San Juan Mountains

San Juan Mountains
San Juan Mountains: Grenadier Range

Friday, February 1, 2013

Opponents Of GM Foods Ignore Biological Reality

I was watching a show on Public Television the other night that was about genetically modified (GM) foods.  Most of the show was dedicated to bad-mouthing Monsanto.  Given that Monsanto is a perfect example of what happens when government and business meld, I was happy to see the criticisms leveled against the company.  Monsanto is an example of crony-capitalism at its best, or worst, depending upon your point of view.  But, that is not the point of today's posting to this blog.
The show was produced by a group of environmentalists who are out to get the government to ban all GM foods.  I found it more than a little bit ironic that the producers and writers of the show were excoriating Monsanto for its close relationship with government only to then call for an even closer relationship of government with the GM food production businesses.  In fact, the point of the show was that GM foods are supposedly so dangerous that an all out government ban on their production, distribution and consumption is required. It became obvious to me that, as is so often the case with the greenies, this had nothing to do with real science and everything to do with asking the government to shut down a company that is making money in order to promote organic companies that aren't.
As I watched the show I was struck by the similarity between the anti-GM foods people and the anti-nuclear power people.  Both of them rely heavily upon junk science and wild flights of science fantasy in making their cases.  Both of them argue that the enemy should be shut down not because of any bad thing that has happened but because a bad thing might possibly happen.  Anti-nuclear power people drone on incessantly about how terrible it would be if a nuclear power plant blew up and killed half of the citizens of a US city.  The fact that it never has happened escapes them.  The fact that it never will happen eludes them.  In the exact same way, the anti-GM foods folks insist that GM foods are a ticking time bomb that will eventually end up killing half of the world's population.  How that will happen is not described.  Both the anti-nuclear and anti-GM groups share the common belief that something should not be done simply because nobody can guarantee that nothing bad will ever come of it in the future.
The presupposition that something should not be done because all possible future outcomes cannot be guaranteed as totally safe in advance is one of the most silly things I have ever heard.  Only a person who believes in the absolute power and omniscience of the State could come up with it.  Imagine how human history would have played out if all people followed this principle.  No, Marco Polo, do not venture east.  Nobody knows what you might find there.  No, Christopher Columbus, do not venture west.  Nobody knows what you might find there.  No, Neil Armstrong, do not go to the moon.  You do not know what the surface of the moon is like and you may not be able to return.  Humans would have accomplished nothing if our prime rule of life had been "Don't do it if you do not know how it will turn out."
Another shared characteristic between the greenies that oppose nuclear power and the greenies that oppose GM foods is both have an alternative program to sell.  Opponents of nuclear power want government support and subsidy for wind and solar power.  Opponents of GM foods want government support and subsidy for so called "organic" foods.  In both cases it is not government involvement that is seen as the problem.  No, for environmentalists government is good, if government is on your side.  Government is only bad when it is on the side of a profit seeking corporation. Their hypocrisy seems to be lost on them as they scramble for more government support and subsidies for money losing operations.
All of this is merely an introduction to my main point.  The anti-GM foods people want the government to shut the GM food industry down despite the fact that there is not one single example of a GM food being consumed to harmful effect.  Not one.  No person has ever become sick after eating a GM food.  No person has ever died because of eating a GM food.  Not one.  Their entire argument is based upon the premise that if the producers of GM foods cannot guarantee that nobody will ever become sick or die from eating one of their foods, they should be illegal.  Of course there are hundreds of examples of people who have become sick and died after eating organic foods (mostly related to the unsanitary conditions associated with so many organic food operations).  As expected, the anti-GM people are blind to that truth.
Speaking of being blind to very simple and self evident truths, the opponents of GM foods ignore one very basic biological reality.  Their basic presupposition is that combining DNA in a laboratory to produce a food product that is slightly different than either of its parental gene pools is inevitably going to kill all of humanity.  While adopting this presupposition they are utterly blind to the simple biological fact that all reproduction involves combining DNA.  Either through self-induced ignorance or amazing stupidity these crusaders will not acknowledge that everything we eat today is the result of some prior genetic modification.  Their organic apples are genetically modified.  Somewhere in the past somebody grafted one type of apple onto another in order to get the apple they eat today.  This is true for their grapes, their plums, their corn, their wheat, their blackberries, their dogs, their cats, their cows, their goats and everything else the greenies like to eat, raise or grow.  Nothing that exists in the universe today has been exempt from the process of genetic modification.  Why have we not all died?
The only difference between the type of genetic modification the greenies like and the type of genetic modification they do not like has to do with where it takes place.  If genetic modification takes place in the pasture, field or barn, they like it.  If genetic modification takes place in the laboratory, they hate it.  That is the only real difference.  Genetic modification is genetic modification.  It does not matter in the slightest bit where it takes place.  Or at least, it should not matter.  For envy filled greenies when genetic modification takes place inside a building owned by a profit seeking corporation it is deemed to be evil.  When the exact same modification takes place in a pasture by a greenie grower standing knee deep in cow manure, it is almost heavenly.  So much for logical consistency.
Anytime a living organism reproduces, genetic modification has taken place.  No offspring is exactly like the parents.  All reproduction that involves the recombination of DNA will necessarily involve genetic modification.  This process has been going on for as long as the earth has existed and it has not killed anybody yet.  In their rage and envious desire to expand the power of government to punish profit seeking corporations the ignorant greenies who advocate the suppression of GM foods simply have to ignore biological reality.   

Thursday, January 31, 2013

David Mitchell Eschews Diversification

I wrote an article for this blog on April 4, 2012 entitled "Bad Advice From David Mitchell."  For reasons that I do not understand that article has become, far and away, my most popular blog posting.  That single article is responsible for about 6% of all pageviews on this blog.  Pageviews of that article outnumber my other popular postings by a ratio of ten to one.  All of this comes as a big surprise to me.  My expectation when I posted the article last April was that it would be one of my least read postings and would quickly fade into the ranks of the other rarely read postings on this blog.  Since so many of you have read the earlier article, I decided to write an update to it today.
Rather than waiting for another radio program to hit the airwaves I decided to pay a visit to Mitchell's website.  His company is called New Venture on Wall Street and can be found at  Not knowing anything other than what readers have told me about David Mitchell, I decided to check out his bio.  There is a nice photograph of him at the top of the bio page followed by a list of his impressive accomplishments.  He has been a very successful businessman.  He has been a very successful pastor.  He is credited with being one of the best writers of our time.  He is now the founder and CEO of NeUventure On Wall Street (that is the proper spelling for the company name).  It certainly appears that David Mitchell is a very affable and likable man.  He is clearly an intelligent man.  However, affability and intelligence do not guarantee that one will be free from error, especially when the topic is economics.  Despite his impressive credentials, I believe Mitchell has made a significant error in his understanding of the principle of diversification.
Mitchell has written a "Free Report" that is available on his website in which he describes the "Three Big Lies" that investment professionals foist upon the gullible investing public.  I mentioned these "lies" in my previous post about Mitchell.  Specifically, Mitchell believes that market timing is not only possible, but the true pathway to above market returns.  He believes that "buy and hold" is an investment strategy designed to destroy your wealth and enrich investment professionals.  He also believes that diversification is an antiquated investment strategy used only by the ignorant and perpetuated by nefarious investment managers intent upon stealing your money.  Here is what he says, "Actually, the need for great diversification is a myth, and along with the buy and hold mentality, is designed to keep you in ignorance, so that you rely upon their services and products."  The "their" he refers to are those money-grubbing professional money managers who are always after your hard earned cash.
In support of his position that diversification is actually harmful to your investment portfolio he quotes the esteemed investor Warren Buffett.  He writes, "Warren Buffett, perhaps the most knowledgeable investor of our time, and one of the few billionaires who truly earned his fortune, not through inheritance or through business, but strictly through stock market investments, said, 'Diversification is something people do to protect themselves from their own stupidity.'"  Mitchell concludes that "...rather than owning fifty stocks (diversifying), it is better to own one or two companies you have studied and understand."  As I wrote in my previous post on this issue, Mitchell believes that trading only one or two stocks is the means by which you can realize average annual total returns in your stock portfolio of over 200%.  Let's take a minute to consider two issues I found on the website.  First, what would happen if an investor was really capable of realizing 200%/year in total return on his portfolio and, second, what does diversification really entail?
The website has a page dedicated to testimonials from followers of the stock trading program in which they allege to be obtaining annualized total returns on their stock portfolio well in excess of 200%.  One fellow is very excited to report that his annualized return is 2395%.  As I read through the testimonials I noticed that they are all describing very short periods of time.  In others words, a devotee of the trading program would execute a couple of trades over a couple of months and then annualized the rate of return he received on those trades.  I was unable to find any testimonial that contained a long term annualized rate of return.  That leads me to believe that long term (in excess of ten years at the very least) returns in the program are less than those returns being reported from projecting results from a couple of trades that were executed over a couple of days or weeks.  If there are any long term practitioners of the Mitchell trading program reading this post, I would like to know what your average annual returns have been?  Have you consistently beaten relevant stock market indices?  Have you consistently realized 200%/year?
The entire stock trading program is predicated upon the belief that David Mitchell has discovered the system that allows his followers to time the individual stock each investor decides to purchase with almost complete perfection.  The investor goes long and short at precisely the right time.  The investor utilizes leverage at just the right time.  The investor takes advantages of puts and calls on the stock at just the right time.  Knowing everything there is to know about that one stock allows the investor to become an expert on it and thereby gives him the power to execute trades with almost perfect timing.  The strategy described by Mitchell made me wonder.  Has nobody ever thought of doing this before?  With all of the thousands of brilliant technical analysts in the investment world, why has nobody ever figured this out previously?  Even more, if this strategy works so well, why are there not legions of investment analysts and advisers now following this strategy?
As I was thinking about Mitchell's desire to help the common man avoid the pitfalls of Wall Street and realize 200%/year in his stock (and I do mean stock...there is only one) portfolio, it occurred to me that there is a much better way to accomplish that goal.  Although I suspect Mitchell would say he is not motivated by making money (a noble position to take), he could become fabulously wealthy if he would take my advice.  For the sake of simplicity, let's assume there are presently $5 trillion invested in domestic stock mutual funds that are publicly traded.  Let's also be very conservative and cut the expected rate of return realized by following the Mitchell trading program from 200% per year to 100% per year.  Obviously, at 100%/year each investor would double his money annually.  If Mitchell really wants to help as many people find financial security as he says he does, why does he not start his own publicly traded mutual fund?  He could charge a 1% annual management fee.  Most publicly traded funds charge a bit less than that but with a 100% annual return the 1% annual fee is a very small price to pay indeed.
Stock mutual fund shareholders are notorious for chasing hot returns.  It would not take long, no more than a year or two I would suspect, before the great majority of the existing stock fund assets would be transferred to the Mitchell fund.  The Mitchell fund would also capture the great majority of all new investments made.  Annual returns of 100%, regardless of market conditions, based upon the ownership of just one or two stocks, is going to get the attention of everybody with a pulse.  If the Mitchell fund was only successful at capturing half of the existing assets and new investments the fund would quickly be worth at least $2.5 trillion.  The management fee earned by Mitchell for his services as adviser to the fund would be $25 billion per year.  If Mitchell reinvested his earnings into his own fund he would double that $25 billion every year.  Bill Gates is worth ~$60 billion.  Mitchell will find himself the richest person in the world in less than a decade.  And, he would have helped millions of investors in his fund to realize the same rate of return that he did on their investment dollars.  If 100%/year total returns are a realistic expectation under the NeUventure on Wall Street trading program, I would expect somebody to start a mutual fund utilizing that strategy.  I am still waiting.
Mitchell's concept of diversification is a bit distorted.  He quotes Warren Buffett in support of his position that a stock trader should own only one or two stocks.  I believe it is very likely that his quote of Buffett is taken out of context.  Consider this fact:  at the end of 2012 the investment company managed by Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway) held 39 different stocks in the portfolio.  If Buffett really agrees with Mitchell's position on diversification, why does he not practice it in his investment company? If Buffet is a proponent of non-diversification, why is his investment fund diversified?
Still, there is a point where Mitchell is one hundred percent correct about diversification.  Let's assume that I want to diversify so I purchase the five hundred largest (by market capitalization) companies in the country.  As most of you probably are aware, the S & P 500 stock index is made up of the five hundred largest companies in the country.  In essence, I have just purchased the index.  By buying and holding my five hundred stocks I am guaranteed to perpetually realize a rate of total return that is less than that realized by the index.  After accounting for expenses and taxes on dividends and realized capital gains I will never outperform the index.  So, David Mitchell is correct.  Excessive diversification, to the point where you are basically buying an index, will never realize returns that outperform the market.  But, does it necessarily follow that the only alternative to indexing is no diversification at all?  Hardly.
Rather than buying five hundred stocks, and essentially purchasing an index, and rather than buying just one stock, and assuming I can time it perfectly, what if I buy a number of stocks greater than one or two but less than the entire index?  Are there any examples of diversified investment portfolios that have consistently outperformed their peer indices for periods of time in excess of ten years?  To answer that question I went to the Morningstar website.  In a matter of just a few minutes I was able to come up with three diversified stock mutual funds that have significantly outperformed their peer indices over longer periods of time.  The Fairholme fund has 11 stocks in it and has outperformed its index by 3.0%/year over the last ten years.  The Dodge & Cox Stock fund has 77 stocks in it and has outperformed its index by 3.1% over the last fifteen years.  The Fidelity Contrafund has 357 stocks in it and has outperformed its index by 3.3% over the past fifteen years.  Clearly there are fund managers who are not simply interested in stealing money from their shareholders.  Clearly there are fund managers who are able to realize market beating total returns over long periods of time utilizing the old theories of superior stock selection and diversification.  By the way, that is what Warren Buffett does as well.
David Mitchell eschews the principle of diversification.  His disdain for diversification is based upon an erroneous belief that it is possible to accumulate enough knowledge about a stock that it becomes possible to predict future price fluctuations.  Nobody has ever been able to do that successfully for longer periods of time.  Nobody will ever be able to successfully predict future stock prices over longer periods of time.  Lack of human omniscience guarantees that truth.  On the other hand, experienced and intelligent advisers are capable of beating market indices by a percentage point or two over longer periods of time, in part by utilizing the principle of diversification.  Once again I am driven to the conclusion that advice to avoid diversification is bad advice.

Update 5-31-13:

For additional arguments against the erroneous teachings of the NeUventure On Wall Street crowd, go to the May 31, 2013 posting to this blog.  There you will find an argument against the beliefs that buy and hold is dead and it is possible to time the market.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Abolish The Fourth Amendment

The powerful politicians and other connected people who operate the Socialist Democracy of America have a vested interest in keeping you, the ordinary citizen, in a state of constant terror.  Government, as everyone should know by now, exists for the purpose of perpetuating and extending its own power and influence.  Government has been historically referred to as "Leviathan" because it is an ever growing beast, intent upon controlling and manipulating everything that exists around it for its own ends.  The founding fathers of the USA realized this truth about the nature of government and established a constitution that was specifically designed to, if not prevent, at least impede the growth of government.  They, of course, failed miserably in their primary goal and we all have to live with the consequences of that failure today.
The evil monsters who populate the government structure exist for the purpose of expanding their domains by means of increasing revenues and expenditures relative to their respective arenas.  They will do anything, with total disregard for the real public interest (which is generally to be left alone), to expand their sphere of influence.  One of the favorite tools of these Cretans is exploitation of the fear of domestic terrorism so frequently found in the general population.  Career politicians and bureaucrats are well aware that a populace that feels frightened is much more likely to flee to government for protection against monsters, both real and imagined.  When people are afraid they are much more likely to voluntarily relinquish their civil rights and freedoms in exchange for promises of safety and security to be found in government.  Fools, every one of them.
It has been over eleven years since the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.  Since that time the SDA has been perpetually engaged in a "war on terror" that has cost hundreds of billions of dollars and untold lives.  Since that time not a single legitimate engagement with terrorists on SDA soil has taken place.  Not one.  There have been a dozen or so examples of FBI entrapment whereby some marginally mentally retarded Islamists have been duped into pretending to perform some terrorist actions that never were real dangers to any SDA citizen.  The FBI itself has repeatedly affirmed the truth that the alleged "terrorists" were always under their direct control.  So much for the war on terror.  Simply put, the war on terror consists of one battle, 9/11, which we lost.
Despite the fact that it is abundantly obvious to any sane person that we are under no rational threat of terrorist attack, the government in all its various branches continues to tell us that an attack is imminent.  Indeed, this propaganda campaign has been extraordinarily successful.  I was poking around various public opinion web sites last week when I ran across a startling correlation found among the many sites.  I was looking for information about what the "majority" believes in the SDA in order to write a scathing article for this blog about the stupidity of the majority.  What I found shocked even a jaded person like me.  All of the information listed below was derived from various CNN and Gallup polls taken in the past two years.
With some adjustments for statistical variation, each of the following opinion questions received an answer from approximately 70% of those polled that revealed a massive level of paranoia within them in regards to possible terrorist activity in the SDA.  70% of SDA citizens believe that "domestic terrorism" is the "greatest threat to domestic security."  70% of SDA citizens believe that "the United States will never return to normal" in regards to terrorist activity and security from it.  70% of SDA citizens believe, and this one astounded me, that a "terrorist act" is likely to occur on US soil "sometime in the next few weeks."  At no time since 9/11 have any more than a quarter of the citizens of the SDA believed that terrorist acts are unlikely to occur in the future, despite the fact that no additional terrorist acts have occurred in the future.  Then, to top it all off, 70% believe that "the federal government should investigate terrorism even if the investigation intrudes on personal privacy."  In other words, because of their fear of terrorism and because of their wrongheaded belief that government can provide personal security, over two thirds of the citizens of the SDA want to suspend the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.  Wow!
Here is what the Fourth Amendment says, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probably cause, supported by Oath of affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons of things to be seized."  Of course, the 4th Amendment was routinely violated by Kings and their Courts in the past.  Lincoln and FDR are perfect examples.  However, the gross level of suspension of this basic civil right being experienced by citizens of the SDA today is unparalleled in our history.
Your phone records can be checked by government agents at any time without a warrant.  Your bank records can be checked by government agents at any time without a warrant.  Your tax records can be checked by government agents at any time without a warrant.  Government agents can stop you while you are driving your car and search you and your car without a warrant if they allege they are engaged in anti-terrorist activity.  Under the mantle of anti-terrorism, government agents have completely suspended the protections of the 4th Amendment from incursions into our personal affairs by the government.  Your internet viewing habits are open to government agents.  Your emails are open to government agents.  All of your phone calls, tweets and twitters are available to government agents.  Without exaggeration, it is fair to say that your right to privacy no longer exists in the SDA.  When you are in public you are constantly being videoed.  Your face is being screened to see if you are a wanted person by the government.  Your personal investment account information is all available to government agents.  Using various pieces of technology government agents can listen to and watch what you do behind the closed doors of your home.  Make no mistake about are by no means "secure in your person, house, papers or effects."  Everything about you is known, or can by known, by the government.
The primary reason for this massive expansion of state spying on the citizens of the SDA is the false promise of protection from terrorist attacks and the provision of personal security.  The real reason for this vast expansion of state power is the simple truth that it is the nature of the beast to expand.  In some sense there is no reason to be angry with politicians and bureaucrats since they are only doing what we all know they are bred to do.  Our anger should be directed at the citizens of the land who refuse to prevent them from doing it.  The real anger should be directed at the citizens who believe that terrorism is a real domestic threat and who are so frightened they flee into the waiting arms of government for protection.  The real anger should be directed at all those sissy-citizens who refuse to accept responsibility for their own personal security.  Benjamin Franklin said it best when he stated, "Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one." 
If you believe that terrorism is a legitimate threat to domestic security and if you believe that the government can protect you from that threat, then you are a living, breathing example of what it means to be a victim of the terrorist activity of your own government.  You need to grow up and assume responsibility for yourself.  You need to stop being a victim.  You need to demand that the government, starting with our King and working all the way down to the local enforcer of the rules, subject themselves to the provisions of the 4th Amendment of the Constitution. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Obama Declares Smokers To Be Sub-human

One little known provision in the vast bevy of new laws associated with Obamacare has to do with the rates charged for medical insurance for those folks who use tobacco products.  According to an Associated Press report in the Denver Post on Friday, January 25th, Obamacare regulations that come into force on January 1, 2014 will have the net effect of increasing health insurance premiums for some smokers by a whopping 50%.  As the article reported, "Younger smokers could be charged lower penalties under rules proposed last fall by the Obama administration.  But older smokers (those over 50) could face a heavy hit on their household budgets at a time in life when smoking related illnesses tend to emerge."  How hard of a "hit" can smokers expect to see?  The report gave this example:
Take a hypothetical 60 year old smoker making $35,000 a year.  Estimated premiums for coverage in the new private health insurance markets under the President Barak Obama law would total $10,172.  That person would be eligible for a tax credit that brings down the cost to $3,325.  But the smoking penalty could add $5,086 to the cost.  And because federal tax credits can't be used to offset the penalty, the smoker's total cost for health insurance would be $8,411, or 24% of income.
According to the story, "Nearly one of every five US adults smokes.  That share is higher among lower-income people who also are more likely to work in jobs that don't come with health insurance and would therefore depend on the new federal health care law....the law allows insurers to levy the full 50 percent penalty on older smokers while charging less to younger ones."  The Post noted that "in today's world, insurers can simply turn down a smoker.  Under Obama's overhaul, would they actually charge the full 50 percent?"  The story answers this question by quoting Robert Laszewski, a consultant who previously worked in the insurance industry.  He says, "If you don't charge the 50 percent, your competitor is going to do it, and you are going to get a disproportionate share of the less healthy older smokers.  They are going to have to play defense." Did I read that right?  Older smokers will be paying almost 25% of their annual income for health insurance alone?  And, since Obamacare requires all people to have health insurance, no old smoker can opt out of the system in a vain attempt to save that 25% of his income.  That is highway robbery.  That is theft.  That is immoral.
So let me get this straight....Obamacare rules do not allow health insurance providers to discriminate against people with previous medical conditions.  Obamacare rules do not allow health insurance providers to discriminate against people who drink heavily or abuse prescription, over the counter or illegal drugs.  Obamacare rules do not allow health insurance providers to discriminate against people who sky-dive, race cars, rock climb or bungee jump.  Obamacare rules do not allow health insurance providers to discriminate against people who are overweight, even if they are morbidly obese and likely to clog up the health care system for years with their weight related maladies.  Obamacare rules do not allow health insurance providers to discriminate against people who never exercise.  Obamacare rules do not allow health insurance providers to discriminate against people with genetic and family histories that indicate a much higher likelihood of future illness.  Obamacare rules specifically forbid health insurance companies from discriminating based upon race, religion or sexual orientation.  Obamacare rules do not permit health insurance companies to discriminate based upon the likelihood of contracting HIV, AIDS, or sexually transmitted diseases due to risky or promiscuous sexual behavior.  But, amazingly, Obamacare rules specifically require that anybody over the age of 50 who happens to smoke must suffer a health insurance premium penalty of 50% for doing so.  This is true even if the smoker is a light drinker (shown to extend healthy lifespan), and a regular exerciser (shown to extend healthy lifespan) with no family history of disease (shown to extend healthy lifespan).  This is true even if the smoker engages in no risky behaviors and remains in a monogamous relationship his entire life.  Something is desperately wrong here.
Shall we be honest enough to admit what is going on here?  As the AP article stated, only 20% of SDA citizens smoke.  As a political minority smokers are going to be subject to the tyranny of the majority.  That is the essence of civil government in the Socialist Democracy of America.  Unlike the founding principle of the historic USA, where the rights of the minority were specifically protected, in the SDA the rights of the minority are specifically infringed, especially if the members of the minority can be cast in a negative light.  Let's face it, the propaganda against smokers has been incredibly successful.  Smokers are evil.  Smokers are stupid.  Smokers are insensitive to the rights of others.  Smokers deserve to die for their sin of smoking.  Smokers are worse than Hitler.  Anything that can be done to smokers should be done to smokers.  If smokers can be forced to pay an unfair share of the costs of Obamacare, then they should be forced to pay an unfair share of Obamacare.  After all, smokers have no rights in the SDA.  That, as we all must acknowledge, is the truth.
An argument can be legitimately made that smokers are actually less of a financial burden upon the health care system (I hate using the word 'system' but am constrained to do so to make my point here).  Studies have shown that a lifetime two-pack-a-day smoker will likely lose a year or two from his expected lifespan.  In addition, due to the accumulative negative effects of smoking, when a lifetime smoker nears death he will tend to die more quickly and efficiently than a healthy person who might linger for months or even years.  Since the great majority of all health care expenses are related to end-stage medical treatments, it is highly likely that smokers are actually responsible for less total cost to the health care system than non-smokers.  In that case smokers should be given a discount.
Truthful statistical analysis and good medical science is not what the attack upon smokers is about.  Sociologists will tell us that every society in the history of the world has had its pariah group.  The pariah group is the minority group within that society that is blamed for all the social ills that exist.  People who make up that minority group are demonized, with the full support and agreement of the other members of society.  The government is complicit in this process and jumps in wholeheartedly to lend additional support to the persecution of this minority group.  In the history of the USA/SDA there have been many groups that served this purpose.  Witches, Unitarians, Catholics, blacks, Irish (never Welsh), Japanese people, alcoholic beverage drinkers and homosexuals have all occupied this position at one point or another in our history.  Today the position and role of social pariah is filled by smokers.
Do what you want to smokers.  Be rude to them in public.  Banish them to wind-swept and frozen outdoor enclosures to practice their behavior.  Make sure they are never seen by children.  Make sure the offensive odor that emanates from them is never detected in any public area.  Teach your children to scorn them.  Conduct a comprehensive program of public education designed to deprecate their lives and human dignity.  Make it so everyone comes to see them as less than human.  That makes it much easier to discriminate against them.  That makes it much easier to treat them as sub-human.  People, that is where we are today, and it disgusts me.  In fact, it is enough to cause me to take up smoking.  Heh, buddy, can I bum a cigarette?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Questions For An Abortion Advocate

Diane Towery of Colorado Springs wrote a letter to the editor of the Denver Post today.  The letter is entitled "In a Perfect World, Abortion Would Be Unnecessary".  That is a strange title for a letter in defense of abortion.  If it is true that sometimes abortions are "necessary" because the world is not perfect, the antithesis of the title must also be true.  If a perfect world is required to make abortions unnecessary, an imperfect world must make abortions necessary.  If an abortion is "necessary", it follows that it is morally wrong not to get one, if the world conditions require one.  The mere fact that Diane sees abortion as unnecessary only in a perfect world proves that she believes abortions are necessary in this imperfect one.  In Diane's world, if certain conditions are not met, it becomes necessary to get an abortion.
The text of the letter is even more bizarre than the title.  Diane goes on to describe the perfect conditions that are required in order to not mandate an abortion.  Diane is responding to a previous letter written by a person who believes abortion to be murder.  Here are the conditions that she requires to prevent mandatory abortions.  Diane says,  "In a perfect world, there would be no need for an abortion.  In a perfect world, each woman who carries a child safely in her womb would come from a loving, stable family, be old enough to financially support herself and the child, have adequate paid maternity leave, safe and reliable day care, and be in a committed relationship where the father of the baby would be financially and emotionally supportive both during and long after the child is born."  Wow!  Diane's idea of a perfect world is very different than mine.  Diane's ideas about what mandates an abortion are amazingly unrealistic.  But that is not all.  Diane goes on with her insane rant when she writes, "It is easy to condemn these 'immoral' women and girls who choose to exercise their reproductive rights.  But until the above perfect world transpires, and/or men become pregnant and walk in the condemned women's shoes, what a woman chooses to do with her body is no one's business but her own."  Allow me to expand Diane's argument for a moment and then I will conclude this post with some questions for this fine example of abortion advocacy.
Diane's argument hinges upon the unproven and unargued assumption that abortion is a moral and physical necessity in any instance where the world is imperfect.  What are her examples of worldly imperfection?  The lack of a "loving" family, whatever that is.  The lack of a "stable" family, whatever that is.  The lack of sufficient income to support the woman and her child, however much that is.  The lack of government mandated paid maternity care extorted from her employer, however long that is.  The lack of government mandated and subsidized day care that is "safe" and "reliable", whatever that means.  The lack of a father who is willing to be "financially and emotionally supportive", whatever that means.  All of these examples of imperfection are, according to Diane, sufficient reasons not only to justify an abortion, but to make an abortion a moral and physical necessity.  Indeed, Diane considers the fact that some women have to be pregnant and live in a world that does not rise up to her level of perfection as being in a state of "condemnation" for the woman.  She longs for the day when men would be forced to be pregnant and have the opportunity to experience this condemnation for themselves.  How being pregnant is the moral and physical equivalent of being condemned, whatever that means, is not described.
In fact, when it comes to describing her perfect world, Diane gives us very little in the way of a description about it.  So, I have some questions for Diane.
  1. How much "love" does there have to be in a family to make an abortion unnecessary?  Can the love present be quantified?  Can love be put on a scale from 1 to 10?  If so, at what point along the continuum does an abortion become morally and physically necessary because there is an insufficient amount of love?
  2. What is a "stable" family?  Does it have to have a particular number of members?  Does it have to live in a particular part of the country?  Does it have to live in a particular type of house?  Is a family that is living in a trailer stable?  If not, does that necessitate an abortion?  What about a couple living in a camper?  Must all pregnant women living in campers procure abortions?
  3. How much income must the pregnant woman be making to avoid the necessity of an abortion?  At what income level would the abortion become necessary?  If she decides to not obtain an abortion when her income falls below that level, why should the state not intervene and perform the abortion for the sake of the child?  Why would you condemn the child to live in an imperfect world simply because the mother selfishly wants to have it?
  4. What is "adequate" maternity leave and who is going to pay for it?  Does the mother need one, two, three, six, or twelve months of maternity leave?  I assume Diane expects the employer of the woman to provide the maternity leave.  What is the moral basis for forcing the woman's employer to pay for her maternity leave?  What if the employer is a preganant woman and being forced to pay the maternity leave causes her income to drop below the minimum required to avoid the necessity of an abortion?  Should her employer then be required to get an abortion?  If the employer refuses to abort her baby, who decides which baby to abort?
  5. What is "safe and reliable" day care?  What if a child falls and breaks his arm on the daycare playground?  Does that make it unsafe and therefore necessitate that every pregnant woman who was planning on using that day care center get an abortion?  What if the day care center does not always open on time?  Does that make it unreliable?  If so, who should be aborted due to that unreliability?  
  6. How much money does the father have to pay to the mother to make it unnecessary for the woman to get an abortion?  Since the abortion is not an immoral act, is there any punishment for the man who refuses to provide any income to the woman?  How does the amount of money paid by the father integrate with the amount of money being earned by the mother?  
  7. How is the "emotional support" of the father quantified?  If the father announces his intention to play golf on Saturdays during the summer, will that necessitate an abortion?  What if the father announces that he will not attend any dance performances given by his future child, does that create a hostile living environment that necessitates an abortion?  Exactly what set of emotional circumstances makes an abortion necessary?
  8. What is a "reproductive right"?  Since reproduction always refers to the actual birth of offspring, how can the word be used in the context of the actual killing the offspring?  
  9. How does pregnancy become the moral and physical equivalent of an act of condemnation?  How is the necessity of an abortion related to this state of condemnation?  Once a woman kills her baby, is she no longer condemned?  If she gets pregnant again, is her voluntary decision to put herself back into a state of condemnation in any way related to her status as a victim?
  10. I recognize the right of a woman to do what she wants with her body.  However, I have a few additional questions for Diane in regards to her application of this principle. 
  • Diane, would you recognize the right of the woman to smoke while pregnant?  After all, it is her body and she should be able to do whatever she wants with it.
  • Diane, would you recognize the right of the woman to binge drink while pregnant?  After all, it is her body and she should be able to do whatever she wants with it.
  • Diane, would you recognize the right of the woman to shoot heroin and cocaine while pregnant?  After all, if she chooses to use drugs, the government should keep its hands off of her body, right?
  • Diane, would you recognize the right of a woman to do the above things if not pregnant?  Being pregnant actually makes no difference.  Actually the word 'pregnant' should never be used.  It is highly biased towards the idea that the tissue in her womb is a human being.  The excess tissue inside the woman's body during pregnancy is no different than excess fat accumulated from excessive cupcake consumption or her appendix.  A woman should be able to do anything she wants to her body parts, right?  Liposuction?  Abortion?  They are essentially the same thing.  
  • Diane, do you recognize the right of a woman to be morbidly obese? Do you recognize her right to drink any size soda she wants?  Do you recognize the immorality of any law that would restrict the size soda she wants to drink?  Have you written to the Mayor of New York and expressed your outrage, on behalf of women, at the law he has enacted that puts the state's hands all over a woman's body?
  • Diane, do you recognize the right of a woman to drive alone in her car and not be forced to carpool?  The Colorado Department of Transportation has embarked upon a publicity campaign designed to try and get women to carpool.  This violates a woman's right to put her body where she wants, right Diane?
  • Diane, do you recognize the right of a woman to refuse to get a flu shot?  I know of one abortion advocate who wants the state to make a law mandating flu shots.  You would not agree, would you Diane?
  • Diane, do you recognize the right of a woman to use her womb for income by self-impregnating and selling the offspring to the highest bidder?
  • Diane, do you recognize the right of a woman to use her womb for income by self-impregnating and selling off fetal body parts for income?
  • Diane, do you recognize the right of a woman to stay in a relationship with a man where the man beats her regularly?  Do you recognize her right to choose to be beaten?  Do you recognize her right to subject her body to beatings? 
I do not know Diane but I suspect she would be horribly offended by the questions I have written above.  Still, the questions remain.  If Diane is to avoid being a hypocrite she must answer all of the above questions honestly and consistently with her presupposition that abortions are necessary due to imperfect conditions in the world.  Diane has established the twin universal moral principles that there are times when babies must necessarily be killed and that she is the supreme commander of everything that pertains to her body.  That reminds me.  There is one more question I must ask Diane.  If it has been determined that it is morally and physically necessary, due to the presence of worldly imperfections, for the baby to be killed, what should be done to a woman who refuses to get the abortion?  Is she a criminal?  If abortion is necessary it seems logically necessary that the refusal to get one would be a criminal action.  I would suggest that both the woman and the baby be executed.
Diane concluded that "until the above perfect world transpires" women should be able to obtain abortions.  In light of her argument about the moral necessity of abortions due to imperfect world conditions, she should have concluded that until the world becomes perfect, as she defines it, all women are morally required to get abortions.   Once again, I do not know Diane.  But I suspect she is a serious hypocrite.