Atlas Shrugged, Ch. 4

September 22, 2017

I finished reading Chapter 4 a few days ago.

In this chapter, we learn about the Anti-Dog-Eat-Dog Rule, where Jim Taggart and his cronies have effectively killed off the Phoenix-Durango railroad, and prevent any newcomer from entering the market.  We see the end of Dan Conway, as he refuses to fight the Rule.

We also learn that Mexico has nationalized the railroad and San Sebastian Mines.  Taggart Transcontinental lost some old equipment and only one wood-burning locomotive, thanks to Dagny’s preparations.  James Taggart took credit for saving the railroad money to the Board of Directors.

Francisco D’Anconia lost 15 million dollars of his own money.  We don’t know much about him yet, but we know that he typically makes money, and this seems out of character.

We meet a wild character, Ellis Wyatt, who comes into Dagny’s office like a hurricane.  He storms in, curses Taggart Transcontinental for ruining the Phoenix-Durango line, then demands trains.  He says that if Wyatt Oil sinks because of the lack of trains, he was going to take Taggart Transcontinental with him.

Finally, we see that, in spite of it all, Dagny Taggart and Hank Reardon are still planning to go through with using Reardon metal for rail in Colorado.

Thank you for reading my post.

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Atlas Shrugged, Chapters 2 and 3

September 15, 2017

I am a little behind on my posting, so I did not post Chapter 2 last week.

Chapter 2

In this chapter, we get to meet Hank Reardon’s family.  He hurries home with a braclet, made from the first heat of Reardon Metal, to give to his wife.  Considering the labor that he has invested in developing this new metal over the past ten years, a successful pour of the material is a cause for celebration.

When he arrives at his home, he is greeted by a whiny crowd of losers that consist of his mother, his brother, their family friend (Paul Larkin), and a mocking, condesending wife.  He presents her with the bracelet, and she mocks it.  His mother and brother scolded him for giving her such a gaudy, selfish present.  They could not see that this bracelet was the only one of its kind; they only saw it as being made from the same material as rails and bridges.

At one point, he finds out that his brother runs a charity, and needs $10,000 to start a new project.  Hank, who wants to see if he can make his brother happy, even for just a brief time, says he can donate the money.  The brother says that his organization cannot be affiliated with Reardon Steel, and asks for the money in cash, anonymously.

I was left with a bit of hopelessness and disgust at the end of this chapter.

 

Chapter 3

In Chapter 3, we get to sit in on a meeting held in a barroom between Paul Larkin, Orren Boyle, Wesley Mouch, and James Taggart.  Orren Boyle, who runs a steel mill that competes with Reardon Steel, complained that it was not fair that Reardon Steel owns its own supply lines. This means that he can change the costs and expenses across his organization to undercut competitors.    Meanwhile, James complains about the Phoenix-Durango line, whining that new companies are invading terrain that had formerly been covered by Taggart Transcontinental.

We also get to see some of Dagny’s thoughts.  In this chapter, she talked about the Nat Taggart statue, her relative who founded the company.  She admires him, but not because they are related.  She admires him because he formed the company with nothing but pennies on his houework.

Later, we see a conversation between James Taggart and Dagny Taggart.  Dagny has made a line in Mexico sparse, removing anything expensive or unncessary.  James rants about how the Mexican people need transit, and Dagny knows that a rail line there is a poor business decision.  Even so, Dagy does just that- removes things of value from the train cars and only runs crappy, worn out engines.

Thank you for reading my post.  Hopefully, you are reading,or at least considering reading Atlas Shrugged.

The Atlas Project

September 8, 2017

I started participating in the Atlas Project, or rather the Ayn Rand Institute Atlas Project. This project involves reading Atlas Shrugged, one chapter at a time.  In addition to reading the book, there is a series of discussion questions on Facebook each week, as well as a lecture by a few folks at the Ayn Rand Institute.

The first chapter of Atlas is where we first meet  Dagny Taggart, the vice president of Taggart Transcontinental, and our first hero of the book.  In this chapter, we see a crumbling New York City.  We get a glimpse of a disturbing trauma of his childhood- he loves a strong oak tree in the Taggart property, only to later learn that the tree has been dead inside for a long time.  We learn of the disintegrating Rio Norte Line of Taggart Transcontinental, and that no new steel rail can be found.  We learn that Dagny Taggart has instead ordered some experimental rail from a new material called “Reardon Metal”, which angers James Taggart.  There was also a curious bit about a musical score that was clearly written by Richard Halley, except he stopped writing music years earlier.

I’ll let you read the details.  It’s not too late to start.

More information can be found here:  Atlas Project Facebook Group

Sexist Commercial

August 25, 2017

I heard a commercial on the radio for Liberty Mutual Insurance, and it made me laugh.  I’m not one to point out sexism (as there are a million crybabies to do this), but this one was stupid.  However, I will use it to illustrate a point about the world.

This particular radio commercial has two men talking, presumably at the office water cooler.  One of them talks about how he would be freaking out and a nervous wreck if it was his teenage girl getting her license.  The other one calmly responds that, because he has Liberty Mutual Insurance, she has roadside assistance if she breaks down, and that now he can sleep easy.

First:  I (and probably most parents) are nervous about their kids driving because THEY CAN, AND OFTEN ARE, KILLED IN CAR ACCIDENTS.  Not because they might break down.

Second:  You know what sucks about breaking down?   Missing events (and work) because you are stuck on the side of the road.  You know what else sucks about breaking down?  Having to pay for it.  In a near last place, there is the off chance (very rare off chance) that you will be attacked while waiting for a tow truck.  Realistically, your daughter will miss school (I’m sure she’s broken-hearted), maybe work or a date with her friends or boyfriend (which you probably don’t approve of anyhow).  And, I’m more than willing to bet that she won’t pay for the car repairs, either.  So, the threat is that she could be attacked while stranded on the side of the road.

Let’s examine this threat a little more.  I don’t have exact numbers, but I bet the odds are pretty slim.  I bet she is more likely to be attacked at a frat house in college (which you’ll encourage her to attend), by a family member or friend (unfortunately), or some other scenario long before a random driver attacks her on the side of the road.

Also, what does it mean to be “stranded” on the side of the road in 2017?  I don’t know.  Where I live, there is miles of desert between small towns.  However, these roads are traveled by plenty of locals; more than likely if she broke down there, one of her classmates, a family friend or neighbor would see her and help.  Where is your daughter driving?  If you live in the city, she’ll be able to call for help from her cell phone and wait for a tow truck in a coffee shop nearby, no big deal.  If she is in the suburbs, the same applies.  Unless she’s driving across unfamiliar land on some cross-country road trip, alone, she’s probably in cell phone coverage and probably not far from a semi-safe public place.

Why do I bring this up?  Because this commercial tells us more about the way a lot of people think of the world.

For example, these authors have an unrealistic fear of the big, bad scary person that may attack while their daughters are waiting for a tow truck.  In reality, their daughters are much more likely to be killed in a car accident.

For example, I have heard about African American parents teaching their children that they could be shot by the police for no reason at all.  In reality, their children are also more likely to be killed in a car accident, commit suicide, or drown in a swimming pool than shot by the police.

For example, plenty of people are afraid of Muslims, as some of them attacked us.  Guess what?  We are more likely to die from a heart attack, car accident, suicide or cancer than killed in a Muslim terrorist attack.

Should these girls not be afraid of an attacker?  Should we not worry about being shot by the police for no reason?  Should we not worry about a terrorist attack?  Actually, it’s all about situational awareness.  Situational awareness, not worry.

The world is not a bad place.  There is no reason to suspect all people of being inherently evil.  A few are capable of evil things.  Let’s not let a few evil people change how we think of the world any longer.

Thank you for reading my post.

Charlottesville Incident

August 18, 2017

I am sick of hearing about it.  I really am.  I am sick of not knowing what actually happened, but there are only a few raw videos available.  At the very least, I know I cannot trust anything I see on the news or on the internet.

The bottom line is this:  as a defender of free speech, I wend up defending the vilest of folks.  Nazis, KKK, etc had a right to free speech, and the right to peaceful assembly.  So did the Black Lives Matter and Antifa folks.  I don’t know who started fighting first.  I’ve seen skirmishes in raw video started by both sides.

Unfortunately, all this incident has become is a catalyst for witch hunting anyone who does not support the mainstream conversations, be it a defender of a Confederate statue, or a Trump supporter or an actual Nazi.

In Objectivism, we would refer to this a package deal.  A package deal is when you get one thing, but then implicitly accept everything that is packaged with it, regardless of whether or not it belongs in this group.  Package deals are a form of character assassination; by lumping people together, perhaps inappropriately, we can misrepresent them.  Case in point; if we point out that Nazis and KKK members voted for Trump, we can discredit all Trump supporters as Nazis and KKK members.

Notice it happening right now.  This is not a philosophical discussion for academic purposes.  It is a real-life event.

Be wary of groups of people listed by the press.  Often, they will list groups of people they want grouped together to start building those associations in your mind.

Unfortunately, we will see much more of this in the near future.  The narrative is that if you did not support Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, you are a racist.  It was a pathetic cry from the left during the election, but thanks to the logical fallacy of the package deal, plenty of people are going to start to believe it.

What can we do?  Point it out.  Even if every Klansman voted for Trump, the inverse statement is not true; not every Trump voter is a Klansman.  Likely, every chemtrail conspiracy theorist voted for Bernie Sanders, but not every Bernie Sanders supporter thinks the corporations and government are brainwashing you from planes.

Also, don’t argue.  Point out this as a logical fallacy, politely.  If they get angry, or if they continue on, end the discussion.  Walk away.  You don’t have to defend yourself against someone whose premise is that you are a racist.  You don’t have to get in the last word.  Just leave.

Thank you for reading my post.  Next week, I will likely post about the Confederate Monuments, as I don’t think this discussion is going away.

Trump vs. the Media in the Shadow of Nuclear War

August 10, 2017

I think that North Korea is doing nothing more than trying to act tough, which is why I write this particular post instead of something concerning the upcoming nuclear war.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have heard that North Korea threatens to nuke Guam in a show of power and as a demonstration of their nuclear capabilities.

Several commentators have said that the threat, and a nuclear attack would be a “direct result” of Trump’s statements about North Korea.

Did you get that?  A nuclear attack, destroying several US Military installations and killing over 150,000 people by a dictator is the “direct result” of something Trump said?

No.  The phrase “direct result” implies a cause and effect relationship.  Therefore, this implies that a nuclear attack would be BECAUSE of Trump.

I’ve heard stories like this before.  I once had a friend in high school who told us that her bruises were a direct result of her actions; not her boyfriend’s fault.  After all, if she had called on time, she wouldn’t have been hit.

To blame Trump’s words for a nuclear attack is to remove any responsibility from a spoiled dictator, who just said he has no problem murdering 150,000+ people as a demonstration of power.  Furthermore, it is a denial of basic cause-and-effect relationships, and replacing them with the whims of a dictator as a fact of life:  mess with him, and get killed.  It is as if these commentators are saying, “Shouldn’t have messed with him, it’s your fault.”

One thing we have learned from feminism (and I agree, totally), is that it is wrong to blame the victim, be it rape, abuse, or in this case, mass murder.  If a woman drinks too much and is raped, one could say, “if she had not been drinking, this would not have happened,” which may or may not be true, but that does not place the blame on her.  “That’s what she gets for getting drunk,” would be victim blaming, as it implies a 1 to 1 cause and effect relationship:  If she gets drunk, she will get raped, cause and effect.  It implies that she is responsible, not the rapist.

While Trump may not be the direct victim of a nuclear attack, these reporters are placing the blame of a nuclear attack on someone who made some mouth noises versus the wee “man” dictator who launched the missles.

Thank you for reading my post.

 

Can You Be Libertarian and Not A Hypocrite?

August 4, 2017

I have often heard that Libertarians and Objectivists are hypocrites, as they use tax-funded services, even though they denounce taxes.  After all, most Libertarians drive on tax-funded roads, are protected by tax-funded police and military, get their weather from a tax-funded National Weather Service, and so on.  Shouldn’t a true, non-hypocritical Libertarian abstain from using tax-funded goods and services?

As part of my daily commute, I use two separate city bus systems, as well as a commuter
train.  I watch the weather carefully (I have one degree in meteorology), so I use the National Weather Service, Storm Prediction Center, and plenty of weather satellites, indirectly.  I did my K-12, and all three college degrees at public schools, and paid for them with federal student loans.  Now, I work in public schools and a public college, funded by your tax dollars.

How then, could I be an advocate for eliminating taxes?  Isn’t that hypocritical?

No.  I was going to pay for these things anyway.  Whether or not I partake in public education has no influence on whether or not my taxes change.  Whether or not I check the weather forecast, I will pay for the weather service.  Whether or not I take public transportation, I will pay for it.

Unlike the free-market, my lack of participation in a service does not exclude my paying for it.  In the free-market, I don’t pay for things I am not using.  If enough people decide not to pay for this product, the company will either change its service, or go out of business.  Either way, I don’t have to pay for a service I do not want.

In public works, I pay either way.  And, because these services do not HAVE to make money, my choice to use the service or not has no influence on the service, or my checkbook.  Case in point:  our train is used by so few people.  There have been many train rides where I am the only occupant of my car.  A business would have to figure out what to do about this.  However, the public train keeps running.  It never actually runs out of money, as more appears from tax dollars, regardless of financial performance.  Therefore, you can run a train from Santa Fe to Belen with one rider, paying a few dollars.  The difference – my few dollars versus the diesel, engine maintenance, track maintenance, salaries, and so on – comes from everyone else.

This is why boycotting a government service on moral grounds is a losing battle.  Unlike boycotting a business, where they stand to go out of business if the boycott is large enough, a government service will continue to run in the red for a long time until the tax payers finally opt to get rid of it through legislative means.

You vowing to never drive on a public road will limit your future and your potential employment and entertainment opportunities, and you’ll pay for the road anyhow.

However, to be consistent, one must still reject the notion of a government service on the principle that you should never have to sacrifice your efforts for a “common good.”  What you cannot do, and claim consistency is to explain why your government service is necessary and moral, while another government service is not.  They are all immoral from principle.

Thank you for reading my post.

Why “Buying Local” is a Joke

July 27, 2017

Around town, there are signs and stickers and advertisements, attempting to convince all of us residents to “Buy Local” instead of driving down the hill to the larger city (in the next county, five miles away from my house) and shopping there.

There is no incentive for me to shop local.  First, taxes are lower down the hill, so my groceries are cheaper.  Second, there are more stores with better hours down the hill.  Third, the stores are better stocked, better staffed and have a better shopping experience.  Fourth, there are fewer idle police officers, writing tickets for 3 mph over the speed limit, or dirty license plates, or other giant wastes of time.

“Buy Local” is a bunch of crap.  It attempts to guilt trip you into buying a product you would not normally buy, or paying more for a product.  If your store has better produce, you don’t need a guilt trip to convince people to buy your produce.  If it has better prices, you don’t need a guilt trip to convince people to pay less.  If you provide a more convenient experience, you can charge more, and you don’t need a guilt trip to convince people to pay more for a quick stop.

Instead, the whole “Buy Local” is a bunch of guilt.  The town will either guilt you based on environmental concerns (if you buy from the local farmer’s market instead of the Walmart, you are saving all of that truck traffic), or based on community “needs” (if you buy local, you help but your neighbor’s daughter through dance lessons instead of sending money to an executive somewhere else).

In reality, if you have a better product, or some advantage (convenience, better hours, cleaner store, etc.) people will come.  They will often drive out of their way for it.

Be wary of any store that tries to convince you to buy a product on anything other than the product’s value to you.  They are simply asking you to pay more for a product than it is worth to you, based on some guilt- guilt you did not earn.  Guilt for their inferior product or inferior store.  It’s the same guilt a bum expects you to feel for “having” when they “have not.”

Walk away from those establishments until they can trade value for value.

Thank you for reading my post.

On Not Becoming A Fuddy-Duddy

July 21, 2017

I have not played in social media outside of a few blogs and Facebook.  Yes, back in the day, I had a myspace account, just like everyone else, and yes, I have signed up for things since, but never really used them.

However, it did occur to me that I was not using them for the wrong reasons.

I rejected Twitter.  After all, I don’t care for celebrity gossip or about the president’s Tweets.

I rejected Instagram and Pintrest, because aren’t they just Facebook with fewer words?

I rejected SnapChat, as I heard that it is just a place for teenagers to sext, and while I would not mind to receive a few photos from some college-aged girls, I am not holding my breath for them to arrive.

However, I have made it a point to pursue these.  In reality, all of my rejections were anti-technology in a sense.  I did not use them because they were different than what I knew.

Even Objective-ish folks can make philosophical mistakes, myself included.

I started out playing with Twitter.  Did you know that the National Weather Service monitors it for severe weather reports?

Then, I started playing with Instagram.  I do not spend much time looking at photos from other people, but I do get positive feedback from the sunrises, sunsets and wildlife photos I post.

I dusted off my YouTube account and have posted several videos to it.

Next on the list will be SnapChat.

Overall, to reject something because it is different is a poor attitude to have, especially if you intend to learn as much as you can with your brief time on this earth.  Sure, I will pick out my favorite social media platforms and focus on them, but the fact of the matter is, those will change over time, with or without my consent.  I can adapt to the new platforms that are out there, or dry up, refusing to learn something new.

I chose the former, and I hope you will as well.

Thank you for reading my post

 

Censorship, Yet Again

July 13, 2017

Censorship exists only in one fashion:  when the goverment forbids you from speaking/writing/etc.  Censorship cannot occur unless THE GOVERNMENT forbids speech.  A person, a corporation, Facebook, etc., cannot “censor” anything.

There has been quite a few misconceptions about this over the past few weeks, starting with the Kathy Griffin incident, where she displayed a model of a beheaded Donald Trump.  No, Kathy, CNN did not “censor” you.  You are free to speak, but you cannot demand CNN, or anyone else, for that matter, to provide you a platform to do so.

I have also seen quite a few posts recently talking about how Facebook “censored” them.  No, it didn’t.  Facebook can choose to keep or discard any information they want. It is their platform.  They don’t have to support your views, nor are they required to provide you a microphone.

If you go to a concert, security is not “censoring” you when they do not let you run up on stage and take the microphone from the lead singer.  They are not “censoring” you by not giving you “equal time” or any other nonsense.

Unpopular Opinion Time:  The same is true for Net Neutrality.  A company can decide what content travels along their equipment, and at what speed.  Plenty of you will point out that the internet operates under Net Neutrality at this time, and that blogs like mine could be blocked.  So what?  I should not be able to force someone else to display my content.

Would this be the death of the internet?  No.  In fact, it opens up a huge door for companies to CHOOSE to be Net Neutral.  I bet that a few internet providers that choose to be net netural, instead of being forced to be net neutral, will very quickly displace the companies that choose to reject net neutrality.

Even so, whether or not the internet will change with no net neutrality requirement should not supercede the rights of the provider to run their network how they wish.

Really, it comes down to property rights again.  The KKK cannot show up in an interracial couple’s bedroom and protest, because the couple’s property rights supercede the KKK’s rights to “free speech.”  In the same way, an internet provider should be able to determine what content and at what speed and conditions messages are passed through their property.

Thank you for reading my post.