Monthly Archives: August 2013

by

Abrupt Insights, Op. 73 – Composition for Classical Guitar and Harpsichord (2013) – G. Stolyarov II

1 comment

Categories: Music, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A work that is both classical and experimental, this piece for two classical acoustic guitars and three harpsichords is intended to evoke the process of arriving at new ideas or making progress on a major project in a staggered fashion. Each advance is a leap forward, but, on a larger scale, there remain an order and coherence of the greater task or discovery being achieved. This work follows a theme-and-variations format and utilizes harmonies reminiscent of the Spanish classical guitar compositions of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Length: 3:25

This composition is played in Finale 2011 software.

Download the MP3 file of this composition here.

See the index of Mr. Stolyarov’s compositions, all available for free download, here.

The cover page was designed by Wendy Stolyarov.

The artwork is Mr. Stolyarov’s Abstract Orderism Fractal 8, available for download here and here.

Remember to LIKE, FAVORITE, and SHARE this video in order to spread rational high culture to others.

by

Labels and Ideological Bubbles – Article by Sanford Ikeda

No comments yet

Categories: Philosophy, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Sanford Ikeda
August 30, 2013
******************************

Be mindful of how you label the people with whom you disagree.

***
When I engage in an ideological discussion I try to be sensitive to how I ideologically label the person with whom I’m talking and how she labels me. I’m not talking about dismissive or openly pejorative words (e.g. evil, stupid, silly), but proper terms of discourse. More than just good manners, how we habitually label our opponents in ideological dialogue could reveal something unpleasant about the ideological world we inhabit.
***

Getting the Label Right

***
Now, some people argue that “ideas matter, labels don’t.” When we’re talking about specific ideas, such as for example military intervention in the Middle East, then yes calling it liberal, libertarian, progressive, socialist, or whatever may add nothing to the discussion. But when referring to the worldview of a particular person or group of like-minded persons, especially in the context of a public debate, then how we label ourselves and others can matter a great deal. If the goal is to promote constructive dialogue then it’s important to get the labels right.
***
We prefer in such cases to be called by the label that we identify ourselves with. I don’t like being called a conservative or a liberal because those labels signify sets of ideas and policies, many of which I do not hold. I prefer to be called a libertarian. (Classical liberal might be better but no one in the mainstream knows what that is.)
***
Colleagues I’ve known for decades at my college assume that I’m a conservative because I’ve come out publicly against nationalized healthcare, from which they wrongly infer that I oppose same-sex marriage and that I “support our troops” in foreign wars. Readers of The Freeman have, I’m sure, had to defend themselves against the charge of being “pro-business” because of our skepticism of regulation and high taxes. We have to explain that upholding the free-market is not pro-business, pro-consumer, or pro-labor (although the free-market position is in a sense “pro” all those things and more). That kind of mislabeling, however annoying, can be the result of an honest mistake—one I know I make myself.
***
Mistakenly mislabeling someone is one thing: conservative for libertarian, marxist for progressive. Another is deliberately mislabeling your opponent, a trick that forces her to waste time defending herself against the false charge. But there’s a third kind of mislabeling that reflects a deeper sort of error, one that issues from exclusivity and insularity.
***

Who calls herself a Neoliberal or a Statist?

***
For example, I’m reviewing a book about cities whose author uses the word “neoliberal” a lot. It’s used mostly by Europeans on the political “left”—e.g., social democrats, progressives, socialists, greens—to refer to people or groups who hold some sort of “libertarian” views. I’ll explain in a moment why I’m using scare quotes here.
***
From what I’ve been able to gather from my European colleagues, however, no one actually identifies herself as a “neoliberal.” Neoliberal is apparently a term some attach to positions “on the (extreme) right,” which apparently includes people thought to have an anti-union or pro-business agenda. There are such people, of course, but there’s a reason no one self-identifies as a neoliberal.
***
As Stanley Fish explained a few years ago in The New York Times: “…neoliberalism is a pejorative way of referring to a set of economic/political policies based on a strong faith in the beneficent effects of free markets.” So “neoliberal” is pejorative.
***
And before libertarians get too indignant, let me point out that we sling words like “collectivist” and “statist” when describing our opponents, and to my knowledge no one self-identifies with those terms, either. To be sure, among our ideological comrades, they may have a fairly clear meaning and may spark a certain esprit de corps. But consistently using a word, over a wide range of venues, to describe others that no one ever uses to self-identify is a pretty good sign that you live in an ideological bubble.
***
Evidently, while the author of the book I’m reviewing says she’s writing for “an interdisciplinary readership,” she takes it for granted that it will be an ideologically sympathetic one.
***

Our Ideological Bubbles

***
An ideological bubble, as I’m using the term, is a social network with shared ideological understandings that closes its members off to others with opposing views. You can be a staunch market-anarchist, for example, but still be willing to have a serious, civil conversation with people with whom you strongly disagree. Put simply, you live in an ideological bubble if the only people whom you will talk to seriously about ideology are those you already agree with.
***
An ideological bubble insulates us from real-time criticisms of our principles and positions, retarding our intellectual growth. It gives us a false sense of security and breeds self-satisfaction, off-putting harshness, and intolerance—things destructive to civility. Also, keep in mind that it’s often the bystanders to a debate whom we want to persuade, and they will consider our language and conduct when judging our ideas.
***
One of the things I’ve learned from my great teacher Israel Kirzner is that we can’t realistically be aware of all of our current limitations because we simply don’t know all that we don’t know. We have blind spots, and that means intellectual bubbles of all sorts are inevitable.  But that doesn’t mean that they have to remain invisible to us. Kirzner also taught us that creative discovery is possible. The signs are there, and keeping an eye open to them will give us a chance to make them at least a little more permeable.
***
Sanford Ikeda is an associate professor of economics at Purchase College, SUNY, and the author of The Dynamics of the Mixed Economy: Toward a Theory of Interventionism.
***
This article was originally published by The Foundation for Economic Education.

by

Free Will and Self-Causation – Article by Leonid Fainberg

No comments yet

Categories: Philosophy, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Leonid Fainberg
August 26, 2013
******************************

Homo liber nulla de re minus quam de morte cogitat; et ejus sapientia non mortis sed vitae meditatio est.

~ SPINOZA’S Ethics, Pt. IV, Prop. 67

(There is nothing over which a free man ponders less than death; his wisdom is, to meditate not on death but on life.)

Reductionism and its corollary, Determinism, are deeply enrooted in the fabric of the modern mainstream philosophy. These are leftovers of the Cartesian mind-body dichotomy. Instead of rejecting this notion altogether, Reductionists simply choose the other, bodily side of this loaded coin. Now they have reached a blind alley in their attempts to explain life in terms of lifelessness. As Hans Jonas observed:

“Vitalistic monism is replaced by mechanistic monism, in whose rules of evidence the standard of life is exchanged for that of death.” (The Phenomenon of Life, pg. 11).

Since Mind and Free Will are biological phenomena which cannot be explained in terms of non-life, Reductionists are necessarily Determinists. Hard Determinists reject the notion of Free Will (and therefore Mind) completely; soft Determinists and Compatibilists are still trying to find explanation of Free Will in the indeterminate realm of Quantum mechanics, in stochastic rules of Chaos theory, or in the mystical realm of Tao. I maintain that Free Will is a manifestation on the conceptual level of the very essential property of life itself, which is biological self-causation.

“Freedom must denote an objectively discernible mode of being, i.e., a manner of executing existence, distinctive of the organic per se.” (Ibid, pg. 3).

The Law of Causality is the Law of Identity applied to action (Ayn Rand). Since biological action is a self-generated, goal-orientated response (SIGOR) to environmental challenges, such an action cannot be predetermined by any antecedent cause. On the contrary, any antecedent or proximate action could be only detrimental to the healthy living process.

As Rosen put it:

“[I]t is perfectly respectable to talk about a category of final causation and to a component as the effect of its final cause… In this sense, then, a component is entailed by its function… a material system is an organism if and only if it is closed to efficient causation.” (Life Itself, pg. 135).

In other words the process of biological causation is a process in which a final cause (a goal), becomes its efficient cause.  Traditionally, the notion of the final cause associated with Aristotle’s primary mover, some divine, supernatural source.  However, this is not a case of mysticism, far from it.

Life emerged as a result of self-organization of abiotic elements. How that happened we don’t know yet. However, some researchers think that this is a thermodynamically inevitable event.

“Life is universally understood to require a source of free energy and mechanisms with which to harness it. Remarkably, the converse may also be true: the continuous generation of sources of free energy by abiotic processes may have forced life into existence as a means to alleviate the buildup of free energy stresses….” (Energy Flow and the Organization of Life. Harold Morowitz and Eric Smith, 2006).

But does this mean that life is a determined process? I don’t think so. Life is an emergent phenomenon, and as such it possesses new properties which its precursors don’t have. In their book Biological Self-organization Camazine et al. (2001: 8) define self-organization “as a process in which pattern at the global level of a system emerges solely from numerous interactions among the lower-level components of the system. The system has properties that are emergent, if they are not intrinsically found within any of the parts, and exist only at a higher level of description….’’

From this definition it follows that (1) a process of self-organization doesn’t have an antecedent cause; and (2) emergent properties of such a system are different from the properties of its components and therefore cannot be explained by means of reductionism. In other words, properties of such a system are not defined by antecedent cause. Life is a self-organizing, self-regulated material structure which is able to produce self-generated, goal-orientated action when the goal is preservation and betterment of itself. This new emergent identity which applied to biotic action defines new type of causation: self-causation.

Harry Binswanger observed that “All levels of living action, from a cell’s protein-synthesis to a scientist’s investigations, are goal-directed. In vegetative action, past instances of the ‘final cause’ act as ‘efficient cause.’” (1992).

This is the mechanism of self-causation. Now it is clear why any action imposed on the organism and driven by antecedent cause could be only detrimental: it inevitably would interfere with the self-generated action of the organism. Each and every organism is its own primary mover. In the low organisms the degree of freedom of action is limited by their genetic setup. However, even low organisms, like fungi for example, able to overcome this genetic determinism.

“During a critical period, variability is generated by the fact that a system becomes conditioned by all the factors influencing the spontaneous emergence of a symmetry-breaking event. In such a context variability does not reflect an environmental perturbation in expression of a pre-existing (genetic) program of development…It is expression of a process of individuation.” (Trewavas, 1999)

SIGOR is limited by an organism’s perceptual ability and capacity to process the sensory input. The process of evolution is a process of development of these qualities, since the organism’s survival depends on them. More freedom of action means better chances of survival. The end product of such a process is Free Will and self-awareness – that is, human mind. Free Will therefore is an expression of self-causation on conceptual level.

As Rodrigues observed: “Cerebral representations result from self-emergence of networks of interactions between modules of neurons stimulated by sensorial perception.” (Rodriguez at al., 1999)

The human abilities to choose goals consciously and to act rationally in order to achieve them lead us from biology to ethics. But the origin of these abilities lies in the very fundamental property of any living being. This property is self-generated, goal-orientated action driven by self-causation. Any attempt to reduce this property to the set of biochemical reactions or to undetermined behavior of subatomic particles is doomed to fail. Ayn Rand profoundly summarized the meaning of life in We, The Living: “I know what I want, and to know HOW TO WANT – isn’t it life itself?”

Leonid Fainberg is an Objectivist philosopher and contributor to The Rational Argumentator.

by

Bookstore Wars: Creativity versus Scale – Article by Sanford Ikeda

No comments yet

Categories: Business, Economics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Sanford Ikeda
August 22, 2013
******************************

Independent bookstores appear to be making a comeback after several years of decline. As reported by MSNBC, the number of independent bookstores has risen significantly.

Some 1,000 independent bookstores went out of business between 2000 and 2007, according to the American Booksellers Association (ABA), as consumers turned to online buying, downloading e-books, or flocking to Barnes & Noble and (now defunct) Borders. But the ABA said that since 2009, the number of independent bookstores has risen 19 percent, to 1,971.

If my arithmetic is right, that still means the industry hasn’t rebounded to where it was in 2000 (about 2,600 stores), but it’s not bad. Meanwhile e-book sales, which had been rising at triple-digit rates, have evidently lost a bit of steam, last year growing at about 5 percent overall.

These facts perhaps illustrate two important lessons:  First, the scale of a business’s operations is not the same thing as its competitiveness; and second, the kind of competition that counts in free markets has much less to do with efficiency than with creativity.  Selling books and digital media in massive volume seems to make firms sluggish in addressing customer preferences for more personalized service and responsiveness.

Efficiency and Scale Are Important

Free-market economists are typically painted by friends and foes alike as cheerleaders for efficiency. Indeed, many economists do tout efficiency as the prime virtue of the free market, keeping prices low and employment high. In standard economics, efficiency refers to using the lowest-cost means to reach a given end.

If Jack is in New York and wants to be in Philadelphia, then among the alternative means available to him—walking, boating, flying, driving, or taking the train—efficiency implies that Jack chooses the one that minimizes the cost to him of getting to Philadelphia. In manufacturing, the production process that, other things equal, produces a given rate of output at the lowest cost is the efficient one.

(Note:  Cost, like benefit, always refers to the cost to someone of doing something.  Sometimes the chooser experiences the costs, sometimes someone else does, but neither costs nor benefits are ever disembodied.)

One form of efficiency is economies of scale. Economies of scale occur when using more of all inputs (scaling up) increases output so much that the cost per unit of output falls. (In econ-speak that’s when the long-run average-cost curve slopes downward.) Critics pick up on this and argue that the free market therefore necessarily favors big businesses over small businesses because the bigger a firm is, the more efficient in terms of unit costs it tend to be, and that allows it to charge lower prices and drive smaller firms out of the market.

But Not as Important as Competition

That story, however, only looks at the relative efficiencies of existing firms and markets. If the fundamental goal is to improve the well-being of people as they see it, then you have to pay more attention to competition, particularly entrepreneurial competition. In that sense, competition trumps efficiency (as Israel M. Kirzner has explained).

That’s because, again, efficiency means choosing from among given alternatives the one that achieves a given goal at the lowest cost. Where the standard economic concept of efficiency falls short is that in the real world neither ends nor means are simply given to anyone. Ends and means, outputs and inputs, have at some point to be discovered by someone. Yes, efficiency is a good thing, like having a clean and orderly workplace, but it’s entrepreneurship in the competitive process that does the heavy lifting of finding the work to be done and putting you in a position to do it.

The resurgence of independent bookshops in the face of book megastores, I think, is an example of how creative competition overcomes the scale efficiency of providing a particular product. There’s nothing inherently wrong or uncompetitive about megastores or inherently virtuous about small businesses. Big and small businesses have their niches, whether online or in brick-and-mortar shops. But central to the competitive process is the ability, whatever your size, to be aware of changing circumstances and to adjust appropriately to them. The MSNBC article quotes an independent bookseller as saying, “We learned how to get books that people couldn’t find online, and to cater as much as we could to the customer. When a customer walks in, we try to make them feel wanted and at home.”

Scale economies in both the online and brick-and-mortar parts of the industry do little to win over customers who prefer personalized service or the intangibles of local businesses. Independent bookstores are more flexible, for example, at staging readings of local authors and other neighborhood events. The giant bookseller Borders Books, one of the pioneers of book retailing, apparently didn’t do a good job adjusting and closed a couple of years ago (I wrote about it here). Today Barnes & Noble scrambles to cope with competition from the e-book, Amazon.com, and, it seems, local bookshops.

While the diminished growth of e-book sales is hardly a harbinger of decline—5 percent is nothing to sneeze at—it does suggest that sometimes the demand side of the market doesn’t change quite as fast as the supply side—that is, a lot of innovation is just discovering better ways to satisfy fairly stable tastes. Still, it’s competition—for new markets, new techniques, new resources, and yes, new tastes—and not efficiency that drives, and is driven by, the creative discovery of ends and of means.

The Lesson Applied

The other day a friend told me that, when she told her fiancé she couldn’t understand why a mildly alcoholic beverage called “Chu-hi,” which is very popular in Japan, isn’t sold in stores here, his response was something like, “If there were a demand for it, it would be.” Knowing that I write this column she then said to me, “That’s the free market, right?”

Okay, class, what do you say?

Sanford Ikeda is an associate professor of economics at Purchase College, SUNY, and the author of The Dynamics of the Mixed Economy: Toward a Theory of Interventionism.
***
This article was originally published by The Foundation for Economic Education.

by

Why Are We At War in Yemen? – Article by Ron Paul

No comments yet

Categories: Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
August 22, 2013
Recommend this page.
******************************
Most Americans are probably unaware that over the past two weeks the US has launched at least eight drone attacks in Yemen, in which dozens have been killed. It is the largest US escalation of attacks on Yemen in more than a decade. The US claims that everyone killed was a “suspected militant,” but Yemeni citizens have for a long time been outraged over the number of civilians killed in such strikes. The media has reported that of all those killed in these recent US strikes, only one of the dead was on the terrorist “most wanted” list.This significant escalation of US attacks on Yemen coincides with Yemeni President Hadi’s meeting with President Obama in Washington earlier this month. Hadi was installed into power with the help of the US government after a 2011 coup against its long-time ruler, President Saleh. It is in his interest to have the US behind him, as his popularity is very low in Yemen and he faces the constant threat of another coup.

In Washington, President Obama praised the cooperation of President Hadi in fighting the Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. This was just before the US Administration announced that a huge unspecified threat was forcing the closure of nearly two dozen embassies in the area, including in Yemen. According to the Administration, the embassy closings were prompted by an NSA-intercepted conference call at which some 20 al-Qaeda leaders discussed attacking the West. Many remain skeptical about this dramatic claim, which was made just as some in Congress were urging greater scrutiny of NSA domestic spying programs.

The US has been involved in Yemen for some time, and the US presence in Yemen is much greater than we are led to believe. As the Wall Street Journal reported last week:

“At the heart of the U.S.-Yemeni cooperation is a joint command center in Yemen, where officials from the two countries evaluate intelligence gathered by America and other allies, such as Saudi Arabia, say U.S. and Yemeni officials. There, they decide when and how to launch missile strikes against the highly secretive list of alleged al Qaeda operatives approved by the White House for targeted killing, these people say.”

Far from solving the problem of extremists in Yemen, however, this US presence in the country seems to be creating more extremism. According to professor Gregory Johnson of Princeton University, an expert on Yemen, the civilian “collateral damage” from US drone strikes on al-Qaeda members actually attracts more al-Qaeda recruits:

“There are strikes that kill civilians. There are strikes that kill women and children. And when you kill people in Yemen, these are people who have families. They have clans. And they have tribes. And what we’re seeing is that the United States might target a particular individual because they see him as a member of al-Qaeda. But what’s happening on the ground is that he’s being defended as a tribesman.”

The US government is clearly at war in Yemen. It is claimed they are fighting al-Qaeda, but the drone strikes are creating as many or more al-Qaeda members as they are eliminating. Resentment over civilian casualties is building up the danger of blowback, which is a legitimate threat to us that is unfortunately largely ignored. Also, the US is sending mixed signals by attacking al-Qaeda in Yemen while supporting al-Qaeda-linked rebels fighting in Syria.

This cycle of intervention producing problems that require more intervention to “solve” impoverishes us and makes us more, not less, vulnerable. Can anyone claim this old approach is successful? Has it produced one bit of stability in the region? Does it have one success story? There is an alternative. It is called non-interventionism. We should try it. First step would be pulling out of Yemen.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

by

Longevity’s Bottleneck May Be Funding, But Funding’s Bottleneck is Advocacy – Article by Franco Cortese

No comments yet

Categories: Philosophy, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Franco Cortese
August 21, 2013
******************************
When asked what the biggest bottleneck for Radical or Indefinite Longevity is, most thinkers say funding. Some say the biggest bottleneck is breakthroughs and others say it’s our way of approaching the problem (i.e., that many are seeking healthy life extension, a.k.a. “aging gracefully”, instead of more comprehensive methods of indefinite life extension), but the majority seem to feel that what is really needed is adequate funding to plug away at developing and experimentally verifying the various, sometimes mutually exclusive technologies and methodologies that have already been proposed. I claim that Radical Longevity’s biggest bottleneck is not funding, but advocacy.
***
This is because the final objective of increased funding for Radical Longevity and Life Extension research can be more effectively and efficiently achieved through public advocacy for Radical Life Extension than it can by direct funding or direct research, per unit of time or effort. Research and development obviously still need to be done, but an increase in researchers needs an increase in funding, and an increase in funding needs an increase in the public perception of RLE’s feasibility and desirability.
***

There is no definitive timespan that it will take to achieve indefinitely extended life. How long it takes to achieve Radical Longevity is determined by how hard we work at it and how much effort we put into it. More effort means that it will be achieved sooner. And by and large, an increase in effort can be best achieved by an increase in funding, and an increase in funding can be best achieved by an increase in public advocacy. You will likely accelerate the development of Indefinitely Extended Life, per unit of time or effort, by advocating the desirability, ethicality, and technical feasibility of longer life than you will by doing direct research, or by working towards the objective of directly contributing funds to RLE projects and research initiatives.

In order to get funding, we need to demonstrate with explicit clarity just how much we want it, and that we can do so while minimizing potentially negative societal repercussions like overpopulation. We must do our best to vehemently invalidate the Deathist clichés that promulgate the sentiment that Life Extension is dangerous or unethical. It needn’t be either, nor is it necessarily likely to be either.

Some think that spending one’s time deliberating the potential issues that could result from greatly increased lifespans and the ways in which we could mitigate or negate them won’t make a difference until greatly increased lifespans are actually achieved. I disagree. While any potentially negative repercussions of RLE (like overpopulation) aren’t going to happen until RLE is achieved, offering solution paradigms and ways in which we could negate or mitigate such negative repercussions decreases the time we have to wait for it by increasing the degree with which the wider public feels it to be desirable, and that it can very well be done safely and ethically. Those who are against radical life extension are against it either because they think it is infeasible (in which case being “against” it may be too strong a descriptor) or because they have qualms relating to its ethicality or its safety. More people openly advocating against it would mean a higher public perception of its undesirability. Whether RLE is eventually achieved via private industry or via government-subsidized research initiatives, we need to create the public perception that it is widely desired before either government or industry will take notice.

The sentiment that that the best thing we can do is simply live healthily and wait until progress is made seems to be fairly common as well. People have the feeling that researchers are working on it, that it will happen if it can happen, and that waiting until progress is made is the best course to take. Such lethargy will not help Radical Longevity in any way. How long we have to wait for RLE is a function of how much effort we put into it. And in this article I argue that how much funding and attention RLE receives is by and large a function of how widespread the public perception of its feasibility and desirability is.

This isn’t simply about our individual desire to live longer. It might be easier to hold the sentiment that we should just wait it out until it happens if we only consider its impact on the scale of our own individual lives. Such a sentiment may also be aided by the view that greatly longer lives would be a mere advantage, nice but unnecessary. I don’t think this is the case. I argue that the technological eradication of involuntary death is a moral imperative if there ever was one. If how long we have to wait until RLE is achieved depends on how vehemently we demand it and on how hard we work to create the public perception that longer life is widely longed-for, then to what extent are 100,000 lives lost potentially needlessly every day while we wait on our hands? One million people will die a wasteful and involuntary death in the next 10 days: one million real lives. This puts the Deathist charges of inethicality in a ghostly new light. If advocating the desirability, feasibility, and radical ethicality of RLE can hasten its implementation by even a mere 10 days, then one million lives that would have otherwise been lost will have been saved by the efforts of RLE advocates, researchers and fiscal supporters. Seen in this way, working toward RLE may very well be the most ethical and humanitarian way you could spend your time, in terms of the number of lives saved and/or the amount of suffering prevented.

This is a contemporary problem that we can have a direct impact on. People intuitively assume that we won’t achieve indefinitely extended life until far in the future. This makes them conflate any lives saved by indefinitely extended lifespans with lives yet to come into existence. This makes them see involuntary death as a problem of the future, rather than a problem of today. But more people than I’ve ever known will die tomorrow, from causes that are physically possible to obviate and ameliorate – indeed, from causes that we have potential and conceptual solutions for today.
***

I have attempted to show in this article that advocating RLE should be considered as “working toward it” to as great an extent as directly funding it or performing direct research on it is considered as “working toward it”. Advocacy has greater potential to increase its widespread desirability than direct work or funding does, and increasing both its desirability and the public perception of its desirability has more potential to generate increased funding and research-attention for RLE than direct funding or research does. Advocacy thus has the potential to contribute to the arrival of RLE and hasten its implementation just as much, if not more so (as I have attempted to argue in this article), than practical research or direct funding does. This should motivate people to help create the momentous momentum we need to really get the ball rolling. To be an RLE advocate is to be an RLE worker. Involuntary death from age-associated, physically remediable causes is the largest source of death, destruction, and suffering today.  Don’t you want to help prevent the most widespread source of death and of suffering in existence today?  Don’t you want to help mitigate the most pressing moral concern not only of today, but of the entirety of human history – namely physically remediable involuntary death?

Then advocate the technological eradication of involuntary death. Advocate the technical feasibility, extreme desirability, and blatant ethicality of indefinitely extending life. Death is a cataclysm. We need not sanctify the seemingly inevitable any longer. We need not tell ourselves that death is somehow a good thing, or something we can do nothing about, in order to live with the “fact” of it any longer. Soon it won’t be fact of life. Soon it will be artifact of history. Life may not be ipso facto valuable according to some philosophies of value – but life is a necessary precondition for any sort of value whatsoever. Death is dumb, dummy! An incontrovertible waste convertible into nothing! A negative-sum blight! So if you want to contribute to the problems of today, if you want to help your fellow man today, then stand proud and shout loud, “Doom to Arbitrary Duty and Death to  Arbitrary Death!” at every crowd cowed by the seeming necessity of death.

Franco Cortese is an editor for Transhumanity.net, as well as one of its most frequent contributors.  He has also published articles and essays on Immortal Life and The Rational Argumentator. He contributed 4 essays and 7 debate responses to the digital anthology Human Destiny is to Eliminate Death: Essays, Rants and Arguments About Immortality.

Franco is an Advisor for Lifeboat Foundation (on its Futurists Board and its Life Extension Board) and contributes regularly to its blog.

by

Transhumanism and Mind Uploading Are Not the Same – Video by G. Stolyarov II

No comments yet

Categories: Philosophy, Technology, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

In what is perhaps the most absurd attack on transhumanism to date, Mike Adams of NaturalNews.com equates this broad philosophy and movement with “the entire idea that you can ‘upload your mind to a computer'” and further posits that the only kind of possible mind uploading is the destructive kind, where the original, biological organism ceases to exist. Mr. Stolyarov refutes Adams’s equation of transhumanism with destructive mind uploading and explains that advocacy of mind uploading is neither a necessary nor a sufficient component of transhumanism.

References
– “Transhumanism and Mind Uploading Are Not the Same” – Essay by G. Stolyarov II
– “Transhumanism debunked: Why drinking the Kurzweil Kool-Aid will only make you dead, not immortal” – Mike Adams – NaturalNews.com – June 25, 2013
SENS Research Foundation
– “Nanomedicine” – Wikipedia
– “Transhumanism: Towards a Futurist Philosophy” – Essay by Max More
2045 Initiative Website
Bebionic Website
– “How Can I Live Forever?: What Does and Does Not Preserve the Self” – Essay by G. Stolyarov II
– “Immortality: Bio or Techno?” – Essay by Franco Cortese

by

Libertarian Democrat: When New York Produced Giants for Liberty – Article by Lawrence W. Reed

No comments yet

Categories: History, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Lawrence W. Reed
August 18, 2013
Recommend this page.
******************************

The idea pervades the bill that severe penalties will secure enforcement; but all experience shows that undue severity of laws defeats their execution … [N]o law can be sustained which goes beyond public feeling and sentiment. All experience shows that temperance, like other virtues, is not produced by lawmakers, but by the influences of education, morality and religion. Men may be persuaded—they cannot be compelled—to adopt habits of temperance.

—Horatio Seymour, 1854

This essay is about a long-forgotten New Yorker who served in his state’s legislature and twice as governor, then nearly became President of the United States. Much respected, even beloved by many in his day, his name was Horatio Seymour. He deserves to be dusted off and appreciated now, almost 130 years since his death. But first, some context.

The Democratic Party in the state of New York these days is about as “liberal” (in the twentieth-century, American sense of the term) as it gets. On economic issues in particular, it is reliably statist, meaning it rarely deviates from the “more government is the answer” mentality, no matter how strongly logic or evidence point elsewhere. But not so long ago, New York’s Democrats were largely of the opposite persuasion. They were often what we now would call “classical liberals,” ardent skeptics of the concentration of power. Classical liberals really believed in liberty; today’s liberals really don’t.

Local and national Democratic Party organizations today host “Jefferson-Jackson Day” dinners in honor of two of the party’s early representatives. If Thomas Jefferson or Andrew Jackson could stop in for a drink, it’s not likely that either one of them would recognize their party after all these years. Arguably, they’d be horrified enough to resign their memberships. My guess is that Jackson would become an Independent while Jefferson would bolt for the Libertarians.

New York City in the 1830s was the birthplace of the Locofocos, the most principled libertarians the Democratic Party ever produced. Their opposition to subsidies, high tariffs, special favors, fiat money, and interventionist government helped keep the state and national party on the right side of liberty until the silver-tongued currency crank William Jennings Bryan came along in 1896.

Martin Van Buren, Jackson’s successor, was a New York Democrat. Economist and historian Jeffrey Rogers Hummel argues that Van Buren may be the most libertarian of all the American presidents.

In the 1840s and 1850s, Democrats fought the Whigs, who stood for a Hamiltonian big government that would dispense privilege and corporate welfare, jack up tariffs, and centralize banking. When the Republicans picked up the mantle of the Whigs in the late 1850s, Democrats opposed them for the same reasons. With the exception of Horace Greeley, the most pro-liberty presidential candidates in the thirty years after the Civil War were the Democratic nominees who didn’t win (Seymour, Tilden, and Hancock). The only Democrat to actually capture the White House between 1865 and 1912—Grover Cleveland, born in New Jersey but a New Yorker most of his life and governor of the state—was arguably one of the very best and most pro-liberty presidents of the 44 we’ve had.

New York was home also to eight-term congressman Bourke Cockran, who emerged in the 1890s as one of the staunchest and most eloquent defenders of Jeffersonian liberty Americans ever sent to Washington from anywhere.

But something happened to the Democratic Party in the years between Cleveland and the next Democratic president, Woodrow Wilson—my personal choice for the worst of all presidents. That sad turn of events is a story for another day. Allow me now to return to my primary subject, Horatio Seymour.

Seymour wrote those words at the top of this essay. They were part of his 1854 veto of one of the earliest alcohol prohibition measures that made it to a governor’s desk. If the wisdom of that veto message had been heeded 65 years later, America would have been spared the imbecility of Prohibition. So, too, it could have saved us from compounding that destructive error with a futile, expensive, and tyrannical War on Drugs in more recent decades. His view on Prohibition was indicative of his general perspective on the role of government in our lives. He was no friend of the meddlesome nanny state.

Seymour was born in 1810 in Onondaga County, New York, early in the presidency of another Jeffersonian Democrat (from Virginia), James Madison. At the age of 23, he went to Albany, where he labored for six years as military secretary to the state’s Democratic governor, William L. Marcy. There, he gained detailed knowledge of the state’s politics. In 1841 he won election to the New York State Assembly and served simultaneously as mayor of Utica from 1842 to 1843. He was elected speaker of the assembly in 1845, then governor of the state in 1852. His veto of the Prohibition bill cost him in his reelection bid, which he lost by a mere 309 votes statewide.

FEE’s senior historian, Dr. Burton Folsom (author of The Myth of the Robber Barons, New Deal or Raw Deal, and other great works) reminds me that Seymour wasn’t as solid on economic issues as New York’s Locofocos: “Seymour was from Utica, and because that town was right on the Erie Canal, he favored state-funded construction of the Erie Canal.  He also favored (though with less enthusiasm) the state funding of the eight branch canals, all of which lost money.” Indeed, Seymour should have seen the logical inconsistency of canal subsidies and small government, but such are the blemishes of politics, which is why when we grade its practitioners, we have to do so “on the curve” or most would flunk. I still see greatness in Seymour on other counts.

The country drifted inexorably toward sectional conflict for the rest of the 1850s. Out of office but an influential former governor of the most populous state, Seymour made headlines whenever he spoke. Prominent party leaders promoted him for the presidential nomination in 1856 and 1860 but he declined to run. He opposed slavery but was reluctant to go to war over either it or the question of secession. When war came in 1861, he staked out a definitive position on the Lincoln administration’s suppression of civil liberties and questionable constitutional ventures such as suspension of habeas corpus:  “Government is not strengthened by the exercise of doubtful powers, but by a wise and energetic exertion of those which are incontestable. The former course never fails to produce discord, suspicion and distrust, while the latter inspires respect and confidence.”

As the war groaned on, Seymour chastised Lincoln and the Republicans for imprisoning (without trial) thousands of dissenters who questioned the war or its conduct. He demanded to know why citizens of the North had to be warred upon by their own government. “Liberty is born in war,” he declared. “It does not die in war! I denounce the doctrine that Civil War in the South takes away from the loyal North the benefits of one principle of civil liberty!”

Defending civil liberties in the midst of a major war was a courageous stand in the 1860s. Even among the large and vocal cadre of Lincoln apologists today, it’s not kosher to bring up the seamy side of our 16th President’s policies. But in the day, some very patriotic Americans like Seymour raised serious questions that deserve attention now as they did then.

In 1862, Seymour was again elected governor of New York and was embroiled the very next year in a vigorous battle with the Lincoln administration over the military draft. He strongly opposed it as unconstitutional. He refused to pay the state’s foreign creditors in paper greenbacks, insisting instead on payment in the medium specified in the terms of the debt—gold. Defeated narrowly for reelection in 1864, Seymour resumed his prominent role as a respected elder statesman and spokesman for Democratic principles. He might have taken the presidential nomination away from George McClellan in 1864 but, as in the past, he declined many demands that he be a candidate.

With no strong Democratic contender for the presidential nomination in 1868, Seymour’s name bubbled to the top again. I’ve written elsewhere about Republican James A. Garfield as the most reluctant man ever to be elected President of the United States. Horatio Seymour is easily the most reluctant man ever to be nominated and not get elected, though he came close. Leading up to the Democratic Party convention in 1868, he declared numerous times that he would not be a candidate. He even accepted the role as permanent chairman of the convention because the very position would make it impossible to also be a candidate, but after 21 deadlocked ballots the conventioneers violated party rules and nominated Seymour anyway. He ran against Republican Ulysses S. Grant out of a sense of obligation to his party, not any lust for the job. Democrats made Francis P. Blair of Missouri his vice presidential running mate.

Almost immediately, Republicans waved “the bloody shirt,” accusing Seymour and the Democrats of treason. The Democratic nominee was a “traitor” because he had once supported secession, though he took that position purely (and in the view of this author, correctly) because the Constitution neither addressed nor forbade it. Like it or not, the notion that secession was a right of any state was a widely held perspective in both the North and the South in the first half of the nineteenth century. The Republicans vilified it for reasons of power and politics, but it was not for many decades a “radical” or unsupportable view in America, even among Northern newspaper editors.

In his superb 1938 biography, Horatio Seymour of New York, Stewart Mitchell writes that Seymour was on solid ground in arousing opposition to Republican duplicity, by which I mean claiming to be defenders of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution while trampling on the rights upheld in both. “The fact was,” according to Stewart (quoting liberally from Seymour himself), “that within ten states of the Union any American citizen who dared to quote that declaration in his own defense ‘would be tried and punished by a military tribunal.’” Moreover, “If a citizen of the state where the ashes of Washington lay buried were to remind his rulers that ‘the military should ever be subordinate to the civil authority,’ he could be ‘dragged to prison’ even from the grave of the man who wrote the declaration.”

The Seymour-Blair platform assailed the party of Lincoln and Grant in certain if not grandiloquent terms, and largely from a pro-liberty perspective. It called for restoration of a sound, metallic currency and lower tariffs. It condemned the Republican Party thusly:

It has nullified there (in the ten states occupied by federal troops) the right of trial by jury; it has abolished habeas corpus, that most sacred writ of liberty; it has overthrown the freedom of speech and of the press; it has substituted arbitrary seizures and arrests, and military trials and secret star-chamber inquisitions, for the constitutional tribunals; it has disregarded in time of peace the right of the people to be free from searches and seizures; it has entered the post and telegraph offices, and even the private rooms of individuals, and seized their private papers and letters without any specific charge or notice of affidavit, as required by the organic law; it has converted the American capitol into a Bastille; it has established a system of spies and official espionage to which no constitutional monarchy of Europe would now dare to resort; it has abolished the right of appeal, on important constitutional questions, to the Supreme Judicial tribunal, and threatens to curtail, or destroy, its original jurisdiction, which is irrevocably vested by the Constitution; while the learned Chief Justice has been subjected to the most atrocious calumnies, merely because he would not prostitute his high office to the support of the false and partisan charges preferred against the President. Its corruption and extravagance have exceeded anything known in history, and by its frauds and monopolies it has nearly doubled the burden of the debt created by the war; it has stripped the President of his constitutional power of appointment, even of his own Cabinet. Under its repeated assaults the pillars of the government are rocking on their base, and should it succeed in November next and inaugurate its President, we will meet, as a subjected and conquered people, amid the ruins of liberty and the scattered fragments of the Constitution.
***

Grant easily won the election in the Electoral College, 214 to 80, but the popular vote was a different story. There the margin was less than six points, as Grant bested Seymour 52.7 percent to 47.3 percent. With Grant’s troops occupying most Southern states, controlling many polling stations and actively disenfranchising significant numbers of Southern whites whose votes would likely have gone Democratic, Seymour’s 47.3 percent seems all the more remarkable.

In his 1944 book about losing presidential contenders, They Also Ran, Irving Stone described Seymour as “one of the most intelligent, high-minded and able statesmen produced in America since the creators of the Constitution.” He argued that Seymour’s gentle character likely would have made him an excellent president, “the most logical figure in the country to bind the wounds of the war and wipe out the bitterness.” But alas, he didn’t get the chance.

Seymour never ran for office again after 1868 and turned down a guaranteed seat in the U.S. Senate, two more likely nominations for governor, and even two strong efforts to nominate him for the presidency in both 1876 and 1880. He may hold the record in American history for turning down more opportunities for high office than anyone else. His last political activity was to campaign for Grover Cleveland in 1884. He lived long enough to see Cleveland elected as the first Democrat since James Buchanan. Seymour died in February 1886 at the age of 75 and is buried in Forest Hill Cemetery in Utica, New York.

Horatio Seymour, a significant figure and friend of liberty in his day, is remembered by few and appreciated by even fewer. We should not treat the good men of our past this way.

***
The author wishes to thank Mr. John Chodes of New York, a longtime FEE supporter, for his tireless efforts to remind his state and nation of the important contributions of his fellow New Yorker, Horatio Seymour.

Lawrence W. (“Larry”) Reed became president of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) in 2008. Prior to that, he was a founder and president for twenty years of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy in Midland, Michigan. He also taught Economics full-time and chaired the Department of Economics at Northwood University in Michigan from 1977 to 1984.

He holds a B.A. degree in Economics from Grove City College (1975) and an M.A. degree in History from Slippery Rock State University (1978), both in Pennsylvania. He holds two honorary doctorates, one from Central Michigan University (Public Administration—1993) and Northwood University (Laws—2008).

This article was originally published by The Foundation for Economic Education.

by

Why The 2,776 NSA Violations Are No Big Deal – Article by Ron Paul

No comments yet

Categories: Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
August 18, 2013
Recommend this page.
******************************
Thanks to more documents leaked by Edward Snowden, this time to the Washington Post, we learned last week that a secret May 2012 internal audit by the NSA revealed 2,776 incidents of “unauthorized” collection of information on American citizens over the previous 12 months. They are routinely breaking their own rules and covering it up.The Post article quotes an NSA spokesman assuring the paper that the NSA attempts to identify such problems “at the earliest possible moment.” But what happened to all those communications intercepted improperly in the meantime? The answer is, they were logged and stored anyway.

We also learned that the NSA routinely intercepts information from Americans while actually targeting foreigners, and that this is not even considered a violation. These intercepts are not deleted once discovered, even though they violate the US government’s own standards. As the article reports, “once added to its databases, absent other restrictions, the communications of Americans may be searched freely.”

The Post article quotes an NSA official explaining that the thousands of unauthorized communications intercepts yearly are relatively insignificant. “You can look at it as a percentage of our total activity that occurs each day. You look at a number in absolute terms that looks big, and when you look at it in relative terms, it looks a little different.”

So although the numbers of Americans who have had their information intercepted in violation of NSA’s own rules seems large, it is actually miniscule compared to the huge volume of our communications they intercept in total!

Though it made for a sensational headline last week, the fact is these 2,776 “violations” over the course of one year are completely irrelevant. The millions and millions of “authorized” intercepts of our communications are all illegal — except for the very few carried out in pursuit of a validly-issued search warrant in accordance with the Fourth Amendment. That is the real story. Drawing our attention to the violations unfortunately sends the message that the “authorized” spying on us is nothing to be concerned about.

When information about the massive NSA domestic spying program began leaking earlier in the summer, Deputy Attorney General James Cole assured us of the many levels of safeguards to prevent the unauthorized collection, storage, and distribution of our communications. He promised to explain the NSA’s record “in as transparent a way as we possibly can.”

Yet two months later we only discover from more leaked documents the thousands of times communications were intercepted in violation of their own standards! It is hardly reassuring, therefore, when they promise us they will be more forthcoming in the future. No one believes them because they have lied and covered up continuously. The only time any light at all is shone on these criminal acts by the US federal government is when a whistleblower comes forth with new and ever more disturbing information.

Americans are increasingly concerned over these violations of their privacy. Calls for reform grow. However, whenever Washington finds itself in a scandal, the federal government responds by naming a federal-government panel made up of current and former federal employees to investigate any mistakes the federal government might have made. The recommendations invariably are that even more federal government employees must be hired to provide an additional layer or two of oversight. That is supposed to reassure us that reforms have been made, while in fact it is just insiders covering up for those who have hired them to investigate.

Let us hope the American people will decide that such trickery is no longer acceptable. It is time to take a very serious look at the activities of the US intelligence community. The first step would be a dramatic reduction in appropriations to force a focus on those real, not imagined, threats to our national security. We should not be considered the enemy.

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission.

by

Indefinite Life Extension is Achievable – Video by G. Stolyarov II

No comments yet

Categories: Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mr. Stolyarov summarizes why indefinite life extension is achievable in our lifetimes, given enough effort, funding, and moral support. He encourages your support for the Movement for Indefinite Life Extension (MILE), which has the goal of increasing awareness of indefinite life extension by an order of magnitude each year.

References
– The Movement for Indefinite Life Extension (MILE) Facebook Page: http://themile.info or https://www.facebook.com/pages/MILE-Movement-for-Indefinite-Life-Extension/197250433628807
– SENS Research Foundation: http://sens.org
– Resources on Indefinite Life Extension (RILE): http://rationalargumentator.com/RILE.html

1 2