Friday, 21 July 2017

Homeopathy out, out, out.

The NHS is going to stop wasting money on homeopathic "medicines". This is, of course, a direct result of my blog on the subject, in which I suggested dilutine the money spent on homeopathy with a 6c formulation; this means, divide it by 100 to the power 6. This will, in accordance with homeopathic principles, make it more effective. It's homeopathic funding.

0.0004 of a penny per year.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

The trouble with Trump

When you look at what he's done, as distinct from what he's said, nothing much has happened. There's no Wall, there's no Moslem ban and Clinton isn't locked up. The repeal of Obamacare hasn't happened, and if it does happen, it won't be replaced with something cheaper and better. And the coal jobs aren't coming back.

Today, we met some Americans, and got to talking politics, as one does. And, by the way, they were politely startled at the UK decision to leave the EU. But Trump, they say, is a trainwreck and an embarrassment. From here, I explained, it more resembles a sitcom.

And then I thought; let's transpose this. Imagine, if you can, that our own dear queen started acting like Trump. Picking fights with other country's leaders, with the media, with anyone who criticises him. And tweeting to the world about this, so that it can't be watered down or hushed up. How would we feel?


Thursday, 6 July 2017

The spider box

Spiders are a problem. All those legs make them a bit creepy, but that isn't their fault. They eat flies, and that's got to be good. But we don't like them creeping around the house.

So I don't want to kill any intruding spider; I'd rather just tell it to leave. But they don't listen, and I don't like the thought of picking one up, because I'd probably damage it with my fingers, plus ewwwww, spiders.

So 25 years ago, my daughters made me a spider box. It looks like this.

It was made from a box that previously contained 5 1/4 inch floppy disks. You can see it's been nicely decorated with pictures of spiders, and glitter. Here's how it works.

You use the part decorated with spiders, to encourage the spider into the other part, and when it's safely inside, you close the box, trapping the spider inside. Then you open a window, hold the box outside, open it and shake the spider out. Result - spider-free house, undamaged spider.

I used it again last night, on a creature that is three inches across. It still works. Thanks, daughters!

Universal healthcare

Imagine a place where healthcare isn't for everone. A place where 30 million people would have to pay $1000 for a root canal (I've had a few of those, I think it's fairly common). Where a simple visit to a doctor costs $160. Where medical bills are the biggest cause of US bankrupcies. A place where another 20 million will soon face those prices. Where the first thing you ask about a new job is "Does it include healthcare insurance?" And if you buy insurance, it costs you $8000 per year for a family plan, and then if you make any claims, you get to pay part of the cost of treatment.

Poor people simply cannot afford healthcare; that's why they are uninsured, and that's why they cannot visit a doctor or dentist. The choice is stark; put up with the appalling pain of a bad tooth because if you pay to have it fixed, you don't eat this week. And that tooth won't get better without treatment; you'll face the same choice next week.

Now wake up from that nightmare. The NHS offers us universal healthcare, and where you do have to pay for part of the treatment, the payment is small; a prescription costs you £8.60, even if the medicine costs thousands. Root canal costs £53.90.

So which unfortunate country am I describing above? The USA, of course.

First, let's look at the quality of healthcare in developed countries, and I'm going to use three measures; child mortality, maternal mortality and life expectancy. Look here:

Child mortality in the USA is twice that of other developed countries, despite spending 30% more per capita on healthcare. Maternal mortality is the worst. And life expectancy is the lowest.

The USA has the most expensive, and at the same time the worst healthcare of any developed country.

How come?

Maybe they're doing something wrong. The most obvious candidate, is that they dn't have a universal healthcare system.

With a universal healthcare system, free at point of use, people don't think carefully before seeing their doctor. So a minor health problem is diagnosed and treated before it can become major, and there are plenty of conditions that, if left untreated until they become acute, are very difficult and expensive to treat. Or are fatal.

Another benefit is that it's a single payer system, what we economists call a monopsony. You know how in a monopoly, where there's one seller and many buyers, the single seller can force up prices, because the buyers have nowhere else to go? Well, in a monopsony, the single buyer can force down prices because the sellers have nowhere else to go. That's why medicine prices are so much lower in the UK than in the USA. In the UK, the NHS can say "Drop your prices, or no-one in the UK will buy". In the USA, the drug companies can raise their prices as much as they like, the buyers have no union.

And, of coure, the insurance companies are not non-profits. They take a good slice of the healthcare cost.

The USA has, by objective measure, the worst healthcare system in the developed world, and the most expensive. It could have the best, at a cost that's 2/3 of what it#s currently costing.

The USA is full of great doctors, great dentists and great hospitals. And the prevailing religion is Christian, with a philosophy of "Help the poor, heal the sick". So what's gone wrong?

When I've suggested a universal healthcare system to some Americans, they respond with "But that's socialism. Why should I pay for someone else's healthcare?"

And here's my answer to those Americans. First on the "socialism" bit. You have a fire service, a police service, a public education system and a military, and all of those are paid for by government. You don't say "Let's privatise the police". You already have many services paid for out of taxation, and the Republic hasn't fallen. I'm suggesting one more.

And why should you pay for someone else's healthcare? Because it's the right thing to do. Look, I'm an atheist, and you're probably (if you're American) a Christian.  How come an atheist has to tell a Christian that the rich should help the poor, and heal the sick?
Matthew 10:8 "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give."

OK, maybe raising the dead isn't going to happen, but we can, often, heal the sick. 

You live in a democracy, you can make this happen if you want to. You could have the best healthcase system in the world, instead of the worst, and it would cost less than you're currently paying.


Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Rabbi Joseph Dweck

There's a big controversy on Rabbi Dweck's shiur (talk), which you can listen to the talk here.

It's 90 minutes, and worth listening to, but I think I can summarise it thus.

The Torah says, Leviticus 20:13, "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."

Dweck points out that this says that a penetrative homosexual act is forbidden. But that's it. You can fall in love, live together, you can hold hands, you can hug, kiss, and so on. All these other things that people disapprove of, have no basis in the Torah. Only the act of "lieth", as the translation puts it.

So, two things.

1) This is a case of cognitive dissonance. When you listen to Dweck, it's clear that he wishes that the act of "lieth" were not forbidden, because he regards it as an act of love. But the Torah forbids it, and that's that. He doesn't take the obvious additional step, that this verse should be ignored.

2) A large portion of the Orthodox Jewish community is in uproar; on the face of it about Dweck's talk, but in reality about the issue of homosexuality in society.

And it's about time.

Here's my suggestion. It is, in fact, mechanically impossible for a man to lieth with a man in the same way as he lieth with a woman. There's a key difference. Which means that homosexuals can indeed lieth with each other without breaching Leviticus 20:13.

There. Fixed that for you.

Monday, 3 July 2017

A call from TalkTalk

I got a call from TalkTalk. The first question was "How are you?" so I explained that I'd "caught the sun slightly yesterday, so my skin is slightly red, but it isn't too bad and doesn't hurt, and I expect that to turn to a light shade of brown soon. And how are you?"

So we had a short discussion about her health, and then she asked me if it had been sunny where I was yesterday, and I said, "Well, yes, that's how come I got slightly sunburned?" And then we got down to business.

"I need to ask you a couple of security questions", she said. So I explained that she'd called me, and I didn't actually know who she is, so whether I'd answer would depend on how sensitive the questions are and whether answering them to a cold caller might lead to problems.

She asked for company name, address and post code. So I told her my company name. And she said "there's a third word". I guessed that she meant "limited", but we spent a very pleasant five minutes with me making lots of wrong guesses about what she might have written down on her screen. I tried "business" and "enterprise", and lots of less likely words. I asked her to tell me what she had, but she said she couldn't do that, "data protection". So I asked her if she could give me a clue, and then we played sound charades for a few minutes.

Eventually, she gave up, but not quite. She'll be calling back tomorrow for another game.

You'll have had your tea.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Mike Pence

You were hoping that Trump would be impeached?
And always keep a-hold of Nurse

For fear of finding something worse.