Quick Roundup 188

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A Tale of Two Industries

Over at TCS Daily is an article drawing parallels between two industrial sectors that receive heavy financial support from the government: medicine and education.

Jon Hall's central point is well worth further exploration.

Assured payment results in waste and fraud. It has caused an explosion in medically unnecessary tests and procedures. It is [also] why universities can provide their professors with cushy sinecures for precious little work. (How else could the University of Colorado afford a 6-digit compensation package for the likes of a Ward Churchill?) The hospitals and universities don't have to economize and prioritize; they can have it all. The money will be there for them.
Hall goes from here to argue that we should permit "all workers to divert their share of their company's health insurance budget into HSAs", a measure I could support as a good first step towards truly freeing medicine from the government yoke.

Of course, a question I would have really liked to see Hall toss in is this one: Why not consider a free market approach to education?

Switching Teams: God-Squadder Uses Old Tricks

The below open admission by Frank Pastore of his dishonest method of argumentation -- which he employs throughout this Townhall.com article amused me quite a bit. He describes how he used to "argue" against belief in God.
Throw out lots of words that people can't understand. Talk over them. Blind them with science. Talk about the details of the leaves on the trees but don't allow them to bring it back to "Why the forest at all?" Assert the fact/value distinction. Claim that only science deals with knowledge. Drop in some postmodern gobbledygook. Distract them with how science deals with the "what, where, how and when" and not the "who and the why." Especially avoid people who have had training in the philosophy of science -- they're dangerous because they see through us and know who we are -- they don’t see the shimmering lab coats that everyone else sees. They don't see any clothes at all.
In other words, throw up all sorts of dishonest objections, talk non-stop, and avoid addressing any fundamental issues. I get the distinct feeling that he never got anywhere with this approach, least of all with himself.

Pastore's whole essay reads like the above paragpraph as he does exactly what it describes, only seeking to discredit all secularists for his own sins, claiming that there is a God where before he did not, and ignoring all the legitimate questions this brings up, such as the whole matter of burden of proof.

One's focus on philosophical issues should not be on beating everyone else over the head anyway, but with deepening one's own understanding. This is because as men, we are rational animals, and it behooves us to understand the world we are in as clearly as possible.

Hmmm. Maybe part of what the missionary zeal of so many religions accomplishes is to help followers forget their own stake in making sure they have answered "the big questions" correctly. It certainly seems to have worked with Pastore.

Diana West on Our Talks with Iran

Diana West makes many points I have addressed here before or at least thought about, but read her column anyway.
American soldiers now die and are maimed because of such belligerence. Not so very long ago, Beirut CIA station chief William Buckley, Navy diver Robert Stethem, and Marine Col. William Higgins all fell to Iranian-sponsored, Hezbollah terrorism, suffering horrendous beatings and torture before they died, unavenged.

When will it occur to our leaders that Iran is already in a state of war with us? Surely, that's nothing to be "polite" about. [bold added]
At least someone is saying this.

Article on Income Inequality

At The American is an interesting-looking article I haven't had a chance to read yet that appears to argue in favor of the growing income "gap": "The Upside of Income Inequality".

Why I Write

Yesterday, my old, but perfectly road-worthy car failed a state emissions test. I'll decide today whether it will be worth repairing it so it can pass or whether I should risk a ticket until I get a newer car. On returning home, my wife (a medical student) told me about a clever way she heard about for physicians to avoid being robbed of their life savings in court. Would someone please tell me why the hell I should have to worry about either of these things?

And then I walked a dog for a friend who is out of town, only to see that nearly every house in his neighborhood recycles. I remember when only hippies and the most annoying busybodies would waste their "nonrenewable" time sorting through garbage and then storing it like it was gold. Now, even in Texas, many communities have "mandatory" recycling, not that anyone needs to be forced to do it any more. Is it any wonder that global warming hysteria is taking hold?

Because the foolish beliefs of other people can easily and wrongly affect government policy, I get to: choose between wasting money on a car I don't want or breaking the law, worry about some parasite stealing my wife's money in court (if the state doesn't turn her into a government slave before that happens), and face the prospect of the generally lower standard of living that global warming legislation will bring about if enacted. And that's just what came up yesterday during about the four hours after 4:00 pm!

Other people think it's okay to use government force to order others around, including me, for purposes that will plainly make my life far less wonderful than it ought to be. I can't just sit here and take this silently. This is wrong and it is hurting me. I must do what I can to put a stop to it.

In Praise of Numb3rs

To end on a more positive note, Andrew Medworth posted a very interesting review of the crime drama Numb3rs over at his blog:
In a world whose artists prefer to focus on the perverted, the depraved and the banal, and sneer at any form of heroism, this show is a breath of fresh air. Not only are the two leads both uncompromisingly good characters, but in each episode the theme is reinforced: the power of the mind to uphold the law and protect the innocent.
Perhaps in part because my dad was a cop, I tend to prefer true crime documentaries to crime dramas. But this is one crime drama I plan to take a closer look at.

-- CAV


Dismuke said...

That is very interesting as I, by coincidence, actually had my vehicle inspected the very same day yours failed. And it was several days after the end of the month that it was due - I think my grace period expired Saturdady.

My "check engine" light had been on for several months. The only time I worry about it if it does not impact performance is if an inspection is due as it usually is something such as a bad gas cap or some environmental nonsense.

A few weeks before my inspection, I had the code tested (Auto Zone will do the test for you for free) and it said that I had a problem with my EGR valve and that I needed a tune up. The tune up on my vehicle is very easy to do myself and did not take much time or money. The quote for the EGR valve was $89. When I looked to see where the EGR valve was, it was in a rather awkward spot. Since I HATE working on cars, I decided I would have the luxury of paying someone to put it on for me.

The Midas Muffler near me has done brake work for me on two occasions and they did not attempt to scam or screw me so I called to see if they could install and EGR valve for me. They could. When I showed up for my early morning appointment, the building was being demolished. Turns out when I phoned the call was forwarded to another location on the other side of town. So I drive to the other side of town. Right before I gave them my key,I asked what the price would be. Some number over $400. "Huhhhh??? How much of that is for the part?" $300 something is what I was quoted. Well, that's a HECK of a lot more than the $89 AutoZone was going to charge me - so I walked out.

I found a Kwick Kar Lube place near my house that would install it for one hour's labor at $75 per hour and I could supply my own part if I wished. That was a much better price. And to my shock the mechanic told me that, in fact, I did not need the EGR valve replaced. Turned out that a vaccuum hose had deteriorated and that he would simply replace the hose and charge me for a half hour's labor. I was able to take the EGR valve back to the parts store and get my money back for it. However, before I could get the car inspected, I had to drive 50 or so miles to reset the codes. So I drove to work on Friday, stayed home all weekend rather than worry about a ticket for the expired sticker and got it inspected yesterday morning.

In the end, it worked out well. I only had to pay $37 over the cost of a tune up I needed anyway and I found a place I think I can trust - unlike Midas which the people at the lube shop assured me was trying to rip me off with rates such as what they quoted. But all the hassle I went through and the mild amount of stress I spent worrying about what to do if the EGR replacement did not fix the light (which is sometimes the case) is something I really resent. And the sad fact is that a great many automotive service centers out there are run by goons with the mindset of scam artists. The government really needs to be spending its time and resources conducting stings against all of the very widespread outright fraud that is frequently practiced the automotive sales and service industry instead of actually lining up potential new victims for such places to take advanatage of.

If worse came to worse - well, I know someone who knows of a place where handing $80 and mentioning a certain person's name to the man doing the inspection will result in a passed inspection no matter what. Happily, I did not have to do that. If I actually were forced to choose between that the prospect of sinking hundreds of dollars chasing down and troublshooting some crazy system bug that keeps setting codes - well, my ONLY consideration on the matter would be the potential consequences of getting caught. This would be an instance where I would certainly have no MORAL qualms about engaging the services of such an supposed "criminal." And I actually resent that it got to the point that I was making inquiries about how to go about doing that in the event it was necessary.

One more thing: Do a google search on the particular emissions problem that caused you to fail. I have been told that there are sometimes cases where all you need to is "accidentally" unfasten or cut certain hoses which will result in one not failing - hoses which are not looked at in the inspection process. Also, Wal-mart sells a product you add to your gas tank which CLAIMS you will enable you to pass your inspection if you use it within a certain time frame. I saw it a couple of weeks ago in the area where other fuel additives were sold - might be something to check out next time you go there. Everyone has to think and decide for themselves - but, I, for one, have no MORAL qualms about resorting to such methods.

I kind of wished I had stocked up on cans of freon when the stuff was widely available. Then I could open one up into the air to celebrate the fact that I don't have to worry about my inspection sticker for another year!!

Gus Van Horn said...

My mechanic, who's had my business for years, told me it was either the catalytic converter or the EGR valve and he's checking it today.

I had just finished getting other work done and decided that since the car was there, I'd have them inspect it, too, and save myself an errand.

The car is drivable, but old enough that it is probably not worth replacing the catalytic converter. (It's reaching the point that all old cars eventually do that you end up doing one repair after another.... Replacing it was already an option on the table.) My main purpose in getting the repairs I did was to generally make life easier while we decide whether to replace it and to allow ourselves to shop around if we do.

The galling thing about this -- if it's the catalytic converter -- is that had I known about this, I might have not even bothered with the other repairs. We're close enough in to where we work that we could easily survive for awhile with one car. There's a bus line at the end of the street that lets me make one transfer to rail that will get me in to work within about 20 minutes.

Sid said...

If worse came to worse - well, I know someone who knows of a place where handing $80 and mentioning a certain person's name to the man doing the inspection will result in a passed inspection no matter what.

In India, you can get the same done for Rs 50-100 or $1.25 to $2.50. You don't even need to mention a name.

If you do mention a name (any one of several) you get a free pass, and a salute from the inspector to go along with it.

What perverse conditions this madness has created!

Sid said...

One addition: I'll second your remarks about automotive servicemen.

Here, if a naive person goes into a service station with his tank full, he's going to invariably get the car back with the tank empty.

A few days ago a TV channel carried out a sting on how cars are stolen. One major method the thieves use is to collect the keys for the cars in the station from the servicemen, take an impression of them, then return them as if nothing happened. The keyless cars pose a slightly greater problem, but they have software for that.

It's a sad state when you cannot trust a serviceman with even the petrol in your tank.

Gus Van Horn said...

Yes. Thanks to irrational automobile "safety" laws, our government has created a market in which dishonesty is a prized commodity!

Your story about the stolen gas is a jaw-dropper! I guess I'll come off better at the end of the day in that respect, anyway!

Inspector said...

That's quite a story, Dismuke! I've heard plenty like it - curse these environmentalist kudzu laws. An upside to testing through the car's check-engine light instead of a tailpipe sniffer is that computers can be hacked, then you pass the test, even if you do have a muscle car obviously stinking up the place. I'd probably better not get any more specific than that...

Huh. Just as I was writing this, Deep Purple's Highway Star came on my internet radio. I'm really hoping they don't kill internet radio!