Worthwhile Reading & Viewing

Bookworm attended an awards dinner for Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and reports at length on the honoree’s speech.  For those not familiar with Hirsi Ali:  raised as a Muslim in Somalia, she eventually moved to Holland, where she became of member of Parliament and collaborated on a film about Islam with Theo van Gogh, who was murdered.  Although she has been the target of many death threats, Ayaan Hirsi Ali has refused to be silenced.  Be sure to read Book’s well-written post.

BBC has a new documentary about Ada, countess of Lovelace…computer pioneer of the 1840s, daughter of the “mad, bad, and dangerous to know” poet, Lord Byron, and aficionado of gambling on the horses.

Once, there was an unpleasant political movement called the “Know-Nothings.”  Today, we have the Know-Betters,

Claire Berlinski writes about the growing phenomenon of ritual humiliations and denunciations.

Related to the above, a very interesting analysis of the evolution of society from Cultures of Honor–in which the individual must personally avenge wrongs and insults…to Cultures of Dignity–in which people are assumed to have dignity, foreswear individual violence, rely on the judicial system to to respond to major transgressions and sometime simply ignore minor transgressions (there’s no more dueling)…and now to a Culture of Victimhood, in which people are encouraged to respond to even the slightest unintentional offense, as in an honor culture–but they must not obtain redress on their own, rather, they must appeal to powerful others or administrative bodies.

Renowned physicist Freeman Dyson says that Obama “chose the wrong side” on the climate-change debate.  His thoughts on the psychology behind apocalyptic climate thinking are interesting,

11 thoughts on “Worthwhile Reading & Viewing”

  1. In keeping with my doom and gloom state of mind, this essay by Victor Davis Hanson does a good job of explaining California.

    Yet nowhere in America are there more billionaires. California’s long, thin coastal corridor has become a tony La-La land unto itself. Some of the highest housing prices in the nation and richest communities are clustered along the Pacific coastline, from the wine country and Silicon Valley to Malibu and Hollywood, dotted by marquee coastal universities and zillionaire tech corporations. Meanwhile, poorer people in the interior, in places such as Madera and Delano — far from Stanford, Google, Pacific Heights, and Santa Monica — require ever more public services. The very rich don’t mind paying the necessary higher taxes, while the strapped, shrinking middle class suffers or flees.

    I would love to leave for Arizona but my grandchildren and children are here. Oh well.

  2. The Political Calculations post is good. However, like most anti-Obamacare arguments it significantly understates recent medical cost increases by comparing only the most recent year to the previous year. The better comparison is vs. several years before, since insurers and medical service providers knew more regulation was coming and were raising prices in anticipation. Medical costs have been rising for many years, but the rate of increase really took off in 2008. Most people probably pay much more than $600/year extra for medical insurance as compared to five years ago, and much more out of pocket for medical services (which are now often of lower quality), and most of those increases are due to the knock-on effects of govt meddling.

  3. David, the Berlinski article and the other about “victimhood” are quite interesting.

    We are entering new territory as a society.

    ” it creates a society of constant and intense moral conflict as people compete for status as victims or as defenders of victims.”

    The loss of autonomy seems to be the new factor to me. We are dividing into two classes; those who still hold traditional morality, whether religious (Christian or Jewish) or not (I am agnostic) have been placed outside this new social justice movement. We are the gun owners and are largely white. Some others are joining this group like conservative blacks and a few Asians. There are many conservative Hispanics but they are mostly older and third generation.

    The SJW segment of society is made up of young Democrats and leftist students and young professionals who are salaried and have little experience with self reliance. I would think hikers and outdoors people would be in the self reliant group but the Sierra Club and other outdoors-like groups have converted mostly to passive Gaia worship. I don’t want to sound like a white supremacist but I do wonder about the future of these SJW types in terms of self rule and independent thought.

    It would be interesting to have a quiet but deep survey of people like Google engineers, a high income, high tech subset of the culture. They are living mostly in San Francisco and I wonder how many are married and having children yet. It would be an interesting Sociology study if only Sociology could be trusted.

    I see a shift in medical students. They no longer expect to run their own practice but to work on salary and they are being severely regimented by the new regulations of Obamacare and other medical innovations like the Electronic Medical Record. The New England Journal, a notably leftist medical paper in editorial policy, has a lead article this week on the electronic health record and it is highly critical of its effects on medicine. One criticism is that the EHR, as it is called, has reduced productivity by physicians by 25% with no corresponding benefit in quality. Physicians are now the most regimented people in society with the possible exception of college students.

  4. “and much more out of pocket for medical services (which are now often of lower quality)”

    My younger daughter is now uninsured after I maintained heath insurance for her ever since I became Medicare eligible. This has devastated the young. Applying for Medicaid, which is what Obamacare is, has gotten so difficult that most kids I know of just don’t bother and trust to luck.

  5. I would think hikers and outdoors people would be in the self reliant group but the Sierra Club and other outdoors-like groups have converted mostly to passive Gaia worship.

    Most of the people I know through shared outdoor activities seem to enjoy the recreational and social aspects of such activities without seeing them as having anything to do with self-reliance. Perhaps people who live in rural areas would see things differently. IOW, people tend to interpret their experiences in light of their existing beliefs, at least in the short run. Also, for every Sierra Club dude doing multi-day backpacking trips there are probably hundreds or thousands who aren’t very active but enjoy contributing to the cause and posting the nice calendars in their kitchens (I am assuming there are still many people using paper calendars).

  6. Jonathan, here’s the longer term chart:


    You’re right that prices have accelerated up during Obama’s era of “The Great Skyrocket”

    The other thing this chart shows is an increase in the late 80s. Tyler Cowen mentioned this awhile back.
    The theory is Medicare reform cause a perverse incentive for doctors to use more expensive procedures:


  7. “I would love to leave for Arizona but my grandchildren and children are here.” I take it you can’t persuade them to leave? My daughter has already turned down jobs in Melbourne and Miami, but I don’t know how long she’ll stay in Britain.

  8. The various failings and drawbacks of the state’s takeover of medicine are immaterial to those who favor state control of all major segments of the economy.

    The mistake that people who truly are concerned with proper, innovative, and economical health care make is that they assume those supporting the state program have the same objectives because all sides talk about their ideas as improvements in those areas.

    This is a common error, and occurs whenever those who advocate the expansion of the state adopt talking points that appeal to people’s natural desires for improved services. The track record of these state takeovers and expansions, however, is remarkably consistent—the new programs and politicized systems invariably provide less service at a much higher cost than anything they were supposed to “reform”.

    The response to any statist who starts talking about improved costs or expanded services as being the motive for these proposals is “no, that’s not why you favor this program”.

    The true purpose is the acquisition of political power over a critical aspect of people’s lives, and the ability to control, and subvert, large amounts of resources that would otherwise be spent without regard to political considerations or ideological correctness.

    We must stop letting the progs and their collectivist followers set themselves up as occupying the high moral ground simply because they talk about desirable values as if their ideas could ever achieve them. They must be relentlessly required to address the myriad failures their ideas have invariably caused whenever they’ve been put in place, and not allowed to get away with their usual vague assertions that all sorts of good things will just happen if they’re allowed to control this industry or that profession.

    The US, at present, is getting just what we deserve for electing a front man for an ongoing criminal organization, not only once, but twice. If we allow this criminal syndicate to remain in power, and expand its influence and control, then the nation will be impoverished and crippled from within much more severely than any external opponent could ever have done.

  9. David – This post reminds me of many of my own. In fact, over time I used it enough so that I decided I needed a three-level classification. From bottom to top it’s “Worth Reading”, “Worth Study”, and “Worth Buying”.

  10. “The theory is Medicare reform cause a perverse incentive for doctors to use more expensive procedures:”

    The 1986 DRG reform was to cut costs of hospital stays but hospitals started to hire
    “code consultants” to teach them how to game the system and doctors were frequently told what codes to use, no matter what they thought.

    Then the RBRVS Medicare “reform” was specifically designed to devalue expensive technology and procedures, The AMA and Harvard School of Public Health cooked this up. There were some ridiculous errors. One of these was to value some non-cardiac procedures higher than open heart surgery.

    Paying based on effort rather than effect skews incentives, leading to overuse of complicated procedures without consideration for outcomes.[3] Contrast with evidence-based medicine (EBM), which is based on outcomes.
    According to this critique, RBRVS misaligns incentives: because the medical value to the patient of a service is not included in how much is paid for the service, there is no financial incentive to help the patient, nor to minimize costs. Rather, payment is partly based on difficulty of the service (the “physician work” component), and thus a profit-maximizing physician is incentivized to provide maximally complicated services, with no consideration for effectiveness.

    This, if it took place at all, came along after I retired. There was definite devaluation of long and complex operations.

    The AMA receives approximately $70 million annually from these fees, making them reluctant to allow the free distribution of tools and data that might help physicians calculate their fees accurately and fairly. Those are the fees for using the AMA’s Current Procedural Terminology.”

    The AMA basically stole the work of the California medical association which wrote the ‘Relative Value Scale” over a period of 20 years to estimate the value of procedures. The FTC sued the CMA about 1972 and demanded that the RVS be withdrawn and that all copies be destroyed. This was ridiculous because the “Value” was not in the scale. It was no price fixing which was the Johnson Administration argument. For a few years we used Xeroxed copies as every insurance company and Medicare all used the RVS for billing.

    The the AMA came out with the “CPT codes” that we were all required to use and they were identical to the RVS. Basically, the AMA took over without paying CMA anything and that is still the cash cow of the AMA and the feds require its use.

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