Thursday, December 31, 2009
- Nicholas Kristof writes about how a reliable savings account can change lives in Third World countries. I still think saving money is something people need to learn how to do here, too.
- Gail Collins bids a not-so-fond farewell to 2009 in "That Was the Year That Was." If you want to think about what a long year it was, remember that George W. Bush was still the president when the calendar switched to January 2009.
- POLITICO presents: The Top 10 Weirdest (Political) Moments of 2009. And boy, are there some great ones. Starting with Obama getting sworn in twice and Sarah Palin resigning.
- And always my favorite end-of-year highlight: TIME's list of the 25 Best Blogs of the year. Happily, Zen Habits (my favorite blog) made the list again. Sadly, I am not yet on there (haha). Maybe some day.
Monday, December 28, 2009
- It's basically true that doctors nearly always get screwed by universal health care systems in comparison to what doctors in the US earn...
- ...but on the grand scale, they're not exactly badly off in most cases. They usually earn around $100k or more per year and live comfortable middle-class lifestyles...
- ...Although this ability is partly because they accumulate much lower (or nonexistent) medical debts from their education, and have to pay so little for malpractice insurance (because there are so few malpractice lawsuits).
- The presence of a moral imperative (Is health care a fundamental right?) is an essential part of the discussion around having a universal system. Economic discussions won't get the job done because they don't reach to the core of the issue.
- Health care "rationing" is a part of life. In any and every system on earth.
- In universal systems (Britain is an especially good example) there is a high incentive for good preventative care and low administrative costs. Not so in the US.
- One of the best ways to lower administrative costs is to digitize health records (see: France's carte vitale).
- In order for a universal system to work properly, you must have both an individual mandate and a guaranteed issue. In other words, everyone must buy into the system (to create a large enough risk pool, especially if using the Bismarck model) and insurance companies cannot deny a claim or coverage if you pay your premiums on time.
- Guaranteed issue is another good way to reduce those hefty administrative costs. No need to pay claims adjusters, etc., when you can't deny claims and must pay them quickly.
- No health care system is perfect; all of them have pros and cons. But the US can-- and, in my opinion, must-- do better than it does now.
Sunday, December 27, 2009
- Amusing as always, Maureen Dowd let her brother Kevin take over her NYT column today for a highly unusual (for this column) conservative perspective on the year's events.
- Nicholas Kristof republished an old column today called "Johnson, Gorbachev, Obama" that is a truly excellent look at Afghanistan foreign policy, largely from an Afghan perspective. Well worth the read.
- President Obama is in Hawaii for Christmas-- the first president to spend the holiday itself away from Washington in more than 20 years. But that doesn't mean he gets to escape the duties of the job-- as presidents throughout history have learned. The New York Times' White House Memo has a piece on "Taking Work Home-- Even When Home Means Hawaii." (Incidentally, for a great book on presidential vacation spots, check out Kenneth Walsh's "From Mount Vernon to Crawford.")
- The Washington Post has an interesting piece on how Obama and the Democrats can possibly turn their challenging 2009 year around in 2010 and hopefully limit the losses in the House and Senate with a refocus on the economy and generally dialing things down from this extremely contentious first year.
- The Post's Joel Achenbach also has a review of the decade we never expected-- the 2000s-- and where we've come since then.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Happy Boxing Day! A delightful day where everybody heads for the malls and the movies to blow that Christmas cash. I'll be doing the latter, going with my little sister to see Sherlock Holmes this afternoon. Meanwhile, here's a few articles from here and there:
- First of all, always the highlight of my morning reading, the comics. Calvin & Hobbes have a good one today, which I fully appreciate (see above, or click here for the link).
- Ross Douthat of the New York Times has a good op-ed piece on "The Obama Way" and how hard he has been to characterize as a leader in his first year as president.
- Teenagers are apparently "getting" that there is a recession going on this holiday, and cutting back on shopping-- much to the detriment of higher-end teenage clothing retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch, but to the benefit of stores like Aeropostale, Gap, and TJ Maxx.
- At Christmas, it's easy to forget about people of other faiths-- as much as many people pay lip service to Hanukkah, for example, the Christian holiday dominates. The New York Times has a thoughtful article today on the challenges of celebrating Christmas for recent converts to Judaism.
- Count on POLITICO-- highlighting the "Top Ten Tweets of 2009" from the political and media world, the list includes Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Chuck Grassley, and more.
- The story is still developing on the attempted (but thankfully failed) terrorist attack from yesterday-- a frightening story that reminds us once again that we do not live in an isolated bubble from the rest of the world, and that the world doesn't stop entirely on our holidays. My prayers for safety go out to all those traveling today.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
- Dana Milbank's Washington Sketch in the Washington Post discusses the long list of wordsmithing ways in which votes have been bought for this reform bill in the Senate: "On health-care bill, Democratic senators are in states of denial."
- The Post also has a piece about the toll this debate is taking on senators and their staff members, who may not get to go home until late Christmas Eve or early Christmas morning. Perhaps some of them will catch a ride with Santa? See: "Health-care vote means senators will spend Christmas Eve at the Capitol."
- Politico opinion contributor and public option advocate Jacob Hacker discusses the bittersweet moment that will surround the passage of this bill for people like him who support a public plan. See: "Senate health bill is launch pad."
- Politico also has a good piece on the passage of last night's procedural hurdle in the Senate. See: "Health bill clears another hurdle."
Sunday, December 20, 2009
- Washington Post: "Deal on Health Bill Is Reached"
- Washington Post: "To Sway Nelson, A Hard-Won Compromise on Abortion Issue"
- New York Times columnists argue: Paul Krugman says to "Pass the Bill"; David Brooks argues pros and cons, but ultimately concludes "no" in "The Hardest Call."
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
The problem with their reading of history is that it is wrong. There is no doubt, as we have seen, that the Founders lived in and consciously bequeathed a culture shaped and sustained by public religion, one that was not Christian or Jewish or Muslim or Buddhist but was simply transcendent, with reverence for the "Creator" and for "Nature's God."
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
Monday, November 02, 2009
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Friday, October 09, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
"Mr. Wilson’s outburst last night has turned into a fundraising bonanza for Mr. Miller, who is challenging him again. Since last night, Mr. Miller has received more than $200,000 in contributions from across the country. (Update: By the end of the afternoon, the Act Blue fundraising Web site showed that Mr. Miller had received more than $466,000 in donations.) In a fund-raising e-mail sent out today, retired Gen. Wesley Clark, a former Democratic presidential candidate, noted: “With only $300,000 last cycle, Rob got 46 percent of the vote. Joe Wilson’s antics have given Rob the opening to win in 2010.”"
Here they are singing "In the Jungle [The Lion Sleeps Tonight]" at Mr. Yogato, one of DC's greatest frozen yogurt shops:
And here is the classic song "Good Ol' A Cappella in AU's Katzen Arts Center:
And my favorite, from last year's Parents' Weekend concert, here is Michael Jackson's classic song "Thriller," complete with dance moves:
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Politics goes on the sidelines for today, as the nation mourns the loss of the great Senator Edward M. "Ted" Kennedy, the last surviving Kennedy brother. Kennedy had been in the Senate for almost fifty years when he died last night of brain cancer. He was known as the "liberal lion" of the Senate, a man who never failed to strive for that which was best for his state and his country. Kennedy especially championed civil rights and, most recently, health care reform. I pray that his passing will revitalize the champions of real reform, and that the Edward M. Kennedy Health Reform Act will be passed into law within the next year.
This great speech came from the 2008 Democratic National Convention, right after Kennedy had undergone surgery for his brain tumor:
Sunday, August 23, 2009
44. He's Just Not That Into You: Recent release based on a bestselling self-improvement book. One of the best romantic comedies I've seen since Love Actually...and it was really very much in the Love Actually mold, in that there were multiple couples who were connected to each other in random ways. Perfect movie that both guys and girls often like.
45. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington: Classic, classic Frank Capra film about an idealistic small-town man who is sent to the Senate as a replacement, and comes face to face with the corruption, wheeling-and-dealing, and compromising that is a part of political life. Must-see film.
46. Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason: The sequel to the first Bridget Jones movie. Not quite as good, but still entertaining. Bridget and Mark Darcy are blissfully happy until Bridget's naturally suspicious and jealous nature gets in the way.
47. Miss Congeniality: One of my favorite movies. Female FBI agent (Sandra Bullock) with "no discernible trace of estrogen" has to "turn into a lady" when she goes undercover at the Miss United States beauty pageant.
48. Citizen Kane: This is the movie that vies with The Godfather for the #1 spot on all the top 100 movie lists. A fascinating movie looking into the life of a wealthy, strange, and complicated man, who I believe was at least loosely based on William Randolph Hearst.
49. Ocean's Thirteen: The third movie in the Ocean's series. Not as good as the first, but better than the second. Danny and the gang take on a Las Vegas casino tycoon (Al Pacino) who has cheated Reuben out of a share in a new casino.
50. Under the Tuscan Sun: A beautiful movie based on a beautiful book...although both are quite different. In the movie: a divorced woman takes a trip to Italy, and winds up buying a villa in Tuscany and turns her life around.
51. Noises Off!: Hands-down, one of the funniest movies I have ever seen. The cast of a touring show starts out having trouble getting their act together on-stage; when the show finally comes together on-stage, everything goes bad off-stage. Starring Michael Caine, Carol Burnett, Christopher Reeve, and John Ritter.
26. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen: Continuing in my quest to read all of Jane Austen's books, this was an excellent one. A young woman whose mind is wrapped around novels (the trashy reading of the day) sees mystery everywhere...including in the home of the father of the man she loves.
27. The Independence of Miss Mary Bennet by Colleen McCullough: Since I was on an Austen-esque kick for a while, I read this book. Picking up several years after Pride and Prejudice ends, Mary Bennet is the only one of her sisters still single, and so strikes out on her own (much against the wishes of her brother-in-law Darcy) in search of injustice in England.
28. The Teapot Dome Scandal by Laton McCartney: Excellent work of nonfiction about the scandal that occurred when Big Oil financed the election of President Warren G. Harding and took over his administration, giving over naval oil reserves to oil companies...and the subsequent investigations into the players and the process involved. Still a highly relevant work.
29. The Power of Less by Leo Babauta: Regular readers will have heard me mention Leo Babauta before. He's the writer of my new favorite blog, Zen Habits. The Power of Less is his book of advice for simplifying your life to improve its quality. Excellent read.
30. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen: The book that launched the GTD cult. Productivity guru Allen offers advice that anyone can follow to streamline their lives and improve their levels of productivity. My boss at Barnes & Noble made all the managers read it this year. Very well done.
31. Lies My Teacher Told Me by James W. Loewen: Famous book on how American history textbooks revise and sometimes completely rewrite the history of this country, ostensibly to make kids more proud of their country. Loewen urges teachers and textbook companies to improve the quality and teach kids that history really is relevant and interesting.
32. Hood by Stephen Lawhead: All right, I admit it- I'm not done with this one yet. But it is excellent. Lawhead takes the story of Robin Hood, and puts it back where he and other scholars believe it originated: in the Welsh resistance to the Norman invasion.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Still, Jim Ellis says in a POLITICO piece that DeLay could be a force to reckon with on "Dancing With The Stars." I look forward to watching and finding out!
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Meantime, this is a sign that return to the routine of university is near! The beautiful thing about finding the right college is that it really makes you excited to return to school, for the first time in your career as a student. I mean, in middle and high school, the end of summer is something to dread. But for me, at least, that all changed when I got to college. While part of me always misses the lazy (ish) days of summer at home in New England, I enjoy getting back to being with my college friends, and even to the routine of classes and paper-writing and reading and activities. In DC in three days...
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Before Knee Surgery (BKS), I was working at my local Barnes & Noble. I celebrated my 20th birthday. Visitors from Nova Scotia came down to hang out. I cleaned out the clutter in my room and experienced the satisfactory manual labor of sanding and re-staining and varnishing two deck chairs. I started to learn to cook and bake, and read and watched movies. I drove around and hung out with different friends. It was a thoroughly enjoyable (if pretty low-key) summer.
After Knee Surgery (AKS), I spent the first two weeks pretty much just sleeping. I've read and watched movies (like before, only even more) and databased all our movies. People have come to visit me. I've spent time doing pool therapy and going to doctors' appointments. I've slowly started to relearn to walk, but have mostly just rested and let my leg heal.
I don't begrudge the choice I made to do the surgery this summer-- it was the right way to go, to get this taken care of while I had the means and inclination-- but I have to admit that it has made for a rather unusual summer. While I know that this semester will be challenging (especially since I'm not fully recovered yet, and heading back to school next week), I'm looking forward to getting back into the academic routine. Having something to focus my mind on makes being grounded by leg problems much more tolerable.
Friday, August 14, 2009
When the semester finished and I left his class, I kept in sporadic touch with Professor Holliday. In February, I learned from one of my friends (who had signed up for Prof. Holliday's class at my urging) that my former professor had fallen sick. His pain increased, and he soon could not finish the semester. A few weeks later, I learned why. Doctors had diagnosed Professor Holliday with Stage 4 metastatic kidney cancer.
Over the next several months, I followed updates on Professor Holliday's condition, provided by his wife. Regina Holliday fulfilled the role of caretaker; while continuing to look after their two sons, she fought for her husband's care as they went in and out of five different hospitals, dealing with the confusion of botched records transfers, pain management, and treatments. By May, Prof. Holliday entered hospice care; by June they moved him home. There, on June 17, 2009, Professor Frederick A. Holliday died at age 39, surrounded by family and friends.
Professor Holliday taught me a great deal about how film and theater reflect the culture of their times. He also taught me what a truly energetic teacher looks like, and what it means to be really passionate about a subject. More than that, though, his experiences with the US health care system at the end of his life showed me the full extent of the need for real reform.
Others have also taken this lesson to heart. Since her husband's death, Regina Holliday has been employing her gifts for art and advocacy by painting murals in D.C., depicting the need for health care reform. In the latest one, "73 Cents," she has painted her husband in his hospital bed, surrounded by his children, a nurse with her hands tied, and other symbolic figures representing problems in the current health care system. The title of the mural comes from a fact she learned while Prof. Holliday was in the hospital: that a copy of his medical record cost seventy-three cents per page.
The mural has caught some significant public attention as the debate over health care has ramped up in recent weeks. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid asked Mrs. Holliday to speak at a press conference for health care reform. The D.C. FOX affiliate channel, BBC America, and Dana Milbank's Washington Sketch column in The Washington Post also all featured the Hollidays' story over the summer.
Every time another news outlet tells the story, Mrs. Holliday notes this specifically: Before American University hired her husband, the two of them worked five jobs between them to support their family. None of these jobs offered health benefits, and even their combined income was not enough to afford family health insurance. As a result, Prof. Holliday had not been able to see a primary care doctor, so the symptoms of the cancer went unobserved by a medical professional. Had he been regularly receiving primary care, Mrs. Holliday maintains that doctors may have caught the cancer before it reached Stage 4.
The Hollidays' tragedy of health care deprived American University of an excellent professor, as well as a family of a loving husband and father. Their story is profound, and it comes at a time when health care has once again grabbed the national political consciousness. Few issues get more personal than health care-- most of us were patients when we were born, and will be patients when we die; many of us will also be patients at least once somewhere in the middle. A responsible government owes its citizens the chance to be healthy without going broke. No matter what the means of reform will be, I hope that any plan for "fixing the system" will include a comprehensive means of substantially reducing costs and radically expanding coverage.
In the meantime, the debate will go forward. Professor Holliday would have liked that, I think-- his classes always included lively discussion of a range of issues, and his wife is already actively participating in the current discourse. Civil discussion is the lifeblood of a good education as well as of a functioning democracy... that's just one more thing I learned from the Hollidays.
More reading and viewing of the Hollidays' story:
- 20 Amazing and Essential Non-fiction Books to Enrich Your Library
- 50 Amazing and Essential Novels to Enrich Your Library
- The Modern Library's 100 Best Non-fiction Books
- 30 Books Everyone Should Read Before Their 30th Birthday
Thursday, August 13, 2009
On a related note, I am sad to take notice of the internal memo that The Huffington Post claims to have obtained that shows evidence of a previously-denied deal that the Obama White House made with big pharmaceutical companies. This from the presidential candidate who decried special interests. We'll see what comes of this, if anything.
Meanwhile, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich has an important opinion piece up about "How to Fight Healthcare Fearmongers and Demagogues." The most important way: we need a coherent and comprehensible (as well as comprehensive) plan. And we need total honesty about it, what it will cost, and why (really, why) it's so important.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Emphasis mine. The article does address various pros and cons, and it does a fine, balanced job of presenting the Canadian system of health care.
Canada has a universal health care system that's paid for through income taxes and sales tax. All Canadians are covered, and they can see any doctor they want anywhere in the country with no copays or deductibles. Some things aren't covered: optometry, dentistry and outpatient prescription drugs. Many Canadians have private insurance to cover those services, though some struggle to pay for them out of pocket.
U.S. critics of Canadian health care like to call it socialized medicine, but it's more like socialized insurance — meaning the risk is pooled together. And while the individual provinces and territories set their overall health budgets and administer the health plans, the delivery of medical care is private. Doctors run their own businesses and then bill the government.
On a similar note, Consumer Watchdog advocates "Open[ing] Up Medicare To All" as a means of addressing the problem of so many people being uninsured, and presents some solid figures on how Medicare has been a more cost-effective institution than most regular insurance agencies (among other numbers, Medicare spends 2% on overhead; most private insurers spend 25-27% on overhead).
Meanwhile, back on NPR, Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute writes "Health Care Reform? Maybe Next Year." Not because it isn't needed, but because of two factors:
Emphasis, again, mine. Finally in this morning's health care reading, Charles M. Blow writes in the NYT about the "Health Care Hullabaloo" and how Democrats are losing control of the debate, thanks to the apathy from most of their own party. To which I can only say one thing: This is very, very sad.
It's not that we don't need health care reform. Right now, Congress basically conditions health coverage on your ability to get and keep a job. That's not health insurance. That's survival of the fittest.
But there have always been two things standing in the way of Democrats' plans for universal health insurance coverage: math and politics.
- Boost GPA. I'm now safe in terms of my scholarship, but it's time to aim higher for personal best and future gain. Shoot for 3.6+.
- Regain use of right leg. If the surgery I had this summer is to do any good, I must exercise to regain strength and mobility, and thereby a higher quality of life in the long term.
- Live frugally and well within my means. I have been gifted with generous scholarships, but must spend money very carefully-- especially while unemployed.
- Think about what I want to do next. I am halfway through my college career and it's time to look at the logical next steps for after I graduate.
- Maintain a regular, early-ish waking time. Don't waste the day by staying up late and then sleeping for a long time just because I have later classes.
- List top three priorities every day. Get them done early so that the rest of the day is free to deal with whatever comes up.
- Do not go on the computer before getting up, showered, and dressed in the morning.
- Shut down the computer every night.
- Work ahead, work ahead, work ahead. Procrastination is the enemy of relaxation, sleep, and solid work.
- Use a 30-Day List to limit spending habits. (30 Day List rule is that when you decide there is some nonessential item you want to buy, you write it down on a list with the date you record it, and are not allowed to buy that item for 30 days. If, after that amount of time, you still want it, you can budget it in wherever it works.)