Category: politics

Rasmussen Does An Anti-Net Neutrality Push Poll

Rasmussen Question: “Should the Federal Communications Commission regulate the Internet like it does radio and television?”

I’m in favor of Net Neutrality, but I would answer “NO!!” to the above question. Frankly, I think anyone who understood the issue would likely say “No” to the above question, because the regulations placed on radio and TV bear absolutely no resemblance to the ideals of Net Neutrality (which is why the EFF opposes all FCC regulation). But most importantly, I think anyone who didn’t understand the issue, would be lead astray by that question. They would be lead to believe that the above question is somehow relevant to current issues, and it simply isn’t. Net Neutrality is not about censoring porn or “bad” language. For those in doubt, I might suggest looking up the definition of the word “neutrality”.

I might have let this question slide, if Rasmussen hadn’t associated it with Net Neutrality (given it’s lack of practical relevance to the issue). But, far from distancing this question from Net Neutrality, they titled the page for this question with “Questions – Net Neutrality – December 23, 2010”. So, either Rasmussen simply doesn’t understand what Net Neutrality is, or they are blatantly misrepresenting it in an attempt to get the type of results they want. One might think Frank Luntz had a hand in this somewhere…

Net Neutrality is about non-discrimination of internet content. The discrimination of content violates Net Neutrality regardless of where that discrimination comes from; whether it be from the Internet provider, or government regulation. Rasmussen asked a question about the violation of Net Neutrality, and framed it as the definition of Net Neutrality. They might have just as fairly asked “Should freedom of speech be protected by criminalizing dissent?”

I don’t like opinion polls in general, but I really hate opinion polls that blatantly misrepresent the issues.

Idealism VS Realism In Politics

This press conference is a rather good demonstration of the difference between idealism and realism in politics.  While I strongly recommend you watch the entire video, I understand that we live in a sound bite culture, and people would rather not sit through 32 mins of anything, so if you must, feel free to skip to 26:40, where the point gets summarized very well.

 

The 21% Strikes Back

In any good poll, no matter how seemingly intelligent the sample, there will always be at least 21% (or around 1/5th) of the people that don’t have the slightest clue what they’re talking about. This theory is based on a Pew survey from 2008 which clearly showed that 21% of atheists believe in God. That fact was both startling and enlightening, and I have henceforth decided that all opinion polls are inherently terrible at determining what people actually think. It doesn’t matter whether these people don’t understand the question, or are simply stupid; there will always be at least 21% whose answers are indicative of nothing.

This has been most clearly demonstrated recently by another Pew poll showing that 18% (often “quoted” as something around 1 in 5 or 1/5th) of Americans think Obama is Muslim. This is demonstrably untrue. Sadly, only 34% (about 1/3rd) believe he is what he claims to be (Christian). But there is a lot more to this poll than those surface statistics, so let’s dig a little deeper.

Of the people who think he is Muslim, 26% approve of his performance as President. Despite having been bombarded with this Muslim misinformation/propaganda, these people still think he’s doing a good job. Thus, the 21% theory stands strong even within this subgroup. This means that no matter how much you subdivide a group, you can never truly assume that the answers you get are accurately indicative of anything. 21% of Atheists believe in God, and 26% of people who think Obama is Muslim, also think he’s doing a great job. One could take heart in the idea that these people don’t seem to think being Muslim is inherently a bad thing, if using polls to come to conclusions about what people think was a valid endeavor. We can’t come to conclusions, however, because opinion polls, not matter how detailed, are never an accurate representation of what people think.

Polls are only an accurate representation of what people are likely to answer on a poll. An election is a type of poll, so it’s easy to argue for the validity of voter polling during an election, but opinion polls should never be treated as accurately indicative of anything. If you feel the driving need to make broad generalizations about groups of people, then I suggest you rethink your position, because chances are you’re falling prey to prejudice.

Net Neutrality

More than anything else, I voted for Barack Obama because of his support for Net Neutrality. I wanted Healthcare reform too, but Net Neutrality was the big issue for me, and I’d have simply stayed home on election day, had he not openly supported that issue. The FCC, as a result of Obama’s new appointments, is now trying to implement Net Neutrality regulations. It’s no surprise that there are many on the political right now getting up on their soap box to bash Net Neutrality.

During his campaign for president, I criticized John McCain for his computer illiteracy. It’s really too bad that the anti-Net Neutrality advocates (they would call themselves “free market” advocates, but that would be ignoring markets that exist almost exclusively within the Internet, like Google and Facebook) are being represented by someone like John McCain. Even though I think the anti-reform advocates are wrong, I also think some have worthwhile points to make, and deserve to be heard. Unfortunately, it seems the people standing on the tallest soap box in opposition, are the people who clearly don’t have the slightest clue what they’re talking about.

There’s an argument to be made that the FCC shouldn’t be allowed to make up regulations on their own, and then implement them without congressional approval. Even members of the EFF are making that argument. I think it’s a valid point, and I would prefer to see binding legislation on this issue, rather than just FCC regulations that could easily be repealed at any time when the next administration comes in. However, this isn’t an argument against Net Neutrality; just against the FCC doing things unilaterally.

The few worthwhile arguments against Net Neutrality itself almost all revolve around the idea that the infrastructure was built by private companies, and thus those companies should be able to do what they like with that infrastructure. It’s a good ideological argument, but it ignores the issue of private monopoly, and the government subsidies taxpayers gave to those private companies to help them build that infrastructure. But even though that argument is flawed, it’s still immeasurably better than the “new fairness doctrine” malarkey coming out of some people. Net Neutrality is about forbidding the regulation of speech on the Internet (particularly by ISPs), which is the exact opposite of what the fairness doctrine was all about.

I believe the United States has been the most innovative country in terms of Internet start ups. Without Net Neutrality, companies like DIGG.com, mint.com, and people just looking to make a little money with their blog through advertising, simply wouldn’t have anything like the opportunities they have had in the past. Most of the websites we go to regularly wouldn’t have been viable businesses if we allowed the ISPs to run the Internet the way many of those same companies run cable television.  We need to ensure America’s continued dominance in this space, and I don’t think we’ll be able to do that without Net Neutrality.

Obama and the Nobel Peace Prize

I’ve come to the conclusion that the most interesting thing about Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize is how much people have lost their heads over it. I was confused by Obama’s win at first, but then I actually thought about it. The Nobel Committee votes for who they want to win. It’s not a math equation, it’s a gut-check/wishful-thinking/popularity-contest type of decision, and it always has been. That’s why I don’t think it aught to be taken as seriously as people seem to be taking it now.

Was Obama most deserving of the prize this year? Probably not, but if we were to go by the standards of history, I think it’s pretty clear that he is more deserving than Al Gore was back in 2007 (if Global Warming has anything more than an extremely tangential relationship to peace, I’ve yet to be convinced of it). I think people tend to forget how bad international relations were under George W Bush. It’s not in the media much, but our relationship with Russia was in very bad shape under Bush. So bad, that if things continued the way they were going, it might have actually come to military action. Obama comes in, nixes the military instillation (the “missile defence shield” which couldn’t do anything like defend against missiles) we were building on Russia’s door step under Bush, and suddenly Obama gets Russia to decrease it’s nuclear arsenal. Obama hasn’t done much to change our relationship with the nations in the “axis of evil”, but there’s a lot more to international relations than Iran and North Korea.

People rightly question the validity of the Nobel Peace Prize every year. The only real difference this year is that it comes on the heel of a popular Saturday Night Live skit claiming the person hasn’t done anything. Given how much people in this country take comedy as gospel truth, we’ve ended up with a lot of people being confused and angry that the rest of the world doesn’t do the same.

All I Am Saying, Is Give Healthcare Reform A Chance

It’s time I addressed the US Healthcare issue.

Improving the healthcare system in the United States aught to be as easy as shooting fish in a barrel. We pay more per person than any other country in the world, despite the fact that we’re the only western nation in the world that doesn’t treat healthcare as a right. Put simply: We cover less people, yet pay twice as much. It is literally less expensive for me to import three bottles of Flonase from New Zealand than to go down the street and buy one bottle from Walgreens.

The problem is that, since we do spend so much more on healthcare than anyone else, it’s a massive part of our economy. Scraping what we have and starting over isn’t an option, when what we’d be scraping equates to a full sixth of the US economy. As a result, Barack Obama and congress have decided to come up with a lot of little proposals, roll them all into one big bill, and hope that solves the majority of our healthcare problems. The Insurance Exchange program, the various tax credits/subsidies/handouts, the various regulations being imposed on insurance companies, private employers, individuals…etc… The list is almost unending. But I think it’s worth a shot.

Libertarians insist that the reason healthcare is so bad is due to all the government intervention we already have. Republicans think it’s because of people exercising their legal right to seek retribution for perceived wrongs/damages. On any sort of macro level, neither of these assertions are backed up by either the states that have implemented tort reform already, or by the countries that have less government involvement in healthcare. The few specific benefits we have in our system over other countries (mostly involving drug research, and coverage for the wealthy) are outweighed by our inferior results on the macro level.

Many opponents of the various bills being proposed argue that these plans will eventually lead to a socialized single payer healthcare system. Lord, I wish it were true. Unfortunately, as proposed, even the “public option” would only be available through the Insurance Exchange (which most people wouldn’t have access to at all), and it wouldn’t be paid for with tax dollars. It would be far more akin to the US Postal Service than to Medicare, if the US Postal Service were only available to people physically incapable of delivering their own mail. I see no compelling evidence that the public options being proposed would come anywhere close to putting every other insurer out of business. Lord knows, I think that would be a good way of going about it: gradually expand a program like Medicare to eventually cover everyone, while slowly phasing out the necessity of private insurance companies.

There are a lot of things about the current plans that I don’t like. I don’t like the individual mandate. I don’t like the limitations placed on the public option (which may not even end up in the final bill at all). I don’t like how the Senate Finance committee has limited the Insurance Exchanges to be set up separately for each state (I think we aught to be able to choose from a national list of insurers, not just a state list)… I could go on.

But at the end of the day, I’m willing to give this a shot. The plan isn’t my ideal, and they’re mucking up the good ideas they originally had, but as things stand now, I have to import my Flonase from New Zealand, and that’s just retarded beyond anything congress has yet put forth on this issue.