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Monday, April 24, 2017

Roger Bissell’s 40-Page Review of The DIM Hypothesis

In his Preface to The DIM Hypothesis: Why the Lights of the West Are Going Out, Leonard Peikoff guesses that there is an 80 to 85 percent chance that Ayn Rand "would agree with the book, extol its virtues, and regard it as of historic importance.”

However, after reading Roger Bissell’s broad 40-page review of The DIM Hypothesis ("Beneath The DIM Hypothesis: The Logical Structure of Leonard Peikoff’s Analysis of Cultural Evolution"; The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, Vol. 13, No. 2, 2013), I am constrained to say that there is negligible chance of Rand agreeing with the book—she would not find much virtue in it and it is certain that she would not regard it as of historic importance.

Peikoff posits in The DIM Hypothesis that the three great philosophers, Plato, Aristotle, and Kant, offer the three “pure” (primary or fundamental) modes of integration. In addition to these three primary modes of integration, there are, he says, two “mixed” modes which are formed by joining the elements of the pure modes.

Thus, according to Peikoff, there are only five modes of integration: three “pure” and two “mixed.” But Bissell shows that there are problems in Peikoff’s DIM mixtures. Whereas Peikoff has asserted that there can be only two “mixed” modes, Bissell says that there can be six “mixed” modes in addition to the three “pure” modes.

Here’s the list of six “mixed” modes, according to Bissell:

1. Plato primary + Aristotle, Peikoff’s M1 

2. Kant primary + Aristotle, Peikoff’s D1 

3. Aristotle primary + Plato, rejected by Peikoff 

4. Aristotle primary + Kant, rejected by Peikoff 

5. Plato primary + Kant, not mentioned by Peikoff 

6. Kant primary + Plato, not mentioned by Peikoff 


Peikoff claims that Thomas Aquinas’s  thinking does not qualify as a DIM mixture for two reasons: firstly, Aquinas does not present an integrated view of fundamentals; secondly, he rejects Aristotle and Christianity as the basis or ground for the other.

But Bissell disagrees with Peikoff's view on Aquinas. Bissell says that “while it is true, as Peikoff says, that Aquinas “denies that the fundamentals of Christianity rest on the Aristotelian philosophy,” it is not true that “he denies the reverse.”” He also shows that Peikoff has misinterpreted the significance of the philosophy of Hegel and Spinoza.

According to Peikoff, Bentham and Mill are inspired by Kant. Here’s the relevant excerpt from The DIM Hypothesis: “In ethics, the most influential expressions of Knowing Skepticism are Comte's Religion of Humanity and the Utilitarianism of Bentham and Mill.... Being Kant-inspired, both regard elements within consciousness as the only basis for a distinction between good and evil.” But where is the evidence that Bentham and Mill were inspired by Kant? Bissell points out that the positions of Bentham and Mill are not Kantian—they are essentially Humean.

Bissell goes on to propose that rather than Immanuel Kant, David Hume “should be tagged as the arch-villain of modern philosophy, the paladin of the D2 Disintegrative position.” He devotes close to 50 percent of his review to exposing the weaknesses in the Objectivist position on Kant. “Hume seems much more Anti-Integration and nihilistic than Kant. At the very least, Kant seems more Pro-Integration and non-nihilistic than Rand, Peikoff, et al. give him credit for.”

Peikoff, it seems, has misinterpreted many of the statements that Kant makes in his works. For instance, from the famous Kantian statement—“I have therefore found it necessary to deny knowledge, in order to make room for faith”—Peikoff deduces that in ethics, Kant denied happiness, in order to make room for duty. He cites this as an instance of Kant’s attack on reason, this world, and man’s happiness.

But Bissell is of the view that Kant was not interested in attacking happiness or knowledge. He says that Kant’s “thrust in epistemology was to limit knowledge to a basis in experience, and to insist that theoretical reason could not produce either a proof or a disproof of free will, the existence of God, and so on, which are not found in our experience. These latter things can only be believed in, not known. In other words, Kant was denying that knowledge could be had of trans-experiential things, in order to make it clear that they had to be taken on faith (or not)—and that theoretical reason and knowledge had nothing to do with them.”

Finally, Bissell says that “the decades-long Objectivist condemnation of Kant, the branding of him by the philosophy’s founder as “the most evil man in mankind’s history,” and Peikoff’s equating of Kant with the Anti-Integration/Nihilist pole and his indictment of Kant’s philosophy as a “systematic negation of philosophy” are overripe for a careful examination and discussion.”

Bissell’s review of The DIM Hypothesis is profoundly important because it identifies significant problems not only with the logical framework of Leonard Peikoff’s hypothesis but also with the Objectivist theory of history.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Immanuel Kant and The League of Nations

John David Lewis in Nothing Less Than Victory says that the ideas that Immanuel Kant has developed in his essay "Perpetual Peace" (1795) served the purpose of creating an intellectual climate to support the creation of the League of Nations in 1920.

Woodrow Wilson, the US President at that time, was a former president of Princeton University with a Ph.D in political science. When Wilson stressed that the creation of the League of Nations would facilitate the development of a relationship between equals within an international whole, he was articulating ideas that he had received from intellectual predecessors like Kant.

In "Perpetual Peace", Kant says that the sovereign republics exist in a lawless state of nature. This state of nature is a “state of war,” because there are no standards of justice and institutions to resolve the disputes between nations. When there is no single international authority, each nation is unrestrained and can prey upon other nations.

According to Kant, international peace can be achieved only when the nations subordinate their foreign policy to an international authority, which he calls “league of peace” (foedus pacific). Here’s an excerpt from "Perpetual Peace":

“For states in relation to each other, there cannot be any reasonable way out of the lawless condition which entails only war except that they, like individual men, should give up their lawless (savage) freedom, adjust themselves to the constraints of public law, and thus establish a continuously growing state consisting of various nations [civitas gentium], which will ultimately include all the nations of the world.”

In Nothing Less Than Victory, John David Lewis writes:

“The League of Nations put the Kantian ideal into practice, in a new world order that eschewed the competitive nationalism of the previous century. Wilson’s ideals—equality, national self-determinism, and collective security—were the League’s foundation, were derivable from Kant’s ideas, and were highly influential. These ideals promised an effect alternative to the unpredictable actions of unrestrained sovereign nations. They became the moral compass that shaped the decisions of British leaders.” 

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Confessions Of An Orthodox Objectivist

The Signer
I have a confession to make. For two years I was an Orthodox Objectivist.

On any usual day, I used to make nice and reverent comments in the social media about some Objectivist God or demigod (I will reveal later in the article who the Gods and the demigods are). I was a member of the “Orthodox brigade” on FB—we used to “like” each other’s nice and reverent posts and leave complementary comments. Such activities made us feel that we are part of a large network of Objectivists and that we were taking concrete steps to make the movement grow.

But not every activity of the Orthodox community is saccharine coated. Along with liking each other’s posts and saying nice things about our Gods and demigods, we also needed to orchestrate vigorous campaigns to expose and denounce the heretics (where there are Gods and demigods, there will also be heretics). By the way, these campaigns were lots of fun because they allowed us to disgorge the accumulated bile in our minds, forget our personal problems, and feel relaxed.

I used to happily participate in the social media campaigns for exposing and excommunicating the anarchists, libertarians, moral agnostics, religious conservatives, and the supporters of Nathaniel Branden, Barbara Branden, Dr. David Kelley and other intellectuals who have been morally condemned by the Gods of Objectivism. I also contributed by passing nasty comments on the journals, and the online forums where they have freewheeling discussions on Objectivist issues.

Being fully convinced that the Orthodox Objectivists are the true followers of Ayn Rand, I started a FB group to support their cause. In this group it was normal for at least five or six people to be identified as heretics every month—these heretics would be hauled before an inquisition committee composed of the Orthodox members (including me), they would be accused of various crimes of heresy, and if they did not come up with an explanation (in most cases they couldn’t) they would be severely castigated and trolled before being unfriended and excommunicated.

Eating the Forbidden Fruit and Loss of Orthodoxy

Alas! I lost my orthodoxy when I ate the forbidden “apple” from the tree of heretical knowledge—which means that I read a few books, essays, journals and websites which are not endorsed by the Objectivist Gods and demigods. The quantum of my sin was further magnified by the fact that I praised some of these sacrilegious books, journals and articles in my blog and social media timeline. But I also criticized some of them. Yet, this did not matter. For, now neither heaven nor hell could save me from the wrath of the Orthodox community.

One day the inevitable happened: The heavy boot of the Objectivist inquisition fell on my forehead. My inquisition was a rather messy affair. It went on for about 15-days and it had all my best friends in FB turning against me and questioning my character, my intellect, my knowledge and my moral values. Having observed the Orthodox community for two years, I knew very well that it was futile to try to defend myself—the inquisition, once it starts, will only end after it has utterly mowed down the victim under a gigantic roadroller of insults and accusations.

Now I am no longer Orthodox; I am just an ordinary Objectivist. I have been denounced, castigated and trolled. I have been unfriended by most members of the Orthodox clique. I have been booted out of the cult of passive minds. Yet I have not given up on Ayn Rand. I continue to be an admirer of her literature and philosophy—only now the veil of orthodoxy is gone and I can approach her ideas with an unprejudiced, open and irreverent mindset.

Please allow me to shed light on the theological structure and the ten commandments of Orthodox Objectivism.

The Theological Structure of Orthodox Objectivism

Having emerged from the cocoon of Orthodoxy, I now realize that no one has “sinned” more against the legacy of Ayn Rand than the Orthodox Objectivists, who are the dogmatic sticklers of her philosophical system. I use the word “sinned” deliberately because for the Orthodox Objectivists, Rand is equivalent to God and her writings have the status of a Holy Scripture.

A believer in Rand’s system is required to say “yes” to each and every letter, word and punctuation mark in her corpus; you have to believe that every decision that she ever made in her entire life was holy and perfect. If you harbor a single doubt over a single line that she has spoken or written, or if you think that she has made a single incorrect decision in her lifetime, then you face the risk of being denounced as a heretic and excommunicated. To be fair, the Orthodox Objectivists do believe Rand made some “errors of knowledge”, just no “errors of morality”; her biggest “error of knowledge” was trusting Nathaniel Branden for eighteen years, apparently. Hard to believe that such a wise God could have been so deceived for so long.

But the orthodoxy of the Orthodox Objectivists does not remain confined to Rand—in the Objectivist paradise there are other Gods and demigods who must be appeased. Dr. Leonard Peikoff is the number two God and the intellectuals endorsed by him are the myriad demigods. Like Rand, the number two God is infallible. As Dr. Peikoff is infallible, the demigods that he has endorsed are also infallible. Also, the only holy Objectivist institutions are the ones that are supported by him.

In his 1989 article, “Fact and Value,” Dr. Peikoff asserted that in his view Objectivism is “rigid,” “narrow,” “intolerant” and “closed-minded.” And under his godhood, Objectivism has, indeed, transmogrified into a “rigid,” “narrow,” “intolerant” and “closed-minded” cult.

The Ten Commandments of Orthodox Objectivism 

Ayn Rand saw herself as the philosopher of reason, but the Gods and demigods who followed her have transformed her into the ultimate God of revelation and this has resulted in her philosophy of Objectivism deteriorating into some kind of a revealed religion or a cult.

Here are the ten commandments of Orthodox Objectivism which I had been assiduously following in the recent past:

1. Ayn Rand is the first God, her intellectual heir (Dr. Peikoff) is the second God, and those endorsed by the intellectual heir are the myriad demigods.

2. You shall not take the name of the Gods or the demigods in vain.

3. You shall regard every word written or spoken by the Gods and demigods as a holy writ that must be blindly accepted as the holy truth.

4.You shall regard the Gods and demigods as the most intelligent, knowledgable and effective philosophers in the entire history of human civilization.

5. You shall unleash all your firepower against anyone who finds himself in agreement with the viewpoints of Nathaniel Branden, Barbara Branden, Dr. David Kelley and other heretical intellectuals.

6. You shall keep away from the enemies of Objectivism: the libertarians, moral agnostics, anarchists, and all those whom the Gods and demigods have condemned morally.

7. You shall believe that Nathaniel Branden was the one to blame for all that went wrong in his relationship with Ayn Rand, who, being a Godly figure, can never commit any mistake of morality.

8. You shall believe that The Passion of Ayn Rand by Barbara Branden is“non-cognitive”. You must never read it and you must do all you can to dissuade the newbies from reading it.

9. The enemies of the cult are everywhere. You must be on lookout for not only the heretics outside the cult but also for the enemy within. If an Orthodox Objectivist develops heretical thoughts, you must not show him mercy—boot him out of the cult.

10. You shall share the quotes and articles of the Gods and the demigods in your social media timeline, and treat with suspicion all those who fail to like or retweet your posts.

I owe an apology to those who were target of the castigation, trolling and excommunications campaigns in which I participated during the days when I was part of the Orthodox Objectivist cult. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Orthodox Objectivism is dead, long live Objectivism! 

Related:

My Farewell To Organized Objectivism

The Boy Scout Objectivists Must Check Their Premises

Marxism Explained in 2 Minutes, with Deirdre McCloskey

Saturday, April 15, 2017

104 Years of the Income Tax

Plato and Aristotle: Augustine and Aquinas

Painting of Thomas Aquinas
by Carlo Crivelli (1476)
Augustine and Thomas Aquinas are separated by almost eight centuries but both are Christian thinkers. Is it possible that there is a continuity of thought and feeling between the two? Historian W. T. Jones has explored this question in The Medieval Mind.

Here’s an excerpt:

"Plato and Aristotle, the two dominant philosophers of the classical period, were teacher and pupil. They lived in essentially the same world, understood its problems in much the same way, and sought a common solution for them. Between Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, the correspondingly dominant figures of the medieval period, there was a similar continuity of thought and feeling, for they were both Christian thinkers and thus had a common core of doctrine and faith. Yet these two figures were separated by no less than eight centuries. This is a long time by almost any standard—longer than the whole of the classical period. And though the rate of cultural change was much slower in the Middle Ages than it is today, a great many new values and attitudes developed, new institutions were fashioned, and new values were experienced during the long period between Augustine’s death and Thomas’ birth. All these changes were naturally reflected in the Thomistic synthesis of the thirteenth century. Thus, though Thomism shared many of the basic insights of Augustinianism, it faced new problems and dealt with old ones in new ways."

(Source: The Medieval Mind (A History of Western Philosophy, Volume II) by W. T. Jones; Chapter: “The Medieval Interval”) 

400 Bites podcast interviews arranged by theme

Friday, April 14, 2017

A Philosophical Zombie


But if a being without consciousness is a "philosophical zombie", what is a consciousness without being?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

From The Fountainhead To The Future

From The Fountainhead To The Future and Other Essays on Art and Excellence
Alexandra York

Alexandra York’s essays in From The Fountainhead To The Future thoroughly explore the idea that good art can inspire better society.

She analyzes the repercussions of the artistic trends in different epochs of history—ancient Greece, the Roman Empire and the Renaissance—and develops a convincing view on what the postmodernist art of today portends for the future of the Western civilization.

In her Preface, York says: “The Time is ripe for philosophically inspired art to emerge from our midst like “homing” search lights beamed onto viable paths that might lead us out of our present morass into the natural sunlight of a tomorrow where people will have learned again to cherish beauty and rational values.”

In the chapter, “The State of Culture,” York says: “Art is a shortcut to philosophy. This is why the art that predominates in any given culture can be read as a barometer of that culture’s basic philosophical content. All artists are not always conscious of the values they express in their work but conscious or not, we can be very sure that their deepest, most personally held values are revealed in their art, for good or ill.”

York posits that when the present nihilism of postmodern art fades away, Western civilization will see a new renaissance of much greater philosophical and political significance than the Italian Renaissance.

In the chapter, “Romantic Realism: Visions of Values,” she points out that a “renaissance” must not be regarded as a mere “revival,” because the word means a “rebirth.” “We cannot and should not seek to repeat the past. No matter how ground-breaking was ancient Greece or how brilliant the Italian Renaissance or how progressive the Enlightenment, we must begin here and now.”

She warns that “If we fail to generate a Renaissance of the twenty-first century, then surely we shall suffer a Dark Age.”

The idea of a Twenty-first century Renaissance is further explained in the chapter, “The Legacy Lives: Embracing The Year Three thousand in Philosophy and Art.” York says that the “art produced during any epoch—from Paleolithic cave drawings to the Parthenon—is always an accurate philosophical and spiritual testament to the degree of progress or primitivism of its own time and the ideas that informed it.”

Taking this idea in mind she draws her inference about our artistic testament today and in the future. She accepts that nihilism is the dominant trend in modern art, but she feels that this artistic nihilism can pave way for a better tomorrow. “But strange as it may seem, this chaos can actually serve us, because it leaves the way out of the ruins open and obstacle-free of ossified preconceptions that might otherwise hinder our judgement.”

The analysis of Michelangelo’s David, Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker and EvAngelos Frudakis’s The Signer in the chapter, “Art As Interactive Experience,” is very interesting. York’s analysis of these timeless masterpieces reminds us of the vital role that art plays in inspiring us to develop ideas for improving the world that we inhabit.

The book ends with the chapter, “Sharing The Miracle” in which York points out that art is the most beautiful, noble and life-enriching of all human creations.

The eleven essays in York’s book are compatible with Ayn Rand's theory of romantic art, and although the use of The Fountainhead signifies the base from which her study of art on the world flows as the fountainhead of Western civilization--Ancient Greece—many readers may connect with Rand’s novel of the same name.

My One-Line Commentary On The Sancho Panza Mindset in Objectivism

Don Quixote Charging the Windmill
Like Sancho Panza they blindly follow the arrogant knight errant Don Quixote who wages philosophical battles against the windmills.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Platonic State and George Orwell’s 1984

The Classical Mind 
W. T. Jones
Harcourt, Brace & Word, Inc.

In The Classical Mind, W. T. Jones analyzes the implications of Platonic political theory and reaches the conclusion that while Plato was himself not a totalitarian, a state founded on Platonic principles will be close to the totalitarian state that George Orwell describes in 1984.

Here’s the excerpt from the chapter, “Plato: The Special Sciences”:
"Plato was not a totalitarian in intent, even if, as we may suspect, this is where a state founded on Platonic principles would end in fact. It is true that in its externals the Platonic state is close to that of George Orwell’s 1984. There is a Ministry of Propaganda, indoctrinating the public with useful fictions; a Ministry of Censorship, rigidly suppressing dangerous thoughts; the same military flavor; the same powerful police, the same discipline, the same denial of a domain of private rights; the same omnipresent state; the same ruling and self-perpetuating clique. The only difference—but a basic one—is in the character of the ruling elite. The rulers of Plato’s state know the truth and act in accordance with it for the good of all. The rulers of Orwell’s state are Thrasymacheans*, not Platonists; they have taken over Thrasymachus’ nihilism, cynicism and egoism and applied modern techniques of advertising and political control to accomplish results that Thrasymacus did not dream of, but that he certainly would have applauded. In Plato’s state, the rulers lie to the people for the good of the people; in the Orwellian state, the rulers lie to the people for the good of the rulers. In Plato’s state there is a tension of opposing economic, social, and political forces in the producing class, but this is held in check and in balance by the rulers, whose passionless knowledge has put them outside the struggle for power; in the Orwellian state the struggle for power infects the whole state and becomes more bitter, cruel, and savage in the more intelligent classes, for reason is not regarded as an instrument of self-discipline but as a tool for satisfying the passions. It is true that we have grounds for fearing that even Plato’s rulers might be corrupted by power, but it would be unfair to assume, because of this doubt, that Plato was advocating a totalitarian state. At a theoretical level, at the level of what has been called intent, Plato was poles apart from the totalitarians."
Thrasymachus is a character in Plato's Republic.

The Academics And The Peripatetics

After the demise of Plato and Aristotle what methods did their followers in Ancient Greece use to safeguard the integrity of the philosophical systems developed by the two philosophers? In The Classical Mind, W. T. Jones offers a few insights into the damage that was caused by the doctrinal orthodoxy of the followers of Plato and Aristotle.

Here’s an excerpt from the chapter, “The Late Classical Period”:

“The Academics were centered in the Academy that Plato had founded. For years after the founder’s death—such was the impress of his personality—his views were handed down dogmatically by a succession of hero worshipers. Like the Academics, the Peripatetics (as the members of Aristotle’s rival Lyceum came to be known, because of their master’s practice of walking about while lecturing) showed little originality. For the most part they were content to expound the encyclopaedic learning of Aristotle.”

W. T. Jones suggests that the growth of both Platonism and Aristotelianism was strangulated as the dogmatic followers of Plato and Aristotle focused solely on preserving the purity of the texts that the two philosophers had left behind. A few years after Plato and Aristotle there was sharp decline in the popularity of their ideas as people in Ancient Greece started looking at other schools of thought for solution to their social problems.

When the Greek civilization faded, there was rise of the Roman Empire where certain aspects of Platonism and Aristotelianism appeared in the form of Epicureanism, Stoicism and Scepticism.

In the final chapter, “The Late Classical Period,” W. T. Jones points out that the popularity of Epicureanism, Stoicism and Scepticism in the Roman Empire indicated that “this was a tired and discouraged society in which peace of mind, relief from the struggle, had replaced such positive goods as social progress and self-improvement. Now, peace of mind can conceivably be won by the natural means—by science or, alternatively, by suspension of judgment. But this natural peace could not hope to compete with the appeal of that deeper peace—the peace that passeth understanding—that was assured by a transcendent and otherworldly religion.”

The Classical Mind has an interesting description of how the ideas of Plato and Aristotle were used by philosophers like Epicurus and Lucretius in Epicureanism; by Cicero, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius in Stoicism; and by Sextus Empiricus and others in Scepticism. The book makes the case that the popularity of Epicureanism, Stoicism and Scepticism contributed to the moral and political decline of the Roman Empire and made it possible for the Dark Ages to takeover Europe.

The point is that the doctrinaire orthodoxy of the followers of Plato and Aristotle could not safeguard the integrity of the ideas of the two philosophers. The efforts of the orthodox followers resulted in the dissociation of Platonism and Aristotelianism from mainstream culture and this paved way for the rise of irrational philosophical systems like Epicureanism, Stoicism and Scepticism

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The Medieval Mind by W. T. Jones

Today I received from Amazon a copy of The Medieval Mind by W. T. Jones (this is the Volume II of his  5-volume A History of Western Philosophy). I ordered this book because I found the Volume I of the series, The Classical Mind, quite informative and entertaining.

The Medieval Mind describes the history of philosophy from the early days of Christianity to the end of the middle ages. From the table of contents, I can see that the major philosophers covered in the volume are St. Augustine, John Scotus Erigena, Thomas Aquinas, Roger Bacon, Duns Scotus, and William of Occam.

But the focus is on St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas—both have two complete chapters (out of a total of eight chapters in the book) devoted to their works and the implications of their ideas.

Here’s an excerpt from the Introduction:
“Philosophical speculation during the later part of the Middle Ages was chiefly concentrated on ascertaining the status of universals (a problem that had theological as well as epistemological implications) and on defining and delimiting the respective spheres of faith and reason. In the course of these investigations, the instruments of logical analysis were greatly refined and the Scholastic method was devised. All this prepared the way for Aquinas’ synthesis of classical learning with Christian insights. Aquinas reinterpreted the traditional Christian view of the divine nature in terms of the basic Aristotelian concepts of form and matter, actuality and potentiality. This synthesis was a much more consistent and formally complete metaphysics than Augustine had been able to work out. Furthermore, Aquinas’ theories of psychology, ethics, and politics reflected both his own interest in his world and its affairs and the changed position and functions of the Roman Church.” 
I will have more to say about the book once I finish reading it. 

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The April Fools' Day Surprise

In a comment on my FB post someone shared an “Official Membership Card” of Anoopism. It is not clear who has created this card, which has my image along with the images of Nathaniel Branden, Dr. David Kelley, Barbara Braden and Chris Matthew Sciabarra.

The card's motto is: "Stand with Us and We Will Stand With You. Together, We are One."

I can bear the use of my own image (such antics can be tolerated on the April Fools' day), but I think it is quite unethical to use the image of the eminent writers and philosophers, especially that of Nathaniel Branden and Barbara Braden who are now six feet under.


I think it is likely that the card is a handiwork of someone who dislikes my perspective on the state of the Objectivist movement that I have presented in my recent posts. Chris Matthew Sciabarra has written a blog on the “Official Membership Card” that he too received from someone.

Here's the link to Sciabarra's interesting post: The April Fools Run Amuck, Anoop!