President Obama and Small Businesses

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English: View of the east end of the Ithaca Co...

At http://washingtonexaminer.com/55-percent-of-small-business-owners-would-not-start-company-today-blame-obama/article/2509069#.UGNK8q4yfCZ is a story revealing that 55% of small business owners would not start a business today, and that they blame President Obama for that. Democrats love to claim that “We are for the little guy,” but the small business owners with whom I have talked agree with the 55% in the poll. One owner of a flower shop told me that his business prospered best when Mr. Reagan was president, and that he is barely holding on under the Obama administration. The main reason is the poor economy–and this is something that cannot be wholly blamed on Mr. Bush, although he shares part of the blame. Mr. Obama has been in office for three years, and his massive spending of federal money has done no more good than did Mr. Bush’s massive spending. The “economic stimulus package” may have helped some businesses and educational institutions, but much of the money did not go to “shovel-ready projects,” as Mr. Obama claimed.

What is needed for small business to prosper is (1) a lessening of the regulatory load the federal government imposes on business, (2) a reasonable tax rate that does not overburden small businesses, (3) an end to the corporate welfare that favors large corporations over small businesses in a given community, and (4) higher tariffs and other ways to lessen the trade deficit and to stop outsourcing of American jobs. The Republicans agree with the first three factors–they need to follow Pat Buchanan and agree with the fourth. Still, three out of four is better than the Democrats’ zero percentage.

If the Obama Administration were only an enemy of large multinational corporations I could stomach that. They hold an unfair advantage over small businesses and often out-compete mom and pop operations by city, county, and/or state officials giving them large tax breaks. But the Administration has revealed its hostility to small businesses as well through heavy regulatory and burdensome tax policies. The massive spending of federal funds that has blown the federal budget deficit out to astronomical proportions helps keep investors nervous and helps keep the economy in a chronic recession. If a Republican were president, much of the media would be telling the truth which is that the United States is in a depression. The true unemployment rate that includes those who have given up trying to find the job approaches 15%. In some counties unemployment approaches 30%. The poor economy means that people have less money, and their lack of funds means that they spend less money–and small businesses, which are often more expensive  than large corporations, suffer first as customers seek cheaper products. The combination of poor sales and increasing capital resources to pay taxes and for renovations required by the government smothers small businesses. The economic ramifications of a second Obama term would most likely result in the ruin of many other small businesses.

Pseudo-Intellectual Assumptions

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THE NEW LEFT

THE NEW LEFT (Photo credit: SS&SS)

 

Having been in academia for so many years, and involved in creative writing for the past fourteen years, I have found many of the assumptions of academics and writers to be similar. Both classes would be considered intellectuals of a sort–I know it  takes a great deal of intelligence to do creative writing, and getting a Ph.D. takes a great of intellect and effort. When it comes to moral positions and politics, however, intellectuals seem no smarter than someone who could not make a D in English or science. On those areas, some of the “common people” have far more wisdom than the so-called intellectuals. The problem is that intellectuals believe that because they are experts in an academic discipline, they also have the practical reasoning to give good advice on political and moral positions. In these areas intellectuals often fall into pseudo-intellectuals. One way they reveal their ignorance is by their assumptions. Most academics and writers are liberals, and they assume falsely that other intellectuals and writers are all liberals like them. They also assume falsely that liberalism is self-evident rather than requiring justification and that any conservative is either ignorant, unethical, or both. The arguments of the academic and literary left, in my experience, are either abusive ad hominem, straw man, or poisoning the well. Very few genuine arguments are presented. It is easy to attack a person’s intelligence and/or character rather than engage in the difficult craft of good argumentation. Some academics and writers will listen to alternative points of view, but most, from my experience, are closed minded and identify the political and the personal. Conservatives, except for extremists, have no problems liking liberals personally or having liberal friends, and thankfully some liberals are the same way. But in academia and among many writers I have seen, liberals refuse to be friends with conservatives and tend to think they are bad people, especially those who defend traditional sexual ethics. Since the 1962 Port Huron Meeting, the New Left has gone on to dominate academia, poisoning it, most likely permanently. It is a shame that those who should be the most open to alternate points of view are often the most closed.

 

36th International Conference, Society for Psychical Research, 7-9 September, 2012

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Corporate logo of the University of Northampto...

Corporate logo of the University of Northampton (400×102 px, 7,573 bytes) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The 36th International Conference of the Society for Psychical Research took place from September 7-9, 2012 at the University of Northampton, UK. This year also marks the 130th year of the existence of the SPR, which was founded in 1882. The conference was a great success, and the quality of the papers outstanding. The first paper, by John Poynton, proposed narrative, specifically novels, as a way to show (rather than to tell) the public that the mechanistic view of nature is bankrupt. This is something he has attempted to do in his own novels. Given the contemporary emphasis in narrative approaches to philosophy and other fields, Carr’s view offered a corrective to an over-emphasis on discursive telling in science and philosophy.

Mary Rose Barrington has been in the field of psychical research for many years, and I am always impressed with the quality and wisdom of her papers, She proposed that psychical research does not deal with replicable phenomena and that this should not stand in the way of continuing to do such research. I found her talk intellectually stimulating. It raised issues concerning the definition of science and whether psychical research is a science. Given that science does deal with some non-replicable phenomena (the big bang, the course of biological evolution, which seems to be contingent), this should not preclude the scientific nature of psychical research. Even if it is an independent discipline more closely related to history, that does not prevent its discovery of truths.

Julie Rousseau’s paper concerned Galileo’s critics, and she offered a sympathetic account of the issues dividing Galileo from his critics. She correctly notes that at in Galileo’s lifetime, the evidence could not determine whether the Ptolemaic or Copernican theory of the solar system was correct. This underdetermination of the solar system controversy by the evidence shows that the notion of the rational Galileo fighting an irrational church is oversimplified. She then applies the paradigm shift from Ptolemy to Copernicus to the current paradigm shift toward less mechanistic explanations in the sciences. This process, she argues, requires a broad-based approach that recognizes that a radical paradigm shift involves a shift in intellectual commitments that involve philosophical as well as scientific claims.

Christopher Laursen’s paper was a unique contribution dealing with how psychical researchers from World War II to around 1990 dealt with those who wrote to them who also had obvious mental problems. Approaches ranged from avoidance to referral to a mental health care expert. Such cases bring up a serious ethical dilemma in what to do in such cases, and such dilemmas have generally been an unexplored area of psychical research.

Paul Rogers’ paper on how various parenting patterns, especially overprotectedness,  can influence later beliefs in psi is interesting from a psychological perspective. It is important to note, however, that such psychological factors have nothing to do with the reality or unreality of psi.

David Luke’s paper concerned whether eating San Pedro Cactus would improve psi ability. He used himself as the research subject. An interesting aside is that the Nuremburg Code allows for risky experimentation on human subjects if the subject is the investigator. He found that for him, San Pedro Cactus helped with psi abilities. An expansion of this study in an ethical way would be difficult since it would be ideal to have non-psychedic users involved to remove the confound of the influence of other psychoactive substances. However, those unfamiliar with psychedelics can have an uncomfortable experience of loss of control after taking a psychedelic substance. There is also a risk of a “bad trip.” One could try a comparative study of users and non-users of a particular psychedelic drug in a similar population and test both for psi ability, but the conclusions of such a study may not have the force that researchers may desire. In any case, Professor Luke’s paper was among the most interesting of the conference.

Sonnex, Roe, and Roxburgh are in the process of examining distant mental influence on non-whole human samples by examining studies that focus on DNA, bacteria, plants, or non-human animals. These studies seem to have more support than studies involving whole human beings.

Roberts and Hume did an interesting study of pairs (friends, strangers, siblings, and romantic couples) to determine whether a particular kind of pair had better psi scores than others. Surprisingly, strangers had the best hit rate. There was a slight predominance of psi hitting, but that was not statistically significant. The authors suggest that individual and interpersonal variables may be more valuable than the degree of relation regarding psi scoring. This makes sense—some romantic partners may be at a stage in their relationship that is not close at the time of a study, and some friends may be closer emotionally than romantic partners. Regarding the higher scores with strangers, perhaps there was strong motivation by some of the strangers to impress their partner.

There followed papers by Broughton and Zycowicz as well as by Chris Roe and his colleagues and students that were statistical, process-oriented studies of psi. As a philosopher, it was easy for me to get lost in the data, but such studies are essential for exploring the correlational patterns of relationships, personality, and other factors in psi research. Roe and his colleagues/students had another paper attempting to replicate Bem’s precognition task, one of the most interesting psi studies of the last decade, and one whose results were published in a mainstream psychology journal. My hope is that more researchers will attempt to replicate Bem. At the Rhine Center I participated in an informal version of the experiment that Bem administered to the audience. The fact that I and most others scored higher using “study words” given to us after we took a test was a fascinating result.

Donald West’s paper, “Awkward Questions,” notes that the best psi cases are the few extraordinary cases. He suggests, rightly I think, that more emphasis should be given to strong spontaneous cases of psi rather than larger scale studies that may have only limited validity. My own view is that a good spontaneous case is better evidence for how psi functions than laboratory studies that may be limited in validity due to the experimenter effect. Stephen Braude has noted that to study a football quarterback’s ability, one must see the quarterback in action during a game, not study him in a lab. I agree with Professor Braude that the situation with psi is analogous.

I had been looking forward to Chris Bratcher’s talk on H. D. Lewis’s contribution to psychical research, but unfortunately Mr. Bratcher was unable to make it to the conference. Another speaker, James Beichler graciously agreed to present a paper instead. His paper offered a fascinating theory explaining paranormal phenomena in terms of a five-dimensional geometry and involving a physical (though not necessarily materialist) view of apparitions. As with many such broad-based theory of physics, it awaits empirical evidence supporting its major tenants, and if his theory is one of several that account for the data of psi, then all those theories will be judged via epistemic virtues such as explanatory power, simplicity, and beauty.

Michael Potts’ paper was a comparison between James Carpenter’s “first sight” theory of psi and the medieval philosopher Duns Scotus’ (1265-1308) theory of intellectual intuitive cognition. Both hold that psi is “first sight,” but in different ways. Duns Scotus’ theory is one possible way to overcome the epistemological gap between mind and thing through direct cognition of the existing object. Carpenter adds the value of psi in meeting the needs of organisms, including the basic need of survival.

Wim Kramer offered an interesting history of one of the forgotten researchers in parapsychology, Floris Jansen, who developed a lab to explore psi in Amsterdam in 1906 that, sadly, closed in 1908 due to lack of funding.

Erlender Haraldsson, one of the towering figures of contemporary psychical research, presented a paper based on a recent book containing the results of a survey he conducted of afterlife encounters in Iceland. Such a survey was badly needed—Phantasms of the Living dates to the nineteenth century, and recent works of afterlife encounters usually give only anecdotes without full survey data. This work marks another masterful contribution to survival research from a giant in the field.

David Rousseau argued that veridical near-death experiences offer a way beyond the impasse of the survival vs. superpsi debate in favor of survival. If his work finds a way out of the impasse, as I think it will, this will mark a key contribution to survival research.

Callum Cooper presented an interesting historical paper on apparitions and survival in Egypt, both in ancient times and in the present day.

Richard Broughton’s after dinner talk dealt with his long career in parapsychology. It was fascinating to hear his accounts of the major figures in the field from around 1970 to the present day.

Deborah Oakes shared a fascinating account of non-linear modeling as it relates to rogue waves on the ocean, and argues that psi also requires such non-linear modeling. I have a long-time interest in chaos and complexity theory, and I would hope in her future work that Ms. Oakes would mention some specific examples in which psi fits into a non-linear, rather than into a linear, pattern.

Steven Parsons’ paper concerned paranormal researchers and whether infrasound could cause paranormal-seeming events. By this stage, jet-lag was getting to me, but if I understood his results, they seemed to discount most influence from infrasound while not leaving out a role for infrasound in psi phenomena.

Simon Sherwood’s paper concerned the characteristics of people who experience “ghostly phenomena.” Again, such studies are valuable unless they argue for psychological reductionism, which would commit the genetic fallacy and go beyond the available evidence. I do not think that Sherwood’s paper made that mistake.

Alan Murdie focused on Andrew Green, a UK ghost hunter who did not believe in ghosts.

Ann Winsper focused on Teresa Helena Higginson and various paranormal events associated with her.

Paul Cropper’s fascinating study of the poltergeist in Asia included a film of a bullet flying “on its own” through the air into a wall at high speed.  As poltergeist phenomena are notoriously difficult to photograph or film, that clip provides a strong, but not conclusive, case for the reality of poltergeist phenomena.

I had the blessing of talking to many of the psychical researchers at the conference. The food was excellent, and the area surrounding Northampton is among the most beautiful in England. This was one of the most interesting SPR conferences I have attended. As usual, Bernard Carr and the other members of the program committee as well as Peter Johnson’s hard work in dealing with practical matters of room and board, are greatly appreciated.