been doing this for decades. 

    Four years ago, I worked for a software development firm that actually had a stay-home-when-sick policy. This guy came in sick. Two days later he was still sick and I said something to HR and they said, "Oh, we don't follow that. The policies are just written for us by another firm we hire." The next day he was out ... and so was the guy in the cubie next to his..

    I believe that spreading germs should be actionable. They locked up Typhoid Mary without a trial. Well, maybe a trial should have been held. In her interview with Edward R. Murrow, Ayn Rand said that the government has a role to prevent intentional harm and does not need to wait for actual harm. It is something to consider in the development of objective law.

  10. When I was able to get both planets in the same view with my telescopes, I drew proportional sketches of the conjunction. With a field-of-view, for example, of 2.42 degrees, I used circles of 2.4 and 4.8 cm. I developed a personal technique of being able to view with both eyes open so that I can hold a centimeter scale at a convenient distance to guage separations. I have used this for binary stars, also.


    13 and 17 December 2020.jpg

    19 December 2020 (b) .jpg

    21 December 2020 (b).jpg

    Conjunction 24 December 2020.jpeg'

    Images are reversed right and left. Saturn was to the West (Left) of Jupiter. That is an artifact of the refracting telescopes. We correct that with prisms for binoculars ("field glasses"). With astronomical objects it is not that critical and we often just indicated N-W or whatever is convenient. 

    On the night of closest conjunction, the sky was overcast. I could make out the planets because I knew what they were, but nothiing was distinct. I could not see the rings of Saturn or the moons of Jupiter that night. 

    As for the annotations. Consider the notes added to the image directly above.  70mm is the diameter of the objective lens. F/10 means that the focal length is 700 mm. The viewing power is found from the focal length of the eyepiece (17 mm) divided into the focal length of the objective: 700/17 = 41+. In addition, I used a 2x Barlow lens, which effectlvely halves the focal length of the eyepiece, doubling the magnification to 82X. The field-of-view (FOV) is just under 1 degree: 52m 34s. That is based on the standard ("Ploessl") eyepiece field of view of 50 degrees at the higher power. 

    (Georg Ploessl was a 19th century maker of optical instruments. His designs for eyepieces became popular in the late 20th century when the hobby of astronomy exploded in response to the US-USSR "space race.") 


  11. I launched my blog on 2 January 2011. The title was inspired by Gregory Browne’s Necessary Factual Truths (University Press of America, 2001).

    I met Dr. Browne at Eastern Michigan University in the fall semester 2007. Waiting for a class in police operations, I was walking the halls and heard him lecturing. It was obviously a philosophy class and he sounded reasonable. I looked in and saw “Ayn Rand” on the blackboard closing an array of philosophers in historical sequence. A couple of weeks later, I heard him actually mention Ayn Rand. So, I introduced myself. And I bought the book format of his doctoral dissertation. It derives from a refutation by Leonard Peikoff of the Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy.



  12. Free Will—Right away they teach you, NAVY stands for Never Again Volunteer Yourself. Every branch boot camp does it their own way. The lure is often an easy-sounding assignment that turns in to a minor hell. Do not take the easy way out.

    The lesson is not that you should hang back and let other people do your work. The lesson is really to not throw yourself away. Think about it before you take up a challenge.  Choose your battles. When you confront the organization at large, or a superior at rank, your buddy will ask, “Is this the hill you want to die on?” You decide.

    Independence—“With all due respect, sir, I disagree.” You still follow orders. You are free to explain your reservations. The positive expression is recommending a creative solution to an existing problem. It is as simple as telling your buddies to stop what they are doing and talk about what they want to do next because charging through the brambles is only going leave you all with scratches. 

    Integrity—Never compromise your values or deny your virtues. 

    Morality—Every choice is an answer to the question, “Right or wrong?” Objectively, no dichotomy exists between the moral and the practical. The mundane daily tasks have long term consequences. For want of a two-penny nail, the battle was lost. More complex decisions follow broader principles. In America, no soldier is required to carry out an unlawful order. 

    Justice—. Justice is recognizing the fact that your actions always have consequences for other people. Moreover, justice is pro-active. You do not wait for others to be in harm’s way, to be in need before you act. Taking care of other people is integral to a military unit. That does not mean being a slave to the whims of others, no matter how high their rank. Justice in action is rational benevolence.

    The more common understanding of that is the protector-guardian role of the military. The simplest analogy came from the retired Marine Corps master sergeant who taught our class in advanced leadership: There’s sheep. There’s wolves. And there’s sheepdogs. We are sheepdogs. Most people think of justice as punishment for the guilty. That is a secondary consequence of egocentric justice. 

    Pride --- “Pride is the recognition of the fact that you are your own highest value and, like all of man’s values, it has to be earned—that of any achievements open to you, the one that makes all others possible is the creation of your own character...” -- Galt's Speech

    “And, above all, it means one’s rejection of the role of a sacrificial animal, the rejection of any doctrine that preaches self-immolation as a moral virtue or duty.” – “Objectivist Ethics” in The Virtue of Selfishness.


  13. At first inspection, the rational individualism of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism seems contrary to the requirements of military service. Everyone dressing alike is the most visible fact. Following orders without question is the deeper problem, of course, especially as that can lead to your own death. Groups are sacrificed in feints and gambits. The military shares well with other institutions the vice of inertial conservativism. Innovators such as Gen. William “Billy” Mitchell and Adm. William Sowden Sims were perfect examples of those whose heroism was not in standing tall against deadly weapons but in persistently confronting mediocrity to the detriment of their own careers. 

    (Note: This is from a discussion on Rebirth of Reason, which was recently re-launched after being down for about six months.)

    However, in fact, admirers of Ayn Rand’s philosophy and fiction can be found easily in U.S. military ranks. See, for example, Love My Rifle More than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army by Kayla Williams (W. W. Norton, 2005) and The Leader’s Bookshelf, edited by Adm. James Stavridis USN (Ret.) and R. Manning Ancell (Naval Institute Press, 2017). But it is also easy to find Christians in the military, even though Christianity insists that we love our enemies, turn the other cheek, and obey a commandment not to kill. Clearly, people have the ability to explain away their moral standards in order to rationalize their choices. I assert that military service per se is as morally neutral as any other career. The ethics of its practice depends on the values of the actor. 

    From November 22, 2014 to October 29, 2019, I was a petty officer in the Maritime Regiment of the Texas State Guard. About a dozen states have their own active home guards. By law, they are within the same state departments as the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard. (There is no Navy National Guard.) They all report to the same adjutant general. By federal law, the state guards cannot be federalized or sent overseas. They answer to their governors only, never to the President. Generally, today, they are not issued weapons, though most states grant that power to the governor in response to an emergency. Historically, the Texas State Guard has patrolled the international border with Mexico, been military police, and provided civic riot control. Generally, the primary purpose all state guards today is emergency response to mass casualty events such as tornados, floods, fires, and hurricanes. My primary duties were editing and writing policies, plans, and procedures for the general staff. I also was assigned to 14 months of fulltime employment as a specialist in the Domestic Operations Taskforce where I was one of six state guard sergeants working for national guard colonels in plans and training. My direct supervisors were young lieutenants and captains returned from combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. In my five years, I was deployed as a computer operator in command and control for four emergencies. The last of them was Hurricane Harvey, for me, 24 straight 12-hour duty days. Among the citations on my ribbon rack are two humanitarian service awards, two meritorious service awards, a national guard service award, and an adjutant general’s individual achievement medal. 

    That last speaks directly to the Objectivist virtues of military service. Contrary to the common narrative that individuality is erased in the making of humans into mindless killing machines, the military encourages and rewards initiative, values human life, and reinforces dignity, respect, and self-esteem. As with any other profession, you bring yourself to its practice. 

    “Honor is self-esteem made visible in action.” – Philosophy Who Needs It.

  14. Murray Rothbard was a fraud and a faker. 


    A History of Money and Banking in the United States: The Colonial Era to World War II by Murray N. Rothbard, Von Mises Institute, 2002.  Pages 119-122 on the Suffolk System.  Rothbard begins: “But Dr. George Tivoli, whose excellent monograph, The Suffolk System, we rely on in this study …” Where does Tivoli's work end?  On page 120 is a footnote 102 to John Jay Knox's A History of Banking in the United States in support of a quote.   Then follows more narrative.  Is this a continued paraphrasing of Tivoli? And where is the publication citation for that monograph? I found that original publication about the Suffolk Banking System. Rothbard just used scissors and paste on what was then an obscure work. Today, we have the Internet.
    What Has Government Done to Our Money?, 2nd ed (Santa Ana: Rampart College, 1974.) Section 7, pages 8-10, ending with footnote 9.  No mention of actual private gold coins issued by Bechtlers, Templeton Reid or many others, or of private copper such as Higley's "Granby tokens" or many others throughout history, including “Hard Times” and Civil War issues (Patriotics and Store Cards). 
    “Privately-minted gold coins circulated in California as late as 1848.” (page 10 closing Section 7).  The actual use of fractional dollar gold coins in California in 1848-1849 is still much debated.  Private gold had a 20-year run in North Carolina, 1831-1852.   And again private gold in California was not used "until 1848," but starting in 1848.  The coins of Wass-Molitor & Co. (1852-1855), Kellogg & Co. (1854-1855), Schultz & Co. (1851), Mormon Gold (1849-1860), and many other issues would have informed any researcher seeking to understand the substantive topic.
    Rothbard claimed that kings minted coins.  Indeed, they did.  So did perhaps a thousand other authorities: bishops, counts, town councils, etc.  Kings held no monopolies until much later, and even then only tenuously.
    Again, relying on my faith in Rothbard, I was brought up short in an online discussion via Usenet's rec.collecting.coins by Francois Velde, a Federal Reserve economist who authored and co-authored books on medieval economics.  While I disagree with Velde's theories, I have to accept his facts, which are available to anyone who cares to do the research -- which I did for an article, "Champagne: the Athens of the Middle Ages" for The Celator – and which Rothbard apparently did not.
    Rothbard completely ignored the error in “Gresham's Conjecture” the evidence of the silver half dime and nickel 5-cent circulating in parallel (as did the nickel 3-cent and silver 3-cent).
    The National Bank Acts of 1863 required the deposit of gold with the Treasury.  In return, banks got Treasury bonds, against which they could issue their own National Bank Notes up to 90% of the value.  This was, in fact, a gold-based demand banking system.  Moreover, contrary to the baseless claims of Rothbard, state banks did revive and continue up to the 1933 mass closings.  Rothbard just tailored his history.  And he ignored the rich, varied, and informative history of the Wildcat Era, focusing only on the Federal government as the bogeyman.
    Discussing the origins of the evil Federal Reserve Bank, Rothbard writes of the Panic of 1907 without a word of the Clearinghouse Scrip that served the banks through the crisis.  The vouchers demonstrate an ad hoc market solution to the (highly putative) "problem" of credit contraction.  It would have helped to prove the case that the Federal Reserve System was not necessary.  
  15. Saving Mr. Banks may be a new invention in modern cinema: a Romanticist biography. It is the story of conflict between Walt Disney and P. J. Traverse, author of the Mary Poppins books. At the end of her writing career, she is out of money. For 20 years, Disney has been offering her a lot of it. But she will not give up final rights to the artistic control of the movie. She says at least twice that Mary Poppins is like family to her. We see why in flashbacks. Talking to his writers, Disney says that he understands her well: at one point, when "I was just a kid from Missouri," he had been offered a lot of money for Mickey Mouse. "It would have killed me to do it. Mickey was family to me." Ultimately, they have the same values, but diametrically opposite goals: both want control of the production; and both are right to expect that. 

    Some of the facts were tailored for the story. In the end, Walt Disney comes to Pamela Traverse Goff and tells her his story, to free her from her own. If I understand the facts from various Internet presentations and discussions, it was Roy Disney who went to London to negotiate the contract. But such is historical fiction; and as romanticist fiction, it was necessary for the integration of plot and theme; and nothing was lost. 

    My wife, (and daughter) and I have stayed for the credits for 30 years, ever since Brain Storm. You never know where your friends have been working. It is also our tribute to the creators, the artists, the production workers who made the movie. Watching Atlas Shrugged in the theaters, we enjoyed a final moment of epilogue that many people missed. So, too, here, did the credits roll over a final scene that substantiated a crucial element in establishing the ground truth of the film. 

    That was convenient for all the people fishing for handkerchiefs and tissues. I always have one laundered and ironed. Fortunately, I had another in my jacket for my wife. Added by Michael E. Marotta

    on 12/26, 8:40am


  16. Returning to his alma mater at the University of Texas, Dr. Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute spoke to a packed lecture room at the McCombs School of Business, on December 3, 2013. Contrasting Bill Gates with LeBron James and Mother Teresa, he said that we accept huge salaries for sports heroes because we can conceptualize what they do.  “We all shoot baskets, and we know how bad we are at it.” Public opinion is that corporate officers do not deserve their rewards because few people actually operate businesses.  Moreover, our culture has a dominant morality of altruism and unselfishness; and business is all about self-interest.  


    He then engaged the audience to identify the virtues required by the marketplace.  Hard work honesty, discipline, persistence, long-range thinking, and justice were offered; and he expanded on each. He summed them up with the virtue of passion. “Business is all about self-interest,” he said.


    In the popular mind, Brook said, the worst thing about Bill Gates is that he enjoys charity. “We would prefer that he give it all away, live in a tent, and if he could bleed a little, that would be perfect.”  On the other hand, Mother Teresa is considered moral not only because her work was for others, but also because she did not enjoy it.  Brook also identified guilt as a dominant motivator for charity. 


    Pointing to the Occupy movement, he agreed with their condemnation of crony capitalism. However, he drew from the earlier discussion to point out that few people can conceptualize what investment bankers do. We shoot baskets, so we understand LeBron James. We own computers, so we “get” Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.  In order to appreciate investment capitalism, “people must be conceptual and must think about it right.”  He added that in the hierarchy of production, bankers are responsible for the greatest range of value creation.


    Brook urged the UT business majors to reject the morality of selflessness and to adopt a philosophy of self-interest, egoism, rationality, productivity and achievement.


    During the Q&A he cited The Cave and the Light: Plato Versus Aristotle, and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization, by Arthur Herman.  Brook identified education as the only way to reverse the trend of statism and decline.  He asked his audience to think ahead to the year 2050. “It’s going to take a generation or two or three.”

  17. Over 3500 people contributed $446,907 toward a $250,000 goal to fund the advertising budget for Atlas Shrugged, Part III: "Who is John Galt?" If you go to the site and make the effort to load the full list, you can see all the names.


    I found no easy way to read the full roll of contributors until I loaded it with repetitive keystrokes. The list is in chronological order. Consequently, at at the top is the roster of early supporters who themselves have kickstarted tens, even hundreds, of other projects, including this one though they may not be Objectivist or even "objectivish" at all.  I am there near the bottom.  I took it to the last minute while I worked to bring home a contract that would let me sign up for the $1000 commitment. As it was, I bought the t-shirt. You may recognize people you know from this board or others.  


    The link to the Atlas Shrugged pages of Kickstarter is:


    Or go to www.Kickstarter.com and look for Atlas Shrugged. You can also go to the Galts Gulch discussion board (http://www.galtsgulchonline.com/) and find the Movie site via the top menu bar. And the movie has a separate URL - http://www.atlasshruggedmovie.com/ They will put you on their weekly email list, if you want.


    If you sign on the Galt's Gulch site as a Producer for $3.95 per month billed to your card, you will have access to the "Producers Lounge" where you can find special features, such as Frank Lloyd Wright's design for Ayn Rand's home. The most recent is a video made in 1993 to promote investment in the movie. That film includes encouragement and support from Leonard Peikoff. 

  18. If you enter "Atlas Shrugged Part 3 kickstarter" in your search engine, you will find that the mass media bloggers from Time to Salon and beyond are having a great time not stating the facts.  


    The goal of the kickstarter was to put $250,000 into the advertising budget of the movie.  The purpose of the campaign was to let people get involved. 


    The producers did not need the quarter million dollars -- but money is always nice to have.  What they offered was a hierarchy of values based on your willingness and ability to buy into the process.  For $35 you get a special T-shirt.  For $1000 you get your name listed in the roll-up of the credits at the end of the movie. You can buy a signed film cell, or a specially endorsed DVD, and several other mementos.  These are vanity gifts, indeed, and if you want one, you can still buy one.  The deadline is October 23.




  19. Our ideas about intellectual property are rooted in medieval law about real estate.  Patents are given to the “first” inventor (which is defined differently by different laws) and deny the reality of independent invention. Rational law would recognize that all independent inventors have the rights to the products of their own minds.  Also, rather than expiring, intellectual property would continue forever, like any other kind of property.
    Johanna Blakely of the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California has a TED Talk about the importance of copying to the multi-trillion dollar fashion markets.  Copying is how trends develop. The buyers of originals are not the buyers of knock-offs (and vice versa). In fashions no patents or copyrights exist. Only trademarks are protected.
    We still think of property as if it were land. You cannot copy land. Therefore, you must not copy an automobile transmission. No two farmers can plow the same land at the same time, so no two engineers can be allowed to develop the same process at the same time.
    On a deeper psychological level, our laws on intellectual property are founded on a false doctrine of jealousy in love, which is based on a lack of self-esteem, and the desire to own and control another human being. “This is mine and no one can have it.” That is fine, for things that really are yours. Other people and the content of their minds are not yours.
    We have examples of the value of the opposite mindset.  In 1661 Robert Boyle's "Sceptical Chymist" explained why the secretive methods of alchemy had to be replaced by open publication of reproducible results. It was a radical idea.  The proud (arrogant, in fact) creative people in the Homebrew Computer Club came together to show off their work. They shared ideas by implicit trade. Those who had something cool were highly regarded. It made the computer revolution possible.  However, it was not to last.
    Look at your computer display. Open a window. Make it smaller by dragging the corner up. That is a logical XOR, either the bit is on or the bit is off. From that, one window overlays another, wholly or partially. That became a patent. Someone claimed it, years after it was standard operating procedure.
        “Ever since Autodesk had to pay $25,000 to “license” a patent which claimed the invention of XOR-draw for screen cursors (the patent was filed years after everybody in computer graphics was already using that trick), at the risk of delaying or cancelling our Initial Public Offering in 1985, I've been convinced that software patents are not only a terrible idea, but one of the principal threats to the software industry. As I write this introduction in 1993, the multimedia industry is shuddering at the prospect of paying royalties on every product they make, because a small company in California has obtained an absurdly broad patent on concepts that were widely discussed and implemented experimentally more than 20 years earlier.”  Read here “Patent Nonsense” by John Walker of Autodesk



     Patents are defined as broadly as possible in order to secure their rights against any and all similar but different competitors. Take xerography, for example. Many different chemical combinations and many different processes can be engaged to create copies of images. Xerox wants (wanted) not just a patent on the one they actually developed, but they use the one they actually developed as evidence of their claim to all other possible variations. Then when someone else does the same thing a different way, suits at law are supposed to sort that out, as if courts (judges, juries) are competent to evaluate any and every new technology. 3-D printing is now being developed by independent technologists in many different ways. Will someone then be able to claim the rights to all of them?
    I see Henry Ford in his motorcar. I can build one, too. Of course mine will be materially different for many basic reasons - basic, metaphysical reasons from the nature of human intelligence.
    A generation ago, computer programming instructors figured out that in any average introductory class, no two students will ever (likely) produce similar programs, even for the most basic of assignments. Therefore, any two programs that are arbitrarily "too similar" may easily be evidence of copying (cheating).  So, too, with other inventions. It would take an intellectual effort - having first stolen the plans - to slavishly copy without making any changes. 
    Even when you have the blueprints, you may well lack the special insight of the original inventor. A process could be documented completely but its failure modes might be known only to the inventor. 
    Enter “early automobile patents” (and similar phrases) into your search engine. The internal combustion engine itself was patented, of course, even though it is only a recombination of James Watts' steam engine. I mean the valves and chambers. The only new idea was putting the flame inside the engine, a tough nut to crack, indeed, but many ways to achieve it. Sparkplugs are the common solution, but Rudolph Diesel's engines achieved combustion by pressure alone, though modern engines do have "glow plugs." And on and on it goes.
    Some libertarians attempt to justify property rights on the assertion (from John Locke) that you "mix your labor" with it to earn the right to it.  Undeveloped frontier land is offered as an example.  But what if you choose a buy-and-hold strategy, keeping the land as wilderness to watch its value increase as other property is developed?  
    Also, applied to commercial and financial markets, this "mix your labor" theory would nullify any buy-and-hold investment strategy. Applied consistently in a libertarian utopia, you might lose your ownership in a joint-stock company if you fail to vote your shares, or otherwise display an active interest in the company's operations.  
    Finally, when you steal someone's invention - unquestionable theft, let us grant: you steal the blueprints from the bedroom vault - if you have only stolen the ideas, then in order to profit from them, you must also "mix your labor" even if only to sell the plans to someone else.  Clearly this "mix your labor" theory cannot support even the right to land. It surely cannot be used to define and protect intellectual property.  
    Read about the case of Charles M. Gentile and the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. It is an example of the false philosophy behind such laws. 
    Gentile was sued for his images of this public building. Architect I. M. Pei claimed all rights to the image. The museum was built with public money. It sits wide open to be seen from anywhere. After being sued, Gentile was ordered to destroy all copies of his work. Eventually an appeals court reversed the ruling at a cost of about $2 million to the artist. Interestingly, about 100 such buildings are protected by similar copyrights, including the New York Stock Exchange and the Chrysler Building.  (The NYSE Facade is a copy of a copy of a copy. See The Parthenon.)
    Alternately, if an invention is property then, it never ceased to be property.  The government would act like a land office, registering the ownership deed. But land is finite and limited in occupation by the laws of physics. Ideas have no such limitation. So, independent invention and discovery must be allowed. But granted that, the property exists forever.  Instead we have a mystical fiction that 17 years or some other magic number is the correct length of time for a patent.  Right now under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a work is protected for the life of the artist plus 75 years, or plus 90 if the work is sold to a corporation.   That is not rational, but just arbitrary.
  20. The best of all possible worlds… At least that is what the progressives claimed when their hidden Administration finally bankrupted the national governments of Earth in the construction of huge Domes into which humanity was bottled up.  This is the world of 2084.  For about 60 years, everyone has known only a planned and monitored life of balanced nutrition, daily exercise, and public transportation within a sealed environment.  Travel is possible for those who are assigned to it.  Among them is Elliot Fintch: he has been assigned to Mars.


    Fintch is an “eductor.”  Identified as a child as being capable of thought (COT), he has been cared for, groomed, educated, transitioned, and placed.  His assignments require the rare thinking that makes him valuable.  But no one is irreplaceable and Fintch must be careful always to avoid any statement of disloyalty. He could be trapped by a secret agent of the Administration. He could be turned in by a watchful citizen.  Nonetheless, he believes in his work because he knows nothing else.


    He does not know that his wife was arrested for disloyalty while he was in the shower.  Swept from the kitchen, she was gone. He was told that she left.  Flexible in his thought patterns, Fintch adjusts to the new reality, though it leaves him unhappy.


    His own problems must take second place (or less) to the challenge he has been given.  The Mars colony has been the site of gruesome, seemingly causeless murders.  The Administration is sending him because his special abilities for intuitive and insightful thinking are their hope.


    From the huge complex of Domes that connect Phoenix with San Diego, by ship to Costa Rica, and underwater to Ecuador and then off-planet via Elevator, Elliot Fintch is confronted by people outside his experience.  For a man who has had superior access to mountains of information, he is woefully inexperienced.  All the people he knows are bureaucrats.  Now he has to deal with people who (however law-abiding they may seem or be) are different – different from him; different from each other.  But Fintch is intelligent and determined; and he never stops thinking.


    This novel stands on its own; but it also rests on a set of short stories, Fallacies of Vision, set closer to our own time.  Both are available as Kindle downloads on Amazon.  (Shadows costs $4.99; Fallacies is 99 cents.)  Not a Kindle person myself, I found it easy to put the software on my Macintosh and enjoy the reads.  Ashinoff is clearly and consciously a political conservative.  (We met on the “Galt’s Gulch” website of the Atlas Shrugged movie producers.) The opening story in Fallacies of Vision, “Erosion” won him undeserved condemnation from the Southern Poverty Law Center.  

  21. Doctors know that patients die despite everything being done to help them live. When infants die in that manner, it is called "failure to thrive." The the so-called "choice" to live is actually a meta-choice, the denial of choice, a blanking out, a retreat, the surrender of will.

  22. Isn't there also something about the dollar symbol being based on "U" and "S", which is not the actual way the dollar symbol came about.

    A speech at the American Numismatic Association convention.

    #076 THE PUZZLING ORIGIN OF THE DOLLAR SIGN ($) (Chicago, 1991) by Eric P. Newman. The origin of the

    symbol and the date of the first use of the dollar sign ($) in written form is explained. 1.0 hrs.

    "The dollar sign : its written and printed origin" by Eric P. Newman.

    In: Kleeberg, John M., ed. Coinage of the Americas Conference. Proceedings No. 9. America's silver dollars, New York: American Numismatic Society,c1995 p. 1-49 pp. 5-16 Vol. 70, No. 2 (Feb. 1957), pp. 137-147.

    Basically, the dollar sign evolved from a ligature for Pesos. Ps.

    Its origin is traced to a merchant in Florida.

  23. One would have a hard time objectively justifying a law where the premise of the law is "giving" chances to criminals to commit crimes against innocent people.

    It is a fact that the average "first offender" has committed something like 35 felonies before first being sentenced to jail or prison. That is the deeper problem you identify.

    However, it is also true at 20% of the goods on the market have no clear title. We Objectivists too easy glide "fraud" along with "force." We can say that your right to swing your fist stops where my nose begins. Whether, when, and to what extent you have misinformed me about the fitness of use or merchantability of your product is less readily defined.

    As for force, people are given to it. It is a fact of human nature; and it often happens that the initial aggressor only becomes the last victim. How much time elapses, what intervening events occured, are factors. You think of a person walking down the street suddenly attacked and robbed. That happens. Knowing that my bachelor's is in criminology, for a graduate class in Geographic Information Systems, the professor assigned me a project in crime mapping. It is generally useless. I demonstrated my initial point by showing a map of our campus with so many pins that you could not see the buildings. So, yes, that kind of crime does happen.

    But it is not the majority of police business. In 85% of cases, the victim knows their assailant: it was personal. The assailant may well still be a bad person deserving of harsh punishment -- but that is not an easy determination except in the abstract. In real life, victimology is an important part of criminology. Often, they both need to be prosecuted, just to get their attention.

    A criminal justice system based on Objective Law would look very little like the retributionist violence that we call "justice" now in a society of mixed premises, many of which are based on Biblical teachings of divine wrath softened by redemption through sacrifice.

  24. How does it protect the rights of individuals to broadly classify crimes and pick the arbitrary number 3 as the point of mandatory removal from society?

    OK, what is N? Why 3 and not 1 or 4 or 12? How do you objectively decide that number?

    Case 1: Brooklyn Burrough, New York City. A common street scam is for one member of a gang to sell one dollar "raffle tickets" for "big giveway" inside this storefront, a $1000 flatscreen or whatever. When enough people are inside, a different guy comes out from the back and says there's only a few of you here and I'm going to draw one ticket, but we thought we'd sell 1000 tickets and we need to sell them, so who wants to buy more chances at a dollar each to win this $1000 flatscreen. And he sells 10 or 100 or 1000 more tickets and he says that he needs to get something or someone and he leaves. They all left. It's a scam.

    Later in the day, one of the marks sees them and confront. They beat him up. Satisfied with themselves, they walk over to a bar and get drunk, jaywalk, confront the motorist and bash out the car's headlights. They are arrested. Everything comes out in court. Three strikes.

    Case 2: Outside Seneca Falls, near where County Road 118 becomes County House Road, Clem sells a blind horse to Charlie. Later that day, they duke it out. But they kiss and make up and go into a bar and get drunk, get into Clem's car and immediately hit a street lamp -- and it all comes out in court. Three strikes.

    ... and hey, why not, four?

  25. Are Discrimination Laws morally necessary?

    Aren't choices in a private company that are based on age, race, sex (even if not applicable in any way) protected under the rights of the company's owner?

    If an owner of a company wants to hire only asian people, does he not have a right to do so even if, in a specific context, it makes no sense? Also in that case, is it right to necessarily hold the irrational company owner to some invasive law like the current discrimination laws, which require large companies to meet racial quotas in some cases (the immorality of which is another topic)?

    Thanks All!

    What if you went into a convenience store and behind the counter, a sign said "Death to Americans." It is the business owner's right, is it not? And you would be offended, of course, and never shop there again. What if the sign was a cartoon making fun of an ethnic group? Would you be so offended as to never shop there again, or would you figure that the goods and services were worth the price, as long as you are not personally offended? What if the sign said, "I hate fags." Or "Marriage is one man and one woman in the sight of God." Or "Vote Yes to Raise the Sales Tax."

    A rational person does not sanction their destroyers.

    But at some level, I had to accept that every pizza I enjoyed was made by someone who posted icons of the Pope and President Kennedy. You have to pick your battles.

    Right wing ideologies are common among numismatists. They understand gold and silver. They relate to the 19th century values evidenced in the coins and currencies of those times. But that is a broad range and we have no shortage of old times not forgotten racists on the bourse floor. I never shop among them. I was in a shop when the owner was making fun of Scientologists. I did not disagree with him in substance, but I believe that a good merchant never argues religion with his customers. I never bought anything there again.

    The claim that a business has a right to discriminate is rooted in an earlier time when the shop and the home were one structure with the store open to the street and the living quarters in back or on top. "A man's home is his castle" is an aphorism from a time of looting and hoarding, when might made right. The modern retail emporium was created in the 19th century, from Alexander Turney Stewart to Aaron Montgomery Ward. This was when the ethics of business changed from "Caveat emptor" to "The customer is always right." No longer an armed lord behind a castle wall, the merchant's "Welcome" mat became an open contract with the public.

    Does a business have a right to discriminate on the basis of religion? Do you have a right to smoke crack? Does a rational person act contrary to their self interest?

    Objectivism is a philosophy of fact, reason, happiness, congeniality, and achievement. I allow that other people have every right to be idiots, but mass idiocy is not the goal here. If there is a public message -- and the creation and sales of books, and the existence of this discussion forum are all evidence of that publicity -- it is that each individual regards each other individual on the basis of their character, their merit as an intelligent and productive, honest and open, partner in a society where respect for others grows from self-respect.

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