The New Blog Order, Mark IV

OK, I really don’t know how many “New Blog Orders” there have been; I just thought “Mark IV” sounded good.

Anyway, here’s the new deal, for now: Comments won’t appear unless I approve them. (And yes, we’ve been here before, in a previous regime change. The video above of me explaining this very same approach was shot during a family gathering at my house in July 2007. See how unhappy I was with having to take this approach? That’s the way I look now, only without the grubby beginning of a beard. Sort of amazing, isn’t it, that as fed up as I was then, I’m still trying? I’m nothing if not persistent.)

I’m going to do that for a few days at least, and then I hope to go to something less stringent, not that there are a lot of options. I see, for instance, that WordPress provides the option of “Comment author must have a previously approved comment,” which sounds nice, but what good is it really? I prefer to judge a comment by its own merits, not by who posted it. Lee, for instance (and Lee really resents being picked on, and he’ll probably see this as being picked on, but let’s face it; his name is the one my readers most frequently bring up as an irritant), sometimes posts perfectly fine comments that add to the conversation. I’m not saying it happens every day, but it happens. So, going by my own preferred standards, I would approve that one good comment — and under the “Comment author must have a previously approved comment,” he would then have carte blanche to return to his habitual ways.

Ultimately, the place where I think I’ll end up is that I’ll open the gates back up, but I’ll make a point of checking comments several times a day, and just delete anything that doesn’t contribute to this being a place that encourages thoughtful people who want to engage in good-faith dialogue.

And I know those people are out there. Just this morning, I was meeting with a prominent local attorney — a public-spirited guy who is a great public speaker and has a lot to say — mentioned to me that there was NO WAY he was going to spend any of his life wrestling in the mud with a bunch of trolls on a blog. And the bad thing about that is, he is just the kind of person I wish would join in with our dialogues here — I want lots of people like him, from across the political spectrum (and those of you on the left or right who think there are no thoughtful people with something worthwhile to say on the opposite end of the spectrum; well, you’re part of the problem).

So in this latest effort to foster the kind of place that he and other like him would consider worthy of his time, I’m going with a standard that goes beyond the mere absence of incivility. I’m going to look for posts that actually contribute something. I’m going for positive attributes, rather than just the absence of negative ones. Because serious people (or for that matter, people who like to have a little fun, just not at other people’s expense) deserve a blog that answers that description.

At this point, some of you are furiously writing to me to say, “You just want comments that agree with you!” which is ridiculous. That’s a ploy to get me to back down on enforcing standards, and post something that calls me and people who agree with me names just to prove how “fair” I am. Well, you know what? I’m not falling for that. I’ve heard it too many thousands of times from people who just can’t be bothered to disagree in a civilized manner.

I know that I’ve always given precedence to people who disagree with me. And anyone who’s followed my career and is not seriously challenged in the reading comprehension department knows that about me. But from now on, you’re going to disagree in a way that it doesn’t run off well-behaved people. You’re going to disagree in a way that makes people think, “Maybe he’s got a point” instead of “What a jerk!” I realize this is going to be a challenge for some, but I hope the rest of you will appreciate it.

And if you don’t, or if you just can’t bring yourself to meet the new standard, you are completely free to go start your own blog. This one’s mine, and I’m not going to waste time with it unless I think it’s getting better, and providing a worthwhile forum.

39 thoughts on “The New Blog Order, Mark IV

  1. kbfenner

    I remember what a revelation reading William F. Buckley, Jr., was for me as a preciously liberal youngster –maybe 12. I was struck by how much sense he made. I went on to read the books he had in the Aiken library–Cruising Speed was one I recall. This was before he wrote the “Saving the Queen” Blackford Oakes novels and the sailing books–which I also read. He could be waggish and condescending, and I seldom agreed with him, but I almost always respected his opinions.
    I also learned great words like procrusteanization and paradigm.

  2. Burl Burlingame

    Probably the best blog in the country right now is Roger Ebert’s, and he gets hundreds of comments. And he screens every one.

  3. Birch Barlow

    In school, you had to raise your hand to be called on. Otherwise the children would become unruly and no one would learn much. It’s a shame that the blog works the same way. But you’re the blogman. It’s your classroom to run.

    I never liked sitting in class waiting to be called on all that much. I think I hear the bell ringing anyway…

  4. doug_ross

    I don’t buy the whole “don’t want to spend any of his life wrestling in the mud with a bunch of trolls on a blog” statement.

    It typically would come from someone who is not used to nor interested in having his opinion challenged in any way. Politicians and lawyers are not big on having to provide factual evidence for their opinions.

    As the saying goes, “If you can’t the trolls, stay out of the blog”.

    This isn’t a debate. You don’t have to respond to anything… as we see when people ignore facts when it weakens their argument. Just like yesterday when I posted a link to an article showing the strains the Canadian healthcare system is experiencing. Hard to counter that evidence, so the pro-government types just pretend it doesn’t exist.

  5. Elliott1

    Great ideas. I know I’ll take the time to read comments if they are not pages of the same people saying the same things. One idea I had (don’t know if this is technologically feasible) is to list items from newest to oldest rather than oldest to newest. Then, set the blog so each commenter can only leave one comment per blog entry. Maybe another section called “more comments from repeat commentators” could be added. Then, people who enjoy arguing could have a spot, and people who don’t enjoy reading it would not have to ploy through it to hear fresh ideas.
    Also, thanks for explaining why journalists just don’t write blogs and sell ads and quit worrying about the decline of print newspapers. was very upset when Thanks, also, for the explaining the reason that The State quit delivering or even supplying paper racks in my county. I can understand that. I don’t like it, but I understand.

  6. Brad Warthen

    Doug, actually, politicians are probably more accustomed to having their statements challenged than anyone else on the face of the planet, me included.

    And lawyers either present factual evidence for their opinions, or they go hungry. It’s what they do; it’s what they’re trained to do.

    And Doug, I went ahead and approved this, but since I’m avoiding using “gummint” because you don’t like it, how about not dismissing someone who is not ANTI-government as “pro-government types.” That’s not a really BAD thing to call somebody, I guess (compared to the out-and-out insults that prompted this policy), but it’s pretty dismissive.

    Even I, lover of Big Brother that I am, don’t think of myself as “pro-government.” I think of myself as agnostic on the subject. Lots of folks react negatively to the idea of government involvement; I don’t react either way, except I DO react against what seems to me an excessive prejudice. In other words, to someone who is almost always anti-government, or tends in that direction, I’m sure I SEEM “pro-government.” But I don’t see myself that way.

    To me, a given situation should be addressed either privately or publicly, depending on what will work better IN THAT SITUATION.

  7. Brad Warthen

    Thanks for joining in, Elliot1. I don’t know whether your suggestions are technically feasible in WordPress, but I’ll look into it…

    You raise a good point about repetitiveness. I hope to avoid it, and encourage the discussion to move along rather than get caught in a loop. But the main thing I’m concentrating on now is just guaranteeing civility.

  8. Brad Warthen

    OK, folks, I’m going to take a break — I’m going over to my parents’ house for dinner.

    If you post something and it takes a while for me to approve it, please be patient. I realize this is not the ideal situation, but I’m convinced it’s something we need to do at the moment if this is to be a constructive space…

  9. Randy E

    Doug the Anarchist (DtA), you used one version of government health care and generalized the heck out of it. The UK system is excellent. People there can purchase private insurance but when it’s time to have a baby, they choose the national system.

    The system we have now is atrocious. It’s getting exponentially more expensive, tens of millions are uninsured, and many with insurance get screwed over (hope that doesn’t get me whacked by Big Brother Brad).

  10. Brad Warthen

    In approving that, I’m assuming that Doug will take “Doug the Anarchist” as a joke.

    If you don’t, Doug, let me know. I’d rather err on the side of not offending you…

    By the way, not only did Randy say “screwed,” but on a separate comment he said “butt.” Sigh. We’re just defining deviance downward, aren’t we?

  11. Karen McLeod

    Thankyou for the changes. I hope you won’t be stuck screening forever. The reason I follow the blog is because of the diverse opinions offered. I hope to see more people return now, and fresh voices join.

  12. doug_ross


    There isn’t any word that can offend me unless I choose to allow it to offend me.

    I’m fine with anarchist. That’s probably what they called Paul Revere.

  13. doug_ross

    And, Randy, I’ve been in Canada for two weeks and have seen articles every day in the Toronto Globe and Mail about problems with the healthcare system.

    Today: Canadian government is delaying the swine flu vaccine to the public until they decide it is time to release it. Should that be a government decision or a personal decision?

    Last week it was the health minister resigning due to wasting $1B in tax dollars.

    You’re a math teacher: which is larger $1B wasted by the government or $10 million in salary made by 100 CEO’s? Answer: it’s the same.

  14. Randy E

    Dang BBB (Big Brother Brad) is running a tight ship – “butt” is at the threshhold of getting one whacked?

    Doug offended? The only thing that offends him is PACT, the fact that the Cola City officials got raises and Papelbon’s pitching.

    (I hope using “dang” doesn’t get me whacked.)

  15. Karen McLeod

    Doug, When the problem is that someone in government wasted money on any given project, then the solution is not to deny money to a general area (like health or education or roads) but to figure out how to keep the waste from happening again. Do we need to get rid of that person or at least relieve him/her/them of the responsiblity of allocating money or projects? Do we need to put limits or parameters on projects beyond which they have to get more general, or even public approval? Do we elect/appoint someone(s) to provide oversight, stipulating that they may not have any connection to those who benefit directly from said project? Simply denying an area more funds (or next year’s funds) ultimately hurts us all if the area is needed.

  16. Bart

    doug, after reading comments about the Canadian system and doing some research, it is not any better than what we have in America. They have all of the same problems we do, they have abusers who send their children to live in Canada and use the health care system while contributing nothing, they have citizens who live and work out of the country who come home to take advantage of the health care system but again, do not contribute anything in taxes. Some apply for a Canadian passport or dual citizenship in order to use the available services.

    Hospitals complain about the lack of funding and reduction in services, fraud is being uncovered constantly, and all of the other negatives we find in our system.

    Each providence has their own set of rules and requlations for health care services with only a set of government guidelines and requirements that must be followed by each providence.

    All you need do is take the time to research available sites on the internet, both pro and con.

    Does this imply we don’t need to make changes to our system, absolutely not! There are flaws and inequitities that should be addressed and corrected. But, once the issue became politicized, the real problems were overshadowed by partisan rhetoric – from both sides.

    I still hold to the belief that we have the best health care available in the world. Not necessarily the best system but the best providers, doctors, hospitals, laboratories, drugs, diagnostic equipment, and anything else relating to medicine. How to pull it all together to best serve our citizens and not destroy what we have is the problem.

    I do not have faith in the coalition of miscreants inside the beltway to come up with the best solution or solutions. Too much has been invested on the political side without enough on the taxpayers side, Democrat or Republican.

  17. doug_ross


    When the fundamental system is broken, repeating the process with a different set of people in charge doesn’t make a difference.

    If I drive a Yugo with a flat tire, replacing the driver won’t make a difference.

    Today’s Canadian healthcare news from the front page of the Toronto Globe and Mail:

    Key quotes:

    “A test that could tell which patients are less likely to benefit from the drug is not widely available in Canada. The test is being done in the United States, but it is expensive, and requires women to send blood samples or cheek swabs to the U.S. labs that perform it.”

    The issue appears to be that there is disagreement as to whether the test is reliable or not. Until the government says it is, women are paying the $500 out of their own pockets to pay for it.

    “”When we have good scientific evidence,” said Dr. Gelmon, a medical oncologist, in a telephone interview from Vancouver, B.C., “we will rush to put it into guidelines.””

    Think about that. This is the crux of government provided healthcare. The government decides what is covered and what is not covered. The government decides what is too expensive to offer to the citizens. It’s rationing of care.

    Now if an insurance company denied access to that test, the pro-government people would be calling Michael Moore to film a documentary about it…

  18. Brad Warthen

    Come on, Doug…

    First, I wouldn’t call Michael Moore to do anything (or am I leaping wrongly to the conclusion that you would include me among “the pro-government people”?). I find the guy hyper-obnoxious.

    Second, do you really, truly believe that the business model of private insurance companies not only includes denying care for procedures and medicines, but depends upon it?

    Does that mean that, if you hammer at them long enough, they won’t eventually pay up? No, not usually. The cases in which, after you’ve exhausted all appeals, the company will say NO are rare. The case I described a while back, in which my former insurance provider refused to cover Zyrtec not matter what I or my doctor said or did, is one of those cases. (Finally, someone with the company admitted over the phone that there really WAS no appeal, even though several previous people had encouraged me to appeal.)

    But that’s not the way it usually works. Usually, they just refuse to cover it initially, and through the first few phone calls and letters, and eventually give in if you’re persistent enough. Which, by the way, is exactly what a governmental program would likely do in the long run: At first, deny a procedure or medication in the name of containing costs, but knuckle under when you raised enough of a stink. In fact, the public entity would be far more susceptible to such pressure, since it must answer to the public. The problem with the public option, if you understand how the world works, is not that it would deny care, but that it would ultimately fail in its mission of containing costs. Which is what makes it ridiculous that the anti-government faction raises fears of denial of care.

    Anyway, if you don’t know how insurance denies care and denies it and denies it before giving in, you must not have dealt with a really serious, expensive illness in your family — such as, say, long-term treatment against cancer. My wife has had to fight the same battles over and over with regard to a regular treatment prescribed by her oncologist. They deny coverage, she appeals, they deny it again, and eventually she gets to someone who says, “Of COURSE you’re covered on that.” Then, the next month, she goes through the same thing AGAIN, with the same procedure. It’s like Groundhog Day. And no matter how she begs them to make a notation in their file to the effect that this has already been adjudicated and found to be covered, it happens over and over.

    So you say, “What’s the big deal? In the end, you’re covered, right?” Well, the problem is that the world is full of people who aren’t as smart and persistent as my wife, who will take “no” for an answer, who don’t get that they’re supposed to haggle over a life-preserving treatment.

    It seems plain to me — and yeah, I’m inferring here, but it seems a pretty fair inference — that the business model is based in the expectation that a lot of people will just accept the “no.”

    This approach is not unique to health insurance. I’ve run into it with auto and homeowner’s insurance as well, and it probably translates to other businesses as well….

  19. Brad Warthen

    Doug, I just looked again at what you said — “The government decides what is covered and what is not covered. The government decides what is too expensive to offer to the citizens. It’s rationing of care” — and just can’t stop shaking my head.

    It makes me wonder whether you’ve ever dealt with private insurance at all. Have you never, for instance, perused a company’s “approved medications” list — one which, you will find, doesn’t correlate very well with a list of what’s effective and what isn’t, but correlates beautifully with what is EXPENSIVE…

    I’m not saying the companies shouldn’t try to contain costs. But please, PLEASE don’t act like the private sector doesn’t do that. It’s fundamental to what they do.

    Another point about Medicare and waste and corruption, etc. — I will always expect to hear more about problems in a public program than in a private one, for the simple reason that it is PUBLIC.

    There is a level of accountability in the public sector, by definition, than in the private. I realize that those who believe markets are the root of all good don’t believe that; they think that the market and the profit motive makes private companies more accountable.

    But if you were a journalist, you’d know that it’s WAY easier to find out what’s going on in a government agency than in the private sector. That’s the way the rules of society are set up. I always pitied my colleagues who covered business, because they were so limited to what a company chose to tell them, or to the limited info available from the areas where private companies were regulated by the SEC or other PUBLIC agencies.

    This is why you will always read a lot more in newspapers about problems in government than in private companies. Problems in private companies will generally remain hidden until they fail completely. With government agencies, it’s drip, drip, drip, one revelation after another.

    Which, ironically, is why so many people believe that government is so hopeless. The media shows them its flaws with such monotonous regularity.

    By the way, this is not just because government agencies are statutorily naked, via FOI and other rules. News organizations also consider it to be their MISSION, as the Fourth Estate, to tell you what’s going on in government. It’s our crucial role in democracy. And while the private sector may have interesting stories to be told, telling them is not as vital a function of the NEWS…

  20. doug_ross

    The case I mentioned denied ACCESS to the test for THE ENTIRE COUNTRY.
    You cannot get the test in Canada.
    The women are sending the tests to the U.S.

    Is that better, same, or worse than an individual insurance company denying payment for a procedure? You could still get your Zyrtec. You just had to pay for it, right? Now my insurance company did pay for Zyrtec when it wasn’t generic. It was at a higher co-pay but it was still available and still cheaper than paying for it myself.

    Maybe you should tell us who your insurance company was so we can avoid that one. Maybe as a high ranking executive at The State you should have pressured your bosses to provide different insurance options — did all your co-workers complain about The State’s coverage? Why didn’t The State do something about it — i.e. uses the marketplace to find a provider that gave better service?

    I’ve had no real problems with United Healthcare or my prior company’s insurance plan – ever. 15 years with a wife and three kids. Kidney stone surgery for me. Two births. Multiple sprains, MRI’s, ongoing medical situations with the kids. I can’t be the only person who has had a reasonable experience dealing with insurance companies.

    My point all along has been that switching care over to the government only means a new set of problems. Some different, some the same. And the two biggest hurdles that will have to be overcome are the fact that the government does not have a track record for providing “best in class” service in any area and figuring out how to make paying for “free” healthcare fair to everyone. It won’t happen.

  21. doug_ross

    One last thing – did you ever write any editorials or opinion pieces that called out BY NAME the insurance company that was causing you so much grief? You had a great “bully pulpit” to instigate a PR nightmare for that company? Did you ever consider doing that?

  22. Birch Barlow

    Now if an insurance company denied access to that test, the pro-government people…

    The labels “pro-government” and “anti-government” are misnomers at best.

    We all believe there are certain things a government should do and shouldn’t do.

    If I believe government should regulate pollution that doesn’t mean I’m pro-government (in the sense that it was used above; certainly I am not against my own government). If my neighbor believes health care should be left to the free market, that doesn’t mean he’s anti-government. It just means we all believe there are certain things a government should do and shouldn’t do and we disagree to the extent of its role.

  23. doug_ross

    Brad says “Another point about Medicare and waste and corruption, etc. — I will always expect to hear more about problems in a public program than in a private one, for the simple reason that it is PUBLIC.”

    Do you seriously think that if a private insurance company had an instance of fraud of even $1M, that there wouldn’t be news about it? The big companies are publicly traded and have to have audited books. Are you telling me the companies are hiding all the fraud and illegal activity? This is another one of those cases where you need to prove what you claim to be true.

    We’re talking about BILLIONS of dollars of Medicare fraud. BILLIONS. How does that happen if the system doesn’t allow it? Why do you suppose there are no checks put in place to prevent it BEFORE it happens? Accountability after the money is stolen isn’t very useful. We need accountability before it is stolen. And that doesn’t happen in a system not motivated by profit.

  24. doug_ross


    I use the term pro-government loosely so I don’t have to type “pro-government single-payer healthcare advocates”. Sorry.

    I’m pro-government. Just pro-smallest-government-possible-to-maximize-efficiency-fairness-and-protect-basic-liberty. i.e. an anarchist.

  25. Brad Warthen

    Doug, I’ve had the same company as you (United Healthcare), as well as Blue Cross, Aetna, and it seems like there was a fourth one which is slipping my mind.

    And I would not single out any one of them as more or less good or bad. What I have noted is that over time — whether the company stayed with the same provider, or moved to another in an effort to contain costs and (I believe, sincerely) provide for employees’ health needs — I’ve paid more, and experienced more strictures and reluctance to pay. I believe that reflects rising costs, and the companies’ desire to contain costs and keep up profits (something they are obliged to do, for the sake of shareholders).

    You’re approaching this the way anti-war Democrats approach terrorism — as crimes committed by specific individuals, and all we need to do is prosecute (or, in this case, name) the guilty, thereby exonerating the innocent.

    I look at it more systemically. I don’t believe this system of competing private entities trying to provide a service while making a profit (something which, once more, I don’t blame them for doing, because that’s what they’re in business for) is working very well. And I think the companies are right to believe that they would not be able to compete with a “public option,” either in terms of price or service.

    I believe that one huge risk pool is more cost-effective than any smaller group. I believe a nationwide pool of insured larger than any private companies would have vastly more clout in negotiating rates or prices, thereby having a positive effect on rising costs (while still not being a magic bullet that solves that problem). And most of all, I believe that we MUST get to the point at which we can go out and start a business, or change jobs, without worrying whether one of the people we love most in the world will die from lack of health care just because we were ambitious or wanted to do something new.

    These are systemic ideas. I tend to think that way, instead of in terms of specific cases. It’s why Doug and I are often at odds. He wants chapter and verse. He wants names and dates and numbers. All of which I respect. If the world were all intuitive people like me (and according to Myers-Briggs, I push “intuitive” until it screams), we’d be in a lot of trouble. We could dream of going to the moon, but couldn’t do the engineering work to get there, for instance.

    I realize that. But sometimes I wish I could better communicate to the specifics-oriented folks what I’m seeing when I leap to my conclusions…

    But I digress… always.

  26. bud

    Doug have you actually had to deal with the nightmare of the insurance industry? Maybe you’re very wealthy or healthy or both. If so, great. I hope it stays that way. But my family has had to deal with both medicare and private insurance and medicare has the private insurance beat hands down on how easy it is to work with, cost, effectiveness, etc. Even though my family HAS insurance, and pretty good insurance at that, we still have to pay many thousands of dollars every year for various treatments, drugs and tests.

    Maybe I’m just one of those who accepts denial well and I don’t fight the restrictions. But it shouldn’t be that way. Give me the fraud, waste and inefficiency of medicare over the obsession with profit and big CEO payola any day.

  27. kbfenner

    What we have now leaves many people uninsured, underinsured or trapped in a job with benefits instead of pursuing what might be a better mousetrap by becoming entrepreneurs. Universal coverage, such as Canada has, or any other universal coverage model, would be a more just model.
    I heard on The World (NPR) how incredibly expensive Switzerland’s mandatory private insurance is. Canada provides what it can afford to everyone,instead of some people who win the insurance lottery getting the world’s best health care and others getting bupkis.

    I woke up short of breath when I was 21 years old and living in England. No prior health concerns. I received excellent care–no wait, and paid only for my meals. After exhaustive testing of heart and lungs, they ruled out everything but viral bronchitis. Lord knows what it would have cost in the US.

  28. Doug Ross


    Of course the Medicare costs are easier to deal with.

    If you’re on Medicare,

    a) You aren’t paying full cost for services. You’re paying a below market rate that the government monopoly controls.


    b) You aren’t paying the premiums for the care you are receiving. I am!

    You can’t beat being part of a system where you don’t have to worry about cost or premiums. It just breaks down when everybody is in the same system.

    I have never denied that individuals have had issues with insurance companies. It happens. Just like any business, there are those that provide good service and those that do not. It’s no different than if I buy a new car and it breaks down right after I drove off the lot. That doesn’t mean we turn the auto business over to the government (ooops.. we did!!!)

  29. kbfenner

    Why do doctors, particularly specialists, make so much more money here than elsewhere, and so much more money than most of the rest of us? Medical school loans ought to be a thing of the past–the government needs to decide how many of what kind of doctors we need, just like they decide how many hospital beds we need, and fund those slots in medical school for the best qualified candidates. Then there is no excuse for doctors to charge as much as they do for the rest of their careers.

    I know this sounds like socialism–woo woo–but it’s how you control health care costs fairly. They do it in the rest of the world.It’s how we allocate hospital beds–certificates of need have to be issued–you can’t just build a heart hospital because you want to and you think you can make a lot of money.

  30. martin

    Doug, the Medicare premium is deducted from Social Security Retirement checks every single month. It increases every year, like a COLA. I saw it every month for the 20 years my mother lived after she retired.
    Where did some people, including some politician from what I gather, get the idea Medicare is free?
    But, it is reasonable. Very reasonable for someone with chronic medical problems. How many millions are in the pool?

    Brad, I trust your wife worked and paid into Social Security. If she hasn’t already done so, she should apply for disability benefits. There’s a waiting period for people on Disabilty to be eligible for Medicare, but it does kick in after a time.


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