Tom Pittman's WebLog

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2009 December 28 -- "I'm Responsible"

Paul T is a retired hospital administrator. I was shocked to hear him admit responsibility for the current spiralling health care costs. On further investigation his claim turned out to be misleading. "It's Medicare," he explained.

Paul told me that before there was such a thing as Medicare, the government went to the providers to determine actual costs for the kinds of health care procedures that Medicare would be paying for. The goal was to pay the actual costs. Paul was on that committee, and they did their homework. Nobody took into account the free-lunch syndrome (see my essay "Health Insurance Is the Problem, Not the Solution" which I posted before Paul's conversation to me). As Paul explained it, the costs took off -- his hand angled up at some 45 degrees -- and the government couldn't pay for it. So they put a cap on what they would pay for.

Here's where Paul and his fellow administrators came in. The fact that the government wasn't paying did not prevent the costs from continuing to go up. So the providers -- specifically the hospitals, including Paul's -- transferred the costs to other customers, mostly the insurance companies. Guess what happened? Insurance rates went up to cover the increased expenses. I heard the back end of this same story from the physician I'm doing some work for.

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Other links:

Essay "Health Insurance Is the Problem, Not the Solution"
My letter to President Obama
A Physician's perspective
A better solution, without raising taxes

2009 December 22 -- Moral Equivalence

The longest night of the year: a good time to watch a long movie, in this case the last disc of 24 Season 6. When you take out the commercials and skip over the credits, each "one-hour" episode is only 45 minutes, four to a disc, 3 hours in a sitting. If I'd had more control over it, I would have skipped over the reviews at the front of each episode too, but it was not to be.

Besides the usual anti-Christian revenge theme (not as prominant as in previous seasons), the outstanding themes in this series were moral equivalence and control. Control comes through even in the DVD production. Unlike VHS, where the users have total control over their viewing pleasure, DVDs take much of that control away, and 24 more than most. If you lost your remote, there's no way to watch the whole thing. Most DVDs, when you hit "Play" it plays the whole thing; 24 only plays the first episode on the disc. Nyah.

Moral equivalence came through again and again, as the Presidency jostled back and forth between the elected President and his politically hostile Veep. Whoever sat in the chair made the rules, countermanding the other. It was laughable, if not scary. There was no moral supremacy between the Good Guys and the Bad Guys, they both operated the same. All that mattered was who is in control. Not only Jack Bauer's trademark violence, but the head of CTU, everybody, including Jack's own family members. Maybe I'm naive -- I lack the access to know -- but I would like to believe that the Good Guys are good guys. At least in this story they acknowledged that the Bad Guys are bad guys, that you cannot trust them to keep their end of the bargain if you negotiate a deal. They made that point several times. But the guys on the side of the government were just as amoral. That's disappointing and sort of spoils it for me.


2009 December 15 -- Socialist Greed

Over the course of years I have posted a variety of essays originally written to refute the goofy ideas my friend "Ed" sometimes posts uncritically in his own blog. Occasionally somebody else finds one or another of these essays and emails me a comment, usually negative. Which is OK if they put some thought into it, because truth is more important to me than affirmation. "Andy" was one of those commentors, and we went back and forth several times before the truth got too painful and he stopped responding.

I wrote "The 9/11 Conspiracy Hoax" after Ed failed my BS detector with his accusations. The first thing I noticed in my research was that every one of the 9/11 conspiracy advocates had a blatant political agenda: they did not like then-President Bush. By his own admission, Andy is not an American, and Bush is gone now anyway. But although he did not explain his political motivation clearly and up-front, Andy also had a political agenda that overcame any facts he may have brought to the discussion. At first it was subtle: The 9/11 catastrophe was caused (so he claimed) by corporate greed, and "greed [is] a sin". That should have alerted me to his hidden agenda, because he had already distanced himself from Christianity; sin is not a primary concern of unbelievers.

It was his final message, several days later, which openly exposed his agenda: he wanted nothing less than wealth distribution by taxation. He was indeed offended by corporate greed, because it made money for them rather than for Andy. If I'd been a little quicker on the draw I would have pointed out that he was no less greedy than the corporate managers; the difference (I did say this) is that the capitalistic system rewards greed in socially beneficial ways by encouraging people to work hard and serve the interests of other members of society, for which they are paid in proportion to the value they contribute. The market enforces that proportionality. Socialism (Andy's preferred economic system) equalizes the wealth by forcing everybody into poverty (see diagram here), which it does by penalizing hard work and encouraging sloth. I neglected to remind him that sloth is also one of the so-called 7 deadly sins, but I did call wealth distribution by taxation "EVIL". I'm not surprised that he chose not to reply.

What I told him is nevertheless true. Wealth redistribution by government taxation is EVIL. It is just as evil when the USA government attempts to do it by socialized medicine, as when the USSR did it by equalizing the economic reward for work. The capitalistic economic system is (like Winston Churchill once said of democracy) the worst of all possible systems, except for everything else that has been tried. We know what socialist wealth redistribution did in the former Soviet Union; that's why it is "former". The same system is doing the same thing today in Zimbabwe, which used to be the richest country in Africa (but is now one of the poorest in the world). Socialism would be (and for a long time was) doing the same in China too, except that they are now vigorously trying to move to a capitalist economy -- and almost succeeding.

I do not advise people to be greedy. I advise them to serve their fellow citizens in the spirit of the Golden Rule (which is also God's Second Great Commandment). When they do so, a just capitalistic society incidentally rewards their efforts with wealth. It is a wealth fairly earned, and beneficial to society. Andy is just plain wrong.

2009 December 12 -- Party Time

Several of the movies in the last few weeks have had party scenes, but tonight "She's All That" suddenly connected.

The movie was about a high school prom, and the story -- nothing new here, it was the second movie in as many months where somebody puts the make on one of the main characters for a bet, and then later decides they like each other -- focussed on the shallow values of high school students. Maybe that's why it connected.

I didn't go to my high school prom, nor any of the other senior activities. Last I heard, the alumni had me listed as "whereabouts unknown". The public reason back then for not going was we couldn't afford it. Maybe that was true, but watching this movie tonight reminded me that the real reason is because that kind of stuff is boring. Obviously somebody thinks it's fun (or they wouldn't hold these parties), but I'm not in the set.

The blurb on the video cover announced that "Everyone will love this movie!" I guess I'm not everyone.

The story line was one of those "My Fair Lady" bets that the hero could turn a social outcast into prom queen. It's all about affirmation, which is interesting in its own right, because so many movies focus on Feeler values like this. The hero nearly won because he was affirming the girl. Then the bet was disclosed. Unlike Job, the other protagonist sought to spoil the bet (so the hero would lose). It was very disaffirming to the girl. Eventually the truth came out and everybody lived happily ever after, as is only possible in Feeler stories. Fiction, of course. But it was the insipid goal they set for themselves that spoiled it for me from start to finish. Prom queen is a popularity contest. I never won those. I didn't even bother to stand on the sidelines and watch, like many of the extras in the movie. I went home and did other things.

Maybe I still do.

2009 December 11 -- Worthless Content

Everybody knows that half of their Google searches turn up utter failures. WIRED magazine now tells us why. That was not the intent of author Daniel Roth, but it's there in his article, clear as day. His intended focus is the way Demand Media does business, buying up search engine queries and fabricating cheap junk videos and articles for those searches to find. They have a computer carefully pick out the search terms that advertizers will pay to place ads against, and they get their revenue from those ad click-throughs. There's nothing of value here. They don't pay their content creators enough to produce anything of value, and there aren't enough smart humans in the loop to weed out the culls. It's all garbage-in-garbage-out. Worthless junk, 4000 new videos a day, $20 each to the producer. The opening paragraph reports on one cinematographer trying to film ten of them in two hours, every five minutes a new topic.

The last page of the article features the life story of Demand Media's head honcho, Richard Rosenblatt. It's a string of one internet startup failure after another. Some of them he managed to sell out before it went bust, so he had the money to start the next -- plus a huge amount of venture capital. Why did they fail? There was no value in the product. That's still true of his current venture. Nobody can remain in business for the long haul unless they produce something of value that people want. Cheap schlock videos may turn up on their Google hits, but it won't take the users long to figure out that these are not worth anything, and bypass them. Maybe Rosenblatt will sell out his shares before that happens, but somebody is going to be stuck. The company whose long-term goal is not ultimately to help people, will ultimately fail.

According to this article, Demand Media is responsible for 170,000 of the videos on YouTube. That is an awful lot of worthless (awful) junk. I don't miss not being able to watch them at all.

2009 November 30 -- The DaVinci Code

In Sunday School yesterday Jim seemed confused by the themes in this movie, so I volunteered to review it for him. I normally don't bother to look at anti-Christian garbage like this, and I still don't understand why he wasted his money on it, but it wasn't as bad as the Christian reviews portrayed it back when the movie first came out.

The first thing you need to remember is, This is fiction. The story and all its anti-Christian themes were invented by Dan Brown out of recent atheistic documents, nothing as old as our Christian Bible. He gives it verisimilitude by cloaking his story in a giant conspiracy -- two of them, actually -- to hide the "truth". I have discussed conspiracies elsewhere; they don't outlast the event they pretend to cover up. The real God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is about Truth, and truth is stronger than fiction. It will come out.

It did come out.

There is nothing in any contemporary (first century) documents about Jesus having sex with Mary or anybody else. This is a modern fabrication. For a fuller discussion, see here. If there had been a child, that child would have had a legitimate claim on leading the early church. Either she would have taken leadership, or there would have been a controversy, as happened with the Mormons and Joseph Smith Jr. There would be records, at least polemics against the heir apparent. There is nothing of the sort.

The real "Gospel of Mary" says nothing at all about any sexual liason between Mary and Jesus. Unlike the Bible we have, it was written long after the disciples had all died. Read it yourself, it's not very long.

In the movie we are finally shown a Medieval sarcophagus with a carved woman effigy on top, with the intimation that we should believe this is the final resting place of Mary Magdalene. Of course it can't be, because carved coffins like that came a thousand years too late. The real Mary would have been laid on a shelf in a cut-out tomb like the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem until her bones dried out, then the bones would have been placed in a plain box the size of an ice-chest like the James (brother of Jesus) ossuary that was in the news a few years ago.

The canon of Scripture we read today was not imposed by Constantine. All you have to do is read the other books they rejected -- you can find the full text of most of them online -- to see why they were not included. The decision was largely made in individual churches in the first century, but there always were a few nutcakes trying to promote their own agenda. The Council of Nicea merely established what almost everybody already knew. The existing four gospels were early recognized as written under Apostolic authority, and we have very early copies to prove that recognition. The church did not alter their message under Constantine nor any other time; the early copies are the same as what we have today. We can recognize even small fragments because there are no changes. The Gnostic books (like Mary and Thomas and Judas), on the other hand, were mostly written in the second century or later, and the earliest copies we have are hundreds of years later.

There are other historical mistakes. Isaac Newton was a good Christian, not a protector of some unknown cult. Newton wrote more about Christianity than about physics. The box he supposedly devised to hide the location of the Mary sarcophagus would have tarnished in the nearly 300 years since he lived, and any acid self-destruct mechanism would have long since decomposed. If it were still functional, and actually functioned, the little scroll like the hero pulled out of his pocket could have been restored through modern chemical recovery methods.

If there were a blood line from Mary Magdalene, it seems remarkable that it should end in England, where all "British Israelite" theories converged. Dan Brown of course writes in English for an English-reading audience; they want the story to be about themselves and their own history and race, not somebody in Turkey or Syria or Iraq (much more historically likely).

The turning point of the story came when Captain Bezu Fache, the cop chasing our hero across the continent, finally realizes that the bishop who told him Langdon was guilty had lied to him. He came to this realization when the facts did not fit the story. This is a good way to see this movie: we know it's a lie (aka fiction) because the facts do not fit the story. Believe the facts.

Dan Brown makes his living writing thriller novels. With enough spice, he makes a lot of money. This is one of those spicy novels, and he made a lot of money on it. Good fiction sells well, but it's fiction, not fact.

2009 November 16 -- Insurance is the Problem, Not the Solution

The current issue of World magazine has a "news" item -- most dead-tree "news" media these days have given up on the factual reporting of actual news, replacing it mostly with opinions and feature articles inspired by the actual news; this is one of those features -- describing a cost-effective alternative to mandatory universal health insurance (sorry, their on-line version costs $$ if you want to read more than the first three paragraphs, which is a nothing). The point of the article is that community walk-in clinics like this one provide better service to the uninsured indigents than a national insurance program could, and costs zero tax dollars. Of course Congress is not listening. Why should they? They are not up for re-election until next year, after the disaster is already a fait accompli -- or, hopefully, shot down in flames by the Congresspeople who actually care about what their constituents want.

While we probably don't have enough volunteers in the country to fill all the needs, I think the idea is worth pursuing. Partially subsidized fee-for-service clinics would go a long way toward reducing the excessive cost of health care in this country. A realistic program to encourage people to self-insure would also improve the economics. But it's not going to happen so long as the legislators have their hand in the insurance company pockets.

2009 November 10 -- Moral Scruples vs Government

The current issue of ChristianityToday (sorry, no link: too hard to access their web site in my browser, but you can read more details here) has a news item reporting the plight of a youth foiled in her attempt to gain USA citizenship because one of her required vaccinations is Gardasil, apparently as a pre-emptive protection against sexually transmitted diseases. The reported problem is that she had taken a virginity pledge, and at first glance it appeared that this requirement offended her conscience. Digging deeper reveals other factors.

It seems to me that there are several problems with her plight.

First, the vaccination requirement does not impose on her any actual immoral behavior. It's not like paying taxes (commanded by God), where some miniscule part of the taxes actually pays for the murder of small children, a continuing policy of the present anti-Democratic party currently in power. She can retain her virtue while allowing them to invade her body with noxious chemicals. Prudent as it might be, there is no command from God to abstain from such.

Second, if she really wants to prevent this intrusion on her body, she would have better success arguing that it constitutes unlawful gender discrimination, as this burden is only forced on females, and not males -- who, she might thus reasonably argue, are no less vulnerable to the disease that she claims does not apply in her case.

Then there is the simple matter of cost: the 3-shot Gardasil series reportedly costs between $300 and $1,400. It obviously places an unfair financial burden on female immigrants.

If she really wants to become a USA citizen, then she must agree to uphold the laws of the USA. That's a reasonable (if futile) demand for the immigration folks to make. While the activity whose consequences this vaccination is meant to protect against is immoral and inappropriate for Christians, it is the law; she can choose whether she wants to be a citizen of such a country or not. Having been born here, I have no such choice (but then that financial burden is not laid on me, either -- yet). Nonetheless, the United States is way ahead of whoever is in second place -- as easily determined by comparing the number of people who want in to the number who want out. I think she should accept this useless vaccination as part of the price of coming here. It's a small price to pay for being in a good country.

2009 October 30 -- Ransom

I've seen numerous movies involving negotiation with the bad guys, and it never rang true. Face it, the Bad Guy is a bad guy, you can't trust him to act with integrity after he has proved himself willing to act dishonorably. This is the first movie I've ever seen where the hero -- you can't exactly call him a Good Guy -- understands that basic fact of life [Luke 16:10].

This is not a date flick. I've never seen a Mel Gibson movie that did not have gratuitous blood and gore. It seems to be his trademark. But this went beyond that. There was no romantic sub-plot. Sure, the hero had a wife, but she played a submissive role; her relational values were not affirmed.

Instead Gibson played a guy with steel testicles. He built his business from scratch and became a rich CEO (and thus the target of kidnapping) by running his business that way, by knowing how the other guy would react and forcing him to blink first. They didn't say that in the movie, but that's how real people get there in the real world. That happens a lot in movies, but seldom with this kind of cold-blooded intensity.

It's not my way of doing things, but it was refreshing after a steady diet of relationshipistic pablum, which is what most of the library movies are. Small wonder: their entire collection is donated, and people are more likely to give away the duds.

2009 October 28 -- Closet Geeks

Last month I got BibleTrans to the point where it was translating John 3:16 into the very difficult Papua New Guinea language Awa. I uploaded all the support files so that the missionary-linguists who helped me with the language could download it and show it off to their colleagues. Their response suggested that the download was too complex. I knew that. The software is designed for crypto-geeks, people who are willing to get their fingers dirty learning new technology. It will probably never be usable by technophobes.

My brother-in-law in California is one of those crypto-geeks. He'll try anything. He doesn't really know what he doesn't know, but he has a lot of fun playing with it. And he gets very frustrated when the bootleg software he is trying to use is hard to control. This last weekend he showed me a commercial package that he needed to do some part of his business. It consistently froze up on him. I pointed out that large expensive software is not as robust as mass-market software; the vendor factors the cost of telephone support into their price. As a pirate (I didn't use that word) he could not really expect it to work properly for him.

He was also trying out another program on his iPhone, a GPS thing to give real-time driving instructions. Watching him fiddle with it while driving the congested California freeways (wandering in and out of his lane) was enough to make me sick. No wonder they have multi-car pile-ups there. It was more than I could take: I sat back and closed my eyes. I can trust God more than I could trust LA drivers -- including him.

It was interesting to see how poorly it did. At one point, where we were driving down the freeway as instructed, it displayed the little triangle icon for the car as having taken an off-ramp. Eventually it corrected itself. Several times over the past few years I have looked at GPS tools -- and their price. What I can do with a paper map and an occasional GoogleMaps lookup in advance (if I think of it) is almost as good, and costs a lot less. That makes a difference on my budget -- especially now, looking ahead at the looming ObamaCare train wreck.

So I still come off like a Luddite. Which is kind of funny, given my chosen profession. I think of it as appropriate technology.

2009 October 27 -- Health Intolerance

I forgot to mention in yesterday's post, the entertainment of the day. We went to see the Museum of Tolerance. The word "tolerance" is so often a euphemism for intolerant behavior directed against people holding religious or political preferences other than the perpetrator, that I am wary of anybody using the word. In this case there might have been some of that, but mostly it was another Jewish propaganda piece against the Holocaust. I already saw the one in Jerusalem. I have no objection to Jews making their case against genocide (I hope they succeed), but hard-sell tends to turn me off. This exhibit came off like hard-sell.

After we came out, one of our party (let's call him "Sam") turned to me and asked what impressed me most. It was a single panel, with no obvious explanation, announcing that 63% favor compelling everybody to purchase health insurance, regardless of their age or health condition, compared to 34% who oppose such compulsion. You know my opinion on the question. Lacking any formal explanation, I took this to be an example of modern intolerance, and said so. Sam was incensed.

It turned out that while Sam is exceedingly hostile to everything Obama, he saw compulsory insurance as the solution to a very different problem, namely, the taxpayers being stuck for the cost of indigent people obtaining medical services in hospital emergency rooms. Apparently he had not thought the problem through very hard, because compulsory health insurance will not solve that problem, it only makes it worse. Most indigents would buy health insurance if they could afford it, but they cannot. Under ObamaCare, they get it for free, and the taxpayer is stuck for the bill.

Besides that, insurance would cost the taxpayer more than the present direct-pay ER medical services do. Remember my conversation with the doctor last month? BlueCross pays the doctor nearly three times as much as the welfare state pays out of tax revenue for the same services. Assuming BlueCross makes a profit on their medical insurance business, the premiums must exceed those payments. In other words, the health insurance premiums paid out by the government (from Sam's taxes) for indigents would be three times greater than they currently are paying for uninsured services. Insurance is like that. It's actually much worse than even that, because as soon as the indigents have "free" health insurance, they will take all their medical problems to the doctor (not just the major problems), and the insurance premiums will need to go up to cover all these new services not previously paid by anybody.

I do not believe Sam is so greedy that he wants people like me paying for indigent health care (through compulsory premiums on insurance I have no use for), rather than himself (through higher taxes). I just think he has not fully considered all the issues. I wonder how many more people have been bamboozled by the ObamaCare propaganda machine.

I refuse to buy health insurance because I get a better deal on a fee-for-service basis. Everyone would. Insurance is the problem, not the solution. If ObamaCare becomes law (I hope it does not), then I will probably just pay the penalty tax and still refuse to buy health insurance. The extra "campaign lies" tax added to my actual medical costs would still be cheaper and give me better health care than buying government-imposed insurance which pays for abortions instead of timely medical needs.

2009 October 26 -- Times of Desolation

My sister lives in Fullerton, California, and attends the Evangelical Free Church a few blocks away, where Chuck Swindoll was pastor. It's huge, with a regular weekly attendance in the thousands. Most notable to me as a visitor, however, was the Sunday School class teacher. He was not the normal teacher, but one of the senior pastors (they have maybe 20 on staff), and the topic was compelling.

The idea that feeling close to God is very poorly correlated to being close to God is not particularly new to me; ChristianityToday has run articles on the recent research done (I think it was) by Hybels' church in the Chicago area.

I also have been developing my own theology of Truth (as distinguished from feelings). I sometimes pride myself in reading the whole Bible through regularly -- not in one year: that is too rushed, so you don't have time to savor and digest it -- rather than getting stuck in one or two epistles and a half-dozen Psalms, as I often hear from people close to me. One of the effects of reading the whole Bible is that I must cope with and find a rationale for long chapters of despair in the book of Job (which I am currently reading), despite that God affirms Job (but never to Job directly) as above reproach, and who gets everything right. Everything, that is, except the realization that God is in complete control of everything, nevermind how bad things look. When bad things happen, it's not necessarily because you did something bad to deserve it. It might be, but it also might be nothing more than a bet with Satan, which God can't tell you about at the time, because that would spoil the bet.

The class teacher -- I didn't get his name, but I was later told he is Doug Haig -- looks at these times of "desolation" (his word) as opportunities to learn something deep. I'm sure they can be, and I try to do that too, but I'm not overly disappointed if I fail, because as far as I can tell, we are never told that Job was ever told the purpose of his catastrophes was some stupid bet with the Devil. Of course it wasn't a "stupid" bet, because God is all-wise, but it made no sense to Job. It was there for our benefit, not his. God has every right to do that, if He so chooses. Bad things do sometimes -- perhaps often -- happen to good people, not because God is evil, but because He is Good. However, He is Good to everyone, not just to me (as the song says).

Job eventually got everything he lost back double, which is not a bad return on investment. God is Good to all His believers (and even to the pagans, although less so), so my present temporary and light misfortunes are just that: temporary and light.

2009 October 24 -- Murder Mystery As Divine Justice

Here I am in the Muse Theater, home of the Actor's Co-op in First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. I was a bit of an afterthought, so my seat is separated from the rest of the party, giving me some time to think about what is going on.

Before the show we listened to Professor Dale Savage tell us about what he called "the second narrative" in murder detective stories, which he compared to our live experience. Out of the details of the first narrative, which is the main story line, the detective (or in our case, God) weaves this second narrative to explain the real truth of what happened. Thus detective fiction fills a void left by the Christian worldview missing from the secular person's life. "The murder mystery satisfies our innate need to see divine justice," he said. It's an interesting insight.

Savage began his lecture telling us that he had the complete Sherlock bound in one volume, which I also received for a Christmas present from my uncle when I was in high school. Savage also went on to mention the many Sherlock Holmes knock-offs done by other authors, of which today's play, "Sherlock's Last Case" is one.

The play itself I found somewhat annoying, because it played Sherlock as a cruel jerk. I don't remember him that way, and it certainly was not in any of the Basil Rathbone movies I've been seeing lately. During the question and answer session after the play, one of the questioners commented on how that attitude was actually there in Arthur Conan Doyle's stories. I think I will dig out my copy and re-read them.

Speaking of the question and answer session, it was then that I turned around to look at who was represented in the audience. Other than one elegant black woman in the company of the lecturer himself, the audience was almost entirely middle-age and older, upper middle-class whites. Some of that is no doubt selected by the price of live theater. I was told that many of the Actor's Co-op members were in the audience, which suggests another cultural selection, as the Co-op is an associatian of Christians in the performing arts in Hollywood, based there in the Presbyterian church. There are a lot of cultural differences driven by what we like and dislike, and that resolves itself in segregation often perceived as racial, although it is so only superficially.

My sister, whom I am visiting this weekend, adopted an Ethiopian orphan as a child, and the young lady adopted the culture of her adoptive parents. Now that she has grown up and married, she is indistinguishable from the upper middle class values of her parents' social group, except in skin color. Maybe some day I will get up the nerve to ask her if she perceives any racism there. I suspect she only experiences it from the broader culture, when she is not personally known.

2009 October 12 -- Yes I Always Have to Be Right

I've been reading the book of Job in the Bible lately. It's a tough read because it has chapter after chapter of long speeches by Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, who, as we are told at the end of the book, were vastly mistaken in their theology.

I've gotten into arguments with Eliphaz and company myself a couple times over the years. Eliphaz -- or his modern counterpart -- rightly believes in justice as a moral absolute, and wrongly misinterprets the calamities of Job (or in my case, me) as an example of it. Job, on the other hand, accurately knows that he did not do anything to deserve his troubles. God said so, both at the beginning of the story, and then again at the end when He told Eliphaz and company that they were so wrong, they should go to Job to pray for them, because He (God) would not accept their petitions on their own behalf.

My reading this weekend startled me, because I saw in Eliphaz's accusation something resembling a line I've heard from my own family (and others): "Do you always have to be right?"

It seems to me that the person making this accusation -- and it is an accusation, not a request for an honest answer -- really intends to be asking an entirely different question, something more like "Do you always have to win every argument?" This is an important issue for Relationshipists. Winning and losing is a Relationshipistic thing; Right and Wrong are on the other side of the fence separating Thinkers and Feelers.

So yes, I always have to be right, even -- perhaps especially -- if it means I have to lose the argument. It is by losing arguments that I discover I was wrong, so I change sides immediately. That usually happens so quickly that my opponent did not notice. Instead she only notices when I hang on, which I normally only do when I happen to be right. Of course that's what I aimed for, being right.

It seems to me that if winning her arguments is what is most important to this person, she should choose as her opponent somebody who is wrong. If being right is what is important, she should choose the other kind of opponent, somebody who is already right -- and then humbly, with a teachable spirit, take lessons. Now I do not know everything -- not even everything she knows, although I am older and have spent more time honing my truth skills than she has -- so if she wants to beat me in an argument, she could look for something she knows that I do not. Of course she needs to look fast, because if I let myself be suckered into arguing a point I do not already know to be true (it happens, but not often), I will capitulate just a soon as it looks like she is winning.

2009 September 28 -- United Socialist States of Amerika (part 2)

It's not often another blogger picks up my ideas. I suspect this wasn't one of them, but rather independent invention.

I was about to use the line "like two ships passing in the night" in an email dialog, and I wondered about proper attribution. So I googled it. True to form, nothing in the first couple of pages of hits pointed to a recognizable original source.

What I did find, however, was a wide variety of people using the line to hawk whatever they were trying to sell. One was particularly interesting. Apparently each posting on "4-BlockWorld" is a square with some kind of witticism. This one was divided into four quadrants announcing the acceptance of Marxism in the USA "without a whimper" and capitalism in Russia by the same vigorous (lack of) defense. The comments attributed it to an article in the Russian news site Pravda, which claimed to be borrowed from Stanislav Mishin's blog (although I could not find it there).

This fellow is Russian, not American, but he bemoans the demise of the USA like any good patriotic American right-wing bigot I ever met. Some of his comments remind me of what I posted earlier this year, before Obama even had a chance to prove he was only giving us more of the same (see "Change? What Change" from last year). Another was the comparison to Rhodesia, which I made last month.

Anyway, Stanislav Mishin's blog offers the opinion that the USA is headed for dissolution, a balkanization like what happened to the USSR. Judging from what I've been hearing, there's a lot of anti-Obama sentiment being voiced in that direction. The last folks who tried secession failed, but things are different now. It's only a foreigner's opinion, but intriguing none the less.

2009 September 16 -- ObamaCare Letter Replies

In today's mail came a reply from my Congressman in California. I sent him a copy of the letter I sent to President Barack Obama when I woke up in the middle of the night seething about ObamaCare. Congressman Honda did not bother to read my letter. Some clerk in his office (initials "usm") copied a form letter out of their computer and sent it. Nothing in the form letter addressed my complaint, as I fully expected.

My letter to President Obama
Obama's Reply, with my comments
Congressman Honda's reply, with my comments
Making lemonade from the ObamaCare lemon
A mislabelled revision of ObamaCare, which eliminates the penalty tax on persons earning less than the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) and more than triples it for persons slightly above.


2009 September 11 -- Form, Not Content

They were the perfect host and hostess. My schedule (which was not under my control) bounced around a lot, and they adapted without a whimper. She maintains an Elisha Room for passing missionaries, and she opened it up for me. It was tastefully appointed and comfortable. They were wonderful conversationalists -- meaning they let me do most of the talking, although they also took their turns, she discussing what their grown children are now doing, he concerning common acquaintances from our distant shared past.

But there was no content. I listened politely when they told of their children and these former acquaintances, but I don't know these people. They mean nothing more to me than the characters in the movie I watched last night. I feel for them about the way Sherlock Holmes reportedly responded on being told of the discovery of the planet Uranus: "Thank you, Dr.Watson. Now I shall do my best to forget what you just told me." And they obviously felt the same about what I was saying.

In the classroom I can tell when students are paying attention, when they want to learn. Nobody gives a perfect lecture, and the people who care about the subject have questions to fill in the gaps. The people who don't care just sit there, letting the sound of your voice wash over them like the warm sunshine on a tropical beach. There were a lot of loose ends in what I was saying. I was casting about trying to find something that interested them. Nothing clicked. They were polite, but not interested.

I have no way of knowing what they thought of me. Relationshipists both of them, they affirm rather than speak the whole truth. There were no lies that I could detect, just no openness to let me see what they were thinking. Or maybe they were open, and there's nothing there. I can't tell.

I try to play the game (when in Rome, do as the Romans do), and I affirmed back. It was a nice meal and a delightful room. I hope my appreciation came through, but I have no way of knowing.

The movie I watched last night was a guy flick, a team of cons robbing the vault of a casino owned by a jerk (moral justification to let the audience root for the thieves), lots of adrenaline, lots of high-tech whiz-bang and clever deceptions. There was a little bit of romance, too, but it also was under the control of the hero's high-tech trickery. What caught my attention in a metaphysical sort of way was the short documentary at the end, on costuming the cons. This designer talking head went on and on about how carefully he chose each guy's attire to make a statement about who they are. I could not relate to it. I suppose, if I looked hard enough, I could see the differences, but it was completely irrelevant to the story that I watched. I was looking at who the people were that the actors played, how they planned for and responded to the situations, not what they wore.

I would not have even bothered with this short, except that while researching my novel by reading chic-lit, I noticed a heavy emphasis on attire. Women seem to care about these things. I don't. The clothing is about form; I care about content. There is no overlap, probably never will be. The Bible does not have much good to say about fine clothing. It doesn't say much at all about clothing, but the emphasis seems best summarized here:

Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in ... have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? [James 2:2-4 NIV]

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self... [1Peter 3:3-4 NIV]

Clothing was never mentioned when I was in the home of this couple, but it felt to me as empty as if that were all they had to say.

2009 September 9 -- ObamaCare Is Good (for Me)

No, not its health care provisions. No "insurance" can hold a candle to the quality of service I get from a fee-based system.

No, not what it does to the American tax system and thus to the economy and my personal finances. That's an unmitigated disaster. You see, I'm one of those low-income "uninsured" people this bill intentionally sets out to destroy.

But let me start at the beginning.

The first thing you need to understand about ObamaCare is that nobody wants it. NOBODY. Since the details were first disclosed, I have never yet heard a single good thing about it from anybody anywhere. Not even the politicians who say they plan to vote for it really want it. That's why they exempted themselves from its provisions. So I hear. I have not heard of a single politician volunteering to be covered by it. ObamaCare has united our country. That's a good thing, in a diffuse sort of way. But it's of no particular benefit to me personally.

This week I met with a potential client for my software services. I expected, as is my custom, to meet with the top decision-maker to listen to where he wanted to take his business, and then to offer my skills and services to help him get there. It didn't turn out that way. He'd already pretty much decided he wanted what I could do for him. His agenda for this meeting was to feel me out to see if he could trust me with a job this big. I'm the expert -- that's what you bring a consultant in for -- but he wanted to believe I wasn't scamming him. Or something like that. Nothing like this was ever said.

Instead we talked about operating systems, and why I like the MacOS and not OSX. I told him everybody knows that eunuchs are missing a vital organ and therefore cannot perform; the unix system is aptly named. As a physician, he got a hearty chuckle out of that. He later asked why his iPhone crashes surfing the web. I told him it's OSX under the hood and he understood.

We talked about the C++ programming language, and why it's better than what his programmer is using today. Technically, it's not better, but at least it's not a proprietary system. A couple years of license fees will pay for what I cost him to convert.

And of course we talked about his business prospects in the current economy. I think ObamaCare nailed it for me.

As a physician, he is incensed. He has experience with MediCare to base his opinion on. He mentioned a particular procedure he does often, one that I have also undergone (and paid for). BlueCross pays him (for example; these are not the actual numbers he mentioned, only proportional) $800 for this operation; Medicare pays $300 for the same operation (I paid $4000, but that included the OR and other people involved; I don't recall the physician's portion of it). Obama announced that there is 15% "fraud, waste and abuse" in the payments they are making, and they are on the doctor's case to reduce his billings so as to eliminate this "fraud, waste and abuse" portion. All you need to do is look at the difference in payments to see that there is no fraud or waste in that procedure being paid by MediCare. More than that, I heard the next day from an independent source that this physician has a reputation for integrity above reproach in that community.

There probably is fraud, waste and abuse in MediCare. Some of the things I saw going on in connection with my late mother's transfer to nursing care, I would not tolerate on my own behalf as a matter of conscience. But there is a problem when a commercial health insurance company pays nearly three times what MediCare pays for the same procedure. Somebody is unwittingly subsidizing the services provided to somebody else. That is what the Bible calls "unequal weights" and the rest of us call "fraud." The Federal government is the perpetrator, not the victim. That is the kind of health care Barack Obama wants us all to have. All except himself and his cronies, of course.

This is nothing new. There is a very old joke, that "there are two ways to do something, the right way, and the government way." That's why there is fraud, waste and abuse. Doing things badly (the government way) encourages fraud, waste and abuse. It is unavoidable when there is no profit incentive to do things better, and no way for an employee to be fired for bungling it -- I know: my first job out of college was civil service, and I did a lot of work for the Personnel Manager. We got to be good friends. One day he told me with a straight face, "Civil Service performs a valuable social function: it provides employment for people who would otherwise be unemployable." His exact words. It's true, I saw it myself, all around me every day. That's why I got out 40 years ago. It also explains a lot.

So how does this disaster help me, besides clinching a software development contract with one physician? Simple: America has a heritage of ingenuity and cleverness. Whenever there is billions of dollars being managed by fools and idiots (aka civil service), clever people -- both knaves and honest people (I hope you will forgive my conceit to imagine myself among the latter) -- will find ways both to work the system and to work around the system, thereby to syphon off some of those billions -- again, I remind you, both by providing honest services as well as by fraud, waste and abuse. The reason Medicare pays only $300 for the same operation that honest and well-run organizations pay $800 for is that the other $700 was squandered in fraud, waste and abuse. That builds a huge economy in services to be paid for, which translates into work for me. I'm already on public record as refusing to sell directly to the government, but hey, this doc is as honest as the day is long, and government bungles makes my services attractive to him. In that way, ObamaCare is good for me.

During the peak of my contract programming days I noticed a curious phenomenon, that my personal income was related to the negative derivative of the national economy. Math whizzes and others who learned to hate calculus know that means when the economy was on the way down, I did great; when it was recovering, I did poorly. I could only guess at why that was. Weep and mourn, you suckers who voted for Obama: my indicator once again shows a season of national plight, possibly as bad as when FDR prolonged the Depression 12 years by his bungling. You knew Obama sees FDR as a role model?

There is another way ObamaCare works in my favor. As more and more suckers get sucked into the vortex of ObamaCare, they leave behind the quality fee-for-service operators to a diminishing clientele, still hopefully including me. Market economics operating on that drives the price down and the quality up -- at least temporarily, until the practitioners just drop out of the system. Thus even paying what I now call "the Obama campaign lies penalty tax" over and above my medical expenses is likely to still give me cheaper and better health care than capitulating to the Obama machine.

The final thing you need to remember about medical care in the USA is that even if ObamaCare passes unchanged (and we hope it does neither), the ship of state is too big to turn on a dime. Most of us will never see anything different -- other than higher costs and less availability and higher taxes, of course. But we already have that, don't we? The rich will always have the money to get the medical care they want when they want it. They will buy (and ignore) a token insurance policy, or else just pay the penalty tax because it's insignificant to their wealth. A few (but not many) of the poor people will get access to services they can afford, which they cannot get today. And a somewhat larger proportion of the middle class will find themselves in a position of not being able to get medical services they can afford today. But mostly it will be the same as today. Except everybody -- especially the poor -- will pay higher taxes. See my posting, "Change? What Change?"

Maybe, if we are lucky, the American people will wake up and realize that we can do something about this fiasco, and throw the bums out of office who voted for it, and hopefully also repeal the law itself. If we are lucky.

Unfortunately, a large part of the population is "poor, uneducated, and easily led." They are the ones who voted Barack Obama and his cronies into office, and if his administration continues to lie to the American people about what is going on, the people may never figure out that


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