Monday, September 28, 2009


So many people involved in the health care debate seem unclear on the subject of health insurance. Let's start with a look at the term. From, we have:

1. the act, system, or business of insuring property, life, one's person, etc., against loss or harm arising in specified contingencies, as fire, accident, death, disablement, or the like, in consideration of a payment proportionate to the risk involved.
2. coverage by contract in which one party agrees to indemnify or reimburse another for loss that occurs under the terms of the contract.

Since some folks have better reading comprehension than others, we'll help everyone out with that word, contingency:

–noun, plural -cies.
1. dependence on chance or on the fulfillment of a condition; uncertainty; fortuitousness: Nothing was left to contingency.
2. a contingent event; a chance, accident, or possibility conditional on something uncertain: He was prepared for every contingency.

I'll make the reasonable assumption that nearly everyone knows the meaning of health and thus we can move on to the term health insurance. From the definitions above, we can see that health insurance is a contract one party purchases from another such that by some chance the fulfillment of an undesirable medical condition was to befall the purchaser of said contract, the second party, which supplied the contract, agrees to reimburse the the first party for some or all of his or her medical expenses that arose due to the fulfillment of said contingency, as provided in the contract.

That's all health insurance is, or at least that's what the term health insurance means. A person buys health insurance to protect himself from significant financial loss in the event that he one day is beset by a serious medical condition. I have such a health insurance plan. I pay $340 per month for a family of four for a policy that covers our medical expenses up to one million dollars per person per year.

Now, with such a low premium, the insurance company also has a large deductible. Our deductible is $6,000 per person per year or $12,000 for the whole family per year. No big deal, $12,000 never ruined anyone, and it's unlikely that we'll need to spend that much on health care in any one year anyway (I think we spent about $2k this year). Now to be $50k, $100k, or $500k in the hole due to something serious like cancer, that's a big deal.

Then we have this guy:

My name is Bing Perrine and I live here in Billings, Montana, with my beautiful wife and baby boy. Last June, I collapsed because of congenital heart problems. I need open-heart surgery, but I have no insurance and no company will insure me.

My friends and family have been a blessing. With hearts as big as a Montana sky, they have helped with bake sales and benefits. But my wife and I still owe over $100,000 in medical bills.

None of this debt would have piled up if I had the option of buying into a public health insurance plan. Private insurance companies need competition. They profit by denying care to people like me.

Senator Baucus, when you take millions of dollars from health and insurance interests that oppose reform -- and oppose giving families like mine the choice of a public option -- I have to ask: whose side are you on?
Let's have a closer look at what he said:

None of this debt would have piled up if I had the option of buying into a public health insurance plan.
Meaning: None of this debt would have piled up if someone else was forced to pay for my medical care whether they wanted to or not.

Then he shows his lack of understanding of the term we learned above: health insurance.

Private insurance companies need competition. They profit by denying care to people like me.

The insurance companies denied care to you?!? Did they really? Do the insurance companies even provide health care? No they don't! Doctors, nurses, hospitals, etc., provide health care. As we saw above, insurance companies provide you with insurance. That's what an insurance company does. This is not a difficult concept to grasp! I'm thinking that you got your education from the public option, and maybe it wasn't so good.

Now let's look at what you may have meant to say, that "health insurance companies profit by denying health insurance to people like me." Darn tootin' they do! How can an insurance company survive, let alone make a profit, if they have to insure against contingencies that are 100% certain to occur? I suppose there's one way they could survive, they'd simply charge a premium that is equal to the cost incurred due to the contingency, but then that would leave you in the same $100k hole.

I'll wrap this up, because I'm done steaming, but besides all the other stuff the government could do to improve the health care / health insurance industry (like tort reform, allowing competition across state lines, etc.), they could require that every American purchase a health insurance plan of some sort. It could be cheap and have a really high deductible, but you'd have to have some minimum insurance.

I know I'm gonna lose my libertarian street cred with that statement, but it's true. It must be done. The reason is the following. If some dumbass without health insurance becomes gravely ill, or suffers an accidental, but serious, injury, s/he will not be turned away from the hospital. That person will be treated and we will all get the bill. Much as things ought not to be this way, the fact remains that things are this way. So everyone must have a minimum amount of health insurance.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch... must first invent the universe.

I'm in love with this video. Simultaneously one of the weirdest and most moving things I've seen on YouTube. Lyrics below.

[Big thanks to Russell at Solarvoid for sending this my way.]

If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch
You must first invent the universe

Space is filled with a network of wormholes
You might emerge somewhere else in space
Some when-else in time

The sky calls to us
If we do not destroy ourselves
We will one day venture to the stars

A still more glorious dawn awaits
Not a sunrise, but a galaxy rise
A morning filled with 400 billion suns
The rising of the milky way

The Cosmos is full beyond measure of elegant truths
Of exquisite interrelationships
Of the awesome machinery of nature

I believe our future depends powerfully
On how well we understand this cosmos
In which we float like a mote of dust
In the morning sky

But the brain does much more than just recollect
It inter-compares, it synthesizes, it analyzes
it generates abstractions

The simplest thought like the concept of the number one
Has an elaborate logical underpinning
The brain has it's own language
For testing the structure and consistency of the world

For thousands of years
People have wondered about the universe
Did it stretch out forever
Or was there a limit

From the big bang to black holes
From dark matter to a possible big crunch
Our image of the universe today
Is full of strange sounding ideas

How lucky we are to live in this time
The first moment in human history
When we are in fact visiting other worlds

The surface of the earth is the shore of the cosmic ocean
Recently we've waded a little way out
And the water seems inviting

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Good Old Hockey Game

Come on, new season, hurry up! Hubby and I have been watching endless loops of "used" games from last year's Stanley Cup playoff season on the NHL Network. The upside is watching Malkin make that astounding backhand hat-trick goal in the last period of Game 2 between the Penguins and the Hurricanes yet again.

Will the Pens go the distance again this year? Can't wait to find out!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Movie Review: Gamer

I'm in danger of treading on liberal movie-reviewer ground here. I want to recommend a movie that I found lacking cinematically, but one that nevertheless carries an approved message. And also carries Gerard Butler, of whom I can't get enough in ultra-masculine roles.

The movie is Gamer. The plot is simple and familiar: A death-row inmate named Kable (Butler) is a pawn in a popular real-life war game that looks awfully similar to ultra-realistic combat video games. He's made it through 27 games. If he makes it through 30, he goes free. Think Gladiator meets Death Race 2000 with a twist of The Matrix.

During the game (called Slayers), Kable is controlled by a bored and spoiled teenage video-game prodigy. Never mind how this is accomplished -- it's explained in the movie in one of those techno-babble scenes reminiscent of Star Trek: The Next Generation and other shows that think they have to include this stuff to seem believable. The same technology is used to create human pawns for another game, called Society, that's apparently very much like Second Life or the Sim Society games, but given how much society has deteriorated in the movie you can guess which human activity this game revolves around.

Kable's wife (Amber Valletta), who is now broke and trying to get their daughter back from protective services, is an "actor" in Society. She is controlled by a sweaty, naked, morbidly obese loser who, from the looks of it, probably lives in his mother's basement.

These games have made their creator, a sadistic young genius named Castle, a multi-billionaire. An underground group called the Humanz wants to stop Castle. They contact the teenager controlling Kable in an effort to convince him to relinquish control in the next game so that Kable can escape, and the action goes from there.

Unfortunately, the first half of the movie is weighed down by extreme over-editing and that single-most irritating cinematic fad-that-just-won't-go-away: the shaky-cam. I spent much of the first half looking at the floor to avoid the dizzying fast-cuts and jittery images. (Movie editors, here is a creed by which to live: Just because you can edit, doesn't mean you should.) The camera work eventually settles down and once you can watch the movie and follow the action, there's a compelling theme, though it's not as developed as it could've been.

The movie seemed to be commenting on the trend of increasing detachment through video games and the Internet, even suggesting that real-life combat and sex games are an inevitable step in the progression towards depravity and dehumanization in our over-indulged, entertainment-obsessed culture. If we're not careful, we will become so weakened, as individuals and as a society, that we are in danger of becoming slaves.

Though the movie ostensibly takes a swipe at sadistic corporate weirdos, I'm certain the intended real-life counterpart is not employed in the private sector. Consider. At one point, after Kable escapes the game (don't accuse me of spoiling the plot; you knew this was inevitable), he meets with the Humanz who explain the situation to him:
It ain't just a game, you know. Everyday there's more people stepping forward, wanna be a part of Castle's world. Throwing away everything it means to be human.

Right now it's the desperate ones. Convicts, addicts, the sick, the poor... the ones that fell through the cracks. They have no choice.

But this is only the beginning.

Think about it: the federal prison system is growing out of control, set to bankrupt the whole damn USA. Castle rides in on a white horse, says he got a plan to bail us out and everyone just falls in line.

So what's next? The health care system is collapsing. Castle comes in to the rescue again.

This time he's pushin' total control of genetic disease. Birth defects a thing of the past. All we gotta do is exchange our cells for the ones he wanna give us.

The promise of a longer life and a fatter wallet -- you think people will refuse?

Hell, no.

They'll be standing in line to hand their babies over to him. Next think you know, we all slaves.
You could argue this dialogue is subtle enough that one can decide how to read it, but I read it as decidedly, and surprisingly, critical of our Dear Leader. Just as surprising is that it was delivered mostly by Chris "Ludacris" Bridges.

Well, God, you win. I asked for a movie -- just one movie, any movie -- with a message that doesn't indict traditional morality, religion, conservatism, soldiers, masculinity, or families. Maybe I should've specified a good movie, but I didn't. I got what I asked for.

I can't recommend Gamer on its cinematic merits, because it doesn't really have any, but it has an interesting theme and one golden moment in which, for once, the criticism is aimed in a new direction.