Is Romney running for the general?

Despite the gloom and doom of Jon Chait and some others on Romney’s chances, the fellas (John Dickerson and David Plotz, I don’t recall Emily Bazelon having an opinion) at the Slate Political Gabfest both suggested that Romney would cruise to an early victory in the Republican primaries.  I know it’s a weak field and Romney has money, but he’s responsible for bringing freedom-ending, socialized medicine to Massachussetts.  Seems to me (and Chait), once he gets pummeled for that by his opponents, he’s toast.  Yet, many smart political observers clearly think otherwise.  Anyway, I came across this really surprising news today:

Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney broke with Republican orthodoxy on Friday by saying he believes that humans are responsible, at least to some extent, for climate change.

“I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that,” he told a crowd of about 200 at a town hall meeting in Manchester, New Hampshire.

“It’s important for us to reduce our emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases that may be significant contributors.”

Whoa!!  Sadly, such a mainstream, scientifically-based opinion has become as anathema in the Republican party as suggesting that an individual mandate is a good idea for health care.  What’s Romney thinking here?  Maybe like Plotz and Dickerson he thinks he’s going to win the nomination and he already wants to start acting like a sensible moderate for the general?  One interpretation is that he really just believes this and he’s a man of his principles, yet the evidence would seem to indicate that there are few more shameless panderers than Romney.  All in all, a very interesting development.  Really curious to see what his climate-change denying opponents (especially Pawlenty and Huntsman who have rescinded their sanity on the issue to appeal to the base) make of this.

Friday Book post: Sum

So, I’ve got a favorite new intellectual hero: neuroscientist David Eagleman.  He first came to my attention for his stunningly inventive “novel” Sum: forty tales from the Afterlife.  In it, he basically envisions forty wonderfully creative and provocative scenarios of what the afterlife might be like.  Here’s the Amazon description:

Eagleman wonders in each of these brief, evocative segments. Are we consigned to replay a lifetime’s worth of accumulated acts, as he suggests in Sum, spending six days clipping your nails or six weeks waiting for a green light? Is heaven a bureaucracy, as in Reins, where God has lost control of the workload? Will we download our consciousnesses into a computer to live in a virtual world, as suggested in Great Expectations, where God exists after all and has gone through great trouble and expense to construct an afterlife for us? Or is God actually the size of a bacterium, battling good and evil on the battlefield of surface proteins, and thus unaware of humans, who are merely the nutritional substrate?

Anyway, I was reminded of this book I read back when it came out because when I was looking for interesting readings for my criminal justice class I came across this really interesting essay on how neurobiology should influence our approach to the law: short version— we treat all brains that are free of mental illness and above a 70 IQ the same.  We shouldn’t.  And then, earlier this week I listened to a terrific interview with Eagleman on Fresh Air about his new book Incognito, which is going to the top of my queue.  If you know me, I’d be happy to lend you my copy of Sum.  If you don’t, there are libraries.  And definitely give the Fresh Air interview a listen if you’ve got time.

It’s not the malpractice costs

One of the most pervasive of right-wing tropes is that malpractice costs are driving up healthcare costs.  Even if you get a right-winger to admit the actual costs of malpractice are miniscule in the big picture, they come back with the “defensive medicine” charge.  Alas, not much evidence for that either.  Killer pie chart from Austin Carroll (one of many terrific guest bloggers for Ezra this week:

We really do need some serious reform of our laws regarding malpractice, but simply capping non-economic damages of people who won their lawsuits because they were victims of heinous cases of malpractice, is not going to help the matter.  Carroll also features another chart that shows Texas’ adoption of such a reform does absolutely nothing to control costs.  Again, the only people who benefit from this type of reform are doctors who commit particularly egregious cases of malpractice and the companies that insure them.  This has nothing to do with “frivolous lawsuits.”  Frivolous lawsuits don’t need caps, because they’ll just be tossed out for being frivolous.  The main purpose of the caps would seem to be to hold down the income of trial lawyers– a group that gives a lot of financial support to Democrats.  I’d love to see Republicans get serious about steps that would actually make our malpractice system work better, but I’ve seen absolutely no sign of that.  As almost always seems to be the case, the policy is almost entirely in thrall to the politics.

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