Sunday, February 24, 2013

Unable to grasp the root of any problem Cont. - Healthcare

Healthcare chews up nearly 18% of GDP here in the U.S., about 2X its take in the other major industrial economies in the West. What do we get for our "double the price"?

Ripped off, that's what we get. The very name - "Healthcare" - is definitely the greatest misnomer in common usage today. At best it is "Sickcare" and it is more fairly described as "extortion during illness care".

I am not a physician. I wouldn't know a cell membrane from a mell cellbrane. I do possess are radically enhanced ability to count. I had reason to do some research on the outcomes for the standard treatment of various cancers - and, unfortunately there is scant (no) data to support the idea that anything modern medicine does in the treatment of many cancers does anything to extend life by very much, especially in the case of solid malignancies. There is real evidence of life extension for just a few cancers: Hodgkins Lymphoma, Childhood Leukemia, Testicular cancer, Anal cancer, and a few other cancers.

(The Cancer industry has a tremendous advantage in their false promises and exaggerated claims campaign - there are no control groups. No one withholds treatment from a control group in order to make a scientific comparison between treated and non treated populations. However, even with this coup for their propaganda effort there is no hiding the outcomes.)

From the article immediately above:
But it would be wrong to ignore the government task force’s conclusions. Given that slow-growing cancers may not need to be detected early to be cured, and that fast-growing ones may be fatal regardless of when they are found, the fact that its review of the available epidemiological data shows that P.S.A. testing does not save lives from prostate cancer should not come as a huge surprise.
Many practicing physicians know this (or feel this) anecdotally. Read this piece on "Why Doctors Die Differently".

(Sorry to be supplying so many links. This is such a brutal/touchy subject that I felt it better to source every assertion.)

I think you have the idea. For many cancers it does not matter when we are diagnosed - they cannot be "caught in time". In these cases, our fate is ineluctable. No amount of "cut, burn, and poison" (surgery/radiation/chemo) will change the outcome (or the date of the outcome). In fact, these treatments might subtract months or years from our "healthspan", or the time we have to live life. Of course, the Cancer Industry would itself die a quick death if The People actually believed and understood the data (little chance of that happening. Hope springs eternal - especially for "free" healthcare services).

So if all of the above is true, why would the marketplace pay a median (the average is certainly higher) annual compensation of nearly $300k to American oncologists? They have no discernible value - why would we pay them? (A number of other specialty medical fields come to mind regarding no discernible value. Back surgeons, anyone? And their median annual compensation is much greater - about $800k). Well, partly because we have no "marketplace". For most, healthcare is "free" (insurance pays).

There is an old saying in business: "That which is not measured is not managed." For the most part, there is no independent/outside auditor measuring the outcomes of medical treatments. No one is minding the store. There is a never ending stream of propaganda/advertising. (Don't you love those photo layouts of brain scan/XRAY's in TV and magazine commercials? A couple of models are looking pensively at the lit up white board at the mass in your brain as if looking at it will somehow cure you and leave you living happily ever after... and why is it always some old, bald, white guy and a too young to be a physician/beautiful Asian woman as the models in these commercials? Cue the theme music and "GE, we bring good things to life!!!!" Just not to the patient's life.)

OK. This is where I am going with this... Got that? From the article:

Stephanie was then told by a billing clerk that the estimated cost of Sean’s visit — just to be examined for six days so a treatment plan could be devised — would be $48,900, due in advance. Stephanie got her mother to write her a check. “You do anything you can in a situation like that,” she says. The Recchis flew to Houston, leaving Stephanie’s mother to care for their two teenage children. 
About a week later, Stephanie had to ask her mother for $35,000 more so Sean could begin the treatment the doctors had decided was urgent. His condition had worsened rapidly since he had arrived in Houston. He was “sweating and shaking with chills and pains,” Stephanie recalls. “He had a large mass in his chest that was … growing. He was panicked.”

This medical practice took nearly $84k from a person at the most vulnerable moment in their life for a treatment that does not extend life? The family did not have enough money to stroke the check themselves... obviously, they don't have college/weddings/down payment on homes saved for their children. What resources the family does have is up 1 generation, and they are going to spend it on a treatment that has NO DISCERNIBLE BENEFIT. And Bernie Madoff got a life sentence while these people are "respected" professionals?

Am I the only normal person left?

The answer to all of this is to force people to buy health insurance?

This is what happens when innumerate people control the system and the dominant political party.

This is one of the great failings of technology. We get to know what is going to kill us so far before it does and we get to sit there and think about it while an industry springs up to take complete advantage of us at our most vulnerable moment. That industry is causing the real economic hardship and angst for The People. Any politician or administration that wants to survive the next election has absolutely no incentive to reign in Healthcare costs. Think about it. What would happen to the "economy" if Healthcare spending were suddenly dropped from 18+% of GDP to the 9% of GDP found elsewhere in the West? A contraction of 9% would be in line with the Great Depression and much worse than the Great Recession of 2008-09.

Hence Obamacare.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Unable to grasp the root of any problem

The shrill cry from the Liberal Establishment about the environment, health, food, energy, education is deafening at times - and inaccurate most of the time.

A group that can clearly see the "root causes" of poverty and crime go deaf, dumb, and blind when it comes to the root causes of the above mentioned issues.

The problem of American obesity was caused by the food industry? No doubt this industry has its hand in the cookie jar at the end of a string of systemic constructs that conspired to make America overweight.

The problem, as it is envisioned in article after article, is all that nasty processed and fast food we are eating. A "no sh#1, Sherlock" moment if ever there was one ensues. It never occurs to the people promulgating these articles/propaganda (remember, Jeffers media theory... no article makes its way into the media without being paid for and then vetted by the Liberal establishment) that the food industry is responding to demand from the market place. A market place filled with people that work 8 or 9 hours per day (on average) and commute over an hour per day (on average). How does one shop (for a family, after all the article is talking about obese kids, right?) for whole foods (not the f***ing store. I am mean the thing that that corporation took as its name) that require someone to actually plan, acquire, cook, serve, and clean up afterward if one has left the house at 7:45AM and returned home at 6:00PM? It cannot be done. I don't give a good fart how many articles these same scum bags post titled "20 wholesome meals in 20 minutes!!" It is not humanly possible to shop for nutritious family dinners, bring the proceeds of the necessary shopping into the home, organize it, plan the meal, cook it, sit down with the family and eat it, and then clean up. What freaking planet does the schmuck with the 20 minute thing come from?

It is as simple as that. We have designed a system whereby most people cannot even afford to feed their children (look, 1 in 6 Americans are on Food Assistance from the Federal Government - nearly all of this goes to families with children), and in a system where both parents must work outside of the home in order to fund their future divorce, social security for their parents (notice I said for the parents of today's workers... the government is absolutely, positively going to default AGAIN by raising the age for benefits AGAIN. Raising the age of benefits (changing the rules AFTER taking someone's property) is the very definition of reneging and defaulting), health insurance (I will get to that cluster f**k in a moment), and property taxes (to fund the pensions that government workers have that The People will not have).

The Liberal Establishment refuses to delve into this as they simply must censure this discussion as it might lead to an examination of corporate servitude, the gender roles within the family, and the undoing of the family itself. If they do not censure this discussion their political base might well come to its senses and  the Liberal Establishment cannot have that.

(Americans NEED immigration because Americans cannot afford to raise children. Think about that assertion for a moment. The more educated and achieved an American is, the less likely they will procreate at the replacement rate (2.1 children per woman), but this decline in fertility has now spread to the lower middle class/working class/poor. Hence the never ending battle over immigration.)

While our "Lifespan" has been extended greatly in the 20th century, our "Healthspan" has not. People regularly live into their 80's now, but they do not regularly work unimpeded past 60 or so, the Healthspan of the average American. Oh, they may "work" but people that age are dramatically less productive than they were. Americans are entering the work force later and later, ostensibly for "education", but they do not get those years tacked on to the end of their careers for the most part (there are exceptions, of course) leaving less time to pay off that mortgage, raise those kids, and save for old age.

(I love that euphemism - "Retirement". Americans just can't say Old Age or TFO (Too F***ing Old) when the fact is that every person with good luck will eventually be TFO. The unlucky don't life long enough to worry about that. My father used to say "They make old fools and bold fools... they don't make old, bold fools". If you are lucky you will experience old age, not retirement.)

Our kids are fat, we are fat, for 2 very good reasons. There were not enough workers for the Corporations from the 60's until 2000. Women were dragged away from their families to work as Corporate Servants. Feminism claims responsibility (and I used to believe they were correct) for this, and considering how much I despise that group I am tempted to stick the blame tag on them... but it just ain't so. Feminism DID convince women that this was a good idea and that it was in their best interests, which was complete horse sh#!, but that is another story. The second reason is TV. Not just watching it as a sedentary slug but the influence it has on our lives.

Think about it. If women stayed home (I am NOT telling anyone what they should do! I am merely making an observation of our recent history and the outcomes attendant) and had and raised children there would not have been enough workers to staff the Corporations and the jobs traditionally held by women. Simple as that. By forcing the breakup of the family the corporations got their servants. Of course, no one was thinking about the impacts on the kids of the 1970's thru 2010 (there would be some delay for kids from the job surge of 1960 - 2000) and I think that the Obesity/Ritalin/Addiction/Incarceration spike in the population was simply an unintended consequence of millions and millions of unsupervised kids being fed copious volumes of junk and fast food, as well as being fed copious volumes of propaganda and bullsh#! from the TV/Media/Hollywood.

Now, here, in this time, post 2000... the Corporations do not have need of all of those workers. Somehow, it never dawns on the Left that the reformation of the family unit solves a number of problems caused by the Corporate Servant demand surge of the 1960 to 2000 period. We are not creating jobs sufficient to employ all of the new entrants into the labor force. If the system dragged women away from their families during that period of increased Corporate/Institutional servitude, perhaps recreating traditional roles will solve the unemployment and obesity problem in one fell swoop along with a number of other issues.

The American Left simply cannot survive without Feminism, The War on Men, and the Abortion issue. None of those can survive the revival of the family unit. This makes for one interesting battle.

BTW... this is not a hope for a revival of what has become the American Right. Those folks are easily as daft as the Left. I do hope for a revival of the individual and the family and a culture of personal responsibility with empathy and support for those that cannot care for themselves. In the best of all possible worlds those of us in the middle would drop kick the crazies at either end of the spectrum, and I think that that is at least as possible as anything else that will come out of the technological paradigm shift happening to the employment markets.

One can hope.

The Next Big Lie: Health and Health Insurance

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Oil, Solar, Wind, Money, Life

Oil continues to do its thing to the U.S and Europe.

In the case of Europe it is doing its thing faster, harder, and deeper. The U.S. has had the benefit of the salubrious lubricating effects of "Tight Oil" production and ethanol. Still, those resources and the .2 miles per gallon per year gains in fuel efficiency were not enough to increase Total Vehicle Miles Traveled.

Will domestic production increase 700k bpd in 2013 over 2012? That's the EIA's position. Will that come to pass? I think a pretty good chance. Will it be enough to overcome the decline in imports? It should at least come close (for that year). Vehicle miles traveled might actually go up year over year 2012/2013. If so I would bet that that would be the last yearly increase for a while.

Either way, Peak Oil imports, and with it Peak Oil, likely came and went for the U.S. The question now is will the rate of change be slow enough to allow the increase in wind and solar electricity generation and battery technology to overcome the decline in Oil? To my mind, that is a far more important question than will the world's central banks over or under do whatever the heck it is that they are doing.

World Oil supplies are being contested for right now, with the productive societies out bidding the less productive societies. The Oil will flow to the most productive, and the less productive will have to get used to less and get more efficient (like Greece, Spain, and Italy are doing right now).

The thing is, I never concern myself with societies, or countries, or peoples, or however people divvy themselves up. I concern myself with No. 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5, (and "Gramma") along with my extended family of 6 through 50 or so. In order to look out for No. 1, it really helps to know what it is that No. 1 wants. This is a big thing. It is absolutely impossible to get to where you want to go when you don't know where you want to get to. Seems absurdly simple.

Oh, yea? Ask any college student what it is that they really want to do (exactly), where they want to live (exactly), what they expect to pay for housing/healthcare/automobiles/insurance over a lifetime, how many children they want to have, when they want to have them, how much money they think they need to save each year and at what compounded rate of return they expect... they have no freaking idea.

Why is that?

Now if you really wanna f**k with their heads, ask them what their plan "B" is just in case their non-existent plan "A" doesn't work out the way they are NOT thinking about.

We are at one of the largest inflection points - on politics, energy, technology, debt, war, health (obesity) - in the history of mankind - and many young people are operating without a plan.

This goes for grown ups, too.

"That which is not measured is not managed."

"1/4 by the end of the first quarter." For those people working on commission or in some kind of quota job this is self-explanatory. For young adults under the influence of the university-industrial complex this might not be self-anything.

Family/Household income in America is a disaster. So the Federal Reserve has been successful at re-inflating asset prices. That's great - for me and other Wall Street types.

Along with Household/Family income real household wealth is in the crapper, too. People cannot sell their houses for what they are "worth" and the value of their financial assets won't take them very far.

Columbia University Economics Professor Joseph Stiglitz had this to say today about the lack of economic mobility here in America. This is an incredibly bright and thoughtful guy that just cannot put 2 and 2 together. His conclusion is f***ing spot on. His "why' is just FUBAR. The U.S. has never spent more on "education". The U.S. has never had a higher percentage of college educated adults in its population. The result? Far worse mobility than at any time in our history. His recommendation? We need to spend even more on "education", despite the fact that 2/3 of the over $1TRILLION in student loan debt is in default or deferment (not paying down their loan balance). Stiglitz might be a brilliant economist but I can tell you he has obviously never managed an investment portfolio. You see, any investment that does not yield enough cash flow to cover debt service is to be avoided like the freaking plague. It never occurs to these guys that there might be something else going on. WTF??!! To be fair... I think this guy is pretty smart - but he works for Columbia and is writing for the New York Times. "No man can understand that which his salary requires that he not understand". Or something like that.

Dear Professor Stiglitz: What the U.S. economy needs is the termination of all barriers to entry for any and all services (and goods). Stiglitz mentions how mobile things were 100 years ago. Wanna know why? Nothing required a license from the State!! Want to be an "accountant"? 100 years ago you hung up a shingle and went to work, usually after working for another guy that called himself an "accountant". Same with dentistry, lawyering, electricians, doctors, plumbers, carpenters. Let the market decide if it wants to pay $50,000 for a medical procedure because you went to Harvard, rather than $5,000 to a guy that learned how take out Gall Bladders from his Dad. The result will be fast and furious repricing of all of the things The People cannot afford.

Do you know why we have so many toothless people out in rural America? Because the Dentists have a very powerful lobby that has priced millions of Americans out of the ability to pay for dental care. So now instead of a hygienest on every corner doing cleanings and drill and fill repair work (do you really think it would take more than 4 weeks to learn how to drill and fill a cavity in a tooth?) we have dozens of people on every corner with gaping holes where teeth should (and would be, if they could afford dental care) be. This is the case for every other occupation that requires a "license" to work.

So how the hell did I tie Oil and State contrived barriers to employment together? Easy. I got that kind of mind.

Just kidding.

Actually, it was the Oil issue facing the U.S. that got me to thinking about the "system". As it turns out, while the Oil situation is and has been a disaster to the U.S. economy (if Oil was still $20 per barrel and imports were continuing their multi decade growth patter does any one in their right mind think that the Household income, net worth, and employment would be the nightmare they are?) it has not brought the world to an end. It did, however, bring to an end the silly narrative that people born into poor and working class families were going to move up the economic ladder (by screwing up the economy) or that middle class people would achieve financial independence sometime before trying to figure out what Medicare, Part B meant to them personally... and, coincidently, combined with the incredible volume of knowledge and information now available at everyone's fingertips (not just ivy tower academics) thinking people are starting to question the very foundations of the "system" - The Federal Reserve. Income Taxes. Deficit Spending. Social Security & Medicare. Property Taxes. And more - and the conclusions they are coming to are most discomforting.

I have pointed out in excruciating detail why (and here, and here) even "rich" people will never, ever have financial security and can only ask why is it that they willingly waste 40 years of their lives striving for something that simply cannot be had? Giving up children & family, their health, their precious time on this earth... to concentrate their efforts on advancing in a system that concentrates all of the rewards in the top couple percent of the people? In what universe does that make sense (for the average individual)? And yet we do it.

We do it because the system has power over us. Food comes from the grocery store. Water from the tap. "Services" come from the government. We "need" insurance for Life, Health, and Liability - even though the combined take of this insures that we are stressed, unhealthy, and worrying about losing assets we don't really have. You can't make this stuff up. A Martian coming here and examining the lives and motivations of people living in the suburbs and commuting into Manhattan (or pick your city) would phone home wondering WTF is going on here.

Some of us will try to break free, but we won't make it. Our spouses, kids, friends, and extended families live in that universe, and some force akin to gravity wants us to live there, too. It pulls on us. It distorts.

But the garden is going in, the hams are hanging, and I put in a wood stove to heat the house and a cistern to supply our water. Maybe I can pull free... I wonder what the escape velocity (philosophy) of this particular gravitational field is?

You Grok?

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Financial (and Social) (In)Security

Saturday morning cartoons, nay, every kid media production, has evolved into one loooooong commercial to influence buying habits, influence votes, or to influence sympathies.

Sometime shortly after that unfortunate development that media strategy spread to adult media content. There is not single story written in the Mainstream Media that does not contain an agenda - even if that agenda only covers a by-line.

Read this article from Yahoo News about how Americans are being forced to put off "retirement" (defined as the day they quit working and sit around yelling at the TV).

Seems reasonable.

The writer's explanation:

The labor force has been getting older for decades for reasons that range from longer life spans and better health to companies' replacement of defined-benefit pensions with higher-risk 401(k) plans.
Also seems reasonable.

Of course its only partially correct. Yes, we are living longer and, yes, Corporations are no longer interested in being your lifetime provider. Nowhere does the article mention we have all become more and more financially insecure despite/because of decades and decades of tax creep from FICA taxes (Social Security/Mediacare payroll "taxes"). Nowhere does the article mention that our total career span is about the same - 35 years - and that we are starting later and finishing later - ostensibly to become "educated" (as if that only occurs under the watchful eye of someone else and only in your twenties). If one does not get serous about a career until 30, you know after a 5 year undergrad program, back pack Europe, and MBA, you will, by economic and mathematical necessity be required to work until at least 65. After all, you did not finish having children until your 40's, and you have a 30 year mortgage. Nowhere does the article mention that many of today's over 50 workers have sacrificed marriages and having children because corporations required that they be "educated" in order to work at jobs that required little training, weren't all that fulfilling, and resulted in the outcome that the article's featured hedge fund analyst has experienced at the end of his prime working years - not much money, no family, no home, no job.

And for this he slaved away in Wall Street salt mine?

The brutal reality is this: Funding Social Security and Medicare through FICA taxes and state income taxes (in the case of California) and/or property taxes (in the case of the Northeast Big Blue states) are the primary reasons that many people my age have no family (they could not afford children) and have no money. Yet Lefties like Senator Elizabeth Warren are worshipped for their deeply flawed research/writings/assertions on the subject. Go figure.

(Note that birth rates in the U.S have plummeted. This trend is nothing new. When I am bored I will graph the increase in FICA taxes per person and the fertility rate of Americans. I bet they correlate inversely 100%, not that that implies causation - except when it does.)

Not that FICA taxes and state income and property taxes (property taxes have enabled municipal workers to enjoy tremendous financial security at the expense of everybody else) are solely responsible. No, they are responsible for the preponderance of The People's financial insecurity. To be fair, there are some other (materialism/consumerism) contributing factors - but these other factors pale next to these. Well, sort of. The monthly bill from cell phones, internet access, and cable is really far more damaging than widely perceived.

Now the government has these people by the gishgas. This is how democracy/corporatocrocy works in 21st century America.


Gasoline prices are at a record for this time of year. But imports are down buy 1/3. This is not the drag on the U.S. economy that it was just 5 years ago. Europe is a different story.


I spent the last 2 weeks reading Ray Kurzweil's "The Singularity is Near". Stuart Staniford and Stephen B. recommended it to me. Fascinating. Peak Oil might well be just a "stressor", especially if Kurzweil's calculation on the development of Solar energy collection technology is correct, but The Singularity (or some sort of Singularity Light) might be something far, far more impacting.

I highly recommend the book.