Call your senators: might be a vote on health care this week!

If you want to read up on the Senate bill a bit more, here are some good stories about how it slashes Medicaid and will cause premiums to rise for many people to give a tax cut to the wealthy.

Please call today. You don’t have to get in to policy much, just say something like

Hi, my name is <your name>, and I’m a constituent of Senator <senator’s name>. I’m urging <him/her> to vote against any health care bill that would cause tens of millions of Americans to lose their insurance, like the one proposed in the Senate.

If your senator opposed the bill (here’s a handy whip count – note that Senator Cruz is currently opposed!), be sure to say something like “I urge the Senator to stand against the bill even if minor changes are made”, because this is exactly what happened with the House bill – they made some small changes and that gave cover for representatives to vote for it.

Senator Cornyn’s numbers are: (512)469-6034 (Austin office) and (202)224-2934 (DC office)
Senator Cruz’s numbers are: (512)916-5834 (Austin office) and (202)224-5922 (DC office)

On Tyranny review

On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth CenturyOn Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Very quick and sobering read, but it was quite good! The author looks at past tyrannical governments (fascism in the 1930s, Communism in the 1940s) and draws lessons from them. (the book expicitly mentions the Trump administration…) A few of the more surprising/interesting ones:
Do not obey in advance: individuals think ahead about what a government will want and then do it without being ordered to. I feel like this happened early in the Trump administration with some agency taking down some climate data or something?
Remember professional ethics: many of the leaders of the force that committed mass murder in 1930s Germany were lawyers, and of course doctors experimented on people in concentration camps. This is something that Tech Solidarity is tackling for high-tech workers. (including a pledge not to work on a system for tracking Muslims, for example)
Believe in truth: Kinda goes without saying that this is under attack..
Make eye contact and small talk: This can be very comforting to people who feel like they’re under attack from society.

Anyway, I found it helpful even if the worst doesn’t happen here. Give it a read!

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The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking review

The Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of HijackingThe Skies Belong to Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Age of Hijacking by Brendan I. Koerner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Interesting book! Some things I learned from it:
– The period in question had a ton of hijackings. (or “skyjacking”s as they used to call it, which is way cooler!) At a Senate hearing, the airlines claimed it was an impossible problem “short of searching every passenger”, which they really didn’t want to do for cost reasons, and they thought passengers wouldn’t stand for it. At this point, every hijacker just wanted to go to Cuba, where the airline would pay Castro a nominal fee to get the plane back, so it didn’t even cost that much!
– A few weeks after the hearing, a hijacker pulled a gun on a Senator (randomly, he didn’t know the victim was a Senator), which made it clear that something had to be done. The State Department proposed providing free one-way flights to Cuba for anyone who wanted to go! (Castro didn’t want to do this – he preferred the black eye that America would take from hijackings) So the airlines told pilots and flight attendants to comply with hijacker demands no matter what to avoid violence. As a part of this, all cockpits had charts of the Caribbean regardless of where they were going, and some Spanish phrase cards to communicate with the Havana airport!
– So people just accepted hijackings to Cuba as a necessary risk of air travel for a while. (and passengers were treated well in Havana, although Castro generally disliked the hijackers themselves)
– By February 1969 there was more than one hijacking a week in the US! So the FAA tried again to address the problem, and the public had some input. They had the following crazy suggestions: trapdoors outside cockpits! Arming flight attendants with tranquilizer darts! Playing the Cuban national anthem before takeoff and then arresting anyone who knew the lyrics?! One suggestion the FAA took seriously was to build a replica of the Havana airport in South Florida to fool hijackers into thinking they had reached Cuba, but it was rejected as too expensive.
– Eventually hijackers started wanting to go other places, although they didn’t always plan ahead. One hijacker wanted to go to “Africa” (which is a pretty broad place to want to go?), but the airline only flew to California so of course their planes couldn’t reach across the ocean. Incidentally, the main hijacker’s girlfriend ordered one flight attendant to feed her baby a bottle, and another to crochet the baby a hat!
– The hijacking that broke the camel’s back was a hijacking in 1972 that landed in Cleveland, Toronto (an elderly passenger suffered a nonfatal heart attack on this leg of the journey), Chattanooga (where they picked up $2 million of ransom money), Havana (where Castro rejected them), Orlando (where the FBI started shooting at the plane, which still managed to take off), then for lack of a better idea, back to Havana. Along the way they threatened to “bomb” the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where nuclear material was kept. After that threat, the airlines saw the writing on the wall and agreed to screen passengers with metal detectors and inspect carryon bags. The Cubans also made a deal to extradite hijackers to the US, which didn’t hurt.

The main story is an interesting look at a hijacking by Roger Holder and Cathy Kerkow – how they hatched the idea, where they ended up, etc. The whole book is pretty interesting and I’d recommend it if you’re interested in such things!

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monday pretty big linked list: call about health care!, drug overdoses, VW is tricky

Health care stuff

– Sorry to keep beating this drum, but: Senate GOP won’t release draft health care bill – they don’t want people to read it because it is presumably terrible for people with preexisting conditions, etc. Please call your senators – here’s how! Ask them not to support a bill that would leave tens of millions of Americans who currently have health insurance without it.

How Alaska fixed Obamacare – an interesting look at how reinsurance stopped a possible “death spiral” in Alaska.

Maps Show A Dramatic Rise In Health Insurance Coverage Under ACA – Obamacare isn’t perfect, but it’s better than what we had. (also: hey Texas, maybe you should expand Medicaid?)

Nevada’s legislature just passed a radical plan to let anybody sign up for Medicaid – looks like the governor hasn’t decided whether to sign it or not, but: neat!

Other stuff

You Draw It: Just How Bad Is the Drug Overdose Epidemic? – spoiler alert: it is very bad.
  – Related: I used to support legalizing all drugs. Then the opioid epidemic happened. is an interesting point.

Inside VW’s Campaign of Trickery – yikes, that is damning evidence.

Here’s a Very Powerful Study That Bolsters the Lead-Crime Hypothesis – interesting stuff!

Why Self-Compassion Works Better Than Self-Esteem

The Last Person You’d Expect to Die in Childbirth – super depressing story here. The US has the worst rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, and I was expecting this to be because of funding or taxes or abortion (somehow), but it sounds like it’s not really any of these. Which is good because it means we can fix it! (right?) (thanks Jessica!)

Steve Ballmer Serves Up a Fascinating Data Trove – check out USAFacts! If I had more time and could think of a good angle, I would make an app using this data, and then no one would download it.

These days in baseball, every batter is trying to find an angle – neat visualization of launch angles in baseball

7 reasons why today’s left should be optimistic – hooray!

For an Inclusive Culture, Try Working Less – this is a good point…

Texans: call Senators Cornyn and Cruz to save healthcare!

A few weeks ago, the House passed the AHCA (aka TrumpCare, aka the American Health Care Act), which is terrible for reasons I’ve gone into before. (why it’s bad, why essential health benefits are good) The CBO scored the bill and estimated that 23 million people will lose their health care if the bill passes, and people with preexisting conditions may have to pay higher premiums (like, way higher). It is bad!

The Senate is now working on a health care bill – they say they’re going to “start from scratch”, so who knows what they’ll come up with. Also:

Senators Cornyn and Cruz are both involved in this effort (per item 2 here) – let them know what you think!

I had a hard time thinking about what to say since it’s not as straightforward as “vote/don’t vote for this bill”, but the suggested text from that item is good:

“Hello, my name is [NAME] from [TOWN]. I know the Senator is on the working group of the new healthcare bill. The House’s plan is a disaster. The ACA isn’t perfect, but it has expanded access to coverage to millions of Americans. Does the Senator pledge that the new bill will allow those millions to keep their insurance, and will contain no loopholes for insurers to charge more for pre-existing conditions?”

Senator Cornyn’s numbers are: (512)469-6034 (Austin office) and (202)224-2934 (DC office)
Senator Cruz’s numbers are: (512)916-5834 (Austin office) and (202)224-5922 (DC office)

The Senate is in recess this week so call today!