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Screen-printing Salmon Run, More Reader Mail + Why I Named My Son After Václav Klaus
by Jeremy Browning
Jun. 30, 2009 12:55

The frequency of my posts here are has always had an inverse relationship to revenue at my screen printing company. May and June are probably the busiest months of the year -- I call it the "Screen Printing Salmon Run". During the Salmon Run, I vanish from my blog -- to the detriment of myself and throngs of loyal readers.

On top of that, my son was born on June 20 and the last month of my wife's pregnancy was a little rocky with her being sick and feeling like "blah".

The result is that I don't really remember much of the last 60 days except for my son's birth, which is burned into my memory. The rest of it is just vague emotions, like "ugh" first thing in the morning.

Another "ugh" is that I took some time out of a couple 14-hour days in May to correspond again with Jim C., a reader you'll remember from previous posts.

I guess I was thinking that a little non-work-related intellectual stimulation would be a good break from the shop.

I was wrong.

Our brief exchanges culminated with a few insults from Jim, including the accusation that I'm only a good person because, morally, I'm "running on fumes" from my days as a Christian, that under Objectivism, morality becomes "meaningless or non-sense" and that my moral choices are based solely upon what is expedient.

I respect the many people I meet who don't understand Objectivism and admit it. I respect the people who ask, "Doesn't the virtue of selfishness lead to anarchy and every-man-for-himself," and then listen patiently while I explain it to them.

Jim clearly hasn't read much Ayn Rand, for he makes the most basic mistakes when speaking about her philosophy. And that's fine. But when he makes specific accusations about my character, it's just too much.

People who know me -- Christians and atheists alike -- may have some complaints about me. But no one questions my integrity. I'm honest because I don't believe there's anything to gain by faking reality. I have the word "VIRTUE" inscribed on the inside of my wedding ring and I love this Rand quote about virtue:

Man has a single basic choice: to think or not, and that is the gauge of his virtue. Moral perfection is an unbreached rationality—not the degree of your intelligence, but the full and relentless use of your mind, not the extent of your knowledge, but the acceptance of reason as an absolute.


I have read and re-read and re-read and I completely understand the following passage, spoken by John Galt in Rand's novel, Atlas Shrugged. It's about not initiating the use of physical force and why it's such an important ethical principle:

Whatever may be open to disagreement, there is one act of evil that may not, the act that no man may commit against others and no man may sanction or forgive. So long as men desire to live together, no man may initiate—do you hear me? no man may start—the use of physical force against others.

To interpose the threat of physical destruction between a man and his perception of reality, is to negate and paralyze his means of survival; to force him to act against his own judgment, is like forcing him to act against his own sight. Whoever, to whatever purpose or extent, initiates the use of force, is a killer acting on the premise of death in a manner wider than murder: the premise of destroying man's capacity to live.

Do not open your mouth to tell me that your mind has convinced you of your right to force my mind. Force and mind are opposites; morality ends where a gun begins. When you declare that men are irrational animals and propose to treat them as such, you define thereby your own character and can no longer claim the sanction of reason—as no advocate of contradictions can claim it. There can be no "right" to destroy the source of rights, the only means of judging right and wrong: the mind.

To force a man to drop his own mind and to accept your will as a substitute, with a gun in place of a syllogism, with terror in place of proof, and death as the final argument—is to attempt to exist in defiance of reality. Reality demands of man that he act for his own rational interest; your gun demands of him that he act against it. Reality threatens man with death if he does not act on his rational judgment; you threaten him with death if he does. You place him in a world where the price of his life is the surrender of all the virtues required by life—and death by a process of gradual destruction is all that you and your system will achieve, when death is made to be the ruling power, the winning argument in a society of men.

Be it a highwayman who confronts a traveler with the ultimatum: "Your money or your life," or a politician who confronts a country with the ultimatum: "Your children's education or your life," the meaning of that ultimatum is: "Your mind or your life"—and neither is possible to man without the other.


For me, those are words to live by. I consult those principles and others throughout my daily life.

Do I strike you, as I struck Jim C. as someone whose standard of value is expediency?

But my deeper point here is that bickering about religion vs. atheism is not my primary goal. I am not a "fisher of men" attempting to convert Christians to atheism.

Despite Jim's insults, and beyond my desire to express to him (or anyone) my devotion to reason and honest inquiry with regard to the supposed supernatural, my overarching purpose here at captaincool.net is to convert people to recognize the inviolate nature of individual rights and capitalism as the logical political/economic implementation of those rights.

I really don't care about your religion, as long as you and your bros leave me alone. Crikey! I just finished writing a few posts back that

I don't yearn for any great consensus about very many things. I believe that it's vital for our countrymen to strongly agree on a very small number of crucial principles.

[...]

If we could all agree on the absolute right of the individual to come to her own conclusions, to act upon her own best judgment and to be free from coercion, then most of the rest is meaningless to me. That one principle is a razor that cuts out the roots of most of the arguments of the day.

After that, we can be free to go to the game on Sunday or go to the Synagogue, the Church, the Cathedral or the Mosque instead; we can be free to light a cigarette, a Menorah, a doobie or a pentagram; we can be free to dine on soda and candy bars, or wheatgrass smoothies and organic tofu; we can be free to drive a Dodge Ram or a Prius; we can envy our neighbor's material success or praise his productivity; we can have sex with men or women or both.

You see, we are not one, and needn't be.


So while it may be Jim's moral duty to flog me about my lack of religion, I'm perfectly willing to let him have all the religion he wants, so long as he keeps me out of it. As a matter of fact, I've been known to join hands with Christians in protesting our government's continued disavowal of capitalism and individual rights.

I'd rather live in a society of Christian capitalists who enshrine individual liberty than a society of atheist leftists railing against capitalism, objectivity and the industrial revolution.

Now, back to my newborn son -- specifically, his namesake.

The European Parliament this past February was graced with a speech from a man who dared to promote capitalism while most of the room no doubt held their noses and some even jeered. Václav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic, had the courage to stand before the European Parliament and speak the truth:

Moreover, it is self evident that one or another institutional arrangement of the European Union is not an objective in itself; but a tool for achieving the real objectives. These are nothing but human freedom and an economic system that would bring prosperity. That system is a market economy.

[...]

We must say openly that the present economic system of the EU is a system of a suppressed market, a system of a permanently strengthening centrally controlled economy. Although history has more than clearly proven that this is a dead end, we find ourselves walking the same path once again. This results in a constant rise in both the extent of government masterminding and constraining of spontaneity of market processes. In recent months, this trend has been further reinforced by incorrect interpretation of the causes of the present economic and financial crisis, as if it were caused by free market, while in reality it is just the contrary – caused by political manipulation of the market.


Wow.

Imagine the strength of character required to say those things to a gathering of EU politicians. It's like quoting rapper Dr. Dre at a KKK meeting.

I've written about Mr. Klaus before and his reasoned skepticism of human-caused global warming as well as his criticism of the attempts to decapitate the world economy in service to the environment. I've been a fan of his for several years.

His unrepentant endorsement of freedom is just the thing this world needs. And my baby boy's middle name is Klaus in honor of the spirit of the men such as Václav, to whom we owe our freedom, if not our lives.

Edited Jul. 01, 2009 23:28

 

The Great Orator Falls Down
by Jeremy Browning
Apr. 04, 2009 13:04

I loved this piece from The Guardian that highlights Obama's stammering answer to the question of who caused the financial crisis.

Here's a snip of the closing section:

So, I actually think ... pause [FANTASTIC. I'VE LOST EVERYONE, INCLUDING MYSELF] ... there's enormous consensus that has emerged in terms of what we need to do now and, er ... pause [I'M OUTTA HERE. TIME FOR THE USUAL CLOSING BOLLOCKS] ... I'm a great believer in looking forwards than looking backwards.


People with conviction aren't afraid to say what they really think about a subject. The joke is on us that our current leaders (on both sides of the aisle) don't have any conviction. While they speak, you can almost hear the gears grinding in their heads: they're desperately trying to work out what a focus group might think of the answer.

Obama, sans teleprompter, is no different. The only thing the teleprompter adds is that it has already calculated in the focus group answers and thus adds to his confidence.

Edited Apr. 04, 2009 13:06

 

Atlas Shrugged Tops Amazon Classics List
by Jeremy Browning
Mar. 19, 2009 10:05

From AynRand.org, a story about renewed interest in Atlas Shrugged.

Earlier this year Ayn Rand’s prophetic novel Atlas Shrugged was selling at triple the rate it sold at in the beginning of 2008. Now the novel is soaring to even greater heights, and its trade paperback edition is currently in first place in the Classics category on Amazon.com's best-seller list for sales in the United States. The 50th anniversary mass-market paperback edition of Atlas Shrugged ranks as #2 and the trade paperback Centennial edition ranks as #3. For several weeks Atlas Shrugged has been holding steady in the top 10 best-sellers in the broader United States Literature and Fiction category, and as of the writing of this release, different editions of the novel stand at #3, #5 and #6 in Amazon’s ranking.



It makes perfect sense to me.

Edited Mar. 19, 2009 10:06

 

Nothing New Despite Obamania
by Jeremy Browning
Feb. 06, 2009 09:34

As reported in the Washington Post by Charles Krauthammer, President Obama left the writing of his flagship "stimulus" package to the same old near-sighted, entrenched leftists in the House. The predictable result was a government spending package full of favors.

Of course that's what we've got, with Nancy Pelosi (and her buddies in the House) in charge of putting the bill together. I remember when Pelosi -- after the 2006 mid-term elections -- beamed and professed, "We have the power!" She lives in an alternate reality, misunderstands our republic, and behaves like a prospective prom queen who thinks that title actually means you get to be queen of the school.

She is that mistaken. And it reflects poorly on Captain Change, President Obama.

I think Krauthammer put it best:

The Age of Obama begins with perhaps the greatest frenzy of old-politics influence peddling ever seen in Washington. By the time the stimulus bill reached the Senate, reports the Wall Street Journal, pharmaceutical and high-tech companies were lobbying furiously for a new plan to repatriate overseas profits that would yield major tax savings. California wine growers and Florida citrus producers were fighting to change a single phrase in one provision. Substituting "planted" for "ready to market" would mean a windfall garnered from a new "bonus depreciation" incentive.

After Obama's miraculous 2008 presidential campaign, it was clear that at some point the magical mystery tour would have to end. The nation would rub its eyes and begin to emerge from its reverie. The hallucinatory Obama would give way to the mere mortal. The great ethical transformations promised would be seen as a fairy tale that all presidents tell -- and that this president told better than anyone.

I thought the awakening would take six months. It took two and a half weeks.

Edited Feb. 06, 2009 09:40

 

Mike Wallace = Snob
by Jeremy Browning
Jan. 28, 2009 16:43

Check out the smug grin on Mike Wallace's face at 1:43 in this video. He's trying to grill Ayn Rand about her "system of self-sufficiency" and the potential dangers of a monopoly. You can't beat the look on his face -- the self-assured snobbery of an altruist attacking Ayn Rand. It's beautifully ironic.

The exchange takes place right after Wallace tries to pin Rand down about whether or not she supports her husband, who at the time was studying to become a painter. True to the most common misconceptions about Objectivism, Wallace fails to comprehend that selfishness very often includes helping other people. "And there is no contradiction here in that you help him?" Wallace asks.

Rand grins at his simplistic attack question and calmly explains the concept to Wallace. "No, you see because I am in love with him selfishly. It is in my own interest to help him if he ever needed it. I would not call that a sacrifice because I take selfish pleasure in him"

Edited Jan. 28, 2009 16:55

 

We Are One?
by Jeremy Browning
Jan. 22, 2009 08:23

A restaurant where I live has a large "reader board" sign out front that normally advertises happy hour specials or invites diners to enjoy some hot etouffee.

Since Tuesday, the sign has read:

YES MR PRESIDENT
WE ARE ONE

This collectivist mentality of late has me reexamining my opinions and trying to pin down exactly why it gives me goosebumps. On the face of it, I probably seem quite harsh. What's wrong with the idea of us all "being in this together" and "sharing a common bond"?

And there is a point to be made that people in a certain geographic region, sharing common laws, etc., really are one in certain respects.

I believe, though, that all of it has gone too far. I don't yearn for any great consensus about very many things. I believe that it's vital for our countrymen to strongly agree on a very small number of crucial principles.

This "we are one" fad strives for consensus with regard to minutia such as banning trans-fats, outlawing smoking in public restaurants, government funding of homeless shelters and so on. Meanwhile, foundational principles like the inviolate nature of property rights take a back seat.

Even when the consensus-builders contemplate the great issues of the day, they advocate the wrong conclusions: Conflict is bad, so all worldviews should be treated as equally valid. War is bad, so powerful nations that defend themselves by force should be made to negotiate with their aggressors. Some computer climate models predict disaster in 50 or 100 years, so the world's economies should be decapitated while less efficient, less reliable, alternative, more costly energies should be artificially foisted on the marketplace. (As a side note, last year's three-month forward-looking weather models incorrectly predicted a drought winter and my region set records for snowfall.)

If we could all agree on the absolute right of the individual to come to her own conclusions, to act upon her own best judgment and to be free from coercion, then most of the rest is meaningless to me. That one principle is a razor that cuts out the roots of most of the arguments of the day.

After that, we can be free to go to the game on Sunday or go to the Synagogue, the Church, the Cathedral or the Mosque instead; we can be free to light a cigarette, a Menorah, a doobie or a pentagram; we can be free to dine on soda and candy bars, or wheatgrass smoothies and organic tofu; we can be free to drive a Dodge Ram or a Prius; we can envy our neighbor's material success or praise his productivity; we can have sex with men or women or both.

You see, we are not one, and needn't be.

Edited Jan. 22, 2009 09:06

 

To My Wife on Inauguration Day
by Jeremy Browning
Jan. 20, 2009 00:02

My love,

These days are difficult for us because we take ideas seriously. And what are we to do when we are in a fog of backward ideas hailed by our fellow citizens with religious zeal?

When we face a war on private property by a President who cavalierly wants to "spread the wealth around," what are we to do?

When we know that the opposite of acting by right is acting by permission, what are we to do when our President threatens to plague us with hordes of permission-granters to dictate our health insurance, our doctors and our medical treatments?

What are we to do, we who value individualism and productivity, when the momentous 4-column headline of the day is a tally of how many of our fellow citizens answered the new President's "call to national service" and selflessly worked in homeless shelters for an afternoon?

When so many of our countrymen are obsessed with looking to a government official to fix specific problems in their lives, when government is seen as the prime mover and source of value, when our countrymen worship government, what are we to do?

So many of our peers salute this age when "Europe and the United States now share the same values." We've snickered at the failing socialist model across the pond only to see its embrace in America become a merit badge. In the face of such a monumental reversal, with so few who can understand our tears among their confetti, what are we to do?

My love, when our boys face a world in which the collectivist "we" is sacrosant and the proud, egoistic "I" is old and derogatory, what are we to do?

(Incidentally, the inauguration's opening celebration is called the "We Are One" Opening Celebration)

I suspect it has never been easy for any of history's lovers of freedom, individualism and reason. And we arrived here thanks to so many who, even in darker days, exalted liberty -- even giving their lives for it.

So I say we should remember gratitude today. We may feel we deserve consolation for being the unfortunate generation who watches the tide of America's founding principles crest and roll back to the sea. But I smile because we did see that wave, which had blessed the world with prosperity these 200 years. We lived the proof of the Founders' arguments.

We should not keep silent about our distaste for statism. We should speak up when we hear "socialism is not that bad," and remind everyone within earshot that free minds and free markets go hand in hand. We should stand up for freedom when we can, denounce the creeping ooze of multiculturalism, subjectivism and anti-reason -- and be unapologetic about our positions.

We may fight an uphill battle, but we are the great beneficiaries of even more difficult victories won by the thinkers and revolutionaries before us.

If we speak up even when it's uncomfortable, if we refuse to despair even in the current political climate, if we point out the difference between principles and platitudes, and if we are living examples of reason and intelligence, creativity and productivity, we can know that because of people like us, the world tasted freedom. And when the world heaves and rolls over after this collectivist orgasm, it will be people like us who set it right again.

Edited Jan. 20, 2009 10:41

 

Atheism, Reason and Reader Mail
by Jeremy Browning
Dec. 28, 2008 12:45

Reader Jim C. has been kind enough to share his thoughts with me over the last month and it has resulted in a couple interesting exchanges via email. I'll replay a bit of that here, along with my most recent reply to Jim's last response.

Jim originally wrote in November, replying in response to an article I wrote, titled Evangelical Atheism. Here's part of his remarks:

In short, the journey from "physics" as you put it your blog to Christ and the Bible is like the journey from kindergarten to grad school. It doesn’t come all in one day or in one simple explanation. It is a conclusion that I came to over a period of several months. I looked at all the above and then some. I looked into the historical reliability of the Old and New Testaments. I compared the biblical world view with reality and found it amazingly accurate. Eventually I came to the place where I had to make a decision. Either accept it as probably true and commit to it or reject it. I couldn’t really reject it as “rubbish” as some people seem to do because taken as a whole and in systematic order it had its points. I was not raised in the church so I didn’t have a lot of the baggage that comes with all that. I could look at Christianity fairly coldly and analytically and found it coherent, consistent and complete although I couldn’t have named those classic tests for truth at the time.


Here was my reply:

I don't think I got around to it in the article you cited, but it's not just Christian metaphysics that I'm at odds with. Christian ethics also are a mystery to me. In my life I've found plenty of reasons to be honest, kind and generous, loathing of violence and corruption without reference to the supernatural or the Bible. To my mind, there are real, clear, rational, self-interested reasons to practice virtue. I haven't had any trouble finding objective reasons to be virtuous.

I had something like a Kindergarten to College education in Christianity, in the sense that I was involved in every kind of Christian activity you can imagine for the first 20 years of my life. I'm talking about Sunday School and Christian Camps, countless sermons, Biblical studies, formal debates (at which I was cheerfully on the side of the Christians) and on and on and on. I've learned about Christianity first-hand, by watching it in practice and practicing it. And I didn't come at atheism from the perspective of someone who was jaded or vengeful of Christianity. I came at it rather by surprise. And then there was the moment of realizing what an incredible weight would be lifted from my life if there no longer was any pretending to be done.

We may have a lot in common after all, in the sense that there are countless "Gods" neither of us believes in. It's only that I believe in one less than you.


Again, Jim responded, in part speaking about the limits of reason. Here are a couple quotes from his letter:

Reason or logic is like a machine. Say a juicer. The machine has gears and levers and springs that process whatever you stick into it. I'm reminded of the crude sugar processing machines I saw in the country in Argentina and Brazil. They take the sugar cane and trim off the leaves and stick just the stock (sort of like a really long corn stock) into the machine. Some form of power turns the gears (sometimes a donkey) and out the other end comes this green/white frothy liquid that is sweet and full of vitamins and minerals. Of course if you dump a rock into the machine you will break it (the machine, that is, and maybe the rock, too).

That is what reason and logic do. They process what we put into them. We insert premises into the machine and out come conclusions. If the machine (the logic) is working right the conclusion follows from (is shown to have already been included in) the premises. All that refers to deductive logic.

[...]

Logic and reason won't tell you what is true. It is, however, great at evaluating arguments and testing the processes used to get at conclusions.
If you are into math then the analogy is that of a function like y = 5x.
Stick x = 3 in and get y = 15 out. But in and of itself the function doesn't tell you much. For that you have to go to actual empirical observation and the physical world around us. When I compare Christianity with the empirical evidence around me I find it pretty coherent and consistent and complete. The world looks like it was intelligently designed so I think it probably was. Even though you mention that there are plenty of good, objective reasons for being honest, kind and generous without recourse to a God I find that those things are greatly lacking in mankind in general and in myself in particular. Since Christianity addresses the issue of sin and corruption and does so so very accurately I tend to look at Christianity favorably.

These things are not proofs and the best that we Christians can say is that it seems reasonable to believe in the Christian worldview based on its coherency, consistency and relative completeness. I sometimes get flak from believers when I say that but that is the way it is. I also say that if someone were to show me something better (more coherent, consistent and
complete) I would be open to changing my mind. Now there is an important detail here. Perpetual indecisiveness in the face of sufficient reason is illogical and by default becomes a de facto decision.

Now, atheism is basically an argument. The conclusion is "there is no God". But what are the premises? The difficulty of proving a negative it is generally conceded to be very great and therefore many non-theists prefer to call themselves agnostics. The atheist, for example, may demonstrate that all the arguments for God are fallacious or unpersuasive but that of itself is not evidence for atheism. It may be that Christians are just not good at presenting their argument (and many aren't).


Here are some thoughts on my reading of Jim's latest letter.

I've really never understood arguments that propose to find the limits of reason or point out flaws in the concept of reason, such as Jim does when he says "Logic and reason won't tell you what is true". To my mind, it looks as if Jim is trying to convince me (via reason?) that logic and reason won't tell me what is true.

How then shall I begin to weigh the merits of Jim's statement?

Isn't Jim saying that it stands to reason that reason and logic won't tell us what is true?

Isn't he assuming I'll use reason to evaluate his statement?

Does he consider his statement to be a true statement?

Does he claim his statement is not based on reason? Then why offer reasons? Why are analogies like the juicer machine necessary?

[At this point, it's probably necessary to explain the tone of my comments. I get extremely excited when it comes to discussions of philosophy. If you speak with me in person, I sometimes raise my voice, I become animated, etc. Despite the excitement, I always try to be respectful and adult. So believe me when I tell you: I'm not angry with Jim. But I'm quite eager to respond.]

So what I'm getting at is this problem of offering reasons (which the speaker expects to be evaluated) for the supposed shortcomings of man's basic tool of evaluation.

Reason absolutely brings us knowledge of reality, and by that I mean: truth. Let me use an analogy. Engineers, after investigating the metallurgic properties of steel, conclude that a certain type of beam can support a certain amount of weight. They use that knowledge in construction of buildings, such as gymnasiums. When you sit in a gymnasium, with hundreds of pounds of metal and lights and roofing hanging over your head, you sit in peace only because the engineers used reason and logic to find out that it is true that the roof will support the weight. They didn't divine the structural characteristics of the roof. They didn't rely on faith. They knew the roof would hold because of the logic of their calculations. I touched on this in my article Skeptics, Anti-Scientists & the Walls Around Us. It's a bit rough and unrefined, but I'm still happy with the point I made in that article: namely that we live in a world where monstrous structures are held aloft above our heads and if it weren't for logic and reason, we'd be crushed to death. And yet we don't get crushed. And my point was that the practical applications of logic are quite self-evident, non-mysterious, and entirely uncontroversial in plenty of areas where our very lives depend on them.

Now for Jim's statement that, "Now, atheism is basically an argument. The conclusion is 'there is no God. But what are the premises? The difficulty of proving a negative it is generally conceded to be very great and therefore many non-theists prefer to call themselves agnostics."

I'm familiar with the problems of proving a negative. It's like saying, "What evidence would follow from the non-existence of X." For instance, what evidence would follow from the nonexistence of small, humanoid creatures on Mars? It's futile. That's clear, that's basic. I get that.

That's why the onus is not on me to disprove the existence of God. Those who make the positive claim for a being of a certain kind are responsible for bringing forth the evidence. It's like with Bigfoot. It's not everyone in America's job to disprove the existence of Bigfoot. The Bigfoot believers know that once they bring back a Bigfoot carcass that can be scientifically evaluated, their mission will be complete. Our society instinctively knows that those who make a claim are responsible for proving it.

I'll use one of Jim's techniques here and see how it holds up. Consider this response to the Bigfoot claim:

Now, aBigfootism is basically an argument. The conclusion is "there is no Bigfoot." But what are the premises?


Sure, it sounds philosophical, but does it get us anywhere? No. Because those who don't believe in Bigfoot are only responding to a claim made by others.

My atheism is a defense, a refutation. I'm not the one asserting a positive. Christians assert the existence of a being. In the face of that assertion, I respond as an atheist. But otherwise, I don't need that title too much. Until or unless I'm confronted by a Christian or another religionist, the term "atheism" isn't required. To my mind, it's redundant. And superfluous.

If there is an way to make Christianity work logically -- believe me, I've tried it. When it began not to add up for me, I went through incredible mental contortions to make Christianity jibe with reality. It just plain doesn't hold water. If you want to say phooey with logic, then that is OK -- for you.

Edited Dec. 29, 2008 12:45

 

Ooops! Global Warming Scientists Blow it Again
by Jeremy Browning
Nov. 16, 2008 10:11

Do not walk. Run to read this UK Telegraph article about prominent global warming scaremongers tripping over their data again. This time, they declared October the warmest month on record only to be advised by skeptics of serious flaws in their data.

Here's an appetizer from the article:

The reason for the freak figures was that scores of temperature records from Russia and elsewhere were not based on October readings at all. Figures from the previous month had simply been carried over and repeated two months running.

 

Stock Woes & Patience
by Jeremy Browning
Nov. 15, 2008 23:27

I just read a great article about what the old hands on Wall Street are up to in the midst of this tumultuous time.

The article, More Old masters See a Buying Opportunity by Tim Melvin at TheStreet.com, recounts advice from Irving Kahn, an investor who's still working at age 102.

He's eyeing the situation calmly, and his son, a 40-year market vet suggests taking a drive to enjoy the fall colors instead of obsessing.

I especially enjoyed the kicker at the end of Melvin's article:

Each generation thinks it invented music, sex and the stock market. None of us did, and at times like this, it pays to check in and see what the graybeards are doing. It appears they are very patiently and carefully buying stocks.
 

Somebody Decides. Why Can't it be You Instead of Uncle Sam?
by Jeremy Browning
Nov. 14, 2008 08:49

I didn't quite connect the dots in my post-election rant, mostly because I was paralyzed by that moment of watching history in the making, and for me it was making my skin crawl.

I wrote that Barack Obama's policies will "chip away at the principles I worship."

What exactly did I mean?

I was speaking of individual liberty and capitalism. We owe our prosperity and indeed our very lives to both principles.

It's clear both will be eroded under Obama.

We hear all around us that capitalism is the cause of the current financial problems. And the answer, coming from all directions, is that government needs a bigger role.

For me, it comes down to this: in all financial transactions, someone is "the decider." Someone makes the decision to go forward or not, to make the deal or not, to take the loan or not, to sell the property or not. And the idea of leaving that decision up to the individual citizens involved in the transaction is: capitalism. The idea of leaving the decision up to Washington politicians is Obama's and the democrats' position.

You really have to come to grips with the idea that someone has to decide. And the answer doesn't come magically from the sky or a fortune cookie. So you have to understand that either it's going to be Joe Citizen deciding what's best in for him in the next transaction, or it's going to be a government official.

How in the hell can anyone be so deluded to think that a bureaucracy will make better decisions than Joe Citizen?

Some might say that leaving it up to the individuals who make up The Market is what got us here. That's simply rubbish. Consider this quote from a recent Ayn Rand Center editorial:

But while capitalism may be a convenient scapegoat, it did not cause any of these problems. Indeed, whatever one wishes to call the unruly mixture of freedom and government controls that made up our economic and political system during the last three decades, one cannot call it capitalism.


If you fancy yourself as someone who wants to get to the bottom of things, who really cares about issues and who wants to stay informed, you must read that editorial. Yaron Brook and Don Watkins clearly explain how silly it is to declare economic freedom (capitalism) as the cause of the current problems in the financial industry. The article is called Stop Blaming Capitalism for Government Failures. It will challenge you to really think about the news you hear and question the popular conclusions that have been drawn.

Says Brook and Watkins

[W]ho can say with a straight face that the housing and financial markets were frontiers of "cowboy capitalism"?


And consider that while the current crisis is rooted in poorly vetted loans of hundreds of thousands of dollars to people who are now defaulting en masse, liberal democratic Senator Chris Dodd yesterday demanded that bank executives make lending more accessible or he and his cronies were prepared to legislate it.

We're stuck right now between capitalism and socialism. Ask yourself who has a bigger stake in perpetuating socialism. I say it's politicians who'd love to drive our lives. And then ask yourself who has a bigger stake in capitalism. I say it's each and every citizen who will remain free -- free economically. Remember freedom? I know it sounds so 20th Century, but I'm sticking by it.

Ayn Rand said that capitalism means

the abolition of any and all forms of government intervention in production and trade, the separation of State and Economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of Church and State.

Edited Nov. 14, 2008 09:14

 

United Under Obama?
by Jeremy Browning
Nov. 12, 2008 14:33

The world may await our new leader, but I'm not as excited about the arrival of the *magical* first-term senator. I'm like, yawn neo-socialism, yawn class warfare, yawn anti-capitalism.

Anyway, in a huge swath of America, where getting the job done is more important than being hip, there's no consensus that his majesty is the answer to all the world's ills. Check the county-by-county election map.

Red - Blue Election Map

Edited Nov. 14, 2008 08:27

 

Obama: Media Darling
by Jeremy Browning
Nov. 08, 2008 09:01

I was not wrong nor even stretching the truth when I ranted the day after the election that the media will be swooning over "the man they helped elect."

Today brings us a story from Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell titled, "An Obama Tilt in Campaign Coverage."

The story begins:

The Post provided a lot of good campaign coverage, but readers have been consistently critical of the lack of probing issues coverage and what they saw as a tilt toward Democrat Barack Obama. My surveys, which ended on Election Day, show that they are right on both counts.



She cites continuous examples of favoritism for Obama, including:
Positive op-ed pieces: Obama 32, McCain 13
Negative op-ed pieces: 58 McCain, 32 Obama
Stories since Nov. 11: Obama 946, McCain 786
Stories since June 4: Obama 626, McCain 584
Front page stores: Obama 176, McCain 144
Campaign stories June 9 to Nov. 2: Obama 66 percent, McCain 53 percent
Photos more than 3 columns wide: Obama 133, McCain 121
Smaller photos: Obama 178, McCain 161
Color Photos: Obama 164, McCain 133
Black and white photos: McCain 149, Obama 147

Howell writes: "Post photo and news editors were surprised by my first count on Aug. 3, which showed a much wider disparity, and made a more conscious effort at balance afterward."

There were disparities with regard to vice-presidential candidates, too.

Howell writes:

One gaping hole in coverage involved Joe Biden, Obama's running mate. When Gov. Sarah Palin was nominated for vice president, reporters were booking the next flight to Alaska. Some readers thought The Post went over Palin with a fine-tooth comb and neglected Biden. They are right; it was a serious omission.


So we can all congratulate our new president-elect on a well-run campaign and also remind ourselves that it was historic on another account as well: journalists became unpaid campaigners, blanketed the fruited plain with favorable coverage, and truly helped to elect the leftist, Barack Obama.

Edited Nov. 08, 2008 09:14

 

November 5. Feeling Like My Dog Just Died and I Lost My Last Friend
by Jeremy Browning
Nov. 05, 2008 18:17

It's not just because Barack Obama's neo-socialist ideals will harm my family and chip away at the principles I worship. It's not just the prospect of four years of a self-congratulatory media swooning over the man they helped elect. It's not only the horror of watching a fad turn into the most powerful man in the world.

It's about living in a world where wondrous political thought, where the real deep and meaningful solutions to the mysteries of organizing human societies were glimpsed and then shut away. It's knowing that fairness now means equality of outcome despite merit and achievement, liberty comes by permission more than ever and one's claim to redistributed wealth is a good sob story and the ear of a powerful politician.

Look at Obama's infomercial in the final week of the election: a parade of misfortune and a politician equating sharing in kingergarten! with a progressive tax plan. I listened to Obama cry foul when his opponent opportunistically acused him of wanting to provide sex education to kindergartners. I listened to his campaign bemoan the slightest stretch of fact. And yet the refrain of Obama's campaign was reminding people that George Bush gave tax breaks to rich people. I'll never forgive him for this most egregious smear. Even after the Bush tax cuts, rich people pay more than their fair share. Here's a fact and a source, instead of a slick soundbite.

Last week the Congressional Budget Office joined the IRS in releasing tax numbers for 2005, and part of the news is that the richest 1% paid about 39% of all income taxes that year. The richest 5% paid a tad less than 60%, and the richest 10% paid 70%. These tax shares are all up substantially since 1990, and even somewhat since 2000. Meanwhile, Americans with an income below the median -- half of all households -- paid a mere 3% of all income taxes in 2005. The richest 1.3 million tax-filers -- those Americans with adjusted gross incomes of more than $365,000 in 2005 -- paid more income tax than all of the 66 million American tax filers below the median in income. Ten times more.


Source: Wall Street Journal, 2007

I almost wonder if Obama even knows those facts. And then I remember that if he's half as smart as his crowds believe, he must know, which means he's deliberately inciting class warfare in contradiction to the actual facts of the matter. Obama does know those facts, but I'd bet a majority of his hip, trend-swayed followers hear him speak and come away thinking that "rich people" got off the hook when it came to taxes under Bush.

I'm not even rich. Not even close. But I'm principled. I don't deserve someone else's money. And kindergarten has nothing to do with it. It's stunts like that that make me feel Obama doesn't have the right to speak the word fair. I was embarrassed to be a citizen in a country where such a popular politician gets away with such sleaze, and embarrassed to be among an electorate so orgasmic at the thought of sticking it to the "rich" that the facts be damned.

I heard a commentator on the radio attempting to help republicans calm down after losing the presidency and facing huge opposing majorities in Congress. "It's not like the democrats are going to nationalize heavy industry and raise the tax rate to 90 percent," he said.

Don't be so sure. Not today. Not tomorrow. But the liberals are trending that way. And if it's not good enough for the king of their party that the richest 10 percent of people in our country paid 70 percent of all income taxes, then what would make it "fair" (in the kindergarten sense, of course). Eighty percent? Ninety percent? Since principles don't matter anymore, why don't the rich people just pay all the taxes? They have more money than they need anyway. This election also taught us that the president gets to decide how much people need and how much they deserve. And for people who don't have as much as they need, we've got a new Robbin' Hood.

He's willing to throw out the facts in the case of taxes and the wealthy, he's willing to do it on a number of issues, I'll bet. That's why today, although I'm relatively young and unarguably hip, I'm not partying in the wake of yesterday's election.

There's too much B.S. talk about what this election meant. It meant this: there is a huge majority in America of unprincipled people who worship the transformative power of government to decide what's best for each and every one of us.

So get in line. And find out what Obama decides is best for you.

Edited Nov. 05, 2008 20:45

 

More Global Cooling Balance: "Man-made global warming is junk science."
by Jeremy Browning
Oct. 21, 2008 12:40

It's great to follow these articles quoting scientists who haven't drank the Kool-Aid and do not harbor visions of a melting wasteland Earth unless we ramp up Socialism and progressive taxes and beg for forgiveness for every molecule of carbon dioxide we emit.

This one's by Lorne Gunter writing at the National Post.

It contains some little factoids like this one:

An analytical chemist who works in spectroscopy and atmospheric sensing, Michael J. Myers of Hilton Head, S. C., declared, "Man-made global warming is junk science," explaining that worldwide manmade CO2 emission each year "equals about 0.0168% of the atmosphere's CO2 concentration ... This results in a 0.00064% increase in the absorption of the sun's radiation. This is an insignificantly small number."

Edited Oct. 21, 2008 12:49

 


log (lôg) n. a record of details of a voyage made by a ship's captain or crew