Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Let There Be No Mistake

Let There Be No Mistake

This is a draft of a song conceived by my brother Eric that he made for his birthday.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Life is Fragile, Episode 5

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Foster and Vinny set forth on their quest to find the goblin's long-lost lover, while Brant and Vinny teach each other the arts of jockhood and nerdiness.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Health Care Debate

Monte Emerson referred this video to me that quoted the many controversial parts of the proposed new health care bill (though a few months outdated), and I passed it on through social networking, and it generated no small amount of flack:

Hours of my day were sucked into debate.  I'd say it was fruitless, but that would imply that I was absolutely right and trying to convert others.  I honestly tried to consider their arguments, but I failed to see much true logic in their debates, though with some stirring exceptions.  On the other hand, I think it's fair to say that my arguments were generally overlooked and reduced to absurdity or responded to with suppressed anger.  It all makes open debate seem so pointless, and yet I feel that it has to be done.  It seems to be one of the more difficult duties of being a thinking human.  That is, I'll say that open social-networking debate is fruitless.  A public but limited debate would make a lot more sense.  When everyone is tempted to throw in their input, the result is a hodgepodge of conflicting opinions, like a team of rowers each paddling in a different direction.  The boat goes nowhere.  Or it goes with the majority.  But that certainly doesn't imply a correct direction.

Here's a selection of the thoughts I made:

Socialism in any degree has and will always be founded on the religion that the ends justify the means, fuelled by good intentions but only possible through fascist control, the mentality that everyone must submit to the "right" way or be damned. It is the very antithesis of freedom. Almost without exception in world history, this failed experiment has produced massive poverty, massive bureaucracy and massive corruption. Until everyone is willing to put in as much as they're willing to take out, forced redistribution will always be a worthless pursuit. True charity and true altruism are only possible when founded by personal volition, from the bottom up, never compulsion from the top down. I cannot understand how these truths can seem less than self evident.

I find it somewhat telling that so many of your criticisms are directed toward the messenger and not the message. I find the blanket assessment that conservatives operate out of hate as ignorant as imaginable. Anyone who makes such claims obviously has no idea what's really going on with the tea party movement throughout the nation but hypocritically dismisses their opposition based on outward appearances.

About a month ago, Mr. Obama publicly admitted that the original bill, despite prior claims, would in fact rule out the option of choosing another insurance provider:

"...if you want to keep the health insurance you got, you can keep it, that you’re not going to have anybody getting in between you and your doctor in your decision making. And I think that some of the provisions that got snuck in might have violated that pledge.” (President Obama at the GOP retreat in Baltimore, MD, 1/29/10). Those words cannot be misconstrued. It's a downplayed, forced confession. He stated, de facto, that something was "snuck" into the bill that would have prevented all citizens from keeping their current health insurance and doctor. That is hugely significant.

Whether or not this law has been removed from the current bill, the President's intentions for total control are transparent enough to me, and I'm confident that it will only be a matter of time before the "public" option makes it impossible for private insurers to exist.  Come on guys, we know this political game.

Of course insurance companies have to assess their demographics to determine coverage and rates. The difference between a private-owned and a government-owned insurance model is, once again, freedom. If I don't like my provider, I have the option of finding a new one. If I don't like my government insurance, my only option is bribery. I'm sure that never happens in Canada. You can dismiss the points of the video to absurdity, but the facts remain that the bill will force rationing on many levels (how could it not?), and the government will have the final say on who gets it and who doesn't, who lives and who dies. It will drastically stunt medical progress, innovation and the quality of care, as all financial incentives are removed, and all doctors, no matter of what discipline, will receive the same compensation.  If you don't believe me (or the bill), take a look at this, and see for yourself what healthcare is like in Canada:

Does a monopoly better serve the public than competition? It is simply wishful thinking to believe that taking out financial incentives will somehow create lower rates and better quality. The public's volitional support of a service as well as competition with other service providers are the ultimate checks and balances to ensure quality. Take that away, and you have a monopoly that is only accountable to its superiors, not the people it serves. (What would Mr. Marx say?) You have an immortal bureaucracy, notorious for inefficiency. Anyone ever been to the DMV? Aren't you excited for such quick and fantastic customer service to work its way into our hospitals? Teresa and I are buying a home right now with a government-ensured FHA loan, and we're required to have an FHA inspector look at the home. If we were to hire a private inspector, the average rate is $150, and he would usually show up within 24 hours. The FHA inspector costs $450 and takes about a week to show up. But we have no choice. This is what happens when you take away competition. It is true that the government will have no profit motive to routinely deny benefits. Supply and demand will give the government no choice but to routinely deny benefits.

It's a nice sentiment that healthcare is a basic human right. But it's a problematic way of thinking. If healthcare is a right, surely food and water are also rights. If food and water are also rights, shelter must also be a right. People need jobs, so jobs must be rights as well. Pretty soon you've equated the term "right" with "need". What's wrong with that? It implies that people's needs must be provided to them as surely as the right of freedom is provided to them, and only a government could provide so much. Government provide rights, and taking it one step further, government can take away rights. It places the people beneath the government, subordinate to a Big Brother that's obligated to micromanage their lives. But what's wrong with that? Governments have never been known to turn evil, have they?

It is wrong to suppose that only leftists want healthcare reform. I hate monopolies and back room deals as much as anyone. But to equate corporations as the problem and the biggest corporation of all--that little company that prints its own money, writes its own rules, determines its own pay and excuses itself from accountability--as the solution, is near-sided to say the least. The Obama Administration, without a single member from the private sector, let alone a real doctor, is perhaps the worst force there could be to enact healthcare reform. There are real solutions, but this evil, evil bill is not it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Life is Fragile, Episode 4

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The jocks and the nerds return a rescued puppy to Barry, the old sage. The tides turn, and friends become enemies and enemies become friends. Meanwhile Brant tries out for the football team while his girlfriend Jenny watches with admiration.

Listen to the whole series

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Treatment of a Quote by C.S. Lewis

"Give up your self, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in" (C.S. Lewis, selection from last paragraph of Mere Christianity).

This is a beautiful quote, but if one dwells the surface implications, it can come across as contradictory, for example, the very notion of "losing your life and you will save it" or of "submit to death...and you will find eternal life."  However, this form of irony was not invented by Lewis.  Christ himself said "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for My sake, the same shall save it" (Luke 9:24).

The quote also seems to imply a kind of personal futility and self-loathing, for example, "Submit to death . . . of your ambitions and favourite wishes. . . . Look for yourself, and you will find . . . only hatred, loneliness, despair . . ."  But Lewis didn't invent this either.  Christ also said: If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple" (Matthew 14:26, emphasis added).  Those are strong words!

Now I doubt that Christ was actually advocating forceful hatred towards family members, considering that he condemned Pharisees for failing to keep the fourth commandment of honoring their parents (Matthew 15:4-6) and that, according to him, the second greatest commandment is to "love thy neighbour as thyself" (Matthew 22:39), which surely applies to family members.  While hanging on the cross, some of Christ's final words were in consideration for his mother's welfare (John 19:26-27).

But did Christ advocate a forsaking of personal ambition and self-loathing?  It's hard for me to imagine one who has no goals in life and who hates himself measuring up to Christ's admonish to "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).  Christ certainly didn't hate himself.  He loved life, waking up early, meditating in nature, making many friends, doing good wherever he went, lifting people's hearts, boldly declaring himself as the son of God, saying "I am the way, the truth and the life; no man cometh unto the father but by me" (John 14:6).  Could one with no self-esteem or personal ambition be so bold?  Considering that he said to the Nephites "What manner of men ought ye to be? Verily I say unto you, even as I am" (3 Nephi 27:27), it stands to reason that we must share in his sense of self-worth and personal ambition.  Furthermore, how can we love our neighbors as ourselves if we don't first love ourselves?

So is there contradiction between these opposite ends of Christ's message, between forsaking one's life and finding one's life?  Certainly not.  Christ spoke in the manner of the Jewish scholars and prophets of his time, quoting scriptures, using metaphors, teaching in parables, and certainly using hyperbole.  The fact that he himself coined the seeming paradoxes such as "whosoever will love his life . . . shall save it" proves that he openly spoke poetically, to the spiritually minded.

Christ gave us the key to this riddle when he said "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matthew 6:21).  Illustrating this point, he told the parable of the rich man who invested all his time and resources in material gain, only to die the night before he intended to enjoy his wealth (Luke 12:13-21).  If, on the other hand, our hearts are in building the kingdom of God, to "Go . . . into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15)--no small ambition--then surely our ambitions are God's ambitions, and they are righteous.  The fact that Christ commanded us to be like him means that we must be incredibly ambitious.  Infinitely ambitious!  For the smartest, strongest, most spiritual, most influential, most successful, wealthiest men on earth are still dwarfed beneath his godliness.

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33).  Christ wants us to be happy and to prosper, but the irony is that this is impossible unless our goals are eternal life and not wordly gain.  This is the heart of Christ's message as reiterated by C.S. Lewis.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Approximate Release Date for the Bent Sword

I found out from Cedar Fort today that The Bent Sword will be sent to the press on May 17th, and it will be officially released in July.  I’ll be hosting an awesome, very geeky party then.  The Bent