Archive

  • Health Care: France

    Because the blogs are populated by that rarest of above-ground breeds, the policy nerd, there's been a lot of talk lately about the health care structures of various other countries, how they stack up with ours, and why we lose. What there hasn't been is much information on how these other countries actually work, save for "better" and with "more government". Since I have a very peculiar idea of what "fun" is, I'm going to try and correct that. Each day this week I'll be writing a bare bones guide to another country's health system so when you're discussing say, France, you know how it works rather than that it simply works better than ours does. Speaking of France, I'm going to start with them, because they've gotten the most attention recently. Tomorrow I'll do England, the next day Germany, Thursday will be Australia, and Friday we'll do Canada. It'll be fun, I don't promise. Alright then, off we go: France:
  • Gas Prices Burn

    The LA Times has an interesting article on the hit fuel prices are handing small businesses. Makes sense, particularly if your work has a roving component (gardener, pizza delivery, etc). Nevertheless, this strikes me as quite a non-story. Gas prices are higher, but not that much higher. We're dealing with an increase of around 30 cents a gallon (at least here in the Southland), seems to me that small business has larger fish to fry, it's just the LA Times that didn't. It will, on the other hand, be pretty fascinating to see what happens when oil becomes really expensive, $4 or $5 bucks a gallon. Considering the lifetime costs of that, you're likely to see a lot of investments in new, more fuel-efficient capital. That means everything from hybrid cars to window insulation to white paint for your roofs (did you know that if LA painted its roofs white it'd save about 1,500 megawatts of power on cooling, or about 3% of California's Summer load?) to thicker copper wires (retain...
  • "Keep the Government Away From My Medicare!"

    Kevin does some digging and finds that the poor and the elderly -- the two groups that rely primarily on government-run program for their health care -- are way more satisfied than the rest of us. He finds this confusing, puzzling even. I think it's somewhat explained by an anecdote from The Choice . The authors are walking through an airport with John Breaux when an old woman runs up to him and says: Senator, don't you dare let the government get its hands on my Medicare! Without missing a beat, Breaux replies: Don't worry madam, I won't. I think that about explains it. We've so fully demonized government-run health care that we won't even believe it can work when it already is . The totality of propaganda's triumph over not just the facts, but our subjective interpretation of the facts (i.e, how satisfied we are with our health care) is truly stunning. Ugh. In light of all this health care talk, I'll be working on a little feature this week. Every day, I'm going to profile a...
  • Clark 08

    Looks like Clark is readying himself for 2008. Good. Longtime readers know I was a big Clark-booster in 04 and I think all the same arguments will apply this time around, so I'm glad to see him taking it seriously. Looking back, there's little doubt in my mind that, had Clark entered the primaries when Dean did, he would've won them. I'm also convinced that Kerry/Clark rather than Kerry/Edwards would have taken home the presidential bacon. Kerry thought his resume enough to prove his national security cred; he was wrong. I remain certain that the reason John lost was because it was easier to imagine Bush traipsing through Vietnam than it was to see Kerry do the same -- appearances, unfortunately, matter. Happily, Clark oozes military. It's impossible to imagine the guy anywhere else . And that's the key thing for a Democrat right now. We've got a persistent advantage on domestic issues and the credibility we've built there is attached to the party, any nominee can use it. What we don'...
  • Pop Culture Smartens Up

    Brooks' column today is, well, very good . Break out the party hats and noisemakers, it's a perfectly sound meditation on the paradoxical relationship between an increasingly sexual culture and a decreasingly sexual youth that doesn't pivot into insane ravings in the last paragraph. Huzzah! This culture stuff, by the way, is exactly the sort of column Brooks should stick to. He's quite entertaining and often profound when evaluating the contours of American life, it's when he tries to enter the political trenches that his pen loses its individuality and his fairness becomes a cynical ploy. Anyway, I'm digressing. Brooks is right that culture is actually getting better, though he focuses only on the sexual aspect of it. My experience would back him up -- UCLA is a stunningly virginal campus, and many I knew in high school kept up impressively chaste profiles (many did not, but the orgies were rarer than the prayer meetings). Santa Cruz was much more sexually active, though it had an...
  • Downer Sunday

    Brad Plumer's post on Sudan reminded me of a point I've wanted to make. Despite the Bush administration's criminal negligence of the issue, they've actually been among the most attentive to genocide in memory. Save Clinton's eventual intervention in Kosovo -- and that was different because it was in Europe -- the level of indifference and cynicism American politicians exhibit towards African atrocities is stomach-turning. Bush, to his credit, has been willing to call it a genocide (a surprisingly large step), support various measures to stop it, and actually work to keep some degree of attention on the situation. Should we be doing more? Yes, much. But Bush's failures are nastily endemic to the American government, they're not specific to him. The one Western leader who does care about Africa in a serious, sustained manner is Tony Blair. Indeed, he's actually sent troops to stop a genocide (Sierra Leone), and many observers think that he'd do the same in Sudan if his position in...
  • Thank You NetFlix

    So I spent a good chunk of my Saturday blowing through Season 1 of Coupling (the BBC version). That's a really, really, really funny show -- props to those who kept recommending it. But guffawing aside, three questions: • Did anyone else find the fifth episode, the one where Jeff hits on the absurdly attractive Israeli who can't speak a word of English, completely impossible to get into? It's a general problem for me. I'm willing to suspend my disbelief fairly often, but I somehow can't clear the mental hurdle erected when situational comedies beg me to believe that stunningly attractive girl X is madly attracted to schlumpy, borderline-retarded character Y. I try, but just can't. For that reason, I think it'd be impossible to watch King of Queens. I've seen it on airplanes and, aside from the not-funny issue, the premise of a fat, irritating, socially-awkward UPS delivery-man marrying, yes, a super hot and put-together woman just doesn't fit. And being unable to buy the foundation of...
  • Scarier

    Speaking of alarmism, this Marburg virus sure is scary. Big ups to Angola for doing nothing. Big ups to the tribal chiefs for inciting violence against epidemiologists who are risking their lives to help. Big ups to the radio speeches accusing hospital heads of creating the virus through witchcraft so they can get a promotion. Big ups to tribal superstition and customs which won't allow the sick to be quarantined nor the dead to be isolated. It's much more than tragic to watch such a ravaged country bring so much more pain on itself -- it's just unbelievably sad. But I'm inspired by the epidemiologists and WHO workers and others who've parachuted into one of the most inhospitable countries and climates earth has to offer in order to confront one of the ugliest, deadliest diseases we've ever seen. That's not just dedication, that's towering courage. They're all heroes. And I sure hope they stop this thing.
  • Alarmism of the Future!

    Matt Yglesias and Brad Plumer are talking about oil's impact on the collapse of the Soviet Union. Piffle. Those discussions are so 1993. The real cutting-edge blogger-alarmism is over natural gas, of which over half the known reserves are in Russia and Iran. Which is why we should be so remarkably unhappy that Tehran and Moscow have been slowly, carefully, and happily drawing closer to each other -- that's bad stuff. We're going to be needing natural gas, more than anything else it has the potential to soften the changeover from oil -- many call it a "bridge fuel". But America's natural gas reserves have already peaked, and while there's an enormous amount of the stuff out there, it is, if anything, in worse spots than oil. Concentrating so much of it in autocratic Russia and anti-Western Iran is really a recipe for trouble. It gives Russia cause to defend and protect Iran because the two together can dictate the market, and it gives Iran room to be, well, Iran. In all the criticism...
  • "What's Google?"

    Regarding Daniel's point on child poverty and the promise the internet has for linking kids to a world that'd otherwise remain inaccessible, I want to tell a quick story. Grant, one of my closest friends, works with Amnesty International going into urban areas of Chicago and teaching the students about human rights. A recent lesson plan of his focused on Abu Ghraib and American attitudes towards torture. Towards the end of the lesson he noted that further pictures, documents and information could be found on Google. One student raised his hand and, not joking, said: "What's a google?" He wasn't the only one in the class not to know. We take it for granted that the information revolution sweeping through our lives has, to some degree or another, rippled into every crevice of America. It hasn't. And while modems aren't a silver bullet to poverty and despair, they do provide those hoping for a better life but sequestered in an impoverished one with the opportunity to tap into worlds...

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