Great Blogger Migration, Take Two

Apr 302010

Later today, I hope to do the Great Blogger Migration for NoodleFood. It has to get done pronto, as FTP publishing will be discontinued tomorrow. So… if NoodleFood goes all wonky for you today, just come back later. By Monday, everything should be straight. If you encounter anything amiss on Monday, please drop me an e-mail.

Unfortunately, the Migration is seriously hampered right now by the fact that we don’t have power in the house due to some major electrical problems in the line between the pedestal and the house. My DSL modem and laptop are running on battery for now, but my web development files are all on my iMac desktop. That’s a problem!

If I get desperate, I might have to move my iMac down to the barn! (That runs on a separate line.)

NoodleCast #32: Explore Atlas Shrugged, Session 15

Apr 302010

These discussion questions and podcast were prepared by Diana Hsieh for for people interested in creating their own Atlas Shrugged Reading Groups, as well as for anyone wishing to study the novel in more depth. They may be freely used for the study and discussion of Atlas Shrugged, provided that this paragraph remains intact in any reproduction.


Atlas Shrugged, Part 3, Chapter 1

  • Part 3, Chapter 4: Anti-Life
  • Part 3, Chapter 5: Their Brothers’ Keeper (Part A)



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80:15 minutes

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Discussion Questions

(Note: The listed page numbers are for the larger edition, softcover or hardback.)

Part 4, Chapter 4: Anti-Life

Section 1 (864-885)

  • Why does Jim Taggart want to celebrate the upcoming nationalization of D’Anconia Copper?  Why doesn’t he want to admit the nature of his satisfaction to himself?  (864-71)
  • How has Cherryl Taggart changed since her wedding?  What kind of person is she now? What has she learned about Jim? (868-885)
  • What is Jim Taggart’s view of love?  Is it right or wrong?  Why?  (876-7, 881-2)
  • What are the similarities and differences between Jim’s marriage to Cherryl and Lillian’s marriage to Hank?  Which is worse?  (873-883)
  • How and why is Cherryl already destroyed by Jim, when she realizes what kind of person Jim is?  (882-3)

Section 2 (886-892)

  • What is Dagny’s psychological state now?  What does she think of her choice to leave the valley?  (886-7)
  • Why does Cherryl visit Dagny?  What kind of support does Dagny offer her?  Why does Dagny offer that support?  (887-92)

Section 3 (892-900)

  • How has Lillian Rearden changed in recent months?  What is her psychological state?  What has caused the change? (893-7)
  • What does Lillian reveal about her understanding of Hank Rearden’s virtues — when she married him and now?  What were her motives in marrying him?  (898-9)
  • What is the significance of the sex between Lillian and Jim, including the way it begins?  How is it revenge on Hank Rearden?  How is it another Gift Certificate in Lillian’s eyes?  (898-900)

Section 4 (900-908)

  • Why is Cherryl so shaken by realizing that Jim has slept with another woman?  Why does Jim respond as he does when Cherryl tells him that she knows?  Why is that so unbearable for her? (900-4)
  • What is Jim’s explanation for why he married Cherryl?  Why is she so horrified by that?  (902-4)
  • What does Cherryl think as she wanders the streets of New York City?  Why doesn’t she go to Dagny?  Why can’t she start over?  Could she have been saved by the valley?  (904-8)

Whole Chapter

  • What is the significance of the title of this chapter?

Chapter 5: Their Brothers’ Keeper

Section 1 (909-925)

  • How is the transportation system functioning now?  How is that the natural result of the government policies?  What will its future be?  (910-5)
  • How does Jim react to Dagny’s suggestion that the looters give up power and allow the producers to rebuild the country?  Why?  Why does he want to retain power?  (916-7)
  • Is Jim right or wrong to say that we are our brother’s keepers?  Why?  (917-8)
  • What is the significance of the way in which D’Anconia Copper is nationalized?  What were the looters counting on?  Why do they feel cheated?  (918-20)
  • What is Dagny’s reaction to the destruction of D’Anconia Copper?  Why does she feel that way?  What is Hank Rearden’s reaction?  How do their reactions contrast with the reaction of Jim Taggart and other people?  (920-25)
  • Why is Hank Rearden bored with his work now? (922) What motivates him to keep working?  (923-4)

Section 2 (925-936)

  • What is the current state of the world? (925-7)
  • Why does Philip Rearden want a job from Hank Rearden?  Why does Hank refuse him? (927-32)
  • What lesson does Hank learn from his divorce from Lillian?  (932-4)
  • How does the Wet Nurse asking for a job differ from Philip’s demand for a job?  What has the Wet Nurse learned from his two years with Hank Rearden? (934-6, 927-32)

Gus Van Horn at PJM: "Welfare State Is Draw for Illegals"

Apr 302010

Objectivist blogger Gus Van Horn has an OpEd in the April 30, 2010 edition of PajamasMedia, “Treat the Cause, Not the Symptom: Welfare State Is Draw for Illegals“.

Here is the opening:

With Governor Jan Brewer’s signing of SB 1070, the battle lines were drawn. The prospect of empowering and requiring law enforcement in Arizona to enforce federal immigration law raises civil rights concerns on both sides of the debate. Many supporters seem torn between these concerns and the prospect of overwhelming schools, social services, and the police if illegal immigration is left unchecked. However, as someone who sympathizes with its proponents, I must say that SB 1070 is wrong for Arizona for reasons far beyond civil rights issues.

SB 1070 deserves only one fundamental criticism: It would fail to protect the individual rights of American citizens — even if it hermetically sealed our borders and the police never touched a single American hair in the process of enforcing it. This is because the biggest headaches attributed to illegal immigration are not caused by it at all…

(Read the full text of “Treat the Cause, Not the Symptom: Welfare State Is Draw for Illegals“.)

Gus is absolutely right. Too many conservatives want to restrict immigration while failing to place the blame where it properly belongs — on welfare state policies that encourage an entitlement mentality amongst American citizens as well as immigrants (and often more among the former than the latter.)

Too many liberals want both open immigration and a welfare state — a recipe for disaster.

The only approach that respects individual rights is a policy of open immigration (which is not the same as unrestricted immigration) — and the abolition of the welfare state. For more on this, see Craig Biddle’s article in the Spring 2008 issue of The Objective Standard, “Immigration and Individual Rights“.

Congratulations, Gus, on getting published in PajamasMedia!

(Please feel free to add your own comments to the PJM site.)

Objectivist Roundup

Apr 292010

Kelly Elmore has the latest Objectivist Roundup. Go check it out!

Obama’s Proposed Budget Cuts

Apr 292010

Here’s an amazing visual representation of Obama’s proposed budget cuts. I don’t see any way to embed it, but this video is a must-see. It’s just 1 minute 38 seconds long. (Via C Andrew.)

Update: Thanks to Kelly, here’s the embedded version:

Muslims Threaten South Park

Apr 292010

On Tuesday, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the author of the stellar book Infidel, published an excellent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on the informal fatwa against South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Here’s why the supposed warning message posted by 20-year-old Muslim covert “Abu Talhah Al-Amrikee” was a fatwa:

There is a basic principle in Islamic scripture—unknown to most not-so-observant Muslims and most non-Muslims—called “commanding right and forbidding wrong.” It obligates Muslim males to police behavior seen to be wrong and personally deal out the appropriate punishment as stated in scripture. In its mildest form, devout people give friendly advice to abstain from wrongdoing. Less mild is the practice whereby Afghan men feel empowered to beat women who are not veiled.

By publicizing the supposed sins of Messrs. Stone and Parker, Mr. Amrikee undoubtedly believes he is fulfilling his duty to command right and forbid wrong. His message is not just an opinion. It will appeal to like-minded individuals who, even though they are a minority, are a large and random enough group to carry out the divine punishment. The best illustration of this was demonstrated by the Somali man who broke into Mr. Westergaard’s home in January carrying an axe and a knife.

So what can we do? Ms. Ali has some good suggestions for what we might do to stand up for freedom of speech:

One way of reducing the cost is to organize a solidarity campaign. The entertainment business, especially Hollywood, is one of the wealthiest and most powerful industries in the world. Following the example of Jon Stewart, who used the first segment of his April 22 show to defend “South Park,” producers, actors, writers, musicians and other entertainers could lead such an effort.

Another idea is to do stories of Muhammad where his image is shown as much as possible. These stories do not have to be negative or insulting, they just need to spread the risk. The aim is to confront hypersensitive Muslims with more targets than they can possibly contend with.

Another important advantage of such a campaign is to accustom Muslims to the kind of treatment that the followers of other religions have long been used to. After the “South Park” episode in question there was no threatening response from Buddhists, Christians and Jews—to say nothing of Tom Cruise and Barbra Streisand fans—all of whom had far more reason to be offended than Muslims.

Along these lines, Ari Armstrong has launched an Everybody Draw Mohammed campaign. I’ll be posting my contribution sometime next week — and I hope that you will do the same.

Open Thread #159

Apr 282010

Here’s yet another Open Thread for your thoughts:

For anyone in the fiery grip of a random question, comment, joke, or link they’d like to share with NoodleFood readers, I hereby open up the comments on this post to any respectable topic. (Please refrain from posting personal attacks, pornographic material, and commercial solicitations.)

Leftist Defense of Massive Government Deficit Spending

Apr 282010

As some of the better Tea Party activists have begun promoting ideas such as “limited government” and “fiscal responsibility”, we’re seeing intellectual pushback from the Left, arguing the deficit spending is good.

Here’s one example from a mailing list I subscribe to. I’m posting this here so as to alert folks as to the sorts of arguments we will be encountering so we will be able to best refute them:

In Defense of Deficits“, James Galbraith, 3/22/2010.

This is from the leftist publication, The Nation. Galbraith is a professor at Univ. Texas Austin and is the son of famous Keynesian economist John Kenneth Galbraith. So his academic credentials and intellectual pedigree are to be taken seriously.

Basically Galbraith argues the following:

1) The political push to reduce government deficits is economically misguided, based on an irrational “phobia” of deficits.

2) If we want economic growth, we need more spending. Only banks and governments can stimulate spending because, “Governments and banks are the two entities with the power to create something from nothing.”

3) Increasing spending by having the government do it is preferable to having the private greedy selfish bankers do it. And the real reason bankers oppose government spending is because it competes with their private lending.

4) We shouldn’t worry about the so-called impending bankruptcy of Social Security or Medicare or of the US government itself. The government is the source of money and therefore can’t run out.

5) Nor is government debt a “burden on future generations”, because it never has to be repaid. Each generation can just pass it onto the next generation, so there’s no problem.

(Read the full text of “In Defense of Deficits“.)

I’m still astounded that these sorts of ideas are regarded as part of the intellectual mainstream (albeit at the liberal end of the spectrum). We have our work cut out for us.

Although the moral and philosophical case for limited government should be the primary argument, we will have to contend with these sorts of Keynesian-type economic arguments defending deficits and massive government spending as positive goods (not just necessary evils).

My own economic background is not very strong, so if anyone can steer me to good links and references accessible to the layperson (not the professional academic economist) on these issues (especially the various fallacies of Keynsianism), please feel free to post them in the comments section.

(I’m already familiar with Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, and would be especially interested in other books at that level of discussion, aimed at the lay audience.)

Apr 272010

One of my favorite television miniseries is the HBO production, “From The Earth To the Moon“. This series details the saga of the Apollo space program, with the goal (in President Kennedy’s words) of “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth”.

Although I’m not a supporter of government-funded science for the same reasons Ayn Rand laid out in her essay “Apollo 11“, like Rand I still marvel at this tremendous achievement which was a triumph of man’s reason and courage.

Of the various episodes in the series my favorite is probably episode 5, “Spider“.

“Spider” depicted the development of the Lunar Module (LEM) by Grumman Aircraft, led by engineer Tom Kelly. Kelly and his team solved engineering challenge after challenge through a combination of reason, ingenuity, creativity, intellectual integrity, and above all an utmost respect for the facts of reality. The episode is upbeat and nicely captures the joy of engineering.

The whole episode is superb and worth watching. But I was especially glad to find this short excerpt of the final 5 minutes on YouTube:

Kelly’s musings about how each LEM has a “soul”, consisting of the souls of all the men who built her, designed her, and dreamed about her was very reminiscent of Dagny Taggart’s musings in Atlas Shrugged during the first run of the John Galt Line when she thought that the motors running her engines were alive — operated by remote control by the souls and minds of the thinking men who designed them.

This excerpt also contains one of my favorite short pieces of television music, the “Eagle” theme by composer Mason Daring.

Daring’s piece captures a uplifting combination of hope, yearning, solemnity, and pride in wanting to meet great challenges and overcome them.

The musical theme to the series (at the beginning and end of each episode) by Michael Kamen is also very nice:

(The video track just above is from a different television show, but the audio track is from the HBO series.)

I’ve always thought of these as wonderful musical concretizations of the optimistic American sense of life that was so widespread and normal just a few years ago.

So if you find yourself getting depressed over current events, just remember that many Americans still retain that marvelous implicit sense that life is good, happiness is desirable and attainable, and great achievements are possible to men. And as long as we still have that, this country still has a chance.

Blackman OpEd: "Fighting Statism"

Apr 272010

The April 25, 2010 edition of American Thinker has published the following OpEd by Justin Blackman entitled, “Fighting Statism“.

His theme is that individual rights must be the rallying point for reclaiming liberty.

Here’s the opening:

The Founders of the United States hoped to create a society of free individuals, but for at least a century, the nation has been marching ever more quickly in the direction of tyranny. The independent Tea Party movement represents a renewed desire to roll back the tide of government expansion, but this cause will fail unless its participants take an uncompromising stand in favor of individual rights. A building, no matter how rigid, cannot stand upon a weak and cracked foundation. In the same vein, errors and inconsistencies in a society’s philosophical foundation will cause its downfall — even in one as great as ours.

The Republican Party inadvertently teaches this lesson…

(Read the full text of “Fighting Statism“.)

Justin is a student a the Colorado School of Mines.

Congratulations, Justin, on getting published!

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