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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Not Affordable Not Care Act

You should read this article on American Thinker. It's brilliant.
In his weekly radio address, President Obama preposterously pouted that "it's well past the time for folks to stop rooting for [ObamaCare's] failure," with the obvious implication that conservative Republicans are in fact cheering for the pain of the un-insured.

No, Mr. President, we are not. We are, however, having a delicious moment of schaden-fraud. This is the magnificent validation we are experiencing as all elected Democrats and members of the Jurassic media are fast discovering that the man and the plan they have so arrogantly shoved down our throats - and so naively placed their hopes in -- are simultaneously being exposed as shams.

And sham-wow, is it ever cathartic, as we have been called racists, terrorists, hostage-takers, kooks, haters, and stupid for years -- all because we deigned to be correct about the biggest legislative boondoggle in American history. Of course, only a few of the Kool-Aid drinkers are admitting this...yet...but we can sense that many of them are panicking on the realization that they might one day have to.
What is insurance? That's what this whole drawn-out catastrophically misguided Affordable Care law is all about. It's not about affordable care. Nothing in the law is designed to lower the cost of healthcare. Nothing in the law will make doctors' fees, nurses' fees, hospitals' fees become lower. It's all about our national 3rd party payment system. Therefore the law's name is wrong. Affordable Care Act. What about the word "affordable?"
These middle-class consumers are staring at hefty increases on their insurance bills as the overhaul remakes the healthcare market. Their rates are rising in large part to help offset the higher costs of covering sicker, poorer people who have been shut out of the system for years.

Although recent criticism of the healthcare law has focused on website glitches and early enrollment snags, experts say sharp price increases for individual policies have the greatest potential to erode public support for President Obama's signature legislation.

"This is when the actual sticker shock comes into play for people," said Gerald Kominski, director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. "There are winners and losers under the Affordable Care Act."
Evidently the name Affordable Insurance Act is also not completely correct. Affordable Insurance Act. Well then let's just call it Obamacare. What it is, is a re-distributive insurance program. Lifelong, next to taxes, insurance is the next-biggest item taken out of the average person's paycheck. I know it's that way for me—and just about everyone I know who works for a living. So the idea is that the $8,800/year I already pay for insurance has been deemed by the President—and his goons—as not enough? It has to go higher still? So that people without jobs, people living below the poverty line, people with pre-existing conditions, and illegal aliens can get the same medical care as I get—because I fork over half the price of a new car every year to pay for it? What do groups I've listed do? Apparently they just exist. They live their unfortunate little lives and they expect Big Brother to take care of them. To provide them with a roof over their heads, food on their table, transportation, and now medical care.

Keep in mind that they already had emergency care. Now they can make appointments and see a doctor just like everyone else. At first blush that sounds like an improvement. After all, it costs a lot more for someone to go to an emergency room than it does for the same person to go to a regular doctor in private practice. Unfortunately, it is readily observable that people with access to insurance make appointments and see their doctor far more often than they would ever go to an emergency room. Whether for migraines, flu symptoms, minor aches and pains, vaccinations, mental problems, anxiety, a whole grab-bag of hypochondriacal malaise, etc, people who have health insurance tend to use it. They use it all the time and almost always for non-life threatening problems. In contrast, going to the emergency room is a major ordeal. The usual "triage" on-going at most every emergency room usually means a wait of several hours, if not all day, before the typical non-life-or-death patient is seen to.

Think of health insurance the way you think of an all-you-can-eat buffet. You pay your entry price and once inside, you're permitted to consume as much as you desire for no additional charge. There's a copay of course but it's not usually too much—around $30 for most visits. About the price of a restaurant meal for two. But for anything beyond simple office procedures there's a deductible which can be a major expense! Luckily, simple office procedures comprise 83% of what Americans require from their health care professionals. The rest, surgeries, hospital stays, emergency rooms, the more expensive procedures that would entail deductible payments are the remaining 17%. Source CDC Faststats.

$8840 was the price to get me through the door, but now this buffet is going to be open to everyone. The operators of this here "all-you-can-eat emporium" still have to pay for all the consumables, for the kitchen help, the bus help, the servers, the maĆ®tre d, not to mention rent, utilities, taxes, and yes—health care! If some people are getting through the door more cheaply or for free then all the costs of running this buffet must be passed on somewhere else. In this particular case it's not being passed on to the "rich," it's being passed on to the middle class, and to the "young" who normally don't worry about insurance when they're in their twenties.

So then Obamacare was designed all along to increase the cost of my own healthcare so that those "less fortunate" would benefit from my hardship. I'm supposed to scrimp even more, or work even more hours than I already do, because you know, not only could things be worse, worse is the usual outcome. Hope and Change—Worse. Affordable Care Act—Worse. Price of food and gasoline—Worse. Taxes—Worse. College tuition—Worse. Retirement...it is to laugh!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The death of the advertising industry


Advertising is a scam! When I think about the way that advertising and public relations works, in my mind's eye I see a bunch of penguins waddling around honking at each other, all of them so very serious and oh so sophisticated. Maybe it's like hypnosis?...It doesn't work at all on most people, but for those few upon whom it does, it really does? That's the only thing that makes any sense. This useless segment of our economy absorbs 140 billion a year in revenues.

I'll address the two standard boilerplate arguments. First, it promotes awareness of products and services, and second it increases sales of those products and services. Really if you think about it, these two reasons are the same reason—the only reason that advertising exists is because it increases sales of products and services, and the only measure of success in advertising is the measure by which sales increase following that advertising.

Does anyone ever listen to the radio anymore? Ever since I got my new Toyota Camry with a Bluetooth capable stereo system, I've been listening to Pandora through my car's speakers using my iPhone. I've completely stopped listening to the radio. It means I miss the traffic updates, but honestly, I usually missed those anyway because I was surfing through channel after channel trying to find something besides an endless stream of commercials. Pandora has a commercial or two after a set of four or five songs. The commercial lasts less than 30 seconds, then it's back to the music. Not only that but I get to listen to the entire song without a DJ talking through half of it.

Does anyone still watch regular network television anymore? I watch one of several movie channels, sometimes Netflix, sometimes Amazon, but mostly Comcast On-Demand programming. If there are any commercials they're brief and they never interrupt the actual program itself. The only things left to advertise with are billboards, The Yellow Pages, magazine lap-flaps, and of course a gazillion internet advertisements. Billboards are easily ignored. Who uses a phonebook anymore? Who buys magazines anymore? As for all the internet ads and spam in my inbox, that problem is being actively fought with both ad-blocking software as well as a variety of new legislation.

Who clicks on web ads? Who listens to a radio commercial and thinks to himself, I've got to have that! Who sees a Pizza-Hut commercial on television and then picks up the phone? It doesn't make any sense to me. As far as I can tell, the only way that advertising works at all is by promoting brand awareness. I'm more likely to eat at a familiar restaurant than I would at Jim-bob's Burger Shack. Otherwise advertising is growing more and more unlikely to reach the limited audience who are actually influenced by it.

Many people feel that advertising is a necessary evil. It's just one of those things we put with for the greater good or something. After all they wonder, how else would businesses promote their products? In the old days they had people shouting their wares into the street. "Peaches get your peaches here, juicy and sweet," etc. But today they have the mainstream media do it for them. Unfortunately for advertisers, mainstream media is becoming less relevant every day.

If you think advertising is still so necessary, why do you suppose that people still buy name brand cigarettes? When's the last time you saw a cigarette commercial? Yet still people buy certain kinds, pack after pack after pack. Still they choose to buy the brands of Marlboro and Newport the most. If advertisers suddenly stopped advertising soft-drink brands today, do you think people would stop buying Coca-Cola and Pepsi tomorrow?

I have the same opinion of advertisers that I have for people who pee in public pools. Advertising is all around us in our daily lives and if we're in a public pool so is that other product. Even though we just ignore both of them, nobody is too happy about either one. There are undoubtedly the few odd individuals who enjoy commercials ... or pee in the pool for that matter, but for the rest of us ... not so much. In spite of the—I'm sure—serious effort required to produce the aforementioned environmental additives, I bet most of us could go the rest or our lives without having either one of them in our faces.

Because of all those new technologies mentioned, traditional advertising will soon be suffering on its deathbed. Why watch commercials on television when you can TIVO them and skip right through? Why listen to commercials on the radio when you can tune them out with satellite radio or use any of the streaming music sites on the internet? Why bother buying a newspaper or a magazine when all that information in on the internet and your ad-blocker stops commercials on the other side of your firewall? Soon the only advertising that will be possible will be the product placement kind. For example, I could probably provide brand awareness of fourteen different brands in a typical blog post and you'd probably never even notice.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The end of medicine as we know it?

The more you use an antibiotic, the more you expose a bacteria to an antibiotic, the greater the likelihood that resistance to that antibiotic is going to develop. So the more antibiotics we put into people, we put into the environment, we put into livestock, the more opportunities we create for these bacteria to become resistant. …We also know that we’ve greatly overused antibiotics and in overusing these antibiotics, we have set ourselves up for the scenario that we find ourselves in now, where we’re running out of antibiotics.

We are quickly running out of therapies to treat some of these infections that previously had been eminently treatable. There are bacteria that we encounter, particularly in health-care settings, that are resistant to nearly all — or, in some cases, all — the antibiotics that we have available to us, and we are thus entering an era that people have talked about for a long time.

For a long time, there have been newspaper stories and covers of magazines that talked about “The end of antibiotics, question mark?” Well, now I would say you can change the title to “The end of antibiotics, period.”

We’re here. We’re in the post-antibiotic era. There are patients for whom we have no therapy, and we are literally in a position of having a patient in a bed who has an infection, something that five years ago even we could have treated, but now we can’t. …
Do you think very many people are even aware of this problem? Do you think the ones who who do know about it actually care very much about it? Not being a doctor or scientist I'm torn between dismissing it as more sky-is-falling nonsense, or the CDC crying wolf again, or Cassandra—of Greek myth—who could foretell the future, but was cursed by the gods so that she was never believed. My hunch is that Cassandra is telling the truth. I've lived long enough to notice that they keep coming out with new medicines and new pesticides because the old ones just don't work anymore. Bugs whether visible or microscopic are problems that are going to get worse, not better.
And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.
I've often wondered if the hour of the prophesied Biblical Armageddon was impossible to predict because it depended on the decisions that mankind has made over the centuries. We have free-will. Is it possible that our own actions will bring about the end either sooner or perhaps later? We've constructed and positioned a number of Damoclesian Swords over our heads. The most frightening is the nuclear one, but there are others. There's the danger of a famine caused by the failure of pesticides to control crop devouring insects. The one looming most threateningly right now to me is the inevitable failure of antibiotics to cure infections at some point in the near future. If bacteria can't be killed by available antibiotics, then we can't perform surgeries. We can't do organ transplants. We can't treat most cancers. We'll be back to staying home and hoping for miracles.

I can't help feeling like we're all on some careening bob-sled rollicking down the chute at some impossibly terrifying speed, and we can't see around the corner of the next curve and we're just hanging on for dear life. What's at the end? Is it the Four Horsemen or will we stave-off that final reckoning with more manmade miracles? What possibilities remain beyond antibiotics? One avenue that I pray scientists are pursuing is viral research. The enemy of my enemy may perhaps be turned into a friend. Bacteria can be beneficial, like the ones in our intestines, but when they go rogue on us wouldn't it be nice if we could custom tailor a virus specifically engineered to wipe out that particular infectious breed of virulent bacteria?

Computers keep getting faster and robots keep getting smarter, their parts keep getting smaller, and we rely on them more and more every day. It's possible that as the field of nanotechnology advances, we'll one day be able to design microscopic little robots that perform a function similar to our own white-blood cells. It's all in the timing isn't it? In movies they disarm the Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator at the very last second, and the audience gives a sigh of relief. These sure are some interesting times.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Turning the other cheek and natural selection


Darwin's universe is one of constant competition. If you're not competitive you don't pass on your genes, and your particular strain of life dies out. From a Darwinian standpoint the only measure of success is whether you have offspring, and how many, and they in their turn, and so on. It's a brutal yet simple way of looking at the world. Sentience doesn't change that fundamental goal. In Darwin's world the losers are not only dead, their whole species is extinct. Evolutionists believe that flora and fauna have been at war in this way since life on this world magically ordered itself out of chaos and began to live. Since that mysterious first cause caused itself, it's been all-out war! Natural selection, combined with random mutation has been at work since then, differentiating the species making each new generation more successful at survival than the last.

Nonbelievers love to quote Bible scripture at us. "Turn the other cheek," they quote after their own verbal low-blow visibly ticks a Christian off. If we're really the result of four billion years of all-out competition for limited resources, then I wonder how it's possible to just turn off all that naked aggression and suddenly become peaceful? If Darwin's theory is correct then the fact that Europeans came to America and took it away from the native Americans is the way it's supposed to work. The fact that dark-skinned Africans were enslaved and forced to work for their lighter-skinned cousins in Europe and America, was fully intended by the system and in fact totally inevitable. What other result could be expected from a kill-or-be-killed world? Fight, flight, or crowd out the competition and starve them. Is there any other way to envision the ineluctable result of natural selection than the way it's just been described? Of course there can't be world peace, we're the result of 4 billion years of battle. Turning the other cheek is as alien and unnatural as offering your throat to the lion.

Quoting Darwin at an atheist might be an entertaining way to retaliate to their biblical quotations. If it's all about survival of the fittest, then nobody should ever help the poor. If Darwin's theory of natural selection is the way the world works, then why do we have so many programs to help those who struggle to keep up with their school work? Why help the starving in Africa? There is no creator there is only random chance. The only god is Lady Luck, and your cards were all dealt at the moment you were conceived. Isn't that a fair summation of Evolution and natural selection? Shit happens?

But suddenly—suddenly in geological terms—an extra smart monkey comes along who can say "I am," and because of that, the whole natural order should be turned around? Suddenly it's no longer about natural selection its about keeping the world exactly the way it existed circa 1900 through artificial selection? There seems to be this unwritten belief that, as of now, humans should allow no species to become extinct merely because it is unable to compete in our ever-changing world. The Panda—to pick one example—is an admittedly adorable looking animal, but Darwin would be the first to advise us to just let it go. It doesn't belong anymore.

Atheists love to accuse Christians of hypocrisy when we don't succeed in living perfect Christian lives. Ask them if they ever donated money to any cause in their lives, because if they did then they're perverting the natural selection world order and if they keep it up they could bring the whole world crashing down around our ears. Stop this senseless interference with a process that guarantees ultimate success. Who knows what kind of damage our ignorant monkeying around with the forces of natural selection could do? At this rate the next thing you know they'll be trying to bring back the dodo bird and the wooly mammoth. It seems to me that in the religion of Evolution, artificial selection must be some kind of mortal sin! So, when an Atheist quotes at me to: "turn the other cheek," I'll say: "Oh yeah! Well death to the Panda! Yes and death to the tiger and the whale. Death to the rhino and the dolphin! If they can't compete then they don't belong. Yeah, I'll turn the other cheek, I'll do it when you eat a panda steak and spray DDT on your garden, you hypocrite!"

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Ethics, Honor, and Diminishing Returns

Ethics

Everyone understands that supply is limited. There's only so much to go around, while what people want is seemingly infinite. Give a person the proverbial three magic wishes and the first thing he'll ask for is for more wishes. To prove that people's wants are indeed truly infinite, nothing could more accurately and elegantly depict this fact than the recent EBT-card debacle.

Some food-stamp recipients become aware of the fact that their EBT cards had an unlimited balance. They could buy as much food as they wanted. These few quickly alerted their friends and relatives to this bizarre glitch in the EBT card system. Within minutes the EBT-card using "poor" converged on local stores and area Wal-Mart shopping centers. They had to know that this was a mistake in the system. They had to know that what they were doing was wrong, immoral, dishonest, by any standard of rule and law that you'd care to apply. Shoppers and their accomplices filled four, five, ten, twelve shopping carts of food up each. Can you imagine the chaos as a pushing shoving crowd of greedy immoral thieves each pushed or pulled five or ten carts of food up to the register? It was madness! When the price of the supply is free, then demand becomes infinite.
[Springhill Police Chief Will Lynd] explained the cards weren’t showing limits and they called corporate Wal-Mart, whose spokesman said to let the people use the cards anyway. From 7 to 9 p.m., people were loading up their carts, but when the cards began showing limits again around 9, one woman was detained because she rang up a bill of $700.00 and only had .49 on her card. She was held by police until corporate Wal-Mart said they wouldn’t press charges if she left the food.

Lynd says at 9 p.m., when the cards came back online and it was announced over the loud speaker, people just left their carts full of food in the aisles and left.

“Just about everything is gone, I’ve never seen it in that condition,” said Mansfield Wal-Mart customer Anthony Fuller.

Honor

Commandment number five of the Ten Commandments is to "Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee." As we grow older we require more care. We expect our children to provide that care. We expect our nation to repay us for our years of sacrifice and hard work by making our golden years happy, peaceful, and worry free. We expect to retire by age 65 and then live another three decades or more loving on our grandchildren and completing bucket lists, tending gardens, playing bingo, and going for walks in the park. It sounds great. It sounds kind of like a metaphorical return to Eden if you will. No work, no worries, everyone respectful of us, honoring those who are their father or their mother...so-to-speak. We want to live forever, or at least for as long as life is still fun. Life wants to live.

Unfortunately there is a problem: while the demand for life is infinite, the supply has until recently been limited to three-score and ten or thereabouts. We are all lucky to exist at a time when science and medicine have coalesced into this incredible emerging force that almost promises immortality. Who can know how long we'll live when scientists are now able to print a working kidney?
Who can know how long we'll live? How can we plan for a retirement that never ends? As we get older it costs more and more to keep us alive. The medical treatments grow ever more expensive, the prescriptions more costly, the prognosis more grim. A point is reached—a breaking point—where nothing more is possible. It's always been that way, except that this breaking point is reached ever-later as man's knowledge of science and medicine grows ever more extensive, and ever more costly.

Diminishing Returns

Diminishing return, is the single most important economic factor that seems to have been completely ignored throughout all these Obama-care, government shutdown, debt ceiling, deficit reduction, quantitative easing, and government stimulus debates. America's single biggest unfunded liability is Medicare at 87.5 trillion dollars, followed by prescription drugs as 22 trillion, finally Social Security as 16.6 trillion. That's 126 trillion dollars we owe right now to people who are retired or who are alive now and will be retiring under current law. I got my numbers from U.S. National Debt Clock.org. Everyone always worries about the national debt at 17 trillion, but the fact is that tens of millions of people are going to be retiring soon, and that means the price of running these three programs is going to soar well past our ability to pay for them. There is going to come a breaking point for the country, where nothing more is possible. The prognosis is looking grimmer with every passing day. Unless some kind of Deus ex machina comes along to save the day, to save us from ourselves, this will not end well.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Hannibal Lecter's Monster


When it comes to end of the world scenarios, there's plenty to pick from. One mad-scientist creation that is particularly frightening is the running amok Frankenstein's monster. I just read the first chapter of a book called Our Final Invention. You can read the introduction and the first chapter for free on your Amazon Cloud Reader. What struck me as I read it, was the number of times the term "want" was anthropomorphically tossed into the mix.
AI theorists propose it is possible to determine what an AI's fundamental drives will be. That's because once it is self-aware, it will go to great lengths to fulfill whatever goals it's programmed to fulfill, and to avoid failure. Our [Artificial Super-Intelligence (ASI)] will want access to energy in whatever form is most useful to it, whether actual kilowatts of energy or cash or something else it can exchange for resources. It will want to improve itself because that will increase the likelihood that it will fulfull its goals. Most of all, it will not want to be turned off or destroyed, which would make goal fulfillment impossible. Therefore, AI theorists anticipate our ASI will seek to expand out of the secure facility that contains it to have greater access to resources with which to protect and improve itself.
I can envision an artificially super-intelligent computer that could make associations with much greater speed and facility than could any human. I can imagine an ASI that when given a problem to solve would be able to seek and analyze every scrap of data about the particular problem that the entire history of mankind had amassed, wherever that data was stored, around the entire world, and able to do so in mere seconds or even microseconds! Okay this computer is super-duper smart. But what I can't imagine is that the computer actually has the ability to "want" anything. It doesn't have any natural drives. It doesn't feel. I think the ability to feel is a prerequisite for self-will.

If you don't feel pain or pleasure you won't be able to avoid one or seek the other. If you never felt hunger or thirst, why seek nourishment? I don't believe it's possible for sentience to exist without the ability to feel. In Descartes' famous thought experiment he wondered what it would be like were he unable to see, hear, smell, taste, feel anything at all. He pondered how he would even know that he existed. This was when he came up with his famous and so-simple test: "cogito ergo sum," I think therefore I am. Yet Descartes left out of his experiment the fact that his brain was stuffed with the memory of a life full of seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, and feeling. Perform for me please this same experiment using a newborn with no senses at all. This empty baby-brain having all this possibility, yet not the slightest scrap of sensory perception would think exactly what?

There may someday exist an artificial intelligence with self-will, but long before that day there will be super-intelligent computers who want only and precisely exactly what they're told to want. You might be legitimately concerned about Dr. Frankenstein's monster running amok, but a more thoughtful examination of the facts would cause you to be much more concerned were you to imagine that it was Dr. Hannibal Lecter's monster performing tasks exactly as programmed.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Stop complaining. They're doing this for us!


Government representatives represent us. They are our voice. They're doing what they believe we want. If you were at a used car dealership bargaining over the price of a car and the dealer "refused to negotiate," if he resorted to inflammatory and shaming descriptions of yourself and your behavior, would you roll-over and sign your name on the dotted line? What if instead of you making the deal you instead sent your brother or your mother or your uncle because making deals is what they're good at. What if they went down to the showroom and paid sticker price for the car? You wanted your representative to make the best deal possible on your behalf, but instead they just did what was most expedient—easiest.

When our representatives betray our trust by putting their own concerns above our own, by worrying about their own popularity, by fretting over derogatory mischaracterizations, and poll numbers, then they are not doing what we hired them to do. The phrase that keeps cropping up over and over in all of this acrimonious bickering is "nonessential services." Military veteran's services are in my opinion essential services. This FAQ at Huffington post explains that veterans should over the short term be minimally affected: Government Shutdown FAQ for Veterans. As for the rest, if it's nonessential then as far as I'm concerned, good riddance. Why is our country engaging in all this non-essential business when we're 17 trillion in debt? It's insane.

If I can't get a good deal, a fair deal, then I don't want any deal at all. That's my take on this issue. If I can't get a fair deal on a car, I'll walk or ride the bus or a bicycle. If my representative can't get a fair deal on Capitol Hill then I'll forego a visit to a national park, a visit to a DC memorial, etc.

Wouldn't you accept a little short term inconvenience if the result was the possible salvation of this great country which until now has been on a 50 year downhill sleigh-ride slide into insolvency and insignificance. It's time to put our foot down, be a stick in the mud, and maybe just maybe we can slow this careening ride to hell down enough so that at least we'll have a chance.

I remember well the horror and panic that attended the implementation of the dreaded sequester. Months have gone by and even though the chicken little squawking was terrifying, somehow it seems as though the sky hasn't fallen after all. Perhaps this so-called shut-down won't be the end of the universe and everything, either.

This is how it's supposed to work. You make an offer. The other side sneers or guffaws or walks away in disgust. If your offer was serious then the other side must make a counter-offer that he believes approaches your own. The question we all have to ask here, is this: at what point do the Democrats begin to understand that they'll have to make some concessions? It may take a little pain and aggravation before they understand that we Republicans are finally done with just rolling-over and paying the sticker price.