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Arctic Sea Ice Extent: Sprucing up a Chart

Bernard,

This important and useful chart was on the National Snow and Ice Data Center site on August 8, 2017:

But I found it unusually hard to read. Here is my spruced-up version:

No more hard-to-read vertical text. Zero-based, thus enabling one immediately to see how much lower the extent was in 2012 and is projected to be in 2017. Date of measurement prominent in the title area. Labels close to their items, so the eye doesn’t have to travel back and forth to interpret. Percentage of total ocean area on the left axis, as opposed to square km values in the original, for which one would have to know that the Arctic Ocean’s total area is 14m+ square km in order to realize that the ice extent remains nearly 100% at the start of May.

To me, the original’s main errors were 1) not being zero-based, which forces you to imagine the full picture in order to grasp the real meaning, and 2) expressing measured ice area on the left axis instead of % of total Arctic Ocean area, forcing you to look elsewhere to find out how full or empty the Arctic Ocean actually was/is of sea ice. A basic rule of user interface design is, “Don’t Make Me Think!” unnecessarily. That’s the title of my favorite user-interface book, written lightly and gracefully by Steve Krug and well worth a read.

Wayne

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Bret Stephens’s NY Times Op-Ed on Climate Change: Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

Bernard,

This April 28 Bret Stephens op-ed debut is way off the mark every inch of the way.

First, what Old Jew Of Galicia? Milocz wrote that epigraph and hundreds or thousands have cited it as if it’s ancient and real wisdom that transcends the folly of whomever you want to lambaste. But what Old Jew of central or western Europe would use precise figures like 55% as opposed to 60% to describe degrees of being sure that one is right? And right about what? Everything? It seems to me that’s the only possibility of the quote, given no other information than the “quote” itself. It seems to be about totalitarian regimes that rewrite truth and history to their liking and allow no dissent. But that’s a whole different world! Climate scientists are not claiming they’re 100% right about everything, only 97% right about something very important that they’ve looked at from dozens or hundreds of different angles and almost always come up with the same conclusion, which is that warming will with high likelihood accelerate and all of humanity with high likelihood will be in a peck of trouble therefrom.

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“For you always have the poor with you…”

Wayne,

Here’s an essay by Christian blogger, Fred Clark, that discusses one of Jesus’ sayings quoted by a Republican Congressman from Kansas, “the poor you will always have with you.” Politically conservative Christians and politicians often cite this verse to express the idea that we can do nothing to help the poor.

Here’s Jesus’ full sentence from Mark 14: “For you always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish.”

Here’s the Congressman’s quotation from this Stat story: “Just like Jesus said, ‘The poor will always be with us,’” he said. “There is a group of people that just don’t want health care and aren’t going to take care of themselves.”

Clark shows us Jesus’ complete sentence, not just the clause before the comma. This shows us that his meaning is opposite from that intended by these conservatives. Jesus is scolding some of his apparently pious followers. Jesus tells them that if they persist in false or misdirected piety, instead of helping those less fortunate than themselves, “the poor you will always have with you.” Clark recognizes that Jesus is citing verses from Deuteronomy, “the Scriptures.” Clark displays the relevant verses from Deuteronomy, instructions from the Lord to Jews to care for the widow, the orphan, the sick, the poor, and the outcast, even the alien in your midst, to prove what Jesus had in mind. It’s worth reading Clark’s essay. There is more to it than I’m mentioning here.

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Why does Medicaid coverage often stink? And related questions and answers.

Bernard,

Here’s a NY Times pick from comments on their article about students rioting at Middlebury College when Charles Murray was there to speak (boldfacing mine):

Michjas Phoenix 15 hours ago
I am a very liberal Democrat. Often I find myself correcting obvious errors among the black and white crowd. Today my mission has been to argue that Medicaid coverage often stinks and that those who champion the ACA need to be critical about those added to the Medicaid rolls. I have always been a critic of Medicaid and I have always been seen as very liberal. But now, expressing the same ideas, I have been taken for a defender of Trump. It is incumbent upon all to distinguish their enemies from their constructive critics. Too many have lost the ability to recognize constructive criticism. The temper of the time is important. But we are all individually responsible for how we think, and those who can’t tell their friends from their enemies have themselves to blame. Ignorance is ignorance, and it doesn’t matter if your intentions are good.

Here are my questions and my answers in response to Michjas’s comment:

Q: Why does Medicaid coverage often stink?
A: Because it pays only fractions on the dollar, thus many doctors refuse to accept Medicaid patients.

Q: Why exactly do doctors refuse to accept such patients?
A: Because they are not willing to incur losses of profits, or even actual financial losses, by taking on such patients.

Q: Why might doctors incur losses?
A: Because of the very high costs of relatively ordinary treatments and procedures in American medicine. For example, the electrocardiogram I got in a Spanish clinic in early 2014 after having struggled on Napoleon’s route over the Pyrenees cost me out-of-pocket something like $190 as a foreigner not covered in any way by Spanish healthcare – the same simple procedure in the US costs 5 to 10 times as much.

Q: Why are American healthcare costs so high compared to most of the rest of the world?
A: In part because so much of healthcare in America is privatized and for-profit in large companies that, with Citizens United, are legally entitled to influence, or even control, politics and law-making by pouring cash on politicians, who then create or modify laws to enable enormous and still-growing profits in medicine and pharmaceuticals. This is a disastrous feedback loop for everyone except the highly wealthy. Contributing to the loop is unlimited liability for medical enterprises, from which lawyers profit greatly. Early evening television has been flooded by ads for drugs, debt consolidation/relief, and legal help related to healthcare (cars and beer have always been there, and cigarettes used to be).

Q: Why do Americans put up with this destructive cycle?
A: Because not enough of us have put our minds and resources together to stop it. Maybe we’re scared and galvanized enough now to get on with it. One place to attack it is in Trump’s planned expansion of privatized prisons. Privatization of fundamental community matters is the true underlying problem. Yes, government can be wasteful. But that’s better than the hellholes of our healthcare system, our prisons and our overall infrastructure, all of which have been looted by large corporate interests.

Another line of questioning – and one should carry out several or many lines to triangulate the whole truth – would inquire into why Medicaid pays only fractions on the dollar. I think the answer comes out the same, though: high costs of ordinary healthcare, which have been exacerbated in recent years by private physician practices getting folded into large private hospital chains that are inexorable on profitability across the board. Most doctors now report to accountants, not to senior medical people (but I’d have to fact check that assertion – it’s certainly true in Concord MA – I’m aware of only one private practice left in town).

Wayne


Wayne,

Well, we can take Michjas’s self-description as a liberal who hates Medicaid at face value. Of course, Medicaid can be improved, but contrary to what he (I assume) says, Medicaid is much better than the alternative of no health insurance for those poor people. And that is the only alternative presently on the table for consideration. We know this because of all the Republican legislators and governors who refused Obamacare’s expansion of Medicaid and because of the provisions of the Republican alternative to Obamacare now under consideration. So, just what does Mr. Phoenix propose? The comment doesn’t say.

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Modern Defenses of Past Slavery

Wayne,

I thought that this Vox article was worthwhile: Why are people still defending slavery in America? 5 common excuses debunked.

Before the Civil War, Southern white thinkers defended their “peculiar institution,” as they called it. After the Civil War, Southern whites continued to defend that institution, by denying that the Civil War had anything to do with slavery, by asserting that it was a benevolent practice that benefitted the black slaves, and by claiming that it was, in any case, an institution that was dying out, not requiring a terrible and bloody fraternal war to eliminate.

All of these claims are false. Strangely, some politicians, writers, and journalists repeat these ideas today. Why would these arguments from a hundred or two hundred years ago be relevant to some modern thinkers? A recent remarkable case arose when Michelle Obama, in her speech at the Democratic National Convention, stated that slaves had built the White House. This statement was a simple statement of fact, although slaves were not the only workers. It also bypasses the conventional way of speaking that attributes to the owner the building of a house even though it was the carpenters, bricklayers, concrete workers, plumbers, electricians, and glaziers to literally did all the work. Continue reading

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Why is this acceptable?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wayne,

I found this chart at Barry Ritholz’s blog.

Why is this acceptable to Americans?

Bernard

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The Other Side of the British Empire

Wayne,

This article is about bad British behavior in Kenya in the 1950s.

Help us sue the British government for torture. That was the request Caroline Elkins, a Harvard historian, received in 2008. The idea was both legally improbable and professionally risky. Improbable because the case, then being assembled by human rights lawyers in London, would attempt to hold Britain accountable for atrocities perpetrated 50 years earlier, in pre-independence Kenya. Risky because investigating those misdeeds had already earned Elkins heaps of abuse.

 It reminds me of bad British behavior I learned about in India. I know that you are informed and pay attention to African history and culture, which is why I thought to send an article about the Mau Mau rebellion and the vicious British response to you.

On a vaguely related note, that is the bad behavior of the colonial era British, I remember on a walking tour in Delhi I came upon a memorial to those many Indians killed (hung I think) by the British in 1857 in response to a major uprising.

I can’t remember exactly, a circular fountain with something tall in the middle. Now entirely surrounded by pavement, that is, the street. Although it was to the side, it was a traffic circle with cars, trucks, buses, and every other form in Indian road transportation passing on all sides. Along one of the major, jam-packed roads, with several side streets entering at the location.
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