Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

The NRA Disappoints Me Today

October 6, 2017

I am a lifetime member of the NRA.  I have been for a long time.  I have been a member in one form or another since I was about 12, and used to read Insights Magazine years ago.

Today, the NRA announced that they would support changing the legal status of “bump stocks” after the Las Vegas shooting.

I personally own no bump stocks. I haven’t the resources to feed a rifle with a bump stock, so I don’t have anything to lose by new legislation.

The problem I have is with the philosophy of the antigun crowd, as well as (apparently) the leadership in the NRA.

Guns are just devices.  They are metal, wood and plastic crafted into certain shapes with certain functionality.  They have no morality, they have no feelings or intentions.  They are neither good nor evil.  Because they are a physical item, they are property.

The governnment has no business telling folks what the shape of their property can be.  They have no business telling people that this pile of plastic is somehow allowed, as long as it is not like this other pile of plastic.  They have no business telling an existing business to stop creating, designing, and manufacturing a product.

Rather than stand up to the government, the NRA rushed to the government as fast as it could and begged, “Please sirs, take these away.  We won’t complain.  Just let us keep another hunk of metal and plastic instead.”

No, do not compromise my property rights because you think you are doing me a favor.  No, do not compromise because you are afraid of looking “too extreme.”

When a merchant and a consumer compromise, everyone wins.  The consumer gets the goods and the merchant gets the money, at the agreed rate of exchange.  When rights are compromised away, the individual loses.

So then, I’ve said that they handled it poorly.  How could they have handled it well?  They could have said nothing, for there is nothing to say.  Someone out there used guns to hurt people.  We, the average NRA member, did not.  There is nothing to say. I don’t expect a statement from Ford, UAW or NASCAR for every car accident.  Why would I expect it from the NRA after a shooting?

Thank you for reading my post.

Source:  https://www.nraila.org

 

 

 

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NFL and the National Anthem

September 29, 2017

Currently, NFL players are protesting injustice by refusing to stand for the National Anthem at the beginning of the football games. The football players are claiming that the United States is unjust and that this protests the injustice. Therefore, kneeling at the National Anthem is part of their freedom of speech. Critics say that it is disrespectful to this country and its veterans, and that the football players should stand. President Trump has weighed in as well, stating that the NFL should fire such players.

This issue can (and will) be resolved by the free market and property rights.

First, the right to free speech extends only as far as your property. I may speak my mind, whatever I think, on my own property, using my own paper and my own broadcast equipment. I cannot force someone else to give me a platform from which to speak. I cannot demand a TV network use their property to spread my message. I cannot go to another person’s property and demand they listen to me. In fact, the only way an idea gets past my walls is if someone else allows me to speak in theirs.

Second, I certainly cannot expect my freedom of speech to include going to my place of employment (say my company owner’s property) and demand that he listen to and repeat my message.

The NFL players have signed contracts stating that they will stand for the National Anthem, with their hand over their hearts. If they refuse, their employer has every right to fire them, just like Walmart can fire the cart pusher for not pushing carts. It is not an issue of “freedom of speech” at all.

Personally, I think that a bunch of football players, making a small fortune are interesting folks to talk about “injustice” and “privilege.” They should stand in support of this country, its flag, and its veterans. They, of all people, should recognize the affluence afforded by this society that we can watch them play a game, and willingly throw money at them to do so. A less fortunate country would not have time for such unimportant activities as watching a sport.

Having said that, let’s let the free market decide. Yes, they have their freedom of speech to run their mouths, but the NFL can certainly request their dismissal, and the individual teams can fire the players.

From an informal examination of my Facebook friends, I think keeping these “protesting” players will do more harm than good for the NFL. My friends who have come out in support of the protest never watched football anyhow, and aren’t about to start, regardless of who is protesting. My friends who watch football are the ones who are angry and are boycotting football.

My bet is that the NFL will have a choice: continue to allow the protests, and watch their bottom line sink, or reprimand the players and salvage what will be a dreadful year for the organization. Perhaps baseball will be more popular next spring.

Thank you for reading my post.

Charlottesville Incident

August 18, 2017

I am sick of hearing about it.  I really am.  I am sick of not knowing what actually happened, but there are only a few raw videos available.  At the very least, I know I cannot trust anything I see on the news or on the internet.

The bottom line is this:  as a defender of free speech, I wend up defending the vilest of folks.  Nazis, KKK, etc had a right to free speech, and the right to peaceful assembly.  So did the Black Lives Matter and Antifa folks.  I don’t know who started fighting first.  I’ve seen skirmishes in raw video started by both sides.

Unfortunately, all this incident has become is a catalyst for witch hunting anyone who does not support the mainstream conversations, be it a defender of a Confederate statue, or a Trump supporter or an actual Nazi.

In Objectivism, we would refer to this a package deal.  A package deal is when you get one thing, but then implicitly accept everything that is packaged with it, regardless of whether or not it belongs in this group.  Package deals are a form of character assassination; by lumping people together, perhaps inappropriately, we can misrepresent them.  Case in point; if we point out that Nazis and KKK members voted for Trump, we can discredit all Trump supporters as Nazis and KKK members.

Notice it happening right now.  This is not a philosophical discussion for academic purposes.  It is a real-life event.

Be wary of groups of people listed by the press.  Often, they will list groups of people they want grouped together to start building those associations in your mind.

Unfortunately, we will see much more of this in the near future.  The narrative is that if you did not support Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, you are a racist.  It was a pathetic cry from the left during the election, but thanks to the logical fallacy of the package deal, plenty of people are going to start to believe it.

What can we do?  Point it out.  Even if every Klansman voted for Trump, the inverse statement is not true; not every Trump voter is a Klansman.  Likely, every chemtrail conspiracy theorist voted for Bernie Sanders, but not every Bernie Sanders supporter thinks the corporations and government are brainwashing you from planes.

Also, don’t argue.  Point out this as a logical fallacy, politely.  If they get angry, or if they continue on, end the discussion.  Walk away.  You don’t have to defend yourself against someone whose premise is that you are a racist.  You don’t have to get in the last word.  Just leave.

Thank you for reading my post.  Next week, I will likely post about the Confederate Monuments, as I don’t think this discussion is going away.

Trump vs. the Media in the Shadow of Nuclear War

August 10, 2017

I think that North Korea is doing nothing more than trying to act tough, which is why I write this particular post instead of something concerning the upcoming nuclear war.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have heard that North Korea threatens to nuke Guam in a show of power and as a demonstration of their nuclear capabilities.

Several commentators have said that the threat, and a nuclear attack would be a “direct result” of Trump’s statements about North Korea.

Did you get that?  A nuclear attack, destroying several US Military installations and killing over 150,000 people by a dictator is the “direct result” of something Trump said?

No.  The phrase “direct result” implies a cause and effect relationship.  Therefore, this implies that a nuclear attack would be BECAUSE of Trump.

I’ve heard stories like this before.  I once had a friend in high school who told us that her bruises were a direct result of her actions; not her boyfriend’s fault.  After all, if she had called on time, she wouldn’t have been hit.

To blame Trump’s words for a nuclear attack is to remove any responsibility from a spoiled dictator, who just said he has no problem murdering 150,000+ people as a demonstration of power.  Furthermore, it is a denial of basic cause-and-effect relationships, and replacing them with the whims of a dictator as a fact of life:  mess with him, and get killed.  It is as if these commentators are saying, “Shouldn’t have messed with him, it’s your fault.”

One thing we have learned from feminism (and I agree, totally), is that it is wrong to blame the victim, be it rape, abuse, or in this case, mass murder.  If a woman drinks too much and is raped, one could say, “if she had not been drinking, this would not have happened,” which may or may not be true, but that does not place the blame on her.  “That’s what she gets for getting drunk,” would be victim blaming, as it implies a 1 to 1 cause and effect relationship:  If she gets drunk, she will get raped, cause and effect.  It implies that she is responsible, not the rapist.

While Trump may not be the direct victim of a nuclear attack, these reporters are placing the blame of a nuclear attack on someone who made some mouth noises versus the wee “man” dictator who launched the missles.

Thank you for reading my post.

 

Censorship, Yet Again

July 13, 2017

Censorship exists only in one fashion:  when the goverment forbids you from speaking/writing/etc.  Censorship cannot occur unless THE GOVERNMENT forbids speech.  A person, a corporation, Facebook, etc., cannot “censor” anything.

There has been quite a few misconceptions about this over the past few weeks, starting with the Kathy Griffin incident, where she displayed a model of a beheaded Donald Trump.  No, Kathy, CNN did not “censor” you.  You are free to speak, but you cannot demand CNN, or anyone else, for that matter, to provide you a platform to do so.

I have also seen quite a few posts recently talking about how Facebook “censored” them.  No, it didn’t.  Facebook can choose to keep or discard any information they want. It is their platform.  They don’t have to support your views, nor are they required to provide you a microphone.

If you go to a concert, security is not “censoring” you when they do not let you run up on stage and take the microphone from the lead singer.  They are not “censoring” you by not giving you “equal time” or any other nonsense.

Unpopular Opinion Time:  The same is true for Net Neutrality.  A company can decide what content travels along their equipment, and at what speed.  Plenty of you will point out that the internet operates under Net Neutrality at this time, and that blogs like mine could be blocked.  So what?  I should not be able to force someone else to display my content.

Would this be the death of the internet?  No.  In fact, it opens up a huge door for companies to CHOOSE to be Net Neutral.  I bet that a few internet providers that choose to be net netural, instead of being forced to be net neutral, will very quickly displace the companies that choose to reject net neutrality.

Even so, whether or not the internet will change with no net neutrality requirement should not supercede the rights of the provider to run their network how they wish.

Really, it comes down to property rights again.  The KKK cannot show up in an interracial couple’s bedroom and protest, because the couple’s property rights supercede the KKK’s rights to “free speech.”  In the same way, an internet provider should be able to determine what content and at what speed and conditions messages are passed through their property.

Thank you for reading my post.

Meetings with Members of the Opposite Sex

July 6, 2017

I should just stay off of Facebook.  Every time I go on there, I end up seeing articles that annoy me, and sometimes losing respect for people along the way.

The most recent offender was this article by the New York Times.  The point was that Mike Pence, and apparently most Americans, consider going to dinner alone with a member of the opposite sex (other than a spouse or romantic partner) inappropriate.

I find no harm in this, either way.  I have dinner with whomever I want, whenever I want.  I traveled alone with a member of the opposite sex for two weeks, and will likely be in similar situations throughout my life.  No big deal.

Pence chooses not to.  Not my problem.  As long as he doesn’t back legislation forbidding it, who cares what he does?  It is his decision.  Or so I thought.

I dared post this, and I was informed that the real purpose of this article was that because of this choice, “women were being held back” as Pence would only meet with male members of congress and male special interest representatives.  Furthermore, it was my “white, male privilege” that prevents me from seeing these problems.  It was also suggested that I get “woke” immediately.

Fuck off.

Foolishly, I had once considered a graduate degree with these people.  Thankfully, they were not interested.  Now, I see that any successes had more to do with my race, gender, and sexual orientation, in their eyes, than any hard work on my part.

One of these days, I’m going to walk away from this world and all of its shitty people.  I just want to watch it all burn.  Is it time to shrug?  Perhaps.  I wish I was more important, such that my shrugging would matter.

 

 

Mechanization and Automation

June 23, 2017

I have heard far too many reports about how many jobs will be “lost” to machines in the near future.  These reports, some of which come from automation magazines, all have one thing in common:  the end of the world will occur as we will all become unemployed and homeless because of automation.  Figures and years range from 50-70% of jobs in the next 10 years will be replaced by automation.  I am not referencing this garbage, just know that these articles exist.  A quick Google search will get you plenty of fodder.

Part of being a human being is improving our world and making our lives easier.  During the dark ages, people worked and had zero leisure time.  Everything was about survival, and survival meant doing everything in-house.  All food was grown, all clothes made, and all home repairs done by the members of the household.  For their endless days of hard, manual labor, life expectancy was in the 40’s, and conditions were awful.

We have increased our abilities through invention and creativity.  In the strictest sense, we have no collective knowledge, but we do get to benefit from the development of others through free trade.  I don’t have to develop the air conditioner that is currently protecting me from 104 F temperatures outside.  Someone else did that, and I paid them money for it.

Through this combination of invention, creativity, and free trade, we went through the scientific and industrial revolutions which improved our lives significantly.  150 years ago, “Go west, young man,” meant walking away from your family forever and traveling by wagon, foot, or horse across the wild unknown.  Many did not survive.  When I went west in 2005, my parents were a mere three hour flight away.  FLIGHT.

In electronics, Moore proposed that the number of transistors on a single chip would double every 18 months.  It has been called “Moore’s law”, and has pretty much held true for the last 30 years.  If we are developing computing power that doubles every 18 months (not quite, but transistors are a proxy for this), then why do we expect our lives to be as they were 50 years ago.

Perhaps the days of working 40 hour work weeks are about done.  Many places have made the switch to 32 hour work weeks.  Are 20 hour work weeks in our future?

But what about the lost revenue?  What about the lost jobs?

As an undergraduate, I lost a job to automation.  I used to check student ID’s at one of the dorms at night.  I would stay up all night and just look at student IDs.  Eventually, a card swipe was installed on the building, and I was no longer needed for that role.  So what?  I found other work.

Jobs go away.   If our world is changing so quickly that Moore’s Law is followed, why do we go about employment the same way as our parents and grandparents did?

Fifteen years ago, there was no such thing as a “social media expert,” “Uber driver,” or grocery picker for curbside delivery.  100 years ago, there was someone who jammed wooden stakes into the wheels of the ore cars to slow them down.

The authors of these articles, and those who worry about their jobs being replaced by automation are short-sighted.  What job will these folks have?  I don’t know.  I know there are still problems in the world that need to be solved, and that those solutions will involve people at all skill levels.  I do know that those who resist change will be left behind.

If your job can be replaced by a machine…it should be!  And, it is happening, whether you adapt to a new job, or not!

 

 

Free Market Wins Again

June 2, 2017

I recently was involved in a story where a large gas station in an isolated area locked its doors during a tornado warning.  People driving on the state highway flocked to the gas station to find shelter, only to have the teenager on duty point to a “Closed” sign, sending the scared travelers fleeing in all directions.

As a private company, it is the store’s right to close their doors.  However, as it turns out, this was not the company policy.  Based in Oklahoma, their bathrooms are designed to be tornado shelters.

Rather than complain to the police about the locked doors, an influential storm chaser tweeted the dilemma.  As word spread, the corporate offices responded to the storm chaser, and the doors were to be unlocked. Thankfully, the tornado did not affect any of the folks who were seeking shelter.

In the end, free-markets, and words on social media made a huge change for a small town.

Thank you for reading my post.

The Gig Economy

May 12, 2017

In my parents’ day, a “good job” meant stability and working at the same place from the time you left your education until the time you retired.  Things were predictable, secure and safe.  One would perform a similar task (even in white-collar work) at the same time, in the same place.  In exchange for this task, this person would be compensated either hourly or yearly.

While there are some merits to this system, it no longer works quite the same as it did back then.  Today, companies change constantly.  The company you worked for five years ago probably changed names.  Sometimes, they split apart.  Sometimes, they merge.

Also, as we become more affluent, as a society, and more tasks become automated, more tasks can be done remotely.  Because of this, more workers can perform tasks from home, commuting on public transportation, or even while waiting in line at the grocery store.

Also, there is the issue of “dead-time” at work.  One of the most boring times at a job is when someone is between projects, but must maintain “butt-in-seat” time for a salaried job, or risk losing money by not clocking hours during an hourly job.  This is horribly inefficient.  We try to make manufacturing “just-in-time” so that product doesn’t sit in a warehouse.  Why should labor be different?

Some things will never move from shift work, and I am glad of that.  When my house is on fire, I am glad that there is a firefighter standing by, waiting for the call.  However, does a software engineer need to do this?

Really, the so-called “Gig-Economy” forces us to constantly innovate.  We have to develop new skills, and always look for the next thing.  Stagnation has no place in this economy.

In electronics, there is the concept of Moore’s Law, where the number of transistors on a computer chip doubles every 18 months in an exponential growth pattern.   Perhaps an exponential growth “Moore’s Law” accompanies us human beings.  A few generations ago, most people took their father’s profession, with very little change.  In the previous generation, people went to college and found a career.  Perhaps now, we all have many, smaller duration jobs.  Who knows what our kids will have.

And, ultimately, it is happening, like it or not.

Thank you for reading my post.

 

United Airlines and the Free Market

April 13, 2017

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have seen the video of the man that was beaten and dragged from the United Airlines flight.  You’ve probably seen the internet responses to this incident, including responses by rival airlines.

Unfortunately, I will give an unpopular opinion:  United was within their rights to do so.  They issued a ticket with the condition that it could be revoked at anytime.  Once it was revoked, the man’s refusal to leave was criminal tresspassing, just like the crackhead who hangs around 7-11 and is asked to leave. In both cases, you call the authorities to remove them.

Now, to a more popular opinion:  What a dreadful policy you have, United!

Thankfully, the free market has spoken.  Boycotts, hilarious parodies, and a large drop in your stock prices.  Competing airlines have offered specials to suck away your customers.

A company is allowed to make dreadful policies, such as this, but they are not protected from its effects on their bottom line.

Now, the trick will be to keep the government out of the way, and let the free market take its course.  No bailouts for struggling airlines, no new legisliation about treatment by TSA agents, no false “consumer rights” about being allowed to squat on an airplane.

Let United figure out how to reconcile this awful policy in the eyes of the free market, or let them fail.