Quick Roundup 441

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Fitting Symbol, Indeed

The below quote from a comment at The Volokh Conspiracy describes my memories from elementary to middle school almost perfectly:

I remember this as one of those horrifying anecdotes you got tossed in social studies class in middle school. (By the end of the 60s, pollution was so bad that one river actually caught on fire!) Granted, I was in middle school at the end of the 70s, when this sort of thing was at its peak. But the lesson was always that pollution (and every other aspect of "man's footprint on the earth") was getting ever worse and worse, and only desperate action could reverse the trend.
As it turns out, rivers catching fire were already becoming a thing of the past by the time the Cuyahoga River caught fire (HT: Glenn Reynolds) in Cleveland in 1969.

As one of the kids who learned this particular "history" lesson, I am encouraged to see that forty years later, there remains at least enough freedom politically and respect for facts culturally that some of the truly filthy details about this story can finally come to light. Time magazine's "photo" of the event, for example, was actually from a fire seventeen years earlier.

But one fact remains undiscussed, as far as I can tell. Another commenter at the Volokh Conspiracy exemplifies what I'm talking about.
The environmental movement had been in place before the Cuyahoga Fire. It spawned the Crown Jewel of the Environmental Movement The Clean Water Act. Innumerable rivers that you wouldn't want to stand beside are now swimmable and fishable. It worked.
Nearly a half-century later, everyone around is too green to need such apocalyptic fairy tales and too pragmatic to care that it was their freedom that got torched that day and has been burning unabated since. In fact, many people are happy about the way the government stepped in.

Government action here was appropriate, but not this kind of government action. Let me explain: Government interference in the economy, specifically, its wholesale abrogation of the principle of private property where rivers are concerned, is what made this fire, its predecessors, and numerous other similar problems before and since possible in the first place. In other words, we have, as a solution to a failure of the government to protect our rights, inappropriate government interference in the economy, rather than improvement in the government's execution of its proper role of protecting individual rights.

Alex Epstein of the Ayn Rand Institute put this very well back in 2000:
Under a pure capitalist system, as described in philosopher Ayn Rand's works, everything is privately owned. As a consequence, nature is preserved only to the extent that it benefits man. Companies cannot dump waste into rivers at whim, because those rivers are the property of someone else. The same applies to any other form of pollution that is harmful to man -- nobody wants to pollute their own property, and no one is allowed to pollute anyone else's, so waste management is handled in a very clean fashion.
I would expect the greens to make much anticapitalist hay out of this anniversary. But don't be fooled. Capitalism did not pollute the Cuyahoga River. Our government's failure to treat rivers as private property did. (I understand that this failure was motivated in part by a desire to stimulate industrialization, but cannot find a source at the moment.) Government-mandated cleanups may appear to treat some of the more visible symptoms of the underlying disease, lack of freedom, but they really are helping the disease go merrily on.

This anniversary should not spur a celebration of environmentalist government policy, but a rededication of the American people to the principle of individual rights, and especially, the right to property.

The burning of the Cuyahoga River is no symbol of the alleged "excesses" of capitalism. Rather, it is a fitting metaphor for the destruction of our individual rights.

Don't Be This Guy

This Onion satire (HT: Craig Ceely), aside from being very funny, reminds me a little bit of my collegiate days, back before my spine calcified.
I really like you. I do. You're so nice, and sweet, and you listen to all my problems and respond with the appropriate compliments. But, well, I don't really see a relationship in our future. It would be terrible if we let sex destroy this great friendship we have where I get everything I want and you get nothing you want. Don't you think?
The scenario is so common, in fact, that it has its own entry in Urban Dictionary. (Having said that, I would not accuse any of the friends from that time of being manipulative. I wasn't that pathetic!)

How does one avoid it? The explanation that finally made things click for me was that women bond differently with men and with female friends, and that men who are too "there" emotionally for female friends they are romantically interested in end up being seen like women on an emotional level. Once seen in that way, you are out of the game.

As with many cultural matters, I think there is a mixture of our culture's dominant philosophy with legitimate issues that would always obtain anyway. Here, the attraction that many women have for less-than-worthy men stems, I think, from a common confusion of emotional indifference with independence. There's nothing you can do about someone with that problem. (Or with someone who just doesn't like you romantically, for that matter.)

But where is "this guy" going wrong? Essentially, and for whatever reason, by being a doormat. Past a certain point, if you've made your interest easy for her to grasp, and she's not being anything other than a friend, move on. (Yes, remain friends if you want, but take her at her word, and devote no more attention to her than you would a male friend.)

Vendor Lock-in, Meet Poor Customer Service!

Amazon Kindle fan Megan McArdle teaches me something else I never considered about the issue of vendor lock-in:
We were thinking of becoming a two-Kindle family. Now I'm rethinking the one I've got. I'm a total supporter of hard DRM. But if I have to wipe my Kindle, or upgrade to a new one, I don't want to find out I have to buy all my books again.

Then I saw the update. Apparently, the limits are on simultaneous devices, not downloads. Except, apparently, Amazon customer service reps didn't know that.

A Bleg

Yes. Something screwy has befallen me on every last aspect of this move.

This time, it would seem that the word "Fragile" was confused by employees of both Southwest Airlines and UPS with a big, fat bull's-eye. UPS dropped the box containing my printer and my scanner, breaking it and rendering both items inoperable. I can get by without those for quite some time without much trouble.

More distressing, I packed my desktop in its original box and packing material, and it, too, arrived inoperable. The flat-screen monitor, which I packed myself and placed in a suitcase was what I expected might break. It's fine, and I'm using it and my Eee PC netbook to blog for now. I need the desktop to work and to prepare for a very difficult exam that may have major implications for my future career. I need it back as soon as possible. That is why, mistaken or not, I included it as part of my checked luggage.

To secure my data, I removed the hard drive from the PC tower before packing it. On arrival, I tested it separately (using this and the netbook), and it's fine. The computer powers on, but does not boot, even from DVD. (And yes, the hard drive cables are connected.) I suspect that either the motherboard or the power supply for the hard drive and the DVD drive got jarred enough to fail. I plan to test the power for these with a voltmeter some time today.

The question is this: Is there anything else I am missing? As a bonus, are there any Bostonians lurking around here who know of a cheap, reliable place for computer repair, if it comes to that?

Merci beaucoup.

-- CAV


Mike said...

If it's powering up but not booting, that's a motherboard issue in most cases. A hairline crack in one of the middle (not even visible) mobo layers can cause that kind of failure. Voltmeter it, sure, but you may find yourself stuck replacing it. And as you know, if you have to replace a mobo, mise well rebuild your box. (selling off the processor and RAM of course to defray the cost).

Hey, you could always get a Mac... :) Once you go OSX, you never go back (if you can help it)

Gus Van Horn said...

Ugh. That's my fear.

Mac. Since OS X, I can now at least imagine myself using one, but Linux on a PC is just fine, and cheaper to re-replace.

Beth said...

RE: (I understand that this failure was motivated in part by a desire to stimulate industrialization, but cannot find a source at the moment.)

Two sources:

"Law, Property Rights, and Air Pollution" by Murry Rothbard (available on the web: http://mises.org/rothbard/lawproperty.pdf)

"Environmental Problems, Private Property Rights Solutions" by Walter Block in Economics and the Environment: a Reconciliation ed. Walter Block,Fraser Institute, 1990

Best wishes to you unpacking, fixing your computer and taking the exam!

Ron K. said...

This will be my first time posting here but I've been a PC tech for several years now and can offer some advice before you buy a new motherboard. These steps may sound a bit silly but it's worked for me on at least a few occasions.

First, remove the RAM, boot the machine without it (it should give you a beep code), shut the machine off and put the RAM back in.

If that doesn't resolve the problem, remove all cards and RAM, disconnect all drives, boot the machine, shut it back of and start replacing parts one at a time, RAM first, booting the machine between each part reinstall. If you have a bad part, the boot failure should re-occur when that part is installed. If it fails with all parts removed, then you have a bad motherboard or CPU.

In my experience, a failure to boot is as likely to be caused by a failure of a device somewhere on the bus (or just a need to re-seat) as it is to be a bad motherboard or CPU, particularly if it's been knocked around. I know these steps sound a bit dumb but it has worked for me.

Good luck.

Gus Van Horn said...


Thanks for the troubleshooting suggestion.


Thanks for your research suggestions.


JG said...

you wrote:'As with many cultural matters, I think there is a mixture of our culture's dominant philosophy with legitimate issues that would always obtain anyway. Here, the attraction that many women have for less-than-worthy men stems, I think, from a common confusion of emotional indifference with independence.'

Are men really from Mars and women from Venus? -or the mind-body split expressed as the emotional versus practical dichotomy. Do many women let emotions be their guides to actions, which is the problem I wonder -if so that would explain, since it is a sure recipe for disaster in relationships just as in any other aspect of human life.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thorny issue, that mind-body dichotomy.

I think that women might still be freer/more in touch with their emotions absent the mind-body dichotomy, but that's not the same thing, of course, as letting emotions override their judgement. Furthermore, their emotions would be healthier, and I would guess they'd more frequently be able to "see" better men AS better men than seems the case overall.

The mind-body split tends to effect men, too, although differently (e.g., the Madonna-whore complex).

Andy said...

Welcome to Boston, and I'm sorry your having such tech challenges. I'd recommend a Mac if you end up replacing, but that's also a bit too expensive. PCs for Everyone might be a good repair source, but I haven't had to deal with PC failures since I switched.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Andy.

Jim May said...

On the computer: if you haven't already, dissassemble everything and reassemble in stages as Ron K. says.

Not only will this isolate the issue if a component is bad, but it will also reseat everything. When a PC has been around for a while, all the crevices get filled with dust, and the slightest shift of parts after a long period of stillness can mess up the electrical characteristics of contacts. With the balls-to-the-wall timings of modern hardware, these little things can cause all kinds of happy horsehockey. I had an absolute mightmare of a day that started with installing Linux and ended up with all kind of bizarre failures that had me convinced that half my RAM had chosen to die that very day, and two of four IDE channels had gone schizo... only to try cleaning the electrical contacts of the RAM slots and PCI bus with DeOxit and Progold, reassembling the machine, and MAGIC -- all the problems were gone, even the "bad" RAM stick was happy. That was two years ago, and all is still well.

The trigger? Moving the IDE cable when I removed an unnecessary harddrive, pressed slightly against a RAM stick, imperceptibly shifting it and unleashing hell. The innards were profoundly dusty, to say the least.

On the "let's be friends" bit: I have been there, done that, and she even has a name. The funny thing about it, is that when I finally parted ways with her over this sort of manipulation, every *other* woman in my life, even my mother, said "Oh thank God you finally did it..."

Gus Van Horn said...


RE The computer: That's what I'm going to try, one last time, before I send it off for repairs. (It's still under warranty and, for all I know, there IS a defective component. And if not, at least it's insured.

RE LJBF: That's one of those things for which the saying "Knowing there's a problem is half the battle," is especially applicable!