Posts from August 27, 2004

Just when you thought it was safe to go into the water again

Just when you thought it was safe to go into the water again

: Boy, synchronized swimmers scare me.

Is Botox a banned substance?

Outrage

Outrage

: Every journalist and every civilized human on earth should be outraged at the murder of Italian journalist Enzo Baldoni at the hands of the slime terrorists of Iraq. Not only is this a terrible crime against Mr. Baldoni, it is sure to chill coverage and freedom of information from war zones, trouble spots, and the Middle East as a whole. How many journalists will see facts and stories for you and me worth risking their lives? How many editors will assign journalists to possible death?

: UPDATE: Some of you probably wondered when I would hit my limit with spiteful, mean, venemous, stupid comments. Well, I just hit it. I closed the comments to this post and banned a bunch of mean fools without lives, hoping they take the hint and take their psychoses elsewhere. Sick people who turn murder into nothing but gunpowder to shoot their bile bullets are not welcome here.

This is a just a demo at the Afro in Baltimore. Nevermind. I have nothing more to say now. Aren’t you lucky?

This is a just a demo at the Afro in Baltimore. Nevermind. I have nothing more to say now. Aren’t you lucky?

All about local

All about local

: Ed Cone has put together one heckuva local blog conference down his way. Tomorrow’s the day.

The health-care war

The health-care war

: I am no fan of Paul Krugman’s; rarely make it all the way through a column. But today’s is a winner, for it rationally sets out the current choice in what I believe is one of the big two issues facing us the election (after the war on terrorism).

In other words, rising health care costs aren’t just causing a rapid rise in the ranks of the uninsured (confirmed by yesterday’s Census Bureau report); they’re also, because of their link to employment, a major reason why this economic recovery has generated fewer jobs than any previous economic expansion.

Clearly, health care reform is an urgent social and economic issue. But who has the right answer?

The 2004 Economic Report of the President told us what George Bush’s economists think, though we’re unlikely to hear anything as blunt at next week’s convention. According to the report, health costs are too high because people have too much insurance and purchase too much medical care. What we need, then, are policies, like tax-advantaged health savings accounts tied to plans with high deductibles, that induce people to pay more of their medical expenses out of pocket. (Cynics would say that this is just a rationale for yet another tax shelter for the wealthy, but the economists who wrote the report are probably sincere.)

John Kerry’s economic advisers have a very different analysis: they believe that health costs are too high because private insurance companies have excessive overhead, mainly because they are trying to avoid covering high-risk patients. What we need, according to this view, is for the government to assume more of the risk, for example by picking up catastrophic health costs, thereby reducing the incentive for socially wasteful spending, and making employment-based insurance easier to get.

A smart economist can come up with theoretical justifications for either argument. The evidence suggests, however, that the Kerry position is much closer to the truth….

My health-economist friends say that it’s unrealistic to call for a single-payer system here: the interest groups are too powerful, and the antigovernment propaganda of the right has become too well established in public opinion. All that we can hope for right now is a modest step in the right direction, like the one Mr. Kerry is proposing. I bow to their political wisdom. But let’s not ignore the growing evidence that our dysfunctional medical system is bad not just for our health, but for our economy.

You can debate his conclusion, of course — and I’d far rather see you debating that than all this Swiftie crap. That is what we should be spending our breath and bandwidth on, not mud.

The ethic of the link

The ethic of the link

: The background: Doc wrote a post about radio that I thought was great and so I linked to it. In that post, Doc said things that were too nice about me and I chose to ignore that because it would have seemed like tooting my own horn by pointing to it: My linkie Oscar moment (Doc likes me, he really likes me). But then Ben turned around and said that he thought it odd that I was pointing to Doc’s post without acknowledging what seemed to Ben like some psychological conflict of interest (was I linking to get you to see the nice words? … but then, if I really wanted you to see them, I would have mentioned them, no?). Ben didn’t have comments then, so I sent him email explaining that I thought it was better not to mention my connection — because Doc’s post was so good — but I did acknowledge debating the point. Ben started comments and put up my email, which is good. And Doc, typically, came back with a great internal debate on the point, which is my point of posting this whole shaggy-dog story. Says Doc:

Much of what we’re doing here amounts to teamwork. It’s not formal, or even conscious in many cases, but it does involve lots of “yes, and…” posting. Sometimes praise is involved. More often it isn’t. What matters is that we’re not doing it alone. And that we’re only beginning to understand what that’s about.

And then Mary Hodder joins in the discussion.

So I would say it’s right to point, for referrals and attribution, and lineage of thought, for community building and transparency. I’d rather know that Doc and Jeff refer to each other explicitly, than have it all happen behind the scenes, as if we all develop every idea in a vacuum, the way old style journalism appears to develop their stories. The people formerly known as the audience still maintain some of the training from big media, where we were led to believe this was true and real. It is not.

This is a matter of people getting used to the new online queues, the new behaviors and tools that support them, including both first and second order ones. But as people adjust, I think this ethical question will be worked out, and people will see the transparency and linking for what it is, and appreciate knowing the lineage up front, so they might make their own decisions about the ideas, the texts and the relationships within different communities who collectively collaborate on ideas and plans.

And I link to — and like — them all.

Abu what?

Abu what?

: All Things Considered had a handy pronounciation guide to Abu Ghraib from a bunch of Baghdadi Arab speakers.

It’s ah-BOO [throaty, breathy, rolling R]reb.

We’re not a nation divided… we’re a nation at the center

We’re not a nation divided… we’re a nation at the center

: The latest WSJ/NBC poll (free link) says that Bush holds a slight though statistically insignificant lead over Kerry but that his policies hurt him with undecided voters.

I’ve long been amazed at Bush’s insistence on playing to his right wing. He certainly wasn’t voted by a mandate! He did not have a right-wing revolution behind him. He gained strength across the board because of 9/11. If he had played to the center, he might have had a chance of getting votes he never could have gotten before (see: me) but he turned away those voters by swinging further right by appointing Ashcroft and lately by pushing the edge on gay marriage, stem-cell research, and by not pulling back his Vietnam attack hawks … well, you know the list. I used to think this was ideology but now I wonder whether it is odd political paranoia: a chronic need to “solidify the base.”

But my point isn’t about Bush. It’s about America. Once again, we’re portrayed at a nation of extremes, red v. blue, when the truth is that the closeness of our votes only indicates our strong preference for the center.

The other important note from the poll is that Bush trails Kerry in 17 key battleground states. Usually by this time in an election, I’m ready to start making bets, state-by-state. But not this year, not quite yet.