Thursday, January 31, 2008

Classroom Management Through the Free Market

Here is proof positive that free markets create ethical behavior in people. I have said before that you can either engage people in economic (If you do something good for me, I'll do something good for you) or in governmental (unless you do something good for me, I'll do something bad to you) interactions. Those are the choices if you want to interact with someone. I love that there is evidence that this works in classroom management.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Some Thoughts on Florida

I you really want to understand human nature, just take a look at what happened with Guiliani in Florida. Here in the U.S. we like to reckon ourselves real individualists. And if most Americans were, Guiliani would have probably won in Florida. He was, after all, polling ahead of all the other candidates. Further, he had been spending a lot of time and money in Florida campaigning while the rest of the candidates were off in other states. So what happened?

The people of Florida didn't want to support a loser. Guiliani had vote numbers below those of Ron Paul in every race up to Florida. WHen it came time to vote, the people of Florida said, "Well, I like him, and I did support him, but I'm not sticking my neck out for him. I want my vote to count." The funny thing is, so many people did that, that the votes for Guiliani ceased to count. The people of Florida didn't want to be different from everyone else, so they voted for Romney and McCain. As a result, they have made an exciting race much more boring.

With the win in Florida, McCain is finally what the media keeps telling us he is: the front-runner. Up to Florida, he was nothing of the sort. In fact, after New Hampshire and up to Florida, Romney has had the most delegates. But the news media never said that he was the front-runner. Makes you wonder why they're all such McCain fans. Until Florida, the claim that McCain was the front-runner was an out-and-out lie. Why doesn't anybody say that? Well, their lie has now become the truth -- in a sort of perverted postmodernism where if you say it enough times, people will believe it, and when enough people believe it, it will be true. Works in politics and garnering votes -- but it's a disaster when they try to apply it to empirical reality, like the economy.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Liberals Learning Lesson on Clintons?

Looks like even the liberals have learned about how the Clintons really are. Even a few feminists (aside from the frauds at NOW) realize that Hillary is not the real deal.

On Student-Centered Education

We hear talk about how education needs to be "student-centered" -- as though education could be anything else. What, then, is meant by the term "student-centered"? Among the postmodernists who came up with it, it typically means "giving the students what they want, even if it's not good for them." This isn't student-centered. This is student-undermining.

Being student-centered does not mean students should get to decide anything regarding the way the class is structured, now the teacher teaches, what the assignments are, or when and how often they are assigned. Naturally, the teacher should teach in such a way that (s)he reaches the students, but rarely do the students themselves know what works best for them. More, they do not know what they need to know or what assignments they need to learn it. If they did, they wouldn't have to be in the class.

Being student-centered does not mean anyone gets treated differently due to circumstances. If you signed up for the class, you decided you had the time to do the assignments on time.

Being student-centered does not mean you give in to their whining. It does not mean you even put up with their whining. There should be a strict no-whining policy that, when violated, results in expulsion from the class. There is a huge difference between legitimate complaints and whining, and administrators need to learn the difference.

Most of all, being student-centered does not mean you should refrain from criticizing -- or even shaming -- the student. If you cannot correct, you cannot teach.

Monday, January 28, 2008

NOW Exposes Their Sexism

AH, it gets better and better . . . The National Organization for Women -- you know, the group who think that life in America is the worst in the world for women, but won't say a word about atrocities against women in Saudi Arabia or Sudan -- has come out attacking Ted Kennedy. Not for being a womanizer and, most likely, having murdered a women by drowning her. Oh, no. They are attacking him because they are one of the most sexist organizations in the world. That is to say, they are attacking him for supporting a black man instead of a white woman for President. I would like to publicly thank NOW for showing that they are sexist pigs and hypocrites whose only interests are in seizing power over men -- not equality (which by any rational measure they have in this country, under the law) with men. We have already seen, with their disgusting silence on the plight of women in places like Saudi Arabia and Sudan, that they are less interested in making the world better for women than they are to tear down the fist and only culture in the world to grant women any kinds of rights -- the Western culture -- and now we can see them for their true colors, for being the sexist organization they are.

I particularly love this quote by NOW: "This latest move by Kennedy is so telling about the status of and respect for women’s rights, women’s voices, women’s equality, women’s authority and our ability – indeed, our obligation — to promote and earn and deserve and elect, unabashedly, a president that is the first woman after centuries of men who ‘know what’s best for us.’”

What a load of crap. How about if I change the wording slightly and apply it to a supporter of Clinton who "should" be a supporter of Obama (and what a load of nonsense that is -- like these people have a right to certain people's support)? It will be equally justified: "This latest move by BET founder Bob Johnson is so telling about the status of and respect for blacks' rights, blacks' voices, blacks' equality, blacks' authority and our ability – indeed, our obligation — to promote and earn and deserve and elect, unabashedly, a president that is the first black after centuries of whites who ‘know what’s best for us.’”

On the other hand, I do have to admit that I love all of this. Postmodern pluralist neo-Marxist liberalism is finally striking it's own tail and killing itself with its own poison. They are exposing to everyone just how deeply racist and sexist the Left truly is. Maybe in the aftermath they will stop being so smug and holier-than-thou when they are in fact the very things they accuse everyone else of being.

Democratic Party Race

So race has finally been injected into the presidential race -- by Bill Clinton, whose comments about South Carolina and Jesse Jackson more than suggested, "Well, what do you expect from a bunch of blacks? They'll vote for anyone who's black." I guess the fact that the white vote was divided up almost evenly among Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Edwards (with a slight edge for Edwards) is irrelevant. That does suggest, with 80% of the African-American vote going for Obama, that African-Americans likely took race into consideration even more than did whites in South Carolina. However, please note that Bill Clinton is suggesting that this occurred primarily due to racism on the part of African-Americans. A Democrat is accusing African-Americans of racism. That should go over well with the African-American community.

Of course, one could argue, "Well, isn't that in fact the case? Aren't African-Americans voting for Obama because he's black?" That is undoubtedly true for some -- just as it was undoubtedly true that some whites voted not so much for Edwards or Clinton, but against Obama. I would even suggest that Edwards' good showing among whites (and, I would guess, mostly white men) stems more from both racism and sexism among SC Democrats than the popularity of Edwards. Unfortunately, that's an exit poll that won't be conducted, and would likely not result in many honest answers. But to say that African-Americans as a group voted for Obama primarily because he was black and not because of what he is running on is stereotyping African-Americans as a group. Looks like the Clintons are showing their true colors -- or, their color-consciousness. It's good to see the underlying racism within the Democratic party and their fundamental beliefs finally rising to the surface for all to see.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Education -- Purchasing versus Earning

When someone buys something, they are happy with their purchase if they actually buy what they think they are buying. If reality does not match expectations, the consumer is naturally unhappy with their purchase.

What is it university students think they are purchasing when they to go a university? What do the universities think they are selling?

Purchasing versus Earning -- the university merges the two, which is creating confusion as students increasingly think they are purchasing a degree rather than purchasing the chance to gain knowledge that will earn them a degree. The university thinks the students are purchasing access to knowledge so they may earn a degree. One earns a degree by proving one has gained the knowledge one has purchased.

Students think companies want people with degrees. Companies need to make t clear that they want people who have the knowledge the degree says they have and not just a degree. Indeed, they are trying to send that very signal because, as more degrees are given to people who do not have the knowledge, more advanced degrees are becoming required by companies.

Therefore we need stronger, not weaker, collaboration and communication between business and academia so that business can more clearly communicate that they want people with knowledge, not just degrees -- that they want people with a full university education.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Synopsis of "Hef's Bunnies"

Would anyone here want to watch a play like the one I will describe below? Why or why not?

“Hef’s Bunnies” is a satirical comedy in one act. Two rangers are setting cat traps on one of the Florida keys to trap cats to protect an endangered species of rabbit known as Hefner’s Rabbit, named after Hugh Hefner, who supplied the research money that resulted in the discovery of this new species. As the men are setting the traps, animal rights activists arrive to protest their trapping the cats. The T.V. news media shows up, invited by the animal rights activists. Then a group of environmentalists arrive to protest the animal rights activists. As everyone is destroying the environment of the island and preventing the rangers from doing their jobs, a group of armed Playboy Bunnies arrive to save the day, though the day is actually saved because the wife of one of the environmentalists is pregnant with children by two of the animal rights activists. With the leadership of the animal rights activists gone, and the news media men seduced away by the Bunnies, the environmentalists leave, and the rangers can get back to work, protected by two remaining, armed Bunnies. The play is designed to build and build without audience reprieve, as more and more characters fill the stage.

CHARACTERS (In Order of Appearance)

Ranger Rick
Ranger Peter
Adolph – leader of Americans Need Animals League
Karl – member of ANAL
Kitty – member of ANAL
Animal Rights Activists – members of ANAL
Dick Jockman – a reporter
T. V. News Crew
Al – leader of the Pure Environment for National and International Security group
Bobby, Junior – member of PENIS
Eunice – member of PENIS and wife of B.J.
Environmentalists – members of PENIS
Bella – leader of Hefner’s Playboy Bunnies
Diana – a Playboy Bunny
Gretchen – a Playboy Bunny
Muffie – a Playboy Bunny
Playboy Bunnies

Friday, January 25, 2008

Billionaires Biting the Hand That Fed Them

Lawrence Kudlow has an excellent article about some anti-capitalism comments made by Bill Gates. He also points out that George Soros and Warren Buffett have also been anti-capitalism in their rhetoric. Which only makes me wonder why it is that these billionaires are complaining about the very system that made them billionaires. One could by cynical and suggest that they are just saying, "Now that I've got mine, screw everyone else." Or one could suggest they are being more insidious than that and are coming out against capitalism because capitalism is the best way for competition to come along and threaten their ongoing moneymaking. Any laws that are essentially anti-capitalist would work to preserve the status quo and protect the current crop of billionaires from competition. At least, that's been the outcome most of the time in history when interventionist laws have been passed. Bill Gates has been laughing all the way to the bank ever since the Clinton administration went after Microsoft on anti-trust violations. The result of the feds going after Microsoft was a stock market crash that eliminated half of Gates' competition. The debt incurred by those companies foolish enough to have brought the suit against Microsoft finished bankrupting most of them. It hurt Microsoft for a few months, but over the years, the company has more than made the money back -- and all without any real competition. The feds took care of all of that for them.

I find it suspicious that those who have made billions, once they have made their billions, suddenly gain such wisdom about what is best for everyone else. It's not the same formula the worked for them, of course, but something else. Something that, historically, has squandered the wealth of those nations wise enough to have had mostly free markets at one time. If Bill Gates and Warren Buffett want to give their money away, that's their business. It's their money. Personally, I think their money would be better spent opening businesses in the very countries they want to help. Or, just as helpful, they should use their money to get property rights protections in the poorest countries so it will be possible for people to open and keep their own businesses. But using that money to campaign against the only system known to man to have ever produced the kind of wealth as free markets in open societies with rule of law and protection of property rights have produced is about the worst use of that money one can imagine.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Musharraf, the Whiny Petty Dictator

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf lashed out at the West, calling us intellectually arrogant and saying "we believe in constitution, we know how to run government, we are not such clueless people who do not know how to run a country, we have our own brains." Well, the last is certainly true, but I have yet to see any evidence of the first three. Dictators show no respect for constitutions, and I've seen no evidence that he respect anything of the sort. And just because you know how to rule with an iron fist, that does not mean you know how to govern. Governing and ruling are two different things. And I would say that anyone who presides over a country where assassination is the rule, where most of the people are oppressed -- at least, where there isn't complete anarchy -- and where they are constantly battling people trying to overthrow the government while fearing military overthrow of whatever government may be in place at any given time doesn't know a damn thing about how to run a country. I do agree that the people of Pakistan have their own brains -- and as soon as there is a real government in place that actually respects the rule of law and which defends the rights and freedoms of its people, that brain power will be released and Pakistan will be an economic and cultural powerhouse. But so long as Pakistan is ruled by petty dictators like Musharraf, it won't be, and those brains will continue to be wasted.

Of course, that's just the fact-based opinion of a arrogant Western intellectual.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Political Labels

The new book by Jonah Goldberg, "Liberal Fascism," has gotten the country talking about political labels. We get our labels all confused in this country. Originally, a conservative was a royalist, and a liberal was for free markets. When the French Revolution occurred, the royalists sat on the right of the parliament, while the revolutionaries -- who were in favor of egalitarianism and other ideals we would now recognize as socialist -- sat on the left. This is the origin of modern-day Left and Right distinctions. Thus, the Right became associated with conservatism, as both were royalists in origin. But what we had here was a tripartite division: Right, Left, and liberal. The Left and the Right both believed in strong central governments -- they only disagreed about leadership, the relevance of hierarchy, and the importance of religion.

This division was found in Europe, and a different politics was occurring in the U.S. The U.S. was founded as a liberal state, so in the U.S., a conservative was in fact a liberal. In reality, things were muddier than that. The Republican Party was founded on opposition to the spread of slavery and support for a stronger federal government. The Democratic party at that time was for state's rights and was more federalist and conservative/liberal in the traditional American sense, though also illiberal in their support for slavery. The Republican Party remained progressive-populist for quite a while, with Teddy Roosevelt being a prime example of that progressive-populism. The Democrats began flirting with fascism with Wilson, and even more so with FDR, who is the one who really set the Democrats on the Leftward path. However, both the Republicans and the Democrats were essentially interventionist-Keynseans. There is little domestically Nixon did that the Democrats wouldn't love. On the other hand, Kennedy pushed for massive tax cuts, which were delivered by Johnson. Goldwater introduced to the Republican Party what we now know as conservatism, which was really neo-classical liberalism. Those ideas are what won Reagan the White House. The Democrats positioned themselves against Reagan, and thus have come out as "liberals" -- really, Leftists -- versus Reagan's conservatism.

So where does that leave us now? Well, the Democrats are clearly all progressive-liberal-Leftists, while Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Rudy Giuliani, and Fred Thompson are all conservatives-neo-classical liberals, and John McCain and Mike Huckabee are both populists. If anyone is really a member of the Right, it is McCain and Huckabee.

Getting Paid to Get Tutored

Should schools pay students to go to tutoring? This is something a Georgia school district is trying. Show up for tutoring, and you get $8 an hour.

What is the goal here? Ideally, it should be to get students to make better grades and graduate. Wouldn't it make more sense, then, to pay for outcome rather than for process? We are paying students for "intention" -- they showed up for tutoring, so they intended to do well -- rather than actual results. Of course, if we are paying students, they aren't really intending to do well so much as intending to get paid. I can hear the students now -- younger versions of a student I had last semester, who said to me "I'm not here to learn anything about interdisciplinary studies, I'm in here so I can graduate" -- saying, "I'm not hear to learn anything, I'm here to get paid." And if they don't study, what are you going to do? Fire them?

If we turned it around and paid students for outcome, I can see all kinds of problems. Such a plan would be seen as "unfair" because smart kids would naturally do better and, thus, make more money. You would also have short-sighted college-bound students wanting easy grades for easy money taking easy classes that wouldn't prepare them for college. One could solve that by making the academic classes worth more, but then we get back to the former problem. Also, I would argue that to pay students for doing well, the difficulty factor would have to be increased dramatically. Otherwise, we would just be giving money way to no real purpose.

It's good that people are thinking of different ways to improve education in this country, but I'm not sure this is quite going to get it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Memory and Imagination

A new study shows that we use the same mechanisms of the brain to imagine as we do to create memories. So the Greeks had it right: memory IS mother of the Muses. The study shows too that as we remember less, our imagination decreases as well. This suggest something regarding education. You cannot be creative unless you have something in your head -- that is, you have to have content, something remembered. More, this suggests that the more you know (remember), the more imaginative you will be. Thus, the current trend in process-oriented, contentless education to let kids be more "imaginative" is having the opposite effect. Am I surprised? Not at all. You can't think without objects of thought, and you can't create without having things to put together. You can't imagine without memory. If we want our students to be more imaginative, we need to stop focusing on "imagination" and instead focus on teaching them lot and lots of things so that they will have something to imagine in the first place. I certainly see this with myself. I go through cycles of absorption of more new information and creation of more new works, whether scholarly or artistic. Right now I'm going through an artistic phase, but one that is informed by more knowledge of play structures and plots, resulting in my beginning to work on a new play. This is my third play. The first was a tragedy, "The Existentialists," and the second was a comedy, "Hef's Bunnies." This one, currently untitled, is a "romance" in the Shakespearean tradition (vs. his comedies, tragedies, and history plays). I also have plots for other plays, including another tragedy. If the past is any guide to the future, I will create until I fill drained, then I will fill myself up again by reading more and more until I'm filled up again, and pour myself out into more works. If only I had a "secretarial phase" that I went through, I could probably get a few more of these things published than I have.

The Fountainhead Movie

This weekend I got my wife to watch "The Fountainhead" with me. I've had the movie for years -- in fact, it's on VHS -- but it's been a while since I saw it (even longer since I read the book). As i was watching the movie, it became rather clear to me that the reason I don't have a job in my field is the same reason why Roark couldn't work in his field and eventually had to work as a day laborer. I sat there and heard Gary Cooper say almost word for word things I had been saying about why I can no longer be a teacher. I wonder if it is possible for a man of integrity to begin teaching, consider the classes we are made to begin teaching when we are hired at the university level. Certainly at higher levels, where you can choose what classes you want to teach and how you want to teach them, a person of integrity can do just fine. But the universities have become so corrupt that anyone who wants to actually teach students any sort of content will be run out -- or be put under so much pressure that he will quit of his own accord. This latter is what happened to me recently.

In art, it's easy to understand arguments regarding the integrity of the work. Architecture was a good choice for Ayn Rand, as it was both artistic and practical. In a sense, education is the same way. There is an art to it, but it has to be practical as well. Roark could wait for people to come to him, but it's another thing to have people come to me as a teacher. Perhaps if I can publish books, people will come to me. But my work and my name have to get out there for people to even know about me. Roark in this sense has it easy: he has actual physical buildings out there where people can see them and make their own judgement. In a sense, this blog is a virtual edifice of my construction -- but virtual edifices are harder to see than those made of stones and steel.

Perhaps one day I will have the same kinds of students of integrity as Roark had customers of integrity. But until that time comes, and I can make my living at it, I cannot see myself teaching. To paraphrase Roark, I would rather work as a day laborer than sacrifice my integrity as a teacher. When I have to stand in front of a classroom of people who have no interest in learning, I sacrifice my integrity as a teacher. I thought the one or two per class who did want to learn were enough. It turns out that they are not, as the majority will complain and campaign against you until you either give in, or quit. And that is why I will no longer teach.

"Slowing of Black Progress"

Gary Becker gives his own, brilliant, state of the dream. The final paragraph is very telling. If African-Americans had more choices -- more capitalism -- in their lives, they would be much better off. Too bad their self-appointed leaders have been pushing socialism, keeping many of them from rising up to their full potential. But I should not be surprised, because what would Jesse Jackson have to do if social equality were achieved? This is no doubt the motivation behind his lack of support for Barack Obama -- wouldn't the American people electing an African-American President be a refutation of him and his power? With an African-American at the very top of government, what could Jackson complain about? But don't worry, Jackson will still be alright -- he'll still make a ton of money getting white-owned businesses to donate money to his group by making threats of false accusations of racial discrimination. I guess extortion isn't a crime whose legality is exclusive to governments.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Report on the State of the Dream

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Let us see how his dream is coming along:

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.""

Strides have been made, and steps have been taken back. Do we all have equality under the law? The federal and state governments have put in racial quotas, taxes different groups at different rates, gives money to some groups, but not to others, and has laws on the books written in such a way that they can pick and choose when and how to enforce it. Nonetheless we are seeing more social equality -- that is, more equality among individuals. So King has been quite successful here.

"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood."

The demands for continued white quilt and reparations for the distant descendants of slaves continues to make this difficult at best. Go to a high school lunch room, and you will see that neither group sit at the same lunchroom table, let alone the table of brotherhood. Still, strides have been made socially. It is difficult for people to overcome their natural aversion to people not in their group -- racism is deep, and goes back to our tribalist roots. Still, the U.S. has done more to get people to sit down together at the table of brotherhood than has any other country. We still have a ways to go, but we should be proud (for a change) of how far we've come.

"I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice."

I lived in Mississippi for almost two years, and I'm afraid that state is still far behind the rest of the country.

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Sadly, this is still not the case. Racial quotas at universities and in hiring laws have made it quite clear that the government is more interested in the color of skin, not the content of character. The members of the Rainbow Coalition, whose leader was once a follower of King, demands that we judge people by the color of their skin and not the content of their character. In fact, if you are of good character anymore, that is a certain way to prevent yourself from getting a job. Even now it seems that a black man of good character is probably going to lose to a white woman of bad character. I have already addressed the fact that when it comes to true diversity -- diversity in ideas -- the GOP field has far more diversity than does the DNC field. Liberals especially in this country don't care at all about character; what matters to them is your skin color, gender, sexual orientation, etc.

"I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers."

Still waiting . . . Segregated lunch room tables -- self-segregated lunch room tables -- makes our children holding hands difficult at best. When you have black children being accused of "acting white" or "acting Asian" if they're smart, study, go to college, or have white or Asian friends; when you have Hispanics being called "coconuts" for studying and going to college and having white friends; when you have white kids being accused of "acting black" if they like black music or have black friends -- then you have a hard time still seeing each other as brothers and sisters.

"I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.""

This is an egalitarian dream -- and this is the part that is least likely to occur, being impossible. Communism doesn't work. You can have government-forced egalitarianism or freedom, but you can't have both. Beauty is found in contrasts. The Yosemite Valley is incredibly beautiful, with its mountains and valleys and crooked places. A perfectly flat plain, where everything is straight and there are no contrasts, becomes dull and monotonous and ugly after a while. A lovely piece of rhetoric, this -- but this is the one place where the dream could lead (and historically has led) to a nightmare. So let us leave this last bit to the dustbin of history, where it belongs, and concentrate more on overcoming our governments' attempts to subvert, in the name of King's dream, the very dream he tried to realize.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Quiz Time!

Okay, everybody, time for a quiz! (Everyone boos and hisses)

What political party historically believed in

free health care
guaranteed jobs
confiscation of inherited wealth
spending vast sums on public education
inserting the state into every nook and cranny of daily life
prohibiting smoking
supporting abortion
supporting euthanasia
supporting gun control
providing generous pensions for the elderly
maintaining a strict racial quota system in the universities
promoting campus speech codes
encouraging organic farming
promoting alternative medicine
animal rights
socialism, loathing the free market?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Obama on Clinton's and Edwards' Miss America Answers

You have got to love Barack Obama's take on the superficial, Miss America answers Clinton and Edwards gave to the question about what their weaknesses were. Obama gave an honest, sincere answer. For that he deserves kudos and much credit -- though it won't win him any votes in the Democratic Party. Clinton's answer? "My biggest weakness is I'm so impatient to bring about real change in America." What a crock of b.s.! Good for Obama on calling her out on it. And Edward's answer was no better: "My biggest weakness is I'm just so passionate about poor people and helping them." Bull.

If Edwards had been honest, his answer would have been, "My biggest weakness was my tendency to sue doctors and hospitals, thus driving up health care costs so that my colleague, Hillary Clinton, here, would have an excuse to attempt to socialize medicine."

If Clinton would have answered honestly, she would have said, "Philanderers."

Again, good for Obama for not playing these ridiculous games. If that man knew anything at all about economics, I'd vote for him.

On the Value of the Humanities (A Response to Stanley Fish)

A few weeks back, the literary theorist Stanley Fish wrote an article titled Will the Humanities Save Us?. His conclusion was that they would not. Why? After first pointing out that, as regards the humanities making us good people,
It’s a pretty idea, but there is no evidence to support it and a lot of evidence against it. If it were true, the most generous, patient, good-hearted and honest people on earth would be the members of literature and philosophy departments, who spend every waking hour with great books and great thoughts, and as someone who’s been there (for 45 years) I can tell you it just isn’t so. Teachers and students of literature and philosophy don’t learn how to be good and wise; they learn how to analyze literary effects and to distinguish between different accounts of the foundations of knowledge. (Fish)
he then trots out the old Kantian "art for art's sake" argument for the humanities as a whole:
To the question “of what use are the humanities?”, the only honest answer is none whatsoever. And it is an answer that brings honor to its subject. Justification, after all, confers value on an activity from a perspective outside its performance. An activity that cannot be justified is an activity that refuses to regard itself as instrumental to some larger good. The humanities are their own good. There is nothing more to say, and anything that is said . . . diminishes the object of its supposed praise. (Fish)
As to the last statement, all I have to say is: what a load of crap!

Well, that's not all I have to say. I've seen a bumper sticker that could be applied to Fish and the humanities: "Lord, save us from your followers." Only a postmodernist like Fish would or could think that claiming something ennobles people diminishes it. How is something made less valuable because it can be a means to an end, and is not an end in itself? Fish betrays his teleology here (something postmodernists like to pretend they're against). When Fish declares he doesn't have to justify what he does, that arrogant, dismissive, elitist attitude helps no one, especially the case for the humanities. If you say over and over, as so many postmodernists do, that something has no value, don't be surprised when people believe you after a while.

In Ion, Plato has Socrates ask Ion, a professional reciter of Homer's poetry, what value there is in the way he "knows" Homer's poetry. Socrates proceeds to prove that a doctor would know more than Ion about the medical practices in Homer's works than would Ion, a horseman would know more about what Homer said about riding horses, etc. Socrates keeps asking Ion what, exactly, he was an expert at when it came to Homer, and in the end Ion is shown up for being a fool, knowing nothing. Fish is the same kind of fool, as are too many postmodern literary theorists, who are concerned only with their so-called "disciplinary knowledge." But what is it knowledge of? Fish says that they "analyze literary effects," but wouldn't a cognitive psychologist do that better? Indeed, if you took all of the humanities, what could you possibly say that Fish is an expert at? What person from another discipline couldn't do a better job of explaining any one of the humanities than Fish? or any other literary theorist who is only a literary theorist? So what does a theorist really do? Wouldn't it be better to have experts in other fields analyze poets, philosophers, etc.? Perhaps only interdisciplinarians should be hired to teach literature, as there is in fact a better chance that someone will learn something form the various works in the humanities.

In the first section quotes, Fish does make the valid observation that we do not find a lot of good people in the humanities. He uses this as proof that the humanities cannot be used for such purposes as to teach people to be wise and good. What he doesn't consider is that this is perhaps because the humanities have been taken over by people like Stanley Fish. The postmodern left has taken over the humanities, and one thing that unifies them is their rejection of value. Thus, Fish ignores the fact that postmodern liberals like the ones he hangs around with close themselves off with their anti-value, anti-meaning, anti-responsibility, anti-truth, deconstructed world view from such benefits as the humanities could bring them. We should not be surprised that such people are not exemplars of virtue, let alone wise. The Left, being generous with other people's money, but not their own, see theft as a virtue. These are, fundamentally, not good people. But that is not necessarily the fault of the humanities -- at least, not all of them, anyway.

At the same time, one could counter Fish by simply asking him whether or not his colleagues were racists, sexist, homophobes, or any of a number of things we would consider immoral. If humans are naturally these things (with culture reinforcing them), it seems odd that so many in the humanities would reject racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. Yet what else does literature do but put us in the shoes of the Other? How many of his colleagues have read stories of people of different races, ethnicities, religions, beliefs, sexual orientations, genders, etc.? Through this empathetic entering-in of the Other through literature we are made more moral. Does Fish reject this fact?

Plato recommends that the poets (or at least, certain poets) be banned from the city -- his metaphor for the soul. Actually, he's recommending we be selective. If the readers of Marx, Foucault, Derrida, and Rorty are rotten people, that suggests we might want to be careful about reading such authors. If we were to find that those who read, say, the Bible, Thomas Aquinas, Aristotle, and Adam Smith tend to be good people, that would suggest we might want to know such authors quite well (and if the reverse is true, reverse it). While the humanities may not have had the kinds of effects the postmodern left would have liked for it to have had, that does not mean they have not had significant effects on the world. The structure of the U.S. Constitution is something which can be traced to the ideas of people like Locke and Aristotle. The humanities were one of the main driving forces in the changes that took place in the Renaissance. Of course, in the right hands, even those found in the first list can bear good fruit, while those in my second list, in the wrong hands, can lead to little or nothing. However, if we see a trend among those who read certain writers, we should perhaps pay attention.

Fish goes on to suggest that all works of the humanities are good for are textual analysis. This is an elitist, snobbish attitude I reject. It is designed to exclude people from the field. Certainly I have been trained in textual analysis -- and there is an appropriate audience for it. But is that what literature, for example, is for? You would have to be as ahistorical as Fish to think that, because the history of the humanities shows that every one of the things we call the humanities once had a great deal of use. Indeed, the fact that they exist is itself suggestive that they have some sort of use, as they take up a lot of time and energy, and evolution isn't that wasteful.

One could, and should, set up humanities courses that are more than "let's find the word repetitions to see how meaning is made" and deconstruction of texts to "prove" they are about nothing more than power structures. When we set them up this way, as they have been in our universities, we get what Fish says the humanities give us: nothing. Sure, we learn how the text means, but we have given up on learning what it means, and how we can use them to transform our lives. To pick a minor example, if literature were not educative, I would not have been told by a German that I was the most European American she had ever met -- and I would not have been meet with such surprise in Greece when people learned I was an American. Philosophy made me a libertarian. My ethics have changed with exposure to the humanities. Perhaps this happened precisely because I came to the humanities as educative rather than as something merely to be broken apart. Give me a class (and nobody seems willing to do so precisely because this is what I would do), and I will have a class of people learning something from humanities texts that will in fact transform our lives. If we see stories as "what if" scenarios, we can learn something from them that will help us to live our lives better. Teach people logic, and they will become more logical. Teach people ethics, and they will become more ethical. But we have to teach ethics believing in ethics. Let me conduct an ethics class the way I think it should be conducted, and it will come alive, and people will leave there changed by the experience. Instead, philosophy classes teach ethics as a dead subject, a historical curiosity. Ethics surveys do little but muddy the waters and make students wonder if there is any such thing as morality at all.

It's a shame Stanley Fish has the influence he has. He's ruining my field. Worse, his and the influence of other postmoderns is what is keeping me from teaching in my field. No department will hire me because of my views, because I disagree with their contentless educational system and theories, and because of the fact that their departments are shrinking precisely because the universities are taking them seriously when they say there's no value to what humanities professors do. If that's true, why waste money on them?

Well, on that latter part I do have to agree. The universities should fire everyone who thinks that what they do doesn't have any value and has nothing to teach anyone. If you don't do anything of value to anyone, why should anyone give you anything of value, like a paycheck, in exchange?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

For an Idea of Just How Big the U.S. Economy Is . . .

Have you ever wondered what country your state's GDP came closest to reproducing? Well, now you can know by going here.

Quiz Result

What is your political ideology?
Your Result: Libertarian

This quiz has defined you as a Libertarian. Keep in mind, this ideology can be applied to the right or left in the social sense. You believe in a minimal role of the government in solving problems and believe that the "Free market" can handle almost all economic situations.

Social Democrat
Communist/Radical Left
Fascist/Radical Right
What is your political ideology?
Make Your Own Quiz

No shock here.

Fun With Political Quizzes

85% Ron Paul
65% Mitt Romney
63% John McCain
63% Tom Tancredo
62% Mike Huckabee
62% Fred Thompson
46% Rudy Giuliani
43% Mike Gravel
42% Bill Richardson
39% Chris Dodd
37% Dennis Kucinich
31% Barack Obama
30% John Edwards
30% Hillary Clinton
30% Joe Biden

2008 Presidential Candidate Matching Quiz

This doesn't surprise me too much. As "liberal as I am on social issues, I would have expected at least one Democrat to have made it above at least one Republican, though.

On Bisexuality

There is new research that shows that bisexuality is real, and not merely a phase -- at least in women. Those of us who have more than a passing familiarity with our closest relatives -- the chimpanzees and bonobos -- already knew this. Bonobos especially are as a species bisexual in nature. Chimpanzees are less so, but human behavior tends to fall between that of chimpanzees and bonobos, though more on the side of chimpanzees overall (we're more aggressive, like chimpanzees). Bonobos use sex for everything -- to trade for something they want, as a replacement for aggression, etc.

The research in question, though, only goes so far as to suggest that bisexuality is an orientation, though they do note that there is some fluidity in female sexual identification. I am convinced that this fluidity is more pervasive than we think, and that various cultural norms have pushed humans into expressing our sexuality in more either-or fashion than we otherwise would. Certainly heterosexuality dominates as an overall sexual tendency, but I think it's a sort of off-center bell curve, with various levels of bisexuality along the curve. Homophobic reactions are typical in those who are in the mean of the bell curve, as the feelings are rare, but there, and can freak people out -- especially in anti-gay cultures. Very strongly heterosexual people would likely not be homophobic, as they are in no way "threatened" by such feelings, and are neither turned on nor disgusted by homosexuality (the disgust may, in fact, be the flip side of being turned on). Thus it seems to me most likely that our natural sexual orientation is along a continuum with the vast majority in the bisexual range, and few purely heterosexual or purely homosexual. However, our culture is one that insists that we be either-or, that we pick an absolute identity, and so there is a tendency for people to behave contrary to their orientation.
There is new research that shows that bisexuality is real, and not merely a phase -- at least in women. Those of us who have more than a passing familiarity with our closest relatives -- the chimpanzees and bonobos -- already knew this. Bonobos especially are as a species bisexual in nature. Chimpanzees are less so, but human behavior tends to fall between that of chimpanzees and bonobos, though more on the side of chimpanzees overall (we're more aggressive, like chimpanzees). Bonobos use sex for everything -- to trade for something they want, as a replacement for aggression, etc.

The research in question, though, only goes so far as to suggest that bisexuality is an orientation, though they do note that there is some fluidity in female sexual identification. I am convinced that this fluidity is more pervasive than we think, and that various cultural norms have pushed humans into expressing our sexuality in more either-or fashion than we otherwise would. Certainly heterosexuality dominates as an overall sexual tendency, but I think it's a sort of off-center bell curve, with various levels of bisexuality along the curve. Homophobic reactions are typical in those who are in the mean of the bell curve, as the feelings are rare, but there, and can freak people out -- especially in anti-gay cultures. Very strongly heterosexual people would likely not be homophobic, as they are in no way "threatened" by such feelings, and are neither turned on nor disgusted by homosexuality (the disgust may, in fact, be the flip side of being turned on).


While the votes don't count in Michigan (primarily because the Democratic Party's name is a misnomer -- they're actually anti-democratic), the Democrats who did vote show some troubling signs for Hillary Clinton, who did appear on the ballot, though Obama and Edwards did not. It seems 40% of Democratic voters would rather vote "uncommitted" than vote for HIllary Clinton. Sure, she still beat "uncommitted," but that's a lot of people who said, I'd rather vote against you."

In fact, I think we should have "none of the above" as a choice in every election. If "none of the above" wins, we have to have a whole new set of candidates -- and those who ran and lost to "none of the above" would be barred from that immediate re-run of the race (sure, let them try again next election cycle). Maybe we'd get someone worth voting for that way.

On Subsidies

Subsidies encourage you do do or make more of what is being subsidized. That is, after all, what subsidies are supposed to do. If you pay people to do something, and you pay them enough, they will do it.

Pay people not to grow crops, and they won't grow crops.

Pay people to grow more corn, and they will grow more corn.

Pay people to produce more milk, and they will raise more cows (and give them drugs to make more milk).

Pay people not to work, and they won't work.

Pay people money for each child they have, and give them more money over time for each child, and they will make more children.

Pay people to work more, and they will work more.

Pay people to act responsibly, and they will act responsibly.

Of course, not all payments are money (which I know is what you assumed up to this point, making the mistake that economics is about money, when it's not -- it's about value). We pay each other in different ways -- socially, with praise, with prestige, etc. If you really want to get people to do what you want, use a combination of reward for doing good and punishment for doing bad. Indeed, too often we reward the bad (subsidize it, in fact), and excuse it at the very least. Too often we even hear people say we shouldn't condemn the bad. Thus, bad behavior spirals out of control.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Free Speech Is No Laughing Matter

If there was any question about campaign finance "reform" being a violation of free speech, this decision that ads could not run to promote an anti-Clinton documentary should clinch it. Any judge who LAUGHS at the idea of protecting free speech should be removed from the bench and disbarred!

Oh No! Alien Ghosts!

If you want to see Tom Cruise blather on and on and say absolutely nothing about Scientology for 10 minutes, go to this website here. Methinks the little alien hostess ghostes were what were keeping his synapses firing in sync, and he needs to get them back.

Oh No! Alien Ghosts!

If you want to see Tom Cruise blather on and on and say absolutely nothing about Scientology for 10 minutes, go to this website here. Methinks the little alien hostess ghostes were what were keeping his synapses firing in sync, and he needs to get them back.

Brain Rewards Itself For Aggressive Behavior

The brain has a set of self-reward pathways that rewards itself for things it should do. Sex is one of those things, as is food. Now, it seems, aggression can be added to that list. This does not bode well for those who think we can just educate people not to be aggressive. It seems that to try to do so would be like trying to teach people not to want to have sex. Nor does this bode well for the anti-war crowd (not that I'm pro-war, mind you). This does suggest several things, however.

If the brain rewards itself for aggressive behavior, we need to not try to eliminate aggression (since that isn't an option), but rather channel it. Sports is a good way of doing this. Debate clubs can be another way. This could be a healthy way of channeling aggression and turning it into something productive. The same could be said to be true of participation in the market economy, where competition could be diverting aggression into productive areas. Perhaps the free market economy not only helps us turn greed into a social good (as Smith and Voltaire points out), but also turns aggression into the same social goods. We should thus beware of those ideologies that claim to eliminate aggression among people, as what they will really do is divert aggression into other outlets. If we don't understand this, those outlets can become even more destructive.

We are beginning to see how deeply, fundamentally wrong Leftist ideology is -- thanks in no small part to research in biology, evolution, and evolutionary psychology. If you combine an attempt to stifle aggression with the elimination of free markets and competition, what are you going to get? Aggression focused into less productive areas of life and people who will be more prone to accepting aggressive ideologies.

A Vision of the Huckabee Economy?

Do we really want Huckabee to do for the U.S. what he did for Arkansas? Manufacturing jobs dropped 20% during his Governorship, from 1996-2006. While it is true that the U.S. is less and less a manufacture-based economy, this isn't the kind of thing you want to see happen, especially if you're a skilled laborer.

We Mustn't Forget Our One True Savior, LBJ

Congressman Rangle, completely misinterpreting what Barack Obama said about MLK, Jr., is "setting the record straight" on the role of ubercompassionate white man LBJ in the civil rights movement. Well, since he's intent on setting the record straight, I suppose Congressman Rangel is now ready to thank the Republicans for being key players in the civil rights act, then. 65% of Republicans voted for the Civil Rights Act, but LBJ was only able to get 55% of Democrats on board. I suppose too that Rangel is ready to thank Nixon for Affirmative Action. Yes, Affirmative Action was a Republican idea. It was also a Republican -- Eisenhower -- who sent the National Guard in to protect the first African-American students to go to an all white school. Since Rangel is setting the record straight, I expect him to be saying these things next, and thanking the Republican Party for its long history of fighting for the rights of African Americans.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Lying with Statistics -- Using Soros Money

If you want to have an accurate study done, you have to make sure of a few things. 1) The researcher should be unbiased (or, if this is difficult, get two researchers, each with opposite biases to do it). 2) Keep the funding neutral -- the word "pattern" is derived from the word "patron," meaning that if someone receives money from someone else, we should not be surprised when the pattern of the work resembles that of the patron.

So we should not be surprised to learn that a study done of the number of deaths in Iraq since the advent of the war there with almost 50% of its funding from George Soros turns out to be more than 4 times higher than a report from a group that did not receive his funding. The Soros-funded group, led by an anti-war researcher, came up with 650,000 people killed, while the new research came up with 151,000 people killed. The Soros-funded group did its research by surveying "1,849 homes at 47 sites across Iraq, asking people about births, deaths and migration in their households." Without knowing the exact wording of the survey, it's hard to say how accurate it could possibly be. If they simply asked. "How many people have died in your family since 2003?" then we should not be surprised at such figures, as people are dying all the time -- of natural causes. This is how you lie with statistics. YOu ask that question, then put out a report saying, "Since 2003, 650,000 people have died in Iraq." This gets picked up as "Since 2003, 650,000 people have died in Iraq as a result of the war," and before long you have, "Since 2003, 650,000 people have been killed in Iraq as a result of the war." This is how the game of "Gossip" is played -- and Soros and his ilk know that.

No one should be celebrating the deaths of 151,000 or 650,000 people in a war -- but it doesn't make anyone's case to lie about the numbers -- or even to lie with statistics.

Test Positive For Drugs -- No Welfare For You!

California is oftentimes at the forefront of legislatively-driven social change. Often, it's not for the best. However, a new bill being proposed that would, if passed, require a drug test for those on public assistance seems to be in the right direction. One hopes that this law also states that the outcome of a positive result of a drug test would result in that person being denied any public assistance. I'm not too keen on alcoholics being given my tax money to be used on alcohol either, btw. But one step at a time.

My wife used to be a social worker, and she tells horror stories about what the vast majority of people who are on welfare actually do. Maybe I can get her to guest post on the subject. In the meantime, let me just say that if they worked as hard at getting and keeping a job, they would all have one, they would be quite successful, and the economy would be much better off (not to mention that I would have to pay less taxes to support people's choice to be lazy).

Obama's Stimulus Package

Barack Obama has come up with a "stimulus package" that involves tax cuts for the middle class, and outright payments of $250 for lower and lower-middle class and retired people (with a possible extra $250 later). It also includes an expansion of unemployment insurance, which will really only encourage people to remain unemployed longer, and hurt the economy. You may be sure that liberals will complain that the government can't afford to give away "its" money, thus increasing the deficit, or some such nonsense. I'm really not sure how much "stimulus" this would give -- not that I would mind getting $250 of my own money back in the mail.

There is also a brilliant political strategy going on here. Hillary Clinton too has a "stimulus package," which we will get only if she's elected President. Obama is trying to get his done now. It makes him look like he actually does care about helping the economy. Heck, maybe he does. That's good news, because that means that he should be able to be persuaded by economic arguments. Some free market people should get right on this and start trying to change his economic world view. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a Democrat whose economics is founded in the real world for a change?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Some Thoughts on Parenting

It seems to me that there are three kinds of parents. You have those who tell their children, "Don't go around thinking you're better than me." Then there are those who tell their children, "I'm working hard so that you can be better than me." And then there are those who don't seem to tell their children much of anything. I'm guessing the completely indifferent parents are rare, so I will deal instead with the first two.

We all know people who teach their children not to go around thinking that they (the children) are better than them (the parents). They may not verbalize it, but it is understood in body language, attitudes, etc. Oftentimes the local culture reinforces this attitude. You have Southerners accusing those who go off to get educated of trying to be a Yankee, you have Hispanics accusing their children of being "coconuts," etc. When groups do this to their children, we should not be surprised to find little social or educational progress within these groups.

Of course, sometimes you get someone to break out of the mold. That person may not themselves succeed, but they make it possible for their children to do so. My father is an excellent example of this. His father was one who had the attitude that you should not try to better yourself, but my father rebelled against this attitude. He only has an 8th grade education, and he has only been able to work in foundries and coal mines his entire life, but he did the best with what he had, and always encouraged my brother and me to get as much education as possible. Thus, I have a Ph.D. and my brother is working on his MFA.

It is when a child has parents who insist that they have a better life than their parents have had do you get advancement. Parents shouldn't envy their children and, thus, deprive them of a better life. Good parents want their children to do better, to have better, to be better. Thus it is a parent's obligation to find out what will actually result in this outcome, and do it. Parents need to find out how to get their children into the best schools -- or figure out how to help create good schools if there aren't any available (as there in fact are not in the U.S.). Parents need to make sure that their children are going to enter into a good and healthy society, a good and healthy economy, a good and healthy world. And that means, too, that they need to learn what will in fact help create all these things, no matter what they wish would do so.

Envy -- covetousness -- is the root of all evil. This is as true in society, economy, and the world as it is in the family.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Camille Paglia on Hillary Clinton

Never mind the fawning over Barack Obama, who is ideologically identical to Hillary Clinton, though a better person by far. And never mind the threat at the end to vote for HIllary if she becomes the DNC nominee. Camille Paglia gives a brilliant, devastating synopsis of who and what Hillary Clinton is. This is why I love Camille Paglia most of the time. I wish everyone knew this about Hillary. She'd be polling below Kucinich.

Woman Murders Toddler Because of Lies of Luddites

There have been completely baseless claims of a connection between autism and vaccination that were finally disproven recently in California, where the substance in question was eliminated from the vaccines, and autism rates continued to climb. There was never any evidence for the connection, but the claims were made anyway by medical Luddites who try to stand in the way of any sort of progress, and will even make up lies to do so. The result? A woman, feeling guilty for her child having autism, which she thought was caused by her getting a vaccine, murdered her child. Will the people who put this idea in her head be held responsible? Of course not.

Incidentally, the autism rate has gone up at the same rate mental retardation rates have gone down in this country. Sounds to me that we are getting better at diagnosing autism, so it appears autism rates are going up.

Finally, we know that autism is caused by at least two different kinds of mutations -- and these mutations, which are system-wide, occur well before anyone is given any vaccines.

Friday, January 11, 2008


Informal poll.

Would anyone here want to watch a play like the one I will describe below? Why or why not?

“The Existentialists” is a tragedy in three acts with a fourth act satyr play. Structurally, it has a Greek tragic macrostructure, with a Shakespearean microstructure. The first three acts focus on the French intellectual Jean-Paul Sartre, and his political evolution during and immediately after World War II. The fourth act satirizes Sartre’s philosophy and politics. All four are designed to work together, and cannot be separated if the full effect is to be achieved.

In Act I, Sartre, Camus, and Beauvoir are at work on the Resistance newspaper during the German Occupaiton of Paris. We see a Sartre who does not know how to act, but who is full of great ideals. His decision to give a speech when Nazi soldiers are on the way to raid the Resistance printing office costs them equipment, and almost costs them their lives. Sartre is primarily allowed to do this through the indulgence of the much more worldly Camus and Beauvoir.

In Act II, Sartre is visited by Karl Jaspers in his office. Jaspers tells of a confrontation he had with Heidegger over the Holocaust – and how Heidegger chose to ignore it. When Jaspers leaves, Sartre imagines conversing with Beauvoir and Heidegger over Communism. Sartre is beginning to find his own political position in opposition to Heidegger, and decides that the opposite of Nazism is Communism.

Act III begins with Michelle Vian visiting Sartre. She is one of his lovers, and she has come to tell him she is pregnant and is going to get an abortion. With great indifference, Sartre tells her to do what she wants. When she leaves, Sartre is visited by Camus in his office. Camus confronts Sartre for his support of Communism in light of Stalin’s killings. When given the choice between supporting the Communists who murder their own people and keeping Camus’ friendship, Sartre rejects Camus. Beauvoir appears as Camus leaves, and supports Sartre – but by the end, Sartre has to face the consequences of his actions and inactions, with Vian’s infertility, the Soviet murders and the loss of his friend.

The final act, Act IV, is a satyr play, which satirizes the aftereffects of Sartre’s philosophy and politics. A Harvard student, Randy, takes advantage of young idealist women to have sex with them. When two young men confront him, he calls out a chorus of Che Guevara t-shirt wearing cheerleaders, who convince the two young men they should be in it for the sex too.


Jean-Paul Sartre – a French philosopher, fiction writer, and playwright who worked for the French Resistance during World War II during the German Occupation. As he converts to Communism, he begins to defend the murders of the Communists, which results in his breaking off his friendship with Camus.

Albert Camus – a French-Algerian novelist who also wrote newspaper editorials and philosophy. He worked for the French Resistance and stood for freedom and against tyranny all his life. He broke off his friendship with Sartre over Sartre’s support for the Stalinist murders. He and Sartre remained estranged until Camus’ death in 1960 from an automobile accident.

Simone de Beauvoir – a French philosopher and novelist, who influenced and was influenced by Sartre, who was her life-long lover, though they never married. She supports Sartre in all things.

Martin Heidegger – a German philosopher who joined the Nazi party. His lover, Hannah Arendt, was a Jew. His philosophy greatly influenced Sartre’s

Karl Jaspers – a German philosopher who was a friend of Heidegger’s. He flees Germany because his wife is a Jew. He acts as a messenger to Sartre, telling him of their friend, Heidegger’s, unethical behavior and political positions.

Michelle Vian -- one of Sartre’s lovers, who comes to tell him she is pregnant with his child and plans to get an abortion.

Arnold – a French resistant whose anti-Semitism causes his ejection from the resistance and his betrayal of the movement to the Nazis.

Man of the Resistance

Nazi Soldiers

Chorus of the Murdered

Randy – a sexual opportunist who cynically uses women’s ideals to have sex with them.

Woman 1 – a young neo-hippy woman

Woman 2 – a militant African-American woman

Woman 3 – a militant Hispanic woman

Woman 4 – a KKK woman

Woman 5 – an Existentialist woman

African-Am. Man – a militant young college student

Hispanic Man – a militant young college student

Chorus of Cheerleaders

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ethical Choices

We seem to think that we only have two ethical choices. Either

1) the ends justify the means, or

2) we judge people according to their intentions, not according to the results of their actions (thanks, Kant).

Do we really have to be faced with a choice of either accepting whatever means is necessary to reach the goal, or of a Kantian "intentions is what really matters," regardless of outcome? I personally find both distasteful. We should be able to reach good goals by good means. I don't see any reason why that's not possible. We need to stop excusing people with "well, he meant well," while also agreeing that the ends don't justify the means.

Bad means and bad outcomes should be equally condemned, and people should be held responsible for both. We should only judge as good when

3) good intentions result in good outcomes.

It's time we injected a little reality into the question of what constitutes ethical actions.

Where Have All the Public Intellectuals Gone?

Russell Jacoby asks in an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education about what happened to the public intellectuals? The answer: the intellectuals became postmodernists whose ideas were inaccessible to anyone, and whose ideas are insignificant. Both of these observations are, for the most part, dead on. But the disappearance of the public intellectual creates a problem for those of us who are not postmodernists, and who write and speak in ways that the average human being can understand, which is that the public has all but forgotten about the intellectual. Sure, the French are still big on their intellectuals -- which is why Alain Badiou is a best seller there -- but that's just the French being French. Here in the U.S., where anti-intellectualism is all too often rampant, and our intellectuals are so full of idiotic ideas that the anti-intellectualism of the U.S. hasn't really hurt us in the least, a lull can have dire consequences.

On the other hand, the blog has the potential to create new public intellectuals. People will be able to seek out such intellectuals, and perhaps intellectualism will be able to find a new space in which to live. On the other hand, we are still in a bit of a transitionary period, where publication of books and articles is vital. In academic circles, this blog means nothing and could not be provided as any sort of evidence for establishing academic credentials. I don't think that's entirely wrong, since there needs to be some sort of gate-keeping that establishes credibility. Perhaps one day in the future, blogs will be able to be rated by experts and given some sort of credibility. Alas, academics are notoriously behind when it comes to technology.

95% Corrupt -- U.S. Welfare

If you knew something to be 95% corrupt, would you continue to support it? My wife and I have a friend who apparently would. We were having a discussion of welfare -- he and my wife sued to be social workers -- and he was defending welfare. My wife was going on about how corrupt it is. Since she had once told me that maybe 10% of the people she dealt with actually needed to be helped, I asked him the same question. His answer -- 5% actually needed the help. The rest, in his opinion, were exploiting the system and had no business being on welfare.

Now why would he support a system that was only 5% effective? Because he's the kind of person for which the exception negates the rule. His entire argument consisted of anecdote after anecdote -- of people who experienced things that nobody else on earth has ever had to experience. I told him I cared more about the 95%.

Naturally, we were told that we didn't care about people. We pointed out that we gave 10% of our income to charity every month. We are in fact generous -- with our own money. It is not generosity if you take someone else's money and give it away. And I asked him, "Suppose I told you that you have to donate 10% of your money to charity if you wanted to keep living here -- would that make you generous?" Of course not.

But think about this: as if the economic arguments weren't enough, how about the fact that between 90-95% of people on welfare are exploiting the system and do not need it?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Learn How to Iron Your Own Shirt

Now, I have been critical of Hillary Clinton quite a bit in the past, but I do have to give her this one:

What I find most interesting is her final comment: "If there's anybody left in the audience who wants to learn how to iron his own shirt, we can talk about that." I loved this response because it was a witty comeback. Great stuff. But when I told my wife about it, she said to me that she wished Hillary would take that idea as the basis of her politics. Brilliant! Please, Hillary, leave us alone and let us iron our OWN shirts! We don't need you to do it for us. The sad truth is, she DOES want to iron our shirts -- and do everything else for us. She doesn't really think we can do anything for ourselves. That is why she thinks she should do it for us.

Someone should take up the slogan "Learn How to Iron Your Own Shirt."


In the latest ridiculousness out of Katrina-ravaged New Orleans, one resident there is suing the government for $3 quadrillion dollars. Personally the government should sue them for all the money they had to spend to make it so they could live in and be rescued from houses located in a drained swamp below sea level! As a taxpayer, maybe I should sue them and every other idiot my tax dollars have to be spent on for wanting to live in places where they have no business living. Don't live in a swamp, below sea level, or in a flood plain! People would be less likely to do so if our government would stop subsidizing such idiotic choices.

Clinton's Crocodile Tears, Continued

The big political question now is whether or not Clinton's obviously-calculated crocodile tears won her New Hampshire. Are the voters that naive? Seems so. When I watch the scene where her voice cracks, I can actually see the moment in her eyes when she decides to play that card. It is incredibly obvious. Well, it has been said that in a Democracy, the people get the government they deserve . . . But why can't I ever seem to get the government I deserve?

Boy Scouting in the Maldives

Boy, talk about your good deed for the day. How are the other boy scouts supposed to measure up to preventing an assassination? Do you get a merit badge for that?

To the Mother Who Loves Her Son:

I too would like to publicly congratulate the mother who sold her son's car after finding alcohol in it. The ad was pure genius. SHame on all the people who disagreed with what she did. They have no business raising children.

Ron Paul Says It Best or, Why I'm a Libertarian

In an interview with John Stossel, Ron Paul says it all. This is why I'm a libertarian:

Paul: "I think when you defend freedom, you defend freedom of choice. You can't be picking and choosing how people use those freedoms. I don't believe government can legislate virtue. I can reject (vice) personally and preach against it, whether it's drugs or prostitution, but my solution comes from my personal behavior and how I raise my children. Whether it's personal behavior or economic behavior, I want people to have freedom of choice."

Stossel: "You seem to be saying that adults own their own bodies. If a woman wants to rent hers out or someone wants to smoke crack, that's their business."

Paul: "Yeah. People make bad choices in religion and philosophy, but we don't regulate their thinking or their religious beliefs if they're not harming other people. That's why I defend this position that government can't protect individuals from themselves. It's just impossible. (And when it tries) it becomes a tyrannical state."

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Clinton Cares Deeply . . . About Herself

Hillary Clinton defending her "emotional outburst", says “People who followed me during the course of my life know that I’m a passionate person and I care deeply about what happens to people." No she doesn't. She cares about power. She thought that showing fake emotions would get her votes, and that's why she made her voice crack. You can see the moment of calculation right before she cracks her voice. If Hillary Clinton actually cared about people, she wouldn't be running for office. She would be donating her own time and money to actually helping people. She would be asking people for donations to help people. She wouldn't be campaigning for office and voting to steal money so she can give it to who she wants and pretend that she's generous. I've said it before and I'll say it again: YOU CANNOT BE GENEROUS WITH OTHER PEOPLE'S MONEY!!! If she cared about people she wouldn't be trying to take money from people who work to give it to people who won't. If she cared about people she wouldn't be trying to get as much power for herself as possible. Someone needs to educate Comrade Clinton on the true meaning of caring and generosity, because she doesn't have a clue.

Massive Surge! (In Two Tiny Places)

And now for the fun, but practically meaningless fact, of the morning: with two towns in New Hampshire voting (Hart's Location and Dixville Notch), Ron Paul has 17% of the vote. Hope he keeps it up.

McCain and Obama are in first place in their respective races.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Clinton's Crocodile Tears

HIllary Clinton is such a fraud. I could not believe what a fake she was, pretending to choke up when a question asked her "How do you do it? How do you keep up ?" Hillary responded with a false-cracking in her voice: "You know, I have so many opportunities from this country, I just don't want to see us fall backwards." I agree with her on that. I don't want to see us fall backwards either. Which is why I would never vote for her, Obama, Edwards, or Huckabee. She followed up with more phoniness: "This is very personal for me, it's not just political, it's [that] I see what's happening, we have to reverse it." Again, I agree that we do have to reverse what is happening in this country -- but it is people like her, the postmodern Left, who have done almost everything bad in this country for the last 20 years. We need to reverse the influence of people like her. And as for it being personal -- it no doubt is personal . . . she is hungry for personal power, and will do almost anything to get it. We've already seen her support for dictators on this blog. She goes on to say, "But some of us are right and some of us are wrong. Some of us ready and some of us are not. Some of us know what we will do on day one, and some of us really haven't thought that through enough." Again, true enough. She is wrong and she is not ready. She has no connection to reality, as evidenced by most of the economic and social programs she supports. She is wrong and, with this fake emotion she expressed today, she's shown that she's also quite pathetic as well. Someone needs to tell her she's not the actor her husband is -- her inauthenticity is overabundantly clear.

Maternity Leave for High School Students?

Really? Maternity leave for high school? I don't think so. IN Colorado there is actually a student pushing for 4 weeks of maternity leave. This is the most absurd thing I have ever heard of. A student cannot miss 4 weeks of school -- the point of school is to become educated. This student is just trying to legitimize skipping school. And one of her school counselors is supporting her. Personally, if I were a principal, I wouldn't have a counselor who supported such nonsense on my staff.

Basically, this counselor wants to reward irresponsible behavior with time off from school. Why don't we just take a step back into the 19th century and openly say that women are for making babies, not for educating? I hope that the same feminists who pushed for educating girls and raising the age of consent precisely for that reason will not support maternity leave from school. A girl who has a baby in high school (or earlier) is already at a huge disadvantage in life. Missing a month of school isn't going to help her. Quite the contrary. I hope the school board has enough sense not to support this.

Diversity -- Real and Superficial

Which political party is fielding the most diverse set of candidates?

Now isn't that a ridiculous question, considering the Democrats are fielding a woman, an African-American, a Hispanic, and a metrosexual and the Republicans are fielding a white guy, a white guy, a white guy, a white guy, a white guy, and a white guy?

However, lets take another look at the candidates.

Among the Democrats, on what issues do they differ? Economics? Nope. Social issues? Nope. The war? Again, nope (not if votes bely rhetoric, at least).

Among the Republicans, on what issues do they differ?

Economics: Romney is an interventionist, if his record is any clue. As is Guiliani, most likely. McCain certainly is. Thompson is a capitalist. Paul is even more so. And Huckabee is a populist. Romney and Huckabee both raised taxes -- Huckabee more than Romney, though Huckabee is now in favor of the Fair Tax. McCain has also raised taxes. Giuliani and Thompson are tax-lowerers, though nobody is anti-tax like Paul.

Social: Huckabee is a hard-core social conservative. His social conservatism is probably why he's a Republican and not a Democrat. Romney was a social libertarian, but he's turned into a social conservative (for the Presidential run?). McCain is a mixed back, though he tries to be more or less conservative. Thompson is socially conservative, but his belief in federalism could just send social issues to the states, where they belong. Giuliani is a social libertarian, and Paul is both a social libertarian and a federalist.

War: All are for the Iraqi war except Paul, though Huckabee's comments about Bush suggest a different approach to foreign policy on his part than Romney, who defended Bush recently, and the other candidates other than Paul.

From this analysis, we can see that the Republicans are in fact a more diverse group of people than are the Democrats on what matters: political positions and character. I recall that there was once a great man who called -- in fact, dreamed -- for a time when people would be judged not by the color of their skin (and let's extend that dream to genitalia) but by the content of their character. By that criteria, it is the Democrats who have fielded the most homogenous field of candidates, while the Republicans have given us several real options.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The Candidate of Hope?

Barack Obama's campaign, he says, is about hope. I beg to differ. If Obama is pushing any idea in the pessimism, optimism, hope realm, it is optimism, not hope. I'm not the only one who thinks so: check out this post titled Obama is the Gift of the Message on Becky C.'s blog.

To understand why I say Obama is not talking about hope, let me define the above mentioned terms.

Pessimism -- this is the belief that everything is bad, and will perhaps get worse. but definitely won't get better. People suck, and you can only count on them to do what is worst.

Optimism -- this is the belief that everything is good, and will surely get better. People are wonderful and good.

Hope - let me give you a few quotes from Frederick Turner's book The Culture of Hope:

"if faith is the affirmation of what was, and love the affirmation of what is, then hope is the affirmation of what is to come" (28).

"Desire drives us, hope uplifts us. Hope involves an imaginative estimate of possibility, an intellectual leap into the future. We might say, crudely, that hope is the combination of expectation and desire" (28-9).

Think about the movie Casablanca. That is a movie about hope. This movie is not optimistic. There is no certainty of a good outcome. When the French start singing the French national anthem, they are doing so out of hope. The French colony is controlled by the Germans, and the French have had to declare their loyalty to Germany -- and yet, despite the fact that it could turn out quite badly for them all, they sing. They sing, knowing they could be killed for it. But they sing. They sing out of hope. This scene mirrors the overall theme of the movie. Rick gives her up only because he has regained hope. Rick starts off a pessimist, but ends up hopeful. Not optimistic. Hopeful. There is a big difference. The optimist is certain everything will turn out alright in the end. Rick doesn't believe that. He knows it could all turn out very badly -- but only if he lets her go is there any hope for the world to turn out well.

Hope, then, is a paradoxical combination of pessimism and optimism. The hopeful person looks at the world, sees the combination of good and bad and, while bracing for the worst, believes that all can turn out well, if only . . .

Barack Obama does not believe in hope. He is an optimist. He believes that everything will turn out just fine -- if only we put him in charge. Optimism is a dangerous belief, as with it we can believe in any number of utopias unrooted in reality. An optimist will tell you everything will turn out just fine, even if reality shows everyone that it will not. The pessimist looks at a flower and thinks not of the flower, but of the dung used to fertilize it -- thus concluding that he is in fact looking at dung. The optimist looks at the flower and is certain that pure air and pure water are enough. Thus, he kills the flower. The man of hope understands that dung can become a flower, but only under the right conditions.

Is there a true candidate of hope out there? How would you classify each of the candidates?

Mankiw on Carbon and the Democrats

Everyone should check out Greg Mankiw's blog, where he's talking about an exchanging on carbon taxes and cap-and-trade among the Democratic candidates. His conclusion: Richardson is ignorant, Obama is realistic and honest, and Clinton believes in magic.

Charlie Wilson's War

My wife and I last night went to see "Charlie Wilson's War." It's a very good, funny movie, and I highly recommend it. Knowing what we now know, the end is quite ominous. The actions of Charlie Wilson resulted in the fall of the USSR, but the inaction of Congress gave us 9-11. As Charlie Wilson noted, "we fucked up the end game."

We don't seem to be doing much better now, on many fronts. I overheard a teenaged girl talking to her father immediately after the movie asking about Afghanistan. Her father noted that we were now in Afghanistan because of the Congressional inaction depicted at the end of the movie, to which the daughter said, "We're not in Afghanistan; we're in Iraq."

Can it be that there's an entire generation who don't even know that we're fighting in Afghanistan? If so, do they know what we're fighting for? Or why we're in Iraq? This is very troubling. The reason is because the media no longer really covers Afghanistan, while the far Left would like everyone to forget about it so they can focus on Iraq. They are willing to sacrifice the lives of the 9-11 victims for their own political gain. The result is going to be a generation of people who will remember Iraq, but not Afghanistan. And that is not good news for our future.

Hillary Openly Supports Dictatorship

This sums up what I don't like about Hillary Clinton, particularly on foreign policy:

"If you remove Musharraf and have elections, that's going to be very difficult for the United States to be able to control what comes next," she said.

Hillary Clinton is here arguing for dictatorship. I always knew she was for dictatorship, I just didn't think she'd ever come right out and say she was for it and against democracy. Further, she shows that not only does she think she should control all our lives here in America, but that she should control the lives and governments of other countries. The fact that she thinks that we can better control dictators shows she hasn't learned the lesson of Saddam Hussein.

Free, fair, open, transparent elections is precisely what Pakistan needs. They need to eliminate the multi-tiered dictatorship they have and replace it with a multi-tiered democratic republic. The U.S. has never had any problems with countries that have fair, free, open, transparent elections -- and countries that have them are in fact the most stable. Stable governments give you unstable countries -- unstable governments, like ours, give you stable countries.

So Clinton has it completely backwards. Who on earth wants someone in power who has an understanding of the world that is completely opposite of how the world really is?

Saturday, January 05, 2008

On Human Evolution

For a long time we have believed two things about the genetics and evolution of our species. 1) We have believed ourselves to be virtual clones of each other, and 2) we have believed that human evolution, for all intents and purposes, stopped 40,000 years ago or so.

The Science (21 Dec. 2007) Breakthrough of the Year, Human Genetic Variation, and recent work by John Hawks et al in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science on "Recent Acceleration of Human Adaptive Evolution" together show a very different picture.

It is now estimated that of the 3 billion DNA bases of the human genome, there are "15 million places along our genomes where one base can differ from one person or population to the next" (Science, 1842). That's a o.5% difference -- still smaller than the variation within most other species, including chimpanzees, but still it's more than we thought. Of course, those raw numbers tell us little, since change of one base can have catastrophic effects. But "Genomes can differ in many other ways. Bits of DNA ranging from a few to many thousands, even millions, of bases can get lost, added, or turned around in an individual's genome. Such revisions can change the number of copies of a gene or piece of regulatory DNA or jam two genes together, changing the genes' products or shutting them down" (1843). Something like an inversion can even result in isolation of breeding populations, leading to speciation. So that can be a very significant alteration. It has also been discovered that there are "Quite a few overlapped genes, including some implicated in our individuality -- blood type, smell, hearing, taste, and metabolism, for example. Individual genomes differed in size by as many as 9 million bases" (1843). Now we're talking about much larger kinds of variation, when the genomes can differ in size by as much as 0.3%. As the author of the article, Elizabeth Pennisi, notes, "These differences matter," especially when "in some populations almost 20% of differences in gene activity are due to copy-number variants" (1843) so that, for example, "People with high-starch diets -- such as in Japan -- have extra copies of a gene for a starch-digesting protein compared with members of hunting-gathering societies" (1843). The two variations mentioned give rise to a variation of about 1%, which is approaching a more significant number.

The Hawks et al article puts this into perspective. It seems positive selection "Has accelerated greatly during the last 40,000 years" (1). Thus, the above mentioned variation is of recent origin. Both explanations given make a great deal of sense: 1) "Larger populations generate more new selected mutations," and 2) they believe "human demographic growth to be linked with past changes in human cultures and ecologies (1).

The first observation should be obvious. If the mutation rate stays the same, but the population grows, there will be more mutations. Population genetics shows these mutations will spread rapidly through the population. Thus, mutations -- especially adaptive mutations -- will accumulate. The combination of larger population size and the dynamics of population genetics would result in an acceleration in accumulation of mutations.

The second observation is one championed by E.O. Wilson in the late 70's and early 80's, that culture drives human evolution. Our culture is our environment, so we should not be surprised if it should exhibit selective pressures. This would account for the variations the authors found between subsaharan Africans and those of European descent. We would expect this in two populations from different physical and cultural environments.

Now, the first thing to note is that Africans have more genetic as a group than do Europeans. This, too, should not be surprising as the African population is older than the European population, so they would have had time to develop more variation. Also, Africa has been much more tribal for much longer than Europe, meaning more separation of groups, which also drives variation. However, the Hawks, et al article observes that evolution seems to be accelerating overall, in both groups. No doubt much of these differences arose from differences in culture, including cultural complexity. A culture containing 300 million people (as the U.S. does) is necessarily more complex than one of 150 people (the maximum size of a tribe), as we learn from complex systems theory. There are necessarily different selective pressures on these two groups, as each lives in a very different cultural environment.

Now, of course, being humans, we want to know what this all means. When people ask this, they are typically not interested in answers like personalized medicine, nutrition, and exercise. No, they typically are interested in race. The tribalist in them hopes it means they are superior, the moralist in them (for more complex thinkers) prays it means nothing of the sort, and wishes (in order to silence their inner tribalist) people wouldn't even do this kind of research. Ashamed of their own racist conclusions, they accuse the researchers of racism, thus assuaging their shame. So let me answer by asking this question: which is superior, the grasshopper mouse or the field mouse? A ridiculous question? Of course it is.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Fair Tax

There's been a bit of talk about the fair tax, with Huckabee's support of the idea. Megan McArdle points out several good and bad things about it. What it is, essentially, is a 30% sales tax. However, it's not really a 30% sales tax. Let me explain.

Companies do not pay taxes. They just hand the cost of taxes down to you. Thus, the cost of income taxes, corporate taxes, etc. makes a $70 item $100. With the fair tax, it is proposed that we get rid of all income taxes, etc., cut out he middle man, and tax directly on goods. Thus, the $100 item will still be $100, but the government will get the $30 directly from the sale, rather than having that money go through various layers of taxation. People make the mistake of thinking that this will hurt the poor and middle class, but the fact of the matter is, the price of nothing will change. However, since we all know that the Left, who use taxes for social engineering, not revenues, will object on this ground, a suggestion has been made to include a prebate for the poor that will offset these mythical costs for the poor each year.

Let me propose something more radical. We should implement the fair tax and get rid of the IRS. And then we should pay every family a $15,000 negative income tax and get rid of the entire welfare bureaucracy. That way, everyone is paying the same (well, the rich buy more, so they will in fact pay more taxes), and everyone is getting the same. It seems that those who are in favor of equal treatment under the law should love this idea. I can't say that I love it, but it's a compromise that moves the government closer toward being the kind of thing I think a government should be -- small. Also, it would eliminate most of McArdle's objections.