Happy Halloween, Axe Cop!

 Posted by on 31 October 2012 at 12:00 pm  Funny
Oct 312012

Some people dress up in costume for Halloween or hand out candy to children. Not me! Instead, I give you this wildly nutty Axe Cop Halloween Video:

IO9 explains:

The very first clip from Fox ADHD’s upcoming Axe Cop cartoon show has hit the internet. Check out how the hero — who is the creation of a thirtysomething cartoonist and his elementary-school brother — celebrates Halloween like a lunatic for justice. Axe Cop will air next summer on FOX. Remember, always play it safe on October 31 and pack your poison-detecting goggles.

The full story of the creation of Axe Cop can be found here.

New Questions in the Queue

 Posted by on 31 October 2012 at 8:00 am  Question Queue
Oct 312012

As you know, on Sunday morning’s Philosophy in Action Radio, I answer four questions chosen in advance from the Question Queue. Here are the most recent additions to that queue. Please vote for the ones that you’re most interested in hearing me answer! You can also review and vote on all pending questions sorted by date or sorted by popularity.

Also, I’m perfectly willing to be bribed to answer a question of particular interest to you pronto. So if you’re a regular contributor to Philosophy in Action’s Tip Jar, I can answer your desired question as soon as possible. (The question must already be in the queue, so if you’ve not done so already, submit it. Just e-mail me at [email protected] to make arrangements.

Now, without further ado, the most recent questions added to The Queue:

When would creating a political party advance the cause of liberty?

At the moment, creating a new political party might not make sense in the United States because the Republicans and Democrats dominate the elections and the media. But when would be the right time to do so, if ever? In other countries, even tiny parties are discussed in the news, and they can win a few seats. Under those circumstances, does it make sense to create a political party advocating for individual rights? If so, what would be a good name for such a party?

What justifies punishing people for committing crimes?

In your 2006 graduate paper, “The Scope Problem in Punishment” (https://philosophyinaction.com/docs/tspip.pdf), you criticize utilitarian theories of punishment that aim for deterrence of future crimes on the grounds that they don’t punish all and only those who are guilty. Yet why is that a problem? Moreover, why should a criminal be punished if doing so won’t have any future benefits, such as deterring future crimes? Doesn’t self-interest require that actions have some future benefit – and if so, shouldn’t all punishment have some positive future effect like deterrence?

Is it wrong to hate all the pink ribbons for breast cancer awareness every October?

People seem to be going nuts with breast cancer awareness every year. Yet it’s not clear that it does much good: it’s my understanding that so much money is spent on fundraising that many of the donations don’t even go toward research. Plus, we’d probably have a cure for cancer by now if it weren’t for the government meddling in the economy and medicine (ADA, FDA, Medicare, etc.) Of course I feel for breast cancer patients and I hate cancer, but should I feel guilty for not supporting all this pink ribbon stuff?

Is it wrong to manipulate your finances to qualify for welfare?

An acquaintance of mine – who is moderately wealthy – feels justified in manipulating her finances to get government aid whenever possible on the grounds that it is “getting back” some of what she has paid. For example, she had her elderly mother buy a new car for her own use, in order to have her mother deplete her savings faster and qualify for Medicaid. However, while she had paid much in tax, her mother collects more in social security every month than she ever paid in taxes. Is it rational to view this as “getting back” money that was taken inappropriately, or is it actually immoral and self-destructive?

How can I stop exchanging meaningless holiday presents with my siblings?

My siblings and I are friendly but not close, but we still exchange Christmas presents. Mostly, that means that we buy each other stuff that we really don’t want. That seems like a waste of time and money. I’d like to stop exchanging gifts with them, but how can I do so without hurting their feelings?

Can chess be regarded as a kind of art?

Can the concept of art be legitimately expanded to domains like chess? I find some chess combinations beautiful and enjoy contemplating them. Isn’t that similar to enjoying a work of art? If so, can we recognize different schools of art in different chess combinations? Particularly, could we see romanticism versus naturalism in chess?

Is it wrong to refuse to share lecture notes with a lazy student?

A classmate of mine is nice enough but a bit odd. She’s always at least 30 minutes late for lecture, and she doesn’t come to lab sometimes. In lecture, she does not take notes but instead usually draws the whole class period. Today, she asked to borrow some of my lecture notes. I told her that I noticed that she was always late and that she didn’t take notes, and she denied that. Still, I told her that lending her my notes would be inconvenient, then I suggested that she ask someone else. Normally, I’d be happy to share my notes, but in this case, I didn’t want to share the results of my efforts in attending this class on time, every day, and paying attention. Was that wrong?

Is it wrong to be indifferent to the rights-violations of people who advocate rights-violations?

Some celebrities actively promote the violation of rights by lending their support to political groups. For example, former American Idol contestant Krista Branch has actively campaigned against gay marriage on behalf of Focus on the Family. However, in a recent interview, Branch complained that people were pirating her songs. I know that Branch’s intellectual property rights should be respected, and I would never pirate her music. Yet I can’t feel any sympathy for her, given that she advocates violating other people’s rights. I’m of the opinion that people who advocate for the use of force against others should not be spared from the consequences of the kind of culture that creates. Is that wrong? Am I being malevolent? Should I defend her rights, even though she advocates violating my rights?

Am I wrong to be upset that I learned of my uncle’s death via Facebook?

My uncle recently died. We weren’t close, but I would have expected a phone call from my parents about it. Instead, I learned about his death via a Facebook status update from one of my cousins (not his child, but his niece). I’ve been really angry that I learned such momentous news that way, but I’m having trouble explaining why to my family. Am I wrong to be upset? If I should be upset, what’s wrong with what happened?

Do I owe my boyfriend an explanation for my breaking up with him?

I dated my recently-ex-boyfriend for a few months. Over the past few weeks, I realized that some personality and value differences preclude any long-term prospects. When I broke up with him, I didn’t give him any reasons why, and that really upset him. Do I owe him an explanation? Would that help or hurt our chances of a cordial relationship in the future? If I should talk to him about my reasons, what should I say?

What are “inalienable” rights?

The Declaration of Independence says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” But what does it mean to say that our rights to life, liberty, and property are “inalienable” or “unalienable”? If that means that the state cannot take away a person’s rights, then does the state violate the rights of criminals by imprisoning or executing them?

How would antibiotic misuse be handled in a free society?

It may be possible that antibiotic-resistant bacteria acquire such resistance by exposure to low doses of antibiotics. Such low doses may come from misuse of antibiotics, for example when taken to combat a cold or flu, which are viral infection against which antibiotics do nothing, or by not completing the full course as prescribed by a doctor. Antibiotics are indeed awesome drugs which have saved millions of people. But resistant bacteria pose a serious health problem, often causing serious and difficult-to-treat illness in third parties. What would be the proper way to address this problem in a free society?

Does the virtue of courage require struggling against the temptation to succumb to fear?

In your September 16th show, you argued that “it is far better for a person to cultivate a virtuous moral character so that right actions are easy for him, rather than constantly struggling against temptation.” How does this apply to the virtue of courage? The common understanding of courage is that it requires acting rightly in spite of fear. So the courageous person struggles to do the right thing in face of the temptation to retreat in fear. Is this a correct formulation? If so, wouldn’t that mean that a courageous person must constantly struggle against fear, not overcome it? If this view of courage is wrong, how would you define the virtue and its relation to fear?

Shouldn’t the government intervene when widespread racism makes life impossible for some people?

Given that the effect of strictly respecting the rights of private property owners in the South was that blacks could not find accommodations, health care, transportation, food, and other basic necessities of life, shouldn’t the government have intervened? Didn’t civil rights legislation help eliminate racism – and wasn’t that a good thing – even if that meant violating the right to property of racists?

Was California right or wrong to ban “gay cure” therapy for minors?

Recently, California banned “reparative” or “conversion” therapy – meaning, therapy that aims to make gay teenagers straight. Such therapy is widely regarded as dangerous pseudo-science by mental health professionals. The ban only applies to patients under 18. So adults can still choose such therapy for themselves, but parents cannot foist it on their minor children. Is such therapy a form of child abuse? Or should parents have the power to compel such therapy on their children, even if they’re morally wrong to do so?

Is social morality objective and enforceable by government?

Are “right” and “wrong” and “good” and “bad” enforceable objective standards or subjective preferences? If they are objective, what is the most effective means of social enforcement? If they are subjective, should we then encourage unrestrained personal freedom, with only personal responsibility as a self-limiter? Is that possible – or do we need caretaking by a (hopefully) benevolent government?

To submit a question, use this form. I prefer questions focused on some concrete real-life problem, as opposed to merely theoretical or political questions. I review and edit all questions before they’re posted. (Alas, IdeaInformer doesn’t display any kind of confirmation page when you submit a question.)

Oct 302012

On July 13, 2012, Rand Simberg (an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute) wrote a blog post critical of Penn State University climate scientist Michael Mann and his work on global warming: “The Other Scandal In Unhappy Valley“.

Mann subsequently demanded that CEI retract the post and apologize for it.

CEI declined.  CEI general counsel Sam Kazman wrote:

Shortly after that post was published in mid-July, CEI removed two sentences that it regarded as inappropriate.  However, we view the post as a valid commentary on Michael Mann’s research…

And regardless of how one views Mann’s work, his threatened lawsuit is directly contrary to First Amendment law regarding public debate over controversial issues.  Michael Mann may believe we face a global warming threat, but his actions represent an unfounded attempt to freeze discussion of his views.

In short, we’re not retracting the piece, and we’re not apologizing for it.

In response, Mann filed a lawsuit against CEI and Rand Simberg, as well as National Review and columnist Mark Steyn (who quoted portions of Simberg’s piece).

CEI has stated they will defend their “First Amendment rights“.  They’ve also posted their legal defense of Simberg’s blog post.

CEI is accepting donations to help them on this issue and their other work.  I’ve gladly donated.

(BTW, their website notes, “CEI is a non-partisan, educational and research institute operating under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. CEI accepts no government grants or contracts, nor do we have an endowment. Contributions to our efforts are tax-deductible.”)

If you want to support CEI, you can donate here.

I’ll also be staying tuned for updates on Rand Simberg’s blog, Transterrestrial Musings, and will pass them along as appropriate.

[Crossposted from GeekPress.]

No Philosophy in Action Radio on Wednesday

 Posted by on 30 October 2012 at 8:00 am  Announcements
Oct 302012

Due to the one-two punch of Halloween and Sandy, I won’t be broadcasting a radio show on Wednesday evening. In case you’re distraught, here’s a picture of cute little Merlin playing with a plastic grocery bag.

Happily, I’ve got some awesome guests lined up for November and December. I’m even working on scheduling interviews for January and February. So… get ready!

Oct 292012

Do not place a cheesy dish on the dinner table early when you own a naughty little kitten who is very fond of cheese… unless you enjoy throwing said kitten off the table 15 times in 20 minutes and you don’t mind eating licked cheese, that is.

Who Me?

Oct 292012

I’m currently in the market for a used car — likely, a Toyota 4Runner. It’s a mid-sized SUV, and I could use something slightly larger than my current Mazda Tribute. It’s more utilitarian than luxury, which is good for a farm gal like me. It’s also the only SUV with a roll-down back window, and that would be hugely useful for the dogs, who are often with me.

While perusing reviews of a local Toyota dealership this weekend, I found this gem:

I went to Groove Toyota to look at the Prius C because I value the environment and want to do my part. As I was sitting there, I witnessed multiple employees throw away plastic bottles in a garbage right next to me. This garbage was already full of plastic bottles and other waste. I was then offered a water bottle. It struck me as odd that a company that touts it is environmentally-conscientious and also locally-owned, would not have a recycling program. Something as simple as recycling would help the Denver and global community and show customers who value the environment (and hence are buying hybrid cars) that they have the same values. This was a major turn off for me and disueded me from purchasing my vehicle there. I will support a company that follows through with its purported values, even down to offering recycling to emplyees and customers for plastic bottles.

Let’s just say that I’m not persuaded to go elsewhere after reading that.

Oct 292012

On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I answered questions on circumcision versus female genital mutilation, why anarcho-capitalism is wrong, duties to the government, and more. The podcast of that episode is now available for streaming or downloading.

You can automatically download podcasts of Philosophy in Action Radio by subscribing to Philosophy in Action’s Podcast RSS Feed:

Whole Podcast: 28 October 2012

Listen or Download:

Remember the Tip Jar!

The mission of Philosophy in Action is to spread rational principles for real life… far and wide. That’s why the vast majority of my work is available to anyone, free of charge. I love doing the radio show, but each episode requires an investment of time, effort, and money to produce. So if you enjoy and value that work of mine, please contribute to the tip jar. I suggest $5 per episode or $20 per month, but any amount is appreciated. In return, contributors can request that I answer questions from the queue pronto, and regular contributors enjoy free access to premium content and other goodies.

Podcast Segments: 28 October 2012

You can download or listen to my answers to individual questions from this episode below.


My News of the Week: I’ve been working on minor updates to PhilosophyInAction.com. My lecture on Christianity versus capitalism in Boulder went fabulously well!

Question 1: Circumcision Versus Female Genital Mutilation

Question: Is circumcision on par with female genital mutilation? Many people decry female genital mutilation, but they regard circumcision as the right of parents. Is that wrong?

My Answer, In Brief: Male circumcision is wrong, yet it’s nowhere near the horror of most female genital mutilation, which attempts to utterly destroy a woman’s sexuality.

Listen or Download:


To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

Question 2: Why Anarcho-Capitalism Is Wrong

Question: What’s wrong with anarcho-capitalism? Libertarian anarchists – such as Murray Rothbard, Roy Childs, and Stefan Molyneux – claim that anarcho-capitalism is the only political system compatible with the “non-aggression principle.” Is that right? Must any government initiate force by excluding competing defense agencies, as anarchists claim? Should governments be abolished in favor of private markets in force?

My Answer, In Brief: Anarcho-capitalism’s ideal of a “market in force” is no way to protect rights. In such a market, force – not just retaliatory force but also initiatory force – will be available for a price. As a result, the wealthy, power-lusting, and violent will be able to impose their will on the rest of us.

Listen or Download:


To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

Question 3: Duties to the Government

Question: In a free society, would people be obliged to support or obey the government? Ayn Rand defined government as “an institution that holds the exclusive power to enforce certain rules of social conduct in a given geographical area.” She said that a government has – and must have – “a monopoly on the legal use of physical force.” Given that, must a person support the government – morally or financially – in order for his rights to be protected? Would a person have to swear loyalty, pay taxes, vote in elections, or serve in the military? What would be the status of an anarchist – meaning someone who regards all government as illegitimate – in such a society?

My Answer, In Brief: In a free society, your only legal obligation is not to violate rights. So you can refuse to participate in civic life entirely, and the government will leave you alone, so long as you don’t violate rights.

Listen or Download:


To comment on this question or my answer, visit its comment thread.

Rapid Fire Questions


  • Isn’t binding arbitration a form of private government?

Listen or Download:

  • Start Time: 1:10:40
  • Duration: 1:38
  • Download: MP3 Segment

To comment on these questions or my answers, visit its comment thread.


Be sure to check out the topics scheduled for upcoming episodes! Don’t forget to submit and vote on questions for future episodes too!

  • Start Time: 1:12:19

About Philosophy in Action Radio

Philosophy in Action Radio focuses on the application of rational principles to the challenges of real life. It broadcasts live on most Sunday mornings and many Thursday evenings over the internet. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives.

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Activism Recap

 Posted by on 28 October 2012 at 2:00 pm  Activism Recap
Oct 282012

This week on We Stand FIRM, the blog of FIRM (Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine):

Follow FIRM on Facebook and Twitter.

This week on Politics without God, the blog of the Coalition for Secular Government:

Follow the Coalition for Secular Government on Facebook and Twitter.

This week on Mother of Exiles:

Follow Mother of Exiles on Facebook and Twitter.

This week on The Blog of The Objective Standard:

Follow The Objective Standard on Facebook and Twitter.

This week on The Blog of Modern Paleo:

Follow Modern Paleo on Facebook and Twitter.

Open Thread #366

 Posted by on 28 October 2012 at 12:00 pm  Open Thread
Oct 282012


For anyone wishing to ask a question, make a observation, or share a link with other NoodleFood readers, I hereby open up the comments on this post to any respectable topic. As always, please refrain from posting inappropriate comments such as personal attacks, pornographic material, copyrighted material, and commercial solicitations.

NoodleFood’s Open Threads feature creative commons photographs from Flickr that I find interesting. I hope that you enjoy them!


 Posted by on 26 October 2012 at 1:00 pm  Link-O-Rama
Oct 262012

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