Re: The Panopticon Is Here To Help

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Their opposites are Polar Bears, who interact infrequently and briefly.

Our esteemed commenter should seek legal advice.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 5:55 AM
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Attempt at a serious reaction to this. Yes, it's intrusive, and we're rightly particularly conscious of government intrusion at the moment, but... this is an initiative aimed at giving guidance to eleven or twelve year olds, and there is a widespread consensus that kids of that age do need more management than adults.

Whether people trust school administrators will depend on their experience of them, which will vary. You can say as much wrt whether they trust their parents. Some children probably trust their particular school administrator more than their particular parents, and with good reason. And at least the kids are participating in this with full knowledge of what's going on and with a degree of feedback.

If this initiative was aimed at adults, it would fail. Because adults would be able to opt out, either officially or by gaming the system, so there's no real risk of the same technique being extended to the whole of society.

I think there's a serious baby and bathwater issue underlying your concerns. We are feeling bruised by a number of governments attacking our liberties fairly systematically, and we are rightly on guard against any further attacks. But non-disciplinary initiatives to help kids integrate into a new school shouldn't be seen as the thin end of a wedge leading to FISA just because there's an authority figure involved. If we blur this distinction, then we become nihilists who may as well reject all teachers, physicians, orchestral conductors or anybody else who might reasonably take notes of their interactions with us. If that happens, the other side have won, because society as we know it no longer exists.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 6:22 AM
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I don't disagree with you; that is, I do think you're right. But the reaction of instant distrust is a real one for me, and I think it's even stronger for most other Americans, and it needs to be pulled out into the open and poked at if we're going to make a functioning society work.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 6:24 AM
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I probably would have hated the program as well. Knowing me at that age I would have just tried to game the system to see what happened. Part of it would come down to what the tutors are trying to do. They say they aren't ranking interaction patterns into positive and negative, but I am guessing that the polar bears are going to be getting more "tutoring" than the lions. As a polar bear that would have just made me angry.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 6:32 AM
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On the other hand, the goal of easing the transition into high school sounds commendable, and the project sounds like something that could work if the 'socialization tutors' are competent and well intentioned.

I'm really not sure about this. Is there an ideal 'animal' that the students are supposed to be? Because if there is, it now sounds like another bullying opportunity, except now if you're a nerd they give you a glowy badge!!: 'hey, look, Maggie's a Rat!'

I'm not worried about baby and bathwater issues, but the program itself (on the little information we have) doesn't sound all that great.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 6:35 AM
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Of course the article nowhere says what the other seven animals are (magpie, rattlesnake, brontosaurus, donkey, fire ant, wolverine).


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 6:36 AM
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Yeah. "Polar bear" sounds to me like they're working on sensitivity -- it's not that the social kids are lions and the introverts are mice. They're both charismatic megafauna. But that could certainly be a problem.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 6:39 AM
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I'm sure they thought about making sure they had cool animals. But what if the Polar Bear is happy being a Polar Bear?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 6:43 AM
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If the Polar Bear is happy being a Polar Bear (this would have been me at that age), then the teachers should be ensuring that the Lions and Tarantulas respect her Polar Beariness. Whether they do or not is, to me, the big question.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 6:49 AM
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Privacy concerns are well founded. Rebelliousness, yes. But... many people, and kids in particular, would benefit from being aware they get to choose who they are. If this helps people see that, so much the better.


Posted by: W. Breeze | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 7:09 AM
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Another datum: I'm completely in agreement with OFE, and LB is right to locate the difference in something characteristic of people in this country. I've always been just foreign enough to zig when people around me zag on this kind of issue, and a basic difference in placing the presumptions about society and its role and boundaries is as good a reason why as I can come up with.

In all four or five major English-speaking and largely or at least originally British-descended societies this conflict exists: it was after all the most famous Englishwoman of the last quarter of the 20th century who said "There is no such thing as society," but the placement and presumptions vary in each one of them.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 7:27 AM
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Foucault, Debord, Baudrillard & the Panopiticon

Tyler Cowen mentioned the panopticon the other day. Everybody else has read Bentham & Foucault but not me. I expect Bush & McCain to alllude to it during their convention speeches.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 7:36 AM
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the most famous Englishwoman of the last quarter of the 20th century

Madonna?


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 7:38 AM
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Tyler Cowen mentioned the panopticon the other day

Huh. It's also mentioned in the troll article mentioned in the bus thread.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 7:41 AM
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McManus, I can scan the relevant pages of Bentham and Foucault and email them to you if you really care. They're not very long.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 7:46 AM
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IIRC Madonna was married in 2001. Hence she cannot be the Englishwoman in question. Must be Kylie.


Posted by: W. Breeze | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 7:48 AM
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On the surveillance-state implications: I would have been creeped the fuck out of it was in this country, but since it's the netherlands I find it all mellow and sort of positively social-engineer-y. It's like an auto-tamagotchi! Kids dig it!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 7:50 AM
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the most famous Englishwoman of the last quarter of the 20th century

Madonna?

Objection yer honor! IDP is clearly referring to Annie Whitehead. He just got the quote wrong, it should have been, "Turn up that fucking bass".


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 7:52 AM
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13:Hand up, waving frantically:Thatcher.

I should follow the links. "Lions"...aren't there studies about how memes or information is spread, and the ??? (spreaders, like 1-5%) are those with multiple light interactions? Not lions?

I just am not that worried about this. Somehow I do believe that psychologists & sociologists recognize the value of diversity, and at worse would lightly guide both lions and polar bears toward a center. This is information for the students, and would include those who would celebrate their types, those who would feel socially challenged to change, those who would think it fun to change, those would game it. etc.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 7:53 AM
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Well, exactly. In an American school my snap reaction is that the gym teachers would use the information to help the popular kids harass the losers. In the Netherlands, I'm ready to believe that they're really trying to help, and it might work. I'm fascinated by that different level of trust, whether it's justified, and if so how to make institutions trustworthy like that.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 7:54 AM
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20 to 17.


Posted by: Lizardbreath | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 7:54 AM
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15:don't care that much. I got all the Foucault, I just need to read it. I am sure the Bentham is online and available. The article linked in 12 didn't impress me that much, but gave me the usual advanced postmodernism that hurts my brain. Does anyone understand fricking Baudrillard?

I just need to find the time to read & think.

PS:Not that good, but I think the article is relevant enough to this post that I may read it again.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 7:58 AM
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Yeah, honestly, there's not much in the texts that's deeper than the general idea floating around out there.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 8:02 AM
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I am reminded of the Lovegetty.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 8:04 AM
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He just got the quote wrong, it should have been, "Turn up that fucking bass".

Now that sounds like the Queen to me.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 8:04 AM
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Actually, thinking about this, you can see what will happen - kids will try to collect all 9 identities successively in the shortest possible time. Since this will in theory involve collaboration as well as competition, it will work about as well as any dumb game inflicted on participants as an ice breaker by conference organisers. And after a couple of weeks they'll get bored and lose their gizmos in the washing pile.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 8:07 AM
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26 is awfully correct.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 8:12 AM
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Does anyone remember what I'm talking about in 19.2? Something about 90% of connections in any social group belong to 1% of the members. If this is true, and a scale from lions to polar bears is labeled 10-1, it is natural & normal for most people to be somewhere around 2-4.

Now this could be used. Identify the communicators, and then if a nasty/false rumour spreads around the school, the administrators would know who to blame. But really, I think the cliques and leaders are recognized in most schoold anyway. They possibly just aren't discussed.

I see it as pretty benign, even in America. LB's gym teacher would get reported and chastised pretty quickly. The real applications would be more like how to get the jocks & goths to interact more, if such is desirable.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 8:12 AM
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This is probably just an issue on which I'm less liberal (the guy who wrote the Harper's Notebook last month would tell me it's also because of facebook), but I think concerns over surveillance need to take into account what sort of information is being collected. Listening to phone calls? That's as sensitive as information can get. Knowing how long I interact with people? I can't imagine using that toward a malicious end.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 8:14 AM
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29: well, keep in mind that just that kind of data (who people talked to, for how long) is being used by the NSA to determine what lines to monitor. Network information of this kind can be put to all sorts of nefarious uses.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 8:17 AM
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Just to stay within the example of this specific technology, say a school had implemented this system and then somebody started tagging the school with, e.g. "HEATHER IS A SLUT". An astute administrator might think to look at the social network data for information on what groups of students are notably unfriendly towards Heather, and then search those student's lockers or contact their parents.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 8:19 AM
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I'm fascinated by that different level of trust, whether it's justified, and if so how to make institutions trustworthy like that.

I think a big factor is having data protection laws in place. The EU sets minimum standards, and some national governments have even stricter standards in place. For example, companies and government entities are allowed to collect and store individual data only under very limited circumstances. You have a statutory right to know what data has been collected about you and for what purpose, and to have data deleted or modified at your request. As an example, in contrast to the weak consumer protection of the U.S. Fair Credit Reporting Act, in Europe, a credit reporting agency cannot even open a file on you without your consent (which you must provide in order to open a bank account, so effectively almost everyone does).

To be clear, it's not that individuals are necessarily conscious their legal rights and recourse. It's more that the sanctity of individual data has becomes a cultural norm, one that is palpably evident when you shuttle between the anything goes environment of American business and the pins-and-needles sensitivity of European business. It's hard to describe without an analogy, but it's similar to the way that American managers tend to be hyperconscious about not violating anti-trust laws, while Euro-managers tend to yawn go ho-hum over discussions that would make an American lawyer's head explode.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 8:23 AM
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The network information use just occurred to me after I posted. I think it's the scale this is being done on that makes it seem so innocuous to me; high school administrators likely have such data available to them through teachers and counselors anyway.

But then, I also went to Catholic school—perhaps it's just that I view high school-level police state actions (barring the bright line of searching lockers and bags at whim) as a source for humorous stories more than anything else.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 8:25 AM
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I can't imagine using that toward a malicious end.

You have a limited imagination.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 8:25 AM
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Just to stay within the example of this specific technology, say a school had implemented this system and then somebody started tagging the school with, e.g. "HEATHER IS A SLUT". An astute administrator might think to look at the social network data for information on what groups of students are notably unfriendly towards Heather, and then search those student's lockers or contact their parents.

Alternately:

Just to stay within the example of this specific technology, say a school had implemented this system and then somebody started tagging the school with, e.g. "HEATHER IS A SLUT". An assholish administrator might think to look at the social network data for information on what students had interacted with Heather to find out how much of a slut she was, and then contact her parents.


Posted by: My Alter Ego | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 8:36 AM
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high school administrators likely have such data available to them through teachers and counselors anyway

There is a world of difference between informal observation and electronic data collection. The qualities of comprehensive collection, data persistence, searchability, and data aggregation open the individual up to much more risk of abuse. I might not mind if the clerk in the store notices that I stop and look at the pantyhose display (a purely hypothetical example, I hasten to point out), but I would be concerned about having my (hypothetical) browsing history of viewing lingerie online linked together with other personal data.


Posted by: KR | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 8:40 AM
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33: to extend 31, now imagine that the graffiti is being done by one of Heather's friends, as a joke, and the kids who are targeted (correctly, as it turns out) blame Heather and her friends for getting them in trouble, and decide to get revenge (by, say, jumping some kid after school).

The problem with data mined like this, even when writ small, is the unintended consequences of seemingly data-supported incorrect conclusions. To the extent it could be used (a) for enforcement of rules and (b) as a replacement for really getting to know the kids in the class it could end up promoting an atmosphere of distrust and alienation completely orthogonal to its original purpose.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 8:42 AM
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I'm not denying that electronic surveillance is unbelievably more efficient than personal and informal surveillance; it's the limited set of data this surveillance collects (network information—which is usually only useful preliminarily to allow for more data collection, but is here the goal itself), and its context (high school) that lead me to think it's innocuous.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 8:49 AM
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37: That's why I think it's so nice that the school is sharing this information with the kids, albeit in a rather limited way, and in a kitschy-cute manner that could take on sinister overtones in more hypothetical examples—the lions have ganged up and they're picking off the polar bears one by one! They clearly anticipated the kind of atmosphere you're talking about, and they're trying to prevent it.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 8:54 AM
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An electronic version of the secretary from Ferris Bueller.


Posted by: Nápi | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 9:04 AM
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Does anyone remember what I'm talking about in 19.2? Something about 90% of connections in any social group belong to 1% of the members.

bob, this sounds like Malcolm Gladwell in Tipping Point. He had a bunch of entertaining narratives (including a memorable one about Paul Revere along these lines), but I found myself skeptical of his effort to dress his stories up as social science.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 9:13 AM
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Sifu, if you just stopped doing things like calling Heather a slut, you wouldn't have to worry about this stuff. At least, that's what Justice Scalia tells me.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 9:18 AM
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has nobody mentioned that some kids will (almost certainly) trade units and not tell the school?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 9:18 AM
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39: I think they'll figure out pretty quick what animal corresponds to popular and what animal corresponds to 'target.'


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 9:25 AM
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44: Lion might not have been the most astute choice.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 9:26 AM
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I'm really trying to figure out what behavior pattern could correspond to "slut". Perhaps frequent 20 minute to one hour periods with different members of the opposite sex and no one else around? All I can say now is that, whatever the pattern, those people should be labelled bonobos.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 9:29 AM
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46: In my high school, you'd need to specify geographical location for that. Like, if the tete-a-tete periods were in the costume closet, definitely. Or on the stairs near the art rooms. Elsewhere in the school, unclear.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 9:31 AM
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I dunno, I'm somewhere between 10 and 17. I imagine it's fairly harmless intent on the part of the designers - even admirable, as 10 notes, in that it can teach kids that they are to some degree in control of their identity - but I think the most interesting results will be in the ways the system is gamed. There will be a lot of swapping units, there will be a lot of leaving them in the locker, a lot of grouping them together in the bottom of a locker so their subjects can go off without any wireless devices and have an electronic alibi, perhaps even a rent-a-lion service where you leave your electronic dealio alone with a lion's during lunch to up your sociability rating and get out of so much tutelage? As always the abuses will be more interesting than the uses and that's not necessarily a reason to stop doing an experiment.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 9:36 AM
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Perhaps frequent 20 minute to one hour periods with different members of the opposite sex and no one else around?

This is high school we're talking about. More like 30 seconds to two minutes, I'm guessing.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 9:37 AM
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Elsewhere in the school, unclear.

Behind the schoolbus garage = smoking a spliff.

On the bleachers in the gym = having "the talk"

In the chem lab outside of class = cramming for the SAT.


Posted by: KR | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 9:45 AM
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49: Make-out time, RMMP. But you're right, an all-inclusive time of 30-60 minutes is optimistic even for my current self, let alone high school "hey, we've been kissing for 3 minutes and your bra's still hooked, what the hell?" impatient self.


Posted by: Po-Mo Polymath | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 9:55 AM
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Everybody's been reading Balkin (or is it Lederman) on the Coming Surveillance State, of course. You have no privacy.

Now how do we deal? My only suggestion is to flood the system with information and transgression, and play the odds. It is very bad for those people the RIAA or FISA attack, but the more "possibles" the less likely that any one "likely" will be abused. Everyone should call an Arab friend overseas and talk in metaphor.

This also, IIRC, relates to Foucault and the panopticon. Too many people that are too sophisticated + too much information and old methods of social control become impossible.

So I welcome any new info gathering device/system, especially with some degree of bottom-level control. It's our only hope.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 10:00 AM
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1: Our esteemed commenter should seek legaldating advice.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 10:05 AM
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You seek it here at your own risk.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 10:07 AM
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Hey, it worked for... well, nobody.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 10:07 AM
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Don't be simple. The modern panopticon isn't aimed at relative nobodies. The purpose of the panopticon is like JE Hoover's files, or the current Chinese expulsion of Tibetans and Uighur from Beijing. Anyone who has the power to harm the panopticon or its operating budget gets watched very closely. This will only extend down to rabble if there are a great many bored policemen, or if there's single-party rule with nominal institutional paranoia, as in the ex-Ostblock. Likeliest early misuse is against hispanics in the US SW-- search all spanish SMSs for a relevant dictionary of keywords, initiated by a sheriff or councilman.

What genuinely puzzles me is that the politicians don't seem to realize this, or behave as if they don't. The skirmishes over the white house email archives are the tip of the iceberg.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 10:08 AM
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Hey, it worked for... well, nobody.

Hey, teo got plenty of advice here, and he seems to have found himself a bona fide steady.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 10:11 AM
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I seem to remember Sifu's advice consisting mostly of "get off Unfogged and get drunk."


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 10:15 AM
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Now how do we deal? My only suggestion is to flood the system with information and transgression, and play the odds.

Strategies of sousveillance may be helpful here, too.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 10:17 AM
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57: yeah I think you might not want to find too much causation in that correlation. Just a hunch.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 10:17 AM
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Am I alone in thinking that this seems like a pretty nifty program? I was such a fucking dork at that age, a bit of help in learning how to socialize would have been awesome. Of course, I come from a small enough town that all of the caste structures were already in place by the time HS rolled around (no reshuffling of the deck with different kids coming and going), so I don't know if it would have done much good. Seems like a month or two of lessened privacy for minors while they're at school would be worth it (and I'm normally a fairly strong privacy advocate).


Posted by: Chopper | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 10:28 AM
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I was such a fucking dork at that age, a bit of help in learning how to socialize would have been awesome.

When I hear about things like this, I feel twinges of the resentment I had at a kid toward anyone trying to help me, mixed with my adult perspective of "yeah, I really could have used a bit of help."


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 10:34 AM
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Speaking as another big old dork in late grade school, jr high, and high school, the neophilic / technocratic part of me loves to see people trying to use information technologies to move us from our current 'toss them into the shark tank' methods of socializing young adults towards something more rational and merciful. The part of me that is still emotionally raw from jr. high and high school doesn't have one little bit of trust that school administrators will use this technology to help kids, but instead, rather, as another arrow in their quiver of ways to keep the popular kids on top and the dorks on the bottom, as it's always been, as so many school administrators seem to think is their job.


Posted by: NBarnes | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 11:16 AM
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school administrators will use this technology ... to keep the popular kids on top and the dorks on the bottom, as it's always been, as so many school administrators seem to think is their job

I'm interested in how school administrators are understood to do this. This thread makes it sound like I, who was of course a dork back then, got off fairly easily in HS. I certainly can't think of any instances where I perceived that my school's administrators played a role in organizing our social hierarchies. Though I suppose their general Sport ├╝ber Alles attitude during morning announcements and at school assemblies could be said to have set the rules that we used to organize ourselves.

And the gym teachers encouraging the popular kids to harass the losers, per LB in 20? Never saw that either.


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 11:40 AM
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To be fair, neither did I. That line was an attempt to make concrete the sort of issues I've heard people worry about, rather than something I've ever seen. As a surly loner of a teenager, I still would have been Bave-ishly suspicious of anyone in authority trying to be helpful, but that doesn't mean I had much of any basis for it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 11:43 AM
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65: Absolutely. I certainly did not trust the authorities at the time either, and had this program been implemented in my school, I most likely would have scoffed and written invective-filled articles in the school newspaper about this program, rather than seeing if it could have given me some much-needed assistance in developing social skills.

Meanwhile, I'm in the jury room, waiting to see if my hardship excuse is granted...


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 11:52 AM
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"... The emotional argument against single-payer health care is that we don't trust the government not to screw us over in the provision of health care, which argument sounds somewhere between baffling and insane to anyone actually living in a country with single payer. ..."

Is this really true? Aren't the British always griping about their health service and didn't the French have some big scandal involving HIV tainted blood? Or are those systems not single payer?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 11:56 AM
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We definitely had teachers who wanted to be popular themselves, and so subtly ingratiated themselves with the popular kids at the expense of the least popular kids.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 11:59 AM
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Aren't the British always griping about their health service

Mainly since the sainted Margaret Thatcher imposed an "internal market" which meant that the NHS has had to carry an expensive additional layer of manages to administer it, but let it pass...


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 12:01 PM
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67: They aren't single payer, they are full blown socialized medicine.

Every country on earth will always have arguments over health care, for the same reason that they will always have arguments over, say, government budgets.

It is more informative to ask people whether they would prefer a US style system. 97% of Canadians say they prefer their system to ours. Often in debates over health care in other countries, you can demonize opponent's proposals by comparing them to the US system.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 12:09 PM
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Breaking: Teo also contemplating marriage?

He never did seem receptive to my message anyway.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 12:11 PM
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The worry (rather, one of several) in the post is one in liberal theory in general, isn't it? To what extent should the state engage in what I've lately seen K. Anthony Appiah call "soul making"? It seems that this Dutch program is an exercise in that.

On the one hand, liberalism calls for minimal activity on the state's part in this regard: the most that can be unproblematically justified is educating children toward achieving whatever we think of as autonomy and full citizenship -- i.e. the ability to read, write, make informed decisions, engage in critical thinking and constructive social practices. The Dutch program can be justified in terms of that last desideratum. Teach the kids that they don't have to live life in a rut, as it were.

The worry about the state overreaching its bounds with regard to surveillance strikes me as a somewhat different issue, having little to do with the question of soul-making. We worry about this with respect to adult citizens. I may just be saying that I'm not sure there's a slippery slope here.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 12:11 PM
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71: Link? Or what's your source? In any case, good for him if true.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 12:22 PM
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67: I'm probably just reiterating rob, but James the text you quoted regards how furriners look at the U.S. system compared to their own. It's not about how they regard their own system.

I'd be curious if any single-payer country has ever had a politically viable proposal to privatize health insurance again - say, something comparable to the moves to privatize social security in this country.

OFE, was Thatcher's move a camel's-nose-under-the-tent effort to privatize ?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 12:24 PM
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I just had a hunch. A breaking hunch.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 12:31 PM
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||
What to do when one's neighbor has a power generator that can't be moved yet spews smoke directly at one's apartment window. I'm tired of shutting the window every night.
|>


Posted by: disaggregated | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 12:39 PM
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76: Check local ordinances, see if your city/municipality will make them fix it.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 12:41 PM
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55: I can't speak to the quality of the dating advice here, but y'all are excellent on breakup advice.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 12:45 PM
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78: Has the 'tariat ever recommended against a breakup?


Posted by: Otto von Bisquick | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 12:47 PM
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79: I think Will has occasionally recommended getting married and then paying his retainer before you break up, but that's more a when rather than if distinction...


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 12:57 PM
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74: I'm no expert, but I think the European/furriner stance is that injecting the profit motive into a public health system will inherently throw things out of whack in some way, because the market's priorities are too different from the public good's priorities.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 12:59 PM
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Automatically identifying the cool kids also has delightful marketing implications! You can bet if a school tried it in the US they'd do it on the cheap with corporate sponsorship.


Posted by: elemund | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 1:13 PM
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82:

They went up to boys between the ages of 8 and 13 with a question: ''Who's the coolest kid you know?'' When they got a name, they would look for that kid and put the question to him.

Holy crap. As a parent, this would totally freak me out. "Hey, mom. These guys were on the playground today looking to the cool kids and they said I was cool and want me to come back to their office to play video games!"


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 1:17 PM
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I'm no expert, but I think the European/furriner stance is that injecting the profit motive into a public health system will inherently throw things out of whack in some way, because the market's priorities are too different from the public good's priorities.

That's not an accurate characterization. Other nations' health care systems are quite diverse along many dimensions, one of them being the degree to which competition is encouraged in the provision of healthcare and the provision of social insurance. The UK is something of an outlier in having very little competition among providers; France is closer to the US on that dimension than to the UK. Germany even has (carefully circumscribed) competition among insurers.

The major difference between the US and everyone else is that the US permits health insurers to discriminate among customers (whether individuals or groups) and to set rates according to the their actuarial expense. Pretty much every other system pools high actuarial risks (sick people) with low ones (healthy people), and limits* the extent to which insurers can profit from cherry picking the healthy.

*There are some restrictions in the US (ERISA, COBRA, state insurance regs), but the general point holds.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 1:20 PM
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The story linked in 82 is fascinating. Best line:

Hasbro executives summed up the appeal of the game with a motto: ''Win loudly, lose quietly.''

Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 1:28 PM
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I just want to say "panoptical character recognition" because apparently it's never been said before. Back to semi-lurking.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 1:28 PM
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The US method ensures that the low risk types don't have to subsidize the high risk types. Throw in some catastrophe insurance and then we're playing ball.


Posted by: disaggregated | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 1:28 PM
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What, you think people at high risk for catastrophes should be subsidized by people at low risk for catastrophes? Sounds like communism to me. Insurance is for women and weaklings anyway. Pain don't hurt.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 1:34 PM
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87: Actually, no, it doesn't. The whole point of insurance is to have the low-risk types subsidize high-risk types.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 1:37 PM
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89: I think the point of insurance is to have people with similar risk all pay the same amount, and the lucky ones subsidize the unluckly ones for whom the risk actually turns into a bad outcome are subsidized.

This is why "health insurance" needs to be a universal thing beyond the scope of ordinary insurance companies.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 1:40 PM
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The US method is the method whereby the insurers never pay out, so disaggregated is sort of right. (We haven't reached that point in the US yet, admittedtly, but it's, like, a regulative ideal or some shit.)


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 1:41 PM
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The whole point of insurance is to have the low-risk types subsidize high-risk types

Yes and no. Most insurance involves pooling people into different risk levels. Most insurance is for catastrophic events however which should be rare even for a high risk individual. Health insurance is not really like other insurance.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 1:42 PM
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Only pooling people of similar risk is a great idea, if you are low risk and believe you will be low risk your whole life. It would work well, for instance, in a Logan's Run type society, where everyone lives out there healthy years and then is quickly euthanized.

It would also work if there was a privileged class who lived out their healthy years and were euthanized and were not accepted to contribute to the well being of anyone who ever gets old.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 1:45 PM
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Most insurance involves pooling people into different risk levels.

But the money's coming out of the same place, and if the insurance is, e.g., from a place of employment, the 21-year-olds who are healthy are subsidizing the health insurance costs of the 50-year-olds.

If you're not insured through your place of work, penalties for being a 'risk' start at a BMI of 26.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 1:46 PM
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Cala, what we're saying is that health insurance is different from normal insurance in that although the normal and logical thing to do is pool people by their risk levels (low-risk people do not subsidize high-risk people in car insurance), it is immoral to do so in the area of health "insurance" because people have hardly any control over their risk level and there are a lot of risk levels at which one can never get insurance because it would be guaranteed to be unprofitable at any rate you could pay.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 1:52 PM
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Yes, I get that. What I don't get is how throwing in catastrophic insurance means we're playing ball.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 1:56 PM
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96: It's a way to pretend that pricing health care by risk levels doesn't mean leaving people to die in the streets. It's not true -- it would still mean leaving people to die in the streets -- but if you say 'catastrophic insurance', you don't have to admit it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 1:58 PM
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Alright, now I'm thoroughly confused. That's not playing ball. Nor would it be a benefit of the U.S. system that low-risk people don't subsidize high-risk people, even if it were true.

Catastrophic insurance is a fucking joke, but alas, it's all we can afford for shivbunny. He's too fat, plus, he's a furriner.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 2:01 PM
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It's an attempt to separate the concepts of protecting against a low-probability large-magnitude loss (what is usually referred to as "insurance") with the concept of efficiently providing medical services to a large population.

97: The only people I see dying in the streets in the US are murder victims, drug addicts, and unfortunate motorcyclists. Health insurance has very little to do with their deaths.


Posted by: water moccasin | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 2:03 PM
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The only people I see dying in the streets in the US are murder victims, drug addicts, and unfortunate motorcyclists. Health insurance has very little to do with their deaths.

Right, people actually do get health care, until they go bankrupt, and then die gradually surrounded by loved ones. As President Bush reminds us, the uninsured poor already get health care in the form of emergency rooms.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 2:06 PM
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The only people I see dying in the streets in the US are murder victims, drug addicts, and unfortunate motorcyclists.

Would that it were true.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 2:06 PM
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89

"Actually, no, it doesn't. The whole point of insurance is to have the low-risk types subsidize high-risk types."

A common belief but incorrect. The point of insurance is that it provides a way to protect yourself against low probability bad events. Like your house burning down. This is true even if everyone is charged the actuarial rate.

In the case of health insurance it also provides a way to get better prices from health care suppliers.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 2:16 PM
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The only people I see dying in the streets in the US are murder victims, drug addicts, and unfortunate motorcyclists.

The others are found months after the fact in their death-trap apartments.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 2:21 PM
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In the case of health insurance it also provides a way to get better prices from health care suppliers.

That's the theory anyway. In practice, not so much.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 2:25 PM
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A common belief but incorrect.

Incorrect as long as you define the sort of health insurance people get from their employers as something other than insurance. So call it schminsurance. "The whole point of insuranceSchminsurance is to have the low-risk types subsidize high-risk types." Nothing like a little defining of terms to liven up a discussion.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 2:27 PM
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||

Molly to me: "You know how immigrants sometimes sound like Republicans?"

I miss ogged.

|>


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 2:28 PM
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Incorrect as long as you define the sort of health insurance people get from their employers as something other than insurance

I do think we should do this. Health insurance doesn't work like most other types of insurance. I am not saying it should either. I am just saying it isn't insurance as defined for most things.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 2:33 PM
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104

""In the case of health insurance it also provides a way to get better prices from health care suppliers."

That's the theory anyway. In practice, not so much."

You don't think so? I recently had a minor operation. The surgeon's bill was something like $10000 and my insurance paid something like $500. As an individual I might have been able to knock a lot off the $10000 but I really doubt I would have been able to get it down to $500.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 2:36 PM
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The US method ensures that the low risk types don't have to subsidize the high risk types.

A feature if you don't see social solidarity as a positive value, a bug if you do.

However, as a practical matter, the US method doesn't even protect the low risk population against subsidizing the feckless and unlucky very well, because (1) it prices so many people out of the insurance market alltogether, whose health outcomes nevertheless economically burden the health care system; (2) it perversely discourages low cost preventive intervention; (3) it lacks effective cost controls; (4) most of the insured population is, in fact, insured in a risk pool of widely disparate risks (group policies), and a high-risk individual that manages to get into a good pool before his high-risk status is known to the insurer will rarely voluntarily leave the risk pool (leading to a phenomenon that benefits specialists call the "death spiral"); (5) our system has an innate tendency toward ever higher deductibles, leaving the very healthiest segment of the insured population to get no benefit from their insurance at all.

So my advice to all the libertarians out there who don't like universal coverage because they can't stand the thought of any solidaristic risk-sharing: Don't cut off your nose to spite your face. Even as a young, healthy, high income individual, you would pay less money for a comparable standard of care if you had the French or German system.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 2:38 PM
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To spin out 105 a little more: There are not uncommon medical conditions (say, diabetes, heart disease) where the actuarial probable cost of your future care is more than any person is likely to be able to pay. If someone in an insurance company looks at a type 1 diabetic, runs the numbers, and tells them what the rate is for health insurance sufficient to reasonably cover likely necessary treatments at a rate that will be profitable for the health insurance company, that rate will be something that very few people will be in a position to pay.

So your diabetic is going to either (a) not get the health care they need (everyone's right, they won't die in the street. They'll get taken to an emergency room and admitted to the hospital, where they'll die, after collapsing in the street) or (b) be subsidized by someone. If we like the whole 'minimizing deaths of people who have treatable conditions' aspect of civilization, we want to set up a system by which low risk people like me subsidize high risk people like diabetics. Conventionally, that system is called "health insurance". In the US, only people with stable, middleclass jobs, old people, and very poor people get to play.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 2:40 PM
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105

"Incorrect as long as you define the sort of health insurance people get from their employers as something other than insurance. So call it schminsurance. "The whole point of insuranceSchminsurance is to have the low-risk types subsidize high-risk types." Nothing like a little defining of terms to liven up a discussion."

No the health benefit my employer provides is worth more to some employees than others but that isn't the point.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 2:43 PM
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107: The problem with quibbling about the terms is that it gets people confused. If you say that 'insurance' means 'actuarial pricing on the basis of individual risk', that sounds like a normative argument that risk-pooling health insurance is getting it wrong, and we'd be better off if health insurance were really 'insurance'. And that's wrong;whatever you call it, there are excellent social reasons for doing the risk-pooling thing.

So, redefine the terms as much as you want, but the redefinition of terms doesn't constitute a normative argument that risk-pooling is a bad idea.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 2:44 PM
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111: To someone who couldn't afford unsubsidized insurance because of their risk level, it kinda is the point, Shearer.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 2:45 PM
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Soup is wrong in 104 and Shearer is right in 108.

But Shearer might be discomfited by the implications of his point, if he would follow it to its logical conclusion. If an insurance company in market competition for members can negotiate lower prices with providers, how much better could a national health insurance plan accomplish the same thing? And how much more cost could you take out of the system if the providers and insurers both had an incentive to collaborate on total wellness management over the lifetime of their patients? And how much cost could you take out of the supply chain (remember, price reductions are ultimately self-defeating if they cannot be supported by any reduction in supply chain costs) if you eliminated spending on marketing, and equity returns for the owners of the insurance company?


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 2:46 PM
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The problem with quibbling about the terms is that it gets people confused. If you say that 'insurance' means 'actuarial pricing on the basis of individual risk', that sounds like a normative argument that risk-pooling health insurance is getting it wrong, and we'd be better off if health insurance were really 'insurance'. And that's wrong;whatever you call it, there are excellent social reasons for doing the risk-pooling thing.

I like to use the word "coverage" without using the word "insurance". People think "coverage" means "insurance", but it really doesn't mean anything, so it's a good way of pointing out how single-payer coverage could be better than for-profit insurance, given that both are forms of coverage.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 2:50 PM
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So, redefine the terms as much as you want, but the redefinition of terms doesn't constitute a normative argument that risk-pooling is a bad idea.

I agree. I have just seen a lot of arguments go off the rails because people start comparing health insurance to other types of insurance. I don't think that is all that useful since health insurance isn't used like other types of insurance and so isn't very comparable to say car insurance. That is why I don't like the term health insurance.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 2:50 PM
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Shearer's 108 is a bit misleading, in that the reason for the $10k list price versus the $500 the insurance paid has a lot to do with the existence of the insurance companies and the formulas they have for compensation. It's not any kind of "free market" price; it's a price that exists solely to be a negotiating point.

The fact that some people without insurance do get socked with the list prices is a disaster.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 2:54 PM
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You don't think so? I recently had a minor operation. The surgeon's bill was something like $10000 and my insurance paid something like $500. As an individual I might have been able to knock a lot off the $10000 but I really doubt I would have been able to get it down to $500.

Ok, I was being a bit flip rather than explaining what I mean. But there are many things going on here. In some rough sense you are correct, in that you pay less with insurance in the system that you would without, due to the carriers negotiation. But the entire pay scale has shifted, partially because of the way the health insurance industry is constructed. First off, we systemically overpay for medical procedures here. Secondly, your bill total is bullshit, and everyone at every level knows it is bullshit. It's billed out knowing full well that the insurance company won't pay it. If you don't have insurance they'll try and collect what they can, well over and above the rate you actually paid, if they can. Not to worried if they don't though (they aren't counting on it). The entire thing is a game that bears only a passing relationship to costs.

So talking about your individual standing in the system today, sure, you have no power. But you're also getting taking to the cleaners along with everyone else.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 2:56 PM
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116 is correct.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 2:58 PM
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further to 118, sorry lost my thread there somewhere --- the pooling is only saving you money if you include everything you've spent in insurance as well as the procedural cost. Since the procedural pricings are bullshit, it's hard to evaluate this. However, in practice, a lot of people end up behind the game. You could say that this counterbalanced by covering you against catastrophic loss, but more and more it's the case that you aren't actually covered. Basically the system is a mess.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 3:01 PM
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113

"To someone who couldn't afford unsubsidized insurance because of their risk level, it kinda is the point, Shearer."

And conversely to those who could afford unsubsidized insurance it isn't the point.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 3:15 PM
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114

"But Shearer might be discomfited by the implications of his point, if he would follow it to its logical conclusion. If an insurance company in market competition for members can negotiate lower prices with providers, how much better could a national health insurance plan accomplish the same thing? And how much more cost could you take out of the system if the providers and insurers both had an incentive to collaborate on total wellness management over the lifetime of their patients? And how much cost could you take out of the supply chain (remember, price reductions are ultimately self-defeating if they cannot be supported by any reduction in supply chain costs) if you eliminated spending on marketing, and equity returns for the owners of the insurance company?"

This sounds good in theory but consideration of the way the government handles military spending leads me to doubt it would work so well in practice.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 3:17 PM
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And conversely to those who could afford unsubsidized insurance and are certain that they'll never find themselves in a risk group in which they can't it isn't the point.

You feeling lucky, Shearer?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 3:18 PM
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118

"... If you don't have insurance they'll try and collect what they can, well over and above the rate you actually paid, if they can. Not to worried if they don't though (they aren't counting on it). ..."

So the bleeding heart stories about hospital lawyers relentlessly pursuing indigent patients for years are all myths?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 3:21 PM
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I turned out to be in the category of people who need health insurance least -- in about 25 years with good health insurance I went to the doctor no more than 10 times, and only three times for anything serious enough to treat.

Nonetheless, the comfort of not having to worry was nice.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 3:22 PM
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So the bleeding heart stories about hospital lawyers relentlessly pursuing indigent patients for years are all myths?

Not at all, they just aren't counting on it as a revenue stream. They'll get whatever they can. They don't want people to default, but they plan on it, particularly when presenting the inflated bills to the uninsured.

This sounds good in theory but consideration of the way the government handles military spending leads me to doubt it would work so well in practice.

While I suppose it is possible that the US government is simply incapable of implementing a system comparable to some of the better systems, it's a pretty strong claim to make.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 3:27 PM
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123

"And conversely to those who could afford unsubsidized insurance and are certain that they'll never find themselves in a risk group in which they can't it isn't the point.

You feeling lucky, Shearer?"

That's where catastrophic coverage comes in.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 3:33 PM
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"While I suppose it is possible that the US government is simply incapable of implementing a system comparable to some of the better systems, it's a pretty strong claim to make."

Which is why I am not making it. Just noting such a system cannot be assumed.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 3:35 PM
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If we're defining 'catastrophic coverage' as 'coverage for any necessary medical care when the patient can't afford it', I think it's a lovely, wonderful idea, but awfully hard to distinguish from UHC. If we're defining it otherwise, it doesn't solve your problem so much.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 3:36 PM
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128: Just noting such a system cannot be assumed.

We can look at pretty much every other industrialized country in the world, and make some guesses about whether it's possible. But you're right, actual assumptions would be unwarranted and premature.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 3:37 PM
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128: Fair enough. But as LB notes, the best information we have is that it's quite possible though, so it seems a bit odd get too hung up on the idea that the implementation might fail badly. That's true of any other implementation, also.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 3:39 PM
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No other industrialized country in the world has our level of fraud- and cronyism-based defense spending where the priority is to waste as much money as possible, either. Or am I wrong?


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 3:41 PM
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130

"... possible. ..."

"Possible" is one thing, "likely" quite another.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 3:42 PM
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I'd think the pretty much every other industrialized country in the world bit would address likely as well as possible. But your judgment may vary.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 3:44 PM
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"Possible" is one thing, "likely" quite another.

So you believe that while technically quite straightforward, politically it's infeasible? That's possible, but depressing. The current system will only get worse.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 3:44 PM
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'Catastrophic coverage' usually has a really high deductible. And it won't keep you from going bankrupt if the shit really hits the fan. And you'll never get to see a doctor for preventative care or most routine illnesses without the entire cost coming out of your own pocket. It means when your kid falls badly and can't move her wrist, you wait before deciding to get it X-rayed, just in case it isn't broken, because that will run you $400.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 3:45 PM
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I should elaborate: it's depressing not so much for the outcome in healthcare, which is already quite broken, but as a condemnation of the federal governments ability to fix anything, even with a step by step outline.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 3:46 PM
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Another mention of the Panopticon in a NYT article about committed "trolls". Everybody is an expert on Foucault except me. I bet my dogs have read mots & choses.

Is this trolling? Am I a troll? Can I connect trolling to the panopticon, riffing off the NYT reference to the "panopticon in reverse?" Can I connect it all to healthcare, which has fuckall to do with the original post, in order to appear a more subtle troll?

41: No, not Gladwell. I did spend some time at Wiki in the marketing, group dynamics, and sociology areas but all I could come up with was "high influencers." Not enough detail, and not quite what I was looking for. Maube I need to google "meme diffusion."


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 3:47 PM
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138: I know exactly what you're thinking of, it was a long story in the New Yorker maybe five years back, largely using one particular woman in Chicago as an example, and if it wasn't Gladwell it was someone a lot like him.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 3:52 PM
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LB, that was definitely Gladwell.


Posted by: peter | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 3:54 PM
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Bingo. Bob, is that what you were thinking of?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 3:56 PM
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Bingo indeed. Thanks

Six
degrees of separation
doesn't simply mean that
everyone is linked to
everyone else in just six
steps. It means that a very
small number of people are
linked to everyone else in a
few steps, and the rest of us
are linked to the world
through those few.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 4:10 PM
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For some reason, I had a resistance to the idea being attached to Gladwell. I have this vague feeling Gladwell is like Diamond or Taleb, a popularizer without c.v.

If the linked article is true, it does make the Dutch experiment more complicated. Most of us are polar bearish.

The troll article was good enough to make me reflective, even about disrupting this health care diiscussion. The "trolls' described in the article are better described as vandals. Ogged, there's your "performance art." There was a better taxonomy of trollishness in the Ezra Klein thread that lead me to the NYT article.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 4:21 PM
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LB's gym teacher would get reported and chastised pretty quickly.

HA! Where did you go to school, bob? Magic happyfun ponyland of non-oppressive gym teachers? Let me tell you how much sympathy I got when my gym teacher showed us fencing moves while flopping his wrist and lisping.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 4:23 PM
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I don't remember ever having a gym teacher who made fun of the students or showed favoritism. Or who made fun of anything, or showed any indication that he knew who any of the students were. Or who taught us how to do anything.

What kind of school has gym teachers who are on a mission to do anything? I always thought the word "teacher" was just a technicality, and a more accurate term would be "lifeguard". They would tell us the rules of what we were going to do that day, divide us into teams, and then sit back and watch until the period was over. Some would intervene when kids were sitting around instead of participating, most wouldn't intervene unless a fight broke out.


Posted by: CN | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 4:33 PM
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I'd think most of us aren't polar bears but low number of connections x medium-to-high intensity, whatever animal that is.


Posted by: elemund | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 4:33 PM
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Um, you got that that was rhetorical, right? Because I didn't get any sympathy. I thought it would be more powerful if you sort of had to answer the question in your own head, but I wouldn't want anyone to think that a guess of, "oh, maybe a moderate amount of sympathy" might be right. That would sort of undermine my basic point, you know? Which is that I didn't get any. Sympathy.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 4:36 PM
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Magic happyfun ponyland of non-oppressive gym teachers?

Mebbe so. I barely remember my 50-60s Midwest youth, but most of it was pretty damn good. Poor, short, fat, obnoxious egghead, I was also a "manager" on the basketball team and partied with the players. All the sports coaches & most teachers were among the best people I have ever known.

Sorry.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 4:37 PM
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147 to no one or particular or anything. Am I bothering anyone? Sorry. I'll just turn off my thigamijig thingy.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 4:38 PM
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Perhaps some pushups would be calming?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 4:40 PM
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I barely remember my 50-60s Midwest youth, but most of it was pretty damn good.

No wonder you have so much trouble with today's world, bob. If you'd have been miserable and suicidal like the rest of us, things wouldn't seem so bad now.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 4:40 PM
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Ta ta ta ta ta ta ta TROLL?????????????????


Posted by: Drippin' | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 4:56 PM
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All the sports coaches & most teachers were among the best people I have ever known.

I knew it. Bob's from a different planet.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 5:22 PM
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I don't have any bad memories of Midwestern childhood either. And the quarterback of my HS football team was gay and acted gay, though no one actually knew he was gay. Coaches and PE teachers did what they could to help less-talented kids find something they were good at.

The horror stories I remember hearing seem to come especially from very large suburban and exurban schools which took enormous pride in championship sports teams.

I have trouble imagining Bob as fat, though.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 6:04 PM
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Perhaps some pushups would be calming
prostrations could be a good exercise, all groups of muscles are involved they say and pretty many steps from the standing position to the full prostraded one
in old times people were going to Lhasa by that means, measuring the way by their body lenghth must be it was very calming, don't think anything just repeat mechanically all steps


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 6:28 PM
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I don't remember any scary awful PE teachers, though I certainly didn't like gym class at all.

However, for grade 9 English I had a teacher who was mainly one of the boys' PE teachers, and I thought he was a complete idiot. I despised his hail-fellow-well-met mannerisms, inwardly cringed every time he referred to us collectively as "gang" in his faux-chummy way ("Okay, gang..."), and was outraged when he made us read Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey (his own contribution to the curriculum), while barely skimming over the plot points of Macbeth. I perceived he favoured the boys over the girls, and I suspected him of a deep, and deeply stupid, misogyny. I used to refer to him (not to his face, of course) as "functionally illiterate."

In retrospect, I believe I wasn't too far off about his ability (or lack thereof) to teach English, and also about his sexism, but I also realize that I was insufferable in ways that only an angst-ridden teenage girl can be (other people can be just as insufferable in other ways, of course). For this, no doubt I will be punished in due course.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 7:35 PM
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2001 is a pretty good sci-fi book.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 7:36 PM
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MC, don't give up. Women of a certain age can also be quite insufferable, if they make the effort and have a bit of talent.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 7:40 PM
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I also realize that I was insufferable in ways that only an angst-ridden teenage girl can be

We were required in high school during freshman year to take a "health" class: this was taught by "Coach," whose name I may never actually have known. The football coach, in any case. At one point he was attempting to write on the blackboard:

pychsi
phych
pschia

"P.S.Y.C.H.I.A.T.R.Y." I interjected from my chair.

Oh, damn.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 7:44 PM
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In 8th grade health my son was asked on a test "Why is gossip unhealthy?"

He answered "I do not think that gossip is unhealthy."

The teacher's comment was "Use the book".


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 7:49 PM
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159: one of my teachers threw a shoe at me after I corrected him when he wrote "warrent" on the board.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 7:54 PM
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when he wrote "warrent" on the board

Everyone knows it's properly rendered "Warren G". What a cad.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 7:57 PM
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153:I am so very tempted to violate a little of my privacy/paranoia because a person of my youth is someone who everyone here would recognize and admire, at least by reputation. The only famous person I have known, tho not that famous, and even better than his reputation.

I wonder about my paranoia sometimes. I think people who know me from my past either respect my desire to separate myself from it & them or more likely don't give a shit. Or maybe the blogosphere is a smaller, more isolated place than I think it is.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 7:59 PM
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161: Good work, Sifu. My senior year english teacher tried to throw me and 2 of my friends out of class for the rest of the semester for taking issue with her reading of "The Wasteland."

Hey, good times.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 8:00 PM
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2001 is a pretty good sci-fi book.

Yeah, well, that's what Mr. McWitless told us, but I couldn't see any good reason to believe him. Admittedly, I didn't approach the book with an open mind.

159 is great. We didn't have a separate "health class," but there was a "health class" component to our PE, where they made us watch grainy B&W films which made us squirm with embarrassment. Naturally, it was all taught from a Catholic perspective, so no mention of contraception or anything along those lines.

I'm inspired, Emerson. What I lack in talent I will make up in sheer effort.


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 8:00 PM
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You are more insufferable than you probably realize, MC. High achievers often set impossible goals for themselves.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 8:05 PM
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i got once my handwriting analyzed on the blackboard, our teacher were talking about how my y's and g's longer handles? are going almost close to parallel to the writing line, not straight down
but she didn't say anything about personality traits, just that it looks not nice
ok, good night


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 8:09 PM
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My senior year english teacher tried to throw me and 2 of my friends out of class for the rest of the semester for taking issue with her reading of "The Wasteland."

That's "The Waste Land", you insolent whelp. Completely different connotations.


Posted by: T.S. Eliot | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 8:09 PM
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166: I need a life coach* to help me set realistic goals for the achievement of wealth, health and happiness through insufferability.

*Can anyone really say "life coach" with a straight face, and is it insufferable of me to ask this question?


Posted by: Mary Catherine | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 8:20 PM
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168: Actually, it was "The Hollow Men," anyways. Misspoke.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 8:20 PM
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MC, I suspect that your potential for insufferability is severely limited by your destructive attachment to your teeth.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 8:29 PM
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I want to go on record as saying the idea in the original post is dreadful. There is no humanly possible way that this kind of data will not be used against people, and I have no faith whatsoever that there are any benefits, much less ones sufficent to outweigh the costs.

In order to believe that this would be even OK, you have to think that:
- Absolutely everyone who has access to the data will not use it maliciously
- Absolutely nobody who is not supposed to have access to the data will gain access
- The data will be accurate (as soup and others point out, deliberate messing with the system is quite likely, not to mention user error)
- The consequences of misuse, wrongful access, and false data will not be serious or long-lasting.

I cannot think of a single example of mass data collection in the US where these three issues have held true. How many cases have we seen where police officers used surveillance cameras to sexually harass civilians? Where bureaucrats decided to look up passport, purchasing, or credit card records of famous people (or their ex-spouses' lovers, or whatever) "just for fun"?

Where careless or tired government workers left a company laptop on a taxi seat or mailed a disk to the wrong place, exposing data from thousands of people to anybody who happened across it? Where computer search records were not used in child-custody cases or divorce proceedings to imply (or threaten to imply) that a defendant was a pedophile?

Really, this is an awful idea. Not least because human social interaction is sufficiently complex and unpredictable that even the best-intentioned educators have NO CLUE how their actions influence the social world of youth.

I do not think I would feel differently about this if I lived in the Netherlands.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 9:36 PM
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"Were not used" should be "were used."


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 9:37 PM
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You know what else is wrong with it? It's !$%&!$*^@$^ condescending. How many of you would consent to a monitoring device like this following you through YOUR day?

What if the data were being analyzed by a bunch of liberal do-gooder social workers who just wanted you to get married and be happy? (Because science proves that marriage protects against Alzeheimer's! And death! Did you know married people never die?)


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 08- 1-08 9:46 PM
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Only a bloody Dutchman, as Nigel Powers would say.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 08- 2-08 2:43 AM
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74. OFE, was Thatcher's move a camel's-nose-under-the-tent effort to privatize ?

Sorry, PF, long since off line when this was posted.

Partly, although she was intelligent enough to realise that it was impossible to privatise the NHS fully without breaking it deliberately first, which she didn't actually want to do (Blair might have, I'm not sure - I'm not sure about anything that went on in that fetid little brain). But the impact of the additional overheads in the internal market was either genuinely not foreseen or deliberately hidden. Thatcher's people were telling us that market mechanisms would reduce waste in the system, and either it never occurred to them that a layer of parasites would emerge to run those mechanisms and pay themselves handsomely or they were deliberately creating jobs for their friends. The novelist Christopher Brookmyre believes the latter, but they were never formally accused of it at the time.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08- 2-08 4:16 AM
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re: 176

I've always assumed it was a bit of both. Both true-believer blindness on the part of some of them about how capitalism/business/markets/every-other-bloody-thing really works plus a healthy dose of venal self-interest from some of the others.

The same toxic mix continues to this day. Hearing Blairites talk about markets you realize most of them have either never worked in business or are just straight up lying when they promise that efficiency savings will be made in this or that area by entering into a private partnership, or contracting services out, or introducing market mechanisms.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08- 2-08 5:16 AM
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are just straight up lying when they promise that efficiency savings

The particular lie often being that money will be saved, when everyone involved really knows that it will cost a lot more, but that that cost can be deferred until some future point, when it's no longer their problem.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 08- 2-08 5:18 AM
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One thing that appears with American contracting-out and privatizing is that with every public-private partnership, you have a negotiation where the private side has an enormous personal stake in the matter and the other side has none, unless he takes a bribe from the private party. And often the public negotiator is not expert in the field he's negotiating in, but is just a generic civil servant who rose through the ranks and ended up being assigned, or volunteering for that particular task.

And this is exactly, exactly what economists would predict. Furthermore, economists believe that in many cases the private party would be wrong to refrain from bilking the government of as much as possible (fiduciary responsiblity, don't you see).

Some of the original privatizers may have been high-minded, but the Bush administration looks like a looting expedition.

P.S. The reason there's so much nepotism and cronyism in the contemporary Republicans in government and media isn't only because people are handing out goodies to friends and family. Friends and family, especially when they're being paid far above their abilities, can be relied on for loyalty, whereas free agents or serious conservatives might call foul when something completely improper and incompetent is being done.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08- 2-08 6:01 AM
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John, friends and family did very nicely out of Thatcher between 1979 and 1990, but it didn't stop them turning on her when it looked like time to take care of number one. I think American neoconservatism has to be a lot more ideological than that, or McCain wouldn't have any friends left by now.


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08- 2-08 6:20 AM
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A lot of people are ditching McCain. Two bankers my family knows aren't giving any money to the national Republicans.

Loyalty disappears when failure looms and the payoffs are imperiled. But Bush's cronies have stayed loyal as he betrayed most of his party's ideological positions, and as he showed enormous incompetence even in putting out his message and hadnling the ordinary business of government. Graft trumps ideology, and only a few ideological conservatives (Fein, Barr, Bruce Bartlett) have been willing to say that the emperor has no clothes.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08- 2-08 7:03 AM
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181. But McCain is still better placed in the polls than Reagan was at a similar point in 1980, or Bush II in 2000. Whence so many bitter enders, if not ideology?


Posted by: OneFatEnglishman | Link to this comment | 08- 2-08 7:42 AM
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Voters are suckers. I was talking more about the high levels.

Bush has completely betrayed the little-government Republicans, the free-traders, and the fiscal conservatives. He's done nothing for the anti-immigration bigots. He's given the Christians a certain amount of support at no cost to himself, but he's also dragged them into stuff they're starting to be restless about.

I do have to grant the Republicans three ideological principles they've been loyal to: authoritarianism, war and low taxes -- though low taxes is a form of graft. So perhaps there's just been an ideological remaking of the Republicans, dumping fiscal conservativism, free trade, and little government principles. Nonetheless, at this point I think that passing out the boodle trumps everything else. I can see them pulling back in the militarism, for example. But never the low taxes.

As far as the polls go: I'm getting that same sick August feeling I did in 2004. Hope Obama isn't windsurfing. he seems better able to defend himself than Kerry or Gore. On the other hand, the media are only marginally less horrible than they were then. (I'd say 20% less crappy).


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08- 2-08 7:59 AM
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As far as the polls go: I'm getting that same sick August feeling I did in 2004.

Screw the polls. I am still very optimisitic, and still imagine a landslide. Obama is building his groundgame, and maintaining the positive image. At some point affter the convention, if necessary, he will go on the attack. Meanwhile, McCain will uglify himself.

This won't be the primaries with proportional results. Ignoring Barr, all Obama needs is 51% in Ohio & Virginia etc. 1980 was decently close in pop vote. I am expecting 2008 to look like 1980. A realignment. Landslide with coattails.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 08- 2-08 9:27 AM
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Heebie's 68 sums up a significant number of the worst teachers at my high school. When I was a senior in high school there was a junior who wasn't formally out of the closet but was transparently a screaming queen. After a couple of incidents of verbal harassment he went to one of the assistant principals for help and was told, "Well, son, maybe if you got a haircut and quit walking like that they'd leave you alone." My experience of the social hierarchy was that it was simply a reflection of who best exemplified social norms and so a lot of the enforcement of it is indirect; this isn't to say it's unintentional.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 08- 2-08 11:07 AM
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Crap, I wrote a dystopian science fiction story about this 20 years ago.

Of course, in my version, the people running the system were clueless idiots, the wireless device was an earbud that nagged poorly-socialized kids with constant advice, and it was run by a rogue AI that went insane and could pwn the autopilot circuits in the futuristic cars. Otherwise, completely identical.


Posted by: Matt McIrvin | Link to this comment | 08- 2-08 12:26 PM
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every time he referred to us collectively as "gang" in his faux-chummy way ("Okay, gang..."),

I had a well-known (in his field) tenured professor do this in college. It was actually rather charming. He also got the pretentious Russian grad student who thought he knew everything--and was actually told point blank by another professor who wasn't in any way a jerk that he was 100% wrong about something--to let him call him by the diminutive form of his name which humanized him tremendously.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 08- 4-08 5:57 AM
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