March 31, 2006
Not A Prayer
Depressing day in medical news, as not only have the studies showing beneficial cardiovascular impacts from light drinking been debunked, but those showing health improvements from prayer bit the dust as well. West Wing watchers will remember a storyline were Bartlett could've gotten a Republican Congress to restore his foreign aid budget if only he'd appropriate $115,000 to study the apparent protective effects of remote prayer. In what I always found a stunningly pigheaded display of principle over pragmatism, he refused. But back in the real world, the government has spent a couple million commissioning such studies and, with the results of the largest now in, remote prayer's effects seem definitively disproved. Nuts.
I've not had a whole lot to say today, but if you're desperate for more commentary, I've some decent stuff up at Tapped.
I don't really understand this point of Kos's:
Dean isn't the DCCC or DSCC. His job isn't to win elections in 2006. As head of the Democratic National Committee, his job is to build a national party.
Republicans haven't abandoned a single one of their supporters. You could live in the Bluest part of Berkeley or Madison or Cambridge, and the party will communicate with you via mail and on TV and the radio. Drive into San Francisco over the Bay Bridge, and you're met with a billboard advertising Michael Savage's racist radio show.
Savage is a private entity. The billboards are paid for by his radio company, which seeks to make money off his advertisers by attracting more listeners. It has nothing to do with the Republican party.
Looks like light drinking really isn't good for you.
Can't Do Better Than That?
Jonah Goldberg writes:
Does anyone in their right mind think that Think Progress would be rallying to [Jill Carroll's] woman's side if she emerged from her captivity saying George W. Bush was right and the people who kidnapped her were terrorist animals? Please. They'd be prattling on about how she lost her mind.
Bullshit. Worse than that, obvious bullshit. If Carroll emerged a rightwing partisan, it's possible that the left would make a herculean effort to never mention her again, but there's zero chance a single liberal commentator this side of Counterpunch would ever question her sanity. As the right has. What's annoying about Jonah is that his writing shows enough obvious glimmers of intelligence, erudition, and political savvy that he's clearly aware his hypothesis above is bunk, but too dishonest to restrain himself from taking such an obvious cheap shot.
March 30, 2006
Heritage Conforms to Type
Flagging the Heritage Foundation for an absurdity is like calling the Oakland Raiders on roughing, but occasionally the offender is just too overt to ignore:
Lest we forget, immigrants who enter this country through unauthorized channels are breaking the law, and “an amnesty program that ignores this criminal behavior will only contribute to a general disrespect for the law.”
Ever driven above 65 miles per hour on the freeway? Ever noticed everyone else doing it too? Ever jaywalked? Yeah, thought so. The statutes are filled with selective laws: legislation passed so police have the option of cracking down, but widely understood to stand no prospect for comprehensive enforcement. And unlike speeders, or jaywalkers, illegal immigrants live as if they've broken the law: shadow citizens, existing on the margins of society, afraid to shine or shout lest the long arm of the government reach out to toss them a couple hundred miles south.
If we're worried that unenforced or widely-ignored laws will invalidate the superstructure of respect that keeps the state strong -- and my is it funny to see the Heritage Foundation adopting that concern -- you start by addressing brazen, universally violated statutes, not immigration. If we're just a bunch of hacks, though, who genuinely believe government power is unjust but are groping for every argument we can find to rationalize our xenophobia, looking out for the laws by attacking impoverished immigrants makes perfect sense.
This is a bit weird. Borders and Waldenbooks won't carry the next issue of Free Inquiry because it reprints the Danish cartoons -- the safety of their customers is important, claims the press release, and they fear violence. But we've had this situation before: Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses sparked similar amounts of violence and outrage, but neither he, nor any establishments bearing his work, ended up facing reprisal. Seems to me that no one would have ever notice Free Inquiry's reprint if Borders hadn't mentioned it, but now, they just gave free publicity to the magazine and made themselves seem like cowards. Not the best strategy I've ever seen.
Now there's a map I can get behind.
Man's Search For Meaning
And this is why private care is so efficient:
The plaintiffs, represented by Claremont attorney William M. Shernoff, are former Blue Cross members who allege the company reneged on its obligation to pay their medical expenses and dropped them from their plans after authorizing treatment for serious conditions, including breast cancer and heart disease.
The suits accuse Blue Cross of operating a "retroactive review department" that, in an effort to boost profit, systematically cancels policies that result in large claims.
The patients say they were suddenly left with hospital bills, some exceeding $100,000. Some say they've been unable to afford needed follow-up care because their coverage was dropped.
They allege that Blue Cross scours years of medical records after expensive claims have been submitted, looking for innocent misstatements and omissions to use as pretext to rescind coverage and escape expensive bills.
The suits also accuse Blue Cross of using a vague, confusing and ambiguous medical history questionnaire in an effort to trick applicants into making mistakes that the company can use later to dump them.
In the coming issue of The New Republic, I have a review of Charles Murray's new book: In Our Hands. It's a doozy of a document -- the crypto-eugenicist last noticed for the Bell Curve fame demanding that we liquidate the American welfare state, plow the savings into $10,000 checks, and conduct all our health care bargaining individually with private insurers. He doesn't believe this simply because it'll save American health care (though, according to him, it will), but because it will imbue our lives with a depth, texture, and meaning that reliance on government bureaucrats has robbed us of. And I'm sure the plaintiffs of the above lawsuit would agree.
Link of the Day: Taxes Are Fun Edition
I think Kash's argument for imposing a Value Added Tax are pretty compelling. Folks tend to get caught up in the regressiveness of this, but I'd caution that the programs to be shored up by any tax increase -- namely Social Security and Medicare -- are inherently progressive, and keeping them in good shape is crucial. Moreover, I'd be fully supportive of coupling a VAT with some broad-based, progressive tax reform, maybe Ron Wyden's Fair, Flat, Tax proposal. Package the two together and you offset much of the VAT's regressiveness, achieve serious tax simplification, and bring government spending into line with revenue, which saves primarily progressive programs.
Another way to use the VAT is as a dedicated funding source for universal health care, as in the Center for American Progress's proposal. I find that scenario particularly attractive, but then, you knew I would. I think Democrats spend too little time thinking about the power of dedicated funding sources, which strike me as a politically potent way to levy new taxes that have a direct and recognizable connection to new services. That's an easier sell than a generalized hike in rates, and with health care reemerging as the nation's top issue, I think folks would be uniquely receptive to a reasonable consumption tax that assures them medical coverage.