Quick Roundup 427

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Amit Ghate on Civic Responsibility

His focus on debate is an excellent concretization not only of what is wrong with the libertarian approach to political change, but of what is right with the approach of the Objectivist movement:

Citizens today, particularly the young, are told that their greatest civic responsibility is to vote. I think this is ridiculous -- the most important responsibility is to educate oneself and then add one's voice to the debate. One way to do this is to pick a topic of particular personal interest, learn about it, and then participate in the early legislative policy debates (which are normally open to public commentary). In this way, instead of simply casting a vote for the limited choices others have saddled you with, you get to shape the choices that millions or even hundreds of millions will vote on.
And how does one form a basis for these policy positions? By first educating oneself about a proper political philosophy, which will also enable one, in turn, to participate in the broader political and cultural debate.

And one more thing. Always fight, but do stop to admire the flowers from time to time. If you are not fighting for something, you are doing something terribly wrong.

And speaking of enjoying your values, ...

Here's a Book to Get

I enjoyed reading this post over at Live Oaks about 101 Nights of Grrreat Romance.

Live Oaks, by the way, is now one year old.

"Details Kill" Update

Not too long ago, I noted that Tom Daschle, architect of Barack Obama's attack on freedom in the medical sector, is an enemy of open debate about "health care 'reform'" and wants to slow down the development of new medical technology.

Daschle's attitude on debate seems to be the rule rather than the exception in his party these days. Diana Hsieh notes that Congress wants to pass socialized medicine without debate -- and Glenn Reynolds notes that Barack Obama has all but completely reneged on a campaign promise to, "put [new bills] online for five days, review, and make them open to the public" before signing them into law.

If the Democrats are as "reality-based" as they are so wont to claim, why not allow plenty of debate, along with the inevitable tidal wave of public support the merit of their plans would bring?

Oh. Daschle already answered that one, I guess.

The Democrats' only concession to reality is to admit in this way that their proposals are wholly without objective merit, and, incidentally, that they are more worried about details killing their power grabs than the saving the lives of their constituents.

Jeff Britting Schools Tobias Wolff

Darren Cauthon recounts a panel discussion I think I would have enjoyed:
When it was his turn to speak about Ayn Rand's character in "Old School" by Tobias Wolff, he nailed it. Britting started by stating that Wolff's presentation of Ayn Rand was a "total distortion," among other words, and then went on in detail to explain who she was, the themes of her four fiction books, and a little bit of her philosophy. Near the end of his presentation he compared Wolff's "character that shares Ayn Rand's name" with the actual Ayn Rand and showed a few specific cases where the two are polar opposites. He also asked the audience to not take his presentation or Wolff's presentation of Ayn Rand on faith by reading Rand's books for themselves.
Ayn Rand's opponents are, increasingly, in a lose-lose situation: Distort Rand and invite comparisons with what she actually said. Ignore Rand and look like you live under a rock.

An Edison Day Quote

From The Kindredist:
Nature is not kind, or merciful, or loving. -- Thomas Edison
More at the above link.

Better late than never!

A Pesky "Collection" Problem: Solved!

I haven't blogged on personal productivity in a long time, but that doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about it.

One problem I never completely solved to my satisfaction was how I could make note collection at all times as easy as possible. For various reasons, I did not want a PDA, but that meant I ended up using either my calendar or scraps of paper in my shirt pocket for on-the-fly note-taking. This has been one area I was never quite satisfied with regarding my implementation of David Allen's techniques.

Until Sunday morning, that is. Stopping by Life Hack, I found a thread about Moleskine hacks that intrigued me and, specifically, the following snarky comment by Catherine Cantieri, a productivity blogger I had not encountered before. (She might enjoy this humorous take on Moleskines.)
I hope this doesn't get me kicked out of the creative-kids klatch, but I just don't get Moleskines. I carry around a Levenger Pocket Briefcase and that seems to meet all my needs. Am I missing something? Could Moleskines change my life? [link added]
I took a look at the Levinger's web site (linked above) and, knowing they have a store in the mall nearby, decided to take a look. There turned out to be a small version with business-sized note cards that fits into my shirt pocket without leaving a huge bulge. It's a nice-looking, three-compartment business card holder that also holds a card on its outside for note-taking and comes with a small pen held along its bottom side. Levinger's sells ink refills for these tiny pens. (Who needs an expensive PDA just to jot down a quick note?)

My wife offered to buy me one, but I was not quite sure -- until remembered that I still didn't have a nice business card holder. That sealed the deal for me, because I had a job hunting/networking event to attend Monday night.

At that event, I got to give the Pocket Briefcase a test run, taking notes a couple of times and using it to keep track of business cards. I am quite happy with it, and now no longer feel "naked" on those occasions when I can't take my calendar along with me.

With that, it's off to the skies again, this time for one of my last Boston to Houston commutes. We will move the bulk of our belongings up here in a few weeks and, possibly, myself, although I may have to stay in Houston for another month or two for writing and experiments.

-- CAV


: Added missing link to Live Oaks post on book.


Foxwood said...

Even Canada an the UK tell us this is bad. Why don't our leaders listen? Because they can better control us with socialism. Wake Up, Sheeple!

Anonymous said...

And what issue, specifically, were the Objectivists who participated in the Tea Party rallies opposing by doing so?

Gus Van Horn said...


If you respect your audience, don't insult them. If you don't, why bother addressing them at all?


I am speaking generally when I urge Objectivists to fight FOR something rather than ONLY against.

Certainly, I haven't a problem with protests against massive growth in the welfare state, but that can only complement an overall advocacy FOR freedom, egoism, and reason.


Anonymous said...


No, that is not the distinction between Objectivist and Libertarian political activism that you discussed in your post. It is, when considering many Libertarians, a true distinction, but it is not the one that you discussed.

My question was how is an Objectivist going after a general change in the political situation more worthwhile than when a Libertarian does it?

You said that the Libertarians are wasting their time b/c they're not ad hoc enough. And now you seem to be saying that that is b/c they don't stand for anything.

Okay, so why are people who do stand for something, Objectivists, now engaging in the same strategy acceptable to you? Aren't they the ones should be refraining from political activism that is too general in nature?

Martin Lindeskog said...

Have you seen the Field Notes notebooks?

I am using my digital Pulse Smartpen together with the special "dotted" paper. I could record my "notes to self" or a conversation with the built in recording device. You then upload the notes to your computer or share it with others.

I will get a special edition of Moleskine when I am visiting NYC. They have a version with a map, tour guide tips, etc.

Gus Van Horn said...


I was not drawing a distinction between Libertarians and Objectivists. I was speaking in terms of living one's life with the aid of the philosophy, which is its whole point.

One can burn oneself out easily by focusing on the negative, and opposing every single bad thing out there. The proper approach to Objectivism is first and foremost to improve one's own life.

Working to improve the cultural climate is part of that, but it must be kept in its proper perspective.


That's an interesting use of technology that I'd forgotten about. I tend to be a slow adopter of such things, wanting to see what the benefits and pitfalls are before spending my money.

If I find myself in a situation where I need to share digitized handwritten notes with any regularity (and a scanner with OCR software will not well suffice), I'll keep it in mind.



Jaz said...

Readers comments are getting cut off on the right side when reading them on the regular page below your post -something you may want to look into. I had meant to point this point a while ago, but it kept slipping my mind.

Gus Van Horn said...


Thanks for pointing this out.

Which browser are you using? (I just tried Firefox and IE 6 or 7 from a virtual machine and did not see the problem.)


Jaz said...

IE -the last version.
I will check it on my other computers -maybe the problem is somewhere on my browser.

Gus Van Horn said...

This issue has been brought up before, and it is due to a bug in how IE handles CSS style sheets (which is how this blog is formatted for web viewing). I had been under the impression that this problem pertained only to older versions. I will also look into this some more.