Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for October 29th, 2013

Time to end the Global War on Terror

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James fallows has an excellent post at the Atlantic:

Six months ago, President Obama said that the fearfulness and over-reaction of the ‘GWOT’ were doing far more harm than good. He was right then, and still is. So why hasn’t he matched his — our — policies to his words?

OCT 27 2013, 2:22 PM ET<

Seven-plus years ago, I argued in a cover story that the open-ended “war on terror” was damaging American interests and American values more than the (still-real) threat of terrorist attack had or ever could.

This wasn’t some big leap of insight or imagination on my part. I was mainly citing military strategists and historians who had demonstrated, over time, that the reaction provoked by terrorist attacks was always more damaging than the original assault itself. Extreme illustration: the nationalist-anarchist assassination of two people in Sarajevo in 1914 leading to the deaths of tens of millions in The Great War. (Hyper-vivid death-car recreation below, via Smithsonian.) The damage done by an over-reactive response to terrorism seems almost a ho-hum point now, but it wasn’t prevailing opinion at the time, and I will always be grateful to James Bennet, then just installed as our editor, for sticking with it as his first cover story.

Thus I was glad when, earlier this year, President Obama announced that it was time to “define our effort not as a boundless ‘global war on terror’ – but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America.”

But as with various other aspects of the Administration and of this era, we’ve learned that it’s one thing to announce “change!” and something else to bring it about. The drone war goes on, the NSA programs go on, surveillance increases and detentions continue — and the damage mounts up faster than we reckon. There’s immediate damage to the objects of these programs, of course — but broader and longer-lasting damage to American institutions, interests, and ideals. (As you’ve read from Conor FriedersdorfAndrew Cohen, and otherAtlantic writers over the years.)

This is all by way of directing you to David Rohde’s latest installment in this vein, “Our Fear of Al-Qaeda Hurts Us More Than Al-Qaeda Does.” Exactly so. And he speaks with the credibility of someone who knows about the direct damage terrorists can do, having been kidnapped and held hostage by the Taliban for nine months in Afghanistan.

Read it, and let us see whether our government can change a policy that the president himself has stated is damaging the world in general and us as well.


Update: For the corresponding effects on European politics, and US-European relations, please see this item by Michael Brenner, on Chuck Spinney’s The Blaster.

Written by Leisureguy

29 October 2013 at 4:31 pm

Healthcare insurance premiums for individual buyers

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This does not apply to those who have health insurance through their employer or Medicare or Medicaid, which is the bulk of the population. It applies on to the individual market, currently about 5% of the population, but with the Affordable Care Act, it’s likely that 10% of the population will now have health insurance on the individual market: the number of people with healthcare insurance will double. (Some conservatives, particularly in the South, really hate this.)

Two diagrams

BEFORE

Before

AFTER

after

See this post for an explanation.

Written by Leisureguy

29 October 2013 at 12:40 pm

More information on health insurance cancellations

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Sarah Kliff explains in the Washington Post‘s Wonkblog:

So these insurance cancellation notices. I hear a lot about them. What’s the deal?

Let’s start with the very basics here. About 15 million people purchase health insurance policies on the individual market. That’s about 5 percent of the population. When they do so, they typically purchase a 12-month contract with an insurance company. And when that contract runs out, both the individual and the insurance plan have an escape hatch. The individual can decide to no longer purchase the plan — and the insurance company can decide to no longer offer the plan.

Most individuals don’t stay in the individual market very long: One study, published in the journal Health Affairsfound that 17 percent of individual market subscribers purchased the same plan for two straight years or longer.

There are some restrictions on how insurance companies can terminate products. HIPAA, a health law passed in the 1990s, does require that insurance companies offer subscribers the opportunity to renew their policy, so long as they continue to pay monthly premiums. If they want to discontinue a subscriber’s policy, the insurance plan must provide 90 days notice and “the option to purchase any other individual health insurance coverage currently being offered by the issuer for individuals in that market.”

And these are the notices that insurance plans are sending out right now, to hundreds of thousands of subscribers: notices saying that they do not plan to offer the policy anymore, and information about what policies will be available.

So why is this happening right now? 

Some — or maybe even most — of the plans offered on the individual insurance market right now don’t meet certain requirements in the health-care law. They may not offer preventive care without co-payment, for example, or leave out coverage of maternity care, one of the health-care law’s 10 essential benefits.

Some of these plans have stuck around for a little bit. The health law allowed . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

29 October 2013 at 10:59 am

Open-platform smartphone: the anti-iPhone

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More info in this article.

Written by Leisureguy

29 October 2013 at 10:54 am

Posted in Technology

Replacing bad insurance plans (subject to cancellation without notice) with good plans

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Sometimes the new plan will cost more. Steve Bene posts at MSNBC:

We’ve known for several years that once the Affordable Care Act is implemented, substandard insurance plans would be replaced with better, stronger coverage. Nevertheless, as lots of folks learn that their old plans are being replaced, this has led to a variety ofoverheated reports featuring shocked consumers. (That insurers routinely dropped Americans’ coverage under the old system is often overlooked.)

Leading much of the coverage is a woman named Dianne Barrette, a 56-year-old resident of Winter Haven, Fla., who’s made a flurry of television appearances after Blue Cross/Blue Shield informed her that her old plan is being replaced with a new one, and her new coverage will be more expensive. “What I have right now is what I’m happy with, and I just want to know why I can’t keep what I have,” she said on CBS. “Why do I have to be forced into something else?”

To his credit, the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple took a closer look at the anecdotal evidence.

More coverage may provide a deeper understanding of the ins and outs of Barrette’s situation: Her current health insurance plan, she says, doesn’t cover “extended hospital stays; it’s not designed for that,” says Barrette. Well, does it cover any hospitalization? “Outpatient only,” responds Barrette. Nor does it cover ambulance service and some prenatal care. On the other hand, says Barrette, it does cover “most of my generic drugs that I need” and there’s a $50 co-pay for doctors’ appointments. “It’s all I could afford right now,” says Barrette.

In sum, it’s a pray-that-you-don’t-really-get-sick “plan.”

If this woman had a serious ailment and was forced to stay in the hospital for a while, her old plan would have likely destroyed her financial life permanently, leaving her bankrupt. Now, thanks to “Obamacare,” in the event of a disaster, she’ll be protected with coverage her insurer can’t take away – with no annual or lifetime caps.

In other words, the new horror story for critics of the health care law features a middle-aged woman trading a bad plan for a good plan, and health care insecurity for health care security.

What’s more, while much of the coverage of Barrette’s situation has focused on the higher monthly cost of her new, better insurance plan, there’s another detail that’s been overlooked by some: she’ll be eligible for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. The cost of the coverage isn’t what she’ll actually have to pay out of her own pocket.

If it seems like this keeps coming up, with Republicans and news outlets latching onto anecdotes that seem to cast the health care law in a negative light, only to look much better upon closer scrutiny, that’s because this keeps happening. If the law were as awful as detractors claim, shouldn’t it be easier to find legitimate victims?

I’ll add that, in reading criticisms of Obamacare, many people seem not to understand the whole idea of insurance, which they view as some kind of Marxian redistribution subterfuge: “Those who don’t use their insurance and subsidizing those who do!!!!” Well, yeah. That’s the idea. I’m reminded of the Duke and the Dauphin in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. “Hain’t we got all the fools in town on our side? And ain’t that a big enough majority in any town?”

Written by Leisureguy

29 October 2013 at 10:41 am

Posted in Healthcare

More treasures from Paris

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SOTD 29 Oct 2013

Rupert Bizzell has long recommended the use of powdered alum as a styptic. Unlike alum blocks, he has commented (as on this post) that powdered alum is extremely effective on nicks and cuts. And one of the things The Wife found in Paris was this very nice container of alum powder. The lid rotates but is not removed, and as you rotate it over the opening punched into the top of the container, beneath the rotating lid, you can select a fine shaker, coarse shaker, and open hole, with the user selecting the best approach for the task at hand. Unfortunately, not nicks today, but I will test.

Rupert comments that styptic pencils are made of alum, and the Pinaud Clubman styptic pencil, for example, uses aluminum sulfate, or rather than potassium alum (the sort one wants in alum blocks). Liquid styptics are a little more complex. Here are two examples:

MNIS: Aluminum Chloride, Benzocaine USP, SD Alcohol 38 B, Methylcellulose, Phenyl Salicylate, Bergamot (Citrus Aurantium Bergamia) Oil, Vitamin A & E, Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis) Leaf Juice

Pacific Shaving’s Nick Stick: SD Alcohol (Ethyl Alcohol), Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice, Water (Aqua), Aluminum Chloride Hexahydrate, Tocopherol (Vitamin E), Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Fruit Oil, Hydroxypropylcellulose

I don’t know the difference between the action of aluminum chloride and aluminum sulfate, but for some reason these two liquid styptics use the latter.

At any rate, I’m delighted to have the powder and I’m interested to try it when I again nick myself.

Also she brought the tiny travel puck of Tardé shaving soap. I used a matching tiny travel brush, the Wee Scot. I got a good lather, and set to work with the Eros slant holding a Gillette 7 O’Clock SharpEdge. Three passes to perfect smoothness, though in the third pass the lather seemed less robust, so I used that as an excuse to reload the brush with Asses’ Milk shaving soap—really terrific stuff.

A good splash of Saint Charles Shave’s Very V, and things are settling down again.

Written by Leisureguy

29 October 2013 at 9:51 am

Posted in Daily life, Shaving

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