Health care reform

As everyone who cares already knows, the health care reform bill passed the House late last night. From a policy point of view, it’s a really great thing. The individual insurance mandate combined with the ban of dropping insurees or excluding care for “pre-existing conditions” will be big. In fact, the individual changes that the reform puts in place are widely supported.

But there are a lot of mitigating circumstances that are keeping me from celebrating today. The accounting hand-wave tricks that are in the bill to make it look like a budgetary winner are disgusting. The complete inability for the Democrats to get any moderate Republicans on board with what is a very centrist bill (not to mention the couple dozen moderate Democrats that voted against it) is a real shame. And as a pro-choice liberal, I can’t help but feel disappointed that anti-choice conservatives get to keep any of us from helping poor women get abortions, but I couldn’t keep my money from being used to invade Iraq.

In the end, I simply hope the administration learned a couple of important lessons. Most importantly, if Obama wants something to happen, he needs to be more engaged from day one. I also hope that this reform’s passage helps conservatives realize that the Tea Party’s scorched earth methods aren’t going to work for them and compromise really is a better idea.

Graphic design and misinformation

Last week, Representative John Boehner released a chart intended to show the complexity of the proposed health reform bill. The magazine New Republic shot back with a chart of their own of the current system. A graphic designer on Flickr redesigned Rep. Boehner’s chart to be actually informative, and it is spectacular.

I ♥ Jimmy Carter

I think I’m in love with Jimmy Carter. I’ve started reading his most recent book, Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis, and I’m totally taken with how improbable he is. Southern-raised, farmer, born-again evangelical Christian, yet he’s a liberal Democrat and Nobel Peace Prize laureate. I yearn for a president like that.

Unanimous Justices

Did you know that 4 of the 9 Supreme Court Justices now serving were confirmed by unanimous votes? And another 3 had fewer than ten opposing votes each. Only Clarence Thomas's confirmation was even close.

Justice Appointed by Vote
John Paul Stevens Ford 98-0
Sandra Day O'Connor Reagan 99-0
Antonin Scalia Reagan 98-0
Anthony Kennedy Reagan 97-0
David Souter G.H.W. Bush 90-9
Clarence Thomas G.H.W. Bush 52-48
Ruth Bader Ginsburg Clinton 97-3
Stephen Breyer Clinton 87-9
John Roberts G. W. Bush 78-22

John Roberts

I’m not entirely sure I’d vote to confirm John Roberts, Bush’s nominee for the Supreme Court. I definitely disagree strongly with his ideological views. On the Court of Appeals, he upheld secret military tribunals for terror suspects. As an attorney, he argued that Roe v. Wade “was wrongly decided and should be overruled.” He’s also argued against environmental regulation a number of times.

On the other hand, this might be the wisest thing I’ve ever heard a judicial nominee say: “Roe v. Wade is the settled law of the land… There is nothing in my personal views that would prevent me from fully and faithfully applying that precedent.” How strongly should political views influence Congress' decision to confirm a nominee? The Left has only a certain amount of power in the current administration, but if Roberts was denied or filibustered, could a different nominee really be any better? I can’t see Bush nominating someone centrist, but there’s always the chance he’ll nominate someone more activist.

Update: More selected opinions.

Gay civil unions in CT

Hooray, Connecticut! It’s a great day for equality, because the CT legislature has passed a bill allowing gay civil unions! Granted, it needed to have a provision attached saying “those people definitely don’t get to marry”, but this is a massive step in the right direction. The state has become the first state to allow civil unions that didn’t have to be forced into it by the courts.

Update 21 Apr: The Senate approved the bill, and Republican Governor Jodi Rell signed it yesterday. Simply amazing. I can almost (almost) forgive her give-him-the-chair tirade. Also, this story illustrates perfectly the difference between blue states and red states. As glassdog says:

The Texas Republican Party has decided that it's better to take a kid away from Steve and Chip, who love them and take them to school every morning, and were saving up to go to Disneyland this Summer, and put them in a state-run orphanage.

Inauguration Protest Photos

Inauguration protest photos. Quite excellent.

Edwards got an electoral vote

Final 2004 election tally: George Bush, 286 electoral votes; John Kerry, 251 electoral votes; John Edwards, 1 electoral vote?

Red states, Blue states, and cartograms

More on America’s non-existant red/blue divide: a fascinating analysis of Election result maps and cartograms.

Red vs. Blue states

It’s easy to think of the country in Red states and Blue states, especially for those of us who are a little bitter about the results of the election. But the truth of the matter is that it’s really not that clear-cut.

Update 11-05: Someone made a county-by-county version of the map , too.

Red Sox and the President

Red Sox World Series victories predict incumbent presidential defeat with 100% accuracy!

T minus 7 to E-Day

Seven days to go. “You know what they call a candidate who’s counting on a lot of new voters? A loser.” – James Carville

Hypothetical optimal imperfect election

Remember the 2000 election (sure you do), when Gore won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote? Well, it’s happened before, and it’s one of the strongest arguments that people use for abolishing the electoral college (an argument that I haven’t chosen a side on, to be honest). It got me thinking: how much could a candidate lose the popular vote by and still win the electoral vote? The candidate would have to get half (plus one) of the votes in “strong states”, and zero votes in “weak states”. In this case, a state’s strength is defined as electoral votes per voter.

A candidate could win the election with only 21.7% of the national popular vote by just squeaking by in AK, AL, AR, AZ, CO, CT, DC, DE, GA, HI, IA, ID, IN, KS, KY, LA, MD, ME, MS, MT, NC, ND, NE, NH, NM, NV, NY, OK, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, VT, WV, and WY and getting no votes in any other states. You’ll note that CT, MD, and VA are “weaker” states than California, but since it has such a large population, including it instead of the three weaker states increases the final total quite a bit.

Note that I had to ignore Maine and Nebraska’s congressional district method, since it would add too many extra variables.

Update 10-15: I should probably point out that I used the turnout numbers for the 2000 election, since I assumed that was a good enough estimate, but the new electoral vote counts (i.e. 7 for CT instead of 8). You can check out my actual data.

Detailed statistical election poll analysis

Detailed statistical election poll analysis. Why dead-even polls mean that Bush will be buried on November 2. I won’t buy it until the polls are closed, but it’s very well reasoned and extremely well informed. Via Nomad.

GOP Fear Phrases

The RNC fear-phrase video (Quicktime). Hypnotizing. (via)

You Forgot Poland

Now you, too, can forget Poland with this new You Forgot Poland Bumper Sticker!

(What the hell is this about?)

John Edwards' trial record

You may or may not be aware that my wife, M, is a medical student. You might also be unaware of the fact that the Democratic Vice-Presidential candidate is a former trial lawyer. I am certain that you know that Doctors and Trial Lawyers are mortal enemies. I can respect how difficult it must be for her to decide whether to cast her vote for Kerry/Edwards or not.

In the interest in helping her to make an educated decision, based on his trial record, here is a list of major medical malpractice suits that he tried, mainly found on FindLaw. Copyright infringement, ahoy!

  • Griffin v. Teague, et al. - Application of abdominal pressure and delay in performing c-section caused brain damage to infant and resulted in child having cerebral palsy and spastic quadriplegia. Verdict set record for malpractice award. - $23.25M verdict
  • Campbell v. Pitt County Memorial Hosp. - Infant born with cerebral palsy after breech birth via vaginal delivery, rather than cesarean. Established North Carolina precedent of physician and hospital liability for failing to determine if patient understood risks of particular procedure. - $5.75M settlement
  • Wiggs v. Glover, et al. - Plaintiff alleged infant's severe cerebral palsy was caused by negligent administration of pitocin, failure to use fetal monitor, or timely intervening in baby's fetal distress. - $2.5M settlement
  • Cooper v. Craven Regional Med. Ctr., et al. - Infant suffered severe brain damage after obstetrician failed to moderate use of Picotin after baby displayed clear fetal distress. - $2.5M settlement
  • Dixon v. Pitt County Memorial Hospital - Birth-related injuries including cerebral palsy and mental retardation allegedly caused by obstetrician's failure to diagnose fetal distress, including umbilical cord wrapped around baby's neck prior to delivery. - $2.4M settlement
  • Sawyer v. St. Joseph's Hospital - Doctor prescribed drug overdose of anti-alcoholism drug Antabuse, resulting in permanent brain and nerve damage. - $3.7M verdict
  • Estate of Fuller v. Mazzaglia - 38-year-old female committed suicide after psychiatrist discontinued suicide watch. - $2.3M verdict
  • Allen v. Bostic - Doctor's delay and failure to properrly treat 45-year-old's severely lacerated foot ultimately required amputation of foot three years later. - $600K settlement

Presidential Candidates on the CT Ballot

Presidential candidates listed on the ballot in the state of Connecticut: George W. Bush (Republican), John F. Kerry (Democratic), David Cobb (Green), Michael A. Peroutka (Concerned Citizens), Michael Badnarik (Libertarian), and Ralph Nader (no party designation).

For our New Yorker friends, the candidates there are Bush, Kerry, Badnarik, Nader, and Roger Calero (Socialist Workers Party).

Presidential Debate Catch Phrases

This is a neat Perl-powered Presidential Debate analysis.

Voters Information Guide

Everyone who’s a citizen of the United States should be required to read the Voters Information Guide for the 2004 Election. The best part is the link to Just Vote in the absentee section. Those of you who live in New York and are still registered in Connecticut should definitely check that page out. I’m looking at you Chris and Mari.

The Onion tells the future

In January 2001, shortly before his Inauguration, The Onion published an article called “Bush: ‘Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace and Prosperity Is Finally Over’”. Little did we know how true the details of what was meant to be satire would be.

Hacking Congress

Only one article so far, but I plan on following this Hacking Congress column. I’m quite interested in statistics and large data sets and screenscraping. Like I needed to tell you.


I was thinking of protesting at the RNC this week, since how often do you get a chance to protest something so big and so close? I was trying to come up with something vaguely nerdy but also political. This protester outdid any hypothetical alternate-universe me.