Sunday, January 25, 2009

City of Ember out on DVD

My family and I were on vacation when City of Ember came out in theaters in October. I didn’t know anything about the movie (or the book), but I am a big fan of Walden Media adaptations of children’s books so I knew it would be different than the usual Beverly Hills Chihuahua-type movie. While I didn’t write a review of the movie at the time, a few other libertarian bloggers did. Some went as far as declaring it a libertarian movie. While I wouldn’t go that far, I do recommend you make your way to the closest Red Box and rent it.

In this movie, some apocalyptical event happens above ground leading to the construction of an underground city called Ember. (We are not told what the event was but the author - Jeanne DuPrau - has written a prequel explaining why they went underground and a sequel explaining what happens once they escape from Ember to return to the surface.) The “Builders” of the underground city give the first mayor of Ember an instruction box set to open in 200 years to allow them find their way back to the surface. The box was to be passed down to future mayors. Unfortunately, the seventh mayor dies and the box was never given to the next mayor. Some libertarian reviews equate the instruction book to the US Constitution.

It is 200 years later and Ember is crumbling. The electrical generator is failing and consequently there are ever more frequent electrical blackouts. The two heroes are two teenagers – Lina and Doon. In Ember, when children are old enough to work (I am guessing at age 15) they pick a job title out of a hat and that is the job they must work for the rest of their lives. Doon is the son of an inventor and wants to work on the generator. Unfortunately, he draws "messager" and Lina draws "pipeworker." They are able to trade jobs, however.

Doon’s father and Lina’s father had attempted unsuccessfully to escape Ember; Lina’s father was killed trying. Doon’s father tells his son, “If you have the truth then you must pursue it.” It turns out that Lina’s great great grandfather was the seventh mayor and she finds the box. She takes it to the mayor (superbly played by Bill Murray) but discovers he is corrupt and is stealing food from the nearly empty storage rooms. So Lina and Doon must find a way to escape without the Mayor’s help.

Very few movies are overtly libertarian and the City of Ember is no exception. Sometimes the best a parent can hope for is a movie that encourages a discussion of liberty in the context of the plot or the actions of the characters. This movie provides that context. Even as the city is crumbling down around them, the mayor tells the citizens of Ember, “We the people stand united against the darkness!” He reassures them, “We don’t just need answers – we need solutions!” Not sure what that means, but it sounds good and the people eat it up. He then creates a task force to study the blackouts.

With the cult-like worship of President Obama last week, this is a good time to watch this movie with your kids and discuss with them how the mayor is able to fool the citizens of Ember with platitudes and good speeches. Instruct them that a politician should not be judged by his inspiring speeches, but by his actions. And how faithfully he follows the guidance from our founding fathers and our governing documents. (see my previous post)

Here is a good professional review.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Fairy Tale Inauguration

"America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents." from President Obama's Inaugural Address

Really? Seriously? Does he actually believe that we have remained faithful to the founding fathers' ideals and their Constitution? Would James Madison agree with Obama? I don't think so, but let's let Madison speak for himself:

"Do not separate text from historical background. If you do, you will have perverted and subverted the Constitution, which can only end in a distorted, bastardized form of illegitimate government."
James Madison

"With respect to the words general welfare, I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators."
James Madison

"I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on the objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents."
James Madison

Sunday, January 18, 2009

How to Load PoL Video to an iPod

Back in September, I provided a link to the below video from the International Society for Individual Liberty that explains the philosophy of liberty.  This is an excellent video that even a child could understand.
For Christmas, I bought my eleven year old daughter an iPod and loaded the above video.  If you would like to do the same, here is how to do it:

1. Go to the ISIL web site and select "save as" MP4 in the language of your choice.

2. Save the downloaded file (File Name: PoL.English.The.Philosophy.of.Liberty) to a folder on your computer where you can select it to sync with your iPod.  I chose to save it under a newly created folder called "iPod Videos" under "My Videos."

3. Open iTunes and connect your iPod to your computer.

4. In iTunes under "File," select "Add File to Library" and find the folder where you saved the file, then select the file "Pol.English.the.Philosophy.of.Liberty."

5. Under "Devices" select the connected iPod.

6.  Select "Movies" and place a "check" next to the file as shown above.

7. Select "Sync" in the lower right coner and you are done.

Here is the video on my daughter's iPod.  

Friday, January 9, 2009

I See the Looters but Where is John Galt?

I read Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged when I was a junior in high school and it had a profound influence on my political views. It pitted the philosophy of individualism against the philosophy of collectivism; the men of the mind against looters. While I never bought into her Objectivists philosophy, her portrayal of politicians struck a cord with me. I know for many libertarians it started with Atlas Shrugged but not so with me, I was already a libertarian when I read Atlas Shrugged. The book only reinforced the views I already held. Still to this day, I can’t imagine a better book to recommend a high school kid read in order to have a proper view political actors.

In a Wall Street column, Stephen Moore makes the same case regarding the actions in the last few months. Here is a long excerpt from Moore's column Atlas Shrugged: From Fiction to Fact in 52 Years:

"For the uninitiated, the moral of the story is simply this: Politicians invariably respond to crises -- that in most cases they themselves created -- by spawning new government programs, laws and regulations. These, in turn, generate more havoc and poverty, which inspires the politicians to create more programs . . . and the downward spiral repeats itself until the productive sectors of the economy collapse under the collective weight of taxes and other burdens imposed in the name of fairness, equality and do-goodism.

"In the book, these relentless wealth redistributionists and their programs are disparaged as "the looters and their laws." Every new act of government futility and stupidity carries with it a benevolent-sounding title. These include the "Anti-Greed Act" to redistribute income (sounds like Charlie Rangel's promises soak-the-rich tax bill) and the "Equalization of Opportunity Act" to prevent people from starting more than one business (to give other people a chance). My personal favorite, the "Anti Dog-Eat-Dog Act," aims to restrict cut-throat competition between firms and thus slow the wave of business bankruptcies. Why didn't Hank Paulson think of that?

"These acts and edicts sound farcical, yes, but no more so than the actual events in Washington, circa 2008. We already have been served up the $700 billion "Emergency Economic Stabilization Act" and the "Auto Industry Financing and Restructuring Act." Now that Barack Obama is in town, he will soon sign into law with great urgency the "American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan." This latest Hail Mary pass will increase the federal budget (which has already expanded by $1.5 trillion in eight years under George Bush) by an additional $1 trillion -- in roughly his first 100 days in office.

"The current economic strategy is right out of "Atlas Shrugged": The more incompetent you are in business, the more handouts the politicians will bestow on you. That's the justification for the $2 trillion of subsidies doled out already to keep afloat distressed insurance companies, banks, Wall Street investment houses, and auto companies -- while standing next in line for their share of the booty are real-estate developers, the steel industry, chemical companies, airlines, ethanol producers, construction firms and even catfish farmers. With each successive bailout to "calm the markets," another trillion of national wealth is subsequently lost. Yet, as "Atlas" grimly foretold, we now treat the incompetent who wreck their companies as victims, while those resourceful business owners who manage to make a profit are portrayed as recipients of illegitimate "windfalls.""

We know where the looters are. Where is John Galt?