Monday, October 29, 2007

New Directions

The lonely libertarian's favorite reader/commenter suggested in an e-mail that I deal with the blogging doldrums by further expanding what I do here. I'll always be the lonely libertarian, but that doesn't mean I can't blog more about the other stuff that really gets me going- sports, entertainment, and everything else that reflects on our modern American society. After all, I tend to find the politics stuff depressing, usually reflecting the worst of what we as humanity have to offer. It might be nice to spend some time to reflect on the passion and creativity that constitutes the rest of our lives.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Can't Someone Else Do It

This one has been kicking around since the summer ....

I had just recently watched the season 9 episode of the Simpsons, Trash of the Titans, when it occurred to me that the episode was quite emblematic of both my generation and the problems society faces today.

Before I go on, let me briefly describe the episode. Simpson aficionados will remember that this was the episode in which Homer runs for Springfield Sanitation Commissioner and is elected on a platform of "Can't someone else do it," promising that the garbage men can do a better, cleaner, and more thorough job. When Homer is elected, he buys new garbage trucks and new uniforms, and the garbage men go about the business of doing all the dirty work that the townspeople don't want to do. Unfortunately, Homer blows his entire years budget in one month, leading to more comedic chaos. Homer initially solves the garbage situation by allowing other towns to dump their garbage in Springfield's abandoned mine, but this results in the town becoming an unstable toxic waste dump. That problem is solved when the town relocates just a few miles down the road.

I'm sure most of us can see the over the top environmental message, but what's far more interesting to me (and something that I missed when I first saw the episode back in high school) is the relationship of people to their government. Homer wins the election because he literally promises garbage service on a silver platter, but his plans and promises bear no resemblance to budgetary realities. And to top it all of, Homer asks, "can't someone else do it?," reflecting a growing pattern of Americans looking to government to take care of us- to do the grimy, dirty, and difficult work we don't want to have to worry about.

I thought about this episode in reference to the concerns over rising college and health care costs. More and more middle class Americans don't want to pay these costs out of pocket- rather, they cry out, "can't someone else do it!" The analogy isn't perfect, but just like keeping our garbage cans clean, shouldn't health care and college costs be the responsibility of individuals, not government.

Of course, with garbage, it seems obvious that we can all take care of our own messes. Some may argue that health care and college have become so prohibitively expensive that middle class Americans just can't afford them anymore and on one hand I'd agree because market forces in both cases have been interfered with by the government to such a ridiculous extent. And more government involvement doesn't make things cheaper. To me, the real issue is that of priorities- is college an investment that is worth it and how highly do you value your health care? (If you live in a nice house or drive a nice car, yet complain about the affordability of health care, clearly you value your house and your car more than health care - And not that there's anything wrong with that, to each his own. Just don't try and complain that someone else ought to pay for your health insurance or for your kids to go to college.)

Finally, just one point on the environmental message of the episode- this wasn't an evil corporation that polluted the town, it was the town government itself. Only government could be so bloated and inefficient, yet powerful enough to pollute an entire town.

The Great Big Blogger Disappearance

It's been almost four weeks and I've just got to get back into this blogging game. There's a lot of other things I should be doing this afternoon, mainly involving employment, both for my current job and for a potential future job. But it's Friday afternoon, 24 hours of rain is looming, and damn it, I'm just not motivated to be doing anything I'm supposed to be doing.

From my own personal point of view, this blog has been a success. I attracted a few outside readers, but this was more about my own sense of personal fulfillment more than anything else. I don't believe that any one individual can change any other one individual's mind, so I never really looked at this blog as an evangelical tool so to speak. Rather, this blog was about getting my own ideas out there, dispersing my own cohesive view of the world that didn't seem to be represented anywhere else in the web or the print media.

I slowed down when I was half-crazed and studying for the bar exam and I never really picked things back up. In part it's been because I feel like I've been telling the same story, over and over and over. I'm against the war on drugs, I'm for open immigration, and I'm against national health care. I despise the nanny state and I was pro-war back in 2003 but have become disillusioned to the point where I just don't feel much of anything said about the war is very productive.

The question is, where do I go from here? For now, I'm just going to try and get back into blogging, period. Rather than plan on any specific directions, I'd rather let this blogging thing take it's natural course. I suppose I can start by seeing whether or not any of the half-posts I started but never published can be salvaged.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

My Big Healthy Complaint

My crusade againast the public health crowd isn't just fueled by my love of freedom and my opposition to stupid policies. Over the past couple of weeks, I've come to realize that my strong feelings are also in response to the puritanical and preachy nature of the entire health culture. Exercise, eat right, do this, do that, and blah, blah, blah. I'm just tired of hearing it constantly, from the tv, the radio, and from friends, family, and every idiot on the street. It's not that diet and exercise aren't important, it's just obnoxious that the nanny-like comments about what's bad for us have become all pervasive.

The odd thing is our society has become extrodinarily less puritanical when it comes to sex. Not only do we have a right to sexual privacy, but we're also supposed to be more accepting of people's sexual choices. Yet when it comes to food, the health Nazis command moral authority about what's good and what's bad.

The thing is, it's not that you shouldn't judge the actions of other people. If you think an order of fried oeros and a fried snickers bar at the fair is gross, thats your perogative. That sounds pretty delicious to me, and I enjoyed all my fried delights when I went to the fair last weeeknd. But just realize that when you turn your personal viewpoint into a statement about how I should live my life, you're no different than the prick who tells you not have sex before marriage. So next time you think about telling your fat friend not to eat that Bacon Double Cheeseburger, just think about your religious friend telling you not to have sex before you get married. You can either have a world where people try and foist their lifestyles on eevryone else or a world where people live and let live. Your choice.

Light Brite Part II

I didn't take the time to comment on the MIT student bringing the bomb like device to Logan airport several weeks ago, in part because I was busy, and in part because it seemed like such a stupid thing to do. Apparently, the bomb like device was, in part, a light up name tag, a fact ignored by the mainstream media. Reason's Jessee Walker compares this scare to the light brite Aqua Teen Hunger Force overreaction of last January.

I admit, it's pretty lame of the mainstream media to do such a shoddy job of reporting the story. Of course, what else do we expect from the mainstream media? Unlike the Cartoon Network invasion, I think this is a tougher case because we're talking about an airport, a place where people know they check their rights at the door. Light Brites around Boston demanded a more measured and thoughtful response ... I'm just not sure, given a lack of information about how this actually went down, whether this latest case was an overreaction or not. Machine guns sound pretty over the top, but who knows. Either way, as opposed to Aqua Teen Hunger Force promoters, this MIT girl was just plain stupid. You don't bring weird things to the airport, period, and that's something that even an MIT student should be able to figure out.

Monday, October 01, 2007

You Tube Killed The Video Star

Or better yet, killed the record companies.

Via Hit and Run comes the news that Radiohead is going to release their new album directly to the public over the internet, allowing fans to pay whatever they want to pay in order to get the album.

Before reading any further here, read the Telegraph piece, which lists five things Radiohead has done to damage the traditional music industry business model.

And now, let me just say that this is awesome. It's good for consumers and music fans and its good for artists and musicians. It's just not so good for the traditional music industry.

The internet has drastically changed the way we enjoy music, from the way we learn about it to how we actually listen to it. And to say that the industry has not responded to these changes ignores the fact that the entire recording industry was built in a way that doesn't reflect the realities of the internet.

This move by Radiohead illustrates the amazing impact of the internet - the democratizing effects of that lower the barriers for entry and allows people to deal more directly with other people.

Let me also use this example to illustrate why markets actually work and what libertarians actually believe in. For whatever reason, people tend to confuse support of free markets to support of big business, but nothing could be further from the truth. Libertarians support the dynamism inherent in a free market that allows people to come up with innovative means of providing other people with goods and services. Record labels made sense back in the pre-internet days, not just for the big money makers, but for smaller niche markets as well. A big label would help market your name and distribute your product to the entire nation, while a niche label could help you in your niche. But when you really think about it, that same structure isn't needed in the internet age. This isn't to say all record labels are going the way of the dinosaur, only to say that music business is changing, and record labels need to rethink their business model if they wish to remain successful. Once again, libertarians are all about markets, and not about big business, so we celebrate these changes and shed no tears for the lost profits of the traditional record labels.

This is big news symbolically, but practically may not mean all that much for the near future. But it will be interesting to watch and as I said, it's pretty damn exciting. If your really interested in music how can you not be excited about a closer relationship between fans and artists?

Affordability's just another word for Bush hating the poor

This Democratic Underground comment thread on universal health care is just plain funny.

First, from the poster antigop :

Other than Dennis Kucinich, what presidential candidate(s) have declared healthcare as a right?

"If we take that money away from the insurance companies and use it for the American people, well, guess what, we have enough money for vision care, dental care, mental health, prescription drugs and long-term care. I'm going to call on the American people to stand up for their rights. Health care is a right, not a privilege."

Healthcare is a right, not a privilege.

Thank you,Dennis.

antigop then adds on this :

Thank you for that! [Responding to another commenter's posting of a Barack Obama quote in favor of affordable health care for every American] Good for Obama! I wish all the candidates would make that declaration, though I would argue with the "affordable" part. I would like to see it funded so "affordability" doesn't enter into it. I'm not sure what "affordable" means to people inside the beltway.

Next, this response from cosmicdot :

DK doesn't qualify that right with words such as "affordable" or "access to" or "affordable health insurance" He doesn't say, affordable health care is a right.
He states it simply: health care is a right, not a privilege.

And finally, this from Naturyl :

Kucinich alone supports real health care. The others all have schemes to prop up the insurance companies or provide only "affordable" health care. "Affordable" is a term so vague it should set off alarm bells immediately. HMO's all claim to be "affordable," too. Kucinich is for health care that doesn't require bringing a wallet, checkbook, credit card, or insurance card to the doctor. Period.

Don't you hate when politicians spew gobbledygook like "affordability?" That's, like, neo con code for screwing the poor at the expense of the rich.

In all seriousness though, I point this stuff out, not to make fun of people (Ok, well, maybe to make fun of people a little bit), but more so to point out how the left lets this sort of nonsense fester without any sort of a reasoned response. No one in the entire Democratic Underground community couldn't have seen this and pointed out how uninformed and just plain wrong this sounds? Believe in universal health care for all, fine, but if I supported it, I certainly wouldn't want crazy people framing my cause in such idiotic, clearly uneducated terms.

Oh, and by the way- I like how Dennis Kucinich is for health care that doesn't require you even bring your wallet. Dolphinplasty, here I come.

Wait, what do you mean Dennis Kucinich's health plan doesn't include dolphinplasty's?

Of course it's a necessary procedure.

Why is this any different from the gender reassignment surgery his plan covers?

Who makes these decisions?

The government? That hardly seems fair. This is worse than my insurance company. Oh bother.