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Dec 21, 2009

Exchanging Gifts Cooperatively

The short story The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry (William Sydney Porter) is an ironic, painful, and sweet story of a poor couple who want to give a fine Christmas gift to each other, out of true love. Their gift giving is impractical because it is selfless.

Here is my contribution to the genre, far out at the other end of the subject. (smile)

John:  Let's shop together for something that you would really enjoy. What would you like for Christmas?
Mary:  I would like a nice, snuggly, terry-cloth robe.
So, sweetie, what would you like for Christmas?

John:  [thinks a moment] I would like a nice, snuggly, terry-cloth robe, in your size.
Mary:  [thinks, gasps] Wait a minute. That is like me buying the robe for myself!

John:  What's the problem? I will be giving you what you really want, and you will be giving me what I really want. Sweetie?

Dec 14, 2009

Healthcare Price Controls

Medical Economics 101
12/08/09 - MDOD by 911Doc

911Doc practices Emergency Medicine. He writes about what happens to doctors and patients when a bureaucracy sets prices and rewards. The emergency department became a jungle. He now works for lower pay in an environment where he can be a doctor under reasonable rules.

[edited excerpt] What happens when the government imposes price controls? You can find out for yourself by reading "Basic Economics" by Thomas Sowell. (For purchase at Amazon or free online as PDF -ag)  He is a black conservative with the Hoover Institution, so half of you can quit reading, because you care more about that fact than you do about logic.

Here is what happens in my little branch of the world. When price controls are imposed in medicine, EMTALA is a good example, then particular medical procedures and services lose any meaningful relation to their actual worth. Price and cost cease to have any real relation.

I'm happy with my pay cut and have no plans to go back and use my unique skills in the ER. The ER is a circus of pain and silliness, and the same kind of silliness is being debated right now in Washington. You should pray that it doesn't pass.

I find myself in agreement with what Shrodinger's Cat said a few years ago. They could pay him four times as much, and it would not make it worth working in the ER. Good luck all.

- -
Amy comments:

[edited] A lame piece on PBS pushed government healthcare, highlighting the amazing medical services of several other nations and how cheap they are. They used Japan as an example.

My inlaws have lived in Japan for over 20 years. They have ample experience with the healthcare system in Tokyo. The government sets the cost of everything from an office visit to an aspirin. PBS didn't mention that Japanese health care is based on rationing. It is not overt rationing, but that is exactly what it is.

They depend on Eastern medicine first. No matter what you come in with, they give you a little purple powder to mix up and try first. If it doesn't work, you come back and get a crack at Western medicine. Maybe you get sick and die, too bad. No one under the age of 12 can get an organ transplant. Hospitals do not accept ambulances. If you have a heart attack, you die in the bus. Japanese doctors strongly rely on the wait and see approach, even if current medical literature stresses prompt action.

Healthcare in Japan is 20 years behind the US. Yes, they make those robots for laproscopic surgery, but they don't use them, or they don't know how.

My mother-in-law fell and had a blow-out fracture of the orbit. She had a sagging eyeball and severe double vision. Her Japanese surgeon insisted that she wait a month to see if it got better. If not, they would operate to remove a piece of bone from her hip to plug the hole in her eye socket. This is about 20 years behind what a U.S. surgeon did, two weeks after the accident.

My in-laws can buy the best. The problem is, you just can't buy that in Tokyo thanks to the government.

(There is more.)

ER Medicine and Bureacracy
08/31/08 - MDOD by 911DOC

Medicine becomes more expensive, harder to do, with worse outcomes, as government imposes intrusive regulation and arbitrary quality measures, despite good intentions.

Government Motto: You say you are a caring doctor, so treat the poor for free.

The Medicare Tomato Market
06/24/09 - EasyOpinions quotes The Happy Hospitalist

A readable analogy and explanation of Medicare economics. Say that tomatoes were declared vital to life and made available free through the Medicare National Tomato Bank. The story of the healthcare market is translated to the tomato market.

More on Healthcare

Dec 10, 2009

Congressional Sports Team

Worthwhile Analogy
12/10/09 - ChicagoBoys

Quip:  It is painful to think of Barney Frank coaching pro-basketball, or running U.S. business.

David Foster:

[edited] Imagine that Congressmen Barney Frank, Chris Dodd, Dennis Kucinich, and Robert Byrd managed a professional sports team. Would anyone invest money in that team?

The average Congressman probably knows far more about sports than he knows about business. He watches sports on TV and he may have played in his younger days. Whereas, his knowledge of business is comparable to not understanding the difference between balls and strikes.

Yet, this Congress and an approving Administration is acquiring the power to micromanage every business in the country in excruciating detail.

Entrepreneurs Go on Strike
11/20/09 - American Thinker by C. Edmund Wright

[edited] The big opportunity now is to spend government money: on an $18 million government contract to create an awful Recovery.org website, SEIU union jobs in ObamaCare, bankruptcy lawyers, and the coming carbon credits. There are ACORN-style crony contracts to be had, and all the jobs created by David Axelrod astroturf media escapades.

If you are connected, or if your dream is to enrich yourself by killing the dreams of others, then the field is ripe for you.

Entrepreneurs can sense it. This is not now the country for you if you simply want to build a better mousetrap. This is not just about tax policy, health care, or cap-and-trade (which are all terrible and need to be stopped).

The American dream is dying. This kind of economy cannot work, not until pigs fly, or until Barney Frank dunks on Lebron James.

Dec 7, 2009

Not Just One Rotten Climate Apple

Riddle Me This
12/07/09 - Chicago Boyz by James R. Rummel

ClimateGate is about the emails and practices of the Climate Research Unit (CRU) of East Anglia Univeristy, Britain. It is a large and previously prestigious institution.

Logicians now say that this scandal does not necessarily invalidate the work of the other climate centers. I suppose that this is the difference between fine academic logic and a more realistic view of human bias, politics, and politicized Big Science.

The climate scientists will have to prove their work, as they should have from the beginning. They must reveal their data, theories, methods, and computer codes. There must be no more splicing of different data series to get a graph showing what is politically correct.

[edited] Most climate scientists speaking on news programs or writing op-eds offer a general defense. This scandal might cast doubt on more than 10 years of work at CRU, but they say it does not invalidate research by other scientists supporting catastrophic global warming caused by humans.

This is why it invalidates the work of other scientists:

  • The Hadley CRU boasted the largest and most comprehensive collection of climate data in the entire world.
  • This massive collection of data inspired, if not directly influenced, just about every other climate scientist’s work.
  • The people who wrote the emails are the most prestigious and influential climate scientists in the world. The emails show their dirty tricks, data manipulation, and collusion to hide problems with their research.

Why should anyone take any climate scientist’s word for his own integrity and the soundness of his work? Isn’t the onus on him/her to prove that he isn't a crook and liar, like the big guys are?

A comment by Shannon Love [edited]:

The revelations invalidate the work of other scientists:

  1. They all claimed to have reviewed and reproduced the CRU’s work, and
  2. They defended that work against scrutiny.

(1) causes doubt about their competence, and (2) causes doubt about their integrity.

Fast Facts About Climategate
12/06/09 - Pajamas Media by Charlie Martin
A convenient overview of the emails and issues of ClimateGate.

Government Funds Distort Climate Science
07/22/09 - Science and Technology News

Quip: We don't fund studies critical of our policies.

The Science and Public Policy Institute:

[edited] The US Government has spent $79 billion since 1989 on research and support for climate change studies. Yet, scientific review and criticism is left to unpaid volunteers, who have repeatedly exposed major errors.

Dedicated, uncoordinated scientists around the globe test the integrity of global warming theory. They compete with Government, a lavishly funded, highly organized, centralized purchaser of climate research.

The government pours money into a single, scientifically baseless agenda. It has created a self-fulfilling prophecy, not an unbiased investigation. Sound science cannot easily survive this grip of politics and finance.

Jo Nova Finds the Medieval Warm Period
12/07/09 - What's Up With That by Jo Nova (Via Don Surber)

The sharp upward swing in temperature was due to a single tree in Yamal, Russia.

In 2009, McIntyre analyzed Briffa’s Hockey Stick graph of sudden warming. He waited three years for the data he asked for. It took just three days to expose it too as baseless.

Briffa had concealed for nine years that he only had 12 trees in the sample from 1990 onwards, and that one freakish tree transformed the graph. When McIntyre graphed another 34 trees from the same region of Russia, there was no sudden warming.

Craig Loehle used 18 other proxies. (Proxies are measurements of physical processes that should have been sensitive to temperature. -ag) Temperatures were higher 1000 years ago and cooler 300 years ago. We started warming long before cars and powerstations were invented. There is little correlation with CO2 levels.

Hockey stick observed in NOAA ice core data
09/12/09 - WattsUpWithThat by Anthony Watts

J. Storrs Hall is at the Foresight Institute. He made some interesting graphs from NOAA ice core data:

[edited] Let's look at the temperature record as read from this central Greenland ice core. It gives us about as close as we can come to a direct, experimental measurement of temperature at that one spot for the past 50,000 years. As far as I know, the data are not adjusted according to any fancy computer climate model or anything else like that.

Watts comments on graphs of the temperature record from this single ice core, going back 500 1,200 4,000 10,000 12,000 and 40,000 years. Other data shows temperature for the past 400,000 years.

The 500 year record shows a wiggling, slow decline in temperature, then rising steadily by .7 degrees F in the 80 years from 1840-1920. That +.7 F is the total increase, not yearly. Watts says with humor: "a hockey stick".

True understanding comes from looking at temperature over longer time scales going into the distant and geologically distant past. On that scale, our current temperature fluctuations are nothing special. The Earth has been much colder for most of the last 400,000 years, and somewhat warmer for part of that time.

We don't need CO2 by humans to explain changing global temperature. The Earth has had large fluctuations all by itself. We should be glad it is warm for us now.

Galilean Peer Review
12/06/09 - Throckmorton's Other Signs

A doctor teaches his residents how to read published, peer-reviewed papers in medical journals.

[edited] In our journal club, we all take recent papers in our field and present them to the group. This is a great exercise for the residents. First, you look at what question the research is hoping to answer. You then see how they are getting the data and if analysis of the data will lead to an answer. You then check the statistics on the data. Only then can you say if the research is of merit.

I stress that the comments and discussion are just that, or better expressed as an editorial. It is amazing how many of the papers don't support the conclusions.

I can't help but feel this way about Climategate. This seems to be a classic example of researchers having an opinion and then trying to backtrack to make the research support that opinion.