Saturday, April 30, 2005
"The 'fall of Saigon' for me came ... as a child of 10 in South Vietnam in '75, I helped my mother feed and take care of people fleeing the war from the North. We didn't have much but it was more than they had, and Mother never could say no to people in need. I remember humongous pots of soups and pots and pots of rice. We even housed a famous Vietnamese movie star.
"It came when my second-oldest brother came through the front door and collapsed in my arms, scratched up and exhausted. He had lost most of his platoon and barely made it out of the jungle with his life with the help of strangers and a tart, bitter fruit that he still had in his hand. I witnessed him tell his friend's sister that her brother was dead. Her cries haunted me for years.
...."We left on a fishing boat and then went onto a barge. They were all scared and terrified. I remember there were a lot of well-dressed city folk with lots of luggage. All my mom grabbed were clothes, family china we still have, some of my dad's mementos, a stamp collection, pictures and Vietnamese money. On the big international boats, people would climb on each other in mobs. The sides broke and people fell over into the water.
"To me, what I went through that day -- as harried as it was for a child of 10 -- was a walk in the park compared to what others went through. As a parent now, I can't imagine sending my child with total strangers. I can't say that day really scarred my soul. For a good number of us, it meant a bump up in our economic status. It gave us opportunities we wouldn't have if we had stayed. It was a blessing in disguise, which sounds horrible to say because so many lives were totally ruined."
Because the U.S. Congress, controlled by liberals, refused South Vietnam the weapons they needed to defend themselves from the invaders. The true legacy of the 'anti-war' movement.
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
By the time we finished college, both of our countries' pension systems were going broke. Chile responded by pioneering a system of private accounts in 1981. America rescued its traditional system in the early 1980's by cutting benefits and raising taxes, with the promise that the extra money would go into a trust to finance the baby boomers' retirement.
As it happened, our countries have required our employers to set aside roughly the same portion of our income, a little over 12 percent, which pays for disability insurance as well as the pension program. It also covers, in Pablo's case, the fees charged by the mutual-fund company managing his money.
....we extrapolated what would have happened if I'd put my money into Pablo's mutual fund instead of the Social Security trust fund. We came up with three projections for my old age, each one offering a pension that, like Social Security's, would be indexed to compensate for inflation:
(1) Retire in 10 years, at age 62, with an annual pension of $55,000. That would be more than triple the $18,000 I can expect from Social Security at that age.
(2) Retire at age 65 with an annual pension of $70,000. That would be almost triple the $25,000 pension promised by Social Security starting a year later, at age 66.
(3) Retire at age 65 with an annual pension of $53,000 and a one-time cash payment of $223,000.
Tierney's colleague on the Times Op-ed page, wants to deny him those benefits. And everyone else too.
Sunday, April 24, 2005
iUniverse is one of more than 100 ''author services'' companies in a fast-growing industry aimed primarily at writers who can't get the attention of traditional publishers. Earlier this month Amazon.com got into the act, announcing that it had acquired BookSurge, a printing company with a self-publishing division based in Charleston, S.C. BookSurge uses print-on-demand technology that makes it possible to guarantee a two-day turnaround to print a book, even if only one customer orders a copy. For the first time, print-on-demand companies are successfully positioning themselves as respectable alternatives to mainstream publishing and erasing the stigma of the old-fashioned vanity press. Some even make a case that they give authors an advantage -- from total control over the design, editing and publicity to a bigger share of the profits.
It was the issue of control that appealed to Amy Fisher and her co-author, Robbie Woliver, editor in chief of the weekly Long Island Press, where Fisher has a column. They were confident that the book would sell well; indeed it appeared on the New York Times paperback best-seller list on Oct. 24, if only for a week. ''We figured we might make more money doing it this way,'' says Woliver, who called the royalties ''significantly higher'' than traditional publishers', though he would not reveal the percentage. ....
Self-publishing companies like iUniverse have been growing rapidly in recent years, displacing old-style vanity presses and competing with the number of titles produced by traditional houses. AuthorHouse in Bloomington, Ind., which leads the pack with more than 23,000 titles, sold approximately one million volumes between 1997, when it started business, and 2002; in 2003 alone, it sold another million volumes, mostly through online retailers, according to the company. ....
The difference between traditional vanity presses and modern print-on-demand publishing is essentially technology. Instead of expensive offset printing, which mainstream publishers use, print-on-demand relies on a glorified digital printer. ....for as little as $459, iUniverse will turn a manuscript into a paperback with a custom cover design, provide an International Standard Book Number -- publishing's equivalent of an ID number to place the book in a central bibliographic database -- and make it available at Amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and other online retailers.
.... ''Publishing has been an arcane specialist skill under the control of a guild of people that are unique and different from anyone else,'' the founder and chief executive of Xlibris, John Feldcamp, says. ''Those skills have been so complicated they haven't been accessible to normal human beings. What's happening is all the technologies of publishing are becoming increasingly cheap and accessible,'' as almost every aspect of production, including design and printing, has gone digital.
And, in a blow to television situation comedy writers, it turns out that Kramer would have been able to produce a coffee table book, on coffee tables, with ease:
Michael Spinozzi, executive vice president of the Borders Group, notes that the future of self-publishing may be in altogether less commercial forms. ''People are looking to come away with 20 copies of something very personal and very important to them: a cookbook with all the recipes they've collected through their lives; capturing a sporting season or a major occasion,'' he says.
Indeed, someday you may be able to walk into your grocery store and convert your Christmas photos into an instant coffee-table book written in your own deathless prose, Xlibris's Feldcamp predicts. Almost anybody will be able to say, ''I published my book last week.''
Saturday, April 23, 2005
A gay and lesbian advocacy group that gave Microsoft Corp. a civil rights award four years ago has asked the company to give it back, blasting the software maker for withdrawing its support of a state bill that would have outlawed discrimination against gays and lesbians.
Darrel Cummings, chief of staff for the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, said in a statement yesterday that Microsoft appeared to have yielded to anti-gay extremists.
Microsoft, which has offered benefits to same-sex couples since the early 1990s and supported versions of the bill in the past, said it decided to take a neutral position this year so it could sharpen its focus on a shorter list of legislative priorities.
CLEVELAND -- High gasoline prices are turning some drivers into riders, say public transit authorities in several states.
It's a trend that Joe Calabrese, general manager of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, expects to continue as long as a gallon of gas remains about $2.
"I know there are people on the bus today that weren't on the bus three years ago," he said.
It's the same story for the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, which operates 72 miles of rail lines between Miami and West Palm Beach, mostly serving business commuters and students.
"We get to know our people," spokeswoman Bonnie Arnold said. "It's just a recurring comment that gas prices have gotten out of hand. Once it goes over $2 we do see an increase down here."
....in an Associated Press-AOL poll conducted last Monday through Wednesday, 58 percent of Americans said they have reduced the amount of driving they do as a result of recent increases in energy prices.
Friday, April 22, 2005
According to recently released 2004 data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the hourly earnings of state and local government employees exceed those of private sector employees in the greater New York City region by an average of 15 percent- $28.26 to $24.62.
The data, which is available on a regional basis but not for individual localities, covers the greater New York City region....
This wage data, which includes hourly earnings but excludes fringe benefits, undermines the long standing myth that the public sector must provide unusually generous fringe benefits packages in order to compensate for higher private-sector salaries.
The advantage of state and local government workers was particularly evident in two broad occupational categories – blue-collar workers were paid 30 percent more in the public sector, and workers in service occupations were paid 94 percent more.
...."This data highlights the need for governments in the greater New York City area to rethink their fringe benefits packages for public employees," said CBC President Diana Fortuna. "The perception that public-sector wages are lower than those in the private sector has been used to justify relatively generous benefits packages.
A prominent plastic surgeon has been reprimanded and indefinitely suspended by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center after he left a patient in the middle of an operation to perform surgery down the street at another hospital. Dr. Joseph Upton, who specializes in complex hand surgeries, has voluntarily agreed to stop practicing medicine until at least May 4 while state regulators investigate whether he has double-booked operations on other occasions.
Beth Israel officials said Upton left an adult male patient during a scheduled break in a lengthy operation on March 17 and returned before the procedure was scheduled to resume. However, they said he failed to properly notify the operating room team that he was leaving and didn't arrange for another attending surgeon to take his place in case there were complications during the break.
''Though no harm to the patient occurred and the surgery was completed on schedule, the medical center leadership took this breach of policy very seriously and immediately launched its own internal investigation," said a statement issued by Dr. Michael Epstein, chief operating officer of Beth Israel Deaconess. He said Upton has not been allowed to admit new patients or visit existing ones since April 8.
Upton's operating room breach bears a surface similarity to the 2002 case of Dr. David Arndt, whose license was suspended after he left a patient on the operating table to go to the bank to cash a check.
RENO, Nev. — A burglar was busted because he made such a clatter and got stuck - in the chimney of a Lake Tahoe home. A neighbor on the lake's north shore in Kings Beach, Calif., telephoned the sheriff about 10 p.m. Wednesday when he heard screams coming from next door where the residents were away on vacation.
Sheriff's deputies and a fire rescue team found Jose Francisco Martinez, 19, wedged halfway down the chimney. He apparently had been stuck there for about two hours, Placer County Sheriff's Sgt. Brian Whigam said Thursday.
"We've had bears stuck in chimneys before but we haven't had people," Whigam told The Associated Press.
....Investigators determined Martinez was aware the residents were out of town. He attempted to enter the house through doors and windows unsuccessfully, Whigam said.
He apparently found a ladder and climbed on the roof, where he attached a cable and lowered his 5-foot-4, 115-pound frame down the chimney before he became stuck and started to yell for help, Whigam said.
Thursday, April 21, 2005
Julie A. Anderson, 48, was booked into the Benton County Jail for investigation of first-degree robbery and second-degree malicious mischief.
Employees told police the woman showed up Wednesday morning at Stage 1, a salon she had patronized for years, and asked to speak with her regular stylist, who was not in, police Capt. Mike Cobb said.
The woman waited in the parking lot and pulled a gun on the stylist when she arrived. She then walked back into the salon and demanded $100.
Employees gave her the money, then locked the door after she left and called police.
The woman got into her car and started to drive away but stopped, got out and fired at least one round into the back window of the stylist's car, threw the gun through the shattered glass and fled, Cobb said.
She was arrested about 45 minutes later as she left another hair salon nearby. She told stylists there she had received a bad hair cut some time ago.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Rejecting an appeal brought by three law firms that demanded portions of the $55 million in attorneys fees awarded in the $3.2 billion settlement of the Cendant Corp. securities litigation, the Third Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled that the lawyers who were named to lead the case have the power to say who gets paid. .... "The PSLRA lead plaintiff is now the driving force behind the class's counsel decisions, and the lead plaintiff's refusal to compensate non-lead counsel will generally be entitled to a presumption of correctness," Senior U.S. Circuit Judge Edward Becker wrote. "The new paradigm of securities litigation significantly restricts the ability of plaintiff attorneys to interpose themselves as representatives of a class and expect compensation for their work on behalf of that class," Becker wrote....
And, that ain't all:
In a prior appeal, the Third Circuit had reversed an award of $262 million to the plaintiff lawyers after finding that U.S. District Judge William Walls of the District of New Jersey had erred when he held an auction to select the lead lawyers in the case. ....On remand, the lead plaintiffs and their lawyers... agreed to a $55 million fee award.
Which, for their 35,000 hours of work on the case, still comes in at a tidy $1,500 per hour.
Anacomp in San Diego has been publicly traded since the 1970s. But later this month, the data-services provider will "go dark."
In January, Anacomp deregistered its shares with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The process of deregistering is called "going dark," because afterward the company no longer has to disclose much financial information.
Technically, the shares can still be bought and sold. They're listed on the "pink sheets," the National Quotation Bureau's list of daily quotes for companies not listed on any stock exchange.
Anacomp estimates the move will save the money-losing technology firm $3.2 million over the next two years, primarily in costs for complying with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which tightened accounting standards in response to the Enron and WorldCom scandals.
Since that regulatory law passed in 2002, hundreds of publicly traded companies, including several in Orange County, have taken this step, which is simpler and cheaper than buying out shareholders and going private. Hundreds more could soon follow, says attorney Thomas Magill, partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP in Irvine, who assisted Anacomp in going dark.
.... In Anacomp's case, most of its savings will be in audit costs it would have to pay to comply with SEC reporting requirements, especially for Sarbanes-Oxley, says Chief Financial Officer Linster Fox. Other savings are for consultants, executives' and directors' liability insurance, attorneys and two employees whose sole jobs were SEC compliance.
Ordinary pleading rules are not meant to impose a great burden on a plaintiff, but it should not prove burdensome for a plaintiff suffering economic loss to provide a defendant with some indication of the loss and the causal connection that the plaintiff has in mind. Allowing a plaintiff to forgo giving any indication of the economic loss and proximate cause would bring about the very sort of harm the securities statutes seek to avoid, namely the abusive practice of filing lawsuits with only a faint hope that discovery might lead to some plausible cause of action.
Meaning Bill Lerach and his colleagues in the Trial Lawyer Industry lose another round to the
Private securities litigation reform act. And that the celebration here, should be underway.
Also, the unlikely pair of Paul Krugman and Ben Stein should be crying in their beer.
Monday, April 18, 2005
When their own children's futures are endangered:
...it would be very surprising if competition for students did not have an effect on school quality, and if school quality did not have some effect on outcomes.
The public middle school my children go to--Stanley School, in Lafayette, California--is truly excellent (even if massively underfunded by any objective standard, as all California public schools these days are). It's principal, Fred Brill, is extremely highly regarded. Nevertheless, if there had been another equivalent school that we and other parents could have voted-with-our-feet to send our children to, there is no way in the world that Fred Brill would have dared put the teacher he did in charge of my son's sixth-grade core class. No way at all.
Further, we are sure Professor DeLong will be delighted to learn that Carolyn Hoxby has found that the major reason for the decline in public school teacher aptitude is the teacher unions
...the higher was the ratio of teacher earnings for one's aptitude group to mean teacher earnings, the more likely one was to teach. The ratio rose by 0.33 natural log points for the lowest aptitude group and fell by 0.45 natural log points for the highest aptitude group. Therefore, pay compression increased the share of the lowest aptitude female college graduates who became teachers by about 9 percentage points and decreased the share of the highest aptitude female college graduates who become teachers by about 12 percentage points.
Top U.S. barista and hometown favorite Phuong Tran was eliminated yesterday from the World Barista Championship in Seattle....
Tran, 35, owner of Lava Java in Ridgefield, Clark County, and a trainer for Seattle-based Zoka Coffee Roaster and Tea, kept her composure after finalists were announced, and she was surrounded by fellow baristas offering hugs and condolences.
"It's a serious competition," she said, standing among baristas representing 36 nations at the event.
"They're all my friends, so I'm happy for them."
One of her pals is Vancouver, B.C., barista and coffee-shop owner Salvatore "Sammy" Piccolo, one of six national champions who advanced to the finals.....Other finalists are Troels Overdal Poulsen of Denmark; Jonina Tryggvadottir of Iceland; Hiroyuki Kadowaki of Japan; Carl Sara of New Zealand; and Gunnhilde Seljenes of Norway.
In the competition, at the Seattle Public Library's former temporary facility at Eighth Avenue and Pike Street, baristas each had 15 minutes to prepare and serve judges four espressos, four cappuccinos and four nonalcoholic signature beverages of their creation.
Tran said she probably won't compete next year and instead will focus on her career of training other baristas.
But she'll still serve her signature drink, the Crimson Sage latte flavored with sage and white pepper, at Lava Java.
Friday, April 15, 2005
The first shot being fired by Texas A&M's Kenneth J Meier:
Get Your Tongue out of My Mouth ‘Cause I’m Kissin’ You Goodbye: The Politics of IdeasThe thesis of this article is that country music is a crucial part of the politics of ideas, and, in fact, many policy debates are resolved in country music well before the intellectual community of policy analysts reaches a consensus. This article will recap some of the key policy debates in which country music set the agenda....
Professor Meier offering that:
Quite clearly James Quince Wilson borrowed his theory that crime is a function of demographics, specifically young males, and that demographic change would eventually resolve some of the crime problems from Hank Williams Jr. (1982b), who noted:
'Nobody wants to get drunk and get loud,
All my rowdy friends have settled down.'
And, that Charles Murray's Losing Ground was inspired by Johnny Paycheck's Take this job and shove it, I ain't working here no more. Among many other questionable assertions.
U of Colorado's Peter deLeon countered with an ambush from Broadway:
I’m Vexed Again/Perplexed Again . . . : An Alternative View of the Politics of Ideas...if country music reflects a 'politics of ideas,' it is the 'ideas' of the NASCAR dads, rather than the American public, writ large. There is a much wider, arguably more storied, musical venue...extant in the nation, that of the American musical theater.
deLeon had the varmint pinned down with a withering barrage:
Well before James Q. Wilson talked about a 'broken windows' syndrome (1975), Cole Porter had long ago (well, 1935 to be exact) inveighed against the ongoing injustices of the criminal justice system and domestic violence, in particular....
Miss Otis regrets....
from under her velvet gown
She drew a gun and shot her lover down, Madam
Miss Otis regrets she's unable to lunch today.
He reloaded with Harry Warren and Al Dubin's fiscal policy:
We're in the money,
The sky is sunny;
Old Man Depression, you are through,
Again, with Kern and Hammerstein's labor economics:
He don't plant 'taters, he don't plant cotton,
But them that plants 'em is soon forgotten,
But, just as he moved in for the kill, allowed his foot to pass in front of the barrel of his smoking Winchester:
Cole Porter...still could add something to the environmental movement....viewing the wide open and western spaces...
Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above,
Don't fence me in.
Let me ride through the wide open coumtry that I love,
Don't fence me in.
Let me be by myself in the evenin' breeze,
And listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees,
Send me off forever but I ask you please,
Don't fence me in.
Resulting in a self-inflicted wound which allowed Meier to escape to fight another day:
Jesus Loves Me, But He Can’t Stand You: A Reply to My Out-of-Tune CriticsFor, unbeknownst to deLeon (and Meier too, apparently) Cole Porter didn't write the lyrics to Don't Fence Me In. He purchased them, for $250, from a Montana highway engineer, and cowboy poet, named Robert Fletcher (though he later signed over a portion of the royalties to Fletcher when the song became a huge hit).
And, the song debuted in Hollywood Canteen. Performed by none other than singin' cowboy, Roy Rogers.
Ironically, Bob Fletcher has another claim to fame; he instituted the state of Montana's Depression era Historic Markers project
Ironic, in that he appears to have borrowed the idea from a similar state of South Dakota program, and that his scholarship has long been recognized as shaky.
Speaking of which, do the taxpayers of the states of Colorado and Texas know where their political scientists are right this minute?
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Luis Castillo, a defensive tackle from Northwestern who is regarded as one of the top prospects at his position in the draft, has admitted steroid use to all 32 NFL teams.
Castillo is among the players the [Seattle] Seahawks are interested in selecting with perhaps a second-round pick. The Seahawks appear undeterred by Castillo's admission. In fact, defensive-line coach Dwaine Board was in Chicago yesterday to visit with Castillo.
The 6-foot-3, 303-pound Castillo sent a letter to every NFL team acknowledging he took androstenedione after the 2004 season.
His stock rose after an impressive showing in February at the combine, which is where he tested positive.
"We've been in contact with all the teams in the NFL, and we feel good about where we stand," said Castillo's agent, Mike McCartney of Chicago-based Priority Sports and Entertainment.Northwestern is regularly rated as having one the top ten economics departments in the United States.
"First, they didn't plan for parks, so that forced parents to say, where can we play ball?" he said.
"And what happened is some Snohomish County officials sort of said, 'Wink, wink, go out there and do it,' which put these folks between a rock and a hard place."
Mark Kilpatrick, vice president of the North Snohomish Little League, said the non-profit spent several years trying to find a place for their fields, after maintaining access to their land near the airport became a problem.
The legal land they found was way out of their price range, swampy, tree-covered or located under crackling power lines. When they found a landowner willing to sell 24 acres of flat, fallow farmland just outside the city, it looked perfect.
"It seemed right for the community, it seemed right for the Little League program, it seemed right for the farmer," Kilpatrick said. "We knew there were complications with the land, but I don't think any of us realized the magnitude of those complications."
It was across the street from seven ball fields that had already been developed by the South Snohomish Little League, which were technically illegal but already had been in use for three years. The two groups serve about 1,300 children.
North Snohomish league officials said that when they started to put out feelers about whether the land's agricultural status would be a problem, county officials were optimistic that they could get the law changed in Olympia.
While no one told them outright that it was OK to build there, they also got the impression that Snohomish County wouldn't make an issue of it if they did, Kilpatrick said.
They invested $650,000 on land, grass seed, bleachers and fencing to develop the 10-field complex, which they began using last season.
Soon afterward, the county got a formal complaint from a neighbor about traffic, said Craig Ladiser, director of Snohomish County's planning department who was hired when County Executive Aaron Reardon took office last year.
Ladiser said he had no choice but to enforce the state law. But he gave the recreation groups more than a year to lobby the Legislature for a solution.
"It's tough publicity but the fact of the matter is, the Little League was aware that it was illegal when they did it," he said. "They hoped the law would change and it didn't."
Kristin Kelly, Snohomish County director for Futurewise, the anti-sprawl group formerly known as 1000 Friends of Washington, said the legislation awaiting the governor's signature gives the county the opportunity to solve the problem without a wholesale weakening of farmland protection.
Some used the issue to push for broad legislation that would have opened the door to recreational uses, such as golf courses and RV parks, on prime agricultural land across the state, she said.
Although Futurewise doesn't condone people illegally building on farmland without permits, the group compromised in this case because it didn't want to penalize innocent children, Kelly said.
Let's play two.
Showing his usual reverence for fact-checking, The New York Times' Paul Krugman says the Republican Party is "dominated by people who believe truth should be determined by revelation, not research."
I'm not sure how these descriptions square with the fact that liberals keep responding to conservative ideas by throwing food. (Remember the good old days when liberals' "fact-driven" ideas only meant throwing money at their problems?)
Last October, two liberals responded to my speech at the University of Arizona — during question and answer, no less — by charging the stage and throwing two pies at me from a few yards away. Fortunately for me, liberals not only argue like liberals, they also throw like girls. ....
Unfortunately for them, Republican men don't react favorably to two "Deliverance" boys trying to sucker-punch a 110-pound female in a skirt and heels. The geniuses ended up with bloody noses and broken bones.
However, the prosecuting attorney was a Democrat, so:
...on March 19, all charges were dismissed against the "Deliverance" boys — including a felony charge for $3,000 worth of damage to school property. Inexplicably, this outcome did not instantly lead to widespread rioting and looting in South Central Los Angeles.
Democrat Barbara LaWall is the Pima County attorney who allowed the liberal debate champions to walk. ....
In the three weeks following the dismissal of all charges against my attackers, three more conservatives were attacked on college campuses.
On March 29, liberals' intellectual retort to a speech by William Kristol at Earlham College was to throw a pie. On March 31, liberals enjoyed the hurly-burly of political debate with Pat Buchanan at Western Michigan University by throwing salad dressing. On April 6, liberals engaged David Horowitz on his ideas at Butler University by throwing a pie at him.
If you close your eyes, it's almost like you're listening to Ludwig Wittgenstein!
Or, that you're debating the usual suspects at Semi-Daily Journal, Max Speak, or Political Animal.
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Total out of pocket cost in this case, which was higher than normal because this guy has an expensive GP, was about a hundred bucks. That socialized medicine stuff is hell, isn't it?
The reason France's medical care is pretty good, is that it isn't socialized medicine. It isn't even single-payer. However, it is expensive; taking over 20% of payroll for most:
France has a reputation for central direction, but French health care is based on a compromise between egalitarianism and liberalism. All citizens are said to be equal, yet choice and competition are fiercely protected.
In France, individuals can identify on their pay slips how much they are paying for coverage and thus can form a view about whether the cost is justified. Consequently, the standard of care guaranteed by the state reflects the personal preferences of people who are self-sufficient through work. It is this high standard of care that is made available to all. France performs well on nearly all health status measures; when the World Health Organization ranked the world's health care systems in 2000, France was at the top of the league.
Compulsory health insurance covers the whole population, and contributions are charged as a percentage of income. Until recently, employers paid 12.8 percent of salary and employees 6.8 percent... but employees pay 0.75 percent of their salary toward health insurance plus an additional general social contribution of 7.5 percent of their whole income, including interest, dividends, and other earnings. Most, but not all, of this general social contribution goes toward health insurance.
Altogether, this means that the total cost of health insurance is about 20 percent of payroll, including the employer's and employee's contributions. The insurers are non-government, nonprofit agencies, which owe their allegiance to employers and employees. In addition to their compulsory contributions, most employees pay an additional voluntary 2.5 percent of their salary to a mutual insurer.
The French have complete freedom to choose their doctor, whether a general practitioner (GP) or specialist. They typically pay their doctor's fee and then file a claim for 75 percent to 80 percent of the payment. Because requiring payment up front might deter the poorest people from seeking care, about 6 million people are not required to pay.
....No doubt, it will be said that the French government has been trying to control costs. It has, but it has done so under a system that deliberately encourages responsible consumer demand by requiring modest consumer payments. ....
The result has been that, as the government has tried to lower expenditures since the 1970s, the French people have taken up the slack. In the 1960s, about 30 percent of the French people paid privately for supplemental health insurance. The proportion increased to 50 percent in the 1970s, and today about 85 percent of the people purchase private supplemental insurance.
To a central planner, the French system may look like a chaotic mess, but in reality it is a pragmatic blend of consumer choice, professional autonomy, central regulation, and a government-backed guarantee for the poor that exceeds [Great Britain's] NHS standard by far. Like the Belgians, the Dutch, and the Germans, the French, in their own way, have discovered how to universalize the benefits of a competitive market. The NHS, in contrast, has universalized the drawbacks of the public sector.However, even with the above built-in incentives, France is heading for trouble as their population ages. Probably much worse trouble than the U.S. faces.
Friday, April 08, 2005
Elegant in a chocolate-brown, strapless taffeta gown, Janeal Lee beamed as she was crowned Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin in her three-wheeled scooter, her tiara sparkling in her hair, a bouquet of yellow roses in her lap.
Gifts were heaped on her, too - a new scooter, jewelry, a two-night stay at a Wisconsin resort - and there were hugs of congratulations, lots of pictures and a Marine to escort the 30-year-old math teacher with muscular dystrophy off stage.
Just weeks after the joy of that January night at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Lee has been stripped of the title - and made to return the prizes, including the new scooter - after she was seen in a newspaper photograph standing up.
Now the Ms. Wheelchair America pageant is in an uproar over just how disabled a woman must be to wear the crown.
....The Kaukauna High teacher was shown standing in her classroom in a picture carried in a supplement to The Post-Crescent newspaper of Appleton. The pageant organization said candidates for the crown have to "mostly be seen in the public" using their wheelchairs or scooters. Lee says she can walk up to 50 feet on a good day and stand while teaching but uses a scooter as her main way to get around.
Lawmakers crafting energy legislation approved an amendment Wednesday to extend daylight-saving time by two months, having it start on the first Sunday in March and end on the last Sunday in November.
"Extending daylight-saving time makes sense, especially with skyrocketing energy costs," said Rep. Fred Upton, R-Michigan, who along with Rep. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, co-sponsored the measure.
...."The more daylight we have, the less electricity we use," said Markey, who cited Transportation Department estimates that showed the two-month extension would save the equivalent of 10,000 barrels of oil a day.
In Seattle on November 1, there are only about 10 hours of daylight.
If you're an 8 hour per night sleeper, that leaves you with 6 hours of darkness while you're awake, no matter what.
In summer, it makes sense (though we doubt it saves energy) to move sunrise/sunset from 4:00 AM/8:00 PM to 5:00 AM/9:00 PM. Since most people are asleep from 4:00 AM to 5:00 AM, but not from 8:00 PM to 9:00 PM. So, in a sense, you DO save daylight in the summer, by moving it to a more useful time for most people.
But you can't pull the same trick off much beyond (or prior to) the equinox.
Thanks to Katie Newmark and Truck and Barter
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
... lots of jobs — librarian, teacher, public defender, telephone operator — legitimately require you to provide neutral services to the public even if your own opinions aren't neutral. If you really can't stand it, don't take the job. But if you do take a job that requires you to serve the public as an honest broker, don't pretend that your political views allow you to second guess medical decisions that should be the sole provenance of doctors and patients. If certain types of medicine are that repellent to you, the right way to demonstrate your moral conscience is simple: find another career.
The above coming after he criticized an L.A. Times Op-ed which objected to:
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on April 1 issued a 150-day emergency order requiring pharmacists to fill contraceptive prescriptions after a Chicago druggist refused to dispense birth control pills. Elsewhere, reproductive-rights groups are pressuring lawmakers to establish professional-duty laws for pharmacists.
Of course, Kevin thought it 'sophomoric and pedantic', that someone would think that matters of conscience are better left to individuals to decide for themselves, rather than be imposed by powerful politicians' edicts. Presumably because, in Chicago, the customer would have been unable to walk across the street to have her prescription filled by another pharmacist.
What makes this such a perfect example of ignorance of elementary economics though, is the reaction from his merry band of commenters, such as:
there's a crucial difference between selling a thing and controlling access to it. Pharmacists, by definition, control access to prescription medications. As such, they have the obligation to be, as Kevin says, honest brokers.
The pharmacist doesn't have the right to force his belief on the patient.
I'd argue the situation with pharmacists is even not only ridiculous, but offensive, because they are licensed to serve the general public as a matter of privilege.
The license to practice as a pharmacist (or as a doctor, a lawyer, or a structural engineer) is considered a privilege, not a right, paid for by each one of us -- Christian, Jew, Muslim, athiest, pro-life, pro-choice, whatever.
The costs of the licensing process -- regulatory requirements, rulemakings, board oversight, costs of dealing with hearings and complaints, etc. -- are paid for by the dollars of ALL taxpayers.
Why does the state regulated pharmacists? Every statute regulating the profession is permised on the need to benefit the health, safety and welfare of the PUBLIC. "The public" means everyone.
If you're a public defender who was abused as a child, but you're the only PD around, then you have to defend the accused child abusers too. If you can't, you need to find a department that has enough attorneys to provide you with a specialty, or else you need to find another job.
And the last one is from Kevin. The guy who was criticizing the L.A. Times writer for:
...drawing an analogy between pharmacists who refuse to dispense contraceptives and soldiers who refuse to torture prisoners. Seriously, that was the analogy. A bright high school freshman would have been embarrassed. Read it yourself if you think I'm making this up.
Some people being beyond embarrassment. And, any self-awareness at all.
The Observer has learned that Warren Beatty, the 68-year-old actor and director, will likely join a lineup of liberal all-stars who will "group blog" on a Web site to be launched next month by columnist Arianna Huffington.
"I probably will," Mr. Beatty said, on the phone from his production office in Los Angeles.
The "Huffington Report," as Ms. Huffington has dubbed it, will also feature such boldface bloggers as Senator Jon Corzine, David Geffen, Viacom co-chief Tom Freston, Barry Diller, Tina Brown and Gwyneth Paltrow. If the name seems to echo that of the Drudge Report—the mega-site operated by the rightward-tilting unofficial editorial director of America’s news cycle, Matt Drudge—well, it’s supposed to. And Mr. Beatty approved of that.
"I applaud the effort to tell the side of the story that Arianna Huffington seems to be engaged in," he said. Mr. Beatty was all too aware, he said, of the power Mr. Drudge has to steer the American media.
"I would say he does a very industrious job of finding the things that he feels could be exploited to further the political agenda of the far right," said Mr. Beatty.
For his part, Mr. Drudge was deeply skeptical of a Web site operated by Hollywood liberals. And he rebuffed Mr. Beatty’s characterization of his site as slanted toward Republicans.
"I still refuse to be put into the category of feeding completely Republican talking points," Mr. Drudge said. "That’s ridiculous. If they’re accusing me of doing Republican, we can assume all Warren Beatty is going to do is be putting out Democratic talking points.
"I look forward to the Warren Beatty News Network," Mr. Drudge cracked....
As part of its custom executive education activities, Harvard Business School (HBS) has developed a customized workshop targeted to the needs of NFL players interested in owning, operating or building their own businesses. The Wharton Sports Business Initiative (WSBI) and Wharton Executive Education have collaborated to develop a combination classroom and field-based workshop. It focuses on personal investments as well as entrepreneurial opportunities for players transitioning from their football careers. Both three-day programs begin in April. The HBS program concludes with an additional three-day session in May. The Wharton program offers follow-up with a year-long support program.
Each program is open to 35 players, with priority based upon years of NFL experience and business background. Tuition for both programs will be covered by the NFL's Tuition Reimbursement Program. Veteran players may be reimbursed up to $15,000 per league year for education expenses at an accredited institution of higher learning.
Oh, yeah. They definitely understand business.
...make no mistake: The trees are out to get us. One of them, a sycamore, reached over the road at Seattle Center last year and grabbed a delivery truck. When the driver, a Kent man, tried to escape, the tree dropped a branch onto his head, giving him a concussion.
What could he do but sue the city?
Last year, a spindly but clever sapling that lives near Union Station got in the way of a man who tripped and fell into the tree's sidewalk planter pit. He too has sued the city.
Then there are Seattle's more than 100,000 street trees, who, despite feigning impassive poses, are feverishly working to attack us from below.
...the roots of these trees are buckling sidewalks around town, slamming unassuming pedestrians to the ground. Sixty-seven people have been so battered navigating tree-destroyed sidewalks in the past three years that the city has paid out more than a half-million dollars in damage claims.
"You shouldn't have to worry about trees and tree planters when you're walking about," the man who fell near Union Station said in a court deposition last fall.
.... San Francisco reports that half of its costs for maintaining the city's trees now go to settling lawsuits.
I admit I have strong feelings on this topic because I was once sued over a tree.
A former neighbor in West Seattle alleged that roots from my tree had clogged his sewer line. His toilet overflowed and he had to spend a weekend in a motel. He also bought a new sewer line.
The suit seemed so frivolous — "You're suing my tree?" — that I implored my insurance company to fight my neighbor. Instead they paid him $18,000.
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
While it has been evident for years that illegal immigrants pay a variety of taxes, the extent of their contributions to Social Security is striking: the money added up to about 10 percent of last year's surplus - the difference between what the system currently receives in payroll taxes and what it doles out in pension benefits. Moreover, the money paid by illegal workers and their employers is factored into all the Social Security Administration's projections.
Illegal immigration, Marcelo Suárez-Orozco, co-director of immigration studies at New York University, noted sardonically, could provide "the fastest way to shore up the long-term finances of Social Security."
....Starting in the late 1980's, the Social Security Administration received a flood of W-2 earnings reports with incorrect - sometimes simply fictitious - Social Security numbers. It stashed them in what it calls the "earnings suspense file" in the hope that someday it would figure out whom they belonged to.
The file has been mushrooming ever since: $189 billion worth of wages ended up recorded in the suspense file over the 1990's, two and a half times the amount of the 1980's.
In the current decade, the file is growing, on average, by more than $50 billion a year, generating $6 billion to $7 billion in Social Security tax revenue and about $1.5 billion in Medicare taxes.
....Using data from the Census Bureau's current population survey, Steven Camarota, director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, an advocacy group in Washington that favors more limits on immigration, estimated that 3.8 million households headed by illegal immigrants generated $6.4 billion in Social Security taxes in 2002.
A comparative handful of former illegal immigrant workers who have obtained legal residence have been able to accredit their previous earnings to their new legal Social Security numbers. Mr. Camarota is among those opposed to granting a broad amnesty to illegal immigrants, arguing that, among other things, they might claim Social Security benefits and put further financial stress on the system.
Now, let's revisit that weaselly paper being circulated by our Trinity of economists:
In most futures we can think of, the world in 2050 or 2100 contains a great many people outside the U.S. whose productivity would be amplified if they were able to move to the U.S., and so we suspect that for at least the next century immigration will play as large a role in America's future than it has in the past.
Forgetting to add: And we can rob them blind!
Saturday, April 02, 2005
Long after it seemed there couldn't be any more surprises in the November governor's election, King County officials acknowledged yesterday they have found more uncounted ballots.
Over the past week, election workers have found 87 valid absentee ballots that had been left in their envelopes and not counted through three tallies of the closest statewide race in Washington history. The ballots were in archival boxes and were found when election workers were looking for something else.
....The discovery comes as lawyers for the state's political parties argue in court over whether Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire's election was legitimate.
Gregoire defeated Republican Dino Rossi by 129 votes after a hand recount overturned the results of two machine counts that Rossi had won.
While Scrivener's own contribution is devastating enough, the FLUBA Committee on Self Esteem can't help but be pleased to find yet another former adviser to the President of the United States largely agreeing with us, that given the changing demographics certain to hit the United States this century, it is unlikely the current patterns of investment will continue.
Friday, April 01, 2005
I have a beloved granddaughter, close to 3 years old, who almost died of sudden infant death syndrome when she was only 3 months old. She had stopped breathing for a period of time but was revived with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation by her father -- my son.
Little Cleo's life was spared but she suffered extensive brain damage. Etched into my mind is the image of the CT scan of her brain, with extensive blank areas indicating dead brain tissue. I can still hear the grim assessment of the neurologist telling my son and daughter-in-law that Cleo would never live a "normal" life.
Her physical development was almost entirely arrested that fateful evening. Today, she cannot crawl, much less stand, walk or run like other tots. She doesn't chatter away like her peers; she doesn't talk at all.
But here's the marvel of it all.
She can see, smell, feel and hear.
She recognizes and smiles readily at familiar voices and faces.
She has a sense of humor.
And she absolutely adores the Tchaikovsky and Mozart violin concertos and Vivaldi's "Four Seasons." She knows the music better than 99 percent of the adults in this world, and you can see her face, arms and body react to her favorite passages.
She can even tell the difference between different recordings of the same music and insists on Anne-Sophie Mutter's interpretation of the Tchaikovsky. She expresses her displeasure if you try a different rendition on her.
I will cherish to the day I die the memory of Christmas Day 2003 when she and I laid on the floor of our living room for more than an hour, cheek to cheek, listening to Itzhak Perlman play the Mozart concertos.
Two weeks ago she uttered her very first word: "On," as in "turn on the music." It has become my favorite word in the English language.
Is life easy for her parents? Absolutely not. Caring for my granddaughter requires extraordinary measures of grace and self-sacrifice on their part. Yet God has given them an intense love for Cleo. And family and friends have rallied to provide them support and allow them some relief from the stress and strain of their circumstances.
In researching the Schiavo case, I viewed some video clips of her interactions with physicians and family members. I was surprised to see a bed-ridden woman who sees, smells, feels and hears.
She recognizes and smiles readily at familiar voices and faces.
She listens to and responds to music.
Yet, she has been diagnosed by physicians as being in a "persistent vegetative state," the legal magic words that trigger the right to remove feeding or life support systems from her.
Do you see why this hits a little too close to home for me?
My granddaughter's condition is not that far removed from Terri Schiavo's.
....I can grieve for Terri Schiavo as her life slips away from deprivation of food and water.
And I wonder if some judge some day will claim the power to rule that my granddaughter Cleo's life is not worth living.