Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Way Forward Outlined in New York Times Magazine

NYT-writer David Leonhardt has written an excellent essay about Obama's strategy for taking the U.S. out of the economic crisis, and at the same time fundamentally change the economic and social system in the U.S. Here is a quote:

TWO WEEKS AFTER THE ELECTION, Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s chief of staff, appeared before an audience of business executives and laid out an idea that Lawrence H. Summers, Obama’s top economic adviser, later described to me as Rahm’s Doctrine. “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” Emanuel said. “What I mean by that is that it’s an opportunity to do things you could not do before.”
In part, the idea is standard political maneuvering. Obama had an ambitious agenda — on health care, energy and taxes — before the economy took a turn for the worse in the fall, and he has an interest in connecting the financial crisis to his pre-existing plans. “Things we had postponed for too long, that were long term, are now immediate and must be dealt with,” Emanuel said in November. Of course, the existence of the crisis doesn’t force the Obama administration to deal with education or health care. But the fact that the economy appears to be mired in its worst recession in a generation may well allow the administration to confront problems that have festered for years. That’s the crux of the doctrine.

(NYT Sunday Magazine, Feb 1, 2009. Published online January 27, 2009)

Hans Sandberg

Friday, January 30, 2009

The Economic Crisis and the Hypocrites

Listening to the Republicans attacking Barack Obama for trying to save the U.S. economy from the disaster that George W. Bush and his followers brought upon us is a bit much. Hypocrisy!

While it is true that the U.S. is running a huge deficit, and that it will grow considerably over the next few years, the key thing is not the number per se (within reason), but what we do with the money we borrow from the future. It’s a tremendous irony that the conservatives are now screaming about deficits and government spending, something they didn’t do when George W. Bush turned the surplus he had inherited from Bill Clinton into an ever growing deficit with his tax cuts for the rich and disastrous invasion of Iraq. It’s only when the U.S. government is going to do some real investments in the future and help the middle class and working that they go bananas.

Nobody is proposing to substitute the capitalist market economy with a centrally planned socialist economy, but when you are in a deep recession on the verge of a depression, you can’t follow the old playbook by having the Fed fiddling with the interest rate.

It sounds like many conservatives would rather do nothing, but this is not an option today, unless you are willing to allow for mass poverty, starvation and possibly a civil war down the line. John Maynard Keynes wrote the book so to say on how to prevent the capitalist economic system from self-destruction, and it’s thanks to him and clever can-do politicians like FDR that the U.S. and world’s major capitalist economies has system stabilizers, which prevents it from collapsing totally.

Conservatives hates government intervention, unless it is for Hot Wars like the invasion of Iraq, or Cold Wars like the SDI program, which is why we didn’t hear them protest much against either Ronald Reagan’s reckless defense build-up or Bush feckless war in Iraq.

What Keynes showed and FDR did was that it is better for the government to spend than sit idle, while the economy settles on an unnecessary low capacity utilization. When the private sector has lost hope, and consumers are terrified, there is no incentive to invest and build the future. But the government can take a longer view, and if it uses its resources and the money it borrows wisely, it can put idle resources (which you have to feed and shelter anyhow unless you want to gamble with a revolution) to work and give the entire economy a jolt and steer it out of the ditch.

In today’s world and in the U.S., there are tremendous unmet needs as far as services to the public goes, for investments in the crumbling infrastructure, and in jump starting the green economy that is the one and only future for the world. We are facing a structural shift, and market forces typically cannot respond to such major changes as we lack accurate pricing signals for a transition from one economic structure (based on the old, carbon-based Earth destroying energy) to another (based on renewable Earth friendly energy). If you invest wisely, and governments can do that even if they don’t always do it, you can get the economy back on track, a new track, and once the engines are humming again, we can make a plan for paying back our loans.

Of course we would much rather have done this investment in a better future when we had the money and a surplus, but don’t have that luxury thanks to eight years of George W. Bush and his republican boosters.

Give Barack Obama a break. He’s on the right track, and he’s an honest man who cares for you and me.

Hans Sandberg

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Jessica Alba Takes On Bill O'Reilly, Who "Corrects" Her about Sweden's Neutrality

For more about Sweden's policy of non-allignement in peace and neutrality in war, see Wikipedia

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

After Eight Long Disastrous Years, America Is Finally Out Of Darkness

The Inauguration, it was Barack Obama at his best, composed, proud, smart, and ready to turn America around. He spoke to an American people who has overcome prejudices of the past, and showed the world a new face of America, and the power of democracy. The Bush-Cheney junta has left, and America is finally back as a force for good.

Hans Sandberg

Friday, January 16, 2009

Hawaii Takes the Lead In U.S. Telemedicine

Princeville, Hawaii

Getting to a doctor can be hard if you're living on a small island in the Pacific Ocean, and very expensive if the visit requires a flight to a hospital in for example Honolulu, Hawaii, and possibly a night at an hotel. I wrote about telemedicine programs in Hawaii back in 2001 when telemedicine was just being explored, but the State of Hawaii last Thursday (January 15, 2009)launched a statewide program that allows patients to "see" a doctor without having to travel.

Ina Fried wrote in her CNET blog on January 15, 2009 that:

"The state is the first to offer online physician visits statewide, under a program that kicks off Thursday. (....) Hawaii passed a law in 2006 that paved the way for Thursday's launch. The legislation led HMSA to look for ways to implement online health care, a search that eventually led the company to Boston-based American Well. The two companies have been working together since last June, along with Microsoft, whose HealthVault system is supported to allow patients to maintain their own health care records. " (my italics, HS.)

More sources for info about telemedicine in the Pacific Ocean:

Hawaii: Testbed for Telemedicine (Metro, 2001)

Doctors Will Make Web Calls in Hawaii (New York Times, 2009)

STAN (State of Hawaii Telehealth Access Network)

For more information about the prospects for using information technology in U.S. healthcare, watch the Senate hearing on Investing in Health IT: A Stimulus for a Healthier America.

Telemedicine and Telehealth in the Pacific Islands Area (Peacesat/Pan-Pacific Education and Communication Experiments by Satellite, University of Hawaii)

Telehealth Research Institute

Hans Sandberg

Friday, January 9, 2009

Food For Thought - The Meatrix

I just discovered The Meatrix, which came out a year ago or so. It's a spoof of The Matrix movie, but fun and for a very good cause.
Go to The Meatrix site and watch the movies.