Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Health Care Needs Free-Market Reforms

Here is an excellent op-ed in today's Christian Science Monitor.

It explains how the "Massachusetts Plan" for mandated health insurance has been an unmitigated disaster for the state, and how it infringes on individual rights. This plan, a model for the current administration's plan, insures that special interests healthcare costs are paid for by those of us who do not need, nor wish to pay for them.

The author further explains how real health care reform, based on free-markets would, in fact, give more people access to health insurance while supporting individual rights.

Health care is not a right. Disposing of your earned wealth according to your values, is.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Three Days Late

I love George Gershwin. At Rockhound Place, I was reminded that I had forgotten his birthday! Oh well. Better late than never.

I know it's really popular, but still, here is my favorite of his compositions, Rhapsody in Blue, what he called his love song for New York City even though he composed it on the way to Boston.



And here is an excellent children's book to go along with it.

And this is one of my favorite CDs.

Monday, September 28, 2009

I’ve Been Sampled

Thanks to my IT guy, I finally have my Photoshop installed on my new laptop, the brains from my old desktop and laptop secured in a 1TB external hard drive, and actual room on one of my three desks for my laptop (I can’t sit in bed with a breakfast tray for a desk all day). Because I’ve become somewhat interested in simple video editing lately, Stephen also installed some sound effects program he had hanging around called Sound Forge Audio Studio 8.

In exploring the sound effects that came with the sound studio software, I came across the ambient sound of a crowd, specifically Bar Crowd Loop 01.wav. In listening to the four second effect, I was shocked to hear my own voice! Yes. I’m quite sure I’ve been sampled in this bar crowd. The strange thing is that I don’t ever remember saying, “Yes, cup of Gerry mon….psycho theatre scent of Gerry mon”. And you’d think I’d remember saying a thing like that.

Here is my five second video with the voice, which is not mine but could have been, beginning at 1 second. Seriously, the vocal similarities are uncanny. I used a picture that Stephen took of me the other night in my natural habitat: squatting down by the edge of an unmade bed in order to quickly check something on the computer, blowing my bangs out of my face in frustration.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Lobbying by Any Other Name

“It was not lobbying politically,’’ [Representative Barney] Frank said of the meeting last summer in New York, which was held at his request. “This is lobbying intellectually.’’

From today's Boston Globe.

Lobbying is a political term for pull-peddling. A wannabe intellectual like Frank ought to know that. No amount of descriptive dress-up will change its meaning or the reason for its existence: man's need to fight against the subjective nature of non-objective laws.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

3 Good Things (Wit and Wisdom edition)

At the dump:
Instead of curbside trash pick-up, we have a local transfer station in town. For reasons I'd rather not focus on, I've spent a lot of time there this month. Today I was talking to a guy who had two huge and well-behaved Spunoni Italianoes in his open hatchback. (Sure, I called them Italiano Spumonis, but he gently corrected me). After apologizing for my love of ice cream and work in an Italian restaurant, we continued discussing the dogs. To my question about their gender, he answered, "Yes, they used to be male and female; now they're just brother and sister."


Out to dinner:
After dinner last Friday night, I ordered a dirty martini at the bar. When the bartender brought it over, I noticed a clear bottle behind him labeled SEX and he told me it was vodka. Feeling saucy in my argyle sweater dress, I asked him if I used that in my martini would it be called Dirty Sex. He said yes, and that if I added jalapenos it would be called Hot Dirty Sex. I crinkled up my nose and asked how would that taste. He smartly responded, "Who cares?"


At public school:
In my daughter's AP US History class this year, one of her three books is Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States. Knowing the book is a piece of multicultural, revisionist history, I reviewed and discussed her first assignment with her and told her that I'd give her The Enemies of Christopher Columbus in addition to that book. Her teacher asked if anyone's parents had any comments on the choice of texts this year and my daughter told him what I said. But the best comment regarding the Zinn book was from a student who reported , "My mother said instead of reading it, I should just take the book and hit myself over the head with it." Geez. I wish I had thought of that.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Lord Walter's Wife

By Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)


I
'BUT where do you go?' said the lady, while both sat under the yew,
And her eyes were alive in their depth, as the kraken beneath the sea-blue.
II
'Because I fear you,' he answered;--'because you are far too fair,
And able to strangle my soul in a mesh of your gold-coloured hair.'
III
'Oh that,' she said, 'is no reason! Such knots are quickly undone,
And too much beauty, I reckon, is nothing but too much sun.'
IV
'Yet farewell so,' he answered; --'the sunstroke's fatal at times.
I value your husband, Lord Walter, whose gallop rings still from the limes.
V
'Oh that,' she said, 'is no reason. You smell a rose through a fence:
If two should smell it what matter? who grumbles, and where's the pretense?
VI
'But I,' he replied, 'have promised another, when love was free,
To love her alone, alone, who alone from afar loves me.'
VII
'Why, that,' she said, 'is no reason. Love's always free I am told.
Will you vow to be safe from the headache on Tuesday, and think it will hold?
VIII
'But you,' he replied, 'have a daughter, a young child, who was laid
In your lap to be pure; so I leave you: the angels would make me afraid."
IX
'Oh that,' she said, 'is no reason. The angels keep out of the way;
And Dora, the child, observes nothing, although you should please me and stay.'
X
At which he rose up in his anger,--'Why now, you no longer are fair!
Why, now, you no longer are fatal, but ugly and hateful, I swear.'
XI
At which she laughed out in her scorn: 'These men! Oh these men overnice,
Who are shocked if a colour not virtuous is frankly put on by a vice.'
XII
Her eyes blazed upon him--'And you! You bring us your vices so near
That we smell them! You think in our presence a thought 'twould defame us to hear!
XIII
'What reason had you, and what right,--I appeal to your soul from my life,--
To find me so fair as a woman? Why, sir, I am pure, and a wife.
XIV
'Is the day-star too fair up above you? It burns you not. Dare you imply
I brushed you more close than the star does, when Walter had set me as high?
XV
'If a man finds a woman too fair, he means simply adapted too much
To use unlawful and fatal. The praise! --shall I thank you for such?
XVI
'Too fair?--not unless you misuse us! and surely if, once in a while,
You attain to it, straightaway you call us no longer too fair, but too vile.
XVII
'A moment,--I pray your attention!--I have a poor word in my head
I must utter, though womanly custom would set it down better unsaid.
XVIII
'You grew, sir, pale to impertinence, once when I showed you a ring.
You kissed my fan when I dropped it. No matter! I've broken the thing.
XIX
'You did me the honour, perhaps, to be moved at my side now and then
In the senses--a vice, I have heard, which is common to beasts and some men.
XX
'Love's a virtue for heroes!--as white as the snow on high hills,
And immortal as every great soul is that struggles, endures, and fulfils.
XXI
'I love my Walter profoundly,--you, Maude, though you faltered a week,
For the sake of . . . what is it--an eyebrow? or, less still, a mole on the cheek?
XXII
'And since, when all's said, you're too noble to stoop to the frivolous cant
About crimes irresistable, virtues that swindle, betray and supplant.
XXIII
'I determined to prove to yourself that, whate'er you might dream or avow
By illusion, you wanted precisely no more of me than you have now.
XXIV
'There! Look me full in the face!--in the face. Understand, if you can,
That the eyes of such women as I am are clean as the palm of a man.
XXV
'Drop his hand, you insult him. Avoid us for fear we should cost you a scar--
You take us for harlots, I tell you, and not for the women we are.
XXVI
'You wronged me: but then I considered . . . there's Walter! And so at the end
I vowed that he should not be mulcted, by me, in the hand of a friend.
XXVII
'Have I hurt you indeed? We are quits then. Nay, friend of my Walter, be mine!
Come, Dora, my darling, my angel, and help me to ask him to dine.'








What do you make of this poem?



As I read it, I found Lord Walter's wife to be a bit cheeky and challenging to the husband's friend who implies he has to leave because she is too beautiful. When she explains that each of his reasons for leaving are mere excuses, he rejects her for being overly aggressive, she becomes downright eviscerating, finally returning to cheek after putting the friend in his place. (Here is an interesting essay discussing this poem including William Makepeace Thackeray's refusal to publish it in the Cornhill Magazine in 1861 and Ms. Browning's partial reply.)


I received this poem last week from About.com: Quotations, and it piqued my interest. If I like the poem of the day, I usually like to check another source just to confirm the structure and spelling if nothing else. Much to my surprise, there were another thirteen verses!


When searching for "Lord Walter's Wife" this morning, I found Chaucer's A Clerk's Tale which tells of Griselda, whose husband, Lord Walter, sends a trusted guard to test her obedience in giving up their daughter. Are these poems related? In Chaucer's tale, the woman quietly accepts subjugation to her husband's wishes; in Browning's poem, the woman refuses the customarily accepted laying of blame for men's dishonorable actions at the feet of women's femininity, and fights back exposing the hypocrisy.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Round Up Time

The latest Objectivist Round Up (#115) can be found at Amy's blog, The Little Things. Go muster yourself some good ideas.

Moved to Respond

I suppose I should no longer be shocked at the incursion of government into business, particularly not in Massachusetts, but I find this reported action of Governor Deval Patrick beyond shocking. In an emotional reaction to the laying off of 100 hotel employees in the Hyatt hotel chain in Boston, Patrick is threatening to call for state employees to boycott the chain. Yes. This is an elected leader using the power of his position to encourage consumer activism in order to hurt a business because it made a tough personnel decision that didn't sit well with the governor.

What motivated the governor to threaten this unprecedented action?
“There’s no question that the story about what happened to the Hyatt workers was made public in a way that, to say the least, was unusual - splashed across the front page of the morning newspaper. While perhaps these kinds of actions were not unique to Hyatt, certainly it was a . . . disturbing portrait of corporate behavior,’’ said Paul Watanabe, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts at Boston. “Consequently, I believe the governor as well as many others were moved to respond.’’ [emphasis added]
Unlike the “many others” – at least one private association reported to have cancelled some business with Hyatt based on its decision to replace the 100 workers with less expensive workers – the Governor wields more power than just the would-be hotel dollars spent by state employees.
Patrick’s press secretary, Kyle Sullivan, said by e-mail yesterday that Patrick’s decision was about “standing with these workers against Hyatt’s unfair actions,’’ not about hurting the company’s bottom line. Sullivan also said the state has faced difficult decisions about staffing, noting that 1,400 state positions have been eliminated since last October through layoffs, attrition, and other reductions. Of the Hyatt decision, Sullivan said Patrick’s “concern is with the abrupt manner that these workers were discharged and their replacement with lower paid workers.’’
Bottom line: The Governor didn’t like the way the business handled its decision and that’s good enough for him to get involved. After all, what are our elected leaders for if not to whip up emotions against private business matters?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Making the Most of It

In another fine example of how my daughter likes to make the most of her school day, this is how she transcribed her schedule on the whiteboard yesterday.


For those of you unversed in all thing Harry Potter, I will translate:

1. Saxon Math
2. Dentist’s appointment
3. History at Our House
4. lunch
5. Biology
6. Grammar
7. break
8. take care of the chickens
9. Writing

Frankly, I was relieved when she decided on Arithmancy for math instead of The Dark Arts.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Leaves.




I took this in the woods in the Berkshires last year. It's from my tiny digital camera, so the resolution leaves much to be desired, but the moment was fantastic. The leaves were raining down all over us and the woods smelled like a bright combination of sweet overripe fruit mixed with freshly fallen, newly turned leaves and cool earth.


Leaves
by Elise Brady

How silently they tumble down
And come to rest upon the ground
To lay a carpet, rich and rare,
Beneath the trees without a care,
Content to sleep, their work well done,
Colors gleaming in the sun.

At other times, they wildly fly
Until they nearly reach the sky.
Twisting, turning through the air
Till all the trees stand stark and bare.
Exhausted, drop to earth below
To wait, like children, for the snow.


Love in Autumn
by Sara Teasdale

I sought among the drifting leaves,
The golden leaves that once were green,
To see if Love were hiding there
And peeping out between.

For thro' the silver showers of May
And thro' the summer's heavy heat,
In vain I sought his golden head
And light, fast-flying feet.

Perhaps when all the world is bare
And cruel winter holds the land,
The Love that finds no place to hide
Will run and catch my hand.

I shall not care to have him then,
I shall be bitter and a-cold --
It grows too late for frolicking
When all the world is old.

Then little hiding Love, come forth,
Come forth before the autumn goes,
And let us seek thro' ruined paths
The garden's last red rose.

Monday, September 21, 2009

3 Good Things (sweater weather edition)

While tomorrow, the first official day of fall, promises to reach 80 degrees by mid-afternoon, the past week of mornings and evenings have been downright chilly. Hooray! Autumn is nearly here! And so I write this to celebrate the changing of both the season and the wardrobe.

1) Wrapping yourself in the colors of the fall: deep greens, dark reds, burnt oranges, dusty plums, and earthy browns (extra good if they're made of cashmere).

2) Finding a strangely sexy argyle sweater dress to wear for date night. Strange in that it's argyle and sexy: an interesting juxtaposition.

3) With sweater weather comes boot weather! 'Nuff said.

How will you welcome the fall?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Quaintness of America

For the great number of people who think that calling the actions of this administration a slide into socialism is a gross exaggeration, please read the following two articles in Saturday’s Boston Globe and The New York Times.

In the first, a new bureaucracy, The Consumer Protection Financial Agency (CPFA) is proposed to be established in order to redouble existing regulatory oversight under the premise of helping people, effectively further removing that quaint old quality of personal responsibility from one’s actions.
The new agency Obama wants to create would be tasked with making sure people receive accurate information about mortgage rates, credit card deals, and other financial products, Summers said. In addition, the agency would have broad authority to monitor lending companies to ensure that they are not using deceptive practices to sell people mortgages that they can’t afford. It was the high default rate on so-called subprime loans that played a major role in the economic crisis that came to a head last fall. [emphasis added]
What about the twins, Freddie and Fannie, government sponsored enterprises created to give otherwise, non-qualifying consumers a leg-up in the housing market, or the Community Reinvestment Act which tied a financial institution’s supply of credit to low-income communities with approval for its business expansion? Weren’t they designed to sell people mortgages that they could not otherwise afford?

It seems that the Obama administration wants to spend billions of taxpayer dollars to set up this new bureaucracy only to insure that fraudulent practices are not used to entice agreements between parties. Isn’t fraud already illegal? Isn’t that what the entire Judicial Branch of the government is for, to determine under objective laws when force or fraud, both violations of individual rights, have been used against individuals, in this case, to elicit agreements between two or more parties? What will this new agency bring to the party other than expanding the government’s role from protector of individual rights to the role of hammer where everything looks like a nail?
“The way you get a level playing field to protect consumers is to establish an agency that has protection of consumers as a focus,’’ Summers said.
Leveling the playing field is a popular expression that sounds almost like fairness until you realize that it’s not about an individual’s equal standing before the law, but rather a reduction in values that one obtains for himself for the benefit of others who have not obtained those values. Regarding this bureaucracy, it means a reduction in the variety of business practices which is directly related to the range of consumer choices. It requires that individuals suspend their actions derived from their knowledge and experience for a mandated behavior based on the inference that all businesses are bad and will happily screw their customers whenever and wherever they can.

This mentality turns the quaint idea of “innocent until proven guilty” on its head. Where is the fairness in that? And who are these clueless consumers who can’t possibly think for themselves? This agency says they are us and we must be protected from ourselves by the big hammer of government.

More than the ability to sue for breach of contract or the implied warranty of goods under objective law, I don’t think I need government agents to oversee my voluntary transactions for me. I certainly don’t need seven more papers to sign when I want to buy something. What I do need is the ability to choose freely where and how I want to spend my money. All this agency will do is cost me money, time, and effort – and worse, it will further strangle businesses. Since businesses are the implied enemy of any “consumer protection” none of us should worry about them, anyway, right? What have these businesses done for us lately?
[Representative Barney] Frank said that the business groups know there is no intention to target people such as the local butcher. Still, to take the issue off the table, Frank said his version of the legislation would include a clause that makes clear which types of businesses are affected. [emphasis added]

I, for one, feel better knowing that the new bureaucracy has no intention of targeting the local butcher. I can’t wait to find out which businesses it will target. I’m sure that the Schechter Brothers would have felt the same sense of relief.

Despite the claim by Heather Booth, leader of the Americans for Financial Freedom coalition, that the intentions of such an agency “should be motherhood and apple pie,” I think they are more like a wielded baseball bat intending to level that playing field. Another quaint American icon, Chevrolet, certainly tried to wield that bat against its competitors.

The second Saturday article reveals the latest Washington proposals for dealing with those nasty rich folks who assumed that since they fulfilled their contractual obligations, they would be rewarded with their contractual payments.

This article states that it’s time to end the “hands off approach that dominated bank regulations for the last three decades.” That is rich (see FDIC, FRB, OCC, etc.). But the good news reported by the article is that the proposed rules are not as strict as those proposed by European leaders. Apparently, America as a sovereign country is also becoming one of those quaint old ideas.

Perhaps the most telling line come from our Secretary of the Treasury, who reports that “The simple proposition should be that you don’t want people being paid for taking too much risk, and you want to make sure that their compensation is tied to long-term performance.”

All I have to say is…well, I’d have to change my blog to an adult rating, so let me say that until you own the company, Mr. Geithner, you have no say in how to compensate its employees. This is a naked example of slide toward socialism.

Finally, let’s end with a little sanction of the victim here.

Bank executives said they welcomed the Fed’s efforts, which were first reported by The Wall Street Journal. Some executives, speaking on the condition of anonymity so as not to antagonize lawmakers, said they hoped that the Fed’s efforts would dissuade Congress, many of whose members were furious over bonuses paid to American International Group, from passing much stricter limits on pay.

The principles of individual rights and personal responsibility are not quaint notions. We should not allow, let alone call for, our government to treat them as such.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Kayaking on the Concord River

This afternoon, my friend and I went kayaking on the Concord River in Concord, Massachusetts. In this area the river has a gentle current that makes it perfect for kayaking back and forth among the interesting sites. It was a gorgeous, cool, and sunny afternoon - beautiful for being out on the river.


While my camera wouldn't shoot when I had a good shot, where the statue was framed nicely through the trees along the bank, I thought the lens flare was pretty cool until I realized that you can't even see French's Minute Man through the trees. Even so, it was nice to kayak by it and under the Old North Bridge.


There are a lot of beautiful stately homes that line the river, and while I didn't take any pictures of them today, here is one in the background.

And finally, there were some pretty bold Great Blue Herons today. Bold, not only because this one seemed unafraid of us as we approached, but also because he was making a meal of mercury-laden fish (as the warning signs posted along the river reported).



Yup. Just call me Marlin Perkins.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Song of the Open Road

The theme in our homeschooling chorus this year is poetry in music. Now, as many have pointed out, all songs are a form of poetry, but I believe we are concentrating on established poems then set to music. One of the two first songs introduced yesterday was "Song of the Open Road" adapted from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass (1855: Poem #082).

It's a lovely song whose melody I cannot find anywhere right now (but in a few middle school chorus videos), so I will leave you with the words to the first stanza and you can follow this link the remaining fourteen stanzas if you wish.

Song of the Open Road
Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

1
AFOOT and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,
Strong and content I travel the open road.

The earth, that is sufficient,
I do not want the constellations any nearer,
I know they are very well where they are,
I know they suffice for those who belong to them.

(Still here I carry my old delicious burdens,
I carry them, men and women, I carry them with me wherever I go,
I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them,
I am fill'd with them, and I will fill them in return.)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

By the way...

Head on over to Reason Pharm to read this week's Objectivist Round Up.

I'm Spicy!

It's not everyday that you find out you're spicy according to Google Trends.

Okay. It's not really me that's spicy, but the subject matter of my blogpost Memorizing the Preamble to the Constitution.

At my age, I'll take what I can get!



A closer image reveals the actual print (hopefully):


See bottom right to confirm my spiciness.

For those of you who have never been spicy before, the topic was 19th on the Hot Trends list of the day and the topics ahead of "Preamble to the Constitution" were designated as "on fire" and "volcanic" as the list approached #1.

I'm good with spicy - it's less destructive.

3 Good Things (Constitution Day edition)

1. Beth’s collection of resources and lesson plans on the Constitution.
2. The National Archives has a good history of the document.
3. Truly the best way to learn the Preamble (except it will make you laugh when trying to recite it without singing).



Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Memorizing the Preamble to the Constitution

In preparation for celebrating the 222nd anniversary of the signing of the Constitution of the United States on September 17, 1787, here are a few videos that I hope will inspire you to at least memorize the brief, but powerful Preamble.

First, here is my first attempt at video editing with the bare bones Windows Movie Maker (no ability to step through frame by frame with sound, or ability to mark stops before cutting). My daughters are reading the Preamble to the Constitution from the little book I carry in my purse. They can recite it by heart, but it I thought it would be a little different (and a little less exposed) if they did it this way. Let's not even talk about the 20 takes due to laughter.




If you knew it as a child, don't worry, it'll come back to you as Barney shows in this video.




Finally, a little treat for my sci-fi loving friends.




And if memorizing and reciting The Preamble in creative ways leaves you wanting more, you can find out which Founding Father you're most like. Much to my delight, I was most like James Madison.




Here, you may find some actual educational resources.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Critical Thinking Skills

Something I can agree with from an op-ed in The Boston Globe of all places!

For the past century, our schools of education have obsessed over critical-thinking skills, projects, cooperative learning, experiential learning, and so on. But they have paid precious little attention to the disciplinary knowledge that young people need to make sense of the world.

----

For over a century we have numbed the brains of teachers with endless blather about process and abstract thinking skills. We have taught them about graphic organizers and Venn diagrams and accountable talk, data-based decision-making, rubrics, and leveled libraries.

But we have ignored what matters most. We have neglected to teach them that one cannot think critically without quite a lot of knowledge to think about. Thinking critically involves comparing and contrasting and synthesizing what one has learned. And a great deal of knowledge is necessary before one can begin to reflect on its meaning and look for alternative explanations.

You can learn more about Ms. Ravitch and Common Core, here.

While you're there, check out the First Amendment game called Supreme Decision. Though I had to report that I was in twelfth grade in order to play the game, I was promoted to head clerk. It was interesting because I had to say that I agreed with one of the justices when in two sessions, I agreed with neither condensed argument.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Romance of Dissident Economists

I think mine is a better title for yesterday’s Boston Globe article, “Why Capitalism Fails.” Of course I had to read it so I, too, could understand what exactly the author meant, not only by capitalism, but also by its failure. Although it was a five page article (as the web crow flies), I didn’t have to look too far to find the second answer. The author reveals that capitalism’s failure is in its inherent instability. While the article carried an awfully big stick with its title, it did not explain what capitalism is. Perhaps this is because it is a seemingly self-evident, oft- spoken term. But it is clear throughout the article that the author uses “capitalism” as a synonym for our “mixed economy”. It is not.

With its Potemkin village of a title, the article is not about the failure of capitalism, but about the recently rediscovered brilliance of the late economist Hyman Minsky by some currently popular economists. Minsky, a lesser-known economist who shared educational experiences and tutelage with some Nobel Prize-winning economists, has unwittingly lent his name to those whose insights have led them to blame the current financial crisis on the failure of capitalism.

The “Minsky moment” as it has been called by some of these later acolytes occurs because “not only was capitalism prone to collapse, he argued, it was precisely its periods of economic stability that would set the stage for monumental crises.” According to the article, Minsky’s solution to an unstable economy was a “Big Bank” and a “bubble-up” approach. The author gives an account of Minsky’s idea:

Minsky called his idea the “Financial Instability Hypothesis.” In the wake of a depression, he noted, financial institutions are extraordinarily conservative, as are businesses. With the borrowers and the lenders who fuel the economy all steering clear of high-risk deals, things go smoothly: loans are almost always paid on time, businesses generally succeed, and everyone does well. That success, however, inevitably encourages borrowers and lenders to take on more risk in the reasonable hope of making more money. As Minsky observed, “Success breeds a disregard of the possibility of failure.”

As people forget that failure is a possibility, a “euphoric economy” eventually develops, fueled by the rise of far riskier borrowers - what he called speculative borrowers, those whose income would cover interest payments but not the principal; and those he called “Ponzi borrowers,” those whose income could cover neither, and could only pay their bills by borrowing still further. As these latter categories grew, the overall economy would shift from a conservative but profitable environment to a much more freewheeling system dominated by players whose survival depended not on sound business plans, but on borrowed money and freely available credit.

The author actually seems to believe that the above is an example of free-market capitalism, rather than seeing this behavior as the result of the past and currently expanding governmental practices in attempting to even out the playing field, to lessen inequality, to forgive, thereby remove personal and corporate responsibility, and to provide stability. He twice refers to capitalism as “freewheeling” thereby exposing his lack of understanding of the issue. Any amount of freewheeling could occur in capitalism, but it is precisely the voluntary nature of capitalism that guarantees that the foolish freewheelers are the ones who suffer the consequences. When the government becomes involved, it invariably forces some to pay the price of others’ foolishness. Temporary success may foster a disregard of the possibility of failure, but such success cannot be held long. Only the government can give birth to and nurture such a strong and destructive monster on a nationwide scale.

The real interest of the article lies in how the author waxes poetic over Minsky’s isolation and dismissal by the economic orthodoxy during his lifetime. I haven’t read anything by Hyman Minsky, so I can’t say that he’s as bad as this author expresses as good. I do know, however, that Karl Marx is also considered by some to be a brilliant economist.

In case you’re still wondering what capitalism is, here is a section of Ayn Rand’s essay “What is Capitalism?” in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal:

Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned.

The recognition of individual rights entails the banishment of physical force from human relationships: basically, rights can be violated only by means of force. In a capitalist society, no man or group may initiate the use of physical force against others. The only function of the government, in such a society, is the task of protecting man’s rights, i.e., the task of protecting him from physical force; the government acts as the agent of man’s right of self-defense, and may use force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use; thus the government is the means of placing the retaliatory use of force under objective control.

While the most successful elements of America can be directly attributed to capitalism, it is, unfortunately, only a poorly understood and frighteningly shrinking part of our social system.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Sunday Morning Stop Motion



I saw this a while back on one of Beth's friend's blogs but I just thought of it again this morning and wanted to share it.
It's kind of magical.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Put Away the Pearls and Retract That Pinky!

This is not that kind of tea party.

Since we couldn’t make it to Washington, D.C. this weekend, I’ve decided to host a mini virtual Tea Party protest right here on 3 Ring Binder.

You regular readers (Hi, Bob!) may recall that I was particularly reticent to join what I was certain was a worthy cause because of the slate of mixed messages – some of which I found plain wrong – supported by the various protestors. I am not a Republican, I am not a shill for any special interest group, I am not against the American government. I support those who are rallying to protest the burgeoning governmental programs proposed under guise of promoting the common welfare at the expense of individual rights. I support the very principles on which this country was built.

To start this party, I offer you some quick videos regarding the principles underlying these tea party protests.





Here is Dr. John Lewis giving his tea party speech in Boston on the Fourth of July this year. Dr. Lewis gets right to the heart of the matter in how the corruption of the term “rights” has fed the notion that we are all entitled to have our whims, wishes, and desires met by the government rather than the rights to our own lives, liberty, property, and the ability to pursue our own happiness.





Finally, I want to provide you with the best source regarding the fundamentals of rights and government that I have ever read: Ayn Rand’s essays on Man’s Rights and the Nature of Government.

When we understand the morality of living for oneself, it is a short walk to appreciating the governmental role in protecting those individual rights (of which the American government is still the best model), and subsequently identifying all that infringe on those rights as detrimental to man's life.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Proper Remembrance


Bryan Larsen's A New Height

And an early Happy Birthday to me!

The Metaphorical Second Plane

It wasn’t exactly like any other Tuesday. It was my three year-old’s fifth day at The Children’s House and my first job interview in many years. Truthfully, I was more nervous about my little one’s reaction to being dropped off at Montessori than about my interview as my would-be boss was a friend. The drop-off was unmemorable. I’m sure there was some clinging and crying, but I had four days of experience with that already under my belt. I went home to get ready for the interview.

A little before 9:00 that morning, one of my girlfriends from high school called me.

“Are you watching TV?”

“No, I’m getting ready for my interview. Why?”

“Just put on the TV – we’ll talk later.”

For a few minutes I thought I was seeing the violent scene of an horrific accident. Our annual Girls Weekend was scheduled in New York City the following weekend. This accident had the potential to impact our plans because the city would probably still be reeling from its effects. This was my concern.

As I watched the second plane fly into the South Tower, I could barely comprehend what I was seeing. During the images of all that utter devastation, a reporter was speaking to someone from the Pentagon. The speaker suddenly broke off his analysis saying that it sounded like a bomb had exploded in the building. I think it was at this point that I realized exactly what was going on: America was under attack.

I called my soon-to-be boss and told him the news. He hadn’t heard, but his wife was calling him while I was talking to him to tell him the same. I managed to make it to the office and we talked about it, and – oh yeah – the details of the work I would be doing for him. I went home with my new job in hand to contemplate the changes soon to occur in my life, and to life in general.

*******************

I wanted to tell my little story of “Where I Was When” because I’m not exactly sure how best to remember this day. In a mélange of conflicting emotions, I’m alternatively sad and inordinately angry when I think of it. My sadness is for the loss of human life – the thousands of individual stories – the murdered innocents. My anger comes from the fact that the attacks were pointedly against the very symbols of American success: skyscrapers filled with people who chose to earn a living in the world’s greatest city, and a symbol of our government. I remain inordinately angry because the very foundations of American success (individual rights, capitalism, and industry) remain under attack, but from a different, more insidious enemy.

Before you scoff at my suggestion that the attack is now coming from within our own country, I urge you to learn more about the nature of different political systems throughout history, research the unprecedented proliferation of regulations controlling our industries, and decide what, if anything, the idea of freedom means to you. Now: While we may still be able to stop the metaphorical second plane.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I Vant to be Alone



So I can read ze Objectivist Round Up at Titanic Deck Chairs!

I'm particularly excited to read about Rational Jenn's Mythbusting: Ayn Rand, Mommies, and Children, and Trey Givens' Caveman-Friendly Shepherd's Pie as both subjects are near and dear to my heart.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Grading the First Day of School

A (the senior college boy): Has class from 3:00 straight through to 9:00 PM. “At least I got to sleep late.” B+ Of course, I talked to him before classes started.

K (the junior in high school): “Peer-wise, I’d give it an ‘F’. Teacher-wise, a ’B+’, so overall…a ‘C-‘.” Well, that’s encouraging.

V (the sixth grade homeschooler): “History was good. I had a little trouble with math.” C/D

LB (the supposedly responsible adult): Not a good day for man nor beast! The kid was the man and I was the beast! It became increasingly difficult to assume positive intent when my only student made statements such as this: “Four times three is seven.” It was a long and apparently brain draining summer. D-


The actual day was beautiful so we got outside a bit, collected eggs, and picked up V’s Wizard of Oz video. So, I've decided that I’m going to leave school behind for today with this encouraging thought: Tomorrow is another day.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Five Movies in Five Minutes (3)

Anna Karenina (1935)

Anna Karenina (1997)

This may be like cheating (giving you only four of the advertised five), but I’m going to discuss both versions of this movie in one paragraph. I loved this book for Tolstoy’s ability to describe the psychology underlying a situation, except for the motivation behind the driving action of the book: Anna taking up with Vronsky. I know I may be alone in this, but I never bought it. The 1935 movie did not disappoint me in this respect, as I found absolutely NOTHING to recommend Count Vronsky, the inconstant playboy, to me, the viewer. The 1997 version at least had me believing that Anna was very much sexually alive and that Vronsky was worthy of her attention (mostly due to the onscreen presence of Sophie Marceau and Sean Bean, respectively). So I found their relationship plausible, which I never did in the book and which I saw as the fatal mistake Anna made. Still, this is quite possibly a book that a movie cannot do justice to. [no ratings, more like research]


Born Yesterday (1950)

Even though she is a slow-talker, Judy Holliday cracks me up. I loved her in Adam’s Rib, and only recently heard of this movie. It’s terrific! Miss Holliday plays a Billie, a dumb blonde gal pal of an overbearing, below-board businessman. When her dumb ways are seen as a cocktail party liability, her boyfriend hires a writer to educate her and show her the ropes of Washington, D.C. During the course of said tutelage, Billie finds that she is not only not dumb, but also in love with her new knowledge and with the man who helps her discover it. Great scenes around Washington, lip service railing against selfishness, but overall a really good movie. [8]


Born Yesterday (1993)

Okay, so now I'm down to three of the advertised five, but I just had to see what kind of impact the passing of 40 years would have on the story line. I expected the worst, but was pleasantly surprised. Melanie Griffith played Billie and Don Johnson, the wise newspaper man cum tutor. The Don Johnson character actually did a better job explaining to Billie that she, not he, was responsible for her education. For a remake starring the erstwhile Mr. and Mrs. Don Johnson, it wasn’t half bad. Edward Herrmann as the soul-selling lawyer was good too. [7]


(500) Days of Summer (2009)

Despite the title, this movie is not about the character of Summer, played by the impossibly adorable Zooey Deschanel, but about, Tom. Tom, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, falls in love with Summer and proceeds through the roller-coaster ride of their relationship trying to get it right. The movie seamlessly integrates the use of flashbacks, line drawings, fake movie vignettes within the movie, a fun song-and-dance sequence, a great sound track, and a consistently titled numbering of the days that the Tom shares with Summer. It is a comedy that addresses the real heartbreaking issue of a lopsided love affair and how one boy becomes a man by rising from the ashes.

Not only did I love the message of this movie (that one is responsible for one’s own happiness), I loved the way it was done. For me, it was a completely enjoyable ride. [9]

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Speaking of Dance

Dancing, as it is equal parts celebration and perspiration, is the one form of exercise that I never tire of. Yes, I turn into a sweaty ball of exhilarated exhaustion quickly, but rather than being tedious or boring, the process is pure fun. The best part is that I have to train my mind and body to coordinate in a new way in order to experience the sheer pleasure such synchronized movement to music offers.

Slowly, but consistently I’ve added to my dance style repertoire. Not that I actually ever go dancing anymore except for the occasional evening of swing, or other ballroom styles (and I do mean occasional), but I still love to learn new forms and dance at home. Instead of causing potential embarrassment to my children, so far, they’ve been dancing right along with me! It feels good to master even the simplest new choreography and add it to our spontaneously erupted, Tuesday-night-before-dinner, crank-the-music, free-for-all, flash dance parties.

A few years ago I took up belly dancing. Why the hell not? The undulating snake arms, swivelly figure eights, and body rolls are physically challenging, sexy, and fun. But even all that sensual movement plays second fiddle to the dazzling effect of the coin scarf you’re sporting well below your waist. Making that jingly rhythmic sound with my hips is about as about as satisfying to me as the tap-tap-tap of my high-heeled purposeful stride on commercial-grade linoleum. And that’s saying something.

After learning belly dancing from a fabulous older woman, I bought a tape to practice at home with Jillina! My older daughter was teaching me how to camel within ten minutes. (At thirteen? Whippersnapper.) I don’t practice belly dancing anymore, but sometimes, when no one else is home, I wrap the purple velvet scarf around my hips and shimmy for all I’m worth.

It was a natural transition from belly dancing to Bollywood style dancing. This was a particularly good fit for us (my teenage daughter and I took the class together with some friends of mine) because we love the movies Lagaan (a four hour Bollywood extravaganza), Bride and Prejudice (with the worst take on Mr. Darcy ever – it should have been played by Naveen Andrews - yum), and Bend it Like Beckham (which, if you haven’t seen, you should). The dancing in these movies is an audio-visual feast of pure delight. The Bollywood dance class, taught by an Indian woman who was a classically trained Indian dancer, was fun but had the serious drawback of not having enough room.

Dance, as a physical expression of celebrating the joy of life, needs lots of room!

Then, of course, there is my recent and well-documented failure to master tap. Oy. It’s much, much harder than it appears and really that’s all I’m going say about that. Except this: I will master the time steps this year and once I do, I expect to experience the happiness seemingly inherent in tap dancing rather than the frustration with my inability to complete the steps correctly. Again with the ‘oy’.

In the meantime, I’m considering burlesque. Really. It has recently come to my attention that there is an upswing in the popularity of burlesque-style dancing. What is it, you ask? That is an excellent question and one to which I had to look up the answer. And when I found it, I decided that I’m not interested in burlesque at all, but rather the skills involved in striptease, the cornerstone of New Burlesque.

There are classes popping up everywhere and I’m currently looking for a few fun female friends with whom to share the drive into Boston and what I’m sure would be the hilarious awkwardness of learning to take off your clothes in a choreographed manner complete with lights, stage, and costumes all in a group setting. With sessions entitled “All About Boas” and “Glove Removal” how can you go wrong? Then, armed with those new skills, I plan to take it on the road: the road home to take it off in private. (Ooh. Flashes of J.Geils Band, anyone?) It’s entirely possible that I would require such complete privacy as to end up totally alone while doing this particular dance. Still, it would be fun to find out.

This seems so far out of my comfort zone that I’m looking forward to the challenge. Bonus: I’m certain this one would cause embarrassment to my children; alas, it is not to share with them. I don’t know if this new interest is spurred on by my recent weight loss, health improvements, or impending 45th birthday, but I do know that this is my life and I plan to enjoy the hell out of it. If I can give a little back (or leg) to my husband while enjoying a new form of dance, so much the better.


Remember: whatever form it takes, you should be dancing.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Evolution and Beauty of Dance

Clap your hands in rhythm,
Romper stomp to the beat.
Then step and clap together,
With happy hands and feet.

Thrust your hip to the downbeat,
Pop and lock to the boom,
Undulate to sound waves,
In the smoky, crowded room.

Rock-a-bye your princess,
Swing ‘round your little boy.
Twirl in the arms of a lover,
Move as one, embracing joy.

Turn your face to the sun,
Stretch your arms open wide,
Spin with wild abandon to
The music you hear inside.

Sway gently to the memories,
Tap softly without waiver.
The beauty of dancing is in
The celebration and the savor.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Shouting it from the Rooftop!


It's at Rational Jenn's!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

PSA: Cash for Cluckers






From this month's newsletter:
You may not be able to trade in your old jalopy anymore, but you can plunk down a little bit of cash ($41.50) and get a lot of cluckers: 25! All female, too!

The normal price for these birds, plus shipping, is $100.


Orders can ship as soon as next week.



Offer Valid on:
* Easter Eggers
* Rainbow Variety Pack
* Rhode Island Reds
* Barred Rocks

Sale price:
$41.50
List price: $100.00

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Tale of Two Thank-Yous

Since I came from a country guilty of the worst tyranny on earth, I am particularly able to appreciate the meaning, the greatness and supreme value of that which you are defending. So, in my own name, and in the name of many people who think as I do, I want to say, to all the men of West Point, past, present, and future: Thank you.
Ayn Rand, Philosophy: Who Needs It, 1974


THANKS TED (next screen) THE PEOPLE OF MASS
Massachusetts DOT, Electronic Highway Sign, Sunday, August 30, 2009


In the first thank-you, I would resolutely include myself among those who are grateful. In the second, I have been not only included without my consent, but also made to pay the bill for the public display.