Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Moore's Law, Hanlan, and Empathy

"Never attribute to malice, that which can be adequately explained by ignorance or incompetence"
                        -Hanlan's Razor

This is my closing thought on a series of three posts you can find the first one here, and the second one here.

In the prior two, I presented a model, based on the methodology of Moore's law, for fixing America's social and political problems. It is a well-documented methodology, known by many other names, including positive affirmations or law of attraction. You assume the desired state, and behave as though you are at (or very near) that state.

But what about those pesky outliers? What about the individuals who... "Don't play along", What do you do when you are running around acting like racism is a thing of the past, and someone makes a racist comment? How do you deal with a police officer who is flaunting his authority, while pretending that police are good guys?

The answer, it depends. There are two crucial tools you rely on: Hanlan's Razor (stated above), and empathy.

First, a word about Hanlan's Razor. It sounds very insulting; "Ignorance or incompetence". It really isn't. Ignorant means "Lacking knowledge or awareness". It can mean in general, but more practically - and for our purposes in means in particular. We are ignorant about some things. When it comes to cricket, corporate accounting, the saxophone, advanced biology or chemistry (probably remedial biology or chemistry as well), I am ignorant. I have very limited knowledge. In fact, I am relatively ignorant regarding most subjects.

Incompetence means "not having the necessary skills to do something successfully". In addition to being ignorant with respect to the saxophone, I am also incompetent.

It isn't necessarily bad. It can be inconvenient. It is problematic, because we are all fairly incompetent when it comes to gauging our level of incompetence. And it is also problematic because once we are competent, we tend to forget what it was like to be incompetent, and therefore assume everyone should be competent (and we are often impatient when they do not live up to our expectation of competency, based on our ignorant evaluation of our level of non-ignorance).

So make Hanlan's razor a mantra, and then apply a little empathy.

Some examples:

You are stopped by a policeman, you follow all the rules: hands on the steering wheel, fingers extended, driver's license on the dash in front of you. You smile and address him politely. And he responds curtly, unkindly he is rude.

Invoke Hanlan and your inner empath. What might be going on? Maybe he has had a bad day. Maybe he just learned this morning that his wife has cancer, and it is stressing him out. right now. Maybe he just heard about an officer who got shot during a routine stop, and he's having a hard time remembering the most people are good. You might be thinking "or maybe he is a pompous jerk." What makes our fantasy any more valid than mine? You already know (part 2) how this is going to go down if you assume the latter and react. What if you assume the former, and the latter is in fact true? It may not get better, but it is incredibly unlikely to get worse. And when the encounter is over, you can contact the police station, and (politely) provide feedback to his commanding officer

If you find that the officer is particularly polite, I would also recommend calling and giving feedback. I did this once. I was in an accident. It was my fault. The officer was very polite. He took all the information, and almost apologetically informed me that he would have to write me a citation. I called a few days and let his superior know how impressed and appreciative I was. His commanding officer in turn expressed appreciation to me for giving him a rare bit of positive feedback. It was great!)

What about something like this "What are your thoughts on intended insults and racism? You may not have the opportunity to take someone aside and say "when you called my son the n-word, that was hurtful and racist" or when someone shouts "go back to China chink!" From a car to someone walking."

Again, Hanlan's Razor and empathy are the mantras. Who made the insult?

Was it a grouchy old man? There are people alive still, who lived during periods of real institutional racism. That term has been misused a bit of late - watered down, but during world war two there was genuine institutional racism. People of Japanese descent and German descent were interred in camps (POW camps, for all practical purposes) throughout America. They were "the enemy." (Refer back to my comments in the second post about our natural tendency to categorize and gather the herd). And as the enemy, who we were at war with, we also applied a... let's call it a coping mechanism. In order to suppress that little voice (conscience, holy ghost, the light of Christ, the spirit...) that whispers that killing other people is wrong, we do things to dehumanize them. Terms like "jap", "nip", "jerry", "kraut" came into fashion. The media churned out all kinds of programs, including children's cartoons, which present them as dumb, vile, or both. After World war II came the cold war, and we switched to "ruskies", "chinks", "charlie", "commies"...

There are some for whom those habits are deeply ingrained you may not be able to do much other than show them kindness, feel pity for them (They are as addicted to their fear and hate, as an alcoholic is to his whiskey bottle, and they will quite likely die with that burden). Explain this to your children, so they can develop a better understanding of the horrible toll war takes on people. Be kind to them if you can (sometimes it works). That failing (avoid them if practical). Failing that, notify the authorities if absolutely necessary.

What if it is a youth, or a teen? Youth today have not experience real institutional racism. While it is possible the youth has learned and is evoking real racism, it is actually more likely what they are actually exhibiting is plain old-fashioned bullying. Race just happened to be a convenient target, which provided sufficient shock value. How do you deal with it? You treat it as what it is; bullying. Bullying is bad, it doesn't matter if the victim is black, Chinese, handicapped, female... or a white male. It is always wrong. It is always bad. Deal with it accordingly.

If you can have a (polite) conversation with that youth, or that youths parents, perhaps you will find that the behavior came as the result of said youth getting bad information from somewhere, and you may be able to correct that issue peacefully (refer to "My Experience With Religious Persecution" for an example). The key is to let go of your assumptions, your biases, and engage empathy and attempt to understand where the behavior is coming from, then (and only then) you can hope to respond appropriately (Another Mantra which you should commit to memory, which may help with this "People almost never do things TO others, they do thing FOR themselves").

If you run into the "It's just kids being kids" talk, repeat to yourself. "It used to be that way, but we are better than that now." (Another use of positive affirmation). It might be worth saying it out loud too.

What if that fails? Then take it to appropriate authorities. What if said authorities don't take it seriously (for instance if a boy is the victim of racial slurs and death threats, and the school officials decide a couple days suspension is sufficient)? Take it to the next level of authorities (This may be necessary at times, in a case like the a well meaning official who is a friend of the family, may fail to recuse himself, and may feel compelled to let the boy of easy so as not to "ruin his future" Hanlan's Razor is once again at work. Said official fails to understand that he is setting the bully up for future, and more damaging- failure.

It may seem from that last paragraph that we got to the same place with considerably more work on our part. But there is a very significant difference. We gave the offender every chance to make a course correction. We made it easier for them to make that correction by NOT feeding their desire for attention, or their potential misplaced fear, or their potential misconception that the world is out to get them. ( I wish I could find a Garfield comic I remember seeing as a teen to sick here. It shows Garfield standing behind Odie, thinking about all the means things Odie MIGHT do to him. It ends with Garfield clobbering poor, oblivious Odie and then proclaiming "I hit him back first!").

Will this complete fix every person in America? No, people are people (Depeche Mode reference). However, presently, Active, card caring white supremacists make up less than one one-hundredth of one percent of the population. They are irrelevant. One the other hand. Polls indicate that roughly 9% of Americans are... on the fence... (and that number represents a roughly 17% increase from 2014, according to some polls) leaning in favor of white supremacist views. Would you rather continue to have "Hard conversations", continue to berate them over their "privilege", continue to make them feel attacked, continue to drive them to "Circle the wagons", continue to push them form borderline to violent... Or would you rather show them a better way. Invite them to be part of a truly inclusive world? A world were the insignificant majority simply has no voice;  are no more than 'that crazy guy on the corner' that the world pities, but ultimately ignores, until they simply fade into the background.

Don't write this off as psycho-mumbo jumbo, or new-age, crystals and snake oil nonsense. There is a considerable body of psychological, and Neuroscience research to back the efficacy of affirmations (I will list a few below.

And I won't pretend this will be easy, we aren't at the baseline image I offered up in the second post, we have let the Natural man run the show for a while, we have a bit of ground to make up. But it is achievable. But it is your choice. Continue to focus on the future you fear, or begin to focus on the future you desire.

Self-Affirmations Can Boost Performance, Study Shows

Brain Scans Can Help Explain Why Self-Affirmation Works

The Psychology of Change: Self-Affirmation and Social Psychological Intervention

Self-affirmation activates brain systems associated with self-related processing and reward and is reinforced by future orientation

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Moore's Law part 2: Whether You Want it or Not...

In my previous post, I proposed a methodology for solving America's social problems, based on the concept of Moore's Law.

The reality It will happen, whether you choose to actively, consciously try to apply it or not.

But it probably won't go the way you want it to. Let me try to explain with a few, poorly made diagrams (My prose isn't great, my artistry is considerably worse).

Let's use police violence as an example. First a baseline...

[This is really just two bell curves - one rating people, the other rating police - with respect to their relationship to one another. The upper (positive) end of the two has been removed as it is not relevant to the visualization. The people curve has been mirrored, and they have been linked at their intersection ("Basically Good").]

Now, there is an event- a police shooting. For one reason or another, it seems questionable. Maybe it was a sociopath who somehow managed to make it onto the force, maybe it was an officer with insufficient training who made a bad call, maybe it was a person who was committing suicide by cop, maybe it was a punk with an attitude who assaulted the officer.

It is difficult to tell, even by those closest to the event. Friends and family often tend to think the best of the individual question, and assume the other is to blame. Such events often happen so quickly, that everything is reaction, and the brain tries to piece together the "truth" after the fact.

In the absence of intentional control over our response, the natural response tends to go something like the image below. Those who are already predisposed to distrust or dislike the police will "Blow up the internet" with op-ed's, memes, angry rhetoric about those "jack-booted thugs". There may even be intimations of violence ("Pigs in a blanket! Fry 'em like bacon!"). The message will be generalized. In return, the police will respond naturally by "Circling the wagons". They will band together to protect each other. They will be wary, more distrusting.

There will be a migration, due to the divisive rhetoric.

There will be more events, more anger, more violence - both by, and against police.

And the cycle will continue, hollowing out the "basically good". This is the natural progression - the default behavior of "the natural man". It is the survival mechanism of the brain. We sense danger, we categorize (skin, color, religion, uniform, political party), we gather the herd...

But we humans are gifted with a greater capacity for reason. We have the capacity to ascend beyond basic instinctual thought. We can choose instead to say "This was a bad thing that happened. Let's work together to understand the truth of the events, and then respond appropriately". We have the ability to distinguish the individual from the race/religion. We have the ability to CHOOSE to apply a laser focus to an instance of bad behavior, and still respect, even embrace the "others".

We have to choose.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Moore's Law as a Model for Solving America's Social Problems

In 1965 Gordon Moore,, the co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel made a prediction regarding the exponential improvement of the microprocessor. He stated the number of transistors in an integrated circuit would double approximately every two years.

What was particularly interesting was that Moore had virtually no data from which to extrapolate this prediction. That law has held true for 50 years. But it wasn't because of some natural order on the universe. It wasn't some mere chance that Moore's prediction has held true.

Moore's law become a target which the industry strove to achieve. Brilliant minds worked at a feverish pace, constantly searching for new innovations which would allow them to MAKE Moore's law hold true. It was a sort of manifest destiny for the semiconductor industry.

And oh how we have benefited from that drive to fulfill Moore's prophecy! The amazing gadgetry, the advances in healthcare, travel, communication.... nearly every facet of our lives has been improved because the of ever more capable processors which were innovated to meet the demands of Moore's law.

This idea, this methodology is not unique to this one use case. The concept is known by many other names: Positive affirmations, The law of attraction, "Fake it 'till you make it"... self-fulfilling prophecy...

It works. It is one of the first concepts I wrote about when I started this blog (String Button Mind Magic).

So why don't we use it more often? Why don't we use the methodology to fix some of America's social challenges? Instead of constantly going on about "White Privilege", "Institutional racism", "Police brutality", "Illegal Immigrants".... (Which doing so, according the the above mentioned methodology, will tend to lead to increased racism, increased brutality...), focus instead on the goal?

"America is unified", "Police are generally excellent!", "People of religion x are good people!"

Say it. Believe it. Act it. Say "high" to a police officer every chance you get. Introduce yourself. Get to know them by name, and address them by name. Invite them to your neighborhoods. Invite them to neighborhood events. Talk with them about what you can do to help them do their job more safely and effectively.

When someone says something that could potentially be misconstrued as racial (remember the lawyer who said the California DMV was a black hole, and the black judge got offended because he thought the lawyer was making a racial slur?)., assume they did so innocently, ignorantly. Unless it absolutely needs to be corrected, let it go. If it simply must be corrected, do so privately, kindly.

Assume that most people are good at heart. frazzled perhaps, overwhelmed perhaps, afraid of change, and the unknown... But good at heart. Assume that you can talk rationally, keep your cool, listen to each other, understand one another's perspective, and then work to find an out of the box solution that works for both sides.Assume that you can find a way to co-exist. More than co-exist. Cooperate.

Sure, it will be hard at first. We have spent years practicing at hateful, unyielding, standing our ground, holding firm in our "righteous cause". Stick with it. It will get easier, we will get better at it, and given time, miracles will occur.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Mormon Misconceptions: Heaven

One day 3 dear friends passed peacefully from this life to the next., and found themselves standing before St. Peter at the pearly gates.

"Welcome to heaven! Are you ready for the grand tour?" he greeted them warmly. Then he directed them to a golf cart waiting nearby.

Once all were seated, St. Pete summoned an angel who took the driver's seat and off they went.

Up a beautiful, gold brick street they drove, winding their way among gentle hills covered with the greenest grass, the most beautiful flowers the friends had ever seen!

Around the next bend, they came to a large open field covered with picnic blankets and filled with happy people who were chatting, and children who were playing and laughing... They waved to the passengers of the golf cart and the passengers waved back.

"Those are the Baptists" the tour guide remarked.

Further down the road they came across another group, happily singing and dancing.

"The Pentecostals." The angel reported. Another exchange of greetings occurred.

Further still they found a large pavilion filled with people enjoying an afternoon meal together. They paused briefly from their pleasantries to greet the newcomers.

"That would be the Lutherans."

On they went, passing and exchanging greetings with the Methodists, the Catholics, The Seventh day Adventists.

Then quite suddenly the cart slowed to a crawl, and the guide motioned for silence. Ever so quietly, the group passed a large, well lit house from which emanated singing, talking and laughter, while the occupants of the cart hardly dared breath.

Finally, they passed the house and the cart zoomed ahead again. One of the passenger queried "What was that about?"

The angel replied, "Those are the Mormons. They think they are the only ones here."

I heard that joke while on my mission. From a Minister of a nondenominational Christian church. I didn't find it particularly humorous then. Sadly. It was not an entirely inaccurate description of my perception at the time.

I think Mormons often forget something rather crucial. Probably has something to do with all that talk about perfection, and then somehow, we merge that thought with secular schools and grading.

We start out on the right path - John 14:2, "In my Father's house are many mansions". But then we start thinking about school grades, and conclude that any grade lower than A+ is a failing grade.

I remember a good analogy I heard, and repeated, but somehow missed the point. Say you are a biker, you have an awesome Harley, you love to ride that bike. You love to work on that bike. Now, say you show up at a big shiny mansion, all gold and silver and glass. Everyone is dressed up in Tuxedos and ball gowns, eating little finger sandwiches and drinking from crystal goblets. And here you are in your Leathers, grease on your hands, maybe a spot or two of dirt and grease on your face... Would you feel comfortable? Probably not, you'd probably prefer to hop back on your bike, drive down the street to the local greasy spoon diner, and talk shop with the other bikers.

The analogy is actually excellent, you go where you are comfortable, where you are happy, but somehow, in our narrow, Darwinian model minds, we conclude that everyone wants to be at the palace, and the only reason you are going to the diner is you didn't qualify for the palace. Only A+ is a passing grade...

But, Doctrine and Covenants Section 76 tells us about those "many mansions", and in verse 89 it notes that even the lowest of those mansions, referred to as the telestial - final destination for liars, adulterers, murderers, who choose not to accept gospel of Jesus Christ (verse 82) - the glory of it "surpasses all understanding." It is still glorious! It is glorious beyond human comprehension!

So, in reality, the Mormon perspective on heaven is actually one of the most inclusive. You don't even have to accept Jesus Christ, you just have to not knowingly, willfully reject him.

So, just like in school B, C and D are also passing grades. Now, that doesn't mean you shouldn't give your best effort. It does however suggest you might want to make an effort to be kind to those people you are so smugly certain have a seat in the proverbial hand-basket. They just might be your neighbor... for... a very... very... long time...

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Greatest Threat to Mormonism

In February a visiting speaker to our Sacrament meeting told us of a tradition he has of reading the entire Book of Mormon in the month of March (He calls it 'March Madness', my wife renamed it March Holiness, because somehow Madness and the word of God just didn't seem sensible together.)

I typically read the Book of Mormon cover to cover every one to two years, I try to take my time and digest little bits. I was intrigued by his challenge, and decided to give it a go. There really is something about compressing the timeline - you see things differently. I guess it is sort of like the difference between walking through the trees and flying over the forest. A very different perspective allows you to see things in an entirely different light.

For me, the rapid read called greater attention to the infamous 'pride cycle'. I noticed several details I had not really caught before.

For those not familiar the pride cycle is a repeating pattern of behavior documented in the Book of Mormon. The people would be righteous for a time. God would bless them and they would become very prosperous. Then the people would become prideful, and would turn to sin, and Then there were wars, famines, pestilence, etc... This would cause the people to become humble, they would turn to God again, and would become righteous again, And then the cycle would repeat. righteous -> prosperous -> prideful -> wicked -> "cursed" -> repeat.

People tend to treat this as a purely religious thing, that God directly, actively blessed the people when they were attentive to God, and then he directly, actively cursed the people when they weren't attentive. This cycle does't really require a deity in order for it to hold. In Christianity we call it the "Law of the Harvest", or "you reap what you sow", Ironically, the secular world tends to favor the less pragmatic, more spiritually rooted term "Karma".  But the fact is, this cycle is quite natural. Plant corn seed and  you will get corn. Not apples, not peas, not oats... corn. It is so common sense. It works that way in human endeavor as well, though not quite so quickly, nor always so easily observed. But those who pay attention can see it.

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
    - Martin Luther King Jr.

In other words, God doesn't have to be nearly as directly involved in the process as some suggest. It is simply the nature of the world. Why does this matter? It changes how we perceive God. He is not a meddler, he is not arbitrarily doling out blessings and punishments for our every act, like an overly diligent dog trainer. God is our Father. Our Father who loves us unconditionally, who wants us to be happy, who wants us to have blessings, who is eager to bless us, who has given us direction how to live "after the manner of happiness" (2 Nephi 5:27). And who then lets us live as we choose.

Okay hang onto those two framework ideas (pride cycle, nature of God's relation to people,). And pressing forward...

What really stood out to me with the rapid reading was the consistent thread which represented the starting point of the downfall of the Church.

The key elements which repeated every time were:
Focusing on the "fine things of the world"
Abandoning/neglecting the poor

Here are a few verses for reference...


2 Nephi 28

13 They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob the poor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up.

Jacob 2

13 And the hand of providence hath smiled upon you most pleasingly, that you have obtained many riches; and because some of you have obtained more abundantly than that of your brethren ye are lifted up in the pride of your hearts, and wear stiff necks and high heads because of the costliness of your apparel, and persecute your brethren because ye suppose that ye are better than they.

20 And now, my brethren, I have spoken unto you concerning pride; and those of you which have afflicted your neighbor, and persecuted him because ye were proud in your hearts, of the things which God hath given you, what say ye of it?

Alma 1

22 Nevertheless, there were many among them who began to be proud, and began to contend warmly with their adversaries, even unto blows; yea, they would smite one another with their fists.

Alma 5

55 Yea, and will you persist in turning your backs upon the poor, and the needy, and in withholding your substance from them?

Alma 60

16 Yea, had it not been for the war which broke out among ourselves; yea, were it not for these king-men, who caused so much bloodshed among ourselves; yea, at the time we were contending among ourselves, if we had united our strength as we hitherto have done; yea, had it not been for the desire of power and authority which those king-men had over us; had they been true to the cause of our freedom, and united with us, and gone forth against our enemies, instead of taking up their swords against us, which was the cause of so much bloodshed among ourselves; yea, if we had gone forth against them in the strength of the Lord, we should have dispersed our enemies, for it would have been done, according to the fulfilling of his word.

Helaman 4

12 And it was because of the pride of their hearts, because of their exceeding riches, yea, it was because of their oppression to the poor, withholding their food from the hungry, withholding their clothing from the naked, and smiting their humble brethren upon the cheek, making a mock of that which was sacred, denying the spirit of prophecy and of revelation, murdering, plundering, lying, stealing, committing adultery, rising up in great contentions, and deserting away into the land of Nephi, among the Lamanites—

Helaman 6

39 And thus they did obtain the sole management of the government, insomuch that they did trample under their feet and smite and rend and turn their backs upon the poor and the meek, and the humble followers of God.

40 And thus we see that they were in an awful state, and ripening for an everlasting destruction.

3 Nephi 6
10 But it came to pass in the twenty and ninth year there began to be some disputings among the people; and some were lifted up unto pride and boastings because of their exceedingly great riches, yea, even unto great persecutions;

11 For there were many merchants in the land, and also many lawyers, and many officers.

12 And the people began to be distinguished by ranks, according to their riches and their chances for learning; yea, some were ignorant because of their poverty, and others did receive great learning because of their riches.

13 Some were lifted up in pride, and others were exceedingly humble; some did return railing for railing, while others would receive railing and persecution and all manner of afflictions, and would not turn and revile again, but were humble and penitent before God.

14 And thus there became a great inequality in all the land, insomuch that the church began to be broken up...

4 Nephi 1

24 And now, in this two hundred and first year there began to be among them those who were lifted up in pride, such as the wearing of costly apparel, and all manner of fine pearls, and of the fine things of the world.

25 And from that time forth they did have their goods and their substance no more common among them.

26 And they began to be divided into classes; and they began to build up churches unto themselves to get gain, and began to deny the true church of Christ.


Nonmembers weren't a significant threat to the periods of prosperity. 3 Nephi 28 speaks of the disciples - after Christ's visit to the Americas - baptizing people (clearly there were nonmembers to be baptized), and being thrown into pits and furnaces, clearly there were nonmembers who didn't like the church. Earlier there were cases where the wicked kingdoms attacked, were soundly defeated and then the people enjoyed years of peace.

The Gadianton robbers weren't a significant threat. For those who aren't Mormons this referred to criminal groups comparable to everything today from Drug cartels to Mafia to Illuminatii-esque groups who manipulated governments, assassinated political leaders, etc... The Gadianton robbers were only able to gain power when the people were prideful and contentious.

The times when the church was at risk, when prosperity was lost, always started with the members withholding help from the poor. Turing their back on those who needed help. Getting in verbally abusive arguments or physical fights with those who held different views. Excluding those who look different, dress different...

I direct this toward Mormonism because, well... I am drawing form the book of Mormon, but in reality this applies to any belief, any society actually (refer back to my framework comments).

The problem with pride.. it is so easy to miss it in ourselves. I find I can slip from self-reliant to selfish in the mere blink of an eye.

And it is so easy to look to Book of Mormon heroes like Captain Moroni, want  to emulate their stalwart, direct action against evil... And it is easy to forget Captain Moroni fought Invaders, not immigrants. He fought against usurpers who overthrew the government, not the government (and at a time when they were already fighting a war against an attacking force. It is also easy to forget hw never fought for longer or took more lives than was necessary, and was always ready to let go any who would throw down their weapons and promise never to attack again).  It is easy to get "caught up in the moment", not even realize you've taken a step sideways...

“Most of the bad guys in the real world don't know that they are bad guys. You don't get a flashing warning sign that you're about to damn yourself. It sneaks up on you when you aren't looking.” 
― Jim Butcher 

It is hard to consistently remember to look inward and ask "is it I?" (Matthew 26:22)

And yet, that is always where it starts...

Thursday, March 30, 2017

American Healthcare Reform?

The recent republican healthcare debacle has had me thinking about my views on healthcare - what it should look like, and how it should work.

As always. I think I am somewhere in the middle.

No child should have to go without basic healthcare.

That just seems basic, common sense to me. How could semi-civilized human being refuse basic care for a child, just because his parents decided to spend their money foolishly? Or abandoned said child altogether?

From an economic perspective, a few dollars of prevention now could save thousands of dollars later. So at least for children, universal healthcare seems like a no-brainer.

But what about  the rest of healthcare? Certainly it would seem there are some places for cost savings. imagine if victims of automobile accidents were covered by a universal plan. Considerable savings could be found in avoiding all the legal back and forth that goes on in our current system. We would pay for the cost of recovery from the accident, instead of that AND the salaries of the several lawyers involved AND the bevy of insurance claim handlers AND the extra "pain and suffering" damages that are frequently awarded AND...

What about terminal diseases? Or Chronic illness? Those are just plain expensive. Those are what insurance was really about, back on the 'good old days'. Everyone paid into a community chest, just in case. The money was then available for the poor unlucky soul (That is a lottery you really don't want to win). In theory one much larger pot would be more efficient and effective than lots of little ones, right?

But... What if someone gets emphysema as a result of chain-smoking in spite of all the health warnings? What if someone gets diabetes and a flood of related illness because he just flat-out refused to stop drinking 64 oz. of mountain dew and inhaling a box of Twinkies every day? Is it really fair to those who try to take care of themselves, that they have to pay in more than is actually necessary because of members of the population who don't take precautions?

I suppose you could try going all New York and ban every potentially harmful substance ($114 Billion annually for alcohol related accidents based on numbers from 2000. You ready to try prohibition again?)

What about coverage for abortion? Birth control? No matter where you draw that line you are going to make some group very unhappy, and infringe on someone's religious/civil rights.

What about cosmetic surgery? Breast implants, or I understand calf implants are the rage among men. No? What about in the case of breast cancer? What about those born with disfigurements? How "disfigured"?

What about ageing?

The problem with paying for healthcare, it can consume essentially as much money as you are willing to give it. It has an infinitely large appetite. And we are getting better and better and keeping a corpse mostly alive. Sooner or later, you have to start drawing lines - some of those lines people will draw for themselves, based on quality of life, some don't want to be a financial burden to their kids. Others, well.... Who do you want making that decision for you? Obama? Trump? Whoever the next guy happens to be?

I'm inclined to think there are some aspects of healthcare which are a easy yes for a universal system. Preventative care, Child healthcare. Emergency care (Though perhaps in the case of self inflicted due to crime or blatant stupidity, they would be required to reimburse).

Others are less clear, and perhaps would be better served by old fashioned insurance, or voluntary, charitable contributions.

But, even though I am inclined toward socialized care for some things, I still have one concern which gives me considerable hesitation.

That concern is the money. Specifically, who manages it? Consider for a moment our Social Security system.  It is meant to be a safety net for retirement. It is in trouble, in part because the old are living longer and the supply of young is slowing. It is also in trouble because the government keeps raiding those funds to use for... other projects.

Healthcare is a REALLY big number. A number from which literally millions of dollars a year could get lost as rounding errors (I have enough experience with large corporations to know that this is not an exaggeration). In 2011 I wrote a post titled "A Case For a King". I think it applies.  When I consider the kinds of things well meaning people have demonstrated they are willing to do for the sake of "The greater good"... (let me refer you to "The Lucifer Effect", "Edward Snowden", "MKUltra" as a bit of reading material.)

The problem with things like money and power, the more you give up, the harder it is to reclaim them. And sooner or later someone will end up in charge, that you don't want there....

That said. I am still on board with the idea of socializing certain aspects of healthcare. So long as it is a separate accounting book, fully exposed to the public, with crowdsourced/consensus management.

Then insurance can go back to covering the outlier issues, with different rates and solutions based on individual risk and  personal preferences and needs. With government regulation of this insurance limited to basic fair business practices and anti-monopolistic behaviors (possibly some reigning in of excessive litigiousness?). It seems to me that would help considerably with cost of basic care, while maintaining a relatively high degree of choice, flexibility, and freedom.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Liberals Elected Trump?

I was listening to an interview the other day, with a Utah polling organization, discussing Trump's first weeks in Office.

At least in Utah, it seems the majority of people don't really approve of many of the actions Trump is taking. particularly the immigration blocking and wall building bits.

The interviewer pointed out that Trump is only doing what he promised to do, so why such a negative reaction, even from those who voted for him?

The interviewer noted that this wasn't really such a surprise, given the exit polls. (Again, at least in Utah) The exit polls indicated that most people who voted for Trump were "Holding their nose" as they did so.

So, they didn't vote for Trump, they voted against Clinton. That is only marginally surprising, considering Utah has been strongly Republican for decades. But what was interesting from the polls was that the decision this last election seems to have hinged largely on one point.

The Supreme Court appointment.

This one point may very well have decided the outcome of the election.

Why was this one thing so important that it mobilized so many to take a position they didn't really want to take?

January 2010 - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on health care: “We’ll go through the gate. If the gate’s closed, we’ll go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we’ll pole vault in. If that doesn’t work, we’ll parachute in but we're going to get health care reform passed for the America people."

(a healthcare reform they excluded themselves from...)

2008 Prop 8  (Bill to establish marriage as valid only if between a man and a woman) passed in California by a 52% Majority. Ignore for a moment any personal feelings you may have regarding this, just consider this. It had a majority. It was overturned by one (1) judge who was in a same-sex relationship. (To take emotion out of this, try to imagine you passed a law making burglary illegal, and it was overturned by a Judge who happened to be a burglar).

Following that, there were several lawsuits against various Photographers, Bakers, etc... who refused to provide their services to same-sex marriages, where the legal system ordered that said businesses would render their services, or would lose their livelihood. Place these cases in context. First, they are not required or life-sustaining services (this is less important to the point of being nearly irrelevant but I mention it anyway). Second, these were all forms of artistic expression, which usually is recognized as free speech (Hustler Magazine won multiple legal battles against censorship on this ground, Political cartoonists and other satirists have wielded the free speech banner to defend their right to draw Mohammed and other religious figures...). So in effect, one judge was violating an individual's right to free speech, by ordering them to celebrate in art something which they felt was morally wrong. (again, you are welcome to disagree with their moral views, refuse to do business with them, encourage your friends to refuse to do business with them. By all means do, and good on you for sticking by your personal mores).

Also in 2008, President Obama made the following statement:
"You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

What stuck in people's minds?

"Small towns"
"Cling to guns or religion"

and then there were headlines like this from 2015: "Four years after agreeing to “sequestration” budget cuts, the White House has emphatically told Congress that President Obama will no longer abide by them and will use his veto to insist that lawmakers boost spending on defense and domestic programs alike."

Suddenly Pelosi's speech sounds like it is about more than healthcare. Suddenly it sounds like a call to war... against...?

So, roughly half of America wasn't just not getting things the way they wanted, they were actively being marginalized, bullied, backstabbed, forced to abandon their opinions, mores, ways of life... Treated as worthless, dumb, sub-humans.

If a black bear is in your garden, you generally can make a ruckus, chase it off, and that is that. If you keep chasing it, corner it, give it no place to go... well... then it may get desperate. This is true of most any animal. It is part of evolution, fight or flight... When flight is no longer on the table...

So... it seems to me, when I look at all the bits and pieces, that perhaps the liberals created  - and elected - Trump.

(P.S. perhaps we shouldn't have let the extreme left and right take over.)