# Jay P

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• Interests Software engineering, Objectivism, science, history
1. ## Uniform taxes in the Constitution

I think you're right, and in fact this might be the reason that, before the ratification of the 16th amendment, income taxes were ruled unconstitutional - because of being non-uniform. But then that amendment specifically added the provision to the Constitution that an income tax was now permissible. Presumably that means the tax is allowed in spite of being non-uniform.
2. ## Science Brain Bogglers (Round 1?)

OK, I think I've got it figured out. Without looking at the internet or consulting notes and books about electricity and magnetism, here's what I remember: If a conductor is moved through a magnetic field, there will be a voltage induced in the conductor. That's what we have here. The voltage in the conductor (coin) will cause a current to flow inside the coin. The direction of the induced current will be such that it causes a force that opposes the motion. (I think this is called Lenz's law, but I'm not allowed to look .) Here, the "motion" is the relative motion of the magnet and the coin, so the induced current will oppose this relative motion - that is, it will try to prevent the magnet and the coin from moving relative to each other. That means it will try to keep the coin moving along with the magnet - in other words, oppose the relative motion. I'm thinking that the induced current in the coin is just circling around. And this is the same phenomenon that, in a generator, gives rise to the force that opposes the turning of the generator - the current flows in the wires in a direction that causes a force that tries to stop the generator from turning, hence the need to supply energy to keep it going. The whole thing depends on the motion. Just holding the magnet there wouldn't do anything. Paramagnetism would not explain it: the force would be way too small, and it wouldn't depend on the motion.
3. ## William F. Buckley vs. Ayn Rand: Ayn Rand's Revenge

Bush's statement about atheists is more than merely alleged; I remember reading and hearing about him making it. The question he was asked was whether atheists had full rights as Americans, and he replied something to the effect of "Not really; this is after all one nation under God." I remember quite a few Objectivists being aware of this and discussing it during the 1989 TJS conference, so I definitely wasn't the only one who knew about it.
4. ## You used what??

Actually, it wasn't so bad. In fact, when first learning to use a computer, the cards sort of facilitated the process. No text editor or interactive commands to learn. Just punch your program on cards and hand them to the operator. Primitive, but easy for a beginner. My school had a DEC PDP-10 with 192K of 36-bit words. (And this was the old KA-10 processor, which means it used discrete transistors. A book that I now have gives its instruction speed as about 0.38 MIPS.) Primitive by today's standards, but it sure seemed fast to me at the time. Access was via punched card decks or else the old ASR-33 electro-mechanical 110-baud teletype machines. Usually we got pretty good turnaround for short programs on cards - typically less than 1/2 hour. We had to buy our own cards, so changing a line of code cost money. (So did putting in comment cards; which on my freshman budget I decided were a waste of money. ) At my next school, they had a CDC-Cyber-something-or-other - also with a card reader. My first quarter, I was so busy that I didn't have time to learn the much-nicer interactive system. But I got to be pretty good at maximizing my throughput using cards - my methodology being to go into the computing center with two or three programs to work on. Punch one up, submit it to the operator, and then go work on punching another program. By the time you're ready with a new card deck for prorgam B, the printout for program A should be ready. Those old IBM 029 cardpunches were fun to use too. You could use their "duplicate" function to "edit" a card, by using your thumb to stop the progress of one card while you advance the other card, maybe typing one or more characters. And then there were characters that were too weird for the cardpunch to know about (such as a square bracket), so you had to manually "multipunch" the character code in - which showed as a blob of ink on the card, but if you got it right, the correct character would print when you got your listing. Never dropped a deck. Really. A few years later at work, we were still using punch cards - partly because the computer operating system we used was so primitive that it would have been very easy to accidentally delete a source file stored on disk. Easier to be careful and just not drop the cards. Never used paper tape, but heard stories about it. Like when you'd be almost finished reading in a big well-used roll of tape, and it would rip. One thing about those old systems: there were no viruses to worry about!
5. ## Problem-solving in films

The first one I thought of was Apollo 13, already recommended. October Sky might also be what you're looking for, in that it depicts a group of boys in high school who decide to build small rockets, and thus have to figure out how to solve many problems. There's more to the movie than that, but speaking of using science and math to solve problems, one of the boys illustrates this particularly well.
6. ## The Peikoff Endorsement

I'm sorry to hear Ford was against abortion, and I stand corrected on that. But, that just reinforces my point about the anti-abortion stance being so prevalent among Republicans, because that means we'd have to go back to Nixon (whose abortion stance I know nothing about) or even Goldwater to find a pro-choice Republican. ... In summary, I'm not arguing about the relative threats of left versus right; I am just disputing your claim that there are only a few Christian Republicans who want to ban abortion. Based on the evidence I've already given, I still do not see how you can reasonably make this claim. There are just too many prominent Republicans who want to ban abortion. (People like candidates, talk-show hosts and politicians who have actually been elected.) This would not be the case if only a few Republicans wanted to ban abortion, for that would mean that the vast majority wanted to keep abortion legal, and anti abortionists would not get very far in the party. How could it be that a party in which there were only "a few" who wanted to ban abortion, that we'd have to go back 40 years to find a pro-choice presidential candidate?
7. ## The Peikoff Endorsement

When it comes to Christian Republicans and abortion, how in the world can you make the claim that only a "few" of them want to ban it? Heck, the banning of abortion is one of their big issues. I don't think I've ever encountered a Christian Republican who doesn't want to ban at least some cases of abortion, and I've encountered all too many who want to ban abortion in virtually all circumstances. If only "a few" want to ban it, how come Mike Huckabee was so popular and did so well in the primaries? If only a few want to ban abortion, why can people like Rush Limbaugh get away with disparaging pro-choice Republicans, as he did the other day on his show? (He is by far the most popular of the conservative talk-show hosts; given his anti-abortion stance, he would not have this popularity if only "a few" of the Christian Republicans also wanted to ban abortion.) If only a few want to ban it, where were all of these pro-choice Republican candidates for the presidential nomination? As far as I know, Giuliani was the only even partially pro-choice one among them, and of course his candidacy failed miserably. And look at all of McCain's earlier pandering to the Religious Right - before he got the nomination, he went out of his way to make sure they all knew he was anti-abortion. Somebody can correct me if I'm wrong, but the last pro-choice Republican who got his party's nomination for president was Gerald Ford, way back in 1976. One can argue about whether the greatest threat to our liberties today comes from the left or right, but among the religious people on the right (and many non-religious conservatives too) the desire to ban abortion is very strong. I also reject the claim that these people don't want to meddle in the lives of others. If all they wanted was to be left alone and they're against abortion, the solution for them would simple - just don't have one! But instead, they want to forcefully take away this choice from women they've never met.
8. ## How to invest money in today's economy

This is a recycled joke. I first heard it back in 2002 (or before) during the bear market that followed the collapse of the dot-com bubble. The names of the companies were different - one could have filled in the blanks then with plenty of companies that never amounted to anything, even though many people thought that buying these stocks was a sure ticket to riches.
9. ## Capitalism, R.I.P.

OK - I think I understand - so is the problem then that the holders of the Z tranche are really responsible to the holders of the more senior A, B and C tranches in case the borrowers don't make their payments? In other words: the Z tranche holders still have a potential liability for \$1.2 billion, even though they just have a \$200 million asset on their books? ... The word that comes to my mind when I hear about schemes like this is "evasion." It's like a form of conceptual laundering - we have here a risky loan - subprime mortgage - that is being transformed by financial sleight-of-hand into something that people are then putting in a portfolio of investments that's supposed to hold only investment-grade things. I think an honest term for these securities would be "junk mortgages." But as long as we pretend that they're really investment grade securities, everything's supposed to be OK... There seems to be a lot of this going on these days in our culture. People like to pretend that reality is different than it is - pretend that everything's OK when it isn't. Pretend that there's more substance to a company or an investment than there really is. Or pretend that an enemy of the US is a person who can be reasoned with. Or pretend that the dollar is still a strong currency with the kind of value it had 40 years ago. Or pretend that somebody is getting a good education when in reality he's learning next to nothing. In some future history book, perhaps our present era will be called "The Age of Evasion."
10. ## Objectivism, Intelligence, and Cultural Change

I don't think a high level of intelligence is needed for a person to become an Objectivist - if by "Objectivist" one means somebody who knows the philosophy well enough to use as a guide to his life. (As opposed to somebody who knows it well enough to write a book about an aspect of the philosophy.) To become an Objectivist in today's culture requires that a person be interested in ideas. And that he wants to find the truth and is willing to follow it. Any person with normal intelligence can do that, but it also requires that he be willing to hold (and follow) ideas that are contrary to what his friends, family and other associates think. Today, an Objectivist is going to hold ideas that put him in opposition to much of the rest of the culture - because Objectivism is so rare - and most people just aren't willing to be such an intellectual outcast. It isn't a matter of intelligence. In my own experience, I've known some very intelligent Objectivists. I've also known many who I don't judge as being much above average intelligence, but who are willing to persistently work hard to learn what they know. And some are people who just don't seem much above average, but maybe they learned about Objectivism at the right time in their life, such that they didn't have many bad ideas or habits to overcome. Why aren't there more Objectivists today? I can only attempt to answer that question by observing people I know who have been exposed to Ayn Rand's ideas, but who did not become Objectivists. Why didn't they? The people I know of who fall into this category aren't stupid. Some of them are intellectually lazy - they just aren't that interested in ideas. A few of them I think were afraid that if they followed Ayn Rand's ideas, it would turn their comfortable world upside-down, (because it would change or end many of their relationships) so they never allowed themselves to go there. In some cases their thinking was so corrupted by modern bad philosophy that they really didn't see Objectivism as being correct. In some cases, they may have been turned off by an Objectivist they met who had a disagreeable personality, so they never bothered to learn more. So I think Objectivism is understandable (to the extent needed) by a man of average intelligence - or maybe a little above. And furthermore, to have a culture that is dominated by Objectivist ideas will not require that most people be Objectivists. It might be the case that most people still won't have much of an interest in philosophy, but they'll live by the good ideas that are everywhere in the culture that many of them will take for granted. A philosophy is like that - it can radically affect people's lives, even if they have no idea where the ideas came from, or even if they're not fully aware of the ideas they hold. For a negative example - look at the influence of Kant today, yet if you asked 100 average Americans about the ideas of Immanuel Kant, would they have a clue what you're talking about? As an example of the influence of good ideas on a man of ordinary intelligence, consider the character of Mike the electrician in The Fountainhead. (He's one of my favorites among Rand's minor characters!) A man like him won't be an intellectual contributing to the explicit spread of good ideas, but by his example (and by his work of course!) he will contribute to the spread of the good. And... in a better culture, there will be many more men like him. But there only has to be a small minority of high-achieving intellectuals to spread good ideas.
11. ## I hate college

That was at the Colorado School of Mines. You're right: I could have gone to a better place. But I kept hoping it would get better - hoping that the few good courses I had would be a preview of better things to come. (I also ended up being able to graduate early because of extra courses I took, and the advanced-placement credits I had from high school.)
12. ## I hate college

My thought is that much of what you see, you would have seen 30-35 years ago when I was in college. I was quite disappointed with my undergraduate years. The school was far inferior academically to what I thought it was going to be, and far too many of my classmates were not interested in learning anything - except maybe different ways to get drunk, and they just wanted the "credit" in their classes. I went to a technical school, so I mostly did not have to deal with leftist indoctrination, but the school was full of professors that either couldn't teach, or were just too lazy to bother trying. (There were a few good ones though.) Some of the classes - with fancy-sounding technical titles - were a joke, such as the junior-level course in which one of the exam problems was once to calculate the mass of a cube of gold 10cm on a side(!). (And then there was the old crank who didn't believe in relativity and one poor old guy who was literally senile.) Many of the courses amounted to little more than a rehash of what I'd learned in high school, or were just filled with concretes one could easily look up in a book; there was too little teaching of fundamental principles. In my experience, people go to college for three primary reasons: 1) To learn something OR 2) To get a piece of paper that they can use to get a job OR 3) To goof off and go to parties. I don't know what the relative sizes of these groups were when I was an undergrad. Since quite a few of the courses did require some effort, probably most of the students weren't there just to goof off, but I also did not get the impression that most really cared about learning. Anyway, the whole experience was a big letdown to me. I graduated as quickly as I could and at that point had no intention of ever setting foot in a college again. In retrospect, there are things I could have done differently: I could have made an effort to seek out good professors and good courses; I could have dumped the major I was in when it became evident that much of that department was worthless; and I could have pursued more study on my own - especially using our school computer. In other words, I could have salvaged something out of a bad situation and gotten a better education. Lost opportunities. Later though, when I decided to switch careers, I did decide to go to graduate school (at a different school!), my earlier cynicism having worn off. And the experience was much better. In the department I was in (Computer Science) I would say well over half of the graduate students were seriously interested in learning. Some were not - some of them seemed to be just having fun playing the role of "grad student," but that never bothered me because I was too busy learning everything I could about my new field. I also chose to spend time with other students I judged to be the serious ones. (My experience was enriched, and I learned a lot more, by having friends I could go to lunch with and talk to about the classes we were taking. We'd ask each other questions and compare notes about how we were going to tackle challenging assignments.) That year was filled with hard work - one quarter I had absolutely no time for anything outside of my studies - and was one of the most enjoyable years of my life. I don't remember any of the CS grad students being drunks or goof-offs. There undoubtedly were those kinds of people in other places at the school (it was a large university) but I was too busy learning to care about what was going on elsewhere on campus. Obviously I've learned that it makes a big difference where one decides to go. What's important is to gather first-hand knowledge about the different schools; weigh your abilities objectively; and then choose the best school that you can get into at which you'll be able to handle the work. But I do indeed think much of what passes for higher education today must be worthless, especially in many non-technical fields. However, a resourceful and motivated student in science or engineering should be able to get a good education, keeping in mind that much of the learning might have to come from doing work outside that which is assigned in his classes.
13. ## Palin Spells Out Iran Nuke Policy

It's distracting when a prominent person mispronounces the word "nuclear" as "newkular," and doesn't reflect well on the speaker. And it is a mispronunciation. Just look at the word "nuclear" and sound it out, (like they taught us when I was in first grade). The letters don't come in the order that would be needed to get "newkular." Arguing that what we have here is a legitimate alternative pronunciation is similar to arguing that an alternative pronunciation for the word "ask" is "ax". I've heard that, and it's wrong too - also a swapping of the order of two sounds. It's distracting because it's obviously wrong and easily corrected, yet the speaker uses the incorrect version anyway. Why? She has friends and family who could point out the error, I suppose. Why continue to make the mistake? Doesn't care? Doesn't know? Doing it deliberately in order to bait her enemies? (I hope not!) I don't know, but it would be easy to fix if she cared to. .... Using proper grammar, spelling and pronunciation is important in communication. Not doing so suggests to me that the communicator is either ignorant, lazy, lacks respect for his listeners, or is anti-intellectual (doesn't take ideas seriously). So the person's message gets mixed in with the distraction of easily corrected mistakes. "Why is he doing this?", I wonder. I compare the present case with what happens when somebody posts a message on an internet forum that is full of spelling and grammar mistakes. (Maybe he even ignores punctuation and capitalization; I've seen that.) What does it say about the person who wrote it? What it says to me is that he's too lazy to take the trouble to do it right (or mabye it's his perverse way of trying to appear "cool"), and it's distracting if I then try to follow his arguments. In cases like this, my tendency is to ignore further communications from this person until I have evidence he's corrected his ways. Correct pronunciation is something one should take pride in. Pronouncing words incorrectly is something that people will notice, and it will justifiably make a negative impression on quite a few of us. This isn't the most important consideration in deciding how to vote, but there's no excuse for a presidential candidate making such an easily-corrected mistake.
14. ## Capitalism, R.I.P.

Well, both actions (attacking short-sellers and closing banks) were directed against individual liberty - economic freedom and property rights in particular - so one could in that sense say they were similar.
15. ## 2008 Presidential Poll for September 2008

My position is still that both of these men are so evil that I cannot vote for either one. McCain is a living advertisement against himself; he doesn't seem to be able to open his mouth without making an anti-capitalist remark. When I watched the Olympics, there were McCain ads in which he boasted about attacking the oil companies. (And then later on, not to be outdone, his running mate Palin bragged about "taking on" the oil companies in Alaska.) Obama might be a second-handed chameleon like Peter Keating who just wants everybody to like him. Or, given his terrorist friends, he might be a dangerous leftist; I cannot tell which. I do see the danger of fundamentalist Christianity represented by the Republicans (all the more so given the popularity of Huckabee even after his remarks about the need to change the Constitution to make it in accord with Christianity; and given the complete failure of the only strong secular candidate they had, Giuliani), but the New Left has gotten so badly anti-Amreican that I do not see the Democrats as a rational alternative. Both men are environmentalists; both will probably impose energy rationing. Both believe strongly that we should all sacrifice more. McCain (and even more so Palin) would work to put more anti-abortion conservatives on the Supreme Court. Given that the justices most likely to retire next are liberals, a Republican presidency would end up making the Supreme Court majority anti-abortion, as well as favoring the gradual tearing down of church-state separation. (I hope the Democrats in the Senate can do something to prevent the Court from falling under control of religious conservatives.) I can't tell which of these men would take the biggest step along the path to fascism. Obama might want to go further than McCain on some things, but the Republicans in Congress would probably oppose Obama vigorously, whereas I fear they'd give McCain whatever he wanted - I can't see many of the Republicans doing much to effectively stop a President of their own party. There are all sorts of concretes one could focus on to attempt to prove that one of these candidates is worse than the other and so must be opposed; none of what I have read here or on other Objectivist venues has convinced me that either one is worth voting for. There is a limit to what kind of "lesser evil" I will vote for; both of these men crossed that limit long ago. Whichever one wins will be one of the worst presidents in our history.