Monday, June 28, 2010

Mental health break

At the top?

Change in home value since purchase.... From

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Source: DoD Afghan Economic Sovereignty, Mineral Wealth Briefing The source of the breathless reports that recently flooded the news re $1T in Afghan mineral wealth ... Looks like over half is iron ore, despite press accounts of lithium it does not appear on the list...

Great quotes

Picture credit: Debt Star

“When national debts have once been accumulated to a certain degree, there is scarce, I believe, a single instance of their having being fairly and completely paid.” - Adam Smith, in “The Wealth of Nations.”

“We have now imprisoned one generation of debtors after another, but we do not find that their numbers lessen. We have now learned that rashness and imprudence will not be deterred from taking credit; let us try whether fraud and avarice may be more easily restrained from giving it.” - Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

The Economist: A special report on debt. Repent at leisure

Sunday, June 27, 2010

MLR update

The Aug 28th, 2009 blog entry 'Health care re-form VIII (More nonsense)' discussed the use and abuse of the medical loss ratio, tried to explain what it really represents, and why "... high medical loss ratio good, lower medical loss ratio bad is about as useful a bleat as Animal Farm's "Four legs good, two legs bad! ..." and a misuse of the ratio.

Medical Loss Ratios & Health Insurance: Are You A "Constructionist" or an "Activist?" asks the question: "Will the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's (PPACA) 80% to 85% MLR requirement make this mash-up "better?" and suggests there are two ways to look at the subject (... what the writer terms "constructionist" and "activist", and not "yes" or "no").

Medical Loss Ratio: What Really Counts As Quality? asks the question, and gets answers/opinions from five 'experts.'

Meanwhile the Department of Health and Human Services is drawing up the regulations (on this subject) that insurers will have to follow to satisfy the new health law's requirement that insurers spend either 85% of premiums collected on medical expenses (large group market ) or 80% of premiums (small group and individual markets)...

A prediction: in a relatively short period of time, and as a result of this legislation, no health plans will have MLRs that exceed the statutory requirements... (though many do currently).

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Education emancipates?

The article 'The Dalits of India: education and development' discusses the importance of the role of education in "... diminishing the social effects of the caste system, which still remain entrenched in Indian society..." It looks at the historical context, explains "... why education is such an important topic in development studies...", and looks at what has been tried.

Its conclusion? "There have been many attempts over the past one hundred and fifty years to help increase the quality of life for the Dalits of India... Minor increases in incentives for Dalits to pursue primary education have been beneficial, but not sufficient in equalizing the enrolment gap between the Dalits and members of upper castes. In order for significant progress to be made in increasing the primary enrolment rates of Dalit children, development organizations must continue to explore varying levels of incentives and pursue national social equality in India..."

My conclusion: much more needs to be done... much, much more, to eradicate the evils of caste.

Previous entries related to caste:
Misc update (caste) - Aug 29, 2009
Updates - #3 - Aug 25th, 2008
Frame of Reference - June 27th 2008
Caste - May 26th 2008

Note: From the picture source link, read the accompanying text:

"... The prime part of the village was occupied by the Naidu community, a caste of landowners. The next area comprised residences of washer-folk and other castes who served the Naidu community. The regions where the people even lower down in the caste hierarchy resided were further down the village road. The ``untouchables'' lived separated from the main village by about half a kilometer. This was the cleanest and best-maintained part of the village even though the people here lived in conditions of great economic hardship.

On the economic front, the landowners controlled the economy of the village. Land ownership was confined to the upper castes, while the lower castes eked their living by selling their labour. Payment to the lower castes was rarely in cash, and was instead given in the form of foodstuffs, paid once a year.

There were numerous social restrictions on the lower castes: lower caste people were not permitted to enter the upper caste areas freely, on the pain of physical punishment. Lower caste men were required to step off the road if an upper caste person was using it.

Lower caste children were allowed into the nearby school (not shown in the figure), but had to sit on the floor at the sides of the class room; the benches were for the use of upper-caste children. Girl children who reached puberty were not permitted to continue schooling, irrespective of their community of birth.

There was one bore well in the village that supplied drinking water, which the lower castes were forbidden to use. The untouchables had their own (open) well.."

Friday, June 25, 2010

Update (Victims)...

Previous blog entries had discussed the evolution of how the "blame" for the housing crisis was being allocated - the 'Crashing the party' entry of September 2008 listed the numerous parties (the public, the politicians, the regulators, and industry) with a role in the crash; the October 2008 entry 'The elephant (and donkey) in the room', observed how the politicians were focusing the blame (on others, so as to give themselves a free pass); while the 'Musical chairs' entry showed pictorially how blame was being shifted to "fat cat" bankers...

This blogger recently ran across this article, They Keep Stealing - Why Keep Paying? Reading this it has become clear that the process is now completed, and memories have been 'sanitized' No one retains any responsibility except for "them" (unnamed banks, CEO, and other assorted guilty...), everyone else is a victim...

Quote: "... You didn't cause this mess. They did. Now you are struggling to make the same payments on this mortgage on your now overpriced home even in light of a crashing economy and massive deflation, all while the government does everything in its power to help Wall St. keep the bonuses coming. Well, it is becoming time to take matters into your own hands... I suggest that you call your lender and tell them if they don't lower you mortgage by at least 20%, you are walking away. And if they don't agree, you need to consider walking away..."

Hmm, this is the best way of guaranteeing that this will happen again!

Previous housing-related blog entries:
Thank you California and Florida - October 26th, 2008
The elephant (and donkey) in the room - October 25th, 2008
Mortgage mess - October 7th, 2008
Wall Street vs. Main Street October 1st, 2008
Crashing the partySeptember 27th, 2008
Confused and nowhere to go (updated)September 24th, 2008
Truth RIP (updated 9/22)September 22nd, 2008
Finely calibrated reactionsSeptember 16th, 2008
Fannie and FreddieSeptember 10th, 2008
Fannie Mae and Freddie MacJuly 24th, 2008
Mortgage meltdown (update) - April 1st, 2008
Mortgage meltdownMarch 31st, 2008
Housing Stories III July 29th, 2008
Housing stories – IIMay 6th, 2008
Housing storiesApril 5th, 2008

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Source: Deepwater Gulf of Mexico 2009: Interim Report of 2008 Highlights

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

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Source: Fine handed down by Iran's morality police. Citation issued by NAJA (Iran police) to women for improper attire, and translation...

Misc update (identity)

The July 2nd, 2008 blog entry 'Registered Identity' and a May 25th, 2009 'Update' follow-up spoke to the issue of the low percentages of the inhabitants of some countries that have birth certificates or other official identity papers, as well as some of the disadvantages that result...

This recent article, 'Indonesia: Pengendum Tampung, "We don’t have birth certificates. You can’t do much without one", reinforces the point... while speaking of the many problems faced by his people - the indigenous "people of the forest" (Orang Rimba) in Indonesia - Pengedum Tampung says "... Orang Rimba don’t have birth certificates. You can’t do much in the outside world without one. You can’t vote or buy a motorbike or mobile phone. You can’t go to a regular school either..."

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Source: Roadmap shows the way for nuclear future "... Nuclear power could become the world's single biggest source of electricity, said a roadmap revealed today by intergovernmental agencies. Industry says the projections are not ambitious enough. The roadmap for the potential of nuclear in a world that reduces its carbon dioxide emissions by 50% by 2050 was produced by the International Energy Agency at the request of the Group of Eight industrialized nations (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the UK and USA)..."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


A comment related to the death of Benazir Bhutto kicked started this blog back in January 2008... Approximately two and a half years and one thousand five hundred and sixty five entries later, on what would have been her 57th birthday, 'BB murder: Pakistan objects on UN report' informs us that the Pakistani government has raised unspecified "concerns" regarding the United Nations report on her murder/death...

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Almost beautiful, until you realize what it represents... Source: Oil in the Gulf, two months later (from The Big Picture)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

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Source: Migration Maps: The Real Social Networks (II)

Color coding and safety...

The Feb 4th, 2008 blog entry, prompted by the lawsuit that the Quaids had filed against heparin-maker Baxter following the Cedars-Sinai medical error that gave their twins a serious overdose, disagreed with their contention that "... since a medical error in administration could lead to a dangerous or fatal result, the background colors should have been different... and... the vials should have been in completely distinguishable size and shape..." The entry argued that color-coding "... would contribute to the natural tendency of folks to use color and/or shape and size as a proxy or 'shortcut'. It could well be argued that making every label color uniform would improve patient safety, as providers would then be obliged to actually read the label and confirm the drug/dose rather than rely on color or some other visual cue.." and suggested that Quaid concentrate on other systems changes, such as bar-coding. Well, Quaid has joined up with others and is doing yeoman work spreading the word on preventing medical errors, see the Quaid Initiative for more information... However, he still seems to believe that color-coding would have helped, as evidenced by his re-filing of a lawsuit against Baxter in a different venue...

The subsequent Aug 18th, 2008 entry criticized Quaid for setting up his own foundation for attacking the problem of medication errors, rather than working with existing bodies... Well, in April 2010 the Quaid Foundation merged with The Texas Medical Institute of Technology (TMIT) - "... a medical research organization, founded in 1984, dedicated to accelerating performance solutions that save lives, save money, and build value in the communities we serve and ventures we undertake. Our core values drive our behaviors and in turn drive our culture. TMIT applies the Institute of Medicine's (IOM) design principles of patient-centeredness, evidence-based medicine, and systems performance improvement..."

A number of organizations are circulating an e-petition to the FDA on the subject of eliminating "look alike, sound alike drugs" While seeking the elimination of an existing color scheme (where different container and cap colors were aligned with different therapeutic classes e.g. green for miotics), their insistence that no two drugs/strengths look alike would of necessity lead to a complicated color scheme.

Is this a good idea? This blogger would think not. In fact the pictorial examples that they present (see above, more examples at the link) as prima facie examples of problems are exactly what this blogger would argue for i.e. identical label color schemes - so that providers have to read the labels to know the ingredient rather than relying on color-related short cuts.

This blog entry would seem to agree....

Previous related blog entries:
Color-coding is this a good idea? - Feb 4th, 2008
Founders - Aug 18th, 2008

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Source: CBO Presentation to the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform: Discretionary Defense Spending

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Misc updates

I. In Turkmenistan's capital they have started to take down the Neutrality Arch, ostensibly to improve "... urban design in Ashgabat..." This coincidentally also takes down the 39-foot high, golden, rotating (to face the sun), statue of current Turkmen strongman Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov's predecessor Turkmenbashi...

Previously blog entries referencing Turkmenbashi:
Brief Update... - Nov 4th, 2009
January is back - May 1st, 2008
OPED27 Turkmenbashi - no laughing matter - Sept 6th, 2002

II. Another use of QR bar codes: "... Have you ever come across an unusual object and wanted to know its history? Soon you might simply be able to retrieve the details on your smartphone. That's the idea behind a new scheme for creating web pages about physical objects. Its creators say it could change the way we store memories about objects and even places..." See: Barcodes help objects tell their stories.

Previous barcode-related blog entries:
Misc. barcode updates - Jun 3rd, 2010
Barcode happiness - II - Apr 11th, 2010
Barcode happiness - I - Apr 11th, 2010
Misc update - Jan 30th, 2010
Barcode update - Dec 29th, 2009
No luck - Dec 15th, 2009
QR codes to hit the U.S.? - Dec 13th, 2009
Misc. update (BB/2D barcodes) - Aug 22nd, 2009
QR update - May 19th, 2009
BB & 2D barcodes - Apr 21st, 2009

III. The March/April 2010 blog entries 'A little war' and 'A little war II' reviewed the book by Ronald Asmus on the Russia-Georgia war of August 2008... and observed that his (Asmus) "... view of the happenings over the months leading to the "little war" are informed by his view of NATO. He conflates "democracy" and "NATO" as if these are synonymous terms... Georgia was turning towards democracy, ergo NATO membership would be a natural consequence or next step in that evolution. A key player in the earlier enlargement of NATO in the '90s, Asmus' assumptions that NATO expansion is logical and good, that no right-thinking person could find this problematic in any way, and that this expansion is a natural consequence of the expansion of democracy, color his view of the world and of the happenings in this period..." Following the war, NATO's eastward march stopped...

Last month the "Group of Experts" (chaired by Madeleine Albright) presented their recommendations on what NATO's new Strategic Concept should be... This also touched upon relations with Russia: "... It is clearly in NATO’s best interest to work with Moscow to build a cooperative Euro-Atlantic security order and to respond to such shared concerns as terrorism, nuclear proliferation, piracy and drug trafficking. “Partnership … is a two way street – but from the Alliance perspective, the door to cooperation with Moscow should remain open at all levels.” Some (e.g. see the Armchair Generalist's commentary linked below)

This month the Ukraine's parliament approved a bill prohibiting NATO accession, although Ukranian President Yanukovich did rule out recognizing South Ossetia or Abkhazia...

Ukraine drops NATO membership bid
Yanukovych Won't Recognize South Ossetia or Abkhazia
NATO's door remains open to Ukraine
NATO 2020: Assured security; dynamic engagement (Group of Experts Report)
NATO's Uncertain Future

IV. This May 2008 blog entry (reprint of a Jan 2002 oped) discussed Kashmir and suggested that a resolution of the "Kashmir problem" would "... significantly lower the nuclear threshold, and increase the risk of their use at a future point. Thus it is in everyone's interest that the question of Kashmir be resolved at this time when the risk of a nuclear exchange is low! The international community should push for a demilitarized and independent Kashmir as a solution to the problem..." Nothing much has "moved" since...

Recently Just 2% of people in J&K want to join Pak: Survey reported that a "... study by Robert Bradrock, a scholar from London's Kings College, that involved interviewing 3,774 people in both parts of Kashmir in September-October 2009 showed that 44% of people on the Pakistani side favoured independence, compared to 43% in Indian Kashmir. Bradrock says in the 37-page report on the survey that this would put an end for all times to come to the plebiscite route as a possible way to resolve Kashmir, since the only two options envisaged under the UN resolutions proposing plebiscite in 1948/49 were for the whole of Kashmir to join either India or Pakistan; azadi was not an option. But in the Valley, the mood for azadi still remained strong, with 75%-95% respondents favouring that as a final resolution..." This blogger continues to believe that Kashmiri independence is the way to go...

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Source: The Dangers and Difficulties of 'Bottom Kill' (Der Spiegel)

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Source: The Polarization of Job Opportunities in the U.S. Labor Market

Thursday, June 17, 2010

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Source: CEO Compensation. Abstract: This paper surveys the recent literature on CEO compensation. The rapid rise in CEO pay over the last 30 years has sparked an intense debate about the nature of the pay-setting process. Many view the high level of CEO compensation as the result of powerful managers setting their own pay. Others interpret high pay as the result of optimal contracting in a competitive market for managerial talent. We describe and discuss the empirical evidence on the evolution of CEO pay and on the relationship between pay and firm performance since the 1930s. Our review suggests that both managerial power and competitive market forces are important determinants of CEO pay, but that neither approach is fully consistent with the available evidence. We briefly discuss promising directions for future research.