Parkour Academy

Apr 302011

Here’s an awesome video of an amazing stream of parkour at the newly-opened Tempest Academy in Los Angeles:

On the one hand, I’ve love to be able to do that. On the other hand, I know that if I tried, I’d fall on my head, repeatedly.

Preview: Sunday’s Rationally Selfish Webcast

Apr 292011

Come join my next Rationally Selfish Webcast! As always, it’s on Sunday morning at 8 am PT / 9 am MT / 10 am CT / 11 am ET. You can watch the webcast and join in the text chat via Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers will be my audio co-host, as usual.

Each week, I answer six questions on practical ethics and the principles of living well. I select the most popular and interesting questions from the ongoing queue of questions. Please submit your questions, as well as vote and comment on questions that you find interesting!

Here are the questions that I’ll answer this week:

  • Question 1: Open Minds: When should a rational person be open-minded? Many people seem to have a mistaken idea of what it means to have an open mind. Where should a person draw the line between (a) listening to an opinion/idea and considering its value and (b) writing off the idea/opinion as hogwash?
  • Question 2: Long-Distance Relationships: What do you think of long-distance relationships? Do you see any dangers in long-distance relationships? Hasn’t the internet made such relationships nearly as good as living in the same city?
  • Question 3: Peanut Bans: Are peanut bans in schools immoral? In particular, do restrictions on certain types of food in schools (such as peanuts due to a known peanut allergy) infringe on the rights of the parents of the non-allergic kids to determine the type of diet their children follow? Are the parents of the non-allergic kids making an immoral sacrifice by following the ‘no-peanut’ rules? What about parents who choose to ignore the rule and send the food to school anyway? Would this scenario be any different in a private school versus a government school?
  • Question 4: Love at First Sight: Do you believe in love at first sight? Why or why not?
  • Question 5: Objectivist “Free State” Project: Where is the best place in the country for an Objectivist to live? The Free State Project in New Hampshire is proving to be a success for libertarians; especially in the town of Keene. I wonder if there might be some potential for a critical mass of Objectivist along similar lines. Is this even worthwhile?
  • Question 6: From Objectivist Answers: Virtue as a Mean: Is Aristotle’s concept of virtue as a mean between extremes of vices valid? In philosophy class my professor attributed the idea of the “Golden Mean” to Aristotle. I understand the concept, and I agree with the principle to some extent, but it still does not sit right with me somehow. (Perhaps the problem is the idea of moderation for moderation’s sake.) Is this idea valid as is, or is the essence right with a sloppy framework?

Questions that aren’t answered this week will remain in the question queue for me to answer in upcoming webcasts. So please go vote on questions that you find interesting — and don’t forget to submit your own questions.

You can listen to these webcasts later as audio-only podcasts by subscribing to the NoodleCast RSS feed:

However, I hope that you’ll join the live webcast, because that’s more exciting and lively than the podcast. People chat merrily amongst themselves while watching the webcast. And I love the immediate feedback of a live audience — the funny quips, serious comments, and follow-up questions. So please join the live webcast when you can!

You can support the Rationally Selfish Webcast (and Podcast) contributing to our tip jar. We suggest $5 per episode or $20 per month, but any amount is appreciated. If you would prefer to send a check, please send it to “Diana Hsieh; P.O. Box 851; Sedalia, CO 80135.” Please write “RS Webcast” in the memo field.

Even if you’re unable to contribute financially, I’m grateful if you take a moment to help me spread the word about the Rationally Selfish Webcast to anyone you think might be interested. Send an e-mail about the webcast to friends, share the event for the next webcast on Facebook, and “like” the Rationally Selfish Page on Facebook.

I hope to see you on Sunday morning!

Help Me Put a Dent in Campaign Finance Regulations

Apr 292011

As you might recall from this post, I’ve suffered under the regulatory yoke of campaign finance law. Now I have a real chance to strike back… and I need your help… by Tuesday!

First, here’s the basic story of why I’ve been subject to campaign finance laws.

In the fall of last year, Ari Armstrong and I published The ‘Personhood’ Movement Is Anti-Life: Why It Matters that Rights Begin at Birth, Not Conception under the auspices of my Coalition for Secular Government. That work was made possible by 63 pledges ranging from $4 to $300 from individuals who support our fight against the “personhood” movement. We did that work because anti-abortion zealots got another “personhood” amendment on the ballot — Amendment 62. Our purpose was to reveal the full range of horrific consequences of this measure, as well as provide a solid moral foundation for abortion rights. That’s something that the traditional leftist defenders of abortion rights can’t and won’t do, not even with all their millions of donor dollars.

Unfortunately, Colorado law does not permit people to speak freely in elections. I was forced, by Colorado’s campaign finance laws, to report all donations and expenditures over $20. For expenditures, I had to report names and addresses of businesses, as well as what I’d purchased. For donations, I had to report the names and addresses of donors, as well as places of work for donations over $100. The reporting was a huge drain on my time, and I was petrified of doing something wrong, and thereby incurring fines of $50 per day. In addition, I was appalled that the state required the publication of private information about donors, particularly given the harassment and violence often perpetrated by anti-abortionists against defenders of abortion rights.

Now, fast-forward to today. Colorado’s Secretary of State must revise its regulations on campaign finance as applied to “issue committees” due a fabulous victory for free speech won by the Institute for Justice in the Parker North case. Basically, the Colorado Supreme Court didn’t abolish campaign finance for issue committees, but they indicated that contributions and expenditures in the $2000 range should be regarded as “well below” the threshold for reporting. So what has the Secretary of State proposed in response? Well, they’re going to have the exact same system, except that the trigger for reporting will be $5,000 in contributions or expenditures, rather than the existing $200 threshold. You can read all the details in in this four-page PDF.

Yikes! I was hoping for something much better, something that would actually enable ordinary citizens to speak out in elections without concern for government regulations. Yet $5000 is still a very, very low threshold, likely to be exceeded by ordinary citizens attempting grassroots activism on some ballot measure. Moreover, once that threshold is met, those ordinary citizens (and their donors) will be subject to the same burdensome and invasive reporting requirements as they are now.

So… what can we do? Alas, we cannot hope to abolish these unjust campaign finance regulations. Colorado’s state constitution requires them, and for now, they stand. Here’s what our constitution says:

The people of the state of Colorado hereby find and declare . . . that large campaign contributions made to influence election outcomes allow wealthy individuals, corporations, and special interest groups to exercise a disproportionate level of influence over the political process . . . that political contributions from corporate treasuries are not an indication of popular support for the corporation’s political ideas and can unfairly influence the outcome of Colorado elections; and that the interests of the public are best served by . . . providing for full and timely disclosure of campaign contributions, independent expenditures, and funding of electioneering communications, and strong enforcement of campaign finance requirements.

That’s truly awful, and I hope that IJ’s work on free speech will soon abolish all such campaign finance regulations. In the meantime, you can help me advocate for the minimal possible speech regulations consistent with our state constitution. How so?

The Secretary of State of Colorado will hold a hearing in Denver on Tuesday, May 3rd about these proposed regulations, and they’re soliciting comments from interested parties. I’ll be submitting comments, as well as attending in person to speak. (Ari will do so too.) First and foremost, I will condemn campaign finance laws as inherently a violation of free speech rights. Then, recognizing that such regulations are required by our state constitution, I will argue that those regulations should be made as little burdensome as possible. I will propose that only individual contributions and individual expenditures above a certain high threshold — say $5000 — should be reported. In addition, only the name and city of donors should be reported, not their home addresses and/or places of work. Such regulations — although still wrong and evil — would satisfy the demands of the state constitution while eliminating most of the burden of advocating for or against a ballot measure.

So what can you do? If you live in Colorado, I’d love for you to attend the hearing with me, to speak out in person for greater freedom of speech, and hence, against these proposed regulations. It’s 2 pm on Tuesday May, 3 in the Blue Spruce Room (Second Floor) of 1700 Broadway in Denver.

Whether you’re able to attend or not, please submit written comments! I’d particularly urge you to do so if you’re a resident of Colorado — or if you contributed to Ari’s and my “personhood” paper. Please submit them by 12 pm MT on Tuesday, May 2nd to Andrea Gyger at [email protected]. Please reference “8 CCR 1505-6″ — and the “Proposed Revisions and Amendments to the Secretary of State’s ‘Rules Concerning Campaign and Political Finance’.” Also, please cc me!

You need not write anything complicated or long. You only need say (1) that you’re opposed to campaign finance laws, including for so-called “issue committees” and (2) that you think that any regulations mandated by the state constitution should be made as minimally invasive and burdensome as possible. If you wish to include further details in support of my proposal, that would be great, but certainly not required. If you’ve donated to the “personhood” paper, please include that fact, since then you’re an “interested party,” even if you live outside Colorado.

Thank you, thank you to everyone who chooses to write! If we can make these campaign finance rules less onerous, that won’t just be a small victory for free speech in Colorado… it will also eliminate a major exercise of unjust government force against me, personally. And for that, I will be so grateful.

Objectivist Roundup & Rationally Selfish Webcast

Apr 282011

The Objectivist Roundup is a weekly blog carnival for Objectivists. Contributors must be Objectivists, but posts on any topic are welcome.

John J McVey hosted this week’s Objectivist Roundup. Go take a look!

You can submit your blog article to the next edition of The Objectivist Roundup using this submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found here. If you’re an Objectivist blogger, you can get weekly reminders to submit to the carnival by subscribing to OBloggers @

Also, Sunday morning’s Rationally Selfish Webcast will soon be upon us! Sometime tomorrow, I’ll select the six questions that I’ll answer. Please review and vote on the questions that you’d most like me to answer. Then join the live fun on Sunday at 8 am PT / 9 am MT / 10 am CT / 11 am ET.

Here are the ten most recent additions to the question queue for Rationally Selfish:

Parent Versus Child on Sex

Apr 282011

Julia Sweeney unwittingly introduces her eight-year-old daughter to internet porn and gay sex. The result? Completely hilarious!

Via Trey and Shea.

Open Thread #263

Apr 272011

Oil Derrick

For anyone wishing to ask a question, make a observation, or share a link with 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 Wednesday and Sunday Open Threads feature creative commons photographs from Flickr that I find interesting. I hope that you enjoy them!

NoodleCast #72: Live Rationally Selfish Webcast

Apr 262011

On Sunday, I hosted another live Rationally Selfish Webcast where I answered questions from viewers on practical ethics and the principles of living well. The live webcasts are held every Sunday at 8 am PT / 9 am MT / 10 am CT / 11 am ET. The webcast consists of me broadcasting on video, Greg Perkins of Objectivist Answers on audio, and the audience in a text chat.

As usual, an audio recording of Sunday’s live webcast is now available as a NoodleCast podcast. To get these podcasts automatically, you can subscribe to the feed in iTunes — just choose either the enhanced M4A format or the standard MP3 format. They’re the same content, but the M4A format breaks each question into its own “chapter.”

While the Rationally Selfish Webcast (and Podcast) is available to anyone free of charge, it’s not free for us to produce. It requires time, effort, and expense. So if you enjoy it, please contribute to our tip jar. We suggest $5 per episode or $20 per month, but any amount is appreciated.

If you prefer to send a check, please write “RS Webcast” in the memo field and send it to “Diana Hsieh; P.O. Box 851; Sedalia, CO 80135.”

Whether you contribute or not, please do submit and vote on questions on the widget on the page for the Rationally Selfish Webcast — or via Idea Informer.

The Video

The full video for the webcast is only available to live attendees. However, you can now listen and/or download the audio podcast. You can also watch the video from my favorite question here:

The Podcast

Listen Now

Duration: 1:07:29

Download the Episode

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In This Episode

The following segments are marked as chapters in the M4A version of the podcast. Thanks to Tammy Perkins for helping compile the show notes!

Introduction (0:00)

Current Projects:

Question 1: The Basis of Manners (5:00)

How do you objectively define manners? Is that even possible? What makes some action rude or polite? Is it purely subjective or based on personal values? For example, some people think that guests ought to take off their shoes in another person’s house, while others don’t care or even prefer shoes to remain on the feet. And some people think that putting elbows on the dinner table or feet on the coffee table is barbaric, while others regard that as fine. Since manners vary from person to person, how do you “mind your manners” when interacting with other people? Or should you not bother with that, and instead do what you please?

My Answer, In Brief: Manners are neither cultural whims, nor intrinsically good. When based on fact, they are social customs aimed at smoothing social interactions beyond demands of law and morality.


Question 2: Brutal Honesty (18:38)

Is it rationally selfish to be brutally honest in some contexts? Often, you need to tell a person some hard truth, and you can do so either tactfully or brutally. In many instances, you might want to be brutally honest because you fear that the person will not understand what you say if you’re tactful. So which approach is better?

My Answer, In Brief: A person should be frank and straightforward in his communications with others, neither concealing unpleasant truths nor pummeling the other person with them.

Question 3: Right to Legal Counsel (30:01)

Why is receiving the counsel of an attorney a right while receiving health care is not? In both cases, you would receive something that you need for free from the state. So what’s the difference, if any? Why should a repeat offender have access to free legal counsel at taxpayer expense while an innocent, law-abiding sick person shouldn’t receive life-saving medication or treatment at taxpayer expense? In the former case, the criminal might lose his liberty, but in the latter case the sick person might die. So what I am missing?

My Answer, In Brief: Check your premises! A person does not have a right to legal counsel at taxpayer expense but rather only the right to consult his own counsel in any legal proceeding, whether purchased by his own funds or freely-given charity.

Question 4: Government Medical Insurance (42:00)

Should a person with a pre-existing medical condition that disqualifies him from most major medical insurance plans sign up for a state-sponsored high-risk insurance pool? I’m a 1099 independent software contractor, and I’m responsible for my own health insurance. I have a pre-existing condition that disqualifies me from most of the major medical insurers. My current insurer offers few benefits, and the company is notorious for trying to deny claims. I was also diagnosed with a malignant tumor in my cheek. That’s being treated, but I’ll be all the more uninsurable in the future. However, the state where I live has a high-risk insurance pool available. Financially, this plan would be a much better deal than I have with my current insurance company. I would have to pay premiums, deductibles, and co-insurance, so this plan is not complete welfare. However, I’m obviously wary of becoming dependent on the government for such a plan, and I don’t want to contribute to the continued socialization of the health-care system. I have some other options, like trying to find a job that offers benefits, but I love my current job. Am I trying to eat my cake and have it too by signing up for the state plan, which would allow me to stay in my current job without the worry of a major medical issue ruining me and my family financially?

My Answer, In Brief: For a person to accept government money as restitution for funds taken by force from him and/or due to government destruction of private markets is not wrong, provided that the person continues to oppose all such government welfare on principle.


Question 5: Promoting Objectivism (51:03)

How should one promote Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism? What are some right and wrong ways to do that? What are some good methods and target audiences?

My Answer, In Brief: Study, understand, and live the philosophy — then find ways of promoting the ideas that you’re passionate about.


Question 6: Objectivist Answers: The Morality of Sadism and Masochism (57:53)

Objectivism regards harming yourself or allowing others to harm you is immoral, but how does that apply to sex, particularly sadism and masochism? Should S&M acts be illegal?

My Answer, In Brief: Consensual S&M should be legal. However, S&M that’s more than merely rough sex — when a person desires to hurt, dominate, humiliate his sexual partner (or to receive such) — reveals a self-destructive psychology.

Conclusion (1:06:37)

Comments or questions? Contact us!

If you enjoyed this episode, please don’t forget to contribute to our tip jar! Also, remember to submit and vote on questions in the the ongoing question queue!

Inflatable You

Apr 252011

Tim Minchin performs Inflatable You:


Hsieh PJM OpEd on Rationing and IPAB

Apr 252011

The 4/22/2011 edition of PajamasMedia published my latest health care OpEd, “We Call It ‘Rationing,’ Obama Calls It ‘Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Board’“.

The basic theme is that we shouldn’t let either Obama’s IPAB or Congress control our health care.

Here is an excerpt:

Suppose Congress asked Americans: which government officials should decide what foods you would be allowed to eat and what prices you had to pay at the grocery store — Congress, or an unelected board of nutritional experts appointed by the president?

Most Americans would immediately reply, “Neither!” But that’s precisely the debate between Congress and the White House regarding President Obama’s proposed Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Board…

Although the Obama administration stated that the IPAB would not ration medical care, its power to set payments to doctors and hospitals would give it de facto rationing power.

If the IPAB sets the reimbursement rate for services below the cost of providing it, then hospitals and doctors could no longer afford to offer such services — even if the services are medically best for their patients. Life-saving medical procedures we currently take for granted, such as PET scans to detect early cancers or minimally invasive methods to safely open up blocked vital blood vessels without risky surgery, might no longer be available. Although those services might still theoretically be “covered” by Medicare, in practice doctors would no longer offer them, and their patients would no longer be able to receive them…

(Read the full text of “We Call It ‘Rationing,’ Obama Calls It ‘Medicare Independent Payment Advisory Board’“.)

Americans would never stand for the following false alternative: “Who should decide what foods you are allowed to eat—a panel of unelected bureaucrats or your elected Congressmen?”

We should similarly reject the same false alternative for our health care.

(PJM lightly edited my piece and changed the title, but left the basic meaning intact.)

Activism Recap

Apr 242011

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

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

This week on Mother of Exiles:

This week on the blog of Modern Paleo:

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