Who IS this guy?!
Political Talk Show Host and Internet Radio Personality. My show, In My Humble Opinion, (original, huh?) airs on Tuesdays at 10:PM and Saturdays at 8:PM, Eastern time on RainbowRadio.
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Friday, October 30, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
CIRCUMCISION and AIDS in AFRICA
I recently read an article about two clinical studies being done in Africa, one with 5000 men and one with around 2800. Roughly half of each group volunteered to undergo medical circumcision as part of the study. After two years, the circumcised group was found to be 48% less likely to be infected with HIV. It was such an effective reduction in transmission that the doctors felt it would be unethical to continue the study, opting instead to allow the reminder to get circumcised right away instead. (Just as an aside, the study went on to say that this reduction was only effective in heterosexual intercourse, and was not effective in homosexual sex. But that's peripheral to what I'm addressing here.)
Now, I'll say it right up front: I've always been against circumcision. IMHO, it's just an unnecessary procedure (mutilation, really) driven by societal pressure and motivated by religious nonsense. There is simply no reason to do it. Period. Do I still feel this way? Well, I have to admit that with something on the order of 1 in 4 or 1 in 3 Africans infected with HIV in certain areas, as a matter of PUBLIC HEALTH POLICY, it makes a hell of a lot of sense. And in that context I can't say that I'm justified in opposing it. Clearly, in that circumstance, there is a overding benefit.
But here is where public policy ends and good private practice begins. It accounted for a 48% reduction. Well, sure, if I'm setting public health policy, a 48% reduction in new cases would be a godsend. But what about ME, the individual? Well, we KNOW there's only ONE WAY to not get HIV via sex: Don't have sex. We also know as a matter of PUBLIC POLICY that this just doesn't work. Condom use is also basically 100% effective. (Or what? 99.9%?) I don't know, but it's a helluva lot higher than 48%. So for ME, I can choose to abstain, or to consistently use condoms, and then there's just no reason for me, the individual, to get circumcised. What's more, if I DID... but did nothing else, does that really help me?
Let's say I sleep around, with a different girl every week. In Africa. And of those ~51 different girls 17 are HIV positive. Now... lets say that there's a 30% chance of me getting HIV from one of them. My chances are about 10% that I'll have HIV within any given year. Now... if you cut my chance in HALF (the ~48% reduction that circumcision gives), then I'm ~5% likely in any given year. Big deal. In the first scenario, I'll be at about a 50% chance after about 7 years. (Buy the time I'm 25, if I become sexually active when I 18.) In the second scenario I'll last about 13-14 years, or until I'm about 31-32. Well, if the average life expectancy (without HIV) is ~72, I'm still losing 40 years or more - over half my life! On the other hand, with a 99% reduction (condoms), I'd have only a 0.3% within any given year, and I would only be about 15% likely to contract it by the time I turned 72! (ANd that assumes I'm still having sex once a week, with a different girl, every week! Not bad for such an old fart, huh?) So clearly condoms are the better PRIVATE PRACTICE, and abstinence the BEST, but we know from experience that neither of these work on a large scale, because none are consistently PRACTICE on a large scale, hence we have a PUBLIC POLICY that, while it would be disastrous as a personal practice, makes far more effective prevention strategy.
See the distinction? (OK, I'll admit that I really have no idea what the transmission rate of HIV is, nor how effective Condoms are. I'm guessing. But the actual numbers aren't really that important. The POINT is that something that can be a very good idea for individual people to do, can be a disaster as a matter of public policy. And YES, I think abstinence-only sex education is the single stupidest idea that our previous president and his merry band of funny-mentalist puppeteers ever came up with. But I wanted to first demonstrate the point with something a little less partisan before I got into...
Right off the bat I want to tell you what caused the GREAT DEPRESSION. And believe it or not, it was NOT all (Republican) Herbert Hoover's fault! (How's about that? That surprise anyone?) It WAS the fault of his policies though. After Black Tuesday and the resulting recession he did two things which are TERRIBLE things to do in a recession. He RAISED taxes, AND (and the AND is important here!) he CUT spending. Either one by itself is bad to do in hard times, but the double whammy took us (and the world) over a decade to recover from. You see... GOVERNMENT SPENDING supports people's incomes. Whether you think it SHOULD or not is irrelevant, it DOES. SO CUTTING it cuts people's income, which cuts their consumption, which cuts OTHER people's incomes, etc, etc... Vicious cycle. The same thing goes for raising taxes. In much the same way.
Now, without turning this into a treatise on Keynes (which I promised you awhile back, but still haven't delivered!) You can raise taxes, and raise spending by the same amount and everyone's collective income will go UP by that same amount. (Keynes' models demonstrate this.) Likewise if you cut taxes and cut spending by the same amount everyone's collective income will go DOWN by that same amount. This is because the effect, both positive and negative, of spending is slightly greater than the effect of taxes, AND: the BALANCED BUDGET multiplier is "1." That's an economic fact in every school, even Friedman's. But, as you can imagine, raising taxes and cutting spending would have a DOUBLY NEGATIVE effect. And Hoover did this at the worst possible time! So why is it not his fault? And why did he do this in the first place?
First things last...
He did this because he was committing the very error that I've described above. He assumed that good private practice would make good pubic policy. After all... When a FAMILY hits hard times, they try to do odd jobs to take in more money when the can, and they tighten their budget, so they don't go broke and lose everything. That's common sense. And what's surprising - and a little bit depressing, because it shows how good a job Fox News has done mis-educating people about economics - is that so many Conservatives still think this way! If you listen to them talk about Obama's huge deficits (only about 30% bigger than Bush's really, because Bush never budgeted for the two WARS, so his deficit figures were consistently understated... damned liberal media... Obama IS putting the Wars into his regular budget, and that makes his deficit look so much bigger.) ANYWAY, when you hear them complain about Obama's budget, they all say something to the effect of, "What do YOU do when you get laid off? SPEND MORE?!" No. Of course not. But that's just it: Good private practice does not necessarily make make for good public policy! If the gov't did what individual families do in hard times, tens of millions more would be out of work, consumption (which means, INCOME for the rest of us!) would be even less, etc, etc... Vicious cycle.... Great Depression II. Even the most hard-core supply siders understand this... Why do you think Reagan and Bush never cut overall spending even ONE SINGLE TIME in the sixteen years of their presidencies?!
Now... Contrary to what the Conservative may believe I, and many liberals, ARE concerned about the NATIONAL DEBT. But Deficit reduction is something that's better left when the economy is on better footing. For now? President Obama is doing EVERYTHING RIGHT economically. And the markets have borne that out.
I'll give you another example. Personal Savings. Now, I save. I hope you save. We ALL need to save as much as we can. Max out the 401-K's and IRA's; have six months worth of expenses stashed away in relatively liquid form... We all should do this... And THANK GOD we DON'T! Because if everyone starts pinching every pennies, WE'LL NEVER GET OUT OF THIS ECONOMIC MESS! The fact is, that for ANY of us to get PAID, someone else needs to consume! If everyone cuts consumption, because their worried about their jobs, then companies will loose money, and get what happens next? YOU LOSE YOUR JOB!!! This is why I HATE HATE HATE it when the media report on "consumer confidence."
Most people don't even know what tha term really means. But they hear it's LOW, and suddenly they worry about their job.. so they cut back... and so does everyone else... and POW! Now we have a recession. So companies shed workers. Less income, less 'confidence' about the remaining jobs, less consumption... BOOM! Another bad quarter! It's a wonder we ever get out of these things!
And THAT's where stimulus comes in. People say, "yeah but stimulus money's just temporary." It doesn't matter. Get some income out there, stop the bleeding... companies meet some of their numbers and targets, and stop cutting jobs... people feel a little better about their own job, so THEY spend a little more money... more companies start having higher revenues coming in again... they hire a few more people to help meet the new damand... POW... more income, more consumption, more revenue, more jobs, repeat, repeat, repeat...
Good private practice can often make disastrous public policy and good public policy can be disastrous private practice. We need to get beyond the idea that what's good for US is necessarily good for EVERYONE.
Oh yeah... and WHY wasn't it all Hoover's fault? Well much as I'd like to lay it all on him, the fact is that he got some bad advice... from FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT! That's right! You see, after Black Tuesday, Hoover was kicking around some of the ideas that Keynes had proposed. He basically had a 'new deal' proposal of his own. ROOSEVELT actually talked him out of it! And later, when Roosevelt became president himself, he saw how badly the conventional wisdom had failed (IOW - he learned the very lesson I'm talking about here!) and he reversed his position and put into place many of the very programs he talked Hoover out of! (The New Deal.) (Yeah - it was HOOVER'S idea!)
Now Roosevelt came around, and the New Deal made life better for millions, put many to work, and there were really only two things he did wrong: 1) He tried to balance the budget too soon. We weren't out of it yet, and I've already explained why raising taxes and/or cutting spending is BAD when doen in bad times. 2) He didn't go nearly far enough. That's obvious when you consider that it really took WWII to end the great depression. Why? REALLY MASSIVE GOVERNMENT SPENDING! Totally dwarfed the New Deal. And yet it was still paid for within a decade and a half of the war ending, recostruction and all. (Because when times are going good, you can have a 95% top marginal tax bracket and still grow! But we'll save taxation, spending and Keynes for another time. I'm still trying to make a decent, accurate, simple explanation of Keynes. It's not THAT hard, but I've been lazy about it. I'll work on it! I promise!) ;)
Monday, October 26, 2009
OK I got that out of the way! :) LOL.
There's something I've noticed about conservatives lately. I think it's always been there, but either it's gotten worse since 1/20/2008, or maybe 9/11/2001, or maybe it's always been this way, and I'm just becoming more aware of it lately. But there's something really wrong with the way Conservatives THINK. It's all backwards! And I don't mean that there's something wrong with WHAT they think. That a self-avowed liberal and a typical conservative would have different beliefs or opinions or conclusions is nothing profound. But more and more I'm noticing a very disturbing pattern the WAY that conservatives reach those conclusions... in HOW they think.
And before I go on, let me say that I do not personally speak for ALL liberals (I'm sure many want nothing to do with me! LOL.) So when I say "liberals" I'm speaking for myself and the few liberals I know well, or watch on TV. And obviously, I'm generalizing about conservatives, based on my observations of Fox, AM Radio, etc... and my interactions with conservative posters online (most of whom know I'm liberal) and my friends (who mostly trend conservative) and family (half & half,) none of whom really realize the extent to which I am liberal. (They seem to always assume that I'm somewhere between dead center and moderately conservative. I guess I USED to be, and I just don't go out of my my to present my self otherwise.) But that's what I'm basing this on. So if you're conservative and this doesn't sound like YOU, then either:
1) You're really a moderate liberal and just don't know it. (a few of you)
2) You don't realize that you are in fact thinking this way. (most of you)
3) Despite your misguided political tendencies, you are a very intelligent person and can articulate a good argument, and should really post online more often, because the conservatives who DO post there are embarrassing you. (so far I've only met ONE.)
So here's the way I see it.
When a "liberal" decides on his position, he tends to first look at the available evidence, decide what is credible and factual based on it's objectivity and scientific and academic merit, and construct a position that is supported by this evidence. The resulting ideology is then defined as "liberal," usually by those who disagree with the conclusions.
A "conservative," on the other hand, starts out with a set ideology. He then evaluates the merit of evidence based upon whether or not it fits his ideology. If it doesn't support what he already believe he dismisses it, or its source, as "liberal" and that is enough to satisfy him.
The examples of this are all over the place, but let look at a specific example:
Now liberals believe that man's activity is causing a long-term warming trend that is independent of the numerous solar, oceanic, and other warming and cooling cycles that are on-going, well known and accounted for in all of the climate models that support this conclusion. (You see: our position was constructed to be supported by scientific evidence.) This being the case, we consequently believe that we should change our habits to stop or reverse this long term trend.
Now... conservatives DO NOT believe that man's activity is causing a long-term warming trend that is independent of the numerous solar, oceanic, and other warming and cooling cycles, etc... What is their evidence? Mainly studies done that have been funded by the energy industries and conservative think tanks.
WHOA! Hang on a sec... Did I just commit the same crime?! Did I just violate my FIRST PRINCIPLE?! No. And I'll explain why.
First of all, our judgement of the organizations is different. The Heritage Foundation (and other conservative think-tanks) proudly admit to being JUST THAT. They don't deny it. This means that anything they put out is going to be biased. Period. That's their stated purpose.That pretty much destroys any scientific or academic merit or objectivity the evidence may have had. As far as industry science goes... well, I'll admit: SOMETIMES industry is right. There are plenty of examples of say... LAWYERS, and the MEDIA, blaming some problem on some corporation and, in the end, the corporation tunrs out to have been blameless. Dow Corning and their Silcone Breast Implants comes to mind. But in THOSE case the corporate science is under assault by LAWYERS using JUNK SCIENCE to win over JURIES, not SCIENTISTS doing RESEARCH and publishing PEER-REVIEWED papers in ACADEMIC JOURNALS. Independent scientific research does trump corporate science on most days, because they're being paid to do research, not support conclusions.
The fact is that most scientific organizations stand little to gain for going on way of the other. The IPCC and other organizations have little to gain by going against industry. If they were interested in money, there's far more to be made by SUPPORTING industry. (If there was more money in GREEN ENERGY, we'd already be doing it! The big bucks right now are in FOSSIL FUELS, so there's no reason, except the scientific evidence, to have an agenda tha goes against this!) But because they reached a different conclusion, conservatives accuse them of being part of a LIBERAL AGENDA, and thus there data is no good. (In reality, and with most things liberal, the data drives the agenda, not the otehr way around.)
And you see there's also two major problems with their conclusions, independent of the agenda that fuels their research. First of all, the conservatives cannot produce a single Climatologist, doing active research, who supports their position. NOT ONE! (30,000+ Names of "Scientists" on a petition, and NOT ONE active climatologist!) What's more, when politics has been involved not a SINGLE scientist has ever accused the UN or some other Government Body of OVERSTATING the conclusions of their research. Whenever politics gets involved, it is invariably to DIMINISH the perceived threat. But unless they diminish it to the point where it's nonexistant, they're just accused of liberal bias or of havign a liberal agenda and dismissed! Again, the liberal agenda is driven by the evidence, not the other way around!
And besides... If it were not supported by SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE, why on earth would liberals, or anyone else for that matter, what to believe this anyway?! The conservatives will tell you it's because we HATE CORPORATIONS. Well, that's mostly bullshit. To the extent that any of us judge corporations harshly, it is because they have ACTED IRRESPONSIBLY, and we KNOW THIS because we have EVIDENCE!
...Which the conservative will simply dismiss as 'liberal'. (See how frustrating these people are?!)
See how that works? He can't convince us, because we don't share his [delusion] preconceived world view, and we can't convince him because he will not accept any evidence that doesn't support his [delusion] preconceived world view. But WHO'S RIGHT? (Personally I'd say the one that supported by the more objective, independant scientific evidence, but then I'm a liberal; so what do I know?)
Why would they think that Academics, Scientists, etc... are inherently liberal anyway? Simple: They comes to conclusions and repeatedy find evidence that doesn't support the conservative agenda or philosphy... So therefore they MUST be liberal! And so they conclude that the evidence must be wrong (or biased) rather then their philosophy or preconceived notions. The best of them may even realize how utterly intellectually dishonestly THEIR SIDE operates, but they still make the mistake of thinking we work the same way. So they HAVE to accuse universities, scientists, academics etc... of having some liberal agenda, because that's the only way they can refute the evidence.
And go figure: as a species we DON'T ALREADY KNOW EVERYTHING. So pretty much anything we learn will refute something we thought we knew. All scientific progress is based on this self-evident truth, and all conservative philosophy is built around resisting it!
And when we judge "evidence" from the Heritage Foundation, or some huge corporation to be garbage, it is not because we think they're conservative. We already KNOW they're conservative - they come right out and SAY IT. We treat it like garbage because we have BETTER EVIDENCE. Our side (talking about independent scientists now) evaluates their evidence and either incorporates it into their models or outright refutes it. In the case of global warming, for example, every competing hypothesis to explain the OBSERVED and MEASURED 100+ year warming trend has been accounted for and/or debunked! But the conservative groups will never TELL YOU THAT! They'll just keep bringing up the same old crap, that's been debunked or accounted for a hundred times over. Like when they point out that their hasn't been any warming for the past ten years... WHICH IS PREDICTED AND EXPLAINED BY THE VERY MODELS THEY'RE TRYING TO REFUTE!!!
Liberals ideology on this issue is driven by these models. Conservatives opinions of these models is driven by their ideology.
And if they were to ask us, what we would do if we were confronted with true, actual, objective, scientific evidence to the contrary? Well what do you think we would do? WE WOULD CHANGE. That's what Liberals DO after all: CHANGE. And the world is CONSTANTLY CHANGING. Liberals realize this, and change with it. Conservatives don't and try to resist change. This has ALWAYS been the case. But then again, they don't realize this, because they constantly make the mistake of thinking that we're just like them.
Again: It's not WHAT they think that's the problem. It's HOW they think. And at best, the conservatives of ANY generation are only just them coming to accept what the liberals of two generations ago already discovered, but were mocked for by the conservtaives of the day. The world doesn't change becasue liberals want it to. We jsut want to make sure that our philosphy keeps up with it. And likewise, the world will not STOP CHANGING just because conservatives want it to. But not being one, I have no ideas why they'd want to cling to outdated knowledge, or philosphies that no longer work.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
1) The poll was old and it's data contradicted by a more recent poll's data.
2) It polled the political affiliation of the VIEWERSHIP, not the content of their broadcast: It showed that they have a ~50/50 split of Democratic vs. Republicans viewers, while other networks have almost entirely Democratic audiences.
(So... Going by that kind of logic, Eminem would have been BLACK.)
The thing is... I don't think either poll says anything particularly profound about Fox at all. Consider this: The percentage of Democrats to Republicans in this country in somewhere between 50/50 and 60/40, slightly favoring the Democrats. So what this polling data tells ME is that Republicans pretty much refuse to watch anything except Fox, whilst Democrats prefer to get their news and opinion from a variety of sources. That says for more about Republicans that it does about Fox, and it doesn't say much for 'em at that. (No tolerance for Cognitive Dissonance, you see.)
Now... Goofy Polling Data is far from just a problem at Fox. A few weeks (months?) back, I heard a story on NPR. They were reporting on a Poll that saying (something like) 80% of Americans were "angry" with "how things were in Washington." (The numbers may not be right, and I'm paraphrasing the poll, but I hope you get the idea.) Now, they went to cite the conventional wisdom that an angry populace is a bad thing for the incumbent party. Well... that's certainly possible, but do you know what they DIDN'T report? (Or apparently ask as a follow-up question?) WHY are people angry? WHAT or WHO are they ANGRY AT? It certainly could be that everyone pissed at the Democrats and their "socialist agenda." (Which is nonsense, but you wan't hear that on Fox!) It's also just as likely that people were pissed at Republicans for obstructing EVERYTHING and refusing to work with a party that is trying to work with them to solve this country's problems. Are they angry at the direction we're heading, or the fact that we're not going there fast enough?!
And THAT'S the problem with the way polls are conducted and reported. They always leave me with an OBVIOUS and EASY follow-up question (or two) that was either not asked or not reported. And what good is applying conventional wisdom in this way? If you're just going to make the results conform to conventional wisdom, WHY BOTHER DOING A POLL IN THE FIRST PLACE?!
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
The first is anything stemming from a decision or recommendation or test interpretation that your doctor gives you. The kind of "you DO have cancer / you DON'T have cancer" kind of thing. As part of the plan I've laid out, I would automatically cover SECOND OPINIONS. So if you have a lump, and he says, "it's not cancer," there would then be four possibilities.
1) you accept that information, and he's right.
2) you accept that information, and he's wrong.
3) you get a second opinion and the second doc reaches the same conclusion
4) you get a second opinion and the second doc reaches a different conclusion
In case (1), no problem. In case (2), because you waived the second opinion that you were entitled to, in doing so you are also waiving your right to sue for anything resulting form that information. In case (3) you have confirmation, but they could still BOTH be wrong. Guess what? STILL can't sue. Why? State of the Art. If two (or more) doctors reach the same conclusion - WITHOUT CONSULTING WITH EACH OTHER (obviously) that this would fall under the category of "technology just isn't advanced enough" or "you had a really weird case." Sucks to be you, BUT: It's not the doctor's fault! Your medical expenses from here out are covered anyway, and in absence of entitlement to punitive damages, what are you going to sue for? If you end up in case FOUR, well... time to start asking QUESTIONS, and being part of the process of deciding what the right option is for you: 'Wait and see' or 'Play it safe, but risk the more invasive option.' Depending on the possible risks, you may choose one way or the other, but you have to OWN your choice - can't sue - so ASK QUESTIONS. Find out if one doctors tends to follow one philosophy or the other, find out which one suits your own, after all: the final decision belongs with the PATIENT.
And for anyone who thinks this would put a huge strain on the system, I don't think it would. Most of the things we hear from the doctor we just accept. I don't need a second opinon for a broken arm, or antihistamines for allergies or stitches for a laceration. And if two sets of eyes is what I need to feel at ease about that suspicious lump? Then so be it. Get a second. (In case (4) I'd even cover a THIRD.) Knowing they can't be sued merely for giving an opinion, more Doctors would be likely to GIVE one. So the supply issue will mostly fix itself.
The other major areas for malpractice is mistakes and negligence. Now right of the bat, I want to say that the burden of proof for this would be a lot higher. One of the things that a patient accepts when s/he goes under the knife is the very real possibility that they'll stay there. We usually take for granted that nothing will happen, but every patient must be informed of the chances of death or other complications when they decide to go through with a procedure. (Remember the philosophy that drove the first section? Same thing applies here: You take your chances!) So the mere presence of a dead body DOES NOT entitle someone to some money. And remember: all subsequent medical expenses are covered anyway, so there's no need to sue for that. Unless it's something as obvious as "he left an instrument inside you when he stitched you up" chances are, it's just one of those things that happen. Not everyone can be saved. BUT...
What do you do about BAD DOCTORS? Well, part of Obama's plan that I really like is the requirement for electronic records. I'd take this a step farther a keep records of all of the procedures that a Doctor performs, along with any preexisting complicating factors in the patient and the outcome. To keep it simple, each outcome would be given a 1-5 rating. Something like...
5) No complications, full recovery.
4) Minor complications, full recovery after treatment.
3) Serious complications or only partial recovery.
2) Serious complications, with lifelong or chronic issues
And in doing this, you can compare any given doctor's performance against the industry standard. In really simple terms, if the "average" for triple-bypass surgery is 4.5 and you've got a doctor who's been a 2.5 for, say, two years now, the answer is NOT to simply pay off patents anyway. The answer is: STOP HIM FROM PERFORMING TRIPLE BYPASSES! He could still practice medicine, but not that procedure. Only maybe only that procedure in a supporting role. And when stripped of the "why's" and "what happened's" you end up with an objective score that the doctor's can't conspire among themselves to fix or hide. (As many suspect happens when a hospital investigates an incident on it's own.)
Now... if it CAN be determined that something went fantastically wrong: they amputated the wrong leg, for example, or sewed up a retractor inside of you, then YES, you can still be compensated - but by the SYSTEM. And the SYSTEM will determine on it's own how to handle the DOCTOR.
We need to get rid of this "us versus them" mentality that we have right now. It doesn't help us, and it doesn't improve our care.
I've got some other ideas about 'tort,' but I'll save those for a later post. Let me know what you think!
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
I was on Netflix last night looking for some new titles. (I did snag both Iriku and Throne of Blood, BTW, Conchobar! LOL.) And I stumbled across one that's not out yet on DVD, but I was curious when it what coming and what people thought of it. It's called PONYO and it was this year's latest (American) release from Hayao Miyazaki, the greatest living animator in the world and one of the greatest filmmakers of all time. This was also the first Miyazaki movie to get a broad release in the U.S. He's been loved in Japan for decades now, but he's still relatively new to American audiences. So, OK... obviously I'm a HUGE FAN of Miyazaki-san. That being said, let me also say the Ponyo is NOT one of his best movies. It's GOOD. Quite good. But not GREAT. It's not the worst he's even done, just somewhere in the middle. As good or better than My Neighbor Totoro, but nowhere near as good as Spirited Away or Howl's Moving Castle. It's a very intelligent, but VERY kid-friendly, kid-oriented movie. Disney might have done something like this back in their Golden Days. (Or, more recently, they DID, since Ponyo is really just a loose interpretation of The Little Mermaid.) I'm saying all this because I don't want anyone to think that I'm pissed about someone just dissing a movie I liked. I'm sure there are MANY hard-core Miyazaki fans (myself included) who LIKED this one, but didn't LOVE it. So you're perfectly free to NOT LIKE this movie for any reason, as far as I'm concerned, except THIS ONE:
Review of Ponyo, 3 Stars:
Miyazaki's latest effort delivers his usual quality on a physical level - spectacular animation, a great musical score, terrific storytelling, deep and charming characters, excellent voice acting
(I speak of the Japanese language version) and nearly unparalleled imagination.
(So far so good...)
Unfortunately, on a spiritual level, it takes a heavy fall. To rate this G is insane. The film exhibits the same problems that have plagued Miyazaki's films since Princess Mononoke - sorcery and false gods. Ponyo's mother, a goddess, is heavily disturbing and offensive for a Christian like myself. Magic is used very often, and the film undermines the specialness of humans by making a fish be capable of becoming a human. (worse yet, Ponyo can transform only because she tasted human blood when she licks Sousuke's cut) Ponyo has a lot of appeal and charm, and is very heart-warming and cute in places. I really did get taken with Ponyo and Sousuke's characters, and if it weren't for the negative content, this could've been my favorite Miyazaki film. Still, the dark spirituality hurts this film immensely, and is one I could never see myself recommending to anyone, especially children.
Did you get that? It's "insane" to give this film a "G-Rating." I-N-S-A-N-E. Why? Because it has MAGIC in it! OH-MY-GOOOOD, NOOOOOO! ANYTHING but MAGIC!!! Do you want to know what I think is "insane?" Being so wrapped up in such a narrow view of your religion that you are OFFENDED by anything that falls short of outright prostilytising, and feel that any story that has magic, fairies, godesses, supernatural beings, etc... that are not of a Judeo-Christian Bibilical nature is somehow, out of hand, not suitible for children, regardless of the remainder of the content.
I guess Harry Potter would have been OK for this moron to take her kids to if only they'd ended up BURNING Harry and his friends and all the teachers AT THE STAKE at the end of the movie!
I do not understand how it is possible for ANY human being, no matter bereft of reason and sanity, to be so utterly brainwashed by their cult-leaders that they feel that everythig outside of their narrow world-view is some kind of competing cult, trying to steal to childeren away from them. I truly feel sorry for these people's kids, who will lead such a dull and colorless childhood, and even angrier when I realize that these kids will grow up to become more stupid, mindless, zombie-like adults who will in turn torture their own kids the same way.
I have news for you idiots: No one ever read Harry Potter and then went out and statered worshiping satan, or practising "withcraft," in the Judeo-Christian sense of the word, because of it. NO. ONE. Modern day Wiccan's and neo-pagans don't even practiove "witchcraft" in the Judeo-Christian sense of the word! AND neither do the characters in Harry Potter (not the GOOD GUYS anyway!) and and neither does ANYONE in Ponyo. How mentally weak must your childeren be, that the mere site of a cartoon Godess will cause them to abandon their faith and go down the wrong spiritual path? (A better question might be: How stupid is your religion that it's grip on the minds of your children is so tenuous?) I'd hate to think of what they'd say about the 1980, Rey Harryhausen classic, Clash of the Titans! ZEUS! And POSIEDON! And THETIS! OH MY! (*head explodes*)
It called FICTION folks! No one ever studied Greek Mythology and started worshiping ZUES! Not even someone stupid enough to believe in the inerrecny of the BIBLE, with all it's internal contradictions and all the nonsensical claims it makes about the physical world that have been DISPROVEN by modern science, would watch "Clash of the Titans" and start worshiping ZUES! ...Or watch/read Harry Potter and start practicing "Witchcraft" (especially since there isn't any actual witchcraft even IN those books!), or watch Ponyo and start worshiping Gran Mamare, the Goodess of Mercy and the Sea!
No, fear not... Becasue about the only thing anyone THAT stupid would do upon seeing these films is START PROTESTING THEM.
Now... I do not think someone is stupid for believing in God, or for practicing a religion. Misguided at best, delusional at worst, but whatever. I'm initially inclined to view it all with a sense of utter indifference. I have very few atheist friends as it is, so who am I to judge? But it IS stupid to hold on to a biblical view of the world that has been DISPROVEN by scientific measurement and observation. What's more... however crazy anyone might think it is to believe in God, it is a hundered times crazier to believe in MAGIC! ACTUAL Magic and Demons and Pantheist Gods from civilizations long extint... It is I-N-S-A-N-E to believe that these things are real.
It's just make believe folks! For Crist's sake, just tell your kids "It's not real. It's just a different way to tell a fun story, and teach a life lesson." and they'll probably accept that and MOVE ON with their lives, paying it very little notice. (Unless they've inherited your propensity to being brainwashed. Maybe you know them better than I do.)
Friday, October 16, 2009
For those of you who aren't familiar with it, DEATH NOTE is the name of an Anime Series. It is arguably the greatest Anime ever produced. That's not just my opinion BTW: it held the #1 or #2 spot on Anime News Network for several years at one point. It currently resides at #6 all-time (that's out of the roughly 3200 titles that garnered enough votes to be ranked) and I can tell you that's better that either Cowboy Bebop (at #5) or Spirited Away (at #4) and both of those are abosolute masterpieces. So I HIGHLY recomend you check it out. It's very accessible for both a western audience and for non-anime fans. (It's been dubbed in english.) You can get the series from Netflix, so CHECK IT OUT! You won't be disappointed! (Just make sure yo get the ANIME version, NOT the live action version!)
The series is about a soon-to-be-college student who finds (or is granted, depending on your POV regardng fate) a DEATH NOTE. A Death Note is a note book. It looke like this:
On the inside of the cover, are written Da Rulz:
In case you can't read them, the first five (the most imporatant ones) are:
1) The human whose name is written in this note shall die.
2) This note will not take effect unless the writer has the person's face in their mind when writing his/her name. Therefore, people sharing the same name will not be affected.
3) If the cuase of death is written within 40 seconds of writiing the person's name, it will happen.
4) If the cause of death is not specified, the person will simply die of a heart attack.
5) After writing the cause of death, details of the death should be written in the next 6 minutes and 40 seconds.
Now the series does not have a hero and villain in the traditional sense. It deals primarily with the student (Light Yagami) who finds the Note, and his initial intention to use it to make the world a better place. (He starts out by killing unrepetent criminals that esaped legal punnishment.) Over the course of the series he is corrupted by it, and taken over by his paranoia and lust for power. The antagonist of the seires, are the detectives who try to stop him, led initially by the enigmatic "L." They are the "heroes" but the series challenges your philosphy to the point that you find yourself routing against them at certain times, and routing aginst the villain, Light, at others, as they play thier little cat-and-mouse chess game.
A big question to ask yourself, as you watch what goes on, is, "What would I do if I had a Death Note?" "Would I risk using it?" "Could I keep it from corrupting me?" Well... I think most people wouldn't think of using it. At least at first. Their first instict would be to destroy it. BUT, if they didn't destroy it right away, and instead kept is in a safe place, there is no doubt in my mind that EVERYONE would end up using it.
For my part? Yeah, sadly I'd have to say that I WOULD use it. Just a few times. Just to make the world... a better place. I'd just jot down a FEW names...
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Roger Eugene Ailes, Ayman Muhammad Rabaie al-Zawahiri, Samuel Anthony Alito Jr., Alan Wayne Allard, Michele Marie Amble Bachmann, Robert R. Barefoot, Glenn Lee Beck, William John Bennett, Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden, John Andrew Boehner, Christopher Samuel "Kit" Bond, Neal A. Boortz, Leo Brent Bozell III, Patrick Joseph Buchanan, Tucker Swanson McNear Carlson, Clarence Saxby Chambliss, Richard Bruce Cheney, Jack Thomas Chick, Thomas Allen Coburn, John Cornyn III, Jerome Robert Corsi, Ann Hart Coulter, Michael Dean Crapo, Bill Cunningham, Thomas Dale DeLay, James Warren DeMint, Louis Dobbs, James Clayton Dobson Jr., William A. Donohue, Stephen James Doocy, James Robert Duggar, Michelle Duggar, David Ernest Duke, Newton Leroy Gingrich, Bernard Richard Goldberg, Jonah Jacob Goldberg, William Philip Gramm, Charles Ernest Grassley, Sean Patrick Hannity, Hugh Hewitt, Kent E. Hovind, Michael Dale Huckabee, Alexander Britton Hume Sr., Laura Anne Ingraham, James Mountain Inhofe, John Hardy Isakson, Kim Jong-Il, Ali Hoseyni Khāmene’i , Brian Kilmeade, David Kirby, William Kristol, Howard Alan Kurtz, Jon Llewellyn Kyl, Mark Reed Levin, George Gordon Battle Liddy, Rush Hudson Limbaugh III, Chester Trent Lott Sr., Bernard Lawrence Madoff, Michelle Malkin, Jennifer Ann McCarthy, Addison Mitchell McConnell Jr., Michael Medved, Dana Timothy Milbank, Melanie Morgan, Dick Morris, Robert Gabriel Karigamombe Mugabe, Keith Rupert Murdoch, Mohammed Omar, William James O'Reilly Jr., Sarah Louise Palin, Fred Waldron Phelps Sr., Jim Quinn, John Glover Roberts Jr, Marion Gordon "Pat" Robertson, Scott Roeder, Karl Christian Rove, Eric Robert Rudolph, Antonin Gregory Scalia, Andrew Schlafly, Phyllis Schlafly, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, Jeffrey Keith Skilling, Laura Catherine Schlessinger, Thomas Sowell, Michael Stephen Steele, Benjamin Jeremy Stein, Mark Steyn, Orly Taitz, Rose Somma Tennent, Clarence Thomas, John Randolph Thune, David Bruce Vitter, James Wenneker von Brunn, Andrew Wakefield, Christopher Wallace, Joel D. Wallach, Michael Alan Weiner, Juan Williams, Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher
...and then put it in a safe place for a good 4,8 or 12 years and see what happens. With all of the propagandists, corporate criminals, professional liars, corrupt obstructionist politicians, magical thinkers, religious bigots, religious fanatics, terrorists, dictators, thieves, liars and hypocrites out of the way... or at least these hundered (count 'em)... it's hard to imagine how the world could not be a much better place for everyone. (And yet, no one would even thank me for it!) :(
(Yes, this is satirical. And YES, I still recommend you see "Death Note.")
Shut up, Ryuk!
Thursday, October 15, 2009
The Cy Young GOLD STAR #6: The American Prospect
It's pretty much just as the tag lines declares: Liberal Intelligence. A monthly magazine dedicated to analyzing the latest news and events from a progressive viewpoint, with regular contributuions from the likes of Paul Waldman, Robert Reich, Robert Kuttner and others. This is really high-brow stuff here, with none of the celebrity fluff that (I feel) weakens sites like HuffPo. Everything here is DEEP and HEAVY. But you won't many better places for truly in-depth analysis and, while they're progressive, they are not afraid to call out Democrats who drop the ball. (My only complaint is the discontinuation of Sarah Posner's regular column, The FundamentaList, This week in the Religious Right. That was great stuff. Oh well.)
The Napoleon Lajoie GOLD STAR #7: The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity
You knew this was coming right? This is not really a website, but rather more of a truly profound article about the philosophy of stupidity. It's a must read. It's brilliant. (And quite entertaining!) I referenced it awhile back to show why conservatives were either Bandits or Stupid, and Liberals were either Intelligent or, at worst, Helpless. If you haven't read it yet, please do. You'll never look at STUPID the same way again!
The Tris Speaker GOLD STAR #8: Rational Wiki
This was a pleasant surprise for me, and not one of the site's I'd planned to enshrine. I actually only discovered it earlier today, but it made quite an impression. It's basically another version of the Skeptic's Dictionary (my bible) but with a more satirical tone (and yeah, not quite the depth or academic rigor) but what I LOVE about it is that it was essentially set up in response to that putrid temple of lies, Conservapedia. The actually have a column dedicated to keeping tabs on the latest wacky happenings over on Conservapedia, and also include links to any articles that the two sites have in common. (They also include links to the relevant Wikipedia articles as well.) I'll give Conservapedia the thrashing they deserve later. In the meantime, check this one out!
BTW - they passed my litmus test for scientific objectivity with flying colors: They're on the right side of the Global Warming "debate", the Autism/Vaccine "debate" and the Evolution vs. Medieval Fairytales "debate." (And much more as well, so check it out!) :)
So there you have it. My favorites for October. Hope SOME of you find these interesting. We'll it again next month.
For reference, previous inductees include:
Ty Cobb's GOLD STAR #1: Media Matters for America
Babe Ruth's GOLD STAR #2: The Skeptic's Dictionary
Honus Wagner's GOLD STAR #3: Snopes
Walter Johnson GOLD STAR #4: ArmchairSubversive
Christy Mathewson GOLD STAR #5: Humanism by Joe
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Yesterday we got this little chunk of gold from the great gastropod, regarding "liberals":
The utter absurdity of this quote will be self-apparent to all of the thinking students in class, but for all the C-students out there (that would be “c” for conservative) let’s break it down...
people who want to take over the government of this country via elections
Well. That IS one way to do it! The other would be to baselessly smear your opponent, via the media, all the while whining about how the media is actually against you, split the vote so finely that you need all seven republican appointees on the supreme court to STOP a recount, as was required by state law, because a proper vote count looks like it might cost you the election. This from the same man that won the narrowest reelection bid in history four years later and called it a “mandate,” remember. So yeah ELECTIONS. What a radical idea. Count ALL the votes to decide who wins. How un-American.
for the purpose of remaking it and eliminating all of the institutions and traditions that made us great
You mean like the separation of church and state and/or an impartial judiciary? Because it certainly seemed to me that REPUBLICANS were trying to “take over the government of this country via elections (albeit rigged) for the purpose of remaking eliminating” THOSE particular institutions which, absolutely, “made us great.” And you’re right: That IS evil.
But, no. Of course he’s not talking about THAT. He talking about President Obama. They guy who won that whole, pesky, election thingy by the widest margin in two decades. (52.9% of the vote! To put that in perspective, Reagan got only 50.7% against Carter in 1980!) Apparently ACORN was able to fraudulently register 7.6 Million new voters. (The widest of victory since Ronald Reagen in 1984, BTW!)
Of course, this kind of high-minded sounding, but heavy handed in actuality, brand of hyperbole is par for the course with all of these guys, but Limbaugh was the first to make it into an art form, and he remains the very best at it. Say you opponent is "destroying institutions that make us great" is an effort to make him look baaaad. Because he knows that none of the mindless sheep lapping up this verbal incontinence will ever ask WHICH “institutions and traditions” are being destroyed, or for any actual evidence of these things even being destroyed, or for evidence that the institution he's referring to (should he name them) were ever part of making us great in the first place. Theirs is not the place to question the great gasbag.
We are not having food poisoning in this country; it's not happening. These are bunch of busybody people that will not mind their own business, they want to make their business yours, and they are -- these are the kind of people that just irritate the hell out of me.
Riiiiight. We don't need all that big government keeping the food supply safe! You know... never mind the 200,000 people a year that actually get sick, the 900 that are hospitalized and the 14 that die every year in this country, on average, from food-bourne illness according to the CDC. I mean, who trusts all that liberal DATA from those bog government agencies anyway? You see, in Rush's warped mind, if the regulations were relaxed the companies would have more money left over to keep our food safe with! See how that works?
And now you got Kathleen Sebelius saying you must take the pig flu vaccine. You must take it. Screw you, Ms. Sebelius! I am not going to take it, precisely because you're now telling me I must. It's not your role, it's not your responsibility, and you do not have that power. I don't want to take your vaccine.
Friday, October 9, 2009
Did you know: The minimum salary for a Major League Baseball player is $390,000?
Did you know: The median income for a Surgeon is around $150,000 to $300,000 depending on years of experience and specialty?
Now... I'm not suggesting here that baseball payers are overpaid. They're not. (Really! They really aren't!) (I'm serious!) Ticket prices are not high because of their salaries. If you think that, then you don't know the slightest bit about microeconomics. In fact, it's completely the other way around: Their salaries are high because tickets prices (and the prices for merchandise, TV contracts, etc...) are high. And THOSE are high for ONE REASON ONLY: We (as a people) keep showing that we are willing to pay those prices and more.
Now granted, most of us cannot do what these baseball players can do. No matter how long I train, I can't hit a home-run out of a major-league field, or throw a 100 mph fastball. I CAN however HIT a ball (at ~85mph) well into the outfield and throw a pretty good curve and an occasional knuckleball, when I get it right. On the other hand... I pretty much completely suck at surgery. I'm afraid that if I've got your life in one hand and a scalpel in the other? You. Are. Going. To. Die. So... which one's really harder to do? And what's more intrinsically valuable to society? (Oh yeah... and I should mention... If you're making $390,000 playing baseball? Chances are, YOU can't hit too many balls out of the park or throw 100 mph either!)
So think got me thinking about other things... because my mind tends to wander when I'm bored... and it was a quiet day at the office...
I THINK it was Jimmy Carter, speaking about the war drugs, who said something along the lines of this...: That the LEGAL penalty for the possession and use of illegal drugs should not be more excessive than the real harm that can be done to you by those drugs. IOW - the most dangerous things about any vice that the gov't wants to protect us from should NOT be the legal consequences of engaging in it.
So, from that POV...
The maximum punishment for smoking weed should be something equivalent to the forced consumption of Twinkies. But at the moment the worst thing by far about weed are the legal penalties attached to it: To protect me from the horrors of marijuana the government will do more damage toi my life than weed ever could!
Later I saw a story about teen sexting. (Texting naked pictures of themselves.) And these KIDS are being charged with DISTRIBUTION OF CHILD PORNOGRAPHY! Now... I'm not advocating teen sexting, any more than I'm advocating smoking weed (and I'm not!) but it seems to me that far more damage is being done here by the LAW than by the activity they're trying to protect THESE VERY SAME KIDS from!!! I mean: WHO IS THE VICTIM OF THIS CRIME?!
So going back to the previous thought... I'm thinking that the worst penalty possible for sexting should be maybe having to walk naked through the town square or something like that. Because that's the extent of the damage done here: Some people will see you naked. BIG. DEAL. (I'm of course talking only about people who sent out pics of themselves, and not pics that were taken in violation of someone's privacy. I hope that much is obvious. I'm a privacy advocate, and THAT kind of violation has a victim.)
Then I thought... Hmmmm... Using the very same principle, that the punishment should be less harmful that the vice, I realized that anything up to and including the death penalty would be an appropriate punishment for failing to wear your seat belt.
But just try to get 1% of the passionate outrage that people have over marijuana or naked teenagers applied to seat belt usage! And compare the penalties! No one ever DIED because they sent out a naked pic of themselves, or saw one of someone else and when you come right down to it, nobody really dies from marijuana either. (Far less than from perfectly legal cigarettes, anyway!) And yet hundreds of people die every day from not wearing their seat belts!
What kind of society are we that wastes so much time and energy, and causes so much damage to the lives of the very people we're trying to protect, protecting them from weed and porn... But could truly care less about one of the most dangerous activities you can engage in?
I guess the same kind of that pays the worst baseball player in the league more that the best surgeon in the business.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Up front, let me say that this is nothing more than a statement of my position. There's no arguments here, no attempt to convince anyone, and no logical philosophical proofs - like what I had in the ESCR thread. This is just my OPINION. Yes, it happens to be what I think is he most reasonable position; the "way [to borrow a phrase from Rush Limbaugh] things ought to be," if you will. And, JUST LIKE Rush in, "The Way Things Ought to Be," I'm not going to make much of an effort to explain WHY they "ought to be" that way. I'm just going to put it out there, and then hear y'all have to say.
One thing I'd like to clear up first... PRO-LIFE vs. PRO-CHOICE. This is, as every liberal already knows, a completely bullshit way to define one's position. I've never met ANYONE who I could reasonably describe as ANTI-LIFE or PRO-DEATH or even PRO-ABORTION. This isn't a moral debate - everyone I've ever met concedes the point that it's immoral; that's it's arguably the worst possible choice. The debate is not about it's morality, but rather about how to define it's LEGALITY. IOW: Does I feel the need to take away SOMEONE ELSE'S right to make a choice, just because I FEEL a certain way about it? Is it any of my business? No, not at all. (Not that that ever stopped social conservatives from sticking their nose into other people's business!) So there's really only ONE WAY to define the camps: PRO-CHOICE and ANTI-CHOICE. "Pro-life" is a bullshit label and the fact that it has caught on is yet one more piece of evidence against the existence of the "liberal media." (If you want more, you can read THIS, or just check out MMFA.) And, as anyone who has read my Doctrine of Choice post (or know about my 5th principle,) should be able to infer: While I strongly believe that abortion is, in fact, immoral, I am PRO-CHOICE.
Here's how I would set it up. (And yes, I realize that there are both conservatives and liberals who will disagree with a lot of this. That's fine.)
1) Partial-Birth Abortion is banned. Period. If one of you is an MD and can give me a clear example of when this would be NECESSARY to save a mother's life - that's NECESSARY now, not PREFERABLE - then I'll reconsider. What's more, I would ban all third trimester abortions anyway or, if you prefer, since trimesters are kind of arbitrary, all abortions after the earliest point of viability unless the mother's LIFE (that's LIFE, not HEALTH) is in danger, and this threat to her life cannot be averted via a Cesarean Section delivery. (And don't bring up the ectopic pregnancy example here, because if you let one of those go to this far, the mother will already be dead! Those have to be dealt with RIGHT AWAY! So they don't apply at this point!)
2) In the Second Trimester, (or from the beginning of it until the point of viability if you want to go that way, I'm flexible there) abortion will be permitted if there is a threat to the HEALTH of the mother. We can quibble about how broad or narrow to make this, of course, but the guiding principle in the second trimester is that there must be a diagnosable, documented threat to the mother's HEALTH. And if this were made into law, I would have those specific conditions listed out. The debate can then shift to what belongs on the list and what doesn't. Obviously anything that can KILL YOU goes on it, but things like depression, for example, which are more sympathetic than fatal, or like high-blood pressure, which is usually addressed with bed-rest can be debated. (And I know how lousy bed-rest is - my wife dealt with it for about the last five months or so. It sucks. In and of itself though, it is not a justification for abortion, IMHO. Not unless it can't be controlled that way.)
3) In the first trimester, there will be no restrictions placed on abortion at all. Abortion by choice, therefore, MUST be a decision that is made NOW. It's a tough decision, I realize, but the clock ticks very fast, and if you're considering an abortion, it's time to get your shit together and make a choice. The area gets grey VERY FAST, and no one can look at a 10-week ultra sound and tell me that's not a BABY:
So I'd let you have the choice, but you don't have all the time in the world to make it. Just a few weeks really, since most people are already several weeks along by the time they find out. What's more: No exceptions for rape or incest are needed, since these can be dealt with in the first trimester, without need for such justifications.
Just as an aside: Why do we say, "rape or incest" anyway? If the "incest" was not consensual, isn't just a more specific form of rape? If it was consensual, then why would a "pro-lifer" allow an exception for it? Is an embryo OK to destroy provided that it's conception was sufficiently icky? And, if one wants to be truly principled about this, why should any pro-life position allow for these exceptions? If you believe that an embryo is a child, and abortion murder, then tell me: What did the child do to deserve to be killed? This is why I'm basically pro-choice. Because there is no principled, logically consistent pro-life position that any moderate person can stomach, or that voters (outside of South Dakota) would approve of. "Rape or Incest" exception are a pro-lifers cop-out to appeal to moderate people. But make no mistake: These are PRO-CHOICE exceptions. So, as I said before, it's not about PROTECTING LIFE, it's about LIMITING CHOICE. So "Pro-Life" is, again, a bullshit label. "Anti-Choice" is the only moniker we should use.