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healthcare.gov opens at midnight on the day of the government shutdown and lambert finds a bug

[And if you have your own experiences to share, and especially screen dumps, please add them in comments or contact me. Either Federal Exchanges, or state exchanges. I'm especially interested in Covered California! Thank you! --lambert]

Nice timing.

john.smith@gmail.com from Maine had a registration #FAIL at step 3. Here's the screen dump:

Read more about healthcare.gov opens at midnight on the day of the government shutdown and lambert finds a bug

Obama's SOTU: What do Democrats mean by "middle class," anyhow?

I'm being triply non-linear now, because "Tax the Rich" is #3 in the Twelve Point Platform:

3. Tax the Rich

and so not only am I not beginning at the beginning with #1: A Living Wage, I'm not writing part two of my first attempt on #8: Post Office Bank, either (here is part one). Soon! Moreover, I'm reacting, albeit way too slowly, to the news, seeking to use it as a hook to raise larger issues. (These posts might be better thought of as first drafts for a book, rather than as blog posting.)

In any case: In Obama's State of the Union (SOTU) speech we have a seemingly populist tax proposal. Here is the headline summary from AP:

Obama in State of the Union: Tax wealthy, help middle class

And that's a fair summary. But there are some problems with this formulation, among them:

  1. Obama's proposals are fundamentally unserious
  2. The concept of "middle class" is hazy
  3. The unstated premise is that Federal taxes raise revenue (they don't)
  4. There are good reasons to tax the rich, even if raising revenue is not one of them
  5. We don't know how much Obama will really tax the rich
  6. Obama's proposals are unlikely to help "the middle class," however defined
  7. Concrete material benefits should be our focus, not a "tax fight"

Let's take each of these points in turn. Read more about Obama's SOTU: What do Democrats mean by "middle class," anyhow?

Possible early morning site outage

UPDATE The upgrade is done! This should make your experience much more reliable.

In the continuing effort to figure out why the blankety-blank crashes all the time, my ISP is going to do some server upgrades. (One thing that happens is that we get hit with crawlers, and newer versions of the database will let us handle that better.) Read more about Possible early morning site outage

A Post Office Bank and the Democrats (Part I)

A Post Office Bank is actually #8 of the 12 Point Platform, and not #1 ("A Living Wage"):

8. Post Office Bank

but who said I had to be linear? This is not, let me say at once, the definitive, "final" supporting document for the Post Office Bank, but the result of my current research, such as it is. In fact, I picked this topic because I thought it would be easy, low hanging fruit. In this part, I'll put the Post Office in political context (comments from readers very welcome; this is complicated). In the next part, I'll describe the policy, and what happened when the Post Office proposed it.

Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution enumerates the power of the United States Congress to:

To establish post offices and post roads;

Although there was considerable debate in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries over what "establish"[1] meant, by the time that Rural Free Delivery was initiated in the 1886, and then Parcel Post in 1913, the current paradigm that we think of when we think of "the Post Office" was set: Universal service, physical plant in the form of retail branches, sorting centers, trucks, etc., and a uniformed civil service staff, unionized. Note that the Post Office was transformed by Nixon, at the dawn of neo-liberal political dominance, although this paradigm still applies: Read more about A Post Office Bank and the Democrats (Part I)

The New Year and a Change of Direction

First, let me apologize for the weird Call to undefined function tribune_menu_load() some of you were getting yesterday; I spent a few hours last night upgrading all the site modules to their most recent versions (the site itself comes next) and the tribune module was on the list of those that could not be upgraded. Unfortunately, when I uninstalled that module, it left little bits of itself lying about in caches and the database, and even though I killed it off in the database, it somehow rose from the grave. All should now be well.

More centrally, I apologize for going walkabout. I think I complained about the food poisoning, and then about the poison ivy and (I am convinced) subsequent cellulitis on my right (typing) hand and arm, but as it turns out I boasted prematurely about dodging the hacking cough, because of my clever purchase of a bellows. In fact, I got the worst hacking cough ever -- the kind where, typing, one feels that little chunks of lung are spattering the screen -- and had to go back to the Helen Hunt clinic again, for more pills of a different kind and an inhaler. I can't remember having been to the doctor twice in one month! I couldn't talk for days. My lack of comfort with this sighting shot from mortality aside, I wonder if I was telling myself something with all those photographs of rot and decay I had been taking, beautiful though they are; specifically, I wonder if all the insulation I installed had the unintended side effect of forcing me to breath fine dust and micro-organisms that would otherwise have been blown around and away by drafts! Read more about The New Year and a Change of Direction

Wet Christmas

Sorry for the long absence. Er, I'll explain later. I took these pictures on Christmas Day, when it was 50°F -- not like now! (And how foolish I was to think we would escape the cold...) So, this is the last series of garden pictures I'll take, until it comes time to start working the soil again, probably in April. I learned a lot this year!

What I saw when I walked out the door:

Snow melt everywhere! Read more about Wet Christmas

Common Household Remedies Request

It's a relief to have a diagnosis, but it would be even more relief to have a cure! So, while I don't have cellulitis, or the antibiotics are killing it, and the aches and pains have mostly gone away, I do have what looks like a bad case of poison ivy on my right, or typing hand. So I'm asking for poison Ivy cures! Read more about Common Household Remedies Request

Go shopping

For example, at the Mall of America:

Arthur needs to take his cat to the vet

Here. If you've got a little extra to spread XMas cheer, you could do worse than throw it Arthur's way. Read more about Arthur needs to take his cat to the vet

Confession time: I love my bellows!

This year I decided I was tired of coughing all winter from starting the fire in the wood stove by blowing on it, and getting all this horrible fine ash in my lungs. So I splurged on an excellent bellows: The Long John Bellows. It's made from wood, the bellows are suede, and the nozzle is copper, so I can direct the airflow right at the coals. There's no plastic. "Not a toy but a tool!"

So now my fire starts much quicker, I don't have to get down on my knees, and I don't have that horrible dry hacking cough so many Mainers have. Read more about Confession time: I love my bellows!

Twitter founder: News, including the news on Twitter, is bad for your mental health

Business Insider, an interview with Twitter co-counter Evan Williams:

WILLIAMS: Yeah. Twitter is essentially a news service, and news is important for society, but personally I don't want to spend most of my reading time reading news. I get a lot more value out of other types of content and I think most people do as well. There's a natural urge to know what's going on. It's biological and it's social: What's new? What's everyone talking about? What's this shiny object? The vast majority of it isn't valuable to people and it may be even harmful, and that's well-reported, accurate news.

BUSINESS INSIDER: Harmful because it's misleading people or because it's taking up mindshare that could be used for better purposes? 

WILLIAMS: It's creating anxieties that have no outlet. It's psychologically harmful. TV news is the epitome of this. Its whole goal is the raise enough anxiety that you tune in. It's not to inform or make society smarter. That causes us to have irrational fears about things that are extremely unlikely and highlights those instead of normal things that are actually harmful, like what you eat or watching TV news.

True as far as it goes. Read more about Twitter founder: News, including the news on Twitter, is bad for your mental health

Ayn Rand Reviews Children’s Movies

The New Yorker. So awesome. This is my favorite:

“Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory”

An excellent movie. The obviously unfit individuals are winnowed out through a series of entrepreneurial tests and, in the end, an enterprising young boy receives a factory. I believe more movies should be made about enterprising young boys who are given factories. —Three and a half stars.

But there are many others! Read more about Ayn Rand Reviews Children’s Movies

Another controlled experiment that shows profit-centered health care gives a smaller bang for the buck

Cuba vs. the United States over 40+ years:

"Free at the point of care"

That was the theory behind the NHS, before the neo-liberals -- may their names be forever cursed -- got hold of it and started privatizing it. (The neo-liberals seem to have the concept that we're going to go wait in doctor's offices for fun, so they've got to charge us for it. Bizarre.)

Anyhow, since Monday -- this winter really seems to have become my season of minor ailments, probably my unconscious telling me something with all those photos of rot -- I've had this superweird ickiness going on my right -- my typing -- hand, and then up my arm, so after my friend in the coffee shop diagnosed whatever the heck it was as cellulitis, from which her husband nearly died because he wouldn't go for treatment, I went to the wonderful Helen Hunt Health Center in Old Town to check it out. Read more about "Free at the point of care"

PNHP responds to Shumlin's betrayal on universal health care

I got this press release in mail, but it doesn't seem to be anywhere on the web yet. So herewith:

Single payer in Vermont and the U.S.: Now IS the time

The following statement was released today by Dr. Andrew D. Coates, president of Physicians for a National Health Program:

Today, Vermont’s governor, after campaigning for single payer for years, announced that he would not work to pass single-payer legislation in Vermont this year.

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