Why I cannot remember family events

I pride myself on my ability to remember (and impress my friends with) all sorts of obscure facts and information.  On the other hand, Kim insists that I am always forgetting things that actually happened to me and our family.  She suggests that with my brain filled with trivia, there's no room left for remembering personally important stuff.  Some recent brain research suggests there may be some truth to that:

Whether drawing a mental blank on a new A.T.M. password, a favorite
recipe or an old boyfriend, people have ample opportunity every day to
curse their own forgetfulness. But forgetting is also a blessing, and
researchers reported on Sunday that the ability to block certain
memories reduces the demands on the brain when it is trying to recall
something important.

The study,
appearing in the journal Nature Neuroscience, is the first to record
visual images of people?s brains as they suppress distracting memories.
The more efficiently that study participants were tuning out irrelevant
words during a word-memorization test, the sharper the drop in activity
in areas of their brains involved in recollection. Accurate remembering
became easier, in terms of the energy required.

Blocking out a
distracting memory is something like ignoring an old (and perhaps
distracting) acquaintance, experts say: it makes it that much harder to
reconnect the next time around. But recent studies suggest that the
brain plays favorites with memories in exactly this way, snubbing some
to better capture others. A lightning memory, in short, is not so much
a matter of capacity as it is of ruthless pruning ? and the new study
catches the trace of this process at it happens.

So, going by this, it would suggest that my brain has decided to suppress personal memories to make room for impersonal arcana.  I don't know that I like what this says about me :-).

Hillary and health care

One of the things that really strikes me as a political observer is the way in which a genuine commitment to a universal national health care plan is standard and accepted among the 2008 Democratic candidates, yet just four years ago, most Democrats were still to afraid and timid to advocate for universal coverage.  Given how incredibly sensible national health care is, I think this is a great development.  The Democrats' fear, of course, stems from the Clinton's failed health care reform attempt in 1993.  While the Clinton plan was certainly a dramatic political failure, TNR's resident health policy expert, Jonathan Cohn, makes a compelling argument that the actual plan, “Hillarycare,” was quite sensible then and still serves as a good model for health care reform.  Some highlights:

But an equally important question,
certainly, is the one nobody is asking: Just how well would the Clinton
health care plan actually have worked? Would we have been better off
under Hillarycare? Here's one good hint: Twelve years later, we're back
talking about the very same problems, and even some of the very same
solutions, all over again…

from the standpoint of the average
American, the Clinton plan actually promised to work in a remarkably
straightforward way. Once a year, the government would present people
with a choice of private plans. All the plans would have generous
benefits, covering even services like mental health that private
coverage had traditionally given short shrift. The plans would vary in
cost, depending in part on the level of financial protection they
provided, with the government covering nearly the full price of the
cheapest plan and individuals chipping in extra for the pricier
alternatives. But all the plans would be affordable. The government
would prohibit the plans from discriminating against people based on
their medical condition: An insurer couldn't charge you higher
premiums, or reject you outright, just because you had, say, diabetes.
Most important, coverage would become a birthright. Everybody would get
insurance from day one. And it would never get taken away.

Presented this way, the plan was awfully appealing, as an early poll in the Los Angeles Times
showed: After listening to the president explain the plan in his
speech, Americans said they supported it by a two-to-one margin.

Of course, the plan would soon have its popular support completely undermined by a deceptive insurance industry campaign and the rest is history.  But Cohn argues quite persuasively that the fundamental aspects of the plan are well worth revisiting.

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