September 8, 2012

Posted by orrinj at 9:19 AM


A marriage of data and caregivers gives Dr. Atul Gawande hope for health care : How transparency, real-time feedback, and lessons from the police can improve health outcomes. (Alex Howard, August 31, 2012, O'Reilly Radar)

If people gain access to better information about the consequences of various choices, will that lead to improved outcomes and quality of life?

Gawande: That's where the art comes in. There are problems because you lack information, but when you have information like "you shouldn't drink three cans of Coke a day -- you're going to put on weight," then having that information is not sufficient for most people.

Understanding what is sufficient to be able to either change the care or change the behaviors that we're concerned about is the crux of what we're trying to figure out and discover.

When the information is presented in a really interesting way, people have gradually discovered -- for example, having a little ball on your dashboard that tells you when you're accelerating too fast and burning off extra fuel -- how that begins to change the actual behavior of the person in the car.

No amount of presenting the information that you ought to be driving in a more environmentally friendly way ends up changing anything. It turns out that change requires the psychological nuance of presenting the information in a way that provokes the desire to actually do it.

Posted by orrinj at 9:11 AM


OBAMA GOES VAGUE (Ryan Lizza, 9/08/12, The New Yorker)

[O]ne might have expected the President to follow such a stark statement with specifics on how he will approach the big decisions on that list of issues that he ticked off. Instead, the policy portion of the speech was oddly parochial and sounded like it had baked a little too long in the oven of the Obama campaign's polling shop. On energy policy, Obama promised to "support more than six hundred thousand new jobs in natural gas alone." On education, he said that he would "recruit a hundred thousand math and science teachers within ten years." And on dealing with the looming fiscal crisis, he made a vague promise to "reach an agreement based on the principles of my bipartisan debt commission."

It's a worthy laundry list of promises, but if there is a unifying idea behind this basket of aspirations, I missed it. I hear all the time, but don't really know for sure, that the mythical undecided voters that both campaigns chase are not particularly ideological--if they were, they would have already decided between the candidates--and that they clamor for these sorts of statements that include specific and quantifiable goals.

But the list leaves a lot to wonder about.

For the UR, his presidency is exclusively about personal advancement.  There is not a single policy he wishes to advance, nevermind a vision.

Posted by orrinj at 8:58 AM


Are Chinese Banks Hiding "The Mother of All Debt Bombs"? (Minxin Pei, 9/07/12, The Diplomat)

Financial collapses may have different immediate triggers, but they all originate from the same cause: an explosion of credit.  This iron law of financial calamity should make us very worried about the consequences of easy credit in China in recent years.  From the beginning of 2009 to the end of June this year, Chinese banks have issued roughly 35 trillion yuan ($5.4 trillion) in new loans, equal to 73 percent of China's GDP in 2011. About two-thirds of these loans were made in 2009 and 2010, as part of Beijing's stimulus package.  Unlike deficit-financed stimulus packages in the West, China's colossal stimulus package of 2009 was funded mainly by bank credit (at least 60 percent, to be exact), not government borrowing.

The greatest threat to global economic growth is how quickly the US budget deficit will transition to balance as the WoT ends.
Posted by orrinj at 8:35 AM


President keeps the pressure on Damascus : The anti-Assad line expressed by Mursi in Tehran last week is reiterated at the Arab League in unequivocal terms (Dina Ezzat9/08/12, Al-Ahram Weekly)

"Syria, Syria, Syria: You have to do something; it is all up to you and we are here to support you," said President Mohamed Mursi Wednesday morning.

Mursi's statement was made before the opening session of the Arab League Foreign Ministers Council, at the Cairo headquarters of the pan-Arab organisation.

The statement was received with applause from Arab League Secretary-General Nabil El-Arabi and most participating Arab delegations.

Mursi's speech was the first by an Egyptian head of state at the Arab League since ousted President Hosni Mubarak attended the inauguration of a meeting on Iraqi reconciliation seven years ago. Unlike the mild statements Mubarak made then, Mursi's presence and language were uncompromising -- especially on Syria.

"I am telling the ruling regime in Syria that your rule shall not last for long. The Syrian people have said their word, and it is the Syrian people that will have the upper hand," Mursi said.

"I would advise you to refrain from listening to those who are telling you that your rule can persist. I urge you to take the right decision now and not later when it will be too late. You need to part with arrogance and to bow to reality. The Syrian people no longer wants you," he added, addressing -- though he was not present -- Bashar Al-Assad directly.

The president lamented the endless bloodshed suffered by the Syrian people every day, and said that Arab failure to act in support of the Syrian people makes the whole Arab nation responsible for their ordeal.

Posted by orrinj at 8:32 AM


Obama the demigod comes down to Earth (Dana Milbank, September 7, 2012, Washington Post)

After a couple of nights at the Time Warner Cable Arena, the convention was to have closed with President Obama's acceptance speech at the Bank of America Stadium, where convention officials were planning to squeeze nearly 6,000 seats onto the field to expand the stadium's capacity beyond its usual 74,000.

But the speedway event was canceled -- ostensibly because of logistical problems but more likely because convention fundraising was running low. Then the Democrats canceled the stadium event in favor of the smaller arena -- ostensibly because of "severe thunderstorm" concerns but more likely because they couldn't be sure enough people would come to fill the stadium.

In fact, the forecast hadn't called for severe weather, and conditions were fine Thursday night. The change caused thousands to be turned away, and the crush of crowds at the arena led authorities at one point to lock down the building for a second straight night - leaving some delegates on the street while lobbyists enjoyed the proceedings inside.

It was quite a comedown from that heady night in Denver four years ago when Obama accepted the nomination in front of about 80,000 at Invesco Field. The candidate, on a stage set resembling a Greek temple, spoke about remaking the nation and the world.

The demigod turned out to be entirely human, and his results were disappointing. On Thursday night, as Obama admitted to "failings," Democrats who dreamed of the biggest and the best in 2008 were learning to accept good enough.

That's their message and they wonder why there's an enthusiasm gap?

Posted by orrinj at 8:24 AM



"The broad message here is flat, flat, flat," said economist Heidi Shierholz with the labor-affiliated Economic Policy Center.

A disappointing report for one month might be dismissed in normal times as an aberration, she said, "but a stagnant report when the unemployment rate is over 8 percent represents a continuation of the crisis," meaning that getting back to pre-recession employment levels will take many more months, even years.

The bleak news played right into the hands of Republicans, who claim that Obama's policies inhibit job production and have made the economic picture worse. "Did you see the jobs report this morning by the way?" Republican rival Mitt Romney asked reporters in Sioux City, Iowa. "Almost 400,000 people dropped out of the work force altogether. It's is simply unimaginable." [...]

Friday's jobs report complicates the electoral math for Obama and increases the political pressure on his campaign in battleground states with unemployment rates even higher than the national average. Nevada, for instance, has a 12 percent jobless rate, North Carolina has 9.6 percent, Michigan 9 percent, Florida 8.8 percent and Colorado 8.3 percent. Those state figures are all for July, the most recent month available.