The Fountainhead: The Art of the Interview

The Fountainhead, part 1, chapter 3We've seen that Howard Roark's goal is to apprentice with Henry Cameron, a once-renowned modernist architect who lost his business and sank into obscurity when he refused to move with the times. In this chapter, while Peter Keating is reporting for his first day of work at Francon & Heyer, Roark is across town climbing the stairs to Cameron's crumbling slum of an office:Henry Cameron sat at his desk at the end of a long, bare room. He sat bent … [Read more...]

Evangelicals Cement Their Bigotry

The new administration's Muslim travel ban has inspired vehement protests across America. Even if the courts uphold it, which seems unlikely, the fear and dismay it's caused in immigrants throughout the land will have a lasting effect. In a black irony, its most salient effect may be to chase away skilled workers of all types - including immigrant doctors from Muslim countries who work in the underserved regions of Appalachia and the Rust Belt. (Once again, you get what you vote for.)The … [Read more...]

Dystopia Journal #3: The Unamerican President

Last month, when I wrote about the unprecedented badness of the Trump administration, I neglected to mention something else unique and terrifying about his presidency. Namely, it's that he seems to value the goodwill of foreign autocrats above the well-being of America.This was, of course, brought forcefully to my attention by the news that Attorney General Jeff Sessions secretly had contact with the Russian ambassador during the campaign and lied to Congress about it during his confirmation … [Read more...]

The Fountainhead: Market Forces

The Fountainhead, part 1, chapter 3In last week's post, we met Guy Francon, who was once a famous architect but now spends all his time drinking and gorging himself at fancy dinners. Here's how he made his reputation:The Frink National Bank Building displayed the entire history of Roman art in well-chosen specimens; for a long time it had been considered the best building of the city, because no other structure could boast a single Classical item which it did not possess. It offered so … [Read more...]

Can Basic Income End Poverty?

Last year, in "The Post-Work Society", I wrote about whether a universal basic income would be a feasible option in a society where there aren't enough jobs for everyone.I was skeptical that this wouldn't lead to a tragedy-of-the-commons problem - that the people who get the money would drop out of the workforce and leave everyone else to pick up the slack. But a test run in Kenya, at least so far, is offering evidence to the contrary.The program is being run by the nonprofit … [Read more...]

The Next Hop

For all the madness and cruelty on earth, we're privileged to live in a time when scientists are confirming that the skies are overflowing with planets friendly to life. And another big discovery that expands our cosmic horizon has just been announced:NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed the first known system of seven Earth-size planets around a single star. Three of these planets are firmly located in the habitable zone, the area around the parent star where a rocky planet is most … [Read more...]

The Fountainhead: McMansion Hell

The Fountainhead, part 1, chapter 3Peter Keating shows up for his first day of work at Francon & Heyer, the prestigious New York architectural firm. At first he's impressed by the well-dressed people and the lavish office (its walls decorated with "etchings of Greek temples", naturally - damn those evil Greeks).When he sits down at a drafting table, he fears the plans he's been given to work on are "someone's tremendous achievement which he could neither question nor equal". But he soon … [Read more...]

Does Atheism Lead to Islam?

As a society becomes increasingly secular and unchurched, what's the natural next step? Will it continue to become freer, more liberal, more peaceful? Or will it take a sharp 180-degree turn into ultra-fundamentalist Islam?You might find that idea absurd. If so, you're probably not archbishop emeritus (which I'm assuming is code for "ultra-conservative old fossil who pines for the Inquisition") Carlo Liberati, of Italy, who reportedly said the following:Because of their "stupidity," … [Read more...]

Dystopia Journal #2: Is It Really That Bad?

One month into the Trump administration, I'm looking for any reason to be optimistic. One that's occurred to me is that I have to wonder whether I'm not falling into the trap of present bias - exaggerating how bad things are now, just because I wasn't around in past eras when things were far worse, so I don't have the proper baseline for comparison.After all, we've been through bad times before. The U.S. has had awful presidents and Congresses, wars and depressions and all kinds of … [Read more...]

The Fountainhead: Know Thyself

The Fountainhead, part 1, chapter 2When Peter Keating returns to his mother's house in town that night, Howard Roark is sitting on the porch. The two of them are roommates; Roark is renting a room in his mother's boarding house.The two of them are friends (frenemies?), of a sort. Roark congratulates Keating for his graduation, utterly indifferent to his own expulsion. Meanwhile, Keating thinks that Roark is "the one person whom he had wanted to see tonight". He tells Roark that he … [Read more...]