Monday, May 30, 2011

Cowboys and Pit Crews

Atul Gawande, in this year's commencement address at Harvard Medical School, talks about the challenges of modern medicine. It has become a much more complex process than it used to be. There are too many skills needed and too much knowledge needed that no doctor can do it all himself. Medicine is now administered by teams of skilled practitioners. But we still train our doctors as if they were the focus of medical delivery.
The public’s experience is that we have amazing clinicians and technologies but little consistent sense that they come together to provide an actual system of care, from start to finish, for people. We train, hire, and pay doctors to be cowboys. But it’s pit crews people need.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The tao of doing nothing

Right now, doing nothing is a pretty darn good deficit reduction plan.

The Day the United States Defaulted

Even a temporary default was a bad idea. How much worse would it be if we had a systematic one!

GOP’s jobs agenda

Nothing useful here.
“if lower taxes and less regulation was such good policy, then George W. Bush’s economy would have been a lot better. But under Bush, Republicans cut taxes on business and on investors and high-income people and they didn’t add many regulations and that business cycle was the first one in the post-war period where the income for a typical working class family was lower at the end than at the beginning.”
This is the mantra every Democrat needs to use on the campaign trail. It encapsulates Republican intellectual bankruptcy.

Rob Woodall, Not the Brightest Bulb

When challenged repeatedly by uninsured constituents to walk a mile in their shoes, Rob Woodall ducks and covers.  He says he is happy to take government-provided health insurance instead of buying some on the open market because his insurance is "free".  Talk about your twisted logic.  Every man for himself 'cause I got mine.

IRS vs Karl Rove

If the IRS follows the law, Karl Rove and his secret-contributor PACS may be doing their bit to help with the deficit by paying serious fines, penalties, and taxes.  But the agency may blink because of the expense of the fight.  If the tax laws aren't enforced unless you are too small to fight in court, it pretty much says that the big boys can do pretty much whatever the hell they want. Different laws for different folks, I guess.

Alan Simpson Still Confused

If this doesn't nail the coffin on Alan Simpson's credibility with discussing Social Security, it should.  I think this horse might be ready for the pasture.

Single Payer Health Care begins in Vermont

Another test case for single payer goes into action.  It will be interesting to compare the results of this to other states who are circling the drain with Republican-style no-plans.

Obama's Unspoken Re-Election Edge?

Shelby Steele gets it soo wrong about Obama's electoral popularity.  Let's go through it point by point.
his sweeping domestic initiatives—especially his stimulus package and health-care reform—were so jerry-built and high-handed that they generated a virtual revolution in America's normally subdued middle class.
The revolution Shelby sees is the one that has been trumped-up by the corporate-backed TEA Party.  It has made so much noise that Republicans fear it to such a degree that they can brook no compromise.  The weaknesses in the stimulus package and health-care reform are there because of Republican antipathy and the limits of Obama's power, not because of any lack in him.
The president's success in having Osama bin Laden killed is an exception to a pattern of excruciatingly humble and hesitant leadership abroad. 
If you want allies instead of duped sycophants like Tony Blair, some humility is in order.  No alliance built on cowboy bullying can stand for long.
The problem Mr. Obama poses for Republicans is that there has always been a disconnect between his actual performance and his appeal. If Hurricane Katrina irretrievably stained George W. Bush, the BP oil spill left no lasting mark on this president. Mr. Obama's utter confusion in the face of the "Arab spring" has nudged his job-approval numbers down, but not his likability numbers, which Gallup has at a respectable 47.6%. In the mainstream media there has been a willingness to forgive this president his mistakes, to see him as an innocent in an impossible world. Why?
Shelby fails to note that the Katrina failure was a genuine failure of the Bush administration.  The BP oil spill was a result of policies established during the Bush years.  The financial crisis was also a result of Bush policies.  The problems with which Shelby would like to paint Obama were not his problems.  He simply has the task of cleaning up an enormous mess and it is taking a while.  The last thing the Arabs needed was American intervention.  Why does Obama look innocent?  Shelby can't recognize the fact that he actually is.

Rather than give credit to Obama, Shelby has to invent a fantasy of popularity based on reverse racism, not realizing that such reverse racism still has racism at its heart.  How ironic that a black conservative like Shelby hangs his hat on the idea that the only reason Obama is popular is because of his race.

It isn't Obama's fault that the field of potential opponents is so abysmal but Steele wants to blame that on Obama as well.

The rot in the Republican party isn't Obama.  It's the lie at the heart of their ideology.  They talk about empowering individuals over government.  But what they really want to do is to empower a few rich and powerful individuals to co-opt the government to further enrich themselves at the expense of the population as a whole.

Ratko Mladic Arrested

Ratko Mladic was one of the worst in the days of Bosnian ethnic cleansing.

Climate change a threat to nuclear power

Natalie Kopytko points out how nuclear power may be vulnerable to the effects of the climate change it is supposed to alleviate.

It’ll be our fault

Ezra Klein points out that our problems were both predictable and predicted.  Yet nothing was done to stop them.  Now that many have actually happened, we aren't doing much to keep them from happening again.  Something about the definition of insanity comes to mind.
When a crisis comes, the people who were charged with preventing it like to say that it could not have been predicted. Who could’ve imagined that housing markets would crash all around the country or that terrorists would fly planes into buildings or a that a hurricane would breach the levees in New Orleans? Sometimes there’s truth to those claims. But not in these cases. These crises are predictable. These crises are preventable. These are the white swans, and they’re swooping and honking right in front of us.

Another Hydrogen Option

Producing hydrogen from natural gas just got cleaner and easier.  It uses better catalysts, one of which absorbs the CO2 by-product.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Made in America

Manufacturing is growing. A falling dollar helps put Americans back to work which is the real path to a better economy.
So while we still have a deeply troubled economy, one piece of good news is that Americans are, once again, starting to actually make things. And we’re doing that thanks, in large part, to the fact that the Fed and the Obama administration ignored very bad advice from right-wingers — ideologues who still, in the face of all the evidence, claim to know something about creating prosperity.

A Better Way to Teach?

A side-by-side study has shown that interactive teaching not only keeps students engaged but transfers the learning better, too.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Deficit and Stimulus

There's a way Republicans could get the spending cuts they want. Couple spending cuts with tax increases and economic stimulus.  It's a win-win-win.
The jobs crisis is vastly more pressing than our debt problems, but it’s also, in two mostly unnoticed ways, interconnected. For one thing, a weak labor market means a high deficit. It means tax revenues come in low and social spending needs to be high. It’s very hard to begin deficit reduction in any serious way before unemployment comes down.Which means that the sooner we get unemployment under control, the sooner sustained deficit reduction can really begin.

But second, and perhaps more importantly for deficit hawks, the jobs crisis is leverage for deficit reduction. A little bit of stimulus could buy you a lot of deficit reduction. Imagine if Republicans offered Democrats a 4:1:1 deal: For every $4 of specific spending cuts over the next 12 years, they’d back $1 of tax increases and $1 of stimulus. A deficit-reduction deal that cut $3 trillion would carry $1 trillion in tax increases — so, $4 trillion in total deficit reduction — and $1 trillion in stimulus. Who’s the liberal who’d say no? And yet, that’s a big deficit reduction package. Among the biggest in our history, actually.

Stephen Colbert's Free Speech Problem

Some commentators in the WSJ gloat that Colbert has found it difficult to set up a PAC as a comedic stunt ridiculing the Citizens United ruling.  But his experience is illustrative, nonetheless.  One could take it to show that if the rules are hard enough, only the really rich can navigate them. That leaves us with only the rich having genuine free speech. Is that what we want in this country?  On the other hand, Colbert's main problem is that he has a media presence.  Perhaps others without that handicap can do a better job of riduculing the ridiculous ruling.

Another Conservative Myth Bites the Dust

Private prisons are more expensive and less useful than government-run prisons.  People need to understand that there are some things the private sector does well and some things it does not do well.

Make Your Own Toys and Tools

3-D printing has become affordable.  A company now makes a small, relatively-inexpensive, 3D printer.  This may make custom fabrication a bigger player in the economy.

Splitting water made simple

A cheap, manganese-based catalyst offers another method of generating hydrogen from water.

Technology Evoluton

Some new mathematical constructs can predict which technologies with improve quickly and which will not. 

Quake killed Fukushima, not the tsunami

The current understanding is that the emergency cooling system was damaged by the earthquake before the tsunami arrived.  Add that to the lessons-learned.

Health Care Fault Line

Wendell Potter notes that if the insurance company had known they were dealing with the mother of a future president, she would have received better health care.  Insurance companies seem truly reluctant to provide good benefits unless the person is someone special.  Is this the kind of system we want in this country?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Colbert at FEC

In order to demonstrate our ridiculous current campaign financing law is.  Here's another link.

Economic 'seizures'

Seizures in economics are similar to neurological disorders.  So much so that they might be curable by analogous remedies.

Metallic Glass

This strong, cheap, versatile material could be coming to products near you.  Being able to form metal objects as easily as plastics brings to mind the "plasteel" material from Frank Herbert's novels.

The Crimes of the Private Health Insurance Industry

Wendell Potter recalls his experiences in how only exceptional cases get good treatment from the existing system. There is no way that our system is anywhere close to the best in the world.

Any screen can be touchable

By placing a a small frame over any screen it can be made touchable.

News from the Seat of the Empire

Obiwan Kenobi is dead.

The Trouble With 'Enforcement-Only' Immigration

Enforcement alone doesn't solve the problem with those who are here unless you are really going to round all of them up and put them in deportation camps.  It just heaps greater and greater punishments upon vulnerable people far beyond the scale of their crimes.


Could this be my next toy?

Virtual Game Control

Similar to the way automatic doors sense your presence as you approach, a new method of remote sensing may not only change the way video games are controlled, but could possibly change the whole interface paradigm.  It works by establishing a baseline of the background electrical field in a room.  Then it detects and interprets perturbations in that field made by movement.

New Insect Repellant

 A chemical compound that repels by overloading the olfactory sensors of insects may be in the works.  Imagine something that is benign to most other animals but 1000 times stronger than DEET.

Schooling the Elites

Paul Krugman actually suggests that there is something to be learned from the Gambling Banker's Recession.  But, alas, few want to learn it.
by making up stories about our current predicament that absolve the people who put us here there, we cut off any chance to learn from the crisis. We need to place the blame where it belongs, to chasten our policy elites. Otherwise, they’ll do even more damage in the years ahead.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Friday, May 06, 2011

Da Vinci's Dream Comes True

A German engineering firm has build a bird-like model that actually flies like a bird, wing-flapping propulsion and soaring capability.

Torture May Have Slowed Hunt

Some witnesses say the best information came before the torture. Once the pain started the subjects would just make stuff up.

U.S. tax burden at lowest level since '58

Both USA Today and McClatchy point out that our taxes are historically low. Low taxes don't encourage investment. They just all power and money to become concentrated in fewer hands. Higher taxes will push that money into productive economic activity rather than raw accumulation of power.

Kucinich looking to a different state

In http://The Hill there is more speculation about Dennis coming to the new Washington 10th Congressional District. State Party chair, Dwight Pelz, poo-poo's it. From where I sit, that practically confirms it. Dwight is, shall we say, experienced in dissembling.

More U.S. Oil Drilling Won't Lower Gas Prices

Never waste a crisis. Especially, if you can use it to make more money for your campaign donors. When the price at the pump goes up it's used as an excuse for more pointless drilling. This is what addiction looks like, a death spiral to destruction. More drilling without a plan to achieve sustainable energy production just makes the inevitable adjustment worse later. But then, those making the decisions today won't be around to reap the consequences. Our grandchildren will curse us.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda

Here's a bit of hope. With Bin Laden dead, portions of the Taliban may feel more inclined to renounce violence and join the Afghan civil process.

Obama at Ground Zero

I much prefer Obama's method to a flight suit on a carrier deck.

Humans enter Fukushima unit for first time

In one of the stricken reactors, radiation levels have been reduced enough for humans to enter. The plan is to send shifts of workers in to construct better ventilation so levels go down even further. Eventually it should be low enough for workers to build a permanent solution to keeping the reactor cool.

Portable drinking water and power

An unusual alloy could provide a method of producing both power and potable water from contaminated fresh or salt water. It's made of aluminum, tin, gallium, and indium. Indium is extracted from zinc ores and gallium is extracted from bauxite, an aluminum ore. No specific new mining is needed for them. Indium is 3 times more prevalent in the Earth's crust than silver. Basically, when the alloy is immersed in water, spontaneous hydrolysis occurs. A power unit would include a reactor and a fuel cell. Poor water in one end and hydrogen gets channeled to the fuel cell which produces power and potable water. Over time the alloy converts to aluminum hydroxide which is non-toxic and can be recycled.

A Paper Computer

Looking beyond tablets and smartphones, a computer with paper-like displays has been demonstrated. Notebook computers will really begin to look like notebooks.

Transistors reinvented

This is huge. A totally new generation of semiconductors is coming. Chips can now go 3-D with more power and more efficiency.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Goldman Sachs Fights the Volcker Rule

If Goldman-Sachs is fighting it, the Volcker rule must be a good thing.

Small Business Owners Renounce Bush Tax Cuts

So often ignored by the Republican fat cats who take their name in vain, small businesses really don't benefit from the Bush cuts. The tax cuts don't help small businesses, more money in the middle class helps small businesses.

Hastings hearts Big Oil

When the vote was taken on who loves Big Oil, Hastings raised his hand. Actually it was more like raising his hand and jumping up and down saying, "Oo, oo, I do!!!"

The real reasons for the dollar's decline

Take note. It's due to long-term global changes, not the deficit. The world has more options for good currencies and American workers are just paid too much relative to their global competition. This isn't good news for workers in the short term but eventually there should be better global demand for American products as the devaluation continues.

The Ryan individual mandate

This may not be talked about much but the Ryan health care proposal contains an individual mandate just like the PPACA. It has too for the thing to work at all. Oh, Hello? Tea Party? Is anyone listening?

JSF Alternate Engine Undead

Rising from the legislative tomb, the unneeded and unwanted alternate fighter jet engine makes an appearance in the House Armed Services Committee budget. In the House you have to kill the pork again and again before it finally dies.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Analyzing the debt

Lory Montgomery has a good piece on how we went from surplus to the current deficit. In her words:
The biggest culprit, by far, has been an erosion of tax revenue triggered largely by two recessions and multiple rounds of tax cuts. Together, the economy and the tax bills enacted under former president George W. Bush, and to a lesser extent by President Obama, wiped out $6.3 trillion in anticipated revenue. That’s nearly half of the $12.7 trillion swing from projected surpluses to real debt. Federal tax collections now stand at their lowest level as a percentage of the economy in 60 years.
Obama’s 2009 economic stimulus, a favorite target of Republicans who blame Democrats for the mounting debt, has added $719 billion — 6 percent of the total shift, according to the new analysis of CBO data by the nonprofit Pew Fiscal Analysis Initiative. All told, Obama-era choices account for about $1.7 trillion in new debt, according to a separate Washington Post analysis of CBO data over the past decade. Bush-era policies, meanwhile, account for more than $7 trillion and are a major contributor to the trillion-dollar annual budget deficits that are dominating the political debate.

Obama Succeeded Where Bush Failed

Here is a good litany of all the ways the Bush administration fumbled the ball.
Ironically, Obama’s announcement came eight years to the day after Bush famously and prematurely declared "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq after landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier.