Monthly Archives: January 2018

Words Speak Louder Than Actions?

Why so much hate for the Donald? If we look only at his actual policies they are in fact no different than any of his predecessors. Differences that may exist are in degree, not kind. Or non-existant at all. For example ICE deportations are both up and down under Trump when compared to Obama. They are up from FY2016 (61,094 vs 44,512) but dramatically lower under Trump than under Obama’s first years (averaging over 225,000 from 2008-2012). The point being before you start jumping up and down about what a monster some president is in comparison to “your guy” chances are high that “your guy” at some point did the exact the same thing or far worse. That goes both ways my Democrat and Republican friends. That’s because they are all the same. Clinton, Bush, Obama, Trump – they’ve all been responsible for murdering innocent civilians in other countries by the truck load. But nobody cares because we wave the flag and chant “US interests” or “national defense” as if somehow that incantation is supposed to bring absolution. We’re all too eager to protest the president over something he said (mere words) but then stand silent with respect to their horrendous actions (murdering innocents). I guess actions don’t speak louder than words when it comes to Presidential concerns, at least where it concerns Trump.

Clinton, Bush, Obama, and now Trump have all escalated the drug war. They have all been responsible for caging millions of people for the “crime” of having in their possession something that some other people think they shouldn’t have in their possession. If we threw people in cages for owning certain books there would be a groundswell of public outcry; yet change that word from “book” to “drug” and somehow it all makes perfect sense. There is no constitutional amendment (like alcohol prohibition had supporting it) mandating a drug war, so any of these presidents with the stroke of a pen could have ended this senseless and costly “war” on drugs. That not one of them has serves as a testament to their cowardice and wickedness.

So it is not Trump’s policies that the left finds so objectionable but rather his delivery. Indeed when he shuts up and bombs people the press fall all over themselves praising how “presidential” he is. For shame. Killing people is presidential? Trump is crude and blunt when he speaks. Not at all how we picture our Hollywood presidents to be. The press and the left would like someone from central casting (like Obama) filling the role – someone who just “seems” presidential. This crudeness is perhaps Trumps only redeeming quality. It puts the lie to the notion that presidents are somehow better, smarter, and wiser, than the rest of us and are worthy of the power we bestow upon them. They are not. With Trump we see the Everyman President. And it scares us. And it should. But it should scare us no matter who occupies that office. Do not be so easily duped by the silver tongue of the professional politician. If you focus on their deeds and not their words then perhaps we might one day reign in their power.

Not Neutrality Part 4

Now that the daily news cycle has shifted its focus from the end of human civilization (net “neutrality” rollbacks) to the latest outrage du jour over yet another autisticly unfiltered remark from Donald Trump (“s*****le countries”) now would be the ideal moment for a small dose of “the truth hurts.”

“Net Neutrality” is yet another Orwellian up-is-down state propaganda that does the exact opposite of the plain meaning of the words (e.g. see Social Security, Affordable Care, Patriot Act, etc.). Were one to introduce a bill called “Shipping Neutrality” that required all shipping carriers use the same vehicles over the same routes and charge the same amount to everyone regardless of package size or distance, then perhaps it might dawn on the proponents of net neutrality just how absurd their position is. The absurdity swells further when one stops to ponder the fact that the explosive growth and innovation occurring on the net occurred in an unregulated environment. Then in 2015 the FCC changed the regulatory landscape and “net neutrality” was born. A mere 2 years later it is being undone yet somehow the internet as we know it is going to come crashing down around us. I’d like to take a moment of silence so we may ponder the dark days on the net that were 2014.

The internet has flourished not despite a lack of regulation but because of it. Innovators were not required to approach the crown on bended knee in order to be granted permission to innovate. To get a glimpse of government oversight of a rapidly innovating industry look no further than the FDA. A massive backlog of drug applications (innovations) at the FDA creates an unending queue of useful products languishing in limbo while development costs skyrocket during the endless wait. Innovation in a state run economy moves at the speed of a single elderly Wal-Mart greeter. Such a drip-wise pace might seem adequate, that is until you have experienced the waterfall of innovation that is produced in the unfettered and unregulated free market economy (e.g. the internet).

The proponents of net neutrality are oddly conservative in their tactics. For conservatives change is bad. It’s bad because it instills FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) in their heart. Those pushing the net neutrality agenda also play that fear card. They would have us believe our favorite websites will be slowed or blocked altogether if we don’t pay an endless litany of new fees. They see an á la carte internet (paying only for services you need) as tantamount to Sophie’s Choice. Please. Given the level of public outrage over even the thought of these ideas no ISP would be foolish enough to try such a thing. They would immediately lose their customers to ISP’s that did not engage in the hated practice.

But, and here’s the truth that hurts that nobody wants to face: it is their right to do whatever they wish. If they want to block websites, throttle speed, charge more or less for different services that is their right. If you own it you can do whatever you want with it. Just because modern society has become dependent on certain services (electricity, phone, internet, television, etc.) does not mean those things are basic human rights that must be supplied in an unaltered state at a fixed cost ad infinitum. For anyone to categorically state that another party must supply them with X at Y cost for Z duration and that if they don’t they’ll get their buddy Mr. Government to beat the living crap out of them until they do is the height of hypocrisy. It is hypocritical because you can be quite certain they would object if someone approached them with the same demand, that is, that they now must give their labor for others at some price and duration for which they have no say and that if they refuse to do so they will be thrown in a cage.

Neutrality delivered via the barrel of a gun goes by another name: tyranny. (for parts 1-3 see this page)

It’s A Wonderful Life (Without Copyright)

This holiday season I exited what is I imagine a rather exclusive club – those who have never seen “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Yes, I was always somewhat aware of its existence, what with the numerous cultural references, homages, and satirical spoofs one encounters in modern media. However I had never bothered to take the time to watch it until this past week. While this is no movie review, it was indeed endearing in a nostalgic/quaint sort of way; I can see why it is cherished and loved.

But, just as George Bailey got to glimpse the world had he never existed, I will ask you to ponder how your life might have been different had you never seen or heard of this film. Why? Because, but for a typographical error, it was nearly wiped from existence in 1974. Although the film premiered in 1946 it was not the box office success one might assume it was based on its current wide appeal. It actually did so poorly it drove Frank Capra’s (the director) production company into bankruptcy. And there it languished for the next 28 years (the automatic copyright period under the then governing 1909 Copyright act). But in 1974 a miracle happened: the filing for the additional 28-year extension was typographically botched in some way and it was not renewed.

At that point it was in the public domain. That meant that any network, TV studio, or local station could play it royalty free. We, the viewing public, were then inundated every Christmas for nearly the next 20 years with round the clock showings of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” This forgotten tome became a cherished classic within a few short years, as permanent a fixture at Christmastime as Mistletoe or Eggnog.

Sadly in 1993 the copyright owner of the book (“The Greatest Gift”) the movie was based on was able to manipulate the court system and IP (Intellectual property) law to reestablish copyright over the movie. Some might argue this is only fair; they should be permitted to reap the rewards of their great grandfather’s efforts 50 years later. It is perhaps the definition of irony to use copyright law to establish ownership over something that derives its value solely from the lack of copyright.

So the moral of this story is that all our lives would be richer if some things (copyright, and all IP) had never existed. Consider the unseen harm of copyright: all of the otherwise obscure creative output locked away behind copyright never to be experienced by anyone. What, dear reader, are you missing out on?

(No, this is not a call for “free” stuff – without the artificial state imposed constructs of intellectual property laws other, non-coercive, models to artistic remuneration would emerge (as many have already today in response to online piracy)). If your business model requires the threat of violence to protect only the value of what you produce then there is something wrong with your model; violence is never the answer to getting what we want.