Google Must Be Destroyed

“Carthage must be destroyed.” Ceterum censeo Carthaginem delendam esse often abbreviated to simply Carthago delenda est. So ended every speech by the Roman senator Cato the Elder in the years between the 2nd and 3rd Punic wars, the latter the final war that finally accomplished what Cato and others demanded. In the years of the Republic from about 400BC to 100BC Carthage was the only power to ever seriously threaten Rome’s existence. In 216BC four years into the 2nd Punic War, the Carthaginian general Hannibal came within a hair’s breadth of destroying Rome by wiping out Rome’s legions at the Battle of Cannae. The Romans hung on and Hannibal lost his chance, but the Romans never forgot the desperation after that battle and statesmen like Cato saw Rome as never being able to rest easy as long as Carthage existed. Cato eventually got his way and during the 3rd Punic War the Romans razed the city of Carthage and sold the Carthaginians into slavery.

Fast forward 2,000 years into the future and we are faced with a different type of enemy, one that does not field armies or own navies yet poses an existential threat regardless. Companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon are amassing hundreds of billions of dollars in profit by brokering information and distorting reality. These modern companies are just as threatening to our freedom as Hannibal’s elephants were to the Romans’. Unless we recognize the existential threat we face and act soon our freedom will be lost forever.

Google Must Be Destroyed

Chances our you’ve done a search for an item you need, say a new pair of boots. Within minutes every website you visit presents ads for boots or related winter gear. By using a “free” search engine like Google you have handed Google another few data points about you. Google knows where you are (unless you are accessing through a VPN - something most people in the USA don’t do), your likely age and sex (by the choice of boots), and your socio-economic bracket (the price range of the boots you searched for, where you searched for them e.g. Walmart.com vs Nordstrom.com). The data points from that one search are collected by Google and added to those from other searches you’ve done. After a few searches Google has a very good idea who you are, what your likes are, what you hate, and more. That more is starting to get noticed.

In a 2015 The Atlantic article “People’s Deepest Darkest Google Searches Are Being Used Against Them,” Adrienne LaFrance points out how using a simple Google search as “need fast cash” can open up the user to potential fraud and financial misery. She writes, “Not only are lenders taking advantage of people in vulnerable financial situations, not only are lead generators sometimes skirting Google’s ad policies and even violating state laws, but companies are sharing individual data in a way that puts consumers directly at risk. All this comes down to the widespread availability and longevity of personal data online.” Google later banned these ads but not before investing heavily in a payday loan startup “LendUp.” A test Google search finds ads still present although interspersed with articles from government regulators and consumer agencies warning about their dangers.

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was pilloried at the time for the following quote: “There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.” Those who work in the IT field recognize the genius of this quote. The first things you can fix. The second things you can prepare for. It’s the “unknown unknowns” that keep sysadmins and designers awake at night.

In short we don’t know what we don’t know, and by manipulating and censoring search results Google is in fact manipulating reality. In “The New Censorship” Robert Epstein examines the methods Google employs to censor voices it disagrees with such as manipulating the auto-complete results, altering images displayed in Google Maps, and demonetizing YouTube videos its employees find offensive.Epstein writes, “If a librarian were caught trashing all the liberal newspapers before people could read them, he or she might get in a heap o’ trouble. What happens when most of the librarians in the world have been replaced by a single company? Google is now the largest news aggregator in the world, tracking tens of thousands of news sources in more than thirty languages and recently adding thousands of small, local news sources to its inventory. It also selectively bans news sources as it pleases.”

But his biggest complaint is Google’s usage of a site blacklist which even competing search engines use. Epstein writes, “When Google’s search engine shows you a search result for a site it has quarantined, you see warnings such as, “The site ahead contains malware” or “This site may harm your computer” on the search result. That’s useful information if that website actually contains malware, either because the website was set up by bad guys or because a legitimate site was infected with malware by hackers. But Google’s crawlers often make mistakes, blacklisting websites that have merely been “hijacked,” which means the website itself isn’t dangerous but merely that accessing it through the search engine will forward you to a malicious site. My own website, http://drrobertepstein.com, was hijacked in this way in early 2012. Accessing the website directly wasn’t dangerous, but trying to access it through the Google search engine forwarded users to a malicious website in Nigeria. When this happens, Google not only warns you about the infected website on its search engine (which makes sense), it also blocks you from accessing the website directly through multiple browsers – even non-Google browsers.” Epstein found his hijacked website was blocked by other browsers because these browsers were using Google’s blacklist to censor their own results.

Not only was Google manipulating the Internet through its browser, but it was also manipulating the Internet through competing browsers as well through the shared information. Epstein writes, “You may disagree, but in my view Google’s blacklisting practices put the company into the role of thuggish internet cop – a role that was never authorized by any government, nonprofit organization or industry association. It is as if the biggest bully in town suddenly put on a badge and started patrolling, shuttering businesses as it pleased, while also secretly peeping into windows, taking photos and selling them to the highest bidder.”

Earlier this week Google was sued by two former employees for being fired for their conservative views. On January 9, 2018 Bookworm Room posted internal messages of Google management discussing the internal memo by James Damore questioning Google’s Diversity Hiring program. She writes, “The complaint explains that Buckley holds a high-ranking “SRE” (Site Reliability Engineering) position. If you think he doesn’t have a say in content, I’m sure he and those who work with him will differ. By the way, proving as did Altman that it’s not just American academia that’s insane, Colm is an Irish Social Justice Warrior, hailing from Trinity College, Dublin.” Here’s one of Buckley’s messages:

https://i1.wp.com/www.bookwormroom.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Google-on-tolerance-and-intolerance-2.jpg

James Damore’s and David Gudeman’s lawsuit isn’t the only one Google is facing. In October conservative radio talk show host Dennis Prager filed suit against Google for the demonetizing of his YouTube videos collectively known as “Prager University.”

The New Surveillance Age

Since 2016 Google has released a series of appliances that allow hands-free querying of the Internet. Collectively known as Google Home these devices incorporate microphones to listen for the command “Hey Google,” followed by a question. The device then searches the internet and provides a spoken response. Apple was the first to come up with the spoken search/response application “Siri” on its iPhone in 2011, moving to stand-alone products known as “HomePod” in December 2017. In 2014 Amazon released the stand-alone speaker “Echo” using its Alexa search service. Although these devices are keen to emphasize their utility by using the term “speaker” or “smart speaker” to suggest the information is delivered to the user, they do not highlight these devices are always listening. The microphones in these devices are always on, although the software will only interact with the user when a key phrase such as “Alexa”, “Hey Siri” or “Hey Google” is used. In effect people are allowing their conversations to be monitored 24/7 within their own homes.

Would you allow a CCTV camera to be installed within your own home and pointed at you and your family at all times of the day? Would you allow it if Google or Amazon promised to allow you to order an item with a wave of a hand? In effect we have traded our freedom for convenience without appreciating the consequences. A friend related before Christmas how her 11 year old daughter used one of these appliances in a clever way. “Hey Alexa,” the girl said, “Tell me all the orders you’ve received over the past month.” The device dutifully listed all Amazon purchases, telling her all the presents her parents had purchased for her from the shopping site. If an 11 year old can game the appliance for her own benefit, imagine the ease a hacker of government intelligence service will have when these devices are ubiquitous.

While Google and the other makers of these appliances have promised to protect privacy, they have shown themselves to be lousy stewards of it so far. It’s true that we’ve had similar devices in our pockets for years. After all Siri’s been around on iPhones since 2011 followed in 2012 by Google’s “Google Now” assistant on Android handsets. Just because we aren’t aware of a danger doesn’t make it non-existent. There is nothing stopping a determine hacker or government intelligence agency from activating a microphone on a phone or appliance and transmitting a conversation. How long will it be before a Federal indictment against a mob boss using such a tool? I don’t worry about the usage of this tool against terrorists or mafia members. I’m worried about the usage of the tool by Google or Amazon to add to their data points for directed advertising.

Imagine a situation where you are in your kitchen with your significant other and you suggest replacing your old counter top. Then you log in to your computer to start your search only to find Amazon advertisements and Google searches pushing counter tops already there. How did it know you were interested in counter tops before you started searching? Now imagine talking about Glocks, pressure cookers or abortion and the possibilities become much more sinister. How would you prove this was happening?

Of course the companies claim they have safeguards in place to protect your privacy. But laws have not caught up to this technology and without laws and punishments in place there is nothing to stop a company like Google changing its policy. History has shown that whenever the means are available a company will exploit them for profit unless the fear of discovery and punishment outweighs the potential for profit. Ask Wells-Fargo.

Google’s parent holding company Alphabet is now one of the largest companies on the planet. Google controls a staggering 90% of all searches and as shown by Dr. Epstein’s discovery has a hand in controlling the remainder. If Google sold cars or electricity it would have long ago been broken up or regulated as a utility. So far it has avoided all attempts at federal control no doubt due to its status as top lobbyist on Capitol Hill. While other companies like Amazon, Facebook and Twitter should also face anti-trust scrutiny – and Amazon is finally seeing some after its purchase of Whole Foods – Google stands out for the danger it presents to average Americans who rely upon it for its search engine, email and mapping applications. As a conservative I’ve tried to boycott Google for its treatment of Damore and blacklisting of conservative websites. It’s not easy, and based on what Epstein found it may be pointless anyhow. The only solution is lawfare.

After the 3rd Punic War Rome was unchallenged in the Mediterranean for the next 500 years, and its golden age had begun. The threat by Google to our freedom is just as real as Carthage was to Cato’s Republic. It is time to end the dominance of Google for our own privacy and the future of a free Internet.

Google must be destroyed.

Eyes in the Darkness

Driving down the country road listening to music too loud, a dog on my lap and another on my shoulder. I travel down this road several times a week, it’s a connection to larger roads that lead to the interstate, but tonight was I was driving down it to pick up a pizza in the small town nearby. A car passes coming the other direction and I avert my eyes to the white line at the edge of the road on my right to avoid being blinded. An instant later and they are back peering into the darkness, confirming the gentle curves and twists of a road that I feel as much as I see while I drive down it. And that’s when I saw them. The eyes in the road.

A pair of eyes on the road glowing brightly like two orange embers embedded in the pavement. Within seconds I see what they belong to, an orange tabby cat, its body broken on the road in the other lane hit by a car (the one that almost blinded me? I wondered), and then its gone as I speed past at 60 miles per hour.

It’s dead I thought to myself as I continued on my journey, but those glowing eyes. I knew that cats and some other animals that are active at night have something like mirrors in the back of their eyes that reflect light, somehow helping them to see much better in darkness than most other animals. How long does that effect last after death? I wondered. Was it possible the animal was still alive?

It couldn’t be I told myself. It looked very dead. Besides the cold will kill it if it is still alive since the temperature was below 20 degree Fahrenheit.

Should I turn around? I asked myself. I made excuses. I’ve been sick. It’s too cold. I’ve got two dogs in the car which will absolutely freak out if I bring a cat into the car.

I continued, turning onto another road that led to the small town nearby.

It’s late on a Sunday. What will I do if the cat’s still alive? A side trip to the vet will be expensive. It’s just a cat. It’s dead.

But those eyes in the darkness. What if it wasn’t? What if it was only stunned? It’s just a cat. That’s not who I am. Not what I’m about. What have I become if I pass up an animal like this? I slowed the car down and pulled into an access road to a tobacco field and turned around.

This is stupid I said to myself, the cat’s dead and if it’s not you’ve just made a very expensive decision that likely no one will care about. It’s just a cat.

I spotted the cat exactly where I expected it to be coming to a stop and turning the hazard flasher’s on. There was plenty of visibility both ahead and behind me and so my stopping would present no danger to other drivers.  I saw the eyes were open, unblinking staring at nothing. The dogs started barking, sensing my unusual behavior, and I opened the door and left the car. I looked around me. There were three mobile homes a few hundred yards away, and the nearest was dark. Did this cat belong to one of these homes?

I lifted the cat’s warm body into my arms and a few drops of blood fell from its mouth. Illuminated by my car’s headlights I stood stroking the cat’s soft fur. It was a young female, likely less than a year old. Her head was way too loose on her neck meaning it was likely broken. I held two fingers to her heart and felt nothing. In the cold air my breath bathed her body in tendrils of steam so I held my breath to see if there was any hint of life from her. None. She was gone, a short life ended only moments before I had come upon her body.

Two cars slowed and passed me. I wondered what they thought of me, a bearded old man in a heavy coat cradling a dead cat in his arms stroking its fur. But I didn’t think it’s right for such an animal to die alone on a cold country road. Cats may be independent but they are still our responsibility just as dogs are.

I laid her down gently in the frozen grass away from the ditch at the side of the road. Here her body would rest without being crushed into the pavement. Perhaps her owner would find her and know what happened to her. Perhaps not. Regardless I had done enough. My conscience was appeased.

I returned to the car, turned it around and continued on my drive.

But I can’t forget those eyes in the darkness.

Japanese Dramas and Romantic Comedies

Moved to this page:

Japanese Dramas and Romantic Comedies

 

Ex-Catalonian President Flees Spain

Former Catalonian president Carles Puigdemon has fled Spain and arrived in Brussels where he had been promised asylum.

Lynyrd Skynyrd Killed in Plane Crash 40 Years Ago Today

40 years ago this evening the plane carrying the band, their backup singers, their tour entourage and two pilots ran out of gas and crashed into a heavily wooded area in southern Mississippi killing lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, his sister and backup singer Carrie Gaines, both pilots and their tour manager. Tom Farrier, former director of safety with the Air Transport Association has a terrific write-up on the crash that silenced a band that defined the genre of Southern Rock.

Although famous for Sweet Home Alabama and Freebird, the song that stands the test of time best is Simple Man. As an aging parent myself there’s gold in those lyrics if you are patient enough to find it.

Related Articles: USA Today on the crash. Rolling Stone.

So How Are the Philadelphia Eagles Doing This Year?

For the first time in over 20 years I don’t have any idea, nor do I care. I grew up watching football and playing street games of it. I lost interest in high school and college years, but eventually came back to the sport after returning to the USA after living abroad. Living outside of Philadelphia the Eagles were my team, and I followed the team zealously through the Andy Reid years including the disaster that was the Super Bowl appearance in 2005. In 2013 I wrote, “But every season the game seems to lose some of its appeal. Maybe there are too many penalties in an attempt to make the game safe. Maybe it’s because I’m growing older and have seen some pretty bad things happen to people. Maybe it’s because I’m just turning into a big pussy. But there’s only so many times I can see a player get hit and lay motionless on the ground while holding my breath before I begin to think something is wrong both with the sport and my enjoyment of it.”

For several years I ponied up several hundred dollars a season to the NFL and DirecTV for the NFL Sunday Pass, but as the CTE scandal grew I eventually dropped the package before quitting satellite completely and becoming a cord cutter. As I wrote in 2014, “The NFL has denied the existence of CTE the exact same way the tobacco companies denied cancer caused by smoking. Recently the league has pushed the problem into the future by calling for “more study” just as the cigarette companies called for further research on lung cancer when the Science behind the causative link between smoking and lung cancer was unequivocal. What they’ve done is criminal but not surprising given the amount of money league owners have invested in the game.”

I quit watching the sport because of conscience, but I still read about it and followed the Philadelphia (and Dallas) newspapers to read about the Eagles and their dreaded rivals the Cowboys.

Then Colin Kaepernick and his protest against black oppression happened and spread through the league. Now millionaires were protesting against the very nation that gave them the opportunity to become wealthier than nearly everyone else in the country. And their billionaire bosses supported them.

What originally had been a matter of conscience became like so much these days political.

So poof! A lifelong interest in the sport is snuffed out completely. Perhaps the Eagles can pick up fans from Antifa, Code Pink, or the Democratic Underground.

I think my Euro-centric friends are right: soccer is much more interesting.

Why Is Gun Control Such a Sensitive Topic to You?

Because it’s difficult to imagine living life as another person, his needs or her situation. Our instinct is to assume our situation is the norm, so we think that if we don’t need an a gun (or an abortion, gender reassignment surgery, or whatever other hot-button topic you can imagine) then nobody does.


Society is incredibly diverse and there is a naive assumption that everyone is the same. We’re not, but different doesn’t mean bad contrary to another base assumption that humans hold.


We are talking about rights, and these were viewed as so important by the founders of the USA that they recognized their origin as coming from the Divine, not a government. So when you are talking about limiting those rights you’re going to anger someone, whether that’s the right to marry whomever you want, say whatever you want, or protect yourself and your family.


Americans have become so polarized that we’ve forgotten how to empathize with those who think differently. It’s a problem that goes far beyond the 2nd Amendment and touches the very fabric of our national identity.


 

The US could definitely fund a single payer healthcare and free college for all. Should it?

Your question combines 4 questions:

  1. Can the US fund a single payer healthcare system?

  2. If it can, should it?

  3. Can the US fund college for all?

  4. If it can, should it?

Let’s start with question #1 first: Can the US fund a single payer healthcare system? California, the largest state in the USA has a single payer healthcare system plan. Unfortunately this plan has gone nowhere. Why? Because the state cannot figure how to afford it. Single-payer healthcare could cost $400 billion to implement in California


The population of California is roughly 40 million and the US is 325 million. So extrapolating from California’s numbers, the cost for single payer to cover the entire USA would be about $3.2 trillion.


Here’s President Obama’s proposed budget for 2017.



Single payer healthcare would cost the country 3/4ths of the existing budget.


So to answer question #1. Can the US fund single payer nationwide? Not really.


Question 2: Should it? Having experienced single payer and socialized medicine first-hand I have to say that if the US could afford it, it should.


Many in the USA have idealized these systems to the point of absurdity. The poor still suffer worse care than the rich under these systems, and Americans have gotten spoiled with access to high-tech tests for minor problems and short waits that would disappear under these systems. But given the car-crash-in-slow-motion collapse of the current system I believe single payer is still worth considering.


Question 3: Can the US fund college for all? Bernie Sanders’s plan for free tuition to students of households making under $125k/year would cost $47 billion a year Here’s how much Bernie Sanders’ Free College for All plan would cost


That amount is a literally a drop in the bucket of a $4.2 trillion a year budget. Sanders proposed levying a “speculation tax” on Wall Street to help pay for it.


Can the US afford it? Yes.


Question 4: Should it? An underlying assumption of those supporting free universal college is that everyone benefits from the experience. Even in countries that have free or low cost college people recognize that not everyone must have a bachelor’s degree to become a contributing member to society.


In Germany 60% of students do not attend college after high school and instead go into vocational schools where they learn specific skills that are demanded by German employers. Called “dual training” these students become apprenticed in fields such as advanced manufacturing, IT, banking, and hospitality. Why Germany Is So Much Better at Training Its Workers


Should it? Not as envisioned by Sanders and current supporters.


Most of the benefits would go to students who already can afford it, so this government program would be yet another federal subsidy to the wealthy. It would likely contribute to growing inequality, the exact opposite of the intent of many supporters.


Americans and American employers are increasingly concerned that American higher education is failing to provide the skills students need to succeed in the workplace. Kevin James, a research fellow with the Center on Higher Education Reform at the American Enterprise Institute who researches American colleges, writes in US News, “(I)t’s becoming increasingly clear that the system often fails to deliver the high-quality educational pathways that many students need to be successful in the modern workforce. For example… a recent Gallup-Lumina Foundation survey found that only four in 10 Americans agree that colleges are changing to “better meet the needs of today’s students.” Only 13 percent of respondents felt that college graduates are “well-prepared for success in the workforce.” https://www.usnews.com/opinion/k…


Americans need to wake up to the reality that not everyone is college material and that’s okay. Reviving interest in the trades and developing a “dual training” system like Germany would be a prerequisite before universal funding should be considered.


Both the health care and higher educational systems are in desperate need for reform in the US. But making them “free” is not the solution for either.


 

Trump Haters Encourage Violence

Lost in all the hyperventilation over Trump’s response to Charlottesville is the ignorance, willful in many cases, that the anti-Nazi protesters were not all nonviolent. While I do not know whether victim Heather Heyer was acting violently or not, and even if she were she didn’t deserve to die, the media and even a good part of the GOP is rushing to whitewash the actions of the protesters in their zeal to attack Trump. The danger is that by failing to criticize the violent left, they embolden it, and in doing so make it more likely that someone else is going to die but this time at the hands of the alt-Left.

Trump wasn’t alone in equating the leftist violence with the neo-Nazis at Charlottesville. According to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) ADL National Director Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted, “Whether by #AltRight or #Antifa, no excuses for violence and, keep in mind, this is exactly the response that the bigots seek to provoke.” In the same article, a Jewish Antifa member Daniel Seiradski justifies confronting neo-Nazis with violence. “When Nazis are screaming epithets in our faces, should we just smile? They come into our towns and yell at us and threaten us and say they want to kill us. Should we take that sitting down because fascists deserve free speech, too? When someone is threatening you with an existential threat, you fight back. You don’t stand there and take it.”

The problem is that his justification of violence can be used by anybody including those he justifies attacking. Charlottesville rally organizer Jason Kessler, a former Occupy Wall Street and far left extremist who switched sides, has suggested the purpose of the rally was to unite the right to push back against the existential threat posed by the Left. Palestinians in the Middle East view Israel as an existential threat. Muslims view Jews as an existential threat. Israelis view the Arab nations surrounding them to be an existential threat.

While the Media has constructed a narrative around the counter-protesters in Charlottesville that places them on the moral high ground, the actual morality of the protesters is much more ambiguous.

If violence is okay, how much? Should it be proportional – fist to fist, gun to gun – or should it be overwhelming? Since civilians in democratic countries pay taxes and vote, are they not responsible for their governments policies which threaten Islam? If so it is morally correct to use violence, say driving a truck through a crowded street or a plane into a skyscraper?

Then there is the issue of who it is okay to attack. In Charlottesville the focus of Antifa was on the neo-Nazis but in the past the group has attacked anyone they disagreed with including gay provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos. Yiannopoulos is – and has said – many things, but he’s not a Nazi, nor does he present an existential threat to the Left. Yet the group rioted when he attempted to appear in Berkley CA in February. They released personal information and harassed a Republican councilman. They’ve also called for the poisoning of pets.

Even leftists themselves are questioning the violent tactics of the alt-left. The LA Times reports, “Political scientist Jo Freeman, part of the radical student movement that forced UC Berkeley to permit political speech five decades ago, said she was dismayed at the effort that went into silencing opposition. She drew similarities between those who threatened her and other freedom marchers in the South in the 1960s, and those who bully the far right now. “It is not uncommon for societies to produce a hate squad,” Freeman said. “People who want to suppress the right to speak — they are everywhere.””

 

The US Healthcare System Woes: It’s Complicated

I participate at Quora where I answer questions about ancient Roman history and Japanese culture, two of the great loves of my life. Quora is a multi-national forum where people can ask questions and post answers about almost anything. Most of the users are Americans but there is also a strong Chinese presence, and quite a few people ask questions about American life, culture and politics. While I tend to ignore political questions, occasionally I’ll find a question about other topics that interests me, and today one came up about the American healthcare system.

Regarding Universal Healthcare, why is it not in America’s national interest to have a healthy population, even if it means they will pay less to have it?

I don’t think anyone is arguing that Americans don’t want better healthcare at a lower cost for everyone. What we are arguing about is what system we want and more importantly, how to get there from here.

 

(Detailed chart: healthcare_system_chart_1356×1049 ” Icosystem)


What non-Americans and many Americans don’t realize is just how screwed up our system is. Most don’t realize it’s not a single system. We have Medicaid for the poor, Medicare for the elderly*, VA health system for veterans, the Indian Health System on native American reservations and private group insurance for everyone else. Then each state has a say in how Medicaid and Medicare are administered with significant differences between each of them.


Then we have the stakeholders.

  • Employers which have an interest because private group insurance is tied to employment unlike most countries in the world.

  • State governments whose priorities are different than the federal government because unlike the feds the states must balance their budgets.

  • Federal government with its own priorities and oversight of the entire structure with specific control of the VA and IHS.

  • For profit and non-profit insurance companies which have to keep the lights on by taking in more in premiums than paying out in reimbursements.

  • Medical providers like doctors and nurses who have to balance care for their patients with paying their bills.

  • Medical device manufacturers whose profits depend on purchase of their output.

  • Pharmaceutical companies whose bottom line depends on the consumption of drugs in the US and the subsidy of US drugs abroad.

  • Malpractice attorneys who reap billions in fees in lawsuits against medical providers, device manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies.

  • For profit health systems whose bottom lines depend on maximizing payments from the insurance companies and minimizing expenses from the medical providers, device manufacturers and drug companies.

  • Healthy individuals who don’t see why they need to pay for services they don’t need.

  • Sick and elderly individuals who are consuming health care services.

That’s about all I can come up with. I’m sure there are more. Each one of these groups has a lobbying group that argues on their behalf to the other stakeholders, especially state and federal governments.


So pick any system you want and ask yourself, “How do I get to this system from the current one?” Any system you pick will require impacting one of the above stakeholders, and they are going to fight it, change it and make a hash of it to the point where your original ideas are all gone.



And that’s where we are today.


*Just to add to the complexity, note that the elderly will switch from Medicare to Medicaid once their benefits are exhausted. This commonly happens after seniors have been placed into nursing homes. The cost of these facilities is staggering – more than the cost of most 5 star hotels – and quickly exhaust an average senior’s Medicare benefits. At that point they have to switch to Medicaid. The problem is that many skilled nursing facilities have limited slots for Medicaid seniors, and there are usually waiting lists – meaning that most seniors have to return to the care of their loved ones who often lack the skills and resources necessary to care for them.


No one is happy about this system. But we feel as if we are trapped without hope for true change.


 

The Left’s Hypocrisy over Russia

Just a reminder that Hillary and the Democrats have a long history of colluding with Russia. Turning a blind eye to annexations in Crimea and Georgia, Putin’s support of Ukrainian rebels, the murder of 283 passengers on flight MH17, and the Russian support of Assad’s use of chemical weapons in Syria.

Hillary The Real Deplorable T-Shirt

Yes the Hillary “nasty woman” shirt meme is already a day old and therefore old news, but I had to reinstall my copy of Photoshop Elements so it took me awhile to leap in.

The Expanse: Forget Star Trek and Watch This Show

I’ll admit I used to be a Trekkie. I grew up watching reruns of Star Trek and had a Starship Enterprise model hanging from my bedroom ceiling. When the movies came out I saw them in the theater. When Star Trek Next Generation came out, I loved the show so much that the Wife’s father taped it and sent us VHS episodes to us in Japan. I even followed the spin-off Deep Space Nine.

But then it became a bit repetitive. I never got into Voyager with Captain Janeway sounding too much like a dalek. And the remakes? I’ve skipped them. I even hear there’s yet another Star Trek themed show destined for TV. My first question: Why?

My first literary love was SF. In my teens I devoured writers like Ben Bova, Harlan Ellison and Ray Bradbury. I subscribed to the long defunct OMNI magazine which lit my imagination like no other magazine. I learned that there is a lot of good science fiction out there with universes as detailed and inviting as anything imagined in Star Trek. Think I’m wrong? Go read Larry Niven’s Ringworld series and get back to me in a few years.

So I had pretty much given up on science fiction TV even though there is a whole cable network devoted to it.

Then my wife made me sit through the pilot of The Expanse, and the only thing left to decide was where to put an OPA tattoo.

Detective Miller wonders where he lost his hat.

This series is good. Really good. So good I haven’t felt this excited about a show since the second season of Star Trek Next Generation when it began to get interesting. There are great writeups on this show. See here. Here. And here. Why do I like this show?

It’s realistic. When a single threat blows up in space it becomes a threat of a million little pieces. Physics is a harsh mistress, and that enemy ship speeding towards you that you’ve just hit with a rail gun? Well guess what? Now the remains of that ship are punching holes in yours.

It’s well written. The wife and I have seen a lot of good television over our combined 110 years. We’re also very well read. So it takes a lot to surprise us. Well, actually, let me dial that back and say it takes good writing to surprise us, and The Expanse is good writing. It’s unpredictable but not completely chaotic with threads that pass through the episodes and tie the series together in a very well-written ball.

The UN Sucks. Well I am an anti-UN conservative and the portrayal of the UN as world government of an earth where the haves live on the moon and the havenots live in the streets of the cities is poetic justice. Oh and they can’t blame the Republicans because they’ve all gone to Mars.

The Universe is incredibly detailed. The belters, the people living and extracting wealth for Earth and Mars, speak a language that is about what you would expect for a multi-ethnic group of people living together in the asteroid belt. The language has its roots in English but follows the development of creole languages and is carefully constructed. Even the gestures are a mix of Japanese, Indian and other ethnicities. Life in the belt is very Blade Runner-esque, which is a good thing given how great that movie is. Even detective Miller, one of the main characters, wears a fedora just like Gaff.

The future is limitless. The Expanse is based on a series of books by James S. A. Corey, and has only touched on the story in books 2 and 3. There is no limit to where it can go, whereas Star Trek will always be constrained by previous series and movies. A new Star Trek show brings not only the baggage of its audience’s expectations, but the limits of the stories told in its universe. Star Trek Voyager attempted to go beyond that by being teleported to the other side of the universe, but in the end it gave in to temptation and made it back to the Federation. This show has no such limits, and with a new series its audience’s baggage is a small carry-on that can be safely stowed under the seat in front of you. Which leads me to…

It’s fresh. The Earth vs Mars vs the Belt. All three groups are battling to stay alive and independent. Mars dreams of terraforming the planet and his held back by an agreement with Earth. The Belt sees Mars and Earth take and take and give little back in return. No wonder the OPA, the belter resistance movement, flourishes under these conditions.

And it even has a sense of humor. Mormons in Space. Enough said.

The Mormon Interstellar Ship Nauvoo

Oh and Mythbusters’ Adam Savage shows up in the season 2 finale in a bit role. How cool is that?

There is good science fiction around these days, and it’s about time that TV reflected it. We need more shows like The Expanse (and we also need more seasons of it too. So far we’ve only been promised season 3), not another retread of Star Trek. 50 years is enough for that show, let it live on in our collective nostalgia. Instead lets see strange new worlds and boldly go where no TV show has gone before.

Make it so, SyFy Channel. Make it so!

The Lesson of Julius Caesar For Trump Haters

The New York Public Theater’s production of “Julius Caesar” is making news, mainly for turning the play into the assassination of Donald Trump complete with the main character’s wearing of a yellow wig, having a wife who speaks with an eastern European accent, and assassins played by women and minorities. The controversy has caused some sponsors to pull backing, others to pledge their continued support. It’s worth remembering the facts of the actual assassination of Julius Caesar, facts that would likely cool the excitement the play has engendered among Trump-haters.

Like Trump Caesar was a populist who disparaged the ruling elite even though he was born into it, a member of the Julia family which claimed descent from the Trojan prince Aeneas, the son of the goddess Venus. Caesar went on to build an illustrious career as a general and was popular with his men. His political career also endeared him to the common people so that when the Senate tried to arrest him for treason, he descended upon Rome with his troops and took power and his Senate opponents led by Pompey fled. He hunted them down but pardoned his political enemies who stayed behind in Rome.

The Roman Senate was nothing like its US counterpart. Few people had the right to vote and those that had it faced a list of selected candidates by the elite. Voting in a Roman election wasn’t meaningful to the male Roman citizen who did it other than to repay the debt to his patron, usually the neighborhood politician who he owed a favor to. In fact the patronage system that operated in Democratic Machine-era cities of Chicago, New York and Philadelphia would be very familiar to ancient Romans.

Caesar cut deeply into the power of the ruling elite, so it was only a matter of time that the enemies he pardoned allied with his former friends worried about the power he was concentrating into his own hands. The conspirators evidently believed their own propaganda. They thought they were fighting to save the liberty of the republic and that the common people would view their murder of Caesar as an act against tyranny. They believed they would be celebrated as liberators of Rome and even made a coin commemorating the event.

Unfortunately their murder of Caesar backfired. The people were so distraught by his murder that at his funeral pyre they began to tear wood off buildings and grabbed furniture from nearby dwellings and threw it into the fire. Instead of being applauded for their heroic act his assassins were hunted down in the streets by angry mobs. Suetonius writes, “Immediately after the funeral the commons ran to the houses of Brutus and Cassius with firebrands, and after being repelled with difficulty, they slew Helvius Cinna when they met him, through a mistake in the name, supposing that he was Cornelius Cinna, who had the day before made a bitter indictment of Caesar and for whom they were looking; and they set his head upon a spear and paraded it about the streets.”

The elite had lost touch with the common people and simply assumed that they felt as they did, that Caesar had taken power away from them without understanding that the common people had no power, and Caesar’s edicts had benefited them more than those made by his elitist predecessors. Within three years all of Caesar’s assassins were dead and the elites that opposed him destroyed, their property confiscated.

The parallels are eerie. A man of the people born of the elite. An out-of-touch elite who doesn’t understand the popularity of their object of hatred. Their drive to destroy him at all costs. How far will these parallels go?

But let me end with this: Trump is not Julius Caesar and America is not Rome. Julius Caesar had complete power when he died, Trump can’t even get a travel ban enacted. America has a system of checks and balances that no president can destroy whereas the government of Rome laid completely at Caesar’s disposal. Portraying Trump as Caesar not only shows the ignorance of the play’s producers about Roman history, it proves their ignorance about American civics, and it makes Trump look much more powerful than he is.

The Run, Hide and Tell Policy: Proof the UK Has Surrendered

Has it come to this?

Has it come to the point where the mother of our country has to tell her citizens to run and cower from Islamic terrorists?

Is this the country whose leader once pledged “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender”? And that was said when the UK was being faced with daily devastating attacks across the whole of England that killed hundreds by the world’s largest and most effective air force of the time, not just a ragtag bunch of religious zealots wearing tin cans armed with carving knives.

Has it really come to this? How?

What’s next for the UK? How many jihadist attacks must happen before the UK’s Metropolitan Police updates their graphic?

Here’s my version on what such a graphic would look like if it were released by my local North Carolina county Sheriff’s Office.