31 May 2011

Bloody Pirates

So John Nolte has a post at Big Hollywood that attempts to explain why DVD sales have declined.  Blu-Ray sales have cannibalized some DVD sales, as has the rise of RedBox, Netflix, and Hulu.  But Nolte posits that this is not enough to explain the decline.  He argues that the reason for the decline in sales is because Hollywood makes crappy product.

This reason seems shallow and highly limited.  For one, Hollywood has always made crappy product.  It used to be referred to as “b-movies.”  Of course, Hollywood has turned pretentious as of late, so b-movies no longer exist, at least nominally.

Additionally, alternative media has had an impact of DVD sales.  Google has pushed YouTube as a platform for feature length movies, which undoubtedly reduces the demand for movies in the theater or on DVD.  People’s viewing time is limited, so if they watch things on YouTube, they won’t be able to watch other stuff.

Finally, Nolte fails to account for pirating.  This isn’t a major oversight on his part, seeing as how there is not much data on the effect of pirating on DVD sales.  Still, the popularity of torrent sharing sites would suggest that people are still watching a decent amount of movies, only now they are not paying for them.

Nolte is right in saying that Hollywood faces a revenue problem, but the issue isn’t necessarily a lack of quality films.  It may simply be that Hollywood hasn’t figured out an effective business model for the age of the internet.

Our Mutual Cynicism

Whenever I discuss politics with other people, there always comes a point in the conversation where I recommend that people be given more freedom.  With conservatives, this recommendation usually comes in reference to drugs or traffic laws.  With liberals, this recommendation usually comes in reference to regulation, particularly regulation that is concerned consumer safety.

You would think that I am advocating forced suicide with the way people react to the suggestion that people be given more freedom.  People simply cannot accept that people would behave responsibly if they were expected to live responsibly.

For some reason, most of the people with whom I discuss politics seem to think that they are the only ones capable of behaving logically, and that everyone else in the world is complete moron who must be coddled and directed by the government.  Basically, everyone (except for themselves, of course) is unable to handle freedom.
I refer to this mindset as “our mutual cynicism” because everyone to whom I've talked thinks this way.  I have no idea why this is the case, why everyone views everybody else as morons.  All I know is that they do.

Even though a good portion of all the people in this world are unintelligent and ignorant, it is still possible to trust them with freedom.  They are self-interested, after all.  Trying to get ahead has the amazing effect of keeping people focused on accomplishing what they need to do to get ahead.  This is why legalizing drugs will not lead to an utter debasement of the population.  And it is why consumers will not start buying “lemons” in bulk if the regulatory agencies are shut down.

At this point, then, it has proven difficult to show that people’s greed trump their stupidity, which is why you can generally trust people with freedom.  Of course, if people really are as stupid as everyone appears to claim, why then would you give them coercive power over others?

29 May 2011

The Sad State of Neo-Conservatism

Jonah Goldberg’s petty sniping is getting ridiculous.  First there’s this:

The Republican presidential logjam has finally broken.
Donald Trump, who believes not only that he would make the best president but that he could win, declined to run because making money is his true "passion." It's as if Cincinnatus loved his plow too much.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee also bowed out, with class and dignity even his friend Trump could not buy.
Ron Paul, the libertarian Harold Stassen, is in for another go, presumably on the mistaken assumption that America has turned into Tea Party Nation. (If only!)

Then there’s this:
Oh, the "tea parties" will have plenty of candidates. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, the founder and head of the House Tea Party Caucus, will almost surely run and do quite well. Herman Cain, the black former business executive, remains a tea party rock star. On the more libertarian side, there's Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. If those two have their way, the dollar will not only be backed by gold, it will be printed on paper made from hemp.

I do not understand why neo-cons have such a hard time coming to grips with Ron Paul.  He is pro-life, believes in limited government and the constitution (and appears to be the only politician to have actually read it), and is gung-ho about cutting spending.  Yet, for some reason, neo-cons like Goldberg are all caught up on his goldbuggery and “pro-drugs” stance.

Furthermore, these clowns do not seem to realize that Ron Paul is the most viable candidate they have.  He polls well against not only all the other Republican candidates, but against Obama as well.

In addition, he is one of the few politicians with a coherent and consistent political philosophy.  The reason why Ron Paul is sold on the gold standard (or, more accurately, market-based currency) is because he has recognized that the government monopoly on money is the fundamental reason why the government is able to spend so much.  The whole reason why the government has turned into such an unbreakable behemoth is because only the government controls the money.  If you break the government of this ability, you break it of all other abilities.

Incidentally, the reason why all budget reform efforts are doomed to fail is because the government still controls the money.  It can lend itself money if it wants to, and it can basically hold the American people hostage as well.  Apparently Goldberg and his ilk are incapable of recognizing this, and so they mock Ron Paul.  Eyes that can’t see and all that.

And in regards to drugs, let me make two simple observations.  First, no matter how hard the government tries, there will always be drug users.  Deal with it.  Second, even if the government could eliminate drug use, doing so will require the government to utterly trample individual rights.  Is that what neo-cons really want?  Because once one group’s rights disappear, there’s no reason your rights can’t disappear as well.

The ultimate irony of Goldberg’s petty sniping is that it is self-defeating, in the sense that Ron Paul’s policies would do more to promote social conservatism than any neo-con politician’s ever would.  But that’s mostly because neo-con politicians have no spine.

28 May 2011

Book Review

In Praise of Prejudice by Theodore Dalrymple

If ever there were book that should not be judged by its cover alone, this would be it, especially if it is a leftist that is passing judgment.  At any rate, prejudice has fallen out of favor of late, and Dalrymple is the perfect man to defend.

It must be clarified up front that Dalrymple is not speaking of racial prejudice per se.  Instead, his focus is on social prejudices, which were perhaps at one time referred to as taboos.  These prejudices are quite necessary for social health, for they help to keep the baser members of the population in line.  The taboo of premarital sex, for example, helped to ensure that young women did not bring bastard children into the world, and helped to ensure that young women not sport about with complete cads who would use them and lose them.  In many ways, then, social shame served as an adequate substitute for abstract contemplation.  One need not be farsighted to see that chasing after cads would lead to misery; rather, one need only bow to social pressure to achieve the same result.

In addition to noting the value of certain prejudices, Dalrymple also notes that prejudice is inevitable.  One cannot condemn prejudices out of hand because doing so reveals a prejudice in itself:  namely, that prejudice is bad.  Prejudices cannot be eliminated, only replaced.  This realization has not occurred to some, and so there is still a rather zealous call for the elimination of prejudice yet today.  Unfortunately, the elimination of certain prejudices has only ushered in new prejudices which are inferior, at least if one judges the value of a prejudice by its effect on society at large.

Dalrymple also notes the hypocrisy and selectiveness of the anti-prejudice crowd.  Even the most strongly anti-prejudice activist in the world is somewhat selective in determining what prejudices to attack.  Funnily enough, activists tend to fight against prejudices that would bring social condemnation upon themselves.  And. As noted before, said activists seem not to realize the hypocrisy in condemning prejudices.

In Praise of Prejudice is a very stimulating read.  Dalrymple has a rather droll style, in spite of the somewhat dark nature of the work.  His insights are clear and piercing, and well-stated.  Though it can be a bit dense at times, the book is a very rewarding read indeed.

Book Review

The Death of Common Sense by Philip K. Howard

It’s hard to believe that this book is fourteen years old, for all the complaints contained within seem doubly true for today.  The legal code has become suffocating, and devoid of rhyme and reason.  The law has become a tool with which to bludgeon dissenters, and the lack of logic within the law itself, as well as the lack of internal consistency has created a situation in which people go to jail for doing things that make sense or, even more often, for not doing things that don’t make sense.  So says Philip K. Howard.

Howard’s assertion that common sense is now dead, at least within the legal system is elegantly defended.  He points out numerous cases where ordinary citizens are forced to comply with laws that make no sense or, worse yet, achieve the exact outcome they were supposed to prevent.  Compliance is often difficult and costly.  Furthermore, compliance with the regulatory apparatus has rather negative effects on small business in particular.  Sadly, laws that are intended to help certain groups, most notably the disabled, often have the effect of making their lives more difficult.  And things that would help a large number of people are often forbidden because they cannot or do not help protected interest groups.

Howard lays out two reasons why this is the case:  The fetishization of legalism and the desire for perfect fairness.

Legalism has become a fetish for Americans, and the thinking is that the law can both adequately predict human behavior and adequately prescribe its remedy.  In keeping with this, it necessary that the law be as precise as humanly possible, and that it be as thorough as possible.  All possibilities must be accounted for in advance, and everyone should be given fair warning of the rightness or wrongness of their actions well in advance.  This leads to increasingly exacting laws that become more and more precise (the railing near the machinery must be twenty-six inches, e.g.).  Whether twenty-six inches is the optimal height or whether the railing is even necessary in any given instance is beyond the scope of the law.  The attempt to codify human judgment has eliminated it altogether.

Of course, the ever-expanding legal code is only necessary to ensure fairness.  Unfortunately, the exact definition of fairness is never known.  Is it fair, one might ask, to deprive people of sidewalk pay toilets if handicapped people can’t use them?  New York City has already answered in the affirmative.  Is it fair to require businesses to spend thousands of dollars retrofitting their establishments to accommodate handicapped people, even though it isn’t profitable?  Is it fair to allow businesses to be entrapped by handicapped people who are looking for a lawsuit?  These are uncomfortable questions, to be sure, but bureaucrats have already supplied the answers, and now everyone must bear the costs.

The Death of Common Sense is a contemplative read, and not altogether reassuring.  The problem is easily identified, and the solution can be readily inferred.  The problem, though, is that as one reads the book, one readily concludes that attaining the solution is a hopeless endeavor.  Nonetheless, the book is a must-read, and is now part of my regular reading shelf.

26 May 2011

In Condemnation of Idealism

I have no use for idealism, particularly of the utopic variety.  Perfection does not exist on earth.  It has not existed, save for a brief moment at the beginning of time.  It will not ever exist on earth ever again.  And people are fools for thinking that perfection is attainable.

Really, idealists are the worst type of idiots. Conservative idealists are idiots, liberal idealists are idiots, capitalist idealists are idiots, environmental idealists are idiots, and libertarian idealists are the worst idiots of them all.  Why?  Becuase idealists don’t know when to quit.

A system that works for 90% of the people 90% of the time is quite an accomplishment, and somewhat attainable.  But it’s not good enough for idealists, who insist on having a system that works for everyone all the time.

This, of course, requires endless tinkering and refining of the current system.  Idealists must create the perfect society, one that anticipates every single type of human action and responds accordingly.  Of course, it never occurs to them that the reason why the old adage “truth is stranger than fiction” exists is because human behavior is not limited by imagination.  There are no limits to the absurdity of human beings.

Thus, there are no laws that can perfectly and adequately contain the fringes of human behavior.  This is simply how things are, and how things have always been.

Additionally, idealists are afraid of failure.  It is simply unacceptable that someone somewhere may at some time be treated unfairly.  Unfairness is a sad and inevitable fact of life, and one that idealists find impossible to accept.

There is no way to right every single wrong, but that doesn’t stop idealists from trying.  That it is impossible to get two people to agree on what makes any given situation wrong and how to correct it should indicate that making everything right is impossible.  Yet idealists ignore this, often at their own peril.

I have no love or respect for idealists of any stripe.  They are impossibly naïve, and their end-goals are impossible to attain (and undesirable anyway).  Being idealistic should not be a badge of honor, but rather a sign of mental deficiency.

Alpha Chaser

I occasionally like to troll craigslist from time to time, mostly because the “women seeking” section can have large amounts of unintentional hilarity.  (As an aside, I recall seeing one advert from a girl that said “I want to be raped.”  I kid you not.)  This is one of those posts:
Im looking for a guy who is affectionate, knows how to wine and dine a woman. It would be nice to have a guy that can make time for me! I understand you guys work hard but seriously it takes like five seconds to pick up the phone and send a text to your woman..... Im not sure why guys have a problem with that! If you are willing to make the time for me, dont cheat, can show me affection and attention, you are someone what attractive, and have a job, and a car then send me an email with a picture and a phone number so I can send you a text and we can start talking!
Now, the beta male will look at this and say to himself “wow, women do really want a nice guy who is stable.”  So then our plucky hypothetical beta will email a picture of himself to this girl, along with a six paragraph email about he how he would be so honored to be with her and how he would treat her right and he meets her checklist and so on.  And she won’t write back to him which will cause him to feel confused and anxious, and he will overanalyze every line in his email and second-guess is picture selection ad infinitum until he eventually moves on to the next craigslist girl.

But really, all our hypothetical beta ha to do was read between the lines of this post.  If he did, he would see that this girl is an alpha chaser (and reasonably good looking to boot).  How do we know?  Easy:  just pay careful attention to the following lines:
It would be nice to have a guy that can make time for me.
Only the voice of experience asks for a guy that makes time for her.  This, of course, implies that she has been with at least one man who found other things (and by things I mean women) to occupy his time in addition to her.  In fact, I would put money on her having had multiple guys treat her this way.  And men who treat women like this are alpha badboys. 

I understand you guys work hard but seriously it takes like five seconds to pick up the phone and send a text to your woman.
Men who behave this way are most certainly not betas who sit waiting by their cell phones, holding their breath and waiting for their women to text sweet words of love commands for them to follow.  Men who behave this way are alphas with tight cell phone game. One can almost picture this girl’s hamster spinning furiously in an attempt to figure out why he won’t text back.

The rest of the post is simply dreck and not worth one’s attention.  She doesn’t want a man who meets her check list, she wants an alpha who meets her checklist.  Unfortunately for her, she’s simply grasping at the wind.

25 May 2011

Why is Murder Illegal?

The obvious answer to this question is that murder is wrong.  Everyone believes that murder is wrong (although not everyone agrees on how to properly define murder), and the wrongness of murder is so self-evident that only a fool would even ask why murder is wrong.

Of course, I’m not asking why murder is wrong, at least in a moral sense.  Instead, I’m asking why murder is illegal.  This distinction may not seem obvious or even necessary, but asking why something that is immoral is also illegal can yield an interesting insight into the nature of formal governance as seen in the legal system.

The necessary question to ask, I suppose, is how did murder become illegal in the first place?  Specifically, did governments pressure their citizens to give up murder or did citizens pressure their governments?

The answer is neither obvious nor straightforward.  Certainly, citizens have murdered one another over the most petty of things.  Cain murdered Abel because he didn’t like having his sacrifice overshadowed.  Thus, it would seem necessary for intervention from above, whether that be God or the state.  How else would murder be prevented?

On the other hand, the most egregious murderer of all time has been the state.  Kings have been able to kill not only enemies, but citizens as well.  Banning murder would limit the state more than citizens, given that the state is more prone to mass murder.  And history suggests that the state is in more need of restraint than individuals.  So, was the original purpose of making murder illegal simply an attempt to place limits on the state?  Again, it is difficult to say.

There is a sense in which the government can mold social mores.  But there is also a sense in which the government cannot change anyone’s mind at all.  Violent crime statistics support these assertions.  Violent crime rates peaked in the 90s, when criminal sentencing was at its most lenient.  As sentencing became tougher, crime rates dropped.  Reintroducing leniency to the system would undoubtedly yield higher crime rates again.  However, eliminating all laws against violent crimes would not necessarily mean that everyone becomes a criminal.  Furthermore, sentencing violent criminals to death with no hope of appeal would not entirely eliminate crime.

Ultimately, the question is:  does the government determine morality or does it reflect morality?  The answer is yes. The government can both set morality and reflect it.  I would opine, though, that the government does the latter far more than the former.  I would also posit that governmental attempts at the former have a strong tendency to be a justification for immoral behavior.

Worst of Both Worlds

Tom Clougherty, on the Independent Commission on Banking’s recent proposals:

I hope this isn’t the case, but if it is, it probably suggests a far more radical regulatory approach than the Independent Commission on Banking has considered. It might even point in the direction of ‘narrow’ or ‘limited purpose’ banking, which would involve imposing strict structural divisions in the finance industry, and require banks to hold dramatically higher levels of liquid reserves. Bank of England governor Mervyn King has nodded in this direction.
Of course, I’d much prefer the free market option, but the trouble with the Independent Commission on Banking’s proposals is – arguably – that they do neither one thing nor the other. They don’t eliminate moral hazard and risk subsidies or restore real market discipline to the financial sector. But they don’t offer a particularly strong regulatory response either. As such, the banking sector is liable to cause more problems in future.

Regulation is the natural and proper response to subsidies.  If the government is going to subsidize something, it is only natural that the government also regulates it in order to ensure that the new incentives don’t lead to financial (or behavioral) malarkey.  In fact, the general purpose of incentives is not to upend the market, but rather to tweak it slightly.  Of course, not all consequences can be appreciated in advance, which is generally why regulation is an inevitable response to subsidies.

As such, there are two proper responses to subsidies:  either abolish them, or regulate the recipients.  The baking commission appears to have taken the worst approach, which combines the free-market approach to regulation coupled with an interventionist approach to subsidies.  One need not be a genius to see that this plan is doomed.  If the banking commission desires to be successful, it needs to have a consistent philosophical approach:  either free markets or proper intervention.  It does not need some half-way measure combining the two.  Compromise is counterproductive and damaging in the long-run, and so the commission simply needs to get off the fence.

Political Theater

Scott Adams, ladies and gentlemen:

You can probably add to the list. But I think you see the point. During the Reagan era, I believe the acting was mostly limited to how one presented one's self to the public. Now the acting is integrated with most major policies. For example, it is generally understood that any politician who says he knows how to solve the budget problem is literally acting. In the past, that sort of claim might have been interpreted as lying. But a lie is something that the perpetrator expects the recipient to believe. We're way past that point. What we have now is pure theater. Our politicians aren't lying in the technical sense of the word because their fiction is as transparent as any movie or stage play. The audience is in on it.

In a democracy, it is not Nero but rather the voters who fiddle while Rome burns.  The role of politicians in a democracy is to serve the interests of the voters, and the voters appear to be interested in a state that more closely resembles the WWE than a boardroom.

One need only look at how profitable political entertainment has become.  Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, and other radio talk show hosts have combined to build a market niche worth hundreds of millions of dollars.  CNN, MSNBC, and FoxNews are also worth hundreds of millions of dollars for providing what essentially amounts to a fix for political junkies.  Add political/current events books and magazines to the list, and political theater is a very profitable market segment.

And yet, with all these sources contributing to the debate, Americans are no more serious or even knowledgeable about the problems facing the nation, at least if one judges by their proposed solutions.  Many proposals are based on an ignorance of basic math, and more are based on ignoring social and economic realities.  Some proposals even ignore human nature.

Thus, it is easy to see that political theater is not in the least concerned with fixing the political problems facing the country.  Rather, political theater has the same purpose as any movie or TV show:  satisfying the audience’s demands for comedy and drama.  And like most movies and shows, it is filled with vapid drivel.

A Decent Half-Measure

What would evidence-driven copyright law look like? (I won't discuss patents here, although this argument should roughly apply to patents as well as copyright.) The length should be determined by looking at earnings distributions for things like music and books, and cut the copyright protection period to only include, say, the first nine-tenths of the average distribution. Most copyrighted productions follow a power law – the bulk of their earnings from a novel or movie will usually be earned in the first couple of years (see diagram above). It’s the initial high earnings that IP should be aiming to protect, not the “long tail” that comes afterwards. This would reduce the stifling effects that copyright has, without reducing much of the innovation incentive, since most profits would still be protected.

Let’s say, for sake of argument, that 90% of all revenue earned by copyrighted material is earned within ten years of creation.  Let’s also say that, as a result, all copyright protections expire within ten years of creation date.  And let’s also say that this system is currently in place.

How would this impact, say, J. K. Rowling’s income right now?  Keep in mind that the first four books were released prior to 2001, so they would no longer be protected under copyright law.  How much income would Ms. Rowling forego as a result?

It is, of course, impossible to say.  Obviously, Ms. Rowling is still selling books.  It is likely, then, that bootleggers could cannibalize some sales, depriving Ms. Rowling of income.  However, Ms. Rowling’s publisher could compete with bootleggers on price by offering competing product and dropping the price of their books.  And Ms. Rowling could voluntarily drop the amount of royalties she received in order to make her book more competitive with bootlegged copies.

Thus, Ms. Rowling would lose out on some money.  However, the bulk of her sales have already occurred, at least in regards to books, so she wouldn’t lose that money.  Furthermore, lower costs of her books in bootleg form would spur an increase in overall sales, which might spur sales of tie-in products (keep in mind that Ms. Rowling has written a decent number of tie-in books), which would improve her bottom line. As it stands, then, it appears that while Ms. Rowling would miss out on some income, it is not likely that she would miss out on a sizeable amount of income, relatively speaking.

Therefore, the proposal to base copyright expirations on earnings distributions is quite reasonable.  A shorter duration of copyright does not appear to place a significant cost on creators, whom it is presumably designed to protect.  And a shorter copyright duration will better enable derivative works, which will only foster innovation.  Frankly, the tradeoff appears worth it.

While this will not be utopia for the anti-IP crowd, it is still an improvement on the current system and is definitely a step in the direction.  Significantly, this won’t impose major costs on creators, which should help to incentivize creation and innovation, which is the ostensible purpose of IP in the first place.  Why not take a chance on it?

Bad Math

That’s the reason why the rapture didn’t occur as predicted on Saturday:

A California preacher who foretold of the world's end only to see the appointed day pass with no extraordinarily cataclysmic event has revised his apocalyptic prophecy, saying he was off by five months and the Earth actually will be obliterated on Oct. 21.
Harold Camping, who predicted that 200 million Christians would be taken to heaven Saturday before catastrophe struck the planet, apologized Monday evening for not having the dates "worked out as accurately as I could have."

I’m not a theologian, but I suspect the reason why Christ said that no man knows the day or hour of his return is because no man knows the day or hour of his return.  Not even Harold Camping.

As such, the problem with his prediction isn’t the math; it’s the fact that he’s trying to predict the unpredictable.  Naturally, his future revisions will be as doomed to failure as his original one.

24 May 2011

Why Not?

It’s time to liquidate some assets:

“The United States may have run up a huge debt, but it is not a poor country…,” the Washington Post announced on Monday as Our Rulers hit their credit-limit. “The federal government owns roughly 650 million acres of land, close to a third of the nation’s total land mass. Plus a million buildings. Plus electrical utilities like the Tennessee Valley Authority. And an interstate highway system.”

If there is one thing that does not make sense to me, it is the whole concept of the federal parks system.

First, why should the government be in charge of massive amounts of land in light of the fact that it has a long history of mismanaging resources and impoverishing citizens as a result?   The government locks this land away, usually under the guise of preserving the natural beauty of the area being controlled.  This approach usually means that the land the government owns is highly overvalued for its purpose, and that it is extremely undervalued for its alternative purposes.

ANWR provides a perfect example of these tendencies.  Obviously, there is some value in preserving Alaskan wildlife.  But there is also value in drilling and refining massive amounts of Alaskan oil.  In a free market, there would be a proper balance between the two competing desires.   Environmental groups could pool their resources and buy land for a wildlife reserve while oil companies could buy land that held oil.  Unfortunately, the free market is not allowed to bring equitability to the problem.  Instead, the government is involved, which has led to conflict for the past forty years, because the government basically says that the environmental value of ANWR completely overrides the energy value of the oil contained in ANWR.

And this is the overriding principle for every park owned by the government.  It never occurs to bureaucrats that land can have multiple uses.  And it never occurs to politicians that the market can easily solve the issue of resource distribution in a way that is voluntary, thus making the largest amount of people happy.

Second, why is the government still holding onto this land in light of the current federal fiscal situation?  Selling off the parks and reserves would help to trim some of the federal budget and the money generated could be used to pay down the debt.

There’s no downside to this.  Well, maybe a lot of environmental groups will be pissed off as a result of selling off the national parks.  Like I said, there’s no downside.

Help Us All

This bodes well:

Conservative TV commentator Glenn Beck may still have a few months before he leaves his Fox News talk show, but he’s already prepping for his next venture: a daily deals website.
Mercury Radio Arts, the production company that Glenn Beck controls, has officially launched MarkDown.com. The site is almost identical to Groupon, LivingSocial and the thousands of other companies in the group buying space — it provides a daily deal if enough people purchase it within a specified time limit. Its first deal is $20 worth of chocolate from Chocolate.com for $10.

In the first place, let me just say that Beck is going to find that repeated deals from GoldLine are not going to cut it for potential site users.  If his television show is any indication, he’s going to have difficulty finding consistent offers from non-fringe high-quality businesses.  Political blandness is the name of the game for most businesses, and Beck’s niche is the exact opposite of that.

In the second place, it doesn’t seem likely that Beck can improve on the already hackneyed business model of Groupon et alia.  Groupon is boring and does not consistently attractive deals (to me, at least).  Does Beck think he can do better?  I doubt it.  And I also doubt that h can bring enough of a novelty fctor to the table to make this big.

Thus, I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that this venture fails.  Groupon for lunatic neo-cons just doesn’t sound like a particularly sustainable business venture.  I do have to hand it to Glenn, though:  at least he’s willing to take chances in the pursuit of profit.  He’s living out the American dream.

23 May 2011

What You Gonna Do?

Good thing this clown is a sheriff:

According to Newton County Sheriff, Don Hartman Sr., random house to house searches are now possible and could be helpful following the Barnes v. STATE of INDIANA Supreme Court ruling issued on May 12th, 2011. When asked three separate times due to the astounding callousness as it relates to trampling the inherent natural rights of Americans, he emphatically indicated that he would use random house to house checks, adding he felt people will welcome random searches if it means capturing a criminal.

Unlike police chiefs, sheriffs (in Indiana, at least) have to be elected to their office.  This means that the good citizens of Newton County will have an opportunity to kick this jack-booted thug out of office when he comes up for re-election.  If they do not take advantage of this opportunity, any violation of their rights will be entirely deserved, and will not deserve anyone’s sympathy.

And take note, America:  If you refuse to stand up against those who seek to violate/ignore/trample your rights, you will get everything you deserve.  The correct response to the TSA’s enhanced pat-downs is lawsuits, boycotts, and angry calls, letters, emails, and faxes to your state and federal representatives.  Standing by and watching your children get molested in order to enjoy the “convenience” of flying is unconscionable.  These are your rights; defend them.

Likewise, the proper response to this outrage in Newton County is booting this clown out of office, coupled with angry letters, phone calls, and emails to every state official.  In fact, it would be a good idea to pester the ICLU into appealing the ruling, if they haven’t begun to do so already.  One might consider writing an amicus curiae for the Seventh Circuit Court of appeals as well, assuming an appeal is accepted.

At this point, it is obvious that the rights of those not only in Newton County are in danger of being trampled to death, but the rights of all Americans are in a likewise precarious situation. The question, then, remains:  are you, as Americans, just going to lay there and take it?  Or will you stand up for yourself for a change?

22 May 2011

Goodbye OneSTDV

OneSTDV has apparently quit his blog.  The exact reasons why are not known at this time.  I hope that he will at least leave his blog on the interwebs for others to profit from, but it is understandable if he takes it down.

If it is any consolation to him, his blog is one of the few blogs that comprises my daily must-reads list, alongside Vox Day's, Karl Denninger's, Athol Kay's, and Ferdinand Bardamu's.  In fact, he was the first HBD blogger I ever read, and still remains my favorite to this day.

Best wishes One, wherever you are.  Don't let the man bring you down.

19 May 2011

By Your Fruits Ye Shall Know Them

Earlier, I asked how you can tell if someone is a racist if they never admit it, since racism is defined as a belief, and beliefs are internally held.  The most natural response might be that you can tell someone is a racist by observing how they act towards people of different races.  This sounds good, but there are a couple of factors that should also be considered.

First, you should compare how someone treats people of another race to how they treat people of their own race.  If someone is a jerk to everyone with whom he interacts, he is probably not a racist, per se, but rather a misanthrope.  A white misanthrope may hate black people, to be sure, but he also hates white people as well, and thus does not satisfy the condition of racial superiority necessary to qualify as a bona fide racist.

Second, you should account for other physical factors.  For example, you could compare how he treats females of a different to how he treats males of the same different race.  It may be the person in question is sexist, so it is necessary to account for this when attempting to determine racism.  The same also holds true for age, height, weight, and other physical factors.

Third, you must also account behavioral factors as well.  An Asian man who avoids contact with a Hispanic man because the Hispanic man is rude and belligerent is not necessarily a racist.  He may simply dislike jerks.  A white man who refuses to associate with a black guy who hasn’t bathed in three days is likewise not necessarily racist; he may simply prefer to be around people who bathe regularly.  One must account for all possible explanations before settling on a final or primary motivation.

Fourth, one might also need to account for the context of the racist behavior.  Referring to an African-American as “black” is not necessarily or inherently racist.  Black has been the more common and popular usage, historically, and has not historically contained racist connotations.  Referring to someone by their ethnicity (e.g. “Mexican” or “Polish”) is likewise not inherently racist, although these words have been used pejoratively.  Thus, context of usage is crucial to determining whether someone is racist.

Finally, the history of the person in question must also be accounted for.  A black person who fires a white employee is not necessarily racist.  A black guy who goes “polar bear hunting” probably is.  A one-time occurrence of racially motivated behavior does not a racist make or reveal.  Nor does a one-time occurrence of “racist” behavior negate a long history race-neutral behavior.

It should be readily apparent, then, that most charges of racism, particularly in the political arena, are undeniably false. Supporting a given policy, such as increased law enforcement, does not make one a racist, even if minorities are disproportionately affected by it.  Self-selection bias must be taken into account, for starters, and wishing to eliminate or reduce crime is a plausible motivator.  Thus, the lesson to be learned today is that most charges of racism are haphazardly strewn about by people who are too lazy to take the time necessary to determine if there are any alternative explanations for a given person’s behavior.  Racism is the first resort of the intellectually lazy.

18 May 2011

Pop Goes the College Bubble

Enrollment will decline once this becomes common knowledge:

The brutal job market brought on by the recession has been hard on everyone, but especially devastating on the youngest members of the labor force.
About 60% of recent graduates have not been able to find a full-time job in their chosen profession, according to job placement firm Adecco.
And for those just entering the workplace, a bout of long-term unemployment can affect their career plans for years to come.

I have two friends from college who graduated recently.  One of them has an Associate’s in graphics design; the other has a dual-major Bachelor’s in graphics design and business administration with a minor in marketing.  They both work at Target.  They both have tens of thousands of dollars in student debt.

I have another friend who graduated a year ago with an Associate’s in network security.  He makes minimum wage working at Walmart and pays $400+ per month on his student loans.

These guys are relatively intelligent and quite hard-working and reliable.  They are educated.  And they work crap jobs because they have to pay off a ton of debt that they accrued pursuing a piece of paper that hasn’t actually improved their job prospects.

And so, my advice to any all high school seniors is this:  when you graduate, get jobs anywhere you can and forget about going to college.  Look into an apprenticeship, if possible.  Alternatively, learn a trade and start developing work contacts.  College is not worth the cost anymore, unless you’re going into a hard science or engineering.  Medicine is socialized, so avoid it all costs.  Computer science is mostly overrated because you can learn everything you need to know online.  Everything else is B.S.

If you go to college, you will have debt that you cannot ever default out of; you have to pay it back.  You will lose at least four years of your life.  And on top of all this, you are not more employable with your degree than you were as a high school graduate.  There are better things to do with your life than earn a college degree.

A Practical Reason to Abolish IP

I’ve often criticized IP from both philosophical and utilitarian grounds, but I haven’t often addressed some of the specific benefits that would come from abolishing IP.  Anyhow, here’s a story that offers a glimpse of a future without IP:

As companies compete to digitize the textbook market, there is one approach that shakes the traditional publishing business model: open source textbooks, whose proponents believe online educational tomes should be free.
Many universities, including MIT and Carnegie Mellon, post course lectures online for free use. A New York Times article last year explained some of the barriers to applying the same approach to textbooks.
For one thing, the textbook authors must agree to have them distributed online without charging royalties — something that may work well in the software world, where engineers often work on projects while keeping a day job, but typically avoided by writers who put their sweat equity into one book at a time. Also, books for K-12 classrooms must meet state standards, and most states don’t have procedures in place for approving open source textbooks.

Open source textbooks are a step in the right direction.  If you follow the link, you will see that there are serious savings offered by the open source book model.  If IP were abolished, these effects would be even greater, for students could buy cheap bootlegs or “pirate” digital copies for free which, as anyone currently in college knows, would offer extremely serious savings.

Basically, publishers and authors would not be able to artificially restrict supply; their monopoly would effectively be ended.  Competing publishers could copy the text and produce it cheaply, forcing the original publisher to either update the books every quarter/semester/trimester or drive down the price of their own books to be competitive.  Of course, it’s a hassle for professors to change books every quarter, so students would, more likely than not, be able to get their books on the cheap.  Therefore, those currently in college should support the abolition of IP as it will help them save money.

Never Thought I’d Say This

“The court today arms the police with a way routinely to dishonor the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement in drug cases,” Ginsburg wrote. “In lieu of presenting their evidence to a neutral magistrate, police officers may now knock, listen, then break the door down, nevermind that they had ample time to obtain a warrant.”
Generally, the Constitution requires police to receive permission or obtain a warrant before entering someone’s home, which Ginsburg called “our most private space.” But the court has recognized exceptions in “exigent” circumstances: For instance, when a life might be endangered, a suspect might escape or evidence might be destroyed.

The United States Supreme Court is schizophrenic when it comes to determining the role of police.  On the one hand, cops only exist to investigate crimes, which is why that can’t be held liable for failing to prevent crimes.  On the other hand, the court has ruled that cops need not comply with the fourth amendment if someone’s life is in danger, which implies that cops do have a responsibility to prevent crimes.

Anyway, the point in all this is that Justice Ginsburg is correct in noting that the fourth amendment now has a de facto exception clause when it comes to drug -related crimes.  Never mind that buying, selling, and ingesting drugs are all victimless crimes.  Never mind that that the federal government has no authority to regulate this aspect of citizens’ lives.  Never mind all that, for the federal government has decided that it is wrong for people to do what they want with their own bodies, and therefore the law must be suspended to vanquish this great evil.  So say goodbye to the fourth amendment and say hello to the police state.

And this is how the great republic dies:  by suicide.  The fear that someone somewhere may be doing something morally repugnant to a vocal minority of voters has led to an increasingly massive police state that eventually no one will be able to escape. No one can say their fate is not deserved.

17 May 2011

A Brief Glimpse at the Heart of Woman

Res ipsa loquitur:

Certainty and Promises

Why is this even being debated?

A split among economists over whether a debt ceiling vote should be tied to spending cuts highlights the risk of overconfidence, despite a consensus opinion in the latest Journal survey that the ceiling will be raised before an August deadline.

I’m not sure how to mention this, but the debt ceiling is a very effective way of ensuring spending cuts.  See, the promises of future spending cuts are simply words.  Words that can be changed, ignored, or overruled.  The debt ceiling, on the other hand, is pretty certain.  Once the ceiling is hit, no more debt can be taken on.

So, the easiest thing to do to cut spending is to simply vote no when it comes time to raise the debt ceiling.  Congress will be forced to cut spending, period.  There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

Incidentally, failing to raise the debt ceiling will not, as has been claimed, cause or necessitate a default.  Default is tied to debt payments, not revenue.  A business doesn’t go into default if its revenue declines from May to June; it defaults when it fails to pay its debt.

Also, this current level of spending is unsustainable.  There will be cuts eventually.  We may as well get them over with.

The Police State

Overturning a common law dating back to the English Magna Carta of 1215, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Hoosiers have no right to resist unlawful police entry into their homes.
In a 3-2 decision, Justice Steven David writing for the court said if a police officer wants to enter a home for any reason or no reason at all, a homeowner cannot do anything to block the officer's entry.

Many online commentators and bloggers have made a great to-do over how this violates the fourth amendment of the United States constitution.  I, for one, disagree with this assessment, mostly because I view the United States constitution as being primarily concerned with limiting federal power, except where explicitly stated.  Furthermore, the Indiana Supreme Court is supposed to interpret state laws within the framework of the state constitution.  As such, it is obvious that the Indiana Supreme Court has ruled against its own state’s constitution.

Article I, Section 11 clearly states:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable search or seizure, shall not be violated; and no warrant shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the person or thing to be seized.

If this sounds familiar, it’s probably because it bears more than a passing resemblance to a certain amendment in the federal constitution:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Now, I’m no constitutional scholar.  However, unlike the three of the justices on the Indiana Supreme Court, it appears that I have actually read the Indiana state constitution.  And, from what I can gather, no government agent can enter someone’s house and arrest him or her without first obtaining a warrant.

Furthermore, the amendment affirms the citizen’s right to be secure in his own home.  In plain English, this means that each person has the right to be secure in his own home.  Police officers can’t barge in willy-nilly.  Government agents can’t just waltz in and order people around.  People have the right to be secure in their own homes.  Period, end of discussion, amen.
"We believe ... a right to resist an unlawful police entry into a home is against public policy and is incompatible with modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence," David said. "We also find that allowing resistance unnecessarily escalates the level of violence and therefore the risk of injuries to all parties involved without preventing the arrest."

I’m not sure what rock this panty-waist liberal has been living under.  Police have demonstrated a willingness to bully people (just ask anyone who has ever been pulled over), to abuse their power and authority (by, say, soliciting sexual favors), and to kill innocent people (search Google using the term “police accidentally kill”).  Does David expect this ruling to decrease or increase hostilities?

Perhaps an example will help clarify the question.  Suppose, Justice David, that someone knocks on your door one day.  You answer, and the person knocking on your day says let me in.  You ask why, then he shoves the door open and pulls out a piece of metal wrapped in leather and says that the government has given him permission to enter your home for any reason whatsoever and you need to do what he says.  Do you, Justice David, feel hostility or amicability towards this person?  Why, then, do you suppose normal people would feel anything other than hostility towards this person as well?

(Also, since we’re asking questions, why are you unable to understand the clear language of Article I, Section 11 of the Indiana Constitution, Justice David?  Are you illiterate? Or are you lazy?  Or are you stupid?)

Also, being prohibited from resisting might cause criminals to think that it would be a good idea to pose as police.  Should people resist them?  And what if they mistake police for criminals and thugs (which, let’s face it, is not exactly beyond the realm of possibility)?  This may be a real, serious question later on, but no one seems to have considered it.  It’s as if there are some who strangely believe that criminals will behave with honor and that police will behave circumspectly, and that no one will ever mistake one for the other.  Talk about living in a fantasy world.

David said a person arrested following an unlawful entry by police still can be released on bail and has plenty of opportunities to protest the illegal entry through the court system.

Because people now have strong reason to believe that the court will uphold their pre-established, unmistakably clear rights.  Oh wait, they don’t.  If the Indiana Supreme Court is incapable of understanding the clear, direct language of the Indiana state constitution, what confidence can any Indiana citizen have in expecting the state Supreme Court in understanding and properly applying any other part of the constitution?  What confidence can any Indiana citizen have in expecting the state Supreme Court to defend and uphold their rights?  And what confidence can any Indiana citizen have in expecting the state Supreme Court to correctly interpret any other state law?  Somehow, I doubt that Indiana citizens will find David’s promises reassuring.

And so, this how the police state begins in America.  Those who do not resist it will get exactly what they deserve.

What is a Racist?

Here’s an interesting thought experiment:  how can you determine if someone is a racist if they don’t admit to it?  When answering the question, keep in mind that the dictionary defines racism as “a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others.”

Given that racism is a belief, it becomes readily apparent that you cannot tell with certainty whether someone is a racist unless one admits it.  Beliefs are internally held views that are not readily apparent to anyone unless actually expressed.  Thus, charges of racism are usually little more than histrionics directed at someone in order to smear them.

Consider this hypothetical scenario:  Bill, a forty-five year old white male is the manager of a successful restaurant.  He has a twenty-five year old black female named Donesha that works under him.  She was hired by Bill five years ago and has performed her job well.  Unfortunately, she was late to work the last three times she was scheduled to work, and made a large number of embarrassing mistakes while on the job, causing multiple customer complaints.  Bill decides to fire her.  Is Bill a racist for doing so?

Now let’s change one variable:  Donesha was hired by Bill’s predecessor, not Bill.  Is Bill a racist for firing Donesha?

Let’s change another variable:  Donesha’s poor work performance actually began shortly after she was hired five years ago.  Is Bill a racist for firing Donesha?  Now, let’s say that Donesha has always performed her job well, and has never lapsed.  Is Bill a racist for firing her?

The point in all this is to demonstrate that any given person’s behavior is generally motivated by more than one factor.  Bill might well be a racist, but he is also a manager.  It may be that his economic motivation trumps his racial motivation.  It may that he’s been looking for any excuse to fire Donesha.  It may be that he reluctantly hired Donesha and, as a result, has decided to hold her to a higher standard.

Unfortunately, we cannot be sure whether Bill is a racist, and whether race was a motivating factor for his actions unless he tells us.  Incidentally, this demonstrates why most charges of racism are disingenuous:  quite simply, those who pass judgment have no way of knowing for sure whether the person being judged is actually a racist unless he or she admits to it, which rarely happens.

15 May 2011

Book Review

For some reason, environmentalists have managed to convince people that they actually care for the environment.  Fortunately, Iain Murray is here to set the record straight on everything from Al Gore to the Yellowstone wildfires.

In part one, Murray demonstrates how environmentalism is fundamentally anti-human.  In the first place, he focuses on how bans on DDT, the pet cause for environmentalists back in the 90s, led to an increase in misery and death in Africa even though DDT had not been conclusively demonstrated to make bird’s egg shells more brittle, as had been alleged.  In fact, the ban of DDT was without positive effects.  Additionally, Murray demonstrates how the pro-ethanol movement has led to increased starvation the world over, particularly in South America.  This is because corn is dietary staple in South America; it is also the main ingredient in ethanol.  Unsurprisingly, ethanol is energy-negative produce (meaning that it takes more energy to produce ethanol than is generated).  Again, the environmental movement advocates a policy that is all cost and no benefit.

In part two, Murray outlines the hypocrisy of the environmental movement.  First, he shows how environmentalists give a free pass for the pollution created by companies that manufacture the pill.  Since birth control among environmentalists, they are more than happy to overlook the environmental damage caused by the manufacturing of the pill.  He then documents how environmentalist dogma led to the massive wildfire in Yellowstone National Park.  Apparently, massive destruction of the environment is perfectly acceptable, but only if it is caused by natural means.  For some reason, environmentalists view humans as unnatural, which means that human stewardship interference is likewise unnatural and therefore wrong.

In part three, Murray shows how central planning, environmentalists’ most commonly proposed solution to the dangers facing the environment, is futile at best and destructive at worst.  He presents the fire on the Cuyahoga River, the Endangered Species Act, and the disappearance of the Aral Sea as evidence for how destructive central planning can be for the environment. Murray concludes this section and the book by offering an alternative proposal based on the biblical concept of environmental stewardship.
Throughout the book, there is a common theme of environmentalism as a form of mysticism, of religion.  Given that hardcore environmentalists are often Marxists, and generally refuse to change their minds in light of logic and facts, the charge of being a pseudo-religion appears to be spot-on.  In fact, Murray makes a convincing argument that environmentalism is the natural heir of Marxism.

Another major theme throughout the book is that environmentalists have done worse than capitalists when it comes to protecting the environment.  Again, this speaks to the inherent Marxist qualities of the movement, for the solution has to be on their terms; it cannot be a side effect of prosperity.  Funnily enough, most environmentalists feel a sense of guilt, which requires penance naturally enough.  The need to feel some form of suffering appears to have the effect of clouding their judgment, which is why they pursue insane and idiotic strategies that wind up doing more harm than good.

At any rate, this book is a must-read for anyone and everyone who has any interest whatsoever in the environmental movement.  The Really Inconvenient Truths is chock full of well-researched facts that refute all the asinine claims made by the Enviro-Marxists.  Additionally, it is full of logical, easily-grasped arguments that should convince any honest and open-minded person that environmentalism is bad for the environment.  Thus, this book serves as a powerful, conclusive resource on the subject of environmentalism.  It should be on everyone’s bookshelf.

Movie Review

I have not watched the entire Fast and Furious film franchise.  I saw the first one when I was thirteen and found it enjoyable.  I watched the second movie and turned it off halfway through because I thought was stupid. I completely ignored the third and fourth installments.  Then one day a friend casually mentioned that there was a new installment in the Fast series, and my initial reaction was a groan.  And then I saw the trailer, which I thought looked interesting, and so I went to watch the film in theaters.

Fast Five is a two-hour exercise in mindless action, which I mean as a compliment of the highest order.  The plot, though wildly implausible, is handled well enough and expertly paced, allowing the viewer to suspend disbelief long enough to unquestionably enjoy the movie.  There are plenty of chase scenes, fight scenes, and race scenes.  There is also a ton of gunfire, cash, and explosions.  Most importantly, the cast has great chemistry together, enabling viewers to enjoy the banter among characters and the sense of camaraderie among the cast.

Vin Diesel is back, joined by Paul Walker, Tyrese Gibson, and Ludacris; each of whom reprises their original characters.  Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is also on board as US government agent of some sort.  There is great chemistry among the cast, particularly so for Vin Diesel and Johnson, who have a couple of really excellent scenes together.

Since the movie is still in theaters, I won’t dwell on the plot.  Suffice it to say that the plot revolves around pulling off an audacious plot, mostly as a way to seek vengeance.  As such, the plot is somewhat silly (again, I mean this as a compliment), as evidenced by the scene where Vin Diesel and Paul Walker tow a giant safe through Sao Paulo with two Dodge Chargers.

Fast Five is quite enjoyable to watch; mostly because one gets the sense that none of the crew is taking himself too seriously.  This movie is all about having fun, and it succeeds on that count.  Yes, there are plenty of movies that are more serious and more thought-provoking.  But you know what?  Sometimes you just want to have fun.  And Fast Five is the perfect vehicle for that.

Movie Review

Liam Neeson is one of my favorite current actors but, unfortunately, his brilliant performance is not enough to save this movie from being a mediocre thriller that is only partially satisfying.  In this film, Neeson plays Dr. Martin Harris, a man primarily concern with reuniting with his wife after he loses his memory in a car wreck, along with (apparently) every last proof of identification.  The amnesia is a necessary, if cliché, plot device that works well enough for its purposes.  However, the fact that Dr. Harris happens to lose every piece of identification is a little too convenient, and so the premise seems somewhat forced from the start.

The movie spends a good portion of its time trying to show that Dr. Harris is up against a bunch of Really Bad Men, and that he is also a sympathetic underdog.  To accomplish this, Dr. Martin faces a variety of different bad men who try to kill him.  The specific reason for this is not revealed until the end, so a good portion of the movie is spent trying to convince the viewer to believe that being confused is the same as being held in suspense.  During these repeated attempts on his life, Martin shows his sensitive and thoughtful side to the nurse who helped save him and the taxi driver who pulled him out of the wreck.

The taxi driver, an Eastern European illegal immigrant by the name of Gina, is played by Diane Kruger.  Kruger, like Neeson, has a wonderful performance in this film, and is generally a joy to watch.  This stands in marked contrast to January Jones, who plays Dr. Martin’s wife.  Jones does her best to suck the soul out of every scene in which she appears.  She often appears cold, which seems quite fitting.

Dr. Martin eventually meets up with a private detective, who turns out to be ex-KGB.  For some reason, once the ex-agent discovers that Dr. Martin is actually a spy, he calls Martin’s handler to Germany and then commits suicide.  The reasons for this are never really explained.  After that, Martin’s handler uses Mrs. Martin to set her “husband” up at an airport where they then detain and capture him.  They then take him away to kill him, but their attempt at killing him fails because a) they spend too much time explaining to him that he was a spy sent to kill some crazy scientist, that he wasn’t actually married, and that he was the one who originally planned the mission and b) Gina decides to track down his would-be killers and save him.

Martin then remembers why he quit being a spy, and so he returns to the scene of his soon-to-occur crime to set things right.  He has to convince an incredulous security staff that he’s a spy recovering from amnesia and that he planted a bomb in the crazy scientist’s suite in order to kill him.  His oral arguments fail to convince the security staff, so he turns to a more convincing rejoinder:  beating the crap out of them until he escapes.  Naturally enough, he averts the assassination, although he is unable to prevent the bomb he concealed earlier from going off.  He then miraculously remembers his hand-to-hand combat training just in time to fight the spy who replaced him on this mission, leading to a rather disappointing fight scene.  The movie ends shortly after that, showing him leaving on a train with Gina, content to start a new life with her.

As noted before, this movie never rises above the level of mediocre.  There are two main reasons for this, the first of which is that the movie is basically the Bourne trilogy, except with an older guy and more plot holes.  But, the director didn’t want this movie to be just another Bourne ripoff; it had to be its own movie.  And so, the decision was made to make the plot about ten times stupider, which did, in fact, make this movie remarkably distinct from the Bourne series.

The other major problem with the movie is that the pacing is just too slow.  Pretty much all movies require some suspension of disbelief, especially since movies generally require some element of fantasy.  In order to help people suspend disbelief, movies must have a relatively high degree of realism and appropriate pacing.  Lower degrees of realism generally require fast pacing, because the audience must not be allowed to contemplate just how ludicrous the plot really is.  Unknown’s problem is that it allows the audience to consider just how downright cliché and convenient the plot is.  It’s a 90-minute movie stretched into two hours.

Unknown does have some entertaining moments, and, as noted before, both Neeson and Kruger are fun to watch.  However, the plot is simply too incoherent and the film is too slowly paced to be very enjoyable.  I suppose that this is worth a viewing if you’re bored and have nothing else to do.  Of you have a life, your time would be better spent doing other things.

11 May 2011

Laziness and Equality

From ASI:

Some say this is unfair because it offers the rich more options than the poor. But to stop people from being able to pay for places just to bring them down to the level of the poor is completely backwards – we should be trying to see how we can raise the poor up to that level. Equality for its own sake shouldn’t be the objective; what we want is to improve people’s lives. So how could we do this? Quite simply: by making sure that student loans are available to everybody with the grades needed for these places, and allowing universities to raise their fees to reflect the supply and demand for places.

Destroying wealth in the name of equality is the lazy man’s way of ensuring fairness because it is incredibly easy to destroy.   If one man makes $20,000 a year and another man makes $30,000 a year, it is easier to take $5,000 from the better-paid man and give it to the lesser-paid man.

The more moral thing to do, however, would be to help the lesser-paid man find a way to earn $30,000 a year.  Not only would there be equality, as was true with the prior scenario, but there would also be an increase in aggregate wealth.  Additionally, neither man would have his wealth destroyed or taken from him.  Of course, it is more difficult to help pull someone up than it is to push someone down, and so future attempts at ensuring equality will largely consist of destroying wealth instead of creating it.

A Drug by Any Other Name

The second is that drug abuse is a symptom of our society’s dysfunction, not a cause. While there will always be a minority of addicts in any population, widespread substance abuse is due to the fact that reality for most people is so awful that they’d rather construct their own artificial realities with the aid of illicit substances. Spare me the lectures about how our quality of life is higher than our parents’ generation – the truth is that most people are aimless, lost and unsatisfied with their lives. For a populace with no purpose for living, no hope for having good friends or a meaningful job or a significant other to love, any reality is better than the one they’re condemned to. Basically, those who become addicted to alcohol, or marijuana, or heroin are addicted for the same reasons that people get addicted to Facebook, or World of Warcraft, or playing Angry Birds on their iPhones – reality avoidance.
I believe it was Marx who observed that religion was the opiate of the masses.  If I recall correctly, this wasn’t intended as a pejorative, but rather as an observation that religion existed as a coping mechanism.
Of course, religion wasn’t good enough for the enlightened progressives that wished to mold a new society.  It was just too mystical, too simple, and overly populated with “those people.”  It needed to be scrapped and replaced with something more rational, something more serious and enlightened.  Everyone now needed to conform to elitist values.*

Of course, elitist values don’t change the fact that some people’s lives suck, and so there will always be those who need some sort of opiate in order to function on a daily basis.  The difference between now and, say, a century ago is that people were more inclined to turn to God instead of narcotics.  Whether this is good or bad will be evident fairly soon.**

Thus, the fatal conceit of progressive elitists is that they failed to see that people wouldn’t trade religion for elitist values.  Instead, they traded religion for drugs.  And now they want to ban drugs as well, as if this will magically convince people to buy into rationalism.  History suggests that people will simply find another opiate to dull the pain of their lives.  Maybe next time the opiate of the masses will be more productive than narcotics.

* Elitists are total idiots in that they seem incapable of recognizing how ludicrous it is to try to make everyone embrace elitist values.  In order for something to actually be elitist, it cannot, by definition, be embraced by a large number of people.  Incidentally, this is why elitist social goals are always in a state of flux.  They have to keep redefining the curve in order to stay ahead of it.

** Hint:  it’s going to be really, really bad.