Sunday, July 19, 2009

Harry Binswanger List - Free for a while

[via Ayn Rand India]

Management Resources

I rediscovered an interesting management site. It has a management enclyclopedia and a business dictionary. Some of the things I read about are competitive advantage (porter), Ashridge mission modal, positioning (Trout Ries), and SWOT analysis.

Speaking of management, I recently read Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Practice and Principles by Peter F. Drucker. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Here's an excerpt from the book taken from this review:

"Sometimes, there is a dissonance between reality and the perception of reality in an industry. This may offer innovative opportunities, according to Drucker.
For example, Drucker mentions the evolution of the ship container industry. While established shipping companies focused on cutting transit time and cost by making ocean-going ships faster and more cost effective, this really wasn't the key. Ships were already very efficient in transit.

Rather, the real problem with the shipping industry was the loading and unloading of cargo, which kept ships in port and tied up valuable harbor space. When the shipping container was developed, it could be pre-loaded on land before the ship arrived. The pre-loaded container could then quickly be loaded onto the ship when the ship arrived in port. This made ocean transit much more cost effective and efficient. Drucker notes that the big cost of ocean transit was having ships held up in port, effectively tying up a capital asset without being able to utilize its full earnings capability."

Drucker was recommended by John Drake. Here's what he had to say about Drucker:

"In a previous post, I have recommend Peter Druker's The Practice of Management. In my opinion, he is by far the best business writer to have lived. One of the things I love about Drucker is his clarity. Take for instance his definition of business purpose:

"There is only one valid definition of business purpose: to create a customer. "

Whether or not you agree with this definition, there is no question what his definition is. In the next paragraph, he goes on to say:

"Markets are not created by God, nature, or economic forces but by businessmen. The want they satisfy may have been felt by the customer before he was offered the means of satisfying it. It may indeed, like the want for food in famine, have dominated the customer's life and filled all his waking moments. But it was a theoretical want before; only when the action of businessmen makes it effective demand is there a customer, a market."

Drucker directly ties the purpose of business to reality. His objectivity makes Drucker stand head and shoulders above the rest. He writes in a style similar to Ayn Rand. He makes bold statements, but proceeds to justify his statement with analysis of reality and identifying the essentials. He explores all the major options (God, nature, economic forces, and businessmen) and proceeds to explain why it must be businessmen that create markets, hence customers. It is the actions of businessmen, of creating products where none existed previously, that creates the market."

Gangster Government

Michele Bachmann, representative from Minnesota explains the transition of the American government into a gangster government. She talks about the nationalization of GM and its consequences. Thank you Sarita, for pointing it out.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Focus — For the "Big Boss"

I am very focused right now.

Focus — Ayn Rand Lexicon:
"“Focus” designates a quality of one’s mental state, a quality of active alertness. “Focus” means the state of a goal-directed mind committed to attaining full awareness of reality. It’s the state of a mind committed to seeing, to grasping, to understanding, to knowing.

“Full awareness” does not mean omniscience. It means: commitment to grasp all the facts relevant to one’s concern and activity at any given time . . . as against a splintered grasp, a grasp of some facts while others which you know to be relevant are left in fog. By “full” I include also the commitment to grasp the relevant facts clearly, with the fullest clarity and precision one is capable of.

“Focus” is not synonymous with “thinking,” in the sense of step-by-step problem-solving or the drawing of new conclusions. You may be walking down the street, merely contemplating the sights, but you can do it in focus or out of focus. “In focus” would mean you have some purpose directing your mental activity—in this case, a simple one: to observe the sights. But this is still a purpose, and it implies that you know what you are doing mentally, that you have set yourself a goal and are carrying it out, that you have assumed the responsibility of taking control of your consciousness and directing it . . . ."

Leonard Peikoff, “The Philosophy of Objectivism

Leonard Peikoff Podcast #70 — ARCTV

"In Leonard Peikoff’s latest podcast of philosophical Q&As, topics include: the Ayn Rand Institute and record sales of Atlas Shrugged; the death of Michael Jackson; the opposition between altruism and capitalism; and intellectual property."

Friday, July 17, 2009

Don't care for ObamaCare

A bad day for Obamacare means, it's a good day for America.
A Bad Day For ObamaCare - Forbes:
"As opposition to a House plan grows, President Obama goes on the defensive to push for reform this year."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

India's new bride - Wal-Mart

People say yes to opening up of the retail sector in India with their money but the politicians say no way.
India's First Wal-Mart Draws Excitement, Not Protest -
In Punjabi, we have an expression: When there is a wedding, everyone flocks to see the new bride,' said Kamal Gambhir, a wholesaler whose congested offices are located in this city's oldest bazaar. 'I myself had returned from a trip and came back to hear little children asking, 'Where is the new Wal-Mart?'

3D printing - Rapid prototyping

Reminds me of some old sci-fi movie where the lasers created stuff out of thin air. We have come a long way.
James Dyson: Inventing the Wright way - New Scientist:
"The development of Dyson's domestic robots - indeed his entire invention process - is being boosted by 3D printing, also known as rapid prototyping. This technology allows the creation of 3D prototypes from a design created on a computer. The design is fed into a machine, which builds the object bit by bit using twin laser beams that fuse together layers of powdered nylon or metal. The result? Almost magically, you pull out from the dust a near perfect 3D 'printout' of the prototype you may later want to mass produce."

LA Times anti-business

This article by Alex Epstein highlights the anti-business nature of the media.
“A strong message to Black Street” — VOICES for REASON:

The day after Bernard Madoff was sentenced to 150 years for committing a massive financial fraud, I saw the following big, bold headline in the Los Angeles Times:

A strong message to Wall Street

Think about what this headline implies. The conviction of one particular financier is regarded as a message to all financiers. That is outrageous.

Imagine if there were a mass-conviction of Mafia members and the LA Times wrote

A strong message to Italian-Americans

Monday, July 13, 2009

3D photographs

Fujifilm's FinePix Real 3D camera to launch in September, cost around $600

Houston, we have been locked out of the rocket

Ten fascinating facts about Apollo 11 Moon Landing from Craig Nelson's new book, Rocket Men. My favourites:

2. The Apollo computers had less processing power than a cellphone.
3. Drinking water was a fuel-cell by-product, but Apollo 11’s hydrogen-gas filters didn’t work, making every drink bubbly. Urinating and defecating in zero gravity, meanwhile, had not been figured out; the latter was so troublesome that at least one astronaut spent his entire mission on an anti-diarrhea drug to avoid it.
7. When Buzz Aldrin joined Armstrong on the surface, he had to make sure not to lock the Eagle's door because there was no outer handle.
9. The flag was made by Sears, but NASA refused to acknowledge this because they didn’t want "another Tang."
Racism's cure found in private sector - Washington Times

[via Instapundit]

Ayn Rand, Mises and Gold

Dr. Richard Ebeling, free-market economist and admirer of Ayn Rand, in this interview explains free-market economics and why his prefers gold to dollar. He talks about his recovery of lost Ludwig von Mises papers from a formerly secret KGB archive in Moscow, Russia. His take on status of freedom around the world:
Many countries around the world that suffered from poverty and lived under socialist tyranny are now experiencing economic growth and prosperity. They have abandoned the 'socialist road" and have introduced, if not a free market, then at least freer market reforms. These changes have generated rising standards of living in parts of the world that have only known hunger and despair for all of recorded history.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Creatine for injuries

I never paid any attention to supplements when I was exercising regularly. I used to train rigorously and had developed a routine of my own over a period of time. It was a combination of Olympic lifting and regular training (quite similar to Crossfit.) I started with power lifting and graduated to the Olympic lifts. The training I used to do - surprised a lot of people at the local gym. Some was due to the amount of weight I lifted (not expected from an average guy with glasses) and some due to the exercises like overhead squats, weighted push ups, etc..

It was the shoes which proved to be the weak link. I used to do sprints on the treadmill with the same shoes with which I lifted weights. They were hiking Solomon hiking shoes which didn't do much for my foot (check Vibram Five Fingers - radical footwear.) I damaged my heel. During the recovery, a nearby house caught fire. While trying to help I damaged the heel even more. It didn't help that I live on the second floor and have a habit of climbing steps running. The prolonged heel damage some how affected the quads also.

I was pretty ok for a year or so but about three months back the quads started acting up again. I tried the physiotherapy which didn't help. I recently read this article on the heart scan blog which had this interesting article on creatine. The expense is a deterrent (imported stuff at twice the original price) but seems worth a try.

The Heart Scan Blog: Creatine: Not just for muscle heads:
Even if you’re not interested in building big muscles like a bodybuilder, there are health benefits to increasing muscle mass: increased bone density, better balance, and fewer injuries. Greater muscle mass means higher metabolic rate, improved insulin responsiveness, lower blood sugar. The inevitable loss of muscle mass of aging can lead to frailty, an increasingly common situation for the elderly. Muscle loss be reversed, health improved as a result.

A growing disconnect? Ayn Rand and Friedrich Hayek's gowing popularity

The mainstream media is finally noticing the growing disconnect. The philosophy of Ayn Rand and the economics of Friedrich Hayek are making an impact. Philadelphia Inquirer: Surge in sales of 2 books offers political hints.
There is a growing disconnect between the country's political class and its citizens. It was manifestly on display last month when the House approved the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill, which in its final form was longer than Atlas Shrugged and which none of the members voting on it had read. That the free citizens of a free country would be served so cavalierly by their elected representatives is the sort of thing any good novelist would hesitate to invent, for fear it would seem too implausible.
[via (v.2)]

Statist Paternalism

Amit Ghate points to this description of paternalism written by Tocqueville in the 1830's in this Mark Steye editorial. Here is what Amit had to say about this quote,"I've never seen a more apt and eloquent characterization, and I particularly like how he differentiates what a father does from what a "paternal" state does." Here's the quote:

Over these is elevated an immense, tutelary power, which takes sole charge of assuring their enjoyment and of watching over their fate. It is absolute, attentive to detail, regular, provident, and gentle. It would resemble the paternal power if, like that power, it had as its object to prepare men for manhood, but it seeks, to the contrary, to keep them irrevocably fixed in childhood … it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their needs, guides them in their principal affairs…

The sovereign extends its arms about the society as a whole; it covers its surface with a network of petty regulations—complicated, minute, and uniform—through which even the most original minds and the most vigorous souls know not how to make their way… it does not break wills; it softens them, bends them, and directs them; rarely does it force one to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one's acting on one's own … it does not tyrannize, it gets in the way: it curtails, it enervates, it extinguishes, it stupefies, and finally reduces each nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.
The sovereign "extends it's arm" with varying degrees. I have written a bit about the government holding a big stick in its extended arm, which is used liberally in India. So in a lot of countries, even the softening and bending would be a welcome relief. North Korea is another (extreme) example that comes to mind where one can't imagine anybody existing with their wills intact. The level of tyranny is mind boggling — the whole country is like a big concentration camp. Even more mind boggling is the indifference of the rest of the world. I guess most of the world is too busy trying not to get sucked into the same cesspool of totalitarianism. The response of the American government officially, is the suicidal policy of appeasement.

The "paternal state" has its origins in the monarchies founded in power, where the people are treated as the children of the king. We still hear about England's Queen mother — mother of the peasant masses is what it implies. Coming back to U.S., check this Paul Heish article in the Capitalism Magazine about King Obama's regulatory chief 's belief in libertarian paternalism:

The basic premise of libertarian paternalism is that the government should use its power to “nudge” people into acting in their best interest, while leaving them the choice to “opt out.” If the government decides that saving money is good, it would automatically divert a percentage of your paycheck into a savings account in your name unless you explicitly declined. Supporters claim that this preserves freedom because government is only changing the default, while leaving individuals the final choice. It is merely a gentle “nudge,” not a hard push.

However, nudging represents an assault on freedom, because it undermines man’s basic tool of survival — his mind. By creating a default, libertarian paternalism in essence says, “Don’t worry — we’ll do your thinking for you.” Sunstein’s book explicitly compares Americans to a bunch of Homer Simpsons in need of such guidance. If Americans surrender their minds to the government, they become easy prey for demagogues and dictators.
Paul goes on to say that,"every child knows that if you let a schoolyard bully get away with one seemingly harmless “nudge,” he will then escalate into shoving, then punching, then regular beatings." India is one perfect (or should I say horrible) example of that gentle Gandhi-Nehruvian socialist nudge escalating into a bone crunching beating of Nehru's daughter Indira Gandhi's emergency in 1977.

So is there no solution to this problem of overwhelming suffocation and oppression perpetuated by a group of people (government) on rest of us? Is it inevitable that the power corrupts and rest of us have to shrug, suffer, and swallow the bitter pill? No, we don't have to. Ayn Rand defined the nature of the government. She said that men can derive enormous benefits from dealing with one another but only on certain conditions.
The Nature of Government:

If men are to live together in a peaceful, productive, rational society and deal with one another to mutual benefit, they must accept the basic social principle without which no moral or civilized society is possible: the principle of individual rights.

To recognize individual rights means to recognize and accept the conditions required by man’s nature for his proper survival.

Man’s rights can be violated only by the use of physical force. It is only by means of physical force that one man can deprive another of his life, or enslave him, or rob him, or prevent him from pursuing his own goals, or compel him to act against his own rational judgment.

The precondition of a civilized society is the barring of physical force from social relationships—thus establishing the principle that if men wish to deal with one another, they may do so only by means of reason: by discussion, persuasion and voluntary, uncoerced agreement.

(December 1963)

“The Nature of Government,” from The Virtue of Selfishness by Ayn Rand.

Read more about Ayn Rand’s Philosophy.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Are shoes bad for your feet?: "Now, a small but growing body of research suggests that barefoot is the way adults should run, too. So, many runners have been shucking off the high-tech trainers in favor of naked feet — or minimalist footwear like Nike Free, the Newton All-Weather Trainer and the glove-like Vibram FiveFingers."
Lawyer asks judge to force rival to wear nicer shoes - Boing Boing: “A lawyer in Florida filed a motion to force his rival to upgrade to newer shoes, on the grounds that his homely old hush puppies gave him an unfair advantage by projecting an air of unsophisticated honesty to the jury.”

Gaia gone in 96 months

That's what the Prince of Whales claims. Mark Steyn takes on the warm-mongers:

"Environmentalism opposes that kind of mobility. It seeks to return us to the age of kings when the masses are restrained by a privileged elite. Sometimes they will be hereditary monarchs, such as the Prince of Wales. Sometimes they will be merely the gilded princelings of the government apparatus – Barack Obama, Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi. In the old days, they were endowed with absolute authority by God. Today, they're endowed by Mother Nature, empowered by Gaia to act on her behalf. But the object remains control – to constrain you in a million ways, most of which would never have occurred to Henry VIII, who, unlike the new cap-and-trade bill, was entirely indifferent as to whether your hovel was "energy efficient." The old rationale for absolute monarchy – Divine Right – is a tough sell in a democratic age. But the new rationale – Gaia's Right – has proved surprisingly plausible."

Read the article.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Ethics of paying for organ transplants

Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs was in the news recently for a liver transplant. He had to travel to Tennessee due to its lesser waiting time. He was lucky, some people like the 11 year old Japanese boy had to travel to another country for his heart transplant. Although there are differences in organ transplant laws, the basic premise is the same. In most countries around the world no one can buy an organ.

This highlights the stupidity of laws which ban consensual dealing between adults. In fact in Japan you can't harvest the organs of a brain dead person even if his relatives consent to it. The cessation of brain function as human death was not accepted by Japan. This resulted in only 11 heart transplants in Japan compared with more than 2,000 in the U.S. A written will is required for organ donations and there is a ban on them from children under 15 - although this law seems set for some changes.

There was a sneaking suspicion that Jobs had paid for his transplant. It is unlikely. What is done by a lot of people is to enter a lot of queues (legal) and it helps to have a jet ready to fly wherever the turn comes up. The key question is if it really such an evil to pay someone for his organ? If the laws were changed to make payments to donors legal, the entire waiting list of 80000 people waiting for a kidney in U.S. would disappear in a matter of a year or so if not a few months and out of 20000 more waiting for other organs a majority would survive. A majority of lives will be saved unlike more than 85,000 U.S. citizens who have died waiting (pdf) for a solid transplant organ since 1995.

Countries like Spain, Norway, and Belgium have a unique solution to this problem. They consider all dead as organ donors unless they have opted out. This "presumed consent" law violates individual rights and don't take into account the individuals who have no intention of become a donor but die suddenly. In countries like India a patient can accept an organ donation only from a close relative unless a non-relative can prove that he is doing it for altruistic reasons and not money. This leads to doctors and agents who recruit kidney donors for patients for up to $10000 and a lot of kidney's being stolen from unsuspecting victims. In China there have been reports of prisoners being executed for their organs.

The Current U.S. Regulatory Framework under National Organ Transplantation Act (NOTA) specifically prohibits the sale of donor organs for transplantation though the ban does not apply to blood, sperm or ova. The solid organ donor program is purely voluntary, both for living and cadaveric (dead body) organ transplantation. The donation of organs by living people is heavily screened and the law says that people who want to donate organs should be either family or close friends. In spite of thousands of people dying waiting for an organ, there are many who see no problems with the present system. This has to do a lot with the altruistic nature of the system which is killing a lot of people.
Dr. Bruce Patsner in his article "Human Organ Transplantation in the U.S. – Crossing New Lines? ” (pdf) mentions some solutions are being implemented and some being proposed. One of them is the recent law by New Jersey which forces people getting driver’s license to make a decision about cadaveric organ donation. This is the altruist way of forcing you to take a decision, and making you feel guilty for saying no. The article mentions a growing movement of surgeons wanting to explore the option of “paying individuals money to provide an incentive for them to donate organs for transplantation after they have died.” Even here a lot of objections are raised - like donors hiding diseases (there are laws to tackle violations of contracts) and the possibility of the payment system extending to living donors.

There is a lot of opposition against the payment for organs to living donors. These are the same arguments given in cases of drug consumption and prostitution (acts between consenting adults.) The prevention of payment for organs is the worst of all violations of individual rights, as the denial of organs is the denial of life. According to Ayn Rand in “The Virtue of Selfishness”:

A “right” is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries): a man’s right to his own life. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action; the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action—which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life. (Such is the meaning of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.)

The concept of a “right” pertains only to action—specifically, to freedom of action. It means freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or interference by other men.

Update: ...With Functioning Kidneys for All by Virginia Postrel
If transplant centers could pay $25,000 or $50,000 to each living kidney donor, many more people would line up to contribute.

Such payments could even save taxpayers billions of dollars. Long-term dialysis is a federal entitlement. Under a special law, Medicare covers everyone, regardless of age, who has made minimal Social Security tax payments—about 319,000 of the country’s 400,000 dialysis patients. Compared with dialysis payments, every transplant from a living, unrelated donor saves an expected present value of almost $100,000 in medical costs, according to a 2003 American Journal of Transplantation article by Matas and Mark Schnitzler, an economist then at Washington University in St. Louis and now at the Saint Louis University Center for Outcomes Research.
Eliminating the waiting list would thus save taxpayers $8 billion, or $4 billion if each living donor received a lump-sum payment of $50,000.

That purely financial estimate ignores the enormous benefits for the patients’ quality of life, of course. It also excludes the economic gains from returning to productive work—only about 10 percent of dialysis patients are employed even part-time—and the fiscal effects of paying taxes rather than receiving disability payments.
Read the complete article.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Fans Flock to Mourn California, 1849-2009

A brilliant piece of satire from iowahawk. California and Michael Jackson are the stars of the piece. (HT: Mad Minerva 2.0)

A sample:
"LOS ANGELES - Millions of fans from around the globe gathered along Sunset Boulevard to pay final respects to California today, as a slow moving funeral procession transported the eccentric superstar state's remains to its final resting place in a Winchell's Donuts dumpster in Van Nuys. The self-proclaimed 'King of Pop Culture' died last week at 160, in what coroners ruled an accidental case of financial autoerotic asphyxiation. The death sent shock waves across the world and sparked an outpouring of grief by rabid fans.
'I don't care what the tabloids and the Wall Street Journal say,' said a weeping Illinois. 'I still love you, Cali!'
The 640-mile long funeral parade route was lined with flowers, candles, teddy bears, and IOUs from millions of mourners and debtors who made the somber journey to watch the passing of the state that had once ruled the box office and industrial charts. Among them were current chart-toppers who cited California as a key influence."

You just have to read the whole thing.

Why are the Bill of Rights failing?

Walter Williams of the Capitalism Magazine talks about the reasons why the founding fathers included the Bill of Rights along with the Constitution. Wasn't the Constitution enough to guarantee us those rights? Why did they feel the need to explicitly state those rights and was it enough to protect those right? Unfortunately in this current political scenario, even those explicitly stated rights have failed to stand up to the assault of the American politicians.

In fact the rot had started a long time ago and one of the first and most important contributors to start it was Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. of the Supreme Court. In his article in The Objectivist Standard "Justice Holmes and the Empty Constitution" Thomas A. Bowden mentions the April 17, 1905, dissenting opinion of the Justice Holmes in the case of Lochner v. New York. The New York law setting maximum working hours for bakers was struck down by the majority but what really made this a landmark case was Holmes dissenting opinion.

The majority interpreted the Constitution as if it embodies a principled commitment to protecting individual liberty. But no such foundational principle exists, Holmes asserted, and the sooner judges realize they are expounding an empty Constitution—empty of any underlying view on the relationship of the individual to the state—the sooner they will step aside and allow legislators to decide the fate of individuals such as Joseph Lochner.
Health has been offered as one of the prime reason for violating the individual rights, like smoking in recent times. Its origins lie in the last century which can be seen in this case when the first New York appellate court held public’s power to promote health more important than the parties’ right to make employment contracts. The court held that the state held the "police power" as a part of its sovereignty to regulate for health reasons (even though there is no mention of police power in the Constitution.) It failed to define this power and pronounced it as proper for the purpose of the public benefit.

The New York court at least used the excuse of health as the reason for violating the individual rights, Justice Holmes's in his dissenting view didn't bother to use any excuses. He simple stated the Constitution placed no limits on this police power of the state and made no reference to protecting the individual rights. What was the basis for this argument which challenged the view of Constitution as placing limits on the power of the government? Amazingly it was supported by Justice Holmes's examples of other violations which routinely took place even in those days to further violate the individual rights.

How could liberty of contract possibly be a principle capable of yielding a decision in Lochner’s case, Holmes asked, when violations of such liberty are routinely permitted by law? “The liberty of the citizen to do as he likes so long as he does not interfere with the liberty of others to do the same,” Holmes observed, “is interfered with by school laws, by the Post Office, by every state or municipal institution which takes his money for purposes thought desirable, whether he likes it or not.” For good measure, he cited several cases in which the Court had recently approved laws prohibiting lotteries, doing business on Sunday, engaging in usury, selling stock on margin, and employing underground miners more than eight hours a day—each law a clear interference with contractual liberty.
That wasn't true, of course.

Holmes had to evade large swaths of evidence tending to show that the Constitution indeed embodies a substantive commitment to individual liberty. In the Declaration of Independence, the Founders clearly stated their intent to create a government with a single purpose—the protection of individual rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Consistent with the Constitution’s Preamble, which declares a desire to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity,” every clause in the Bill of Rights imposes a strict limit on government’s power over individual liberty and property.
Holmes's dissenting view had a profound effect. His denial of Constitution as a protector of liberty was eagerly grasped by those who would have settled for any excuse to deny it.
Paul Rahe: Obama's tyrannical ambition:

Back in 1912, when Woodrow Wilson successfully ran for the presidency, he told his compatriots, "We are in the presence of a new organization of society." Our time marks "a new social stage, a new era of human relationships, a new stagesetting for the drama of life," and "the old political formulas do not fit the present problems: they read now like documents taken out of a forgotten age." What Thomas Jefferson once taught is now, he insisted, quite out of date.
Holmes's dissenting view become his most damaging and lasting legacy. According to Bowden, Ayn Rand once observed that Justice Holmes “has had the worst philosophical influence on American law.”

In his bleak universe, there exists no principled limit on government power, no permanent institutional barrier between ourselves and tyranny—and the government can dispose of the individual as it pleases, as long as procedural niceties are observed. This pernicious Holmesian influence is reflected in the declining stature of America’s judiciary
Today the rot has reached the level where the debate between the main parties is about the extent that the government violate the individual rights and not whether the Constitution allows it to or not. Thomas Bowden does a masterful job of refuting Holmes's case for the "empty Constitution" and shows it to be full of content which without a doubt protects the individual rights. Read the full article.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Stimulating the reality away

Genius! - Mises Economics Blog:
"Economist Robert Frank has discovered a Ph.D powered economic perpetual motion machine that lifts itself by its own bootstraps, as explained by Mark Steyn:
The stimulus will work because enough economists are saying it will work that their prestigious postnominal credentials will impress enough of the masses into thinking it will work, which in turn will make it work."
Panasonic’s New Camcorder Packs 240GB Hard Drive Gadget Lab

Google PC Operating System - Chrome

Google is going to make a new PC operating system to take on Microsoft's dominant Windows. Google Chrome OS, an operating system designed from the ground up will be launched in the second half of 2010.

It's Google is saying to Microsoft that if you Bing us, we'll Chrome you.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Blogs Not Legitimate News Source?

Do blogs deserve journalism shield laws to protect a source. Not according to the Judge deciding this slander case. This lawsuit raises some important questions about blogging. Read the article and the comments, which are very interesting.

"the judge has now ruled that Hale is not protected by shield laws because she has "no connection to any legitimate news publication." This is troubling for a variety of reasons. First, it leaves open entirely to interpretation what exactly is a "legitimate news publication." "

Robot in Your Veins

So it's finally here. The much predicted robot has been developed at Israel's Technion University and it derives its power from external magnetic fields. The Virob will float in your circulatory system performing microsurgery.

[via Popular Science]

Leonard Peikoff Podcast

Leonard Peikoff Podcast #69 — ARCTV:
"In Leonard Peikoff’s latest podcast of philosophical Q&As, topics include: gays in the military; the role of values in romance; and the difference between Howard Roark and Peter Keating."
[via ARCTV]

Obama and Bernard Madoff

Most Americans have still not grasped the magnitude and the far-reaching effects of the national debt. Edward Cline makes an excellent attempt.

To grasp the magnitude of the national debt Obama (and his Republican predecessor) has been ringing up, a comparison should help illustrate the task. Bernard Madoff’s robbery and defrauding investors of some $50 billion can be represented by the diameter of the solar system. The federal government, using the same scamming tactics, is amassing a debt about the diameter of the Milky Way galaxy. Madoff’s scheme can be measured in millions of miles. The federal government's, in almost limitless parsecs. That measurement ought to suffice to dramatize the scale of the hole he is deliberately digging for the country in his role as Community-Organizer-in-Chief.
Where is all the money going to come from? From the productive Americans, who are going to work for Obama whether they like it or not. He has short-sold the American future.
That growing, astronomical debt, however, will serve to shrink the productive sector and make it less productive in exponential leaps and bounds -- off a cliff. It must inexorably reach a point that the productive sector can no longer sustain the debt it is expected to pay. Then we will have reached the economic status of, say, Zimbabwe.
Ed talks about the outraged cry of indignation by the media over Madoff's scam and yet they refuse to apply the same standards to the Obama administration. Why should they? They have become willing accomplices in this scam of horrendous proportions. It will deal a crushing blow to the American way of life - which is - you work hard, be honest, and you will make it big. Now people will work hard to pay-off Obama's debts.

What clashes with the news media coverage of Madoff’s trial, conviction and sentencing for his crime is the studied obtuseness of the news media for the same crime being committed by the government. Madoff, you see, was “greedy” or “avaricious,” and that, according to the morality of altruism and selflessness, is immoral and antisocial. The government, however, is committing the same crime, but that is in order to “do good.” So its orgy of debt-creation, its extortionate policies of roping all Americans into a “dog-eat-dog” welfare state, and its targeting the most productive and the wealthiest in society for special punishment, are all acceptable and laudable.

Even though the news media has knowledge of this multi-trillion dollar scam, that knowledge elicits not an iota of outrage among the photogenic news anchors and highly paid print pundits. No respectable TV or print journalist even thinks of the scam in terms of a continuing and expanding bilking of Americans from their wealth, investments and taxes.
Ed goes on to examine and explain the meaning of Obama's greeting on 4th of July. It is a revealing commentary on the thought process and ideology of a man who will go down in history as the most anti-American president ever. Recent polls have put Obama's popularity at 50%. So half of all Americans are in a state of denial and it's not clear whether the other half fully realises the gravity of the situation. There are some positive signs - the tea parties being organized across America and I take solace in knowing what Samuel Adams said:
"It does not take a majority to prevail... but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men."

Low-carbohydrate diets increase LDL: debunking the myth

I recently finished read "Good Calories, Bad Calories" by Gary Taubes. It was quite an eye opener and I have tried to make a lot of changes to my diet. Even before reading the book I had already made a conscious effort to reduce the carbohydrates (mostly complex ones.) One concern for most people including myself, has been the elevated LDL cholesterol. This article by Dr. Michael R. Eades does an excellent job of addressing these concerns. I suggest reading the book for a more detailed explanation.

BTW, I have lost weight, reduced my triglycerides from 139 to 103 within a few months of casual control. I am going to get the test done for the result of more rigorous control (stopped sugar completely.)
[via Free the Animal ]

Mindblowing Tumbling Skills

Extreme Human Performance blog (source of this video) is carrying an interview with this guy (Damien Walters)

[via Conditioning Research ]

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Heroic Greatness: Patrick Henry

A tribute lecture to Patrick Henry by Dr. John Ridpath, sponsered by the Ayn Rand Institute.

Republicans, Chrysler, and Obama

The New Clarion
Republicans are sniffing glue, Chrysler bites the dust, and Obama reacts to events in Iran and Honduras.

Happy Birthday America

I can say—not as a patriotic bromide, but with full knowledge of the necessary metaphysical, epistemological, ethical, political and esthetic roots—that the United States of America is the greatest, the noblest and, in its original founding principles, the only moral country in the history of the world.
Ayn Rand, Philosophy: Who Needs It

America apes third-world democracies

Rigging of elections? In America?

Well! a lot of Iranians must be sympathizing with Americans.

Where is Dagny Taggart?

Robb at the Robbservations draws some interesting parallels between the reported computer glitch which grounded United Airlines planes and the scene near the end of Atlas Shrugged involving Dagny Taggart.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Al-Jazeera criticises Obama

Even Al-Jazeera is being critical of Obama. I never thought I would see the day.

Obama's strategies failing in Iran
"Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, do not fear the US but rather their own people's desire to live in a country more like the US.

In fact, in poll after poll Iranians have revealed themselves to be among the most pro-American and pro-democratic people in the Muslim majority world.

The Iranian government needs little excuse to beat, jail, and otherwise punish its citizens. It is already doing a thorough enough job without US interference, and seems poised to go even further. However, if it goes too far it risks "losing legitimacy in the eyes of its own people," as Obama said at a June 25 press conference."

By Mark LeVine, Middle East Historian

[via the The Spirit of Man]

Thursday, July 2, 2009

What is Objective Law?

Making Progress: What is Objective Law?: "Under Objectivist political theory, the purpose of government is to eliminate the initiation of physical force from human relationships."

USB 3.0: A Primer

USB 3.0: A Primer Popular Science: "The current 2.0 ports can transfer packets of information at speeds of 480Mbit/s, but the 3.0 spec will be able to handle 4.8 to 5Gbit/s. "
Bombers Picture Gallery - B-2 Spirit, 2018 Bomber, B-17 Flying Fortress Pictures - Popular Mechanics

2,478,040,448 FOR PROGRESS

"China has already indicated its opposition to carbon cuts. India joins in:

India said it will reject any new treaty to limit global warming that makes the country reduce greenhouse-gas emissions because that will undermine its energy consumption, transportation and food security.
“India will not accept any emission-reduction target – period,” [Environment Minister Jairam] Ramesh said. “This is a non-negotiable stand.”
Look on the bright side, envirodinks. Think of all the emissions saved by not going to Copenhagen."
Daily Telegraph
Tim Blair Blog

Capitalism Magazine Classics

  1. Hatred of Western Civilization
    Why Terrorists Attacked America
  2. In Defense of the "Barbarous Relic"
    Why The Enemies of Capitalism Smear The Gold Standard
  3. Immigration and Individual Rights
    Does a foreigner have a moral right to move to America? And should America welcome him?
  4. A Tale of Two Novels
    Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged Versus James Joyce's Ulysses

A Russian Immigrant's Lesson in American Patriotism

The American Individualist:
"“America is the land of the uncommon man. It is the land where man is free to develop his genius – and to get its just rewards.” ~ Ayn Rand

As Independence Day nears and debates over immigration rage on, I’m reminded of how an atheist émigré from Soviet Russia taught me what it means to be an American patriot."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Summer Issue of The Objective Standard

Principles in Practice: Summer Issue of The Objective Standard:
Some of the contents are:

An Interview with a “Capitalist Pig”: Jonathan Hoenig on Hedge Funds, the Economic Crisis, and the Future of America

Justice Holmes and the Empty Constitution by Thomas A. Bowden

Energy at the Speed of Thought: The Original Alternative Energy Market by Alex Epstein

A Brief History of U.S. Farm Policy and the Need for Free-Market Agriculture by Monica Hughes

The Is–Ought Gap: Subjectivism’s Technical Retreat by Craig Biddle

Blue Angels - Raw Cockpit Footage

United States Navy's Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels (Official Website).

[via Look at this...]

The Federal Reserve is lying

How Much Money Inflation? - Howard S. Katz - Mises Institute:
"The Federal Reserve is lying about the nation's money supply (M1). The current figure for money supply is being given as $1.6 trillion. The actual number is $2.34 trillion. The reported number is equivalent to an increase of 16% over the past year. The actual number is equivalent to an increase of 70% over the past year."

The Price Of Media Malpractice

The Price Of Media Malpractice:
"Media: They laugh at his jokes. They say he's the smartest guy in Congress. And 90% of them agree with him politically. Small wonder the havoc Barney Frank wreaks on the economy gets so little attention."

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Girls With Guns

Intelligence: Girls With Guns Get It

June 29, 2009: In both Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Army and Marines found it useful to send a female soldier along on raids, as it was less disruptive to have a woman search the female civilians. There was no shortage of volunteers for this duty. The marines, as is their custom, saw more opportunities in this. Thus the marines began sending a team of women on such missions....

The marines also noticed that the female troops were better at picking up useful information in general. This is something Western police forces noted, in the last few decades, as women were allowed to work in all areas of police work, including detectives and crime scene investigators.

I find that very interesting. The aim of the women on these missions wasn't combat although they were trained for it if required. I have talked about my opinion on women in combat in my post "Women in the special forces?" that women can be used in other roles which don't require direct physical confrontation like they did during WW-II. I had cited the example of Israeli women soldiers and their failure to prove my point. But I agree with Burgess Laughlin who said in the comments section:

It would be a hasty generalization indeed to look at one historical instance--or even a number of them--and draw a universal conclusion. For example, to reach the universal conclusion one would have to show that the culture values of those men and women were objective. The culture of Israel was certainly not objective. It, like all cultures today and in the past, was steeped in some degree of mystically assigned roles for men and women in society in general.

A researcher would have to identify the widest differences--that is, the differences that apply to all men and women in all circumstances before drawing a universal conclusion that women cannot participate in combat effectively.

It is the first time I have heard of women soldiers being used not because of the political pressures or reasons unrelated to the pupose of the missions. I hope that the role assigned to women in the above case is based on valid reasons and overcomes what Mr. Laughlin described as the mystically assigned roles for men and women in society in general.

Geeky galleries

A gallery of geeky galleries by Royal Pingdom

Achtung! Gold ahead

It’s Come To This: Gold Vending Machine Debuts In German Airport Popular Science: "It dispenses one, ten and 250-gram bars, and it’s built like a tank"

Monday, June 29, 2009

Gadgets - $48,000 per soldier

High-Tech Brigade Heads to Afghanistan, Loaded With Gadgets "The soldiers of the 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division are shipping out to Afghanistan this month — equipped with a controversial array of infantryman gadgets."

Behave or Else

Art Carden in this Mises Institute article discusses whether it is just, moral, and appropriate to use force to correct others' wayward beliefs.

Climate Change Truth

What happens when the scientists have excessive belief in their ideas?

These men are not only ill prepared for making discoveries; they also make very poor observations. Of necessity, they observe with a preconceived idea, and when they devise an experiment, they can see, in its results, only a confirmation of their theory. In this way they distort observation and often neglect very important facts because they do not further their aim....But it happens further quite naturally that men who believe too firmly in their theories, do not believe enough in the theories of others. So the dominant idea of these despisers of their fellows is to find others' theories faulty and try to contradict them. The difficulty, for science is still the same.

CLAUDE BERNARD, An Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine, 1865
From Good Calories, Bad Calories, Gary Taubes
Certain things never change. 144 years after the above article was written, we are still plagued by the irrational scientists. Bill Brown talks about this lot in his article "Climate Change Truth" and the way it scientists should operate:
Scientists generally operate like the rational person described above. They work according to the scientific method, which enshrines the inductive approach. Publishing their findings in a scientific journal is supposed to be the beginning of the journey to knowledge as other scientists test the results and publish their own findings. This emerging consensus is then grist for causal explanation, which is then itself tested in new scenarios and experiments. This process is more rigorous and formal than the rational person’s due to its inherently social nature: the rational person really only needs to understand an issue in his own mind whereas a scientist must cast his understanding in precise, objective terms that are available to others.

At odds with both the rational person and the scientist is the man of faith. For him, knowledge once obtained is sacrosanct; his certainty is absolute and unshakeable. In contrast, the process by which he acquires such certainty is relatively effortless: he is told what to believe and he accepts it wholesale. His mind is literally closed off to contradictory information as he resolutely refuses to consider it.
Bill Brown talks about the episodes of shouting down of earnest dissenters by the proponents of anthropogenic global warming (AGW). He points to a need for resurgence of reason and rational people and some positive signs on that front. Read his whole article for an informed and rational viewpoint of the issue.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

It’s time to stop masking password entries

But what if my password really is eight consecutive bullets? Good Morning Silicon Valley

A brainy Kodak moment

For the First Time, Scientists Photograph Memories Being Formed - Popular Science: "Long-term memories are formed by proteins in brain cells"

Defense spending at pre-9/11 levels?

Defense Tech: Troubled Seas Ahead

I'll try to stay off my soapbox, but two points are worth mentioning. First, as noted by McNeal, is that the primary function of the federal government is to provide for the common defense -- not health care, green initiatives (readers: please don't try to combine global warming projections into security, as some are wont to do. It's lame) and corporate bailouts.
You want to know what the real purpose of the government is? Read this.

Cap and Trade and Save the Earth?

YouTube - Cap and Trade: Will It Save the Earth?

Apache blows up Taliban fighters

A feel good moment from LiveLeak:
Newly released video from Task Force-82. The video shows Afghan militants carrying automatic rifles, rocket propelled grenades, and a mortar fleeing the scene after they attacked an American outpost.
Gun camera view the Apache AH-64 shoots the militants. U.S. troops continue fighting the militants on the ground.The result, 15 militant forces killed.


Hollywood, Health, Tech, Jackson

  1. Mark Steyn: Jackson, Sanford and weirdness
  2. Vintage Hollywood Photographs from Look At This...
  3. CBO Cost Estimate of Cap & Trade Pulls Out All the Gimmicks from Mises Blog
  4. Acer's Everywhere. How Did That Happen? (NYT) from Techmeme
  5. High Carbohydrate Foods Can Cause Heart Attacks! from Conditioning Research

Objectivist Views

  1. The speech our President should have made on Iran by Debi Ghate
  2. The New Sons of Liberty - by Edward Cline on Objectivists being the new Sons of Liberty, who must keep on arguing, talking, writing, and protesting, to get as many people on our side as possible.
  3. Nadir In the House - Myraf on implications of the climate-change bill.
  4. Obama Around the Web - Myrhaf on some interesting pieces on Obama around the web.
  5. Congress Should Emulate Australia On Cap And Trade - by C. August
  6. What If God Disappeared? - by Ari Armstrong
  7. Atlas Shrugged on Floor Displays at Largest Bookstores - The Ayn Rand Institute
  8. Good Night, America? from Robbservations

New on ARCTV

  1. ObamaCare: Will Dr. Atlas Shrug?
    Yaron Brook discusses the moral roots of socialized medicine, and why a morality of self-interest will lead to better policies. The failure of U.S. policy towards Iran is also examined. (Pajamas TV interview; 19 min.)
  2. The Michael Jackson Effect: Shenanigans in DC & Lockdown in Iran
    Yaron Brook discusses what could happen in the U.S. and in Iran while the news media are distracted by the death of Michael Jackson. (Pajamas TV interview; 8 min.)
  3. What the Tea Party Movement Must Stand For
    Don Watkins explains why it is not enough for the Tea Party protests to be against the latest Washington power grabs–they must also stand for the individual’s right to live for his own sake, and not as a servant of society.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The evolutionary origin of depression

The evolutionary origin of depression: Mild and bitter The Economist

"Depression may be linked to how willing someone is to give up his goals."
I agree with the above statement and you see examples of people who are unhappy with their existing jobs because of money or some pressures. Most people in the first place have trouble finding what exactly their goals are and meandering along in life is not a way to achieve happiness. This what Ayn Rand had to say about the importance of having a goal:
"A central purpose serves to integrate all the other concerns of a man's life. It establishes the hierarchy, the relative importance, of his values, it saves him from pointless inner conflicts, it permits him to enjoy life on a wide scale and to carry that enjoyment into any area open to his mind; whereas a man without a purpose is lost in chaos."
["Purpose," Ayn Rand Lexicon, p. 398]

I would suggest reading these posts by Burgess Laughlin at his blog "Making Progress."
1. What is a central purpose in life?
2. The third greatest sacrifice?

Power and Water Riots India

Power and water riots in India erupt every year and this year is no different. The intensity and frequency increases every year. With monsoon showing no signs of appearing and the temperature averaging 43 C/110 F and peaking at 45 C it is particularly bad this year.

Today I got stuck on the highway near the farm due to the locals blocking the road with buses and tractors because there has been negligible electricity in the whole area since the heat wave started. It took me almost twice as long as normal to reach my home and it left me totally drained. I don't have air-conditioning and I had to drench my head with cold water twice.

I have talked about the problems we face every year during summers on my post "The Unearthly Earth Hour." The government seems to be no hurry to relinquish control over the power and water sectors and instead preaches the virtues of conservation. The governments all over routinely force businesses to shut down to save power.

It doesn't strike people as odd that in sectors where there is free-competition there is no such talk and consumers are exhorted to consume more and get better prices as more competition arrives. It has happened in telecom which previously was a government monopoly and people had to wait for as long as ten years to get a phone connection.

Today you can get a cell phone connection in minutes and even people earning less then $2 a day have a phone. In Delhi call rates are as low as 20 paise (half a cent) a minute. The same has been seen in all the sectors which have been liberated from the slimy paws of the bureaucrats.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sound terrible on a recording?

FYI: Why Does My Voice Sound Different When I Hear it On a Recording? Popular Science: "It sounds different because it is different. When you speak, the vocal folds in your throat vibrate, which causes your skin, skull and oral cavities to also vibrate, and we perceive this as sound."

Fox News set for best year

Fox News set for best year yet, despite Obama - Reuters: "With the second quarter coming to a close, Fox News averaged about the same number of viewers as the top three other cable news networks combined."

Quote of the day

Ludwig von Mises: "The main political problem is how to prevent the rulers from becoming despots and enslaving the citizenry."
The Theory of Money and Credit

Does morality change with technology?

What Changes and What Does Not - Murray N. Rothbard - Mises Institute
"'Why, you'd take us back to the horse and buggy.'
The basic fallacy of this all-too-common cliché is a confusion between technology and such other aspects of human life as morality and political principles. Over the centuries, technology tends to progress: from the first wheel to the horse and buggy to the railroad and the jet plane. Looking back on this dramatic and undeniable progress, it is easy for men to make the mistake of believing that all other aspects of society are somehow bound up with, and determined by, the state of technology in each historical era."

World's Fastest R/C Plane

World's Fastest R/C Plane Hits 392MPH--With No Engine - Popular Science

Biggest win for U.S. soccer ever?

Biggest U.S. win ever? You better believe it ... - FOX Sports on MSN
"The United States made history tonight in South Africa, stunning the No. 1 ranked team in the world and reaching the finals of the Confederations Cup with a 2-0 victory over the European giants, Spain. The win snapped a 35-game unbeaten streak by the Spaniards and gives the USA a chance to win its first FIFA title at the senior level.
It was also unbelievable."

Dull Asians who study, study, study

Sarita from The Kalamazoo Objectivist points to this article "The Viciousness Of Academic Liberals" by Walter Williams who talks about Mr. Connerly's conversation with this high-ranking University of California administrator who wanted more campus diversity. When asked his reasons, this is what he had to say:
His response was that unless the university took steps to "guide" admissions decisions, the UC campuses would be dominated by Asians. When Connerly asked, "What would be wrong with that?", the UC administrator told him that Asians are "too dull — they study, study, study." Then he said to Connerly, "If you ever say I said this, I will have to deny it."
Mr. Connerly who originally wrote the article ""Study, Study, Study — A Bad Career Move" in the June 2, 2009, edition of Minding the Campus rightly terms this evil and asks the pertinent question if this approach of diversity should be applied in other areas as well:
With blacks making up about 80% of professional basketball players, there is little or no diversity in professional basketball. Even at college-level basketball, it's not unusual to watch two teams playing and there not being a single white player on the court, much less a Chinese or Japanese player.
I can think of several rule changes that might increase racial diversity in professional and college basketball. How about eliminating slam dunks and disallowing three-point shots? Restrict dribbling? Lower the basket's height?
It sounds ridiculous and would bring down the standards of the game and it is equally applicable to other field including academics. Racism is unacceptable and would bring down standards in any field where ability is not the guiding principle. It's not just about protecting the rights of the Asians as a minority but as Ayn Rand said it's about protecting the rights of the smallest minority on earth - the individual.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Great Depression - Mises Economics Blog

Did the Great Depression reflect the breakdown of an old economic order built on unhampered markets, unbridled competition, speculation, property rights, and the profit motive as most Americans believe? FULL ARTICLE

Latest from ARCTV

Capitalism in China: Should We Trade with Them? by Yaron Brook
Obama’s Super Regulators Ride to the Rescue by Alex Epstein
The Erosion of Freedom by Yaron Brook
Iran Election Chaos by John Lewis

Leonard Peikoff Podcast #67

Leonard Peikoff has posted a new podcast of philosophical Q&As on his Web site. Topics include the meaning of “spiritual”; military service under an irrational foreign policy; and protecting oneself against irrationality in college classrooms.

YouTube - Quotes from Atlas Shrugged

Courage under fire

The Dougout2: Charles B. MacDonald: Company Commander
"In 1947 Charles MacDonald published Company Commander. It is his story of leadership under fire from the Siegfried Line to Czechoslovakia. In September 1944 Captain MacDonald was given command of I Company, 3rd Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division. The lives of nearly two-hundred men were his responsibility; MacDonald was twenty-one years old."

Is your Sperm desirable?

Hint: Are you below 5'11" in height? Check the latest from the spermworld.
From there, Barbara Kay is off and running. It is, as she says, a fascinating tidbit of information and one I certainly didn't know. And, is so often the case, Kay's take on it is spot on. She pegs it for what it is - the interface of the woman who is too independent (i.e. not good at relationships with men) to have a man in her life, and the ages-old desire for a big, strong protector.
(via Isaac Schrödinger)

Lincoln, Churchill and Obama

This recent post by Edward Cline "Obama contra Churchill" talks about President Barack Obama's removal from the White House Oval Office of the bust of Winston Churchill and replacing it in that same spot with one of Abraham Lincoln. Ed comments about Obama's misplaced preference. There are some very revealing passages from one of the Lincoln's speech (quite an eye-opener) and this is what Ed has to say:
Lincoln’s chief motivation for prosecuting the Civil War was to preserve the Union, not to free the slaves. The obvious evil of slavery is not the subject here. We have little to thank Lincoln for. He endorsed the country’s first income tax and the first military draft, and suspended habeas corpus. These were precedent-setting exercises of government power to confiscate wealth and life, in pursuit of a “noble cause,” emulated later by his successors in office and certainly countenanced by Congress in pursuit of causes arguably less “noble.”
Ed also quotes from Churchill's speeches where England's greatest Prime Minister displayed a remarkable understanding of the psyche of the fascist dictators.
Cannons, airplanes, they can manufacture in large quantities; but how are they to quell the natural promptings of human nature, which after all these centuries of trial and progress has inherited a whole armory of potent and indestructible knowledge?
Ed discusses the Churchill's comments on Lenin and his hatred of private property and the destruction of Russian currency by printing it non-stop. He talks of Obama treading the same path and the damage he and Democrats are likely to inflict even if they are voted out of power. Ed Cline who is the author of the acclaimed Sparrowhawk series of books of historical fiction has written a great post (the best I have read in recent times). Read the whole article here.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Rationing and Capitalism

In this article Chuck tells us about this The New York Times article which claims that socialized medicine will lead to health care rationing which according to NYT is "an inescapable part of economic life." It confuses rationing in our daily lives with the government mandated one. How is my buying stuff with my own money the same as a bureaucrat doing that with my money; and supposedly knowing what is best for me. It all starts with this one statement "access to medical care is a fundamental right."

How do we reach this point of deciding that anybody has a right to a good or a service being offered by another person. Right in this context means that the goods/services can be had forcibly and that the person who thinks that he has the right will decide if he wants to pay anything for it. Now, how is that person supposed to indulge in that long honored American tradition of "making money?" Well he can't - he is forced to accept whatever is offered to him. Pretty much like slaves who live on whatever the master deems acceptable. How did the bastion of freedom, individual rights, and the land of pursuit of happiness reach this point where enslaving another person is considered - in fact advocated openly in so called respectable media?

The mainstream media plays an important role in mobilizing the public opinion against Capitalism. The freedom to work, private property, money, division of labor, are all denounced and are blamed for all the problems of the society. These are the very things missing under Socialism and that has been the cause of the collapse of various Socialist countries in recent times. The environmentalism, animal-rights, are nothing but attacks on Capitalism in various forms.

Profit which indicates to what extent a person has succeeded in creating surplus over and above the resources with which he started to begin with, has become a dirty word. What is a businessman supposed to do? Feel ashamed that he created a profitable business? It's not a coincidence that the most profitable companies in America like Coca-cola, Microsoft, Walmart, are some of the most hated ones. They have consistently been the target of anti-trust regulators. The very concept of anti-trust is that if you are very successful you become a target. This very immoral law is undefined and it is up to the government to decide based on unknown parameters if you have broken the law.

I remember reading in Fortune magazine about a decade ago an article where the author suggested taking over Microsoft's patents. I was flabbergasted. Penalizing a company for it's success? In effect nationalizing the company. I was furious and wrote a letter to the magazine. I suggested the author be sent to India to see the result of his suggestion that had already been implemented. The patent system in India was in a primitive state then and the effects of nationalization had rotted the system to it's core. Fortune printed that letter but it was the last time I read that magazine.

In fact everything from inflation, depression, monopolies, just about everything which can be is blamed on Capitalism. It is another matter that in a perfect Capitalist system none of these things would exist. This where government steps in to protect the society from the evil, profiteering, greedy, businessmen. This where the "planned" society begins. It starts the avalanche of laws, regulations, codes, rules, to manage every aspect of the lives of people - supposedly to liberate them from the clutches of the Capitalists. Thus begins the task of freeing people from the free-markets.

The laws range from progressive income taxes, wealth taxes, labor laws, sales taxes (in India), licensing norms, public schooling, public transportation, and the list goes on. To manage all this - hordes of bureaucrats are needed along with hordes of inspectors and other state employees. Laws to regulate food, water, air, open spaces, closed spaces, vacant properties, occupied properties, laws to create laws, are constantly written and re-written even before people get used to the previous ones. I am talking mostly about India but in last few years I have realised distressingly a lot of these laws exist in America. In last decade India has moved closer towards free-markets and America away from it.

One of the key aspects of Capitalism has always been under attack, it's the capital or the money. One of the champions of this policy has been Krugman of NYT. The inflation of money supply as propagated by Keynes has been a consistent feature of governmental control. The removal of gold standard led to removing any restraints on politicians and the beginning of boom and bust economies across the world. In 2002 Paul Krugman advocated the creation of housing bubble and once the economy suffered from it, guess who is around to give advice to governments on how to tackle it - Paul Krugman. America did very well before the creation of Federal reserve, in fact prospered at unprecedented rates.

Here is what Reisman said in his book:

The ability to create money has also been demanded because it is vital in enabling additional government expenditures to be financed by means of budget deficits and thus in fostering the delusion that the government can provide benefits for which citizens do not pay. And when, as is inevitable, the policy of inflation results in rising prices, capital decumulation, and the destruction of credit, people demand price and wage controls, and then, in response to the shortages and chaos that result, the government's total control over the economic system, in the form of rationing and allocation.
We have seen the above result in country after country and yet in this conflict of economics versus altruism and self-interest versus self-sacrifice - it is altruism and self-sacrifice which keep coming out on top. Here in India rationing has been a way of life for a long time. Even though a ration card has lost some of its importance, it has been kept relevant for majority of the masses. The ration card is supposed to be the visa to the Socialist paradise. In reality a lot of food-stuff meant to be distributed through the government controlled fair-price shops is diverted to the black-markets. The corruption is rampant and all public officials and the shop owners associated with the scheme benefit from it.

Last year under right to information law, a major scam was uncovered when one women was discovered to have 901 cards in her name. Everything which is rationed is scarce and is available in the black market at a premium. Kerosene oil is one of the items and majority of it's supply is diverted and used by government licensed gas stations to adulterate petrol and diesel. This causes huge damage to the engines and ends up with vehicles producing far more pollution. So, for people interested in environment I would suggest backing the free-market system.

Capitalism has resulted in rising productivity and improved standards of living and Socialism has caused nothing but economic chaos and totalitarian dictatorship. I'll end by quoting Ayn Rand:

Capitalism has created the highest standard of living ever known on earth. The evidence is incontrovertible. The contrast between West and East Berlin is the latest demonstration, like a laboratory experiment for all to see. Yet those who are loudest in proclaiming their desire to eliminate poverty are loudest in denouncing capitalism. Man’s well-being is not their goal.

“Theory and Practice,” Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal

Amtrak and GM

Let’s learn from history and save free enterprise, before it’s too late!
In 1970, Congress partially nationalized and bailed out America’s passenger rail system for $340 million, forecasting that Amtrak would become profitable by 1975. But government officials, with zero transit experience, got involved in all decision-making. Unable to get tough on unions, they failed to rein in labor costs.
Since its creation 39 years ago, Amtrak has drained $30 billion from U.S. taxpayers. Last year Amtrak lost $1 billion on $2.5 billion in revenues.
So what did Congress do? Our representatives committed another $13 billion in taxpayer bailouts for Amtrak, suggesting that this new “stimulus” will finally “rebuild” Amtrak.
Ignoring this history, the U.S. government has basically nationalized General Motors — astonishingly reminiscent of the Amtrak debacle. The government’s Auto Task Force has zero auto experience, like the federal government’s 1970s Amtrak gang.
But this time we’re spending $50 billion in six months, more than we did in four decades with Amtrak. And the United Auto Workers union owns 17 percent of this new GM (Government Motors)!

Chemical Combat laser

Boeing Advanced Tactical Laser Fires High-Power Laser in Flight
"During the test, ATL took off from Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., and fired its laser while flying over White Sands Missile Range, N.M., successfully hitting a target board located on the ground. ATL, which Boeing is developing for the U.S. Air Force, is a C-130H aircraft equipped with a chemical laser, a beam control system, sensors and weapon-system consoles."

See the video of how the ATL works and here is the factsheet.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Sometimes, you just gotta crash.

(via Isaac Schrödinger)

Dr. John Lewis on Iran and Israel

Watch this Dr. John Lewis interview on PJTV talking about the differences between Iran and Israel. He reveals some facts like the real power behind the president are the clerics who take all the important decisions. Mossavi was also president in the 80's with Khomeini as supreme leader. Dr. Lewis also talks about what America's policy should be towards both these countries.

For more information on Dr. Lewis visit his website.

Evolution of Dance

Highly recommended Clip. Sure to bring back some memories.
(via Kim's Play Place)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Taking fun out of driving

Tech.view: Planes, trains and automobiles The Economist:
"Slowly overcoming the technical barriers to computerised cars will help win psychological acceptance

An old joke among pilots asks: what do you need to fly a modern aeroplane? The answer is a computer, a pilot and a dog. The computer’s job is to fly the plane. The pilot’s job is to feed the dog. The dog’s job is to bite the pilot if he tries to touch anything."