Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Girl Named Dagny

Just read about an Objectivist who called his daughter "Dagny." Hmm. If I ever had a son, would I call him "Howard?"

You bet the collectivists give them kids hell. Howard probably wouldn't be in for too much trouble unless someone told the little liberals in school who he was named for, in which case he'd be screwed.

But "Dagny" seems to be a kind of rare name. At least I never heard of a Dagny who was not named for Dagny Taggart. To the Komsomol commies that must be like a sign "Kick Me, My Parents Are Antisocial Fringe Lunatics."

So what was that guy thinking?

Well, probably something along the lines of

Girl, this world is rough
And if a chick's gonna make it, she's gotta be tough
And I know I won't be there to help ya along.

By the way, I have a book that says "Dagny" is Scandinavian and means "day." Hmm... Scandinavian — is that a proper language? Whatever.

Well, I guess it could be worse. You could have religious fanatics for parents who force you to run around in a burka. Like those poor kids from Texas they sent back to their fundie parents the other day.

Anyway, if I ever have a daughter, I think I'm gonna name her… Jennifer or Jessica, any damn thing but Dagny!

Yeah. Now I've offended Objectivists, liberals, communists, and religionists. That's pretty much everybody. So my work is done for today. Another Sunday well spent.

P.S. A boy named Howard figures in my new story, The Secret of the Lost Tribe, included in my latest book, Mysterious Boat, due out this fall. You wonder, what are these stories about? Now, The Mystery of the Mysterious Boat is about a boat that is mysterious, and The Secret of the Lost Tribe is about a tribe that is lost. /Shameless self-promotion.

Up the Rebels!

Great Post article on how European federal powerlusters twice tried by wile, guile, and sophistry to shove their politically correct slave "constitution" down their disarmed victims' throats — and how one small, heroic country (Ireland) told them to shove it.

We'll beat the bailiffs out of fun,
We'll make the mayor and sheriffs run
We are the boys no man dares dun
If he regards a whole skin.

Instead of spa, we'll drink brown ale
And pay the reckoning on the nail;
No man for debt shall go to jail
From Garry Owen in glory.

Our hearts so stout have got us fame
For soon 'tis known from whence we came
Where'er we go they fear the name
Of Garry Owen in glory.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Arabs Come, Arabs Go

They would take Manhattan. And Manhattan takes them for a ride. Foreign investors, that is.

You know that the New York property market has peaked when international investors pony up absurd amounts of money for Manhattan trophy buildings. Particularly for one of the three "Great Ones," the Art Deco icons Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, and Rockefeller Center. Now it looks like investors from Abu Dhabi are ready to pay $800 million for 75% of the Chrysler Building.

Maybe someone should remind them of how the Japanese got burned with the Rockefeller Center? But then, that would be unfair. Arabs sell ridiculously overpriced oil to Americans — Americans sell ridiculously overpriced real estate to Arabs. That's fair.

On a related note, some days ago the sale of General Motors Building closed, making it the most expensive (or overpriced) building ever. Here, investors from Kuwait and Qatar poured 2.8 billion petrodollars into a building whose price isn't likely to go anywhere but down.

As for me, I'm gonna ask Garfield to ship me to Abu Dhabi. You see, I got a big orange bridge for sale.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Build This Tower

Should have posted this long ago, just didn't get around to it.

As you found your way to this page, chances are you care at least a little about skyscrapers and about New York. So the point is, there's this proposal for a super skyscraper at 53 West 53rd Street, next to the MoMA.

And you know what? The NIMBYs are out in force against it.

But one heroic skyscraper enthusiast has drawn up this petition to the powers that be to fast track approving the tower. In the name of the best within you, consider signing it.

Doesn't matter whether you like that particular building design or not. It's not only about this building. The upshot is, if there's popular support for this building, it shows politicians that being anti-development isn't the safe bet they think it is.

Don't think signing online petitions makes a difference? Maybe. But it already got some press coverage.

OK, armchair activists and keyboard jockeys — sign this petition and feel good. ;) And who knows, maybe, just maybe, it may really do some good.

Thank you very much in advance. :)

"We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." — Oscar Wilde. Guess what, the NIMBYs want to rob us blind, too.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

IBM Makes Government Flop Faster

Ah, the joys of capitalism!

Thanks to one leading corporation, the US government is now the most advanced government in the world. IBM built the Roadrunner, the world's fastest supercomputer, at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, for the US Department of Energy. The Roadrunner is capable of a performance of 1.026 petaflops, while other governments still manufacture one flop after another manually.

There are no reports on how PETA, busy with its own flops, will handle the massive amount of incoming flops.

Meep, meep!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Grow Old with Me... Gaaa!

The question "And doesn't he want to grow old with someone?" asked in this post I answered in this post has been irrefutably decided in this post. QED. I rest my case.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Just the Shapes, Ma'am

Hey, someone set my favorite passage from The Fountainhead to music:

I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of the New York skyline. Particularly when one can't see the details. Just the shapes. The shapes and the thought that made them. The sky over New York and the will of man made visible. What other religion do we need? And then people tell me about pilgrimages to some dank pesthole in the jungle where they go to pay homage to a crumbling stone temple, to a leering stone monster with a pot belly created by some leprous savage. Is it beauty and genius they're longing to see? Are they seeking a sense of the sublime? Let them come to New York, stand on the shore of the Hudson, look and kneel.

I sure share that sentiment:

...Twin Towers and loved them as if I'd built them myself. At sunset I would take the elevator to the South Tower observation deck and look out at the ocean, at the city, and plan my future. I was a struggling young writer, and I had adopted those buildings as my proof that achievement was possible. I loved their grandeur, their ambition, their promise of unlimited possibilities.

I watched them come crashing down. And I've grieved their greatness ever since.

If only they had had better fireproofing…

But is it art? Surely, anybody creating Rand-inspired works will have to stand for that question, given Rand's harsh treatment of what she (often correctly) identified as non-art.

As user nine9s commented, "The words are barely intelligible, and the music doesn't seem to fit the lyrics — the lyrics are hard and clear, while the music is wistful and sentimental."

I don't know much about classical music, but I'd tend to agree. Anyway, it's the thought that counts.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Et Tu, Comrade Al?

And this article completes today's holocaust hat trick. Speaking of concentration camps, the members of the band "Comrade Al and the True Believers" have taken to calling skeptical scientists "global warming deniers," along the lines of "holocaust deniers."

Well, who's the fascist here? Who proposes to use lethal force against individuals in the name of the "greater good"? If that global warming mania isn't stopped soon, aren't we gonna have death camps for people who produce too much carbon dioxide due to their above-average lung volume?

The real question regarding that global warming cult is: Who are true believers, and who are greedy, egotistic, power-hungry cynics manipulating the gullible? Well, I guess as with any religion, the true believers are in the rank and file. Those who write hate mail to skeptical scientists are probably white trash from some trailer park or other.

Comrade Al, on the other hand, doesn't seem to truly believe in what he preaches. If he were afraid the sky is falling, he would do more than buy "carbon offsets" for his mammoth "carbon footprint." If he truly believed the situation to be as bad as he preaches it to his flock, he'd live in a cave, hike from revival to revival, and still use all his money to plant trees to capture every last ounce of carbon dioxide he possibly can. Plus, true believers usually do not accept speaking fees for missionary work…

It's like any other religion. Look at the Evangelicals. The true believers are standing on street corners, waving Chick tracts all day long, living the ascetic lives their faith commands. Waving Chick tracts all day long, they don't have time for anything else. The famous televangelists usually are the hypocrites preaching fire and brimstone against free love, drugs, and gambling — while hiding ten mistresses, a prescription drug addiction, and a mountain of gambling debts.

Stupid Article Sets My Teeth on Edge

Actually, in the spirit of "getting along," I didn't want to again knock any Libertarian. Yet speaking of concentration camps, I guess it has to be said.

Last year, there was this article in The Atlasphere ending with that sentiment: "So unless you can show me something like that [Auschwitz] — don't tell me you live in a 'Nazi state.' "

Maybe someone should remind the author of that piece of **** of the millions of people suffering right now in prisons around the world for victimless "crimes."

When they came for the tax evaders, I did nothing, for I was not a tax evader. When they came for the insider traders, I did nothing, for I was not an insider trader. When they came for the prostitutes, I did nothing, for I was not a prostitute. When they came for the drug dealers, I did nothing, for I was not a drug dealer. When they came for the homosexuals, I did nothing, for I was not a homosexual.

Who's next? Gun owners? Pick up artists? Jews? Atheists? Anyway, I won't go down that road.

The who refuses to learn from history is condemned to repeat it. So is the who refuses to see that history is already beginning to repeat itself.

Yeah, let's not call the fascists in government fascists before they too manage to murder a couple million people. Real great plan, Steve.

If I see some thug who looks like a fascist, goosesteps like a fascist, and bellows like a fascist — I call him a fascist. And I call him that before he gets a chance to set up some purpose-built death camps.

Smile, Little Objectivist!

It only takes two muscles. In other words, here goes the next chapter in my most excellent adventure with the Objectivists.

Came across this joke. I guess as jokes can't be copyrighted, I can reproduce it here in full:

A shipwreck occurs. The survivors swim from the ship to a nearby island. Two Englishmen swim ashore and go to opposite ends of the island because they have not been properly introduced. Two Germans swim ashore and set out to build an autobahn to connect the extreme parts of the island. Two Americans swim ashore and open up a fast food chain. Two Frenchmen swim ashore and look for someone to surrender to. Two Objectivists swim ashore and set up three discussion blogs, one for each to post on and the third neither will have anything to do with. [*]

* In the original version of the joke, two Jews swim ashore and build three synagogues. One that each attends and the third that neither will set foot in.

Is there some hidden truth in here? Among Libertarians, there were and are many Jews like Murray Rothbard or Ayn Rand. That's little wonder, as Jews have been persecuted for so long they must know best how dangerous government is.

Yet I wonder if that alleged Jewish thing with the three synagogues has something to do with Objectivists' taste for schisms? I guess not. After all, every religion knows schisms. Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and the countless flavors of Protestants. Sunnis and Shiites.

I guess it doesn't even take a religion to bring about a schism. All it takes is people taking beliefs or ideas seriously (as Objectivists rightly do). If someone considers an idea vital, he will fight tooth and nail for it, as he thinks or believes his (after) life depends on it.

The problem is rather Rand's all or nothing approach that forces her followers to excommunicate everyone who disagrees with them on a single, even non-vital, issue. Another problem is their slightly too zealous confidence in the efficacy of the human mind, bordering on claiming papal infallibility. Once something fundamental is proven, it is proven. Even if it was "proven" by sophistry in the first place. In that respect Objectivists are little better than the global warming crowd.

However, there is one other lesson Objectivists can learn from that joke: the value of humor. Rand was pretty anal about her commandment that her followers should never make light of serious matters, least of all of their own lives and values, as that would be like "spitting in your own face."

Obviously, not all Objectivists obey St. Ayn's commandment against dark humor. Evidence: I found that joke making fun of Objectivist schisms on an Objectivist website, presumably posted by an Objectivist.

Anyways, Rand must have been oblivious of an old Jewish practice that would have made her and could still make those Capital-O Objectivists less uptight and more resilient: gallows humor. As Jews have been persecuted and murdered at least since Roman times, they had plenty of time and occasions to hone their dark humor.

Here three examples harvested on the fly from Wikipedia:

After the assassination of Tsar Alexander II of Russia, a government official in Ukraine menacingly addressed the local rabbi, "I suppose you know in full detail who was behind it."

"Ach," the rabbi replied, "I have no idea, but the government's conclusion will be the same as always: they will blame the Jews and the chimneysweeps."

"Why the chimneysweeps?" asked the befuddled official.

"Why the Jews?" responded the rabbi.

* * *

During the days of oppression and poverty of the Russian shtetls, one village had a rumor going around: a Christian girl was found murdered near their village. Fearing a pogrom, they gathered at the synagogue. Suddenly, the rabbi came running up, and cried, "Wonderful news! The murdered girl was Jewish!"

* * *

Down South during World War II, a sergeant gets a telephone call from a woman. "We would love it," she said, "if you could bring five of your soldiers over to our house for Thanksgiving dinner."

"Certainly, ma'am," replied the sergeant.

"Oh... just make sure they aren't Jews, of course," said the woman.

"Will do," replied the sergeant. So that Thanksgiving while the woman is baking, the doorbell rings. She opens her door and, to her horror, five black soldiers are standing in front of her.

"Oh, my!" she exclaimed. "I'm afraid there's been a terrible mistake!"

"No ma'am," said one of the soldiers. "Sergeant Rosenbloom never makes mistakes!"

Gallows humor does not necessarily mean that you give up, that you consider the situation fucked up beyond all recovery, that your head is already on the block. Of course, sometimes it is. When Thomas More was about to be executed for messing with Henry VIII's latest close, he told the executioner, "I pray you, Mr. Lieutenant, see me safe up; and for my coming down, let me shift for myself."

But usually, gallows humor does not presuppose a real gallows you cannot escape. On the contrary, it serves a valuable function in human existence. Yet too many Objectivists blindly follow Rand's commandment, depriving themselves of that tool, living bleak and joyless lives with their own capacity to overcome obstacles and survive hampered by another piece of dogma.

The point is, you can either cry or laugh at death and disaster. (And here I cannot make myself refrain from quoting Billy Joel: "I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints — the sinners are much more fun.") You can either go out of your mind or apply a safety device to save yourself.

This safety device is humor, "the piercing and sobering effect, the sane perspective, provided by humor," as Rothbard had it. Gallows humor acts as a safety valve. Gallows humor keeps you from going crazy. By belittling apparently insurmountable challenges it makes them look manageable. So instead of blowing a fuse and going postal or just sitting there with a vacant stare, going "Ba-ba-ba-ba…" you get a chance to regain your presence of mind, to deal with whatever threatens your life or values.

Look at it like this: You're a Jew in a concentration camp. Now you can either go for the nearest SS guards and try to take a couple of them along with you by going for their soft tissue with your bare hands before they murder you. Or you use the safety valve of gallows humor, stay calm, and make a plan how to escape or at least how to try to survive till help arrives.

As I said before, gallows humor does not imply the unimportance of life or of values, but the (hopefully) relative powerlessness of evil.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Anarcho-Capitalism: A Floating Abstraction?

This gentleman makes a pretty good point here:

I should add that, as far as I understand, if Objectivists claim that anarcho-capitalism is a floating abstraction, they mean that anarcho-capitalism can't exist in reality. Objectivists believe that any attempt at establishing anarcho-capitalism will result in society collapsing and a worse, fascist or communist, government taking over.

Coincidentally, that's why they call anarcho-capitalists "socialists." Of course, that smear takes such a stretch of sophistry that every Objectivist who uses it immediately catapults themselves out of the realm of rational discussion. It's like calling Objectivists "religious fanatics" because any attempt at establishing atheism will result in society collapsing and a worse, more fundamentalist, faith taking over.

In any event, in this piece he demolishes the Objectivist standard sophistries on anarcho-capitalism pretty nicely.

Of course, as theology is a discipline without subject matter, Objectivist (or any other) criticism of anarcho-capitalism is a debate without evidence. There simply has never been any fully free society in the known history of the world, so any speculation on how such a society would look like is necessarily quite academic.

As for what little evidence there is, I suggest studying articles on the Old West like "An American Experiment in Anarcho-Capitalism: The Not So Wild, Wild West" and Murray Rothbard's "The Origins of Individualist Anarchism in America," particularly the section on the history of Pennsylvania.

As for Objectivists, Objectivism is The House that Rand Built. Ayn Rand in turn had lived through the Russian Revolution and apparently didn't enjoy that flavor of lawlessness (little wonder). Looks like she could not conceive of the fact that other flavors of lawlessness are possible, that the problem with the Russian Revolution was not a lack of law, but a lack of reason.

Same is true for another example Objectivists like to drag in, Somalia. It's in fact evidence taken out of context. The problem in Somalia isn't a lack of government, but a lack of civilization. (For the racists and PC idiots out there: That has nothing to do with race, but with growing up under a backward, tribalist culture.)

Those clans there are simply so hell-bent on exterminating each other that no flavor of archy or anarchy could stop them. If Somalia is evidence against anarchy, it's evidence against archy in spades: The government of the most powerful country in the world, the US, tried to establish law and order there and got its ass kicked pretty badly.

Government constitutes no substitute for civilization. For more evidence, look at most other African countries, for example the kleptocracy in Zimbabwe and the crime rates of South Africa.

If the majority of the people don't accept the non-aggression principle (explicitly or, if they don't quite understand it, at least implicitly) government can stop them from raping and murdering each other as little as a private agency could under those circumstances. It's like in one of those zombie movies.

Mob Wisdom?

John Stossel's latest article at The Atlasphere "Government Stifles the Wisdom of Crowds" isn't quite up to his usual five-star standard. He fails to mention that the "wisdom of crowds" applies only to matters of information, not to matters of morality. Of course the crowd know who they're going to vote for.

That, however, doesn't apply to non-trivial questions. It doesn't mean that a majority decision is always right. In fact, the semi-free condition and semi-rational laws of all existing democracies show that a majority decision has only about a fifty-fifty chance of being right.

"When I think of crowds, I think of mobs." With that, Stossel was closer to the mark.

At the same time they predict the future by betting on it, mobs elect politicians to keep those fascist gambling laws on the books. Those gambling laws are based on commandments handed down by religious fanatics. As the majority in America (about 85%) is to some degree religious, it's gonna be a cold day in hell before that mob is wise enough to elect politicians wise enough to abolish gambling laws and other victimless crime laws. The only gambling legalization that has been happening has been fueled by politicians' greed for gambling tax dollars and the power they buy.