Delete Your Account? Not Necessarily.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

I am seeing a rash of political posts from normally apolitical sources in the tech press lately, and understandably so. Here's a sample, from TechCrunch, where the author tells readers to delete their social media accounts:

If you're running a startup delete your account and look up from your laptop. This can be your first effort at corporate philanthropy. Donate to the ACLU. Volunteer to help immigrants assimilate. Send some cash to Trump. I don't care. Get political. We had a solid decade of inaction. It's time to delete your account and do something.
Now, up to a point, programmer/writer John Biggs is right: Most political social media is a waste of time, particularly when spent in an echo chamber. That said, he seems to overgeneralize, as if social media is a complete waste of time. (And the fact that he wrote a short blog piece urging people to "take action" demonstrates one thing that can be done with social media, showing that activism and social media are, at minimum, not mutually exclusive.)

But Briggs also makes the same mistake many Trump voters did when they opted for someone who would "do something" without being too clear (or principled) about what he would do. This is the same kind of mistake people make when they act as if intellectual property isn't "real" property, or that managers and executives don't actually "work." And it's the same kind of mistake Peter Schwartz once memorably described in an anti-Libertarian (note the capital) polemic many years ago:
Libertarianism has no philosophy. To put this more accurately: It renounces the need for any intellectual basis for its beliefs. The volumes of scholarly material defending Libertarianism are self-admittedly pointless, since the true Libertarian position is that no defense is necessary. Murray Rothbard, widely viewed as the father of the movement, expresses this clearly in presenting his central arguments for liberty.


In other words, the way social change takes place is as follows. People somehow conclude that the existing political structure must be overthrown, they decide to make a revolution, they deliver rousing speeches and print up fiery pamphlets, they draw up plans to storm the gates of government -- and then, like last-minute shoppers, they look around for the right brand of philosophy to grab off the counter in order to find out what the hell they are doing... (The Voice of Reason, pp. 311, 322)
The last thing we need even more of is blind action, not that we need people spending all of their time in high-tech "Amen corners," either. Perhaps more time spent learning and thinking alone, followed by actual debate (sometimes using, yes, social media), and then deliberate action based on what one has learned would be in order. But certainly, social media isn't to blame for the fact that we have just elected a populist with a scattershot agenda. A quote from the last link puts it quite succinctly: "If we don’t like the world, we should rethink the choices that produced it." Before you delete your account, ask yourself what you are doing with it, and whether you can do better or different. And think carefully, or risk epitomizing that which you find so alarming now.

-- CAV

Tips on Opposing a Populist

Monday, January 30, 2017

Andrés Miguel Rondón, a Venezuelan who has lived through the rise of Hugo Chávez, draws some thought-provoking parallels between the dead dictator and another populist politician, Donald Trump. Although I think Rondón sounds at first like an apologist for socialism, his main focus is really on cultural activism, or what American abolitionists called "moral suasion." In that vein, he has some valuable points for Trump's political opponents, even including those who of us who aren't on the left and who may even approve of some of his policies. I found the whole piece worthwhile, but will highlight a couple of passages here.

In the first of these, Rondón notes that Chávez's opponents got too caught up in removing him from power:

In Venezuela, the opposition focused on trying to reject the dictator by any means possible -- when we should have just kept pointing out how badly Chávez's rule was hurting the very people he claimed to be serving.
I disagree that the opposition shouldn't have tried to stop Chávez at all, but it is true that doing so wouldn't have solved the underlying problem. That is, absent pro-freedom arguments presented in such a way that some of Chávez's supporters would consider them, removing the dictator from power would have merely paved the way for the election of another socialist or populist. In addition, absent parallel efforts at proposing a better alternative, such moves look desperate, as if the opposition is writing off their political opponents or, worse, can't offer a better alternative. Both of these only serve, as Rondón indicates, to play into the hands of the populist.

Regarding this, Rondón makes an interesting point. Noting that populists dehumanize their opponents by protraying them as caricatures -- something many of Trump's leftist opponents are making it very easy for him to do to all of his opponents -- Rondón urges those of us who find ourselves in a similar position to remember both our own humanity and that of our opponents, and to interact as normally as possible. Doing so goes a long way towards undercutting the caricatures:
In Venezuela, we fell into this trap in a bad way. We wrote again and again about principles, about separation of powers, civil liberties, the role of the military in politics, corruption and economic policy. But it took opposition leaders 10 years to figure out that they needed to actually go to the slums and the countryside. Not for a speech or a rally, but for a game of dominoes or to dance salsa -- to show they were Venezuelans, too, that they weren't just dour scolds and could hit a baseball, could tell a joke that landed. That they could break the tribal divide, come down off the billboards and show that they were real. This is not populism by other means. It is the only way of establishing your standing. It's deciding not to live in an echo chamber. To press pause on the siren song of polarization. [bold added]
This is reminiscent of an observation about motivation by Mark Murphy, author of HARD Goals:
You'd do just about anything for the people you love -- your kids, spouse, best friend, family, significant other, and so forth -- because you have a heartfelt connection to them. You don't just know these folks; you know you really care for them. But what if you were asked to do something for a passing acquaintance or even a total stranger? Most likely you'd exert some effort because you're a nice person, but most people would risk and sacrifice much more for a loved one than they would for an acquaintance or stranger. Doctors give more comprehensive care to people they feel more connected to. People give more money to charities when they feel a heartfelt connection to the recipients. Research has even shown that sales generated at Tupperware parties can be significantly explained by analyzing the strength of the personal connection between the host and the guests. [bold added] (pp. 22-23)
Mental effort is no different in this respect than physical effort or financial generosity. It should thus be clear that supporters of a populist who know and respect an opponent might be more predisposed to give that opponent a hearing. But let's turn this around for a moment and consider our target audience: Trump's supporters are not all bigoted ignoramuses, as portrayed by the news media (who frequently play into his hands by cultivating the kind of stereotyping Rondón describes). Some of them just need to learn what is in it for them to support a better alternative, or to learn what one would look like. Those of us who understand in principle what's wrong with populism generally and Trump in particular must not merely oppose him. We must formulate a positive alternative and present it in a way that will motivate his supporters to consider that alternative. Interestingly, part of that way would appear to be a deliberate attempt to cultivate normalcy in relationships that are being strained by the rampant use of stereotypes so common today.

-- CAV

Friday Hodgepodge

Friday, January 27, 2017

Three Things

1. The following gem comes from my five-year-old daughter, with whom I had just started playing "space ship" on a rainy Sunday, after my wife was called in to the hospital to diagnose a tropical disease: "I am in charge of telling you what to do."

2. Fellow Linux users take heed: "Look before you paste from a website to terminal." To see what the careless do, dump the apparently simple command at the link into an editor and inspect the code, then dump it into a terminal.

3. I enjoyed reading how economist Tyler Cowen selects restaurants, for both the insights and the entertainment:

When you enter a restaurant, you don't want to see expressions of disgust on the diners' faces, but you do want to see a certain seriousness of purpose. Pull out a mirror and try eating some really good food. How much are you smiling? Not as much as you might think. A small aside: in many restaurants, it is a propitious omen when the diners are screaming at each other. It's a sign they are regular customers and feel at home. Many Chinese restaurants are full of screaming Chinese patrons. Don't ask me if they're fighting, I have no idea -- but it is a sign that I want to be there too.
Interestingly, Cowen puts in a good word for restaurants in suburban strip shopping centers. Happy hunting for me!

Weekend Reading

"I believe that Donald Trump is, indeed, in this for himself." -- Michael Hurd, in "Trump Is Genuine, Which Is Why He Won" at Newsmax

"[I]t's not the escape that matters; it's what you're escaping." -- Michael Hurd, in "Healthy Escapes? Not So Much" at The Delaware Wave

"Allow yourself to live in the moment, while still managing the course of your life so you can guiltlessly savor the pleasures along the way." -- Michael Hurd, in "Be Successful AND Enjoy Life" at The Delaware Coast Press

"[The (once reputable) Southern Poverty Law Center] seeks [with its Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists] to smear, and thus silence, much needed, reasonable critics of the Islamist movement, such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, by putting them alongside bigots and racists." -- Elan Journo, in "What's Behind the Blacklisting of 'Anti-Muslim Extremists'" at The Times of Israel

An Oldie, but a Goodie

Harry Binswanger may have written "'Buy American' Is Un-American" in 1992, but the public and our elected officals need its message more than ever:
Giving preference to American-made products over German or Japanese products is the same injustice as giving preference to products made by whites over those made by blacks. Economic nationalism, like racism, means judging men and their products by the group from which they come, not by merit.


The patriotic advocates of buying American would be shocked to learn that the economic theory underlying their viewpoint is Marxism. In describing the influx of Japanese products and investment, they don't use the Marxist terminology of "imperialism" and "exploitation," but the basic idea is the same: capitalistic acts are destructive and free markets will impoverish you. It's the same anti-capitalist nonsense whether it is used by leftists to attack the United States for its commerce with Latin America or by supposed patriots to attack Japan for its commerce with the United States.
Protectionism is both immoral and impractical, and I am very concerned about the financial consequences of any protectionistic measures Trump manages to put in place. Regardless of how "genuine" he may be, someone who means well can wreak lots of havoc through ignorance.

-- CAV

Stossel on the DeVos Hearings

Thursday, January 26, 2017

John Stossel writes an interesting piece on what Betsy DeVos should have said recently during her Senate confirmation hearings for Secretary of Education. Among the more interesting retorts Stossel suggests are those to (1) Bernie Sanders pushing for free university tuition:

Sen. Sanders, how clueless can you be? Your "free" stuff is already bankrupting America! Your "free" health care plan was rejected by your own state -- once your fellow Democrats did the math. Then your wife bankrupted Burlington College! You call yourself "socialist!" Haven't you noticed that socialism wrecks people's lives? You should resign in shame!
And (2) Al Franken attempting to make her look incompetent:
Senator, neither measure is fair to teachers or kids! The proficiency vs. growth argument is a by-product of your stupid No Child Left Behind law. Such federal micromanagement is terrible because every kid is different. That's why your opposition to choice is destructive. Of course, you don't even know how bad many government-run schools are. You sent your kids to a private school that charges $44,000 tuition. Get real, Al!
One could argue with some of these, especially another "should've said" that would have implicitly granted the premise that the government ought to oversee education. But as short replies to questions in today's political context, they are generally better than the tepid actual responses Stossel reports. But no nominee who doesn't support separation of education and state on principle is going to be able to offer the kinds of replies these thieving, anti-education, hypocrites really deserve. But then, such a nominee would be too busy discussing why and how she hopes to abolish her own post.

-- CAV

P.S. Although it is from 2012, C. Bradley Thompson's piece on "The New Abolitionism: Why Education Emancipation is the Moral Imperative of Our Time" is highly relevant:
I begin with my conclusion: The "public" school system is the most immoral and corrupt institution in the United States of America today, and it should be abolished. It should be abolished for the same reason that chattel slavery was ended in the 19th century: Although different in purpose and in magnitude of harm to its victims, public education, like slavery, is a form of involuntary servitude. The primary difference is that public schools force children to serve the interests of the state rather than those of an individual master.
Incidentally, the web site of The Objective Standard is offering this essay and its sequel, "Education in a Free Society" for free as a PDF.

Also relevant is an Alex Epstein piece on Medium regarding, "The School the World Needs to Know About."


3-6-17: Added HTML code to allow direct link to PS. 

When Many Equals Zero

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Over at Ask a Manager, a reader complains about (Item 2) having to send information to coworkers repeatedly. (The reader makes travel arrangements for a university's invited speakers.) One of Allison Green's suggested solutions is as follows:

I wonder if the problem is that you're including the faculty host on all the back-and-forth, meaning that they have a bunch of emails that they don't really need and thus are more easily missing the ones they do need. Could you stop including them on all that correspondence, and just wait until you have a confirmed itinerary to send? At that point, you could send all the details in one email with a clear subject line ("Falcon Flanagan's itinerary info for 10/7 seminar"). [bold added]
This reminds me of something I call "warning label fatigue," in which regulators force manufacturers to add so many unnecessary warning labels (noise) to things that the necessary ones (the signal) become less likely to be noticed. It also reminds me of an organizational principle I wearily remember any time I move: Having one of something you can locate is better than having a dozen that you can't.

Man's mind is powerful, but can deal with only so much information at once. When unit-economy can't come to the rescue, organizational skills can help. Allison Green's reader was failing to essentialize or organize the information he was supposed to provide, which meant that he effectively kept his mouth shut.

-- CAV

Demonstrations -- of Poor Thinking

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Glenn Reynolds points to a tweet that beautifully captures the idiocy of the various women's marches. (Psychologist Michael Hurd considers the same matter in more detail.) The tweet shows a picture of the Normandy Invasion with the caption, "The Men's March Against Fascism didn't have nearly as many signs."

Quite true, and the example of men fighting a properly prosecuted war reminded me of the following passage from John Lewis's absorbing book, Nothing Less than Victory: Decisive Wars and the Lessons of History, which I read recently:

To rip out the source of the rebellion, [General] Sherman set out on what was, in effect, an educational mission. His actions served to connect the abstraction "war" to its concrete referent in reality: immediate, personal destruction. No longer would "war" float in the minds of southerners as an elixir, calling up notions of social superiority, bereft of its real meaning. The smell of smoke would haunt southern civilians as it had haunted the people of Sparta and Carthage-the smell of failure caused by their own willingness to wage war on others. War now meant loss, poverty, shame, and death. Now, knowing its nature, they could reject it. (loc. 1942)
Lewis also considers later examples of wars in which belligerent nations whose people did (Imperial Japan) and did not (Germany, during or after World War I) receive this kind of cognitive correction. Oddly enough, Germany would go on to become a belligerent nation again in short order and Japan would quickly become an exemplary, powerful, and peaceful nation. Abstract ideas have consequences. It is best for everyone that as many people as possible form them correctly.

In the above passage, Lewis, an Objectivist intellectual, alludes to a term, "floating abstraction," coined by Ayn Rand. It is interesting to consider in more detail what that is, in light of the martial metaphor leftists are so fond of using when they feel -- and I never use that term as a synonym for think -- they occupy (another military metaphor!) the moral high ground (and another!):
The perceptual level of consciousness is automatically related to reality; a sense perception is a direct awareness of a concrete existent. A concept, however, is an integration that rests on a process of abstraction. Such a mental state is not automatically related to concretes, as is evident from the many obvious cases of "floating abstractions." This is Ayn Rand's term for concepts detached from existents, concepts that a person takes over from other men without knowing what specific units the concepts denote. A floating abstraction is not an integration of factual data; it is a memorized linguistic custom representing in the person's mind a hash made of random concretes, habits, and feelings that blend imperceptibly into other hashes which are the content of other, similarly floating abstractions. The "concepts" of such a mind are not cognitive devices. They are parrotlike imitations of language backed in essence by patches of fog. (Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, p. 96.)
Now, for an example of floating abstractions, consider the following observation by Michael Hurd regarding the vast chasm between what these protesters want and what would actually help them:
The ironic thing about successful feminists like the singer Madonna? They got where they did through the very things -- individualism, capitalism, liberty, and other virtues commonly thought to be masculine -- that they now retaliate against in unfettered rage. You'd almost think Madonna doesn't want other women (or men) to gain the advancement in life that she gained through the very things she now seeks to obliterate. [links added]
Considering the non-rational origins of what many of these protesters want, it should be no surprise that so many are prone to rudeness or violence (or favor censorship): Having no concept of how to form an opinion, how could they know how to argue in favor of it with another, or even realize that their tantrums are antagonizing (or entertaining) others, rather than changing their minds? (Lewis made similar observations about the inability of some belligerent generals to understand their opponents in his book.)

These protesters have the right to say whatever they want, and our government should protect it, but I would hope that, to the degree they initiate force (or threaten to), our government responds appropriately, showing them the consequences of doing so in a free society. That said, it is not the government's job to determine the validity of anyone's viewpoints; just to protect the freedom of individuals from the initiation of force (or the threat thereof) from others, as the video linked above shows. This will not change the protesters, but it will allow civilized Americans the freedom to have productive conversations about the direction our country is going.

-- CAV

P.S. In researching the term "floating abstraction", I uncovered the following gem from The Journals of Ayn Rand:
The "common man" doesn't understand the gibberish of the "intellectuals" -- because the common man relates abstractions to the concrete. It takes a second-hander, a collectivist intellectual, to run amuck among "floating abstractions." (p. 304.)
That tweet is a pretty good example of that, too.

GOP No Champion for Energy Freedom in Wyoming

Monday, January 23, 2017

A report from the Christian Science Monitor regarding an energy bill in Wyoming will wrongly frighten "progressives" -- and even more wrongly soothe skeptics of unreliable "renewable" energy. Let's set the record straight right now.

The headline, "New Wyoming Bill Forbids Utilities From Using Renewables," is not wholly accurate. Utilities will remain able to sell energy from unreliable sources to other states. But let's set that aside since headlines are meant to grab eyeballs, and I learned the full truth about that from the article. The article is factually accurate, but completely misses a whopper of a story:

The bill would require utilities to use "eligible resources" to meet 95 percent of Wyoming's electricity needs in 2018, and all of its electricity needs in 2019.

Those "eligible resources" are defined solely as coal, hydroelectric, natural gas, nuclear, oil, and individual net metering.

The latter includes home solar or wind installations in which the owner feeds excess electricity back into the grid, and is paid a predetermined, fixed fee for the power.
Now this will raise the hackles of "progressives," as a link from the Monitor clearly indicates. But it should also trouble proponents of plentiful, reliable energy, as I shall soon indicate. Turning to an outfit called InsideClimate News, we get the following outraged comment:
The bill's nine sponsors, two state senators and seven representatives, largely come from Wyoming's top coal-producing counties and include some deniers of man-made climate change. They filed the bill on Tuesday, the first day of the state's 2017 legislative session. Activists and energy experts are alarmed by the measure, which would levy steep fines on utilities that continue providing (or provide new) "non-eligible" clean energy for the state's electricity. But they are skeptical it will get enough support to become law.

"I haven't seen anything like this before," Shannon Anderson, director of the local organizing group Powder River Basin Resource Council, told InsideClimate News. "This is essentially a reverse renewable energy standard." [links dropped, bold added]
Au contraire, Ms. Anderson, all we see in the energy sector are things "like this." As Brian Phillips recently argued in The Innovator Versus the Collective, utilities haven't been permitted to operate in a free market in a century. Phillips states in part:
In America's Electric Utilities: Past, Present, and Future, economist Leonard S. Hyman notes that standard texts assume that utilities became regulated because they were monopolies. But he questions this assumption, citing a study that concluded that "the concept of state regulation was both compatible with the ideas and political needs of progressives [who were calling for more government regulation of businesses] and expedient for safeguarding the material interests of the utilities. From 1907 to 1913, philosophical compatibility and commercial expediency combined to produce a political necessity." The political goals of progressives -- government control -- served the financial interests of the electric utility companies -- guaranteed profits through a prohibition on competition. [bold added, note omitted]
Phillips argues further that long-term, this has stifled the energy industry in many of the same ways other government monopolies have stifled other industries, such as for telecommunications. I bring this up because the piece that quotes Anderson wrongly implies that this bill will make electricity more expensive for Wyomingites by depriving them of a cheap source:
[The bill] comes at a time when such resources are becoming cheaper and increasingly in demand as the world seeks to transition to clean energy to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.
Let's pretend for a moment that all this "demand" and "cheapness" is real. Shouldn't people like Anderson and the folks at InsideClimate News be clamoring for the government to free the energy industry from the shackles of fascistic state control? This would allow people to vote with their wallets for these vastly superior sources of energy, hastening the death of the coal industry so many of them clamor for so enthusiastically.

But thousands of news stories touting the virtues of solar and wind power don't make them any more inexpensive or reliable, and "progressives" basically admit this in the states they control, where governments dictate every move made by the utilities, including creating artificial (and therefore perverse) incentives for customers to employ less reliable (and thus more expensive) sources of energy.

A desire to free the energy industry from government control should be doubly evident among Republicans, given their alleged friendliness to consumer economy. Instead, we see Republican legislators aping leftist control freaks by introducing this slap-dash proposal. A major reason so many laymen are mired in poorly-informed "debates" about "climate change" is that Republicans do not stand up for capitalism, but only against the more blatantly ridiculous demands of the left -- and thus allow the left to set the terms of the public debate in the process. Were it not for government control of entire industries, there would be little point in having political arguments about matters that should be between them and their customers.

Wyomingites in particular and Americans in general should be free to choose what form of energy they purchase. That freedom will not come from the government enforcing monopolies or telling power companies how to run their own businesses. This bill may rankle leftists, but it really is "more of the same," in terms of the continued abuse of government it entails. The sponsors of this bill should withdraw it, apologize, and start over.

-- CAV

Friday Hodgepodge

Friday, January 20, 2017

Three Things

1. The number of our year is prime. To mark the occasion, someone with a mathematical bent came up with a list of fun facts about 2017 titled, "2017 Is Not Just Another Prime Number." Among other things, T.J. Wei notes the following:

The prime number before 2017 is 2017+(2-0-1-7), which makes it a sexy prime, and the prime after 2017 is 2017+(2+0+1+7). 2017 itself is of course equal to 2017+(2*0*1*7).
All I can add is the following observation regarding the last two digits of the year: In American mm-dd-yy notation, 11-13-17 will be the last date featuring three consecutive primes until February 3, 2105.

2. The bad news is that ransomware attacks are on the upswing. The good news is that there is now a place to turn to for help:
[I]t is sometimes possible to help infected users to regain access to their encrypted files or locked systems, without having to pay. We have created a repository of keys and applications that can decrypt data locked by different types of ransomware.
See the bottom of the page for a list of decrypted ransomware threats.

3. Permit me a bit of Inauguration Day humor. Let's hope Donald Trump's jawboning -- or ideas on trade and currency -- doesn't ultimately result in any of the old jobs in this gallery making a comeback.

A couple would be illegal today, but the rest disappeared due to improved technology. The unseen part of that story is that technology freed up labor for other things and created even more jobs than were eliminated. Similar points can be made regarding free trade.

Weekend Reading

"Stealth humor is perfect for anyone who is too spineless to criticize openly and stand behind his opinions." -- Michael Hurd, in "Toxic Humor" at The Delaware Wave

"There are no morally wrong or 'bad' feelings." -- Michael Hurd, in "To Thine Own Self..." at The Delaware Coast Press

-- CAV

Intrusive Parenting Laws Are Already on the Books

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Lenore Skenazy of Free Range Kids sounds the alarm over a bill in California, the bulk of whose primary opponents are, unfortunately, anti-vaxxers and the like. But if one shouldn't judge a book by its cover, one shouldn't assume a proposed law is harmless based solely on the opposition it attracts -- or good based on the stated intention of its sponsor. For starters, Jacob Sullum of Reason notes the following:

All of the "rights" declared by [Richard] Pan's bill are vague, and several of them involve claims on other people's resources. In Pan's view, the decision to reproduce gives people a license to raid the wallets of total strangers who had no say in that decision. Furthermore, there are no clear limits to that license, since it's anybody's guess what "appropriate, quality health care" or "appropriate, quality education" might entail, what it takes to achieve "social and emotional well-being," or how the government can guarantee "optimal cognitive, physical, and social development."

The most contentious "rights" in Pan's list are the ones that imply second-guessing of parental decisions and interference with family relationships. S.B. 18 says children have a right to "live in a safe and healthy environment," to have "parents, guardians, or caregivers who act in their best interest," and to "form healthy attachments with adults responsible for their care and well-being." Since it's not clear what happens when a parent's idea of a healthy environment, healthy attachments, or a child's best interest conflicts with a legislator's or a bureaucrat's, you can start to see why the bill's opponents call it "an attempt by power-hungry California legislators to further degrade the rights of parents," argue that it "will eventually make the State the top-dog controlling force over all children in California," warn that "it's extremely problematic to allow a very small group of people to decide what constitutes 'best' for...millions of families," or worry that Pan's dubious, undefined rights "could easily be manipulated to make a case for confiscating your child." [bold added, links dropped]
Sullum goes on to note that the state already intervenes on behalf of children in appropriate instances, such as child abuse. He is also correct to note that such a law would invite all kinds of meddling sooner or later.

Let me add that, for anyone who pooh-poohs the threat that such a bill poses to parental rights, many states already have meddlesome laws on the books. From Skenazy's blog, it is possible to learn, for example, that in Maryland, it's illegal to leave a child under eight inside a locked car without someone else at least thirteen years old also in the car. This is supposed to promote safety, so who could argue against it? Allow me...

Consider the following hypothetical: Your sick child, age six, is fast asleep in the back of the car (after a day of vomiting). It's cool outside; your other child's daycare is in a safe neighborhood; the parking lot is heavily trafficked by other parents (many of whom you know); and you park in full view of its office. You need to go inside for less than five minutes to pick up your other child, age four. Your spouse is unavailable to help you on short notice. Maryland law requires you to drag your sick child into the daycare center, if you can't find someone willing to hang out in your car with the sick kid, rather than doing the common-sense thing: Locking the door and making a quick pick-up.

Perhaps Pan's ridiculous bill and the publicity it is attracting is a good thing: Parental rights are already under attack, and the situation will not improve until, for starters, we stop turning our brains off every time someone says something is for the "safety" of "our children."

-- CAV

Will Trump Downsize the Square Foot Next?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

At RealClear Markets, editor John Tamny considers the president-elect's repeated assertions that the dollar is "too strong," in light of history recent-enough for someone Donald Trump's age to remember, economic principles, and analogous cases. His last paragraph serves as an apt summary:

While the president-elect talks a good game about the importance of economic growth, talking down the dollar measure amounts to fakery. To believe it works is as silly as a real estate developer believing he can command more for his properties by devaluing the square foot. This is not the stuff of a serious country. [bold added]
This should also serve as a wake-up call for anyone who thinks Trump's business acumen or cabinet picks reveal him to be the antidote we need to decades of central "planning" and intrusive government.

-- CAV

Sandwiches of Injustice

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

"Evil HR Lady" Suzanne Lucas hits the nail on the head when she calls for the death of the "feedback sandwich," the kissing cousin of the internet's flame sandwich:

[I]n theory, this feedback sandwich -- bad news sandwiched between the Wonder Bread of praise -- is how you are supposed to do it. It's supposed to soften the blow of the bad news. Instead it made me cringe. Now, if this woman had regularly sent me emails praising my parenting, it would have been fine, but she doesn't.
Lucas doesn't use the term, but her further comments about it being good practice to routinely offer praise or timely criticism indicate the nature of the problem with such "sandwiches": There is a dearth of justice in a working relationship in which someone feels the need to do this. I am glad someone has noticed this problem and found a constructive way to address it.

-- CAV

Worry-Warts Are Watching You

Monday, January 16, 2017

A couple of recent stories from Free Range Kids, Lenore Skenazy's parenting blog, have reminded me of Ayn Rand's essay on "The Ethics of Emergencies," which argues that, because emergency situations are not metaphysically normal for man (cited at link), they should not serve as the basis for the ethical system by which he should live his whole life:

It is important to differentiate between the rules of conduct in an emergency situation and the rules of conduct in the normal conditions of human existence. This does not mean a double standard of morality: the standard and the basic principles remain the same, but their application to either case requires precise definitions.

An emergency is an unchosen, unexpected event, limited in time, that creates conditions under which human survival is impossible -- such as a flood, an earthquake, a fire, a shipwreck. In an emergency situation, men's primary goal is to combat the disaster, escape the danger and restore normal conditions (to reach dry land, to put out the fire, etc.).

By "normal" conditions I mean metaphysically normal, normal in the nature of things, and appropriate to human existence. Men can live on land, but not in water or in a raging fire. Since men are not omnipotent, it is metaphysically possible for unforeseeable disasters to strike them, in which case their only task is to return to those conditions under which their lives can continue. By its nature, an emergency situation is temporary; if it were to last, men would perish.

It is only in emergency situations that one should volunteer to help strangers, if it is in one's power. For instance, a man who values human life and is caught in a shipwreck, should help to save his fellow passengers (though not at the expense of his own life). But this does not mean that after they all reach shore, he should devote his efforts to saving his fellow passengers from poverty, ignorance, neurosis or whatever other troubles they might have. Nor does it mean that he should spend his life sailing the seven seas in search of shipwreck victims to save....

The principle that one should help men in an emergency cannot be extended to regard all human suffering as an emergency and to turn the misfortune of some into a first mortgage on the lives of others.
The modern variant of comparing our existence to a hospital or a life boat is to demand that we all live by the imaginary, worst-case dictates of precautionary thinking. Think of the biggest worry-wart you know (and probably ignore), and then imagine that person in power over your daily life. Here are just a couple of examples of this from Skenazy's blog, one from journalism and one from parenting. Here's the first:
A squirrel chomped the leg of a senior citizen sitting on the porch of a retirement home in Deltona. WESH TV reports that the victim ran inside, furry felon still attached, whereupon it bit three more seniors. This is terrible. (Especially for a squirrel fanatic like me. One bad squirrel does not a bad species make!)

Anyway, I bring it up because at the end of this "news" story, the reporter ("Robert Lowe"!!!) says in all seriousness, "Tonight I spoke with the parent company which runs the senior living center here in Deltona. They described in detail what happened but did not say what if anything they're doing to prevent another attack."

That's right. The company did not abjectly, automatically and immediately announce any new measures it will take to make sure this once-in-a-lifetime incident does not happen once-in-a-lifetime again.

What does Robert Lowe think should happen? Perhaps the parent company could chop down all the trees on its property, or cover the porch in wire mesh? Maybe it could hire some squirrel assassins? Give HazMat suits to the golden agers who inisist [sic] on venturing outside?

My point is, this "SOMETHING MUST BE DONE!" mentality is doing us in. It's making us dumb, scared, wasteful, ungrateful ... [bold and link in original]
And now, before you laugh at yet another dumb reporter, consider the second, in which a father -- thanks to the courts empowering yet another meddlesome creep with a camera -- received criminal sentencing for making his eight year old son walk home on a familiar route one evening:
[Mike] Tang later asked the court if a man who would not let a 20-year-old walk home at 8 at night struck them as a reasonable judge of danger.

Apparently it did. This was a jury trial and the verdict came back: Guilty. Tang was sentenced to a fine of $220 plus one year of parenting classes plus 56 days of "hard labor" which sounds like breaking rocks, but is basically picking up trash and other menial tasks for the county.

To date Tang has refused to do any of these things and now the county is threatening to suspend his driver's license. Which, Tang pointed out in an email to me, means his son would be doing even more walking..

Tang has filed an appeal even as the court has issued a warrant for his arrest. [bold in original]
The above excerpt hardly does the case justice, so I recommend reading all of it. Do note that Tang correctly assessed the chances of harm coming to his son and made that clear in court -- and that the court labeled this speculation. This court then sided with the fevered speculation of the man mentioned in the first sentence of the above.

After you do, consider the fact that, although such cases are currently rare enough to remain newsworthy, they are becoming common enough that we should speak up about them. Yes, the widespread availability of mobile cameras does mean that we might be filmed or photographed at any given moment. But having to live up to someone else's ridiculous notions about what is "safe" should not and need not be part of the bargain.

-- CAV

Friday Hodgepodge

Friday, January 13, 2017

Three Things

1. We got more snow last week and I did well by doing good, thanks to my three-year-old son. At home with him Friday, while my daughter was in kindergarten, I took him outside to play with the snow. Almost at once, the sun peeked out from behind some clouds. "That's sparkly," he said, smiling, and causing me to enjoy again the wonder of snow through the eyes of a child.

After observing me brush off the cars while we were outside, he also spoke up to offer me a good idea for the first time. I was showing him how he could loosen show from his boots by kicking at the steps. He said I should just use the brush. That made me smile, too.

This isn't the first time my son has offered me solid help: He is good enough at remembering where things are that, if I am unsure, I can often ask him where something is and have him come back with it, moments later.

2. My wife and I have a movie night planned in the near future -- but It's her turn to pick, and she wants the new Star Wars movie. Intrigued by favorable reviews of La La Land on HBL (but afraid it might not be in theaters when my turn to pick comes), I made time to catch a matinee showing. This was one of the few times I didn't consult Scott Holleran before watching a movie I picked. But I did look up his review afterwards and found him to be spot-on, as usual:

La La Land comes with realism. This film is not escapism, despite those minimizing it as such. In fact, what's most distinctive about this picture is its blended, balanced sense of a whole life, specifically, the whole life of one who creates. [Director Damien] Chazelle delves into how hard it is to create; how it's lonely, stressful and agonizing, including why it costs and why the artist's life is going to be to some degree cruel, not kind. Like the title, La La Land imports what haters regard as artificial about LA and strips it bare, showing that it's where the artist creates work that adds value, power and life. [bold added]
I highly recommend the movie and, with the desire to see it out of my system, I plan to enjoy Rogue One on its own terms this weekend. But remember: If you do see La La Land, make sure you turn off your oven before you leave home.

3. I encountered the following fun fact while conducting some research: there is a strain of bacteria that can live off caffeine:
[Ryan] Summers and his colleagues found these caffeine-feeding bacteria lolling in a flowerbed on the University of Iowa campus. Although that hardly seems like a logical place for such a stimulated species, Summers explained that it is far from jolting. "Due to the extensive presence of caffeine in the environment, it is not surprising that there are bacteria that can 'eat' this molecule for growth and reproduction," he wrote in a summary of his new research, set to be presented May 24 [2011 --ed] at the 111th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in New Orleans.
These are related to a strain that was modified to become the first patented organism in the world.

Weekend Reading

"Every person plays a role in someone else's life, and if their personality changes, so too will that role." -- Michael Hurd, in "Not Everybody Welcomes Change" at The Delaware Wave

"By refusing to labor under the delusion that you'll 'finally' be caught up, you'll get the same things done -- minus all the nervous baggage." -- Michael Hurd, in "You'll Never 'Catch Up'" at The Delaware Coast Press

"What is news that the Democrats and their friends in media, and academia, openly talk about Russian hacking as if there's actual proof that it happened." -- Michael Hurd, in "Dems Sore Losers With Election Hack Outrage" at Newsmax

"If offending others is taboo, then free speech isn't a right, it's a privilege exercised at the sufferance of whoever has the thinnest skin." -- Steve Simpson, in "Charlie Hebdo Two Years Later: Will America Continue to Protect Free Speech?" at The Hill

Productivity: Not Its Own End

Interestingly, on the very day I decided to buy one of these to evaluate it, I ran into a thought-provoking article (via Allison Green) titled "Why Time Management Is Ruining Our Lives." My executive summary is that it's because so many people treat "efficiency" as a goal, rather than ask themselves what they want to achieve. Merlin Mann, of Inbox Zero fame sums the problem up nicely:
If you're just using efficiency to jam more and more stuff into your day ... well, how would you ever know that that's working?
The article isn't perfect -- It lays the blame on "capitalism" at one point -- but it can help you put reams of "productivity" advice into better perspective. And, regarding that, see also Michael Hurd (linked above) on getting "caught up."

-- CAV

Controls Breed Bureaucrats

Thursday, January 12, 2017

From a report about a popular Chinese restaurant in Manhattan that recently died from "over-regulation," comes the following little gem:

The de Blasio administration noted the city provides free help to small businesses. The "Small Business First" initiative helps owners save time and money while reducing the amount of paperwork.

Free compliance advisors are available for on-sight consultation aimed at helping small businesses comply with regulations.
Set aside the fact that it is a lie to call anything funded from government loot "free:" What a fine, flesh-and-blood example of the economic maxim that "controls breed controls!" (And I can't help but be reminded of the Soviet-era "political officers" who were attached to military units, either. And cockroaches.)

Regulars here will know that I regard the term "over-regulation" as a misnomer, because the government has no business running the economy. But even if we set aside our concerns with the proper purpose of government, it speaks volumes that, when businesses start dropping like flies due to a combination of taxes and red tape, the solution of reducing one or both doesn't even seem to occur to elected officials. Restaurants in New York face a regulatory environment so hostile that city officials admit that the extra work is too much for many owners -- so their idea of a solution is to charge ahead with the same regulatory burden, and add to the tax burden. And who is to say that having to deal with a government official when one ought to be thinking about how to run his business is going to save much time, anyway? On top of that, it is easy to imagine such "help" coming up with all kinds of new, time-consuming "suggestions" for anyone foolish enough to avail himself of it.

The only thing missing from this travesty is a new regulatory requirement by Mayor Bloomberg that every business must deal with such officials. (For all I know, that's already on the books, too.) In any event, it is clear that officials know there is a problem, and that if anyone even mooted the idea of reducing the regulatory burden faced by small businesses in the Big Apple, the idea was rejected.

-- CAV

George Will on the Electoral College

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

In a recent column, George Will notes (among other things in its favor) the following good reason for keeping the Electoral College:

Those who demand direct popular election of the president should be advised that this is what we have -- in 51 jurisdictions (the states and the District of Columbia). And the electoral vote system quarantines electoral disputes. Imagine the 1960 election under direct popular election: John Kennedy's popular vote margin over Richard Nixon was just 118,574. If all 68,838,219 popular votes had been poured into a single national bucket, there would have been powerful incentives to challenge the results in many of the nation's 170,000 precincts. [bold added]
Add this to the fact that this system preserves individual voting power, ensures that a candidate with broad appeal wins, and underscores the legitimacy of the winner -- and the case for abolishing it seems quite weak.

-- CAV

What to Do About Fake News

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

During the holidays, I ran across an excellent series of posts titled "The Sniff Test," by philosopher Ben Bayer, regarding the "fake news" controversy that either started or gained prominence during the last election cycle. Bayer offers the following diagnosis of the problem:

Fake news sites exist mainly because they can make a fly-by-night profit by attracting eyeballs to ads. That means that they continue to exist because readers believe fake news and are willing to share it. But these readers should know better. A few moments of reflection is usually all that's needed to check the temptation to believe a fake or misleading story. The fault, dear readers, is not in our social media, but in ourselves. [bold added]
Bayer's words are directed at two kinds of people: (1) Those who could stand to consider stories more critically, and (2) those who know there is a problem and wish to do something about it. These types are not mutually exclusive, as anyone who reads the series will realize. That said, Bayer offers the following advice for those of us in the second category:
... Rather than just telling your friends they've posted fake news [or calling for censorship -- ed], you might give them a tool to help avoid a similar mistake in the future. If you find my advice useful, consider sharing this article or any of its sequels with people who spread misleading information online. Or just share some of the advice.

In my next five posts, I'll describe important critical questions we should ask about the stories we hear online. Eventually I'll include a separate link to an essay about each question here, so you can share just the one you might think an offending poster needs to ask him or herself:

(1) What is the source of this story and what do I know about it?

(2) How likely is the story to be true in the first place?

(3) If this story were true, what else would be true?

(4) Does the story represent its own facts honestly?

(5) Why do I want to believe this story is true? [format edits]
To this, all I can add is that, although I, too, am known "as someone who likes to posts links from Snopes" and already had a decent feel for how to assess the credibility of a story, I learned quite a few things from the series, and I strongly recommend reading and heeding the advice therein.

-- CAV

The Enemy of My Enemy ...

Monday, January 09, 2017

... No More, and Probably Less

Many of a limited-government persuasion, myself included, have been pleasantly surprised, to say the least, by some of president-elect Donald Trump's proposed cabinet appointments. We should temper any enthusiasm, though, in light of the following explanation:

[W]hat happened? Trump has no track record as a conservative to speak of, and not many people change their politics at age 70. What has made Trump seemingly the Democratic Party's worst nightmare? Was he a closet right-winger all along?

I don't think so. My guess is that throughout the general election campaign and continuing to the present, Trump has been stunned by the insane outpouring of hatred against him and his family from the Left and the Democratic Party. My guess is that he didn't see it coming. He wasn't particularly conservative, and had never had anything to do with the social issues, the main locus of left-wing venom. As an urban real estate developer, he had worked collegially with Democrats in various cities. He had been a Democrat for much of his life; heck, he even had been a friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton. He must have been shocked by the hysterical hatred that the Democrats unleashed against him and his wife and children. Trump spends a fair amount of time on Twitter; how do you think he felt when he saw that #RapeMelania was one of the top trending hashtags? [bold added]
John Hinderaker of Power Line chalks this up to revenge: "One thing we know about Trump is that if you hit him, he will hit back." This makes a great deal of sense, and it may well lead to the vicious cycle (prima facie bad for the Democrats) Hinderaker's colleague predicts.

But this is no rose garden for anyone genuinely concerned about limited government. What will Republicans -- the party he bullied into submission during the primaries -- do to stop him from pursuing bad policy (e.g., on trade)? Risk his wrath or "win" by rubber-stamping whatever it is he wants to do? There is a serious risk that the Trump presidency, a bad sign in itself, will usher in something much worse through the combination of haphazard rollbacks of some parts of the regulatory-entitlement state, ill-considered economic policy (Get that man a copy of Economics in One Lesson yesterday!), and high Democratic turnout after four years of this. The first two could even worsen things enough to make the third superfluous.

The enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend. Why he is an enemy (or just passes as one for the moment) is much more important. Advocates of limited government must keep this fact in mind. Until and unless Trump establishes a consistent track record of advocating individual rights, we should not take him to be one. I, for one, won't be holding my breath.

-- CAV

Friday Hodgepodge

Friday, January 06, 2017

Three Things

1. My three-year-old son was in a contrary mood when I asked him a question.

"No!" he replied, crossing his arms, furrowing his brow, and puckering his lips. (This is so cute that I struggle not to smile or laugh when he does this. Fortunately, his next stage, to turn away from me, allows an easy out.)

To amuse myself, I then asked, "Are you feeling contrary?"


I won't do this again, but I next yielded to the impulse to ask, "Are you my buddy?"

To my amazement, he paused and looked a little less flustered, and replied, "Yes."

Along the same lines, I have noticed that he can pick up on when Mrs. Van Horn or I find something he says endearing. He'll say, "That's not siwwey!" -- which falls into the same category. So we're having to wear our hearts on our sleeves a little bit less these days.

2. Robert Hulseman, the inventor of the plastic Solo cup, died just before Christmas. Afterwards, the Washington Post ran a story about why the ubiquitous item so many of us take for granted was something of an engineering marvel. Here's part of it:

One of the Solo Cup's distinguishing features, according to the patent, was the curved lip of each cup (see 10a in Fig.3). When several cups were stacked together, the lips would "engage" -- to use the company's language -- and rest upon each other, keeping one cup from sinking too tightly into the next.
It is too easy to dismiss this invention as merely clever, as used as we are to plastic cups being so convenient. But I see it differently: Cumulatively by now, Hulseman has, with his ideas on design, spared us a great deal of time that would have been wasted in annoyance and frustration from just that one aspect of using plastic cups.

3. On the heels of receiving a surprise gift of a streaming video drone from my father-in-law, I have learned that anti-drone technology is being developed. And I thought all I had to worry about was running afoul of the hawk that terrorizes the squirrels in my neighborhood...

Weekend Reading

"John's excellent book argues that 'the goal of war is to defeat the enemy's will to fight,' and shows 'that aggressive, strategic military offenses can win wars and establish lasting peace, while defensive maneuvers have often led to prolonged carnage, indecision, and stalemate.'" -- Elan Journo, in "Netanyahu Is Reading Nothing Less Than Victory -- and So Should You " at The Times of Israel

"To the extent that conservatives adopt the view that health insurance should be provided by government, they'll merely pave the road to government-run medicine (which they claim they are against.)" -- Paul Hsieh, in "No, the Government Should Not Provide Health Insurance for All Americans" at Forbes

"To learn which of two factors really motivates someone, it's useful to see what he picks when the two come into conflict." -- Ben Bayer, in "Why Do I Want to Believe This Story Is True?" at Medium

"Life is more about creating and cashing in on opportunities than it is about reflecting on chance events." -- Michael Hurd, in "Make Your Own Luck" at The Delaware Wave

"When you say that someone knows how to push your buttons, what you're really saying is, 'This person knows how I think, what's really important to me, and how to say or do things that encourage me to become aroused within that context.'" -- Michael Hurd, in "Who's Pushing Your Buttons?" at The Delaware Coast Press

-- CAV

Farewell, Dr. Sowell

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Thomas Sowell, one of my favorite authors, and perhaps my favorite columnist, has written his farewell column.

During a stay in Yosemite National Park last May, taking photos with a couple of my buddies, there were four consecutive days without seeing a newspaper or a television news program -- and it felt wonderful. With the political news being so awful this year, it felt especially wonderful.

This made me decide to spend less time following politics and more time on my photography, adding more pictures to my [website].
Writing at the Wall Street Journal, Jason Riley (who discovered Sowell just a few years after I did), writes, in tribute:
Mr. Sowell's first column appeared in 1977. Now 86 years old, he can't be faulted for wanting to spend "less time following politics and more time" on his hobbies, as he wrote last week. But what it means in practice is that many readers are losing perhaps the best professor they've ever had, even if they never went to college. Although Mr. Sowell left academia decades ago -- since 1980 he has been a scholar in residence at the Hoover Institution -- he has never stopped teaching through his newspaper columns and many books, most of which are aimed at general readers instead of his fellow intellectuals.
In his column, Riley emphasizes Sowell's commitment to learning the facts about what he wrote, and it is this commitment that has made his application of economics to the problems of the day so valuable for so many of us. But I have to disagree a little bit with him here: Sowell's columns (archived here) and books will remain a valuable resource for years to come for anyone who wishes to apply his knowledge of the past to today's problems. He is not done teaching, so much as making it look easy to cut through the fog and really understand what he often called "the passing scene."

Thank you for your rigor and clarity, Dr. Sowell, and enjoy your retirement.

-- CAV

Breathing Room, Maybe; Victory, No.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

It has become apparent, as "Manhattan Contrarian" Francis Menton lays out, that the global warming gravy train for government loot may soon be derailed. Among other things, Menton notes:

And finally, there is the question of funding. Under Obama, attaching the words "global warming" or "climate change" to any proposal has been the sure-fire way to get the proposal whatever federal funding it might want. The Department of Energy has been the big factor here. Of its annual budget of about $28 billion, roughly half goes to running the facilities that provide nuclear material for the Defense Department, and the other half, broadly speaking, goes to the global warming cause: crony capitalist [sic] handouts for wind and solar energy providers, and billions per year for research at some seventeen (seventeen!) different energy research laboratories. During the eight Obama years, the energy sector of the U.S. economy has been substantially transformed by a technological revolution that has dramatically lowered the cost of energy and hugely benefited the American consumer. I'm referring, of course, to the fracking revolution. How much of the tens of billions of U.S. energy subsidies and research funding in that time went toward this revolution that actually produced cheaper energy that works? Answer: Not one single dollar! All of the money was completely wasted on things that are uneconomic and will disappear as soon as the government cuts off the funding spigot. All of this funding can and should be zeroed out in the next budget. Believe me, nobody will notice other than the parasites who have been wasting the money.
This may be optimistic, but let's run with it, particularly the bit about scientific funding. It is worth noting, in the reverse order of how I encountered it, how having a single, large source of funding for science that is anything but "disinterested" results in a self-reinforcing orthodoxy that chokes off work outside that orthodoxy.

In a piece at RealClear Investigations, James Varney quotes a dissident climate scientist, regarding the winds of change some of Trump's nominees could bring to global-warming related government funds and rules:
While it could take months for such expanded fields of research to emerge, a wider look at the possibilities excites some scientists. [Princeton Professor Emeritus William] Happer, for one, feels emboldened in ways he rarely has throughout his career because, for many years, he knew his iconoclastic climate conclusions would hurt his professional prospects.

When asked if he would voice dissent on climate change if he were a younger, less established physicist, he said: "Oh, no, definitely not. I held my tongue for a long time because friends told me I would not be elected to the National Academy of Sciences if I didn't toe the alarmists' company line." [bold added]
The effectively single-payer government system of financing science, creates a weakness in the peer review system: The experts who review a paper are the ones whose research has made them able to fund their laboratories through grants. When the source of those grants has an agenda, it should be obvious what problem that brings, but let's hear it from the trenches, anyway:
"In reality, it's the government, not the scientists, that asks the questions," said David Wojick, a longtime government consultant who has closely tracked climate research spending since 1992. If a federal agency wants models that focus on potential sea-level rise, for example, it can order them up. But it can also shift the focus to how warming might boost crop yields or improve drought resistance. [bold added]
There is nothing wrong with a patron of science being interested in discovering the answer to a question. Indeed, that is how science funding ought to work. But when a "patron" is really looking for objective-sounding arguments to back up a coercive agenda, and controls basically all the funding, it's isn't just "asking the questions." Questioning the alarmist view of global warming in particular and, on principle, opposing central planning (which is a feature of every proposal based on such views, not to mention government funding of science), I welcome the news that this agenda is being thwarted.

But the problem remains, so long as the state funds practically all science, that the search for truth will still suffer. Under such a scheme, the old orthodoxies of those who lost power will merely be replaced by new ones, if the newly-empowered remain so for long, and do not renounce state funding of science.

Trump will not begin the necessary process of decoupling the state from scientific funding (or anything else), and I am even skeptical that he will do that much to curtail existing global warming cronyism. Don't cheer too much about this "train" being derailed: It's only a few cars off another that continues merrily on, and might even add a few more.

-- CAV


Today: Corrected a typo. 

Happy New Year

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Well, this year's blogging break was about equal parts excitement and frustration for me, and I consequently find myself having to ease myself into blogging. To do that, I will share a highly appropriate, inspirational quote I was reminded of this morning from a digest of the Harry Binswanger Letter:

It's a rare gift, you know, to feel reverence for your own life and to want the best, the greatest, the highest possible, here, now, for your very own. To imagine a heaven and then not to dream of it, but to demand it. -- Kira Argounova, in We the Living, by Ayn Rand, p. 107
Most of this break we spent visiting relatives in Florida. I thought I'd adequately budgeted morning time for the vagaries of travel, visiting, and holidays, but I didn't figure on my three-year-old son to appear, beaming, each morning at 6:30, to end "writing time" an hour early practically every day. (Except, oddly, today, which allowed me time to write two posts.) So, for once, I end a break not exactly jumping at the bit to write, but that isn't really a bad thing. I was able to break out of rut or two, and the desire to continue some of the exploration I did is sure to be profitable. So I'll thank him for leaving me hungry for more with the early dismissals.

Before I leave today, I'll put in a good word for HBL: I have subscribed for years and have always found the discussions there interesting and worthwhile. But it has improved over even that steadily since its renaming a year or so ago from "The Harry Binswanger List." I don't get to participate nearly as much as I'd like, and I still manage to gain incredible value from my subscription. As just one example, over the break, I downloaded and listened to a fascinating presentation given by Ashley Karen Roy about Alex Epstein's method of cultural activism. This came from one new feature at HBL, called "Meeting of the Minds," in which members can hear presentations or hold discussions in real time most Sundays. (Or listen later, at a more convenient time.) What impressed me most about Roy's talk was that, as Epstein considered how successful mass movements succeeded, she analyzed how he succeeds on an individual level. I'll stop there and make a plug: If you have a serious interest in Ayn Rand's work, I strongly recommend that you consider subscribing, which is easy through the longstanding offer there of a free, two week trial membership.

That's just a sample of what I've been doing over the past week, and I look forward to pursuing that line of inquiry and a few other things I ran across, thanks in large part to HBL.

-- CAV

P.S. Twitter, of all things, deserves mention. I have, up to this point, mainly used it to automatically announce new blog posts, but I have found the email digests they send very useful. I don't want to stare at a feed all day, but I will be looking for some way to begin mining Twitter for information. Suggestions for efficient ways to do that are welcome.


Today: Corrected some wording.