Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Father, Freethinker, Objectivist-Humanist

I used my post on Why I am a Libertarian as an example of how I would describe myself for years. When I look back on this with an eye for continuity and history, I find my previous blind reliance on libertarian principles to be quite humorous.

I have never been an anarchist; in fact, anarchists are some of the people I disagree with most. If I could point to a single reason 'why' I almost never identify as libertarian any longer, it's because libertarianism (especially on the web) is default anarchism. You have to struggle to get the average 'libertarian' to admit that structure is required in society. That you need organization to build roads, do science, construct complex machinery. In fact, there is so much knowledge involved in a single field of expertise these days that it's almost hard to find generalists with enough depth of knowledge to bridge the gap between specialists.

So this idea of the rugged individualist, doing all for himself with no one to thank for what he has other than himself, that most libertarians dream of, is complete self-delusional bullshit. From the hospital most of us are born in, to the school paid for with tax dollars; from the roads we travel on during our working years to the social security system most of us will rely on in old age, almost nothing we experience occurs because we were the sole architect of its existence. Much less, would we want to own any of the convoluted bullshit we have to deal with, systems invented by madmen and executed by sadists? Better to be leaves floating on a irresistible wind, than acknowledge that any of this is what we would have wanted, planned for, inflicted on others.

I used to do a test with myself that ran like this; define yourself in as few words as possible. I used to get it down to three; Objectivist, Architect, Father (no longer licensed, so can't call myself architect anymore. Libertarian was in second place at one point) These days the three would be more like Father, Skeptic, Objectivist; and objectivist is left on the end simply because I still believe we can obtain glimpses of objectivity, not because I buy in to the whacky psychological ideas of Ayn Rand; that we have to be able to discern objective reality unless everything we sense is complete illusion, which it demonstrably is not. Most Objectivists these days make me cringe when they speak.

I daresay they would make Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum cringe as well; but then I'm not her, was never a member of her cult of personality, don't believe in revealed knowledge in even the vaguest sense. What I do know is that the system she describes as ideal doesn't even vaguely resemble the current system, and the economic and political actors of today are more akin to the looters of her novels than her contemporaries in 1950 America could have been. That current self-identified objectivists laud the behavior and thinking of these people simply puts the lie to their claim of objectivity.

So when Objectivists start mouthing anarchist phrases, while representing the Republican party, I almost disown the objectivist label, too. Who knows, maybe that one goes next.

...this introspection brought to you by this thread.



Since writing that post, I've tried out the word 'Skeptic' as defining me, and I find it too skeptical.  The daughter thinks Freethinker is too pretentious, but then I think pretentious defines my assement of the importance of my thinking quite well.  So I'm going with the pretentious sounding 'freethinker' rather than the piss on your parade personal interpretation I get from the word skeptic (Yes, skeptics, I know that isn't how you see the word) I would say that I approach all subjects with a healthy dose of skepticism, but I don't enjoy the process very much.  I do love finding truths, but telling others what the truth actually *is* is a very tricky process.  A process I find I don't do very well.

Consequently, I also feel the need to temper Objectivism with Humanism.  Objectivists will say this means I'm not really an objectivist; something else I find funny since most of them don't see the problem with being religious and claiming Objectivism as a philosophy.  Human is the lens that modifies the world we see, and Humanism is the attempt to make our systems more humane.  I'll take that.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Blatant False Advertising and Dereliction of Schedule

Feedback letter for Discovery Science;

I want to start this off by saying, I watch Science Channel quite a bit. I like a lot of the programming on the channel; Wormhole, Prophets, Futurescape, Firefly, How it's Made, etc. Idiot Abroad and it's spin-offs are interesting from a cultural perspective, if not actually science.

There are also several programs on the channel that I avoid like the plague; Punkin, Oddities, etc; programs that I would not qualify as Science, and if it were up to me I wouldn't be airing these programs on a channel that I owned and was identified as Science Channel.

Then there is crap like what aired Friday. Earlier this week I was enticed into setting up the recorder for a marathon of Strip the City, it was even advertised on the channel as being featured. Friday morning I tuned in for the re-airs of Prophets and noticed a quiet little banner in the corner suggesting that there was a bible marathon being featured instead of Strip the City. When I checked the schedule, Strip the City was still listed, so I did not cancel the recording.

When I got back home this evening from a rare pleasant outing with the family, what do I find? Four hours of bible myths on my recorder, mislabeled as a program that I found vaguely interesting from architectural perspective; bible myths that not only am I not even vaguely interested in, but aren't even vaguely science related.

Why is this crap on the Science Channel? Why was the schedule not updated to show that the programming had been changed? In a sales environment, this type of behavior is called a bait a switch and is illegal. Since viewing is tracked through the cable boxes, Science Channel gets to claim that everyone who tuned in to watch Strip the City were actually interested in watching 4 hours of bible myths instead.

Next time please be more conscientious about altering the guides and schedules to accurately reflect what you are airing at any given time. I will be forwarding this message to my cable provider and the FCC. Thank you for your attention.

Sincerely

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Much Ado About NSA

Dan Carlin chose to make his latest Common Sense episode all about the historic outrage that is the NSA spying on us, likening it to the kind of outrage that Lawrence O'Donnell pokes holes in during the attached video segment.




Approaching this idea from the perspective of 'Vampiric Memories' (memories of several centuries) as Dan does, what would be most striking was not that governments do what governments have always done; but that the people who run this government are more varied in race and sex than at any time previously in history.

Now, this observation can lead to other insights such as how white men aren't nearly as bad as we've been lead to believe since we don't run everything anymore and it all still sucks, or that inclusiveness in government hasn't gone far enough because the suckage of government hasn't been alleviated yet.

But what you cannot say is that this is an outrage as has never been seen before, and it's only our relative blindness to change (for various reasons) that allow this outrage to continue.  Should the NSA programs be brought down?  Certainly, and it appears that they will be.  But can we tone down the histrionics, please?



Edited to add the following;

Seriously Dan?  Another podcast on the same subject? Only this time to attack the false premise that NSA spying isn't a big deal?  I've been trying to tell people that privacy was dead for a decade or more.  I use my real name on the internet and yell from the rooftops repeatedly that there is no such thing on the internet as privacy, precisely because I suspected the NSA was doing exactly what it's been shown to be doing over the last year.

Just because I'm ready for a new subject to discuss, has nothing at all to do with the assumed importance of the NSA spying problem.  The real problem is, most people who object to the spying aren't willing to fight the hard fight it's going to take to get the laws changed to forbid the government from engaging in this kind of data collection; largely because most of them think like you and don't want to dirty themselves by getting into political fights, joining parties, and changing the system.

When you're ready to seriously get involved, let me know.  I have some pointers on that score.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Objectivity Apparently Devoid of Honesty

The Atlas Society sent me a link to this video a few days ago.  I get these periodically, and have never been impressed with them.



The title alone set me off  How Obamacare Betrays Young Adults.  Really?  We're going to take that angle?  First off, health insurance has never been 'insurance', and healthcare 'insurance' policies have always capitalized on sharing the costs amongst the payers in any group. The ACA simply sets the default group size as "the entirety of the US". 

My opinions have shifted over the years I've been watching this subject. Read back through the articles listed under "health care" and you might just get a feel for what it means to "change positions" (for one, I'm not even on speaking terms with the people who run Downsize DC anymore, and don't get me started on my disappointment with CATO) Especially in light of what I'm about to write here.

There is no reason to speak of Obamacare as anything ground breaking or particularly threatening.  It might or might not work as intended, but with the insurance companies forced to accept everyone and not allowed to take a greater than 15% profit from premiums, my objections to the system are effectively eliminated.

Yes, young people will pay more for insurance than they might pay out of pocket for their well-care visits (most of which will be skipped by them for reasons of economy if they are anything like I was back then) if they live long enough to reach middle age, they'll be thankful that they paid into the healthcare infrastructure all those years.

After watching the video I was depressed to realize that the arguments I would craft if making the case against Obamacare were better than the ones presented. Combine that with the crappy cinematography, poor sound quality and bad acting and you have something that's only watchable by people who already agree with you.

IF you buy insurance of any kind, you are by definition subsidizing the behaviors of others who buy the same policy. The only way to avoid this is to not buy insurance. The lie that is presented here is that Obamacare is different in effect; when the only difference is that Americans are all compelled to buy it. It is effectively a tax, one that I (and most intelligent people) can craft arguments for and against almost at will.

I wouldn't be opposed to means testing the system so that those more able to pay are not unequally profited from the availability of healthcare (as was mentioned in one of the other comments) I would be opposed to telling contributing members of society that they must simply die because they cannot afford to pay, which is what anyone who says "I don't want to contribute to that" means, whether they understand that is the ultimate result of their actions or not.

It's also worth noting that we already subsidize the healthcare of the poor.  This is done through the mechanism of providing charitable relief at emergency rooms, where the ability to pay is not used (for humane reasons) to screen the sick from access to doctors.  This is also the most expensive way to provide healthcare, not only because emergency rooms are expensive to run and maintain, but because waiting until illness is severe is the least effective and most expensive way to treat illness.

While I'm not fond of Obamacare, I'm also not fond of the idea of leaving the poor and sick to their own devices; and I'm quite fond of the idea of having emergence services available when I need them. Consequently some form of tax is necessary to pay for these services. How about we have that honest discussion instead?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Ayn Rand, Objectivism & the Confusion of Harry Binswanger

She's easy to hate on. So easy, in fact, that people completely ignorant of her ideas or real life find it quite easy to do.  I would suggest, if you want to be more informed in your hatred, watching The Passion of Ayn Rand (movie) or reading The Passion of Ayn Rand (book).

But it might actually be more illuminating to watch; Sense of Life or perhaps read We the Living with the understanding that the central character in that novel is her, including the ending. That is how she saw her journey from Russia. If you would prefer to understand were she came from and what she was driving for.

Her ideas are also quite easy to capture and use for truly harmful purposes, as a good number of people are doing right now. That DOES NOT negate the value of what she said when she said it, which was a different time and place than now.

I've read most of her work; I don't have any of the newsletters. Current thought in Objectivist circles has gone so far off track that Harry Binswanger has recently been writing about how the rich should live tax-free (still buying-in to trickle-down economics?) and the rest of us should worship them.

Here’s a modest proposal. Anyone who earns a million dollars or more should be exempt from all income taxes. Yes, it’s too little. And the real issue is not financial, but moral. So to augment the tax-exemption, in an annual public ceremony, the year’s top earner should be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Imagine the effect on our culture, particularly on the young, if the kind of fame and adulation bathing Lady Gaga attached to the more notable achievements of say, Warren Buffett. Or if the moral praise showered on Mother Teresa went to someone like Lloyd Blankfein, who, in guiding Goldman Sachs toward billions in profits, has done infinitely more for mankind. (Since profit is the market value of the product minus the market value of factors used, profit represents the value created.)
Instead, we live in a culture where Goldman Sachs is smeared as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity.” That’s for the sin of successful investing, channeling savings to their most productive uses, instead of wasting them on government boondoggles like Solyndra and bridges to nowhere.
http://donotlink.com/forbes.com/sites/harrybinswanger/2013/09/17/give-back-yes-its-time-for-the-99-to-give-back-to-the-1/
Conveniently skipping over how the currently wealthy Wall Street bankers are only wealthy because we bailed them all out.  

I offer this in response, this is more heroic and deserving of praise.


Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy



PZ Myers tweeted this today;
Read the story of Ayn Rand’s life. She was not a nice person…
…and it’s hard to feel much sympathy when her ideology collides with reality, and she gets her comeuppance.

http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/10/01/ayn-rand-illustrated
I actually found the comic interesting http://activatecomix.com/162-1-1.comic I deem it "The Passion of Ayn Rand" in comic book form. The movie was better.

However, none of her personal flaws or the cult she created of "the collective" http://2think.org/02_2_she.shtml (BTW, the same man who wrote that piece wrote this one too http://www.skepticblog.org/2012/10/23/why-ayn-rand-wont-go-away/ so go figure) actually invalidate her ideas about what was good in life, what was worth striving for, and what was heroic.

Hitchens poses the question here;


Which I answer rhetorically, "because of the altruists who would demonize self-interest" Without the dictatorship of Stalin, the Russian revolution, the works of Karl Marx derived from the ethics of Kant, the creation of the myth of selflessness. Without this chain of events we would have no objectivism created as a reaction. No need to confirm to the average person that it's OK to concern yourself with your interests first, in the face of all these people who tell you that you should give more. Because in spite of Hitch's protestations, there are real philosophical forces at work attempting to grind down individuality and to pound down the exceptional like an offending nail. To convince the average person that they must submit.

Hitchens being who he was would never have noticed this; or if he did would have deemed it powerless. Perhaps it is powerless to most people. Still, there were clearly a lot of people glad to hear that they weren't evil people simply for thinking of themselves first. That they didn't need to give more and more to the needy, to those who's hands are always outstretched for more. That her words are now used to defend actions she would not agree with is just a testament to the popularity of her work.

...I'm sure Nietzsche would be weirded out by most of his fans as well.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Final Patch for Mists of Pandaria

Blizzard is promoting the new 5.4 patch to the four corners of the world. I have a response to this.

Things I love about 5.4. 

Timeless Isle. In fact, I've loved all of Pandaria game play with the exception of the lunkheads that I'm forced to play with because there still aren't any community policing tools in the game. Pet battles, quests, collectables. It's a feast. If I could play it by myself. But this is about what I like, and I really do like Pandaria. It's unqualified beautifully imagined. The landscape is breathtaking. The fights are challenging, if not a bit over-long in places. There are more ways to play the game now than there have been in any version prior to this one. Pet-battling may be demonstrably derivative, but it's a great way to spend some time in the game, and a welcome addition to the melange of methods available to leveling characters.

Leveling has been sped up, and is so short through classic game that level 'dings' occur faster than you can clear quests in an area, if you are the kind of player that bothers to quest.   The re-mapped areas introduced in Cataclysm wear better than the original game quests where they have been changed (my objections to continuity issues aside) with the dungeons and PvP battlegrounds thrown into the mix, there really isn't enough time to experience the full breadth of the game before you move off to the next area.

Things I hate about 5.4.

New currencies introduced to hobble long-time players.Why do that? Why punish players who have stuck through to the end of this XP who now have to throw away the work done with previous currencies, since those currencies are now worthless? (well we didn't...) Really? The currency for speeding up research products has been spirit of harmony for the entire XP. Now it's the same token that you use for extra rolls in the new raid. [It is actually an entirely new mat acquired through disenchanting. The previous mats acquired this way have never been seen by yours truly, although I have it on good authority that they do exist. Consequently the limit for the average player will be significantly lower than 3 a week] Don't even get me started on the problems with raid looting.  Besides, I've already blogged on that subject.

However, and I don't think I can stress this enough in an MMO game, the biggest downside of the game remains the stunning lack of tools for dealing with bad actors. I really can't understand Blizzard's unwillingness to introduce a ratings system into the game; and because of  this group play remains hit and miss based on the luck of the draw.  With the fights more difficult than anytime previously in the game this presents a real problem for the average player just trying to get through the content.

I personally would welcome the challenge, if there was a way to remove the idiots.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Doctors DO NOT recommend Sudafed PE


I just sent this note to the Sudafed site review;
"Just saw an advertisement on MSNBC for Sudafed PE. Frankly, it was a mistake for Sudafed to offer a version of their medication with Phenylephrine in the first place, because PE clinically has no demonstrable positive effects. However, the ad was completely false, in that it linked Dr. recommendations for Pseudoephedrine the active ingredient in original Sudafed, with the OTC version of Sudafed PE which is not doctor recommended. If this isn't a violation of FCC and FDA rules, it ought to be. McNEIL would be better served by promoting thier products on capitol hill, getting the rules against Pseudoephedrine and other drugs relaxed in ways that make it easier to treat medical problems, engage in harmless mind altering recreation, etc. So that the desire to misuse medication like Sudafed is diverted into legal recreational drugs. Do us all a favor, discontinue the PE and the ads to promote the drug that doesn't work, and channel that money into helping to fix broken US drug policy."
http://www.sudafed.com/products

The OTC version of Sudafed is useless, do not believe the ads to the contrary. DO NOT BUY THIS DRUG. Go to the pharmacist and ask for the real Sudafed. Write McNeil and demand they engage in activism to fix US drug policy.