Who’s the Whacko

Sometimes people mistake me for a Republican, never a Democrat. In fact I am neither. I derive my political attitude, largely Libertarian, from my moral attitude, which is more or less Objectivist (see Ayn Rand). By comparison to most I was a late comer to Objectivism. I didn’t arrive at my moral attitude from reading Rand. I was well into my thirties lounging on a beach in Hawaii when I first read the Virtue of Selfishness, and discovered there was a philosophical language around the attitude I already knew I possessed. I remember thinking: “That sounds a lot like me.”

All these years later you still see Rand exalted in the darnedest places. The comments there indicate not everyone agrees.

You hear all kinds of epithets lobbed at Democrats and Republicans. A special set is reserved for Libertarians, including, but not limited to, crackpot, whacko, or Utopian. Serious but more generous critics prefer terms like “unrealistic”. These people provide counter-arguments of variable quality why a nation cannot – and never could have – self-organize around the principle of rational self-interest, and apologize instead for the variable amount of coercion that is necessary, they say, to hold the polity together, to keep the dark side of self-interest from ruining freedom and liberty for all.

Problem is, once you grant a little coercion is necessary for X (where x=your favorite reason), then the camel’s nose is under the tent, and before long he’s all the way in. In less than one hundred years in our case. Before long you have politicians at the podium during a nationally televised debate unabashedly approving of making a supposed bad guy feel as though he is being drowned, if that’s what it takes to get important information. Or not. Either way, yes yes, by any means necessary, the AmericanPeople® must be kept safe.

Instead of expressions of outrage at the apologists for torture, we hear even more pressing concerns:

More important, Bachmann’s shoes clash with her clothes. Forgive us if this sounds harsh, but a female candidate cannot convey Commander-In-Chief readiness in backless sandals paired with an evening suit, just as a male candidate wouldn’t score points wearing a suit and tie with mandals. [Source]

In the meantime, the lone Libertarian on stage, the unelectable one, well-coiffed if that really matters, is rarely called on.

I’m quite sure it’s because he is unrealistic.

It’s About Opportunity


If true, then the Occupiers should allocate their protest proportionally, and camp out at hospitals and clinics, colleges and universities, too. This is where ~20% of the 1% hoarding their ill-gotten booty work. People looking to provide encouragement and credibility to this movement have compared it to the seeds of the sixties civil rights movement, in the sense that the civil rights acts were the culmination of grass roots protests like this. The problem with that comparison is that one of the chief objections the Occupiers have is inequality of outcome, e.g. skewed distribution of wealth and income, not inequality of opportunity, which, arguably, is what the civil rights movement was about.

I know don’t know where the movement is headed or what eventually will come of it. I expect a few weeks of cold winter nights should weaken the resolve of many of them. On the other hand…

In an effort to do our part to spur the economy, we and friends bought tickets to the Rocky Horror Picture Show presentation at a local gay bar.

Certain of us got caught up in the interactive spirit of the evening and dressed a tad…well, let’s just say, “festive”.


Dear Mr. Jobs, if you’re in-looking from the Other Side you see the outpouring of adulation for you. I have nothing to add or take from all that. While you were with us, on this side, I heard you were at times difficult to work with, and for. I never knew that about you. I didn’t pay much attention really. I’m a Windows user. Sorry. Nothing against you or your products; it was the people who fawned on Apple that often rubbed me the wrong way. I should know better than to associate the merit of products with the mindset of the people who use them. I do have a pod, though. Here’s myPod:

A replacement actually. A little worse for wear but it still works fine. Left my first one on board an Alaska Airlines flight from Minneapolis to Seattle. Filed a claim but I’m not hopeful for its return. Or my noise canceling headphones. Man, plugging those babies into myPOD and turning on “Shuffle” made the time fly by. Ha ha. Thank you for that. Nearly a thousand songs inside my shirt pocket, with room left for a pen and chewing gum. That really is cool. So is all your other iStuff. Your biographer said you regretted not having surgery when you were first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. A slow growing type he said, you were one of the lucky ones according to your doc. I don’t know, hard for me to think that getting any cancer makes you lucky, but it’s all relative I suppose. I don’t know what’s on the Other Side, or even if there is an Other Side. Save me a seat if you would.

One Is Enough

Rufus @ 11 years.

His “Radiance” is reluctant to post on this celebratory day, so ya’ll will have to endure my brief bemoanment of America’s game.

I wholeheartedly agree with Frank Deford, one is enough. Especially in baseball, where plays are separated by a yawning span of pitcher-catcher agreement, standing, leaning, bending, peeking (at the runner), crotch scratching (catcher), and then further pondering until, finally – throw the damn ball already! – the pitch. Then sometimes the batter won’t swing. Or worse, the pitch isn’t even thrown! – consider the balk. Copy paste, all over again. Is it any wonder drunkenness is rampant among the fans? When the moments of actual athleticism on the field, over the course of hours of otherwise mind-numbing nothingness, may be replayed in sixty seconds or less of real-time? And they make this spectacle of somnambulism the best of seven? Puh-leez.

I will never again mock synchronized swimming.

Better Days

Funniest advice heard in the past few months: As you get older…

“Never trust a fart.”

With that wisdom in mind we went for a walk near Eklutna Lake this weekend, a place none of us have been in many years. Nothing has changed there, including its Autumnal beauty.

I’ve presented at two conferences in as many weeks, one in Philadelphia, one in Alaska, participated in three (productive) days of meetings in Cleveland around the company we’re trying to get off the ground. Everyone present was enthusiastic around the blue ocean of opportunity out there. Back at home Fall is still in full swing. Only the highest peaks in the Chugach mountains are dusted by snow. Winter will bring peace, but oddly, nobody will say they are anxious for it to arrive. Like wanting to go to heaven, but not anxious to die.

In Philadelphia I walked by Independence Hall. It was under renovation, and a man I spoke with said it’s been under renovation, it felt to him, forever. I felt sad walking around it. Like our best years are now behind us. The odor of last night’s urine was palpable, re-hydrated by wet air pouring out of manhole covers. A few people had queued up at the entrance to the Liberty Bell exhibit. Maybe it was the hour of the day, the fact it was mid-week, or the overall malaise the country is feeling right now,  but there was a distinct feeling of neglect and a rude indifference to the events that had occurred here. I ran the gauntlet of homelessness surrounding the park on my walk back to the hotel. Most people paid me no mind but some glared at me and hissed, like their situation was partly my fault.

Show Bigger

ORD Sucks

Nearly every time in the past five years that I’ve had to route through this miserable airport my flight has been delayed or cancelled. True to form, now waiting at the O’hare bar ‘n grill for my flight to Philadelphia, where I am speaking at a conference Thursday.

At least the wine pours are generous.

What went wrong with the POTUS

An opinion piece1 in the New York Times written by someone who apparently voted for Obama and was enthusiastic about his presidency, concludes with a few hypotheses to account for what went wrong. I found this one most likely:

A second possibility is that he [Obama] is simply not up to the task by virtue of his lack of experience and a character defect that might not have been so debilitating at some other time in history. Those of us who were bewitched by his eloquence on the campaign trail chose to ignore some disquieting aspects of his biography: that he had accomplished very little before he ran for president, having never run a business or a state; that he had a singularly unremarkable career as a law professor, publishing nothing in 12 years at the University of Chicago other than an autobiography; and that, before joining the United States Senate, he had voted “present” (instead of “yea” or “nay”) 130 times, sometimes dodging difficult issues.

1. Hat tip Friedman

Wag More, Bark Less

There I stood, looking out over the world, wondering what to make of it.

The nation’s credit rating – according to S&P anyway – went from AAA to AA+. What happened to AAA-? I overheard Master say to a friend before the so-called crisis was averted, “Just watch, if we default, the Dow will go up.” Everyone who heard this chuckled. Quietly he predicted the opposite too, that the Dow would plummet if the crisis was averted, but he didn’t say this out loud. Too bad, his foresight would never again be questioned. Of course, we will never really know the direction the Dow would have gone had the crisis not been averted, but in any case the unexpected reaction by investors underscores the caprice of markets. Which was kinda the point.

Our latest batch of house guests arrived in July. First Kevin, aka “Kdog”, was here for a brief visit, just enough time to get in a mountain bike ride on the Lost Lake trail, a favorite on the Kenai Peninsula. Here they are, he and Master, after the gnarly climb (1820′) to the summit in front of Lost Lake, which evidently isn’t.

Lucy and I were in the car with Mom, intending to pick them up on the other end of the 15 mile trail and then spend the night in Seward. But the alternator failed and left us stranded at the base of Turnagain Pass. Mom’s coolheadedness averted an accident. So they descended the same side of the trail they had just climbed, got in Master’s car and back to Anchorage they went. We had to be towed. Two days later, after Kdog left, the next guests arrived, Bob ‘n Hope from Cleveland, who, not surprisingly, we refer to by the monomial “BobHope”. Just before they arrived Master bought a new car – Subaru Outback (6-cyl/256 HP!) – because, well, the Mercedes was showing her age (221K miles). Eventually, more money would need to be spent to keep her going another 200K, but when cars get that old you start to question if your affections aren’t misplaced. Sold the old girl to a young woman for a $1000. She seemed delighted to have her. Don’t ask me why cars are “shes”, it’s just always been that way.

Anyway, down to Seward we all went, us, BobHope, the repaired Honda, and the new Subaru. Biblical rain for two days but we had fun. Presently BobHope and Mom are on their way home from Denali National Park. Wildlife seen: lynx, squirrels, fox, moose, caribou and many bears. No wolves, though. On their drive home they experienced an unseasonable and convincing snowfall! By comparison, in Anchorage, it’s sixty degrees.  Go figure.

It’s hard to square finicky weather with the tocsin of global warming (GW). We get “literature” in the mail warning us that polar bears are in peril due to GW. Most of that mail, as well as relevant web sites, are emphatic that less sea ice and shortened winters have a “big” impact on polar bear survival. But evidently the biggest threat to polar bears has been and continues to be hunting, not GW. In Canada alone, for example, it is estimated that 700 bears are killed by hunters each year. Given the estimate of 20-25K bears globally, and assuming an additional 300 bears are killed by hunters annually elsewhere in the world besides Canada (seems reasonable), then hunting alone would wipe out the species in about a quarter century. I have not seen an estimate of the number of polar bears that die each year due to the effects of GW. Supposedly, polar bears have the slowest turnover (birthrate) of any mammal – they breed only five times per lifetime and litters are typically only two cubs. Motherless cubs face certain death. So killing bears, more so than other mammals, really threatens their long term survival. If the concern of the people who send us this “literature” by mail were really for the polar bears, I would expect they would advocate much more loudly for an end to hunting polar bears worldwide, instead of unquantified claims that GW is the biggest threat to their survival.

Are there not already too many real problems in the world without imagining new ones?