Ford’s Affordable Care Acts

Ed Wallace:

Long before the Crusades, Islamic scholars had begun scientifically to investigate how medicines and physicians could cure man of diseases and better our ability to treat wounds. Few realize that the world’s first serious works on medicine came out of the Middle East; translated into Latin, they were used in European universities throughout the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance. (Today a rare copy of the Latin translation of the Islamic Canon of Medicine still resides at the University of Texas Health Care Center in San Antonio.) Fewer still remember that hospitals for the sick came out of the Islamic Golden Age.

Roughly 800 years later, young Henry Ford grew up seriously distrusting physicians. His disbelief in their abilities started when his mother died during childbirth; correctly or not, Ford blamed Dr. Duffield for her passing. Then shortly after his wife Clara had their son, Edsel, she underwent an operation that left her incapable of having any more children. And then, as Ford’s personal wealth grew, he realized that his family’s medical bills seemed to be rising at the same rate as his income.



Although it had been 900 years since the start of the scientific age of medicine, the average lifespan of an American male when Ford launched his first car company was still less than 60 years.



Illness and Wound Care, Not Healthcare

Those Wacky Automotive Joint Ventures

Ed Wallace:

A few weeks ago the automotive world was all a-flutter with the news that, as part of the first step toward finding ways to solve its financial problems in Europe, General Motors was taking a 7 percent stake in France’s Peugeot Citroen. Not mentioned in those stories is that competitors in the auto industry have been doing joint ventures for decades, but so far these very expensive plans have failed to yield much of value. More to the point, however, although it’s been the joint venture leader over the past 17 years, all GM has to show for it is the Duramax diesel engine.

To be fair, GM’s Opel in Europe has not managed to turn a profit in over a decade. Yet even in the recent discussions on the new venture with Peugeot, apparently not one automotive journalist has remembered what happened to Opel all those years ago that made it a less competitive car company in Europe.

Three Things We Don’t Know About Obama’s Massive Voter Database

Lois Beckett:

President Obama’s re-election campaign is reportedly building a massive database of information about potential supporters.

The database seems to bring together information about supporters gathered from all branches of the campaign — everything from an individual’s donation records to volunteer activity to online interactions with the campaign — aimed at allowing the campaign to personalize every interaction with potential supporters.

Earlier this month, we built an interactive graphic showing how different Obama supporters received different variations of the same email — one way that the campaign may be using data to personalize messages.

We can’t describe the Obama campaign’s database with certainty because the campaign won’t talk about it. Citing concerns about letting Republicans learn its tactics, the campaign declined our request for comment — as it has with other outlets — about what data the campaign collects and what it’s doing with the data. The campaign did emphasize that, regardless of what information it gathers, it has never sold voter data or shared its voter database with other candidates.

The billion-dollar fight for control of mobile money

Matthew Braga:

“Mobile payments” is about as unsexy as technology buzzwords get. We’re basically talking about phones and money. And it’s hard enough to get people excited about money in the first place—unless you’re receiving large sums of it, that is—let alone using a phone to make or spend it.

But it is exciting! Trust us. And there’s a reason why you’re going to be hearing a lot more about mobile commerce before this year is done.



The philosophy behind mobile payments is simple; it’s the idea that everyone should have the ability to buy anything, anywhere. And it sounds a lot better—not to mention sexier—when explained that way. Because, beyond all the oddly shaped geometrical dongles and near-field communication magic, that’s essentially what the likes of Square, PayPal, Google et al want to do.

The billion-dollar fight for control of mobile money

Matthew Braga:

“Mobile payments” is about as unsexy as technology buzzwords get. We’re basically talking about phones and money. And it’s hard enough to get people excited about money in the first place—unless you’re receiving large sums of it, that is—let alone using a phone to make or spend it.

But it is exciting! Trust us. And there’s a reason why you’re going to be hearing a lot more about mobile commerce before this year is done.



The philosophy behind mobile payments is simple; it’s the idea that everyone should have the ability to buy anything, anywhere. And it sounds a lot better—not to mention sexier—when explained that way. Because, beyond all the oddly shaped geometrical dongles and near-field communication magic, that’s essentially what the likes of Square, PayPal, Google et al want to do.

Is the Pirate Party Its Own Worst Enemy?


Germany’s political establishment doesn’t know how to react to the Pirate Party, which now has seats in two state parliaments and owns the debate on Internet issues. But although the party’s radical experiments in transparency and participation may have caught its rivals off guard, its no-holds-barred debating culture can also backfire.

When German political parties invite their leaders to retreats, they like to use proven formulas. On the evening before the event, the top officials arrive in their dark limousines at a luxury hotel in the countryside, where they attend a festive dinner followed by fireside chats in small groups.

The next morning, they meet for discussions behind closed doors. The view of the beautiful rural surroundings is meant to take the politicians’ minds off their hectic lives in Berlin and allow them to focus on the important things. After the retreat, the leadership announces its new strategy to the party base.

But it can also be done differently. A couple of weeks ago, the national and state executive committees of the Pirate Party, which campaigns on a platform of political transparency and Internet freedom, met at a youth hostel in the central German city of Kassel. The officials slept in four-bed rooms with bunk beds, which makes sense, given that the party advocates a culture of sharing, at least when it comes to data. Their debates were broadcast via the Internet using webcams, so that party members would not feel left out when their leaders discussed upcoming election campaigns.

Aleks Lessmann, the managing director of the Bavarian wing of the Pirate Party, was happy to explain some terminology — while sitting outside on a table tennis table in the sun. Phrases like “executive meeting” are taboo for his people, because they make them think of hierarchies and backroom meetings. Continuing with the pirate metaphor, “captains’ meeting” isn’t bad, Lessmann said, but perhaps it would be even better to use a term like “small harbor.” In the end, the group agreed to name their weekends at the youth hostel the “Marina Kassel” (“Kassel marina”).

Buffett Message Is ‘Do as I Say, Not as I Do’

Alice Schroeder:

The last few years have been a struggle for investors in Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK/B) Since the March 2009 market low, the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index has risen 80 percent compared with 44 percent for Berkshire, even though crashing stock prices and unprecedented volatility perfectly suited Warren Buffett’s investing style.

Now Berkshire stock hovers at about a 10 percent premium to the company’s estimated $110,000 per-share book value at March 31, 2012, (assuming the overall book value increases in a rising stock market by about $10 billion this quarter) and perhaps below a liquidation price. In essence, the market is placing no value on Berkshire’s prospects.

I believe two basic problems have brought Berkshire to this pass. First, Buffett’s investing record has been underwhelming for the past few years, except for special opportunities linked to his own reputation and relationships. Second, Buffett has lost stature because of the way he uses his role as a public figure. And both of these situations will be difficult to reverse.

The new iPad’s unexpected effect on luxury

Vanessa Friedman:

When the new iPad went on-sale at midnight last Friday night it provoked the usual frenzy — miles of lines, ecstatic buyers — as well as one very interesting blog that somehow seems to have fallen through the cracks over the weekend. I think it’s worth revisiting.

It was written by Evan Clark, deputy business editor of WWD (the site of insider fashion publication Women’s Wear Daily), and it takes a good, analytic look at the general perception that Apple is a luxury brand (a perception that Apple itself has created), pointing out that it does tick all the boxes save one; exclusivity. But here’s what I wonder: is exclusivity really a luxury value these days?

Ray Dalio: A template for Understanding

Ray Dalio:

A Template for Understanding…
…How the Economic Machine Works and How it is Reflected Now
Ray Dalio | October 2008 (Updated March 2012): The economy is like a machine. At the most fundamental level it is a relatively simple machine, yet it is not well understood. I wrote this paper to describe how I believe it works. My description is not the same as conventional economists’ descriptions so you should decide for yourself whether or not what I’m saying makes sense. I will start with the simple things and build up, so please bear with me. I believe that you will be able to understand and assess my description if we patiently go through it.

An In-Depth Look at Deleveragings
Ray Dalio | February, 2012: The purpose of this paper is to show the compositions of past deleveragings and, through this process, to convey in-depth, how the deleveraging process works.

Why Countries Succeed and Fail Economically
Ray Dalio | June, 2011: This study looks at how different countries’ shares of the world economy have changed and why these changes have occurred, with a particular emphasis on the period since 1820. As explained in this study, the rises and declines in countries’ shares of the world economy occur as a result of very long-term cycles that are not apparent to observers who look at economic conditions from a close-up perspective.