"You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out." - William Tecumseh Sherman

Name: The General
Location: Sacramento, California, United States


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Saturday, April 02, 2005
  Three Interesting Links...
I'm currently swamped with work, but I just wanted to point out three links I enjoyed reading today:

Noumenal Self points out an interesting fact about the Pope which I hadn't known before: The Pope and Ayn Rand.

Contemporary History provides a link to Alex Epstein's excellent attack upon the "culture of life", and to an op-ed by former Education Secretary Bill Bennet, defending the arbitrary usurpation of power in the Terri Schiavo Law: Exposing the "Culture of Life"

Diana Hsieh provides some additional evidence of the true nature of the "culture of life": The "Culture of Life" as the Worship of Death
  Too Little, Too Late
From Reuters:
Jane Fonda regrets her visit to a North Vietnamese gun site in 1972, the actress and fitness guru said in an interview with CBS television show "60 Minutes" to be aired on Sunday.

The actress defended her trip to Vietnam in 1972, which won her the nickname "Hanoi Jane." But she said her visit to a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun site used to shoot down U.S. pilots was a "betrayal" of the U.S. military.

"The image of Jane Fonda, Barbarella, Henry Fonda's daughter ... sitting on an enemy aircraft gun was a betrayal," she said, calling the act, "The largest lapse of judgment that I can even imagine."
Having apologized to the men whose deaths and torture she aided and sanctioned, she then proceeds to spit on their graves and in their faces:
But she said she did not regret visiting Hanoi, or being photographed with American prisoners of war there.

"There are hundreds of American delegations that had met with the POWs," she said. "Both sides were using the POWs for propaganda. ... It's not something that I will apologize for."
Friday, April 01, 2005
  One of the Benefits of Reading My Blog
For those of you who've been reading this blog, a small token of my appreciation: I currently possess numerous invites to join Google's GMail. If you'd like a chance to sign up, e-mail me at william.tecumseh.sherman@gmail.com, and I'll send one your way.

As a teaser, GMail is now embarking on a new "Infinity + 1" project, the goal of which is to provide virtually unlimited storage for your inbox (mine is currently at 1,894 Mb and counting). And for those who aren't familiar with GMail, this link will provide you with some good background: Getting Started with Gmail.
Thursday, March 31, 2005
to Gus Van Horn, winner of the Objectivist blogger competition for the first issue of the Undercurrent. Having read his blog extensively, I can attest that he deserves this award!

Congratulations also to everyone involved in the production of the Undercurrent. I just finished reading the first issue over, and I'm very pleased and impressed with the results. Go take a look, it is well worth your time.
  Quote of the Day
It's another day! You know what that means - more ancient Greece!

Ok, but seriously, this quote puts into perspective the attempt by President Bush and the Congress to overrule the courts in the Terri Schiavo case. The Spartans had it way worse; if it seems rather mild at first, keep reading:
The Spartan constitution, which tradition ascribed to an ancient law-giver, Lycurgus, provided for a government preserving the forms of the old Homeric system. Instead of one king, however, there were two, representing separate families of exalted rank. The Spartan sovereigns enjoyed but few powers and those chiefly of a military and priestly character. A second and more authoritative branch of the government was the council, composed of two kings and twenty-eight nobles sixty years of age and over. This body supervised the work of administration, prepared measures for submission to the assembly, and served as the highest court for criminal trials. The third organ of government, the assembly, approved or rejected the proposals of the council and elected all public officials except the kings. But the highest authority under the Spartan constitution was vested in a board of five men known as the ephorate. The ephors virtually were the government. They presided over the council and the assembly, controlled the educational system and the distribution of property, censored the lives of the citizens, and exercised veto power over all legislation. They had power also to determine the fate of new-born infants, to conduct prosecutions before the council, and even to depose the kings if the religious omens appeared unfavorable. The Spartan government was thus very decidedly an oligarchy. In spite of the fact that the ephors were chosen for one-year terms by the assembly, they were indefinitely re-eligible, and their authority was so vast that there was hardly any ramification of the system which they could not control. Moreover, it should be borne in mind that the assembly itself was not a democratic body. Not even the whole citizen class, which was a small minority of the total population, was entitled to membership in it, but only those males of full political status who had incomes sufficient to qualify them for enrollment in the heavy infantry.

- Edward McNall Burns, Western Civilizations: Their History and Their Culture, pg. 155-156
If you've all grown tired of these quotes, take heart! I'm starting another project which will preclude this deluge for at least a week or so. Of course, it involves the Purpose Driven Life, so maybe by next week you'll be begging to hear about something remotely related to Aristotle!
  I've Been Selfish...
and indulged myself by reading a forum rather than blogging. Bad General, Bad! Anyways, there is a very well written post on the issue of the Constitutionality of the Terri Schiavo case, and its implications. It's available on the Forum 4 Ayn Rand Fans, and can be read here (hint: it's the first post, by Free Capitalist!).

Also of interest might be my contribution, which you can read here.
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
  Interesting Link on MGM vs. Grokster
I found this interesting post by Taylor W. Buley on the MGM v. Grokster case. What makes it interesting is that he compares this case to the trial of Hank Rearden, in Atlas Shrugged. In Mr. Buley's view, MGM and the other producers are the Hank Reardens of this case, being exploited and deprived of the benefit of their creation.

While I sympathize with MGM, who is legitimately the victim of an egregious violation of their property rights by some of the users of p2p software, I am not yet convinced that the creators of the software are at fault. The analogy that immediately comes to my mind here is the companies that produce hand guns.

Hand guns have legitimate, and illegitimate uses. The standard of legitimacy is whether the action in question violates individual rights. If a hand gun is used to defend your life from a mugger, this is a valid usage; if it is used to become the mugger, and initiate force against others, this is an illegitimate use. irrespective of the legitimacy of use, the company that produces the hand gun is not responsible for how the gun is used; that responsibility falls upon the individual who uses it. When Brian Nichols gunned down a judge, court stenographer and deputy sheriff, the police did not arrest the makers of the hand gun he used to perpetrate the crime; they arrested Mr. Nichols, who is the responsible individual for the force initiated in this instance.

Similarly, the use that infringes the copyright of MGM and others is an invalid use, which I don't think can be directly attributed to the creators of the software which is used in the infringement. Even if we grant the notion (which I concede probably isn't too far off) that 90% of the use of this software does constitute a violation of copyright, I don't find that sufficient grounds to punish anyone other than the individuals who happen to be violating the copyright.

For those interested in a more detailed (and technical) discussion of this issue, I'd recommend reading the decision issued by the 9th Court of Appeals on this case in 2004; it is available as a PDF document here. Of further interest is the original district court's decision (available in PDF format here) and Grokster's own website.

Please note that this is just my initial response; I want to study the details of this case in more detail before I come to a final conclusion.
  At Last! Some Objectivity
If you're at all like me, one of the most frustrating things in the Terri Schiavo case has been the arbitrary nature of the discussion on her condition. Even many of the doctors I've seen interviewed have been somewhat mealy-mouthed, seemingly afraid to point out the fact that her cortex is mush and there is no chance of recovery.

Well, I'm pleased to post a link to this transcript; it's an interview from Scarborough Country, a news program that leans to the right. The interview is with neurologist Ronald Cranford, one of the doctors who actually examined Terri Schiavo. He might go a little over the top at certain points, but I am willing to forgive his zeal (after all, I share it!). Here's part of the interview which I absolutely loved:
DANIELS: Are you 100 percent correct in your opinion that Terri Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state? Do you agree with that?
CRANFORD: I am 105 percent sure she is in a vegetative state. And the autopsy will show severe irreversible brain damage to the higher centers, yes.
DANIELS: Why are you so sure, Doctor?
CRANFORD: Because I examined her. The court-appointed guardian examined her. Four neurologists at the hospital where she was has said she's carried a diagnosis of vegetative state for 12 years. Every neurologist that examined her, except for Dr. [William] Hammesfahr [a neurologist selected by Terri Schiavo's parents], who is a charlatan, has said she is in vegetative state. That's what the court found. Just because you don't like --
DANIELS: Doctor, was a CAT scan -- Doctor, your critics would ask you, was a CAT scan used? Was an MRI taken? Were any of these tests taken?
CRANFORD: You don't know the answer to that? The CAT scan was done in 1996, 2002. We spent a lot of time in court showing the irreversible -- you don't have copies of those CAT scans? How can you say that?
The CAT scans are out there, distributed to other people. You have got to look at the facts. The CAT scan is out there. It shows severe atrophy of the brain. The autopsy is going to show severe atrophy of the brain. And you're asking me if a CAT scan was done? How could you possibly be so stupid?
  A Return to Secularism
I've come across two very interesting pieces today, which are worth reading. The first, by Gus Van Horn: Dump the Religious Right. As usual, Gus delivers an insightful and intelligent discussion of the religious right, especially in relation to their contradictory stands on "states rights". If you haven't read his blog yet, I strongly urge you to do so.

The second is an op-ed in today's New York Times by former Sen. John C. Danforth: In the Name of Politics. This piece isn't perfect, but it is one of the better calls I've seen from someone in the "mainstream" to take control of the Republican party back from the religious right.
  Quote of the Day
I am presently (blissfully) suffering from a temporary fit of monomania regarding ancient Greece, so I apologize if this seems a bit much for some of you. My primary motivation for publishing this blog is selfish, however, so I am taking the liberty of posting yet another quote on Greek civilization. I always like to think of these quotations as reports from the library; I read through all the text, and deliver the "choice" portions for those who might be interested.

So, by all means, enjoy! This quote gives a good summary of the context in which ancient Greece flourished:
This, then, was the environment of Greece: civilizations like Egypt, Crete, and Mesopotamia that gave it those elements of technology, science, and art which it would transform into the brightest picture in history; empires like Persia and Carthage that would feel the challenge of Greek commerce, and would unite in a war to crush Greece between them into a harmless vassalage; and, in the north, warlike hordes recklessly breeding, recklessly marching, who would sooner or later pour down over the mountain barriers and do what the Dorians had done - break through what Cicero was to call the Greek border woven on the barbarian robe, and destroy a civilization that they could not understand. Hardly any of these surrounding nations cared for what to the Greeks was the very essence of life - liberty to be, to think, to speak, and to do. Every one of these peoples except the Phoenicians lived under despots, surrendered their souls to superstition, and had small experience of the stimulus of freedom or the life of reason. That was why the Greeks called them all, too indiscriminately, barbaroi, barbarians; a barbarian was a man content to believe without reason and to live without liberty.

- Will Durant, The Life of Greece, pg. 70
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
  Quote of the Day
The basic Greek ideals:
At the end of the Homeric Age the Greek was already well started along the road of social ideals that he was destined to follow in later centuries. He was an optimist, convinced that life was worth living for its own sake, and he could see no reason for looking forward to death as a glad release. He was an egoist, striving for the fulfillment of self. As a consequence he rejected mortification of the flesh and all forms of denial which would imply the frustration of life. He could see no merit in humility or in turning the other cheek. He was a humanist, who worshiped the finite and the natural rather than the otherworldly or sublime. For this reason he refused to invest his gods with awe-inspiring qualities, or to invent any conception of man as a depraved and sinful creature. Finally, he was devoted to liberty in an even more extreme form than most of his descendants in the classical period were willing to accept.

-Edward McNall Burns, Western Civilizations: Their History & Their Culture, pg. 152
Monday, March 28, 2005
  Grokster vs. MGM
Tomorrow the Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments in the case of Grokster vs. MGM Studios. The case centers around the use of what is known as peer-to-peer (p2p) file-sharing software; MGM, et. al., are claiming that p2p software constitutes an infringement of copyright.

Wired has a good article on the coming case: Supreme Showdown for P2P's Future. SCOTUSblog has by far the best post on it I've seen, providing a good introduction to what p2p software is and to other related cases: MGM v. Grokster: Background and Analysis.

I'll blog some more on this later in the week.
  Quote of the Day: Celebrating Man
An oft-repeated truism I hear all the time is that, "Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it." While this is true, it implies that the importance of history is primarily negative; in this view we ought to study history in order to avoid the mistakes of the past. I think however that there is a much more positive role history can play in anyone's life - namely, discovering what man (and a culture) could be, and ought to be.

Without history, it is true, we wouldn't know fully the terrible damage that religion can wreak upon mankind, or the massive destruction of human life that communism achieved in only 50 years. We wouldn't know that irrationalism in any form, secular or religious, has always led to impoverishment, dictatorship and death.

But we also wouldn't know that the hatred of man that we see emblazoned throughout the culture today in the form of animal rights, environmentalism or the corrupt "pro-life" movement was only an incidental aberration, and not something endemic to the world. Most importantly, we wouldn't know what heights men once knew; we wouldn't know that there was a time when man, not some ineffable all-powerful deity or insignificant animal, was the center of the universe and the highest object of reverence.

Such knowledge is needed, not just to refute those who look everywhere for metaphysical feet of clay, but for one's personal happiness. Knowing that a culture devoted to man's greatness existed is an invaluable aid for maintaining one's motivation in a corrupt culture. And it is immensely satisfying to live vicariously in a world that today is nearly impossible to find, outside of Ayn Rand's works of fiction.

I'm thinking, of course, of ancient Greece, which I consider in many ways to be the pinnacle of human civilization. I know of no other period in history where a culture so closely approximated my ideal world. Here is a brief glimpse into it:
Among all the peoples of the ancient world, the one whose culture most clearly exemplified the spirit of Western man was the Hellenic or Greek. No other of these nations had so strong a devotion to liberty or so firm a belief in the nobility of human achievement. The Greeks glorified man as the most important creature in the universe and refused to submit to the dictation of priests or despots or even to humble themselves before their gods. Their attitude was essentially secular and rationalistic; they exalted the spirit of free inquiry and made knowledge supreme over faith. It was largely for these reasons that they advanced their culture to the highest stage which the ancient world was destined to reach.

- Edward McNall Burns, Western Civilizations: Their History & Their Culture, pg. 147
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