Embedded Colbert?

Let’s see, this may do it…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Yep! Comedy Central embedding figured out! (It’s just a lot more complicated than youtube).

The Greene family feels your pain

Actually, according to science, we feel our own more acutely than you do.  Why?  The red hair.

I just learned via Quirks and Quarks today, that, on-average, redheads seems to experience pain about 10-15% more intensely.  I had no idea there was even folk wisdom on this, but it was during the “science fact or science fiction” segment.  Science fact, it turns out.  The professor in the segment said that the gene for red hair is also related to genes for the central nervous system.  Hmmm, perhaps some other stereotypes about red-heads are true as well.  As for the Greene family, Evan sure feels pain, but he’s balanced out by Alex who seems nearly impervious.

Those scary illegal immigrants

Damn, nobody does political satire like Colbert (except, of course, for Jon Stewart).  Here’s a great clip on Republican fear-mongering about illegal immigrants.  Still no WordPress support for embedded Comedy Central videos.  Just click and watch it anyway.  You’ll be glad you did.

Intended consequences

As health care reform provisions increasingly come on-line, you’ll probably be seeing more stories (especially from Fox News and the Wall Street Journal) about businesses cutting health care, etc., as examples of the horrible “unintended consequences of the health care reform.”   Thing is, when you look closer, you find out that these are, in fact, intended consequences.  (Also, meaning that the journalists and news organizations who are “reporting” otherwise are lying or stupid– take your pick).

Dave Leonhardt explained all this in his column last week:

A $2,000 plan happens to be one of the main plans thatMcDonald’s offers its employees. It became big news last week, when The Wall Street Journal reported that the company was worried the plan would run afoul of a provision in the new health care law. In response to the provision, McDonald’s threatened to drop the coverage altogether, until the Obama administration signaled it would grant some exemptions.

This episode was only the latest disruption that the health law seems to be causing. Also last week, the Principal Financial Groupsaid it was getting out of the health insurance business, while other insurers have said they might stop offering certain types of coverage. With each new disruption come loud claims — some from insurance executives — that the health overhaul is damaging American health care.

On the surface, these claims can sound credible. But when you dig a little deeper, you often discover the same lesson that the McDonald’s case provides: the real problem was the status quo…

McDonald’s offers its hourly workers two different health care plans, which are known as “mini-med” plans. In one, workers can pay about $730 a year for benefits of up to $2,000. In the other, they can pay about $1,660 a year for benefits of up to $10,000, The Journal reported.

In a memo to federal regulators, McDonald’s executives argued that their version of health insurance “positively impacts” the almost 30,000 workers who are covered. And that’s true. A plan with a $2,000 or $10,000 cap can cover some modest health problems and is better than being uninsured.

But should the litmus test for American health care really be better than nothing?

Mini-med plans force people to drain their savings accounts for dozens of common medical problems. They also force hospitals to let some bills go unpaid, which drives up costs for everyone else…

Dr. Aaron Carroll, an Indiana Universitypediatrics professor who studies health policy, says of mini-med plans: “They’re great if you’re healthy, because you feel like you’re covered. But if you ever need them, they’re so skimpy, they provide very little.” Gary Claxton of the Kaiser Family Foundation adds, “They really just shouldn’t be considered health insurance.”

The plans’ skimpiness is the main reason they ran into legal jeopardy. Under the new law, most plans must spend at least 85 percent of their revenue on medical care, rather than administrative overhead. The McDonald’s plans aren’t generous enough to clear the hurdle.

Just remember this example next time you hear hysterics from the right on how the health care reform is ruining things.




The dumbest legislative body on Earth

Yes, of course the title refers to the United States Senate.  Where else (certainly not the Iraqi Parliament) could you have a single member claim that a Nobel-prize winner was unqualified for the position he was nominated for, and rather than simply vote against the nominee, single-handedly prevent the whole chamber from voting on it?  Yep, only in the Senate.  Anybody who doesn’t think the Senate rules do not desperately need revision is not paying attention.  Chait:

Peter Diamond, one of President Obama’s nominees for the Federal Reserve, has won the Nobel Prize in economics. He’s still just a “nominee,” and has been since spring, because GOP Senator Richard Shelby says he’s underqualified. Seriously.

I am glad the Republican Party is finally insisting on high standards in government. Who says they haven’t learned from the Bush years?


The anti-stimulus

When it comes to understanding public policy and its effects on the country, it is all too easy to focus on just what is happening at the federal level.  But, of course, we have a federal system of government, and often, what happens in this states is just as , if not more important, that what’s happening in Washington, DC.  The stimulus spending is a great example of this, as Ezra Klein has been frequently pointing out.   In the case of stimulus spending, the fact that most states have (state) constitutional requirements for balanced budgets means that state cuts are largely counter-acting what good the federal stimulus is able to do.  Ezra:

The government is now impeding an economic recovery. But it’s not for the reasons you often hear. It’s not because of debt or because of taxes. Nor has it scared the private sector into timidity. It’s because, at the state and local level, it’s firing people. There are more than 14 million Americans looking for work right now — to say nothing of the 9.5 million who have been forced into part-time jobs when they want, and need, full-time work — and the government just added 159,000 more to the pool. Consider this: If we only counted private-sector jobs, we’d have had positive jobs reports for the last nine months. As it is, public-sector losses have wiped out private-sector gains for the past four months.


It doesn’t need to be like this. The government can’t make the private sector invest. They can’t demand that Wal-Mart start hiring. They can offer incentives, and tax breaks, and encouragement, but that’s it. The same cannot be said when it comes to public sector jobs. The government can, if it’s willing to run deficits, keep those workers employed. But Senate Republicans, alongside some conservative Democrats, have decided to make the government pro-cyclical: Rather than fighting the downturn in the business cycle, the government is now accelerating it.

Of course, the fairly straightforward solution to this is simply more aid to the states from the federal government.  But that’s what’s being blocked by Senate Republicans and the conservative Democrats who share their deluded understanding of economic policy– or have made incredibly mis-guided political considerations.    Here’s Jon Cohn on the latter:

Some of these conservatives who blocked more state aid were basing their position on principle. They think the potential damage of running higher short-term deficits, even modest ones, outweighs potential gains in employment. Or they simply don’t buy the Keynesian logic of deficit spending to boost growth. I think the majority of mainstream economists would disagree, as would I, but at least it’s a substantive prefrence.

But some of the conservatives, particularly those within the Democratic Party, were thinking more about politics. Running higher deficits, they thought, would incur the wrath of voters and make re-election difficult. Well, now they’ve gotten their way. The deficit is coming down. Let’s see how much the voters care come November.

All in all, its really just depressing.  Just think how bad (and out of touch with reality) policy will be when Republicans are in charge.

[Oh, and for any conservatives reading this thinking, “but the deficit!” get a grip and think long-term instead of short-term, and admit the need for tax increases; and we can talk].

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