Monday, December 28, 2009

Health Care Reform Lobyists

The Chicago Tribune had an excellent article on the role of lobbyists in the health care reform bill. This parallels the article I found on bribing senators with special benefits for their state. By the way, thanks to Ariela Huffington .com for pointing me at this article.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Underwater Mortgages and the Share Economy

Twenty five percent are "underwater" on their mortgage or twenty-three percent according to the Core Logic report, which shows that in Arizona and Nevada, it is reaching levels of half the mortgagees. That is the home owner owes more than the house is worth, often having buying with no money down. They are walking away from their mortgage. Seventeen percent of defaults are strategic defaults. Share economy mortgage is the answer, the mortgage is a fixed per cent of their income.

What happens when they sell "under water." Let's say they purchased for $400,000. They agree to pay 25% of their income for the mortgae. They sell for $300,000.00. They pay $75,000 to the bank, keep $225,000.00, but continue paying the 25% of their income to the bank.

This evens the moral playing field between those who do what might financially best for them, and those who feel a moral obligation to continue paying their mortgage.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Cloture, Bargaining and Bribing Senators

The Peoria Journal Star, December 24th , 2009, Volume 154, Number 29, Page A4 had a great editorial summarizing the places where Senators were given special treatment for their state in exchange for their vote to pass the Health Reform Bill--to get the sixty votes needed for cloture. Extra aid has gone to Connecticut, Louisiana, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Florida, Vermont, Massachussetts, Nebraska. They quotted Harry Reid, Majority Leader, 'I don't know if there is a senantor that deosn't have something in this bill that was important to them. And if they don't have somethin in it--(it) doesn't speak well of them."

Of course, one could argue for more statesmanlike senators. Of course, one could argue against the rule that allows fillibusters to continue until sixty percent vote yes--or you could take my proposal, postulated here in May that fourty per cent of either house is sufficent to put a version of the bill before the American people. Should there be several versions available, the American People would vote by Approval voting.

Friday, December 25, 2009


We have heard much about the evils of deflation. By far the most important issue is that those who have fixed debts find them increasingly burdensome. The share economy And I have heard that the main nation for deflation is Japan. Deflation continues in that country.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Fosamax Bone Density Machines, A Case Study on how not to incentivize the drug companies

NPR had an excellent presentation on how Merck increased the sales of its Fosamax pill which increased bone density and reduced bone fractures from osteoporosis. Bone density diagnosis machines were expensive and there were thus few of them. It worked with and eventually threated the manufacturerers into reducing the cost so that most Doctor's offices had one. The result was that many women were diagnosed with osteopenia, a milder form of loss of bone. However, although fosamax increased bone edesnisty, one study showed that it did not decrease the risk of fracture, and, in fact, there are anecdotal reports that it might even make the bones more brittle increasing fracture risk. A Rome medical meeting looked at different bone density numbers and arbitarily divsiions between the numbers where a women would be diagnosed with osteoporosis, osteopenia and normal bone density. (My mother and myself also found fosamax could cause problems with dental disorders.)

A pharmacoepidemiologist said that often drug manufacturers would take a drug effective in severe cases of a disease, and market it for those with midler forms. It was not clear that the drug was helpful in these situations and whether the risk of side effects, etc. outweighted any benefit it might provide for those with milder forms.

The problem is that we need to reward drug manufacturers for beneficial results for patients after a long term, and not reward drug companies every time a doctor prescribes the drug, that is for sales.

I spoke about this a little in the fouth part of my four-part participatory plan for health care reform.

Monday, December 21, 2009

China Emission Monitoring and the Sortition Tax

Unfortunately, a sticking point in cliamate change negotiations is monitoring emissions. China has been hesitant to allow this feeling that monitoring all its businesses would be an infringement of its sovereignty.

Yet a sortition based consumption tax would solve the problem. I mentioned this in the first post of this blog. Each item or service sold, whether imported or produced here, would be subject to a tax. It would be applied in a competitive fashion. That is all the car producers would compete as to which is the most environmentally friendly, and takes care of its workers, and produces products that are safe and don't consume much gasoline, or perhaps are not dependent upon gasoline. Similarly, toy producers, computer manufacturers and others would compete to avoid the tax.

The sortition jury would vote to tax them. Those businesses that agree to monitoring would have an advantage. The sortition jury could also allocate up to five percent of the tax collected to both government agencies and non-profits who run monitoring programs. Businesses would be free to decline monitoring programs that it felt were too intrusive. However, they would be at a competitive disadvantage in getting a low tax rate.

The agencies and NGO's would have an incentive to design monitoring programs that are reliable but that companies were willing to accept--otherwise, they would get less of the money available for such purposes.

Seven to one Americans said the Administration should put a higher priority on improving the economy than reducing global warming. Thus, the sortition juries would look at a companies record of providing stable employment to Americans and its environmental record.

Note this is applied to labor standards, providing health care to its workers and above all environmental issues, both conventional and those associated with global warming.

Friday, December 18, 2009

CT Scanners and cancer

CT scans cause 14,500 cancers per year. This is an argument for rating physicians after the fact. Also, some scanners are four times as radiation as others.

Los Angles School System admits not evaluating teachers properly.

The Los Angeles School System said that they should fire weak teachers now so they don't get seniority and they don't get tenure. The Los Angles Times and internal reports. has found that the school system did not meaningfully evaluate teachers. As we reported earlier, the solution is that individuals should be forced to wait to spend, if not receive, the bulk of their pay until we know who is truly deserving and we can tel with twenty-twenty hind sight. Thus faculty (at both the K-12 and college level) should receive a minimal salary with therest going ton a fund. Then, the students, or an independent sortition jury, would evaluate each techer after the stuents, at least have had time to graduate and see how effective their education was.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Green Tech and Financing

Renewable energy sources are suited for debt finance, and with the credit crisis, orders for wind turbines dropped by half. Also, they are a "natural hedge" against prices.

The obviousl implications that something is wrong with our finance system and the financial stimulus system...

Experts judges on jury, italian jury system

I am intrigued about the Italian jury system, where there are two judges and six members of the public. Would this be a model for deciding technical cases, in malpractice cases, a jury of two doctors and six members of the public. In criminal cases such as the recent murder trial involving an American exchange student, would it not be better to have forensic specialists as well.

Obviously, this brings up the whole issue of the role of expertise and that of sortition juries in various cases, an issue in which I intend to explore fully.

In researching this, I found a New York Times article from 1873 pointing out some peculiar decisions by Italian juries in what would be called jury nullification in the United States Today, but also displaying a prejudice against the Italian people, that would not be acceptable today.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tarp bailouts badly handled

Rick Ungar has a very good analysis of why Tarp was a bad deal for the American people. Of course, I advocated that sortition juries should control the spending and it should be more finely aimed at preventing unemployment. And to deal with outrageous bonuses, those who ever received more than a million dollars in a single year, should have their spending limited to the median income or have a sortition jury release money. In other words, they can keep their money, invest it in approved investments, more on that later, but they can't live like a millionaire without a check on whether they were a constructive force in society.

Fed and the Financial System

THE FED does not know when to pop "asset bubbles" and its only weapon seems to be rates. The best answer is to control the buying and selling directly, and have people exchange shares in income, whether it be a house or a business. And interest rates at zero are encouraging inflation and complaints that U. S. monetary policy might be contributing to bubbles abroad. And I reviewed Ann Pettifor's book whose prime point is saying that the creation of money should be done to further the public good rather than led banks and others draw the profits.