August 14th, 2015

Today's Activities Include: In Which T. Tries to Schedule His Own Play Date

I don't remember when I first started arranging social activities with my friends, but he seems a little young. Of course, part of that is because he only started talking a few years ago.

In any event, cell phones make it possible for kids who meet at school to exchange contact information and then text proposed plans back and forth. Alas, limited reading/writing ability in conjunction with just not having any experience scheduling anything meant it didn't really go anywhere. Eventually, the other little boy's mother intervened with a phone number, which then produced fax like tones when I called it. Then the sitter realized that the cookout T. wanted to go to at another home was going to be at the same time as the potential play date.

Maybe we'll make this happen on some other date.

Still, it was really cool that they tried.

The ACA Excise Tax Freakout/A Few Remarks About Section 9010 Excise Tax

So, I'm not referring to anything having to do with "cadillac" plans. I'm referring to the section 9010 excise tax.

You may read a definitive description of the section 9010 excise tax at the IRS website here:

This is not a tax paid by individuals. It is a tax paid by FOR PROFIT health insurance companies who are large enough (small ones are exempt; medium size ones get a break). If you have insurance from a company that self-insures, your company will not pay this tax. If you have insurance from a charitable organization, a health care co-op, or a health insurance organization that is a non-profit (for realz, not for fakes, there are some qualifiers on this), then your health insurance provider will not be paying this tax. If you have health insurance through a VEBA (kind of a union health care thing see wikipedia for deets, your health insurance organization does not pay this tax.

This is a really odd tax, in that the government is going to collect a certain amount of money ($11.3B in 2015, see the IRS link above) and that will be spread out among the eligible-to-pay insurance companies based on the amount of premiums they report. Unlike some taxes, they cannot deduct the fee they pay. If they try to pass it along to customers, they'll have to pay still more tax on that additional premium they collect.

Confusing, right? Which enables some right wing nutjobs to characterize this as a HUGE TAX that will affect EVERYONE WHO BUYS INSURANCE, which is blatantly not true. Now, for starters, the health care insurance industry (the for profit component at any rate) really doesn't like this, because it is Pressure on their Profit, and the way things are written, it is really hard to weasel out of it. Further, they are really stuck because a non-profit competitor has a real advantage when it comes to selling premiums -- they don't have to pay this thing.

So. Why does this sucker exist? And is it unfair? How much will it really translate into in premiums to a typical family? Almost impossible to tell, again, enabling the right wing nutjobs. Why write this confusing and odd law?

I'll tell you why. There is an obvious, good reason, and a less obvious, even better reason. (1) There is money coming in that helps bend the cost curve down on ACA, thus reducing the likelihood of a ballooning deficit. Yay! Or not, depending on your perspective (and I would argue a good socialist should absolutely LOVE this law, even tho it reduces the deficit and thus presumably reduces stimulus). (2) Some health insurance providers will go, fuck this noise, we're going back to being a non-profit. Some employers will choose insurance through non-profit insurance organizations and/or go with self-insured plans administered by someone else. All of this will, over time, REDUCE the number of organizations affected by the fee AT THE SAME TIME that the fee increases over time. Which means the pressure on the for-profit insurers will increase, and more of them will opt for non-profit status, and more consumers whether corporate or otherwise will opt for plans through non-profits because they are cheaper. It is a fucking snowball rolling downhill about to become an avalanche of No More For Profit Health Insurance Companies.

You can really see where this is the kind of thing that conservatives would resent, and the for-profit health insurance industry would find terrifying. Also, you can really see that this is the kind of thing that someone who is starting to think of themselves as a socialist, because Bernie Is Cool, well, that someone ought to be Right On Board with this.

(Again NONE of this is about the Cadillac Plan Excise Tax, see wikipedia here:

ETA: My husband adds: boy, Blue Shield of California losing its tax-exempt status will be impacted by this.

LA Times coverage of some of the issues surrounding Blue Shield of California.

Why I'm Married to My Husband

So, I remember over the years a lot of near misses with Chomsky and his ideas and followers. Since I'm interested in language learning and I have a computer science degree, it wasn't actually possible to avoid his work completely, but I will admit that I tried about as hard as I could. I thought (and I know in a lot more detail why now) that his political ideas were loony and scary, and found his assertions about language, Universal Grammar and how It Didn't Evolve and how animals don't have any kind of precursor to our language blah blah bleeping blah to be suspect on the face of it. And then there's the way he treats his critics.

I'm currently reading what seems to be a Pretty Good Overview of the state of research on second language learning. ( And as I'm reading a brief mention of some of Chomsky's ideas about the origin of language, I'm sitting here going, dude is nuts. This is right up there with thinking Pluto is a planet (does it orbit the sun? Yes. Is it big enough to call a planet? Oh HELL no. And it is entertaining beyond belief to listen to Neil Degrasse Tyson on the subject of why it took so freaking long to unbadge it as a planet, but it more or less comes down to, it took that one guy a long time to die and no one felt like arguing with him). And I think that the idea of a Universal Grammar is going to die approximately the same way the Pluto Is a Planet theory died (see, that's why you should read my parenthetical remarks).

You're probably wondering (I know I will be someday when I come back and read this having forgotten the events that led to me posting this), what's up with that subject line up there?

Well, similar degrees, both have the same (first) second language, both formed roughly equivalent ideas about Chomsky, for roughly the same reasons, and chose to not do or say a whole lot about those ideas for roughly the same reasons. This isn't the _only_ reason we're together, but there are _so many examples_ of this that it is absolutely startling, every time a new one pops up.

You, of course, may well adore Chomsky (I would wager for his politics, but I could be wrong), Believe in a Universal Grammar and otherwise behave in ways that look teleological from the outside, and make me wonder if you are gonna flip and turn into an Intelligent Design believer when I'm not paying attention.

I have my suspicions about people like this

Continuing to read _Second Language Learning Theories_ by Mitchell, Myles and Marsden (oooh, 3M!). Story about "psycholinguist Martin Braine" trying to improve his daughter's grammar, quoted in some book by Pinker (oh, wow, I don't know why I failed to notice that the first time through). Kid persists in saying "Want other one spoon" when Dad thinks she should say, "want the other spoon". Of course, as Good Parents, we recognize that when your daughter says "want other one spoon", you are absolutely going to once again Thank The Great Goddess Above, Below And Within Us All because our child has successfully communicated a desire that we can actually fulfill and then go on with our morning. Braine, however, is an ass, and attempts to make her say it "the right way". Kid wasn't born yesterday (presumably more than a year ago, possibly more), and complies with Dad's detailed demands to repeat individual words and then immediately returns to "give me other one spoon". Because even a toddler knows better than to pay any attention to Dad when he's on another one of his kicks.

This, however, is NOT THE MORAL DRAWN! Shocking, I know! It's like some people fail to learn the correct lessons from parenting, and instead conclude a bunch of unjustified nonsense about "children do not seem susceptible to adult correction". Really? Really?!? Not when you do it the way Braine did it, no they aren't susceptible. Years ago (decades, when I'm honest) Uncle Cecil (shared pseudonym) did this great analysis of whether cats or dogs are smarter by reviewing the scientific research on the ability of cats and dogs to learn things the scientists were attempting to teach them. Never mind that, it turned out the cats were way better at teaching other cats what they had learned (ditto with the dogs -- it's a general truth, actually) than the scientists were at initially training the cats. When I've discussed this with a friend who has the ability to get animals to do all kinds of things you wouldn't think an animal could do (or would do upon polite request), I learned that he, too, had seen some of this research and agreed that the scientists in question were Not Good At Their Task.


Anyway. This is from chapter two, an overview of past ideas about how all this stuff worked so one really hopes that people have gotten a bit more clever altho I am not optimistic because people still quote Piaget as if he was onto anything at all, really, I know, it is hard to believe.