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Positions

Since I voted for Bush once, and although it was not a mistake I repeated, people have forever after labeled me as either Republican or Conservative; and some of my positions have led me to carry this label forward, at times without my consent. But given the increasing strength of the religious right in the republican party (which I detest), I feel it necessary to make it clear how I feel about a variety of the issues, so people don't assume.

To the extent I'm a republican, I'm more of a Ron Paul or Barry Goldwater type. I have the general view that the government should stay out of the way.

These issues, by the way, are ones I feel strongly about - even if they are not the ones politicians discuss.

1) Women's Rights - I support a woman's right to choose, unequivocally. I support access to birth control, without unnecessary encumbrances (like parental consent, etc), for women of any age. I believe women should be able to make their own choices.

2) Gay Rights - In this case, I believe the law should be gender blind.

3) Global Warming - I believe in anthropogenic climate change. What I don't buy into is this notion of blaming it for any abnormal weather. Tornado outbreak? Global warming. Blizzard? Global warming. Etc. I'm not sure as to how much of the cost of extreme weather is related to global warming, but I feel it has been overplayed as of late. There are other factors at work - like increased building on the coasts, or badly designed levees.

I also feel there's relatively little to be done about it. To me, securing our future in a world where the oil runs out eventually is more important than fighting climate change. But so far, the alternatives have shown themselves to be woefully ineffective (ethanol, in particular, is a blight), and then there's the China problem.

In the end, if there is a viewpoint that carbon emissions are bad (or that oil dependence is bad, either way), the solution is to tax such emissions or use. But that will never happen.

4)Drug Prohibition - I unequivocally support legalization of substances which do not cause strong physical dependence - Marijuana, LSD, MDMA, and others. I support the decriminalization of other substances, but with some reservations. In no case, though, do I believe that use, or addiction, should be a defense in the case of committing other offenses.

5)Software Patents - A terrible plight. Patent trolling is a complete waste of energy. It is a leech that discourages innovators and provides nothing of value. Copyright is enough for software.

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That ends the things I feel really strongly, and rather surely, about. Some other things I'm not quite as sure about, such as:

The 1%) The problem with the 1%, in my mind, is not that they exist, or the wealth they have. There is a big problem with corporate governance that leads to CEOs being overpaid, yes. This is because leadership is considered invaluable, and so boards pay "whatever" to attract the best CEOs. That's just the wrong way to do it.

The bigger problem is when they become de facto plutocrats. The extent of regulatory capture that has gone on is terrible. Eisenhower (another Republican of long ago...) spoke of the dangers of the defense-industrial complex, a sector which has positively exploded.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg; the way drugs are regulated in this country, for instance, makes it nigh impossible to bring something to market. Is that so bad? Well, who is deciding what comes to market - if it's the FDA, what motivates and directs them? Is it laws written by drug company lobbyists? Raising barriers to entry creates oligopolies - is that what's going on?

Campaign finance is a fuzzy area to me - just how bad is it, really?

Medical Spending) A huge problem, without a clear solution. I'm currently of the opinion that the public solution is better, albeit marginally, than the current mashup. Still, it has the "invaluable" problem - people will pay whatever is asked for marginally better care. So costs rise inexorably as more marginal treatments are developed.

College Spending) Would be the third thing that is considered invaluable. But here, I think the government needs to get out of the business. College loans are a great example of regulatory capture at work - the college loan writers wrote the law that governs them, and it's a terrible one. College debt should be dischargeable.

Now the lenders would scream that it would mean losses for them - and that they would not be able to fund as much college as they do now. Which is the point. If you make unlimited money available, of course costs will go up. The consumer (the student) doesn't really think about the costs and whether or not the degree is worth it - but the lender SHOULD. The lender should think about, if this person spends $150k to get an english degree, are they going to be able to pay that loan back?

Then if students have to choose based on financing, they choose cheaper schools, and there's actually pressure on costs to come down.

(More later)
In reading about health care, I was at a loss to find a system with more misaligned incentives, lack of consumer information, and etc. Contrary to the common vision of a "private" system, the government interferes with it in all kinds of crazy ways. Setting Medicare and Medicaid prices. Subsidizing (via tax breaks) employer-sponsored plans. FDA mandated approval requirements. DEA quotas and scheduling. Etc.

A much simpler (though not, really, simple) thing to look at is parking. This article (originally linked by Alpha), illustrates what happens when you have government "doubly" interfering with a private market. The Government mandates a number of spaces, but also provides a lot of street parking in all sorts of different ways (sometimes free, sometimes metered, sometimes restricted).

It's not all that different than health care, really - everybody expects it, feels like it should be free, really hates it when it's not available. And just like health care, despite paying a lot, it sometimes gets rationed by way of willingness to wait.

Which, by the way, I despise - Whenever I see a line, I see what should be a surcharge. Forcing people to unproductive activity as a gate - why not just charge them? I'd rather have someone working two hours productively to save two hours in line (by making money), than... well, sitting there bored for two hours.

In any case, it's a case of "double interference". The government not only mandates that its there, but it also is somewhat in the market itself.

The solution that is suggested for parking is dynamic pricing (something I'll always support - for parking, for traffic, for lines, for much of anything). A space is almost always guaranteed on a given block because the price rises with demand. There's no need to circle the block (or blocks) looking for a free space, waiting for someone to leave, etc - you can see where spaces are free, and what the prices are.

Granted there is no such simple solution in health care. I am of the opinion (now) that fully public is better than the current "private but not really" system, but I will have to get to the why later. We want some amount of health care to be available to all; and a purely private system will never provide that.

On a related note, I view government interference as something that has a place in keeping companies small - "trust-busting", or whatever you might want to call it. I view it as such because large companies, especially ones that don't have to compete, develop terrible inefficient bureaucracies that are just as bad as a large government.

Of course my solution is smaller companies, more consumer choice - not government regulation of larger companies. "Too big to fail is too big" - yes. If a power company, say, has a monopoly on the distribution of electricity (because of barriers to entry)... In what way is that better than the government controlling the market? The only difference is that the company is not acting in the interests of its customers.

I will, I think, get a blogger blog, and stop dithering. But what to start it with is... hard.

Effectively Invaluable

I've talked before about things that are treated as invaluable - and as a result, their costs rise inexorably. You can't put a price on life, for instance, or a college education.

I realized another one: leadership.

I dont' know when it happened, but at some point it became the case that having a good CEO was worth any price. $10 million a year? $100 million for 5? No price is too much, because a star can turn a mediocre company in a mediocre industry into a super performer.

Of course it's even harder to quantify than the value of say, a degree or a treatment. There's no study showing that hiring Jack Welch (or etc) will increase your profit by X%. You only have some past performance to look at.

I personally doubt that, from a realistic position, it is worth paying $100M for a CEO for any company. Can you really say that you have enough information to say he's reliably $99M better than a $1M high performer?

The justification has always been that it's vital to retain top talent. That having this CEO is simply worth that much to the company - and implicitly, that much more than a lower priced alternative.

This, looking from an entirely greedy, corporate self-interested position. Of course, one cannot discount the possibility that CEOs and boards of directors are a clubbish group that loves to vote themselves raises because they can and there's nothing stockholders can really do about it, but that's a separate story.

Here's a fun question. How much did Steve Jobs get paid? And how much did Tim Cook get paid in his first year? And why? If you ask me, the "why" is because "he was anointed by Steve Jobs, so we need to pay whatever we can to keep him". Remember, that insane compensation package exists even though he has no experience as a CEO outside of a few months here and there when Jobs was sick!

These things for which "no price is too much" are really killing us. Because costs (and especially cost/benefit) will skyrocket - rising much faster than inflation, creating a real suck on production.

I really need a non-LJ blog.

Civ V February Patch

A follow up to my entry from long ago:

I just saw 2k Games Patch Notes on Civ V; if true, they fix almost every issue I had with the game (except tactical AI - but even that might have been helped). They even did a major overhaul of production cost balance. I am chuffed. I will write a proper review (ha!) when it is done.

Heck, there's a new version of DF yesterday too.

And if things go really well, there'll be a new version of BoxConfig... probably this weekeend. It was going to be yesterday, but a series of events saw me at work, working, rather than at home, working. It needs a few hours. Should be much faster.

Civ V

This is a placeholder for now, but I need to review this game.

The thing about it is, all the changes in design were for the better, but incredibly stupid and weird AI, along with other bugs, really ruins the fun of the game.

I think it's almost like Paradox made a Civ game - it has that same feel of a "it could be really good but ruined by bugs" game.

What kind of bugs? When I went to war with the AI, it steadily streamed settlers (?!) and sometimes workers (?!) into my territory. This is because it wanted to settle cities on the other side of my territory, and also improve them, so it sent its workers through. But really, it can't realize that there's a vast expanse of enemy territory to cover?

The City-State road bug is annoying, too. But the AI stupidity is what ruins the game. "Denouncement chains" wherein, one empire denounces you, lowering your relations with another who in turn denounces you, and etc. until everyone has denounced you - that's just asinine. At least it happens to AI empires too?

More later.

Tron: Legacy

As for Tron: Legacy, I desperately wanted the complaints about the plot to be limited to the basic concept. You know, how people would say "The Matrix has no plot because why would they use humans as batteries?!". Sadly, no. It's much worse. It looks so good, and it sounds so very very WONDERFULLY good. But somehow, and I don't know quite how, Olivia Wilde's character manages to not be sexy. I am dissapoint.

But it looked so good. And it sounded so delicious. I want more. Arggh. I used to be so GOOD at turning my mind off and enjoying a whiz-bang high concept film and the aesthetic is jaw dropping, but... Ahh!

Overall good. It is what it is.

These Days

First off, I have to give hyperbole and a half some credit. I first heard about it because everyone was posting, linking, and generally being in love with this post about how being an adult is hard.

I've decided that if you make a post where you openly and proudly confess to some way in which you are not "normal", especially with hilarious comics, that you share with a lot of other people, your post will reverberate around the internet forever. This post, like the "Care and Feeding of your Introvert", seemed doomed to go around forever, and so, in a bout of anti-populism, while I agreed with its sentiment, I decided I didn't care for it.

I was thinking, I could make a similar post. I had a good idea for it actually, last night. I can't remember what it was. Anyway, I need a blog.

Then there was the more recent one about cake, which I raised an eyebrow at. It was kind of good. So I decided to poke around a bit, and, it turns out, the blog is full of gems.

The texas story is good. But what made it for me was the the description of ADHD. So yes, I am as bad as the rest of you, as in I post things thinking, haha, I do that too.

The step in particular that most resonates? :
Finish sandwich, crumple up dirty napkin and set on counter because your brain cannot be bothered to a) notice that you are holding a dirty napkin, b) think "I don't want this, what do I do with it?" c) come up with a plausible solution to that question and d) take action on whatever solution you come up with. No, instead your brain becomes vaguely aware that you are holding something and that you don't want to hold it anymore because you need your hands to rearrange the magnetic words on your refrigerator into the phrase "monkey butt suck." The fact that you are holding a dirty napkin which should be thrown away doesn't even register. Just "hands full, must empty hands." The simplest solution is to set whatever is in your hands on the nearest horizontal surface just like you did with the check which you have forgotten about entirely.


Yes, it's true. Whenever Chau asks me why an object is in strange location X, 9 times out of 10, it's this exact phenomenon. The horizontal surface effect.

Why is the X in Y? I don't know why she even asks. Why not make a statement. "Put X in Z". There's no impossible to answer question or accusation.

My mind is typically in neutral, floating, accomplishing nothing, or several steps ahead of where I currently am.

Actually, when my mind runs out of things, and is looking for something to grasp, it usually lands on "what country will I conquer next?" I mentally go to a Paradox game, and ask myself, when this war is over, what then?

Usually, the best answer is France, by the way.

Food

I *don't* care about food. These days it seems like the cool kids are all about food. Cooking fancy recipes, planning whole trips around where to eat, and so on. Not me! I view food as fuel first, and something to not be hungry second. It makes me happy to eat a little bit, but I've illustrated in the past that I'm quite happy to eat my bagel bites and my bubba burgers or whatever else every day.

For the most part, I almost always care more about the company, the shared experience, getting on with my day, etc, than the food. The taste is not some magical journey - it's just food, and really, I want to get on with my life.

So when Chau comes to me with a fancy new recipe from her latest magazine - yes, that sounds good. But it doesn't sound trip to the grocery store and 40 minutes cooking good. Especially if it involves cooking "until _____" (which is a challenge for me, outside of eggs and ground beef).

I realize that neither my friends nor family share this opinion, but there it is. I'm really happy to go with you on your restaurant adventures and all. Just don't make me work for it.

Baltimore

Are you in Baltimore, and what to have dinner or something? Or recommend me a place to go where I won't feel "table for 1" pain?

If so let me know. I'll be here until Thursday, but am busy tomorrow night.

My Media Review Post

I've been plotting and scheming and trying to find a way to make this post a reality for a while now. Let's begin!

Movie: ExtractCollapse )
Movie: Date NightCollapse )
Syndicated ComicsCollapse )
Game: Dragon Age OriginsCollapse )

Video Game: Dwarf FortressCollapse )

TV: The Biggest LoserCollapse )

TV: Gossip Girl and The HillsCollapse )
Speaking of airbrushing...
PlayboyCollapse )

I'll add more if I think of something. I feel like watching some sort of intellectually bankrupt ecchi anime, or something of similar value, because I just haven't had much cheesecake fluff in a while. On the other hand, I don't know how much I could enjoy that because the least common denominator has just gotten so very, very low. Megan Fox wasn't really succesful in giving Transformers 2 any value. Goodness that was a wreck.

No, another Akagi would be better...

I need to wrap up Dragon Age Origins so I can get to Mass Effect 2. I also need to clear out that space in the front of Chau's parent's yard so we can plant things where they actually get sunlight. (In contrast to our backyard plot - which did fine.... when trees didnt' have leaves_