Archive for December 2006
The U.S. health care system is a scandal and a disgrace. But maybe, just maybe, 2007 will be the year we start the move toward universal coverage.
In 2005, almost 47 million Americans — including more than 8 million children — were uninsured, and many more had inadequate insurance.
Apologists for our system try to minimize the significance of these numbers. Many of the uninsured, asserted the 2004 Economic Report of the President, “remain uninsured as a matter of choice.”
And then you wake up. A scathing article in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times described how insurers refuse to cover anyone with even the slightest hint of a pre-existing condition. People have been denied insurance for reasons that range from childhood asthma to a “past bout of jock itch.”
Some say that we can’t afford universal health care, even though every year lack of insurance plunges millions of Americans into severe financial distress and sends thousands to an early grave. But every other advanced country somehow manages to provide all its citizens with essential care. The only reason universal coverage seems hard to achieve here is the spectacular inefficiency of the U.S. health care system.
Americans spend more on health care per person than anyone else — almost twice as much as the French, whose medical care is among the best in the world. Yet we have the highest infant mortality and close to the lowest life expectancy of any wealthy nation. How do we do it?
Cranberry juice as sold in the supermarket—heavily sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup—is pretty awful stuff. But you can readily find (at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and health-food stores) pure cranberry juice or extract. Diluted with water with perhaps a squeeze of lime or lemon juice, it’s quite tasty. And good for you:
Drinking cranberry juice three times a day over the course of a month increased all the volunteers’ blood concentration of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol—the so-called good cholesterol—by 10 percent. The juice didn’t affect low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or triglycerides, which are other fatty substances in the blood. However, epidemiological studies by others have correlated HDL-cholesterol increases of this magnitude with about a 40 percent drop in heart-disease risk, Vinson notes.
More at the link. Worth clicking. And tomorrow I’m picking up some pure cranberry juice (no sweetening) to make a pomegranate-cranberry drink.
Jet Li’s Fearless is a movie with martial arts that transcends the martial arts genre—like Hero and House of Flying Daggers and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It tells a story based on an historical figure, Huo Yuanjia, and the role he played in providing China a hero at a time when it was known as “the sick man of Asia” and dominated by foreign occupiers.
Like the other three movies mentioned, Fearless is well worth viewing.
But some are practicing for it. The beginning grafs from this one:
One of the interesting implications of the Manassas Park pool hall case I’ve been following is that the initial police raid on the bar was conducting under the auspices of a state alcohol inspection. The raid was clearly part of a criminal investigation, but bringing the police in under the formality of an ABC inspection obviated the need for a search warrant.
This to me is the most troubling part of the recent federal circuit court ruling dismissing the civil rights suit filed by David Ruttenberg, the owner of the bar. The judge found that bringing 70+ police officers , some in ski-masks and pumping shot guns as they entered the bar, turning a business upside down, and handcuffing many of its customers — all for the alleged purpose of checking to make sure the bar was complying with Virginia’s alcohol regulations — was not so unreasonable as to violate the Fourth Amendment.
Read this excerpt from The World’s Worst: A Guide to the Most Disgusting, Hideous, Inept, and Dangerous People, Places, and Things on Earth. This one is one of the very worst of people.
Also: the very worst diet: Breatharianism, which involves no solid food or liquid, simply breathing and subsisting on pranic energy. The only drawback seems to be death from starvation as you develop the skill.
The Son highly recommends this recipe, with the proviso that you use Spanish chorizo, not Mexican chorizo. The Spanish version is something like pepperoni. (There’s a mild version of the chorizo on the same site, but I can’t figure out what it would be used for.) This sounds like a great winter-time stew.
- 2 (2-pound) octopus, cleaned
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups chopped onions
- 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
- 2 crushed bay leaves
- 1/2 pound chorizo sausage, sliced 1/4-inch thick
- 2 cups white wine
- 2 pounds fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
- 1 pound new potatoes
- 2 cans of chickpeas
- 2 quarts of chicken stock
- Pinch of crushed red pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- Salt and pepper
Submerge the octopus in a large pot of boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and let them cool. Cut the tentacles and center section into 2-inch lengths or chunks. In a large pot, add the olive oil. When the oil is hot add the onions, garlic and bay leaves. Fry the vegetables in the oil for 3 to 4 minutes, or until slightly wilted. Add the chorizo and cook until browned and the fat is rendered, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the octopus and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Deglaze the pan with the wine. Bring the liquid up to a boil and reduce by half, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, and season with the salt and pepper. Add the potatoes, chickpeas, and stock. Bring the liquid up to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer the stew for about 2 hours on low heat. Stir in the crushed red pepper, fresh coriander and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Line the individual bowls with crusty bread. Ladle the stew over the bread and serve.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Here’s a free Windows software tool designed for writing novels: yWriter. Take a look at some of the screenshots—it’s pretty cool. And free. And the current version is 22.214.171.124, last updated in November—so you won’t have the version 1.0 problems to deal with.
The program is designed to let you work on chapters, scenes, characters, etc., and keep track of those things and let you organize them. Very handy looking.
Look around the site—he has lots of other free tools. Example: yLend, a program to track stuff you’ve lent. HamTime caught my eye, but it’s a program that alerts radio amateurs (“hams”) that it’s time to announce their call sign. (The FCC requires the announcement at least every 10 minutes.) Others:
yBook: displays electronic books for reading
yPlay: plays MP3, OGG, WMA, etc., files: compact, clean design
yTimer: runs up to 40 countdown timers
And others. Check it out.
GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba — At one end of a converted trailer in the American military detention center here, a graying Pakistani businessman sat shackled before a review board of uniformed officers, pleading for his freedom.
The prisoner had seen just a brief summary of what officials said was a thick dossier of intelligence linking him to Al Qaeda. He had not seen his own legal papers since they were taken away in an unrelated investigation. He has lawyers working on his behalf in Washington, London and Pakistan, but here his only assistance came from an Army lieutenant colonel, who stumbled as he read the prisoner’s handwritten statement.
As the hearing concluded, the detainee, who cannot be identified publicly under military rules, had a question. He is a citizen of Pakistan, he noted. He was arrested on a business trip to Thailand. On what authority or charges was he even being held?
“That question,” a Marine colonel presiding over the panel answered, “is outside the limits of what this board is permitted to consider.”
Under a law passed by Congress and signed by President Bush in October, this double-wide trailer may be as close to a courtroom as most Guantánamo prisoners ever get. The law prohibits them from challenging their detention or treatment by writs of habeas corpus in the federal courts. Instead, they may only petition a single federal appeals court to examine whether the review boards followed the military’s own procedures in reviewing their status as “enemy combatants.”
But an examination of the Guantánamo review boards by The New York Times suggests that they have often fallen short, not only as a source of due process for the hundreds of men held here, but also as a forum to resolve questions about what the detainees have done and the threats they may pose.
Some limitations have long been evident. The prisoners have no right to a lawyer, or to see classified evidence, or even to know the identity of their accusers. What has been less visible, however, is what many officials describe as a continuing shortage of information about many detainees, including some who have been held on sketchy or disputed intelligence.
Behind the hearings that journalists are allowed to observe is a system that has at times been as long on government infighting and diplomatic maneuvering as it has been short on hard evidence. The result, current and former officials acknowledged, is that some detainees have been held for years on less compelling information, while a growing number of others for whom there was thought to be stronger evidence of militant activities have been released under secret arrangements between Washington and their home governments.
Military officials emphasize that the boards are an administrative forum and were never intended to replicate judicial standards of fairness. But they say the hearings offer prisoners a viable opportunity to rebut the government’s evidence.
Great auction. Be sure to read the questions and answers at the bottom. Thanks to The Wife for pointing this out. (What was she searching for?)
But some people seem to be practicing for it.
I don’t know how “lifehacks” became a popular term, but there it is. And here are 50 of them, from which you can probably find a few that are helpful to you.
The Democratic Congress plans to take action:
As they return to work, congressional Democrats intend to move on three fronts: a 100-hour plan, a long-term agenda, and a barrage of oversight hearings on various issues but particularly on the Iraq war.
Within the first 100 hours of legislative business, a deadline expected to close just before Bush delivers his State of the Union address, House Democrats say they’ll vote to:
- Raise the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour.
- Curb lobbyists’ influence by banning meals and gifts to lawmakers and requiring more disclosure and oversight.
- Repeal subsidies for the oil industry.
- Cut college-loan interest rates in half.
- Reduce prescription-drug prices for seniors by requiring Medicare to negotiate rates with pharmaceutical companies.
- Pass another bill that allows expanded federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, betting on better prospects for an override if the president vetoes it again.
- Implement unfulfilled recommendations of the Sept. 11 commission and beef up port security.
Via Glenn Greenwald, the worst top 10. The reason we revolted against England was to secure our civil liberties—now they’re being trashed.
Glenn Greenwald points out that Bush has praised Iraq for holding a fair public trial and the used the rule of law to convict Saddam Hussein, who (according to Bush) is the King of Terrorists. And yet—Bush won’t allow the rule of law to apply to anyone simply suspected of being a terrorist, citizen or not. (If a citizen, Bush can simply unilaterally declare the person to be an enemy combatant, and all the protection of the law, the Constitution, fair procedures simply drop away.)
BEHOLDEN TO BIG OIL…. If I didn’t know better, I might just think the Bush administration is a little too cozy with the oil industry.
The Justice Department is investigating whether the director of a multibillion-dollar oil-trading program at the Interior Department has been paid as a consultant for oil companies hoping for contracts.
The director of the program and three subordinates, all based in Denver, have been transferred to different jobs and have been ordered to cease all contacts with the oil industry until the investigation is completed some time next spring, according to officials involved.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation had not been announced publicly, said investigators were worried that senior government officials had been steering huge oil-trading contracts to favored companies.
This news, of course, comes shortly after we learned that former Interior Secretary Gale Norton has sailed through the revolving door to become a lawyer for Royal Dutch Shell.
Which comes shortly after revelations that officials at Bush’s Interior Department tried to hide information that federal incentives for oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico are not cost effective, do not produce a lot of oil, and are generally just a massive give-away to oil companies.
Which comes shortly after news the Interior Department has barely bothered to collect royalties from oil companies, which the industry owes the government for drilling on federal property, in recent years.
If administration officials aren’t careful, the public might get the impression that they’re beholden to Big Oil. Wouldn’t that be shocking?