New York 1938

This is via someone named Spocko (If this proves how unhip I am: you’re surprised?!) via the always wonderful digby. It is the funniest thing I’ve seen since last night when I was gorging on Firesign Theater. But still: this is very funny. This shows how Scientology and Objectivism were born. And the actors look a fair amount like those fucktards (except Ayn Rand was never this pretty):

Ayn Rand: This is aimed at the people who want to feel smarter than religious people. No, no, no. The goal here is to take those with a religious zealot’s sense of superiority but without the forced, obligitory compassion. If done right, we can take the most wealthy, powerful, and privileged people and get them to talk like they’re the poor persecuted minority. They will become the most slappable people on earth!

L. Ron Hubbard: That’s almost too evil. You can’t!

Ayn Rand: Oh, I’m doing it. I’m going to write a book and soon rich white males will be gathering en masse to congratulate themselves on how awesome they are for doing exactly what they already wanted to do anyway.

Update (12 August 2012 11:09 pm)

I found this video is based upon an article from Goblin Books:

The author has several other adventures of Ayn and L. Ron. Very funny stuff. Such as:

If you are reading this it means that Tom Cruise has already killed me—possibly with the aid of John Stossel. Stossel will be coming for you next, and there is probably nothing you can do. My dear friend, I am so sorry to have brought this darkness into your life. I wish I’d never found the Ayn Rand documents. I wish I’d never stumbled onto the secret. Because it goes further than either of us ever could have imagined…

Stephanopoulos 1; Pawlenty 0

Is Tim Pawlenty scared or what?! This is truly amazing:

Just in case you aren’t as up on all this stuff as weirdos like me: Pawlenty obviously gave Romney more than 2 years of taxes. Why did Romney require more years of taxes than Romney thinks he himself should have to share with the voting public? I’ve never thought much of Stephanopoulos, but this was brilliant.

The One Commandment

Vardhamana MahaviraThere are perhaps as many as 20 million Jains in the world. This is roughly twice as many adherents to Jainism as to Judaism—especially when you consider that a lot of “Jews” follow Judaism as much as I follow Catholicism. And Jainism is a hard road to brush. (Note: Jain joke!) But a beautiful one.

One of the greatest teachers of Jainism is Vardhamana Mahavira. More than that really. If you think of Christianity, Mahavira is at least Paul, if not Jesus himself.

Jainism, like all religions, has many wacky rituals and beliefs. This isn’t a bad thing; nerds have similar rituals and beliefs like debates about whether Kirk or Picard is the better starship captain. What’s most important is the core belief a religion. And for the Jains it is nonviolence.[1]

Here is a quotation from Vardhamana Mahavira:

All breathing, existing, living, sentient creatures should not be slain, nor treated with violence, nor abused, nor tormented, nor driven away.

Just imagine if our society were built on this rather than, say, the Ten (or so) Commandments! Not that I’m suggesting that you should covet thy neighbor’s house. Or wife. Or manservant. Or maidservant. Or ox. Or ass. (Not the ass!) Or any of that jerk’s stuff.

[1] I have no idea what it is for the nerds. Rationality, perhaps? It’s hard to say. Certainly not nonviolence. Being a wimp is not the same as being nonviolent. I’ll leave it to the reader to decide. Perhaps it is 42.

Free Will

Free WillI just read Sam Harris’ Free Will. There was nothing new in it for me. I have already worked all this stuff out for myself. But it was nice to see the argument laid out so well. For those of you who don’t spend all your time fretting about such issues, it goes like this: all of your choices are neurochemical; you can no more not do what you do than hydrogen and oxygen can combine to form helium. As Harris writes (I’m not looking up the exact quote), to say that under different circumstances you would have made some different choice is the same as saying that in a different universe you would be in a different universe.

We are all machines—gloriously complex machines, but machines nonetheless. We already know this in terms of our bodies. Athletes are shockingly predictable machines. At this year’s Olympics, Usain Bolt ran the 100 m dash 0.05 seconds slower than his best time of 9.58 seconds. That’s a difference of 0.5%. Similarly, professional basketball players are remarkably consistent. People (Even the athletes themselves!) believe in streaks, but all that is ever seen are predictable statistical variations on their bases. In other words, a player with a 42% field goal average is a machine that makes field goals 42% of the time.

Free will then is nothing but an illusion—admittedly a fairly useful one. But it is also a dangerous one, and this is Harris’ main argument. For a long time, I’ve felt that I couldn’t come out and say that I felt sorry for pedophiles. They are such a pox on our society—such dangerous creatures with such innocent victims—I felt certain that people would go off on me. Yet I know from my experience that my sex drive—incredibly, depressingly typical though it may be—is in no way under my control. When I was younger, I tried to change my tastes into something more exotic, but it just isn’t in me. I like what most men like, except with glasses.[1]

How could it be any different for a pedophile? I can’t imagine that pedophiles actually think of Marilyn Monroe as a sex goddess and yet go around raping children because it is so fun to be evil. Pedophiles must be (among other things) machines that want to have sex with children. I’m not suggesting that we say, “Hey! They are what they are: let them go on raping!” Harris discusses this exact point. We don’t allow grizzly bears to wander the streets eating people; when they get too close to populations, they are removed. But we don’t moralize about grizzly bears: they are built to kill and eat creatures such as humans.

Clearly, we must keep pedophiles away from children. This will clearly restrict their freedom. But locking them up in prisons so they can be gang raped and otherwise brutalized is not an ethical approach to the problems that pedophiles represent in our society.

Free Will is an excellent little book. I mean this literally. It is excellent in that you could not ask for a better introduction to this subject. And it is little, coming in at perhaps 12,000 words—the length of an average magazine feature. And it is a book, because it is bound that way. Whether it is really worth $9.99 ($3.99 for the eBook), I will leave to you.

[1] There is, of course, the Sarah Vowell effect. How can a nerd such as me not think she is just too adorable for words. Or Kristen Schaal, who’s ditzy persona screams, “I’m smarter than you!” Even if she is a horse:

In the 70s, Schaal and Kurt Braunohler were at best toddlers. Now that’s comedy!