"Telling the Fallujah Story to the World"

Nov 272004

This astounding PowerPoint presentation created by the US 1st Marine Expeditionary Force and the MultiNational Corps-Iraq details the despicable nature of the enemy that we’ve been fighting in Fallujah. I’m so glad we finally finished the job we started (and should have completed) 8 months ago. (Link via DefenseTech.)

"Seeing is believing (in the free market)"

Nov 232004

Alex Tabarrok has some very interesting observations about health care economics:

Everywhere we look it seems that health care is more expensive: prescription drug prices are increasing, costs to visit the doctor are up, the price of health insurance is rising. But look closer, even closer, closer still. Don’t see it yet? Perhaps you should have your eyes corrected at a Lasik vision center.

Laser eye surgery has the highest patient satisfaction ratings of any surgery, it has been performed more than 3 million times in the past decade, it is new, it is high-tech, it has gotten better over time and… laser eye surgery has fallen in price. In 1998 the average price of laser eye surgery was about $2200 per eye. Today the average price is $1350, that’s a decline of 38 percent in nominal terms and slightly more than that after taking into account inflation.

Why the price decline in this market and not others? Could it have something to do with the fact that laser eye surgery is not covered by insurance, not covered by Medicaid or Medicare, and not heavily regulated? Laser eye surgery is one of the few health procedures sold in a free market with price advertising, competition and consumer driven purchases. I’m seeing things more clearly already.

(From Marginal Revolution.)

Shameless Political Book Plug

Nov 212004

Bill Whittle, one of my favorite internet essayists, has a new book out entitled, Silent America: Essays From a Democracy at War. It’s a hard copy edition of some of his best essays, available for for only $29.95 plus S&H. Perfect for Christmas!

If you want to read the online versions, here are the links to the individual chapters:

Trinity (Part 1)
Trinity (Part 2)
Strength (Part 1)
Strength (Part 2)
Deterrence (Part 1)
Deterrence (Part 2)

Whittle is not an Objectivist, and I don’t agree with everything he says. But I find his writing thought-provoking and inspiring, both for the actual content of his arguments as well as the underlying optimistic American sense of life.

As a supporter of the 2nd Amendment, I especially liked “Freedom“. For a fun discussion of capitalism in America, read “Trinity“. For an essentialized analysis of our great political divide, read “Responsibility“. And for some good counterweights to the conventional wisdom promulgated by the mainstream press on America’s role in the world (in general) and the Iraq War (in particular), read “Empire“, “War“,”Strength” and “Deterrence“.

The New Rankings

Nov 192004

The new rankings of philosophy graduate programs are out. Due to all of our departures of faculty over the last year and some, Boulder has dropped from #28 to #38. (We’re actually now tied with my undergraduate alma mater, WashU, which had fallen entirely off the rankings in recent years. I’m glad that WashU seems to be rebuilding its program.)

Although the present fall in rank aggravating, I’m not too worried it. Bob Pasnau (our department chairman) has been very busy hiring good new faculty. So I expect that we’ll see a substantial rise in our ranking the next time around.

I Couldn’t Make This Stuff Up Even If Tried Really, Really Hard

Nov 182004

Really, how do people come up with this idiocy?

Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche and Ayn Rand give so much prominence to the will that there was little left over for reason. Historians have referred to this triad as “irrational vitalists.”

That’s from Donald DeMarco, the Catholic philosopher who “co-authored a book investigating the dysfunctional lives and theories of the Architects of the Culture of Death with Benjamin Wiker.” The interview with DeMarco is introduced with this bit of loveliness:

Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Ayn Rand and Wilhelm Reich may have had therapeutic aims to cure the world of its ills.

But instead they contributed immensely to the modern sickness that John Paul II has identified as the “culture of death.”

As the title says, I couldn’t make this stuff up even if tried really, really hard.

Kant in the News

Nov 182004

When I heard that Dinesh D’Sousa had written a very Kantian op-ed for Opinion Journal from some Objectivist sources, I figured that the article merely had a Kantian flavor to it. Boy, was I ever wrong. The whole article is an explicit appeal to Kant’s tortured metaphysics and epistemology, all for the small task of rejecting Daniel Dennett’s stupid suggestion that atheistic materialists identify themselves as “brights.”

I would quote from the article for the purposes of illustration, but then I’d have to quote it all. So go read it if you want the gory details.

Far more amusing was British Home Secretary David Blunkett blaming Kant for the public’s skepticism about national identity cards. (Paul found it in the course of surfing for stories for GeekPress.)

Home Secretary David Blunkett said today that the German philosopher Immanuel Kant is to blame for scepticism about the government’s plans for a compulsory national identity card. He was speaking at a meeting at the Institute of Public Policy Research, restating his arguments in favour of the scheme.

The British public’s fear of ID cards is down to our “history of legitimate doubts about the intentions of the state, reinforced by what we saw in terms of communism and fascism over the last century”, Blunkett said. “It was writers like Kant who first took the view that there is something suspicious about government activity, and that if a government is up to something, it must be about removing freedoms.”

Nothing could be further from the truth, he argues. In fact, the ID card will pave the way for a more tolerant society, with greater social cohesion. It will be useful in the fight against racism, and won’t be a big-brother style surveillance tool, at all. It is now time to take on the sceptics, and those who argue that the government’s intentions cannot be taken at face value, he says.

Trust us. We’re nice.

If only Kant were such a good influence on public policy!

Confused Reporting

Nov 152004

Okay, so either a reporter was very confused or Jimmy has some ‘splaining to do:

Blog owners usually don’t allow their readers to add their own comments, preferring their monologues to others’ dialogues. On the other hand, a “Wiki,” which gets its name from the Hawaiian word for “fast,” is a type of Web site that encourages active participation. It’s the approach taken by Wikipedia, the most pervasive quasi-encyclopedia on the Web. Wikipedia is free and contains millions of articles in scores of languages that pop up early in many Google searches, but the articles’ authors are anonymous and can be anyone, so their credibility is dubious.

A computer programmer from Alabama named Jimmy Wales created Wikipedia in 2001, inviting Web surfers to add articles on any topic, and they did, with 1 million articles being added as of last September.

Wales admires novelist Ayn Rand’s Objectivist Philosophy, which the American Heritage Dictionary defines as a doctrine “holding that all reality is objective and external to the mind and that knowledge is reliably based on observed objects and events.” So he believes that contributors should “write about what people believe, rather than what is so.”

Instead of gathering a stable of acknowledged authorities to write its articles, as do traditional encyclopedias, Wikipedia describes itself as “collaboratively edited and maintained by thousands of users.”

The italicized passage is quite astonishing. Even bypassing the misunderstanding of Objectivism, the only connection between reality as objective and writing on beliefs rather than facts is a negative one!

So Jimmy, what’s up with that?!?

Democratic Disorganization

Nov 142004

Brian Leiter posts a first-hand report on the abysmal lack of organization among the Democrats in Ohio from a lawyer. The systematic and unrelenting incompetence is truly mind-boggling.

Too often, good managers are not properly appreciated for the critical role they play in the effective and efficient mobilization of human capital. The story linked above merely shows the other side of the coin, i.e. the utter waste and stupidity of poorly organized mass of people. The enthusiasm, skills, and drive of such people are utterly without value in the absence of a structure to purposefully direct those qualities toward the desired goal.

But given that the goal in this case was to elect John Kerry, perhaps we should be grateful.

The Incredibles

Nov 132004

In more chipper news than that on Arafat just below, Paul and I saw The Incredibles last night. It was truly delightful, particularly since it wholly lacked the stench of altruism so often found in tales of comic book heroes.

And speaking of comic book heroes, I have been nothing but disappointed in the new Batman animated series, The Batman. This young Batman is too casual, too light, too gregarious to be Batman. It’s quite a travesty.

More Good Riddance

Nov 132004

A Washington Post article on the death of Arafat opens with this revolting celebration of the bloody terrorist:

For virtually his entire adult life, Yasser Arafat had one dream, and he pursued it with such energy and zeal — some would say fanaticism — that he came to personify the dream itself.

The dream was of self-determination and statehood for the Palestinian people, and in the end he did not live to see it.

As Mort Kondrake observed on Special Report with Brit Hume two nights ago: “Gerhard Schroeder said that ‘It was not granted to Yasser Arafat to complete his life’s work.’ To that I say ‘Thank God’ because Yasser Arafat’s life’s work was the destruction of the state of Israel.”

That’s all too true — and the only possible explanation for Arafat’s rejection of multiple opportunities to create a Palestinian state in favor of continued terrorism against innocent Israelis. (A short video on Arafat’s legacy can be found here, thanks to The Volokh Conspiracy.)

In the comments, David Beatty wrote that “It remains to be seen if the Palestinians are really interested in peace or just eliminating Israel.”

In the past few years, I have not seen a single shred of evidence that any substantial minority of Palestinians are genuinely interested in peaceful co-existence with Israel. Instead, the evidence is overwhelming that most Palestinians either actively or passively support the destruction of Israel. Perhaps some Palestinians would be willing to speak out if so-called collaborators weren’t strung up in the streets by Arafat’s thugs. But I’m not exactly hopeful.

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