Category Archives: Espresso

The following is an explanation I gave for why it would be so hard for a US state to do single-payer even though comparably sized countries elsewhere can do it:

I am pulling these numbers out of air, just to give an idea of the flows I am talking about.

Let’s say we have a hypothetical state (“Bannack”) that gets back roughly what it sends to Washington. Bannack’s citizenry pays $7b a year in taxes, $2b to state and local governments, and $b to the federal government. The federal government turns around and spends $2.5b on health care in health care in Bannack, while Bannack is spending $.5b. Health care in the state in a given year costs $3b. They simply can’t do that with a $2b budget. They can’t raise taxes by $2.5b because the people just won’t pay it because that would be on top of all that money they’re sending to Washington. They’ll get some money by taxing businesses the money they’re no longer spending on health care, but anything more would be a tax hike and the same problems apply.

The best they can do is ask the federal government to say “We want that $2.5b in cash.” I think if they could get that, they could make it work. But the $2.5b is for one year and is going to fluctuate. And some states send in a lot more than they get out of Washington, and vice-versa. So it’s a real hornet’s nest of headaches. You can come up with a block grant formula, but that’s going to be difficult and going to be political. It’s much easier for DC to say “We’ll pay for this and we’ll pay for that. We’ll give you block grants for Medicaid but no way for Medicare and of course the VA system is different.”

Now, if Bannack were a country, it would be a lot simpler and they could do it even if they are not an especially large nation. They’re risk pool would still be a lot larger than many insurance companies’.

I didn’t put enough focus on how much other programs, like Medicare and the VA, complicate things. If you can’t fold them into your single-payer, you’re losing a lot of potential bargaining leverage.

Category: Espresso

It’s a very helpful site shopping for used cars, but I would not recommend it at all for new cars. It sets itself up like a sort of Lending Tree for cars where it suggests filling out the thing will have dealerships give you offers, but instead it basically results in dealerships falling all over themselves to contact you without actually giving you any prices.

Category: Espresso

There are a lot of criticisms of modern country music. Much of it comes from people who don’t actually listen to it. Bo Burnham very, very obviously does.

Category: Espresso

FDA’s proposed smokeless tobacco nitrosamine regulation: innumeracy and junk science (part 1) | Anti-THR Lies and related topics

Before getting to the substance it is worth noting that this is really the first bit of genuine regulation proposed by the FDA Center for Tobacco Products (CTP) in its eight years. Despite CTP reportedly approaching $4 billion in cumulative expenditures, it has only implemented a few inconsequential rules that were specifically required by the enabling legislation, and has never actually created a standard or specific requirement like a real regulator. Instead, everything it has done has been what I have dubbed weaponized kafkaism. The variation on the word “kafkaesque” refers, of course, to Kafka’s horror stories of bureaucratic (in the pejorative sense) rules that create injustice via impossible procedural burdens. “Weaponized” refers to turning something that is harmful but not malign into a tool for intentionally inflicting harm. CTP has turned filing and paperwork hurdles into a weapon.

It is bad enough when sloppiness, laziness, and incompetence create cost, inefficiency, opaque or even impossible requirements, and uncertainty. But in this case, those results — throwing sand in the gears of the regulated industry, making whatever they and their customers want to do difficult and uncertain — are the goals of the agency. Sloppiness, laziness, and incompetence tend to cause kafkaesque burdens to pile up if no effort is made to push back. They also perfectly camouflage the malevolence of intentionally created burdens.

The march toward a near-ban of e-cigarettes is an example of this. Products will not be banned because they violate some standard or other substantive requirement. CTP is simply taking advantage of the administrative rules that any products that were not on the market in 2007 (i.e., all e-cigarettes) must receive approval as a new product. Requiring new product approvals is not itself particularly unusual or problematic regulation until you observe that CTP has no rules about what makes a new product approvable. It is not even clear what an application should contain. Any application can, and probably will, be arbitrarily disapproved. This is even worse than the oft-noted fact that the new product application process is prohibitively expensive for anything other than a very promising mass-production product, which >99% of e-cigarette products are not, though that also is a kafkaesque burden.

Category: Espresso

Category: Espresso

But part of the disastrous campaign for the Lib Dems was the fact that its leader was constantly interrogated for his religious beliefs, beliefs that had little to do with his public leadership. Farron had a long record of supporting gay rights and access to abortion. But the media wanted to know whether he thought they were sins. Farron would get on television wanting to talk up a second referendum to be held upon the results of Brexit negotiations. His media inquisitors wanted to talk about personal morality.

Guardian columnist Rafael Behr explains that Farron’s “problem was that the culture of contemporary liberalism is avowedly secular.” That tells part of the story. The entire elite culture and much of the popular culture is secular in a quite specific way. It is not a secularism that encourages public neutrality while maintaining a generous social pluralism. It’s a secularism that demands the humiliation of religion, specifically Christianity. And in Britain it has a decidedly classist flavor, one that holds it impossible for an Evangelical like Farron — one of those people — to represent the better sort of person.

Source: Tim Farron’s Resignation & Liberal Christianity — Liberal Democrat Party Leader Resigns | National Review

Category: Espresso

I’ve heard more than once that the studies that say paid work and housework tend to be flawed (including things like lawnmowing and car maintenance as “recreation”), but it’s good to have an actual source:

It’s from a report advocating paid family and medical leave (PDF), lest you think it’s some MRA outlet.

Category: Espresso

How you imagine a thing.

How a thing actually goes.

Category: Espresso

On Meaning, Identity Politics and Bias in the Academy — An Interview with Clay Routledge | Quillette

As I previously noted, ideological bias can influence research and most academics, especially in the social sciences and humanities, are on the political left. This leads to groupthink and reduces the amount of scrutiny certain research receives and the debate it inspires. And it can bias every step of the research process. It can influence the choice of research questions, the way scales or questionnaires are worded, the specific outcomes measured, the decision to publish or not publish results, the amount of criticism the research receives in the peer-review process, the topics of selected research symposia at conferences, what projects receive grant funding, and so on.

Viewpoint diversity helps because we rely on peers to challenge us, to debate our ideas and point out the biases and flaws in our research. In research that does not touch on social or political issues, we often see considerable debate, people offering alternative hypotheses or questioning particulars of the research design and statistical tests. This always improves the quality of the work and helps us get closer to the objective truth. But people seem to go a little or a lot easier on research that touches on sensitive social or political topics, or supports leftist ideology. I have seen this firsthand. I have been at talks where people present very poorly conducted research related to ideas that failed to replicate or were never well-supported to begin with and watched as hardly anyone in the audience offered even the slightest challenge. It is very strange to see well-trained scientists so blatantly ignore fundamental research flaws because they find the conclusion ideologically affirming. This is precisely why we need to make our methods more rigorous, fight for an academic culture that challenges groupthink and prioritizes the pursuit of truth over tribal loyalty, and encourage diversity of thought.

A lot of bias discussion center around whether it’s fair to conservatives or not. This is, ultimately, beside the point. Conservatives have done a lot to themselves to damage their standing. But even if they have, and even if we argue that they deserve to be frozen out, it doesn’t follow that it’s good for the institution that is doing the freezing.

Category: Espresso

iStock really, really doesn’t want shoplifters to be black.

Megan McArdle and Pascal Emmanuel-Gobry both look at the wonder of the Utah, the red state that accomplishes a lot of Democratic aims (at the expense of others).

Well, I wouldn’t say “Pro-life” exactly, but the story behind Semisonic’s “Closing Time” is nonetheless interesting.

Robert Innis tries to navigate the relationship between vapers and smokers (and Public Health).

It’s interesting reading about education debates in other countries. Even somewhat similar Britain. Or maybe especially so.

Category: Espresso