Saturday, July 31, 2004

Math Nerdery

Well, perhaps the title is not quite accurate. More precisely, I'll be revealing my logic and philosophy nerdery, though this is one of those subjects where the three fields blend together (as they so often do).

I've been reading (really just looking through it before giving it a good read) Types, Tableaus, and Gödel's God. It requires at least a familiarity with symbolic logic, though it provides a number of introductory chapters to cover symbolic logic and modal logic, knowledge of which is necessary to understand the argument. The subject of the book is Kurt Gödel's version of the hoary ontological argument for the existence of God. Good stuff.

Friday, July 30, 2004


I wonder whether media opinion would have been any different had Reagan been a different person. I mean, would "Reaganomics" have been and continue to be a dirty word if, say, the advocate for supply side tax cuts had been a Democrat? Perhaps a young, attractive president with a pretty wife?

"It is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high today, and tax revenues are too low, and the soundest way to raise the revenues in the long run is to cut the tax rates."

You must be able to guess who said that by now. If you can't, well, it was JFK himself. His continuing status as an idol among the Left simply baffles me. The man was essentially Reagan on tax cuts, and yet he got (and gets) a free pass while Reagan is still excoriated for what he did (only lifting the economy out of disaster, reducing unemployment and inflation; you know, fixing Jimmy Carter's blunders). He first sent troops into Vietnam, and he sent that blockade to Cuba to prevent the Soviets' sending missles there.

I think I'm a Kennedy fan.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Point Taken

An editor of "The Nation," on television, speaking about John Kerry (can't remember the name, and I have to paraphrase, but that shouldn't matter): "They (Republicans) like to portray him (Kerry) as a flip-flopper. But the truth is he has a 97% liberal voting record."

My, my, my! With friends like these, Kerry hardly needs enemies. I mean, really, you support Kerry by pointing out that he has voted liberal 97% of the time? Jay Nordlinger and I both wish that the Bush campaign would make more of Kerry's extreme liberalism and less of his flip-flopping, and here we have a die-hard liberal doing it for us. Run with it. The l-word is still dirty, and Kerry is just asking for it to be pinned on him.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Winning Hearts

I was just talking to a friend of mine, a registered Democrat, voted for Gore, big-time pacifist. What did she say? Paraphrased: "I decided I'd much rather vote for Bush, to make sure that iraq and the terrorists get the point once and for all."

The Left seems almost to have a blind spot about terrorism. Where were they on 9/11, that they can call Bush a warmonger for attacking our enemies?

Well, at least one person has seen the obvious.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

You Can't Unwatch It

Instead of watching the convention, I knocked back a few of these. I'm sure I was much more clear-headed after six of those than I would have been after having my mind clouded with the anger and confusion that attends any reasonable person's hearing the inflammatory, hateful, and phony rhetoric coming out of the mouths of Democrats these days. "Socialists" isn't apt enough a name for them anymore, since their whackiness extends far beyond economics. It's a party that actively encourages racial division, a party that cannot tell the truth, and a party that would have us defenseless before terrorism if it could.

A local columnist went off on the conventions, claiming they should be done away with because we know the nominee, his VP, and his platform by the time the convention rolls around.

Did I miss where John Kerry actually revealed his position on any issue? Oh, right, those TV ads where he wants to "strengthen homeland security, our alliances, health care, and education." As empty a vessel as "substantive due process," this man (and his words).

What's the "Big Deal" about the Constitution?! I'm trying to get elected here!

Now that the pretentious convention has officially kicked off, several coworkers of mine have started beating the old popular-vote-Gore-won-the-election-Bush-is-evil drum again. (I know it is hard to believe that there might be some confused liberals running around a university, but believe you me!) Although the thought of someone winning the presidency by ONLY winning (and campaigning in) New York City, Chicago, and Las Angeles should be repugnant, people still just don't get it.

The also don't (or can't?) comprehend that Bush actually DID win the election four years ago; he was neither "selected" nor "stole the election."

John Hawkins has a great take on it over at RWN. Go read. Now.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Learning in College

Is it too much to ask that college students sit in class, read their textbooks, and write papers? It seems like every protester out there is a radical Commie (not your garden-variety Commie) undergrad. Within the past year, the local paper had an editorial saying that college students today don't demonstrate enough, and that they should emulate the activism of students in the 1960's. I disrespectfully and not-so-humbly dissent. How about college students make learning their occupation during college? Let's look at the benefits:

-their parents would actually get what they pay for, instead of shelling out big bucks for their kids to get drunk and score with some some neohippie chicks.

-students have demonstrated that they aren't learning, so why encourage them to keep distracting themselves with useless political activism? Since a bachelor's became the new high school diploma, and everyone gets one, undergraduate education has been dumbed-down to such a point that it's virtually useless. It has several disadvantages compared to high school, where many students continue to defy the odds and learn: 1. You attend seven hour of classes a day in high school, 180 days a year, instead of a few hours a day for a couple of months, with large breaks between semesters - much, much less time spent in class, and much less chance of learning something; 2. High school is designed to get you to learn basic information, whereas many college courses are designed to get you to "think differently," meaning to evaluate economics by means of critical race theory, or deconstruct Western philosophy from a feminist perspective, or find the neocolonial biases in the calculus. 3. High school students are still under their parents' direct supervision, so they have a chance of actually getting something productive done, whereas college students view the entire experience as a time to prove their immaturity, get drunk, acquire herpes, and talk loudly about how cool it is to drink Miller Lite until you vomit and bang the skanky cheerleaders.

-whenever I see a college student making some devilishly complex connection among Al-Qaeda, Halliburton, and the administration, I'm reminded that these students could probably spend their time better in Medieval Philosophy, where they might just spend a few weeks with a certain William of Ockham and learn just how incredibly foolish they sound. Similarly, logic courses might show them proper reasoning, like how "No Blood for Oil!" really means "What's 'petitio principii?' Who cares, I'd ignorant and hate Bush!" History would give them the perspective to avoid glib comparisons between Bush and Hitler.

College really is a fraud, though, a method for achieving the various goals of making the college rich, stroking professors' egos, and providing sex-crazed youths with a parent-funded dating service. If you thought college was for learning, I won't embarrass you by asking you your age; suffice it to say, you don't pay full price at Denny's, old man.


ESPN Sunday Night Baseball: The World’s Longest Political Commercial

Tonight I tuned in to ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball. The Yankees were playing in Boston against the Botox (err… the Boston Red Sox; I trust you can forgive the confusion, as Kerry is from there); I despise both teams, as well as baseball in general, but I was hoping to see some of the fighting that highlighted yesterday’s game (I need my hockey fix one way or another).

Anyway, every chance that the cameras had, they showed Moron Kerry sitting in the stands. It was worse than Jack Nicholson at a Lakers game. “Every chance they had” includes anytime the batter may have been ahead in the count, any time the batter was swinging, during any fly ball that probably wouldn’t be a home run, and during every home run up to the time the ball was actually sailing over the fence. I mean, it was completely ridiculous.

I thought we weren’t going to need to look for Kerry on vacation. I thought that the media disparaged President Bush for going to ball games, especially “while soldiers were dying in Iraq.” I thought Kerry actually had duties in the US Senate, but I guess I was wrong all around. Oops on me.

As if all the gratuitous camera time wasn’t bad enough, the talking faces calling the game spent a good 10 or 15 minutes interviewing the traitor. And it wasn’t a “baseball rulz!!!” interview either; Kerry tried to expound on his proposed domestic policies, his international politics, his terrorism and homeland security plans, the upcoming convention, and how evil and harmful Bush was. I wish I could find a transcript of this game, though I do not believe that is possible without paying for one. If someone can correct me, please do so.

Every single major media outlet, save Fox News and most of talk radio (so we are saying 90% or so of the main media) loves Kerry and is using any news story possible as a means of getting his name out there and promoting his agenda. Shame on you, ESPN, for following suit instead of just showing the damn game.

ESPN Sunday Night Baseball is hereby awarded the not-so-coveted Rabid Ravenous Rankled Ronstadt Raspberry Reward for their pathetic editorializing and political promotion instead of fulfilling their entertainment duties.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Injustice Still Bothers

The more I think about the six-pack-a-day man whose license was revoked, the more I'm bothered. If the HIPAA includes exemptions when state laws require some group or other to have access to a person's medical records, even absent his authorization or even knowledge, what use is it? It protects a person's privacy against private infringement but gives leeway to the states. How does this make any sense? The State (big "S") is the greatest threat to our liberties, much greater a threat than private corporations and individuals, who do not have direct legal power to enforce their wills. The states, however, have executives for enforcement, and they can force you to do something if they declare it to be so. Thus, on the one hand we have private individuals and corporations with no executive power, no police, and no direct authority to exert their will through the courts; on the other hand, we have the states, who have the power to force their citizens to do something and can only be stopped through lengthy, costly litigation in federal courts, an inconvenience the states can bear much more than a private individual. Given all these facts, HIPAA puts greater restrictions on...the private sector. Absolutely incredible. The state is the real threat to liberty and to privacy, and this federal legislation was written with a loophole for the state.

This is a theme, though. You know how big tobacco forced kids to smoke? How did they do that, exactly? Well, they certainly didn't have armies and law enforcement officers and courts; no, only governments have those. Bafflingly, people are more concerned about being "forced" to do something by organizations with no legal authority than about the real threats to liberty. Of course, our government only looks out for our own good, so they couldn't possibly be doing anything wrong. It's only the nasty, evil corporations that need to be watched.

To all the morons who share this mindset, I can only offer my thanks that you are dragging my liberties down with yours, even though you barely understand them and consider them nearly worthless, and I understand and appreciate what freedom is.

I love democracy.


Three Purple Hearts. SO WHAT!?

I was just watching some coverage of the upcoming Democrat Convention. Some “centrist democrat strategist” (whose name I didn’t catch in time) made the comment that Kerry is the best choice for President due to his combat experience and his… get ready for it… his THREE PURPLE HEARTS!!! Woo hoo, he was injured twice by enemies and once by himself! WAY TO GO KERRY!

But seriously, remember this is the slimeball that came home and very clearly and unambiguously said how evil we were, how horribly the military acted, how wrong we were to assist the South Vietnamese; he then mentioned all of the WAR CRIMES that he PERSONALLY COMMITTED!

Why has everyone forgotten about this?

Kerry loves flouting his THREE PURPLE HEARTS; perhaps they are the only three medals he didn’t throw away? What kind of an officer lies about the military, lies about its actions, admits committing war crimes, and throws his medals away? Furthermore, why would anyone ever think that such a person could possibly be capable of being the commander-in-chief of the entire armed forces as well as leading the entire country?

Kerry has rarely been forthcoming with his true opinions, and has expressed nary a conviction towards anything in his entire life. The only time he actually took a stand on something, it was how terrible the military was and how evil he personally was.

Please, for the love of God, do not elect this man.

More Public Health Fascism

The state of Pennsylvania has proven once again the injustice of arbitrary rule. Incidentally, in a state that regulates liquor in a way that would make the Soviet Union proud, we see a man's private enjoyment of liquor becoming a state issue, with no reasonable cause for the prying. I am truly disgusted.

Don't drink and...stay home?

Read it, then let me pick it apart for you.

Keith Emerich described himself as the typical blue-collar worker who enjoyed a six-pack of beer every day after work.
This is absolutely stunning. The fuss was over a man's enjoying one six-pack of beer after work. Perhaps PennDOT is full of lightweights who can't handle their liquor, because one six-pack of beer is really nothing to get worked up about. Stunning, like I said.

Except for a drunken-driving arrest 23 years ago, Emerich said he has no arrests and a clean driving record.
It certainly looks like this guy is a real threat on the road, doesn't it? Twenty-three years with a clean driving record. It just occured to me that, depending on the guy's weight and the type of beer he's drinking, a six-pack might not even be enough to put him over the legal limit. Why should that matter to the People's Republic, though? I'm giving them too much credit by even suggestingthat they viewed him as a real threat, since it was never really an issue whether he could be expected to drive drunk, only that this naughty man was drinking more than was good for him. The state knows best.

“There’re no signs that I’m this great menace to society that PennDOT is making me out to be,” Emerich said.
Poor naive bastard. No one in PennDOT even feels it necessary to prove that he's a menace. After all this the man still expects his state to rule with justice and reason.

“We do give drivers due process,” said PennDOT spokeswoman Joan Z. Nissley.
No, you don't. Due process includes the presumption of innocence, and the man has not committed a crime and his license was still revoked. In addition, though I disagree with it, due process now includes the right to privacy. The Supreme Court will be amused.

Care to see what a couple of collaborators think of all this?

However, he said the state law requiring doctors to report dangerous medical or physical conditions should supersede the federal confidentiality requirement.
That's nice. Perhaps you should tell the Supreme Court that 200 years of supremacy clause precedent should be thrown out the window. See what they think of you then.

“The state pre-emption law applies when the state law is stricter than the federal law,” Kauffman said. “HIPAA does not preclude physicians from reporting when they are required to report by state law.”
I guess HIPAA makes allowances for fascist state governments' infringing on the privacy rights of their citizens. Of course, that simply means that HIPAA is essentially a meaningless protection of privacy, since any state can decide it simply thinks that confidential medical records should be under its purview. Let's not overlook the doctor's role in this; he was so conditioned by paternalism that he thought it was his responsibility to reveal confidential information about a patient's harmless habit. A six-pack a day? How can anyone judge that to be a real problem, unless the judge has succumbed fully to the campaign to make everyone miserable, to make sure that no one can enjoy himself in a way that might just do some harm (though only to himself). One day we will live to be one hundred years old, living in misery and dying in misery, because we can't light up, can't enjoy a drink, can't have a damned burger, because it'll hurt us. What a truly miserable way to live one's life.

Quem dei diligunt, adulescens moritur.

Hyperbolic, but I find it very difficult to avoid hyperbole in the face of these insidious busybodies who are keeping an hard-working, good man from driving himself to work.


Saturday, July 24, 2004

Free Speech For Some

The author of Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror was interviewed on Hannity and Colmes recently. I really wish Fox News would put a transcript up on the site, or even mention that they did the damned interview, because there is no mention of it at all. Disappointed am I, especially since I only caught a bit of it. Hannity was entirely unconcerned with the substance of the man's book and instead attacked his agenda, and his continuing anonymity. It was funny seeing Sean Hannity rip into the dark face of a guy keeping his identity a mystery. For once, Alan Colmes was my hero, because he actually asked the man questions about the book and got him to discuss it.

I do have to make a little note here, before I really get started: I use "Muslim" and "Arab" interchangeably because most of the Muslims I am discussing here are also Arab Muslims. I don't mean to equate the two, but for my purposes here, the difference is not important, and my point will remain the same.

I've got to reach into my memory here and roughly paraphrase what the man said. Regarding Jerry Falwell, he said, "Everyday people in Muslim countries confuse what a person like Jerry Falwell says with an official Bush administration statement." This is perfectly plausible, since in those Muslim countries the state controls the media to such an extent that nothing gets broadcast without the approval of the higher-ups in government. Furthermore, Falwell is a religious man, and people in these countries are used to religious and civil authority being completely combined in one entity. When a religious leader from a predominantly Christian country makes a statement that is broadcast in the American media, and reaches the world through that media, the Muslims interpret this as parallel to what happens in their own countries. Their countries are Muslim, and they do not understand that the United States is secular despite its having a majority of Christians, since, for them, church and state are identical. Of course, church and state must be identical and not separate in the United States, right? So saying that the United States is a Christian country means to them that the United States has an establishment of religion, Christianity being that establishment. A religious leader could not speak without government endorsement, since that is the way it works in their countries, so Falwell must be an official spokesman.

Does this really cast a poor light on us, or on the leadership of Muslim countries? They have so kept their citizens in the dark that they believe that no one in any country can speak without the prior approval of his respective government, since that is simply the way it is done in Muslim countries. They have no concept of a truly free press, because their press is never free, and they have no concept of religious plurality and freedom because their countries are virtual theocracies and religious dissent is harshly punished. The author of the book seems to blame us for "allowing" Rev. Falwell to say things when they will be misinterpreted by the Arab world, but is that our fault? How can it be, when it is only the tyranny of their own governments that causes them to interpret us so badly? The government tells them how to worship and what to think of domestic and foreign politics, and it is our fault that they are so conditioned by their governments that they cannot even imagine religious freedom, free speech, and freedom of the press? Obviously this fact is only more proof that Islamic theocracy is a sinister new form of tyranny, not that American imperialism is stirring up violent dissent in the Arab world. Arabs hate the United States because their governments tell them to, partly, at least, to distract them from the oppression handed out by those government. We are a distraction, the focus of justified frustrations that have been carefully diverted away from their true source.

Another thing bothered me about what this man said, an implicit condemnation of, well, free speech. Falwell should not be allowed to say what he is saying, because it might exacerbate hatred of our country. I do not see why Rev. Falwell should have any less right to say what he thinks than Michael Moore, whose blatant lies about George W. Bush may just reinforce Arabs' erroneous opinion of the United States. I think Michael Moore does have the right to speak his mind, as empty as that mind may be, but the flip side has to be that Rev. Falwell has the same right. If we censor the press because of the effect that press may have on our international reputation, our bad reputation would then be quite well earned. And if we censor Falwell for the effects of his speech, then we could easily find a justification for censoring just about anybody, since there is always someone who will be offended by any given opinion.

Free speech for some? Free speech for those with whom you agree?

How can anyone even ask such a question?


Liberals are Juveniles

Kids are lazy. Face it; it’s a fact. Hardly any kids are ambitious enough to start projects on their own, take the initiative around the house and do work, study without constant prodding, or do anything that doesn’t involve staring at a cathode ray tube, perhaps wiggling their adolescent thumbs around some controller. Kids expect everything to be done for them, expect their mistakes to be fixed by someone while assuming no blame themselves, expect things to be given to them that they didn’t earn, and if something being done for them doesn’t meet their standards, they throw a fit.

Well, liberals are pretty much the same way. Your genuinely liberal individuals today (not to be confused with the Democrats of old, for whom I do have respect) expect everything to be done for them, expect their mistakes to be fixed by someone while assuming no blame themselves, expect things to be given to them that they didn’t earn, and if something being done for them doesn’t meet their standards, they throw a fit.

Let’s take a look at some general types of people and see whether or not they fit that picture I painted. Yes, I know this is a very general and basically stereotypical overview, but in a country of nearly 400 million, sometimes we need to resort to stereotypes [how else could all those precious yet meaningless polls be taken from only 100 respondents?]).

1.) Unmotivated jobless slob collecting welfare
            This clown is likely a liberal; juvenile at heart, he expects things to be given to him that he didn’t earn and certainly doesn’t deserve. They made the mistake of cultivating no skills useful for life, and are forcing other successful people to cover for them.

2.) Successful entrepreneurs
            I wouldn’t be surprised to see this person NOT be a liberal. After all, he invested his money in a likely slightly risky manner to start a business, and until growing his enterprise into a large and highly successful company he is probably hovering pretty close to the profit/loss line. He doesn’t need to be footing the bill for others, nor does he need a million stupid regulations and licenses cutting into his profitability. Taxes don’t help him, and he likely believes that providing opportunity for others is better than giving them handouts.

3.) People who get more than one abortion
            I personally find abortion repugnant. This is NOT based on some deep religious conviction; I am simply repulsed by the concept of the wanton destruction of innocent human life. That aside, if someone gets more than one abortion (or recommends such more than once, so that we are not excluding one sex here) this is obviously symptomatic of an inability to control oneself nor take any responsibility. Think: four-year-old who is observed breaking a window on purpose, yet repeatedly denies it, blames it on anyone (including any pets close by), and expects mommy or daddy (hardly both nowadays) to make it all better. We certainly have a juvenile liberal here.

4.) Public educators
            Imagine only needing to work three quarters of the year, while basically repeating the same tasks year after year absolving you of the need to do much preparation as your life wears on. Furthermore, despite the repeated nature of your job, it isn’t nearly menial enough to bore you, and it is considered important enough for you to make really good bank. On top of this, you are granted copious free time throughout the day, and your ego is constantly masturbated by the government and general population. You are held to no standards while your entire profession sends the American youth into the lower tier of education on the world stage, and when suddenly you are expected to make good on your duties, you clamor about it not being your fault and demand more money. Wow you are likely a liberal.

Anyway, your basic, shiftless, ne’er-do-wells are the ones who typically vote liberal. The Democratic Party actively tries to recruit people who fit these descriptions; there is no way that a liberal could try to sell his positions to one of those private entrepreneurs, but take a stroll through the projects where the single welfare moms are squirting out kids (if they didn’t get to the abortion clinic fast enough anyway) and you will see liberal city.
 The capper to all this is when the loony libs try to claim that all blacks should be liberal; that they couldn’t possibly identify with any conservative principles. In other words, liberals claim that blacks are defined by my descriptions above. Whoops, liberals are horribly racist; way to believe that blacks are incapable of thinking for themselves or making something of their lives. I personally don’t see anything a person’s skin color could possibly affect, but in order to get some votes, liberals will do their best to convince blacks that they are lazy, unmotivated failures, deserving of handouts straight from the pockets of those who apply themselves. I HATE that mentality.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Feeling Is Not Being

The 9/11 Commission Report has been released. It looks like a gripping thriller, doesn't it? I'll have to hurry and get my paper copy before the thing flies off the shelves. In all seriousness, I'm not going to read it, you're not going to read it, and you won't find housewives reading it by the pool while their kids swim, nor will the thing be likely to sell to a population more concerned about Stephen King's milestone 600th novel. Don't get me wrong, I've got nothing against Stephen King, and everything against someone who would read this report for pleasure. Now it's just a matter of choosing which source to believe for a meaningful summary of the contents.

There's something the commission suggested, a major change to the federal bureaucracy that came out before the report was released, that bothers me more than a little. One of the problems the commission found with intelligence before 9/11, a problem that prevented us from recognizing that an attack was coming (and we had plenty of signs), was lack of comminication among different branches of intelligence. Pieces of vital information got lost in the bureaucracy.

The solution? Well, that's not fair, so here's a better question: part of the solution? Well, the commission suggests that we create a new executive department in charge of intelligence. Let me guide you through that and connect the dots. The solution to a bureaucracy that is so large and inefficient that it prevents meaningful communication among departments is to expand that bureaucracy, create more metaphorical desks on which to place vital bits of information, information that would then have an even greater chance of being lost or ignored. We already created a Department of Homeland Security, and royally screwed over Pennsylvania in the process.* When this department was created, I could not help but be baffled. We seem to have a department for everything, and the bureaucracy is inefficient. It costs more to get less done. We could have done, and still could do, without the Department of Education, and there we were creating another department. And, in the face of direct attacks on the inefficiency of bureaucracy, the commission is suggesting more bureaucracy. I have to think this is the big government mentality coming through, where more government, and more money spent on government, just has to be better.

Some might say that this suggestion is better than nothing, since the new department can coordinate intelligence throughout the government. I contend that the new department is worse than nothing, a palliative at a time when we need a cure, and meaningless gesture that will keep us feeling safe and secure without being any safer or more secure. Right after the commission's work is the best time to address the serious lapses in national security that led to 9/11, and now is the time when Congress will be most likely to act decisively. The more time that passes, the more unlikely change is to be made. What the commission suggests is weak and ineffective and does little to solve the real problems with intelligence, but it will make millions of Americans, and hundreds of Congressmen, feel better. If anyone later cries out that we need more change, more streamlining, the reply will simply be that we already implemented those changes. If we do nothing now, we will find more receptive ears in the future, for no one will have even pretended to correct the problem; however, if we do something, even if that something is really empty, we only entrench bureaucracy even further and make it even more difficult for real change ever to take place.

When will the next attack come? I think this question is more relevant than asking whether the next attack will come, given the lessons we still haven't learned from 9/11, and our continuing feeble domestic response to international terrorism, as weak in some ways as President Bush's response abroad is strong.

If he loses the next election, even our foreign policy may be nothing more than a palliative, as it was for eight years in the 1990s, when the seeds of 9/11 were being sown while being largely ignored by the executive.


*instead of assisting the campaign of his successor, he was instead absent, probably a big reason Ed Rendell won the election. Thanks again, Tom.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Wherein Truth and Logic are Explained

It has taken me all of one post to get to what is, for me, the cornerstone of my own existence. Truth. I believe that Truth exists, and, as Verny stated, with effort we may realize it. Actually, most open-minded (truly open-minded) people don’t have too difficult a time with that concept, whether they embrace it as freely as I. Examples of truth (perhaps yet unknown) include the purpose of our existence, the sanctity of human life as opposed to animal and plant life, the sanctity of human life yet unborn, the nature of men’s hearts, &c. Logic, on the other hand, is nothing more than a path to Truth. It is a set of rules. The “truth of logic” is an absurd (not absurd-“silly”, but absurd-“very silly”) statement; Logic is neither true nor false. It is simply a collection of rules.
If Truth is your destination, Logic is the road you take. Think of Truth as “grandmother’s house”; Logic would then be “over the river and through the woods.” And just like our roads all over the country, Logic can take you to places you are trying to reach (i.e., Truth), places you actually didn’t want to go (such as conclusions at odds with what you had hoped to discover; a personal anti-Truth if you will), or sometimes no place at all, like a leisurely Sunday stroll (think undergrad Math/Logic/Philosophy course homework wherein the students runs around in circles making no progress). There are some places it seems the roads of Logic just don’t reach (the peak of Mount Ararat, or maybe Goldbach's Conjecture), and some places where there doesn’t appear to be a direct path, but with some clever understanding of side roads, the destination is still reached (directly computing the antiderivative of secant(x), for a math example).
In none of these examples is the road itself “true” or “false” in the process of existing. It simply exists. Sometimes it might look tempting to try to go off the road to get to your destination, but you must not do so; abandoning the road may destroy your oil pan, just as deviating from the rules of Logic destroys your arguments and eliminates any hope of knowing Truth.
Tell me, is this a horribly difficult concept? I wonder, for at times I am convinced that none of the population is able to comprehend that Logic is a set of building blocks, a road, a governing set of rules, abstaining from veracity altogether.
The rules of Logic, which I will not discuss at length today (suffice to say they have all been verified by “sound” means and are universally accepted by philosophers and mathematicians), are often accused of being flawed because they generate “flawed” conclusions. Again, I hasten to remind you, Logic is only a machine; if your meat grinder gives you ground sausage rather than ground beef, it is through no fault of the grinder itself. ‘Tis you who inserted sausage rather than beef into the machine to begin with. Logic yields conclusions only as good as the premises you began with. This is apparently even more difficult to grasp than “Logic = Rules Only.” Many a person has accused Logic of failing because they started with flawed premises.
Could the differences between Truth and Logic be more clear? I think not. The difference is as vast as it is obvious. Truth is our goal; Logic, our vessel. We try, as hard as possible, to reach our goal; our means of transport, however, is already firmly in our grasp and under our control.
Sorry, I didn’t mean to harp on this for so long, but Logic is one of my biggest passions; I find people’s ignorance toward it both annoying and infuriating.

It's Their Bloody Neurosis

Understanding Anti-Americanism: Its Origins and Impact at Home and Abroad looks like a fascinating, and important, book, doesn't it? It may turn out that, get ready for this, it's not our fault that they hate us! To those of us who suspected all along that the United States was a force for good in the world, this vindication is delightful. I suspect academia will generally ignore this book, not even considering it worth refuting. For its thesis is antithetical to one of academia's axioms, the axiom that the United States of America is an evil, imperialist, capitalist bully and that they* have a right to hate us. Jay Nordlinger's recent column brought it to my attention, and the man again reminds me why I can't get enough of Impromptus.

Check out a few lovely quotes from the review:

 ...true anti-Americanism is an extreme hostility born of, in editor Hollander's words, "a deep-seated, emotional predisposition" to loathe the U.S. rather than one based on rational critique.
Of course it is, and always has been. There is nothing rational about anti-American sentiment (isn't that an oxymoron anyway - rational sentiment?); anti-Americanism is not the result of a careful consideration of American foreign policy, or conditions in America itself. They hate us, hate what we are, and they will hate anything we do, whether it is rational to hate it or not. If we fail to take action in a crisis, we are being isolationist; if we intervene, we are imperialists.
Anthony Daniels paints France as an anxious, judgmental, contradictory former colonial power, threatened by invasive "Anglo-Saxon" (read "American") culture and the English language.

If the reviewer means that France is threatened by "Anglo-American" culture, then I wholeheartedly agree with his (apparent) correction of Mr. Daniels. The political theory behind the founding of the United States was based on the English liberals, Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. The United States and Britain have a kinship in their conceptions of the role of government, even if that kinship may be rather difficult to determine by now. The French Revolution took Rousseau as its inspiration, and political theory in France thus has a different foundation. It is no wonder that the French, viewing the proper role of government and individual rights in a radically different way from us and the British, resent us. As a student of philosophy, I eagerly look forward to a book that (as it seems even from this small quote by a reviewer) ties early modern political philosophy with international politics today.
Michael Freund analyzes Germany's relation to the U.S. by making detailed reference to 19th- and 20th-century German philosophical thinkers.

Germany's political philosophy is also quite different from ours. Where we tend to value property and individualism, the German political philosophers valued ideology, order, and unity. Marx is only the most obvious example of a German political theorist: property and money are marks of materialism and a mercantile mindset**; individual rights are merely convenient tools for the bourgeoisie in keeping down the proletariat; community is stronger and more important than the individual. In fact, the bias toward community and away from the individual comes from Hegel, though Marx and others took up the torch. I am sure Mr. Freund analyzes the philosophical origins of German political theory better than I can here, and I look forward to reading it, as should you.
Because the collection emphasizes anti-Americanism as a vitriolic intellectual construction, some readers may find its tone overly defensive, particularly in relation to American foreign policy.

Ah, reviewer simply could not let logical and devastating critiques of anti-Americanism stand without inserting a little caveat for the ignorant. No, he had to comment on the tone of the book, though I am sure it is nothing compared to the tone of anti-Americans. And, frankly, why shouldn't we be defensive, since American foreign policy has accomplished so much good for so many, has freed Eastern Europe from the worst kind of tyranny, has protected the only foothold democracy has in the Middle East, and has liberated Afghanistan from the brutal theocrats that dominated the country; yet, despite all these efforts (and these are only recent), at the cost of many American lives, we are denounced as evil, opportunistic imperialists? When facing irrational attacks from precisely those countries we saved during the Second World War and the Cold War, those countries who benefited more even than we did by our foreign policy, why should we not become defensive? How defensive is overly defensive, given history since 1941? If any sane reader could interpret this book as having an overly defensive tone, I really need to read it, just to see what could possibly qualify.
*"They" being the malcontents du jour.
**I must make two points about Marx. It is true that Marx was a materialist, but he was a materialist in the sense that he held that matter is the only real. He was not a materialist in the sense that he valued money. Thus there is no contradiction in saying that Marx was a dialectical materialist who decried crass materialism, because "materialist" is used in two different senses. The second point I wish to make further ties Marx to his successors in Germany. Marx identified materialism (in the sense of desiring money and goods) with the Jews. Marx's anti-Semitism stems from his identifying them with capitalism run amok, and it is more than a little distasteful. An apologist for Marx might claim that he really hates capitalism, and only uses the Jews as a symbol for capitalism, but I think this hardly justifies him. Irrational hatred of capitalism, irrational hatred of the Jews, and gross misinterpretation of economics - Marx in a nutshell.

Department of Distaste

I'm not certain how long the Pennsylvania Department of Health has been running their latest anti-tobacco ads, but they especially came to my attention in recent weeks. The ads are shockingly graphic, depicting the frankly disgusting effects of tobacco use on the human body. In light of this, one naturally assumes that the jarring imagery is intended to dissuade users and potential users from these lethal substances. Would that it were so. The ad campaign fully expects Pennsylvania residents to be unjust, in Plato's sense of the word. For justice is minding one's own business, and the Department of Health knows that, in this day, Americans simply cannot help but meddle. Private habits are now public business, public affairs, and try, just try to smoke a cigarette without hearing a helpful comment from a passerby: "Those will kill you, you know;" "That's a disgusting habit;" or the always lovely affected cough from a concerned comrade. I must express incredulity that so many people could be concerned with my health and not with their own, for I assure you that one cigarette will not kill me, but one comment at the wrong time, in the wrong tone, may render me temporarily insane. And you know what temporarily insane people do: not content to sit around, temporarily-insanely watching television, or reading a book, they tend to waste little time finding the nearest makeshift weapon and putting it to deadly use. A Zippo embedded in your forehead is a steep price to pay.

The ads bear description. The first (the first I saw) is set to a selection from "Sea of Love:"

Come with me, to the sea

Do you remember when we met
That's the day I knew you were my pet
I want to tell you how much I love you

The song is performed by what I take to be a boys' choir, and the "pet" in the ad is chewing tobacco. Young boys (perhaps twelve years old) are seen chewing tobacco, spitting out the apparently used-up tobacco in a viscous brown sludge, and standing in front of a convenience store counter and asking the clerk to sell them some tobacco. Interspersed with these images are images of a person pulling his lower lip down to expose the rot in his gums presumably caused by mouth cancer; a young boy smiling, that full smile being replaced by one with a few missing teeth; and what I can only assume is a microscopic view of a cancerous cell. At the end, a written message appears urging clerks not to sell tobacco to minors.

I've not paid careful attention to the second commercial, but it follows similar lines. The whole of it is set to these lines from "Someone To Watch Over Me:"

I'm a little lamb who's lost in the wood
I know I could always be good
To one who'll watch over me

My memory is rather poor on the remaining details, but a few images stand out. There is a girl attempting to buy cigarettes; there is a girl, or a group of girls, swimming; and there is a breathless old man or woman wearing an oxygen mask - the subject in this last image may have been in a hospital bed. The message at the end is the same, urging clerks to obey the law and not to sell tobacco products to minors.
By now you may wonder why these spots offend me as much as they do. Do I support capitalism to such an extent that I say to hell with the law, let the kids buy their smokes? Get 'em hooked early and you've got a couple of decades of repeat business, right? I wish I were such a cynic, but I have some touch of humanity remaining in this dog's heart, I'm afraid. The ads bother me because of the implicit message. It is not that we are to refrain from selling tobacco to minors because it is illegal, but because we'd be selling lifelong addiction to the poor bastards.

What exactly does that mean? For one thing, though I will not dwell on this point, it means that a child, once addicted to tobacco, is doomed forever to continue his habit until it kills him. The girl buying a pack of cigarettes becomes an old woman struggling to breathe; the boy chews tobacco until he chews his teeth out; that same boy will continue packing the tobacco into his mouth until it bleeds and festers with disease. I do wish someone had informed me that the philosophical debate over free will had been decided, and the determinists won in startling fashion. How could one otherwise explain the connection between a clerk's indiscretion and the eventual death of an addict? First of all, it is not that the clerk encouraged the child, so the child, first, is responsible for even desiring tobacco in the first place. The child makes a free act, and the clerk certainly did not force tobacco upon the youth. Of course, we all know that it is really heartless big tobacco that has so brainwashed the child that he is unable to choose for himself, right? Well, repetition of a lie does not make that lie true, though Michael Moore may be the fatal counterexample to that, and I happen to believe that compulsion and persuasion are entirely different things. The child was not compelled to do anything. Furthermore, at any time, the tobacco user could have stopped. At any time before becoming stricken with cancer, or some other illness, the user could have quit, and, since these harmful effects of tobacco almost always take years, even decades, to surface, the user was presented time and again with the choice to continue or to quit. He continued.

Tell me again, who is responsible? The ads imply that the clerk is leading the child to his demise, that he needs "one who'll watch over (him)," but it is obvious that the responsibility belongs to the user, not the one selling the product. The only real issue is the age of the user, but beyond the age of twelve, at least, a child is quite capable of making a free decision, though in his immaturity he may not bear full responsibility. I certainly do not want to suggest that we make tobacco available to minors, however, and my point is only that the entire crusade against tobacco is steeped in a mindset antithetical to free will. Children do have a diminished capacity to choose, but a child does not contract lung cancer, but must first become an adult and continue to choose to buy that carton of cigarettes every week. "Compulsion" has been radically redefined, or the definition simply does not matter.

Why does the state even make it an issue of concern for the health of another? Quite frankly, if you freely choose to harm yourself, I don't see why it is any concern of mine. The real issue is that it is illegal to sell tobacco products to minors, and that should be sufficient. If a paternalism obnoxious to our nation's philosophical and legal foundations of freedom and the personal responsibility concomitant with that freedom is a better motivation than the rule of law, then I weep for the present, never mind the future. I do not see why it is my business whether you give yourself lung cancer, but I see all too plainly why it is the state's business. The state has made it its business. The state has partially socialized medicine, and it often bears the burden of paying for treatment in the case of diseases caused by the use of tobacco. However, if state policy has given it justifiable cause to meddle where it really has no place meddling, why blame tobacco? Why not blame socialism for making it necessary that the state seek to restrict a private enjoyment? Well, because tobacco is so unpopular, while socialism, paternalism, and general meddling are the order of the day.
Just try to light up in plain view of a few people.

I was initially offended not by the paternalism implicit in the ads, but by their very disgusting nature and the time at which they were shown. They are, as I have said, graphic, and are always shown around six o'clock in the evening. A visually distasteful ad is being shown just as many are sitting down to eat, and since these ads show at the same time every day and very rarely, if at all, the rest of the day, I cannot help but conclude that this correspondence is intentional. For, you see, the crusade against tobacco transcends the limits of decency. You cannot be allowed to enjoy your meal in peace, because it is just so very important that we be reminded (in case we forgot) that a. upholding the law is a good thing; b. tobacco might just do some harm to your body (apparently the ads are intended for those who never attended a year in the public schools and thus missed the constant lessons about the dangers of tobacco, themselves often accompanied by graphic pictures of diseased lungs and such); and c. tobacco is still a rite of passage. Actually, regarding that last point, I tend to distrust anyone over the age of nineteen who has never smoked in his life. But I digress. You must have your appetite ruined so that the state of Pennsylvania can repeat itself and tell you what you already know, and what your children almost certainly know themselves, and what any clerk definitely knows as well. When an employee who will have among his duties the sale of tobacco products is hired, he in instructed carefully not to sell tobacco products to minors. The motivation given during this training is likely to be much more effective than the state's ad campaign, unless that employee happens to have the neurotic compulsion to make sure no one else ever enjoys himself. In that case, the ads will work wonderfully. The motivation that actually has an effect and makes these ads superfluous is the fact that a person caught selling tobacco to minors will be fined $1000 and almost certainly fired.

This is motivation enough for anyone with half a brain. However, the state is supposed to function in loco parentis now, with all its residents as willing agents, and we are not conscripted merely to look out for children, who do require special care and attention (though certainly both should come from their parents), but also for all our comrades. An adult conscientiously smoking a cigarette outdoors and by himself, taking the greatest care not to disturb the non-smokers around him, is still offensive to this mentality. For he is harming himself freely! He is exercising his rights as an American! And he's not hurting anyone else in the process! Damn him! And don't forget to let him know about lung cancer, in case he can't read those warnings, because it's your duty to meddle, your duty to be concerned about complete strangers.

Unless those strangers have AIDS...then it's a different story. And, perhaps, a future entry.


Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Fired! Get over it!

By now, we all know what happened to Linda Ronstadt at the Aladdin in Las Vegas. After taking a break from her crowing to vocally masturbate Michael Moore-on, many fans started to boo and walk out, even demanding their money back (the gall!). While I am still curious to know what the hell people were doing at a Linda Ronstadt concert in the first place (don’t tell me people actually listen to her aging wailings anymore), it never ceases to amaze me how the New York Slimes can spin the event to make it the fault of the hotel and manager, the fans, and whatever else (probably even Halliburton, why not?).
Something went awry at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas last Saturday night. Linda Ronstadt did what she has done at several concerts across the country this summer. She dedicated the song "Desperado"- an encore - to Michael Moore and urged members of the audience to go see his new movie, "Fahrenheit 9/11."
Now, being the fan of music that I am, I have paid a great sum of money up to this point in my life to go to many various concerts. I go because, frankly, I want to be entertained by live music. What a crazy concept, no? Is it out of the question for us to assume that at least a fair majority of the people at this concert were there for the same reason? I mean, how many people would be there to look at her *lovely* wrinkled cow face? Really?
Elsewhere, audiences have reacted to the mention of Mr. Moore by cheering, booing, walking out and sometimes glaring at one another in parking lots.
I can understand the booing. After all, though not overly pleasant all the time, I tend to dislike venomous hate-mongers. Imagine dedicating a song to that hero David Duke, especially at an NAACP event. There may be some booing there too; who knows? 

At the Aladdin, a few audience members tore down posters, threw drinks and demanded their money back.
Wait for it… we’re about to be told these patrons’ freedom of speech is irrelevant here, because, well, they are against the LoonyLeft’s Darling Media Hog and anyone praising him.

According to one person who was present - William Timmins, the Aladdin's president - it was "a very ugly scene."
Well, I already said that anyone who went to this concert must have gone for the music, since her face is NOT easy on the eyes.

Mr. Timmins promptly made it even uglier. He had Ms. Ronstadt ejected from the premises.
He didn’t make it uglier at all; he had her syphilitic scrotum-sucking sack-face evacuated from the premises. On top of her not fulfilling the reasonable expectation of performing a musical concert for the attendees, she willingly made comments that SHE KNEW FROM PAST EXPERIENCE (and even indicated in this worthless editorial) would spark some controversy and perhaps upset a large part of the crowd.

Bear in mind that the Aladdin is a business, and businesses don’t really benefit from their patrons being upset and riled, for whatever reason. If an employee goes out of his or her way to anger patrons, it is not at all unreasonable for that employee to be terminated. That’s exactly what the Aladdin, which was paying Ronstadt for what would be classified as “services”, did. I have yet to see the problem here.

This behavior assumes that Ms. Ronstadt had no right to express a political opinion from the stage.
Wow! Someone at the NYSlimes got it! Well, almost got it. Rabid Ronstadt has a right to spout off whatever incorrect and informed garbage (under the guise of “a statement”) that she likes when on stage. Just be sure to grant that the Aladdin has the right to get rid of her for it. I hate to go back to this whole thing, but that is NOT censorship. It is a (good, in this case) business decision.

It implies - for some members of the audience at least - that there is a philosophical contract that says an artist must entertain an audience only in the ways that audience sees fit.
What is unfit about an audience expecting music and not a sermon? Makes sense to me, but then again, I’m a thinker.

It argues, in fact, that an artist like Ms. Ronstadt does not have the same rights as everyone else.
Whoops, you’re an idiot! At my job, I do not have the “right” to do many things. In fact, the only rights I have are to a clean and safe work environment, with a guarantee of a minimum amount of pay. That’s about it, a few other minor legal protections aside. I do not have the right to consume alcohol at work, the way I do at home. I do not have the right to say any disparaging comment about my boss the way I can at home or in a bar. I do not have the right to carry my rifle with me (pesky educational institutions anyway) like I can in other places. Many of my rights are abridged or denied at the workplace.

It is no different for these entertainers. Their workplace is the stage, and they have a certain set of expectations placed upon them. If a comedian is not funny, he is canned. If an actress cannot convey emotions, she is fired. And, if a musician starts spouting off things that the PAYING audience does NOT want to hear in lieu of actually performing music, then she is escorted off the premises by hotel security, never to return again. It is a simple firing in line with the business’s best interest. Yes, those eeeeeevil businesses will sometimes actually terminate people who do not perform up to standards.

Perhaps her praise for Mr. Moore, even at the very end of her show, did ruin the performance for some people.
What tipped you off, moron? The way people stormed out, threw drinks at her posters and then ripped them down, and then demanded their money back because the performance was ruined for them? Funny these things you notice when you open your eyes! Too bad you only opened them for only one sentence in this entire piece of trash story.

They have a right to voice their disapproval - to express their opinion as Ms. Ronstadt expressed hers and to ask for a refund.
Oops! You were on the right track, but then lost it! Yes, the paying audience has a right to express disgust with a disappointing service in exchange for their money. Rankled Ronstadt, who was being paid to sing, did NOT have a right to spout of stupid inflammatory drivel. See the difference yet? It is, you know, pretty obvious.

But if their intemperate behavior began to worry the management, then they were the ones who should have been thrown out and told never to return, not Ms. Ronstadt, who threatened, after all, only to sing.
It’s a shame that she didn’t want to make good on her threat without mentally modifying her contract to include dumping loads of steamy horseshit on the crowd first. And I agree, if people were damaging property (I get the impression that these posters were fairly easy to get down and wouldn’t exactly constitute property damage, but I could be wrong) then their behavior needed addressed as well. We weren’t told that it wasn’t. However, Ronstadt made the choice to say things she KNEW would start an ugly situations (“Elsewhere, audiences have reacted to the mention of Mr. Moore by cheering, booing, walking out and sometimes glaring at one another in parking lots”) which hotel management would certainly have never agreed to here. Were someone to walk into a hotel and attempt to start a riot, chances are the police would be summoned, despite whatever pathetic “free speech” arguments you can spit out. It is all the worse for Loony Linda as she was, at the time, being paid by the hotel.

If ever I must go to Vegas, you can be sure I will be staying at the Aladdin, where common sense seems to reign, at least a little. 
That should do for now.

For the record, just like my esteemed compatriot, I will refrain from formal introductions until we have this thing a little better under control. Bear with us through this initial phase; wrinkles will hopefully be ironed out soon, and the tasty polemic masterpieces will simply flow forth.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

The Nightmare Begins

...with all due apologies to Mr. Vasquez.
That may not have been a very auspicious start for this blog, especially given our lofty goal of universal enlightenment, but I think it sets the mood rather nicely. That is, you can expect intelligence, vitriol, and outlandish buffoonery to wage a constant struggle for dominance of this blog. I myself suspect that vitriol will hold the advantage, at least until the election, when John Kerry finally fades from notice and we cease having such a visible target for deserved aspersions.
This blog is a collective effort, in the most anti-Communist sense of the word, of course. So it is not that I am the new skeptic, but it is that we all contribute to a cause personified as The New Skeptic. Why new, and why a skeptic? The name of this blog was not arbitrarily, nor lightly, chosen. We are skeptics because we refuse dogmatically to accept what is given to us; we refuse to kowtow to the intellectual trends in academia; we refuse to listen slavishly to our professors and simply spit back, verbatim, what they have proclaimed to be "The Way;" we refuse to accept at face value, without further examination, what we read and view in the mainstream media. In fact, we are not tied to any particular media outlet; I have objections to the Fox News Channel that are as serious, in their own way, as my objections to CNN. My favorite journal of opinion, National Review, often exasperates me in its seeming insistence on a Catholic model of morality. We are skeptics because we question, something so rare today, even as thousands, perhaps millions, of students proclaim their individuality, their open-mindedness, their refusal to conform. It is a grand farce. They prove their "intellectual independence" by dogmatic adherence to the doctrines of their professors, and the detached observer cannot help but pity, hate, and fear them all at once. They have all the evidence before them, evidence that they are simply following the herd, and yet they believe, truly believe, that they are independent thinkers. The origin of this collosal illusion will perhaps be the subject of a future entry.
Thus, we are skeptics; why then are we new, and not old, skeptics, or not just plain old skeptics? Well, we have no affinity for most skeptical philosophers in history. Unlike the Pyrrhoneans, we believe in an objective truth, and that man is capable, though only with great effort, of discovering that truth. We may never discover it in our lifetime, but the search is worth undertaking, and the apparently futile struggle against ignorance, superstition, dogma, and laziness is our duty to mankind and to his history. We are not the skeptics of old, but the skeptics of this age, lone voices in the wilderness, arguing for what some may call an outdated philosophy amidst the subjectivity of the new culture, unwilling to conform, unwilling to be blind, unwilling to believe but quite willing to reason, to examine, to prove. We expect to be unpopular, and revel in it. Acceptance is the mark of an unimaginative, pedantic, dogmatic mind. We adore truth and scorn lies. We expect derision, and perhaps an occasional note of praise, in exchange. So be it. We have chosen to face the challenge, not to shirk from it, and our courage will vindicate us.
Ambitious, aren't we? And more than a bit arrogant. We hope to enlighten, to entertain, to anger, to shock, and, ultimately, to promote the good of mankind. Reason is our tool; truth is our goal.
Noble aspirations, aren't they? But, when all is said and done, can they match the lure of a warm glass of scotch?
Levity, remember? Levity as a defense against the crushing weight of such overwhelming questions.
-Vernunft, who will save his personal introduction for a later entry