Archive for September, 2011

Announcement: SoCal Objectivists

by Jason Stotts

Earl Parson and I have decided that we’re going to be starting an Objectivist Society here in Southern California, home of the Ayn Rand Institute and of probably the highest concentration of objectivists in the country.  It’s really strange that with so many us living in the area, there are no social groups or reading groups for us to participate in.  There is a great value in spending time with fun and intelligent people who share your principles and beliefs, and this is a value we’d like to have in our lives in a bigger way.

The plan is to create one large group with two different chapters: one in LA and one in the IE/OC.  Each chapter would meet bi-monthly (more if there is demand for it) and the groups would alternate, such that there was a group meeting every month. We’ll probably have both social meetings, reading groups, and discussion sessions. We’ll likely also plan social outings, like beach trips, hikes, and shooting range time.

At this point we’re very much in the planning stage and we welcome any feedback you have for us.  We’re having a social get together and planning night for Saturday September 17th, 2011.  If you’re interested, please sign up for announcements, and details on the event, through our Google Group.  You can also “like” our Facebook page or follow us on twitter @SoCalOists.

Chicago Minicon

by Jason Stotts

I want to thank everyone who attended my lecture over the weekend at COSCon.  I hope that everyone found it interesting and engaging.  If you’re interested in further readings, I recommend starting with the following:

1. “Of Living Death,” The Objectivist.  Especially 530-531. (Or: The Voice of Reason, 46-63.)

2. “Francisco’s Sex Speech,” from Atlas Shrugged, 453-455 (Or: For The New Intellectual, 98-101.)

3. Playboy Interview (Pamphlet).

4. “Philosophy and Sense of Life,” The Romantic Manifesto.

I also want to thank those of you who helped to fund my trip to Chicago.  For everyone else, there’s still plenty of time to donate!  I’m offering a copy of the extended version of the speech I read for anyone who donates at least $10 (more is appreciated, since travel isn’t free and the speaking was unpaid).  The extended version is about 25 pages, so there is a lot of material that you will find new, even if you took the class.  If you want to donate you can do so via PayPal by sending a payment to Jason(at)JasonStotts.com (inserting the obvious symbol), this can be done with PayPal or any credit card, or you can write me for other options.

Anyone who was at the conference and would like to ask follow-up questions, or who had questions that they didn’t get to ask, can also e-mail me and I’ll still answer your questions.  I answer all questions anonymously, so you don’t have to worry about your name being used.

Formspring: Moral Differences between Sex Acts?

by Jason Stotts

I received this question recently, which is partly a response to my answer of the last formspring question “When is Sex Appropriate?“.  The question is this:

What is the moral difference between manual, oral and vaginal sex? Is there one? Should one’s standards for partners vary for each of these activities? Why is the accepted practice to go in the order listed above, when often oral to many is more intimate?

First, when I said that “I think a good basic trajectory is manual – oral – sex,” I was being descriptive, not prescriptive.  That is, I was merely noting that this is the usual way people learn about sex, but not that it’s the “right way.”  I do think that, in general, it’s best for younger people without experience to start with the less intimate acts and move to progressively more intimate acts.  You note that oral can be more intimate to some people and there’s no doubt that’s true, so I would recommend that these people act according to their values and their own hierarchy.  That’s the beauty of treating sex in an abstract way, you can give general rules that any individual agent can adapt to their own lives.

Now, on to your other question: is there a moral difference between sex acts?  No, there’s not.  The relevant moral questions regard the way you chose your partner, not what you do with them.  For example, you need to think about the moral ramifications of how you’re picking your partners, but given that you can clear that hurdle, there’s no concern over what you do with them.  Assuming, of course, that you’re not deceiving this person, acting from bad psychological premises, harming your body (note that hurting and harming are very different), etc.  I think you should have the same set of ethical criteria for all your sexual partners, even if you don’t plan on doing certain activities with them for whatever reason.

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As always, feel free to ask me questions via e-mail at Jason(at)JasonStotts.com, via formspring, or twitter (@jstotts).

Starbucks Doesn’t Get It

by Jason Stotts

I was surprised to find an e-mail from Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz this morning in my inbox.  I was even more surprised by it after I read the message:

September 2011

Dear Starbucks Friend and Fellow Citizen:

I love our country. And I am a beneficiary of the promise of America. But today, I am very concerned that at times I do not recognize the America that I love.

Like so many of you, I am deeply disappointed by the pervasive failure of leadership in Washington. And also like you, I am frustrated by our political leaders’ steadfast refusal to recognize that, for every day they perpetuate partisan conflict and put ideology over country, America and Americans suffer from the combined effects of paralysis and uncertainty. Americans can’t find jobs. Small businesses can’t get credit. And the fracturing of consumer confidence continues.

We are better than this.

Three weeks ago, I asked fellow business leaders to join me in urging the President and the Congress to put an end to partisan gridlock and, in its place, to set in motion an upward spiral of confidence. More than 100 business leaders representing American companies – large and small – joined me in signing a two-part pledge:

First, to withhold political campaign contributions until a transparent, comprehensive, bipartisan debt-and-deficit package is reached that honestly, and fairly, sets America on a path to long-term financial health and security. Second, to do all we can to break the cycle of economic uncertainty that grips our country by committing to accelerate investment in jobs and hiring.

In the weeks since then, I have been overwhelmed by the heartfelt stories of Americans from across the country, sharing their anguish over losing hope in the strongest and most galvanizing force of all – the American Dream. Some feel they have no voice. Others feel they no longer matter. And many feel they have been left behind.

We cannot let this stand.

Please join other concerned Americans and me on a national call-in conversation on Tuesday September 6th hosted by “No Labels,” a nonpartisan organization dedicated to fostering cooperative and more effective government. To learn more about the forum and the pledges, visit www.upwardspiral2011.org

America is at a fragile and critical moment in its history. We must restore hope in the American Dream. We must celebrate all that America stands for around the world. And while our Founding Fathers recognized the constructive value of political debate, we must send the message to today’s elected officials in a civil, respectful voice they hear and understand, that the time to put citizenship ahead of partisanship is now.

Yours is the voice that can help ignite the contagious upward spiral of confidence that our country desperately needs.

With great respect,

chief executive officer, Starbucks Coffee Company

This message conveys to me a shocking and even appalling lack of understanding of the current issues of the day by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz.  He says “Like so many of you, I am deeply disappointed by… our political leaders’ steadfast refusal to recognize that, for every day they perpetuate partisan conflict and put ideology over country, America and Americans suffer from the combined effects of paralysis and uncertainty.”  Howard, there is not a clear answer here that both sides of the political spectrum are failing to acknowledge.  It’s that our country is in a time of change and the question is which way it should change.  The Democrats want to see egalitarian socialism enacted where there would be no rich or poor, but just the grey morass of those held down to the lowest common denominator, but at least your bedroom would be private!  The Republicans want to see an economically permissive theocracy, but want to chain up your thoughts and genitals to conform to their god’s will.  The Tea Party is laissez-faire and nobly wants freedom, but they lack any idea what that means.

The point is, though, Howard, that there is no clear answer here and it is precisely a battle over ideology!  To say that we should just end the debate means that you think you know the answer and that we should all agree with you.  Interestingly, this is not the case.