Liberty Dollars and Postage Stamps

A nameless friend of mine ripped this out awhile back. I found it intriguing enough to ask if I could post it here.

Basically, it seems that people get all bent out of shape when their
assumptions about money are violated. Seeing as you two have mentioned
Liberty Dollars, I thought I'd mention the micro-economic perspective.
It hinges on a theory about the relationship between currency and
wealth, which I will now spend two skipable paragraphs on.

There are dollars, and there are dollar bills. One bill in a million
is fake, which means that a dollar bill is actually worth 99.9999
cents. (Actually, the fake bills are generally larger denominations,
but that's the idea.) But if all funny money were instantly
recognizable by all and torn up tomorrow, a few people would take a
loss but the bills would again be worth exactly one dollar. That is,
the remaining bills would have slightly more buying power in
accordance with the change in scarcity. The effect is more pronounced
the greater is the local circulation of counterfeit bills.

The underlying problem with counterfeit is that it devalues the
currency. People don't want their currency devalued, so they arrange
to reject and seize counterfeit bills at key points in the cash cycle
such as banks. As a result, anyone who accepts funny money will
ultimately take an economic loss unless they successfully recirculate
it. (This can happen by accident.) This arrangement causes anyone who
creates and passes a fake bill to be stealing buying power from the
last person to accept the bill before it reaches a currency validation
checkpoint. There is also a great sense of unfairness that some
private party can create money without corresponding wealth. For both
reasons, the penalty for counterfeit is harsh.

Liberty Dollars (and things like them) are a subtle issue. Clearly,
they are not counterfeit, because they make no attempt to masquerade
as standard currency. However, there is still that same appearance (in
some minds) that someone is creating money without wealth, and
furthermore, as zeolots promote the widespread acceptability of these
alternative currencies, the notes take on an economic effect similar
to that of counterfeit. They increase the cash supply artificially,
The banks dishonor them for obvious reasons, and merchants don't
generally have wherewithal to make the conversion to standard funds.

In truth, the only difference between baseball cards and counterfeit
currency is that nobody tries to buy beer with them. They have almost
no intrinsic value and plenty of speculative value, but most
importantly, they have no face value.

If you really want to muck with the system, see if you can pay for
things using postage stamps. Once you buy your stamp, the postal
service has the use of your original cash. But if you can extract
gains from trade using those stamps as a medium of exchange, then you
retain your use of the face value of the stamps for as long as you
have them. In short, you've duplicated money until someone slaps that
bad boy on an envelope, which is the inherent economic value backing
the stamp. Get more than a few people doing this, and you might spawn
an investigation. or at least some serious head-scratching in high

His observations do coincide with some of my experiences trading in ALD. There's always someone on the sidelines who's just certain there's a scam going on here somewhere.

It's also interesting to note that the US government would have to crack down on stamp usage as 'current money' if they were consistent in their interpretation of law. This would put the government in the interesting situation of having to crack down on exchanges of a federal document (stamps) because it cuts into the value of another federal document (dollars).

...Which is just as logical and consistent as outlawing tobacco usage while funding it's production at the agricultural level. Your federal government at work.

Googlism: the one true religion

Jay Garmon. Again:
the ultimate example of tech industry hero worship: The Church of Google. In what is (probably) an exercise in gleeful snark, this church promotes the notion that not only is Google a god, but that “She” is a more useful object of worship than most competing theological entities. After all, Google queries are prayers that actually get answered, though often mysteriously.
read more | digg story

The ten commandments were a nice touch, but Google cannot be god, because the Flying Spaghetti Monster is god. Get it right, man.

Huge Crater Found in Egypt

The crater is about 19 miles (31 kilometers) wide, more than twice as big as the next largest Saharan crater known. It utterly dwarfs Meteor Crater in Arizona, which is about three-fourths of a mile (1.2 kilometers) in diameter.
read more | digg story

Click and enlarge the photo. Too Cool. Found this image while browsing Killer Space Rock Theory Is Soaking Wet a classically provocative title for a story about what part of the impact killed the dinosaurs; not whether or not they were killed by a meteor impact. Interesting findings, though.

FFrF Radio: Ernie Harburg & Eleanor Smeal

Podcast Link.

January 26, 2008 - The Atheist Lyricist Who Put the Rainbow in the Wizard of Oz

50 members of congress have gotten together, at the behest of (the laughable) ACLJ (founded by Pat Robertson, who has managed to leverage a barely average ability in televangelism into an influential religious based series of businesses. If his followers would just quit giving him money, maybe he'd finally go broke and we'd be finished with him) to respond to the lawsuit requesting the removal of under god from the pledge of allegiance.

As ill founded as I think FFrF vs. Congress is (making children say the pledge is contrary to freedom) I find it hard to believe that an infinite number of congresscritters could find 80,000 Americans who gave a damn one way or the other about the contents of the pledge, let alone 50. I think all 50 of those members should be ashamed of themselves for letting themselves be manipulated like this. This pandering to the Religious Right has to stop.

This is the second appearance for Ernie Harburg on the show, talking about his father Yip Harburg, and the new Biography Who Put the Rainbow in the Wizard of Oz. His first appearance was on the first episode of the show.

2007 Archive episode.

January 27, 2007 - The Religious War Against Women: Ellie Smeal

Hard to believe that it's only been a year since the currently endless road to the White House election cycle started. It feels like it's been at least 10 years. The show starts with a clip from the Daily show (catch it when I can) lambasting Sam Brownback (who?) for his stance on the importance of religious belief in the selection of government officials.
"I mean, when I picture a zoning board that doesn't understand that Christ gave His life for our sins, I can't imagine how it could regulate land use within a mixed residential slash industrial zone." -John Stewart
But then the progressive political dogma shows up again. I know that Bush, when he's talking about school choice, thinks he's talking about giving tax money to private religious schools. But Annie Laurie Gaylor should know better, she's smarter than he is (a box of hammers is smarter than he is) a simple scan of private schools in your area will probably turn up several schools which are not religious in nature, most of which (if you live in a large city) will produce students of a superior caliber than the more costly government schools.

In Austin there are no less than 10 Montessori schools. And while Maria Montessori was Catholic, the schools that follow her methods are generally progressive in nature; that is, there is no religious teaching in the schools

[it's funny, the only time I've experience a problem with religion in the schools has been when my children have been in the government school system. I've had to intervene when the schools have tried to impose silent or lead prayers as well as mandate pledging; or the time when the son's charter school was actually housed in a Catholic church. The Montessori years, for both of them, were trouble free when it came to religion]

and the Montessori schools are just one type of private school in the average metropolitan area. If we're going to cast aspersions here, I think the blind insistence that government schools are the only schools free from religion is a dangerously dogmatic opinion, and does a disservice to those parents and teachers who seek to be freed from the restrictions placed on them by heavy handed bureaucrats who have an agenda separate from simply educating children. I could go on, but then I've already said what needed to be said either here, or here.

Ellie Smeal was on to talk on the issue of abortion (Blog entries) on the anniversary of Roe. 70,000 women die each year from botched abortions. I wish they had stayed on the subject of family planning, rather than wandering around various issues related to feminism; too much material for a half hour interview. It's a travesty, what's been done to limit family planning all over the world, including in the US.

The discussion of the crimes of the Taliban against women was illuminating.

Immigration Officials Detaining, Deporting American Citizens

The guy featured in the article is actually irrelevant to the story. This is the story:
An unpublished study by the Vera Institute of Justice, a New York nonprofit organization, in 2006 identified 125 people in immigration detention centers across the nation who immigration lawyers believed had valid U.S. citizenship claims.
Vera initially focused on six facilities where most of the cases surfaced. The organization later broadened its analysis to 12 sites and plans to track the outcome of all cases involving citizens.
Nina Siulc, the lead researcher, said she thinks that many more American citizens probably are being erroneously detained or deported every year because her assessment looked at only a small number of those in custody. Each year, about 280,000 people are held on immigration violations at 15 federal detention centers and more than 400 state and local contract facilities nationwide.
read more | digg story

I've often wondered how many Chicanos or Hispanics who are deported each year are actually American citizens. Who carries identification papers around with them every where they go? I don't. If you just happen to have brown skin, and you're out without ID, do you have to worry about getting picked up? What a pain in the ass.

I doubt the 125 number even includes those types of cases, and probably only considers the numbers of white people who don't happen to have the right documentation to back up their claims of citizenship when immigration comes sniffing around during an arrest. People like me.

Perhaps I should start worrying about getting arrested; but then I always did want to visit the homeland. Not that Britain is much better, but at least the scenery is different.

Downsize DC: Wisdom From the Past

I'm just going to quote the Downsize dispatch:

"Mr. Speaker, today the Chief Executive sent to this House of Representatives a . . . bill for immediate enactment. The author of this bill seems to be unknown. No one has told us who drafted the bill. There appears to be a printed copy at the speakers desk, but no printed copies are available for the House Members. The bill has been driven through the House with cyclonic speed after 40 minutes debate, 20 minutes for the minority and 20 minutes for the majority. I have demanded a roll call, but have been unable to get the attention of the Chair. Others have done the same . . .

"I want to put myself on record against procedure of this kind and against the use of such methods in passing legislation affecting millions of lives and billions of dollars. It is safe to say that in normal times. after careful study of a printed copy and after careful debate and consideration, this bill would never have passed this House or any other House. Its passage could be accomplished only by rapid procedure, hurried and hectic debate, and a general rush for voting without roll call.

"I am suspicious of this railroading of bills through our House of Representatives, and I refuse to vote for a measure unseen and unknown. ... I want the RECORD to show that I was, and am, against this bill and this method of procedure; and I believe no good will come out of it for America. We must not abdicate our power to exercise judgment. We must not allow ourselves to be swept off our feet by hysteria, and we must not let the power of the Executive paralyze our legislative action. If we do, it would be better for us to resign and go home-and save the people the salary they are paying us.

"I look forward to that day when we shall read the bill we are considering, and see the author of the bill stand before the House and explain it, and then, after calm deliberation and sober judgment- after full and free debate-I hope to see sane and sensible legislation passed which will lift America out of this panic and disaster into which we were plunged.”

Powerful. We couldn't say it better ourselves. But who said it, and when? Was it Ron Paul on the Patriot Act? Dennis Kucinich on the Iraq Resolution?

Actually, these words were spoken by Rep. Ernest Lundeen from Minnesota in March, 1933 upon passage of the Emergency Banking Relief Act.

This was the act which, among other things, authorized the Secretary of the Treasury to steal gold from the American people. The people received the "equivalent" of their gold in paper money, which was later devalued. 75 years later, America is still drowning in inflation, and it's getting worse. We must restore the freedom of the people to to use gold, or any other commodity they mutually agree to, as money once again. Please tell Congress to pass the Honest Money Act.

But the power of Rep. Lundeen's words resonate even today. The worst bills Congress passes are the ones they rush through unread with little or no time for debate. And in 2007, that was how virtually every bill was passed. In 2007, Congress was in session for 39 weeks. The figures are imprecise, but on an "average" day the House passed three bills amounting to about 100 pages of legislation.

The Senate's pace was slower. Sometimes they spent a whole week debating one bill, and then passed dozens of bills the following week. But on an average day in session, the Senate managed to push through 1.4 bills and 70 pages of legislation.

Of course, there are no "average" days and no "average" bills, but it is clear that neither chamber takes the time to read and seriously deliberate the bills they pass. Many sail through the House with "suspend the rules and pass" procedures, while in the Senate many bills pass with "unanimous consent," without the Senators even knowing what they consented to.

We can't under-estimate the harm that unread bills have inflicted on the Republic. The Patriot Act was passed in a rush with scant opposition, and Patriot Act II was passed before its supporters discovered shocking provisions in it. The Real ID Act was attached to a bill funding the troops and sailed through the Senate unanimously, giving the people no chance to react or respond. And as we now know, the disastrous 1933 Emergency Banking Act was passed in a similar fashion.

read more | digg story

We can put an end to this. We can tell Congress what Rep. Lundeen said 75 years ago, and demand that they introduce and pass the Read the Bills Act. You can do so here.

Rambo IV - First Blood it isn't

Caught a sneak of this at the Alamo Drafthouse. I might have found the film mildly entertaining, if it wasn't for the ridiculous security measures the studio insisted on.

It was bad enough that they had decided to ban all cell phones without informing the audience. I generally just answer questions about recording devices and cell phones with a negative. "No, my phone doesn't have a camera. No, I don't have a cell phone." I know the rules concerning piracy (although how something can be piracy without profit is still a mystery) and if there's one thing a videophile hates it's jittery amateur photography. Why anyone would want to record a film on their cell phone is beyond me. So I tell them whatever they want to hear to get them out of my face, but I won't surrender my phone, sorry. What's the point of having a mobile phone that you don't keep with you?

So, when the extremely overdressed trio (black suit and tie. In Austin. Gimme a break) of wanna-be toughs from the studio asked me if I had a cell phone, I said "no". Then they proceeded to inform the crowd assembled for the sneak that there would be no cell phones of any kind allowed in the theater; and they did this every 10 minutes for the hour that we waited in line. Every time it was mentioned, the wife (her desire to see the film is the only reason I agreed to go. Yes, she wanted to see it, not me. Go figure) would give me the hairy eyeball and gestured towards the car.

I've walked this gauntlet before, I figured I had it beat. But when they informed the audience that they would be wanding all attendees and confiscating cell phones, I decided that I would spare the wife the scene and simply hide the Treo in the car.

It ended up making no difference one way or the other. They did indeed wand us as we went through. I had the forethought to hold my keys in my hand, but I forgot that I had my vertigo medication in a metal tin, and consequently was asked to empty my pockets anyway. So I flashed them the tin full of medication, as well as some justly earned anger, and stormed into the theater.

[On the upside, the wife finally agreed that I had the right idea when it comes to taking my next flight; clearly there's something about me that sets off the status quo types. Might as well make a statement]

When the waitress (yes, waitresses at Alamo Drafthouse. I feel for those poor souls without access to one) came by to ask if I wanted anything, I was still feeling snippy; so I told her that all I wanted was my dignity returned. She didn't see the humor in that. Being treated as a criminal without engaging in a crime. If that isn't a theft of ones dignity, I don't know what is.

And I went through all this to see Rambo IV! A mildly entertaining film from the explosions and gore perspective (the wife and I agreed that they had some of the best exploding dummies we've ever seen on film) but not even in the same league with First Blood, a film with a story and a plot as well as decent action. Still, it was better than Rambo II or III (has anybody else made the Al Qaeda connection with Rambo III? That's good for a laugh) but not by much.

The wife and I were barely on speaking terms by the time we got back to the house; and I was left with the irony of going to see a film in which the lead character goes to extreme measures to defend the rights of the oppressed, while being shown in graphic detail just how few rights any of us have left.

Thank you Lions Gate Entertainment, you've definitely hit a new low.

Discover Your Inner Economist & Mind of the Market

A couple of CATO events that struck a cord with me lately.

Tyler Cowen discussed his new Book Discover your Inner Economist in a recent CATO event. I haven't read the book, but I found the event discussion quite engaging. The objections that I've had to beancounters for all of my life were touched on numerous times. They miss the portions of human interaction that can't be quantified with numbers in a ledger, and consequently make wrong decisions when it comes to directing business expenses.

He's in a CATO weekly video here discussing incentives within a family setting:

read more | digg story

Then there's Micheal Shermer's CATO event where he is discussing his new book The Mind of the Market: Compassionate Apes, Competitive Humans, and Other Tales from Evolutionary Economics. I didn't find his presentation as compelling, but he presented several observations that I found thought provoking.

[My major beef with Shermer is a common problem that I've observed over time. He mistakenly uses the word 'Altruism' when he means 'charity' ("reciprocal altruism" should be "reciprocal charity"; as in a transaction where there is no profit outside the charitable benefit. Altruism is not charity]

Here's the CATO video With Shermer:

read more | digg story

They're both on CATO daily podcasts as well.

This discussion is related to the discussion of health care and private markets, believe it or not. The average American is letting his desire for security override his common sense on this (and other) issues. Just figured I'd point out some resources for those who can't wrap their heads around the idea of free markets.

The Health care Problem Part 2

A friend of a friend responded to my rant on health care the other day, taking me to task for not being willing to hand over 1/5th of the US economy to the government and allowing those wonderful bureaucrats in Washington to finish the job they started when they first screwed up US health care by granting tax subsidies to employers who offered health insurance, way back in the 50's. I don't know, perhaps we should question the veracity of all the promises given by those saintly authors of such lovely things as HMO and PPO regulations (and insurance regulation in general) and all those other constraints put on health care providers as well; they were, after all, supposed to fix the health care problem, rather than make it worse.

Maybe, just maybe, we should probe a little deeper into this problem of health care, and see where the problem originates.

Reading the objections to my rant, I have to say that the problem with health care appears to originate in the opinions of average citizens. I say this because the points that are being made are generally in error; as anything beyond basic research on the 'net will show. And yet this isn't the first time I've seen these points made, which is why I'm going to take the time to rebut them.

Part of the problem with health care facts is, there aren't a lot of easily accessible facts to go by. But I will do my best to answer the 6 points brought up by my detractor, and then perhaps pose a few questions of my own.

So here goes:

1) If our system is the best, why does a child born in IRAQ have a better chance of reaching age one than a child born in this country?

Because that isn't the real statistic: the Wiki List of Countries by Infant Mortality Rate clearly shows that Iraq (27 / 81.5) has a much higher rate than the United States (163 / 6.3). The IMR is higher in the US than in Canada (173 / 4.8) and the other socialized systems, but it's not that statistically significant; although the variation in rates probably relates to factors within the health care system.

2) If our system is the best, why do we have the highest percentage of our citizens on prescription drugs which treat the symptoms but not the cause?

That sounds like it comes from a "Why the US health care system sucks" brochure. There isn't any realistic way of measuring prescription drug rates as described. I daresay that if there was, it would be higher in countries where health care is a 'free' service, rather than in the US where the user has to pay. There is also a wide array of methods for categorizing what is a prescription (given by a doctor after a visit) and what is simply continued treatment of the same ailment. In the US, a prescription is required for all controlled drugs, whereas in the UK if you've been prescribed something once, it continues to be available to you as long as your are treating the same ailment.

I'd rather have a drug that treats a symptom rather than a cause, than to go without treatment for both symptoms and cause and just be allowed to suffer; which is what happens in many countries where medical care is rationed by the state.

3) If our system is the best, why do we rank below so many countries in general health?

Again, we don't. We rank below much of Europe (and of course, saintly Canada) and not much else. There's a reason for this (like the IMR statistic) it's called reallocation of service. There is a refocusing of service towards basic health functions and away from more specialized health services in the socialized systems. They can do this because the doctors work for the state, and the number of specialists is limited by state mandate.

Is this a good thing? Forcing someone to act against his own judgment is never a good thing, from where I'm sitting.

4) If our system is the best, why do most countries people live longer than we do?

Another false statistic. According to the List of Countries by Life Expectancy the US is 45th on the list. Not exactly a stellar showing, but definitely above the halfway mark; and above places like Denmark (the happiest place on earth) Ireland and Cuba (so highly touted in Sicko) We are down the list from the socialized countries of Europe (and, of course, Canada) but they are topped by some other countries that you wouldn't think had long life expectancies, like Japan.

This is also not the defining characteristic of good medicine; it has more to do with genes and climate than it does with free medical service.

5) If our system is the best, why is the rest of the free world on another system?

Because the rest of the free world isn't as free as the name implies. Do I have to use the same argument your mother used when you were five?

If Jimmy jumped off a cliff, would you want to jump off too?

It's a bad idea to give government that much control over our lives; and the lack luster performance of the socialized systems (which I did notice he didn't bother to try and refute) proves the skeptics right; that rationing of available services, re-allocation of assets (doctors and nurses) from one specialty to another, and denial of service though long wait times (about 34% of Canadians complain of this) and limited areas of availability (I pointed this out in Sick(o) in America) does occur, this is the nature of single-payer managed socialized systems.

And those who can afford to come here (the US) do come here to get treatment (including Micheal Moore, as Stossel pointed out) at private institutions. If the rest of the free world is better, why would that ever happen?

6) If you are POSITIVE this is the best system, come down with a long term issue and see how well you are treated when your health provider decides you are no longer a viable "asset".

I have a long term issue. No health insurance, no job; but I do have a clear conscience. I've never asked someone else to sacrifice themselves for my benefit; I've never taken out of the pot more than what I put into it. Which is what any socialized system (all of which should be ended; school, Social Security, whatever) does; it allows the socialist maxim "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need" to play out. Nowhere is this more clear than in the field of medicine. We can't abide the idea of rich doctors and fat cat pharmaceutical companies taking more than their fair share. Therefore we will take these men of ability, and sacrifice them to the greater good, the need of the many. And since we needy can't be bothered to pay anything for their services, we'll draft the wealthy amongst us to pay even more taxes (and add more sacrifices to the pile) so that we can have free health care. No more do we have to worry about engaging in risky behavior...

[like objector who offered the list above. He received 'free' treatment for a motorcycle injury. An injury which probably could have been avoided had he chosen an alternate form of transportation. Perhaps Canada should outlaw motorcycles, it might save them a few tax dollars. I know that the US gov't will do far more than that. Say hello to mandated diet plans and compulsory risk assessment surveys. No more cheese burgers for you, and no bungee jumping or snow boarding either. Ah, what fun it will be living in the land of the free, and the home of the federally insured]

...the all-caring nanny state will be there to pick up the tab for all those years of smoking, all those trips to Burgerhaven; whatever your poison of choice is.

Except there's a fly in this ointment. It's not sustainable. Like the Ponzi scheme of Social Security, There's not enough money to pay out all the eventual claims for health care. So the state will simply decide who will get health care and who won't, with rationing. And those without political connection will do without health care in the same way that those without money do without it now. Perhaps even more so, since the state can compel it's servants (the doctors) not to provide service to whomever they deem unfit, even if that service is for free.

This is already happening with medicare, with doctors and patients being forbidden to come to a mutual agreement concerning services that the state has determined are not necessary. It's happening in Canada, where citizens have been brought up on charges for trying to pay for services, and clinics have been shut down for attempting to sell services outside of the socialized system.

Obviously, Canada's health care system is not the best; none of the metrics that can be used to measure it come to that conclusion. The US system is the best, when it comes to quality of treatment for certain illnesses; and falls on it's face when it comes to efficiency and cost; and efficiency and cost will not be positively addressed by simply handing the system over to government. Look at the efficiency of the DMV if you doubt that.

The solution to the health care problem is educating the average citizen. It's robbing your insurance company. It's taking control of your health care expenditures and asking the providers hard questions. Do I really need this test? What is this going to cost? Until we know what we are paying for services, we're never going to get a handle on the real problem, the cost of health care. And that cost will either be paid now, in person; or later, by some state official who'll make your health care decisions for you.

Which option sounds better to you?

FFrF Radio: Katha Pollitt & FFrF's political Dogma?

Podcast link.

Examples of why Huckabee is indeed the true religious fruitcake. He wants to change the constitution to bring it more in line with god's teachings. You get the award Mr. Huckabee. (at least he's now trailing in the polls. That's a relief) Discussion of who and what Gideons are, and the latest decision against giving bibles to school children (I have one of those bibles myself. I prefer the Catholic version; more books) Gideon warning label. The former Cardinal Ratzenberger's continuing war on science. The Misogynist nature of the Bible.

Kata Pollitt's third (?) appearance on the show, discussing her latest book Learning to Drive. Always entertaining.

2006 Archive episode.

January 20, 2007 -

The least interesting interview to date, Matthew Rothschild. One of the favorite phrases on Freethought Radio is "Beware of Dogma"; and if there is one thing that qualifies as dogma, it's progressives embracing policies and practices that have been proven to harm those they are intended to help.

Such is Mr. Rothschild's allegiance to the minimum wage, and his shocked condemnation of those who are opposed to it as conservatives. There are many people who are opposed to stealing jobs and money from the poor in order to aid those middle class workers who are union members (the true benefactors of a minimum wage hike) Fiscal conservatives are just part of that group, and very few of them are in evidence in the legislature these days.

That they let him rant on about the lack of ethics of those who would oppose the minimum wage is suspect here, but I'll let it slide this once. I'll not be paying much heed to what Mr. Rothschild has to say in future.


Took the daughter to see Cloverfield today. She's been bugging us to watch it since she first stumbled across the trailer online several months ago (and truthfully I was intrigued as well. Not just because of the film but for another reason as well. More on that in a bit) so I drug myself out of bed this morning and took her to a matinée showing.

How should I describe this film? It's like every monster movie ever made, all squashed together, and filmed with a handheld camera while running full tilt down a subway tunnel. It started to make me queasy at the beginning, but luckily I was able to shake it off and continue watching. The action on screen jiggles that much, yes.

Don't get me wrong, this is not a bad film, it's just not a great one. It's a monster movie, and for what it is, it's one of the most imaginatively executed that I've seen. There is a definite arthouse air to it, even though the effects attest to the high dollar funding that backed the film. If monster movies are your kind of thing, then you need to go see it.

The other reason I was there was to check out the teaser for Star Trek XI. I have to say that J.J. Abrams knows how to sell a film (the marketing for Cloverfield should clue you in on this) even to people who are bound and determined not to jump off the fence; people like I've been ever since this film was announced.

I think the budget for the Star Trek trailer was probably almost as large as the budget for Cloverfield itself. There were some pretty handsome shots of a well known ship under construction, with a number of famous historical 'spacey' voice overs to give the whole thing gravitas. It even briefly made me want to go see the film. Briefly.

But then common sense took over and reminded me that anything could look good in a minute long trailer, so I got back up on the fence again. Having watched every movie that I could find that was even vaguely SciFi related since I was a small child, I'm going to have a hard time staying up on this fence. But I'm bound and determined to do so. Paramount has gotten too much of my money for bad films over the years...

The Health care Problem

Health care. Again.

I got slapped so hard by people who just love the idea of Single Payer Health care systems (and I don't care what the Wiki article says on the subject. Tax funded health care is socialized medicine. Calling it anything else is attempting to sugarcoat the pill) when I sent out my Sicko comments the other day, I decided to do a little digging and see if I could find some hard evidence on the subject. Luckily I didn't have to look too far.

CATO just happened to sponsor Health Care University 2007 about a month ago. If you listen to the podcasts, you might be shocked to learn a few things.

Arnold Kling visits his article Government and Health Care: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly and discusses what does and doesn't work in currently instituted government programs.
Suppose that instead of looking at health care policy as a means to push an ideology or score political points, we examine it from a pragmatic American vantage point. What works? What does not work? What backfires? Those are the good, the bad, and the ugly, respectively. The table below summarizes our experience in terms of three goals of health care policy: improving access to care; improving the quality of care; and lowering the cost of our health care system.

--high-risk pools
data analysis data analysis
P4Pcost containment
Uglynational health servicesmalpractice suitslicensing regulations

A CATO scholar that thinks government can contribute positively to the health care problem? Shocking! But oddly, making very good arguments.

Michael D. Tanner
talks about what doesn't work in the health care systems around the world. Things like innovation that isn't available anywhere else but here. That there aren't any single payer systems that work;
When you look at single payer systems, you can divide them into two categories, those that work, and those that are actually single payer systems.
In Canada, 800,000 people are on the waiting list for treatment. In the UK today, 40% of all cancer patients never get to see an oncologist (because they die before seeing them) (The UK NHS Wiki article shows the same heavy handed bias as the other article I linked to above. I'm thinking theres a gov't employee who is paid specifically to insure that the wiki article on NHS stays pro-NHS. If everything is so good, why are there so many articles on NHS problems on the web?) in terms of survival rates, the US ranks number one in cancer survival, the UK ranks 16th.

[yeah, I want to emulate those systems]

The government health care systems that equate to the quality of the U.S. health care systems, like in France, feature co-payment plans with co-pays as high as 40%. This is not a single payer system. In fact, it's not much different from the system we find ourselves in here in the U.S.

The problems with the U.S. system are problems that have been beaten to death already, as far as discussion goes. Mandates don't work (Massachusetts is a stellar example of this) percentages of uninsured motorists exceed the percentages of those people who have no health insurance, in areas where automobile insurance is mandated.

Employer provided health insurance doesn't work. It has given rise to the problems we currently have.

Just paying for the insurance has the same problems as employer provided insurance. Those who use the service do not have to pay the costs of the service. (and will be indistinguishable from any other gov't welfare system; e.g. demand will far exceed supply, costs will spiral, and rationing will once again be necessary) This is also not a solution.

So, what is the solution? Well, Health Care University 2007 didn't offer one (at least in the podcasts) but I would think that for the U.S., the solution is obvious. Get the government out of health care as much as possible. At least provide tax incentives for individuals to purchase their own health care, with plenty of choices; in other words, not just incentives for health insurance, but incentives for health savings accounts. (HSA's are extremely unpopular with insurance companies, and insurance companies are active lobbyists. Consequently, you won't hear about them during the evening news soundbites) Remove regulations that strangle the insurance industry. If you want more, visit CATO's voluminous Research Areas on the subject.

As someone who pays for his (and most of his families) health care costs out of pocket, I have to say that it isn't the day to day costs that are a problem; it isn't even the "what if you child breaks a bone?" type accidents that are a problem.

No, the problem arises when you have a chronic ailment that requires costly procedures, and most of the time these types of ailments will get your insurance (under the current system) canceled. Of what use were those $300 a month family health care coverage payments worth then?

HSA, HSA, HSA. I don't think I can repeat that enough. Let me save that money myself, and after a few years, I won't even need insurance coverage other than catastrophic care (which I dare you to find these days. Seriously, have you seen one?) so why would I need government assistance at all?

SciFi vs. Fantasy; worst moments in SciFi part 2

An old friend of mine recently submitted the opinion that there is no true SciFi except:
I would like to enter into the court Exhibit A: 2001, A Space Odyssey! Based on a book by Author C. Clarke and directed by the late and Great Stanley Kubrick.
Because 2001 contained only real science, and it's the only film that has; so my whole problem with canon, and jumping the shark, was pointless because it was all a fantasy, not required to be internally consistent. Don't take it seriously, it's just entertainment.

It was a nice try, but not even 2001 stands up to that high standard for deeming something as 'SciFi'. The climax of the film (if anything that moves so glacially slow can be said to have a climax. Don't get me wrong, I like the film. The book was better) when Bowman transcends mere mortal existence and returns to Earth as the star child.

Depicting higher planes of existence takes the film outside the realm of science, and into the realm of speculation and/or fantasy. Technically all the 'science' in the film was speculative, because none of it could be proven to be possible at the time.

So, I'm sorry, but either everything from Forbidden Planet to the Matrix is in the realm of Scifi, or there hasn't been a film made that can be called SciFi.

As for the shortcuts Gene took in depicting Trek (such as warp speed and the transporter) a good portion of them have been dealt with seriously by serious scientists, and they aren't willing to state that the ideas would be impossible. I suggest you check out How William Shatner Changed the World for more on the subject, if you are really interested.

Which brings us to the objection about judging Star Trek (Star Wars, etc.) harshly based on canon. There's nothing religious about the use of the word canon, at least in this context. It has to do with working within the established framework that defines the fictional future. I'm more than willing to grant creative license where retconning some small part of a character's history just makes the story easier to tell (such as the origin of Zefram Cochrane which is alluded to in the classic episode Metamorphosis) it's another thing entirely to sign on for complete re-writes of long held traditions within the framework (such as introducing a dune buggy in Nemesis just so Paramount can make a few extra bucks off product placement and merchandising; or accepting that Vulcans were in Star Fleet before Spock) if individual fans don't have a problem with this, fine by me, but it still doesn't make the film or series fit into canon.

At some point the weight of contradictions simply overloads the suspension of disbelief, and what is supposed to be entertainment is simply not entertaining anymore. Enterprise and Nemesis both fit into this catagory. The movies Final Frontier through First Contact, while they are all entertaining in their own way, really are bad Star Trek when taken in context; which is the only way a fan who has been watching since 1967 (me) can view them.

I have a complete sense of ambivalence about First Contact; and have had since I first saw it. As far as plot, story line, action content, etc. go, it's a great SciFi film; one of the best Star Trek films as far as keeping the viewer involved in the story. At the same time, the Borg are cheapened for the sake of giving the movie a concrete antagonist for the audience to identify; simplified in a very un-Borgish way, giving a self-described collective (a collective of equals that could not sever the link to any of it's parts) a leader. From that point onward, the Borg are no longer frightening in a back-brain creeping zombie-like fashion, but are in fact just a meaner, badder version of every other bad guy that Star Trek has encountered. For someone who understood the philosophical reasons why the Borg were so frightening as originally conceived, that modification is too much to accept without protest.

Did Star Trek become a parody of itself with First Contact? Not in my opinion. Like I said before that happened much earlier, With Spock's brother, Uhura's fan dance, Chekhov becoming a clueless ensign again after 30 years in the service, Kirk's dialog with the shapeshifter, etc., etc., ad infinitum (don't even get me started on that what's-her-name character again) Becoming a parody of itself wasn't the killing blow though. Not being entertaining was.

Since, as was pointed out in the counter opinion, this is about entertainment; and since I was not entertained by Nemesis and Enterprise, I'm understandably hesitant to trust Paramount to do anything right with Star Trek from now on. That will be the end of the franchise unless Paramount does the right thing with Star Trek XI. I'm not holding my breath on that one.

Can you pass the Sci-Fi Sounds quiz?

I really need to quit reading this guys stuff:
Yeah, I'm a schmoe for bragging about a solid B grade, but then I'm not up on the classic 1950s sound clips that define the latter portion of the quiz.
So, the wife and I sat down and identified all the sounds (without cheating; that is, anymore than you can cheat on every multiple choice test ever created) without breaking a sweat, mind you.

Take the Sci fi sounds quiz I received 100 credits on the
The Sci Fi Sounds Quiz

How much of a Sci-Fi geek are you?

So I either need to quit reading Jay Garmon, our we need to revoke his geeks license. Not knowing the classics? For shame.

FFrF Radio: Atheists in the Pulpit & Katha Pollitt

Podcast link.

January 12, 2008 - Atheists in the Pulpit: Ministers Who Lose Their Faith

Discussion of HR 888 "American Religious History Week" Talk2Action says:
Falsified American history has already been taught to 190,000 American public school students via an elective Bible class curriculum with bogus American history ( here's Chuck Norris and his wife, in a short video, to tell you about it) and on an even larger scale via falsified history - attacking church/state separation no less - that's been inserted in the Army's JROTC curriculum taught at public high schools nationwide.

This issue concerns more than a House Resolution endorsing fake history ; the core function of the falsified "Christian nation" historical narrative - which is built from many little history lies and distortions (and some big ones too) is to support Christian nationalism (link to an essay I did on how I think that works. What's Christian nationalism ?)

The fight over the American historical record is a battle about whose version of history will be the dominant narrative that will get to shape the historical understandings of the next generation of Americans. The falsified narrative of the Christian right has been gaining ground for decades but now - with the letters and phone calls people right here on this forum have sent and made to their representatives in Congress - the fightback, to protect the integrity of the historical record, is truly underway.

The guests this week were Tom Reed (second appearance. his first appearance was longer) and Dan Barker. They were both featured in the Psychology Today article An Atheist in the Pulpit. The episode also features audio of Dan Barker's appearance on Oprah. This is also the second time Dan has guested on his own show. Two of Dan's songs are featured towards the end of the episode.

2007 Archive episode.

January 13, 2007 - Katha Pollitt - She's on next week (this year) as well. This episode she's discussing Virginity or Death, concerning the HPV vaccination that will avert nearly all cases of cervical cancer if given to girls before they become sexually active. Of course, the religious right don't like the idea of saving anyone from gods righteous wrath, so they are foursquare against the vaccine.

Another issue I've discussed before, just not on this blog. Suffice it to say I was on the fence when it comes to requiring the vaccination by state law, as Texas nearly did. But then I'm on the fence about requiring any vaccination by state law. Otherwise, I don't see the point in not requiring the vaccination, if you are going to require others. Of course, the Religious Right got their wish, and the only thing the sitting governor has done that I've agreed with was voted out by the legislature. Go figure.

There was a lengthy list of Freethinkers in the media at the end of this episode. Of special note was Ernestine L. Rose.

"Do you tell me that the Bible is against our rights? Then I say that our claims do not rest upon a book written no one knows when, or by whom. Do you tell me what Paul or Peter says on the subject? Then again I reply that our claims do not rest on the opinions of any one, not even on those of Paul and Peter, . . . Books and opinions, no matter from whom they came, if they are in opposition to human rights, are nothing but dead letters."
-- Ernestine Rose, responding to religious heckler at Seventh National Woman's Rights Convention

Ron Paul is my recommended candidate

Which is what I figured. The local news station (KVUE) I watch has a candidate selector (that includes Ron Paul, if not third party candidates) and after honestly answering the questions I discovered that Ron Paul is the only candidate that scored higher than 50% (67, to be precise) agreement with my views.

When I answered the questions for the Select Smart candidate selector, Ron Paul came up second (76%) after an LP candidate (Kent McManigal 89%) whose candidacy has been suspended. None of the other candidates listed at the National LP site are on any of the selectors that I've seen, but that really doesn't surprise me either; although why the potential LP candidates can't be listed alongside the potential R & D candidates is beyond me. But that's about par for the course these days.

Which is why the inclusion of Ron Paul is a beacon of hope for those of us who really understand what is at stake in this election. Not that I think that beacon will be lit for that much longer, I'm just enjoying it while it lasts...

Straight to video Stargate Movies

I thought every Stargate fan would have known this already; but I mentioned that there will be additional SG-1 stories released to video to a fellow fan the other day, and they hadn't heard the news. I guess some people still have real lives they have to attend to.

So, if you haven't heard, there are two Stargate movies due to be released straight to video, supposedly tying up loose ends left over after the SG-1 series finale.

First out will be Stargate: The Ark of Truth which is purported to be the end of the Ori story arc. While the story of the Ori is one of my least favorite story arcs, I would really like to see how they end this, so I'm looking forward seeing it even though it's not about my favorite parts of the show.

The other straight to video release is called Stargate: Continuum. This film I'm really looking forward to. It features the return of Richard Dean Anderson as Major General Jack O'Neill (without a doubt my favorite character in the show) and some excellent footage filmed at the US Navy's Applied Physics Laboratory Ice Station in the Arctic, 200 nautical miles (370 km) north of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. There's a video clip on the MGM site that highlights the filming of these scenes (click here) there's an Ark of Truth video in the gallery as well. Rumor is that this will be a time travel story featuring Baal attempting to reverse the successes of the Tau'ri by altering the past. I actually like time travel stories (even if they are done too often in SciFi) as long as they are internally consistent. Stargate's track record on this is a bit spotty, but I'll try to keep an open mind.

You can pre-order Stargate: The Ark of Truth at Amazon now. Continuum isn't available yet (more's the pity) but I'll be keeping an eye out for it. You can also get the really cool complete SG-1 series box set. It's at the top of my wishlist.

Voting Irregularities & Anarchist Newspeak

Voting Irregularities, as in ‘Errors’ Transposing Votes and Diebold Machines Removed Votes From Obama and Paul a link sent to me by a fellow Ron Paul supporter, outlining outright vote counting misconduct, and touching on the already well understood failings of the Diebold voting machines.

This is a major issue, unless of course you're an Anarchist who just wants government to go away.

Newspeak (the language of engsoc in 1984) is a language that is crafted in such a way as to make it impossible to think wrong thoughts, because the words will no longer exist to express them. Anarchists are engaged in crafting their own version of Newspeak these days, redefining words like Power and Government to meet specific goals.

Don't believe me? Here's an example:
power and liberty are opposites; wherever the former appears, the latter disappears.
Power is, in fact, the only way to secure liberty. Individual will, inalienable rights, individual's power. Not recognizing power unless it's power relegated to state authority is redefining what power is.

Government exists, and will always exist, because self-government is still government. Unless, of course, you are an anarchist; in which case, state and government are interchangeable concepts, and all government must be abolished (and yet somehow this won't result in chaos, even though governing oneself would presumably also be a no-no) as the evil that it is.

Another Quote:
Libertarians engaging in a political campaign to have someone elected have from my point of view given up their claim on liberty; they are no longer striving for liberty as number one, but are working to give someone power to liberate them.
More Newspeak. The elections will take place whether libertarians participate in them or not (what about the LP? They exist only to participate politically. I guess none of them are libertarian at all in this anarchist's opinion) Taking part in politics is the only way to secure one's liberty (politics, after all, being nothing more than the art and science of government) and any candidate with a proven track record like Ron Paul's is going to be an improvement over any of the other candidates who might get the nomination.

There is this mistaken belief amongst many of the Voluntaryists and Anarchists out there that the state will simply cease to exist once enough of the population refuses to participate. I have no idea why they hold this belief. It's quite apparent through simple observation that the average world state requires nothing of it's citizens except tribute...

...which it will take by force, whether force is required or not. Given that, I'll work to limit government in any way that I can personally, including supporting a candidate in a party that I do not claim as my own.

It's better than the alternative. Doing nothing.

Disability Freeloader

I haven't written about my disability for quite awhile now (although I started the blog with that subject) It's been almost two years. I'd just as soon not discuss something that has negatively impacted pretty much every (waking or sleeping) moment of my life since it manifested itself. if I spent as much time discussing it as it's presence in my life would seem to warrant, I wouldn't talk about much else.

Added to the daily dizziness and tinnitus from Meniere's, there is the Piriformis syndrome that makes any form of sitting an exercise in slow torture. Then there's the constant mold allergies (thanks, Austin) which also acts as a trigger for the Meniere's. I could go on, but I won't.

I have been attempting to get an acknowledgment of this disability from the U.S. government for about two and a half years now. I haven't mentioned that at all, because I didn't want to have to explain myself to people who inevitably would strike an attitude; like this one displayed by a relative in response to my thrashing single payer health care systems in general, and Hillary Care in particular:

I guess what disturbs me most is that you say you are libertarian, but you are also trying to get the government to give you a free ride. This doesn't make sense to me. Which way do you want it. No government involvement in personal business, or do you want the government to pay you for being ill? Can't have it both ways.
Cats out of the bag now, I think it's time to have this conversation.

Starting with the accusation of wanting a "Free ride". What an interesting way of describing an agreement between two parties, where one party pays into a 'fund' for all of his working life, and the other party promises to compensate the first in the event of disability and old age. In case there is any confusion here, I'm the party of the first part, and the U.S. government is the party of the second part.

I have diligently paid all my taxes over the years, including the 17% social security tax (half paid by my employers) which supposedly funds an account with my name on it, to be paid out in the event of disability and/or old age. That account has been funded to an excess of $40,000, money paid in good faith, based on the promise to provide a safety net for me if I ever become disabled or reach retirement age.

I have been released from two jobs now because of ill health. Employers do not want my services any longer. I spend every day combating the symptoms of the various ills that plague me, and it doesn't leave me with much in the way of productive time; and my lack of employment denies me access to health care insurance, the only way that most of the treatments (surgery) can be afforded (whether they actually work or not) I don't know how else to define 'disabled'.

So here I am. I am disabled and the government has taken more than $40,000 from me over the course of my working life, with the promise to compensate me. I'm asking them to fulfill a contract. I'm asking them to provide the vaunted safety net that all the Democrats talk about.

After more than two years of fighting over this issue, I'm still just as without a safety net as I was at the beginning, even though all the doctors I've been to see confirm that I am disabled. (or at least that I do indeed suffer from the ills described) Two applications, three appeals, extra medical costs, etc. What do I have to show for it so far? Ridicule from an administrative law judge (I'm convinced that he refused to feel compassion for another white guy who clearly just needs to get back to work. White guys can't be disabled, you know) and from former friends and family; and not much else.

Who's getting the free ride? Sounds like the government from this end. Their actions clearly show that they'd prefer I dropped dead on the job before age 70 (which is when they are required by law to start paying me. Not the oft referenced 65 that the current retirees qualify for. How much longer will those younger than me have to work? 75? 80? Perhaps until they drop dead as well) rather than pay me anything at all; much less concede to something that trained medical professionals have stated is fact.

This is the reality of any government program; and it is precisely what it will be like to have government provided health care, which is nothing more than a government sponsored welfare program in which everyone is required to participate. Single payer health care under the U.S. Government will function in a manner indistinguishable from the Social Security system. The thought of this should scare anyone.

Now, if you go back and read some of my posts on the subject of Social Security, I'm sure that it will become crystal clear just how much of my money is waiting for me to need it; that number is somewhere in the range of zero. But we aren't talking about the reality of U.S. government fiscal policy here, we're talking about government programs that exist (whether I want them to or not) funded with tax dollars extracted at gunpoint from my paycheck. Programs which the government and it's supporters insist are fully funded, and aren't in crisis. I'm asking them to put their money where their mouth is. Provide that ballyhooed safety net, show me the money.

I don't want it both ways; I want it to be one way. Either government programs work, and I get paid for being disabled (which I am) or government programs don't work, and we run like hell from proposals to expand the size and scope of government to incorporate more of the health care system. Either there's something wrong with taking money from the government for any reason (old age, disability, HEALTH CARE, corporate welfare, etc) or there isn't any reason to not take what's offered to you; and since most of my detractors will gladly accept their retirement money if they live that long (much less agitate for Hillary Care) I don't think they are the ones who get to cast the first stone.

I see myself as beholden to pursue the disability claim given as I am disabled, and the government insists that it's programs are there to help me; even if I only prove the opposing point, that government programs don't work. So far, they aren't looking very helpful.

I did get approved for disability a few months after this was written. It took an additional year of fighting to get the back benefits that I was owed,  an arcane process that should not be anywhere near as time consuming and heartless as it is. I'm still not certain, even ten years later, that they didn't stiff my attorney. That is the nature of government guarantees. What is guaranteed is that you will have to fight for your benefits.

Having said that, and now getting the benefits I was owed, I have to admit that aside from the fact that the fight was stupid long and completely pointless, government programs do actually work. Having been forced to acknowledge the error in my ideology, it is time to revise the ideology. Consequently I've stopped calling myself a libertarian. I would also like to state that Hillary Care would have been a better system than the one that was put in place by the Democrats under President Obama.

Health is not a commodity. We need to stop treating it like it is one. 

DownsizeDC Manifesto

Why I bother spending time and energy supporting DownsizeDC:
Invest your time and money to change minds directly, and you will gain the world. The votes may even follow. But be under no illusions, the votes will merely follow, they will never lead. Electoral success will be the last thing that happens in the process of change, not the first. Grasp this fact, or you will groan forever in futile effort and constant despair.

This is our manifesto

read more | digg story

Something I've pointed out to many people over the years.

To change minds you have to convince others to modify their philosophy. Philosophy dictates how you see your world, and the philosophy of the average American is Altruism, which is the same philosophy that Marx derived Socialism from. Most Americans are susceptible to socialist promises (like government run single payer health care) because they come clothed in Altruist ideals; but they are socialist all the same, mandatory group solutions to individual problems.

If we hope to regain our freedom, if we hope to avoid being drug deeper into a socialist nightmare, we have to convince others that their philosophy is flawed, that their views need to be revised. Like the recent events in Britain; the British government has decided to no longer talk about a "war on terror."

So I threw in my two cents when I wrote my congresscritters about not being afraid and ending the War on Terror on our side of the pond:

Immediately following the attacks on 9/11 I was ready to take the fight to the Saudis, ready to volunteer to fight, because it was quickly apparent that Saudis formed the majority of the terrorists who attacked our country.

The President, in his folly, decided to declare war on a tactic, instead of declaring war on a government or a people. In that instant, the chance for a meaningful end to the events of 9/11 was taken from us.

A war on a tactic cannot be won, Just as a war on a substance or market (drugs) can't be won. Anyone, including members of our own government, can employ this tactic; thusly creating a never ending stream of enemies we must fight in order to engage in a war on terror.

Fifty or 100 years makes no difference, it is a war without end from the perspective of victory; and we will bankrupt or ourselves long before we reach the 50 year mark.

End the War on Terror (End the Drug War while you're at it) before it ends us.

Will it change any minds? I doubt it. But it's much more likely to change minds than doing nothing at all, or wasting a vote on a mainstream candidate.

Today's Beef: So, What is a bad movie, Flixster?

I've been knocking around Flixster for a several months now, and I've noticed something that probably rates up there as today's beef (and a few other todays as well...)

I'm running through a few quick rates, just trying to see how many films I have seen and still haven't rated, how many films I want to see (but probably won't have time for) and what kind of schlock might be listed that I should avoid seeing; and up comes this gem.

Now, I don't want to pick too much on any one film, but I just gotta ask, what qualifies as a bad movie, Flixster? (after all, the slogan "Stop watching bad movies" appears after the Flixster logo on virtually every page) A routine search reveals that Rottentomatoes, IMDB and Metacritic all agree that Serving Sara is most likely a bad film. But the rating on Flixster is 3 stars, which equates to a generally positive watchable film. Even the (highly biased, negative) review on Flixster's page paints a pretty grim picture of the film, and yet the people who have rated it seem loathe to give it the panning it seems to deserve.

[The generic unwillingness to truly pan bad films is only one beef I have with Flixster. Duplication, like this one, is another annoyance. I'm not interested in rating collections which are nothing more than boxed sets of movies I've already rated elsewhere. They should be roundfiled as duplicates]

The problem that I'm running into is that films that I can state unequivocally were garbage, based on a reasonably objective standard of measurement, do not get a low rating from others. Films that I hated, like Sin City or Four Brothers, for example. I guess they just aren't bad enough.

However, with a little bit of perusing of the bottom 100 over at IMDB I stumbled across this little nugget of hell; Lawnmowerman 2, which I crowned the "king of the unnecessary sequels". IMDB gives it 2 of 10 stars; gives it 11% on the tomato meter. Flixster's rating? 2 1/2 out of 5 stars. 50%!? Seriously Flixster, what's the deal here?

Perhaps they should establish a bottom 100 list similar to the list at IMDB. Maybe that will encourage people to pan films that deserve to be ridiculed. Or perhaps the ratio of Interested to Not Interested should weight the overall star rating of a film (as an example that ratio on Lawnmower Man 2 is 297/3744; Serving Sarah 's ratio is 1083/5962) and reduce (or increase) a films rating based on who actually wants to see any particular film. Whatever the solution is, this problem needs to be addressed. Please guys, I'm begging you.

Ron Paul Unplugged

Two of my favorite people, one interviewing the other. John Stossel did a series of web interviews with Ron Paul, all of them quite interesting. Here's an excerpt of the intro:
Despite relatively low poll numbers, Paul has had a big influence on the presidential campaign. That's in part because he's raised a ton of money, and in part because of the passionate following he has on the Web. It's one reason we're posting my interview with Paul only on the Internet, where the debate about Paul is very active. In fact, he's the most Googled presidential candidate.
read more | digg story

You can go on to read Stossel's notes on the interviews, or watch them on the site. You can also watch them here.

Economists Say Movie Violence Might Temper the Real Thing

Heard about this one from Jeff Ward on Our Little Show. I love the irony present in a theory like this:
Instead of fueling up at bars and then roaming around looking for trouble, potential criminals pass the prime hours for mayhem eating popcorn and watching celluloid villains slay in their stead.

Crime is not merely delayed until after the credits run, they say. On the Monday and Tuesday after packed weekend showings of violent films, no spike in violent crime emerges to compensate for the peaceful hours at the movies. Even a few weeks later, there is no evidence of a compensating resurgence, they say.
read more | digg story

Look for those mother hens (ran across them before) who are just convinced that violence in film creates real violence to poo-poo this study and claim that economists can't really study individual behavior.

Oh, wait. I think the comments at digg already reflect this.

Ron Paul Town Hall Meeting

The results of Fox News excluding Ron Paul's participation in last nights New Hampshire forum:
Congressman Ron Paul held a town hall meeting in Manchester, New Hampshire this evening. Fox News did not invite Dr. Paul to participate in its presidential candidates forum tonight.
read more | digg story

The video is below.

Ron Paul takes 29% of Independent Republicans in Iowa Caucus

Gotta love these numbers:
Ron Paul took over 10% in yesterday’s Iowa caucus, handily beating Rudy Giuliani and finishing right behind both Fred Thompson and John McCain. This despite that Rudy Giuliani made more visits to Iowa than Ron Paul. And, entrance polls showed that Ron Paul took first place (29%) among independent Republicans!
read more | digg story

FFrF Radio: Litigants & African American Freethought

Podcast Link.

This week's interviews are with current litigants in state/church lawsuits. This is a recurring show topic on the radio program; not that I'm complaining mind you. It's just that they seem to blend together after awhile.

The quote this week that sticks out?

Concerning the lawsuit asking for the records of visitors to the White House (just another document made secret under the presidency of GWB) and why Ted Haggard was not on the list of people visiting the White House.

Dan Barker: "Ted Haggard was probably visiting Larry Craig's office"

I'm sure Larry Craig was choking on that one...

2007 Archive episode.

January 6, 2007 - African American Freethought and Atheism

Marion the Barbarian (Pat Robertson) and his latest round of (completely erroneous) predictions for what will happen at the end of the year (that year has passed, and guess what? No Boom)

This weeks guest was Norm Allen, editor of the anthology, African-American Humanism. What can I say? I keep listening to the show because the interviews are generally quite engaging. This one is yet another example. I hope they have him on again.

The Porgy and Bess song "It Ain't Necessarily So" sung by Sammy Davis Junior as Sportin' Life is also featured.

I want to live in a surveillance society

The title might give you pause, but if you read far enough into the article, you stumble across this comment:
Shouldn't recording your own police interrogation be a constitutionally protected right, like the right to an attorney? If not, why not?
read more | digg story

The subtitle did it for me. "Big Brother is always watching you. But who's watching Big Brother?" You can always get me with a 1984 reference; and truthfully, why shouldn't you be able to produce your own record of a police encounter, or an interrogation, etc?