Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Fire Insurance

Maybe I'm biased, but in America we seem to have a pretty good system for dealing with fires. When your house is burning, the firemen come and put it out. Then afterward you sort out damages with the insurance. But the fire gets put out. No smoldering embers or gas manes left leaking. If there are you get to sue them.

I wonder what it would be like if fires were handled more like healthcare.

Your house catches on fire and the firemen rush over. They put out most of the fire, so it's not going to catch up again since things are so wet. But there's still a gas leak and some piles in the basement are still glowing. But your house won't burn down anymore, at least not right away, so they go. Then you have to sign some forms and see if you can get an insurance-approved fireman to put out the last few dangers. Because of paperwork he isn't even allowed to under the front porch, though you can clearly see a few flames already. But firemen are expensive and paying out of pocket just isn't an option. You've missed work and are behind on bills. Eventually you think you've settled all the billing and pretty much taken care of the fire. A few months later the house explodes and kills you. The insurance company refuses to pay or send anymore firemen to your house to get your children out.

Yep, the second example in which fires are handled by the free market, rather than those lazy socialist firemen, that sounds pretty good doesn't it?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Fetuses are elderly

Have you ever noticed how anti-abortion activists often use pictures of babies? The general message they present is "Don't kill babies!" This is a message I can get behind. I have a niece now and she is amazing, and if someone were to harm her, I would perform a very late term abortion on whoever hurt her. I won't say I'm a fan of babies in general, but I'm certainly anti-baby-killing.

I'm pro-choice as well. Well, none of the very late abortions, those really are just killing babies. I would know, I was one, born nearly thee months early. So I can conclude that 6 months is definitely too late for an abortion. Six days isn't too late. Between those it's a fuzzy area that needs work. When is it a baby? I don't know.

Why are the pictures always of babies? Unless it's a late abortion, it's not killing a baby. In most cases it's an undifferentiated, nonviable blob of cells. That's not a baby. It is certainly the potential of a baby. But if they are defending potentials, why only baby pictures? Why no posters of teenagers? Or middle-age adults? Or the elderly? If they seek to protect potential, they appear to be ignoring 99% of human life.

I have a theory: Anti-choice activists don't actually care much about babies. If they did they might focus more on far bigger sources of dead fetuses, and dead babies: malnutrition, stress, war, and the expense of pre- and post-natal care. Instead what is at stake for them is contraception. They've fought against condom use, birth control pills, and whatever else you can think of. But those are look so harmless: a bit of rubber, a pill, not all that scary or easy to attack. Abortion is simply more convenient. It's a starting point.

I wonder if anyone would care so much about abortion if it wasn't a way of preventing childbirth. Would we accept killing people if it didn't give women control, but instead gave us cheap stuff? I think we would. We would! We only need to look at factory conditions overseas, or even here in some cases, to see that it is true.

Friday, June 4, 2010

This is not Obama's Katrina

It's his Dust Bowl.

Once upon a time America was based heavily on agriculture, but by the 1930s was transitioning to manufacturing. Similarly, we are in a transition from oil-based manufacturing to a service economy, though still based on oil.

But perhaps not. The dust bowl drove millions of small farmers off their land and into distant cities where they sought non-farming work. This paved the way for industrial agriculture as small-scale farming became unprofitable and the former farmers found alternatives. We may see a similar shift. Unsustainable land use faded (though obviously not completely). Hopefully the same will happen with oil use. This could be the start of a green economy, whatever that means. Makes a great buzzword though.

The poorest and most vulnerable are the ones hit worst by the disaster, those who work directly off the land, or water. The fishermen of the gulf are losing their harvests, and the water in which they would fish, to the oil. Will this trigger a similar exodus? It is likely. But where will they go? A recession is not a very good time for hundreds of thousands of unemployed people to attempt to migrate into other occupations.

Both disasters were made by humanity. Well, the Dust Bowl was a combination of drought and poor farming techniques. It didn't help that the plains weren't naturally the best place for farming. Similarly the drilling was a man-made disaster, made worse by the location so deep.