Sunday, November 26, 2006

March Madness : Basketball :: December Delirium : Football

In the spirit of the now retired SAT analogy, March Madness is to Basketball as what is to Football? December Delirium is the answer, or should be. March Madness is the college basketball tournament. December Delirium, I propose, should be the tournament for college football. There's been all this dispute over who should go to the championship. I say, we should just have a tournament like that for NCAA basketball to decide. This would quiet all the complaining about does a one loss team from such-and-such conference, eg SEC, deserve to go over a undefeated team from a so-called lesser conference, eg Big East. Obviously, this problem has largely taken care of itself with several upsets, but if that hadn't occurred, people would still be complaining. I'll say up front I'm a U of L fan, so I obviously think if they had gone undefeated they would have deserved to go to the Championship.

Truth be told, a single elimination tournament, the only practical type, would not ensure that the top 2 teams in the country, if you could objectively determine that, would make it to the championship. (So I take back what I just said.) If the two best teams played each other before the championship game then one of them would be knocked out. Like with Michigan and Ohio State last week. Sure, you can seed the bracket to try to avoid that. The problem is, you're already assuming you know who the best teams are before you even start the tournament. If you already know, why even bother having a tournament to begin with? Now I'm not saying we should get rid of seeding brackets in March Madness, that would just be dumb. But only one of the teams in the Final Four are guaranteed to actually be in the top 4 teams, assuming there are no upsets.

If you really want to see the top two teams make it to the championship in a tournament, you would have to have a double elimination tournament. To know the top 3 teams, a triple elimination tournament. And to know the top 4 teams, a quadruple elimination tournament. To sum it up in a mathematical theorem, to determine the top N teams, you need a N-elimination tournament. (Bet you've never seen mathematics applied to football.) If you wanted to precisely rank every team, you would basically have to have a round robin, which would require a season of several years. This would apply for any sport. Of course, again, this is all assuming that teams don't have bad days and that you would get the same outcome each time two teams play each other in a season.

So what's my point? My point is that it would be impractical and realistically impossible to actually be able to make sure the best 2 college football teams make it to the Championship. Right now, there's controversy over who should go. But even if we did add December Delirium, we'd still have no guarantee that the top 2 teams actually make it to the Championship. However, there would still be benefit from having a tournament,. I think we'd see some really good games with let's say the top 8 teams playing each other. (Let's not get into how do you determine who makes it into the tournament, since the same problems as deciding who makes it to the Championship would persist.) So I say go ahead and have December Delirium, despite the fact it won't quiet all the controversy.

(By the way, if you're the NCAA, I want compensation for December Delirium. I'm willing to settle for several good tickets, hotel stay, and first class flights to and from the games.)
(If you're Arby's reading this. I have an idea for advertising for you all, the "Arby's Turnover of the Game. It goes without saying I'll want at least Arby's Turnovers for life, although I'm willing to negotiate."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Plan for Cheaper Prescription Drugs

Prescription drug prices have gotten largely out of control. The current Medicare plan is a mess. Some say we should import drugs from Canada, that to me seems like pretty poor plan, quite frankly, particularly if offered by members of Congress. If we allow that and most people are buying drugs from Canada anyways, we might as well stop fretting about becoming socialists and put the same controls on drug prices that Canada has here in America. If you don't support price controls here, then you had better be buying your medicine full price here in the United States. So let's examine the situation. A good plan needs to face the facts.

First of all, pharmaceutical companies are quite frankly companies. In a free market society we cannot criticize the fact that a company is trying to make money, that's what companies do. It would be no better to do that than to ask you not to eat which you must do to live. If they didn't make a profit they would go bankrupt.

Second, pharmaceutical companies develop drugs, patent them, and then are able to sell them exclusively for so many years before the patent ends and generic drug companies come in and make the same drugs but sell them for cheaper. Now, its not the making of each pill that costs so much but the development costs. The companies have a few years to reap their development costs back and make a profit before their patent ends. This translates into high drug costs, so they claim.

Third, we need pharmaceutical companies to continue to develop better medicines. In order to do that they need lots of money, which must come from the consumers. The other alternative would be for the government to take over the development of drugs, the cost then being passed on through taxes instead of drug prices, and the chances of their being new drugs would be dramatically lessened.

My proposal is this. Why not give pharmaceutical companies the option of having longer patents on drugs in exchange for submitting to price controls on their drugs. Then, they can make the same amount of money off their drugs but spread out over more years. Do we really need to let parasitic generic drug companies come in and steal drugs from those who developed them and sell cheaply because they didn't incur development costs? My answer is no, not if we can get the companies holding the patents to charge less.

Now obviously, some method of determining how to set the prices of prescription drugs would be needed. I'll leave that for Congress and undoubtedly lobbyists to figure out. If a method couldn't be figured out then this plan will not work, since I would certainly not trust giving the drug companies longer patents without guarantees that they'd charge less. And we wouldn't force this upon them, they could choose to charge what they can get while they can and then have generic drug companies swoop in a few years, so its not socialist. But we would close the loopholes allowing drug companies to get more years out of their patents if they don't take the price control route.

This plan seems far better than buying the same drugs from other companies. It also seems better than just allowing people to negotiate prices. If I'm buying from prescription drugs, I don't want to feel like I'm in a bazaar bartering and haggling over my medicine. 'Just walk away, show them that you don't really need your heart medication. You can live without it, for a few days.' We'd be better off ensuring everyone gets the same affordable prices, instead of complicating things even further.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Apparent Change of Course?

Last night, the Democratic Party took the House. In the Senate, the current breakdown is 49 Republicans, 48 Democrats, and 2 independents. Currently there is one seat undecided seat in Virginia with Democrat Jim Webb leading by 6,708 votes. In Virginia there could be a recount. By state law, the state will pay for a recount if the difference is under 0.5%, which it is. But this cannot take place until 10 days after the election when the results are certified. Virginia is now on my list of states to consider expulsion from the Unites States, along with Florida and Ohio.

News that would have been the top story any other day, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is stepping down and will be replaced by Robert Gates. Robert Gates is from the old George H. W. Bush team, the former director of the CIA and the President of Texas A & M. According to Bush in a press conference today, Bush talked to Gates last week and talked to Rumsfeld yesterday. Apparently, Vice President Cheney was opposed to getting rid of Rumsfeld but Bush went against him. The news is saying that the age of idealogues, e.g. Rumsfeld and Cheney, is over. I'd say personally that pragmatism is more characteristic of political conservatism than ideology, so this is a good thing. One has to wonder if Bush had made this change earlier if this would have resulted in a better night for Republicans. I think considering the closeness of many races, that if the Bush had made this change earlier that the Republicans would likely have kept control of the Senate, and although they probably still would have lost the House they would have held onto more seats. (On a side note, I remember meeting Gates a few years ago kind of randomly, although I don't remember much about it.)

Bush said that he did not think that they were going to get such a 'thumpin.' He talked about working with the Democrats to get things accomplished. He said he wants to get the troops but with victory, and they can work together assuming that its not just get the troops home immediately. He pointed to raising the minimum wage, alternative energy, and a comprehensive immigration plan as some areas that they can work together one. Interestingly, there is a better chance for Bush to get a comprehensive immigration plan through with a Democratic Congress. Bush was asked about how he was going to get pass the harsh words said by the Democrats about him, and vice versa, during the campaign. Bush replied that the campaign was over and in the business of politics you can't hold grudges of you won't get anything accomplished.

Bush was also asked about the contest between him and Karl Rove to read more books in a year. Karl Rove is, but more importantly, Bush said that maybe he was campaigning harder than Rove, which was received with laughter. Does this signal a change in Bush's political strategy? Karl Rove thought that he had access to better numbers and math than media, and was proven wrong last night. Apparently all he had access to was fuzzy numbers.

Monday, November 06, 2006

If Doesn't Matter Who You Vote For, Just Don't Vote

Have you ever heard, "It Doesn't Matter Who You Vote For," or "We Should Force People To Vote?" Well, that is quite possibly some of the most foolish nonsense to ever grace the earth. You have the right to vote, but if you are uninformed, you forfeit your right to vote. Forcing people to vote so we have bigger turnouts would not help our country, but hurt it. Then, whoever has the better sounding name would win elections.

Instead of requiring people to vote, we should require them to take a poll test before voting. That's right, bring the poll test back. Poll tests were once a bad thing, used to disenfranchise people based on race, totally wrong, but now we can use them for good to disenfranchise the uninformed. We would make sure it wasn't biased in favor of one race. If naturalized citizens have to pass a test to get citizenship (and they should), its only right that naturally-born citizens be able to pass a test as well. It's sad to think how many Americans wouldn't pass a test for citizenship. If we went further and did require Americans to pass such a test for citizenship, it might make people pay more attention in school and to politics, since if you failed not only would you not be able to vote, but you would lose, many other rights as well, such as certain legal protections. We all know Americans are innocent until proven guilty, but not anyone else. Habeas corpus, forget about it if you fail. Nothing like a indefinite day, indefinite-minus-one night free vacation at Guantamano Bay.

Furthermore, I say bring back the poll tax as well. Clearly, only the rich deserve to vote. They can manage their own money, therefore they have what it takes to vote for leaders to manage our nation's financial resources. The rich have more money, therefore they have more on the line and should have more say over the course of our nation. Think of it like stock in our nation, the rich have more stock, i.e., pay more taxes, meaning more votes just as the more shares you have the more votes you have in a company. I say we get rid off all taxes but the poll tax. We'll pay the poor not to vote using the money from making the rich pay to vote. The poor can't afford not to not to vote. Neither would they want to, as they are getting money and not paying taxes. Or, the poor would still get votes, just the rich would get proportionally more votes, and as its proportional its therefore fair, like a flat tax. If we expect the rich to pay more, they should get more of a say, its only fair. This could encourage people from going into debt, since they'd have to have money if they want to vote. And we shouldn't forget, a poll tax makes voting profitable, meaning polling stations become like businesses running more efficiently. We'll actually be able to afford decent voting systems so that we will be sure that the select few's votes get counted fairly and accurately.

Now politics is about what is prudent, so how to get this in place you might ask? Well, politics is also about framing the issue and getting your terms to define the debate. "End Poor And Uneducated Suffrage Amendment." (EPA USA) What politician could vote against ending the suffering of the poor and uneducated, especially when its patriotic and environmentally friendly?

We're not taking away people's right to vote, as anyone could educate themselves and fulfill the American dream by becoming rich and then vote. Nor is it discriminatory since people across the board would fail to either invest enough in America or to know enough about America. It's equal opportunity. And I am not rich, so I am not biased and have nothing to gain. But for the sake of our nation, I would give up my right to vote if it keeps those who shouldn't be voting from voting. We already entrust the running of our country to elected officials, so why not entrust the decision of who to entrust with power to smart rich people. There's checks and balances. People from different competing companies would be voting, keeping the government from favoring one business over another, it might actually reduce that. And or course the rich will respond to money, so the people can hold the rich in check by carefully exercising their spending power. Of course, because this is a democracy their votes are by secret ballot to avoid intimidation which might make that a little difficult. It's an imperfect system, but its the best we got.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Keystone of Our Nuclear Balance of Peace

For some five decades now, our world has been living on the edge of destruction. Our world was and still is at every moment an hour away from the end of the world as we know it. And yet, we have had a tenable peace. The closest we've come so far was the Cuban Missile Crisis. So how have we avoided our destruction by nuclear arms?

It's quite simple. Mutually Assured Destruction, or MAD for short. For example, if the Soviet Union had attacked us, we would have launched missiles back taking them out along with us, and vice versa. Hence the nuclear arms race: To avoid any side from gaining the ability to wipe out the other side's armament, we had to keep enough weapons to be able to survive a first strike attack and fire back. Otherwise, deterrence would be gone and peace would have been far more unlikely.

MAD is why its okay for a country like the US to have nuclear arms, and a country like Iraq, Iran, or North Korea to not have them. This question is often asked, and the answer is really quite simple. The US would never use our weapons unless we had too, since our destruction would be assured if we became aggressive. But, when you have rogue states with regimes who don't even care about their people to the point of killing their own people, then MAD breaks down. If they don't particularly want their people to survive, then why would they care if they're wiped out if they attacked us. Now of course it would be preferable if we could turn the clock back and never know how to build nuclear bombs. But its too late for that, the knowledge is out there and even if we disarm all our nuclear arms, that knowledge will still be out there and completely disarming will only leave us vulnerable and worse off. Pandora's Box has been open and can't be closed.

So what is the key to this nuclear balance of peace? Its having people in charge of our nuclear arms who will attack back with nuclear arms when attacked by them. Take the Cuban Missile Crisis. President Kennedy said "It shall be the policy of this Nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union." So to keep a relative peace as far as nuclear arms are concerned, it is necessary that the United States respond in kind to any attacks. Otherwise, if we didn't retaliate, no one would have any problem using weapons of mass destruction against us, as the fear of their own destruction would be gone. Fear of destruction keeps sane states from using nuclear arms.

Now as that power rests in the hands of the President, that means that our President must be willing to unhesitantly retaliate, undoubtedly killing millions of innocent people in the process. So my question is, can one as a Christian be President and actually go through with killing several million using nuclear warheads. One is Christian first and a citizen second, and a Christian president, if they are indeed Christian, must be a Christian first as well. Of course, a big difference between the president ordering an attack and a regular person doing so is that the government bears the sword to maintain justice and regular citizens do not. But does that make from a Christian point of view the killing of millions in defense of the country an acceptable act, or is it egregious sin?
If is not acceptable for a Christian to do so, then I would put forth we really shouldn't elect Christian presidents. And, Christians shouldn't run for President, if they truly are Christian and not just claiming to be to get votes. Because, it is absolutely essential that we have a President who will do this if put in that unfortunate situation, and if that has to be a non-believer, so be it. So, I'm interested in a response (meaning comments) to the question, can a Christian be the President and make the decision to actually use nuclear arms in retaliation?