Friday 24 August 2012

Is the right answer counterintuitive? (Part Deux)

I continue to present issues which divide us all. Are you for or against? Do you agree or disagree? Who does know the truth if the truth can be known at all?

Prohibition: get rid of whatever and your problem goes away
By outlawing pornography, all the sexual ills of society will be solved. We can reduce the rate of abortions to zero by making them illegal. Heck we can reduce the rate of abortion to zero by abstaining from sex. Keeping marijuana illegal stops people from smoking it. Keeping prostitution illegal stops it.

There is an interesting comparison to be made in all the above issues and prohibition, the outlawing of alcohol in the United States during the 1920s and elsewhere in the world.

After several years, prohibition became a failure in North America and elsewhere, as bootlegging (rum-running) became widespread and organized crime took control of the distribution of alcohol. (Wikipedia: Prohibition)

First and foremost, the outlawing of alcohol did not mean people stopped wanting to drink it. While removing "the thing" (I mean outlawing it) whether alcohol or anything else may seem like the logical step to removing a perceived problem, one doesn't in any way address that desire or need which drives people to seek out that thing. Prohibition didn't stop people from drinking. Outlawing abortions doesn't stop women from seeking them out. Marijuana is being smoked whether we know it or not.

But in using the word problem, there is the question of just what the heck is the problem and how widespread is it.

World Health Organisation: Global Status Report on Alcohol - 2004
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are about 2 billion people worldwide who consume alcoholic beverages and 76.3 million with diagnosable alcohol use disorders.

The current total world population (2010) is 6.8 billion but in 2004 it was around 6.4 billion. So, in 2004, 31% of all people consumed alcohol. 4% of the drinkers had a problem or 1% of the total.

Okay, if the problem isn't quite as grave as one would think, should we not reassess whether the "problem" is actually a problem? Yes there are people with a drinking problem. But the majority of people drink and do so responsibly. Anybody want to bring back prohibition? Anybody want to punish the many because of the problems of the few? Anybody can easily ask why the problem of somebody else ends up affecting their own rights and freedoms.

Obamacare: Everybody can take care of themselves
Fifty million people in the United States have no health insurance. If you can't afford it, don't buy it. If you can't afford it, work harder or work more so you can afford it. Capitalism at its finest.

Institute of Medicine of the National Academies - Jan 13/2004
Insuring America's Health: Principles and Recommendations
Lack of health insurance causes roughly 18,000 unnecessary deaths every year in the United States. Although America leads the world in spending on health care, it is the only wealthy, industrialized nation that does not ensure that all citizens have coverage.

A citizen has certain rights: freedom and liberty come to mind. Does a citizen have the right to be healthy?

Obamacare: It will cost a fortune to insure everybody
Thanks to the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) of 1986, anybody can walk into emergency at any hospital and get treatment even if they can't pay. This is called uncompensated care or charity care. Who's paying to treat those people? The "system". Hospitals write it off or get something from the government or pass on the costs to those who can afford to pay. Nevertheless it isn't so much a question of how much it is going to cost to insure people; it is that not insuring them isn't free. The Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C. think tank estimates the future costs of uncompensated care for the period 2014 - 2019 to be $330 billion if the system is reformed, that is Obamacare comes into effect. If the system is not reformed, the cost of uncompensated care would be between $560 and $700 billion.

my blog: Obamacare: Congratulations on doing the right thing, America!
Obamacare is not perfect. But it is a step is the right direction. Socialism? Is helping your neighbour socialism? Is helping your country socialism? Is spending more on uncompensated charity care than on insuring people not very astute? Is spending more than any other country on health care but only ranking 72nd in the WHO's health assessment ranking something anybody would not want to turn around? Would you let 18,000 people die unnecessarily each year because they have no health insurance? You have a right to be free. You have the right to work, succeed, and travel. Shouldn't you have the right to be healthy?

Not everyone is paying taxes. It's not fair!
50% of Americans own 2.5% of the wealth in the U.S. or $1.45 trillion. These people are for the most part so poor, they pay no taxes because they earn nothing or next to nothing or they earn so little tax credits for the poor reduce their taxable income to nothing. The top 1% own 33% of the wealth.

my blog: All the rich are not billionaires
Notice how the conservative media use buzzwords like "class warfare" and "socialism". Notice how the conservative media focus on the idea that 50% of Americans pay no taxes. But, but, but the "no tax" refers to federal income tax and the statement in no way looks at what taxes anybody would be paying elsewhere at a state level or a municipal level. However the most important point left out of this rhetoric is that these 50% of Americans are the poorest in the country. The poorest!

Cutting taxes for the wealthy creates jobs
Trickledown economics? The experts, the true experts call this horse manure. FYI: The following two articles are well worth reading in their entirety. Even if you're Conservative and don't believe one word of it, I would say that both articles raise issues that are so important, everyone, Conservatives and Liberals would do well to immediately study this question scientifically without the bias of politics.

PoliticusUSA - Apr 29/2012
Paul Krugman Obliterates the Myth that Low Business Taxes Create Jobs by Jason Easley
Here is what the data really tells us. Since 1950 when taxes are lowered at the top, economic growth goes down. The notion that the US has the highest tax rate on business is another numbers manipulated canard put out there by there by the right in order to justify their policy of cutting taxes at the top while raising them for everyone else. It is true that the US corporate tax rate is 39.2%, but the effective tax rate, what businesses and corporations really pay, is 12.1%. After corporations take advantage of loopholes in the tax code, they actually pay less than a third of what they are supposed to. (General Electric apparently paid no taxes in 2010.)

Paul Krugman isn’t some academic. He is a Nobel Prize winning economist, who knows bullshit when he hears it. Carly Fiorina represents what happens when businesspeople try to enter into politics and fix the economy. Business people understand business, but business isn’t the same thing as running an economy. Due to the lack of a profit motive, the economy can’t be run like a business. George W. Bush has an MBA and his policies brought about the worst economy since the Great Depression. Mitt Romney was a successful businessman, but his record as Massachusetts governor suggests that he knows nothing about creating jobs.

The Straight Dope - Mar 23/2012
Does cutting taxes create jobs? by Cecil Adams
The con: A string of millionaire candidates for public office has duped a good chunk of the electorate into thinking the way to create jobs and otherwise solve the problems of the middle class is to cut the taxes of the wealthy. That's absurd. If the massive tax cuts of the Reagan era didn’t do the average worker much good, trimming another percent or two now sure won’t. What it will do is leave more money in the pockets of the comfortably affluent.

Terrorism is a huge threat to us all!
Are you afraid? But more importantly should you be afraid?

In the June 21, 2012 episode of The Colbert Report during the segment entitled "Threat Down", our humorous pundit declared the number one threat in America to be terrorist furniture. Referring to an article in The Atlantic which in turn refers to the recently published 2011 Report on Terrorism by The National Counterterrorism Center, Colbert notes that of the 13,288 people killed worldwide by terrorist attacks in 2011, seventeen were private U.S. citizens or 0.1%, one tenth of one percent of the total. The article, in referring to a 2011 consumer report, states that in 2010 (the last reported year) twenty-one people died from a falling television, piece of furniture or an appliance. (my blog: Stephen Colbert: And the #1 threat in America: terrorist furniture!)

Voter fraud is rampant in America
The news has been awash as of late of stories of how state after state is enacting all sorts of strict measures to combat a problem of such magnitude, it threatens the very bedrock of American democracy. One small wrinkle: the problem is so negligible it doesn't exist. As Stephen Colbert joked, "Our democracy is under siege from an enemy so small it could be hiding anywhere."

In Missouri in 2000 and 2002... We are aware of public sources substantiating only four cases (amounting to six votes within the state), yielding an overall documented fraud rate of 0.0003%.

In New Jersey in 2004... Even if all eight proved to reveal fraud, however, that would amount to an overall double voting rate of 0.0002%.

In New York in 2002 and 2004... We are aware of public sources substantiating only two cases, yielding an overall documented fraud rate of 0.000009%.

Brennan Center for Justice: The Truth About Voter Fraud

There is no documented wave or trend of individuals voting multiple times, voting as someone else, or voting despite knowing that they are ineligible. Evidence from the microscopically scrutinized 2004 gubernatorial election in Washington State actually reveals just the opposite: though voter fraud does happen, it happens approximately 0.0009% of the time. The similarly closely-analyzed 2004 election in Ohio revealed a voter fraud rate of 0.00004%. (Brennan Center for Justice)

Rolling Stone - Aug 30/2011
The GOP War on Voting By Ari Berman
As the nation gears up for the 2012 presidential election, Republican officials have launched an unprecedented, centrally coordinated campaign to suppress the elements of the Democratic vote that elected Barack Obama in 2008.

My pet peeve: Boiling Spaghetti
I have been serving up spaghetti sinners for going on forty years and nobody has ever complained. But complain about what I hear you ask? I commit the gravest of all possible sins against traditional world class chefs: I do not put oil or salt in the boiling water. Personally I have found that there are many variations on any recipe and since all roads lead to Rome, I would think that at the end of the day the final results count, not necessarily how you got there.

However I have run into people who follow the instructions about oil and salt to the letter and any naysayer will be duly chastised. Ridiculous? Of course. I invite you over for dinner and you criticize my cooking? I am not going to grant you entrance to my kitchen and your critique of my cooking will consist of nothing more than the finished plate I serve you. Well, if you're not in the kitchen while I'm cooking you can't see me practising the five second rule. Ha ha.

To all who continue this practice, I would say c**p. Not true. Wife's tale. But you're not going to accept my opinion as what the hell do I know about cooking? I did look into this objectively and discovered none of the great chefs use oil and few use salt and consider it optional. Read all about my pet peeve in my blog: Boiling spaghetti: to salt or not to salt.

Final Word
I have found over and over again that people say things as though it's the gospel truth without having one shred of evidence to back up what they're saying. I keep running into misinformation, a distortion of the truth or even outright lies all designed to support a point of view which may in no way reflect the reality of the world. A politician may fool us into thinking two plus two is equal to five but sooner or later the truth comes out. Of course, many of the issues I've raised here don't necessarily fall in the category of two plus two meaning it may not be so easy to conclusively prove one thing or another. However, it turns out that many do not take the time to investigate and even the journalists, the pundits, and the politicians may not take the time and consequently contribute to the general cacophony of "fake facts" being passed around as the truth.

We cannot properly address an issue if misinformation prevents us from properly assessing the issue.


my blog: Is the right answer counterintuitive? Part 1

Wikipedia: Rubin vase
Rubin's vase (sometimes known as the Rubin face or the figure–ground vase) is a famous set of ambiguous or bi-stable (i.e., reversing) two-dimensional forms developed around 1915 by the Danish psychologist Edgar Rubin.

Psychology Today - Jul 27/2009
The Definition of Insanity is... by Ryan Howes, PhD
Where did this saying come from? It's attributed to Albert Einstein (probably not), Benjamin Franklin (probably not), Mark Twain (probably not) and mystery writer Rita Mae Brown (probably so) who used it in her novel Sudden Death.

my blog: What the @#$%^* do I know? 2012-01-03
When I first started to stick my nose where it didn't belong, those dark hidden recesses where the sun doesn't shine (I secretly wanted to be a proctologist?), I discovered things. (Okay, now is this where I insert something like I was looking for the scoop but found the poop?) When I first looked at the idea of blogging, I quickly realized that bloggers use their blogs to state their opinion. Nothing wrong with that but as time wore on, I began to find a number of people stating opinions which didn't match with reality or at least my impression of what reality is. (Okay, Mister Wiseguy, can you really prove that the world is not flat?) All of my entries now have a references section in which I put links to (I hope) reputable sources: newspapers, professional journals and experts (people a hell of a lot smarter than me), all of which supposedly supports the point I'm trying to make. Sometimes I discover that the point I'm trying to make is unfounded. Yes, sometimes even I am full of s**t manure.

Facts are not decided by how many people believe them. Truth is not determined by how loudly it is shouted.
- sign at the Rally to Restore Sanity, October 30, 2010, Washington DC


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