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  1. Zdeno on Core Principles
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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Zdeno on Core Principles
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Inspired by a recent post post on Libertarianism, Zdeno offers (along with his comments to the linked post) the following thoughts. * * * * Political beliefs have a tendency to cluster. What connection is there between abortion, gun control, welfare and the war in Iraq? On the surface, there is none – but get an average person tell me how he feels about any one of these issues, and I’ll bet even odds I can predict his position on the others. Even among the 2Blowhards readership, a free-thinking and unconventional group if there ever was one, most of us have no trouble self-identifying as broadly Progressive, Conservative, or Libertarian. The observation that people in each of these camps tend to agree with each other an awful lot indicates that there must be some defining belief, set of values, or method of looking at and interpreting the world, that sets them apart from each other. My question today: What are the core principles and beliefs that lead you to whatever ideology you subscribe to? If you’re a Libertarian, tell us about the core principles of Libertarianism, if you’re a Progressive etc. Let’s do some introspection, and try to come up with a unified theory of each of the major (or non-major) belief systems in existence today. I’ll kick things off with some broad strokes, and hopefully we can refine things as we go: 1) “Pure” Libertarianism is based on the normative judgement that every human has a natural right of ownership to their body, the fruits of their labour, and the right to enter into binding contracts which may not subsequently be broken. Pragmatic Libertarianism is based on the positive belief that a society which adheres closely to the above values will be optimal from a utilitarian perspective. 2) Ideological Conservatism is based on the belief that traditions and institutions that currently exist have stood the test of time for a reason, and that we should be extremely cautious about meddling with them. Attempts to change societies and create a more “just” political structure and distribution of wealth are generally undertaken by self-interested parties whose efforts almost inevitably do more harm than good. Practically, many Conservatives are simply people who are doing well for themselves in the present order of society, and would prefer it not be tinkered with. * * * * My two cents are that few people fit solidly into a cluster. For instance, my wife regularly votes Republican but is strongly pro-abortion. I am basically conservative but, like many other conservatives, agree with libertarians on the desirability of small government. On foreign policy, I'm (sorry folks) essentially neocon to the extent that I'd rather fight a small war first rather than let matters drift to the point that a huge, disastrous war eventually occurs (think World War 2) -- though it's necessary to pick and choose where/when to fight small wars. I say this as an army veteran who sweated... posted by Donald at November 14, 2009 | perma-link | (36) comments

Friday, November 13, 2009

Don't Know Jack
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- Apparently this has been going on for a while, but I didn't notice it until I drove to California and back recently. It seems that the regional fast-food chain Jack in the Box (see here for details if you're not familiar with it) has changed its logotype. The old logo, thanks to years of advertising, has become strongly associated with "Jack" the company spokesman -- the ball-shaped head and yellow cap also having been part of store signage for periods of time. Logotypes, old (left) and new (right) Jack "himself" Okay, so the new logo is adult, sophisticated, clean and doubtless embodies a host of additional presumed design virtues. I think it's a mistake. This is a fast-food, mostly-hamburger joint and not some upscale veggie lounge, as the new logo suggests. Bright, brash and eye-catching are what's needed, and the previous logo supplied enough of that. What we have now looks like the result of some snobbish design consultant thinking too hard. Plus a corporate management that doesn't seem to understand the company's heart. For the sake of piling on, here is another unhappy observer's take. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at November 13, 2009 | perma-link | (11) comments

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sacred Art Rumblings
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- 2Blowhards friend Nikos Salingaros alerts me that there has been issued "an appeal for the Catholic Church to return to human and spiritual values in its art and architecture. If it works it will be a revolution, since the Catholic Church is a big sponsor of the Arts. It might also shake up the nihilistic cult that now controls the Arts." An article describing the situation is here. And a website Nikos linked to in his email is here. Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to meet with artists on 21 November, and the appeal was issued with that meeting in mind. I'm not familiar with the current state of sacred art, but gather from Nikos' email that it might have slid into the postmodernism we see daily in venues from art galleries to magazine illustrations. At any rate, I'm not sure what to make of this given that we are more than a week away from the meeting and Benedict either will or won't heed the appeal. And should he heed it, there is a question of whether he will heed some or all of the points it makes. Should Benedict decide to become involved with the matter of sacred art, I suspect there will be a large outcry from many corners of the art community. And given the recent history of hostility to the Roman Catholic Church by news media, I further suspect that coverage of the Pope's actions will be pretty negative. So we shall see what 21 November brings: nothing, a media firestorm, or "something completely different" as the Monty Python troupe would put it. As for me, I think the Church has every right to do what it wishes regarding its art even though the process might prove to be a public relations problem. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at November 12, 2009 | perma-link | (9) comments

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Limits to Libertarianism
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- I tend to agree with a concept encountered years ago while reading Crane Brinton's account of the French Revolution. It has to do with tipping points of ideology-driven political movements. In particular, the point where a drive to ideological purity forces out real-world practicality. Where movement members judged not pure enough are ejected or otherwise eliminated. And the movement spirals away to irrelevance or even self-destruction. I admit not having intimate knowledge of libertarianism (and Libertarianism in the political party sense). I never made time to read any of the works of Ayn Rand. Nor have I paid much attention to Libertarian Party platforms and candidates. My interest and knowledge levels can best be described as casual. Libertarianism appeals to me in its quest for limited government. But it seems less persuasive otherwise because its doctrine (as I understand it) of radical individualism has within it the seeds of the situation described by Brinton. In other words, doctrinal purity can be the enemy of attaining and exercising political power. This is a risk for any party that is strongly idea-based. There are plenty of "libertarians" and "Libertarians" (capital "L" for those who identify with the party) here in the 2Blowhards neighborhood, so I figure this is an opportunity to find out a few things. For instance: The quest for individual liberty/freedom, taken to its extreme, seems to lead to anarchism. Are there differences between libertarianism and anarchism that prevent libertarianism from drifting into anarchism? Can there be such a thing as "big-tent Libertarianism?" Or is there a need for ideological purity that severely constrains Libertarian expansion to major party status? To what degree do libertarianism and isolationism overlap? I would think that the questions just posed are fairly common and that there are standard answers to them. Nevertheless, I (and perhaps some readers) remain ignorant and need to be set straight regarding these and similar matters. Libertarian (and non- or anti-libertarian) comments are appreciated. However, flame-wars are not; please try to stick to ideas and issues. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at November 11, 2009 | perma-link | (32) comments

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Boring Post About Cameras
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- I'm back from California where, among other things, I gave my new digital camera a workout. As a result, you are hereby warned that what follows is one of those excruciatingly boring posts combining hobbyist navel-gazing and nerdy number references. If cameras don't interest you, please bail out before it's too late and you're sucked into The Quicksand of Geek. [Pause to the sound of scurrying computer mice] My old camera, a Nikon Coolpix S5, took good photos within the limits of its capabilities, but those capabilities proved to be annoyingly limited. Indoor, non-flash photos were usually blurred and the optical telephoto was on the order of 3X. For a while I was most interested in being able to get decent non-flash pictures and focused on cameras that did well on that task. Then I got to thinking that I used telephoto a lot more, so that had to weigh more heavily. With a budget limit of $400 dollars I finally bought a Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZR1. Its lens capability in classical SLR terms is a zoom from 25 to 200mm. This approximates the range I had available (by switching lenses) on the Nikon F cameras I used a lot when in the Far East during my army days. All that capability fitting in a pocked contrasted to all the camera and lens cases dangling from my neck when I was traipsing through Tokyo: amazing progress! Self-portrait at Santa Barbara Biltmore This is a non-flash photo taken at the Four Seasons Biltmore hotel in Montecito in the Santa Barbara area. The lighting conditions were pretty contrasty and the focus zone was indefinite, but the camera did a fairly decent job, considereing. I am pleased with it. Later, Donald... posted by Donald at November 10, 2009 | perma-link | (4) comments

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Incomprehensible Sports
Donald Pittenger writes: Dear Blowhards -- I recently wrote about how silly many sports can seem to people disinterested in them. Today the subject is sports that are incomprehensible to ignorant spectators. Sports such as basketball, soccer and hockey are probably easy to figure out because an object has to be moved about until hit enters a target zone. For me, one sport I watched that made almost no sense is cricket. Without researching the rules, mere observation yielded only a sketchy sense of what was happening. Any other nominees? Later, Donald... posted by Donald at November 8, 2009 | perma-link | (12) comments