Free Markets, Free People

Billy Hollis


This situation in Honduras – a first hand report

I have a professional colleague in Honduras who wrote many of us a message yesterday, pleading for help getting the word out about the true situation as he sees it. I don’t know if it’s prudent to give his name at this point.

I requested permission to repost that message here, and he readily agreed. So this is written by a Honduran, directly addressing the rest of world and appealing for us to understand the situation there and take action appropriately:

I seek your advice. I have to find the best way to make all governments, especially the world leaders, understand what is happening in Honduras. I’m gathering IT friends and developers to brainstorm on this and hopefully save our country from terror.

This alias is not political [He refers to the mailing list on which he posted this message] so I won’t write in those terms. But can say that the great majority of my country celebrated the forced departure of our Ex President. He and Hugo Chavez did the best they could to divide this nation, making us fight against each other, but in the end, they made us more united and more aware of what Democracy really is, and embrace it. They’ve done us a favor actually.

Just so you know what happened in one line: Our Ex President was trying to repeat what Hugo Chavez has achieved in four other countries by controlling the national media, bribing top officials and threatening citizens. He wanted to illegally change our constitution so that he could create a one and only Party, do away with national media, change the way referendums are carried and be reelected indefinitely by these false referendums.

If you ask why we voted for him as President in the first place? Well, he presented himself as a normal candidate in opposition to corruption. We basically voted (me included) for him, because we were against the other guy. Little did we know that he would start insulting the USA (country where most of us have family and friends) and befriending all its enemies. He took a hard, hard left. With Hugo Chavez’s money, he bought three TV channels and a News Paper that is delivered “free of charge” to every citizen’s door step. You get 24X7 news on how “Pinky and the Brain” plan to take over the world. His own Party ousted him a few months after being elected President.

You need to know that all of the Churches (all the brands), the Teachers Union, Commerce Chambers, Worker Unions, The Congress, the Supreme Court, the Police, the Armed Forces, everyone has celebrated his ousting. Every single person I know (that did not work directly for him) (rich or poor) is very happy with the actions taken and the new temporary President that we have until November’s elections.

To sum it up we all just had it with this guy and are happy he’s gone. Unfortunately, what I see on the world news is astonishing to us. All Presidents back him up and want him reinstated. Hugo Chavez has troops from Venezuela lined up on our Nicaraguan border. Are we going into war for something that we all wanted as country to stop? Hugo Chavez knows that he has to act soon before the media and world start to see what really happened here. So we have to get the message out as fast as possible.

When I requested permission to repost, this was his response:

Dear Billy,

I’m sorry it took this long to get back to you. We’ve been having outages of Internet ever since the 7.1 earthquake that hit a couple of weeks ago. There are many reasons why it was so urgent for us to get rid of this man. He disregarded the whole country for the sake of Hugo Chavez’s interest. Bridges fell down, schools and houses broke down, etc, during the Earthquake. Even before that the roads and hospitals are destroyed by total lack of maintenance, etc, etc. We are losing jobs to economy crisis. Becoming a communist (Marxist) country to make Hugo happy is the furthest thing on our minds. Our real government had to take extreme measures (which we applaud) to oust this person.

I also need to add that our Ex President did not submit a yearly budget to the Congress as our Constitution demands every year. He was hoping to suffocate the Congress and Supreme Court by withholding funds. It is calculated that he spent more than three years budget into his campaign to be reelected (strong prohibited by the Constitution and named as treason). The only way that amount of funds availability is possible is by Hugo Chavez’s oil money. But he never reported any of it to anyone. How can the world expect us to carry a fair trial for this man when he has more cash than several neighboring countries together. Kicking him out of the country was the only way. If this was the 70’s, he would be dead. But like all modern terrorists, they rely on our respect for Human Rights; But that has a limit also.

So yes, by all means, post and repost as much as you can, please. Tomorrow I plan to go around taking pictures and video of the city so you can add them if you wish. I greatly appreciate the support I’m getting from several RD’s. [He refers to a program of Microsoft-oriented software developers.] We are very nervous, scared actually. We know very well that we are right and the media and the Presidents of other countries are wrong and uninformed. To me CNN is the USA’s worst enemy. It’s become ours too.[Emphasis mine]

If he is successful in getting pictures and video, I’ll post them. In the meantime, this corroborates the position set out by McQ in his previous two posts, maintaining that Obama’s response has been… well, let’s euphemistically say “unimpressive”, though my own opinion is that it demonstrates that Obama doesn’t seem to place much value on freedom, here or anywhere else. And don’t get me started on our media.

I wish the Hondurans good fortune in getting through this political crisis. I trust my colleague’s account, and I will be guided by it in my own opinions. You may judge whether you agree.


Podcast for 31 May 09

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, Billy, and Dale discuss the economy and the Sotomayor nomination.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2007, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.


Research: people can’t distinguish dog food from pâté

Perhaps because of my cross-grained hillbilly upbringing, I’ve long been a bit cynical about high cuisine. An old steakhouse commercial summed up my feelings: “Cuisine is something that’s a lot like food, only it costs a lot more.”

I’ve had pâté at a few receptions, and wondered what the fuss was about. So I got a good hard laugh out of this posting about how people can’t distinguish dog food from pâté. There’s a link to the original research paper.

I’m sure there’s some clever political metaphor in there about not trusting elites, but I’m too lazy to tease it out. Commenters are invited to do so if they are so moved.

(Originally found at geekpress.com, which you programming and math types ought to put on your daily reading list.)


What’s so wrong with free-lance wealth redistribution?

As a counterpoint to McQ’s post on the pirate incident, a humorist endeavors to predict the Obama administration’s response:

For too long, America has been too dismissive of the proud culture and invaluable contributions of the Pirate Community. Whether it is their pioneering work with prosthetics, husbandry of tropical birds or fanciful fashion sense, America owes a deep debt to Pirates.

The past eight years have shown a failure to appreciate the historic role of these noble seafarers. Instead of celebrating their entreprenuerial spirit and seeking to partner with them to meet common challenges, there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive.

Finally, to all pirates listening to international broadcasts, shortwave services and ship-to-shore radio, let me say this:

Ahoy, me regret arr relationship has set sail in a scurvy manner. Arr people share many mutual ‘alues and concerns on t’ raging main. Perchance, could ye handsomely release the cap’n o’ the ship and I assure that no harm will come t’ ye or ye hearties.

Well, it’s no sillier than thinking you can solve a problem created by too much debt by going a whole lot further in debt.


“The Brokest Generation” – something that every under-30-year-old ought to read

There are plenty of good writers around, but there are only a few who cause me to pause during reading and think “Oh, how I wish I could write like that.”

Mark Steyn is in that group. Just about anything he writes is worth reading, and he is the best in the business at being funny and thought-provoking at the same time.

Occasionally, though, he captures the essence of an issue in a way no other current writer can. His current article at National Review, “The Brokest Generation“, is in that category. Go read it yourself, and then pass it along to the folks who are going to be paying for the folly of the Obama years (and the somewhat-lesser follies of the administrations that preceeded him).

It’s true irony that the chanting, swaying kids in the creepy Obama videos will be the ones who pay the highest price for Obama’s fumbling foolishness. Per Mark:

As Lord Keynes observed, “In the long run we’re all dead.” Well, most of us will be. But not you youngsters, not for a while. So we’ve figured it out: You’re the ultimate credit market, and the rest of us are all pre-approved!

The Bailout and the TARP and the Stimulus and the Multi-Trillion Budget and TARP 2 and Stimulus 2 and TARP And Stimulus Meet Frankenstein and the Wolf Man are like the old Saturday-morning cliffhanger serials your grandpa used to enjoy. But now he doesn’t have to grab his walker and totter down to the Rialto, because he can just switch on the news and every week there’s his plucky little hero Big Government facing the same old crisis: Why, there’s yet another exciting spending bill with twelve zeroes on the end, but unfortunately there seems to be some question about whether they have the votes to pass it. Oh, no! And then, just as the fate of another gazillion dollars of pork and waste hangs in the balance, Arlen Specter or one of those lady-senators from Maine dashes to the cliff edge and gives a helping hand, and phew, this week’s spendapalooza sails through. But don’t worry, there’ll be another exciting episode of Trillion-Buck Rogers of the 21st Century next week!

This is a connection we need to be making over and over again: when the mountain of federal debt finally collapses of its own weight, the younger generation will be hurt the worst. Most of the people who fomented the crisis will have long since passed on, or be comfortable in their retirement because of the assets they were able to accrue at taxpayer and lobbyist expense. They will have gotten what they wanted: time in the sun, running things, letting others pay them obeisance, getting respect they don’t really deserve. Either they are too stupid to realize what they are doing to the next couple of generations, or they are too mendacious to care. The sooner the younger generations learn the con job that has been perpetrated on them, the better.


Another software disaster in the making?

Over at The Corner, there’s a discussion going on about medical records, prompted by this sentence in the “stimulus” plan:

“Computerizing every American’s health record in five years, reducing medical errors and saving billions of dollars in health care costs.”

There are the usual (and valid) privacy concerns. But Iain Murray goes further, and wonders:

I’m not sure why insurance companies haven’t insisted on it, but my guess (and I stress it is a guess) would be some regulations related to privacy, which was the source of the AMA and ACLU’s opposition in the past.

From someone sitting inside the world of healthcare software, perhaps I can enlighten things a bit. Privacy is only one of a host of challenges. A bigger obstacle is the difficulty involved. Creating the software that manages patient data electronically is, to put it bluntly, beyond the capabilities of almost all software developers. It’s really, really hard.

Here are some of the challenges in creating such software:

1.  The data is very complex. It’s not just numbers and text; it includes all kinds of media, which needs to be interpreted and annotated.

2.  The data evolves rapidly over time. New tests are constantly being created.

3.  How the data is interpreted varies rapidly over time. Today’s rule might be “you need a prostate exam if you’re over 50 and blah, blah”, but a cheaper, less invasive test next year might mean it changes to “you need a prostate exam if you’re over 40, period.”

4.  The users are very difficult to please. Doctors are the most difficult users I’ve worked with in an entire career of software development. They won’t sit still for two weeks of training. If it’s too hard to use, they just won’t use it. They’ll keep using paper. (Given the responsibilities with people’s lives they have, that’s understandable.)

5.  There are laws (HIPPA) concerning privacy that are difficult to design for. The rules are not prescriptive, so you don’t really know if you have satisfied the law until some auditor tells you whether you have.

6.  Existing systems are very fragmented, and typically include only a small minority of information such as prescriptions. But that data must still be brought in. So transitioning to a new system is very, very hard because all kinds of weird data must be imported. That transition has to be right; errors introduced during transition would be a huge legal risk.

I’m not sure it was even possible to satisfy all these constraints with technology until the very recent past. We now have much better technology for user interfaces, and better technology for transporting records around. But it still takes extreme architectural and design skills to create a system that can incorporate entirely new types of data and rules by clinicians without the involvement of a programmer.

That means in particular that this can’t be a big government job. The IRS and their four billion dollar debacle showed the problems government has with creating large systems. I simply don’t think any government effort could attract and keep the talent needed for this task.

Even private entities in the healthcare world have trouble with complex systems. HCA Healthcare attempted to write a next-generation patient accounting system, and wrote off some $130 million, and I’m pretty sure the actual amount of money spent (on a system that was thrown away) was much higher than that. 

It’s easy for liberals, and even some “compassionate conservatives” to see the opportunity for saving lives and saving money, and just want to pass a law to make it happen. I don’t think I have to tell the people who frequent this site why that’s a bad idea. We could end up wasting tons of money.

But there’s a potential outcome that’s even worse. If an inadequate, buggy, brute force, low tech system were rushed into being, and its use was mandated, that would block the adoption of an innovative, more modern, better system that could be developed later. We would effectively be frozen into using that system, just as the air-traffic control system was frozen on old, obsolete technology for decades.

To sum things up, there is enormous opportunity to improve healthcare by applying technology to clinical patient data. But it’s a huge challenge too. And the more government tries to push it before it’s ready, or to command it into being the more likely that the potential won’t be reached.