Archive

  • Are You Ready for Some Terror?

    I don't know if Ebola is actually going to take Republicans to victory this fall, but it's becoming obvious that they are super-psyched about it. Put a scary disease together with a new terrorist organization and the ever-present threat of undocumented immigrants sneaking over the border, and you've got yourself a putrid stew of fear-mongering, irrationality, conspiracy theories, and good old-fashioned Obama-hatred that they're luxuriating in like it was a warm bath on a cold night. It isn't just coming from the nuttier corners of the right where you might expect it. It's going mainstream. One candidate after another is incorporating the issue into their campaign. Scott Brown warns of people with Ebola walking across the border. Thom Tillis agrees : "Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve got an Ebola outbreak, we have bad actors that can come across the border. We need to seal the border and secure it." "We have to secure the border. That is the first thing," says Pat Roberts, "And in addition...
  • Fear of Lawsuits Is Not Why We Spend So Much On Health Care

    Let's get you in there, shall we? (Flickr/Joe Shlabotnik)
    You surely know that a good part of the reason our health care system is so expensive is the scourge of "defensive medicine," where doctors order test after test just so that if the patient doesn't get the outcome they want, it'll be harder for them to sue on the grounds that one more MRI or CAT scan would have made all the difference. Making it difficult for people to sue, then, should bring down the cost of health care, right? Actually, no : There's been a long-running theory that one reason medical costs are bloated is that doctors are scared of medical malpractice suits, so they order expensive and unnecessary tests to protect themselves from liability. But in three states over the past decade that enacted laws to put stricter limits on medical malpractice lawsuits, there hasn't been much of an impact in the volume or cost of emergency room care, a new Rand Corporation study shows. The finding suggests that doctors "are less motivated by legal risk than they themselves believe,"...
  • Some Things More Likely to Kill You Than Ebola

    With the Ebola virus having now infected fully .0000006 percent of the American population, it's obviously time to panic, because you're probably going to die from it. But while you're panicking over Ebola, are there other things you should be fearing simultaneously, to really take your terror into the stratosphere? Why yes there are. And I've decided to make a chart, so you'll know just what to be afraid of. These data are drawn from statistics put out by the Centers for Disease Control ; 2011 is the most recent year for which the numbers are available. From the 113 different causes of death they list, I've chosen a few, then added one extra one down at the bottom: There are things that don't appear in this particular set of data; for instance, medical errors kill as many as 440,000 Americans every year. And some of those diseases are the result of other factors; for instance, the CDC says that smoking is responsible for 480,000 deaths in America each year. But you get the idea. Of...
  • It's Not Your Senator's Job to Stop Ebola

    Flickr/Krysten Newby
    To the endless list of inane things candidates accuse one another of, we can now add this: My opponent has not done enough to stop Ebola! Or actually, in this case it's local media , and the politician in question is Pat Roberts; but Roberts' opponent is picking up on it (and may have been the source of the story, since a nearly identical report appeared on a second local news station ): On the stump and in television interviews, Senator Pat Roberts has taken aim at the White House's response to the Ebola outbreak in Africa, and in the United States, including calling for a travel ban to effected [sic] West African nations. But when Roberts had a chance, as a member of the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, to attend a special joint hearing with top public health officials briefing lawmakers on the virus and the fight against it—he was a no-show. If only Pat Roberts had been at that hearing, we'd all be safe. There are few criticisms more meaningless and yet...
  • Can Robots Offer Amazon Moral Redemption?

    An Amazon fulfillment center in Scotland. (Flickr/Chris Watt/Scottish Government)
    If you're like many liberals, you probably feel conflicted about Amazon. On one hand, they seem to carry every mass-produced product in universe, and they usually have the lowest price, or nearly so. Shopping with them is incredibly convenient. On the other hand, the " fulfilment centers " at which people toil to pick and pack all the products people buy are basically the 21st century sweatshops, where workers endure horribly demanding work and demeaning treatment for low pay (Amazon isn't the only company that uses them, but they're the biggest). A few years ago, we learned that in the summer at some fulfilment centers they would park ambulances outside to cart off the workers who got heat stroke, because it was cheaper than installing air conditioning (which they eventually did in the face of a bunch of bad publicity). And the Supreme Court just heard a case involving Amazon workers who want to be paid for the time they are required to stand in line waiting to be searched like...
  • Kentucky Candidates Agree: Coal Is the Future!

    Flickr/Matt Zaske
    There was a debate in Kentucky yesterday between U.S. Senate candidates Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes, and while there was lots of disagreement, one thing both candidates agreed on is that what their state and America needs is more of that sweet, sweet coal. McConnell accused Grimes of being complicit, because she's a Democrat, in "Obama's war on coal," and Grimes protested that she loves coal more than she loves her own mama (though not quite in so many words). Throughout this campaign they've both been so enthusiastic about coal, you almost expected them to pull out a few lumps of the stuff and start smearing it all over their faces while moaning, "Oh, coal, God yes, coal, coal, COAL!!!" Here's a dose of reality: There are only a tiny number of people left in Kentucky who mine coal. According to the state's department of energy: "At the end of 2013, coal mines in Kentucky directly employed 11,885 people." Since there are about 3.4 million people over the age of 18 in...
  • Maybe That Wendy Davis Attack Ad Wasn't Really So Bad, After All

    (AP Photo/The McAllen Monitor, Gabe Hernandez, Pool)
    O n Friday, the campaign of Wendy Davis, the Democratic nominee for governor in Texas, released an ad that was powerful enough to not only get condemned by liberals and conservatives alike, but to convince some journalists to abandon their stance of objectivity. "Wendy Davis is running one of the nastiest campaign ads you will ever see," read a headline in the Washington Post . "Outrage spreads" over the ad, said the Los Angeles Times . What has everyone so angry is that the ad refers to the fact that Davis' opponent, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, uses a wheelchair, with a picture of an empty one. I'm going to argue that Davis' ad may be less problematic than many people are making it out to be. But it does tell us a good deal about how these kinds of attacks should be judged. Let's start by taking a look: Here's the text: "A tree fell on Greg Abbott. He sued and got millions. Since then, he's spent his career working against other victims. Abbott argued a woman whose leg was...
  • Should the Democrats Abandon Hope of Getting Relief from Voter Suppression In the Courts?

    Flickr/Theresa Thompson
    Yesterday there were two rulings on voting rights cases, both of which were decided in favor of the liberal side of the argument. But don't get too excited. I hate to be eternal pessimist on this issue, but neither case is likely to turn out the way liberals and Democrats want. In fact, we're almost at the point where — until the current makeup of the Supreme Court changes — liberals should keep themselves from ever thinking the courts are going to stop Republican efforts at voter suppression. I'll get to the consequences of that in a moment, but first let's look at the two cases yesterday. The first was in Texas, where a federal judge struck down the state's voter ID law. In refreshingly blunt language, the judge called the law an "unconstitutional poll tax," and said that the legislators who passed it "were motivated, at the very least in part, because of and not merely in spite of the voter ID law's detrimental effects on the African-American and Hispanic electorate." Which is...
  • Sex, Lies and the Secret Service

    MSNBC
    Paul Waldman talks with MSNBC's Chris Hayes about the likelihood that someone either in or close to the Secret Service leaked the story of a White House volunteer's alleged dalliance with a sex worker in Cartagena while working advance for President Barack Obama's visit there in 2012—and the implications of a rift between the president's staff and the people sworn to protect his very life.
  • The Larger Context of Restrictions On Voting

    Flickr/jamelah e.
    Yesterday the Supreme Court issued an order overruling an appeals court decision about a series of voting restrictions passed last year by the state of North Carolina, which will allow the restrictions to remain in place for this year's election, until the case is ultimately heard by the Court. And in a happy coincidence, on the very same day, the Government Accountability Office released a report finding that voter ID requirements reduce turnout among minorities and young people , precisely those more-Democratic voting groups the requirements are meant to hinder. There's a context in which to view the battle over voter restrictions that goes beyond whether Republicans are a bunch of meanies, and it has to do with the things parties can change easily and the things they can't. I'll explain exactly what I mean in a moment, but first, the law at issue was passed just weeks after the Supreme Court's conservative majority gutted the Voting Rights Act, allowing North Carolina and other...

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