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Stark Relief

Updated: 2012-04-12T15:09:03.955-07:00


I hope the Republicans are paying attention


Ballot measure losses jolt the religious right

From the country's heartland, voters sent messages that altered America's culture wars and dismayed the religious right - defending abortion rights in South Dakota, endorsing stem cell research in Missouri, and, in a national first, rejecting a same-sex marriage ban in Arizona.

Conservative leaders were jolted by the setbacks and looked for an explanation Wednesday. Gay-rights and abortion-rights activists celebrated.

It's the religion, stupid. As mentioned later in the article:

In Missouri, anti-abortion groups, evangelical Christian clergy and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Louis campaigned hard against the stem cell measure, contending it would condone life-destroying embryonic research.

Debbie Forck, a Catholic from Jefferson City, Mo., was among those giving the measure a narrow victory.

"I've had several family members that have had debilitating illnesses," said Forck, 50. "It goes against my church, but to eliminate pain in my life, I thought it was worth it."

Good for you, Debbie.

The verdict on abortion rights was particularly clear. Oregon and California voters defeated measures that would have required parents to be notified before a girl under 18 could get an abortion, and South Dakotans - by a margin of 56 percent to 44 percent - rejected a new state law that would have banned all abortions except to save a pregnant woman's life.

Red-state rebellion
"This was really a rebellion in the heart of red-state, pro-life America - the heart of the northern Bible Belt," said Sarah Stoesz, head of the Planned Parenthood chapter that oversees South Dakota. "It sends a very strong message to the rest of the country."

South Dakota legislators had passed the law in expectation it would trigger a court challenge and lead to a possible Supreme Court reversal of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion. Abortion-rights leaders said Wednesday that such strategies should be abandoned.

Now, if only the Republicans make the connection between religiously motivated ballot measures failing and their party's large loss yesterday. Like Debbie Forck, many Americans want to be able to live well here on Earth, regardless of the superstitions of themselves or others.

Checking in on The Moral Majority Coalition


Right after the election in 2004, I posted briefly about a new organization called the "Faith and Values Coalition", about which the Benjo Blog wrote: It seems that the Moral Majority has been "born-again". From the AP: Seeking to take advantage of the momentum from an election where moral values proved important to voters, the Rev. Jerry Falwell announced Tuesday he has formed a new coalition to guide an "evangelical revolution." Falwell, a religious broadcaster based in Lynchburg, Va., said the Faith and Values Coalition will be a "21st century resurrection of the Moral Majority," the organization he founded in 1979. Falwell said he would serve as the coalition's national chairman for four years. He added that the new group's mission would be to lobby for anti-abortion conservatives to fill openings on the Supreme Court and lower courts, a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, and the election of another "George Bush-type" conservative in 2008. It will be interesting to see how successful this group is in the next four years or so. If religion truly is on the march again, this group will have more influence culturally and politically than the Moral Majority did in the 80's. It's also interesting to see (in the story) that the board chairman will be theologian Tim LaHaye, known for his popular Left Behind series. I checked to see how the Coalition was doing last night and I found that they had changed their name to The Moral Majority Coalition. Here's an interview with Jerry Falwell from 2004, in which he puts the third goal of the group as "voter registration beginning immediately to strengthen the president's hand in '06 and '08 and hopefully get another good George Bush-type elected in '08." Their platform has been changed to these 4 points now: Platform # 1The Moral Majority Coalition will conduct an intensive four-year "Voter Registration Campaign" through America's conservative churches, para-church ministries, pro-life and pro-family organizations. Platform #2The Moral Majority Coalition will conduct well organized "Get-Out-The-Vote Campaigns" in 2006 and 2008. Platform #3The Moral Majority Coalition will engage in the massive recruitment and mobilization of social conservatives through television, radio, direct mail (U.S.P.S. and Internet) and public rallies. Platform #4The Moral Majority Coalition will encourage the promotion of continuous private and corporate prayer for America's moral renaissance based on 2 Chronicles 7:14. 2 Chronicles 7:14 No doubt the backing away from endorsing candidates or parties directly is because "The Liberty Alliance/The Moral Majority Coalition is a not for profit educational and lobbying organization" and they would like to keep their tax-exempt status. From their site is this timeline, to which I've added emphasis: 1973 - Thomas Road Baptist Church Founder and Pastor Jerry Falwell begins a series of meetings and conversations with theologian Francis Schaeffer (“How Should We Then Live?”). Dr. Schaeffer routinely encourages Falwell to defy traditional evangelical reasoning by taking on a policy of confronting the culture with the Gospel. In the months to come, Falwell begins to meet with conservative leaders, including Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), to formulate how Christians can begin to influence the culture, specifically in terms of the burgeoning environment of legalized abortion (initiated with the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade). 1979 - With the country in a seeming moral downfall, in April, Falwell joins with Drs. Tim and Beverly LaHaye, Dr. Charles Stanley and Dr. D. James Kennedy to launch an organization with a mission of organizing evangelical leaders who will boldly engage the culture. The Moral Majority kicks off with a pro-life, pro-traditional family, pro-national defense and pro-Israel platform. 1980 - By November, more than 100,000 evangelical pastors, conservative Cath-olic priests and orthodox rabbis have come on board along with seven million families. Add-itionally, the organization mobilize[...]

Another good post on the mid-terms


This one from Andrew Medworth, especially worth reading is his reply in the comments, which starts out:

Thanks for your comment, and for linking to the SoloPassion debate. While many commenters make good and interesting points on it, some of the posts are very bad, involving sneering, name-calling and a few very fundamental misunderstandings of key philosophic concepts (”rationalism” and “concrete-bound” being two examples which spring to mind). These are not compatible with, nor are they a good advertisement for, Objectivism.

I must say I disagree with the idea that the Republicans are “jogging” towards tyranny, while the Democrats are “sprinting” towards it. The Democrats are not “sprinting” anywhere, especially not if they have nothing but small majorities in Congress. Bush will have veto power over any bill they could draft, and they will not have anything like the majority required to override that veto. And history shows that liberty does best when government is divided: some of the worst laws and the highest spending increases in American history have come under Republican government.

There is no question in my mind that a Democratic victory would improve the domestic policy scene in America - not much, but some. (And that is indeed a dire indictment of the Republicans.) The only question in my mind is over foreign policy: would a vote for the Democrats be a vote for retreat, surrender and defeat in the war against Islamic totalitarianism?

At present, my answer is no, at least not compared to a vote for the Republicans. I disagree with the assertion that the Republicans are “muddling through”, fighting a half-hearted war, and that this is better than the Democrats’ total lack of willingness to fight. The Democrats will certainly not fight the war properly. But the Republicans are actively aiding the enemy: they are fighting to establish the right of the Iraqis to vote in an Islamist, anti-American government which will be more dangerous to the United States than Saddam ever was.

Mid-Term Elections


Oh. My. God.

Where do I start? I have a ton to say/repeat, but it's been difficult to sit down and put it in writing. I'll start with a list of links that are very near to being required reading, insomuch as I can require my readers to do anything. :)

Leonard Peikoff's statement

Leonard Peikoff's DIM Hypothesis course, which can currently be listened to for free with registration [I talked about it a couple of years ago here; highly recommended and well worth the time commitment.]

C. Bradley Thompson's article "The Decline and Fall of American Conservatism"

If you have the Fall issue of The Objective Standard, I would also recommend Elan Journo's article "The Jihad on America"

Diana Hsieh has a great post from Sunday morning integrating a lot of information

Also on Sunday, Dr. John Lewis and Craig Biddle both posted on the blog of The Objective Standard, Principles In Practice

I believe that I have been vindicated in the reasons that I voted for John Kerry in 2004, and that the last 2 years have emphasized why the Republicans are so destructive to this country. Even more so than the Democrats, because they are destroying us in the name of Capitalism, Self Defense, and America and because they have [despicable, evil, religious] ideas behind them.

More on the clueless


Mike N. commented on my previous post about my experience of watching a few minutes of Hardball:

I agree with you in that I no longer get my news from the TV either. What little bit of truth you do get has to be deciphered from the false and even then it's only about 20% of what you need to know to make a rational evaluation.

I replied that while I do agree that TV news is very biased in presentation and in choosing what to present and what not to, my point is more that this news analysis program offers such patently absurd and illogical "analysis." How can anyone hear these "arguments" and be convinced, unless it's only by hearing phrases they emotionally respond to and howling in agreement, "Yeah! You tell it! Bush sucks!"

I guess I expected a little higher level of discourse here. One that wasn't patently nonsensical if you actually tried to follow their argument. Instead, I hear: "Katrina sucked. Bush didn't make it not suck. Therefore Democrats really can be trusted to govern." Either Scarborough really is a moron, or he isn't even trying to build an argument here, just getting people agreeing with him about President Bush, and then attaching another statement on that they're supposed to agree with because he uttered it right after the first part. My post title, "Are they really _this_ clueless?" could also be taken to be aimed towards the target audience of this approach.

I seriously do not think that news analysis programs were this bad at pretending to present a logical argument 10 or 20 years ago, but maybe I just wasn't as exposed to them when I was 10 or 20 years old.

I am all the more impressed with the ability of Yaron Brook to appear on such a show. I saw him on a show talking about profiling recently, and thought he did a wonderful job in such conditions. It also had someone from CAIR and I could hardly watch it due to the mixture of evasions, whining and threats that is so common from CAIR.

Why I don't recycle*


If it was valuable for a compaqny to use my trash, they would pay me for it.

Andy at the Charlotte Capitalist answers when his daughter asks, "Daddy, Why Don't We Recycle?" and today he elaborates more on Recycling.

*At work, I receive free cans of soda and juice, and every office, meeting room and cafeteria have aluminum recycling bins. I do use these, as I see them as an implicit part of the free drinks and I am willing to do with the company's trash as they see fit.

Are they really _this_ clueless?


I'm sitting in a "business center" in a resort hotel in Orlando, FL. The TV's on nearby, tuned to MSNBC. Apparently today is the one year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina hitting New Orleans. Hardball was just on with the tagline on the screen: "Will Katrina sink Bush in the fall?" which is a stupid question [oh yeah, I forgot, "there's no such thing as a stupid question, just stupid people"] for many reasons. First of all, how can a storm a year ago cause our President "to lower in standing or reputation" in a few months? No new information came out today, or is projected to come out in "the fall" that would have this effect on Bush's "standing or reputation." Of course, they are probably referring to elections this fall, but I'm sure someone's told them that President Bush will not be a candidate in this fall's elections, nor will he be a candidate for President in 2008, and probably not a candidate for anything else, either.No, they must really mean, "Will the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina hurt Republican U.S. Congressional candidates' chances in November's elections?" Surely, the people at Hardball, a national political news show, realize that President Bush is not the Republican party. Yes, he is a member of that party, and is currently the one who holds the highest position, and, yes, looked at simplistically, more Republican congressmen will probably help Bush get the laws he wants passed, but it reveals a certain mentality when the word "Bush" is used to mean the Republican party. Based on my experience, it seems a lot like BDS, "Bush Derangement Syndrome," a malady that causes ostensibly intelligent people to lose any critical thinking skills when the subject is President George W. Bush, the evil super-genius, moronic chimpanzee that controls everything and will destroy anyone who disagrees with him, or, at least, he would if the courageous people like Dan Rather, Kos, and George Soros didn't get the message out before he had them silenced. To someone suffering from BDS, _everything_ is about Bush, literally. Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 is about sinking Bush in fall of 2006.The woman hosting Hardball then talked to some idiot named Joe Scarborough [evidently, he even has his own show]. I tried to turn my music up load enough not to have to listen, but I did catch him saying how the Republicans had built this myth since 1968 and 1972, that the Democrats couldn't be trusted to govern, and that Hurricane Katrina destroyed that myth. Huh, come again, Joe? I assume he thinks that Republicans did a poor job of governing after Katrina hit New Orleans, since they controlled the federal government, but I don't see how that shows whether the Democrats can govern or not. In fact, the actual cases of Democrats governing during that time are the Democrat mayor of New Orleans and the Governor of Louisiana who had horrible evacuation plans and then didn't even activate them. See this post from Mike N. for more on that. Mike brings up the most important point here:All in all, the documentary shows that all three levels of government failed at the task of disaster prepardness [sic], and relief. I was a little disappointed though, that the question "Should the government be in the business of disaster prepardness and relief?" was never asked. It is just assumed that such is the government's natural role. But Charity Hospital had lost power and for several days staff were hand ventilating some of the critical patients. When it became clear that the government-at any level- wasn't going to transfer them to another hospital, they appealed to CNN who did a report. Seeing the report a private air-lift ambulance company volunteered its services and quickly transported the patients to other hospitals. To me, the the [sic] utter incompetence of government compared to the efficiency of private enterprise was glaringly obvious. Yet it is t[...]

The Ivory Tower: Visiting "God" Again


Amanda Carlson at The Ivory Tower is Visiting "God" Again. She refers to a post that she made last year, and describes some clarifications she recently has had on the topic.

A Recap


President John Kerry uses his Secretary of State, Howard Dean, and Ambassador to the United Nations, Dennis Kucinich, to work multi-laterally with the French to draft a UN Resolution to "cease the hostilities" between Hezb'Allah and Israel.

After UK law enforcement foils a plot to destroy several planes over the Atlantic, President Kerry says, "Travelers are going to be inconvenienced as a result of the steps we've taken. I urge their patience and ask them to be vigilant. The inconvenience is -- occurs because we will take the steps necessary to protect the American people." The steps necessary to protect the American people consist of forbidding liquids and gels to be carried on airplanes:

That is, the West has accepted, indefinitely, as a norm, a state of siege. A state of siege requires the diminution of the freedom and liberties of the besieged, which is what we are witnessing now in the U.S. The besiegers will do as they please, and keep probing for weaknesses, or find a way to bypass our Maginot line. And all we will do is "react."

It is certainly pragmatic to prohibit paying passengers from taking liquids, make-up, toothpaste and laptop computers on board commercial planes to thwart suicide bombers. But this is merely another example of a siege philosophy, a policy to protect the country from enemies the [...] administration refuses to acknowledge and attack. Do these restrictions on Americans serve to preserve freedom, liberty and other rights that creatures like Michael Chertoff, head of Homeland Security, claim they are serving? Hardly.

In national politics, treating Islamic terrorists as a law enforcement problem and locking down our country into a further state of siege has riled up a vocal portion of the electorate, who organize using the Internet and work to get politicians elected who talk tough against state sponsors of terrorism, such as Iran and Syria. Recently, Montana's incumbent Republican Senator lost the GOP's primary to a rancher, Jed Beaumont, who promised the first thing he would do in Congress is work to declare war on Iran if it didn't immediately cease its aspirations for nuclear weapons. This has many progressives in the country worried about what they call the "Rabid Right" fringe taking over the Republican party.

Many on the right bemoan the fact that President Bush failed to win reelection, believing that we wouldn't be in this situation with such a strong foreign policy President who didn't have to worry about another election in charge. Iran wouldn't dare appear to be crossing a US government that demolished Iraq's defenses so quickly. In fact, it would probably try to earn points by calling on Iraqi Shiites to work with the Sunnis on creating a stable country.

It almost makes me regret my vote.

"An Unmitigated Disaster"


And I'm not just talking about not being able to bring beverages on our flights; Caroline Glick explains.

We stop a deadly terrorist plot, yet we still decide to surrender.

They say that only the good die young...


Gus has a great post on the [hopeful] death of Fidel Castro. As with Yasser Arafat, I'm looking forward to raising a toast to his demise; I'm thinking, "¡Viva Cuba libré!"

And I've added Babalú to my RSS reader.

"If you want a prettier picture, bring me a prettier face"


There's a pretty good article in today's USA Today on how the US Government tries to hide how much of our money they overspend and obligate us to pay. My post title comes from the end of the article:

Tom Allen, who will become the chairman of the federal accounting board in December, says sound accounting principles require that financial statements reflect the economic value of an obligation.

“It's hard to argue that there's no economic substance to the promises made for Social Security and Medicare,” he says.

Social Security and Medicare should be reflected in the bottom line because that's the most important number in any financial report, Allen says.

“The point of the number is to tell the public: Did the government's financial condition improve or deteriorate over the last year?” he says.

If you count Social Security and Medicare, the federal government's financial health got $3.5 trillion worse last year.

Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, a certified public accountant, says the numbers reported under accrual accounting give an accurate picture of the government's condition. “An old photographer's adage says, ‘If you want a prettier picture, bring me a prettier face,' ” he says.

Harry Binswanger has long made the point that tax cuts are a secondary concern and the primary goal should be to cut government spending. Taxes are only one way that our government loots us; the other two are borrowing and inflation, so lowering taxes without first cutting spending just changes the form of that looting. [Also recommended is his article on why there would be no "Transition Costs" in privatizing Social Security.]

In First Veto, Bush Blocks Stem Cell Bill



The Future "Mrs. Stark"


My girlfriend has now become my fiancée, and we are both very excited about our wedding next summer, as well as everything that lies beyond.

At the dance after OCON's closing banquet Saturday, she sang two songs ["The More I See You" and "I've Got You Under My Skin"]. When she finished, I surprised her by taking the microphone and proposing to her. We met at last year's conference in San Diego, and it seemed to be an appropriate time to ask her to spend the rest of our lives together.

We are planning to be married in early July, 2007 in Boulder, CO, a town that I loved living in 10 years ago though I generally did not like the politics of its residents. After the wedding we'll go to Telluride for OCON, tying it all back together, then leave for our honeymoon when it's over.

At this year's conference, several people mentioned that many talks and the general state of the culture were depressing. Dr. Yaron Brook made the excellent point that he was not depressed; this is the best time to be alive, and there are many, many wonderful values out there to be pursued and achieved right now. Well, I'm not depressed, either, and I am working hard to make my life as full and wonderful as I can. I hope that, as a side effect, the people who saw my proposal got a very concrete example of one of the things that can be worth living for.

Hsiehs' Rebellion


In Boston, I finally met Diana and Paul Hsieh, as well as Don Watkins, from Noodlefood. They were very enjoyable company, and I wish I had met them last year in San Diego.

[The post title is just my way of remembering how to pronounce their last name.]

OCON 2006


I have returned from my 7th Objectivist Conference, this one in Boston. Diana Hsieh has a good post on what she enjoyed, and I agree with what she has said. I also greatly enjoyed the other General Sessions, especially Peter Schwartz's talk "The 'Diversity' Delusion".

The dangers of government science combined with the dangers of government regulations


Gus Van Horn posts today on NASA disasters and why they are to be expected for a political/scientific institution.
And so we have lost not one, but two space shuttles as a result of governmental abuse of power forcing space engineers to employ inferior materials in a situation that is, to grossly understate, unforgiving of error.

More on Privacy


Don at Anger Management linked to my last post, as well as to a related post at Coyote Blog that I suggest you read for details on why the Roe v. Wade decision is a disaster that just hasn't exploded in our faces yet. I commented further in Don's comment section.I would also like to address a question that a couple people have asked. Quoting Jason Kuznicki in Anger Management's comments: "[W]as it not Ayn Rand who wrote that civilization is the progress toward... privacy? How would you distinguish her claim from those "bad" privacy rights that infringe on property?"For the short answer, let me draw an analogy. You do not have a right to a house; you have a right to buy a house with money you earn by your productive effort. You do not have the right to health care, you have the right to trade for health care with the money you earn by your productive effort. You do not have a right to privacy, you have the right to use your property and right to contract to prevent others from learning things which you would like them not to.Now, lets consider what Ayn Rand wrote [this is in the courtroom speech of Howard Roark in The Fountainhead; I will refer to the paperback edition of For the New Intellectual, which has the speech reprinted in it]:"Now observe the results of a society built on the principle of individualism. This, our country. The noblest country in the history of men. The country of greatest achievement, greatest prosperity, greatest freedom. This country was not based on selfless service, sacrifice, renunciation or any precept of altruism. It was based on man's right to the pursuit of happiness. His own happiness. Not anyone else's. A private, personal, selfish motive. Look at the results. Look into your own conscience."It is an ancient conflict. Men have come close to the truth, but it was destroyed each time and one civilization fell after another. Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage's whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men."[For the New Intellectual, pp. 83-84]I take this as saying that privacy is a value, and I agree, but I don't take it as saying that it is a right.As I said in my comments on NoodleFood:Think of what such a "right" to say, "Don't look at me," or "Don't listen to me, even when I say, 'don't listen to me'," would mean. What kind of right could there be to have people not perceive you? Keep in mind that perceiving is not a volitional process. You couldn't prevent yourself from the possibility of violating another's "right" not to be seen, until you *did* see them and averted your gaze. To avoid violating that "right", you would have to avoid seeing anything at all.What you do have the right to do is to use your property to keep something private; putting it behind walls, in locked containers, using your right to contract with those which you will let have private knowledge to make an agreement on whom they can pass the knowledge onto, etc.[Update 08/04/2005 12:40 AM]: Don Watkins elaborates well on this tonight, which makes me very grateful, as I don't always have the time for all of the things that I would like to say.[...]

The "Right" to Privacy


Paul Hsieh at NoodleFood has an interesting post with the fun name of "Privacy Rights and the Korean Dog Poop Girl" concerning the "right" to privacy. In the comments, I have a couple entries on my view of this "right". [The scare quotes probably give you an idea of what I think of the concept.] A couple of excerpts from one of my comments:
The conclusion that I came to [...] is that the "right to privacy" is an anti-concept designed to obliterate the right to property by replacing it with a vague, undefined, limited [by "public" interests] "right" to privacy. [....]
Think of what such a "right" to say, "Don't look at me," or "Don't listen to me, even when I say, 'don't listen to me'," would mean. What kind of right could there be to have people not perceive you? Keep in mind that perceiving is not a volitional process. You couldn't prevent yourself from the possibility of violating another's "right" not to be seen, until you *did* see them and averted your gaze. To avoid violating that "right", you would have to avoid seeing anything at all.
Note that I include the right to contract as a corollary of the right to property.

The battle for the Supreme Court begins


MSNBC is reporting that President Bush is going to announce judge John G. Roberts Jr. as his choice to replace Justice Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court tonight. The article isn't very clear on what his ideas are [or if he even has any of his own], but I believe what happens with the Supreme Court in the next couple of years will be critical for our future. As I said in "A few reflections on the election":
From these two exit polls, I think the Republicans will conclude that they have a large Moral mandate, and a nearly as large mandate on the way that President Bush has been waging the war on "terror." Both of these are disastrous. Look for a serious push against Roe v. Wade in the next 4 years, unless Bush only gets to appoint 1 Supreme Court Justice, and look for an even stronger Iran and North Korea, an emboldened China [especially against Taiwan], and the very strong probability of another Islamic theocracy in Iraq, because, hey, "democracy is democracy."
Already, the Court has handed down two horrible decisions in the last couple months: the Kelo v. City of New London and Gonzales v. Raich cases. How emboldened the religious right is after the Terry Schaivo grotesquery remains to be seen.

My new [other] blog


I've made an MSN "Space" that has a blog, which will mainly be for blogging personal things that may not interest people here. My first post about my music collection is a good example.

Implicit recognition that agnosticism rewards the bad and punishs the good


I was surprised to read this article that my friend sent me because of the perceptive judge in this case. The Cobb County, Ga. Board of Education had put a sticker on textbooks in 2002 stating:This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.In declaring the stickers unconstitutional, U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper gets close to naming the main issue:His conclusion, he said, "is not that the school board should not have called evolution a theory or that the school board should have called evolution a fact." "Rather, the distinction of evolution as a theory rather than a fact is the distinction that religiously motivated individuals have specifically asked school boards to make in the most recent anti-evolution movement, and that was exactly what parents in Cobb County did in this case," he wrote. "By adopting this specific language, even if at the direction of counsel, the Cobb County School Board appears to have sided with these religiously motivated individuals." The sticker, he said, sends "a message that the school board agrees with the beliefs of Christian fundamentalists and creationists." "The school board has effectively improperly entangled itself with religion by appearing to take a position," Cooper wrote. "Therefore, the sticker must be removed from all of the textbooks into which it has been placed."The more fundamental issue is hinted at by this sentence in the article:The school system defended the warning stickers as a show of tolerance, not religious activism as some parents claimed."Tolerance," in this sense, is just another word for agnosticism: the idea that in a given category, any specific thing is just as good as any other. The worst part about agnosticism is that it lumps everything into a single evaluation; it gives the bad items an undeserved positive evaluation, and the good items are unjustly maligned or "smeared." For example, what would happen if you decided to be "tolerant" of poison and decide that, for a given meal, it didn't make much difference if you sprinkled salt or cyanide on your mashed potatoes? It's similar in this case. "Creatonism" has no chance if it is evaluated in accordance with the facts of reality. Its pushers realize that the strategy that they need is to say that there really is no difference between a scientific theory with mountains of backing evidence and a myth that is to be accepted in the absense of or in spite of evidence. They don't need schools to teach that "Creationism" is the only true version of history, they just need it to be given a false dignity by having it taught on an equal footing with valid science. This tells the students that they both are "taken on faith" and that both have "some evidence" for them, and that, ultimately, the student should pick whichever one they want to believe on a whim. Then they just use peer pressure to swing the students to the religious side. Scientists' reactions are here. For more on "Creationist" public school pushs, see Benjo Blog, here, here, here, and here. Also, related humour here, here, here, here.[...]

Some Progress


The inventor of the blue LED [Light Emitting Diode], Shuji Nakamura, has settled with his former employer, the Nichia Corporation, to be paid $8.1 million for his very lucrative invention. This is infinitely more just than the initial payment of $200 he received for the creation of Intellectual Property that is worth roughly $580 million to the company. A lower court awarded him $200 million, but he was urged to settle for $8.1 million by his lawyer on the appeal.

While it is good to see that the Japanese business culture is changing to be more open to financially rewarding employees who create profitable intellectual property [this article from the New York Times cites other examples; free registration required], I believe that he probably deserved an award more in line with the $200 million.

For years, blue LEDs were a holy grail of the LED industry. With the three primary colours of light [Red, Green and Blue], any colour can be created. Red and green LEDs had been possible for decades, but without blue, many LED applications were very limited in the colours they could use [for example, LED advertising]. Also enabled by the invention of the blue LED was the white LED [because equal parts of Red, Green and Blue light create White light]. The white LED has become very popular in flashlights, where they last many, many times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs; I have two such flashlights myself. [Hat tip: TIA Daily]

Semper Fi


The story of a heroic Marine; here's another recounting of the story by a Marine who was there. I should point out that Sgt. Rafael Peralta's actions were not selfless as frequently described in these links; for what could be a better demonstration of the value that he placed upon his fellow Marines? On a similar topic, here's a history of the inspiring Marines' Hymn. When addressing West Point students, Ayn Rand told them,In conclusion, allow me to speak in personal terms. This evening means a great deal to me. I feel deeply honored by the opportunity to address you. I can say--not as a patriotic bromide, but with the full knowledge of the necessary metaphysical, epistemological, ethical, political and esthetic roots--that the United States of America is the greatest, the noblest and, in its original founding principles, the only moral country in the history of the world. There is a kind of quiet radiance associated in my mind with the name West Point--because you have preserved the spirit of those original founding principles and you are their symbol. There were contradictions and omissions in those principles, and there may be in yours--but I am speaking of essentials. There may be individuals in your history who did not live up to your highest standards--as there are in every institution--since no institution and no social system can guarantee the automatic perfection of all its members; this depends on an individual's free will. I am speaking of your standards. You have preserved three qualities of character which were typical at the time of America's birth, but are virtually nonexistent today; earnestness--dedication--a sense of honor. Honor is self-esteem made visible in action. You have chosen to risk your lives for the defense of this country. I will not insult you by saying that you are dedicated to selfless service--it is not a virtue in my morality. In my morality, the defense of one's country means that a man is personally unwilling to live as the conquered slave of any enemy, foreign or domestic. This is an enormous virtue. Some of you may not be consciously aware of it. I want to help you realize it. The army of a free country has a great responsibility: the right to use force, but not as an instrument of compulsion and brute conquest--as the armies of other countries have done in their histories--only as an instrument of a free nation's self-defense, which means: the defense of a man's individual rights. The principle of using force only in retaliation against those who initiate its use, is the principle of subordinating might to right. The highest integrity and sense of honor are required for such a task. No other army in the world has achieved it. You have. West Point has given America a long line of heroes, known and unknown. You, this year's graduates, have a glorious tradition to carry on--which I admire profoundly, not because it is a tradition, but because it is glorious. Since I came from a country [the USSR] guilty of the worst tyranny on earth, I am particularly able to appreciate the meaning, the greatness and the supreme value of that which you are defending. So, in my own name and in the name of many people who think as I do, I want to say, to all the men of West Point, past, present and future: Thank you.I feel the same way about all of our Armed Forces, and I'm pretty sure she did, too.[...]