Tuesday, December 31, 2013

As the Year Goes Tits Up

I misread the headline at Atrios's blog but it perfectly summed up my feelings, so I'm repurposing it here.  I actually feel pretty good about the country and its overall state right now, and I think although its been a hellish year in a lot of ways we should celebrate the roll out of the ACA, the transformation of our Health Insurance system towards full coverage for everyone, first steps in not bombing Iran just because John McCain and Michael Ledeen have nothing to do on Thursday, and a lot of other stuff. At any rate, some of us survived or will survive (spits surreptitiously three times) to see the dawning of 2014.  As for myself, I'm going to redouble my efforts politically in the new year. Hopefully I'll get my own applications in and be accepted into an MSW program. I have lots of things to be reading and projects to work on.

I'm off to prepare a random number and type of Chinese dishes for New Year's tonight.  Three hours to go before my oldest daughter submits all her college apps and we settle in for a Fringe marathon.  Somehow I think I'm going to make Red Cooked Beef with Noodles, Eggplant with ground meat, pork in the style of fish, dry fried string beans, pickled cabbage and bean sprouts, and sautéed broccoli and maybe a quick dish of chicken, szechuan peppers, and burnt red peppers.  Or as usual my spirit may be more willing than I have time.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Oh TPM, Never Stop Concern Trolling!

Really, don't stop concern trolling the ACA. What would a Talking Points Memo be without its reliance on epithets to do all the work of actual reporting?  Its like talking to a guy with a particularly whiny form of political Tourettes.

Here are just a few in the most recent TPM fake pieces on the ACA:

HONOLULU (AP) — A December surge propelled health care sign-ups through the government's rehabilitated website past the 1 million mark, the Obama administration said Sunday, reflecting new signs of life for the problem-plagued federal insurance exchange.
Of the more than 1.1 million people now enrolled, nearly 1 million signed up in December, with the majority coming in the week before a pre-Christmas deadline for coverage to start in January. Compare that to a paltry 27,000 in October —the website's first, error-prone month — or 137,000 in November....

The reason I call this a fake piece is that it is nothing more than a bitchy rewrite of all previous speculative coverage at TPM tied to a brief Obama Administration news release.  Everywhere else people are struggling to get real information and publish that--TPM hasn't bothered to do what DailyKos's Brainwrap has been doing so diligently.  This isn't really all that much of a mystery: individual states and the federal exchanges have been reporting these numbers in a variety of ways for some time.  You could sit down and spreadsheet them and investigate.  But TPM prefers the meaningless update format--take a press release and insert your own pro-forma insults.

 Basically, the Obama Administration released some preliminary numbers from the Federal Website (covering one set of states).  States which are signing people up through their own websites have a different set of numbers.  Sometimes the article refers only to people who signed up for private insurance through the Exchanges, sometimes it randomly adds in numbers of people who were signed up for Medicaid in some states. The article pretends that none of the people who were kept on their parent's plan under the ACA (several million by any count) count as "covered" under the ACA.  This enables Mr. Lederman to worry that

The fledgling exchanges are still likely to fall short of the government's own targets for 2013. That's a cause for concern, because Obama needs millions of mostly younger, healthy Americans to sign up to keep costs low for everyone.

(I particularly dislike this locution "Obama needs millions" because it reduces an important, nationally needed, program that benefits every American into some kind of Presidential vanity project. This is like reporting on the fact that 1.3 million people are going to lose their UB as merely a "thumbs up!" or "thumbs down!" for Washington power brokers.)  

Meanwhile, it not like there hasn't been endless discussion of these numbers--is this really a meaningful way of thinking about the ACA?

 The administration had projected more than 3.3 million overall would be enrolled through federal and state exchanges by the end of the year.

Lederman keeps the rhetorical focus here on the imaginary failures of the Administration to predict usage of an untested, novel, system for purchasing insurance--many of these people for the first time--but does it matter whether people registered through the website or were enrolled into the program by Navigators in some other way, for example through the automatic medicaid expansion in Oregon or Kentucky's Kynect?  Of course not.  The ACA is here to stay, how many are signed up by what date is essentially meaningless.  Its like reporting on a brief thunderstorm, where you can see clear skies ahead and screaming "get me the wood and nails, I need to build an ark."

Friday, December 27, 2013

Marriage, Italian Style

Last night we saw Marriage, Italian Style.  I'd never seen it before and I'd always assumed you could know what it was about just from the brief synopsis--a woman tricks her long time lover into marrying her by pretending she is dying. Then she comes back to life.  I was really unprepared for how searing it was--how funny, how insightful, how cruel.  There are scenes between Don Dummi', her playboy lover, and Fiumena that are so painful that its hard to believe that the farce isn't going to turn into a murder--that she doesn't kill him for the years of cruelty she has endured. Tricking him into marrying her, after 22 years of being his mistress, is only the midpoint to the movie. The heart of the film is her struggle to provide for her three illegitimate sons--only one of whom is the son of Don Dummi'. How can a woman from the lowest strata of society rise to the most honored position--not even wife, really, but mother and Madonna in one? How can a peasant and ex-whore ever manage to provide for her children in the new, post war Italy? She tries to force Dummi to take on the role of paterfamilias and husband, realizes that he's too vicious, lazy, and contemptible to play along, and then walks out on him leaving him to stew his decayed aristocratic apartment and his meaningless playboy lifestyle.  Her indifference to him and his needs does what her begging never can do--he comes around and remarries her and takes on the role of father to the three boys.  And the end of the movie leaves them both emotionally exhausted and morally bankrupt, each having finally  moved forward into their respective roles as husband, wife, parent but now not sure what the point was.   I'd like to put up some dialogue from the movie but, unfortunately, I'd have to see it again and take it down verbatim as my google fu is not producing any of the really stunning lines.

So, they've reinvented the trailer park?

I don't mean to be a spoilsport, and I admire what they are doing, but this new "Tiny House" movement is all kinds of wrong headed.  Here's the gist of it: Madison Wisconsin, like the rest of the country, has a rapidly increasing homeless problem (up 47 percent in the last three years) which includes both single men and women and also families.  Occupy Madison has created a kind of temporary solution in these tiny homes--96 square feet, toilet, electric light, bed.  It doesn't say if they have kitchen facilities.  The cost per home is 3000 dollars which obviously compares favorably to the state paying hotels for emergency housing and may compare favorably to subsidized Section 8 housing if that housing is scarce or unreliable.  Right now the Tiny Homes are set up on trailers so they can be parked on the street and towed every 48 hours.  This gets around zoning issues but, of course, adds to the cost since the homeless person now needs to have a car capable of pulling the house or needs to be networked in with a community organization that will tow and re-settle them on a regular basis.  A potential long term goal may be to place 30 or so of these houselets into a planned community which would then, presumably, offer amenities like laundry, landscaping, common areas, cooking facilities.

From a long term perspective I'm not sure I think this is better than a properly run SRO, or some other kind of quasi public, subsidized, small housing for people.  For one thing these don't have kitchens or laundries attached.  So the occupant needs to satisfy these basic needs offsite.  They appear to be one room with a toilet--so they aren't a good fix for families who are homeless.  In addition, as far as I know from presentations I've been to for the homeless female population of my own city, an enormous portion of this population has substance abuse and mental health needs which need to be met.  They aren't all homeless merely because housing prices are out of sight around here. They are also homeless because they don't have the family and social networks that keep people couch surfing or living in a room in someone else's house.  Privacy is great but it can also create isolation. In fact one low threshold homeless shelter in my city has instituted a program to enable the women who do get apartments to come back to socialize with each other during some afternoons. They found that the isolation of being housed, after being on the streets, was very difficult for this population to take since they tended to lack family, jobs, and other social connectors.

I like the idea of some kind of mini co-housing model, in which people can share cooking, laundry, and workshop spaces while limiting their private spaces to these inexpensive houselets.  We already have high end co-housing here which enables people to downsize and conserve on space while sharing and co-owning areas, like a library or a big social space, that they only need once in a while.  Co-Housing and shared spaces are both cost effective and socially desirable--in the absence of affordable single family homes or apartments, that is.   But I wonder if this model of the stand alone (or pull alone) trailer bedroom is really a good solution for generic homelessness in many places? How is it different from recreating an privatized trailer-style living situation for vulnerable people? Its not even necessarily as good as a standard trailer, which have cooking facilities.  Also, it should go without saying that a stand alone house, which does not share walls, roof, utilities, hookups etc... with other units is not as ecologically conservative as a well designed apartment within an apartment building.

Full Frontal Assault

Despite the slowdown in blogging output due to the holiday stupor there are several important posts that people should read, if they get a chance. No, not one of the clickbaiters at Talking Points Memo, but here's a good one from Booman Tribune: Obamacare Won't Get Popular On Its Own.

I can't stress how true this is:

Before the Affordable Care Act became the law of the land, people had two main attitudes about their health insurance. They either hated it, or they didn't use it. This idea that there were a lot of people who liked their health insurance and wanted to keep it is largely a myth. At best, the vast majority of people were afraid of change, but that doesn't mean that they thought they had great insurance or enjoyed the process of trying to get their insurer to pay their bills. In general, people hate paying for insurance and experience hassles when they try to use it. So, once the Democrats decided to push everyone into for-profit insurance, they pretty much took ownership of something most people experience negatively. Add to this that people will always want a bigger subsidy than they're getting, a bad rollout of the exchanges, and a political opposition uniformly opposed to the bill and determined to highlight every flaw within it, and you have a recipe for a political drubbing. 

This is why Atrios has been saying, for a while, that love it or hate it the ACA means that the Democrats "own" everything, good or bad, that is now associated with health care.

Booman and I agree on the only correct response: mass assault on the Republican position.

The only way to make that the case is for Democrats to very thoroughly follow Ryan Cooper's advice and rally around the health care law in a relentless and single-minded way that can match the Republicans' opposition.
I have further advice on this front. The fact that formerly uninsured people are getting insurance is not a very compelling rejoinder for someone who is having a negative experience with their health insurer. What's compelling is a political party that constantly points to the benefits of the law, like annual caps, keeping your kids on your insurance, protections against having your insurance dropped, and limits on profit-taking. The way to promote this politically is to constantly talk about real people who would have been screwed without the reforms. Trot them out daily to talk about how their lives and livelihoods have been saved.
Secondly, the Dems should be introducing reforms that address areas where people are experiencing problems. These reforms won't pass, but they can form a platform of sorts that will partially inoculate the party from criticism. After all, fixing a problem is better than repealing the whole law and having a solution is more appealing than having none.

This may be counter intuitive for individual Democratic representatives who generally try to run highly individual, local, and often cowardly campaigns.  Especially given that the issues that are thrown at them on the campaign trail will be a mixture of fake anti Obamacare hysteria (as in the early Fox accounts of angry people who weren't eligible for the exchanges or hadn't checked them) or real confusion and distress.  If the Democrats as a party had the sense god gave a nematode they would be holding training sessions for Democrats running all over the country in saying "Yes, absolutely, let me look into that for you..." and having the Democrats as a party get out in front of the very real problems with the ACA by introducing and referencing their own fix-it bills at all times.  In fact I'd be even more forward--I'd counsel Democrats to go on the offensive every minute and demand to know why the Red States are preventing people from accessing Medicaid or the Exchanges and making the population of the country sicker and weaker and why the Republicans have introduced no realistic bills to fix the health care problems their own voters face.

But this can only work if it is a co-ordinated, full frontal, assault on the Republican position.  You can't expect this to be like that old joke "I was at a fight last night and a hockey game broke out."  The Democrats are like herding cats, always have been.  Someone is going to have to crack the whip to get them all pulling in the same direction.

Cross Posted at SteveM's No More Mr. Nice Blog

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Fascinating Globe Piece on the Tsarnaevs This Morning

Hm, something weird seems to have happened to the blog editor--not me, the mechanical one--and this appeared and disappeared on its own. Let me repost.

I've pretty much given up on the Globe since it was bought by the Times, ruined, and then dumped. But this 5 part piece on the Boston Bombers is pretty interesting and well done--although it leads to more questions than it answers in terms of the police response.  Basically the argument of the articles is that the Tsarnaevs were poor, failed, dysfunctional, caught between multiple worlds and failures in each, and that all these things--the familial, the medical, the emotional, the marital, the economic caught the brothers up into a storm of spite and anomie until blowing up a bunch of strangers, at the behest of a bunch of strangers and to make a name for themselves,  seemed like a good idea.  The articles compare the brothers to other infamous American killers like the Columbine Killers, the Aurora Killer and of course they are to be compared to the guy who shot Gabby Giffords and, I'd argue, Leopold and Loeb.   In other words: quintessentially American.

I was surprised to find that the thing that still rankles people out there in the wide world, and even within the Boston Area, is the city wide shutdown during the manhunt.  I live within shouting distance of where a lot of the manhunt occurred and my children transit into Boston every day passing within feet of the bombings.  I don't understand why so many people seem to see the voluntary "shelter in place" request as the thin end of the wedge of the police state.  It seemed like literally the least the city and surrounding cities might want to do before they knew the scope of the plot.  The current revelation, which is that these two were sad sack losers and potentially merely an untreated schizophrenic and his accomplice, doesn't really change the issue back then which included the obvious possibility that they had planted more bombs in more locations and/or had more confederates.  Given the incompetence of the police and the SWAT teams involved--I believe the horrific injury sustained by the MTA  police officer was, in the end, caused by friendly fire--and the likelihood that civilians would be caught in the crossfire asking people to shelter in place seems like the sensible thing to do when massive teams of paramilitary and police units are attempting a dragnet.  I didn't feel like the city was cowardly, or giving in to fear, so much as it was pragmatically attempting to isolate the bombers from their friends and potential allies.

The part of the story which has dissapeared down the memory hole of the complaisant population in our  paranoid, security, state is the shooting death of the "friend" by the FBI.  I was astounded by the number of men on blogs who were upset at the closing down of the city, but who didn't bat an eye that the FBI went to interview a prime suspect and conducted the interview in such a way that they wound up killing him and thus losing any chance of ascertaining what he did or did not know.  You have no idea how many people began blathering hysterically about how dangerous "mixed martial arts trained men are" as though life were a Jean Claude Van Damme movie and arguing that the interrogators had to "first, protect themselves."

In any event if you read the Boston Globe story you will see not so much the story of an international Islamic conspiracy but the straight up, rather familiar tale, of immigrant failure.  Far from being about Islamic heritage, or teachings, it demonstrates how very imaginary, fragile, and cobbled together most people's cultural ties are--the Tsarnaevs rediscovered a fantasy, modern, patchwork of Islam no more traditional or reflective of their Chechen heritage or their personal reality than the Islam of the Nation of Islam is Islamic.  The parents picked up and dropped pieces of this dimly remembered and understood mish-mosh of culture and religion as the American dream receded from their grasp.  The thing that stood out for me in the Globe article was the role of disappointment, failure, illness and family dysfunction in shaping the despair that ultimately drove the parents apart, and the boys into terrorism.

There was nothing in the Tsarnaev story, right down to the see-sawing between tradition and modernity, between the parent's dreams and the children's imagined capabilities, that we haven't seen in every immigrant story to this country.  In fact it reminded me strongly of the beginning of Angela's Ashes.  The miserable father, the weeping mother, the horrors of the old life, the scary failures of the new.

 The father and mother were fixated on choosing a path for their sons that would lead to financial and social success, and on forcing their daughters into a more traditional box as simply married, muslim, working class girls.  They picked boxing (sport) for the older boy and school for the younger one and were agressive and harsh with the older one in training him and hands off and uncomprehending of the struggles of the younger one.  Typical of authoritarian households both the boys were raised with an inconsistent mixture of abuse and adulation, criticism and smothering love.  Both the girls were neglected until they ended up economically and educationally at the bottom of the heap as teenage mothers abandoned by abusive and criminal husbands.  The story of the entire family doesn't really read any differently than it would if they were they were first generation Irish, or Italian, or if they were the first family to come out of a hardscrabble Appalachian white background to the factories up North.

There's a diary up at Kos this morning about the death of a 16 year cross racial friendship between a black man and a white man who come from the same state, attended the same college, worked in the same field, and who were quite close before the economic recession and the election of Barack Obama. In many ways except that we think we already understand this conflict because of the race differential this story is really close to that told by Johar Tsarnaev's friends now that they know how his story turned out.  You have people who were jogging along, functioning, but who were slowly falling behind and seeking explanations for it in wider social trends--and seeking to push back on their despair by aligning themselves with something larger and more important and perduring than their own suffering. Here's what the diarist has to say:

As the great recession lingered, Adam became unemployed for a long time and felt significant angst about his place in the world and ability to sustain himself. He increasingly blamed Pres. Obama for not fixing the economy fast enough.  Meanwhile I was forced to completely abandon my media consulting small business in order to run back to a corporate 9-5 job when my client base dried up.
But instead of blaming Pres. Obama I blamed his predecessor Pres. George W. Bush along with the Republican led filibustering within the US Senate which blocked crucial jobs bills which would have grown the economy faster.  So our initial online clashes were over who really was to blame for our forced and dramatic career changes and life shifting situations.
By 2012 Adam was unabashedly lifting talking points from far right leaning FOX News network and spewing them across his Facebook feed without an ounce of criticism towards his own Republican party for its constant obstructionism, filibustering of key legislation and judicial nominations along with its gerrymandering of voting districts to seize control of the House of Representatives. He never addressed the conservative led 36 state Voter-ID “suppression” efforts which sought to reduce early voting, the number of hours to vote, plus stopped voter registration drives and blocked students at private historically black colleges and other universities from voting in the states where they attended school.
We soon became caricatures or perhaps archetypes of Facebook.  He was now a reliably grouchy Republican poster child stating how he wanted his country as he posted a picture of how red America’s voting districts really were but how we have a Democratic President and controlled Senate.  And I would fly in on his Facebook posts like a true blue Liberal Superman countering that much of the red on his voting map represented land based districts and NOT people filled districts not to mention the epic 2010 republican gerrymandered districts on federal and state levels.
He soon started to attack immigrants and specifically Latinos when he posted how it felt being a white minority living in certain parts of Los Angeles and seeking out other white people.   But then it really got ugly!!
In another post he tried to bash current day immigrants stating how his family migrated to America several generations ago and became productive citizens and that he demanded better from others in “my” country today.
I angrily countered that my family had been in this country far longer than his since my descendants came on the slave ship Clotilde which docked in Mobile, AL in 1859.   I informed him that Blacks have been in America since the 1600s in Jamestown, VA as slaves and that America really wasn’t “his” country but that he and his family were the true immigrants in America.
In another Facebook rant Adam went after the poor chastising them for having too many children and for being on welfare, forgetting that he too was unemployed for a very long time and needed assistance. He also went after a women’s right-to-choose and gays with same-sex marriage stating there were far more important issues to tackle.
True to red-state formation, Adam embraced only fiscal issues, rejected social justice topics and the hyphenation of America and instead longed for an era in which white straight men ruled America; an era which Adam never lived however generations later he unknowingly reaped the benefits of it through his white privilege.
Similarly I never lived in an era where blacks were captive to slavery and segregationist Jim Crow laws but I still felt the disadvantages and hurdles growing up and becoming an African American man trying to understand why it seemed so much harder for me to succeed even though I tried, worked and networked three times harder as my white counterparts both in business and within the workplace.
Adam and I both felt internal angst about America and achieving the American dream but in two very different directions.  While Adam’s angst and path is often sympathized, even lauded at times, my angst and path is often discounted, demonized and scoffed as being simply excuses.

 Its impossible to read this diary and not think of the ways in which current despair (unemployment, loss of social status, fear of the future) leads people to a fantasy identification with an imaginary perfect past--whether of white rule in the case of the lost friend of the  Kos diary, or of Islamic rule.  There is an expression that I think about a lot qua Anthropologist and older woman: "the past is another country, they do things differently there."  Immigrants and older people are particularly susceptible to false nostalgia and there is a reason that nostalgia is one of the chief and most dangerous components of jingoistic nationalism and fascism--its a very potent drug.   When people like those described in the Kos diary imagine themselves dispossesed in their own country, sojourners in a strange land not their own, and far from the golden land/golden life they thought they were owed, we are going to see a surge of this bitter nostalgia.

Up until now I think we've been protected from the full brunt of this rage and despair from unemployed white men by their general laziness, fear of death or imprisonment, and their age.  But if things keep "trending downwards" for them and their children, and the hysterical language of theft and rage by the Republican party and Fox News keep being ratcheted up, I think we can expect to see more and more Tsarnaev like children of white privilege taking up weapons against their fellow citizens.  The blowback from this extended recession and the death of the white middle class is going to be extensive, over the next ten to twenty years, as the children of the unemployed and angry white working class and middle class age into disappointment and anger themselves.  At least as long as they identify the government with that hated "other"--non whites and women, gays and liberals.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Go Team!

Maybe this will seem picayune or tribalistic but months ago I discovered that one of the Judges Obama was trying to put on the DC Circuit was a classmate of mine in Highschool. Since there were only 36 of us in my entire class, only half of whom were girls, this means I really knew her well.  She was a striking and brilliant girl even then.  I haven't seen her since, nor followed her career, but damn, I'm proud of how she turned out and proud that everything they say about her marks her very much as a member of our class.  Take it away Senator McConnell!

On Wednesday afternoon, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) tore into Pillard as a "liberal ideologue" who "doesn't deserve" a lifetime-tenured position on the influential court, which hears cases on executive power.
“In short, Professor Pillard does not seem like a person with the mindset or temperament of a judge," he said. "She seems like a person with the attitude and disposition of a left-wing academic, someone who seems to come to conclusions based on how well they support her own theories."

Also, my daughter just started at this highschool in 9th grade this year and I'm proud that she has people like Nina Pillard to look up to and try to emulate.  So: Go Team!

via TPM:

Smell the Argle Bargle

This quote from Senator Johnson really had me rolling on the floor.  Could anything more clearly demonstrate the uncomfortable position of the Republican Party? A logical cleft stick is a very difficult thing to wear as a pair of pants, let me tell you.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Its like a "Moral Will"

In the book Glueckl of Hameln the historic Jewish practice of periodically writing up a kind of living moral "will" which details what you have done right and wrong with your life is described.  I'm at a crossroads in my own life and am having to do the same thing--only we call it a "personal statement" to a graduate program.  I've already done this--boy howdy have I done this--since I already have my Ph.D. in Anthropology and went through this process applying to College for my BA and then again to Graduate School for my MA and Ph.D.  And to a certain extent I did it periodically thereafter whenever I wrote another grant proposal.  Searching through my files looking for an actual CV I find myself going back in time to a really different age:  my field notes were written on a manual typewriter with carbon paper--actual carbon paper--to make copies.  The boxes of my old stuff, unopened since the last move 15 years ago--smell of Nepali wood smoke and goat hair as though they were stored in the rafters of the old wattle and daub house I lived in 25 years ago.

There's no copy of my CV. I have only the dimmest memories of when things happened and the exact names of the various fellowships I had or the people I worked with.  I'm afraid of making a mistake--did I ever really "get" my MA? Is it even called that? At Yale they just kind of give you an M.Phil when you pass your orals and go on to the Ph.D.  I think they used to call it the "terminal MA" and perhaps you only got it awarded if they kicked you out?

Meanwhile I'm wrestling with a different problem--how to be a supplicant when I'm not really all that...supple...at this point.  One of the most difficult things about being out of the working world for 17 years is that you just don't know how to take orders, anymore, and you don't usually see the need for kow towing to people.  When I sat in on a (very good) class at BU in the Social Work program it was all I could do to keep from leaping up and giving the damn lecture extempore.  What I would like is to do a Ph.D. in Psychology, combine Social Psychology and Clinical Psychology and Anthropology but without doing another research program. I'm not interested in teaching and research anymore, I've done that.  I'd like to practice but I'd like my practice to be widely informed.  There really doesn't seem to be any such program for someone like myself. The MSW seems like the fastest way to receive a credential, put myself back in a position to sit in on classes that interest me, get into internships in related fields, and emerge back into the working world with a way to account for myself for the last crucial years.  Its not ideal in terms of my interests but I should be able to do my own reading and self education for the things that the MSW doesn't focus on.   But in the meantime, I have to sell myself and my past 17 years, or at least account for them in some palatable way.

Its an interesting experience, to say the least, to construct a workable self which ties together--as one hopes it does in real life--my past life tramping up and down the hills of Nepal and drinking tea with strangers with my 17 year interregnum as a mother with my volunteer work with new families and my politics (how much is hidden in anodyne phrases like "Social Justice"?)  I just want a lisence and a credential so I can apply for jobs where I might stand a good chance of helping people at the bottom of the heap or who are in crisis.  Why is this so hard?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Far From the Tree

I took a little time out to juggle a few other books and I'm plowing my way through Andrew Solomon's Far From the Tree.  There is a lot of great stuff, even just in the introduction, but also a lot of..well...problematic stuff or leaps of logic and confusion of categories which speak to how very blind even the most insightful of us can be.  I'm going slowly because I insist on typing out whole passages and then appending my thoughts, so here's something from the introduction just to keep things moving over here:

Now we get to the meat of the matter:

Because of the transmission of identity from one generation to the next, most children share at least some traits with their parents. These are vertical identities. Attributes and values are passed down from parent to child across the generations not only through strands of DNA but also through shared cultural norms. Ethnicity, for example, is a vertical identity. Children of color are in general born to parents of color; [now stop right there and grasp that the reverse is actually true: children of no color are born to parents of no color but children of color are routinely born to people of no color when the parents are from different races. The transmission of whiteness has been really fought over for centuries and definitionally a lot of children of color come from one white parent.] the genetic fact of skin pigmentation is transmitted across generations along with a self-image as a person of color, even though that self-image may be subject to generational flux. Language is usually vertical, since most people who speak Greek raise their children to speak Greek, too, even if they inflect it differently or speak another language much of the time. Religion is moderately vertical: Catholic parents will tend to bring up Catholic children, though the children may turn irreligious or convert to another faith. Nationality is vertical, except for immigrants. Blondness and myopia are often transmitted from parent to child , but in most cases do not form a significant basis for identity—blondness because it is fairly insignificant, and myopia because it is easily corrected.” [Now who is being naïve, Kay? Blondness is not at all insignificant and is, in fact, a major marker of whiteness and good ethnic identity in a plural society.]

Often however, someone has an inherent or acquired trait that is foreign to his or her parents and must therefore acquire identity from a peer group. This is a horizontal identity. Such horizontal identities may reflect recessive genes, random mutations, prenatal influences, or values and preferences that a child does not share with his progenitors. Being gay is a horizontal identity; most gay kids are born to straight parents, and while their sexuality is not determined by their peers, they learn gay identity by observing and participating in a subculture outside the family. Physical disability tends to be horizontal, as does genius. Psychopathy, too, is often horizontal; most criminals are not raised by mobsters and must invent their own treachery. So are conditions such as autism and intellectual disability. A child conceived in rape is born into emotional challenges that his own mother cannot know, even though they spring from her trauma.” (2)

(4)”As my parents had misapprehended who I was, so other parents must be constantly misapprehending their own children. Many parents experienced their child's horizontal identity as an affront. A Child's marked difference from the rest of the family demands knowledge, competence, and actions that a typical mother and father are unqualified to supply, at least initially. The child is expressly different from most of his or her peers as well, and therefore broadly less understood or accepted. Abusive fathers visit less abuse on children who resemble them physically; if you are born to a bully, pray that you bear his features. Whereas families tend to reinforce vertical identities from earliest childhood, many will oppose horizontal ones. Vertical identities are usually respected as identities; horizontal ones are often treated as flaws.” [Is there no difference, in the authors mind, between challenges which prevent the child from achieving adult status and liberty in a parentless world and mere differences in identity? Between changes in social identity associated, for example, with the immigrant experience and the breakdown of the patriarchal/clan based system of control and other forms of narcissistic control?]

OK, now we get to the kooky part where you think this guy has never been let out of his white male privilege:

One could argue that black people face many disadvantages in the United States today, but there is little research into how gene expression could be altered to make the next generation of children born to black parents come out with straight, flaxen hair and creamy complexions. In modern America , it is sometimes hard to be Asian or Jewish or female, yet no one suggests that Asians, Jews, or women would be foolish not to become white Christian men if they could. Many vertical identities make people uncomfortable, and yet we do not attempt to homogenize them. The disadvantages of being gay are arguably no greater than those of such vertical identities, but most parents have long sought to turn their gay children straight. Anomalous bodies are usually more frightening to people who witness them than to people who have them, yet parents rush to moralize physical exceptionable, often at great psychic cost to themselves and their children. Labeling a child's mind as diseased—whether with autism, intellectual disabilities, or transgenderism—may reflect the discomfort that mind gives parents more than any discomfort it causes their child. Much gets corrected that might better have been left alone.” (4)

This is rather obviously patently false.  People have struggled against their "vertical identities" since the get go changing their names, religions, practices, foods, life histories, etc... And this change has of course extended to the body: Asians have had their eyes rounded, Jews have had their noses lopped, African Americans have had their skin whitened and their hair straightened and have, of course, "passed" into the white community--for better or worse individuals and whole communities, like the Melungeon, have responded to oppressive categorizations by trying to opt out.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

I Take It Back

Because I'm crazy like that I followed up my horrible, no good, too small meal of Wolf Hall with a second helping of Bringing Up The Bodies.  I've changed my mind. Reader's privilege, I guess.  Its not that I've changed my mind about Wolf Hall though. I still think that was rather awkwardly written and lacked a strong presentation of Cromwell's interior life.  But a lot of that is corrected or added in Bring Up the Bodies.  For example, someone clearly said to Hilary Mantel "I can't figure out who is talking in these long passages" because she moved off her hard affectation of only referring to Cromwell as "he" and began adding a modest little comma and his name as a shy aside as in "He, Thomas Cromwell, said..."  Meanwhile, Mantel added a lot more discussion and self reflection by Cromwell, offering us not just snapshots of meaningful bits of his past but actual emotions and ideas about his situation.

Everyone must have their favorite bits or their favorite issues in the book--for me I was interested in the shift between a nobility and a non noble functionary class, between aristocratic ways of looking at politics and the country and Cromwell's, and between a Catholic way of looking at religious doctrine and authority and the shift that comes with the printing and dissemination of a vernacular bible.  Mantel positions Cromwell at the intersection of all of these changes and in the second book, as he achieves his most rapid rise and begins to look over the precipice to his inevitable fall, she starts to tackle those issues.  Its not in enough detail for me, but its still there and still fun.

The model of Cromwell's life and memoirs as a kind of memory palace, though intriguing, still doesn't work for me--for one thing I guess I'm too thick and often can't figure out (or didn't figure out until afterwards) which images and events were merely allusions to Cromwell's mental techniques for storing information and which were really happening in the book.  Years ago I read The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci and I'm currently reading Moonwalking With Einstein so I find the history and application of memory--especially in both a sacred and a secular space, pretty interesting.

 I think she has correctly positioned Cromwell, again, at a crossroads as a pivotal figure--a man of memory, records, and accounts in a court society in which the aristocracy floats on a sea of forgetting.  Cromwell, for instance, lends money and keeps accounts, using old debts when necessary in new political strategems. Meanwhile his aristocrats are playing at politics using a different chessboard--they borrow money against their lands (that they aquired through birth),  and against emoluments that they control through marriage, flirtation, and begging.   Even the romances and the writing of poetry, we find out during the trial of Anne Boleyn, are just a covert form of trade with women paying men to write poetry for them in order to increase their social standing at court, and men accepting money from their mistresses in order to increase their own standing at court.  These debts are part of a system of exchange that has no fiscal year, no moment when accounts are totted up except when pivotal figures change position: when the King dies, a new heir is chosen, or a new marriage creates new possibilities for control of the King and his purse.  The aristocrats don't remember their debts at all, or even bother to tote them up, until the moment of death when they realize the game is over.  This is something that is made clear when Cromwell, who has been secretly bankrolling both his friends and his enemies, brings the hammer down and has to explain to them that he has not forgotten the parodic play they made of Wolsey's death.

The reaction of the aristocrats to being reminded of Wolsey's death and their sport with his image is pivotal to the second book, and to Mantel's construction of Cromwell as the consummate outsider.  He remembers seeing the play--performed by Boleyn's favorites and Wolsey's old friends--as an outsider, going backstage and seeing them strip off their costumes, and he stores them in his memory as the body parts of an animal so he will never forget. Meanwhile the entire incident, from his presence there to the insult offered to the dead Cardinal, has been long forgotten by the actors themselves.  It was no more than part of the flood of manipulations and playacts and poetry and positioning that are normal at court. They almost can't believe that Cromwell remembers or holds it against them--these are just things that happen in a courtier's life, one moment you are up and then you are down. Respect and honor are things that are held by the living, not the dead--unless he has family to fight for them after he has gone. And neither the Cardinal nor Cromwell have real "family" in the sense the aristocrats mean it.

The one thing the Aristocracy never forgets is birth--who is married to whom and who is outside the bounds of aristocratic connection.  Meanwhile Cromwell, the outsider, never forgets who was responsible for the first move in the big chessboard that is his life: the death of Wolsey. Cromwell was born as a man with an independent connection to the King at the moment that Wolsey died and Henry began his rapid slide from ruler to pawn of his own illusions and need to produce a male heir.  Its in the second book that Mantel really begins to explore what happens when Cromwell and the merchant class, the proto-protestants, the educated, the literate and the numerate begin to get close enough to the Monarchy to see its flaws and to be subject to its embrace and its wrath.(1)  The fictional Cromwell in the first book seemed to be merely rising up as a functionary and servant. The fictional Cromwell in the second book is now right under the eye of the capricious tyrant, as much in danger as the Boleyn family when they can't give him what he wants.  So you might argue that while the Boleyns (and the Seymours) pursued power the old, aristocratic way, by arranging alliances and fostering blood connections and Cromwell and the rising merchant class pursued power by arranging favors, money, political control they are both still stuck in the old model where the only important thing is: have you pleased the King? Maybe we might argue that Cromwell is on the verge of modernity and the post feudal in terms of his understanding of money, finance, and international political realities but he will fall, in the end, because its too early for this kind of power.

(1) There is a definite sub theme in the books that the working class of London have a separate knowledge and sense of the Monarchy and its doings.  At first they are very much in love with the fiction of the King as King and the Queen as Queen.  In the first book Mantel talks about the way Cromwell reports back about court fashions and about Queen Katherine and later Anne Boleyn to the women in his household.  But later the populace become jaded with the bad news and the bizarre reports--  it is in gossiping with the watermen and other low life workers that Cromwell gets the first hint of the scandals that he will later use to bring down Anne Boleyn.  The role of the King as father and husband is clearly a hugely important one for the country in the first book. By the second you start to get the feeling that the country itself is going to give up on this model if the King keeps changing wives like other people change shoes.  Live by the metaphor, die by the metaphor.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Well, this should be interesting. Guess he's more than just a pretty face.

"The bishops realize that they themselves are going to have to change their tone if they are to become more inclusive and complement the new tone coming from Pope Francis and the Vatican," Schmalz said. "There is definitely something going on here: The American hierarchy is going to have to change its style or be left behind."
The bishops had early in the meeting prayed for the thousands of victims of Friday's typhoon in the Philippines and also discussed the response to the disaster by Catholic Relief Services, the bishops' international relief agency.
But after a presentation on overall priorities of the U.S. bishops, Archbishop Joseph Fiorenza, a former president of the conference, rose to say it was "missing this essential element" of a focus on the poor.
"It would help our conference be on record as trying to achieve what Pope Francis has put before us,"
said Fiorenza, who retired as archbishop of Galveston-Houston, Texas.
Bishops also discussed how they would collect the information the Vatican is seeking ahead of a major meeting, or synod, on the family in Rome next year.
Last month, Vatican officials sent a survey to the national bishops conferences that took the unusual step of seeking broad input on how parishes deal with sensitive issues such as birth control, divorce and gay marriage. Bishops in England have put the questionnaire on the web for parishioners to respond. Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput said he planned to post the survey online within days.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Its Never Their Fault. Never.

Jesus Christ, the Party of Personal Responsibility strikes again.  Take care of your own indigent, uninsured population for God's Sake or just get out of the way already. And stop whining about it. How did you "get mugged" by the taxpayers in other states that fully implemented the Medicaid expansion and the insurance exchanges refusing to subsidize your craptacular health care failures and miserable attitude towards your own citizens? When the last Democrat tries to give a hand up to the last Republican stranded at the bottom of a well after the last Typhoon has stranded him down there what you are going to hear is a whiny, wailing, bitch fest about how he was "mugged" into the well by someone else and how he doesn't need any help getting out.

But experts and hospital administrators said it was unlikely that the federal government would make adjustments that would reward states that refused to expand Medicaid. And the health care landscape is changing so rapidly, they say, that the subsidies are crucial to keep going over the next few years.Hospitals in Georgia are trying to hang on. Rural hospitals rely heavily on the subsidies and as many as 15 could close in the coming months, their trade association estimated, costing jobs in economically depressed parts of the state.Georgia hospital officials hope that the plight of rural hospitals may eventually cause Gov. Nathan Deal to opt for some version of a Medicaid expansion. The state’s politically powerful hospital association late last month called for expansion.But for now, the governor is holding firm. His spokesman, Brian Robinson, said Mr. Deal’s opposition to expanding Medicaid was driven by simple math: Georgia cannot afford it. Though the federal government is paying the full costs of the expansion for the first three years, states will have to pay up to 10 percent in later years. States that do not expand should be spared cuts in hospital subsidies, Mr. Robinson said.The federal government, not Georgia, is to blame for the predicament, he said.“The state is sitting here, a victim of a crime, and you’re asking the victim, ‘Why did you let yourself get mugged?’ ” he said.Hospitals are trying to get Congress to delay the subsidy cuts by amending the health law, but House Republicans in Washington have thus far refused.“The conversation we are having with the congressional delegation goes like this, ‘If we don’t expand Medicaid, what is the Georgia solution to indigent care?’ ” said Matthew Hicks, vice president for government relations at Grady. “So far they don’t have an answer.”

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

You Really Can't Get Any More Nakedly Neo Confederate Than This

Stumping on behalf of Virginia gubernatorial hopeful Ken Cuccinelli on Monday, former congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul predicted that states will soon "ignore the feds" while calling for "nullification" of the Affordable Care Act.
“Jefferson obviously was a clear leader on the principle of nullification,” Paul said at a rally in Richmond, Va., according to Politico.
“I’ve been working on the assumption that nullification is going to come. It’s going to be a de facto nullification. It’s ugly, but pretty soon things are going to get so bad that we’re just going to ignore the feds and live our own lives in our own states."
As Politico noted, Paul was invoking a term with deep roots in the Civil War era while speaking in a former capital of the confederacy. He also decried the taxes associated with the health care law.
“The taxes involved there, they’re evil,” Paul said. “They’re going to create class warfare, generational warfare."

Monday, November 4, 2013

Aleatory Moments In Found Poetry

Today on HuffPo, juxtaposed this morning but now scrolling away in their separate directions:

Mitt Romney Says Obama's Second Term Is 'Rotting' Away

Bria Roberts, Contortionist, Attempts World Record For Most Skips With Leg Behind Head (VIDEO)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Wolf Hall: Hungry Again Half An Hour Later

Well, I took a little detour and read Wolf Hall.  I can't see what the fuss is all about. Its no better, and perhaps worse, than many another historical novel and I'm a big fan of historical novels in general. In fact I just finished reading the entire McCollough series "Masters of Rome" so its not that I am not into the genre.  I can't really complain--I ate what was on my plate and will eat a second helping. But ultimately I didn't find Mantel's Cromwell believable emotionally or intellectually.  Here is a man who has made an enormous leap between classes, bridged worlds which were (as she tells us over and over) kept apart and yet he is represented as moving through his own experience of this divide only...stutteringly.  She writes him as a man who is almost outside his own experience and his own time, able to look at it sardonically, manipulatively, cynically and exploitatively.  He tells us about his own experiences and all of his experiences are self conscious and under his control. There are no other voices but reported voices or people telling Cromwell how they think about Cromwell.  But when it comes to the real experience of a real person--someone who killed, cried, believed, worried about the afterlife, sinned (as he would have seen it), atoned (as he could), and who presided over the dissolution of one religious community and the birth of the next--who arranged for the judicial murder of personal acquaintances...well, he's simply not believable.  Its not that I don't believe in Cromwell, or that there isn't a massively important story to be told through Cromwell's life. Its that I don't believe in this Cromwell. He's never inside his own life, never acts from passion, never lets us see him sweat, doesn't believe the things people around him patently believed.  The person Mantel imagines is just too much a literary conceit.  And in a lot of ways he's not nearly as interesting a literary conceit as he should be given the many set pieces she offers us in which he could and should consider the implications of royalty, divinity, fallibility, terror, torture, murder, treason, and death.  In short, I suppose, she's no Umberto Eco.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Malai Kosto Nessro Aiyo

I just got back from a reception for this amazing charitable organization: Maiti Nepal.  I met the founder and some of the people who have organized the "Friends of..." website which enables you to donate effciently to what is really a very small, local, organization in Nepal itself.  I didn't stay long because I only wanted to talk in my now very broken Nepali with the wait staff and I couldn't take up too much of the time of the founder who was there to talk to some potentially big donors.  But I am overwhelmed with sentimental feelings about Nepal and Nepali.  The problem of the trafficking of girls from their homes into brothels in India and China is immense.  When I was living in Nepal 25 years ago the little girl who lived in my Didi's house as a servant (a fairly well structured feudal relationship) was lured away by some guy working for the Indian brothels.  We caught her before she got all the way to the bus station with him but she was really unaware of the danger she was in.  It wasn't a problem in my actual village, which was too far off the beaten path for a stranger to come and take a girl away but its a huge problem anywhere that families are weak or broken, jobs are scarce, and exit routes well marked out.  Maiti Nepal seems to train the girls that they rescue to point out and even board the minibuses that the pimps load up and persuade the girls to get off. They have little work groups in the Terai and on the Chinese border.  I'm interested in finding out more about this group and maybe working with them in the future.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Is It So Hard To Admit That The ACA Ends False Advertising?

The whole storm in a teacup about people "losing" "their" "policies" and "health insurance" turns on the fact that none of these words mean what people are pretending they mean. If your insurance company, or the fake insurance company to which you've been paying money, informs you that they are raising your rates, or ending your policy, there is nothing new about that at all--you were never grandfathered in, you never had any kind of "ownership" of it which entitles you to keep it against their new desire to force you off it. Never. You have never owned your policy outright in any way that prevents your insurance company from screwing you over by raising your rates, changing the terms, recissioning you, pretending you lied, or simply ending the policy.

For a small number of very unfortunate people--people who were so unimportant, poor, unemployed, or merely human enough to have pre-existing conditions the ACA has effectively ended the sale of junk insurance policies and prevented the Insurance Companies from relying on false advertising or misdirection or even brutal necessity in inducing people to pay large sums of money for fake or catastrophic health insurance. Thats it. That is what is happening. And that should have been obvious from the get go even to Josh Micah Marshall and the rest of the pearl clutchers.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

This explains a lot.

h/t Commenter Cervantes over at Balloon Juice. From an interview Saul Alinsky gave Playboy a long time ago.

ALINSKY: Sure, they’ll be suspicious, even hostile at first. That’s been my experience with every community I’ve ever moved into. My critics are right when they call me an outside agitator. When a community, any kind of community, is hopeless and helpless, it requires somebody from outside to come in and stir things up. That’s my job — to unsettle them, to make them start asking questions, to teach them to stop talking and start acting, because the fat cats in charge never hear with their ears, only through their rears. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy; thermopolitically, the middle classes are rooted in inertia, conditioned to look for the safe and easy way, afraid to rock the boat. But they’re beginning to realize that boat is sinking and unless they start bailing fast, they’re going to go under with it. The middle class today is really schizoid, torn between its indoctrination and its objective situation. The instinct of middle-class people is to support and celebrate the status quo, but the realities of their daily lives drill it home that the status quo has exploited and betrayed them.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

From the Remainder Table

Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris by Graham Robb.

I doubt if we will ever go to Paris again but ever since reading Paris: The Secret History  and Paris to the Past I have been assailed with a desire to create a database of interesting histories of particular physical locations in Paris.  I dream of an iphone app which will sync me with a GPS and a page of Angelique as I pass through what is left of places mentioned in the text.

Just Say Nu by Michael Wex. I bought this out of a sentimental attachment to the author, whose book Born to Kvetch was a surprisingly brilliant study in ethno-linguistics or, to put it another way, the underlying world view behind an embattled language.  No mere collection of colorful terms Born to Kvetch is a philosophy, an anthropology, and a tone poem devoted to a negative, fearful, creative, bombastic, and often backwards way of expression.  I consider it a very fine ethnographic study and I am using it now to re-write my Haggadah.  The second book was just lying there on the remainder table, begging to be taken home qua dictionary.

Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel. Needs no explanation. I've been waiting to have some time to read it and now I've decided that since it was there at a reduced price I should just go ahead and get it and make time.

The Frozen Rabbi, by Steve Stern.  This is not my sort of book at all. I generally read either straight up sci-fi/fantasy, dystopian novels, murder mysteries, or non fiction. But there it was, lying on the table, begging to be taken home.  The topic? From the back of the book "...the story of how a nineteenth-century rabbi from a small Polish town ended up in a basement freezer in a suburban Memphis home at the end of the twentieth century.  What happens when an impressionable teenage boy inadvertently thaws out the ancient man and brings him back to life is nothing short of miraculous....the voracious pace lets Stern spill a hundred years of vivid Jewish history onto the page..."

I looked inside the book and it is, indeed, very funny. But I don't think that is why I bought it. I am also in the middle of reading Andrew Solomon's book "Far From The Tree" about children who are different from their parents or what their parents expected.  Right at the start he draws a distinction between horizontal and vertical forms of heritage and places ethnicity/language/religion among the "vertical" forms that our parents transmit to us without question and without fear and compares that to the "horizontal" identities that our age/sex/gender orientation and politics often create for us among our peers.  Of course within two pages of offering us this definition he undercuts it, seemingly without noticing, by describing his mother's fraught relationship with her Jewish Identity, an identity that her father attempted to renounce in order to fit in to America's anti semitic landscape, that she attempted to renounce by marrying out, and that she was driven back into by the fact that she couldn't pose as non jewish for the purposes of marriage.  Its as though being Jewish--what it is and the fact of it--was a frozen Rabbi raised, scolding and hectoring, from a freezer inside Solomon's own house.

Monday, October 28, 2013

BTK for Evangelical Youth

Who am I kidding, BTK was the BTK for the christian youth set. But still, this does sound very familiar (from Wonkette, of course! Thanks Doktor Zoom!)

Nathaniel teaches Josh how to bind dark spirits with cords of light and banish them to the moon, and to call down angels to drag demons off to the Eternal Prison. This constitutes most of the “action” and “adventure” in the novel, again and again. Multiple set-pieces go like this: Josh wakes in the middle of the night, sees an unholy presence of some sort, and calls on God to help him banish the Evil Thingy. Then he goes into another room and does it again, only maybe the Evil Thingy is a gargoyle this time. And then another room. And then, God help us, the friggin’ dog house. At one point he has to Cleanse his parents’ room, and there’s the brief hope he might walk in on them fucking, XXXXing, but no such luck, just more Summon and Banish. He thinks he’s cleared out the baddies from his older brother’s room, but God tells him to check under the bed, where there are two
“Spirits of Lust, very evil female spirits. They cannot be allowed to be entertained for even a second. They must be shackled and chained and sent away quickly. They are almost as evil as vampires.”
Summon, banish. And presumably big brother loses his erection and dreams about Jesus instead.

Bonus Anti Obama screed that is visible only if you have eyes:

...the Prince of Lies offers Josh a pile of gold and gems from Scrooge McDuck’s vault if Josh will help convince people to worship him. Spoiler Alert: Josh refuses to go to the dark side, cookies be damned:
“No soul shall hunger under my rule. Nobody will be without. And I will make them all obey me so that the whole world will be saved.”
“That sounds like Socialism to me, Satan. Under your plan, we all suffer together. That is why you have been a liar from the beginning. Leave me, Satan, I will not follow you.” Josh held up his bright sword as his light shown around him.
“You will worship me!” growled the dark man as he paced beside the circle …
“I am a Son of the Light,” cried Josh holding his sword in the air. “I will only serve the Almighty God of Heaven!” Upon those words, a powerful blast of light exploded from the circle surrounding Josh and the Dark Creatures of the other Realm retreated until nothing was left except a small dark spot in the sky.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

How Can Obama Run A Country Like Ours?

So today we have this report from Dick Durbin, via The Hill.

A top Senate Democrat said that a leading House Republican told President Obama that they could not 'even stand to look at you' during negotiations over the government shutdown.

And a Kos diarist explains what happens when the Republicans in charge of particular states and localities decide to stab their constitutents and the ACA in the back:

My wife is an obstetrician/gynecologist working in North Carolina so I know the difficulties of delivering health care to pregnant women here. When the great recession hit, the state cut and delayed Medicaid payments, causing financial problems. She closed her practice and found a job in a larger town. Doctors and hospitals delivering care to lower middle class and working class women have been hit hard by the recession, just like their patients. That's why infant mortality is rising. Rural and community hospitals in North Carolina are struggling to survive. Big city hospital systems bring in high revenues from insured patients for specialized procedures. Urban hospital centers put the profits back into improving their facilities and investing in new equipment. Rural and community hospitals are struggling to replace obsolete equipment at present revenue levels. I interviewed the CEO of Onslow Memorial Hospital, Ed Piper, about the need for Medicaid expansion to learn the details.
Ed explained to me that hospitals made a deal with the federal government to accept an end to federal payments for unreimbursed care because the Affordable Care Act would expand Medicaid coverage for the working poor and provide subsidized insurance coverage for lower middle class Americans who weren't covered by employer provided insurance plans. His hospital's revenues are now running barely above costs, a 3.5% margin, barely enough to replace failing old equipment. But, because McCrory is rejecting Medicaid expansion, his hospital will be in trouble next year when the federal reimbursements for unreimbursed care cease. Onslow county has one of the best infant mortality rates in rural eastern North Carolina. Smaller hospitals in poor counties with out military bases will be in deep trouble. And these counties already have third-world-level infant mortality rates as high as 20 deaths per 1000 births.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Department of False Equivalencies Alert.

Our Baby

Sure it isn't my health plan, but it is, for better or worse, the current "liberal agenda." When the pentagon lights a trillion dollars on fire in order to build a plane that doesn't work, it isn't a failure of the liberal agenda. When the health care plan isn't working as promised, that is. We own it.

Oh, its "Our Baby" but we should throw it out with the bathwater?  Look: we don't "own" it--ownership of anything is always up for grabs, negotiable, and a matter of propaganda and dirty fighting. You know why they say "Success has a thousand fathers but failure is an Orphan?" Hint: its not because either thing has any kind of real paternity. Its because what you say after the event is as important as what you say before the event.

 If a potato is hot jump backwards, don't catch it. You don't find the Pentagon and the Lobbyists leaping forward when they have a massive public failure and ripping their uniforms open and falling on their swords. Why not? Because they are not fucking morons. The name of the game is staying in the game. The way you deal with the failures of the mere roll out of an online enrollment app --and remember, thats what we are talking about--is--you appropriate more money and you fix it. 

And here's another clue: you don't do your enemy's work for him by letting him off the hook. Obama and the dems should shrug their shoulders and say "look, if you don't like the system then roll up your sleeves and do the work necessary to fix it. Carping and wailing and bitching never bailed a boat or fixed a board. We're doing what we can to insure 44 million people and you are doing nothing but moan."  And thats true, damn it. Get off the god damned sidelines and stop kibbitzing already. To the extent that public opinion about the experience of using a website during the first month of implementation matters at all this is a public opinion question, not a real thing. So stop adding to the public opinion fallout by whining about it.  This is Jon Stewart level ridiculous. At least this huge, government level, cock up has the bizarre side effect that 10 percent of the uninsured in Oregon have already been covered in a two week period. Can you point me to any Pentagon failure that has ever resulted in 56,000 people getting better health care instead of, you know, dying?

Sholem Aleichem knew more than Ayn Rand and Alan Greenspan put together.

Brad's smackdown of his own interpretation of Greenspan is a noble attempt but it fails to grapple with an essential element of the shonda that is Greenspan--Ayn Rand is not a better sociologist or historian than Sholem Aleichem.

From Menakhem-Mendl in Odessa to his wife Sheyne-Sheyndl in Karilevke
"To my wise, esteemed, & virtuous wife Sheyne-Sheyndl, may you have a long life!  Firstly, rest assured that I am, praise God, in the best of health.  God grant that we hear from each other only good and pleasing news, amen.  Secondly, the market has been hitting fearsome lows.  I've bought another batch of Londons and covered myself with 8 orders for 17 shorts.  If I can shave a few points, I'll buy more.  If only you understood, my dearest, how business is done on a man's word alone, you would know all there is to know about Odessa.  A nod is as good as a signature.  I walk down Greek Street, drop into a cafe, sit at a table, order tea or coffee, and wait for the brokers to come by.  There's no need for a contract or written agreement.  Each broker carries a pad in which he writes, say, that I've bought two shorts.  I hand over the cash and that's it--its a pleasure how easy it is!  A few hours go by, the Berlin closings arrive, and back comes the broker with 25 smackers.  The next morning the openings arrive and he has 50 more--and don't think God can't make it 100.  300 is no big deal either.  Why should it be?  We're talking about the market!  Its a game, like roulette...And as for your not believing in Uncle Manashe's promissory notes, I have news: I've made a tidy sum from them already.  Where else would I get the money to buy so many futures on spot?  The market is not, as you seem to think, a place that sells fruit and vegetables.  You're only called on futures when they're due.  That means, you're a free agent.  If you want to buy, you buy, and if you want to sell, you sell.  Now do you understand what playing the market is?  If God is out to boost Londons, he starts a war scare in the papers, the ruble drops, and Londons shoot up faster than bean stalks.  Just this week there were rumors that the Queen of England was ailing: the ruble plunged again, and whoever bought short made a killing.  Now the papers say she's better, so the ruble has rallied and its time to buy long.  In short, my dearest, never fear!  Everything will be "tip-top," as they say in Odessa....Give my greetings to the children and my fondest wishes to everyone.  Your husband, Menakhem -Mendl.

And, wait for it, five minutes later:
"To my wise, esteemed, & virtuous wife, Sheyne-Shenyndl, may you have a long life!  Firstly, rest assured that I am, praise God, in the best of health...Secondly, the market has crashed just as futures, God help us, were being called.  I'll see the Messiah before I see my money again.  Bismarck, they say, caught a bad cold and all politics went into a panic.  No one knows what tomorrow will bring.  Londons are worth more than gold, the ruble has hit rock bottom, and futures have fallen through the floor.  But where, you ask, are the shorts I bought.  that's just it: the shorts aren't short, the futures have no future, and call me a monkey's uncle!  The small-time operators I entrusted my shares with have been wiped out. Odessa has been hit by a whirlwind...

And, wait for it, five minutes later:

From Menakhem-Mendl in Yehupetz to his wife Sheyne-Sheyndl in Kasrilevke
To my dear, esteemed, and virtuous wife Sheyne-Sheyndl, may you have a long life!
Firstly, rest assured that I am, praise God, in the best of health.  God grant that we hear from each other only good and pleasing news, amen.
Secondly, stocks and bonds are not what you think. They come from Petersburg.  Putivil, Transport, Volga, Maltzev, etc.., are manufacturers.  They deal in rolling and floating stock--that is, railroads and 100---ruble shares that go for 300--.  That's because of the dividends.  The more dividends, the more they're worth.  But since nobody knows how many there'll be, you buy blind.  That's called a bull market; all the Jews are cashing in on it and so am I. You would not believe, my dear wife, how small-time investors have become millionaires!  They live in huge dachas, travel to Europinian spas, drape their women in silks and satins, speak French, play the piano, eat jam, and drink jewlips all day long.  Their children have governors and ride icicles.  A ruble means nothing to them.  They live high and the sky is the limit.  And it's all from stocks & bonds!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

One of These Things Doesn't Belong

One of these Assisted Living Facility names is real.

Elysian Fields

Add your own in the comments. Bonus points for offering a sample menu.

My Favorite Line From a Movie, Ever.

"I know Ducks Can Dream." Sweet Land.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Hell Hath No Fury Like A Wingnut Scorned

Fallowes's lengthy interchange with his would be Galtian gives you the flavor of a fine whine, bottled some time ago, that is just now being uncorked for our delectation.  There's quite a bit of it about as this article about a Colorado gun manufacturer makes clear. (h/t TaMara who comments over at Balloon Juice).  This leads me to observe that there are two kinds of wingnut rage--the first is expressed by the assertion that the speaker is Going Galt. This is the equivalent of the Goodbye Cruel World diary on Kos and the gesture of the child who runs screaming to their room and sobs angrily "you'll all miss me when I'm gone."  The point of the gesture is to hurt the other--in fact the Galt Guy explicitly says he is going Galt in order to hurt the country and the liberals by deleting the jobs he is responsible for creating.  When enough attention is not paid, your true Galtian comes back for several more bites at the apple, demanding Fallowes pay attention to him, re-engage, listen to his arguments, respect his authority, and maybe have lunch at a quiet little spot? The one thing he doesn't do is follow through on ending his symbolic life as a businessman by shutting up shop. Just as your child doesn't have the ability to hold their breath until they drop dead.

There's another kind of wingnut warrior and would be Galtian hero though--its the variety "lets you and him fight" or as they used to say in the Penninsular war a "go on" and not a "come on." These are the greater masses of wingnuts who enjoy the thought of a vicarious Galtian punishment of the enemy--as long as they don't get hurt in the process.  They don't threaten to remove themselves from society but they enjoy thought of society, or a tiny town (say) being hurt when someone else goes Galt.  And when their new best friend and Galtian exemplar fails to follow through and cut off their own nose to spite their own face?   They get really pissed off. As in Colorado where Magpul, a gun manufacturer, tried to hold their community and their jobs hostage until the state of Colorado gave them the laws they wanted.  Inside Colorado the threat to take the business elsewhere seems to have been viewed with a bit of nuance but outside, in the gun community, it was a winning proposition.  A normal person might see a corporation holding its worker's futures and its community ties hostage until the corporation gets special consideration from the state as a form of anti-democratic extortion, even a terroristic act.  Not the second amendment heroes from outside the state.  They approve of the use of the power of the purse and a corporate boycott as a way to bring unruly liberals to heel.  But there's many a slip!

The company's seeming inability to once and for all pull up stakes and exit Colorado has gone from a point of curiosity among gun enthusiasts, who loudly backed the company's decision half a year ago to move, to a source of annoyance that threatens to hurt Magpul's reputation and business.
On the company's Facebook page, some comments in the last few weeks have turned ugly as customers begin to question whether Magpul truly walks the walk when it comes to defending the 2nd Amendment or simply issues "empty threat(s)."

"Hmmm. I hope I am wrong, but I'm starting to feel dumb for buying a bunch of your stuff to support your company during your move and beyond," Michael Franklin, of Arizona, wrote last week. "What happened to the principles you were passionate about?"
Steve Allen, of North Carolina, also expressed his impatience with Magpul's lack of progress in leaving Colorado.
"Still waiting for the move. I'm a business owner -- I know how difficult a move is," he wrote. "You drew a line and the Colorado legislature crossed it. I sure hope your line means more than Obama's line in Syria."

But alas! Talk is cheap! When they lost the legislative battle they then discovered that its a little harder to pull up stakes and move to punish the liberal elites. You might put this under the heading of Econ 101: capital flight is a whole lot easier than labor and industrial flight and running away from home because you don't like the dinner mom is serving is not exactly a cost free endeavour.

Slowly, bitterly, the customers learn that a stiff prick has no conscience and that Magpul wasn't really all that determined to lose money in defense of a principle when they can just keep making money selling stuff to people who want stuff.  It might not be the same people as before, but it will still be money. As for their principles? Could it really be that a capitalist producer of stuff just wants to sell stuff? 

"In the beginning they would post comments and have rallies in support of the 2nd Amendment," said Steven Power, of Texas. "As time has gone on you have heard less and less from them on the move. With the lines of communication dead, it looks like a marketing ploy."

All that end of the world talk was just for show and, like the Republicans in the House, in the end you have to compromise with reality. But this isn't the end of the story--again, like Boehner and the Tea Party Reps, Magpul has gotten its customers riled up and now can't satisfy their desire to see someone hurt. So the natural progression (as from hurting Federal workers to hurting the world, from shutdown to default) is from hurting the State of Colorado to hurting Magpul.  Now the customer base decides to start going Galt itself. Some decide to stop buying what Magpul is selling

"like Ronny Johnson, of Texas, [who lost]  any hope that Magpul intends to stick to its principles. He now calls himself a former customer..."I do think they will see a loss of business. They have lost mine.",
But others, the second variety, merely resign themselves to hoping someone else does the punishing and effectively ill wishing rather than acting: "Power said he is still hoping for the best, but bracing for the worst.
"If this all turns out to be nothing but a way to sell guns and gun accessories, then I hope they go out of business," he said.

 Its like the Zeno's paradox of going Galt. At every step towards fleeing this vale of tears some percentage drops off, and some percentage turn their ire on their former comrades or communities.  Talk about fewer but better Russians! There's a Nepali locution seems apt here "As for doing X, so do X."  As for going Galt, so go Galt already. Its going to be mighty lonely when you get to that Gulch.