30 September 2007
I caught a glance of this a few days ago and thought nothing of it. It seemed yet another study showing things I already knew, but which apparently was counter-intuitive to the average joe. While there are a few debates back and forth over why kids get into drinking or smoking, here's a few dabbles on my thinking. They are restricted, forbidden to a plane of adulthood. Without a clear rite of passage into that feeling of being 'adult', something denied, even with a clear demarcation, it becomes a furious mission to do anything which remotely suggests the achievement of becoming an adult. These illicit activities are only too ready to fulfill that mission. To be fair, it is not as though adults are often prepared to burden themselves with the responsible use of such substances. But the 'protection' of children by shielding them unnecessarily from harm, as though those harms will never effect them, does not sound like a manner of encouraging responsible use. It has instead two possible outcomes. One, the child will abstain completely or, at worst, dabble and come away dissatisfied. This is the delusional outcome most parents subject themselves to and then wonder why their child is struggling in college suddenly. Or two, the child will not learn what responsibility they undertake by imbibing alcoholic beverages or inhaling more addictive substances (I include nicotine in this package), and never will until more serious consequences occur, such as death, injury, STD, arrest, etc. One of these may be a desirable alternative, but it is, without any pre-packaged sensibility of responsible behavior, unlikely.
In addition, something tagged in later in the article, "kids are going to drink anyway". Such experimentation is inherently human curiosity. We can use some sense and avoid things which we associate with danger, such as brain-damaging narcotic substances. But alcohol is no less a danger when it is not accompanied with a moderate usage or some self-control to avoid compromising situations, such as driving or unprotected sex. When teens have the option of society setting them down and trying to scare the crap out of them by warning them of their impending doom, when all around them their peers are engaged in rampant and uncontrolled experiments, what message will they take? If instead we offer, but not require, a controlled and moderate behavior leading toward healthier, and also responsible and adult behavior, we might see some better results. It is difficult however to get parents, who occasionally rally politically behind their precious children, to understand that occasionally teens will be kids, but mostly what they are trying to be is an adult. Controlling the situation in such a way as to manipulate a more beneficial outcome might be the best way to protect them and allow them to grow up at the same time.
28 September 2007
Edit note Sep 30. They finally censored something here by not allowing 'fucked' into the acronym's definition. Apparently depictions of man burning alive and stories of men hacking gold teeth out of a prisoner's mouth are less offensive to our sensibility than mere words which have a more equatable meaning. Few of us can hope to understand the brutality that is war, even accompanied by these stark explanations. But I chafe at the realization that it's most apt description is marred by a censor board applying a half-second beeping noise over top a word we all know and many of us use.
27 September 2007
As an American male, there are those who would say I am not entitled to an opinion on this issue. I'm in fact mostly of the opinion that it is up to the woman in question to determine matters. I would have some input of course. I feel it is only right that the man who does the baby-making can at least voice his displeasure at that moment if it is necessary. But he can't force her to take any course of action, any more than the government has rights to. It is after all, her body. We must first however determine why this debate has reached such caustic levels and what is wrong with the views on the extremes of this issue.
Of the first, the issue of children is of some importance to any society. The concern over their well-being, upbringing, and production is a matter of interest. But ultimately these are private concerns. Not national. Not public, private, individual problems. Each of us has a good deal of input into the decision to have children, and how we should like them raised, or the decision not to have children. Consequently, the debate revolves around an issue which at its heart concerns the future, our children, in some manner. Anytime we concern children, it is sure to stir up the storm. Such emotion has little place in this debate's resolution, but it will not be ignored.
Of abortion, it can be said there are a number of reasons for a woman to want to have one. To preserve a figure or lifestyle, obsequiousness to the man's demands, health concerns, rape, or simple timing considerations (career or a young age). Some of these are entirely legitimate reasons recognized by all but the most extreme involved. What is of note is that each represents a choice, perhaps not always the right one, but a choice nonetheless. Therefore, the side of pro-abortion is not pro-abortion at all, but rather pro-choice. Few very people would have us at the ridiculous presumption that all people should abort at any time for any reason. Given the often traumatic nature of the event, the depressing state of 'losing' a pregnancy for some, and whatever psychological/moral damage inflicted on a family, abortion is not to be taken lightly.
Concurrently, the opposing side is not pro-life, but anti-choice. Pro-life implies that the abolition of abortion is in some way defending life. While it is noteworthy that many would have the abortion as the murder of a fetus, this is not a conclusive evidence that we are in someway ending lives. There are a great manner percentages of pregnancies which effectively terminate naturally, but prior to birth, just as an abortion is. What if we could avoid these? Would it be our moral imperative to protect every fetus as it develops as though each is a precious commodity? I suspect that the damage an ill-timed or unprepared birth does to some families (or broken families as it may be) is often just as damaging to a life than ending one prematurely. Someone of a good 'breeding' age is just as likely to go on to reproduce at a later time, thus continuing life. This is pro-life. Life will go on, because they reproduced. Anti-choice says that a woman or her family have no choice but to carry a child full-term regardless of whether they want the child and the burden of responsibility that entails or not.
This does however bring up some interesting points. Of one particular note, abortion is not always the most comfortable experience, and for many people represents a tremendous internal moral conflict that is difficult to accept. So I suspect it is best if it does not represent our first line of defense or even our first option to attack the problem of an unwanted pregnancy, if only to avoid the stickiness of invasive trauma and unpleasant moral compasses. First of all, it is important to note that even if a woman carries a child full-term, it is not necessary that she carry the burden of its upbringing, alone or otherwise. Adoption, if it were streamlined and effective, is a perfectly legitimate option. It carries its own emotional quandaries of course. But for some, it may satisfy the problems of child-rearing without going to the moral dilemma of sacrificing an unborn child.
Secondly, there are a great many ill-formed arguments that supporting abortion is encouraging promiscuity or sexual experimentation by teens (and of course contributing to the moral filth of society, whatever that means). I suspect that such people must have had bad experiences in their teenage years as well, because to be quite frank, many teens will engage in these practices regardless of whether we encourage them to or not. Many will do so simply because we are encouraging them not to. What is at issue here is the matter of informed behaviors. I went to what might be considered a 'good' high school. Of the graduating class, I can say that there were rather few of the ladies who had gotten 'knocked up'. I do not remember horror stories from health class that had much to do with raising babies or other side effects of sex. But I suspect there were still a healthy percentage of the ladies actively practicing some sexual activity, regardless of the supposed wholesome nature of being at a 'good school'. I would say I know this but I was also a recluse then and didn't know enough people to make this an effective survey. The difference between that school and others around might be information. I do not remember very much in the way of the school handing out condoms for example (they didn't), but we were a touch more educated on the dangers of STDs and were well-aware that women can get pregnant if you have sex with them (regardless of any claims to the contrary, its biology here people, not love). Precautions were undoubtedly taken, short-circuiting the need for a great many abortions. Some abortions undoubtedly occurred as well, privately and with whatever consequences involved thought out, at least to the manner a teenager can think clearly enough. Whatever resistance to knowledge of sexual activity and its education is, its foolish to believe that educating people on sex is somehow encouragement to sex. Teenagers have plenty of encouragement already. Hell twenty-somethings have plenty of encouragement still. Get over it. Teens will seek out information and some of them will even heed advice to be careful. Thinking is difficult for most of us I know, but give most 'educated' people the choice between raising a child on a Burger King salary and doing it on a college degree and its resulting career and I think most of us will take our chances betting on our futures instead of mortgaging them right now for a few minutes of awkward (and unprotected) sex. Abstinence is an option; expecting it is like wishing for rain in the Sahara. Could be waiting a long time for that train. We have to be more practical.
To the moral argument that a fetus is a human being, and killing a human being is murder, we have a good deal of metaphysics. Metaphysics, for those of us who don't study philosophy, deals with a lot of unanswerable questions; things like the soul, the existence of God, afterlife, and so forth. These are questions answered by faith, not logic. Science can tell us when a fetus is physically functional as a human being, when the various parts are active: the brain, the heart and so forth. But not one of these tells us when it is a person; just when it has the potential to be one. Most people are uncomfortable with the idea of terminating a baby once it reaches a certain point. I think this is a reasonable accommodation, because to reach that point, a woman has had considerable time to contemplate her options. She should by then be fully committed to the child barring health complications. But what of the people who would have us argue for immediate person hood? Fertilization creates a zygote. A great many of these fertilized eggs do not even reach fetal status, much less become whiny and cuddly infants. This is a natural process. It has nothing to do with the moral purity of the 'mother' or even whether she wants to be a mother. There are no choices involved. And yet, by this definition, a human being has died. To be safe, I believe we should offer up the definition the census department errs on. They wait for a birth. A live birth is when a person gains person hood. There is a stage prior to that where a mind is active, the heart begins beating, lungs and other organs are formed. But throughout all these developments, the fetus is totally dependent on the mother. It cannot sustain itself even through infancy, but at least at that point, there are levels of survival without a mother. It has become at that point a functioning and 'independent' being, in as far as people can be independent. And that I would say is a fair definition of person hood. Not the potential for one, but the existence of one. Potential people do not exist, because by any rational definition, a person either is or is not. It is impossible to create legislation which effectively protects 'imagined' states.
26 September 2007
25 September 2007
This is entertaining. Looking over the various politicians of this country, I'm much more inclined to take up a parliamentary system with the vast expanse of political views in play. It's pretty clear we're not getting much in the way of radically useful debates because there aren't very many distinctive views (read: parties with one or two issues of majority concern). It also seems clear there are very few useful distinctions between the major parties and their beauty contestants. This much I knew already. Though there is, at least, some clusterizing going on.
Basically all it means, as we knew already, is Romney is a major league fascist. I suppose it does lend some credence to the idea that McCain or Rudy should be the GOP candidate, seeing as they aren't quite in the ridiculous fascist camp. Ron Paul doesn't cluster well enough to be a GOP candidate, but he was the closest thing out there to a likeable candidate for me. As far as the dems, I'll hold out hope that Obama wins that one, if for no other reason than to hear Jesse and Al screaming for him to be 'less white' for an entire year. I mostly do this in the vain hope that I'm picking the lesser of two weavils (four more years of clinton do not appeal to me, the man was an idiot for foreign policy, I don't see anything suggesting she'd be any better. GWB isn't any better of course, but I didn't vote for him either). I seriously doubt the GOP is winning elections anytime soon, and with those two being their best candidates, they don't deserve to. I realize that my third party strategy does not work in the mainstream yet, but until it does gain some credence, I'll have to look realistically at what sort of country I'm about to be faced with. At the moment, I'm seriously entertaining the idea of emigrating.
I myself ended up well below their lists as something like an anarchist/libertarian. I'm not a total 'free-for-all' type. But its close, my semi-tempered social streaks must have pushed me closer to the middle than I would have thought on the economic side, though I'm still a happy free-market supporter most of the time. But unsurprisingly, not one of the candidates is even close on my anti-authoritarian streak.
This is included to be funny. Tchaikovsky looks good to me if anyone wants a feel on where abouts I am. Further down (much) and to the right (not much).
24 September 2007
That was the only remark of Mahmoud (at least that was publicly reported) that doesn't draw scorn. It's something I've brought up from time to time, and it is one matter which is not addressed by fighting wars. I don't believe I agree with what he would designate as the root causes, but I at least realize that the roots of terrorism have planted some very ugly weeds around the world. It'd be useful if we figured out how to unroot them rather then simply chopping off the saplings that grow from them. That tactic (it's not a strategy) fails on its own to accomplish much other than spreading the weeds elsewhere.
Unfortunately everything else the man said was flatly ridiculous, and the audience even laughed openly at him. "a petty and cruel dictator" Not everyday one can laugh at that.
"We don't have homosexuals in Iran"
"Women enjoy the highest freedoms"
"If the Holocaust is a reality of our time"---If? Sorry, I can't take seriously someone claiming to be an academic who denies the holocaust. That is someone claiming to be a dumbass, and announcing openly their anti-semitic beliefs.
In case someone's wondering, free speech does mean people can say whatever they want. But it also means I'm free to mock them once they do.
Anyone care to guess who this refers to?
No, not the current sitting president. It's unfortunately predictable.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Being addressed by the man who invited him to speak at Columbia U, the President of said university. I say that's an interesting way to introduce a guest. Hello sir, you are a monster. I'd like to try that sometime.
23 September 2007
In point of fact however, the common man seems to react with abject horror or anger at such a suggestion. "Eugenics or playing god" it is termed. Eugenics is something that in human history has had its practitioners, and to be fair, it does seem rather daft to practice it for whimsical reasons such as gender, attractiveness, etc. But actual medical conditions or disorders that often pose the prospective parents a good deal of undesirable headaches, both emotional and financial, seem perfectly reasonable to move in to remedy. As far as playing god, I often reference activities such as a variety of environmental practices humans undertake with the idea that we are masters of our environment. We often find that we fall flatly and squarely on our faces in such circumstances and it is quite embarrassing to say the least, if we were in fact the gods we thought ourselves to be. Even limiting the debate to the human condition, I can easily demonstrate the behavior of national leaders or generals as the stage name of god with the power they wield and permit to corrupt. Personally, if I want to play god, there are video games for that. I don't see how permitting families to have what can be otherwise 'normal' lives is in anyway related to this God they all so revere.
22 September 2007
I think I'll be throwing my vote away in this two party system again. Must encourage lots of discouraged people to do so.
21 September 2007
1) Socioeconomic gap. There is substantive evidence that this socioeconomic issue is subject to what in sports psychology is referred to as the "culture of losing". A society that is molded with negative self-images, very few positive role models in the form of educated professionals, and very few positive outlets in the form of gainful employment and decent education is bound to have problems.
How we close this gap means changing a variety of cultures that have set in over years of previous social initiatives designed, well mostly designed to curry votes. Very few real changes have been made since the Civil Rights Act. Affirmative action for example has done very little to offer advancement to the people it was intended to target, namely the underclass of minorities. In fact that underclass has in many places grown. Yet people scream bloody murder when programs that are intended to be more racially balanced and directly attack the root problem of poverty in general are announced. It is true there is a gap at the very top still of executives or policy makers in our society. But somewhere in between people are doing quite well economically, putting their children into what they hope are better schools and living what is now derisively considered "the American dream". I make no light of the racial discrimination people experience; it is indeed difficult scrutiny to be prejudged on every instance of our daily encounters, but these hateful feelings are secondary right now to the symptoms that often perpetuate them. Dr. King's assassination came after speaking with a union in Memphis. It was not strictly speaking a race matter, even as he saw it. It was an American matter, the problems of the poor huddled masses that we took from around the world. There is perhaps a greater threat to the overall health of the nation in the form of economic uncertainty (people living paycheck to paycheck), but in dealing with race, the boundaries of statistical evidence pile up economic inequalities. The root problems of economic inequality are a mess that has shown signs of correction, for example black women are a more mobile and active workforce. To further tackle it, there are a good deal of matters which need to be attended to in a more cultural sense. Stereotypically, people who do not read or write in English or can't pass a drug test don't get very good jobs in my estimation (though Spanish is becoming increasingly useful, I suppose there are kickbacks to the immigration issue). It would be well if we broke the stereotype, but it would also be well if it was not given fuel to allow itself to burn on. There are a number of potential causes for those concerns, some of which relate to the charges occasionally levied against Sen Obama, as an example. ---
2) "That he's not sufficiently black." Whatever this means. It smacks of some sort of hypocrisy. I don't understand what is demeaning about having a particular racial heritage if someone wishes to be successful in the first place, but this was never something I've experienced personally. I really don't see where acting or speaking in an 'overly articulate' manner (read: being openly white) is somehow causing a disconnect in that person towards their past; they still look in the mirror and see the same person. Nor do I see a reason for a nostalgic re-living of growing up in projects or otherwise run-down housing with excessive crime rates and a pervasive attitude of 'don't snitch'. I understand completely why so many people would want to escape such situations and why they will tend to leave them behind. More can be done to improve them, yes. And yes, there used to be more of a spotlight on them, even as recently as the mid-90s (post Rodney King riots) through more socially concerned lyrics for example. Hip-hop itself has left behind a message of suffering and indifference that America felt (and in many places still feels) for its inner-city (and rural) 'communities' and instead bombards us with glittering images of self-importance. It is self-indulgent of us to believe that surrounding ourselves with images of fame and success makes us better people when we have real and honest problems in need of discourse in any forum possible. The growing discontent Americans have with all manner of problems includes very real and very deeply embedded scars from racism. Ignoring them won't make them go away any faster.
3) But making them up when they don't exist doesn't help us either. Lacking a good deal of unbiased information on the actual case at hand, I can't be the judge myself. There are very likely racial overtones to the case. It seems fair to surmise that in a population of mostly unemployed white people, who can still elect their attorneys, that they will seek harsh penalties towards virtually any minority as penance for the impoverished state they themselves have found. There are very real connections with racist practices in the demonstration that placed a lynching noose on a tree. Those students were to be (and should have been) punished more harshly. Despite claims of naivety, it can hardly be supposed that a noose being posed as a 'harmless prank' was not. I can think of very few reasons where someone would hang a noose from a tree as a prank and believe it to be both funny and without any racial reference. Whatever the insane motivations of both the students who committed the act of racial indifference and the school board which swallowed their bizarre admissions of racial ignorance (in Louisiana?), to compare the two crimes as though they are equal in stature is equally stupid. One is a beating, a violent assault upon fellow man. The other is a threat, veiled as a prank (like the bomb threats students call in, there are often more serious overtones in the people who make them). Both are serious offences to the stability of a community. Both should have been dealt with to the level appropriate to the crimes, circumstances, and the people involved. That our justice system fails to do so has much to do with race, but more importantly has much to do with how our justice system in general fails to satisfy the society around it. I don't believe that people who commit beatings deserve the same treatment by our penal system as juvenile racists. And I don't believe that people who use the collective memory of public lynchings to make a 'joke' are being funny. Our system is not designed to deal with both very effectively. And to introduce race into it, it becomes very, very muddled indeed. It is well to highlight the well-publicized demographics of our prison systems. But it would also do well to highlight the indifference our society has garnered and built upon itself. That we still permit children to grow up with hatred and intolerance in their actions and that we still play race cards when some of those children strike violently is not a 21st century civil rights movement. It is however a cause for grave concern. That we would rather be entertained by the "mutterings of a few black men shouting incoherent nonsense" (as one of those same black men ironically quips in a movie about this specific issue) than face the twin specters that poverty and a inbred heritage of racial intolerance has born into this new age is to me a more daunting factor than anything else in this case.
17 September 2007
Anyhoo.. here's what I found by poking around.
1)perceive that something is not logical, they reject it as unimportant. -- plausibility/practicality or circumstance play in here, but by and large, yes.
2)may be extremely caustic and insulting to others. -- Fuck you too
3)may be completely unaware of the type of communication that is often desirable and (to some degree) expected in an intimate relationship. If they are aware of the kinds of things that are appropriate to say and do to foster emotional bonding, they may be unable to appreciate the value of such actions. They may feel too vulnerable to express themselves in this fashion, and so reject the entire idea.
4)Under stress, they may show intense emotions that seem disproportionate to the situation.
5)may not recognize basic social principles, such as appropriate dress and general behavior. -- I do at least remember to get dressed in the morning, but I despise ties and hand shakes.
6)May be unaware (and sometimes uncaring) of how they come across to others --mostly the uncaring part
7)May look at external ideas and people with the primary purpose of finding fault
8)May be intolerant of weaknesses in others -- especially stupidity or incompetence.
9)May believe that they're always right--- I hate being right all the time (see 10)
10)May be cuttingly derisive and sarcastic towards others.
Mmm sarcasm. I thought this should actually go in the second list, but perhaps not.
11)May have an intense and quick temper
12)May hold grudges, and have difficulty forgiving people.
I still hate people from high school if reminded of them.
Good news part of the show:
1)respect for precision in communication lends them the ability to accurately convey their ideas and discoveries in full.
2)usually quite intelligent and can grasp difficult concepts.
3)not overly demanding in personal relationships, and have simple daily needs. They are often easy and enjoyable to live with.
4)have a natural ability to focus and get "into the zone" when working on a problem. They can absorb their minds completely with an issue, and work it through with amazing speed and accuracy. This ability makes them outstanding trouble-shooters. Since their logical abilities are dependent on their experiences, their abilities will increase with time. INTPs with experience are often seen as the "gurus" of their professions. -- often to the dismay of people around them, but that's another issue entirely.
5)mind is naturally geared towards systematically analyzing information from many contextual perspectives, and rejecting or retaining information as they become aware of its usefulness or validity. -- except I retain virtually everything whether I want to or not
6)They're extremely insightful, and see things that are not obvious to others.
7)able to generate all kinds of possibilities. They're able to see the problem from many different angles, and come up with a solution that fits the needs of the current situation. .. Thus why I prefer the grey areas.
8)They don't take criticism personally, and are open to changing their opinions when they're shown a better idea or better way of doing something.
I haven't yet reached any conclusions as to what I should do about this, if anything. But it does point out some possible innate issues I've been having, some of which I was aware of previously.
There are certain aspects to this idea that are appealing, though I'd have to read an actual bill first. But otherwise, it's inherently flawed.
1) Health coverage becomes mandatory in the way auto/home insurance is now in most states. That's fine.
2) Government offers tax credits to those that can't afford it (read: poor people). I'm not necessarily big on that by itself. I'd say anyone below upper middle class professionals should get a tax credit for providing their own insurance instead of taking what their employer gives them, with the poor in general getting subsidy (with some measures taken to recoup the subsidy by taxing behaviors which contribute to ill-health). The Clinton plan instead keeps the onus on large corporations to pay for their employees using large and often ill-conceived types of coverage. The days of employer-paid benefits are over. Those days started during the 1940s when wage controls were put in place and employers needed to offer benefits to attract workers. Today, benefits are hideously expensive to offer even with the group rates achieved by large numbers of workers. And workers don't have careers anymore. So having to jump from one employer-benefit plan to the next is not a viable solution. Any legislation should reflect that our work force is no longer career-based but instead a much more mobile one or even temporary/part-time. This fails miserably to recognize that problem.
3) Require insurers to take anyone who applies. I can live with insurance being available to anyone, including people with various dread diseases. But it should be highly expensive for such people. Consider that, other than the preservation of life in such a case, what else matters? You want to live, you're going to have to pay up. Reversing or even just slowing down death is not cheap people. Or else subsidized by charging healthy people more. I personally choose the first option. I'm not sure this plan does as it bars insurance companies from charging far more than the actual premium. That means healthy people won't subsidize it and probably the unhealthy people won't either. I suspect the end result is a lot of denied claims because health insurance doesn't strike me as a particularly profitable form of insurance. People actually use it. It's sort of like homeowners insurance in say Florida.
4) I was greatly amused by the Edwards counter-proposal in which he claimed to cut off benefits for Congress and the Prez if socialized medicine was not approved in 2009. Edwards has always struck me as a doofus. More evidence was not needed, but thanks though.
5) Nothing in this plan actually reduces the demand for health care. If anything it will increase it. That's a serious problem that will have to be addressed with complimentary legislation before I could give this one a pass. BEFORE, not during. Socialized health care has to be a secondary legislation. How we as a society provide fiscally for our health care is secondary to the actual problems of how we receive it and how much we need it. Those issues need to be addressed somehow on a grander scale. They have not been here or otherwise. As a result the supposed $110B price tag is a sham. It'll cost more than that, if not directly, than certainly through indirect subsidy to corporations and/or individuals. Even if that's all it costs, I'd like to know where the money is coming from for it? Pork projects and flagging war efforts are only going to back some of that... ah yes there it is. Raise taxes.
6) And then the final blow. Hillary has already put out that privatization is off the table. Which is not good. Any idea for the reform of health care should allow for and even encourage individuals to have free and competitive markets in which to find and purchase affordable coverage of their choosing. Right now there are problems with that market, which can be addressed through a combination of new regulations (ie better compliance for the provision of needed care) and deregulation in other areas (interstate or even international competitions for example). There are privatized plans (HSAs) that actually make sense for a majority of uninsured Americans, if they could be made even more affordable still through tax credits or the like, so be it.
16 September 2007
I love how they managed to find a picture that makes the guy look like a serial killer. Either he really does look maniacal as in this picture and his neighbors are just stupid or they waited for the crazy pose and snapped away.
CNN is very annoying. An airline crash overruns the assassination of an Iraqi police colonel as the lead story. Again with the crashes. From all accounts it sounds like they were trying to land in a driving rainstorm, which isn't exactly easy. Meanwhile, the police over there are getting gunned down at their homes and it'll get buried. You can tell America gives a shit.
15 September 2007
What exactly is the big deal here? How many kidnappings are there a month in Central or South America? Or in Africa how many kids are enslaved into military or paramilitary operations? Some girl gets lost in Portugal and suddenly its a big deal. I feel like the whole jon benet mess is repeating. I don't care if someone is rich, it's not world news when their child disappears (or is even killed). It's a local matter for things like Amber alerts.
At least it banished ms spears for a minute or two. But wait, OJ manage to squeeze in instead. The more interesting story was the power ball winner.
Money can't buy everything, in fact most of the time, it makes it harder to have much of anything worth a damn.
The trick, of course, is to determine what chance each team has of beating every other team. Our method is to use simple team statistics (e.g. runs scored and runs against) to predict how each team will fare against all others. For those of you familiar with baseball prediction, we use a variation of the Bill James "Pythagorean Theorem" to predict results. Pretty smart, huh? That's why we call this prediction mode "Smart mode".
Another method is to simply assume that any team has a 50-50 shot of beating any other team. You could flip a coin to decide who would win each game. This method isn't too realistic, but it usually gives Chicago teams a better shot at the division. For lack of a better term, we call this prediction mode "Dumb mode"."
I appreciate the snide remarks for Chicago.. they don't usually go 50-50 when it matters (next year will be 100 years, as the media is fond of 'reminding' Cubs fans). Haven't had much to say on baseball. Not sure why. I've been following with my usual interest, but I suspect its largely because I stick to the boring (but meaty) statistical portions of debate and observation rather than having a zesty passion for any one particular article. The whole HGH/roids cloud also makes it difficult to really get into.
Plus it's probably more fun to tinker around and create a statistical universe of hall of fame/all star players and pit them against one another than watch overpaid 5th starters try to keep it over the plate without the ball being tattooed over the fence. I suppose that tinkering around kept the math portions of my brain out of comatose; what with the normalization and park effects calculations. There's always that.
14 September 2007
This is the bill that accounts for about 90-95% of pork spending, the transportation bill. There are perhaps many billions more in what is considered discretionary (or even necessary, depending on the POV) spending for social programs or military acquisition programs.
$8B is not chump change. That's ~4% of the national deficit right there, a good start. Reading the actual Inspector Gen report on these effects, some of the pork was simply re-prioritizing funds that were actually needed or useful. Most of it was government waste. I don't see how levying new taxes is necessary without some discourse on how those taxes will be spent and how our current ones are wasted.
In a related story, bacon still tastes good.
13 September 2007
I'm confused. How does peace and friendship for all exclude these people over here in a place called Israel/Palestine. It's rather shallow if you ask me. Can't we all just get along.
I forget. When did reasonable people suggest we should forcibly deport 12 million people? It's possible to get the 12 million people to leave willfully or at least to apply for legal status; I've outlined various ideas on that subject. Why we needed to study how much it would cost to deport millions of people who'd probably come back the next day anyway (in the absence of a compelling reason not, such as the availability of work) makes no sense to me. I suppose at least it would shut up the most fanatical immigration 'reformers' (people like Tancredo) who want us to go isolationist/xenophobic on the world. Although, 94 billion is chump change in the laws of government spending.
Good work here. I didn't know guillotines were still in style. Determined people seem to have very grim outlooks on life anymore. I guess we should all be thankful I'm very scattered in energy.
One of the reasons both to love and hate football: the hits. This one required some nifty surgery techniques. They pumped saline into his body to keep his spine from swelling and killing him, or at least permanently paralyzing him. I wasn't aware of that little trick, but it apparently worked well enough. He's moving a little already. I can recall watching years ago when an OL guy on the Lions was hit and as they carted him off the field he did a thumbs up. The fans loved it. I don't think he ever walked again though.
12 September 2007
Nice to see people can still put their minds to destroying things. I also appreciate the gamesmanship in naming it the FOAB. Nice touch.
09 September 2007
The bugs have bugs. It only took them another 6 months to find evidence; which, since the news media wanted to blame cell phone towers of all things isn't surprising.
Other news of interest, some secret saavy tech company is working on ultracapacitor material to replace batteries. Since capacitors would use energy much more effectively in say, a car, this is perhaps good news.
This one had a funny headline. "Walking hard for some exercisers." Which led me to believe that people were having difficulty just walking around in the process of looking for their socks (already on their 'invisible' feet) until I read the story. It turned out they were pointing out something I'd pointed out a few months back in my health care research. People don't have good access to exercise, even the most basic being walking or jogging around. Not exactly news to me, but if maybe some urban planners get on it, we'll have some solutions for all but the poor, crime-ridden neighborhoods.
06 September 2007
Some of these are funny, even though I myself pay less attention to football. I do however enjoy making light of America's tendency to over-express their collegiate allegiances. I found the following best:
8a - Just because I have to put up with being in Ohio.
9- That 'the' is pretty ridiculous.
15 - I concur. Chinese characters are however words or phrases, usually not letters. But they'd look fine otherwise. OWM is a virtual requirement here also. See also 37-38. The entire painting exercise seems a bit much to me but it should be well-defined to prevent confusion.
25-26 - mostly because I have no idea what a 'song girl' is. Isn't that a pretentious way of saying 'cheerleader'?
Virtually all references to football and drinking amuse me. I can't really get all that excited about either of the two. So there's of course a whole section on tailgating and various drinking rituals associated with football. That's quite funny.
34a) read this, otherwise, the terrorists win.
35) I suspect that's contrary to all laws of human nature for two people from different aspects of a rivalry to meet in polite company and actually like each other personally enough to marry. But this rule certainly would spice things up a bit.
39) I already declared my reaction to this marketing gimmick. It's called D2, or some variation of D-1AA. I don't care that much about football, but I certainly care what people call the divisions. NCAA needs to get off the stupid machine when it comes to names. They tried the regional brackets for a few years with names like 'San Jose' instead of 'West'. It's West, Southeast, East and Midwest, and I don't care if the games are in Chicago; that's not how I'm referring to it.
41c) OSU is persistently overrated; so's everyone else in that list.
42) In pro sports the barely .500 team sucks. Why it's rewarded in college football when most of the wins shouldn't count anyway I don't know. Most of those 6-5 teams are really something like 2-5 or worse. Sending them to the Chia Pet Bowl is not a suitable function of 'winning 6 games'.
Put another way, in college basketball only 65 teams make the post season (not counting nit), and of those really about 40-50 of them are competitive, the other 15 are just happy to be there. There are 336 teams in D1 basketball, but only 120 in D1 football. So the same ratio of bowl eligible teams would be between 16-26. There's roughly double or even triple that number. Fix this and I will care. Put in a playoff and I'll definitely care.
48) Always funny to make fun of SEC schools. Or basically anything from the South. That may as well be another planet.
50) I'd forgotten all about the Iraqi information minister under Saddam. Those were funny times. Almost as funny as the Qaddafi line about destroying America and breaking it's nose. Almost.
I like it when the media makes up attack ads for them. Just what we need, more combative political system. At this point however, I would be willing to simply set each side's candidates in a dirt arena, equip them with simple tools or weapons and have at it. It's certainly a more productive and entertaining way to select a presidency than the series of pointless beauty pageants interspersed with a series of 'vicious' attacks.
As to Obama's actual suggestion, I appreciate that he wants to have an open forum debate on health care. However I suspect that allowing the ill-suited public to make the call on who pays for their medicines and surgeries is folly. Economics should dictate our response to this issue, simple and cold as it is. There are elements and problems with how the free market has handled itself, particularly over the past few years. I'll deal with those instead of simply screaming and running around demanding the government pay for my checkups and emergency health needs. If Obama wants to have public forums, then hold them on fuzzier matters like race relations or religious extremism.
1) Cost run-up. There's generally two reasons costs run high. Supply is low and demand is high; it's really that simple. We can't increase the supply of doctors very easily. But there are several ways people are trying. Doc-in-a-box clinic setups are popping up in places like Wal-Mart or pharmacy drug stores. They treat simple stuff like coughs that emergency rooms are too overwhelmed to have time for anyway. That would cut down things immediately and for much of that type of stuff, a simple medication or a quick consultation suffice. A real disease might require more specialized care, but to be fair, doctors have no idea how to treat and cure viruses anyway. Go home and rest is about all they can tell you, so quit wasting your/their time.
A secondary problem with supply is that the manner of money crops it's ugly head in doctor's training. It's simply so expensive to go to medical school that the traditional doctor we might think of from old days has gone by the wayside. 'Everyone' now is some sort of specialized care giver. That's great if we need something for our heart condition or cancer treatments, or surgery to fix a bone or ligament. But it's not much help for everyday life, which appears to be precisely the condition that is causing most Americans the most harm. Moore and other's publicly spectacular works have shed some light into the differences with other countries. Their prescription however is rather dubious. I look at the situation and see that the primary difference is the ratio of primary care doctors to specialized ones, not that the public pays for it by way of taxes or by way of pockets. When there are more 'trusted and learned friends', as I like to think of primary care, I suspect the arts of medicine are dispensed more generally, more cheaply, and more effectively over the long term. Our doctors are looked upon as gods of health, and what they say we must do, we must labor towards. But when that doctor only cares about maximum heart function, they're not much of a god. More personal care and attention given at a general level would likely give some of us less of a demand for health care. That's actually a good thing, simply because we'd like to be in control enough over our bodies that we'd be learning how to manage our health and how we effect it every day.
2) How to pay for it. There's basically two ways we as Americans pay for health care. One is our employer gives us a perk in the form of health care coverage and we do not have any private incentives to care about cost. We pay our deductibles and get our tests and so forth run. All of the care on cost is then in the hands of either the hospital or the insurance company, who will battle freely over how much and who pays for what. Not a good thing.
The second manner is privately, which also devolves into two methods. The first is through private insurance and the second is out of pocket. Private insurance usually works just as the employer-paid method except we ourselves pay for our insurance out of pocket without subsidy, so there is some incentive of cost, except for two things. First, the cost of care is usually a negiotiated rate by the insurance company, but not something the insured person ever really sees; doctors do not have menus for their treatments and care. It also means if there is no insurance, it's a very considerable rip-off, either for the person trying to pay for it, or for the hospital trying to collect money from those who won't ever pay such outrageous bills. Second, the person paying for their own insurance sees how much monthly is going by the wayside and will feel compelled to make use of those dollars. General rules of money will tell us that a dollar which is not ours is spent very quickly. So instead of only seeing a specialized doctor with a real and specific problem and sometimes checking in with our general care doc, we'd go all the time. When there's a commercial on TV for a new drug or a TV special on some disease that 50 people a year get, when we read symptoms for some illness and presume ourselves to have it, et cetera. Not only is that really annoying for the doctor, but it also encourages the health industry as a whole to run more such ads and our viewing public who becomes ever more paranoid about health and safety, to watch more carefully. That's great for the few thousand people a year who catch something (or the few million men who must have penis-related problems), but I don't know it does much good for anybody else.
At the moment, the only private sector response to this that makes any economic sense is medical savings plans, or more effective still, health savings plans (I have no idea why they have two different names that mean the same thing, damn lawyers). A savings plan specifically for health care is mostly our own dollars at work (getting past Friedman's observation). The best of these plans work by providing a high deductible coverage on catastrophic care and a seperate savings component which is used to pay the deductible or to earn interest for later use. That means if a person gets cancer or tears a knee ligament, they're still covered by the insurance company. Nobody in any sector of our lives wants to pay many thousands of dollars for unforeseen events, be it a car accident or a debilitating disease, that's precisely why insurance exists in the first place. Just as those types of insurance are not designed for our continuous use for every little thing, such as a ball breaking a window somehow requiring a call to our homeowner's insurance, so too with health care. These types of plans recognize the fundamental economic purpose of insurance and harness it for health care, with some tax benefits and private ownership (rather than dependency on our employer's plans, making us dependent on our employer). I fail to see why this cannot be widely embraced if it is properly explained because such plans fulfill several practical objectives.
First, the cost is reduced, both by having a negotiated group buying power of insurance involved but also by removing needless insurance paperwork for smaller claims. Hassle factors on doctors being removed so they can instead focus on seeing patients who are stuck in those little rooms with the deli wrap paper would be a nice bonus. Second, the onus of paying for care is privately held and determined. Each person would be able to exercise some choice over how much coverage to purchase or what types of coverage they might need simply by only filing for insurance when they actually need it, and paying 'out of pocket' the rest of the time.
Thirdly, a plan can be designed with certain realities involved, such as older women not needing prenatal care anymore. I've heard the horror stories of over-regulated insurance boards demanding that an insurance policy for women include whatever built-in surcharges for prenatal care heedless of age. It should be based on calculated risks just as any other insurance should be (I won't get into car insurance and that that often isn't based this way either, another time). The chance for older women getting pregnant is low, they have other health problems and risks which rise accordingly. Most of the problems revolving around installing a nationalized plan regard this issue; what sort of coverages are needed.
And finally, the cost is relatively lowered for most of the Americans without coverage and without access to Medicare/caid. Most such people are of working age still and many such people were like myself for some time, choosing to be uninsured. A calculated risk on the part of the consumer that they would not get dread diseases or some other fortune breaking condition besetting their lifestyles is not the wisest course of action here either. Access to an affordable coverage that actually works and provides that precise type of coverage that is needed by such people is perfectly fine alternative to taxing everyone to pay for these people's oversights or outright ignorance.
Good point here. I'm really tired of football skating over its bad press. Michael Vick, HGH suspensions, and an insane string of arrests. They did do something about the arrests and convictions of players by handing out suspensions and fines, and that's great. But the national attention still garnered is awfully rosy by comparison to say, baseball. HGH or any other steroid type product is by observation just as ridiculous in football as baseball. I get tired of people whining about it for baseball when it's football that'd benefit even more from such activity and it's football that does very little about it.
05 September 2007
I'm really tired of pointing out the obvious here. Education works much like everything else; it's not one size fits all. The old joke from WW2 goes that everybody is a size 9 shoe because that was the most manufactured boot size, despite the fact that feet vary widely (and uncomfortably) around such an average. It's time we recognize that treating everybody the same is not the same as equality in action.
There's an old Confucian story in which the master teacher is said to have given two different answers to the same question. A third pupil pointed out his apparent contradiction and he was given an explanation (asking a question that points out an apparent flaw in today's educational world is a definitive no-no, teachers are infallible, or is it inflatable). "The same question has different answers for different people. The main importance is attached to their personal experience." His further explanation was that the one he said yes to was a shyer individual and would need encouragement, the other was a more assertive lad and would need reproachment. Human beings are a delicate balance between all forms of our expressions. It would be nice if we could recall being balanced by our teachers rather than measured as if we were a piece of meat for sale.
On to the highlights. "Average achievement remains flat in reading and growth in math is the same as before NCLB passage." I'll grant that Harvard has a bit of anti-conservative tilt, but in this case since the reform being judged has such an emphasis on data, there's mountains of data on which to base such analysis. There has been growth, but it has tended to be minimal, one-year upticks followed by down ticks, not a general trend toward educational nirvana.
"The racial and socioeconomic achievement gap in NAEP reading and math persists". My impression has been that politicians love to flaunt ideas that are 'intended' to close this gap. They usually don't succeed. But they do fail gloriously well and with lots of press coverage bemoaning the failure of a 'well-intended policy'. Perhaps it would help if we actually bothered to understand the educational gap that does exist and what the actual causative factors might be. For example, studies can often show that parents with university degrees tend to have 'smarter' kids, perhaps owing to a greater emphasis on learning and a positive early formative role model in the form of an educated and likely successful professional parent. The socioeconomic gap as it exists today tends along educational lines, as expressed by any high school teacher who posts on the board the median income of high school dropouts vs high school graduates,and if by extension, college graduates as well. The demarcation line extends further still if taking advanced university degrees into effect. Thus it's entirely possible that this trend would continue into the next generation(s) without some external pressures. I can't imagine how measured standardized schools has exerted any external pressure at all.
"Interestingly.... the paper finds that NCLB changes in ethnic and other achievement gaps have been mixed" This is hardly surprising news. That second quote did not also analyze trends going into NCLB times and would probably find that the basic educational trends going forward are virtually the same as what we have now if they bothered to look. Certain ethnic groups are improving, some are floundering, and others are mired in our fubar system.
"What researchers found was that students learned less in year after NCLB's passage than they did before it, a result that held true for every ethnic group analyzed and for both math and reading." Wow, that's ... not shocking at all. They're teaching to a test now, and all good test takers learn that only relevant information that will be on the test is worth looking at, regardless of whether a) such information is actually relevant to them personally or b) such information ignores other potentially more relevant information. Education in its classical sense is about expanding horizons. This appears to be about narrowing them. Typical politicians.
"...most states altering their standards, tests, and definitions of proficiency". I always loved 1984. Words can mean whatever we say they mean, and there's some logic to that. To me proficiency means that someone achieved a level of mastery above basic association with a subject. For example, I am not proficient in other languages (other than a dead one) despite my familiarity with a variety of words and phrases and my mimicking abilities of accents and dialects. I suspect if I was interested in doing so, I could overcome this defect and would then be "proficient" at some linguistic elements. But on a standardized test, it's entirely possible that my broad associations of knowledge might overpower my language failures. Or that my broad associations would be totally ignored as worthless globules of information. How the state defines this situation matters greatly as to how proficient I would be. And that's a bit silly to begin with; I suspect it only matters how practical my information is to me and whether I can actually apply and use what I have learned. Studies were done which point out that right now, most states are using my 'basic' definition as their definition for 'proficient'. Which is fine for wasting federal grant money but not for improving the educational crisis. I for one love the example on the 3rd grade TX reading test changing the test scale for passage. It went from 24/36 (a lowly D average by my reckoning, but at least a passing grade) to a 20/36, which my math is a 55%. I don't know too many occasions where that would be considered a passing grade except by political standards where a 50+1 will do, sometimes less than that. I guess our politicians got confused.
"perhaps the hardest hit subject has been social studies". Why pray tell would politicians not want us, the eventual voting class, to study social studies? What possible use could not learning history, economics (which nobody studies anymore), and civics be? One potential flower of use has been to add these disciplines into the standards mixing bowl, a bowl already fraught with an overly mixed status. Even gym class has its flag bearers for minimum standards, perhaps a useful gesture given our next generations already bulging waist lines.
In testing what we already are doing, we'll probably find that testing on everything all the time, few people will actually learn not much of anything at all. Education is not and should not be defined by tests, most people hate them, some people can't stand them and the amount of pressure applied to pass them generates considerable stress for some. I dare say young Americans are already under a considerable strain from our consistent media fear factory. We don't need them to fear knowledge and education right along with Osama and anyone else with the name Ali/bin/sheik.
Actually when looking this over, taken in coordination with other policies currently under review or in effect, I see one thread: create a standardized system. Systems work pretty well at organizing people from a top-down perspective. It makes them relatively effective at teaching a new person their job for example, or allowing for a small unit (like a sports team or small/franchised business) to operate collectively toward a common goal. What they don't do is allow for personality and freedom, which in a large society makes them often a poor choice to adminstrate from, lest it paralyze itself. Choices are part of what should define a person's existence. How we choose to experience the world around us will directly effect who we become. In our childhoods we are not given a good deal of freedom because we are ignorant of some dangers and risks that as responsible adults we do not indulge ourselves of (supposedly). But to craft a system where none exists, and where none should exist makes no sense. People are definitely different. Some are smart, or book smart, others not. Some are funny, others dull, some have certain skills and others different ones. This is a reflection of our internalized experiences and our genetic lottery winnings. A system essentially provides everyone with the same set of experiences and in turn measures deviation from the norm as a bad subset, regardless of whether such deviation is useful, even necessary for a society to function. We seem to believe politically that we need lots of systems for a country of 300 million people to function, but in fact I believe it is the opposite. Societies will tend to self-actualize and organize without systematic interference through the interaction of aspects like free markets or the application and demand for social and criminal justice. There are reasons to fear such freedom, such as the aggrandizement of power or the predatory behavior of the strong toward the weak, but these fears exist still even within the framework of a system. Ask ourselves, where is the power in our current system, and who has been abusing it? I am confident the answer will be the same for both questions, the only difference between now and a freer society would be the amount of choice we could exercise to avoid our fears and sufferings.
02 September 2007
The big schools in football essentially buy what are intended to be gimme wins to pad the records for championship/bowl money at the end of the year. In basketball I get enough data from the 30+ games teams play to throw out such "meaningless" games and more easily see which teams have real gaudy records against top competition. Football teams play maybe 2-3 meaningful games out of 12, with maybe a few decent games in conference play. So when one loses like this, I feel quite vindicated that I don't follow the fake championship series with nearly the vigor that the average American does. Give me a playoff system and I'll consider my attention with more division. I don't expect the system to create more even schedules, simply because that would close out the lesser teams to even playing real games. But at least a few more marquee games in the pre-conference arena. People complain about Notre Dame's schedule every year as being too hard but these same people whine that teams like Michigan schedule I-AA teams and directional Michigan schools that are supposed to be automatic wins. Somewhere in the middle the answer lies.