- 32 years ago today, Darkel’s Lucky Guess–known to more than a few of you as Mr. Byte–came into our world, and eight weeks later Carol and I took home our very first bichon puppy. Although not show quality, Mr. Byte was a spectacular dog, and even seventeen years after his passing we miss him terribly.
- A study at Michigan State shows a strong correlation between use of multiple forms of media at once–e.g, watching TV while surfing the Web–and depression. We don’t know if multitasking causes depression, or if depressed people multitask to distract themselves, but simply establishing the correlation is a good first step.
- Now this is nothing less than brilliant: an app that examines a design destined for 3D printing and lets you know whether it will print well, or at all. 3D typos cost money, and it’s not always obvious looking at a design where a typo lies, or how serious it might be.
- Oh, and there’s a browser-based CAD system that was created with 3D printing in mind: TinkerCAD. Have not used it and generally don’t like browser-based software (what if I develop skills with it and then it goes away?) but it’s a niche that had to be filled.
- Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has just signed the state constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana. As long as you’re not in a public place, using it is now legal under state law–which is, pardon the expression, mind-blowing.
- Only slightly less mind-blowing was the savaging that Rolling Stone gave Obama for not jerking the leash on the DEA. Wow.
- If the elderly–who have nothing if not life experience–are peculiarly vulnerable to scammers, it may be due to the failing of a region of the brain that acts as a “crook detector.” I agree: smug, smirky mouths are not the signs of integrity. Nor is the desire to run for office.
- Pete Albrecht sent me a link to a search site for locally grown food and farmers’ markets. We buy local when it’s possible (though we don’t make a fetish of it) and things like this can only make it more possible.
- Line up the cover spines on Wired‘s 20th year, and read the secret code.
- Lazarus 1.0.4 is out. It’s a bug-fix release, but bug fixes are good to have. I’ve already been messing with it, and I’m starting to think the product has really quite sincerely arrived. Get it here. Many components and demos available here.
Last week, when nobody was looking, Colorado legalized marijuana. There’s some paper-pushing to be done, but at some point marijuana will be sold to those over 21 under much the same sort of regulatory mechanism as alcohol. The referendum got surprisingly little press, even here at home, and doubly even here in Colorado Springs, where Certain People just can’t shake the suspicion that somebody, somewhere, is having too much of a good time. I’ve been getting email from a few of my friends who have been (or maybe still are) users, asking me how we pulled it off.
It’s called democracy. People in Colorado got sick of a certain kind of intrusive government, and they kicked government’s ass. This is what initiative systems are for. As best I can tell it wasn’t that hard, for reasons I’ll relate shortly.
There was a Kliban cartoon in the January 1972 Playboy (this link is the best I could find) that simply nails the absurd position that marijuana has held in the national neurosis since the 1920s. In case you can’t see it well, the cartoon depicts a cop hauling a guy into the police station wearing a costume that looks remarkably like a certain illegal plant. The caption, spoken by the police chief: “I admire your initiative, Flynn, but we can’t arrest them for impersonating marijuana.”
For most of a century, we have allowed ourselves to be so terrified of a weed that even the idea of looking like marijuana gets our cortisol coursing. Carol bought a houseplant decades ago called a false aralia. The first time I saw it, a chill ran down my spine. (I had never seen the real thing except in books.) If it weren’t for the boggling amount of money wasted and the number of young lives ruined, the whole business would be sitcom fodder. It’s all now coming apart.
Here’s my analysis of why it happened:
- Colorado has an excellent initiative system, which has largely been used to limit the power of government. Lots of silly initiatives get on the ballot. Almost none of them pass. The ones that do are generally worthwhile.
- Colorado has had a legal medical marijuana system since 2000. The world didn’t end. Wild-eyed stoners weren’t enacting Reefer Madness in the streets. Nothing happened.
- Although the chemical machinery of marijuana is poorly understood, it does seem to work in certain cases, especially for suppressing nausea in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Politicians who campaigned against MMJ back in 1999 were positioned as championing the suffering of dying people. Instant third rail.
- The cumulative effect of our war on drugs is making even very conservative people question whether the benefits gained are worth the collateral damage. I know a number of Republicans who were very much for the initiative, though they denied being users. The issue did not fold along the usual dotted lines.
- I was told by a psychiatrist I know that the hazards of marijuana are hugely overstated. I’ve read in several places that most of the pathology that we see in marijuana users has other unrelated causes. I know people who have been regular users since the early 1970s, and they’re all articulate, successful individuals. This used to be a contrarian point of view. No more.
- That same psychiatrist told me that Obama instructed the DEA to back off individual users after he took office in 2008. I’m sure there are conservative marijuana users somewhere. I’m just as sure I’ve never met one. The Democratic base is full of them. Obama wanted to carry Colorado, and he did.
That’s “how we pulled it off.” Here, at the risk of getting screamed at by my conservative readership, is why I think it’s a good thing:
- Legal marijuana means better, cleaner, and more predictable marijuana. One of my user friends out east says he envies the quality of the weed sold here and in California. What he gets in the alley is often dirty, contaminated with mold, and sometimes adulterated with other plant material.
- Legal marijuana means that research into the uses of THC and the host of other active compounds in marijuana is more likely to happen. Research is now almost impossible, so what we know falls pretty much in the category of folk medicine. Knowledge is Good. Always.
- Prohibition drives up prices, and money powers criminal activity. Cheaper marijuana probably means less money going to drug gangs here and in Latin America.
- Local cultivation also means less involvement of foreign drug gangs.
- Money and manpower spent suppressing marijuana is money and manpower not spent suppressing other, far more dangerous drugs. Meth is deadly, and it is not on my friends list.
- There is a nontrivial amount of money to be had in taxes on legal marijuana. Yes, it’s a tax I myself won’t have to pay. I like that kind of tax.
- There is a nontrivial amount of labor required to cultivate marijuana and create “downstream” products like edibles and tinctures. I’d rather those jobs be here than somewhere else.
None of this is original with me, but it’s the position I’ve come to after much thought and a fair bit of research. (Most recent piece of which: Super Charged by Jim Rendon. Decent, but not worth hardcover prices. Wait for the paperback or watch for it used.)
So. Given that even possessing marijuana remains a federal crime, will anything come of it? Invading Colorado with hundreds of door-kicking DEA thugs could turn Colorado red next election. Don’t wait up for it. The Feds will make a great deal of noise, but the same thing will happen as happened in 2000, when Colorado approved medical marijuana: nothing.
I think we’re approaching a sort of tipping point: The more states that legalize marijuana without dogs and cats living together, the sillier that all the sound and fury over marijuana becomes. Sooner or later the Feds will quietly fold, and even the Republicans will vote to repeal marijuana prohibition. As goes the US goes the rest of the Western world. It won’t be next year or the year after, but I still hold that it’s science fiction, not fantasy. Moreover, it’s dull science fiction. (Rather like Bowl of Heaven…but I get ahead of myself.)
June is likely to be a pretty thin month on Contra here for a number of reasons, most of them cooking down to the degree that my time and energy are committed to other things. I appreciate your emails, though. The boy is alright, if winded and maybe a little grouchy.
I knew that Obamacare was in trouble when its supporters stopped calling it “Obamacare.”
One of the law’s politer fans among my readership sent me a note earlier today, certain that the Supreme Court was going to hand down its ruling on the Affordable Care Act this afternoon. She knows I’m interested in the topic and that I have skin in the game. (I’m a freelancer and thus have to buy a policy on the individual market. It’s the largest single expense that Carol and I have.) We’ve discussed it before. She and I always used to call it “Obamacare,” without any suggestion that the term was some sort of epithet. No more. Well, there won’t be a decision today, but whatever you want to call the law itself, the issue’s been much on my mind.
I’m a skeptic of the ACA, mostly because of the risk of an adverse selection death spiral in the private insurance business. The bill enacts penalties that are trivial compared to the cost of either buying or providing coverage, which means that some people and small businesses are likely to pay the fines rather than comply, particularly since the bill forbids any kind of criminal sanctions for noncompliance. (Most of my earlier points may be found in this post.) The nature of the Supreme Court’s decision is critical. If the Court throws out the individual mandate while leaving the rest of it in force, the death spiral is almost inevitable. If the court throws out the entire bill, we’re back where we started. If the bill continues as passed, nobody knows what state the health insurance business will be come 2015.
“Affordable care”, alas, is a false promise, even if the entire bill survives intact. Revealingly, the bill’s key architect now says that the ACA will raise insurance premiums, especially for young people. My own premiums will likely rise by 19%. Given that Carol and I are square in the demographic that the insurance industry loves to hate, I guess I should be glad that we have coverage at all.
Even that isn’t a sure thing. I’m going to make a point here that I haven’t seen anyone else make in the years-long discussion: No matter what you intend to do, reforming a sector of the economy as large as health care guarantees that there will be a certain amount of blood in the streets. Health care expenditures now consume about 17% of GDP–three trillion dollars–a number that makes most American industries look like rounding errors. Any change that embraces that much turf and that much money will be disruptive down here in the waiting rooms. Any change. Insurance companies will reduce their presence in some areas. People will game the system. Prices of drugs and medical equipment will rise, triggering layoffs and outsourcing and trimming of insurance benefits. Doctors who are approaching retirement age may leave the field early rather than endure the paperwork and the fee limitations, leaving us with an even greater shortage of skilled practitioners. There will be mistakes and confusion on a truly epic scale, and a substantial number of people will slip through the cracks. Tumors will grow, conditions will fail to be diagnosed, and many will suffer.
This, furthermore, is best-case. If something goes wrong, well, the consequences are impossible to predict, beyond their being bad.
Do I have any better ideas? No. There are too many pathological conditions in play here: Nobody knows what their current health insurance costs. Everybody wants somebody else to pay for it. Human variability among individuals is broader than we’re willing to admit. We know far less about the workings of the human body than we claim to. Health care costs are hugely concentrated among relatively few individuals (I’ve heard 90/10 most often, but have not seen good numbers) so even policies with spectacularly high deductables will cost a great deal. Healthy people are too willing to ascribe their health to moral superiority, and bad health to bad behavior. (This is a phenomenon I’ve dubbed “Higgsism,” from the hero of Butler’s Erewhon.) Almost everyone is still repeating Ancel Keys’ scientific fraud, that carbs are good and fats are bad. The “death panels” meme cannot be un-coined.
Etc. The end result is that I consider universal health care an unsolvable problem, as most people understand the term “solvable.” (My definition of “solvable” does not include “imposing a solution by force on the public that the public does not want.”)
Whatever happens next week when the Supreme Court hands down its decision, we are in for a wild ride. You can’t juggle three trillion eggs without breaking some. Before you say that’s ok, imagine that one of those splats on the national carpet is you.
Pause before clicking that comments link, and recall that my tolerance for tribal hatred is close to zero. Note well that I did not use the words “liberal,” “conservative,” “Democrat,” or “Republican” in this post, nor any of various possible synonyms. If you intend to comment, I dare you to do the same.
- Here’s something you could give your geeky sweetie for Valentine’s Day next year: A giant pink 3-D printable heart made of gears. I can’t quite see enough of the mesh to know if the gears actually turn. Someone in the 3-D printing community might know more.
- I certainly didn’t expect this: One of my manuscripts is in the University of Kansas collection of Ted Sturgeon’s personal papers. (Look for item 61b.) It’s the Clarion first draft of “Our Lady of the Endless Sky,” which I wrote at the workshop, the story that went on to be my first professional sale in SF.
- My Favorite Extinct Creature of the Month: Cynognathus, which was half-wolf, half-tiger, half-dinosaur, and all trouble. (No wonder we’re descended from him.)
- From Tom Roderick comes word of a Harvard engineering project that assembles robot bees on a little scaffold only a little bigger than a quarter. Each bee weighs about 90 mg. The bees interest me less than the assembly technique, which suggests that we have barely scraped the surface in the micromanufacturing arena.
- I was having a hard time finding news reports on the killer cold weather in Europe (my older nephew is there now, studying at the London Business School) until I happened upon Ice Age Now. Good aggregator on cold weather issues, to which the MSM is peculiarly averse these days.
- This may be true if you’re a trilobite. It may be less true if you’re a jellyfish.
- From the Tell-Me-Something-I-Didn’t-Already-Know Department: My hometown has the most corruption convictions of any city in the country. Backstory: I used to repair Xerox machines in City Hall circa 1975. Nobody pays attention to the Xerox repairman. But the Xerox repairman was paying a great deal of attention to City Hall. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.)
- Also from Pete Albrecht comes a link to something I might characterize as The Couture from the Black Lagoon.
- Bill Higgins points us to a brief collection of rejected Tom Swift, Jr novels.
- The person ahead of me at the Safeway autocheckout machine did not pull his receipt, so when I grabbed my bag and ran earlier today I took the wrong one. What I found was evidence of someone on the Cross Purposes Diet: three line items, of which two were Atkins bars. The third was DONUTS BULK. Good luck, dude.
I haven’t seen this come up in recent discussions, but it’s something more people need to understand: You do not hurt large banks by withdrawing your own (small) accounts. Really. On the contrary, you’re doing them a huge favor, and making them more efficient and more profitable.
Even small banks make no money on consumer checking accounts. Big banks run a sigificant loss on such accounts (from what I’ve read, on the order of $300-$400 per account per year) and would prefer not to have them at all. Banks and bank-like institutions like credit unions and savings-and-loans make virtually all their money on loans. Checking accounts especially are loss-leaders to get consumers in the door so that bank reps can sell loans and (to more affluent customers) investments.
Large banks have angered consumers by attempting to raise fees to cover the service costs of checking accounts and small savings accounts. (The recent ATM fee debacle is a good example.) It’s become stylish to protest by closing accounts and going to smaller institutions, particularly credit unions. How this hurts the big banks I can’t imagine. Small accounts provide a certainly amount of liquidity but at a high cost in customer service manpower, printing, and general overhead. The best outcome for big banks would be to drop all customers with less than about $10,000 in cash in their accounts. They’d be flayed alive in the media if they just canceled and refunded such accounts. Now these costly customers are punishing big banks by canceling the very accounts the banks would love to cancel themselves.
I guess it makes about as much sense as anything in politics these days.
UPDATE: The article that triggered my line of thought here is paywalled and I couldn’t cite it, but I’ve since discovered this discussion with the Motley Fool guy in the Christian Science Monitor. (Thanks to gmcdavid over on LiveJournal for the link.)
There’s the additional issue that if everybody pulled small accounts out of the big banks, the big banks would feel it. However, if only a relative few participate in Bank Transfer Day, the banks benefit. The effect is not linear, and cooks down to the difference between eating their lunch and washing their dishes.
- Freedom matters, and in honor of Independence Day here’s an eye-opening report on the “state of freedom” in the fifty American states. I knew a lot of this from my research nine years ago, when Carol and I decided to leave Arizona, but it’s nice to see it all in one free (in the other sense) document.
- From the Words I Didn’t Know Until Yesterday Department: draisine, a human-powered device for moving over railroad rails. This is evidently a European term; over here these are called handcars or inspection speeders or rail cycles or a number of other things. Definitely note the hot-pink draisine-built-for-two on the Wikipedia page. (Thanks to Aki Peltonen for dropping the word to me.)
- Although I’m sure that everyone in the civilized galaxy has seen the cartoon, I wasn’t aware that “thagomizer” is now paleobiological jargon. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.)
- Here’s a list of somebody’s picks as the ten best hard SF books of all time. I agree with about 50% of the picks, though Robinson’s Mars trilogy was so slow and padded-out that I could barely finish it. (I have not yet read the Egan book cited.) I sense as well that Somebody Doesn’t Like Heinlein’s Politics. (Thanks to Frank Glover for the link.)
- Despite a 500-fold increase in cell phone use in the last 20 years, malignant brain tumor diagnosis is down in that timeframe. This interests me, as three people I knew died of brain tumors (the largest cancer cluster in my circle of acquaintance) and it makes me wonder. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.)
- I had just a couple of comic books back in the early Sixties, and one of the most intriguing was an extra-long number from DC called Secret Origins that had the backstory for five or six of the most famous DC superheroes. Oddly, what I remember most clearly was the backstory for Green Lantern, especially the little blue guys on the Planet Without Consonants and (most intriguing of all) a power ring with a flaw that prevented it from working against anything yellow. Trouble is, if you remove the flaw, the ring loses its power completely. Now that’s cool–alas, in what may be the canonical Green Lantern for Dummies page, the yellow gotcha isn’t stated clearly and I wonder if it was just abandoned back in the 1960s.
- Forgot to aggregate this back in January: One of the most bizarre articles I’ve ever read on any major site in recent years. This totally, completely, utterly certain guy is angry at other guys for being totally, completely, and utterly certain–and that about something totally, completely, and utterly trivial. My take: We “know” nothing at all with certainty, and the more certain you are that you’re right, the more certain the rest of us should be that you’re wrong. Nyah-nyah!
- And another Odd Lot that has lain around for some time: Polish troops trained a young bear to carry ammo during the Battle of Monte Cassino. My father was at that battle, working a radio station on the back of a truck, but he never mentioned seeing the bear. The bear is said to never have dropped any munitions, which I’m sure was a good thing for the bear, and possibly my father as well.
- Here’s a bogglingly weird Dickensian artifact that I’d never heard of before: A key gun. It’s a gun built into the key to a (large) prison cell lock. I’m sure if it had worked better I would have seen it before now.
I hadn’t intended to write anything about health insurance reform, in large part because the debate has become so utterly poisonous, but also in part because I felt that the important issues have been adequately dealt with elsewhere. Well, there’s something that isn’t really being discussed and should be, because it cuts to the heart of how health insurance works, and may be the hinge upon which the PPACA (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) succeeds or fails. One would think that that would be discussed all over the place, but it’s not, neither in the liberal press (which I read) nor in the conservative press (which I also read.) In fact, so little has the issue been mentioned anywhere that I’ve begun to think I’m missing something crucial.
So let me begin by reiterating what most people know or should know: Health insurance is a really lousy business. Profit levels in health insurance run from 2.5% to 5%, depending on who you’re talking about and whose numbers you believe. Insurers are not making a lot of money, and what they do make they make only by doing everything in their power to exclude the people who need health insurance the most. Google “recission” and “purging” (sometimes called “reunderwriting”) in a health insurance context if you don’t believe me. Many people (including me) consider such practices tantamount to fraud, but that’s not the point I want to make. The point is that even while making full use of recission and reunderwriting, the health insurers are earning maybe 3% profits on average.
Like I said, a lousy business.
So. Enter health care reform. Insurance companies will be required to take (and keep) all comers, irrespective of pre-existing conditions. That’s called “guaranteed issue.” To make it work, all people will be required to buy health insurance, including people who choose not to buy it today, typically because they’re young and healthy. This requirement to buy insurance is the “individual mandate.” The individual mandate enlarges the pool of the insured and thus the amount of money available to pay claims. Without the individual mandate, people would buy insurance only when they needed it, which really isn’t “insurance” in any honest sense of the word. The pool of funds to pay claims would shrink, and claims would explode. The insurers would be gone like that.
Basically, the price of guaranteed issue is the individual mandate. You can’t have the first without the second. I think this is well-understood and not controversial at all. The devil, as usual, is in the fine print. In the bill as passed, people who choose not to buy health insurance will be required to pay a minimum fine of $695 in any given year, or 2.5% of their income, whichever is greater. Those fined would still be able to get insurance when they needed it under the provisions of guaranteed issue. This in itself is a problem, because the cost of insurance is likely to be much higher than 2.5% of income for a huge number of people. 2.5% of a $100,000 annual salary is $2500–dare ya to find a policy for that. A guy making $100K could just pay the $2500 and buy a guaranteed-issue $7000/year policy as soon as the bad lab tests came back, thus saving $4500/year without any downside for all the years that he stays healthy, and pushing that saved cost onto the insured.
I think this is dangerous. It’s not being talked about enough, but it’s being talked about a little, in a few relatively large publications. However, it’s not why I’m writing this entry.
A few weeks ago, I read an article by Timothy Noah in Slate about this very issue. Noah’s thrust was elsewhere, but my jaw dropped when I read Noah quoting from the health care reform bill itself. I clicked through to the monster PDF text of the final bill as passed, to verify what he had said. I blinked. I rubbed my eyes. I got up and went to the fridge for some diet ginger ale. I came back, and it was still there:
In the case of any failure by a taxpayer to timely pay any penalty imposed by this section, such taxpayer shall not be subject to any criminal prosecution or penalty with respect to such failure.
This from page 336 of the bill as it was passed. On the same page, there is a provision that the government may not
(i) file notice of lien with respect to any property of a taxpayer by reason of any failure to pay the penalty imposed by this section, or (ii) levy on any such property with respect to such failure.
Read those quotes again. The bill outlaws its own enforcement. If you refuse to buy insurance and refuse to pay the fine for not buying insurance…nothing happens. The individual mandate is thus unenforceable, but you can lay odds that guaranteed issue will be mercilessly enforced against the insurance companies. I’m sure there’s some legal interpretation to be done here, but Noah’s point is that there is considerable temptation for mass civil disobedience on the individual mandate without any downside for those disobeying. What he doesn’t say is that such mass civil disobedience could lead to the collapse of the private health insurance industry.
Others in the blogosphere have begun to notice this in the last few days. But why hasn’t it shown up in the major media? You’d think the Wall Street Journal would be screaming about it in every other issue. Didn’t anybody actually read the bill?
Don’t answer that.
I don’t feel particularly good today, for no easily identifiable reason, but I did want to call attention to a blog I happened by while browsing around for gifts for my godchildren. The author (unnamed except as “Scribbler”) has reviewed an old children’s picture book most weekdays since mid-2007. The books are generally pre-1990, and many are a great deal older than that. I spent most of an hour skimming the site, and happened upon a lot of kid books I don’t think I’ve thought about since I got my first library card at age 6 and quickly exhausted the Edison Park branch of the Chicago Public Library.
The reviews are affectionate and honest, and reflect my own reactions, what little I recall of them. Among the books it brought to mind are the highly understated Georgie’s Halloween, about a little boy ghost who makes Casper look manic; Dinny and Danny, about a dinosaur and his caveboy; Little Galoshes, about a farm boy who is known to the farm’s animals by the sounds his boots make; Ola, in which a Norwegian boy goes down the mountain to cavort with girls, trolls and other strange creatures; Sam and the Firefly, about a firefly who learns how to write persistence-of-vision messages in the night sky, several tales of Babar the Elephant, and a canonical host of others.
She can’t and doesn’t list everything. I didn’t see any of the Otto books, nor Space Cat, but that’s OK. I already know that stuff, and was looking for things I might have forgotten.
I have to act fast, I think. Your Wonderful Beneficial Federal Government has all but banned children’s books printed prior to 1985, under the assumption that they might have been printed with ink containing traces of lead. So countless copies have already been burned as hazardous waste, and it’s more or less illegal to sell them. Never mind than an almost unthinkable portion of world culture will pretty much vanish over the next few years due to CPSIA. The most popular books will be reprinted with modern inks; most will not, and will eventually be forgotten.
The law will not be enforced until early next year, but after that, you will be risking a $100,000 fine and jail time for selling Dinny and Danny to an adult at a yard sale. Doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican or a Democrat: Your party is at fault. The only member of the House who voted against this thing was Ron Paul.
On second thought, I know why I feel lousy.
I am aghast. Yesterday afternoon I was at Barnes & Noble, and at the checkout stand I saw what must be the most appalling magazine cover ever to appear on a mainstream US magazine. It wasn’t on Hustler or Soldier of Fortune. It was on the latest Newsweek.
I don’t dabble in politics much here, and I haven’t had much to say about the health care debate that others haven’t said many times, and probably better than I would. But I want to make my position clear: If health insurance reform collapses, it won’t be due to any vast, right-wing conspiracy, not with ol’ Newsweek leading the charge. Salon ran this piece back in August. Same gist. Similar stupid title.
There is a meme abroad, and while I don’t know if it has a name, I call it “Lammism.” The gist of the meme is that the elderly are an expensive extravagance, and money spent on them would be far better spent on younger people. This is not a new thing. I gave the meme its name in honor of former Democratic Colorado governor Richard Lamm, who famously said in 1984 that the ill elderly “have a duty to die…and let our kids build a reasonable life.” I guess it’s us or them, Dick, right?
It doesn’t matter that the Newsweek article is far more nuanced than its moronic title suggests. It doesn’t matter if “society needs to have this conversation with itself.” All that matters is that we are scaring the living crap out of our elderly, and if the elderly don’t sign on to health insurance reform, we don’t have a bill. Furthermore, if we dismiss their fears out of hand and pass a bill anyway, there could well be another party in control of Congress after the next election.
The elderly are not simply being paranoid. They know that Medicare is a very sweet deal, especially compared to the insurance situation of a great many younger people. They know that the government spends a huge amount of money on their care and sustenance. Given articles like those I mention above, they can be forgiven for fearing that when the government goes looking for health care cost savings and “waste,” that they will be first in line for close examination. They know that without fairly constant and often expensive medical intervention (paid for through Medicare) many of them would be disabled, dependent and suffering, and a great many more would simply be dead. Small wonder that they’re willing to believe the fearmongering lies of death panels that do not exist.
(The elderly might wave the magazine and reply: Yet.)
In Newsweek, we have a classic example of a print publication floundering to survive, and willing to risk it all on a misleading and alarmist cover line that bears little connection to the cover story. The plug on the cover of the latest issue isn’t connected to Granny. It’s connected to Newsweek.
Please join me while I pull it.
- One of the most remarkable photos of a volcanic eruption ever taken apparently happened by sheer chance, when the ISS passed over the Kuril Islands just as the Sarychev Peak volcano let loose. The rising plume literally punched a near-circular hole in the cloud cover.
- Just in case you happen to see a nuclear weapon go off, having one of these in your pocket would be handy to quantify things. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the pointer.)
- From Bruce Baker comes a pointer to a NYT article about the perils of being an outsourcee for an unscrupulous publisher. And so much for our textbooks being created by experts with advanced degrees.
- John Cleese’s lighthearted but still informative documentary “Wine for the Confused” can now be seen on Hulu, at the cost of a few Toyota commercials. I’m good with that–and in complete agreement with Cleese that knowing good wine from great wine is not automatic, and in fact knowing good wine from bad takes more effort than most would think. Don’t miss it. (Thanks to Roy Harvey for letting me know it was there; I saw it on TV a couple of years ago and much enjoyed it.)
- We may gasp at 64 GB thumb drives now, but storage technologies coming to market in the next few years will make 1 TB thumb drives not only possible but commonplace. (Thanks to Frank Glover for the link.)
- The annual amateur radio Field Day event happens this weekend, from 1800 zulu on Saturday to 2100 on Sunday. I’ve got the radios boxed up, and will be experimenting with a interesting rotatable dipole made from a pair of AN-45G collapsible military whip antennas, on top of a pipe mast made of four 5′ sections of 3/8″ pipe mounted on my ancient telescope pipe base. The rotator is my right hand, turning a greased 2″ pipe joint on its own threads. I’ll describe the dipole with photos if it works; if it doesn’t work I’ll admit failure and quietly forget about it. But if you’ll be on the air, I’ll be working solo from a nearby campground as K7JPD. Listen for me.
- From the Too Weird To Be True but True Anyway File: The woman who may well become our first Hispanic supreme court justice stated quite flatly in her Princeton University senior thesis that “…in Spanish we do not have adjectives. A noun is described with a preposition.” I’m a Polish-German-Irish-French ubermongrel who last took Spanish in 1973, and even I know better than that. So…can I be on the Supreme Court instead?