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Comment Lunar Space Elevator (Score 2) 99

Decades ago, Jerome Pearson produced detailed plans for a lunar space elevator for NASA Institute of Advanced Concepts, seeking to enable lunar mining and lower-cost access to water in space.

Since any human missions to Mars would benefit from (if not outright require) large amounts of water (either split into propellent and oxidizer, used as radiation shielding, or even just for life support), do you feel that construction of such a device would be a net benefit? Why or why not?

Comment Re:Flip Argument (Score 1) 1128

I would have shot him as well

I know, right? God forbid we have to flee and look like wimps. Much better to take a man's life.

According to Wilson's account, he was not in his car when the fatal shot was fired. In fact, when the fatal shot was fired, Brown had already been wounded numerous times. It seems unlikely to me that Brown was still posing a threat to Wilson's life at this point (as Wilson had numerous avenues for escape and Brown already had a few holes in him), but for some reason nobody is questioning why Officer Wilson felt he had no other option than to kill Brown.

I suppose machismo is a valid defense in our society. Wonderful.

Comment Re:Moderate BS (Score 1) 1128

Multiple witnesses (including half a dozen African Americans who came forward on their own to the police, and weren't interested in media attention) corroborated all of this, including what happened next (Brown turns around and moves at Wilson, who fires a few times, winging Brown - Wilson STOPS shooting and again tells Brown to stop - Brown then charges at Wilson who shoots again until Brown stops). There's blood on the street that shows Brown covered significant distance TOWARDS Wilson, just as described by those same witnesses.

Based on my understanding of the prosecutor's statement to the news media, the fatal shots were fired quite a distance from the patrol car. Wilson had allegedly pursued Brown for some distance before Brown allegedly turned to charge at Wilson. My question is, was shooting Brown to death Wilson's only option? Was he for some reason unable to flee the allegedly aggressive Brown? What about after he had already succeeded in shooting him, and Brown still allegedly made some sudden movements toward Wilson, was Wilson's only option to continue shooting at Brown? Was this shot-and-bleeding-on-the-ground Brown still posing an immediate threat to the life of Wilson or someone else? If not, why was it legal for him to continue shooting? Is there some authority vested in law enforcement officers that allows them to shoot to death anyone that seeks to do harm, regardless of their actual means to accomplish this goal? If a five-year-old chases after a cop trying to kick him in the shin, does the cop have the authority to shoot him? If not, then why is this any different if it's a gunshot victim crawling across the pavement instead of a five-year-old running? Doesn't each pose an equally insignificant threat?

Comment Re:Obama (Score 1) 706

It was not a predatory plan, it was a premium plan. It had excellent coverage. I'm not a lawyer nor an accountant so delving into the particular requirements of the thousands of pages of new regs that led to the policy's demise is a bit much to ask. I had the same policy for a number of years

I won't deny the possibility of what you're saying, I just don't understand how that's possible. Surely the ACA isn't outlawing "premium", "excellent coverage" plans, is it? Is that what you're alleging? That the ACA arbitrarily outlaws good plans? Why would such legislation even be drafted, to accomplish what goal? Furthermore, why wouldn't anyone be able to point out that bit of legalese responsible this and say "See -- This is why the ACA is terrible" in the years since it's been signed into law? It just doesn't add up to me. Surely out of the many millions of people complaining about the ACA, one of them would be identify the piece of the law that requires the cancellation of such "premium" plans, no? Do you understand how someone who hasn't been negatively impacted in the way you describe might be skeptical regarding such claims? I mean, I'll grant that it's possible, but it really just doesn't make sense.

The AHA doesn't lower costs, it raises them. All the insurers and health care providers have to ensure they're compliant which is not a cheap thing to do. That expense alone raises costs. I'm judging the performance based on my own costs. The amount billed for care I've received previously haven't changed significantly, it's the replacement plan paying out less. So it's not the cost of care that's increasing, it's my out of pocket expense. So the new plan costs more and covers less. Maybe I'm in an unlucky edge case, but I hear a lot of people say the same of their own situation. Even the health care providers I see are complaining about it.

Okay, so there's compliance costs. That's a very real cost in the healthcare industry. Some estimates of what percentage of healthcare costs are the result of compliance burdens are hard to believe. I won't deny that additional regulation in that industry could (and likely would) have significant costs. Even something as simple as the Sunshine Act (2007) has had a significant impact in the industry. I believe compliance (and all other) costs were included in surveys conducted that demonstrate that overall, the ACA has had a positive impact on the cost of healthcare. Looking at the numbers, it is evident that the cost of healthcare has continued to rise since the ACA hit, but the rate at which it is increasing has dropped to 3% (from 5%-7%). These numbers aren't very comprehensive. It would be nice to know not just the average impact, but the median and maybe even the distribution of cost impact. Maybe some small number of people is saving a huge amount and everyone else is getting a slight cost increase (although I don't think that's likely). Maybe some small number of people is getting royally fucked and everyone else is getting a slight cost decrease (also unlikely). These numbers only tell us that on average, the rise in costs has been somewhat stemmed, and that the increased costs of compliance have been more than countered by decreased costs elsewhere.

If Medicare pays so much, why had places like the Mayo Clinic dumped all their patients that have it? That's not a thing that is done lightly. That was a big talking point while the legislation was being debated. Many facilities across the country are faced with dropping those patients or charging more to everyone else to eat the loss. You're pointing to the pay as a problem, but it's not true that every doctor is raking in a fortune. With the decrease in compensation for services rendered, they have fit more patients in just to keep the lights on. Some specialists may be making a ton of money, but IMO, they've earned it. I don't want a minimum wage surgeon operating on me.

It's a market. The Mayo Clinic did the math and decided it would be more profitable to raise their prices, limiting the demand for their product, but enjoying fatter margins. Other doctors will lower their prices, increasing demand for their product, but tightening up their margins. While it's nice to think that everyone can be served by the finest medical practitioners, that's not realistic. What will all the other doctors do? How will the best of the best find time to treat everyone? If we're honest with each other, we must admit that healthcare will be rationed no matter which way you slice it. It's just that today, instead of thinking in terms of actual prices, we're forced to think in terms of which doctors accept which insurance plans.

You have way too high an opinion of single payer. Visit the UK sometime and listen to their news and call in shows about the horror stories of the NHS. Canada has a problem with wait lists similar to our VA. I needed surgery before the AHA for a somewhat rare issue and was in the OR within about three months. I've spoken with people in Canada who had been wait listed for multiple years because there's an arbitrary cap on the number of those surgeries that can be performed annually, regardless of how bad a shape the patient is in. I met one of those patients at a hospital here in the US. They were here because they couldn't bear the pain and other symptoms any longer.

No system is perfect, and it's not hard to find anecdotes to support a position on any side of the argument. Have you not heard of failures here in the US? People getting sick only to have their insurance drop their coverage, and next thing you know they're filing for bankruptcy and their house is gone? Uninsured people who use the emergency room as their primary care provider? I understand that the system of healthcare rationing found in single-payer countries is similarly imperfect. It may be frustrating for someone who is well-off that they have to wait their turn to get services that they deem to be a high priority. However, there are only so many doctors. In this country, the well-off don't need to wait as long, but the poor, well, they don't need to wait at all. They're just fucked. At least those well-off people in single-payer countries have the option to go somewhere where they can pay cash and skip the line. The poor here in America, they're not buying tickets to socialist paradises to get their healthcare. They're just dying.

We're a fast food nation that doesn't exercise. That's less of a problem in the rest of the "developed" world. I think you probably realize that already.

Indeed, I understand that. It could be argued that our system encourages the formation of this type of society. In a single-payer country, the government is incentivized to improve health, to decrease the cost of healthcare, because that cost is paid from the government's pocket. In our country, insurers have no such incentive (and may even be incentivized to worsen health, as their profits are capped to a percentage of their revenues -- the more healthcare services rendered, the more revenues, the more profits). However, if it's not fair to say that we have worse outcomes (because Americans are fat cows), then it's not fair to say that we have the best healthcare (how can you compare quality of healthcare if there's no fair way of comparing outcomes?).

We do have the best system. A lot of the groundbreaking advances in medicine happen right here in the states. It's not misconception, but the self-haters among us would like everyone else to believe that. I am seeing one of the leading specialists right now at one of our best hospitals. My old policy paid a lot more of the bills for me, but the newer plan still covers it somewhat.. mostly after I hit the annual out-of-pocket. If ever that changed, I would very likely end up on disability and die shortly after. I've seen many specialists and it wasn't until I went to the "expensive" hospital to see the "expensive" doctor that we finally came up with a way of keeping me in the workforce. That's why I take this whole mess very personally. Your life may not depend on it, but mine certainly does.

For some values of best. I don't deny that a lot of the groundbreaking advances in medicine happen right here in the states. But is that what we want out of our healthcare system? R&D? Or do we want health? Because being good at one doesn't necessarily mean being good at the other. I don't begrudge you access to your specialist, but your specialist can't treat everyone. How, as a society, do we want to ration his services? Should we only allow him to treat the wealthiest patients who have the insurance plans willing to pay the most for his services? Only the uber-wealthy who are willing to pay extraordinary amounts out of pocket? Or should we decouple the access to healthcare from access to wealth? It's a legitimate question, with legitimate arguments on all sides.

I don't like Obama's "take the pain pill instead of the surgery" rhetoric. I recall Governor Patrick of MA on the radio saying that one way to control costs would be to do as you suggest, block people from going to the best facilities. That's great, because for me, that's a death sentence. How dare any of you. Single payer would almost certainly implement such restrictions. The best care would then only be available to the uber rich that could pay out of pocket. No thanks.

I'm not familiar with the rhetoric you refer to (but if that statement was meant literally, I disagree with it wholeheartedly). Regarding Gov. Patrick's statement, it may not be acceptable to you, but we need to have an honest discussion about this. For you, such an approach is a death sentence. But what if you were poor and uninsured and he was arguing that one way to control costs would be to do as you suggest, block people that don't have insurance. Why would that death sentence be any better? Fundamentally, the problem is that healthcare is not in abundant supply. It's not free. Due to this scarcity, it needs to be rationed in some manner. Some people will be handed death sentences. It will suck. However, to pretend that leaving things as they are somehow gets around this problem is absurd. We're already rationing healthcare, on the basis of insurance coverage and financial means. Many people just don't understand this because "I've got mine" is a powerful sentiment.

Comment Re:Not bad. . . (Score 3) 188

Indeed, if they keep it up, they'll soon have caught up to the Walmart probe out in the Kuiper Belt, the Apple spacecraft out exploring the Oort cloud, and the Exxon-Mobil "lander" navigating the depths of the seas on Titan.

You say "for a government run operation" as though those weren't the most impressive operations to date.

Comment Re:Obama (Score 1) 706

I know that the AHA was responsible for the cancellation because that was the reason cited. Granted, they could have been lying, but the only reason would have been because the plan was no longer viable given the new requirements put in effect by the legislation, which would still mean that it was cancelled by the AHA.

I mean, that sounds rather vague. It's unlikely that your policy contained a clause saying that it would be discontinued if any legislation titled "Affordable Care Act" was passed. It's similarly unlikely that the ACA specifically singled out plan #X provided by insurer $Y as no longer legal. So it's become clear that "they said so" is your only basis for knowing that the passage of the ACA was the cause of the cancellation. But you don't know why, specifically, that was the case. For someone that's so infuriated by the impact of the ACA, you don't seem very motivated to get more information on the subject. Either way, let's at least acknowledge that it is possible your plan was discontinued because it was predatory and/or ineffectual, in which case your ire may not be entirely justified.

Of course it was supposed to lower costs. That's what was pitched to the public. The first A stands for AFFORDABLE. Increasing out of pocket expenses is the opposite of making something more affordable. The average family's costs were supposed to decrease by a substantial amount, and for a lot of people, that never happened. The biggest group of people benefiting are those who get subsidized policies, but many of them had insurance before. Their costs went up like mine and suddenly they had to be subsidized. Some resent it. They don't understand how any of this helped when they used to be self sufficient and now rely on handouts to pay for a lesser policy than they had before.

Lower costs as compared against what? Are you comparing costs from one year to the previous year? Why do you feel that to be a fair comparison? Do you honestly believe that in the absence of the ACA, your costs would have remained the same year over year? Especially when you consider that healthcare costs have been rising by double-digit rates for years? That's a disingenuous comparison to make. The reason the ACA was passed was to reign in the costs of healthcare, which are (by anyone's measure) spiraling out of control. If you believe that the ACA is failing in this goal because absolute costs are not decreasing, then you had some very lofty expectations, but you're entitled to your opinion. However, if you feel the ACA is having a negative impact on costs (compared to how things would have looked had we done nothing), then you're flat out incorrect, as this isn't a matter of opinion. All studies of the issue have shown that, in general, healthcare is cheaper today with the ACA than it would have been today without the ACA. That means, necessarily, that the ACA is, in general, saving us money. I wouldn't doubt that some are being helped more than others, and that some might actually be being harmed. But in general, overall, the ACA is lowering costs compared to how costs would otherwise be without the ACA. Comparing against the previous year is disingenuous because it assumes that without the ACA, costs would not have risen, which is a baseless (and frankly, ridiculous) assumption.

I don't want single payer. It's not the federal government's job to force it on us.

I understand that a great many people "don't want single payer". Usually the debate turns to one rooted in political ideology, sadly. Nonetheless, regardless of how you feel about single-payer, if it were to be implemented in America, it would very much be the federal government's job to force it on us. That's how single-payer works.

People from countries that have it come here for care they can't receive in their own country. That should tell you something. People in the UK go on medical vacations to other countries for treatment.

I think you have that backwards. It's Americans that are going abroad to seek medical treatment now.

The VA is constantly in trouble, federal programs like Medicare underpay doctors and hospitals forcing them to either close or to refuse to see those patients. You see where this is headed? Single payer would destroy health care in our country. That's what federal bureaucracy does.

I'm not aware of the VA constantly being in trouble. I don't believe federal programs like Medicare underpay doctors, since doctors in this country are paid significantly more than elsewhere in the world and enjoy income greatly in excess of the median (and even average) American income. Your only justification for your claim that single-payer would destroy health care in our country is "that's what federal bureaucracy does", and that's not a very convincing argument.

There absolutely were secret wait lists. They were exposed, which is why we now know of them. Your point there is moronic. The fact that they existed for so long shows the depravity of the federal government with regard to people's health.

I honestly have no idea what you're talking about here, and perhaps providing some context would make you sound like less of a raving lunatic. I've indeed had to wait to see a doctor, as I needed to schedule an appointment, and my doctors also accept other patients, so their availability is limited. Is this one of these secret wait lists that you speak of?

Your poor outcomes are lifestyle choices, not the fault of the system. Too many people make poor choices on diet and exercise, drug abuse, etc. It's "cool" to kill yourself slowly over time here. Single payer doesn't fix that. If anything, it encourages it. There's no longer any imposed financial burden.

So it's because we make uniquely poorer decisions in this country than in single-payer countries. But single-payer doesn't fix this problem, it encourages it. So then why is this less of a problem in single-payer countries?

The US has a culture that's far different than that of any other nation. Those one to one comparisons do not work.

Ah, so comparisons to other countries are unfair. It's unreasonable to point out how much better single-payer systems are elsewhere because we're special. How convenient.

You're waving a loaded gun around. We have the best doctors and facilities in the world, and people like you are dead-set on destroying it.

We have the most expensive doctors and facilities in the world. We may also have the best doctors and facilities in the world, but you're not using them. You can't afford them. Neither can I. We can only afford those doctors and facilities that our health insurance grants us. These doctors and facilities are not the best in the world, but they're still dramatically more expensive than comparable doctors and facilities elsewhere in the developed world. There's this widely spread misconception that America is some shining example of the pinnacle of healthcare. It's not, but people like you are dead-set on propagating this myth and perpetuating the scam that it enables.

Comment Re:Hypocrites (Score 1) 224

I'm not sure how you expect a group to get their message out without paying people to do so. Banners and flyers cost money too. It's not just TV ads. Your campaign staff needs to put food on the table and a roof over their head. In order to find out that your opponent is lying in their book, you need to come up with a copy of the book, which probably means buying one. That all requires spending money.

I'm pretty sure nobody's talking about restrictions on campaign financing that are so draconian that they'd prevent the purchase of a book. That might be a bit of a strawman argument. Regarding the food on the table and roof over head, I support the notion that the political process shouldn't be the basis of anyone's livelihood. Candidates that are actually supported by actual people will find supporters that voluntarily support them. I'd imagine that candidates that are supported primarily by non-natural "persons" would inherently have a harder time finding such voluntary support, and I feel that would be a good thing. Limited funding would level the playing field between candidates, allowing those with relatively little funding (by today's standards) to have comparable exposure to those who are flush with cash. Unable to leverage financial advantage to win elections, politicians might instead have to win votes by supporting popular policies instead. I would welcome such a change.

In addition, Lessig intends to set up a two tiered system, where candidates that the media supports are allowed to have an outside group (the media) spend money on their behalf, in addition to their "non-spending speech." Candidates not supported by the media only have the "non-spending speech," which is of course unworkable in practice. Also of note, Lessig's bet, and he's talked about this, is that the candidates he personally supports are the ones that get support from the traditional media.

Is this an actual problem? Or, more importantly, is this an actual problem that is solved by enabling unlimited money-as-speech? Which candidates were railroaded by the media during the last presidential election? Was it Romney or Obama? Or was it Johnson, Stein, Goode, and Anderson? Did this unlimited money-as-speech approach help Johnson, Stein, Goode, and Anderson overcome this media bias? Or did it help Romney and Obama dominate the conversation, further silencing everyone else? I think the problem of media favoritism that you describe is only exacerbated by the influence of money, as the candidates favored by the media are all too often the same ones favored by those with deep pockets.

This argument is just "money is bad because I say so." It's not "money is bad because it has an outsized effect" or "money is bad because it makes people do things they wouldn't otherwise do" or "This system is bad because some people are/would be treated unfairly under it." It's just "money is bad because it makes me uneasy."

No, this argument is just "I, personally, don't like excess money in politics". It's a statement of personal belief, an opinion, and not an argument that excess money in politics is bad. Perhaps I should have separated this statement of personal belief from the rest of my argument so that it wouldn't be mistaken for something it's not.

I'm not sure what your idea of the "nature of democracy" is. I prefer one correlated with an idea from free market theory. One of the conditions that makes a market free is that all actors have perfect knowledge of the available products. In this case, that's voters having perfect knowledge of the candidates. Clearly, 100% perfect knowledge is unattainable, but in order to make an informed choice, voters need to know what candidates stand for. There's only three ways a candidate can do that. They can either do it themselves personally, which doesn't scale, pay their supporters to help them, which costs money, or have outside groups (including the media) help them, which also costs money.

I disagree vehemently. There's absolutely no reason to believe that any message promoted by a candidate increases the availability of perfect knowledge of the available products. Have you never heard of the idea of a conflict of interest? If you trust politicians to the extent that you actually believe giving them more money increases the amount of truth they broadcast, we have a fundamentally different view of human nature. Can you say with a straight face that a publicly financed campaign of publishing verified information about all the candidates (from one common fund) would provide less perfect knowledge of the available products than the system of fearmongering, mudslinging, and blatant propaganda funded by corporations, special interests groups, and plutocrats that we have today? Do you really believe that minimizing conflicts of interest will lead to a more corrupt system?

Lessig would prevent all the outside groups from informing people about candidates except for a group that supports the same candidates that he supports. You don't think that corrupts the nature of democracy?

That does not correspond to my understanding of MAYDAY PAC at all. Lessig seeks to return to how things were prior to 2010. I don't remember the 2010 decision lifting us out of some despotic hell. I don't remember a vastly more informed electorate arriving at the polls after 2010. I don't understand how any effort to overturn or limit the decision reached in Citizens United could possibly result in any of these apocalyptic scenarios that are feared, since it's not like we'd be treading new ground.

A committee is a group that keeps the minutes and loses hours. -- Milton Berle