Saturday, 26 December 2009

Health care reform finally making it, but there's not much to cheer about in the bill, unless you own insurance stocks. I appreciate the fact that it's finally going to do away with this draconian denial of coverage because of pre-existing conditions, one of the key things that I was hoping to see come out of this bill and something I'm very relieved to see put into place. Also, it puts in place some very significant subsidies for health insurance. But what I don't see it doing is anything about the high and ever increasing costs of health care. We see in this bill, I think, the continuation of the worst of all possible worlds. No public option that might allow us to see a powerful government insurance entity that could negotiate better pricing nor do we see any innovation that could result in true competition and price drops from that effect.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Player Effectiveness Measures

I think I've argued here before that hockey needs to undergo a sabermetrification of sorts, an analysis of the metrics that we use to determine how effective a player is being in particular situations, how well a team is doing as compared to earlier teams, how effective the power play unit is, etc. I've recently discovered On Goal Analysis, a site with an associated blog, that apparently shares my interest. Recently they've undertaken to design a metric that measure overall effectiveness. This metric works by measuring the number of points scored per shift and the number of "defensive actions" per shift.

I think the intent is laudable, but it's not clear to me that this is a better metric than the old fashioned +/- metric that simply calculates the difference between the number of even strength goals scored while you were on the ice and the number scored against your team. After all, not all defensive actions are equal. Some hits are light or result in the hitter falling out of the play, some blocked shots weren't headed for the net or fervent shot blockers may also have a tendency to screen their goaltenders. Similarly, not all shifts are equal. Some players spend more time on power plays, others on penalty kills. Some teams favour longer shifts, other short shifts. And considering only points scored per shift overlooks the offensive actions that can lead to goals but not count as points or "defensive actions". At the very least, I'd have liked to have seen this changed to points/defensive action/minute played, but even then we're ignoring power plays. The old +/- effectively addresses all these things without overly favouring power play units and hurting penalty kill units. Presumably, if your defensive actions are effective, the long term result is fewer goals scored against you. Show me a man with a high 'defensive action/shift' and a lousy +/- and I'll show you a poor hitter or shot blocker.

So, I like the old +/-, the main disadvantage being that it's not very effective at measuring player power play and penalty kill contribution. But here's a way to do that: for each player measure the power play goals/per power play minute played (or net goals, subtracting shorthanded goals) and number of goals scored against/per penalty kill minute. Then compare that to the team average. Is the player a positive or negative contributor to these situations?


I loathe Joe Lieberman. With memories of his cheerleading for the Iraq war and Dick Rumsfeld fresh in my mind, I now have to sit back and watch while this political no-mind, ignoring the wishes of his constituents, undermines health care reform out of spite. For, apparently this Medicare extension that his conscience allegedly requires him to reject is very similar to something he himself argued for just a few months ago, may before his insurance company supporters let him know that they didn't like it. But this process does give us some insight into how Lieberman's political mind works, from this article:

And he said he was particularly troubled by the overly enthusiastic reaction to the proposal by some liberals, including Representative Anthony Weiner, Democrat of New York, who champions a fully government-run health care system.

I guess that's one way to avoid thought and analysis. Wait to learn where an ideological opponent stands and then take the opposite view, may not always be sensible, but it may be a route to consistency, assuming your opponent is consistent, and it beats thinking.

(I agree with Glenn Greenwald that the Obama WhiteHouse has been intentionally feckless and/or subservient to the health care lobby on this issue as well, just wanted to point out why I find Lieberman so particularly contemptible.)

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

A Lesson ...

Remember when Canada was the "greatest country in the world"? In a few short years it has fallen from that to "thuggish petro state" and international environmental laughingstock. Let this be a lesson to anyone inclined to vote for conservatives.

Thursday, 10 December 2009


From an article entitled "Obama defends US wars as he accepts peace prize":

"President Barack Obama entered the pantheon of Nobel Peace Prize winners Thursday ... delivering a robust defense of war ..."

Fortunately for Obama, nobody reads anymore or we'd be all over him about Orwellian doublespeak.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Food, Inc.

I watched the documentary Food, Inc. last night. I thought it was really excellent, managing to pull together a number of important issues including Monsanto's patents on plant species, intimidation practices, domination of the food market by only four companies, the centrality of corn in the food industry and its role in the prevalence of dangerous e coli, ridiculous libel laws, impotence of the USDA, corn subsidies, treatment of animals and meat packing plant conditions. I highly recommend it.

It brought to mind another issue that wasn't directly addressed in the movie but is connected to those issues, namely, the use of artificial bovine growth hormone, rBGH, to increase milk production in dairy cows. In some places, presumably under pressure from scummy corporations like Monsanto, states are considering or have passed legislation to ban the practice of labeling milk that is not taken from cows that have been given artificial growth hormone to increase milk production. In other words, they don't want consumers to be able to know whether or not their milk has come from rBGH treated cows. Europe, Canada, Japan and New Zealand ban the use of rBGH, but in the US not only is it legal but they're seeking to prevent us from knowing on which milk it has been used. The argument is that milk from cows so treated is indistinguishable from milk from cows that didn't receive it. Setting aside the fact that claims that rBGH milk has no ill effect on human health are probably just untrue, what galls me about this is the fact that it displays absolutely no concern for the animals. I refuse to drink rBGH milk not, primarily, because I'm worried about its effects on my health, but because of my concern about effects on the cow, i.e., increased mastitis and lameness and decreased fertility.