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