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April 15, 2013 06:24 AM UTC

Monday Open Thread

  • by: Colorado Pols

"You're an idealist, and I pity you as I would the village idiot."

–Stanley Kubrick


49 thoughts on “Monday Open Thread

      1. Yep.  The entire argument stating that ordinary people have to balance their budgets so why doesn't the government completely ignores the fact that ordinary people take on long term debt to own homes, cars, educations, etc. If people had to pay for everything they have out of what they are able to save from their income these days,  large portions of the middle class would not be home owners, would never be able to buy a new model car and if healthcare were both truly free market and with no insurance industry as the profit making middle man, most middle class people would never be able to pay for any serious medical procedure out of pocket.

        It's not just Uncle Sam that lives on long term debt.  It's all those people supposedly sitting aound their cozy kirchen tables making sensible budget decisions. The decision making usually involves a decision to, hell yes, take on a boat load of debt. Otherwise they'd mainly be renters driving old used cars, their kids would have no way of going to college, and they'd be up a creek with any serious illness.  That old argument is about 100 years out of date and 100 years ago most people just got by with enough to eat, a roof over their heads and pretty minimal education.

  1. Today's political trivia question:

    In the Civil War, when the Union captured New Orleans, the first Governor-General was quickly given the nickname "Spoons."

    What was his real name and why was he give then nickname Spoons?

    And for extra credit:

    What political office did he hold when he was appointed as a general? And what policy did he post when the women of New Orleans started emptying their chamberpots from the 2nd floor onto the heads of Union soldiers? (A policy that had the South calling him evil.)

  2. My favorite Keynes quote.

    "By a continuous process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. By this method, they not only confiscate, but they confiscate arbitrarily; and while the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some….The process engages all of the hidden forces of economic law on the side of destruction, and does it in a manner that not one man in a million can diagnose." – John Maynard Keynes Economic Consequences of the Peace, 1920


    1. My favorite Libertarian quote:

      There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs.

        1. Look, Ayn Rand hates Libertarians.  Actually Ayn conflates anarchist with Libertariansim…


          What was Ayn Rand’s view of the libertarian movement?

          Ayn Rand was opposed to the libertarian movement of her time.

          In 1971 she wrote:

          For the record, I shall repeat what I have said many times before: I do not join or endorse any political group or movement. More specifically, I disapprove of, disagree with and have no connection with, the latest aberration of some conservatives, the so-called “hippies of the right,” who attempt to snare the younger or more careless ones of my readers by claiming simultaneously to be followers of my philosophy and advocates of anarchism. Anyone offering such a combination confesses his inability to understand either. Anarchism is the most irrational, anti-intellectual notion ever spun by the concrete-bound, context-dropping, whim-worshiping fringe of the collectivist movement, where it properly belongs. [“Brief Summary,” The Objectivist, Vol. 10, Sep. 1971]

          And in 1972 she wrote:

          Above all, do not join the wrong ideological groups or movements, in order to “do something.” By “ideological” (in this context), I mean groups or movements proclaiming some vaguely generalized, undefined (and, usually, contradictory) political goals. (E.g., the Conservative Party, that subordinates reason to faith, and substitutes theocracy for capitalism; or the “libertarian” hippies, who subordinate reason to whims, and substitute anarchism for capitalism.) To join such groups means to reverse the philosophical hierarchy and to sell out fundamental principles for the sake of some superficial political action which is bound to fail. It means that you help the defeat of your ideas and the victory of your enemies. (For a discussion of the reasons, see “The Anatomy of Compromise” in my book Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.) [“What Can One Do?” The Ayn Rand Letter, Vol. 1, No. 7]

          Rand was often asked about libertarians and the Libertarian Party in the question-and-answer periods following her lectures. Here, from pp.72-76 of Ayn Rand Answers: The Best of Her Q&A, ed. Robert Mayhew, are some of those questions and her answers. (In the excerpt below, “Q” stands for question, “AR” for Ayn Rand, “FHF” for Ford Hall Forum, a venue where Ayn Rand was often invited to speak, “OC” for Objective Communication, a course given by Leonard Peikoff in which Ayn Rand participated in some of the question-and-answer periods, and “71” for the year 1971.)

          Q: What do you think of the libertarian movement?

          AR: All kinds of people today call themselves “libertarians,” especially something calling itself the New Right, which consists of hippies who are anarchists instead of leftist collectivists; but anarchists are collectivists. Capitalism is the one system that requires absolute objective law, yet libertarians combine capitalism and anarchism. That’s worse than anything the New Left has proposed. It’s a mockery of philosophy and ideology. They sling slogans and try to ride on two bandwagons. They want to be hippies, but don’t want to preach collectivism because those jobs are already taken. But anarchism is a logical outgrowth of the anti-intellectual side of collectivism. I could deal with a Marxist with a greater chance of reaching some kind of understanding, and with much greater respect. Anarchists are the scum of the intellectual world of the Left, which has given them up. So the Right picks up another leftist discard. That’s the libertarian movement. [FHF 71]

          Q: What do you think of the Libertarian Party?

          AR: I’d rather vote for Bob Hope, the Marx Brothers, or Jerry Lewis—they’re not as funny as John Hospers and the Libertarian Party. If Hospers takes ten votes away from Nixon (which I doubt he’ll do), it would be a moral crime. I don’t care about Nixon, and I care even less about Hospers; but this is no time to engage in publicity seeking, which all these crank political parties are doing. (George Wallace is no great thinker—he’s a demagogue, though with some courage—but even he had the sense to stay home this time.) If you want to spread your ideas, do it through education. But don’t run for president—or even dogcatcher—if you’re going to help McGovern. [FHF 72]

          Q: What is your position on the Libertarian Party?

          AR: I don’t want to waste too much time on it. It’s a cheap attempt at publicity, which libertarians won’t get. Today’s events, particularly Watergate, should teach anyone with amateur political notions that they shouldn’t rush into politics in order to get publicity. The issues are so serious today that to form a new party on some half-baked and some borrowed—I won’t say from whom—ideas, is irresponsible, and in today’s context nearly immoral. [FHF 73]

          Q: Libertarians advocate the politics you do, so why are you opposed to the Libertarian Party?

          AR: They’re not defenders of capitalism. They’re a group of publicity seekers who rush into politics prematurely, because they allegedly want to educate people through a political campaign, which can’t be done. Further, their leadership consists of men of every persuasion, from religious conservatives to anarchists. Most of them are my enemies: they spend their time denouncing me, while plagiarizing my ideas. Now it’s a bad sign for an allegedly pro-capitalist party to start by stealing ideas. [FHF 74]

          Q: Have you heard of Libertarian presidential candidate Roger MacBride? What do you think of him?

          AR: My answer should be “I don’t think of him.” There’s nothing to hear. The trouble in the world today is philosophical; only the right philosophy can save us. But this party plagiarizes some of my ideas, mixes it with the exact opposite—with religionists, anarchists, and every intellectual misfit and scum they can find—and they call themselves Libertarians and run for office. I dislike Reagan and Carter; I’m not too enthusiastic about the other candidates. But the worst of them are giants compared to anybody who would attempt something as un-philosophical, low, and pragmatic as the Libertarian Party. It is the last insult to ideas and philosophical consistency. [FHF 76]

          Q: Do you think Libertarians communicate the ideas of freedom and capitalism effectively?

          AR: I don’t think plagiarists are effective. I’ve read nothing by Libertarians (when I read them, in the early years) that wasn’t my ideas badly mishandled—that is, the teeth pulled out of them—with no credit given. I didn’t know whether to be glad that no credit was given, or disgusted. I felt both. They are perhaps the worst political group today, because they can do the most harm to capitalism, by making it disreputable. I’ll take Jane Fonda over them. [Earlier during this same Q&A period, AR had been asked about Jane Fonda. For the question and her answer, see below, p. 80.] [OC 80]

          Q: Why don’t you approve of libertarians, thousands of whom are loyal readers of your works?

          AR: Because libertarians are a monstrous, disgusting bunch of people: they plagiarize my ideas when that fits their purpose, and denounce me in a more vicious manner than any communist publication when that fits their purpose. They’re lower than any pragmatists, and what they hold against Objectivism is morality. They want an amoral political program. [FHF 81]

          Q: Libertarians provide intermediate steps toward your goals. Why don’t you support them?

          AR: Please don’t tell me they’re pursuing my goals. I have not asked for, nor do I accept, the help of intellectual cranks. I want philosophically educated people: those who understand ideas, care about ideas, and spread the right ideas. That’s how my philosophy will spread, just as philosophy has throughout history: by means of people who understand ideas and teach them to others. Further, it should be clear that I reject the filthy slogan “The end justifies the means.” That was originated by the Jesuits, and accepted enthusiastically by the Communists and the Nazis. The end does not justify the means; you cannot achieve anything good by evil means. Finally, libertarians aren’t worthy of being the means to any end, let alone the end of spreading Objectivism. [FHF 81]

          Robert Nozick, Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University, was a well-known libertarian.

          Q: Could you comment on Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia?

          AR: I don’t like to read this author, because I don’t like bad eclectics—not in architecture, and certainly not in politics and philosophy—particularly when I’m one of the pieces butchered. [FHF 77]

          Q: What’s your view on the idea of competing governments?

          AR: It’s an irresponsible piece of nonsense. That’s the only answer the question deserves. [FHF 70]

          Q: Why is the lack of government in Galt’s Gulch (in Atlas Shrugged) any different from anarchy, which you object to?

          AR: Galt’s Gulch is not a society; it’s a private estate. It’s owned by one man who carefully selected the people admitted. Even then, they had a judge as an arbitrator, if anything came up; only nothing came up among them, because they shared the same philosophy. But if you had a society in which all shared in one philosophy, but without a government, that would be dreadful. Galt’s Gulch probably consisted of about, optimistically, a thousand people who represented the top geniuses of the world. They agreed on fundamentals, but they would never be in total agreement. They didn’t need a government because if they had disagreements, they could resolve them rationally.

          But project a society of millions, in which there is every kind of viewpoint, every kind of brain, every kind of morality—and no government. That’s the Middle Ages, your no-government society. Man was left at the mercy of bandits, because without government, every criminally inclined individual resorts to force, and every morally inclined individual is helpless. Government is an absolute necessity if individual rights are to be protected, because you don’t leave force at the arbitrary whim of other individuals. Libertarian anarchism is pure whim worship, because what they refuse to recognize is the need of objectivity among men—particularly men of different views. And it’s good that people within a nation should have different views, provided we respect each other’s rights.

          No one can guard rights, except a government under objective laws. What if McGovern had his gang of policemen, and Nixon had his, and instead of campaigning they fought in the streets? This has happened throughout history. Rational men are not afraid of government. In a proper society, a rational man doesn’t have to know the government exists, because the laws are clear and he never breaks them. [FHF 72]



          1. No doubt, personal experiences tend to affect a person's views and beliefs.

            As with ALL "up by the old bootstraps libertarians", which Rand professed to be earlier in life, she greatly changed her attitude on government, personal liberties, personal responsibilities, and even empathy when she got sick.

            The "Oh, never mind" philosophy of the above post certainly painted the picture of a previously anti government radical that had gotten ill.

            As with ALL "libertarians", the Rand seen in the above post was now fully embracing Social Security Disability benifits…….for her and her only.

            As with ALL "libertarians", her "circumstances" warranted Government help. Her problem with government help for anyone but her persisted untill her death.

            Probably not the best example, nock.

  3. For David and the gang, left over from the weekend thread:

    It turns out teacher salaries in Missouri are public information, and there's a searchable database. It seems more likely to be accurate to me than either of the sites BlueCat or David linked to yesterday. And it lists the salary of a middle-school teacher named William Turner (I believe Randy Turner occasionally goes by William since he claims authorship of "No Child Left Alive"). Which is $37,359.00 after 13 years experience (it's from last year). 

    Now can you discuss the actual article? For your convenience, here it is again. "A warning to young people: don't become a teacher."

    P.S. This whole pathetic episode helps illustrate the point well. 

    1. Wow. Ok, SXP you were right and I was wrong on this. This guy does make only 37K/year. (I wonder if the amounts listed in the other links are wrong or for some reas he's well below the average.)

      Fair point. Ok, to speak to the article. I think in some items it is spot on. The focus on teaching to the test is a big problem. Or maybe a better way of putting it, the tests in many cases are not designed to measure what's most important to learn and there is also too big a focus on learning how to take tests. (That same problem exists for College admissions with SAT prep classes.)

      In terms of benefits being rolled back, I think teachers are facing something that has already happened in private industry.Pension and medical costs have grown faster than inflation for decades and that's not sustainable. It's no consolation but I think this is something that's hitting all public employees and is not directed solely at teachers. So for this one, it's not a reason to forgo teaching, it's a reson to forgo working for the government. But in the private sector you face the same thing.

      Not giving teachers the ability to control their classrooms – big problem. Not supporting teachers when they hold students accountable for performance – gigantic problem.

      Where I disagree is where he does not want to measure teachers and hold them accountable. This needs to be done effectively and efficiently (and no it will never be perfect). And the system should also measure administrators as well as insure the system is not used to punish individuals arbitrarily. 

      But "leaving teaching to the teachers" is akin to "leaving food safety to the agribusinesses." Measurement, review, & accountability, if done well, will improve any system. Would you fly on a plane where the pilot was not under constant review by the FAA?

      1. That's it? No apology for derailing the conversation or wasting everyone's time? Of course you were wrong. You're you.

        Like Randy Turner, I will continue to advise students to avoid becoming teachers, and for many of the same reasons. What incentives are you offering anyone to enter the profession? More systems made up by people with literally no useful knowledge about education?

          1. Usually when people are wrong and realize it they do say something akin to "Sorry. You were right and I was really mistaken (or misinformed, or what have you) on that one. Once more, David, your supposedly nonexistent hostility to teachers is palpable.  

            I don't think anyone, including sxp, is saying teacher's shouldn't be accountable or that their success should go completely unmeasured.  Whether or not your widget producing view of what should constitute the mechanism of that accountability is something that reasonable people may consider to be up for debate.

            One can almost sense the steam rising in your comments whenever the subject of teachers and teaching come up here.

            1. I did say SXP was right and I was wrong:

              Wow. Ok, SXP you were right and I was wrong on this.

              And SXP then stated:

              Now can you discuss the actual article?

              So I followed up and did exactly that, I spoke to the major points raised in the article. And one of the major points was the author saying tenure should not be abolished so I spoke to my disagreement on that issue.

              I'm not hostile to teachers. You're incredibly sensitive to anyone saying that teachers should be measured and evaluated and held accountable.

              1. You get zero points for admitting that I was right. Everyone knows that. 

                How much money do you make, and how much of that is wasted on trolling this blog? I'll bet you're not as forthcoming as this teacher you so stupidly disparaged. 

                Fuck you. Apologize.

              2. Wow. I'm quite confident that a thorough search of every comment I've ever made on the subject will turn up no evidence whatsoever that I'm "incredibly sensitive" or even just plain sensitive about teacher evaluation.

                This last comment of mine, stating that people might disagree on what would constitute a valid mechanism for the evaluation of teachers for purposes including accountability, could hardly be interpreted that way by anyone who is rational on the subject.

                You, David, are quite clearly not rational on the subject so I suppose you are projecting.  Or maybe it just irks you that I don't share your over the top hostility to sxp.  In any case, I think the hyper-sensitivity you inexplicably find in my rather mild observation that there is room for debate on the subject among reasonable people might, in fact, be your own.

                1. I was responding to your comment:

                  One can almost sense the steam rising in your comments whenever the subject of teachers and teaching come up here.

                  Where among other things I said:

                  Not giving teachers the ability to control their classrooms – big problem. Not supporting teachers when they hold students accountable for performance – gigantic problem.

                  Where I was agreeing with the article and saying that teachers needed to be supported by administrators.

                  1. And that has to do with you're baseless assessment of my reaction to any suggestion of teacher evaluation as" incredibly sensititive" how?  I consider this a non-response worthy of our most determinedly unresponsive righties.

                    Bye for now, David. This discussion has clearly run its course and reached a dead end. See you on other threads about other stuff.

          2. If my student publicly calls me a liar three times based on the flimsiest of evidence and I'm then unequivocally proven right, I certainly will embarrass him in front of the class. 

            I want an apology. You're like a tax evader who lies and lies and lies in court, and then when you're finally found guilty beyond any reasonable doubt, you say, "Well gee, I guess I did evade taxes. Can I get bonus points for being so honest?"

            Be a man. Apologize for making me waste half an hour this morning proving that your bullshit is bullshit and your lies are lies.

            1. Gee, you must be a swell teacher. First off, I never called you a liar. I said the person writing the post had lied. Based on the info I first found I thought that was a valid statement.

              When you showed me I was wrong I said you were right and I was wrong. And if that matters so much to you, I'm sorry.

              With that said, grow up. People are wrong all the time. I'll be wrong again. You'll be wrong again. The trick is to learn from it rather than keep beating a dead horse.

      2. P.S. In answer to your question, "How did the website lead me astray?" the answer is that it's a random number generator. You really thought someone had gathered accurate data on every educational job in every town in every state and wouldn't even put his/her name on the web site? Seriously, how could you even begin to imagine that was credibly-sourced information?

    2. Problem:  When one does not define the goal – the desitnation – one cannot create a plan – a map – to get there.


      What is the goal of public education in the USA?

      • To prepare children for citizenship
      • To create a skilled workforce
      • To acculturate students
      • To prepare students for college
      • To teach students how to think
      • To prepare students to compete in a global marketplace

      And a dozen others. Some of these are teangential to each other, and  even orthogonal.  Others conflict.

      Also, we have a on-size-fits-most curriculum, agrarian based calender, vast regional variation in infrastructure and values, universal access and presumptive public control.


      Just to pick a few comparison points:

      1) How many days in the school year?  USA has no national requirement, and there is some regional variation.  Nationwide average is 180days.  

      S. Korea, Japan, Brazil : 200+,9171,2005863-1,00.html


      2) Test scores

      Again, some regional variation, but the USA used to lead in most categories. Not anymore.,31813,2043378,00.html

      I argue – without easy to post hard data, that "universal access" hurts us here.  I.e., US schools are universally accessible (supposedly). Worldwide- this is not true.  If we dropped the 1.3 to 1/2 of our math students by  8th grade – our test scores could be really high again.


      3)  Higher ed

      Worldwide, many of the "best" students want US colleges and universities.  Sure part of that is the parties and the sports teams, but at least part of that must be the perception that at the higher levels are schools are better.

      And yet – most of our classroom instruction at the college level comes form adjunct, contruct non-tenured instructors.





      No piece on education would be complete without homewok:

      In various versions of the tale, a group of blind men (or men in the dark) touch an elephant to learn what it is like. Each one feels a different part, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk. They then compare notes and learn that they are in complete disagreement.

      The stories differ primarily in how the elephant's body parts are described, how violent the conflict becomes and how (or if) the conflict among the men and their perspectives is resolved.

      In some versions, they stop talking, start listening and collaborate to "see" the full elephant. When a sighted man walks by and sees the entire elephant all at once, they also learn they are blind. While one's subjective experience is true, it may not be the totality of truth. If the sighted man was deaf, he would not hear the elephant bellow. Denying something you cannot perceive ends up becoming an argument for your limitations.

      The story of blind men's limitations appeals deeply to the reader as we very naturally and subconsciously identify with the narrator. There is, however, a highly arrogant assumption in the way the story is told. The only person who can see the whole truth is the narrator, who lets the reader in on his full-sighted perspective of the elephant. Everyone else is blind! The claim to know everything is arrogant. Yet the story allows the reader to dismiss all truth claims as partial versions of a bigger reality, which only the narrator and his readers see.

          1. We're not the most educated country (I think we did used to be). Here's on source – NBC:

            Although the U.S. is one of just a few nations where more than 40 percent of people had a tertiary education in 2010, its education system is not without problems. Among the concerns, the graduation rate for upper secondary students in 2010 was 77 percent, well below the average rate of 84 percent for the OECD. Even though graduation rates were relatively low, the U.S. is one of the biggest spenders on education, with related expenditures equaling 7.3 percent of GDP in 2009. The U.S. was also the world’s largest spender on tertiary education in 2009, at 2.6 percent of GDP. The majority of funds for higher education, totaling 1.6 percent of GDP, came from private sources.

        1. When you ask the wrong question, you will continue to get the wrong answer. We don't have "a system." We have two (some say three) systems.   On the one hand, we have the affluent school districts where students are doing well. On the other, we have poor districts – inner city and rural – where students are failing. Until we, as a society, address the socio-economic disparities in our country, we will never "improve" education. We can't expect teachers to fix kids broken by poverty,  malnourishment, and societal violence. That is just too much to ask.

  4. Never made it past a couple chapters of Lord of the Rings, it did not make much sense to me.  Reading The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged did nothing for me. And the movie is just as not impressive too.  A previously illegal copy of Lady Chatterly's Lover had more lasting importance to my life.

  5. I am currently out of state, but people are saying that 4 Dem State Senators are being recalled because of their position on gun control; does this have any factual basis? 

  6. Some short time ago, after the Newtown massacre, I mentioned that root causes had to be identified to explain and address to American violence, and I mentioned capitalism itself to be a root cause. Grey in the Mountains noted that it was an interesting inclusion. I came across this today that better explains the impulse for my statement:


    Mostly our thinking is limited by thinking in terms of money and markets, and all markets are scarcity based (just think how much money you can get in a market for a bag of air – air being very important and very abundant – ie has zero scarcity).

    We are developing automation technology that gives us the theoretical ability to deliver abundance of anything to anyone, yet our financial gurus are talking about “austerity” – it is utter madness!!!

    Markets are great tools for allocating scarce resources, but they are useless at dealing with or incentivising abundance. Same goes for money – which is a market measure of value. If we continue to think in terms of money- we are doomed.

    This was said by an anonymous poster in a conversation on Kurtzweil's singularity theories and Kurtzweil's assertions that the cessation of aging and even death may be possible. Aubrey de Grey (no relation to Grey in the Mountains, I'm assuming:-) calls this "a world without children".

    In any event, I agree with the notion that "incentivizing abundance" is vastly different from what we see in market based practice and theories. Too much boom and bust.

  7. Obviously this is pure speculation at this point, but from what we've heard so far, this looks to me like neo-conservative, anti "govbmint", McVea type activity.

    Certainly there's motive. Gun safety legislation, immigration reform, a sudden avalanch of support for Gay Marraige are all triggers for those who've been listening to beck, drudge, the NRA spokesworms, even limbaugh.

    The murders in Texas and Colorado, the threats, there is a definite trend.

    If I'm wrong, I'll apologize to goober nation. But that's my take at this early stage.

    3 dead. Dozens injured. gone too far.

    1.  this looks to me like neo-conservative, anti "govbmint", McVea type activity.

      Looks like it from my chair, as well, As dippleganger said in the other thread…too early to tell…but, if I were a betting man, I'd say neo-con.

        1. I am too Duke.

          One thing though. Domestic, international, whatever the motivation, the President has brought the full weight of the Federal Government to bear.

          I wouldn not bet against the solving of this crime.

          President Obama risked his Presidency when he ordered Operation Neptune Spear. He got Bin Laden. This President laser focuses when needed, and the perpetrators will be discovered.

          1. I haven't felt like turning on CNN…I'm about Blitzered out. I was waiting for an update from Pols. I did see a video and this deal was a bushwhack…not foreign jihadists, jihadists want to die. This guy (group) is (are) a coward(s). 

                The explosions came from well off the street, but they were timed to get a crowd where the second one exploded, it almost seemed larger, but I only saw the one video clip.

  8. Somebody should note that the Denver Post won a Pulitzer today for its breaking news coverage of the Aurora shooting. Many of us take issue with the Post, but congratulations are in order here.


  9. No new news coming out of Boston so I read through the interesting stuff off HackerNews, etc.

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