Rush to Judgment
So I'm not going to say anything more and I encourage others to do the same. Let's make Rush really squirm--by ignoring him.
postcards from the religious left
[T]he new system sticks seriously ill people with huge bills, said James Robinson, a health economist at the University of California, Berkeley. “It is very unfortunate social policy,” Dr. Robinson said. “The more the sick person pays, the less the healthy person pays.”
Traditionally, the idea of insurance was to spread the costs of paying for the sick.
“This is an erosion of the traditional concept of insurance,” [Dan Mendelson of Avalere Health] said. “Those beneficiaries who bear the burden of illness are also bearing the burden of cost.”
Exactly. The whole idea for the insured person of having insurance is to be sheltered from ruinous expense in the event of serious illness or injury.
The idea of insurance is to spread the risk around. Unfortunately, while spreading the risk around is ultimately a good arrangement for everyone in the risk pool (everybody gets sick sometime), it's ultimately a socialist enterprise. (Ooh, I said the bad word!) But insurance companies are capitalist enterprises--they exist to make a profit. And the way to maximize profit is to avoid paying out. So, you make it hard for sick people to get insurance, and you penalize insured people if they get sick. Basically, the money-making model is to get people to pay in, but get rid of them if you have to pay out. Which is the opposite of the concept most of us are looking for in a health insurance plan. It insures not much of anything.
The obvious solution, then, is a single-payer system that operates to spread the risk across the pool, but not to make a profit.
What won't be a solution is mandating insurance for everyone without regulating exclusions, increases in premiums or copays, decreases in coverage, etc. This can't be fixed one step at a time. The broken system requires a complete overhaul, and anything less will only exacerbate the problem. Let's hope our new Democratic Congress has the vision to see that clearly.
There's a book about to come out (full disclosure: I work for the publisher) called Flirting with Disaster, which is about how disasters and their consequences come to occur and can be avoided. In one of the opening chapters, the author talks about perception of risk versus actual risk, and how pervasive media--much more access to much more information--is one of the factors that skews our perception of risk. This is certainly a case in point. Of course we've all heard about every abducted, molested, or murdered child, because we have a zillion channels, 24-hour news networks, the internet, etc. But we don't hear about every car accident that happens, because they're a common, everyday occurrence. Statistically, your kid is probably safer taking the subway than being driven around everywhere. But many people's perception of the relative risk is just the opposite, because it's the unusual that gets the attention, not the commonplace.So anyway, I decided to do the math and find out exactly how the risks compared.
[T]he news tonight will likely focus on the implications for us as a country and on the campaign and blah blah blah, yes, it’s all really important. But, also, a lot of regular people died today, too. Some of them were poor, some were old, and they died taking advantage of their (current) right of free assembly, which most of us probably take for granted. They died and were horrifically injured participating in the political process of their country, even knowing that in the end it might not make any difference because they might still end up under the thumb of a dictator. And every single person in the pictures below is brown, and likely all of them are Muslim. These are the people that some people would like to send back “to their caves”, these are some of the people we mock as poor cab drivers or accuse of taking “our” jobs or simply overlook even when they are in front of us. They had families and lives and probably jobs when they left their houses this morning to see a political candidate speak who probably half-suspected she wouldn’t make it to the election alive but ran anyway. And it makes all the backstabbing and machinations of our candidates trying to plant stupid rumors about drug use and out-of-wedlock babies and all the rest of it seem that much more nauseating and petty to me today.
DNA markers and racial difference came up a few weeks ago when James Watson, co-Nobel laureate for the identification of the structure of DNA, was interviewed by the UK's Sunday Times:
Scientists, for instance, have recently identified small changes in DNA that account for the pale skin of Europeans, the tendency of Asians to sweat less and West Africans’ resistance to certain diseases.
At the same time, genetic information is slipping out of the laboratory and into everyday life, carrying with it the inescapable message that people of different races have different DNA. Ancestry tests tell customers what percentage of their genes are from Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas. The heart-disease drug BiDil is marketed exclusively to African-Americans, who seem genetically predisposed to respond to it. Jews are offered prenatal tests for genetic disorders rarely found in other ethnic groups.
[Watson] says that he is "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" because "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours-–whereas all the testing says not really," and I know that this "hot potato" is going to be difficult to address. His hope is that everyone is equal, but he counters that "people who have to deal with black employees find this not true." He says that you should not discriminate on the basis of colour, because "there are many people of colour who are very talented, but don't promote them when they haven't succeeded at the lower level." He writes that "there is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. Our wanting to reserve equal powers of reason as some universal heritage of humanity will not be enough to make it so."Watson's conclusions about intelligence were soundly debunked by researchers in the field of intelligence (nice summary with links here), who point out that, unlike pale skin or the presence of specific diseases, native intelligence is difficult to measure, and most of our attempts are hindered by socioeconomic and environmental factors; when these are controlled for, racial differences dissipate. Shortly after these remarks, Watson retired from his post at the Cold Spring Harbor Lab on Long Island. Watson's remarks were a (characteristically, for him--more below) extreme response, but the New York Times article goes on to suggest that there is still reason for concern:
Such developments are providing some of the first tangible benefits of the genetic revolution. Yet some social critics fear they may also be giving long-discredited racial prejudices a new potency. The notion that race is more than skin deep, they fear, could undermine principles of equal treatment and opportunity that have relied on the presumption that we are all fundamentally equal.But it's a not question of racial difference (or ethnic, or whatever), but of our fundamental values as a people. We may want, as Watson says, to value everyone equally in our society--and why shouldn't we? The fact of genetic and biological difference, if it exists (and it does--men and women are biologically distinct, and no one would argue otherwise, but the fact that certain of my genes and working parts differ from a man's has little to do with my test scores or aspirations or how good I am at my job), doesn't matter unless we decide it does.
The smock blouse will not be offered for sale in the company's 3,000 stores around the world, Gap said, and instead will be destroyed.Pulling the child-made item from their stores and thereby refusing to profit from exploitation of children: right move. Destroying perfectly serviceable clothing: wrong move. Rather than adding them to landfill, how about donating the blouses to needy kids in India? Let some small good come out of this. How about it, Gap?
"During the many interrogations, I never laid hands on anyone," said George Frenkel, 87, of Kensington. "We extracted information in a battle of the wits. I'm proud to say I never compromised my humanity."Our current interrogators can't say the same, a fact that did not go unremarked by these men:
Several of the veterans, all men in their 80s and 90s, denounced the controversial techniques. And when the time came for them to accept honors from the Army's Freedom Team Salute, one veteran refused, citing his opposition to the war in Iraq and procedures that have been used at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
"I feel like the military is using us to say, 'We did spooky stuff then, so it's okay to do it now,' " said Arno Mayer, 81, a professor of European history at Princeton University.
When Peter Weiss, 82, went up to receive his award, he commandeered the microphone and gave his piece.
"I am deeply honored to be here, but I want to make it clear that my presence here is not in support of the current war," said Weiss.
What's to be learned from these veterans? Of course, that the methods of torture that our current government has claimed are the only way to prise information out of prisoners--well, they aren't the only ways. These guys managed to do a pretty good job without waterboarding anybody. The values that they fought to preserve were the values they managed to retain even in the interrogation of the enemy.
These men are heroes. By sacrificing the values that these men stood for and continue to hold dear, by taking instead the course that the Nazis themselves took, the Bush administration is betraying them and betraying us.
At the heart of Payne’s philosophy is a one-page chart, titled “Hidden Rules Among Classes,” which appears in most of her books. There are three columns, for poverty, middle class and wealth, and 15 rows, covering everything from time to love to money to language. In a few words, Payne explains how each class sees each concept. Humor in poverty? About people and sex. In the middle class? About situations. In wealth? About social faux pas. In poverty, the present is most important. In the middle class, it’s the future. In wealth, it’s the past. The key question about food in poverty: Did you have enough? In the middle class: Did you like it? In wealth: Was it presented well?Rob found himself sympathizing with Payne's critics, who say that by talking about what may be seen as stereotypes, you perpetuate the notion of class and the problem of poverty without addressing its causes.
“I’m scathed,” Mr. Imus said. “Are you crazy? How am I unscathed by this? Don’t you think I’m humiliated?”Exactly.
Mr. Sharpton replied, “You’re not as humiliated as young black women are.”
Nearby, a man collapsed, his body convulsing. Mr. Autrey and two women rushed to help, he said. The man, Cameron Hollopeter, 20, managed to get up, but then stumbled to the platform edge and fell to the tracks, between the two rails.Read the whole story: if it were fiction, it would be predictable, right down to the (happy) ending. But the reason certain formulas become formulas in fiction is that they are satisfying.
The headlights of the No. 1 train appeared. “I had to make a split[-second] decision,” Mr. Autrey said.
So he made one, and leapt.
“Maybe I was in the right place at the right time, and good things happen for good people,” Mr. Autrey said. Then he hopped into his brother-in-law’s tan Toyota Corolla. As the car pulled away, Mr. Autrey had some final words: “All New Yorkers! If you see somebody in distress, go for it!”Hear, hear.
The Environmental Protection Agency kicked off Energy Awareness Month in October with the slogan “change a light, change the world,” and encouraged Americans to buy compact fluorescent lights instead of conventional incandescent bulbs. Useful as that may be, picking a large sport utility vehicle that goes two miles farther on a gallon of gasoline than the least-efficient S.U.V.’s would have an impact on emissions of global warming gases about five times larger than replacing five 60-watt incandescent bulbs. The dollar savings would be about 10 times larger. And the more-efficient light bulbs would have a negligible effect on oil consumption.But the bigger issue is changing an entire economic and societal culture that is based on activities that consume large quantities of fossil fuels.