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  • March 2010
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links for 2010-03-30

  • Quote:"Consider 24-year-old Nils Higdon. The self-employed percussionist and part-time teacher in Chicago pays $140 each month for health insurance. But he's healthy and so far hasn't needed it.

    The law relies on Higdon and other young adults to shoulder more of the financial load in new health insurance risk pools. So under the new system, Higdon could expect to pay $300 to $500 a year more. Depending on his income, he might also qualify for tax credits.

    At issue is the insurance industry's practice of charging more for older customers, who are the costliest to insure. The new law restricts how much insurers can raise premium costs based on age alone."

    // Young people pay more to subsidize older, generally wealthier people. Thanks Obama. (To avoid subsidizing irresponsible older folks? Simple, keep your income low and collect the subsidy. In other words, be irresponsible).There ain't no free lunch.

  • Quote:"Matt Drudge may be the most important and influential figure in American media and journalism, but this may well be a curse for conservatives, not a blessing. Dreams die hard and delusions lose elections.

    // HT Matt Drudge

    (tags: politics)
  • Quote:"Catherine Ison, a specialist on gonorrhea from Britain's Health Protection Agency said a World Health Organization (WHO) meeting in Manila next week would be vital to efforts to try to stop the bug repeatedly adapting to and overcoming drugs.

    // Just when we thought we had made the world safe for unlimited, unprotected promiscuous sex…

  • Quote:"It's a twist in the law that may affect thousands of other workers, given that the ranks of the long-term unemployed are now so high. Many people who have been out of work for a year are picking up work as temps or part-timers, unaware that state agencies will recalculate their unemployment benefits after a year – and use their most recent work history and pay level to do it.

    // So no tempwork. If it's not permanent-fulltime, don't take it. That's what the incentive is here. And it will create a population of permanently unemployed poor who have work skills and motivation and opportunitie but can't afford to take it.

  • Quote:"One of the main obstructions to meaningful action is "modern democracy", he added. "Even the best democracies agree that when a major war approaches, democracy must be put on hold for the time being. I have a feeling that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while."

    // Just an FYI

  • Quote:"In classic game theory, confrontation is sometimes necessary when cooperation breaks down to present a credible potential threat and get the two sides to re-engage, said Robert Axelrod, a University of Michigan political scientist and author of the game-theory book, "The Evolution of Cooperation." He isn't related to White House senior adviser David Axelrod.

    // My guess is this tactic will make things worse for the dems. It may enliven their base a little more than it already has after passing the healthcare bill, but it will infuriate the GOP base. So the effect is cancelled out. The question is what it does for moderates and centrists. Again, a guess, I think the middle of the spectrum voters are getting turned off of Obama. We'll see how it all turns out.

  • Quote:"A very small percentage of the population can safely drive while talking on their cell phones, but chances are high that you're not one of these "supertaskers."

    In a new study, psychologists have identified a group of people who can successfully do two things at once, in this case talking on a cell phone while operating a driving simulator without noticeable impairment.

    Supertaskers only make up about 2.5 percent of the general population, however, said study team member James Watson of the University of Utah.

    // So, could we test for this and license some people to talk and drive?

links for 2010-03-29

  • Quote:"Author and attorney Alexander Charns wrote a very interesting book entitled Cloak and Gavel (1992), which concerned the history of the Supreme Court and its interactions with the FBI. Pursuant to one of his FOIA requests seeking historical records about Hoover abuses of power, the FBI inadvertently released to him an internal FBI memorandum that described him, his research, and the type of information he was provided. Apparently, such memoranda on FOIA requesters are not uncommon. They are called “high visibility memoranda” and are created by the FBI FOIA section to “anticipate and minimize negative publicity resulting from FOIA releases.”

    // Just an FYI for any of you FOIA researchers.

  • Quote:"Not really, says McLaughlin, a Certified Information Security Professional and CIO of CNL Bank. Accessing online banking from your everyday PC is just asking for trouble, he says.

    In fact, the CIO of the Orlando, Florida-based regional bank would like to see all of his customers – both consumers and businesses – access online banking either from a dedicated machine or from a self-booting CD-ROM running Ubuntu Linux and Firefox.

    // Thos of us who do a lot of online financtia work should take note.

links for 2010-03-28

links for 2010-03-27

links for 2010-03-26

links for 2010-03-25

  • // Includes adjusted mortality rates, showing why raw mortality rates obscure the real picture of American healthcare.
  • Quote:"Fact No. 1: Americans have better survival rates than Europeans for common cancers.[1] Breast cancer mortality is 52 percent higher in Germany than in the United States, and 88 percent higher in the United Kingdom. Prostate cancer mortality is 604 percent higher in the U.K. and 457 percent higher in Norway. The mortality rate for colorectal cancer among British men and women is about 40 percent higher.

    Fact No. 2: Americans have lower cancer mortality rates than Canadians.[2] Breast cancer mortality is 9 percent higher, prostate cancer is 184 percent higher and colon cancer mortality among men is about 10 percent higher than in the United States.

    // I'm really sick of hearing about how great other country's healthcare is.

  • // Breast cancer survival rates are higher in US than in Europe, so why do we need their style of healthcare?
  • Quote:"Case have increased fourfold in Sunderland, Durham and Teesside, the areas of Britain where Facebook is most popular.

    Professor Peter Kelly, director of public health in Teesside, claimed staff had found a link between social networking sites and the spread of the bacteria, especially among young women.

    // Yes, blame Facebook. I'm sure it's nothing more than Facebook. I'm certain there's nothing culturally defficient.

  • Quote:"Perhaps the biggest difference between the male and female brain is that men have a sexual pursuit area that is 2.5 times larger than the one in the female brain. Not only that, but beginning in their teens, they produce 200 to 250 percent more testosterone than they did during pre-adolescence.

    // I think it was Larry Miller who made the observation that the difference between femal sexual attraction and make sexual attraction was the difference between firing a bullet, and throwing it.

  • Quote:"Millslagle says repealing the policy was not an option. So this spring, they're trying something different. Proponents say the smoking policy has not changed. All that's different is how they're approaching it and enforcing it.

    One new approach is signing up what's called "Supporters" who will walk around campus, looking for violators and reminding them of the policy. This week, UMD has recruited 15 volunteers.

    // So UMD is empowering vigalante doo-gooders to be pricks to anyone whose behavior doesn't fit into their utopian system…and this isn't liberal fascism how?

  • Quote" The mysterious 4-year-old crisis of disappearing honeybees is deepening. A quick federal survey indicates a heavy bee die-off this winter, while a new study shows honeybees' pollen and hives laden with pesticides.

    // This has been going on for a few years now. First it was a parasite, a mite or something. Then a disease. Then something else. It's a serious issue and a perplexing mystery once you look into it.

The Beautiful Idea Factory

Peggy Noonan relates a story in her book “When Character was King” about the differences between Republicans and conservatives. The basic premise was conservatives (and liberals) like ideas. But Republicans like money. To gain the full context, you’ll have to read the book (it’s rather good). I mention this anecdote as a way of introducing the topic of ideas.

I love ideas. Who doesn’t? (Republicans). There are a lot of great ideas out there. Beautiful ideas.

Take human equality. It’s a liberal idea, a utopian one where all persons are truly created equal. Everyone has their needs, wants and desires satisfied as much as the next person. There is no envy. No guilt. Uniform happiness is the norm. Getting to that point is the nightmare written about by Aldous Huxley in Brave New World, and Kurt Vonnegut’s short story Harrison Bergeron brings an even more nightmarish twist to the idea.

See, there is the idea and then there is the application

Liberals ideas, in their beauty (a discussion about aesthetics and epistemology are outside of the scope of this post) are normally meant to fix some cosmic injustice (as Thomas Sowell puts it) and make the world a better place. (Conservative ideas center on parsimony and pragmatism, acquiescence to reality and the world as it is.)

And the ideas are not hard to generate.

Economic Stimulus; a perpetual circle of spending to prevent economic pullbacks. A perpetual motion machine built on the same mental rationalizations people who sought real perpetual motion machines used for their motivation.

How about AEDs for everyone? These are the automated devices which save lives during cardiac emergencies. Shouldn’t these devices be everywhere? Why are they so expensive? Can’t the government make it happen? A beautiful idea. But with serious consequences. Preventing “ruthless greedy profit-making” by those who invent such things will result in few people trying to invent things in order to get rich. (And if you think personal wealth isn’t a motivator for inventors, I suggest watching the Discovery Channel’s “Pitchmen” sometime.)

Jobs for everyone? Jon Stewart suggested, tongue in cheek, everyone could be employed as a census worker. Everyone gets some money and everyone has a job. This goes back to the perpetual motion machine of the stimulus. The economy is a machine. It just takes the right mechanic to make it work right. Never mind “the economy” is us. What we do. How we choose to live. It’s not a machine at all. To be technical, it’s an emergent phenomena of the way members of a complicated primate species interact with each other.

My liberal coworker friend loves the idea of the “renaissance” state. Where state supported artists and poets and musicians better our lives through a mechanism I don’t quite understand. Few, if any of the poets, authors, musicians or artists who enrich my life are state piglets. Everyone receives something from the state, true. But most of the great artists have found a way to persist in the market.  It’s another one of those conservative ideas; scarce resources. Money spent supporting artists can’t go to healthcare, defense, charity or buildings or food or anything. Scarce resources must be used wisely.

But “renaissance” is another one of those beautiful ideas liberals spew forth with amazing ease.

You could say I’m suffering from Beautiful Idea Overload. All these big ideas are proving difficult to put into practice. What have we gotten for the hundreds of billions of dollars spent in the last year? Worse, did we get our money’s worth? I highly doubt it. Does anyone really think this healthcare plan will save lives? Healthcare is a commodity. There is a finite amount of it. It can only be allocated so many ways. Was it allocated so inefficiently in our country that people were dying? Could we get some hard data on that?

It’s not the ideas themselves. It is the application. It is the unintended, unforeseeable consequences those ideas spout forth once put into practice. And, it is the fact I disagree with the premises that go into these ideas. I have idea fatigue, and I would like someone to close the factory for a while. Please.

links for 2010-03-24

links for 2010-03-23

links for 2010-03-22

  • Quote:"This is the concern of environmentalists as flowers are losing their scent due to climate change and air pollution. And their fragrance may be lost forever."

    // Article suggests hotter climates will dry plants of their essential oils, which produce the fine smells of flowers. I laugh, since most of my generation spend their time playing computer and videogames. When was the last time any of them smelled a flower or went for a walk? Few and far between. But I'm sure a few of them will buy into the scare tactic. It's sad really.

  • Quote:"Medicaid is a joint federal-state program that provides health insurance coverage to certain categories of low-income individuals, including children, pregnant women, parents of eligible children, and people with disabilities. Medicaid was created to help low-income individuals who fall into one of these eligibility categories "pay for some or all of their medical bills."

    // Understand this, Obama's healthcare proposal was designed to help those not covered by medicare or medicaid have health insurance. Just by definition, thos people are non-disabled, non-pregnant adults of working age. And somehow we needed an entire overhaul of the healthcare system? Doesn't make sense to me.I think the reality of this is that young healthy people who are the least in need of healthcare and most in need of money, will be forced to pay into this system to cover those who should be able to pay for this stuff themselves.

  • Quote:"A classic example of how price controls cause shortages was during the Arab oil embargo between October 19, 1973 and March 17, 1974. Long lines of cars and trucks quickly appeared at retail gas stations in the U.S. and some stations closed [2] because of a shortage of fuel at the low price set by the U.S. Cost of Living Council. The fixed price was below what the market would otherwise bear and, as a result, the inventory disappeared. It made no difference whether prices were voluntarily or involuntarily posted below the market clearing price. Scarcity resulted in either case. Price controls fail to achieve their proximate aim, which is to reduce prices paid by retail consumers, but such controls do manage to reduce supply.[3]"

    // Eureka! Price controls will produce scarcity. (Sadly, anyone reading this will see my intellectual adventure in reverse, with the Eureka at the top and ponderings at the bottom).

  • Quote:"Medicare spending is growing steadily in both absolute terms and as a percentage of the federal budget. Total Medicare spending reached $440 billion for fiscal year 2007 or 16% of all federal spending and grew to $599 billion in 2008 which was 20% of federal spending.[citation needed] The only larger categories of federal spending are Social Security and defense. Given the current pattern of spending growth, maintaining Medicare's financing over the long-term may well require significant changes."

    // Okay, so there's probably an easy ten percent to cut from Medicare somewhere. But check out the graph in the article, Medicare costs are expected to explode. I don't see how the Obamacare arrangement will be sustainable. Unless Obama can actually control prices…hmmm…I wonder…

  • Quote:"The $938 billion health care bill is to be paid by a combination of tax hikes on the wealthy and Medicare cuts. "

    // So Medicare is going to be cut to the tune of 50 billion dollars per year to cover up the deficit between taxes and costs. Hmmm…I wonder…

    (tags: healthcare)
  • Quote:"In all, the bill would generate $409.2 billion in additional taxes by 2019, according to an analysis by the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, a nonpartisan agency. The bill also imposes about $69 billion more in penalties for individuals and businesses who don’t meet mandates to buy insurance, according to the Congressional Budget Office, another nonpartisan agency."

    // Okay, dumb question, if there's only about $500 in new revenue (assuming the increases taxes don't result in changes in behavior that result in less taxes being collected), where does the other half of the money come from? Did I miss something?

  • Quote:"As the partner responsible for implementing this program, I am telling you that our Medicaid program is already at the breaking point, and if federal health care reform is passed without addressing the underlying faults in the system, health care reform will fail,” Schwarzenegger wrote in his letter to Pelosi. “[I]f Congress fails to address the existing unfunded mandates and adds yet another layer, federal health care reform could collapse the very safety net system it seeks to expand.”

    // The Governator has his moments.

    (tags: healthcare)
  • Quote:"Most of the members of one party bribed each other for votes with your money. To help 32 million get health insurance they damaged the insurance of hundreds of millions of others. And most of all, you knew it and told them not to do it, and they did anyway. If this is not enough to move the American public then the Eurosclerosis of America is already irreversible and what has transpired was inevitable."

    // Like usual, candidate King puts a complicated and emotional topic and turns it into a simple tidbit of fine reason. Then he hides the brilliant tidbit in the middle of a thousand word post.

  • Quote:"Beyond that, for any talk of Mauer’s contract being so big that it could hinder the Twins’ ability to maintain a quality roster around him it’s important to note that their payroll has been in the $70 million range in recent years. Moving to Target Field has allowed them to push the payroll to around $100 million for 2010 and presumably the near future, in which case the $23 million devoted to Mauer will still leave more money to spend than they had in any previous season."

    // A number of people are citing the new Twins Stadium in regards to Mauer's contract. The new stadium, they say, will expand revenues and cover the cost of Mauer's extension. Unfortunately, many studies show revenues fall after only a couple of seasons after the new stadium honeymoon is over. In Aaron Gleeman's defense, the majority of his argument is statistical, and it's hard to argue those points. Still, I'm concerned this contract will leave the Twins in a bad spot sometime after 2012.

  • Quote:"The high court on Monday refused to hear an appeal from Kathryn Nurre, a former student at Henry M. Jackson High School. Nurre, who was a senior in 2006, wanted to play "Ave Maria" — Hail Mary in Latin — with the band's wind ensemble at the graduation.

    Administrators raised red flags at the Everett, Wash., school when they heard about the idea from the wind ensemble seniors, who had played Franz Biebl's uptempo 1964 rendering of "Ave Maria" without controversy at a winter concert."

    // Why can't religious people understand there is no freedom of speech or freedom of religion when it comes to functions on state property? Everyone is to be the same and to shut their traps when the government is doin its bidness.

  • Quote:"We're not a parliamentary democracy, and we don't have the mechanisms, like votes of no confidence, that parliamentary democracies use to provide a check on their politicians. The check that we have is that politicians care what the voters think. If that slips away, America's already quite toxic politics will become poisonous.

    // The best sentence I've read today.

  • Quote:"Cao says there is a lot of pressure exerted on congressional members to vote in one specific way or another, but that they need to vote based on the necessity of the district without going against their own moral belief. Consequently, it essentially comes down to a battle between their conscience or their constituents."

    // Rep. Anh Cao Originally voted for the healthcare bill, and voted against it last night. He has a tough district, and it was likely he would lose his seat no matter how he voted. Which is too bad, his personal reflections on the nature of being a representative show him to be a thoughtful and contemplative legislator.

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