Friday, November 30

"Millions of people with respiratory diseases have relied on oxygen equipment, delivered to their homes, to help them breathe. A basic setup, including three years of deliveries of small oxygen tanks, can be bought from pharmacies and other retailers for as little as $3,500, or about $100 a month.

Unless, that is, the buyer is Medicare, the government health care program for older Americans.

Despite enormous buying power, Medicare pays far more. Rather than buy oxygen equipment outright, Medicare rents it for 36 months before patients take ownership, and pays for a variety of services that critics say are often unnecessary.

The total cost to taxpayers and patients is as much as $8,280, or more than double what somebody might spend at a drugstore.

...

Medicare spends billions of dollars each year on products and services that are available at far lower prices from retail pharmacies and online stores, according to an analysis of federal data by The New York Times. The government agency has paid above-market costs for dozens of items, a comparison of Medicare figures with retail catalogs finds."

Thursday, November 29

Howdy. John here, making my first contribution to the OS blog in a few years. Glad to be back. Trying to get back into the blogging mindset.

I've found the Hugo Chávez saga in Venezuela to be at times pretty interesting, but often sad, and really, kind of predictable. Not that long ago it seems I was running into people who liked him, maybe just because he's a head of state who called Bush a "devil," maybe because I was in art school in SF where everyone's far left... but now it's good to see evidence of resistance gaining strength, just before he attempts to become president for life. NY Times had a long article in the magazine written by someone a lot more friendly to the idea of nationalized industries than me and you can see how it was basically impossible for the author to frame Chávez's petrocracy in positive light.
He's ruining that country.

Monday, November 26

No holiday shopping season would be complete without a visit from Reverend Billy.

Thursday, November 22

Celebrities really *are* funny. Aside from their wealth (well, that is if they can hold on to it), you really have to feel sorry for them. It's so sad what they become over time--I can't imagine most of them having their own persona any longer once a certain level of fame is achieved. They really make an enormous sacrifice--their soul--all for our viewing pleasure.

Ah, Oprah. She's such an easy target. I almost can't say anything any more because I feel so bad for her. You'll have to excuse me for a moment, I'm feeling nauseous.

Tuesday, November 20

"Warming of the climate system is unequivocal..."

'This is the key document on climate change, and from now on you can forget any others you may have read or seen or heard about. This is the one that matters. It is the tightly distilled, peer-reviewed research of several thousand scientists, fully endorsed, without qualification, by all the world's major governments.'

Direct PDF download here.
"...for a decade and more, Fox has got away with an amazing thing: it can call itself a "straight" news channel even while everyone knows it's not. It's a great little racket. Every so often, a Toto comes along and tugs at the curtain - earlier this year, for instance, the Democratic presidential aspirants agreed that they would not participate in any debates hosted by Fox because there was no point in getting up there and being asked questions merely for the purpose of providing footage that the eventual Republican nominee could use against them. But these moments have been rare."

Friday, November 16

Army desertion rate highest since 1980.

I'm not surprised to hear of military desertion, but why the apparently arbitrary choice of comparison to 1980? What was going on in 1980 that makes it so worthy of scrutiny? Well, let's see...

Thursday, November 15

"Soon, though, the hour comes to corrode all your power, pleasure and faith with the damp dread that it daily assigns you. How you evade it defines you."

From "The Hour" by Michael Lind (via The Writer's Almanac).

Wednesday, November 14

"Though initially excited about making universal health care a reality and putting an end to the Iraq war, the American people appeared visibly worn down after only three months of campaigning. According to Beltway observers, idealism among Americans began to fade after the first series of major televised debates in August, during which every citizen in every state realized they would have to compromise their core values in order to remain in the race."

Americans announce they're dropping out of the presidential race.

Thursday, November 8

This morning at the train station I crossed paths with a member of Team Jesus:

Wednesday, November 7

In this article, Sinking Currency, Sinking Country, Pat Buchanan attempts to explain the current devaluation of the dollar by placing most of the blame on the trade deficit (i.e., our propensity for foreign goods and services). His argument is not completely without merit, but he does not present a full picture of what is going on. Perhaps he is trying to distract people from, say, the United States' massive military budget. Although there is debate about the direction of causality, economists generally agree that there is a positive relationship between the federal budget deficit (caused in part by military spending) and the trade deficit.

Sunday, November 4

Ok, so let me get this straight: Musharraf is curbing extremism by...
  • Imposing martial law, and
  • Suspending the constitution.
Sure, I get it. No ethical inconsistencies there...