30 July 2012

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein, who navigated the twilight turf between consciousness and matter for much of his life, argued that “Man” suffers from an “optical delusion of consciousness” as he “experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest.” His cure? Get some n/um. “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious,” he said. “It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: His eyes are closed.”

I found it here: http://www.themorningnews.org/article/the-heretic?src=longreads

23 July 2012

US Employment Graphs

I'm trying to put together some graphs on the real story regarding the employment rates in the US. When you hear about unemployment numbers, they always leave out a few bits. The first is that "Unemployment Rate" is defined as the percentage of people who are in the labor market who don't have a job. This often does not count stay at home moms, retirees, homeless, etc. What I am plotting is the percentage of the population who have a job (Employed) + percent of people who are looking for a job/claiming unemployment (Unemployed) + percent of people who aren't in the labor force (the group defined above). The percentages are of the entire population. So, unemployment of 6% in this graph means something different than the 8-10% talked about on the news. However, anyone not in the labor force is, by my definition, unemployed. They aren't actively contributing to the tax base in any way. It's real disturbing that less than 60% of the population is considered employed.

The important thing to notice is that the percent of people employed has not increased at all in the past 3+ years under Obama. In fact, this is the lowest the employment rate has consistently been since before Carter. Additionally, the percent of people "Not in the Labor Force" has been trending upward for the past 4 years... and we know that this is not because people are suddenly getting wealthy and being able to retire.

I'm adding a new Employment Rate chart using the latest June 2012 data. Except it now extends back to 2000. It shows how disturbing the employment rate drop has truly been.

This will continue to be revised as I work on more plots. Eventually, I will link to the final spreadsheet.

17 July 2012

America Needs a Visionary

You want America to be great? How do we do that? By bitching all the time? By providing individual groups here and there with their incentives to vote a certain way?

Hell no. You do it through vision. Vision that can pave the way forward to giving the United States the single greatest infrastructure in the world. Infrastructure is key to the movement of people, accessibility of services, and the exchange of resources. The more robust the infrastructure, the more resilient we can be as a country.

The standard of living in the United States is as high as it is because there is a huge uniformity in available services. Highways criss cross the country allowing a business to get the goods it needs from anywhere in the country. Airports allow for quick travel and goods to arrive quickly from around the world. A satellite system for instant communication. Radio. Television. Knowledge.

What are we missing? Well for one, the weather can easily wreck havoc on our country. Why is it that no one talks about creating infrastructure to help deal with some of the greatest concerns we have?

Water is quite possibly the single most important resource our country has. It is also one that can cause death and destruction just as easily as it provides life. It's a fine balance... one that if we had a nation-wide distribution system for would possibly revolutionize this country.

Every year, throughout the country, there will be regions with too much water to handle and regions praying for the same rain that is ruining a small town to drop some water on their dried up farms.

When a region has excessive flooding, it would be possible to pump the excess back to "the grid" and hopefully mitigate the damage. It may not be possible to mitigate all potential damage, but it could possibly avoid the situations where there are flash floods or periods of extended rains that cause localized flooding. Some years there are areas in the country that in the middle of extreme droughts while other areas can't get rid of the water fast enough.

A nation-wide water distribution system would stabilize the farming industry as it would eventually be possible to irrigate every farm in the country.

This is a "blue sky" sort of dream. This would take trillions of dollars over dozens of years. However, it is this kind of dreaming, the dreaming that only the most powerful country in the world could undertake successfully.

Instead, we have Captain Blame up in DC talking about congress doing nothing. How the economy is Bush's fault. And for whatever reason, Romney screwed it up too. Obama has no vision and no idea as to what he is doing. Why can't people see that?

09 July 2012

Healthcare the Pragmatic Way

If America is going to do healthcare, do it the pragmatic way. That means being plain spoken about the system and having equal benefits to all people. Think of the US highway system - it allows all people the opportunity to use it. People can drive a Ford Pinto or a Ferrari on the road, but the quality is there regardless. This is the mentality we need to apply to any injustices that may exist in our country.

Obama's method is deceitful, plain and simple. It is presented not as a tax, but as a no-cost social benefit with a penalty for inaction. It was forced through congress on reconciliation. When SCOTUS barely gives it the thumbs up, it is only by re-defining it as a tax. But, even with this, the President and Pelosi are still insisting it isn't (can we get that vote back?). All of the tv and radio ads talk about all the "free" services we now have. How we can be thankful to Obama for his mercy on us. However, there is NEVER any talk about the cost (We can thank the hapless republican leadership for their silence) or that it only covers a small number of people. For the record, everyone is NOT covered under ObamaTax.

What is the Right way? Well, I'd say if Americans are insisting on providing everyone with a level of healthcare, then that level needs to be clearly defined. Once it is defined, it is firmly set as a not-to-exceed level except with a large majority of congress. Further, the cost would have to be at the forefront so there is no doubt that there is a cost. And finally, the cost is equally borne by all citizens and the benefits only apply to citizens.

How would this work? Well, that would be quite the debate. But, I'd want to see these basics covered:

No "out of pocket" for ALL citizens when:
  • Going to the doctor for emergency situations. This would be a child with a very high fever, or a child who cannot stop vomiting, etc. 
  • Medication for major illnesses such as strep throat and other highly contagious sickness or easily preventable disease.
  • The most basic of vaccines. Not the stupid rotovirus, but ones such as hepatitis, MMR, and others that can lead to pandemics. (Please note I am not a fan of vaccines, but I can't be convinced that they should be eliminated.)
What wouldn't be covered? Well, all the things that people choose to do on a voluntary basis.
  • Pregnancy is a tough one, but it shouldn't be covered. Neither abortion (rape and/or incest is such a touchy subject... I don't even know how to approach that). In the majority of cases, pregnancy is a preventable condition by the simple act of not having sex. Deal with it. And barely half of the population is capable of being pregnant, so it can't really be considered something where it would be "fair" to share the load. 
  • Same goes for birth control. Don't have sex.
  • Pain killers. OTC meds. Etc. If you need it, you can buy it. It isn't life threatening.
  • Any injury that is associated with the intentional engagement in a potentially dangerous activity. This includes walking the dog.
  • Cancer
  • Disease caused by lifestyle choices (AIDS - don't have sex)
The premise is this: If society as a whole can benefit from the medical treatment, then society as a whole can chose to provide that treatment. And the whole thing would be collected as a tax. Up front and personal. Medical insurance would still be available for all other specialty and extreme cases that may need the extra coverage. It should be easily accessible by all people regardless of their employment status (This is one thing that I do hate about the current state of health insurance). And insurance options should be available for those with pre-existing conditions. Not a blanket, mandatory statement that all insurance providers must not show discrimination due to Pre-con, but that there would be reasonable coverage with exemptions specific to the pre-existing condition. There are so many cases of Insurance companies being inhumane because someone forgot to disclose a single doctor visit year and years ago... Those are heart breaking stories... The loopholes need to be closed.

There is an easy argument that it is good for the society to be healthy and not spreading extremely dangerous diseases around. We all benefit from having a system in place that allows us easy access for the most basic of health provisions. The only way this is possible is by being transparent about it up front, only allowing equal coverage of all citizens, and having extremely limited coverage.

Is universal healthcare a conservative value? By definition, I'd have to say no. The US government should not place itself in control of our personal welfare. It should be focused on the welfare of the country as a whole. However, society moves in directions based on illogical sentiment. So, if we are going to insist on doing something, why not let conservatives do it in a way that actually makes sense?

08 July 2012

Media Bias: Islam vs Christianity

I'm sure most social conservatives in this country would agree that Christianity is seen by the liberal world as a source of evil. I can accept that a group of people would have a negative opinion - it's their right. What I find most frustrating are the times when this opinion gets expressed in the journalism world. Deep inside, I still hope and expect journalists to be neutral. This doesn't happen often these days, but I am allowed the hope. The recent Dearborn, Michigan clash between a group of Muslims and Christians has further proven that I need to keep on hoping.

Where has the media coverage been? Even on conservative talk, there has been hardly a peep about this. Every now and then it was brought up, but that is it. They practically laugh about it. Sure, they laugh in the, "Hey, look, here's another case of Muslims being violent and it being ignored," and say nothing more. Then there is the Christian community itself. Crickets.

Remember what happens when someone posts a picture of Muhammed... They (Muslims) threaten to bomb you. Seriously. But, all Wikipedia has to say about it is there were numerous demonstrations. (Wikipedia does say there were some fires, but no one was hurt, and most of the 139 people killed were because of police shooting into crowds. Nothing to do with Muslims going crazy over a simple cartoon. No. That's A-OK.)

Back to the Michigan event. A Christian group called the Acts 17 Apologetics showed up at an Arab International Festival. They were supposedly there to pass out flyers and to spread the gospel. I have to say, I do have a qualm with this. They carried signs that highlighted phrases "Sin and Hell" and "Lake of Fire"and "Islam is a religion ... Blood and Murder" which to me isn't exactly WWJD compliant. But, I'll save that rant for another time. They, however, did not take part in any actual violence. Sure, they may have chanted, spoke over a bullhorn, etc, but they didn't take to violence. It is their right to gather. You can disagree with what the signs say, their presence, etc, but they have a right to gather. The DearbornPatch described the Acts 17 Apologetics as radical and the Examiner described it as "a religious fiasco of minor import [with] a small group of Christian provocateurs" and "Christian extremists".

The worst that was said about the Muslim group, the ones that threw stones, bottles, chairs, concrete, etc, was "they were angry" or "angry Muslims". They were also called "counter-protesters" who reacted with "words and actions".  Additionally, when interviewed, the Muslim Sheriff Jaafar is quoted saying, "[It's a] great family-oriented festival. The atmosphere right now is phenomenal - all the kids are having a good time, and we're doing our best to keep everyone safe and I think our guys are doing a great job at it." Please notice the picture of the group of teenage boys throwing the bottles and other debris. Good fun, that!

My issues of this whole incident relate to this:

No one was arrested. A whole group of Muslims violently react to an, admittedly, annoying group of Christians. Christians get arrested for creating gun clubs. (It might have been more, but they hadn't committed any crimes at the time they were arrested. And I think it is fair to say the Federal Gov't is out of control. According to Jefferson, it is expected that groups SHOULD rise up when this happens. Read the Declaration of Independence if you doubt.) Muslims start a mini-riot and get patted on the back. Well, except for the two Muslims charged with disorderly conduct. Except, there were a lot more than two participating.

The police were there. They saw the whole entire event. They watched the Muslim crowd get angry and react by throwing stones and other objects they could find. They watched the bleeding Christian group stand their ground even as they were being pelted. The police even told the Christian group they were not allowed to use a megaphone. But, at no time, did the police try to stop the Muslims from getting violent.

The discrepancy between how the Muslim group is described and the Christian group. The Muslims were "angry" while the Acts 17 group is radical and extremist. There is no outrage or surprise that not a single "counter-protester" was arrested for being violent. And there is benevolence toward the police, even as the police say they were happy with the outcome.

If the roles were reversed, and it was the Christians that reacted with violence towards a Muslim group, I guarantee the headlines would read, "Overzealous Christians attack and injure several innocent Muslims. 10 Arrests Made." There was that church in Indiana that had a video posted of a boy talking about homo's not making it to heaven that made all sorts of headlines. And this was indoor. On private property. And no stones were thrown. Yea. Media bias against Christians.