Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Nathaniel Branden Answers

Nathaniel Branden answers a question of two of my post Of Any Given Age. The idea of efficacy, self-esteem and pleasure are timeless. While the tools and stage of where we live change, these truths hold true. Thank you to Chuck Jines for the education. This is true Objectivism. This essay was written 46 years ago. No wonder Ayn Rand had such respect for him at one time.

Thank you for reading this blog.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Of Any Given Age

As the old saw goes, if there is any constant, it is change. So it goes with another year gone by and it becomes self-evident that I have more years behind me than in front of me. So what has changed?

That realization reports a transition from the ignorance of youth, where like an heir to a seemingly endless fortune spends wildly, to the place of knowing, possibly wisdom, where the account is more singularly defined and whose limits are not only have become clearer, but known.

Reflecting on the age I have lived so far, and we all live in an age, a common age for people born at a particular time and those experiences mark a greater transition of society as well as with ourselves, I see that things have changed quite a bit. Not as much for me as for my paternal grandfather, who was born before the advent of the automobile yet lived to see men go to the moon, even if he didn't believe it. In my age, I was born before the age of the Internet, personal computer, cell phone, iPods, GPS, satellite radio/TV, cable TV and widespread use of the microwave oven.

In spite of all the advancements, it seems that while it has freed us to do more, we seem to think less. Some might posit that we are now free to think about more important things instead of using our mental capacities for controlling processes that are now self-evident. I have to wonder. A lot of the technology today has lead a lot of people to be believers in FM or F@#$ing Magic. It is the black box, the mystery that somehow performs a task and somehow we are better off not knowing how it happens. From my perspective, may be this dulls critical thought.

Take automobiles and motorcycles. They still use the internal combustion engine, but ask kid today how it works and you are as likely to get a blank stare as a plausible explanation. I bet though the kid will know how to buy a computer programmer to get more horsepower out of it even if he or she isn't sure exactly why or how it works. Astounding. Suck, squish, bang, blow, the 4 cycles of a 4 stroke motor. Fuel, compression and spark must exist for such a device to work. Today, add a fourth: The computer. In a new vehicle, it manages almost everything. Even in it's simplest form, the computer controls the amount of fuel that get burned by an engine. It does this by measuring multiple variables in the engine and combustion process such as oxygen content in exhaust gases, coolant temperatures, atmospheric pressure, internal vacuum pressures in the intake manifold, measuring the mass of air taken in by the engine by measuring the change in resistance in a wire by shunting current through the wire as air passes over it, RPM, and throttle position, to name a few. Given all these inputs, matrices in memory are consulted by a computer and for the given parameters, the fuel injectors are pulsed at a specific frequency as to create the proper fuel/air mixture. This is constantly being adjusted by the computer to match any operating conditions. In other words, it's FM to most people.

When I was a kid, I learned how a carburetor worked (Venturi Principle), spark (induction coil), and the effects of timing, both static and cam have on compression. These principles hold true today in a sense, but the black box makes in unimportant even to the Friday night drag race impresario. If there is a problem with the car, just use you cell phone to call the mechanic. Oops, I mean automotive technician. With the advent of electric power vehicles, it's only going to get worse, be less fun and less challenging.

On the other hand, they were the bad old days too. Cars did not stop well, steer well, got poor fuel mileage and if you wanted to have a lot of power, you needed to do a lot of modifications to the engine or use a bigger one. Cars also did not stay in proper state of tune for as long as they do now and engines certainly did not last as long on average either. You had to know how stuff worked, even to the uninitiated, as a matter of functionality and I am sure it was an improvement from the previous generation of automobiles.

In spite of the advances in engineering and FM, I have to say there are times I miss the bad old days at times when I am troubleshooting one of my cars or trying to modify something on them or my motorcycle. A lot of the technology today requires special equipment and doesn't tolerate tampering so much. Take my BMW motorcycle. You have to buy a special computer tool just to reset the service reminder that blinks on the computer display on the dash. Either that or take it to the dealer. Talk about discouraging the shade tree mechanic. I mean motorcycle technician. The entry fee for that is a cool $299 for your own computer scanner. It's really just a interface adapter that has the proprietary connector on one side and USB on the other. The software is what does the work. Forget about getting the tool BMW uses, it's not for sale. BMW stands for Bring Money Wilhelm. All I can say is the cheapest thing on a BMW motorcycle is the rider.

So where does this this bring us? Back to the beginning I guess. Change is constant and we are defined by not only our age, but the age in which we live. As this year draws to a close I realize how fast time has flown, how little I have accomplished and how little time I really have left. Steve Jobs said "I want to put a ding in the universe." I used to feel that way and sometimes I still do. Sometimes though, I would rather just kick back with a highball glass of 18 year old Macallan, an Arturo Fuente Churchill Natural and just be content that everything is going to be alright, no matter what. Is that silly?

Thank you for reading this blog.

This was also published at My Motorrad and What's Under the hood.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Don't Ask Do Tell

This week's Libertarian Politics Live covered Don't Ask Don't Tell and specifically dealt with the question of should gays serve openly in the military. The Guests were Bob Marshall and Rick Sincere, but the biggest shocker was Eric Dondero, the founder and owner of LPL, going off about the subject, possibly in a way you would not have imagined, but more on that later.

I suggest that you listen to the show in its entirety from the link above, but I will give you the really short version. Bob Marshall was the christian conservative using a priori reasoning to basically justify his position of being against gays in the military without having to say it was based on conservative christian values. Bob Sincere was on the other end of the spectrum, saying gays should be able to serve openly, that they already serve with distinction and nothing will change if they do serve openly. Eric served  as the hysterical white male that thinks the military will be turned into effete latte sipping cacasotti if gays are allowed to openly serve, because all the real men will leave.

The point is moot now that the congress has acted and passed legislation allowing gays to serve openly. That said, I will give you my points as I couldn't get a word in edgewise during the show.

Prior to the new law, the federal government prohibited discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, genetic information, or age. Further, denying employment opportunities to a person because of marriage to, or association with, an individual of a particular race, religion, national origin, or an individual with a disability is also prohibited. Title VII also prohibits discrimination because of participation in schools or places of worship associated with a particular racial, ethnic, or religious group.

So, in effect, the military was in their right not to let gays serve openly or at all, regardless of the political backlash. That said, Mr Marshall and Dondero had weak cases.

Mr Marshall's case revolved around the increased cost of healthcare for the military if gays served openly. It also revolved around the premise that if they are allowed, most of the straight military will not re-enlist. I would think it's specious to assume that the military's healthcare costs will increase because gays serve openly. What I think he assumes is that if they serve openly, they will have sex and if they do not serve openly, they will not. The implication is that if gays have sex, they will get HIV, which leads to AIDS. May be part of his thinking process is that the repeal of DADT will somehow cause a population explosion  of gays in the military. I guess we'll see if he is right on that one, but I would tell him that gays in the military are having sex, whether or not DADT exists and the risks of contracting HIV are equally there if they serve openly or not.

As far as straights not re-enlisting, well, that also remains to be seen. As someone from the largest city in America, I have had to work and go to school with people of all stripes, colors, orientations and background. As long as the situation is focused on the work at hand, it never mattered and it never did. I don't care what someone's sexual orientation is, what race they are, where they were born, what language they speak, how old they are or whatever, I will treat them with the same basic respect. Judge the content of someone's character...Anyway, it's a big world out there and if someone won't serve with someone that is openly gay, then may be good riddance. I bet the position will be filled with someone that is superior anyway.

As to Eric's argument, his was based on his own experiences in the Navy in the 1980's. He regaled, with incredible emotion and vitriole, his experiences aboard ship with gay shipmates. The case in particular was about a gay shipmate that came back drunk from leave and proceded to give oral sex to another shipmate whilst he was asleep. The sailor awakened to this and according to Eric, charges were never brought up, as the Navy was PC even back then. Eric further asserted that he could not ogle female sailors in the shower, so why do they have to allow gays as he would feel uncomfortable and what would his wife think.

Well, if a gay male sailor is ogling another sailor and making advances, it is harassment and should be dealt with accordingly. It doesn't matter what the combinations of sexual orientation are. Equal rights demand equal responsibilities and those that cross the line should be held accountable, always. If they aren't, having DADT doesn't solve the problem. It'll happen anyway and I will say, that Eric knew this sailor was gay before his illicit act, so he can't plead that ignorance or abstinence would have improved the situation. It happened. I would also add that to hear Eric go off, the thought crossed my mind if Eric was in fact the sailor that got the blow job. Did he finish Eric? :) Me thinks the blogger protests too much. I would also wonder how Eric's wife feels about him bragging on the same show that he's screw any woman or may be it was any good looking one. Between that and his insistence that the military was for men to be manly and virile, I have to again, wonder what his deal is. The military is our defense as well as the strong arm of our foreign policy. The military trains to break shit, blow things up and kill people. They also can provide logistical and support services, like they did in Haiti. If that defines what a man is, I guess so. I think Eric's definition of what a soldier is, is a little two dimensional. The military today is a volunteer one and a professional one. They are the best of the best, gay or not, and they do their jobs well. Being gay should be the least of their problems. Also, women serve in the military. Are all of them manly and virile too?

The heart of the problem for me is to preemptively tell someone that they will be punished or sanctioned before a bad behavior is committed. It presumes guilt, that if they serve openly, they will do behaviors that are unlawful, yet not adjudicatable in Eric and Bob's mind. If that is their worry, then pursue justice on a case by case basis when people do cross the line. The question,  should gays serve openly or not is specious. Do straight people have a litmus test? None of it should matter. What I will tell Rick Sincere is although I find Bob and Eric's arguments specious and a priori, I also do not believe in special privileges or special rights. My point is that it doesn't matter, it shouldn't matter. No agendas, no superior rights for anyone. The trick is, is that good enough for both sides of the issue? The problem with groups, tribes and mobs, is that they always want to be right, they want a leg up and to have the upper hand. Like Rand, I don't particularly like the mob at all and often it uses it's coercive force on individuals in spite of the facts, in spite of the truth, in spite of what's rational, in order to preserve or achieve power. Rand said "The smallest minority on earth is the individual. Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities." Of course I must add that Rand also thought homosexuality is a mental disorder, but that is another story. I also expect to get challenged as some would say there is wisdom in the mob. Well, which one? Who chooses? Coercive forces are just that, not reason. Jefferson said that "rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others." This is the true test of what is right, decent and good, not an antediluvian mob. 

Thank you for reading this blog.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Andre Traversa Presents Libertarian Politics Live Special Guest Ken Cuccinelli

Ken Cuccinelli is tonight's guest on Libertarian Politics Live. he will discuss his court victory over Obamacare.

The show is from 8:00PM-9:00PM CST and Mr Cuccinelli will be on at 8:15PM.

Second Guest hopeful is Lori Giganto who will be discussing he latest article on Sarah Palin at Red State.

Call in tot he show at 646-915-9887 or stream live here.

Thank you for reading this blog and thank you for listening to the show.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Fed, Big Sis, and Wikileaks: What should we be afraid of?

Much sturm and drang has been circulating about Julian Assange and the Wikileaks fiasco. The ersatz lover-boy whose latest crime is using a leaky condom has become public enemy number one for the conservative crowd and the messiah for the anarchists and left wing loonies. What or where is the truth?

According to Wikipedia,  Julian Assange is an Australian journalist,[5][6][7] publisher,[8][9] and Internet activist. He is best known as the spokesperson and editor in chief for WikiLeaks, a whistleblower website. Before working with the website, he was a computer programmer.[10] He has lived in several countries, and has made occasional public appearances to speak about freedom of the presscensorship, and investigative journalism.

Ok. He likes to expose or uncover information that would otherwise not be known to the rest of the world. This information included over one quarter of a million diplomatic cables, over half of which were unclassified, 40% confidential and 6% are secret. It would seem to even a casual observer of the events that unfolded that the umbrage directed at Mr Assange has more to do with the message than with the act itself. The information released is very embarrassing to the United States, to the State Department, Barack Obama and his administration and ultimately America itself. The real problem is that the king was not only shown to be naked, but to have a small and almost non-existent dick. So where's the beef? More later.

So in the recent news cycle, all is abuzz and aflame with the life and times of Julian Assange. In the mean time we still have problems here at home and this distraction of the day with Assange is just that. A distraction. It's a straw man meant to pull our attention away from more important things. Like the TSA. We were all abuzz with the TSA, the groping, locking people in glass cages for hours, and then nothing. If anyone has been awake at all, they would have noticed that the Obama administration has eroded our personal freedoms in ways the left wing media would love to blame on George W. Bush. We have all our data and voice streams monitored, we are X-Rayed in airports, groped, fondled, and otherwise mistreated with efforts to compromise our dignity. We have a government that tracks all of our financial transactions and through all of this, not a peep. Not much. What I hear is "if I am not doing anything wrong, I have nothing to fear" or If it keeps us safe from terrorists, it's ok with me".

Such fecklessness is the sign of Farm Animals®. We've become so conditioned to trust government because it has become the hand that feeds some of us. Like the wine, beer drinking, cheese and brat eating surrender monkeys of Europe, we will tolerate anything for the promise to keep us safe. In spite of a new covenant in the Declaration of Independence, we have come full circle, embracing the paternal system of feudalism, which we shook off over 200 years ago. Where did we go wrong? A little late for that question, but I can tell you it's been Obama's plan all along. He's a fabian socialist, and his progressive agenda is to move us towards socialism as much as possible before we catch on and hopefully, to him, after it's too late. With the elections of 2010, he's done a lot of damage. Who would have thought even 3 years ago that the government would control what it does today? The intrusion into our lives, and moreover, the control. Like the frog in the pot, the water is warmed slowly until it's too late.

So here we are, how many days and weeks into the Assange conspiracy and we still believe in the straw men created by the press and the government. They expect us to cower, to follow like supplicants or worse like lemmings, to follow whatever tune the pied piper plays. We will find no greater security is hanging Mr. Assange and/or closing wikileaks too. We will find no more security in trying to democratize Afghanistan or for that matter any place else. In fact, ask yourself the question, does the information that has been leaked make you any less free? Does it take away your life, liberty or property? Does endanger you personally?

Where I do part ways with Assange is releasing information that would expose individuals to death or mayhem if their names were revealed. Outside of that, this information has been a revelation to how truly incompetent our President is and who our real enemies are. For his part, Mr Assange is the recipient of the 2010 Sam Adams Award. Samuel Adams, in my opinion, was the father of the American Revolution. He embodied the true revolutionary spirit of this country and he had determination not to be a subject of any monarch, but I digress...

As a country, we have a choice to make. We can chose to be led around by our noses and pricks like some peasant fool that believes in fairytales and magic shows, or we can wake up and see things for what they are. We need to focus on our freedoms, liberties and also economic stability at home if we expect to be a good example to the rest of the world of what a country should be like. We had been at one time, but we've lost our way. No amount of blood spilled in Afghanistan or Iraq will fix that or change it. In fact it's slowly dragging us down and the cost of which has not been fully realized by us as a nation, we will pay for it, at least some of us will.

If Iraq and Afghanistan were about Al Qaeda and Bin Laden, this could have been settled long ago. While it has been said: do not attribute to malice what can be explained through stupidity, sometime I wonder. And if you think I say this from a position of being a dove or antiwar person, you are mostly wrong. No sane human being wants war. Fighting all the time is unproductive, it kills the best and brightest, and it wears a society down. That said, when one does fight, do it quickly, with finality, and go home. We have not done that. We could have.

And lastly, The Fed. If anyone saw Mr Bernanke on 60 Minutes last Sunday, you really should have asked one question, well, at least one: Where does that 600 Billion dollars that you want to by treasuries with come from? Of course the reporter didn't ask it and the answer is, print it. The Fed and Obama and out ideas and at the end of the road. They will either have to white nuckle over the progressive cliff or force themselves to look at reality and realize that FDR-like proposals and thinking will not get us out of this recession. It didn't work then and it won't work now. Again, the side show in the rest of the world is obscuring what lies before us. The Tea Party was born of our discontent, but like a attention span addled child, will they forget why they came to the table? I hope not.

The circus that has presented itself in the last couple years and couple months is indicative of Team Geppetto. As we see our liberties and our money slip away, so will our lives, at least the quality thereof. As the US slips in the world, from number one to number two, we will find ourselves in a place not of our liking, but of our choosing. As much as we are hoodwinked, we also have a choice in it and as much as I think the latest news cycle with Wikileaks is a distraction from our real problems, in a way, Mr. Assange has also brought to fore a lot of the genesis for our current problems and laid bare the man behind the curtain. I don't hold him up as some example of propriety or heroism as some might and I also do not excoriate him as some treasonous monster that must be destroyed. All I say is thank you for some clarity in a world that is so full of shit. Thank you Mr. Assange, wherever you are.

And thank you for reading this blog.

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