Days of Change

Two Debates, No Waiting

August 2, 2015
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Fox News scheduled the first prime time debate of the 2016 presidential election on Thursday. They also scheduled a before prime time debate. Due to an unusual number of announced Republican candidates and no primaries to filter them out yet, Fox News will use national polling to put the top 10 candidates on stage at 9pm. The rest will be invited to a forum at 5pm on the same day. Hopefully, there won’t be another 4 candidates this week, or they’ll have to open up a third debate.

The GOP decided to try a limited debate schedule this year, which led to more establishment candidates encouraged to run. It also led to more iconoclasts getting in early to get a seat at the table. Now, the candidate pool is in the teens, the highest polling candidate is also in the teens and he happens to be Donald Trump. More great decisions by the GOP.

While some of the contenders might be tempted to go Trump on Fox this week, (Huckabee’s oven comments come to mind) the best course may be to let it go and realize that this incredibly early forum will have no positive effect on voting. The most mileage anyone will get out of this is whoever is recording the 10 second sound bite that will be used against you for the next 13 months.

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I Shot the Lion and the Lion Won

August 1, 2015

I don’t really get hunting. There are some people who live a lifestyle where they gather the food they need by hunting various game and I understand the logic of that. Then there are people who like to hunt as an activity, but also clean and get the meat out of those animals as a supplement to their own purchased food supply. If you’re going to eat meat anyway, I suppose killing it yourself makes as much sense as anything else. Now, your average vegetarian has a list of reasons why everyone should not eat meat, which would be impossible to sustain under our current distribution system for food. However, the hunters who shoot animals for trophies seem a little ghoulish.

I may or may not like Walter Palmer and his penchant for going overseas and shooting (with a bow and arrow recently) exotic animals. I don’t even support his right to do so. However, I am concerned when the United States government jumps the gun on promising to extradite an American citizen ahead of a legal process. Some of that has cooled down and the US Fish and Wildlife Service will look into what was apparently and illegal kill of a lion in Zimbabwe by Dr. Palmer.

With all due respect, Zimbabwe is a mess. Since its creation in 1980, the country experienced years of hyper-inflation to the point where the average person who had a job was making trillions of Zimbabwe dollars a week. Robert Mugabe has melded socialist economic policies and draconian social policies into a unique form of fascism. At minimum, the United States needs to define limits on what punishment Palmer can get if found guilty. I suspect the answer may be as simple as a payoff. Zimbabwe does almost all of its business in US dollars now, since paper currency became practically impossible in Zimbabwe dollars.

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Hell Comes to Heaven

July 31, 2015

TV wrestling legend “Rowdy” Roddy Piper died unexpectedly at the age of 61 today. I watched as much wrestling as the next kid my age in the 80’s. Mostly, I knew Roddy from his movies. He starred in one of the handful of sleeper scifi films by John Carpenter and an absolutely terrible movie that became a late-night staple. He never quite got to the level of The Rock in film, but I certainly remembered him.

In the hilariously titled “Hell Comes to Frogtown,” Roddy played Sam Hell, a former soldier who has been captured by a post-apocalyptic US government. It seems that he is one of the last males with any sperm left after a nuclear war and he’s needed to repopulate. Frogtown is unsurprisingly inhabited by human sized mutated frogs. Hell is on a mission to save the few fertile women left. There’s less sex in the movie than you would think.

What everyone is and will talk about for the next few days is the now infamous “They Live.” Most of John Carpenter’s movies are allegories (I could say a lot about “Prince of Darkness”) and “They Live” is a classic invasion story. In this case, Piper plays an out of work guy in the 1980’s who stumbles on day labor and a pair of sunglasses that reveal the true face of alien creatures posing as humans. They use subliminal messages to keep people from questioning authority and making them want to buy more stuff.

The movie is fun to watch, sometimes ridiculous and occasionally interesting. Besides the iconic bank scene there’s an incredibly protracted fight scene that has been parodied a few times. Carpenter has explained that the aliens are actually the representation of the rich who got richer during the Reagan era while the poor got poorer. Why I love Roddy Piper is that he said in interviews that he didn’t understand that because he did pretty well in the 80’s. It’s a perfect example of the narrative being thwarted by reality.

Rest in Peace, Roddy Piper. It’s time to kick ass in heaven.

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The Clinton Residency

July 30, 2015
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It looks like Hillary Clinton is going down in some way or other before the Democratic Convention. Personality, e-mails and general unpopularity are making other candidate increasingly attractive. While I don’t want Hillary to be the next president, I do want her to be the nominee for her party.

In 2008, Rush Limbaugh described a plan called “Operation Chaos.” After the Edwards debacle, the anti-Hillary vote started to form around a half-term governor senator named Barack Obama. Due to his late start and lack of resume, Obama lost in early polls to Hillary. The party’s super delegates stepped in, sometimes switching their pledged votes. When things were going against Hillary, Limbaugh suggested Republicans, who were getting McCain, like it or not, to change their registration and vote in Democratic primaries for Hillary Clinton. That might have been a good idea.

Bill and Hillary Clinton are less horrible Democrats because they care about their legacy. Bill Clinton has been one of the most public former presidents in history, and he had a cardiac episode. Someone like Barack Obama (and some of the potential successors to him) are honey badgers, they don’t give a shit. Obama will retire to some place where he can either live in a Hawaiian bubble or a Chicago one like murderer Bill Ayers exists in where no one calls him a murderer. Even if the Clintons don’t have a conscience, they have advisers who simulate one. All of Obama’s minions have had their souls removed under their Obamacare plans.

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When Liberals Cross the Streams

July 29, 2015
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Dr. Ben Carson was on CNN and was asked about attempts to cut the grant money earmarked for Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood rarely does anything an OB/GYN can’t do, except terminate pregnancies (and sell their delivery services for dead babies). The best answer is when Jake Tapper asks what low-income neighborhoods would do without Planned Parenthood (by the way, they charge for everything anyway).

Wouldn’t it be ironic if Obamacare killed Planned Parenthood?

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Hack Attack

July 28, 2015
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I guess hackers have some kind of social conscience.

A group (or person, I don’t know how that works) exploited holes in Planned Parenthood’s computer system to get administrative access and get information (e-mails, files) from network users. Besides the organ harvesting, the hack may have been motivated by using abortion as a from of income shown in recent videos.

While I am generally amused by this incident, a new video today is starting to focus on a key player, Stem Express. This company, which sounds like it can get you fetal organs in 30 minutes or less, appears to get the bulk of the financial benefit. Planned Parenthood is only legally (although it fits the definition of a kickback) allowed to get a transport fee, which is a mere fraction of the actual value of terminated human life.

I still think there’s more there there. I, for one, am very interested in the full scope of Stem Express’ “charitable” and political donations. I think another website could use some hacking.

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Not Afraid of Trump

July 27, 2015
1 Comment

My feelings about the Donald Trump presidential campaign have always been mostly concern, although his supporters have been painting any criticism of Trump as fear of him “shaking things up” or “telling the truth” or other BS. In 2012, there were about a half-dozen “front-runners” before Romney ran away with the nomination. My money is on Walker doing that this year. Trump may also drop out early when people date him and marry a more established candidate.

My concern is close to a fear of someone spoiling the contest in such a way that it gives enough votes to the Democrats. If Trump completely goes off the rails and says Republicans are the worst losers in the world and everyone should stay home, it could affect the election. One theory holds that Ralph Nader may have shifted the vote just enough in 2000 (people who voted for him plus people who stayed home because they didn’t like the alternative) that Florida went to Bush by 500 votes. That is my fear. Trump is just a fear monger.

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They Report. I Decide Not To Watch

July 26, 2015
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I saw Meghan McCain for the first time as a Fox News contributor. I guess she tried the rest and went to the best. Sadly, Fox isn’t really best if they hiring McCain, who is also hosting one of those radio shows that’s not syndicated anywhere.

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Obama Went Back to Kenya

July 25, 2015

Hopefully he didn’t eat a dog.

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Why Capitalism Works

July 24, 2015
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Not to give away much about myself, but I work for a company with a relationship to the McDonald’s Corporation. Today, I was discussing NY governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to raise the minimum wage for employees of large food corporations (McDonald’s, Burger King and others) to a ridiculous $15 an hour. The minimum wage in the state is $9 an hour and half of upstate New York probably makes less than $13 an hour. In NYC, wages (still less than $15/hr) and other costs are already so high that franchises can’t offer “dollar menu” items for $1.

Any number of people where I work, who have sometimes decades in with the company, said they would quit to work at McDonald’s for $15/hr. My guess is that won’t happen. If that switch were pulled, the number of employees at McDonald’s restaurants would plummet. In Europe and Oak Brook (McD headquarters) they are already using kiosks for ordering and sometimes machines to expedite sandwiches. If you could run a shift with 2-3 employees, they could all be salaried anyway. The low-tech solution to insane wages is to reduce the overall number of stores in your territory. Where I live, there are two McDonald’s within 5 minutes of each other. It might save money to just consolidate the two and hope the inconvenience doesn’t lose too much business.

Socialism is about rewriting the way people do things to better allocate resources. It involves complex rules and enforcement to force people to do things against their self-interest. Dissatisfaction is so strong most times that either the workers have to be pacified (unsustainable social benefits) or punished (the Reign of Terror). These systems breed underground “black” markets and high level corruption and eventually fail. When it fails, it is often painful.

Why does capitalism work? In short, it is a self-enforcing system where doing better is rewarded and doing nothing is not. In longer form, here are some reasons.

  • Capitalism is simple. The rule is that something is worth what people are willing to pay for it. Before Chinese manufacturing, new products were often more expensive, and people went without them. In some cases, they were built better and could be resold. People pick up many items from garage sales or hand me downs. Now, the goods are less robust but cheaper to buy. That personal computer you bought in the 80’s probably didn’t see its successor for a decade. Now you can buy a new iPhone every few years.
  • Capitalism abhors waste. Most people who own a car have less than 1.5 passengers in it while it’s operating. Plus, it sits somewhere about 95% of the time. What if you could make a few bucks by picking up and driving people when you had some available time? Welcome to Uber. The same goes for renting out an unused guest room.
  • Capitalism consolidates labor. One thing McDonald has tried is using call centers to take drive-thru orders and transit them to their ordering system. Other places use online ordering. Taco Bell has an app that allows you to drive through without yelling your entire order through the speaker. Less work per employee means fewer employees, a necessity when socialism rears its ugly head.
  • Capitalism values competence. We’ve all heard stories about communist countries and the guaranteed jobs that people constantly slack at. In the US, we have union auto workers doing drugs during lunch. In a purely capitalist system, there would be no minimum wage. With no minimum wage, employers wouldn’t have a government-sanctioned low point. People would work at their jobs until they were better than the wage, and find another job with better pay. With government jobs in the US offering better pay and more benefits with lower expectations, employers in the private sector can’t compete for skilled workers and those skilled workers can work below their potential.

The most insidious thing about socialist policies is that the loss is in the innovation and efficiency lost that we never see. As socialism makes an economy worse, the solution seems to be more socialism. Then we have to wait decades for it to fail and people to come to their senses.

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