Posted by: bkivey | 7 February 2014

Snow Day

The Portland area is pretty much shut down today, as the heaviest snow in five years continues to fall. A typical year will see one or two light snows in this part of the state: last year it didn’t snow at all. And that suits most people around here just fine. If we want to see snow, the Cascades are less than an hour away. We prefer well-behaved snow that stays in the mountains where it belongs.

The downside of living in a light snow area is that municipalities don’t keep snow removal equipment on hand. This makes sense, when the equipment might actually be needed two or three times a decade. On the other hand, it doesn’t take much accumulation to play hob with commerce. I’m stuck in the office today, when I need to be out in the field. That’s not happening, so I’m going to clear some dead wood off the desk.

High (Tax) Times

Our neighbor to the north legalized marijuana this year, and it’s been interesting to see how the market is developing. The euphoria of pot advocates has met the reality check of government regulation. Washington charges pot dealers several thousand dollars annually for licensing, and the Washington Legislature is already rubbing its collective hands together as they figure ways to tax the product.

That government is looking to levy taxes on legal dope should surprise exactly no one, but pot advocates seem to have been under the impression that what they support for tobacco and alcohol shouldn’t apply to their drug of choice. Retail weed is going for upwards of $400/oz, and while this is on par with the price in The Netherlands, it’s apparently much higher than the black market price for most varieties prior to legalization.

Some Washington officials have expressed concern that the black market may be able to undercut the retail market, depriving the State of revenue. It’s a legitimate concern, as unlike, say alcohol and tobacco, dope is fairly easy to manufacture and distribute. The marijuana black market is well-developed and widespread. I suspect that Washington will increase the penalties for undercover dope dealing in order to increase the legal risk for clandestine dealers, forcing them to raise prices.

Jevon’s Paradox

In another completely unsurprising development, a study finds that access to health care insurance doesn’t decrease ER utilization. Quite the opposite, in fact. One of the ‘benefits’ pushed by Obamacare advocates was that the more people had medical insurance, the fewer would use the ER as primary care facility. The study found that those with insurance were more likely to go to the ER first for treatment. Who would have thought?

Well, just about anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of economics. The general form of Jevon’s Paradox is that the more accessible a resource, the higher the utilization. What health care advocates hoped would happen is that when people received coverage, they’d make an appointment with a doctor, or at least use a primary care facility. The reality is that folks who viewed the ER as a first resort still held that view, except that now they had insurance to pay for it.

There’s also the ‘use it if you have it’ mentality. I’ve met any number of people who would visit the doctor for every little thing, because ‘insurance is paying for it, so why not?’ I can’t say what percentage of health care resources are tied up treating minor complaints, but I’d wager it’s not insignificant.

Winter Comfort Food

Given the weather, I decided to make some potato soup. I don’t use fixed quantities in recipes: I’ve been cooking for a while now, so I just make as much as I want.

Peel potatoes and cut into 1/2″ slices.

Slice celery fairly thin, along with onions.

Saute the vegetables in butter. After sauteing, add enough water to cover, add salt, pepper, and one crushed bay leaf. I add a little fatback if there’s some laying around. Cover and simmer until potatoes are done.

Put the vegetables in a bowl, reserving the liquid. Mash the potatoes, and add the liquid. Bring the soup to the desired consistency by adding milk.

Add a little Worcestershire sauce, and season to taste.

Heat up a bowl, and enjoy. Takes about 1 1/2 hours.


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