Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Danny Gokey outdid everyone else in style and substance. The way he powered through the ending was impressive. Adam Lambert sang like a musical maniac, but more Broadway than American Idol, as Randy put it. The other three lagged well behind.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)

Spoilers below.

My son picked up The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) the other day. When I was younger, I watched the original from 1951. I don't recall thinking much of its message of moral relativism (making no ethical distinctions between the aggressive use of violence versus defensive). I just saw it as an example of a science fiction movie from that era, overshadowed by the uncertainty of the Cold War.

Having seen some reviews, I knew the new movie would have an environmental spin, rather than anti-war. Still, I gave it half a chance. Partly, I wanted to see how it compared to the original, and see if it had any notable special effects. The effects were underwhelming. The CGI of the destruction cloud was the low-quality "crumbly" type, for example.

As a skeptic of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) hysteria, I expected the theme to be over-the-top hammer-you-on-the-head pontification. I got exactly what I expected. Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) even used the phrase "tipping point," so common among the most hysterical AGW chicken littles. The only thing missing was a shot of Henry Waxman aboard an orbiting spaceship, directing everything.

The anti-human hostility of films like War of the Worlds and Independence Day isn't driven by a moral cause. Rather, it's simply a matter of conquest by outsiders. If anything, such films often poke fun of the naive pacifists. But the anti-humanity of this film is one of moral judgment, taken to psychopathic extremes. As the CGI locusts go about destroying human civilization, I can't help but wonder at the hatred for progress and industry expressed by the writers and producers of this film. In the end, Klaatu relents and calls off the swarms, but only after destroying the ability of everything electrical to function. But the movie ends there, without showing planes fall from the sky, infants in PICU beds dying, massive starvation, death on the order of billions as crops rot in fields, or any of the other obvious consequences.

The childishness of such a massive destruction of human success and ingenuity, without addressing the real-life consequences, doesn't quite sink to the level of absurdity present in The Day After Tomorrow, in which tens of thousands of years of climate change are compressed into a couple days, for dramatic effect. But that isn't saying much.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Green is the New Red

Back in 2000 I looked up the platform for the Green Party and forwarded it to a colleague, in response to his offhand remark praising Ralph Nader's principles. From reading articles about the party, I knew they were more socialist than the Democrats, but I didn't realize how hard core they were until I read that platform. Yes, I know that party platforms are often just a token formality, not to be taken too seriously. But the political activity touted as pro-environment has been quite hostile to free markets and individual rights. If you had written fiction 20 years ago describing how the AGW crowd would behave, critics would have panned your writing for being ridiculously unrealistic.

I'm not sure when the phrase "Green is the New Red" occurred to me, but I know it was years ago and I had never heard anyone else use it. Had I thought of it before these moonbats, I might have reserved the domain or suggested to Warren or Anthony to use it.

I still like Richard's pithy summation from last year.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


<rant>Were I a producer of American Idol, I would ban Randy from stupidly booing Simon at the start of every show. I would also ban contestants from responding to criticism by saying they "had a lot of fun." Most importantly, I'd eliminate any contestant who held out their fingers as Ryan gave the number to call for them, as though viewers were too stupid to read the screen.</rant>

Danny Gokey did the best tonight, and I think he has the most commercial potential. Adam Lambert always has fantastic vocal abilities, but his performances seem a bit too formulaic to me each week (soft, emotive voice to open, then a crescendo of wild riffs). I doubt his commercial appeal will be as broad as Danny's. Allison Iraheta and Kris Allen were very good, as usual. The other three paled in comparison to everyone else.

More on Unintended Consequences

As usual, Billy Beck hits the nail squarely on the head. I wish I had that cite from Gibbons when I wrote about repurposed drug warriors.

Or even this one:

In February, 1917, all political prisons, both those used for interrogation and those in which sentences were served, and all hard-labor prisons as well were emptied. It is a wonder that all the jailers managed to get through the year. ... (But from 1918 on, things began to get much better for them, and at Shpalernaya Prison they were still serving the new regime even in 1928, and why not!) ... (This was one particular part of the machinery of state that did not have to be destroyed and rebuilt from its foundations.)
(Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Gulag Archipelago, p. 459, 1973.)

The Anti-System

Warren Meyer of Coyote Blog writes:
I have heard it said that capitalism is not a system, it is the anti-system. This is the true beauty of capitalism — it is the only way for human beings to interact with each other without compulsion. Every other approach to organizing society involves some group of people using physical force to coerce other people.

(Go read the whole thing.)

I couldn't begin to count the number of times in online discussions I have been challenged to come up with a "better system" when I have made ethical objections to government interference in the economy. But that challenge presupposes a system, wherein "some group of people [use] physical force to coerce other people." By accepting this premise, that the free market is a system to rule others by force, you unnecessarily cede the most important quality of your argument.

Once you give that up, the accusations start flying that you want oppressive monopolies and tainted food. And, if you want this, then you're not for freedom, but are secretly for a form of fascism, controlled by corporate fat cats.

Warren's observation that capitalism (free market) is the "anti-system" is right on point. If you're not imposing a system on others, then you (and those who don't fight against freedom), don't have the control necessary to maintain monopolies or to stop people from boycotting stores that sell tainted food. People like choices. They don't like risking their health buying food from a someone with a bad reputation. Why would giving them the freedom to make their own choices result in large numbers of bad choices?

Also embedded in the "better system" challenge is the ambiguity of "better." Better for whom? In a command economy, one can always find those who are better off (at the expense of others). But each individual gets to decide what is better for himself or herself, and in a free society, that individual gets to make choices for the better.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The New "Evil-Doers" Are Capitalists

Balko cites Janet Napolitano on immigration:

What we have to do is target the real evil-doers in this business, the employers who consistently hire illegal labor…

If someone wants to come here to do honest work, they aren't hurting anyone. Furthermore, the people who employ them are doing nothing wrong either. Their arrangement is their business, no one else's.

It's no surprise that this Obama hack is once again digging for any excuse to target their political enemies. (Still no word on whether those who mocked Bush's use of the term "evil-doers" will say anything about one of their own doing likewise.)

Plenty of politicians use illegal immigrants as a scapegoat. Typically, Republicans are caricatured as being intolerant of "brown people" and thus driven to overzealous attacks on illegal immigration. But Democrats, anti-free-market commentators, and even libertarian-leaning politicians and commentators regrettably fail to stand up for freedom on this issue.

I understand the complaints about "freeloaders" who come here to take advantage of welfare. The solution isn't to deny people the freedom to move from one place to another, but to end welfare, which is an infringement on the taxpayers to decide how to spend what they earn. Why deny freedom on one end in reaction to freedom being denied on the other? That's the worst of both worlds.

For example, Ron Paul is concerned with children born in the US whose parents are illegal immigrants getting "full rights" as citizens, despite all his reverence for the principles of the American Revolution. Whatever he calls "rights" which he wants to deny these children aren't actually rights, but privileges doled out by government. Actual rights have no borders, and depend on no constitution.

The more reasonable concern is security, though this is but an artifact of the myriad of actions behind the establishment of governments and their claims of sovereignty.

Smug Atheists Getting De-baptised

Radley Balko links to a story about "De-Baptism Certificates." strikes me as another example of smug atheists trying way too hard to assert their nonbelief.

But if you read the TIME article as well as the certificate itself, the explicit intent of the NSS is to make the church's census count of church members more accurate, in part to limit their proportion of political sway. That doesn't strike me as "smug" or trying "way too hard," but rather a defense against dishonest political tricks.

I left comments here, here, here, and here. The most salient argument I made concerns the importance of baptism to the the believer and non-believer.

UCrawford: …and it’s more likely to just polarize religious opinion against atheists because they’ll see it as us profaning their rituals…which it kind of is.

... But look at the ritual of baptism. Why do it? Because you fear that if you don’t engage in this strange rite, you will actually burn forever, even after you die!! And, you teach children that this is so, cruelly instilling fear in them. (Your friend who died in the car accident was only five years old, but since he wasn’t baptized, he is now being cooked and will be forever! Not only will little Jimmy not be able to play with you, he is right now screaming in agony! But God loves you.) Do you really, really think that such a ritual needs to be ridiculed to be any more profane?


I'm an American and I wasn't raised in any church. I voluntarily was baptized on my 18th birthday, so the particulars of these certificates don't apply to me. Even if they did, I wouldn't do it even if it were free, for the same reason I don't vote: I reject the underlying premise that our rights are subject to the outcome of polls or censuses. If 99% of the population joined a church, that still wouldn't give them the authority over the lives of the other 1%.