Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for November 20th, 2013

Why does America have such a serious shortage of doctors?

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Kevin Drum has an interesting post and chart:

Conservatives have picked up today on a Kaiser Health News piece reporting on doctor complaints that insurers plan to pay them less for Obamacare patients than for other patients:

Insurance officials acknowledge they have reduced rates in some plans, saying they are under enormous pressure to keep premiums affordable. They say physicians will make up for the lower pay by seeing more patients, since the plans tend to have smaller networks of doctors. But many primary care doctors say they barely have time to take care of the patients they have now.

Matt Yglesias is unsympathetic. He says American doctors are very well paid and should quit griping: “If we ever reach the point where American doctors have been squeezed so badly that they start fleeing north of the border to get higher pay in Canada, then we’ve squeezed too hard. Until that happens, forget about it.”

That’s pretty cold. But if you really want to know what’s going on, take a gander at the chart below. It’s from the OECD, so it includes all of the world’s relatively rich countries:

blog_physicians_per_capita

That’s damn peculiar, isn’t it? If Econ 101 is to be believed, higher pay should produce more doctors. And yet, even though the United States pays doctors far more than any other country on the globe, we’re in the bottom third. We have more doctors per capita than poorish countries like Mexico and Poland, but far fewer than Belgium and Britain and Germany—all of which pay doctors considerably less than we do here. So what’s going on? . . .

Continue reading.

Note that this is a specific instance of a business group that shows little or no concern for the common welfare. Indeed, by artificially restricting the supply of doctors, this business group is working against the common welfare simply for private gain.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 November 2013 at 12:48 pm

Posted in Business, Medical

Government should listen to business sparingly

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Businesses have one objective where government is concerned: make sure laws and regulations are passed that increase profits. Businesses have no interest at all in the common welfare. McDonald’s and WalMart advise their employees on things like getting food stamps (since those businesses refuse to pay employees a living wage. Adam Peck has a good post at ThinkProgress. From that post:

McDonald’s McResource Line, a dedicated website run by the world’s largest fast-food chain to provide its 1.8 million employees with financial and health-related tips, offers a full page of advice for “Digging Out From Holiday Debt.” Among their helpful holiday tips: “Selling some of your unwanted possessions on eBay or Craigslist could bring in some quick cash.”

Elsewhere on the site, McDonald’s encourages its employees to break apart food when they eat meals, as “breaking food into pieces often results in eating less and still feeling full.” And if they are struggling to stock their shelves with food in the first place, the company offers assistance for workers applying for food stamps.

And IBM and Microsoft just killed software patent reform, as reported by Tim Lee in the Washington Post:

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to consider legislation aimed at reining in abusive patent litigation. But one of the bill’s most important provisions, designed to make it easier to nix low-quality software patents, will be left on the cutting room floor. That provision was the victim of an aggressive lobbying campaign by patent-rich software companies such as IBM and Microsoft.

The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. He unveiled a new version of his bill last month, touting it as a cure for the problem of patent trolls. One provision would have expanded what’s known as the “covered business method” (CBM) program, which provides an expedited process for the Patent Office to get rid of low-quality software patents. That change would aid in the fight against patent trolls because low-quality software patents are trolls’ weapon of choice.

But the change could affect the bottom lines of companies with large software patent portfolios. And few firms have larger software patent portfolios than Microsoft and IBM. These companies, which also happen to have two of the software industry’s largest lobbying budgets, have been leading voices against the expansion of the CBM program.

The CBM program provides a quick and cost-effective way for a defendant to challenge the validity of a plaintiff’s patent. Under the program, litigation over the patent is put on hold while the Patent Office considers a patent’s validity. That’s important because the high cost of patent litigation is a big source of leverage for patent trolls.

The original CBM program, which was created by the 2011 America Invents Act, was limited to a relatively narrow class of financial patents. The Goodlatte bill would have codified a recent decision opening the program up to more types of patents. And advocates hoped that change would be a steppingstone to eventually subjecting all software patents to greater scrutiny.

But large software companies had other ideas. . .

Continue reading.

Businesses imply are not interested in the general good of the country. Not their department. But they sure as hell can do a lot to undermine the general good (cf. mining companies).

Written by LeisureGuy

20 November 2013 at 12:44 pm

Republican overreach will kill the filibuster

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Kevin Drum points out how we have come to this. From the (quite good) post at the link, he points out that the GOP seems to believe that only Republicans be nominated to Federal posts (including the judiciary). That is, they simply oppose anyone nominated by a Democratic president. Nominations, in their view, are strictly reserved for Republican presidents. This is insane.

Drum writes:

At various points over the past year, Republicans have refused to confirm any nominees to the NLRB so that it would lose its quorum and be unable to pass new rules; they have refused to confirm any chairman of the CFPB in order to prevent it from functioning at all; they have threatened to destroy America’s credit unless Obamacare was defunded; and now they’re refusing to confirm any nominees to the DC circuit court in order to preserve its conservative tilt. Reid eventually managed to cut deals on the NLRB, the CFPB, and Obamacare, but as Feinstein says, “We left with a very good feeling there would be a new day. Well, the new day lasted maybe for a week.”

Add all this up—the NLRB, the CFPB, the debt ceiling extortion, and the DC court filibusters—and it’s now clear that Republicans have no intention of allowing Obama to govern normally. Instead, they have adopted a routine strategy of trying to nullify legislation they don’t like via procedural abuse.

The GOP is a bad-faith party.

 

Written by LeisureGuy

20 November 2013 at 12:30 pm

Need for Internet security for appliances

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Brian Fung writes in the Washington Post:

Ten years ago, the word “smartphone” didn’t exist. By necessity, neither did the word “dumbphone.”

In a decade, we might talk about all of our appliances in similar ways. From ovens to garage doors to insulin pumps to vehicles, many of our devices are going to be connected to the Internet in the same sense that our phones are now. Certain such products are already on the market; one company, SmartThings, sells devices that help consumers control their lights and locks while they’re not at home, for example. Eventually, these items will be able to respond to signals from one another independent of human input. Your bathroom scale might tell your refrigerator that you’re overweight, and your fridge might start recommending healthier recipes.

That could be great, but it also vastly expands the universe of things that could go wrong, particularly when it comes to privacy. This might seem obvious, until you consider that many of the businesses that make these devices have never really needed to worry about securing their products before. Take dishwashers. At heart, they’re very simple machines. But a hacked dishwasher might start running on overdrive, going through multiple cycles, wasting gallons of water and costing you extra and possibly flooding your house. Although the folks who make dishwashers may be fantastic engineers, or even great computer programmers, it doesn’t necessarily imply they’re equipped to protect Internet users from the outset.

“It’s not just that the consumers don’t understand the technology,” said Jeff Hagins, co-founder of SmartThings, at a Federal Trade Commission workshop Tuesday. “It’s also that the people building it don’t understand it.” Hagins added, hypothetically: “Just because I know how to write PHP doesn’t mean I understand these vulnerabilities at all.”

The same holds true for the auto industry, where many companies have begun to experiment with new technologies that let cars communicate with one another. Tadayoshi Kohno is a researcher at the University of Washington who’s spent a lot of time deliberately hacking into cars to test their vulnerabilities.

“Very often we see sectors of the broader industry that are not computer science experts starting to integrate computers into their systems and then start to integrate networks into those systems,” said Kohno. “Because they don’t have experience being attacked by real attackers, like Microsoft and so on, their level of security awareness … appears to be dated.”

Hacking is just an extreme case. Short of that, . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 November 2013 at 12:08 pm

Fine shave with Petal Pushers

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SOTD 20 Nov 2013

 

Very pleasant shave, though I did change the Kai blade at the end. My Omega 20102 did a very fine job, and Petal Pusher Ciderhouse is one of the Scent-Off lathers, so I’ll have more to say later.

Three passes, a splash of Alt-Innsbruck, followed by a drive to Palo Alto, where I’m spending the day and getting a late start blogging.

 

Written by LeisureGuy

20 November 2013 at 11:59 am

Posted in Shaving

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