Friday, April 30, 2004

Saying goodbye to an old friend.

Last night was BilLee and my last meeting of Demosthenians. For those of you that do not know, which is likely most everyone that reads this, "Demosthenians" refers to the great and glorious Demosthenian Literary Society. It is the oldest student organization at the University of Georgia. Basically it is a public speaking/debate society that has been around since 1803 (for more information on their rich history check out the DLS website). I wanted to blog on it today because for me Demosthenians has been like a loyal friend. I've been attending meetings for five years now. BilLee was a member for eight years and he gave his farewell last night, and in my typical stoic fashion I was very careful to keep all of my emotions cleverly stuffed away. But I know the loss had to hit me eventually and I suspect it will hit me even harder in the fall when I find myself in another state on Thursday nights. So let me tell you why it is so important to me.

My first meeting was in September '99. I only remember from that night the very first debate. I won't name any names nor tell you exactly what was said but I will tell you what that first debate was on. After reading the minutes of the previous week, introducing first and second time guests, the order of business was changed so that we could jump right into the debate. And with the light streaming in behind him from the setting autumn sun the first speaker got up and gave one of the most fascinating speeches I have ever heard to this day. I do not remember the exact wording but the resolution was something like: Whereas evolution is an article of faith Be it hereby resolved evolution should not be taught in public schools. Having recently attended the first meeting of the year of the Sagan society (a scientifically minded campus organization focused on critical thought), and being someone who had at one time or another been on both sides of this debate, this was a particularly interesting topic for me. I had been very disappointed with the Sagan society at the time because while I appreciated their message of critical thought and fight against pseudo-science, the so-called "critical thinking" that took place during the meetings amounted to little more than patting their self on the back for not being creationists.

Now admittedly there have been times in my life when I had done just that, but when you are one of two or three atheists in a class of several hundred (as I was in high school), patting yourself on the back verbally for not being creationist is mainly for shock value (not to mention a little solidarity amongst an extreme minority). In any case I had gotten over that phase in high school and was ready for some real “critical thinking” and real debate, and intellectual elitism wasn't going to cut it. From the moment the first speaker opened his mouth that night at DLS I was hooked. I sat on the edge of my seat the whole evening, absolutely entranced with the whole affair. And that was how the whole year went. I went to every regular meeting that year and stayed till the very end of the night (the meetings at that time were typically about four hours long). But I didn't participate and I didn't actually join due in no small part to the fact that I was absolutely terrified (and still am) of public speaking. There were plenty of people that wanted me to join, and I had every intention of doing so, but I kept putting off petitioning for membership. Finally in spring 2000 on the second to last regular meeting of the year (it was probably in late March) I finally got up the nerve to petition. It was the first time I had spoken in front of the society, after a semester and a half of listening to debates, and strangely enough it was surprisingly easy. The hard part, and the part I never quite mastered was simply standing up (to take the floor) to begin with.

I gave what I thought was a horrible and ill-prepared speech on why Star Trek was socialist. Though I later found out that quite a few members had enjoyed it, as they were able to recall it years later. Unfortunately for me that night I did not receive enough votes from the members of the society to be accepted as a new member. It was particularly disheartening for me because there were multiple people who had been downstairs at the time (who said they would have voted for me) but who for some reason or other had not gotten to vote. Add to that the fact that multiple people who were late to the meeting told me they would have voted for me had they been there (not to mention a few that decided not to come that night), and so many people came up to me that night telling me that they had voted for me and they didn't "know what had happened." Needless to say I was encouraged to repetition and I had every intention of doing so. One member in particular told me that the society was just trying to challenge me since I had come to so many meetings and never spoken. He encouraged me to get up and speak at the next meeting, to participate in the debate, and then to petition in the following weeks. So I did. I participated in the debate the next week rather than immediately re petitioning, and since it was the last regular meeting of the year I decided to put off joining until the following semester (which was a stupid idea I know).

It was a stupid idea to wait until the following year because for various reasons, none of them good, I never got around to re petitioning and I dropped out of the university at the end of the year (which I happened to have a very good reason for dropping out but that's another story). So I never actually joined, but I still came to meetings week after week, and it never really bothered me that I wasn't a member. Of course there were times when people were giving speeches about what the society had meant to them, and what it meant to be Demosthenian that I kind of wished I was a member. I realized at those times however that even if I had joined, since I had dropped out of the university, I would not be a member at that point anyhow, and so it seemed to me as if the difference were only nominal. It was not until this past year that I really wished I had joined. I'm an introvert and this year was the first year I really got to know anybody in the society very well. Up until this year I had always felt like I was an outsider, and this was not their fault by any stretch of the imagination. I just didn't identify with anybody, except for BilLee of course, I felt as if I had no common ground nor common interests with anybody in the society.

Of course this could not be further from the truth, but I happen to be a little "slow" when it comes to social matters. Slow would be an understatement actually. For all my pride over the years at being so "smart" at math, and science, at being a master of metered poetry, and the use of sound devices, (trust me I was so skilled with my knowledge and use of poetic devices back in high school that I honestly thought I could write poetry better than I could speak and I was probably right . . . ) socially I ranked at the level of severely retarded. Being a reclusive introvert, who was depressed and had severe self-esteem issues in high school didn't help, but it made for good poetry. So after all those meetings when I joined the members at some restaurant or other to hang-out and socialize, I always felt awkward and out of place. People would be talking about football, and I would be thinking about how much I wanted to go home, or if I was particularly invigorated and I usually was I would be thinking about the debates that had gone on that night. I would think about how much I wanted to talk about x argument, or y argument, the flaws of this or that presentation, why such-and-such constituted an ad hominem or a straw man, and all the arguments I couldn't actually think of during the debates flooded back to me as if I my brain had simply been turned off for a few hours.

I was never willing however to interrupt a conversation about school or football or something of that sort to explain my position on abortion or to tell someone why I thought they were wrong earlier that night. "Breaking the Ice" was never one of my strong points and at the time I was the Ice Queen. ;) So awkward weirdness ensued, and the feeling as if there were some massive chasm between my world and that of the members. A chasm I had no way across. That fell apart at the end of last year when one of the graduating members who had been a first time guest on the same night I had been told me that she would miss me. I was floored. I actually said something stupid like "really?!?" he he he... She assured me that she would, and told me how great it was to have me around and such. I was so thankful she did not say "I wish you had joined," she was one of the people all those years ago who had signed my petition and had pushed me to repetition. I really hate the "should'a could'a would'a's. I had been resigned to not being a member since I dropped out, and I didn't regret dropping out. Nevertheless, she struck a chord. I had gotten accustomed to thinking of myself as the wall flower. The person unnoticed, and unknown though I had had people previously tell me that I was the only person that ever laughed at the jokes they gave during their speeches.

In any case I realized, finally, that the reason I felt this massive divide between me and everyone else was not because there was one, but because I honestly did not know what people were like outside of debate. I had never found out what people's interests were. So this year I decided to do better. I tried to get to know people, and to participate more, which led me to the discovery of just how deeply ingrained my fear of public speaking was (that is also another story). I didn't do a superb job getting to know people, it was slow going and I had to draw on skills I didn't have, but I broke out of the box far more than I ever had in the past. Which is why this year was the first year I ever wanted to take a larger role in the society than I had. I had never had any desire to be on committees or hold offices, until this year when I started to see a little bit more in the members than I ever had before. I saw more than just a political position and an unsurpassable cultural gap between myself and individual members (okay I saw more than that before I just couldn't see any way to relate to people). That made me want an excuse to work beside people, and to get to know them better. So for the first time I regretted not becoming a member.... should'a could'a would'a... ha!

Regardless of that, and regardless of what I may wish I had done differently, the meetings I attended at Demosthenian were great. There have been so many times in this past year especially when I couldn't get to sleep until six or seven in the morning because my brain was so invigorated by the debate of the previous night. There were so many times when I lay in bed with a thousand ideas and arguments rushing through my head, with not a chance in hell of ever falling asleep, and there were many nights I got up and wrote for hours about many of those ideas until I could no longer hold open my eyelids. In so many ways I know I owe the existence of this blog to those many sleepless Thursday nights over the years. I know I owe my relentless argumentation skills and application of logic (and if you do not believe I'm relentless check out some of the past debates I've had over at The Ponderer's Guild on the ethics of file swapping, and why animals don't have rights) to several hundred possibly thousand debates I've listened to every Thursday night for the past five school years. So to my old friend, my guaranteed weekly intellectual stimulus I have to say goodbye. I regret not being a better friend in return, but I'll make up for it. My social skills may rank just below that of a Kindergartener yanking on the shirt of someone he wants the attention of but I am relentless... and I've got a blog. :::Maniacal laugher ensuing::: ;)

Thursday, April 29, 2004

It's Fun to be Evolutionarily Fit

Alien Landscape has a post on ADD that has this interesting snippet: "Second, while some people report that a suspiciously high number of children are getting treated for ADD, that could have all sorts of reasonable explanations, to wit:

Clusters of ADD may exist, in the same way that clusters of other disorders exist; if one of them happens to be at your kid's school, you might wonder about all the ADD drugs being given out.

The incidence of ADD has always been higher than anyone suspected.

Something in our environment that's different from our parents' environment is pushing up the incidence of ADD.

People with ADD tend to congregate, thus forming clusters that aren't random.

People with ADD are outbreeding everyone else."

Who knows. Maybe it's all of the above. If you read between the lines (specifically the combination of line 3 and line 5), it could be posited as simple natural selection. I like the idea that some of my genetic freakness is actually the result of survival of the fittest. Yep, that's it. Everybody say hello to BilLee, the future of humanity. ;-)

This dovetails quite well on my post "In Defense of ADHD".

a lighter note

Here's the shortest of five bar jokes over at [ random acts of alex ]: "A blonde, a brunette, a redhead, a nun, a priest, a rabbi, two giraffes and a duck, a farmer, a lawyer, an accountant, a Mexican, an Indian, a Chinaman, an Irishman, an Englishman and a Scotsman walk into a bar.
The barman says: 'Hang on a minute, is this some sort of joke?' "

I thought I'd brighten up the blog with a dash of humor. It was starting to get stuffy in here.

a libertarian's position on abortion

As is usually the case, I once again find myself agreeing with a position expressed by Amy at The Fifty Minute Hour: "...even if I believed that carrying human DNA granted a being the right to life, which I don't, that doesn't guarantee that being the right to live in my womb for nine months. Now, perhaps a pregnant woman should turn to her stomach and ask the fetus nicely to get out before seeking an abortion, but the point is that as long as a fetus lives inside of an independent, thinking, feeling person, the person's right to control the course of her own destiny trumps any claim the fetus might have to a right to life."

Nothing has a political right to be a parasite not even a genotypic human. This is also a pretty good argument against tax-funded welfare. Without choice, you don't have charity. You have theft and slavery. But perhaps I'm being too blunt again.

Some comparative population density numbers

Tanner Pittman has some interesting comparative population density numbers: "Germany is approximately the size of Texas. But it has a population of some 82,400,000 situated on 349,223 square kilometers. The United States, by contrast, contains some 290,342,554 people (including immigrants, illegals, etc.) on a land area of 9,158,960 square kilometers. Some quick math will reveal that Germany has a population density of ca. 236 people per square kilometer and the US has about 31.7 people per square kilometer. If we were to have the population density of Germany today, we'd have about 2.1 billion people in America. And it's not like the Germans are feeling overcrowded. Housing in Germany costs more than here, but you could largely chalk that up to stringent building codes. Traffic there is not markedly worse than here. Indeed, it seems that denser populations may have the effect of encouraging the growth of rapid transit by rail or bus. Furthermore, although the standard of living there is a hair below that of the United States, it is not markedly so.

And if you think that Germany is the exception to the rule that more people in a country = more joblessness and poverty, then consider Japan. If America had a population as dense as Japan's, we'd have roughly 3 billion people in the country. The same is true if we had Holland's population density. Except we'd have almost 4 and a half billion people in our country. And Holland has an unemployment rate of about 3%. And no reserves of natural resources to speak of. "

So basically, if the US had the population density of the Netherlands, then we would home to more than half of the world's population. Sounds like a plan to me. Vote libertarian and when we open the borders up again, more people will be liberated through migration than we could ever afford to liberate through military force.

Anarchist politics

gAmanda makes this point on her post entitled back to NORML: "I've thought about whether or not I should run for office, being an anarchist and all. I think I'll be OK as a State Rep if I refuse the stipend (all $100 of it!) and make sure that I vote my conscience."

This is also my intuition regarding running for office as an anarchist libertarian. Honestly, I think it applies equally well to all libertarian campaigns for public office anarchist or minarchist.

A Couple Points about Dictionaries

In a debate about the meaning of words in the comments section of my post at Catallarchy about Wise Pacifism, I made a point about dictionaries that bears repeating:

The job of dictionaries are to aid diction (hence the name) and provide a guide to spelling words in a manner that they can be generally read. Meanings change and dictionaries only put what they believe to be the most common meanings at the time and maybe some of the more archaic uses of the term. I still have an old dictionary that simply defines libertarian as “advocate of free will”. If that were still the definition, then “calvinist libertarian” would be a contradiction in terms. The Oxford English Dictionary is best at keeping it clear that language is in a general flux. Our responsibility to language simply is logic and consistency within a given context

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

More Election Year Stupidity. / News / Politics / Presidential candidates / Kerry faces PR fight over foreign policy: " If elected president, John F. Kerry would move to increase the US military by 40,000 troops. He would send more soldiers to Iraq if commanders said they were needed. He would stay in Iraq as long as it took to get the job done."

That's funny last time I checked the military did not stop recruiting. What is Kerry planning on doing to get those extra 40,000 troops? Making recruiters more aggressive? Or maybe he could offer higher pay to recruits. Perhaps a higher "reenlistment bonus," all of these add up to higher taxes of course. Everybody seems to think that Bush is responsible for the current state of the economy, so what do they think higher taxes are going to do for the unemployed? I know. We could just draft all those unemployed people into the military! That would entirely eliminate unemployment... Another option to get 40,000 more troops to sign up, how about lowering the the requirements for getting into the military. (As if they weren't low enough already). They could get rid of some of the fitness requirments, or get rid of that pesky GED requirement. He could pay recruiters more, or simply pressure them to fulfill his campaign promises once he's elected. So higher taxes, more aggressive recruiters, lower requirements.... What's the plan Kerry? Or is this all just hot air that will disapate should you ever be elected? Maybe this is just a desperate attempt to pull in military votes that he knows he doesn't stand a chance of getting.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Back in the day 2...

Today is the two month anniversary of Somewhere over the Rainbough and as a result I'm stuck with the tedious task of putting together another month in review post. I love having the review post because it gives people a chance to check out posts they may have missed, and of course it makes me feel productive looking at the variety of stuff I have put up over the past month. That being said it is still a pain to do it. But here goes:

This month (starting on March 25th) I started with a post critizing the anti-smoking movement in "Down with Religious Propaganda", followed by my own reflections on the Marxists' obsession with capitalism. I compared the intrinsic differences between libertarianism and utopianism in "Anarcho-Capitalism is not Utopianism." I discussed my own annoyance with using author's names in films that bear no resemblance to the stories they are based upon, I reflected on my own experiences with the Navy's attempts to recruit me into their "nuke program," and I discussed the long standing debate over the constitutionality of presidential war powers. Then I poked fun at my own erratic usage of commas, and put up a fun post analyzing the "capitalism" of Ferenginar.

Next I reflected on a run-in my mother had with the law in "pulled over walking," contemplated the financial potential of the drug war, criticized the once-a-criminal-always-a-criminal sentiment inherent in knee-jerk leftist politics, and fantasized about the possibility of social security and medicare going under in "If it ain't broke don't fix it." I recalled some of my own experiences in my analysis of the complicated issue of trusting children, discussed how blue laws interfere with the celebration of religious holidays, contemplated the social taboo around discussing tax evasion, and presented an interesting excerpt from the first inaugural address of Abraham Lincoln.

Finally I considered the meaning of the term "soft money," ranted about overpopulation, presented a few arguments about intellectual property, and discovered another great reason not to subject my future offspring to government schooling.

But that's not all!!! (No of course not that would be too easy...)

BilLee put up quotes from a variety of different individuals and great thinkers including Albert Einstein, Stephen Wright, David Barry, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Abraham Lincoln, and Aeschylus an ancient greek playwright. He also defended the value of wanderlust in "in defense of ADHD," and discussed his reasons for not going to see "The passion of the christ."

Also this month BilLee and myself were added as contributors at Both of us starting there with revised additions of old posts from this site. I posted an updated version of Defining my Marriage, and BilLee posted a new version of "Welcoming the democrats into opposition." I followed this with a post on American idol about how the show creates a unique forum to judge the individual style of the participants. Next I put up a post on mainstreet America called "America's first strip malls." And just today I put up a post describing the parallels between protestant christian apocalyptics and global warming advocates. BilLee discussed the x-prize and put up some quotes from cicero and douglas adams.

Edit: I forgot to mention my DS9 post over at Catallarchy called sanctuary.

Hope you enjoy!

Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

Here are quotes to get an understanding of the man.

It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.

Only a life lived for others is worth living.

"As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality."

"I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world."
"What Life Means to Einstein: An Interview by George Sylvester Viereck," for the October 26, 1929 issue of The Saturday Evening Post.

Sometimes one pays most for the things one gets for nothing.

"If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?"

"Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen."

Albert Einstein, when asked to describe radio, replied:
"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."

God doesn't play dice with the universe. [Also quoted as "I cannot believe that God would choose to play dice with the universe."]

God may be subtle, but He isn't plain mean. [Also found as "God is subtle, but he is not malicious."]

"I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones."

"If A equals success, then the formula is: A = X+Y+Z. X is work. Y is play. Z is keep your mouth shut."

"If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith."

Man usually avoids attributing cleverness to somebody else
-- unless it is an enemy.

The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.

"The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources."

"If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts."

"I never think of the future. It comes soon enough."

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

"Before God we are all equally wise - and equally foolish."

"The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is at all comprehensible."

"The release of atomic energy has not created a new problem. It has merely made more urgent the necessity of solving an existing one."

"You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war."

"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."

"Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence."

"A man's ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and
hope of reward after death."
[Albert Einstein, "Religion and Science", New York Times Magazine, 9 November 1930]

"What really interests me is whether God had any choice in the creation of the world."

"If one studies too zealously, one easily loses his pants."

Through the release of atomic energy, our generation has brought into the world the most revolutionary force since prehistoric man's discovery of fire. This basic force of the universe cannot be fitted into the outmoded concept of
narrow nationalisms.
For there is no secret and there is no defense; there is no possibility of control except through the aroused understanding and insistence of the peoples of the world. We scientists recognise our inescapable responsibility to carry to our fellow citizens an understanding of atomic energy and its implication for society. In this lies our only security and our only hope - we believe that an informed citizenry will act for life and not for death.
A. Einstein, 1947 d.C.

If you are out to describe the truth, leave elegance to the tailor.

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.

Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love.

"Too many of us look upon Americans as dollar chasers. This is a cruel libel, even if it is reiterated thoughtlessly by the Americans themselves."

How I wish that somewhere there existed an island for those who are wise and of good will.

Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater.

The significant problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.

Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence.

I maintain that cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest incitement to scientific research.

The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after
rational knowledge.

I want to know God's thoughts; the rest are details.

"Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one."

"The only real valuable thing is intuition."

A person starts to live when he can live outside himself.

Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character.

The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility.

"Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind."
Science, Philosophy and Religion: a Symposium (1941) ch. 13

"Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new."

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."

Science is a wonderful thing if one does not have to earn one's living at it.

If my theory of relativity is proven correct, Germany will claim me as a German and France will declare that I am a citizen of the world. Should my theory prove untrue, France will say that I am a German and Germany will declare that I am a Jew.

When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That's relativity.

"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed."
Quoted on pg. 289 of Adventures of a Mathematician, by S. M. Ulam (Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1976).

"Science is the century-old endeavour to bring together by means of systematic thought the perceptible phenomena of this world into as thorough-going an association as possible. To put it boldly, it is the attempt at a posterior reconstruction of existence by the process of conceptualisation. Science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be, and outside of its domain value judgements of all kinds remain necessary."

"I maintain that cosmic religiousness is the strongest and most noble driving force of scientific research."

"Why does this applied science, which saves work and makes life easier, bring us so little happiness? The simple answer runs: Because we have not yet learned to make sensible use of it."

"The process of scientific discovery is, in effect, a continual flight from wonder."

"The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking."

"Where the world ceases to be the scene of our personal hopes and wishes, where we face it as free beings admiring, asking and observing, there we enter the realm of Art and Science"

"When the number of factors coming into play in a phenomenological complex is too large scientific method in most cases fails. One need only think of the weather, in which case the prediction even for a few days ahead is impossible. Neverthess, noone doubts that we are confronted with a causal connection whose causal components are in the main known to us. Occurrences in this domain are beyond the reach of exact perdiction because of the variety of factors in operation, not because of any lack of order in nature."

"Scientific research is based on the idea that everything that takes place is determined by laws of nature, and therefore this holds for the action of people. For this reason, a research scientist will hardly be inclined to believe that events could be influenced by a prayer, i.e. by a wish addressed to a Supernatural Being."
[Albert Einstein, 1936, responding to a child who wrote and asked if scientists pray. Source: "Albert Einstein: The Human Side", Edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffmann]

"In the temple of science are many mansions, and various indeed are they that dwell therein and the motives that have led them hither. Many take to science out of a joyful sense of superior intellectual power; science is their own special sport to which they look for vivid experience and the satisfaction of ambition; many others are to be found in the temple who have offered the products of their brains on this altar for purely utilitarian purposes. Were an angel of the Lord to come and drive all the people belonging to these two categories out of the temple, the assemblage would be seriously depleted, but there would still be some men, of both present and past times, left inside."

"I think that a particle must have a separate reality independent of the measurements. That is an electron has spin, location and so forth even when it is not being measured. I like to think that the moon is there even if I am not looking at it."

"All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom."

"Relativity teaches us the connection between the different descriptions of one and the same reality."

"I sometimes ask myself how it came about that I was the one to develop the theory of relativity. The reason, I think, is that a normal adult never stops to think about problems of space and time. These are things which he has thought about as a child. But my intellectual development was retarded, as a result of which I began to wonder about space and time only when I had already grown up."

"Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT'S relativity."

"When a blind beetle crawls over the surface of the globe, he doesn't realize that the track he has covered is curved. I was lucky enough to have spotted it."

"I have no particular talent. I am merely inquisitive."

"It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer."

"If I had my life to live over again, I'd be a plumber."

"If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.... I get most joy in life out of music."
"What Life Means to Einstein: An Interview by George Sylvester Viereck," for the October 26, 1929 issue of The Saturday Evening Post.

"My life is a simple thing that would interest no one. It is a known fact that I was born and that is all that is necessary."

"As far as I'm concerned, I prefer silent vice to ostentatious virtue."

This is a story I heard as a freshman at the University of Utah when Dr. Henry Eyring was still teaching chemistry there. Many years before he and Dr. Einstein were colleagues. As they walked together they noted an unusual plant growing along a garden walk. Dr. Eyring asked Dr. Einstein if he knew what the plant was. Einstein did not, and together they consulted a gardener. The gardener indicated the plant was green beans and forever afterwards Eyring said Einstein didn't know beans. I heard this second hand and I don't know if the story has ever been published...
-S K Franz-

"When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge."

"True religion is real living; living with all one's soul, with all one's goodness and righteousness."

"When the solution is simple, God is answering."

"The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. The religion which based on experience, which refuses dogmatic. If there's any religion that would cope the scientific needs it will be Buddhism...."

"I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the kind that we experience in ourselves. Neither can I nor would I want to conceive of an individual that survives his physical death; let feeble souls, from fear or ab surd egoism, cherish such thoughts. I am satisfied with the mystery of the eternity of life and with the awareness and a glimpse of the marvelous structure of the existing world, together with the devoted striving to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the Reason that manifests itself in nature."
[Albert Einstein,_The World as I See It_]

"We should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, ofcourse, powerful muscles, but no personality."

"The highest principles for our aspirations and judgements are given to us in the Jewish-Christian religious tradition. It is a very high goal which, with our weak powers, we can reach only very inadequately, but which gives a sure foundation to our aspirations and valuations. If one were to take that goal out of out of its religious form and look merely at its purely human side, one might state it perhaps thus: free and responsible development of the individual, so that he may place his powers freely and gladly in the service of all mankind.... it is only to the individual that a soul is given. And the high destiny of the individual is to serve rather than to rule, or to impose himself in any other way."

"Intelligence makes clear to us the interrelationship of means and ends. But mere thinking cannot give us a sense of the ultimate and fundamental ends. To make clear these fundamental ends and valuations and to set them fast in the emotional life of the individual, seems to me precisely the most important function which religion has to form in the social life of man."

"It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it."
[Albert Einstein, 1954, from "Albert Einstein: The Human Side", edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, Princeton University Press]

"I am convinced that some political and social activities and practices of the Catholic organizations are detrimental and even dangerous for the community as a whole, here and everywhere. I mention here only the fight against birth control at a time when overpopulation in various countries has become a serious threat to the health of people and a grave obstacle to any attempt to organize peace on this planet."
[ letter, 1954]

"I cannot conceive of a personal God who would directly influence the actions of individuals, or would directly sit in judgment on creatures of his own creation. I cannot do this in spite of the fact that mechanistic causality has, to a certain extent, been placed in doubt by modern science. [He was speaking of Quantum Mechanics and the breaking down of determinism.] My religiosity consists in a humble admiratation of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we, with our weak and transitory understanding, can comprehend of reality. Morality is of the highest importance -- but for us, not for God."
[Albert Einstein, from "Albert Einstein: The Human Side", edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, Princeton University Press]

"The finest emotion of which we are capable is the mystic emotion. Herein lies the germ of all art and all true science. Anyone to whom this feeling is alien, who is no longer capable of wonderment and lives in a state of fear is a dead man. To know that what is impenatrable for us really exists and manifests itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, whose gross forms alone are intelligible to our poor faculties - this knowledge, this feeling ... that is the core of the true religious sentiment. In this sense, and in this sense alone, I rank myself amoung profoundly religious men."

"The more a man is imbued with the ordered regularity of all events the firmer becomes his conviction that there is no room left by the side of this ordered regularity for causes of a different nature. For him neither the rule of human nor the rule of divine will exist as an independent cause of natural events. To be sure, the doctrine of a personal God interfering with the natural events could never be refuted, in the real sense, by science, for this doctrine can always take refuge in those domains in which scientific knowledge has not yet been able to set foot. But I am persuaded that such behaviour on the part of the representatives of religion would not only be unworthy but also fatal. For a doctrine which is able to maintain itself not in clear light but only in the dark, will of necessity lose its effect on mankind, with incalculable harm to human progress .... If it is one of the goals of religions to liberate maknind as far as possible from the bondage of egocentric cravings, desires, and fears, scientific reasoning can aid religion in another sense. Although it is true that it is the goal of science to discover (the) rules which permit the association and foretelling of facts, this is not its only aim. It also seeks to reduce the connections discovered to the smallest possible number of mutually independent conceptual elements. It is in this striving after the rational unification of the manifold that it encounters its greatest successes, even though it is precisely this attempt which causes it to run the greatest risk of falling a prey to illusion. But whoever has undergone the intense experience of successful advances made in this domain, is moved by the profound reverence for the rationality made manifest in existence. By way of the understanding he achieves a far reaching emancipation from the shackles of personal hopes and desires, and thereby attains that humble attitude of mind toward the grandeur of reason, incarnate in existence, and which, in its profoundest depths, is inaccessible to man. This attitude, however, appears to me to be religious in the highest sense of the word. And so it seems to me that science not only purifies the religious impulse of the dross of its anthropomorphism but also contibutes to a religious spiritualisation of our understanding of life."
[Albert Einstein, "Science, Philosophy, and Religion, A Symposium", published by the Conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion in Their Relation to the Democratic Way of Life, Inc., New York, 1941]

"Whoever undertakes to set himself up as judge in the field of truth and knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the Gods."

"The only source of knowledge is experience."

"The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift."

"The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity."

"Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking."

"During the last century, and part of the one before, it was widely held that there was an unreconcilable conflict between knowledge and belief. The opinion prevailed amoung advanced minds that it was time that belief should be replaced increasingly by knowledge; belief that did not itself rest on knowledge was superstition, and as such had to be opposed. According to this conception, the sole function of education was to open the way to thinking and knowing, and the school, as the outstanding organ for the people's education, must serve that end exclusively."
Quoting Newton

"We all know, from what we experience with and within ourselves, that our conscious acts spring from our desires and our fears. Intuition tells us that that is true also of our fellows and of the higher animals. We all try to escape pain and death, while we seek what is pleasant. We are all ruled in what we do by impulses; and these impulses are so organised that our actions in general serve for our self preservation and that of the race. Hunger, love, pain, fear are some of those inner forces which rule the individual's instinct for self preservation. At the same time, as social beings, we are moved in the relations with our fellow beings by such feelings as sympathy, pride, hate, need for power, pity, and so on. All these primary impulses, not easily described in words, are the springs of man's actions. All such action would cease if those powerful elemental forces were to cease stirring within us. Though our conduct seems so very different from that of the higher animals, the primary instincts are much alike in them and in us. The most evident difference springs from the important part which is played in man by a relatively strong power of imagination and by the capacity to think, aided as it is by language and other symbolical devices. Thought is the organising factor in man, intersected between the causal primary instincts and the resulting actions. In that way imagination and intelligence enter into our existence in the part of servants of the primary instincts. But their intervention makes our acts to serve ever less merely the immediate claims of our instincts."

"Knowledge of what is does not open the door directly to what should be. If one asks the whence derives the authority of fundamental ends, since they cannot be stated and justifed merely by reason, one can only answer: they exist in a healthy society as powerful traditions, which act upon the conduct and aspirations and judgements of the individuals; they are there, that is, as something living, without its being necessary to find justification for their existence. They come into being not through demonstration but through revelation, through the medium of powerful personalities. One must not attempt to justify them, but rather to sense their nature simply and clearly."
"The devil has put a penalty on all things we enjoy in life. Either we suffer in health or we suffer in soul or we get fat."

"The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives."

"A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin; what else does a man need to be happy."

"The fear of death is the most unjustified of all fears, for there's no risk of accident for someone who's dead."

"The ideals which have always shone before me and filled me with the joy of living are goodness, beauty, and truth. To make a goal of comfort or happiness has never appealed to me; a system of ethics built on this basis would be sufficient only for a herd of cattle."

"Without deep reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people."

"A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of others."

"Two things inspire me to awe -- the starry heavens above and the moral universe within."

"It is a magnificent feeling to recognize the unity of complex phenomena which appear to be things quite apart from the direct visible truth."

"Watch the stars, and from them learn.
To the Master's honor all must turn,
each in its track, without a sound,
forever tracing Newton's ground."
-- translation by Dave Fredrick

"A human being is part of a whole, called by us the "Universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest--a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."

"The human mind is not capable of grasping the Universe. We are like a little child entering a huge library. The walls are covered to the ceilings with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written these books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. But the child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books---a mysterious order which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects."

"What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of "humility." This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism"

"The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which he has attained liberation from the self."

"Understanding of our fellow human beings...becomes fruitful only when it is sustained by sympathetic feelings in joy and sorrow."

"Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet."

Einstein was attending a music salon in Germany before the second world war, with the violinist S. Suzuki. Two Japanese women played a German piece of music and a woman in the audience exclaimed: "How wonderful! It sounds so German!"
Einstein responded: "Madam, people are all the same."

"Man tries to make for himself in the fashion that suits him best a simplified and intelligible picture of the world; he then tries to some extent to substitute this cosmos of his for the world of experience, and thus to overcome it. This is what the painter, the poet, the speculative philosopher, and the natural scientists do, each in his own fashion. Each makes this cosmos and its construction the pivot of his emotional life, in order to find in this way peace and security which he can not find in the narrow whirlpool of personal experience."
Ideas and Opinions, (Dell, Pinebrook, N.J., 1954)

"It is only to the individual that a soul is given."

"In order to be an immaculate member of a flock of sheep, one must above all be a sheep oneself."

"The minority, the ruling class at present, has the schools and press, usually the Church as well, under its thumb. This enables it to organize and sway the emotions of the masses, and make its tool of them."
[Albert Einstein, letter to Sigmund Freud, 30 July 1932]

"Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions."

"I do not believe in immortality of the individual, and I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority behind it."
["Albert Einstein: The Human Side", edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, and published by Princeton University Press.]

"The real problem is in the hearts and minds of men. It is easier to denature plutonium than to denature the evil spirit of man."
Quoted in: Freeman Dyson, Disturbing the Universe, ch. 5 (1979).

"He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would fully suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, senseless brutality, deplorable love-of-country stance, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action! It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder."

"Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding."

"Since I do not foresee that atomic energy is to be a great boon for a long time, I have to say that for the present it is a menace. Perhaps it is well that it should be. It may intimidate the human race into bringing order into it's international affairs, which without the pressure of fear, it would not do."

"Nor do I take into account a danger of starting a chain reaction of a scope great enough to destroy part or all of the planet...But it is not necessary to imagine the earth being destroyed like a nova by a stellar explosion to understand vividly the growing scope of atomic war and to recognize that unless another war is prevented it is likely to bring destruction on a scale never before held possible, and even now hardly conceived, and that little civilization would survive it." (1947)

"Unless Americans come to realize that they are not stronger in the world because they have the bomb but weaker because of their vulnerability to atomic attack, they are not likely to conduct their policy at Lake Success [the United Nations] or in their relations with Russia in a spirit that furthers the arrival at an understanding. " (1947)

"The discovery of nuclear chain reactions need not bring about the destruction of mankind any more than did the discovery of matches. We only must do everything in our power to safeguard against its abuse. Only a supranational organization, equipped with a sufficiently strong executive power, can protect us." (1953)

"Never regard study as a duty, but as the enviable opportunity to learn to know the liberating influence of beauty in the realm of the spirit for your own personal joy and to the profit of the community to which your later work belongs."

"Teaching should be such that what is offered is perceived as a valuable gift and not as a hard duty ."

"It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge."

"The real difficulty, the difficulty which has baffled the sages of all times, is rather this: how can we make our teaching so potent in the emotional life of man, that its influence should withstand the pressure of the elemental psychic forces in the individual?"

"The school has always been the most important means of transferring the wealth of tradition from one generation to the next. This applies today in an even higher degree than in former times, for through modern development of economic life, the family as bearer of tradition and education has become weakened. The continuance and health of human society is therefore in a still higher degree dependent on school than formally."
New York Times, October 16, 1936

"The point is to develop the childlike inclination for play and the childlike desire for recognition and to guide the child over to important fields for society. Such a school demands from the teacher that he be a kind of artist in his province."
Out of My Later Years

"To me the worst thing seems to be a school principally to work with methods of fear, force and artificial authority. Such treatment destroys the sound sentiments, the sincerity and the self-confidence of pupils and produces a subservient subject."
Ideas and Opinions

"One should guard against preaching to young people success in the customary form as the main aim in life.The most important motive for work in school and in life is pleasure in work, pleasure in its result, and the knowledge of the value of the result to the community."
"On Education"

"With the affairs of active human beings it is different. Here knowledge of truth alone does not suffice; on the contrary this knowledge must continually be renewed by ceaseless effort, if it is not to be lost. It resembles a statue of marble which stands in the desert and is continuously threatened with burial by the shifting sands. The hands of science must ever be at work in order that the marble column continue everlastingly to shine in the sun. To those serving hands mine also belong."
"On Education"

"One should guard against inculcating a young man {or woman} with the idea that success is the aim of life, for a successful man normally receives from his peers an incomparibly greater portion than than the services he has been able to render them deserve. The value of a man resides in what he gives and not in what he is capable of receiving. The most important motive for study at school, at the university, and in life is the pleasure of working and thereby obtaining results which will serve the community. The most important task for our educators is to awaken and encourage these psychological forces in a young man {or woman}. Such a basis alone can lead to the joy of possessing one of the most precious assets in the world - knowledge or artistic skill."

"Gravitation can not be held responsible for people falling in love."

"Things should be made as simple as possible, but not any simpler."

"Joy in looking and comprehending is nature's most beautiful gift."

"Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them."

"Strange is our Situation Here Upon Earth."

"Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts."

"If you are out to describe the truth, leave elegance to the tailor."

"An empty stomach is not a good political advisor."

"Force always attracts men of low morality, and I believe it to be an invariable rule that tyrants of genius are succeeded by scoundrels."

"Try not to become a man of success but rather to become a man of value."

"Perfection of means and confusion of ends seem to characterize our age."

"Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts."

"The faster you go, the shorter you are."

"Nationalism is an infantile sickness. It is the measles of the human race."

"The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once."

"The foundation of morality should not be made dependent on myth nor tied to any authority lest doubt about the myth or about the legitimacy of the authority imperil the foundation of sound judgment and action."

"Politics is a pendulum whose swings between anarchy and tyranny are fueled by perpetually rejuvenated illusions."

"All our lauded technological progress -- our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal."

"Only one who devotes himself to a cause with his whole strength and soul can be a true master. For this reason mastery demands all of a person."

"Desire for approval and recognition is a healthy motive, but the desire to be acknowledged as better, stronger or more intelligent than a fellow being or fellow scholar easily leads to an excessively egoistic psychological adjustment, which may become injurious for the individual and for the community. "
"On Education," Address to the State University of New York at Albany, in Ideas and Opinions

"We have penetrated far less deeply into the regularities obtaining within the realm of living things, but deeply enough nevertheless to sense at least the rule of fixed necessity ..... what is still lacking here is a grasp of the connections of profound generality, but not a knowledge of order itself.

"(1) Those instrumental goods which should serve to maintain the life and health of all human beings should be produced by the least possible labour of all.
(2) The satisfaction of physical needs is indeed the indespensible precondition of a satisfactory existence, but in itself is not enough. In order to be content men must also have the possibility of developing their intellectual and artistic powers to whatever extent accord with their personal characteristics and abilities."

"If the possibility of the spiritual development of all individuals is to be secured, a second kind of outward freedom is necessary. The development of science and of the creative activities of the spirit in general requires still another kind of freedom, which may be characterised as inward freedom. It is this freedom of the spirit which consists in the interdependence of thought from the restrictions of authoritarian and social prejudices as well as from unphilosophical routinizing and habit in general. This inward freedom is an infrequent gift of nature and a worthy object for the individual."

Making allowances for human imperfections, I do feel that in America the most valuable thing in life is possible; the development of the individual and his creative powers.

"I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity."

The mere formulation of a problem is far more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skills. To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle requires creative imagination and marks real advances in science.

"I cannot imagine a God who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, whose purposes are modeled after our own -- a God, in short, who is but a reflection of human frailty. Neither can I believe that the individual survives the death of his body, although feeble souls harbor such thoughts through fear or ridiculous egotisms."
[Albert Einstein, obituary in New York Times, 19 April 1955]

Friday, April 23, 2004

Another argument for homeschooling. - Katy ISD's zero tolerance policy alarms parents

"School administrators acknowledge that they do not hold a standard of innocent until proven guilty for school-administered discipline, but they say they "make every effort" to find out whether students did what they are accused of doing. "

I guess it makes kids feel a lot better who have been ripped out of their regular classes and sent to a discipline school for something they didn't do that the administrators "made every effort" to find out whether they actually did what they were accused of doing. And in the case where the evidence consists of one student's word against another if it was anything like the school I went to, that will be evidence enough. In any case "make every effort" implies that guilt isn't a necessity in the minds of the administrators. Zero tolerance means they cannot risk "not punishing" a guilty kid, and thus must punish the accused unless they come across very clear and convincing evidence to exonerate them.

Administrators with such a distorted sense of discipline and justice aren't the sort of people I want teaching my children how to become "productive members of society," especially seeing how badly they've failed at the task themselves. But then perhaps I'm being unfair. Perhaps they represent exactly what they have set out to create "good citizens." In either case I wouldn't put anybody's future and education in their hands much less our children's.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

More on intellectual property...

This is from a very old post of mine over at the ponderer's guild. There are typically really good discussions going on over there.


The government grants property rights and protects them so that the objects of such properties can be used optimally. Intellectual property rights are given so that beneficial intellectual property will be created, even when the creation is not simple.

That was the idea when the U.S. patent system was created at the founding of the country. However, they had good reason to believe that such a stimulus was necessary at that time. America was a frontier country, what today would be refered to as a third-world or developing country. In those countries most of the population is either on the edge of survival or marginally above it, and thus few people would have had the time, money, nor incentive to work on creative endeavors. The problem is how can a developing country get a better economy if no one is inventing, or creating new products. The founders of America recognized that the progress of the arts and sciences was essential to the growth of the economy and to their progress as a society. Since they lacked an effective incentive to spur creative activity they created one; the patent system (copyrights came later).

So the question is: Is there enough of an incentive to advance the arts and sciences without the existence of the patent and copyright laws? And if the patent and copyright laws are no longer needed and thus obsolete, do they now hinder the arts and sciences?

I believe the answer to both of those questions is 'yes'.

But don't take my word for it:

"In the electronics industry, patents are of no value whatsoever in spurring research and development."

-- vice-president of Intel Corporation,
Business Week, 11 May 1981.

["Do you have any opinion as to whether, if it were not possible for a company to acquire a patent on an invention, the same work would nevertheless be carried on?"]

"I feel quite definitely it would be carried on."

-- President of the Ford Motor Corp,
Hearings before the Temporary [U. S.] National Economic Committee, 1939.

Intellectual Property?

Property in ideas is an insoluble contradiction. [He who complains of "theft" of his idea] complains that something has been stolen which he still possesses, and he wants back something which, if given to him a thousand times, would add nothing to his possession.

-- H. Rentzsch,
Geistiges Eigenthum, 1866.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

It does a libertarian heart good.

A private law enforcer (a tow truck) enforced the law on the coercively supported law enforcer (cop supported by taxes) in the parking lot of the appartment complex I live in. It makes you think doesn't it.

Monday, April 19, 2004

We are not Overpopulated!

This is a post of mine from a thread over at The Ponderer's Guild. I thought y'all might enjoy it.

Quote: the time we are technologically ready to colonize space our planet would have long since been stripped bare unless population control is implimented.

That sounds like science fiction to me. I think I saw that scenario played out in "lost in space" and "AI," oh yeah "Judge Dread" too. I don't suppose we will solve our population problems by going to space. We do not have population problems. Overpopulation is a myth. Those countries that cannot feed their populations are suffering from corrupt governments, not to mention the trade practices of the developed world (subsidies, tariffs etc.)

WE are not rabbits. Rabbits cannot create more food for themselves, rabbits cannot invent new ways to yield more crops out of the same amount of land, rabbits cannot create value by trading with their neighbors... Economic laws do not apply to rabits, they apply to humans.

That's why ecological arguments regarding resource allocation for humans, and whether or not humans will run out of resources due to the size of their population are wrong. They do not take into account the human mind, to do this you have to delve into the science of human choice: economics.
Economics deals explicity with the scarcity of human resources, and the choices we make in regard to that scarcity.

Does ecology have a role, yes, can it tell us if we will run out of resources, no it cannot.

I have never heard a proponent of overpopulation use any economic reasoning to support their premises. They usually make analogies between humans and deer, or humans and rabbits. The U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization which states explicitly that the earth could support far more humans than it currently does, at least focus on "overpopulation" as it applies to individual contries. Top soil, arable land, water supply, rainfall... etc. It operates on the premise that a country needs to support itself with it's own land rather than specializing in something else and trading for it's food. For countries in deserts and other desolate places, supporting themselves with their own farmable land is effectively imppossible. Thus they are said to be suffering from "overpopulation."

The earth however is not suffering from overpopulation. Hong Kong is not suffering from overpopulation, japan is not suffering from overpopulation... could they support their population on the amount of arable farmland that they have... estimates suggest they couldn't. That's what trade is for. There is plenty of arable land on this planet that is not being used. If earth were "overpopulated" there would be none. That's what that means... it means that we do not have the amount of land necessary to grow food for all of our population. We do! The United states creates a surplus of food every year, and this is inspite of the fact that we pay many farmers not to farm their own land in order to keep the price of agricultural goods high.

Malthus's belief was that we would run out of food, and arable land to produce that food. We have not run out of food, we have not run out of arable land. We are not overpopulated.

"It ain't so much the things we don't know
that get us into trouble. It's the things we do
know that just ain't so." — Artemus Ward

Sunday, April 18, 2004

McCain-Feingold works it's magic.

National Rifle Association creating news company to spread its gun-rights message nationwide

The NRA is taking the step to operate free of political spending limits, hoping to use unlimited donations known as soft money to focus on gun issues and candidates' positions despite the law's restrictions on soft money-financed political ads within days of the election.

"If that's the only way to bring back the First Amendment, we're going to bring it back," Wayne LaPierre, NRA executive vice president, told The Associated Press. Under the nation's campaign finance law, he said, "if you own the news operation, you can say whatever you want. If you don't, you're gagged."

Except the term "soft money" only applies to political campaigns not political messages. If the NRA runs ads sponsoring or endorsing a candidate it could be considered "unfair." But it would not be a campaign contribution to a candidate, and under no circumstance would a political message that endorsed no candidate be "soft money."

Soft money refers to a kind of campaign contribution. Specifically a kind of monentary contribution to a campaign for a political office. There is no such thing as "soft money" contributions to a political message, or even to an ad campaign that did not involve any candidate for elected office. Are they going to call it "soft money" now if I spend a few thousand dollars to air commercials calling for an end to the drug war? The broader we make the term the less meaningful it will be. But if we create laws based on a broader term the more restrictive the government can ultimately be.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

The War of Northern Aggression...

Lincoln's 1st Inauguration: March 4, 1861

Perhaps the civil war was about slavery after all... From Lincoln's first Inagural Address:

"I hold that, in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution, the Union of these States is perpetual. Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all national governments. It is safe to assert that no government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination. Continue to execute all the express provisions of our National Constitution, and the Union will endure forever--it being impossible to destroy it except by some action not provided for in the instrument itself.

Again, if the United States be not a government proper, but an association of States in the nature of contract merely, can it, as a contract, be peaceably unmade by less than all the parties who made it? One party to a contract may violate it--break it, so to speak; but does it not require all to lawfully rescind it?

Descending from these general principles, we find the proposition that in legal contemplation the Union is perpetual confirmed by the history of the Union itself. The Union is much older than the Constitution. It was formed, in fact, by the Articles of Association in 1774. It was matured and continued by the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It was further matured, and the faith of all the then thirteen States expressly plighted and engaged that it should be perpetual, by the Articles of Confederation in 1778. And, finally, in 1787 one of the declared objects for ordaining and establishing the Constitution was “to form a more perfect union.”

But if the destruction of the Union by one or by a part only of the States be lawfully possible, the Union is less perfect than before the Constitution, having lost the vital element of perpetuity.

It follows from these views that no State upon its own mere motion can lawfully get out of the Union; that Resolves and Ordinances to that effect are legally void; and that acts of violence, within any State or States, against the authority of the United States, are insurrectionary or revolutionary, according to circumstances.

I therefore consider that, in view of the Constitution and the laws, the Union is unbroken; and to the extent of my ability I shall take care, as the Constitution itself expressly enjoins upon me, that the laws of the Union be faithfully executed in all the States. Doing this I deem to be only a simple duty on my part; and I shall perform it so far as practicable, unless my rightful masters, the American people, shall withhold the requisite means, or in some authoritative manner direct the contrary. I trust this will not be regarded as a menace, but only as the declared purpose of the Union that it will Constitutionally defend and maintain itself.

::singing to the tune "Hotel California":: You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.... dum dum dum dum de dum...

Reno contradicts Clarke

Here's an interesting post over at Oh, That Liberal Media!, about Janet Reno's testimony contradicting Dick Clarke's at the 9-11 commission hearings. Think about it this way: If not for the blogosphere would we ever have known? (of course we could have simply watched all the testimony ourselves... or not!)

Friday, April 16, 2004

Stephen Wright Quotes

Here are some quotes from Stephen Wright that should convey a sense of his comedy.

I have an existential map; it has 'you are here' written all over it.

I was a peripheral visionary. I could see the future, but only way off to the side.

It it's a penny for your thoughts and you put in your two cents worth, then someone, somewhere is making a penny.

On the other hand, you have different fingers.

I was sad because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet. So I said, "Got any shoes you're not using?"

Someone sent me a postcard picture of the earth.
On the back it said, "Wish you were here."

Cross country skiing is great if you live in a small country.

I spilled spot remover on my dog. Now he's gone. -- Steven Wright

"Did you sleep well?" "No, I made a couple of mistakes."

My socks DO match. They're the same thickness.

I stayed up all night playing poker with tarot cards.
I got a full house and four people died.

Right now I'm having amnesia and deja vu at the same time.

What's another word for Thesaurus?

When I was crossing the border into Canada, they asked if I had any firearms with me. I said, "Well, what do you need?"

You can't have everything. Where would you put it?

A lot of people are afraid of heights. Not me, I'm afraid of widths.

If you were going to shoot a mime, would you use a silencer?

I planted some bird seed. A bird came up. Now I don't know what to feed it.

I made a chocolate cake with white chocolate. Then I took it to a potluck. I stood in line for some cake. They said, "Do you want white cake or chocolate cake?" I said, "yes".

My aunt gave me a walkie-talkie for my birthday. She says if I'm good, she'll give me the other one next year.

I went to the bank and asked to borrow a cup of money. They said, "What for?" I said, "I'm going to buy some sugar."

I eat swiss cheese from the inside out.

I had amnesia once or twice.

I bought a million lottery tickets. I won a dollar.

I got a chain letter by fax. It's very simple. You just fax a dollar bill to everybody on the list.

The sun never sets on the British Empire. But it rises every morning. The sky must get awfully crowded.

I brought a mirror to Lovers' Lane. I told everybody I'm Narcissus.

You know how it is when you decide to lie and say the check is in the mail, and then you remember it really is? I'm like that all the time.

How many people does it take to change a searchlight bulb?

The sky already fell. Now what?

I was in the grocery store. I saw a sign that said "pet supplies". So I did. Then I went outside and saw a sign that said "compact cars".

I wear my heart on my sleeve. I wear my liver on my pant leg.

If you can wave a fan, and you can wave a club, can you wave a fan club?

When I was in boy scouts, I slipped on the ice and hurt my ankle. A little old lady had to help me across the street.

If you write the word "monkey" a million times, do you start to think you're?

You know how it is when you're reading a book and falling asleep, you're reading, reading...and all of a sudden you notice your eyes are closed? I'm like that all the time.

Smoking cures weight problems...eventually...

Yesterday I told a chicken to cross the road. It said, "what for?"

I xeroxed my watch. Now I have time to spare.

I took a course in speed waiting. Now I can wait an hour in only ten minutes.

I eat swiss cheese. But I only nibble on it. I make the holes bigger.

I got a garage door opener. It can't close. Just open.

You know how it is when you go to be the subject of a psychology experiment, and nobody else shows up, and you think maybe that's part of the experiment? I'm like that all the time.

The sky is, I'm tipping over backwards.

If you tell a joke in the forest, but nobody laughs, was it a joke?

Yesterday I saw a chicken crossing the road. I asked it why. It told me it
was none of my business.

In school, every period ends with a bell. Every sentence ends with a period.
Every crime ends with a sentence.

I went to a garage sale. "How much for the garage?" "It's not
for sale."

I went to San Francisco. I found someone's heart.

A beautiful woman moved in next door. So I went over and returned a cup of
sugar. "You didn't borrow this." "I will."

Last week I forgot how to ride a bicycle.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Tax Taboo

Reason: "It's So Simple, It's Ridiculous": Taxing times for 16th Amendment rebels

What bugs me about the tax laws is that it's almost taboo to talk about them. Of course it's not taboo to complain about them, it's just taboo to talk about not paying them and how to get out of paying them.

Tax "evasion" is a federal crime. What is tax evasion? Is it not paying them? Sort of but not exactly. If you don't pay them and they decide to audit you they will garnish your wages, or put a lien on your house or something. They won't put you in jail for it typically. But if you successfully get out of paying them through some paperwork maneuvering or something of that sort. That's tax evasion and that's a federal crime. Bleh!

We can protest and they can't lock us up, unless we protest taxes by refusing to pay them. Who is harmed? No one... But the feds can't let a couple rogues get away with that sort of thing, everybody might try it.

Here's my point we need to talk about tax evasion openly. We need to stop relegating those who choose to fight the tax laws to the fringes of society. They're not freaks, they're not a danger to society. They are people just like us who hate taxes, but unlike us they do more than just complain about them.

"Secrecy is the beginning of Tyranny." -Robert A. Heinlein

The longer we allow the tax taboo to stand, the more we allow that tyranny to spread.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

In defense of ADHD

In Is Technology Harming Our Children? over at Eclecticblogs, Martin is defining ADD as harm.

He is trying to argue against using television as a babysitter for children 3 and under. I agree with that, but his premise is mistaken. The stronger premise is to share the joy of spending time really playing with our youth. We benefit from this and I would have trouble believing this caused them damage. Television is no substitute for active interaction.

That said. I have ADD. My dad has ADD and he didn't even have a TV when he was that age. (That's right my Dad is old. ;-) In fact, if watching TV at a younger age would increase the opportunities for my offspring to grow up to have what I view as my strengths and my Dad's strengths then I would most definitely plop them down in front of that set and hope they found it interesting. Considering how strongly this and other behavioral "abnormalities" run in my family I don't think I need to worry about them growing up "normal". (What parent really wishes for mediocre offspring anyway?) So I'll spend as much personal play time with my future offspring as I can. When they are old enough to critically enjoy watching television, I will enjoy watching TV with them, too. (I have TiVo. :-)

As for having difficulty in the dominant Prussian model of compulsory education, you shouldn't be surprised when any young person is disinclined to sit still for hours on end, not speaking unless spoken to and having to wait until getting explicit permission before even something as basic as walking to bathroom. Rainbough and I both suffered that indignity and these days the indignities are getting far worse. We will either homeschool or found a school in Austin under the Sudbury Valley School Model.

I suspect from Martin's frequent use of the term "idiot box" that he personally is more upset with television specifically as babysitter than he is with existence of people like myself as phenotypic outliers. See his concluding paragraph:

It is high time that we turn off the idiot box for our children and spend quality time with them. Instead of turning on the tube when we get home from work, talk to your children as you make supper or do the dishes or whatever. Read stories in the evenings instead of watching that television show. Instead of buying that DVD player or TV for the kids bedroom, buy them books to read or imagination stimulation toys such as Lego to build those brains. Any toy or book that allows the imagination to do its' thing within the child's brain will benefit them more than you know. And spend some time talking and asking about their play. Get to know what they like to pretend, even get involved with it and play pretend with them. Also, since most families have both parents working, do your research when chosing a daycare. Make sure that they are stimulating your child too, you don't want to take them to a place that is just going to plop them in front of the TV either. These are your choices...let's make the right one's for our children.

Now that is a sentiment I can respect. Make time for offspring. It's worth it.

I don't think TV per se is a problem. I know that ADD is anything but a problem. Without us, there would be no explorers, no settlers, perhaps no scientists. It is less likely our ancestors would have left Africa much less colonized the rest of the globe. ADD is wanderlust. We are the ones who have trouble staying in one place for too long. People used to wonder about the high mobility of North Americans (we move once every 7 years on average) relative to Europeans. Well, North America is made up of immigrants. The tendency to wander is built into the very sociobiology of those of us with ADD.

Anyway, I appreciate EclecticBlogs for bringing up this topic, I don't think I would have thought to write on this without him bringing up the general topic. Whereas I disagree with the path he laid to his conclusion, I very much agree with the sentiment of his conclusion.

Logic is funny that way. True premises can only reach true conclusions, but a false premise can reach either true or false conclusions. Go figure.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Easter Vs. Blue Laws

Here's an interesting antedote for those of you interested in just how screwy laws can be in other places, specifically in the South. Yesterday was Easter and though I am Atheist I do enjoy celebrating the occasional religious holiday, especially since I was raised with them. To me they are cultural holidays. A time to get together with family and friends. We can remind ourselves of what the holiday is supposed to represent religiously, or we can eat chocolate eggs and make it a celebration of spring-fever instead.

Billee and I planned yesterday to go over to my brother's girlfriend's house to play board games and eat dinner for a few hours. Basic dinner party kind of thing, only we throw in the nintendo game cube as part of the evening's festivities. I decided that since none of us were in the mood to cook we should buy an assortment of cheeses, crackers, some sausage, and fruit, and snack while we were entertaining ourselves rather than making an elaborate dinner. Everybody liked the idea. To add to this I decide to get online and find out what wines went the best with my favorite cheeses (gouda and extra sharp cheddar). I've been trying to improve my taste of alcohol and wine in general as well as my knowledge of wine and food pairings. I discovered that I needed to get a medium or robust red wine the suggested ones being either Pinot Noir, or Cabernet Sauvignon. That sounded good to me so we decided to pick up a Pinot Noir having never tried it.

Long before I made it out of my apartment though, it dawned on me that Easter Sunday did indeed occur on a Sunday. OMG It's Sunday. What does that mean. Well if you live in georgia, anywhere outside of the city limits of Atlanta, it means you cannot buy alcohol unless you purchase it in the form of single servings from a restaurant. To put it bluntly you cannot go down to your local Wal-Mart, convenience store, or grocery store, and buy a bottle of wine to celebrate Easter. The same law forbids the selling of alcohol by retail establishments after 11:30pm every other night of the week.

Luckily we had some white wine in our fridge that worked just fine. It didn't compliment our sausage and cheese, but it sufficed. BilLee is from Southern Lousiana and pointed out how absurd it would be in Lousiana to not be able to purchase a bottle of wine to celebrate Easter. Lousiana is predomiantly catholic. As a result they have no problem with alcohol consumption, and Easter just happens to be a far more important holiday to them than to the protestants. Georgia happens to be predominantly protestant, with the largest denomination being Baptist.

Imagine if a Catholic Priest went out before his service to buy a bottle of wine for Easter communion. He'd be out of luck in Georgia, baptists don't believe in "demon rum." I suspect the Priests get their wine elsewhere, but it would be funny wouldn't it: A blue law designed to impose christian morals regarding the sanctity of the Sabbath day, interfering with a much older and much more traditional christian ritual, that of holy communion. I don't like to be cynical but I have to wonder if that might have been the point.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Trusting Children

How do we trust our children? It seems simple enough it's like trusting anybody else. The problem is that the younger they are the less likely we are, and appropriately so, to take a child's word on anything. Why? First of all because we are not certain if they can distinguish between the real and the unreal. We are not certain if they know the difference between truth and a lie, and we are not certain if they can distinguish between right and wrong. We are more likely at any given time to take the word of an adult over that of a child. This makes sense legally as well since children have fewer legal consequences than adults do, it is better to favor reasonable doubt on the side of the adults.

I bring all this up because as a child, particularly as a teenager, I got burnt on this issue on several occasions. I deeply resented it when someone dismissed my opinion in favor of someone else's simply because they were older than me. Since I was the youngest of my father's four kids, this led me into trouble quite often. Anytime I agreed with one of my older siblings but not with my father, he accused me of going along with the idea because "my big sister was." Anytime I presented something I believed to be true and something my older siblings said contradicted that it was presumed that my older siblings were correct. Even on matters that they couldn't possibly know more than me such as how much shampoo I was using or something petty like that. But that was not the worst of it. I lived with my grandparents for many years and my grandmother was fond of calling the police anytime she decided that me and my siblings were "out of control."

This is interesting because in most of those instances it was she who was out of control. One night, the last night I lived with her in fact, she got angry at us because we wanted to watch T.V. and she wanted us to do something or another. Dishes probably. Of course like any teenagers we told her we would do it when the show was over. After a while she got angry, picked up a chair and tried to smash it through the television. We grabbed the legs of the chair so that she couldn't do it and eventually she put it down. At this point she was even more furious and decided that we were "ganging up on her." There were three of us to one of her, but we were in no way trying to trap or intimidate her, nor would we have attempted to trap and intimidate a 300-pound woman. But that's what she believed we were doing, when in fact we were waiting for her to get out of the way so we could calm down and watch T.V. again. So she went into the kitchen and grabbed this wall ornament. It was basically a mini cast iron pan. But it was heavy and cast iron nonetheless.

She walked right back into the living room where we were still standing around in stunned silence trying to decide what to do, got right in-between all of us and claimed that we were "closing her in" or something of that manner and started swinging the pan around her. The idea was that if we get too close we get hit by cast iron. At some point in all this she got up in my older brother's face, she liked to do that it was her way of trying to intimidate people, and started saying something that I don't recall. My brother in response to this said nothing, but balled his hand into a fist, held it vertical in front of him and slowly let his fingers out one by one only to ball it up again. He said nothing, made no aggressive movements, neither attacked her nor touched her in anyway. She freaked out claiming that he was threatening her life with the gesture and called the police.

This is where the story gets interesting, for those of you still with me. When the police came, they allowed us, the kids, to say nothing. They told us that they had seen this situation before. Spoiled kids beating up on their poor old grandparents. My grandparents attempted to reinforce this. First my grandmother tells about how out of the blue my older brother threatened her life when she was merely trying to get us kids to stop watching television and do our homework. My grandfather makes up a story out of the blue about how we (the kids) would run into the living room when we were bored, knock over the coffee table and start kicking in its side. He was describing the coffee table that was right in front of us, in plain view of everyone, and describing how badly we had damaged the table with our random acts of destruction. The problem was that there was no damage to the coffee table, and none of us had ever, nor would ever do such a thing. When I was shaking my head in disbelief, the police interpreted it as a sign of disrespect and threatened to take me to YDC, the youth detention center, right then and there, on probable cause. I was the stereotypical "good student" who got good grades, and always followed the rules. I'd never vandalized, smoked, shoplifted, nor attacked anyone, nor anything at home nor in public. And here was a police officer offering to take me to jail on "probable cause."

I interpreted that to mean that our legal system was a joke, and police officers, who I had respected before, were a joke. How could there be any feasible thing such as justice when a mere expression from someone, who was not allowed to say anything in regard to the matter, is interpreted as "probable cause." My point is this, it wouldn't have mattered if I had been allowed to say anything. I could not have refuted what my grandfather said. The moment the lie came out of his mouth it was understood as absolute truth by the police in spite of the fact that contradictory evidence was sitting visibly in front of them at the time. My statements claiming that this was untrue, and claiming that my brother had never threatened my grandmother and that she had in fact been the only one who had threatened or done anything dangerous in the situation, would have been interpreted as an irrelevant lie from a spoiled child.

And though this was obviously a very intense example, do you think in any other case if the same lie were told by an adult you would believe the child over the adult? Imagine a distinguished member of the community claiming that a teenager damaged their property. Whom would you believe if you did not personally know either of them? In spite of my own experiences my own bias would be in favor of the adult. I wouldn't be as the police officers were and refuse to allow the other side to say anything. I wouldn't claim that the teenager did it, if I honestly didn't know. But I do know that if I had to choose I would favor the opinion of the adult over that of the teenager. Due in no small part to the fact that the teenager is in fact at "that age."

I do not know if there is a way to fix this problem. As long as we favor the opinion of adults in general over that of children there very well may be adults who take advantage of the situation. I do know that our juvenile justice system reinforces this bias. Though children are not subject to penalties as harsh as adults for their actions, in some ways their situations are worse. Legally we treat them as criminals by nature. In the state of Georgia for example a parent can have their child arrested and put on probation by simply claiming that the child is "unmanageable." All the evidence that is necessary in this case is the word of the adult that that is true. Thus it is treated as a crime to have a parent that cannot "manage" you. You can be sent to a detention center for an extended say at any time on the claims of your parents that you are "out of control." No crime ever needs to be committed. All of this changes immediately when they turn 18, and become legal adults. Then they can be as "unmanageable" as they like, and the parents only recourse is to kick them out.

Unfortunately at age 18 we don't forget to distrust police officers as being inherently biased and unjust. We don't forget to see our legal system as unjust, unreasonable, and unfair. We don't forget being treated as subhuman for the crime of being young. Surely these are not the traits and values we want to instill in our newest and youngest citizens. Nevertheless for those many kids that end up crossing the juvenile legal system at some point or another, we are.