Monday, April 07, 2014

The Politics of Captain America

The comic book version of Captain America has often reflected liberal viewpoints. In contrast, the movie, Captain America/The Winter Soldier (CA/TWS) is one of the most conservative movie I've seen in years. Several parts of it show the logical conclusion to policies pursued by President Obama.

I'm going to assume that anyone reading further has seen the movie or is unconcerned about spoilers.

First I'll take the easy one - torture. While they do not waterboard anyone, Cap and company are not above throwing someone off of a tall building (and catching him on the way down) if it will save 20 million people. This is an easy one since they are trying to stop an actual event instead of discover plans for possible events. Cap's only concession is to delegate the dirty work to his sidekicks.

The central plot in the movie concerns four controversies from the Obama administration - the increasing use of unmanned drones, the current policy of killing people who represent a general threat rather than ones who engaged in open hostilities, the unaccountability for drone strikes, and thebig diff use of data mining.

In the movie, data mining has been used to identify 20 million potential troublemakers based on such things as their credit history, their phone calls, and their library use. The plan is to use a fleet of three super-powerful hellicarriers to eliminate these troublemakers, thus bringing peace and control to the world.

As an added bonus, we find that the senator from Iron Man 2 who was against private ownership of powerful weapons is on on the plot.

The movie is full of moral ambiguities. Nick Fury embodies these. He is on the right side but he is not above breaking rules. He has Cap's apartment bugged and has Cap under surveillance. When he discovers a ship owned by S.H.E.I.L.D. is involved in unknown activities, he hires mercenaries to take over the ship in order to give cover to the Black Widow who is ordered to make a backup copy of the ship's computers.

The big difference between Fury and the villains is that Fury is fighting for the status quo while the others are trying to fundamentally change America (and the world).

This is a welcome change from the messages in movies such as Avatar (civilization is evil) and Noah (meat-eating capitalists deserve to die). 

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Bias in the Press

Recently Leland Yee, an anti-gun, California state senator and candidate for Secretary of State was arrested on charges of gun-running involving Islamic extremist groups in the Philippians. While this story has received a lot of attention from right-wing media it has only gotten local coverage from the MSM. In fact, the only non-partisan, national publications to cover it have been Popular Science and Esquire. When asked, CNN explained that they don't carry stories about such figures as state senators because they are local. Glen Reynolds, the Instapundit, found numerous stories on their site  about state legislators. He blames the lack of coverage on the fact that Yee is a Democrat and the press is providing cover for him on political grounds. While I agree that the press is burying the story, I disagree about the reason.

It is true that the press is overwhelmingly Democrat and this does color their coverage. Typically a Republican who is in trouble has his party affiliation announced in the headline or the first sentence. Democrats seldom have their party announced before the third paragraph if at all. But this is a change in emphasis.

I think that the real problem here is issue-advocacy. While most reporters know that they need to cover straight news regardless of party affiliation, most are willing to bend the rules over issues that they believe are in the public interest. In these cases, there is no pretense at balanced journalism. Anyone who watches 60 Minutes or watched the old tv-show, Lew Grant, has seen issue advocacy. The idea is to use he power of the press to change the world for the better. Journalists actually feel proud of this.

Since most journalists are liberal the issues they advance are liberal causes. This makes it hard for outsiders to distinguish between partisan behavior and issue advocacy.

Usually issue advocacy involves slanting a story but it can include suppressing a story. In this case, the issue is gun control. Yee had been a leader in anti-gun legislation so his arrest on federal weapons charges hurts his cause immensely. I think the fact that Yee is a Democrat is secondary to the various editors who passed on the story. They are more interested in the gun-control angle.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

The Minimum Wage Debate

If you ask Americans in general what the biggest problems facing America are, the top two have been jobs and the economy for years. If you ask a Democrat, he will likely say income inequality. They obsess over this.

In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama called for raising the minimum wage to around $9 an hour. By 2014, he was calling for $10 an hour. This does not reflect inflation. Instead it reflects a movement within his own party.

To most people with any training in economics, raising the minimum wage that much will have severe effects throughout the economy. Businesses will reevaluate every position and eliminate as many as possible. Jobs that cannot be eliminated will have to be paid for somehow. This means price hikes which will fuel inflation and, ironically, reduce the buying power of those higher wages.

Democrats don't see this because of a blind-spot in their economic thinking. All of them have been influenced by Karl Marx.

Marx saw workers in competition with factory owners for the profits of their labor. Marxists in general see profits as belonging to the workers and owners as parasites. The whole basis of the communal system (communism) was to eliminate the greedy owners so that everyone could share equally in the profits.

Today's Democrats may never have read Marx but they are still influenced by him. The current debate over income inequality assumes tha tcorporate executives are taking a larger share of the profits than they deserve and that increasing the minimum wage will be a zero-sum transfer, taking wages from the undeserving rich and giving them to the deserving poor.

There are major flaws with this thinking. The biggest is that income disparity is not coming from corporate pay disparities. It is coming from the financial sector which employs few low-wage workers. They are getting rich by gaming the system. Currently the Fed is loaning money virtually interest-free. The hope is that corporations will use this to invest in expansion. Instead it is being poured into the stock market and other investments for expense-free profits. The income gap is not between workers and executives, it is between bankers and everyone else.

If Democrats looked at actual statistics instead of Marxist-inspired expectations they might act to cut the money line between the Fed and the bankers' pockets. They might but they probably would not. Wall Street has been a strong backer of the Democrats in general and President Obama in particular which is what caused this crony capitalism in the first place.