Race, Logic and the Left

Consider the following, almost to a person those on the left would agree it was (would be) OK to vote for a man for the President on account of his being Black, or for a woman (say like Ms Clinton, but never never like Ms Palin) on account of her being female, or for a student to be admitted on account of his/her gender, race or other superficial feature.

This is wrong and here is why. I will use “vote” and “Black” as my examples, but this can be extended without modification to other situations and criteria (like admissions and gender or race).

Premise 1: It is a permissible criteria to vote for a man because he is Black.

Premise 2: If a thing is a valid criteria for, then it is valid criteria against. Valid criteria compromise those things you consider when making a choice. If a thing is a valid criteria then it is purely personal preference whether a particular criteria weighs for or against a decision.

Statement 1: It is racist to vote against a man because he is Black. Conservatives get told this all the time, it must be true.

This is a direct contradiction, of the two premises. Therefore either premise one is false or premise two is false. Premise two is not false by symmetry (and kindergarten, “turnabout is fair play”). Therefore premise one must be false.

If you voted for Obama because he was Black or support affirmative action, therefore you are a racist. Logic insists. See.

Or to put it another way, Martin Luther King said the color of a man’s skin was not a valid criteria with with to judge him. Why was he wrong?

In Which I Am Confused

Obamacare, much in the news lately, has noted that it depends on millions of young healthy individuals who are not currently insured to sign up for insurance, in a large part to pay for the coverage that they will extend other uninsured people who are not-so-healthy. This strikes me as an actuarial accounting error.  Or a dishonest tax using crooked actuary tables.

Actuarial methods assign costs and risk based on statistical advantage of your place in a pool of subscribers. An honest actuary prices your insurance premium at the same level as your cost. Given a large enough subscriber pool, your premium averaged over the large number of people is exactly matched by the insurance payouts for your pool.

Thus adding a new group, young uninsured healthy 20 y/olds should have zero impact on the larger picture. Their premiums should be the same as the payouts for those in the same pool. But .. this is apparently not the case.

Why? Because the designers of Obamacare are crooks. Is there another explanation? ’cause it seems the only explanation I can see from here.

So … You Believe Man Causes Global Warming and …

Your neighbor across the aisle does not. Here is some unsolicited advice for the left wing on this topic. If you really think this is a problem, and you want everyone, not just your side of the aisle to push for it futilely … Here’s a newsflash for y’all. You’re selling it wrong.

Look at us over here on the right. We think the space program was cool. We love going to flight museums and wistfully wishing we (as a nation) were still flying SR-71s (RS-71 dammit, stupid Presidents). We gawk at daisy cutters and talk about yields and payloads. While we might take up on those government goodies that are “free” it sticks in our craw and we wish that ‘ol time Yankee rugged individualism wasn’t dying out, killed by bureaucratic mind-numbing cookie cutter schools among other things. Read these two books, here and here. That’s good reading. So, do you like Bob? We do.

In a past era, a Democratic President challenged his nation to go to the moon, not because it was easy but because it was hard. You want a nation to get behind you with a climate crises. Challenge them that way. Tell ’em to go out and fix it, not by sucking back our economy and going all green-ified on us, scrimping out toilet paper, curbing consumption of interesting toys, and things to do.

No. Fix it the old fashioned way, with a hammer, tongs, and big bad-ass technology. Challenge us that way, and you might get a rise out of us.

Of course it might alienate you’re side of the aisle, but you can’t break an omelette without making eggs, or something like that.

Hope you enjoyed that little rant.

Why Inequality Is Necessary

Over at the League of (not very) Ordinary Gentlemen there is a blog symposium going on. The “(not very)” was appended by myself, for those fellows by and large are, alas countering their “Ordinary” claim, seem ordinarily to be quite exceptional, at least at the task of writing blog posts. What follows are somewhat scattered thoughts in a defense economic inequality. Continue reading →

Theories of Government and a Plug for Academic Prostitution

Blog neighbor Mr Schraub tosses up on the wall two notions, that there are basically few, if any, useless “medical” studies that one might sponsor and that mocking the historical speciality near and dear to him, notably “Black Studies”, is unwarranted. For the both in part, that opinion depends on your what you think the role of government might be. If you think government is basically limited (see 10th Amendment) to the role of keeping my fist from your nose and vice versa, settling disputes, guarding our borders, and then getting out of the way so we can be about our business pursuing life , liberty and all. Then these measures as instituted by the state makes little sense. If on the other hand, the role of government is to supply happiness, life and liberty to everyone … then government has a tall order to fulfill and has to employ  plethora (see Das Scholss -> The Keep/Castle) of fellows xyz-ocrats making sure everyone is maximally happy-in-ated, all in a very Kafkaseque fashion.

So, you go to school and major in this Black Studies thing, and as Mr Schraub suggests, do some useful writing in the field. What the heck do you do with that? I guess you write papers in academia read by other academics. Or you become a Castle senschal? Is Exxon going to hire you? To do what? Do you become a better barista in Starbucks competing with out-of-work actors? What?

But what in general are we to make of Academic pursuits? For this has begged a serious question, what role do history, literature, and other “soft” studies have in our academic and general pursuits? What is the point of this Academic research. Academics themselves have noted (and I’m not finding the link where this was posted, it was months and months ago) that lots of their papers are read by a select few. We are in an age of hyper-specialization in parts of academia and as this is the result. For academic teaching of those “hard” topics, maths, engineering, medicine, and for that matter, carpentry the pay off is obvious. Kids trained in those subjects have careers outside of academia awaiting them. So here’s some unsolicited advice to “fix” the problem of hyper-specialization in increasing irrelevance of so much of the academic world. Here’s one solution, less considered. Prostitution.

Academics are used to publish or perish driving their existence in their department and as a measure of their worth. It is their carrot and their stick. How about If  instead of having specialized journals be the norm, that those were the exception, That schools began to demand “publish” mean “publish” in a general market and make money at it? That in turn to the general audience and more importantly make a profit selling those works … then they’d be forced to confront and to embrace some level of relevance. In the historical field, a David Hackett Fisher can make a good buck selling good history … well, get the rest of the historians to do the same thing. If you can’t make a return selling your speciality (hence the second part of the title) then … perish.

Aliens and the Atheist

Commenter JA continues to hold the notion that “low atheists” don’t exist in his continued (no true Scottsman) argument as a basis for the higher intelligence/education feature of the set of atheists compared to those who do believe in God. There is a problem with this position.

Consider an alien coming from a place/planet which has never considered the notion of divinity, spirit, gods or God. This notion, for our alien, is an (pardon) alien concept with which he struggles and only incompletely understands having now encountered earthlings. During his life prior to that meeting he had never ever spent an iota of mental activity thinking about or considing God (or the gods). He is, more than our earthly atheists, I contend a complete atheist. In the spectrum of belief between the Saint and the modern atheist he is even further away from the Saint than the 20th century self-professed atheist.

By contrast to the high atheist, who has a panoply of reasons why he has decided God doesn’t exist the low atheist is more akin to our alien. Just like our alien the low atheists actions, values and decisions are made in a universe in which God (or gods) do not consider. He spends just as little time thinking about the divine (much less praying) as our alien does. He is an atheist of the same mold as our alien.

By first approximation, one might view religious belief in a population as existing on some sort of bell curve. A population with low religious beliefs and attendance shifts the bell curve toward “nonbelief” and a population that is highly religious shifts it the other way. Atheists practically exist at a point on the non-belief side of the curve and a less religious population will (to first order) just be expected to have more atheists than one that is highly religious. Demographic studies that our JA note point out that many highly educated populations are often (in our culture) ones with low religous beliefs and therefore also have a higher percentage of atheists. However what he hasn’t noted is that populations which are very poorly educated also are characterized as having low religious beliefs …. and it would follow that these too have (functionally like our alien) a higher percentage of atheists.

The percentage of atheists in a population is not correlated directly with intelligence. It is however, a symptom of the spread in religious beliefs found in people and that the mean/mode (peak) of that population is not a universal human invariant but a culturally dependent variable.

Morale and Complex Malfunctions

Commenter Boonton has on a few occaisons mused about complex industrial accidents and the avoidence of the same.

Complex project development, in a book which came out in the 80s (Have Fun At Work, by Mr Livingstone) was an interesting read. The main thesis of the book was that complex projects (those are too large basically to fit in one smart persons brain … and he gave specific concrete ways to recognize those projects) fail. They all fail (or at the best have horrible delays and massive cost overruns). Much of the book devoted itself to orienting tech/engineer personel to recognize if your project was one of those which would fail and how to prevent that from career or psychic injury to self. As a sidelight he noted the only way that complex projects succeed. Complex projects succeed if heirarchical information pathways are removed and replaced with a model in which everyone can talk (and does talk) to everone. The cannonical such project is the Lockheed Skunkworks, which developed the SR-71, the U-2, and stealth combat aircraft. In their working environment, aerodynamicists and systems engineers sat next to draftsmen and machinists. “Can this …?” questions didn’t filter up and down the chain but you would ask the guy who might know the answer directly.

Big systems with complex working parts are put in place all over the world. Refineries, airplans, chemical plants, nuclear power plants and so on are all complex working systems. One way in which one might approach minimizing the occurance of complex accidents is to follow the Kelly Johnson/Skunkworks approach and shift it from project development to ongoing system operations. Why isn’t this done?

One reasons might be tied to morale. The Skunkworks team was a high morale operation. They had an impossible (basically) cutting edge project. They worked rediculous hours because of their excitement and the demands of the project and the basic urge human urge for success and to win, defined in this case as completion of the project, to scale that technical mountain. How can this translate to a multi-decade task of keeping equipment running safely, a far more mundane and routine task? If one identifies a clear difference in the two tasks as one of morale. High morale is essential for the operation of a non-heirarchical task/team project. High morale might also be an essential telling point in the operation of a long term operational facillity if one were to attempt to shift it to a more skunkworks-like approach to management. You can’t do that without high morale.

Ultimately government “regulation” of industrial workplace might be better served not trying to pretend it knows better how to drill offshore, run nuclear plants, and so on. It can on the other hand, have a better shot a spotting any number of ways in which workplaces are poisoned by poor morale and other working conditions conducive to failure (reckless risk taking has its own signature on morale). The point is, inspectors might be better served watching dynamics of workplace (social) chemistry and less on technical questions which they have, likely, less (or captive) expertise (not to speak of other agenda).  

A Request, Finally, Fulfilled

Commenter Boonton requested a concise summary of the healthcare bill, sans notes or google lookups.

Liberal Congressmen last Spring and Summer dialed in range and windage of their Leupold scopes what they considered the most egregious faults of the current healthcare and “fixed” it with a bill they passed with no little chicanery and much cajoling this Summer. So, what were the primary features of this “great big bill” as one might explain to an outsider who was (blissfully) ignorant of the whole affair. Well, in short, as the Democrats saw it there were two big problems with healthcare that needed focus, the first being … that the current healthcare system had too many people falling into gaps and had no coverage and the second was that healthcare costs have been rising faster than just about any other sector in the economy. 

For the first part, that is the gaps, they have a few basic strategies to deal with that.

  • First, they made it illegal for insurers to refuse to coverage on the grounds of pre-existing conditions. 
  • Second, they’ve expanded various healthcare programs like Medicare/aid and so forth to cover not just the elderly but widened it more to cover those in financial trouble (this is not new … just expanded further).
  • Finally, insurance “exchanges” will be formed which hope to provide competitive markets for those who need to privately (not through their employer) to obtain health insurance. 

For the second part, how to control costs

  • They’ve capped the profits that insurance companies and other health care providers (like drug mfgs/developers) can earn.
  • They plan to limit government funding and sponsorship (Medicare assistance) more aggressively especially if returns are judged to be limited or the patients are elderly and to drop these requirements as part of their “minimum acceptable” healthcare insurance regulatory environment. 
  • And they’ve put strict limits on malpractice payments and restructured the medical community tort environment to prevent defensive medicine. Oh, wait … that’s not part of it. Never mind, malpractice can continue unabated. After all, it impacts healthcare costs and practices not at all.
  • And they’ve expanded the powers and scope of federal healthcare regulatory agencies and bureaucracies, after all, bureaucratic technocracy is the best way to control costs. No really this is their big plan for controlling costs. Regulators. 

Now some of these programs incur costs. How have they kept this off the federal budget? Well, the biggest hit is in vastly higher insurance premiums for everyone except those who can’t afford it at all. Most of it isn’t on budget at all. See, they expanded coverage to the needy … and have to assist (it remains to be seen if this is underfunded) insurers with the pre-existing condition folks, but they hope to balance that with cost containment of current other healthcare programs (elderly assistance) and by taxing the uninsured. Yes, you’ll be able to “keep” your insurance plan as it is … if you can still afford it. But the point is the majority of those increased costs don’t impact the <em>federal</em> budget … just yours. And this is the biggest part of the ACA/Obamacare deception. Keep everyone concentrating their eyes on the federal budget ball and ignoring the two factors which are bigger but remain unnoticed. The first being … this is going to make your healthcare much more expensive and second, because insurance is going to get a lot more expensive for your employer … and they’re pushing to make private insurance more palatable. The second part will move more and more people out of employer and into publicly regulated insurance markets which in turn make you far more dependent on the government. That in turn, was the plan all along. For the average person, one will find will make top notch healthcare more and more a feature of who you know not how much you earn, which in the Democrats view is (apparently) a better state of affairs. 

Oddly enough, one of the frequently mentioned (as in mentioned with an touching example or presence of an affected individual) features of the new bill, that pre-existing coverage part that was mentioned so often in the arguments for the bill. Well, it turns out that the program was unrolled already. And golly, in the first 9 months a whopping 4,000 people enrolled in the entire US … or about .001% of the population. So, here one of the primary talking points of the campaign for the bill vastly over-estimated the number of affected individuals. Now, as an unintended consequence, it remains to be seen if the “pre-existing condition” as a feature used to prevent people from only enrolling in an insurance plan in emergencies gets bigger use from those people who actually really need it … or if smart people figure out that the penalty set for not having insurance during healthy times and then enrolling when very ill ends up being an economically favorable strategy. 

Offbeat Monday: Of Race and Hitler … and Ethics

In recent essays on race I’ve caught some flack. My definition of racism apparently suffers mainly from its symmetry. One man committing a crime against another on account of race is racism irrespective of whether the man committing the crime is of a oppressing or an oppressed race. To put it bluntly, Hitler and the Nazis were guilty of racism. This fact does not depend on the point that they were wrong about the Jews being in cahoots and in control of the capital and intellectual currents in Europe. If they were correct and Jews in the halls of power and the banks did in fact have plans and power would not justify Auschwitz and Dachau and so on. The hatred and racism of the white gang burning crosses and throwing stones through windows of a black family because they are black is no different than a black gang raping a white girl because she is white. Both are pure examples of racism. 

So, if you think that racism depends on positions of power and authority and class lines drawn on racial grounds ask yourself this, Do you really think that Hitler is regarded a racist only because he was wrong? 

Consequential-ism is a meta-ethical theory that judges the rightness of decisions based on an evaluation of their consequences. This in turn it seems to me reduces ethics to economics. Consequence after all is at the end of the day is about costs. Ethics however is is also called the study of beauty and the good. Ethics is about choice. And we choose that which we perceive as good and which is beautiful. So, when you turn to ethics … which system do you prefer, your wallet or Beethoven? 


Sing of Liberty

David Koyzis has been writing about oppression, here and here.

Thomas Jefferson wrote in his Declaration that the purpose of government is to preserve and protect Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. While it is pretty clear what Life meant, and that Happiness for Jefferson ran along Aristotelean lines, which is to say along the lines of something like eudemonia. But Liberty … now there is a tricky word. In colonial America, historian David Hackett Fischer in a book everyone should read (or at least have as a reference) Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (America: a Cultural History), identifies four folkways or distinct communities in colonial America. These folkways had very different about almost every aspect of life but in particular they all had distinct and non-overlapping ideas of what the word Liberty meant. Alas, while I say (and really think) this is a great reference book it turns out my copy is at work … and not here at home where I’m writing this so some of this is going to be from memory. Continue reading →

Fever Dreams

Well, besides the fact that I have two other interesting ideas in the hopper, this notion occurred to me and I thought I’d get it down before I forget.

This question is admittedly in the context of the BP/Gulf spill, but I want (on the outset) to make it clear that I am making no allegation here. I have no factual basis or even hearsay reports which would back up my question. But … the problem is, is that if my question has merit, there wouldn’t be would there?

Let me begin with a legal question about liability. 

Say I’m doing a particular activity, and am following the legal restrictions and regulations regarding that practice. But, what I don’t realize is that by following the legal regulations disaster is inevitable. That is I’m in a catch-22 situation, if I fail to do as required I break the law, if I do follow the law then a disaster occurs. Suppose “not doing” this thing is not really feasible. As an aside, I might mention it is for this reason that I think that regulatory approval should indemnify a company which follows said regulations from liability. 

But my question here doesn’t hinge on legal question but political ones. If the disaster that occurs turns out to loom large on the public stage then an investigation is undoubtedly going to follow. This investigation is going to closely tied with those same people and parts of the government which put the regulations in place which both led to the disaster and which were the responsibility of that same said part/party of the government.

So, here’s the question: How likely is the government culpability going to come out investigation? Will that side of it get a fair hearing? And furthermore, is it necessarily in the interest of the injured party to blame the government regulator when their livelihood depends on a working relationship with that same party? 

Consider the BP/Gulf disaster directly here. BP and all the Gulf oil contractors and drillers are required to use government provided survey and risk models in their business. How and what manner of safety devices are regulated by law, you can’t use something different or better, e.g., you have to use the mandated “cutoff valves” as specified. So it seems a big culprit in this story will be, as in the Challenger disaster, a failure in government run QC/QA practices. At the same time, I’m guessing it’s not in BPs interest in the long run to fight to have the blame correctly assigned with the feds as they (and everyone in their industry) has to work with the feds to get anything done. So, the government (especially in our semi-continual election season) will not want to be blamed. BP will not fight getting blamed. So, even if BP/Deepwater ultimately is not the true culprit here, they will in fact be made the fall guys. 

Some Semi-Random Thoughts

  • It occurred to me a while ago that having noticed that Afghanistan has large reserves of untapped natural resources … that one solution to the social problem there is to let loose the dogs of greed instead of the dogs of war. That is, instead of trying namby-pamby nation building we try some old fashioned colonial exploitation. That is to say, don’t nation build and plan to leave, hire them to help us tap them resources. And make a pretty penny in the process as well.
  • The Administration and the Democrats seems determined to ignore the jobs thing. They offer another “big” financial fix package (well in advance of the return of the commission enacted to figure out the causes returns). Then when they have trouble passing the bill, decide at the 11th hour to “ask business leaders” what impact they think the bill will have. Hmm, clearly the effect on business was not very firm in their vision when they were fussing in their basements putting the bill together. They’re putting together a cap/trade bill to battle the putative effects of carbon emissions. Have they considered the impact on jobs? They’ve decided to fight to stop deep water drilling. Jobs? Nah. From the ’90s recessions started taking longer and longer to recover employment rates. In the 2001 recession it took 23 months to recover after a relatively quick recover on other fronts. If that trend continues … the job thing? Well, it’s likely to be sticking in the 10s for some time.
  • In Fault Lines, Mr Rajan points out that there is a connection between the more impersonal crueler business environment in the US compared the EU where business fail not infrequently, but that innovation is far more prevalent. This he links to the comparative safety nets in the states vs the EU as well. The Democrats would prefer big fat soft safety nets … forgetting there is a price. You lose the pace of  innovation that has enabled so much of the modern world. TANSTAAFL. You think those safety nets are nice and cool? There’s a price. A price many would rather not pay. 
  • In the WSJ yesterday there was a short piece which as an aside highlighted Mr Obama’s part in the 2007 McCain bi-partisan immigration bill. Mr Obama publicly supported the bill, but was instrumental in inserting pieces into the bill which killed it. It may be argued that this is good politics. It is however, fundamentally dishonest. That core dishonesty is a repeating theme with him. 


A Naive Question Regarding Stimulus

We are being fed the line from the Administration and Keynesian/neo-Keynesian economists that what we don’t need now government spending sanity, but more stimulus. So here’s the background and then the question …

A leading if not the primary cause of the current recession is the result of 20 years of government stimulus in the form of the government push for low/middle income housing. Now the difference there is during the last 20 years the government stimulus has been in the form or high risk loans which were then repackaged and sold to large banking establishments and foreign investors. This is to be distinguished from the current stimulus which comes in the form of government giveaways which are underwritten by large banking establishments and foreign.

So … if Keynesian stimulus is a primary cause of this recession, why then do Keynesian think that is the fix?

The Big Commission Thang

Today we find the announcement that Mr Obama and the White House are launching a commission to figure out what happened in the oil spill.

I predict the same thing will happen as is occurring with the financial crash … more Democrat stupidity is what will happen. And no. I don’t expect that “if this was a GOP President and Congress” there would be any lack of GOP stupidity. But … today we have a Democratic President and Congress so they own the stupidness (which isn’t a word … stupid mess?)

What is occurring with the financial crash you ask that is evidence of Democrat stupidity in action? A commission was launched to study the causes of the financial meltdown. And the report on the findings of that commission is due in three months. Yet today and not in three months time the Democrats are rushing to put in place 1,400 pages “redefining” and restructuring how banking is done in the country … before the results of the study are out.

So here’s my prediction. That similarly there will be an exhaustive and complete restructuring of the oil industry and how it operates pushed through with great fanfare. Well in advance and like the financial package completely and obviously ignoring the results of the commission and any study launched with much fanfare.

Now the argument that the politically charged studies of this nature produce no meaningful results likely has merit. I think that argument is can find a lot of good historical backing and that later careful studies done show that those initial high stakes commissions produce results which are worse than a random stab at the cause or answer. But … if that is the case, then the news about this new commission is just yet another great big waste of taxpayer money. If we had a press corps with cojones, there’d be hard questions asked about the nature and expected effectiveness of such a commission which highlights the failures of the same in the past and pointing out essentially that “isn’t this commission just a way of pretending you’re doing something useful when you aren’t?”

It is not necessary for the beltway buffoons to be experts in oil drilling. It is in fact impossible for them to do so, they lack the time, the resources, and any incentive to do so. What would be good is for the beltway to get a clue about regulation. Regulators work when they have an personal stake and an incentive in regulating well. Oil drilling safety regulators would far better being beholden to insurers and not the platform operators. In the financial world, there is much noise about the problems with bond/security ratings companies getting their money from the bond issuers themselves. The (wrong) government solution is to have the government pay for (or in essence do) the ratings themselves. But that is just skewed in a different (and wrong) direction. It will cause bond ratings to skew for political purposes which are just as inaccurate. Inaccurate ratings are the problem. The solution of “who should” pay for the ratings is the same as the answer to the question “who most clearly depends on accurate ratings?” That is the same agent that should be paying for the ratings. In coal mines, the canaries might be said to be the ones wanting to be hiring the safety commission. In general the person or agents that have the most at stake, who depend the most keenly and sharply on regulation to get it right should be paying and funding said regulation (it should be noted that this is a quite different group from those who directly oppose the activity in question).

A Taxing Question

The health care mandate is defended as Constitutional because it’s just a tax.

It gives people a choice: they can buy health insurance or they can pay a tax roughly equal to the cost of health insurance, which is used to subsidize the government’s health care program and families who wish to purchase health insurance….

Two questions.

  1. Can the government mandate purchasing a GM automobile now that they have a controlling interest in GM with a similar tax, i.e., buy the car or pay a tax used to subsidize the program for those families to buy the same sort of car who cannot afford it? If the first is allowed, why not the second? And don’t pull the “not GM, but any automaker” argument. GM could install a proprietary widget in their car and the law would require that quite easily.
  2. How about taxing people who don’t have at least one child of their own and adopt one child? Single -> tax. The tax roughly equal to the cost of supporting two children, which is used to subsidize those families which struggle to support those two children.

So, are the above two measures Constitutional? If they are not, why is the healthcare measure Constitutional while these are not?

On Healthcare and Honesty

There is currently, as is well known, a debate on health policy. Within this debate it seems to me there is a fundamental misunderstanding between right and left on this matter. I’d like to make as pointed a expression of this misunderstanding in the hopes that those on the left might clarify for my their views on this matter.

The left makes the following claims:

  1. Restructuring healthcare is required because of the millions without any health insurance coverage.
  2. Controlling the rising costs of healthcare is a major concern as well. Therefore the healthcare bill contains measures to contain and regulate pharmaceutical and insurance firm profits as well as doctors compensations. 

These items are problematic especially in the light of the three proposals on the table from the left.

Regarding item 1, a plan which would provide a minimal adequate universal catastrophic health care coverage is neither complicated nor cost prohibitive. It does not require a 2.5k page plan, one more of the nature of 40 pages would suffice, i.e., not much larger than the heath care coverage legal statement/booklets which most of of have for our own plans. This is not by any stretch of imagination the healthcare plan on the table. Therefore it cannot be construed that this issue is in fact a real feature/concern of the plan(s) in question.

As to item number 2, the first and more natural explanation for rising costs is due to a relationship between supply and demand. That is rising costs are symptomatic of rising demand in comparison with a supply. The bill(s) in question instead of consisting of a mechanism for increasing supply and/or attempting to ameliorate expectations or demand is instead more of the nature of a price control and regulatory scheme. In the real world, price controls of commodity items lead to lowered supply and scarcity … not increased production. That is price controls are in reality very good ways to choke off and decrease the supply of a thing. Furthermore the profit margins of insurance companies and “big pharma” are not out of line when compared to comparable industries. Expectations of large cost savings by regulation are not warranted, and this is in addition to the above noted deleterious effects of cost controls.

Putting these two remarks and their objections together alongside the much touted (by the left) reminder that those on the left are so very much smarter than we knuckle-dragging dim-witted conservatives that the left is aware of this disconnect between their policy proposals and the expected effects of their proposal. Thus those clever fellows on the left realising that a universal reasonable catastrophic insurance coverage plan is 40 pages and that cost controls do lead to shortages. 

Now one might propose that the Democratic politicians and pundits are aware that their proposals and justifications for the same have little if anything to do with each other and that instead that they prefer these proposals for very different reasons than those stated. For example, these proposals may ease the passing of any number of other social measures which the increase in social control and power these bills might afford. That, while dishonest at best, is at least understandable after all they see this measure to be one which is to their personal advantage. The problem is the rank and file member of the left. Why do they support a bill which so badly fits the stated aims? This, for me, a mystery.

Friday Highlights

Good morning. Well, I didn’t get up early enough to get links out yesterday, and I’m pushing it today. Last night I worked on the homily/final text. The startup is a little behind schedule … and the physical install is done, but software and controls (my part) is being shaken out … so I’ve little spare time during the day. Anyhow …

  1. As Lent approaches … a fast practised by the Chaldean/Assyrian, Ethiopian, and Coptic churches that I’d not known about … the Ninevite fast
  2. After all that … Russia is indifferent
  3. An economics paper noted.
  4. A econ question.
  5. A book noted … another here.
  6. How to teach and study ethics.
  7. The hard left and militant Islam … a match not made in heaven.
  8. The SOTU address discussed. A valid point on that here.
  9. Foolish zeal and St. Ephrem.
  10. All that spending … did what? A fat lot of nothing.
  11. Well, all the kerfuffle about Obama/Alito tells us that people need thicker skins. Heck guns have been discharged in the halls before. Now, people apparently care about “mouthing ‘no'”. Geesh. And alas, Mr Obama had it wrong factually … not that it matters. Some more remarks from the center, which oddly enough when noted here were ignored by my left leaning commenters. One more from Ms McArdle.
  12. A list which the left wants us to slip further down.

What’s This About?

Before I get to work on my homily/oral final tonight, I want to get a quick note or observation out. Recently it was observed (I think I read it somebody saw it touted by Kevin Drum) that progressives are trying to rename or redefine capitalism and free market. It seems they think that “free market” is really socialism and “capitalism” really means something like protectionism for big business and mega-corporations.

I don’t want to delve into parsing what the word “capitalism” really means, but I have no clue as to how one jumps from free-market to socialism. I thought free-markets mean minimizing barriers to entry to markets and any reducing or eliminating any restraint of trade between actors (corporations and individuals). Minimal regulation and as well minimal safety nets. That’s what free market means to me, which has nothing in common with socialism, which I associate with big government and lots of market controls.

For that matter who thinks support for capitalism means protecting big business interests?

Perhaps this has to do with this kerfuffle about Mr Obama “redefining capitalism” and some knuckle-head thought they should also re-define free-market.

Perhaps is just related to this ghastly attempt to re-write history.

Lev Tolstoy and Mr Obama

One of the themes in Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace (of many) concerns the ability of great leaders to control the vicissitudes of fortune. In this manner, Napoleon is seen as not, as so many regarded him at the time, as a master of his fate and controller of his and many other’s destinies. But instead he was just the highest chip in the froth. That it was not his will that drove France to Empire and thereby pushing he and they willy nilly to disaster in the Russian snows (giving us Mr Minard’s completely amazing graph as well). Now Lev Tolstoy may have offered that a Higher Power determined the course of history. Alternatively in this modern era, one might instead propose that aggregate behaviour of the crowds might be the driving force.

Mr Obama is the head of our state. But he is likely less in control of events than we pretend. Now it is true that like, Mr Kerry, Mr Obama has been striving for the Presidency much of his adult life. While I find this personally distasteful ambition, I cannot project my personal animosity for the seeking for power on others. There may actually be admirable aspects to ambition even if they are a far cry from my personal makeup. Continue reading →

Image and Meaning: An Example

Often you will find this image on car bumpers. The people presenting this image have a certain set of ideas which they would like to convey with this image. Recently I’ve been considering, taken on face value this image might mean something very different. Darwin Fish

Examine for a moment the history of the original Icthys symbol. This was historically used as a secret sign/symbol that Christians, during persecution, could secretly signal their faith to other Christians. The fish was chosen because in Greek the word fish could be an acronym for Jesus Christ. So here is the meaning I might interpret this symbol to mean. Wiki tells us:

The use of the Ichthys symbol by early Christians. Ichthus (ΙΧΘΥΣ, Greek for fish) can be read as an acrostic, a word formed from the first letters of several words. It compiles to “Jesus Christ, God’s son, savior,” in ancient GreekἸησοῦς Χριστός, Θεοῦ Υἱός, Σωτήρ“, Iēsous Khristos Theou Huios, Sōtēr.

  • Iota (i) is the first letter of Iēsous (Ἰησοῦς), Greek for Jesus.
  • Chi (kh) is the first letter of Khristos (Χριστóς), Greek for “Christ” or “anointed”.
  • Theta (th) is the first letter of Theou (Θεοῦ), that means “God’s”, genitive case of Θεóς, Theos, “God”.
  • Upsilon (u) is the first letter of huios (Υἱός), Greek for Son.
  • Sigma (s) is the first letter of sōtēr (Σωτήρ), Greek for Savior.

Historians say the twentieth century use of the ichthys motif is an adaptation based on an Early Christian symbol which included a small cross for the eye or the Greek letters “ΙΧΘΥC“.

The above symbol signifies that Jesus Christ God’s son and Saviour surrounds and encompasses our scientific understanding of nature, as signified by Darwin here as well as the cute little feet. The feet indicate that the evolution of creatures, from sea to land and so on is surrounded and included in God’s plan. While I myself am indifferent to the ID vs not-ID debate, perhaps the ID movement might take this symbol as their own, seeing how it describes concisely how many of them view evolution.

An Upside to Obama-care

So Mr Obama wants a national healthcare plan. The right opposes this and the left is doing it’s best to shut down debate and shunt discussion aside, because the objections are strong and many. However, the right might be using the wrong tactic. Perhaps the best tactic is to embrace the dark-side.

Mr Obama points out that with a National Healthcare plan that people like himself, i.e., the wealthy, would as he did for his grandmother still be able to pay for the care of their loved ones directly out of their pocket. Yet this is very problematic for his vision of nationalized healthcare. For it provides the essential loophole the rest of us need.

The rest of us, that is the normal working stiffs while on the first glance don’t have the wherewithall to have the ready cash to pay for emergency healthcare do in fact have the same. For, we are currently paying for all of our healthcare. The solution goes something like this:

  1. An enterprising group of ordinary middle class people, who realize they can’t pay for emergency medical care which isn’t or is poorly covered by government coverage (or for example to skip to the head of the queue like the wealthy will be doing) will do what free people have done from the start. They’ll organize (an activity oddly enough Contitutionally protected).
  2. By organizing in groups, collectively people can, uhm, spread their risk. Each will make monthly contributions to a collective pool, managed financially by a small number of administrators, who will figure costs, apportion and manage benefits, and invest funds. In fact there is a word for such organizations, they were formerly known and health care insurance companies. You might even find employers adding supplemental health care as a benefit to attract qualified, skilled, and attentive labor. I’d even go so far as to suggest that health care companies currently in place might jump at this market.
  3. Mr Obama suggested that you can keep your current insurance. But this is not in fact what will occur. Your current insurance will magically transmute itself to be just supplemental insurance. If Mr Obama and the left decides this is dirty pool, it will become black market dirty pool, and I for one see know reasonable argument for why a person could not participate in such a market. If Mr Obama can use his ready cash … any schmoe should be able to join a risk pool to effectively do the same.
  4. There is in fact a big fat plus to this plan. Supplemental insurance of this sort and in this market is completely (so far as I know) unregulated. It’s new unplowed ground. Unregulated health care markets are in fact exactly what Mr Obama thinks his plan is avoiding and also (not?) oddly enough exactly what I happen to think the health care market needs. Health care needs wild wooly unregulated markets to spur innovation. The unanticipated unregualted supplemental insurance market might provide at least a small sampling of this very thing.
  5. Thus perhaps the best thing for the right to do is cede the healthcare proposal but fight for realistic cost controls and appraisals. That the taxes for this boondogle will not get out of hand, which will in turn cause the government insurance to cover and provide for in actuallity very little in the way of health care in the absence of supplemental income. This is actually what the right argues for, very minimal bare coverage for all and abillity to pay provides the caps on health care for the rest.

So the only stumbling block for this argument is one I don’t see as of yet. Is there any argument that would prevent supplemental insurance from springing up? Realistically I don’t see any difference between Mr Obama paying for his grandmother’s care and a group of people, in free association, collecting to provide the same and spreading the risk.

Brief Gnotes

  • It appears the “experts” think SOX (which as they say SUX) wasn’t bad enough a handicap for the US economy. For now we’re going to get SOX 2! (Will that SUX more?) That’s what a struggling economy needs, more paperwork, more restrictions. Who is feeding people in the beltway all those stupid pills? Why? Is there something in the water in DC? Who can imagine the way to jumpstart and get an economy into high gear is to increase the paperwork and regulatory load? That after we find corporations can reach a size which is “too big to fail” that either elected government officials are going to be able to keep that in check or that “too big to fail” should be enshrined in statute … without discussion over “too big to fail” is right, if there are alternatives, or if it is even a good idea.
  • When unemployment is rising, do we hear calls to lower the minimum wage? Does it occur to anyone that a high minimum wage makes it hard to justify keeping a marginal employee. That it’s easier for a company in a pinch to keep an employee if it can do so by cutting his salary … not his job? Does it occur to anyone that there are indeed people who would rather work for a bit less than not work at all? Does it occur to anyone that requiring and encouraging employer supplied health care is just another way of raising that minimum wage and making that marginal worker unemployable. That unskilled laborer in the US who requires $7+ an hour + benefits worth another $1+ per hour means he can’t compete at all on a global market with a Asian worker who will work for $3 to $8 in a 12 hour day … which means his job has gone or is quickly going to go overseas. 
  • When Mr Obama says, “I welcome discussion and open debate on this” … does anyone still believe that is honestly intended? Or has everyone now realized that is just one of his many tactics used to stifle debate. After all the last, what three(!?), times he’s said that immediately afterwards legislation is rammed through Congress for “emergency” reasons and signed immediately without pause. The left used to complain that Mr Bush was always lying. I doubted that, in that I though that it was clear that Mr Bush believed to be true the things he said. However, it must be said that when it comes to being dishonest, Mr Obama outpaces Mr Bush by a wide margin.
  • Our family saw Up recently. I think the theme that I perceived, that it is not the sharing of grand adventure and the big things in life that matter and mean the most to us, but the ordinary and prosaic. I think that is right. I’m also disapppointed that someone snuck a “Disney” disfunctional dad into the story. Why is it in the Disney world that parents, and almost always the dads are missing, evil, or dysfunctional? And … on another cinematic note, Land of the Lost is already at the dollar theater (actually $3 now) and in the same week that Wolverine and Star Trek get there. So finally I might get to see the second two in the next week or so at long last.

Politics and Cotton Candy Speeches

Politics often disgusts me. President Obama gave a pretty speech at Ohama beach recently. In it we find these remarks:

We live in a world of competing beliefs and claims about what is true. It’s a world of varied religions and cultures and forms of government. In such a world, it’s all too rare for a struggle to emerge that speaks to something universal about humanity.

The Second World War did that. No man who shed blood or lost a brother would say that war is good. But all know that this war was essential. For what we faced in Nazi totalitarianism was not just a battle of competing interests. It was a competing vision of humanity. Nazi ideology sought to subjugate and humiliate and exterminate. It perpetrated murder on a massive scale, fueled by a hatred of those who were deemed different and therefore inferior. It was evil.

We don’t celebrate VE day, and rightfully so. We didn’t win the war in Europe. If the Soviet regime had not been a totalitarian state, but instead another liberal democracy … D-Day may never have come about. D-Day is an achievement. It is a moment to remember for the American and the West, the struggle and the sacrifice. We fought hard on D-Day and at Guadalcanal and in the Pacific. But, for myself, I wonder if we would have the will to persevere at a Stalingrad (where nearly 2 million died in a six month long battle). Our country (at least the left) balked today at 3,000 military deaths over more than a four year period.

And yes Nazi Germany was one of the glaring unlearned lessons from the 20th century, Soviet Russia which bore most of the burden of defeating that Nazi threat was the other. And alas, the misconceptions underpinning the reasons which brought those things he notes as “It was evil” into the light of day are shared and still maintained in the hopes and dreams of the left. Hope. Change. The utopian dream than man and society can be perfected coupled with a rejection of the dignity of man was lie at the core of all three visions. That same is the dream on which Nazi Germany was founded as well. It was evil in outcome then … it will likely be so again. Mr Obama’s administration began with the motto “never let a good crises go to waste.” And if you don’t have the means to effect that change … just find a new crises. And if no crises can be found? Hmmm. Three choices. Give up, make a crises, or manufacture an enemy.

(This in part is the thesis that I’ve been exploring in Chantal Delsol’s essay … which oddly enough has passed unremarked.)

Nature Recapitulating Theological Ontology

Many early Christians enjoyed number coincidences and used them in their prayers and writings. In that vein I offer some coincidences between our understanding of nature and Christian theology.

God in the Christian understanding is Three and One in Trinity. As Christ as well is both Man and God expressing two natures in one person.

Matter displaying wave and particle behavior having two natures in one. Furthermore, fundamental particles are deployed in three lepton and quark families respectively. With SU(3) of color (strong forces) and Gell-Mann’s eightfold way also the eight cardinal virtues and sins. Examine the forces in nature and we find there are three massless (gluon/strong, photon/electric, and graviton/gravity) and one with massive (weak/W&Z) … again the three and the one.

St. Augustine in his Confessions wrote that Nature worships God via our deepening understanding of it. Little did he know how well nature recapitulates theological ontology as the Standard Model post-dated St. Augustine by just a few years.

Then again, why does space have 10 dimensions? 😀

A Baseball Bleg

I will readily admit that I don’t follow baseball very closely. I do however, cycle in fact in the past I raced and I hope/intend to return to racing in the spring. One of the most important magazines/periodicals for the cycling enthusiast is called Velonews, “A Journal for the Competitive Cyclist.” This magazine is aimed at people who aren’t at the top professional level in the sport, but are participants and not just spectators and fans. Thus most of the advertising and many of the articles are not aimed at just giving insight into the top names and events in the sport, but equipment, training, and strategy for the participant. Running magazines, I think, most often aim for a similar audience.

What I’m looking is the analogous magazine or publication for the baseball enthusiast who, as an adult, still plays the game and is a fan as well.

Any suggestions?

Intentional Naivete as Rhetorical Technique

That’s my hypothesis … because the alternative is uncharitable. Words have meaning. Words have cultural context. How, in this day and age, can anyone forget that? Some examples of people who probably didn’t forget, but pretend to?

Regarding the Columbia speech Mr Kuznicki things:

The one consolation I have in all of this is really very simple: Sooner or later real, live, thinking Iranians will see this speech. And they will howl with derision.

This is naive in so many ways. Continue reading →

Parties and Phone Booths

Mr Schraub gets it upside down at the Debate Link writing:

Republicans should generally “regard participation in the self-destructive homosexual lifestyle as incompatible with public service on behalf of the GOP.” The party cannot claim “authority and clarity to the moral issues that confront our society and at the same time send ambivalent messages about sexual behavior.” As David Kurtz notes, objectively speaking, such a standard would have to extend beyond just homosexuals and out to adulterers, divorcees, abortion recipients, etc., and then you have a party that can fit inside of a phone booth.

Actually the choice by the media choice to “out”  is the real anti-gay message (see here and here) and the phone booth analogy fails. The GOP wants to hold its leadership to a high (particular) standard of ethics, that might constrain the leaders, but it says nothing (at all bad) about the party or its healthy size.

The Democrat on the other hand wants no (or very low) standards for its leaders, e.g., Mr Clinton a serial sex offender and adulterer yet still highly praised by feminists, but that it’s mainstream members be sheep, err, properly willing to take the advice of their betters, where here “better” means the more knowledgeable large brained highly (and properly) educated class.

I’m unclear on how the attempt to hold a leadership to a high standard makes the grassroutes a phone booth … but at the same time, I don’t know how the condescension of the Democratic party leadership leads to a party that must needs something larger than a phone booth for its membership.

Kids and Boredom

Kids these days are often “bored”. Are young people the same? My regret isn’t boredom, it’s that there aren’t five times as many hours in the day so I could pursue all the multifarous things I wish I had time for.

How about you? Are you ever bored or do you more often wish you had more time?

Is it a growing up thing, or is a generation gap I wonder.

Update: Or perhaps I’m just marching to the beat of another drummer, I’m just to the far side of this demographic (45), but it doesn’t fit me at all.

Curious Numbers

In the vote for the original Iraq war, some 23 Democratic Senators voted nay. The GOP and Democrats are about evenly split at about 33% of the population (with an additional 33% that don’t give a rat’s you-know-what).  So by representation, just under a sixth of the “people” can be accounted as having “taken a stand” against the war at this point.

Noisy sixth, I think.