The Kindle

So, this week, I did something I’d been reluctantly avoiding for a while: I bought a Kindle.
I’m still somewhat “anti-Kindle”, even after its purchase. Is it a cool device? Absolutely. At a purely “geek/technical” level, it’s a great little device.
My beef with the Kindle has always been that my grandfather bestowed his genetic makeup on me when it comes to a love of the printed word. I remember thumbing throw walls of books that he had taken great care of his entire life… borrowing books that clearly had been in “The Library of John F. Balling” (as the embossed title page would tell you) for decades. There was a shared bond, that my hands were turning those pages just as my father’s might have, and my grandfather’s before that.
And a Kindle is completely incapable of that sort of history.
D told me, when we discussed it, that we could always buy (again) the dead-trees version of a book if it was “worthy of permanence”, but by the same token, there were books in my grandfather’s collection that I remember reading that weren’t, necessarily, “life-changing permanent-collection” books, but were just common paperbacks.
But, I try to keep an open mind (no, really, I do, I’m just not always successful!), and recently had a couple bucks to spare and decided to take a chance, and see if I liked it. Easing my mind was the realization that I could treat the Kindle like a USB drive on my Mac and rip the DRM’ed books off of the unit, and stash them somewhere else (in case Amazon decides to delete them from peoples’ units, or in case the technology sucks, etc., etc. By having copies of them at least, I can always break the DRM later (using the DMCA’s interoperability exception as the legal basis), so there’s more of a feeling of “ownership” than of being some crummy “licensee” (even if the Kindle terms and conditions are clear that it’s the latter… at the end of the day, the reality is much more important than the legalities on something like that).
So, … any suggestions of good books to download to my Kindle? 🙂

How To Destroy An Entire Industry – The Healthcare Edition

So this is something I’ve been wondering if my “progressive” healthcare-reform-loving friends would be able to answer: What are you going to do when the healthcare reform bill destroys the healthcare industry? And it will, and it’s not hard to sort out how… Here’s how it works:
The healthcare reform package bills, currently awaiting conference committee, both include provisions which require insurance companies to take on high-risk customers, and customers with pre-existing conditions. In other words, customers who will cost the insurance companies billions of dollars in outflow, but only generate minimal income (in relation to their expenses anyway).
Now, anyone can see that this situation isn’t tenable for the insurance companies, taken by itself. If I can force any company to sell things to customers, at a loss that’s measured in several orders of magnitude, per customer, then even a child can understand how they’ll go broke. (To demonstrate with a child, have a child buy a bunch of toys at $10 each and then be forced to sell those toys to “kids who really need toys” at $1 each. Require that the kid go buy more toys when they run out, and keep selling toys to any other kid who asks to buy one… they’ll understand it really quick).
Now, the healthcare reform bills’ answer to this dilemma is to force everyone to get healthcare coverage from some provider, regardless of how little you might need it.
There’s an absolutely sick number of young adults who, every day, have done the math to realize that their healthcare expenses, per annum, cost FAR less than their healthcare PREMIUMS would cost, and so they ride the “risk train” and pay as they go for services they need. (Some of these folks will hedge their bets by buying less-expensive healthcare insurance with high deductibles just in case something million-dollars-heinous happens in their lives).
With those folks, who will generate far more income than outflow on the insurance-providers’ books, the insurance companies will in effect subsidize the losses they are forced to take on the aforementioned high-risk customers.
But, you see, here’s the trick, and the part where “progressives” miss the boat. Congress’ ability to write laws is based on the Constitution, and the powers enumerated to it in that document. In the absence of a specific grant of power, their authority falls to the Interstate Commerce Clause, a wholly overused bit of legal art which says that Congress has the right to regulate commerce between the states.
However, refusing to participate in commerce (e.g., refusing to buy insurance) isn’t something that Congress can regulate. If you were participating in some sort of interstate commerce, then certainly Congress would be within its legal jurisdiction, but there’s nothing in the Constitution which says that they can force you to participate in commerce, which will then be regulated.
So, as soon as something passes which requires John Doe #s 1…500 to participate in commerce they don’t want to, you will see it go to the courts. And the Courts, having more than a First Grade understanding of ConLaw, will throw out the part requiring people to buy insurance, because it doesn’t have a constitutional leg to stand on.
But the trick is — the part of the law requiring insurance companies to cover people, since they are interstate entities for the most part, will stick. The insurance companies will be forced to carry people who will cost them far more than they bring in, and they won’t have the people who bring in far more than they cost to cover the losses. They’ll eventually start to go belly-up, and you’ll have a crisis far worse than the banking crisis ever looked.
So, my questions for my Democrat friends are:
(a) How do you intend to get around the clear-cut Constitutionality issue, and
(b) What do you intend to do for healthcare when there’s nobody left around to cover you at all?

Fear Itself

“A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.”

K, Men In Black

CNN is running a story, or rather a fear-mongering piece of tripe, about how “people on the terrorist watchlist are managing to buy guns and nobody’s stopping them.”
Now, there’s two things wrong with the story. The first is the premise itself is flawed, and the second is how blatantly slanted the story is.
On the first part… we live in a nation of laws and principles, and one of those principles is “innocent until proven guilty.” When someone is convicted of a crime, they give up some of their rights, but if they’re just suspected of a crime, well, they get to keep on walking and talking and going about their business. That’s how it’s supposed to work in a free society.
Also, seriously, the “Terrorist Watch List”?!?!? THAT’s what we should be using to stop people buying firearms? The list that everyone knows is flawed? The list that is no more complicated than “your first and last name”, so if you happen to have a common Arab name, you are going to be shit-outta-luck because there’s undoubtedly some terrorist who’s used your name as an alias? The list that has banned freakin’ Congressmen from flying? The one that has banned 6-month-old children from flying? THIS is the list we want to use to curtail peoples’ rights?
Seriously, I don’t fuckin’ think so.
And, of course, to the second part – the thinly veiled agenda of the article itself. When I was taking Journalism classes, we were taught some of the “basics” of Journalism. The most important parts of the story, the things you want your reader to take away from the article, you put in the first paragraphs. Many readers won’t read whole stories, so you put the things you, as a writer or as a news agency, think the reader should care about in the top paragraphs, and put the rest, in descending order of importance, down through the article.
The “least important” aspects of the CNN article? The failings in the watch-list, how ineffective it is at even identifying terrorists, the fact that using it would be so overbroad as to be unconstitutional, etc.
Not mentioned at all in the article is the most crucial (because, as Journalism rules go, the least important things to the agency are the things that get cut for space), and that is “what it means to be a terrorist”. In the world of terrorism defined by the United States Department of Defense? PROTEST is a form of “low-level terrorism”. So, technically, as far as the DoD is concerned, if you protest — if you exercise your Constitutional right to freedom of speech, or to petition your elected government for redress — you are classified as a “low-level terrorist”, and thus are eligible to have your right to own a gun infringed upon.
In Soviet Russia, terrorism defines you….

Someone Send That Man A Copy of “Atlas Shrugged”!

So Obama took the podium today to talk about the Chrysler bankruptcy announcement. CNN writes:

The president also blasted a group of investment funds and hedge funds for holding out for an “unjustified taxpayer bailout.”
Several financial institutions, led by J.P. Morgan, agreed to reduce Chrysler’s loan repayment obligations by as much as two-thirds, Obama said.
But “a group of investment firms and hedge funds decided to hold out for the prospect of an unjustified taxpayer-funded bailout” Obama said. “They were hoping that everybody else would make sacrifices and they would have to make none.”

Heyyyy, welcome to the real world, buddy! Why should they take the risk if you’ve made it quite clear you’re willing to have everyone else (e.g., the taxpayers) assume the risk. This is exactly what fiscally conservative folks were predicting would happen. Once you make it clear that the government’s going to step in and bail people out, there’s no reason for private investors to bail themselves out. They’ll just wait for Uncle Sam’s tit to be presented and suck it dry.
If Obama and his predecessor weren’t both so completely ridiculously stupid when it comes to economic realities (and the human/social realities that go with that), then this could all be avoided. Instead, they both set a precedent of “you don’t have to actually TRY to succeed, we’ll bail you out with taxpayer funds if it gets too bad”, and now you and I, the taxpayers, foot the bill.

Obama Doesn’t Understand “Zero-Sum Game”

Obama was recently quoted, in a CNN story, as saying:

“That’s why I’ve said we’ve got to have health reform this year — to drive down costs and make health care affordable for American families, businesses and for our government,” said Obama.

If your goal is to “lower the costs for families, businesses and government”, en toto, then you are destined for failure.
Let’s say it costs $500 for an operation, and 1,000,000 people a year get it. That’s $500,000,000 a year in costs for that operation. Let’s assume for round numbers that the population of the US is 10,000,000 (this is not right, but we’ll use it as an example).
Now, in a pure-capitalist society, those 1,000,000 people all pay $500. The rest of the country pays nothing.
In a pure-socialist society, those 1,000,000 patients all pay nothing. The government pays $500,000,000 to the medical providers, and charges everyone in the country taxes totalling $50 per person. Actually more than that, probably about $100 per person, because the government infrastructure for billing, processing, collecting, and then paying out to programs all has to be accounted for.
But at the end of the day, the “total cost to the American people” hasn’t changed. In fact, it’s only gone up (from $500,000,000 to $1,000,000,000 because of government overhead).
So if you want MORE expensive healthcare for the country, … yeah, you should definitely sign up for Obama’s plan….

Who’s Accusing Who Of Spin?

A recent Huffington Post article had the headline:

Nearly 3 In 10 Say Fox News Too Tough On Obama

This just in:

Over 70% Say Fox News NOT Being Too Tough On Obama

I’m not a Fox News fan by any stretch, but with numbers like that, HuffPost shouldn’t have tried to spin it at all. They should’ve just shut their mouths and let the numbers slide, rather than making more readily available the statistics that a vast-majority of people think Fox News is A-OK when it comes to its Obama coverage.

Twitter Boot Camp?!!

Yes, that’s right, kids, if “how to type meaningless crap in under 140 characters” is something you’re having trouble figuring out, O’Reilly is running a Twitter Boot Camp. For the low-low price of $399, you too can be “trained” on things that are essentially covered in the help pages of what has to be the simplest and yet most inane product ever devised on the web (and let’s be honest, that’s saying a LOT).
What’s more, there’s the option of UPGRADING to the boot camp plus a “talk twitter dinner” with Tim O’Reilly, for $1500. Now, meaning no disrespect to Tim, because he’s a fine human being and he keeps robo-signing my quarterly royalty checks, but …. SERIOUSLY!?! $1100 extra to “talk about Twitter” with Tim over dinner? For fucks sake, that dinner better be cooked personally by Mario Batali at that price, and include full-GFE with someone cute, because that’s just insane.
You can go to the O’Reilly Open Source conference (or, frankly, almost any conference O’Reilly runs) and sit down at the same table as Tim at lunch and eat a meal with him, and I’m sure he’d happily discuss Twitter, or Perl, or web 2.0, or whatever other topic you brought up, because that’s the kind of guy he is. He loves to chat about tech issues. There’s nobody so hard up to talk to Tim that they need to pay $1100 to do it, when Tim does it for free all the time. 🙂
It truly is a world gone mad, I tell you…..