Thursday, July 25, 2013

Read Stuff, You Should

Happy Birthday to Illeana Douglas, 48.

Good stuff:

1. Norm Ornstein unloads on the Republicans for sabotaging the ACA. Brutal, but fair.

2. Dahlia Lithwick on reducing voting in North Carolina.

3. And Scott Lemieux on Braun.

26 comments:

  1. So the government shutdown during the Clinton era lasted 28 days (across Nov 1995 to Jan 1996). How long do you think the one this fall will last? On the one hand, Republicans have that history to look back on and learn from. On the other hand, todays Republicans are even more tactically intransigent. Do these two factors cancel each other out, and so we should expect about 28 days or so? (I write this assuming that on the issue of the debt ceiling, the GOP leadership will still flinch, and also that one is harder to game out since it would be unprecedented. Nonetheless, it is disconcerting to me that Boehner is still talking up this tactic, going back on what he has said in the past.)

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  2. Ornstein contrasts Republican obstruction of the ACA with the lack of Democratic obstruction of Part D. I think a key difference between the two, not discussed by Ornstein, is the different interests of the opposition. Nuking part D risked the Democrats losing the remaining dozen or so elderly votes they still have. More importantly, it would have made the Democratic message that we like "effective government, not big government" more difficult to make - remember that one of the rationales for Part D was (and remains) the use of complex biologics to treat chronic diseases of the elderly more cheaply than the traditional medical model.

    The Republicans have no similar ulterior motive for supporting the ACA; heck the most prominent figure of the opposition's name is all over the thing! What's more, while its a moot point if the thing will succeed or not, (perhaps in part just to get it passed) the Democrats have likely oversold its potential (e.g. the ACA is not going to generate substantial cost savings vs. the profit-hungry private sector). The potential for the left to have overpromised, and thus underdeliver, on the ACA is significant.

    Maybe this is giving them too much credit, but there may be one other ulterior motive for the Republicans to try to torpedo the thing, assuming Obama incurs the political cost of its failure. We've talked a lot about the difficulty of the Republicans squaring the circle between "budgetary restraint" and "desire for spending". Nowhere is that problem more acute than in the domain of health care.

    For as we have discussed several times, health care (for the landed gentry) in the US is better than in socialized systems in the quality of acute and complex care. Its better, because its more costly. Moving to a more cost-effective, universal system will no doubt have a negative impact on the quality of said acute and complex care for the landed gentry.

    Which isn't a big deal, right? Ask your average Briton or Canadian if they hate their health care system, they'll of course say no. Nevertheless, convincing the landed health care gentry to accept a somewhat lower quality of care (to get to cost savings) is an incredible barrier for the Republican party.

    And gets us back to the ACA. I don't know the mechanism, but if the ACA implodes, in the wreckage that follows, perhaps the Republicans are hoping to find a Trojan Horse to carry through the decrease in care that is necessary to balance the budget. If they could get the landed gentry to see the shift to Britain/Canadian-quality acute/chronic care (still good, but less than what they have now), as a byproduct of awful Obamacare, well, that's a win for them all the way around.

    My $.02.

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    1. I dunno; I think Occam's Razor applies here.

      The GOP strenuously has fought against what was once its own health care proposal, more or less. I think the simplest explanation is that they simply have ALWAYS played politics on health care because they really and truly did not care about the issue.

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    2. Interesting comment, Matt, since (at least in theory) it could work that the Lords of the GOP (whoever they are) recognize that the implosion of the ACA represents a unique opportunity for a major shift in their direction, and also to "solve" a thorny problem about cutting services along with budgets. We might imagine those Lords sending a missive to Senator Cruz, saying "Now is the time thou shalt implode the nefarious legislation".

      And Cruz might reply "Say no more gents! You had me at hello." Now that I think of it, perhaps this is a special case of the Plain Blog Rationale Against Conspiracies (as they get larger, they get untenable):

      Sometimes, you can get a whole bunch of people to row along with a scheme without having any awareness of it. As long as their interests are aligned, they wouldn't need to be any the wiser about what's really going on.

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  3. As a proponent of free-market medical care, I support stone-walling, backsliding, skullduggery, and mischief by the Reps. Obama rammed ACA down America's throat, front-loaded the goodies, and backslid on his campaign pledge to avoid the personal mandate. If he and his coalition wanted to make that gigantic and filthy bill work, they should have gotten some Rep buy in.

    Third-party payer is a Dem addiction. I welcome action that fights it. Maybe Obama could start by highlighting some of the bill's conspicuous stupidity and offering changes. And maybe Ornstein could quit acting so butt-hurt, because I don't care about his moralistic whining when he's ramming a gun in my mouth.

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    1. Norman Ornstein has a gun in your mouth? I'm shocked that your guns couldn't stop him from doing that.

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    2. You do have a pungent prose style!: "skullduggery," "rammed," "gigantic," "filthy," "addiction," "butt-hurt," "whining," "ramming...in my mouth." It must be a truly feverish metaphorical fantasia within your mind...

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    3. Wow. Your way or the highway, huh?

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    4. Wow. Your way or the highway, huh?

      Weird, I thought it was Obama who was threatening citizens with ignominy or death for not buying health "insurance" from companies and plans that he has OKd.

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    5. Chuckle, you funny, :-).

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    6. But now, slowly, how is it that Obama wants to kill you but Ornstein has a gun in your mouth? And how is it that you keep ending up with guns in your bodily cavities but no one ever pulls the trigger? One would have thought that the plumber, the Boy Scouts, or the brain worms from Rigel IX (the ones that are lurking around waiting to report everyone's thoughts to the Great Dictatorial Brain orbiting in the gravity well of Saturn) would have twitched a finger before now.

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    7. Anytime Ornstein cheers on the PPACA, he's cheering on Obama's restriction of contract, forced subsidy of employer purchased medical "insurance," mandate to buy stupid policy through some mechanism, etc.. He's part of the giddy mob. The reason I haven't been shot is because I recognize that Opapa or his goons would kill me if I didn't accept my place as slave-izen.

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    8. Dear, dear, dear, you are an unhappy person! Isn't it painful, walking around with all that menacing metal stuck against your anatomy? Or is it actually quite enjoyable? It certainly seems to be, else you would emigrate. Or at least try to have some of the metal removed.

      Of course, emigration is a difficult task. Where is there to go, after all? Well, cheer up. Once there are exchanges in place you can get a policy to cover a gunectomy. And those big oval pills they give you afterwards will make everything seem so much better!

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    9. Isn't it painful, walking around with all that menacing metal stuck against your anatomy?

      Yes, that's the point. But you are unable to fathom a mind different from yours. You probably only view gov action as onerous or coercive when it's not initiated by your team.

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    10. Oh, come now. Understanding someone's position is very different from agreeing with it, thinking it reasonable, or even thinking it has much to do with reality. I will grant you that people often talk like those things are the same, but they are actually quite separate. I certainly understand being afraid, and can relate to terror. That does not mean that, when confronted by a frightened, anxious person who sees the government closing in on every side and who barks and bites in fear at every hand that comes within reach is being reasonable, or even has a good grasp of the real world.

      You are quite right, by the way, that the ACA does impose onerous burdens on some people - healthy young males, for instance. I would have preferred a simpler and, one could argue, fairer system. That does not mean that I think the law is wrong simply because it is arguably unfair. The overall effects of the law are, as our friend CSH likes to point out, to swap one set of burdens on one group for another set of burdens on an alternate group. That is unfortunate, but in this unhappy world it scarcely ranks very high in the scale of misfortune. Overall the total burden of unfairness is lessened in society, the new burdens are placed on shoulders that are well able to bear them, and the least fortunate among us have their pain ameliorated. That is a pretty good day's work, and a pretty pragmatic rebalancing of burdens, which is crucial if we care about stability, much less justice. It doesn't help everyone, it even hurts some, and it s not what I, for one, really wanted. But nevertheless it is better than what was before, and in the real world of adults we call that a victory.

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  4. Also, Lemieux's argument about Braun is interesting, because I think it may trivialize the 'problem' of PEDs in a stat-happy era for the most stat-friendly sport.

    You're a scientist. You plan an awesome experiment. You collect your data, run a fancy statistical hypothesis test, and discover that - voila! - the odds of your results happening by chance are infinitesimally small. The upshot of this (in addition to fame, high-impact publications and lots of grant money) is that the test population was significantly different from the overall population.

    Back to baseball, it may be the case that Bonds, Sosa, McGwire, et a few al are "significantly different" from the rest of baseball players, shared status as cheaters notwithstanding. Or, they may not be. This is a pretty big deal to a statistician - if we're not talking about the same population of baseball player, then extreme results are meaningful only to the extent the population of relevant players are different (i.e. had access to the 'good' stuff).

    I think this is the problem with the PED era, even if the participants don't think of it as such. One of the local blowhard sports radio hosts brought up Chris Davis the other day and wondered whether baseball should celebrate his 62nd home run, if he hits it. The show was flummoxed, even though they aren't crack statisticians.

    As Lemieux suggests, there may be some bitterness from old-timers that this generation found a way to cheat better than generations past. It seems to me that the much more profound concern is that this generation may in fact be materially different in a largely unmeasurable way, which would render a lot of cherished statistical inference extremely difficult.

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  5. Do progs find this poll on the steadily diminishing popularity of Obamacare amongst moderate Dems worrisome?

    My guess is "no" for the following possible reasons:
    1)Too bad, it's already the law!! Ha, ha!!!
    2)I'm sure theses members will turn around!
    3)WAPO is a tool of the patriarchy.

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    1. That is an interesting phenomenon, you are right. The Kaiser poll last month was interesting, too. It got similar results when they asked Democrats about "health care reform," which I think is the language the Post used, but when asked about Obamacare levels of support increased about 15 points. Partisan signaling appears very powerful in the case of self-described moderates. But the same was often seen with moderate GOP congressmen, who often criticized mainline conservative rhetoric but usually voted with them in the end.

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    2. It is disturbing how clueless the average voter is.

      I imagine the following poll of Dem voters:

      Do you approve of hemorrhoids?
      Yes: 2%
      No: 90%
      Unsure: 8%

      Do you approve of Obamorrhoids?
      Yes: 40%
      No: 52%
      Unsure: 8%

      Makes me doubt the democratic process.
      But some progs here want to extend the vote to 12 year olds. Yikes.

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  6. I noticed that Sebellius got into the act, implying that people who oppose elements of the ACA are equivalent to whites who murder blacks for fun. Well, there's a reason why whites like me have turned away from progism on race.

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    1. Touch, touchy, touchy! For people who value freedom soooooooooooooooooo muuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuch libertarians, like the communists they psychologically resemble, seem to place an inordinate amount of faith in the power of rhetoric to shape the world. It is as if rhetoric must always be a pure expression of theory, and theory either a clear expression of the laws of history or cancerous detritus that must be cleared away so that the paradise of the people can flourish. Well, I guess that way of thinking had to go somewhere once the Soviet Union fell.

      Is it that what Sebellius said was insulting? I can certainly understand that, but it would not seem that libertarians would be at all bothered by insults freely expressed? I suspect it is because she is expressing incorrect theory, theory that is dangerous and must be eliminated because it is an incorrect understanding of the laws of history.

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    2. I'm not a pure libertarian. My politics are most similar to Derbyshire's: incremental, pessimistic, rooted in conservatism, but most enamored of free enterprise and with an eye for new ways to reduce gov power to empower citizens. I don't agree with the NAP, but it certainly makes sense to view all gov action with the unclouded eye; it's always about coercion and violence.

      As a white man who likes a lot of white people and doesn't view the crimes of my ancestors as particularly noteworthy, I find it clarifying that Obama's henchmen are happy to compare policy disagreements today to the gleeful, racist murder of generations ago. Theoretically, a thoughtful prog like yourself would find that disturbing if only because it sounds so fucking dumb, but I guess you think that it somehow works for your team to alienate reasonable white people.

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    3. Ironic that the same person who wrote "I find it clarifying that Obama's henchmen are happy to compare policy disagreements today to the gleeful, racist murder of generations ago" was, just a few comments back, comparing a set of regulations on insurance companies and a modest tax penalty for those who can afford to, but choose not to, buy health insurance to slavery.

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    4. I'm more interested in what turns someone into a racist pig? Was this guy repeatedly gangraped by black gang-bangers as a child? If not, I'm at a loss to explain his Grand Wizard worldview.

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  7. "My politics are most similar to Derbyshire's"

    So racist they got you fired from National Review?

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    1. The National Review is a just bunch of deluded RINOs! Don't you stupid progs get it?

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