David M. Brown's Blog

September 16, 2016

It’s my money.

Filed under: Ethics,Politics — davidmbrowndotcom @ 3:34 am

Behold this sentiment, quoted at Instapundit, about the Trump camp’s child-care proposal: “Anything that helps them [parents] cover those expenses without being taxed on the extra money they have to earn to pay the costs of raising a family is a good idea.”

Um, just cut my taxes. Anything that helps me cover my expenses by letting me keep more of my own extra money I need to earn to pay for the things in my life that cost more money than I had before I earned the extra money is a good idea. You don’t need to know what I’m doing with my money. You don’t need to give me more of a tax break for one kind of thing I want to do with my money than another kind of thing I could spend it on. Let me hasten to assure you that the stuff I spend my money on is very important to me. I always spend it on whatever is the highest priority to me at that moment. It doesn’t have to be at all important to you. It’s not your money, not your life.

Forget the social engineering. Don’t try to encourage me to do this or that as the price of keeping more of my own money. I don’t need your opinion on whether certain peaceful activities that require money to do them are more deserving of my expenditures on them than other activities. I don’t need you to approve of what I do with my own money. Just let me keep my money. It’s my money.

Read The Flying Saucers Are Very Very Real

Read Omelet: A Tragedy of Bill Shake-a-speare

Read The Case of the Cockamamie Killer

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September 14, 2016

Rush Limbaugh’s shines pale “best light” on Comey’s conduct

Filed under: Ethics,Politics — davidmbrowndotcom @ 9:05 pm

In a recent broadcast Rush Limbaugh said, as transcribed, “And the reason for [Comey’s failure to recommend indicting HC for sloppiness about classified material, ignoring laws and rules about classified material, then lying about what she had done] — I’m totally convinced — is he doesn’t want to the guy in American history who took out the duly nominated…Democrat candidate for president. That’s why he just didn’t want to go there, and knew they weren’t gonna indict. That’s looking at it in as favorable a light as possible.”

“Favorable” light? According to Rush’s own statement, Comey allowed his concern about how he would be perceived to prevent him from doing what the facts of the case objectively called for in his own judgment. I think if we reduce the example to (greater) absurdity, the fallacy of what Rush is saying will be more obvious: “And the reason for that [failure to recommend indicting Democratic candidate Jack the Ripper for a string of murders] — I’m totally convinced — is he doesn’t want to the guy in American history who took out the duly nominated…Democrat candidate for president. That’s why he just didn’t want to go there, and knew they weren’t gonna indict. That’s looking at it in as favorable a light as possible.”

Anybody with the job of being just and objective for a living who allows other considerations short of a gun being held to his head to cause him to be unjust and non-objective has willfully violated the fundamental principles it is the purpose of his job to uphold and apply. Anyone at any stage in the judicial process who deliberate fails to do his job because he anticipates that others would fail to do their job if he does his properly is defaulting on his responsibility. He is not responsible for what others do. He is responsible for what he does.

The actual “most favorable” way of interpreting Comey’s actions is to conclude that he honestly believed he had no proper grounds for recommending indictment. But Rush doesn’t believe this and I don’t either. There are no grounds for believing this. That Comey’s default is motivated goes without saying.

 

Read The Flying Saucers Are Very Very Real

Read Omelet: A Tragedy of Bill Shake-a-speare

Read The Case of the Cockamamie Killer

August 25, 2016

Are you a fan of the super-corruption?

Filed under: Ethics,Politics — davidmbrowndotcom @ 6:42 am

If you’re a fan of shameless super-corruption, socialist looting, and socialist handouts, you’re more inclined to vote for Hillary Clinton than to vote for Trump, for Whoever the LP Guy Is, or for None of the Above. One key question is how many of the voters, what percentage, are pro-super-corruption, and what import if any their answer will have for their electoral decisions. Let’s have a poll that asks about the super-corruption:

Are you a fan of the super-corruption?

If you knew for sure that a candidate was shamelessly super-corrupt, would you vote for that female Democrat?

Do you believe that Hillary Clinton is shamelessly super-corrupt?

Are you voting for Hillary Clinton?

Finally: When I asked whether you were a fan of the super-corruption, you said no; when I asked whether you would vote for somebody who is shamelessly super-corrupt, you said no; when I asked whether you believe that Hillary Clinton is shameless super-corrupt, you said yes; when I asked whether you would vote for Hillary Clinton, you said yes; do you wish to amend any of your answers?

Read The Flying Saucers Are Very Very Real

Read Omelet: A Tragedy of Bill Shake-a-speare

Read The Case of the Cockamamie Killer

August 23, 2016

#TriggerWarning: Don’t ever say any of the following things to me. I will be offended.

Filed under: Economics,Ethics,Philosophy,Politics,Society and culture — davidmbrowndotcom @ 6:22 pm

#TriggerWarning: Don’t ever say “Here are some words you may never use.” I will be offended.

#TriggerWarning: Don’t ever say “Let’s soak the rich because they’re rich.” I will be offended.

#TriggerWarning: Don’t ever say “A person accused of sexual assault is guilty regardless of the facts.” I will be offended.

#TriggerWarning: Don’t ever say “A police officer who shoots somebody is automatically guilty of wrongdoing, regardless of the facts.” I will be offended.

#TriggerWarning: Don’t ever say “I don’t have time to read the free Kindle sample of your new book The Flying Saucers Are Very Very Real.” I will be offended.

#TriggerWarning: Don’t ever say “The earth, which I like to call Gaia, or Gaea, is in great danger from industrial civilization; therefore, we must outlaw plastic bags, incandescent light bulbs, and toilets that flush too vigorously.” I will be offended.

#TriggerWarning: Don’t ever say “The meaningless, nihilistic smears and juxtapositions of modern pseudo-art are an eloquent and transcendent expression of something-or-other.” I will be offended.

#TriggerWarning: Don’t ever say “As a journalist, facts are not important to me. What’s important to me is skewing or omitting the facts in service of my egalitarian or socialist ideological agenda, and always licking the boots of the politically powerful.” I will be offended.

#TriggerWarning: Don’t ever say “Islam-motivated terrorism isn’t at all motivated by Islam and maybe it isn’t even terrorism.” I will be offended.

#TriggerWarning: Don’t ever say “You will enjoy this movie as long as you turn off your brain before you start watching and desist with your importunate demands for originality, intelligence and honesty. It’s just a movie.” I will be offended.

#TriggerWarning: Don’t ever say “I don’t care how much wealth and survival is made possible by capitalism and ambitous profit-seeking; capitalism is evil. Why? Because production, division of labor, trade, freedom, human life and rationally fulfilling the requirements of human survival are evil, I guess.” I will be offended.

August 20, 2016

Thugs can be either friends or enemies of each other

Filed under: Ethics,History,Politics,War — davidmbrowndotcom @ 3:52 pm

In March of 1940 George Orwell wrote: “The plan laid down in Mein Kampf was to smash Russia first, with the implied intention of smashing England afterwards. Now, as it has turned out, England has got to be dealt with first, because Russia was the more easily bribed of the two. But Russia’s turn will come when England is out of the picture–that, no doubt, is how Hitler sees it. Whether it will turn out that way is of course a different question.” The accommodation with Russia had taken the form of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of August 1939.

A couple of thoughts that occur to me are, first, that although historical accounts of Germany’s pact with Russia tend to stress how flabbergasted the world was that these two “ideological enemies” (different hues of totalitarian) should agree to be cooperative comrades in divvying up Poland, Hitler’s short-term agreement with Russia does not at all contradict his long-term goal of smashing Russia, so that somebody at all perceptive, like Orwell, would not be surprised by such a pragmatic mere deferment; and, two, it was obvious to Orwell that the short-term agreement was short-term. And, indeed, Operation Barbarossa began in June of 1941, a little more than a year after Orwell published his column.

A third thought that occurs to me is that Orwell sees in Mein Kampf an “implied intention” to go after England sooner or later, whereas others see in it a desire only to come to terms with Britain, perhaps even as an ally. In Jeff Walker’s interview of the late, great Roy Childs, published in Liberty magazine in 1993, Roy says: “That Hitler had no intentions against Britain, I think can be argued very well. I mean Britain declared war on him and not vice versa. Hitler wanted to go East. Walker: Yeah, he thought that Britain could be his ally. Childs: Yeah. He didn’t want to knock off the French either. Why did he let the British escape at Dunkirk? He wanted to appease them, to a certain extent. He wanted to take central and eastern Europe.”

When I read this, I thought that RAC’s remarks neglected a lot of pertinent facts about Hitler; including, for example, the fact that Der Fuhrer could not exactly be relied upon to keep any very firm promise about what he would or would not do with respect to invading other countries, despite endless wishful thinking by Chamberlain and others. Shire’s heavily documented tome on the Nazi regime is full of behind-closed-doors contradictions of Hitler’s blatant, reassuring public lies about his intentions. Historians debate about why the Germans dithered at Dunkirk, but this is in any case a subsidiary question. What contemporaries could see is that Hitler’s many public assurances and instances of disingenous grandstanding were followed by actions that flagrantly contradicted his playacted promises.

Roy even goes so far as to say that it was a “bunch of lies” for anyone at the time to suppose that Britain might well have eventually been attacked by Germany if it had not gone to war over Hitler’s invasion of Poland. It’s not a certainty that Germany would have attacked Britain in that alternate timeline, of course. Perhaps Hitler would not have attacked the West immediately if he had gotten his way in the East. But was it a certainty that Hitler would never have turned his attention westward had he secured the East? And is it really a “lie” to have been concerned about the prospect? Was Hitler’s track record to date so auspicious? Roy is right about the terribleness of the West’s becoming allied with Stalin and handing Poland to the Soviet Union. But that is not the same question.

Of course, I could not raise these questions with Roy either when I first read the interview in 1993 or reread it later. He had died in the spring of 1992.

Read The Flying Saucers Are Very Very Real

Read Omelet: A Tragedy of Bill Shake-a-speare

Read The Case of the Cockamamie Killer

Aging is not a “disease”; nor is finitude

Filed under: Ethics,Philosophy,Science,Self-help,Society and culture — davidmbrowndotcom @ 6:56 am

The blogger Instapundit, commenting on efforts to slow the inexorable advance of our decrepitude, says “Good to see aging being treated as the disease that it is.”

No, I veto this wording. A normal, universal and inevitable biological process is not a “disease,” even if it makes us more susceptible to disease as we careen toward the finish line. Is the intention here to be loose and metaphorical, deliberately inexact, in a sort of jovial and ironic way? Well then, fine. But it doesn’t sound like that’s the intention when the claim is being made repeatedly and emphatically. If biological limitations and finitude as such are a “disease,” living as such is a “disease,” and the concept of “disease” loses its meaning. Then we would have to find another word for colds, pneumonia, myocardial infarctions, et cetera. What’s next, prescribing penicillin for the Law of Identity? I’m all in favor of our slowing or stopping aging, and I’d also like us to slow or stop misuse of language.

A commenter at the Instapundit site, responding to the same Instapundit report on efforts to combat aging, wants to know: “So what gives the current generation the justification to live forever? Why shouldn’t they die like every other generation? I see no redeeming qualities about me to justify such a thing. In fact, I’d recommend resurrecting the Greatest Generation before letting the current morally and physically deficient generation continue for another breath.”

This is one of those strenuously nonsensical assertions that must exhaust and outlast any attempt to fully answer it. One may as well ask the commenter what “justification” he himself has to exert the effort required to live the next hour, month, year, decade, or whatever the full span is until he is no longer able to survive.

Justifications occur within the context of pursuing the ultimate goal of your own life. Taking medicine is justified to help keep you alive; you don’t stay alive to “justify” your taking medicine as an end in itself. If someone who might have died at age 59 instead lives until 89 because he improves his habits of exercise and diet, would this guy say unto him, “So what gives you [and other members of ‘the current generation’] the right to live longer? Why shouldn’t you have died at age 59 like every other person who dies at that age? I see no redeeming qualities about you [or ‘the current generation’] to justify such a thing”?

Organisms expend effort and energy to sustain their existence; that’s what it means to be alive. Whether a particular individual is “morally corrupt” or lacks “redeeming qualities” and is thus deserving of censure is a separate question. And no, there isn’t any mass indictment of all members of a generation as a group that can properly be made without consideration of what differentiates specific individuals in that group and their choices and actions as individuals.

Another commenter says: “This anti-aging obsession is very selfish….why do baby boomers and others think they are so special that they should live longer and grub more resources? Pathetic.”

This means that staying healthy and alive is a bad thing, because being alive is per se a bad thing. This also means that eating, exercise, shelter, medicine are all necessarily bad things too isofar as they foster the continued well-being and survival of a living individual.

Of course, doing the things you need to do to stay healthy and alive is indeed selfish, if selfishness simply means being concerned with and taking appropriate actions to foster and preserve one’s self. But I suspect that the commenter intends “selfish” to include also what he anyone would regard as bad and objectionable conduct rather than only acting rationally and peacefully to enhance one’s life–so that benign life-serving actions are guilty by association with the malignant actions. Note that he offers no argument or reasoning to explain why taking further steps to improve one’s ability to survive is bad. He offers only disapproval and guilt by association with some undefined evil, maybe bank robbery and murder.

Similarly, the production and consumption required to sustain human life are pejoratively transformed into “grubbing” if an individual should begin to do more than the commenter is willing to countenance in the way of living a healthier life. The connotation substitutes for argument. Folks have been “grubbing” to sustain their lives long before life extension or anti-aging research came along. No doubt each new advance of civilization making possible longer average lifespans was greeted with equal howls of protest by equivalent commenters in their day.

Read The Flying Saucers Are Very Very Real

Read Omelet: A Tragedy of Bill Shake-a-speare

Read The Case of the Cockamamie Killer

August 10, 2016

Both rational parties benefit when they trade good goods with each other

Filed under: Art and Music,Ethics,trade — davidmbrowndotcom @ 5:58 am

A Breitbart reader criticizes an actor’s apparent “indulging in a form of narcissitic exhibition,” but I don’t want to say anything about fashion, psychology or Jaden Smith. The commenter then makes much broader claims:

I will always hold self-gratifying forms of expression the basest form of art relative to those genuinely purposed for the benefit of others…. Producing value for others rather than self is the fundamental building block of a cooperative and healthy society.

Art “genuinely purposed for the benefit of others”? An artist should be conveying something that he intends another mind to perceive and grasp; he is not and should not be drafting in a void, without regard to whether there is any possible means for anyone else to appreciate and benefit from what he makes. But his motivating purpose–his primary motivating purpose–should indeed be personal, a matter of achieving his own creative vision. Doing so, if done well, will benefit others (or may; it depends on those others too, not just the creator). But the driving purpose should be the artist’s own benefit. And that kind of selfish motive is not synonymous with “narcissistic exhibitionism.”

The commenter sets up a false alternative, implying that if my own good is of more importance to me than the good of the person with whom I trade (contrasted in his remarks with producing values “for others rather than for the self”), then my personal selfish motive must undermine my ability to offer something of value to others whose own good is properly of primary importance to them. This is not true. In any trade in the free market, the producer’s primary motive should be his own benefit, which does not imply lack of any reasonable consideration of others whom I would want to appreciate the value I have selfishly created. I do my best for any client or employer. But I do the work first of all for my own sake, not as an act of charity or self-abnegation. I do it to pay the rent, to make my service worth paying for, to maintain values of character that I depend upon, to be proud of my work, and other suchlike self-sustaining and self-improving considerations.

The commenter suggests that “self-gratifying” art is per se degrading. Does “self-gratifying” art include any work of art consistent with a personal artistic vision? Any human activity may take a degrading form. But it does not become degrading because the ultimate intended beneficiary is the self. One must examine the artwork and the standards that the artwork meets or fails to meet. (Or perhaps nihilistically flouts.) Eating delicious food gratifies the hungry self. Is this “self-gratifying” activity in and of itself the “basest” form of eating, rendered base by its selfish motive? Or is consuming a particular meal self-debasing only if one eats like a glutton or treats dinner guests shabbily, et cetera?

Plenty of imitative artistic fare is animated by no motive force in the imitator’s own personal and integrated vision. But having such a vision and seeking to effectively actualize it is selfish. If one succeeds at all in actualizing the vision, one is gratified. Which is completely consistent with offering it as a value to others who are seeking just such value primarily for their own sakes. The artist hopes that others see what he has tried to make. That too, is to his personal benefit, and to the personal benefit of the person who hopes to find values created by others that are possible to appreciate.

Read The Flying Saucers Are Very Very Real

Read Omelet: A Tragedy of Bill Shake-a-speare

Read The Case of the Cockamamie Killer

July 24, 2016

Frustrated, nihilistic losers are attracted to ideas that appeal to frustrated, nihilistic losers

Filed under: Ethics,Islam,News,Philosophy,Psychology,Religion,Society and culture,Terrorism — davidmbrowndotcom @ 4:08 pm

Why do some people think that if a Muslim terrorist has been psychologically screwed up in ways not directly related to a jihadist ideology of religious-political murdering of innocents in the name of Islam, then an evident Islamist motive becomes marginal or irrelevant to explaining his mass-murdering? So that, if so, we may no longer acknowledge Islamist rationalization of mass murder as a salient motive no matter how many times the guy screams “Allahu Akbar” as he takes people out?

New York Magazine‘s Claire Landsbaum last month:

“Since the shooting, police have been attempting to piece together what motivated Mateen to carry out the attack. He reportedly declared his allegiance to ISIS in a 911 call just before the shooting, and police say he referred to the Tsarnaev brothers, who were responsible for the Boston bombings, as his ‘homeboys.’ But officials stressed that Mateen’s links to terrorist groups remained unconfirmed, despite the fact that he’d been investigated three times by the FBI for such connections.

“It’s still impossible to say what motivated Mateen, but it now appears the answer is much more complicated than Islamic extremism.”

So, there are complexities in life.

But no idea, good or bad, if it is grasped and acted upon in the world, functions in a vacuum outside of anybody’s psychology. It’s specific individuals who accept, implement, practice, spread ideas.

In his book The True Believer, Eric Hoffer observed that frustrated and despairing individuals who seek a way to submerge and forget their lousy lives and selves are open to mass movements that demand submergence of and sacrifice of life and judgment in the name of those movements.

Hoffer: “All mass movements generate in their adherents a readiness to die and a proclivity for united action; all of them, irrespective of the doctrine they preach and the program they project, breed fanaticism, enthusiasm, fervent hope, hatred and intolerance; all of them are capable of releasing a powerful flow of activity in certain departments of life; all of them demand blind faith and singlehearted allegiance….

“Starting from the fact that the frustrated predominate among the early adherents of all mass movements and that the usually join of their own accord, it is assumed: 1) that frustration of itself, without any proselytizing prompting from the outside, can generate most of the peculiar characteristics of the true believer; 2) that an effective technique of conversion consists basically in the inculcation and fixation of proclivities and responses indigenous to the frustrated mind.”

In one case after another of a Disturbed Young Man slaughtering people in the name of Islam, we have a screwed-up self + obliterative jihadist ideas demanding sacrifice of selves, ideas which appeal specifically to frustrated souls eager to throw away their own moral responsibility and lives, and, incidentally, the lives of others. How does one indispensable part of this combination become irrelevant if and as we acquire information about the other indispensable part?

If we learn that a zealous convert to Nazism was frustrated and screwed up well before he ever became devoted to Nazism and der Fuehrer, does this mean that the collectivist Nazi ideology, Nazi movement, Nazi institutions, and Nazi mechanisms of force and murder to which the convert has pledged his allegiance—all the animating Nazi notions and apparatus which, in the mind of the true-believing Nazi, justify all manner of viciousness—no longer need be morally, intellectually and physically combatted?

The proto-killer’s bottomless personal frustration, zero willingness to struggle to make better moral choices in his life, and absolute willingness to throw himself and others on the pyre for the sake of ideas that both demand such sacrifices and promise that making those sacrifices will relieve the frustration…these are not mutually exclusive motives that cannot be enlisted together in consistent explanation of why somebody would shoot into a crowd or drive a truck into a crowd while screaming that he’s doing it all for Islam and Allah.

No, we don’t know everything about such individuals. But we know as much as we do know. One thing we know is that nihilistic losers and the ideas designed to appeal to nihilistic losers are perfectly compatible.

 

Read The Flying Saucers Are Very Very Real

Read Omelet: A Tragedy of Bill Shake-a-speare

Read The Case of the Cockamamie Killer

July 19, 2016

The going rate for honesty is one dollar

Filed under: Economics,Ethics,Psychology — davidmbrowndotcom @ 4:48 am

Or at least, that’s the going rate when that’s what I can spare after having paid ten dollars for a soda. What I mean is that I ended up paying two dollars, one for the soda, one for the honesty.

Yesterday afternoon, in exchange for a can of soda, I was dumb enough to hand a ten-dollar bill that I thought was a one-dollar bill to the owner of a small grocery store. After I had zipped out the door and was definitively on my way, he called me back to give me my nine bucks in change. Embarrassing; but I appreciated the honesty. I said so verbally but also with an extra dollar, which pleasantly surprised him. Of course, I’m not trying to suggest that one should receive cash whenever one acts in a principled virtuous way. Nor do I believe that the prospect of gaining nine unearned dollars can either tempt or compensate a person who is honest on principle to suffer the injury to character that must result from stealing even a few dollars. But unexpected bonuses are fun to get and to give; life is short; and life is made out of moments.

Years ago, I did the same dumb thing when paying a pizza delivery guy, realizing my mistake soon after he had left. Reflecting on the incident, I realized that he had noticed my blunder and known that it was a blunder, but had suppressed his surprise as he kept the overpayment. If honesty were automatic, nobody would ever be dishonest. Being honest is not hard, if that’s a principle by which you live—and regardless of the amount of apparently easy-to-get-away-with loot involved. But it’s not automatic.

 

Read The Flying Saucers Are Very Very Real

Read Omelet: A Tragedy of Bill Shake-a-speare

Read The Case of the Cockamamie Killer

July 8, 2016

With respect to the way James Comey let Hillary Clinton off the hook…

Filed under: Ethics,News,Philosophy,Politics — davidmbrowndotcom @ 1:45 am

…Charles Krauthammer writes, “I admit I’m giving Comey the benefit of the doubt. But the best way I can reconcile his reputation for integrity with the grating illogic of his Clinton decision is by presuming that he didn’t want to make history.”

Krauthammer chastises FBI Director James Comey for shabby logic, but the commentator’s own logic is shabby. How is evading evidence because one does “not want to make history” consistent with integrity in drawing conclusions from evidence?

Proposing a minor variant of the widely guessed motives behind Comey’s evasion of Hillary Clinton’s prosecutability, Krauthammer suggests that the director’s conduct is not as ugly-looking if the Krauthammer-preferred rendition of motive, and not some other motive, animated the evasion.

But imagine a case in which another official, also not being physically threatened, recommends prosecution when that official knows–not guesses: knows–the accused person to be innocent. What then? Would the injustice done to that innocent person be somehow more consistent with the integrity of a commitment to justice if Motive A for committing the injustice were operative rather than Motive B? Would assigning one motive rather than the other constitute giving the “benefit of the doubt” to an official who knowingly cooperates in trampling the rights of an innocent person? That it is hard to be just in a particular case is no excuse for being unjust.

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