Saturday, October 17, 2009

"Capitalism: A Love Story"

When I went to see Michael Moore's "Capitalism: A Love Story" last night, I fully intended to purchase a ticket for a different film, just to get inside the theatre. (I wanted to see Moore's movie, but I have qualms about giving money to millionaire socialists.)
I forgot that plan in the ticket line. Oh well. I've supported worse.

I'd seen the preview, and had ranted on some of the same subjects.

Michael Moore creates movies in exchange for lots of $10.00 tickets.

Many of us value seeing Moore's movie more than we value our $10.00. Michael Moore values our $10.00 more than he values the time spent making his movies. Michael Moore and a lot of people made a voluntary financial exchange last night. That's called "Capitalism".

Why not engage in this voluntary Free Market exchange with Michael Moore, and let him explain to us why voluntary Free Market exchanges are evil?

If you're looking for a consistent, coherent attack on Capitalism, go elsewhere. The movie is a mishmash of attacks on things that Moore doesn't like, redeemed with some genuinely funny sight gags and film clips.
But if you want a beginner's guide to how Goldman Sachs looted the U.S. Treasury? Give Michael Moore your $10.00

Moore begins with footage from what he sees as America's Golden Years. Dad could buy a new car every three years, he had a pension, four weeks of vacation, and Mom didn't have to work. Why? Because during WW2, we bombed our economic competitors, Germany and Japan, into oblivion. (It was a preview of Cash For Clunkers. Destroy enemy cities, and then rebuild them. It creates jobs and stimulates the economy !!)

Then come some genuinely heartbreaking scenes of people being evicted from their homes, some of which had been in their families for generations. I don't remember any clear explanations of how homes that have been in one family for multiple generations can be foreclosured on, though. Was it an 80-year loan with a balloon note tacked on the end? Did the owners use the house as collateral for a business venture that didn't work out? Did the owner lose his job, and take out a loan against the property just to get by? I don't think Moore ever tells us.

A few of the episodes have so little to do with capitalism, they seem like they were filmed with another movie in mind. One episode where Moore went totally off the rails was an interlude about Judge Mark Ciavarella. This vile bastard, along with someone named Mark T. Conahan, took money under the table from a privately owned juvenile detention center, in exchange for sending more and more juvenile delinquents to the privately operated detention center.

I wrote an incoherent rant about Ciavarella and Conahan several months ago, and when Moore's attack on them began, I supressed an urge to walk down each row of seats and tell everyone to READ THIS.

But, like Michael Moore, I digress. Free Market Capitalism is about voluntary exchanges of time, merchandise, and property. Corrupt judges who can screw up the lives of 1,600 children by taking kickbacks are an argument for less government involvement in the economy, not more.

There are some funny scenes where the dialogue in an old Jesus movie is replaced with contemporary clutch-phrases. (A beggar comes to Jesus to be healed; Jesus turns him away because of a pre-existing condition.) I think the funniest one would be to have Jesus say "I don't think we should do this by ourselves. Let's get Caesar involved."

Then Moore got to the good part. He outlined how various financial institutions were making a fortune by placing exotic bets on the outcomes of our economic behavior. Hank Paulson got a lot of face time onscreen. Ditto for Larry Summers. Ditto for Tiny Timmy Geithner. You can quibble over Moore's choice of details, but he explains how that Unholy Trinity worked with Bush and a Democratic Congress to loot the Treasury. Timothy Geithner comes in for a lot of unexpected abuse. Even Chris Dodd's crimes against transparency got some screen time. I couldn't believe it.
It was more or less accurate and very entertaining, if you enjoy watching a comedy about how a pack of jackals got into your wallet.

Then the music changed. One could almost imagine the Lone Ranger riding over a hilltop. Moore's voice switched from despair to enthusiasm. The screen got brighter, and was suddenly filled with hundreds of thousands of ordinary Americans, good solid Americans like you and me, and they were all focused on....

Barack Obama ! Barack Obama ! Barack Obama ! Holy shit, he's awesome ! !

And then everything got better? And then Obama didn't name Timmy The Tax Dodger Geithner to head up the Treasury? Larry Summers was banished from anywhere near the president's ear? Was Goldman Sachs Obama's #1 campaign contributor, or merely #2 ?? Coca-Cola went back to using sugar instead of corn syrup?

Did The Obamessiah come in and cleanse the temple? Or did he merely allow all the con artists to slide one seat higher in the pecking order?
We'll never know where Moore was headed with this awkward scenario, because the movie pivots over to a union strike at a door and window company.

Here's where it should've gone, though. The people who ripped you off with the Wall Street bailout are the people who ripped you off with the Stimulus Package. They take turns, leaving a few Geithners in place as a transition team.

You had no choice but to finance the Wall Street Bailout, the G.M. Bailout, and the Porkulus Package. Other people made that decision for you, and your grandchildren will have a diminished existence because of it. That's not capitalism. That's fascism. A corporatistic economic ideology where Government and business are intertwined.

Some billionaire capitalists financed this movie. A millionaire capitalist wrote it, directed it, and starred in it. That's ok. In our system, they have that choice.

This is the most pro-union movie I've ever seen, and workers should have a right to unionize. That's their choice. Employers should have a right to hire non-union workers. That's their choice.

Michael Moore has come under fire for using non-union labor to make this pro-union movie. Why did he use non-union labor? Because he had a choice.

If you support the right of billionaire producers to finance millionaire capitalist filmmakers who want to hire non-union labor to produce pro-socialist movies?

Please consider the Libertarian Party. We're Pro-Choice about everything.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

South Park on the organization that was gonna get stimulus money for helping with the census

"Don't Tax, But Spend Anyway" Republicans

In which the Republican Party attempts to start a blog....
This is from the Hot Air site:

Among the glitches on the newly redesigned The site password was visible for a time in the New York section and the “Future Leaders” page was left (temporarily) blank. Quoth the chairman: “It’s a beta site, meaning that there — we’re working out a lot of the kinks and the bugs… So the Dems can have their fun.”

And so they have. Way to score an own goal, pal, completely needlessly and amateurishly.

Today's video on the website moans about the "trillions in new spending".
Folks, until The Teleprompter Jesus entered the Washington Baptismal Waters, the GOP held all the records in new spending.

We're truly in the best of hands.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

To my gay and lesbian friends: You do have another option

From the comment field at Pam's House Blend, on the dithering of The Teleprompter Jesus on the gay marriage issue, plus some anonymous White House comments lumping gay bloggers into the "internet left fringe":

We get rousing speeches pre-election to get our vote. Then we get that insulting-azz DOJ brief comparing us to pedophiles. Then in front of the tea-and-finger-sandwich crowd there's another inspiring speech about how BHO stands with us. Then today we're the pajama-clad fringe again?
WTF? over!
Not one thin dime, not one more vote until somebody up there gets their shit together and gets some action going in a positive direction. They have not seen fringe lunatic -- yet. My last gay nerve is not that ->.<- long now. They can stick this on-again-off-again up their azzes.

And another:

I am sick to goddamned death of the Obama administration. Give me an honest enemy any day over a snake in the grass.

Here are some words of wisdom from The Gay Patriot:

I have to say that while I do delight in mocking gay leftists for their sometimes seemingly slavish support of Democrats, I have been most impressed with the integrity of many left-wing gay bloggers. They haven’t marched in lockstep with an Administration, even one they helped elect. And it’s not just in dealing with a Democratic Administration. While most gay organizations have been silent on the persecution of our fellows living under oppressive Islamic regimes, many gay bloggers on the left have covered their plight, with one blogger even organizing rallies on behalf of gay victims of Islamofascism.

These bloggers are hardly a fringe of the gay community, indeed, they may well be representative of it. Nearly every gay Democrat I talk to has expressed the same frustration as do these left-of-center bloggers. They may agree with a number of things the President has done these past nine months, but they’re appalled at how he has failed to act on the promises he made to the gay community.

So, we should be grateful for the blogosphere–it may well be more representative of our community that the heads of the various gay organizations with their fancy offices and titles and more ready access to the mainstream media.

Here's another Right-Wing Extremist publication, The New York Times:

Impatient and discouraged by what they see as a certain detachment by President Obama on their issues, gay rights supporters took to the streets Sunday in the largest demonstration for gay rights here in nearly a decade....

The president did not lay out a timetable to repeal the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military, voice support for any of the battles going on at state levels to allow same-sex couples more recognition under the law nor mention the march.
“He knows this march is happening, and he can’t even acknowledge it?” said Robin McGehee, 36, a co-director of the march. Ms. McGehee took issue with people she believes are giving the president a pass.

Representative Barney Frank called the march “emotional satisfaction” for its organizers and said of their intention to pressure the Obama administration, “The only thing they’re going to put pressure on is the grass.”

Way to go, Barney. Go back to running a whorehouse out of your apartment.

Here's someone named Beth, commenting on the Ann Althouse blog:

So my question for the pissed off gays--what are you going to do about it? Vote republican next election? sit the next one out? Good questions, all.

I'll support candidates who challenge the Democratic incumbents - some primary challenges would be useful at least to unnerve incumbents who do lip service to gay constituents but never come through for us.

And yes, I'll sit out an election if there's no good option, or vote third party. We've long since quit donating to any organization that has shown up at the Obama White House for their cocktails and photo ops. Screw them. They don't represent us.

Well said, Beth. Please remember that the Libertarian Party waits for you to come around. We don't think America needs a third party, but a genuine second party would be nice.

I was sorry to read about Elmo.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Can your kids purchase life insurance policies on you after you are dead ???

I got into this argument with some friends on Facebook about a month ago.

Imagine you're in this group of about a dozen families who are all afraid that their houses will burn down. So each family puts about 2% of their income into a pool every year, and this fund will cover the cost of a new home for anyone whose house burns down.

Sure enough, every now and then someone's house burns and the group fund has to cover it. By carefully adjusting the rate that everyone has to pay, the fund winds up with 3.5% more than it pays out. (That's the profit margin for the Health Insurance industry, BTW.)

Next, imagine that a newcomer wants into your group. He's heard good reports about the low cost, and how quickly the funds were applied after each household disaster.

There's only one catch: This guy's house has already burned down.
Would you vote for the group to build him a new house? Especially if he crosses his heart, hopes to die, stick a finger in your eye, and promises to start paying money into the fund one day?

(Hint for Democrats: you're going to be giving him a house for nothing. Another hint: I'm not interested in what you ought to do in this situation, I'm interested in what you're going to do. People's houses burn every day, and you don't buy them a new one. I don't think you would let him into the group.)

Ok, enough of that hypothetical nonsense.

If the current Baucus Healthcare Bill passes, will any young person in this great land of ours be dumb enough to pay for health insurance?

Well, yeah. But they will be scarce. This is the Powerline blog explaining why: the current version of the Baucus bill, there is no requirement to buy health insurance at all until after 2013, and by 2017 the penalty for failing to buy health insurance still amounts to only about 15% of the cost of the insurance.
Now, think about it: if you know that you don't have to buy health insurance when you are young and healthy, but if you should get sick, or just get older, you can apply for health insurance at any time and it will be illegal for the insurance company to turn you down, what would you do?
Obviously, you would defer buying insurance unless and until you get sick.
This means that the pool of those who are insured will be lower quality, and the cost therefore higher for everyone who buys insurance.

It is as though you could wait until you die, and then your heirs can buy life insurance on you.

As the great Thomas Sowell has stated a thousand times, in a thousand different ways: Government policies and programs should not be judged by their stated intentions, but by the incentives they create.

In this case they're creating GREAT incentives for younger people to go without insurance.

Our current government is beyond parody. They don't want healthcare for everyone, they want control. They want power.
Many of the people at the top have never even had to profitably run a Blockbuster Video night shift.
What could they possibly be thinking ? Where is the mainstream media on this joke?
Is there not a Woodward and Bernstein out there? Where is Jon Stewart on this? Letterman? Leno?

The Baucus Bill word cloud came from here.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Headline of the decade ! ! !

Here's an excerpt from the article in question. I suspect Mr. Cooper might have been giggling while writing this. Lane County is in Oregon, BTW.
"We got our hand out (for more money) on one hand, and we're we're Contraction of we are.
we're we are spending money with the other," Dwyer said. "That's a dilemma that we face."
The commissioners hope that an intense, 10-month public-information campaign that hits media, the general public, the county's own workers and specific groups will convince people that they're getting a lot of county services for their money. That could encourage support for the county-wide income tax, which would generate $70 million annually to fund current and additional public safety services.
But officials must be careful not to spend money advocating for the income tax, as that would violate a state law that governs how public money can be spent on campaigns, county attorney Terry Wilson said.
The commissioners can spend public money on some things they believe are in the county's best interest, including support for legislation or efforts to win federal money, Wilson said.
However, she added, even though the commissioners believe that the income tax for public safety is in the county's interest, they can't spend money advocating for it because it's tied to a vote of the people, some of whom may oppose the tax, and therefore the promotional spending.
The commissioners are expected, later this year, to approve a personal-income tax for public safety that would take effect if voters in November agree to change the Lane County charter.
The individual commissioners can - and will - advocate for the tax, but Dwyer said money will be spent ensuring only that voters are educated about county services and funding when they vote on the tax plan.
Got it? Good. They're spending a staggering sum of Oregon taxpayer money to let you know that if you don't give them more money, they're going to run out of money. (Unlike our Federal government, states and counties can't print their own funds.)

Voters have rejected 11 straight county public safety measures.
May their tribe increase.
The county needs to communicate on a higher level with its citizens," county spokeswoman Melinda Kletzok said.
Kletzok, the county's public information officer, will be the point person for a campaign to explain county services and funding. It will include newspaper, radio and TV advertising; news releases; an increased Web site presence; a video; numerous printed materials; and meetings with groups ranging from Neighborhood Watch to chambers of commerce, she said.
Supervisors from each county department have promised to contribute a total of up to $200,000 from their budgets to the campaign.
Remember, Lane County voters, your elected officials had enough money stacked around the office to fund the campaign to give them more money.
Another $50,000 is set aside in Kletzok's budget.
Fight The Power.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

On religious legalism

About five years ago, Lord Sauron and I went to a three-day auction in New Jersey. Bought all sorts of stuff and hauled it back to Texas. One of the more memorable people from that trip was an old Amish guy who mostly bid on hammers, wrenches, and other hand tools. He wore the Amish homespun clothes, the suspenders, a straw hat, and some boots that looked like they were made by blacksmiths. (I've always lived in Mississippi and Texas, and haven't been around many Amish people.)

I didn't pay that much attention to Mr. Amish until he started bidding on the drill presses. This seemed like a violation of the Amish prohibition against electricty, right? What was he going to do with an electric drill press? I asked a friend of his, and here's the explanation I got:

The Amish have a prohibition against electricity. Well, let's define electricity. Let's say its the presence and flow of an electrical charge. A spark, perhaps. Think Ben Franklin's experiment with the lightning. Big spark.
A gasoline-powered electric generator compresses fuel with a piston. At some point, a spark plug ignites the fuel, pushing the piston downward. This creates motion.
For whatever reason, the Amish see this spark as a bad thing.

BUT.... what about a diesel generator? Would that be ok? Diesel fuel ignites spontaneously from compression. (The oldest joke in the mechanical/maintenance industry is to send a kid out to change the spark plugs on a diesel engine. Diesel engines don't have spark plugs.)
Therefore, its ok for the Amish to run machinery and lighting from diesel generators. Go here to learn about an Amish company that actually manufactures diesel generators.

Ok, next point.... During this same time period, I was running the Jukt Micronics metal shop, and we had most of the United Nations working in the place. We had metalworkers from Nigeria. Kenya, Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Mexico, Guatemala, Eritrea, and Arkansas. I wanted to do something nice for the guys, and ordered pizza to arrive a few minutes before breaktime.

I ordered Pizza Hut Meat-Lovers pizza. I ordered Sausage pizza. Pepperoni pizza. Italian Sausage. Ham. And guess what? It was the middle of Ramadan. At least a third of my employees were Muslim, and I might as well have ordered everybody some pig-on-a-biscuit. Well, like I said above, I'd lived my whole life in Mississippi and Texas, and wasn't really tuned in to Muslim dietary requirements.

But here's where it got interesting: A small contingent of the Croatians (?) took some of the forbidden pizza to a corner, and they did something to it. I don't know what. Some kind of Mojo. When the pizza came out of the corner, it was ok for Muslims to eat, and a lot of them ate it. I wish that Baptists had a similar ritual to purify Jim Beam.

There was an article in the New York Times a few days ago about Shabbos elevators. You don't know about Shabbos (or Shabbat) elevators? Here's the Times:

Does that elevator “know” how many people are on it?
The question is at the core of a ruling issued by a group of prominent rabbis in Israel on Sept. 29 that seems to ban the use of many so-called Shabbos elevators: elevators fixed to stop on every floor from Friday evening until Saturday evening so that observant Jews do not have to press any buttons.
Since the 1960s, when high-rise apartment buildings became ubiquitous, the Orthodox rabbinate has made such elevators one of the few exceptions to Talmudic rules prohibiting 39 categories of activity on the Sabbath, including manual labor or the use of electrical devices. Like flipping a light switch, pressing an elevator button is considered the use of an electrical device.

You would think that if someone went to the trouble to program an elevator stop on every floor during the Jewish Sabbath, he ought to at least get credit for trying. Not so. Here's the "Ask A Rabbi" website:

One of the common misconceptions about how elevators work, is that they are moved by a powerful motor which works equally hard no matter how many passengers have boarded, or even if no passengers have boarded at all. If this were the case, then the added weight of the passenger is not a contributing factor in any of the functions of the elevator and he wouldn't be considered responsible for those violations of Shabbat caused by use of the elevator. This assumption though, is false.

The assumption is false because elevator motors do not use the same amount of power regardless of the number of passengers or weight. The following is an explanation of how the majority of elevators work, illustrating just a small number of Halachic issues surrounding the use of elevators on Shabbat:

  1. Most elevators are the traction type: consisting of a car and a counterweight on opposite ends of a cable hanging from a pulley;
  2. The pulley raises or lowers the car by using a motor, and stops by using a mechanical brake;
  3. The motor only requires enough power to lift the difference between the counterweight and the car, and to overcome friction;
  4. The weight is equal to half capacity of the car, thus the motor operates to counteract the pull of the weight when the elevator is less than half full, and does not operate when the elevator is more than half full, when the car is descending.

Since the weight of the passenger is partly responsible for the motion of the elevator, he becomes liable for any infractions caused by the elevator's descent. In a typical non-Shabbos elevator, these are some of the many problems that one could encounter:

  • Letting your weight trigger the mechanism that slows the elevator down and stops it at the next floor.

    • Causing the light that indicates the floor that the elevator is presently on to illuminate.
    • Activating the system (resistance sensitive pads, photoelectric device, or proximity detector) that opens the elevator doors.

    The Institute for Science and Halacha has spent many years working out the various Halachic problems and have designs for Shabbat elevators that meet the most rigorous Shabbat standards. Don't just use any automatic elevator - check with a Local Halachic Authority and find out whether it really is Shabbat safe.

Get it? If anything about your body - your weight, your leg breaking a light beam, your sinful desire to press a button - causes the elevator mechanism to change its scheduled starts and stops, then you've desecrated the Sabbath. It's like "step on a crack, break your mother's back" times ten.

Which gets me to the new Eruv in Baltimore. An Eruv, according to Wikipedia, refers to the legal aggregation or "mixture" under Jewish religious property law of separate parcels of property meeting certain requirements into a single parcel held in common by all the holders of the original parcels, which enables Jews who observe the traditional laws of Shabbat to carry children and belongings anywhere within the jointly held property without transgressing the prohibition against carrying a burden across a property line on the Jewish sabbath.

Orthodox Jews can't carry property - i.e., books, keys, kids - across property that isn't theirs on the Sabbath. So they put a wire around a massive amount of land, theoretically enclosing it within the communal property boundary of the wire, and this means its okay to carry your textbooks from point A to point B on the Sabbath. As long as you stay inside the wire. Step outside it, and God gets pissed. Here's another section of Wikipedia on "coping without an Eruv":

Loose medicines may not be carried; most authorities have agreed that it is preferable that one who constantly needs medication remain at home rather than transgressing Shabbat by carrying medication. But if such a person leaves home, then comes in need of medication, it is permissible under the laws of Pikuach nefesh to break Shabbat and bring the medication to the person. A small number of authorities in recent years have been permitting carrying the medication, though, since such a person may be tempted to leave home without it, and then his/her life may be endangered thereafter.

I first learned about the concept of the Eruv in Harper's magazine. The Eruv in the linked article is more than 4,000 acres, and encloses much of Manhattan. That's one heck of a household. Various committees and experts inspect the wire from time to time, and ensure that it remains unbroken. Otherwise, those inside the magic circle would be doing forbidden work on the Sabbath.

My wife is a Baptist Youth Minister. Our church prides itself on being "moderate" Baptist, which these days is kinda like being a "moderate" jihadist. We like gays and lesbians. We have female deacons and ministers. We don't believe that the Republican Party speaks for God. (Some of us even think that you can disagree with us and not go to hell, but don't tell anybody.)

My wife is having another carpal tunnel surgery tomorrow.
According to long-standing tradition, Baptists don't consume alcohol.
People from the church are bring food to our house every other day for the next two weeks, since the church members know that my wife can't survive on my diet of Bud Lite and Chili. (Great folks, all of them.)
But I have at least a 12-pack of Bud Lite in the fridge.
According to my calendar, we're in the year 2009. We've put a man on the moon. We're mapping the human genome. If we could stay out of religious wars in the Middle East, we would've sent a man to Mars by now.
With the exception of maybe three people, every member of the church that I know is at least a social drinker. They're going to be putting stuff in our fridge.
My Bud Lite is now in the salad bin of the refrigerator, stored out of sight.

The Amish prohibitions against electricity, the Muslim ban on pork, and the Jewish regulations against work outside the household on the Sabbath? Those are all silly religious beliefs.
But the Baptist drinking ban is a tradition. We all know and acknowledge that Jesus turned water into wine, and that Paul said a little wine is good "for the stomach's sake".

None of that matters. Baptists don't drink. I can't be too careful, and I better consume that 12-pack tonight.

The picture of the Amish generator came from here.
The picture of the Shabbat elevator came from here.

Taking it to the next level

My friend Harper from Camp Blownstar is taking competitiveness to new levels.

Go here to see Harper's entry in my caption contest. Harper is the first person to bring photoshop to the table ! ! (Mere captions are so....previous millennium)

Link and bookmark Harper's blog "Passed Up Strange". Harper isn't just smart, but is also cerebral. Intellectual. Brilliant person, that Harper. Would've won the Nobel if the process wasn't rigged.