A Concise Video on Why American Health Care is so Expensive and Inefficient

From the ever-reliable John Green of Mental Floss comes an 8-minute video that explains the many reasons why US health care is in such abysmal shape. Needless to say, it’s complicated, and leaves little question that our system is by far one of the most dysfunctional and unsustainable in the developed world.

It’s apparently the first part in what will be a periodic series on health care costs and reforms, leading up to the introduction of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). You can find the sources on the original YouTube page.


Welcome to North Korea

There is little doubt that the regime in North Korea is one of the most odious and evil in human history. The level of cruelty, capriciousness, and sociopathy that characterizes this pseudo-religious totalitarian state is surreal (indeed, I dare say the villainy of NK government is almost Hollywood-worthy in how over-the-top and disturbingly cartoonish it can be).

While the exploits of its bizarre and ruthless leaders –namely the late Kim Jong-il — are well-known and the subject of many pop culture references, there are very few details about what everyday life in the regime is like. What little we know comes from either escapees, satellite images (which have captured the large network of labor camps), and the small coterie of people who manage to visit the notoriously isolationist state. Needless to say, their accounts are profoundly disturbing.

As it turns out, however, there was actually a documentary filmed in the country over a decade ago that managed to portray what conditions were like for average North Koreans. I’m not sure how this rare find managed to go under the radar, especially as it one the International Emmy award for Best Documentary — although I imagine that its release in 2001 was likely overshadowed by bigger events elsewhere in the world, as North Korea has only recently gained its level of notoriety)

Dutch filmmaker Peter Tetteroo and his associate Raymond Feddema spent a week in and around the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, where most of the filming takes place. How they managed to get in there, film nearly an hour of intimate footage, and make it out is beyond me (contrary to popular belief, people to visit North Korea, although its exceedingly difficult, and I doubt such filming is allowed).

In any case, this video is well worth your time. Fair warning — it’s probably one of the most disturbing things you’ll see in a while, which I doubt is surprising to anyone.


Video: Wealth Inequality in America

The rise and intensity of socioeconomic inequality in the US seems to be getting more attention, and for good reason — as the following video shows, the problem is far worse and more consequential than most Americans realize.

For those concerned about the reliability of such claims, or looking for additional information, the sources are as follows:

Of course, you’re also free to read my long list of posts on the subject. As you can tell, it’s a topic close to my heart (though honestly, even I didn’t realized how much I’d written about it over the past year).

As always, please share your thoughts and concerns. Even if I don’t get around to responding, rest assured that I do read every comment I receive.


The Workings of the Adolescent Brain

As neurology, psychology, and other social scientific disciplines advance and mature – namely through the help of new technology – we’re learning and more about the elusive workings of our own mind.

With that knowledge comes – albeit in fits and starts – an improved ability to work with one another and with ourselves. Once we realize that much of our behavior is shaped by forces beyond our control, we learn to appreciate the nuances and complexities of human nature. We learn that evil, ignorance, fallibility, hypocrisy, and other negative traits have at least some basis in our biology – thus we must confront them from a scientific framework that acknowledges their innateness and treats them as conditions to be understood and treated, rather than simply stamped out or punishment.

This is why I try to have patience with people, be they children, teens, elders, or adults. It’s hard to accept sometimes, but there are clearly certain deterministic biological factors that make some of our behaviors inevitable. This doesn’t mean we should excuse or accept such behavior, but rather that we must around it and adapt to it while the person (hopefully) grows out of it with time and experience. It’s easier said than done, but we were all there once, and responding negatively hardly helps matter — although research suggests that arguing with teens can ultimately be fruitful for their development in the long-term. Maybe we’re just supposed to go through the motions rather than try to fix everything.


Improving Our Education System

There is no shortage of proscriptions for how to improve our deficient public education system – indeed, there are probably more solutions given then there are efforts to actually implement them.

But this video, courtesy of RSA, is by far one of the best. Speaker Sir Ken Robinson, a noted education reformer, offers some pretty interesting observations and ideas regarding how to better teach young people, which includes (as I’ve long argued) changing the cultural and society attitudes that structure educational policy. Much of what he says has been expressed by other reformers as well, which suggests that there is a pretty solid consensus on what needs to be done (although not necessarily how it needs to be done).

As to be expected, these aren’t going to be quick or easy to implement – it’ll likely take much time and a multidimensional approach – but we can’t afford to ignore the problem for much longer. See the video, or check out his website to judge for yourselves. At the very least, there’s a conversation going.


Homeless Man Donates Handouts to Fellow Homeless

This exemplary human being has given away over $9,000 he’s collected through panhandling to a fellow homeless mother and child. When many better off people can’t be bothered with giving the less fortunate the time of day, a man who is scarcely getting by still find the means and the love to give to others. This is a very inspiring story. I especially like the news anchors statement towards the end.

Hat tip to my friend Ray for sharing this with me.