THE BUBBLE

Thanks to Toby Gottfried for this highly readable link. Snippets (but read the whole thing if you’re amused by – let alone speculating on the continuation of – the real estate bubble):

‘In 1999, 20% of the second home buyers surveyed by the association said they were doing it for investment purposes. By 2002, it was 37%; by last year, 64%.’

‘A variety of middlemen have sprung up to relieve real estate novices of the burden of doing anything besides forking over a wad of cash.’

‘His own [California home’s appreciation] makes the Colorado duplex he agreed to buy look inexpensive. Balbas, 60, has never been to Colorado and said he had no plans to go anytime soon.’

SOCIAL SECURITY – HIDING THE GOOD NEWS?

This post suggests the Social Security ‘crisis’ may be even less of a crisis than we thought:

Brad DeLong has peered into the archives of the Social Security Trustees Report to look at the question of the missing productivity data and comes to a very interesting conclusion. The methodological rule that “forces” the Trustees to ignore the previous four years’ worth of productivity data was first implemented . . . in 2004. If they had used the methodology that was in place as recently as 2003, they would have projected long-term productivity growth of 1.9 percent per year rather than 1.6 percent. Interestingly, 1.9 percent happens to be precisely the figure used in the low-cost estimate; the low-cost estimate, also interestingly, has been more accurate historically than the intermediate projection, which forms the basis for our misleading public debate on the subject. The media masochists may not like to hear it, but if we get the policy right in terms of continued productivity growth, immigration reform, fighting age discrimination, and improving preventative medicine we may well eliminate the Social Security “crisis” without making any “painful choices” at all. –Matthew Yglesias

(You probably saw that when the five Social Security trustees issued their report, only the three who agree with President Bush were invited to participate.)

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t tweak around the edges, as I’ve suggested. But those tweaks are the least of what the country needs to do to get back on track.

SMELLING SALTS

Pieter Bach: ‘Smelling salts, or ‘sal volatile,’ were either a compound of scented hartshorn, a natural type of ammonia, and carried in small bottles about the size of a Chinese snuff bottle, or were, for the extremely delicate of sensibility, ‘aromatic vinegar,’ made of any sort of vinegar which was brewed with various natural scents such as flower petals or herbs. Think of popping the top on a bottle of Parsons’ Sudsy and taking a whiff, or pulling the cork on a jug of Antonetti’s Best Red Wine vinegar and breathing deeeeep. Kind of perks you up, doesn’t it? Ladies carried these small vials as a matter of course during the fashion periods when tight corsets were the rule, because the tightness of the lacing (‘Tighter, Mammy, tighter!’) made it difficult to take a full breath – that’s also why Victorian ladies had such tiny appetites in public but managed to get so plump anyway (hint, they took the real meals in private, with their ‘stays’ loosened). Those who smell the coffee and wake up are those who have automatic coffeemakers OR wonderfully considerate Significant Others.’

FINALLY . . .

The Schiavo tragedy may not have been sent by God to aid Tom DeLay in his political difficulties, as he suggested, but at least it has led a lot of people to designate health care proxies (see the next two items for caveats). Reading this from Andrew Sullivan – the conservative Catholic columnist pal – one can only wonder why, after so much media scrutiny and public discussion, these facts are not more widely known. Prime among them:

A CAT scan shows that her brain has since shrunk massively. Her electroencephalogram reading was and is completely flat – she has no brain waves. She is not brain-dead. But she has no ability to think, feel, or communicate.

There’s much more, all of it sad. I urge those who believe an injustice has been done to read the whole thing. Including this piece:

Last weekend, they got the federal Congress back in emergency Sunday session and got a law designed to delay the process of death pending new federal court challenges. President Bush rushed back to D.C. to sign the bill in the middle of the night. You want proof that the religious right runs the Republican Party? What more do you need?

And now, two caveats . . .

> Living Wills . . . Or Won’t They?

Gary Konecky: ‘Thank you for the repeated mentions of Living Wills. There is one point that has not been mentioned. My mother died in an internationally respected cardiac hospital, St. Frances in Roslyn, New York. My mother’s doctor knew about her living will. A copy of the living will was part of the hospital chart. The hospital and its doctors violated each and every provision of her living will. I was to learn subsequently, that it is the policy of Roman Catholic hospitals to disregard living wills. In matters of health care, Roman Catholic teachings take precedence over accepted medical procedure and the patient’s wishes.’

☞ Anyone know how widely true this might be?

> Correction – Medical Power Of Attorney

David Groshoff: ‘Eric Batson (MD, PhD) wrote Friday:

Furthermore (and this is VERY useful for those in non-marriage relationships of ANY sort), the person with the power of attorney has COMPLETE access to the patient’s medical records and is obviously entitled to visit the patient (how can you make decisions for the patient without seeing him or her?). A random member of the patient’s family cannot just tell the hospital to exclude you.

‘While this may be true where Dr. Batson lives, some of this simply isn’t the case in some states, and it’s very important that people be aware of that.

‘First, the person with the power of attorney may not, in fact, have complete (or any) access to the patient’s medical records, unless the Health Care proxy specifically provides for access under HIPAA.

‘Second, as a member of the bar in a state, Ohio, that recently passed the most damning so-called ‘marriage’ constitutional amendment in the country (that impacts all unmarried heterosexual people as well), I can tell you that a health care proxy in no way makes the person named in the health care proxy ‘obviously entitled to visit the patient.’ The advance directive only evidences an intent of the person who is unable to make his/her own health care decisions, and it typically does not state priority of visitation, despite how obvious it may be to Dr. Batson and others who logically ask, ‘how can you make decisions for the patient without seeing him or her?’ Believe me, many attorneys who cater to the gay community have seen this story play out badly many times over.

‘Many courts in my state (as shown in the link above) will in all likelihood bend over backwards to give ‘traditional’ family members preference over those of us who are viewed as strangers in the eyes of our state’s founding document, regardless of whether an advance directive exists, regardless of what’s contained in that advance directive, and regardless of how long we’ve been with our loved one, particularly when *public* hospitals must overtly discriminate against unmarried persons based on the mandates of the state’s constitution.

‘All that said, I agree wholeheartedly with Dr. Batson that having both a living will and a durable power of attorney for health care (as well as perhaps a springing general power of attorney and other documents) in place is indispensable. In fact, executing several of the same advance directives over a period of time, say once every six months (and holding onto the old ones) *and* specifically providing for the same person to have priority of visitation in each one, helps to build up further evidence of the person’s intent.

‘It’s a complicated and important issue. People spend days agonizing over what sofa or car to buy (or what stock or mutual fund to buy/sell), but they often refuse to spend even half of that time dealing with this. Hopefully, the sad situation in Florida will be a wakeup call to everyone to ensure that their wishes, whatever they may be, are expressed as best as they can.’

 

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