TP Ethics and Grumpiness

May 292003

It’s about time that the blogosphere tackled the difficult ethical questions about the use of toiler paper in public restrooms. Reasonable Man to the rescue!

Oh, and a sick Jacob Levy complains about grumpiness:

Which reminds me: did you see this article about curmudgeons in the Sunday NYT? It has the unmitigated gall to compare Andy Rooney and Art Buchwald– Art Buchwald!– to, say, H.L. Mencken and George Carlin. Rooney is termed “curmudgeon in chief.”

Mencken: took on the politics and culture of an era. Rooney: complains about the consistency of his earwax.

Carlin: went to the Supreme Court to defend freedom of speech. Buchwald: Dethawed every week to continue writing Maureen Dowd columns without the sex jokes.

In other words: I’m grumpy about the state of media coverage of grumpiness, and about the decline in the quality of grumpiness.

Did I mention I’m sick today?

I’ve been struggling through a series of deadlines for the entire month of May, so I’ve been unusually grumpy lately — particularly in my online communications. (Then again, I haven’t been able to leave the house much, so online communications have really been my only communications with people other than Paul.) Well, tonight I should be done with the last May deadline… and then I head down to Taos, New Mexico for a few days of very-very-very-much-vacation with my parents who are RV’ing around the southwest. I desperately hope that I’ll be able to set aside some time to ride my horses and garden a bit when I return.

Okay, well, back to work. Augh.

Victor Davis Hanson

May 272003

I’m not sure how I found this profile of Victor Davis Hanson from the Boston Globe (perhaps through Bill Quick), but it’s well worth reading.

More Information Than I Needed

May 252003

Augh… my American Idol innocence has been shattered. Frankly, I wasn’t so impressed with Ruben towards the end… so I would love to have seen Kimberly versus Clay in the final round.

Soulmate Calculator

May 252003

Sheesh, I’m glad I’m already married… given my Soulmate Calculator results:

Your probability coefficient: 1.95839045518104E-08.

You have to meet 51,062,340 American single males who are between 27 and 45 years old.

You might have to move.

Uh, yeah, if you’re dating by random sample… maybe. I was pretty generous with my criteria… And stupidly, none of the criteria concerned sex drive, which strikes me as quite important in any long-term relationship. (Via Spy in the House of Bling.)

BlogRoll Update

May 252003

I’ve finally updated the blogroll… it was hastily done, but at least it reflects my reading habits better than the long-outdated old blogroll.

Well, Blogger doesn’t seem to be accepting the changes to the template. *@^#()!&* Thrill. Well, I’ll just past them below until Blogger decides to behave like good software.

Spaghetti Blogs


Best of the Web

The Command Post


Volokh Conspiracy

USS Clueless

Andrew Sullivan

The Bleat

Jay Nordlinger

Udon Blogs

Arthur Silber

Will Wilkinson

Joshua Zader


Jimmy Wales

Donny Watkins

In a Blog’s Stead

Peter Saint-Andre

Objectivist Bloggers

Fettuccine Blogs

Joanne Jacobs

Virginia Postrel

Sargent Stryker

Disaffected Muslim

Allison Kaplan Sommer

Ian Hamet

Eric Raymond

Eve Tushnet

Penne Blogs


Shoutin’ Across the Pacific

Right Wing News

Brink Lindsey

Jane Galt

Loco Parentis

Dave Tepper

Lt Smash

Gweilo Diaries


Ramen Blogs

The Corner

The Truth Laid Bear

Heightened Senses

Charles Murtaugh


Terry Foote

Super-DCMA, Super-Hanah

May 232003

Hanah Metchis’ article on Super-DCMA laws just landed in my inbox thanks to CEI’s “C:\SPIN.” She writes:

Despite the moniker, the super-DMCA bills are not much like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which became federal law in 1998. They do deal with the same issue–the protection of copyright in an age when digital devices make piracy an easy task–but the state bills use much broader language. (The state bills differ in their details, but are all based on the same model legislation.) They outlaw any “communications device” used “without the express consent or express authorization of the communication service provider.” That means your phone company, cable company, and ISP get to decide what’s legal and what’s not. This is not a good idea for the future of tech competition.

The problem of protecting copyrights is a real one, and it is difficult to solve. But the super-DMCA bills, in their attempt to counter vague threats with vague language, create more problems than they solve. Theft, fraud, and copyright violation are already illegal. Making every “communications device” suspect and every consumer a possible criminal is not the way to prevent piracy.

Thankfully, Colorado’s governor Bill Owens, who recently vetoed one of these stupid super-DCMA laws, seems to agree with Hanah. According to Linda Seebach of the Rocky Mountain News (via Instapundit), Bill Owens warned the legislature “to be more careful in drafting a bill that adds protections that are rightfully needed, but does not paint a broad brush stroke where only a tight line is needed.”

Funny Fiction

May 202003

Someone named “collinschubbwoolston” just posted this amusing bit of pure fiction on the Nathaniel Branden Forum:

But just as politicians and religious leaders appeal to our narcissistic tendencies and our fears of being rejected by the herd, so Rand takes advantage of these weaknesses. In most of her works, she glorifies the human mind and tells the reader that he or she possess the magnificent power of reason, and that no-one is his or her intellectual superior. She uses the word “social mystic” to describe any person that believes in the existence of people with intelligence superior to one’s own intelligence. This makes the reader feel excellent and worthy of existence. Those who read Rand’s works often go to meetings called “objectivist workshops” where they are told what all of the correct opinions are on every political, ethical and philosophical issue. Once the person attending these meetings demonstrates that all of the correct opinions have been formed, membership to the “objectivist club” is offered. Strangely, thousands of people have been excommunicated from this club for erring ever so slightly in the formation of any particular opinion. It is difficult to understand how one can reconcile the desire to avoid being a “social mystic” with the requirement to form an official set of opinions. [Emphasis added.]

I don’t think there’s a single true claim in that whole paragraph. (I didn’t bother to read the rest of the post. This bit was quite enough for me!)

Interesting Changes at TOC

May 202003

The much-hailed George de Feis has parted company with The Objectivist Center — after only six months as chief operating officer. According to the announcement Paul and I (and other sponors) received, the staff reductions due to budget constraints this year “reduced the need for a fulltime manager at his level.” More interestingly, the announcement notes that “it had also become clear that his particular skills and experience were not the best fit for our mission.” I wonder what that means… and whether it has anything to do with the allegations that he seriously mismanaged the US Chess Federation as its executive director.

TOC seems lost to me these days. From my (admittedly very much outside) perspective, they don’t seem to be doing much except Navigator and the Summer Seminar. And that’s just not enough.

Update: Due to serious philosophic and moral objections, I am no longer associated with The Objectivist Center in any way, shape, or form. My reasons why can be found on my web page on The Many False Friends of Objectivism.

A Rather Interesting Tale

May 202003

Dave Jilk just alerted me to a rather interesting tale of his on the themes of sexual desire and fidelity. It’s well-written, racy, and philosophically fascinating… which is an unusual combo!

More Done!

May 202003

Whew! The abstract and outline of my six-lecture “Objectivism 101″ course for TOC’s summer seminar is done too! Given that I only just started revising these lectures, some of it is likely to be not-entirely-accurate by the time the seminar rolls around. But since the outline covers six hours of lecturing, it’s pretty short on detail anyway.

Objectivism 101 Abstract

Ayn Rand’s novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged offer a unique and inspiring moral vision, but translating those ideals into daily life can be a challenge. In these lectures, we will survey the basic principles of Objectivism, from metaphysics to aesthetics. We will focus on both the theory and practice of the philosophy, contrasting it with common religious and cultural views. Although no familiarity with the philosophy of Objectivism is presumed for this course, acquaintance with Ayn Rand’s two major novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged will be helpful. Each session will draw upon ideas and themes from the earlier lectures, so attendance of all the lectures is recommended.

Objectivism 101 Outline

I. Ayn Rand and Philosophy
        Ayn Rand's life and work
                The questions of philosophy
                Philosophy as universal, inescapable, and influential
                Philosophy in everyday life
        Objectivism in brief

II. Reality and Reason
                Primacy of existence
                Primacy of consciousness
                Perceptual and conceptual awareness
                        The data of the senses
                        The method of logic
                        The effort of volition
        God and the supernatural

III. Life and Happiness
                The ethics of Western culture
                Why do we need ethics?
                Life and happiness
                Rational self-interest
                Moral principles
                Values and virtues
        Social ethics
                Sacrifice of self or others
                The Trader Principle
        Mind-body integration

IV. The Virtues
        The self-made soul

V. Individual Rights and Capitalism
                Individual rights
                Negative (and not positive) rights
                Economic systems
                The critiques of capitalism
                Defending capitalism

VI. Art as Spiritual Fuel
                Art as spiritual fuel
                Art and philosophy
                Sense of life
                Standards in art
                Objectivism as a system
                Studying Objectivism
                The future of Objectivism

Now I have a week to revise and complete my Advanced Seminar paper on philosophy of mind. Oy.

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