Friday, September 25, 2009

Pathetic Entry

I have guests over for a long weekend and have been unable to do complete updates. That being said I'd hate to disappoint my vast audience, which I believe consists of myself and no one else. But, alas, I cry silently.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Well, I was hoping to make this a daily blog, but I got a bit busy this week. So nothing too exciting will occur for a few days. Once I get a routine down I hope to make this a once a day event. Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Here is a basic comment I made before concerning libertarianism as a political belief.

"Wow, its incredible how much people mis-understand libertarianism.

Modern political libertarianism is old fashioned "Enlightenment Liberalism" updated to take into account modern social, economic and political issues. Libertarianism is defined as "advocating freedom of action and thought." An ideology directly endorsed in America's Declaration of Independence. And while the US had many failings, slavery and limited suffrage, it was essentially the first libertarian nation.

As for today's Libertarianism (keeping in mind that the US has a "weak party system") few of the people running as Libertarians hold true on every Libertarian issue. But over all Libertarians are far more willing to give the individual the benefit of the doubt when it comes to making decisions that impact their life, as opposed to liberal nanny-staters, neo-socialists or family-values bedroom police. Unfortunately, the uneducated have a biased belief that Libertarianism will bring about some Cyberpunk Corporate Dystopia run by the wealthy or a law-less hedonistic love-fest deserving of god's wrath.

Neither of these are correct as Libertarians are not anarchists nor do they want special treatment for the corporations or the wealthy. This view also ignores the fact that like it or not governments, corporations and even churches are made up of groups of...people, and are just as capable of doing great evil as doing great good."

I hope it gives you an idea of what libertarianism is as a political ideology.

Also, John Stossel, one of the only libertarians on TV today, is moving from ABC to Fox News Business on Oct. 19, 2009.
Well, it's good to see the President behaving during this time of recession in such a thoughtful and historically aware manner. If you like your stock market and housing crashes to be followed by a global trade war and perhaps if we're unlucky enough, a real bonefide Depression. Of course you don't need to take my word for the Economist article. They're not Fox News, heck they're not even American so shut up about crazy racists right-wingers and just read.

And while I'm here. This is a further comment I made on Sept. 10, 2009 on the Bad Astronomy Blog in regards to American politics and health care reform. It is in response to comments made by a nice, and reasonable British chap.

"I totally agree that my own biases shape my views in all manner of ways. And I don’t dislike Europe at all. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Spamalot in the Westend. But I do not over rate my fellow man. I believe that an individual making his own decisions is in the best position to see that all of his wants and needs are fulfilled. I don’t believe in anarchy or some other such dystopian/utopian nonsense. Socialist, and in fact all government programs, arise from the actions of people and as such are just as flawed as any other type of government. In the same vein corporations, non-profit organizations, clubs, gangs and every human organization is flawed. I just think that adding yet another level of bureaucracy, a de fcto middleman, drives up costs and takes decision making away from the individual.

I am glad that you like your health care system but there is a large number of people who would not agree with you. The same goes for Canada. And as a person with a congenital heart defect who has had four major open heart surgeries and many minor procedures I would not want to have lived in a different country. (I had all of my surgeries at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. This hospital has been consistently ranked #1 in the country by US News and World Report.) Given the track record of our government, I’m looking at you Amtrak, US Postal Service, Medicare and Social Security, I don’t trust the government’s ability to run any type of health care system.

Many of the “socialist” programs you list as good examples of socialism could easily run by service companies competing in a free market. This already occurs with car insurance, life insurance, some utilities, home security, and many other services, and in nearly every instance the prices of the company services are cheaper for the consumer. Take Laser Eye Surgery for instance. It is not covered by health insurance and so exists outside of this heavily regulated government controlled system. Being in the free market has led to a great reduction in prices, and yet I have never heard of any major scandals within the industry. As for the military this is a bit of a straw man as defense of the nation is a defining characteristic of being a legitimate nation-state, though this is changing as the US government turns to private security companies (i.e. corporate mercs.).

As for the free market and health care, unless you can magically produce doctors, drugs and high-tech medical devices out of thin air, than yes it is a limited resource. Thus, it is still beholden to laws of supply and demand. So long as entrance into the market is unhindered, by either government regulations or corporations deemed “too big to fail” or getting an unfair advantage from government subsidies, price-fixing will be a non-issue as new companies will always work to undercut established firms. This is why the price of consumer products almost always declines soon after a new product is introduced. Why then should health care be any different from buying a big flat screen TV? The price of these TVs are always going down as competition forces price reductions. If hospitals and drug companies truly competed prices would fall and more services would be offered in order to get customers.

As for whether or not the US has the best health care in the world, it depends on how you view the statistics. Survival rates for cancer and congestive heart failure, the two largest natural causes of death in the first world, are the highest. Infant mortality rates are higher because the US counts every live birth from the moment it leaves the womb not after an arbitrary grace period as many nations do. Also, the US has a high number of teen pregnancies which increases complications. The lower life expectancy is almost totally due to inner city violence which leads to a high number of young male fatalities. but if the victim makes it to an ER in the US they have a very high chance of survival. I contend that America’s health care is the best in the world, which is why the rich oil sheiks often come to Johns Hopkins for their medical care Unfortunately, other social issues such as inner city violence and teen pregnancies skew the statistics.

As for your belief that American don’t care about the poor or sick, you are greatly mistaken. Americans are very charitable people. Hospitals are required to offer services if you go to the emergency room. Poor people are not denied care and there are many free or low cost clinics run by non-profit organizations and volunteers. I also do not have problem with a reduced Medicare that assists only those in true need of financial help. Remember also that a large number of millions of uninsured Americans are young healthy people who have made the conscious decision not to pay for health insurance. Would you force them to have insurance? Libertarianism is no more callus than the group think that spawns evil governments, and the actions of these governments always have a higher death toll.

I get the feeling that you have never visited the United States, especially if you have the misguided belief that the people opposing health care reform do so because they feel, “…that companies and their continued profits are far more important than people getting sick and dying, but that’s my European prejudices showing - I know that many in the US have a different philosophical view. We regard health care in the UK as a human right, when people don’t get it it’s an abuse and a tragedy; in the US it seems (to an observer) to be a tradeable commodity like any other; desired, but hardly a right.”

Having been to the UK, and many other European countries (Sweden, France, Spain, Italy, Slovakia, Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands), I can honestly say that nearly every nation is full of nice caring polite individuals (even the French;-). The same is true of the United States. Yes, even Republicans are by in large kind and caring, and very few of them are racists. Having a different view of the government’s role is not a sign of callousness or insanity.

Finally, I have no problem with the government funding pure science. But I’d prefer to see it done in partnership with entities that will follow up on the research in order to make a profit. If this had occurred than perhaps the Apollo Program would have had a far more lasting impact on the history of lunar exploration and settlement."


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

This is a post I made on Sept. 10, 2009 on Phil Plaits "Bad Astronomy Blog". It is an indirect reply to the many people supporting health care reform and the idea that anyone protesting the President's efforts is either crazy or racist.

"It would be nice if everyone here, or even better all Americans, had a better historical grasp of the politics and history surrounding American political discourse. Ever since the presidential election of 1800 there has been extremist rhetoric. Federalists saw the election of Anti-Federalist Thomas Jefferson as the death knell of the Republic. Just a few years later Aaron Burr shot Alexander Hamilton in a duel over claimed political bad mouthing. Political cartoons called Abe Lincoln everything from a tyrant to a barbaric ape. America is no worse off now than it was at the beginning. This “lunatic fringe” is just doing its job. As distasteful as it may seem to many of you, they are the “cheer leaders and pep squads” for their party’s base. The rhetoric becomes especially bad when a party becomes a minority party as they need to build awareness of political differences while demonizing the opposition (making the opposition out to be evil incarnate is especially important in a country with historically low voter turn out). As a student of International Politics, History and Research and Intelligence Analysis I recommend that many of you do some Google searches and read some of the enlightening political mudslinging that has occurred in the past.

That being said I must offer up the disclaimer that I am a registered Republican, though I voted Libertarian in 2004 and 2008 and hold no true party loyalty. I was thoroughly disgusted with George W. Bush and disliked his foreign, social and economic policies. But I truly hope that Republicans recapture control of at least one portion of Congress. During Clinton’s eight years his democratic presidency was well balanced by a Republican Congress and America saw one of its longest economic booms ever. Unfortunately, with the Democrats in control of both Congress and the Presidency there is far less in terms of Checks and balances and a growing unwillingness to compromise (from both parties). I am truly not a fan of the Republicans (in fact I was a Democrat in college and met Bill Clinton while working on his campaign in 1992), but Indiana’s open primary system makes it too easy to stay whatever party I wish without worrying during local elections. In fact I’m only now a Republican to pay homage to Lincoln, my favorite President.

As for the issues Obama has been an abject failure. From a personal liberty point of view he has made no effort to curtail the failed war on drugs. Even in California legal pot sellers are still being arrested by the DEA. He has made no effort to expand gay rights or at least end federal discrimination. He has made only minor moves to end the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, and Gitmo remains a prison for many wrongly accused “suspected terrorists.” He has expanded, not curtailed, the secrecy surrounding many government programs that he derided while Bush was president. Illegal wiretapping and eves-dropping continues unabated. Economically he has greatly increased the national debt by using tax payer’s to bail out failing corporations. And while started under Bush, Obama greatly expanded the effort. His recovery efforts have done nothing to turn the economy around except push the dollar down in value, yet despite this the trade deficit is once again rising. Cap-and-trade is a poor idea as is direct government assistance to create “green” jobs (just read about Spain’s experience with this). And lastly, health care “reform” is a disaster waiting to happen. And while he [Wilson] may not be lying about covering illegal immigrants (something I don’t have too big of problem about as immigrants put more into the economy than they take out) he is lying when he says prices won’t go up, rationing won’t occur and people will be able to keep their current insurance. It’s a simple matter of supply and demand. If more people are covered, either by a government plan or by forced mandate, demand increases. When demand increases price go up. Of course the government can place price caps, which are essentially a form of rationing, but that will lead to a decrease in the number of available doctors (as they bail for a more lucrative field of work) and a decrease in medical innovation (yes the best scientific innovation is profit driven, just ask the winners of the
X-prize). All this while adding another level of government bureaucracy and its associated cost. I have a congenital heart defect and have been among the uninsured before but I still oppose this type of health care reform. Real reform would end the Prescription Drug Benefit, allow people to shop for drugs out of country, scale back Medicare and Medicade to only apply to those who are truly poor, mandate transparency for pricing in hospitals and drug companies so people could comparative shop and move away from insurance being tied to having a job.

People who oppose Obama do see him as a socialist because many of his programs mirror the socialist programs of Europe. Its fine to borrow good ideas from other countries but lets look around and not get hung up on the foolish fascination with “Europe knows best.” Until recently America was the most competitive economy in the world with one of the lowest unemployment rates. Throwing that away should be seen as a bad thing.


P.S. Phil you seemed like a nice guy at TAM 6, but Shermer and Penn and Teller have it right…Skepticism should extend to politics. That’s not cynicism that’s extending rational problem solving to all facets of human behavior."

I think it does a pretty good job in covering my own view on such matters.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Re-Launch

I'm starting to get back into the swing of things after moving and becoming a stay at home dad. I hope to have my blog up and running with daily commentary very soon. My first few posts will be my responses to a a blog comment posted by Phil Plait at ...well really comments to others who made comments. I like Phil and met him at TAM6, but he has a definite pro-Obama bias ( hold over from tha nauseating anti-science policies that emanated from the Bush administration I believe) which sometimes irritates me. My contention is that skepticism should extend into political beliefs and disagreeing with President Obama does not equal racism. We'll delve more into these issues, and others, in the coming weeks.