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  1. 4 points
    INTRODUCTORY NOTE: Wow, I haven't posted here in a long time. Unfortunately I've been preoccupied with working on my PhD. Another point I want to make is that, unfortunately, I've been finding that many conversations in the Objecto-sphere have become rather monotonous and rarely are new ideas or new topics being addressed, and thus the discussion has become less interesting for me in recent years. I'm still an Objectivist, I just haven't seen too much novelty in the Objectivist world, which is another reason I've been less than present on this forum. However, I am back with an article I wrote. I couldn't get it published at more general libertarian-outreach-activism places so I thought here would be a good choice. All comments are appreciated! NANCY MACLEAN, LIBERTARIANS AND AUTISM Introduction Criticism of Duke University history professor Nancy MacLean has become a cottage industry ever since she published her demented smear job against Public Choice Theory "Democracy In Chains." Indeed, MacLean's work is full of absurd distortions, misrepresentative quoting, and obvious untruths. Her entire thesis is that Public Choice Theory is racist; frankly I wonder if Nancy is attempting to continue Duke University's proud tradition of racially charged false accusations. Public choice scholars and economists like Michael Munger (see http://www.independent.org/issues/article.asp?id=9115 ) and Steven Horwitz (see https://www.cato.org/cato-journal/fall-2017/democracy-chains-deep-history-radical-rights-stealth-plan-america-nancy ) have done an admirable job in effectively shredding MacLean's thesis, but MacLean knew, just like Mike Nifong and Crystal Mangum, that women's tears are almost always believed and as such she decided to play victim (https://www.chronicle.com/article/Nancy-MacLean-Responds-to-Her/240699). It is no surprise Oprah shilled her book; I'm sure that soon enough Lifetime will be producing a telemovie about the trauma she suffered at being critiqued. But the point of this article isn't to channel my inner Christopher Hitchens and say nasty things about MacLean's screed. Plenty of far better commentators have done this. Rather, I am going to make a qualified defense of something she did say whilst criticizing what she seemed to be attempting to imply with what she said. We all know how utterly frustrating it is when people deal with their political enemies through the use of diagnosis as a substitute for dialectic. The Soviet Union took this to its logical extreme through claiming that political dissidents were mentally ill, because clearly no sane person could disagree with Marxism-Leninism-Stalinism; more recent entries in this category include the so-called "Republican Brain Hypothesis" (see https://www.abbeys.com.au/book/republican-brain-the-science-of-why-they-deny-science-and-reality.do ) that was proposed during the culture wars against the Religious Right during the George W. Bush administration. MacLean decided to add to this genre of political pseudoargument through arguing that there is indeed a libertarian brain, and that libertarian brain is characterized by being on the autism spectrum (see https://reason.com/blog/2018/02/13/democracy-in-chains-author-nancy-maclean/print ). Katherine Timpf at National Review fumed (https://www.nationalreview.com/2018/02/nancy-maclean-libertarians-seem-autism-spectrum/). Like several other critics pointed out (see https://psmag.com/news/on-libertarians-autism-and-empathy and https://anintenseworld.com/2018/02/10/duke-historian-nancy-maclean-identifies-autism-as-the-source-of-a-malevolent-ideology/ ), MacLean's understanding of autism primarily in terms of lacking empathy and not feeling solidarity with others is based on an outdated portrait of being on the autistic spectrum rooted primarily in the "Mind Blindness" concept of Simon Baron-Cohen; more recent research has greatly questioned whether "Mind Blindness" is a correct portrait in the first place. But so far, the responses to MacLean have focused on the fact she equates libertarianism with a lack of empathy and solidarity with others, and the fact that she equates being on the autistic spectrum with lacking said empathy and solidarity. These are all valid critiques to make of her position, but so far there has been little attempt to wrestle with the question of whether or not MacLean is correct that there might be a link between libertarianism and being on the autistic spectrum. Not only that, but no one to my knowledge has questioned the unstated premise of MacLean's argument, which is that libertarian economics (and Public Choice in particular) is wrong because the brains which formulated these economics are arguably on the autistic spectrum. MacLean's argument is simply not an argument unless one accepts that having autism or Asperger's Syndrome introduces systematic error into one's economic reasoning. Indeed, for MacLean to be correct, having a brain that is positively drenched in "empathy" and "solidarity with others" is necessary to be a good economist. My argument is simple; yes, it is in fact likely that libertarians are disproportionately likely to be either on the austistic spectrum or have subclinical levels of symptoms typically thought of as indicating Asperger's Syndrome. Libertarian thought and philosophy often is characterized by the kind of cognitive style which, in its extreme form, is characteristic of austists and in particular the high-functioning autists commonly described as having Asperger's Syndrome. This is where MacLean is right. However, the implication that this kind of cognitive style makes you bad at doing economics is precisely the opposite of the truth. Indeed, having a degree of autistic symptoms can plausibly be thought of as an advantage for an economist, and that it is the caring-feeling-empathy-solidarity normie-brain which could represent a disadvantage for someone trying to perform economic analysis. On a personal note, I am not just a libertarian with Bachelors and Masters degrees in economics (and in the process of working on a Doctorate in the field), but I also have Asperger's Syndrome. Nancy MacLean's statements therefore constitute an allegation that my very brain is less capable at economic reasoning than it would be if I were neurotypical (i.e. not someone with Asperger's Syndrome). Of course, one must wonder why I would develop an interest in and devote substantial amounts of time and effort to the field of economics if I were mentally impaired at comprehending it! 1. Libertarians: More 'spergy Than Average How someone thinks, their "cognitive style" or what Ayn Rand called their "psycho-epistemology," is partially determined by biology. Of course anyone of any neurology can grasp that 2 + 2 = 4, but research has shown that the biology of the brain influences how people think. Dr. Helen Fisher, for example, researches how brain chemistry impacts things like people's love life and people's politics (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0lOPtTbFCMY ). Neurobiology has political correlates, as Fisher points out; she characterizes libertarians as having brains highly influenced by natal testosterone. Jonathan Haidt and several co-researchers also, in a study of libertarian morality, point out that biological factors can predispose one (albeit often indirectly) to different political ideologies (see http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/file?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0042366&type=printable ). An interesting thing which Haidt et al. point out is that libertarians rely on reason more, and emotion less, than leftists or conservatives; this is tested using Simon Baron-Cohen's Empathizer-Systemizer scale (see p12-13). This scale is interesting in that it is linked both to being on the autism spectrum and also gender; "libertarians score the lowest of any group on empathizing, and the highest on systemizing. In fact, libertarians are the only group that scored higher on systemizing than empathizing... relatively high systemizing and low empathizing scores are characteristic of the male brain, with very extreme scores indicating autism. We might say that liberals have the most 'feminine' cognitive style, and libertarians the most 'masculine'" (p13). In spite of Baron-Cohen's contested contention that people on the autism spectrum are less capable of empathy, the point remains that there is clearly correspondence between Haidt, Fisher and Baron-Cohen here; persons whom are on the autism spectrum can be described as having an atypically "masculinized" (i.e. shaped by prenatal testosterone) brain. Libertarians (on average) have brains which are more testosterone-influenced than the general population. It stands to reason, therefore, that brains-predisposed-to-libertarianism are more likely to also either be on the autistic spectrum or at least have more autistic-spectrum-traits than the average brain. This also provides a theoretical explanation for why libertarian communities are disproportionately male; strongly masculinized brain development is more likely to happen to natally male individuals. This "systemizer-brain" orientation is evidenced all over libertarian culture, as evidenced by the emphasis we tend to place on logical consistency and reason in general (to the point where our biggest magazine is literally named Reason). As Ayn Rand made clear, she was not primarily an advocate of markets, liberty and egoism, but rather of reason, and if one embraced reason all the rest would follow; agree or disagree with Rand as much as you like, but she serves as evidence of how libertarianism has deep cognitive roots. The fact that libertarian advocacy is ultimately rooted in the Enlightenment, which championed human reason, is further evidence of this. Whilst the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator has fallen out of favor with academic psychology research, I distinctly remember discussions in libertarian communities about how libertarians are about 80% xNTx (it is even more extreme amongst Randians/Objectivists, whom are about 85% xNTx and particularly biased towards INTx individuals; indeed MBTI enthusiasts often characterize Howard Roark as an INTP, and Rand herself as an INTJ); this is massively disproportionate relative to the general population, which is about 12% xNTx. The xNTx style of cognition is the "rational temperament" focused on thinking rather than feeling, and high level abstractions over immediate sensory information. To the extent that cognitive style is biological, the implications are depressing for libertarians. The libertarian mindset is strongly correlated with a brain that is heavily influenced by prenatal testosterone, moreso than the average brain. Libertarianism appeals to an atypical style of mind, one that is likely to exhibit more characteristics of Asperger's Syndrome or the autism spectrum generally; libertarianism appeals to a mind which is more emotionally detached, more introverted, more abstract, and less invested in social relationships than the norm (Haidt et al.'s paper substantiates this; libertarians are less likely to define or describe themselves in terms of their relationships to other people). This is consistent with the fact that libertarianism is not a mass movement, and implies that most people will find libertarianism counterintuitive at least initially. 2. Good Economics Is Counterintuitive Too It has been noticed by many that even very mainstream economics requires thinking that goes "against the grain." As Bryan Caplan demonstrated in The Myth of the Rational Voter, the average American diverges substantially from the economic beliefs of the average economist, and diverges in systematic and predictable ways (in particular, the average American is less pro-market than the average economist). The economists in the survey are a general cross-section of economists, and not "just the staff of the Cato Institute," so it cannot be claimed that there is bias in the selection of experts; the experts are consistently to the economic 'right' (if by 'right wing' one means pro-market) of the average American citizen. Even economists generally associated with the left, such as Paul Krugman, are surprisingly pro-market relative to the average (Krugman, for example, is more pro-free-trade than Steve Bannon). Not all libertarians are economists and not all economists are libertarians, but the presence of libertarians within economics is unquestionably disproportionate relative to the general population. The point to emphasize, however, is that according to the experts, average people are (on average) systematically wrong about the benefits of markets. Caplan notices that even first year economics students come into the classroom bearing the imprints of multiple economic errors which need to be eliminated from their thought. In other words, even non-controversial neoclassical economics goes against the intellectual grain for many, many people. This should not be a surprise. After all, economics is the field that suggests (and this is anything but a controversial argument in economics) people who act selfishly in the commercial realm will make life better for other people alongside themselves; this is hardly the first thing that comes to the mind of most people when they're asked to picture a "selfish" person. Rather, they imagine some bloodsucking brute, not the local shopkeeper. Many people who run various local governments believe that rent control is still a good policy, even if it is literally textbook bad economics. Many people believe that cheap goods from overseas somehow are "exploitation." Many people don't grasp the fundamental insight that voluntary trade where parties have all the relevant information will always make both parties better off by definition. Even non-controversial, non-extreme, standard-issue economic reasoning does not come naturally to most people. Economists in general, not merely libertarian economists, don't think typically. This does not mean all economists have Asperger's Syndrome (economic reasoning can be taught, after all); it means that economic reasoning has to fight an uphill battle against the conventional mindset. 3. Neurology And Systematic Error What I have shown is that libertarians are defined by a cognitive style which overlaps neurologically with certain symptoms of being on the autism spectrum. This is what Nancy McLean is correct about. I have also shown that economists in general (across the political spectrum) are more pro-market than average people, so the "norm" (which presumably includes and is defined by the majority of neurotypical persons) is systematically wrong. What I have not shown yet is that the characteristics of the neurotypical cognitive style (higher levels of empathizing than systemizing, "solidarity with other people" as MacLean claims, that kind of thing) can systematically bias someone towards incorrect economic conclusions. This is what I will now attempt to do. I should clarify that I do not intend to claim someone must have Asperger's Syndrome or substantial levels of autistic-spectrum-traits in order to be a good economist; economic reasoning is a skill which can be taught. All I am claiming is that having at least some level of autistic-spectrum-traits helps avoid systematic error. The first argument that needs to be made is that economics, as a field, is focused entirely on systemizing and has literally no room for empathizing. In economics, society and individuals are dealt with impersonally, as either collections of logical rules or utility functions or value-scales. Every person is merely one item in a far larger picture. Economists think in terms of optimizing systems, not caring for particular individuals (this does not mean they do not care, merely that this isn't the focus of economics). Standard-issue general equilibrium economics is built from mathematical models borrowed from field theory in physics. Individual happiness is just a matter of "utility" - a simple quantity of pleasure/satisfaction. The economy is invariably conceptualized as a system... be it a physical system, a biological system, a network, a machine, but it is still a system. Not only that, but economists are addressing one of the most painful and difficult facets of the human condition - specifically poverty - and how to ameliorate it. We have to deal with difficult tradeoffs that may sacrifice ten lives to save twenty five other lives. This simply is not a field suited to mindsets that focus on things like "feelings" and "empathy" and "solidarity" and "caretaking" and the other things which Nancy MacLean associates with the neurotypical mindset; it is a field which requires cold calculation, and often literal calculation since at times economics is like physics or mathematics. In this situation, a systemizing-oriented brain is exactly what one wants to have solving the problems. It is easier to speak of temporary frictional unemployment than to be confronted with the day-to-day minutiae of someone without any marketable skills trying to secure a job interview. A second, and in my opinion stronger, argument could be made however. Let us look at several "textbook bad economics" policies. How are these policies sold to the polity? How are they justified? Rent control is a fantastic example: "to ensure affordable housing for the poor." The motive here is compassion, solidarity, empathy, a concern for the plight of the poor. And it isn't controversial to say it doesn't work. Welfare states are consistently justified in terms of compassion for the suffering and solidarity between human beings. But, pray tell, why are these welfare states almost always full of massive bureaucracies rather than policies which handle welfare through simple income transfers (for example via a negative income tax or basic income guarantee)? Given the many problems and flaws that bureaucracy and its associated incentives have, one would think that a genuine motive of compassion doesn't necessarily mean one will pick the least costly, most effective means of being compassionate. Of course some environmental protections are easily defensible on the basis of economic reasoning. But what about environmentalist attacks on genetically modified organisms (a proven-safe technology) or nuclear power (which is incredibly safe and efficient if modern technology is used)? Environmentalists consistently appeal to the emotions, to empathizing, to feelings and fluffiness in their campaigns to cast GMOs as "impure" and all nuclear power plants as Chernobyls-In-Waiting. Nordhaus and Schellenberger, both economists, campaign (through their think-tank the Breakthrough Institute, see https://thebreakthrough.org/about/mission/ ) for technological solutions to environmental problems, yet the environmental establishment still demands wind, solar, organic and biodynamic (the latter of which is based on a semi-spiritual framework rather than a purely scientific one). Environmentalism appeals to compassion, feelings, oneness with the earth and all of that emotionalistic illogical bilge, yet consistently avoids the policy proposals actual economists can demonstrate would be effective means to environmentalists' declared ends. Let us also look at the monster example: socialism. Socialism was motivated in many cases by compassion for the poor, by the desire to reduce poverty, by the desire to spread prosperity as widely as possible. Every attempt to try it failed miserably, and to the extent that any socialist system worked it only worked to the extent it preserved property rights and market incentives (for example Titoism, which avoided famine, yet did so through preserving property rights over farmland). It strikes some as counterintuitive to suggest that letting people keep things for themselves (i.e. property rights) can result in a larger and broader distribution of goods than forcibly taking those goods and collectivizing ownership, but the historical record makes it clear that property rights and markets are essential conditions to wide-scale prosperity. Again, not even left-leaning economists contest this; the Economic Calculation Problem is a fact, which is why contemporary economists on the left are Social Democrats rather than old-school Socialists. There is a systematic pattern; advocacy of bad economics is constantly rooted in the same motives Nancy MacLean accuses libertarians and persons on the autistic spectrum as lacking. Compassion and solidarity and empathy are certainly positive traits, yet they seem to be the driving force behind some atrociously bad policy preferences. This certainly doesn't mean that good intentions always result in bad policy, but it suggests a possible theory that I will summarize as follows: "Neurotypical drives towards compassion, empathy, solidarity and other associated feelsy-niceness override rational consideration of what means are actually effective at generating the desired positive outcomes. Because people with at least some level of austistic-spectrum-traits can detach themselves from the compulsive cries of 'feelings' more easily, they may be better judges of what is practically effective." Conclusion Nancy MacLean's book on Public Choice is frankly so bad the only use I can see for it is toilet paper, even though I generally prefer pages of Abrahamic religious texts for that particular purpose. However, she isn't wrong to suggest libertarians may be more likely to have Asperger's Syndrome or at least an atypically high level of autistic-spectrum-traits relative to the general population. But that doesn't make us wrong about the economics. Indeed, the opposite is likely to be true. Highly empathizing brains without much systemizing capability are not the brains you want to have evaluating different economic policies. Frankly awful economics is typically justified on the basis of empathetic, caring, emotionalistic rationales. The more people feel and the less people think (i.e. the more they empathize and the less they systemize), the worse their economic reasoning gets. Even by the relatively moderate (compared to libertarians) standards of the economics profession, the general population is deeply misguided about economic fact. Neurotypical cognitive biases towards "solidarity" and "empathy" can lead away from economic truth, not towards it. Even non-libertarian economists use cold, impersonal reasoning to justify intervention rather than appeals to emotion and fluffy-wuffy-snuggliness. Good economics goes against every instinct of the neurotypical brain, which is why it is so counterintuitive and so many prejudices need to be weeded out. Libertarians, on the other hand, are disproportionately likely to have the kind of brain able to overcome these cognitive biases and see where the policy which appeals to "empathy" and "solidarity" will be counterproductive to these ends. This overlaps (although is not identical) with the kind of brain that is often described as "on the autism spectrum" and in particular the higher functioning regions thereof. Whilst MacLean is justified in suspecting a lot of us are "on the spectrum" at least to some degree, her implication that this is a reason to dismiss libertarian economics is arguably the opposite of the truth.
  2. 4 points
    Greetings all, This will be my first and only post on OL. Ted lead a compartmentalized and complicated life. My being here has crossed a circle that he kept private. At one extreme, he was a loving Uncle, excited to share all the joys of life with his nephews and niece. At the other, he could be bitter and angry, throwing darts at targets that may not have been the intended recipients, but were instead opportunistic proxies for an unknown true target. He suffered with demons that I hope have lost their grip now that his spirit has departed this plane. I will not dwell on the sorrow of it all. Rather, in true "Ted" fashion, I will share that which made Ted happy. Simply put, Ted loved books. He read more than anyone I know and if the local library were a for-profit business, they'd have lost money on him. His interests spanned everything from proto-indo-European trees to Heinlein, Thomas Aquinas, and Uralic languages. Just prior to his passing he was learning American Sign Language. He shared his love of books with my children, his nephews and niece. Upon his passing, the kids donated money to the library and asked that they purchase books on snakes, rocks, mythology, languages, science fiction, Doctor Who, and Ayn Rand. Ted loved the woods and found great joy in collecting remnants of deer and other creatures and teaching the kids to bleach the bones. I now have a collection that looks like something out of a natural history museum. Ted loved rocks (especially geodes) pecan pie, old movies, and building couch forts. He had a vast and encyclopedic collection of music. He loved a good joke, like the time he would hold telemarketers on the line and tell them off in Russian. He loved his own past, learning about his Carpatho-Rusyn heritage. Ted enjoyed unconventional horticulture, nursing poinsettias between seasons and propagating opuntia from the dunes of NJ (I now have some in my garden). He loved to argue. He loved Legos. Ted loved the Szechuan Garlic Chicken at our favorite Chinese Restaurant and following it up with a Hacker-Pschorr. May this parting bit hopefully bring a smile...He was buried with a copy of Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology minus a few pages from which the kids crafted origami boats and sent off some honorary ashes downstream where he often wandered. - With Love, Ted's Sister.
  3. 3 points
    Mick West at Metabunk.org has published a book! It's called "Escaping the Rabbit Hole: How to Debunk Conspiracy Theories Using Facts, Logic, and Respect." The early reviews at Amazon.com are brutal. I publish a fair-use excerpt from the introduction to the book published last month at Salon: How to pull a friend out of the conspiracy theory rabbit hole | It’s not a blue pill or a red pill, but a poison pill I've added highlights to parts of the excerpt that might be helpful to OLers struggling with the entailments of conspiracy-ideation --in friends, family, and perhaps in themselves ... as those of us who have read the Rob Brotherton classic understand ... "Its not THEM, it's US" ... no one wing of political or social groups is more vulnerable to the harms of conspiracy ideation than another. "Try to figure out my tricks." What good advice ...
  4. 3 points
    I don't want to talk about it. --Brant
  5. 3 points
    I would agree with those who say that Rand's aesthetics do not cover everything. OTOH I also think that one source of puzzlement is that Rand (as usual) traces things back to their roots, and rarely speaks of proximate causes. The closest I come to art is photography, and that might be a particularly simple example. What determines what I chose to take a picture of? I think that goes back ultimately to the kind of things Rand talks about, but I am not conscious of that as I take the picture. If you asked me at the moment I might say that I loved the way the new mown hay looked in the late afternoon sun, but why that appealed to me is probably far below the conscious level. A lot of my photo work records the history of the American Industrial Revolution. Some of it is just a record of the past, but some of it has an artistic element. Why is it that when I go to these dying cities that were once centers of industry I record the mills and factories rather than the winos in the alleyways? I think it reflects a judgment of what is important.
  6. 3 points
    Amen to that. McCain-Feingold in particular, which led to the Citizens United case. As to the rest, all I wanted to establish was that he did "something more than getting captured and held prisoner of war for years", no matter how we project what his motives at the time were. He made a choice, and (hard to believe I'm about to type this) it was something comparable to John Galt advising his captors how to fix their torture machine.
  7. 3 points
    While I was no fan of McCain qua politician, and regard his prisoner-of-war heroism as misdirected, the story bears reviewing. This comes from David Foster Wallace's piece on McCain from 2000. https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/david-foster-wallace-on-john-mccain-the-weasel-twelve-monkeys-and-the-shrub-194272/ But there’s something underneath politics in the way you have to hear McCain, something riveting and unSpinnable and true. It has to do with McCain’s military background and Vietnam combat and the five-plus years he spent in a North Vietnamese prison, mostly in solitary, in a box, getting tortured and starved. And the unbelievable honor and balls he showed there. It’s very easy to gloss over the POW thing, partly because we’ve all heard so much about it and partly because it’s so off-the-charts dramatic, like something in a movie instead of a man’s life. But it’s worth considering for a minute, because it’s what makes McCain’s “causes greater than self-interest” line easier to hear. You probably already know what happened. In October of ’67 McCain was himself still a Young Voter and flying his 23rd Vietnam combat mission and his A-4 Skyhawk plane got shot down over Hanoi and he had to eject, which basically means setting off an explosive charge that blows your seat out of the plane, which ejection broke both McCain’s arms and one leg and gave him a concussion and he started falling out of the skies right over Hanoi. Try to imagine for a second how much this would hurt and how scared you’d be, three limbs broken and falling toward the enemy capital you just tried to bomb. His chute opened late and he landed hard in a little lake in a park right in the middle of downtown Hanoi, Imagine treading water with broken arms and trying to pull the life vest’s toggle with your teeth as a crowd of Vietnamese men swim out toward you (there’s film of this, somebody had a home-movie camera, and the N.V. government released it, though it’s grainy and McCain’s face is hard to see). The crowd pulled him out and then just about killed him. U.S. bomber pilots were especially hated, for obvious reasons. McCain got bayoneted in the groin; a soldier broke his shoulder apart with a rifle butt. Plus by this time his right knee was bent 90-degrees to the side with the bone sticking out. Try to imagine this. He finally got tossed on a jeep and taken five blocks to the infamous Hoa Lo prison – a.k.a. the “Hanoi Hilton,” of much movie fame – where they made him beg a week for a doctor and finally set a couple of the fractures without anesthetic and let two other fractures and the groin wound (imagine: groin wound) stay like they were. Then they threw him in a cell. Try for a moment to feel this. All the media profiles talk about how McCain still can’t lift his arms over his head to comb his hair, which is true. But try to imagine it at the time, yourself in his place, because it’s important. Think about how diametrically opposed to your own self-interest getting knifed in the balls and having fractures set without painkiller would be, and then about getting thrown in a cell to just lie there and hurt, which is what happened. He was delirious with pain for weeks, and his weight dropped to 100 pounds, and the other POWs were sure he would die; and then after a few months like that after his bones mostly knitted and he could sort of stand up they brought him in to the prison commandant’s office and offered to let him go. This is true. They said he could just leave. They had found out that McCain’s father was one of the top-ranking naval officers in the U.S. Armed Forces (which is true – both his father and grandfather were admirals), and the North Vietnamese wanted the PR coup of mercifully releasing his son, the baby-killer. McCain, 100 pounds and barely able to stand, refused, The U.S. military’s Code of Conduct for Prisoners of War apparently said that POWs had to be released in the order they were captured, and there were others who’d been in Hoa Lo a long time, and McCain refused to violate the Code. The commandant, not pleased, right there in the office had guards break his ribs, rebreak his arm, knock his teeth out. McCain still refused to leave without the other POWs. And so then he spent four more years in Hoa Lo like this, much of the time in solitary, in the dark, in a closet-sized box called a “punishment cell.” Maybe you’ve heard all this before; it’s been in umpteen different media profiles of McCain. But try to imagine that moment between getting offered early release and turning it down. Try to imagine it was you. Imagine how loudly your most basic, primal self-interest would have cried out to you in that moment, and all the ways you could rationalize accepting the offer. Can you hear it? It so, would you have refused to go? You simply can’t know for sure. None of us can. It’s hard even to imagine the pain and fear in that moment, much less know how you’d react. But, see, we do know how this man reacted. That he chose to spend four more years there, in a dark box, alone, tapping code on the walls to the others, rather than violate a Code. Maybe he was nuts. But the point is that with McCain it feels like we know, for a proven fact, that he’s capable of devotion to something other, more, than his own self-interest. So that when he says the line in speeches in early February you can feel like maybe it isn’t just more candidate bullshit, that with this guy it’s maybe the truth. Or maybe both the truth and bullshit: the guy does – did – want your vote, after all.
  8. 3 points
    That's what it says at the top of the page. Your point? It's not like this thread has devolved into a medley of cat videos. Yet.
  9. 3 points
    I hope my posts get a lot of sads (from the anti-Trump bitches!)
  10. 2 points
    I don’t think Trump is a Randian hero , I think John Galt is a Trumpian hero . Atlas Shrugged was still only a book , Trump is real life
  11. 2 points
    Well... the Dems wanted an FBI investigation. It looks like they are likely to get a doozy. From Politico: Cotton: Feinstein to be investigated over leaked letter from Ford In the normal weasel-worded horseshit manner of the current fake news media, Politico did not say who is going to investigate Feinstein. But I imagine if whoever does finds something within a week, they will turn it over to the FBI as a lead, that is if the FBI is not investigating her on their own. Politico did say Ford's lawyers will be investigated by the Washington DC bar for not notifying her of the Senate committee's offer to meet with her in California, but that's a different matter. The point is, the FBI investigation aimed at Kavanaugh is looking like it is going to backfire on the Dems bigtime if they become part if the people investigated. Michael
  12. 2 points
    Jonathan, I think you're right. Style over substance added to delusions of grandeur and an aesthetic trance based on Rand's storytelling skills. It's not often I read an insight like this these days. I love the term "aesthetic trance." Thanks. Michael
  13. 2 points
    Just keep minding your manners and who knows, one of these days these posts are gonna gush all over you...click click, click click.... You may each refer to case number 2018-03. The clerk at the Compliment Clinic will take your statements and collect fees:
  14. 2 points
    It's probably global warming. Nothing a government tax or regulation can't fix. Michael
  15. 2 points
  16. 2 points
    There is no paradox. Please see: http://mathworld.wolfram.com/AristotlesWheelParadox.html The small wheel mounted on the same hub as the big (outer wheel) slips and drags.. For an angle theta that a radius turns the center is moved 2*pi*theta*R horizontally where R is the radius of the larger outer wheel. This exceeds 2*pi*theta*r where r is the radius of the smaller innerwheel. R > r so the distance that the center goes during a turn of angle theta is greater than the smaller inner wheel would have gone if it did NOT SLIP. The resolution of the so-called paradox is that the inner wheel slips by the quantity 2*pi*theta* (R-r). As the article I quoted states the appearance of a paradox is based on the false assertion that the existence of a continuous one to one function between the points on the circumference of the inner and outer wheels in implies the length of the arc on the inner wheel corresponding to a turn of d theta (in infinitesimal turn) equal the length of the corresponding arc on the outer wheel. Not so. the length of the outer arc is to the length of the inner arc as R is to r. Problem solved. It is unnecessary to fall into the philosophical tar pit of Logical Positivism which denies an external reality and asserts all we have are relations between data, i.e. perceptions of the outer reality. This is sometimes called phenomenalism. It says that either there is no outer (external) reality or all that our minds can ever get are the experience of the outer reality (if it exists). This is also the premise that Kant used. He said there is an external reality, but we only get what the mind filters in (of it). To be truthful, I do not know of a satisfactory resolution of the disconnect between the external or "real" reality and the perceived reality that our intellects can deal with. I do not resolve the paradox (I am sorry to say). I AVOID the paradox by resorting to the "shut up and calculate" tactic in which I get an answer that conforms to what I experience each and every time I make a measurement and calculate an assertion of what I will measure. This approach is never wrong, but it is totally unsatisfying to those who insist that the :"real" reality is there and can be experienced or sensed. Kant denied this. Me? I avoid the disagreement. I beg you to forgive me for not resolving the question you raised. The best I can do for you is clarify the problem, but I still leave you with the problem. Sorry about that.
  17. 2 points
    Can a person really be economically coerced, or is it simply a choice? Was Cohen using the tapes for insurance or a way to blackmail President Trump? Can he be disbarred? In Maryland I don’t think you can record someone unless they know what your are doing. Peter From: "George H. Smith" To: "*Atlantis" Subject: ATL: Re: sophistry Date: Fri, 27 Jul 2001 01:29:41 -0500 a.d. smith wrote: "Recently, I was arguing with an anarcho-socialist friend about fundamental political and ethical principles. I had stated that I was opposed to the use of force in social relations (except in retaliation). He said that I was inconsistent in that I was not opposed to the use of "economic coercion" (e.g., the threat of firing someone) as well as physical force. I was wondering how my fellow Atlanteans would reply to this argument I think I did a fairly good job in elucidating the differences between physical force and "economic coercion," but I could have done better. What would you guys have said in this situation?” I find that well-constructed examples and counter-examples can sometimes communicate the distinction better than abstract arguments, or at least serve as an introduction to them. Many years ago, during a college seminar on Marxism, my professor gave the following popular example: Suppose I am stranded in the middle of the desert, and I run across the only oasis in my vicinity. It is privately owned, and the owner tells me that I must (a) work for him at fifty cents per hour, or (b) stay off his property. And since he is charging $5,000 for the food and water that are required to sustain my life during the remainder of my journey, this means that I am being economically coerced -- indeed, enslaved -- since I must either accept the offer or face certain death. I responded by changing one condition of the example. The same oasis owner has more money than he knows what to do with, so (as before) he tells me that I must take a job to earn my supplies, but he now offers me $10,000 per hour instead of fifty cents. So now I can earn what I need in 30 minutes (during which the owner, who is starved for intellectual companionship, only requests that I talk to him about philosophy) and even walk away with a handsome surplus. The professor then protested, "But that's not a realistic example." "Neither is your example," I replied, "but that's not the point. The purpose of the example is to isolate the key elements that generate what you call economic coercion. If your example, in which I am economically coerced to work for 50 cents an hour is valid, then so is my example where I am economically coerced to work for $10,000 per hour by discussing philosophy. I didn't change anything essential in the hypothetical; all I did was change some details, which should be irrelevant to the point you are making. So if you claim that my example doesn't qualify as economic coercion, then why doesn't it? I will die just as surely if I turn down the offer for $10,000 as if I refuse to work for fifty cents. What's the difference? According to your definition, I am being coerced in either case -- but it sounds a little strange to say that I am being 'forced' to work at the higher wage. You are loading the example in your favor by including very low wages, but the amount of the wage is immaterial to the point you wish to make. Surely the validity of your argument should not depend solely on its emotional appeal, so it should make equal sense to take about a wage-slave who is forced to discuss philosophy at $10,000 per hour." I don't remember my exact words, of course, but the preceding is a fair representation of my argument. It took the discussion in some interesting directions that might otherwise have been overlooked – such as whether the CEO of a multinational corporation is also economically "coerced" to accept his multi-million dollar salary -- and the discussion ended when the Marxist professor said, "Well, I'll have to give some additional thought to your example." That's about as close to an unconditional surrender as a student is ever likely to get from a professor. Ghs From: BBfromM To: atlantis Subject: Re: ATL: sophistry Date: Fri, 27 Jul 2001 04:40:33 EDT A. D. Smith wrote "Recently, I was arguing with an anarcho-socialist friend about fundamental political and ethical principles. I had stated that I was opposed to the use of force in social relations (except in retaliation). He said that I was inconsistent in that I was not opposed to the use of "economic coercion" (e.g., the threat of firing someone) as well as physical force.” There is no such thing as "economic coercion." We owe it to people not to use force against them; we do not owe it to them to supply them with employment nor to keep them employed if we do not choose to. People have a right to seek jobs; they do not have a right to *have* jobs if the employer finds them unsuitable. So to threaten an employee with firing is in no sense of the term "coercion." The job is not his by right, but only by the decision of the owner of the business. Barbara From: "a.d. smith" To: "George H. Smith" Subject: Re: ATL: Re: sophistry Date: Fri, 27 Jul 2001 05:06:07 -0400 (EDT) On Fri, 27 Jul 2001, George H. Smith wrote: The example of the oasis brings up my friend's second basic argument --- the possibility that first-comers may claim all the natural resources in an area to the detriment of people who arrive in the area later. These people may hold their property without improving or with mixing only a token portion of their labor with it.(I pointed that historically most examples of land speculation of this type were made possible by the state, but his point was that even in a stateless society, this type of engrossing could be possible. My reply was that under a system of competing governments, a protection agency that enforced an obviously illegitimate claim to unimproved natural resources would likely arose the anger of the community at large). From: "William Dwyer" To: Atlantis Subject: Re: ATL: Re: sophistry Date: Fri, 27 Jul 2001 09:34:02 -0700 a.d. smith wrote, >The example of the oasis brings up my friend's second basic argument --- the possibility that first-comers may claim all the natural resources in an area to the detriment of people who arrive in the area later. These people may hold their property without improving or with mixing only a token portion of their labor with it. > I fail to see how this is an argument against capitalism, since capitalism doesn't sanction this kind of unearned appropriation. In order to acquire property under capitalism, you need to mix your labor with a previously unowned resource, or acquire the property from its previous owner by mutual consent. Obviously, there are issues with regard to the specifics of acquiring previously unowned land, but these cannot form the basis of any serious argument against capitalism. I n any case, the Coase Theorem in economics (for which Ronald Coase was given the Nobel Prize) states that if property rights are clearly defined and transaction costs are low, resources will tend to flow towards their highest valued uses, regardless of who owns them. In other words, even assuming that people could appropriate land without mixing their labor with it, in a free-market economy, the land could be bid away in exchange for money. The highest bid would tend to reflect its most profitable uses, by reflecting what consumers would be most willing to spend their money on. Thus, under capitalism, it doesn't make a whole lot of difference how the property is initially acquired. It will eventually be allocated toward its most popular and desired uses. If laissez-faire capitalism existed in Latin America, for example, the large landed aristocracies would not last, because they would either be induced to sell their land at an exorbitant price, or to use it in ways that are the most profitable and consumer-friendly. Bill
  18. 2 points
    Argument by assertion? Nope, just a plain old assertion. I note the conspicuous absence of any sort of reason for this naked assertion! The President, by his own words, was educated at the best schools, has the best words, the best comprehension of events, the best living spaces, the best clothes, the best lawyers, the best employees, the best mind, all the trappings of life "at the top." That is the antithesis of elite. Of course, just because you incorporate an elite mind, an elite understanding, an elite-class persuasive appeal, and an Ur-elite self-record of being right about everything that matters ... and just because somebody sees an Emperor's crown your head, as the apex man, the elite hotelier and a person who builds towers that do not fall down(!), none of this suggests a man sees himself as elite. And I, of course, am Marie of Roumania.
  19. 2 points
    Oh, yes, there's the haughty bitterness of the pretend elite! 'Member back just a few years ago when those same illiterate derelicts were democrats? They were darlings back then. Common man heroes. The salt of the earth. They were the real people, the lifeblood of the party, the core and reason of its existence. Now? The party has decided that there are better sob stories to be taken advantage of for the sake of elite power, so screw the worthless idiot common men. Let's mock them now. They're not obeying us, their betters. How dare they. They were always losers, but they should have been loyal and obedient to us even when we stopped campaigning to them and pretending to look out for their interests. Riffraff. Rabble. Cattle in need of our elite, learned prod. Oh, oh, how shall I put it delicately, Lord Plimperton, but they are very much like the dumb beasts of the fields, and even have an unpleasant odour about them. Ish, ish, I say.
  20. 2 points
    I have to take issue here, because you at least twice decided to talk about me instead of the subject at issue, and your personal comments were grossly wrongful. The issue was not Q, about which I know nothing and care nothing. But your comments were about me, and if you wish to be taken seriously by me at least here, you should retract them.
  21. 2 points
    Here's an elegant response (video is in her tweet, so I cut it from the quote). With love from this lady: Michael
  22. 2 points
    Bill is a kind and thoughtful soul. Annnnd he is freeking smart!
  23. 2 points
    "They think his tactic is his strategy". Good one, Michael. "They" can only see a lesser, intermediate 'sacrifice' (towards ultimate gain) to be the greater - or only one that matters. Short-term thinking? "Concrete bound"? (Altruists, accustomed to sacrifice?)
  24. 2 points
  25. 2 points
    The Sublime, always fun! But so complicated in explanation. (e.g. the Tate site). And amazing, the associations you can pick up in a word. The man said it above, it doesn't exist in nature, it is all in our heads. But more to the point, can the Sublime exist in the art -of- Nature? In the hands of a master, of course, overpowering (etc., etc.) emotions will be evoked by such-n-such a grand subject, stylized with great talent. If the artist's motivation was inspired by notions of "the Sublime", well that's fine. In the end, there are exultant/terrifying themes presented in the work ... and then, in our heads. We need to steer out of Kant's reach and retake the Sublime as the significant, personal and real emotional cause it is, I think. "I have found it necessary to de-mystify the Sublime in order to raise it" - Kant might have said. (He didn't and wouldn't).