Nationalized Legal Care

In response to the idea that the Gummint should nationalize “health care” (it’s really “medical care” but nobody ever says it that way) we have a great bit from code: theWebSocket; about how we need to nationalize legal care.

We could set it up like this: A new governmental organization, call it the Legal Security Administration, would be formed and paid for through payroll taxes. Lawyers will be given a set amount of money by the LSA to provide legal services for their clients. They will be rewarded when they bring a case in under budget by being able to keep whatever is left over from the preset reimbursement, and take the loss when they fail. These fees will be 60 cents on the dollar of what it costs to provide the services. Lawyers will initally complain that they can’t make money at fees paid, but they will be told to just make it up in case volume. Those fee levels will be the basis for what they charge their private-pay clients, and price gouging will be severely punished.

Read the whole thing.

Bill Cosby and Education

Bill Cosby is one of my favorite people ever. He’s up there with Ben Stein. Cosby has been in the news this year and last for being a hardass about black kids raising themselves up out of poverty and despair through education, not by claiming victimhood. He continues to speak about it.

Mr. Cosby toured four schools with former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, who is running for mayor. But instead of talking politics, Mr. Cosby stuck to his no-nonsense message to inner-city black children that at times has made him the target of criticism.

“Study. That’s all. It’s not tough. You’re not picking cotton. You’re not picking up the trash. You’re not washing windows. You sit down. You read. You develop your brain,” Mr. Cosby said at Fred D. Thompson Middle School, where 65 percent of the 700 students meet low-income criteria for free or reduced-price lunches.

Not only is he funny when he wants to be, but he is dead-on right when he speaking about a serious and critical matter. He puts his money and his time where his mouth is, too. Wonderfulness. 🙂

Poor Sick Zoe

Primary Dog Zoe is violently ill. She seems to have a bout of ruinous puking and diarrhea every 3-4 months since I’ve had her (Sep/Oct 2003). This time I think it’s my fault, though.

On Friday, I had the occasion to grill up some porterhouse steaks. I kept the bones in the refrigerator, and on Sunday roasted them over the grill, then simmered them for two hours to make stock. After that, I gave one bone to each of the dogs; that was Sunday night about 10pm. They consumed the bones, plus the remaining meat and fat, and seemed OK for it.

But Monday night about 8pm, Zoe was quivering and quiet, obviously unhappy but not “saying” anything. I took her out, and massive poop ensued — two sets, the second more volumiunous than the first. But then she seemed fine; she perked back up, started playing again. I went to bed about 11:30 and put the dogs in their kennels (lately I keep Backup Dog Wendy in her kennel overnight because she likes to start nipping at Primary Dog and me around 4:30 am, but if she’s caged then she just stays asleep — I keep Primary Dog in kennel then so Backup has company). About 2:30, Backup Wendy starts whining; after about two minutes I yell “No!” and go back to sleep; by 3:30 she’s doing it again, so I go out to investigate, and poor Zoe has puked and shat in her kennel. I feel pretty guilty; I think it was the steak bone, too rich for her, that caused her grief. 🙁

So now I’ve finished rinsing and bleaching the kennel pan, the pillow is in the wash, and Primary Dog is outside. Next thing to do is give her a bath and get all that junk off her. No bed, no sleep; no no no, bed bed bed, for Paul until the dogs are OK.

BusinessPundit and Bush

I think this article from BusinessPundit sums up my thoughts about Bush quite nicely.

I am no fan of Bush. I support stem-cell research, which he doesn’t. I was against the prescription drug bill, the steel tariffs, the campaign finance reform bill, and the farm subsidy bill. While I don’t think Bush is stupid, I don’t think he is sharp enough to be President either. But could I vote for Kerry? I don’t think so. To me it has come down to voting for the “tax and spend” Democrats or the “cut taxes and spend” Republicans. Does anyone care about shrinking the size of government? Nope. Does anyone care about introducing accountability into the public school system so that Americans don’t fall behind the rest of the world? Not really (though they will both pay lip-service to it). So to me it basically boils down to the war on terror, which means as of now, Bush will get my reluctant vote.

The Environment of Emergence

For emergent behaviors to appear, they need a context or environment in which the elements can act.

It’s no surprise that Al Qaeda and their like are successful againt nation-states. They are the very model of a spontaneously self-organizing phenomenon when it comes to asymmetrical warfare: small groups of individuals who do not necessarily take orders from a single central commander, other than a shared ideology and common goal (the destruction of the West).

(Let the rambling commence.)

Until just now, I thought it would be nearly impossible to eradicate their cancer from the world in less than 20 years; how do you fight a dispersed threat like this in anything other than an intergenerational fashion? However, I have recently realized that an emergent phenomenon must “emerge” within a context or environment; that environment can be beneficial or harmful to emergent behaviors. Change the environment, either by disruption or destruction, and the emergent behaviors must necessarily dissipate, deform, or die off — perhaps in unexpected ways, but the behaviors cannot be expected to be the same after as they were before.

That’s one way for a large centralized power to fight a dispersed threat: go after the enabling environmental factors that give rise to and support terrorist cells. On the international stage this means one thing: either a nation is with the terrorists, or it is with the U.S. fight against their evil. If a nation-state actively eradicates the cells that exist and reforms their policies to be unfriendly to emergent terrorism, that is the environmental disruption needed to be “with” the U.S.

Of course, another way to alter the environment is to destroy it — c.f. Iraq in almost all areas except the Sunni triangle, and even that will be coming along soon. That destruction has a disruptive effect as well; you can’t think that Iran and Syria are smiling — they know we mean business, and must either be friends or foes. Look like Iran, at least, is going for “foe” status — insh’Allah their people will rise against the mullahs to free themselves.

(Let rambling cease, for now.)

The Autonomist Manifesto (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Road)

This is from the New York Times (free registration, etc) — The Autonomist Manifesto (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Road). The article not about emergent systems, per se, because it’s hard for a road to self-organize. 😉 But the article does have some important things to say about technology and feedback mechanisms.

Son of a gun! The link goes to the archive, and you have to pay $3 to read the stupid article. Google archive reveals only a link to the NYT archive. I hate that. >:-|

Well, then, from memory: somewhere in California, they’re relieving highway traffic congestion by setting up toll lanes. You pay the toll with a car-mounted electronic transponder that charges against your toll balance as you pass through the checkpoint. This by itself is nothing new.

What’s new is that the toll automatically changes every six minutes based on the traffic throughput. As more cars pass through, the toll increases; as fewer cars enter, the toll decreases. This is perfect from a scarce resources (lanes), marginal utility, and individual decision making standpoint: you get to choose what’s more important, your time or your dollars, and that choice is likely to be different at rush hour than it is at midnight. The feedback mechnism of the changing price allows more people better service, even those who do not pay the toll; this is because the toll-payers are no longer on the main thoroughfare, which frees up lane space for the non-toll drivers. Pretty neat.

Update (2004-11-04): I found this link to the full text. Should I copy and paste it in its entirety? I think perhaps. 🙂

Continue reading “The Autonomist Manifesto (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Road)”

Sputnik and SpaceShipOne

On this day in 1957, the Soviet Union started the space race among national governments.

On this same day, today, in 2004, SpaceShipOne won $10 million X Prize and started the space race among private organizations.

Great going, guys, let’s hope you are the first of many. 🙂


R. A. Heinlein first wrote about private space travel (specifically in opposition to government-managed programs) in his short story The Man Who Sold The Moon. (Incidentally, that story is as much about project management as it is about space travel; Fred Brooks quotes it in chapter 7 of The Mythical Man Month).

There is a more recent author who approaches the same topic. Michael Flynn, in his novel Firestar, writes about a return to orbit through commercial venture. He specifically details the educational culture and requirements necessary to produce people who are capable of building, maintaining, and extending an organization dedicated to spaceflight. It’s rocket science, after all, and if we’re going to get well-educated people in a short enough time then we need their education to be much better in a short amount of time.

In the novel, Flynn posits that the space-travel corporation owns charter schools as one of its sub-enterprises. The schools provide top-notch education; the students are fed a steady diet of achievement orientation, how to approach problem-solving through experiment and results-testing, and modern life-management skills (such as personal finance; i.e., how to budget and balance a checkbook). Testing is by written essay only. The teachers themselves take over the administrative tasks of the school. All students stay “after” school for a two-hour tutoring, mentoring, and peer-review study hall in order to finish their homework (this helps to alleviate the “parental involvement” issue — as a premium is put on actually learning, being able to help other students makes “being smart and helpful” more valuable as social captial).

Is that a pipe dream? Probably. But it’s something to shoot for — espeically if we are shooting for orbit, or the Moon, or Mars … or Jupiter. 🙂

Zoe Guards The Door

I am testing the WordPress image upload capability. Here’s a pic of Primary Dog (Zoe) guarding the door against, well, whatever she thinks it needs guarding against. Cats, squirrels, other dogs — goodness knows we don’t guard against people, they only bring food and petting. Right?

Zoe guards the door

Amateur Revolution

Fast Company points out that many disciplines are being subjected to an Amateur Revolution. The essay points out that linked networks of large numbers of amateurs can come up with “more, faster, and better” where small numbers of unlinked professionals cannot. This is a perfect example of an emergent phenomenon, in that we have small pieces (the amateurs) loosely joined (via the Internet) that spontaneously self-organize (because they have similar interests and coordinate among themselves) to solve problems and share information (becuase fame and accuracy help to build high-value reputation capital in the community).