Political Animal

PAIN AND SUFFERING….Dwight Meredith has

PAIN AND SUFFERING….Dwight Meredith has a question about President Bush’s tort reform proposal:

President Bush went to the battle ground state of Pennsylvania yesterday to announce his proposed tort reform initiative for medical malpractice suits. The core of the proposal is a $250,000 cap on the recovery of non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases.

….Why was the cap set at $250,000?

Well, $250,000 sounds like a lot of money, doesn’t it? But let’s take a more realistic look at things, shall we?

Let’s see….how about, say, a 30-year-old who had the wrong leg amputated and ends up in a wheelchair suffering from phantom pain for the rest of her life? Life expectancy is about 50 more years and a prudent guess for long-term real rate of return if the money is invested is about 3%. So what does that get her?

According to this handy dandy annuity calculator, she gets less than $10,000 per year.

Since pain and suffering is a lifetime deal, it makes sense for payouts to be made annually for someone’s lifetime. After all, a 30-year-old is going to suffer longer than a 70-year-old. So why not talk about payout caps in those terms?

That’s easy: because it suddenly doesn’t sound so good. $250,000 sounds like a generous amount to most people. $10,000 per year sounds kind of stingy.

Presentation is everything, isn’t it?


IRAQI NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM DISCOVERED….Via Michael J. Totten, a report in the Telegraph that says UN inspectors in Iraq have discovered proof of an ongoing nuclear weapons development program:

Acting on information provided by Western intelligence, the UN inspection teams discovered a number of documents proving that Saddam is continuing with his attempts to develop nuclear weapons, contrary to his public declarations that Iraq is no longer interested in producing weapons of mass destruction.

….A Western diplomat closely involved with the investigation into Saddam’s nuclear capability yesterday confirmed that the documents showed that Iraq was still attempting to develop its own atomic weapons.

“These are not old documents. They are new and they relate to on-going work taking place in Iraq to develop nuclear weapons,” the official told The Telegraph. “They had been hidden at the scientists’ homes on Saddam’s personal orders. Furthermore, no mention of this work is made in the Iraqi dossier that was submitted to the UN last December.”

This report is currently unconfirmed, but if it holds up it’s hard to imagine that anything more is needed to get widespread global support for military action. This is not a dozen short-range artillery shells, it’s a current, ongoing program to build nuclear weapons.

I have argued before that when it comes to military action the UN does not deserve the abuse it gets from conservatives. In fact, the UN’s judgment has been pretty reliable on this score over the past couple of decades, supporting the U.S. when it deserves support and condemning it when it deserves condemnation. And I predict that if these document show what the Telegraph says they show, the UN will once again demonstrate sound judgment and approve a resolution authorizing military force to depose Saddam Hussein.

UPDATE: According to AP, Iraq says the documents relate to an old laser isotope separation program from the 70s and 80s that proved too difficult and was abandoned in 1987. The AP reports quotes Hans Blix as saying that that the UN “was perfectly aware that the laser production took place before 1990, and it doesn’t add very much to that knowledge. What it teaches is that they are not declaring meticulously what they should have been declaring.”


NEWS IN THE AGE OF BLOGGING….Man, it’s hard to keep up. Glenn Reynolds, reporting on the San Francisco anti-war march, writes this about one of the protester’s signs: “Note the pacifistic theme of wishing Bush would choke on a pretzel.”

So I click on the link and get the picture on the right. Huh? Is this like Reagan and jelly beans? And what’s this about choking?

No problem though, just go to Google and enter “bush pretzel” and up pops this CNN story from January 14, 2002:

Bush lost consciousness for a brief time in the White House on Sunday evening while eating a pretzel and watching a professional football game on television. He fell from his couch and has a scrape and large bruise on his left cheekbone, plus a bruise on his lower lip, to show for his troubles. His glasses cut the side of his face.

….[Air Force physician Richard] Tubb told reporters Bush reported a pretzel “did not go down right” and the doctor said it was possible a pretzel had lodged against a nerve and momentarily caused a decrease in the president’s heart rate, causing him to faint.

Baltimore won the playoff game 20-3.

Morals of the story: (1) I should pay more attention to events like this that provide cultural reference points, (2) protesters have long memories, and (3) Pejman is right: Glenn needs to crack a smile now and again. Maybe he should read Atrios more often?

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION….Whenever I read conservative

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION….Whenever I read conservative commentary on the U of Michigan affirmative action case, it always seems to focus on the fact that being black gets you 20 points in UM’s admissions scoring system. That’s 20 times what you get for writing an essay! That’s more than you get for a perfect SAT score!

But they never seem to eke out the space to mention that the primary part of the scoring system is high school GPA ? which counts for 80 points. Curious, isn’t it?

Now, I’m not saying that conservatives are taking a moderate program that’s designed to help minorities and lying about how it works in order to make it look like a wild lefty quota scheme that prevents white valedictorians from going to college. I’m not saying that. I’m just, you know, saying.