The Easter Season

I hope you had a glorious Easter.  I also hope that your joy in Christ’s resurrection continues.  Easter is not just a day but a season, as we now remember the days that the risen Christ spent with His disciples.  That was a period of 40 days until His Ascension, but the Easter season goes on for 50 days until we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.  Of course, every Sunday recalls Christ’s resurrection, and Jesus  promises to be with us “always” (Matthew 28:20).  But for now, let’s keep Easter going.

If you had any epiphanies, sudden realizations, new insights, or really good sermons or services yesterday, tell us about them here.

E-books are increasing reading

E-books and e-readers are increasing the amount of reading that is going on.  People who get a Kindle are reading more than they used to, including reading books that aren’t electronic.

A fifth of American adults have read an electronic version of a book in the last year, a trend that is fueling a renewed love of reading, according to a new survey.

The portion of e-book readers among all American adults has increased to 21 percent from 17 percent between December and February, due in large part to a boom in tablet and e-reader sales this past holiday season.

All those devices are turning some consumers into super readers, according to a survey released Thursday by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. E-book readers plowed through an average of 24 titles in the past year, compared with an average of 15 for readers of physical books.

“Those who have taken the plunge into reading e-books stand out in almost every way from other kinds of readers . . . They are avid readers of books in all formats,” said Lee Rainie, director of research at Pew.

Curiously, e-reading somehow sparks a love of books in any format. Even as e-readers are downloading books on computers, tablets and smartphones, they are also checking out more books at libraries and buying more at bookstores and online. About nine in 10 e-book readers said they have also read printed books in the past year, Pew reported in its survey of about 3,000 people 16 and older.

via Survey finds e-readers are spurring consumers of books in all formats – The Washington Post.

I find that happening with me.  I read a lot, of course, as a literature teacher and someone who wants to keep up with things.  But ever since my wife gave me a Kindle–which as an old-school print guy I was skeptical of at first– I find myself reading much more for fun (bringing back pleasures that got me into the literature profession in the first place).  I can crank up the type-size so that I can read on the treadmill (which re-enforces that good habit I’m trying to cultivate) and instead of aimless surfing on the computer or watching television, I am now reading novels. Also books don’t cost as much when you download them, further liberating my reading impulses.

What I’m enjoying is not novels of ambitious literary merit–that’s more like work–but books that give me an interesting imaginative experience.  They have to be well-written with a certain measure of complexity, otherwise they can’t hold my attention, so genre fiction and bestseller fare doesn’t always do it for me.  But I’ve found some gems that I think I’ll be blogging about.

By the way, with my Kindle I’ve signed up for Amazon Prime, giving me the ability to “check out” books from Amazon’s virtual library for free.  Unfortunately, the pickings seem pretty slim.  I did find a couple of excellent reads:  Moneyball and Hunger Games.   (More on the latter later.)  If anyone has found other good books in that library–ones that meet my criteria–I’d be glad to learn about them.

Anyway, if you have broken down and bought an e-reader, has this “kindled” your reading?

On voting for a third party candidate

In a comment on the “It’s Romney” post, which sparked a discussion on whether voting for a third party candidate is “throwing your vote away,” Todd made an interesting and rather compelling argument that I think deserves a post of its own:

I feel like the people who mock third-party candidates are akin to those who play chess by refusing to consider anything but the current move. That is to say, they rule out any long-term strategy by focusing solely on the short term. I.e. “What is the best move you can make now to improve things immediately after that move?” But, of course, that isn’t always the best strategy, either in politics or chess.

In the world of economics, we speak with our purchases. You can hate on McDonald’s all day long, mocking them to your friends and on Facebook, but if you still eat there, if you still pay them, McDonald’s doesn’t really care.

It’s the same with politics. To the degree that political parties and politicians hear anything from the average person, they hear our vote (I’m cynical enough to realize that what they really listen to is money, but that’s a different topic). So if you go on and on in blog comments about how Romney isn’t all that conservative, he wasn’t the best possible candidate, and so on … and then you still vote for Romney, here’s what the Republican Party will hear: you liked Romney.

Don’t be too surprised, then, if you get more candidates like Romney in the Republican Party. Because they know that, even though you claim to like fiscal (or whatever) conservatism, you’ll still vote for the Republican, regardless. There’s no market force, as it were, to push the party in the direction of actual fiscal conservatism — they’ll get what they want from you, either way.

Yes, denying them your vote and voting third-party might lead to a temporal gain for the other major party you really don’t like. But, if the third-party votes are significant enough — if the GOP sees that it can’t actually count on your vote no matter how lousy the candidate — then they might actually have to deal with that by straightening up their act.

Such a chastened party might then actually run a candidate you approve of. But you’d have to play the long game to find out.

And most voters refuse to play the long game.

First of all, do you agree, and, if not, how would you answer him?  Second, what ARE some third parties with candidates that might be worth voting for?  I know of the Libertarians, the Greens, and the Constitution Party.  Can anyone speak to their candidates, or have they been chosen yet?  I heard Roseanne Barr is running for the Green Party nomination.  When voting to make a point, do the candidates matter since you don’t have to worry about their actually getting elected?  And are there some better third parties than those?  (And by my count, there are more than three.)  Is there a Distributivist Party, a Monarchist Party, a Two Kingdoms Party?  I realize that if such parties exist, they aren’t likely to get on the state ballot.  There is that bi-partisan party whose candidates will be selected via the internet.   If any of you are sold on some other party, feel free to make your case.

Health care and “broken markets”

Here is a different argument for the mandatory insurance requirement in Obamacare from Donna Dubinsky:

The private insurance market does not function as a normal market. If you are not employed and you want to purchase insurance in the private market, you cannot unilaterally decide to do so. An insurer has to accept you as a customer. And quite often, they don’t. Insurers prefer group plans, with lots of people enrolled to spread the risk. Can you blame them? The individual consumer is a lot of work, is a higher risk and produces relatively little revenue.

The Government Accountability Office studied this problem last year and found a range of denial rates that vary by state and by insurer. On average, 19 percent of applications nationwide are denied. One-quarter of insurers denied more than 40 percent of the applications they considered. These denials are not limited to deadly illnesses but include many minor reasons. Expect to be denied if you have asthma, if you take just about any prescription medication, if you are more than 15 percent overweight. Expect to be denied if a doctor has recommended any procedure for you, no matter how insignificant. Basically, expect to be denied.

I’m astonished that this information was not laid out in oral argument and that no questions were asked about it. I believe that lawyers on both sides of this argument, and the justices hearing the case, have always been employed and always been covered by employer-provided health insurance. Perhaps it simply does not occur to them that if they were to try to purchase insurance, they might not be able to.

The justices repeatedly asked: If the government can require you to purchase insurance, what else could it require you to do? What are the limiting conditions to this breadth of control?

The government muffed its response. To me, the answer is obvious. There are two simple limiting conditions, both of which must be present: (1) it must be a service or product that everybody must have at some point in their lives and (2) the market for that service or product does not function, meaning that sellers turn away buyers. In other words, you need something, but you may not be able to buy it.

Let’s test the examples presented to the high court: Can the government force you to eat broccoli? This proposition fails on both counts. Nobody must eat broccoli during their lives, and the market for broccoli is normal. If you want broccoli, go buy it. Nothing stops you.

Can the government force you to join a health club? Again, double failure. You don’t need to join a health club. Maybe you should, but you don’t have to. And, if you want to join one, plenty of clubs would be happy to admit you. Indeed, can you imagine a health club turning people down because they are too fat, the way insurers turn people down because they are too sick?

How about burial services? While this example passes the first condition — it is a service that everybody will need — it fails the second. There is a clearly functioning market for burial services. If you want to purchase a burial or a cremation, no seller of those services will turn you away.

The health insurance market meets both criteria. Everybody will need health services at some point. And as long as the United States doesn’t provide national health care, the only reasonable method for most people to pay for those services is through insurance. But here, the market simply does not work. Sellers of health insurance turn away purchasers, and in great numbers.

Although the Affordable Care Act is huge and enormously complex, the point of the legislation is straightforward. It aims to fix the market for health insurance by prohibiting sellers of the service from declining buyers. Why did Congress not pass a simple law just requiring insurance companies to accept all applications? Because such a law would not repair the market and would probably make it worse. With only sick people seeking insurance — because healthy people would wait until they got sick, knowing that insurance was guaranteed — coverage would become overwhelmingly expensive and impossible for most Americans to afford.

The only answer is to expand the pool and spread the risk, which lets insurers have a rational business model. Short of government-provided health services or a government-sponsored national insurance plan, the Affordable Care Act is the next best shot at fixing this broken market.

via The case for Obamacare – The Washington Post.

Could you answer this argument for Obamacare?

Easter

 

Good Friday

 


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