Computer Security Versus User Stupidity

 Posted by on 30 April 2013 at 10:00 am  Security, Technology
Apr 302013

Most people are reasonable sensible and decent, in my experience. Alas, that’s not true of everyone, as this story of what’s wrong with IT security in a nutshell reveals. (It was posted to an IT security list.)

Last time [we] sent out a warning email along the lines of:

We never ask for your username and password. If you get an email that looks like: “There is an issue with your account. Please reply with your username and password and we will rectify it”

You should never reply to these messages with your details.

50 people replied with their usernames and passwords.

I’m not sure whether that’s better or worse than the vast numbers of people who use “0000″ as their ATM pin code. Either way, I’m just amazed… and I’m thinking that schools and businesses need to teach the basics of computer security.

Expressions of Mere Opinion

 Posted by on 29 April 2013 at 2:00 pm  Epistemology, Rationality
Apr 292013

I appreciate that it’s often useful for people to say “I agree” or “I disagree” in contexts where wrong assumptions might be made.

That’s rarely the case, however. Most of the time, when people just indicate their mere agreement or disagreement with some remark, my reaction is pretty much: Why the heck did you bother to say that for? How about offering some kind of reason or argument or example? Do you think that anyone cares about your mere opinion? Be witty or be substantive or be silent! Then, despite my major disagreements with Plato’s epistemology, I feel the urge to beat them over the head with his distinction between opinion and knowledge.

Am I alone? Is this a crazy pet-peeve? The inevitable result of reading too many undergraduate philosophy papers? Or just a hope for higher standards of rationality?


Bob Levy, the Chairman of Cato’s Board, comes out in favor of background checks in the New York Times: A Libertarian Case for Expanding Gun Background Checks.

Extending background checks to unlicensed sellers shouldn’t be cause for alarm. Background checks are already required for purchases from federally licensed dealers, whether at stores or gun shows, over the Internet or by mail. Moreover, gun buyers would be exempt from background checks if they had a carry permit issued within the last five years.

That’s all the argument that he gives on that point, which shows a remarkable lack of concern for the well-grounded fears that background checks lead to registration, bans on sales, and then confiscation. On the other hand, we have this compelling argument:

Gun-rights advocates should use this interval to refine their priorities and support this measure, with a few modest changes. If they don’t, they will be opening themselves to accusations from President Obama and others that they are merely obstructionists, zealots who will not agree to common-sense gun legislation.


Granted, many Objectivist intellectuals have been lukewarm on gun rights, and they’ve said far worse. Still, I think that libertarians like Bob Levy know better — and that’s what makes this kind of aggressive compromise-peddling so worrisome to me. Based on my interview with John McCaskey on libertarianism’s moral shift, I have to think that we’ll see even more such calls for compromise in future.


On Sunday’s episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, Greg Perkins and I answered questions on self-interest in marriage, atheists attending religious ceremonies, multigenerational space travel, drugs as treatment for mental illness, 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 April 2013

Listen or Download:

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Podcast Segments: 28 April 2013

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


My News of the Week: I’ve been finalizing the layout of my soon-forthcoming book, Responsibility and Luck (a.k.a. my dissertation), and now I’m doing the final review of the text and layouy, creating the index, and planning the podcast series. The book will be available in a week or two!

Question 1: Self-Interest in Marriage

Question: Can marriage be self-interested? Most people describe marriage as requiring compromise, sacrifice, and concession. Is that right? Is a happy and fulfilling marriage possible where each person pursues his or her own values, without such compromise, sacrifice, or concession? Is some different approach to marriage required?

My Answer, In Brief: Marriage need not and should not be sacrificial. A happy marriage is egoistic: each person pursues his own self-interest, including by being respectful and accommodating of his/her spouse.

Listen or Download:

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

Question 2: Atheists Attending Religious Ceremonies

Question: Is it wrong for an atheist to refuse to attend a sibling’s religious ceremony? I’ve decided not to attend the religious ceremony of my younger sister’s upcoming Bat Mitzvah. I’m an atheist, and while I don’t think attending would be immoral, I don’t want to support any kind of religiosity or connection to religion. Other family members have criticized me for that decision, saying that I should support my sister and not pressure her into agreeing with my own views. Should I attend? If not, how should I handle the family dynamics?

My Answer, In Brief: Other things being equal, the morality of attending a religious ceremony depends on the morality and religiosity of the ceremony. Here, attendance is optional, and you should explain your reasons to your sister kindly, and tell your family to mind their own business.

Listen or Download:

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

Question 3: Multigenerational Space Travel

Question: Is multigenerational space travel immoral? According to a panel at SETICon 2012, the designs for multi-generational space ships are already in the works. Are there ethical problems with people bearing children who will never see Earth, and likely never set foot on a planet? Would they be robbed of any ability to determine their own fate? Or is it a moot point since had the circumstances been different, they might not have ever been born at all?

My Answer, In Brief: Children are not entitled to the best that Earth has to offer. They are entitled to have real lives, lived in freedom. That would be tricky to implement in space, but possible.

Listen or Download:


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

Question 4: Drugs as Treatment for Mental Illness

Question: Is taking antidepressants and other prescribed drugs for mental problems a form of evasion? I’m new to the philosophy of Objectivism, and I’ve seen that it’s rapidly helping cure the last parts of a depression I went through last year. I started taking Adderal about eight months ago, and it has helped tremendously. But I wonder: Does taking these drugs or other antidepressants conflict with the principle that a person should never evade reality?

My Answer, In Brief: Some people seem to need need for antidepressants and other drugs to achieve normal mental functioning or restore themselves to that – and to use them in those cases is entirely proper and not evasion.

Listen or Download:


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

Rapid Fire Questions


  • Do Objectivists hold each other to higher standards?
  • Is it mystical to name your pets after wizards?
  • Do spouses have an expectation of privacy?

Listen or Download:

  • Start Time: 57:18
  • Duration: 7:07
  • 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: 1:04:25

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Activism Recap

 Posted by on 28 April 2013 at 1:00 pm  Activism Recap
Apr 282013

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 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.

Merlin Loves Prosciutto

 Posted by on 27 April 2013 at 10:00 am  Animals, Cats, Funny, Personal
Apr 272013

Naughty kitty Merlin loves prosciutto ham so very much — and he’s completely unconcerned about my unwillingness to let him assault me and me my plate — that I have to eat it standing in the middle of the room while holding my plate in my hand. Even then, he begs and wiggles and wiggles and begs from the nearest perch, with eyes as wide as saucers, like this:

Cans I has some pros.. proscu… ham?


 Posted by on 26 April 2013 at 1:00 pm  Link-O-Rama
Apr 262013

Pimp Fascist Philosopher

 Posted by on 26 April 2013 at 10:00 am  Crazy Emails, Funny
Apr 262013

On Tuesday, I posted this question to Philosophy in Action’s Queue:

Do unfit parents have a right to procreate? Courts today seem to hold the view that people have a right to procreate. As a result, wholly unfit parents can produce child after child. Even if the court removes the latest child from the home when very young, some abuse or neglect must have already occurred. In fact, the child might have health problems at birth due to drug abuse, alcohol consumption, or lack of proper medical care by the mother during pregnancy. Does the current system respect the rights of unfit parents at the expense of their kids? Instead, should unfit parents be required to adopt out any new children they bear? Should serial abusers be forced to take birth control or even sterilized?

The posting of it to Facebook spawned a highly entertaining thread… entertaining, mostly thanks to the repeated crazy-hostile comments of someone by the name of “Stephen Cole.” It began as barely coherent bashing of Ayn Rand:

Then he went in an entirely wacky direction:

Yipee! Now I can check get yourself called a “pimp fascist philosopher” by some random jackass on Facebook off my bucket list!

Of course, I posted a screenshot of that to Facebook, because it was just too funny not to share. Even better, I asked Rory Hodgson to make a video of a dramatic reading, as we’d just been talking about that this morning. (I was inspired by this: Michael Shannon Reads the Insane Delta Gamma Sorority Letter.) He did it, and it’s awesome!

Also, Tori Press altered my business cards in a fabulous way:

I tell ya, I get THE BEST CRAZY… and I’m so glad, because laughing at it with friends is so much fun!

Apr 252013

Check out this blog post from the Republican Liberty Caucus about the looming internet sales tax. You can use their form to write your senators too.

Here’s what I wrote:

I am an internet entrepreneur — a philosopher and a radio host — and I am adamantly opposed to this internet tax. It would make my work much, much more difficult. I already refuse to sell physical goods to Colorado residents because complying with the slew of local taxes is simply not worth the legal risk and headache. So you’re going to “solve” that problem by imposing the same for every sale in America? Are you kidding?

Do you really wish to destroy entrepreneurs and small business people? That’s what this bill would do. STOP IT.

Apparently, the bill is going up for a vote on Friday, so please write them to oppose this monstrosity today!

Apr 252013

As y’all know, Philosophy in Action is financially powered by the enthusiastic support of our generous fans. Although I don’t yet earn nearly as much as I’d like, the radio show couldn’t survive without those tips. Heck, I couldn’t motivate myself to prepare and broadcast every week — even knowing that thousands are listening — without the moral support of people implicitly saying, by their contributions, “Hey, I really value the work that you’re doing. Really!”

I have tons and tons and tons of development work to do with Philosophy in Action in future, including offering more in writing and more exclusive benefits to contributors. That work is underway, albeit slowly. I hope that will grow my audience, as well as my revenue.

In the meantime, I can’t properly express how much I appreciate contributions with with messages like this one:

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See? That’s just awesome.

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