• Accountability Schmaccountability

    Shakes here... As an appropriate follow-up to Durbin’s apology for calling out the heinous nature of abuses going on at Gitmo, the White House has rejected the proposed creation of an independent commission to investigate abuses of detainees held at Gitmo and elsewhere. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the Pentagon has launched 10 major investigations into allegations of abuse, and that system was working well. “People are being held to account," he said. "And we think that's the way to go about this." Oh yeah—like who? Lynndie England? Swell.
  • Health care costs -- what's behind this inexorable rise

    This is Matthew Holt , back with more on why health care costs so dang much. Health Affairs (the essential peer reviewed health policy journal) has an article from the very well respected Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC) which announces that the decrease in the increase of health spending has stalled (here's the slightly more digestible press release ). No kidding, the press release starts off with this line. See if you can get the gobbledygook here: " The reprieve from faster-growing health care costs stalled in 2004 as costs per privately insured American grew 8.2 percent" The good news is that nominal GDP growth (real growth plus inflation) was 5.2% in 2004, so health care costs (the 8.2%) were less than double that. So in the bizzaro world of American health care, it's still something of a success when health care is expanding only are only a little under double the rate of the rest of the economy or less than three times the inflation rate. That's why health care...
  • A Picture of Depletion

    (This post is by my colleague Heading Out over at The Oil Drum . HO does a great job with this post demonstrating to the layperson the problems we face with petroleum recovery in this era of peak oil. The lesson here is that this problem is occurring with many of the older large wells, and there are not nearly enough new large wells being brought online that can match the capacity of the older large wells.) Dogru, Hamoud & Barlow JPT 0204 Originally uploaded by Heading Out . For most people there was some one thing that brought the reality of Peak Oil home to them. For me it was this picture, from a paper by Dogru, Hamoud and Barlow in JPT in February 2004. The reference, to the paper "Multiphase Pump Recovers More Oil in a Mature Carbonate Reservoir" can be found here . It shows a vertical slice taken through the Abqaiq oilfield in Saudi Arabia, using an instrument that measures the relative fluid densities at different levels in the field.
  • The Evolutionary Advantages of Nearsightedness

    What is the evolutionary purpose for myopia? I forget where I heard the question raised recently, but it may well have been on the Al Franken show during a discussion of intelligent design. Economics is my day job, and I think that it offers insight into this biological riddle. So please indulge me while I put on my Jared Diamond hat. Myopia just doesn’t seem like a very intelligent design feature for a bipedal hunter that kills by throwing projectiles. It is not a modern adaptation to looking at nearby objects more often as has been rumored. Apparently , there have been studies comparing the degree of myopia in identical and fraternal twins finding that identical twins have a better chance of having similar degrees of myopia. However, there are absolutely no advantages to being unable to see far away objects in and of itself. Or are there?
  • In Sum, PO in a Nutshell

    If you didn't catch it, read my intro post below . There's also some links in there to primers, etc. This post, however, will be an attempt to sum up a pretty complex topic. Hubbert's Peak is reached when demand for oil exceeds production and supply. Let's be clear, peak oil is not about running out of oil. However, there is a finite amount of oil in the earth . At some point, we will have taken half of it. That is Hubbert's Peak. So, peak oil is about the end of cheap oil. Cheap oil has bred a lifestyle of convenience and excess, especially in America that is going to be difficult to maintain once the supply begins to shrink and will perhaps worsen the already growing class divide that exists in the United States. The less oil there is available, the more expensive and treasured it will be. Competition, if not war, over resources is likely. Combine this idea with increasing demand from modernizing countries like China and India, and you have the recipe for disaster. I am reminded of...
  • Do Kick the Elephant

    I’m The Jew. Thanks Ezra. Yada yada yada. Neil is absolutely correct when he says Remember that when Republicans try to define the Democrats, they won't ever bring up the centrist's moderate, conciliatory remark distancing himself from the radical. They'll bring up the radical's remark that fearful centrists pushed beyond the pale and didn't bother to explain. They'll use that remark to tar the entire Democratic party. But he’s entirely wrong when he says Sometimes a caveat of some kind will be necessary -- "I didn't agree with the Nazi analogy, it obfuscates more than it clarifies."
  • The misinformation campaign about Canadian healthcare

    Hi, this is Matthew Holt from The Health Care Blog , and I'll be writing a few articles about health care, (which may be somewhat crossposted from my blog) and taking the odd rare opportunity to rant about other subjects of my choosing here too. I will (as instructed by Ezra) be writing later in the week about what really happened to the Clinton's failed health care plan, and what lessons that brings for reform when we next get a chance. But first I must get at one of my pet peeves, as it came up again this past week. And that peeve is the situation that allows a combination of fact cherry picking and straight out lies to be told about other nation's health care systems. You all probably know the real story. Basically every other country figured out its way to some level of universal insurance system, with a mix of public and private provision of health care, with usually a centralized budget making sure that the health care monster didn't overwhelm the rest of the economy. Between...
  • Everything We Thought We Knew About the War Was Wrong

    (So, I’ve been requested to being everyone up to speed on the Downing Street Memos. Well, here goes…) Since 9/11, President Bush has positioned himself as the best, if not only person, with the wherewithal to protect America from terrorists. He has used the nebulous “War on Terror” to justify everything from the encroachment on Americans’ civil liberties (under the guise of the Patriot Act) to the invasion of Iraq. And yet, in a recent Salon article by Juan Cole, which references the public account of Sir Christopher Meyer as well as his interview with Vanity Fair, it becomes obvious that the President had little interest in pursuing the actual perpetrators of 9/11...
  • Notwithstanding

    Hi everybody--I'm Scott from Lawyers, Guns & Money . Many thanks to Ezra for allowing me to post at his terrific blog, and to have included me in such a distinguished group of writers. I thought I would make a few extremely wonky posts about democracy and judicial power, while relying on the other fine guest bloggers to provide posts that you will want to read. In my recent post about the Canadian Supreme Court’s decision to strike down a Quebec law banning the sale of private health insurance, a couple commenters asked about Canada’s “Notwithstanding” clause, which Matthew Yglesias has also endorsed recently. So I thought I’d explain it, as an introduction to thinking about judicial review and its democratic legitimacy...
  • Addiction to a Way of Life

    Thanks to Ezra for giving The Oil Drum a voice on this forum. My colleagues and I are going to be posting on what we, our involved community over at TOD , a growing community of bloggers , and a growing number of experts in many related fields, believe to be the pressing problem of our generation: we all see the petroleum economy as the fundamental lynchpin of our present democratic society and geopolitical system. The problem is that cheap oil/energy/gas is quietly fading into history, as evidenced by rising oil prices approaching $60/bbl today. (fyi, adjusted for inflation, the highest prices for an entire year were in 1981 and averaged around $66/bbl, with a day spike of $95/bbl). The real and tangible crisis of supply and demand is now inevitable, whether the coming crisis arrives in six months or in four years, or whether the crisis arrives in a slow, secular fashion or as a cataclysmic "shock," lives around the world are going to change.