I will be speaking at Pruyne Lecture Hall at Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts (about an hour north of Hartford, CT and 90 minutes west of Boston) at 7PM on March 7. I will be using the opportunity to roll out version 3.0 of my climate talk. My understanding is that it is open to the public, so I encourage readers who are nearby to attend.
Posts tagged ‘CT’
Ken over at Popehat had a great article about a proposed cyber-bullying law in Connecticut. While he later reports the bill may have died in committee, it is still instructive to look at it, as its twin may well get passed in AZ and many other states are proposing such laws faster than the little animals pop up in a whack-a-mole game.
I am becoming increasingly convinced that these are all stealth attempts to protect politicians and public officials from criticism. Look at the proposed law in CT:
(a) A person commits electronic harassment when such person, with intent to harass, annoy or alarm another person, transmits, posts, displays or disseminates, by or through an electronic communication device, radio, computer, Internet web site or similar means, to any person, a communication, image or information, which is based on the actual or perceived traits or characteristics of that person, which:
(1) Places that person in reasonable fear of harm to his or her person or property;
(2) Has a substantial and detrimental effect on that person's physical or mental health;
(3) Has the effect of substantially interfering with that person's academic performance, employment or other community activities or
(4) Has the effect of substantially interfering with that person's ability to participate in or benefit from any academic, professional or community-based services, activities or privileges; or
(5) Has the effect of causing substantial embarrassment or humiliation to that person within an academic or professional community.
One of the tricks of these laws is to mix and thereby conflate outrageous behavior most all of us are willing to restrict (e.g. make a credible threat to someone's life) with everyday behaviors such as annoying people.
Let's say I were to write in my blog that, say, Joe Arpaio is an jerk and should not get re-elected. Let's analyze the statement
- It's transmitted electronically
- It will very likely annoy Arpaio, since he is known to be annoyed by all criticism
- I am trying very hard to interfere with his employment by preventing his re-election
By this law, therefore, even this relatively mild criticism is illegal. In fact, since all criticisms of politicians can be said to negatively affect their re-election chances, by part 3 any political criticism online would be illegal.
I honestly don't think this is a bug, it is a feature. Already police departments and other public officials are using cyber-bullying laws to stomp on those who criticize them.
It is a really weird mental block we have against paying out of pocket for medical bills, particularly since this is probably the most, not the least, important thing we can spend our money on. Having a high-deductible health insurance plan has been a real eye-opener for me. As in this post from Maggie's Farm, I too have found doctors will very often give a discount for cash. My son has a great sports medicine guy (he plays 3 varsity sports so we seem to be at the doctor a lot for one injury or another) who gives us a $40 cash rate for a visit. Further, when he needs X-rays, the radiology place downstairs usually does 2-3 films of the injured appendage du jour for around $35. The X-ray place has a special cash price book they pull out when I show up. I shudder to think what rate they charge insurance companies. And t just think of the piles of infrastructure from my doctors office to the insurance company to Washington DC that would have had to come into play had I sought 3rd party payments for these bills.
And when it comes to the expensive things, it is amazing what price cuts you can find with just a little shopping. Previously, I had spent less time in my whole life shopping medical care prices than I had price-shopping my last hard drive. But when my son had to get a CT scan on his head (yes, another sports injury) we saved hundreds of dollars just calling a second place for a quote. In fact, even mentioning that we were going to price shop the first quote got a few hundred dollars knocked off. The lack of any rigor in health care pricing is just appalling, and will only get worse as government / single payer solutions crowd out approaches like mine under Obamacare.
... but I am increasingly convinced it is real. Somehow I got on the mailing list of the "Environmental New Network" and got this press release:
Eco-Friendly Snow Thrower Is Alternative To Belching Snow Blowers
Sno Wovel Quietly Outperforms Snow Blowers Without Emissions, Noise, Strain
New Canaan, CT. November 9, 2009 -- Structured Solutions II LLC announced the launch of their newly-designed wheeled snow shovel this fall. The Sno Wovelâ„¢ is the only non-combustion alternative snow removal device performing equal to or better than a snow blower. The all new folding frame Sno Wovelâ„¢ debuts in a new category of hybrid tools, combining safety for the user, protection of the environment and high-performance. No fuel, fumes and deafening noise to harm the environment or the operator "“ no electric cords to tangle with. The Sno Wovel is 2-3 times faster than shoveling and comes with a folding frame design for easy and portable storage.
This seems like a fairly unsatisfying alternative to a big honkin' snow blower, but I live in Phoenix so what do I know?
It is amazing to me that there can be numerous health care plans in Congress plus a jillion speeches on the topic by the President and not once does anyone mention "torts." Now, I am not one to ascribe all cost problems in the medical field to defensive medicine and tort settlements. Buthey t certainly are a factor. It is just stunning that a President can stand up and talk numerous times about "unnecessary tests and procedures" and ascribe all of these to some weird profit motive by the doctors - weird because generally, the doctor gets no extra revenue from these tests, so somehow he or she is motivated by the profits of a third party lab.
But I think the rest of us understand that American tort law, which allows juries to make multi-million dollar judgements based on emotions and empathy rather than facts and true liability, has at least a share of the blame. Not just the settlements, but the steps doctors go through to try to protect themselves from frivolous suits down the road. Here are two interesting stories along these lines. The first from Carpe Diem:
Zurich University Hospital has stopped treating North American "medical tourists," fearing million-dollar claims from litigious patients if operations go wrong. Hospitals in canton Valais have also adopted measures to protect themselves against visitors from the United States, Canada and Britain.
"The directive applies only to patients from the US and Canada who come to Zurich for elective, non-essential health treatments," said Zurich University Hospital spokeswoman Petra Seeburger.
"It is not because treatment is not financed; it is because of different legal systems." In a statement the hospital said it was "not prepared to risk astronomical damages or a massive increase in premiums." Seeburger emphasised that the restrictions only affected people not domiciled in Switzerland.
Apologies to Mark Perry for quoting his whole post, but if you are not reading Mark Perry, you should be. The second example comes from Overlawyered:
Oh, I miss the days when you got a radiology report that said, "fracture right 3rd rib, no pneumothorax". Because of frivolous lawsuits radiologists have learned to be vague, noncommittal and to pass the buck of possible litigation. So now you get a 2 page report that says "linear lucency in right 3rd rib, clinical correlation recommended, underinflated lung fields cannot exclude underlying interstitial disease and or masses. CT recommended for further evaluation, if condition warrants." along with several other paragraphs of lawyer imposed legalmedspeak"¦.
The AntiPlanner has an update on the New London, CT development that spawned the notorious Kelo case. In short, they tore Ms. Kelo's house down against her will, and then the whole development deal fell through. The city now has a nice vacant lot.
The homes of Susette Kelo and her neighbors have all been torn down or removed. But, except for the remodeling of one government building into another government building, virtually no new development had taken place in the Fort Trumbull district by May, 2008.
Having spent at least $78 million on the Fort Trumbull project, the city had awarded development rights to a company named Corcoran Jennison, which planned to build a hotel, an office complex, and more than 100 upscale housing units. The developer had until November, 2007, to obtain financing.
When that deadline lapsed, it received an extension to May 29, 2008. In desperation, the developer sought an FHA loan of $11.5 million. When that didn't work and May 29 came and went, New London revoked the agreement.
Marc Cooper spends 20 hours in the hospital and tells his story here. Price of stay without insurance: $116, 749. Price with insurance: $4,730. Only in America, folks.
He's not very clear if this was an emergency situation -- like, did he have a heart attack and get rushed to the hospital in an ambulance -- or an important but non-emergency situation. I will assume the latter by the tone of Marc Cooper's detailed post.
If so, then my first comment is, indeed only in America would he have gotten this procedure without waiting twelve weeks or without traveling to, say, America to get it done more expeditiously,
Second, I wonder: Did he ask for a price estimate in advance? Did he ask, as most of
us do with all of our large purchases, for a written estimate or
quotation? Did he get such estimates from two or three competitors? Did
he shop around?
Of course not! Because in a system where someone else is paying the
bills, we have no incentive to shop around. So providers have no
incentive to compete on price or to worry about productivity and cost
Sure, this looks like a rip-off. But if you went in to buy a car, concerned only with the quality of the
car, and never asked the price and then got a bill for $100,000 a few
weeks later, would you be surprised? Would anyone give you sympathy if you complained you paid $100,000 for the car but admitted you never asked what the price was?
So this is a dead-obvious outcome from the health care system we
have, where no one has the incentive to shop. By the way, I have a high-deductible policy which causes me to
shop around, because costs come out of my own pocket. I ask questions
like, is that extra CT scan really necessary?
It's incredible to me that given this situation, the solution for
this blog's author and most of his readers is not "we should find a way
to have individuals experience both the cost and benefits of care,
because only they can make these tradeoffs for themselves and shop
around for better options" but is instead "lets just turn it over to
the government, since they do such a good job with Iraq and the mail
and our schools."
Finally, I would point out that the author is making some wild assumptions about an insurance statement he probably does not understand (I say that with confidence since no one understands health insurance statements). His assumption that the walk-in poor would have had to pay $100,000 for the procedure or would have been left to die are demonstrably untrue, since there is just not that much evidence that either outcome is occuring with any regularity. That is why health care socialization supporters always talk about the number of people uninsured, which is almost irrelevant, instead of the number of people who don't get care, which is a much much smaller, almost vanishingly small number.
There's a lesson here for those who want to cover the uninsured: focus on the incentives facing the 250 million Americans who have
health insurance, not on the estimated 45 million who don't. If the
federal government stopped encouraging people with health insurance to
be less careful consumers, then coverage would be more affordable, the
number of people without coverage would shrink, and the quality of care
My family just switched to a high deductible policy, and its amazing how much our behavior has changed. We question doctors now -- do we really need that? We had to take my son in for a CT scan on his head (he got hit by a line drive at the hot corner the other day) and we actually asked the price before we scheduled an appointment. When was the last time you asked the price of any medical procedure or visit?
PS- The son is fine, but half his face looks like its been inflated with a high-pressure pump.
Alex Tabarrok of Marginal Revolution makes a point I have been trying to communicate for some time now:
It's naive to only blame particular people (Bush, Cheney et al.) and
depressing when people at CT claim that if only "our guys" had been in
power everything would have been ok. When you see the same behaviour
again and again you ought to look to systematic factors. And even if
you do believe that it is all due to Bush, Cheney et al. it's not as if
these guys came to power randomly, they won twice. The worst
get on top for a reason. As a result, government ought to be designed
(on which see further below) so it works when the knaves are in power and not just when the angels govern.
Over the past fifty years, a powerful driving force for statism in this
country has come from technocrats, mainly on the left, who felt that
the country would be better off if a few smart people (ie them) made
the important decisions and imposed them on the public at large, who
were too dumb to make quality decision for themselves. People aren't
smart enough,they felt, to make medication risk trade-off decision for
themselves, so the FDA was created to tell them what procedures and
compounds they could and could not have access to. People couldn't be
trusted to teach their kids the right things, so technocrats in the
left defended government-run schools and fought school choice at every
juncture. People can't be trusted to save for their own retirement,
so the government takes control with Social Security and the left
fights giving any control back to individuals. The technocrats told us
what safety equipment our car had to have, what gas mileage it should
get, when we needed to where a helmet, what foods to eat, when we could
smoke, what wages we could and could not accept, what was and was not
acceptable speech on public college campuses, etc. etc....
the technocrats that built our regulatory state are starting to see the
danger of what they created. A public school system was great as long
as it was teaching the right things and its indoctrinational excesses were in a leftish direction.
Now, however, we can see the panic. The left is freaked that some red
state school districts may start teaching creationism or intelligent
design. And you can hear the lament - how did we let Bush and these
conservative idiots take control of the beautiful machine we built? My
answer is that you shouldn't have built the machine in the first place
- it always falls into the wrong hands.
I am particularly amazed of late at the popular leftish criticism of Bush that he was too slow after 9/11 (spending 10 extra minutes with the school kids), too slow during Katrina, and too slow entering the diplomatic fray in Lebanon. I can't remember who, but someone lately was quoted publicly saying that they were frustrated with Bush taking vacations and that they would never vote for someone with a ranch. Is that really the dual criticisms that people have of Bush? That 1) he is evil and an idiot and 2) they want him to get involved faster and more aggressively in more types of problems?
Here's something everyone should know, which I have embodied in Coyote's Second Law (here's the first) which states:
Any person elected to government office has their effective IQ cut in half
I don't know if politicians wake up from this fog when they leave office or not. I can easily imagine Bill Clinton, a man who is supposed to have a high out-of-public-office IQ, slapping his head and saying "did I really go running into Somalia and running right back out after the first casualties?' or maybe even better "jeez, I can't believe I turned down the chance to take Bin Laden into custody -- what was I thinking". Whichever the case, governments are always stupid, even those made up of people provably of high IQ in their private lives. Tabarrok has this humorous but depressing observation:
The Pentagon is the Post Office with nuclear weapons
Like Tabarrok, I think the bar has to be pretty high to send our military into battle, and I never thought the situation in Iraq justified the excursion. However, perhaps differing from Tabarrok, I am sensitive to historic precedent and thus doubt that defense can always just end at our borders. While I think the Bush administration is overly optimistic to think that Iraq will become a shining beacon of democracy that will help rally the democratic forces in neighboring countries, I also think Bush opponents are overly optimistic when they say that terrorists and Middle Eastern fascists will leave us alone as long as we just keep our distance. There are too many historical reminders that the latter is not true. Sometimes you do have to go over there to kick their ass before they come over here. Afghanistan probably met this criteria, but I don't think Iraq did - Iraq feels more like the Gulf of Tonkin, a war certain people in power wanted to fight and for which they needed a public excuse.
All this means that I think that the number of times we need to go out and fight wars overseas is greater than zero and less than what we actually do. I'm not smart enough, I guess, to make a clearer policy statement, but I would be really interested to ask all those who think they would have prevented Israel and its neighbors from going to war for the 47th time if only they had been in office what their coherent policy statement would be.
The town of New London, CT, is assessing nearly 5 years back rent on Susette Kelo and other property holders whose land the Supreme Court recently allowed the city to confiscate. As it stands, if New London has its way, Kelo will not only lose her house, she will also be wiped out financially, all for the crime of owning the land where New London wanted condos and hotels.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently found that the city's original seizure of
private property was constitutional under the principal of eminent domain, and
now New London is claiming that the affected homeowners were living on city land
for the duration of the lawsuit and owe back rent. It's a new definition of
chutzpah: Confiscate land and charge back rent for the years the owners fought
In some cases, their debt could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Moreover, the homeowners are being offered buyouts based on the market rate as
it was in 2000...
The New London Development Corp., the semi-public organization hired by the
city to facilitate the deal, is offering residents the market rate as it was in
2000, as state law requires. That rate pales in comparison to what the units are
now worth, owing largely to the relentless housing bubble that has yet to burst.
"I can't replace what I have in this market for three times [the 2000
assessment]," says Dery, 48, who works as a home delivery sales manager for the New London Day . He soothes himself with humor:
"It's a lot like what I like to do in the stock market: buy high and sell low."
And there are more storms on the horizon. In June 2004, NLDC sent the seven
affected residents a letter indicating that after the completion of the case,
the city would expect to receive retroactive "use and occupancy" payments (also
known as "rent") from the residents.
In the letter, lawyers argued that because the takeover took place in 2000,
the residents had been living on city property for nearly five years, and would
therefore owe rent for the duration of their stay at the close of the trial. Any
money made from tenants, some residents' only form of income, would also have to be
paid to the city....
An NLDC estimate assessed Dery for $6,100 per month since the takeover, a
debt of more than $300K. One of his neighbors, case namesake Susette Kelo, who
owns a single-family house with her husband, learned she would owe in the
ballpark of 57 grand. "I'd leave here broke," says Kelo. "I wouldn't have a home
or any money to get one. I could probably get a large-size refrigerator box and
live under the bridge."
I want to barf. Hat tip to Reason's Hit and Run.