« Banning Tony the Tiger? | Main | Dr. Who and British Science Fiction »

Monday, August 03, 2009



You know, my dad can't run a computer to save his life. But he taught me how to replace the water pump on my Jeep, helped me renovate a cabin that his withstood big thunderstorm winds, and a host of other things. I can't diagnose engine problems, but I'm a decent writer and teacher. I'm sure you are a fine PoliSci professor but that there are a whole host of other tasks at which you are mostly incompetent (that's nothing personal!). This whole, "Boy, if the government can't do X, how will they ever run healthcare" fallacy is cheap rhetoric that placates weak minds.


It's a storm warning, not a storm happening. You'd have to be particularly dense not to know if you were IN A STORM OR NOT.

The point of the warning is to let you know that there is a chance that a severe weather pattern COULD pass through your area. It clearly accomplished its goal. In fact, the simple act of it being on the screen accomplished its goal.

This bullshit is worse that Bobby Jindal's mocking of "volcano monitoring programs".

You think the national weather service is going to run health care? You're a moron.

That's like saying that South Dakota road workers are those who will right tax policy in South Dakota. Do we really want to trust road workers to write tax policy?

Please think next time before you puke some garbage like this up.


write* not right, lol - there's no way to edit your posts on this blog


In California it was worse. The letters were sometimes completely unreadable, the voices were constantly beeped over and sometimes you couldn't tell whether you were watching a weather alert or an Amber alert.

I would be more inclined to believe that Dr. Blanchard's point was wrong if I could think of any programs that the government runs particularly well.


I too find the weather warnings annoying and not very well suited to television. On the other hand, I do not know all the ins and outs of problems the Weather Service and broadcasters may have in dealing with each other or other limitations at play.

I believe the reports are the same as or similar to those sent to weather alert radios and they are appropriate for that purpose. Perhaps the Weather Service could hire additional staff to produce alerts more suited to TV, but do we want to spend the extra money for that when warnings are offered only a few times a year?

I do know that the Weather Service offers an excellent WEB site with forecasts I find more accurate than those from the Weather Channel. And to conflate one thing they do rather badly out of the many they do well with the notion government does everything badly is little more than a cheap shot. And while we're into cheap shots, how about those health insurance companies "negotiating" reduced rates from providers so they can pass the savings on to themselves.


Cory: storm warnings would seem to be the kind of thing government is good at if it is good at anything. This is a matter where people's lives may be literally at stake, and where it doesn't look like it would be that hard, and government does a dreadful job. As to healthcare, does the U.S. Government do that particularly well when it does it? Is Medicare a model of economical and efficient service? Or is it going belly up? Given what you say about your dad, I wouldn't mind having him look at my car engine in a pinch, but I am not going to put him in charge of Computer services at Northern, let alone give him responsibility for managing all the computers in the country.

FascistSocialist: thanks for making all the rest of us look sober and intelligent.

A.I.: this isn't rocket science. When you need to find your way out of a burning building, EXIT in brightly lit, red letters, is very useful. A wall full of writing telling you who is directing you to the exit, when the last exit direction posting was published, and burying the actual exit location in fine print, would be the opposite of useful. It would be potentially deadly. And I am guessing that as the corridor filled with smoke you wouldn't be reassuring us that other government signs in other places are pretty good.

If this were one small pimple on government's butt, that would be one thing. But these are pathologies that are constant in political bureaucracies across the board.


You can send some shit you wrote from New York to California for 43 cents, that's a pretty impressive system.

You can drive a car across the entire country on a road system that is largely free.

I don't know if you remember WW I or II, but I think our government did a pretty damn good job in those wars.

Nuclear reactors, ever heard of them?

Sending a man to the moon...

Not to mention all the regulatory and law enforcement duties of the government that it would be nearly impossible to hand over to some privately funded group.

That's just off the top of my head. Also, think about the financial crisis, you think that without government stepping in that the financial crisis would have been as largely averted as it was? Another vital function of government.

The argument itself is utterly stupid in the first place and not worthy of thoughtful discussion. Maybe there's some area for improvement in a national weather system, but it is not indicative of a larger, systemic governmental failure to do anything correctly. To make that argument is to indulge is ignorant rhetoric of the worst kind, akin to any irrational bigotry against any group. You cannot broadly attribute specific characteristics to a group that consists of hundreds of thousands of individuals.


Also, Ken, I would suggest you take a quick glance at this opinion piece from Krugman:

I am inclined to agree that government is the only reason that health care works at all in this country.

Medicare rates go up at about 50% the rate of private insurance premiums. Neither are sustainable, but private insurance costs are doubling every 9-10 years. The system is broken and headed for cataclysmic failure and arguments like the one you are making here are not useful, and are in fact harmful as they detract from the question of 'How?' and bring us back to the question of should we, to which we know the answer already: we must.


At peril of guilt by association, I second FascistSocialist's list. Apollo, mail, VA, Medicare, fighting wars, FBI, public universities... and all done by agencies subject to the vagaries of elections and budget politics.

By the way, did you know the VA health care system has higher customer satisfaction ratings than private health care providers? Reallyin honor of our troops and Sarah Palin, I'm not makin' stuff up!


See this link on the VA customer satsifaction (I keep forgetting your comments trip HTML:


You must have been watching cable TV. It is the broadcaster's job to relay national weather service alerts. On broadcast TV this is usually done with a scroll at the bottom of the screen, sometimes accompanied by a radar or map image. For radio there is occasionally a live announcer, but more often an automated message generated by the national weather service for weather alert radios.
The text and audio message you describe is exactly what I get on my Knology cable TV service. This is the Cable company's fault, not the government. The weather service gathers the data and by FCC mandate the broadcaster needs to operate in the "public interest" to disseminate the warning.
I agree that comparing this to health care is a logical fallacy.


You can send mail from New York to California, but sometimes it gets lost.
Sometimes it gets damaged and sometimes it arrives weeks or even months
later than it ought to have.

Anyone who has driven on South Dakota's roads knows what a splendid job the government does in keeping its roads up. Chips, potholes and cracks, oh my!

The soldiers did a tremendous job in both World Wars, however, the government
did much to hamper the plans of some of our greatest generals, and because
of the government's commitment to "keeping us out of war" in World War II,
we entered the war much later than we should have.

We have nuclear reactors, but ought to have the nuclear capabilities of the French by now.

We sent a man to the moon, but the space program is now in a shambles.

Our law enforcement officers are top-notch, but they have been largely crippled by government regulation in many areas.

In short, the government runs a lot of things, but it runs few very well.


Those are all minor problems
-A lost letter or two? are you saying you don't trust the postal service to send your mail? How do you send mail then... do you deliver it yourself? Have you ever actually lost a letter in the mail or known someone who has? I haven't.

-South Dakota HAS ROADS. Without government there would be NO roads. And that our roads are in shambles has more to do with lack of funding than some poorly run government program.

-I didn't know that you were an expert on WWII and war tactics/strategy, I guess I'll have to defer to your military judgment and expertise.

-My point with the nuclear reactors was that we built them, not the function that they currently play in our energy sector. The mere fact that they were designed and built on the government dime.

-Again, I can't attest to the shambliness of NASA and our space program in general at present, but at the time putting a man on the moon was the goal and we did it with vigor and efficiency.

-I also didn't realize you were an expert on the criminal justice system. Could you recommend some reading for me re: the crippling of our law enforcement by government regulation?

Government performs function that can't be performed by individuals or private industry. And if private industry does perform actions of this scope, it is with government guidance.

I can't even figure out what your argument is here... are you saying that because of small problems in those programs they shouldn't be handled by government? What are you suggesting? Take your 'idea' and expand it beyond implications.


Those automated generated voices are horrible. The whole idea is to communicate and they don't do that. Many times the weather radio will go off and I'll be trying to hear just where the storm is and the voice will be just as someone typed it. The storm will reach Gro. at 4:05 pm. The woice will actually say a clipped "gro" and you'll yell out to the radio "Where? where?" You'll have to wait a whole 4 munutes for the audio loop to repeat, telling you to go inside and to stay away from windows and all the stuff it's already told you a hundred times in the past. Then it will swing around to where the storm is headed and it will be "gro" again and you still won't know. (Only later will you find out there was wind damage near Groton.) Awful. Good discussion on how well the federal gov. does with things. I like the post office. I thought WIC was good when they actually had classes on fetal alcohol syndrome and similar topics in exchange for food vouchers. There are probably a whole lot of great fed programs out there. But it seems to me the further away the bureaucrats running things are from tha actual people using services, you get a whole lot of waste, no matter how good the programs are. The weather service seems to add more and more people and be less and less able to offer decent direct communication to those using the service. I'd like to see their stats on accuracy, too.


One and all: I thought I made it clear that I am no anarchist. Government does little if anything well, but there are some things only government can do. War is one of these things. I am certainly happy that we beat the Nazis and the Japs, but we did so by overwhelming them. That is precisely the thing that is for: taking control of the economy in order to defeat a mortal threat. But I have hung around a lot of military history buffs, and they will not tell you that war making demonstrates government efficiency. Quite the opposite.

As for Apollo, I loved the space program as a kid. But again this is the kind of thing that only government can do, if only for the reason that no one in his right mind would spend this much money on it. It costs us about $135 billion in 2005 dollars to go where no one needed to be and there was nothing we valuable we could bring back. Maybe the dream was worth that much. These days it costs as much to keep a car in low orbit for a few more years. Anyway, it is an ambiguous support.

Likewise, I like the Post Office. It saved Santa Clause in Miracle on 34th Street. But it was notoriously slow in adapting new technologies, and survived mostly because it long enjoyed a monopoly on certain kinds of mail. When I visited the Aberdeen PO several years ago, their technology looked like an add from a 1950's issue of Popular Mechanics. Oh, and it's going belly up again.

Medicare, in case you hadn't noticed, was a Ponzi scheme. Since the baby boom tapered off, it has been heading to insolvency. In a few years it will get there. Anyone who suggested an effective remedy was tarred and feathered. Heathcare reform, if it does anything important, will extend the system without fixing it.

For a final example, consider the genome project. In 1990 a project sponsored by the National Institute of Health set out to map the human genome. Year after year it plodded along. In 1998 a privately funded effort was begun by Celera Genomics. A race began. Celera won despite its late start, at a fraction of the cost of the public effort.

When government competes with a private party at the same game on a level playing field, that is what always happens. Of course, the government project did go into overdrive (even if still slower and more expensive than the private counterpart) as a result of the competition. That's worthy of note. I would be a lot more relaxed about the "public option" so beloved by Cory, if I thought that it would not be designed to eliminate private competition. It will.

I cannot agree with Broadcaster that comparing the NWS to healthcare reform is a "logical fallacy." There is certainly no logical fallacy involved, or a rhetorical one as it seems to me. Suppose you are interviewing someone for a job and you find out he did the same job badly on another occasion. That is relevant to your decision, even if he succeeded at a lot of other things.

Blaming the broadcasters won't do. It is the NWS's job to make sure that storm warnings are designed to be effective. They aren't.

Finally, FS: you are welcome to participate in this forum, and I certainly won't spike you for anything you have written so far. But do you really have to constantly insult the people you are arguing with? Have patience with me and Miranda. We are really trying to get it right, while you show us the errors of our ways.

P. Chirry

Speaking of the post office, they're having so much trouble they're going to restructure now:


A good example, that you don't need to be an 'expert' to see, of too much government hampering law enforcement is the death penalty. The death penalty is an effective deterrent for crime and effectively incapacitates dangerous criminals permanently. Our monolith legal system makes the death penalty so expensive that it is rarely administered, and as a result, on occasion, dangerous criminals who should be dead are released from prison and kill again.


Thanks for the support, P.Chirry. That last example, though, is not a bureaucratic problem, it is a political one. I think the death penalty could be administered in a way that would effectively reduce violent crime. But we are probably not politically capable of that. For that reason, I would give up capital punishment and try to work on something more practical.


"I cannot agree with Broadcaster that comparing the NWS to healthcare reform is a "logical fallacy." There is certainly no logical fallacy involved, or a rhetorical one as it seems to me. Suppose you are interviewing someone for a job and you find out he did the same job badly on another occasion. That is relevant to your decision, even if he succeeded at a lot of other things."

-A more apt analogy would be: You're interviewing someone to be a typist. And you find out that they are a bad driver. Even if they were a taxi-driver in a past job you wouldn't fault them for that in hiring them to be the typist (However, you can not simplify the US federal government down to a simple analogy)

That's not even really the point though, because the government is not one person. It's a massive, massive group of groups of groups of groups of groups of groups of individuals. How one part of this massive organization operates, as I'm quite certain you well know, more than likely has NO BEARING AT ALL on how another part functions.

I don't think the IRS shoots many people and I don't think the Bureau of the Census would be very good at flying space missions and I don't think it's the best allocation of resources to have tanks delivering mail. Luckily these are all done by specialized sub-parts of parts of parts of the government.

Health care is a vital function of a society, like transportation, education, security, communication. Most of these services are either provided for by government or heavily influenced by government policies.

What government does seem to do best is guide innovation with incentives and protect individuals from other individuals (aka consumer protection). I would agree that they are not typically the best implementer of goods and services. Using market incentives to shape services, and using regulation for consumer protection is what the government is often good at and that is the vast majority of what health care reform entails.

And, you didn't read the Krugman post or respond to it. That the only reason anyone has any semblance of good health insurance in this country is because of government regulation and intervention in the health care markets.

Also, since you seem to think that no government entity can possibly provide a better service at a better rate than private industry, how do you explain away the disparities in the rising costs of Medicare reimbursement and private insurance premium rates? (I would also remind you, apart from costs, that 100% of people over 65 are covered, while private insurance has an abysmal rate of coverage for people under age 65)

Finally, KB: it's just the way I talk. I'll try and keep the insults aimed at the arguments since I don't know you or Miranda. I challenge you make a good faith effort to actually respond to criticisms instead of talking past them.


P. Chirry - before the advent of DNA evidence we used to carry out a lot more executions. We've been able to back test some of the evidence in those cases and found that people who were innocent of their crimes were executed by the state. The state murdered innocent people.

That is why we have such an arduous process for implementing the death penalty. You can't undo it. And people who WOULD receive the death penalty typically don't get light sentences in lieu of it, they get life or consecutive life sentences and are often denied parole. The system in place is there to protect you from the government.

Re: post office...
As the very article you posted states: the reason for the revenue loss is less people mailing things, "about 28 billion" less things.

I'm no math professor, but 28 billion times .43 is still more than 12 billion dollars. The loss they're posting is significantly less than that... I guess I don't really know how to analyze all that, but I don't think all the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the Postmaster General. It could very well have to do with Ted Stevens' tubes or the weak economy, or both.


KB, you compared the storm warnings to one small pimple on government's butt. Well, the private sector has a few pimples of its own: the Edsel, DeSoto, and Diet Coke to name a few. And there were boils like Corvairs, Pintos and Enron. Ad to them malignant tumors like AIG, Citigroup and a host of other Wall Street-backed scam artists who made a massive portion of our economy into ponzi scheme.

There are tons of private enterprises that are very efficient and provide great products and services at fair prices. There are tons of government agencies that also do excellent work. And there are instances in both sectors where things are less than optimal to abysmal. That doesn't justify painting either as totally incompetent and/or inefficient. In short, you paint with too broad a brush.


love the topic, kb! i absolutely hate those warnings. it ruined a show i was watching last night on my DVR. i was watching delayed TV, and then the warning, and then back to live TV. lost 30 minutes of my show! i could've strangled somebody at midcontinent communications.

but broadcaster is correct, that's more the cable company's or broadcasters' fault. they decide how to display the NWS warning. at least that's according to my friend who works at the NWS.

i agree with you, though, kb that most of what the government does, it does it poorly. that's why the founders limited what the government may do in article 1, section 8.


But what about Social Security? I realize that it's foundation is not financially sound but it has been successful in eliminating poverty. As has Medicare.

public works environment

One particular form of public works environment, that of offering a short-term period of employment, has come to dominate practice, particularly in regions.

The comments to this entry are closed.