Monday, March 22, 2010

They had our backs; let's get theirs!

Last night, Congress made history by passing the most comprehensive health care reform in nearly 50 years. For some representatives, a "yes" vote meant they were standing up for 32 million uninsured Americans in the face of a tough re-election fight. Health Care Reform was passed with only 3 votes to spare, which means every single one of those votes was essential - but it could cost these representatives their jobs.

They did the right thing anyway, and that's exactly why they need to be sent back to Congress for another term. We can help make that happen, by giving just a few dollars to any or all of them - they're going to need every penny. No matter how little you can afford to give, it'll make a difference by showing them, their constituents and the media that this was the right thing to do. Their opponents are going to make literally millions of dollars in contributions off of these gutsy votes. Let's get their backs, like they just got ours.

Here's the list of the most vulnerable Democrats to vote yes, from (list was compiled before the vote; Space voted no). And here's the roll call vote from last night.

Donation pages for the 20 most vulnerable Democrats voting Yes on Health Care Reform:

Betsy Markey - CO 4th
Suzanne Kosmas - FL 24th
Earl Pomeroy - ND At Large
Brad Ellsworth - IN 5th
Tom Perriello - VA 5th
Baron Hill - IN 9th
John Spratt - SC 5th
Mark Schauer - MI 7th
Chris Carney - PA 10th
John Boccieri - OH 16th
Alan Grayson - FL 8th
Kendrick Meek - FL 17th, running for Senate
Mary Jo Kilroy - OH 15th
Paul Hodes - NH 2nd, running for Senate
Harry Mitchell - AZ 5th
Carol Shea-Porter - NH 1st
Allen Boyd - FL 2nd
Joe Sestak - PA 7th, running for Senate
John Salazar - CO 3rd, running for Senate
Bill Foster - IL 14th

Even if you can only spare a dollar, pick a candidate (from the top, ideally) and show your support!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Yet another health care post

I'm sick of them too, but this is the most important domestic policy debate we've had since 9/11, so it's worth getting a little sick and tired of talking about.

Matt Taibbi, who I ordinarily quite like, posted a note this morning expressing his skepticism that this health care bill is going to get us anywhere close to the kind of systemic fixes our health care system requires. I disagree, to the great shock of anyone strange enough to still be reading this blog, and posted a comment that I kind of liked, so I'm reposting it here:

Matt, it doesn't suck. Here's why.

First, in exchange for the massive "subsidy", insurers are going to be forced to stop screening for pre-existing conditions. This is a massive, massive win for the public, and the only way to make it possible (without moving to single-payer, which would be better but wasn't on the table) was to mandate coverage. You're a smart guy, you've heard this before, so I'm curious why you don't think it at least balances out.

Second, insurance companies aren't really the problem. They're a problem, but probably not the biggest. This American Life did a show on health care a few months ago that made a pretty compelling case that hospitals are at least as much to blame as insurance companies, who often have little leverage and get by by denying coverage (something this bill dramatically cuts back.)

Ultimately, the real problem is that we have a decentralized health care system - it relies upon thousands of hospitals making deals with hundreds of insurance companies, all over the country, and there are few if any efficiencies of scale, so we have to pay all kinds of transaction and opportunity costs. If we had a more centralized system - in the extreme, one nationwide "insurance" system paying one nationwide system of hospitals and doctors, and negotiating prescription drug prices - we'd save a ton of money and sacrifice little if anything in the way of care or benefits. This legislation moves us unambiguously closer to that, not just in terms of the system we'll be getting, but also by reorienting the political center around a more-progressive health care system. Ten or fifteen years from now, a sensible centrist will find nothing at all problematic in the idea of universal health care, or in the idea that the government has a role to play in making that possible. And that's how we move to a better system overall.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What's Right with Lost

As Lost enters its final season, it's become clear that there is no better show on network TV (not that I watch basically any other network TV, so how would I know...) Although the final season is structured quite differently from all those that have come before it, it's still turning out to be an enthralling apex for the show to go out on, for at least three reasons:

First, it's ambitious as hell. The whole show has basically become an extended discussion of the concept and nature of fate, free will and causation. It's had a sideline into time travel, and alternate universes, and that sideline is still going, and somehow the show still works! There has never once been a character on the show whose motives weren't ultimately clear and understandable, and yet at the same time, basically every character appears to be driven by motives that, until they're explained, are a total mystery. I have no idea how they manage to strike this seemingly insane balance.

Second, the fundamental mystery that drives the show remains satisfyingly unanswered. Think about it: what's the deal with the island? At the heart of the show, this question above all others remains unanswered. The two demigods, the lighthouse, the cave, the temple...all the recent additions to the mythology of the island have explained a ton, but at the same time left the basic question unanswered.

Third, each week is just a solid hour of gripping television. All of the above would be beside the point if each episode weren't packed with action, intrigue, mystery, good writing, solid acting, beautiful (if workmanlike) cinematography, and just pure fun. It's just a fun fucking 45 minutes, every episode, and that makes the whole magilla work.

What's Wrong with Lost

I think there are three big problems facing the show right now. I'm still going to watch every episode, of course, but they need to resolve these problems fast or the final season just won't be that great:

First, there's no mission. The first few seasons, this was obvious: get off the island. But now, some of them have been off, and nobody (Sawyer excepted) really seems to give that much of a shit whether they stay or go. In fact, none of them really seem to care about anything understandable, beyond survival or finding someone else. Without that driving force, the show is dramatically inert.

Second, there's no mystery. They've revealed too much, and at this point, the only thing we know we don't know is who exactly Locke is, and what his plan is. But pretty much everything else of consequence has either been explained or dropped (what happened to Charles Widmore?) Previously, everything we cared about knowing was unknown - what's the deal with the island, who are the Others, why is there a polar bear, what's the smoke monster, etc. Now, there are a few new characters whose identities or motives are mysterious, and that's about it. Even if there are many new surprises awaiting us, we don't KNOW that we don't know them.

Third, there are no stakes. Too many people have died and come back to life for the audience to really believe anyone dies on this show. The whole parallel universe thing means that even if something truly awful happens on the island, the characters we love will still basically be ok. And there just seem to be so many deus ex machinae that we can't take any bad thing at face value.