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About That Wonderful, Honest Free Market Health Care System… February 17, 2008

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Business & Society, Health Care, Health Insurance.
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The New York Times reports on an investigation by New York state AG Andrew Cuomo that has uncovered what appears to be a rigged system to determine the “reasonable and customary” rates charged by health care providers. The determination is made by a company named Ingenix and is used by insurers to determine payments made by insurance companies when customers have to see doctors outside of the insurers’ networks. The problem is that Ingenix is owned wholely by UnitedHealth Group. Golly gee, there’s no room for a possibility of abuse, is there? Cuomo not only thinks there is but has done investigations that seem to show that abuse has been taking place. What a shock.

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Aircraft Fuel Efficiency February 17, 2008

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Climate Change, Environment, Technology.
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Snow day today, so to speak. Sipping coffee and reading the February issue of Popular Science. It has lots of stuff about airline fuel consumption and the search for more fuel efficiency and alternative fuels that would work for aircraft, an entirely different proposition than fuel for cars. One thing that struck me is a sidebar about the Boeing X-48B blended wing aircraft design that can be 23% more fuel efficient and why it won’t ever be a commercial passenger liner. Simply put, no one wants to fly in a passenger plane that doesn’t have windows in the passenger compartment and readily available emergency exits. Sort of reasonable. So current plans call for only military versions of the plane. But then I wondered just how many planes UPS, FedEx and other dedicated air freight carriers use. Aren’t there enough of them to form a fairly hefty niche by themselves? And if you’re building the craft for the military you should have the capability in place to build a civilian version even if it’s not going to the passenger carriers, shouldn’t you?

Silly Thing for a Court to Be Deciding February 17, 2008

Posted by Jim Satterfield in The Courts, Uncategorized.
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You’ll notice that Dispatches from the Culture Wars is on my small blog roll. How can you not love someone who starts out this article on a Circuit Court decision like Ed Brayton starts this one?

Here He Goes Again (Updated) February 16, 2008

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Climate Change, Environment, Government, The Bush Administration.
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While it’s true that we’re only stuck with the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania for another 11 months or so he hasn’t lost his ability to annoy. The amount of “say one thing and do another” that George W. Bush accomplishes is truly amazing. Here is a section this year’s SOTU.

To build a future of energy security, we must trust in the creative genius of American researchers and entrepreneurs and empower them to pioneer a new generation of clean energy technology. (Applause.) Our security, our prosperity, and our environment all require reducing our dependence on oil. Last year, I asked you to pass legislation to reduce oil consumption over the next decade, and you responded. Together we should take the next steps: Let us fund new technologies that can generate coal power while capturing carbon emissions. (Applause.) Let us increase the use of renewable power and emissions-free nuclear power. (Applause.) Let us continue investing in advanced battery technology and renewable fuels to power the cars and trucks of the future. (Applause.) Let us create a new international clean technology fund, which will help developing nations like India and China make greater use of clean energy sources. And let us complete an international agreement that has the potential to slow, stop, and eventually reverse the growth of greenhouse gases.

OTOH, here’s an analysis of what he actually proposed in the FY 2009 budget for energy. And then of course the funding for FutureGen was pulled with the only replacement being nothing but vague proposals. I’ll be so glad when Dubya’s gone. But the cleanup from the disaster that has been the Bush Administration will be long and difficult.

 Minor update: Just after I wrote this I ran across a Washington Post editorial about the funding cut for FutureGen.

Not Only Fiction, But Badly Mistaken Fiction February 2, 2008

Posted by Jim Satterfield in Media, Medical Research, Science & Society, Science & the Media.
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When I heard about ABC’s new show, Eli Stone, I thought it sounded like an interesting premise that could be fun to watch so I tuned in for the premier the other night. But as the New York Times notes today the case that attorney Stone finds himself switching sides on is a really bad example to use when it comes to representing the underdog as justice for the average person over the large corporation. It’s so bad I couldn’t bring myself to watch the whole show because they are pushing an idea that has been disproven multiple times. The case involves a woman convinced that the mercury in the preservative of the vaccine that her son received is responsible for his autism. This idea has been researched to death and not, as happens in some cases, purely by the manufacturer. Some of the most prestigious health care organizations in the world don’t agree with this belief. In fact, as the NYT piece points out, the rate of autism has continued to increase even as vaccine manufacturers have phased out the use of mercury in childhood vaccines. But the writers and producers of the show ignored facts, ignored logic and chose to fan the flames of finger pointing that has lost any connection to reality. I just don’t know if I can reward that kind of bad taste by ever watching their show.