Thursday, June 07, 2012

Information is Power

The Telegraph reported today that "Scientists could soon be able to routinely screen unborn babies for thousands of genetic conditions, raising concerns the breakthrough could lead to more abortions."  While that is obviously a concern, I think there is a deeper consequence at the bottom of the socialist Utopian slippery slope.

Ideally, couples would use this information to plan for the care of their child.  If you found out that your baby would be born with a genetic disorder you could educate yourself.  You could prepare your home, your finances, your employer and your friends and family.  You could find a doctor, a service provider, a support group or a charitable organization.  Most importantly you could prepare yourselves emotionally.

All this could be done ahead of time so that when your baby arrived you could focus on loving them and providing them with the best possible care.  You could know that everything is already in place and that you're as prepared as you can possibly be.  This would be so much better for you and your baby than finding out in the delivery room that your life is about to be turned upside down.

Unfortunately, many people would use this test to decide whether or not to terminate the pregnancy.  Some people would destroy their unborn children believing themselves to be merciful; but for people who don't consider an unborn baby to be a living individual, they wouldn't need a medical reason.  This test could tell you the gender of the baby, which the House couldn't ban as a reason for an abortion.  If there is no restriction on the reason for an abortion, what happens when we decode the genome and can use this test to determine the baby's eye color, hair color and which parent's nose, lips and cheek bones she will have?

As bad as that is, it's not even the bottom of the slope.  What happens when this test becomes mandatory?  What happens when the government decides insurance companies can deny coverage if the results show that your child has a disorder that will make her a burden on the healthcare system.

It's not that much of a stretch when you consider the liberty-squashing steps being taken right now to make us healthier and reduce healthcare costs for the good of society.  There's already an enormous tax on cigarettes.  Here in New York, you can't allow people to smoke in your privately owned establishment.  Soon, in New York City, you will no longer be able to sell large (over 16 fl. oz.) sugary drinks.  The only justification is that unhealthy people are a burden on society.

Add to that, if Obamacare is upheld by the Supreme Court, the Health and Human Services Secretary will have the power to decide what's covered and what isn't.  Keep in mind, also, that this test is relatively non-invasive - requiring only a blood sample from the mother and a saliva swab from the father.  (Then again, this requires that the father take responsibility which goes against liberal philosophy.)

Now, I'm sure charities would step forward to help if it ever came to this and I'd like to think it would never happen; but that's where this rabbit hole goes.  Information is power.  Just like the knowledge of radioactive material can be used to power a city or destroy one, this test provides information that could be used to give a child the best possible life or end it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Actions Speak Louder

President Obama gave his State of the Union Address last night and said a lot of good things last night. He praised out troops, touted American values, recognized the importance of small business owners and the corruption caused by money in politics.

I could go on about all the things I disagree with but instead I will focus on the contradictions left me in a state of disbelief.

I’m a Democrat. But I believe what Republican Abraham Lincoln believed: That government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more.

Wow, that's exactly how I feel about the role of government. Maybe Obama isn't that bad after all.

But wait. What about the most basic economic decision: what to do with our own money? That is definitely is not done better by themselves. He wants to take more in taxes from "the rich." He believes that investing their money in companies that use it to grow and hire more employees is bad. He knows the government would do a much better job spending that money on entitlement programs and financial assistance for those less fortunate.

What about the decision on energy sources and consumption? He supports incentives for energy efficiency upgrades for manufacturers. Apparently they look at the supposed $100 billion of lower energy bills over the next decade and are too stupid to do it. The solution is for the government to give them a tax credit paid for by those rich folks who aren't spending their money the way they should be.

Other things the government should do for us include forcing individuals to buy health care, forcing workers to join unions, forcing companies to hire domestic unionized labor and forcing Catholic institutions to provide its employees with free contraceptive coverage.

So, maybe he believes the words Lincoln said - so we won't accuse him of lying - but he definitely has a different idea about what people cannot do better by themselves.

We can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot... and everyone plays by the same set of rules.

Yes, I had to edit a lot out of even that sentence to find the part I agree with; but still, I'm all for an America with a level playing field.

How does he reconcile this with his proposal to "end the taxpayer giveaways to an industry that rarely has been more profitable, and double-down on a clean energy industry that never has been more promising." That doesn't sound at all like playing by the "same set of rules." Also, the assessment of "promising" is a stretch, at best.

Also, how is the playing field level when almost half of American households don't pay federal taxes and his solution is to make the tax code even more progressive?

No bailouts, no handouts, and no copouts.

This sentiment I agree with the same now as I did when even President Bush was pushing for bailouts at the end of his last term. Obama, on the other hand, supported the bank bailout when he was a Senator and earlier in this same address touted the results of his bailout of GM. Of course, by "bailout," I mean the contract violating union payoff at taxpayer expense.

He also took credit for Ford's success even though they didn't accept bailout funds.

Finally there were countless examples of proposing ideas or taking credit for solutions to problems he and his party caused or twisting the truth to shift blame or paint a rosier picture.

"Think about the America within our reach:...A future where we’re in control of our own energy and our security and prosperity aren’t so tied to unstable parts of the world." Except that he only supports energy if it's green and heavily subsidized, he is eliminating the two-war policy and just rejected a pipeline that would increase our supply of oil from Canada and reduce the amount coming from "unstable parts."

"A[n American energy] strategy that’s cleaner, cheaper, and full of new jobs." More like less efficient, more expensive and full of hot air - to put it mildly.

"Companies that choose to stay in America get hit with one of the highest tax rates in the world" and you support those tax rates and want higher taxes on people who invest in those companies!

"We should support... every risk-taker and entrepreneur" unless they're successful, in which case he will override the capital gains rate and make them pay more taxes?!

"Expand our investigations into the abusive lending and packaging of risky mortgages that led to the housing crisis." Like the practices based on federal government bullying with your party's aim of increasing home ownership among the poor and minorities?

"There are fewer illegal crossings than when I took office" because unemployment is so high even illegals can't find work here!

"I’m directing my administration to open more than 75 percent of our potential offshore oil and gas resources" that were only closed because you put a moratorium on offshore drilling!

"And my administration will take every possible action to safely develop [shale gas]" which your party is opposing right now in New York?!

So anyway, if I was completely ignorant of the actual state of the Union and the policies that got us here, this would be a fairly balanced speech that I would have the normal ideological disagreements with. Being someone who follows politics, however, this came across as an infuriating campaign speech meant to deceive as many people as possible and give shout outs to his base. Unfortunately, that's good enough for a lot of them.

"Master Lock’s unionized plant in Milwaukee is running at full capacity." - Union vote: check.

"Our ironclad commitment -- and I mean ironclad -- to Israel’s security..." - Jewish vote: check.

"I’m requiring all companies that drill for gas on public lands to disclose the chemicals they use." - green vote: check.

"Send me a law that gives them the chance to earn their citizenship." - Hispanic vote: check.

"Banks had made huge bets and bonuses with other people’s money." - Occupy Wall Street vote: check

" a senior on a fixed income, or a student trying to get through school, or a family trying to make ends meet." - senior, student and poor votes: check, check and check

Let's hope the American people are smart enough to see through this speech and the billion dollar campaign that has officially begun.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Reading Books is Bad for You

Yet another study has been done on sedentary lifestyles and how even a little exercise helps us live longer. What's funny to me is the conclusions they draw.

This one says an hour of TV takes 22 minutes off your life - the equivalent of two cigarettes. Why an hour of TV? Why not an hour of reading a book? I guess they decided that reading a book for an hour offers more benefits; but who are they to decide which hour is bad for me?

I like to watch The Science Channel. Does that not outweigh the 22 minutes lost? What about the time I spent catching up on the day's news or writing this blog?

One conclusion we can draw, however, is that movies are definitely healthier for you than books. It takes several hours to read a book, but a movie with the same story only requires you to be sedentary for about 2 hours.

This is good news for smokers, too. According to the math behind this study, going to a 2 hour movie instaed of reading an 8 hour book saves you 6 hours - meaning you offset 12 cigarettes.

My point is that the math behind these kinds of studies can be used to say just about anything. Here's a final calculation for you. To me, the hour spent exercising is an hour of my life gone. I'd rather lose only 22 minutes while I enjoy an hour of TV or video games... or even a book.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Kindle Decision

My wife and I are looking into eReaders. If we do get one, it will be the Kindle 3G without ads. The problem is whether or not to pull the trigger.

The recent price drop is frustrating because they cut the price of the 3G with special offers by 25 bucks, but did not drop the one without special offers. I like to think of the different versions in terms of the marginal cost of features.

The base model is still $114. It used to be: add $25 to get rid of special offers and/or add $50 to upgrade to 3G. The price drop messed up that equation. Now it's: add $25 to get rid of either special offers or upgrade to 3G or add $75 to get rid of both. Or, to put it another way, getting rid of special offers on a wi-fi Kindle only costs $25, but removing it from a 3G Kindle costs $50.

Even though the price of the one we wanted hasn't changed, I would feel ripped off if I bought it, now.

The bigger issue, however, is whether to buy an eBook reader at all. I've listed the pros and cons below. Please help me decide if the pros outweigh the cons.

- Single device stores your entire eBook library
- Download books instantly from anywhere
- Cloud stores bookmarks and notes that transfer to other devices/apps
- eBooks linked to account, so no risk of loss or damage
- Lots of free and really cheap books
- Free library lending without haveing to go to the library (coming soon to Kindle)

- Can only lend a book once, and only for 14 days, and only if the author/publisher allows
- Cannot sell, exchange, donate or give away used eBooks
- New/popular books cost the same as print copies, which is expensive considering the above restrictions and the fact that I will have spent money on the reader, too.

So, right now we're in a holding pattern. I think it will come down to how the library lending ends up working out. The Cons all go away if you only use it for free and library books. Some of the pros go away, too, but any remaining pros outweigh zero cons. Then the question remains: do we buy any books for it?

Friday, April 29, 2011

Jobs Americans Will Do

According to a recent Bloomberg story, McDonalds hired 62,000 people across the United States. It's great to see positive economic news.

What's shocking about this story is the fact that over a million people applied for these jobs. I understand that a lot of these jobs are higher level positions, but I would guess that most are entry level. This completely destroys the premise that there are jobs that Americans won't do.

One major argument that illegal immigration supporters use is that the millions of people that come into the country each year fill positions that Americans don't want. That argument may hold some water in booming economic times but these are not booming economic times.

Imagine if those million prospective workers could find jobs in the labor and service industries that illigal immigrantss typically occupy. The fact is that there is some pride left in America. There are people who would rather work than collect unimployment or welfare - even if that means taking a job that society looks down on.

No job is shameful. No job is beneath us. What's shameful is giving up. What's shameful is looking forward to your next handout and electing politicians who will protect that lifestyle. What's beneath us is accepting a flood of illigal immigrants because they keep prices down.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Denial or Delusion?

For whatever reason, Obama won't admit that the country rejected his agenda on Tuesday. In his post-election press conference, he danced around the question at least five times.

Ben Feller at AP: Are you willing to concede at all that what happened last night was not just an expression of frustration about the economy, but a fundamental rejection of your agenda?

President Obama: I think that there is no doubt that people’s number-one concern is the economy...

Savannah Guthrie:Just following up on what Ben just talked about, you don’t seem to be reflecting or second-guessing any of the policy decisions you’ve made...

President Obama: ... I think that over the last two years, we have made a series of very tough decisions, but decisions that were right in terms of moving the country forward...

Savannah Guthrie: Would you still resist the notion that voters rejected the policy choices you made?

President Obama: ... I think that what I think is absolutely true is voters are not satisfied with the outcomes... The fact is, is that for most folks, proof of whether they work or not is has the economy gotten back to where it needs to be. And it hasn’t.

Well, he almost got it there. Note, though, that while he says "most folks" don't think his economic policies have worked, he himself doesn't seem to believe that.

Mike Emanuel: ... I’m wondering, sir, if you believe that health care reform that you worked so hard on is in danger at this point, and whether there’s a threat, as a result of this election.

President Obama: ... I think we’d be misreading the election if we thought that the American people want to see us for the next two years relitigate arguments that we had over the last two years.

Ed Henry: You just reject that idea altogether that your policies could be going in reverse?

President Obama: Yes.

He repeatedly refused to admit that his policies have failed and the American people have rejected his agenda. Even this zinger from Peter Baker - who used Obama's own words against him - didn't seem to sink in.

Peter Baker: Thank you, Mr. President. After your election two years ago, when you met with Republicans you said that, in discussing what policies might go forward, that elections have consequences, and that you pointed out that you had won. I wonder what consequences you think this election should have then, in terms of your policies.

So, is he in denial? You may think so; but this interview with Al Sharpton before the election shows that he knew exactly what this election was about.

OBAMA: But the key is to make sure everybody understands this election is important. My name may not be on the ballot, but our agenda for moving forward is on the ballot, and I need everybody to turn out.

Well, the American people agree. Your agenda for moving forward was on the ballot and we voted strongly against it. But, like the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, President Obama will continue to fight on, considering his missing arm "but a scratch." That's not denial, that's delusion... or worse.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Representation Without Taxation

According to this The Tax Foundation, more than a third of tax filers had zero or negative tax liability in recent years - significantly higher than the 50 years between 1950 and 2000. I guess the Bush tax cuts went to more than just the rich...

A recent The AP Article reported that almost half of US households had zero or negative tax liability in 2009. Included in the group of non-payers would be a family of four earning $50,000 with the standard deduction and two minor children.

The gripe behind the original Tea Party in Boston was "taxation without representation." Now, some 237 years later, we have the opposite problem - representation without taxation. Almost half of the population doesn't pay federal income taxes but greatly influences how (and how much) tax money is spent.

Without diving into the merits and shortcomings of progressive taxation in general, it is clearly not a good idea to have too many people with no direct interest in fiscal responsibility. Think of it this way: if you go to a restaurant and have to pay for your own meal, you may order the shrimp basket and a glass of water. If the restaurant manager announces that the richest people in the restaurant will be charged for everyone else's meal, you may instead order the lobster feast and a bottle of Dom Parignon.

It is no wonder, then, that non-payers tend to vote for Democrats who support increased handouts and entitlements like Health Care Reform and try to convince voters that tax cuts unfairly benefit the rich.

All is not lost, though. A recent Gallup poll showed that the modern Tea Party is a fairly representative cross section of the citizenry with regard to age, education, employment and other common demographic identifiers.

The stage is set for another ideological battle this November. Will Democrats convince us that HCR won't break the bank; or will the Tea Party's message of limited government and fiscal responsibility sway voters to elect conservatives? This layman is cautiously optimistic that the pendulum will start to swing back to the right.