Archive for September, 2005

No, I haven’t seen it yet. I think I’m one of the 3 bloggers in the blogosphere who hasn’t. Got my tickets for tomorrow, though.

It sounds as though Universal’s marketing ploy has paid off in a big way; their free blogger previews have generated a tremendous amount of grass-roots internet buzz for the film. It’s worth noting that one of the things that separates their approach from previous lame astro-turfing internet publicity attempts is that Universal respected the intelligence and judgement of their audience. They believed they had a good product and that people who saw it would identify it as such. Because of that they were willing to preview the film without attaching strings, and because of that they obtained that most precious of PR commodities: widespread positive word-of-mouth.

This is an illustration of the way capitalism is supposed to work. You make the best product you can, and you market it on its merits in the confidence that consumers will identify and prefer quality. So, well done Universal.

The really interesting question is what will happen when another studio tries to repeat this maneuver with a movie of lesser quality. Positive word of mouth is like gold; negative word of mouth is like lead. I expect we’ll find out in fairly short order.

This column by Frank Cagle does a pretty good job of capturing the way I feel right now about the fiscal behavior of the Republican Party over the last several years. To the extent I’m a Republican, I’m a member of the “fiscal-conservative small-government don’t-tread-on-me wing of the party” and I’ve had enough.

The thing about the GOP leadership response to Operation Offset (and to the out of control budget more generally) that pushed me over the line was DeLay’s comment to the effect that there’s no fat in the budget to cut. I could be sympathetic to an argument that they couldn’t find enough support in Congress for major spending cuts, or that there were higher legislative priorities requiring the expenditure of limited political capital, or that trying to cut would be pointless because the White House would have vetoed it. (That last being more plausible in the 90’s than now, of course.) But DeLay’s comment indicates that it is not the case that the current party leadership is unhappy with the budget but can’t address it due to other constraints. Rather, DeLay’s comment indicates that the current party leadership is happy with the budget as it is now. They think they’ve cut enough, and that the government has already been reduced to a size of which they approve.

This is, from my point of view, completely insane. Moreover, it’s an insult to my intelligence.

Congratulations, guys. Faced with the most inept opposition party I can remember in my entire adult life, you’ve managed to put a margin-of-victory sized bloc of your own supporters into play. Faced with upcoming mid-term and presidential elections that will hinge on turnout, and with a turnout system based on volunteer work, you’ve alienated and demoralized a large chunk of your base.

No wonder you’re known as the Stupid Party.

You’ve still got a slim chance to redeem yourselves. A few months from now it’ll be too late. Consider yourself warned.

Acting on principle “except when you can get away with it” is like starting a war you can’t win in the hope of finding some battles you can.

Jane Galt has been blogging up an, um, storm on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. She makes a number of very good points, refreshingly free of the political point-scoring that’s been going on on both sides of the political spectrum since the storm. I particularly recommend this, this, this and this.

This, on the other hand, does do some point-scoring — although at a more abstract level than straight political partisanship.

On a straight partisan line, this raises an interesting point I was contemplating a few days ago. Urban cores are one of the major Democratic strongholds. What’s the political impact of taking tens of thousands of people out of one of those urban cores and scattering them around the country? All else being equal, I’d guess it would tend to make Louisiana a bit less Democratic, and a number of other states slightly more Democratic. But since the political impact of those voters used to be concentrated in one state, and they will now be spread over a bunch of states, the decrease of Democratic votes in Louisiana would have a greater impact. Of course, all else probably will not be equal.

I wrote the following on an Ayn Rand forum in response to someone who thought that Chi McBride’s character on the show was anti-capitalist propaganda. I figure if Anne can repost her gay marriage thoughts, I can get double duty out of this. Since it was written with an Objectivist audience in mind, there’s some assumed context from Rand’s novels.

(I suppose I should take a moment to briefly sing the praises of House, M.D. It’s pretty rare for network television to produce something worth watching. It’s even rarer for such shows to survive more than a half-season, especially on Fox. This is one of those rare shows. The writing is sharp, the acting is superb, and most unusual of all it’s a celebration of the mind. Eric Raymond recently described a large number of the top-rated TV shows as “Pretty People Behaving Stupidly.” House, M.D. is about people behaving intelligently. The first season DVD collection was released last Tuesday, and can be had for around forty bucks. It’s a good investment.)

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I picked up the House season 1 DVD set the day it came out, and have now finished watching the Vogler plot arc. I didn’t really interpret it as anti-capitalist propaganda. The conflict between House and Vogler is a conflict over how medicine should be approached. Vogler sees medicine as an arena for dollar maximization. House sees medicine as a crusade — saving the patient, solving the problem. Vogler talks about cash flow; House talks about values.

Ayn Rand didn’t think that dollar maximization was the proper end of business. Roark wasn’t trying to maximize his income when he turned down the Manhattan Bank commission. Francisco D’Anconia preferred a single copper smelter in Galt’s Gulch to the entirety of D’Anconia Copper in the outside world. The reasons were essentially the same. Neither Roark’s fee nor D’Anconia Copper would have been values if gaining and keeping them required sacrificing the end to which they were means. Similarly, House believed that a hundred million dollars was not a value to the hospital if it required sacrificing the end to which the hospital was dedicated — curing diseases, one patient at a time.

It’s worth noting the implicit individualism/collectivism split between House and Vogler. Vogler always talks about patients in collective terms. He says he’s interested in saving thousands of lives. House think about patients as individuals. Vogler is willing to sacrifice the life of any given individual patient in the name of saving a group in the future. House is not.

The simple presence of a morally-suspect businessman in a story does not automatically make it anti-capitalist. If that were the case, Orren Boyle and James Taggart would have made Atlas Shrugged anti-capitalist. You have to evaluate the character based on his role in the story. So, what is the lesson to be drawn from Vogler? I think it’s that collectivism damages medicine because it devalues the individual. Vogler tried to invert the hierarchy of values and make money (the means) into the end of medicine. Roark once observed that he didn’t build in order to have clients; he had clients in order to build. House might have said something similar to Vogler. He doesn’t cure disease to make money; he makes money so he can cure disease.

Anne adds: I agree with what Kyle has written here, although would also like to add that Hugh Laurie is hot.