August 15, 2009

By The Numbers

The best breakdown I've seen regarding the "46 million uninsured" number we keep hearing about.

Full disclosure: Hennessey was the senior economic advisor for the George W. Bush administration.

Can You Hear Us Now?

Just noticed a Rasmussen poll that shows that 54% of voters polled said that passing no healthcare plan would be better than passing the congressional one. This is a higher percentage than voted for our current president (52.9%) and much higher than voted for his opponent (45.7%). I'm not a big believer in polls, but I think that this one makes it clear that opposition to this one is not just partisan politics. It doesn't seem to be an economic issue, either, as those who make under $20,000--who would likely "benefit" from the plan--are "evenly divided"* over the issue. What it does seem to be is an age issue, with the majority of those over 30 against the congressional plan. I'm not sure that bodes well for congress and the president should they continue to push this agenda.

*The actual numbers for the breakdown are only available for premium members.

August 12, 2009

It's All In The Way You Tell It

President Obama awarded Ted Kennedy (among others) the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor available. During the ceremony...

...the president recounted a story he said Kennedy sometimes tells about a little boy who sees an old man collecting stranded starfish on the beach and throwing them back into the sea.

"'There are so many', asks the boy. 'What difference can your efforts possibly make?'" Obama said, recounting the story. "The old man studies the starfish in his hand and tosses it to safety, saying, 'It makes a difference to that one.'

I have my own little story to tell. Maybe it'll catch on.

A young boy sees the President of the United States adding Ted Kennedy to his list of candidates to receive the highest of civilian honors. "Why would you add him?" asks the the boy. "While drunk, he drove his car off a bridge and left his young date in the car to drown."
"But in his career he has done so much for so many others," the president responds. "What difference is one life in comparison to the many he has helped?"
The young boy turns in disgust and walks away, muttering "It makes a difference to that one."

August 06, 2009

Hey...I Didn't Get A Tee Shirt!

Thanks to Ken for alerting me to this insightful guide to spotting those no-goodniks, the "astroturfers."

Can you say "Obama's Enemies List"? I knew that you could.

Because People And Economies Are So Much Alike?

Christina Romer, chairperson of the Council of Economic Advisers, today compared the economy to a sick patient.

"Suppose that you go to your doctor for a strep throat. And he or she prescribes an antibiotic. Sometime after you get the prescription and maybe even after you've taken the first pill, your fever spikes. Do you decide that the medicine is useless? Do you conclude that the antibiotic caused the infection to get worse? Surely not. You probably conclude that the illness was more serious than you and the doctor thought and are very glad you saw the doctor and started taking the medicine when you did."
I wish people would stop trying to use logic when they don't know what they're doing. What we have here is a mixture of two fallacies: a false analogy and begging the question. A false analogy results when you attempt to compare two things that have only a superficial similarity. Here, Romer tries to compare a prescription's effect on an illness to the stimulus's effect on the economy. To be fair, I suppose the analogy is not so much false, as it is incomplete. After all, if we really want to examine the analogy, we might point out that there are a number of reasons your fever might spike after taking a pill. The medicine might have some serious side effects (some of which might be worse than the original illness). The patient might also be allergic to the medication, in which case the patient would certainly have been better off not taking it in the first place. A good doctor might take those possibilities into account.

The bigger problem is the "begging the question" falacy, which results when one assumes that the very point being argued has already been proved. For example, arguing that women should not be allowed into men's clubs because they're for men only. Isn't the question being argued whether or not the clubs should be for men only? And that's essentially what Romer does. You'll notice she says the doctor prescribes "an antibiotic." Since we all know that antibiotics are an accepted and effective treatment for strep throat, of course we might not conclude that the antibiotic is useless or harmful (barring the conditions in the previous paragraph). But isn't the question at hand whether or not the antibiotic (the stimulus) is an effective treatment for the strep throat (bad economy)? To initially equate the stimulus with an acknowledged successful treatment is a clear "begging the question" fallacy. A more accurate analogy would have been to compare a doctor giving a patient a prescription that is untested, or that other doctors have speculated to be potentially harmful. In that case, I think a fever spike after taking that first pill would have caused our patient a great deal of alarm, and in fact may have been the result of the medication. In that case, a good doctor might very well take the patient off of that medication and try another one. I only hope others out there can spot the flaws in her logic.

One last thought: If I took a pill and afterwards my fever spiked, or any other symptom showed up, I very well might be justified in thinking the pill is the cause. I certainly wouldn't dismiss the idea as "surely" as Romer does because I care about my health. Perhaps Romer's flawed medical analogy should actually give us important insight into the administration's views on health care...

August 03, 2009

I Can't Stop Clicking!!

So I've been absorbed with this website lately: flickchart. There's not much to it, really, but it's addictive. You start out being given a choice between two films. Depending on your choices, flickchart makes a personal ranking for your top movies. You also get information on others' picks, and can discuss the various choices. Sound boring? It's not. And sometimes the choices are easy. But sometimes they're not. I would guess that most people would have no problem choosing between Rocky and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, but is it equally as easy to choose between, say, Die Hard and Raiders of the Lost Ark?

It's not perfect. Since the first several movies you rank create your list, I've found it tough to get some of them off your top 20. Dumb and Dumber was in my top 20 for a loooong time. For the most part, though, it does a fairly accurate job, especially the more choices you go through. For example, I've got just over 1000 decisions, and here's the makeup of my top 20:

  1. The Wrestler
  2. The Professional
  3. Midnight Run
  4. Spider Man
  5. Dark City
  6. Spider Man 2
  7. Young Sherlock Holmes
  8. Deliverance
  9. The Sixth Sense
  10. Jaws
  11. The Bourne Identity
  12. Rocky
  13. Live Free or Die Hard
  14. Caddyshack
  15. Sharky's Machine
  16. Die Hard
  17. Mission Impossible III
  18. Batman Begins
  19. Terminator 2: Judgement Day
  20. Boogie Nights

Some of them should be higher (Jaws, Die Hard) and some lower (The Wrestler, Deliverance), and some are missing (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars), but if these twenty were at a film festival? I'd never leave my seat.

You can create your own profile at, but I understand the waiting list could be a couple of weeks. I, however, have a few invites that I might be enticed into giving away. Make me an offer I can't refuse...