Sunday, September 27, 2009

Health care is expensive - so is the newest and biggest plasma TV

Recently there has been quite a lot written about how expensive health care is. Which isn't surprising, because health care is expensive, especially if you want access to all the latest technology, which most people do when their lives are at stake.

But the truth is that health care is just like TV. If you're satisfied to watch a ten year old technology TV you can get one at Walmart for a hundred bucks. If you want the latest huge screen plasma model it's going to cost you ten or twenty times as much.

The next time you hear someone whining about the cost of a new wonder drug remind him that he can save a lot of money by using an old generic drug that's probably almost as good. If there is no old generic drug that treats his condition you can remind him that the new drug is very logically worth quite a lot if he would have died before it was invented.

The government charges a young person something like 14% of his income for Social Security, which is insurance that he will get a fairly minimal pension in his old age. By that standard the value of medical treatments which will let him live to old age is quite high.

But just how expensive is health care? It turns out that it's not very expensive at all considering the alternative. There is a website called that will quickly give you quotes on health insurance if you put in your age.

It turns out that a 25 year old can get catastrophic coverage with a high deductible for $40 a month, or he can get a gold plated policy for about $175 a month. Figure one day a month working at the local McDonalds for basic catastrophic coverage and a few days a month of minimum wage work for gold plated coverage.

The rates for a 61 year old are, not surprisingly, quite a bit steeper since he's quite a bit closer to his sell by date and is probably already a medical mess. But even so, a 61 year old can buy catastrophic coverage for about $200 a month, which he can net with about a week's work at the local Wawa even after the government grabs its taxes. It's true that gold plated coverage at about $1,000 per month is pretty much out of the ballpark for the 61 year old unless he's saved up and/or built up the skills to make significant income; but if he's 61 he should already know that anybody who ever promised him a rose garden was bullshitting. A 61 year old is too dumb to be worth saving if he doesn't already know that life ain't fair, and then you die.

Another thing that gets to me is the constant whining about how the cost of extraordinary health care is driving some people to bankruptcy. Even as I feel sorry for those people, it's very hard for me to avoid thinking that bankruptcy is a whole lot better than dead, which is what they would be without the extraordinary health care.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The great circle of life

It's the season of the fawns. Three of the cute little tykes have been gambolling oer the lawn, stretching their little legs, testing the strength of their little haunches. Their mothers move in somewhat more stately fashion.

All very picturesque and life affirming, until one of the mothers ceases to move in stately fashion and comes to just lie there with one unseeing eye staring up at the sky, proclaiming a very inconvenient truth, dead in the middle of the path behind the pond, flies gambolling around that one accusatory eye.

She was still alive the other day, that visible eye occasionally blinking, her breath shallow. She didn't seem to be suffering, unlike that other one with the hurt hoof a few years ago that somehow got himself all tangled up in the wild rose bush where he struggled and struggled. Thankfully this one died on her own, so I was spared the very unpleasant necessity of putting her out of her misery.

But she couldn't stay where she was. So I went out this morning with the tractor and dragged her to a less conspicuous spot. She's pretty well off the path through the old horse pasture, down near where the local kids dragged those rectangular clay drainage pipes and set them up as supports for benches around a firepit a few years ago. Nobody used that firepit this spring; and they certainly won't be using it this fall.

Early on, way back in 1979 or so, Mom got an introduction to the whims of the country just after she and Pop moved into Colwell's old house. Colwell's dog found a deer carcass in the woods and had a grand old time dragging ribs and long bones and big pieces of hide around the lawns. Unlike Pop, Mom was not amused. She wanted me to go down in the marsh and bury the carcass; but by the time the dog got to dragging pieces around there really wasn't much of a carcass to bury.

The good news is that there aren't any big dogs around to tear this new carcass apart and drag pieces of it all over the place; the bad news is that if something doesn't tear it apart it's going to raise quite a stink. I won't be walking the lower loop of the path through the old horse pasture until the cold of winter sets in. Other walkers will just have to take their chances.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Not quite the same as knowing about every feather that falls from a sparrows tail, but. . .

These researchers set up a couple of cameras to watch the sky over part of the desert in Australia. Then they calculated where a meteor fell based on the track it made on the videos. They found the tennis ball sized meteorite within 100 yards of the place their system predicted that it had landed.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Springtime for Putin and Medvedev

President Obama has done some very dumb political things since taking office. He's appointed people who have had obvious scandal problems and he's later had to withdraw their appointments. He badly underestimated the resistance there would be to the Cap and Trade energy tax that the Green wing of his party wants badly. And he was clumsy in the way he tried to sell his health care plan with the result that his Democratic Party allies have been put into bad political positions this summer.

But none of those mistakes were very surprising in light of the fact that he has not had much experience on the national scene. And none of those mistakes will necessarily doom Obama to being written down as one of the truly bad presidents, like Jimmy Carter. People forget that Bill Clinton, who is now considered a political genius, also made clumsy mistakes during his first few months in office. Lots of new presidents have made dumb mistakes early in their terms and then gone on to improve the quality of the advisors around them, reassess their plans and goals, and manage to do pretty well on the whole.

But today President Obama cancelled the missile defense system that's been negotiated for and planned for Western Europe since the Clinton Administration. As a result he betrayed the governments of Poland and The Czech Republic, which had each agreed to have one of the missile defense bases in their country despite knowing that it would cause them to get a lot of heat from the Russians. He made the Poles and the Czechs look profoundly stupid for trusting the U.S. and taking that heat over the past few years. And he gave a major psychological and political boost to Russia's thuggish leader Vladimir Putin, who had opposed the missile defense system even though it was not designed or planned to defend against Russian missiles but rather against potential Iranian or Pakistani missiles in the future.

This could have been put down to mere foolishness or inexperience on Obama's part if he had announced it last week, or next week, or even yesterday, or tomorrow. But he didn't do that. He announced it today, September 17th, of all days.

For those of you who didn't study any history in high school, today is the 70th anniversary of the Russian invasion of Poland in 1939. The Russians under Joseph Stalin invaded Poland on September 17th, 1939 as part of a cynical deal they had made with Adolph Hitler and his Nazi Germany to divide Poland up between them.

And on this day, of all days in the year, President Obama has betrayed the Poles and given a major concession to the Russians.

Anyone who thinks this is a mere coincidence, or the result of mere stupidity on the part of President Obama and his advisors must also believe in the tooth fairy. Certainly no one who has read anything about European history will believe it was a mere coincidence or the result of mere stupidity.

Vladimir Putin and Dymitry Medvedev certainly won't take it as a coincidence or mere stupidity. They will take it as a clear signal that the U.S. is no longer interested in central Europe and that the Poles and Ukrainians and Lithuanians and Latvians and Estonians are on their own. Those peoples, in turn will decide either to make accommodation with Russia or they will decide to prepare to resist, either of which will almost surely start again the whole insane central European power politics game that resulted in about a hundred million dead soldiers and civilians in the last century.

The lights will be on late tonight in every military headquarters and foreign office in Europe as prectical military men and diplomats start the process of revising all their plans and reassessing all of their assumptions about the future of peace in Europe.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Great news, if true

"The Arctic as we know it may soon be a thing of the past," says Eric Post, associate professor of biology at Penn State University.

I'm skeptical of Professor Post's belief that the weather in the Arctic will be toasty anytime "soon;" but I certainly hope that he's right. Just imagining all that land up in the north of Canada that will "soon" be toasty enough to produce amber waves of grain has me tempted to reach for a box of cereal.

But I was a bit surprised by another assertion included in the article about the discoveries of Post's team.

According to Science Daily: "The scientists found that the increase in mean annual surface temperature in the Arctic over the last 150 years has had dramatic effects."

I'm hard pressed to understand how the actions of man could be, like, totally, responsible for starting the Arctic to warming 150 years ago in light of the fact that man didn't really start producing significant CO2 until, like, many years after that. Could it be that Professor Post is one of those global warming deniers who admit that other factors might have something to do with the climate?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Caught in a blatant lie within 24 hours

While watching the president's speech last night I was suspicious about the story he told of the fellow who lost his health care insurance. Here's a fellow at who probably works in pajamas at his computer doing the job that the mainstream media would be doing if they weren't so deeply in the president's pocket that they're covered with lint and smell like Chinese Chestnut flowers in the spring.

Obama Misrepresents Insurance Case

From Mr. Obama’s address to the joint session of Congress last night:
“One man from Illinois lost his coverage in the middle of chemotherapy because his insurer found that he hadn’t reported gallstones that he didn’t even know about. They delayed his treatment, and he died because of it.”

This is the sad story of Mr. Otto Raddatz, a case that Mr. Obama has cited several times before, including in his August 16th editorial in the New York Times.

For the record, however, the case is not exactly the way Mr. Obama has characterized it, at least according to the sworn testimony of Mr. Raddatz’s sister.

From Ms. Raddatz’s opening statement, from pages 58-59 of the transcript (a pdf file) of the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigation Committee hearings on ‘The Termination Of Individual Health Policies By Insurance Companies,’ Tuesday, June 16, 2009:

Otto began more chemotherapy for purposes of preparing him for a stem cell transplant. In the midst of his chemo treatments, Otto received a phone call and letter from Fortis Insurance Company stating his insurance was canceled. It was rescinded all the way back to the effective date of August 7, 2004.

This meant none of his cancer treatments would be covered. Most importantly, he would not be able to receive the stem cell transplant need [sic] to save his life. My brother only had a very small window of time in which to have the stem cell transplant. He needed to be scheduled within the next 3 to 4 weeks.

My brother was told he was canceled during what they called a "routine review" during which they claimed to discover a "material failure to disclose". Apparently in 2000 his doctor had done a CT scan which showed an aneurysm and gall stones. My brother was never told of either one of these conditions nor was he ever treated for them and he never reported any symptoms for them either.

After months of preparation, the stem cell transplant could not be scheduled. My brother’s hope for being a cancer survivor were dashed. His prognosis was only a matter of months without the procedure.

Mr. Radditz was faced with having to pay for the stem cell transplant himself in order to save his life.

However, Mr. Raddatz’s lawyer sister contacted the Illinois Attorney General’s Office. They investigated and found that the doctor who did the CT scans could not remember whether he had ever told Mr. Raddatz about his findings.

Consequently, the insurance company overturned their original decision to rescind her brother’s coverage, and he was reinstated in the words of his sister, "without [any] lapse."

Again, from Ms. Raddatz’s sworn testimony:

After two appeals by the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, Fortis Insurance Company finally overturned their original decision to rescind my brother’s coverage and he was reinstated without lapse. This is after weeks of constant phone calls between myself and the Attorney General’s Office and we were literally scrambling hour by hour to get this accomplished so that my brother wouldn’t lose his 3- to 4-week window of opportunity that he had prepared for and lose his opportunity to have the procedure.

In other words, Mr. Raddatz’s did receive the stem cell transplant without delay.
Indeed, Ms. Raddatz does not seem to claim anywhere in her testimony that the insurance company’s actions shortened her brother’s life. (Though she does accuse them of having been cruel and unethical.)

From page 75 of the hearings transcript:

Mr. Barton. My next question is to the gentle lady there in the middle. Your brother, has he had his stem cell transplant? Ms. Raddatz. He did indeed receive the stem cell transplant. It was extremely successful. It extended his life approximately 3-1/2 years. He did pass away January 6, 2009, and he was about to have a second stem cell transplant. Unfortunately, due to certain situations, his donor became ill at the last minute and so he did pass away on January 6. But again, it extended his life nearly 3-1/2 years and at his age, each day meant everything to him…
This is not quite the impression Mr. Obama gives with his rendition of Mr. Raddatz’s story.
Despite Mr. Obama’s claims, Mr. Raddatz’s treatment was never delayed. And he did not die because of it.

Meanwhile, in this very same speech Mr. Obama accused others of misrepresenting the facts.

Hat tip to Kathry Jean Lopez of National Review who pointed to this post at

A great pick me up for when you're feeling dumb

Whenever you get to thinking that you've said or done something really stupid or inappropriate here's a column written by the Sports Columnist for the Orange County Register that will quickly convince you that you're not so stupid after all.

This is what he wrote about that young woman who was kidnapped and imprisoned in a shack as a sex slave for 18 years.

"It doesn't sound as if Jaycee Dugard got to see a sports page. Box scores were not available to her from June 10, 1991 until Aug. 31 of this year. She never saw a highlight. Never got to the ballpark for Beach Towel Night. Probably hasn't high-fived in a while. She was not allowed to spike a volleyball. Or pitch a softball. Or smack a forehand down the line. Or run in a 5-footer for double bogey. Now, that's deprivation."

Some jocks are dumb and some jocks are smart; but Mark Whicker, who writes about them, is dumb as a post, dense as lead and clueless as a conga drum.

If you want to read the whole column you can read it here:

Too perfect to require comment - but I will anyway

Three quotations to think about:

If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever.
- George Orwell

Wherever there is a jackboot stomping on a human face there will be a well-heeled Western liberal to explain that the face does, after all, enjoy free health care and 100 percent literacy.
- John Derbyshire

One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century.
- Thomas Friedman

Back in the 1920's liberals made excuses for "the excesses" of Benito Mussolini because he "made the trains run on time." In the 1930's liberals made excuses for "the excesses" of Adolph Hitler because he built superhighways and claimed he was building Volkswagens for the masses. In the 1940's liberals made excuses for "the excesses" of Joseph Stalin because he industrialized Russia. In the 1960's and to this very day, liberals make excuses for "the excesses" of Fidel Castro because he supposedly increased literacy in Cuba.

Here we are in 2009 and a liberal idiot is making excuses for "the excesses" of the jackbooted thugs who run China because those thugs are supposedly doing good things for the environment, which is untrue in any case. China's rulers are making polite noises to lefty environmentalist idiots like Thomas Friedman about developing alternative energy sources while they're building coal powered electricity generating plants and spewing out increasing amounts of pollution at a far greater rate than any other country in the world.

Does Thomas Freidman know this? Of course he knows it, every bit as much as his predecessor lefties knew that Uncle Joe Stalin was purposely starving millions of people in the Ukraine while the New York Times was writing about the Soviet economic miracle. For God's sake, the Chinese Communist government had to shut down the industries near Beijing in order to make the air quality decent enough to hold the Olympics. Does that sound like a country doing good things for the environment?

The more things change, the more things stay the same.

Hat tip to and to Jonah Goldberg of National Review who steered me to this.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A couple of questions for the president

I've been trying like hell, fairly successfully, to avoid listening to political ranting on the TV shows for the past couple of weeks. But, as a patriotic American, I was compelled to watch the president spout amazing nonsense for much of the 48 minutes that he addressed the joint session of congress earlier this evening.

So here I am, wondering if President Obama is the smoothest liar I've ever seen or heard of, or whether he managed to get through Harvard and several highly profitable years in Chicago and Illinois politics without learning anything about how government bureaucracies work.

For instance, he very forcefully said, several times, that he can pay for his entire massive health care program by saving more than a hundred billion dollars each year that's currently consumed by waste and fraud in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Now, as it happens, I'm very cynical about the competence of government bureaucracies, so I believe Medicare and Medicare are paying for quite a bit of fraudulent care; but even I don't believe they're being defrauded for over a hundred billion dollars a year. And if they are being defrauded for that much money, I fail to see why President Obama hasn't already done a wholesale shakeup of the management of those bureaucracies. If they're really wasting more than $12 Billion per month there should be bureaucratic heads rolling all over Washington, DC.

So I have a couple of questions that I hope some reporter will ask the president.

"Mr. President, you've said you can pay for your health care program by saving over a hundred billion dollars a year in fraudulent Medicare and Medicaid payments. And you have been in office for almost nine months. Why haven't you already done something to to stop such an outrageous amount of fraud?"

And here's a follow-up question:

"Mr. President, who is the great manager that you plan to put in charge of Medicare and Medicaid to stop all that fraud? Will it be the same sort of genius you put in charge of the cash for clunkers program that can't seem to pay it's claims within the two weeks that the law explicitly promised? Or will it be the kind of genius you put in charge of the stimulus program that has given hundreds and hundreds of billions of tax dollars into the care of the same executives who ran the huge banks that made a mess of the mortgage market with their bad decisions.