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AvatarComments by George Turner in reply to Mike Schilling*

On “Indulging your inner policy wonk.

I would go for that as long as they were screened for prions. I wouldn't want to risk my pets getting mad __insert_pet__ disease.


That's because they don't have to put up with their smelly aunt and crotchety grand parents. They just stand on the edge of the ice and wave goodbye. :)


The simpliest fix is to deport sick people. Sick people are responsible for the overwhelming majority of health-care usage, and if we dumped them abroad we'd see a dramatic decline in US health-care costs along with a surge in the average level of American health and well being. We could just kill the sick people outright, but most Americans would probably think that's a little too close to eugenics and wouldn't be comfortable with it.

For those who feel this policy is too extreme, many of the sickest Canadians come to the US voluntarily, and those that don't are commonly put on icebergs and floated out to sea (Embarkation is typically three days prior to the date Canada sticks on a death certificate, depending on temperatures and sea state). Yet everyone loves Canada's system.

On “Increased Health Insurance Competition Doesn’t Do What You Think It Does

Focusing on insurance as a way to control costs is probably a mistake, because as you pointed out, they are just a pass through. If everyone was self-insured the overhead would be eliminated entirely (the same as a perfectly efficient insurance system), but nobody would be inclined to think health-care costs could be lowered if everyone twiddled with ho they stacked their money under the mattress.

The power to negotiate prices in large blocks is just centralized bitching instead of each person bitching at their doctor or nurse directly. In effect, it's turning the doctors into a type of insurance pool, where patients getting different levels of attention (due to differing practices, different times of day, different backlogs in the waiting room) all pay the same rate for their very individual experiences simply because the basic condition shares the same set of check-boxes on a form.

To actually save money (reducing the percentage of GDP spent on health care), the amount of money going to health-care providers and that sector of the economy must be reduced. To retain the same level of care, they have to become more efficient and reduce staffing (their productivity must increase) or their pay must be reduced.

There have been attempts to rein in the costs of malpractice insurance, but that insurance is also just a pass-through for money being paid to patients with bad outcomes. If you think of these patients as totally non-productive but very highly paid members of the health-care sector, capping or eliminating malpractice suits is like firing no-show middle-managers. It will save a little money off the top, and under a nationalized system would certainly be implemented to some extent under sovereign immunity, but it wouldn't be enough to bring US spending in line with other nations.

The best approach is probably to keep making incremental efficiency improvements across the board, from increasing the automated levels of diagnostics (scans and tests), to having everyone zap their health history to the receptionist via an iPhone ap instead of filling out the same four pages of paper forms for every visit. Do we really need nurses who spend their entire day walking each patient from the waiting room to a particular examination room and taking their blood pressure? Couldn't each patient be handed a device that both takes their blood pressure and guides them back to an examination room? On the way, the patient could walk across a scale and pass a camera that records their height, avoiding yet another minute the nurse always spends on the way to the examination room.

In the future, all restaurants will be Taco Bell, and so will the hospitals.

On “Reflections on the Revolution in the United States of America

From what I've read, South Carolina was where the worst killings took place. You link referenced this work, and chapter 12 (starting on page 150) lists some of the killings and the protests and charges they generated.

From other sources, that area seems to account for 3,000 to 4,000 civilian dead, the bulk of most figures for the war as a whole. Much of the killing seemed to concern people who were soldiers but who weren't in service at the actual time (as was common then), or were thought to be soldiers, often mistakenly when compared to muster rolls.

The 25,000 figure (it said was averaged from multiple sources) might be the result of averaging the low numbers with the 100,000+ estimate that counts an eight-year smallpox epidemic as part of the war.

Still, going to war worked out better than a peaceful end to British occupation, if India is taken as an example, as the civilian deaths there numbered around half a million to a million.


The American Revolution happened, as do all wars, for many reasons. None of them were particularly good or wise. Most of the casualties of that war were civilian on civilian.

I don't think that was the case. Almost all the casualties in the American Revolution were American continentals and militia, Hessians, and British regulars and sailors, with most historians only listing around 3,000 civilian casualties (except for those who try to blame a decades-long smallpox problem on the war, which is a stretch).

One of the reasons our uber-patriotic 4th of July lore doesn't dwell on the tremendous American civilian death toll is that there wasn't much to speak of.

On “On Roberts: Not a Fan of the Butterfly Effect

If we dig into interstate commerce, does the federal government's actions overcome states' restrictions on trade between states? The commerce clause is logically related to other areas of federal supremacy, such as patents, whereby we maintain a national system of patents to prevent states from granting their own to protect domestic producers from out-of-state competition.

I'm redecking a 1973 Thundercraft walk-through-windshield speedboat for my housemate, and it was involved in this very question. Thundercraft, located in Tennessee, was sued by Bonito Boats of Florida for copying their hull production method which was protected from competition under Florida law. The Supreme Court ruled in Thundercraft's favor in Bonito v Thundercraft.

Just as the Constitution grants the federal government power over a patent system, it grants the federal government power over regulating interstate commerce. Saying that the federal government can mandate commerce that doesn't exist is akin to the government having the power to force people to invent things.

On “Manufacturing Jobs

Fiberglassing might be beneficial because it could keep the seams in compression without creating stress risers or crushing like banding might.

One of my worries with a hollow wooden sailing mast would be how it reacts to cannon shot. Losing a mast in the middle of a broadside engagement is always bad.

On “Jon Stewart and Marco Rubio Do Political TV the Right Way

The video says Obama couldn't explain why the US has 1.8 million engineers out of work. We only employ 1.7 million engineers, 23% don't have an engineering degree, and 17% are foreign-born, so the 1.8 million unemployed figure is completely out of whack.

Overview of Engineers in the US.pdf

On “The Real Issue with Genre Fiction

Don Elliot, Sex Jungle, 1960, paperback, used, $64.99?!


Wow. Born 1909 in York PA, died 1987 in Tampa. Wrote 130 novels as Jim Layne, Joseph L. Chadwick, Joselyn Chadwick, Janet Conroy, Jo Anne Creighton, John Creighton & Elizabeth Grayson.

Now I want to read one of his books.


Oh, but how much would bet that the same illustrator drew the cover art of 200 Harlequin romance novels? Until I looked back at the picture to see a male author's name on the book, I assumed it was a pulp romance novel.


I doubt it deserves a real post, as I wrote it late one sleepless night, but it would be cute on the back of a coffee-house menu instead of the usual fluff about how the place was founded by a couple of college kids from Topeka or Boca Raton, especially since coffee houses are so pretentious anyway. Maybe it would ease some of the sting of realizing you just paid $4.50 for fancy beans that taste suspiciously like dirt.


I thought Walter Jon Williams was more readable than William Gibson, but he never did get much traction in the market. Periodically I do re-read Neal Stephenson, especially Snow Crash and Diamond Age. Perhaps my favorite Neal Stephenson book is non-fiction and available online, In the Beginning Was the Command Line.pdf, although you could also view it as an alternate universe short story where Microsoft Windows didn't become dominant.


Water wings! ^_^

If London had been a coffee culture Hamlet wouldn't have been so freakin' gloomy and he'd have said:

To brew, or not to brew: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the morn to suffer
The yawns and harrows of a bleary waking,
Or to make urns a'black to shake the slumbers,
And by imbibing end them? To sip: to sleep
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache and the thousand nighttime shocks
That sleep is known for, 'tis a stimulation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To brew, to steep;
To steep: perchance to steam: ay, where's my mug;
For aft' that cup of joe what dream remains
When we have stirred and slurped the coffee oil,
Cupped in our paws: there's the respect
That makes a frothing cup of Café au lait;
For who could spare the whip't and airy cream,
The Espresso's song, the scent of Arabica,
The grounds of spent wet love, the brew's delay.
The insolence of instant and the burn
That patient merit makes of too hurried taste,
So he himself might his craving forsake
Lest a burnt piehole? Who would waking bear,
With grumbled breath under a drowsy eye,
But that the dread of dozing at the wheel,
The commuter's mortuary from whose urns
No coffee mug refills, strengthens the will
And makes us rather brew those beans we have
Than drive to others that we know not of?
Thus caffeine does make addicts of us all;
And thus the doctor's urge of abnegation
Is sipped o'er with a pale afterthought,
And resolutions of great sincerity
With this first cup their firmness goes away,
And lose the name of action.--Perc you now!
The rare Arabica! Drip! For thy piquancy
Be in my dreams remembered.

For good or ill, our culture has shortened such overwrought breakfast soliloquys to Homer Simpson saying "Mmmm... Donuts." It's shorter, direct to the point, and doesn't conjure up images of Mel Gibson in a bathrobe ranting at his coffee pot with his crazy-eyes.


There was also the Jane Austen "Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies" which, as far as men are concerned, is an improvement on the original because it has zombies. :)

I think an English language Dumas pastiche would've shown the same problems as any English Homer pastiche, as influenced by the quirks of the translator as the original author. If you go for Homer, should you sound like Pope or Fagles? If you go for Pope everyone will just be confused, whereas Fagles resonates in modern English "Rage, goddess sing the rage of Peleus's son, Achilles, murderous, doomed, that cost the Acheans countless losses, hurling upon the house of death so many sturdy souls." (Years ago I memorized the first 45 minutes or so of his translation out of unimaginable boredom.)

But Shakespeare's later works teaches a great deal about timing and pacing. His early works were pure iambic pentameter, and he later broke the out of the classical rhythm to profound effect. Unfortunately, he also worked in a period shortly prior to everyone getting hung up on consistency and linearity, so some of his plots would leave sci-fi geeks screaming all over the message boards. (As a quick example, Hamlet's "To be or not to be" soliloquy:

"who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover’d country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?"

Most sci-fi fans would be screaming "Yo, Hamlet! If we don't return from the undiscovered country, then explain how you were talking to a freakin' ghost in act I!" They are an odd lot. The scream that each epic falls short of Shakespeare, yet they would eviscerate Shakespeare for inconsistency as if he'd written the 1970's reset of Battlestar Galactica. He had the great fortune to write when a work of art would present multiple but mutually impossible storylines, like a diagram of a theme park that shows the same smiling cartoon family in ten different places. His audience understood that a play is not a documentary, just as they understood that a painting is not a snapshot of an actual scene (the same person could appear a dozen times in one painting to illustrate what he does during the year).

Since sci-fi tends to be escapist literature, many of the fans demand that the world depicted make absolute literal sense to them, which precludes a lot of potential story telling unless you burn pages on explaining an alternate reality or possible futures. Sci-fi movies are even worse in this regard, since the critics (which is all of us at times) can't make the mental leaps that a peasant would four hundred years ago.


The problem is that nobody is writing cheap sci-fi series in Shakespearean English. I once corrected that oversight:

Admiral Adama:
Because authority, though it err like others,
Hath yet a kind of innocence in itself,
That sends the ruse o' the top, straight to their bosom.
Sent I a squadron with Starbuck at point
The Cylons would prick alert to the threat,
Whilst a high praised and honoured admiral
They'd judge as above such insanity.

etc, etc, ad infinitum. A spoof longer than Hamlet, with a target audience of probably a dozen, but it is fun to write in the style. Homer is also a fun one to ape, though not as technically complicated.

On “What I Learned About The War Of 1812

We could take revenge by burning the capitol of Canada, but we're not exactly sure where it is. Montreal maybe? Regardless of heretofore successful Canadian attempts to obscure the location of their capital city, in the event of renewed conflict I'm sure Obama could Google up the phone number of the President of Canada and threaten him with the wrath of all 57 United States. We know he's somewhere to our north, above the line where the arctic air masses cross onto our weather maps. We would eventually find him, assuming his name and picture are posted online somewhere, and our government agencies are very good at finding things posted online.

Plus, some of our TV news folks and actors are from Canada and would probably spill the beans, telling us everything we need to know about where your government is located and who is in charge.


American privateers did better than the Army and Navy, capturing 1300 British ships and 30,000 prisoners versus 254 ships and 6,000 prisoners captured by the regular military. The privateers had 20 times as many ships and 5 times as many guns as the US Navy and were raiding the shipping between England and Ireland, impetuously threatening a blockade of Britain. Most sailed out of Baltimore, which is why Baltimore was the target of a combined British attack force in 1814 (Washington DC was not their primary target).

Thomas Boyle, captain of the Baltimore clipper Chasseur, famously had a proclaimation posted at Lloyd's Coffee House in London.

PROCLAMATION: Whereas, It has become customary with the admirals of Great Britain, commanding small forces on the coast of the United States, particularly with Sir John Borlaise Warren and Sir Alexander Cochrane, to declare all the coast of the said United States in a state of strict and rigorous blockade without possessing the power to justify such a declaration or stationing an adequate force to maintain said blockade; I do therefore, by virtue of the power and authority in me vested (possessing sufficient force), declare all the ports, harbors, bays, creeks, rivers, inlets, outlets, islands, and seacoast of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in a state of strict and rigorous blockade.

It went on, and caused insurance rates to go up dramatically. He seized 17 British ships before returning.

The US is one of the few countries that never agreed to eliminate privateering, and the President still retains the power to grant letters of marque and reprisal to any private vessel that mounts sufficient firepower.

On “Scales of Pareto Efficiency: Global and National

Butter was rendered largely irrelevant by margarine, and turned out to be about as deadly as tobacco. We already eat too much of butter and margarine, and they sell for next to nothing, so I can't imagine why anyone would want to increase their production. On the other hand, the value of a Browning 1911, 1917, or 1919 has gone up over time, and not everyone owns them yet. You can also pass Brownings on to your grandchildren, something you probably don't want to do with butter. And of course the production of a Browning doesn't require the enslavement and exploitation of an innocent cow named Betsy.

Pareto efficiency should really be the decision between producing the maximal number of Glocks or Brownings.


And that's why people will stay poor. The resources are almost infinite, their willingness to benefit from them is almost nonexistent. That's why even rich Westerners are only using the top millimeter of soil, and why the US only has a dozen aircraft carriers instead of the world having 7 billion of them (that, and boating accidents would be a pressing problem).

Many people don't like mining, yet almost every tool in their daily life, their house, their car, their laptop, their silverware, the wiring that supplies them with power, comes from mining. If you decree that resources can't be extracted, you won't have much of anything and will live like a poster child for Unicef.


I doubt we'll hit actually resource scarcity, as the resources, though finite, are vast. It's more a question of not actually producing from the available resources due to economics, labor costs, insufficient technical abilities, or that the energy required to access and refine the resources has a higher market price than the materials produced.

Currently we've used much less than the top millimeter of continental crust for all our existing materials. If we went down 20 meters every single human on Earth would get a string of luxury hotels, 600 Boeing 747's, a Nimitz class aircraft carrier, 4 Soviet Alfa class attack submarines, and hundreds of tons of metals like vanadium and chromium, plus many pounds of platinum and gold. But production on that scale is not easy. Our abilities still fall far short of exploiting the full potential of just the Earth, much less the solar system.

On ““They Will Take Up Serpents…”

They should spend more time understanding the Bible.

Genesis 3:14 (KJV)
And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:

The serpent in Genesis had legs, or crawling on its belly wouldn't have been a curse. The serpent also chatted quite happily with Eve, whereas snakes don't talk. So where do we find a smooth-talking legged reptile that looks kind of like a snake? GEICO.

On “Thoughts Obama and Appalachia: It Ain’t (Quite) About That Southern Thing

Kimmi, if you're not a native to the region, you'd sure pass for one. :)

BTW, I'm from Bell County KY (near Harlan County), and my uncles were all coal miners.

Race is generally an unimportant factor in Appalachia because the place is about as white as New Hampshire. Since we didn't fit into the narrative of the rich white oppressor, we escaped the racial-guilt industry's attentions and thus don't have the automatic reflex (or flinch reaction) to do or say anything to avoid appearing the least bit racist. It could well be that we're that last whites in America who will answer a race question honestly instead of evading, tap dancing, or reciting an answer from the Liberal Reformed Catechism of socially acceptable thoughts.

This raises a fundamental paradox about polling. How can you determine differences in people's views if there's a measurable difference in how they're willing to answer a polling question about those views? Yet the region's views on race might in fact be quite unique. Years ago I talked to an old hill farmer who'd spent time in Detroit during WW-II, who'd witnessed racial diversity first hand and realized that although both Frenchmen and Germans were good workers, mixed offspring of them (French-German children) weren't worth spit, and the two races should not intermarry. I don't think his view is entirely common in Appalachia, though it may have been accepted wisdom in fancy urban cities like Detroit. Yet he had no qualms about telling a complete stranger about the utter worthlessness of Franco-German hybrids, and where else in America would people still tell you this so forthrightly?

Another factor in Obama's poor showing is that the people of the region are very, very aware of the long-term effects of big government welfare programs, having been helped to death since the 1930's. We've also had bitter experience with rich, elite, liberal Democrats swinging through the region to use the muddiest kids as poster children to justify increased welfare spending on their own constituents, especially their pwn inner-city captive minority voting blocks. At best, elite liberals put more Appalachians on welfare and then pat themselves on the back for a job well done. We're the place Kennedys go when they need photo-ops and the Calcutta Carlton is all booked up, but even the Kennedys didn't plot and scheme to throw us all out of work.

It would be hard for anyone from the hills to avoid the conclusion that we are what Obama thinks is wrong with Americans, that our jobs are what Obama wants to close down, and that our beliefs and culture are what Obama wants to change (eliminate). We are the peasants and he wants to play king, jetting off to his stream of endless Hawaiian golf outings and $30,000 a plate Hollywood dinners, believing he's entitled to take all our money because of some nebulous claims of racial oppression and family lineage, and we know he would never lower himself to share so much as a hot dog with any of us. We know he'll exploit us as poster-children for a campaign backdrop, using us as an excuse to give more money to Chicago blacks, to be distributed by his rich elite buddies who will take a big slice of the funds, and then he'll work tirelessly to shut down all our coal mines to make us really poor and dependent. We didn't have this feeling with Bill Clinton.

On “Kids, when I was your age New Jersey was the state we all laughed at. – or – Sheesh Erik, what is it with you guys down there?

I think I found the story out there.

Regents of the Univ of Calif v Bakke

There’s the nexus — In 1978, Obama, who already then was willing to lie to achieve his goals, created a false identity to deal with the changes the Bakke decision wrought on college admissions.

It makes as much sense as anything.

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