Friday, May 31, 2013

Friday miscellaneous (5/31)

Today's post, in an unplanned turn of events, decided to take the form of a lost and found notice. I hope you enjoy.

Found: one original Superman comic book used as insulation in an old house.

Lost: Republican political dominance, and what they can do about it. (Wanted: a new Democratic party.)

Found: the conspiracy behind the attempt to label Glenn Beck a conspiracy theorist. (Question: if he's right, does that make him wrong?)

Lost: insurance coverage for patients of a South Portland doctor. (Result: lower medical bills for patients).

Found: one Ferrari burred in the front yard.

Lost (preemptively): Michele Bachmann's re-election effort.

Found: a response to libertarianism's "government is at best a necessary evil" argument.

Lost (potentially): Saudi Arabia's oil drilling dominance.

Found: a Sea of Monsters.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

On Humble Leadership

Despite what I wrote in my article "Is Facebook Making us Lonely," I like Facebook. I was reminded of this the other day when it alerted me to a friend's birthday.

Now, this guy is truly unique because he defies the stereotypes of what you expect from a leader. If you know me, you know that I’m inspired by people who change the world by their sheer force of will. But my friend is no Julius Caesar, Alexander Hamilton, or Steve Jobs; my friend finds himself positions of responsibility because he is a servant leader.   

When I used to run into people in D.C. and tell them I worked for this fellow, they would light up. People always talked about how much they loved working with my friend, although few could articulate why they liked him so much. But if I were to venture a guess as to what set my friend apart to these people, it would be that he is genuinely humble--a rare thing to see in a city full of power players.

Through my observations of his leadership, I’ve learned two major lessons from my friend. The first is to avoid holding things too close. My friend was the leader of a nationwide organization that does incredible work, having a huge impact both spiritually and politically. He wisely guided the organization through hard times and intentionally built it to outlast himself.

Then, when the time was right, he gave up his job. He didn't drag his feet or try to control the organization from a distance; he gave it up and resolved to continue forward with new focus and vigor in a new direction. Inexplicably, his influence and his ability to do ministry and politics have only grown, even though he gave up one of the major ways he had exercised his gifts before. The only explanation that I can see is that God is blessing my friend for his willingness to pass the torch. 

The second lesson my friend has taught me is the value of being a straight shooter. Once, back when I worked for him, I was complaining about something that bothered me about how the organization worked and he admitted to me that under the current set up he would need to be run over by a truck for me to get the changes that I wanted. He didn't mince words or try to distract me: he let me know the truth, knowing that I wouldn't like it. Once again he proved his humble leadership by explaining that I could very well be right, and things might need to change, but he was honest and forthright about how the way things currently stood. This flies in the face of conventional wisdom where people avoid saying anything "offensive" and end up saying nothing but fluff.

So, this post is dedicated to those who model humble and honest servant leadership to the rest of us. May we learn from them and remember that leadership is not a position to be held or a title to be won, but rather a characteristic to be used to help make this world a better place.

Post by Jeremiah Lorrig

Friday, May 24, 2013

Friday miscellaneous (5/24)

First, a major warning. For any of our readers considering a Hebrew tattoo, please make sure it is translated correctly. Online translators appear particularly unreliable.

Did anyone else know that Benedict Cumberbatch (from Sherlock, Star Trek, Amazing Grace, and The Hobbit) also does comedic radio drama?

Or the story of the Paris Mosque that hid Jews from Nazis?

Here is an eviction story with an unexpected twist.

And what happens when a group of do-gooders start paying other people's parking meters? They get sued by the city, of course.

When I was in high school, my debate topic one year was immigration policy. Being a good federalist, I ran a plan that let each state work with the Federal Government to devise immigration quotas for its state. No expert endorsed--or even talked about--the idea (but then again, no negative team had an idea of what to do with it either). Now it might be actually gaining support (both Canada and Australia have already partially implemented this concept).

Reminding me of A Hero's Guide (and featuring Princess Cimorene), this article challenges to have a broader view of princesses.

Sometimes parody can capture things that the rest of us can only hint at:
President Obama used his weekly radio address on Saturday to reassure the American people that he has “played no role whatsoever” in the U.S. government over the past four years.
“Right now, many of you are angry at the government, and no one is angrier than I am,” he said. “Quite frankly, I am glad that I have had no involvement in such an organization.” 
The President’s outrage only increased, he said, when he “recently became aware of a part of that government called the Department of Justice.”
This is an interesting article on why French children aren't diagnosed with ADHD at nearly the rate of American children: "French child psychiatrists, on the other hand, view ADHD as a medical condition that has psycho-social and situational causes. Instead of treating children's focusing and behavioral problems with drugs, French doctors prefer to look for the underlying issue that is causing the child distress—not in the child's brain but in the child's social context."

And speaking of geography, here's an interesting question: are state capitals more or less corrupt when geographically removed from the population center?

This is a good review of The Great Gatsbty and its resonance with Millennials: "In sum, Gatsby’s world is our world … albeit with fewer smart phones and better clothes."

And finally, here's how to cuddle with an elephant seal (you know you want to).

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Presidential Leadership (Blair’s Lessons, part VII)

The recent scandals involving the executive branch, and the President’s claims to know nothing about them, have reminded me of a passage in a book I read last fall on President Obama’s developing thinking regarding drone warfare.

In Kill or Capture: The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama Presidency, Newsweek correspondent Daniel Klaidman outlines the administration's evolving thinking regarding the war on terror and drones specifically. While the entire book is a fascinating read, one passage stands out over the rest.

The author is describing the decision and subsequent about-face to use civilian court to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), known as the mastermind of 9/11. Through this entire time, the Oval Office kept sending conflicting messages. Here's how Klaidman describes it:
The contradictory moves could be maddening to the “front office,” where Obama’s political advisers worked. Just when they thought he’d signed off on the pragmatic choice, he would reverse course. 
* * * 
Obama seemed content to let different advisers believe different things about his position. Holder had made the decision to try KSM in federal court with the confidence that it was his decision, as attorney general, to make. But he’d also had no doubt that Obama agreed with his judgment. Emanuel had every reason to believe that Obama was with him on KSM; why else would he have authorized the Lindsey Graham backchannel? By early 2010, after one year in office, the great question about President Obama had become: what did he truly believe and how much political capital was he prepared to expend? It was one thing to have a “team of rivals,” another to let them fight without any resolution or action.
Contrast that, for example, with Tony Blair's warning for leaders (given in the context of the decision to remove Saddam Hussein).
There are leaders who agonise too much; who are forever weighing up; whose consideration of the options becomes an end in itself and a substitute for clarity of decision. Of course it’s good to think before you act, but the thinking has to be of finite duration and the action must follow. This is true in and of itself, but it is also true because when leading a country, or indeed any organization, failure to act is an action with consequences. Inaction is a decision to maintain the status quo. Maintenance of the status quo has its own result, and usually its own dynamic.

I'm afraid we have a President who has repeatedly committed Blair's error. In case after case, instead of giving a decisive direction to his own staff, he's wanted to play the analyst. The consequence is a power vacuum in the Executive Branch. When the President doesn't make the decisions, someone else has to. It may help him keep a clear conscience, but it certainly isn't leadership.

Also in this series:
Reforming Political Parties (Blair's Lessons, part I)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Why I Gave up Reading and Started to Read

I fear I’ve been thinking again. As it turns out, sitting on an airplane gives you a lot of time to think. Especially those 15 minutes of takeoff and landing. The only options then are to think or to sleep because they don’t let you do anything else.

Anyway, the other day I found myself gearing up for a quick power nap while my plane took off, when a Facebook friend of mine invited me to Goodreads. I accepted the invitation since it sounded like an interesting app and because I like good reads.

Little did I know what a mistake I just made. I had to power off my phone for takeoff, but as soon as I landed and switched on the phone, there the app was, waiting for me to start rating books. I figured I’d give it a shot. I eagerly hunted down my favorite books to give them good ratings. But that was not enough for my bibliophilic heart. I had to give bad ratings to the books I most hated (I took especially great pleasure in giving 1 star to the Hunchback of Notre Dame and to the Last of the Mohicans).

That night, not only was I jet lagged, but I also had a hard time falling asleep because whenever I would shut my eyes, I would remember a book that I should rate on Goodreads. Needless to say, I didn't rest much that night.

Now, all of this may have been a little unhealthy. It did, however, make me think of what it is that I love about books. I read books for two reasons:

1. To make me smarter
2. To provide me entertainment

Because of this, I have a personal policy that I rotate the kind of books I read. I take turns reading serious and fun books. Not to say that serious books can’t be fun or that fun books can’t be serious, but I look at a book and make a snap decision as to what category it fits in. This allows me to have a wide variety of books in my reading queue, giving me the ability both to  cover a topics in-depth over-time and to explore new topical areas that I am not well-versed in.

I remember when I was a kid that I was not very good at reading at all. But Pizza Hut had a program where you could get pizza for reading during the summer. I remember the dread I felt when my mom told me that I had to read if I wanted to join the rest of the kids at the pizza party. But she encouraged me to not focus on the size of the book or the seriousness of it, but rather to find what I wanted to read (thick or thin) and enjoy it.

By the end of the year I had read more than I thought I could; and I was surprised and impressed with myself for completing the project.

Pizza was a temporary prize (although I remember that I certainly enjoyed it). The real prize, however, for my summer reading drive was those words my mom implanted in me when she encouraged me to focus on enjoying myself while I read. That has opened far-off lands, complex economic ideas, fun adventures, rich symbolism, theologies, biographies, historical tales, legends, et al. Even when I am busy and only able to read 15 minutes a day, I find it to be rewarding.

In the end, I gave up the painful process of reading of reading without a purpose that could capture my heart and mind and allowed myself to read books that I enjoy. I no longer dread the next book, but look forward to it with excitement because I have learned to enjoy reading. In short, I gave up reading because I had to and started to read because I love to.

So, if you are on Goodreads, look me up, friend me, and start commenting on my reviews. That way we can share with each other both benefits of reading: to become smarter and to have fun. 

Posted By Jeremiah Lorrig

Monday, May 20, 2013

Asylum for Homeschoolers?

Last Tuesday the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the Board of Immigration Appeals denial of asylum for the Romeike family. You can read the opinion here. HSLDA, who is handling the case, is promising to appeal.

I’ve blogged about this case previously, but this new opinion is worth a few additional observations.

First, for anyone tempted to blame this decision on a liberal bench or an Obama agenda, none of the judges were Obama appointees. Judge Sutton, who wrote the opinion, and Judge Rogers, who wrote the concurrence, were both appointed by George W. Bush. Judge Sutton, in particular, was initially too conservative for the Democratic controlled Senate and his appointment was blocked for two years. The third judge, Judge Gilman, is a Clinton appointee who was confirmed by the Senate on a 98-1 vote. In this case, all three judges agreed that the family did not qualify for asylum status. And in a somewhat odd twist, based on my reading of dozens of asylum cases, the family would likely have had a greater chance of success with a more liberal bench. The conservative strict constructionist model does not have as much flexibility for this sort of case. So this outcome cannot be attributed to any liberal animus or agenda. It was simply a matter of applying facts to law, and these three judges were not persuaded.

Second, the court is abundantly clear that it is not addressing the issue of homeschooling rights under United States law or the United States Constitution:

Had the Romeikes lived in America at the time, they would have had a lot of legal authority to work with in countering the prosecution. See Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 213–14 (1972); Pierce v. Soc’y of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 534–35 (1925); Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390, 400–01 (1923). 
But the Romeikes lived in Germany when this dispute began. When the Romeikes became fed up with Germany’s ban on homeschooling and when their prosecution for failure to follow the law led to increasingly burdensome fines, they came to this country with the hope of obtaining asylum. Congress might have written the immigration laws to grant a safe haven to people living elsewhere in the world who face government strictures that the United States Constitution prohibits. But it did not.
* * *  
The question is not whether Germany’s policy violates the American Constitution, whether it violates the parameters of an international treaty or whether Germany’s law is a good idea. It is whether the Romeikes have established the prerequisites of an asylum claim—a well-founded fear of persecution on account of a protected ground.
Here, the court is undeniably legally correct. The case is not about whether the family is entitled to homeschool here but rather whether their treatment by Germany is such that they can obtain status as refugees here. That is a high standard, as not every inconvenience, or even illegal action, creates refugees. It is also a completely different question than what types of government action our Constitution protects us from. This case cannot be used as a precedent to undermine domestic homeschooling rights. If anything, it is further proof that the courts recognize those rights. The Romeike family does not face deportation because they are homeschooling, they face deportation because the court has determined that they are not eligible for the status they sought.

Third, as hinted at above, the court got the law right. The issue was whether the Romeike family feared persecution on account of their religious beliefs or social group membership by the German government if they returned. The court did not reach the question of whether homeschooling is a "particular social group," but instead denied asylum because it determined that the family had not shown sufficient bad motives on the part of the German government. Again, refugee status is a high standard that all applicants must prove. For asylum to be granted, the treatment must be really bad--something nonsensical, silly, or even inconvenient or illegal is not sufficient. That's the law as Congress wrote it, and no matter how much we may want it otherwise, the court can not and should not change it.

Because of this, the whole complaint that the Obama administration doesn't recognize individual rights or refuses to recognize persecution that applies to an entire country misses the mark. While this complaint is valid, the problem stems not from the Obama administration, or with the reviewing judges and is certainly not unique to this case. Instead, it is a problem inherent in our asylum law as adopted by Congress in 1980. And homeschoolers are just the most recent group to discover this difficulty. Over the last few decades, Iranian women, Chinese parents fleeing the one-child policy, and even Chinese pastors have run into the exact same problem. The fact that a government does not single people out for persecution can be a disqualifying fact for those fleeing persecution. Unless we want judges to rewrite the laws, this is the standard. And it's true that the Pilgrims would probably not get asylum under today's immigration laws. But that is a problem with the laws, not the judges, the Attorney General, or the President.

Fourth and finally, this case reveals the restrictive nature of our immigration system. For many around the world, and apparently for this family, a desire to come to the United States legally is not enough to obtain legal status. Unless the applicant has a family member here or an employer willing to sponsor them, there is virtually no line to enter for admission. The Romeike family has to resort to asylum because they apparently cannot just apply for entry (they entered on an 90 day temporary visa in 2008 and have been permitted to stay pending the outcome of their case). So, to all the conservative commentators out there, yes, this family did do everything right. But the reality of our immigration system is that even doing everything right still often leads to deportation. And that is a problem with the law, not with the administration.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Star Trek... Into Reruns!

Update: iTunes is running a sale on all Star Trek films and TV seasons. For those of you interested I recommend you check it out.

Original Post:

I am big Star Trek fan. I've been sitting and reading articles about the new film and the series and disagreeing at various points, and realized that I was getting frustrated by them. Then I realized that "I have a blog," which means I can have my say. So indulge me while I give you a primer on Star Trek.

Gene Roddenberry
Its important for you to understand that Star Trek does not belong to one man, like Star Wars. It was created by a man named Gene Roddenberry in 1965 but even he never owned the idea, it actually belonged to Lucile Ball. At that time, she was heading a production company called Desilu which sat next door to Paramount Pictures. Star Trek aired on NBC (just like The Office and 30 Rock) from 1966-69. By its last year, Paramount purchased Desilu, acquiring Star Trek along with its other properties. Gene Roddenberry himself left the show after its second season, but even while he was there, a succession of people put their creative stamp on the series, which is one of the reasons its episodes are so diverse.  

Famously, Star Trek was canceled because network ratings figures did not use demographics like they do today. Star Trek was incredibly popular in the 18-35 "demo", but no one knew. Throughout the 1970's it became a touchstone for youth culture. It was after the release of the first "Star Wars" in 1977 that Paramount decided it wanted to compete in the sci-fi craze (the best modern comparison is the superhero film). 

This began the second longest running film franchise in history (both in years and installments), behind the James Bond series. From 1979-2013, Paramount has produced 12 films, and 4 additional tv series. Rather than to into detail on the entire history, I am going to give you my recommendations on what you should watch. Many of  the things I don't list may still be worthwhile for you once you've seen the others, and some I won't list aren't worth your time at all. Many of you will disagree with my recommendations, but this is my blog, so I get to be right. 

1) Star Trek: the Original Series

Kirk and Spock's stunt double battle to the death!
This one is easy. It's currently on Netflix in glorious HD. But don't start at the beginning, you won't like it. However, unlike modern shows, it got good very quickly. Start about halfway into the first season and then watch through the second season. If you need an even more abbreviated schedule, try the episodes "Balance of Terror," "The Galileo 7," "Space Seed" (prequel to Wrath of Khan), "Errand of Mercy," "The City on the Edge of Forever" (consistently voted the best Star Trek episode),  "Amok Time," "Mirror, Mirror," "The Doomsday Machine," "I, Mudd," "Journey to Babel," "The Trouble with Tribbles," "A Piece of the Action," and the only entry from season 3, "The Enterprise Incident." For you modern kids, the episodes all feature a 2006 40th Anniversary restoration which features new (but retro) digital effects.

2) Star Trek Films

You do not need to watch all of the films. I actually advise against it unless you are really devoted. But you do need to watch some of them in a certain order. Some of these films will be sporadically available on Netflix, but not all, which, unfortunately, means you'll have to find a friend that owns them.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan - the one that made Star Trek real

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock - the one that made Star Trek feel

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home - the one that made Star Trek funny
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country - the one that ended the Cold War

Star Trek: First Contact - it has the Borg.

You'll notice I only listed four of the original six films. As I indicated prior, there have been many creative influences on Star Trek. These films represent one creative direction that tells a unified story, and it is this thread that maintained Star Trek in the 1980's, paving the way for the series' that followed. This is "the good stuff," and its very good. It is these films that establish the Star Trek cast as real characters. The original show presented great archetypes but ultimately didn't allow for character growth due to the format of 1960's TV. These films change that, as they grow old and truly become friends. The JJ Abrams films synthesize the characters of these films with the hijinks of the series.

3) Star Trek: Enterprise

In a way, this is a proto-version of what JJ Abrams eventually succeeded at, which is to attempt to recapture the energy and spirit of the original series with new actors. A straight reboot was considered unthinkable, but a prequel series was deemed practical. An excellent series lead in Scott Bakula really sets this series apart. Since the original, no Star Trek captain was really able to headline the show (Patrick Stewart, while excellent, was still more the head of an ensemble). Bakula's Archer was a kinder, more respectable Kirk, less womanizer and more everyman. Starting out adventurous and curious, he develops more of an edge as the series progresses, eventually almost being spiritually isolated on the show. He is supported by an excellent cast, and one of the great unsung heroes of Star Trek, writer (and fourth season Showrunner) Manny Coto. He and Gene Coon (from the original series) are probably the two best writers to have shaped Star Trek. The connections between this series and the Abrams films are clear, as the new films serve as a better sequel to Enterprise than the original series really could. This series is also available on Netflix in HD, and you should watch the third season (a season long story arc) and much of the fourth. As a fairly recent show (canceled in 2005), it's very palatable to a modern audience. A small "resurrect Enteprise on Netflix" movement has quietly begun on Facebook in the wake of leaked information indicating its Netflix viewing figures are very good.

4) Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness

JJ Abrams' films that are more films based on Star Trek than Star Trek films. Very entertaining, capturing much of the fun and essence of the original. Good entertainment, buy a ticket. I can't review STID yet because its impossible to do without spoilers. But it's worth it. Interestingly, Leonard Nimoy, who was practically exiled by the Star Trek powers that be from 1994-2005 after directing 2 of the films and executive producing one (all three of which are on my list), really supports these films because he feels they honor the work he and his colleagues did in the 60's.

5) Other Stuff

Geek Trek...
Now I left a ton of stuff off this list! I'll explain why. I hate Voyager. I've tried Deep Space 9, and while I'll admit the concept sounds cool, I have never been able to enjoy it. Watching "The Trouble with Tribbles" back to back with its DS9 homage tells you everything you need to know: it's just not fun or funny. What Deep Space 9 and Voyager are is geeky. That's not a bad thing, but it does make them niche. If you like minutiae and techno-babble you will enjoy these series. Best wishes to you.

Finally: Star Trek The Next Generation

90's Airline Crew
To many people my age and older, this "is" Star Trek. The Shakespearean, android infested, techno-centric vision of Star Trek. Gene Roddenberry's late in life attempt to retake Star Trek (after Paramount removed him following the creative failure of the first film). In tone, Next Gen follows closely that first film, largely devoid of fun and hijinks, but heavy on philosophy. The original combined philosophy with fun. The films tended to embrace the fun, while Next Gen zeroed in on the philosophy. This was largely due to technical constraints (the series was produced on video and has only recently begun to be restored from its original negatives, and intensive and expensive process). The series produced many legendary Star Trek episodes such as "The Best of Both Worlds" and an excellent finale "All Good Things," but I cannot recommend it as essential Star Trek viewing. It's dense, long, and cultish; though it was intensely popular when it aired. Check it out, if it appeals to you, great. But if you are a newcomer, attracted by the characters and relationship types of the original, Next Gen will not appeal to you the same way. That said, of all the Star Trek spin-off's, it is the most original.

Click here for more movie reviews.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Friday miscellaneous (5/17)

This book, on the WWII battle where Germans and Americans joined forces, looks amazing.

We've all heard of the unmarried cohabitation trend. But apparently there's also a married-yet-living-separate trend (as the only married member of this blogging team, I don't recommend it).

Last week we brought you the story of Sriracha. This week its the Doritos Locos Taco.

And returning to our trend of exotic locations (such as Hoth in Greenland), Tatooine is in Tunisia.

Chattanooga, Tennessee, wants to remind everyone that their internet is in fact better than portrayed in Iron Man 3. And while on a recent movie kick (we do hope to have reviews of Iron man 3 and The Great Gatsby before long), here's the story of F. Scott Fitzgerald's ordinary grave.

It's been a tough week for the President. Even Chris Matthews is souring.

Although for a little perspective on the IRS scandal, targeting is nothing new to Muslim charities.

A history professor at Cumberland University has put together what looks to be an interesting reading list on American conspiracy theories.

When Disney sought to introduce Brave's Merida into its princess collection, some cried foul when they noticed that she's gotten a makeover. Disney's response has been somewhat confusing.

For those concerned about what you support when you shop, this app--which tells shoppers which companies are behind products--may be for you.

One of the proposals for immigration reform is the right to an attorney during immigration proceedings. What do you think?

And finally, have you ever wondered what it looks like to film yourself walking backwards and then play the film backwards?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Ayn Rand: Romantic?

Some time ago I came across this critique of Atlas Shrugged, which I just rediscovered while going through my partially-written posts. While the whole thing is good, the following excerpt is particularly striking:
Since I brought up human nature, there is also the matter of the thinness of Rand's anthropology. Rand's basic assertion is the rationality of human beings. (To the extent that a person is irrational, he is regarded as evil, anti-mind and anti-life.) And it is this conception of the human being as a rational, thinking being which leads to her ideal of the productive genius, his happiness, and the political order that would protect and preserve it. For Rand, the state only exists to shield the rational from the irrational, the good and the strong from ravenous desires of the wicked and the weak.

Of course, other rationalists have drawn strikingly different conclusions. In this regard, it useful to note that much serious political philosophy proceeds from a completely different premise -- the imperfect rationality of human beings -- and rightly so. If one considers Hobbes, say, or Spinoza, or Locke, three of the thinkers who inaugurated modern liberalism, one will notice that the fundamental problem of social life is that human beings are driven by their passions and their imaginations, by their hopes and their fears. It is these passions that create the problems and tensions that point to the need for stable political organization. While it is reason that leads them to enter into civil society -- to escape from the inconveniences of the state of nature -- the political order arranged is one that must take human beings as they are and not as the best they could be. This could be an authoritarian state, as it was for Hobbes, or a liberal democracy, as it was for Spinoza. In both cases, however, there is the recognition that human beings are passionate creatures, that the state is needed because of the problems inherent in human nature, that these problems may be alleviated somewhat in civil society but they won't go away.

Ironically, when one mulls it over, one may find that it's Galt and his band of strikers and dropouts who prove to be driven by their passions. Galt especially, who, despite his ultra-handsome looks and heroic self-understanding, can't muster up the gumption to just go up to the woman he has a massive crush on and ask her out for a drink -- or at least just talk to her -- and instead sits around chatting up her poor, love-struck assistant, hoping to catch a glimpse into her life.

Is this rational action, heroic action?

No, I think not. And aside from being somewhat creepy, it underscores the true impotence of Rand's hero. And it's not only with Dagny. When faced with the "communist" takeover of the motor factory, Galt doesn't seek out the banker Midas Mulligan and ask for a loan so that he can develop his motor on his own or attempt a run for political office; he just takes his toys and goes into hiding, hoping by such action to help hasten the apocalypse. This seems to me to be more like the behavior of a petulant adolescent than of the "highest man." Galt longs for a total transformation of human society, a complete victory for his higher morality and the unconditional surrender of those who oppose him, and he is content, indeed happy, to watch everything be destroyed to get there.

And the attempt to flee from reality courses through Rand's novel, from the disappeared and the destructive activities of Francisco D'Anconia and Ragnar Danneskjöld to Dangy's fruitless affair with Hank to the libertarian fantasyland of Galt's Gulch. Despite all of their speeches and protestations, these people are not so much stern rationalists but romantics. Such characters make terrible role models for those of us who are forced to reside in the world, which just may not be the stage for the struggle between the looting mystics and heroic individuals, but a place infinitely more complex, and more interesting. (Also, we should keep in mind that it is people convinced of their superior rationality and gnostic insights into the direction of world-historical change that generally pose the greatest challenge to the stability of the political order.)

Friday, May 10, 2013

Friday miscellaneous (5/10)

We start today's post with two side announcements.

First: I graduate from law school today.

Second, if anyone in the Lansing area is having computer problems, I strongly recommend Green PC Pros.

Ok, now for the important stuff.

Anyone interested in historical maps needs to see this.

President Obama's position on indefinite detention is becoming less and less consistent.

Dogs are showing some incredible mental abilities in tests. Cats, not so much.

One of the issues that the free market needs to work though is whether there is a limit to greed. The sort of thing that leads to million dollar military contracts for fake bomb detectors. Or Amazon's about-face on internet sales taxes.

Oh, and did you know that the Chinese release Iron Man 3 has additional footage including Chinese product placement and sympathetic Chinese characters.

And for those who want to dress like early twentieth-century century English gentry, Downtown Abby is starting a retail line.

Every once in a while (ok, strike that, pretty frequently) we find a government program that refuses to die. today's features are the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Federal Helium Program.

Despite what the headlines may indicated, gun violence has decreased in the past two decades.

Have you ever wondered what takes place behind the scenes in museums?

And here's the story of Sriracha, invented by an immigrant. I love his response when told it was too hot: "Hot sauce must be hot. If you don't like it hot, use less," he said. "We don't make mayonnaise here."

And finally, how not to collect materials for a bomb.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Friday miscellaneous (5/3)

Due to computer problems, we have no links this week. It was all I could do to get this notice up.

I apologize for the inconvenience.
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