Tuesday, April 15, 2008

George Harrison - Here Comes the Sun

Every year as the bleak and miserable winter that annually plagues us Michiganders comes to a close, I hearken to this, one of my favorite childhood songs, to welcome my mind and spirit to the long absent warmth and sunlight of springtime. For some reason, the song always seems more uplifting than it was the previous year. Perhaps it's an insight into what never being fully inured to Michigan weather does to my psyche.

This clip is from the famous Concert for Bangladesh from 1971. An excellent show, I would highly recommend it to anyone.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Advice for a Friend

My dear friend Luis from Córdoba is considering spending some time abroad and his two top choices as of now are Dublin and Glasgow. His main goals are to improve his English and presumably to have a remunerative transcultural experience. Is there anybody with experience living in/visiting either city that can add their two cents?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Moral Foundations of Modern Libertarianism

Surfing Wikipedia today, I came across this paper by Randy Barnett on the moral foundations of libertarianism (to read it, click on any of the links below the abstract for a .pdf version). A great read for anyone interested in libertarianism, political philosophy, or ethics.

The crux of Barnett's thesis is that the source of recent ecumenism among libertarians is the perceived compatibility between libertarian consequentialism and libertarian deontology under the umbrella of natural rights. He draws a parallel between libertarian political theory and Anglo/American legal theory in which he points out that the evolution and growth of the latter stems from a mix of rights-based and consequentialist schools of thought. Because libertarianism has evolved along the same lines in the past 40 years, there has generally been growing unity and consensus among us , excluding of course certain schools of libertarianism such as anarcho-socialism and anarcho-syndicalism which by and large seem to be on their way out all together.

Published articulations and explications of this phenomenon like Barnett's do themselves bolster and hasten this coming together and give me for one a sense of optimism for our future.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Root of All Evil

Many critics of religion label religious organizations or beliefs as the principle cause of wickedness in the world. Richard Dawkins, one of religion's more outspoken opponents, aired a two-part documentary on religion and faith entitled "The Root of All Evil?".

I believe this argument to be flawed and suggest a new one that critics of religion should internalize that doesn't forgo the power of the first one. I'll begin with a very insightful quote from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, author of The Gulag Archipelago:

"To do evil a human being must first of all believe that what he's doing is good... Ideology - that is what gives evildoing its long-sought justification and gives the evildoer the necessary steadfastness and determination... That was how the agents of the Inquisition fortified their wills: by invoking Christianity; the conquerors of foreign lands, by extolling the grandeur of their Motherland; the colonizers, by civilization; the Nazis, by race; and the Jacobins (early and late), by equality, brotherhood, and the happiness of future generations. Thanks to ideology, the twentieth century was fated to experience evildoing on a scale calculated in the millions."

It is simply an empirical fact that the biggest mass murderers of the twentieth century were not motivated by religion but instead by ideology, namely Marxism. Estimates of the deaths both of starvation due to failed economic policies and by executions under communist regimes range from 94 to 144.7 million. It is the fact that the leaders of these regimes were so unwavering (religious, I would say) in their adherence to Marxism that they allowed the greatest human rights violations humanity has ever seen to occur.

Here is how the argument should be reformulated. Unwavering commitment to ideology is the greatest cause of evil in the world. However, because the nature of religion involves belief with little evidence, without any evidence, or sometimes against the evidence, it necessarily yields ideological dogmatism. Therein lies the danger of religious belief.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Nena Daconte - Can't hurry love

I'm no stranger to singing Nena Daconte's praises, but this rendition in particular is truly remarkable. Mai's ability to channel the likes of Janis Joplin is testament to her seemingly limitless vocal versatility.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Pensar para hacer - Alejandro Rozitchner - Lectura 3

Alejandro Rozitchner lleva toda la razón. Si tuviéramos todos profesores más capaces de apasionarnos e involucrarnos en los temas educativos, la apatía, pienso yo, no existiría.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Where were You when America lost it's Freedoms?

Milton Friedman's insights on the dark side of licensure remain sharp and relevant to this day.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Saturday, January 19, 2008

One of the most brilliant concepts I've come across in a while

Are you having trouble fulfilling your goals? Is self-control a major issue for you? Do you get discouraged from your lack of discipline and decide to throw in the towel? Well if you've ever found yourself in this position, StickK.com just might be the answer to your prayers.

StickK is a website through which you put out a contract on yourself to accomplish a goal. To make sure you aren't lying, you have to file weekly reports to the site and appoint someone you know as your "referee" to hold you accountable. If you want added incentive, you can put money down. Should you fail to reach your goal, StickK will donate your wager to charity. For even more motivation, you can have StickK donate the money to someone you loathe or to a cause you despise. I immediately shuddered at the thought of $1000 of my hard-earned money going to PETA. The details are all here.

I was a bit skeptical at first wondering why a website was necessary to hold people to their contracts. Why is it advantageous to use StickK rather than draw up a private contract with a friend? StickK explains:

"In a word (make that two words): social psychology. Let's say you sign a contract promising to pay a friend a sum of money if you don't achieve your goal. Chances are, if you renege on your commitment contract, your friend won't take your money, or will be soft on you and renegotiate the terms of the contract (after all, aren't friends supposed to be understanding?). Well, and don't take this personally, we're not your friend. So we hold you to the contract!

Also, stickK offers the support network feature, and the community aspects of stickK help you work toward your goal�which is fun and more effective than slugging away in isolation. It is hard to replicate the ability to involve and update lots of people on your progress in real time offline!"

What draws me to StickK is its intuitive appeal; people do things in response to incentives and are MUCH more likely to do things they are contractually bound to do. The fact that the site was founded by three Yale University intellectuals who actively engage in research on the subject makes StickK all the more appealing and credible.