November 30, 2004
It is a sad day for Jeopardy’s ratings, because Ken Jennings is gone. After 75 shows and $2.5M, we can all stop wondering when the streak will end. Oddly enough, though, I had seen speculation about two months ago that it would end on this show with this much overall winnings. I’ve been waiting ever since to see if the internet rumor was actually true. Maybe you can believe what you read on the internet!
In other news, I added a subscription box on the left side. Enter your email, and you’ll be informed when I post something new.
November 29, 2004
The debate of government-provided health care raged throughout the campaign. Now, we don’t have to worry about Kerry being in office and pushing this on us, but judging from Bush’s history, I’m still a bit worried. Bush has not shown any real restraint in his spending during his first term, and his brand of “compassionate conservatism” seems to be a little too much Democrat-lite. I think he may take a few baby steps towards greater government control, so here’s why I think it’s a bad idea:
1) Health care is not a right
Rights are things that governments protect, not provide. People have only a right to freedom and to be left alone. The government involvement that best protects the rights of its citizens is to not get involved at all. When people make the argument that we have a fundamental “right” to health care, they forget about certain other people’s rights. Doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, and of course taxpayers. The reason that health care is not a right is that health care needs to be provided by someone. Whether that someone is a doctor, a spiritual healer, or the messiah, that someone cannot refuse to provide healthcare if it is a “right”. And once that doctor/etc is required to provide that care, he no longer has his rights protected. A system which arbitrarily subjugates one group’s rights (doctors who want to determine their own practice) to another (citizens who need health care) is inherently immoral. It doesn’t matter that the goal in mind, health care, is noble, if the method is immoral.
2) The government is not efficient
Do you want your doctor visits to most closely resemble the IRS, the DMV, or the post office? Our military, while the best in the world, isn’t exactly a shining model of efficiency. The rules behind something as simple as a tax code have been blasted beyond the point of comprehensibility. The IRS is supposed to offer competent tax advice, but they’re apparently wrong 50% of the time. The reason: there is no accountability. While private insurance is not incredibly efficient, it is driven by the need to adequately balance premiums and benefits. If they pay benefits too high without raising premiums, they go out of business. If they raise premiums without increasing service to create unreasonable profit, they lose business, and eventually will go out of business. There is a built-in corrective mechanism to ensure efficiency, which the government will never have as long as they are funded by taxes, which they can arbitrarily set or raise.
Likewise, if the government operates under the assumption that health care is a right, no burden should not be bared to cure or treat someone. I like to create a thought example. If, for example, I have a disease which will take a thousand dollars to cure, and I will die without a cure, should the government pay for it? Most people would say yes. After all, it is my right to be cured. Let’s say it is a hundred thousand dollars. Well, one can make the argument that spreading that over all the people in the US is not a major burden. How about a hundred million? Or a hundred billion? At some point, you reach a level where any reasonable person would admit that the burden on the rest of us is too high, and that I am not worth saving at that cost. In the market world, that limit is set by the market forces detailed above. Sometimes it’s not nice, but the system keeps working. In a government-run world, however, the government isn’t going to go bankrupt. The control on this sort of thing is absent.
3) Unpaid by the recipient is not “free”
I came across an article that I really liked. It compared health insurance to car insurance, and what would happen if car insurance covered things like oil changes and/or maintenance. Simply put, when something is provided to me at no cost, I am likely to use it as if it were free. Meaning that I am going to go to the doctor for something as simple as a cold, rather than waiting until it is serious. I am going to waste time and money on something that does not need attention, taking resources away from things that do. I will do this because I do not directly bear the “cost” of this attention. I personally believe that one of the factors leading to the increase in health care costs is the greater and greater role of insurance in the health care world. I am no longer required to make a choice between whether a service is needed, since I do not directly pay for it. As a result, I use unneeded services, making everyone else’s cost higher. That, spread over millions of people, raises the general cost of insurance drastically. If health insurance was more like car insurance, covering only the drastic and serious problems, we would all pay less. The more cost of health care that is felt directly by the consumer, the more market forces will self-improve the system and bring down overall costs.
4) There is no silver bullet
The number of drugs to treat problems is rising. The number of diseases that previously were deadly and are now treatable is growing. Life expectancy is increasing. Simply put, health care is becoming more expensive because it is continually getting better. And that is a good thing. Is there an easy answer to this question? Not at all. There are simple ways to improve or degrade the situation, but nothing is going to magically make health care cheap. I am currently sitting in Chicago for a major trade show about radiology. Companies are working their butts off to improve the ability to detect and treat diseases. The machines used are expensive and complex, and aren’t going to get cheaper. The only way to pay for this increased ability is by increasing cost, whether it be paid by consumers directly, insurance companies, or the government (of course, all three sources take their funds from individuals, in different ways). I would rather our health care can detect, treat, and cure more diseases, and if the cost of care rises to suit, so be it. It’s better than stagnation.
Over the course of the next few years, unfortunately I think greater government involvement is inevitable. I think that in the long term, it will lead to slower improvements in health care. Regardless of what system we use, the American people will perservere. But I believe that market-based health care will result in the strongest and fastest method for achieving improvements and better service. In the long term, if we can find cures (rather than treatments) for things like cancer, AIDS, diabetes, and a better understanding and treatment of the preconditions leading to heart disease, we will ultimately reduce the real cost of health care for most Americans. Preserving market-based health care will be the best way to see this day soon.
November 28, 2004
Well, based on the title you may think I believe the NFL’s spot for Monday Night Football was in poor taste. I don’t. Despite the poor writing, I think it skirted well within the limits of decent TV. I just don’t understand why they’d pick Nicolette Sheridan over Eva Longoria. No contest at all.
For the rest of you who don’t care one lick about this. Check out IFILM. They’ve got the South Carolina vs. Clemson brawl, and the Ron Artest vs. NBA fans fight… Plenty of you wanted to see that, so here’s your chance.
Well, checking my stats I see someone has randomly found my site by visiting another blog and hitting “next”. So I checked out the referring page.
I recommend checking it out. I haven’t read too much there so far, but it seems pretty intelligent. Although it’s even more political than I am…
November 27, 2004
Okay, for most of you this is nothing to be really concerned about… But since I’ve just had the oppportunity to experience the best food in the world again, I felt it was important to let you all in on the secret.
First is Pizza. My favorite, of course, is Pizzeria Uno. But for those of you outside Chicago, check out 1-800-LOUTOGO for Lou Malnati’s.
Then, of course, there’s hot dogs and Italian Beef. For those of you who haven’t had an Italian Beef sandwich, you’re missing out on one of the true delicacies of Chicago culture. Check out Portillo’s for some more information on how to order.
I do need to warn everyone though. Chicago recently dropped from the first to the second fattest city, behind Houston. I take no responsibility for what happens if you fall in love with this food. Good luck resisting once you try it!
November 23, 2004
I’ll be gone and probably won’t update too much until next week, due to the holidays.
While I’m gone, check out Fark.
I would have posted the picture of 2 feet of snow here in SoCal, but Blogger sucks for pictures
November 19, 2004
Check out what’s happening in Denmark.
It seems that some countries think they have a right to tell you what you can name your kids…
I want to name my kids Boris and Natasha… I’m pretty sure cooler heads (my wife’s) will prevail on that score. But if someone makes the decision, I’d much prefer it to be my wife rather than the US Government.
November 18, 2004
As stated in the great (now-defunct) Chicago musical comedy “Coed Prison Sluts“:
Reading is fundamental. It’s not just a catchy advertising slogan, it’s the TRUTH!
Sadly, I think that sentiment is slowly leaving our society. I encounter many people who don’t understand why I read for pleasure. I really don’t understand why that is a surprise. From the time I was young, books always pulled my attention well ahead of any other entertainment. As a child, I would forgo TV, eating, sleeping, for 24 hours or more to finish a book. Today, I even cherish air travel, because it gives me an excuse to buy a book and read uninterrupted for 5-6 hours. For me, reading is even like pizza. Even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good. I can’t put down books I don’t like, much less those I do.
I’ve always thought the book, 99% of the time, is better than the corresponding movie. A 200 page book packs in so much more thought, emotion, and material than a 2 hour movie ever will. In addition, it gives the mind a workout. Instead of relying on a cinematographer or director to present you with their vision of what characters look like, talk like, or act like, you have the chance to choose that for yourself. For all the work that Peter Jackson and a horde of pale-faced CG nerds spent, the book of the “Lord of the Rings” (cough Christmas gift cough) series is still much better than the movies.
Finally, reading offers much in the teaching of language. The next time you meet someone with a large vocabulary, I guarantee to you that they read regularly. The most expressive writer you know? He reads regularly. Reading not only exposes you to language, ideas, and the method of cohesive thought that may be new to you, it gives you better tools to use language, ideas, and craft intelligent thoughts of your own.
And for those of you who are interested, my favorite book is Atlas Shrugged.
November 16, 2004
Reality shows have given us all into a window of the life and times of celebrities, and it’s confirmed a suspicion that I’ve had for a long time. These people are idiots! Is it any surprise when someone who we’ve elevated to an exalted spot simply for being able to sing, dance, or act, falls from grace? Of course, not all celebrities are idiots, but an examination of who we’ve bestowed that distinction upon can tell us a lot about ourselves.
I watched the Anna Nicole show for a while. It’s a train wreck. You know you shouldn’t be watching, but you just can’t turn away. All the fame and fortune she’s found (married) has done nothing but give her the means to increase the rate at which she’s destroying her life. But I guess when you make your fame by showing your tits in a magazine, gold-digging an old man, and then suing for your “share” of his money, you’re off to a poor start. And then we’re on to the Osbournes. Now, I like Ozzy’s music, both in the Black Sabbath days and his own stuff. But I don’t see any need to watch a bumbling, medicated fool stumble around his wife, who runs the family, and try to rein in the kids who are basking in and abusing their 15 minutes of fame. I understand why the other daughter in the family didn’t want to be on the show, as she probably doesn’t believe in celebrating the delinquency. And last, we’ve got “The Surreal Life”. This is where washed up celebrities go to relive their fame, and complain about how tough their lives are now. I understand that Rob Van Winkle (aka Vanilla Ice) feels upset that nobody respects his “music” now, but when you start a career with as little honesty as he did, don’t be surprised when we don’t take you seriously now. And I’m horribly upset that Erik Estrada hasn’t had a gig since CHiPs, but really, I’ve made my peace with it. I don’t need to be kept up to date with his current life.
We don’t even need to focus on has-beens, though, when we can watch the fall from grace right before our eyes. Our own Britney Spears, who in the last couple years has made a complete transformation. Starting a career as a sweet, innocent little girl on the Mickey Mouse show, she’s managed to return to her roots: poor white trash from Louisiana. From her 55-hour first marriage, to the reports that she may actually bear children with intellectual giant Kevin Federline, I think she may be on pace to outperform J. Lo! The scary thing about Britney, as opposed to the B-list celebrities above, is that Britney is so famous that this slide won’t push her into obscurity. We’re stuck watching this one for a while.
Last, since I can’t keep my hands off this one, we’ve got the political blowhards. Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Sean Penn, and Whoopi Goldberg on the left, Ted Nugent and Mel Gibson on the right, seem to have gone off the “wacko” end of the scale. Not that I disagree with their right to have an opinion, by any means, but let’s look at these people realistically. Do they really face the same sort of challenges that we in the real world do? They’re .0005% of the population, living a life where the whole world is handed to them based on fame and fortune. Speak on the issues? Fine, but try to speak for what’s best for me and my life, and you’ve crossed the line.
I think the real problem, however, is not that celebrities take these liberties. It is that we, as a society, have given them these liberties. We, for some reason, seem to care about what these celebrities say and do. We’re the ones buying People to see the latest gossip. We’re the ones watching Entertainment Tonight, to see a glimpse of our favorite star eating a sandwich at Subway. Thank you Mr. Paparazzi, because I can’t survive a day without knowing whether Matt LeBlanc chose the steak & cheese or the club. Thank you, Barbara Walters, because hearing about J. Lo’s third worthless marriage really means so much to me. People complain about Britney Spears being a poor role model for teenage girls, it’s US that put her in position to be a role model to anyone. It’s US that have raised these people and given them the expectation that they need to perform how we want them to. We can’t seem to understand that platinum records or an Oscar don’t make someone a good person. We can’t seem to understand that bad people can be famous too, because too many of us believe that famous people are better than we are. And when those people falter, it hurts our ego, because we are the ones who built them up.
This horrible system only makes me value more the celebrities who can take themselves with a grain of salt. I’ve been watching “Long Way Round” on Bravo, where Ewan McGregor and a friend decided to ride a couple motorcycles from London to New York, through Europe, Russia, Asia, Alaska, etc. Watching this, I see an actor who understands he is human, and faces honestly the trials and tribulations of such a large journey. In politics, I saw Ben Affleck interviewed by O’Reilly during the Democratic Convention, and was expecting him to spew the vitriol common to the likes of Tim Robbins or Sean Penn. Instead, I saw a reasonable, sincere person who just happens to come down on the opposite side of the issues from myself. He seems like the type who is using his fame to advance reasonable views, rather than the blowhards who use their fame as a bully pulpit. As a final example, there’s Oprah. She’s risen from a poor childhood to have a career that has spanned decades and provide fame and fortune well ahead of anything I can imagine. Yet through it all, she has remained grounded and humble. Through all that time, she’s exuded class at every turn. More than an example of how to live a life while famous, she is an example for anyone’s life.
When we elevate these people to a supernatural level, we forget an important lesson. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. When we grant a bad person that level of fame and power, we all pay the price.
November 14, 2004
Know someone who is so incensed about Bush winning, that they can’t bear to stay in the US any longer? Well, they might be able to find a free ticket out…
I recently heard the song by pop star JoJo, who sings “Leave (Get Out)”. It’s a catchy tune, about the pain and heartache of a girl who had a boyfriend tell her they’d be together forever, and then cheated on her. In all honesty, the song (at least for a pop song) isn’t poorly written, has a catchy tune, and for mindless pop, isn’t all that bad.
But I heard one thing that absolutely makes me hate that song. She’s 13 years old!
She’s too young to have enough experience to have written the song, I’m sure. And I would guess that she’s too young to really have lived long enough to understand what its about. I’m sure she *thinks* she does, but she’s 13. I thought I knew a lot when I was 13, and looking back, I knew squat. I barely know squat now, and I’m twice that age.
So what are we left with? A talented singer trying to emulate pain and heartbreak in grown-up lyrics. I’ve always had a little problem with singers that don’t write their own songs, but I can understand if they’ve found a song they love and feel they can use their voice to express the emotions. But this just goes a little too far, if you ask me.
(By the way, while I’m here, is Ashlee Simpson’s career over yet? Or still in its death throes?)
I think I’ve firmed up what I want to do as format. I’m planning on trying to come up with one large post every week, and add in little minor rants as I feel the need. So look forward to a major article on why we love celebrities who don’t deserve it…
November 9, 2004
Many of you out there have heard about Britain’s Daily Mirror, and their question. “How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?”
I think I’ve got a better question. Why doesn’t the rest of the world understand that we have weighed the evidence, considered our options, and perhaps 59,054,087 intelligent, rational adults decided that reelecting George W. Bush was the best option we had?
In this election, we were faced with one very serious question. All others fell by the wayside. The question: Should we stand up and fight for what we thought was right in this world, or sit back with our “allies” and watch the threat grow? The enemy we are fighting isn’t interested in us leaving them alone. They’re not interested in peaceful coexistence. They’re not interested in diplomacy, in “joining the world community” (except as it suits their interests, i.e. Israel), or in acknowledging free Western culture (except when those freedoms make it easier to attack us). They are interested in nothing less than converting the entire world to fundamental Islam, and by whatever means necessary.
A clear choice. One candidate vowed to do whatever it takes to meet that threat, regardless of what the world thinks. That candidate has a clear conscience, in the thought that he is improving the world. He has a vision of a new world. A world full of countries and people holding the same hope and dreams that we have here in America. He has the understanding that his vision of the world cannot come about under communism, under fundamental Islam, or under any government that values government power over individual freedom. That candidate understood our enemy, and although at times I’ve had problems with his tactics, I can’t begin to fault his vision.
The other candidate truly believed that if he brings a more “sensitive” approach to the war on terror, the terrorists will leave us alone. He sees a world where militant Islam and western idealogy can coexist. He sees nuance where we need clarity. He advocates diplomacy against an enemy that only respects force. He views the American people as the tools to construct his grand vision of utopia; instead of utopia as a collection of free people acting in their own interests. Do I think John Kerry is a bad person? Not at all. Do I think he’s horrifically wrong? Absolutely.
The majority of Americans looked at two people, and two conflicting ideologies. And they made a choice. A clear, real choice. A choice that not only affected presidency, but shifted the balance of power in our House and Senate. Yet we are at a crossroads. We have the mass media proclaiming that Bush won solely on values. We are marginalized by people looking to discredit the election results and take away the President’s mandate. And for those of you who think they are reporting the honest facts, take note. The same people in Britain (and those in America) who think those who voted for Bush are just a bunch of dumb, homophobic, racist, gun-toting uneducated rednecks, will stop at nothing to belittle and neutralize this election. And the reason for that? They refuse to let us believe that we made an sound, informed choice. If they let us think we might actually be right, we might accomplish our agenda over the next four years. And that is something that they can’t accept.
Who voted for Bush? Were we all just led by the Christian Coalition? Are we so hung up on gay marriage making people feel “icky” that we would support a president that we thought would destroy our middle class? Did we think that it would be a good thing to reach out to an international “community” that would like nothing more than sell us out and embarrass us?
I don’t think that it is that simple. 59,054,087 people voted for George W. Bush, and many of them are complex people with complex beliefs. We may have common ground with Bush on some issues, and not always for the same reasons. But each one of those people looked at what Bush stands for, and what Kerry stands for, and made a choice. What type of person voted for Bush? Perhaps deconstructing a Bush voter like me may offer some insight:
I believe life begins at conception, yet my reasons for that belief are completely non-religious.
I believe that one of our highest virtues in life is to do everything in our power to help our fellow man.
I believe that forcing a person, through taxation, to help their fellow man removes all virtue from the act.
I believe that we should try very hard to include and convince the world to share our burdens and our goals.
I believe that if the world doesn’t do so, I am comfortable that America can morally act without their “blessing”.
I believe taxes are too high, and the tax code too complex, because politicians keep trying to buy us off with our own money.
I believe that people who think taxes should be raised should be given the opportunity to give more, if they so choose. If they choose not to, they lose all moral authority to talk about my taxes.
I believe marriage is defined by society and religion, and true meaning to a marriage is held in one person’s heart, not written in our laws or Constitution.
I believe to a government, all “marriages” are actually “civil unions”, because the government can only honor legal contracts, not moral ones.
I believe that all corporate welfare should be ended.
So should all antitrust laws.
I believe we have a Constitution for a reason, and that people keep finding things in there that I can’t see.
My choice at the polls: Vote for someone I agree with halfway, or vote for someone that I disagreed with completely? Bush may not be my ideal candidate, but he’s the best of the bunch.
Who’s a Bush voter? I am.
Does that make me a Dumb American? Probably, so I’ll try not to drool too much next time I’m dining with Jacques Chirac.