February 27, 2010

Something About the Health Care Summit

Did you watch the Health Care Summit? I would have loved to have watched it, but I did not have the time. I have seen highlights, thanks to friends who have taken up lively discussions on Facebook. Chuck asked me to republish some of my comments as a Facebook note, so I'm adding them here as a blog post as well.

The background here is that Dick Durbin, Democratic Majority Whip is responding to the Republican idea that malpractice reform is a high priority health care reform idea. (Please excuse the silly title that firedoglake chose for the video; it's the usual over-the top political Internet-speak.)

In case you're not interested in watching the video (although I recommend it), I will grossly summarize. The CBO estimates that medical malpractice reform suggested by House Republicans will save one fifth of one percent (0.02%) of the country's annual health care spending. The CBO also said that this Republican reform would result in more deaths from medical malpractice (4,800 people / year). While medical costs are skyrocketing, the money paid out in malpractice lawsuits per year has been cut in half since 2003. Durbin goes on to point out that

I stepped into a Facebook conversation in which someone was claiming that Durbin must be in the pocket of lawyers. This essentially ignores anything in the argument for health care reform of malpractice reform. When pressed, he insisted that malpractice reform, small is it would be in impact, is a "step in the right direction." Here is part of my response:

Malpractice is a distraction and that's pretty much all, within the larger discussion. That's why numbers get answered with aspersions.

If we don't accept the CBO numbers on tort reform, then we can't claim it is a problem. If we accept the CBO numbers, then we can't ignore the dire numbers that are driving this push for health reform. (which are orders of magnitude greater and growing, unlike the costs due to malpractice cases)

I'm not against tort reform (as long as there are safeguards that prevent limiting the awards of deserving people). But Durbin is right to smack them down on this; tort reform would absolutely be on the table if Republicans wanted to add it to the bill. But they don't. All they'll suggest is scrapping the bill, not improving it. That's not compromise, it's conciliation. And the bill is already full of Republican ideas.

In that context, a focus on tort reform isn't a step in the right direction, it's a distraction designed to waste our time.

If a fireman is standing in front of a fire with a hose attached to a hydrant, putting down the hose to unzip his fly and urinate on the porch is not a step in the right direction.

Posted by James at 10:31 AM | Comments (0)

February 20, 2010

Down With Embedding Bans

Earlier today I watched a YouTube video that was posted to Facebook by a friend. I tried to play it right on Facebook, where it was embedded into my news feed. But I got a warning telling me I was going to have to click through to YouTube if I wanted to view the video.

I did click through, then I rated the video one star, solely on the basis that the uploader had disabled embedding. I decided that this was how I was going to deal with the annoyance of YouTube video authors who figured it was more important for them to force me to visit the site than it was for me to see their video in a way that was convenient to me. They can essentially have a downvote. Not that my rating will make much of a difference, but I at least get to register my displeasure and possibly affect their "view count."

Then I read this. It's the story of how the band OK Go saw it's YouTube video views drop after EMI decided to disable embedding their popular song "Here It Goes Again."

When EMI disabled the embedding feature, views of our treadmill video dropped 90 percent, from about 10,000 per day to just over 1,000. Our last royalty statement from the label, which covered six months of streams, shows a whopping $27.77 credit to our account.

This doesn't surprise me. And it shows that other people would rather watch videos embedded rather than visiting YouTube. EMI (and other people who disable embedding) are shooting themselves in the foot.

I'll continue down-voting videos with embedding disabled. Maybe EMI and others will wake up. Maybe not.

Posted by James at 4:18 PM | Comments (0)

Soup Innovation

I get the impression that soup is meant to be an inventive process. I like to play with cooking, and I'm always varying my recipes (doesn't everyone?) but soup seems to offer one of the widest and most forgiving canvases for p laying around.

I recently stumbled upon this Crock Pot Blog which appears to be a source of easy-to-prepare slow cooker recipes. Some of them look really, really wonderful.

I decided to use the Italian Zucchini and Bell Pepper Soup as the basis for a weekend soup with a little more oomph. By "oomph" I mean meat.

The great thing about crock pot recipes is that they allow you to do very little cooking with a big payoff at the end. And since time is lately my most valuable commodity (by a long shot) I am going to rely more and more on very easy recipes.

The zucchini soup is simple enough. To quote their ingredient list:

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 (4.5 oz) jar sliced mushrooms, drained
1 (14.5 oz) can chicken broth
1/4 t salt
1 large zucchini, sliced
1 small red bell pepper cut into strips
1 small yellow bell pepper cut into strips
1 t Italian seasoning
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes with Italian herbs

Mmm! Good stuff. You combine everything up to the salt, let it cook for 10 hours and then turn the cooker up to "high" and add the zucchini, pepper, tomatoes and seasoning for the remaining half hour.

My variation:

  • Fry up a mirepoix (onion, carrot and celery) in butter and add that to the crock pot instead of just raw onion.
  • Brown half a pound of Italian sausage and a pound of hamburger (with a bit of Italian seasoning and pepper), squeeze off the fat as best as possible and add the meat to the crock pot.
  • Double the amount of chicken broth to accommodate the meat.
  • Add half a cup of dry sherry.

It's now simmering away and smells amazing. At the very end, I'll add the zucchini, pepper and tomatoes. I'll let you know how it comes out. But check out that Crock Pot blog. I found them via their Facebook page. Facebook is starting to become an actual resource.

Posted by James at 12:28 PM | Comments (6)