Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Why is Socialized Health Care Evil?

The health care debate in the US seems to be never-ending.

On one side we have Republicans loudly remonstrating against the evils of socialized medicine (US spelling deliberate), even though that's not what's being proposed. And on the other side we have the Democrats struggling just to articulate just what it is they're proposing.

While everyone seems to agree that the system is broken, no-one can agree on how to fix it.

The model proposed by Obama, which includes a “public option” of government-run health care to compete with the private insurance companies, seems sensible, so what is the Republicans' problem with it?

According to conservative journalist and Republican poster-boy Matthew Continetti it's because the public option is a slippery slope to socialized health care. This statement (made on last week's Real Time with Bill Maher) was left unquestioned, as if it's perfectly obvious that 'socialized health care' is a Bad Thing.

My question for US Republicans is this: why is this so? Apart from Cold War-derived cultural distaste for the word “socialized”, what's your justification for this view?

In the US you already have so many socialized institutions: defence force, police force … even your beloved fire-fighters.

These services are socialized because the benefits they provide are a group insurance against future events. It's not practical to price these services on an individual basis. No individual can assign a meaningful probability to whether, or to what extent, they will need to call on these services.

Education is also largely socialized because, like these other services, the advantage is not just realised by those who directly utilise it. Everyone benefits from an educated populace, just as everyone benefits from a defended country and safe streets.

So tell me please, all you US Republicans … why is health care any different?

Friday, 18 September 2009

Celebrity Dead Pool Has Moved!

After two years of sharing the stage here at I Like Portello, the time has come.

The Celebrity Dead Pool is all grown up and is moving on out.

Celebrity Dead PoolA shiny new blog (featuring custom design by an internationally-famous designer known as My Lovely Wife) has been set up over at Celebrity Dead Pool.

It’s a place where the Dead Pool can grow and mature, frolic and play, and have girls over far from the watchful eyes of its grumpy parent blog.

All previous Celebrity Dead Pool posts have been moved over and what’s more, instead of just monthly updates, I’ll be providing so much more! Obituaries of the recently deceased! Ruminations on the mortality of man! And …

Well, that’s pretty much it. You know the drill. Check it out. Add it to your feeds. Subscribe.

Go on. It’ll be fun. Promise.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Area Illusionist Plays With Numbers, Viewers

A few days ago illusionist Derren Brown announced he was going to predict the results of the UK national lottery.

Here’s how it went down.


When the explanation came out for how it was supposedly done, it was laughably silly.

Brown claims he had a panel of 24 people write down their predictions, and he took the average. It’s the “wisdom of the crowd” theory, don’t you know.

Like all good scams there’s an element of truth to it. This “wisdom of the crowd” idea is real.

If you have a group of people guess (for example) a person’s age or the size of an object, then the average of the crowd’s guesses tends to be reasonably accurate. And the more people in the crowd the better it is.

Here’s why that won’t work for lottery numbers: the crowd can see the person or the object about which they’re guessing. And a person’s age and an object’s size are not random numbers generated after the guesses were made.

The lottery is random. Random guesses are random. The average of random guesses is still random.

If this method worked then you’d be able to pick the winning number each week by looking at previous results. There are any number of “systems” already based on this idea, for which any number of scammers will happily relieve you of your money. And none of them work.

So what does this mean? Not much. It means that Brown’s a clever illusionist and this was a clever illusion. And it means he hasn’t really revealed how he did it.

What he has done is create a market for scammers to take advantage of gullible people, by selling them number sets supposedly generated using this method. Expect to see those appearing in your spam filter very soon.

But I’ve got a better idea. Brown has apparently been told he’s not allowed to play the lottery anymore. If that’s true, and if he really thinks he can do this, then I’ll personally submit his next ticket for the modest fee of $100,000.

How about it, Derren?

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Misunderstanding Atheism

Atheist Moderators of religiously-themes blogs are notorious for filtering dissent or discussion.

It’s hardly surprising. Rational discussion is the natural enemy of religion as theological arguments tend to crumble and fade away in its presence.

Case in point: voluble Christbot Bill Muehlenberg at Christianity Today. He had a little rant the other day about all those annoying atheists and that awful Catherine Deveny (particularly this article) and won’t they just leave us alone and anyway atheism makes no sense because how can you hate something that you think doesn’t exist.


I submitted a comment which (surprise surprise) wasn’t published, but I’ve learned to keep copies of such things.

Mr Muehlenberg, you got so close to indicating an understanding of the atheist's position a few times, before veering off. Let me show you a couple of turns you missed.

"They do this of course for at least two reasons: to discount the overwhelming longing for transcendence found among mankind, and to discredit those who are believers."

The first ... no. Simply not true. No atheist is interested in discounting the longing for transcendence. They merely point out that our modern religions provide a very poor imitation of it. Your second point is closer to the mark, but you show a lack of understanding of this with this later argument:

"They spend large hunks of their adult lives getting all hot and bothered about someone they claim does not exist."

Wrong. They get hot and bothered about the claims of believers and the things believers do in the name of someone that does not exist.

The closest you get to actual insight in your article was this:

"Indeed, in a totally materialistic world, our genes end up explaining – and causing – everything we do, believe or value. We are simply the product of our genes."

It's a little over-simplified, but pretty close to the mark. What exactly is your problem with this position? Any serious argument against atheism needs to address why this isn't the case, and yet you just threw it out there as if it is self-evidently wrong.

Let me ask you this, Mr Muehlenberg ... what evidence do you have that this statement is not true?

I may be waiting some time for a response.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Dead Pool 2009 – August Update

Celebrity Dead Pool now has its own blog!
Find it at Celebrity Dead Pool 

Once again I’m very late with the monthly update and once again I have no excuses. I throw myself upon the mercy of the internet.

John HughesOn the 6th we bid a very fond farewell to cinema legend John Hughes. Passing away aged just 59, Hughes brought us the legendary Ferris Bueller and showed us just how pretty Molly Ringwald could look in pink (reasonably pretty, it turns out).

And of course Home Alone. But we forgive him for that last one.

Les Paul On the 13th music technology pioneer Les Paul passed away at the very respectable age of 94. He leaves behind a huge legacy including  multitrack recording, the famous Gibson guitar and well-earned 6 points for Debbie who had the foresight to tip him.

The 15th saw the death of nuclear physicist Louis Rosen, the “father” of the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center and one of pioneers of particle accelerator technology. That’s the second time I’ve used the word “pioneer”. Think I can go for three?

Edward Goldsmith On the 21st we lost Edward Goldsmith, a professional hippy and founder of the British Green party. An environmentalist long before it was fashionable we have Goldsmith to thank for the idea of the self-sustaining biosphere and therefore (in a sense) the movie Biodome. But we choose not to hold that against him.

Also on the 21st Dean Turner, bass player of Geelong rock band Magic Dirt, died of a rare form of tissue cancer at the age of 37.

Ted Kennedy The 25th saw the death of Senator Edward ‘Ted’ Kennedy. Unlike his older brothers John and Robert, Ted managed to avoid assassination. Opinions are divided as to whether he achieved much else. Hmmm. Too soon?

Finally, on the 28th we farewelled Adam Goldstein, a.k.a DJ AM, at the age of 36. While the official cause of death was an overdose of pain medication, speculation is rife that it was suicide. We eagerly wait the numerous albums he apparently had in the can prior to his death à la 2Pac and Michael Jackson.

And that’s it for August. As mention, 6 points are awarded to Debbie for the prescient tip of the late, great Les Paul.

The scoreboard looks like this …

Ty 64
Benn 64
Eliza 50
Rob 50
Russell 50
Debbie 6

… and we’ll see you all next month!