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Monday, March 14, 2005

Don’t Free Tibet

To everyone with an aging “Free Tibet” bumper sticker on the back of their rusting old Volvo, it looks like it’s time to give up the dream.

The Dalai Lama said that by dropping the sovereignty claim for Tibet, his people would be able to benefit from China’s economic achievements. This was in stark contrast to his previous stand, that Tibet should be a self-governing domestic and political entity under a type of “one country, two systems” arrangement.

“This is the message I wish to deliver to China,” he said. “I am not in favour of separation. Tibet is a part of the People’s Republic of China. It is an autonomous region of the People’s Republic of China. Tibetan culture and Buddhism are part of Chinese culture.”

I wonder how Richard Gere is taking the news. Intriguingly to me, Hollywood and its “Free Tibet” movement never wanted to actually do anything to free Tibet (except, of course, make movies and speeches). The truth is, though, that they deified the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan cause; it was easy for them since the leader of the movement was a peaceful, enlightened non-Westerner struggling for the rights of a country where the United States had no vested interests.

Put oil into the bedrock of a nation and no direct action that the United States takes can possibly be righteous. For that matter, if the leader happens to be a Republican, then the cause must be evil, heartless, and driven by semi-secret Zionist forces.

Now that the Dalai Lama has expressed a more materialistic side, hoping that China’s rapid development will fuel economic growth and security for Tibet, I wonder how the Hollywood elite will now view the leader. His statements--with a desire for cultural and spiritual autonomy, buttressed by all of the benefits of China’s economy and political structure--might not live up to Hollywood’s expectations of an immaculate leader.

It’s not as surprising a development as might otherwise be imagined, though.

In recent years, the Dalai Lama has been increasingly accommodating in his political manoeuvrings, pursuing a “middle way” that would ensure autonomy rather than independence and leave China in control of Tibet’s foreign policy.

So, not surprising, but it sure leaves a lot of bumper stickers looking a little out of date.

Read the story.

The Crisis of ‘Sam’s Club’ Republicans

The Crisis of ‘Sam’s Club’ Republicans” over at The American Scene, is a reprint of an article by Reihan Salam in The Los Angeles Times that is worth a read, though I don’t agree with all of it’s many points, and it has very little to do with what I’m about to say.

The title of the article got me to thinking about how Liberals keep trying to pigeonhole poor Conservatives like me. They think I spend the few free hours I have in my miserable life walking the aisles of Sam’s Club, looking for dheap goods made in China. If I was everything they think I am, then maybe I would. But, I don’t.

It was reported somewhere last year that a signficant chunk of Walmart/Sam’s Club executives sent their political donations to candidates with an “R” after their name. And that Costco honchos sent their money to those with a “D”. You would think that being the rabid, mouth-breathing, BBq sauce drips on my Tt-shirt kind of guy that I am that I would not think of spending my hard-earned dough at a place that’s just going to pass it on to John Kerry.

Well, I do. The simple truth is that Costco has more of what I want, and Sam’s has less. Ironically, my anti-war liberal sister owns stock in Walmart. Go figure. These attempts at pigeon-holing people from either side of the aisle is something that smarmy pundits do becasue they don’t want to go out and shake hands with the unwashed masses. To all those pundits who don’t want to get their hands dirty, let me reassure you that I not only shop at the place that best meets my needs, but I shower, wash my hair, brush my teeth, and put on clean underwear every day. Usually.

Will this American Imperialism ever stop?

Pi Day is so representative of our uber-American imperialism. For it is only here in this backwater of a super power nation that 3/14 actually means anything. The rest of the world chooses to state their dates backwards, so today is really 14/3, which doesn’t have a whole heck of a lot to do with Pi. When will we stop forcing our will and shoving our culture down the collective throat of the rest of the world? [Answer after this quick timeout.]

Anyways, NRO links to a cute comic for the socially challenged...errr...the mathematically unchallenged, celebrating Pi Day.

When the rest of the world stops trying to blow us up. When they stop blaming for us for their corrupt and decadent governments. When they start producing something of value. Nobody has ever been forced to eat at McDonalds or KFC (remember when they were Kentucky Fried Chicken?). The US didn’t blow up Japan because the Japanese make better VCRs and cars. The US didn’t blow up France because they made stinky cheese and over-priced champagne.

Message to the rest of the world—instead of bitching, get on the field and start competing.

Now that previous declarative sentence is actually a little misleading. There are actually many foreign companies doing quite well here in the US. Think Nokia for one. So what’s the real problem, why do the French hate us so? Personally, I think it’s p*nis envy.

What does any of this have to do with Pi? I just want to point out that Pi Day is another invention that could have only happened in the good ole USA because we’re the only ones who don’t write our dates backwards. If you’re tryint to make sense of all this, It doesn’t, so don’t

Aaarghhh!

Well, I accidently double posted, which I hate and despise, so now I have to come up with something quick to hide my error. Give me a few minutes and I’ll get something barely not-boring and almost witty in this spot.

Just Seen at Amazon:

“Bring home the Academy Award®-winning The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in the most anticipated Extended Edition. The LOTR Trilogy is also available: all three films in their expanded versions. Order now and view a stream of several minutes of unseen footage from the extended edition. See links below for more details.”

Guess what I bought a recently. It wasn’t this.

Saggy Tees

Just heard this on the Jerry Doyle show - Rap names for Michael Jackson and Martha Stewart.

MJ Didum and Saggy Tees.

Reality Radio

I am a sucker for the Onstar commercials. If one comes on while I’m parking the car, I won’t get out until the commercial is done and I know that Onstar has saved the day. What does that say about me?

Things I Wish I Had Time to Write

There are a number of topics I wish I could get around to talking about right now, but with the weekend that I had, the proposal that I just pitched to a new client, and the existing work that I have, I’m stretched a little thin.

But, to let you know what you’re missing, these are the topics I wish I could get around to writing about:

  1. The upcoming elections in Zimbabwe.
  2. Zimbabwe, Germany, job creation, and sweatshops.
  3. Misdirection from the anti-Social Security reform crowd.
  4. The proper way to pitch a new project.
  5. The nature of mourning.
  6. The Guy’s Guide to Good Relationships (long postponed).
  7. The Zomby War Doctrine (even longer postponed).
  8. Why I don’t care about evolution or creationism. But that might be a bit of a buzzkill for the rest of the crowd.

Don’t you wish I had more time to write today?

PS- If the answer is no, you’re just going to hurt my feelings…

Lack of Medical Insurance Isn’t the Problem; Medical Insurance is the Problem

I don't think I mentioned it in my introductory post, but you've probably surmised from my last post that I'm sort of an armchair economist.

I had occasion to go to my local pharmaceutical supply store recently to replace some home medical equipment. What I really needed was a simple insert, but I had to buy a complete assembly.

The price of that assembly was $152, and another accessory was another $50. But after insurance kicked in, only $30 and change came out of my pocket.

Ordinarily, if something was going to cost me 2 notes in the key of 'C' each time I needed to replace it, I would be inclined to make sure that it lasted. After all, why would you want to fork out that kind of cash every 6 months, when you could take steps to extend its life? Instead, you just have to ration yourself to 6 months, before you can get all new stuff, for a paltry $30 (and change).

Since the consumer has no incentive to conserve, does the manufacturer have any incentive to become more efficient? Their unit sales should remain pretty constant, so their biggest incentive is going to be gaining increases at the margin. There is nothing, however, exerting downward pressure on prices.

Also, consider the fact that insurance companies largely set the price for procedures. If you are covered for a procedure, and the insurance company dictates that it will only pay a certain dollar amount toward that procedure, where do you think the price is going to be set? Providers who set their price above that amount are going to lose business; regardless of what the actual cost may be. I heard this story over the weekend, where some health plans are suing providers for fraud:
So-called "rent-a-patient" frauds occur when recruiters enlist patients to undergo unnecessary surgical procedures, for which the surgical provider then files insurance claims. The patients receive cash payments or free cosmetic surgery in return.

I found it interesting, and it seems to me like it's a matter of events reaching their logical conclusion. After all, those providers have to make up their costs somehow.

As if circumstances weren't maddening enough, the insurance companies are now the final arbiter of who gets what treatment. You can have a situation where 2 or more doctors agree that a procedure needs to be done, and it's up to the insurance company to decide whether or not they will cover the procedure. To compound this problem, the primary queston patients ask themselves is, "Will my insurance cover it?" not "Can I afford to do this?"

The best option, to my mind, would be to get insurance out of health entirely, with the exception of catastrophic insurance. The cost of catastrophic insurance could be based on actuarial tables, much like life insurance. That would leave most health care decisions where they belong — in the hands of the consumers. Not only that, but you could take health care off the table in compensation packages, and let the employee keep that money to shop for insurance on the open market; but that's a whole 'nother post.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Science and religion

Down below Jay asks if we can’t just all get along concerning the creation and evolution thing. Along those same lines, but on a broader scale, Charles H. Townes, the inventor of the laser, writes in the Wall Street Journal:

The mathematician Gödel noted that to prove something we must start with a set of postulates, but then demonstrated that we can never prove the set of postulates are even self-consistent unless we make a new overarching set of postulates which themselves cannot be proven self-consistent. So, in science, too, we need faith--or what we normally call postulates. An extreme and somewhat amusing statement of our lack of firm proof was that of Bishop Berkeley, for whom my town of Berkeley, Calif., was named. He noted that we cannot absolutely prove that the people and things we think we see are really there--we may not be seeing them at all but only have such things in our imagination. The bishop was perhaps correct, but nevertheless we all believe those people and things we see are real.

...

As we understand more, will our views in science and also in religion be revolutionized as science already has been by quantum mechanics? My guess is yes. We must be open-minded and without completely frozen ideas in either science or religion. But even with future changes, I also guess that, like classical mechanics, our present understanding may be a good and useful approximation even though new and deeper views may be revolutionary.

Overall, I believe we must try hard to understand both how our universe works and what is its meaning as well as we can, and for now, live by our best understanding. I hope very much that humans will in the future understand more and more deeply, which can change our views. And, just as classical mechanics still works well, I expect our present ideas and principles will still have a useful and functional validity.

I agree with Townes, we must unlock as many of the mysteries of life and the universe as we can. And I agree with Jay, let’s stop arguing and just get on with the work. The one undeniable absolute is that we won’t really know until we die. And then it doesn’t matter anymore—Either it’s over and none of this matters, or we enter a new beginning and most of this doesn’t matter as much as we thought it did. Until then, I’m working on being a gooder person because I just plain feel like it.

And now, for a much simpler topic—is it faith that saves our sorry asses, or is it works? I can never remember which.

Hillary Clinton Decries Sex…

The last time Democrats decided to wrap themselves in Red State values we ended up with the insane mandatory sentencing and three strikes laws. Then there was that horrible time in American history when a woman named “Tipper”, of all things, decided that something had to be done about music lyrics. Which turned out not to be too succesful, seeing as how her son turned out to be a dope-smokin’-driving-while-impaired idiot.

Now, Hillary Clinton, who is trying to make herself Red State friendly, is upset about sex. These people do not understand Red Staters and I wish they would stop their patronizing attitudes towards us.

Note: I guess I should have added “on television.”

Continued discussion

Dear friends, I have no Sunday write-up for the blog’s front page, however, I have been engaging in a discussion on the comments to Z-boy’s post, Explain Please. Y’all can read me there pontificate, not about Evolution and its concepts, rather, over my own resolution between my background as a Roman Catholic Christian and as a scientist, and how I see no conflict between the two because I don’t see either schema of thought as an “either, or” thing. My latest comment leaves two questions:

My only questions left for all of you are these (as it applies to you): (1) As a person faithful in God, why is it also so difficult for your faithful heart to accept that what seems to be random occurence to our puny human minds can be the work of God in action? (2) As a rational person, why is it so difficult to accept that other people may ascribe seemingly random occurences to a higher intelligence, just so that they can wrap their fingers around the concept that perhaps what seems to be a random thing isn’t?

This isn’t an invitation to prove in the comments how right or wrong evolution is. There are so many discussions of that online that I’m tired of it. What I want to know, however, is the “why” of the “either, or” mentality that has pervaded the discussion. To scientists: why can’t you just say, for the sake of deference, that God wrote the rules that we are learning day by day? To the faithful: why can’t you just say, for the sake of deference, that scientists are further discovering how God works his love upon the universe? I’d rather engage in a sharing of the theological, philosophical, and metaphysical bases of our beliefs than to pick apart evolutionary theory tonight.

College dropout makes good

I don’t know how he did it, but Jeff Harrell at The Shape of Days snagged an interview with Andy Hertzfeld. It’s an old post (1/8/05), but worth reading if you haven’t yet (and are an Andy Hertzfeld fan. But you are, aren’t you? If not, you will be assimilitaed anyway.).

Bloggers aren’t above the law

I don’t know how the rest of the zomby crew here feels, but I’m happy about this—bloggers have to tell the truth, the whole truth, and.... Paul at Wizbang put it right when he said: A California court has ruled that if someone receives stolen property they must tell the owner of the property who they got it from. ... Nowhere in the first amendment does it give someone the right to traffic stolen property. Here are the details:

A California judge on Friday ruled that three independent online reporters may have to divulge confidential sources in a lawsuit brought by Apple Computer Inc. (AAPL), ruling that there are no legal protections for those who publish a company’s trade secrets.

Paul and Shape of Days both said it better than I can, but I will try to add something of value here. While I love the wild-west aspects of the Internet, especially when it comes to blogging, and would fight mightily attempts to stifle blogging speech, the theft of ideas is the same as the theft of material goods. Whether you’re in the wild west or civil society, theft must be stopped and prosecuted. Are there any Libertarians out there who think I’m wrong? [Full disclosure: I don’t own Apple stock, but I wish I did.]

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Stopping Spammers

Spammers have become the bane of free speech and civil discourse on the Internet. They destroyed Usenet (not that the WWW wasn’t going to anyway), have nearly brought email to its knees and are now out to demolish blogs (which are the natural replacement for Usenet). Flamers and trolls were easy enough to deal with, but spammers are evil psychopathic sociapaths who care not who or what they destroy as long as they can get enough money to pay for the next line of coke, bevy of strippers, and a night of Michael Jackson-like sex.

Fortunately, the blogger community is fighting back. And doing it aggressively. While I can’t say the bloggers have won yet, I don’t doubt that we will. Tom Raftery has an interesting post for WordPress users, “Comment spam plugins no longer required!,” and something that non-WP users can do. (Even though I blog here on zombyboy’s site, I run blogs for other people. On those blogs we’re using WordPress, so I keep up on WP goings on.). Non-WP users scroll down to “custom .htaccess file” for modifications you can make to your .htaccess file. If you’re on WP then read the whole article.

There is another interesting tool for anybody that has a server with PHP - Refer Karma - that Tom mentions. RK looks at the behavior to determine if the refer is a spammer. Spammers are blocked from even accessing the site for a set amount of time. RK should be easy to install, even if you don’t know what you are doing. The keys to success are: 1) be patient; 2) read and follow ALL the instructions; 3) make a backup of everything before you start.

At a company I work with, we have turned the email spam flood into a trickle by aggressively blocking spamming domains in our sendmail access file. So far we’ve got over 200 domains and addresses blocked. The combination of spamassasin, Thunderbird junk mail controls, and updating sendmail with addresses from the flagged email has turned our office into a place of sweet music and light where the skies are not cloudy all day… okay, okay, you get my drift already.

Spamassassin uses RBLs (real time blacklists) to flag emails that other servers have already flagged as really being from spammers. I imagine it won’t be long before bloggers setup some type of RBL system that will block spammers before they have a chance to spew their vile, evil, crap across the Internet. [Have I mentioned yet that I hate spammers?] BTW, I’m willing to work with people on this and can donate server space for a working group. Let me know if you’re interested. Send me email—my name up there, no spaces, at gmail and then dot com.

If you know of other tools or have some new ideas, please leave them in the comment section. If you’re a spammer I hope you rot in hell.

The latte drinkers must be crazy

I’m not a coffee drinker, and I’ve never really given a whit as to whether or not there are too many Starbucks in the world. But after reading this blog, and this one, I think I just might go down and visit my local Starbucks on a regular basis.

Personally, I’m glad the whacked out conspirists (how do you spell that? Not even Google offered a recommendation) are moving to the Left. There are a few other groups (and an individual or 2) I’m hoping move soon. It is best to have all the insanity in one party.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Wadcutter Wisdom

"Science is the father of knowledge, but opinion breeds ignorance. --Hippocrates

Wisdom via Wadcutter. If you’re expecting to read my opinion of Wadcutter’s site and all that he offers, then you didn’t read the above quote very well. It’s not a good thing to let a guy named Wadcutter think you’re ignorant. I will add this though:

“Taking my gun away because I might shoot someone is like cutting my tongue out because I might yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater.--Peter Venetoklis

Wiki U.

For some people it’s not good enough get a Blogger account and begin enlightening fellow Earth-citizens with vaunted opinions. No. Some people have to go and set standards and create guidelines.

Actually, this is a good thing, and one that will serve serious bloggers quite well. Fortunately for me, having a boss named zombyboy, it’s pretty obvious I’m not serious ‘bout much.

Teenage angst is alive and well in the suburbs

vampdragonblade has recently discovered that her? parents don’t understand just what it is she’s going through:

last night...blah!
I don’t know what to do...I’m dying inside and no one seems to notice or care. People are to fucking worried about other things, like my parents for example. They’re worried about me getting into college...HEY F****** TRY PAYING ATTENTION TO ME! FORGET SCHOOL! I’M NOT F****** KIDDING WHEN I SAY I DON’T WANT TO LIVE TO SEE COLLEGE!!! It hurts so bad...emotional pain...did you know that when it gets bad enough it becomes physical...did you know that? did you?

There’s more, even some angst-ridden lyrics. [Note: cussing sanitized.]

Freedom for me. Despotism for thee.

Today’s Final Jeopardy Answer is:

“Freedom for me. Despotism for thee”

The correct question is: ”What is the slogan of the Liberal Left?

Saving Dan Rather’s Butt

If only...

Poor Dan Rather. Just think, he’d still have his job today if he’d bothered to learn about the new fangled Internet thingy. But, like a dog too old to learn new tricks, Dan’s been put out to pasture, where he’s just one hoof away from the glue factory.

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