Monday, June 29, 2009

Does Obama think he is right?

Up until recently, say a year or so ago, I always had confidence things would be better in the future. The technological advancements I have seen in my lifetime lead me to believe that nothing was beyond human innovation. I read Ray Kurzweil's book "The Singularity is Near" about the ever increasing rate of technological development which reinforced my belief that the future was going to be fantastic. I have always thought I was born at the right time in history, when knowledge about anything was at my fingertips. The future was going to be great and all I had to do was work hard and save enough money to get there and I would be set. I did not even have to become super wealthy, just put enough money aside that I could live off my wealth by the time I was in my 60's or perhaps later. By that time medicine would advance to the point where I might live for quite a while after that without the necessity of working full time. My mind would be free to explore and study things that I don't have the time or energy to do now. Perhaps even death might not be as inevitable as it once was. I don't think I ever had the illusion that I would live forever or maybe I did. Now I see a dismal future in which the future of my labor will be snatched from me, harvested like a crop. My future prospects limited by a government that views the private sector as livestock to be slaughtered.

Does Obama firmly believe he is right? I just don't get it. Private industry has given us everything we have. Private industry and innovation are the only hope we have for miracles in modern medicine and it is being killed. Where will the next wonder drug come from, government? Modern medicine, cars, computers, the internet, cell phones all of this was built by private industry. I know the internet evolved from the Arpanet but that was just the starting point, they didn't create the web and would never have figured out how to utilize it on their own. Sure people hate the greedy capitalists, the doctors, the drug companies. But they don't hate the results. They don't hate viagra, antibiotics, non invasive surgery, cancer treatments that are effective, they don't hate the fact that HIV is no longer an automatic death sentence. Yet they want to kill the spring from where these innovations come. I don't get it. Obama lives in the same world I do. Like the rest of us he faces the risk that some day we all may need a miracle cure. Yet he wants to kill the one source of the miracles. Does he think government can do a better job of inventing? Where is the evidence for this? I know, we put a man on the moon so we must be able to solve all the other hard problems.


This sounds like total bullshit to me. First of all, I have been using compact florescent lights for years for most of the lamps in our house. Most of the people I know use compact florescent lights in at least some of their lamps so it is not like everyone is using inefficient lights already. Second they throw around numbers with the implied precision of a neurosurgeon. Save as much energy as is produced by 14 coal fired plants. As much pollution as166 million cars. Save enough energy to run your house for 10 months? Illumination only accounts for 7 percent of average energy usage according to President Obama. Eliminating all energy for illumination would be less than 1 month per year so you would have to go without illumination for 11 or 12 years to save 10 months worth of total energy consumption. Not too mention that compact florescent bulbs require more energy to produce. I know if you get a smaller TV you could save energy, wonder when President Obama is going to suggest that? Why not a smaller refrigerator, hell why not smaller houses? It is for the good of the environment after all. We should trust our leaders when they tell us this.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Iran, so what?

Iran's elections were rigged. So? Is this news to anyone? The people of Iran know it, we know it. End of story. The conservative punditry seem to be upset that Obama is not paying more lip service to supporting the protesters in Iran. I don't know, maybe he could be more supportive but what more can be done beyond lip service? Okay, so President Obama comes out and says all people everywhere have a right to live in a free democratic society and that the Supreme Leader has no right to silence them. Then what? Are we willing to back that up? With what? Iran is going to have a nuclear weapon soon and I don't see any indicators we have the stomach, will or desire to stop this from happening. Isreal might if only out of self preservation. If we had any sense, we might too. It's put up or shut up and I don't see how standing on the sidelines shaking our fist in the air strengthens our position. I felt the same way last year when President Bush was making a lot of noise about Russia and Georgia. He even put our Navy in close proximity to the Russian Navy. This was a bad idea. We were not going to war against Russia over Georgia and we should not have pretended we would. The best we could do was to chastise and complain and reveal how powerless we really were. Sometimes, maybe silence is a good thing. Does anyone really know what is in the Iranian heart. I thought the Iraqi people wanted democracy but now I am not so sure and I would not claim to know what Iranians really want. Then there is the message that backing an unsuccessful and bloody revolution would send. Maybe an overwhelming majority of Iranians want a Jeffersonian democracy. I would love for that to be the case but I just don't know.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Victim of our own success

I was reading this post the other day on National Review by John Derbyshire and it got me to thinking that maybe the problem with government in America is that we are victims of our own success. Since 1969 we have heard over and over "if we can put a man on the moon then we should be able to ...". Maybe if we hadn't put a man on the moon there would not be much confidence that we could do anything else. Last century we won two world wars, moved from an agrarian to an information based society, became dramatically less helpless in the face of random diseases that have always plagued us, created air travel for the masses along with inumerable other advances. Since the American government is inextricably linked with the greatness of America, in many peoples minds, any credit for the great successes of our society goes correctly or incorrectly to our government as well. Not sure where I am going with this other than to say people have come to have great expectations and confidence in our government to accomplish great things. Perhaps too much confidence. I am glad we walked on the moon though.

Cash for Clunkers

Lets see, how can we solve an economic crisis brought on by years of overspending (both government and consumer) and borrowing money to buy stuff we didn't need? Hmmm, cut government spending and refuse to bailout those who lived above their means? No that would never work. How about something else? I know, we'll borrow more money and pay people who bought big cars they no longer want to buy smaller cars. We can create artificial demand in the economy (that never causes problems) and best of all we will put the debt on all tax payers including the ones who bought cars they are perfectly happy with. Wasn't there some guy named Santayana who once said something like...?

Thursday, June 11, 2009


I've never really liked the concept of superheros despite being a fan of comic books. The idea that society needs a protector, one guy or gal to right the wrongs and protect us from evil seems rather fatalistic. Is this situation supposed to be permanent, how long would someone want that job? Well some people live to be needed by others I guess. Societies succeed or fail by the actions of large portions of their members, not the actions of one or a small group of individuals. If a community is made up of hard working, productive, moral people then most likely it will be successful and no hero is needed. In case the opposite is true, a hero would be pretty busy with little in the way of long term results to show for the effort.

I saw "The Watchmen" the other night with my wife (actually it was a few months ago and it took me a while to finish this post), knowing nothing about it other than the trailers I had seen. Turns out the movie was far different from what was advertised. To give this movie an "R" rating is stretching that category a bit. It probably should have been rated NC17. I can't say I liked the movie. The violence was so extreme it was pretty hard to watch and the sex scenes reminded me of soft core porn. The story did not make much sense, super heroes without super powers operate until they were put out of business by a new law. Apparently acting as vigilantes was perfectly legal until that point.

What makes super heroes without super powers seem silly? In normal superhero story lines, a superhero has powers normal people do not, giving him the ability to fight average criminals with little or no risk to himself and making him the only one capable of fighting super villains. Law enforcement supports or at least tolerates some vigilantism because it has to.

In the Watchmen's universe, only one of them has super powers, Dr. Manhattan. The rest appear to the highly skilled incredibly fit individuals. All have a screw loose and one, the Comedian, is an out and out sociopath. One curious thing, Dr. Manhattan and the Comedian agreed to go to Vietnam and fight for the US. The Comedian was apparently able to join the army and wear his own superhero costume. That must have been an interesting recruitment interview. Dr. Manhattan, a big blue guy who can crush tanks and explode people with his mind can wear whatever he wants which in most cases is nothing.

Despite all it's failings, the movie did manage to ask an interesting question in the end. The whole movie appears to be an allegory of religion, or more specifically Christianity. The world is on the brink of nuclear war and the smartest man in the world who was also a member of the Watchmen decides it is better to kill a bunch of people though much less than the number that would be killed in a nuclear war to prevent an actual nuclear war. He then puts the blame on Dr. Manhattan who in the end accepts it and leaves Earth with the threat that he may return and finish the job if humanity does not get its act together. He then goes off to become a god of his own world some place.

The question seems to be is peace worth the price of believing a lie and sacrificing a relative few to save the many. I guess it depends on your view of the value of human life. If humans are a commodity like cattle then basic math is sufficient to support the premise. My own view is that we are not a commodity. We are not so many units of humanity. We are individuals, each of us valuable to ourselves. Lying to avoid self destruction seems like each individual avoiding their own responsibility in making society work. Maybe this is the key to what I dislike about superheros. Responsibility is taken from the masses and placed on the few.

In a similar way I resent the government. In a lot of ways my life has been more challenging recently. Work is very competitive and I have to run to keep up. Some days I'm overwhelmed and some days I overcome the obstacles in my path. I may be unemployed soon, I may not. On the days when my efforts pay off though, I never feel more alive. The risk of failing makes succeeding worthwhile and I don't want government to take that from me.

Fed war on cigarrettes

The Feds are increasing regulatory control over nicotine levels in cigarettes. Now is a good time to sell your GM stock and invest in criminal organizations trafficking high nicotine no tax smokes. And for you terrorist organizations hard hit by the economic downturn, here is an excellent opportunity to raise some operating capital. I'm sure any number of gangs would also be interested in developing new revenue streams.
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