March 23rd, 2010


[links] Link salad wakes up grumpy and tired

A reader reacts to Trial of Flowers

19th-century industrial spy stole No. 1 drink — Huh. I want to read this. (Via @mattstaggs.)

e_bourne is snarky about PowerPoint

Black Holes, Starships and the Cosmos — A Big Idea post from Centauri Dreams. Though my favorite bit was this triviatum: To produce as much energy as a 100 watt light-bulb a black hole needs to mass 1.9 trillion tons.

A sweet problem: Princeton researchers find that high-fructose corn syrup prompts considerably more weight gain — Duh. I'm astonished that ADM didn't have this study quashed.

The Final Health Care Vote and What it Really Means — Robert Reich on the political heritage of HCR.

Fear Strikes Out on One side, the closing argument was an appeal to our better angels, urging politicians to do what is right, even if it hurts their careers; on the other side, callous cynicism. The GOP never opposed HCR on the merits, that I can tell, despite lip service to the contrary.

The Misinformed Tea Party MovementFor an antitax group, they don't know much about taxes. Um, yeah.

The GOP's newfound love of public opinionI'm not making an argument about whether public opinion should or should not dictate outcomes; the point is about those who are wildly inconsistent in their advocacy on that issue. Inconsistent? The GOP, standard bearers of principled consistency and keepers of America's moral compass? No!

McCain Comments Confirm That Republicans Plan To Stand On The Sidelines And Do Nothing — I love this response from Senate Majority Leader Reid. For someone who campaigned on ‘Country First’ and claims to take great pride in bipartisanship, it’s absolutely bizarre for Senator McCain to tell the American people he is going to take his ball and go home until the next election,

Wondermark reviews conservatie logic on healthcare — Hahahahah.

The constituency for repeal — Daniel Larison on Republican promises to repeal HCR, and the myth of a public opposition.

Stepping off the narrow path of reality — How adopting counterfactuals leads to further idiocy. This exactly why I rail so much against Creationism and Intelligent Design in schools. Oddly, This Modern World takes on the very same question this week. Just because you believe it doesn't mean it's true.

?otD: Where oh where has my little dog gone?

Writing time yesterday: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Body movement: 30 minutes
Hours slept: 6.0 (lousy)
This morning's weigh-in: n/a (forgot)
Yesterday's chemo stress index: 4/10 (but still sick)
Currently reading: [between books]


[cancer] The Tuesday report

Cold continues in its long tail. I'm less miserable, but still not exactly in good shape. That I had a terrible night's sleep didn't help. I have a headache and am in a foul mood today. I had deliberately chosen not to take Lorazepam again, as I don't want to become dependent on it for normal sleep, and was very tired when I went lights out last night a little after 7.

However, my lower GI had other ideas, and I didn't get to sleep til more like 8:30. Had lengthy, fitful dreams that I was in a serious romantic relationship with davidlevine, which is odd because while we're quite good friends, I'm about as heterosexual as they come. (It was working out fine in my dreams, however.) Also had parking anxiety dreams, and a weird interlude with an underage mermaid that had me waking up feeling creepy and old.

Work today, and some writing. I am sure hoping both the headache and the foul mood lift, or it's going to be long, tedious day for me.


[politics] Healthcare reform and the liberation of labor

An observation I've made before, and haven't seen covered much in the press or the commentariat (though maybe I'm not looking in the right direction) is that healthcare reform will quite possibly significantly remake the employer-employee relationship.

Since about WWII, the most ordinary model for Americans to receive healthcare coverage (ie, insurance) has been through the workplace. It's my understanding that this was deliberate industrial policy at the time, presumably to stabilize the workforce and countervail the pressures of unionization. Everyone in the workforce today entered the workforce under that assumption. You get a (decent enough) job, you get health insurance.

That bargain started to fall apart in the 1980s with the increasing use of part-timers in blue collar jobs and contractors in white collar jobs. That, of course, was all about reducing the cost of benefits for the employer. Companies like Wal-Mart and McDonald's build their entire cost-of-labor around such measures, as do many high tech companies. Part of the reason for so many millions of uninsured and underinsured today is the erosion of benefits in the non-unionized workforce.

(I am neither a healthcare historian or a labor historian, so take all of the above with a grain of salt.)

The profit-driven nature of market-based insurance has introduced so many restrictions that for a lot of workers, myself included, the only access to health insurance is through non-qualifying employer-sponsored groups. In my case, one of my dependent insureds has a chronic illness that barred me from the private market for years before my own cancer made me uninsurable, so this has long been an issue in my professional life.

The full terror of unemployment for someone like me isn't loss of income, it's loss of healthcare coverage. The last time I was unemployed, 2002-2003, my COBRA costs were $1,400 per month. Which was more than my unemployment compensation.

How many millions of Americans with insurance are tied to their jobs by similar issues?

If HCR delivers what it's said to deliver (assuming the Republican ideologues in the Senate don't find some last-minute way to halt the reconciliation bill), those millions of Americans will no longer be tied to their benefits package. Yes, most of us need an income. (And fortunate are you who do not.) But incomes don't have to be paychecks from statutory employment.

I predict a sharp increase in labor mobility in this country, along with a parallel sharp increase in new small businesses as well as independent innovation. Because what we've just done is unchain people from their workplaces. There's a lot more ways to make money than there are to find health insurance. Obama, Pelosi and Reid have just freed us to explore those ways. Which would seem to me to be a conservative ideal, would it not?

What will the social consequences of this be? I don't know, but I'm guessing some pretty fundamental changes are in store for American society over the next years, if the GOP doesn't freeze all of us out. Increased economic prosperity and personal opportunity, reduced unemployment, and better treatment of employees by employers as competitive options open up for the workforce.

Optimism? Sure. But think about it. Take this idea right down to the personal. How many people do you know who are trapped in jobs for the healthcare?