War on health coverage

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

There’s been discussion throughout weblogging about whether people would vote for Bush again or not. Many of the postings I’ve read said that the webloggers would primarily because of his policies regarding Israel, and his “handling of terrorism”.

To vote for Bush solely because of terrorism ignores so many other issues that are critical to this country. Issues that also cost lives, daily.

For instance, there’s the issue of health coverage in this country. My friend Chris recently posted some statistics about American life at his weblog. Among these was one that I felt was particularly relevant to my own situation — the fact that 40,000,000 people in this country don’t have health insurance.

If you want something to back up this statistic, then will a press release from the US Census Bureau do? According to the press release, we’re actually improving our lot in life, as the number of people without health insurance coverage in our country dropped to “only” 38.7 million in 2000. However, this number has changed drastically due to the current recession and higher unemployment. Other publications now put the number at 44 million.

This is only about 15% or so of the populace, but considering that the US is the richest country in the world, wouldn’t you all agree that any amount over 0% is a cause for shame?

Instead of dealing with the health care crises effectively, George W Bush tries to put through a health plan based on tax credits, an approach that’s been proven ineffective in the past. In addition, Bush also wants to put through an “intermediate” pharmacy discount plan that could, at most, reduce prescription drug costs by only about 10-25%. With prescription costs exceeding thousands of dollars a month for some illnesses, saving a few hundred dollars is not going to make a difference.

I have a close friend in Oregon who works for the Job Corps, teaching carpentry to displaced kids. He doesn’t make the bucks a master carpenter would make in the public sector, but he loves his work. He’s past retirement age, though, and needs to think about quitting. He isn’t able to because of health care coverage.

My close friend’s wife has severe emphysema that requires drugs costing thousands of dollars a month to keep her alive. If he quits, he loses his personal health care coverage, and Medicare doesn’t provide coverage of most of the costs of the drugs. If he quits, he’ll quickly go through all of his savings in order to buy the drugs his wife needs to stay alive.

This is a real person. He goes by the name of “Red”. He has a wonderful smile, a great sense of humor, an enormously huge heart, and he used to be my father-in-law. And if he retires, which he’ll have to someday, he’ll be financially destitute within one year.

I suppose, though, he could get “lucky” and his wife will die before he’s forced to retire. By the way, she goes by the name of “Bert”. She’s firey and tempermental, with an incredible laugh. She loves her kids and her grand-kids and she loves to travel. With adequate medication, and some restrictions, she can still travel.

She and Red had always planned to travel when he retired.

Without health insurance coverage, people in this country are making decisions daily that result in early or immediate death. They’re literally gambling with their lives because of the cost of medical care.

How many people are dying because of inadequate health coverage and care? I couldn’t find a statistic on this, but as a conservative guess, if only 1 percent of those uninsured in this country die because of lack of easily accessible medical care in a year, thats over 400,000 people a year. And that’s over 1000 people a day.

To be blunt, you’re more likely to die in this country because of inadequate medical coverage and care than you are from being killed by a terrorist. Regardless of your religion, race, sex, or any particular orientation.

You might want to consider this the next time you say you want to vote for Bush primarily because of his handling of terrorism.


Centralization cont.

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

In the previous posting, Dave attached a comment that returns us to the conversation about centralization. However, I don’t expect that we’ll generate any definitive answers to “what is centralization”, as the folks who are interested in distributed systems and P2P have been working this issue for years, with only qualified success.

Centralization hasn’t as much to do with technical points of failure or with issues of deployment as it has to do with control. Centralization implies a single point of control residing in an authority other than yourself.

Is centralized? Yes, from both a control as well as a technology perspective.

Webloggers can automatically invoke the web services, or use the form to invoke the services manually. If the weblog has changed, the blogname and URL are added to the publicly accessible changes.xml file, and eventually to the HTML page. It remains on this page for three hours.

Both the HTML page and the associated XML file and supported services provide a single location to check for recently updated weblogs — a useful technology. However, this single location also leads to the service’s vulnerability.

If the server goes down, is no longer accessible. Dave provided a temporary backup location but if you’re dependent on automated processes to look for the updated information the temporary location didn’t work for you (not unless you wanted to modify your application to point to this new location).

The downtime with last week demonstrates a technical point of failure for a centralized application. There are mechanical methods one can take to avoid this such as the use redundant backup servers, as well as the use of banks of servers. However, as we’ve seen with DoS (Denial of Service) attacks, if there is a determined foe any centralized service can be brought down.

The possibility of technology failure doesn’t concern me in regards to centralized services, as for the most part, this isn’t an issue. As we’ve seen, has rarely been down in the past and the only reason we’re more attuned to the issue now is because of the rather lengthy downtime of the service this last week. Redundant backup servers would have prevented this, but as Dave has said, Userland is a software development company not an ISP. Backup servers are expensive and is a free service.

What does concern me about is the control: Userland has complete control over who shows on this list. And Dave has written filters for this list, as he’s discussed, openly, at Scripting News. (Though these filters may have been removed.)

That’s the danger of centralization.

Are there alternatives? Sure, there are other centralized locations of weblog updates. However, these are also subject to the same technical point of failure as well as issues of control.

Trying to decentralize a service such as would require a new infrastructure overlayed on top of the existing Internet to support the concept of centralized services that are decentralized — in other words to support supplying and consuming information about recently updated weblogs at a single point, the location of which can change from day to day, minute to minute.

Semi-decentralized applications such as Kazaa and Napster don’t provide the technology to solve this problem; they aren’t providing access to centralized resources, they’re providing access to files that can be located on any number of machines.

Until such an infrastructure is in place, we’ll continue to use and benefit from the service, while understanding the limitations inherent with centralized services such as this.

Returning to the comment in the previous post, Dave also mentioned the hypertext link. Now the simple hypertext link truly is a decentralized technology.

Anyone can put a link into their weblog. There is no authority controlling what you can and cannot link to unless you pay attention to the ridiculous and unenforcable “rules” that some web sites publish about deep-linking. Web sites may require permission to access certain pages, but you can place the link on your page — it’s up to the person clicking the link and the web site to negotiate actual viewing of the page.

And if you have a weblog, there is no authority controlling who links to you.

Weblog A links to you and you link to Weblog B, creating an indirect link from A to B. Continuing this process, weblog B links to weblog C and C links to D and D links to E and so on until you have an unbroken chain of weblogging circles forming a living, dynamic community that cannot be controlled and cannot be stopped — not without taking down the Internet, itself. And though some have tried, the Internet is too vast now to be controlled by any one authority.

Centralization. It’s all about control.