Entertainment and Politics

Why is it, that people who play pretend for a living, mouthing words that other people wrote for them, think that anyone should pay attention to anything they have to say on society, economics, or politics simply because they’re famous?

Yeah, I get it, you get lots and lots of money to dress up and play pretend on the screen.  That does not make you an expert in economics or geopolitics.  It just doesn’t.

But, they will prattle on.  Now, there are a few that are worth listening to but they’re not the ones whose arguments boil down to “do this because I’m famous and I say so” who generally promptly descend into name-calling in the face of disagreement. The ones worth listening to are the ones who can articulate the case well, make that case with fact and logic, and respond to disagreement by challenging the disagreement with fact and logic.

A rare breed indeed.

Now, some friends of mine just tend to roll their eyes and say that we should just ignore their spouting and “enjoy the movie” (or the show, or song, or whatever).  Well, maybe.  And sometimes, yeah.

But here’s the thing.  I have limited funds and time to spend on entertainment. I’d much rather spend those funds on things, and people, who don’t insult me and denigrate everything I love. And even given the massive bias in Hollywood, that still leaves more out there than I could ever afford to pay for either in money or time–particularly since Hollywood is not the only game in town.  It’s not the only way I can get entertainment. (I don’t have to just watch movies or TV shows.  I can, for instance, read books.)

So if they want my money, and my time, they’d better be damn good if they want me to ignore the insult to me and mine. “A good popcorn flick” isn’t, by itself, enough to do that. I’ll pick up one of Larry’s, or Sarah’s, or Amanda’s, or Dave’s, or…well, you get the idea…books first.  Or I might hit up a Bollywood flick (great over-the-top fun).  There are indie film makers.  There are streaming programs.  There are all sorts of places I can go and I shall not lack for entertainment.

I don’t need to support people who hate me.

It’s been a While Since I’ve Done a WIP Snippet.

The scrape of the door opening woke Keven. He rolled off the bed landing in a crouch, drawn sword in his hand.

“H…highness?” A female voice came from the door. Keven saw a shape silhouetted in the doorway.

“Move not.” Keven edged around the room until he could see the other person by the moonlight spilling through the door. He lowered the sword. “Shirn?”

She stood facing him, her face half shadowed in the moonlight, her hands clutched in front of her. She wore sandals and a simple shift that fell to just above her knees.

“Your Highness?”

“It is late, goodwife. What brings you hither?”

“It was thinking that his highness might be wishing company. I…”

“Goodwife…” Keven stopped, unsure what to say.

“Goodwife you call me.” The words dripped derision. “I was scarce married to Jeren before the King’s men came through and were taking him for the fighting.” She sank to a crouch, making herself small on the floor. “I never quickened from our brief time and now? You have been seeing the village. Children and old men. I will be dying old and alone.”

Keven closed his eyes and swore silently. After a moment he opened them and squatted next to Shirn.

“My father was a royal bastard,” Keven said. “Did you know?”

Shirn shook her head.

“He had two legitimate brothers. My father was the elder but being bastard he could not inherit. And so he apprenticed to a seaman, worked his way up to sailing master. Then one day his brothers made rebellion against their father. My father…thwarted their plans, some say killed them with his own hands.”

Shirn turned up her face at this, her eyes wide.

Keven smiled. “I know not what transpired, but the old King made my father his heir. And so, in his time, Marek became King of Aerioch.”

“I am not understanding. What is that meaning to…” Her eye turned sideways in the direction of the bed.

Keven sighed. “Suppose some day a young man comes to Aerioch from Shendar. He declares himself my son and demands to be made my heir. Am I to tell my father ‘it could be’?”

Shirn’s head tilted to the side. “I still am not understanding. A bastard cannot…”

“Did you not hear my tale? My father was bastard and became heir. How can he then say ‘no’ to another bastard?” Keven shook his head. “Someday I must marry both to secure the succession and to cement some alliance. How can I cement an alliance when some byblow might arise and throw the succession into disarray? I dare not allow that chance.”

Keven stood. “I will not shame you, Shirn. If you wish to remain the night, you have my leave. But I will not lie with you. Forgive me.”

Keven turned and strode to the far side of the small cottage. He sat on the floor, wrapped his cloak tight around him and lay down to sleep. He squeezed his eyes closed and wished he could close his ears to the sound of sniffling behind him.

Sleep was a long time coming.

Letting teachers and staff be armed.

One simple fact of mass shootings remains that 92% of them happen at “gun free zones”. Naturally, whenever an incident happens instead of looking at this simple fact, people start talking about more gun bans and expanding the kind of areas which are the spree killer’s target of choice (areas where no one else is armed).

Suggesting that simple ending these free-fire zones for madmen (i.e. “gun free zones”) is met with the claim that having armed citizens will “simply make matters worse” (worse than a massacre?).  Of course, FBI data has already dismissed that claim. The other claim is that teachers and staff (since schools usually figure prominently in these discussions) don’t have the training to defend their students with firearms.  Florida, infamously, established a program requiring 132 hours of firearms instruction–several times the instruction required by police officers or trained military.  Apparently, the folk establishing that program thing that teachers need the firearms training of super-elite special forces hostage rescue team operatives in order to defend themselves and their students with firearms.

This is utterly and completely ridiculous. Teachers armed to defend themselves and their students do not need to be SEALs or SWAT or even Air Force security specialists. Being armed for defense of self and others around you is a far simpler tactical problem.

They don’t have to go breaking into a room where the “bad guy” is, identify him out of a chaotic mix of the bad guy and the people he’s threatening. They don’t have to learn to do dynamic entry through a door, minimizing their own exposure in that vulnerable moment all while trying to find a bad guy whose location they don’t know, discriminate him from victims, get a clear shot, and pray they don’t make a mistake.

Armed teachers don’t have to do a dynamic entry. They don’t have to do any kind of entry. They’re already there. What armed teachers would do is give the _attacker_ all the problems that folk like SEALS, SWAT, HRT (Hostage Rescue Team), and others need all that training to deal with. The attacker is now the one who has to make the dynamic entry, identify and locate the “threat” that the armed defender represents, and do it before said defender–whose already in place and covering that entrance–can shoot him.

And he has to do it every. single. time. he makes an entry because he doesn’t know who is or is not armed. The mere possibility that someone might be armed means he has to take extra precautions every time he goes through a door. He has to assume every classroom he enters is “hot”. At the very least this slows him down and reduces the number of casualties before the police finally do show up. Best case the attacker runs into the armed teacher at the start and the only casualty is the attacker.

Actually, that’s not true. Best case is that they decide not to attack after all because they aren’t looking for a fight. They’re looking for sitting ducks.

All the teachers need in this situation is basic marksmanship sufficient to hit a torso sized target at a distance of 20-30 feet (from across the room, basically), Jeff Cooper’s four rules, and basic “when is it okay to shoot” training which amounts to reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury (which generally comes down to identifying expressed intent, ability, and opportunity to cause that harm). That’s it. Any basic CCW training course is more than adequate.

Simply let those who are properly licensed to carry do so and no more is really required.

Sufficiently Advanced Malice

Save myself some time today.

A good many years ago (early 90’s) I was on an online service known as GEnie (run by General Electric, thus the capitalization). In the “Science Fiction Roundtables” another author by the name of Daffyd ab Hugh (who at the time identified as libertarian and clued me in on differences within libertarianism such as minarchist and anarchist). I’ve long since lost track of him and have no idea what directions he’s gone since. That said, he formulated the following:

“In politics do not attribute to stupidity what can be explained by malice. The truly powerful are rarely stupid.”

Even in the case where the public face is stupid, look to the malice of said public face’s handlers.

Or to paraphrase an expression:

Once is ignorance. Twice is stupidity. Three times is malice aforethought.

According To Hoyt

alien-1905155_1920 Image by maciej326 on Pixabay

It has long been discussed, when talking about public figures “is this malice or stupidity?”

I remember the previous administration inciting this question, and I don’t remember that it was ever resolved.

Post 2016, having observed both the transparent malice and rampant stupidity of public figures (mostly, but not all, on the left) as well as the way they think that stupid malice or malicious stupidity are attractive, has led me to formulate a new axiom, which I first stated inverted, but RES suggested it this way, and it seems to be more fitting: sufficiently advanced malice is indistinguishable from stupidity.


Let’s take the case of our former president. For reasons that a child psychiatrist should have made sense of long before the man came of age, he hated and resented America, the (white) grandparents who raised him, the mother who didn’t desert him…

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Balance of Trade

If there’s one term I really wish people would drop into a deep, dark hole and bury it that would be “favorable” or “unfavorable” balance of trade.  And right alongside it they can bury “strong” and “weak” with respect to currencies.  Thee terms imply things about what is good or bad economically that simply do not match economic realities.

The idea of favorable/unfavorable balance of trade dates back to 18th century and earlier Merchantilist ideas of economics.  According to them, the wealth of a nation was defined by the amount of gold, and to a lesser extent silver, it had in its treasury.  Thus if it imported more (in terms of gold value) than it exported, its gold reserves would decrease and it would be poorer.  One effect of this measure of wealth was that it really only affected the upper classes.  The great unwashed masses and their standard of living was not something the Merchantilists worried about.

One of Adam Smith’s great insights was his defining the wealth of a nation not in the amount of specie that it retained, but in terms of the goods and services it obtained.  One effect of this measure is that it applies to everyone, not just the upper classes.  A nation wealthy by this measure will, generally speaking, have more goods and services available to everyone.

Once one realizes that, then one immediately sees that importing goods and services makes a nation richer.

Let me repeat that:  Importing goods and services makes a nation richer.

And, thus, it sees that if anything, the “favorable” and “unfavorable” balances of trade swap places.

“But we’ve got the money going out and what about domestic businesses and…” Or so the complaints go.

Let’s look at that.

Let’s take a simple case,  Two countries:  A and B.  Country A uses the Dollar.  Country B uses, let’s call it a Credit (a common science fiction term for future currencies).  One dollar equals 100 Credits.  Okay?  Now, Country B is able to produce everything Country A does, but cheaper so that anything that in Country A costs a dollar, they can get it from Country B for 90 credits (90 cents at the exchange rate).

Looks pretty bad for Country A’s merchants and manufacturers doesn’t it?  They can’t compete with Country B selling everything cheaper.  If we stop there, we seem to have vindicated the concept of “unfavorable balance of trade”with the extreme case.  If we stop there.

But we don’t stop there.  The result of this is that Country B has a bunch of dollars.  Country A has goods and services.  What is Country B going to do with those dollars?  They can’t eat them.  They can’t drive them around.  They make poor building material.  And, Scrooge McDuck to the contrary, they make a poor medium for swimming in.  I suppose they could burn them for heat, but that would mean they’re trading an awful lot of goods and services for what amounts to firewood.

Those dollars are only good to Country B if they can trade them, or invest them.  And in the end, they have to trade or invest them in Country A, where they are legal currency.

Let’s dismiss invest at this time–a subject for another day although I’ll make a further brief mention later in this post–and just look at the “trade” side.  How are they going to trade them when everything they want to buy in Country A is more expensive than the locally produced stuff at the current rate of exchange?

And there’s the secret:  at the current rate of exchange.  If the Dollar, instead of being traded at 100 Credits per dollar, were traded at 90 Credits per dollar, They would be able to buy from Country A at the same price as from their own Country B.  That would also mean that people in Country A would be able to buy from their own Country A at the same price as from Country B.  This “weakening” of the dollar compared to the Credit, means that Country A’s manufacturers and merchants are better able to sell their product both domestically and internationally although at the same time it’s making goods and services available to the buyers more expensive.  It’s not exactly obvious whether this is a good or bad thing on balance.   This despite the tendency of many to automatically consider a “weak currency” to be bad and a “strong currency” to be good.  Both have their good and bad aspects and great care must be exercised in looking at why a currency is weak or strong in making that determination.  And even so, “reasonable men may justifiably disagree.”

Voluntary exchange, both in goods and services, and in the currencies involved, would tend to quickly correct mismatches.  Going past the simplistic model of everything being cheaper in one country than the other by the same amount, the same principal still applies  The exchange rate (again, assuming voluntary exchange in the market) will tend toward an average and one country will produce some goods and services more efficiently with different goods and services produces more efficiently in the other.  Country A might import more steel (perhaps to the consternation of steelworkers) but export more grain (to the joy of farmers).

And, of course, we cannot completely ignore investment.  Instead of buying a country might choose to invest.  They have the same amount of currency:  Country B received some number of dollars from its sale of goods and services to Country A.  But instead of using those dollars to buy goods and services in turn, they might use it to invest in enterprises in Country A.  They might buy property in the hopes of reaping rents and appreciation in value (which will tend, through competition, to increase other properties values).  They might invest in factories, putting people to work producing more goods and services.  Sales outlets, again putting people to work providing their goods and services to others.  These things are beneficial when done by domestic investors.  They do not change their nature when done by foreign investors.

So people need to stop thinking in terms of “favorable” or “unfavorable” balance of trade.  A balance of trade is not favorable or unfavorable by itself.  It is only in the context of the larger economic picture that the benefits or detriments of the details of that particular balance can become known.  The catch is that the detailed effects are often not obvious, which can lead to heated disagreements even among those who do try to look at that big picture.

The one thing that history has shown us, though, is that interference with the system of voluntary exchanges rarely if ever works out better than allowing it to freely operate.

Observation about the Anti-Federalists

I’ve been listening to biographies of the various Founding Fathers of the US.  I started with John Adams (inspired by seeing the musical 1776 and his character in it).  I followed that up with Patrick Henry (a personal favorite from the time I had Virginia History back in fourth grade), then Sam Adams, and currently James Monroe.

There are a couple of things I noticed.

First, one of the things the Anti-Federalists insisted on was a “Bill of Rights” in the Constitution.  The claim was that without the protection of certain rights the government would be sure to infringe on them.  The Federalists insisted that without powers to regulate things like Speech and the Press, the government had no power to infringe on them.  I would make a side note that I believe Hamilton made that argument explicitly in The Federalist Papers–but once the Constitution was in place, Hamilton was all in favor of “implied powers” not explicitly listed.

However, on looking into the biographies it’s easy to see why the Anti-Federalists were so adamant about the government exercising powers not granted to it.

When Patrick Henry, one of the most ardent anti-federalists, was governor of Virginia, the governership was largely ceremonial, with little power.  That did not stop him from exercising whatever power he felt necessary, particularly in support of Washington and the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.

When James Madison, in his turn, was likewise governor of Virginia, he too had no hesitation in exercising powers he was not supposed to have, including calling out the militia when he deemed it necessary, a power granted by the Virginia Constitution to the Assembly.

Then there was Thomas Jefferson.  While an argument could be made that the Louisiana Purchase fell under the President’s authority to negotiate and sign treaties (for ratification by the Senate), he questioned whether he actually had such authority.  That did not stop him from making the purchase.

All of them had what they thought were good reasons for exercising power not granted to them (or at least that they thought was not granted to them) in the respective constitutions from which they gained their authority, so stipulated.  Still, they exercised powers they did not have and, thus, they had no reason to believe others with reasons they felt less justified, would also exercise such powers.

It’s easy to believe that others will do something when you’ll do it yourself.