Monday, November 16, 2009

My Faith Statement

Although I would agree, anybody who associates personality and creativity with some kind of universal entity is likely deluded; faith, never the less, has a very real and relevant function in our lives.

My reasoning stems from the fact that, frankly, I can't know everything. I don't believe anybody can. But if omniscience is out of the question, then what do I fill the holes in my knowledge with? Simple answer, assumptions. And an assumption is merely taking a position of faith while I figure all the other stuff out--I may need to come back and change my assumptions after I've learned more, but it is an exercise in faith that got me over the hump.

Furthermore, though the God of my fathers' is certainly dead to me, I yet sense divinity and holiness in our universe. Now, if we can agree that some things are sacred, and also, that we all must at some point rely on faith, then I'll accept any definition of secular humanism you wish to give me. But let us not be reciprocal fundamentalists about it! Fundamentalism is not a good thing from either the believers' or the unbelievers' camp. There will always be room for liberal religion and its quirkiness in the world I dream of.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Fwd: A Informative Regan-omics Defector's Opinion

Bruce Bartlett "The New American Economy"

Barlett's argument: supply-side economics, though effective in Reagan's day, has outlived its usefulness. He also contends that Conservatives need to accept programs that assist the "welfare state" (health care, for example) and that in an effort to fund those programs, a change in how we tax in the U.S. should be considered. Barlett calls for a "value-added tax" as an alternative to the current system.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Elasticity of Demand

Listening to the Senate debating health care reform. The thought occurs to me that the health-care/insurance marketplace is really two overlapping industries. That creates deeper complexity since some interests are in conflict.

There are some marketplaces that conform to the theory I learned in Econ 101, i.e. price controls through competition. But some markets do not fit the model, i.e. health-care, education, perishable food. These markets exhibit little change in demand with change in price. This is because these items are not merely desirable, they are a requirement for survival (at a decent level). Economists refer to this kind of relationship between price and demand as the elasticity of demand. But I would imagine that prices in the insurance market place are highly elastic -- e.g. what's your life worth? Who knows? It's just a matter of what the salesman can convince me of, uh?

...guess I skipped that class.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Wisdom: the ability to appreciate the difference between knowledge of good and evil, knowledge that is good, and knowledge that is evil.
-- Michael Masiak, 2009

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The best description of Unitarian Universalism I've ever seen...

This article is in the Summer 2009 issue of the Unitarian Universalist publication UUWorld. It was authored by Kenneth W. Collier...

The human condition

Monday, June 1, 2009

Let the buyer beware, WebMD...

Never trust a web site that won't let you post comments, complaints, or alternate views! In fact with webMD you can't even send a private email to an author. That's an obvious signal you're reading plain old corporate advertising and NOT information.

Look at the smoking cessation article by Jennifer Warner for example. Right off the bat you read: "nicotine-replacement therapies are more than twice as effective at helping smokers quit than going it alone."

Yea, right. OK, did anybody ask what "going it alone" means? The phrase is used like it is an accepted technical term, maybe to suggest cold turkey cessation? In the next paragraph you read: "... treatments were more effective than placebo...", but is placebo the same thing as cold turkey quitting? Really? In the first case with placebo, you have a person who thinks they're getting a magic pill, an easy way out. Any wonder why they fail? But the second case describes a motivated person who needs to arrest the addiction, who needs to get free of nicotine. So, you see, it's really not a fair comparison after all, though the author didn't actually refer to any overt comparison--rather it was cleverly insinuated, wrapped in clinical sounding mumbo-jumbo.

Now I am a 40 year smoker who quit cold turkey. I tried using all the tricks: gum, patch, hypnotism, bupropion, varenicline. And they all failed, utterly. I was provided with a nicotine substitute and a thin assurance that this magic bullet could end my misery. But it never did, and I didn't quit. Well, not until I obtained knowledge, the Knowledge, of how addiction works. It was information, not corporate spam, that made the difference. And all the real quitters I know agree.

If you are a smoker and you want to quit try, and leave WebMD to the marketing jerks!

Let the buyer beware.