December 9th, 2009


Oh those Democrats, throwing money at a problem

I've been pretty ambivalent about the whole health care thingy. Especially since it seems to be more about health insurance than health care, but nevermind my ranting. At 2000 pages of political shenanigans, the odds that I understand the situation have dwindled to zero and the odds that I (and the nation) are going to get screwed are asymptotically approaching certainty. One of the things that sounded good were promises that health care costs would be controlled. Krugman points out that this is the good side of the bargain: controlled costs in exchange for expansion of coverage at our (the collective we's) cost. But Time has published an article discussing how the cost-controlling provisions are being sliced away and watered down, tipping the scales toward the bad side of the bargain:

The Senate version of the bill also requires that representatives of the drug industry, the diagnostic-equipment business and medical-device makers — all of which have a financial stake in the results of comparative-effectiveness research — hold seats on the governing board of the new agency in charge of it. The potential for conflict of interest has raised alarms among some in the research community. But Obama's top health adviser, Nancy-Ann DeParle, contends that it's a sign that some of comparative effectiveness's most ardent foes have come around to the idea that technologies and treatments have to prove themselves. "Ten years ago, most of the industry was dead set against this," she says. "Now they are saying, 'We want a seat at the table.' "

Of course they want a fucking seat at the table that decides whether the government will pay for the treatments they provide, you moron.

As I said, I don't understand the plan. I doubt anyone does. But I have a better grasp of money, politics and bullshit. And I see the balance tipping toward a bad bargain.

Informed and/or Ignorant opinions requested.

ETA: this is not to say that I am complacent with the status quo. I am not. I do not want things like this to happen. Yo, Congress, make it so.

Logicomix by Apostolos Doxiadis & Christos H. Papadimitriou

Logicomix: The Epic Search for Truth is a graphic novel that explores the Foundations of Mathematics. Sexy, I know! The story is told in an interwoven fashion, bouncing between a lecture given by Bertrand Russell around the time of the start of WWII, the recounting of his life's story (augmented somewhat to bring in some other mathematician/philosophers), and the self-referential story of the creation of the graphic novel itself, with the artists and writers appearing as characters.

One of the arguments among the creators is how much math/logic to put into the graphic novel. The winners in the battle aim fairly low, deciding to focus more on character. And certainly Russell is an interesting character, as are some of the other celebrity mathematicians who make an appearance. The novel tends to focus on the insanity that seems to go hand in hand with mathematical philosophy, and it's hard to dismiss the connection when you see the vast assemblage of nuts (or at least familial insanity) that are important to the story. Logicomix is not meant as a textbook or a history book, so it's unfair to judge it as one (though it does have an excellent glossary!). But I did feel a bit disappointed in the presentation of the ideas. Mathophobes may find this a plus.

So there remains the task of judging it as a graphic novel. I'm not a very good person for that task. I found it's meta-ness somewhat engaging; I enjoyed the story of Russell's life, though I'm disappointed to discover that some of the meetings portrayed in the book never happened. I enjoyed the allusions to the mathematics. But, as is my general opinion of graphic novels, the overall presentation feels shallow. However, my biggest beef is that I really felt let down by the finale, which attempts to draw parallels with the Oresteia. The story had built up some goodwill, but rather than a climax, I was treated to a poor and overlong analogy.

Here's a better review. It's better than mine, and reading it made me want to read Logicomix. Which means that review is better than Logicomix.

Piling on poor Dr. Dino

Creationist Kent Hovind is already in jail until the middle of the Teens for tax fraud, and now to add insult to well-deserved injury, his Ph.D. dissertation has been posted online. His degree is in Christian Education from Patriot University, an unaccredited Christian college. And the diss reads like a 100 page long disorganized blog post from a creationist. Honestly, it's 50% sermon, 50% first-person, 50% creationist nonsense, adding up to 100% garbage. Reading it would probably cost me d6 SAN and d4 EDU, but just skimming it offers various morsels of amusement:

"It was Shintoism, based on evolution, that was responsible for Japan's actions in World War II."

"I don't want to sound like a crackpot, but actually we don't know that stars are billions of [light] years away."

"As I was thinking on this subject, I wrote a poem to try to explain this, comparing blind men and atheists.

[Crappy Poem]"