Monthly Archives: November 2010

“Sicko” – A review

I recently watched Michael Moore’s diatribe on Healthcare in the US and around the world. As someone who has experienced the British National Health Service first-hand, I feel that I have something to say on this matter.

The first few minutes of the movie sets the stage:

  • Democrats Good
  • Republicans Bad
  • Cheney+Bush Evil
  • Hillary is The Messiah…

Sorry Michael, but your politics are showing. I almost gave up on the movie at this point.

Fortunately, it gets better once Michael moves beyond politics and points out that real change in this country will not be possible as long as Big Medicine (Doctors and Hospitals), Big Health Insurance and Big Pharma are running the game. That is a good point, but he has no solution.

Moore then takes us on a trip around the world, looking at the healthcare systems in Canada, France and Britain. He makes a big deal about the fact that these countries all have free healthcare, but conveniently sidesteps the fact that they fund their health systems with additional taxes. Instead, he looks at the lifestyles that doctors lead in that country (cars, houses etc), which is a bit of a red herring. He makes a big deal that a Doctor in London lives in a half-million-dollar house while forgetting to mention that London is the most expensive city in the world, where the cost of half-way-decent housing starts at a quarter-millon and goes up from there. The same Doctor living in New York City would also live in a Half-Million Dollar house. Your point, Michael?

Even worse, he also conveniently forgets to point out that Canada, Britain and France have long-term problems with funding their health services. An economy that produces little and provides services such as pensions and healthcare will tax its producers until they give up or leave, at which point the economy will collapse. Ask me how I know.

When it comes to Britain’s National Health Service (NHS), Mr. Moore is either being disingenuous or he is not paying attention. He mentions that Doctors are paid by the number of patients they have on their books, and get bonuses for getting people to stop smoking, but he fails to mention that the doctor is penalized for sending patients to hospital. He also forgets to mention that some surgical procedures have waiting lists that are months or years in length – and when the Government set guidelines limiting the time spent on those waiting lists, the Doctors were forced to use unofficial waiting lists to get onto the official ones.

He forgets to mention that many drugs and treatments available to patients in the US are unavailable to NHS patients — because they are too expensive. He also forgets to mention the number of people each year who die while waiting for treatment from Socialized Healthcare. It is clear that Michael is not interested in telling the whole truth; just the side of it that fits with his preconceived notions (socialized healthcare=good, free market=bad, even though almost all new innovations come from free-market economies) . Given the choice between dying because I cannot afford a life-saving treatment and dying because some Government Bureaucrat thinks I’m not worth saving, I’ll take the former every time.

Riddle me this, Michael: Who do you trust more: Big Medicine/Pharma/Insurance or the Government? Given their proven track record with Medicare, Social Security and the Post Office, do you really want to trust them with our health as well?

Yes, the Canadians, the British and the French have Socialized Healthcare that works — for now. But they have their limitations, which you have cleverly avoided facing head-on. And if we do what they’ve done, we’ll get what they’re getting.

Does this mean our system is perfect? No, but the simple fact is that we cannot afford the Medicare that we have in the long term; we certainly can’t afford Socialized Healthcare for everyone else. The only solution that will work involves getting one or more of the players involved to take a pay cut. Good luck with that…

The good news is that the US has the best healthcare system that money can buy.

The bad news is that the US has the best healthcare system that money can buy.

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I solved the deficit!

The New York Times has created an online “game” that allows you to solve the deficit.

I was able to solve it quite handily in about five minutes. Here is my solution.

While it is both easy and reasonable to talk about cutting Foreign Aid, Defense, Farm Subsidies, Earmarks and shrinking the Government, it is clear that the lion’s share of the deficit falls into two major categories: Social Security and Socialized Healthcare (aka Medicare). A third — welfare — is not even mentioned. That’s what is killing the economies of Western Europe, and that is what will kill us…

When Social Security was designed back in the thirties, it was originally sold as an “insurance scheme” (though it was later re-defined as a tax) for those who reached the age of 65. Back then, only one in fourteen people lived to see their sixty-fifth birthday… in which case Uncle Sam got to keep the money. This leads to the inescapable conclusion that Social Security was a scam on Day One.

So where do we get the idea that you have a sacred right to “retire” at age 65? Most of the world does not understand the concept of mandatory retirement; you work until:

  • You can afford to live on your savings.
  • Your children can afford to support you.
  • You die.

For me, it is a moot point: by the time I am able to retire, I suspect that the Government will turn out empty pockets and say something to the effect of “you on you own, foo!”

Medicare, on the other hand, is a huge can of worms. We all want free healthcare and cheap drugs when we get old, but somebody’s got to pay the bill. Congress recently enacted a 23% cut in Medicare rates paid to Doctors for their services, but they haven’t implemented it yet — on the very sensible grounds that as soon as they do, one third of the doctors will retire and another third will stop taking medicare patients, leaving too many Medicare patients chasing too few Doctors — at which point the system will promptly collapse under its own weight. Moral: you can dictate whatever terms you like, but you cannot force people to buy what you are selling.

Perhaps the biggest problem is that America, the land of opportunity, free enterprise, hard work, liberty and justice for all, is turning into the land of Big Government, where everone expects the Government to be all things to all people all of the time. Many of the areas in the “game” — such as HealthCare, Banking and some Taxes — pertain to areas where the Federal Government has no Constitutional Mandate.

If it were up to me, I would move to dismantle the welfare state in the long term, and abolish the Income Tax and replace it by a Sales Tax of 20%…

…but it’s not up to me, thank God.

Magellan Roadmate 1220 – Review

My first GPS was a Garmin Nüvi 200. I got it free for applying for a Discover Card. The card is long gone, but I still have the GPS. A fairly basic model, it was nevertheless quite a neat gadget — particularly once I had “hacked” it to speak to me in my own voice. However, at more than three years of age it is getting a little long in the tooth; It takes ages to find a satellite — once failing to do so completely on a fifty-mile stretch of freeway. And Garmin’s wanting $80+ for new maps is nothing less than a joke.

I spotted this online at a good price and purchased two (one for each car). In the box was a car charger, a suction-cup mount, a “sticky disk” (sorry, I don’t know what those things are called) a manual and of course the GPS — a slim, sexy little black number. The testing was done on a run to New York and back; not once did it let us down.

What I liked

  • Power-on time and signal acquisition are far superior to the Garmin unit.
  • Light, pocket-sized small form factor.
  • Ten-second switch-off delay with “cancel” option.
  • Intelligent keyboard with voice annunciation of typing.
  • “Heads-up” chime.

What I disliked

  • Sometimes the screen failed to detect a press, particularly in the corners.
  • Latest maps available are not up to date, and did not include a nearby freeway ramp that went on-stream in late April.

What I hated

  • Sometimes when typing on the keyboard, the voice would announce a letter being pressed, but it would not show up on the screen. This is extremely confusing.
  • Their Customer Service stinks.

I e-mailed Magellan’s Customer Service about the maps issue. What followed was more than two weeks of e-mail back-and-forth. They didn’t answer my questions — and when they did, they gave evasive and ambiguous answers, answered questions I didn’t ask, asked for information I had already given them… and don’t really help at all.

At one point they admitted that “…the 2010 Spring Map Update is current as of the 3rd Quarter of 2009…”, a naming convention that I thought highly disingenuous at best and outright dishonest at worst, but they somehow managed to say it with a completely straight face.

Verdict: The Good: we now have a GPS for each vehicle. The Bad: The maps are a year out of date. The Ugly: Customer Service = the art of telling the customer “NO”.

I am satisfied with the items — I don’t feel that I got a bad deal — but Magellan’s alleged Customer Service has put me off the company. I define “Customer Service” as “helping the customer when you don’t have to“. LIke too many companies, their definition appears to be “telling the Customer ‘No‘” Their unwillingness to meet me half way with a problem that I took the time to inform them about is very disappointing indeed.

I will be avoiding Magellan products in the future