Friday, September 30, 2011

Michael Moore's "Slacker Uprising"

Did you know that Michael Moore did a direct-to-download movie called Slacker Uprising? It's still available for free from the director and based on that price and what I've enjoyed from Moore in the past I got it a few years ago and recently got around to watching it. It took me back to those heady days of 2004 when those of us to the left thought we could make GW Bush a single-term president and it's easy to see how the "uprising" the title describes just continued to rise and eventually elect Obama in 2008.

However, events since then have served to make this film interesting self-indictment of Moore. Most of what we see of Moore in this film show him trying to raise voter participation rates among college students and the opposition he got from political opponents. Aside from that, we see a lot of his speeches at colleges where he talks about evil warmonger Bush and how we have to end these stupid wars and why we need to treat our troops right and bring them all home now. Hearing this talk in 2011, one has to wonder why Moore isn't speaking about warmonger Obama the same way as all these claims apply equally to him. A low point is reached when Moore brings Roseanne Barr on stage to make jokes about how Bush is running up the deficit. It's nice that Moore put these issues up front in his campaign but would have been nicer if he hadn't given up on them.

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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Goat report, 9/18/11

Have you read any goat poetry today?


Monday, September 12, 2011

A response to Penn Jillette

I've grown to be an admirer of Penn Jillette in recent years. I really like the title of his new book (God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales) as it sounds like a conclusion I came to in recent times. His video blog is frequently great fun, too. However, we don't agree in the realm of politics, as I'm a socialist and he's a libertarian. His recent CNN guest column draws some parallels between his atheism and his libertarianism with arguments that have shown me just where he, and perhaps other libertarians, are making their mistakes.

"People try to argue that government isn't really force. You believe
that? Try not paying your taxes. ... Guns will be drawn. Government is
force -- literally, not figuratively."

This is an argument I've seen before and it's apparently based on the idea that NOBODY wants to take part in government. Many of us do want to take part in government, however, so it's not a matter of force when we're willingly giving up our money. I guess the libertarians could respond with something like "you can't rape the willing" but I think they underestimate the numbers of people who want social services from their government and are willing to pay taxes to provide them. If one is willing to pay for something, the force argument falls apart unless you're willing to say that all trades of money for services are force.

"I don't believe the majority always knows what's best for everyone."

That is not the guiding principle of the social contract. In fact, it's a disgusting parody of the "majority rule" principle of any democracy. And today we usually conceive it as "majority rule with minority rights".

Here's an example to show how the "majority thinks it knows best" idea is BS: you're at a party with 10 friends and 9 of them want to order pepperoni pizzas while you want veggie pizza. Nobody there would think that the majority think pepperoni is best for the group, but they probably would agree that most preferences would be satisfied by that order. What would probably happen at the party (and ideally in a democratically governed society) is they would order a couple pepperonis and 1 veggie pizza, as everybody wants everybody else to be happy in a civil and friendly situation. If you don't want everybody to be happy, you're the one keeping the situation (or society) from being civil.

"The fact that the majority thinks they have a way to get something
good does not give them the right to use force on the minority that
don't want to pay for it."

This is a tricky area; the idea that we shouldn't be forced to pay for things we don't want seems very fair on the surface, but anybody who willingly takes part in government understands that the majority rule principle means they can't always get everything they want. Going back to the pizza party example, I may think I can eat more than 1 veggie pizza but I have to accept that the others really want pepperoni and they shouldn't pay for my gluttony. But we have a right to petition for what we want and open communication means we can argue for what we want, which can potentially change majority opinion.

Framing it in the sense of "we don't want to pay for these government actions" makes one wonder what this person thinks the ideal situation would be. Should our tax returns have a page where we list off things we will and won't be willing to let our taxes go to? Should every government expenditure be a bond with a referendum? Or maybe could we keep our current system and try to elect people we think will spend the money the way we best want.

"If you have to use a gun, I don't believe you really know jack.
Democracy without respect for individual rights sucks. It's just
ganging up against the weird kid, and I'm always the weird kid."

I wonder if Penn really thinks "ganging up against the weird kid" would decrease if we changed to his ideal laissez-faire system. Is that how minorities have won their rights in our history, by letting the marketplace decide?