THE VIEW FROM CHAOS MANOR
View 585 August 24 - 30, 2009
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August 24, 2009
This is going to be a busy week. It's now nearly 3 AM. Roberta's machine got infected about dinner time, and I've been doing a rescue. I'll probably sleep in late in the morning.
We had a lot about health care and some other matters in Mail yesterday. I will have more to post today, and that should about do it: that is, about all the viewpoints have been expressed (I have not bothered with pure rants, but I have tried to get across all the views and as many facts as I can) so it's pointless to continue this endlessly.
The first major question is whether anyone is entitled to publicly paid health care (as opposed to being able to buy insurance, or to have an employer provide it). The second major question is whether everyone is entitled to equal health care: that is, should the wealthy be prohibited from buying something that others can't afford. The answers to those questions frame the debate.
If there is an obligation to provide some minimum health care package to everyone (in practice we do that with emergency rooms) it is probably affordable; if we insist on equality for all, or set the minimum high, then it is not affordable at anything like present rates. That means rationing of public health care benefits.
In any event, we'll wrap up the discussion shortly. And I am off to bed.
1400 Roberta's system is terminally infected. I can't boot it in safe mode -- it tries, then reboots, never getting a screen at all. Task Manager is greyed out if I boot normally. There is a message that grows out of the tray that says my machine is infected, click here to install anti-spyware, and of course there is no way to close that without clicking anywhere. I got to bed late, and come morning nothing was better. I can't even get the system connected to a security internet site.
I've got a new system set up, and I'm about to get it going for her with Windows 7. I expect this will be the column for the month. I'm trying to find out what was done to invite this thing in, but Roberta doesn't remember. It's been grim.
We also had our old friend Bruce Webster here for lunch. Now I'm back to work, a bit sleepy and out of sorts.
I had a few words about the health care situation in yesterday's VIEW. I'll have more tomorrow. As I said above it's getting on for time to wrap up the discussion. The Obamacare people are desperate to get something through, so the fight's not over, but it should be clear to nearly everyone that this is a complex matter with profound implications for the future of the nation: one should not make fundamental changes in the nature of the republic by hurrying them through. What reforms our health care system needs -- whether it needs any at all, and whether there ought to be a system -- needs debate and discussion, not something rushed through to meet a deadline.
And we really ought to know what's in the bill before accepting it...
Several readers have pointed me to
as a source for Burnham's book The Machiavellians. Fair warning, it is a big file and that link starts a very large download in pdf format; it can take half an hour and there are no signs of progress as it downloads; at least that was my experience with Firefox.
French health care costs -- possibly 60 billion /year in US with much lower pay to doctors. See mail.
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|This week:||Tuesday, August
I have a busy week coming up, with two medical appointments (neither critical), dinner with colleagues, Writers of the Future awards, and a book signing Sunday. Yesterday was pretty much used up with getting Roberta set up with a new Windows 7 system. It works, she's using it along with Office 2007, and that story will be a good part of next month's column.
Meanwhile, there is a new (new in the sense that I hadn't heard of it, and I doubt many of you have) and scary provision in the House health care bill:
The column is self explanatory and worth your attention.
I believe in rational discussion, and try to conduct this place on that principle. That doesn't mean that I don't have emotional, yea passionate, commitments, mostly to the principle of preserving a society in which rational discussion can take place and have a significant influence on events.
The survival of our western culture depends on our being able to convince our less committed compatriots that the culture is in danger.
I say all that as an introduction to this:
On Political Correctness:
This is 13 minutes of an illustrated lecture. The first half presents a number of not generally known facts and reminds us of some that ought to be remembered. It segues into the founding of the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research (which was in New York for much of its critical period). Most of what is said here is spot on, and alas, not as widely known as it ought to be. The intellectual tactics that were born in that Institute now dominate much of our political debate. As a result we all know what we can't say and who we can't say it about. Whittle combines several presentation styles and ends with passion. After all, the choir needs sermons too.
The film mentions Kenneth Gladney, who is either a member of the "thug right" or a black conservative who doesn't believe in compulsory health care. He hasn't received much attention from the national news media, which leads me to believe the latter. I have some experience with how black conservatives have been treated by the media over the years. Some of them were my former students. The connection between the Frankfurt Institute and modern journalism is mentioned in the film. Perhaps it ought to be better known.
California is headed to 15% of mortgages in default, according to projections made today. Car dealers are finding that they must submit 13 pages of forms to claim money under the Clunkers law; few if any have actually received any money; the government has had to extend the time during which the dealers can submit the forms, but since their system is flooded, many dealers may not be able to turn in the paperwork in time. Now think of that in the context of a single-payer health care system.
There is an attempt by the US Chamber of Commerce to have an actual science trial on the global warming issue. I wish them well, but it's not likely.
August 26, 2009
Ted Kennedy, RIP.
If you did not see the letter on health care in Uganda yesterday, it is worth your attention. We are wealthy enough to avoid that. Now.
I have a dental appointment. Back this afternoon.
Cleaning up Firefox windows I found this one
I also found this one: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124958049241511735.html on French health care.
The book signings are this Sunday, August 30. The first is at Vromans in Pasadena at Noon. http://www.vromansbookstore.com/event
Both these events are sponsored by the Writers of the Future, and the contest winners will be there, along with many of the judges (like myself). I'll be one of many authors present.
August 27, 2009
I have medical appointments then a dinner with the Writers of the Future judges and contest winners, and the rest of the week is busy as well.
On health care: read http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200909/health-care I do not necessarily accept his recommendations although they seem preferable to what we have heard is in the current bill; but the analysis is spot on, and while most of the facts cited are familiar, he puts them in context. I would appreciate any critique of the logic here; this is the best single piece I have seen on the health care mess.
On education, the usual critique of charter schools is that they are guilty of "cherry picking" which is to say, they accept only students who want to learn something and are willing to be disciplined. Thus an academically accomplished charter school in DC was not allowed. Cherry picking is supposed to be a bad thing? As opposed to the current practice of making those who would like to learn in DC go to a school that accepts those who do not want to learn and refuse to be disciplined? And this from people who are supposed to be liberal? It seems to me a very good way to keep the blacks in their place. Make them go to lousy schools filled with disorder while you send yours to schools that have discipline, and then on to Harvard. Is that the goal of liberalism? To keep the blacks down? Because I think of no better way to accomplish that goal than what is happening in DC. Tons of money spent on truly horrible schools that no one who could possibly escape them would go to? Would anyone who had in mind the good of black children in DC permit the current school system there to exist for ten minutes more?
The money is spent, and the results are known, and nothing is to be done. Yet under the Constitution the Congress is responsible. One presumes that both parties intend the results obtained since neither party makes any attempt to do anything about it.
We discovered Whole Foods a few years ago when there was a grocery workers strike in Los Angeles. I didn't really care to cross the picket lines at our local market, in part because we knew many of the clerks by name. I wasn't all that familiar with the issues, which seemed more complicated than a simple wage issue. In any event there was a Whole Foods we drove past every week, and we'd never been into it, so we stopped there the next time we passed it. I soon found out that Whole Foods is a way of life. During the strike we mostly shopped at Whole Foods and Trader Joes. We found that Whole Foods pays a lot of attention to Gluten Free products (as does Trader Joes), and that's important to us since Roberta has a severe gluten allergy. I also ran into my neighbor Ed Begley Jr at Whole Foods and we had several pleasant conversations. I like talking with Ed.
I'm not as thoroughly converted to the "organic" movement as most, but I do pay attention to pesticides and such. I found Whole Foods not precisely competitive for staple items, pricey on some items, but more than satisfactory for many things. The people there are always pleasant, and don't act as if they wish they were somewhere else. It's worth a bit extra not to have to associate with surly people. And those were the days when BYTE was in operation so I had a much larger income.
The current Whole Foods boycott has been organized by those who resent that the Whole Foods CEO, a former insurance executive, has views similar to those in the Atlantic article cited above and published them in an op ed piece in the Wall Street Journal
and of course such dissent cannot be allowed to go unpunished. This is the way of the modern world and political correctness. The financial world is aghast.
Ah well. Roberta makes a point of telling the Whole Foods employees she appreciates them as we shop for gluten free products there.
I note in today's Wall Street Journal that Obama has targeted Medicare Advantage, the program that pays our Kaiser dues, for elimination in his cost-saving provisions of the new health care program. Why this is said to be more expensive than regular Medicare is not known to me. When I turned 65 I was essentially given no choice: if I wanted to stay with Kaiser I had to let Medicare pay my premiums, since they were going from some $350/month to about $1200/month. None of that was explained, but the decision was easy. For those who depend on government keeping promises, this may be a lesson.
I don't understand any of this, but anyone on Medicare Advantage had best take notice here. I am told there are an average of 22,000 Medicare Advantage members in every Congressional District. All should be made aware of this move. That's enough to affect the outcome of most districts.
Not sure what I can do if they bring this off, given the state of the economy and my retirement funds. When I had to make the choice eleven years ago I had more alternatives than I have now. I have some faith that Kaiser will do what can be done to keep its members enrolled.
I expect you are not alone. I'm not in the political organizing business any longer, but I do advise everyone concerned to make that concern known to any party organization or PAC you donate to. I used to be a political organizer, and I suspect I ought to tool up again at least to the point of being able to give specific advice.
August 28, 2009
I have several appointments today including giving a talk to some new writers, so I won't have much here today (or indeed over the weekend.)
For those concerned with education I recommend http://fredoneverything.net/ColorOfEducation.html
which was written for Harpers in 1981 but might have been written yesterday. Alas.
And there is a mixed bag of mail, all interesting.
August 29, 2009
Writer of the Future awards tonight. I spent the day on cleaning stuff up. The fires up north are bad. Alex is in the fire area, as is Karen Anderson who is on mandatory evacuation.
August 30, 2009
The book signings in Pasadena at Noon and Burbank at 3:30 are still on, and the Writers of the Future including many of the judges will be there. It's just that I won't be.
I was supposed to do the book signings in Pasadena and Burbank today, but the AQMD says the air in those regions is starkly unhealthful, and the fire and police people are asking us to stay home. I woke up to smoke in the house (just blown in through the open windows, nothing alarming) and decided to button up and turn on the air conditioning. I try to do without AC during the summer, both for the expense and to do my part in reducing the load.
Sometimes I whimsically say that I'd gladly go without air conditioning in California if we could make it illegal to turn on air conditioning anywhere in DC except in hospitals. Of course the Congress would immediately build itself a meeting chamber at Walter Reed, and the White House would find a way to declare the White House, Old State, and so forth "official hospitals," so perhaps there is nothing to be done.
Anyway, I decided we better stay home, and I won't be doing the book signings. Those things are mostly for the new kids anyway.
There's an enormous plume of smoke, and the heat stays because there is no wind. The night sea wind can't get in so the smoke stays. And if the Santa Ana does break through it will blow the fire down the canyons toward houses. No one can really predict.
We're relatively safe here. The fires are ten to twenty miles away. However, two blocks up hill from us begins 50 square miles of park which last burned off about 30 years ago, and it's mostly California chaparral. That could become dangerous, but there are no fires up there now, and the fire roads into the conservancy are pretty good now. Last time it burned there was no GPS or Google Earth and I had to show LAFD (city and county) where the fire roads were (they'd all been overgrown), but that has all been improved and taken care of. There's plenty to burn up there, but if people stay out of it (and given the air quality they surely should stay out) there's no reason for it to burn. We're not getting lightning storms.
So mostly we're standing by in case we need to become an emergency shelter. There are evacuations in Pasadena, Glendale (which is between Burbank and Pasadena) and Sylmar (where Alex, Karen Anderson, and Jackie Freas live; it's the other side of Burbank from Glendale.
The Red Box fire at Mount Wilson has died down but is not out. All observatory personnel have been evacuated, so any coverage from Mount Wilson is now automatic. The basis situation is that all is well if the wind don't rise; but no one know whether that will happen, or what that would do. Worst case would be hard driving Santa Ana winds -- Devil Winds. We are told that isn't likely according to the weather models. One hopes they are better at predictions than climate models.
This is a day book. It's not all that well edited. I try to keep this up daily, but sometimes I can't. I'll keep trying. See also the weekly COMPUTING AT CHAOS MANOR column, 8,000 - 12,000 words, depending. (Older columns here.) For more on what this page is about, please go to the VIEW PAGE. If you have never read the explanatory material on that page, please do so. If you got here through a link that didn't take you to the front page of this site, click here for a better explanation of what we're trying to do here. This site is run on the "public radio" model; see below.
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