Skip to content

Philosophy & Living

What Do Donald Trump and Bill Clinton Have In Common?

Reading Glenn Woiceshyn’s 1998 article The Lewinsky Sex Allegations Against Clinton are Totally Believable draws some interesting parallels to President Trump:

Clinton became president not because he is a deft man of principle, but because he is a deft pragmatist, one who skillfully monitors (and manipulates) public opinion, and alters his “principles” accordingly.

Pragmatism, the philosophy dominating modern politics, involves eschewing principles in the name of “doing what will work.” The classic example of a pragmatist was Britain’s then Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, who abandoned principles to appease Hitler’s power lust by giving him Czechoslovakia, all in the name of peace. The result was war. Without principles, one cannot identify what will and won’t work.

Pragmatism eschews valid moral principles, such as honesty, integrity and justice, which leads to a policy of “doing whatever I can get away with.” If elections can be won by making promises one knows one can’t keep, or deliberately generating false hope about disastrous and wasteful schemes like Medicare and Social Security, or accepting financial contributions from Chinese dictators, or lying about adulterous affairs (such as with Gennifer Flowers), then do it. Clinton’s latest big lie was his claim in his recent State of the Union speech that “We have the smallest government in 35 years.”

How does one know if one will get away with lying or adultery? Ultimately, by feelings. Pragmatism sinks to: “Do I feel that I will get away with it this time?” If one is impulsively driven by strong adulterous urges and gets away with satisfying them once, that builds “confidence” to try again. “Success” at fooling others breeds recklessness, and a perverted feeling of triumph over others and over reality. According to Gennifer Flowers, Clinton once asked her to have sex in a bathroom at the Arkansas’ governor’s mansion while his wife and 50 guests were outside on the lawn. (CNN — Larry King Live, Jan. 23, 1998.) Imagine the “triumphant” feeling of getting away with that!

Read: The Lewinsky Sex Allegations Against Clinton are Totally Believable over at Capitalism Magazine.

Atlas Project: This Is John Galt Speaking

The Atlas Project is an online, chapter-by-chapter discussion of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, exploring the novel’s intricate plot and abstract themes through online discussion and live interactive video with philosophers Dr. Greg Salmieri and Dr. Ben Bayer.

This week’s discussion is on Part III, Chapter 7: “This Is John Galt Speaking” which contains “Galt’s Speech” where Rand first presented the fundamentals of her philosophy: Objectivism. For a list of study questions visit this link: https://campus.aynrand.org/

 

 

 

Simpson: “Big Gap” Between Objectivism and Conservatism

From Is Ayn Rand Affecting Trump’s America? An Interview with Steve Simpson | Merion West.

[Alex:] To what degree do you think Ayn Rand’s philosophy is influencing the modern Republican Party?

Steve: I would say very little honestly. It’s really hard to say that she’s influencing the Republican party. She’s definitely influenced the right, generally speaking, in a huge way, but that does not mean necessarily that conservatives are interpreting her ideas correctly.

I would put it this way: the right is just as afraid of Rand’s ideas as the left is; the right disagrees with her important ideas just as much as the left does. But what Atlas Shrugged has done is give people who are in favor of business, in favor of the free market, in favor of capitalism an ideal to aspire to. Atlas Shrugged is the only novel I’ve ever heard of that portrays businessmen as heroes. I think if you’re on the right and you think there is something good about capitalism, Rand gave the most ringing endorsement to that view that anybody could have given. So it makes really good sense that people on the right, who are sympathetic to capitalism, would like her novel, but that’s a very different thing from them saying they agree with her.

I think she’s influenced the right in general, but the caveat is that it does not mean those on the right necessarily agree with her. When you get to things like “Trump is the Ayn Rand presidency,” that’s nonsense. She’s influenced the right, but there’s still a big gap between Objectivism and what many conservatives believe.

Read the rest: Is Ayn Rand Affecting Trump’s America? An Interview with Steve Simpson | Merion West.

Shapiro: Media Ignores Violence of Alt-Left

Writes Ben Shapiro on The Group That Got Ignored in Charlottesville | Daily Wire:

In Charlottesville, Antifa engaged in street violence with the alt-right racists. As in Weimar, Germany, fascists flying the swastika engaged in hand-to-hand combat with Antifa members flying the communist red. And yet, the media declared that any negative coverage granted to Antifa would detract from the obvious evils of the alt-right. Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times tweeted in the midst of the violence, “The hard left seemed as hate-filled as alt-right. I saw club-wielding ‘antifa’ beating white nationalists being led out of the park.” After receiving blowback from the left, Stolberg then corrected herself. She said: “Rethinking this. Should have said violent, not hate-filled. They were standing up to hate.”

Or perhaps Antifa is a hateful group itself. But that wouldn’t fit the convenient narrative Antifa promotes and the media buy: that the sole threat to the republic comes from the racist right. Perhaps that’s why the media ignored the events in Sacramento and Berkeley and Seattle — to point out the evils of Antifa might detract from the evils of the alt-right. That sort of biased coverage only engenders more militancy from the alt-right, which feels it must demonstrate openly and repeatedly to “stand up to Antifa.” Which, of course, prompts Antifa to violence.

Here’s the moral solution, as always: Condemn violence and evil wherever it occurs. The racist philosophy of the alt-right is evil. The violence of the alt-right is evil. The communist philosophy of Antifa is evil. So is the violence of Antifa. If we are to survive as a republic, we must call out Nazis but not punch them; we must stop providing cover to anarchists and communists who seek to hide behind self-proclaimed righteousness to participate in violence.

 

What is a friend?

From Do Your Friends Actually Like You? – The New York Times:

…Because time is limited, so, too, is the number of friends you can have, according to the work of the British evolutionary psychologist Robin I.M. Dunbar. He describes layers of friendship, where the topmost layer consists of only one or two people, say a spouse and best friend with whom you are most intimate and interact daily. The next layer can accommodate at most four people for whom you have great affinity, affection and concern and who require weekly attention to maintain. Out from there, the tiers contain more casual friends with whom you invest less time and tend to have a less profound and more tenuous connection. Without consistent contact, they easily fall into the realm of acquaintance. You may be friendly with them but they aren’t friends.

But friendship requires the vulnerability of caring as well as revealing things about yourself that don’t match the polished image in your Facebook profile or Instagram feed, said Mr. Nehamas at Princeton. Trusting that your bond will continue, and might even be strengthened, despite your shortcomings and inevitable misfortunes, he said, is a risk many aren’t willing to take.

[…]

So it’s worth identifying who among the many people you encounter in your life are truly friends. Who makes time for you? Whose company enlivens, enriches and maybe even humbles you? Whom would you miss? Who would miss you? While there is no easy or agreed upon definition, what friendships have in common is that they shape us and create other dimensions through which to see the world. This can be for better or worse depending on whom we choose as friends. As the saying goes, “Show me your friends and I will show you who you are.”

Using Reason to Flourish by Eric Daniels

 

eason, thinking, and making decisions are all influenced by the information you are surrounded with. Being able to decipher through this information is what builds you into a better thinker. Learn to reprogram yourself with this talk.

In this video, you will learn:

– How to separate fact from fiction in the world.
– How to become a highly intelligent thinker.
– How to succeed in life using your own mind.

Heckle Therapist

Jerry Seinfeld on dealing with hecklers:

Very early on in my career, I hit upon this idea of being the Heckle Therapist. So that when people would say something nasty, I would immediately become very sympathetic to them and try to help them with their problem and try to work out what was upsetting them, and try to be very understanding with their anger. It opened up this whole fun avenue for me as a comedian, and no one had ever seen that before. Some of my comedian friends used to call me – what did they say? – that I would counsel the heckler instead of fighting them. Instead of fighting them, I would say “You seem so upset, and I know that’s not what you wanted to have happen tonight. Let’s talk about your problem” and the audience would find it funny and it would really discombobulate the heckler too, because I wouldn’t go against them, I would take their side. [link]

Apple CEO Tim Cook’s full ABC interview on Apple’s fight with the FBI

“If a court can ask us to write this piece of software, think about what else they could ask us to write. Maybe it’s an operating system for surveillance. Maybe it’s the ability for law enforcement to turn on the camera. I mean, I don’t know where this stops. But I do know this is not what should be happening in this country. This is not what should be happening in America. If there should be a law that compels us to do it, it should be passed out in the open, and the people of America should get a voice in that. The right place for that debate to occur is in Congress.” — Tim Cook

COOK ON A MASTER KEY:

No one would want a master key built that would turn hundreds of millions of locks. Even if that key were in the possession of the person that you trust the most, that key could be stolen. That is what this is about.

COOK ON THE SLIPPERY SLOPE:

It’s clear that it would be a precedent. New York law enforcement is already talking about having 175 phones there. Other counties across the United States are talking about phones they have. And so it is a slippery slope. I don’t fear it; it is one.

COOK ON NATIONAL SECURITY VS PRIVACY:

Cook: I know people like to frame this argument as privacy versus national security. That is overly simplistic and is not true. This is also about public safety. The smartphone that you carry has more information about you on it than probably any other singular device or any other singular place.

Muir: So this is about protecting the safety of the people who carry those iPhones?

Cook: That’s exactly right. And by the way, it’s probably just not iPhone. Because if the government could order Apple to create such a piece of software, it could be ordered for anyone else as well. It doesn’t stop here.

Think about this. It is, in our view, the software equivalent of cancer. Is this something that should be created? Technology can do so many things. But there are many things technology should never be allowed to do. And the way you not allow it, is to not create it.

COOK ON ENCRYPTION:

Cook: Hacking has become increasingly commonplace. It is very difficult to secure data, and the everyday person can’t do it. They look for Apple to help them do it. You need to look no further than the government, which has had some of the worst breaches of all in this case. And so yes, security gets better with every software release we have. Encryption gets more advanced. It has to to stay one step ahead of the bad guys.

Muir: So it’s not a mistake that we can’t get into Syed Farook’s iPhone?

Cook: We didn’t do it for that reason, David. We did it to protect our customers. But yes, a side effect means that Apple can’t get to it either. Think of it like this: if you put a door in a house, it’s a lot easier to get in that house. It doesn’t matter whether it’s locked or not. Somebody can get in that. And so our simple view is that you encrypt end to end, and you don’t keep a key. And so the people that can see communications are the people on either end of that communication.

COOK ON THE FBI DEMANDS:

Cook: What they want is, they want us to develop a new operating system that takes out the security precautions. Including the precaution that, after 10 tries, if somebody has set “erase all data after 10,” they want that to not be in there. And then they want an ability to go through a number of passwords at the speed of a modern computer.

Muir: A computer would do that to figure out the code.

Cook: A computer would do that. We believe that is a very dangerous operating system

Muir: Because once people know that exists, you say, the cat is out of the bag.

Cook: If one of the bad guys knew that that existed, think about the target that is. Everybody would want that system. Because you could get in… It has the potential to get into any iPhone. This is not something that should be created.

AT THE END OF THE DAY WHAT APPLE WILL DO

Cook: We would be prepared to take this issue all the way. Yes. Because I think it’s that important for America. This should not be decided court by court by court. If you decide that it’s okay to force a company to do something that they think is bad for hundreds of millions of people, then… Think about this for a minute. And this case is an awful case; there is no worse case than this case. But there may a judge in a different district that feels that this case should apply to a divorce case. There may be one in the next state over that thinks it should apply in a tax case. Another state over it might apply in a robbery. And so you begin to say, ‘Wait a minute. This isn’t how this should happen.’ If there is going to be a law, then it should be done out in the open for people so their voices are heard through their representatives in Congress.

Muir: And if Congress decided that there’s this small category — this was a terrorist’s iPhone. If Congress decided that, if the American people signed off on that, you’d entertain it?

Cook: Let me be clear. At the end of the day, we have to follow the law. Just like everybody else, we have to follow the law. What is going on right now is we’re having our voices be heard. And I would encourage everyone who wants to have a voice and wants to have an opinion to make sure their voice is heard.

Revitalizing Objectivity in Judicial Review

How should courts interpret the law? Strictly according to the text? By lawmakers’ original intent? By the needs of today’s society? Philosophical ideals? In this talk and Q&A, Tara Smith, professor of philosophy and BB&T Chair for the Study of Objectivism at the University of Texas – Austin, argues that the best laws in the world are useless if misunderstood – yet today, the debate over proper interpretation is a minefield of loaded concepts and false alternatives.

Smith’s new book, Judicial Review in an Objective Legal System, explains the pillars of proper review by grounding it in the function of an objective legal system. As the Rule of Law teeters, as presidential candidates stake radical claims about judges and the Constitution, and as issues ranging from abortion rights to medical care to war powers come before the courts, the question couldn’t be more timely.

 

Placing government power under the rule of law

Writes Evan Bernick in a review of Tara Smith’s book “Judicial Review in an Objective Legal System”:

…How judges evaluate assertions of government power matters to real people.

A philosopher at the University of Texas who also teaches at the law school, Smith articulates an approach to judicial review that is designed to place government power under the rule of law—to ensure that the government only exercises its power for constitutionally proper reasons and that mere will does not trump individual rights. While there is no shortage of books on judicial review, Smith’s stands out in a crowded field, owing to its focus on the role of epistemology and political philosophy—the Constitution’s political philosophy—in constitutional interpretation and her incisive criticism of the jurisprudential status quo. Smith’s approach holds the promise of equipping judges to gain accurate knowledge of what the law is and to consistently hold the government to the terms of our Founding document. [Taming the Law’s Coercion – Online Library of Law & Liberty]

The entire review is well worth the read.

Learn Anything in 20 Hours

“Skill is the result of deliberate, consistent practice. And in early stage practice, quantity and speed trump absolute quality. The faster and more often you practice the more rapidly you’ll acquire the skill.” — Josh Kaufman

10 principles of learning skills rapidly

  1. Choose a project you LOVE.  “The best thing that can happen to a human being is to find a problem, to fall in love with that problem, and to live trying to solve that problem, unless another problem even more lovable appears.” – Karl Popper
  2. Focus your energy on one skill at a time. “If you don’t know where you’re trying to go or don’t have a solid strategy to get there, you can waste equal amounts of energy in unproductive wandering.”
  3. Define your target performance level.  Visualize where you want to be. Be specific. “A problem well stated is a problem half solved.” –Charles Kettering
  4. Deconstruct the skill into sub skills. Eliminate the non-essential. Rapid skill acquisition is “a way of breaking down the skill you’re trying to acquire into the smallest possible parts, identifying which of those parts are most important, then deliberately practicing those elements first.”
  5. Obtain critical tools. Want to learn to play a guitar — first thing is you need a guitar. Review several solid how-to guides.
  6. Eliminate barriers to practice. Remove any physical (turn off the phone, internet, etc. ), mental, or emotional barriers that get in the way of practice. Arrange your environment to promote skill development.
  7. Dedicate time for practice. Schedule it on your calendar. Keep a log.
  8. Create fast feedback loops. A coach, video your practice, etc.
  9. Practice by the clock in short bursts. You only have so much willpower every day — use it wisely.
  10. Emphasize quantity and speed. “Skill is the result of deliberate, consistent practice, and in early-stage practice, quantity and speed trump absolute quality. The faster and more often you practice, the more rapidly you’ll acquire the skill.”

10 principles of effective learning

  1. Research the skill and related topics (but not too much)
  2. Jump in over your head
  3. Identify mental models and mental hooks
  4. Imagine the opposite of what you want
  5. Talk to practitioners
  6. Eliminate distractions
  7. Spaced repetition and reinforcement for memorization
  8. Scaffolds and checklists
  9. Make and test predictions
  10. Honor your biology

Copyright Principles and Priorities to Foster a Creative Digital Marketplace

On December 2, 2015, the Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property released a new white paper, Copyright Principles and Priorities to Foster a Creative Digital Marketplace, by Sandra Aistars, Devlin Hartline, and Mark Schultz.

As Congress continues its comprehensive review of the Copyright Act, the authors suggest how the law and the institution responsible for its administration–the U.S. Copyright Office–might be updated and restructured to better support a thriving, creative digital marketplace. They offer several organizing principles, as well as several areas to prioritize for action, for Congress to consider as it revises the copyright law.

The authors also give a brief overview of the constitutional origins of copyright protection, explaining how the premise of our copyright system–that authors’ rights and the public good are complementary–comports with the dominant natural rights philosophy in the early American Republic. They then examine several ways in which the copyright system fulfills its purpose, as envisioned by the Founders, by driving innovation in the creative industries.

To download the full white paper, please click here.

The Psychology Behind Criminal Excuse Making

By Dr. Michael Hurd

We’ve all heard the phrase, “blaming the victim.” Normally, this expression applies when one party blames another — the actual victim — for something he or she did not cause.

Things have become so backwards and upside down in our crazy culture that we now have a new phenomenon: People who are the actual victims of something — like crime — blaming themselves for the robbery, theft or assault inflicted upon their very selves.

From an article entitled, “When robbery victims blame — themselves” by Karol Markowicz at nypost.com 10/25/15:

Last November, Ditmas Park experienced a rash of armed robberies. What made the one at the Lark Cafe unique is that the gunman didn’t target the register. Instead, he took all the laptops of a writer’s group that was meeting there. In a long rumination on the incident, [Brooklyn writer Chaya] Babu writes that she and her writer friends “felt angry and violated, but not in a way that necessarily placed blame on the person who did it.” It seems that if they blame anyone, it’s themselves — for existing and choosing to live in Ditmas Park [Brooklyn] in the first place. In the weeks following the robbery, she and her friends worked on “finding space to take into consideration the broader social and economic circumstances surrounding the incident” and “cultivated our sense of compassion toward the robber, whom we imagined must have been acting out of dire need.”

Victims of crime who feel that their victimizers act out of desperation or “need” would do well to actually study research on the criminal personality. For example, Dr. Stanton Samenow in his book, “Inside the Criminal Mind,” documents in thorough and readable detail what makes criminals different from non-criminal personalities.

The distinguishing features of a criminal are not desperation or need so much as a particular way of thinking about themselves, reality and the world. Criminals, for example, feel a sense of entitlement to things which are not theirs, a chronic sense of victimization even though they’re not really victims, and actually turn others into their victims.

If you have something that I would like to have, I admire you for your accomplishment and figure out how I can do the same. Or, maybe I stew in resentment but never dream of doing anything to harm your life or your property. A criminal is different. A criminal feels entitled to act upon this resentment and envy, and actually experiences a sense of “ambition” or accomplishment about doing so. Power for its own sake is what motivates the criminal.

Criminal personalities are not like you and I, not according to the research. Nor are they like these naive fools who make excuses for them, even after being victimized by one.

There are plenty of impulsive, needy and desperate people who would never initiate force, theft or murder against another human being. They perhaps suffer from all sorts of emotional or behavioral problems, and in the end are generally their own worst enemies. They are not criminals, however, because however self-defeating or irrational they might otherwise be, they seek no power or domination over others. Whatever malevolence they might or might not feel towards others, they take no steps and harbor no significant desires to bring others down with them.

Neither reason nor research supports Babu’s thinking that criminals are really victims who are acting out of desperate, needy impulses of desperation, angst and pain. Yet it’s fashionable, in certain circles, to think this way — or at the very least, to be seen (amongst one’s similarly minded peers) thinking this way.

It’s nothing more than old-fashioned posing repackaged as progressive, self-conscious, pseudo-sophisticated faux enlightenment. And because of the influence it’s having on government in particular and culture more broadly, it’s becoming downright dangerous.

Babu quotes another writer who was robbed that night as saying, “I didn’t ultimately think that person posed a threat. I didn’t feel afraid of the person; I felt more just afraid of the weapon.”

And there it is. The case for gun control, once again. What euphemistic, self-conscious romanticization of violent criminal behavior would be complete without the smuggled in lecture based on the premise, “People don’t kill people; guns do”?

It seems that Babu really means it, or at least claims to mean it. She experienced a crime herself, but still excuses the criminal. It’s hard to imagine what’s worse: That she merely wants others to think she means it, or that she really means it.

The reason I call such thinking dangerous is that its dominance will ultimately lead to the banning of weapons for self-protection, at which point criminals (along with government, more often criminal itself these days) will have the ultimate power over the innocent and peace-loving individual who simply wishes to be left alone. It’s also dangerous thinking because to excuse and seek to “understand” criminals in the way Babu means is to provide such people with precisely the type of moral and psychological atmosphere which they require to survive. Babu and her enlightened progressive allies in academia and government believe they have discovered something new, but criminals have been at exploitation for a very long time.

Babu notes that “many of us in the group agreed that in some respects we identified more with our robber than with the characters we were portrayed to be” in media stories about the crime.

I’ll bet they did agree on this — in the group. That’s because rational and objective thinking rarely occurs in a group, at least not a group of idiotic pseudo-sophisticates like Babu; and rational, objective thinking never originates in a group, because there is no collective brain.

Here we have the most revealing aspect of the mindset behind criminal excuse making. It’s kind of like a woman who has a “bad boy” syndrome, where she falls in love with bad men and finds herself romantically attracted to them precisely because they are bad. In her mind and psychology, objectively bad (yes, there is such a thing) is actually good.

This is the sort of psychology and mentality to which we’re subjecting our laws about guns, our attitudes about police and ultimately our view about criminals.

It’s dangerous but also sick and sad.

Look at what’s happening here: A bad boy-loving neurotic, posing before her progressive friends in some coffee shop, claiming to understand the true plight of the criminal to the point where she can forgive his assaults on her, and perhaps (deep down) even longs for such assaults.

Do you still wonder why so much is going crazy? It’s because we’re letting out-of-touch neurotics do our thinking for us, whether it comes to gun control, crime, or just about anything else.

— Dr. Michael Hurd is a psychotherapist, columnist and author of “Bad Therapy, Good Therapy (And How to Tell the Difference)” and “Grow Up America!” Visit his website at: www.DrHurd.com.