We're off on a mission of national import!


No posts today: We're off on a mission of national import. We won't encounter Michael Hayden; we don't do the Acela.

We won't be posting today, though we have a few topics backed up:

What's wrong with making the ugliest possible denunications of tens of millions of people? Who has been making these denunciations?

How well does Minnesota teach math, as compared to the other states? Also, in what way does Amanda Ripley's new book ignore low-income kids?

For those who are fascinated by the new Salon, we recommend the latest Joan Walsh-inspired flap. If you link to the original piece by Walsh, you will find this passage:
WALSH (10/21/13): Don’t get me wrong: The problems with Healthcare.gov are real, and disturbing, and must be fixed asap...But excuse me if I believe the president knows that without my telling him. It’s like watching the 21st century version of the rise of the Democratic Leadership Council, and I feel the way I did back then: On the one hand, yes, it’s important for Democrats to acknowledge when government screws up, and to fix it.

On the other hand, when liberals rush conscientiously to do that, they only encourage the completely unbalanced and unhinged coverage of whatever the problem may be.
We summarize the pronouncements:
Good conduct: It's important for Democrats to acknowledge when government screws up.
Bad conduct: Liberals shouldn't rush conscientiously to acknowledge such government screw-ups.
Walsh gives two examples of those who rushed conscientiously. But all too often, our brave new liberal world seems to run on fuzz as well as on fury.

Meanwhile, Thomas L. Friedman has been stuck inside of Shanghai with the ed reform blues again! We'll post tomorrow on that column.

What you think of Friedman's piece, it's been written ten million times.


  1. I of course remember the "War on Gore" when Somerby railed against "liberals" who either remained silent (Dionne) or actively participated (Matthews).

    Seems to me that Joan Walsh in this particular piece is staking her position on the "War on Obamacare" and trying mightily to put the early computer glitches in its proper perspective while our "mainstream press corps" scream about the sky falling.

    1. Alterman called it "working the refs." Every time a Republican appears on any outlet he must repeat three times that the rollout of Obamacare is the greatest disaster of our time. Of course the ploy is ginned up because The Republican Party made an ass of itself and inflicted pointless pain on the Nation. So the national media must change that story fast, Republicans buy products too.

  2. It is important for Obama and Sebelius to acknowledge this problem, but why does that responsibility fall upon all Democrats? If Obama really did delay providing info to his IT contractors because he was focused on his reelection, then he deserves some blame and needs to own up. It was foolish to release a site that wasn't functional. Again, that is Obama's fault but I don't see how that means Democrats need to say or do anything more than apologize.

    1. Harry Truman famously said, "The buck stops here." The President deserves the blame for the computer f*ckup, no matter what.

      Frighteningly, the computer system was the easy part. It's a big job, but it's fairly routine for companies out here in Silicon Valley to build big computer systems and make sure they work. The hard part is making sure that the ACA doesn't mess up various aspects of our complex health care system. Here are some concerns

      1. Will the Exchanges recruit enough healthy young people to be solvent, or will they go into a "death spiral"? See http://dailycaller.com/2013/10/16/obamacare-is-in-crisis-now-right-now/

      2. What will be the quality of medical care provided under ACA?

      3. How will the ACA affect the recruitment of doctors and other medical personnel?

      4. How will the ACA affect the development of new drugs and new medical devices?

      Since the Administration f*cked up the relatively easy part, it seems unlikely that they'll handle the harder parts without doing damage. Keep in mind that the ACA is nothing like the single-payer system that works fairly well in Canada or Britain's National Health.

      In short, ACA will likely do serious damage to American health care. The Democrats who all voted for the ACA enacted a bad approach to government health care. That's why they all deserve to be blamed.

    2. If you think creating a national network website like healthcare.gov is "relatively easy" then you have obviously never worked in IT and blatantly obviously never worked in Federal IT.

    3. Marcus, yes, the IT is a very big job. However, people know how to build big IT systems. It may take 2 months or 2 years, but I am confident that the IT system will eventually work.

      OTOH, nobody knows how to make sure the Exchanges recruit enough healthy young adults so that they can remain solvent. That's especially problematic when there's no penalty for pre-existing conditions. I know of no reason to think that the Exchanges will avoid the "death spiral" that Kaus describes.

    4. David, the way the ACA is making sure it recruits enough healthy young adults is by requiring all people to be insured.

    5. Obama hires people.
      Those people hire corporations.
      The corporations f*ck up.
      Ergo, "It's Obama's fault!"

      Any questions?

    6. gravymeister -- Is that supposed to be sarcasm? Because, that's the way it worked when I was in management. When I was responsible for something, I got credit if it went well and got blamed if it didn't. I couldn't pass the blame onto subordinates or independent contractors. After all, I chose the subordinates and I decided which subordinates were capable of doing the job. And, my subordinates did the same with regard to contractors.

      Also, gravymeister, you wouldn't buy this excuse if the Prexy was a Republican. E.g., I don't think you defended George Bush when Michael Brown, his FEMA director, messed up the handling of Hurricane Katrina. I didn't defend Bush either. He chose Brown, so he was rightly held responsible for Brown's performance.

    7. DAinCA,

      1. Will enough healthy people use the exchanges? Yes, I've already answered this one, so don't ask it again. The law requires them to sign up or face tax penalties. There's no financial benefit to dodging health insurance.

      2. What will be the quality of medicare care under the ACA? The same mediocre care available now. The ACA is about health insurance, not medical services.

      3. How will the ACA affect recruitment of doctors? Doctors are not "recruited" now.

      4. How will the ACA affect drugs and medical devices. Not at all. The ACA is about insurance. The ACA will be a giant boon to drug companies and to the cartel that controls and inflates the costs of medical devices.

    8. DAinCA @ 11:48

      Quoting you: "I know of no reason to think…."

      Yes, we know. Everything else is just talking past the close.

    9. deadrat --

      Insurance affects medical care. insurance can force a doctor to spend less time with each patient, on average. Insurance can affect which tests are or are not covered.

      ACA already hurts medical devices by adding a tax on medical device companies. Also, it's very expensive to develop new medical devices and pharmaceuticals. If the reimbursement is held down too much (in order to keep the insurance affordable) that will retard development in these fields.

      People do indeed get recruited by medical schools. In the years my wife was on the faculty of New Jersey Medical School, she saw a substantial improvement in the student body.

    10. DAinCA,

      I know of no mechanism by which an insurance company can force a doctor to spend less time with each patient. One of the complaints about US medical care is the overuse of testing, mostly in fear of malpractice suits. So I doubt health insurance is the driver for medical tests. I could be convinced otherwise by evidence. Do you have any?

      The ACA doesn't go into effect until 2014, so it cannot have hurt medical device manufacturers. There is effectively a cartel of five large companies that owns the market for medical devices, and they set prices at enormous profit margins. A 2.3% tax is hardly going to hurt these companies, especially considering all the extra people who will now be able to buy these products. After the tax has been in place for a couple of years, let's see if anybody is suffering.

      There are far more applicants to medical schools than there are seats. I don't believe that medical schools recruit college seniors the way college football programs recruit high school senior athletes. I'm willing to be convinced otherwise by evidence. Anecdotes from your family don't count.

      There are major questions about the ACA. The foremost is whether its provisions can force and keep health insurance premiums low enough against the monopolistic tendencies of insurance companies. In many areas of the country, there isn't any competition for policies. And as TDH points out, the underlying cost structure of healthcare in this country is absurd, and the ACA is little equipped to deal with that basic problem at all.

      How's that chain of clinics coming? Got a name for it yet?

    11. Cliches often indicate lazy thinking, and pulling Harry's buck off the shelf is one of the great ones, probably only bested by Chamberlain's appeasement. Vote Cruz!

  3. I can't wait for your comments on Friedman. As the parent of a 5th grader attending a decent school in decent school system--that is, schools where anyone with aptitude and engaged parents can succeed--I was struck by Friedman's list of the "non-secret" keys to Shanghai's success.

    Friedman: "These are: a deep commitment to teacher training, peer-to-peer learning and constant professional development, a deep involvement of parents in their children’s learning, an insistence by the school’s leadership on the highest standards and a culture that prizes education and respects teachers."

    In my state, teacher training and coordination time have been slashed. Most parents are too busy getting divorced or scrambling to pay for overpriced houses to spend time on their kids' learning after they pick them up from after-school care. The governor and legislature are in charge of setting high standards. As far as prizing education goes, my fear is that, if we cancelled interscholastic sports and extracurricular activities, at least half of the families would see no point in school at all.

  4. Sorry, George Zimmerman haters. "Police won't charge George Zimmerman for alleged furniture theft

    Read more: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2013/10/24/Police-wont-charge-George-Zimmerman-for-alleged-furniture-theft/UPI-32311382636248/#ixzz2ilViNcU2"

  5. In today's New York Times, Princeton professor Uwe E. Reinhardt made the same point I did above about why Obama is responsible for the IT failure. Reinhardt even used the same "buck stops here" idea. Reinhardt is a big supporter of government health care. http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/10/25/the-midterm-grade-for-healthcare-gov/

    Woe to the members of the management team in a corporation if problems with a project are hidden from the chief executive when they become known, exposing the chief executive to embarrassing public relations surprises. Heads would roll. The board, however, would assign the blame for such problems not primarily to the management team and instead to the chief executive himself or herself. He hired and supervised the team.

    From that perspective, the blame for the disastrous rollout of HealthCare.gov goes to its entire management team, to be sure, but primarily to the chief executive on top of that project. In my view, not only the proverbial buck stops on the chief executive’s desk, but, for the management of this particular project, the grade of F goes there as well.

    1. Using business as an example of taking responsibility is a bad idea. When the banks caused huge problems for our economy, did any of the leaders take responsibility and lose their jobs over it? Not so much.

    2. D in C, what responsibility did the Republicans take for no weapons of mass destruction and the near collapse of our economy?

    3. AnonymousOctober 26, 2013 at 9:54 AM -- I agree with you that these bankers ought to have lost their jobs. Furthermore, I'm dubious about the various bailouts. To a considerable degree, huge amounts of money were being given to cronies. In particular, AIG is a firm I'm quite familiar with. The insurance subsidiaries didn't need bailing out. It would have been OK to let the parent company fail IMHO.

      AC MA -- The voters held the Reps responsible for no weapons of mass destruction and the near collapse of our economy . In 2006, a great many elected Reps were voted out of office.

    4. DAinCA is right. That's the last time I'm voting for Obama.

  6. What I find fascinating about the Joan Wash inspired flap is that the
    youngish male suck ups Somerby always criticizes are so thin skinned when someone, in this case Walsh, calls them out on the content of tweets which appear to be written by twits.

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