A worrying prospect for the USA: H.R. 5741. Universal National Service Act

29 07 2010

I was alerted to this US bill by the operator of the Oactivists mailing list, Diana Hsieh.  For more information on this mailing list see:
http://www.olist.com/oactivists.html

Here’s the opening paragraph of the bill:

To require all persons in the United States between the ages of 18 and 42 to perform national service, either as a member of the uniformed services or in civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security, to authorize the induction of persons in the uniformed services during wartime to meet end-strength requirements of the uniformed services, and for other purposes.

I am strongly opposed to national service on the grounds that it is involuntary and a violation of individual rights. 

If a country is worth fighting for, the populace will generally fight and force is not morally justified to make them. 

If the people of a country don’t understand the importance of their freedom (or even their partial freedoms) and are therefore not willing to fight, then you have bigger problems than just national defense.  In that case, the country and it’s politics are ultimately stuffed anyway. 

A response was made to Diana by an attorney on the mailing list whom I have decided to keep anonymous in case he/she doesn’t want their comments on my blog.  He explained that basically, this bill has virtually no chance of advancing in Congress this year because it is an election year and Rangel is being investigated on ethics issues (NB/ Rangel is the bill’s author).  However the same commenter notes that a bill that would require urgent action is one that has both Republican and Democrat sponsors.  It would most likely include “universal “national service” with domestic peace corps, a teacher corps and other similar non military options”.  

Is a national draft in the USA a fantasy? 

In 1993, Clinton introduced the Americorps by the National and Community Service Trust Act.  I’m not really sure what my thoughts are on this bill.  I’m certainly opposed to contradictory altruistic ethics which I believe are the primary motivation for these typs of programs.  But this program is voluntary. 
Bush expanded this program and Americorps is popular amongst both Republicans and Democrats. 

In 2008, both John McCain and Obama spoke at a forum sponsored by TIME at Columbia University in New York.  The highly altruistic John McCain said:

“I’d be glad to reward [volunteers] them as much as possible. But you want to be careful that the reason is not the reward of financial or other reasons, but the reward is the satisfaction of serving a cause greater than yourself. … Finding new ways to serve. That’s what this next few years should be all about.”

In the same setting the now president Obama said:

“Let us renew that spirit of service and that sense of common purpose.” 

What about individualism and individual rights?

President Obama supports mandatory community service.  Something I am also vehemently opposed to.  This is a possible precedent (in principle) to a mandatory military draft.  Back in March 2009, the Democrats introduced H.R. 1388: Serve America Act.  To refresh your memory, see this article

“The House passed a bill yesterday which includes disturbing language indicating young people will be forced to undertake mandatory national service programs as fears about President Barack Obama’s promised “civilian national security force” intensify.”

“Under section 6104 of the bill, entitled “Duties,” in subsection B6, the legislation states that a commission will be set up to investigate, “Whether a workable, fair, and reasonable mandatory service requirement for all able young people could be developed, and how such a requirement could be implemented in a manner that would strengthen the social fabric of the Nation and overcome civic challenges by bringing together people from diverse economic, ethnic, and educational backgrounds.””

Update 30/7/10.  Check out The John Galt Pledge site.  Scroll down and there are more details on the US attempts at national service and a discussion of the altruistic ethics which ultimately drives this type of policy.





Enviro-Nazis

28 07 2010

If you’re a greeny.  Just do one thing for me.  Do some quick research and look at some cold hard facts of what enacting green political policies would actually mean for human life. 

Article recommendation from Gerard Jackson:

The Government’s “alternative energy” policies will be a disaster for the economy

And here’s my little rant about Labor’s “cash for clunkers” programs.  Proven to have failed in other countries – but who cares about facts right?!  Well some of us do. 

This plan will cause distortions to an already over-regulated, subsidized car market.  People will buy more new cars, meaning they get less use out of an otherwise good car.  This is destructive, a waste of resources.  It’s like giving someone money to burn down their home so they can build a new one with some solar panels attached.  It doesn’t make any sense and it’s destructive to the economy, meaning destructive to human life. 

What about the CO2 produced from making new cars?   

Just another example of politicians being destructive parasites while bullshitting (they’re possibly just ignorant, I don’t know) the public and having the cheek to forcibly take our money and use it to tell us how great they are. 

It’s like all the other destructive green schemes. 

Let’s take a seemingly minor, insignificant example.  The plastic bag ban in Sth Australia. Even this is destructive and immoral.  It’s not a matter of degree.  It’s a matter of principle. 
This scheme actually raised CO2 emissions because the bags are made from polypropylene and you have to use them at least 100X or more before they are more “environmentally friendly” than a plastic bag – not that I buy all the sky is falling, haters of mankind ideology anyway.  These bags have cost us more money, not to mention, the extra inconvenience to consumers, the wasted time to shop staff (studies show it takes longer to pack customer’s bags) and increased risk of food poisoning.  They haven’t reduced CO2 and there was never a land-fill problem to begin with!    

Environmentalism is like a religion.  Overall, it’s harmful to people, it’s not based on facts or reality and it calls for human sacrifice to Gaia the earth spirit (instead of God). 

Where are the computer models (there’s many kinds which in itself is telling) that predicted the falls in average global temp over the last decade or so?

Forcing us to be green is immoral.  Why?  Because human life is good and humans are not inherently evil.





Steve Wynn on Washington

27 07 2010

http://www.infowars.com/steve-wynn-takes-on-washington/

This is gold.  A businessman tells it like it is and stands up for himself.  We need more people like this in Australia.





Unemployment is not natural! Article recommendation

23 07 2010

Doug Reich has just published an easy to understand, well written article over at his blog called ‘How the Government is Causing Unemployment“.  Check it out.





Thomas Sowell on a common problem in educating children

20 07 2010

From Sowell’s 2010 book, “Intellectuals and Society”

“By encouraging, or even requiring, students to take stands where they have neither the knowledge nor the intellectual training to seriously examine complex issues, teachers promote the expression of unsubstantiated opinions, the venting of uninformed emotions, and the habit of acting on those opinions and emotions, while ignoring or dismissing opposing views, without having either the intellectual equipment or the personal experience to weigh one view against another in any serious way”

This immediately made me think of Objectivist epistemology.  Concepts are identified as being hierarchical.  Ayn Rand wrote in Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, p41 that:

“Concepts have a hierarchical structure, i.e., . . . the higher, more complex abstractions are derived from the simpler, basic ones (starting with the concepts of perceptually given concretes).”

I believe it is ridiculous for young school students to be discussing political issues.  The result would most likely be indoctrination of the status quo or the belief of the teacher.  The result can be a highly opinionated young adult quick to anger due to their subconcious knowledge that he/she is unable to defend their opinion using logic and rational argument.  A great way to check the validity of your political opinions, is to attempt to define the concepts upon which your opinions rest.  For example, the other day I heard someone claiming that “Australia is the most racist country in the world”  A startling claim.  Aside from wondering how this person had quantified their belief, I wondered if this person had ever tried to define racism. 
Most of us view racism as a dirty word (me included).  But what is the definition of racism?  Are some races inherently inferior?  Is any generalisation based on someone’s race, racist?  Are generalisations about cultures or races possible?  What’s the difference between a race and a culture?  Is the word racism misused in our society?

Not so simple right? 

Often, political issues involve thinking about complex abstractions and children are not equipped to do this type of thinking.  Their learning is highly dependent on adults, they have no life experience outside of school, and they have not developed advanced skills in thinking logically and rationally. 

Despite the “I’m OK, you’re OK” feel good notions of our modern schooling, the fact is that not all opinions are equally valid.  And not all people should be expected to have opinions on all issues. 

Children should ideally learn WHY a fact is considered a fact.  What chain of discoveries or concepts led to this? 

Thinking is a complicated business and it’s important to do it as accurately as possible.  Another quote from Ayn Rand on thinking, this time from “The Virtue of Selfishness, p20:

“It is an actively sustained process of identifying one’s impressions in conceptual terms, of integrating every event and every observation into a conceptual context, of grasping relationships, differences, similarities in one’s perceptual material and of abstracting them into new concepts, of drawing inferences, of making deductions, of reaching conclusions, of asking new questions and discovering new answers and expanding one’s knowledge into an ever-growing sum.”

Some opinions are well thought out, based on concepts which can be explained by a logical regression back to perceptual facts of reality.  Other opinions are not well thought out. (see any mainstream newspaper for proof)       

I have very little knowledge in the field of civil engineering to pick a random example.  My opinion on the design and materials for the construction of a bridge would be basically worthless.  That’s obvious, but when it comes to politics many fall into the trap of treating all opinions as being equal and also encouraging young children to hold political opinions. 

The problem of populism extended to the child’s classroom.  In politics many people believe popular opinion is the best way to gauge the correctness or validity of a proposal.  People and politicians often fall into the trap of equivocating democratic process with freedom.  No matter how many people will something to be so, it doesn’t make it so.  eg/ No matter how many religious people believe in Creationism, it’s always wrong, anytime, anywhere. 

As a primary school student I resent being indoctrinated to believe in global warming and deep ecology ideology and to believe our society is overtly racist and sexist.  I was indoctrinated in egalitarianism in politics and altruism in ethics – ideologies that I am glad I have now thought about and rejected due to their contradictory nature.





Mondayitis. Election time means a depressing start to the week in Aus.

19 07 2010

My clock radio wakes me up on the hour.  I’m really going to have to change this setting because it means I wake up hearing the news.  And that’s not a good way to start the day. 

Today was especially depressing. 

Rudely, awakened from my warm cosy dream land, I was reminded there is a federal election coming up in Australia.  Booooooooo.   That means annoying politicians all over the media and political advertising being rammed down my throat while I play a game of count the number of logical fallacies, dishonest framing, and destructive ideas being proposed.  The insults to my intelligence have already begun with a pic of Julia Gill-Rudd holding a very uncomfortable looking baby on The Australian’s website. 

This morning I awoke to hear that our supposedly conservative opposition leader has promised not to re-introduce Workchoices legislation.  This decision, even though the media this year has highlighted the destructive nature of workplace regulation.  eg/ These teenagers forced out of work by the government under the current IR regulations. 

Trade (mutual exchange for mutual benefit) has existed for thousands of years.  People have the right to engage in voluntary transactions of goods and services.  Labour is a service.  Governments violate the rights of workers and employers by forcing them to adhere to Industrial Relations regulations.  It is simply impossible that they know how to run businesses better than business owners.  IR laws are generally immoral and economically destructive because they reduce flexibility and productivity.  This results in a poorer Australia meaning less jobs, and less opportunities especially for the most vulnerable.   

It’s looking like the Liberal party will lose my vote.  It’s definitely looking like the Labor party will lose my vote.  Their incompetence and ignorance for the last two years has been beyond belief.  In a better world they would be locked up in jail for the destruction to people’s lives that they have forced on Australians. 

It’s a depressing state of affairs.  Who will stand up for freedom in this country?  Australians need to first be able to define what freedom actually is and remove the contradictions from their thinking.  They then need to understand why freedom is so important for them and others and why a government should properly protect and defend individual rights.  The answer:  The value of human life.





Article recommendation: Cargo Cult Science by Richard Feynman

13 07 2010

http://calteches.library.caltech.edu/51/2/CargoCult.pdf

Caltech’s 1974 commencement address.  It’s a shortish, easy to read transcript, highly recommended.  Feynman manages to cover a broad range of ideas on scientific method using examples. 

Richard Feynman notes “I’ve concluded that it’s not a scientific world” and he expresses his alarm at the popularity and volume of pseudo-science and ignorance of good scientific method.  Feynman notes that even scientists are not formally trained in scientific method: 

“But this long history of learning how to not fool ourselves – of having utter scientific integrity – is, I’m sorry to say, something that we haven’t specifically included in any particular course that I know of.  We just hope you’ve caught on by osmosis” 

I also wish scientific method was taught explicitly at university.  Personally, I wish scientists generally had more of an interest in epistemology.  I have worked in the biopharma field for some time and have thought this for quite a while now.  I have seen many a case of what I consider poor scientific practise and ignorance.  When I was at university (studying chemistry for 5 years) the topic of epistemology rarely entered my mind, I didn’t even know what the word meant and I have often lamented this fact. 

Feynman’s number one rule for good scientific practise is “scientific integrity”. 

“a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty – a kind of leaning over backwards” 

I agree.  Integrity and honesty are fundamental.  Feynman points out a good scientist should never pick out good data and ignore bad.  There are many examples of this problem in modern science often originating from scientists who have accepted a pre-conceived hypothesis or theory and refuse to “check their premises” to quote Ayn Rand.  Feynman also notes the importance of confirming all the implied facts upon which a theory rests. 

Feynman’s picks out a Wesson Oil advertisement, a story about the scientific community’s reaction to Millikan’s determination for the charge of an electron and the research on rats performed by Young as examples to illustrate his insightful points on scientific integrity.   

If you are a young research scientist you will undoubtedly over the course of your career meet other scientists or be under the instruction of other scientists who from time to time, for various reasons do not practice good scientific method.  If you are like me this will be frustrating, upsetting and de-motivating to you especially if it originates from your superiors.  For example, managers may be desperate for good data on new company products, co-workers may operate more like autonomous robots than thinking investigators keen to understand the scientific theories upon which their work is based. 

However in the end, it is far better for you and everyone else to maintain your scientific integrity. 

Maintaining scientific integrity will give you a sense of pride and confidence in your work.  It will also make you aware of your premises and the limits (context) of your findings. 

If you think something needs more investigation, don’t be afraid to say so even when your superiors may be dismissive.  If you’re uncertain about your results because of unexamined variables X, Y and Z then acknowledge this.  It’s your research afterall.   
The alternative to practising integrity is to put your hands over your ears and yell “La la la la la la la la” so you can escape to warm fuzzy delusional-land.  The problem with this approach is that warm-fuzzy delusional land has a habit of turning into cold lonely bite-you-in-the-ass land.  Your colleagues may want to behave like this at times, a good scientist never does.  A good scientist lives by a code of integrity and honesty.  And so should you.  🙂