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Archive for August, 2011

I feel a responsibility to proclaim the value of this freedom and to teach that doubt is not to be feared, but that it is to be welcomed as the possibility of a new potential for human beings.  If you know that your are not sure, you have a chance to improve the situation.  I want to demand this freedom for future generations.
   —  Richard P. Feynman
 from his book: ” The Meaning Of It All
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I have the opportunity
Once more to right some wrongs,
To pray for peace, to plant a tree,
And sing more joyful songs!
 —  William Arthur Ward
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I have completely run out of organized ideas, but I have a large number of uncomfortable feelings about the world which I haven’t been able to put into some obvious, logical, and sensible form.
   —  Richard P. Feynman
from his book: “The Meaning Of It All
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We have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world; duties that we do not grudgingly accept, but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.
 —   President Obama
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The following conversation has been lifted from Facebook.  It was started by my cousin Adrian’s posting of a speech by Tom Woods at Mises University. Basically, he’s hustling his latest book and using the libertarian university as a forum for promoting his views on Austrian economics.  At any rate, I watched the entire speech (52 minutes) and he’s a pretty good salesman – both for his book and for his “snake oil”.  That’s obviously a derogatory term – and it is meant to be.  As a speaker he provides just enough facts so a non-informed person will agree / recognize truth (“establish comfort in the audience”) before he pokes fun at his adversary (they must be wrong because they’re silly and I must be correct because I’m funny) and then delivers his “ultimate” truth – the solution to the world’s (and your) problems.
Lacking the intellectual integrity to present the strengths of the opposing view and the weaknesses of his own position, you (the viewer) are left to research this background before you can make your own informed decision of the validity of his ideas.  But then again, if you’re at the speech, you’re probably already familiar with Woods background and you’re aware he wants to get rid of some Constitutional amendments and return to the Constitution as it was intended by the Founders / Framers. In fact, although not stated in his speech, Woods’ actual position is he would like to get rid of the Constitution and return to the Articles of Confederation.
Anyone interested in researching either Mises University (Institute) or Tom Woods may click through to:
http://mises.org/
http://www.tomwoods.com
Anyway, the following is the conversation I had with my cousin and a Facebook friend of his (Ron Gawthorp) – the only editing is the removal of times posted and Like’s – oh, and I underlined the titles of two books:
Kevin Barrett
Woods makes a number of interesting comments (one of which is what “caused” the California energy crises).  When you investigate them though they are either incorrect or an interpretation of selective factors which he wishes to emphasize to support his economic (Austrian) view of the world.
Woods claims it was “government” regulation/deregulation interfering with the market.  This is true as far as it goes, but it is questionable whether this was the core cause of the problem.  I believe the government acted to protect the interests of the utility companies and large users of electricity (corporations) instead of the household retail purchaser of energy.  The companies merely acted in their own self-interest and they couldn’t care less about individuals.  But again, this is just a single factor.
“What I can measure exists.”
“You can’t manage what you don’t measure.”
You continue to post these speeches by “libertarian” and Austrian economists.  While I understand (and sympathize) with the view we need as small a government as possible.  To me, that means “to achieve the goals we as a society agree to in a democratic election”, not “no government at all because governments are inherently diabolical”.
Ron Gawthorp
Certainly there must be regulation.  A ‘government’ without regulation is no government at all.
Liberals chant “you can’t legislate morality” while at the same disconnected moment demanding government control of everything.
But there must be a body that governs.  However, the framers of the constitution created a government with limits.  Democratic elections shouldn’t be allowed to result in a fundamental change in the constitution just because of an election.  At some point (as has happened to the US over time), the nature of the country becomes drastically different from what the framers intended.
Kevin Barrett
The problem with Austrian economics is it surrenders to the idea that economics and society are too complex to measure and quantify.
It is observational and lacks predictive value.  These are not “bad” and do not make the ideas, theories and conclusions themselves incorrect or invalid.  It simply makes them less useful (to me) in helping to manage (going forward) or understand the world we live in (or hope to live in).
Austrian economics proposes “here are some observations we can all agree on (axioms), but the world is too complex for us to measure, so let’s all agree on my interpretation of the observations and do this.  But the reality is – we don’t agree on the observations or the causes of the observations – they are not axioms or axiomatic.  AND because they are not (axioms) and you don’t agree we can measure the complex real world, we can neither agree on what we do see nor agree on what we can measure to plan/manage the future.
For example, even if I agree with the objections about the Fed and fractional-reserve banking, the theory offers (and is unable to offer) any explanation for the economic collapses which have occurred throughout history PRIOR to either the Fed or F-R banking.  Again, it neither explains prior occurrences nor allows us to predict the future.  What good is it as a theory if it only proves itself with 20-20 hindsight?
Pls provide a list of three or four substantive/authoritative references so I can familiarize myself with the Austrian side of the argument.
Incidentally, I do NOT consider libertarianism to be the same as this.  I quite agree with much of what libertarians believe, particularly on defense and social issues.  I am surprised that you do (say you are libertarian) as you seem to be supportive of pro-government interference in abortion and gay marriage.
Kevin Barrett
Hi Ron,
I AM a liberal (and I know many liberals) and very few of us chant “you can’t legislate morality”.  Of course you can – see the 18th Amendment.  The problem is it doesn’t make for good law or public policy.
The framers of the Constitution recognized there will always be conflicting aims/groups in society – executives tend to become dictators, representatives tend to anarchy and mass rule, and senates tend to support the status quo and do nothing or inhibit the other two to the benefit of the current elite.  There is supposed to be tension in our form of government.  It is (was) built into the system.  This was the founders way of ensuring liberty through the competition of ideas in an open market (regular elections).
Democratic elections are the ONLY legitimate way of changing the Constitution and they must be allowed to continue to do so.  Do not misinterpret my statement.  I do NOT mean the election itself.  I mean the election of representatives (executive, reps and senate) and their following the Constitutional process for amending the Constitution.
I only partially agree with your statement that the “nature of the country becomes drastically different from what the framers intended”.  For example, the Framers never “intended” for Senators to be elected by the people.  They intended for the State governments to elect the Senators.  This means if you controlled the State, you could “elect” whomever you wanted to the Senate.  We amended the constitution so this would be by popular vote (rather than representative vote).
This did not change the nature of the country nor reflect a change in the nature of the county.  The country remains a representative federal democracy (republic).  What changed was the general opinion, that individuals could make the decision of who should represent them in the Senate, as opposed to trusting the State government (“our betters”) to put forward their choice for us.  I view this as more freedom, not less – even though it is not what the Framers “intended” (agreed to).
Adrian Vincent Yanez
Your interpretation of events is the one that was offered by the people who wanted to remove the power to appoint senators from the State.  The actuality is this.  The founders wrote the constitution with the appointment of senators by state legislature because they new that a Senator would have an extended term of six years, effectively leaving the electorate without elective recourse to control that senator and his policies for his term.  The state legislator who voted for the appointment of a senator had a term of 2 years and hence the electorate had recourse to discipline the senator indirectly by not re-electing any legislator who voted for a senator who, in the mind of the electorate, had not honored the wishes of the electorate.
Adrian Vincent Yanez
It changed the character of the republic by concentrating the power to central control.  Hence, we have since seen senators and representatives who are moved about the country to run for offices in locales that they have no real connection to.
Adrian Vincent Yanez
Please pick up a copy of “The Charitable Anathema” by Dietrich von Hildebrand.
Ron Gawthorp
I’m not liberal, and I’m not so much conservative.  I’m Catholic.  That certainly puts me more in the conservative group, even though I accept very few things entirely except for the Catholic Church and her teachings.
At what point does the country become a socialist republic?  How large does the government have to become?  How much does the government have to own?
Ron Gawthorp
I don’t agree with everything Woods says about government, but his work on the Church is outstanding.  If you haven’t read “How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization“, I highly recommend it to see how the Church laid out the framework for just systems of governance, and how we all take for granted that our way of life in the West (whether or not we know it) is indebted to the Church.
Kevin Barrett
Adrian,
No, actually, my “interpretation” is from a study of political science for over thirty years.  And, yes, the amendment was “meant” to decrease the power of lifetime politicians at the state level appointing cronies to the Senate.  It was not meant to weaken the states as the states kept the same number of senators in the Senate.  The states all had various lengths of terms for their legislatures so your argument of the time factor for re-electing state representative is nonsensical.  In any case, do you seriously believe you (the state rep) getting turned out after two years mattered to me (the senator)?  Indirect influence… what an amusing concept!!
The founders on the other had wrote the Constitution the way they did because they wanted a stabilizing force in Congress at the national level.  Most of them did not trust the “common man” to vote correctly on issues they had little time or inclination to study.  The House of Reps was meant to be the populace house – where the riff-raff could be elected and have their say.  That’s why they have the two-year re-election.  Election by the state legislature was meant to promote the idea of States supporting the Senate’s actions.  Finally, election by the legislature removed the requirement to campaign for office.  Whichever party was in control of the state would “appoint” its Senator.  Supposedly, this left a Senator “free” to contemplate the great issues of the day without being accountable to the common voter.
There are also the historical (limited) communications factors which we don’t need to cover here.
I do not disagree with your point the amendment changed the government.  It shifted power from the States legislatures to the peoples of the various States.  My point above still is true – you only get two per State.  Your second statement about “moved” to get elected is irrelevant as we have always had “carpetbaggers” running for office.  The fact that some do it for a national office is no different than doing it for mayor or governor.  So what point are you trying to make?  And they “move”, they are not “moved”.  Each state gets two. As for the House of Reps getting redistricted…  That’s a completely different conversation.
Are you recommending “The Charitable Anathema” for economic understanding or religious?
And yes, I am aware this issue is being pushed by the “Tea Party”.  What a surprise it is that they want democracy removed from the hands of the actual voters and re-instated in the State legislatures.  It removes that whole “nasty” business about campaigning to be elected, doesn’t it?
As for amending the Constitution to return the country to “founding principles” (I believe that is a Tea Party claim) – as a principle – the founders set the Constitution up to be flexible – but not easily.  If you’re going to criticize the Amendments, why do you stop with just the ones you object to?  Why not get rid of them all?  The founders wanted a strong Federal government.  That’s why the Bill of Rights were NOT in the Constitution.  The amendments were meant to limit the power of the Federal government.  They still do.  Do you really want to return to the bedrock Constitution?  Do you want to give up freedom of speech, the press, the right to bear arms and to not be forced to testify against yourself?
No, thank you!!  I prefer to not amend the Constitution and to keep my right to vote for my Senators…
Kevin Barrett
Ron,
I am a lifetime Democrat – progressive on many social issues, conservative on many defense/security issues.  I am a Roman Catholic and practicing.  I “returned” to my faith about 10 years ago when I had a crisis, prayed to God, and God delivered me.
The Church is an institution of men.  As such, it has all the frailties and failings of man (hence the recent sex scandals and cover-ups).  But it is also guided by the Hands of God and the Holy Spirit.  Over time, God moves it (and us) to greater acts of truth, kindness, tolerance, love and acceptance of others.
There are lots of minor things I’d like to see or go back to – I’d like to have a Mass in Latin every once in a while.  Not because it is better than English or Spanish or Polish, but because it was a common Lingua Franca and I drew comfort from the thought I could go anywhere in the world and still understand what was going on in the Mass at any given moment.
I have monitored my cousin’s postings and his friends and I find them amusing (but also strangely hurtful to me).  I do not know how God will judge me (hopefully with loving forgiveness), let alone how he may judge others.
I do know I prefer to have the priest facing me and in the center of the church (although both took getting used to).  Particularly since my return to the faith, I find seeing the host and wine increases my faith rather than diminishes it.
Adrian commented (in another post) about this (the current Mass) being lateral instead of vertical.  I can see this point of view.  I simply don’t agree with it and pray for him (my cousin) because our common faith (lateral) IS focused on the transfigured Body and Blood as the priest raises it to God the Father and says: “This is the Lamb of God…”
We are looking at Jesus being lifted up to the Father – a link between us and a symbol of God’s continuing love and renewed contract with Man.
So, yes, I much prefer the current celebration to the “hiding” of the Host behind the priest when they faced away from the people.
As for dancing in “modern” celebrations – no, I can’t stand it either.  I personally find it ego gratification by the dancers and their families; but I admit, I’m an old fuddy-duddy and think there are appropriate times for dance – just not during the Mass.  I also don’t care for the congregational responses during Christmas and Easter Masses. But, again, that’s just me.
I ask only that you (and cousin Adrian) pray for me as well.  We will each be judged by our own faith and acts (but a few extra prayers never hurts).
I don’t know what tipping point makes us a “socialist republic”.  I don’t know how large the government has to become.  I don’t know how much the government should own.  But in the end, as we are the government, I want a government able to protect us from other governments.  I want clean air, water and earth. I want safe roads and airways.  I want a safe work environment.  I want my employer to contribute 6.5% ON TOP OF my salary towards my retirement.  Actually, I want more than that, but it’s a good minimum.  I want a professional fire department and police.  I want safe food and someone working to stop new (and old) diseases and warning me when terrible storms are coming.
If those things make me a socialist (I don’t think they do!), then I guess I’m a socialist.
I also want a government which supports education for ALL.  I want everyone to have the opportunity to maximize their individual contribution to our country.  I want higher estate taxes, because you can’t take it with you and your kids didn’t earn it – you and your wife did.  I want to earn as much as I can – by my thrift and by my labor, but most of all by my opportunity and my ability.  If I have to “earn” 10 million dollars to take home 1 million, then I will.  Because it is
Kevin Barrett
‎(Sorry, hit the wrong key…)
Because it is by God’s graces that I have the ability, the opportunity, the education and the freedom of my American birthright to earn that much money… and 1 million dollars is still 50 times more than someone else with less ability and opportunity (luck) will ever earn.  So why am I belly-aching about being taxed 90%.
Believe it or not, back in President Eisenhower’s day, the tax rate for the highest income was 90%.  And yet, we still had people getting rich.  How ever did they manage under such a Socialist government?
Kevin Barrett
Ron,
If I can find Wood’s book at the library or used I will read it.  I would not normally pay for this type of book (Austrian economics or Libertarian politics or religion) new unless I feel it is a classic in it’s field.  I will look for it based on your recommendation.
Note: I did not try to “classify” the type of religious book this may be.  From viewing my Wood’s speech on government and my cousin’s other Facebook entries, I can only assume it (the book) will be “ultra” conservative.  While I feel the Church is subject to review by both the “liberals” (which I don’t consider myself to be) and the “conservatives” (which I also am not) – my impression is some of his postings have contained content which, while well intentioned, have bordered on heresy and Protestantism under the guise of “conservative” Catholicism.
Having made this note, I feel compelled to add it is well known how much the Church, as an institution, contributed to the continuation and growth of Western Civilization – art (painting and sculpture), music and science.  It’s limits and failings (the Inquisition for example) are also well documented.
Still, I believe the Church is guided and protected by the Holy Spirit – “As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord!” (Joshua 24:15)
As an addendum, there is currently no Constitutional method for recalling a member of Congress (or any Federal official) as near as I can tell.  They can be expelled, but as near as I can tell the only way for the populace to get ’em out is to vote ’em out next time around.  A State may pass a law establishing a method for recall, but there is no reason to believe it would survive a court challenge if it (the recall) were successful.  That would almost certainly take a Constitutional Amendment!
And finally, a comment on the use of the word “liberal”.  I am a “Liberal” politically speaking.  I am not a “liberal” religiously speaking; I am commanded (and I honestly try) to “Love my neighbor” and I try not to judge lest I be judged too.  I am happy anytime anyone goes to Church.  I am not happy anytime anyone makes a show of being at Church.  I FIRMLY believe in the separation of Church and State.  I have my doubts about “Liberation Theology”, but if the Church will not defend the poor, the weak, the homeless, the oppressed and the ill – who will?

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One thought can create a million vibrations.
  —  John Coltrane
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What is it to be a good citizen?
It is to acknowledge the other person’s rights before asserting your own, but always to be conscious of your own.
It is to be free in word and deed, but it is also to know that your freedom is subject to the other person’s freedom.
It is to create the useful and the beautiful with you own hands, and to admire what others have created in love and with faith.
It is to produce by labor and only by labor and to spend less than you have produced that your children may not be dependent upon the state for support when you are no more.
  —  Kahlil Gibran
from his book: “Mirrors Of The Soul
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It is our responsibility as scientists, knowing the great progress which comes from a satisfactory philosophy of ignorance, the great progress which is the fruit of freedom of thought, to proclaim the value of this freedom; to teach how doubt is not to be feared but welcomed and discussed; and to demand this freedom as our duty to all coming generations.
  —  Richard P. Feynman
from his book: “What Do You Care What Other People Think
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Book Review:
Today I finished my second book by Richard P. Feynman.  This one is titled: “What Do You Care What Other People Think?”  Again, Dr. Feynman was one of the men who worked on the Manhattan Project.  Feynman’s doctorate is in Physics and he won a Nobel Prize for physics.  This was both a terribly sad and immensely amusing book.  The sad portion dealt with his growing up and the early death of his high school sweet-heart and first wife.  I freely admit to being a big crybaby and her passing and his emotional detachment (temporary) made me break down too.  The majority of the book deals with his work on the Challenger Space Shuttle commission.  There appears to be a fair amount of criticism placed on NASA’s management (which I recall from the time – 1986), but I don’t recall anyone losing their jobs because of the fallout.  The impression of NASA management in the book still rings true about many of the problems we face generally in government and in large businesses today: either management knew of the risks (and they should have) but chose to minimize (i.e. disregard) them and launch anyway; or they knew the risks and lied to the commission about not knowing the risks; or management didn’t know the risks (in which case they were incompetent).
The “amusing” parts of the book are little bits in each chapter which are sometimes self-deprecating, but mostly the observations of a man standing outside a system and watching it act irrationally.  Feynman is kind of a cross between Mark Twain and Will Rogers, but with a PhD in Physics.
This is a very fast read and I highly recommend it – for the emotion, the humor and for the science.
Movie Review:
On Monday night, the Giants had the day off for travel so we decided to watch a movie.  Last week, something reminded me of “Driving Miss Daisy“, so I asked Hil if she wanted to watch it.  As it’s one of her favorite movies, I was confident she’d say yes.  To tell the truth, I’ve only seen the movie twice before in its entirety, so I was able to look at it with “fresh” eyes.  Most of it I did not remember at all.  It is a terrific movie!!  Heartwarming and funny, sad and a bit cautionary all rolled into one.  I can see why it won Best Picture that year (1989).
The main storyline is about a wealthy Jewish lady and the twenty five year relationship (friendship) she has with her African-American chauffeur.  Jessica Tandy is the lead and she won Best Actress for the role.  Morgan Freeman plays the chauffeur (Golden Globe Award but not Oscar – he was robbed) and Dan Aykroyd plays the son of Miss Daisy and who is the actual employer of the chauffeur.  Well written, well acted, funny, touching – just a beautiful movie.  Highly recommended!  If you haven’t watched it lately, treat yourself and see it again.
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Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.
  —  Robert Francis Kennedy
[I don’t agree with the words, but I applaud the sentiment.  Sometimes the accumulation of a lot of little things can lead to one great result.  That’s why the Academy Awards have “Lifetime Achievement” awards as well as the annual ones.  —  KMAB]
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Motivation will almost always beat mere talent.
  —  Norman R. Augustine
[“Get up, Rocky!  Get up!”  —  Adrianne Balboa]
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Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.
  —  Dr. Seuss
[Or better yet, because you enjoyed it!  —  KMAB]
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Book Review:
Today I finished “The Meaning Of It All – Thoughts of a Citizen-Scientist“, by Richard P. Feynman (1998©).  The book is a transcript of three lectures Dr. Feynman gave in 1963 at the University of Washington in Seattle.  The lectures are themselves titled: “The Uncertainty of Science“, “The Uncertainty of Values“, and “This Unscientific Age“.  The lectures provide insight into the Dr. Feynman’s (a Nobel laureate in physics) views on the nature and limits of science, religion and politics.
Feynman is one of the men who worked on “The Manhattan Project” which developed the atomic bombs dropped on Japan which ended the war (WWII) in the Pacific.  Feynman’s name is mentioned frequently whenever someone talks about the greatest scientific minds of the 20th century.  It appears from this book, that he has a terrific way with words to go along with his intellect.  The speeches were fairly informal (even amusing – not quite funny), but still offered much to ponder about – particularly about science and religion.
I particularly like his openly stated views on the limits of science in explaining things – basically, science only applies when you can think of a problem and a method of testing the problem for possible solutions.  Science can’t be applied to faith and therefore not to religion.   He accepts that others can find comfort in faith.  As a believer in God, it is refreshing to not be looked down on by someone who is a scientist.  Having said this, it is, I think, important to state that lots of scientists are also religious.
Anyway, the book is fairly short (about 200 pages) and is a very fast read – although as I said, it is full of things you will find yourself thinking about later (or during) after you’ve finished the book.  I know I will.  And, yes, you’ll be seeing some quotes in the coming days.
Movie Review:
Last night, I re-watched “Percy Jackson & the Olympians“.  I’ve read the book series and saw the movie with my son quite some time back.  He saw it at the theater.  I’ve only seen it on DVD.  Anyway, I watched it again to see what I thought.  I had very mixed reactions.  I was less impressed by the acting and more impressed by the special effects.  The story in the movie was less in sync with the book (as I remember it).  All in all, I’d say it was not as good as “Transformers” and about the same as “I Am Number Four“.  Basically, okay, but not great.  Entertaining, but not “I’ll really look forward to watching that again next year.”
Other bits and bobs:
James hung around for a BBQ this evening (Sunday).  I wanted to go out, but he wanted to eat in so I went and got us a couple of pork steaks.  Hil had a beef steak and Sarah had a couple of dogs.  It was real nice just hanging out with him and chatting.
I was chatting with Hil afterwards and we’re going to miss them when they are all gone and we’re on our own.  That’s not to say I’m not looking forward to it, but time does fly and your kids are all up and grown.
Sarah has started junior college and seems to be enjoying it.  She’ll probably be there for three years with all the cutbacks in classes.  Time passes…
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Getting older is no problem.  You just have to live long enough.
  —  Groucho Marx
[Please God, let me!!  — KMAB]
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Until you value yourself, you will not value your time.  Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.
  —  M. Scott Peck
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