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).

4/1/14

April 1st

4/1/14
So stupidly funny, I cried from laughing. Enjoy.

12/11/13

$8 Milk

12/11/13
Why would our seemingly inexpensive milk soar to $8 a gallon? According to this Time article, because modern subsidies and government manipulation would cease, reverting to older forms of subsidies and government manipulation!

Here's an idea: Don't pass a new farm bill. Repeal the laws we might revert to in the absence of a new farm bill.

Despite what we've been led to believe, it won't be the end of the world. Some important food products are actually not subsidized. ¡QuĂ© horror! 

Don't get me wrong, I like farmers. I'd prefer to live in a community of farmers than just about any other community. But handing them money because they happen to grow a certain crop, or milk cows, is just horribly misguided wealth redistribution (as most redistribution is, especially welfare for the not-poor).

When's the last time we tried a more or less market-based approach to setting the prices for our milk, corn, and various other subsidized agri-products? Sometime before WWI?

Now I'm no expert, but perhaps things have changed since then. I don't mean to sound facetious, and I do realize our farm subsidies are updated with some regularity. But they are based on a principle that was never economically sound to begin with, developed during a time very dissimilar to this one: protectionism.
image credit: Michael Ramirez
Can we try it without the relics of a bygone age?

12/9/13

Re: Left-Libertarian-ist Manifesto

12/9/13
Scott Alexander has an interesting post up at Slate Star Codex, A Something Sort Of Like Left-Libertarianism-ist Manifesto, which is good. And well, bad.

Besides the many compliments and many complaints about it I could articulate here, I'll just include a few (because lazy).

First and foremost, I'm very happy to see people much smarter than I, embrace libertarianism (to various extents), and use their not-insignificant pedestals to extol the virtues of said government philosophy. No two libertarians will pass the other's litmus test, so we are necessarily an inclusive--however critical--group. So, thank you Scott, for writing this and other articles like this.

But you're worse than HitlerTM for failing to see the shortcomings of democracy, shortcomings virtually every political junkie of every stripe complains about, especially libertarians.

Your line of reasoning concerning affirmative action for Martians for example, starts out well, but then you miss somewhat obvious potential problems:
Modern affirmative action says that given the choice between a Martian or an equally qualified Earthling, one must hire the Martian. One big obvious problem here is that “equally qualified” is a matter of opinion. It may be that a boss is prejudiced against Martians, and so tells an excellent Martian candidate that ve is underqualified for the position – the Martian may never know. Or a Martian who was genuinely underqualified may paranoidly believe ve was denied out of prejudice and start a costly lawsuit.

There are other problems as well. Some jobs may have legitimate reasons not to hire Martians – maybe Martians make lousy pilots because their single lidless eye gives them terrible depth perception. Certainly a Martian actor is unqualified to play Abraham Lincoln in a historical biopic. One could offer to let these jobs apply for exemptions, but this means a costly bureaucratic process, and is likely to end with large companies with good lawyers obtaining the exemptions, small companies with poor lawyers not obtaining the exemptions, and no concern about fairness to Martians in any case.

In the worst possible situation, a non-prejudiced boss may decide not to hire Martians because it would be harder to reprimand or dismiss a Martian when they could threaten to sue the company or start a viral Tumblr post accusing the company of speciesism.

Compare a market-informed solution: run a bunch of controlled studies in which bosses get identical Earthling and Martian resumes, find out exactly how strong the prejudice against Martians is, then levy an appropriate tax on hiring Earthlings (or give a subsidy for hiring Martians). Maybe hiring Earthlings costs 5% extra, which is funnelled into scholarships for impoverished Martian larvae. . . .

If ten years later the social scientists do some studies and find that companies are still more likely to accept Earthling resumes over identical Martian resumes, they can raise the tax until that’s no longer the case. If they find that companies are more likely to accept Martian resumes now, then prejudice has decreased and the tax can decrease as well.

I think everyone has a lot to like about this proposal.
Assuming this tax is successfully implemented and collected, you've just created another incentive for the Martians to vote for this particular (however just) form of wealth redistribution. Affirmative action doesn't take place in a political vacuum. Whole constituencies are affected by this. Unless you plan to deny voting rights to Martians and/or deny Martians from holding office (and possibly Martian sympathizers), identity poltics, quid pro quos, the new status quo and the voice of its beneficiaries haven't magically disappeared.

You might be able to increase the tax, if the non-Martians aren't too vocal about it. But the only way you will realistically and democratically decrease or eliminate the tax is if the Martians, who originally were so oppressed as to require this policy, have either transcended their want of wealth, or more likely have been politically oppressed, instead of economically. It's not as if weaning is a smooth process, especially when it involves the government and thousands, if not millions of voters.

This is why we have revolutions, because it's hard to un-ratchet government, short of drastic measures (although I concede the U.S. has had a much easier time of un-ratcheting than most, but it's still a huge problem).


That's the gist of my complaint. You're aknowledging a lot of the problems with progressive policies, which is good, but then you completely omit (or are ignorant of) the institutional (congressional, executive & bureaucratic, sometimes judicial) and environmental (democracy, culture) problems that contribute to the formation and continuance of bad policies.*

Mabye I shouldn't complain. I mean, I hate democracy but I'm not to the point where I'm willing to throw it out. The proto-conservative Burke had a point when he cautioned against replacing the Old with the New, when at least the Old didn't kill everybody. Who knows what the New will bring. But I'm getting off point.

The idea of taxing rather than banning is not an un-libertarian idea, but it is unoriginal and (for libertarians) rarely the go-to proposal. I very much like where Scott starts and following his thought processes, but in the end I'm left very disappointed. He seems to be very utilitarian/technocratic oriented so long as the goal of caring for the less-fortunate is kept conspicuously on high priority. I'm all about helping the less fortunate, but does every policy have to be about the poor? Does it always have to include a tax? More often than not, it seems it does. Which brings me back to one of my central annoyances with lefty solutions: they are boring and incessantly unoriginal.

At least the neoreactionaries are interesting, even if unoriginal.

*Maybe Scott has discussed this in his anti-neoreactionary peice (which I haven't read yet), but why overlook the significant difficulties produced by democracy here? Is it because libertarianism kind of assumes democracy? Why is nobody talking about significant reform of democracy?

12/8/13

Sunday Miscellany

12/8/13
So I've been reading a few Neoreactionary blogs. Frankly, because they are several standard deviations more interesting (wild, really) than your ubiquitous conservative or liberal blog. Also, a dark-libertarianish blog, some Cathedral (according to neoreactionaries, Cathedral refers to the media-academic-politcal complex, but as an adjective it usually means mainstream) blogs. And an eco-something blog--haven't got too far into this one yet, but talented writing so far.

Jump down the blogospheric rabbit hole with me, it's a fun ride.

In no particular order:

Outside In

Marginal Revolution

Archdruid Report

Conversable Economist

Slate Star Codex

Vox Popoli

Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality

Occam's Razor

Unqualified Reservations

12/5/13

OFA Logic in One Simple Chart

12/5/13
Alternatively titled, "Leftist logic ..."

Honestly, I could've come at this in different ways. My first reaction was laughter, followed by despair, then apathy, and now I'm kind of ambivalent. Am I wrong to think that this kind of thinking makes perfect sense to only small children and the cognitively disabled:


I was apparently under the mistaken assumption that if you raise the cost of something, you get less of it--employment, in this case. I apologize for my conventional, mainstream, in-the-box thinking.

This new plan is almost as brilliant as the underpants plan:


I kid, I kid. But essentially, it's the same kind of wishful-thinking, horrible understanding and/or ignorance of economics, and logical fallacies that the South Park Gnomes employ.

Then again, maybe it's just how the president "changes" things.

Update: I wrote the post and p-shopped the image before I saw this tweet, but we're on the same wavelength:

11/27/13

Welcomestaking Day

11/27/13
Perhaps one day in the not-so-distant future, we'll have a Welcomesgiving Day, or more likely, a Welcomestaking Day.

Free stuff [massive redistribution] for everyone! Because you're welcome [feel entitled]!

Eh, I should nip my pessimism in the bud; it isn't very becoming this time of year.

Happy Thanksgiving all!

Enjoy a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (before it gets pulled):

Yes, I am aware it's ironic posting an obvious copyright infringing video in this post. That's how I roll.

11/26/13

Lines in Sand

11/26/13
If you were never one to draw a line in the sand, you might want to hastily reconsider while there is still sand left in which to draw.

Town Bans Smoking Inside Private Homes

Maybe you're the kind who (understandably) thinks smoking is so bad that this is a good thing.

Just remember there are a few people like me who will stand up for you when uncle Sam decides to restrict your favorite beverage, hobby, even vice--especially when such a prohibition is based on shoddy pseudo-science--even though you don't deserve our support.

Take a stand against Leviathan once in a while.
Image credit: entroz

9/30/13

Broke Bad

9/30/13
I started watching Breaking Bad in 2010, I think. I quickly got caught up and watched it every week since. I have to say it was my favorite show. Sad to see it go, but content it never went on long enough to get boring.

What I appreciated most, was the way Mr. White always got out of a bad situation. It was always plausible, cleverly done, and the show's execution of such escapes were flawless.

The show had its flaws and a few plot holes, but the way it was done made it difficult to notice.


[Minor Spoiler Alert]


That being said, I thought the ending could've been better. It was only mildly clever. A lot of White's plan depended on everything going just right with a good dose of luck. Sure enough, it did (although for a moment it looked like it could've gone south, which would have been another way to end the series--having Mr. White's luck run out). Compared to some of his other clever stunts on the show, his last trick seemed subpar. I mean, it's comparable to a deus ex machina: Hey look at this gadget I built that will save the day! I'm not a fan of deus ex machina--that's just bad writing.

Don't get me wrong, the ending was good, it just wasn't Breaking Bad good.

[End Spoiler Alert]


I guess the point of this post is that Breaking Bad is a good (arguably the best) show, go watch it; also check out The Wire.

9/24/13

Farewell PopSci

9/24/13
The Popular Science website/webzine whatever decided that the solution to bad speech is more speech. Just kidding, they're stomping down dissent because they don't like it.

What do you say when you ban something you don't like? You say it's for the greater good, especially since that bad thing is poisoning the water supply!
Comments can be bad for science. That's why, here at PopularScience.com, we're shutting them off. . . .

Another, similarly designed study found that even just firmly worded (but not uncivil) disagreements between commenters impacted readers' perception of science.

If you carry out those results to their logical end--commenters shape public opinion; public opinion shapes public policy; public policy shapes how and whether and what research gets funded--you start to see why we feel compelled to hit the "off" switch.

A politically motivated, decades-long war on expertise has eroded the popular consensus on a wide variety of scientifically validated topics. Everything, from evolution to the origins of climate change, is mistakenly up for grabs again. [emphasis mine]
What the hell is a "scientifically validated topic"? I was under the impression a topic was a subject or range of similar subjects up for discussion or observation--basically everything under the sun, including the sun. I wonder if they meant to say scientifically validated hypotheses or better yet, popular areas of research? Popular in the sense that it's an easy pretense to suckle Uncle Sam's tit.

If you guys are having a difficult time finding some tax-and-spend Democrats to throw some money your way on the Holy Grail of celebrated lefty causes, then you're doing something horribly wrong. And it aint the goddamned comments on your amateurish articles.

It's not like we have reason to be skeptical of scientific studies.

I used to visit PopSci on a somewhat regular basis. The comments were occasionally childish, but often informative. I think the real problem was that a significant portion of their articles were poorly written, like they were straight from the mouth of a troubled adolescent communist with daddy issues. One of their regular contributors felt the need to continually blame Republicans for what happened to be wrong in the world that day. That guy always got raped in the comment sections, and rightly so.

I could say something about heat and a kitchen, but no. They have every right to piss on their commenters. I was not a commenter there, and now I'm not a reader. 

Via Ace.

9/7/13

Libertarians the new Commies?

9/7/13
Nick Gillespie reviews a shabbily written op-ed in Bloomberg, to which Instapundit asks:
DOES THIS MEAN THAT IN 50 YEARS OUR PLATFORM WILL BE LARGELY ENACTED WITHOUT ANYONE ADMITTING IT?
Here's hoping.

9/6/13

New RoboCop Movie Trailer

9/6/13
I have to admit, my extremely low expectations of this remake/reboot/regurgitation were raised. Slightly.

YMMV:

9/3/13

On Syria: we're less than sheep

9/3/13
Democrats abandoned the anti-war movement when Obama was elected. Which is why the movement more or less fizzled out.

And now that Obama painted his red line into a corner, Democrat-friendly MSNBC is now the War Channel.

At least the hawks are taking this very seriously. But not really though.

Even when Sec. of State John Kerry isn't ruling out boots on the ground.
Why the hell are we thinking about bombing (and potentially invading) Syria? Credibility? Purely humanitarian reasons? To give one side in their civil war a little help? None of those reasons are even remotely persuasive. Maybe it's all of the above or some combination. But that does not make it any wiser.

Image credit: Erika Simon
Count me among the thinking people, both right and left, whom are highly skeptical, and are leaning heavily toward opposition:

From Allahpundit at HotAir:
The fact that [Kerry], of all people, has ended up in the Colin Powell role of war salesman here is so ironic that the whole thing seems a touch surreal to me, like a “Twilight Zone” twist to repay all the liberals who posed as anti-war circa 2004 but who were really just anti-Bush and anti-GOP. All we need now is Joe Wilson making the case for intervention on the Sunday shows and we’ll be set.

From David Atkins at Daily Kos:
The idea behind a limited missile strike campaign is supposed to be to degrade Bashar al-Assad's chemical weapons capability, purely as an effort to "enforce" chemical weapons law. But it's questionable whether such an action would actually constitute credible enforcement of the principle. Enforcement of the principle would involve punishing the actors involved, not limiting the ability to engage in the act again. And it goes without saying that limited strikes that might degrade his chemical weapons capability will do next to nothing to address the conventional weapons capability that is giving Bashar al-Assad the upper hand in the civil war.

Which leads to the second question: is the U.S. actually attempting to alter the balance of the Syrian civil war against Bashar al-Assad? Few in government are suggesting the sort of war footing that would be required to accomplish that goal, and for good reason. The cost would be astronomically high both in blood and treasure, it would likely bog the United States down in yet another quagmire, and it is quite likely to put theocrats in power who would be even worse for human rights in Syria and abroad. Even just destroying Assad's chemical weapons capacity might even embroil the United States in a bogged-down conflict without even the slimmest hope of a positive outcome.
It's cliche to say we're a nation of sheep, but I think it's worse than that. Sheep at least have a shepherd who is to some extent, responsive to them. We however, appear to be immaterial.

Update: A one-party system, two factions.

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