Volume 2.47 (Nov 18-24)

Pick of the Week Texas’ Other Death Penalty (Rachel Pearson, Texas Observer)– Subtitled “A Galveston Med Student Describes Life and Death in the Safety Net”  The precis: “In a better medical system, he’d have had a chance at a more dignified experience of illness. He wouldn’t have had to wait for hours in a crowded free clinic, and assume the posture of gratefulness that charity seems to require. He wouldn’t have had to be treated in part by an earnest, but unskilled, first-year medical student. He, like so many Texans, deserved better.”


Hurricane Katrina killed more than 1,800.  Obamacare’s website doesn’t work yet.  Stop comparing them.  (Ezra Klein, Wonkblog)– Just to introduce some perspective.

Healthcare.gov and the Gulf between Planning and Reality (Clay Shirky)– “Denying this tradeoff doesn’t prevent it from happening. If no one with authority over the project understands that, the tradeoff is likely to mean sacrificing quality by default. That just happened to this administration’s signature policy goal. It will happen again, as long politicians can be allowed to imagine that if you just plan hard enough, you can ignore reality. It will happen again, as long as department heads imagine that complex technology can be procured like pencils. It will happen again as long as management regards listening to the people who understand the technology as a distasteful act.”

Obama: The First Term Did It (Elizabeth Drew, NYRB)

Doctors Fire up the Obamacare Waaambulance (Matthew Yglesias, Slate Moneybox)– “Medical doctors are highly paid professionals. They earn more money—a lot more money—than your average American. What’s more, American doctors get paid more than doctors in any other country. Given how much of health care is financed either directly (Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans Affairs, public-sector workers) or indirectly (tax subsidy for employer-provided insurance) by the federal government, it’s natural to make restraining doctors’ income part of any program for making health care more affordable. So when you read stories about doctors whining that Affordable Care Act exchange plans don’t pay them enough, please throw up a little in your mouth and proceed to ignore the doctors’ complaints.”  (See Yglesias’ follow-up here and Kevin Drum’s “Why are American doctors paid so damn much?” here.)

Foreign Affairs

In the Middle of Mexico, a Middle Class Rises (Damien Cave, NYT)– “Education. More sophisticated work. Higher pay. This is the development formula Mexico has been seeking for decades. But after the free-market wave of the 1990s failed to produce much more than low-skilled factory work, Mexico is finally attracting the higher-end industries that experts say could lead to lasting prosperity. Here, in a mostly poor state long known as one of the country’s main sources of illegal immigrants to the United States, a new Mexico has begun to emerge.”

The NSA’s Global Threat to Free Speech (Kenneth Roth, NYRB)


The JFK Assassination and American Conspiracy Culture (Jonathan Earle, U.S. Intellectual History)

The Big Picture

Blame Rich, Overeducated Elites as Our Society Frays (Peter Turchin, Bloomberg View)– “We should expect many years of political turmoil, peaking in the 2020s. And because complex societies are much more fragile than we assume, there is a chance of a catastrophic failure of some kind, with a default on U.S. government bonds being among the less frightening possibilities.”

Wall Street Isn’t Worth It (John Quiggin, Jacobin)– “A thirty-year experiment with financial liberalization has proved, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the growth of Wall Street has come at the expense of society as a whole, and that the earnings it generates are not justified by a contribution to social value. The Left needs to recognize that fact and embrace rhetoric and policies that reflect it.”

The South’s New Lost Cause (Timothy Egan, NYT)–“What we could see, 10 years from now, is a Mason-Dixon line of health care. One side (with exceptions for conservative Midwest and mountain states) would be the insured North, a place where health care coverage was affordable and available to most people. On the other side would be the uninsured South, where health care for the poor would amount to treating charity cases in hospital emergency rooms.”

Poor, with Savings (Monica Potts, The American Prospect)


Behind the Pentagon’s doctored ledgers, a running tally of epic waste (Scot J. Paltrow, Reuters)– Part of their ongoing series “Unaccountable: The high cost of the Pentagon’s bad bookkeeping.”  It is worth remembering that, if this occurred in any other federal agency, Fox News would run nothing but this story 24/7 for the next month straight.  However, since its the DoD, crickets because…you know…the troops.


This is What Happens When a Pipeline Bursts in Your Town (Nora Caplan-Bricker, The New Republic)– “Jason Thompson used to love fishing in the lake he can see from his window in Mayflower, Arkansas, but these days, when he throws a line out into the water, the lure he reels back is covered in a sour, stinking black tar, the skirt of the jig stuck uselessly together. When he brings the fingers that touched the line up to his nose, he gets a whiff of the same putrid stench that filled the air for weeks after the oil pipeline burst—the smell that still rises out of the ground every time it rains.  Thompson hasn’t been fishing much. Ever since Exxon Mobil’s Pegasus pipeline burst in March and spilled an estimated 210,000 gallons of Canadian heavy crude oil two miles from his house, he’s had headaches of preternatural intensity, so bad they wake him up in the middle of the night. He has nosebleeds, and hemorrhoids even though he’s only 36; there’s a rash on his neck that has only gotten worse in the eight months since the spill; and some days he feels so weak that he can hardly get out of bed. He estimates that he has lost almost 35 pounds since the rupture, falling from a fit 220 down to 185. When he went to see a doctor in April, he was told he has a mysterious spot on one lung—but he hasn’t been able to afford to go back.”


Why Harry Reid Had to Use the Nuclear Option (Juliet Lapidos, NYT)– “ThinkProgress calculated that ‘3 in 10 of all cloture motions filed in the history of the Senate were filed during McConnell’s tenure as Minority Leader.'”

Machiavelli was Right (Michael Ignatieff, The Atlantic)– “What he refuses to praise is people who value their conscience and their soul more than the interests of the state. What he will not pardon is public displays of indecision. We should not choose leaders who agonize, worrying about the moral hazards of the power they exercise in the people’s name. We should choose leaders who sleep soundly after taking ultimate risks with their own virtue. They are doing what must be done. The Prince’s question about the current president would be: Is he Machiavellian enough?”


The Vatican’s Secret Life (Michael Joseph Gross, Vanity Fair)– “At the Vatican, a significant number of gay prelates and other gay clerics are in positions of great authority. They may not act as a collective but are aware of one another’s existence. And they inhabit a secretive netherworld, because homosexuality is officially condemned. Though the number of gay priests in general, and specifically among the Curia in Rome, is unknown, the proportion is much higher than in the general population. Between 20 and 60 percent of all Catholic priests are gay, according to one estimate cited by Donald B. Cozzens in his well-regarded The Changing Face of the Priesthood. For gay clerics at the Vatican, one fundamental condition of their power, and of their priesthood, is silence, at least in public, about who they really are.”


Why do we make it so hard for my daughter to choose Mormonism? (Stephanieeee, Feminist Mormon Housewives)– “In the back of my mind, I could still hear the words she had said to me a few days earlier. “In Daddy’s church, I get to be an altar server,” she’d said. “In your church, I don’t get to be anything.”  I wanted to tell her that women get to do a lot of things in the LDS church, but I knew what she meant. She won’t get to bless or pass the sacrament, she won’t get to bless her children, she won’t get to baptize anyone. She can do a lot, but she can’t hold the priesthood. The not-so-nice part of me wants to point out that she can’t hold the priesthood in the Catholic Church either, but the Catholic church does allow girls and women to participate in one of their most sacred rituals, the Eucharist. This, to my daughter, is huge.  On Sunday, my daughter was an altar server for the first time, and she slipped a little further away from hermy faith.”

Could Mormon leaders learn from Pope Francis? (Jana Riess, Flunking Sainthood)

An email to a friend, struggling with disbelief (John C., By Common Consent)– “So, it comes to this: on average, the church (institutional and cultural) knows much less about God, Jesus, spirituality, and its own history than it thinks it does. This is, in part, because the Church has cultivated its own image as the one source for truth about the church. Generally, the Church doesn’t out and out lie, but it does mislead and omit relevant facts frequently in the official narrative. “


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