Posts in the Politics category

Cake and Healthcare - When Analogies Attack...

A lot of Americans appear to not quite understand how this whole Universal Healthcare thing might work, and don't understand why (a) they should pay for someone else's healthcare (answer below), or (b) how the system could possibly work and be more efficient than, say, paying some kind of company that tries to make a profit (even 501(c) companies in the US are allowed to make a profit; they're just not allowed to keep it and carry the cash forward to the next year).

Allow me to help.

Let's say you go to a really flashy restaurant. That restaurant feeds you exceptionally well, and you can see hundreds of people coming in and out of the door.

You finish your meal, and you're feeling completely stuffed. The waiter comes by with your bill. You look down at it, and there's a line item for a dime - with just one item listed. "Cake", it says.
You, flustered, wave the waiter back over. "Excuse me, but I didn't order cake, and I don't need cake."

"But it's only a dime, sir," the waiter says. "As you leave the restaurant, if you are still hungry, there is a large cake at the coat check. If you don't believe me, you can come back."
So you get up, and you sign the bill (tipping the waiter less 'cos you don't believe his story), and when you get to the coatcheck they say "So, sir, how was your meal? Can I have your ticket, and may I ask if you're still hungry?"

"Actually, yes, I am hungry," you gruffly state, while handing over the ticket.

The coat-check attendant walks into the other room, and comes back with your coat, and a trolley on which lies an immense 4-storey tier cake, covered in sparklers, with ganache all over it, fresh strawberries and a chocolate fountain bubbling up from the top.

"But... but..." you stammer. "How can you afford to do this?"

It's quite simple: The restaurant feeds all of their customers well ahead of time, making sure that most people never leave hungry, and don't get to the point of needing the cake in the first place.

The dime on every bill adds up for all of the people who come into the restaurant, until eventually, 3000 happy customers have gone by with one 1 of them needing the actual cake itself. And they don't try to make a profit on the cake; they charge a dime, because statistically, that's what the cake costs.

The restaurant is a co-op, which each of the diners buy into. Rather than making a profit for the owner, the membership fee allows the diners to lower their rate. Kind of like CostCo. There's still profits to be made, but it's much cheaper for everyone because the shareholders are taking the profits as direct benefits, not as dividends.

So ultimately, I ask you: Why don't you like cake? Sure, you could go buy that cake yourself for $300... but that's a lot to pay for cake. I'd rather pay 10c every time I went to that restaurant. Sure, occasionally other people might get the benefit of the cake I paid for, but when I want it, it'll be there for me.

(Some people point out that Medicaid/Medicare doesn't work... and that's because Old People and Kids PREFER Cake, which is a concept I'll tackle in my next post).


How to fix the US News Media Circus

I'm sick of the media - such as Rush Limbaugh - hiding under 1st Amendment protections by claiming that their political punditry is "for entertainment only".

The news media is not an entertainment force. That is not the "press". While parody and satire serve an essential function (the Court Jester principle), and could be considered entertainment, it's only a side-function. The purpose of it is to skewer the government, and keep it on track. To provide accurate information that the populace might not otherwise get.

Today's media has completely stepped outside the bounds of its role. Part of the social contract here is that the media MUST be truthful. It cannot dance across the line of fact vs. fiction.

Why is this distinction important?

Because when people such as Hannity, or Rush Limbaugh side-step slander & libel laws by claiming that their shows are for entertainment purposes only (which I've never actually heard them say on their shows), they are deliberately playing with a loophole we set up via the constitutional right to freedom of speech. Because these people are NOT citizens as far as the constitution is concerned - they are the PRESS. They have more power than individuals, and as such, as in a separate category - even in that original document.

With today's media reaching millions of people instantaneously, they have more power than ever.

I say we should stop this. And we can do it without risking affecting the 1st amendment.

The FCC already mandates that stations report their ident several times an hour, on both television and radio. The FCC should also mandate, that to receive protection from libel & slander lawsuits, media should CLEARLY label whether their shows are true News, or are using the loophole and running under the auspices of Entertainment.

How this should work is simple:
At the start of the show, the host must clearly state that this is for entertainment purposes only, and is not intended to be news or provide any factual content. (We can shorten this over time, once people get the idea - but at some point during the show, we should get a full statement of intent if the content is not intended to be factual. If it's intended to be factual, no warning is necessary).

Throughout the show, along with the station ident, a brief disclaimer should be played. We can do this every advert break.

Pretty quickly, people would get the point. No need to strengthen our libel & slander laws and go down that slippery slope - and it entirely gets around the fairness doctrine argument.

If they want to lie to us over the public airwaves, they need to play by OUR rules. So let's change the rules.


Insert Deliberately Out-Of-Context, Badly Edited Anti-Obama Spin Tape Here...

A lot of right-wing neo-nazis (and the more gullible Republicans) are getting very excited about this piece of YouTube footage, which purports to be from a 2001 Obama Chicago Public Radio Interview on WBEZ.FM. Which it is.


Unfortunately, it's a deliberate hatchet job which takes a lot of quotes out of context. (You can tell where it happens; the clips are bookended by music to try to hide the gap, in much the same way that you can get away with murder on film if you cut from one scene to another and back).

Here's Chicago Public Radio's (the people who interviewed Obama back in 2001) response:

In 2001, Chicago Public Radio interviewed then Illinois State Senator Barack Obama about civil rights.  Over the weekend, someone posted excerpts of the interview, edited to misrepresent Obama's statements.  The item is now catching national attention.
Click here for Obama's full interviews.

The clips are taken from an interview that aired in January of 2001. Then State Senator Obama is one of three legal scholars interviewed for a show about civil rights. Over the weekend, someone pulled excerpts of the show and posted them to You Tube—and today, the posting caught fire on political blogs, the Drudge Report, and Fox News.
The 4 minute spliced collection of clips portrays Obama as advocate a redistribution of wealth through the power of the Supreme Court. That folds in with some allegations by the McCain Palin campaign.
The twist here is that, when heard in the context of the whole show, Obama’s position is distinctly misrepresented by the You Tube posting. Taken in context, Obama is evaluating the historical successes and failures of the Civil Rights movement—and, ironically, he says the Supreme Court was a failure in cases that it took on a role of redistributing resources.
The McCain campaign told ABC News it plans to use the material to bolster its criticism of Obama.
I’m Ben Calhoun, Chicago Public Radio.

Go here for the full, in-context audio. (in MP3 and RealAudio formats). And stop believing everything that random asshats on the internet tell you.

Update: DailyKos also has an analysis of what's going on here... including info on exactly what lawyers mean when talking about rights issues when they use the word "redistributive".


Douches for Sean Hannity - The Campaign Starts Here

With the election winding up, and Fox News Radio starting to spin faster than a turbine in a jet engine, it's time to let Sean Hannity know how you feel.

He's still saying a whole bunch of slanderous things about Obama, and still cutting off people who disagree with him on the radio. Now he has shifted to telling people how to vote in the upcoming election to ensure that there is a Republican Congress.

Sean Hannity : Major Douche

To be honest, I don't think that Sean could possibly believe half of the bile and tripe he spews. I honestly think that he's following the usual Shock Jock mantra of trying to get the most listeners by saying the most outrageous things he can.

Unfortunately, a lot of his audience buys his propoganda. And enough is enough.

Here's what you can do to Help

Go to Amazon.Com and buy one of these. And send it to this address:

The Sean Hannity Show
2 Penn Plaza
New York, NY 10121

Then post a comment here to let others know you've done it. And you'll be doing the world a great service.