Thursday, May 28, 2009

Medical Costs

A terrific article about medical costs in The New Yorker. Well researched and very insightful.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Fear of closing Gitmo: a new embarrassment for the US

From Talking Points Memo:

TPM Reader BB, a "proud citizen of the Netherlands," says it's time the U.S. man up and stop NIMBYing the Gitmo detainees:

If you live outside of the US, or the US centric bubble. then the incredible stupidity of the this viewpoint is obvious.

Where does the World Court reside? It resides in the Hague in the Netherlands. the Netherlands has a population of 16 million (that are not allowed to bear arms or such).

The world courts deals with the worst of the worst, anything in Gitmo pails to what these folks have done.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Obama's deal with California for uniform national fuel economy standards

An interesting paper by Lawrence H. Goulder, Mark R. Jacobsen, and Arthur A. van Benthem, "Impacts of State-Level Limits on Greenhouse Gases per Mile In the Presence of National CAFE Standards" comes at the same time that Obama makes a deal with California for a uniform national CAFE standard.

The paper by Goulder, Jacobsen, and van Bentham finds that differential CAFE standards between states has very little impact on national CAFE standards. Their finding is one of those "why didn't I think of that" results, surprising at first, but completely obvious after you look at it. National CAFE standards are currently 27.5 mpg for passenger cars. If we assume that is binding, and it seems to be, then you can expect car manufacturers to offset any higher average fuel economy in California (and the 13 other states) by selling cars with lower averages in the remaining states. The federal regulations apply to the entire fleet sold by a manufacturer, so an increase of 1 mpg in California could theoretically be offset by, say, a reduction of 1.3 mpg in Texas (Texas's market is smaller than California's, so the mpg offset would be greater than the increase in California's mpg standard.) The paper finds that about 80% of the gains in fuel economy in the states with higher standards would be offset by lower fuel economy in the remaining states. The paper also finds that the added cost of the fuel efficiency gain by the two-tier system would be 50% higher than if the federal government simply set a higher uniform CAFE to gain the same net fuel efficiency increase.

You can read the paper here. Warning: after the abstract it gets very technical.

California recently won its court fight to set greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards for new cars sold in the state that will effectively set higher fuel economy standards for California cars than are required by federal CAFE regulations. This week the Obama administration announced a deal whereby EPA will set higher CAFE standards than those currently on the books and California will adopt the federal standards rather than set its own more stringent ones. All other states are preempted from forming independent standards, although they are allowed to choose California's or the federal standards. 13 other states have so far adopted the California GHG standard. All will now have only one choice since California will match the federal standards. This means Obama's deal will be more effective than the two-tier CAFE standard, and it will cost less than the two-tier system. The manufacturers are willing to go along with the higher standard because of the cost savings.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Baby, don't fear the Carmina

The US Senate, by a vote of 90-6, declared that they are afraid of holding 240 alleged terrorists in the United States. Even former Secretary of the Navy Jim Webb. Even former POW John McCain, who pledged to close Guantanamo while running for president last year. Even Diane Feinstein, who submitted a bill in 2007 to close Guantanamo within a year, voted to prevent President Obama from closing Guantanamo now.

Rachel Maddow (at YouTube or at MSNBC) has a theory: it's because an ad run by the Senate Republicans invoked Carmina Burana. Orffophobia taints anything that's accompanied by O Fortuna.

You'd never guess that the US once held about a half million German POWs during World War II, based in 45 of the 48 (at the time) U.S. states. Or that there are over 1.5 million felons in state and federal prisons. Or that 15 thousand people are murdered in the US each year (almost all by fellow Americans), and just about that many people are captured, tried, and jailed for murder every year, some in every state of the union.

It was refreshing to see President Obama give a sober and detailed discussion of the issue in a speech today. I am troubled about his assumption that every accused terrorist will be convicted. His category 5, people who the government thinks are dangerous but cannot be tried, is deeply disturbing, although he proposes a quasi-judicial process to make that determination. The judicial system is supposed to make independent assessments of guilt.

Nonetheless, he did a great job of putting the issue into context and explaining why Guantanomo needs to be closed. Dan Froomkin gives a good analysis of the speech and posts the transcript.

Obama promised at his inauguration to talk to us like adults. Let's see whether the Senate is capable of the same. Or maybe we just need to ban O Fortuna.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Walla Wallah

While watching the local news with breakfast this morning, I wanted to throw my oatmeal at the traffic nerd who twice exclaimed "Walla!" The word is Voila. It's not half a city in Washington or Australia, not a pop musician, and not a misspelling of a Hindi word. It's French, literally see it, idiomatically there it is. If you were to write it quasi-phonetically, it would be vwalla. While channel surfing I got to hear it again on a home improvement show. And yesterday I saw it actually spelled out walla in a news item. I've heard it malapropised dozens of times before, but the clusterbombing has pushed me over the edge. You're welcome to your own walla moment next time you see it or hear it.

Ah, I'm better now and ready to get back to work.