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Talk 2009

 

December 7, 2009

Friends

Yesterday I spent time with friends, both new and old. Is there anything better than spending time with people, sharing food, drink, conversation? I feel lucky to have friends who know me well, friends with whom I can laugh and joke and feel utterly at ease. And it is always nice to feel that that circle might expand, that there might be someone else who can bring new substance and texture to the fabric of my life.

 

November 9, 2009

Capitalism

A few weeks ago I was listening to an interview on NPR with Michael Moore, on his new film Capitalism: A Love Story. While I generally admire Moore’s filmmaking, and recognize its importance as counterbalance, I don’t always agree with his views, and find that he can be bombastic without real foundation sometimes. So he went on at length in this interview about how evil capitalism is, how it is ruining the U.S., how we must replace it with something else. On and on and on, enumerating all of the examples we expect - the excesses of Wall Street for the past couple of years, the greed of the bankers, the government bailout, etc.. Finally, 10 or 15 minutes into the piece, he finally explains that what he means by “capitalism” is the evil excesses described above, the greed, the lying, the outright stealing and covering up that has gone on for years in the financial upper strata, most egregiously expressed recently in the credit default swap derivatives.

And so he perpetuates this idea that it is the economic system that is at fault, rather than the people in powerful positions who abuse that power.

And then just yesterday I read a Motley Fool piece which derided Ayn Rand and her belief in capitalism as the only rational political standpoint. There was a very extended argument in the comment section below, with contributors on both sides: those who agreed - almost exclusively composed of those who misunderstood her philosophy and misstated it, just as the author of the piece had done, and those who supported Rand, and went to great lengths to explain what was wrong with the article. An excerpt from one of those comments:

The SEC investigated Madoff three separate times and failed to even check that the accounts in which he claimed to be making trades were legitimate. Ridiculous!

Rand would rightfully argue against regulation in this instance. Government oversight only works if the government is not corrupt and the system doesn’t provide former regulators with big, fat paychecks on Wall Street at the end of their stints as “public servants.”

Regulation and oversight utterly failed to prevent the Madoff scandal, Enron, WorldCom, etc., or the need for TARP, bailouts of Fannie and Freddie and the automakers and AIG, and soon the FHA.

It’s not capitalism that has caused our problems, it’s a corrupt government that has twisted capitalism to suit its own greed for money and power.

Do the Rand haters know what her position was? It is not at all difficult to understand, and I think bullet-proof in its integrity:

“Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned.

The recognition of individual rights entails the banishment of physical force from human relationships: basically, rights can be violated only by means of force. In a capitalist society, no man or group may initiate the use of physical force against others. The only function of the government, in such a society, is the task of protecting man’s rights, i.e., the task of protecting him from physical force; the government acts as the agent of man’s right of self-defense, and may use force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use; thus the government is the means of placing the retaliatory use of force under objective control.”

And:

“The economic value of a man’s work is determined, on a free market, by a single principle: by the voluntary consent of those who are willing to trade him their work or products in return. This is the moral meaning of the law of supply and demand.”

And:

“Laissez-faire capitalism is the only social system based on the recognition of individual rights and, therefore, the only system that bans force from social relationships. By the nature of its basic principles and interests, it is the only system fundamentally opposed to war.”

The reaction of many is: Yeah, sure, that sounds great on paper, but it’s impossible to achieve in practice. Hmmm, I wonder what your alternative would be? I ask you: Is there a better system? What is it called? How does it work? Can you articulate it? If you are a rational person, and if you think about it for a while and are honest with yourself, I think that what you will come up with will be very, very similar to the above.

 

August 24, 2009

Ego x 2

It happened again today! Well, sort of. I had my annual echocardiogram done this morning, and the tech who did it told me, at the first glimpse of my beating heart, “You are so pretty! Inside, I mean.”

That’s a nice thing to hear. I should have been satisfied. But of course I had to fish for more: “Just on the inside?” to which she naturally replied, “Well, on the outside too!”

I guess she looks at a lot of hearts, and apparently it’s sometimes difficult to get a clear view, without running an IV with contrast, and other measures. So there you have it: my heart is pretty.

 

August 17, 2009

Science vs. Ideology

“My own view, and I suspect that of most scientists, is that ideology is a nuisance that good science is designed to work around. It’s like personal ego, financial conflicts of interest, methodological sloppiness, cognitive limitations, and other barriers to discovering the truth---obstacles that make doing science nontrivial, and that call for countermeasures such as peer review, open criticism, academic freedom, testability and falsifiability, and others. The fact that science has undeniably progressed, both intellectually and practically, is evidence that those countermeasures have been successful, though of course they are not perfect and cannot act instantaneously.”
- Steven Pinker

 

July 26, 2009

Ego

I was riding yesterday, going down a long descent behind a woman in a car who’d passed me at the top. After negotiating the hairpin turns at the top, I was tucked low over the toptube, elbows and knees in, chin just over the bars, and keeping not too far behind the car. After a minute or so, the road leveled out and the car reached a stop sign. She seemed to be waiting for something. Me, as it turned out. When I rolled up, she said through her open passenger window, “You are beautiful!”

Somewhat taken aback, I could think of nothing better to respond with than, “Er, thanks!”

She continued, “I was totally aware of you behind me - you are just beautiful!” This with her right hand placed over her heart, and a big, gorgeous smile on her face.

Now, I’m pretty sure she was talking about my bike riding. Still, as you might imagine, this made my day.

 

June 25, 2009

Burger Shit, continued

I don’t even want to put any more BK advertising examples here on my blog. They just keep getting worse. But in the interest of completeness, or something, some morbid can’t-look-away kind of thing, here’s another one. I found this on Joe Zandstra’s Flickr page.

another stupid Burger King advert

 

April 1, 2009

More on Beauty

“And as a writer with the pen, a calligrapher — the first time I saw him writing, and saw the writing that came as he wrote, I had that thrill and tremble of the heart which otherwise I can only remember having had when first I touched her body, or when I first saw the North Transept of Chartres from the little alley between the houses. On those occasions I was caught unprepared. I did not know such beauties could exist. I was struck as by lightning, as by a sort of enlightenment. On that evening I was thus rapt. It was no mere dexterity, that transported me; it was as though a secret of heaven were being revealed.”

Eric Gill, Master Typographer, on his mentor Edward Johnston, MyFonts News 4/09

 

March 6, 2009

Loss

What do you lose when you lose a person? A face might be kept in photographs, his words may remain in letters. There may even be recordings in which you can recapture the cadence of his speaking, the particular timbre of his voice. But what I can’t have any longer is a father’s counsel and opinion, a father’s pride and praise, a father’s love.

 

February 20, 2009

It’s just a job

Although you may love your work, although you may feel real loyalty to your employer, and always give your best, sometimes it seems that that’s not enough. And so, if after 7 years you find that - because of a “position elimination” - you no longer have said job, you may find it helpful to take the stance that it was just a job.

 

January 27, 2009

More anger

And for an encore, Burger King would have you de-friend some people from your Facebook profile, in order to get the “reward” of a Whopper. So come on people, let’s all be angry, and dump our friends!

facebook, Burger King, whopper, BK, defriend, unfriend, de-friend

 

January 9, 2009

Angry

I don’t particularly care if you eat fast food. It’s your health; they’re your taste buds. Knock yourself out.

But whatever happened to Happy Meals, Kids Meals, laughing cartoon characters, warm fuzzy mascots? WTF is this latest from Burger King?! A new low for American culture, as far as I’m concerned. I’d be appalled, but I’m too angry . . .

angry, Burger King, whopper, BK

 

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