Noam Levey reports on some new research about Medicaid expansion:

“The effects of expanding coverage will be an unfolding story over time,” said Dr. Benjamin Sommers, lead author of the study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine....Sommers and other researchers at Harvard University have been tracking the effect of Medicaid expansion by surveying some 9,000 poor residents in Arkansas and Kentucky, both of which expanded Medicaid eligibility, and in Texas, which has rejected the expansion.

In Arkansas and Kentucky, the share of poor adults without health insurance plummeted between 2013 and 2015, from more than 40% in both states to 14% in Arkansas and less than 9% in Kentucky.

In Texas, by contrast, the uninsured rate dropped only from 39% to 32%. Although Texas has not expanded Medicaid, state residents have been able to buy health insurance on the new insurance marketplaces that were also created by the law.

The new coverage in Arkansas and Kentucky dramatically improved poor patients’ access to care and relieved financial strains, the surveys show.

This, of course, is no surprise. If you expand Medicaid, more poor people will get medical care. If you don't, they won't.

Skeptics will suggest that more coverage is not necessarily better. However, I have yet to meet a single one of these skeptics who actually believes this enough to give up their own medical coverage. I'll take them more seriously when that happens.

From my inbox this morning, here is the entire message:

Please I want to sell one of my kidney o+

I don't think I need a kidney at the moment, but maybe later. And anyway, I need one in A-negative. If you're going to spam me with this stuff, the least you can do is have the decency to hack into my medical records and offer me one of the right blood type. Lazy, lazy, lazy.

So is this the latest internet scam? Or has it been going on for a while and I only found out about it today? How does it work? Maybe if I reply, I'll then get a long sob story about why this poor guy needs to sell his kidney and I'll be so heartbroken I'll PayPal him $10,000 to put his life back together. That's the best I can figure out. Anyone have a better idea?

Michael Kinsley Has a Bone to Pick With Vox

Today's worst person of the first 15 minutes of the morning is Michael Kinsley, who has some bones to pick with modern internet journalism, pioneered by people he calls "Ezras," after Ezra Klein, founder of Vox. Here's a sample:

An Ezra also will shuffle the deck and summarize ruthlessly. This seems to be an inherent tendency of the Web: the search for ways to put the news, and analysis of the news, in some kind of new order—something more satisfying than the random cacophony and confusion you must plow through today if you want to pass yourself off as well informed. But there are so many Web sites summarizing and shuffling that in fact you feel you are falling ever farther behind. This process of summarizing and shuffling is called “aggregation.”

....The fancier term is “curation.”...Some folks have yet another word for aggregation and related activities on the Web. They call it “plagiarism.”

Et cetera. You may rest assured that the internet is not letting this pass unnoticed. And truthfully, the whole thing does seem kind of silly. Kinsley admits that garden variety journalism has some problems (faux objectivity, fear of math, and so forth), but then criticizes Vox-style journalism for—what? Trying to make sense of complex subjects? That's what all journalism does. Doing research as well as reporting? That's what all good journalism does. Sometimes writing trivial pieces? If that were a firing offense, there wouldn't be any journalism at all.

So I guess I don't know what Kinsley's real problem is. Vox-style journalism does rely more on research than traditional journalism, and it does illustrate its stories with more charts than traditional journalism. And I'll confess that even as a chart addict myself, I think this can go too far. I usually scroll quickly by when I see a headline like "23 charts that explain the rise of ISIS." Even chart addicts have their limits, and sometimes charts can impose a simplicity on a subject that doesn't actually exist. Still, this is a minor complaint.

Personally, I think that if Vox has any problems, it's with their favorite headlines. For example:

  • 7 winners and losers from....
  • ....explained
  • ....in 3 charts

However, even the Voxers seem to have realized that this stuff was getting out of hand, and they've cut back on these and other overused headlines. So, really, there's hardly anything left to complain about aside from the lack of cats.

But here's what I think might have been bothering Kinsley, which he either didn't quite know or wasn't quite willing to say out loud: Vox and similar sites appeal to people with a different esthetic than, say, readers of the New York Times. It appeals to people who aren't afraid of numbers. It appeals to people who think reporting is just one tool of journalism, and maybe not even the most important one. It appeals to people who don't mind journalism with a point of view (though I'll concede that I don't think Vox has found quite the right balance here). In other words, it's built on top of the nerdy, wonky esthetic that built the internet. That esthetic doesn't appeal to everyone, especially those who aren't especially nerdy or wonky themselves. I suspect it doesn't appeal to Kinsley.

But then again, the esthetic of Car & Driver might not appeal to him either. That's because it's aimed at a particular subset of the reading world. No one thinks that's a problem, so what's wrong with a more general-purpose news site that also appeals to a particular subset of the reading world? Beats me.

Oh Yes, It's *Still* World Cat Day

World Cat Day is drawing to a close, and so is my supply of bathtubs. But it's all working out: we have one more cat and one more bathtub in the house. This one is Hilbert's favorite, and it usually sports a purple mouse for him to play with. Occasionally it also features a bug that he can chase around until he gets bored.

And with that, I wish a happy World Cat Day to all, and to all a good night.

Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy is tired of people diagnosing Donald Trump:

What I do know is that we ought to stop casually throwing around terms like “crazy” in this campaign and our daily lives....When that language is commonplace, it becomes that much harder for those experiencing mental illness to openly seek treatment that works. It discriminates, in subtle and overt ways, and extends its reach into schools, workplaces and the health-care system, where we still don’t provide routine mental health exams. When we use that word the way we have, we perpetuate the dangerous, “separate and unequal” treatment of these illnesses, and continue to pretend that the brain isn’t part of the body.

No. Just no. There are lots of words that have both ordinary meanings as well as technical medical meanings. When I say that Donald Trump is a cancer on our society, it's not an insult to people with leukemia. When I say that Donald Trump is stupid, it's not an insult to the mentally retarded. And when I say that Donald Trump is crazy, it's not an insult to people with mental illnesses.

This is the kind of thing that helps power people like Trump in the first place. Sure, a lot of people who gripe about political correctness are just upset that people get on their case these days if they call blacks lazy or Asians inscrutable or women hysterical. There's not much we can do about this except keep fighting the good fight and wait for them to all die off.

But there are also people who aren't especially racist or sexist, but nonetheless feel like they have to walk on eggshells around us liberals. Call someone crazy and you're insulting the mentally ill. Talk about someone "suffering" from an illness and you get a stern lecture about not making assumptions. Ask any number of possibly dumb but innocent questions and you're committing a microaggression. Wear a sari in a music video and you're engaging in cultural appropriation.

This kind of hypersensitivity does little good and plenty of harm. We should focus on the big stuff and settle down about the rest of it. It won't help us win over the racists or sexists—who we don't need or want anyway—but it will help a lot of other people to feel like it's not such an emotional trial to hang around liberals, watching their every word in case something new has popped up since the last time they visited. Most people, after all, are neither as plugged in to lefty culture or as hyperverbal as your average university student. Hell, even I sometimes have trouble remembering the approved language to use about things, and I get to sit at the keyboard until I figure it out. Your average schmoe talking in real time hardly has a chance.

Donald Trump Has No Jobs Plan At All

Will cutting taxes on the rich, combined with reducing regulation on Wall Street and big corporations, create millions of jobs, as Donald Trump claims? As you may recall, we tried that tonic fairly recently during the presidency of George W. Bush. It didn't really turn out so well:

Jobs started to recover sooner on Obama's watch than Bush's, probably thanks to his stimulus package. Bush just cut taxes on the rich and left it at that. Still, maybe you think this chart isn't fair. We really ought to measure from the trough of the recession. Here you go:

Based on his speech this morning, there's no real difference between Bush and Trump on economic policy except for Trump's claim that he'll get tough on trade. I doubt that, myself, but it hardly matters. Renegotiating a couple of trade treaties just wouldn't generate very many jobs. Done badly, in fact—a pretty likely scenario in a Trump presidency—it would hurt job growth. Trade wars have a habit of doing that.

Note that I'm not really making a case for the brilliance of Obama's economic policies here. I'm just pointing out that Trump's policies are little more than the same tedious stuff we've heard from Republicans for years. If he thinks this tired old rehash is going to supercharge the economy, he ought to at least make some kind of case for it.1 It didn't work for Bush. Why should it work for Trump?

1And don't even think of pretending that 9/11 ruined the economy under Bush. It had only a minor, short-term effect. If anything, spending on Bush's wars acted as a stimuls.

It's Still World Cat Day

I'm heading out to lunch, but before I do let's continue with our bathtub theme for World Cat Day. Whenever Marian or I get up in the night to use the bathroom, Hopper zips in a few seconds later and immediately jumps into the bathtub. I've never figured out why. There's nothing in the bathtub for her to play with, but that's where she likes to be. However, she only likes it when one of us is in there doing our business. The rest of the time she shows no interest at all.

Apparently China is upset with Australia over some Olympic-related stuff, so they hit back with an op-ed in China’s Global Times tabloid:

It's not a big deal to us. In many serious essays written by Westerners, Australia is mentioned as a country at the fringes of civilization. In some cases, they refer to the country's early history as Britain's offshore prison. This suggests that no one should be surprised at uncivilized acts emanating from the country.

Take that, Australia! Apparently China has been taking lessons from the master of insults. This sure sounds like something from an unusually dimwitted protege of Donald Trump, doesn't it?

Donald Trump just finished reading his big economic policy speech from a teleprompter. He's really bad at reading from a teleprompter, looking alternately bored and outraged. Here are the pieces that caught my eye:

  • Huge tax cut for the rich.
  • But no spending cuts that he's willing to admit to.
  • End of estate taxes.
  • Cut corporate tax rate to 15 percent.
  • Allow corporations to repatriate foreign earnings at a special 10 percent rate.
  • Declare China a currency manipulator, even though their currency is currently overvalued, not undervalued. A market rate for the renminbi would make Chinese imports even cheaper.
  • Slash regulations on corporations.
  • Pretend global warming doesn't exist.
  • Ban all new financial regulation.
  • Repeal Obamacare.
  • Implement a childcare tax deduction instead of a tax credit.
  • He will work with Ivanka on a childcare plan. Because, I guess, Ivanka has kids, so she's an expert on the problems that low-income workers have with childcare.

This is not exhaustive, and most of the speech was just the usual tired Republican orthodoxy. Mitt Romney could have given 90 percent of it. There was also a lot of random guff about how disastrous the economy is; how the unemployment rate is a hoax; and how American energy, planes, cars, steel, and so forth will employ way more American workers once Trump becomes president.

You bet. As near as I can tell, literally every single one of his proposals above would benefit the rich and do virtually nothing for the working and middle classes. But he sure knows how to put a populist spin on giveaways to the rich, doesn't he?

Today Is World Cat Day

Behold Wikipedia: "World Cat Day, August 8th, was created in 2002 by the International Fund for Animal Welfare. World Cat Day is celebrated on 17 February in much of Europe and on 1 March in Russia."

Why is it celebrated on February 17th and March 1st in other countries if World Cat Day is August 8th? This is a mystery. But it does prompt the occasional email. Here's one I got a few minutes ago from a disgruntled reader:

Why are newspapers even mentioning cats instead of hard news? I might blame Mondays but this blog is in every edition. Guess what, cats are not important. They should not be wasting space in a news organization. I understand that you are pandering to the ‘madding crowd’ but for heavens sake, stop it and replace it with ‘REAL’ news.

Cats are not important? Hmmph. I think we all know what I have to say about that:

Isn't she adorable? Who's not important now, huh? Not this incredibly cute calico kitten, that's for sure. She is now officially named Cinnamon, by the way, and she's either peering into a bathtub or else her tiny size is making a sink look ginormous.1

1It's a bathtub.