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Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Fear of Déclassement

Over there in the jungle, you can read my first comment (yeah, time zones have certain advantages) on Hell's belief that the economic high priests are responsible for our ostrich behavior.
They have only figured out how to tell us what we want to hear, for the most part.
They wouldn't be telling us this... IF we didn't already want to hear it, because these people are not leaders, they are (court, lol) followers. They are not TRUE intellectuals, and I am going to be provocative, Dinky, they are FALSE prophets, as people way back when used to say.
I am currently wading through a book by Eric Maurin called "La peur du déclassement", (see title of my post for translation), and it is.. opening my eyes.
Mr Maurin seems to think that this fear is peculiar to French society, which has remained highly hierarchical and devoted to rank since l'Ancien Régime (remember that France had and still has, one of the most centralized States in Europe ; IT is the Western European country that reacted the most violently to putting constitutional government in place).
I am going to quote Mr Maurin in his comparison between French and Anglo-Saxon societies :
"The French notion of déclassement hardly has an equivalent today in the Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian societies. It is a symptom of our old inegalitarian and hierarchical society, which retains its aristocratic bent, where rank, and reputation are granted for life and are destined to remain in the family. The hereditary transmission of charges disappeared with the Revolution, but social dignity remains attached to the conquest, and retention, of status. The fear of déclassement is the passion of societies based on status that are subjected to democratisation when rank and class cease to be protected by heredity, but are up for grabs for every generation. It is for this reason that the propagation of this fear can be found in the attitudes of the privileged, and the most protected. What is occurring today is NOT the déclassement of the working classes, but the FEAR of déclassement among the middle and upper middle classes, with everything that this implies in the apartheid behavior in residential and school choices."

Now... I suspect that Mr Maurin has a few "liberal" or "neoliberal" prejudices about Anglo-American society, as many French intellectuals and academics tend to have.
It is certainly true that French society is extremely hierarchical. It is certainly true that losing one's job in France is a major psychological, financial catastrophe, because it is VERY VERY difficult to find a new one. It is certainly true that the French people have OVERINVESTED the capacity of work to provide a sense of individual self esteem and identity. It is true that NOWHERE in the Western world has the IDEAL of democracy, of the abolition of privilege retained its power to mobilize a nationalistic identity (except for perhaps, in the U.S.) as it has in France, while AT THE SAME TIME, the State's institutions and society's organization are geared to perpetuate privilege among the elites.
But.... WHEN people get their hands on wealth and status they are extremely LOATHE to give them up, and this is a psychological fact. When you create an "aristocracy", (and creating aristocracy is as natural as breathing, even in our modern democracies/republics, whose aristocracy seems to be based on HAVING, versus BEING...) it has A MAJOR desire : to pass on what it has acquired. (Nobody here is going to contradict me on this one, I hope...)
I submit that the fear of déclassement is extremely present in American society these days. And that it is a fear that is globally affecting our Western civilization.
Now... fear of déclassement may not touch YOU, in your lifetime, but it is a fear that you are NOT LIKELY to escape... if you have children. Our children are our projections of ourselves, in the future. They are US, to a very great extent.
And, just for Dinky, fear of déclassement is on a parr with the attitude of the third servant in Jesus' parable. That's why I harp on the parable.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Mail Order "Business"

I'm going to do a little empirical gig, here.
Like Newton with the apple, right ? (Well, I'll try to be a little more modest in the future ; it's not one of my strong points...)
This morning I received a fancy personalized letter in the mail, informing me that I had WON a FREE tv, to the tune of 600€, and all I have to do is to claim my gift before 72 hours to receive it.


I received this FREE FREE FREE GIFT from a mail order business that I ordered once from, to the tune of 25€ worth of bulbs.
So, it's not really like I'm a tried and true customer, right ?

I have figured out that one of the reasons why I am increasingly a drop out from our fast paced, gimmicky society, is precisely because of the sheer volume of crap like this I get in the mail.
It tires me out. (I have stopped looking at it attentively, and immediately tear it up for the trash. Sometimes I have to be careful and make sure that nothing REALLY important escapes my attention in the mountain of STUFF.)

So... maybe YOU would like to explain to me just what is the... LOGIC ?? behind these kinds of mass produced campaigns which must cost a fair amount of filthy lucre to put together ?

In the meantime... the mail order companies are behaving like our political parties (particularly the LEFT political parties...).
Like... why BOTHER keeping your base happy (like rewarding your faithful customers...) when you can salivate over pie in the sky future "customers", and try to WIN them from the opposition ? (Yeah, the bird in the bush is ALWAYS more valuable than the bird in the hand, right ?)
Why worry about the fact that you are sinking your ship with bloated advertising costs that you rationalize over with the idea that you HAVE to incur them, or you will disappear in the face of the competition ? Lies, lies, and more damned lies.
The gravest lies are the ones that we tell ourselves, anyway...

In Grenoble I regularly shop from businesses where people are still doing... business, and not something else that looks suspiciously like... the finance game.
Businesses still exist. You just have to look a little bit to find them.
And in the next few years, I am willing to bet that they will be making a BIG comeback.

(Sorry for all those capitals. I am a little... hyped up this morning, and feeling more absolute than usual... I can already hear Dinky " WHAT, more than USUAL, HELP !!!!)

I hope that you are surviving your heavy work load, Thai. I sympathize.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Parable of the Talents

I am perhaps wrongly assuming your ignorance of this priceless story, but since I have a pedagogical itch that must be scratched from time to time, here goes.
I have a great admiration for Jesus, who, in my book was probably one of the greatest teachers, philosophers, doctors, and shrinks who ever lived.
Like most of the TRULY progressive people on the planet, he met the inevitable fate that awaits those who dare to take on the establishment, and do not bow down, neither to the powers that be, nor to the social body (US, in our desire to belong, and that NO ONE, NOBODY stick out in any way or form to worry US about OUR normality...).
If you think that George Bush (and his beliefs) is an idiot, you RISK discarding the precious wisdom that Jesus Christ offered (for free...) around him in those three years that he traveled around, living a nomad's life.
Our economic leaders would be WELL ADVISED to meditate over, and ponder, the parable of the talents, because Jesus was anything BUT a namby pamby, goody goody "liberal" in his economic theories. (WE are namby pamby and goody goody. WE (those of us who espouse the classic, dogmatic "liberal" creed) are naïve people living in a Disneyland cloud cuckoo land.)
Enough for the prologue. The parable, from Luke 19,11-27 :

"And as they heard these things, he added and spake a parable, because he was nigh to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the Kingdom of God should immediately appear (pie in the sky ALWAYS looks more attractive than life in the hic et nunc...).
He said therefore, "A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return.
And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, "Occupy till I come".
But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, "We will not have this man to reign over us."
And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, that he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.
Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds.
And he said unto him "Well, thou good servant : because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities."
(Idem for the servant with 5 pounds.)
And another came, saying, "Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin : for I feared thee, because thou art an austere man ; thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow."
And he saith unto him, "Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow :
Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury ?"
And he said unto them that stood by, "Take from him the pound and give it to him that hath ten pounds.
For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given ; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him.
But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me."

If you read all the way through that you MUST realize that the image that "we" have of Jesus of Nazareth is light years away from who he REALLY was, and what he said.
Something to keep in mind (re your comment to Hell on the current post, Thai...) : it is necessary to differentiate in Jesus' teaching when he is talking about... the way things ARE, and the way he thinks that they SHOULD be. Here, in my opinion, he is talking about the way things... ARE.

Our economic leaders would be well advised to consider this parable attentively, and Barack SHOULD know it, if indeed he learned anything at all from Jeremiah Wright and can apply it to HIS life.
It's not by "reducing" our economies, and our spending to make them conform to a piece of paper (with lots of numbers on it...) that we are going to get out of the mess that we are in.
In order to live well, we are "condemned" to grow. But... grow... HOW ? In what domain(s) ?
Our parents' generation assumed that growth = acquisition of material objects, and a comfortable lifestyle. They were emerging from a period of historical privation, and their desire to materially better THEIR lives, and their children's, was entirely natural and understandable. This kind of "growth" however, is no longer viable for our society, or for our species.
By the way, John Maynard Keynes was a quixotic mystic who probably knew his New Testament pretty well...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Talibans against GI Joes

Sorry dinky, but I do provocation so well that I just can't resist.
It is one of my reasons for staying alive, and about 90% of the time it keeps me out of melancolic depressions, so...

This morning I vaguely listened to the planetary pseudo religious ritual of mass information, and heard something about the Talibans sticking it to our boys again.
In spite of Barack's decision to inflate the number of G.I. Joes in Afghanistan.

This info got me musing again, to the effect that there is no way in hell that WE, nor any other Western power are going to triumph in Afghanistan, not now, not in the near future, not in the far future either. The way the English tried way back when, and failed. The way the Soviets tried a little less far back and failed.
And this despite the fact that WE have crushing military superiority that the Talibans cannot compete with.


The answer will seem unexpected to you, and unbelievable...

We are losing, and we will CONTINUE to lose precisely because...
GOD is NOT on our side.

I can see Dink spluttering and fuming, Thai saying "what the hell, this lady is a Bushie in disguise", etc etc, but bear with me a little bit and you will understand why... Nietzsche is the most maligned and misunderstood modern philosopher around, and why manichaen, simplistic thinking will NOT help you understand this issue.

Way back in the 1400's, when the English had colonized big portions of France, when they legally held that they were the legitimate heirs to the French throne, an unknown, but definitely not base born young woman sent a message to Charles VII, a monarch who was unsure about his own legitimacy (his mother was an incredible whore, and had children by lots of different lovers, not by her husband) saying that she would come to his aid to boot the English out of France, ensure that he was crowned in Reims, and affirm his legitimacy. She maintained that this would be possible because... GOD was on Charles' and HER side, and not on the English side.
When you start looking closely at the period history surrounding Jeanne d'Arc, who should be called Jeanne La Pucelle (the Virgin), you realize that the French were no less lying, thieving, raping, and pillaging than the English, and there was no LOGICAL reason why God should be on THEIR side.
It would be extremely naive (in the best tradition of Greek philosophy) to imagine that the GOD problem hangs on the question of whether God exists or not.
No, this is really not essential.
What IS essential is... do you BELIEVE in him or not, and if you do, are you ready to go out and... fight in HIS name ? And if you believe in him, and are ready to go out and fight in his name, how are you going to go about convincing your enemy that HE is on YOUR side ? (The Jewish approach to the problem)

Now, back to Talibans vs G.I. Joes.
Are you honestly going to tell me that G.I. Joe has the assurance (insurance ?) these days that when he goes out into battle, and lays his life on the line, that GOD is on his side ?
Na. He doesn't have that insurance at all.
At best, he is going out to fight for abstract, hollowly resounding words like "liberty", "justice", "democracy".
But... just what is an ABSTRACTION worth when you're weighing it against... GOD, my friends ?
What is it worth ?
In... HIS eyes ? In his enemy's eyes ? (And believe you me, the enemy Taliban has GOD on HIS side...)
Our not so far ancestors ended WW1 on the note "don't tell me how sweet it is to drop with the line "how sweet it is to lay down one's life for one's country (pro patria mori, Wallace Stevens, I think...)"
No laying down one's life for God, no laying down one's life for country.
Just WHAT do we have left to lay our lives down for ??

GOD is definitely NOT on our side...

Monday, January 18, 2010

Best Business Model EVER!

I present to you Maximus Minimus.

Full disclosure: I've never actually seen this or ate anything from this

So you take a large vehicle and have an artist/welder make it look like a metallic pig. You make 5 or so edible menu items. At lunch you park in a busy part of downtown. For the rest of the afternoon you drive around and force customers to find you via GPS on your website. If you don't like the weather, you hibernate for the season.

Perhaps while avoiding your customers during the rainy season you can view the Royal Society's website. Because it too is so strange it is irrevocably cool.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Old prejudices

Reading Thai's comments and data about the difference between American and French health care, welfare, etc., I MUST ask you to question your... prejudices about how we're living in Europe.
A while back there in the jungle, I mentioned to Edwardo that if you paid your nickel to a private insurance company in order to get your health care, or if you paid you nickel into the state social security system in France, YOU WERE STILL ASSISTED, because essentially, you were paying your nickel IN THE EXPECTATION that paying it would get you taken care of, in one way or another. Don't let the ideology fool you, my friends.
Some 10 years ago, I remember receiving an American college student in psychotherapy for a period of around three months. What I remember was how overwhelming the insurance paperwork was. How... intrusive the questions were. How the answers I was supposed to stick down were immediately available for my patient (some would say necessary transparency, but being obliged to stick down a psychiatric "diagnosis" after one consultation is a little bit like being asked to pull a rabbit out of a hat. A psychiatric diagnosis takes time, and observation, and handing it out to your patient is like taking a red felt pen, and marking the diagnosis on his forehead, for him and all the world to see. In psychiatry, this is totally counterproductive.).
All of this to "justify" those $$$$$ spent.
At the same time, our system was (and still is) not intrusive this way.
I feel as though you guys are operating under major prejudices about just what life in Europe (in France) is like.
Like, you think that we are all ASSISTED.
This is a big fat lie.
Life in France is light years away from life under the Communist regimes, and always has been.
As a matter of fact, I keep griping about the fact that this country is much more individualist than the U.S. There is LESS solidarity than in the U.S. More conformism, to a certain extent, but the conformism does not make this society an assisted one.
And as for the civil servants, the fonctionnaires, as they are known here...
That is ONE way to solve the employment problem.
So... are YOU going to dump on the Europeans because they have JOBS ??
Let me laugh a little bit.
JUST BECAUSE THOSE JOBS ARE GOVERNMENT JOBS, and not PRIVATE sector jobs, you are going to shit on them for ideological reasons ??
Let me laugh a little bit.
American chest beating tires me out.
At a time when the private sector banks are taking the planet down, YOU ARE GOING TO GO ALL OUT ROOTING FOR THE PRIVATE SECTOR, and give lessons to the Europeans about the welfare state ??
Count me out.
What REALLY gets me frantic is that France, for the last ten years, has been blithely destroying its excellent health care, in order to have care that resembles American care.
Whereas I left the U.S. 30 years ago to get away from the place, and find life, liberty and the right to pursue happiness ELSEWHERE.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Molecular Friendship

How about playing with a little analogy ?
Once upon a time, there were three friends, Meggy, Shelly, and Debbie (all English speaking in France).
Debbie and Shelly were (not close) friends, who met as mommy friends, through their childrens' activities.
Shelly knew Meggy from elsewhere, and Debbie knew Meggy from elsewhere, too.
Meggy and Shelly went on walks together (with the dog) and went to church together sometimes, too. They watched football matches together (European football for the clueless...) and passionately rooted for their home teams. They had other common friends that Debbie didn't know, and some that she did know.
Debbie and Meggy went on long walks together too, with the dog, and had passionate discussions about THINGS over tea, sometimes sitting together quietly and reading, each in her own corner, not speaking for several minutes.
Sometimes Debbie and Meggy and Shelly all got together for tea and a chat and/or a walk (with the dog, of course).
And sometimes, Debbie, Meggy, and Shelly got all of their families together for a film night, potluck dinner together (with DVD's. FREE, you know...).
When Meggy moved out of town, Debbie and Shelly kind of stopped seeing each other.
Things weren't the same.
How about a H2O analogy ?
Meggy was the oxygen atom, Debbie and Shelly were two hydrogen atoms.
While Meggy was there, the whole thing stuck together, but when Meggy cut it and ran, POOF went the relationship between Shelly and Debbie...

On second thought... WHO was the oxygen atom... Meggy or... THE DOG ??

By the way, I'm PROUD of our blog. I think that it's really varied, and that we don't come across as monomaniac nerds. Right ?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Letters from Westerbork

Sorry, Thai, I'm not debating you on your last post.
My husband and I have just come back from our theater professor's new show, a dramatization of Etty Hillesum's letters, written during the three months that she spent in a transit camp in Holland, from June to August 1943.
Etty was a remarkable person, and you can read her journal, an account of her spiritual transformation over a relatively short period.
A young, vibrant Jewish woman, Etty had a thirst for life, and uncommon spiritual aspirations (like the French Simone Weil). Etty's journal is a valuable testimony about the evolution of the persecution of the Jews in Holland before and during WW2.
Etty volunteered her presence in the transit camps set up to ship the Jews east, to Poland, and Auschwitz, by hundreds of thousands. She selflessly accompanied her people, witnessing almost incomparable atrocities and suffering, and she did this without complaining, and without succombing to the despair that would have destroyed 99,9% of us in similar circumstances. Even in the most trying moments, she was... a ray of sunlight, an.. angel, I think you might say. And she was able to see beauty in nature around here, to see dignity TOO in the small, individual acts of the men, women, and children who came into the camp, and were shipped out massively in cattle cars.
She and her parents and brother, ironically, were shipped off to Auschwitz just a short time before the whole killing machine (yeah, you got it, I said machine...) fell apart.
One of the last things she wrote to her friends was "there should be no more words like God, suffering, war. There should be no more words. We should be content to just be".
I hear Etty. Right on.

Now, Thai, if I look back to your last post, it kind of gets me thinking about Etty's letters. How she said that there were QUOTAS for those trains. And that everybody had a number. Just a number. That names went down on lists, and there had to be just the magic NUMBER of people on those lists to go on the trains.
And I say to myself : that's exactly where Thai's line of thinking ends up. In the camps.
Sorry, but I firmly believe this.
These days, the camps are not behind barbed wire. Because, while there are no more camps, per se, there is no more need for barbed wire. Because the camp is all around us. Everywhere. The gated communities will not shut the camp out.
Because we have turned our world into the camp.
I feel very very close to Etty. Because she managed to see beauty everywhere, even in the camp.
And that is what I try to do.
And I try to undo the camp. As much as possible.
But those lists, those quotas, they keep getting in the way...

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Non-linear Systems Part I

Today we will talk about non-linear system with the simplest of examples: the over simplified progression of related chronic illnesses in one person.

0. I am healthy
1. I also am: fat (F) or F
2. I also have: high blood pressure (HTN) or F + HTN
3. I also have: high cholesterol (HC) or
F + HTN + HC
4. I also have: diabetes (DM) or
F + HTN + HC + DM
5. I also have: kidney disease (RF) or
F + HTN + HC + DM + RF
6. I also have: occular retinopathy (OR) or
F + HTN + HC + DM + RF + OR
7. I also have: heart attack (AMI) or
F + HTN + HC + DM + RF + OR + AMI
8. I also have: stroke (CVA) or
F + HTN + HC + DM + RF + OR + AMI + CVA
9. I also have: inability to walk or swallow and am lying in bed 100% dependent on assistance by others (Total Care or TC) or
F + HTN + HC + DM + RF + OR + AMI + CVA + TC
10. I am dead 0

If we were to create a "resource utilization" scale (which would likely mirror costs) for this non-linear example, we would find that

0. Uses little resources
1. Uses $
2. Uses $$
3. Uses $$$
4. Uses $$$
5. Uses $$$$
6. Uses $$$$$
7. Uses $$$$$$
8. Uses $$$$$$$
9. Uses $$$$$$$$
10. Uses no resources

I realize I have simplified many issues but I hope the basic point is made.


Dink correctly points out that the resource utilization scale looks unintentionally linear. He is correct, they are not supposed to look linear, and this is unintentional as nothing could be further from the truth! Additional disease burdens MIGHT make $ curves look like any of the following:

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Antibiotics 2

Since I am sure that Thai has already stuck down a post on antibiotics, I am going to follow up this time with an incident I just heard over Christmas.
One of my friend's daughters came home from jaunting around the world with a bad case of sinusitis, and went to see her regular GP's holiday replacement for treatment.
She was handed a five day prescription for one of those fancy third or fourth generation antiobiotic thingeys.
At the end of that five day treatment... she promptly relapsed, after passing the nasty bug to her whole family who was ill over Christmas.

Memories, memories...
When I came to France, the length of the standard antiobiotic prescription was 8 days. Accompanied by a corticoid, or some kind of anti-inflammatory medecine.
Now it is... 5 days.
So... we could all suppose that bringing it down to 5 days is progress due to those NEW K.O. drugs that have come out, right ?
Not on your life.
For the past two years, at least the French government has been involved in a major propaganda campaign to limit antibiotics. (Some say.. education, but I say propaganda. I think that probably all MASS education/information has the structure of propaganda, but we can debate this if you wish.)
And there is considerable pressure on the GP's NOT to prescribe antibiotics, even though everybody pays lip service to the idea that "of course, of course, antibiotics are necessary in some cases".
So... just what do the powers that be obtain through their... pennypinching, and their fumbling attempt to correct a situation where too often, antibiotics were prescribed for conditions that did not warrant them ?
A remarkable opportunity to favorize the creation of new antibiotic resistant strains of illness, EXACTLY WHAT THEY ARE SUPPOSEDLY ATTEMPTING TO CORRECT BY RESTRICTING PRESCRIPTIONS !!!
Kafka, anybody ?
Much of this nonsense is the result of... too much government control over health care.The attitude underlying so called "socialist" government in Europe has led to the top heavy, suffocating structure in Brussels that I so dislike, while it permeates our European ideas about what government is supposed to be/do for its citizens.
Actually, I rather like Adam Smith.
When you posit at the base of a liberal ideology an individual who is... cooperative, caring, and altruistic while also being greedy, selfish, etc, you get a vision of man that enables you to have faith that the individual is not necessarily out to cheat "the system" at the first opportunity.
Not necessarily. And "you" are free to go on to another drum to beat.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Continuing on our elderly theme...

I feel like continuing to myth-bust today:

One of the more popular myths created by the American health care obfuscation machine (AHCOM) is the absolute nonsense that our elderly are responsible for escalating health costs.

Let me go on record right now as stating the idea is pure rubbish. And since others have addressed this topic much better than I could ever hope, I will simply refer you to some of their work. You can read it if you want at your own leisure.

What I do want to comment on is the following NYT article. For it makes quite clear why I (and many others of a similar mindset) get so frustrated at the way our collective is allowing its resources to be used and why I think you and I might simply be better off if we just chose how to spend the money ourselves.

"federal spending for health services and supplies increased 10.4 percent in 2008... By contrast, the report said, state and local government spending on health care increased just 3.4 percent in 2008...

While federal spending on health care surged, consumers and private employers retrenched. Spending for health care by private businesses grew just 1.2 percent in 2008, in part because of a drop in the proportion of employer-sponsored insurance paid by employers,” Mr. Hartman said. “Private business’s health spending remained relatively flat as a share of compensation at 7.9 percent.

Moreover, the report said, “private health insurance premiums and benefits grew in 2008 at their slowest rate since 1967, 3.1 percent and 3.9 percent, respectively.” The slowdown was tied to a drop in the number of people with private health insurance, to 195.4 million in 2008, from 196.4 million in 2007.

Spending increases varied among health care providers in 2008, rising 4.5 percent for hospital care, 4.6 percent for nursing homes, 4.7 percent for doctors’ services, 6.6 percent for outpatient clinics and 9 percent for home health care.

While the growth of total health spending slowed in 2008, Medicare spending increased at a brisk pace, rising 8.6 percent, to a total of $469 billion, the report said.

The overall increase in spending on hospital care was the slowest in a decade. But hospital spending for Medicare beneficiaries rose 7.7 percent, reflecting an increase in hospital admissions after two years of declines."

So here is my punch line: the loss of 1 million people from the rolls of the privately insured held private health insurance costs to a mere 1.2% growth rate. Even if we assumed that keeping these 1 million people privately insured would have added an additional 1/195 or 0.51% to private costs, this would have been a growth rate of 1.71%. Hardly as large as Medicare.

OR, to be really fair, even if we assumed that those who lost their private coverage were sicker and that as a group might have cost twice as much as everyone else, even then private costs would have only increased by 2.25?

Yet Medicare went up 8.6%!

8.6% at a time when private insurance only increased 1.2 to 2.2% depending on how you want to look/slice the data!


You will have to decide, but I might remind you to be careful to not buy any "spin spin spin".

And as you think on this, remember the two high level issues in this whole national debate are universality and cost control- separate but related issues.

What everyone seems to have forgotten is the whole universality debate is all about protecting people when their luck is down AND THEIR HEALTH IS FAILING.

Eliminate poor health and the issue becomes more and more the straw man issue I know it to be.

Do we want universality because we want protection when our luck is down?

Do we want good health?

If you had to choose, which would you choose?

On that note I will leave you with a question that was nicely framed in the following dialogue between two of my heroes in this whole national health care discussion. I will also point out these two men are agreeing and yet of oddly opposite political viewpoints, though I think Michael Cannon put it better:

Improving "population health" generally means "helping people live longer."
To paraphrase, Uwe then writes:
If helping people live longer were our objective in health reform, we could do better than universal coverage. But health reform is not (solely or primarily) about helping people live longer. It is (also or primarily) about other things, like relieving the anxiety of the uninsured.
I applaud Uwe for acknowledging a reality that most advocates of universal coverage avoid: that universal coverage is not solely or primarily about improving health.
Will Uwe go farther and acknowledge that, since universal coverage is largely about some other X-factor(s), that necessarily means that advocates of universal coverage are willing to let some people die sooner in order to serve that X-factor?"

I will repeat: "... are (YOU) willing to let some people die sooner in order to serve that X-factor?"

So here is my very simple question which I will leave you with"

Are you?

Are you really willing to die sooner yourself for whatever this X-factor is? Do you see that this applies just as much to you as it does to everyone else?

Think about it and remember the following graph, and where the US sits on this curve:

Why don't we throw in the Kitchen Sink... Or should we also blame happiness for some part of our national mess?

I was listening to NPR yesterday on the way to work when an interview with Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert came on.

Dr Gilbert discussed how we get much happier as we age; I have read this before.

Now one thing any good psychologist will tell you is people do not like to change when they are comfortable.

So keeping happiness as your reference viewpoint, I encourage you to read this and think about it a little bit... And you can just imagine what the numbers look like for Medicare.

Do you think people who need to change this will want to change when they are currently happy and getting happier?

Yet are they riding a dead horse and simply do not know it?

I really do have to agree with books like this.

Happiness: zero-sum? ;-)

Friday, January 1, 2010

So here is my thoughts for our blog in 2010

How about a book club?

We will each submit one book.


The Most Fabulous Objects In The World

  • Hitchhiker's Guide To The Universe trilogy
  • Lord of the Rings trilogy
  • Flight of the Conchords
  • Time Bandits