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Links With Your Coffee - Tuesday

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Buying books on Amazon is better for authors, better for the economy, and better for you.

The bright light in the center of this NASA photo is the planet Mercury. But what is the smaller light off to the right? This is from a video available to the public on the SECCHI website (Sun Centered Imaging package and Heliosphere Imager). This is an array of imagers studying the space around the sun - the heliosphere. This still is taken from a video showing a coronal mass ejection. Mercury happens to be moving through the field of view.

-Three ways of looking at a blackbird

McCartney explained on PBS's Great Performances (Paul McCartney: Chaos and Creation at Abbey Road), aired in 2006, that the guitar accompaniment for "Blackbird" was inspired by J.S. Bach's Bourrée in E minor, a well known lute piece, often played on the classical guitar. As children, he and George Harrison tried to learn Bourrée as a "show off" piece. The Bourrée is distinguished by melody and bass notes played simultaneously on the upper and lower strings. McCartney adapted a segment of the Bourrée (reharmonized into the original's relative major key of G) as the opening of "Blackbird," and carried the musical idea throughout the song.

Thanks to a $374,000 taxpayer-funded grant, we now know that inhaling lemon and lavender scents doesn't do a lot for our ability to heal a wound. With $666,000 in federal research money, scientists examined whether distant prayer could heal AIDS. It could not.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine also helped pay scientists to study whether squirting brewed coffee into someone's intestines can help treat pancreatic cancer (a $406,000 grant) and whether massage makes people with advanced cancer feel better ($1.25 million). The coffee enemas did not help. The massage did.


 

Comments

Just curious. If a for-profit insurance company sold itself to a non-profit foundation created by it's own board of directors, would it not escape all these silly rules against making a profit? Does it really matter to the consumer if the profits are distributed in the form of insane salaries and bond payments or dividends? If you look at the history of Blue Cross/Blue Shield, it seems pretty obvious the term non-profit makes little difference to the end customer.

I don't see your point. Are you referring to the "Obamacare Bomb" article? Did you actually read all of it?

My understanding was that it was about legislation that makes sure a certain percentage of the money that health insurance companies take from their customers actually goes toward medical treatment (otherwise, why is the health insurance company being given money?)

The other side of that equation - the 20% that insurance company absorbs that doesn't go towards providing the service it offers its customers - is irrelevant as far as the legislation is concerned. The corporations can spend it on expensive hats, a byzantine bureaucracy that makes sick people even more miserable, "insane salaries" for its executives, or all of the above.

It certainly doesn't strike me as a rule against making a profit; it seems more like a rule that's attempting to reduce fraud and waste.

Yeah, I read it. I guess I was misled by this sentence:

"Rather, the medical loss ratio will, ultimately, lead to the death of large parts of the private, for-profit health insurance industry."

Now that you've cleared it up for me, I see he's cheering the death of health insurance in general so we will all be forced to accept European style coverage from the always cost-efficient and benevolent congress. I love how people cheer when the government offers up another teet, yet can't seem to see a relationship between bankrupting European countries and their life-long suckling masses.

yet can't seem to see a relationship between bankrupting European countries and their life-long suckling masses

And you can't see the relationship between the US driving the global economy into the ground and the destabilization of European markets?

Or the relationship between the zero-regulation environment that allowed the massive fraud that caused the US to crash the global economy in the first place, and the very mild legislation aiming to curtail similar types of fraud in the insurance industry?

Or the relationship between the endlessly broadcast utterly insane right-wing rhetoric and your knee-jerk parroting about "suckling" Europeans? Which I find offensive; it's immature ad hominem. The Europeans I am acquainted with are just as hard-working and enlightened as any American, if not more so.

Of course, your posts are probably deliberately thoughtless, because you are probably trolling. Ah well.

Red Herring. You lose.

Definitely trolling.

That's what he does to an ever increasing extent. The fact that Europe's financial problems originated largely in the American banking casino or in adoption of the same lax "rules" of the American banking casino is right on point - the "suckiling masses" is horseshit Syngas buries his head in so that he doesn't have to confront the truth: casino capitalism is failing. Some of the biggest parasites in the world are the very same insurance companies he just can;'t bring himself to consider.

Buying books on Amazon is better for authors, better for the economy, and better for you.

My neighborhood bookstore is owned by a local author. http://birchbarkbooks.com/ I think that changes the calculation.

I can see how that might change the calculation for you, though not even that is certain. But an anecdote based on your personal experience certainly isn't a good argument against the point of the article. Perhaps I'm just missing your point, please explain.

As for reading suggestions, I've read fewer books this year, spending much of my free time birding, and a lot of what I've read is related. I'm about two-thirds into the Thinking Fast Thinking Slow book bye Kahneman? And recommend it highly.

Here's Louis CK's take on the subject: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N95IMKRkcBw&feature=related

Skip the first 45 seconds of banter and ignore the idiot radio jocks interviewing him. At 55 seconds in Louis CK goes off on an amazing tangent and continues for about 20 minutes of brilliant comedy/social commentary.

"It doesn’t make a difference whether you buy Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs at City Lights, Powell’s, Politics & Prose, or Amazon—it’s the same book everywhere."

"After all, if you’re spending extra on books at your local indie, you’ve got less money to spend on everything else—including on authentically local cultural experiences."

Seriously... this is the argument? Because Amazon sells something cheaper it's stupid to not buy it from them? Forget about your neighbor and the business they've run for 20 years building - I just saved 5 bucks! My lumber, too expensive at my other neighbors hardware store, I'm going to Home Depot and instead of buying my wrapping paper at the local arts and crafts store I'll just get the cheap stuff from WalMart...

This is why we have so few good jobs left in America. Short-sighted laziness and greed. We don't pay what something is worth, we pay what a massive corporation can strong arm it's suppliers to give it to them for at the expense of workers. The original piece this author was criticizing is right, this sort of shopping does destroy community and not just by removing the cultural gatherings at bookstores, it does it by closing up businesses. I could spout off a good many anecdotal stories about my local bookstores and what they offer that even Amazon doesn't, but won't.

Instead, lets look at this: Amazon is the same corporation that booted WikiLeaks off it's servers for "violating it's terms of service".

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2010/dec/11/wikileaks-amazon-denial-democracy-lieberman

Amazon's decision to abandon WikiLeaks sends out a clear message: you can publish what you like – as long as it meets with the government's approval.

Also, this:

The bias of online knowledge http://www.mendeley.com/research/google-and-the-digital-divide-the-bias-of-online-knowledge/

This is basically a study on the effect online searches which customize searches based on a user's interests has on shaping what they read and learn.

In a regular bookstore you'll have Noam Chomsky next to Pat Buchanan next to much more. On Amazon you have what you specifically searched for next to "Those who bought this also like..." so it bottlenecks a person's exposure to information and options.

As to the articles point that people are reading more thanks to Amazon, quantity doesn't equate quality.

Here's Louis CK's take on the subject: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N95IMKRkcBw&feature=related

Skip the first 45 seconds of banter and ignore the idiot radio jocks interviewing him. At 55 seconds in Louis CK goes off on an amazing tangent and continues for about 20 minutes of brilliant comedy/social commentary.

Sorry for the triple post - thought the server stalled while loading.

Here's Louis CK's take on the subject: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N95IMKRkcBw&feature=related

Skip the first 45 seconds of banter and ignore the idiot radio jocks interviewing him. At 55 seconds in Louis CK goes off on an amazing tangent and continues for about 20 minutes of brilliant comedy/social commentary.

I think the argument was not about corporations' practices, but Amazon's own initiative in getting people to buy more books, which was a counter-argument to the original article he was responding to.

Just in case, Norm's link is to the second page of the article, there is some caveats about Amazon's horrible practices on page one, but the argument was based solely on what helps authors sell more books and people to read them.

Re: Obama Care.

Seems to me that a 20% overhead uplift oughta be plenty. Never did understand why folks are so fearful of this bill.

re: Amazon

Our local grocery store has a sign that says "Did you know a dollar spent in a locally owned market returns 68 cents to the community through taxes, payroll and other expenditures. The very same dollar spent at a national chain returns only about 43 cents."

I don't know what the source of this statistic is, but that can make a big difference in a small community. And, our local used/new bookstore is a highly valued amenity in our tiny town. Not to say that Amazon isn't a great place to find most any book. But without local support for local businesses, I'm pretty sure our town would be the poorer.

"Seems to me that a 20% overhead uplift oughta be plenty. Never did understand why folks are so fearful of this bill."

Yeah, I suppose it is enough, but then I've never run an insurance company, and I've always been suspect when anyone uses nice round numbers.

Here are my concerns:

  1. Each state has it's own Insurance Commission to handle just this kind of thing. I don't think the federal government has any jurisdiction regulating insurance.

  2. Limiting a company's ability to make a profit may sound nice for the consumer on the surface, but it also has the effect of discouraging competition. Who's going to start a new and innovative insurance company when they're told upfront the reward for taking this risk is capped? For those of us who believe competition can lower costs for the consumer, this is counterproductive.

  3. It starts a dangerous precedent. If the federal government is permitted to tell one industry what their profit and expense margins can be, why wouldn't they go after any other industry?

    I think organic produce is too damn expensive, so my family is forced to eat pesticide ridden, genetically engineered food that may be harming our health. If I could just convince my congressman that organic growers are marking up their product too much, maybe he could stop you from making so much money, and I could afford to buy it. Right?

    Wrong! You and I both know what the result of that kind of legislation would be - fewer organic growers, and a scarcity of healthy food.

  4. Price controls never work long term, and don't be fooled, this is just another form of price control. You don't have to be a fan of Milton Freidman to understand this, even Krugman agrees

Of course if the federal government is planning on driving out it's competition, this is an excellent way to do it, and they look like the good guys to everyone in the Democratic Party, but we're left with government provided health care which will be provided by a government that is 15 trillion dollars in debt. What happens when China stops lending us the money to run our government provided health care? Now that's scary!

Linked to the second page of Krugman's essay - you'll have to navigate to the first page if you care to read it all.

re: Obamacare - Syngas reply

"I think organic produce is too damn expensive, so my family is forced to eat pesticide ridden, genetically engineered food that may be harming our health. If I could just convince my congressman that organic growers are marking up their product too much, maybe he could stop you from making so much money, and I could afford to buy it. Right?"

response: I'd love a 20% margin. Sure would beat 'creeping up on breaking even' which is a more accurate assessment of most non-commodity farmers balance sheets, especially those of small family farms whether or not they be Organic.

That said, I appreciate your thoughtful response in airing your concerns with the Affordable Care act. Your belief that price controls never work in the long run is a widely held view. I don't know that that makes it right. Indeed, I expect that the "free market" exists only in imagination. The health care market is inexorably affected by policy, whether it be state or fed regulation. Further, one has the complication that the population gets sicker as it gets older so health care costs are affected by things like immigration policy. And, the population gets sicker as it consumes softdrinks, junk food, and other ersatz fillers which are of course, also policy affected. Neither such effect has anything to do with actual Health Care legislation. With respect to the States Rights vrs Federal Rights, that's a complicated balance I think. On one hand, bringing the community decisions that affect daily life closer to the people is a good thing. Once one gets to the size of the Fed. Government, it's awfully easy to end up with a 'one size fits all' solution that actually fits nobody. Yet the modern world is such that coordinated action is often essential, and the Federal Government is where that could occur were all politicians more concerned with the good of the country and valued diplomacy more than bombast.

re: threadjack: Re: Republican Debate last nite:

Michelle Bachmann was the winner I think, I loved this quote from her:

"I'm a serious candidate for president of the United States, and my facts are accurate." Thus spoke the gal with the 1 inch long artificial eye lashes. Playing a reincarnation of Tammy Faye Bakker perhaps?

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