Tuesday, September 08, 2015

How to misinterpret data

Obamacare Signups Near 10 Million in Midyear Report

This is a great lesson in misinterpretation.  This quote is from the end of the article:
""Consumers from coast to coast are continuing to show how important health coverage is to their families," Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said in a statement. The figures released Tuesday cover the period through June 30."
Let me see here.  We pass a law that says everyone HAS to do something.  Then, some people abide by the law, and voilĂ , we have proven how important health coverage is to people.  Well, it might be important to people, I don't know, but the fact that people are signing up certainly doesn't show any such thing.  It only shows that people are signing up because otherwise they face a fine, and, according to this article, 84 percent of those that signed up are eligible for tax subsidies.  So, yeah, it's probably better to sign up and get free, or at least reduced cost coverage, than to not sign up and pay a fine, which is scheduled to increase substantially this year from last.  So, what this really shows is that people would rather spend money and get something than spend money and get nothing.  Yawn.  Unfortunately, this law will only lead to increasing healthcare expenditures, while hiding the true cost of healthcare from consumers.  In the meantime we can just go about pretending it's all good.


Senate Republican Tom Cotton Commits Treason Against America For The Second Time

I always thought that treason was doing stuff like aiding and abetting the enemy, so I couldn't resist when I saw the headline.  Turns out, it's worse than I thought.

Apparently, the left thinks that treason consists of disagreeing with the President, at least so long as the President is also on the left.  Or maybe they think it's okay to disagree so long as you don't actually say you disagree, and certainly so long as you don't actually take any action based on that disagreement.  Action meaning doing stuff like voting to block the President from making a deal, or lobbying your colleagues in the Senate to vote with you.  After all, our government isn't meant to have actual checks and balances; it's only meant to have the appearance of checks and balances.  That way, we can have a dictator while maintaining the appearance of having a democracy.  Cuz, you know, appearances are everything.

So, this article claims that Cotton "[swore] a pledge of allegiance" to Israel.  Um, no.  He did promise to stand by our ally, which, call me silly but this is something that I think we should do, otherwise we're not allies.  At any rate, here is the quote that apparently constitutes a "pledge of allegiance" to the left:
“Today’s meeting only reaffirms my opposition to this deal,” Cotton said in a statement after the meeting. “I will stand with Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israel and work with my colleagues in Congress to stop this deal and to ensure that Israel has the means to defend itself against Iran and its terrorist surrogates.”
I suppose that technically you could, in fact, call this a "pledge of allegiance," but the linked article only used those words to put a spin on the actual words, to make it sound as if Cotton were just about denouncing his U.S. citizenship.  Instead, though, he was promising to use the power of his office to work to stand by our ally.  Hardly what I would call treason, but then, I'm not exactly a progressive.

Well, this article is full of nonsense, like this:
"[T]his is an executive agreement and not technically a treaty"
That quote actually links to this article, which explains what the difference between an executive agreement and a treaty is.  I'll save you the click; there is no difference except in the name.  The term executive agreement was devised to come up with a way for the President to not have to get Senate approval for a treaty, by calling it something else.  So, um, technically, it is a treaty.  A treaty by any other name... well, you know.  Except here in the U.S. of course.

Given the foolishness demonstrated by the author of the linked article, it isn't surprising that the comments are even more foolish.  For example:
"Arrest and try the Idiot for treason. Iam sick of our elected officials giving aid to foreign countries."
 Apparently, this individual thinks that any kind of foreign aid is treason.  I may not really like how much foreign aid we give, but I wouldn't call it treason.  If it were, then every one of our government officials is probably guilty of treason.  Hmm, maybe that guy is on to something...

Here's another good one:
"Mr. Cotton and his "cohorts" in congress should be charged with treason no matter what. This is a huge embarrassment to the USA. Its high time we charge people with treason..... Our forefathers would have done it already."
They should be charged with treason no matter what.  That's an interesting thought: charge them regardless of whether they committed actual treason.  Cuz, you know, they embarrassed us.  Okay, they didn't embarrass me, but it looks like they embarrassed some people.  Clearly treasonous.  But if embarrassment is truly equivalent to treason, then perhaps Obama, and those that chose to elect him twice, are equally guilty of treason.  That last part of the quote is particularly interesting in that our forefathers were also guilty of treason.  It's also interesting that someone that probably doesn't know much about the history of our country deigns to know what our forefathers would have done.  Worse than that, this is probably also a person that insists that it isn't important what our forefathers would have done, since this is definitely a different world than the one our forefathers lived in.

And then, there's actually a comment that questions the validity of the claim that Cotton actually committed treason.  Unfortunately the poster hasn't yet learned that you won't get a good response to that kind of question in the comments section.  Here is the response:
"Was he or was he not in that country? Did he and a few other senators invite Him to our country to disgrace our president?"
Sounds like a lawyer wannabe.  Last I heard, visiting Israel (that country) doesn't constitute treason.  And, did inviting the leader of one of our allies to speak to Congress actually disgrace our President?  Nope.  I actually doubt that disgracing the President was the intended outcome.  Personally, I think our President does a pretty fine job of disgracing himself.  Again, maybe we should lock him up, if we're going to be locking anyone up.  Making a case to support an opinion that differs from the President's opinion does not constitute treason.

This isn't rocket science here.  This isn't treason either.  For the record, so long as we as a country insist that we don't negotiate with terrorists, I think we shouldn't negotiate with state sponsors of terrorism either.  So, it follows that I am against the deal with Iran.  And while I don't necessarily know enough about Israel to form an opinion as to whether we should be allies with them, I do know that since we are allies with them we should be committed to that relationship and promise to aid them should they need it.  Otherwise, what exactly is an ally?

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

The cost of stupid

For a while, I was considering actually determining how much stupidity costs.  Then, I decided that actually attempting to do that would be, well, stupid, so I didn't.  I don't think it really needs to be figured.  It is, for all practical purposes, equal to GDP, which helps to explain why we run federal deficits regularly here in the U.S.

So, here are some examples of how stupidity costs us.  I know of one employer that has a facility to employs over 1,000 people, all of whom have the job of dealing with customer stupidity.  A rough estimate of the cost of this single facility is $50 million annually.  Don't ask who it is.

A road near my home was dug up last year to do some utility work.  When the crew ran into some underground utilities that weren't where they were supposed to be, they decided to postpone the work until this year and repaved over the whole thing.  This year, the road was dug up again, and it looks like they completed the work, since they have repaved the road again.  Painted some nice white lines on it.  Looked really good, until they then decided to chip seal it.  Maybe that's a new thing, to chip seal new asphalt, but I don't really see the point, and I especially don't see the point of painting lines first, since now, they'll need to repaint the lines.

We've spent billions launching air strikes against ISIS, never doing enough to win, or even to take back meaningful areas of land.  Stupid.  Either set about winning, or GTFO of that whole mess.  My choice is the latter.

Most, if not all, automobile accidents are the result of stupidity.  The list goes on.  In saying this, I'm not saying that everyone else is stupid and I'm not; I am, after all, human and being stupid is part of that.  But, really, a lot of the stupid that goes on in the world is, in fact, avoidable.  Unfortunately, most don't want to be bothered with avoiding it, or worse, most think that they are, in fact, not stupid, which, in turn, makes them the stupidest of all.

So, now that I've gotten that off my chest, here's a look at some of the recent news.

Yeah, I don't really care how it got tied up in politics.  I don't know what all the hubbub is about.  It's a name, a label.  People are too hung up on labels these days.  To me, there's actually a simple solution to the problem anyway.  Name the mountain Denali, but name the national park McKinley.  I'm sure someone would be offended by that, but who cares, really.  People are spending way too much time looking for things to be offended by.  Another example of the cost of stupid.

"[T]he Fed plans to raise its benchmark interest rate one-quarter of one percentage point, a mathematically minor move that has become a very big deal."
Um, no.  When the rate is changed from 0% to 0.25%, it's actually not a mathematically minor move.  It's friggin' huge, mathematically speaking.  But, in the real world, it won't change much, so it really is a kind of minor thing.  I don't think it's really the rate that's all that important.  It's more about the signalling.  If the Fed raises rates, it signals that they think the recovery is strong.  It also gives them room to lower the rate when we enter the inevitable coming recession.  What do I think?  I don't think it much matters what the Fed does.  The next recession, which isn't far off in the future, is going to be bad whether the Fed has any room to lower rates or not.  It's going to kill a lot of people's retirement plans, including mine.  To get a little more specific, without going into a lot of detail, I think the next recession is going to be long and marked by high inflation, which shouldn't happen but will in this artificial economy our government has created in order to make it look like they're doing something.

We have drug violence all wrong: Prohibition is the root cause  

Yes and no.  Legalizing drugs may actually reduce drug violence, but at the same time, I suspect that violence would increase elsewhere.  But, I'm all for legalizing drugs.  I'm also all for legalizing prostitution.  I don't even think driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs should be an actual crime.  Drug laws don't stop people from doing drugs.  DUI laws don't stop people from driving under the influence, and prostitution laws don't stop people from going to prostitutes.  Perhaps in some cases it does deter those things, I don't really know.  Really, though, I don't feel like having those laws makes anything safer.  And I don't expect to see a big decline in violence if those things are ever legalized.  We'll still find reasons to kill or hurt each other, because that's the way we are.

Inside Ben Carson's quiet surge

So, it looks like Ben Carson deserves another look.  In an earlier post, I really pretty much dismissed him since I didn't know who the heck he was, actually.  But, the more I see, the more I like, mostly anyway.
"He told CNN earlier this year that some people become gay in prison, indicating homosexuality is a choice -- a comment for which he later apologized."
I just wish he hadn't apologized there.  I don't know if there's a genetic "cause" of homosexuality or not.  In the end, though, the behavior is a choice.  And I don't think that anyone that has an opinion like that needs to apologize for having that opinion, nor do they need to keep their opinion to themselves.  It is, perhaps, the one thing that I actually admire about Donald Trump.  I don't think I've ever heard him apologize for his opinion.

Obama to Call for More Icebreakers in Arctic as U.S. Seeks Foothold

I hear a lot of people on the right saying that Obama is executing a plan to destroy the U.S.  I don't think Obama is smart enough to have a plan.  I think he's doing it, as my kids used to say, "on accident."  But, if he does have a plan, this particular part is absolutely brilliant, I must say.  Let's just assume for a moment that the human contribution to climate change is real, and substantial.  First, Obama throws billions of taxpayer dollars into decreasing carbon emissions, which is already not economically viable hence the need for the government to spend that money.  Then we'll spend more making sure oil companies can produce ever increasing amounts of oil, making "clean" alternatives ever less economically viable as the increasing supply of oil pushes the price ever lower.  Presumably, the next logical step is to spend even more on reducing carbon emissions, in order to counteract the effect of cheaper oil.  At least that way, nobody will really know exactly how much they're spending on energy.  We'll all just smile appreciatively at Obama cuz, you know, gas is so, darn cheap, and it's all because of HIM.  Kind of like health care, which is now more unaffordable than ever, yet most think it's more affordable than ever.

I have one question though, and I know it's not original, but I still need to ask.  How much carbon did Obama release into the atmosphere on his flight to Alaska to "highlight the challenge of climate change and call for a worldwide effort to address its root causes?"

Kentucky Clerk Denies Same-Sex Marriage Licenses, Defying Court

I just have to say one thing to that clerk.  If you don't want to do your job, get a different job.  That's why they invented those (different jobs, that is).

The Daily 202: Six unclassified nuggets in newly released Hillary e-mails
"IT folks at State did not know about the Clintons’ e-mail setup" 
Of course they didn't.  It was on a need-to-know basis.  And how was she supposed to know that someone would have a problem emailing her and ask the IT folks at State?  So, from her perspective, they didn't need to know.
"Sidney Blumenthal e-mailed HRC that incoming Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) “is louche, alcoholic, lazy, and without any commitment to any principle.”" 
I think Boehner deserves an apology.
“The incompetence is mind numbing.”
 As it is around the world, Chelsea.  Fortunately, your parents fit right in.
"In related news, ICE announced that a four-day sweep led to the arrest of 240 undocumented immigrants with criminal records in Southern California. The feds said most of those 240 had at least one felony conviction on their record. “It was the most successful four-day sweep of its kind in the region,” the Los Angeles Times reports. “But an ICE spokeswoman cautioned against concluding that crime involving immigrants is up.”"
Why in the world would I conclude anything other than there were 240 undocumented workers with felony records arrested?  I can't stand it when a bureaucrat  tells me not to jump to a conclusion that is nonsensical.  Does she think I'm stupid?  All I can say is good job, now get them out of here.  Of course, I also won't be jumping to the conclusion that that will actually happen.
"Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) has called parents to apologize over comments he made to their second- and third-graders during an elementary school visit. “Do you know that there are schools that train children your age to be suicide bombers?” the lawmaker told the children."
Well, yeah, cuz we don't want kids to know the truth about the world.  Unless it's not true, of course.

There are more gems in that last link, but alas, my time is limited.  Unfortunately, I have to think about getting ready to go to my job, which, according to some, I owe to the stupid people of the world that can't follow relatively simple instructions.  Without them, I'd be unemployed.  At least, that's what people think, although I prefer to think that without them, I'd have a way better job.

Friday, August 14, 2015

More stuff that has nothing to do with overpopulation

Extreme weather poses risk of more food shortages, civil unrest - UK/US report

Of course it does.  And overpopulation doesn't.  So, let's spend more billions ineffectively, and watch as carbon emissions continue to climb despite spending billions to stop it.  And while we're at it, let's make everyone pay so that others can have sex without worrying about having babies, and then have everyone pay so that they can afford have babies whenever they feel like it, give them unlimited time off after having a baby, you know, to bond and awesome stuff like that, and finally, let's give them a tax break for having babies cuz nobody should actually have to bear the cost of their own actions.  Sounds good.  Especially since scientists have found that the universe is dying, so we may as well just party like it's 1989, or something.  And nothing really gets the party going better than having a baby!

How Humans Used Up a Year of Natural Resources In Under 9 Months

This isn't an overpopulation problem either.  That said, with sarcasm in case it didn't show, it could also be helped by decreasing consumption.  But, who the heck wants to do that?  Especially with the big universe dying party to plan for.

Of course, when those brats get a little older, their not going to be quite as cute as when they're newborns.  But, have no fear, cuz the FDA has approved OxyContin for kids!  And you thought I was kidding about babies being great for parties.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Get out of my house

Rand Paul: Get Government Out of Marriage

Yeah, I think so too.  But this article actually goes further than the headline would suggest by telling us what other GOP candidates think about the whole gay marriage thing.  And although this isn't one of my personal big issues for the 2016 election, it's a good a place as any to start looking at the candidates.

So, here's Rand Paul's reasoning in a nutshell:
“I acknowledge the right to contract in all economic and personal spheres,” he noted, “but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a danger that a government that involves itself in every nook and cranny of our lives won’t now enforce definitions that conflict with sincerely felt religious convictions of others.”
Right on.  I don't think anybody can really argue that the federal government is not becoming increasingly involved in all of our personal lives, and I for one don't like it and think we need to reverse the trend.

Of course, Rand Paul isn't the only candidate that is disappointed in the Supreme Court's ruling.  Some candidates think that a constitutional amendment defining marriage is a proper response.  I have two problems with this.  The first is actually a broader restatement of what Mr. Paul stated in the above quote, that government won't now enforce definitions that conflict with sincerely felt convictions of others.  Whether my "sincerely felt convictions" are of a religious nature or not, the government should not presume to tell me how I should believe.  And I believe that individuals have a right to contract.  I don't believe they have the right to contract for the purpose of gaining additional rights at the expense of others who are not parties to the contract, and I don't think the government should have the power to force me to be a party to a contract that really has no effect on me otherwise.

The second problem I have with the constitutional amendment response is that it won't pass.  I'm not sure why anyone thinks it might pass, given that the majority of states have already legalized gay marriage.  The fact that it won't pass makes it nothing more than a talking point designed to get the votes of those people who truly believe that their religious convictions should be forced on others, and that somehow, they are entitled to special rights and privileges because of their religious convictions.

And then there's this gem:
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal went as far as to say, “[L]et’s just get rid of the court.” 
Um, no.

It appears that Ted Cruz and Scott Walker also would support a constitutional amendment, meaning that they don't really have a response that will accomplish anything but want to make it clear that they don't support gay marriage.

Finally, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Ben Carson all came out with a more or less "Oh well, what are you gonna do?  It's the law," kind of response.  Telling me that none of them really wants to take a stand.

So, there it is, and at this point, although this isn't really a major issue for me, Rand Paul has come out on top.  He's the one guy that actually has a real reason, other than his feelings, for not supporting gay marriage.  Yeah, get government out of my house!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Elitist ideas and more

Obama signs trade, worker assistance bills; measures advance administration's economic agenda

This way, we can buy cheap imports, and the government will pay to retrain us to do whatever is left over.  Yay!  Take it from me, though, if you're, say, 50 or older, that retraining won't likely do you a whole lot of good.  But what does Obama have to say about it?
But he said they will ultimately be good for American workers and for American business.
Okay, so, American business, I get because you can't beat cheap foreign labor.  And, it's also good for American workers, cuz, you know, we can all retrain at government expense into something awesome like Medieval  Dance, or flipping burgers at McDonald's.

AAP: Docs Have Role in Preventing Childhood Obesity

No, there's nothing really interesting in the above link, other than some smarty pantses did a study and arrived at some obvious conclusions, like kids should eat lots of vegetables, and not a lot of junk.  Nah, can't be right.  I think we need another study to make sure.

What Is Cryptosporidium, and Should You Be Concerned?

And in more health news, the only thing really surprising here is that people still swim in public swimming pools after all the publicity about it.  Apparently, some people still don't get that using a public pool as a toilet is just, well, rude.  And then there are some that don't see anything wrong with swimming in someone else's toilet.  So, sounds like a win-win for at least those people.  I think I'll take a pass on public swimming pools, though.

Supreme Court quashes clean air rule, says cost must be considered

It's been about 40 years since the Ford Pinto case caused national outrage that a company would actually do a cost-benefit analysis when considering whether to take an action that might save a few lives.  Now, it appears that the Supreme Court is saying that this is exactly what the EPA should do when considering environmental rules.  But, here's a comment that's truly troubling, made by Mike Duncan, president of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, an industry group:
“Elitist ideas usually carry lofty price tags.”
Since when is clean air an "elitist idea?"

U.S. Healthcare Spending On Track To Hit $10,000 Per Person This Year 

This is from back in January, but so long as people keep yakking about how much Obamacare is saving us, I'll keep pointing out how much it's costing us.  It will only get worse.  $10,000 per year, per person.  That's a staggering number to me, and should be to everyone.  I know that I can actually live on less than that, and pretty soon, I'll probably have to, since, well, I have to spend on health care every year now, thanks to Obamacare.  Some people will say I've been lucky, and maybe I have been, but I've never come close to spending that much on health care in my entire life.  And yes, I get the whole idea that some people have health problems and so, their costs are much higher than mine.  But $10,000 per year per person is, well, mind-blowing.  Especially when you consider that this doesn't even include the administrative costs associated with Obamacare, like that disastrous website.

Out of touch

So, here's what I'm concerned about:

What's Killing the Babies of Vernal, Utah?

But the rest of the world appears to be more concerned with gay marriage.  Yawn.  I can honestly say I just don't care what other people do so long as it doesn't infringe on my rights.  What I do care about is the fact that certain people are apparently afforded special rights solely because of their marital status, and I don't think that's the way it should be.  I don't understand why people want to turn this into an argument about religion, or constitutional rights.  If people want to get married, I say, let them.  But don't confer special rights on them simply because they have agreed to have sex with only one person for a while.  Why shouldn't I, as a single person, be afforded those same rights?  And what can my sexual preferences possibly have to do with any of those rights?

But, here we are, with some people claiming that gay marriage goes against their religion, and so, shouldn't be allowed.  And some people saying that if you're against gay marriage, you're homophobic.  I'm neither for nor against it, which to some people means I won't take a stance in the discussion.  But I say, my stance is just the third position that no one cares about: the position of single people who are not afforded the same rights because they have chosen to not make a particular sexual relationship "permanent."  Because, shocking as this may be to some, most of those relationships are anything but permanent, and many of them are not even exclusive.

It seems to me that there are two fundamental problems with this whole discussion, besides the fact that there is a third side that no one talks about, that being the side of single people.  The first is that you can't legislate morals.  I thought people were beginning to figure that out back in the seventies, give or take a decade, but apparently I was wrong.  It hasn't worked, and it won't work.  While it may very well be that there is one "true" moral code, it is too much to think that over 7 billion people can ever possibly agree what the moral code is, which means someone is going to feel like their rights are being infringed on by the laws that are meant to enforce those moral beliefs.  The second thing is that it doesn't work to try to legislate guarantees of rights that are already guaranteed to everyone under the Constitution.  As soon as you pass a law saying that certain groups are specially protected, you necessarily infringe on the rights of others not in that group.  It seems that the only way to force equality for some is to step on someone else's toes.

The sad thing is that equality should come naturally.  We're supposed to be some sort of "advanced" civilization and yet we can't just treat other humans with the dignity and respect they deserve simply by virtue of their being human.  We should embrace our differences instead of arguing about who is right.  We used to say that the world would be a dull place if we were all the same, but now, we have to behave as if we are all the same, otherwise we're bigots, or we're stupid, or, well, fill in the blank.

Don't get me wrong.  There are stupid people.  There are bigots.  And unfortunately, that won't change because most of them don't think they are those things.  In order to not be stupid, you first have to acknowledge that you are stupid, and that's something not many people will do.  It's just like what they tell you in Alcoholics Anonymous.  The first step in getting better is to acknowledge that you have a problem.

So, let's see if I can guess what names for me are going through your heads.  I'm stupid, that's a given.  I'm a bigot, which is likely because I'm not "for gay marriage" and I am caught up in my own white privilege.  Of course, I'm a male, and I believe that women deserve special treatment, but I don't think they are so weak as to require special rules to make life easier for them.  I believe they are quite capable of competing in this world.  So, I'm probably a chauvinist.  I'm a dinosaur that needs to "get with the times."  Unfortunately, I don't really have a desire to get with the times.  I think I'll just stay out of touch with the world.

As some of you may have noted, I'm not really addressing the linked article.  That's because no one cares.  It's probably just some statistical anomaly, and we need to study the situation for years before we can possibly determine what, exactly, is killing those babies.  Certainly, it doesn't have a thing to do with fracking, but if it does, you can be sure we'll get to the bottom of it in due course.  In the meantime, why don't you just pack up the family and go for a drive, cuz, you know, gas is cheap, so take advantage while you can.