Thursday, December 27, 2012

Why I am a Libertarian

The Nolan Chart, showing libertarians believe in maximum
economic and personal liberty.

This will be an evolving list...

1. Because other people ARE NOT my property.

2. Because I do not believe in forcing people to ascribe to a religion worldview, adhere to a religious doctrine, or practice a religious discipline, through rule of law.

3. Because I believe that any activity, so long as it doesn't create immediate disorder, incur an injustice, or rob another of their liberty, should be permissible and not prohibited by law.

4. Because I believe in a rigid interpretation of the Constitution, based upon the founder's original intent, contra the Loose Constructionism or "Living Constitution" theory of interpretation. And the Federal Government should be FORCED to adhere to their Constitutional constraints.

5. Because I believe it is cheating for any religion to impose its disciplines, doctrines, or morals, through the rule of law, instead of changing people from the inside out and allowing them to convert through their own volition.

6. Because I believe government, even the best government, trends toward malevolence and incompetence, and therefore should be rendered as ineffective and unobtrusive as possible before this trend comes to fruition.

7. Because I believe the individual is of more value than the collective. Societies come and go. People live forever.

8. Because I believe taking responsibility for all the aspects of one's life is more effective than public options that takes the responsibility away from us.

9. Because I believe a truly free-market, laissez-faire capitalist system provides for the prosperity and welfare of the people better than a government managed, taxpayer funded subsidiary welfare system and a government regulated capitalist system.

10. Because I believe all taxation is theft.

11. Because I believe hostile nations fear an armed citizenry infinitely more than they fear the most powerful and technologically advanced military a country can contrive.

12. Because I believe, given enough time, even the citizens of a free nation will find themselves defending themselves against their own government.

13. Because I believe the distinctions between the two modern political parties are barely measurable, and that both are motivated by power.

14. Because I believe a fiat currency system places our livelihoods at the whim of private bankers, and cannot ever be a permanent currency system.

15. Because I believe that, while I may not agree with the moral choices of homosexuals, the activities of gay couples, including state-sanctioned marriage, neither breaks my legs or picks my pocket, and therefore, I am indifferent to their activities, insofar as I am not negatively affected by them. See #1 and #2.

16. Because I believe that if the Church truly believes in being separate from the state, they should withdraw from seeking state-sanction for their marriages, per the Biblical mandate to be "separate".

17. Because I believe privately owned companies should be able to hire whom they choose, disallow patrons for any reason they choose, and not be forced to offer, and subsidize, benefits that is contrary to the company owner's moral convictions.

18. Abortion, is, in my opinion, contrary to the principles of the sanctity of life, and therefore robs the unborn of their life, and consequently, their liberty, and should be legally prohibited.

19. Because our elected officials do not take oaths to protect us. They take oaths to protect and defend the Constitution. When that is done, the Constitution empowers us to protect ourselves.

20. Because I never signed any "social contract" that mandates I behave in certain, socially acceptable, way.

21. Because I believe banning guns only take guns away from law-abiding citizens, and will not take them away from criminals.

22. Because restoring America's financial solvency involves massive spending cuts, and minimal, if any, increases in revenue.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey... My Review

I have been asked to write a review on the new Tolkien based movie, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey". This will be an easy task, as the movie was spectacular. Be forewarned, there will be spoilers for anyone who hasn't seen the movie.

This movie was excellent. They even got the 3D right, which is rare for a live action movie. As you might expect with a bunch of dwarves, there is plenty of comedy relief in this film.

Regarding the splitting the story into three parts, I am glad Jackson chose to do this. The Hobbit is a book that contains a lot of scenes, and to condense them into one movie would have forced a shotgun (BOOM BOOM BOOM) transitional effect to the film. As it is, Jackson has slow and smooth transitions, laced with beautiful imagery, a remarkable score, comic relief, and wonderful character development.

One walks away with the distinct impression that Peter Jackson wasn't attempting to translate a novel to the cinema as much as he was wanting to transport people to Middle-Earth to experience the adventure first hand.

The movie begins slightly before Gandalf's arrival for Bilbo's birthday in "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring". As you can imagine, the whole of the story is more of a recollection on Bilbo's part of his adventure. This is as it should be, as Bilbo's book, "There and Back Again" is more of a memoir than anything.

Elijah Wood makes a short cameo, reprising his role as Frodo for these brief scenes. Jackson does a decent job at preserving the continuity between "The Lord of the Rings" and these scenes.

If you are reading this review, you have probably read the book. It is interesting to note that The Hobbit was more of a hobby for J. R. R. Tolkien that his magnum opus, The Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit was written for his son, Christopher Tolkien. Although the story's whole cloth was gaining cohesion in his mind, he had no real intention to write or publish it. Only after the whole story was written, much to the credit and delight of C. S. Lewis, the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, did it occur to Tolkien that The Hobbit was an essential aspect to the whole story, as it tells the story about how Bilbo came into possession of the Ring of Power. It also tells how Bilbo and Gandalf meet, how Gandalf came by his sword, Glamdring, how Bilbo became rich, and how Bilbo was able to live such a long life. It is said that had it not been for Lewis' constant nudging for Tolkien to complete The Lord of the Rings, bringing the story to its epic conclusion, Tolkien might have never published the books.

Tolkien is a writer of an older tradition. As such, he scatters lyrics throughout his books, in a Celtic tradition. In the theatrical releases of "The Lord of the Rings", the lyrics are barely present at all. This element of the previous movies turned off many die-hard Tolkien fans, in spite of the lyrical aspect being better preserved in the extended editions of the movies.

If you are among these disenchanted Tolkien fans, rejoice. The merry, jolly dwarves in "The Hobbit" are a singing folk who sing every chance they get. And yes, you get to hear a very well performed version of "That's What Bilbo Baggins Hates", complete with entertaining choreography. Of course, my favorite was "Far Over the Misty Mountains Cold", which was featured in the trailer. And I am sure there is more to come in the subsequent movies, as well as the extended editions.

The dwarves appearance was spot-on. Just the right amount of eccentricity and diversity. My favorite was Bombur, whose braids connected at the peak of his giant belly. They are first rate warriors in melee combat. I was thoroughly impressed with their design.

While the movie as a whole held remarkable continuity with the book, a few cinematic liberties were taken. The biggest addition is the presence of a "pale orc". Please understand that while this pale orc, also known as Azog, was part of the whole legendarium, his presence wasn't in this particular book.  I suppose Jackson's reasons for Azog's inclusion is similar to his inclusion of "Lurtz" in "Fellowship". Smaug, The Hobbit's primary antagonist, has not yet made a full-bodied appearance in the first movie, and people need an antagonist to project their hatred upon. Enter this "pale orc". Although a minor character in Tolkien's legendarium, this "pale orc" is all manner of bad. Having his arm severed in a previous encounter with Thorin, he has jammed a metal spike in his arm to use as a prosthesis. Since his presence didn't really take away from the central story, his inclusion did not bother me.

I will not say anything about the Goblin King scene, except that it was awesome. To tell more is to give away its details which must be seen to be appreciated.

The "Riddles in the Dark" scene, in my opinion, felt forced and lacking in certain ways I cannot articulate. It just felt very inorganic. I wish it had been rendered differently, with Gollum being more shadowy and malevolent. This is all my opinion, of course.

The troll scene was exceptional, howbeit I would refrain from eating popcorn or candy until after the scene.

One thing that I found interesting about the movie that might escape those who have not read The Silmarillion, is how they play out the idea that the Necromancer is Sauron, and has possibly returned in ethereal form. In The Hobbit, it is never clearly defined who the Necromancer is. For readers only, you must read The Silmarillion to discover the Necromancer is actually Sauron. Unlike the book, the movie drops hints that the Necromancer is actually Sauron. Interesting that Jackson would do this. I suppose he is catering to those who haven't read further into the books that The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

One final thing. My favorite line in the whole book, where Thorin says, "...this most excellent and audacious hobbit - may the hair on his toes never fall out! - all praise to his wine and ale!" was omitted. At least, I didn't catch it if it was spoken. But there is always the extended edition. I hope it is included in it.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Election 2012 - Did Third Party Candidates Give the Election to Obama?

Over ten years ago, I woke up from anesthesia after having what was supposed to be a minor surgical procedure. I woke up to Cancer.

For the first few months after the shock, there was a deep, impending sense of uncertainty that hung about the air. Difficult to describe. But in contrast to those times where the future looks fairly bright, and one feels optimistic, this was basically the opposite sort of feeling. Partly due to the stigma of the word "Cancer", and partly due to the major lifestyle changes and acclimation to lower energy levels, I was in a unfit state of mind. Everyone who has had Cancer in any form can immediately relate to this.

This morning, November 7, 2012, I awoke to a similar feeling. President Barack Obama was re-elected for a second term. I have to remind myself that God is ultimately in control of our authority figures, not man, and certainly not the votes of men (Romans 13:1-7).

In listening to commentary all day, I have heard every excuse under the sun as why Romney lost. Lack of media attention. Too many voters on government assistance. Voters didn't know what they were voting for (This is actually believable, since I saw an Obama supporter complain when her state of Tennessee went to Romney, and then ask what that meant. Litmus test for voting privileges anyone?)

But there is one theory that I want to try to debunk right away. There has been a lot of lashing out at those who voted third party. Some have even used the word "treasonous". I think that, in the minds of many Republicans, third parties robbed them of this election.

I would like to start by saying I have no intention of divulging whom I voted for. I may have voted third party, I may have not. I may have written in, I may have not. Do not glean anything from this that suggests I voted one way or another.

My Republican friends tried and tried to convince me that this election wasn't about principles, but about the numbers game. About garnishing votes for a candidate we didn't like.

So, since the Republicans want to play games with numbers, and apparently have the time to do so, since they've been doing it for the past six months, here's a little numbers game for them.

In determining whether third party votes swung the election, one must ask if just looking at the popular vote numbers will determine this. The answer is no. Take a blue state (a state that Obama won the Electoral college votes in) and look at a blue county within that state. One must look at the third party votes within that county and determine if it would have swung the county to a red county if the quantity of third party votes had been given to Romney instead. And then, you must go through this exercise with every blue county within that state to determine if enough counties would have turned red to render the state a red state.

And then, you must repeat the whole process for every blue state.

And if this tedious exercise wasn't enough, even this data will only be accurate if one is able to safely assume that third party voters would have voted Republican otherwise. Is that the case? The answer is no. Admittedly, one of Romney's major problems was that he was a R. I. N. O. candidate (Republican In Name Only), with a rather liberal record in politics, which lost him a good many potential voters to more conservative third-party alternatives, like the Libertarian Party or the Constitution Party. But there were plenty of disgruntled Democrats out there too, who do not feel Obama to be little more than a moderate liberal who could have done more in his first four years. Undoubtedly, many of these Democrats also swung their vote to third parties like the Green Party or Justice Party, or to a lesser degree, The Libertarian Party.

So you cannot just take a county's lump sum of third party voters and add it to Romney's vote count to see if he'd taken the county from blue to red. You have to segregate those who would have voted Republican from those who would have voted Democrat, before you can give the vote count to Romney.

And furthermore, the odds of it changing the outcome in states where Obama won by a large margin are minuscule. The change would only take place in states with close elections, which are generally more rural, low electoral count states, anyway.

So, if it were possible, and practical, to crunch the numbers, county by county in the blue states, to determine if enough would-be Republican voters voted third party, weeding out the potential Democratic supporters who also voted third party, to turn enough blue counties, in blue states, into red counties, changing the state to red as a whole, would it have made a difference in the electoral vote count?

I don't see how it could.

But rest assured, when you see someone throwing a hissy fit and slinging popular vote counts at you, blaming Romney's loss on the third party voters, you may not convince them of their error, but you know the truth. And if you are a third party voter, I imagine that, as a principle, you are a student of political philosophy beyond the likes of Mark Levin or Alan Colmes, and certainly, you hold the Truth in higher esteem to overzealous political junkies prone to react viscerally to those who would withstand their politics on principle.

At any rate, if someone wants to undertake this project, maybe just in one state for an experiment, I would be interested in the results. I have no idea how one determines if a third party vote would have went to the Democratic or Republican candidate, had the voter voted mainstream. But I am sure you political geniuses out there can conjure up some algorithmic or mean average to determine it. Just because the answer eludes me doesn't mean it need elude you. My meager 80 IQ has its limitations. After all, if my Republican friends are correct, I am a unintelligent, unpatriotic, treasonous, idealist who thinks 9-11 was American's fault (how the militaristic idea of "blowback" equates to this, only God and Rudy Guilliani knows, but I digress), and wants us to build a mile high wall around our nation's borders.

All I really want is for America to retain its sovereignty, which doesn't look too promising at the moment.