Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The new healthcare bill

Good news is already happening with the healthcare bill, as insurers are now agreeing to cover children with preexisting conditions. It's hard to believe denying them such coverage was legal before.

Prices will likely increase because of the bill. I'm not too familiar with the legislation, but mark my words: unless there is very close antitrust regulation and monitoring of pricing, insurers will gauge customers, because of either explicit collusion or the inability of customers to easily change insurers. Such collusion and resulting high prices would be an undeserved ticket for republicans to shout, "I told you so!"

I've heard about a marketplace for insurance contracts -- that might be one place to avoid collusion and unnecessary gauging; but it will need to happen very soon for the public to not regret passage of the legislation.

Friday, March 26, 2010

How Freeze-drying works

Probably about how you'd expect, given the name and the "light" texture of freeze-dried foods.

Basically, you need to freeze something to below water's ideal point, then reduce the pressure and add enough heat to make the water in the material sublimate (go from a solid directly to a gas).

This is apparently similar to a process by which natural mummification sometimes takes place in high altitudes. This is also reminiscent of the way cheerios are made.

Why have we not tried freeze-drying everything under the sun (well, figuratively), such as tofu and turkey?


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Increasing right-wing extremism

About a year ago, the Department of Homeland Security warned of increased right-wing extremism. This is notable because it appears to be true. Since then, the Tea Party Movement, a wacky rightwing movement incubated by conservative organizations, has continued to gather increasing press. More recently, a man furious with the IRS crashed his airplane into an IRS building. And democrats have already received a number of threats over healthcare legislation.

The report (the text of which is available at the Huffington Post link above) notes that these right-wing groups are likely to capitalize on the economic downturn (as has happened in the past) and the election of the first African American president.

Interestingly, it also notes that conspiracy theorists who have anticipated a cataclysmic collapse of the American financial system will be egged on by the current financial crisis; it also notes other sources of paranoia for these extremists -- such as ammunition shortages and the rise of other world economies. Of concern, there has been an increase in stockpiling of ammunition among these groups, and the report notes that they are likely to recruit disgruntled returning war veterans.

Of course, we have an historic healthcare bill coming through congress; those legislators opposing it have reacted rather aggressively. I want to argue that republicans should think carefully before spewing paranoia-inducing rhetoric about healthcare legislation. On the other hand, I feel that arguments which use national security as a supporting argument are often suspect (this cynicism is due to coming of political age in the last 10 years).