The lesson of my medical bills: Why I’m a progressive

Last month I got hurt bad enough to spend several days in the hospital, during which time I got a bunch of expensive treatment and tests. The bills have started rolling in now and one of the larger ones had two numbers on it: the $13,000 and change I would have owed vs the roughly $5,000 the hospital accepted as payment in full. The latter represents what my insurance company had pre-negotiated with medical venders. There’s a lesson here, a big one, because it involves saving individual people thousands of dollars, and saving taxpayers billions and billions. [Read more…]

Perry has a tax plan

Governor Rick Perry has released some details of a flat-ish tax plan which critics say weakens Social Security, complicates the tax code and raises tax for the vast majority, but, to no one’s surprise, heavily favors the super rich and multinational corporations. One of the weirder features the plan creates a parallel tax code. That detail and others already have some conservative economists panning the plan widely: [Read more…]

That’s one cool brown dwarf

These two infrared images were taken by the Spitzer Space Telescope in 2004 and 2009. They show a faint object moving through space together with a white dwarf. The brown dwarf, named WD 0806-661 B, is the coldest companion object to be directly imaged outside our solar system. Credit: Kevin Luhman, Penn State University, October 2011

I don’t know what it is about brown dwarfs, but I just love these things. Maybe it’s the thought of a bunch of cold bodies wandering unseen, up to now anyway, through interstellar space:

Luhman classifies this object as a “brown dwarf,” an object that formed just like a star out of a massive cloud of dust and gas. But the mass that a brown dwarf accumulates is not enough to ignite thermonuclear reactions in its core, resulting in a failed star that is very cool. In the case of the new brown dwarf, the scientists have gauged the temperature of its surface to be between 80 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit — possibly as cool as a human.

Climate change and Watts watch

Results from the Berkeley Earth project data fits existing NASA and NOAA temperature records like a glove

Anthony Watts announced he’s taking the weekend off. But TPM has the back story up on their front page with the header “Climate Change Deniers Abandon ‘Befuddled Warmist’ Physicist Who Came Around On Global Warming”. Specifically that’s Richard Muller, a UC Berkeley physicist who now seems to accept the consensus that the earth is indeed warming:

Muller didn’t reject climate science per se, but he was a skeptic, and a convenient one for big polluters and conservative anti-environmentalists — until Muller put their money where his mouth was, and launched the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, in part with a grant from the Charles G. Koch foundation. After extensive study, he’s concluded that the existing science was right all along — that the earth’s surface is warming, at an accelerating rate.

It struck me reading some of the comments on Watts’ site that he may feel he’s in a real bind. That he has to stick by his guns, even when they run dry, because accepting the facts will deprive him of traffic and threaten his livelihood. As a veteran professional blogger I sympathize, but I also challenge that premise. I can think of at least two big successful blogs, Balloon Juice and Little Green Footballs, where the blogger switched gears dramatically based on evidence, and not only did they both survive, they both prospered. Maybe Watts should give his readers some credit, maybe they actually value honesty? More on this later.