Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thomas Friedman making sense

I've never been much of a fan of Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, but this column is right on. I especially liked the hypothetical question he sugggested that President Obama ask the Muslim world:

“Whenever something like Fort Hood happens you say, ‘This is not Islam.’ I believe that. But you keep telling us what Islam isn’t. You need to tell us what it is and show us how its positive interpretations are being promoted in your schools and mosques. If this is not Islam, then why is it that a million Muslims will pour into the streets to protest Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, but not one will take to the streets to protest Muslim suicide bombers who blow up other Muslims, real people, created in the image of God? You need to explain that to us — and to yourselves.”

Friday, November 27, 2009

Liberals rip health care bill

The media doesn't seem to have noticed, but a number of liberal thinkers have come out against the health care reform bill. I'll quote a few of them:

Marcia Angell, M.D. Harvard Medical School:
It also provides for some regulation of the industry (no denial of coverage because of pre-existing conditions, for example), but since it doesn't regulate premiums, the industry can respond to any regulation that threatens its profits by simply raising its rates. The bill also does very little to curb the perverse incentives that lead doctors to over-treat the well-insured. And quite apart from its content, the bill is so complicated and convoluted that it would take a staggering apparatus to administer it and try to enforce its regulations.

Robert Kuttner,economist, The American Prospect:
On the minus side, the plan leaves most people dependent on employers for health coverage and reinforces the political and economic power of the private insurance industry. It subsidizes insurers with more than half a trillion public dollars over 10 years, mainly using tax credits. And it gets most of that money by requiring savings in Medicare and other federal health programs of about $400 billion and by taxing so-called Cadillac insurance policies -- many of which are actually Chevrolets that cost a bundle because of the present system's inefficiency and tendency to penalize older and sicker policyholders.

Robert Reich, former member of the Clinton administration, also at The American Prospect:

That and other deals cut with industry -- including promises to Big Pharma that Medicare wouldn't use its bargaining clout to reduce drug prices, to the AMA that doctors wouldn't have to face larger cuts in Medicare reimbursement rates, and to private insurers that the White House wouldn't fight hard for a public insurance option -- will make the resulting reforms far more costly. These extra costs will be borne by those Americans who will be required to buy insurance but won't qualify for federal assistance, along with Medicare beneficiaries who will be paying more and receiving less. These people may not know they're indirectly paying the costs of buying off these industries, but they'll know they're getting shafted.

(Post updated 12-18)Dennis Kucinich, leftist congressman:
But instead of working toward the elimination of for-profit insurance, H.R. 3962 would put the government in the role of accelerating the privatization of health care. In H.R. 3962, the government is requiring at least 21 million Americans to buy private health insurance from the very industry that causes costs to be so high, which will result in at least $70 billion in new annual revenue, much of which is coming from taxpayers. This inevitably will lead to even more costs, more subsidies, and higher profits for insurance companies — a bailout under a blue cross.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

How about some rationality in this debate?

This column by Steven Chapman is the most intelligent take I have read on the subject since the health care "debate" began. This paragraph is on the money:

"Anytime you get a body of individuals that go beyond me and my doctor who are going to make decisions about what kind of health care I get, that's rationing of health care." (Quote is by Michael Steele, Republican national chairman). But as long as someone else has to pay for those decisions, someone other than doctors and patients is going to make decisions about what treatments are worth the cost. (My emphasis).

So when you hear conservatives complain that government involvement in health care will put a bureaucrat between the patient and the doctor, explain to them that's already happening. The only solution to third party rationing that might work is eliminating third-party insurance completely and having patients pay doctors directly. I don't see that happening.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Leftist unreason

Sam Harris, one of my favorite writers, put it well a few years ago in this essay:

Unless liberals realize that there are tens of millions of people in the Muslim world who are far scarier than Dick Cheney, they will be unable to protect civilization from its genuine enemies.

We may not be there yet. This is admittedly anecdotal, but today I played a game called Loaded Questions with a left-leaning friend. The game consists of answering questions on various topics. The question I asked from the game that inspired the post was this: if you could lock up one person (anyone in the entire world)in prison, who would it be? I picked Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; she chose Dick Cheney. Sam, you would have been so disappointed. Apparently, there are no Muslims scarier than Cheney after all.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Contradiction at the LA Times

This article is written by Noam Levy at the LA Times. Note the contradiction between two paragraphs in the article:

The problem, Tunis and others experts say, is that leaving the decisions to the marketplace -- as the U.S. healthcare system has done for decades -- has not produced very good results, even for patients.

Even state lawmakers have gotten in on the act, passing hundreds of laws requiring that insurance companies provide particular benefits such as prostate cancer screening or, in one case, varicose vein treatment. According to the Council for Affordable Health Insurance, an industry group, there are more than 2,000 insurance mandates nationwide.

Hmm... State laws mandating coverages—how is that the free market at work, exactly?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Sexism, really

Yes, sexism, much like racism, is an overused term, but how else can this Newsweek cover be described? Note: this site is a leftist organization that does not like Palin, but even they still find this cover story outrageous.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Strange column

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, says here we must choose between Afghanistan and health care reform. I have to confess I don't quite follow his logic. Why is the choice between those two policies? The federal budget is about $4 trillion; surely we could do both and cut something else. Or we could do neither.

Kristof is also wrong about the health care bill. It is not the panacea he thinks it is. Liberal economist Robert Kuttner puts it well in the American Prospect: "On the minus side, the plan leaves most people dependent on employers for health coverage and reinforces the political and economic power of the private insurance industry." Why are so-called progressives supporting this bill? The entire article is here.

Cognitive dissonance and health care

Proponents of the health care bill that just passed the House are telling us that the insurance companies can't be trusted. (They're right, incidentally). But, then what sense does it make to force people to buy insurance from those same sleazy companies? This isn't voluntary, either: If you don't buy private insurance, there is a large fine. Isn't this cognitive dissonance?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bundy v. Bardwell

Life imitates art:

Louisiana justice of the peace Keith Bardwell, in refusing to marry an interracial couple: "I'm not a racist. I just don't believe in mixing the races that way."

Al Bundy (Married With Children, defending himself from a charge of sexism): "I'm not a sexist. I'm just saying women don't know nothing."