September 9, 2009 • 2:58 AM
David Brooks recently added a couple editorials on health care reform. While still remaining carefully agnostic on this issue, I enjoy the way he turns a phrase and his moderate to slightly right vantage. In one of these editorials, he recommends to the President a recent Atlantic article (that I mentioned in an earlier post as necessary reading in this health care reform season).
From “The Obama Slide,” August 31, 2009
The administration…has joined itself at the hip to the liberal leadership in Congress… The result is the Obama slide…. The public has soured on Obama’s policy proposals. Driven by this geneneral anxiety, and by specific concerns, public opposition to health care reform is now steady and stable…Amazingly, some liberals are now lashing out at Obama Some now argue that the administration should just ignore the the ignorant masses and ram health care through using reconciliation…This would be suicidal. You can’t pass the most important domestic reform in a generation when the majority of voters think you are on the wrong path…The second liberal response has been to attack the budget director, Peter Orszag. It was a mistake to put cost control at the center of the health reform sales job, many now argue. The president shouldn’t worry about the deficit. Just pass the spending parts. But fiscal restraint is now the animating issue for moderate Americans. To take the looming $9 trillion in debt and balloon it further would be to enrage a giant part of the electorate…This is a country that has always been suspicious of centralized government. This is a country that has just lived through an economic trauma caused by excessive spending and debt. Most Americans still admire Obama and want him to succeed. But if he doesn’t proceed in a manner consistent with the spirit of the nation and the times, voters will find a way to stop him… The president’s challenge now is to halt the slide. That doesn’t mean giving up his goals. It means he has to align his proposals to the values of the political center: fiscal responsibility, individual choice and decentralized authority.” via Op-Ed Columnist – The Obama Slide – NYTimes.com.
From “Let’s Get Fundamental,” September 3, 2009
If I were magically given an hour to help Barack Obama prepare for his health care speech next week, the first thing I’d do is ask him to read David Goldhill’s essay, “How American Health Care Killed My Father,” in the current issue of The Atlantic. That essay would lift Obama out of the distracting sideshows about this public plan or that cooperative option. It would remind him why he got into this issue in the first place.The essay is about the real problem: the insane incentives…Goldhill is especially good on the way the voracious health care system soaks up money that could go to education, the environment, economic development and a thousand other priorities. Health care, he writes, “simply keeps gobbling up national resources, seemingly without regard to other societal needs.” Then I’d ask Obama to go to the Brookings Institution Web site and read a report called “Bending the Curve: Effective Steps to Address Long-Term Health Care Spending Growth.” …This report also focuses on the key issue: perverse incentives. It’s got a series of proposals on how to restructure insurance markets, reorganize provider payments, change the way effectiveness-research findings are implemented and cap the employee tax deduction…If I had a magic hour with the president, I’d tell him he can shift back to the core issue: the perverse incentives that make this system such a mess. He can embrace proposals—like the Brookings proposals or, more comprehensively, the Wyden-Bennett bill — that address the structural problems instead of simply papering over them…There are many people telling him to go incremental. They’re telling him to just enlarge the current system a bit and pay for it by pounding down a few Medicare fees. But did Barack Obama really get elected so he could pass the Status Quo Sanctification and Extension Act? This is not the time to get incremental. It’s the time to get fundamental. Reform the incentives. Make consumers accountable for spending. Make price information transparent. Reward health care, not health services. Do what you set out to do. Bring change. via Op-Ed Columnist – Let’s Get Fundamental – NYTimes.com.
Filed under: Health Law, Reform, Health Reform
September 5, 2009 • 2:41 AM
I’ve been a big fan of the TED Talks (here, here, here). I’ve also started reading the Marginal Revolution blog after reading Brooks article not long ago that reference an idea that the blog posted. I think I made a quip about having enough reading on my blog list and that they better impress or I’d drop them like week old kung po chicken in my fridge. The blog’s still in my fridge and it’s still tasty.
In any event, I read that Alex Taborrak, one of the authors of the blog and holder of the Bartley J. Madden Chair in Economics at George Mason University, had been invited to make a TED Talk about globalization. The talk, which I very much liked, is posted below and worth a watch (or listen — podcasts on itunes) since it is looking like we might be slouching off the hang-over from our last several bubbles and this so-called Great Recession.
His theme — economic development in other counties increases the most important marketplace, that of ideas which benefits all nations and peoples — is, I think, optimistic, forward thinking and (the sunnier part of me cries out) ‘spot on’. He likens the world’s population to a massive computer whose CPUs have been mostly off for lack of wealth driving education maximizing people’s potential. In other words, if all Einstein could have done would be to work in a farm field, would he have been able to develop and allow us all to benefited from his illuminating ideas?
In the last half the the 20th century, wealth creation throughout the world has been driven by the implosion of trade, communication and political barriers. This has been particularly robust for the peoples of China and India. And this explosion has transformed and expanded marks in human ideas — and certainly every other conceivable economic market. Even Africa is seeing a better future. (cf a related post of mine that discusses lost opportunity even in the United States educational system (here)).
And yet, another cynical part of me also looks back at the other history of the 20th century and I wonder if the walls and barriers to development could not go up again as fast as they have fallen. If you want to wallow in gloom, take a listen to Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcasts of the WWII eastern front battles Ghosts of Osfronts I, II, III – available on itunes or here. But I, for one, won’t be Eeyore tonight. Check out his talk.
Alex Tabarrok on how ideas trump crises | Video on TED.com.
Filed under: Personal Posts, Economics, Education, Globalization, History, TED Talks
September 5, 2009 • 1:30 AM
September 1, 2009 • 2:34 AM
Every year since we’ve been at our house we’ve had an annual bonfire and star party. We get some of the neighbors and our friends together, build a small fire and make some smores. We do it right around the time of the annual Perseid meteor shower. We tend to miss the peak by a few days, but we always seem to see a few. And, as we always do, we got out my two telescopes and showed the neighborhood a few night sky objects.
This year Jupiter was the only early evening planet visible; but it is my favorite. (Saturn’s close — but setting too early in the evening this year’s August). Here’s a photo of how Jupiter looked for us through my Meade ETX 125, courtesy of another amateur using the same scope as I have. Jupiter is great because the kids (and parents) can immediately identify it. It was really appropriate this year, the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first astronomical use of the telescope. The kids kept asking what the stars were that surrounded Jupiter. They loved the fact that they were Jupiter’s moons. They even suffered through me talking about the volcanism of Io, the oceans under the surface ice of Ganymede and Europa and how Galileo confirmed the Copernican world view by asking the same question that they had.
Even with the city lights, we were able to get a few deep sky sights in scope. After a little star hopping (aided by a new friend to our family – Tom – a geek like me who likes amateur astronomy), we were able to get the great Hercules cluster in my larger 8″ home built dobsonian scope. The cluster (M13) is a globular cluster with about 200,000 stars sitting in the halo of our Milky Way Galaxy. In the scope it looks like a dandelion fluff. Impressive when you think that it contains that many stars — but a bit less identifiable than Jupiter. Here’s what it looks like in a scope like mine after a few minutes exposure. As I said, in my scope, with city lights and lower magnification — more of a smudge.
I was also able to get M39, an open cluster, in my larger scope. Unfortunately, by the time I got it in focus, most of our guests had taken off. I wish I had gotten it in view earlier, because it probably would have gotten more of a response than the Hercules cluster. The stars in the open cluster are gorgeous in the scope, almost like jewels. Here’s a picture of them through a much larger telescope — certainly not what they look like through mine — but it very much catches the effect.
Most important to me, my kids got a kick out the the evening. They didn’t last that long — my youngest was going to bed only just after sun set. Noelle got to see most of the sites. And, of course, she had her fair share of smores. I’m already looking forward to next year.
Filed under: Personal Posts, Astronomy, Fun, Personal