DYSPEPSIA GENERATION

We have seen the future, and it sucks.

Archive for the 'Think about it.' Category

Don’t Jump to Conclusions

29th September 2014

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Many pundits, especially highly intelligent liberal pundits, often fall into the trap (fatal conceit?) of assuming that because they can’t explain why the market would do something, the market must be wrong. But markets are almost infinitely subtle.

The chief problem with our economy is that it’s run by people (mostly politicians) whose chief characteristic is the inability to think things through.

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Humans Naturally Follow Crowd Behavior

28th September 2014

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In fact, recent studies suggest that our sensitivity to crowds is built into our perceptual system and operates in a remarkably swift and automatic way. In a 2012 paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, A.C. Gallup, then at Princeton University, and colleagues looked at the crowds that gather in shopping centers and train stations.

In one study, a few ringers simply joined the crowd and stared up at a spot in the sky for 60 seconds. Then the researchers recorded and analyzed the movements of the people around them. The scientists found that within seconds hundreds of people coordinated their attention in a highly systematic way. People consistently stopped to look toward exactly the same spot as the ringers.

The number of ringers ranged from one to 15. People turn out to be very sensitive to how many other people are looking at something, as well as to where they look. Individuals were much more likely to follow the gaze of several people than just a few, so there was a cascade of looking as more people joined in.

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Did the Vikings Get a Bum Rap?

28th September 2014

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In 782, for instance, Charlemagne, now heralded as the original unifier of Europe, beheaded 4,500 Saxon captives on a single day. “The Vikings never got close to that level of efficiency,” Winroth says, drily.

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Unlock the Secrets of Your Poop

28th September 2014

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Just in case you were wondering. I know I was.

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The World’s First Genetically Modified Babies Will Graduate High School This Year

28th September 2014

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The first successful transfer of genetic material for this purpose was published in a U.S. medical journal in 1997 and then later cited in a Human Reproduction publication in 2001. Scientists injected 30 embryos in all with a third person’s genetic material. The children who have been produced by this method actually have extra snippets of mitochondrial DNA, or mtDNA, from two mothers – meaning these babies technically have three parents.

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Income Inequality and the Fed Report

28th September 2014

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The Fed didn’t actually study how family income changed over time. Instead, they looked at one random sample of families in 2010, and a *different* random sample of families in 2013.

The confusion stems from how they gave the two groups the same name. Instead of “Oakland A’s,” they called them “Top 10 Percent”. But those are different families in the two groups.

Everything you need to know about the latest income inequality scare.

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Douthat: “The Cult Deficit”

28th September 2014

Steve Sailer ponders the latest from Ross Douthat.

I particularly enjoy his discussion of ‘the Harvard-Yale cult’, of which I am a proud member.\

The whole point of Skull and Bones is to create a tiny self-perpetuating elite within the small elite of Harvard-Yale insiders: e.g., Secretary of State John F. Kerry (Class of ’66) was one of the Bonesmen who tapped the Class of ’67 Bonesmen who tapped President George W. Bush (Class of ’68). Thus having both Presidential nominees be Bonesmen is just the fulfillment of the plan.

The fact that Bones includes a mediocrity like Bush and a flake like Kerry suggests that the system still has a few bugs in it.

Indeed, I think a good case could be made that if the Constitution excluded from the office of the Presidency anybody who had an Ivy League degree, the world would be a much better place. (Certainly it would have taken a very different turn starting in about, oh, 1900.)

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HAPPY DANCE SUNDAY

28th September 2014

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

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How Should We Program Computers to Deceive?

27th September 2014

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Just outside the Benrath Senior Center in Du?sseldorf, Germany, is a bus stop at which no bus stops. The bench and the official-looking sign were installed to serve as a “honey trap” to attract patients with dementia who sometimes wander off from the facility, trying to get home. Instead of venturing blindly into the city and triggering a police search, they see the sign and wait for a bus that will never come. After a while, someone gently invites them back inside.

It’s rare to come across such a beautiful deception. Tolerable ones, however, are a dime a dozen. Human society has always glided along on a cushion of what Saint Augustine called “charitable lies”—untruths deployed to avoid conflict, ward off hurt feelings, maintain boundaries, or simply keep conversation moving—even as other, more selfish deceptions corrode relationships, rob us of the ability to make informed decisions, and eat away at the reserves of trust that keep society afloat. What’s tricky about deceit is that, contrary to blanket prohibitions against lying, our actual moral stances toward it are often murky and context-dependent.

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Column A, Column B

27th September 2014

Freeberg adds to our knowledge yet again.

I believe, or am at least tinkering with the possibility that, he’s discovering Architects and Medicators, the former of whom are going to be in Column A because there’s no place else for them to be. If the mystery-black-box breaks and nobody knows how it works, in their world you take it apart and figure that out. Watches have to have gears, the computer has to have a processor. Composites have atomics. These guys aren’t happy until the composites have been broken down, especially if the composite is busted; if there is all this importance placed on a “somewhere out there” then the first thing they’ll do is saddle up and go find out what that is.

That’s really been the distinction, at least what I had in mind, since I started writing about them. Medicators medicate. They may have responsibilities, and these responsibilities may load them up with stress that they need to bleed out or off-load somewhere; they’ll do that by means of something repetitive and non-edifying. Something like Barack Obama’s 15 games of Spades — something that does not intentionally change the state of any object, as furniture-building or quilt-making would, and something that does not bring new information to its instigator. They’re not big on the “go find out what it is” thing, so when they explain how a certain thing works their explanations tend to rely a great deal on these “somethings” and “somewheres.”

Which is not to say, I’ve noticed, that they are willing to let go of control and are accepting of fate. Heavens no. This is Robespierre in a nutshell, along with quite a few lefties who’ve been in the public eye lately. They’ve had ample opportunity to explain themselves and their explanations all follow the same theme: Something something something, somewhere somewhere somewhere, The American People Have Spoken, and so — it’s all going to happen My Way, and everybody agrees that’s the right way to go and if you don’t agree then you’re a hater or a something-IST.

And don’t dare ask that Thing That Shall Not Be Asked: How do we know this will go any better than the last time you guys said that? Or: What, specifically, have you changed in your plan to make sure it doesn’t suck as much as it did last time? Those questions, too, make you a hater or a something-IST. Just like the guys waiting in line to be guillotined, back in the day.

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Homeschooling: The Kid Likes It (and Mom and Dad Have Homework Again)

27th September 2014

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Much of that enthusiasm, I’m convinced, comes from the fact that the pace can be tailored to him. He’s already tested out of material that was too basic, and he doesn’t have to sit at a desk waiting for the rest of the class to catch up. “It feels like they’re trying to help me, not bore me to death,” he told my wife.

We move him through assessments until he hits a challenge, and then we get down to actual learning. Even then, the goal is mastery, not just putting ink on worksheets. If he learns the information, we move on.

The future of education is here, it’s just not evenly distributed. And the government and its clients in the unions are going to delay it as long as they can.

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The Shirky Principle

27th September 2014

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The Shirky Principle declares that complex solutions (like a company, or an industry) can become so dedicated to the problem they are the solution to, that often they inadvertently perpetuate the problem.

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From the World of Design Trends: “Flat Design” is Dying

27th September 2014

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It’s great that designers are always coming up with new and different ways to do things. However, there’s a widely accepted belief in User Experience (UX) that major change is bad. A few small changes here and there are fine, but why are we suddenly saying 3D buttons are all bad and calendar apps shouldn’t look like calendars (when everyone is used to looking for a calendar on their screens)? We are literally destroying millions of hours of learned behavior here! On top of that, flat design can cause major UX issues by putting all elements on the same depth level. There are no longer any gradients or shadows to help denote what’s most important on a page or to distinguish buttons from content. In a world where people scan pages as quickly as possible, this can be a real problem. Sure, you could argue that you shouldn’t need depth to denote hierarchy or highlight actionable areas. A good designer can accomplish that even with flat design. But let’s be honest: how many concepts are applied only by people who know how to do it correctly? Plenty of amateur designers already cut corners and flatten their designs without thinking through information hierarchy or testing their designs. Flat design is very unforgiving. A bad flat design will confuse users and quickly draw attention to every UX misstep.

I have a great deal of respect for Sir Jonathan Ive, but flat design flat sucks. It becomes impossible to distinguish a window from its background, and that leads to frustration, stress, and lack of productivity.

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Subjunctive Subtleties

27th September 2014

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The subjunctive is there for a reason. Use it properly.

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Moore’s Law and Good Enough

27th September 2014

Jerry Pournelle has restarted his column on tech.

As of Summer 2014, a large percentage of jobs – I now believe more than 45% within ten years – can be done by a robot costing no more than a year’s salary to the current human worker. With the government keeping interest rates low this raises the temptation to borrow capital and – instead of paying it to a worker – using it to buy a robot that will pay for itself after a year, and thereafter require only maintenance and power, and when that robot is no longer useful it can be scrapped rather than being paid to retire. This will have an inevitable effect on the economy. It may have a direct effect on you.

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Obama Administration Learns: If You Redefine Every Word in the Dictionary, You Can Get Away With Just About Anything

26th September 2014

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We’ve written before about how the NSA uses its own definitions of some fairly basic English words, in order to pretend to have the authority to do things it probably… doesn’t really have authority to do. It’s become clear that this powergrab-by-redefinition is not unique to the NSA when it comes to the executive branch of the government. Earlier this year, we also wrote about the stunning steady redefinition of words within the infamous “Authorization to Use Military Force” (AUMF) that was passed by Congress immediately after September 11, 2001. It officially let the President use “all necessary and appropriate force” against those who “planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.” But, over time, the AUMF was being used to justify efforts against folks who had nothing to do with September 11th, leading to this neat sleight of hand in which the military started pretending that the AUMF also applied to “associated forces.” That phrase appears nowhere in the AUMF, but it’s a phrase that is regularly repeated and claimed by the administration and the military.

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The Free Speech Movement at 50

26th September 2014

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The movement won; free speech lost.

It was never about free speech; it was always about the draft. When the draft went away, so did the movement.

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Greed, Conscience, and Big Government

26th September 2014

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The financial crisis of 2007-2008, which led to the Great Recession, has been blamed on several things. Financial institutions are leading scapegoats. In particular, there were the retail institutions that lent money at low interest rates (made so by the Fed) to high-risk borrowers (in keeping with government policy), and there were the Wall Street institutions that “poisoned” financial markets by securitizing bundles of high-risk mortgage loans.

In both cases, the institutions are said to have been “greedy” in pursuit of greater profits. That “crime” (which is only a “crime” when someone else commits it) was in fact “committed” in ways that were perfectly legal and passed muster with government regulators. In sum, the financial crisis and subsequent recession were deeply rooted in government failure — not “greed.” For chapter and verse, see Arnold Kling’s monograph, Not What They Had in Mind.

Nevertheless, greed is often blamed for the financial crisis and its aftermath. Why? Because it’s a simple, mindless generalization that plays into the left’s perpetual campaign against “the rich” — a.k.a. biting the hand that feeds them.  And it’s certainly a lot easier for ignoramuses (leftist or otherwise) to parrot “greed” than to seek the truth.

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How the Apple Watch Could Help Revolutionize Health Care

26th September 2014

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This is just one of many promising ways in which Silicon Valley is poised to remake the monstrously inefficient health care industry. But can the tech industry stop the government from strangling its emerging ventures?

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Hasidic Townhouse Foes Seek to Dissolve Catskills Village

26th September 2014

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A plan to build 396 townhouses for ultra-orthodox Jews in a rural New York village is pitting residents and local officials against a developer who says he’s a victim of an anti-Semitic plot.

Opposition to the project is so strong that Bloomingburg, the village in the Catskills, is considering dissolving its local government, which could allow the larger surrounding town to block the development. Voters will decide Sept. 30 whether to fold their municipal government into the Town of Mamakating, whose population is 30 times larger.

Shalom Lamm, the developer seeking to build townhouses and amenities meant to draw Hasidim, accused officials in a federal lawsuit of misusing building codes to keep Jews from moving to the area and violating the rights of the plaintiffs under the U.S. Constitution. Town officials say the issue is about preserving Bloomingburg’s rural character, not about religion.

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The Golden Spoon

25th September 2014

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Chances are, you’ve spent more time thinking about the specs on your smartphone than about the gadgets that you use to put food in your mouth. But the shape and material properties of forks, spoons, and knives turn out to matter—a lot. Changes in the design of cutlery have not only affected how and what we eat, but also what our food tastes like. There’s even evidence that the adoption of the table knife transformed the shape of European faces.

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Five Lessons Americans Should Learn From World War One

24th September 2014

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Number one: When someone declares war on you—guess what, you’re at war.

Something that the American government still hasn’t grasped with respect to Islam.

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DNA Double Take

24th September 2014

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Not long ago, researchers had thought it was rare for the cells in a single healthy person to differ genetically in a significant way. But scientists are finding that it’s quite common for an individual to have multiple genomes. Some people, for example, have groups of cells with mutations that are not found in the rest of the body. Some have genomes that came from other people.

As scientists begin to search for chimeras systematically — rather than waiting for them to turn up in puzzling medical tests — they’re finding them in a remarkably high fraction of people. In 2012, Canadian scientists performed autopsies on the brains of 59 women. They found neurons with Y chromosomes in 63 percent of them. The neurons likely developed from cells originating in their sons.

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‘Maybe We Missed Something': Warren Commission Insider Publicly Concedes That JFK Assasination Was Likely a Conspiracy

24th September 2014

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Describing someone as a “conspiracy theorist” is usually meant as an insult, suggesting tin-foil hats and babbling rants on late-night radio talk shows. But when it comes to the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, the list of important, seemingly credible public figures who count themselves as conspiracy theorists is long and impressive.

I love the smell of conspiracy in the morning.

Fifty years ago this coming week, the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the panel led by Chief Justice Earl Warren and better known as the Warren Commission, published an 888-page final report that identified Lee Harvey Oswald as the sole gunman in Dealey Plaza and said there was no evidence of a conspiracy, foreign or domestic.

And contained more lies than an Obama press conference.

In his 1994 memoir, Ragano wrote that Tampa-based crime boss Santo Trafficante confessed to him in 1987 that he and Carlos Marcello, the mob boss of New Orleans, were responsible for the assassination. According to Ragano, the dying Trafficante uttered the words: “Carlos messed up. We shouldn’t have killed John. We should have killed Bobby.”

Which they eventually did.

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Hiring Women and the Moral Inversion of Economics

24th September 2014

Alex Tabarrok underlines some contradictions.

In my post on why economics is detested I quoted Arnold Kling:

The intention heuristic says that if the intentions of an act are selfless and well-meaning, then the act is good. If the intentions are self-interested, then it is not good.

In contrast, economics evaluates an act not by its intentions but by its consequences. Since “bad” intentions can lead to good consequences (“as if by an invisible hand”). It’s not surprising that economists often praise what others denounce.

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Social Desirability Bias and Abortion

24th September 2014

Bryan Caplan never ceases to amaze.

Economists have long argued that we should pay a lot more attention to what people do and a lot less attention to what people say. But they make little effort to justify their pro-action/anti-talk position. The strongest evidence in favor of economists’ methodological scruples actually come from psychology, especially research on Social Desirability Bias. Earlier today, though, I stumbled on some striking confirmation from a unexpected field: medicine.

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6 Reasons Barack Obama Is a Failed President

23rd September 2014

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In case you need it spelled out.

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A Sideways Glance at Public “Education”

22nd September 2014

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Many bad things got their start in the 1960s. Among the least harmful are bad hairstyles and terrible clothing. Among the most harmful — in addition to Medicare, Medicaid, and welfare “rights” — is the sharp rise in the numbers of working (outside-the-home) mothers. It was then, no doubt, that most parents came to think (to hope) that education is something that can be packaged and shrink-wrapped.

The fact of the matter is that schools can’t turn out well-mannered, well-spoken, literate human beings if the raw material they’re given to work with is defective. If Johnny can’t read, or if Johnny is a hoodlum, whose fault is it? The natural tendency of parents and school-board members is to blame educators, if not “society.” But that’s the easy way out — like firing the manager of a baseball team because he’s saddled with mediocre players.

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Campanology

22nd September 2014

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The origin of the dumbbell — it’s not what you think.

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Thought for the Day

21st September 2014

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Farmer Joel Salatin: ‘We Would Be a Much Healthier Culture if the Government Had Never Told Us How to Eat’

21st September 2014

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In so many respects….

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Rain-Dance Scheduled

21st September 2014

Sonic Harm draws a great analogy.

When humans go out and stand/walk on streets in large numbers, that is ‘climate change’ being ‘fought’. The climate is less likely to change due to this activity.

It’s like a rain dance. (Well, isn’t it? What’s the difference?)

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Thought for the Day

20th September 2014

People Don't Land copy

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Scottish Independence Will Kill Socialism on Both Sides of the Border

18th September 2014

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I’m not sure I buy it but it’s an interesting notion.

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Artificial Sweeteners Induce Glucose Intolerance by Altering the Gut Microbiota

18th September 2014

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Ha! Take that, diet soda!

On the other hand, maybe they’re full of it.

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The Writer’s Police Academy

17th September 2014

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For the fifth year in a row, retired cop Lee Lofland rounded up a fantastic roster of writers, law enforcement, forensic specialists, psychologists, pathologists, explosive experts, firefighters, paramedics, agents from the ATF, FBI, Secret Service, and every other specialist related to crime you could think of. In addition, bestselling authors, Michael Connelly, Lisa Gardner, Alafair Burke, Robin Burcell, and John Gilstrap either gave classes or talks.

I find this fascinating. I often read ‘police procedurals’ and ‘techno-thrillers’ because I find the nitty-gritty details as engaging as whatever passes for a story, and oftimes more.

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The Economic Guide To Picking A College Major

14th September 2014

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Actually, if I had it to do all over again, I’d have put my 20 in the Navy and then got out and gone into SQL Server development, for which no college degree is necessary (unless you want to work for one of those tiresome companies who want you to have a degree in SOMETHING whether it’s related to what you’ll be doing or not), and I’d be making just as much salary as I am now, plus a government pension.

And to Hell with your daddy and Yale….

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Every Single Health-Care Cost Is Distorted and Meaningless by Itself

14th September 2014

Sonic Harm turns over a very large rock.

The reality is that health care is basically (give or take) at least half socialized in every modern country, and that includes the US. There is not a free market for health care line-items in the US. Individual line-item ‘costs’ are not haggled over and comparison-shopped to find the equilibrium point of anyone’s supply-demand curves. All that’s really going on is that a bunch of socialism is taking place – stealth taxes, means-tested, and money being garnished from people in a ‘from each according to his ability [to pay]‘ sort of way, laundered through insurance companies or government agencies.

This ‘cost of an MRI procedure’ people obsess over has nothing to do with anything by itself. It’s just part of the gigantic formula that has been developed over time to slosh money around in ways that Smart People find ‘fair’ – completely distorted by politics, regulated by bureaucracies, prices being set line-item by line-item by committee (“Medicare codes”, whether Medicare is the payer or not). No single line-item means anything by itself. Yes you’re being ‘overcharged for an MRI’ if you focus on that line-item. Perhaps, likewise, you’ve been undercharged for the 20 minute visit from the nurse. Overcharged for the band-aid? Undercharged for the X-ray diagnosticiation time. I dunno! Who the hell knows?

And meanwhile, the person in the room to the left to you is ‘paying’ three times as much because they don’t have insurance but do have cash. The person in the room to the right of you, meanwhile, is paying $20 for the same exact thing because they have Medicaid (or gave money under the table to a mid-level hospital bureaucrat lady to fake paperwork to get them on Medicaid). And someone with no insurance and no money is in the ER waiting room waiting to see someone and the hospital will have to treat them free, if only because of EMTALA.

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Manual Transmissions Getting Rarer in the US

14th September 2014

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Improvements in the function and fuel economy of automatic transmissions have essentially killed the manual in the U.S., says Jack Nerad, the senior editor of Kelley Blue Book. Some of the country’s best-selling sedans — the Toyota Camry, Nissan Altima and Ford Fusion — don’t even offer manual transmissions because so few buyers want them. Even some sporty cars, like the Jaguar F Type, come only with automatics.

“The manual transmission has become kind of a dodo bird,” he says.

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Don’t Take Your Vitamins

13th September 2014

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Many medical studies show positive health effects from higher vitamin levels. The only problem? These studies often can’t tease out the effect of the vitamins from the effect of other factors, such as generally healthy living. Studies that attempt to do this typically show no impact from vitamin use — or only a very tiny one on a small subset of people. The truth is that for most people, vitamin supplementation is simply a waste of time.

But don’t throw them away, because in another year or two ‘science’ will demand that you take them again.

I take vitamins because that way my mother-in-law will shut up about me taking vitamins. Worth the price, in my opinion, but your mileage may vary.

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Is the Islamic State Really ‘Not Islamic’?

13th September 2014

Jonah Goldberg points out that the main problem with Barack Obama is that there’s so much that he knows that ain’t so.

If we’re talking clarity, I’d say the Islamic State is clearly not Mormon. Or Lutheran. Or Buddhist. It most certainly is not the most extreme example of Quakers gone bad ever recorded.

As for its not being Islamic, that’s at best unclear, if not just clearly wrong. And the fact that the majority of its victims are Muslim is irrelevant. Lenin and Stalin killed thousands of Communists and socialists; that doesn’t mean Lenin and Stalin weren’t Communists and socialists. If such terrorists who kill Muslims aren’t Muslims, why do we give them Korans when we imprison them?

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Something Must be Done About All the Nice White Lady Schoolteachers

13th September 2014

Steve Sailer pulls back the curtain.

Education Realist points out that the Drive for Diversity stalled out due to earlier Education Reforms. Teacher qualification tests were toughened up in some states, and Congress passed a law in 1998 intended to drive out of business bad education schools whose graduates couldn’t pass the test. Instead, the ed schools, no fools, just dropped affirmative action and stopped giving out diplomas until students had passed the state professional exams.

Funny how that works. Requiring actual, you know, performance really shoots ‘diversity’ right in the ass.

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Thought for the Day

13th September 2014

Is has come to this?

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Why a Gun Belongs on the Batmobile

12th September 2014

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Slow news day.

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Waging War Is a Decision for Congress Alone

11th September 2014

Andrew Napolitano is amusingly old-fashioned.

Madison knew that kings became tyrants through war. He fervently believed that by keeping the war-waging power in the hands of the president and the war-making power in the hands of Congress, the Constitution would serve as a bulwark against tyranny.

And we see how that worked out. Hey, better luck next time….

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Once More: Why “Climate Change” Alarmism Is Not Science

8th September 2014

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Science is a method, not a set of dogmas. The scientific method is pretty simple: you suggest a hypothesis, calculate what facts in the real world must be true if the hypothesis is correct, and then check the hypothesis against reality. If the hypothesis implies false propositions of fact, it is wrong. Case closed.

Climate alarmists stand the scientific method on its head. When their theories, as expressed in climate models, conflict with reality, they conclude that something must be wrong with reality. The heat that their models hypothesize must be “hiding” deep in the oceans, or whatever. This isn’t science: it is a combination of politics and religion. A proposition that cannot be falsified by experience is not a scientific proposition.

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Today We’re Eating the Winners of the 1948 Chicken of Tomorrow Contest

7th September 2014

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And I have no doubt that they deserve it.

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How a 19th Century Math Genius Taught Us the Best Way to Hold a Pizza Slice

7th September 2014

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

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WE OWE IT ALL TO THE HIPPIES

7th September 2014

Stewart Brand indulges in a little historical revisionism.

Forget antiwar protests, Woodstock, even long hair.
The real legacy of the sixties generation is the computer revolution

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The Truth We Won’t Admit: Drinking Is Healthy

7th September 2014

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In fact, the evidence that abstinence from alcohol is a cause of heart disease and early death is irrefutable—yet this is almost unmentionable in the United States. Even as health bodies like the CDC and Dietary Guidelines for Americans (prepared by Health and Human Services) now recognize the decisive benefits from moderate drinking, each such announcement is met by an onslaught of opposition and criticism, and is always at risk of being reversed.

Sometimes the old ways are best.

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