Showing posts from 2009

Government and Health Care

I've heard a few comments this week that summarize why there are doubts about government's ability to "reform" health care.

"Government does some things effectively, and a few things efficiently, but it never does one thing both efficiently and effectively."

The examples cited included the military and U.S. Postal Service. Yes, they function, but no one can claim, at least not with any honesty, that the Pentagon is efficient. Procurement is a nightmare and waste is rampant. Mistakes, even on the battlefield, are common because innovative thinking is rare. War games are, sadly, rigged to support preconceived notions that "more is better" -- more soldiers, more information, more technology. (Malcolm Gladwell has written on this, documenting the changes made during simulations to assure outcomes!)

"Any public option will either compete unfairly or end up needing a bailout. Look at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac."

Yes, we also get our …

Reading Health Care Bills

This is the current mess of health care bills:

When I read the bills, they do worry me. I tell everyone, read the actual bills. Trust no press coverage. Anyone claiming these are an "improvement" forgets the HMO history:

In the Senate, Kennedy, author of the 1971 HMO Act: "I have strongly advocated passage of legislation to assist the development of health maintenance organizations as a viable and competitive alternative to fee-for-service practice..."

Signed in 1973. I have to ask: How did that Kennedy "improvement" work out for everyone? Senators at the time admitted, "The bill is a bit too complex to read and understand" (Senator Herman Talmadge, only "NO" vote -- and a Democrat.)

Words and Politics: Rhetorical Skills

I heard a Democratic consultant complain about Frank Luntz this morning. The problem is, Luntz and George Lakoff give the same type of advice, but to different parties: words and phrasing matter. Politicians left, right, and center learn to manipulate words. A lot of science goes into this -- it is marketing, after all.

The New York Times Magazine had a lengthy article on attempts to persuade people to be more environmentally responsible. Neurologists, linguists, psychologists, and experts from a dozen other fields are trying to shape words and messages to get citizens to do the "right" things.

Politics and activism require marketing. Call it rhetoric. Call it manipulation. Call it framing, nudging, or whatever else you prefer. The reality is we choose words with the intention of obtaining a desired result.
For one side or the other to claim: "Our opponents use rhetoric!" is nonsense. Reading the books of Luntz and Lakoff, you realize it is all the sam…

Religion and Political Shifts

From The Secular Humanist (paraphrased):

Atheists/agnostics are now 18% of U.S. voters, trending center-left and libertarian. "The non-religious are most likely to live in Purple Districts" a study found. Church attendance is equated with "social conservative" in the U.S., but used to be "liberal" (1920s-40s Social Gospel movement). The "far left" is now more likely to be "alternatively spiritual" -- Wicca? Druid? Marxist-Wiccanism. Who knew? I was struck by this finding.
Therefore, the two major parties need to pay attention to the non-religious if they want to win future elections. Self-identified "Spiritual and/or religious" people occupy the two political extremes, with some notable exceptions.Yes, there are progressive atheists, but I think many of these are what the author would group with social democrats, not radical socialists or Marxists. Apparently, there are a lot of New Age people on the far left. That would matc…

Great College Hoax

I have been thinking a lot about what a college degree means in the current recession. My research has led me to question not only the value during a recession, but the value of college in general for some students. The key is some — there is little question that an education pays off in many fields.
The Great College Hoax
Kathy Kristof
Forbes Magazine dated February 02, 2009
Higher education can be a financial disaster.
College graduates will earn $1 million more than those with only a high school diploma, brags Mercy College radio ads running in the New York area. The $1 million shibboleth is a favorite of college barkers.In fact, the Daily Mail (U.K.) found the difference in earnings, at least in the U.K., was less than $222,000, even though U.K. universities often claim students will earn $550,000 (U.S. dollars) more during their careers. Worse, those are averages — meaning some fields earn substantially more. There is a skewing of res…

Down Dow and Democrats

There is little doubt that the last two years are the result of lax SEC enforcement under Chairman Cox (R) and the Bush (R) administration took far too long to react to such nonsense as credit default swaps. Add to this the Democratic Congress' refusal to control Freddie and Fannie... here are the results:

January 3, 2007 - Democratic Congress seated - DOW = 12,398
November 4, 2008 - Barack Obama elected - DOW = 9,625 (down 22.3%)
January 20, 2009 - Barack Obama sworn in - DOW = 8,228 (down 14.5%)
February 18, 2009 - Barack Obama signs "stimulus package" into law - DOW = 7,556 (down 8.2%)
Close on Thursday February 26, 2009 - DOW = 7,182 (down 5.0%)
In terms of decline alone:

Total market collapse since Democrats took control of Congress - DOW down 42.0%
Total market collapse since Obama elected - DOW down 25.4%
Total market collapse since Obama sworn in - DOW down 12.7%
And today, the GSEs announce that they need more taxpayer money. Lots of it. Fannie lo…

A Worker is a Worker

There were 200,000 "financial industry" layoffs during fiscal 2007-08 and nearly another 150,000 since this previous summer. Bank of America and Citi announced more than 70K layoffs in 2008, alone. In fact, CNN has reported that layoffs in finance outpace the layoffs in manufacturing this year. That's no small accomplishment.

Most people in "finance" are not millionaires. I know. I worked at both a mortgage bank and a title insurance company in the past. The majority of workers were women, inputing data and making low wages. Many of the employees had only high school diplomas and they worked very hard, long hours. (The disparity between the workers and the executives was extremely unbalanced.)

I'm sick of hearing people celebrate "Wall Street" layoffs. Sure, there are fat, greedy pigs at some companies. There are scum in most industries -- it's just easier to hate bankers and lawyers. But when a bank closes or an investment firm fails, it'…

We Have a Department of What?

A few days ago I learned of the Journal of Happiness Studies, proof there is an academic journal for almost everything.

Ah, but happiness isn't enough. No, we have to be overtly political.

Yes, the University of Minnesota, Duluth, has introduced a Masters of Advocacy and Political Leadership (MAPL, pronounced "maple") for aspiring leftists. The ACORN activists can attend the "Maple" program, which proves how confused they are. Acorns go with oaks — I associate syrup with maple trees.

The director of this program is complaining that his students are in debt, but considering careers that don't pay well. These students, he argues, should have all their debts forgiven. After all, they will be helping people in the future. He blames "conservative orthodoxy" for the high cost of college, which is utter nonsense.

The high cost is because government gives loans, grants, and directly funds universities. There's so much money, the tuition rose to cons…