Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Preparing for life in the twenty-first century. Uh, and a half.

Public Citizen lies to its own supporters about single-payer health care?—Friday, July 31st, 2015
Whirlpool Galaxy

“Keep adding mass to that black hole and it will suck less.”

Probably because I used to be a member of the ACLU, I often get mailings from far-left causes, such as Public Citizen. I usually read them, too: I can be convinced that I’m wrong, and sometimes they’re so out of step with reality that they make a good blog post.

This mailing, from Public Citizen President Robert Weissman calling for single-payer health care, falls into the latter category.

At the start, Weissman claims that 45,000 Americans every year die due to lack of health insurance. Now, on the face of it, this doesn’t sound like a good argument for single-payer or anything else. Today, everyone has health insurance: they either have it under the ACA or they have it under Medicaid. Even if they are eligible for the ACA and forego it, the sign-up periods are both ubiquitous and often extended. This means that they can acquire insurance for long-term issues. Single-payer can’t improve on that.

And, of course, hospitals are still required to accept short-term issues regardless of ability to pay.

Even with long-term issues prevention providers don’t seem to ask about ability to pay. They provide the service and then ask for payment, and some don’t even hound you for inability to pay. I know this from personal experience.

There is even further evidence that health insurance, or lack thereof, doesn’t change mortality rates here. Medicare doesn’t improve outcomes, and virtually everyone at 65 gets it—and “Medicare-for-All” is what Public Citizen is calling their single-payer system.

The 45,000 number comes from political advocates for… a single-payer system. So the argument is a bit circular here.

Cuban Cigar Aficionado—Wednesday, July 29th, 2015
President Obama meets with President Castro

President Obama meets with Cuban dictator Raúl Castro.

Coinciding with me finishing Natan Sharansky’s The Case for Democracy, in their May/June issue Cigar Aficionado welcomed normalizing relations with Cuba, and the opportunities for more fine cigars from Cuban tobacco fields. And in their July/August issue, they printed some letters from people who disagreed and would prefer that normalizing relations also require the Castro regime give something in return other than fine cigars.

Dear Marvin,

You are on the wrong side of the life and liberty with your April Cuba policy editorial. When negotiating you always get something back. The Obama policy is simply to give to a brutal dictatorship and get nothing for the oppressed Cuban people.

As a Cuban who lived through Fidel’s revolution I witnessed the confiscation of all the fruits of hard work of generations of industrious Cubans. The fact is that the Cuban people have no freedom of speech, no freedom of assembly and no free press. While the elite of the communist party live a good life and have full access to food, entertainment, good housing, clothing, the best beaches, etc., those outside the party have to work as directed and have to settle for whatever is rationed to them. At the same time the Cuban lives in fear of being turned in to Castro’s regime by the numerous party spies spread through all the neighborhoods.

Obama wants to open the flood of money into Cuba, without constraints, but that money will only go to the elite of the communist party and will not benefit the people. Any freedom-loving president would demand, at a minimum, freedom of press and right of free speech in return.

Alberto G. Solana

Editor’s Response: We agree that the people of Cuba do not have access to the freedom so many others enjoy, including those of us who live in the United States. However, we believe that ending the embargo is one way to create needed change. The policies of the past 50 years have not worked. It is time to try something different.

Kirk Watson emerges from cave after 200 years of isolation—Friday, July 24th, 2015
Kirk Watson

“No one ever checks my id.” (Jeff J. Newman courtesy Globe/Zuma, CC-BY 2.0)

Former Austin mayor and Texas state senator Kirk Watson, after the Texas legislature voted to require physicians performing abortions to use “due diligence” in determining the age of abortion patients, said:

“I can’t think of another instance where we presume women are children,” Watson said. “I certainly can’t think of any situation where we presume a man is a child.”

Senator Kirk Watson either never drinks, or has employees to get him his alcohol. I’m over fifty years old, and I still get carded when the bartender is paranoid enough. More and more of them are today, and more and more the law requires them to be. In most states, “they looked older than 21” is not a defense if a vendor sells liquor to someone under 21. The Oregon Liquor Control Commission requires checking identification “of anyone who reasonably appears 26 years old or younger”. In Indiana, liquor sellers are specifically required to check identification of anyone “who is or reasonably appears to be less than forty (40) years of age.”

Given how difficult it is for young cashiers to tell the age of people over thirty, this means that anyone who doesn’t look sixty is going to get carded.

All of which of course ignores the fact that people age 18 to 21 are also adults, and are assumed children for the purposes of alcohol purchases; male or female, they aren’t even allowed to buy it, identification or not.

Watson also hasn’t been paying attention to what’s going on in college campuses today. When two people get drunk, and only the man is held responsible for the consequences, we are presuming that the woman is a child. Trigger warnings have rapidly become an assumption that both women and men are unable to face the world of adult ideas.

More and more on social media, we are presuming that women are children who cannot handle any political discussion without severe distress; and we are presuming that the adults—men—should treat them like children rather than adults.

The Case for Democracy—Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

Subtitled The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny & Terror, the gist of former Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky’s book is in the introduction:

For many years, I have been asking myself why so many of those who have always lived in liberty do not appreciate the enormous power of freedom.

… in the free world, the competition of ideas and of parties flourishes, and allegiances are often based on a single common principle or purpose that struggles against a competing point of view.

Though generally healthy for a society, this competition can be quite dangerous if we lose sight of the fact that there is a far greater divide between the world of freedom and the world of fear than there is between the competing factions within a free society. If we fail to recognize this, we lose moral clarity. The legitimate differences among us, the shades of gray in a free society, will be wrongly perceived as black and white. Then, the real black-and-white line that divides free societies from fear societies, the real line that divides good from evil, will no longer be distinguishable.

This is what I meant when I wrote that, by ignoring the differences between the United States and Radical Islam, we fail to provide a choice between freedom and terror. Conservatives can’t understand why the left prefers to focus on their differences with conservatives instead of our differences with totalitarianism.

Sharansky ties most of his observations to his experience as a refusenik and dissident in the USSR. Dissidents were dismayed by the West’s inability to understand how frail the Soviet Union’s tyranny was. Most influential leaders in the West sought to actually strengthen the Soviet leadership, in the thought that this would improve peace in the world.

I first ran across the tendency of even non-traitorous politicians to think the Soviet economy was better than ours when reading about Edward R. Murrow, but even well into the eighties, politicians looked admiringly on the Soviet top-down economy.

The pseudo-scientific state and other evils—Tuesday, July 14th, 2015
The Eugenics tree

When I was growing up, much of my reading library was my dad’s large collection of westerns and mysteries. I read a lot of Ellery Queen, Erle Stanley Gardner and other mysteries of the era, as well as the occasional G.K. Chesterton Father Brown story in a best of collection.

Lately I’ve been using Project Gutenberg to keep iBooks filled with waiting-for-others reading, and pulled down some Father Brown collections. While browsing through Chesterton’s work, I discovered he also had essay collections, so I added a few of those as well.

Sunday morning, I started reading Eugenics and Other Evils and was hooked right from the introduction:

Though most of the conclusions, especially towards the end, are conceived with reference to recent events, the actual bulk of preliminary notes about the science of Eugenics were written before the war. It was a time when this theme was the topic of the hour; when eugenic babies (not visibly very distinguishable from other babies) sprawled all over the illustrated papers; when the evolutionary fancy of Nietzsche was the new cry among the intellectuals; and when Mr. Bernard Shaw and others were considering the idea that to breed a man like a cart-horse was the true way to attain that higher civilisation, of intellectual magnanimity and sympathetic insight, which may be found in cart-horses. It may therefore appear that I took the opinion too controversially, and it seems to me that I sometimes took it too seriously. But the criticism of Eugenics soon expanded of itself into a more general criticism of a modern craze for scientific officialism and strict social organisation.

And then the hour came when I felt, not without relief, that I might well fling all my notes into the fire. The fire was a very big one, and was burning up bigger things than such pedantic quackeries. And, anyhow, the issue itself was being settled in a very different style. Scientific officialism and organisation in the State which had specialised in them, had gone to war with the older culture of Christendom. Either Prussianism would win and the protest would be hopeless, or Prussianism would lose and the protest would be needless. As the war advanced from poison gas to piracy against neutrals, it grew more and more plain that the scientifically organised State was not increasing in popularity. Whatever happened, no Englishmen would ever again go nosing round the stinks of that low laboratory. So I thought all I had written irrelevant, and put it out of my mind.

He wrote this in 1922, so his “war with Prussia” was what we would call the First World War. He of course didn’t call it that, being as the Second had not yet happened.

In his “and other evils”, Chesterton appears to expand the term eugenics too a much wider definition than what we usually mean. It encompasses a lot of the so-called “scientific state”, that is, a state modeled around controlling people’s lives according to scientific principles that will make them more useful to the state.

Eugenics Board

For a long time, World War II and the Nazis precluded any fears of the state organizing society along such pseudo-scientific principles; while many of the trappings of the scientific state remained, such as Margaret Sanger’s project to weed out black babies and the minimum wage’s pricing unskilled workers out of the market, they were unmoored from their eugenicist docks.

But now today this grievous ideal is taking root again among our elite.1 You could take those last two paragraphs and replace Prussia with China and make it relevant yet again, nearly a hundred years later.

His first chapter goes on to describe what he means by eugenics, which is notable especially for its intro on the spread of evil:

Safari 8.0.7 can block endless alerts—Sunday, July 12th, 2015

I just ran some software updates last week, and reading the latest Software Update notes, I noticed:

Fixes an issue where a website could prevent the user from navigating away by presenting repeated JavaScript alerts in Safari.

After doing the update, I went to the parent page and hit the deadly link. Sure enough, on the second iteration Safari added a checkbox to the alert:

Don’t show more alerts from this webpage

Checking that box makes the alerts go away.

Testing what it’s doing under the hood is difficult, as checking that box also seems to block reloading the page. I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.

It appears to disable any JavaScript on the page. I can’t even go to the URL bar and get an alert from:

  • javascript:alert("Hello");

Again, I think that’s a good thing. If the page has potentially malicious JavaScript, block it all.

JavaScript that doesn’t involve alerts also fails from the URL bar:

  • javascript:headlines=document.getElementsByTagName("h1");headline=headlines[0];headline.innerHTML="Hello, World";

So it looks like “Don’t show more alerts” means “stop executing scripts on this page”. The Error Console doesn’t show any errors; the script simply doesn’t execute.

Global warming vs. oiled dolphins—Friday, July 10th, 2015
Fire Wizard

Global warming scientist punishes dissenters.

It seems as though every year since I started paying attention, we discover that even though the current year’s numbers don’t show a warming trend—and haven’t since 1998—the current year really was hotter because someone has discovered that temperatures from previous years need to be adjusted colder. The pause, hiatus, or whatever you want to call—but whatever you call it has to imply that it is temporary—does not really exist.

Reading the latest Science News, I discover that that seventeen-year warming plateau has been acknowledged—so that it can be explained away by readjusting the numbers all through this and the previous century.

I have only been receiving Science News for about a month, and it is normally a great magazine. Part of what makes it great is that it presents a lot of information concisely. Global warming ‘hiatus’ just an artifact, study finds is one page, and on the facing page is a paleoanthropology summary, Fossils suggest another hominid species lived near Lucy.

A partial upper jaw and two partial lower jaws, one recovered in two pieces, belonged to Australopithecus deyiremeda, says a team led by Yohannes Haile-Selassie, a paleoanthropologist at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. These finds support the view that two or more hominid species coexisted in East Africa before the dawn of the Homo genus, the researchers report in the May 28 Nature.

These two discoveries have a lot in common. Both potentially change the conversation in their respective fields. Both are about a lot of interpretation of raw numbers. It is hard to interpret global climate based on the incomplete and inconsistent measurements of the past century, and it is hard to identify separate species based on a handful of incomplete and broken bones.

Most importantly, both are about variation. How do you measure it in a theoretically and experimentally useful way? There is a minor controversy in paleoanthropology today, whether they have been making up new species for what is observed as normal variation in humans and other species today.

So what’s different? One article presents a contrary view, one does not.

Allow men to impersonate exes, transgender activists say—Wednesday, July 8th, 2015
New Orleans man on phone

Hello, First National Bank? This is Laura. I need to transfer all my funds before my wife, I mean husband, finds out. (Saddboy, CC-BY-SA 3.0)

I spent some time in Seattle recently, and ran across an article in a neighborhood newspaper, the Queen Anne & Magnolia News, about transgender activists trying to enable abusive exes:

Duff, a contract caregiver, said she’d banked at the Magnolia branch (3300 W. McGraw St.) for more than two years before changing her name and gender marker last September.

Duff said she’d provided the bank updates [sic] copies of her new driver’s license and updated photo. But when she called in for an update on her account balance, she ran into new issues.

The bank representative, according to Duff, asked her multiple security questions, all of which she answered correctly. Despite that, Duff said, she was placed on hold so that she could be forwarded to a manager.

“That hold became a permanent hold,” Duff said.

Duff called back and was told that the bank wouldn’t provide any information over the phone because the account was listed as Lizzi Duff, female.

“I said, ‘That’s me: Lizzi Duff, female,’” Duff said. “Me answering all my security questions should prove that it’s me.”

Duff claims the bank representative hung up on her and that she called back a third time, only to go through another half-dozen security questions. She said she was finally allowed to access her account after relaying her driver’s license number.

This wasn’t a matter of a woman with a low voice register. The bank operator recognized a male voice trying to access an account marked as a woman’s, bypassing the way most people access their accounts today. The operator was right! It was a man’s voice.

That, however, is not what drew me to write about the story. The transgender activists rallying around Duff believe that critical security procedures are an attack on transgender people:

Duff believes the employee profiled her voice as a man’s, which is why so many additional security questions were asked.

“Voice profiling is a common and a really hateful way of discriminating against transgender people and attacking our right to be on the planet,” she said.

Looking for discrepancies between the person asking for account info and the person on file is not an attack. It is critical security.

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