What happened to Venezuela?

May 21st, 2016

venzuela

Venezuela is in the news as the country cannot even buy paper to print money.

This all goes back to 1998 when Chavez was elected by the people.

He was an army officer and had previously attempted to overthrow the government, a coup that failed.

in the early 1980s. Chávez led the MBR-200 in an unsuccessful coup d’état against the Democratic Action government of President Carlos Andrés Pérez in 1992, for which he was imprisoned. Released from prison after two years, he founded a political party known as the Fifth Republic Movement and was elected president of Venezuela in 1998.

Venezuela is an example of The Curse of Natural Resources.

The idea that resources might be more of an economic curse than a blessing began to emerge in debates in the 1950s and 1960s about the economic problems of low and middle-income countries.[3] The term resource curse was first used by Richard Auty in 1993 to describe how countries rich in mineral resources were unable to use that wealth to boost their economies and how, counter-intuitively, these countries had lower economic growth than countries without an abundance of natural resources. An influential study by Jeffrey Sachs and Andrew Warner found a strong correlation between natural resource abundance and poor economic growth.

Venezuela is only the latest and worst example. The history is depressingly familiar.

Read the rest of this entry »

Genetics and Archeology

May 9th, 2016

Neanderthal

I recently read a book titled, The 10,000 Year Explosion.

Its premise is that evolution did not stop or “pause” with the development of modern man 40,000 years ago.

A few basic facts about genetics. Genes are sets of nucleotides that encode proteins by encoding RNA. This is all in my book, A Brief History of Disease, Science and Medicine. One key fact is that:

Genes can acquire mutations in their sequence, leading to different variants, known as alleles, in the population. These alleles encode slightly different versions of a protein, which cause different phenotype traits.

I discussed this at some length two years ago and then, because it stirred a hornets nest at Ricochet, I posted some of the nasty replies here.

Mutations occur at random or under the influence of outside influence like UV radiation. Some are harmful, like cancer, and are not continued in the “gene pool.” Some are beneficial and may persist as they provide an advantage to the individual who may live longer, have more children and have more of the children survive to reproduce.

Humans evolved in Africa and spread outside of Africa before 50,000 years ago. There have been successive waves of modern humans that were better adapted to life, especially in areas that were new and often inhospitable like Ice Age Europe. One such group was called the “Neanderthal, as they were found in the Valley of the Neander River in Germany.

Neanderthals came to Europe some 300,000 years ago. They hunted big game with stone tools. Their territory spanned Europe and Asia. They left distinctive “Mousterian” artefacts.

There were other groups and we are starting to find out who and what they were from their DNA.

We know that modern humans first arrived in Europe about 45,000 years ago when the continent was still a Neanderthal stronghold. Over the next 30,000 years – archaeological work has revealed – a procession of different cultures, each associated with different artefacts and lifestyles, rose in Europe.

Archaeologists tend to think these sort of cultural shifts reflect the spread of new ideas through an unchanging population. But a new analysis of nuclear DNA taken from 51 ancient Eurasians tells a different story. They actually reflected the spread of different peoples.

The Neanderthals were gone earlier than recently believed.

“Until recently, I and many with me had thought that Neanderthals survived until 30,000 years ago, or perhaps even slightly later,” says Svante Pääbo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. “The new dates make it clear that they disappeared 10,000 years earlier.”

What happened ?

For Pat Shipman of Penn State University, this supports her theory that modern humans acted like an invasive species in Europe, beating the Neanderthals in a competition for resources. That’s a “distinct possibility”, Higham says.

But that does not mean we murdered our cousins. There is no evidence humans ever killed Neanderthals, and they probably didn’t meet often, says Higham.

So what role did we play? Many now suspect we were the last straw for an already fragile species. Genetics suggests Neanderthal numbers dropped sharply around 50,000 years ago. This coincides with a sudden cold snap, hinting climate struck the first blow.

The Ice Ages were a huge stress.

Over the next 30,000 years – archaeological work has revealed – a procession of different cultures, each associated with different artefacts and lifestyles, rose in Europe.

Archaeologists tend to think these sort of cultural shifts reflect the spread of new ideas through an unchanging population. But a new analysis of nuclear DNA taken from 51 ancient Eurasians tells a different story. They actually reflected the spread of different peoples.

Some of this change involved breeding with Neanderthals, and many of us (including me) have some Neanderthal DNA. Why ? The Neanderthals might have been better adapted to Ice Ages which waxed and waned.

During this period, there were several changes between glacier advance and retreat. The Last Glacial Maximum, the maximum extent of glaciation within the last glacial period, was approximately 22,000 years ago. While the general pattern of global cooling and glacier advance was similar, local differences in the development of glacier advance and retreat make it difficult to compare the details from continent to continent (see picture of ice core data below for differences).

From the point of view of human archaeology, it falls in the Paleolithic and Mesolithic periods. When the glaciation event started, Homo sapiens were confined to Africa and used tools comparable to those used by Neanderthals in Europe and the Levant and by Homo erectus in Asia. Near the end of the event, Homo sapiens spread into Europe, Asia, and Australia.

Maybe Neanderthals were better adapted to glacial epochs.

The Aurignacian culture was dominant between about 45,000 and 35,000 years ago. This culture produced fine bone and stone tools, and some of Europe’s oldest and most beautiful art – for instance at Chauvet cave in southern France.

By about 33,000 years ago a new culture that began in south-east Europe was beginning to spread across the continent: the Gravettian. This is famous for big-game hunting of mammoths and bison.

And later, at the height of the Ice Age about 19,000 years ago, yet another culture swept across west and central Europe. This Magdalenian culture is famous for its reindeer hunts and for its artwork, carved into bones and antlers.

One of the oldest individuals examined by David Reich at Harvard Medical School in Boston and his colleagues is represented by a thigh bone found at a site called Goyet cave in Belgium. Radiocarbon dating shows it is 35,000 years old, meaning the Goyet individual is associated with the Aurignacian industry.

Now, it appears that these people were quite different genetically.

the Aurignacians were pushed aside by an expanding wave of Gravettians.

“It is exciting and striking how a relatively homogeneous population sweeps across large parts of Europe between 33,000 and 26,000 years ago, displacing the populations that were there before,” says Reich.

But that’s not the full story. The genetic analysis also looked at six Magdalenians: they are descendants of the displaced Aurignacians.

This is a real surprise, says team member Cosimo Posth at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena, Germany. It shows that the Aurignacian lineage didn’t disappear when the Gravettians swept across Europe.

“In fact from the end of the Last Glacial Maximum some 19,000 years ago, its genetic component reappeared in Spain. From then to around 14,000 years ago this nuclear signal spread in Europe again,” he says.

They may have been pushed into a cul de sac in Spain but returned as the glaciers retreated. Why ?

We know a few things, such as why white skin evolved. As humans moved from Africa to Europe and faced cold climates, they needed Vitamin D which is synthesized in the skin.

Dark skin is useful and provides and evolutionary advantage in tropical settings. It also has some protective effect on sun burning and skin cancer. One negative consequence of inadequate Vitamin D is Ricketts, a disease of bones.

Rickets is defective mineralization or calcification of bones before epiphyseal closure in immature mammals due to deficiency or impaired metabolism of vitamin D,[1] phosphorus or calcium,[2] potentially leading to fractures and deformity. Rickets is among the most frequent childhood diseases in many developing countries.

This provides a strong feedback for selecting beneficial mutations.

Some of this will lead to modern therapy and that is why I wrote that I would not recommend a student for medical school who did not believe in evolution. Here is some of the negative response I got. I quit Ricochet when my subscription expired.

What is going on in Syria ?

May 7th, 2016

Rhodes

Our feckless president has been lecturing the US public about various topics he considers important but what has actually been going on ? We do know that a Navy SEAL named Charles Keating was killed in Iraq.

(CNN)When a team of less than a dozen U.S. military advisers came under attack in Iraq Tuesday from more than 100 ISIS fighters, Navy SEAL Charles Keating IV was part of the force sent in to rescue them.

All the advisers made it back. Keating, a decorated combat veteran and star athlete who decided to enlist after the 9/11 attacks, did not.
Providing new details Wednesday about the operation that took the life of the grandson of prominent financier and World War II pilot Charles Keating Jr., Coalition spokesman Col. Steve Warren said that the clash between ISIS and the Kurdish Peshmerga forces the advisers were assisting was “a big fight, one of the largest we’ve seen recently.”

That’s Iraq, where Obama pulled out all US forces but is now sneaking a few back in, hoping no one notices.

In Iran, Obama’s foreign policy “advisor” named Ben Rhodes, admits it was all a lie.

“I immediately developed this idea that, you know, maybe I want to try to write about international affairs,” he explained. “In retrospect, I had no idea what that meant.” His mother’s closest friend growing up ran the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which then published Foreign Policy. He sent her a letter and included what would wind up being his only piece of published fiction, a short story that appeared in The Beloit Fiction Journal. It was titled “The Goldfish Smiles, You Smile Back.” The story still haunts him, he says, because “it foreshadowed my entire life.”

From writing short stories, Rhodes now writes fiction as national policy.

Rhodes strategized and ran the successful Iran-deal messaging campaign, helped negotiate the opening of American relations with Cuba after a hiatus of more than 50 years and has been a co-writer of all of Obama’s major foreign-policy speeches. “Every day he does 12 jobs, and he does them better than the other people who have those jobs,” Terry Szuplat, the longest-tenured member of the National Security Council speechwriting corps, told me. On the largest and smallest questions alike, the voice in which America speaks to the world is that of Ben Rhodes.

Is the policy that Rhodes writes working ? Better not to know.

Iran has been supporting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. They have spent a lot of money and lives defending him against his people and the Russians. How is that working out ?

The Russians are back in Palmyra, which the ISIS types tried to destroy.

The orchestra played pieces by Johan Sebastian Bach and two Russian composers, Sergei Prokofiev and Rodion Shchedrin, in a second-century Roman amphitheater, the set for a 2015 film produced by the Islamic State that featured the execution of 25 people.

The contrast was intended to underscore what Russia sees as its underappreciated role in helping Syrian forces liberate Palmyra from zealots and fighting on the side of civilization against barbarism.

The Russians were so eager to make that point that they flew a group of reporters from Moscow to Syria and then bused them to Palmyra to see the performance. The production, attended by a heavily guarded V.I.P. guest list, was broadcast live on Russian state television.

Does Obama know about this ? Probably not. Ash Carter seems to be running foreign policy these days.

Rhodes’s opinions were helpful in shaping the group’s [Iraq Study Group] conclusions — a scathing indictment of the policy makers responsible for invading Iraq. For Rhodes, who wrote much of the I.S.G. report, the Iraq war was proof, in black and white, not of the complexity of international affairs or the many perils attendant on political decision-making but of the fact that the decision-makers were morons.

One result of this experience was that when Rhodes joined the Obama campaign in 2007, he arguably knew more about the Iraq war than the candidate himself, or any of his advisers. He had also developed a healthy contempt for the American foreign-policy establishment, including editors and reporters at The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker and elsewhere, who at first applauded the Iraq war and then sought to pin all the blame on Bush and his merry band of neocons when it quickly turned sour. If anything, that anger has grown fiercer during Rhodes’s time in the White House. He referred to the American foreign-policy establishment as the Blob.

How is Iran, Obama and Rhodes ally, doing ?

They seem to be having trouble as they are recruiting child soldiers, as they did in the Iraq-Iran War.

Iran’s regime has done this before. During the Iran-Iraq War, which killed around a million people between 1980 and 1988, the Basij recruited thousands of children to clear minefields.

After lengthy cult-like brainwashing sessions, the poor kids placed plastic keys around their necks, symbolizing martyrs’ permission to enter paradise, and ran ahead of Iranian ground troops and tanks to remove Iraqi mines by detonating them with their feet and blowing their small bodies to pieces.

Children have been fighting in wars as long as there have been wars, but shoving them into the meat grinder in the 21st century is a war crime expressly prohibited and sometimes even punished by all civilized governments. The International Criminal Court in The Hague, for instance, convicted Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo of war crimes in 2012 for “conscripting and enlisting children under the age of fifteen years and using them to participate actively in hostilities.”

The Basij is a paramilitary branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, or Pasdaran, and it’s commanded by the iron-fisted head of state, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. It’s mostly used for internal repression and provided many of the shock troops who brutally suppressed non-violent demonstrations during the Green Revolution in 2009.

Why are they now going back to the tactics of 1988?

“Second,” he continued, “the war in Syria and keeping the dictator Bashar Assad in power is so crucial for the Iranian regime’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei that he is willing to pay any price for this objective. In February in a meeting with the families of the regime’s forces who were killed in Syria, Khamenei said that if we did not fight in Syria, we would have had to fight with our opposition in major Iranian cities. Resorting to the tactic of mobilizing teenagers only leads to one conclusion, the mullahs are facing a deadly impasse in Syria.

So, the Russians seem to be winning and the Iranians are losing and who does Obama ally with ?

Rhodes’s innovative campaign to sell the Iran deal is likely to be a model for how future administrations explain foreign policy to Congress and the public. The way in which most Americans have heard the story of the Iran deal presented — that the Obama administration began seriously engaging with Iranian officials in 2013 in order to take advantage of a new political reality in Iran, which came about because of elections that brought moderates to power in that country — was largely manufactured for the purpose for selling the deal. Even where the particulars of that story are true, the implications that readers and viewers are encouraged to take away from those particulars are often misleading or false. Obama’s closest advisers always understood him to be eager to do a deal with Iran as far back as 2012, and even since the beginning of his presidency. “It’s the center of the arc,” Rhodes explained to me two days after the deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was implemented.

And some people think Trump will be a foreign policy disaster.

The Trump Preference Cascade is moving.

April 30th, 2016

rally

Earlier in the year, I predicted that a preference cascade is forming around Trump.

“This illustrates, in a mild way, the reason why totalitarian regimes collapse so suddenly. (Click here for a more complex analysis of this and related
issues). Such regimes have little legitimacy, but they spend a lot of effort making sure that citizens don’t realize the extent to which their fellow-citizens dislike the regime. If the secret police and the censors are doing their job, 99% of the populace can hate the regime and be ready to revolt against it – but no revolt will occur because no one realizes that everyone else feels the same way.

We are in a similar period right now. No one wants to put a Trump bumper sticker on their car because it seems an invitation to vandalism.

Siva is accused of slashing the tires of a Ford Focus and pouring yogurt into the car’s open sunroof while it was parked at a Gig Harbor Fred Meyer.

Police say Siva told them he attacked the vehicle because of the Trump sticker on the rear bumper. Siva allegedly told police he considered the sticker a “hate symbol” and vandalizing the car “improved the community.”

The victim of the crime is considered to be at fault because his bumper sticker was a “hate symbol.”

Rioters at the Trump rally in Costa Mesa California this week felt the same way. They showed their anger in obvious ways.

Protest organizers in Southern California said the anti-Trump demonstrations spread through word of mouth and involved mostly young people, including many high school and college students. They brought with them Mexican flags, which were once discouraged at immigrant rights rallies for fear they would be regarded as un-American.

The demonstrations outside the Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa on Thursday night blocked traffic and caused tense moments. Some protesters performed screeching burnouts in their cars or did doughnuts at intersections. Others kicked at and punched approaching vehicles, shouting expletives. Ranchera and hip-hop music was blasted throughout the streets. At least 17 people were arrested, and both a Trump supporter and a teenage anti-Trump protester were hurt.

No mention of payment but many of us believe these “demonstrations” are being funded.

What is particularly interesting to me is who is attending these rallies ?

I would like to have attended but I worked that day and was heading home when I heard about it. It was too late and I am not up to that much excitement at my age, anyway. What were the people waiting in line to attend like ?

As noted, the most interesting part of the rally proved the demographics: it was probably 60% women. Lots of minorities as well, plenty of people holding “Latinos for Trump” signs. It was a good mix of African-American, Asian, White, and Hispanic–everybody got along well. Over the loudspeaker, we kept hearing somebody saying over and over that if we saw protestors in the crowd, please do not touch them or say anything to them, just alert security by yelling “Trump! Trump! Trump!” Initially, I thought this was ridiculous, but it worked. Random protestors would get in with the rally crowd and start yelling, and folks would shout, “Trump! Trump! Trump!” The very efficient security personnel would escort the protestors out. No violence.

Doesn’t this sound like the Tea party rallies in 2010 ?

The national polls now show closer numbers and Rasmussen has them tied. Given what I believe is a Bradley Effect, in which people being polled may conceal their real choice to avoid being labeled bigoted by a pollster, I think we might be looking at a Trump landslide. I have wondered if he would implode at some point but I don’t see it.

I really hope the GOP Convention is not attacked by rioters and I do worry about assassination attempts but we will see how this goes on.

Planning another vacation.

April 24th, 2016

After our bad experience last year with Europe, we have decided to stay in north America this summer. In June, we plan a trip to Chicago, partly to review family history.

In September, I am planning a bit more adventure in Denali National Park.

I have been there before and we had a family trip 20 years ago with all my kids. We rented a motorhome.

kids alaska copy

This worked well and we spent almost two weeks with time in Denali Park and in the towns of Seward and Valdez.

Kids in Alaska

My youngest was 13 and the other three were all adults. My older daughter had just taken her bar exams in Washington State.

We drove from Anchorage to Palmer where there was a nice RV park with water and power at each site. There we parked for a couple of days and did a couple of local tours.

Camper dinner

The dinners were prepared in the motorhome and we would often be having dinner at 10 PM or later because the sun did not set until 1 AM at that time of year. It was easy to forget how late it was but we weren’t getting up early anyway.

Claire Alaska

The kids got to walk on glaciers. My younger daughter, Claire, is wearing my wool shirt for the glacier jaunt. She had to sleep in the folded down dinette and her brother got her up early every morning so everyone could have breakfast.

Bears

The kids got to see few bears and the rest stops had big warning signs to never take food with you out of the bus.

This year we are going to do something different.

denali-backcountry-lodge

We are going to fly to Anchorage and take a Princess tour that includes a bus to Denali Park and a three day stay at the Backcountry Lodge in the park. It is 50 miles into the park and surrounded by wilderness. The lodge is not roughing it.

BN-DBL-River-View

It is located on a creek that flows past and there is a lake nearby. There are day tours for those more energetic.

Anyway, I have made reservations for early September which is after most of the tourist season. I’m looking forward to it. I tried to interest our English friends in coming over to go with us but they have other things to do.

Denali_Backcountry_Lodge4

I can’t think of a much better way to spend a week. After the lodge, we will go back to Anchorage and then to one of my favorite places, Homer Spit.

homer spit

It doesn’t get much better then this although the hotels are a bit basic. Some of the kids who work on fishing boats just camp on the beach. They got out for days at a time and no one bothers their stuff.

tents

Life is good. Some of these kids can make $50,000 in a summer with no expenses.

Why Importing Foreign Doctors may not fix the shortage.

April 17th, 2016

MoS2 Template Master

The coming doctor shortage that I have previously written about might be dealt with as Canada did with theirs some years ago, by importing foreign medical graduates. Britain has adopted a similar plan as thousands of younger doctors plan to leave Britain.

How is the plan to import foreign doctors working out ?

Not very well.

Nearly three-quarters of doctors struck off the medical register in Britain are foreign, according to shocking figures uncovered in a Mail on Sunday investigation.
Medics who trained overseas have been banned from practising for a series of shocking blunders and misdemeanours.
Cases include an Indian GP who ran an immigration scam from his surgery, a Ghanaian neurosurgeon who pretended he had removed a patient’s brain tumour, and a Malaysian doctor who used 007-style watches to secretly film intimate examinations with his female patients.

First of all, foreign medical schools are often limited in real experience and students often graduate with nothing beyond classroom lectures.

This was the case with Mexican medical schools, like that in Guadalajara where many American students attended. A program was devised to provide them with a year of clinical training before they could be licensed.

The revelations come just a week after it emerged health bosses want to lure 400 trainee GPs here from India, to help ease short-staffing in the NHS.
Last night Julie Manning, chief executive of think-tank 2020 Health, said: ‘The NHS has thrived on many international doctors coming to work in the UK – but the public needs reassuring they are all truly fit to practise in the first place.’

Of course, the foreign doctors have their defenders.

Dr Ramesh Mehta, president of the British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, admitted ‘there is a problem’ with the high strike-off rate among foreign doctors. But he claimed racism played a part.

We have a similar problem with affirmative action medical graduates but the figures are not available about their rates of license revocation. For example, the The Alan Bakke case went to the US Supreme Court, which eventually ruled in his favor. By the time the court ruled, years had gone by and Bakke eventually did gradate from medical school and has practiced quietly ever since.

However, a black student admitted by the program that denied Bakke a place was subsequently prosecuted for gross negligence and his license removed. Affirmative Action has been vigorously defended.

An admissions process that allows for ethnicity and other special characteristics to be used heavily in admission decisions yields powerful effects on the diversity of the student population and shows no evidence of diluting the quality of the graduates.

However, the conclusion does not match the findings in the study.

Regular admission students had higher scores on Parts I and II of the National Board of Medical Examiners examination, and special consideration students were more likely to repeat the examination to receive a passing grade.

The article goes on to explain that There was no difference in completion of residency training or evaluation of performance by residency directors.

A friend of mine was the Chairman of the Department of Surgery at a UC medical school who decided to fire a black female resident for incompetence. He was advised by the UC system and the other department heads that he would lose a lawsuit if she filed one. She did, in fact, file such a lawsuit alleging racial prejudice (of course). The department chair was able to successfully defend his decision but the fact that no one else was willing to try explains the finding that There was no difference in completion of residency training or evaluation of performance by residency directors.

I have had the experience of being a Surgery Department Chair in a community hospital confronted with the application of a known incompetent surgeon. The same factors apply to those known to be dishonest. A request for a letter of reference from the department in which the applicant trained usually results in a response that states, “The applicant completed the residency from X date to Y date.” No other information is provided and a further request is usually answered by “The matter is in litigation,” or words to that effect. This applies to all such applicants but affirmative action individuals are almost impossible to find negative information on even if the “grapevine” has provided warnings.

The general concern can be found, but details are thin on the ground.

A quick scan of the documents reveals that white students applying to medical school with a GPA in the 3.40-3.59 range and with an MCAT score in the 21-23 range (a below-average score on a test with a maximal score of 45) had an 11.5% acceptance rate (total of 1,500 applicants meeting these criteria). Meanwhile, a review of minority students (black, Latino, and Native American) with the same GPA and MCAT range had a 42.6% acceptance rate (total of 745 applicants meeting these criteria). Thus, as a minority student with a GPA and MCAT in the aforementioned ranges, you are more than 30% more likely to gain acceptance to a medical school.

There are other sources of the facts, but they don’t appear in mainstream publications. Social Justice keeps most of these concerns underground.

A friend of mine, who is Cuban born and an immigrant as a child, applied to UC, San Francisco medical school. This was in the 1970s. Affirmative Action was well underway. He waited several weeks, then months, to hear if he had been accepted. Finally, he drove to San Francisco and asked someone in the Admissions Office what had happened to his application. He was told that it was in the “Hispanic Applicant Committee.” Having no idea what criteria such a committee might be using to determine who should be admitted, he asked if his application could just be considered as a “white” applicant. This was done and he received a letter approving his admission a few days later.

The pressure is now on medical education to provide the hundreds of thousands of new doctors this society believes it needs. Productivity of the present graduates is well below that of my generation. Some of that is the disappearance of fee-for-service practice which motivates work ethic. Some of it is a result of the 60% female medical school classes.

The female doctor population is acknowledged to work less.

Today, however, increasing numbers of doctors — mostly women — decide to work part time or leave the profession. Since 2005 the part-time physician workforce has expanded by 62 percent, according to recent survey data from the American Medical Group Association, with nearly 4 in 10 female doctors between the ages of 35 and 44 reporting in 2010 that they worked part time.

This was the reason why medical school admissions committees “discriminated” against female applicants in the 1960s when I was a medical student. They were concerned, even then, about a doctor shortage and assumed women would stop working to have children or practice part-time.

They were absolutely correct.

Canada is finding some productivity issues and even some explanation.

a fee for service model, and its inherent encouragement of increased productivity through increased volume of patients, a significant shift away from this single model is taking hold.

This, of course, will not deter the Social Justice types as more doctors with less productivity is somehow more efficient than paying doctors more to encourage higher work loads. Socialism is the aim, productivity will have to take care of itself.

In the meantime, PHYSICIANS WHO DID not attend medical schools in the United States or Canada, referred to as “international medical graduates (IMGs)”, play an integral role in the U.S. health care system. Such physicians now represent approximately 25 percent of practicing doctors nationwide.

It’s going to increase.

Sailing

April 9th, 2016

I’m tired of politics again and here is a bit more on sailing.

My first Sailboat that I owned was an Ericson 28 that looked just like this one.

ericson_29_photo

It was just right for our small family and we spent many days at Catalina. Mike Jr went with us but the others were still small.

Than, in 1975, I bought a bigger boat, a Yankee 38.

2094-C2 Yankee 38 sailing2

Here is the Yankee on the day we had open house.

Yankee38

The Yankee had a very nice interior and I began to get involved in racing. The boat was a classic design by Sparkman and Stephens but the IOR had changed the world of racing sailboats and the design was never very successful. Still, it was bulletproof and I had a lot to learn. We sailed it to Mexico several times,including one experience with a small Mexican hurricane. In 1978, I was ready for something with more potential and bought an aluminum boat designed by Doug Peterson, who had designed a world One Ton champion boat named Ganbare, Japanese for “Good Luck.” The boat I bought was built in San Diego by Carl Eichenlaub who had been building wooden race boats for years. He had recently gone to aluminum and this boat was owned by the same man I had bought the Yankee 38 from.

Peterson35

That was the Peterson 35 that I owned in 1977 to 1979. I was a very good light air boat and needed new sails that I could not afford at the time due to a divorce. It also rolled a lot in heavy air downwind so I did not want to take it in long races. Eventually, it ended up in San Francisco and did well in a single handed Transpac with a new owner.

After this boat was sold, I bought a J 24 for local racing until I recovered financially.

J24

It looked a bit like that one but Orange and I named it “Cheap Trick.”

J24

This is it racing off Dana Point taken through a telephoto lens.

J24-2

There it is rounding the windward mark and setting a spinnaker. Eventually, I recovered financially and was still interested in racing.

The next boat was a Scott Kaufman design that was built by Dennis Choate who I had known for years.

CatalinaLaborDayRace

It was light for the time and fast and very strong. We tested the strength with a windy Transpac. I would have been better advised to keep the Yankee and stay with cruising but the divorce was based a bit on issues of professional satisfaction and racing provided some ego gratification I needed.

Here we are motoring out to the start of the 1981 Transpac.

Transpac

The start and most of the race was recorded on a movie I made. I still watch it once in a while.

That is a clip from a longer movie I made. It is a spinnaker change 1000 miles offshore.

hawaii

Here we are turning into the slip in Ala Wai Harbor after the finish. Next to our slip is the schooner Spike Africa, which had raced in a schooner race and carried our cruising gear for the trip home. We unloaded the racing sails to Spike Africa and the delivery crew used only cruising gear to go home.

The crew looks like they have been up all night because they have been. It’s about 6:30 AM. We finished at 6:10, nine minutes later than we needed to win the whole thing.

hawaii 1

We had won second place in fleet and only missed first overall by 9 minutes.

trophy

That pretty much ended my racing career.

Eventually, another divorce led to another boat sale and I ended, several years later, with a nice cruising boat, a Cal 34.

family

This was nice for Catalina and I had finally given up on races, about two boats later than I should have. Still, if they offered to give me back the money, I probably would decline the offer. I had a lot of fun and some great experiences.

Cal 35

Claire and the kids liked the boat. It was big enough for the family.

Claire Cal 34

I had a 13 foot Whaler and the older kids could even go to Avalon although I worried when they went after dark. I had a mooring at the Isthmus and later at Emerald Bay. I should have stopped there. I replaced the Atomic 4 engine but balked at spending the money to put a new diesel in the boat for about $10,000. That was a mistake.

Eventually, the kids grew up and nobody was into boats just then. I sold it when I should have kept it and replaced the engine with a diesel.

My next adventure was a few years later and very, very expensive. I decided to buy a Cal 40 and restore it. Boy was that expensive !

After the whole project was finished, we had a few nice trips to Catalina.

conquest

The LA Yacht Club is the one I had been member of since 1977 and they have a nice facility at Howland’s Landing on Catalina.

Howlands view

There is a nice barbecue pit and tables plus a shower. The view is good and it is a pleasant mooring spot except on big holidays when it gets crowded. I eventually had my own mooring around the corner in Emerald Cove.

Howlands Memorial Day

I finally figured out that I was not up to handling the Cal 40 by myself and should have stayed with the smaller boat. I sold it in 2010 and now my only boat is a Lido 14 on Lake Mission Viejo. I will probably get some use of it this summer. No Catalina trips, though.

lido 14

It looks like this one but is light blue.

Feminism and Victimhood Culture.

April 8th, 2016

We are living an age when any reference to women runs the risk of violating the “victimhood” rights of feminist women.

What is “Victimhood?” It was explained by two sociologists in 2014.

We’re beginning a second transition of moral cultures. The first major transition happened in the 18th and 19th centuries when most Western societies moved away from cultures of honor (where people must earn honor and must therefore avenge insults on their own) to cultures of dignity in which people are assumed to have dignity and don’t need to earn it. They foreswear violence, turn to courts or administrative bodies to respond to major transgressions, and for minor transgressions they either ignore them or attempt to resolve them by social means. There’s no more dueling.

The “Honor Culture” requires that one avenge insults to preserve honor. The law and third parties are avoided and this culture is typical of areas where law and authority is mostly absent. A classic example is the American West in the Age of the Frontier. As law and authority became available, the culture gradually changed to one of The Culture of Dignity in which people are assumed to have dignity and don’t need to earn it. They foreswear violence, turn to courts or administrative bodies to respond to major transgressions, and for minor transgressions they either ignore them or attempt to resolve them by social means. There’s no more dueling. Lawyers have made this culture ubiquitous, even in war.

Now, we have a new phenomenon.

Read the rest of this entry »

Government: the things we do together.

April 6th, 2016

cal

Barack Obama is fond of describing government this way.

As President Obama said the other day, those who start businesses succeed because of their individual initiative – their drive, hard work, and creativity. But there are critical actions we must take to support businesses and encourage new ones – that means we need the best infrastructure, a good education system, and affordable, domestic sources of clean energy. Those are investments we make not as individuals, but as Americans, and our nation benefits from them.

That was a reaction to Romney’s criticism of his silly comment.

I prefer the quote attributed to Washington.

“Government is not reason, it is not eloquence,—it is force! Like fire, it is a dangerous servant, and a fearful master; never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.”

Now, we see a new imposition.

The Department of Labor says its so-called fiduciary rule will make financial advisers act in the best interests of clients. What Labor doesn’t say is that the rule carries such enormous potential legal liability and demands such a high standard of care that many advisers will shun non-affluent accounts. Middle-income investors may be forced to look elsewhere for financial advice even as Team Obama is enabling a raft of new government-run competitors for retirement savings. This is no coincidence.

Labor’s new rule will start biting in January as the President is leaving office. Under the rule, financial firms advising workers moving money out of company 401(k) plans into Individual Retirement Accounts will have to follow the new higher standards. But Labor has already proposed waivers from the federal Erisa law so new state-run retirement plans don’t have the same regulatory burden as private employers do.

State run retirement plans. What could go wrong ? Well, we saw one version in Cyprus in 2013.

European leaders reached an agreement with Cyprus early on Monday morning that closes down the island’s second-largest bank and inflicts huge losses on wealthy savers.

Those with deposits of less than €100,000 (£85,000) will be spared, but those with more than €100,000 – many of them Russian – will lose billions of euros under draconian terms aimed at preventing the Mediterranean tax haven becoming the first country forced out of the single currency.

The deal is expected to wreak lasting damage on the Cypriot economy, which has grown reliant on offshore banking and Russian money. Analysts said Cyprus could see its economy contract by 10% or more in the years ahead.

Well, those Russian oligarchs deserved it. Maybe American companies attempting “inversion” deserve it too.

CEOs have learned to keep mum in the Obama era, lest their companies be punished like J.P. Morgan after Jamie Dimon criticized some parts of Dodd-Frank. So it’s worth noting the candid reaction after a new Treasury rule scuttled the merger between Pfizer Inc. and Allergan PLC.

The companies ended their $150 billion tie-up after Treasury Secretary Jack Lew issued new rules that made it harder for companies like Pfizer to move to Ireland to legally lower their taxes. Pfizer will have to pay Allergan a breakup fee of $150 million, though Allergan shares are still down more than $10 billion since the Treasury ambush.

I am not a slavish advocate of corporate tax avoidance but we are in an era of confiscation.

“If the rules can be changed arbitrarily and applied retroactively, how can any U.S. company engage in the long-term investment planning necessary to compete,” Mr. Read writes. “The new ‘rules’ show that there are no set rules. Political dogma is the only rule.”

He’s right, as every CEO we know will admit privately. This politicization has spread across most of the economy during the Obama years, as regulators rewrite longstanding interpretations of longstanding laws in order to achieve the policy goals they can’t or won’t negotiate with Congress. Telecoms, consumer finance, for-profit education, carbon energy, auto lending, auto-fuel economy, truck emissions, home mortgages, health care and so much more.

Now, they want everypne to “invest” in state run “retirement programs.” CalPERS has not distinguished itself, except perhaps in corruption.

After spending years dogged by unpaid debts, California labor leader Charles Valdes filed for bankruptcy in the 1990s—twice. At the same time, he held one of the most influential positions in the American financial system: chair of the investment committee for the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, or CalPERS, the nation’s largest pension fund for government workers. Valdes left the board in 2010 and now faces scrutiny for accepting gifts from another former board member, Alfred Villalobos—who, the state alleges, spent tens of thousands of dollars trying to influence how the fund invested its assets. Questioned by investigators about his dealings with Villalobos, Valdes invoked the Fifth Amendment 126 times.

Well, it is California where Hispanics, especially illegals, run the state.

Last month the board of California’s new “Secure Choice” retirement plan wrote to state legislators about their “exciting win” in Washington. They reported that employers enrolling workers in the new government-run plan “would have no liability or fiduciary duty for the plan.” Score! The California bureaucrats added that “we have been given the green light to auto-enroll workers into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA).”

What could go wrong ?

The Doctor Shortage, discovered once more.

April 1st, 2016

33 - Lister

I have previously written posts about a coming doctor shortage.

They assume that primary care will be delivered by nurse practitioners and physician assistants. They are probably correct as we see with the new Wal Mart primary care clinics.

The company has opened five primary care locations in South Carolina and Texas, and plans to open a sixth clinic in Palestine, Tex., on Friday and another six by the end of the year. The clinics, it says, can offer a broader range of services, like chronic disease management, than the 100 or so acute care clinics leased by hospital operators at Walmarts across the country. Unlike CVS or Walgreens, which also offer some similar services, or Costco, which offers eye care, Walmart is marketing itself as a primary medical provider.

This is all well and good. What happens when a patient comes in with a serious condition ?

The health policy “experts” have been concerned to train “lesser licensed practitioners” and have pretty much ignored primary care MDs except to burden them with clumsy electronic medical record systems that take up time and make life miserable.

I repeatedly ask medical students if they would choose a career in primary care if it would completely erase their student loan debt. A few hands go up, but not many. In fact, for a while now, the federal government has dedicated millions of dollars to repaying loans for students who choose primary care. Yet residency match numbers show that the percentage of students choosing primary care is not increasing. Though loan forgiveness is a step in the right direction, medical students realize that by choosing a more lucrative specialty, they can pay off their loans just fine.

I proposed years ago, a health reform that resembled that of France where medical school is free. It could be arranged that service in primary care, low income clinics would give credit against student loans. Nothing happened. Except physician income has declined. And tuition has increased.

Read the rest of this entry »