Health insurance as a weapon to control workers

The cost of health insurance in the US has been steadily rising. Since most people get their health insurance through their workplace, employers have been passing on much of the increased costs to the employees in the form of high-deductible policies but it still represents a big cost for businesses. For a long time, I wondered why big business were not the biggest supporters of government-run, single-payer health care systems like Medicare For All since that would shed them of one of their biggest costs as well as rid them of all the cumbersome paperwork that accompanies it. You would think that this would be a good thing for them. So why were they not the biggest supporters? I had put it down to their ideological dislike of anything that smacks of socialism.
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We are living in a state of institutional dementia

That is what Kevin Baker argues in the September 2019 issue of Harper’s Magazine. He says that it explains why we seem to live in a state of permanent murkiness where abuses happen but are never investigated or if investigated are never resolved or if resolved the findings are buried, one after another, until we get numb and inert. He reviews how little we still know about the major deceptions carried out by the US government in the 55 years that have elapsed since the Gulf of Tonkin.
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Two major upsets at Rugby World Cup

The 2019 Rugby World Cup is being hosted by Japan right now. There are 20 nations playing and there have already been two major upsets. I thought that American readers of this blog might enjoy seeing highlights of the two games below. There has been little coverage of this tournament in the major US media, which is a bit surprising given that the US is fielding a team and is currently ranked #13 in the world, which is not too shabby. They have played just one game so far, losing badly to England 45-7.

The biggest upset was by the host nation ranked #9 that beat #2 ranked Ireland, a perennial rugby powerhouse, 19-12.

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With friends like these …

There is no question that affordable universal health care coverage is an idea that has caught on as the awfulness of the current system becomes increasingly apparent, and almost all the Democratic candidates have signed on to it. The most comprehensive plan, and in my view the simplest one to understand and implement, is the Medicare for All plan proposed back in the 2016 campaign by Bernie Sanders and endorsed by most progressives. So where does this leave those ‘centrist’ and ‘moderate’ Democrats (those being euphemisms for Democratic politicians like Joe Biden whose have strong allegiances to the business and financial world) who do not wish to alienate the health insurance, pharmaceutical, and hospital lobbies whose profits feel threatened by this proposal? These groups come under the labels of Third Way and the Center for American Progress and are favored by the Democratic party establishment.
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New film satirizes FBI counter-terrorism stings

Al Qaeda, ISIS, and the attacks of 9/11 have been good for the FBI, the NSA, the CIA, and the entire counter-terrorism industry in the US that have used them to get increased funding and powers. In order to keep those dollars flowing, the FBI has had to repeatedly show success in fighting terrorism and one of the means of doing that is setting up sting operations. If they cannot find real threats, they will create ones.

Trevor Aronson writes about a new satirical film The Day Shall Come based on many of the real-life sting operations conducted by the FBI that recruits hapless people with absurd ideas and then coaxes them to take part in ridiculous plots that are then grandly ‘exposed’ by the agency.
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More information emerges about the Ukraine scandal

The beginning of the impeachment process seems to have sent Donald Trump into a rage, leading him to call six members of Congress ‘savages’. But it looks like things are only going to get worse for him because people are now looking back over the timeline of events on the Ukraine scandal and starting to connect the dots and it turns out that there are a lot of dots all over the place. One is the abrupt firing on July 28th of Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence (DNI), just three days after the infamous phone call with Ukrainian president Zelensky,, and the insistence by Donald Trump that the deputy director Sue Gordon, a career intelligence professional, not be given the job and that indeed she should resign, which she reluctantly did.
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Using big data to help ordinary people

I subscribe to a newsletter from Dick Tofel, the head of the investigate journalism outfit ProPublica, and the latest one featured how they have created easy-to-use databases for people researching or navigating the ghastly health care system in the US.

Last week, we updated our tool tracking the performance of more than 4,700 emergency rooms around the country, which we now call ER Inspector. This news app lets you look up emergency room wait times and problems each facility has encountered since 2015. The underlying data is collected by the federal government, but it’s very hard to find or to sift. You can use ER Inspector to show you results from the facilities nearest to you, sort the data by state and rank all of the emergency rooms included on each of these dimensions. It’s an extraordinary collection of information, and it required about six weeks of news apps developer Lena Groeger’s time to update and extend.
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Does Newton’s law of gravity work when gravity is very weak?

This video takes a look at Newton’s law of gravity that is written in the form F=GMm/r2 and points out that although the law is referred to as a ‘universal’ law of gravity, it does not hold for very strong gravitational forces involving very large masses (where the General Theory of Relativity needs to be used). He also points out that the law has not been tested very precisely in cases where the force is very weak, such as with small masses, but that we assume it holds true in that regime.

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