Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Sunday, April 5, 2015 8:10 pm

Odds and ends for April 5

He is risen. He is risen indeed.

Cops in California are using a 1930s-era anti-lynching statute to intimidate protesters. Prosecutors so far have declined to press those charges, but it’s only a matter of time until a right-wing nutjob decides to try to make an example of someone.

Speaking of California, its people are in serious denial about its extreme drought, now in its fourth year. About 94% of the state considers the drought serious, but 61% still favor voluntary measures to deal with it. Y’all need to wake up.

Likely presidential contender and perennial horse’s ass Mike Huckabee thinks I’m a member of the “militant gay community,” inasmuch as that’s whom he’s blaming for the backlash against Indiana’s bigoted “religious freedom” statute. Who knew that Christians who take the Second Great Commandment seriously were militant gays? My wife certainly had no idea.

We have a system that treats you better if you are rich and guilty than if you are poor and innocent and this case proves it.” (Previously.)

In Florida, relatives of officers of for-profit charter-school companies are enacting legislation to divert money from public schools to charter schools. But none dare call it a conflict of interest, let alone a crime.

Randi Harper, somewhat unwillingly turned into an activist by GamerGaters and perpetrators of online violent and/or sexual threats, got SWATed — someone called in a false tip to police that led a SWAT team to raid her apartment. Her experience could have ended with her dead, or at least her dog. Fortunately, both are alive and well. She talks about what you need to do to protect yourself from such potentially deadly “pranks.” For the record, given the risk of gunplay anytime heavily armed cops storm a home, I think this “prank” should be treated as attempted manslaughter, at least. (h/t: Chip)

Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh draws a useful distinction between what he does and much of the “news” you see in print and online today: Instead of taking a tip and building it into a story, too many reporters just run the tip.


Saturday, March 20, 2010 10:49 pm

Another urban legend sussed out; American civic discourse goes to hell

A Facebook friend who opposes the health-care bill now being debated in Congress sent me the following:


Some interesting statistics from a survey by the United Nations International Health Organization.

% Men & Women who survived a cancer five years after diagnosis:
U.S. 65%
England 46%
Canada 42%

% Patients diagnosed with Diabetes who received treatment within six months:
U.S. 93%
England 15%
Canada 43%

% Seniors needing hip replacement who received it within six months:
U.S. 90%
England 15%
Canada 43%

% referred to a medical specialist who see one within one month:
U.S. 77%
England 40%
Canada 43%

Number of MRI Scanners (a prime diagnostic tool) per Million people:
U.S. 71
England 14
Canada 18

% of seniors (65+), with low income, who say they are in “excellent health”
U.S. 12%
England 2%
Canada 6%

It sounded bogus to me, primarily because although I’d covered health care as a journalist, I’d never heard of anything called the United Nations International Health Organization. So I Googled it. Didn’t find the organization, but I found a lot of mentions of it, most in the same context as you see here. A couple claimed this report had appeared in Investor’s Business Daily, but I ran a Google search of various phrases pulled at random from this piece against that site but didn’t get a single hit.

I suppose it’s only fitting that even on the eve of the vote, lies are still making their way around the world.

Relatedly, the Rev. Julie Peeples of Congregational United Church of Christ here in town had a nice piece in the N&R today in support of the health-care reform bill. As you would expect, the IGMFY crowd jumped on it. And at a rally in Washington today, opponents were calling Rep. John Lewis “nigger” and Rep. Barney Frank “faggot.” (And as you would expect, the wingnuts are either silent, in denial or blaming the victims.)

I get that they’re angry. What I don’t get is what they’re angry about. I further get that when people are angry, it’s usually because they’re, at bottom, afraid. But, in this case, afraid of what? Afraid of socialism? The majority of health care is in private hands now and will remain so if this bill is enacted. Afraid of higher costs? The CBO says it’ll reduce the deficit by $130 billion over 10 years and $2.2 1.2 trillion* the 10 years after that. Afraid that 30 million currently uninsured people will now have some kind of insurance? Scary.

We’ve had some truly scary stuff happen in this country in the past decade — terror attacks; illegal invasions; torture; warrantless wiretapping; theft of national wealth from the middle class to benefit a tiny, hyperwealthy elite. And this is what brings the spittle-spraying crowds to the steps of the Capitol?

Y’all oughta be ashamed. Thomas Jefferson would dopeslap every last one of you.

*Rather significant typo fixed. Savings are still huge, however.

UPDATE: The Facebook friend who originally sent me this asked some follow-up questions, which I figured might be of interest to those interested in this post. Here’s what I told her:

Comparing quality of health care among different countries is, as I learned while covering the medical beat, a complicated subject that’s measured in complicated ways. There’s no single link that will give you “the answer.” Moreover, systematic efforts to do so are barely 15 years old, so there’s not a ton of reliable data yet. (A generation from now we should be in better shape to draw some meaningful conclusions.)

The two most heavily used indicators of quality of health care are infant mortality rate (that is, number of deaths of children younger than 1 year per 1,000 live births) and average life expectancy at birth. In fact, infant mortality has been found to be a reliable indicator of not just health care but the effectiveness of national government in general.

But even those basic stats aren’t always reliable. For example, the former Soviet Union fudged infant mortality by not counting a lot of neonatal deaths as “live births”.

Still, those are starting points and most people can understand them without any special education or training, so let’s look at them.

The 2009 CIA Factbook’s ranking of 224 countries by infant mortality rate is at

You’ll find the U.S. with the 180th highest infant morality rate out of 224 countries, with 6.22 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. Countries with significantly lower rates — say, under 5 infant deaths per 1,000 live births — include pretty much all of Europe, along with such other countries as Israel, Macao, Hong King, Singapore, Japan and Bermuda. (Canada’s rate is 5.04.)

The life-expectancy-at-birth ranking is here:

The U.S. ranks 49th out of 224 countries. We lag not only the usual suspects but also such places as Bosnia & Herzegovina, which not that long ago was one big shooting gallery.

And remember, we pay more than twice as much per capita for our health care as do citizens of anywhere else on the globe. If the care we were getting were twice as good — or even, by professional consensus, the best — that’d be one thing. Instead, we’re paying beyond top dollar for, comparatively speaking, mediocre care. So while no one could rationally claim that we have the worst health care system among industrialized countries, one can certainly claim rationally that we’re getting the least health care for our money of anyone. Indeed, it would be hard to argue rationally otherwise.

One reason this is so is because we place much more emphasis on treatment than prevention. And I mention this because the biggest public-health care problem of the next 20 years is going to be obesity, the best way to treat obesity is to prevent it, and we do an abominable job of preventing obesity.

A good overview of the subject of comparing nations’ health care, with some interesting examples, is here:

One thing I recall reading back in my newspaper days is that the gap between the U.S. and other countries gets a lot narrower when you look just at people older than 65, starting with the simple statistic of remaining life expectancy at age 65. Why? Simple: Medicare.

Also: here’s some interesting commentary on that report I linked earlier:

UPDATE: My friend replies:

I guess I’m listening to too much FoxNews. How come that is the only network that seems to bring up the uncomfortable issues like: the how the IRS will be involved and why I should be concerned about intrusion of the feds:

From The Washington Examiner, Byron York:

In short, health care reform, as currently envisioned by Democratic leaders, would be built on the foundation of an expanded and more intrusive IRS.
Under the various proposals now on the table, the IRS would become the main agency for determining who has an “acceptable” health insurance plan; for finding and punishing those who don’t have such a plan; for subsidizing individual health insurance costs through the issuance of a tax credits; and for enforcing the rules on those who attempt to opt out, abuse, or game the system. A substantial portion of H.R. 3200, the House health care bill, is devoted to amending the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 in order to give the IRS the authority to perform these new duties.

Read more at the Washington Examiner:

P.S. This is not “stoopid.”

And I replied:

This is one of a number of aspects of the bill with which I do not agree. Like I said, the bill is not perfect, it’s just preferable to the status quo, which is the only other option on the table.

And Fox is far from the only outlet that objects to this provision. A lot of people far to my left objected to it as well. (Example.)

That said, most people who already have health insurance through their employers aren’t going to notice any much difference. (Update: premium changes are in the range of 1% in most categories; some go down, some go up.) Fox is simply trying to use the IRS to scare people because appealing to them on the basis of factual argument wasn’t getting them anywhere.

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