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Archive for January 2nd, 2010

The first of the newly created Mother-Son Debates focuses on Health Care Reform.

Russell’s (Son) Position:

The US will have universal health care (some form of it) within 15 years.  As the only industrialized nation without it there’s not much precedent against it.  The United States does not yet feel the necessity for covering everyone and was very much lagging behind other countries in the discussion of health care reform.  Most industrialized nations started the debate early in 20th century and were well on their way/done with the basics by the end of WWII – many countries out of necessity due to the high costs of WWII.  The continued superpower status and relatively rich population keep reform at bay.  A prolonged high unemployment rate and lengthy war deployments may push things along further faster.  Major reforms do not come about because of consideration of specific/individual trials and tribulations – a country needs a statistically significant number of citizens experiencing general difficulties.  Health care reform doesn’t differ drastically from education, transportation nor the military.  These are things we all want/need but don’t see the immediate value in.  We simply had several more centuries to figure out that a more educated, mobile and protected society is going to be more productive (no other justification is required for reform).  Furthermore, health care didn’t need to be figured out before early1900s because most people didn’t live long enough (lifespans in industrialized countries were still around 50 years or lower) for end of life medicine to be such a burden on society.  With the end of major world wars, improvement in nutrition, widespread clean water and germ theory people lived longer to be exposed to more complicated illnesses.  Medical technology progressed enough in the 1900s to give people hope they could cheat death long enough to make death something we didn’t handle culturally very well.  So here we are today:  still wealthy enough to think we can pay for all this health care out of pocket, still avoiding conversations about death and still about two decades behind the rest of the industrial world on social issues.   We’ll have universal health care, but it won’t be activism that brings it about.  Activism might move it along a year or two sooner and help us integrate the inevitable reform.

Donna’s (Mother) Position:

Healthcare is a basic human right, and as such, to be protected as a public good. All of a civilized society benefits from providing a progressively financed, single standard of high-quality healthcare to all of its citizens.

In the United States, a healthcare system centered on employer-based health insurance benefits developed and expanded in the mid-to-late 20th century.  But this system leaves large segments of the U.S. population with either no coverage for even basic healthcare needs or inadequate coverage.

Costs are exploding for individuals, companies and public entities, and though more than 16 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product is now consumed by healthcare, more than 45,000 Americans die every year simply due to lack of access to care.

The U.S. is the only industrialized nation not to provide universalized access to healthcare to its citizens, and the World Health Organization reports that in several of the major measures of health outcomes, the U.S. lags well behind (life expectancy, infant mortality — to name just two).  We spend more than twice as much per capita on healthcare and yet our outcomes do not reflect it.
I’ve heard it said that if we had this level of spending on our Olympic team and our results were as poor, we’d have a society up in arms about making fundamental change.  It’s like paying for the Yankees and getting a minor league team or less.

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I don’t do hardcore predictions as most interesting things are fundamentally unpredictable.  That Black Swan thing and all that.

However, I do think it worthwhile to lay down some context and shifts in the business, social and other environments that will shape our lives going forward.

Microsoft and Facebook Merge

Facebook is what Microsoft likely wanted Passport and then Windows Live to be – the single sign on for the planet.  Owning the sign-on and digital trail people leave behind is the single most valuable (to a business) asset any media/software business can own (well, really any business).  Not even search engine advertising is as valueable.  Search is just one of the hundreds of things we all do online and it isn’t nearly as revealing as the comments we post, the products we buy, the addresses we ship to, the people we connect and the jobs we take.

Facebook brings together efficiently so much of what Microsoft makes billions on: messaging, apps development, gaming, mobile…

If you look at how tight Microsoft has been with Facebook from Television ads to deep integration into XBox live it seems that a deepening relationship is inevitable.

Beyond that it would be quite a trojan horse into Apple and Google to have MSFT-FB, as Facebook is a major factor in the continued success of iPhone and Facebook is the only viable-still growing by leaps and bounds advertising platform.

Now, is it Facebook that has the commanding position over Microsoft?   Perhaps a strong Facebook IPO (a very likely event in 2010) will give Facebook enough power to make several very bold moves.  Maybe it starts smaller where Facebook absorbs Yahoo….  Again, these things are complex, but I very much think it’s Facebook=Microsoft that mounts the serious competition to the growing Google empire.

For fun, a prediction:  As a specific thing I can see happening – you will be able to login to your windows OS based device via Facebook connect.    And that could get very interesting for all things cloud computing, social gaming and so forth!

Print Focused Companies (retailers, publishers, distributors included) to Be Very Aggressive and Then Flame Out

Again, hard to be too specific here but it’s clear after the massive holidays for digital assets that there’s not much hope (hope=transactions!) for the mega bookstores, the mostly print based publishers and daily newspapers.

Borders and Barnes and Noble simply failed on ebooks and their stores are a wreck.  I visit at least 2 bookstores a week.  Week over week I see a decline in inventory, more and more Twilight displays and a growing impulse buy check out line.  All of those things mean that consumers are browsing the shelves and buying inventory.  Local borders seem much more like a Hallmark store than a book store.  Endless BS gadgets and gifts and a truly horribly vanilla book selection.  Sadly the mega bookstores stopped focusing on what made them so attractive – the experience of buying a book.  This was their last defensible asset.  And now they are probably the WORST way to buy a book – price, fidelity, distractions, over selling, etc.

(If they had the balls they could save themselves.  Give away ereaders, give discounts to buying ebooks instore, install print-on-demand binding machines, expand the cafes, hire actual booklovers/experts.   It would take 2 years of investment but in the end these would be beautiful places to socialize, read, explore… and the margins would go way up because they wouldn’t have shitty inventory, confusing displays and everything else that comes with a bad bookstore.)

Print publishers won’t see the return of the ad dollars.  And fewer and fewer people will subscribe.   Once the grocery stores dump the lame magazine and newspaper displays (they don’t make us much money as the energy drink displays) print will really suffer.   Print publishers still have tons of great content in them they just can’t get off the crack of the gross margins of the past print monopolies.   No, new emagazine readers aren’t going to save this stuff.   There’s a business is feature content, but it’s not at all like the business of old and the near future will reveal who’s going to adjust to a tighter business model with no investment in print.

Print on Demand, Self Publishing services (iuniverse and the others), ebook stores will continue to erode the distribution and agent infrastructure.  I’m sure eventually we’ll have widespread “SEO/findability consultants” for authors. (I’ve advised a few authors and agents).    With megabookstores and other “stands” for print content going away there won’t be any need for restocking and all that.  It’s going to be 90% digital very soon.  (what does this mean for printers? paper makers?   many that i’ve looked up don’t look much like paper companies anymore!)

We will see a near term explosion of activity with these companies as they struggle against the tide.  The tide is too great, though.

Network TV goes On Demand Only

The NBC – GE- Comcast deal earlier and now the Time Warner / Fox feud is the precursor to network TV going all on demand.  There’s no long term business model for free-over the air-high cost network TV.  The ad rates don’t support it, the consumers don’t watch it and content creators don’t need it any more.   Yeah, it will take years to unwind this business but it’s pretty clear you the network brand doesn’t mean much in the world today.

The recent reselling/movement of fairly popular (or what seem to be popular shows) while still popular is an interesting data point.  Scrubs from NBC to ABC, Medium from NBC to CBS, ESPN and Disney brand all over ABC, Oprah from ABC to her own thing.  MLB network, NFL network, NBA network…..  all of these entities are far more on demand and digitally integrated than the networks.

Once the current crop of executives age out/move on the facade of network TV will be over.

Education becomes Wikified

Public schools simply can’t keep up and it’s not really their fault.  Their main value (in most locations) is a social function.   Their content, methods, resources are simply not sufficient to deliver a functional modern education.   Very soon parents won’t worry about home schooling being something that weird/non-social people do… public schools will make sure home-school is the norm.  The public schools will become community centers.

How can I say this?  It’s already happening!  I have a pre-K kid that goes to the pre-K program for a couple of hours a day.  She has homework assignments.  We have mandatory parenting meetings.  Everything else is home or third party based.   I have a 1st grader.  She has at least 1 hour of homework a day.  The school is closed for 3 weeks in the holidays, has a good amount of short days, etc.   Parents now comprise the majority of in room help and supply almost all of the fundraising and community awareness.  The community and each family is already contributing so much ON TOP of taxes that eventually parents en masse will decide that the ruse of public school as a valuable curriculum resources and effective learning environment is over.

I’m socially close to quite a few teachers (at all levels) and administrators.    Teaching isn’t nearly as rewarding as they’d hoped, the resources aren’t there and pay simply won’t keep them afloat.

So…. the community will just take it over directly.  $300 netbooks, endless curriculum online, widespread social networking makes schooling from home something that is tangible, effective and affordable.

And, no, private schools and higher education are not immune to this.  They have a slightly longer life span because of their deeper resources but even they won’t be able to compete long term in any of their current forms.

I think the initial tipping point came when schools no longer were the best place to get access to technology.  That happened in the early 2000s.

Presidential Campaigns to Start Early Into Presidents First Term

Personally I think the next presidential campaign has already started.   From Sarah Palin’s actions to the still aggressive use of social media by the parties the next campaign is basically underway.  I suspect the national parties will get revved up with formalities even sooner than the last presidential election.

The news outlets and late night shows and blogs will see to it.  The rise of current media leaders  rise coincided with the last election and it’s the only trick they know to keep that ever-needed growth going.   The media, if we let it, is going to start the next election in 2010.

Brandon Marshall Ends up on the Bears

Well, I hope!  I don’t see how the Broncos and Marshall ever get along.  Cutler and Marshall just worked.  Make it happen.

I have more to flow out on the shape of things…. sadly The Little Mermaid II just ended on the old VCR so the girls need attention. 😉  Talk at ya later.

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Happy 2010.  After several lengthy discussions over the holidays with my Mom I thought it might be interesting to generate an online Mother/Son debate to discuss the Big Issues in life.  Note: This post is the first time my mom will have heard of this idea but I suspect she’ll embrace this and start producing her viewpoints within 24 hours 😉

The Mother Son Debates will illuminate the differences in values, ideas, hopes and approaches to life between my mom and I.  Perhaps in putting these thoughts out there we might learn more about our respective generations, our social networks and the contexts of our own value formations.  We might also change some of our own view points in the process.  Oh, and yes, we’ll have a lot of fun!

Topics We’ll Debate:

  • Health Care Reform – why reform? who should pay? what’s the end result we want?
  • Free Will – do we have free will?
  • God – current concept of God? is there a God?
  • Education – what works? what doesn’t?
  • Designer Genetics – should we design our children?  redesign ourselves?
  • Technology Enhanced Human Biology – cyborgs? intelligence enhancers?
  • Determinism – is it all determined?
  • Global Warming – is it real? does it matter?
  • Human Rights – what are human rights?
  • Universal Truth – are there any universal truths?
  • Personal Responsibility – who’s responsible for everything?
  • War and Peace – is there a positive to war? is war necessary? is there an acceptable cost of war?
  • Generational Shifts – does every generation think the incoming generation has great challenges? eroding values? is not ready to take on the challenges? is the older generation a has been? old ideas? outdated? technophobic?

First topic will be Health Care Reform, as I know that will get my mom into the debate! 😉

The format is simple.  We’ll start with a one paragraph statement of our positions in one blog post.  The debate will happen via comments and follow on blog posts.  Everyone is free to join in the discussion.

Quoting old dead white guys is allowed but is greatly frowned upon.

About Donna Smith, My Mom:

Photo by Robin HollandDonna Smith is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Colorado College with a degree in history. Her journalism career includes work as a stringer for NEWSWEEK magazine. She has been honored by the Associated Press Managing Editors with 15 regional awards from 2004-2006 and by the Inland Press Association’s top honor in 2006 for community-based journalism. Since 2007, she has co-chaired the Progressive Democrats of America’s national “Healthcare Not Warfare” campaign, and she has so far spoken in 41 states and the District of Columbia about single-payer healthcare reform.

Donna continues an active writing and speaking career, and now blogs and writes op-ed pieces about the health care crisis. She also is the founder of American Patients United, a non-profit group educating citizens about health care reform on the national level. She also works as a national single-payer health care advocate and community organizer for the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee. Donna and Larry now live in Washington, DC, and they have six children and 14 grandchildren.

About Me

You can ready the far-less-impressive-for-the purposes-of-intellectual-debate background in the About Russell tab of this blog.

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