Saturday, February 6, 2016

Trump sold old lie in NH of health insurance across state lines

Trump just said in New Hampshire that he's going to unleash competition on U.S. healthcare after he repeals Obamacare, specifically by allowing Americans to buy health insurance across state lines. 

Trump said the insurance companies are making a killing on Obamacare. The fact is, insurance companies are taking about 3 cents of every healthcare dollar in profit. 


The problem is that U.S. medical care is too damn expensive. Insurance companies chip away at the edges and screw us in the process, yes, but they aren't the real problem. 


Buying a cracker-jack health policy from a rinky-dink insurance provider in Rhode Island isn't going to do a thing for the cost of your care at home; it's only going to hit you when you actually need it that your insurance policy doesn't cover s**t.

Ted Cruz: The first talk radio presidential candidate

Ted Cruz is the first talk radio presidential candidate, so it's no wonder Glenn Beck has endorsed him. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and others also gush over him.

I say that because Cruz, like a talk radio host, owes his popularity to staking out the "purest" (read: most extreme) views within his party, without any hope of ever getting what he wants. 

Cruz has never "compromised" in the Senate, he only grandstands, meaning he gets nothing done. He's a shameless self-promoter who has zero endorsements from his Republican colleagues in the Senate, who can't stand him. 

It's amazing that Cruz looks like a strong candidate for the GOP nomination, having just won Iowa. (But no without some dirty tricks.)

It just goes to show that talk radio runs the GOP. Too bad talk radio takes zero responsibility for governing, just like Ted Cruz.

Now if you want a good look at the real Ted Cruz, in his young and striving young-adult years, read this:


http://theslot.jezebel.com/heres-what-happens-when-you-try-and-track-down-a-ted-cr-1752337625 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Call me a pessimist, but... (On Sustainable Development)

The idea of "sustainable development" is not radical, crazy or hard to understand. Most anybody would have a hard time arguing against it, in theory. It just means economic development today that doesn't happen at the expense of future economic growth. Some people have called unsustainable development a "tax on the future" because it's indeed stealing prosperity from the young and generations that haven't been born yet. 

The obstacle to sustainable development is not a lack of know-how or technology. By and large, we know what to do. But it does require trade-offs and sacrifices; and the pain won't be equally distributed. And that's the rub. 


The obstacle to sustainable development is politics -- to be more precise, power. Those with power don't like it. (As an aside: I posit that those in power, among them some very "smart" and "visionary" thinkers, rarely think seriously about the future, alas.) 


The people seriously concerned with sustainable development are by and large powerless: scientists, professionals in the "biz," activists, mid-level bureaucrats and such. They say and do and write enough to force those in power to pay lip service to their arrived at consensus. But that's about as far as it goes. 


No, I'm not talking about an opposing global conspiracy. Real conspiracies are rare, and they're usually stupid, for stupid, shortsighted aims.... 


The real obstacle to change is that power is concentrated in a few hands, yet separated by nations, cultures and geographies, with few formal nodes of interdependence, where common aims can be realized.... 


An attendant obstacle is certainly capitalism. More broadly, the obstacle is our global political economy, with its capitalistic innovations tacked on to feudalistic holdovers and narrow nationalistic structures. 


"There is a lack of global leadership," we hear again and again. True. But from where are the necessary global leaders supposed to emerge? It's asking too much from our global political economic systems. 


Ideally, democracy should save us. The good ideas should convince the majority of what is needed, and republican leaders should pay heed to their wishes. Ideally, yes. But that's naive.


First, we don't have real republican democracy in most countries, either by force of regimes or by failed states of many stripes. Second, even where there is formal democracy, concentrated power (read: wealth) still trumps democracy by various well-understood technical means. (Again: there is no conspiracy here; secrecy is not at all necessary for concentrated power to subvert democracy; the facts are are all well-documented for those who take the time to pay attention.)


So where does that leave us? Up the proverbial creek, I'm afraid. 


The richest nations do tend to be democratic. And democratic polities can exercise their power -- when dramatic events move them. But unfortunately, the world -- and sustainable development -- cannot wait for dramatic events to awaken the confused and slumbering giant of democratic public opinion. By the time the giant comes to, it will be too late.


Yes, I'm talking about global warming. And the death of our oceans and fisheries. And water shortages. And new global pandemics. And massive extinctions. And die-offs of millions if not billions of people. -- And for those ensconced in the relative safety of the developed, democratic world, something beyond mere discomfort and inconvenience, but drastic cuts in standards of living and overall well-being. 


By nature I'm not a pessimist. But I simply do not see how our current political economic system can react -- or should I say, fail to react -- otherwise. Everyone is to blame -- and hence no one. I hope I'm wrong and that smarter, more visionary and leadership-worthy individuals will prove it.

This post was inspired by this book review : http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(15)61215-6

Friday, November 27, 2015

Fear

Americans, I'm sad to say, are afraid. They're chicken shits. Because there was an attack on Paris. Over 100 people were killed.

Yet every year, over 10,000 Americans are killed by guns. We don't care. It's not that Americans die, it's HOW they die. Jealous husband -- that's life. Crazy guy -- it happens. Kid playing with dad's gun -- it's a tragedy. Depressed teen -- it was hormones. Black people -- take your pick of reasons that we write off.

The truth is, we're not afraid of killing. It's all around us. We're afraid of whatever the media and some fear-monger tells us to be afraid of. Because if we were objective about it, we'd do something reasonable. But fear isn't reasonable; it's the wrong stimulus to elicit a reasonable response.

Same with our compatriots in the armed services. If they die from an IED -- that's war. If they die from friendly fire -- that's war. If they drink themselves to death at home after PTSD -- that doesn't count.

Americans are afraid of the wrong things.

No, Syrian, Iraqi and other refugees aren't going to storm our borders like is happening now in Europe.

No, they're not going to "infiltrate" us through our southern border either. Not when ISIS or Al Qaeda could just send hundreds of jihadists with European passports to the U.S., without a visa, to wreak havoc.  Jihadists who can buy guns without a background check, and, in many states, openly carry firearms legally.  Why would terrorists take the former route, which takes at least 18 months, and may ferret out a real terrorist?  Why take the time and risk?  It defies reason and logic.

And yet we're afraid of them nevertheless, these refugees.

Americans are pussies. Especially the right-wing ones who say they want to defend America. They're the biggest fraidy cats of them all.  They'd rather upend the Constitution to defend against a lightning strike than take commonsense steps to defend themselves against much more likely causes of death.

But why?

It's the media. The same "lib'rul media" or "mainstream media" or "biased media" that they despise making them so afraid. They all -- we all -- get our information from SOMEWHERE.  So where are they getting information that's telling them that Syrian women and children are a threat to their very lives, to the American way? They didn't think of it themselves, that's for damn sure.

They are just as manipulable by the media as any liberal, as any other person... nay, more so, because they think their ideology gives them special perspicacity. And yet their fear blinds them.

And so I say, CHILL THE F--K OUT.  Stop being such f---ing pussies. If we're the strongest nation in the history of mankind -- and we are -- then that comes with some responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is to serve. And serve we do -- at least some of us. Our men and women of the armed services go where we tell them, train whom we say to, kill whom we say to, and come home if they're lucky. But we civilians also have responsibility to NOT BE SUCH F---ING PUSSIES, and out of our fear, our ignorance and idiocy, send our brothers and sisters into harm's way halfway across the world to fight some bearded loonies in their caves, unless it really means something, unless it really protects us at home, or defends our interests as enumerated in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

The latter responsibility is where we're falling flat. Oh yes, we "honor" our troops with ribbons and FB posts... as we send them into one unsolvable mess, one quagmire after another.  As we ignore them when they return home and try to live in our great American society. Have we no shame? Have we no compassion? Have we no honor, to send these men & women of honor into stupid, dishonorable battles for nothing?

Swallow your Stars & Stripes and choke on them if you use them to justify your fear, to cover up you inadequacy, your latent racism, xenophobia, or religious vision of apocalypse.

Don't use our United States of America for your own stupid, selfish, fearful, short-sighted aims.

Don't buttress your own pathetic shortfalls with the might and resolve of the U.S. Military.

Don't ask our diplomats to say bullshit they don't believe.

Don't deceive yourselves, your family and your neighbors that you're in this fight when you're really not. You know nothing of war, or risk, or death or bloodshed or loss.

Just STOP. Just f---ing quit it. Just STOP.

Fuck Trump. Fuck Carson. Fuck Cruz. And yes, fuck Hillary. Fuck anybody who thinks we can solve civil wars or terrorism with "balls" or "bigger balls" or "brass balls" or salty balls or any kind of balls you can think of.  All that "balls" means is, some guy in a suit in a masnion with body guards sends thousands of Americans in uniform to die. Is that what you want?  Is that what you really need to feel safe, to go about your day?

If you really, truly need that, then I pity you. I despise you, yes. But I pity you.

You're not a worthy inheritor of America's greatness.  You're a scared little girl cowering under her sweaty bed sheets.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

ISIS is Islamic, but we should still shut up about them

Islam has never been united. For one thing, there is no Muslim pontiff who speaks for the world's 1.6 billion Muslims living on six continents. Yet even the Roman Catholic Pope speaks for only about half of the world's 2.2 billion Christians; and millions of those Catholics choose to disregard him on such crucial matters of the faith as birth control, premarital sex, divorce and gay relationships. 

If we sat down and took a deep breath, we'd all admit that there is no perfect, ideal version of Catholicism, or Christianity for that matter, that exists separately from the people who call themselves Christians. Anybody who says he is Christian and practices some form of the faith, no matter how strange, is a Christian. Attempts to label practitioners on the margins of a faith as "heretics" or "not true believers" has been tried, will continue to be tried, in vain. It only comes with conflict, violent schisms, cults and new denominations.

The same is true of Islam, with its Sufi, Sunni, Shia branches... and a bunch of sects and sub-sects that I don't know or understand. It is diverse and always changing.

ISIS in particular, with upwards of 30,000 fighters, or about 0.00002 % of the world's Muslims, is Islamic, just as they claim. A dark and evil part, but a part of Islam nonetheless. Just as violent white supremacists in the KKK or Branch Davidians are indeed part of the Christian pageant, because they profess themselves to be so. You or I can stand aloof and say they're not, but Christianity is what Christians do; Islam is what Muslims do; including all the good and bad. These religions are not what some sacred texts say. We can't just define away the behaviors -- and the believers -- that we don't accept as pure or "mainstream." (Although millions of believers will continue to do just that, to the detriment of world peace and understanding....)

Likewise, the U.S. should not -- and I'm thinking of Barack Obama specifically but before him scores of prominent conservatives -- engage in pointless, unwinnable schismatic debates about who is or isn't Islamic. It's apparent why both sides are tempted to do so: conservatives want to stoke xenophobic fear among Americans that justifies, post facto, their wars of choice in the Mideast and continued spying and infringements on our civil and constitutional liberties; and President Obama, in response, wants to calm Americans' nerves, and avoid antagonizing one-fifth of the globe, including America's peaceful 2 million+ Muslims. Conservatives' anti-Islamic argument is mean and stupid on its face; Obama is stupid for engaging seriously with stupidity.

Just as our arguing that ISIS is not Islamic does not seem to affect their appeal to disaffected recruits from all over the world, nor does our paying so much attention to ISIS hurt their cause. Just the opposite. When the most powerful nation in the history of the world -- not to mention the "Great Satan" -- declares that ISIS is scary and powerful, it's the best possible endorsement for the Islamic State's recruitment and fundraising efforts.   

Keeping a cool head and maintaining perspective on global threats are responsibilities of being a superpower. We must be serious when choosing our enemies, and more serious in how we fight them. That doesn't automatically mean all guns -- and mouths -- ablazing.

I've said it before: With all of its vast power, the U.S. shouldn't say that ISIS is an "existential threat," "clear and present danger," or anything of the kind.  It's the equivalent of a well-armed huntsman hyperventilating at a swarm of mosquitoes. 

Since 9/11, almost no leaders of any political stripe are willing to say the truth: We cannot defend ourselves against every attack on U.S. soil by extremists, especially by lone wolf terrorists inspired by the Internet and driven by deep personal resentments and/or violent mental illness. (ISIS's forte.)  And especially against those attacks on U.S. soil that require very little coordination or preparation (that could tip off domestic spies), and make use of readily available weapons of mass terror: assault-type weapons, ammunition, and bomb-making ingredients.  

In October 2002, I grasped this sad fact immediately and personally during the DC sniper attacks. The terrorists, who everyone was sure must be al Qaeda, ended up being a disgruntled, mentally disturbed Army vet (the sniper) and his impressionable teenage nephew (the spotter and getaway driver).  They were armed only with a Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle. They killed 17 people and wounded 10 others, and perhaps worse, caused widespread terror in several states before they were caught, by selecting victims at gas stations and shoppers in parking lots, two of the commonest places in American life. That's how easy terrorism is. And there's nothing stopping anybody today from doing the exact same thing. Nothing. Nowadays we just have a few more cameras around that anyway wouldn't pick up snipers tucked away in the distance.... 

Our leaders continue to lie to us that by eliminating (as in 100%!) the threat of Islamist extremism "over there," and oppressing the peaceful Muslims at home, we can keep ourselves safe "over here."  In fact, by persecuting Muslims at home, and making stupid wars of choice over there, we make Americans less safe over here, in ways that we've witnessed numerous times. (In a word: blowback).  And worse, we who usually refuse to trust our leaders, who know they tell us what we what we want to hear, choose to believe their lies. (The 240,000-employee strong Dept. of Homeland Security, which didn't exist prior to 9/11, the NSA, the Pentagon's top brass, and the military-intelligence contractors getting $285 billion a year certainly thank us for our choice!)  We should know better.

When influential bloviators like Glenn Beck, and even conservatives that I know, say that radical Islam is one of America's most dire problems, nobody dares laugh at them. Yet if I said the KKK was something every U.S. Presidential candidate should propose a plan to fight, I'd be laughed out of town. Never mind that there are upwards of 3,000 Klan members in the U.S., in all 50 states, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, as opposed to 100 or fewer members of ISIS in the United States, according to the Pentagon.

Either way it's like arguing which is worse, the mosquito or the fly. The West, in particular the United States, has many more important problems to address. 

Publicly, we should ignore ISIS; outside the public eye of cameras and journalists, we should fight ISIS seriously but in proportion to the threat they pose, in the time and manner of our own choosing, and not have our actions be driven by the release of disgusting YouTube videos.