URLs du Jour

2020-08-08

  • Sean Carroll is a Caltech physicist—they don't come any better—but a recent tweet demonstrates that (to be charitable) brilliance in one field is not portable to others:

    Question 1 is an effort to get Trump to say something racist; Question 3 is probably designed to get him to say something seditious; Question 4 tries to get him to reveal his Biblical ignorance.

    But I want to concentrate on Question 2: "Should we guarantee health care to every American?"

    If such a question were posed to me, I hope I'd have the presence of mind to answer something like this:

    Sean, you appear to think that "we" (by which I assume you mean "government") are in a position to "guarantee" some sort of service to our fellow citizens. Despite not being qualified to provide such service ourselves. Fine. A lot of people think that. A lot of people believe in ghosts, too.

    Leaving that aside: what do you think such a guarantee would consist of? If I don't receive "health care", do I get my money back? (What money?)

    I'll note that we do have (sort of) a guarantee in place today: it's called EMTALA ("Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act"), enacted back in 1986. As the name implies, it requires hospitals to provide treatment for emergency medical conditions, without regard for the patient's ability to pay.

    Now, the "guarantee" it provides doesn't directly compensate the patient if "health care" fails to be provided; it fines physicians and hospitals, and opens them up to civil liability.

    Health care provided by EMTALA is an unfunded mandate; taxpayers are not (directly) on the hook, doctors and physicians are. But (you bet) the expenses incurred are made up for in the inflated medical costs paid by solvent patients, insurance companies, and Uncle Stupid.

    So, you mean something else? What, exactly? Or are you just signalling your virtue with a meaningless slogan?

    I should toss in something relevant from a recent WSJ editorial, about COVID-19 and Sweden:

    America’s liberals cite Sweden’s relatively high death rate (56 per 100,000 compared to 45.1 in France and 35.8 in the Netherlands). But two-thirds of deaths have been among those over age 80, and 97% never received intensive-care treatment. Blame Sweden’s socialized health system, which rationed treatment for the elderly even though ICUs were never overwhelmed.

    Sweden is also cited by America's liberals as a country where health care is "guaranteed". Just not intensive care.


  • LA Mayor Eric Garcetti was (once) floated as a possible presidential candidate. He's showing his chops, as described by Christian Britschgi at Reason: Los Angeles Will Shut Off People’s Utilities For Hosting Parties, Not For Failing To Pay Their Utility Bills.

    In Los Angeles, you can have your power turned off for having parties at your house, but not for failing to pay your power bill.

    On Wednesday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that he was authorizing the city-controlled Department of Water and Power (DWP) to shut off utilities to homes and businesses that host unpermitted gatherings in violation of county and city stay-at-home orders.

    The order comes in response to reports of large parties being held at residences across Los Angeles, including one on Tuesday night that ended in the shooting death of one attendee.

    In today's America, I'd guess a significant fraction of the citizenry will read that and think: Yay, Garcetti! Serves 'em right!


  • Scott Linicome at Cato notes the ability of markets to produce goods "Seemingly Out of Nowhere".

    A few short interminable months ago, COVID-19 had made it almost impossible to find hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and other cleaning products at the local grocery store or online. The shortages not only sent Americans scrambling for supplies (I actually mailed my mom some Clorox Wipes), but also elicited calls from both the right and the left for major changes to U.S. trade and economic policy. Florida Senator Marco Rubio, for example, in April wrote in the New York Times that our empty shelves proved that America, suffering a “severely diminished” manufacturing base due to U.S. politicians’ decades‐​long “choice to facilitate offshoring,” needed a “sensible industrial policy” that included “the re‐​shoring of supply chains integral national interest.” Sure, Rubio argued, “some heroic businesses have shifted production to help fill this gap and produce masks, hand sanitizer and other goods,” but “the nation is still behind” because “we by and large lack the ability to make things.” Scott Paul of the union‐​backed Alliance for American Manufacturing made similar claims on those very same pages a few days earlier. Others implored the president to invoke the wartime Defense Production Act to “contract with companies throughout the country to widely produce and distribute free soap and hand sanitizer.” Others still said that the sanitizer shortages of March and April called both global supply chains and capitalism itself into question. “Medical masks are already in short supply, and everyday items such as hand sanitizer have become difficult to find,” said progressive economist James K. Galbraith in March, because “[T]he heavily globalized, consumer‐ and finance‐​driven U.S. economy was not designed for a pandemic.”

    Fast forward to today: “Walk into any drug store, grocery chain or market today, and you’ll be hit with a wall of hand sanitizers and cleaning products that help fight against the coronavirus.” Wow!

    The 'seemingly out of nowhere' phrasing is from (I am not making this up) a CNN Business story: first link in the second paragraph. It is regrettable, yet unsurprising, that a CNN Business correspondent seems so mystified by ordinary market responses.


  • [Amazon Link]
    At the Federalist, Katya Sedgwick recounts the latest Great Debate among the Deep Thinkers: When Educrats Can't Even Agree That 2+2=4, Public Education Is A Joke.

    It started on July 5 when Nikole Hannah-Jones, who penned the lead essay for The New York Times’ 1619 Project, was trolled with a meme. The meme came from philosopher James Lindsay, whose upcoming “Cynical Theories” book on identity politics co-written with Helen Pluckrose is already an Amazon bestseller. Lindsay summarized the exchange:

    [I]t appears someone put this Woke Mini into the employ of satirically replying to Nikole Hannah-Jones on the fifth of July in response to her tweeting, ‘I wonder if folks always talking about ‘standards’ ever stop to consider that it’s their so-called standards that are the actual problem.’ Hannah-Jones decided to make fun of me by quote-retweeting this delightful troll, including the image of the ‘2+2=4’ Woke Mini, and adding the comment, ‘Using Arabic numerals to try to make a point about white, Western superiority is just so damn classic.’

    Referring to George Orwell’s 1984, and poking fun of wokesterism, Lindsay quipped: “2+2=4: A perspective in white, Western mathematics that marginalizes other possible values.”

    And it just went from there. Public education may be a joke, but… maybe not a particularly funny one.

    I've plunked the Pluckrose/Lindsay book on my TTR list. Amazon link above.


  • And in our (increasingly common) "<voice imitation="professor_farnsworth">Good news, everyone!</voice>" Department: NASA to Reexamine Nicknames for Cosmic Objects.

    Distant cosmic objects such as planets, galaxies, and nebulae are sometimes referred to by the scientific community with unofficial nicknames. As the scientific community works to identify and address systemic discrimination and inequality in all aspects of the field, it has become clear that certain cosmic nicknames are not only insensitive, but can be actively harmful. NASA is examining its use of unofficial terminology for cosmic objects as part of its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

    As an initial step, NASA will no longer refer to planetary nebula NGC 2392, the glowing remains of a Sun-like star that is blowing off its outer layers at the end of its life, as the “Eskimo Nebula.” “Eskimo” is widely viewed as a colonial term with a racist history, imposed on the indigenous people of Arctic regions. Most official documents have moved away from its use. NASA will also no longer use the term “Siamese Twins Galaxy” to refer to NGC 4567 and NGC 4568, a pair of spiral galaxies found in the Virgo Galaxy Cluster. Moving forward, NASA will use only the official, International Astronomical Union designations in cases where nicknames are inappropriate. 

    Not just harmful, dear reader. "Actively harmful". The body count caused by the Eskimo Nebula alone is probably fast approaching the single-digit range. Real soon now.

    NASA has people on the payroll thinking this stuff up, producing the press releases, approving the wording.

    Actually doing its job? Not so much.