Monday, August 31, 2009

How to discredit science...

Here is a disappointing post from my major news source the CSM. This article is a great example of how legitimate science becomes poisoned in the public eye.

By grouping human-caused-global-warming deniers and creationists together the author has pushed real scientists into the same category as right-wing religionists. This is a great example of how the media can take opposition to a morally wrong idea and flip them to become the bad guys.

The first step that occurs is blurring the lines between terms used. A great example of this is how "man-made-global-warming" (something that can be proven incorrect) was shortened to "global warming" (something that could possibly be proven wrong) and now it's just "climate change" (something that is obvious to anyone who has lived more than a few years). By changing the terms to something more public friendly, they have sugar coated their pill.

Another good example of this that is still surprising to me is how willing people accept socialist ideas. My grandfather fought in WWII against Nazi's who were socialists; now it is in vogue to spout redistribution and equal care for all. Still one more example is how the White House (who is particularly guilty of this) has changed words to be more public friendly; like "socialized medicine" to "universal healthcare" to "single-payer plan". What the hell is "single-payer", it's going to be "millions-of-payers".

The second step is to give the opposition a bad name. A great way to do this is to find some connection between them and some other radical group (a common platform or some members that belong to both), then write articles lumping them together. The above article does just that. Another example of this is how atheists and communists somehow became the same in the 60's and 70's.

The final step is to re-wire the public's mind. This is particularly easy now that they are softened to your morally wrong ideas and have lumped the good ideas in with obvious crazies. If you spread this over a generation or two you will have a complete and incontestable reverse of policy: individualism into collectivism, capitalism into socialism, "humans require changing their environment to survive" into "humans destroy their environment".

This is a big problem and I believe is one of the key reasons that the US is slipping into collectivism, socialism, and environmentalism. Fighting this disease of bad ideas as it rears its head is a requirement to hang on to what freedom we have. It was encouraging to read the comments after the article, most were against the author completely.


Friday, August 7, 2009

White House "Thought Police"

Here is a scary post from the White House Blog encouraging 1984 style "Thought Police". I submitted them the e-mail posted below. Beware, I will proudly turn you in.

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing to perform my patriotic duty and inform you some negative ideas that I have come across in regards to Health Care. Because this is a much debated issue at the moment I have had many conversations and e-mail exchanges with individuals and am pleased to say that I have shown true believers that ObamaCare is a terrible plan that will lead to a decline of the medical profession worldwide and will eventually shorten the lifespan of people everywhere. I also feel obligated to tell you that I am going to continue to have these discussions and you have given me renewed enthusiasm and means to win over those still sitting on the fence.

By asking people to turn in their neighbors for suspicious conversations or e-mails you have proven that you are intimidated and are resorting to "thought police" type tactics (see "1984", Nazi Germany, or Communist Russia). I was concerned that the lasting legacy of your administration was going to be a slip into socialism that will be reversed later on, but it has turned out to be something much greater. I encourage you to continue on your current course of action because it will only embolden the people to see that socialism and your force tactics against free speech are linked by definition.

Your great blog post alerting the public to act as "thought police" has made it incredibly easy for me prove to people that you are an enemy to the Bill of Rights and free speech. For this, I thank you.

In conclusion, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights guarantees freedom to individuals and rights to ACTIONS (like casual conversations and e-mails) NOT to goods and services that are provided by others (like medical care). The founding fathers knew that if you guaranteed goods and services then you are enslaving those who would be required to provide them (i.e. doctors, pharmaceutical companies, etc...). By granting freedoms to act, they made it possible for each individual to live according to their own lives and NOT at the mercy of others. This is why America became a super power and the greatest nation in the history of Earth. If you want to fix health care, get government out of the way. Dissolve any legislation or governing powers (FDA) involved with the medical field and all the "problems" with medicine (rising costs, etc...) will dissolve shortly after.

Biomedical Engineering PhD Student
I encourage others to do similar things. If we loose freedom of speech it's a short time to resort to force.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Movies and indoctrination....

Last night I was attending a showing of an old movie called "Born Yesterday". This is something that happens every week in Grant Park and my girlfriend and I enjoy going out and having a cheap date under the Chicago skyline while watching famous classic movies (most movies now days are junk).

To those who are not familiar with the plot of "Born Yesterday" I will give a brief summary: a bully of a racketeering businessman and his ex-chorus girl "fiance" go to Washington DC so that the businessman and his lawyer can bribe and lobby Congressman for legislation to ensure scrap metal prices (his business) for years to come. When they get there, he realizes that his "fiance" is lacking in social abilities and overall intelligence so he hires a newspaper writer to educate her and to teach her to act properly. The writer begins by showing her the city and its sights while explaining about the history of the US and the principles it was founded on.

I won't spoil the ending of the movie for those who haven't seen it, but I was really surprised at how mixed-up the ideas were that were presented. It would have been a great opportunity for the real principles to be presented to a wide audience and it would have slid itself nicely into the script without altering any of the plot. However, what was presented was a jumbled view of what it means to be American and what our country stands for.

For example, there were a few scenes that focused on the founding fathers and the Bill of Rights. The main characters see the museums and monuments and discuss what it means for man to be born free and to be granted rights in our constitution. But then in another scene the writer is explaining a poem that he wrote and how he would rather be a simple, ignorant peasant than to of been Napoleon. I realize that Napoleon didn't adhere to many Objectivist standards and was by most measures a conqueror and tyrant, but as in the context of the movie the writer was promoting a simple life with simple pleasures ("the autumn sun kissing the grapes red") as opposed to striving for greatness.

The protagonists of the story are obviously the writer (one who has intelligence) and the fiance (his eager student). The antagonist is the mob-style bully of a businessman who is the polar opposite of the writer. A character who rose to the top of the scrap metal industry not with intelligent savvy decisions but with bare knuckles and intimidation. Several times in the movie the writer describes the antagonist as selfish fascist. Being selfish doesn't lead to fascism. Fascism is bred from collectivism/nationalism (the opposite of selfishness) where a dictator assumes power and governs all aspects of the nation (industry, law, etc...) with an iron fist. The writer was probably referring to the mob-boss' brute force way of handling problems but that has nothing to do with being selfish. It would be the same as calling him a magenta fascist (it just gives magenta a bad image).

Later on, the main character states that his (the mob-bully's) existence is proof that the democratic system is flawed and it won't be good again until his kind is rooted out and legislation is enacted to prevent them from surfacing again! (cue enthusiastic clapping from red-blooded Americans) This part echos a little bit to close to the Bernie Madoff story of recent news. It is very obvious that the antagonist is NOT acting in accordance with many laws, but the writer mentions more regulations for preventative measures. Bribery and coercion are against the law and the main character thinks that a few more regulations will stop people from doing them? I can't imagine what regulations or laws would be set in place to stop bribery and coercion. It would be the equivalent of imposing a dusk curfew to stop muggings. Further, his statement that his kind is what is wrong with democracy reminds me of religions' stance that man is inherently bad because he is born. Democracy is not flawed or wrong, the existence of people breaking laws is simply proof that some people want to break laws. They have that choice and will be required to answer for their actions when they are caught.

Overall this movie simply used the word "selfish" as slanderously as possible. I suppose I had higher expectations for movies made in 1950 but this is what Rand had to put up with. It just further emphasizes how long ago the "selfish = bad" indoctrination began. It was particularly potent in this instance because the bad guy and his lawyer were so obviously self-destructive which is not being self-ISH at all.

Side Note: I enjoy it when I am having a conversation with someone and something gets said like, "I don't care if I'm being selfish, I've earned it". I always answer that remark with, "But it's not bad to be selfish, it is both essential to human existence and GOOD! Just think of how you feel when you do something for yourself that you have earned. Saying that selfishness if bad is like saying sex is bad." (This usually works because I know my 20-30 yr. old audience enjoys sex). My reward quickly comes when the entire audience of the group looks at me like I reaffirmed something that they have always known but have been afraid to say. It's great.

I guess the real disappointment is in how this story could have been told to show exactly what I have been writing about. The main character could have pointed out to the attractive young student why the mob-boss is not actually selfish, but self-destructive and how America has laws against the kinds of actions he is doing. He also could have taught her that force over reason does lead to fascism and that individual rights permit one to become selfish and to strive for greatness. The movie could have played out the same but with a much more positive and coherent message. Oh well.


Friday, July 24, 2009

Encouraging Conversations....

One of my goals by posting on this blog was to help me form my Objectivist ideas so that I could discuss them with other people and reason them to become rational. My previous attempts at this found mixed results. I found that my ideas were jumbled and my techniques were often too aggressive. In the past few months my ideas have settled into more organized areas of my brain and my approach techniques have become more open and passive.

Because of this, I recently had a great conversation with a co-worker who started off by mentioning Obama's speech on Universal Health Care (UHC) and what I thought about it. Passively I said, "Well, I try to not pay attention to stuff like that." They asked why and I began to tell them that I thought it was a really bad idea.

As our conversation continued, it became clear to me that they started out on the side of being for UHC but they realized that they really hadn't thought through all of the pros and cons. I did a good job of presenting the Objectivist case while they automatically assumed the role opposite of me in order to probe deeper into my own reasoning. I used personal examples and improvised analogies to aid my side and drive the point home. At the end of two and a half hours of pleasant conversation I had successfully flipped my co-worker against UHC and planted the seeds of future Objectivist ideas. It was a crushing victory that left both of us in a good mood.

One of my favorite things that they said after more than an hour of conversation: "Well, if UHC is so bad, why is Obama pushing it?" This wasn't asked to question UHC (which I had already won over), but to question Obama himself. It was fantastic. Whoo-hoo!

But it didn't stop with UHC... I used that as a launching ramp to explain how other government organizations are bad and used the FDA as my segway (I easy one, but I'm new at this). After a bit longer I had shown them how the FDA is an entity that was formed "to protect the public" but actually does exactly the opposite by getting in the way and preventing many treatments from reaching people that would willingly pay for and use them despite the risks (I have a great story about a family member for that one).

In the end, I had shown this person that the government needs to get out of the way of the free market and that is what it was meant to do when founded. I also showed that most of our troubles now are caused by the government growing and controlling more and more. It was an encouraging conversation that has given me much needed positivity to continue on in my path of spreading Objectivism.

When we left to go home afterwards we parted as much closer friends and I know that they spent last night with new ideas swirling in their head. It works, everyone keep up the good job.


Friday, July 17, 2009

Another Great Article...

Here is another good OpEd posted on CSM. This type of thinking needs to permeate to all other facets of American life. Good work Mr. Fleenor.

Highlight excerpt:

Everyone should have the opportunity to go to college, but fairness demands that students themselves – not taxpayers collectively – pay their way. Because a college degree boosts future earnings so dramatically, the best way for students without wealth to pay for college is to draw on their future earnings with loans.

Often private institutions will serve this purpose, but to ensure loan availability for any willing student, government may have to provide loan guarantees. But those loans should be made at market interest rates. Properly implemented, such a plan would eliminate the transfer of wealth from those who do not go to college to those who do.

Read it all here.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Great Article...

With my busy schedule I get most of my news from skimming headlines online from the most unbiased news I can find...the Christian Science Monitor. I was very skeptical at first when it was recommended to me (due to the name), but it has proven itself time and time again. I feel that they do a good job of balancing polarized topics (as far as what and how many articles to publish) and I particularly enjoy looking over their OpEd articles that they post online. It is a refreshing change of pace from Fox News (conservative) and everything else (liberal).

Yesterday I found this one and thought that it did a good job of reporting on a topic that is well known to most of us. The highlight of the article was the reactions from the faculty to the author's published article:
As we hammered away at the issue, one of his colleagues with whom he shared an office grew visibly agitated. Then, while I was in mid-sentence, she exploded.

"You think you're so [expletive] cute with your little column," she told me. "I read your piece and all you want is attention. You're just like Bill O'Reilly. You just want to get up on your [expletive] soapbox and have people look at you."

From the disgust with which she attacked me, you would have thought I had advocated Nazism. She quickly grew so emotional that she had to leave the room. But before she departed, she stood over me and screamed.

The above passage made me think of a conversation I recently had with a friend where they attempted to argue with the National Park Service on an issue. My friend said that they were employing reason to look for an explanation for a new regulation that was instated. The NPS representative became defensive, emotional, and began to walk out of the town hall style meeting. The other attendees of the meeting calmed her down and brought her back but that was essentially the end of the discussion. An interesting defense mechanism when ridiculous is cornered by reason but the scary part is that IT WORKED. The issue was dropped. Grrr.


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Independence Day Tea Party....

I am happy to say that I was very hopeful coming into the Independence Day Tea Party in Chicago. I attended the Tax Day Tea Party and was pleasantly surprised at both the turnout and the overwhelming amount of enthusiasm, especially at the speakers who touched on Rand's ideas. I thought that there could really be something going here if these proper ideas took root and carried over into the IDTP. The location was better (historic Navy Pier), the date was better (Independence Day), and hopefully the crowd would have had some time to gain the proper philosophical groundwork necessary for any real social change; I have re-read Atlas Shrugged since the Tax Day Tea Party.

My first impression of the Chicago Navy Pier party was not a good one. Even though the pier was overcrowded with people, it was simply families taking their kids to the Children's Museum or on the Ferris wheel on a Saturday afternoon. I found a small gathering of about 200 people holding sparse signs and huddled around a podium on the front lawn of the pier. I was given a flyer that had a rough schedule of the speakers and who they represented and immediately started scanning the crowd for what the signs said and what various regalia was adorned.

I must admit that I cannot give a full report of the Tea Party because I did not attend the whole thing. If it was good (had good numbers, the speakers were touching on the right subjects, and the crowd seemed receptive and enthusiastic) I was going to stay until the bitter end, but I saw little to none of what I was hoping for and my selfish nature told me that my Independence Day would be better spent with friends.

The crowd seemed to consist of mostly hardcore conservative republicans (those holding signs with Obama and sickle and hammer) and Independent Party members. The heart of what they were protesting was government spending and the inevidible increase in taxes. The flyer that I took did contain the protest "Principles" which was encouraging that a set was at least written down, here they are:
There should be no taxpayer bailouts of corporations, and government should never grant private organizations license to commit criminal or fraudulent acts. We must also seek greater transparency or the Federal Reserve System through investigation, evaluation, and audit of its relationships with banking, corporate, and other financial institutions.

We believe that the Constitution was instituted to restrain the arbitrary exercise of government power and to safeguard liberty. A government that routinely disregards the Constitution for the sake of political expediency cannot long remain a defender of the rights of its citizens.

We believe that there should be no increase in the national debt. The burden of debt placed on the next generation is unjust; it has greatly diminished the power of our dollar and threatens to undo decades of economic progress.

We must protect the privacy and civil liberties of all persons under US jurisdiction. We must repeal or radically change the Patriot Act, the Military Commisions Act, and the FISA legislations. We must reject the notion and practice of torture, eliminations of habeas corpus, secret tribunals and secret prisons.
By reading the above "Principles" I was struck with the visual that this group wanted to weed a garden patch by pulling just the parts of the weeds that are showing. They seemed uninterested and unknowing of the required digging to find the roots and pull them as well. Even if this group accomplished its "Principles", the weeds would still come back.

For as much as I was displeased with this Tea Party, it is nice to see that there is a basis of people that have potential to be receptive to Rand's ideas. A feeling that "This is wrong" can be the starting point to see that "wow, this is ALL wrong". Not to mention that most protesters are taking the day off to enjoy and celebrate their independence...or what we have left...for now. Happy Independence Day, all. I hope your respective Tea Parties have shown you better than Chicago's.


Friday, July 3, 2009

The Power of Your Dollar

When I speak with people about free markets and smaller government I am often confronted with the question of "Well, if the government doesn't regulate businesses, who will?". At this point I usually try to explain to them that everyone that contributes their effort to earn money has a say in how things are regulated with the use of that earned money. This brings about puzzled looks and confusion which leads to my confusion (of their ignorance).

Apparently it is not well known that your dollar is the ultimate vote for how you feel about any particular product or service. One of my co-workers (who is often my daily practice for pointing out contradictions) spouts hatred towards corporations and tells me about documentaries that show how corporations exhibit all the characteristics of a sociopath (and are therefore bad). One day after that conversation I saw her pass by on the way to her desk with a Starbucks cup of coffee. I stopped her and joked about the irony but she came back with the defense that "I usually go to smaller Mom and Pop coffee places, but they are just so out of my way when I'm in a hurry". I tried to point out to her that in that way she is supporting corporations by choosing to spend money at them and that she is even telling them that they are offering a superior product, convenience, over their competitors. This argument didn't seem to hold any ground with my co-worker (as most logical arguments don't) and she even seemed to think that her purchase of a cup of coffee wasn't really helping Starbucks.

I am finding that the mentality that "my dollar doesn't make a difference" is one of the fundamental issues with American philosophy and it can only of come from those who don't know what a dollar is worth and what it takes to earn one. There is an incredible power that is behind the money that we spend and where we choose to spend it. My friend's false issues with corporations aside, let's look at a very real and impending example: The Carbon Tax.

Now, there is a lot to write about with the Carbon Tax but I'm going to keep my post to a simpler example...why people feel that we NEED government to tax something for our own good and the good of our children, the country, etc...

Let's envision a fictional world where human-made carbon emissions were causing global warming. Let's say that all of the IPCC's doomsday predictions were correct and the planet was going to be a scorched earth in 500 years on our present course. Should the government regulate and tax carbon emissions even when impending doom is just around the corner and anyone that uses too much carbon is on a societal suicide mission??

The answer is, NO. The government has no say in how we live our daily lives and can therefore not interfere with us as long as we are not directly violating the rights of others. But how would we prevent the Armageddon caused by the poisonous carbon??

The answer is, with your daily decisions on where you spend your money. If carbon was deadly and there was no question in the opposite, then people would have a daily choice to make. They could choose to lessen their "carbon footprint" by turning out the lights or not. They could choose to call their power company and opt for more expensive "green" energy sources against the cheaper poison-coal. They could ride their bike to work instead of their car. They could become scientists that could discover carbon-reducers or new ways to generate cheap energy. The list goes on...

The bottom line is that if society knows that something is bad, they will consiously make the decision against that thing everyday. People would voluntarily put up with the increase in cost, time, and energy because they knew that it would maximize their quality of life. In this example, coal plants would close from lack of customers and profit, gasoline powered cars would become an item of the past, and technology would be able to produce energy cheap and poison-free. All of these things would come about WITHOUT GOVERNMENT INTERVENTION. This would require no special taxes, incentives or deductions to steer the economy from an undebatable science.

Today, this issue will require all of this regulation and interference with government force because it is not a proven science. There is a majority of the population that is still skeptical about the facts and doesn't want to put up with the inconvenience and lowering of their standard of living for the someone who is just crying doomsday.

Starbucks tries very hard to take your dollar instead of having you give it to a competitor. They provide high-quality coffee at convenient locations so that both you and them can benefit from transactions. If corporations really were evil and people didn't gain from their existence, money (their lifeblood) would stop flowing to them and the evil would cease to exist. But, this is not the case and Starbucks still lives to provide you with a good thing (chosen by you and your dollar, everyday).


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Atlas Shrugged - Round 2

It was over two years ago when I first read Atlas and it seems that my life has since been in an ever accelerating dive into Objectivism. It has been an interesting revolution in my life that, I'm sure as some of you know, has met with some interesting bumps along the way. Overall though, I am a much happier person who is standing on much more solid moral ground than I was before.

Due to this, I decided that I should read some new Rand and re-read the two that I had read before. Already this year I have put away "We The Living", "The Fountainhead", and just finished last weekend "Atlas Shrugged". It is amazing how much more I got out of these books now than I did before.

Atlas is fantastic and I would recommend it to anyone despite it's lengthy size. I remembered most of the plot as I was cruising through it but specific scenes and the speeches struck new chords. I am not usually an "emotional" person (by that I mean that I DO HAVE emotions, lots of them, but I usually don't reach the stage of crying very often), however, some scenes in Atlas really brought me to tears. (i.e. when Dagny asks for a volunteer crew to run the first train on the "suicidal" John Galt Line and every engineer and fireman puts their names in...damn that was good! Or, when Dagny overhears Rearden's wife insulting the bracelet he made her out of Rearden Steel at the cocktail party, then Dagny walks up and trades her diamond braclet for the steel one...I was cheering out loud at that point!)

I only have one complaint about my second experience with Atlas...I re-read it too soon. I am a believer that you have to separate times of reading and re-reading by at least three years so that you have time to grow, mature, and slowly digest what you know about the book. It also helps if you forget a little bit of the plot details. I should have waited another year, but I just couldn't resist.

I have a few favorite passages that are of current relevance that I will post on shortly... stay tuned.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Mandatory TV Conversion

As I was working out this morning I heard on the radio that today is the day where all the television networks are forced to switch to digital broadcasting. I don't watch TV and don't even own one so most of this issue wasn't picked up on my radar but from my view this seems like another instance of the government stepping in to interfere in business and individual rights.

From what I gather, Congress passed a bill that mandates TV broadcast companies to only air programs in digital media. This is forcing many consumers to convert their old televisions to digital with a converter box and a convenient grant from the government to cover the cost of their conversion. So, everyone is paying for a few people to upgrade and receive digital TV. This made me ask a few questions:

Why don't the broadcast companies air in digital now, without this mandatory conversion? I have an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering, and just like how digital cameras took over for film cameras it is simply more efficient and cost effective to broadcast in digital. (Most people don't realize this, but phone companies converted to digital years ago because you could get many times the amount of signals on one line as opposed to analog.) Well, I am assuming that the broadcast companies didn't want to convert to digital on their own because they would loose the business of people that only had analog TV's (the radio this morning said "millions of viewers"). So the decision to convert was a simple cost vs. benefit analysis for them: they could save some money by broadcasting in digital but loose customers. It appears that they chose to stick to analog.

But the story goes on from here. If Congress were to pass a bill that mandated digital TV and gave the consumer the means for automatic conversion (paid for by the taxpayers), then the broadcast companies could have their cake and eat it too. They could save money, offer more programs, and not loose any customers under the direction of Congress. Time to call senators!!

These are all thoughts that I had when I first heard about the issue, so I did a quick search as to why Congress passed this bill. Why was the public so ready to pay for these conversions so that the broadcast companies could reap all of the benefits and pay none of the cost? Here is what I found from the FCC's website:
"Congress mandated the conversion to all-digital television broadcasting, also known as the digital television (DTV) transition, because all-digital broadcasting will free up frequencies for public safety communications (such as police, fire, and emergency rescue). Also, digital is a more efficient transmission technology that allows broadcast stations to offer improved picture and sound quality, as well as offer more programming options for consumers through multiple broadcast streams (multicasting). In addition, some of the freed up frequencies will be used for advanced commercial wireless services for consumers."

The first sentence is what is known as the "Bait", the second and third sentences are known as the "Switch". Techniques commonly used by marketing and used car salesmen. First sentence hides the nasty medicine of taxpayer dollars, the next two sugar coat the pill.

I am upset with our congressmen apparently swallowing this first sentence without notice of the rest. This will "free up frequencies for public safety communications"? As with most of you, I grew up in the analog age where my afterschool cartoons were periodically interrupted by the FCC testing their emergency broadcast system. This seemed to work just fine. Are more frequencies really neccessary? Moreso, I think back to any of the emergencies that I have witnessed in my lifetime and it wasn't the emergency broadcast system that brought me the information, it was regular TV networks that would interrupt the programming for up-to-date news. They were the people that were on the ground after 9/11 interviewing people and airing presidential speeches. There might have been an FCC requirement to air some of the material, but any network would have lost viewers if they didn't because every American was glued to thier televisions. It was in their best interest to bring stories of emergencies to the proper audience because that is what people wanted and needed to hear.

This issue seemed to fly beneath most people's radars because there wasn't a lot of the population effected (I think most people have bought a TV in the last 5 was probably digital already) and the overall cost of converting a million analog TV's is peanuts compared to the normal spending of the government. More disturbingly, people seem to be getting used to the idea that government is encroaching more and more into our lives and it appears to be alright if they use the words "public safety". We need to look at what Congress is doing more closely and start realizing that every foothold that the government takes is one that we will not get back easily. I have now conditioned myself to raise skepticism any time the words "public safety" are mentioned. It appears to be a good carrot to use when leading folks blindly off a cliff.

I'm Back...

Hello all,
I apologize for my incredible lack of posting the last month. I became very busy studying for an exam so that I can stay in graduate school. It surprisingly ate up my entire month of May and I am just now getting back into the swing of regular life. I expect to be posting more often (my goal is once or twice a week) so check back often. Cheers.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

North vs. South Korea

When I read an article stating that North Korea has no business to be working with nuclear weapons and missiles I have a voice in the back of my head that says, "That's not right; they should be able to do whatever they want...they are not EVIL." When that voice pops up, I like to think of this picture of North and South Korea. A nation that does not have light bulbs has no reason to have nukes.

For those who are rusty on their geography: South Korea is closest to the bottom left tip of Japan, North Korea is the sparsely lit land mass between South Korea and the rest of Asia.

Friday, May 1, 2009

It's not a question of IF, but WHEN...

Hyperinflation is going to happen to us with the way that things are going. I like these pictures from the Weimar Republic hyperinflation between wars. Bring on the Benjamins!!!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Disappointing news...

About a month ago, I sent a few quick e-mails to my senators that I copied and pasted from Noodlefood about Service Bill S.277 (thanks Hsieh's). I had to go to each Senator's website to send them, but in the subject line I wrote "Oppose S.277"; in the message I pasted:
Please oppose S.277. It moves us dangerously close to mandatory national service, something which is un-American and a violation of individual rights.
I just fished this out of my junk mail...

April 28, 2009

Dear TK (I edited my name):

Thank you for contacting me regarding the Serve America Act. I commend your commitment to service.

I agree, the need for service to our communities is greater than ever. I am proud I supported and voted for this Act. It was signed into law by President Obama on April 21, 2009, as the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. The Act engages citizens of all ages in volunteer service opportunities, allowing us to meet some of our most pressing national challenges and reinvigorate the economy.

Again, thank you for taking the time to share your views and experiences with me. As the 111th Congress moves forward, please continue to be in touch with your opinions and concerns.

Mark Begich
U.S. Senator

This is utterly disappointing. I haven't fully digested this yet, but I imagine that my reaction will be to double all of my efforts.


Monday, April 27, 2009

My Tax Utopia

With all of this talk about how we are going to have to work to pay back the stimulus money that other people get to spend, I was curious what a real tax breakdown looked like. I wanted to know what part of my money went to what programs and also how much money could I save if I only paid for programs that I wanted to. The results are startling.

I found the numbers from this site. He explained how he got them:
Our tax goes to the president's budget. Today, the budget is reckoned at about $3.1 trillion, which has a deficit of about $407 billion. I then went to the Wikipedia budget article and looked up the cost of each program. Then, I calculated what percentage each was of the federal budget. Then, I multiplied the decimal form of each percentage into the income (50233 and 350000) to get the resulting amounts of how much each cost. Since these are rounded estimates, the numbers don't quite match up. They are rough numbers, not the exact numbers. I'm not good enough at Excel for that.
I was initially surprised at how much money goes to welfare, social security, etc... The Department of Defense and the global war on terror just barely beat our payments on social security alone. I consider defense to be one of the main purposes of government.

I added the last column on the spreadsheet pictured below. I dropped all of the programs that I deemed unnecessary by my own view and was able to cut taxes by 65%!! Imagine what you would do with your money if you had 65% more of your taxes back.

This calculation is assuming a lot...I realize that some people only take money from the government and don't pay taxes (I am actually not a big tax payer due to my poor status as a PhD student). I just wanted a rough look at the big picture. Here it is:

Rise in Atheism

An article I found in the NY Times today..."More Atheists Shout It From the Rooftops".

The encouraging graphic here.

I don't think the decline in Christianity means converts to Atheism as much as an increase in other religions. What still scares me is that 76 percent of doctors in America believe in Dog and 59 percent in an afterlife.

Some more: 38 percent of natural scientists do not believe in Dog, 31 percent of social scientists do not. Study was performed by Rice University sociologist Elaine Howard Ecklund and surveyed over 1600 faculty at elite research universities.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Calling Taylor O

Hey Taylor O,

I saw that you ran into my blog. If you want a fellow objectivist in the Chicago area to keep in touch with, write your e-mail address in a comment on this post.



The face of the enemy

I read the first paragraph and started laughing out of fear. I read the second part and gain enough encouragement to apply as a writer. I'll post my e-mail and their response when I get one.

If you read this, apply as well... be honest on "your interests" but see if you can get hired or get a few articles published. It might not be worth your time, but it is worth wasting theirs.


Friday, April 24, 2009

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day...

Happy Earth Day.

I read earlier today that Rush Limbaugh was celebrating today by paying tribute to coal, plastic, light bulbs, etc. Although I disagree with that ignorant man on most issues, I do recognize that he is a significant public figure and I do agree with his outlook on Earth Day. Today should be a day were we, as a society, celebrate all of the wonderful things that we have gained by combining our environment with our own intellect. In this way we have brought ourselves above and beyond any other living thing in success by using our only faculty available to us...our minds (and our thumbs to a smaller extent). Thank you, Earth for providing us with the raw materials to conquer famine, disease, and weather so that we can thrive. Here's to uranium, coal, oil, and natural gas that gives us energy. Here's to wood, clay, stone, and synthetics that give us shelter. Here's to soil, water, fertilizer, and sun that give us food. Hazzah! to Earth.

Recently I went to my favorite museum in Chicago to show my parents a good time. Of course, I am talking about the Museum of Science and Industry located in the last remaining building from the 1893 World's Fair (which showcased electricity for the first time in street lights). This museum is riddled with awesome exhibits that range from an entire captured German WWII U-boat (indoors!!) to a tour through a coal mine to a place where you can order a toy and watch it be constructed with automated robots (Henry Ford would have crapped his pants). My favorite exhibit is the genetics exhibit where you can learn how scientists study behavior with flies and even interactively clone sheep in a videogame. It isn't until you walk our the door that you realize that you have been learning the whole time.

Another fun thing to do at the MS&I is to go to an Omnimax show. Since Chicago is located on Lake Michigan, I thought it would be appropriate to see the one titled "The Great Lakes". I expected shots of the lakes zooming around in a helicopter and also going underwater and seeing what is at the bottom. Instead I was disappointed (and very upset) that I was subjected to an environmentalist film about sturgeon (a near prehistoric fish that is still around). According to the film, the numbers are dropping due to human influences of pollution and unregulated caviar fishing in the 1900's. The story told was very well directed and choreographed with music to pull your heart strings for the good guys (sturgeon and a handful of "hero" biologists) and to make you feel anger at the bad guys (us).

This movie beat the usual drum of environmentalists everywhere...mankind is bad because he competes and mostly wins with his environment, whereas animals and plants are good because they compete and sometimes win. I am tired of religion and environmentalism both telling me that I am a bad person because I want to succeed in life as far as my abilities can take me. Some people are bad, people aren't inherently bad. It is ridiculous to think that any other living creature would not compete to the fullest extent of their abilities to maximize their quality and quantity of life. When locusts are devouring crop fields by the swarms, they aren't chirping back and forth, "Hey guys let's take it easy, we are destroying Mother Earth". When viruses and bacteria ravage the very environments that they live in (our bodies), they aren't choked back by their own regulations but they are beaten back by our immune system and antibiotics. The population of any animal isn't limited by the animals themselves, but by the maximum amount of animals that can survive in that environment.

I encourage environmentalists to go and live in the environments that they want to protect without all of the modern-day amenities that our own intellect has created to combat our world. Only then will they realize that it is a massive step in the wrong direction to spread the ideas of environmentalism. I will end with a link to where you can buy a shirt to show your true sense of Earth Day. I bought one to show my support.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Great News from Pink Tiger Researchers!!!

It might be over soon!!! They have found the gene to cure the world!!!


Benefits of Objective Living

Motivated by fellow blogger at Mike's Eyes, I have begun to think about how objectivism has benefited me in my life. One of the greatest feelings that I have obtained is living wholly for myself. This is a level of selfishness that I would not have reached if it wasn't for Ayn Rand.

When I talk with non-objectivists about being selfish and its benefits I find that the common response is a look and tone that I am cold-hearted, greedy, and that I would rather gain a dollar than save my own mother. This is a direct product of the altruistic environment that our county is immersed in. I grew up in it and believed it for awhile, but it wasn't until I started living totally selfish that I realized how incorrect and backwards that stereotype is.

My friends and acquaintances know that I am a truly nice and kind person. Anyone who spent five minutes with me would see that I am not cold-hearted or greedy (I also call my mother every week). Being selfish doesn’t remove the quantity or quality of kind things that I do ... it adds much more. A great way to look at it is like this:

Case 1 – Suppose I am walking down the street and a police officer notices me walk by a piece of trash and mistakenly thinks that I threw it on the sidewalk. The police officer stops me and tells me to pick up the trash or I’ll get a ticket. I know that the easiest way out of this situation is simply for me to pick up the piece of trash and be on my way. The results of this interaction are that a piece of garbage got thrown away, but I also have less respect for police officers and a negative emotional gain.

Case 2 – Now I am walking down the same street and I see an ugly piece of trash that I decide to pick up and throw away because I don’t like it. I act in an entirely selfish manner and throw it away. The results of this interaction are that the same piece of trash got thrown away and I gained some enjoyment out of getting rid of something that I don’t like.

The first case gave me a negative emotional gain because I was doing an act for someone else. It wouldn’t have changed if I replaced the police officer with a parent, a stranger, God, a sense of duty, or anything that wasn’t ME.

The second case gave me a positive emotional gain because I was doing something that I wanted to do. I was acting entirely selfish and reaped the benefits. Because I decide to live my life this way I only have positive emotional gains in anything that I do. This does not mean that I am an over joyous person that is brimming with peppyness. It just means that I enjoy everything that I do. My relationships with my friends and family are much stronger now because I am not obligated by anyone to spend time with them, but I choose to voluntarily because I value them. Being selfish doesn’t mean that I am cold-hearted; it means that I am purely warm hearted to those that I value. I am not an emotionless person; I have “clean” (as a good friend put it) emotions towards those that I love. This is much more than any sense of debt or gratitude could elicit from someone.

In return from these relationships (especially the objectivist ones) I know that this person values me and my friendship, otherwise they wouldn’t spend time with me. This is a win-win situation that leads to good feelings all around.

An effect from my selfishness is that my friend base has grown considerably smaller but significantly closer and more valuable. Since I only spend time and energy with people that I gain value from, I have cut out the “slackers” who gave me no emotional gain. These were the taxing and un-fun relationships that I didn’t enjoy (these weren’t bad people, just lacking a connection).

Being selfish doesn’t mean that I don’t give back to my community or try to help other people. For the same reasons mentioned above, it means that the things that I choose to do are valuable to me and I approach them with much more enthusiasm than someone who felt that they were forced into action.

I have no problem with welfare programs as long as contributions are voluntary. When there is a police officer telling me to “pay or else”, I loose emotional gain and my life is less enjoyable. This outlook can easily translate into most interactions in your life.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Reaping benefits of others bad decisions

Here is a great article about a guy who is thriving financially in these times. A libertarian sort who saw the bad news coming. Courtesy of Thruch.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

America's Second Declaration of Independence

Hey all,
Here is a great lecture from the Ayn Rand Institute titled Atlas Shrugged: America's Second Declaration of Independence.

This is an awesome speech given by Dr. Ghate that I have watched three times and plan on at least two more. It contains all of the main points of objectivism and how our society today (based on Christian values and altruism) is never going to succeed unless we become selfish once again.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tax Day Tea Party

Here are some pictures I took from the TDTP today. There was a pretty good turnout of a few thousand folks. My favorite sign is the picture with Ayn that says "Reason"...I think I'm going to get one of those for the next protest. The other one says "RIP Capitalism 1776 - 2009"...I thought it was cute. Another favorite (that I didn't get a picture of) had a classic oil painting of George Washington and above him there was a voice bubble with "WTF??". Enjoy.

Tax Day Tea Party Protests

Today I woke up, ate some pancakes, took a Biostatistics exam, and then attended the Chicago Tax Day Tea Party. This was the first rally/protest that I have ever attended and was suprised at a few things...

I heard about this rally from the internet and came prepared with 100 copies of the ARI flyer that they recommended handing out. I didn't care too much for the flyer that The Objectivist Standard had available...I'll go into that in a later post. Here are my observations:

1) People are incredibly polite and willing to accept flyers that you hand out at protests. I went with 100 and expected to see 80 lying on the ground after the rally. I saw none and everyone seemed happy to take them...Go Ayn Rand.

2) The folks at ARI are correct: the tea party protests are incredibly hodge-podge. Although well intentioned, there was a random showing of banners that was only stumped by the wide range of topics covered by the speakers. The common threads seemed to be that the people don't want the government to spend more money because they don't want to pay it back later. Out of the 6 or so speakers that I listened to, there was only one or two that really hit home with objectivist principles. It should be noted that these speeches seemed to get the loudest applause from the crowd, which is encouraging. Other speakers included an ex-democrat who was trying to get support to audit the heads of companies "responsible" for the financial collapse (I guess as they did post-Great Depression), a DJ (who, I assume, was in for comedic relief) that kept saying "I love this country and I love my God", and another ex-democrat who proposed the solution of public audits of the Federal Reserve to track government spending.

While this smattering of topics and solutions seemed to get some applause, it might seem pessimistic for objectivists that they were even covered; however, I was able to find the positive in the day...
-There were a lot of signs with Ayn Rand or John Galt on them (about 20%).
-The modern ability for grassroots protesting was impressive. This protest was only put on with the use of the internet and volunteers with very little mass media coverage (as far as I can tell).
-As I mentioned before, the crowd seemed to get more enthusiastic with the objectivist speakers. This shows me that there is a ready and willing population to listen to the ideas that need to be heard. If Rand was hoping for a change in moral philosophy, there is an audience available. This should serve as a call to arms for Objectivists to reach out to these protesters and plant the neccessary seeds. Yaron, Onkar, Keith, others at ARI: become speakers at these protests and get stuff done!!

3) On a personal note: I always thought of myself as never buying into mob mentality and it was enforced more today. I didn't do a single chant, text a single message (apparently it's the way to protest nowadays...they wanted us to do it 4 or 5 times), nor sing any songs. The good speakers deserved cheer but everything else just seemed wierd.

4) A high point during the protest happened when I was passing out flyers and a young man stopped me and asked if I was a fellow objectivist. I said "yeah" and after introductions he asked if I was with a student group or other organization. I told him that I was "Just a one man show, spreading ideas". He was suprised and moved that I was going to so much effort on my own; I gave him half of the flyers that I had left and told him to head in the other direction in the crowd. I expect to meet him in the crowd at the next rally doing the same.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"Ayn Rand as Prophet?"

Here is a great article that was posted on Pajamas Media by a fellow objectivist. I would recommend this article to anyone. You can find it here.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Personal Objectivist History

Sorry about the delay between posts. I am finding that it is harder to 1) think of things to write about and 2) find time to write them in the same day. I tip my hat once again to all objectivist bloggers who post multiple times in a week.

This weekend I was busy entertaining my parents for their first trip to Chicago to visit me. It was a lot of fun and I had a great time. When I talk about how I got involved in objectivism I usually say that I was always an objectivist but didn't know it until I read Rand's novels. I never realized that my philosophy in life had one name. Therefore, when I studied Rand and her philosophy it was as though there was an echo of my own knowledge but also a more cohesive, well-thought system in place. For this I am indebted to Ayn Rand.

I never thought that the objectivist thoughts came from anywhere in particular. I gave myself the benefit-of-the-doubt of the realization in the way things should be. Spending time this weekend with my parents and having many conversations about the state of things I realized that I actually was raised in an objectivist home. I wouldn't call either one of my parents objectivists; my father I would describe as "Republican" and my mother "Democrat". Around election times they often joke that they just cancel each other out.

To my own credit, though, I was able to pick out the ideas of objectivism from both and piece them together in my own philosophy that was a hybrid. Of course, the freedom of business and smaller government is typical of the Republican party and the more secular system including gay rights and the right to abortions is from the Democrats. In this way I was removing contradictions from both views and forcing them to make rational sense. I don't ever remember this taking a lot of time, thought, or effort on my part; it was an automatic process. For similar reasons I imagine this is why my little sister says she is an objectivist as well. I can see seeds of objectivism in my older sister as well. This was an interesting realization for me and it was neat to talk to my parents and either wholly agree with my dad on subjects (i.e. stimulus package, bailouts, ridiculous "green" energy, etc...) or wholly agree with my mom (i.e. poking fun at religious ceremonies). There wasn't much crossover.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Last night I got a chance to watch "Religulous" with Bill Maher. I patiently awaited for this documentary to come out on video because I knew it was going to be worth watching (an honor that I don't attribute to most new films). I consider Bill Maher to be an intelligent, somewhat rational person that has the gift of humor and I wasn't disappointed.

Maher takes on the usual documentary format with himself interviewing different religious people, mostly questioning their belief structure and sometimes mocking them. What is an overwhelming observation in the movie is how different all of these people interpret the teachings of thier gods. Maher doesn't just pick on Christians but takes time to question Muslims, Jews, Mormons, and other religions as well (the Church of Cannabis).

Although it was humorous and true to its title, I thought that he could have done a much better job looking at the social issues that he brought up with the interviewed (i.e. - free speech in Holland & gay rights). There was also a big jump at the end to his final monologue which was a very serious call to arms for all nonbelievers to stand up and start pointing out inconsistencies to belivers. This might have been sold better if he spent a minute or two more connecting why faith in something that doesn't exist can lead to death and suffering for all. I think that the average person, whether or not they believe in Dog, has a hard time connecting their two-hour family Sunday church session with death and destruction.

A great website that breaks this issue down some more is

Above I mentioned Maher as somewhat rational. While I think that he is headed in the right direction with religion he is an avid supporter and voice for environmentalism. He is a firm believer in Global Warming and thinks that we are polluting ourselves to death. I have been having discussions recently with friends about how environmentalism is becoming the next religion and is preaching all the same ways that religions does: man is flawed and bad (destroys environment), we should suffer (by getting rid of our best energy sources), collectivism (this won't work if everyone isn't on board), and altruism (give, give, give to the rain forest, Sierra Club, Al Gore, etc...). The parallels are astonishing and I am upset with Maher and his short sightedness with environmentalism. I'll probably post on this later on.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Mission Statement

Good day to all.

I am TK and have decided to start a blog. I am a person who is generally against facebook, myspace, twitter, texting and anything else that tries to disguise itself as a digital social network forum. Therefore it was very difficult for me to accept the idea of starting a blog.

Like any goal or business I thought it would be a good idea to start off with a mission statement of The TK Lounge...

1. My main objective in this blog is to become a better writer. I am very scientifically educated and therefore slanted towards my left brain. Recently, I have realized that it is becoming more and more necessary for educated, rational people to voice their opinions and philosophies to the general public in hopes of changing the direction of our society. One of the best ways to do this is through written word. I am forcing myself to write with the hopes of helping the causes of individual rights and liberty. Any person that comes across my blog is therefore urged to offer constructive criticism on my writing style and/or grammar. Those are also encouraged to leave their remarks on the content of my entries. A warning to those disagreeing with me and who choose to do so ... keep your remarks (1st) well written and (2nd) well reasoned. If you choose to leave a ranting comment that contains swear words or is an e-motional outburst, save us both the time and don't write anything; it won't be read. I encourage differing opinions and engaging conversations but not soap boxes.

A note to my above order of remarks: I picked well written to be first because it is easiest to see if someone has spent time to write the message. Like most arguments, it takes longer to see the solid reasoning behind a comment than the quality of its writing.

2. Although I have been exposed to Ayn Rand's philosophies and objectivism for about three years, I am finding that recently I have been making leaps and bounds intellectually. My mind is usually in some form of thought and/or reasoning and I would like to use this blog to track my philosophical journey. I will post on things going on in my life (books read, trips taken, conversations participated in) in hopes of keeping track of my ever evolving and clarifying thoughts.

3. The first two parts of the mission statement are the overwhelming reason that I am starting this blog. Another reason, however minor, is so that friends and family can keep up with my thoughts at their own convenience. I find that in my busy life, reading blogs is an easy way to find out how people are doing when I only have a few minutes to spend.

I will probably post quite a bit this first week or two and then things will taper off to one or two a week. I am also going to try to keep my name out of this blog for professional reasons. I am a young graduate student who will eventually be seeking employment in industry somewhere. I realize that the internet is an easy way for employers to search their applicants. Even though I am a smart and hard working person, political and religious biases are a factor in the modern workplace. Whereas I believe that my ideas and beliefs would be an asset to most businesses (excluding the church and government who I would probably try to cripple) the reality is that they could hinder my future career. Feel free to call me paranoid (or just TK) but this is something that I would like to avoid even if it is a remote possibility.

Thanks for reading my first post.