Monday, July 31, 2017

"Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" is basically "Halo: Reach"

[SPOILERS] For both Rogue One and Halo: Reach

This video was posted to Reddit several months ago:

"Rogue One" Spliced with "A New Hope" from Barre Fong on Vimeo.

Among the top comments on that Reddit thread:
"Cortana, all I want to know is did we lose them?"
"I think we both know the answer to that."
Which refers to the first line from the original Halo game. This got me thinking more about something I had already noticed: there are tons of similarities between the stories of Rogue One and Halo: Reach:

A lone wolf outsider:

Joins a diverse cast of resistance fighters:

Facing nearly insurmountable odds:

And in the end they give their lives:

To deliver valuable resources to their cause:

And their allies escape just in the nick of time, with their enemies in hot pursuit:

Which leads back to the original chapter in the story:

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Failures of Libertarianism

A few days ago, a Facebook friend of mine posted a status that boiled down to "What's so bad about libertarianism??" and tagged me in the comments hoping for a response. Here's what I posted:
As far as social issues go, if you're inclined to use statistics and research to guide your opinion on which policies work best in a society, many of the answers point to solutions that are libertarian in nature. Drug policy - the government's "war on crime" has had countless terrible side-effects; abortion policy - "hands off my body" comes with a wide range of benefits; gay marriage - "let people love who they want to love" is ethically superior or theocrats trying to dictate what types of love are acceptable. There are some exceptions - "just let the rednecks have their guns" leads to those guns crossing borders and winding up in the hands of murderous gangs in the streets of Chicago, etc.

Economic issues are where libertarianism really breaks down. We have to break up monopolies, because a lack of product choice is terrible for consumers and stifles the few good parts of a free-market economy that exist. Strong, well-funded public education systems are why so many students in Scandinavian countries outperform American students. Welfare programs are the safety net that keeps poverty from spiraling out of control (and history has shown over and over again that poverty and wealth inequality lead to instability in a country). Libertarian ideas are why so many business owners feel justified in suppressing worker wages below livable levels for the sake of their own profits; the government has to step in to ensure that workers are treated fairly, which is doubly true when there is a dearth of jobs (and as robotic automation advances, we are staring down the barrel of a society where the number of people dwarfs the number of jobs available - what's the libertarian, no-government-involved solution for that?).

Health care is one of the most acute examples of libertarian ideas collapsing entirely. There is no way to control the cost of health care without strong government involvement. When people say we should try free-market ideas for health care, they are ignoring the fact that our health and the treatments and medicines we need to fix it are vastly different than, for example, deciding whether you prefer Coke or Pepsi. When your life is on the line, your goal will be to get better regardless of the cost, which is why the medical profit-mongers - insurance companies, for-profit hospitals, drug companies, all of them - can bleed American citizens dry. There is no free-market, libertarian solution that works, period. Obamacare was an attempt to merge the desire for universal health care with the desire for free-market ideas, and it's collapsing because those profit-mongers (health insurance companies, specifically) are balking from the Obamacare exchanges because they don't like how much it's cutting into their profit margins to provide health care to millions of new enrollees.

Most other developed nations have figured this out - Canada, England, France, on and on and on - they know that the solution is to throw capitalist and libertarian ideas right into the trash bin when it comes to health care. All these countries have figured out that the system with, statistically, the best input-to-outcome is one where everyone (especially the rich) pay taxes into a government health system, and the government then ensures that those health services are available to all of their citizens regardless of income. We already know this system works, because Medicare has been one of the most successful anti-poverty programs in American history, which is why people like Bernie Sanders want to expand it from covering just the elderly, to everyone.

So libertarian-leaning ideas aren't bad when it comes to social issues; but we're currently living in a time when laissez-faire capitalism and plutocracy are rapidly spiraling out of control and doing severe damage to any number of aspects of our society (I haven't even mentioned climate change yet) - and those are the sorts of problems that libertarianism not only fails to address, but in many cases, actually exacerbates.
His replies:
I think the problem with enforcing regulations is the loophole that corporations find and can no longer take responsibility for. They can throw it on the way they are written. They can literally say they just followed the law which exacerbates the problem because the ones writing the laws can be lobbied (Thanks Roger Stone you POS) to write those loopholes in. Government oversight is a fantastic idea in theory but is much less efficient than the free market and peer review from what I have seen. With automation being a major movement I agree that educating our citizens is a priority. I just don't think the poor class in my fair city who might have no kids should have to pay for my daughters education. I don't see that as a fair solution. That's about all I can say for now. I'll continue when I have some more spare time. As always I appreciate your stance. I'm always looking for debate to help farther ideals.

In other countries I find it hard to believe that there is the same corporatism grasp at power. The fact that corporatism and capitalism is confused is what sets me off. We have perverted capitalism by including them as a person and letting them have a say in a "free market". It's not free anymore but could be with our advances. I think we are at a point in time where taxes could go Waaaaay down and benefit the poorer class because of the extra income. Open up health insurance to compete across state borders and decide if you want it or not. Keep the 2 year pre existing condition alteration (Rand Paul) and don't force people into buying something they might not need as well as penalizing someone because they didn't want it in the first place. Put these decisions at a local level where you actually have a say. I mean, not you per say, you live in Oklahoma. That brings up another point about seeing where you could do better (politically) and move... at the end of the day (keep in mind I worked Federal construction for 2 1/2 years) I think limiting our options to government just creates another monopoly. One that can be bought by "people" aka corporations. I'm not ok giving up that much control to the powers that be and with the current state of affairs in Washington I think you can understand my conundrum. Sometimes they might have my best interest in mind, some gaps of 4 years they don't.

The other main staple of the Libertarian party that you didn't mention was our NAP policy which involves our meddling big foreign affairs. Hasn't helped. Ultimately made the problem worse. Bush did it. Clinton did it. Bush Jr. Did it. And Obama sent drones. More tactical but still breaking hate for us all over the world. Also spending money WE DON'T HAVE because we are in a massive downward spiral of spending these days. China will own us in our lifetime (if they don't really already let's be honest) and we keep acting like the big dog. How do you answer to our (easily provable at this point) failed foreign policy that we continue to sink money into? Please advise because when it comes to this... it really seems like two sides of the same coin.

Btw I am very happy to have this dialogue and and hoping that you can turn me. I also am not so arogant to say that EVERYTHING the government gets their hands on is fucked up but I can certainly say that most these days is. We are the melting pot experiment. We don't operate the same way as other countries. The U.K. is the closest however we are now so far removed from that.

Healthcare is sooooo much more grey than the black and white issue it has been painted as.

My philosophy is pretty consistent as is Libertarianism. Government involvement requires force. Penalties. A monopoly on tact and in some cases industry. We right now are dealing with a psychopath in the White House. Every 8 years the tides turn from Dem to Republican in this country (there are few exceptions but overall history has shown this). I will rarely operate out of fear but on this instance I will.

Also I don't ultimately think goods should be taken from the goods provider by force. Ever. I do think introducing competition in any market breeds better product at a lower cost. I could go into detail but I think you understand economics enough to see where my point is coming from. I also don't think I should pay a penalty because I can't afford health insurance nor do I think I should have to pay for someone else's problem (non-voluntarily) while the cost for it continue to skyrocket. This is the government actually playing a part in doing away with competition. Your monopoly point plays into what is happening.

Open it up to the states deciding. Let us buy insurance across state lines. Shut down state wide, between insurance companies (I call OK you got TX) agreements, that breed corporatism and the current monopoly situation we live in and get away from the current healthcare stranglehold we live in.

My final response:
One of the biggest philosophical failures of libertarianism is the failure to understand how interconnected things are, both within a society and between nations. You said you don't think poor people without kids should have to pay for your daughter's education - but they aren't just paying for her education, they would be paying for the education of all children in the region, or in the country, whichever the case may be. And a highly-educated populace comes with a very wide range of positive effects that benefit EVERYONE within a society, including those without kids. Conversely, a poorly-educated populace comes with a wide range of terrible drawbacks that affect that society as well. And this applies to things besides education, like fire departments, infrastructure development, pollution regulations, on and on and on. You said "most things the government gets their hands on are fucked up", but one of the main reasons that attitude is so prevalent is that people only notice the things that ARE fucked up - the things that a government does to keep society running smoothly are the things that never draw your (or the media's) attention.

You also say in one comment "I think we are at a point in time where taxes could go Waaaaay down", but then a couple paragraphs later rail against us "spending money WE DON'T HAVE" and say that "China will own us in our lifetime". These are contrary complaints: the only way we could reduce the national debt at all without raising taxes is to slash so many services that are so vital to so many people by such huge amounts that we would start to resemble a third-world nation in even more ways than we already do. One of the biggest (probably *the* biggest) issue with our tax code is that the rich do not pay anywhere near as much into the system as they did throughout most of the 20th century; from the WWI era to Ronald Reagan, tax rates on the super-rich were often literally twice as high as they currently are (and for several periods, even higher than that). The whole raison d'ĂȘtre for the Medicaid cuts in the GOP health bill is to take that ~$800 billion away from poor families and hand it straight back to the super-rich in the form of a tax cut later this year. THOSE are the kinds of nakedly plutocratic moves that are the reason America can't have nice things anymore. Not that "we're in too much debt" or "our taxes are too high" or "government regulations are too burdensome". Those statements are, for the most part, red herrings that are purpose-built to draw the public's attention away from the fact that most of the nation's wealth is being shunted directly toward the top 1%.

And as far as health care goes, we've already tried market-based solutions, and they've failed catastrophically. The idea that we can drive costs down by letting insurers sell across state borders is rooted in the same flawed notion that Obamacare's increasingly-broken marketplaces exchanges were: that there is a capitalist solution to this problem somewhere, if only we could find it. That simply is not the case, because the profit motive is *FUNDAMENTALLY INCOMPATIBLE* with the need to provide expensive medical care to the sick and to poor families in need. The fact that we're a melting pot of 300 million people doesn't change the fact that *every single country* that uses a government-run single-payer system has statistically-better outcomes for dramatically less money (again, this is per capita - scale is not the issue). You can try to make a purely philosophical, amoral, Ayn-Rand-esque argument that "Healthy Joe shouldn't have to pay for Cancer Bob's chemotherapy, ever!", but from virtually every single analysis based purely on objective, math-based measures, Healthy Joe winds up far better off with everyone pitching in to help cover everyone else's health costs (and let's not forget that the ultra-radically-right-wing Ayn Rand - who thought poor people were "parasites", and is one of Rand Paul's favorite philosophers - wound up relying on Social Security and Medicare to cover medical costs late in her own life).