Friday, February 19, 2010

Krugman's half right

I'm not a big fan of Paul Krugman, the Nobel-Prize winning economist and New York Times columnist, but he makes a valid point in this column. The recent proposed huge increases in premiums by insurance companies do show the need for health care reform. But he's wrong to say they justify the need to pass the Senate bill. That bill would not reduce costs--see my previous posts for good arguments against it. Krugman's columns are usually rendered weaker by his extreme partisanship. One would hope a Nobel laureate would be less tendentious.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Harry Reid: Dog bites man

This is an actual quote from the Senate minority leader: "Greedy insurance companies care about more about profits than people." Has there ever been a more banal statement from a public figure? Corporations always seek to maximize profits to satisfy their shareholders; what else should we expect? To talk of corporate "greed" is redundant; it reminds me of someone who told me in June it would be a hot summer. It is known in logic as a tautology–a statement that needlessly repeats an idea. (Example: politician X lies because he so seldom tells the truth).

The constant demonization of the insurance companies is a failure to understand a common principle in pychology known as the fundamental attribution error. According to this concept, people tend to wrongly blame bad behavior on a person or organization rather than to the situation or circumstances. (Go to 36:49 on this video for an excellent explanation). As the speaker points out, the structure of our health care system encourages the insurance companies to act they way they do. Insurance companies in Europe that are regulated differently do not act irresponsibly, because the system encourages responsible behavior. This is what politicians should be discussing, but it's much easier intellectually to resort to meaningless statements like "greedy health insurance companies."

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

e-mail I sent to LA Times columnist

I sent this to Jonah Goldberg, a conservative columnist for the LA Times. Original column: can be seen here.

You mentioned the snowstorm in Eastern U.S.A.; I assume we're supposed to draw the conclusion that climate change/global warming is a hoax. I see this argument on Fox News all the time, so it seems to be a conservative/ Republican talking point. I don't mean to be rude, but why don't conservatives understand the difference b/w weather and climate? (To be fair, Al Gore often exploits hot weather to prove g.w., but conservatives seem to make this specious argument more often than liberals.) But what about the record hot temperatures this summer throughout the U.S.A., or even a record high in the Northwest for January? I would hate to accuse you of cherry-picking. There were a number of deaths in Brazil today from intense heat--why doesn't that prove global warming is a legitimate threat?

Monday, February 01, 2010

The Supreme Court's campaign finance decision

Reproducing my letter to editor, because I'm too lazy to write anything new:

A number of letters on Jan. 26 denounced the recent Supreme Court decision on campaign finance reform in strident, near-hysterical terms. Apparently, democracy in the U.S. is dead for all time, to be replaced by an all-powerful corporate-run government.

What the writers had in passion, though, they lacked in reason. The Court's decision simply upheld the right of organizations to influence the political process, which is the heart of the Bill of Rights. I have a question for the people upset by this decision: Are you aware that 28 states already allow what the Supreme Court just legalized — independent expenditures by corporations? Are these states less democratic than the more regulated ones? The sky is not falling.