The Daily Blague

Daily Office Archives

Daily Office:
Thursday, 12 November 2009


Matins: Darshak Sanghavi, a pediatric cardiologist and the health-care columnist at Slate, writes lucidly about medical-malpractice litigation. The tort-based system is broken, but it works, sort of. Dr Sanghavi likens it to a casino — terrifying doctors as a class while overcompensating a handful of plaintiffs — but he also attributes significant drops in patient injuries to lessons learned. (via The Morning News)

Damage caps may protect doctors from lawsuits, but they do little to help patients. There are other, much better, ideas out there, and they deserve bipartisan support since they allow everyone—doctors, patients, and taxpayers—to win. Michelle Mello, a health law professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and a leading researcher on medical liability, outlines three examples: promoting "disclosure-and-offer" programs in which health providers are incentivized to fess up quickly to mistakes and offer prompt compensation; creating neutral tribunals that evaluate evidence and recommend damages; and proclaiming federal "safe harbors" where doctors are immunized from lawsuits if they adhere to evidence-based practices, as Dr. Merenstein did.

Lauds: Two public spaces that people will know better from photographs than from visits: The National September 11 Memorial & Museum (when and if) and the White House. The latter, which is indeed a house, requires periodic replacement therapy, in the form of "redecoration," a word that, Martin Filler tells us, Jacqueline Kennedy didn't like. (via Felix Salmon and The Morning News)

Jacqueline Kennedy’s real mistake was to disingenuously call her celebrated project a “restoration,” because she thought the word “redecoration” sounded frivolous and faddish. Though Dietz and Watters are technically correct when they note that “Even though documentary evidence survives to restore any one of the state rooms to a specific historic period, they bear little resemblance, in their artifacts or their decoration, to their appearance at any given moment in history,” they fail to acknowledge that all restorations, no matter how accurate, inevitably bear telltale signs of the times that produced them and thus can never be wholly “authentic.”

The curious thing about public spaces is that the public feels qualified to suggest improvements.

Prime: Felix Salmon reminds us that nothing is riskier than a market in which everyone shuns risk.

The crisis wasn't a function of too many people taking on too much risk and then coming a cropper — it was much more a function of too many people being incredibly overcautious and demanding limitless quantities of risk-free triple-A-rated paper.

The fact is that if the rest of the world is out there taking risks, then it's quite easy for an individual investor to limit their risk exposure and be safe. But if everybody tries to be safe at the same time, that creates the biggest risks of all — and yes will increase the severity of any crisis.

Tierce: Muscato remembers his family's observance of Veteran's Day.

In those days, one felt a genuine connection to World War I, and the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. It was, after all, Grandfather's war, even if he never ventured closer to the Marne than Buffalo. It still surprises me that they're all gone now, World War I vets, every one of them.

Sext: Two pieces that were printed side-by-side in the Times, and ought to have appeared in the same fashion online. Food colleagues Kim Severson and Julia Moskin are Jack Sprat and his wife about Thanksgiving. For Ms Severson, it is all about turkey. For Ms Moskin, the turkey is a turkey. The bitchery is quite amiable.

Ms Severson: Although the softer stuffing cooked in the bird had its fans, it didn’t please Little Miss Side Dish. “I think the problem is that you didn’t toast the bread,” she pointed out between rounds of praise for her curried sweet potatoes and roasted cauliflower.

I didn’t run from the table. I didn’t cry. I just offered everyone seconds on turkey and passed the gravy. After all, that’s what they really wanted.

Ms Moskin: Every November, my colleague Kim Severson likes to chew over the Big Issues: brining versus barding, tenting versus turning, organic versus heritage birds. Her annual quest for a perfect turkey is deeply felt, heroic and — to my mind — irritating and perverse.

It smells good in the oven and looks good on the table (I know where your eyes are going), but doesn’t it always disappoint on the fork?

Nones: We're not quite sure why the offer would help negotiations along, but the UK will return 45 square miles of sovereign territory on Cyprus to — to whom? (BBC News)

BBC world affairs correspondent Mike Wooldridge said the British government first made its conditional offer in 2003, before modifying it in 2004. The same offer has now been repeated.

There are two British bases in the British sovereign territory.

It is understood they would both continue in operation after the handing over of the territory.

The Greek and Turkish Cypriots restarted peace negotiations in September last year, and it is understood that the British government hopes that renewing this offer now could give "a bit of a boost to a process that seems to lack movement".

We can remember when Cyprus was in the news every day. Remember Archbishop Makarios?

Vespers: Dan Hill's review of Alain de Botton's Heathrow book, A Week at the Airport, is long and serious but hugely compelling, inspired to be challenging where the book under review leaves off. For example, after quoting the passage about an interview with an airline CEO that stressed the fact that neither the CEO nor Mr de Botton works in a profit-making industry, Mr Hill cocks an eyebrow. (City of Sound; via The Tomorrow Museum)

Yet this is also overly-romantic tosh, for if this were the case, and airlines were more akin to literature or equivalent, then surely airlines would offer a far more interesting experience. The problem with civil aviation - one of them - is that it is run as a business to a very tight profit-and-loss statement, and so tends to cut as many corners as possible. It’d be fascinating to idly speculate how, over and above a baseline of completely safe operation, civil aviation would be a different experience if it were seen as a subsidised art form. Something more akin to the Pan Am in 2001: A Space Odyssey perhaps …

Compline: David Dobbs argues for replacing the "vulnerability" model of genetic variation with an "orchid" model. The older thinking holds that variants increase their carriers' vulnerability to disorder. The new idea acknowledges vulnerability but also inverts it, seeing heightened access to special skills. (The Atlantic)

For more than a decade, proponents of the vulnerability hypothesis have argued that certain gene variants underlie some of humankind’s most grievous problems: despair, alienation, cruelties both petty and epic. The orchid hypothesis accepts that proposition. But it adds, tantalizingly, that these same troublesome genes play a critical role in our species’ astounding success.

But then, didn't we know that? "Great wits are sure to madness near allied"?

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