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The vulgar materialism of progressive philosophy

Apr. 11th, 2010 | 12:12 am

The following article comes to me by way of Linda. It's titled, "The Preposterous Reality: 25 Hedge Fund Managers Are Worth 680,000 Teachers (Who Teach 13 Million Students)".

In 2009, the worst economic year for working people since the Great Depression, the top 25 hedge fund managers walked off with an average of $1 billion each. With the money those 25 people “earned,” we could have hired 658,000 entry level teachers. (They make about $38,000 a year, including benefits.) Those educators could have brought along over 13 million young people, assuming a class size of 20. That’s some value.

Apparently the 25 hedge managers did something that is even more valued in our society.

The very title is glaring in its blatant materialism and fixation on money. Since when is a man's moral or metaphysical worth determined by the size of his bank account? Sure, a hedge fund manager has a lot more money than a teacher. So what? What on Earth does that have to do the relative value of the hedge fund manager or the teacher as people? Don't Progressives themselves teach us not to judge people based on how much money they have? Don't they argue against conflating a person's moral worth with their financial worth? Isn't that exactly what they're doing in getting outraged at the fact that one doesn't match the other?

Ironic, isn't it, how the progressive movement considers wealth to be such a social ill, yet is fixated on it? It reminds me of how it's often said that the Catholic church is obsessed with sex because of the degree to which they lose their shit about it.

Look, of course a hedge fund manager has way more money than a teacher. A hedge fund manager moves money around for a living, primarily into his own bank account. He spends every moment of his day doing so.

A hedge fund manager has a comparatively enormous amount of money for the same reason that a professional musician has a comparatively enormous amount of stage time, or a computer programmer has a comparatively enormous number of lines of attributed code, or a teacher has a comparatively enormous number of students he's taught. Cranking out those deliverables is what they do. All day. Every day. Of course they produce more of their respective deliverable than people who aren't working on producing that deliverable. The statement is tautological. In short: fucking duh!

To generalize a formula first established by the Beatles, "The X you take is equal to the X you make." If you're a musician, your life will be filled with music. If you're a technologist, your life will be filled with technology. If you're a banker, your life will be filled with money. It's simple cause and effect. If you don't understand that, then you're just stupid. I'm sorry, but it's true.

So, think about how vulgar, how base, how mentally decrepit one must be to resent the hedge fund manager for his accumulation of wealth - to fail to see it as the logical consequence of spending a career focused on the singular task of accumulating wealth. Only a pathological fixation on the size of a person's bank account, an shakeable belief that a person's worth is determined by their material fortune, can possibly explain the sense of outrage expressed in that AlterNet article.

Really, AlterNet? You believe that "society" is saying that 25 hedge fund managers are "worth" the same as 680,000 teachers? Then apparently you believe that "society" allocates money to people based on the degree to which "society" values those people.

And that is so not how it works.

There is no correlation between how much money a person makes or has, and their "value" to "society". That correlation is something you apparently want. That correlation is also something you scold others (and rightly so) for believing.

But the reason there is no such correlation is because there is no such creature as "society".

You seem to believe that we live in a world in which a parent or a teacher or a God grades you and gives you stickers based on some kind of objective metric of your performance. And of course we expect the nameless, faceless authority figure to be fair and impartial and to grant reward in proportion to merit.

That's adorable.

Of course it's natural for you to think so. That's how we spend the first 18 to 22 years of our lives, under the power and protection of our parents and teachers.

But in the real world, there is no such being. There is no parent, no teacher, no God. There's just you and 6 billion other schmucks, each of us trying our hardest to live as best as we can. And ideas such as reward-for-merit, and appeal to a fair and impartial higher power, and especially the fallacy of equating dollar signs with little gold stickers, are all just recipes for living a very bitter, angry life.

I will agree with one thing the article states, though:

"It’s going to take a lot of political will — over a long period of time — to reorder our most basic economic values."

Yes, yes it will. See, the problem is exactly that most Americans alive today do in fact believe that money represents your worth, and they do believe that a just society is one in which teachers make more money than bankers -- a statement that is as preposterous as suggesting that bankers should have more time spent on stage than actors or musicians.

The problem is that the Progressives are actually substantially winning this meme war, whether they know it or not. Most Americans, I think, do believe that Society is some kind of higher power that is trying to pay people based on merit, and most Americans think that Society is acting unfairly in paying hedge fund managers more than teachers.

But there is no person or institution named "Society". Nobody has ever received a check or direct deposit from Society.

Plenty of people, of course, do in fact receive checks from the government, and far too many Americans fail to understand that government is neither an embodiment of Society nor a proxy for a parent or teacher.

Yet many, many Americans would like to see Government take on this role. There's a great many of my countrymen who believe it would be a good thing for Government to assess each individual's value to Society and pay that individual accordingly. This is called Communism. And while its basic mathematical failings will be a topic for another time, the most important and relevant failing of Communism here is more holistic: the simple observation that, if Government acts as an embodiment of Society, and Government is responsible for assessing an individual's worth based on that individual's contribution to Society, then what we're really talking about is a State that directly assesses and employs people based on their value to the State. Hasn't mankind already tried that many, many times? And hasn't each time turned out to be a really bad idea? I just wish you'd freaking learn from history already. But maybe you can't, because as we've already established, you're just stupid.

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No subject

Mar. 29th, 2010 | 03:02 am

Well well, it appears that LJ is still alive and breathing. Moreover, it even appears that there are still people I know and love who post regularly on this thing. It's been so long since I've seen my old brain-in-a-jar icon. Ahh, nostalgia.


Happy Passover.

The news implores me to complete my Census 2010 card. It cites, as a perk, the fact that the census determines how much money the city spends on each neighborhood. A census chief said that, on average, every head counted in the census adds another $2,000 or so to the annual budget of a neighborhood.

Except, that's $2,000 of my money. By counting myself, my taxes go up.

And I promise you I'm not going to use resources that add up to $2,000 worth of communal funds, above and beyond what I'm already paying the city anyway. I don't use the public library, I don't have kids in school, I don't commit crimes (yes, I have stuff and person that requires the police force to protect, but it's the criminals themselves, not those of us who wish to not become victims, that create the need to maintain a police force in the first place), and I pay out of pocket for my public transportation (if they subsidize it with taxes, they can easily simply charge more for the Metro card, thereby enabling us to decide for ourselves if we want to use the buses and subway rather than walk). The incremental cost that my existence incurs to the city is provably less than the amount I pay in taxes.

So why the fuck would, "Hey, the city will allocate another $2,000 in taxes for your neighborhood!" supposed to make me feel like filling out the census form is a good thing?


I'm reading a book right now "Worst Case". I picked it up on my way back from Chicago to read as popcorn on the flight back to NYC. The book is about a serial killer who goes around kidnapping and killing the kids of New York billionaires in order to make a political statement about income inequality. Fortunately, the book doesn't seem particularly sympathetic to the antagonist or his cause, but there's still enough pages to potentially turn the book into a sermon before the end.

Ironic, isn't it, that the income-inequality causehead types always rail about the rich? If income inequality is so bad, then doesn't it make equal sense to hate on the poor as well? After all, if you're going to complain about the distance between point A and point B, it hardly makes sense to spend all your time screaming at point B.

They'll tell you, of course, that the poor are oppressed; that the rich are rich because the poor are poor; that the rich, in fact, make the poor poor. This is complete and utter bullshit, borne of a paranoia that itself is a manifestation of simple conceit. Put simply, the rich don't give enough of a shit about the poor to bother oppressing them. The rich have no interest in "stealing" the pathetic, paltry earnings of the hood rats and gangbangers in the Bronx. There is no "Man" keeping those dickwads down. Their success or failure matters so little to the lives of rich people that the poor pretty much have to make up this fantasy about oppression just to find some modicum of justification for their shitstain-on-the-underwear-of-humanity existence. And the mouthpieces of the poor have to buy into this fantasy as well in order to continue worshiping their Marxian idols.

But for fuck's sake, think about it. If the rich are "exploiting" the poor, that means they must be making money off of them somehow. Yet if every goddamned waste-case in Harlem was to die overnight, how much poorer would the rich be? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Yes, that's right, it wouldn't affect them positively or negatively by even a single dollar.

Well, that's not entirely true. They'd get a little bit richer, because they'd not only be subsidizing fewer housing projects and welfare queens, but they'd also be having to pay for comparably less police to keep the assbags from mugging them.

And I am by no means rich. I'm a working stiff. A working stiff who happens to be on the giving end of all the wealth redistribution buggering that's going on in this country right now -- whether I like it or not.

Who's really the oppressor? Who's really the slave? Look at how much money a Harlemite pays to subsidize the life of a corporate manager versus how much money a corporate manager pays to subsidize a Harlemite, and you'll have your answer.

And don't be a retard by counting free-market value-for-value transactions. That just makes you look stupid. When a Harlemite buys a $300 pair of Nikes, of course he's paying Nike $300, but he's also getting a pair of shoes which he values for at least $300. In free trade, every transaction actually increases the total wealth in the system.

But when you look at taxes -- which are not freely or fairly allocated but are simply a function of placation of political majorities -- you'll find that the Nike manager was forced by the government to give that little shit $300 in the first place. So that little gangbanger is paying Nike with money that that turd, through the help of our democratic (and Democratic) government, heisted from them in the first place.  So the Nike workers give him an effectively free pair of shoes which they expended resources and labor to create. And he gets to live with the decision of spending $300 on Nikes instead of vocational training. And he blames his poverty on the guys who gave him shoes.

Yeah, of course it doesn't fit the narrative of oppressor-and-slave to suggest that the slave is rich and the oppressor is poor. But I could give two shits about narratives. I literally laugh out loud at the cartoonish superpositions of reality that paint poor people as noble and hardworking and oppressed, and rich people as evil cigar-smoking top-hatted Penguin lookalikes that eat puppies. Reality is what it is, and it doesn't bend to anybody's absurd simplifications just because it might make their moralizing a little bit less cognitively challenging. And what reality shows us is that being a scumbag transcends wealth levels. Poor people aren't noble, poor people aren't wise, poor people aren't held down by The Man. That's pure fundamentalist Judeo-Christian douchebaggery. Poor people are just rich people with no money -- and if you gave them money, 99% of the time they'd just spend it on hookers and a 40. At least a rich person might offer you a job. All a poor person will ever offer you is a sob-story to pass as a pretense for why you should give them a couple bucks on the street.

And reality shows us is that just because you own slaves doesn't mean you automatically know how to benefit from the proceeds of their labor. You can be a broke-ass retard, but if you have the government on your side and therefore the power, by proxy, to command other people to create wealth for you against their will, then you are a slave-owner. Period.

And I will be no man's slave.

Happy Passover.

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Booyah! It's alive!

Aug. 28th, 2008 | 12:50 pm


It's up and running!

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Aug. 27th, 2008 | 01:02 pm

I think I'll launch a website concerning that entry I posted yesterday. I'll take comments from interested parties there. More details soon.

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DNC Special: Convince me to vote for Obama!

Aug. 26th, 2008 | 12:08 pm

Heading into election season, I once again have to endure ongoing ridicule and ostracism that I face from my Democrat-loving peers. And once again I am struck by the fact that, when it comes to personal decision-making, there's not a single issue with which they actually agree with the Democrat platform.

They are excited about the possibility of their "team" winning, but they have no rationale as to why they are on this team to begin with. They offer the shibboleths of issue stances, but these are invariably abstract statements of morality or principle that don't affect them personally in the slightest. In my day-to-day existence, I get left-wing morality shoved down my throat way, way more than its right-wing counterpart.

So, I offer an open challenge to any Obama supporters reading this to convince me to vote for Obama. This involves demonstrating to me why having Obama in the Oval Office will be good for me - a 30-year-old, white, educated, single, home-owning professional.

In order to do this, you have to tell me how I will be better off with Obama's policies. Don't give me Obama's star power or his life story - I really, really don't care where he grew up or how great his speechwriters are. Don't give me his background or his relationships unless they serve as a guide to his decision-making tendencies. Don't give me abstract arguments about class struggle or social justice or how Obama will help other people; that's great for them, they can vote for him as far as I'm concerned. My vote is mine, and I will use it for myself. Other people's votes are theirs. This isn't about me convincing you to vote for McCain (though that's an entirely separate line of argument). This is about you convincing me to vote for Obama. Got it?

Now, just to help you out, let me give you examples of approaches that people have tried on me that do not work....
Read existing arguments and why they fail...Collapse )

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Obama took me up on my offer!

Aug. 21st, 2008 | 10:46 am

The other day I invited Leftists to demonstrate their stupidity by equating the Russian invasion of Georgia to the US invasion of Iraq. Barry accepted my invitation!
“We’ve got to send a clear message to Russia and unify our allies,” Obama told a crowd of supporters in Virginia. “They can’t charge into other countries. Of course it helps if we are leading by example on that point.”
Bwahahah, yeah, because Russia looks to us as an example of how to act!

See, nobody on Earth actually makes their own decisions except for Americans. No human beings except for Americans can exhibit volition, initiate action, or function as a starting-point in a chain of causality. Americans are the only sentient human beings on the planet. Americans are the only human beings with minds and souls. Americans, unique among the world population, are direct descendants of Adam and Eve; Americans have eaten of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and are therefore accountable for their actions. Everybody else in the world lives in naive bliss, a state of childlike innocence akin to the moral accountability of animals. When Americans cause harm, it is because we are Evil. When anybody else on Earth causes harm, it is because they know not what they do and the outcomes of their actions are ultimately on our shoulders.


Meanwhile, back here on Planet Earth, the only thing that restrains Russia to merely invade Georgia, rather than, say, all of Europe and the Middle East, is the knowledge that the US will kick its ass at the first sign of rough-housing. (Okay, well, maybe the second sign.) Whatever you might think of the US's invasion of Iraq, the fact is that demonstrating our willingness to use military force is the key to preventing acts of territorial aggression by other countries. This Russian invasion of Georgia occurred not because of our invasion of Iraq, but in spite of it, and the failure of us or anybody else to launch a credible military response will serve as encouragement to Russia and others to continue this behavior in kind.

Now, before I close this, I want to clarify something that I think is pretty important.

I know a lot of Leftists - in fact, even Americans who don't consider themselves Leftists - will get stuck on this "setting a precedent" thing. I understand that the idea of, "Well, so-and-so did this, so now why shouldn't I?" is a very fundamental component in Western philosophies of social cohesion. Our laws are based on the idea of applying an objective set of standards to all individuals; our jurisprudence system is based on the use of precedent to guide the interpretation and implementation of those laws.

Within the context of a functioning consensual government, this is a remarkably good system. It allows people to live their lives on a day-to-day basis with a pretty good understanding of what they can and can't do, what results they can and can't expect. It's a fairly rare arrangement as far as societies of the world go. It's something to cherish. It's one of the reasons I love my country.

But Americans often forget that it's a man-made system, one that functions only because we choose to keep it functioning. When applied to international politics, especially with other cultures, the idea that everybody will try to play by the same set of rules is hopelessly, almost adorably naive.

For example, Leftists often accuse the US of "hypocrisy" in trying to prevent countries like Libya from having nuclear weapons. After all, if the US has nukes, Libya should have nukes. It's only fair, right? Wrong. It's only "hypocrisy" if the US was promoting some universal set of rules and then discretely rejecting the importance of adhering to those rules itself. The US is doing no such thing. The US does promote a universal set of rules, those rules being that the US gets nuclear weapons and Libya doesn't. There's nothing hypocritical about this. As for whether or not it's "fair" is another story, but "fairness" is a quaint notion when there's no higher authority around to enforce it.

From my point of view, an ideal set of laws would enable me to steal other people's stuff and kill people I don't like with total impunity. When I try to explain this to people, they think I'm talking about promoting anarchy, and quickly delve into all the reasons why anarchy doesn't work from an economic and self-sustainment perspective. They miss the point. I'm not saying that an ideal set of laws would allow anybody to steal and kill without consequence. I'm saying an ideal set of laws would let me do so. Me, and me alone. You and the rest of the other schmucks around me can go cower in fear of me for all I care. I'm not talking about anarchy, I'm talking about a Pharaonic monarchy in which I'm Pharaoh.

I'm not talking about double-standards: I believe you and I should both live under a common set of laws, those laws stating, among other things, that Pharaoh has absolute dominance and that I am Pharaoh. There's nothing hypocritical or unfair about this. These laws, the laws that state that Pharaoh's privileges supercede your rights in every way (and that I am Pharaoh, and I alone), will be applied with equal objectivity to both of us.

Unfortunately, there's essentially no way for me to make the world work like that. Moreover, pretty much everybody is trying to make the world work like that for themselves. For this reason, everybody's visions of ideal societies are, at heart, grossly incompatible; my vision of an ideal society in which you are subservient to me is at odds with your vision of an ideal society in which I am subservient to you.

So how do we live together?

Well, when there's thousands or millions of us, we agree on common sets of rules, and then try to work within those rules to make the real world resemble our ideal one as closely as possible. The rules are fictions, but they're useful fictions - they're fictions that help make sure that you working towards your ideal world doesn't disrupt me working towards mine too much.

When the population is very small, though, such as a clan or a tribe, you no longer need such fictions. You can strategize with and against others directly. In a functional population smaller than, say, 200 - such as the number of recognized sovereign nations on this planet - your best bet for making the world more closely resemble your ideal is by throwing away such quaint notions as "international law" and recognizing that might makes right.

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NATO hog-tied by EU pansies

Aug. 19th, 2008 | 09:38 am

You have got to be kidding me.
The United States has been left diplomatically isolated after European members of NATO moved to reject an American proposal to scale back ties with Moscow following Russia's invasion of Georgia.

US diplomats attending an emergency NATO summit in Brussels had called on the alliance to suspend ministerial meetings with Russia, held twice a year, as a way of demonstrating the West's disapproval of the war.

But other members of the alliance, including Britain, rejected the plan, saying that it would be foolish to isolate Russia. Instead diplomats released their strongly-worded statement, stopping short of concrete action, at least for now.
What's more pathetic? Responding to Russia's naked territorial aggression by dis-inviting them from a biannual tea party? Or deciding that such a response would be too harsh, and opting instead for a strongly worded statement?

No, please, comrade, anything but another one of Europe's strongly worded statements? I cannot take another!

I'd be laughing if I wasn't crying.

P.S. I wholeheartedly invite any Leftists reading this (btw, why do you read this? :) ) to demonstrate their vapid idiocy and complete moral bankruptcy by trying to argue that Russia's seizure of Ossetia is equivalent to the US's invasion of Iraq.

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I support Barack Obama!

Jul. 25th, 2008 | 10:46 am

I came to a realization the other day.

I support Barack Obama!

And what I mean by that is the same thing that Obama and the rest of the Left mean when they say they support the troops.

In other words, I don't want him to actually win. I believe his candidacy was ill-conceived from the very start and that he never should have run in the first place. I believe that, while he can probably win the election, he doesn't have the training or preparation necessary to conduct a successful Presidency. I believe that the goals he is striving for are poorly defined, grossly unrealistic, and generally very bad ideas anyway. And I believe that, for the best interest of the country, he should end his candidacy immediately, regardless of how well he might be doing at the moment and what kind of mess his immediate withdrawal will leave in the Democratic party.

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Evil, corrupt, stupid, or juvenile?

Jul. 24th, 2008 | 09:09 am

In the process of responding to an anonymous reply to my previous post, I found myself stating some basic principles that I thought I should elevate to a top-level posting. The original reply (which, I gotta say, sounds a little bit like a troll, but it doesn't matter) says:
No, the eco-freaks' goal is the control of the economy. Co2 scrubbers eliminate their long sought quest for absolute power. These people are dangerous, anti-American zealots who must defeated at all costs.
Now, that is one way to read it - that is, the econuts' actions are consistent with that interpretation. There's a quote that originally referred to a group of Congressmen; I forget the quote's exact origin, but it goes to the effect of, "I'm not accusing them of being on the Soviet payroll. I'm simply asking, if they were working for the Soviets, how their actions would be any different?"

But such explanations seldom end up panning out, when much simpler ones suffice.

When trying to understand the motivations of incomprehensible actions or statements, I tend to favor those hypotheses that make the fewest assumptions about the background, intellect, or behind-the-scenes dealings of the people in question.

Occam's Razor dictates that you should never assume a complex explanation when a simple one will do. Morgan's Canon (the Occam's Razor of cognitive psych) dictates that you should never assume that someone performs an action because of high-order cognitive processes when low-order ones will explain the action as well.

When applied to politics, I believe that these principles rule out most accusations of corruption or malice.

Claiming that a person is evil is a cop-out - and an unnecessarily complex one, at that. Yes, there are people out there who extinguish cigarettes on babies and get a sexual thrill out of stomp videos. However, such people are pretty rare, and they usually have a host of other psychological problems. In other words, yes, I'm sure somewhere out there is some protester who opposes the construction of CO2 scrubbers because he was molested by his uncle and now harbors fantasies of watching the entire human race choke to death on automobile fumes. However, I'm pretty sure that only a tiny minority of Greenpeace members have ever been forcibly sodomized by a close relative, and most of them are there for far simpler motives.

Claiming that a person is corrupt - i.e. that they are personally profiting off of their political stances - implies that the person is both an extremely clever strategist and a highly skilled actor. The fact is, most people just aren't that bright - and even if they were, Occam's Razor says that, if you assume they're some kind of supergenius criminal masterminds, then chances are you're not that bright. Moreover, in order to profit off of his political power, the other players in the corruption scheme have to have something in it for themselves, and they have to all be able to keep a secret. In short, to perceive corruption in every political statement is to descend rapidly into the abyss of paranoid delusion where everybody around you is part of a vast Orwellian machine. While this might accurately describe Soviet Russia or modern-day China or Venezuela or the Middle East, in modern America most people have better things to do.

So what's left?

Well, first there's sheer incompetence. The world isn't full of evil people, just stupid people. Or, more to the point, normal people who occasionally make mistakes, and then lack the maturity to recognize it as a mistake and stand by their erroneous action, entrenching themselves deeply in their error.

Then there's juvenile petulance or basic mammalian contest for dominance. People just pick an arbitrary thing to insist on, and fight like hell for the sheer pleasure of getting their way. Whether it's a husband and wife arguing over what color to paint the bedroom, or a Senate appropriations subcommittee arguing over which pork-barrel project to subsidize, or a protest group petitioning to get some obscure animal on the endangered species list, the principle is the same: the purpose of the fight is not to find an objectively optimal answer but to establish who gives the orders and who obeys. The point of getting that animal onto that list isn't to save that animal, it's to show that Congress will do things at the protest group's command. People need to show other people that they're powerful; a contest-driven self-organizing power structure is a fundamental principle of all social mammals. So people pick arbitrary sides on contentious issues and fight with other people who have picked the opposite side, just to see who wins. The fight is what's important; the issue itself is not.

Lastly (by my count, anyway), there's simple hedonism and social reinforcement. Getting into a righteous snit is fun! Showing off how superior you are to other people is a real dopamine rush; getting to stick a finger in someone's face and shout, "I told you so!" induces a measurable drug-like high (in fact, the whole point of cocaine is to mimic this sensation). And when you can do this in the context of a set of like-minded friends who reinforce this sense of righteous superiority, you get to build social bonds and a sense of identity. This isn't really separate from the mammalian drive for dominance - in fact, it's the driving motivation for it. We fight to prove we're right because it feels good to win; we fight to be in charge because it feels good to be the king. I call it out separately here because the social reinforcement adds an extra dimension to this phenomenon; people will join a cause because that's how they can form the closest friendships. If the issue itself is irrelevant and the choice of which side to join is ultimately arbitrary, then you might as well join whichever side all the cool guys and hot girls are on. When your side wins, these people will join you in celebration; when you lose, these people will join you in solace. They are your tribe, and nothing differentiates them from the enemy tribe except for each individual's arbitrary declaration of tribal loyalty.

So, when we look at the hippie protesters opposing the construction of CO2 superscrubbers, I believe it's naive to think that their statement of opposition represents some diabolical effort at economic control. In fact, I think it's naive to think that their statement of opposition represents actual opposition to the construction of the scrubbers - that is, I really don't think that these people believe that constructing these scrubbers will make their lives or anybody else's lives worse.

Instead, what I see is a group of people staking out a position that is effectively arbitrary, and then fighting to get their way just for the sake of getting their way. They've picked a highly outlandish position, but that just makes the victory that much sweeter - it magnifies the pride they will feel if they set out to achieve something highly unlikely and succeed. Mmmm, sweet dopamine. And if, against their wishes, this Columbia University research proceeds as planned and results in the widescale construction of CO2 superscrubbers, these protesters will have each other to lean on, lick their wounds, and try again. After all, without victory, the fight goes on, and the fight is what's important.

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Columbia U physicists working on CO2 super-scrubber, greens outraged

Jul. 23rd, 2008 | 10:21 am

This just in from the Heartland Institute.
Scientists at Columbia University are developing a carbon dioxide (CO2) scrubber device that removes one ton of CO2 from the air every day.

While some see the scrubber as an efficient and economical way to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide, many environmentalists are opposing the technology because it allows people to use fossil fuels and emit carbon in the first place.
At first I thought the Columbia physicists were simply moonbats of a slightly higher grade, but these guys seem legit.
"Now, I don't know about whether this technology will solve global warming," said Burnett, "but let's say it is cost-effective, and let's assume for the sake of argument that global warming is a real, serious problem that needs to be solved. Then I would argue that this technology may be a good thing."
Leading energy analysts agreed with the scientists, rather than the protesters.

"If CO2 emission reduction is a goal, then investigating and investing in strategies for capitalizing on our existing infrastructure efficiently and effectively makes more sense than throwing away reasonable options simply because they don't align with a political philosophy about our energy economy," said Amy Kaleita, an environmental policy fellow at the Pacific Research Institute.
Note that they're not ceding the premise that CO2 contributes to global warming. They're simply creating a way to entirely separate the question of CO2 buildup with the question of fossil fuel consumption. This allows ongoing legislation efforts to work on questions of economic policy (f.e. the price of gasoline) separately from questions of environmental policy (emission control, pollution taxation, etc.). This research is a classic example of how to unravel a Gordian knot. In short, these scientists are trying to make everybody's lives a helluva lot simpler, easier, and better.

Of course, not everybody wants this Gordian knot to be broken.
Environmental activist groups such as Greenpeace have consistently opposed similar technologies, such as carbon capture and sequestration, because they do not address what they see as the root of the problem.

On May 5, for example, the activist groups Students Promoting Environmental Action and Save Our Cumberland Mountains demonstrated in Knoxville, Tennessee against carbon sequestration. Repeatedly citing a Greenpeace position paper, they argued eliminating the use of coal, not reducing atmospheric CO2, should be society's primary goal.
So, the Greenies are upset because it won't stop people from burning fossil fuels - it'll merely take away all allegedly negative ramifications of doing so. 'Cuz when you base your entire sense of self around throwing a righteous snit that purportedly demonstrates your moral superiority, nothing's worse than some clever engineer coming along and knocking the wind out of your sails by obsolescing the premise of your anger.

But hey, maybe they have legitimate arguments. Let's hear them out. What do they bring to the intellectual table? This:
"Our position is we need to start phasing out coal as soon as possible," said Cathie Bird of Save Our Cumberland Mountains.

"Carbon capture and storage does not make coal clean," read a banner hoisted by protesters.
Actually, yes, it does. That's exactly what it does. And besides, modern-day coal-burning facilities are insanely clean in the first place - coal power plants today are not only far more energy-efficient than oil, but they have far better mechanisms for reclaiming secondary pollutants like sulfur dioxide.

Evidently these Greenies can't produce a valid intellectual point - possibly due to the relative locations of their brains to their colons. Of course, I make the assumption that they are actually interested in making points, rather than protesting just because it's fun to be angry about stuff with all your friends and make a big scene and maybe pick up some hippie chicks while you're at it. Perhaps I give them too much credit.

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