Obamacare survives! Some mostly jubilant thoughts

Yay! Here’s one of many articles covering it.

– While part of the problem was the House Freedom Caucus thought the bill didn’t do enough, there were also a chunk of moderates that wouldn’t support it. I saw a number of quotes from people saying they were getting thousands of calls against it and single-digit number of calls for it. Calling your representative can work! See:

– The bill itself was very unpopular (this poll had it at 17% approve 56% disapprove, and that was before they got rid of the essential health services!), which I guess isn’t surprising for something that would have made 24 million people lose health insurance in the next 10 years. This is a good example of how passing Obamacare moved the Overton window – just repealing it wasn’t acceptable to even most Republicans since so many people would have lost insurance.

– Margins matter. The estimates of how many votes the Republicans were short is in the neighborhood of 15 or so when it was closest to passing. If the Republicans had 30 more seats in the House it easily could have passed. (although who knows what would have happened in the Senate…but again, the Republicans have a very slim majority there)

– We’re going to lose a lot. It was great (and important!) to win this battle, but the Republicans still control the House, Senate, and Presidency, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they pass some terrible tax bill or whatnot. So don’t lose hope when this happens, and don’t give up!

tuesday linked list: poverty and iPhones, friends are important, trump/russia

Laziness isn’t why people are poor. And iPhones aren’t why they lack health care. – this is a very good look at why people want to believe these things. Also worth noting – saying that poor people should never treat themselves to anything is not realistic or compassionate. I also feel this way about food stamps: if a family is able to save up their food stamps to enjoy a nicer meal every once in a while, why shouldn’t we allow that? (thanks David!)

The biggest threat facing middle-age men isn’t smoking or obesity. It’s loneliness. – this is sobering. Having friends that you do stuff with is important!

If Trump Is Innocent, Why Is He Acting So Guilty? – see, yeah. It is 100% believable to me that Putin wanted Trump to win/Hillary to lose, so the government hacked both parties and released the DNC emails via Wikileaks. But so many of his campaign officials have ties to Russia and Trump keeps lying about what’s going on that it’s getting concerning. Of course, Trump seems to lie about a lot of things, so maybe this is just his way of “counterpunching”. And extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, which we don’t have yet. But still…

In Fight Over Bail’s Fairness, a Sheriff Joins the Critics – good for the Harris County (Houston) sheriff and district attorney! (thanks David!)

The Opioid Epidemic Is This Generation’s AIDS Crisis – wow, I didn’t realize that things were this bad. (probably because I don’t live in a rural area) My rough insensitive guideline for when something is really bad is when it causes more deaths per year than traffic fatalities (~38,000 in 2015), and this is well above that.

The Lessons of Obamacare: What Republicans should have learned, but haven’t – health care is hard!

How WWI food propaganda forever changed the way Americans eat – interesting! (also, I’m totally a sucker for war propaganda posters…)

A Behavioral Economist Tries to Fix Email – man, I need something like Filtr…

6 Big Differences That Turn City Dwellers Into Liberals – makes a lot of sense. Also, when did cracked.com start publishing good articles?

How Donald Trump’s Enemies Fell for a Billion Dollar Hoax – impressive detective work to find all the ways the wire transfer document was phony!

Steve Jobs’ liver—and the quest for a better organ algorithm – tricky stuff. Also, be an organ donor!

The CIA uses board games to train officers—and I got to play them – sounds like fun!

Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical review

Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the SkepticalMaking Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical by Timothy J. Keller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The book is basically a bunch of arguments for Christianity. While the author doesn’t try to prove the existence of God (which I appreciate!), he does make a number of arguments that I found pretty convincing about why the secular idea of morality still requires faith in something. (although not necessarily God)

There’s definitely some overlap with his other book The Reason For God, but I found this book thought-provoking and helpful.

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why you should oppose the Republican health care bill (aka the ACA “repeal and replace”)

If you want to read the bill itself, you can do so at the clever URL ReadTheBill.gop. I tried to get through it and gave up – it’s 120 pages and not the easiest thing to read. But I do appreciate having the bill easily available!

If you want to read articles by people smarter than me, here’s a pretty good summary, and here’s an article wondering why the bill exists because both conservative and moderate Republicans are unhappy about it for different reasons. And here’s a roundup of how people are responding to it.

Here are some weird/bad things about it:

If you don’t have insurance through your employer, poorer people will get less of a subsidy/tax credit, and richer people will get more – see here for a chart with some samples. The original bill would give a tax credit to everyone (without employer health insurance) based solely on age, so Mark Zuckerberg and I would get the same amount. Now they added some phasing out based on income, so Zuckerberg won’t get anything. But it’s still less progressive than the ACA, and people are worried that more low-income people won’t be able to afford insurance at all.

We don’t know how much it will cost or how many people will lose coverage because the Republicans are voting on it out of committee tomorrow – the plan was released yesterday and they want to vote on it tomorrow! They’re not waiting for the Congressional Budget Office to “score” it, which is awfully suspicious. An expert suspects 15 to 20 million people would lose coverage under the bill.

The individual mandate is gone, but if you stop coverage and later want it your premiums will go up 30% which is just weird. One big problem you have to worry about in healthcare is that people will not buy insurance until they get sick, then they’ll buy it to cover procedures, etc. This can lead to the feared “death spiral” where more healthy people drop their insurance, which makes premiums go up, which makes more healthy people drop their insurance, etc. Pre-ACA insurers dealt with this by either refusing to cover people with “preexisting conditions” or raising their premiums sky-high. The ACA attempted to solve this with the mandate, which says you have to have insurance or pay a penalty. But raising someone’s premium by 30% is probably not enough to dissuade people from doing this.

There’s a sweet tax break for insurance company executives that make more than $500K because it wouldn’t be a Republican bill without a tax break for the rich, I guess?

Six pages of the bill deal with keeping lottery winners off of Medicaid which really threw me for a loop when I started reading the bill! (more coverage here)

monday linked list: the x-plan, panhandling, american exceptionalism

X-Plan: Giving your kids a way out – this is a great idea, although I’d imagine the hard part is not asking questions afterwards. (thanks Leigh Ann!)

The Pope on Panhandling: Give Without Worry – this is inspiring, and I’m going to try to do this from now on. (one challenge: keeping enough cash on hand…)

It’s time for Democrats to become the party of American exceptionalism – I’m of two minds about American exceptionalism. On the one hand, saying “hey we’re the best and no other country is like us!” always seemed a little presumptuous. But I’m 100% behind “we should do good things because we’re a good country”! (sidenote: it is still so weird to see the Democrats have this opportunity, as the Republicans have had a stranglehold on this since the Reagan years)

Kansas Republicans Sour on Their Tax-Cut Experiment – it’s almost like supply-side/trickle-down economics don’t work!

Dismal Voucher Results Surprise Researchers as DeVos Era Begins – apparently the best charter schools are the most “public”. (and also nonprofits)

‘What Do You Think Is the Most Important Problem Facing This Country Today?’ – a neat look at the answers to this question over time. There doesn’t seem to be any one big thing now, but a lot of the answers are domestic in nature, which is new.

The Future of Not Working – a good piece on universal income and GiveDirectly.

Just How Abnormal Is the Trump Presidency? Rating 20 Events – in handy chart form!

Be More Careful on Facebook – this is, sadly, good advice, especially for immigrants and visitors. (thanks David!)

What One Photo Tells Us About North Korea’s Nuclear Program – a neat look at what you can learn from even a propaganda photo. (although this is, of course, terrifying…)

How Uber Deceives the Authorities Worldwide – wow, terrible few weeks for Uber! Couldn’t have happened to a nicer company.

Meet The Man Who Stopped Thousands Of People Becoming HIV-Positive – wow. PrEP works, and this guy is inspiring!

30-Second Philosophies review

30-Second Philosophies: The 50 most thought-provoking philosophies, each explained in half a minute30-Second Philosophies: The 50 most thought-provoking philosophies, each explained in half a minute by Barry Loewer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was fine enough. Having one page per philosophy is neat and a good way to introduce a bunch of stuff at once, but it turns out I’m really just interested in the ethics-related topics.

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writing a test for a bug before fixing it: a good idea most of the time

I’m not fully onboard with test-driven development, but I have started to like it a lot when I’m fixing bugs. First I reproduce the bug manually in the product, then I write a test for it that fails, then I fix it and makes sure that the test passes. Good stuff!

Friday I started working on a bug that I was surprised to see, because I had written a test that I thought should cover it. So I tried it manually in the product, and was easily able to reproduce it. I noticed some differences with the way the test was set up, so I started trying to tweak the test to get it to fail.

And I spent like 4 hours trying to do this, getting more and more frustrated. I could not for the life of me figure out what was going on!

Finally I said “whatever” and investigated the bug in the product. It took me like 10 minutes to find the cause of the bug, which also revealed why my test hadn’t caught it. Another 20 minutes later, and I was able to make a test that failed without the bug fix and passed with it.

So this is a reminder to myself: it’s OK to do things out of order sometimes!