7/17/14

Just checking in

7/17/14
Sometimes I go for weeks (or months) without really wanting to write. Well, I want to, just not bad enough to log in and write something minimally intelligent and fairly coherent. It's like twitter is too short and weird, and a blog is just too formal (not really--that's just how I perceive it, which probably inhibits me from writing more frequently). I guess it's a psychological hurdle I should just plow through more often.

Like so:

Hey guys, I'm gonna share a video because I thought it was kinda funny, and stroked my ego because I, too, am a grammar nazi (all you 80s kids & nerdy types will probably particularly enjoy this as well):


By the way, I did finish the book I promised to review. I took notes, bookmarked several pages, have sort of a draft in my head, but never got around to writing it when it was still blogospherically relevant. So, unless I'm stricken with acute debilitating lethargy, it will be up soon.

6/2/14

New Olympic Games to be hosted in North Korea, China, and by various other pompous dictators henceforth

6/2/14
After decades of more or less irresponsible spending in most of Western welfare-state civilization, the return on investments of throwing money down bottomless pits aren't looking so good. A few of us caught on many years ago:
Sports teams bring little net economic benefit. No disinterested economist has found any justification for the premise that they improve the local economy - instead, they just shift benefit around.

Teams take better care of stadiums they actually own....

Teams always underestimate the tax burden of the stadium and the implied subsidy. Often you see them arguing that the stadium will be funded only out of the revenues from the stadium itself -- well if that's the case, then why does the public need to be involved at all?
Fast forward to 2014, when it's time to bid on the 2022 Olympics. The only bidders left interested are Kazakhstan and China. Haha:
Bidding on the Olympics has been justified for years by one big economic lie: investing in hosting Olympic Games will lead to long-term economic growth.

It doesn't.

In a 2006 paper, "Mega-events: The effect of the world's biggest sporting events on local, regional, and national economics," Holy Cross economics professor Victor Matheson took this idea to task:

"Public expenditures on sports infrastructure and event operations necessarily entail reductions in other government services, an expansion of government borrowing, or an increase in taxation, all of which produce a drag on the local economy. At best public expenditures on sports-related construction or operation have zero net impact on the economy as the employment benefits of the project are matched by employment losses associated with higher taxes or spending cuts elsewhere in the system."

Matheson also argues that Olympic economic impact reports often ignore the significant costs for things like security and conflate "general infrastructure" with "sports infrastructure."
Read the whole thing, and be sure to check out the video showing a lot of the abandoned Olympic stadiums of yesteryear. The only places left willing to throw money down that hole are desperate countries/dictators attempting to prove themselves to the rest of the world.

5/30/14

Time to close some tabs

5/30/14
I've been wanting to write about most of the stories behind the following links, sometimes starting a draft, sometimes leaving my browser open for days just to avoid extending my already absurdly long list of bookmarks (sleep mode is my new friend).

Hours, days, a week goes by and I just can't force myself to write about something a week old. It's odd how something seemingly so important is considerably less so a week later. But that's the nature of blogging, and news in general (I never claimed to be a great blogger). Also, distraction.

Image from Toolfools

In no particular order, some interesting stuff, even if a few are a bit old:

First, a few links related to what I'm reading. Glenn Greenwald's new book, "No Place to Hide," so far, is okay. I should finish it tonight.
'800 dead babies: if it could, the religious right would bury this story in the same septic tank.' Ignore the tactless linkbait phrasing: this is a big and awfully tragic story. Via The Prussian.

'The 'Miracle' Berry That Could Replace Sugar' and help millions effectively fight obesity.

Remember the Gibson Guitar raids? There may be more to that story.

This piece is over a month old, but I remember wanting to discuss it. I just don't remember why, exactly (obviously something to do with the ousting of the Mozilla CEO, Brenden Eich). It's still a good read however.
  • But if you read this blog post from Mozilla, it is maddening. What are they talking about? I'm so sick of vague language--it probably was mostly read as an apology for letting Hitler run their business. BUT, because it's so vague, it can just as easily be read to suggest that they are very sorry for their intolerance--evinced by ousting a man for having an opinion. Even though it was a very common opinion, one shared by Barrack Obama at the time.

Three links from Slate Star Codex:
I always wanted to try something like this. I tend to think I could easily succeed, but if my Thanksgiving experiences are any indication, probably not.

I want to write a post about anonymity on the Internet, which was partly inspired by this post from the Last Psychiatrist. I will write that post one day.

So VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and White House press Secretary Jay Carney resigned. Why does everything feel like it's all heavily scripted, like a bad TV show? Probably because it is.
  • Is it just me, or are presidential and senatorial politics are feeling very Orwellian, almost Soviet when it comes to appearances? I know congressional politics is highly susceptible to populism, but at least it's a lot more transparent--which makes me reconsider term lengths for the other two (but that's not about to happen).
Comcast, Netflix, and data caps... If you, like me, have given up watching TV through traditional means, be afraid, be very afraid. Relatedly, I've found if you spend enough time searching for channels you like--and they probably all exist--YouTube can all but replace your entire visual entertainment diet. Some people say YouTube is a bubble about to burst; I say it's just getting warmed up.

Possible blog post spoilers (lol, like anyone cares). Stuff I found in the last day or two I kinda want to write about:

'GOP House Votes To Leave States Alone On Medical Marijuana.' Despite the headline, note that the GOP votes in favor were decidedly a minority of GOP votes. At least they allowed a vote on it.

'Scientists Report Finding Reliable Way to Teleport Data'

'It's Time to Stop Babying Mars'

5/17/14

New Interstellar trailer. And why I dislike many "space movies"

5/17/14
Matthew McConaughey and Michael Caine together in a big budget sci-fi, directed by Chris Nolan... What could go wrong?

From the looks of the trailer, it surprisingly seems to be fairly balanced between a character-driven story and one driven by events or the environment.

Although space travel obviously plays a crucial role here, as a sci-fi fan of the Trekkie persuasion--and from what little I can glean out of this--it seems that space, and space travel won't receive the attention it should. Traveling through a wormhole and speeding through space I fear will be an afterthought, compared to the characters and the story (of course the characters and story should come first, but the space aspect should be emphasized, else why bother?). Like space isn't interesting, except as a way to draw in crowds--as if it's a troublesome hurdle to be quickly overcome and forgotten.
 
Oh yeah, and I'm sure it will be a great thriller movie. Because all space movies have to be psychological thrillers, can't have any awestruck adventure with a focus on sci-fi concepts now. I am sick of that Hollywood rule. Because apparently space isn't the fantastical vast sea of beautiful, mysterious, and mind-bending things it truly is. It's a backdrop. It's the thing between point A and point B--no need to explore. Spend a couple minutes in a spaceship and throw some CGI nebulae in the window. Remember Prometheus? Alien? Hell, even the new Star Trek movies have no sense of adventure. Don't have time for space, must kill bad guys.

Why can't we just have a space adventure film? I know I'm probably in the minority on this (likely because I spent way too much time reading Heinlein and watching classic Trek), but I'm tired of space movies that don't care about space. If you can replace outer space with say, the ground, a cruise ship, or a magic portal without affecting the main story, then it's a horrible "space movie." It's just a story that happens to be in space.

I hope I'm wrong. It's clear this movie isn't about space, and that's fine. It's about saving humanity or something, characters maturing. But the name is Interstellar, there better be a lot of time and emphasis devoted to space/space travel and how freaking awesome that is.

5/15/14

We just need a Death Star now

5/15/14
Life imitates art, or something.

Army's new helmet concept
Wookie hunter

Now that we've got laser guns, spaceships, and lightsabers, should we convene and formally establish the Galactic Empire already and build a Death Star? I mean, we've already got the blueprints for it.

Then again, perhaps we should wait till we have hovering cars. And it won't be long until you see the closest thing to a living, breathing Darth Vader on planet Earth.

There isn't much time. We've got to prepare!

5/14/14

The world isn't going to hell in a handbasket

5/14/14
Before people have started using that or a similar phrase in the affirmative, the world has only gotten better. We are all richer, live longer, less hungry than before, and it's only getting better.

Yet as we always have, we still complain like things are getting worse. This pessimism bias afflicts us all (perhaps that is what keeps us improving things).

Speculate about the Flynn effect, natural selection, availability of capital, population (more hands=more work=more stuff), whatever you want: life generally gets a little better everyday.



Let's hope we continue the trend.

5/11/14

Why patriotic, law-and-order types should consider marijuana legalization

5/11/14
My headline is a bit over-broad, but instead of saying xenophobic, anti-immigrant right wingers, I'll be both polite and accurate:

People who strongly oppose weak border security/illegal immigration (who also often oppose drug legalization for different reasons) at least in part due to the drug cartels and the violence they cause, more than they oppose some citizens getting high, should reconsider their position on the latter.

But why give those dirty hippies more weed, when we can solve both problems, if only the government would do its job! Well, the government is doing its job about as good as it is going to do. And it sucks at it. This is why we libertarians, conservatives, and a few liberals oppose big government and its endless programs.

Legalization, (even if highly regulated) is doing a better job at harming the cartels than prohibition could ever do:
Facing stiff competition from pot grown legally and illegally north of the border, the price for a kilogram of Mexican schwag has plummeted by 75 percent, from $100 to $25, the Post reports:
Farmers in the storied "Golden Triangle" region of Mexico's Sinaloa state, which has produced the country's most notorious gangsters and biggest marijuana harvests, say they are no longer planting the crop…increasingly, they're unable to compete with US marijuana growers.
As demand for pot is satisfied better elsewhere, what happens? The cartels turn to other banned-in-America substances.
Mexican heroin is flooding north as U.S. authorities trying to contain an epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse have tightened controls on synthetic opiates such as hydrocodone and OxyContin. As the pills become more costly and difficult to obtain, Mexican trafficking organizations have found new markets for heroin in places such as Winchester, Va., and Brattleboro, Vt., where, until recently, needle use for narcotics was rare or unknown.
I'm not going to win over many people saying we should legalize heroin, too. The cartels are following the path of least resistance, economically speaking. The demand is always going to be there. We can have cartels supply that demand, or we can have somewhat more responsible American citizens and businesses supply it.

That doesn't mean legalize everything, it just means that fighting this with blood and guns has accomplished very little over the decades, while marijuana legalization changed the cartel's behavior practically overnight.

If this were a science experiment, you would note well the variable that had an effect. And if you were a scientist with half a brain, you might follow that course.

Dawn of the sequel of the planet of the apes of the San Franciscan tropical jungle

Why is San Fransisco covered in vines and turning into a rainforest? Is it from the virus? Does it make apes and plants grow smarter and stronger? Or is it global warming?

I bet it's both.

Still, this new trailer makes me want to see it. It looks mind-numbingly predictable, but the whole intelligent ape society draws me in. A lot they could do with that. A whole lot they could do with that, and much better than the original, especially the awful 2001 film.

Gotham, sans Batman: the TV series. This is a thing now.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I thought the coolest, most interesting thing about the whole Batman universe, was, um, Batman.

Granted, there are other, cool things going on in the Batman universe besides Batman, but he's like the whole point of the thing. Not anymore it seems.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: My assumption has been that the reason this TV show can be done — rights-wise — is because Batman himself is not in it. That way, it doesn’t overlap with any films. Is that correct?

BRUNO HELLER: Certainly from Warner Bros. and DC’s business point of view, that’s why it can be done. For me, if they said, “Do Batman,” I would have said, “No.” I would have not been interested at all. I don’t think Batman works very well on TV — to have people behind masks. Frankly, all those superhero stories I’ve seen, I always love them until they get into the costume. And then it’s, “Oh, okay, they’ve ascended, they’ve stopped becoming humans.” It’s their apotheosis. They go to heaven and they’re Superman. There have been so many great versions of it. This is a version of something else entirely.
Those were sort of my first thoughts too, upon seeing the trailer--that Batman is too big for TV, and it probably has something to do with the rights. But after the wow-they're-really-doing-this-thing shock/interest wore off, I started imagining Batman movies without Batman. And all the potential coolness I initially hoped for, vanished.

Perhaps I just lack imagination. Maybe they'll pull it off:
When reading your script, I kept thinking how difficult this must have been to write — there’s so many tough decisions that need to be made, so many ways to do this idea wrong. How did you decide the tone, how realistic vs. comic, which villains you would use? Can you talk me through the creative process?

The first thing was starting with Jim Gordon, who is the most human and real and normal person in the DC pantheon. What would the city of Gotham look like to a young rookie cop coming into this world? And that’s where we calibrated. This is a world that’s going to become that familiar world of Batman, but it’s not there yet. It’s an embryo. A lot of the work was reverse engineering the story to look at what these characters were like when they younger. Penguin, for instance, is not a powerful gang leader, he’s a gofer for a gangster. It’s about giving the world room to grow, but at the same time giving the fun and pleasure and drama of that heightened world. One of the great things about the Batman world is [the characters] have no super powers. Nobody flies or leaps over buildings. You start with psychology and that’s where we build from.
So it's going to be a cop show in Gotham city. That's either good, or really bad.

If it's Gotham City: The Wire, hell yeah! It would make my day to watch Jim Gordon and his rag-tag group of mostly straight cops navigating the corrupt waters of the system, whilst trying to take out bad guys, not infrequently bumping into future Batman villains.

If it's Law and Order: Gotham, no thanks, I've got to keep a sharp eye on my Florida paint drying and my Death Valley grass growing.

Link via Ace, who warns: "Coming soon: Jimmy Olsen, Boy Reporter."
I hope not.

 

5/10/14

Dude

5/10/14
I was going to put this in the Mystery Link in the sidebar, but it's just too good (too good to check as well).

But my skeptical spidey sense is going crazy.


He's like, living the life of James Bond, without any actual spying . . . just consistently escaping death in sensational ways.

Little late on this

But good stuff.

Maybe I should hang out on twitter more often.

4/18/14

The Entertaining Drama of Online FPS Games

4/18/14
I used to play an online FPS game, and still probably would today if I felt like getting sucked in to an overwhelming addiction (or play casual and suck at it). So for me, this YouTube series I stumbled onto was hilariously salient. But I think most people would find it entertaining.

We all love to hate stupid people. In the world of gaming, we call these players noobs, and they are abundant (yes, even veteran players can be noobs--noobness no longer is limited to newness).

In real life, stupid has consequences and only rarely is it funny. In games however, while stupid people are frustrating, often they are the source of unlimited amusement.

So enjoy about 1.5 hours worth of solid satirical FPS gaming entertainment:


Props to Hank and Jed. If you like what you saw, that was all from them.

4/15/14

Linkables

4/15/14
Lot's of interesting stuff, not enough energy (nor expertise) to write about them. So here's some links:

Funding fake charities and sock puppets.

Restaurant googles you before it seats you.

I never knew how precariously efficacious the IRS really was.

Kyriarchy.

Utah police search entire prescription history of United Fire Authority employees, because some morphine went missing, which nobody was ever charged with stealing. Sounds like good fishing.

Rand Paul is too scary! Well, he's a lot better than his dad, but he is different. Can't have that.

List of Democrats who took money from the Koch brothers. A sizable list, too. I guess it's time to find a new bogeyman and MoveOn.org.

Civil Disobedience: King versus Huemer. Should one accept punishment for breaking an unjust law or no?

The Bundy saga is different things to different people.

That's about as clear and definitive a statement on pro and anti-Bundy sentiments as can be.

To some, it's about government overreach. To others, it's a clear-cut case of a rancher not following the rules. And then there's a bunch of related (often alleged and rumored) nefarious stuff going on around it.

By now, most of you have heard of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy's troubles with the BLM.

I'm not too worked up over it, and won't be writing much about it. I'm ambivalent, with misgivings should I support any one side. I'll just briefly summarize my feelings:
  • Bundy stopped paying the fees for his cattle to graze on federal land.
  • Bundy disputes that it's legitimately federal land, and/or that the feds do not have authority in the matter.
I'm sympathetic. But those two points--which are at the heart of the matter--to me, paint a picture of a pretty clear path from protester to martyr. With our legal system, continued disobedience pretty much ensures prison time. For some reason I don't see Bundy as wanting to be such a martyr.

I mean, we have a pretty well-established system in this country regarding state and federal land, who owns it, and how the people use it. But what if you feel the system is wrong? Do you go along to get along? Or do you go further and refuse/disobey everything you disagree with? Expecting to change the laws and coming away at least somewhat victorious seems overly optimistic. Getting lots of other people to think about it and and then try to change things seems a bit more realistic.

I guess I'm still mulling it over.

That said, I mostly agree with Warren Meyer at Coyoteblog--in a logical, very concrete, matter-of-fact way. For Bundy is not petitioning his government through the accepted and official means (or maybe he did and got nowhere), and resorted to breaking the rules. Why support a cause that has no legal leg to stand on?

I don't buy this Obama-age, Harry Reid involvement crap. I wouldn't put too much stock into that. As this remarkably refreshing article illustrates: there's not much there, there.

But just in general, the rebel in me wants Bundy to win. At least symbolically. To expose all the bullshit the BLM forces upon ranchers, to expose how tactless the federal government is, to expose how little of shit the government gives, to make us question why does the federal government have to own so much Western land? It doesn't have to. It can and should give it to the states, at least most of it.

Edited to add: Should this turn into a civil disobedience issue (which it probably is already... and less about fees, but more about the scope and purpose of government agencies): Bryan Caplan thinks martyrs should avoid martyrdom.
If the law is unjust, doesn't consenting to punishment simply compound the injustice?  The subtler challenge: "Evading" or "defying" just laws could easily lead to "anarchy" in a pejorative sense.  But why on earth is King so pessimistic about the social effects of "evasion" or "defiance" of unjust laws?  Indeed, if the laws are really so awful, you'd expect every violation to make the world a little bit better. . . .

4/11/14

CBS's Sherlock Holmes comes out. Also fights "right-wing" extremists.

4/11/14
In last night's episode of CBS's Elementary, "No Lack of Void", Sherlock Holmes all but says he is gay, while mourning the loss of his friend and former lover, Alistair. This takes place during the Hollywood cookie-cutter plot of battling "right-wing" terrorists.
First, let's get the obvious out of the way: This is not edgy. This is not original. This might have been edgy and/or original 10, 15+ years ago.

Second, disclaimer time: I don't like this episode and I don't like where Elementary is going. This is NOT because Sherlock is gay (well, bisexual), NOT because Dr. Watson is now Joan Watson, NOT because it's a modern interpretation, and NOT because it takes place in New York. It's because the show is getting lazy, and now it's just insulting.

I suppose I'll begin in earnest with what bothered me first about this episode (and, if you haven't guessed by now, expect SPOILERS):

The episode begins with a guy who dies from anthrax poisoning. After some investigation, it is revealed that a group of potential terrorists are making large amounts of the chemical, conspiring to poison possibly hundreds of congressmen. Taking a page out of Law and Order and countless other shows, the bad guys aren't motivated by Islamist propaganda, nor are they just crazy for crazy's sake. But they are ideologically motivated "right-wing" extremists, hell-bent on hurting the government. Transcribed from the episode:
Eugene [the prime suspect] did 3 years in prison for assaulting a census worker. . . . He's associated with a gang of extremists called the Sovereign Army. These guys hate the government, including the NYPD, but they're big fans of violence and the 2nd Amendment. [emphasis mine]
Let's see: a canard, false stereotypes, and a paramilitary-ish name. Remember that census worker who was killed 4 and a half years ago? Well, at the time it was all over the news, and it looked like an anti-government motivated crime. But he actually staged it and killed himself. It must have seemed easy and plausible to blame right-wingers. Unfortunately, people and tv shows still do. (If I wanted to take the time, I could link several incidents of premature and wrongful suspicion for crimes, repeated by the media no less, on "right-wingers").

I used to be a right-wing conservative. Now, I'm very libertarian (there is a big difference). But when I was a conservative I learned, became sensitive to, and started noticing with increasing frequency these cookie-cutter television plots where the bad guy often was some blundering, chauvinistic right-wing stereotype. Whether it was a greedy businessman, corporation, a bloodthirsty military man, crazy pro-lifer, or of the more recent variety: the gun-toting, anti-government militiaman. I still notice them, and even though I no longer feel like they're insulting me, I still feel that they falsely and negatively portray huge swaths of good, decent, law-abiding people. It's cheap, and it's pathetic.

And don't forget the often disproved stereotype that 2nd Amendment fans are both violent and hate the government. Well, they're not, and they don't. But lets not let that get in the way of a good narrative; the media loves this prevarication, and Hollywood plays along.

But wait, there's more! So, after fighting and interrogating these "right-wing" stereotypes, it turns out that it wasn't about ideology after all. The prime suspect and his brother conned the extremists into funding anthrax production, killed the guy who made the anthrax, gave fake anthrax to the extremists (who they later would presumably kill or anonymously turn in to the police), all in order to poison their dairy cows so they could collect insurance money. All that, for insurance fraud. It was greed all along! What a compelling twist.

Oh and the uncompelling and forgettable subplot: Sherlock is gay.

You know what, in the 20th episode of the 2nd season, in what was supposed to be an unconventional, modern version of Sherlock Holmes, after the character has already been so well established, and was revealed previously to have on more than one occasion, heterosexual orientation--this comes off as desperate. And it's kind of insulting to people who wanted a different Sherlock. Why couldn't such important character development be revealed, perhaps executed carefully over a number of episodes--rather than dumped in all at once--in the first season?

The writers of the show must have wanted to do something different and infuse some energy into the show, since lately it started feeling flat and uninspired. It would've been nice if they used some of that effort to try to write a better detective story, rather than invent a whole new side to the main character. Because the primary impetus behind any Sherlock Holmes story is the mystery, and then it's the man himself. The crime, the investigation, the mystery of the day is always first. The mystery of the day is the vehicle by which we learn, little by little, about Sherlock the man.

I'm a fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, loved Jeremy Brett's Sherlock, kind of a fan of BBC's Sherlock, and so you could argue that I'm a big Sherlock Holmes fanboy. But I'm quickly losing interest in Elementary.

A gay Sherlock would've probably worked from the start. Many of us fans suspect his sexuality is hardly in the mainstream (I always thought of him as asexual, with "The Woman," Irene Adler, being the exception). A female Dr. Watson has been great so far. Lucy Lui often steals the show (I often think it tries to be a show more about her, than him). Modern is great, New York is fine, being a drug addict is both fine and is sort of from the original stories. All of that would've been fine, great even, if the show didn't feel like every other cop drama. There's way too much reliance on the NYPD aspect. Might as well deputize Holmes and Watson, because they're almost always at the station or hanging around a police detective.

It's way too similar to every cop show ever made: A serious crime happens, they find suspect(s), plot twists occur, a connection is made, perp goes to jail. Sprinkle character development to taste. Repeat ad nauseam.

Now I must admit, even Doyle's original works have much of that, but in his defense he did come before all those cop dramas after all. Yet, contrary to today's cop dramas, Doyle didn't have Sherlock conversing daily with police, he was often engaged in some crazy undercover ploy, experimenting with or observing some obscure but fascinating phenomena, taking cases from seemingly mundane clients--only to uncover the complete opposite. Sherlock Holmes was never so brooding, nor so emotional as he is in Elementary. And when Holmes solved a mystery, he lets you know that he solved it about half-way through the story, if not much earlier. And then he tells you exactly how he did and why he let it go on so long. That's unlike any show on television today, although BBC's Sherlock comes close at times.

Elementary could be much better. But it has no excuse. It takes cookie-cutter cop drama plots, and sprinkles in their new and improved main characters. But their cookie-cutter plots aren't that great, and the characters have been wasted. It's far too late to reinvent them. Especially in such cheap, insulting ways.

4/8/14

I do not envy Rand Paul

4/8/14
He's got a really tough job.

As Senator? Please, that job's nothing compared to being the libertarian diplomat in conservativeland (and sometimes liberalland).

He differs from his father Ron, in that he actually seems to want to win over conservatives and all their variations, while staying (mostly) true to his libertarian ideals. As a libertarian myself, I often wonder why many conservatives and liberals do not join together, considering we all tend libertarian on many issues. It's tempting, therefore, to try to bridge the gaps, to bring these seemingly disparate groups together under common cause. I mean here's just a few things most of use can agree on:
  • Increasing transparency and accountability in government.
  • Curbing waste, fraud, and abuse.
  • A simpler tax code (not necessarily lower or higher taxes, just simpler).
  • Privacy protection from both corporate and government entities.
  • Ending corporate welfare.
It's good he's trying. And even if he doesn't win over any lefties, you would think he would do fairly well with conservatives, especially during the Obama administration. But that's not the world we live in.

Here in realityville, politicians frequently miscalculate. For example, one isn't granted carte blanche after scoring a few political points, to unnecessarily demagogue about Dick Cheney and the Iraq war after all these years. Why pick at those scabs when our current president is eagerly inflicting new wounds? Rand is going to have to explain that to the hawkish conservatives he needs, if he ever wants to be more than a Senator. He's got enough explaining to do for them already.

With all due respect Rand, please don't go full Ron Paul. Even this lefty thinks you went too far:
Make no mistake: As someone who opposed the Iraq War, I enjoy watching Cheney get slapped around on the issue as much as the next gal. But it’s one thing to accuse the former veep of ideologically driven Machiavellianism; ’tis quite another to suggest that he did what he did out of loyalty to his Halliburton cronies. That is a far darker charge that, while already generating glee on the left, is also the kind of right-on-the-knife’s-edge-of-nuttiness conspiracy-spinning likely to bite Paul on the butt as he tries to capture his party’s nomination. [emphasis mine]
I don't mean to tell the libertarian diplomat how to do his job; I'm sure he's got far more qualified and capable people than I for that. I'm just pointing out the sad, pathetic fact that people suck, especially politicians--even ones you like. And I like Rand Paul. Even if he thought the Iraq war was entirely based on Halliburton's bottom line, I would still vote for him over Jeb or Hillary.

Here's the thing about presidents: Let's pretend your perfect candidate is on the ballot. You agree with him/her on every single issue. From taxes to foreign policy, abortion to gay marriage, which football team is the best, and on down to your favorite beverage--all prioritized exactly the way you want it. And better yet, your candidate not only wins, he/she wins by a huge landslide--giving the president-elect an undeniable mandate.

You have a few months to bask in the glory of your shared victory, and then watch the historical inauguration over and over (since you obviously recorded it, fanboy) so you can glutton yourself with gleeful tears of joy. But after that inauguration, the honeymoon is officially over. Oh, it won't feel like it's over, but it is. Work has to start. President Perfect now has to negotiate all those pesky checks and balances. And he/she doesn't really have all that much power (thankfully).

That new tax policy you wanted: guess what, it's Congress's job. That health care reform you wanted: Congress. National debt? Congress. Gay Marriage? Supreme Court. That big fancy new immigration law the president spearheaded? Congress shat all over it. Well what about those executive orders you wholly supported? They got badly interpreted and poorly applied in the labyrinth of bureaucracy. Your neighbor's annoying dog? Your dogcatcher hates you.

But not so fast, you say: the president has a lot of power when it comes to foreign policy! To which I respond: Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Sr., Bill Clinton, George Bush, Jr., Barack Obama. Virtually the same foreign policies, plus or minus a few scandals. But your president is different! To which I say: yes, but the environment in which he/she operates remains the same, and largely dictates his/her foreign policy, of which Congress has quite a bit of say in. You can vote out the man, but you can't vote out the system. You can change your clothes, but you can't change the weather.

Let's pretend Rand Paul is an extreme isolationist (which he's not): all other things being equal, our foreign policy would change some, yes, but only to the extent Congress and the American people allowed it. Elected officials don't routinely contradict will of those who put them there, nor do they routinely ignore the changing wishes of their constituents. If President Paul recalled every member of the military and cut all ties with our foreign friends, Congress would delay the recall to a virtual standstill (it takes funds to move people), and the president would be out of office within the month, likely sooner. The only way such a thing would happen, is if the vast majority of us wanted it to happen, in which case, you probably wouldn't be complaining.

Realistically, I don't see our foreign policy changing much, regardless of who is elected. And in some ways, that's unfortunate.

I've digressed a bit to illustrate what would likely happen (almost nothing), versus what people fear might happen (we get invaded by every other country) should this scary libertarian guy get nominated. This is why Rand the libertarian diplomat has a difficult job. He's different. We've never had a libertarian president before (at least for a long, long time). We may not like or agree with Jeb Bush, but at least with him we'll get the same turd sandwich we got before, and by golly, we'll like it!

Rand has the awful task of persuasively painting himself as different enough to bring about change we want, but not so different to bring about the scary change we fear. Considering righty libertarians, lefty libertarians, hawkish conservatives, social conservatives, and moderates all have different hopes and fears, uniting them will require a very precarious dance. If he pulls off the nomination, I will be very impressed. I don't envy him.

4/7/14

A Libertarian Kids Movie

4/7/14
Believe it or not, I recently watched what I would consider a libertarian-friendly movie. No, it wasn't Atlas Shrugged.

I don't know if it was in theaters or went straight to DVD, but it was a pleasant surprise. It wasn't great, but it wasn't bad. And it was a kids movie. Justin and the Knights of Valour.

Right off the bat there are anti-regulation, anti-big government kind of scenes which are--for a kids movie--pretty funny. But it's all very anti-pacifist too, so if you happen to be one of those libertarians, then skip this. Even though it was made in Spain, the message of a legalistic and over-regulated society hell-bent on "progress" combined with the trope of the unlikely hero, make it feel familiar. Familiar, predictable; tomato, tomahto. Yeah, it is predictable, but it's watchable. Did I mention it was a kids movie?

And it just seems rare to find libertarian-friendly movies these days. So after your kid has gotten a hefty dose of public education, a slightly subversive movie might be refreshing.




Speaking of kids movies, I'm ready to watch part of my childhood be dramatically obliterated by Michael Bay: explosions, teenage mutant ninja turtles, and more explosions.

Godzilla Trailer

I guess it's movie day here at the Daily (haha, more like Quarterly) Mud.

I am cautiously optimistic that this will be a good movie. I don't think it's technically a remake, in the sense they will sort of follow any of the old Godzilla scripts, but yea it pretty much is one, whatever they do (short of making him a friendly sidekick to a troubled kid in a coming of age film).

In that sense, it is going to be somewhat predictable. Godzilla destroys things, threatens cities, perhaps destroys a city or three. The military gets involved. People eventually win the day. Except that today we can't just have standalone films, we have to have sequels, and trilogies. So maybe Godzilla will win this round. None of that matters too much because that's exactly why we people (not me necessarily) want to see a Godzilla/King Kong/Gigantic Monster movie.

Rampant, colossal destruction, followed by a victorious feeling. And maybe a little nostalgia.

If it's done right, including whatever other story is thrown in is both plausible and meaningful, your inordinately cynical blogger may even give it a favorable review.

I saw Captain America 2

And I thought it was just meh.

Maybe I'm too jaded on perfectly choreographed fight scenes, comically implausible situations, repeated survival of fatal injuries, and performing the physically impossible as if it were a walk through the park. I know, I KNOW these things all happen in the wonderfully fantastic fictional universes of superheroes and stuff, but enough already. I'm suspending my disbelief quite enough by accepting the already implausible existence of super humans, flying and hovering aircraft carriers, a guy without a face but a red skull, extremely intelligent and nefarious aliens, et cetera.

So I watch Captain America dive out of a helicopter at 1000 feet--give or take--straight into the ocean sans parachute, jump on a ship to single-handedly take out dozens of armed men with only his fists and a magic shield. That's all perfectly well, but **SPOILER ALERT** when one of those bad guys has a metal arm, Captain America just can't handle it. "Let's take these terrorists out! Oh wait, never mind, that one has a metal arm. We should probably call Tony Stark."

But they can't call Tony Stark because suddenly they can't trust anyone! Except that one guy Rogers barely knows who he jogs with in the morning. Turns out he has a jet pack that is extremely powerful, highly agile, and has wings... like a bird, which are retractable. And it looks like they rushed the CGI.

Other than that, I guess it was an okay movie. I just didn't like it. I didn't like Ironman 3 either (But I mostly loved Ironman 1, and thought the Avengers was decent).


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