The House approved the Upton (R) version of "Keep Your Plan" by a solid but not veto-proof majority, 261 to 157.  Thirty-nine Democrats defied their party leadership's complaint that enforcing the President's 99%-true promise was tantamount to repealing Obamacare.

For those keeping tracks of proposals:

Upton (R-House):  Everyone is eligible to sign up for a grandfathered plan for a year, regardless of whether they previously had such a plan, if insurers agree.

Landrieu (D-Senate):  Everyone enrolled in a grandfathered plan by October 1, 2013, can keep it until the last customer drops out of the plan, regardless of whether insurers agree.

Obama (by executive fiat):  Everyone currently enrolled in a grandfathered plan can keep it for a year unless he says otherwise at any point by executive fiat, if insurers agree.  Obama also has announced he would veto the Upton bill.  Not that it matters, since it's hard to imagine that Harry Reid will let either the Upton bill or the Landrieu bill come to the floor of the Senate under any circumstances.

How Many Historians Does It Take To Screw In A Lightbulb?

A peer-reviewed account.

Happiness in the Book

On reading as a form of happiness. And of course it should be, because we know from Aristotle that happiness is an activity. If the readings lift your heart and mind into active engagement with heroic qualities, of course it ought to make you happy.

Unless The Enemy Has Studied His Agrippa...

...which he has.

Now you can too!

The Fall of Númenor

Unlike the legendary kingdoms of Númenor or Atlantis, this was a slow and quiet fall:
Doggerland, a huge area of dry land that stretched from Scotland to Denmark was slowly submerged by water between 18,000 BC and 5,500 BC. Divers from oil companies have found remains of a 'drowned world' with a population of tens of thousands - which might once have been the 'real heartland' of Europe.

Letting Joe Say No, Or, Shouldn't All Soldiers Be More Like 'Chelsea' Manning?

An author at the Boston Review suggests that members of the all-volunteer force should be allowed to opt-out of wars on an individual basis.

The proposal is completely impractical, for reasons I assume I don't have to explain to this audience. What's more interesting are the responses, of which there are quite a few, including this one by West Point's senior military philosopher.

First do no harm

From Thomas Sowell, that lovely thinker:
No matter how disastrously some policy has turned out, anyone who criticizes it can expect to hear:  “But what would you replace it with?”  When you put out a fire, what do you replace it with?

Keeping Your Plan -- Update

While it's true that it's pretty late to expect insurance companies to reverse course on policy cancellations that have been in the works for months if not years, it's also true that in a crisis, motivated people can find a way through the red tape:
It’s worth noting the California insurance commissioner is forcing two insurers to reverse cancellations for hundreds of thousands of individual market plan enrollees, and the insurers are reluctantly complying to keep people in their plans beyond January 1.  In that case, operational issues were not impossible to overcome. 
Insurers respond by noting that it generally takes months to have insurance regulators approve their rates before offering plans in the marketplace.  While true, that does not mean that the regulators would not act much more quickly in a crisis.  Indeed, there should be no doubt that, if the Upton legislation were to become law, there would be great pressure on the state regulators and the insurance industry to do whatever it takes to keep these plans open.  The same political firestorm that is propelling the Upton legislation through Congress would force the states and insurers to be responsive also to the plight of the enrollees in the cancelled plans.
It's amazing what can get done if the insurance regulators want it to happen.

Must be doing something right

Jonah Goldberg indulges in a big dollop of schadenfreude today, observing that the Obamacare website couldn't be more like the "third-world experience" Henry Chao was desperate to avoid if it required customers to pay in chickens.  The exchange, as he says, rolled out "like a piano into a peat bog."

But that's just the chattering classes who live on the Internet.  What is the man on the street hearing about all this?  It was interesting to listen to a neighbor at dinner the other night describe the reaction of the workers at his small construction company, whose excellent healthcare policy is being taken off the market.  They weren't sure exactly what was going on, but every single one of them had gotten the news that the President lied to them about keeping their plans.

Turning now to the fever-swamp perspective, a cri de coeur from a Firedog Lake commenter who's evidently been accustomed to serve as an opinion leader on the jobsite:
This polling makes me sick!  Yesterday in the lunchroom, I was subjected to a bunch of moronic gibberish about how “I just wish the teabaggers would shut the damn government down permanently and let us govern ourselves at the State level”. 
I tried to talk some sense into these ‘people’, but all I got was a dozen or so neanderthals looking at me as if I, rather than they, were a lunatic. 
The Federal Family has been trying so hard to establish a truly fair and equitable society and yet the filthy and maniacal millionaires and billionaires who control the ‘media’ on behalf of the corporations continue to spew forth all these absurd lies cooked up by the “vast rightwing conspiracy” which so pervade our society. 
I’m sick of it! Apparently the same damn thing is happening all over the world! The ultra extreme far right just messes up EVERYTHING! 
I’ve got to go now, I can feel another onslaught of agonizing cognitive dissonance coming on.  I certainly hope that once Obamacare becomes effective, I can see a doctor, any doctor who will prescribe a medication that will stop this D*MN cognitive dissonance …  IT’S MAKING ME SICK!

Causality & The Lord of the Rings

Who killed the Witch-King of Angmar?

I couldn't stand the first movie, so I never saw the others. Jackson's infatuation with the modern is a wedge between him and Tolkien. I am therefore not surprised to see his error in this clip, which misstates entirely the events at the death of the Witch-King.

Éowyn is here represented as killing the Witch-King, with the hobbit as a kind of supporting actor -- distracting him with a little back-stab. You get the effect with the strange 'pulse' that flies from the Nazgûl when he is struck by Éowyn. Just the opposite is what Tolkien intended.

"[Meriadoc the hobbit] brushed away the tears, and stooped to pick up the green shield that Éowyn had given him, and he slung it at his back. Then he looked for his sword that he had let fall; for even as he struck his blow his arm was numbed, and now he could only use his left hand. And behold! there lay his weapon, but the blade was smoking like a dry branch that has been thrust in a fire; and as he watched it, it writhed and withered and was consumed.

"So passed the sword of the Barrow-downs, work of Westernesse. But glad would he have been to know its fate who wrought it slowly long ago in the North-kingdom when the Dúnedain were young, and chief among their foes was the dread realm of Angmar and its sorcerer king. No other blade, not though mightier hands had wielded it, would have dealt that foe a wound so bitter, cleaving the undead flesh, breaking the spell that knit his unseen sinews to his will."

So the blow that should have sent the 'pulse,' if pulse there should have been, was Meriadoc's. It was the hobbit, the small man who bore the sword he was never expected to bear, who struck the fatal and unexpected blow. He cut the web of spells, fashioned long before him by mighty ones who did not bother to take his kind into their reckoning.

Here as elsewhere, this is a theme of Tolkien's. The Hobbits are small people, unexpected, whom the great and the powerful fail to take into their accounts. Yet again and again, they are the tools of a greater artisan.

The magic of self-pay

I tried something new at a doctor's office today.  I'm trying out a new GP in a nearby community, someone with great patient ratings.  I went to see him today, not because I needed anything, but to put myself in his office system so that if I do need something, there's some chance of my getting an appointment before I die of whatever it is.  My more local doctor never seems to be available any more in an emergency.  Though I can generally get in to see a P.A. on a same-day basis, and his P.A.'s are very nice, they haven't had much of a track record in the last couple of years diagnosing anything usefully.  So I'll see how things go with the new guy.

The really new thing is that I told the office staff to treat me as self-pay.  I told them I have insurance, but I'm not going to burden you with the knowledge of who it is, so you won't have to worry about whether you're complying with your contract.  Just tell me what the prices of things are going to pay, and I'll pay you cash.  If I get remotely close to my deductible, I'll gather up my bills and send them in and see whether my insurance company will acknowledge them, but you don't ever have to fool with that part of it.

Like magic, for the first time I can remember, I got a prompt and unequivocal answer to my question "How much is this visit costing?"  It was a very reasonable fee, which I paid on the spot by check.  The doctor recommended a standard blood panel, which would cost about $400 if I went through Blue Cross, but will cost only $84 if I self-pay.  In the past, I've had similar blood panels done through a doctor's office to whom I had incautiously confessed my affiliation with Blue Cross.  Suddenly it became "illegal" for them to treat me as self-pay, even though I'm going to pay in cash, because (as always) I'm nowhere near my deductible.  Apparently the only way out of this trap is never to tell them you're insured in the first place.  Some offices won't take you as a new patient on that basis.  They aren't likely to get my business.  What do you guys want from me?  A cash retainer to prove I won't stiff you on my bills?

I'm faintly hopeful that, as more people are shoved into the new style of mandatory health plan with very high deductibles, they will begin to approach things my way, so we'll see more of a transparent, cash-basis market at least for ordinary stuff like exams and blood tests.

The doctor seemed sensible, had practical advice to offer about various minor ailments, and didn't pester me with any questions about spousal abuse or guns in the home.  It was such a rational and worthwhile experience that I got through the whole thing without exploding with rage about Obamacare!

On that subject, though, here is the latest thinking from the President's apologists:  When he told us we could keep our plans, that was 99% true, and it was shockingly unfair to make a fuss about the tiny, unimportant sense in which that was a  lie.  The people who aren't getting to keep their plans are an insignificant sliver of the marketplace, most of whom aren't even going to see their premiums go up, so don't believe what you read.  Besides, the old plans are terrible; nobody in his right mind would keep them if he were offered something better.  But when we ask the President to support bills in Congress to ensure that we'll keep our plans, it turns out that letting us do that would be a dagger at the very heart of Obamacare.  If even a minuscule fraction of the market doesn't sign up for the new plans, the entire creaky edifice will crash and burn.   And it won't be a few customers, it will be a stampede, because almost everyone will want to keep his old bad plan instead of taking the priceless gift of the wonderful new plans.  Also, although the financial harm suffered by this inconsequential backwater of the market, just a few Americans, 15 million tops, is hardly worth mentioning, the fact remains that denying this stupendous influx of revenue to the grand nationwide Obamacare experiment will starve it of its lifeblood and leave the brilliant social experiment in smoking ruins.

Looking Glass World

Where the authorities have all the time in the world for trivia and none for anything that matters.

Update:  link fixed!

"Do You Got"?

I realize it's the smallest thing wrong with this, but somehow it seems to tie it all together.

The Center

From Jim Geraghty's Morning Jolt, some statistics from a recent Esquire survey of the political "center," which is looking pretty conservative.  Affirmative action:  57% oppose it in hiring decisions and college admissions; 19% support it.  Amnesty:  54% oppose a path to citizenship for those who have come to the country illegally; 32% support it.  Voter fraud:  75% support requiring photo ID to cast a vote; 15% oppose.  Abortion on demand:  38% support it, but only in the first trimester; 29% would limit it to cases of rape, incest, and the life of the mother; 12% support abortion on demand through all 40 weeks.  Personal accountability:  78% said the bigger problem for the United States is people aren't accountable for their decisions and actions; 22% said that the bigger problem was "people aren't compassionate toward one another."  Federal budget:  77% support a Constitutional amendment requiring the federal government to balance its budget every year; 11% oppose.

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A Little Music for Veterans Day

I like letting vets tell their own stories. Luke Stricklin served as an infantryman in Iraq, where he and a couple of buddies wrote this song.

Happy Birthday, Marines

Just in time, a story about the Corps that is after my own heart.
The MWTC near Bridgeport, Calif., has begun teaching an advanced horsemanship training course in order to teach Special Operations Forces (SOF) personnel the necessary skills to enable them to ride horses, load pack animals, and maintain animals for military applications in remote and dangerous environments.
The need for men like this never really goes away, though our pride in technology sometimes makes us think we need it -- we will need them -- no more.