Rules for the link economy

From a Philip Palin post at Homeland Security Watch (great blog, BTW):

I have just returned from twelve days of travel. When traveling I depend on my web-based algorithms for details and a scan of the Washington Post, New York Times, and  San Francisco Chronicle homepages for  a quick overview.

But nothing equals a real newspaper (and today too many printed versions can seem practically virtual) with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and some quiet time to read, reflect, and connect those dots from pages A1, A6, C2, and the ad in the sports section.

I am barely half-way through a week-old Post and have already picked up a dozen valuable inputs that I would have otherwise lost.

I depend upon — and everyone who reads my posts depends upon — Daniel Fowler at CQ, Spencer Hsu at the Post, Eileen Sullivan at AP, Chris Strohm at the National Journal Group and others.  Everyday I am simply silent regarding — and too often blatantly ignorant of — important information that these professionals are reporting out.

First, note the shout-out to a CQ Homeland Security reporter. Second, Palin outlines some rules he promises to follow. I think these should generally be followed by everyone in the blogosphere, as they would generally improve the fairness of the so-called “link economy” by generally giving credit where credit is due:

1.  I will not just use links to attribute sources. I will consistently identify sources early and often in my text. I have been inconsistent in this regard.

2.  I will  use restraint in quoting from the work of others and, whenever possible, will deploy quotes in such a way to encourage  accessing the original source. I hope I have usually done this.

3.  I will acknowledge reporters by name, not just by the name of their employing organization.  I will find opportunities to express appreciation.  I have done this too seldom.

When reading my posts I ask that  you access original resources and while you are there, give some quick consideration of the time, effort, and cost involved in generating the information provided to you, and even look at the advertisements.  Consider it a secular version of doing the stations of the cross, to remind us that what is truly valuable almost always comes at considerable cost.

I realize I probably broke rule number two in creating this post.

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Andrew Sullivan (!) favors health care reform

Andrew Sullivan was the editor of The New Republic when the magazine ran a famous article that has been widely cited as one of the main reasons the Clintons’ attempt to overhaul health care failed. From a Benjamin Sarlin piece in The Daily Beast (emphasis mine):

[New York Lt. Governor Betsy] McCaughey’s piece painted the Clinton plan as a nightmare in the making that would “prevent you from going outside the system to buy basic health coverage you think is better” and leave millions of Americans with insufficient treatment thanks to government rationing.

The core arguments were quickly adopted by conservative opponents of the health-care plan. While McCaughey was a fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute and her background was in law and not health-care policy, the fact that her analysis had run in the traditionally liberal New Republic bolstered her credibility as an objective observer. The Clinton administration put out a detailed response and noted that provisions in the bill specifically said that “nothing in this act shall be construed as prohibiting… an individual from purchasing health-care services” despite McCaughey’s key assertions that patients would be prevented from paying their doctors or seeking private coverage. But the meme stuck. When the dust had settled in the 1993-1994 health-care wars, Newt Gingrich singled out McCaughey’s article as “the first decisive breakpoint” in the plan’s support.

Sullivan, who infamously hated the Clintons, was an enthusiastic supporter of George W. Bush, but became disenchanted with him over the Iraq War, torture, and other issues. He eventually became an enthusiastic supporter of Obama. Now, the self-identified gay, HIV-positive, Irish Catholic, English-born libertarian conservative has come out in favor of the health reform he helped spike in 1994:

Real conservatives should point out that the current proposals are not tough enough on costs – and criticize Obama for that, not for fantasies like a communist takeover or euthanasia program for special needs kids.

The Romney-Obama model will require fiscal boundaries to healthcare provision and this will mean a trade-off that will be hard to postpone much longer. We’ll get less innovation, and probably some rationing at some point. But that is already happening – the rationing is done by insurance companies.

While Sullivan is now an Obama fan, he’s definitely maintained his conservative/libertarian outlook, so for him to come out in favor of health care reform is both astounding and (kind of) brave.

For that matter, for The New Republic to go from publishing McCaughey’s story to hosting Jonathan Cohn’s (frequently brilliant) blog on healthcare, The Treatment, is a similarly astounding reversal.

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Aspiring to… what exactly?

UC-Berkley and UCLA have long been two of Maryland’s “aspirational peers.” But according to this Economist story, it might not be that way for long:

California has been suffering serial budget crises, the latest of which was resolved last month in a rather desperate deal between the governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the legislature. It contained huge cuts, including $2 billion lopped from higher education. The UC alone has lost a cumulative $813m of state funding in the last fiscal year and the current one, a cut of 20%. The second-tier California State University (Cal State), with 23 campuses the largest in the country, and the third-tier community colleges have also been clobbered.

The cuts threaten the legacy of two visionaries, Edmund “Pat” Brown, governor from 1959 to 1967, and Clark Kerr, who was in charge of the UC during those years. Kerr envisioned the state’s public universities as “bait to be dangled in front of industry, with drawing power greater than low taxes or cheap labour.” In a 1960 master-plan he created the three-tiered system.

His ambition was simple. First, to educate as many young Californians as affordably as possible. The best students would go to the UC, the next lot to Cal State and the rest to community colleges with the possibility of trading up. Second, to attract academic superstars. Kerr went about this like a talent scout, and his successors have continued the practice. The UC campuses have collectively produced more Nobel laureates than any other university.

But the master-plan has been under strain for years. State spending per student in the UC system, adjusted for inflation, has fallen by 40% since 1990, says Mark Yudof, the current UC president. The Public Policy Institute of California, a non-partisan think-tank, projects that California’s economy will face a shortfall of 1m college graduates by 2025, depressing the prosperity of the entire state. Public universities, which award 75% of all the state’s bachelor degrees, will be largely responsible.

Academic excellence is likely to be the first victim. Both the UC and Cal State are planning to send professors and staff on leave, cram more students into classrooms and offer fewer courses. Attracting and keeping academic stars, and the research dollars that usually follow them, will become much harder.

This, I guess, is a cautionary tale showing how fragile the progress of a public university can be.

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G.I. Joe is still American, but may suck

On National Review’s blog, The Corner, John Miller worries the G.I. Joe in the upcoming movie is no longer American:

I keep wondering: Is G.I. Joe still an American? He used to be, back in the day. Maybe the movie will make clear that the 21st-century version is also a “real American hero,” as the tagline once put it. But this is far from obvious. The old logo was red, white, and blue. Now the dominant image is black. Nobody wears green Army uniforms. Instead, the good guys appear to put on silver-plated robocop armor. Joe and his friends look like celluloid heroes without a country.

I wouldn’t worry about that, considering the song playing in the background of most of the movie’s ads is “American Badass” by Kid Rock.

Instead of fretting over G.I. Joe’s patriotism, I would be more worried about the fact that people are already talking about it being one of the worst movies of the year, or in the history of Paramount Pictures:

[T]he film received the worst test score in the entire history of Paramount Pictures.  Lemme say that again.  G.I. Joe received the LOWEST TEST SCORE IN THE ENTIRE HISTORY OF PARAMOUNT PICTURES, A STUDIO THAT HAS BEEN IN EXISTENCE SINCE 1912.  Holy mother of God!

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Gay Talese and The Art of Nonfiction

Gay Talese changes twice each day before he writes and only writes a page a day. That’s one thing I learned from this interview with him on the art of nonfiction. Also, this is interesting (emphasis mine):

My first job was on the sports desk, but I didn’t want to write about sporting events. I wanted to write about people. I wrote about a losing boxer, a horse trainer, and the guy in the boxing ring who rang the bell between rounds. I was interested in fiction. I wanted to write like Fitzgerald. I collected his work—his short stories and journals. “Winter Dreams” is my favorite story of all time. The good nonfiction writers were writing about famous people, or topical people, or public people. No one was writing about unknown people. I knew I did not want to be on the front page. On the front page you’re stuck with the news. The news dominates you. I wanted to dominate the story. I wanted to pick subjects that were not the ordinary assignment editor’s idea of a story. My idea was to use some of the techniques of a fiction writer: scene setting, dialogue, and even interior monologue, if you knew your people well enough. I was writing short stories, and there were not many people on the Times who were doing that. Once, at an NYU baseball game, I overheard a conversation between a young couple who were having a lovers’ quarrel. I wrote the dialogue and I told the story of the game through what they were watching and what they were saying. At the St. Patrick’s Day parade, I wrote about the last person in the procession, a little guy who was carrying a tuba, and behind him came the sanitation trucks. I followed the parade from the vantage point of this tuba player.

And some good advice/perspective:

All the other reporters of my generation would come back from an assignment and be done with their piece in a half hour. For the rest of the afternoon they’d be reading books or playing cards or drinking coffee in the cafeteria, and I was always very much alone. I didn’t carry on conversations during those hours. I just wanted to make my article perfect, or as good as I could get it. So I rewrote and rewrote, feeling that I needed every minute of the working day to improve my work. I did this because I didn’t believe that it was just journalism, thrown away the next day with the trash. I always had a sense of tomorrow. I never turned in anything more than two minutes before deadline. It was never easy, I felt I had only one chance. I was working for the paper of record, and I believed that what I was doing was going to be part of a permanent history.

So, as I always say, read the whole thing. And then read Frank Sinatra Has A Cold because if you haven’t, you shouldn’t be allowed to talk to about nonfiction.

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Health care rationing

This Peter Singer article about rationing is the most interesting thing I’ve read about health care reform since Atul Galawande’s New Yorker piece about McAllen, TX (see Galawande respond to critiques of the piece here). Here’s the thesis:

Health care is a scarce resource, and all scarce resources are rationed in one way or another. In the United States, most health care is privately financed, and so most rationing is by price: you get what you, or your employer, can afford to insure you for. But our current system of employer-financed health insurance exists only because the federal government encouraged it by making the premiums tax deductible. That is, in effect, a more than $200 billion government subsidy for health care. In the public sector, primarily Medicare, Medicaid and hospital emergency rooms, health care is rationed by long waits, high patient copayment requirements, low payments to doctors that discourage some from serving public patients and limits on payments to hospitals.

The case for explicit health care rationing in the United States starts with the difficulty of thinking of any other way in which we can continue to provide adequate health care to people on Medicaid and Medicare, let alone extend coverage to those who do not now have it. Health-insurance premiums have more than doubled in a decade, rising four times faster than wages. In May, Medicare’s trustees warned that the program’s biggest fund is heading for insolvency in just eight years. Health care now absorbs about one dollar in every six the nation spends, a figure that far exceeds the share spent by any other nation. According to the Congressional Budget Office, it is on track to double by 2035.

President Obama has said plainly that America’s health care system is broken. It is, he has said, by far the most significant driver of America’s long-term debt and deficits. It is hard to see how the nation as a whole can remain competitive if in 26 years we are spending nearly a third of what we earn on health care, while other industrialized nations are spending far less but achieving health outcomes as good as, or better than, ours.

For those who don’t know, Singer is a utilitarian philosophy professor at Princeton known for his controversial views in favor of euthanisia, foreign aid, and animal rights. Read his Wikipedia page for a synopsis.

But yeah, read the whole article, it’s good, etc. Here’s an additional point from Matt Yglesias after the jump:

Continue reading

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Problems with geography

This is Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas). Today, I covered to a hearing of the subcommittee she chairs. Remarkably, she twice misidentified the states members of her committee come from.

First, she (almost, before stopping herself) said that Republican Steve Austria was Hawaii. He is from suburban Colombus, Ohio, which is only 4,500 miles off.

She followed this up by saying Eric Massa, a Democrat from New York, was from Ohio.

Now, members of congress obviously have a lot on their minds and need to keep track of a lot of information. But there are only 16 members of the subcommittee. Shouldn’t she be able to remember where they are all from?

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