Netflux: “D.C. Cab”

I used Netflix’s streaming service to watch this one, which probably gives some indication of its quality. The reason you might want to watch this movie is probably the reason I wanted to: to see performances from some of the all-time greats: Adam Baldwin (of Chuck and Firefly fame), Mr. T, Bill Maher, Paul Rodriguez, Bob Zmuda and the incomparable Gary Busey. A lot of people say that Gary Busey has gone off the deep end lately. I think this movie (from 1983) proves that he was off the deep end long long ago!

The movie doesn’t really go anywhere for the first hour or so; all of the actors just get to play themselves being themselves with no plot getting in their way. They all do a great job, of course, but there isn’t enough of them! There are so many characters in the movie that you can’t gain a full appreciation for their antics individually.

Anyway, the movie is ostensibly set in D.C., which is my home base. I enjoyed some of the various D.C. callouts, and I didn’t see one coming when I should have. When the team meets at “Abe’s Place,” we eventually find out it’s the Lincoln Memorial they mean. Mr. T makes the Silent Bob speech of the movie, and then salutes Lincoln himself. It would be stirring if it wasn’t so absurd! Luckily, I enjoy absurd. If you do too, you should see this one!

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A Radical Solution to the Economic Crisis

It seems I am quite out of the mainstream on the most fundamental issues of the day. Way out of the mainstream, actually. If you look at my solution to the problem of inflation, you’ll see that I am a fan of both freedom and changing the fundamental rules of the game. So, here goes:

The economic crisis has mainly been caused by the housing bust. House prices are dropping to below what people owe, so the loans that were made to those people became “toxic,” with massive defaults looming. Banks started failing, and companies and people stopped being able to get loans, which means businesses failing and fewer people being able to get housing.

One way to get out of this crisis is to increase consumer spending; this is very hard to do. The government often tries to do this with a tax rebate, and it might do so again. But what if we could have a stimulus as big as a tax rebate every month and it would cost the government nothing? That’s what I’m proposing.

But first, let’s get a little more background. There is only a finite amount of land in the world to live on. Back in the middle ages, it was parceled out among the nobles by the king; this was feudalism. If you lived on the feudal lord’s land, you had to pay him for that privilege, even if he didn’t net you anything. This tradition continued into the American colonies: many of the states were land grants by the European courts to individuals: Pennsylvania to Penn, Maryland to Lord Baltimore, and so forth.

This tradition continues to the present day in the form of titles. Government grants deeds and titles to the land and that piece of paper allows its holder to do whatever they want to those who live on it regardless of whether they have ever even seen the place, or been there, or done any maintenance on it, or anything! Just like those feudal lords back in the day.

There are other standards that could be used to determine who owns the land that are much more just. The one I am offering to you today is called “occupancy and use.” If someone lives on a piece of land, takes care of it, and improves it with their own labor, they are the owner of that parcel. This standard allows more freedom than the old feudal system and it is actually more just, as well.

What would be the implications of changing our standard from government titles to occupancy and use? After a short adjustment period, no one would be required to pay rent or a mortgage! This is the monthly stimulus I was talking about before. In most areas, people are paying between $300 and $3,000 a month JUST TO BE ENTITLED TO LIVE; to have a home. If we switched over to an occupancy and use system, that money would be going into the pockets of consumers instead; they could start saving more *and* spending more.

This would be quite a shock to the economy. Some of the implications would be plummeting house prices and failing banks. But those things are happening already! Why not channel those destructive tendencies into constructive outcomes? More people will be secure in their living situations, gain confidence in the markets, and have tons more money to spend!

There would be some winners and some losers with this system:

Losers –

People who have paid off their homes. Essentially these people will be no different than than they were before, but if they were using their home as a store of value for their retirement, it will dramatically lose most of that value (though not all; if there are people willing to pay for the house without taking out a loan, they could compete to buy it). Their retirement should end up a lot cheaper as well, though, so this might balance out.

Landlords. These people would lose their properties to their tenants, although, if they are really excellent, they will probably be able to get some of their tenants to continue paying (though much less) for their services of fixing things and being responsible for problems. Some renters rent because they don’t want to be responsible for these things and they would probably continue to do so. The fact that I am (sort of) about to become one of these means I’m not just writing this post in self-interest.

Banks. A bunch more of these would fail, which would suck in the short term.

Winners –

The poor and the middle class. Huge portions of the budget of these groups is made up of housing; often between 40 and 50%. All that money would be freed up to save or spend on things people want.

American retail and manufacturing. Think of what all that extra money will be used to buy! Think of all the improvements renters will make!

The future. We would be moving away the old feudal way of doing things and toward a more just and free society. If these changes were coupled with other freedom-enhancing reforms, America could lead the way into the governmental and societal structures of the future, just like it did in 1776. Our children and their children would have places to live, be motivated to improve them, and be able to provide for their families even more easily.

The Nerd’s Dream Cabinet

There has been much talk lately about who Obama will appoint to the U.S. Cabinet. I don’t know enough about the current mix of possible nominees to make predictions or picks, and I’m sure the people he picks will be statists and so I won’t be a fan.

So, I decided to come up with my own list! The rules: the Cabinet is made up of fictional characters, and only one is allowed from each SciFi “universe” (although I play fast and loose with that definition and include characters from, for example, multiple incarnations of Star Trek). Here’s what I came up with:

Position Nominee Rationale Policy Statement Photo
Secretary of State Jean-Luc Picard The best diplomat in the Federation! “Time is a companion that goes with us on a journey. It reminds us to cherish each moment, because it will never come again. Make it so.”
Secretary of the Treasury Hank McCoy With things being what they are today, we need the smartest we can get. Plus, he’s blue. “As Churchill said, ‘There comes a time when every man must…’ Oh, you get the point!”
Secretary of Defense Bill Adama If he can lead the military of the entire human race, he can definitely do the same for America.  Besides, is there a difference? “There’s a reason you separate military and the police. One fights the enemies of the state, the other serves and protects the people. When the military becomes both, then the enemies of the state tend to become the people.”
Attorney General Nathan Petrelli He’s a lawyer. Are there any other SciFi lawyers? “Only together can we be the stewards of our own destiny.”
Secretary of the Interior Clark Kent If anything bad happens, he can fly fast enough around the world to reverse time and fix it. He needs to be in charge of something American, since that’s what he stands for. “Truth, justice, and the American way.”
Secretary of Agriculture Samuel Beckett He has multiple PhDs, and the best picture I could find of him he was holding a pig. Plus, we need farmboy Clark Kent at Interior. “Oh, boy.”
Secretary of Commerce Quark A small businessman. Also, we need a token Republican. “Greed is the purest, most noble of emotions.”
Secretary of Labor HAL 9000 In the future, all labor will be performed by robots. We need someone who they can identify with. “I know I’ve made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I’ve still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And I want to help you.”
Secretary of Health and Human Services Stephen Franklin A true doctor’s doctor. “Sometimes you have to heal the family before you can heal the patient.”
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Lando Calrissian The mayor of cloud city has experience in an urban environment. “Here goes nothing.”
Secretary of Transportation Hoban “Wash” Washburne C’mon, he’s Wash! “Like a leaf on the wind…”
Secretary of Energy Tony Stark He built a tiny and safe personal nuclear reactor! “Is it better to be feared or respected? I say, is it too much to ask for both?”
Secretary of Education Clara Clayton We need some more diversity on the team: not enough time travelers. Plus, what other teachers are there in scifi? “Golly!”
Secretary of Veterans Affairs Sarah Connor She certainly understands PTSD and the way a soldier thinks. “The unknown future rolls toward us. I face it, for the first time, with a sense of hope. Because if a machine, a Terminator, can learn the value of human life, maybe we can too.”
Secretary of Homeland Security Fox Mulder He is the only one who sees the truth that is out there. Aliens. Threatening the homeland. “Sometimes the only sane answer to an insane world is insanity.”

The Deadliest Animals

I thought this comic about how cats are trying to kill you was right on the money, and I know a few of my readers are cat lovers. Hopefully you’ll appreciate it.

It also reminded me of the excellent Simpsons educational video Meat and You: Partners in Freedom.  “If a cow ever got the chance, he’d eat you and everyone you care about!”

Depression: Causes or Effects?

Sometimes I get depressed; I imagine almost all of us do from time to time.  The past few weeks were one of those times (hence the lack of blog posts) and, now that I’m feeling a little better, I think I might explore some of the reasons why depression happens.

The thing is, though, that a lot of the causes of depression could also be the result of it, and vice versa.  I don’t know if these things are a feedback loop, and everything is a cause and an effect, or if some of them caused my recent malaise and others were a result of it.

  • Diet – I have not been eating very well, and I’m not young enough anymore that I can blow it off like it doesn’t matter.  I just eat a lot of frozen waffles, bagels, and potato chips.  However, when I get depressed, I am even less likely to eat well – I end up not wanting to cook anything at all so I just eat junk food and cheap fast food.  So did my poor diet make me depressed or did my depression make me eat poorly?
  • World of Warcraft – I started playing again.  I don’t play as often as I used to, only a few hours about four days a week, but it is very easy to lose yourself in the game and forget about all your troubles.  I started playing around the time that things got bleak.  Coincidence?  I can’t tell.
  • Loneliness – I kind of wanted to call this category “anti-social tendencies” but the two kind of go hand-in-hand.  When I’m depressed, I get whiny, and whininess tends to push people away (especially the ladies).  Loneliness seems like it must be a factor in my depression, if only since most of the people I was close to once are now gone, and that fact may just now be catching up to me.
  • Poor Health – About two to four weeks ago I came down with a pretty annoying cold or flu or something, and that’s when I started feeling bad.  In the fall I tend to get stick and stay sick for a few weeks until I finally break down and get some antibiotics, that happened this time.  The antibiotics play some havoc with my system, especially with digestion, and I don’t feel better for a long time afterward.
  • Work Stress – It’s rare that big projects and important deadlines come up at work, but when they do things can get pretty stressful – the last time I was this stressed out was when they moved my work location for about 9 months.  That time I at least had someone to come home to after the long day.  The days right now aren’t long and the work isn’t even particularly hard but I find it difficult to get through the day.  Again, depression causes this, but it’s also triggered by stress.

It’s hard when all of these things are going on to tell what I should try to fix, and hard to get motivated to fix it when things are going poorly.  Luckily, I’m feeling a little better thanks to a few things:

  • My parents came by to help me fix up the house a little bit, make it more livable and nicer to look.  My mom especially took it upon herself to do some interior decorating.
  • My parents and brother in general.
  • I might be getting a housemate; coming home to an empty house is among the most depressing things you can do.
  • I have a bunch of social things coming up in the next week; the past two weeks have been pretty parched socially.
  • The changing seasons are helpful; Christmas is coming and the fall is very beautiful.  Snow will help as well, I’m sure.

I hope the good things continue and I hope I can figure out which of the bad things to try to minimize so I can feel better.  Hopefully there will be more blogging than there has been.