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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

More Proof that Obama Hates America!

According to one source, at a recent luncheon for war veterans, just before he was to go on stage to deliver a speech, Obama farted! The more carefully you watch, the more clear it becomes how much Obama hates America! Of course the few remaining Obama supporters are frantically trying to defend him with some of the most absurd arguments you will ever hear. One Obama supporter summed up the sentiment, saying "farts happen -- this whole conversation is dumb". Of course they happen, but he obviously carefully timed the fart to say to those patiently waiting war heroes "this is what I think of you and your sacrifice."

Video and audio from the event, however, give no hint that he farted, and another source who was near him at the time says he did not see, hear, or smell Obama's fart. This all seems a little too suspicious. By all accounts, cole slaw and a three bean salad were a large portion of the lunch. Did Obama not even eat the food served at the event? Does he have a cure for flatulence that he won't tell us about? Maybe he's not even an American! Those are the least nefarious explanations I can think of -- it's almost certainly something much worse! Clearly, he's hiding something!

Obviously, whether or not he farted is completely beside the point, but it helps to illustrate how much Obama hates America. He cannot be trusted! We must remain vigilant!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lieberman the Antisemite

Does anyone else see the dollar signs in Joe Lieberman's eyes? Almost as soon as talk fires up about the health reform bill reaching the floor of the Senate -- almost as soon as Olympia Snowe steps down from her position as "the swing vote" by announcing that she will vote with her party on the procedural question of whether to allow an up-or-down vote on a bill....

...Almost as soon as this power vacuum appears along with the millions of dollars in health insurance and pharmaceutical industry money that are sure to go to the occupant of that spot... Lieberman pops up like a Nazi propaganda cartoon caricature of the greedy Jew who can't resist the smell of money! "Me me me me! I'm the swing vote. I'll sell out the Democrats again for a little more money and power!"

Does anyone else find this offensive to Jews? I am a Jew, and I find this offensive.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

An Apology on Behalf of Grayson

Republicans are calling for Democratic representative Alan Grayson to apologize for citing reseach by a Harvard scientist that unfairly exposes the depth of their bloodlust and the degree to which they will sacrifice the health, security, and quality of life for the general population for a little extra cash with which to go whoring.

It's an outrage, and it's part of a pattern that goes beyond Grayson. Democrats have taken to unfairly citing data when it's clear that the data are so blatantly and unfairly skewed. The data almost universally favor the progressive position on this, leaving the right only the tactics of distortion and fear mongering.

On behalf of progressives, I apologize for the data. But I also call on the data itself to change. After all, isn't the data really to blame here? It's time for the data to be more balanced to allow anti-progress ideologues the option to make rational arguments in support of their position should they wish to do so.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Don't take my word for it, but...

When someone feels the need to say "don't take my word for it," it's usually a good idea to not take their word for it.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My Country for a Thesaurus

Those who would give up the words "Essential" and "Temporary" deserve neither "Liberty" nor "Safety"

Friday, September 4, 2009

More Rights to Demand

The political right across the country is rising up to say "NO" to reliable and affordable health insurance. While they may not be able to completely stop it within the framework allowed by the Constitution, they have found a few ways to limit the encroachment. In Georgia and Arizona, for example, we find proposals to guarantee the right of individuals to purchase health services, so that regardless of what a government insurance plan might cover, individuals will always have the right, if they choose, to pay for it out of their own pocket instead. While, I don't disagree with such measures, I think it's time for those of us who want reform to get in on this strategy, too!

It's time to regulate the practice of insurance companies harvesting organs without explicit consent due to a lapse in coverage. Insurance companies never have the right to harvest your organs without your explicit consent unless they submit an appeal to the FDA that the specific contractual provision being invoked represents an "innovation" and thus regulation preventing it stifles innovation and restricts their individual freedom as a corporation.

Also, I think it's time to put some regulations in place to prevent drug manufacturing and marketing companies from testing experimental drugs on children without first informing their parents. This could slow advances and reduce the profitability of a large portion of our economy, but I think we can all agree that it's the right thing to do. At the very least, we should require that parents be informed within a year of the completion of such experiments so that they may better decide how to deal with its residual impacts.

Finally, we should demand a law that forbids the GOP from releasing genetically enhanced infectious diseases into the general population without first informing a board of physicians and epidemiologists at the CDC. Some might go so far as to require a vote before allowing such a practice, but that might stifle the freedom of the GOP to do and say whatever they want to get their way.

As we can see there are a lot of proposals on both sides of the table. These are tough questions that I hope we can tackle. I also hope we can give both sides fair consideration. Perhaps we should start by laying them all out and discussing the pros and cons. We might also consider compromises. On proposals to guarantee the rights of individuals to pay for services [rights that we find in places such as the UK and Canada where their highly socialized systems are somewhat tempered and augmented by the free market], we might consider adding a measure to inform the individuals of the choices they actually have and/or measures to limit businesses from collecting such payments for services from both the patient and the government provided insurance without informing the patient. On the proposal to limit the GOP's release of engineered diseases, I don't know if we can find a compromise on such an important check of GOP power, but we might offer other concessions they would need, such as unlimited public restroom gay sex with strangers.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Slippery Slope

Slippery slope arguments put us on a slippery slope to equating any social contract with totalitarianism. Hitler used slippery slope arguments too, you know!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Can you diagram this sentence?

Do you remember how to diagram sentences? Help me diagram this one:
No taxation without representation.

I ask because I think it describes my overriding political philosophy more closely than any other pithy political slogan in history and yet people who claim to idealize the political movement where it originated are so opposed to everything I believe. What gives?

Maybe I would make it "no imposition without representation" but that "imposition" would certainly include taxation, so I don't think that's the disconnect. Also, I see the whole sentence as vital to it's meaning... the imposition, the representation, and the logical construct "no X without Y." It would not mean the same thing to say "no X and we demand Y" or just "we demand Y" or "No X.... " or "I'm a retard with a gun who doesn't know anything about history or political philosophy, but I am angry and easily propagandized by xenophobic sentiment."

Maybe it's just my interpretation, but I was thinking a sentence diagram might help to clarify the distinction.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Too Disconnected Healthcare Debates

I think I just realized where the disconnect is!

Ultimately, the one rational argument against a modern healthcare system is the Friedman-style philosophy of self interest and greed as a force for good. There is validity in the free-market principles themselves. We could have that debate, but that's not the debate we see. Instead the debate is jumping from one outright lie designed to drum up fear to another. Which leads me to the disconnect.

It's in the "self interest" of the wingnuts to lie and drum up fear to help them win the political fight. So, this is one of the places where Friedman's philosophy fails. In political debates and arguments over questions of knowledge and fact, it creates misunderstanding and moves us further away from solving the problem at hand.

Another place that pure self-interest fails is in healthcare economics. Healthcare businesses generally make more money the more ill we get and the more expensive care gets. Insurers benefit because they get to "skim" from a statistically much larger pool of money as costs increase [I'm not opposed to insurance -- just stating the fact of how the business model works]. So, it's in their interest that we pay a higher portion of our GDP in healthcare costs and it's in their interest that we need more treatments and procedures. Sure, you could have informed [or just frugal] consumers to counteract those forces, but in a purely market-based system, the only people who would really understand medicine in all its technical detail would be people who profit from more illness, more treatments, more procedures, and higher costs.

This of course doesn't prove whether healthcare is better in a pure market-based system, a purely socialized system, or a hybrid. All we really have are metrics. The metrics and the ethics implied by them is what this debate should be about. Look at all the variety of solutions around this country and the world and the wealth of DATA we have on the cost and quality of outcomes! It's amazing how much there is! Even more amazing is how little of it we are talking about in a debate that is presumably about the cost and quality of healthcare!

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Healthcare Debate In a Nutshell

Progressive: Look at this data. We can have a better healthcare system!
Reactionary: So it's going to cost more?
Progressive: No. Less.
Reactionary: So less quality healthcare?
Progressive: No. More. Did you look at the data?
Reactionary: That's socialism! They are going to take away our freedom!
Progressive: Okay, we'll make it optional. But did you look at the data?
Reactionary: That's not your choice to make! It's my choice! You are not allowed to give me a choice because it was already my choice to begin with.
Progressive: Uhm...... Okay.
Reactionary: No! It's not okay! This ... means ... WAR!


Where's the Debate?

So are there legitimate arguments against this thing? Sure. Consider the horrible quality of care in countries with nationalized healthcare. As explained in this editorial, "Hawking wouldn't have a chance in the UK, where the National Health Service would say the life of this brilliant man, because of his physical handicaps, is essentially worthless." Of course, they have now corrected the article by removing the original reference to Hawking and including a correction at the top that they regret having "implied that .. Hawking ... did not live in the UK." Yes, Hawking is from the UK and has turned up to defend his nation's healthcare system.

So they had to fib a little, but their point remains intact: there are legitimate arguments against modern healthcare systems like those of every other developed country in the world. For example, Conservatives for Patients Rights found three cases where the British NHS fell short of expectations illustrating the problems with socialized medicine. Although two of the three later complained that their views were misrepresented and that they actually support the NHS and universal healthcare, but again these are just anecdotes anyway. Nothing ever goes wrong in the US healthcare system, right? ...as long as you are wealthy or have a job that offers insurance and the insurance company decides to cover you, right? No mistakes here!

To be fair, I'm sure they could have found three Brits to prove their point if they had tried a little harder. I can find plenty of anecdotes from the US to prove the point that the the US system lets people down. We can find nationalists/patriots in every modern industrialized nation who swear that their system is the best. Wouldn't some metrics be more meaningful than dueling anecdotes? I think so. Are there legitimate arguments against "socialist" healthcare systems like the ones every other industrialized nation in the world has? I'm sure there are. I just haven't found anyone who takes the opposing side yet. Plenty of people screaming "bloody murder! Fascism! Communism!... BOO! Be afraid, they are coming to get us!" But no one yet who is willing to discuss the metrics, ethics, and market forces rationally from the opposing side. I'm waiting. Until then, don't accuse me of name calling, you F*CKING RETARD!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Gingrich v Gingrich, and Palin Forgets Her Own Name

Perhaps Palin and Gingrich aren't so nuts after all. Maybe Palin is just dumb and Gingrich is just a shameless bloodthirsty monster.

According to an old press release, Palin publicly promoted end-of-life planning -- dedicated a day to it as governor of Alaska. The evidence is still up on the Alaska state web site. I'm not sure why she has changed her position so abruptly that she now considers the promotion of such activities tantamount to Marxist death panels, but I suspect it has something to do with the intricacies of the executive office. Consider the time Palin went on "Stump the Candidate" and she couldn't name a supreme court decision she disagreed with other than Roe. While it's sad that she couldn't name Dred Scott or Plessy v Ferguson, it is even more sad that she couldn't think of the Exxon case she had publicly criticized only three months earlier. So perhaps Palin is a bad example here since she is lacking in the mental capacity needed for a fair debate.

Consider Newt Gingrich, then. Gingrich also has come out against the provision to cover end-of-life counseling, a provision sponsored in part by Johnny Isakson, a Republican from Georgia. This puts Gingrich at odds with Isakson, but it also puts Gingrich at odds with another Republican from Georgia named Newt Gingrich. Just prior to this issue being raised into the spotlight, Gingrich himself suggested for Medicare exactly the provision being debated in this bill. Of course, to be fair, it also puts Isakson at odds with Isakson... no wait, I think he switched back again.

In conclusion, WTF?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Time Has Come

When a person's mind is so degraded that they are no longer connected with reality and when they have become such a burden that their continued existence does more damage than they ever had to offer in positive contributions, it is time for that person to pass away.

That's why I believe it is time to euthanize Sarah Palin. I would typically say that someone with resources should be allowed to employ any available and legal technology to extend their own life as they choose. When it's no longer a question of whether a person will die but when they will die -- when death appears imminent, we should look to help them strike a balance between extending life and allowing them to die with dignity and without too much unnecessary stress. Each person should be allowed to decide for themselves, within reason, how that balance should be struck. This general framework remains equally valid even as individual options, such as euthanasia or the world's most expensive hospice care, are removed from the equation by ethical and practical considerations.

I believe this general view is shared widely among reasonable people. But I would hope as a civil society, we can all agree to make an exception in the case of Sarah Palin.

P.S. This was originally intended as a joke, but I have since realized that the logic here is more sound than anything ever heard out of Palin's mouth. It makes me wonder whether I should adopt this as a legitimate way of thinking about Palin. Then I realize the argument is flawed and more than little scatter-brained, so I must reject it as the nonsense it is. But isn't it elitist of me to reject an argument just because it is logically and ethically flawed? If I reject it simply for being nonsense, then I am an intellectual elitist and a threat to Palin's ideology, but if I accept it, then I am a potential threat to her person. Either way, I find that there is no common ground to be had.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Maybe we aren't so special after all

Listening to the Origins Symposium, I was struck by a statement made by a member of the panel: "Is Our Universe Unique, and how can we find out". Someone suggested that "we have no idea" what to expect of the term of the Drake equation regarding the likelihood of forming intelligent life given the formation of life. I have to disagree. We don't have a precise estimate, but Dawkins and others have suggested a process giving a good enough idea for cosmological purposes.

There is no shortage of politically correct intellectuals who point out that there is nothing fundamentally more fit in evolutionary terms about complexity and intelligence, and intelligence is not inevitable. Why, then? Chance? We could invoke the anthropic principle and call it a fluke, but we have a better answer. Consider a simpler stage nucleic-acid based life as we know it. In the absence of selection, we expect genetic drift, and there are only two directions to move on the complexity scale: up or down. Note that there is a lower bound of complexity below which, it is no longer alive. When governed by genetic drift alone, we expect the distribution of populations to diffuse along the complexity scale. When a useful solution emerges [by chance/diffusion], as with eukaryotes, it creates a new soft lower bound for the complexity of those organisms. Below this lower bound, this new life fails.

So, we have a diffusion process together with a ratcheting mechanism that makes an increasing maximum complexity inevitable, even against selective forces that generally push in the opposite direction.

Further, once we recognize this process, it is not such a great leap to consider that more complex organisms could [and sometimes do] displace and destroy simpler ones. This supports the possibility that the lower bound on complexity for life as we know it could be a soft lower bound that emerged after earlier, simpler life forms. These simpler life forms may have been displaced, destroyed, or hidden by the more complex life.

Given our environment, maybe life is inevitable, and maybe even intelligence is inevitable. Maybe we aren't so special after all.

Anthropic Acid in the Middle of the Cosmic Pyramid

When posing the questions of why/how we exist in a scientific context, the questions can be posed/organized/framed in many ways, but they typically have the same layout. The cosmos can be described as a series of scales and explanatory mechanisms roughly corresponding to the layout of the Drake equation. The possibility of life is can be seen as the product of a series of possibilities:
          Cosmological Possibility
          Universal Possibility
          Galactic/Planetary Possibility
          Chemical Possibility
          Biological Possibility
          Historical Possibility

This weekend's Origins Symposium at ASU is laid out in this way, with cosmologists speaking at the beginning leading to biologists and ending with discussions of human culture. This also corresponds roughly to Dennett's "grades of possibility" as well as the typical ladder of reductionism (philosophy -> physics -> chemistry -> biology -> social science -> philosophy -> just kidding).

Associated with different layers are different formulations of the anthropic principle. When listening to what I would usually consider one of the less interesting and more mundane layers [the formation of earth-like planets -- just a bunch of dirt flying around], I found one of the more interesting formulations of the anthropic principle. It is turning out that earth-like planets may be extremely rare.

If earth is unlikely, then why do we exist? Because we are here to ask that question, of course! DON'T assume, as cosmologists have historically done, that our region of reality/space is typical [the mediocrity principle]! We can only assume, at best, that it is typical of places like ours! It sounds a little circular, but we now have evidence of some formulations of the anthropic principle against the mediocrity principle. I haven't read the article yet, but the cover of this month's SciAm reads "DARK ENERGY Does it really exist? Or does Earth occupy a very unusual place in the universe?"

I suspect that evidence in one layer will spread the anthropic principle through the cosmological pyramid, weakening the mediocrity principle of other layers as well [In case you can't tell, I've been reading Darwin's Dangerous Idea]. Maybe we are special after all.