Monday, March 31, 2008

Google - The Face of Evil

Google pulled an NBC.
Google users in the United States will notice today that we "turned the lights out" on the homepage as a gesture to raise awareness of a worldwide energy conservation effort called Earth Hour. As to why we don't do this permanently - it saves no energy; modern displays use the same amount of power regardless of what they display.
If there's one thing I don't hear enough about, it's energy conservation. Actually, there are two things so obscure, so overlooked in our society in the year 2008, that I fear they may disappear entirely if not attended to every moment - energy conservation and global warming. Thank you, Google, for bringing neglected, but important, ideas to our attention.

Google is about as self-righteous as entities get. They're also in bed with the monstrous regime in China - you know the guys, trying to kill as many Tibetans as possible before they cause a big embarrassment at the Olympic Games? Yeah. Those guys. So when Google pulls a stunt like this, I have to stop my eyes from rolling out of their sockets.

Here's an idea - let's invent some sort of extremely energy-efficient way to utilize the power created by radioactive decay, and then build a bunch of new facilities to use that energy and solve this bogus energy crisis forever!


Oh, another thing. "Global warming" is now "global climate change." I'm sure you know that and know why that is - the Earth is being rather discourteous and not actually getting warmer at the approved rate. Whatever is happening has to be blamed, somehow, on people; thus, "global climate change." I think that this is a bad rhetorical move. The Earth's climate is the product of a number of factors, domestic and foreign (terrestrial and extraterrestrial). Those factors always change, even if only a little at a time; thus, the climate always changes. Now imagine that the Earth's climate were to be exactly the same one year as the previous year. Well, that is unnatural - and thus, a result of human intervention. But the term "global climate change" will not cover such a phenomenon - a phenomenon of global climate stasis. I propose a new term to cover all human-created climate crises: "climate." That way, when it's too hot, cold, wet, dry, snowy, icy, foggy, hazy, clear, muggy, or even when the weather is perfect in every way, you can rest assured that nature would not be this way if not for our intervention.

We...are pretty darn powerful, huh?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Why I Am Not a Libertarian

I am being described as a "libertarian hawk." I'm flattered...sort of.

I'd rather not make a personal war out of blog disagreements, so let me emphasize that I am posting this just to clarify my views. I don't want to argue against misunderstandings of my position, because it's too easy and it's a waste of time for all involved.

Here is what is said about me:
First there’s the libertarian hawk “New Skeptic,” who dismisses the Gravel idea because 1) the military industrial complex and imperialism are “fake concepts,” 2) it’s no good to criticize the war, and 3) Gravel’s just another “kook”: “Libertarians have a serious image problem, and people like Gravel and Ron Paul have not helped.”

Oh yes, New Skeptic, the Iraq war is so wildly popular that it would be political suicide to oppose it! As for the half million soldiers, administrators, and civil contractors employed abroad—merely an illusion! More over, NS seems quite concerned with the Ron Paul newsletters and oblivious to the fact that this “scandal” had no effect whatsoever on the primaries and gained little to no traction outside the PC Beltway. It’s only the dwindling New Republic subscribers and their DC friends who worry that Paul might be a man “filled with hate.”
First, let me concede that I am a hawk. I believe that war is justified and that the war in Iraq was, at least at its outset, just and necessary. I am not a libertarian, though. I am not a member of the Libertarian Party and I do not self-identify as a libertarian. I am a conservative who is registered Republican, whose views tend to libertarianism, especially on civil liberties and constitutional limits on government. However, I'd more accurately describe myself as a libertarian skeptic. Although I think the state and federal governments have stepped far beyond their constitutional limits, I am wary of revolutionary change - the kind of change Ron Paul seems to advocate, annihilating whole government agencies overnight. Not only would revolutionary change potentially cause upheaval, it might not even remedy the problem it is supposed to address. This is especially true of proposed tax reform measures, which would shift tax complexity, not eliminate it.

In short, I am not a libertarian; however, words being words, it's probably not important what label people attach to me.

I'm receiving some flak for claiming that the military-industrial complex and American imperialism are fake concepts. They are. The military-industrial complex is a conspiracy-theory concoction. American imperialism is an imperialism without colonies or empire, making "imperialism" a dysphemism for a policy of global intervention. I don't take these issues seriously because they are the products of hysteria.

Criticizing this or any war is fine, and perhaps right. Categorically rejecting war as a foreign policy tool is deranged. I thought my original post was pretty clear - Gravel himself said that he was "against war," not "against the war." "War is never right" is not a defensible position, if freedom means anything.

To the extent my critic misunderstands my opposition to "peace at any cost" to mean unflinching support of the Iraq War, I hope this is a useful corrective. As for the supposed military-industrial complex, I suppose there is a Congressional-trial attorney complex and an FCC-telecommunications industrial complex and on, and on, and on. With such a proliferation of shady insiders seeking their rents in the government, it's probably best not to apply a scary-sounding label that hints at a sinister, and unique, cooperation between public and private entities. The military-industrial complex is a bogeyman.

Ron Paul has an unnerving association with racist cranks. He himself may not be a racist; I think I've mentioned that before, but we seem to have no evidence that he is racist himself, and he has repudiated racism on his campaign website. However, this kind of company he keeps may have done something to lower his ceiling; that is, because of his distasteful associations, he could never progress beyond a rather low limit in electoral support. That the Ron Paul movement seems not to have progressed much in recent months indicates that he reached his ceiling some time ago; whether that is related to the accusations of racism is less clear. For my part, the whole issue turned me off even more to the Ron Paul Revolution (admittedly, I never caught the fever anyway).

Ron Paul's appeal is a strange issue. I may go into it later; I may not. I just think it is worth the speculation whether the Ron Paul image was tarnished by some racist friends, and that his status as savior of the Republic fell away as a result of the scandal.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

When Theory Meets More Theory

And this is why I will never be a member of the Libertarian Party.
Mike Gravel, a former Alaskan Senator and Democratic candidate for president, has joined the Libertarian Party.
"My libertarian views, as well as my strong stance against war, the military industrial complex and American imperialism, seem not to be tolerated by Democratic Party elites who are out of touch with the average American; elites that reject the empowerment of American citizens I offered to the Democratic Party at the beginning of this presidential campaign with the National Initiative for Democracy."
Categorically against war and two fake concepts! 0 out of 3 is...awful, actually.

Libertarians have a serious image problem, and people like Gravel and Ron Paul have not helped. Besides that, the Randians (oh no a word I just made up!) are in that "big tent" and stink the whole thing up. People who are serious but realistic about small government and civil liberties want nothing to do with the kooks. It's one thing to say, for instance, that the Commerce Clause is a strict limit on congressional power; it's another to formulate a reasonable interpretation of that provision while dealing with and changing the system currently in place. Getting rid of the FDA overnight = kooky; not just kooky, but intellectually immature. Criticism is not the final step in political theory, and if libertarians cannot construct a viable ideological system from the rubble of rejected ideas, then they offer nothing worth overhauling our government for.

Oh, I know, Mike Gravel is hardly the best representative of the party. But still, libertarianism often marginalizes itself, and that's bad, because some of its ideas need to be implemented if we want any hope of surviving China, the collapse of Social Security, and an Islamic Europe.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Criminals! Rob These Houses!

Not creepy at all.
A crackdown on guns is under way in the District. Police are asking residents to submit to voluntary searches in exchange for amnesty under the District's gun ban.
That's awesome public policy. I hope someone tells Justice Kennedy about this, since I'm sure he'll take it into account in his decision. The only people whose guns will be found this way are those with no malicious purpose in owning guns.

Let that sink in. This crackdown is precisely tailored to disarm potential crime victims.

Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said the "safe homes initiative" is aimed at residents who want to cooperate with police.
Like any good item of doublespeak, it means the opposite of what it appears to mean. The "safe homes initiative" has the effect of making your home less safe - plus there's that whole "the police are searching my house" thing.

Really, is D.C. conditioning this "amnesty" on an in-home search? Is it not possible just to turn in a gun to the police department, or will that result in an arrest for violation of the law?

Seriously, idiots, don't do this. The gun ban is unconstitutional anyway - a court already determined that.

I wonder if D.C. could do a themed package deal of voluntary alienation of constitutional rights - we've got the Second and Fourth Amendments being trashed here, so maybe they could also ask people to submit to a bench trial with the penalty for conviction being torture by having to read about the Supreme Court's expansive reading of the Commerce Clause. Sort of a "Suspend Even-Numbered Amendments" bundle.

Friday, March 21, 2008

John Derbyshire Irreligion Watch

I'm a big fan of John Derbyshire, the conservative author, mathematician, Ron Paul supporter, and sinogynephile. He can be irritating, though, especially this election cycle. Ron Paul vs. Al Gore 2008, John?

Anyway, the irritant this time is the latest example of his constant need to be provocatively irreligious:
I have to line up with Andrew on that Atlantic piece about Arthur C. Clarke.

"What Clarke failed to understand about the supposed 'mind virus' of religious belief is that it answers exactly this question — it grounds human dignity in transcendent truth."

The problem here is that the word "truth" ought to be plural. So ought "religious belief." There isn't just one, there are lots of them, and they disagree fundamentally among themselves about the transcendent stuff.

* This one says that after you die you go to a different plane of existence; that one says, no, you are reborn on earth.
* This one says there is an invisible Sky Father supervising our affairs, that one says, no, there are lots of Sky Fathers, each with a different portfolio; while yet another one says there are no Sky Fathers at all, only an ineffable void.
* This one says you should love your enemies; that one says you should kill them.
* This one says the Sky Father sent us a messenger 2000 years ago to show us the right path; that one says, yes, but he sent another messenger 600 years later, whose message was even more definitive; a third group tells us that, no, the second messenger didn't show up till 200 years ago; while down the street there's a religion that says the Sky Father will send a messenger in his own sweet time, but hasn't yet …

Doesn't look very dignifying to me, nor for that matter much like truth. Compared with this mess, those corny, laughable old non-transcendent truths — stuff like water is wet, fire burns, E = mc2, and eπi + 1 = 0 — look pretty good.
I'd like to congratulate the physical sciences on finding that unified theory, and leaving behind the mess and confusion of the competing "truths" of relativity, quantum mechanics, and string theory.

Whew. Finally.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Disowning His Appeal

Barack Obama appears utterly to have disowned the only thing that gave him any appeal to rational voters in this country - his post-racialism. Some of his supporters embrace his socialism; some embrace the very fact that he is black; still others are swayed entirely by his rhetorical ability. Though his socialism is a deal-breaker as far as I am concerned, I think there were some voters who liked Obama because he represented an ideal vehicle for moving beyond race. Obama no longer wants their votes, as his speech made clear.

Obama equates blacks' anti-white resentment, expressed most despicably in Rev. Wright's sermons, with white resentment to affirmative action set-asides and other preferential treatment of minorities. This is a strange moral equivalence - on the one hand, Wright and Company resent whites based on false, sometimes absurd, premises - like the bizarre belief that HIV was invented by whites as a means of racial biological warfare. This resentment is hard to credit. On the other hand, whites whose race is the impetus for actual discriminatory treatment resent those discriminatory effects. Well, when racism hurts you, you tend to resent racism. When actual racially discriminatory policies are in place that cause you injury, you start to get sort of annoyed at that - especially when the country is supposed to be well beyond state-imposed racial hierarchies. To deal with two very different types of resentment in the same breath is either to give unwarranted credence to the former or to demote the latter.

Obama was supposed to be the sort of candidate who would get beyond the paranoid Wrightesque racial politics and work toward ending the affirmative action system that causes justified white* resentment. Instead, it's still whites' fault.

That's the asymmetry of Obama's call for change and unity - we all need to unite around the idea that whites are responsible for the socioeconomic circumstances of blacks apparently in perpetuity, and racial harmony will be achieved only when whites acknowledge they're bad people.

Perhaps the obstacle to racial unity has always been the race-baiters...but that's too simple, too obvious.

This is an ugly candidate.

*And Asian, of course. It's to the point that being Asian can be a positive liability in college admissions. That the Chinese have a history of discrimination and, you know, still constitute a minority is a pretty strong indication that affirmative action is a cynical racial spoils system where shabby political deals and selective white liberal guilt matter more than any possible philosophical or moral merit. Can you see why this would induce resentment?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Undoing of a Saint

It's difficult to escape a keen sense of Schadenfreude at Barack Obama's close relationship with a racist crank pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. When Obama came on the scene in 2004, even I was impressed. He appeared to be a black Democrat committed to going beyond racial politics and accepting that the United States has moved on substantially since Dred Scott. In fact, in the decades since the Civil Rights Movement, the country has largely become "post-racial," with racism confined to relatively harmless exercises in "blame-whitey" nonsense coming out of universities' humanities departments, and the occasional heavy-handed government attempt to impose racial equality where the evil to be cured no longer exists. Racism has been marginalized.

Obama represented, for me, the hope that someone on the Left would actually realize these facts and move beyond race-baiting. I was skeptical, however, of Obama's future success in the party, for the simple reason that a large part of Democratic appeal is its shameless race-baiting. For the party to dump this valuable political tool in the interest of ideological maturity was unthinkable.

Well, I was wrong.

The party didn't dump the tool, obviously, so I was right about that. I was wrong about Obama. The evidence is piling up that his post-racial rhetoric is empty indeed, and that he surrounds himself with people who look increasingly deranged complaining about anti-black racism when they themselves are doing extremely well, despite the supposed badge of inferiority inherent in their Blackness (see how I capitalized it? Fit for a Princeton thesis, that is!).

I'm unsure what Obama himself believes about race. It's impossible to tell because the people closest to him, including a man Obama has taken as a mentor for decades, are vicious racists, while Obama himself hasn't explicitly agreed with them. Still, as a post-racial guy myself, I can't see sitting in a church listening to a racist, or marrying a racist, but that's just me.

It appears that the candidate of X stands for ~X. The candidate whose only broad appeal was his post-racialism is likely to be the same old Jesse Jackson style racist.

Enjoy playing around with that, Democrats. Even I didn't see this one coming.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Ayn Rand - Not a Model of Clear Thought

I really would like to read Liberal Fascism. I really hope it's not like The Ominous Parallels, a book whose thesis is "Kant = Hitler = America" somehow spread out through 352 pages. I'm not exaggerating - the book makes the absurd claim that Immanuel Kant bears primary responsibility for Nazism, and instead of offering the excellent argument that this shocking claim requires, Peikoff (like all Objectivists) punts on the rationale. Hitler is Kant with a moustache, obv. Logically, I think that if you accept that premise, you can prove anything else at all, so why not? The United States is just like Germany, Kant is an altruist (!), Reagan is going to bring us down.

Anyway, I think I had a point. Oh yes. This was awfully disturbing, in that, beyond taking Peikoff seriously, Jonah Goldberg actually appears to think he had a point:
Yes, I think I've mentioned around here that I am familiar with Peikoff's book. I found it useful in many respects, thought a particularly enjoyable read. It floats at a pretty high altitude, but that was Peikoff's intent.
I don't know; Peikoff's hysteria and fumbling of philosophical history was pretty shabby, though, to be fair, I only skimmed the book, so maybe the last page included a "j/k, seriously Kant was cool and I know the difference between Hitler and Reagan." The bigger irritation is the credit Kant and Hegel are given for the worst evils of Nazism and Communism. Assigning any blame to Kant is particularly dishonest, because, well, he had that categorical imperative thing, which pretty much cuts out any mass-murder stuff. I'm not familiar enough with Hegel's political theory to offer much of a correction, but I know several things that make me wary of calling him a proto-Nazi. For one thing, the totalitarian tyrannies of the 20th century were ideologically Marxist, and despite Marx's claims to the contrary, he really wasn't much of a Hegelian. Marx took the idea of dialectic and excised the "idealism" part; this is sort of like taking theology and excising God. Either Marx got Hegel wrong or he didn't like what Hegel said; so Marx wasn't a good Hegelian. If someone has a reasonable criticism of Hegel's political philosophy that takes into account that he was not named Karl Effing Marx, I haven't seen it. Of course, I don't know Hegel or Hegel scholarship like I should, so whatever. Maybe these people have a point. I do know it would make a lot more sense to assign the blame to Marx, where much of it belongs.

I hope Liberal Fascism is (and it seems to be) a much better, more thoughtful book than Peikoff's pathetic offering, which was just Randian libel.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

ChessBase roundup

ChessBase - at it again, sort of.

This isn't such a bad article, all things considered, but what an awesomely stupid line:
It was twenty-nine years ago that the Iranian Revolution took place, the Shah Muhammad Reza Pahlavi fled to Cairo and the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini came to the power. Annually, at the anniversary of this revolution, which has been called "the third great revolution in history" following the French and Bolshevik revolutions, many cultural and sport Festivals are held in Iran.
In the tradition of the guys who killed so indiscriminately, Napoleon seemed like a refreshing change, and the people who made it hard to hate Hitler, comes the Iranian revolution! Yay!

ChessBase has a decisive-game fetish. If you ever want to torture information out of the ChessBase staff, show them YouTube clips of people agreeing to draws before move ten. I can guarantee they crack on the fifth dull Petroff.

No word yet on whether Bobby Fischer is still considered a martyr (schizophrenic anti-Semites: the forgotten minority), but I think we're due pretty soon. And I haven't heard from Karpov lately. Maybe he'll surface when Korchnoi dies, for one of those "it's safe to praise him now that he's dead" self-serving eulogies.

ANYWAY, enjoy.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Law and Economics

Governor Spitzer's bad deal.
She apparently was booked at about $1,000 an hour, placing her in the middle of the seven-diamond scale by which the prostitutes were paid up to $4,300 an hour.
A grand an hour, plus the risk-adjusted cost of getting caught...for that?

Well, I don't want to beat up on the kid, so I'll leave it at that. I thought the governor was at least careful with his own money.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Laziness - the Next Generation

Well, that was quite a hiatus! Honestly, I just didn't have quite the spirit to blog. I'm not sure if it was the draining effect of finals last semester (on which, however, I did quite nicely, somehow managing to get an excellent grade in the most boring class [yay?]) or the lotus-eating routine of the semester break that did in my Will to Blogger. Thus far, the current semester has had some draining moments and I didn't feel quite up to this until now.

I've been punched in the face with writing assignments for a class that, though very interesting to me, is useless (Patent Litigation). I see the professor gave the last section he taught A-minuses across the board, which may make this enjoyable. What is not enjoyable is doing actual work before finals.

I think my mind has finally reached that point where mindlessness is cloying. I may get back into that whole philosophy business I was supposed to be taking up as a sideline, and I'm actually interested in thinking about some of the topics in my classes. Besides the important, the trivial - video game aesthetics, for instance - is occupying and exercising my mind. I HOPE for a CHANGE in the blog's routine of never, ever updating. Actually, on that note, thanks, Freiheit, for not giving up on it yet. I promise it will get awesome again.

The good news about future updates is that with the Republican nomination sewn up, I don't have to engage in partisan politics for a few months. I've also been feeling more libertarian the more I think about constitutional law.

See you in three months. I mean, tomorrow.