Archive

  • The Problem With Santa Cruz

    Michael Schreiber makes a good point on the weird Santa Cruz phenomenon of being too at ease. When I mention I'm heading in that direction, I usually get a bunch of astonished comments of the "why'd you leave?" and "why don't you stay?" variety. And yes, it's true, I traded trees for traffic when I transferred from UCSC to UCLA. But it was worth it. Santa Cruz breeds a very certain sort of complacency. It's a beautiful enclave packed with rational liberals, adorable mystics, and restaurants where tofu is a viable culinary option rather than an ascetic sacrifice. That's all comfortable, no doubt, but it's hard to grow there, or it was for me. If you can afford it, when you're ready to relax and be satisfied, by all means, move to SC. But before that, vacations are your best bet. Living too easily can be its own sort of hardship. If you never have to argue a point, your mental muscles atrophy. If a place is so specifically set to your comfort zone, it becomes harder and harder to...
  • Because You Know What You Want to Hear More About? FEHBP.

    After seeing Brad's decided lack of enthusiasm about using the federal employee health benefits plan (FEHBP) as the starting point for increased coverage, I spent some time looking into the program. It's worth saying, first, that the authors of the CAP plan are pretty progressive folks, so they're not trying to derail universal health coverage by using a cruddy coverage mechanism that'll simply turn people off from government involvement. Anyway, the fruits of my googling were a few think tank papers mainly blasting FEHBP for skyrocketing premiums that were forcing users into cheaper plans. The AFL-CIO's paper believes -- surprise! -- that a primary answer is allowing workers to better bargain with their employers. This has done the job for postal employees, but it doesn't really help us here. They also reference a bill by Steny Hoyer that'd increase the governments share of FEHBP costs from a max of 75% to a max of 83%. Probably helpful. The paper from Families USA just castigates...
  • The Beauty of Mediocre Policy

    Responding to my health care post earlier, both Brad Plumer and Kevin Drum argue against incremental strategies and for a campaign towards single-payer. With such opposition, I think I should spend a few moments saying why I disagree. I recently read The System , an exhaustive account of the 1994 health care battle. Also recently, I've watched Bush's Social Security plan -- and yes, he has a plan -- get strung up by its thumbs. Taking the two together, I've basically concluded that it's impossible, in non-crisis (i.e, non New Deal or post-9/11) situations, to push sweeping legislation through Congress. The System, excuse my Broderian terminology, is really set-up, and at this partisan moment, primed, to resist and demagogue such change. And it succeeds. Americans didn't want Clinton's bill to be defeated. Which is to say, they wanted Clinton's bill to be defeated, but only their perception of it. If you actually polled them on what they wanted in a health care system, it tracked their...
  • Linking to Myself

    I've kind of buried it under other posts, but I spent the morning working up a great big analysis of CAP's new health care plan. If you haven't already, should give it a read.
  • Now They Tell Us

    Anybody remember this op-ed from Tommy Franks, attacking John Kerry during the election? The one where he said: take Mr. Kerry's contention that we "had an opportunity to capture or kill Osama bin Laden" and that "we had him surrounded." We don't know to this day whether Mr. bin Laden was at Tora Bora in December 2001. Some intelligence sources said he was; others indicated he was in Pakistan at the time; still others suggested he was in Kashmir. Tora Bora was teeming with Taliban and Qaeda operatives, many of whom were killed or captured, but Mr. bin Laden was never within our grasp. Yeah, me neither. But this admission from the Pentagon (via The Stakeholder ) brought it to mind: A commander for Osama bin Laden during Afghanistan's war with the Soviet Union who helped the al-Qaida leader escape American forces at Tora Bora is being held by U.S. authorities, a government document says. The document represents the first definitive statement from the Pentagon that bin Laden, the...
  • Revolutions for Everybody!

    What? Another revolution ? In Kyrgyzstan? It's like a flu going around (somewhere, Malcolm Gladwell heard that and raised a fist in solidarity). In any case, this one seems like it went pretty orderly, which is all you can hope for. I don't pretend to know anything about the situation in Kyrgyzstan so I've no way to evaluate this. Sue , who does, is pretty shocked, and adds that, atypically, it was spearheaded by rural villagers, which warms my proletarian heart. Anyway, huzzah! Power to the people! But have you ever seen an opposition leader less excited to be liberated from jail than this guy? That's a "who are you kids and why are you waking me up" look if I ever saw one. Caption him in comments if the spirit so moves you.
  • Arms to China?

    Timothy Garton Ash is quite right on this -- the EU should be ashamed that it needed White House pressure to maintain its arms embargo on China. Readers know I'm something of an EU booster, mainly because I think their emphasis on diplomatic relations, morally defensible policy-making, and emphasis on soft power are proving pretty powerful as a counterweight to American belligerence. But you can't spend the days pasting gold stars on yourself and then turn around to try and ship armaments to a country with a terrible human rights record and a continuing habit of threatening to invade Taiwan. And to be talked down by Bush? Someone should be apologizing for allowing that gut punch to European dignity. As Garton writes, it's not that the US is blameless here -- we export 6.7% of China's weapons while Europe only provides 2.7%, and it's hard to fault the EU for wanting to cultivate the Dragon as a primary trading partner (this year, the EU passed America as China's largest source of trade...
  • The CAP Health Care Plan

    Now for the promised health care post. I don't claim to know as much about health policy as Brad does, so his objections -- that stopgap measures will make bad policy and we really need to go to single-payer -- should be taken seriously. Not only that, but I agree with them. Nevertheless, politics is the art of the possible (and occasionally, the train-wreck of the impossible), and there's simply not a constituency for single-payer right now. I should back up here. The CAP plan , released yesterday, works like this: • Coverage for All • Expand the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) to anyone lacking job-based health insurance, any employer who wants to buy in, and any individual who wants to buy in. In addition, contributions to the plan would be capped at 5-7.5% of income so no one was felled by health care costs (good call, since the new bankruptcy law allows them to put you in the stocks if a health catastrophe takes out your finances). For those who paid over, a tax...
  • I Just Can't Outwonk Them

    Damn that Brad Plumer . Seriously -- I link and I link, and where does it get me? Fucking nowhere. I was all excited, everybody else had spent the day worrying about the Trustees Report, while my clever self had sidestepped them and read CAP's new health care plan . In full. And made notes in the margins. So while they all talked about solvency and proved smart today, I'd start out tomorrow with a preemptive strike, nailing the plan first and thus winning the wonk competition. But it was not to be. Plumer, who spent the day poring over the Trustees Report, decided to spend the night on the health care plan. Bastard. Anyway, he's got a lot of stuff on it and, though I do it grudgingly, I'd suggest you read it. But make no mistake -- I'll still be starting tomorrow with a nice big post on it. Though, at this rate, Matt'll beat me too and I'll just look like a poseur. So uh, FEHBP expansion, good call! Medicaid for more, I also like! Emphasis on preventive medicine, IT improvements,...
  • I'm Gross

    Sir Singer writes : I think I grew up fairly independent. I learned how to cook, clean, launder, etc., as a child, but most of my female friends who live on their own still have cleaner houses than me. They generally are more on their at-home shite than I am. Meanwhile, I’m a good cook, but a house that relied upon me for cleanliness would be a relatively sad site (just ask my roommates). I'll second that, with a caveat. I'm a really good cook. Don't believe me? Ask my girlfriend, she can field questions in the comments. I just am -- it's a very weird, highly unexpected talent. Things I make turn out way better than they have any right to. Further, I love cooking, so it works out well. But I hate cleaning. Worse, I don't think it important. Not so much cleaning up clutter, I know I need to do that, but mopping, dusting, vacuuming, cleaning mirrors, scrubbing sinks -- if I lived on my own, this stuff just wouldn't be done. Now, if someone tells me to do it and it's my share of the...

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