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Sunday, Sep 20, 2009 - 18:37 SGT
Posted By: Gilbert

Chrome Choices

Half the semester's over in a flash, and the mid-semester break is once more upon me. And I got paid again, which makes me wonder if I should be doing a bit more for my stipend. Hmm. Some assignments, a short project and a (woefully time-limited) quiz so far, topped off with a badminton session at Mount Faber Safra.

Discovered that Google Chrome silently updates itself only when the layout of the default tab got reorganized. Is this good? Well, the other method would be to do it the Microsoft way, and explicitly ask the user if he wants the update (and often a reboot). Google's reasoning is that security patches should always be applied ASAP for the greater good, since having a vulnerable system not only affects oneself, but also allows the problem to propagate further, and thus they've taken the issue out of users' hands.

Frankly, web browser users as a group aren't the most security-conscious folks around, and I doubt most people even notice the silent updates, so this implied-consent implementation might be the smart thing to do. Really, the average user is probably happy to surf Youtube and open multiple tabs without noticeable slowdowns or the browser crashing every half-hour or so.

The browser demographic is also rather more accommodating than the United States populace, judging from the rather strong and mostly Republican opposition to Obama's health care reforms:

Six of the best (Source: FARK.com)

[Bonus Tom the Dancing Bug comic]

Some background for those who haven't been following American politics: The Republicans are the party of: conservatives, the rich (or those who aspire to be) and tax cuts, the religious (in the case of America, overwhelmingly Christians, which brings with it anti-gay and anti-abortion stances), capital punishment, military strength and gun rights. Their mascot is the elephant, and they are perhaps best epitomized by the billionaire oil-driller god-fearing ex-Marine of redneck extraction.

The Democrats are then the bleeding heart liberals, the working-man poor (or those who want more wealth equality) and big government, the secular, the environmentalists and the intellectuals, and favour consensus in international affairs. Represented by the donkey, the homosexual tree-hugging ex-hippie professor in overseas abortion research is their exemplar. [For more on this topic, read this editorial.]

Of course, people generally don't fit all the stereotypes, but somehow most Americans (some 70%) manage to identify themselves with one of these two parties, maybe because no other party has the slightest chance in hell of making any significant progress. Come to think of it, those American political rights groups can't claim much moral superiority over us - in practice, they have just one more party.

Either way, it has become painfully apparent that the state of health care in the US is lousy and the whole thing is probably unsustainable in the long term, thus changes are needed. On average, Americans pay a lot more for medical assistance not much better than other developed nations, and some 15% do not have insurance coverage, meaning that if they come down with a semi-serious condition, they are basically screwed.

Obama's solution? Put universal health care into place. Despite many countries running successful government-run systems, which of course require higher taxes, such a proposal was hardly likely to pass the Republicans. A sort of bastard hybrid was therefore pushed instead, but it wasn't quite enough to mollify detractors, one of whom yelled "You lie!" as Obama delivered a speech on health care reform.

However, this time, I come neither to praise Obama, nor to debate the merits of nationalized health care (covered adequately by wikipedia, and also rambled upon last year, and which mainly boils down to "I earned my money and I don't want to spend it on doctors and medicine for the lazy poor who should have worked hard to pay for it themselves"). My focus is instead on the requirement for insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions (see Obama's change.gov website).

Okay, while a rich guy not wanting to pay higher taxes to fund others' treatment may seem selfish, it is understandable as humans, nay, living beings, are selfish, and sometimes it really is a case of the Ant and the Grasshopper. Whether it will come back to bite them in the ass, perhaps when their kid comes down with a bad flu from another kid who couldn't afford proper treatment, remains to be seen.

But coverage of pre-existing conditions is an odd one. Insurance is, after all, basically paying good money in the hope that you don't get the money back, because it means that something very bad has happened to you in the future. Then, covering pre-existing conditions is by definition not insurance, since the very bad thing has already happened!

A little extra thought reveals that it is basically impossible to offer identical coverage for people with pre-existing conditions as compared to people who get the condition after buying insurance. In that case, why would anybody pay monthly premiums beforehand? They could just wait until they came down with diabetes or liver disease or something, and then walk into the insurance company's headquarters and demand that they pay for his treatment.

So, the insurance company has to mandate higher premiums for people who come with pre-existing conditions. Now does the system work? Let us say that the condition requires $1000 a month to treat. Then, the monthly premium cannot be more than $1000 a month, since if that were so the patient might as well pay for the treatment himself. However, if the premium were less than $1000, say $500, the insurance company is effectively just acting as a charity and donating $500 a month to the patient.

Of course, this might work if the pre-existing condition is the sort that does not require treatment currently, but which heightens the chance of requiring treatment in the future (e.g. a smoking habit). But insurance companies do cover these people already, albeit they have to pay higher premiums, which is probably fair in the sense that healthier people do not have to subsidize less-healthy ones (and probably with good reason, since if a policy covers smokers and non-smokers equally, the expected payments and premium charged must be higher, and many non-smokers would jump ship to another company whose policy covered non-smokers separately and more cheaply).

Where does the money come from? Private insurance companies exist to make a profit, so they probably aren't going to absorb the losses, and will instead stick the bill on its other customers, i.e. the general public, if everybody is required to have insurance, and assuming that pre-existing conditioners are spread evenly among all companies. Otherwise, the government has to stump up the difference, and the (tax-paying) general public still pays.

So, in short, providing any meaningful degree of coverage to people with pre-existing conditions is essentially welfare and not insurance, and is indeed a handout, whether socialist as Obama detractors claim, or good old American capitalist Jesus-praising charity, but a handout nonetheless. Then why not call a duck a duck and declare it as welfare? Actually, I think we know the answer...

Well well, what do we have here: One two-goal three-one result against Spurs at suitably attractive odds, and I'm under par again at $384/$350. Sure, conceding to a Defoe bicycle kick before one minute was up was worrying (and did no wonders for my fantasy footie score, with Foster my goalie), but hey, it's Tottenham versus United.

3-0 down at half time? No worries, United could even beat the -1.5 goal margin with five in the second half. Okay, that may have been eight years ago, but back in April Tottenham went 2-0 up by half-time. One would have thought that they had learnt their lesson, but no, 5-2 it would be. This screams out for a Star Wars parody "Spurs shot first" T-shirt...

Tonight, United take on nouveau riche City, who will be without at least three good frontmen in Robinho, Roque Santa Cruz (through no fault of their own) and Adebayor (through all fault of his own). Arsenal may or may not have given him total support, but deliberately stamping on a former teammate's face [animated gif image] is a tad too much. Add that to running the length of the pitch in a 10-second long "moment" of passionate excess to taunt the opposition supporters, some of whom were his former fans, and I believe we have a new specimen of thoroughly unlikeable footballer.

Despite that, Adebayor's always been handy as a striker, and City will miss him against United. Four wins out of four is a sign of a solid team, even if Portsmouth, Wolves and Blackburn aren't the stiffest of tests. Tevez coming back will help them, and I've never understood the hostile reaction among some of my fellow United supporters regarding his departure.

Yes, he's said a few things about Ferguson not wanting to keep him, but he's probably justified in that. Being a very decent player with the odd touch of class (think a lesser clone of Rooney) and great industry, he was well within his rights to demand more playing time, while his manager was also well within his rights to reject those demands (saying that, I for one rate him slightly above Berbatov). When boss and subordinate do not agree, a split may be the best option, and that's what happened. Tevez always gave his all for United, and that's enough for me.

$50 on United (-1.5) vs. Man City (at 2.70) - lets go one more time
$50 on Everton to beat Blackburn (1.75) - 'Ton aren't that bad surely?

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