31 December 2010

“Education” is Worthless

From a current grad student:
Despite my enthusiasm, just in the last year I’ve witnessed the following (keep in mind that this school is consistently scored in the top 50 US universities by US News & World Report):
• Professors who can’t work their own examples. I’m not talking about once or twice – I’ll forgive anybody a bad day. I mean any of them. This despite having taught the same class for 10 years.
• Professors who give lectures with details that are just plain wrong (demonstrably so). Again, not in isolated cases, but frequently.
• Professors who simply don’t give enough information for the students to do the assigned projects. This hasn’t hampered me; I’ve got a lot of experience in the field, and I’ve only had one project in my entire educational career that I’ve considered “non-trivial.” But I’ve watched it cause real problems for my fellow students, and even felt really bad that I haven’t had time to help them.
• Professors who don’t speak English well enough to write coherent test questions. I’m sorry, but that should be a basic minimum for the job.
• Professors passing off biased made-for-TV movies as if they’re historically accurate. Nevermind that this is a technical class and there’s really no good reason to be watching anything like this in the first place.
Yeah, my enthusiasm died pretty fast. If I dredge my memory of my undergrad days, the story gets even worse.
• Professors who more or less can’t speak English at all.
• Professors who can’t show up to class because they have job interviews.
• Professors who aren’t proficient enough in the programming language they’re supposed to be teaching to actually, you know, program – much less teach it.
• Professors who can’t even tell you what the title of the class means.
When I took Econ 101 back in spring, I quickly realized that I was better qualified to teach the class than my professor. In fact, it led to a rather lucrative job of tutoring students who couldn’t make sense of what the professor was trying to teach. She was often unable to explain the examples, and the math behind them. Even though I had already rejected neo-Keynesian economic theory at that point in my life, I was generally better able to explain the book better than the professor, and was often called on in class to do so.

Most of my business classes, particularly the 100- and 200-level classes, were completely worthless. One professor, who I had for eight classes, had no clue how to do any of the math in any of the classes. In fact, there were several times when I corrected her in class. Her tests were horribly worded, to the point where she would give students back points after her errors were pointed out to her.

In addition, many of the lower level classes make use of books that are either worthless or misleading. The book in my history of business class was filled with a multitude of factual errors. Most of the other textbooks used were vehicles for business jargon, and had no other redeeming value other than enabling one to use trendy jargon that would be obsolete by graduation.

Still, it’s not all bad. I will have some credentials, should I wish to trade freelancing for a desk job. Also, some of the professors are very dedicated, and have taught me something. And not all classes are a waste of time. Ethics, marketing, abnormal psychology, and PoliSci were all interesting and informative. In fact, my PoliSci professor was the one who told me about Vox Day, and is thus the main reason for why I am the way I am.

That aside, college is mostly rubbish.

Cutting Corners


And using the signature of a dead person sure looks like perjury to me (can't swear to what you can't see because you're dead!) along with "uttering" - that is, forgery. 

It has to be forgery since the person is dead, right?

"When you see corner-cutting like this, it's alarming," Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson said about the Kunkle case.
Corner-cutting?

The State Attorney General for Minnesota calls this corner-cutting?

For some reason, I doubt that I would be able to spin holding up a liquor store into “cutting corners” to Ms. Swanson.  And yet, were I a bank who foreclosed on the same liquor store by forging the signature of a dead person on an affidavit of a foreclosure suit, I would probably get away scot-free.

This country is a rotting, festering corpse.  It’s time to wake up to this new reality.  Now.

Top Ten Movies of 2010

I’m not really a movie person, so coming up with this list was difficult.  In fact, the only movie I saw in theaters this year was Inception.  Without further ado:

10. From Paris With Love.  John Travolta stars in this highly entertaining action flick.  The director is the same guy who directed Taken.  The story isn’t particularly unique, but this film serves as the perfect serving of summer action junk food.

9.  The Dawn Treader.  Including this film is mostly obligatory out of respect for C.S. Lewis.  The film is mediocre at best, and strays away from the book in the most unsatisfactory.  Of course, it’s unlikely that Lewis intended to turn this into a movie, so some sympathy towards the filmmaker is necessary.  However, the fact remains that the book is measurably superior.

8.  Shutter Island.  Basically, this film is the Scorsese version of Inception.  Like its counterpart, it stars Leonardo DiCaprio, features an ambiguous ending, and focuses on the theme of determining reality.  Thanks to M. Night Shyamalan, it is no longer possible to be completely surprised by any filmmaker’s attempts at twist endings, but this movie makes a good effort.

7.  Salt.  Jason Bourne with breasts is probably the most accurate way to describe this film.  Mind you, this is a compliment, since the Bourne trilogy is spectacular.  And, Angelina Jolie is smoking hot.  The plot is predictable and shopworn, but no one cares because it’s an action film starring Angelina Jolie.  Ultimately, it’s an entertaining way to burn a couple of hours.

6.  Iron Man 2.  The story isn’t as sharp as the first one, but Robert Downey, Jr. still dazzles.  Like all good movies based on comic books, there are plenty of explosions, fights, and hot chicks.  Downey is perfectly suited for the role of Tony Stark, and this shines through the screen.  Gwyneth Paltrow reprises her role as the charming Pepper Potts.  The rest of the supporting cast does an incredible job, helping the movie to rise above its weak story.

5.  Date Night.  The plot is shallow and predictable, but no one cares because it’s Tina Fey and Steve Carell.  Both do a wonderful job in this film, though the chemistry isn’t quite up to par.  Additionally, both get an opportunity to show off their comedic chops, which makes for a pretty funny movie.

4.  Harry Brown.  Michael Caine plays an ex-military badass who goes around beating up young thugs who harass the elderly.  Sure, the story is unbelievably far-fetched, but you don’t care because Alfred gets to play Batman for once.

3.  The American.  George Clooney at his finest, this time providing a character study, so aspiring actors sit up and take note.  The backstory is rather nebulous, which suits me just fine.  The main story, though, is somewhat predictable. That doesn’t really matter, since, ultimately, the movie is about the man.

2.  The Book of Eli.  Denzel Washington, Mila Kunis, and Gary Oldham team up in this dystopic wunderfilm.  Society has collapsed, and all books have disappeared, save for those being curated by a secret group.  Denzel’s character must make his way there, for he carries the last copy of the Bible.  Along the way, he picks up Mila Kunis, and battles Oldham’s henchmen.  The movie is both incredibly entertaining and thought-provoking, making it the perfect way to while away a rainy afternoon.

1.  Inception.  Christopher Nolan is the best director of the modern era.  Inception is proof of that.  The movie is layered and complex, yet still remains understandable.  The story is original, flows well, and remains highly entertaining.  When you’re done watching it, you will begin questioning the meaning of reality.  Also, you will never dream the same way again.

That’s the list.  Use the comments to tell everyone what you thought this year’s best movie was, and what movies should have made the list.

Book Review

Rework by Jason Fried and David Hansson

Read this book now!

That would seem to suffice as an accurate summary of this book and its importance, at least as far as I’m concerned.  The book is relatively short, clocking in at 271 pages, about a third of which are illustrations.  And the illustrations aren’t graphs and charts, either.  Thus, you needn’t worry about this being a difficult or time-consuming read.  It’s gripping, and can easily be knocked out in a couple of hours.  However, each chapter is best used as a launching pad for quiet reflection, so reading it all at once may not be a wise thing to do.

To that end, Rework is both fascinating and melancholic when read and reflected upon.  It is fascinating because it cuts away all the horse crap surrounding business startup.  It’s melancholic because, when you really think about it, the ideas presented in this book should be common sense.

The book isn’t traditionally structured, and doesn’t feature prolonged arguments about the nuances of business.  Instead, the book is organized thematically, and focuses on dispelling the myths that continually plague those thinking of running their own business.  This is a good thing, for most books on starting a business are boring and long-winded, and are not worth reading at all, unless they are technical in nature.

This book, then, is important for it dispels many myths and misconceptions.  The first myth attacked is that of make-work.  Fried and Hansson shift the focus of employee value from work to results.  This is important, for no one benefits from busy for the sake of being busy.  Indeed, if an employee can meet their work goals in twenty hours a week, it is foolish, not to mention cruel, to expect them to fill time withy meaningless tasks for the rest of the week.

In addition, the authors argue that planning is mostly a waste of time.  This does not mean that goals are foolish.  Instead, it means that businesses should focus on going somewhere or attaining some goal, and make decisions on the fly.  Of course, once explained, it actually makes sense to base decisions on principles instead of plans.

Another important principle touched on is that of focus.  Instead of being mediocre at ten things, a business is better off focusing on excelling at one or two things.  Also, a business would do well to focus on getting a certain type of customer, rather than just a customer.  From time to time, it may be necessary for a business to let a larger customer go, instead of changing their model for the customer’s whims.

The section on hiring is especially valuable.  This section, by itself, justifies the price of the book.

In all, the book is rather insightful, and the lessons are easily mastered, and should be easy to apply.  In fact, most of this should be common sense, but it isn’t.  One caveat, though:  This book is not intended for managers of large businesses.  It is intended for small business owners, though many lessons can be applied to throughout the world of business.  Unfortunately, these lessons will likely be ignored.

Breaking the Bank


A bill in the Indiana legislature would allow local governments to declare bankruptcy. Given Governor Mitch Daniels is backing this plan, I expect it to pass. Best of all, the bill gives an emergency manager the ability to renegotiate labor contracts, and approve or veto contracts, expenses, loans and hiring.

As I see it, there are two main benefits to this bill.

First, the ability to renegotiate labor contracts will enable cities to get out of fiscally oppressive union labor contracts.  Given the sheer audacity that public unions have exhibited of late, either in asking for pay increases or in refusing pay cuts in this recession, this power will be very useful.

Second, cities will be able to attain budget cuts that weren’t possible before.  The political process in most cities usually ensures continual budget growth.  Yes, there are the occasional exceptions to this rule, but more often than not, governments seek to expand their budget, and most spending cuts are merely nominal.

30 December 2010

Long Live the Proles

Citizen Renegade delineates on the differences between proles and SWPLs:

Low class antics aside, working class proles are, by and large, honorable people. SWPLs are clever neutered ciphers. The average small town prole is much more genial than the typical urban SWPL, and more generous of spirit as well. When charitable giving is on the line, or when it’s a friendly voice and a warm smile you need, proles step up to the plate. SWPLs, meanwhile, are busy quipping like French aristocrats trying so SOO hard to impress their fellow SWPLs.
Proles are the backbone of vital enterprises like the military, but they could learn a thing or two from the culturally advanced classes. Of course, being proles, they probably don’t give a shit about impressing the SWPL schoolmarms, or they at least act like they don’t give a shit. And quite frankly, I don’t blame them for eschewing SWPL tastes. Aside from the aesthetics, what is there to admire in such a repugnantly self-regarding group of irony-pimping, snark-spitting, transnationalist, post-American lifestyle whores?

Having been raised by prolish parents,* and having spent my life around and among the proletariat, it is very easy for me to understand them and enjoy being around them.  Sure, I never really spend much time debating the finer points of, say, The Arabian Nights with them.  On the other hand, I’ve never met a SWPL who could help me work on my car.

In general, I prefer being around proles because a) they know how do useful things, b) they have no problem teaching me to do said useful things, c) they are mostly honest, d) they are incredibly generous, and e) who doesn’t love motorcycles?

* Note:  I tend to divide proles into upper and lower classes.  The upper proles are basically educated rednecks, whereas lower proles are stupid rednecks.  Their tastes are similar, but their behavior is not.

An Interesting Question

This one posed by Walter Williams:

How many of us would prefer that the Founders had written the First Amendment so as to focus on fairness rather than freedom and instead wrote: Congress shall make no unfair laws respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the fair exercise thereof; or abridging the fairness of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people to peaceably assemble in a fair fashion, and to fairly petition the Government for a redress of grievances"?

I, for one, would most definitely prefer this rewording of the first amendment.  While this proposal may seem relatively benign, it is in fact a vehicle for evil.

The reason that “fairness,” as a standard, is so problematic stems from its rather nebulous nature.  No two people will ever completely agree on what constitutes “fair.”  And, as Thomas Sowell detailed in The Vision of the Anointed, when proponents of “fairness” come into power, everyone suffers.
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” – C.S. Lewis

A Crossroads for Magazines


If publishers are looking to the iPad to help revive (or extend) magazine sales, recent figures released by the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) aren't good news. While not all magazines that are available on the iPad release their digital single-issue sales to the ABC, those that do all show a significant year-end drop.
WWD reports that Vanity Fair sold 8,700 digital editions of its November issue, down from an average of about 10,500 for the previous three months. Glamour sold 4,300 digital copies in September, but sales fell by 20% in October and then another 20% to 2,775 in November. GQ's November edition sold 11,000 copies, its worst sales figures since the iPad was released.

Magazine companies are at a crossroads, the same one that was faced years ago by newspapers.  Magazines are more fortunate than newspapers, in that they are far more niche and focused.  Newspapers are about what is recent; magazines are about analysis.  As such, it isn’t a huge deal that their stories and features aren’t up-to-the-minute.

However, they are becoming increasingly irrelevant, since most of their content can be found for free online, especially since celebrities are generally tending to connect directly with fans through social media.  What these magazines need to do is eliminate print editions, negotiate product exclusivity (with Apple, Amazon, etc.), and sell ad space to generate revenue.  Eliminating print leads to a significant reduction in price, product exclusivity allows them to get device manufacturers to subsidize their product.  They already sell ads, so they can continue to do so.  Actually, offering interactive ads could lead to higher ad revenue, which would be a bonus.

It’s nearly impossible to compete with free content, so magazines should embrace the change and make it theirs.  Everyone will benefit.

A Dangerous Road


The FBI has reportedly raided a Texas web host and worked with international authorities to search servers in pursuit of the anonymous leaders of the group Anonymous, who blocked the website of PayPal earlier this month in retribution to the company's decision to stop its customers from making donations to Wikileaks. That according to an affidavit posted in part by the legal watchdog website The Smoking Gun today. Dallas host Tailor Made Services was raided on the 16th of December, the site reported.
"These coordinated attacks, investigators allege," writes The Smoking Gun, "amount to felony violations of a federal law covering the 'unauthorized and knowing transmission of code or commands resulting in intentional damage to a protected computer system.'" How several hours of inaccessibility constituted damage to the system was not described in the part of the affidavit posted online.

Damage to the system is the key to this case.  If there was damage to PayPal’s server system, then it is pretty obvious that their property rights have been violated, and prosecution of Anonymous is the proper course of action, regardless of where one’s sympathies may lie.

On the other hand, it seems highly unlikely that there is actually any physical damage, and the FBI is simply trying to make someone pay.  That’s what happens when you support those who fight for others’ rights.  If this is actually the case, then America isn’t too far from Orwell’s dystopia.

Alternatively, the FBI may try to argue that an unwanted suspension of customer service is the issue, but that doesn’t really violate anyone’s rights.  Rather, it simply highlights PayPal’s lack of foresight when making decisions, much to the detriment of their customers.

What Cannot Be Undone

From RWW:

The contentious whistle-blowing site WikiLeaks has ruffled so many feathers that it's been shut down not just in the countries we think of as repressive, but in those we like to think are open. Because of that, mirror sites have proliferated. But accompanying the mirrors are clones. Clone sites reproduce access to some or all of the material available on the home site or serve a similar function as WikiLeaks but independently of that group. All of them add value by focusing on a specific concern or geography.

WikiLeaks is now responsible for the inevitable rise of the citizen spy.  Average citizens of countries the world over will now have the opportunity to function as the collectors and purveyors of secrets, whether held by businesses or governments.  Hopefully, this means that there will be more honesty and openness in the world, and less evil.

29 December 2010

Top Ten TV Shows of 2010

10. Running Wilde:  Mitchell Hurwitz, creator of Arrested Development, comes back to mainstream television with Running Wilde, a show starring Will Arnett as Steve Wilde.  The show is an acquired taste, as many will likely be put off by the subtle sight gags and self-referential humor.  However, the show is funny in its right, and Will Arnett has enough presence to distract from all but the most glaring of errors.

9.  Lie To Me:  Now entering its third season, the show stars Tim Roth as Dr. Lightman, the brilliant but eccentric head of the Lightman group.  The premise of the show, that people reveal their true emotions through micro-expressions, is solid enough, and is actually based on real research.  Each episode seeks to highlight the subtle side of human expression, though this is becoming more formulaic each episode.  Not that this is necessarily a problem, for the show is now able to move on to character development.  Roth is a strong enough actor to make Lightman believably complex, and the actual science is interesting enough to make the show compelling.

8.  The Office:  Now entering its eighth, and possibly final season, The Office continues its inevitable trek.  The main characters, Michael, Dwight, Jim, and Pam, are now well enough developed for viewers to feel close to.  Michael is still hilarious, and the side characters still have their moments, especially Creed Bratton, who remains hilariously random.  The show has certainly jumped the shark often enough, but the cast and story lines still remain compelling enough to keep you coming back for more.

7.  30 Rock:  Tina Fey’s project continues to impress, in its own wacky way.  Tracy Morgan is hilarious, Alec Baldwin continues to ham it up, and Tina Fey remains cleverly clumsy.  The humor, as always, tends toward the weird.  Still, it’s lots of fun to watch, and remains profound in its own quiet way.

6.  Sons of Anarchy:  Everyone’s favorite gun running bike gang continues on its unstoppable trek.  The drama in every episode is palpable, and there are enough deus ex machina plot twists to keep the story going.  The cast is strong enough to pull viewers away from the occasional plot weakness, and smart enough to not take themselves too seriously.

5.  Parks and Recreation:  Sadly, this fun little show is currently on hiatus.  However, the first and second seasons are available on DVD.  The show features Amy Poelher as Leslie Knope, the unbelievably naïve and idealistic deputy director of the Pawnee, Indiana parks and rec department.  Nick Offerman plays her boss, a highly subversive libertarian whose dream is to get rid of his own department.  The shows also features a strong supporting cast, and includes the quite entertaining Aziz Ansari and the underrated Aubrey Plaza.

4.  Psych:  Good clean family fun is the name of the game, which Psych has played rather deftly.  Dule Hill rules as Guster Burton, and James Roday potrays the inestimable Sean Spencer.  Corbin Bernsen does a credible job as Sean’s father, and Maggie Lawson is nothing short of fantastic as Juliet O’Hara, Sean’s love interest.  The show’s shtick is well-established: a highly intelligent slacker with crazy good observational skills pretends to be a psychic in order to work as a police consultant.  It sounds weird, but it works quite well.

3.  Fringe:  Science Fiction, by definition, offers scientifically impossible stories for one’s enjoyment.  Fringe, however, is as close to believably plausible as the genre will ever come.  The show revolves around Olivia Dunham, played by the incomparable Anna Torv.  The supporting cast is surprisingly strong, and features Joshua Jackson and John Noble, accompanied by the quietly brilliant Lance Reddick.  Early episodes are quite engrossing, in their own right, though the show has moved on to character development.  Lesser
minds would ruin this show, but with J.J. Abrams at the helm, one can be quite confident that this show will end quite well.

2.  Justified:  Timothy Olyphant stars as Raylan Givens.  The show is set primarily in the backwoods of Kentucky, though the show starts out in Florida.  Most of the supporting cast actually hails from The South, lending an air of subtle authority to the show’s portrayal of rural Kentucky.  The show is deeply engrossing; once you start, you won’t be able to stop.

1.  Mad Men:  It is disappointing that I’ve just started watching this show.  John Hamm is simply magnificent as Don Draper, and the rest of the cast is strong as well.  The retro vibe set by the show is mostly cool, though it occasionally becomes annoying feels somewhat forced, at times. Ultimately, though, the show works as a character study of the ever-so-complex Don Draper.  Fortunately, he’s a character that one can never seem to get enough of.

28 December 2010

AppleLeaks

Julian Assange isn’t the only one leaking private information, it seems:
Apple and various makers of iPhone and iPad apps are the subject of a lawsuit alleging that they transmit users’ personal information to advertising networks without those users’ consent.
The suit, filed on December 23 in federal court in San Jose, California, seeks class-action status. It alleges that the apps have access to “a huge amount of information about a mobile device user” such as contact lists, usernames and passwords, plus information about the user’s gender, age and income. The plaintiffs charge that sharing such information violates federal fraud and privacy laws and seek class-action status for Apple customers who downloaded apps on their iPhone or iPad between December 1, 2008 and last week.
I have several thoughts about this situation:

1.  I bet the suit is based on an incredibly minor mistake made by Apple.  From what I can tell, this will likely boil down to the filers not paying close enough attention to the app EULAs, which circumvent Apple’s agreement.  This doesn’t mean Apple will win, though, since there are plenty of judges who enjoy redistributing wealth.

2. Again, people miss the forest for the trees when it comes to information and privacy.  The issue isn’t about who has access to the data.  The issue is about how it is used.  The current laws already make it illegal to defraud people through electronic means.

3. In the same vein, why is it that law-abiding companies are burdened with anti-fraud devices?  Why doesn’t the government do a better job of prosecuting fraud?  Data security laws (doctor-patient privilege, e.g.) remind me of gun control laws.  It isn’t the honest citizens who are the problem, it’s the criminals.  As such, it should be the criminals who bear the costs of data security, not the innocent.

4. With as much as Apple charges for their products, you’d think the least they could do is ensure more user privacy.

5. Along those lines, people need to understand that third-party subsidization is the modus operandi for virtually all tech companies.  Get over it.  It keeps your costs lower (unless you buy from Apple, it seems).

The Removal of All Doubt


Upon thinking on this further, the term “free market” is meaningless unless there’s real competition. Otherwise, we just have the meaningless difference between privately run-monopolies and government-run monopolies.
So someone becoming a billionaire is an example of there not being a free market. In a free market, competition would prevent people from becoming billionaires, because when people saw someone making huge money doing something, they would compete against him and drive down his profits.

This is a pretty cool tautology here, since HS makes his definition the argument.  However, his definition is rather stupid, since it relies on the assumption that businesses can only profit if a) they are a monopoly or b) if there is asymmetry of information.

Unfortunately, these assumptions are demonstrably false.

Ultimately, a business can only make a profit if it sells something that people are willing to pay more than production cost for.  Monopoly power is no good against a boycott.  Monopoly power is worthless in the cassette tape market, since no one buys them.  In fact, the only way that monopoly power has any value is if people are compelled to buy the product.  If there is no compulsion, consumers can forego purchasing, or purchase a substitute good.

Informational asymmetry is also worthless, since value is not objective.  It doesn’t matter if the customer knows how much material, manufacturing, and marketing costs are.  All that matters is that the customer believes that he will gain more value from consuming the good than he would pay for it.

It also seems that HS believes in the labor theory of value, something purported by both Adam Smith and Karl Marx.  He seems to not realize that David Hume addressed this fallacy a long time ago.

They Only Want Complete Control

Gregg Easterbrook reports that New York City is now fighting “recycling thieves:

The New York Times recently reported that unwanted appliances -- old washing machines and so on -- placed on the curb for disposal in New York City have been "disappearing." With scrap metal prices strong, what the article calls "thieves" have been driving along streets scheduled for used-appliance pickups -- in New York City, this happens by published schedule -- and taking away the unwanted junk before the city's officially approved recycler arrives. The "thieves" then sell the unwanted junk as scrap metal…
Recycling of aluminum makes good economic sense, given the energy cost of aluminum and the high quality of recycled aluminum. Depending where you are in the country, recycling of newspapers might make sense. Recycling of steel and cooper usually makes sense. But recycling of glass, most plastics and coated paper is a net waste of energy. Often the goal of government-imposed recycling program is to use lack of understanding of economics to reach into citizens' pockets and forcibly extract money that bureaucrats can control.
Notice what else is happening here -- New York City pays a company millions of dollars to do something "thieves" will do for free. The "thieves" harm no one, and could save New York City taxpayers considerable money. But then bureaucrats wouldn't be in control. [Emphasis mine.]  And surely no-show jobs and kickbacks have nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with New York City sanitation contracts.

So, the New York City government has an opportunity to save the taxpayers of their fair city millions of dollars.  Instead of taking advantage of this opportunity, city employees make it a police matter if someone “steals” trash and recycles it.  Making this a police matter increases costs, leaving it alone decreases costs.  Like any good bureaucracy, the NYC Sanitation Department opted for the more expensive choice.  And so, the city government retains its power over the subjects citizens of New York City.

No wonder people want to leave that hellhole.

When the Left Hand Knows What the Right Hand is Doing


Susan G. Komen's tie-in with the NFL is savvy marketing, but its tie-in with Kentucky Fried Chicken, where pink buckets full of fried chicken were sold under the slogan, "Buckets for the Cure" is, if not bizarre, arguably detrimental to the cause.
Regardless of opinion on the appropriateness of Susan G. Komen's marketing strategies, they work. Total revenue was $178 million in 2008 — quite the leap from 2004's $99 million. Its 2009 annual report states that it "spent nearly $1.5 billion in cutting-edge research and community programs." Incidences and deaths over the years have decreased, but when you look at the data, it is less than you might think.
Of course, Susan G. Komen cannot be blamed for breast-cancer incidences and death not trending as low as we'd like. But we can still question motives: if people give you money because of a cause, does that properly motivate you to eliminate the cause? With big charity comes big compensation: half-million dollar packages for top employees appear frequently on Christian Science Monitor's list of top 50 US charities, which is also peppered with a few million-dollar-plus packages. What's the motivation for a cure?

Remember how Christ admonished his disciples to give secretly?  And remember how that giving was to be so secret that the right wouldn’t even be aware of what the left hand was doing?  Perhaps the reason for this command was to ensure that charity actually provided some benefit for the recipient.

When charity is publicized, the incentive to acquire social capital is introduced.  Social capital, in and of itself, is not a bad thing.  However, acquiring social capital through charitable donations creates an upside-down incentive system.

Public giving encourages donors to give to charities that are en vogue.  As a result, these charities tend to spend their time chasing down exotic (read: exciting) solutions that are highly experimental and novel.  Or they waste time “raising awareness.” 
Unsurprisingly, the most popular charities tend to be quite politically correct, usually benefiting women, minorities, or the disadvantaged.  They tend to also serve as an outlet for white guilt, or male guilt.

While the assuaging of guilt, or the desire to feel good are not inherently wrong motivations, they are entirely misguided and irrelevant motivations for charitable organizations.  Charities should be focused on find the most cost-effective solution.  They should not exist to make donors feel less guilty about their privilege.

Top Ten Books of 2010

Note:  This list is comprised of books that I’ve read this year, not necessarily books that were released this year.  However, I have tried to keep the list relatively current.

10. Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard.  Though the book is over thirty years old, it is still just as entertaining as ever.  Leonard does a good job of weaving together a compelling story that doesn’t get bogged down in the details.

9.  The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson.  An alternative title to this book might have been Basic Finance.  Indeed, the book serves as a primer, detailing the rise of financial instruments, such as stocks, bonds, and insurance.  Surprisingly entertaining and informative, in spite of its rather mundane subject.

8.  Snark by David Denby. Denby has the unenviable job of not only defining snark, but tracing its origins and development throughout history.  He does a masterful job with this subject, and even takes time to explain the difference between satire and snark.  Ultimately, as Denby explains, snark is so caustic because it is rather prentious.  A worthy read, especially if you’re a writer or etymologist. 

7.  I’ll Mature When I Die by Dave Barry.  An incredibly funny book, from one of my favorite humorists.  As always, Barry’s wit is razor sharp, and his essays remind me how much I miss his weekly column.  Retirement hasn’t dulled his mind at all, as evidenced by his satirical New Moon script, and his explanation of the tax code.

6.  Bailout Nation by Barry Ritholtz.  A insightful history of bailouts, with a particular emphasis placed on the 2008 bailouts.  A word of caution is in order:  Read at your own risk.  You will likely become quite disgusted with both Washington and Wall Street.  The book is clear, and quite readable.  Though written by a Wall Street insider, the book easily accessed by the outsider and novice economist alike.

5.  How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer.  For those who have an abiding interest in neurology but lack a medical degree, this book is a must-read.  It dispels many myths, chief among them the “ignore emotions when deciding” meme.  This book is especially helpful for those who like to dabble in behavioral economics.

4.  The Housing Boom and Bust by Thomas Sowell.  Don’t let the short length fool you; Sowell’s book packs an incredible punch.  Chock full of facts and insightful analysis, this book is definitely for those who want to understand the true causes of the housing bubble.  At the risk of spoiling the ending, government interference was the main cause.

3.  The Return of The Great Depression by Vox Day.  If economists were as intelligent as disciplined as Vox Day, the dismal science would be markedly better off.  They aren’t, so we must instead rely on a highly intelligent outsider to explain the current economic mess.  The book is somewhat technical in parts, though anyone not named Paul Krugman should be able to understand it with relative ease.

2.  Girls on the Edge by Leonard Sax.  In a culture steeped in moral decay, it is refreshing, albeit somewhat sad, that a secular humanist has taken time to not only determine what types of problems girls are facing, but also the best way to correct them.  Most Christians will not be surprised by the answers, but they will now have science on their side.  Sadly, Dr. Sax is unable to completely break with feminism, even though he admits that it has led to many of the problems facing girls today.

1.  The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.  When I finished reading the book, I was sad to find out that Taleb only had one other book out.  The Black Swan is entertaining, insightful, and intelligent, the trifecta for perfect books.  It’s also eye-opening.  Not only does Taleb explain why the current model of assessing financial risk is wrong, he presents a provably superior model.  Anyone who wants to go into investing should start with this book.

As should be obvious, my reading slants towards economics and finance, with some dabbling in neurology and human behavior.  I tried to keep this list as broad-based as possible, but that proved impossible.  Feel free to share your favorite books from the past year in the comments section.

Riddled with Errors

You might not agree that this is what would happen, because it might seem as though fewer secrets ought to always, always mean a more open society. If you think that, you are making the same mistake those programmers who resisted structure made long ago.
Anarchy and dictatorship are entwined in eternal resonance. One never exists for long without turning to the other, and then back again. The only way out is structure, also known as democracy.
We sanction secretive spheres in order to have our civilian sphere. We furthermore structure democracy so that the secretive spheres are contained and accountable to the civilian sphere, though that's not easy.
There is certainly an ever-present danger of betrayal. Too much power can accrue to those we have sanctioned to hold confidences, and thus we find that keeping a democracy alive is hard, imperfect, and infuriating work.
The flip side of responsibly held secrets, however, is trust. A perfectly open world, without secrets, would be a world without the need for trust, and therefore a world without trust. What a sad sterile place that would be: A perfect world for machines.
Having read this piece in its entirety, I am forced to conclude that The Atlantic has remarkably low standards for its contributors.

In the first place, society is not abstractly equivalent in any meaningful way to software.  Society is not dependent on any outside source for its organization.

In the second place, no evidence is offered that anarchy yields to dictatorship.  I cannot think of evidence supporting this claim, and doubt that Mr. Lanier can either.  Likewise, there is no evidence that a military sphere begets a civilian sphere.  In fact, I would theorize that it is the other way around.

Finally, trust is not built on the existence of secrets, but the existence of honesty.  One is not trustworthy because he can be told secrets; rather, he is trustworthy because he keeps his promise to not tell secrets.  Furthermore, a world without secrets would not be “a world without trust.”  It would, in fact, be the exact opposite:  a world of complete trust.

Stating the Obvious

Yahoo posted this list of five ways any woman can strengthen the relationship they have with their husband:
  1. Share an activity
  2. Cheer him on
  3. Let him be himself
  4. Tell him what you think
  5. Give him his space
You’d think this all would be common sense.  It’s nearly impossible to have a healthy relationship, let alone a marriage, if you are never actually together or with one another.  I can’t believe that women need to be told that verbally supporting their husband is better for a relationship than tearing him down.  I find it hard to believe that women need to be reminded to not “fix” their man.  And is it really true that women are so dense that that must be told to tell their man what’s on their mind?  And are there really women who have to be told to let their husbands have space when they need it?

No wonder marriage is dead in America.

And A Nation of Complainers


The city of Philadelphia is set to host the NFL's first Tuesday night game in 64 years, and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell (D) couldn't be more upset about it.
"It goes against everything that football is all about," Rendell said Monday on radio station 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia.
Rendell was rankled by the league's decision to move the Philadelphia Eagles' home game against the Minnesota Vikings from Sunday night to Tuesday evening.
The NFL cited the winter storm that wound up slamming most of the East Coast as the reason for the change, but elected to postpone the game before any snow had even accumulated. About a foot of snow fell on Philadelphia, though less than 5 inches was on the ground before the scheduled kickoff at 8:20 p.m. EST Sunday night.
Rendell viewed the NFL's decision as a referendum on the toughness, or lack thereof, of the United States.
"My biggest beef is that this is part of what's happened in this country," Rendell said. "I think we've become wussies."

This seems to be one of those issues where any decision made is the wrong one.  The weather conditions were quite terrible, at least to hear Peter King tell it, which means that if the NFL decided to play the game, there would undoubtedly be plenty of people complaining about that decision as well.  Sometimes, a good option is unavailable.

For the record, I agree with Governor Rendell’s assessment of national fortitude.  I just don’t think this decision is proof of his claim.

27 December 2010

Top Ten Blogs of 2010

This is, of course, an entirely subjective list, and also includes non-blogs.

10. ReadWriteWeb: This site is very similar to Mashable, but with intelligent political analysis in lieu of hipster pretentiousness.  Plus, it tends to be the first to cover the latest tech trends and news.

9.  The Social Pathologist: This blog, operated by an anonymous Australian Catholic provides incredible analysis on a host of issues.  The best posts deal with political correctness and marriage.

8.  Cracked:  Everyone’s favorite list-based humor site since 1958 is also one of my favorite sites.  DOB and Swaim are hilarious in Agents of Cracked, and you can usually count on at least one of the daily articles to be both funny and enlightening. And who can pass up the Photoplasty contests?

7.  Haley’s Halo:  Basically, a Christian’s view on game.  Haley does a wonderful job of dispensing good advice, and critiquing bad advice.  Occasionally funny, always insightful.

6.  Married Man Sex Life:  The best resource for marriage game.  Athol Kay is fun to read, but he never lets his humor overshadow his message, which tends be “take the lead.”  Solid advice for men everywhere.  Can’t wait for the book.

5.  Citizen Renegade:  One of the few places on the web where reality is actually welcome.  One man’s pursuit of understanding women has led to this eGarden of dark truths.  There is a fair amount of jargon which must be mastered first, but this requirement isn’t difficult if you apply yourself.  You can’t unlearn the truth, so if you want to romanticize the idea of Woman, stay away from this place.  Consider yourself warned.

4.  The Ludwig von Mises Institute:  The ultimate resource for those who wish to understand the Austrian school of economics.  Some of the most intelligent economic and political analysis ever to grace the pages of the web is found here.  S.M. Oliva and Stephan Kinsella are my favorite contributors, and I especially enjoy their take on Intellectual Property laws, as well as their excoriation of the FTC and FCC.

3.  Football Outsiders:  As a Colts fan, I am always looking for thoughtful, intelligent analysis.  Fortunately, this blog has it in spades.  Sure, the writers are fans, but they, more than most, are able to get past their biases (*cough* Whitlock *cough*).  As a result, their analysis is remarkably clear-headed and helps even the average fan to make better sense of the game.  It isn’t all serious analysis, though; the weekly Walkthrough makes sure of that.

2.  The Market Ticker:  This blog was especially important to me this year, because it enabled me to make sense of the foreclosure fraud as it occurred.  Denninger also posts on politics and technology, his commentary colored by direct experience and a harsh view of reality.  His rants, though occasionally biting, are quite sobering to read.  This blog is definitely not for the faint of heart.

1.   Vox Popoli:  “Come for the posts, stay for the comments” seems to be the best way to sum up Vox’s blog.  Posts are all over the map, content-wise.  The best posts tend to be the ones that let Vox’s dark humor shine through, usually dealing with atheism, Apple, and public school.  He doesn’t shy away from addressing science, economics, military history, or philosophy, either.  For a near-comprehensive take on the world around you, take a stop here.

24 December 2010

The NCAA is Now Officially a Joke

FO brings this interesting story to our attention:

Last week's news that several Buckeyes were being investigated by the NCAA for exchanging autographs for free tattoos was laughable.
But now the Buckeyes have been hit with much more serious charges.
Five players -- Terrelle Pryor, Mike Adams, DeVier Posey, Daniel Herron, and Solomon Thomas -- will be suspended for the first five games of 2011 for selling awards, gifts, and university apparel.

Seriously?  Cam Newton, the reigning Heisman winner, took $200k to sign with Auburn, but faces no punishment.  Four Buckeyes sell things they own that happen to be sports related, and they have to sit out the start of next season?  What sort of Bizarro world is this?

For the record, I am a Buckeyes fan.  However, it must be understood that I don’t object to Cam Newton getting paid to sign.  I object to the NCAA’s blatant double standard, and the general idiocy of its policies.  Ultimately, what I simply do not understand is why the athletes are the only ones prohibited from profiting from this system.  Seems to me that they’re the ones who would most deserve it.

23 December 2010

Paragraphs to Ponder

This time penned by Thorsten Polleit on Mises Daily:

Now let us turn to fractional-reserve banking. It means that a bank lends out money that clients have deposited with it. Fractional-reserve banking thus leads to a situation in which two individuals are made owners of the same thing.[3]
Fractional-reserve banking thus creates a legal impossibility: through bank lending, the borrower and the depositor become owners of the same money. Fractional-reserve banking leads to contractual obligations that cannot be fulfilled from the outset.
As Hoppe, Block, and Hülsmann note, "any contractual agreement that involves presenting two different individuals as simultaneous owners of the same thing (or alternatively, the same thing as simultaneously owned by more than one person) is objectively false and thus fraudulent."[4] A "fractional reserve banking agreement implies no lesser an impossibility and fraud than that involved in the trade of flying elephants or squared circles."[5]
The truth is that fractional-reserve banking amounts to violating the nature of the law of property rights. And so the argument that fractional-reserve banking represents sensible money economizing — an argument that Mr. Wolf brings up against a gold standard — doesn't hold water.

Is it really any wonder that current foreclosure fraud scandal has occurred in a banking system that is fundamentally fraudulent?

The Bible and Socialism

Ann Coulter makes a good point:

What the Bible says about giving to the poor is: "Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." (2 Corinthians (9:7)
Being forced to pay taxes under penalty of prison is not voluntary and rarely done cheerfully. Nor do our taxes go to "the poor." They mostly go to government employees who make more money than you do.

As Ms. Coulter points out rather bitingly here, government redistribution of wealth fails to meet the biblical standard of giving, for it is not done voluntarily.  This distinction is crucial, for Christians are expected to love one another.  This requires, in turn, that this love for one another is voluntary; if it were compulsory, it would cease to be love.

Government redistribution fails on this count, for it is never voluntary.  Some may object, asking if Christians are expected to give to poor people, and if so, isn’t it a good thing if the government collects money from them to give to the poor?

The question belies a fundamental understanding of God’s expectation for his children.  In Matthew 22, Christ explains that the greatest commandment to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”  From there, he further explains that the second greatest commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

Fundamentally, the underlying command of both the Old Testament and New Testament is to love God, love your neighbor, and love yourself.  Love, it must again be emphasized, is purely voluntary.  Within this framework, then, it becomes clear that Christians are expected to love their neighbors, and this love may be manifested by giving charitably to them.

However, giving must be done out of love, and must occur voluntarily.  A socialistic redistribution of wealth fails to allow these two requirements to occur, and in so doing undermines the faith of many.

22 December 2010

American Education is Worthless


MIAMI – Nearly one-fourth of the students who try to join the U.S. Army fail its entrance exam, painting a grim picture of an education system that produces graduates who can't answer basic math, science and reading questions, according to a new study released Tuesday.
The report by The Education Trust bolsters a growing worry among military and education leaders that the pool of young people qualified for military service will grow too small…
So I instituted a grammar and math test.  To get an interview you had to pass.  They were calibrated at fifth grade level, roughly.  Basic four-function math, done with a pencil and paper, and a basic grammar and English test.
Nine out of ten applicants failed it, despite possessing High School diplomas…
If the military is passing 75% of the applicants, their test is even easier.  And the excerpt that I have seen says that in point of fact it is easier.  One of the questions is apparently "2 + x = 4 - find x". 
23% of the military applicants fail a test filled with that sort of question.
Remember folks, in my case we were talking fifth-grade level, approximately, and 90% of the applicants for an entry-level job requiring only a high school diploma failed, being able to answer less than 60% of the questions correctly.

I think it’s safe to say at this point that the solution to America’s education failings isn’t more money.  The government has poured hundreds of billions of dollars into the sinkhole known as American education, and has nothing to show for it.  In fact, it only has negative results to show for it.

Year in and year out, without fail, bureaucrats introduce a new learning method.  And every year, without fail, the new method doesn’t work.  Ever.

The solution isn’t more money, it isn’t better methods.

The answer is classroom discipline, high expectations, and focus on the basics.  Kids don’t need to know how to write bull(spit) analysis about Faulkner, they need to know how to read.  They don’t need to know how to communicate their feelings, they need to know how to write clearly.  They need to know how to do math.

Best of all, it doesn’t cost very much to do these things.  It simply requires competent teachers, involved parents, and disciplined students.  It does not involve bureaucrats.

Information Privacy is Misguided


Leibowitz and company say the internet threatens “privacy,” specifically consumer privacy, because the individual cannot adequately control the quantity and quality of personal information that gets out onto the internet. That is true to a point. If you choose to participate in social networking websites, for example, you can disclose as much or as little as you wish. But you also can’t control any information that other people might publish or use without your knowledge. “Privacy,” as defined by the Leibowitzes of the world, has little meaning on a decentralized, global information network.
Some libertarians actually side with Leibowitz on this, however. They’ve sounded all sorts of “privacy” alarms and insist you can never trust anyone with information, especially those Big Evil Corporations. Again, I think this misses the point. Information — even information about yourself — is not a sacred or scarce object. Those who argue for “privacy” over data fall into the same trap as those who demand copyright or patent protections for ideas or “inventions.”
The problem, of course, is when information is used to commit acts of aggression, such as using a credit card number assigned to a person without that person’s knowledge. There is aggression — fraud — both against the person and the credit card company. However, the mere fact that the number becomes public information does not violate some abstract notion of “privacy.” Heck, virtually every employee of the credit card company, not to mention every merchant you’ve ever deal with, has access to this information.

Ultimately, the problem isn’t really about privacy, it’s the use of personal information.  Do you really care that Facebook has a ton of your personal information?  Your answer depends, ultimately, on how much you trust Facebook.
Likewise, the issue with identity theft isn’t so much that they have the information as much as it is that that they use said information to steal from you.  If someone knows everything about you, but never acts on that knowledge, is that really a problem?  Of course not.

The issue, as it stands, is that people are committing acts of aggression against one another.  There are already laws on the book for this, so controlling data streams is unlikely to improve the situation.  Ultimately, the focus on data is about controlling others, not protecting them.

The Government Kills Liberty


Apparently in Clarington, Ontario, people aren’t free to celebrate freedom.
Every year, Peter Jaworski and the non-profit Institute for Liberal Studies organize a gathering, the Liberty Summer Seminar, to celebrate individual liberties. Attendees from across North America have flocked to the Jaworski family’s home in Orono, Ontario over the last ten years to hear live music, meet with old friends and listen to libertarian-themed lectures…
Two weeks after this year’s event, the Jaworskis were charged anyhow – with running a commercial conference center on land zoned agricultural. This despite the event being organized by a non-profit, and, well, basically resembling a large BBQ.
It has since been revealed that the complaint which launched this entire mess was made by a woman who lived a 24 minute drive away from the seminar – which rules out the traditional disputes over noise and traffic. Peter Jaworski tells FrumForum that his actual neighbors haven’t complained about either.

If there is one thing the government hates, it’s freedom.

The Death of the Internet

MB asks the following question:

Does this whole situation [regarding Net Neutrality] seem to you that this is the first small step the government is taking to gain net control?

Yes, it does.  My cynical side thinks that this is deliberate political plotting, while my optimistic side views this as the behavior of misguided ignoramuses.  Either way, this is the first step of the government taking control of the net.

The specific guidelines for Net neutrality are as follows [quotes indented]:

Transparency. Consumers and innovators have a right to know the basic performance characteristics of their Internet access and how their network is being managed.

This is redundancy, pure and simple.  Any person who has a decent knowledge of information technology can discover these things for themselves.  Of you don’t know anything about this stuff, tough luck.

No Blocking. A right to send and receive lawful traffic. This prohibits blocking of lawful content, apps, services, and the connection of non-harmful devices to the network

This will eventually result in higher ISP prices, since it will become harder for ISPs to attain third-party subsidization, which generally relies on traffic exclusivity deals.

Level Playing Field. A right to a level playing field. A ban on unreasonable discrimination. No approval for so-called "pay for priority" arrangements involving fast lanes for some companies but not others.

Pay for priority is important because it allows companies to discern which customers are price-sensitive, and charge accordingly.  With this out of the way, companies will raise everyone’s price in order to remain profitable.

Network Management. An allowance for broadband providers to engage in reasonable network management. These rules don't forbid providers from offering subscribers tiers of service or charging based on bandwidth consumed.

This also appears redundant (i.e. ISPs should be doing this anyway), which suggests that this clause will eventually be used to regulate pricing practices.  The issue will be over the word “reasonable.”

Mobile. Broadly applicable rules requiring transparency for mobile broadband providers, and prohibiting them from blocking websites and certain competitive applications.

This will hurt smartphone users most of all, since, as before, third party subsidies will decline in response to the elimination of traffic exclusivity deals.

Vigilance. Creation of an Open Internet Advisory Committee to assist the Commission in monitoring the state of Internet openness and the effects of our rules.

This means another government bureaucracy, and with it an increase in expenditures.  This will likely lead to increased taxes on websites, ISPs, and other IT-related entities.

Ultimately, there will be an increase in data costs and in subscription requirements (e.g. making payments to Facebook to host a profile).  This will be a rough paradigm shift for current users, which means that many will leave some sites altogether, or go to “free sites” that have considerably lower quality.

People will begin to clamor about how horrible the internet becomes, prompting politicians to interfere even more, exacerbating the problem further.  This begins a downward spiral that will lead to a decline in both product quality and product quantity.

Say goodbye to the internet while you still can.

21 December 2010

Apple Fascism


Well, that didn't take long. The unofficial WikiLeaks app has been yanked from the Apple Store. The app was approved on December 17, but yesterday developer Igor Barinov received word that the app was removed from sale.
Apple is by no means the first or only tech company to take this sort of action against WikiLeaks information. It joins the ranks of Amazon, PayPal, Visa, Mastercard, and Tableau Software in closing the doors to WikiLeaks.

Apple claims that the app is “unsafe.”  And by “unsafe,” they mean that it enables citizens in a representative democracy to learn what their government says and does and their behalf.  The horror.

It’s a Start


It's not practical to micromanage risk-taking in the financial sector, nor is it feasible to eliminate bubbles and bank crises entirely. But I really do believe that we could very substantially reduce the risk of bank crises without affecting the efficiency of legitimate banking operations. The way to do it is with very simple, very blunt leverage restrictions that apply to all financial actors over a certain size: banks, insurance companies, hedge funds, private equity, you name it. If you have assets over, say, $10 billion, then the rules kick in. Strict leverage limits (say, 10:1 or maybe 15:1) based on conservative notions of both assets and capital would be a pretty effective bulwark against excessive risk taking but wouldn't seriously interfere with the basic asset allocation function of the financial industry.

Since it seems unlikely that the government is going to erase the current slate of laws, rules, and regulations, this sort of law makes sense.  It’s simple, compliance is easily verified, and reduces the incentive to gamble with public funds (the mindset of the banks prior to the crash was that a) they weren’t ever at risk for failure and b) if they were, the government would bail them out).  It’s not an ideal situation, from a libertarian view point, but it is an improvement.

Dennis Kucinich Channels his Inner Ron Paul


The main gist of the bill is that the Federal Reserve Bank becomes a federal bureaucracy, under the authority of the president.  This probably sounds totalitarian in nature, but it’s not.

In the first place, the current setup is essentially totalitarian already.  There is very little democratic review, and citizens have essentially no say in the Fed’s workings.  If it becomes a solely federal bureaucracy, the citizens will have some recourse against it, mainly in the form of presidential elections.

Second, it may be that this is a Trojan Horse gambit.  If the Fed becomes a proper federal department, than congress will have a significantly easier time auditing it and reviewing it.

I would expect a lot of opposition to this bill, since moneyed interests really don’t like it when said interests are threatened.

UPDATE:  Karl Denninger lays into Mike Shedlock's objections about this issue.

Are Women Dumber Than The Government?


“Women are smart enough to figure this out. We are not as dumb as they think. We can handle heating up milk on a stove,” so says Shell Walker of Eats on Feets.
That’s real touching, but so naive. Of course women can’t solve the milk heating conundrum. That’s why we have the state to begin with.
Last month, Walker went live on the web with Eats on Feets, a social networking site. The twist? The site is a “place for parents who need breast milk for their babies to find women willing to give them some.”
It should not come as a shock that established milk banks are joining forces with regulators to attempt to stop women from solving a standard network and distribution problem. For milk banks, there is the fear competition. For regulators, there is the fear that acting women may realize they can function without the state. And we can’t have that, can we?

Women may be stupid, but it is certain that bureaucrats are even more so.  We don’t need this law, we don’t need cronyism, and we don’t need corporatism.  Just let the women alone.

Movie Review

Agents of Secret Stuff (Wong Fu Productions)

There are some films that, though mediocre in and of themselves, are important because of what they signify.  The Great Train Robbery, of course, is the first example of this, as is The Jazz Singer and, say, Star Wars.  We can also add Agents of Secret Stuff to this list, for it represents the inevitable future of the film industry.
The future, of course, is films that can be viewed for free.  This has already been seen in the porn industry, since a disgustingly vast amount of porn is available for free.  Agents of Secret Stuff, however, marks the beginning of this going mainstream, since it is available for free viewing on YouTube.
The movie itself is unremarkable, running just thirty-five minutes in length.  The plot messily combines the fish-out-of-water genre with the Kung-Fu genre, and does neither very well.  The short length doesn’t help the movie, for it gives little time to character development, hinders plot coherence, and makes it difficult for the audience to relate to the main characters.
It does, however, require six back-to-back viewings before these flaws become obvious.
Six viewings are required because the movie is incredibly entertaining in the meantime.  The speed of the story helps to hide its shortcomings, and forces the viewer to move along as well, instead of contemplating plot gaps and shortcomings.
Additionally, the movie is quite funny.  Sure, playing on American non sequiturs is old, as is the easy mockery of American customs.  The sight gags are hilarious, and proceed rapid-fire.  There are a ton of funny jokes based on acronyms, as well as plenty of groaners.  And yes, some of them are overused, in a manner reminiscent of Arrested Development.  But it works.
The plot is cliché to the extreme, and self-referentially so.  One gets the feeling that movie is just trying to have fun.  It doesn’t take itself seriously, and becomes over the top at times.  The film mocks the absurdity of typical martial arts films, but doesn’t judge.  It’s a self-conscious pastiche of bad genres, and revels in this glorious fact.  Ultimately, its simply entertaining.
Even more impressive is the quality of the movie.  Viewed in 1080p on YouTube, the picture quality is nothing short of spectacular, and highlights the professionalism of the production.
In short, the movie deals with Aden, played masterfully by Ryan Higa, and Agent of Secret Stuff who is hoping to earn his H.O.L.E.  In order to do so, he must protect Taylor, played by the lovely Arden Cho, who is just a nondescript high school student.  Because Aden has no idea how to fit in, he ends up creeping out Taylor. 
Cliché then sets in, and Aden begins to fall for Taylor, who teaches him how to adapt to normal life.  He proceeds to lose her, and then win her back, making a lot of karate moves in the interim.
Overall, the movie is funny and quite entertaining, aided by a wonderful soundtrack.  Since it is streamed free on YouTube, it is well worth a view.