Friday, October 30, 2009

The Hyatt Regency Cambridge.... A really beautiful hotel...

I've loved the view of you across the river from where I work. You're lovely. But not lovable.

Dear Hyatt Regency Cambridge,

In the past, my University, Boston University, has used the Hyatt Hotel for the year-end party for the psychology dept, for several years in a row. I'm hoping BU will join Governor Patrick in boycotting the Hyatt over its firing of housekeepers when they protested working conditions.

I have written Boston University to ask them to join the boycott.

Background for readers:

start with:

WBUR story


Hotel workers' website

And when you're driving down Memorial Drive, give a honk and thumbs up to the women now jobless after 20 years.

Their replacements are being paid minimum wage. I guess they thought these deserved more than that.

What's the solution? Pay more for hotel rooms so that workers can earn a living wage? Or: what if hotels didn't have to make a profit? Imagine.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Game Theory -- best strategy for Prisoner's Dilemma used in advice column for real life situation

According to a science writer interviewed on NPR a few weeks ago, one of the few members of Congress who is also a scientist had to step into a heated battle with his fellow lawmakers who wanted to gut approved funding for research on "Game Theory" -- because those congressmen thought the government was being asked to fund a project on sports.

But game theory isn't that obscure. When responding to a blog item about how to deal with a roommate who reneged on a deal regarding who gets to keep the living room futon, the poster bah humbug cited lessons from the Prisoners' Dilemma and described "Tit-for-Tat", the strategy that beat out competitors, as described in Axelrod's Tit-for-Tat and Generous Tit-for-Tat.

Should we classic cooperators read about game theory to learn how to deal with classic defectors?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The dream of socialized medicine

One of my few commenters wrote:

"OMG. next you're going to say you're in favor of SOCIALIST medicine!"

Yes. I'm also a utopian dreamer.

One of my fantasies is that the U.S. would adopt some type of public health care system. I urge policy makers to draw on the last decades of ideas about health care that have been worked out in the other advanced democracies -- Canada, Japan, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Italy, Israel and and so on. (this wikipedia article has a good overview of the publically-funded health care systems in developed countries).

Socialized medicine typically means that "the government owns the means of providing medicine" as in the VA hospitals in the U.S. Rather than focusing on the definition of "government ownership" I focus on the idea that we the people own the government and thus we the people own the means of providing medicine. The VA and other publicly owned health care systems such as the UK system have many flaws, and these need to be worked on.

In my view, the health care system should be a non-profit organization supported by taxes. We need more preventative medicine, which is neglected in fee-for-service programs, but could be a big part of a health care system which is like public education -- free for all.

Health care should not be a for-profit business, because the profit motive is incompatible with caring about people's well-being. Two exceptions to this statement:

1. In the immediate future, I do accept that elective medicine, like lasik surgery and in vitro fertilisation, can be run on a pay-for-service model, such as what I purchased in Turkey this last August 2009.

2. In the far future, I dream of a society in which working for financial profit has diminished or disappeared for most people. People will work for intellectual and social rewards, as do many people in creative endeavours (bloggers, writers, artists, poets) and in fields like education.

I would also be in favor, as a good starting point, of Obama's initial plan that the same health care system that currently provides for congressman and senators be available to all Americans.

Even some non-advanced countries and non-democracies have free for all medical systems. I was very impressed by my experience with walk-in health care in Beijing in spring 2008: no appt necessary, no waiting. I walked in and saw a doctor after a 5 wait, and paid nothing for what was essentially an emergency room visit (I did pay for pharmceuticals needed to treat a rapidly worsening staph infection). Free, even though I was a foreigner. I marveled.