Monday, July 28, 2008

Fence Jumping

On the issue of pets. I've been telling people that the one trait we are collectively breeding into dogs is the ability to jump fences.

My parents don't have a dog proof backyard, so Coco spends her days in doors.

Last week I was talking with a neighbor about the problem and how much I wish Coco had the experience of a backyard. We put Coco in the backyard with an 8 foot high fence (and a 6 foot high gate). 15 minutes into the experience Coco escaped. I assume she lept over the gate.

When we lived in Denver, our neighbors had a male dog with a distinctive ring around an eye. It was adept at fence jumping. Sure enough, dozens of litters of puppies mysteriously appeared at households that were oh so good about keeping their female dog in the back yard. They all had the same mysterious ring around the eye.

With each passing generation (dog generations are only about two years), dogs are getting better at fence jumping.

Of course the thing we really have to worry about is the day when one of the millions of pups in this country figures out how to open doors. That pup will spawn a new species of canine.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Fixing the Pet Crisis

I used to be a big advocate of pet adoptions. I thought that, if enough people adopted unwanted pets, then we could humanely solve the pet overpopulation crisis. Unfortunately, a large number of people who have adopted pets have found themselves saddled with expenses that they are not able to handle.

Well-meaning pet adoption efforts seem to have saturated the community's ability to care for pets. As many pet adopters were feeding their pets on credit, the recent mortgage mess has created a perfect storm situation where households are forced to give up pets in a market that simply cannot absorb more homeless pets. Pundits have taken to calling this crisis "foreclosure pets."

With so many households in stress, pet adoption is not a viable path out of the crisis. The massive pet adoption industry that encouraged people to adopt pets on credit seems to have created an even deeper crisis. I actually feel bad about my past efforts to encourage pet adoption as a solution to pet overpopulation.

In some cases, pet adoptions and pet rescue efforts enable inhumane treatment of animals. For example, greyhound rescue efforts save dog racers the cost of caring for older dogs. The walking-talking-slugs that breed pitbulls for fights use pitbull rescue efforts as a dumping ground for dogs that aren't prime for fighting.

It is a difficult task to organize a charity so that it isn't an enabler for the problem the charity wishes to address.

Anyway, I just penned a review of no more homeless pets.

Past versions of the review lauded people for adopting homeless pets. This version of the review loudly rings the bell for fixing pets. The review emphasizes the costs associated with pet ownership and condemns people who don't fix their pet for saddling the community at large with the cost of caring for our excessive pet population.

Pets consume an inordinate amount of food and fuel. Dogs and cats feed from the same food chain as humans. The recent trend to convert food to bio-fuels is straining the food chain. There are already reports of food shortages in poorer parts of the world.

There is a moral issue involved in converting food to fuel (The issue is especially pronounced in regards to government subsidies for bio-fuels). The fact that we are converting food to fuel creates a secondary issue of feeding out bloated pet population in a world facing the scourge of global warming and food shortages.

I contend that pet ownership is an area where we can reduce our consumption of food and energy.

While I still hold that people should adopt pets from the vast reserve of homeless pets before buying animals from pet farms, I no longer see pet adoption as a viable cure for pet overpopulation.

Pet owners have a moral responsibility to control the reproduction of their animals. Fixing pets is the best solution to the problem. I believe that the humane societies of the US would be wise to use the boom of "foreclosure pets" to drive the message that Americans should spay, neuter and reduce our overall pet population.

I am really sad, but the crisis of foreclosure pets will lead to a massive increase in the number of euthanized animals.

In my review I make the claim that every time an irresponsible pet owner lets the dog or cat drop a litter costs society at large some $30,000. Pet owners make a difference when they lead their beloved foofoo on that long walk to the vet for a simple operation.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Stimulating Inflation

I was watching talking heads on TV yammering about the need for a second stimulus package while griping about the sudden emergence of inflation. The talking heads seemed to miss an obvious connection.

We had a stimulous package where the Feds borrowed a pile of cash which came largely from China, oil producing nations. There were also investors who pulled their money out of risky investments in the stock market and in mortgages.

Not surprisingly, after the stimulus packages we saw the value of the dollar drop, and the price of gas skyrocket. As smart investors yanked their capital from risky investments in the stock market and mortgages, the market tanked and the housing crisis worsened as borrowers find that investors would rather own treasury bonds than investing in housing.

It appears to me that the stimulus package was a qualified and quantifiable flop.

Of course, not all of the economic news is bad. Apparently, many Americans have taken conservation to heart and they reduced their fuel consumption. The result is that oil inventories rose when the pundits were predicting a decline. Oil prices tumbled on that news last week.

Energy is currently the limiting factor for growth. Each and every step that we take to reduce the waste of energy at this point in history has a magnifying effect. The Pelosi stimulus failed to address the problem. In fact, one might argue that the artificial stimulus simply subsidized bad behavior.

Anyway, since Nancy Pelosi voted for inflation, I decide to inflate my prices. I decided to increase the listing fee for SL Sites from $10 to $12. That is a nice round 20%. Art organizations, non-profits, content sites and blogs can still list for free.

I actually wrote the program so that I can easily adjust the price. Since I figure that the Democrats will have complete control of Congress and the White House, I programmed the site so that it will automatically inflate the price at a rate 20% a year.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

School Monopolies and Monoculturism

This post has two sections: an examination of the Tolerance Paradox and a part on the rise of the Public School Monopoly.

The Tolerance Paradox

My last post was about the accusation that America, as a whole, was monocultural. I argue that the United States has been far more accomodating of cultural diversity than other nations. In being accomodating of other cultures, we have also been accomodating of the prejudices from these cultures. Notably, the European settlers in the United States tended to maintain their European bias.

BTW, one of the many examples of the reflexive paradox is the observation that a tolerant government would be tolerant of individual prejudices. It is also the nature of Democratically elected governments to reflect the collective prejudices of the people. It is not uncommon for politicians in a free society to encourage the development of prejudices to gain political power. BTW, there has never been a political party that was free of prejudices in some form or another. Anyone foolish enough to believe their political group is free of prejudice is deluded. Those who are intolerant of intolerance are, themselves, intolerant.

On the issue of paradox. Paradoxes lead immediately to conflict. The tolerance paradox means that there is a conflict between American ideals and the actions of individuals. There is not a resolution of the tolerance paradox. We can and should denounce politicians who try to use intolerance (it is myriad of forms) to gain political power. Yet, we must realize that one never achieves their ideals.

The Public School Monopoly

Last week the Cato Podcast had a conversation with Neal McClusky (right click and select "save" to download MP3) notes that a driving factor for the establishment of a progressive public school monopoly was a belief that a democracy must have a monoculture to survive. The type of thinking that led to the establishment of the present public school monopoly was very much in sync with the thinking of Hegelian/Marxist mindset that dominated Europe in the 1900s and led to two world wars and vast killing fields.

For that matter, the desire to socialize children and give them all identical educations is routinely used in arguments against charter and private schools ... as we saw in last year's voucher debate.

The American founders did not include instructions on how to set up a public school monopoly in our Constitution. For that matter, one could argue that the present day politically charged public school monopoly is anathema to the beliefs of the founders.

The odd thing is that the public school monopoly, which from its inception was set up to establish a monoculture, markets itself as a bastion of multiculturism, and attacks mainstream America for monoculturism.

The marketing isn't that odd. Exxon/Mobile advertises itself as a bastion of environmental concern and has spent more money on environmental remediation than any other company. The odd thing is that so many people fall for the line.


A free society will never rid itself of intolerance. (Free people are free to point out prejudice when they find it, but there is no way to force people from holding intolerant positions without intolerance.) A tolerant society seeks to protect its citizens, but does not seek to control their minds.

As for the state of tolerance, Americans have been fared better than the majority of cultures throughout history. We are still far from our ideal and there is room for improvement.

As for the charge of monoculturism in America, I would point out that the leading source of monoculturalism today is the public school monopoly. Claims that the school monopoly is a source of multiculturalism is the same as saying that Exxon is the standard bearer of environmental action.

Monday, July 14, 2008

The So Called American Monoculture

Recently, a prominent progressive presidential candidate, who I will not mention, derided Americans for not learning other languages.

It just so happens that I am an elitist bilingual snit, and multilingualism is something that I've been interested in for some time.

Have you every noticed that an extremely large number of people around the world seem to be able to learn passable English, while it is rare for Americans to muster a passable stab at speaking other languages?

The common notion is that the monolingual status of America is some sort of sign that there is something wrong with America. A common response to the difficulties Americans have mastering other languages is that there must be something wrong with our country.

I put forward that the reason for this oddity is the result of The United States having one of the most diverse cultures and the interesting observation that English is the most heterogeneous languages in the history of mankind.

More importantly, as a nation of immigrants, Americans have developed a tolerant ear toward people learning English. Americans are more willing to let people get by with grammatical mistakes than many other languages.

There is also something really bizarre about English grammar and vocabulary. English allows more gramatical constructs and has a more cosmopolitan vocabulary than other languages. The English vocabulary has some 500,000 words compared to 100,000 words in French or 125,000 words in German.

I used to think that the massive vocabulary would make English hard to learn. Actually it does the opposite.

The vast majority of words that exist in French (and other romance languages such as Spanish and Italian) also exist in English. A French speaker need simply learn a few basic English verbs, English pronunciation and, voila, they are speaking passable English.

An American wanting to learn French will find it extremely difficult to directly translate the myriad of weird English language constructs into French. I've found that I can speak with a French student who has had only one year of English; whereas an English speaker needs multiple years of training to speak passable French.

Of course, the primary reason that English is easy to learn is that the immigration friendly United States has a tolerant ear for English newbies.

Homogenous countries like France and Germany are less likely to lend a tolerant ear to newcomers.

The United States numbers among the most tolerant nations in history. The reason that jabs at American monoculture have such a strong impact is that many Americans wish we were even more tolerant. When the progressive politician attacked Americans for monoculturism, the audience cheered. A true monoculture would not cheer. The reason that this clown's attack worked is because America has never been a monoculture and never even aspired to being a monoculture.

Americans might be accused of having a Eurocentric world view. The American mononculture is largely a fantasy conjured up by the left.

I guess I will end the post with personal experience: I learned French in high school and college. I then spent six months touring France sur la bicyclette. I was having an extremely hard time speaking with French people.

During the trip, I hooked up with a group of Canadians. The Canadians couldn't speak a lick of French, but wore clothes that proudly screamed Canada.

When I was with the Canadians, the native French speakers suddenly could understand everything I said. They also spoke with greater clarity making it easier for me to understand them.

Anyway, if you plan on trying your college French in France, you should begin conversations with the simple phrase: je suis de Canada.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Deconstructing the Construction

700 East BridgeI took a picture of the installation of the I80 700 East Bridge. They built the bridge by the side of the interstate and are moving it inplace with a block and tackle arrangement. The bridge is massive. The freeway will have four lanes in both direction. 700 South has three traffic lanes along with left turn lanes.

Salt Lake County LibraryThe Columbus Library on 500 East in South Salt Lake sports a mission style facade with red tile roofing. The building says "Columbus School." I wonder if it was part of the Columbus Community Center?

Salt Lake County LibraryAfter taking pictures of the bridge, I headed downtown for some errands, then took a small number of shots including the Grand American Hotel. The downtown construction. It looks like the second Key Bank tower is slated for destruction.

If I were wise, I would be spending more time following and taking photos of the two billion dollar demolition and reconstruction of downtown Salt Lake. Oddly, the big reconstruction doesn't captivate me. I prefer plans that evolve with time to grand schemes than in big politically charged development efforts.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Role of Dialectics

Buy Aristotle's Children at Overstock.comIn the work Aristotle and His Children, Richard Rubenstein makes a compelling case that appreciation for Aristotelian analysis leads to prosperity. History seems to present a series of awakenings where a group realizes the power of logic. The society would have a Renaissance of culture and would suddenly find itself dominating the world.

This Renaissance is not unique to Western culture. The Islamic world had a brief flirtation with Aristotelian style logic and became the dominant player in the Middle East and North Africa.

Unfortunately, in most cases, the flirtation ended when the ruling class realized that there was no logical justification for their domination of the people. In an effort to kick the ladder behind them, the ruling class would repress logical thought, and the society would fall into decline.

I believe that America found the way out of the cycle by granting liberty to the people. Unfortunately, as people are prone to fall for vacuous calls for nebulous change, I believe that we could very well lose our edge.

The NEA and American Left was instrumental is removing logic from the Public School curriculum. We should be extremely angry. The low quality education being pushed by the leftist thugs dominating the public schools could well push America into a state of mediocrity!!!!!!!! The ongoing attack on reason by the progressive left and reactionary right is preceisely what happened in each of the major declines in civilizations.

Ranting aside, I just added a section to my profile of Aristotle titled The Dialectical Argument.

In my opinion, one of the key elements to the success of Aristotelian thinking is the placement of the dialectical argument. Dialectics is used to clarify definition and to hone propositions. Dialectics is no longer the central focus of reason.

The game of the thugs of the world (Hegel, Marx, Dewey, Chomsky, Hitler, Stalin, Lakoff, Soros, Russell, etc.) is to force dialectical arguments into the center of reason.

In classical thought, Aristotle was not a revolutionary replacement of Plato. Aristotle's logic built upon what came before. The classical ideal believed in a gradual improvement of knowledge, and not the thrashing between extremes which people is encouraged in the present day.

Reading Philosophy

I don't know why I am doing this, but I've been throwing large number of hours into rereading the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle.

At first, Plato's dialectical style of writing appears more intriguing. He bounces from topic to topic, and explores multiple sides of every issue. You can read Plato two millennia after the writing and get the impression that he is saying something relevant to today.

The problem is that it is all but impossible to pin down precisely what Plato is saying.

Aristotle's writing is terse. It is often boring direct observations of nature. The premisses that Aristotle derives from his observations are statements that can either be proven or disproven. A very large number of premisses attributed to Aristotle have been disproven.

I find that I prefer the Aristotelian approach. I think there is greater value in statements that you can pin down and answer "yes/no" as to whether or not the statement is true than in statements that make the speaker of the statement sound profound.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Incredibly Shrinking Salt Lake

The Tribune has an article on the shrinking Salt Lake City. Salt Lake City has been on a steady decline since the 70s. It shrank both under the ineptitude of DeeDee and under the dominion of Rocky. This last round of shrinkage is surprising because, in the latter half of Rocky's dominion, the city allowed a small number of extremely rich, extremely well connected developers to put in high density housing so that they servants would have a place to live.

Stuart Reid says the shrinking city was the result of Rocky Anderson's alienating the LDS. There may be some truth. I think the problem isn't just religious. Rocky's Salt Lake was hostile to all members of the middle class.

I think a better explanation is the tight zoning in the city that prevents people from being able to improve their properties. The way housing used to work is that homes would expand, contract and subdivide during people's natural lifecycle. People might add on a bedroom as the kids aged. They would split off an apartment when the kids went away.

Likewise, businesses would expand and contract.

The very fact that Salt Lake was counting on condos built by well connected developers for growth is a sign that the city has an unhealthy vision for its growth. Talking to home owners and small business owners, The Democratically dominated city has created layers of nightmare for anyone wanting to improve their properties. The only way development can occur in Salt Lake is for the property owner to allow the property to deteriorate so that their block can be zoned RDA. Of course, only the most politically connected can pull off an RDA development.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Portable Classroom

Workers were removing the portable classrooms from Churchill Junior High School. A few years back, Wasatch Junior High School burnt down. I assume this means that the new Wasatch school is up and running. I understand the new building includes an innovative concept called sprinklers.

Here are shots of the moving building:

Portable Classroom ~ Portable Classroom ~ Portable Classroom ~ Portable Classroom

Monday, July 07, 2008

Plato's Page

The page on Plato is just over 1000 words. The idea that I wanted to convey is that the Platonic Academy made great advances in knowledge. The idea behind the academy was that there was a hierarchy of pre-existing forms behind mathematical, ethical and governance concepts.

The idea kind of makes sense in mathematics since geometry, algebra, number theory and other mathematical structures seem to converge on the same ideas.

Their idea was that they would discover the forms through the Socratic Method. The problem, of course, is that the dialogues are all artificial constructs. For every dialogue that leads from a relative idea to a universal idea, there is a reverse dialogue that leads from the universal back to the relative. Different dialogues can lead to different universals.

Essentially, The Academy used unfettered open inquiry to develop a wonderful collection of ideas in their mind. The problem, of course, is that The Academy would have to use negative means of manipulation and coercion to propagate their ideas.

Platonic thought sets up Western Culture for cycles of tragedy. There would be a spree of open inquiry where the thinkers would develop a new set of ideas. The open enquiry ends as the avantgarde of this group imposes its set of ideas on everyone. At some point the imposed ideas get so repressive that there is a rebellion that brings on a new spat of open inquiry followed by the oppressive imposition of the new ideas of new think.

I believe that classical liberalism found a way out of this cycle. At this point in the work I want to convey the way in which unfettered open inquiry in the style of Socrates and Plato leads to totalitarian thinking as the group that engaged in the inquiry seek to impose their view on the world.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Sites Down

Sego Lily
I use three different discount webhosts in different cities. All three went down this last week. The host of the Rich Theory project has been down for 24 hours. I guess they had July 4th off.

I suspect that the host had something catastrophic happen. Which probably means that I lost stuff.

I might move the site. The problem is that, when a webhost has outages for over a day, everyone pulls their sites and the host goes under.

On the bright side, I found a Sego Lily in Neff Canyon. I've never seen one there before. Sego Lilies don't make sense. They have more flower than plant.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Fourth of July

Today is the day that the little people celebrate "A Fourth of July."

As your intellectual superior, I feel obliged to point out that we've only progressed through a seventh of the month so far. We won't be through a fourth of July until the seventh and ...

... hey, why are you throwing watermelon at me? I just was trying to educate these people ...

Anyway, the important holiday in Utah is the twenty-fourth of July ... a twenty-fourth of July would have happened early in the morning on the second ... and ...

Hey, why are you throwing green jello at me?

I give up.

The Fourth of July, after all, is a day when Americans celebrate the day when the Founders of the US explained to their "intellectual superiors" what they thought of intellectual superiority.

Celebrate when you want to.

Just remember ... fire crackers release greenhouses gasses that lead to global warming ... and ...

... hey, watch where you are aiming that Roman Candle ...

Happy Fourth of July.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Cats and Dogs

Perhaps Michelle Obama is right. Perhaps we are becoming a mean base nation.

I was on a walk with Coco up Neff Canyon when we came across a big old yellow cat in the middle of the trail.

Since I had my camera with me, I decided to unleash Coco to see what she would do.

The yellow cat was pretty big; So, I figured it could take care of itself.

While processing the pictures for my web site it dawned on me. I had just unleashed a dog on a cat for the express purpose of taking a photo for my web site.

I wonder if this is how Michael Vicks got started?

The cat wasn't moving after Coco had her way with it. I examined the yellow cat. It obviously belonged to someone who had spent time taking care of it.

I am a bit ashamed of my actions. But, I figure the damage is done; So, is the picture: Coco Confronts a Cat.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Platonic Forms

Plato was a superb mathematician. In mathematics (especially in geometry) you can imagine abstract shapes with extremely well defined properties. One amazing thing about mathematics is that you can approach the subject from a large number of different perspectives and come back to many of the same forms. So, if you started math by studying numbers, you would discover many of the same things that you would have discovered if you started with geometry.

Needless to say, mathematics leads itself easily to logical analysis as Euclid would later demonstrate.

It is possible that Plato thought he would be able to find the same type of well defined forms in matters of ethics and political theory. His version of the Socratic dialogues seemed to be aiming at finding universal definitions of ethical issues.

The problem, of course, is that, when people engage in Socratic like dialogues, they can come up with all sorts of bizarre definitions for ethical terms. For example, a state of peace would happen after I kill all of my enemies. Therefore, my killing my enemies is an act of peace. (Many of the modern groups claiming Peace and Social Justice have very bizarre definitions of peace and social justice).

Here is what I see: When you do free form open enquiry about mathematics, you keep coming back to the same forms. When you do open enquiry about matters of ethics, you end up with a bunch of disparate and conflicting definitions.

From this observation, I would say that people can be loosy goosy in the logic they use when studying math, but that people need to be more disciplined in their study of ethics, politics and legal matters. For diplomacy to work, there must be a concerted effort to make sure that people are using the same definitions.

When mathematicians use different definitions, it generally becomes obvious because people keep coming back to the same basic Platonic forms.

Mathematics is bizarre. It is a subject that benefits when people engage in totally free form open enquiry. It is a subject that benefits when people run off into a corner and create a new language to describe the subject. What happens is that this open enquiry comes back to the same basic forms. The people creating a new language for math sometimes uncover things that the last language missed.

The same free form open enquiry does not work in politics. When the political class use different definitions, they end up creating a warring divisive society.

Politics, ethics and many areas of physical science require much more discipline than mathematics.

What is interesting about the modern era is that the intellectuals came up with needlessly terse method of talking about mathematics called symbolic logic, and they ripped the study of informal logic from the classroom.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Schools of Athens

I decided to read Copplestone's History of Philosophy before popping up the next two articles.

One thing that struck me was the large number of independent schools that were concurrent with Socrates and Plato. Many were all run by the much maligned "sophists."

It was not until Aristotle started his own Lyceum that his work on scientific enquiry matured.

Legend tells us that the sophists had self-destructive philosophies ranging from relativism to outright hedonism. Of course, most of what we have was written in Plato's academy in refutation of the competition. This is a bit like basing one's opinion on private schools based on the disinformation pushed out by the teachers' union.

Another explanation for the many sophist schools is that they were started and run by [gasp] middle class Athenians who were trying to prepare their children for participation in the Athenian democracy.

Yes, such schools would teach students to argue from their perspective and would be geared to helping the little people with their little lives. Ideas that any self-respecting academic would hold in contempt.

There was clearly a major leap in the quality of the thinking between Socrates and Aristotle. I am thinking that this happened because, and not inspite of the diversity of schools.