Monday, November 14, 2016

Why Libertarians Should Have Absolutely Zero Sympathy for Weeping Progressive Democrats

It's definitely hard being a true-scotsman 'libertarian' in this world and I wanted to share something I read that really struck a chord with me and motivated me to slam around a bit on my keyboard...

"... I have no sympathy for weeping democrats. We libertarians live every day, every election, seeing horrible people get elected, and good ideas shot down. We are always the minority, we always lose, our rights are always trod upon. The democrats who are weeping crocodile tears because they have to live under Trump's Presidency for 4-8 years -- suck it up -- that's how it feels to be a libertarian all the time." -- N. Stephan Kinsella, author of 'Against Intellectual Property' and contributor to C4SIF

Personally, I've thoroughly enjoyed savoring the waves of salty, smug, Progressive crocodile tears. Let it be known that their melodramatic reaction is going exactly as predicted in a couple of pieces I wrote back in March ('YOUR GOD IS DEAD') and July ('A Tale of Unfathomable Triggering, Endless Tears, and the Self-induced Neutering of the Progressive Vanguard'), in addition to broadcasting their abyssal disconnection from America with constant proclamations of 'What Went Wrong?' and 'How Could This Have Happened?'.

Of course, it's one thing to 'have no sympathy for weeping democrats' and another entirely to engage in a thorough bout of Schadenfreude, but I think it's well-deserved. Progressives have been, hands-down, one of the greatest threats to advancing and protecting liberty for as far back as libertarians can remember. During the past 8 years, SJW culture (the abominable love-child of Progressivism and political correctness), has relentlessly tried to shame and silence any and all dissent into this madness, using every social and economic tool at their disposal at both an individual and collective level. One might try to argue that they're just using social pressures to try to get their way, and 'at least they're not using the state' -- but it would be a trip into self-delusion to think that institutionalizing their ideas into the state and imposing them by the force and consequence of law is not the end-game, here.

The 'Referendum Creep' on Progressivism

Luckily, the election of Donald J. Trump as the President of the United States (no, that still hasn't quite sunk in, yet), along with the continued majorities in the House and Senate and safeguarding the SCOTUS likely for generations (along with the implications this has on past, present, and future law), has been an unbelievably devastating upset of a defeat that they may never recover from. Particularly so, when you consider the 'decimation' noted by The Washington Post regarding not just the presidency and congress, but of state legislatures and governorships throughout the country:

"We tend to focus on the loss of the presidency as the example of Democratic failure. That's blinkered. Since 2008, by our estimates, the party has shed 870 legislators and leaders at the state and federal levels -- and that estimate may be on the low side. As Donald Trump might put it, that's decimation times 50."

Stated differently, there has been an ongoing kind of 'referendum creep' on the Democratic Party for the past 8 years and it just recently culminated in the election of Donald Trump. Progressivism hasn't been in such a weakened position in many, many decades, but we can't let ourselves get too complacent and comfortable about all of this. This was a grave mistake they made and one of many reasons why they lost -- they were so easily duped by bullshit, skewed polling, smug talking heads and other political hacks, that it resulted in a thick fog over a vast rift between political reality and their delusional perspective of it.

A Black Hole of Identity Politics

Identity politics, despite its vacuousness of actual ideas, has been a mainstay of Progressive, SJW, and Democrat strategy for a long while, now, with Hillary and her surrogates doubling-down on this, thinking it would secure the presidency. Identity politics obviously didn't secure her a win, so maybe it can excuse her loss? Van Jones, et al, want to paint an early narrative that this all was some kind of racist 'whitelash'. Ah, of course -- this is the great revenge of the slave-owning white man! Isn't that right?

"Or maybe not. The exit polls are remarkable. Would you believe that Mitt Romney won a greater percentage of the white vote than Donald Trump? Mitt took 59 percent while Trump won 58 percent. Would you believe that Trump improved the GOP’s position with black and Hispanic voters? Obama won 93 percent of the black vote. Hillary won 88 percent. Obama won 71 percent of the Latino vote. Hillary won 65 percent. Critically, millions of minority voters apparently stayed home. Trump’s total vote is likely to land somewhere between John McCain’s and Romney’s (and well short of George W. Bush’s 2004 total), while the Democrats have lost almost 10 million voters since 2008."

Okay, well... men are obviously threatened by a woman leading the country. Even though women did the right thing of voting with their vaginas, men did the wrong thing of voting with their penises, right? In the articulate words of Donald Trump, "Wrong".

"In fact, Trump beat Clinton among white women 53 percent to 43 percent, with white women without college degrees going for [Trump] two to one."

Fine, so it wasn't the 'white male patriarchy', but what about those nefarious third parties? If not for their election spoiling and the irresponsible, short-sighted, liberal non-Hillary-voters voting for them, Hillary would have dominated, correct? Nope -- Wrong again.

"CBS News' exit poll posed the hypothetical question of who third party voters would support if the race were only Clinton and Trump, and both Johnson and Stein supporters appeared to support Clinton over Trump by about 25 percent to 15 percent. But 55 percent of Johnson's supporters would have just sat out the election, as would 61 percent of Jill Stein supporters. According to New York Times exit polling, a whopping 63 percent of voters who declined to cast their ballot for the two major party candidates said they would have not voted at all in a two candidate race."

Conclusively, simply not enough people were willing to turn out to vote for Hillary and her Democratic Party, and that fact cuts across sex, race, and class. The 'referendum creep' struck in her loss and it struck again in all of the contrived excuses for her loss. Identity politics is an abject failure in every meaningful way and the people have come to recognize that -- so much so that they have handed the Republican party almost complete free reign to do as they please (remember, they still don't have a super-majority).

In light of recognizing the political reality of this 'new normal', some Progressives in the fourth and fifth estates have taken this all better than others. Some have engaged in a well-deserved deep reflection of their journalistic failures (see herehere, here, here, and here) whereas others think they should retreat further into their anti-intellectual swamp of delusion and dishonesty (herehere, here, here, and here). Even the November 11th episode of 'Real Time With Bill Maher' shows Bill actually starting to understand and articulate a part of 'what happened' and their inability or unwillingness to see it. Unfortunately, his entire panel regularly drowns him out, retreating back into their swamp, dragging him along with them. Sad!

Yet, while I'm sure there may be some genuine feeling from these kinds of folks regardless of how they're rationalizing the news, I do believe that both approaches of self-reflection and self-delusion serve different tactics of self-preservation (likely depending on the political environments they work in) and, thus, should be taken with a giant heaping of salt.

That salt, of course, should be harvested from their tears.

So Where Do We go From Here?

It's important to note that while Progressivism as an ideology may be much more 'hardy' and take a couple more knock-out hits before going down for the count, SJW culture has still been in its infancy. As such, we need to turn the tables and do what we can to strangle it in its crib while it's in such a weakened state and while we still can. It's not a serious threat (and even less so after the election), now, but if and when such a movement were to mature and place its hands on the levers of state power? The consequences and slippery slopes for protecting, let alone advancing liberty, will be dire.

As Sun Tzu said, 'opportunities arise as you seize them'. So how do we do this? How do we 'turn the tables' on SJWs and Progressives to maximize this opportunity? Apart from actually going out and voting (and getting as many others to vote as possible), one thing I've found that they always used much more consistently and effectively than anyone else has been shaming, ostracism, and boycotting. This has been their primary social tactic and it, all too often, has shut down debate and silenced the opposition of good ideas and counter-arguments. It's high time we put an end to it. No more having to go on the defensive from dishonest charges of 'racism', 'sexism', 'hate', and other such nonsense. It's all an intellectual retreat, and they know it. We're smarter, more knowledgeable, wittier, and we have reality on our side. We've allowed them to be shameless with their dishonest tactics for too long, having overplayed their hand and rendered toothless and virtually meaningless some very important concepts to signal legitimately bad people in society. So while we must continue to intellectually destroy their arguments, we should especially focus on helping them rediscover their shame and turn their charges around on them at any and every opportunity we find. We should take a page from their own playbook and they should be mocked, shamed, and boycotted back into that brain-dead and dishonest swamp they crawled out of.

And now, for your moment of zen...

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Newspaper Brains, Television Souls, and High-school Ideas

“I see men assassinated around me every day. I walk through rooms of the dead, streets of the dead, cities of the dead; men without eyes, men without voices; men with manufactured feelings and standard reactions; men with newspaper brains, television souls and high school ideas. Kennedy himself was 9/10ths the way around the clock or he wouldn't have accepted such an enervating and enfeebling job -- meaning President of the United States of America. How can I be concerned with the murder of one man when almost all men, plus females, are taken from cribs as babies and almost immediately thrown into the masher?”


― Charles Bukowski, Sunlight Here I Am: Interviews and Encounters, 1963-1993

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Ted Cruz, Cuck-in-Chief of the Twilight Zone Election of 2016

George H. W. Bush 'the Elder One' refuses to vote for Trump, and may even vote for Clinton purely out of spite. The old man is obviously butthurt over Trump personally embarrassing his son in front of the nation, but at least he has some honor and sticks by his family.


As we're all well familiar, Donald Trump insulted Ted Cruz' family, called his wife ugly and threatened to 'expose her secrets', whatever that means. He generated attention towards conspiracy theories that his father was involved in the murder of JFK. He effectively labeled him as 'Lyin' Ted', and as a final, penetrating thrust, insinuated that he (GASP!) wasn't a true scotsman American and may not have even been eligible for the presidency in the first place, bringing attention to his Canadian-ness.

Ouch. That last one? That's a doozy.

So how does ole Teddy respond to these constant attacks on his person and family? He tells The Donald that he's immoral, a liar, unfit to be President, creates a whole bunch of drama and feet-stomping over it, and just yesterday, endorsed him in a lengthy Fecebook post which has garnered over 100,000 'Likes'.

... yes, you heard that last part right.

If there ever was a 'cuck', Ted Cruz would be it.

Trump may as well have had sex with his wife, him watching, weeping, while huddled in a fetal position in the corner, and for ole Lyin' Ted to ask him, "Please, sir, may I have another?"

There is no honor in this man. None. It seems particularly low, even for a politician, to trade in his family's honor for some vestige of power, scraps of power, or promises of scraps of power that no one will have any real obligation in fulfilling -- and it doesn't seem Cruz has any good bargaining chips left to hold them accountable to it. If Donald Trump were a career politician who relies on maintaining a reputation of back-door deals, the situation would be different, but that's just not the case. Naturally, Trump is going to get a significant boost out of this, and I wouldn't be surprised to find out that many #NeverTrump folks follow in predictable Fibonacci fashion, whether they publicly admit it, or not. If Clinton was finally coming to the realization that things were going to be a lot more difficult than she and her outrage machine expected, before, then she's going to be having a lot more trouble, now.

But I digress from the purpose of my post, and I'd like to culminate this all into a little story...

You and others are herded into a large room. You look around and see individuals from all walks of life; young and old, rich and poor, black and white, and any other arbitrarily drawn lines between them you can think of. Trump's presence is amongst you, and you were all brought here to legitimize this event. Whether you actually wanted to be here for this or not, it still wasn't your choice today, just as it wasn't yesterday, or the day before, or the day before that. It's part of the whole point, I guess. Any public, ritualistic expression of power isn't merely for the sake of the domination of one individual over another, after all.

"Enter, the Dishonorable Senator Cruz from Texas!"

Heavy doors open, slowly, with a thick haze emanating from its void. It looks empty, like there's nothing there. Was this a ruse? Did ole Lyin' Ted pull a fast one on The Donald as one final slight? Could there be, perhaps, a sliver of honor left in this man?

The haze diffuses throughout the audience. It has a putrid stink to it, and you cover your mouth to lessen the heaviness of it all. Still, nothing... until you look down. From the void you catch the glimpse of a heavy mass coming into focus. Its movements are unnatural and lethargic. What is this wretched, cursed thing? Could this be some lowly, devolved beast? A creature that natural selection had still yet to eliminate from whatever unholy environment it had borne from?

With baited breath, everyone waits.

Suspense turns to impatience until, finally, you and others recoil towards the sight of the foul thing that emerges. Alas! It is Cruz, as initially expected, slowly writhing on its belly towards Trump, leaving a foul-smelling kind of trail in its wake. It tosses itself forward, much of its mass concentrated in its head, an agonizing look on its twisted face.

Thump. Slap. Thump-thump. Slap. 

Finally, it worms its way up to Trump, groveling at his feet, its tiny meat-hooks at some point in its miserable existence having probably been arms, reaching, as it slinks up to and 'grabs' ahold of Trump's leg -- begging, mewling, not even for crumbs, but the mere promises of crumbs from its overlord, Trump. The Donald flicks his foot away, similar to how one might try to remove the feces he had just barely started to, but not yet fully, stepped on.

It opens a hole in its face you can only assume is a mouth. Noises come out. No one understands, but no one really cares, neither.

It grimaces and lets out a pathetic sigh. It slumps to the ground, no longer managing the energy it takes to hold itself up, resigning itself to whatever fate awaits it. How could this foul, feeble thing have survived for as long as it did?

A quiet, awkward moment passes, dragging out the spectacle. Trump stands there, like a statue. The others are looking at eachother, unsure of what to do. The event is painfully uncomfortable to witness.

The creature lays there, isolated, rejected. Its inadequate protrusions stretched out in front of it, the putrid trail connecting it to the feet of its overlord.

"Please!", you cry out. "Let us finish this chapter in the Theatre of the Absurd! End this poor, miserable creature's suffering, for its own sake -- and ours!"

The Donald's face moves slightly, and he glances down at the thing. His face melts into a kind of mix of disdain, disgust, and annoyance as he places his shoe closer to the creature's face.

Its head hangs low while it looks up at its master, who stares back down at it, unflinching, unfeeling. The creature capitulates under the weight of his eyes, and curls into itself as it pushes out a shaky tongue towards the sole of The Donald's foot, which is pulled back a few inches. The Donald grabs his belly and laughs, and the room stays quiet. It laments and musters the last of its energy to inch forward, but buckles.

For a moment, silence.

Suddenly, the thing starts wheezing. Its breathing becomes erratic and its body and sad protrusions start to convulse. The Donald is unmoved by this, and stares. You and the others look down and away as you hear the final death rattle, and then, nothing.

...

The crowd disperses. On your way out, you hear a frightened child ask, "Mommy, what was that ugly monster?"

She responds softly, trying to comfort him,"Shhhhh. It's okay, my child. That thing was once a man, a long, long time ago."

It backfires and the child becomes agitated. "But... mommy, does that mean I could turn into a monster like him, one day?"

The mother is caught off guard, realizing she must choose her words wisely. "No, honey, but living your life as a politician sure won't help."

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Carnival Continues

As democratic governments continue to try to stretch the bounds of human depravity, we take this moment to point out some of the absurdities of today's social order.

According to the OECD  the United States' government spending was 38.1% of GDP. What this means, of course, is that the United States government was responsible for 38.1% of the consumption in the economy. Whether the money was being either shuffled around at gun point or simply created from nothing, it doesn't matter. The money was being spent by people who did not have to do anything to obtain it. Think about that for a minute: at least 38.1% of spending was performed by people who didn't earn the power to dispose of that purchasing power by creating something of value.

Of course, GDP equations are nonsense. Just assuming government spending adds to economic output at a 1:1 ratio along with all other spending is an assumption we just can not accept. We would not accept the idea that spending necessarily adds to social welfare. If that spending does not come along with its naturally associated cause, production and savings, then it is pure consumption with no productive value. Not all decisions are created equal, and not all resource expenditures are desirable from a long run perspective. Only decisions which are sound and not wasteful in the long run are those which actually qualify as wealth producing decisions.

We don't really understand how governments and central banks think these kinds of conditions are sustainable. We are pretty sure they don't believe this: they simply must continue the charade as long as possible.

One thing we are certain of, is that until humans are willing to allow the social order to evolve as it naturally must, the discovery process of trial and error inherent to economic calculation can not function. We are optimistic that some day this will happen, but right now the belief in authority is consolidating its position.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

None of Us is as Dumb as All of Us

People love to talk about the 'combined knowledge' of group of random or similarly skilled people, and supposedly how setting that group to focus on and tackle a singular goal can achieve greater knowledge. The publicly-traded corporate world (which I thankfully escaped) really did me in on this whole thing. It's used often in 'team building exercises' (ugh), corporate outings (puke), and democratic-styled decision-making (double-puke). The idea is that if in a group of 5 people, each person has 20% of 'knowledge', that 5 people x 20% knowledge equals 100% combined knowledge, right?
But they don't qualify the knowledge. The logic assumes they've all got unique, specialized knowledge, when that's very, very rarely the case. So let's have some fun with this bizarro-world 'combined knowledge' logic, huh? It's very likely that out of 5 random or similarly skilled people, they each have 20% similar or the same knowledge. If we must talk about their 'combined knowledge', then what about their 'combined ignorance'? If you've got 5 people, each person with 20% 'knowledge', then by extension they also have 80% ignorance. By the logic, here, 5 people x 80% equals 400% combined ignorance.

No wonder this stuff turns out to be such a mess, and I'm actually fine with this old pseudo-maxim as long as the other side of the coin is presented.


So if we're to have more rigorous logic with this, then maybe it'll look better with averages instead, right? Actually, it still comes out to look like a bad idea. If you've got 5 people with about 20% knowledge each, then that leaves you with, naturally, about 20% knowledge in a group. However, now you've got a lot more hands in the pot and people wanting to feel 'important' or 'useful'. You've now made that ineffective 20% knowledge even less effective than it was in the first place. Now, take this logic, and expand it to a democracy of over 230 million eligible voters, or hundreds of representatives, and what do you get? Fucking chaos, that's what.



Great movie this scene taken from, by the way.

Indeed, none of us is as dumb as all of us.

I can hear it all, already. "Hey, Steve, you're such a negative nancy! All I hear are criticisms, Steve, with no solutions! At least we're trying! What do you suggest, then?!"


Oh, you're a good little corporate or state drone, aren't you? Ah, and I bet your 'intentions are good', too, right? Yeah, I know it feels good -- but you're still wrong. I do have a suggestion, actually, and it's not particularly controversial or special. Stop trying to impose your decisions and subjective value judgements on other people with your measly 20% 'knowledge'. If you have 20% 'knowledge' and want to properly get something done, hire a professional, or at least find someone with more knowledge than you to do it or figure it out, or get your ass to 60%, 70%, or 90% knowledge before you DIY. Don't let other people with the same or less knowledge than you be able to dictate or mix their hands in the pot of the work to be done. Acknowledge and embrace the all-important comparative advantages and division of labor and have specialized tasks done by specialized people in a marketplace.


See? Easy peasy -- and it didn't even take any tax-funded 'studies' to figure it out.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

A Review for No Man's Sky on the Playstation 4


Every once in a while you just gotta take a break from all of the political bullshit and stop to smell the roses. And by roses, sometimes that means digital roses. And by smelling, sometimes that means with your eyes and your ears. Or something.

No Man's Sky (also referred to as NMS) is a Playstation 4 game (also just released on Windows PC) that has been in development for over 5 years by an indie developer named Hello Games, which consists of a small team of 15 highly talented and creative people and headed up by boss and frontman Sean Murray (who's quite the humble and disarming dude). With multiple delays, the weight of ever-increasing expectations from the mainstream press and gaming community and a massive hype train barreling forward such as which the world has rarely seen in the videogame industry -- it was a project almost beginning to look like another depressing example of vaporware doomed to crumble under its own weight, bearing down on the small team. It was a herculean effort, but by golly, they did it.

Mostly.

First, a few things. I haven't come close to 'beating the game' (whatever that means, anyways), but I've played a lot since it was released and have a pretty good handle on how everything is and where it's going. There doesn't seem to be much of a 'story', so much as tons of 'lore'. Personally, I like this and think it fits more with this style of game, but some people may not. The lore is solid enough, too -- it's not overly cheesy, unoriginal and flat like you'd find in your typical sci-fi videogame, and seems to be more along the lines of the kind of philosophical, abstract foundation you'd find in a decent sci-fi book. The heaviest inspirations fall clear from 2001: A Space Odyssey and the general '50s to '80s space sci-fi era. On the lighter side, you'll find inspirations from franchises like Star Trek and Star Wars. As a genre, it's harder to nail down (like an increasing number of games these days) -- NMS is a lore-filled open world 'sandbox' focusing on survival, exploration, discovery, and trade, with a sprinkling of light combat -- lighter on the FPS side, slightly heavier on the space-sim dog-fighting side.



If you're interested in seeing more screens from No Man's Sky, you can see my full gallery here. Now, onto the review in an easily digestible, nutritious format. It's just Like soylent green!

The Good
  • The game really does an amazing job of conveying an absolutely massive, unheard of scale to everything. There are 18 quintillion procedurally generated planets. That's an 18, with 18 zeros after it. Let that sink in for a moment.
  • Many have described the game as having an immense feeling of 'loneliness'. I know where they're coming from, and to an extent, I agree -- but I don't find the word to be entirely accurate. A more appropriate word is 'virginness'. In most cases you'll be both the first and last person to visit and explore an entire planet with its own climate conditions, flora, and fauna. It's a feeling you have to experience to really appreciate.
  • And of course, you can name any of the flora, fauna, planets, moons, and star systems you discover. They get uploaded to the game's server and any player who comes across it will see anything you've named and discovered, with your account name next to it.
  • The 3D graphics and visual effects are, in a word, sublime. This is by far my favorite game to screenshot.
  • The ambient music, which is also procedurally generated (to an extent) according to the scenery and situation, sounds really great. It fits very well, and has a solid space sci-fi, Mass Effect-ey kind of sound to it. 
  • The procedurally generated worlds and creatures are varied enough, although it can be quite clear they are all 'coming from the same place' -- that being a computer algorithm that deforms, recolors, and retextures (within certain parameters) a bunch of hand-made presets. This all still looks great and there's no way I can hold this against them considering current technological limitations and the size of the design team at Hello Games.
  • The procedurally generated animations for the procedurally generated creatures interacting with the procedurally generated landscape looks mostly natural, with only some minor clipping issues every once in a while.
  • The variability of challenge is solid enough. Some planets will be very relaxing, with bountiful resources and a pleasant environment. They'll feel 'safe'. Others can be an legitimate challenge, with extreme, harsh climates and effects, hostile life, aggressive sentient machines, and far less resources needed to survive. These planets will severely punish you for mistakes and overconfidence, making you stress out on if you'll make it back to your ship before you succumb to it all. One minute could have you and your inventory filled to the brim with needed resources and protection -- the next will have you genuinely worried if the planet is going to eat you alive.
  • The transitions from planet to space, moon, other planets, and back again is seamless and looks, sounds, and feels great.
  • The open nature of the game allows for solid, personal, emergent storytelling of exploration and survival.
  • The potential for patched-in, free, and paid DLC for this game is absolutely immense. Soon we're going to have volumetric clouds, and already Sean Murray is talking about base-building and your own personal freighters.  I also foresee a future with a much-needed 'snapshot mode' a la The Last of Us and Doom.
  • The No Man's Sky subreddit is really something. It's a giant magical factory of hilarious memes, great stories from players' experiences in the game, beautiful screenshots, and a helpful community for players with hints and tips.
As a side note, you can tell that even with all of 'The Good' parts to its whole, that it is even still somehow more than the sum of its parts. Sean Murray and his team at Hello Games clearly really put their heart and soul into this, and at the very least, for that alone, my hat is off to them.



The Bad
  • Some bugs on the PS4. I've had the game crash about 30% of the time while trying to warp to another system. This is far too high, and kind of an annoying problem. A couple times I've also had serious clipping issues such as 'falling through the world' and getting stuck, having to reload a save, as well as pulse-jumping into an Atlas Station, requiring another reload. 
  • 'Finding nearby discovered systems' in the galaxy map doesn't seem to work with finding my old systems, nor can I remove waypoints that I've set to other systems.
  • Some silly, unintuitive design decisions on the GUI and controls that really should have been fixed or implemented. You can't change control schemes or bindings. While the galaxy view looks great -- it's very clunky and doesn't work quite as it should at times. I can't find some old discovered systems or planetary locations to go back to and can't set any of them as a waypoint from the discoveries menu. You can't change temperatures from Celsius to Fahrenheit. All seemingly very simple stuff that should not be an issue.
  • The developers apparently thought you were too stupid to learn how to actually fly your ship on a planet, so they took away any option for advanced flight controls altogether, limiting you to extremely basic flying and an inability to hover in place. Maybe it's a kind of game design limitation, but it's still a let-down.
  • These guys really need an editor. Far too many typos and grammatical mistakes which can be immersion breaking even at the worst possible times such as when 'the lore' advances.
  • You can't fly near the sun, no matter how long you try. Trust me, I've tried, as have others. It's a fucking skybox.
  • The No Man's Sky subreddit is really something, along with Sean Murray's non-answer answers.


The Ugly
  • The PC version, by user reviews and community comments, seems to be absolutely unplayable for far too many people at release. Technically irrelevant with regards to the PS4 version, but it should still be noted. Your mileage may vary.
  • Boss and frontman Sean Murray explicitly stated numerous times that you would be able to meet other players, however extremely unlikely that would be. On the first day, two players did what was necessary to meet eachother, but it was not possible. It does not seem to be the case that you can actually meet, and he has utterly avoided answering questions on this head-on. Make of this what thou wilt. There are also a few other controversial issues, one example being with him claiming that technically you'd be able to fly directly from system to system, though you'd never want to, and it would take forever, when in fact the Hyperdrive warp is a loading screen, and you can't even fly near your own sun (again, it's a fucking skybox).
  • The No Man's Sky subreddit is really something. The vitriol and hate slung personally at the NMS fan community, Hello Games and, in particular, Sean Murray, can be really, really disheartening. There are some very, very bitter and nasty trolls out there.

"DID YOU JUST ASSUME MY GENDER?!!?!"

So considering all of this, should you buy No Man's Sky? Well, that depends. 

If you are primarily a CoD fan (even the so-called 'sci-fi' Advanced and Infinite Warfare versions) and those are the only kinds of games you like, where you want to kill shit and blow it up with non-stop action and excitement, then no -- do us all a favor, stay the fuck away from NMS. You will most certainly find the game 'boring', and to top it off we're going to have to hear about much you think the game 'sucks', even though it wasn't designed for that kind of experience. If you go through No Man's Sky, rushing to the end, not caring about and ignoring the lore, not caring about 'stopping to smell the roses' often, and trying to 'beat the game' as quickly as you can -- you're probably going to have a bad experience. And while I have yet to beat the game, myself, it looks to be building towards a deeper message relating to this.

However, if you're a huge sci-fi fan and are okay with or prefer a more 'deliberate' and generally 'chill' experience and have retained a sense of imagination and wonder, then buy this shit, right the fuck now. Yes, in spite of its (glaring) flaws, 'The Good' most certainly, hands-down overweighs 'The Bad' and 'The Ugly'. Plus, we know that most, if not all, of the issues brought up will be fixed, and the game will be greatly expanded over the years. Hell, this is too much of a cash cow for Sean Murray and Hello Games to pass up patching, hooking people in with free DLC, and releasing paid DLC, to not do this.

If you're in between those two, then your mileage may vary. Even then, I would still say it's worth at least a sale price of at least 20% off for its originality alone, as long as you've still got a sense of wonder and imagination going on.

In short, the experience of playing No Man's Sky is a slow burn, akin to a controlled, delayed orgasm through tantric sex, while playing a game like Call of Duty is more along the lines of having a quickie. Some people experience premature ejaculation and can only have quickies, and hey, that's fine and all -- while others, well... they have room in their repertoire for and know that there's a time and place both.

The Final Verdict

Initially, my gushing for this game was getting the best of me and made me want to give it a whopping 9.0 out of 10. After discussing it all a bit more on reddit, a rereading of my own review, and some reflection, I've recalibrated myself and adjusted my score accordingly. A score of 9.0 out of 10 is what it could have and should have been according to what was promised -- but primarily due to some missed expectations, a lack of a couple promised features (that IMO don't really detract from the intended experience), bugs, and some other silly elements I noted, I have adjusted the score down one point.

8.0/10, would still tantric sex the galaxy again.



Monday, August 8, 2016

Can you #FeelTheJohnson?

Word on the street is that there are some very serious Republican names (and thusly attached money and political capital) who are part of the #neverTrump 'movement' that are planning to endorse Gary Johnson and Bill Weld on the Libertarian Party ticket, this month. It seems the plan might be to stagger the endorsements to generate maximum hype and media attention so that it 'takes' with staunch anti-Trump conservatives and Republicans. 

These folks, and I'm sure many other Republicans and conservatives who (understandably) despise Trump, have a strong need for an outlet and need a vote to cast and be counted -- even if it's a reluctant one for the LP (which is the only other party that will be on the ticket in all 50 states, by the way). Of course, I have no problem not voting, or protest-voting third party because it might feel good for a moment -- but for these folks, the idea of 'not voting' is against everything they believe in -- especially since it legitimizes a 'non-tactic tactic' (not voting) which they always rail against. You know, that ole chestnut of, "If you don't vote, you have no right to complain," which is a bunch of bullshit, anyways.

But let's get back on track, here. A recent FOX News Poll had Johnson pulling 12% against Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, which is above and beyond the best numbers the Libertarian Party has pulled in its entire history. In addition, polling suggests that either Johnson pulls equally from both Trump and Clinton, or that, surprisingly enough, he actually hurts Clinton more than Trump. Considering this, mixed in with the fact that Trump and Clinton are both some of the most polarizing and hated candidates in US history, shows that we are absolutely at a crossroads for the Libertarian Party. If we don't capitalize on the chaos these two gloriously vilified candidates have wrought, then it will be an unbelievably missed opportunity for libertarians. You've got to strike while the iron is hot.

Yes, yes -- I know. I can see the howling and screeching surrounding this situation by libertarians, already...

"Gary Johnson and Bill Weld aren't libertarians! They're failed Republicans!"

"We ('we'? who's this 'we', suddenly?) don't need nor want the endorsement from failed and washed-up conservative shills!"

"The Libertarian Party, Johnson and Weld will have to basically sell their souls to work with and capitalize on such endorsements! They might help in the short-term,but they will hurt in the long-term!"

"These are rats abandoning the sinking ship of the Republican Party! Don't let them on our ship when it's making its maiden voyage!"

I can see this stuff being said because it's what I would say -- but hear me out. Yes, Gary Johnson and Bill Weld are extremely imperfect 'libertarians', and Weld even moreso -- but this is still a huge and much needed boost for the Libertarian Party (which I also recognize doesn't necessarily represent all 'libertarians'). Hell, this could snowball to see other big names throw an endorsement their way -- maybe even some Hillary-hating democrats. Unlikely, of course, but it's a nice thought to entertain for a moment.

In the end, this should really give Johnson at least the 3% boost he needs to reach 15% support in the general election so he can get in on the debates -- and that's what matters, here. The Libertarian Party is not going to win, and I don't think anyone has any delusions about that -- but it would really be something to see even such an imperfect libertarian voice up there against the ubiquitously vilified Trump and Clinton. It's not really about the election or actually voting for the LP ticket -- it's about getting the word out and showing people that there is an alternative way to look at everything -- not just in who to vote for, but much more importantly -- to be exposed a radically different, and yet cohesive set of ideas and political philosophy to get intrigued by and start digging into more on their own. That they no longer have to shoehorn themselves in to a 'red' or 'blue' tribe and adopt political positions they don't really believe in or would otherwise support simply for the sake of identitarian political maneuvering.

And this is a big one, as bittersweet as it is -- but these kinds of endorsements mean that we've entered the mainstream.  It's no longer merely on the fringes where only fringe-folk skulk around in (at least that was the perception, and you and I both know it). The social capital gained is immense, creating increased opportunity for achieving critical mass.

All we need to do is show everyone the rabbit hole, and some of them won't be able to help but start to peer in -- and the General Election debates will give us the widest audience and the biggest opportunity to do that. This is the long game we're playing, here, and we can't be short-sighted and let the perfect be the enemy of the good. As Sun Tzu says, "Opportunities arise as you seize them."

I know it's outside of our comfort zone, and it's not usually something we would do, but this election has put a lot of different people in a bit of an uncomfortable position, for different reasons, hasn't it? Let me be uncomfortable with you, for just this moment. Let's make #FeelTheJohnson a thing. Don't you want to #FeelTheJohnson? Don't you? Come on.

Ah, there we go. Now that wasn't so bad... was it?

The Rise of 3D Printing pushes the State closer to the Absurd Logical Conclusions of Intellectual Property and Copyright


The UK has just changed its copyright-and-patent monopoly law to extend copyright to furniture and to extend the term of that copyright on furniture with about a century. This follows a decision in the European Union, where member states are required to adhere to such an order. This change means that people will be prohibited from using 3D printing and other maker technologies to manufacture such objects, and that for a full century.

...
The people selling these copies are not necessarily “scam merchants”. Everybody knows they’re copies and not Vitra or Herman Miller originals. […] But – is there really £6800+ worth of value in the Vitra product? Or are they just charging that because they can? Who’s the scam merchant?
A relevant question indeed. Where’s the real scam when something designed 50 years ago is suddenly off limits to 3D printing and home manufacturing, requiring people to buy it at a 2000% markup instead?

Read the full article by the good folks over at Private Internet Access (a great and important kind of company) covering this issue, here.

Looks like yet another reason to finally abolish copyright and intellectual property, if you ask me. The only ones who will really win out in the grand scheme of things with laws in place for IP and copyright are the state, lawyers, and special interests.

The concept of private property was created and evolved to more easily minimize, manage and settle disputes regarding who had just control over some resource(s) -- be it land, real estate, raw materials, capital -- or any other kind of actually economically scarce resource. Desperately needed information systems regarding the supply, demand, their meeting place of 'price', profit and loss (which reward or punish you for management or mismanagement of these valuable, scarce resources according to the demand of society) evolved further out of that concept.

Intellectual property and copyright create artificial economic scarcity by fiat when there is no natural scarcity. It's a bastardization of the concept of private property, and is actually anti private property, since it gives individuals more power over your privately owned scarce resources than you, simply because of a claim on artificial scarcity given to an individual(s) by the State.

Imagine what society could be like if economically scarce resources were no longer scarce and could be copied like ideas, recipes, arrangements and blueprints? Imagine if we all had star trek replicators, how much better off society could be -- if food, clothing, medicine, and so many luxuries could be replicated on demand at no or virtually no cost and how high the resulting standards of living would be for everyone? We would no longer have any, or at the most very minimal need for the concept of private property (other than to establish self ownership, or for some kind of currency still needed to pay for specialized labor, collectibles, 'time', and that's really mostly it).

Unfortunately, we don't have replicators for economically scarce resources, and we probably won't for quite some time, if ever. We may, in some distant future, achieve economic superabundance (which would make these scarce resources relatively unbelievably cheap) -- but this still doesn't eliminate economic scarcity and the need for currency. However, we do have 'star trek replicators' for ideas, blueprints, arrangements and recipes -- your mind and your will. By supporting intellectual property and copyright, you are supporting the state abolish the natural start trek replicator that is our right by birth and by the fact of existing.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Tale of Unfathomable Triggering, Endless Tears, and the Self-induced Neutering of the Progressive Vanguard

I definitely don't support Trump. With that being said -- I most certainly prefer him over Clinton.

Why? Well, for the most part, I actually find both of their politics to ultimately be mere inches apart -- a trend of recent presidencies that show Republican and Democrat nominees for federal office (less so at the state level) have been moving closer to 'the center' from either side, with constituencies and the hoi polloi moving increasingly to the margins of progressivism and libertarianism. I actually think this recent phenomenon is due to the distillation of ideas due to the (sometimes crude, but still effective) purification process from the internet -- but that's a discussion for another time.

However, we do have some important differences between these two that are factors in my preference... 

The SCOTUS, Obviously

A big one and definitely a contender for the most important issue, is that of the next Supreme Court Justice to be appointed for life due to the recent passing of Antonin Scalia. There are a few other SCJ's getting a bit longer in the tooth, and with likely two full terms for the next president (which has been another trend for decades, now), we're looking at more than enough time for another SCJ or two to leave empty seats. SCJ's have not, in the history of the United States, broken more than 90 years of age, leaving fairly high chances for some more to be replaced within the span of the next eight years. 

Plumb-line, true-scotsmen, small-l libertarian SCJs are of course most preferable, but the least likely.  That leaves us with 'liberals' (which at this level and in this day and age seem to be more Progressive leaning as opposed to 'liberal', anyways) and Conservatives -- which really just means that leaves us with conservatives, since 'liberals' and especially Progressives are much more likely to centralize increased power to the federal government.

So imagine a Clinton Presidency, likely for the next two terms, and potentially two or three of her picks (likely during an inevitable flip of control of the legislative branch to the Democrats) bringing about an easy Progressive majority in the SCOTUS. Consider for a moment that this will thrust the SCOTUS to consistent Progressive interpretations of the Constitution and other laws for the next 30-or-so years and the long-lasting effects that will have on legislation in the past, present, and future and the entire structure of the US Government. Really, just let that sink in for a moment.

Right, I thought so. It is what it is.

Critical Mass

The other big difference is one of paramount importance and is, for me at least, a great silver lining in a Trump Presidency, unique to Trump vs the other possibilities throughout the primary season. Progressive heads will explode the world over when he wins. Actually, they've already lost. It's done. It's been done for weeks, if not months, now, and the writing is on the wall. Their ideology is completely unworkable, unrealizable, and incoherent. They're so out-of-touch with the American people that they're still nowhere near realizing it. A Trump presidency will not be a surprise to anyone but them. Their sad, washed-up vanguard is pushing a failed, desperate narrative -- and they keep pushing it and failing, regardless, even with the media above-and-beyond mostly on their side. The incessant hammering of politically correct social pressures has created some thick hides and rendered many immune to it. So many people are over the politically correct, third-wave feminist, SJW, whiny, entitled bullshit and they're not afraid, anymore -- they can't be shamed, and the shaming has completely switched directions. Progressives and their vanguard have overplayed their hand for far too long, and the final rejection of this bastardization of liberalism has finally reached critical mass with the campaign of Donald Trump.

Desperation

Again -- Progressives are a bit slow on the uptake for a lot of this. Naturally, they'll be the last to know, and all this flailing about we've seen from recently is to be expected. The unbelievable arrogance of trying to spin the recent DNC email leak and make themselves (and supposedly, the American people, by extension) out to be the victims of Russian agents and hackers to control the election in favor of a Manchurian candidate? Well, okay, then. Don't at all pay attention to the fact that they were the ones blatantly exposed for lies, corruption, and hypocrisy to their own donors, activists, and constituents -- whether it was even done by the Russians or the Chinese or a DNC leaker or martians is completely besides the point .

They're really starting to reach at straws, though. The sad new spin attempt today was actually quite an impressive coordination of "Quick, run to the phones!"-style, shameless, false propaganda. Following Donald Trump's recent Press Conference on Hillary Clinton, the shilling for ole Hillary reached great heights. Within the span of minutes, I suddenly saw dozens of extremely click-baity articles (a short list of examples here, here, here, here, here, here, and here) of center to left news pages (and even many supposedly non-political technology pages!) jump on claims that he essentially engaged in treason by explicitly and publicly asking the Russian Government and Putin to hack the US to get emails on Hillary. Of course, this was taken completely out of context, words were twisted to mean something completely different, and they tried (and failed) to blow it up into a much bigger deal than it was. All he said was that if the Russians do in fact have Hillary Clinton's missing 33,000 e-mails (and he didn't know if they did, and doubted they did), then he hopes they give them to the press. He never said he wants them to hack the US or a major party. He actually stated on Twitter (hours before the statements in the conference in question) that whoever has the e-mails, if they do, that they "should share them with the FBI." It's all right in the video, embedded below.

The fact that they're now using such weak and pathetic claims to try to control the narrative so cheaply, despite how easily debunked it all is -- shows how weak and tenuous they know their position has become. They're flailing and lashing about, like a small child who hopelessly knows he is not about to get his way.

And really, you gotta hand it to the guy... The sheer cojones to take unfiltered questions from a very hostile press, who are all or mostly very clearly trying to prop up Hillary -- and happily stump them... Just totally epic. 

He truly is 'a nimble navigator' (hat-tip, the_Donald Subreddit). I suggest watching the whole thing -- he's very good at dealing with the press on his own, he doesn't hold back much, and it's really quite entertaining, to boot.




When reality finally hits them -- it will all be absolutely delectable. And it couldn't come soon enough.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Data Illustrates the Destructive Positive Feedback Loop of the Rapid, Unending Rise of College Tuituion

It's always gratifying to see the data illustrate what we've been saying is happening all along.

Also, this creates a positive feedback loop -- subsidies create artificial demand, increasing prices, and after prices increase, you need ever higher subsidies to feed the now-higher tuition prices. Naturally, the prices have been rising by insane levels over time. On top of this, loose government subsidies for college incentivize loose college considerations -- people go to college who should not be going to college, and with so many young people not even finishing the degree they started, or just as bad, if not worse -- finishing degrees they don't end up using for their career. This also creates utterly bizarre and/or useless degrees and studies that contribute little to nothing more to society and economy than the 'Triggly Puffs' of the world and their sad, intellectually dishonest, unproductive, destructive ilk.

This is all while saddling so many with absolutely crushing and lifestyle-debilitating amounts of debt. Debt that you cannot avoid, by the way -- if unsecured private debt isn't paid, it goes on your credit report. If unsecured government debt isn't paid, it still goes on your credit report, but they can also garnish your wages and/or put a levy on your bank account.

It's all a very, very miserable cycle that that hampers society and is primarily there to help wealthy colleges, universities, and academia in general to keep prices and wages at massively artificially inflated levels -- all at the expense of our youth, all while being a massive propaganda mill. The government-subsidized student loan system is a giant racket and should be abolished.

A snippet from the article (original source of the data, here)...

With all factors present, net tuition increases from $6,100 to $12,559. As column 4 demonstrates, the demand shocks — which consist mostly of changes in financial aid — account for the lion’s share of the higher tuition.

Specifically, with demand shocks alone, equilibrium tuition rises by 102%, almost fully matching the 106% from the benchmark. By contrast, with all factors present except the demand shocks (column 7), net tuition only rises by 16%.

These results accord strongly with the Bennett hypothesis, which asserts that colleges respond to expansions of financial aid by increasing tuition.


The 'Bennett Hypothesis' goes back almost three decades (by William J. Bennett, Secretary of Education in 1987) and is the theory that as long as the government ensures the bills will get paid, colleges will raise tuition. The idea that this would happen is, of course, nothing special nor original to libertarians and Austrian School economists -- but pro-regressives and special interests in academia have naturally contended it ever since by playing with the statistics, despite the data and logic showing the contrary again and again. Color me surprised.

It's good to see them eat crow on this, yet again. Let private loans manage it and all of these problems will fix themselves.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The First Domino

The British people tipped the first domino this week as, in a nominally shocking outcome, they have voted in favor of leaving the EU in a public vote.

Image courtesy of www.frenchentree.com

 This is of course a purely "advisory" vote from the public, and carries no particular legal consequences for the oligarchy whom rules over them. Parliament has the power to ignore the vote if they please. With that being said, at least one of them must see the writing on the wall. Britsh Prime Minister David Cameron resigned after learning the consequences of the vote.


Image courtesy of www.economist.com

We don't pretend that Brussels and its counterpart oligarchs in Britain will just roll over and die just because the majority of British people expressed an opinion contrary to what their masters recommended. This is just the beginning of a long political process, a catalyst of events to come. This vote will have far-reaching influence in the EU. There are already movements underway in six other European countries for a similar referendum. The winds of change are blowing, and Europe is once again front and center stage.

The people are stirring. They are beginning to sense there is something wrong. Their friends and neighbors are suffering, and they wonder what happened to the Brave New World which was to come by means of social and economic engineering. Britain is just a symbol of the failure to accomplish this goal. Indeed, it is a symbol of the impossibility of attaining such a naive vision of utopia.

Governments around the world are approaching the limits of their abilities to influence outcomes. Their subjects are, for the most part, still too uneducated (by design, of course) to recognize why they are discontent, but they just know they are. Nature has its own way of sorting out extremes and other imbalances, and human nature is no different. Everything changes when the average person realizes their expectations for the future are false, and that's when things get unpredictable.

Soon people will be faced with a choice: liberty or totalitarianism. Only one of these is compatible with increasing social welfare. We only hope the people recognize which one.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

How a Raise to $15/hr would be the Downfall of McDonald's and everyone it Employs

Just a moment ago I prepared, once again, to masochistically tease myself too close to the event horizon of the super-massive black hole of the ideology of yet another pro-regressive on the internet. Why I continue to do this to myself -- I couldn't tell you. I'm apparently a glutton for mental anguish, punishment and frustration.

As it goes.

Anyhoo, this zealous ideologue spouted a quote from an article about how "[McDonald's] chief executive, Steve Easterbrook, brought home a whopping $7.91 million last year — a 368% raise over his 2014 salary of $1.69 million —while low-wage McDonald’s workers are striking around the country for a livable income." and naturally followed up with a predictably inane, "Sure, they obviously can't afford to pay people better." Of course, in the bizarro world of a pro-regressive ideologue where basic math and common sense don't apply, this means that McDonald's can afford to pay their line-level workers $15/hr. Obviously.

Of course, Steve Easterbrook didn't merely get some kind of merit pay-raise just for being a good chap. He actually got a massive promotion from 'Chief Brand Manager' to Chief Executive Officer -- an important tidbit of information the ideologue conveniently ignored that was found within his own citation. Additionally, this doesn't tell the whole story, as it turns out that the vast majority of that $7.91 million is in stock options -- which is usually how a CEO's pay is structured for large, publicly-traded corporations. It's done this way to tie the CEO's pay very closely with the performance of the company. His base rate in 2015 was actually $1.1 million, and he received an 18% pay raise in March, 2016 to $1.3 million. If the performance under McDonald's tanked by the end of 2015, quality dropped, customers stopped coming and employees lost their jobs as a result of said tanked performance -- then he would have made far less along with probably having to step down in abject shame.

McDonald's is a company that took in $25.41 billion dollars in revenue last year. CEO Steve Easterbrook has taken on one of the most important jobs in a modern economy. This means taking on the ultimate responsibility of managing a massive entity consisting of '1.9 million employees and around 68 million customers daily in 119 countries across 36,535 outlets'. His mere words, actions, and inactions could anywhere from destroy to sustain to improve the jobs of its employees and the customers who enjoy their food -- very much so including myself. And while I'm more of a Wendy's man, I'm actually a solid fan of their 'Number 6' Crispy Chicken Club sandwich meal (hold the mayo!), add bacon, add ranch dressing, with large fries, a large Diet Coke (gotta watch my girly figure), and always add in the 4-piece chicken McNuggets... but I digress, and no I'm not a paid shill. I'm just here, calling out the bullshit.

As noted, executive pay is often tied directly to stock performance in large, publicly traded companies -- so while pro-regressive ideologues will naturally point out the increased income CEOs get, you'll never find them point out a CEO's massive drop in income for when their company doesn't perform. It's the same old story with 'speculators'. Pro-regressives absolutely love -- love, love -- to pounce on faceless 'speculators' when prices go up. But of course, you'll find them suspiciously, shamefully silent when speculators push prices down.

Now, on to the fast-food meat of the matter. Of the 1.9 million total employees, let's play super nice and give a very conservative estimate that only 1.5 million of them are primarily line-level employees making under $15/hr, whereas the remaining 400,000 could be corporate employees and managers. McDonald's ended 2015 with $4.53 billion in net profits, so let's say we were to try to make pro-regressive ideologues happy (it's impossible, btw, there's always something they feel entitled to) and eliminate all profits and turn it directly into a raise for all line-level employees -- since this is the 'extra fat' or 'surplus value' that the company has nefariously, unjustly 'stolen' from them and 'should not have' and 'should go back to the workers'. Since line-level McDonald's workers typically make anywhere from $8/hr to $10/hr, let's say they make $9/hr. Now, let's take the $4.53 billion in oppressive profits, cut it up into into 1.5 million cute, little, socially-just slices, and hand them right out so very equitably (!) to all of the line level employees.

So what have we effectively accomplished by wiping out the profits of one of the largest companies in the world and handed it over to the 1.5 million line-level employees? What we've done is signed its death warrant. 

Here's the simple math. $4.53 billion into 1.5 million employees means that we've only given these people an additional $3,020 into their gross (that means pre-tax for you entitled folk) yearly earnings. Since the pro-regressive argument goes that it 'should be' a 'livable wage' (we'll get to the consequences of a raise to $15/hr soon enough, trust me) -- they should consider this their full-time job to live decently off of. Full-time means 40 hours per week for 52 weeks, which brings us to a massive raise of -- drum-roll, please...

... an additional $1.45/hr, bringing their new wage to $10.45/hr! Social justice secured! 

Understand -- when a company makes profits, those profits don't suddenly all go into the pockets of executives. Most of that money is either, 

a) tucked away into savings for a rainy day of bad performance so they can still pay their bills and continue employing 1.9 million people, 
b) to expand the scope of their operations by opening more locations to bring more jobs to more workers and more food to more consumers at low prices, 
c) to invest in existing infrastructure to improve working conditions and/or quality of the food and/or the experience for the customer, 
d) pay out into shareholders of various ages and classes (oftentimes including the employees themselves if they opt for 401k plans, IRA accounts for retirees, et al), or
e) some combination of these.

In the end, these profits are needed to sustain and/or expand the company -- not for some nefarious, oppressive, exploitative purpose, whatever pro-regressives dogmatically believe is considered so by attaining profits. 

So what does this all ultimately mean? What about the demand for a so-called 'livable wage' of $15/hr if wiping out their current profits only means achieving an average wage of $10.45/hr?

If, let's say, McDonald's ever caved into these destructive, economically ignorant demands (hint: they won't) and gave these employees a raise from $9/hr to $15/hr -- for a conservatively estimated 1.5 million 'line level' employees, they would need to absorb $18.72 BILLION in additional costs. We're talking a necessary revenue increase of 73.7% -- revenues they've never achieved and likely won't for many, many years into the future where other costs will continue to grow as well. If they had to suddenly absorb these costs, without a change to their prices, and with last years' performance, they would be operating at a yearly loss of OVER $14 BILLION. Not only does that mean that they would not be able to expand and add more locations and thus hire more employees around the world, but they would absolutely go out of business. To shore up revenues an additional $18.72 billion to both maintain $15/hr line-level workers as well as achieve $4.53 billion in profit to continue business as usual, they would have to raise prices significantly and somehow manage, with said prices, in the face of serious competition, to achieve the same amount of demand for their food. No one in their right mind would put up with the massive price hikes necessary to generate $18.72 billion in additional revenue for their existing setup, and I'm even less convinced that $15/hr 'just because' workers are suddenly 67% more productive than their $9/hr former selves (which still assumes their locations would get the requisite over 67% uptick in demand). 

That's bad for everyone, all around. That means 1.9 million people out of work, and a more concentrated market share into the remaining big fast food companies. It also means less competition for both customers and employees, which translates into higher prices for customers and less negotiating power for employees at the remaining fast food companies. Less leverage for employees and less leverage for customers means everyone loses, everywhere.

Oh, and I'm not even done, yet. Believe it or not -- you thought $18.72 billion in additional costs is rough? That was actually another super-nice, extraordinarily conservative estimate, as it doesn't include significant additional costs needed for each and every employee due to the higher rate. I'm talking about Workers Compensation, Unemployment Benefits, and Tax Liabilities -- all of which are a heavy burden placed upon businesses both large and small that are charged as rates according total wages earned, risk of injury or unemployment, and other factors. These additional expenses would effectively grow by about 67%, putting another nail into the coffin of the $15/hr minimum wage.

They say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but I don't think this analogy is entirely accurate with pro-regressives. The pro-regressive road to hell is paved with a hack-job, fly-by-night, scummy operation built on willful economic ignorance and dogmatic ideology -- and it uses the livelihood and dreams of the poor as the asphalt.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Moral Hazard, expanded

Those who know me, know that moral hazard is, to me, the most important concept in economics, particularly because of its spillover into ethics and morality. My problem with the economics profession as a whole, is that its members tend to use an extremely narrow definition of the term, hobbling its significance and importance. I'd like to change that.

How do most people define the term? Let's look to Wikipedia first:


In economics, moral hazard occurs when one person takes more risks because someone else bears the cost of those risks. A moral hazard may occur where the actions of one party may change to the detriment of another after a financial transaction has taken place.

Moral hazard occurs under a type of information asymmetry where the risk-taking party to a transaction knows more about its intentions than the party paying the consequences of the risk. More broadly, moral hazard occurs when the party with more information about its actions or intentions has a tendency or incentive to behave inappropriately from the perspective of the party with less information.

Moral hazard also arises in a principal–agent problem, where one party, called an agent, acts on behalf of another party, called the principal. The agent usually has more information about his or her actions or intentions than the principal does, because the principal usually cannot completely monitor the agent. The agent may have an incentive to act inappropriately (from the viewpoint of the principal) if the interests of the agent and the principal are not aligned.



It might also help to know what "information asymmetry" is:


In contract theory and economics, information asymmetry deals with the study of decisions in transactions where one party has more or better information than the other.


The definition is thus limited to cases of "taking risks" you wouldn't otherwise take, because someone else is "bearing the costs." Somehow this seems incomplete to me. Why just this one behavior, and not any other actions you might have taken when you realize (or believe) you yourself are not fully bearing (or not bearing at all) the burdens involved, because of the particular structure of incentives? It turns out, every action you take entails unique risks. There is no distinction between incentives to take alternate actions and incentives to take alternate risks. Every incentive does both.

In the Milgram Experiment, everyday people were subjected to perverse incentives, and actively victimized others (or in this case, carried this illusion -- nobody was actually hurt; it was acted) as a result. An authority figure absolved them from any responsibility for their actions, so most of the test subjects complied, to one degree or another (Link to: Milgram experiment on Wikipedia). Is directly imposing burdens (pain, injury, impeding others, etc.) upon others a form of moral hazard (especially if someone is explicitly absolved from responsibility for the effects of these violent actions)? This seems to follow the form and spirit of the term, so I would say "yes."

Moving to "information asymmetry," we are talking about a situation where one person knows more than another person regarding the particulars of a mutual arrangement. What is it called when you don't know something, or don't fully understand something? Ah yes, ignorance! If your ignorance causes you to believe in a different set of incentives (and apparent burdens) than actually exist, this would encourage you to act differently than you might otherwise act, wouldn't it? If you are aware of someone else's ignorance, isn't that also an incentive to act in ways you might not otherwise act, in regards to that person? Doesn't this also fit the form of the term "moral hazard"? I think "yes" to this as well.

Getting to the conclusion, moral hazard describes any situation whereby the burdens of an action are either not fully borne by the person acting, or the person ignorantly believes this to be the case. Now, this has far-reaching implications in other fields of study, which I intend to touch upon in future blogs. Stay tuned, and in the meantime, think about it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

On the Demise of Empires

Imperialism is a fascinating social phenomenon. We see it arise in every nation which develops a comparative advantage relative to a significant proportion of other nations. It also seems to have the tendency of arising more quickly among relatively wealthy nations. The reason for this is obvious: the more wealthy the host the more healthy its parasitical instrument of large scale conquest can be. People are drawn to power and prestige, and in conquest and slaughter many of us find it.

We see imperialism not only among nation-states, but within them. Imperialism within a modern nation-state takes the form of the democratic process. Differing factions war among themselves by means of the ballot, sacrificing ever more of their own power over their own lives in exchange for power over the lives of others. But what they don't know is this is akin to a bargain with a devil, where they will be fed upon by those who appeal to them with their empty platitudes.

Where once relatively wise and free people became rich, all too quickly do their descendants become proud, self entitled, and eventually poor. The imperialism feeds upon itself. The spoils of conquest can never make any society rich in the long term, because destruction is not production. It's really that simple. Those who enrich themselves at the cost of others by means of the state do not create anything, they only cease from coming into being those things that would have been created by others.

All societies that succumb to imperialism consume themselves. But it seems as though prosperity breeds imperialism. Empire is thus its own demise.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Commerce and Corruption

If you follow New York State political news, then you know that corruption scandals have played a big role in both party politics and in election news. So-called "ethics reform" has been a big talking point over the past year or so, with people pointing fingers at the Dean Skelos and Sheldon Silver convictions. Both men took money for favors, and used their discretion in their respective positions, to force certain outcomes each man considered personally advantageous. "Get the money out of politics" has become an election year mantra once again, the underlying assumption being that commerce skews political power and undermines the noble intent of these otherwise noble people. I call bullshit on this.

The cycle has to start somewhere, and it seems pretty obvious to me that it starts in the edifice of state power. The rules are laid out: Bureaucrat position A is allowed to exercise specific duties (i.e. activities otherwise considered criminal, belligerent, manipulative, or simple bullying if they are performed privately) within a certain range of discretion. Relatively speaking, these rules are pretty rigid and unforgiving, and these duties and methods are fairly specific. The process becomes ossified and archaic, slowing down or halting entrepreneurial action, creating a well-lit roadblock to commerce. Enter the bribe.

In response to these rules, clever individuals figure out where the roadblocks are, and find ways to circumvent or bypass them, enlisting the aid of the gatekeeper bureaucrat to "look the other way," or "grease the wheels" to "get things done." In exchange, the bureaucrat is compensated commensurate with his ability to make the rules more binding or less binding to particular parties. Deals are made in secret, while the official line is "bribery is illegal and wrong!" Keeping such activities illegal creates barriers to entry for all but the most politically connected and wealthy, and the bureaucrat can tailor his services around a small list of particular clients, charging high margins for the privilege.

The government bureaucrat is not noble, but is most certainly human. Market activities find ways to close the doors on moral hazard, and create beacons as big as life, allowing people to scrutinize the otherwise opaque wall erected through legislation, between the political class and the private class. Without commerce (bribery), the bureaucrat is absolute in his domain of power and discretion; with commerce, there is at least some wiggle room for some of us, and the bureaucrat must cater to his customer base. Power corrupts commerce, not the other way around. If not for the well-lit roadblocks, individuals would be spending their money in other areas, rather than lining the pockets of the politicians.

If you really want to close the doors on corruption, you need more commerce, not less. Legalizing bribery forces a bureaucrat's margins down, and broadens the base of people he will need to cater to in order to continue to enjoy his earnings. Along the way, the roadblocks do not just become clearly visible, but they become invasive and palpable, naturally calling into question the legitimacy of the political power in question. Public outcry does the rest, the shackles come off, the bureaucracy becomes smaller, and life gets better. Think about it...

Monday, March 21, 2016

It's Time to put the Blame for 'The Great Recession' Firmly Where it Belongs.

This is a great interview with Michael Burry, the actual market genius (played by actor Christian Bale) from the movie 'The Big Short' -- and yes, this guy is on-point. People need to stop trying to lay all the blame at the feet 'Wall Street' while trying to absolve all of the other actors in the shit-show that was the Great Recession. There's plenty of blame to go around -- but especially so for the US Government, the Federal Reserve, and GSE's like FME and FRC.

On to some snippets from the interview...

NYMAG: When I spoke to some of the other real-life characters from The Big Short, I was surprised to hear that they thought that financial reform was pretty effective and that the system was much safer. Michael Lewis disagreed. In your opinion, did the crash result in any positive changes?

Michael Burry: Unfortunately, not many that I can see. The biggest hope I had was that we would enter a new era of personal responsibility. Instead, we doubled down on blaming others, and this is long-term tragic. Too, the crisis, incredibly, made the biggest banks bigger. And it made the Federal Reserve, an unelected body, even more powerful and therefore more relevant. The major reform legislation, Dodd-Frank, was named after two guys bought and sold by special interests, and one of them should be shouldering a good amount of blame for the crisis. Banks were forced, by the government, to save some of the worst lenders in the housing bubble, then the government turned around and pilloried the banks for the crimes of the companies they were forced to acquire. The zero interest-rate policy broke the social contract for generations of hardworking Americans who saved for retirement, only to find their savings are not nearly enough. And the interest the Federal Reserve pays on the excess reserves of lending institutions broke the money multiplier and handcuffed lending to small and midsized enterprises, where the majority of job creation and upward mobility in wages occurs. Government policies and regulations in the postcrisis era have aided the hollowing-out of middle America far more than anything the private sector has done. These changes even expanded the wealth gap by making asset owners richer at the expense of renters. Maybe there are some positive changes in there, but it seems I fail to see beyond the absurdity.

NYM: How do you think all of this affected people's perception of the System, in general?

MB: The postcrisis perception, at least in the media, appears to be one of Americans being held down by Wall Street, by big companies in the private sector, and by the wealthy. Capitalism is on trial. I see it a little differently. If a lender offers me free money, I do not have to take it. And if I take it, I better understand all the terms, because there is no such thing as free money. That is just basic personal responsibility and common sense. The enablers for this crisis were varied, and it starts not with the bank but with decisions by individuals to borrow to finance a better life, and that is one very loaded decision. This crisis was such a bona fide 100-year flood that the entire world is still trying to dig out of the mud seven years later. Yet so few took responsibility for having any part in it, and the reason is simple: All these people found others to blame, and to that extent, an unhelpful narrative was created. Whether it’s the one percent or hedge funds or Wall Street, I do not think society is well served by failing to encourage every last American to look within. This crisis truly took a village, and most of the villagers themselves are not without some personal responsibility for the circumstances in which they found themselves. We should be teaching our kids to be better citizens through personal responsibility, not by the example of blame.

NYM: Where do we stand now, economically?

MB: Well, we are right back at it: trying to stimulate growth through easy money. It hasn’t worked, but it’s the only tool the Fed’s got. Meanwhile, the Fed’s policies widen the wealth gap, which feeds political extremism, forcing gridlock in Washington. It seems the world is headed toward negative real interest rates on a global scale. This is toxic. Interest rates are used to price risk, and so in the current environment, the risk-pricing mechanism is broken. That is not healthy for an economy. We are building up terrific stresses in the system, and any fault lines there will certainly harm the outlook.

NYM: What makes you most nervous about the future?

MB: Debt. The idea that growth will remedy our debts is so addictive for politicians, but the citizens end up paying the price. The public sector has really stepped up as a consumer of debt. The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet is leveraged 77:1. Like I said, the absurdity, it just befuddles me.


The absurdity is befuddling, indeed.

Also, let's get the details straight. The crisis pervaded almost 1,000 out of the United States' 6,900 banks, particularly the largest ones that got involved in the sub-prime market, mortgage-backed securities, and credit-default swaps. Not all US banks got mixed up in all of these toxic assets. Most banks stayed pretty conservative and smart with their lending and risk management and didn't need a bailout. I actually worked for one of these east-coast banks for three years immediately following the recession -- and they very much took advantage of the situation. Most of them weathered the financial crisis very well, considering.

Additionally, I continue to hear and read this utter nonsense that 'economic deregulation caused the crisis'. It's just complete and total silliness. This alleged 'economic deregulation' that all of these ignorant Pro-regressives like to refer to involved a 1999 repeal of two provisions (not the whole act, which is usually the first sign that the person you're talking to is regurgitating half-truths) of what was called the Glass-Steagall Act (also known as the 'U.S. Banking Act of 1933'). These two provisions separated commercial banking and investment banking activities so as to try to keep these industries isolated from eachother within the same company. However, the repeal of these provisions of this act had nothing to do with what caused the crisis. If it did, then Canada, which was definitely affected by the crisis, would have experienced many of the same problems. Well, it didn't, even though Canada didn't have anything like Glass-Steagall. Canada weathered the crisis pretty well, actually -- they certainly fared a lot better than the US, all while mixing commercial and investment banking since, well, forever in their banking history.

But, hey, don't just take my word for it -- take it from Former Deputy Governor Jean Boivin (2010-2012), himself, of the (Central) Bank of Canada. They had a sharp, deep recession, and immediately bounced right back -- faster, even, than the past couple recessions.

Hell, the entire claim of 'economic deregulation under Bush' is just absurd, even apart from all of this. Looking at the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), there has not been a single president, since at least Jimmy Carter (elected in 1976), and I'm pretty sure since even before FDR (obviously), who actually cut regulations on net. As a matter of fact, individual regulatory restrictions increased anywhere from a 57,000 minimum under Bill Clinton, to up to 105,000 under Barack Obama -- and Barry's numbers are based on stats only two years into his second term. At that rate, he'll hit 140,000 additional regulatory restrictions over the course of his presidency. The last I checked, the CFR currently stood at an approximated whopping 160,000 pages long. The whole idea or claim from pro-regressives, et al, that we have some vestige of a 'free market' -- is nothing short of complete and total  willful delusion.

Back to the factors that played into the Great Recession. Yes, there's plenty of blame to go around -- but where does it start, really? Certain actors set the stage for this all to take place. It was all done with good intentions, of course. Home ownership for all -- regardless of income, savings, or credit-worthiness! Near-zero interest rates, always! Infinite economic growth and increasing home prices, forever and ever! Equities, through the roof, with no end in sight! Central planning and micro-managing has defeated the free market! Consume everything! Produce nothing! Finance debt with more debt! Dig holes and fill them back up again! Move water with a bucket from one end of the pool, with water splashing out everywhere, and dump it into the other end of the pool, to end up with more water! See? All of our contrived and/or broken measuring instruments say-so!

But you know what they say... the road to hell is paved with good intentions. And it's never paved as well as it is with the arrogance of government bureaucrats.

The US Government expanded the Community Reinvestment Act under Clinton, pushing more people towards home-ownership that often weren't ready for it. They pressed the issue further by mounting increasing regulations over the financial and banking industry, punishing banks if they didn't lend to riskier individuals and families, and rewarding them if they did. You've got all of the other major financial regulations -- one for every letter of the alphabet, and then some. Throw into this mix a Federal Reserve that sets absurdly artificially low interest rates for extended periods of time, within a highly materialistic culture that loves to live beyond its means and is all too eager to accept easy credit -- and you naturally have a bubbling cauldron ready to explode.

I am and have long been with people like Michael Burry on where we were and we're headed. The path we're marching towards is a minefield that could set off a global financial crisis the likes of which we've never seen, and we're trying to fix the same old problems with the same old tools that caused those problems in the first place. Now, the Federal Reserve is stuck between a rock and a hard place -- the US economy is addicted to low interest rates, like a heroin addict. If it doesn't get its fix, it goes into a ruthless withdrawal. Eventually, the same old dose doesn't work its magic and bring the same euphoric high, anymore, and so now there's talk of entertaining the possibility of negative interest rate territory to get the same effect. Near-zero rates aren't having the effect they used to, anymore. Even increasing the Federal Funds Rate a measly quarter of a point sent the markets reeling. Yes, a major factor in the equities drop was an 'oversupply' of oil, but the rate hike couldn't have come at a seemingly worse time.

In the end, the US Government and Federal reserve is just kicking a snowball further down the road that continues to get bigger and bigger. Eventually, that snowball will roll up on a hill, and roll right back down on each and every one of us in an avalanche.

Source on the regulatory restriction numbers, here.