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Reblogged: 12-7-13 Hodgepodge
A Hard Road for the Creative
Writing for Slate, Jessica Olien maintains that most people actually dislike creativity, although they may well appreciate its fruits and grasp that it is good on an intellectual level. While I am not sure I agree with everything she says, I think the following point is particularly insightful:
Creative ideas take effort to evaluate and may well cause emotional discomfort among those with less-active thinking habits. Fortunately, as the article points out, many creative people learn to overcome that common limitation in others.
"Rather than dismiss this as new-age silliness or psychobabble, I encourage people to look inward and identify what leads them to feel more or less emotionally safe." -- Michael Hurd, in "Emotional 'Safety'" at The Delaware Wave
"As they spout off, they are admitting, albeit implicitly, that they are not able or willing to figure out what's true anyway, so all that matters is that they look like they know what they're talking about." -- Michael Hurd, in "Saying 'No' for No Reason" at The Delaware Coast Press
"It may surprise those who damn 'the lust for gold' to hear this but gold, like music and painting, is a spiritual value." -- Harry Binswanger, in "In Praise of Gold. Not a 'Barbarous Relic' but a Spiritual Value" at Forbes
"My previous column ... was not meant as an advocacy of a gold standard--not if that means giving government the power to dictate what is and isn't money." -- Harry Binswanger, in "Free Money! Then Free the Rest of the Economy" at Forbes
In More Detail
In his piece on gold, Harry Binswanger makes his argument that gold has spiritual value by generalizing from comments Ayn Rand made about music and applying her identification of reason as man's means of survival. I'll include his excerpt of Rand on music here.
And I'll encourage my readers to head over to Forbes for the rest of the piece (linked above), which is absorbing and inspiring in its advocacy of gold.
A Classic, Now Illustrated
From a recent announcement by the Ayn Rand Institute:
Especially after reading the related Binswanger piece on gold, I look forward to revisiting this classic.
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Reblogged: The Head Covering Movement
When I first read the whole Bible a few years ago, I wondered when all those Bible-focused Christians would rediscover the very clear command that women cover their heads in church in 1 Corinthians 11:
And… it’s happened, as you can see for yourself at the web site of The Head Covering Movement. (The site looks of recent origin, and the domain was only registered earlier this year.) Of course, feminism is to blame:
On a bright note, I’d much prefer that Christians resume the biblical practice of covering or not covering their heads during church than that they resume the practice of stoning people like rebellious sons, suspected witches, and blasphemers!
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Reblogged: Friday Four
1. Will GMail soon be easy to export? Actually, it already is, because it can be accessed by standard mail protocols. This fact has allowed me to use getmail to back mine up weekly for well over a year.
At any rate, Google has announced the gradual rollout of a new feature that will make it easy to export email and calendar data. Interestingly, the announcement also mentions that this new feature will permit easy migration to other email services. If this new feature comes at the expense of GMail no longer behaving like regular email under the hood, I'll take the hints and switch.
2. We took the kids to see Santa yesterday evening. Pumpkin, who was terrified of Kris Kringle last year, had no trouble marching right up to the Big Man and asking for a "kitchen" this year. She was also a big help when we were getting pictures and having trouble getting her baby brother to smile. He usually smiles upon first seeing her, and often laughs at her antics. So when three adults failed to get anything more than a fleeting smile out of the boy, I put her to work.
We now have a picture of Santa and our smiling baby boy.
3. Can an elite rugby player hack it in the NFL? The Indianapolis Colts are in the process of finding out:
Now the experiment has yielded a very tangible result. [Kenyan-born Daniel] Adongo isn't yet ready to square off against veteran offensive tackles, coming off the edge to chase quarterbacks. Given the rate he's developing, that day probably will come. But for now, special teams are the perfect fit for Adongo. That's the closest thing to performing rugby tasks on the gridiron, with a single ball handler to be tackled and fewer moving parts. His speed will be an asset there, enabling him to cover a lot of ground in short order.The transition makes sense in many respects, but has nonetheless required an impressive amount of hard work on Adongo's part.
4. File this one under comedy and "I'm married, not dead." I ran into an old LA Times blog posting that asked whether Christina Hendricks, who plays Joan on Mad Men is "too plump for primetime".
Uhhh ... No.
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Reblogged: The Moral Perils of Mocking People on the Internet
I love this brave and thoughtful Salon essay by Caitlin Seida so very much: My embarrassing picture went viral. It begins:
Initially, she wasn’t angry, but then she saw some of the comments:
In addition to issuing takedown requests to various web sites — which she was able to do because the photo was hers — she also confronted people directly about their nasty comments:
Read that last paragraph again. Personally, I’m going to be more careful about the funny things I share. I don’t want to be even a small part of any social media wave that makes a decent person’s life miserable.
Of particular concern, I think, are seemingly hilarious commentaries on the supposedly bad behavior of other people, such as this one by Elan Gale: This Man Is Hilariously Live-Tweeting His Flight-and-Feud With The Woman in #7A. I thought it mildly funny until I read the other side of the story: Bullying at 35 thousand feet. Of course, I have no way to determine the veracity of either story: both might be inventions. Yet the incident is instructive, I think. As I posted to Facebook:
I love laughter, I really do… but there’s plenty of funny in the world without being unjust or malicious.
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Reblogged: How're we doing? (A review of 2013)
Overview: Slow economy, rocketing stock market! Since the 2007-08 downturn, most measures of the economy have stabilized. Despite this, total-employment is still lower. The broadest GDP measure has been increasing very slowly. Meanwhile, house-prices have turned up for the last two years, and the stock market is at an all-time high.
Corporate profits are high since GDP is growing slowly while firms have kept a reign on costs. In addition, companies have been buying back stock at above-average levels. This is different from the type of excitement that drove the dot.com boom, because it does not cascade into higher salaries and expenditures: quite the opposite. In the short/medium term, this does not bode well for employment numbers and wages.
Here are some of the details:
Employment: Though the unemployment rate has been falling, it is mainly because so many people (particularly younger folk) have given up looking for jobs. For the core age-range 25-54 years, employment % is flat.
(BLS has latest data)
Real GDP: Real GDP picked up after pausing for about a year. It is growing slower than before, with people like Bill Gross of PIMCO saying we're in a "new normal". The graph is from the FRED database. The Y axis uses a log-scale, to make it easier to see growth rates. I have added hand-drawn, rough (by eye) "trend lines". Real GDP has grown steadily after each recession, but the rate has slowed a few times. With that said, the current trend is not long enough to tell; see how it was similarly slow in the late 1970s.
Here is a per capita version: The flattening is clear.
Retail Sales: Have resumed their pre-recession pace. A flat first half of 2012 now looks like an inconspicuous blip.
The Case-Schiller index has been rising for two years now.
under 2% for the last year. Using the TIPS to calculate the market's "expected inflation" shows it is under 2% going out 10 years, reaching 2% only 30 years from now!
Summary: There is no enthusiasm about the economy. The Christmas season might improve on last year, but it is unlikely to be great. Consequently, companies are unlikely to raise hiring or wages much more than they've been doing. Government entities aren't likely to go gang-busters either. At the Federal level, even without another debt-limit stand-off, we will probably not see a new fiscal splurge. So, "new normal" seems appropriate.
Even though the stock-market is booming, it is without excitement: more like "there's no other game in town, while the FED keeps rates low; and, profits are high through cost-control". The divergence cannot go on forever, but it can resolve itself in various ways. Much of the market-sentiment is driven by what John Hussman calls "superstition" about the Fed's ability to keep this playing out for a many more years.
I still think a new downturn is very likely before Obama's term ends. Let's see.
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Reblogged: Altruism vs. Philanthropy
Within a recent discussion of the superior ability of capitalism to improve the general welfare, John Stossel describes an amusing encounter:
Today, [Bill] Gates spends his time giving money away. He's unusually conscientious about it. He experiments, funding what works and dropping what doesn't. His charity work saves lives. Good for him. But Gates was also unusually skilled at bringing people better software. Had he continued doing that at Microsoft, I bet the company would have been even more productive. And Gates would have done more for the world.Stossel clearly hit a nerve, but I don't see benevolence as a primary explanation for Turner's reaction. At best, I can see self-doubt: Perhaps Turner finds his charity work more fulfilling than other activities, but since he rejects egoism, he can't see this as a valid reason to have moved into the area. Too bad for him.
Stossel's piece is informatve, but while it is true that the rising tide of capitalism lifts all boats, this is not why we should fight for it, as Ayn Rand once argued:
The moral justification of capitalism does not lie in the altruist claim that it represents the best way to achieve "the common good." It is true that capitalism does--if that catch-phrase has any meaning--but this is merely a secondary consequence. The moral justification of capitalism lies in the fact that it is the only system consonant with man's rational nature, that it protects man's survival qua man, and that its ruling principle is: justice.It is interesting to see that Turner's anti-egoistic drive to "guilt" other wealthy people into parting with vast sums is making him less effective at his professed goal -- and perhaps even unable to derive any selfish enjoyment from his own charitable work.
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Reblogged: Force-Fed Their Own Dog Food
Many blue state voters who supported ObamaCare are about to be force-fed their own dog food, according to Dick Morris:
In red states, Republican insurance commissioners have generally decided to let insurers and their customers cooperate to waive the cancellations. But the true believers in the blue states who serve as insurance commissioners have largely refused. Thus, the very voters the Democratic Party depends on are the most likely to continue to be forced to cancel the policies they want, despite their wishes and protests.This may be true, but I am less sanguine than Morris about this being anything but what reader Jim May is fond of calling a "teachable moment".
Why? The Democrats have two big advantages still with such voters: (1) They will play "blame the Republicans" to an always-receptive audience; and (2) This will be relatively easy for them to do because they (and this audience), being altruists, think that ObamaCare is the "right" thing to do. The GOP will lose long term unless it stops perseverating on the poor roll-out of a system that can't help but be bad -- because it is designed to forcibly nullify individual judgement throughout the process of caring for one's health. Until one rejects the premise that we are our brothers' keepers, one will not muster the moral courage or the indignant outrage to ask: "By what right does some clueless third party dictate to me out of the blue how and whom I pay for medical care?" The GOP should be doing this already, and should be helping these voters see that, if anything, they are not mad enough bout their policy cancellations.
Morris has found an opportunity to score, but the ball won't find the net on its own.
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Reblogged: Idealizing the Past: Progress in Airline Travel
This article — What International Air Travel Was Like in the 1930s — fascinates me. If you just look at the pictures, like this one…
… it’s easy to think, “Oh, people had it so much better in the past! Now we’re all cramped in planes like sardines!” But once you read the text, you’ll surely change your tune.
Consider this, for example:
See what I mean?
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Reblogged: Conservatives Piling On
Often, conservatives realize that something is amiss about the political status quo, but opt for a quick fix, and often one that actually compounds a bad situation. For example, the blog, Fixing California correctly identifies a problem: public sector labor unions misusing members' dues for political lobbying or campaigning. The proposed solution disappoints:
The reform, known by the shorthand of "paycheck protection," typically requires unions to have the permission of individual members before their dues are used for anything but collective bargaining.Several major problems immediately leap into my mind about the law. Among these problems are: (1) The Supreme Court has already ruled that at least part of what this proposed new law is supposed to prohibit is illegal; (2) The law seems ripe for being undermined by whatever some court or future legislature might decide falls under the umbrella of "collective bargaining", since public sector unions are ultimately dealing with the same entity, be it by traditional negotiations or political maneuvering; and (3) Why not at least float the idea of repealing the laws that coerce individual employees and governments into having to deal with these unions in the first place?
Like various "right to work" laws, this proposal is a misguided attempt to remedy one violation of rights with another. What is really needed is to repeal the rights-violating laws that have caused this mess in the first place, as Ari Armstrong of the TOS Blog made clear some time ago when he commented on Indiana's "right to work" law:
The conservative solution ... merely compounds previous violations of freedom of contract with new ones, apparently on the grounds that two wrongs somehow make a right. In [this] view, the bill is good because it "prohibits contracts requiring workers to pay union dues." But why should the government be in the business of setting the terms of employment contracts? Employers should be free to hire whomever they want on whatever terms the parties mutually agree to accept.There is no fundamental difference between the government butting in to prohibit the payment of union dues and the government butting in to dictate how they are spent. Both of these "solutions" violate the right to contract.
Rather than joining the "progressive" left in piling layer upon layer of government meddling onto the backs of individual citizens, conservatives should work to remove such layers on the principle that they violate individual rights.
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Why Do 1.4 Million Americans Work At Walmart, With Many More Trying To
“Their net income was $17 billion,” says Vincent Orange, a D.C. city councilman who voted to force Walmart to pay a minimum wage of $12.50 per hour in the nation’s capital, adding, “You don’t want to share a little bit with the citizens? Come on.” OUR Walmart—a union-backed activist group—accuses the company of showing disrespect to its employees because it doesn’t pay so-called living wages.
This op-ed was published at Forbes.com on November 27, 2013.
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