James Fallows

James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
  • Karel van Wolferen on the Japanese electoral revolution

    I mentioned last week that the Dutch writer Karel van Wolferen was, like me, a devotee of "interesting" software for writing and thinking. His real metier, of course, is political analysis, most notably about Japan. On his site he has just put up a detailed post about this weekend's historic ousting of the Liberal Democratic Party from governing control in Japan.

    The LDP's name has unfortunately misleading connotations in English; as the hoary joke goes, it is neither "liberal" nor "democratic" but instead is the long-standing force of status-quo, favor-trading conservatism. And as Karel has argued in his many books and articles, its mere existence is misleading in a more fundamental sense, since it implies that Japan is a "normal" democracy, in which political parties compete for the power to control government policy. In fact, elected politicians from the LDP and all other parties have been relatively weak, compared with the permanent and powerful bureaucrats who distribute money, set policy, and in most senses run the country.

    To see that analysis applied to the current situation, check out his latest dispatch. He asks whether this election will make any more difference than the only other time the LDP was driven (briefly) from power, just after Bill Clinton's inauguration:

    "Will Japan's new government be able to do what the reformists could not possibly accomplish in 1993? Skeptics point at the  divisions within the [new ruling party]...

    "But my impression is that the individuals of the inner core of the party are deadly serious about what must be done to turn their country into what one of them, the most senior and most experienced Ozawa Ichiro, has in his writing called a 'normal country'."

    The idea of Japan as a "normal" country -- one that takes responsibility for its own defense, one with a functioning political system -- is more significant than most people outside Japan usually recognize. I remember hearing Ozawa use that phrase when I interviewed him, in his role as an LDP potentate, twenty years ago while I was living in Tokyo. I have no idea whether this election really will signify, as the one in 1993 did not, the long-awaited historic emergence of Japan as a functioning democracy. But Karel van Wolferen's post lays out the stakes, and the reasons to think it might.

  • More love for the TSA (plus actual good TSA-related news)

    Four ways of looking at the TSA (drawn from reader mail, following this and this item):

    As possibility for political symbolism:

    "Political experts will disagree, but the smartest thing that Gingrich and Co did back when they took over Congress was kill the federal speed limits. It told every American that they were serious about killing outdated government regulations and it gave some moral power to their deconstruction.

    "In another era, Miranda rights, repeated endlessly on TV cop shows, gave every American the idea they had "rights".

    "I remember an axiom, perhaps from Nixon, that every President needs to kill a government department on taking office.   Killing TSA, and saving $5 for every airline ticket sold, would seem to be an enormously easy venture. Going back to your 1977 article, What Would Jimmy Carter Do?" [Deferring comment on this last point for now.]

    As occasion for good news!
    A reader sent this positive account from a recent trip via BWI airport in Baltimore:

    "The last time we traveled through BWI in July, we noticed that TSA seemed a lot friendlier.  Someone near the area where you got screened was announcing a list of things that you had to take out of your bags to be screened separately. This list included some things that I considered fairly bizarre like an accordian. This made the TSA look a lot less humorless than they had been before. 

    "I do  agree with you that the shoe thing needs to stop.  There are some people trying to sneak through with their Vibrams or similar shoes.  These are still rare enough that they puzzle some TSA personnel."

    As it turns out, there is a reason why BWI seems less maddening/harassing than most other airports! A friend who works for IDEO, the famed design firm, pointed me toward a report showing what IDEO had done to reduce the going-crazy experience of passing through airport check lines. It's here, and it includes apercus like this:

    "It was clear that trying to observe the subtleties of hostile intent would be less effective in a chaotic environment filled with stressed passengers. IDEO was engaged to design a solution that calmed the environment of the checkpoint, thus making potential threats stand out."

    Good work! (Pictures from BWI below.)

    More »

  • Senator Edward M. Kennedy

    I have nothing of substance to contribute to the assessment of his career right now but just wanted to add my respect, sympathy, and sadness. The most impressive and winning aspect of his personality was the way he kept on going, with good humor, despite defeats and tragedies of all sorts and vanished ambitions. With his physical bulk he made me think of some big, proud, beautiful animal -- a bull in the ring with lances hanging out of its neck, a lion or elephant that has been tattered or wounded but not brought down. As everyone has noted, his most impressive and dignified period was after he realized he would never be president but would still bring campaign-scale passion and charisma (overused term, but right in this case)  to causes he cared about.

    I realize to my surprise how vividly I can remember the dramatic moments of his progression through the news. The summer night forty years ago, when I was sitting with college friends in a Northeast Washington backyard when word started circulating that Kennedy, still in his 30s, had been in some kind of traffic accident on Martha's Vineyard. The chilly fall day ten years later, when I was watching TV with friends in DC and saw in real-time astonishment that Kennedy hemmed and hawed but could not answer Roger Mudd's simple question, "Why do you want to be president?" before his run against Jimmy Carter. The unforgettable speech on the floor of the Democratic convention the following summer, when he thundered "The dream will never die!" In the hall you could feel how completely star power had drained from the beleaguered sittingformer* president Carter. (The only thing I've seen at a convention remotely as electric: Barack Obama's keynote/debut speech in 2004.) And, in keeping with the lanced-bull image, his unbelievably brave speech in favor of Obama at last year's convention. This was brave not in its content, as his opposition to the Iraq war and original endorsement of Obama had been; it was brave in the most elemental sense, that he insisted on walking to the stage unassisted and collecting himself for what was his last real public performance. The point is the way he commanded attention over his long public life.

    A flawed man, who started unimpressively in life -- the college problems, the silver-spoon boy senator, everything involved with Chappaquiddick -- but redeemed himself, in the eyes of all but the committed haters, with his bravery and perseverance and commitment to the long haul. And his big, open heart. A powerful, brave, often-wounded animal at last brought down.
    * Rushed Freudian-error typo. Former president now; sitting president then.

  • TSA / Amelia followups

    Following this item yesterday:

    1) Demonstrating the mathematical theorem that TSA+Google Ads = unintended comedy, reader Andrew Hall shows what happened when he clicked on the trailer for the Hilary Swank / Amelia Earhart film:


    In case you can't read it, the pop-up ad says: "Homeland Security: Become a TSA Scanner by Earning Your Degree in Homeland Security." I hope it's a joke -- I mean, including the "Degree in Homeland Security." But I fear it is not. FWIW, my pop-up ads on the same trailer were all for the WaWa grocery store chain.

    2) I said that the Grace McGuire story had a happy ending. After TSA security-theater threatened to close down her reconstruction of an Amelia Earhart-type plane, the pre-approved crew from a San Diego museum had taken over the task. A reader begs to differ:

    "Happy ending..." you say, at the end of today's piece.

    But probably not for the "....variety of craftsmen and suppliers who happened to come up with the right part for the plane...." not to mention the likely large number of simple voluntary workers on such a project.

    Case in point:  My 76 year old mother, who is the non-flying secretary of her local EAA [Experimental Aircraft Association] chapter, was a volunteer member of a group which recently completed the restoration of a Viet Namese era artillery spotter plane.  She, and the other 60 and 70 something year-olds who restored that Piper took great pleasure and pride in what they did, and the results - in fact, they're planning to do another plane in the not-too distant future.  What a shame it will be if their ability to make some contribution, and derive a sense of satisfaction and worth from the effort, is prevented by the TSA's bureaucratic nonsense.
    3) Just because it's both China-related and aviation-themed, here's a YouTube video of China's first all-electric plane, the Yuneec. (Say it out loud. Hardee-har!) Kind of odd video, but looks like fun -- it's at a California airport I know well. And, to bring things back to a TSA theme, never once in my many, many trips through Chinese airports did I have to take off my shoes. I mean, except on flights back to the U.S.  Let us learn from a 5,000-year-old culture to the east. (More here. Thanks to Ted Pearlman.)

    4) And speaking of shoes, a final bit of TSA-related mail:
    As a conservative, I did not vote for President Obama. Nonetheless, it's my hope that some of the sillier things instituted by the Bush Administration would get thrown out.

    Why hasn't the Obama Administration acted to clean up the public image of TSA? Specifically, why hasn't TSA stopped making people take off their shoes? It's the silly tip of the iceberg of silly security theatre.

    I'd think that the President would win himself a lot of independent votes by getting rid of this rather ridiculous measure. Have any ideas as to why it hasn't happened?
    Ideas in later dispatches.

  • Will it never end? McCaughey v. Ezekiel Emanuel

    Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel should need no introduction to Atlantic readers. Among his many pursuits is writing a number of interesting articles for our "Food Channel," under Corby Kummer's auspices. He should need no introduction to anybody, since over the past decade-plus he has so often been involved in deliberations about the right future health-care path for America and the world. I stress "the world" since he has traveled widely and emphasized public-health challenges for poor nations too. I know him slightly -- just well enough that, a few weeks ago, I asked his journalistic advice for contacts in China on a public-health story I'm working on. He is an oncologist and bioethicist -- and, of course, older brother of Rahm Emanuel from the White House.

    Elizabeth "Betsy" McCaughey also needs no introduction to Atlantic readers. She has brought more misinformation, more often, more destructively into America's consideration of health-policy issues than any other individual. She has no concept of "truth" or "accuracy" in the normal senses of those terms, as demonstrated last week when she went on The Daily Show. Virtually every statement she has made about health-reform proposals, from the Clinton era until now, has been proven to be false. It doesn't slow her down.

    And now we have the New York Times, in a big take-out story, saying that Dr. Emanuel, in his role as Obama health-care advisor, is in an "uncomfortable place" because he is being criticized by*:

    1) Betsy McCaughey !
    2) Rep. Michele Bachman (look her up) !!
    3) Sarah Palin !!!
    4) Lyndon LaRouche !!!!

    McCaughey, Bachman, Palin, LaRouche -- shaping American debate and media coverage about health policy? Was Zsa Zsa Gabor not available?

    To be "fair," the story puts the criticisms in "context," thus:

    "Largely quoting his past writings out of context this summer, Betsy McCaughey, a former lieutenant governor of New York, labeled Dr. Emanuel a "deadly doctor" who believes health care should be "reserved for the nondisabled" -- a false assertion that Representative Michele Bachmann, Republican of Minnesota, repeated on the House floor."

    "Out of context" and "false" are useful caveats. But why is the story about Ezekiel Emanuel being on the hot seat in the first place -- and not about the campaign of flat lies by McCaughey, Bachman, Palin, and LaRouche? Why are real newspapers quoting what they say any more? (Interestingly, LaRouche's claims rarely get NYT coverage. In in this case, he is apparently "legitimized" by ... McCaughey.) If I start a campaign of lies against somebody and get Soupy Sales plus Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme to agree with me, can I expect them to be regularly publicized in the mainstream press?

    I do understand - and wrote before -- about how difficult it is for the mainstream press to decide that one party to a controversy is making things up, doesn't care about facts,  and will keep saying whatever it wants. I also recognize that when a campaign of falsehoods has a political effect, the effect itself can be worth writing about. But does it have to be presented in a way that suggests that the McCaughey-Bachman-Palin-LaRouche team is just another participant in political discussion? This can give "fairness" a bad name.
    * Here are paragraphs two and three of the story -- the "nut graf" passage establishing that there is a controversy:

    "Largely quoting his past writings out of context this summer, Betsy McCaughey, a former lieutenant governor of New York, labeled Dr. Emanuel a "deadly doctor" who believes health care should be "reserved for the nondisabled" -- a false assertion that Representative Michele Bachmann, Republican of Minnesota, repeated on the House floor.

    "Former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska has asserted that Dr. Emanuel's "Orwellian" approach to health care would "refuse to allocate medical resources to the elderly, the infirm and the disabled who have less economic potential," accusations similarly made by the political provocateur Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr."
  • Why we love the TSA, chap. #14,867 (Amelia Earhart dept)

    The most interesting movie trailer I've seen since coming back to America -- OK, the only one -- is for Hilary Swank's upcoming biopic about Amelia Earhart. Opening shot below; link to full trailer at the bottom.


    This is timely not just because the movie looks so gorgeous -- as does Swank, reinforcing the beautiful androgynous kinship in appearance between Earhart and the young Charles Lindbergh -- but also because the latest small chapter in the war of TSA-vs-common-sense involves Amelia.

    Four years ago, as described in this NYT article and this one from Smithsonian Air and Space,  a New Jersey pilot named Grace McGuire resolved to recreate Amelia Earhart's round-the-world journey, in a restored version of the same kind of Lockheed Electra airplane Earhart flew. All instruments, equipment, and detailing would be similar. The big difference, as McGuire pointed out in her standard punch line, is that she intended to get home safely rather than disappearing over the South Pacific.

    McGuire encountered various obstacles along the way, most notably a struggle with Lyme Disease that for years left her too weak to advance her plans. But her most recent hassle has been with our friends at the TSA.

    As described here in AVweb and recounted on many general-aviation sites, the TSA has been ramping up background-check requirements for anyone who does any work, of any kind, at any site where flying craft can land. Most of the nation's 4000-plus small airfields have historically been very casual, low-formality, open operations, policed mainly and effectively by their community of users. To people who have worked at and gathered around them, the airports' openness was much of their American-freedom-style, Earhart-and-Lindbergh-style appeal. To the TSA, it looks like a threat. An overheated pilot partisan argues here that fortifying little airports is part of the Big Government vision of "Team Obama." Her heart's in the right place about the TSA, but of course these rules and the overall security-theater approach got started under the previous team.

     McGuire had moved her Electra airplane to the tiny Santa Maria airport in California, a very nice little field very far from big cities. Restoring a 75-year old airplane meant a lot of ad hoc visits by a variety of craftsmen and suppliers who happened to come up with the right part for the plane. Putting every one of them through Federal security checks and certifying them for permanent airport ID cards, before they could drive up to the little airfield and repair an aileron, was bringing the project to a halt.

    Help has arrived, in the form of the San Diego Air and Space Museum. Its staff has already passed TSA security checks, and it will take over restoration of the plane. Happy ending -- but you wonder, will there ever be a chance to say, Enough with the petty security theater, and let's think about the courage and common sense that keep free people free. (Anyone who wants more on this topic, see here and here.)

    Back to Hilary/Amelia: film trailer below.

  • My new software favorite: Personal Brain (updated)

    What is my purpose on Earth? Raising my children? Being as good and supportive a husband to my wife as (the movie version of) Paul Child was to Julia in the new film? Working for world peace and sustainable environmental development and a more humane society? Helping keep my magazine afloat?

    Yeah yeah yeah.

    I often think that my real purpose, apart from dreaming about getting back into aviation and  tennis (and, gulp, finishing the next book), is to tinker with every piece of "interesting" software that anyone can cook up. I've written about dozens of them over the years, and still have many of them at close reach on my computer. Lotus Agenda -- the "spreadsheet for words" that was invented in the early 1990s, then cruelly orphaned by Lotus, but is still handy now. BrainStorm -- an outlining and list- based program. It is ultra-minimalist, text only, straight from the DOS age -- but after Symantec's also-tragic orphaning of the best-loved-ever outliner, GrandView, BrainStorm is often the place I turn. (Part of that bittersweet outliner history, from Dave Winer, here.) And of course Zoot, which I have used since the early 1990s and wrote about in the Atlantic 12 years ago. For all its info-organizing power, Zoot has in the past few years begun showing its age. Like BrainStorm, it is text-only and has no way even to underline or highlight important text. Also, it is too Web-friendly.  But its lone-genius creator, Tom Davis of Delray Beach, FL, has been working on an all new, web-connected version, which is now in beta testing and which I'll sign up for as soon as it's released.

    But for the moment: Personal Brain, from TheBrain software in Marina del Rey, California. I'm in that familiar and always-enjoyable phase of feeling: this program is really interesting, and let's see how it fits the way I think and work.

    The idea of the program is to connect any item -- a call you want to make, a web site you want to quote, a PDF file you want to read, or even an entire project you're beginning -- with any other, in a flexible variety of relationships. FWIW, the program calls its items "thoughts." Here's an idea of how some of the connections look, in a view that shows many projects for which I'm collecting info or am working on.


    More »

  • Xu Zhiyong released

    Just over a month ago, a well-known Chinese legal reformer named Xu Zhiyong was taken from his house in Beijing at 5am and moved to a detention facility. Background reports here and here, which emphasize that Xu, far from being some overthrow-the-government voice of radicalism, had been dedicated to defending the rights of Chinese citizens within China's own legal system. His best-known recent case was on behalf of parents of children who died or were harmed during the tainted-milk scandal last year.

    This morning comes news that he has just been released, though under the threat of follow-up prosecution. That would probably involve (trumped-up, in the view of the outside world) charges of "tax evasion," probably based on support that the Yale Law School has given to Xu's Open Constitution Initiative (Gong Meng, 公盟) project. See here and here, with details sketchy but the main fact of his release established. Later on, more about the implications of the case -- including the disappearance of Xu's assistant, as reported here in the Guardian. For now, it is better to have Xu Zhiyong out of jail than in.

  • Today's McCaughey, euthanasia, and general falsehood update

    Several more objections, clarifications, and additional bits of evidence following the much-bruited -- and to me somewhat anticlimactic -- Betsy McCaughey-Jon Stewart smackdown two days ago. (Previous reactions here.)

    On the origins of Betsy McCaughey's argumentative style:

    A reader suggests they have one obvious source:

    The reader explains:

    Cleese's character is armed with all that one could ask for: keen wit, boundless vocabulary, perfect presence of mind, and all the facts on his side. And yet, even he can be played to a draw by a liar who maintains a sufficiently unshakable facade of conviction.

    On the details of why "death panels" are so preposterous
    A reader in Maine writes:

    Another absurdity in the argument of Betsy McCaughey is her claim that there is something wrong with doctors having to follow a patient's wishes as expressed in a living will.  There are two major problems here: 1) People can always change their living will, just as they can change their will at any point.  The later living will supercedes the later one. So if a person makes a living will when healthy and sees things differently when ill, the sick person can express different wishes in the new living will.  2) Why shouldn't doctors have to respect people's wishes on end-of-life care? I have heard countless stories of living wills being ignored.  The provision on living wills is effectively an implementation provision, providing for accountability and for the wishes of the patient to be respected.

    Further on the Living Will point:
    Reader Zach writes:

    I'm surprised you didn't mention this.  McCaughy's twisted logic is basically that after you draft a living will it will be enforced ruthlessly by doctors seeking to up their quality rating even if you personally object.  Backing her up is an anecdote about her apparently hearing a woman telling her to hurry up and help as a doctor suffocated her with a pillow or something.  Her point is that, by rewarding adherence, we're making doctors stick with the patient's initial stated intent.  However, if you're conscious you can amend, annul, or otherwise do whatever you want with your will, living or otherwise, at any time you want.  If you're conscious enough to tell someone not to pull the plug, you haven't triggered your living will yet.

    More »

  • Revisiting McCaughey-v-Stewart

    As I mentioned this morning, I thought Betsy McCaughey was even more blithely disconnected from the world of reality than I had expected -- but that she was weirdly "effective" against Jon Stewart, since there was no way to shame her by pointing out that what she said was untrue. She would just smile, mug at the audience in an "isn't he cute!" way, and say, No, I'm right.

    Not all readers agreed. Below and after the jump, a sample of dissenting views, with brief retort at the end.

    Objection 1: The Audience Is In on the Joke

    ...I disagree that talking over Jon Stewart the way people do in appearances on Fox News is an effective tactic for the guest. It might be better than some of the other options, but it backfires for a weird reason, one that might be harder to see if you don't watch the show regularly.

    From its inception in 1997, the distinguishing shtick that makes the show unique is a type of edited interview segment in which the show's "reporters" interview obscure and completely crazy people. The subjects have received some local press attention for doing something bizarre and they're desperate for media attention. The reporters pretend to be mainstream press rather than comedians, and they use a deadpan style that allows the interviewees to provide most of the humor. What struck me about the McCaughey interview, and the recent interview of Orly Taitz by Stephen Colbert, was that Stewart and Colbert are clearly adapting the "crazy person" interview techniques to their live in-studio host interviews with guests that don't agree with them.

    The normal host interviews vary a lot but they are always a two-way conversation with some socially well-adjusted give and take. In these two recent interviews, as the guest acts more unstoppable and enthusiastic unhinged when discussing "their" topic, the interview slides into the familiar "crazy person" style. That's a cue for the show's regular audience to frame the discussion and the interviewee in a very different way.

    Objection 2: It Worked for Betsy, but It Won't Work for Others

    I expect you are very right about this being an interview that will be studied by right wing operatives for some time to come. However, I feel like you overlooked a couple important pieces which may make this scenario unrepeatable (particularly if those at the Daily Show are paying attention).

    More »

  • McCaughey on the Daily Show

    Well, my TV-owning neighbors were all away last night, so I couldn't watch the McCaughey-Stewart showdown by peering through their windows and had to see it just now on the web. Clips below, starting with the first segment of the interview as broadcast. Three conclusions:

    The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
    Betsy McCaughey Pt. 1
    Daily Show
    Full Episodes
    Political HumorHealthcare Protests

    Conclusion one: I have been far too soft on Betsy McCaughey. Even when conferring on her the title of "most destructive effect on public discourse by a single person" for the 1990s. She is way less responsible and tethered to the world of "normal" facts and discourse than I had imagined.

    Conclusion two: The exchange is significant, because it demonstrates that there is indeed a way to "handle" Jon Stewart. You simply have to ignore what he says, interrupt and talk over him, and keep asserting that you're right. You even can try to usurp his role as host by mugging at the audience and rolling your eyes in a shared "there he goes again!" joke with the viewers.

    In retrospect, this is the crucial weakness that in their different ways both Bill Kristol and Jim Cramer revealed in their appearances on the show. They listened to Stewart and -- even Kristol!!?! -- revealed through their bearing that they recognized there was such a thing as being caught in an inconsistency or presented with an inconvenient fact. McCaughey did none of that. She is just making it up, as anyone who has followed her work over the decades will know. She was not even minimally prepared for her appearance on the show, flipping aimlessly through the giant briefing book (of legislative clauses) she brought on stage. But  she didn't let it bother her. The exchange demonstrated that if the guest reveals no self-awareness or does not accept the premise of factual challenge, Stewart can't get in his normal licks. Future guests will study this show.

    Conclusion three: A good point Stewart made, albeit not registered by McCaughey, concerns the unbelievable inconsistency of attention to "incentives" built into health care systems, today's and tomorrow's.

    That is: when McCaughey admits that there is no literal "death panel" provision in the new health care provision, she goes on to say something similar to what other conservatives, most recently Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post today, contend: that the very act of reimbursing doctors for a  discussion about "living wills" and end-of-life care will have a subtle bias in favor of an euthanasia-like outcome.

    On the merits of this claim, I vehemently disagree. Having had, along with my siblings, first-hand, extended, and very painful experience with this process during my own father's decline and death last year, I would put reimbursement schemes for living-will discussions at the very bottom of the list of factors that make such decisions so wrenching for everyone involved.

    But let's assume I'm wrong (though you'll never convince me of that) -- and that there is some third-order ripple-effect bias that comes from paying doctors for these every-five-year discussions. Why is the potential skewing effect of that payment the only thing we notice -- and not the thousand other life-and-death, rationing-and-queuing incentives that are built into every detail of the medical system now? And that David Goldhill -- no supporter of the Obama plan -- goes into so thoroughly in his cover story in this month's magazine? Yesterday I spent more than an hour on the customer "service" line for my own health insurance company, trying to get the answer to a simple "is this covered?" question. At the end of the hour, when I'd reached the queue to talk to a human agent, I got this recording: "Due to circumstances beyond our control, your call cannot be completed at this time. Please call again later." This has a kind of rationing/skewed incentive effect of its own -- even for someone fortunate, like me, to have good health insurance coverage. So, yes: I will listen to arguments about the hypothetical, subtle, psychological biasing effect of encouraging discussions about end-of-life decisions -- but only if they're in the context of the far more blatant, perverse, and destructive incentives built into today's system.

    But see for yourself.

    Second part of McCaughey's interview as broadcast.

    The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
    Betsy McCaughey Pt. 2
    Daily Show
    Full Episodes
    Political HumorHealthcare Protests

    Extended interview, with outtakes, part 1, is here; extended interview part 2 is here.

  • Tonight on the Daily Show: McCaughey v Stewart!

    Now I'm sorry I still don't have a TV. Elizabeth "Betsy" McCaughey, whose role in public life I have so often marveled at, has agreed to go on the Daily Show this evening.

    Anything is possible, and perhaps Jon Stewart will for once fall down on the job as an interrogator. But at face value you have to wonder: has she ever seen the show? Perhaps the episode with James Cramer?

    Maybe I'll go stand outside a neighbor's window this evening and listen real carefully. (And yes, yes, I know I can see it on the web not long afterwards.) Talk about must-see TV; this is it.

  • More reassuring news: new life for Eclipse?

    This news has been brewing for weeks, but it appears to have reached a critical point. The assets of the ill-fated Eclipse Aviation company, whose rise is described here and here, and demise here and here, may be sold at auction today to a new group of investors doing business as Eclipse Aerospace. The head of the new company, Mason Holland of South Carolina, was a deposit-holder for an Eclipse jet when the company went under. (He also owned and flew a Cirrus propeller airplane, and I know him slightly through the Cirrus pilots' organization.)

    The Eclipse jet was to be the backbone of a new small-jet air-taxi network. Operating on what is often known as the "second mouse gets the cheese" principle, Holland appears to be interested in retaining what was valuable about the airplane's design, after the wreck of the original company's finances. More background on the sale here, here, and here. Interviews with Mason Holland here and here. Good luck!


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