Friday, March 30, 2012

Running Season

Running season is upon me. Mileage is starting to get heavier. I ran 12 last week, and today was 14. I haven't decided if I'm going to go for three 20+ mile runs, or just two. They say that it's always better to under-train than over-train, but something about getting that third 20 miler makes me feel more comfortable with my training. Not sure yet. Although last time I did get three 20 milers and then I was still not ready for the race at all, and the race I felt the least prepared for, St. George, I had my best time. Who knows. I think I'm leaning less. It's just harder to get myself to do these long runs with a wifey.

I do still love running though. Much more once I finish the long run, and after I have talked myself into actually getting out there. But I just love how it feels to go that far, to look from my house over to the mouth of the Provo Canyon, which is where I always run to on these long ones, and think that I covered that entire distance on my own power in just a couple hours. I just like running that long and knowing that my heart and body must be at least pretty healthy to be able to sustain physical activity for that long. It makes me feel good.

I do think I like having my running calendar pushed up earlier in the year instead of doing my hardest training in the dog days of summer. If I think it's hard to get myself to do those long runs when it's 70 degrees out, it's a million times worse when I'm either having to get up at 6 or 7am to avoid the heat, or just taking it at 80-90 degrees. Those are really, really hard.

Anyway, that's what I have to look forward to for the next 10 weeks, and then it's Utah Valley on June 9th.

Here goes....

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

More To Trayvon Shooting

I saw this report from the Orlando Sentinel yesterday. Here are some excerpts:

On Feb. 26, when Zimmerman first spotted Trayvon, he called police and reported a suspicious person, describing Trayvon as black, acting strangely and perhaps on drugs.

Zimmerman got out of his SUV to follow Trayvon on foot. When a dispatch employee asked Zimmerman if he was following the 17-year-old, Zimmerman said yes. The dispatcher told Zimmerman he did not need to do that.

There is about a one-minute gap during which police say they're not sure what happened.

Zimmerman told them he lost sight of Trayvon and was walking back to his SUV when Trayvon approached him from the left rear, and they exchanged words.

Trayvon asked Zimmerman if he had a problem. Zimmerman said no and reached for his cell phone, he told police. Trayvon then said, "Well, you do now" or something similar and punched Zimmerman in the nose, according to the account he gave police.

Zimmerman fell to the ground and Trayvon got on top of him and began slamming his head into the sidewalk, he told police.

Zimmerman began yelling for help.

Several witnesses heard those cries, and there has been a dispute about whether they came from Zimmerman or Trayvon.

Lawyers for Trayvon's family say it was Trayvon, but police say their evidence indicates it was Zimmerman.

One witness, who has since talked to local television news reporters, told police he saw Zimmerman on the ground with Trayvon on top, pounding him — and was unequivocal that it was Zimmerman who was crying for help.

Zimmerman then shot Trayvon once in the chest at very close range, according to authorities.

When police arrived less than two minutes later, Zimmerman was bleeding from the nose, had a swollen lip and had bloody lacerations to the back of his head.

Paramedics gave him first aid but he said he did not need to go to the hospital. He got medical care the next day.

Should the police have closed the investigation as quickly as they did? Probably not, but if this is the account that they received from Zimmerman, and the evidence seems to support his account of the events, then I can kind of understand why they decided to leave it at that.

I think the real problem is all of the racial politics that are coming into play and how people are trying to turn this into more of a political commentary on the state of the nation.

Here is an interesting piece about how some in the media are manipulating this tragedy into some political action points. From the article:

But is the Martin shooting emblematic of a larger problem? Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and the mainstream media here and abroad certainly are portraying it as such. That larger problem, of course, is lethal white racism and a criminal-justice system allegedly indifferent to the killing of blacks. At a rally Thursday night in Sanford, Sharpton said that “Trayvon represents a reckless disregard for our lives that we’ve seen for too long,” and warned that “they,” presumably whites, would try to trick black protesters into violence by “send[ing] in provocateurs.” “Blacks are under attack,” said Jesse Jackson on Friday from Chicago. “Targeting, arresting, convicting blacks, and ultimately killing us is big business.” MSNBC analyst Karen Finney claimed that “racist rhetoric” used by Rush Limbaugh and several Republican presidential candidates was responsible for Martin’s death.

So determined has the New York Times been to fit the shooting into its favored racial story line that it has been referring to the Zimmerman as a “white Hispanic,” contrary to its usual practice of referring to Hispanics without any additional racial characterization. The fact that Zimmerman’s father is white does not explain this departure from the Times’s racial protocols; the Times’s one-drop rule still applies to Barack Obama, who is, according to the Times and every other media outlet, America’s “first black president.” (The Grey Lady referred to Zimmerman for the first time on Friday simply as “Hispanic.”)

Times columnist Charles Blow dealt with the complicating factor of Zimmerman’s ethnicity with a simple duality: “Trayvon is black. Zimmerman is not,” he wrote last Saturday, presumably conferring on Zimmerman putative white status. The Rainbow Coalition has apparently broken down.

Here is an article that talks about the Standing Your Ground statute, and the need for some alteration in that provision of the law. I think what's especially interesting is how he also gets into how this shouldn't be cause for overreaction and needlessly placing gun control laws that are too restrictive. Another excerpt:

Contrary to what many liberal pundits have written, Florida should not reimpose a “duty to retreat” — the policy that prevailed before Stand Your Ground — on innocent people who face violent attackers. But it is true that the Stand Your Ground statute protects people who don’t merely stand their ground — it protects anyone who can reasonably claim he faced a serious threat, so long as he was “not engaged in unlawful activity” when the threat occurred

Therefore, to arrest Zimmerman, the police would need evidence that he was doing something illegal when Martin attacked him, or that he didn’t reasonably believe he faced a serious threat. Since we don’t know whether Zimmerman threw the first punch when he caught up to Martin, and we don’t know what Martin was doing when Zimmerman fired, this isn’t possible.

The solution is to make Zimmerman’s activity unlawful. It should be a crime to chase down a fellow citizen who runs away, except in certain situations (e.g. when a store owner pursues a shoplifter, as opposed to a man’s running after a teenager with no provocation whatsoever). One might imagine this was already a crime — such as assault — but Florida police officials have said it is not.

Law enforcement often fails — that’s why people need the tools to defend themselves, and the laws to protect them when they do so. But the proactive aspects of policing, including confronting individuals who seem to be “up to no good,” should be left to the professionals. If Trayvon Martin had been approached by an officer who identified himself as such, rather than a strange man who jumped out of an SUV and chased him, he would almost certainly be alive today.

And lastly, this article is in the case that you want to use this incident as a reason to believe in stricter gun control laws, Jeff Jacoby has evidence to the contrary in this article here. And I'll end with this lengthy excerpt:

To those with an emotional bias against guns, it goes without saying that more guns in private hands invariably mean more crime and violence. If the number of people carrying firearms on campus rises, then of course that campus is less safe. What could be more obvious?

But it isn’t obvious at all.

While the University of Colorado spent much of the past decade resisting the state’s concealed-carry law, Colorado State University complied with it. If the gun controllers are right, Colorado State should have seen a surge in crime, while its gun-banning sister institution should have been an Eden of security and lawfulness. That’s not what happened. As Clayton E. Cramer and David Burnett write in a new monograph for the Cato Institute, “crime at the University of Colorado has risen 35 percent since 2004, while crime at Colorado State University has dropped 60 percent in the same time frame.’’

Something similar happened after the US Supreme Court’s 2008 Heller decision striking down a gun ban in Washington, DC. The city’s mayor predicted in dismay that “more handguns in the District of Columbia will only lead to more handgun violence,’’ yet crime in the nation’s capital plunged. Murder nose-dived to its lowest rate in half a century, falling from 186 in 2008 to 144 in 2009 to 132 in 2010 to 108 in 2011.

To be sure, correlation doesn’t prove causation. But the experience of Colorado State and DC should come as no surprise. By now there’s so much evidence that higher rates of gun ownership lead to lower rates of crime that it isn’t hard to fathom why fewer and fewer Americans want to ban handguns. According to Gallup, just 26 percent of the public now thinks the private possession of handguns should be illegal — that’s down from 60 percent half a century ago. Roughly 1 of every 4 Americans reports keeping a gun to protect themselves or their homes. Having a gun makes many people — for good reason — feel safer.

How often firearms are used defensively is a much-debated question in American criminology. Respected studies over the years have come up with estimates that range widely, from nearly 110,000 defensive gun uses annually to as many as 2.5 million. Whatever the precise number is, it clearly isn’t trivial. An enormous amount of death, bloodshed, and suffering is prevented in this country by ordinary citizens with firearms.

That doesn’t mean terrible things can’t happen when a gun is used for protection. Trayvon Martin, an Orlando teen, was shot dead last month by a Florida man who claims he was acting in self-defense. Yet the teen carried nothing more deadly than a bag of candy, and police told the gunman — a neighborhood watch patrol member — not to follow him.

Such tragic tales inevitably draw the spotlight. Far more common, but far less likely to be played up, are cases where guns are used to scare off, resist, or thwart a genuinely dangerous criminal. For their Cato paper, Cramer and Burnett assembled nearly 5,000 news stories reported by the media between 2003 and 2011. Their catalogue includes instances of armed customers preventing a store from being robbed, of victims fighting off would-be rapists, of senior citizens defending against a home invader, of attempted carjackings foiled because the driver had a gun — even of self-defense against deadly animals.

Of course, most defensive gun uses never make the news at all. As Cramer and Burnett observe, “Man Scares Away Burglar, No Shots Fired,’’ is not a very compelling headline.

But with or without headlines, millions of Americans grasp instinctively that guns make us safer. For when honest citizens carry weapons, criminals are less likely to attack — and those who do are more likely to fail.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Sledding Vid

I finally finished putting together some footage I got while sledding in Lake Arrowhead with Dave.
Probably my favorite part of this video is that there are more clips Dave and I sledding together than me with Amy. In fairness to me, she was busy throwing up behind a tree during most of the time we were there. Thems road in Arrowhead were a little too curvy for my pregnant wifey.

Friday, March 23, 2012

So Good

I love B.o.B. This one will get overplayed for sure, but for now, I just love it. Something about his songs also lack the trashiness of other hip-hop artists. It's nice. I've loved his stuff from day one. Good stuff.

We're going to see Hunger Games tonight and go to the Colors Festival tomorrow, and maybe the Real Salt Lake game afterwards. So our weekend is pretty packed. Hope yours is a good one too.

This and That

Ready for some Friday round-up? I've been kind of saving up some stuff to blog about when I had more time, and now that time is finally here. Here are a few things...

Interesting article about how the main religious leader in Saudi Arabia called for the destruction of all Christian churches, and advocated this to a terrorist group, no less. This isn't just a fringe guy saying it, it's as if Billy Graham/Pat Robertson/Al Sharpton/Archbishop in the US/President Monson had called for this. It is not insignificant. Excerpt:
Why is it that when Abdulaziz ibn Abdullah Al al-Sheikh, the grand mufti of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, declares that it is “necessary to destroy all the churches in the Arabian Peninsula,” the major media do not see this as even worth reporting? And no one, to the best of my knowledge, has noted that he said this to the members of a terrorist group.

This should be emphasized: Al al-Sheikh is not the Arabian equivalent of some backwoods Florida pastor. He is the highest religious authority in Saudi Arabia, where there is no separation of mosque and state, and the state religion is the ultra-orthodox/fundamentalist reading of Islam known as Wahhabism. He also is a member of the country’s leading religious family.

In other words, his pronouncements represent the official position of Saudi Arabia — a country that, we have been told time and again, changed course after 9/11 and is now our ally and solidly in the anti-terrorism camp.

Teachers are almost impossible to fire, here. If you didn't know, that's actually a bad thing.

In a fight between Texas and California, Texas wins. Long excerpt, that's actually most of the article:

California may be dreaming, but Texas is working.

California’s elected officials are particularly adept at dreaming up ways to spend other people’s money. While the state struggles with interminable deficits caused by years of reckless spending, the argument in Sacramento isn’t over how to reduce government; rather, it’s over how much to raise taxes and on whom. Governor Brown is pushing for a tax increase of $6.9 billion per year, to appear on this November’s ballot. California’s powerful government-employee unions and Molly Munger, a wealthy civil-rights attorney (wealthy by dint of being the daughter of Warren Buffett’s business partner) are offering two competing tax-hike plans. The silver lining may be that having three tax hikes on the ballot will turn voters off all of them.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in Texas are grappling with a fiscal question of an entirely different sort: whether or not to spend some of the $6 billion set aside in the state’s rainy-day fund.

California’s government-employee unions routinely spend tens of millions of dollars at election time to maintain their hold on power. In Texas, the government unions are weak and don’t have collective bargaining, leaving trial attorneys as the main source of funding for Lone Star Democrats.

California’s habit of raising taxes to fund a burgeoning regulatory state isn’t without impact on its economy. Californians fork over about 10.6 percent of their income to state and local governments, above the U.S. average of 9.8 percent. Texans pay 7.9 percent. This affects the bottom line of both consumers and businesses.

With that money, Californians pay for more government. The number of non-education bureaucrats in California is close to the national average, at 252 per 10,000 people. Texas gets by with a bureaucracy 22 percent smaller: 196 per 10,000.

While California has more bureaucrats, Texas has 17 percent more teachers, with 295 education employees per 10,000 people, compared to California’s 252.

The two states’ educational outcomes reflect this disparity. If we compare national test scores in math, science, and reading for the fourth and eighth grades among four basic ethnic and racial categories — all students, whites, Hispanics, and African-Americans — Texas beats California in every category, and by a substantial margin. In fact, Texas schools perform consistently above the national average across categories of age, race, and subject matter, while California schools perform well below the national average.

While California seeks more ways to tax success, it excels at subsidizing poverty. The percentage of households receiving public assistance in California was 3.7 percent in 2009, double Texas’s rate of 1.8 percent. Almost one-third of all Americans on welfare reside in California.

And I was going to post about oil here, but I think that will get a post of its own. There you go.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Best Picture

It just so happens that The Artist is playing in our awesome cheap theater that's right over by our house. Amy and I went and saw it last weekend, and I guess I shouldn't be so surprised, because it did win Best Picture this year, but I really enjoyed it. I knew very little about it going into it, just that it really had won most of the significant awards at the Oscars this year. What really impressed me about the movie was just how much the film was able to communicate without the benefit of dialogue. Every so often you would see the intertitles (nope, didn't know that word, had to look it up, but it's what you call the parts where the words flash on the screen in silent films), but for the most part, you could follow everything without needing to know exactly what was being said. That's probably true of any movie, but you don't really how true that is until you watch this kind of movie. Anyway, I did some reading up afterward on some of the details of the movie and it's really amazing how careful the director was with every part of the movie. He was so deliberate with everything, and what's more, this must have been such a huge risk for everyone involved. When was the last time a silent film got any kind of real press or attention, let alone success? The actors were amazing, of course. It did get a little slow for me in the middle toward the end, but otherwise, just a very impressive production. On a similar note, Amy and I watched Midnight in Paris some time ago too. We really enjoyed that one as well. Movies are fun.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Starndardized Tests

I have taken four of them: SAT, ACT, GRE, and GMAT. So I guess that only leaves the MCAT, DAT, and LSAT (of the remaining major graduate school tests). My SAT and ACT scores were all right. Nothing to boast about. ACT was good enough to get me into BYU without any real concern, but the real story about that test was that it happened to follow the night of when I broke up with my very first girlfriend. (I totally copped out and told her that I think we should go on a break, but then pretty much ignored her after that. What a gent. I swear, I've grown up a lot since then, Amy!)

I knew before I even got into BYU that I would be doing more grad school. Little did I know that it would pretty much all be at BYU. I began studying for the GRE my last semester as an undergrad, took tons of practice tests, and voila! Nailed the GRE.

So when I started considering applying to the MBA program, knowing that I would be taking the GMAT, for some reason I didn't have the same single-minded preparation for that test as I had for the GRE. With the GRE, I felt like I had a very proven and reliable method for doing well - many practice tests, lots of drills, and I even made flashcards of like 800 frequently used GRE vocabulary words. But for some reason, my performance there left me feeling like I would do just fine on the GMAT without that same level of dedication. Overconfident in my test-taking skills, I guess.

And then the day of reckoning came and the GMAT occurred, and I swung and missed. I mostly attended a discounted course that I got through BYU, did some drills, and knew before I even walked into the test that it was going to be a long-shot to hit the score I needed to be a competitive B-school applicant. As I left that day, I was confirmed in my suspicions. I scored a perfectly average GMAT score - 540. Ouch.

Well, I got cracking, used the old methods and stayed much more focused for the second go-around. The last two weeks were especially taxing in that department. I took 7 full practice tests in 8 days, and used what was going to be a failed boy's weekend/anniversary weekend for more studying.

And then today was the test.

Today I am pleased.

The old method still works. I should be a competitive b-school applicant. Now let's see if they'll have me.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

In Case You Missed It

I'm pretty sure that everyone who reads this blog has already seen this video, so I guess this is just for you lurkers out there...

Sunday, March 18, 2012

One Year

I'm really glad that when I think of days that I consider the best days of my life my answer always starts with the day I received my endowment, the last day of my mission, and more recently, the day that I got married. It's just the type of thing that should come up first, no?

We haven't really done much for our anniversary because Amy's brothers were supposed to come into town and then didn't, and our last minute efforts at putting together an anniversary plan didn't pan out, so we've just kind of spent this weekend just hanging out. But it has been really fun reminiscing all weekend about the events dating one year ago this day.

That day wasn't "perfect." It would have been nice if the grass were a little greener around the temple (although Amy did a good job of making it look like it was pretty green, see above). Our DJ who was supposed to provide us a mic at the reception didn't realize that we had actually booked him for Friday the 18th and not Saturday the 19th. Both my dad and his wife, and my brother and mom, didn't realize that Utah is on MST and not PST, so they were late to our reception. And I'm pretty sure a few other things weren't just right, but the day really couldn't have been more perfect. We had such a great day having everyone that we love in one place, celebrating with us, and enjoying what is the most important the day of our lives.

And I really like the kind of couple we have become. I feel like we are just the right fit for each other. Sometimes it feels like the little things are what you notice the most.
(Song to our first dance)

Since we've been married, here are some of the things that I appreciate most about Amy:
  • She's just so happy. I don't think I know anyone who is more happy than she is. And she's really expressive when she gets really excited and likes to attack me and jump on me. When she's snowboarding or wakeboarding, she literally has a smile on her face the entire time that she's participating in that activity. The other night I spied her in our bed reading a book and she just had a grin on her face for like 20 minutes straight. She just can't hide when she's happy, and it's also a feeling that she feels very frequently. 
  • I love that she's so about doing things and having fun. I can suggest almost anything and she's just about always up for it. She's loves to go on trips, go to events, and just have fun. She's a total "yes" person. Always wants to say yes and rarely has a reason for not doing things. And on a related note...
  • Not only do I feel like we have a lot of fun together, it seems like we have so much fun doing the same kinds of things. I'm so glad that she grew up with so many brothers because she just loves being active, going to sporting events, and just about anything else I can think of. We can go snowboarding together. She's actually the person that got me into canyoneering, and she just loves the outdoors. She loves a day on the lake. We even go golfing together in the summer time. We must have had golf for FHE at least 4 or 5 weeks last summer, and this one will be no different. She'll even indulge my near constant urge to want to go to concerts.
  • She loves my people. And her people are equally wonderful. And now they're all just our people and there's nothing we love more than just spending time with everyone that we can. Two weekends ago we had a really fun cabin trip with my best friends, Dave and Caitlin, and then last weekend we spent one whole evening just sitting on couches just chatting with some of our other friends, went to a volleyball game the next night with our dear friends, Jessica and Andrew, and the next night we hung out with her brother and SIL, Scott and Elisha. I feel like we're always strapped for time to spend with the people around us, and I just love it. 
So those are just a few. It honestly has been the best year of my life. I wish marriage would have come sooner for us, but I'm glad that it came when it did. We have had such a good year and I look forward to many more to come.

Happy Anniversary, Amy! I love you!

Friday, March 16, 2012


I've been a little MIA lately. That's mostly because I'm in lockdown studying for the GMAT. It's a tricky one. All of our weekend plans have fallen through, and even our backup to our backup plans aren't working out, but I think it just means I need to hunker down and make sure I put in all the prep I can into this test. So that's what this weekend is looking like. But I will send you off with this song that I can't get enough of right now. Have a good one, y'all!

(They sneak a colorful word in there. You've been warned.)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Can you feel it?

It's in the air. Mostly the temperature of that air. It's spring. It's right around the corner. This winter has been incredibly mild, to be honest, but something about a few of those weeks in February actually did make it feel, albeit briefly, like winter. But since our most recent storm passed, it has warmed up considerably. The biggest clue to the imminent arrival of spring (besides the calendar)? I've been running outside. At night. And I love it.

Bring it on. Bring on the camping, the outdoor running, the troping, the free mini golf. Bring on the sun. Bring on a new season of fun water-related videos with the GoPro. Bring it all on. about a week...I have some studying to do between now and then.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Spotlight Effect

Growing up, one of the things that I was most self-conscious about was the gap in my front teeth. It was never a big gap, but because all my other teeth are almost perfectly straight, I never needed to have braces so the gap never got closed. But, boy, was I still so very aware of it.

I got into a regular habit of making sure my tongue was tucked firmly in behind my front teeth whenever I smiled so that it would hide the gap as much as possible. My first girlfriend after the mission even took some brownie one time and stuck it in her front teeth, laughed, and then said she was me. That got under my skin. And then at some point a few years ago I just kind of stopped thinking about it and it wasn't a big deal anymore. I'd notice it every now and then, but it didn't bother me in the same way.

Last year when Amy and I were sitting around looking at pictures, she asked me if I ever thought about getting that gap fixed. Thankfully, it wasn't in a suggestive-you-really-should-get-that-taken-care-of-kind-of-way, but really just wondering. The answer: Yes, a lot as a kid, some as a young adult, not really as an adult though. She mentioned someone else having a similar kind of thing and that it only took one visit to the dentist to get it taken care of.

So when I visited the dentist a month or so ago, he actually talked about how he would fix it with his dental assistant as if I weren't sitting in the chair with my ears fully functional, and that's when I decided I'd get it done. It really was such a quick visit.

The funny thing about it, however, is that no one else has noticed. I'm pretty sure it's not one of those things where they might have seen it and just not said anything. They just didn't seem to notice, and I say this because I actually pointed it out to two people after I had the work done and even when they stared at my two front teeth, it took them a few seconds to even realize what had been done.

Those kinds of things are funny. Those things that we worry so much about, other people hardly even notice. In psychology they call it the spotlight effect. What you think is a big deal to the whole world hardly ever gets any attention from anyone else because they're too busy worrying and wondering if you are noticing what it is that they are insecure about.

In some ways, I can really understand the value of cosmetic surgery. Sometimes there are disfigurements and things that change how people treat others, and those kinds of things are well within reason for getting fixed, at least in my judgment.

But then there are other things that you want fixed, but you even when the "problem" has been solved, you still find reasons to be insecure anyway. The problem isn't the supposed deformity, but your insecurity with it. If you haven't learned to deal with the insecurity, then fixing the deformity won't change the problem because you'll just find another thing to be insecure about.

I got the gap fixed, but wouldn't you know it, when I got home later that day, the next thing I noticed wasn't what a great job the dentist did in making it blend perfectly, but how my slightly chipped right front tooth feels more prominent because now the visible line of my top row of teeth no longer has a gap, but now it slants slightly upward on one side. Sometimes it's just too easy to focus on what's wrong instead of what's right.

Just musing is all.

Health Care Stuff

I read a couple of interesting articles this week. This one is about abortion. It's a little jarring just because of the way some people view the ethics of abortion. I guess jarring because of my morality, but knowing who reads this blog, you would probably agree with me. Here's the story. Excerpt:

They argued: “The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus in the sense that both lack those properties that justify the attribution of a right to life to an individual.”

Rather than being “actual persons”, newborns were “potential persons”. They explained: “Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons, but neither is a ‘person’ in the sense of ‘subject of a moral right to life’.

“We take ‘person’ to mean an individual who is capable of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her.”

As such they argued it was “not possible to damage a newborn by preventing her from developing the potentiality to become a person in the morally relevant sense”.

The authors therefore concluded that “what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled”.  

And the other is an essay by Milton Friedman about How to Cure Health Care. What's really interesting in this one is how he talks about the origins of employer provided health care, and what the effects of that development were:

 The revival of the company store for medicine has less to do with logic than pure chance. It is a wonderful example of how one bad government policy leads to another. During World War II, the government financed much wartime spending by printing money while, at the same time, imposing wage and price controls. The resulting repressed inflation produced shortages of many goods and services, including labor. Firms competing to acquire labor at government-controlled wages started to offer medical care as a fringe benefit. That benefit proved particularly attractive to workers and spread rapidly.

Initially, employers did not report the value of the fringe benefit to the IRS as part of their workers’ wages. It took some time before the IRS realized what was going on. When it did, it issued regulations requiring employers to include the value of medical care as part of reported employees’ wages. By this time, workers had become accustomed to the tax exemption of that particular fringe benefit and made a big fuss. Congress responded by legislating that medical care provided by employers should be tax-exempt.

The tax exemption of employer-provided medical care has two different effects, both of which raise health costs. First, it leads employees to rely on their employer, rather than themselves, to make arrangements for medical care. Yet employees are likely to do a better job of monitoring medical care providers—because it is in their own interest—than is the employer or the insurance company or companies designated by the employer. Second, it leads employees to take a larger fraction of their total remuneration in the form of medical care than they would if spending on medical care had the same tax status as other expenditures.

Employer financing of medical care has also caused the term insurance to acquire a rather different meaning in medicine than in most other contexts. We generally rely on insurance to protect us against events that are highly unlikely to occur but that involve large losses if they do occur—major catastrophes, not minor, regularly recurring expenses. We insure our houses against loss from fire, not against the cost of having to cut the lawn. We insure our cars against liability to others or major damage, not against having to pay for gasoline. Yet in medicine, it has become common to rely on insurance to pay for regular medical examinations and often for prescriptions.

If the tax exemption for employer-provided medical care and Medicare and Medicaid had never been enacted, the insurance market for medical care would probably have developed as other insurance markets have. The typical form of medical insurance would have been catastrophic insurance (i.e., insurance with a very high deductible)."

Just interesting, I thought. It's a common point in economics that Friedman makes in this article. Nobody is more conscious of how your money is spent than you are, so when that power is given to a third party, they are much more frivolous with those expenses than you would ever be.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

So So Tuesday for Mitt

The Romney campaign continues in its usual manner - winning the races it should win, but without much exclamation, and unable to pull off any upsets. He is narrowly project as the winner in Ohio, which he absolutely needed, but couldn't pick up anything in the south. He greatly outspent his GOP counterparts, but can't create any real separation from his competition.

This worries me. Mostly for this reason: Democrats want this presidential election to be about anything but the economy. What have the headlines been for the last couple of weeks? Everything about contraception and how Republicans want to ban it. I know that's not actual the argument, but it's the spin they're putting on it, and it's working. Rush fell for it and made it an enormous issue, and now the heat is off the President for the time being.

Additionally, Santorum's most obvious strength is his passion, but that is mostly concerning social issues, and when it comes time for a national election, it's going to come out that this guy is probably way too socially conservative for the taste of many voters. You'd be surprised at how wonky some of his views are. And he is the viable Anti-Romney at the moment. I just don't like it. Mitt can't inspire, even when he has the institutional advantage and money over his competitors. Makes me nervous.

So we'll see. Gingrich may continue in the race, but he is no longer realistic as a possible candidate, and I'm afraid his votes will go to Santorum before they go to Romney.