Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Carolla vs. Newsom vs The Young Turks

It is impossible for The Young Turks (TYT) to be further off base with the recent interview that Adam Carolla did of Gavin Newsome (Lieutenant governor of California).

Original Interview

TYT response/outrage over it.

The interview was contentious, and at one point Gavin Newsom mentioned that over half of African American and Hispanic families do not have access to a bank account. Adam Carolla pounced and asked very pointed questions, and would interrupt the instant it seemed Newsom was either straying off the question or filibustering so as to not acknowledge obvious truths. It seemed to me that each question was an exercise in trying to get Newsom to point out obvious cultural / familial / educational differences among groups. Not to shame, not to denigrate, but rather to acknowledge then attempt to remedy the situation.

To me this is the exact opposite of racism, but yet simplistically TYT assume Carolla's just a bigot that hates blacks and hispanics. I have watched a few episodes of TYT and I thought they were relatively knowledgable and had a bit of nuance, but for them to take this kind of interpretation of how the interview went I'm going to have to fall back on an old Carolla-ism:

TYT: Are they stupid or just liars? Which is it..

It's infuriating and discussion of this sort only serves to try to get someone to shut-up. Don't talk about a group's problems. Don't you dare try to isolate and (FSM forbid) try to help them.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Society's Lynching of George Zimmerman

File:Trayvon Martin.jpg
Trayvon Martin is dead.  While walking from a gas station to his father's house, he was shot by an over-eager community watch captain.  Protests are erupting all around the nation.  The usual suspects are claiming that this is a case of racism, and that we need to immediately address this issue.

Back story:

George Zimmerman was a 28 year old community watch captain, who by all accounts seemed to be a little over zealous.  Records show he called 911 46-49 times this past year.  On Feb 26, he called 911 to report someone he was watching that he had a bad feeling about.  There were a number of breakins reported recently in Zimmerman's gated community, so it seems like the watch captain was on edge.

The person Zimmerman was watching closely was Trayvon Martin.  The 17 year old black kid was just walking back his father's house after getting iced tea and skittles from the gas station.  There seems to be no justifiable reason for Zimmerman to be watching Trayvon so closely, unless you consider racial, age, and social profiling to be effective. Trayvon was black, 17, and wearing a hoodie. Those details alone are hardly damning evidence of wrongdoing.

Zimmerman followed him in his van while talking on 911. Trayvon was talking to his girlfriend on his cell-phone, and it seems that he tried to lose Zimmerman at least once.  All said and done, Zimmerman at some point got out to confront Trayvon, a witness claims there was a scuffle.  A witness claims that at some point during the scuffle the watch captain was on the ground. The witness states Zimmerman was calling for help while Trayvon was on top of him.  The police say that the watch captain suffered a broken nose, an injury to the back of his head, and that there were grass stains and water marks on his back (seems to corroborate the witness).

While the witness was running inside, a shot rang out, and Trayvon was no longer on top of Zimmerman. Trayvon died of the gunshot wound.

Trayvon was a good kid, had no criminal record (it seems), and did nothing wrong to justify being followed.  Zimmerman was a overzealous community watch captain, who created a bad situation, and ended up killing Trayvon.

No one knows how (or even if) Trayvon was provoked.

It's a tragedy all the way around, with the bulk of the blame seeming to rest on Zimmerman.

But this isn't a case of racism where someone was just jonesing to cap a black kid.  Racism is wrong, but is profiling?  Supposedly (I haven't found the numbers yet) in New York blacks are 25% of the population, Latinos are another 25% with whites coming in at 35%. Blacks and Latinos account for 98% of all gun crime in New York.  Profiling means understanding that each situation is an individual case, but when you're using heuristics to figure out who to worry about shooting someone, Las Vegas is not putting money on white guys.  Facts suck, but ignoring them does not make them less true.

This past weekend in Chicago, something like 10 people were killed in gun violence.  One of the murdered included a 6 year old girl.  It feels bad to say, but how is Trayvon's killing any more tragic than this 6 year old girl?  Crime is rampant in urban areas, but people latch onto individual cases of tragic situations like this.  Why?  The narrative seems to fit a case of whitey killing someone for the crime of "walking while black".  The problem is that Zimmerman is half Hispanic and half White.  Now typically multiculturalism dictates that we must call this person "hispanic".  The New York Times describes Zimmerman as a "white-hispanic", a naming convention that I haven't ever seen in The Grey Lady.

The media and the usual race-baiters are playing this off as indicative of the level of racism that exists in America today.  I feel nothing but sorrow for Trayvon and his family, and from my perspective it's impossible for anything good to come of this. No amount of protesting will bring Trayvon back. Stop looking for a (non-existent) racist splinter in America's eye when the beam in the eye of urban culture is killing far more people.

The true tragedy is how the inner city problems will never be addressed because of PC cultural sensitivities.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Apple and Foxconn. Mike Daisy Lies About Conditions...

Mike Daisey Lies on This American Life; Theaters Won’t Cancel Performances or Issue Refunds

I can't say that I'm terribly surprised.  A reporter brings sensational details of exploitation at Foxconn (known as one of the major manufacturers of Apple products), and parlays his reporting into some sort of spoken work show/play.

As reported on This American Life on NPR it's obvious that he's exagerrating for the sake of creating a narrative that fits well with his feelings (and pocketbook).  The holier than thou mindset seems to allow creeps like this to end the truth to serve a higher purpose.

This obviously parallels the recent story about Peter Gleick lying to The Heartland Institute, hoping to get proof of a grand conspiracy between the non-profit, the Koch brothers, and a disengenuous fight against Anthropogenic Global Warming.  All said and done, he didn't find much in terms of a conspiracy, and it's looking more and more likely that he forged a memo that attempted to create a narrative that he was hoping to find.  He's sad that he was found out, but he feels that his lies serve a higher purpose, so it's okay that he's forging documents and falsely accusing people/organizations.

I need to finally read my copy of Thomas Sowell's Vision of the Anointed.  It tackles the idea that the left sees itself as being more moral than others, not because of their actions or results of their actions, but just because they feel like they're morally superior.  It's sad, but if you watch public discourse you'll see it more and more.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Family Values and the War on Drugs.
h/t Cafe Hayek

I don't know why, but this quote really resonates with me.
“Prohibiting the sale of certain commodities provides economic opportunities in which young males have a comparative advantage, and this in turn leads to the emergence of a warrior culture that underinvests in family life.  Economic activity is separated from family maintenance and organized around capital that can be seized by predation.”*
 James Q. Wilson, The Moral Sense (New York: Free Press, 1993), p. 175.

I have come to feel that the war on drugs has few benefits

  • Making people feel like they're doing something about substance abuse
  • Making available a common, high-risk activity for people to make a lot of money (dealing)
  • Giving cops a good reason to get a bunch of cool stuff
I never really thought about it as something that encourages predation.  I can't think of any more apt description of what the black market for drugs is. Of course there's business reputation, but ultimately the only thing that keeps someone from murdering you and taking your drugs / money is, well, nothing... The punishment for murder is certainly higher than dealing, but the (relatively) secretive nature of drug dealing and the reticence of anyone to implicate themselves or friends by cooperating with the police if their friend/accomplice was murdered allows the fittest (read: most accomplished alpha predator) to thrive.  

It feels like this is calling dealers animals, but on further consideration I think it's a fair assessment of incentives and rewards.  You can't exactly go to the police to say that someone isn't living up to their contract, or is physically intimidating/harming you or your cohorts.  This leaves you to seek out other methods of pairing bad behavior with negative consequences (eg breaking knees, cutting off fingers, listening to the Biebs).  

And if you think that I'm just exaggerating, just think of the Valentine's day massacre, and just try to remember the last time someone was gunned down in a "tragic Busch Light deal gone bad"...

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Saylor Foundation

The Saylor Foundation

This is a site that is setup to provide free collegiate level coursework to anyone, free of charge. There are assignments available, and testing that will allow you to progress and state that you've completed a certain major.

Right now they have 13 areas including:
General Education
Business Adminstration
and others

I flipped through some reading on Business, Psychology, Neuropsychology, and Differential Equations as they can be used in numerical analysis. This is very high quality work here, developed and edited by reputable professionals in each of the fields. The psychology and neuropsychology topics that I skimmed was as high level as I was learned in Med School. The Mechanical Engineering topics seemed to be just as well presented as what I saw during my undergrad years at the Mech. Engr program I attended (in the top 10 in the nation).

They have paid positions for Deans, Professors, Contributing Editors, Interns, and others... They're even having competitions to see who can develop textbooks that can be used, with each winner of the contest receiving $20,000 for their work.

This is absolutely amazing stuff. I have no idea why, but I could spent many months just reading all of the materials available on here. I honestly think resources like this will radically change higher education as we know it. All that's needed is for the certification of completion to be trusted by employers in the real world. Though I think the Khan Academy is doing great things, for some reason this implementation feels much more concrete and reputable. Instead of the one guy doing each lecture after he reads on stuff, the material is developed and presented by existing professors in each field.

Also, when I was flipping through the reading on Runge-Kutte methods of computationally estimating the results of ordinary differential equations, I came out with a newfound respect for some of the resources on wikipedia. The explanation page on wiki for Runge-Kutta is nothing short of amazing...

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I've been struggling to figure out how to logically reason past the idea of moral relativism.  I'm not going to always listen to authority JUST because it's authority.  I'm not going to do whatever I want based on the idea of opportunism (not getting caught) because I feel and know that there is right & wrong. I also refuse to strictly adhere to what has been done in the past just because it's tradition or traditional. You can't believe in strict utilitarianism because reasoning that "killing 3 to save 4 is by definition right" will lead you to some pretty dark places almost immediately, if you follow the logic.

The idea that there is no truth and that all cultures or cultural forces are nebulously equal is wrongheaded and only encourages idiocy and injustice.  But to say that there is an absolute fundamental truth belies a level of hubris even I can't claim. Saying someone should or should not do something requires a level of confidence and rigor that I don't think I have yet (google: Heinz dilemma questions).

I think this podcast may do well to push me in the right direction.  I'm not particularly religious anymore, so telling me I should do something because I'm TOLD to do it will probably make me want to do the opposite. Not to mention that there are many multitudes of systems and beliefs that tell people to terrible things in the name of righteousness.  The idea of doing something right because you SHOULD is something that I feel is truly fundamental, but I don't know all of the specifics yet.

If you give a crap, and want to read a tiny bit more on ethics and morality there's some very basic stuff on Wiki about Kohlberg's levels of moral development (I learned a tiny bit on 'em a year ago and forgot the name of them until today).  It's interesting stuff, and the last level deals with universal principles.  I'm going to have to do some further noodling over what makes up those universal principles and why.

Also, this kind of ties into the thoughts on developing political, regulatory, and tax systems because to make a good system you have to incentivize greedy and self-interested people to do the right thing by making it most beneficial for them. It would be nice, though, if we could further everyone along the path of doing what's right for the sake of doing what's right...

If you have any insights you'd like to share feel free to respond or PM me.

Now back to my regularly scheduled Case Report writing...

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Who Hates the Homeless the Most?

There are people in America who genuinely need a hand. These people are mentally unstable, physically incapable of work, have a debilitating addiction which is ruining their life, or through fate have been dealt a bad hand and just need a little help to lift themselves up and out of their current situation. People run from abusive relationships with no friends or relatives. People run away from home because of abuse or their own foolish pride. People get hit with the one two punch of losing a job and having a serious health problem. All of these people genuinely need help, either by being committed to mental instiutions, rehab facilities, or self-development programs to give them the resources to exchange their work for food, shelter, or education.

There are people though, who deserve a red-hot poker in the eye because they are conning well-meaning people into giving them money. People are using others' sense of good-will and stealing money from them. These fake homeless, free-loading vagabonds, and homeless criminals are hardening peoples hearts to those who genuinely need help. They're causing well-meaning politicians to make terrible policies based on the terrible plight of the "hundreds of thousands of homeless in America". We need to quit giving away free money to anyone who has their hand out, and at the same time expect a higher level of personal-responsibility from those who do genuinely need outside assistance.

These videos should enrage anyone who actually gives a shit about helping people. Sadly though, every single one of my own experiences in talking with homeless people falls so close to these video descriptions it's disheartening. I want to help, but I sure as shit never want my money to ever go to these cons.

John Stossel doing a report on homeless people:

In San Diego I took some evenings and talked with the homeless on the beaches. I only spoke to 6-8 homeless people, but they were eerily similar:
  • terrible hygeine (despite very accessible public showers)
  • constant, excessive drinking (24 oz. cans of Bud Ice seemed to be most common)
  • abusing nearby homeless resources to maintain their lifestyle of just floating around with no responsibilities
  • not even attempting to locate any kind of employment
I feel genuinely bad for those who, through no fault of their own have had hard luck hit them again and again. As a society we need to make available a safety net for those who need help, if for no other reason than to appease the vast majority of the public who need to believe that America is a good place. This help must be decentralized and community oriented. This will allow individuals to monitor people's progress and determine whether the resources being given are being exploited or not.

Anyone who is entirely capable of work and responsibility, but is opting out for their own reasons, will never get any pity from me, I just see way too much opportunity in this country for me to feel bad for someone.

If Mexican immigrants can come into this country with nothing, and make a life for themselves and their families, any physically capable and mentally stable homeless person has no excuse.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I'm back...

What follows is going to be a little different.  Gotta study for USMLE Step 1, gotta keep the Missus & Munchkin happy, and I have to stay sane.  If I treat this blog as a relief valve, maybe it'll help me. 

I've been making terrible choices lately regarding time management, and personal development.  Had a 2 weeks stretch where I was studying terrifically, but I've fallen off the wagon.  Classwork is accumulating, and I have to tough out a week and a half before break begins.  I can do this. 



Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Do insurance companies scrape too much off the top?

Mark Perry over at Carpe Diem makes it known that insurance companies are making an average of 3.3% profit.  Removing that 3.3% equates to roughly $150-250 in personal/family rate savings per policy?  Removing all insurance profit is not a panacea. 

Also, as a matter of point we should consider that insurance is insurance, not a universal payment system for which everyone always benefits (paying less in premiums than they consume in medical services).

An insurance company is essentially betting individuals. The company bets that premiums will be larger than the cost of healthcare services rendered. Why should a company "bet" a sick individual that $300, $500, or more a month will cover their expenses for, let's say, dialysis. That company is not evil for not charging $300 a month when it knows it'll be paying out $1000-$2000 a month.

The country needs social safety nets, and for catastrophic care I fully support an expansion of medicaid. We must pay for it though. Increase taxes (and not just on the evil rich).

Healthcare is expensive not only because medical technology marches forward providing services not imagined 20-30 years ago, but because reimbursement happens through a 3rd party (whose financial interest is at odds with both provider and consumer of care). When this is coupled with the fact that individuals could care less how much a doctor's visit "costs" because, well "insurance" covers it. How much does a physical cost? Doesn't matter, I'll pay my co-pay and it'll get done. Should I bring my mildly feverish child to the ER? I'll pay my co-pay and the rest will be insurance. People must be aware and make their health care decisions based on efficiency, cost, and their own personal situation. Again, I support an expansion of medicaid, but make the cost 100% known and up-front with an increase in taxes.

Doctor's, hospitals, and individuals are not awash with money. Insurance companies make billions because of the sheer volume of care that they oversee. To weed out health fraud, rules are thought up and sometimes seem draconian. So the evil billions they make, and the evil decisions they make, are made as a matter of fiduciary responsibility, of which you mentioned.

John Stossel on health care costs.

Another take on breaking down how the insurance companies are at odds with both providers and consumers.

This last link is super quick to distill the information presented...

Sorry for the book. I hate seeing individuals or groups of individuals demonized for making choices which are in their own self-interest.