medical practice

Despite having the most expensive health care system, the United States ranks last overall compared to six other industrialized countries—Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom—on measures of health system performance in five areas: quality, efficiency, access to care, equity and the ability to lead long, healthy, productive lives, according to a new Commonwealth Fund report.

While there is room for improvement in every country, the U.S. stands out for not getting good value for its health care dollars, ranking last despite spending $7,290 per capita on health care in 2007 compared to the $3,837 spent per capita in the Netherlands, which ranked first.

badge welfare

A prostitute is more likely to have sex with a police officer than to get officially arrested by one.

via An Empirical Analysis of Street-Level Prostitution

heated opinions

A majority of scientists who dispute global warming lack the climatological expertise to do so.

In the unconvinced camp of climate change, 908 researchers publishing in scientific journals from around the world are less expert in the field and also less likely to be trained in climate science.

Scientific American; June 21, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

heartful propaganda

To inject some emotion into an emotionless corporation, interact directly with customers, show us a sense of humor, make grammatical mistakes in tweets, or even apologize for a mishap, we suddenly see the corporation as more than just a monolithic organization.

Joshua Knobe and Jesse Prinz wanted to understand which psychological concepts people were willing to apply to corporations.

“Acme Corporation believes that its profit margin will soon increase,” or “Acme Corporation intends to release a new product this January.”

However, the vast majority of people refused to allow companies to have feelings or subjective experiences, so that sentences like this were deemed ridiculous:

“Acme Corporation is now experiencing great joy,” or “Acme Corporation is getting depressed.”

race to energy

Today, the federal government is considering a second revolution in energy. The issues are more abstract than those of the 1930s. We no longer have insufficient energy infrastructure. We have the wrong infrastructure.

Wallace C. Turbeville:

In the 1930s, a great many Southerners had no access to electricity. The Roosevelt administration perceived an enormous opportunity to restructure the region’s economy. By building facilities to bring power to the rural South, jobs would be created from thin air to mitigate the unemployment of the Great Depression. More importantly for the long run, commercially vibrant communities would replace subsistence farms. For the people directly affected, lives of toil and sweat would be a thing of the past; for the nation, large populations would be integrated into the economy for the first time, helping to assure sustainable and diverse growth in the post-depression era.

The political effects were dramatic. Robert Caro, in his epic biography of Lyndon Johnson, described the brutal life of West Texas before the creation of the Lower Colorado River Authority. He pointed out that the dramatic life-changing effect of rural electrification spawned a fierce loyalty to New Dealers like Johnson. This persisted throughout the South for three decades until, ironically, Johnson’s Civil Rights legislation snuffed it out.

For those 30 years, electrification and other tangible benefits of the New Deal drove political discourse in this country.

For the next three decades (and still), the Civil Rights legislation animated politics. The issue morphed from overt racism to resentment of the federal government telling people what to do. We must remember to thank Rand Paul for reminding us of the connection between race and the radical right.

first anti-rape condom

What would you say about a latex sheath of razor-sharp barbs?

The victim looked up and said, ‘If only I had teeth down there!’

Tear-filled eyes and extreme vulnerability of rape victims is what sparked the design of this modern day invention. 30,000 were given away free at the World Cup!

Vulnerable meets its match.

culling lobbyists

White House bumps lobbyists from advisory boards and commissions – of which there are thousands throughout the executive branch.

For too long, lobbyists have wielded disproportionate influence in Washington.

It’s one thing for lobbyists to represent their clients’ interests in petitions to the government, but it’s quite another, and not appropriate, for lobbyists to hold privileged positions that enables them to advocate for their clients from within the government.

cognitively captured

In the wake of the Great Depression, it took more than a decade of experimentation to construct a new architecture.

Among its tenets was the recognition that successful markets depended on tough policing, and the importance of the prosperity of the middle class, which in turn meant workers should reap their fair share of productivity gains. But the amorphous and often contradictory “free markets” ideology has conditioned policymakers and the public to view unregulated commerce as virtuous, when unconstrained markets are, in fact, a brawl.

Naked Capitalism:

In 1776, Adam Smith published The Wealth of Nations. In it, he argued that self-interested action sometimes produced, as if by “an invisible hand”, results that were beneficial to broader society. Smith also pointed out that self-interest could just as readily do harm. He fiercely criticized both how employers colluded to keep wages low, as well as the “savage injustice” that European mercantilist interests had “commit(ted) with impunity” in colonies in Asia and the Americas.

Smith’s ideas were cherry-picked and turned into a simplistic ideology that dominates university economics departments and policymaking. This theory proclaims that the “invisible hand” ensures that economic self-interest will always lead to the best outcomes imaginable. It follows that any restrictions on the profit-seeking activities of individuals and corporations are inefficient and nonsensical.

Uncritical allegiance to these precepts over the last 30 years has produced a world in which corporations, especially in finance, are far less restricted in their pursuit of profit. In my book Econned, I describe how this lawless environment allowed the financial services industry to pursue its own unenlightened self-interest.

The industry has become systematically predatory. Its employees did not confine their predation to outsiders; their efforts to loot their own firms nearly destroyed the industry and the entire global economy. Similar destructive behaviour by other players, often viewed through a distorted lens that saw all unconstrained commercial behaviour as virtuous, added more fuel to the conflagration.

next is nearby

Media pundits tooth reactions to Obama’s oil spill speech. What do CEO think?

Jack Baron, CEO of Sweetwater:

If we can resolve the energy problem then clean water isn’t far behind. And if you’ve got  inexpensive renewable energy worldwide, and if you have clean water, once you take those major problems away for the planet there’s a lot less to fight about.

… from an impact standpoint I’d much rather be able to play on a world stage with literally thousands or tens of thousands of locations and impact energy production in those locations, and make energy production local.

It’s going to happen with renewable energy in general.  Historically energy has not been local.  It’s been produced by large utilities and piped to places.

one mistake

Into Thin Error

But you didn’t.

No. I kept saying, “Well, let me go on for another 15 minutes and then I’ll decide.” And then after 15 minutes I’d say, “Let me go on another 15 minutes and then I’ll decide.” And I just couldn’t make a decision, and I put it off so long that I got to the top.

Economists call that sunk costswhen you’ve poured so much money or effort into something that it’s hard to extricate yourself, even when you should.

Right! I can see that. In fact, I’ve seen it many times. And I’d always thought, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been there, how much money you’ve spent, how much energy you’ve expended. If the situation isn’t good, go down. The mountain’s always going to be there. You can always go back.

It takes a long time to climb down a mountain. I’m guessing it feels even longer when you think you’ve just made the worstmaybe the lastmistake of your life.

criminal negligence

To this day, children are born grotesquely disfigured with webbed hands and feet, weak immune systems, stunted growth, and congenital disorders.

A lethal plume of gas escaped in the early hours of December 3, 1984 killing thousands instantly as they choked to death.

“Mr. Warren Anderson, today you are known only for your role in the disaster, your name is met only with hatred by hundreds of thousands of Bhopalis, and people all over the world.

“The only way that you can change that, to clear your name, is to make a moral statement for justice in Bhopal.

“And then, you can live the rest of your life in peace, with your head held high, knowing that you made a difference.”

child activist groupKids For A Better Future” led a siege on Dow Chemical in New York challenging its top executive Warren Anderson who was arrested in India after the accident but fled the country.

deepwater dilemma

Big Oil at Congress:

They highlighted the breakdown of the public’s trust in the industry to extract these resources safely.

Despite the statistical evidence of 14,000 deepwater wells drilled, the Macondo well stands as an anomaly of a single company.

The industry representatives also made it very clear that the primary defense against the effects of uncontrolled blow-outs lies in prevention rather than clean-up which the industry was not adequately prepared to handle. That’s a situation that can’t be rectified within six months, and possibly not six years.

tents and tarps

Haiti Rewired:

Were there any things that you weren’t expecting that turned out to be problems or learning experiences? Is there anything that you wish you had to move things along in ways that you’re not able to now?

Emergency Shelter Coordinator:

I had not expected so many layers in decision-making.

Coordination, support cells. There are military coordination meetings. There are presidential meetings. There are inter-cluster meetings. Humanitarian camp committee meetings — all on the national level.

Some layers in decision making could be avoided. We could cut down that to some kind of major meeting where we do these major decisions. If you have the President of the country in there and the main UN bodies, the cluster coordinators of the different sectors, that would be sufficient. But to have another one with military another one with the UN another one with the President, another one with ministers, that’s a bit tricky.

You know, I just came from one meeting where half of the meeting contained with reporting what happened in the other meetings.

the energy of cities

For every single person in a city you need 2 lbs of grains a day.

You can go to the historical record, you can research in China, in India, in the Near East, and you will still be talking about 2 lbs of grain-based food for every person in the city every day.

Always the largest customer:

All cities require fuel: oil, gas, electricity, and so on. What I want to talk about today is the energy that fuels the people in the cities—food. Without food energy, a city is nothing. A city is nothing without the people who work and play and enjoy or suffer through the city, and they require food.

What do cities need in terms of food?

There’s only one way to feed a city, at least historically, and that’s to feed it with grains—rice, wheat, maize, barley, sorghum, etc.. You can go round the world, and there just aren’t cities that aren’t fed on grains, except for possibly in the high Andes.

Basically, to maintain a city, you’ve got to get grains into it. Be it Bangkok, be it Guangzhou, be it London, or be it Rome—throughout history, grains and cities are two sides of the coin.

And what do you need in terms of grains? For most of history—really, until about 150 years ago—most people in most cities, except for the very wealthy, lived almost exclusively on grains. They got about ninety percent of their calories from grains.

inevitable collapse

Long war and political heat upset people. Doom arrives.

Homo rapiens is only one of very many species, and not obviously worth preserving. Later or sooner, it will become extinct. When it is gone Earth will recover. Long after the last traces of the human animal have disappeared, many of the species it is bent on destroying will still be around, along with others that have yet to spring up. The Earth will forget mankind. The play of life will go on.

germs on wheels

Can you get Legionnaires’ disease from your car?

Legionella bacteria grow in any standing water and have recently been found in one in five windshield washer reservoirs that did not use cleaning fluid.

The Health Protection Agency calculated that about 22% of infections could be attributed to driving or being a passenger in a car.

doubt mongering

A rare background on the players behind the unsurprising but alarming development in the long campaign to discredit the established scientific fact that burning fossil fuels is causing the world to warm.

This latest escalation fits seamlessly into a decades-old pattern of attempts to deny the reality of environmental ills — smoking, acid rain, ozone depletion, and global warming. Similar or even identical claims have been promoted for decades by other free-market think-tanks, including the American Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute, the Heartland Institute, and, most persistently, the George C. Marshall Institute.

These think tanks all have two things in common: They promote free-market solutions to environmental problems, and all have long been active in challenging the scientific evidence of those problems.