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Imagine an Alternate Diminsion Where New York Grew Free

Saturday, April 25th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

In this brief clip from ReasonTV, the invisible victims of urban planning achieve some semblance of expression. By imagining what New York City would look like if its Landmarks Preservation Act had been signed into law 100 years earlier, Reason gives a lost future form. In this way, the difficulty of conveying the unseen cost of government activism is overcome.

The takeaway from their observation is that our past doesn’t need protecting. Our future does. The only way to protect the future is to unleash its motive power, the untethered liberty of self-interested individuals.

What wonders might have manifest in your neck of the woods but for ill-conceived government restrictions?

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How the Drug War Keeps People Poor

Saturday, April 25th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

You could find a worse way to spend seven minutes than considering the above video with an open mind. John McWhorter, a teacher of linguistics at the Center for American Studies at Columbia University, explains the link between the War on Drugs and perpetual poverty within inner-city communities.

McWhorter relates the provocative fact that black communities in the Jim Crow era boasted high employment rates. He credits that to the economic incentives present in a relatively free market. Without the allure of a marked up black market drug trade, the only way to survive was through gainful legal employment.

McWhorter’s comments raise an intriguing question: what would today’s black communities look like without the drug war? How transformative might the combination of civil rights protections and a free market be?

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The Case Against Freedom, Part V: Slavery Is Freedom

Sunday, April 19th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Robert Kuttner, professor at Brandeis University’s Heller School and senior fellow of the think tank Demos, believes that libertarians suffer from a delusion. He claims that the market is incompetent to price certain problems, and must be tightly controlled by government to prevent excess and abuse.

In a piece written for The American Prospect, where he serves as co-founder and co-editor, Kuttner submits examples which he believes demonstrate market failure. We rebutted his analysis in parts one and two of this series. Unsurprisingly, Kuttner’s assertions arise from a Marxist worldview wherein natural disparities in both wealth and knowledge require government activism to equalize “power.” We explored a couple of the fatal flaws of that perspective in part three. Most recently, we addressed the proper role of government in the market.

To close out the series, let’s take a look at the foundation upon which Kuttner builds his case against freedom. In Orwellian fashion, he attacks liberty by redefining it:

In the idealized libertarian world, individuals are “free to choose”—never mind that some are born with far more resources with which to choose than others…

Beyond assuming away inherited disparities, the Hayek-Friedman equation of markets and freedom leaves out the role of government in promoting affirmative liberties. A young person from a poor family who does not need to incur crippling debt to attend university is a freer person. A low-income mother who cannot afford to pay the doctor attains a new degree of freedom when she and her children are covered by Medicaid. A worker who might be compelled to choose between his job and his physical safety becomes freer if government health and safety regulations are enforced. The employee of a big-box store who can take paid family leave when a child gets sick is freer than one whose entire life is at the whim of the boss; likewise a worker with a union contract that provides protection from arbitrary dismissal or theft of wages. An elderly person saved from destitution by a government-organized Social Security pension has a lot more liberty than one bagging groceries at age 80 to make ends meet, or one choosing between supper and filling a prescription. An aspiring homeowner who doesn’t need to spend countless hours making sure that the mortgage won’t explode is freer to spend leisure time on other activities if government is certifying which financial products are sound and is prohibiting other kinds.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

Yes, we do get the idea. Rather then deal with liberty as such, Kuttner would prefer to conflate it with resources.

Liberty is not the capacity to act as you wish or get what you want when you want it. Liberty offers life free from coercion. Kuttner’s attempt to portray liberty as resources ignores the manner in which resources comes into existence. Someone has to produce the products and services, provide the healthcare, earn the money, pick the cotton. Someone has to work. To the extent the beneficiary of that work is not the person doing it, we have slavery.

Indeed, Kuttner’s version of freedom stands as a rationalization for slavery. Plantation owners in the pre-Civil War south enjoyed “a new degree of freedom” on the backs of their slaves. If we define freedom as Kuttner suggests, as the capacity to enjoy that produced by others, than one man’s “freedom” requires another man’s chains.

Kuttner’s cited “affirmative liberties” place claims upon the lives of others. Negative liberties, which are the only legitimate sort, demand only that you ”don’t tread on me.” So-called affirmative liberties demand that people be tread upon.

True to form, Kuttner rests his case against freedom on an appeal to envy. Generally, he stokes envy against those who have more. Particularly, he incites contempt for those who inherited what they have.

To paraphrase him, Kuttner argues that freedom doesn’t work because we have not each begun from the same starting block. Some have wealthier parents, lighter skin, better schools. The market does not handicap for such advantages, and therefore proves unfair.

Like the broader envy toward those with more wealth, inheritance envy ignores the means by which wealth comes into existence. Someone created it. Whoever that was, they own it. What difference does it make to the rest of us whether a wealth creator blows their earnings or passes it onto an heir? How does that affect our capacity to do what we must to create our own wealth?

If we take one point away from our time in Kuttner’s mind, it should be that slavery has not been abolished. Slavery lives. More than that, it thrives in the academy, in the culture, and most especially in our government. The notion that some men should labor so that others may benefit has never died. It’s merely been repackaged from an overt institution of human chattel to a more politically correct contempt for those who succeed.

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3 Reasons Why We Haven’t Conquered Space Yet, #3: Show Me the Money!

Thursday, April 16th, 2015 - by Karina Fabian

An excursion to the New World cost a proverbial handful of jewels, but a trip to the Strange New World of space could cost as much as the GNP of a small nation. That’s more than most people or investors are willing to risk – and Kickstarters can only go so far. Space is an industry for the already rich.

Oh, but the potential for enormous profits! You’ll hear articles and magazines talk about how one platinum-rich asteroid or moon mine can bring in riches galore, but they can be misleading.

 

To 3He or Not to 3He: Helium-3 and Nuclear Power

Helium-3 is a light, non-radioactive isotope of helium with two protons and one neutron. It’s potentially valuable for nuclear fusion, because you can combine it with Deuterium to create nuclear fusion. Nuclear fusion, as opposed to nuclear fission, would be a clean and efficient form of energy – if we can make it work. (More on that later.) While deuterium is abundant enough in Earth’s oceans, helium-3 (or 3He) is nearly non-existent, and we don’t have an especially viable substitute. However, 3He is prevalent on the moon. Visionaries claim that the moon could provide clean energy and further mankind’s technological progress.

Unfortunately, with every great vision comes hard reality. The promises of 3He mining are challenged by the economic realities of extracting it and finding a market.

First, the abundance and effectiveness of helium-3 mining is questionable. As a standard, let’s use the Artemis project estimate that 25 tonnes of 3He (25,000 kilograms) could theoretically power the US for a single year. A recent paper by Ian A. Crawford of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of London looked over the studies done on the concentration of 3He on the moon, and found it’s concentration in the lunar regolith to be between 4 and 20 parts per billion, depending on where you mine. That means you need to mine 1000 kilograms of regolith to get a single gram of helium-3. Then, in order to harvest the 3He along with other solar-impacted isotopes, you need to heat the regolith to 600 degrees Celsius. This calls for a huge initial investment in infrastructure.

An additional challenge is the attitude about what form Earth energy industries should take. Politically and popularly, renewable energies are the favored direction. Nuclear energy, even the potentially clean and efficient nuclear fusion, is not renewable. Crawford himself describes helium-3 as a “fossil fuel” despite the fact that the sun continually generates it naturally. The astronomer-turned-planetary-scientist told Space News that the investment required and infrastructure needed is enormous and might better be used to develop “genuinely renewable energy sources on Earth.” This attitude could make it hard for space entrepreneurs to find investors, particularly if there’s no established market yet.

 

Nuclear fusion generators have been the holy grail of nuclear science since the 1960s. The idea of nuclear energy is that when certain atoms break apart (fission) or band together (fusion), they release great amounts of energy. If the energy can be harnessed, you have an effective source of energy. We can bust apart atoms easily, but fusing them takes more pressure and heat than we can effectively sustain without a huge investment of space, money and time – and we still don’t get a payoff worth the investment. As Steve Crowly, director of the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy told Popular Mechanics in 2013: “For $25 billion, I could build you a working reactor. It would be big, and maybe not very reliable, but 25 years ago, we didn’t know we’d be able to make fusion work. Now, the only question is whether we’ll be able to make it affordable.”

Lockheed Martin said in October 2014 that is has had a breakthrough that will allow it to do just that – but physicists are skeptical in the absence of hard evidence, which the company has not yet provided.  Lock-Mart is using deuterium and tritium for its fusion, but it may provide a market for 3He, if it can prove its technology and if other companies can recreate it.

 

Flooding the Market with Rock: Will Asteroid Mining Bring a Boom or a Bust?

A more secure market comes with asteroid mining. Many asteroids contain useful and sometimes rare minerals that are already in use and demand here on earth, such as gold and platinum. Companies like Deep Space Industries and Planetary Resources are looking at the most effective and cost effective way to mine asteroids. NASA has estimated the cost of a capture and return mission at $2.6 billion dollars. According to Asterank, a database of over 600,000 asteroids, the most cost effective asteroids bring a profit of $1.4 billion to $1.25 trillion. These are the kind of numbers that give enterpreneurs hope.

However, they assume a stable market for the metal in question. Historically, if you flood the market with a commodity, the price goes down. An article in the Economist notes that even a doubling of a supply of a mineral such as platinum might lower the price so much that the company no longer profits. And when one 150-mile asteroid can contain as much platinum as is mined on Earth in a year, it’s possible that the market might crash under the influx.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t do it, anyway, but companies need to carefully consider their economic models. They may not see the short-term massive profits that many people consider a lure.

 

So Why Do It?

We are no more doomed to being stuck on the Earth than the Old World was to remain on the shores of Europe and Asia. In some ways, we have an advantage: we know what’s out there, and we know the challenges. Space holds great benefits for humankind once we master its challenges and tap its resources.

“I believe that space travel will one day become as common as airline travel is today. I’m convinced, however, that the true future of space travel does not lie with government agencies — NASA is still obsessed with the idea that the primary purpose of the space program is science — but real progress will come from private companies competing to provide the ultimate adventure ride, and NASA will receive the trickle-down benefits.”  – Buzz Aldrin

As we can access space resources, we will see benefits. A supply of helium-3 will make fusion research much easier. Even if the market falls out on platinum or other rare elements, their newfound commonality will open the way for other uses, just as it did for aluminum. But even more, if we ever want to have a sustainable, growing manned presence outside our atmosphere, we need to have established access to these resources. Right now, the biggest expense for anything having to do with space is getting the materials off the Earth. If we can establish industry outside our gravity well, our space exploration can truly take off.

Even now, visionary men and women are forging ahead to make the dream of conquering space a reality. They are pushing the boundaries of law as well as those of science. They will build new economic models along with technological ones. Unlike in Columbus’ day, however, it will take more than the sponsorship of a queen to make their mission a go. We need to offer our support, from letting our political leaders know space is a priority to joining in the economic challenges to accepting the risks involved in this dangerous adventure – and in instilling that sense of adventure in our children. Only then will we leave the home port of Earth and sail the starry skies.

And with any luck, there will be Dragons – at least, if Elon Musk has his way.

******

image illustration via shutterstock / 

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Profit from a Glimpse of TomorrowLand

Thursday, April 16th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

This featurette evoking the creative futurism of Walt Disney, which took one form in his Epcot Center and will take another in this year’s feature film Tomorrowland, reminds us how vast the entrepreneur’s vision truly was. He clung to an optimistic view of the future where urban planning would improve the quality of life for new generations.

When we consider such past visions of the future, like that of 2015 imagined in 1989’s Back to the Future, Part II, we clearly see how much they deviate from our modern reality.

Why is it so difficult to predict future developments, and what lesson should we take away from that observation? Technology futurist Daniel Burrus relates in the clip below how we tend to focus on the wrong things when predicting the future. He provides some insights into how to focus on the right things, and profit from it.

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The Case Against Freedom, Part IV: You Didn’t Build That

Sunday, April 12th, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Robert Kuttner, professor at Brandeis University’s Heller School and senior fellow of the think tank Demos, believes that libertarians suffer from a delusion. He claims that the market is incompetent to price certain problems, and must be tightly controlled by government to prevent excess and abuse.

In a piece written for The American Prospect, where he serves as co-founder and co-editor, Kuttner submits examples which he believes demonstrate market failure. We rebutted his analysis in parts one and two of this series. Unsurprisingly, Kuttner’s assertions arise from a Marxist worldview wherein natural disparities in both wealth and knowledge require government activism to equalize “power.” We explored a couple of the fatal flaws of that perspective in part three.

Now we turn from Kuttner’s critique of the market to his reverence for government. Where the market fails, Kuttner argues, government boasts great accomplishments:

Government can invent things that markets never would have imagined. Apple has created wonders, but it has piggybacked on government investment in advanced semiconductors and the Internet. America’s biotech industry’s success was reliant on massive government investment in the Human Genome Project and other basic research. Later in the special report in the magazine’s Winter issue, Fred Block’s piece describes the indispensable government role in innovation. Commercial broadcasters were disinvesting in radio as a serious medium of news, public affairs, culture, and humor, when along came public radio, partly underwritten by government and partly by listener-subscribers. NPR demonstrated that ingenious and high-quality noncommercial programming could attract an audience that for-profit companies did not know was there.

This echoes the sentiment of a government-adoring MSNBC promo featuring Rachel Maddow at the Hover Dam, claiming the private sector could never build it. Perhaps, but that hardly stands as justification for the means by which it was built.

The pyramids may never have been built without slaves. That doesn’t justify slavery. Nor do modern monuments to “the public good” or “national greatness” justify the theft utilized to construct them. That’s the best argument against Kuttner’s point, the moral argument. A thief doesn’t get to cite “the good” he did with stolen money as a justification for stealing.

Beyond that, we ought to question the value of these so-called public goods. If indeed, as Maddow asserts, the private sector never would have built the Hoover Dam, then perhaps the Hoover Dam should never have been built.

When we say that the private sector “can’t” do something, we’re really saying that it won’t.

We recognize, in other words, that the public good in question has insufficient value to warrant private investment. More to the point, it does not adequately serve those who pay for it.

Therefore, when we claim government must produce some good which the market “can’t,” we’re really saying that people should be forced to pay for something which does not serve them. There’s no getting around this point. Statists like Kuttner don’t even try. Instead, they argue that those stolen from to produce public goods deserve to be victimized on account of their “privilege.” The whole point of public goods is to benefit those who don’t pay for them at the expense of those who do.

The NPR example demonstrates this redistributive motive. Kuttner claims that the public radio audience eluded private sector investors. That’s an odd way of looking at the interaction. Is it really any surprise that an audience exists for free stuff? If investors were willing to throw their money away on a private venture that looked like public broadcasting, there would undoubtedly be an audience for it. But that audience wouldn’t be sufficient to make the venture commercially successful. In that light, what Kuttner is actually saying is that the NPR audience benefits from the theft integral to NPR’s production. Again, this fails as a moral justification.

It’s the height of arrogance to assume that technological developments like the internet or scientific research would not occur without government.

We have no way of measuring what hasn’t happened as a result of government interference in the market, no way to know the precise opportunity cost of resources seized, productivity displaced, or innovation prohibited. Even so, we can stand on the certainty of human nature and economic law, which suggests that people do not die of atrophy without government prodding them to action. Populations only starve when enslaved.

Despite its many immoral excesses, government retains a legitimate function. Kuttner comes close to articulating that role:

…The market itself is a creature of government. As Karl Polanyi famously wrote in a seeming oxymoron, “laissez-faire was planned.” Markets could not exist without states defining the terms of property ownership and commerce, creating money, enforcing contracts, protecting patents and trademarks, and providing basic public institutions. A Robinson Crusoe world never existed. So the real issue is not whether government “intrudes” on the market—the capitalist system is impossible without government. The practical question is whose interests the state serves.

The proper answer to that practical question is: the individual.

Government exists to protect individual rights. It does so by wielding a monopoly on force in retaliation against those who initiate force, applying due process according to objective law.

Kuttner postures as if government’s role in the market is some sort of revelation to libertarians. But this is a strawman. No one but the most ardent anarchists believe government has no role to play in the market. Indeed, a market cannot truly exist without government to ensure that individual rights are preserved and transactions occur by consent rather than coercion or fraud. Of course, by definition, that also precludes government from violating rights. You can’t rationally claim, as Kuttner attempts to, that government must violate rights to “protect” the market.

Next time, we’ll get into Kuttner’s naked contempt for freedom as such. The only thing more stunning than his wholesale rejection of self-ownership is the extent to which our culture embraces his anti-libertarian worldview.

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The Case Against Freedom, Part III: You’re Too Stupid!

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 1.01.44 PM

Robert Kuttner, professor at Brandeis University’s Heller School and senior fellow of the think tank Demos, believes that libertarians suffer from a delusion. He claims that the market is incompetent to price certain problems, and must be tightly controlled by government to prevent excess and abuse.

In a piece written for The American Prospect, where he serves as co-founder and co-editor, Kuttner submits examples which he believes demonstrate market failure. We rebutted his analysis in parts one and two of this series.

Kuttner summarizes his critique of the market by fully unveiling his statist economic worldview:

The free market doesn’t live up to its billing because of several contradictions between what libertarians contend and the way the real world actually works. Fundamentally, the free-market model assumes away inconvenient facts. Libertarians presume no disparities of information between buyer and seller, no serious externalities, no public goods that markets can’t properly price (Joan Fitzgerald’s piece in our special report in the Winter 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine discusses one—water), and above all no disparities of power. But in today’s substantially deregulated economy, bankers have far more knowledge and power than bank customers (witness the subprime deception); corporations have far more power than employees; insurers have more power than citizens seeking health insurance. Labor markets can’t compensate for disparities of power. The health insurance “markets” created by the Affordable Care Act can’t fully address the deeper problem of misplaced resources and excessive costs in our medical system.

Kuttner’s concern over power disparity rings hollow in a context where he advocates for government activism. No private institution, no matter how large or influential, wields the legal monopoly on force bestowed to government. If his complaint is that big banks and large corporations have more power than consumers and laborers, Kuttner loses all credibility by prescribing an institution of even greater power.

Of course, when Kuttner writes about “power,” he’s really referencing private control over private affairs. He’s criticizing property rights and the freedom of association, not an application of force. To his mind, when a bank denies someone a loan, it has exercised “power” over that person’s life. In reality, the denied applicant has lost nothing. They have not been violated. They have not succumbed to force.

By contrast, government activism always applies force. That’s what government is.

That’s the defining characteristic that separates a public institution from a private one – the ability to legally wield force against individuals. By advocating for government activism, Kuttner actually endorses force. He seeks not to curb power, but to concentrate it.

Kuttner also points to a disparity in knowledge. Mom and Pop investors didn’t have the “knowledge” necessary to see through “the subprime deception,” he claims. Here too, his point proves self-defeating.

First of all, it’s absurd to hold up symmetrical knowledge as an ideal. No two people hold the same knowledge about any given transaction, and no principle exists which suggests they ought to. Even if such a principle could be articulated, as a practical matter, there exists no means by which to affect knowledge equality.

Indeed, disparity of knowledge proves natural in society and integral to the functioning of the market. As touched upon in part two of this series, the key benefit of the market is its division of labor. We each specialize in our chosen occupation and defer to the expertise of others by consenting to trade. You don’t have to be an expert in automotive engineering to purchase and make use of a car. Nor would you necessarily want to be.

Before engaging in a transaction, you weigh several factors which substitute for expert knowledge. You consider reputation. You consider the advice of others whom you trust. Above all, you consider price.

Price is the mechanism by which experts communicate their knowledge to non-experts. Price is the collective expression of individuals acting independently in pursuit of their self-interest. It is therefore a measure of value beyond compare. For a price to “lie,” the individuals involved in setting it through expressions of supply and demand would have to abandon their self-interest. A few may, but the overwhelming majority don’t. In this way, price tells us all we need to know regarding the value of a product or service.

To produce an economy that is more equitable as well as more efficient, government uses a variety of tools. It regulates to counteract market failure.

By advocating for government activism, Kuttner seeks to disrupt the price signals which convey knowledge from experts to non-experts. Indeed, as we covered in part two, it was such disruption which caused the 2008 financial collapse. Kuttner claims investors lacked the knowledge to see through “the subprime deception.” He’s right, but fails to recognize the means by which such knowledge is acquired – accurate price signals in a free market. He also fails to recognize the means by which the deception occurred – inaccurate price signals.

Government cannot create or distribute such knowledge. Government can only maintain the condition in which accurate pricing occurs – the condition of liberty. Taxes and government regulations merely keep people from applying their self-interested judgment to the distribution of their earned resources. To the extent capital is taxed away and economic activity is barred by regulation, knowledge which could have been conveyed through price is lost. As a result, remaining resources are to one degree or another misallocated.

The trick which statists like Kuttner like to pull is blaming the market for misallocations caused by government.

The financial collapse serves as a perfect example. Kuttner blames powerful banks for praying on ignorant investors while dismissing the role that government played. Government blunted the risk which banks should have bore, and thus distorted the prices which investors should have paid, which fostered transactions that never should have occurred.

Next time, we’ll get into Kuttner’s reverence for public goods and the proper role government plays in the market. Check back soon.

******

image illustration via shutterstock /  

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Is Successful Feminism Capitalist Feminism?

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Dame Stephanie “Steve” Shirley, while a wife and a mother of a special needs child, pioneered an all-female staffed software company in England in the 1960s. Fascinated by technology, she also had a head for business. Possessing an interest in employing working mothers, her staff were able to work from home in a variety of capacities, including as coders and programmers. A self-made millionaire, Shirley turned many of her employees into millionaires as well by opening stock options to them at a time when that was a relatively unheard of benefit. 

Adopting the nickname “Steve” in order to get her foot in the door with male clients, she employed “extraordinary energy, self-belief and determination” in a pre-second wave feminist era. Shirley didn’t wait for bras to be burned or Gloria Steinem to appear in her bunny suit before taking charge. In fact, the UK’s Sex Discrimination Act of 1975, a direct result of the second wave feminist backlash, required that Shirley hire more men into what she was proud to make a nearly all-female company.

This pioneering businesswoman’s story flies in the face of second wave feminist tropes regarding female business owners, women in the workplace, equal pay and women in STEM. Which demands the question: If feminism seeks to be an empowering voice for women, what can it learn from the ideologies, like capitalism, that it chooses to berate or ignore?

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Can Feminism Exist Without Institutions of Higher Education?

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

Anita Sarkeesian, self-dubbed “social justice activist,” details that, had she not engaged with the sphere of contemporary feminist academia, she would not have become a feminist. A convert to the faith, it was only by adopting the “systemic and institutional framework” depicted by modern feminist writers that Sarkeesian was able to “see how oppression manifests in many subtle ways under the systems of what bell hooks calls white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy.”

Sarkeesian’s feminism wouldn’t exist without this systemic framework, a mode of thinking that has caused her to question the individualism she sees inherent within the “neo-liberal worldview.” Therefore, “choice feminism” empowers oppression, because a choice good for one woman isn’t necessarily good for all women.

Sarkeesian believes that “choice feminism obscures the reality that women don’t have a choice.” The real question is, if women refuse to believe in the “systemic and institutional framework” preached by feminist academics, are they free to embrace the reality of having more choices than they’ve previously been led to believe? What would a feminism free of oppression look like? Could it function outside the walls of the academic temple?

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VIDEO: What’s More Sexist, Meghan Trainor Singing to Her Future Husband, or JCPenney’s Butt-Firming Jeans for Teens?

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

You have to admit the retro stylings of YouTube star Meghan Trainor make for some catchy little tunes. But in her latest video, Dear Future Husband, the siren dons pinup-wear while scrubbing the floor of a 50′s kitchen and warning her husband he’d better compliment her every day and buy her jewelry. Contemporary feminists are in an uproar over the classic imagery, but does Trainor have a better grip on the inherent power of her sexuality than the teenage girls who feel the need to buy “butt-enhancing jeans” at JCPenney?

The national department store catalog includes:

The “YMI Wanna Betta Butt Skinny Jeggings” boasts: “With a slight lift and shift and contouring seams, our wanna betta butt skinny jeggings hug you in just the right places to give you a firmer, more flattering look.”

Rewind Smoothie Super Stretch Booty Buddy Skinny Jeans” features “rear-end-enhancing structure” designed to “augment your jean collection — and your backside” and comes in an acid wash finish.

Penney’s isn’t alone. Several online stores including Modaxpress, Hourglass Angel, and even Amazon offer butt enhancing denim to a teenage crowd. Where’s the feminist outrage over a wardrobe enhancement specifically targeted to those vulnerable teen girls suffering all those dreaded body-image issues? Perhaps they’re too busy in Trainor’s kitchen arguing over who gets to make the pie.

 

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The Real Problem with American Coffee Isn’t the Beans, but the Culture

Sunday, March 22nd, 2015 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

I’m far more of a wine connoisseur than a coffee drinker. Years ago I cut back to half decaf in order to cut back on migraines and stomach trouble. The hi-test sludge my editor prefers could never cross my lips for fear of bodily damage. The one thing I associate with brutal American coffee is brutal American stress: the need to meet a deadline, please a boss, do more, say more, be more with vim and vigor. Just as any alcoholic uses cheap trash, downing brutally burnt beans has become a lousy, albeit necessary way to get a much-needed fix. And that’s where we get coffee wrong in America.

Tel Aviv is littered with cafes and kiosks serving Euro-style coffee. I never got the hang of what to order to balance out my pathetically minimum caffeine requirement, but at Cafe Nachmani I not only learned how to order the right tasting brew, I learned how to enjoy it. I’ve never seen a windowsill in Starbucks lined with art magazines. Not Cosmo or People, literal professional art magazines you’d see in big city galleries and be afraid to touch. The Barnes & Noble cafes are filled with geeks on their laptops, chugging down brew in order to use the free WiFi. At Cafe Nachmani, patrons sipped on cappuccinos and the Israeli favorite, espresso, while lingering over literary mags heavier than half the books lining our chain’s clearance aisle.

Tel Avivans work like mad in a city that never sleeps. They’ve just learned how to enjoy a frenetic pace better than we ever could. It’s amazing how much more you enjoy life when you view it as a pleasure to be lived instead of an obligation to be fueled through.To better answer the question of what you’re drinking, you need to start with why you’re drinking it.

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The Case Against Freedom, Part II: Booms and Busts

Saturday, March 21st, 2015 - by Walter Hudson

monopoly-house

Robert Kuttner, professor at Brandeis University’s Heller School and senior fellow of the think tank Demos, believes that libertarians suffer from a delusion. He claims that the market is incompetent to price certain problems, and must be tightly controlled by government to prevent excess and abuse. In a piece written for The American Prospect, where he serves as co-founder and co-editor, Kuttner touches upon three examples which he believes demonstrate market failure.

The first is catastrophic anthropogenic climate change, which Kuttner offers as an example of negative externality. We addressed such externalities in part one of this series.

The second example Kuttner provides takes us back to 2008:

The other great catastrophe of our time is the financial collapse. Supposedly self-regulating markets could not discern that the securities created by financial engineers were toxic. Markets were not competent to adjust prices accordingly. The details of the bonds were opaque; they were designed to enrich middlemen; the securities were subject to investor herd-instincts; and their prices were prone to crash once a wave of panic-selling hit. Only government could provide regulations against fraudulent or deceptive financial products, as it did to good effect until the regulatory process became corrupted beginning in the 1970s. Deregulation arguably created small efficiencies by steering capital to suitable uses—but any such gains were obliterated many times over by the more than $10 trillion of GDP lost in the 2008 crash.

Kuttner makes a legitimate point, if only coincidentally, when he asserts that government ought to respond to fraud. However, by making that point, he implies that fraud and deception are integral to the market.

Fraud is not a function of the market. It does not belong in an intellectually honest critique of the market. No one aside from the most strident anarchists believe that fraud should go unanswered by government. Therefore, to attack fraud as a function of the market is to attack a strawman.

Kuttner may be conflating “deception” with ignorance. While government properly ought to respond with retaliatory force against fraud, recognizing fraud as a form of compulsion against the innocent, government has no role in protecting consumers from their own ignorance. If I fail to do my due diligence, if I sign on the dotted line or click “I accept” without reading the terms of an agreement or understanding a product or service, the fault lays with me. Failure to act rationally does not make one a victim.

The herd instinct which Kuttner cites as a negative is actually a key mechanism by which the market regulates economic activity. The power of the market is specialization, otherwise known as the division of labor. We each become experts in our chosen field, and rely upon the expertise of others, benefiting through mutual exchange in ways that none of us could accomplish living alone on an island.

Everyday, in a thousand different ways, we defer to the expertise of others. We defer to the engineers of our vehicles regarding their safety and operational integrity. We defer to the vendor at a lunch counter regarding the preparation of our food. We defer to our cellular company regarding the means by which our electronic communication occurs.

Even so, unlike animals, our “herd instinct” is not mindless. We evaluate the trustworthiness of a brand, a company, an individual. We consider track records. We examine history. We seek the advice of others. Then, we make our own decision.

In this way, we each individually act as regulators of the market, providing as many checks and balances as there are individual consumers – far more than government ever could – each motivated by something far more potent than a nebulous “common good.” We’re moved by self-interest.

Kuttner completely ignores the role that government regulation and mandates played in incentivizing the creation of toxic assets. His critique of the market only works in an environment where self-interest is skewed by moral hazard. When those who engage in risky behavior are not bound by the consequences of failure, when they can push those consequences off onto someone else, then they will not reign that behavior in.

That’s what caused the financial collapse, not a lack of government regulation, but a lack of market regulation caused by government. Kuttner unwittingly confesses this by citing a corrupted regulatory process. What he’s referencing is regulatory capture, a phenomenon whereby the entities which are to be regulated gain control of the regulatory apparatus.

Regulatory capture is only possible through government. It only works under compulsion. It would never last, if it manifest at all, in a free market. Without force, without the monopolization of regulation by government, no one can control the hundreds of thousands of checks and balances which react against bad actors – namely consumers.

The housing bubble doesn’t inflate in the first place without government housing initiatives. Sub-prime mortgages and derivative financial instruments based on them don’t manifest without government guarantees. Government created the 2008 financial collapse, not the market.

Kuttner continues:

A third grotesque case of market failure is the income distribution. In the period between about 1935 and 1980, America became steadily more equal. This just happened to be the period of our most sustained economic growth. In that era, more than two-thirds of all the income gains were captured by the bottom 90 percent, and the bottom half actually gained income at a slightly higher rate than the top half. By contrast, in the period between 1997 and 2012, the top 10 percent captured more than 100 percent of all the income gains. The bottom 90 percent lost an average of nearly $3,000 per household. The reason for this drastic disjuncture is that in the earlier period, public policy anchored in a solid popular politics kept the market in check. Strong labor institutions made sure working families captured their share of productivity gains. Regulations limited monopolies. Government played a far more direct role in the economy via public investment, which in turn stimulated innovation. The financial part of the economy was well controlled. All of this meant more income for the middle and the bottom and less rapacity at the top.

Kuttner here completely abandons historic reality. Government activism in the market has skyrocketed in the 21st century.

Government activism actually widens income distribution by protecting favored interests from the market forces which would otherwise keep them in check. Again referencing regulatory capture, the entities best positioned to benefit from government activism are those with the most resources to spend on lobbying and campaigning. This is why a growing mass of the non-partisan disillusioned regard both Republicans and Democrats as tools of corporate interests. We don’t fix that by limiting corporate interests. We fix that by limiting the government which corporate interests seek to buy.

That said, there’s a much more fundamental point to be made here. The premise which Kuttner takes for granted is that income inequality is a problem on its face. He doesn’t bother to tell us why. We’re just expected to know that income inequality is bad. This “knowledge” isn’t based on any rational argument, which is why Kuttner and so many others in his position fail to provide one. Rather, the notion of income inequality as a problem arises solely from an emotion – envy.

What does it matter to me whether you make more money? How am I deprived by your success? What claim do I hold to your wealth? On what basis should we ever, under any circumstances, concern ourselves with the distribution of that which is earned by others?

The only scenario wherein income distribution becomes a moral issue is one where income is distributed by illegitimate means. Income distributed by crime, by theft, by fraud – by compulsion. As an institution of force, government stands uniquely poised to distribute income illegitimately. Indeed, no criminal organization known to man has wielded force to seize wealth from those who earn it better than government.

Outside that context, in a hypothetical free market, the only means by which one can obtain income is through the production of value. In that scenario, one’s income becomes an accurate measure of the value they have produced. Since different people produce different degrees of value, their income will differ accordingly. As long as one’s income has been earned through production and trade, its size should not matter to anyone else. It’s nobody’s business. It has no effect upon the life of anyone else whatsoever, aside from providing the wealthy individual with the means to invest in even more production – providing jobs and opportunity for others.

As we continue in our breakdown of Kuttner’s “libertarian delusion,” we’ll consider his reverence for government regulation and so-called public goods. He takes a run at the “you didn’t build that” argument. Check back soon.

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5 Things I Learned In My First 6 Months As a Small Business Owner

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015 - by Becky Graebner

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While living in Washington, D.C., I launched a hobby business at the end of August 2014 on Etsy.com, an e-commerce site focused on handmade and vintage goods.

I realized that my little hobby business made me really happy—and the prospect of growing it into something bigger was really exciting. I formed an LLC in October and, by December, I decided to take the leap and build a full-fledged website which went live Friday, March 6, 2015.

Since beginning this journey last August, I have learned quite a few things…

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 1. Time spent doing “Business Stuff” > Time spent doing “Fun Stuff” 

When I initially envisioned myself owning a business, I saw myself spending the majority of my time designing and producing my product—the “fun stuff.”

I laugh now (but happily).

In reality, most of my time is spent “running” the business.

Besides actually creating my product, I also handle all the financial and legal matters, the management of the website and social media accounts, the creation of some promotional graphics, taking photographs of the products, physically packing and shipping items sold…  The list is long enough to fill up a 5-day workweek…and then some.

(I’m sure you small business owners out there are nodding like bobble heads right now.)

This is the reality of “small business”–but I like it!

2. Read up on State and Local Sales Tax, as well as Use Tax 

Longer explanation not needed—just do it and make sure you collect the right amount.

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3. You will spend a lot of time doing little things that nobody sees

Business is a lot like building a house. Although people won’t actually see things like framing or subfloor, you have to spend the money and time to install them–otherwise your house won’t be a well-built house!

Before the “OPEN” sign makes its debut, a lot of time is spent framing the business and completing integral tasks that customers don’t see. For example, setting up accounting software to manage sales, opening bank accounts, weighing products for shipping, etc…

Due to the nature of Wisconsin and its zip codes, I had the pleasure of manually entering 800+ zip codes into BOTH of our e-commerce platforms. It was horrific, but taking the time to enter state sales tax rates correctly was better than the alternative: being penalized by the state or paying the tax myself.

If you take the time to frame your business appropriately, business will run more smoothly once you open–and you won’t have to worry if you cut corners.

4. Even if you are small and just starting out, think about long-term growth

I purchased an accounting software and promptly outgrew it within a few months. Initially, the software was purchased because it integrated with my Etsy.com page. However, once I purchased my own website, I found they didn’t work well together.

If I had been thinking about long-term company goals versus immediate needs, I would have initially bought something that worked with more e-commerce platforms and websites.  It wasn’t a huge hitch in the plan to switch accounting software, but it did eat up valuable time and a little bit of money.

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5. Assign proper value to your work

When I first started out on Etsy.com, my prices were low. I was more focused on offering products at a price-point I thought conservative shoppers (or my friends) would feel comfortable paying versus proper MSRP.

I broke even in two days—so it wasn’t a disaster of a lesson to be learned—but I regret undervaluing my time and my work. If I had priced my products more fairly, I would have a) made a little bit more money and b) had more money to reinvest in my business!

Don’t undervalue your time, effort, and creativity.

*****

Please join the discussion on Twitter. The essay above is the fourteenth in volume 2 of the cultural discussions between the writers of PJ Lifestyle and Liberty Island exploring the history of counter-cultures, the future of conservatism and the role of new, emerging counter-cultures in restoring American exceptionalism. Want to contribute? Check out the articles below, reach out, and lets brainstorm: @DaveSwindle

Volume II

  1. Frank J. Fleming on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Government? Why It Won’t Look Like Star Trek 
  2. Aaron C. Smith on February 26, 2015: What Is the Future of Superheroes? Why They Need To Start Killing Super-Villains
  3. Mark Ellis on February 26, 2016: What Is the Future of Gen-X Manhood? Adam Carolla Vs Chuck Palahniuk?
  4. David S. Bernstein on February 26, 2015: What is the Future of Fiction? You’ll Be Shocked Who’s Fighting the New Conservative Counter-Culture
  5. Aaron C. Smith on March 2, 2015: The House Loses: Why Season 3 of House of Cards Utterly Disappoints
  6. Michael Walsh on March 2: What the Left Doesn’t Get About Robert A. Heinlein
  7. Frank J. Fleming on March 3: 8 Frank Rules For How Not to Tweet
  8. Susan L.M. Goldberg on March 4: 7 Reasons Why Backstrom Is Perfect Counter-Culture Conservative TV
  9. Frank J. Fleming on March 5: What Is the Future of Religion?
  10. Aaron C. Smith on March 5: The Future of Religion: Why Judeo-Christian Values Are More Important Than Science
  11. Spencer Klavan on March 5: Not Religion’s Future: ISIS and the Art of Destruction
  12. Chris Queen on March 7: 5 Reasons Why Big Hero 6 Belongs Among The Pantheon Of Disney Classics
  13. Frank J. Fleming on March 11: 6 Frank Tips For Being Funny On the Internet

See the first volume of articles from 2014 and January and February 2015 below:

2014 – Starting the Discussion…

January 2015 – Volume I

February 2015

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So Does Samsung Just Not Want Anyone To Buy Their TVs Anymore?

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015 - by Stephen Green

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but this story is filled with ouch:

Thought you could watch that video on your local hard drive without ads? Think again: A number of owners of Samsung’s smart TVs are reporting this week that their TV sets started to interrupt their movie viewing with Pepsi ads, which seem to be dynamically inserted into third-party content.

“Every movie I play 20-30 minutes in it plays the pepsi ad, no audio but crisp clear ad. It has happened on 6 movies today,” a user reported on Reddit, where a number of others were struggling with the same problem.

Reports for the unwelcome ad interruption first surfaced on a Subreddit dedicated to Plex, the media center app that is available on a variety of connected devices, including Samsung smart TVs. Plex users typically use the app to stream local content from their computer or a network-attached storage drive to their TV, which is why many were very surprised to see an online video ad being inserted into their videos.

Putting ads into movies you own? Yep:

It looks like the ad insertion was accidentally turned on by default for apps that it wasn’t actually meant for, but the faux pas points to a bigger issue: Device makers like Samsung have long tried to figure out how to monetize their platforms and generate additional revenue in a time where margins on hardware are slim at best.

Back in the ’60s when color TV was introduced, Sony almost went broke by refusing to put out a color model. The reason for that was Sony founder Akio Morita didn’t want to sell a “me-too” color TV. The company’s B&W sets were the best money could buy, and he was going to make damn sure the same was true when the company finally put out color sets.

The result was the innovative Trinitron color tube, which went on to define the best color screens money could buy — for the next 35 or more years.

Today, everybody is using pretty much the exact same LCD screens, printed in massive sheets by inexpensive Asian suppliers. That’s sucked all the profit out of the big screen market, which is why TV makers are instead competing on how many software functions they can cram into your set.

Of course, none of these manufacturers know squat about good software or what might actually be a smart way to make TVs “smart,” and so consumers are stuck paying more for a lot of crap they mostly don’t use, and which barely works when they try.

Ideally, a TV set should be a dumb screen like it always was, and consumers would each add the “smart” their own way — through the set-top box of their choice. But then companies like Samsung are stuck selling zero-margin dumb screens, and they don’t like that.

If TV makers really want to earn fatter profits on smarter hardware, then they’d better get a whole let better at writing software. To date however, they show zero talent for it.

*”Trinitron” is Sony branding for “three in one electron.” The Trinitron CRT electron gun combined a typical color tube’s three electron guns into one, giving the beam a greater depth of field. As a result, a Trinitron screen could be made flat in the vertical plane. All other screens curved back towards all four corners, like a rectangular section cut out of a sphere. A Trinitron screen was like a rectangular section cut out of a cylinder. That shape allowed for fine wires (the “aperture grill”) to be used behind the glass, instead of the bulkier mesh (“shadow mask”) used by standard color sets. As a result, more of the electron beam hit each color phosphor, transferring more energy to the screen and creating a sharper and more vivid picture.

So now you know that.

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit, image illustration via shutterstock

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Must See Video: What Is Operation Choke Point?

Thursday, February 12th, 2015 - by Stephen Green

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Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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The Death of Radio Shack

Friday, February 6th, 2015 - by Stephen Green

SHACK

… Here it comes:

RadioShack Corp. is preparing to shut down the almost-century-old retail chain in a bankruptcy deal that would sell about half its store leases to Sprint Corp. and close the rest, according to people with knowledge of the discussions.

The locations sold to Sprint would operate under the wireless carrier’s name, meaning RadioShack would cease to exist as a stand-alone retailer, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks aren’t public.

The negotiations could still break down without a deal being reached, or the terms could change. Sprint and RadioShack also have discussed co-branding the stores, two of the people said. It’s also possible that another bidder could emerge that would buy RadioShack and keep it operating, the people said.

RadioShack had its time, and served millions of us (me included) very well during that time. It had a great mix of nerdy products and nerdy expertise — at a location usually not very far from you. But now I can get an even wider selection of nerdy stuff, and even nerdier expertise, without ever leaving the comfort of my desk chair. With one exception of when I just had to have a headphone minijack-to-RCA-left-right-splitter, I don’t think I’ve set foot inside a RadioShack since the end of the 20th century. And it just isn’t possible to keep a retail chain going on once-in-a-decade purchases of $2 cables.

Radio Shack — even the name shouts “1933!” — was the 20th century’s nerd shopping Mecca, but the 20th century is long over.

*****

Cross-posted from Vodkapundit

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Will Legal Zoom Level the Playing Field for Men?

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015 - by Helen Smith

I thought about this question as I read an advance copy of Law Professor Ben Barton’s new book Glass Half Full: The Decline and Rebirth of the Legal Profession. The book describes how technology can help make law more accessible to middle class consumers:

Modern technology can now handle routine legal tasks like drafting incorporation papers and wills, reducing the need to hire lawyers; tort reform and other regulations on litigation have had the same effect. As in all areas of today’s economy, there are some big winners; the rest struggle to find work, or decide to leave the field altogether, which leaves fewer options for consumers who cannot afford to pay for Big Law.

It would be easy to look at these enormous challenges and see only a bleak future, but Ben Barton instead sees cause for optimism. Taking the long view, from the legal Wild West of the mid-nineteenth century to the post-lawyer bubble society of the future, he offers a close analysis of the legal market to predict how lawyerly creativity and entrepreneurialism can save the profession. In every seemingly negative development, there is an upside. The trend towards depressed wages and computerized legal work is good for middle class consumers who have not been able to afford a lawyer for years.

The book discusses how sites like Legal Zoom make law more accessible to people. At Legal Zoom, they even handle divorce, though the site mainly seems to handle those divorces that are uncontested for the low fee of $299.00 but if you have more complex questions and needs, you can get help from a lawyer for “an affordable price.” Barton noted in the book that it is not that easy for low income people to get help from Legal Aid in a divorce unless there are domestic violence issues. But face it, how many men are going to be referred to legal aid for a pro bono lawyer due to domestic violence? Very few, is the way to bet.

I wonder if technology and entrepreneurialism will help men to gain equal footing in divorce and custody proceedings as law becomes more accessible through these legal sites? Right now, men with little income have no where to turn whereas the VAWA, and legal aid through the government are more likely to help women with free legal help. Technology and some creativity may just level the playing field for men who need legal help and don’t have the means to pay a lot for it. I hope these sites continue to grow and hire the excess of lawyers who may do well serving the under-served population of men who do not have equal access under the law.

******

Cross-posted from Dr. Helen

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Generation W: Raising a Nation of Wusses

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015 - by Aaron C. Smith

America isn’t going to slide to mediocrity. Nope, it’s going to be pushed down the hill by a group of whiny Gladys Kravitz types.

They’re going after our children.

Take the case of Michael Anderson and the girls’ basketball team he coaches in Arroyo, California. Coach Anderson recently led his team to a 161-2 victory over Bloomington High School.

That’s not a typo.

161-2.

This was even with putting in the benchwarmers.

Once upon a time, Coach Anderson and his team would be heroes.

This week, Coach Anderson got a two-game suspension. Bloomington’s coach whined about the lack of ethics in the loss.

Yeah. Lack of ethics.

Again, not a typo.

Winning in a huge fashion is not ethical.

This hits a bit close to home. My brother-in-law coached his son’s Pop Warner football team. And they won. No matter what he did, they won.

His reward?

A threatened suspension.

Some people just laugh and scoff at the stupidity. After all, these are just kids’ games, right?

Wrong.

At the same time youth and teen sports leagues are engaging in their Jihad on winning really big victories, parents are being investigated for a horrid form of neglect: letting their kids walk to the park.

Indeed, the parents, Danielle and Alexander Meitiv, practice what is called “free range parenting.” It has a name, air quotes and even its own TV show, World’s Worst Parent. The title comes from the name its host, Lenore Skenazy, got called when people learned that she allowed her 9 year old to ride the subway alone.

You know a cultural movement has hit its stride when it gets a reality TV show.

But what the hell has happened to society when a kid walking around is a thing and not just a kid walking around?

So we now live in a nexus of people who want to raise children never to risk any psychic or physical danger. They are bubble-wrapped, physically and mentally.

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This is going to turn out great.

We don’t want kids to play sports and run around outside just to give adults some breathing space by getting them out of the house. It’s not even just about getting them to move and do something that doesn’t involve the word “box” or station.”

Don’t get me wrong. “Me time” and ending the epidemic of school-yard butter balls is important. Someday I’m going to retire and I want the next generation of workers to be fit and productive so I can lay around at the beach.

Here’s the thing, though. The bright-eyed, bushy-tailed workers that we will simply soak to fund Social Security and Medicare require the guts and motive to succeed. Since we’re going to be yoking these kids with the burden of having two workers supporting every one retired layabout like myself, these beasts of burden can’t just be mediocre.

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America’s dying social program will need field-tearing, smoke-snorting studs under the yoke. Any lesser beasts will get stuck in the field or be too scared to even go on it without adult supervision and fifteen forms signed in triplicate.

Are we going to get these studs by teaching them to win but not by much? Or perhaps the hard chargers of the future will have Mommy and Daddy hanging around in their cubicles.

Heck no. But parents everywhere will be protected from empty-nest syndrome because their pampered little princes and princesses will still be hanging out in the basement smoking weed and playing vids.

Our kids deserve to dream big and live big. And we want them to have the gumption to get onto the playing field on their own.

The Society for a Perfect World types also overlook the fact that losing a game and having adventures are actually an important part of life. The time to get knocked in the dirt or get into a little trouble is when you’re a kid. The stakes aren’t important but the lessons carry through life.

A real childhood tempers the soul, like fire does steel. Good steel is hard but not brittle. A child who does things for himself, tries new things, will not be brittle. Better that they get used to the fact that the world is a harsh and unforgiving place when the stakes are low.

Think of the classic American story: The Bad News Bears. They start out as a motley group of misfits, losers in every sense of the word. But in their humiliation, they strive and rise to greatness.

Would the Bears have pulled themselves together if they hadn’t been allowed to be losers? What if they hadn’t even been allowed to walk to the park?

More importantly, what if Bill Gates hadn’t decided to take the risk of leaving school and starting Microsoft? Or if Mark Zuckerberg hadn’t done the same?

Imagine, a world where the Winklevoss twins developed Facebook!

The point is our economy needs people willing to walk the tight rope without a net. And our society needs to recognize that those brave souls will, as a result of their courage, reap massively outsize rewards

And, if that’s not enough, it’s for the children.

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13 Key Ideas You Need For Defeating Marxist Evil

Saturday, January 24th, 2015 - by Ronald R. Cherry

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Editor’s Note: This is a much longer-than-usual essay than we normally publish, but it’s a very thorough dissection of Marxist ideology well-worth your time. To make it more accessible we’ve decided to experiment with publishing it “Netflix style,” meaning as the streaming internet TV service has developed the practice of releasing whole seasons of its new shows at once, allowing viewers to consumer at their own pace, we’ll publish this first as one long article before serializing its points daily over the next 2 weeks.

1. In its essence Marxism, the core ideology of modern Socialism, is an irrational, utopian and coercive perversion of human equality.

Marxism seeks equality where equality does not exist, demanding legal enforcement of equal social outcomes, including those related to economics, higher education, athletics, religion and human sexuality. This ideology even extends to international relationships whereby no nation is allowed to excessively prosper or achieve greatness, i.e.: all nations must be “equal.” Never mind that when people are free their human nature leads to inequality of outcomes – some are hard-working and some are lazy – some are more intelligent and some are less intelligent – some are stronger and some are weaker – some are tall and some are short. Unequal results occur naturally without force when people possess rightful liberty. Based on their degree of truly Free Enterprise nations similarly divide themselves unequally into various degrees of prosperity or depravity.

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What Are The 5 Most Destructive Myths About Capitalism?

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015 - by PJ Lifestyle Daily Question

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Why Samsung’s Profits Fell Last Year

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015 - by Stephen Green

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Via Ibtimes.com:

The Samsung Group announced Thursday that its yearly profit fell for the first time since 2011. The electronics giant still beat analysts’ expectations as its slowing smartphone sales were buoyed by demand for its computer chips.

Sales of Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones made up two-thirds of its profit for the last two years, but they will be eclipsed by its semiconductor business in 2015, according to analyst Lee Sei-cheol from Woori Investment & Securities. The company announced that its 2014 operating profits were expected to reach 24.9 trillion won, or $22.6 billion, down 32 percent from a year earlier.

Samsung is feeling the squeeze from Apple on the high end, especially now that the iPhone comes in two new sizes — “Extra Large” and “Waffle Iron.” (I know, I know — everybody loves the big smartphones but me.) Worse for Samsung is that they’re having the floor eaten out of their massive low-end sales by even lower-cost copycats like China’s Xiaomi. (Somewhere, Jony Ive and the ghost of Steve Jobs are doing the Happy Dance together as they watch their copycat get consumed by copycats.)

The point to remember here is that Samsung was literally — and I’m not abusing that word — literally the only Android phonemaker generating any profits worth mentioning. What Samsung’s troubles mean for Android going forward is anyone’s guess, although it took the Android market a comparatively short time, maybe even a shockingly short time, to become just as commoditized as the Windows PC market. Over the course of decades, Windows generated billions and billions for Microsoft and for PC makers before commoditization (and OS X) sucked all the profits out of the Wintel business model. Android went down that same road in just three or four years.

The key difference is that Android doesn’t have to generate profits for Google — but what happens to the OEMs who at some point are going to have to generate a profit or two?

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Ebola Nurse Demanding a Refund for Bridesmaid Dresses

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014 - by Paula Bolyard
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The nurse who caused an Ebola scare that closed many Ohio schools and businesses is demanding a refund from the bridal shop she visited during her trip to Akron last month.

The attorney for Amber Vinson, the Texas nurse who traveled to Ohio after treating an Ebola patient, sent a letter to the owner of Coming Attractions Bridal and Formal shop in Akron requesting a refund of $480 in deposit money that her bridesmaids paid to the store for dresses for Vinson’s upcoming wedding.

The bridal shop closed for several weeks after being notified that Vinson had tested positive for Ebola. Anna Younker, owner of the Akron store, said she paid to have the shop cleaned using ultraviolet light technology. In addition, she lost business during the 21 days her store was closed and had customers cancel orders because of fears of infection.

When Younker received a letter from Vinson’s attorney, she thought it was an apology for the inconvenience she caused. The Beacon Journal reported:

Instead, Dallas attorney Stephen F. Malouf requested the refund and notified Younker that Vinson has decided to use another bridal store for her nine bridesmaids’ dresses “in order to minimize additional public scrutiny.”

“Would you kindly advise whether this is agreeable to Coming Attractions?” Malouf asked. “If it is not, would you ask your attorney to contact me to discuss this matter?”

“Are you kidding me?” Younker thought as she read the letter.

Younker said she never received a phone call from Vinson or any of her bridesmaids before getting the request from the attorney.

“This is like the icing on the cake for her to ask,” the bridal store owner said. “By canceling completely because she wants to go somewhere else, that’s like a slap in the face to me.”

The store’s policy typically prohibits refunds or order cancellations, but Younker said she makes exceptions in special circumstances.

“I couldn’t believe she didn’t at least call me and have some discussion on why,” Younker said. “Maybe I would have considered it differently.”

In the letter, Malouf acknowledged that “Amber’s Ebola infection brought significant attention to Coming Attractions, not all of it positive.”

Nevertheless, he asked for refunds of $107 for two of the bridesmaids and $132.92 for two other bridesmaids “due to the most unusual circumstances.” He said it would be best if Younker kept the matter “strictly confidential.”

Malouf said he tried to contact Younker before sending the letter. “I’m sorry that the shop is upset,” he said. “This was an effort to help the shop and Amber. Amber feels strongly that the publicity was such it was harming the business and she didn’t want to add any further scrutiny to it. This was a purely innocent request and I’m sorry it wasn’t received in the spirit in which it was sent.”

“If that’s how she feels, I can’t force her to continue to order,” Younker said. “But for me to hand over a refund, it’s not feasible. It doesn’t make sense. I’m out a lot of money.”

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7 Reasons Why Thanksgiving Will Be My Last Day on Facebook

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 - by Dave Swindle

Last New Year's #Resolution: write down your days more. Write what you want to make happen. Write how you want your #soul to transform. Then set about reprogramming yourself with the mass of word possibilities in front of you.

1. My New Year’s Resolution Fulfilled!

Dear Liberty Island Leaders Adam Bellow and David S. Bernstein,

Above you’ll see the concluding image from my list of resolutions. I’ve planned this all year — to make my 10th anniversary of joining Facebook also my last day using the service. I began weaning myself from Facebook then, removing the app from my phone and iPad and only using it when on my computer, justifying it as a tool for work.

Turns out that November 27, 2004, was when the addiction began — I was a junior in college at the time. One of the many counterculture thinkers I discovered would influence my understanding of culture, technology, corporations, the Bible, media, my own career direction, and now this decision to abandon the internet’s Coca Cola. (On my counterculture books list from 2012 I included several of his titles; more will appear in the expanded, giant-size counterculture conservative canon of books that have shaped and influenced me.) The primary, strongest arguments for why everyone should leave Facebook come from media theorist Douglas Rushkoff, who bailed in 2013. He identifies the prime problems; my case is an expansion of his.

2. The Douglas Rushkoff Reason: The Newsfeed Cannot Be Trusted.

I read this article on CNN from Rushkoff back in February of 2013 when it came out and couldn’t really argue with his reasons for quitting. I tried to in an email to Doug to justify my continued Facebook usage but all I could say was that it was convenient for my work as an editor. Here are two problems with what Facebook does with your data without your knowledge or permission. First, the reality is that now when you send something out to all your “friends” on Facebook, chances are only a tiny portion of them are likely to see it:

More recently, users — particularly those with larger sets of friends, followers and likes — learned that their updates were no longer reaching all of the people who had signed up to get them. Now, we are supposed to pay to “promote” our posts to our friends and, if we pay even more, to their friends.

Yes, Facebook is entitled to be paid for promoting us and our interests — but this wasn’t the deal going in, particularly not for companies who paid Facebook for extra followers in the first place. Neither should users who “friend” my page automatically become the passive conduits for any of my messages to all their friends just because I paid for it.

And second, the new advertising strategy of using your image and your likes to market to your friends:

That brings me to Facebook’s most recent shift, and the one that pushed me over the edge.

Through a new variation of the Sponsored Stories feature called Related Posts, users who “like” something can be unwittingly associated with pretty much anything an advertiser pays for. Like e-mail spam with a spoofed identity, the Related Post shows up in a newsfeed right under the user’s name and picture. If you like me, you can be shown implicitly recommending me or something I like — something you’ve never heard of — to others without your consent.

The essence of the Facebook experience is pulling up one’s newsfeed and scrolling through it to find something that interests us. Since Rushkoff laid out his case, we now know even more: that Facebook has in the past intentionally manipulated users’ emotions as part of an experiment.

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Think Pop Culture Doesn’t Matter? Visit Sleepy Hollow, New York

Friday, October 31st, 2014 - by Susan L.M. Goldberg

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If you’re still operating under the false notion that pop culture doesn’t have a real impact on everyday life, take a look at America’s oldest example, Sleepy Hollow, New York.

When Washington Irving penned The Legend of Sleepy Hollow in 1820 under the pseudonym Geoffrey Crayon, he probably had no idea that his short story would inspire the beloved town of his youth to turn itself into a living homage to his tale. Settled in the late 1600s, the village was originally an agricultural and manufacturing zone of Tarrytown, New York. Nicknamed “Sleeper’s Haven” by early Dutch settlers, Washington Irving picked up on the Anglicized version of the name, “Sleepy Hollow” when staying with family in the area as a boy. Eventually millionaires like John D. Rockefeller would build mansions around the industrial zone that would become known as North Tarrytown at the turn of the 20th century. But it was Irving’s story that proved eternal when, in 1996, the village voted to rename itself Sleepy Hollow.

Street signs are orange and black, as is one of the village’s fire trucks. The Headless Horseman is the school mascot who, dubbed the nation’s “scariest high school mascot”, runs through every football game at half-time. Police cars and fire trucks also bear the Headless Horseman logo with pride. Halloween is celebrated throughout October with haunted hayrides, street festivals, a parade encompassing both Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown’s main streets, several ghost tours and performances of the Washington Irving legend. The Great Jack O’Lantern blaze puts Christmas light spectaculars to shame and Horseman’s Hollow turns a 17th century Dutch mill into a gory homage to the headless Hessian.

The Old Dutch Church, Ichabod Crane’s presumed safe haven, stands guard over a vast “garden cemetery” designed to allow Victorian families to picnic with their dearly departed. Tours of the cemetery can be taken both day and night and feature stops at the graves of Washington Irving and those who inspired characters in his tale. A fair runs every weekend alongside the cemetery, providing tour groups with the opportunity to walk the grounds with alcohol in hand. The gas station on the other side of the infamous bridge hawks t-shirts and other assorted Headless Horseman souvenirs. And if you’re hungry, there’s always The Horseman Restaurant, a hole in the wall diner that promises you’ll “lose your head” over their milkshakes.

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