June 22, 2010

Health Care FAQ - 2

Weeks have passed since the new health care plan was signed into law, but it seems that most people still have no idea what that plan entails. As a community service, Joe Chiappa has formulated several more questions to include within my Health Care FAQ. I think it is fair to say that if you are not completely informed after reading this, you are probably hopeless.

  1. Q) I am morbidly obese, how can you help me?

    A (L) Under the new Healthcare plan, you will be provided with a physician, a nutritionist, a personal trainer and a gym membership, all at no cost to you. If you do not feel like exercising or eating right, a plastic surgeon and liposuction will be provided instead, all at no cost.

    A (C) Given the incredible financial burden created by the Healthcare plan, obesity will be declassified as a disease and instead those who are overweight will have to complete "fitness tests" to determine eligiblity for healthcare. These tests will involve seeing whether you can outrun wild dogs.

  2. Q) I have just been shot, how will your the new health plan help me?

    A (L) You should seek medical attention. Go to your nearest hospital and you will recieve immediate, high quality care, all covered by your insurance provider. You do not even need to provide your name or details on how it happened.

    A (C) You should seek medical attention. Please go to your insurance provider's website, fill out a "Request to Seek Medical Services" form. Click submit. You will be called within 48-72 hours when an available hospital will be able to see you and address your issues. Please be sure to print out the form in triplicate and have your co-pay ready upon arrival.

  3. Q) My Cousin Lives in America... Am I eligible for healthcare under the new plan?

    A (L) Yes, you, your cousin, your unborn children, and your dead relatives are all covered under the new plan at no additional cost

    A (C) Yes, provided that you lived in America during specific dates where you were grandfathered into the healthcare plan. If not, you will be kept out of America using a large fence and wild dogs will be dispatched to prevent you from entering the country.

  4. Q) Will my wild dog be covered under the new healthcare bill?

    A (L) Yes, your wild dog, pet or farm animal will be covered, all at no cost. Deceased animals are covered as well.

    A (C) No, wild dogs would not be covered, however they are eligible to apply for a new state funded employment program.

Posted by Andy at 04:13 PM

March 30, 2010

Health Care FAQ

There has been a great deal of debate about the health care bill recently signed by the President. Over the past months it has been difficult to ferret out the truth amidst all the political maneuvering. As a conscientious citizen, I have taken the liberty of compiling a list of five commonly asked questions that should help you understand our new law more fully, and have researched the answers exhaustively, using cable news programs as my primary sources.

I learned during my search for truth that there are in fact two independent and totally factual realities in America, so as an upstanding citizen I have supplied the answers to these questions for both liberals (first, in blue) and conservatives (second, in red). You can thank me later.

  1. Q) What will happen to my current health care coverage under the new system?

    A (L) Your current coverage will not change unless you are unhappy with it. In the latter case, it will change to meet your personal specifications at no additional charge. Up to two private nurses will be provided per person, free of charge, to deal with your personal needs.

    A (C) Your current coverage will be canceled and given to illegal immigrants. In addition, wild dogs may be sent to your house to attack you. Any injuries incurred by wild dogs must be paid out of pocket.

  2. Q) How will we pay for the new health care bill?

    A (L) Since the new plan provides greatly increased care for no additional money, there is no need to worry about this issue. In the highly unlikely case that costs to the government are incurred at some point, small tax increases will be applied only to people you do not personally like. In addition, wild dogs may be dispatched to attack those people at no additional cost to you.

    A (C) Your taxes will be increased to 95% of your current income. A small, government planned packet of food will arrive in the mail once per week based on the number of members in your family. Each packet will include one frozen vegetable, one grain or potato, and one serving of protein not to exceed 4 oz per person over the age of 18.

  3. Q) Does the health care bill have support from the medical community?

    A (L) Yes. Everyone will be covered under the current plan. As a result, medical professionals of all types will be able to afford to focus on curing all known diseases, including the raising of the dead, who also receive health care coverage under this legislation. Doctors will flock to the US to take advantage of this groundbreaking opportunity.

    A (C) No. Due to the lack of competition created by the new legislation, doctors will be forced to treat only themselves or members of Congress to avoid massive financial losses. Any treatment you receive must be paid out of pocket and is subject to government taxation. As a result, most doctors and other health care professionals will be forced to relocate to other countries in order to survive.

  4. Q) How will the insurance companies be regulated?

    A (L) Reasonable rules will be put in place to ensure that you, the consumer, have full control of all elements of your plan, from its inception until your "post-life". (This term has been created to label deceased Americans who qualify for health care coverage. In the event that your doctor is able to raise you from the dead, all charges incurred will be payed for in full by your insurance provider.) Since all health care companies have unlimited financial resources, all regulatory costs will be incurred by those companies at no risk.

    A (C) Unnecessary government regulations will instantly bankrupt all insurance companies, transferring the costs to you, the consumer, and forcing the government to assume full control of all health care payments in perpetuity. Once the US government is bankrupted, wild dogs will roam the streets, attacking innocent civilians with no health care coverage.

  5. Q) How will the new plan affect senior citizens?

    A (L) As with everyone else, all seniors will be fully covered under the new plan. Those with serious medical conditions will be supplied a personal doctor equipped with a research team to find solutions. Should your personal doctoral research team be unable to cure your particular ailments, your post-life insurance coverage will allow your team to resurrect you once the technology becomes available. Your personal team will remain attached to your case throughout the entire process.

    A (C) The sweeping changes to healthcare include cuts to medicare in order to implement juries that will determine whether you live or die. As such, those who survive the death panel gauntlet will have no coverage, possibly leaving them open to attack by wild dogs. Those who are voted down in death panels will be euthanized, costing you, the taxpayer, billions, and using up millions of acres of valuable real estate for unmarked graves.

Posted by Andy at 03:45 PM

February 14, 2008

Bridging the Gap

Orson Scott Card wrote an essay recently that describes my thoughts on politics almost to the letter. I happen to share most, but not all, of Mr. Card's views on issues, at least as far as they are described in his essay series, but I do not necessarily share his cynicism when it comes to the reasons why many people toe party lines. On the national level, I think he is right that the "all or nothing" buy-in required to run for office is incredibly destructive, but I am not convinced that many individuals espouse all of the beliefs of their party because they are too lazy or foolish or ashamed to do otherwise, which leads me to the meat of my post.

There are issues on both sides of the political divide that seem to contradict other views held by the very same people. Many of these are used as tools for the opposition to tear down that party's credibility even while no effort is made to reconcile the confusion about these seemingly contradictory beliefs. Is it not our responsibility as voters and citizens to understand as much as possible about all of the views that matter to our nation? With that in mind, I am going to try to address as many of these points of confusion as possible with the hopes that the people who hold some of these seemingly contradictory views will explain how they relate in a rational and convincing manner.

To Conservatives

  1. What is the relationship between the pro-life and pro-death penalty and pro-war platforms? How do you feel the possibility of wrongful convictions impacts your beliefs on the death penalty, particularly as it pertains to the sanctity of life?
  2. The inefficiency of government drives many conservative policies. When you oppose a government plan to aid a large group of disadvantaged people, how do you believe that those people should or will get the help they need? This question assumes that the people in question are universally agreed to be disadvantaged in some way.
  3. What is the basis for your strong support of the 2nd amendment and how do you explain your opposition to the "assault weapons ban"? Why do you feel this terminology is inappropriate?
  4. What is it that makes John McCain so loathsome to the conservative base?
  5. Why is it necessary to have economic freedom while imposing limits on social freedom? What is the relationship between these core elements?

To Liberals

  1. How do you relate pro-choice beliefs with opposition to the death penalty? Where specifically does truly human life begin in your estimation?
  2. Why do you believe that the Evangelical movement within the Republican party is harmful to our nation? What specifically have Evangelicals done already that lead you to believe that such influence should be opposed?
  3. What leads you to generally support government controls on big businesses? What about businesses makes them less trustworthy than governments? What is the relationship between implementing controls on businesses and helping lower class citizens who are often employed by those businesses given that such controls presumably increase the costs of doing business?
  4. What is it that makes Joe Lieberman so unappealing?
  5. Why is it necessary to have social freedom while imposing limits on economic freedom? What is the relationship between these core elements?

To Conservatives and Liberals

  1. Why is economic liberalism a core conservative value? Why is economic conservatism a core liberal value?
  2. How do you reconcile the strength of governments to reach the largest groups of people with the strength of charities and individuals to more efficiently impact the lives of smaller groups of people? Do you believe that this premise holds true in the first place?
  3. Why do you feel that the ACLU is a good or bad organization? Do you believe the opposition's views are valid or invalid? What about those views lead you to dismiss them to some degree?
  4. What is it about the various core beliefs of modern conservatism or liberalism that make them all so critical to see at the same time in our leadership? For instance, why must a pro-war conservative candidate also support lower taxes, or why must a liberal candidate who supports stricter gun control also be pro-choice to be viable?
  5. Faced with sub-optimal choices of candidates, what issue takes precedence for you in the voting booth?

Well, my brain is about tapped out at the moment. I hope a number of you will chime in with answers as well as more questions that I have not considered that you have yet to resolve Keep in mind that these questions are mostly designed to attack the problem from the side of the opposition. If you believe the questions are not accurate, that's fine, but try to explain why if you can.

Posted by Andy at 02:58 PM | Comments (9)

November 14, 2006

Slow to Update

I have a lot to talk about right now, but am too tired to make it a reality. Here is a great political article to keep you busy. Just pretend I wrote it. I certainly could have given that I've talked about the concept this writer discusses numerous times on this site.

Posted by Andy at 12:38 AM | Comments (5)

November 01, 2006

Stem Cell Clarification

Kirsten Powers, a pro-life Democrat, wrote an excellent post about embryonic stem cell research earlier today. This issue is overly generalized by the media and a great many politicians. Kirsten's post, while written from a pro-life perspective, helps illuminate its complexity in a very clear manner, and is worth a read regardless of your position.

Posted by Andy at 10:24 PM | Comments (4)

October 23, 2006


Kirsten Powers wrote an interesting piece about waterboarding today, and linked to a video showing it done. Obviously this is not kid-friendly, but I highly recommend taking a look for anyone who wants to understand a little more about the controversy. A link to her article is posted after the jump.

This Is What Waterboarding Looks Like

Posted by Andy at 04:29 PM

October 14, 2006

Wisdom and Politics

... seem to be like oil and water.

I read this passage last night:

He who corrects a scoffer gets shame for himself,
And he who rebukes a wicked man only harms himself.
Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you;
Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you.

Proverbs 9:7-8

Have you ever seen elected officials or the media do this, ever? Perhaps more to the point, do you believe it is possible or, dare I say, wise for a government or large institution to operate with these principles?

Posted by Andy at 12:15 AM | Comments (5)

October 01, 2006

Polls - Now I Dislike Them Even More

I was just contacted by someone conducting a poll focused on the Anne Arundel County Executive race. I don't have any particular problem with participating in things like this, but I sure did today. The questions started out reasonably enough, but by the end the intent of the poll was clear. Smear George Johnson.

The final sequence of questions required answers like these:

  • Much more likely to vote for the candidate
  • Somewhat more likely to vote for the candidate
  • Somewhat less likely to vote for the candidate
  • Much less likely to vote for the candidate

I had probably 4 or 5 questions to answer about Leopold, then the same amount for Johnson. All of the Leopold questions were bright and sunny. Leopold cut taxes, Leopold wants to reduce government size, etc. Questions about Johnson were essentially rigged. "George Johnson was fined the maximum for failing to report his campaign finances. Are you more or less likely to vote for him?" That's one of the kinder ones.

I told the pollster that I was not interested in finishing a rigged poll and that I wanted to know who was getting the polling info, but somehow he convinced me to just finish without having to answer the final questions one way or the other. I was dumb enough to give him my first name at the end. I'm not on the phone that much these days and my level of awareness when so engaged is not what it should be. I'm none too happy about this decision, but hopefully it will not matter. I basically came out looking fairly positive for both candidates given the nature of the questions, so I doubt they can do an awful lot with the information I provided at least.

The moral of the story is not to trust any polling data coming from anyone promoting Leopold (probably a no-brainer anyway on either side of the isle.) Please let me know immediately if you see my name attached to anything at all and give me as much info as possible if it happens.

When contacted by pollsters in the future, what kind of information should I demand before proceeding? Are they required to indicate affiliations or anything like that, or am I basically on my own if I choose to cooperate? Any other tips?

Posted by Andy at 04:14 PM | Comments (2)

September 24, 2006

Clinton on Fox

I just watched a replay of the much talked about Clinton interview on Fox News. Liberals are crying, "set up," while conservatives rally around Clinton's loss of control.

What a bunch of bunk.

This interview was just a regular interview like any other. No set up, no out of control ex-President. Clinton got angry, yes, but answered the questions put to him well. All of the talk centers around the questions put to former President Clinton about his efforts to kill Bin Laden and dismantle Al Qaeda. For those who are not up to speed, Clinton was promised that half of the interview would be spent on his efforts to combat global warming. The Al Qaeda question skewed the amount of time devoted to that issue, but the fact of the matter is that Clinton was responsible for the time lost due to the length and passionate nature of his answer.

I don't have a problem with that. Clinton accused the interviewer and Fox News in general of setting him up, and I think that was an irresponsible thing to say. That didn't stop him from answering the question in detail.

Maybe Chris Wallace should have asked that question first, but he didn't ask it that far into the interview, nor did he require Clinton to first outline how Republicans did things wrong before answering how he handled his role in facing Al Qaeda during his Presidency. I would agree with the setup talk if he had asked it last, but that didn't happen. The question itself was in no way irresponsible. It's the same question Bush and his administration has been asked every day for the past 5 and a half years, only without the accusations of torture and stupidity.

All in all, the interview was informative and interesting. My advice to anyone reading is not to form a judgment unless you've seen it, and even then to be careful to look deeper than the surface.

Nothing to see here, folks.

Posted by Andy at 10:34 PM | Comments (4)

September 20, 2006

Anti-Americanism on Parade

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez spoke in front of the UN today. I would dare say that both made enough unbelievable comments to hurt their cases, not that they care.

I found Chavez's repeated, "Bush is the devil," comments to be particularly choice, and apparently some in the assembly thought so too, because he got a reasonable laugh from the "crowd" when he first made the comparison. Hugo isn't much of a comedian though, and he threw off his timing by repeating it throughout the rest of his speech. Can't beat that dead horse and continue to get laughs, you know.

I'd like to say that these two woke up some world leaders to the threats we all face today, but that is just wishful thinking.

Posted by Andy at 02:33 PM

August 25, 2006

New Card Essay

Have a look at this installment in the "I've said all of this stuff myself a million times before but this guy is a professional writer and has done more research to boot" series.

Posted by Andy at 03:40 PM

August 11, 2006

New Resolution Drafted

It appears the UN has a new resolution ready for vote later this evening. This one moves from a Chapter 7 resolution to a Chapter 6, which sounds an awful lot like intentionally repeating the mistakes that got us here all over again. We'll see how it plays out.

For the record, it seems to me that Israel should in fact return the Shaaba Farms region, not to Lebanon, but to Syria. I do not think it should be part of this resolution, nor should it happen in the near future. It needs to happen seemingly out of the blue in order to solidify it as a true good-will gesture. The region is only 5x10 miles in size, but the return of it would impact world opinion greatly. Yes, I am aware that Israel wound up with this land after a defensive action, but that makes the gesture all the more meaningful, and would clearly and unequivocably place them on the moral high ground.

Posted by Andy at 02:17 PM

August 08, 2006

CNN is Ridiculous

As usual, I listened/watched both CNN and Fox News during my rest period after breakfast this morning. Both networks are giving some airtime to the Lieberman/Lemont Senate race since this is voting day and Lieberman's website was hacked. Here's what CNN reported in a segment about 10 minutes ago:

  • Lieberman's website is down, and his campaign blames Ned Lemont's supporters.
  • Lemont says it wasn't his people.
  • The Daily Kos website is pointing to specific lines on the page that is being displayed and saying that Lieberman's camp may not have paid their hosting bill. CNN closed the segment with this element.

What CNN is not reporting:

  • The Daily Kos personnel have been featured prominently and in person in at least one Ned Lemont commercial.
  • Ned Lemont's supporters have employed dirty tricks before.

I won't even get into the CNN interview a half hour earlier during which an "expert" on the Mid-East crisis goes unchallenged in his view that destructive American and Israeli policies are a factor in the political climate in Lebanon. Which policies? Name a few, won't you?

Give me a break.

Posted by Andy at 02:12 PM | Comments (5)

August 03, 2006

Something Greater than Moral Equivalence

I sit here and watch the news most days when I get up, and listen to it through my hour-long recovery period. Obviously there has been much to report in the past weeks, but this particular piece of information catches my attention more than all the rest:

As the war between Israel and Hezbollah continues, more and more Lebanese people are converting to the Hezbollah cause. According to the reports I have heard recently, the majority of Lebanese civilians believe Hezbollah is fighting for their safety and freedom.

How is this possible? Does Lebanon have a free press? I have been led to believe this is so. It is true that Hezbollah undertakes many social challenges in addition to the jihad against Israel, but is that really enough to rally support with such a radical military agenda being common knowledge? Would we as Americans support an organization that, say, built hospitals and gave people jobs, then encouraged us to lend a hand while they attacked some Mexican children and attempted to iradicate Mexico completely? I can't imagine such a thing being possible here.

Day in and day out, our media parades on theoretically knowledgeable people who either oppose Hezbollah or do not, which saturates us with political ideology until we want to scream. The trouble is that nobody is asking the right question. When someone interviews a Lebanese-American who supports the Hezbollah, why is the reporter not then asking why it has such support when it might well be using that person's family back home as shields? Why aren't they asking that person how they justify Hezbollah's intentional targetting of Israeli children? If no answers are forthcoming, why is the reporter not then asking why?

The problem in part is that we ask the wrong people these questions. Political pundits and members of Congress always have something to say on those subjects, but what do they know about how the Lebanese mind works, or the mind of the typical moderate Arab in general? I really doubt the majority of them are psychopaths who love seeing people killed. (I find it unlikely that the Israeli and American flag-burning demonstrations we see in the Middle East during crises really tells us much about the views of the typical Arab.)

At the same time, I doubt that they are unaware of the tactics of groups like the Hezbollah. What is it that reconciles their hearts with such tactics? How does the Arab street view the actual formation of Israel or the violence that erupted as a result? Does the typical Arab know about the enormous influence Nazi doctrine has had on the leaders and former leaders of the most oppressive Arab states? For that matter, does the typical American know about said influence?

These are important questions that need to be answered for the benefit of the entire American (and European) public. People, especially those without much vested interest in politics, love to talk about the polarity in our country today. Incomplete and essential information like this is one enormous reason why this gulf exists.

We can unilaterally condemn terrorist groups on one hand while seeking to connect with average Arabs on the other. These choices are not mutually exclusive to a much larger extent than the media leads us (I believe unintentionally, in this case) to believe. Barring a wholesale change in the way the media works, the responsibility (perhaps unfortunately) falls on the individual to learn the history and try to make this connection. Fortunately, the internet provides some valuable resources to achieve this aim. Even a few brief Wikipedia searches on the formation of modern Israel, the Middle East during WWII, and Hezbollah can yield some fantastic information. The History Channel has aired some excellent programming along these lines lately as well if you care to watch.

Give it a try and let's talk about any conclusions you draw.

Posted by Andy at 02:15 PM | Comments (2)

July 21, 2006

This War Can't Be One-Dimensional

I'm going to start by saying that I believe Israel's ongoing military response is justified however unfortunate the consequences, and that US action in Iraq and elsewhere is similarly important in advancing the cause of world freedom from Islamic terrorism. I do not, however, think that either nation has a policy complete enough to actually win. We used to hear a lot about "hearts and minds", but what are we doing to actually influence those hearts and minds throughout the region?

What we need is a new kind of war strategy that commits us to spend as much on aid (or at least more than we do now) as we do on strict military action, and to do it in patently obvious ways. I know we already do something akin to this, but we need to push the humanitarian aspect a great deal more if we are to be recognized by the Muslim world and indeed the world at large. The sad truth of the Middle Eastern problem is that, no matter how much we bomb terrorist targets and route out terrorist cells, only one suicide bomber has to reach a target for terrorist victory to be declared. We can achieve victory by destroying as much terrorist infrastructure as possible while simultaneously fighting to win over the civilian populace, because terrorism will largely cease to exist once civilians in the region stop tolerating it.

Consider what might have happened had Israel, instead of simply attacking Lebanon, informed the government of their intention to rebuild once the operation was complete? Presumably Israeli ground forces will be crossing the border quite soon. How much might it help to restore good faith with the Lebanese people to have work crews standing by to go in as soon as areas have been secured? What might happen if we delivered major aid to the Palestinian people (or Egyptian people, or Lebanese people, or Saudi Arabian people) personally, not through organizations that might or might not distribute that aid fairly and facelessly, but personally, through military channels when necessary? The fact of the matter is that we need to find ways to get credit for the positive things we do in the region, which means those things must be large enough for the world to take special notice. Hezbollah knows how to do this with terrifying levels of success. Why don't we?

Maybe we already do everything we can to achieve this aim. I don't feel this is the case given the diplomatic language we and other allies use. Maybe delivering on these ideas would be financially or logistically impossible, but I for one am willing to make sacrifices to make it happen. I hope I'm not alone.

Posted by Andy at 03:49 PM | Comments (1)

July 18, 2006

Question of the Day #3

Why does Michelle Malkin hate Katie Couric?

I know a few liberals who absolutely despise Malkin. I tend to like her reporting and commentary but I don't get why she would create a video like this one, which does absolutely nothing to inform her readership and instead rallies her detractors around a tangible example of her alleged extremism. Michelle seems to take issue with Katie Couric's "perkiness", but fails to take into account that Couric's Today Show gig for years required it. It seems to me that Couric simply knows how to play to her audience, which is an important component of televised journalism.

Posted by Andy at 03:40 PM

July 15, 2006

Another Question of the Day

Please take this question in the totally impartial manner in which it was written...

Do you believe Islamic terrorism would exist today if Israel had not been re-established in 1948?

Feel free to elaborate on your opinion if you feel so inclined.

Posted by Andy at 12:01 AM | Comments (6)

July 14, 2006

Wrong but Funny

Check out this mean-spirited but hilarious video over at Hot Air. I get the impression that Malkin is employing some intentional ignorance regarding Cindy Sheehan's hunger strike, but I couldn't help but laugh.

Posted by Andy at 04:15 PM

June 26, 2006

Big Time Philanthropy

Perhaps you heard or read today that Warren Buffet decided to give 85% of his 40+ billion dollar fortune to charity. Over the past year or so I have been informed/reminded about the importance of anonymous donations. It is fantastic when people give privately and do not ask for any sort of credit, but I think this public gesture can do a lot of good on several levels. Firstly and most importantly, the sum of money donated today will be able to help an enormous number of people if handled properly. Secondly, a donation like this can help to set a precedent for other people, wealthy businessmen or not, to act in a similar fashion. Thirdly, conservatives everywhere can use Buffett's example of what corporate executive types can do when their businesses are allowed to thrive without government intervention.

The first two points are probably more important, but the third is still valid whether you approve of conservative politics or not.


Posted by Andy at 11:47 PM | Comments (3)

June 25, 2006

Dinner Party

Nic Kipke and his wife Morgan invited me over to their place along with 2 other couples for a dinner party this evening. As my earlier post today indicated, I was hurting pretty badly going into this, but the night was so fun and informative that adrenaline carried me through pretty well. I'm just going to make a point of totally or almost totally relaxing over the next few days to try to compensate.

I was hoping to learn a bit about the local political campaign process, and I sure did. Everyone attending tonight happens to be involved in the state Republican Central Committee, and all are pretty intimately familiar with Nic's campaign in some manner or another. We all talked politics virtually the entire evening.

... but the evening wasn't just about the political talk. It turns out Nic is pretty proficient with his outdoor grill. Despite the rain, he cooked up great steaks, potatoes (both regular and sweet), grilled vegetables, and ice cream ca... wait a minute. He didn't grill the ice cream cake. Nic and Morgan also served up some broccoli and a great salad to round out a very full table.

So now I'm exhausted, but it was worth it. I shall lay low over the coming days and hopefully regroup and get into my web building anew. Thank you Nic and Morgan for a great evening.

Posted by Andy at 11:06 PM | Comments (2)

June 24, 2006

Polls Tell a Disturbing Tale

Take a look at this poll data, which I found courtesy of Hot Air, a relatively new and intentionally conservative website. It is important to note that the poll was not compiled by anyone at Hot Air, nor does it seem to back any sort of political agenda.

Pew Global Attitudes Project: III. Islam, Modernity and Terrorism: The Great Divide: How Westerners and Muslims View Each Other

I have expressed concerns over the ways polls are constructed and used in another of my political posts, but this one appears to be fairly straightforward. I'd still like to see the questions of course.

This data probably should not surprise us, but it should still concern us.


Posted by Andy at 03:02 PM

June 21, 2006

Question of the Day

I think about this occasionally, and figured it would be a good topic of discussion here on the blog...

Is it possible for a nation to operate entirely on Christian principles and survive?

Posted by Andy at 06:00 PM | Comments (10)

June 18, 2006

Russert is Half-Right

Tim Russert of Meet the Press has been doing the talk and news show tour lately to promote his new book. One of the lines he's been repeating around the circuit is that it is not wrong to question our motives for waging or continuing war in Iraq, and he is right... as long as that is not all one does.

Bush gets a lot of bad press on account of his administration's distrust of and sometimes tight-lipped approach toward the media, but the reason Bush and his people distrust them so much is because all they have ever done is to question the war and its continuation. This is why conservatives are angry for those of you who are curious. Angry, not crazy.

Posted by Andy at 07:50 PM | Comments (10)

May 25, 2006

Wish I Could Help

I entertain my share of discussions about the Iraq war, but I find myself wishing lately that I could be over there doing something positive to help the people of that nation. Obviously that is impossible, as I would be more a liability than a boon given my health (and maybe lack of training.) Do any of you have similar thoughts?

Posted by Andy at 11:29 PM | Comments (2)

April 05, 2006

Another Card Link...

... of the Orson Scott variety. I've plugged Orson Scott Card before on my site, but it bears repeating that he writes some excellent content, political or otherwise. The article I link for you today, entitled Freedom of Religion: For Everyone, Everywhere, deals with the case of Abdul Rahman and the implications of Sharia law.

My only contribution I have already made in this post, published about a week ago.

Posted by Andy at 03:48 PM

April 04, 2006

Are Facts Obsolete?

I know some if not all of you reading will look at this title and relate to the topic while simultaneously proceeding with trepidation as you await to discover what "facts" in particular I am choosing to declare worthless. Well, you can relax, as my motives for writing this post lie elsewhere.

Before proceeding, read over Are Facts Obsolete? by Thomas Sowell. If you are short on time, this quote summarizes the article nicely:

What is more frightening than any particular policy or ideology is the widespread habit of disregarding facts. Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey put it this way: "Demagoguery beats data."

No doubt there is a measure of truth to those words, but if you ask me, they grossly oversimplify the situation. The larger problem is not the disregarding of facts, it is our collective inability to reasonably sift through a mountainous heap of them to attain anything resembling truth.

Representatives for opposing viewpoints are eager to debunk data presented by the other side, but only rarely do they succeed fully. The truth of the matter is that most of the time, the data is in fact factual within the context created by the method and purpose of its collection. Consider, if you will, gun control. Pro-gun control advocates can cite cases where violent crime is higher in neighborhoods with a higher proportion of guns to citizens, while those who support gun ownership can do much the same in reverse, rolling out examples of high crime rates existing in regions with tight gun restrictions. The thing is, they're both right!

Unfortunately and perhaps unfairly, it falls to us to determine the context of each data set. How many factors were considered when constructing a particular study? What region of the country received closest attention? Over how much time was a study completed? Rarely will two studies match identically, or even match closely enough to be considered a fair comparision. In truth, we may not even possess the means to complete a completely "fair" study that factors in every conceivable contributing factor to whatever is being examined.

I feel perfectly justified in arguing that our supposedly impartial media owes us as much of that context as is possible to acquire. When citing a study, a reporter should be required to give the audience a sense of the purpose of, and target group examined with that study. When referencing a poll, a journalist should be obligated to list at a reasonable sample of the questions asked by the pollsters, and to supply information regarding the demographic(s) to which the poll was administered. This is the data the public needs to find something closer to actual truth.

Sometimes the news does list a few key poll questions in its coverage of an issue, and ya know what? Almost every time, I find myself saying, "well, of course that's the answer they were going to get with that question." A great many polls are overly direct, presumably in order to save time (or occasionally to skew results.) Perhaps others are better constructed, but the bottom line is that the public needs as much information as possible to make this determination.

If we hope to understand an increasingly complex world, we must be willing to ask increasingly complex questions. Regardless of divided national opinions, truth is waiting to be found if we know where and how to look, or in many cases, demand the best from those who do.

Posted by Andy at 02:23 PM | Comments (1)

March 30, 2006


I have been reading and hearing about the impact of a few Danish cartoons featuring the Prophet Mohammed over the past few weeks, as have the rest of you in all likelihood. Without question, we must rally to the defense of a free press and freedom of thought. Radical Islamic leaders must be condemned for inciting violence in their followers on account of these images. Artists, authors, magazines, and newspapers must retain the ability to create or publish such works without fear of savage retribution, but the question remains — should they?

Should an institution or individual publish works offensive to a group of people just because it can? Do such works carry with them a purpose great enough to trump this consideration? In the case of cartoons printed on T-shirts and the like, I would argue against the presence of such a purpose. (One could easily argue that the original printing of these cartoons did in fact have a worthy purpose.)

In an increasingly ambiguously defined modern era, we must temper free speech with responsibility. We owe it to our enemies, our allies, and ourselves to treat every subject with respect, even if a subject does not deserve that respect. Only then can we stake any reasonable claim to righteous purpose and moral high ground. At the same time, we should not use respect as a tool to gain such high ground, but rather employ it as a matter of course, without motive.

When you talk about the state of the world today, the politics of your office, or indeed about any subject, be mindful of the language you chooose, the surrounding context that defines the purpose of that language, and the implications of its interpretation, or worse, misinterpretation, outside your intended audience. In so doing, you will promote a culture of respect and self-confidence well worth the initial investment. Freedom of speech is a right worthy of the sacrifices we have historically made to maintain it. Use it wisely.

Posted by Andy at 09:02 PM | Comments (3)

March 29, 2006

A Warning

Modern society faces no greater threat than moral relativism.

Posted by Andy at 08:43 PM | Comments (7)

March 24, 2006

No Time for Pretty

I've been checking a variety of political blogs and related sites lately, and have noticed one weird trend common to many - they're really ugly! It seems poor design skills bridge the gap between liberals and conservatives alike. A fair amount of the blogs I've seen don't even incorporate an original design at all, instead using the prepackaged skins included with their blog software installation or sign-up.

I wonder why high profile sites skip this step of the process. Are they trying to save a couple bucks? Would a high quality web design somehow diminish the content in their eyes? Must political sites follow a sort of bare-bones fashion trend in order to be taken seriously?

It all seems rather silly to me, but then, so does a lot of the dialogue at times.

Posted by Andy at 09:09 PM | Comments (2)

March 23, 2006

Remember Tom Fox

I invite you all to visit this link on a friend's site which discusses the death of peace activist Tom Fox. The thread is worth your time, and it in turn contains links to a few other sources.

Posted by Andy at 07:09 PM

March 15, 2006

Criminal Penalties

I have listened to a great deal of discussion on news programs lately about "activist judges" allowing offenders, particularly child molesters and rapists, to go free after serving extremely short sentences, using the argument that rehabilitation, not prison time, is the answer. The news programs I watch have condemned these judges, and I wholeheartedly support this position. At the same time, it occurs to me that we seem to be unable to entertain the notion that we can enforce appropriate prison sentences and work to rehabilitate those serving terms for a whole host of crimes.

Why is this concept so hard to embrace? If our prison systems are equipped with methods to rehabilitate criminals in prison for even lengthy periods of time, do we not all benefit from the result? I am aware that the methods for rehabilitation may be in dispute, but beyond that point, those in favor of harsh prison terms never seem to mention rehabilitation, and those supporting rehabilitation seem not to believe in harsh prison terms. On this of all issues, can we not reach a consensus and help everyone in the process? Both are possible without compromising either position!

Posted by Andy at 11:07 PM

March 10, 2006

I am Ashamed

Due to the knee-jerk reaction that has taken place in this country over the port takeover deal, the Dubai Company at the center of it all has given up its claim. Don't think that didn't cost us some behind the scenes political capital. Though I personally valued the tactical relationship with the UAE above the suggested risks to our port security, I welcomed the debate that supposedly was to occur as a result of this scrutiny. Now that debate will never occur, because our media threw poll numbers at us indicating that 65% of us were against an Arab company owning our ports, and because power players in Congress want to win political victories by ramming that statistic home. Nevermind that the American public never had a chance to be informed on the issue and that the news jumped on it before trying to disseminate that information. Nevermind that most of our security comes from intelligence gathering that relies on relationships with Arab nations. Did that ever make the news or enter the Congressional arena? Of course not.

What does it say for us as a nation when we favor isolationism in order to create the illusion of security? What does it do to our efforts to spread democracy in the Middle East when, at the same time, we recoil from business dealings with a company because the term "Arab" is attached to it? What no one wanted to consider here is that Americans were still going to be running the security operations in all of these ports, and that every company operating on our soil must adhere to our laws regarding our national safety.

I'm just a little bit embarrassed to be an American today. When we cannot even abide a 45 day waiting period in order to confirm or dismiss our port security concerns, that calls into question our commitment to the ideals we claim to value above all others. Let us hope the UAE has a short memory.

Posted by Andy at 12:33 AM | Comments (6)

March 01, 2006

CNN Disappoints Me

I just finished watching a substantial piece of an interview of Howard Dean by Wolf Blitzer on a show called The Situation Room that airs on CNN in the afternoon. The topic, not surprisingly, was port security, and rarely have I seen a reporter give someone with such a clearly and publicly defined bias a free pass like this one. Dean rolled out the usual pseudo-fact that only 5% of shipping gets inspected, and Blitzer made no effort to clarify anything whatsoever.

Want to know how shipping inspection actually works? Roughly 98% of shipping gets scanned. Suspicious items undergo further and more detailed scanning in order to detect specific isotopes found within materials usable for terrorist aims. If those isotopes are present, the suspicious article or articles are searched by hand. Our ever popular 5% label applies to the number of containers that actually get hand searched, which would include inspections of suspicious items as described above as well as random searches.

Someone needs to tell me how the use of this statistic in the manner of Dean and many others can be called anything but a carefully worded lie. Moreover, is it not the responsibility of the news media to demand clarification and more extensive information? I am not surprised so few Americans vote. It requires an obsession to obtain anything resembling truth from politicians and the news media alike, and most people simply do not have the time to devote to such an endeavor.

Posted by Andy at 05:15 PM | Comments (3)

December 31, 2005


I'm sitting here in my basement flipping through channels after watching the Terps roll over a pre-conference season team and I've just happened to stop briefly on the "Kristi Yamaguchi Friends and Family" skating special. Seems like a pleasant and harmless way to end out the holiday for a young family still off work, and it is, but just as the show started, the camera panned around and wound up resting on a big McCormick logo printed in the ice smack in the center of the arena. I hate this sort of thing, and it is absolutely everywhere as you all know.

This sort of advertising cheapens the entire concept of harmless family tv. First off, this logo takes the place of pretty artwork that otherwise could be featured, such as a snowy gingerbread house or something fitting the theme of friends and family, and more importantly it makes me feel like some sort of corporate shill just for having watched for five minutes. The same could be said for sporting events or just about anything else these days, but there is something particularly offensive about such a crass advertising display in the context of such a harmless family show.

If I happen to be in a supermarket over the next few weeks and have a choice between a McCormick product and a competitor's item of similar quality, you can bet I'm going with the competitor. Happy New Year McCormick.

Posted by Andy at 04:21 PM | Comments (4)

December 16, 2005

Elections in Iraq

Others have posted more profound sentiments than I on this matter, but I feel I would be remiss if I failed to mention today's successful elections in Iraq. Congratulations, soldiers and citizens alike, for enduring and fighting against the constant threat of death in order to get us to today. Now the task falls to our Congress to stay committed to the cause long enough to get this new government on its feet, for it is surely worth American blood to affect such profound change in such a troubled area of the world.

Posted by Andy at 12:31 AM

November 17, 2004

War Coverage Outrage

In all likelihood you have heard at some point today, whether in print, on television, or online, that a soldier was videotaped shooting an unarmed insurgent believed to be playing dead during house-to-house fighting in Falluja on Saturday. In and of itself, an in-house military investigation on a matter such as this shows good judgment, but the nature of the resulting media coverage, fraught with implications of war crimes, shows a complete lack of concern towards our military as a whole.

Our troops face daily traps in which insurgents, bent on killing US soldiers in any way they can, fake death, lace their dead with explosives, and otherwise ignore every rule of international warfare one can name. Our news media simultaneously ignores these dangers in order to continue their subtle and sometimes not so subtle anti-war agendas under the guise of impartiality, without any consideration for the safety of the men and women facing them. If fault is to be found, it lies with those in charge of communications, not with a soldier indoctrinated to the tactics of a deceitful enemy faced with a split-second decision.

Those implying otherwise need to seriously rethink the importance of substantive reporting over the ratings to be had whenever scandal is paraded before news-hungry citizens. The news media is the only resource we have if we wish to remain informed about the world around us. Does the media then not bear the responsibility in reporting hard news over attention-grabbing drama?

Posted by Andy at 02:21 AM

November 11, 2004

Arafat is Dead

Well, Yasser Arafat is dead, and to be honest I don't know how I feel about it. I think it will depend entirely on news of his replacement in the coming weeks. I do not believe Arafat was a particularly good man, but he may end up being better than the alternative.

It is undoubtedly beyond our experience how any Palestinian leader can react to the rest of the world given the conditions in which the Palestinian people live and their resulting attitudes and beliefs. We sit here in America and look upon Arafat's overall lack of cooperation in mid-east peace talks with distain. Perhaps we should, but I doubt any of us know what would have happened to him had he cooperated more fully. The possibility certainly exists that peace could have been achieved, but an equally probable Palestinian coup or civil war and the consequent refusal to comply to any agreements made my Mr. Arafat in the first place may well have resulted instead. For what it is worth, I will try to keep as open a mind as I can and pray for the next leader of the Palestinian to be as progressive as his people will tolerate.

Posted by Andy at 02:11 AM

October 31, 2004

The parties, not people, are furious

This excellent article appeared on the Perspective page of today's Baltimore Sun...

The parties, not people, are furious
Consensus: Despite talk of a divisive campaign that has widened the gap between voters on key issues, experts say that 'Americans agree on many more things than they disagree about.'
By Michael Hill
Sun Staff

Conventional wisdom holds that this is a bitterly divided country, that whoever wins the presidency on Tuesday will face a nation split right down the middle, coming out of a campaign that has widened the cultural and political canyon that separates the two sides.

But, truth be told, most of us agree with one another a lot more than we realize. It's our political system that is divided - and divisive - not the country.

"We have a really polarized political class, but the country as a whole is not nearly as polarized," says Morris P. Fiorina of Stanford University.

Geoffrey Layman, a political scientist at the University of Maryland, College Park, agrees. "The general level of polarization in the country is probably overblown," he says. "I think that polarization is real, but it is mainly party polarization."

So does Benjamin Ginsberg, a political scientist at the Johns Hopkins University. "Our country has always been divided in one way or another - ethnically, urban-rural, sectionally," he says. "Now we see a kind of cultural divide. People tend to make too much of it. Americans agree on many more things than they disagree about."

The problem is that for a number of reasons, the process of choosing candidates has been handed over to the very people who are most likely to be to the far left or far right on the issues, 20 percent or so of the population. So it is not surprising that such candidates emerge from that process.

"People's positions are not polarized," says Fiorina, a senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution who has just published Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America. "It's the political choices they have that are polarized."

The argument is that the vast majority of the American people have broad agreements on many of the most contentious issues, but they are rarely allowed to vote for a candidate who shares those views.

This means that the person who takes the oath of office on Jan. 20 has the opportunity to move to the middle and govern by consensus. But, he will do that at his political peril, as he will risk alienating the most vocal and visible of the people who put him in office.

The war in Iraq is by its very nature a polarizing problem.

"One thing that will happen is that whoever wins, there will be the usual spirit of sportsmanship, a rallying around him that will stretch on to the inaugural," says James McGregor Burns, professor at the University of Maryland's Academy of Leadership which is named after him.

"There will be a period of people coming back together, but the problem is the intractability of the situation in Iraq," Burns says. "I think given the Vietnam War as something of a precedent or indicator, the Iraq situation is simply going to divide people more and more."

The challenge for the winner will be to seek out the kind of consensus on Iraq that researchers say exists on other issues that are considered fundamentally polarizing.

Abortion is a good example. One side calls it murder, the other a fundamental human right. Rarely does a Republican emerge who does not call for the overturn of Roe v. Wade, while most Democrats are afraid to advocate restrictions on abortion of any kind.

But Layman says that polls show broad agreement among the populace.

"A clear majority of American people favors abortion rights in the first trimester, perhaps with some restrictions like parental consent for teenagers," he says. "Once you get to late-term abortions, those figures stand on their head.

"In the second trimester, about two-thirds of the people are opposed to allowing abortions. And when you get to the third trimester, it is between three-quarters and four-fifths are in clear opposition," he says.

"That's what the American public chooses, but it is not the choice they are offered," Layman says. "It's either no abortion under any circumstances, or abortion on demand. When the choice is so polarized, it makes the country appear to be more polarized."

A variety of changes in the way the country conducts it politics has contributed to this situation.

"The parties are now sorted out better ideologically," Fiorina says. "You don't have the conservative Southern Democrats any more. And the old-time machines - who were in it for the money and jobs - are gone," he says. "The people in the parties today are ideologues. They are in it for the politics."

Though it was seen as a populist reform, the move to primaries to choose nominees exacerbated these ideological differences. The party regulars dominate the primaries so that candidates have to jump through their ideological hoops to get to the general election. In the old smoke-filled rooms, the party bosses might be more inclined to choose a centrist candidate who could win - and deliver patronage - rather than an ideologue they all agreed with.

Another reason for the polarization that must be chalked up to the law of unintended consequences is campaign finance reform. "The new campaign finance laws make activists more important," Layman says. "You can't get huge soft-money contributions anymore, so you have to have a wide base of people willing to give small contributions. Ideological activists are even more important in that context."

As the election nears, particularly when it is as close as this one, instead of moving to the middle, candidates tend to focus on their ideological base, trying to make sure that this solid block of voters turns out.

The whole system seems designed to produce the polarization so many decry.

"There is this thesis that centrist candidates depress voter turnout," says Georgia Sorenson, a senior scholar at the University of Maryland's Burns Academy of Leadership. "I was actually excited about this election, as there were real differences between the candidates. It looks at though voter turnout will be high, people were involved again. It seemed ideal.

"But when you look at the other side, what happens when one of them loses and you have this huge group of people who were invested in the election, who had not participated before, you have a truly divided scenario," she says. "I think that's a problem I really hadn't anticipated."

Fiorina points to California's Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as an example of someone who has tapped into the broad consensus in the middle and is using that to govern what had been a polarized state quite effectively.

"But he would have never made it through a Republican primary," Fiorina says, noting that Schwarzenegger - who came into office under the odd recall system that dumped Democratic Gov. Gray Davis - was under attack by party stalwarts for his liberal social views. "It took a fluke in the process to transcend that."

Layman points to the success of Ross Perot's quixotic candidacy in 1992. "Here was someone who had no experience governing, who was not running on either major party ticket, who was a little bit quirky - at one point he even dropped out of the race - and he still gets 19 percent of the vote. I think that's because he was somebody who represented the center of American politics."

Layman says the parties have such people but, as Fiorina said of Schwarzenegger, they never make it through the primaries.

"Somebody like a John McCain or even a Joe Lieberman who are fairly traditional when it comes to cultural issues, but not necessarily hard-line, and are in favor of a strong military and defense, and also in favor of using government in a positive way to improve education and provide social welfare," Layman says. "I think that's about where the average American is."

Bill Clinton is noted as someone who moved to the center, particularly on domestic issues, and, after a few bruising battles, was able to isolate the ideologues of the Republican party, remaining popular even after the Monica Lewinsky mess in part because his political enemies turned it into an ideological battle.

Like Clinton, Tuesday's winner will face a Congress that comes out of this polarized political process. Unless he can make clear the political peril of opposing his middle-of-the-road proposals - as Schwarzenegger has done in California - the opposition party will want to beat him simply because he is on the other side.

Sorenson says the president should look for issues around which he can build consensus. "He needs to find a task that will bring some healing," she says.

Burns contends that because he is not saddled with a record in Iraq, Kerry has a better chance of pulling this off. He points to Richard Nixon as someone who succeeded at this despite the divisiveness of Vietnam before Watergate pulled him down.

Ginsberg of Johns Hopkins says whoever wins can do as he chooses - access this broad center or head off in an ideologically charged direction - without worrying about Congress.

"The nature of the presidency has changed," he says. "He does not depend on Congress. He has a host of unilateral instruments he can use. Look at Clinton's second term. He was impeached. He got nothing through Congress. But much of his agenda was implemented through the bureaucracy, through regulatory review and executive orders."

Ginsberg notes that Bush invaded Iraq making clear that he didn't need congressional approval, something presidents have claimed since Harry Truman decided not to ask for a declaration of war on North Korea, saying his position as commander in chief and the United Nations charter gave him necessary authority.

Copyright (c) 2004, The Baltimore Sun
Posted by Andy at 08:31 PM

October 16, 2004

Wartime Propaganda?

As the political season rolls on, I find myself growing more and more tired of hearing the current Iraq war compared to Vietnam or hearing the words "total disaster" from any direction I care to look.

40,934 US casualties were sustained in Vietnam compared to 1098 in Iraq. Naturally even one casualty is too many for associated loved ones, but as a nation, America suffers 5 times as many deaths annually from food poisoning as from the war in Iraq to date.

In addition, we as a nation no longer have the draft in place. Every soldier enlisted in the US military is there by choice. While the terms of service for our reservists and guard members certainly needs review and reform, even they join of their own free will.

A soldier does not automatically attain the status of "hero" simply by joining the service or fulfilling their contractual obligations. U.S. behavior during and after Vietnam has created a "guilt backlash" that causes us to label anyone associated with war thusly, a correction mechanism, if you will, that will in all likelihood last until an equally embarrassing or disastrous scenario unfolds as a result. Certainly every war sees its share of heroes, but the term gets so much use these days that I am beginning to wonder if I qualify as a hero for watching the news in the first place.

As a voter or concerned citizen, you are welcome to oppose the war for a variety of valid reasons. If you oppose our leadership taking America to war offensively instead of defensively, or believe that oppressed foreign nations should decide their own fates or request help first in the style of the American Revolution, by all means feel comfortable with your beliefs. Just don't get suckered into the newsreal hype, expecting instant results at no cost or expecting nations heavily bribed by Saddam himself via the Oil for Food program to take on major responsibilities In Iraq.

Iraq is decidedly not another Vietnam, nor do pending elections or an even remotely stable interim government constitute a "total disaster." Footage of children attending schools free of hate-propaganda or workers bring power or running water to areas of the nation previously deprived of such services simply does not make for good television.

When all is said and done, can we say the war is a success at this point? Certainly not. We also cannot dismiss it as a disaster regardless of how popular the term becomes. History shows that people can believe just about anything if they hear it repeated often enough, but that does not indicate that we must. Don't believe the hype.

Your comments are welcome.

Posted by Andy at 02:03 PM

September 05, 2004

B.C. gets it right

Just click on the thumbnail to view the full sized image.

BC comic

Posted by Andy at 05:15 PM | Comments (1)