Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Republicans Heart Bank Fees

Imagine, if you will, that Obama imposed a $35 tax on anyone who spent more than they had in their bank account. And every item added to your negative balance would be another $35 you had to pay to the government. And the government would be required to use that money for consumer economic education programs, which taught people how to be more savvy consumers.

Republicans would go apeshit. Hell, *I'd* go apeshit. The very idea is offensive to me. And yet, why is it that conservatives are so eager to support such a system, as long as it's the bank that keeps the money? Hell, they defend it. They think anyone who overdrafts is a lousy lowlife scum who deserves to pay $35 every time you deeper into the red. And they'll attack anyone who prevents banks from taking this money from me.

And I know that because I recently made a boneheaded move and overdrafted. I wrote a big check thinking it wouldn't clear until Tuesday, but it secretly cleared on Monday. And had I known it would clear on Monday, I could definintely have fixed the problem immediately. But for whatever reason, my bank doesn't let me know that checks clear until the day after it happens, after it's too late to fix the problem.

And that wouldn't have been a big deal, but over the weekend, I used my debit card a lot. And because weekends are magical "bank free" days, their computers wouldn't finish processing my transactions until Tuesday morning. And in total, I had nine things push me deeper in the red.

Obama Saved Me Money

Under the old system, I would have been charged with $315 in fees. But thanks to Obama's banking reform last year, I only had to pay $35 for the check that hit on Monday, and didn't pay a thing for the lesser charges I made on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. In total, Obama saved me $280. Now maybe to Republicans, that's a nothing figure. But I was damn happy to save it. I'm trying to save up for a couch right now, and that's part of my payment.

And the oddest thing is that when I've tried to explain this to a few Republicans I know, they sarcastically deride it as "Big Brother" saving us, as if I'm some stupid schmo because I needed Obama's help. Sure, they'd scream bloody murder if Obama had the banks collect that fee for tax purposes. But if it's a bank that gets to keep the money, they think it's immoral for Obama to stop it. They think it's wrong for me to use the government to protect me from Big Business. What's wrong with these people?

And really, that's what this election is all about. It's not about whether Obama gave you what you thought we needed. It's about his efforts to protect little guys like me, saving us $280 we'd rather spend elsewhere. I even made a point of contributing 10% of that to Democrats, as a sort of finders fee. (Not that that's the only money I've given this year.) Yes, Universal Healthcare would have been nice, but little regulations are good, too.

That's why we all need to vote this year. To show the world that us little people support Obama.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Associated Press Lies Again

The AP does it again.  The article is titled Poll: Many Obama 2008 Supporters Defecting to GOP, and begins with this ominous analysis:

President Barack Obama's winning coalition from 2008 has crumbled and his core backers are dispirited. It's now Republicans who stand to benefit from an electorate that's again craving change.

Nearly two years after putting Obama in the White House, one-quarter of those who voted for the Democrat are defecting to the GOP or considering voting against the party in power this fall.
Reading that, I immediately found the whole thing to be incredibly unlikely.  Would there be some Obama voters who switch sides?  Of course.  Part of his vote came from independents who weren't loyal to Democrats, and even if they like Obama doesn't necessarily mean they still like Democrats.  But the idea that lots of Obama people are flocking to the GOP seemed extremely dubious.

And I immediately identified the phrase "or considering voting against" as being fairly iffy and was hoping they'd give us the act4a3 details to this poll.

The Actual Results

And sure enough, the spin on this poll is a big pile of garbage.  After reading a bunch about how Obama is losing his coalition, we get the actual results:
_76 percent of Obama voters say they will support the Democrat in their House district, while 8 percent plan to back the Republican and the rest are undecided.

_71 percent of McCain voters say they will vote for the Republican in their House district, while 9 percent plan to get behind Democrats and 20 percent haven't chosen a candidate.
Uhh, what?  76% of Obama supporters say they'll vore for their Dem, while only 71% of McCain supporters say they'll vote for their Republican.  Sounds like Obama's doing better than the Republicans.

Only 8% of Obama supporters are switching sides, while 9% of McCain supporters are switching sides.  This is evidence that Obama supporters are "defecting to the GOP"??

And as you can see, the iffy "or considering voting against" line the article rested upon is actually that the people are undecided.  Yes, it can be argued that they're considering it, seeing as how they're not decided.  But those phrases don't really have the same connatation.  And as your spidey math skills should tell you, 15% of undecided Obama supporters is better than 20% of undecided McCain supporters.

In other words, the entire article is a crock of shit.  Obama's coalition is actually better than McCain's; at least according to this poll.  And only 11% of those who didn't say they'd vote for the Democrat thinks that Republicans will do a better job.  Looks like the only thing crumbling here is the Associated Press's integrity.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Freedom to Get Sick and Die

Greg Sargent has a post about whackjob Sharron Angle's response during her debate with Harry Reid in which she was asked to name anything she thinks health insurance companies should be mandated to cover, and she responded with:

What we have here is a choice between the free markets and Americanism. America is about choices.  And we need people to have those choices. The free market will weed out those companies that do not offer as many choices and do not have a cost-effective system. 

Let the people decide where they want to buy their insurance.  You don't have to force them to buy anything.  And you don't have to force anyone to offer a product that no one wants.

And first off, the choice between free markets and Americanism?  Am I reading that wrong, or is she saying that Americanism is the opposite of free markets?  And is that even a word?  I guess it is, though I'm unclear as to how she was using it. 

Dying's Not an Option

But my real point is how this just shows the tunnel-vision thinking found so often in folks on both ends of the political spectrum.  People who somehow imagine that we could completely revamp our current system and still get all the benefits that it provides without any of the downside.  People who don't seem to realize that we had a system before labor laws and corporations, and things sucked a heckeva lot more than they do now. 

It's like the magic trick where the magician pulls the tablecloth off the table and everything stays the same.  But what you don't see is all the times the magician screwed it up during practice.  Unfortunately, in real life, we don't get to practie.  If we pull out everything holding up our system, we don't get a second chance at it.  And since we've already seen how things were like without it, there's no reason to take that chance.  Unfortunately, these people seem to forget that we've already seen that life can totally suck without labor laws or capitalism; and somehow imagine that prior generations invented this stuff just because they're stupid or cruel.

But in the case of Angle, it's even worse as the system she prefers is still in existence, yet she still imagines it works just fine.  We're not talking about someone who fails to grasp the reason why our current system was created.  We're talking about someone who insists that the free market will "weed out" crappy insurance; seemingly unaware of how prolific such insurance is.

Pony Insurance for the Free

Because yeah, I like freedom.  I like to be able to choose cheap products if I don't need the do-dads of a more pricey one.  And normally, that's great for me.  I don't want to be forced to buy a Mac if I can get by with a crappy netbook.  But health insurance is different from that, because eventually, I'm going to need it.  It's not a matter of me getting by with a no-frills plan.  It's a matter of me gambling with my life; which is a gamble I'm sure to lose eventually. 

And of course, nobody wants crappy insurance.  They all want the golden plan that takes care of them no matter what.  The problem is that most folks can't afford the insurance they need.  But...there is a way they CAN afford it, or at least a close approximation of it, and it's the very plan that dopes like Angle oppose.  Not only does it give everyone insurance, but it makes it so good insurers don't have to water down their products to compete with crappy insurance that people buy because they're gambling with their lives. 

So everyone's happy.  Well, everyone except for the morons who want to pretend as if dying is an option.  And so they'll cling to their ideals of freedom while ignoring the real world around them; imagining that the free markets will do what we clearly know they won't do.  The reality is that the only way the markets could be self correcting in this case is if people who get sick could hit a Do-Over Button, allowing them to go back in time and buy the insurance they now realize they need.  Short of that, we give everyone good insurance from the start and have them bitch and moan all the way to better healthcare.

And of course, the reality is that insurers want to give you crappy insurance, because it's cheaper for them.  They want to hook you in with cheap rates, which they'll raise without cause every chance they get, and then dump you once you really need it.  The reason Big Business opposes Big Government isn't because they love freedom.  It's because they want to screw over the little guys and Big Government won't let them do it.  There's nothing else to it. 

If the free markets would give us all pony insurance and good wages, Big Business wouldn't mind that the government was forcing them to do it.  And for as much as there are good insurance companies that want to offer good products, this law will only help them with that; as it forces all the crappy insurance companies to compete on the same basis.  And the only people complaining are the scumbag insurers and the people who don't know what they're talking about.  The rest of us should be happy to have the freedom to get good healthcare at a reasonable price.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Hating the Laws They Love

CNN has a story about how businesses which offer their employees crappy insurance plans are getting waivers from the Obama Admin allowing them to continue to offer crappy insurance plans until the insurance exchanges are set-up and we can give them real insurance. 

Without the waivers, these employers would be forced by the new healthcare law to offer real insurance now, but since that would require them to pay a lot more in premiums, they'd either have to raise their premiums or, more likely, just cut the insurance all together.  And while it'd be nice if they could get real insurance now, that's just not going to happen; so this is the next best alternative.

Now, anyone who opposes "Obamacare" should be HAPPY about this story.  Not only does it show Obama's willingness to work with businesses, but it also delays the effect of the healthcare law for these businesses.  So if you don't like the healthcare law or think Obama's a socialist dictator, this would be good news.  It'd be like us hearing that Bush was giving waivers to any soldier who didn't want to go to Iraq.

But of course, that would require these people to comprehend what they had just read, yet if they had these skills, they wouldn't oppose the law in the first place.  I mean, we're talking about a law which requires people to get a service which will be subsidized by taxpayers; and that would be a boon for any business.  As long as the money they collect actually goes towards the service they provide, there shouldn't be a problem. 

Yet all the same, these morons somehow imagine Obama is taking over the insurance industry in order to destroy it.  If that's a government takeover, Obama can take over my business any day.

Morons Speak

And so we get comments on that story like these:
"President Obama is the only leader taking comprehensive action to stop greenhouse gas emissions: He's steadily putting everyone out of work"

"this is just the beginning folks!!! you thought insurance companies were bad?!!! government is 1,000,0000 times worse!!! your gonna beg for insurance companies to come back once government puts them out of business to control your body and life!!!"

"anybody hear this on any of the major news channels....no these were the suck ups who pushed obama non care...this @#$% is wrecking our country and the news people are asleep at the wheel...no more democrats and only conservative republicans...I'm sick of the government in my pocket.....go Fox news and the Wall Street Journal."

"In Socialism the state always takes. The people own nothing! Do not be shocked or surprised as they eat away at home ownership, business owners,  jobs, owning property, anything. They will take it all. We can undo some of what's been done with the next vote."

"Ok - so now we have government run healthcare. And some people are actually happy? This is so the wrong way to go. What they should do is provide incentives to private healthcare providers to provide legimate benefits to Americans."
That last one is perhaps the funniest, as they just described Obamacare.  As I'm sure you realize, it's not government-run insurance at all.  It's private insurance with subsidies from the government, with enough protections to make sure citizens won't get ripped off by bad insurance.  Yet these people are so brainwashed that they don't even realize that Obama just gave them the insurance they wanted.

The Irony of Idiots

And without a doubt, these people didn't read the story.  They saw a headline titled 1 Million Workers Lose Out on Better Coverage and immediately imagine that Obamacare must be responsible for them losing out on the better coverage. 

But of course, the better coverage they're "losing" is what Obamacare is giving them, while this story is about these workers being exempted from Obamacare.   And in fact, these people didn't "lose" anything.  They're just stuck with the same crappy insurance they had before.  The same crappy insurance Obamacare's haters want them to have.  So they're attacking Obama for being flexible and giving workers the crappy insurance Obama's haters want Obama to have left them with.  And they're too stupid to even realize it.

And so we're stuck trying to deal with millions of people who don't even know that Obamacare is doing exactly what they want it to do, while attacking Nancy Pelosi for not reading a bill that they can't even comprehend.  And the saddest part is that many of these people will NEVER understand what this bill did, and will still be complaining about Obama's government takeover of health insurance, while unwittingly benefitting from it every day.  I hate it when irony hurts.

Calories Are Still Calories

In response to a post I wrote recently about nutritionists giving bad advice by pretending as if some calories are better than others, a longtime reader suggested that my theory would posit that a Coke and cotton candy diet with a 2000 calorie daily limit could be healthy.  He also stated that high fructose corn syrup is worse than cane sugar because the body processes it faster. 

I wrote a response to that comment (after a much delayed period in which my internet sucked), but decided it was good enough to be a full post, because I've been such a bum and haven't felt like writing lately.  So I rewrote it to be less of a response and more of a regular post.

BTW, shortly after writing my previous post, I read LiveScience.com's 7 Biggest Diet Myths, which contained some of the same things I had just written about; including the dangers of smoothies.  While I thought a few of them were wrong, I definitely think it's worth a read.

The Coke & Cotton Candy Diet

Regarding the Coke and Cotton Candy Diet, as long as we threw in a daily vitamin supplement and some whey protein, I betcha a lot of people would see a vast improvement in their health compared with the crap they're eating now.  If anything, their taste buds would complain sooner than their health would. People scoffed at the Atkins Diet, too. But eventually, the nutritionists had to grudgingly back down and quietly rework all their theories while pretending they were right the whole time. 

But of course, their advice was based upon superstition and hearsay; not science.  And they rejected a pile of science before they finally accepted what Dr. Atkins was saying.  Not that he was right about everything, as there are other good ways to lose weight, too.  But the fat=bad, carbs=good crock of shit is now dead, no thanks to the nutritionists who kept it alive for as long as possible. 

It sickens me to think of all the people who replaced their protein-rich eggs for calorie-rich muffins because of these fools.  Even now, too many people still consider muffins to be health food, simply because they're not as tasty as their donut and cake cousins.  As one doctor quoted by LiveScience suggested, the low-fat craze was an "uncontrolled experiment on a whole population."

But of course, the nutritionists STILL engage in uncontrolled experiments upon us.  They've now settled on this theory that man-made foods are bad for us, citing minor allergies to MSG as proof that it's dangerous, while neglecting the fact that peanut allergies can kill people.  Just because something's natural doesn't mean it's good for us, as nature produces poisons, too.  But these people continue to pimp this all-natural myth all the same. 

And of course, I wouldn't actually recommend a Coke-Cotton Candy-supplement diet to anyone; but it'd surely be than the 3000+ calories they're consuming right now; even if it came from fruit and vegetables.

The Problem of Quantity

And it should be noted that quite a few people drink at least a 64-ounce Super Big Gulp of Coke every day, which gives them a whopping 776 calories.  That's where the problem with soda is.  It's not the content or lack of vitamins.  It's the quantity.  Anyone drinking a 64-ounce Jamba Juice every day would find their weight balloon, as 64-ounces of their all-fruit smoothies would add almost 1000 calories to their diet; almost 25% more than they're currently getting in their Super Big Gulps. 

That's why the advice for people to give up soda is such foolishness: If it's just a matter of switching beverages, they're doomed.  These people need to change lifestyles.  I personally have found it's quite easy to consume over 800 calories in fruit juice without trying. One cup of juice just isn't very much, and it's ohhhh so tasty.  Anyone with juice in their house is lucky to not consume 500 calories of it a day.  If I didn't have kids, I'd never keep it around.

As for the nutritional value of Jamba Juice, that's all well and good, except the typical Jamba Juice consumer isn't suffering from a vitamin deficiency and doesn't require the 190% daily vitamin C their large Strawberry Whirl gives them; along with 380 unnecessary calories.  These people aren't getting much needed vitamins in the form of a tasty beverage. They're getting a tasty beverage with a few perks thrown in to fool them into thinking they're being healthy.  But the calories still count, even if it comes with vitamins. 

People need to realize that Jamba Juice is a guilty pleasure, not a health food.  Yet the nutritionists aren't warning us about this stuff at all.  But if a smoothie isn't a substitute for a meal, it's just as empty as the calories in Coke. There's no reason someone needs 930% of their daily vitamin C from a sixteen ounce drink with 260 calories, as you'd get in a Acai Super Antioxidant.

BTW, the vitamin C from their medium and large versions of that drink is apparently so ridiculous that they didn't even post it online; though my calculations show the biggest one to have 1860% of your daily vitamin C; along with 520 calories and 2 grams of saturated fat.  That's the health nut equivalent of buying a monster truck to over-compensate for having a small dick.  You're pissing out the excess vitamins while the calories go straight to your hips.

Sugar is Sugar

And the other point is that we need to stop calling fruit "fruit," and realize we're talking about sugar.  You can get sugar from all kinds of plants and there's nothing superior about the "unprocessed" sugars from Jamba's processed fruit drinks.  That sugar is no longer the same as when it's in its fruit format.  Eating a strawberry isn't the same as drinking one.

And the point about corn syrup is simply false, and is based upon what the nutritionists told us; while the scientists have concluded no such thing.  While there is a slight increase in sugar spikes compared with sugar, foods like white bread and potatoes are actually worse and rank higher on the glycemic index.

And one of the biggest problems with the whole concept of sugar spikes is that it's based upon an empty stomach. Mix it up with a belly of food and the sugar spikes aren't nearly as dramatic. It's the same way with alcohol; you'll get drunk a lot quicker on an empty stomach, as your body absorbs it all quicker. But a full stomach makes it harder to test these kind of things, so they don't do it that way. But that just proves my point: Sugar spikes aren't very dramatic if you're actually eating food. 

Too Many Calories

Overall, people need to limit their consumption of ALL unnecessary calories; not just the ones processed by man. The ones in fruit can hurt you, too.  My point isn't that Coke is a health food.  My point is that fruit juice isn't either.  Getting people to switch from one calorie source to another isn't going to fix anything.  And if anything, it has the ill effect of making people believe they're being healthy when they're not.  Eating an apple doesn't justify the brownie they'll have for dessert, and drinking apple juice doesn't help them at all.

IMO, one of the biggest reasons people are overweight (besides genetics and intestinal bacteria) is that people honestly don't know how many calories they're consuming.  Yeah, they know that Big Macs aren't health food.  But until they understand that milk, juice, and bread are also loading them up with calories, they aren't getting the big picture.  Yet they're constantly led to believe that these are health foods; as if the calories don't count.  But of course, ALL calories count, no matter how healthy they are for you.

Eating 900 calories at McDonald's isn't helping them, but it's all to easy to consume that much from just milk, juice, and bread.  Yet not only do the nutritionists not warn us about this; they actually encourage us to consume these.  Our problem is too many calories.  We're not suffering from a lack of vitamin C.  The number of calories we consume is far more important than their source.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

A Calorie is a Calorie

Long time readers know that I've got a war on self-proclaimed nutritionists who use their own puritanical superstitions instead of science to give people lousy advice on what people should eat.  And I happened to notice another of those people yesterday. 

Here's an article titled 5 Ways to Limit Liquid Calories, which once again passes on the bogus claim that the calories in 100% fruit juice are magically better than the calories in soda and fruit juice cocktails; based upon the delusion that sugars that come from cane sugar and corn are "empty," as opposed to the wonderful sugars that come from other plants. 

It's as if we're to imagine that drinking fruit juice might somehow make us eat less.  But of course, they don't.  No matter how much fruit juice I drink, I'll still want to eat just as much; thus making them just as empty as the other calories I drink.

Soy Lattes to the Rescue

The writer starts by stating how those delicious Pumpkin Spice Lattes she enjoys at Starbucks have 410 calories, and recommends using soy milk instead of whole milk; which is one of the five ways of limiting calories. 

But what she fails to mention is that, even with the soy milk, this drink still has 370 calories.  That's right, her great advice of omitting the whole milk saves her a whopping 40 calories.  And she gets paid to write this garbage?  I mean, research suggests that we limit our calorie intake to 2,000 a day, yet this bozo is having us spend almost 20% of our calorie budget towards a fricking dessert drink; and imagines she's giving us good advice.

She also gives bad advice on when to consume calories, stating that it's better to drink your calories in the morning, when you can still burn them off.  Yet research has shown that it doesn't matter when you consume calories, and that having them in the morning is no different than having them at night.  That was yet another myth these people continue to push, evidence to the contrary.

Yes, I understand how skipping breakfast could slow your metabolism, but that's a far cry from telling people that it's ok to indulge in calorie-laden coffee drinks if you do it early enough.  That's superstition, not science supporting that claim.

Jamba to the Rescue

And finally, I wanted to highlight one of the commenters, who had the mistaken belief that smoothies are low calorie, as long as they're made with real fruit.
Real fruit smoothies are also great ways to limit liquid calories. As a huge fan of the restaurant chain Jamba Juice, I can say that anything from their All Fruit or Jamba Light menu is a low-calorie, great-tasting snack/meal of sorts in liquid form.

Simply put, if there are a lot of added sugars/unhealthy fats in a drink, don't drink it. But some calories in these drinks (i.e. whey protein) can be good. Just avoid any added sugars, and one can drink virtually anything without intaking too many calories.
And so I went to Jamba's website and see, lo and behold, that this person is full of dooky.  A 16-ounce all-fruit smoothie has 240 calories in it.  By contrast, a 16-ounce Coke has 194 calories.  And no, your body doesn't care where the calories came from.  And if you go for Jamba's biggest all-fruit smoothies, you're packing in over 400 calories.  I don't care what else they add to it, that's a lot of calories from a drink.

And even their "light" smoothies give you unnecessary calories, with a 16-ounce "Mango Mantra" giving you 150 calories; not much fewer than that Coke.  And some of their drinks can REALLY pack in the extra calories, including a Green Tea drink that has more calories than a Big Mac.  Sorry pal, but Jamba Juice is not your friend.

Everything in Moderation

And the biggest problem here is that too many people consider these to be ok, and fool themselves into believing that the calories don't count; as the commenter above clearly has.  And so they drink their 100% fruit juice and all-fruit smoothies, then "reward" themselves with a Spiced Pumpkin Latte; and don't even realize that they just drank half their calorie budget for the day.  And that's not to mention the bran muffins that add several hundred calories, or the Gatorade they drink after working out, which packs on more calories than they burned.

The reality of all this is that there are no tricks to losing weight, beyond moderation.  The reason people don't get fat eating fruit is because fruit simply isn't enjoyable enough to eat so much that you'll gain weight that way.  But the calories still count.  And if people enjoyed eating fruit as much as they enjoy Oreos and brownies, fruit would be bad for you, too.

Of course, even moderation should be done in moderation, and it IS a good idea to reward yourself with a few tasty calories.  Just don't confuse the rewards with the punishment, by imagining that soy milk substitutes and all-fruit smoothies count as the punishment.  They don't.  And the sooner people realize that boring foods can have more calories than fun food, the better.