Archive for the ‘Society’ Category

“We’re on Sarah Palin’s targeted list,” Ms. Giffords said last March. “But the thing is the way that she has it depicted has the cross hairs of a gun sight over our district. When people do that, they’ve got to realize there’s consequences to that.”

via Bloodshed Puts New Focus on Vitriol in Politics – NYTimes.com.

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I’m honestly finding television harder and harder to watch.  Still, even on CNN nobody bothers to argue over the claim that Americans have “overwhelmingly rejected” the bill.  It seems that unsubstantiated claims are just the norm.

In the later phase of the health care debate, the argument most often heard from Republicans has been this: The American people have rejected this bill; we are only their messengers.The verb “rejected” is often amplified with words such as “overwhelmingly” or “resoundingly” or “again and again.”How can President Obama and his Democratic Congress possibly move a piece of social change legislation comparable to Social Security or Medicare without the support of the American people?

via Just How Unpopular Is The Health Care Bill? – Watching Washington Blog : NPR.

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Sometimes you get an article that is simply refreshing.  The problem with most political economic debate is that it is being done by amateurs to an audience that has no idea what is being discussed.  It is far easier to simply give the mantra “private competition is better!” without actually looking to see if that’s true.

Newsweek published an article by Clayton Christensen, Professor at HBS, which actually lays out some of these misconceptions.  (BTW, Newsweek website actually stinks at finding articles, I found it much easier to find the article, after getting an excerpt forwarded to me by email, by using Google News.  kinda sad).

Those who debate insurance reform in Washington and pit public against privately funded care are framing the problem incorrectly. Here’s a better way to think about it: Economists are wrong in asserting that competition controls costs. Most often innovation and competition drive prices up, not down, because bringing better, higher-priced products to market is more profitable. Hospital-vs.-hospital competition causes providers to expand their scope and offer more premium-priced services. Equipment suppliers boost the capability and cost of their machines and devices. Drugmakers develop products that bring the highest prices. It’s because we have such competition, not because we lack it, that health costs are rising by 10% a year.

The type of competition that brings prices down is disruptive innovation. Disruption in health care entails moving the simplest procedures now performed in expensive hospitals to outpatient clinics, retail clinics, and patients’ homes. Costs will drop as more of the tasks performed only by doctors shift to nurses and physicians’ assistants. Hoping that our hospitals and doctors will become cheap won’t make health care more affordable and accessible, but a move toward lower-cost venues and lower-cost caregivers will.

via Health Care: The Simple Solution – BusinessWeek.

Complete article copied, in link below, in case it gets deleted or paywalled:


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hat-tip to the Pope, for acknowledging our changing world…

The Popes speech was posted in advance of the World Day of Communications set to take place in May, and its clear that this year, the Popes message is all about being active online. He emphasized that its not enough to merely be present on the Web—”Priests are thus challenged to proclaim the Gospel by employing the latest generation of audiovisual resources images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis.”

via Pope: priests should blog, tweet the gospel too.

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Well, I had an old G4 PowerMac tower that was running at my grandparent’s place for the last couple years, but it looks like the power died, and I’m not sure it is worth fixing.  The truth is, it was to difficult for them to use anyway (they are both over age 85 and have never used a computer), and it was only being used by visitors.

So… I started poking around craiglist for some old desktops, and I’m looking to setup some sort of bulletproof installation which will allow them to do all the basics: email, web surf, watch video, check out online photos, maybe even skype/videochat.  I want to lock it down to a user-level so that nothing can break.  Even better if I can setup VPN so that I can remotely login to provide tech support.

So… Windows is out, it will eventually slow down and break, or some virus or worm will get on it.  Mac has proven too hard to use.  Google Chrome OS appears to have some potential but is too half-baked at this time.

Then I found Eldy.eu, and project that originated out of Italy to create an easy interface for the eldery.  They have a linux version, it looks like it can be installed over most linux distributions including Ubuntu, which is something I haven’t had problems installing before.

Who knows, does anyone know of any other strategies out there for this problem?  I’ll try to update this post with a followup…

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The whole post is a good read, but the following caught my eye:

A reflection: Is our national medical obsession with chest pain a manifestation of our national anxiety and fear of uncertainty? Of our national terror of death, or our collective unease even in the face of relative security and prosperity? Is it because we’ve subsituted faith for pharmaceuticals?

via edwinleap.com | Sunday morning in the ER.

My answer: yes.   More specifically, we have substituted Science as the religion, humanity as supreme, and have found both sorely lacking.

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Private donors agreed to cover nearly $1 million in taxpayer costs for a parade honoring the NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers. The prospect of the cash-strapped city having to cover the bill had drawn strong criticism.

The costs for police, traffic control and other services for Wednesday’s parade were still being calculated, but they were expected to run a bit under $1 million, said Julie Wong, an aide to City Council president Eric Garcetti.

via Private donors to cover city’s costs for Los Angeles Lakers championship parade – ESPN.

My wife has a great point, how does it cost $1 million for a city to throw a parade?  Does it usually cost that much?  I want to see the analysis!

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Well, unless you have been living underneath a rock, you might have noticed that Mccain has announced his running-mate, Sarah Palin.

All you need to do is hit google, or keep up with the wikipedia link above to get all that is known (or, rather, not known) about Sarah Palin.  There are a lot of faults that are being pointed out, but what I find most troubling has to do with the most important job of the vice-presidency.

I like McCain.  Not enough to vote for him necessarily, but certainly I think our country would have been better off if he was the President the last eight years rather than Bush, Gore, or Kerry.  I also think he is experienced enough and strong enough to follow what he thinks is right rather than that of his party.

I have always felt that John McCain was a principled man who did things right rather than BS around, but I seriously wonder if this presidential run as changed him.  He himself said was the most important criteria for Vice-Presidency : “”person most prepared to take my place.”  Sarah Palin may be a wonderful person (I don’t know), but by that standard she seems to be woefully lacking.  It appears that John McCain is more interested in winning the election than finding someone fit for the job.

Sarah Palin’s lack foreign policy, and Washington political experience is really concerning.  If she ends up president, it won’t be long until the Republican machine (i.e. Dick Cheney) takes over everything that happens inside the White House.

Let’s face it, John McCain’s health isn’t the best to begin with, and even if it was good, things happen to people, and people die suddenly without warning.  Is this country ready for even the possibility of “Four More Years” ?

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I’ve gotten a number of emails, and people seem to be getting excited about a website named blackle.com. I finally decided to look into it, and what I find is a little disappointing.

Don’t get me wrong. Blackle is an ingenious idea… for the founders. It preys on the guilt we all feel as we use more energy and natural resources in order to do what we need to do from day to day. The premise is that by simply changing to a black background, we can each save a little bit of energy each time we use Google. Given how many people use Google everyday, the potentially energy savings are can appear to be high.

Blackle.com is simply a Google Custom Search placed on a black background. Anyone in the Adsense program can get a Google Custom Search bar, and get paid by Google everytime someone uses it. So Blackle is clearly a great way to make some quick cash with only a little effort, particularly if you can get people to use it regularly.

It also preys on our inherent laziness. It’s easy to change our homepage, and so with just a push of the button, we line the pockets of Blackle’s founders.

But is the claim even true? Like all things, not everything is so simple. You will save 5-20% if you are using a old-style CRT monitor,. According to recent data, less than 25% of the web use CRT monitors. If you are using an LCD screen, you might be actually using MORE energy. LCD monitors work by having a continuously on backlight, and energy used to block the light from coming through the LCD screen to our eyes. Some case reports of people testing their own monitors has shown that this energy increase may be measurable. By the way, if you are using a CRT monitor you are also using about 5 times more energy CONTINUOUSLY compared to an LCD monitor. If energy conservation is really your concern, it might be time to switch. LCD prices have come down a lot.

To make things more complicated, the monitor is only a small component of the total amount of energy used when you surf a website. Energy is used by every server, every router, every wire that the data traverses to get to service point and back. So, not only are you sending data packets to the Google search engine server, but also to the Blackle server as well. Google maintains a huge infrastructure of servers placed all over the world so that the closest server will serve up the page to optimize speed. Google also has made multiple efforts to be carbon neutral, and strategically builds server facilities near environmentally friendly energy sources such as hydroelectric power.

Overall, I would only consider using Blackle if you have a CRT screen, and even then I’m not sure it will make much of a difference. I’d suggest that if you feel guilty about the environmental impact you are making on this world (as you should), then I’d suggest getting involved more pro-actively.


Newspaper Articles:

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One of the hardest things to try to explain to people when discussing various kinds of institutional or governmental policy is the law of unintended consequences. It basically says the policy can have effects that are very different than what one expects. History is full of examples, yet people continue to believe that the idea/policy is smart enough to prevent thousands or millions of people from figuring out a way to mess it up while imaginatively trying to better their lives. It shouldn’t scare someone from trying to change things, but steps need to be taken to measure the change in order to ensure that what was intended to happen is indeed happening.

Glen Whitman, an associate professor of economics at California State University, Northridge, wrote a very nice article on this topic, linked here. It is worth a read, as it explains an idea which can be difficult to explain in a nice, accessible way.

The article is also saved after the break for archival purposes.


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