Thursday, August 27, 2009

Health Insurance.

I must admit to a degree of confusion over those people who argue against healthcare reform because it would likely end private health insurance. What I don't understand is how, in any stretch of the imagination, that would be bad.

Government run hospitals and clinics, yes, that would be bad, but not insurance. Competition as a benefit is associated with a two-party system. The seller and the buyer. Removing the middle-man between them makes no difference. Insurance works by spreading risk, which means the larger the pool, the better distributed the risk. In a sense, this is what Social Security is. As long as the pool remains a certain size, SS works well.

The loss of private insurance would be a good thing. I have yet to hear a cogent argument for private health insurance, and as a student of economics, I'd love to hear one. The best I've heard is that it's a persons choice to expose themselves to danger, in the same way it's a person's right to not wear a motorcycle helmet.

That's a fine argument, but I think that it entails the elimination of Medicare and Medicaid. And if you're against those, then your position is tenable, but such vast parts of the country heavily rely on those two organizations, that I doubt you'd ever get the bill pushed through.

And this is my own perspective on government, but I think government's ONLY goal is the stewardship of freedom. Any and all actions taken by the government must increase freedom. I pay taxes for the roadways. I lose the freedom to spend the money as I chose, but I gain the freedom of being able to drive damn-near anywhere. A net gain, I think.

I see health care similarly. I lose the ability to choose how to spend my money, but I gain the ability to not worry about my insurance running out or a debilitating injury inhibiting my ability to live. And for me, right now, I'm already spending $160 per month on insurance with a $3,000 deductible. If the government can guarantee that I won't be left for dead for $160 per month in taxes, that's a good deal.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Urban Sprawl

I recently purchased a book. Actually, that's a rather rare event for me. What with the infinite resource of the internet and a total disinterest in fiction, I spend almost no time in book stores anymore. Barnes & Noble has cheesecake to die for, though.

I picked up a book that I can safely say is worth the $20 it cost me. It's called A Field Guide to Sprawl. It is not directly anti-development, but it places images in front of you that can only lead to one conclusion; we're screwing up our planet in spectacular fashion.

The general point of the book is to define urban and rural developmental phenomena. They define well-known terms, like "Big Box Retailer" and a few less-known words, like "Boomburg" and "Starter Castle." You can guess what they mean, for the definitions make little difference to my point.

What the photos drive home is how devastating the current, unchecked, low-density expansion is to the planet and to the overall "nice" factor of our home. We go into an area, overpopulate it, destroy it, then the rich people leave, the poor people are left behind, we have a ghetto, and then we get the eventual sprawl of rich people ever outward, looking to get away from the horrid mess they left behind.

None of this is new. Conservationists and their ilk have been talking about this for the past 50 years. Pretty much since the dawn of Levittown, this has been seen. What I think is changing is that now, as opposed to even as little as twenty years ago, the effects of this sprawl are now very visible. The damage is real, as opposed to way off in the future.

I ranted and raved about yuppies and an earlier post. I hate them. Their unchecked expansion and total stupidity is, as I see it, the most destructive force in America. Materialism, the American Dream, and a population that's becoming ever more delineated economically all fuel the expansion of America outwardly. None of these things are inherently bad, it must be noted. Materialism is a totally valid way of life, drives the economy, and is the only reason 90% of the companies in existence, um, exist. The American dream is a great dream and should be striven for. And an economically delineated population is fine just so long as there is constant economic activity between the groups. But combined, along with the human penchant for thinking about "now" as opposed to "tomorrow," means that people will happily bulldoze trees, and Chem-Lawn the fuck out of their grass if it means being happy now.

We aren't there yet. The world is not coming to and end, but in 2007, the 300 millionth American was born, the 400 millionth will be born sometime mid century, and by 2100 we'll be well past half a billion. All this while household sizes are at record lows. The growth is logarithmic, the worse it gets, the worse the getting worse gets. Within just one lifetime, we'll more than double our population. The US can NOT survive with current demographic distribution and a population of 600 million, or perhaps 1 billion. Eventually, we'll have giant megalopoli covering the entire landmass of the US like some sickened pestilence. Then there will be nowhere left to which the yuppies can escape. No new, virgin land they can bulldoze. It will all be done, and then what?

As I said, the world is not ending. Things are, in reality, pretty good. But we must begin taking action now, or the damage in the future may be too great to repair. Especially now, taking action can be pretty cheap. The government can heavily restrict development on virgin land. In my opinion, there are many areas of the country where development on virgin land should be halted entirely. Then, give developers subsidies and tax breaks for building up instead of out.

Population growth is not bad. In fact, I think it's great. If we are to achieve the wondrous, interplanetary civilization that sci-fi has foretold we actually need more people. It's the unchecked outward, low-density growth that's bad. We spread like a bacteria when we should be building towards the heavens.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Jon Stewart vs. M. Bison

The Daily Show lives on finding contradictions by people in the public eye. Fox News is a ripe cornucopia of contradictions. Generally, Fox News doesn't respond because they can't. Whatever was said by the DS writers is rather accurate.

For some reason, Bill O'Reilly decided to respond after the Daily Show's recent piece joking about how Fox News has become liberal.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Fox News: The New Liberals
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealthcare Protests

Now here's O'Reilly's response.

1: I like how O'Reilley opens with a condescending, yet back-handed compliment about how the daily show is usually not mean-spirited and is pretty funny, thus relegating it to mere entertainment.

2: After his first clip, he says "To be fair? Ha!" I want you to listen to the way he speaks here very carefully. Do any of you remember the geeky or nerdy kid back in middle school, as he tries to feign confidence in the face of bullies or mocking. He would talk slowly, acting in a grossly confident manner, trying to mimic confident behavior that they see in other people. They might put their hands behind their back, chuckle arrogantly, or pace around shaking their heads like some kind of James Bond bad guy. I see the same behavior here.

Moreover, unlike Stewart, who makes fun of real contradiction, O'Reilly makes fun of Stewart's joke. Attacking his "to be fair" comment. It was a joke. It would have been like Stewart making an anti-Semitic comment and then attacking him for hating Jews.

3: O'Reilly finally arrives at the pay day, where he will reveal the Daily Show's gross misappropriation of the comment. He says "once again," as though Jon Stewart is constantly taking things out of context and, to my knowledge, he's almost never done that. Importantly, he never contradicts Stewart. If the comment had been something like "survey says: most protesters are simply loons, but we disagree," or something like that, it would have been a legitimate complaint.

But it wasn't. If anything, it made O'Reilly's position worse. He said most have been peaceful, but more than a thousand have been arrested. He argues he was talking about the ones who were arrested, but that doesn't matter. We've had extreme protesters at both the RNC and at the most recent protests, where, oh right, people were armed. It doesn't matter if the protesters were actually loons or not. He said he'd never call protesters loons, but called protesters loons. And then he expanded the description to include people arguing for the "destruction of the American system; for retreat in the face of terrorism." That gross exaggeration includes almost everyone who would have hated Bush enough to stand around outside with signs. So, effectively, he was calling all of the protesters loons.

I also must admit surprise that only 45% of the Daily Show audience is liberal. Why would any conservative watch it when most of the conservative figureheads in the country are constant fodder for the show? Oh, and in another study, Fox News viewers were the second-most clueless when it came to current events, where Daily Show watchers were second-best informed. To be fair, O'Reilly Factor viewers were only a few ticks behind Daily Show viewers.

4: Alright, about playing to your audience, O'Reilly lives in the world's biggest glass house.

5: "Media attacks during Holy week." Why does whether it's during Holy week matter? Regardless, again, this isn't a contradiction. She was still bitching about Christians being attacked. She said no one should be attacked, but that position was immaterial to her complaining that Christians were being singled out. If she had said "Christians are an easy target, but Muslims and Jews get the worst of it." That would have been material to Stewart's comment.

6: Stewart isn't worried? Did he just miss this episode?

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Home Crisis Investigation
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealthcare Protests

7: "Some people believe he's presenting an accurate portrayal of the country on his program, and that is frightening." Again, I reference the study above. O'Reilly has a little more room to speak, since his viewers are decently well-informed, but the network he's on has an audience comprised primarily of idiots.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Cheating Cheaters who Cheat.

There's an increasing commotion, a hullabaloo if you will, about cheating at universities.

First, I completely understand the position of the schools. They are a business producing a product. They produce graduates. Granted, this is an imperfect analogy since the product in this case has its own motivations, but from the university's perspective, that's all they do.

To maintain their stability and viability, they must ensure the quality of said product. That's why universities fight over high-performing students and professors. The students will more likely go on to a degree of fame and fortune, which the university can then advertise, and the professors are more likely to attract those students likely to go from college on to fame and fortune. As such, maintaining the integrity of their product is critical.

But from the student's perspective, it's a non-issue. Much like the logic of risk in athletic doping, the risk of cheating is finite, while the possible benefits are theoretically infinite. In any competitive field, cheating is a given and will always happen, likely in greater amounts than the governing bodies of those competitive fields would like to admit. If we assume widespread cheating, and if sports has shown it's there whether we can detect it or not, and the world has not fallen apart yet, why is there such concern?

Moreover, the risks of not catching the students are, in my opinion, low.
  • For a student's cheating to fly under the radar of common sense, the cheating cannot exceed their normal level of performance by too great a margin. And if they're already high-performing, there's low concern for the school.

  • If their usually high level of performance is the result of cheating, they're already so good at it as to not get caught.

  • An isolated incident of cheating for whatever reason is of low concern, since this doesn't have much bearing on the student's overall performance.
While a school cannot take a relaxed attitude towards cheating, the general acknowledgment that if you do get caught, you're up shit's creek is enough to dissuade most cheats, and the mere nature of college itself will keep the really problematic cheats out. The cheats who are good enough to dodge all of these safety measures suffer a low likelihood of ever getting caught, thus posing no threat to the school's image. Hell, they might even cheat their way to fame.

University Offers New Grade For Cheating Students: FD (

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I've Changed My Mind

In my last post, I argued that the best way to eliminate sexism in the workplace is to put 100% of the power in the hands of the women and have a one-strike-you're-out policy for the men.

I've changed my mind. I debated this for a few days and I must admit this solution is something I've considered viable for some time. I argued myself into a corner with, um, myself, a few hours ago. I think the blanket policy would result in more sexism, not less.

First off, my initial logic. The best corporate policy is a policy that can be applied broadly and quickly with little thought from those doing the applying. A "one strike" policy seemed easy. And while I still think this policy would work if the head of the company is involved with day-to-day operations and employees can go directly to him/her, the larger a company gets, the more you have people who control large portions of the company who are also under the purview of the policy.

This results in a whole slew of problems.
  • The low-level executives will actively mold the areas of the company they manage to minimize exposure to the policy, by, for example, hiring all men or all women.
  • In team-based work, where the teams are frequently formed dynamically based on required work, males would avoid teams with females on them.
  • Mean or vindictive women could use the policy as a tool to manipulate men, resulting in a brain drain of men from the company. At first, I thought this would be a short-lived problem early in the policy, but the reputation could be long-lived.
  • In an attempt to avoid contact with women, men would choose to work with other men, even if the end work would have been inferior to work done with a female coworker. I thought requirements on performance would simply force men to be good little workers, but if those requirements can be met with another male, there is no impetus to exceed expectations with a superior, female employee, resulting in a performance ceiling.
There are other problems, but you get the idea. My blanket policy wouldn't work.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sexual Hair-ass-mant.

In a recent article on Jezebel, they looked over a wide variety of studies and commentary on sexual harassment in the work place. I talked about this in an earlier post in reference to sexism and rape, but this involves no violence. It also confirms to me that sexism trumps racism in a BIG fucking way.

Just imagine a white guy making a nigger comment in a work environment. The NAACP would be so far up that company's ass Jesse Jackson would be popping out their nose. But sexist comments happen all the time and are allowed.

Again, I think the only way to eliminate this completely is not through education, that's too slow, but through forced behavior and fear. Humans are pretty stupid creatures. We work very well with fear. If men are quite literally afraid to even talk to women, the last bits of sexism can be completely knocked out.

Perhaps not personally. The men may go home and complain about bitches and hoes all day, but in the work environment, they are robots doing a job, and the nanosecond they step out of line, they get canned.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Feminism and Betty.

Reposted from Cartoon Vixens.

In my first post to this blog, I commented on Betty Boop as a feminist symbol. She is sexy, she is fun, but she is also accepted and well-liked. This was a pretty revolutionary concept back in the day. I said that the only thing about her that I think is still sexist is that even though she's overtly sexual, she is not sexually active. It was this idea that even though a girl can be social and outward, being pure, i.e. a virgin, was the desirable state.

Apparently, Candie's, the teenage girl clothing company with Britney Spears as its mascot, has started a new... thing... called the Candie's Foundation. Supposedly, this foundation is all about educating parents and children on the problems of teenage pregnancy.

Isn't it a bit surprising, then, that they mention nothing like condoms, birth control, or family planning? Yep. They mention nothing but abstinence. And isn't it interesting that the only problem they mention is pregnancy? Not STD's, or injury. No, just pregnancy. And isn't it even more interesting that Candie's spokesman is Britney Spears, a woman in the running for worst celebrity mother of the decade. And isn't it even more interesting that the "Teen Ambassador" for the newly-formed foundation is Bristol Palin.

Really? Bristol Palin? As though teens across the country look up to her? This is the same Bristol Palin who's baby-daddy spends his life on the talk show circuit bashing the Palins. The same Bristol Palin who recently called abstinence "unrealistic." Yes, one could say she can now speak from experience, but I don't buy that. The "do as I say not as I do" is a real problem, regardless of what the anti-drug ads say. It's like telling your kids not to smoke pot when you can't remember 1976. It's like telling your kids to not dress like morons when there are photos of you in knee-high rainbow socks and Madonna-cones. It doesn't work. Because your argument must logically entail that you are a worse person now than you would have been had you not made such a fateful decision.

If you argue that you like your life now, and seem alright, you have no ground. This is unlike those who speak out against drunk driving after creaming someone, because it is a highly plausible statement that, yes, life would be better today had they not made that decision. Bristol is unlikely to say that, since that would entail saying she hates her own child. Which she could say, and if she did then I'd believe her, but until she says "I wish I did not have this child," she can shut the fuck up.

I haven't even dug into the actual campaign yet! Seemingly, the whole shebang is predicated on the idea that "I'm sexy enough to keep you waiting."

On my blog A Candle in the Dark, I talk about hidden 'isms. I mentioned this in response to anti-prostitution crusaders who were running on an underlying assumption that female sexuality must be protected, while male sexuality is predatory and can be given out willy-nilly. Read into the underlying assumptions of that sentence. The "you" is a male, who is obviously a lascivious animal, otherwise he wouldn't be trying to get the girl to not wait. This also assumes that the full weight of stopping teenage sex is on the female, because men can't be expected to control themselves. Boys will be boys! Hyuk!

Let's think about the mixed messages involved with this. Candie's sells sex. Walk into a Kohl's. All they sell are hyper-sexed teenaged models, covered in sexy gear, to girls who want to be sexy, and then they say to not do anything with it or about it. Sex is bad! But still look sexy! This cheesecake is terrible for you! But look at how delicious it is! It's not just ridiculous, it's disgusting.

Now for that photo, ignoring that the model is apparently 35, it seems like the sentence is shooting for something closer to "I'm confident enough in myself to keep you waiting." That's fine. But it doesn't say that. In fact, that sort of statement is antithetical to Candie's advertising, which is based on "You're not sexy until you have this clothing," which relies on a lack of confidence. If I'm sexy enough to make someone wait, I'm sexy enough to not need Candie's clothing. They certainly don't want that.

It's also a logically inaccurate statement. Being sexy has nothing to do with someone's capacity to make someone else do something nor does it have anything to do with their own self worth in this capacity. It's like saying "I'm tall enough to keep you waiting," or "I'm Caucasian enough to keep you waiting." If it was talking about a girl's self worth, that's acceptable, but then it treads even-more dangerous ground since that implies that the woman is worth it to wait, but any man who would need "no" fucking printed on a t-shirt isn't worth the time, and if the man is worth the time, he'd either not need the slogan or there's no reason to wait. No reason except dogma, that is.

Now, let's get into the consequences of following what Candie's seemingly espouses. They want girls to be overtly hyper-sexed, flaunt it, and then be a cock-tease. BE SEXY!!! But nooooo touchy-touchy. Get those boys HARD! Then condescend to them for being such horny animals. It's an absurd message. The point of sexy is sex. A person portrays a particular image for a particular reason. I dress in a suit for work to appear professional. It's the equivalent of "I'm professional enough... to not work for you" after being offered a job. It's retarded.

Abstinence, The "Sexy" Way (

Friday, August 07, 2009

Music sales

I am of the mind that music is worthless.

Look at all the collection albums. If the music was what was valuable, collection albums wouldn't sell. People already had the music. They already heard it on the radio, or on the original CD. Why do they sell?

Because the music was always infinite, it was the method by which you could get the music that was finite. People were unable to easily make their own high-quality mixes, so they relied on the industry to make them.

Thom Yorke of Radiohead was recently quoted as saying that the recording industry was waiting to die until the CD came along. People were able to record their own tapes. CD's were higher-quality and the consumer was unable to make their own for fifteen years.

I think the recording industry has always sort of known the music was worthless, and it was the limited medium by which consumers could get the music is what was valuable. That's why they make greatest hits CD's that are missing ONE of the singles you actually want. That forces you to buy the More Greatest Hits album for that one track.

The industry actually made money by not giving you what you wanted, because for lots of artists, even the good ones, people want a playlist of their favorite tracks, which frequently involves all of the number one singles.

So the argument that the music is what is valuable is severely negated by the existence of number-1 albums and studio produced greatest hits discs.