Thursday assorted links


Why doesn't the USA have a "million" places to buy: döner kebobs, chicken tikka masala?

I just yelped, I have one picked for lunch.

"we aren't really open yet" ha ha, tacos then

5. The increase in the cost of eye care in America has far exceeded the increase in the cost of health care. From the link: "But overall the model [in China] is not as medicalized as in the U.S., where opticians act as healthcare providers and “prescribe” glasses–trying to take advantage of the fact that you are not supposed to bargain over healthcare costs." I was shocked by the cost of my last eye exam, and felt as if I had been taken. I went to a different optometrist (in a different place) than the optometrist I had been going to for many years. Maybe I should have known that this new optometrist was a scam, as the office mas made to appear more like a physician's office than that of an optometrist. But I couldn't understand how he could have repeat business, not at his prices. Until I looked a little deeper. Many if not most of his patients are seniors (lots of retirees), but that shouldn't make any difference since Medicare doesn't cover routine eye care. Aha, but I didn't consider Medicare Advantage. Many Medicare Advantage plans include routine eye care. So why don't all seniors have a Medicare Advantage plan. Because they are managed care plans, which means that they won't cover all treatments only those they approve. For the already ill, that's a risk they will not take and, hence, they choose regular Medicare. In other words, Medicare Advantage plans have a healthier pool, and they attract the healthier pool by offering coverage for such things as routine eye care. It's called gaming the system. And it caught me because I ended up paying a cost that many if not most of the optometrist's patients don't pay since it's covered by their Medicare Advantage plans.

"6. How the Senate and House tax bills hit higher ed."

The reaction makes me think of the famous Ghostbusters quote: " "Personally, I liked the university. They gave us money and facilities; we didn't have to produce anything. You've never been out of college. I've worked in the private sector. [shrugs shoulders indignantly] They expect results."

I too like to get my opinions from Ghostbusters.

I have always personally identified most with the Peter MacNicol character from Ghostbusters 2 (very underrated film by the way). Who do you feel you are most like? I never liked the Winston character, wasn't necessary to inject identity politics into the film.

FYI, this is just the pesty Troll attempting to inject some racism into the thread.

FG - It was a great quote.

A certain warehouse club based in Washington has eye exams for $65. Add $35 if you want some extra procedure that replaces the pupil dilation. Doesn't look like a doctor's office.

Then you can take your prescription and buy online if you want.

Yeah. Medicare Advantage is a thing.

rayward's logic is often hard to follow. I'm not sure what his point actually was. Other than he bought something, didn't like the price, and is trying hard to find someone else to blame other than himself.

"Medicare doesn’t cover routine eye care."
So, Medicare's at fault for not covering routine eye care?

" Many Medicare Advantage plans include routine eye care. So why don’t all seniors have a Medicare Advantage plan. Because they are managed care plans, which means that they won’t cover all treatments only those they approve."

Well great, if you want to get eye care covered, you have an option. That's pretty much how insurance works. An insurance company offers a package of benefits and the consumer buys the one they want. For that matter, it's pretty much how the market works in general. So, it's great that consumers have choices.

" For the already ill, that’s a risk they will not take and, hence, they choose regular Medicare."
Yes, a consumer chooses the plan they like most. If they're already ill, then their healthcare dollars are better prioritized to items more important to them than routine eye care.

". It’s called gaming the system."
{facepalm} In rayward's metal world, offering people choices in health insurance, is gaming the system.

Killing foreigners seems a less than ideal method of creating social cohesion. Blowback and everything. Sort of an extreme version of othering outgroups to unify the in-group. There's got to be a better way.

The "real reason" to have a war is to consume the goods of war and increase shareholder value in so-called defense companies.
Think of the huge benefits to a war with China.

The shareholders of defense companies would have to pay me a lot to make me overlook the loss of value I get from trading with China instead.

A lot of the cohesion probably comes from going through something like Marine Corp basic training together. Actual face-shooting maybe not required, just shared suffering?

Maybe if all the grade schools had morning calisthenics?

But led by a shouty drill instructor.

If shared suffering were enough, a year of listening to Trump and his merry Trumpkins would have been sufficient.

Follow him Twitter and see how it goes.

One instance of assimilation through warfare was the enlistment of freed slaves in the "Buffalo Soldiers" after the War Between the States, who were sent to the plains to assist in exterminating the Indians. There isn't much of a record of these African-Americans objecting to that duty. Perhaps that accounts for a residual amount of violence in places like Chicago and Baltimore.

#1: not sure this is a problem yet. Or if it ever will be.

#4: can't get to it without subscribing. Or maybe I didn't see how.

i have a subscription to The Australian
It is worth reading.
Paul Kelly is a thoughtful journalist, not a scaremonger.
Here it is.

New world is dawning for Australia in its dealings with a dominant China
The Australian12:00AM November 29, 2017


At last there are signs of a tough, even brutal, debate about the ­implications of the rise of an ­asser­tive and Leninist China and its con­sequences for an Australia that merrily assumes it can stay ­independent and live by values ­repudiated in Beijing.

Australians inhabit a dream world, yet we are unique among G20 nations as the country most exposed to pressure, intimidation and leverage from Beijing. The Australian psychology, still im­bued with the residue of its “lucky country” cargo cult, is slow to grasp the awesome transformation before the nation and is unprepared for the unprecedented challenge it faces.

In his just released, highly contentious but brilliant Quarterly Essay Without America, Hugh White turns the China-America debate in this country on its head by arguing, first, that the US has already lost the big strategic contest with China for primacy in Asia and, second, by documenting the consequences for Australia of living with China as hegemon, a fate the nation cannot even begin to comprehend.

On the latter, White’s projections are truly brutal. He suggests younger people such as his students are less frightened than their elders of facing a region domi­nated by China. What strikes him, however, “is how little most of us have thought about how we could deal with it”.

White says: “If it is going to happen, and it seems there is no realistic way we can stop it, then we must learn to live with it. Some will say it smacks of appeasement even to talk about how we should learn to live with China’s power when instead we should just be ­resisting it.” But Australia, he says, must confront the hard choices we would face.

What can we expect? White predicts China will demand no ­interference in its internal affairs; it will expect Australia to submit to its regional leadership; we should expect greater penetration into our internal affairs; China will be able to impose penalties to ensure we do its bidding; it is likely to apply economic pressure on Australia, given it has recently ­intimidated South Korea and ­retaliated against Norway; it will be far ­harder to check China’s ­investment in infrastructure, its buying of political influence via donations, its harassment of Chinese students and its influence on what our universities teach.

While it would make no sense for China to invade Australia, it would use its military to display its power — it could contest our title to remote territories or deploy forces to our small Pacific neighbours. In such a world there would be no assumption the US would come to our aid. Our military doctrine of self-reliance has never ­envisaged holding our continent alone against a major Asian power, hence the need for a vast strategic rethink.

Because White believes the US alliance system in Asia cannot ­endure, the prospect of Japan and South Korea becoming nuclear powers within the next 20 years imposes a “chilling logic” on Australia — it means crossing the threshold to be a nuclear weapons state is the only method by which Australia could ensure its security with the capability to “threaten an adversary with massive damage”.

White does not advocate any such policy. He merely highlights the altered world Australia would face and the certainty that, in this situation, the nuclear ­option “would have to be re-­examined”. He says this decision would determine whether Australia’s future was that of “being a middle power or a small power”. He warns if China became a truly oppressive hegemon seeking to impose its alien values on Australia then ­nuclear forces would ­decide whether “Australia could preserve itself, its territory and its society”.

White argues there is no evidence China’s leaders think in these terms today and says the probability is that China itself has “no clear idea” of how its future power will be used. Might a ­hegemonic China seek to “force fundamental changes to Australia’s political system, social order and economic prospects”? White says this “is not impossible” ­despite the disposition in Beijing against proselytising an ideology or exporting a political system.

He says the present aim is to ­reassert China’s status as a great power and “as the leading power in East Asia” — ambitious enough for the immediate future. White’s analysis is set against the insightful article in The Weekend Australian by contributing national security editor Alan Dupont, who issued another essential corrective by warning “the looming ­challenge to Australian independence is not the US but China”.

While Dupont and White have contrasting outlooks, they share this point. The tedious mantra from progressives that Australia needs a more “independent” foreign policy by distancing itself from the US and repositioning closer to China has long been ­devoid of realistic assessment about the consequences.

The China challenge, Dupont argues, “is about how much independence Australia will be per­mitted in a Chinese-dominated regional order led by the formidable Xi Jinping”, with signs China’s willingness “to use ­coercion to achieve its dream of renewed greatness” is now “a defining feature of its foreign policy”.

The only interpretation of Xi’s vision after the recent Communist Party congress is that China now constitutes an ideological, economic and political challenge to the West on a scale without precedent and far more lethal and insidious than the old Soviet Union, with its heavily militarised but internally flawed state.

Dupont argues that with American weakness now so visible, it is highly unlikely China will settle for restoration of its leadership position in Asia but, sensing democracy’s weakness around the world, will ­directly challenge the so-called rules-based order with values that reflect its uncompromising ­authoritarianism at home.

The conclusion from Dupont’s analysis is that drum-beating progressives in this country calling for a major realignment of our policies to better accommodate China are naive, unrealistic and embracing a disastrous strategy that will diminish our country, its autonomy and its values.

The urgent issue, however, arising from White’s analysis is obvious: Is his core conclusion valid? Is the long and magnificent story of US primacy in Asia now ended?

White says: “The most likely outcome is now becoming clear. America will lose and China will win. America will cease to play a major strategic role in Asia and China will take its place as the dominant power. War remains possible. But the risk of war ­recedes as it becomes clearer that the odds are against America and as people in Washington come to understand that their nation cannot defend its leadership in Asia by fighting an unwinnable war with China.”

He identifies three options for America in Asia: it can try to resist and contain China’s challenge; it can seek a deal under which it shares leadership with China; or it can withdraw. White’s conclusion is that America, by ­default, is choosing the third option. It is “gradually withdrawing from Asia (and) the further this goes, the harder it will be for any president or administration to ­reverse it”.

He argues to the extent Donald Trump has any Asian policy, it is the minimisation of US commitments, focus on a narrow trade agenda with Beijing and tacit ­acceptance of China’s coming dominance. White says Trump has no interest in reasserting US leadership of the global order, that he is utterly incapable of such a task and that under Trump “the retreat from Asia which began under Obama is probably becoming irreversible”.

In his Quarterly Essay seven years ago, White argued the US faced a contest in Asia that it could not win outright and, therefore, should negotiate a fallback ­regional deal with China. But that proposition was now obsolete ­because “we all underestimated China’s power and resolve and over-estimated America’s”.

Barack Obama’s “pivot to Asia” had failed to materialise; the US had underestimated China’s strategic determination; recent events in the South China Sea ­revealed “it was America, not China, that would back off from a confrontation”. For the US, the price was just too high.

Australia was now heading for an Asia “we have never known ­before”. Our fate, White says, is “to prepare ourselves to live in Asia without America”. You may reject his argument as preposterous. It is totally repudiated by the Turnbull government. But with the foreign affairs white paper just released, it should trigger an ­essential debate about the tough options Australia faces.

So America will watch while America is Finlandized, maybe even South Vietnamized.

Thanks. Yes, good read. I was struck last year when I was I NZ just how much influence China had. Chinese language signs and billboards. NZ companies and farms bought by the Chinese. Chinese busses and trucks and cars. It was startling. I guess Australia is next?

On the other hand, this is yet another storm of hand-waving by the 'strategic choices' crowd who (as White acknowledges) have no actual intelligence of China's policies to offer but only anecdotes about "influence" and dire warnings of catastrophe. That, after all, is how Hugh White has made his money/reputation: as a peril-projector. It's easy enough to do and grabs headlines.

I find the arguments unconvincing to the extent that they take no account whatever of the reality of the huge (biggest in $ terms), dense (in network connections), rewarding (in several ways, including technological advance) relations that comprise our actual dealings with China and the East Asian region.

I mean trade, education, migration, business investment, portfolio investment, scientific research, academic networks, tourism and (even) movies. A moment's thought will suggest to you (as it should to Paul Kelly) that these mundane but enormous daily tides of exchange are responsible for the actual character (capital?) of our relations with China. As they are for our relations with the USA.

Of course there is a difference in our relations with the Eastern and Western Pacific. The
"gravitational parameters" that model our exchanges with either side of the Pacific are significantly different. But the 'strategic' component -- military alliance -- is a very thin slice of the difference and probably counts for little more than a signal about other differences (language, common history, similarity of institutions).

I acknowledge there are 'black swans' and even madmen. Demographic change, too (the resurgence of muslim pietism in Java), is likely to mean some welcome and unwelcome change. But I see no reason to be other than optimistic about a continuation of mostly happy, closely integrated, profitable future relations that will build on the real, concrete, daily tenor of Australia's current relations with China and East Asia. I find the "strategic balance/strategic threat" stuff overblown to the point of implausibility.

It seems that China has lots of soft powers without resorting to millitary, e.g. the chair of the council of eight Australian research universities was asked directly what would happen if China decided to turn off the flow of Chinese students to Australia, at 53:00

Merv King, former Governor of Bank of England and former professor at LSE had also mentioned that some US, UK and AU universities would have gone bankrupt if China decided to do that. The podcast source I could not locate at the moment.

South Korea also had experienced the effects when China turn off the flow of tourists.

Some of the Taiwan universities already had zero PhD students and China is dangling a lot of reseach scholarships to the Taiwanese. Furthermore, a single province of China has decided to hire 1000 top academics from Taiwan.

Australia can still probably rely on the American nuclear deterrent in case of an outright invasion. The only reasons Australia needing to go nuclear are 1) the validity of American promises in this regard are somehow undermined or 2) new norms develop around the use of nuclear weapons.

That being said, Australia does strike me as a country whose politicians are fundamentally unserious about this (and other) issues. Most likely they'll own-goal themselves by allowing massive Chinese settlement and increasing their economic dependency on China, all while pretending nothing's going on.

Would you die for Canberra?

Australia has supported the US militarily in every conflict since WW2, except for Libya (if that counts).

Plenty of Australians have died to lend US foreign policy the appearance of legitimacy.

Since Australians have died to help the US project it's image, I sure hope the US would help protect our sovereignty.

T. From Canberra

#1: The first line of the article is "The power of curated streaming playlists cannot be understated". But then rest of the article seems to be arguing that the power of curated streaming playlists cannot be OVERstated.

#4: also couldn't access

Eyeglasses are more a service than a product, in that the price of the eye exam is massively subsidized by the price of the eyeglasses.

This type of pricing is driven by psychology: practically everyone feels better paying for things than for labor. Therefore you're more likely to feel you received value when you pay $40. for the eye exam and $300. for the eyeglasses than if the exam had been priced at $300. and the eyeglasses at $40. In the first case you take home something you value at $300., but in the second what you take home is only perceived to be worth $40. Even if it's the very same thing.

This is, of course, a lesson that every successful consumer-service business operator knows: even if most of your cost is for labor, try to hide that cost by charging for associated goods (and then be sure the goods are such that the customer can't figure out what they actually would have cost without the labor associated with fitting, installation, etc.)

So if you want to be really, really cheap, you get a low-cost eye exam/refraction and then use the prescription to buy cheap eyeglasses from a source on the internet. To be sure, this works best if your eyeglass needs are for a relatively simple, single-vision prescription. The odds of satisfaction are lower if you want or need something like progressive bifocals, or other complex lenses.

And, yes, low-cost opticians did business by mail-order long before there was an internet.

6. Just another special interest pleading, move along nothing to see here.

#2... Already have it:

"As they readily admit, their position is hardly a new one. Indeed, they offer in Part II of the book, a reconstruction of Frank Knight’s understanding of democracy as “government by discussion” (p. 7, italics in original). The point is to constrain experts by “discussion and transparency.” Discussion is a “cooperative quest” not an attempt to “‘sell’ a solution already reached” (p. 48, quoted from Knight)"

You read Frank Knight to learn. You read most economists to find out what they think, which is not often time well spent.

Re 5. Don't overlook employer-provided vision insurance in the U.S. I have a copay, but it looks tiny compared to the inflated list prices. My optometrist salivates when I walk in the door...

Good thing "mass warfare" is all the rage among the countries on the business end of current Volkerwanderung.


#4: This might provide some more detail for non Australia observers - the Chinese have apparently been buying influence among Australian politicians to say the right things.

In this case it was a senator who clearly argued for the Chinese policy on the South China Sea, after taking cash from the Chinese. He also told the his donor that his phone was being bugged by Australian intelligence agencies and he shouldn't use it too much.

5 - If you want affordable eyeglasses in the US, go where they don't accept insurance or where few of their customers use insurance for their purchases.

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