Saturday, June 14, 2008

Murder-suicides among the elderly (by Suzie)


          A newspaper reports that Robert Benjo, 82, shot his wife, Peggy, 76, in Deltona, Fla., as she slept. Their doctor said the husband did it so that she would no longer suffer from cancer and Alzheimer’s. The doctor, the public defender and the family called it a mercy killing.
In December 2000, another Deltona man, Leo Visco, 81, was arrested when he shot his wife, Eva, in what was termed a "mercy killing." Although he was charged with first-degree murder after the homicide, he subsequently got a five-year suspended prison sentence and was placed on probation for 10 years.
          Without more facts, I can’t speak to these cases. But I do want thorough investigations when elderly men kill ailing wives.
         Donna Cohen, a professor at the Florida Mental Health Institute in Tampa, has researched murder and suicide in the elderly. From an article on her research:
           Of the hundreds of homicide-suicide deaths in the US each year, the rate amongst over 55s is twice that of under 55s. Homicide-suicides now account for about three per cent of all suicides, and about 12 per cent of homicides in the older population.
         “One of our most distressing findings is evidence that older women who are killed are not knowing or willing participants,” says Dr. Cohen. “Often they are killed in their sleep or shot in the back of the head or chest.”
           Her research indicates that about a third of elder homicide-suicides occur in a context of domestic violence, an ugly contrast to the Norman Rockwell image of loving clan matriarch and patriarch.
            Most elder homicide-suicides, however, have more to do with poor health. Often one or both partners are in failing health, and typically the husband is supporting a spouse who is chronically ill.
           “You’ve got men in long-lived marriages who have typically exercised a certain amount of control and they’re having to care for their wives,” says Dr. Cohen. “They’re very task oriented, and this inability to help the wife becomes an interpretation of failure.
            "A woman who is providing care is more apt to respond emotionally. They talk about it, share those kinds of thoughts.”
         I understand the frustrations of caregiving. I helped care for a father with Alzheimer’s and other illnesses while I underwent cancer treatment. I think assisted suicide should be legal, but we must be very, very, very careful.
          If there’s nothing in writing, it’s hard to interpret what someone might have wanted. People who are in pain or are distraught about their physical condition may talk about dying or say they don’t want to live in a certain fashion. But they would not necessarily answer “yes” if asked, “Would you like me to shoot you in your sleep?”
          Let me put this another way: Not everyone who talks about suicide, not everyone who says they hate their life, actually wants to die. For some, it’s another way of saying, “Please do something to help me.” When I came out of anesthesia after my first major operation, I was yelling, “Kill me! Kill me!” What I really meant was, “Quick, inject me with more painkiller!”
           Some people say they wouldn’t want to live with a chronic illness or disability, but after they become ill or disabled, they find ways to enjoy life.
          A brain tumor left my mother with dementia, but she was relatively happy. Her younger self wouldn’t have wanted to live like that. But her older, demented self? She liked the tiny blue flowers that grew by the lake, the dog that curled next to her as she slept, and a bagel with coffee.

The Translation Robot. (May Trigger.)

Has been working very slowly. That's the only reason I can think for the slowness with which McCain canceled his fundraiser with Clayton Williams:

ABC's Rick Klein reports: Sen. John McCain on Friday abruptly cancelled a Monday fundraiser that had been scheduled at the home of a Texas oilman, after ABC News contacted the campaign inquiring about a verbal blunder the Texan made during an unsuccessful 1990 campaign for governor.

Clayton Williams stirred controversy during his 1990 campaign for governor of Texas with a botched attempt at humor in which he compared rape to weather. Within earshot of a reporter, Williams said: "As long as it's inevitable, you might as well lie back and enjoy it."

Other than not having a very well-developed sense of humor, Williams has all the correct wingnut opinions:

Williams told the Midland Reporter-Telegram recently that he had already raised more than $300,000 for McCain and the fundraiser to be held at his home in Midland. Williams said that he needed to help McCain raise money to stop an Obama campaign that would enact "socialist" policies if elected to office.

"Much of the media, particularly the TV media, are to the left," Williams told the newspaper. "To combat that we must have money to put our case to the people. We are way behind on [fundraising]. If Obama wins, it could move our country to the left, from which we will not recover."

And what do I mean by the translation robot being slow? Obviously someone had to tell McCain why that particular joke mattered enough to cancel the fundraiser.

There are all those onion layers to this little debacle, too. In one layer is a guy who made a stupid comment twenty years ago, and paying to much attention to that stupid comment seems stupid in itself. But in the next layer is the obvious fact that rape is nothing like the weather, that it's very hard to relax and enjoy that knife on your throat, for example, and to make jokes about this is very cruel. Then, deeper still, are the values of a society which have produced such jokes. And the fact that a robot is needed to translate that to politicians.

Friday, June 13, 2008

More Jeanine on Joss (by Suzie)


         Please indulge me as I post my last tidbits from film scholar Jeanine Basinger’s speech on Joss Whedon. (See the post below for the first part.)
         Foreshadowing his later TV shows, Whedon put vampires in his first film at Wesleyan and later did two Westerns. The man who would write “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” wrote this about the female protagonist in “The Birds”: “She has to give up her superficial life with its controls and just fight.”
         Joss studied all the classics. Later, when he was famous, Basinger arranged lunch with Joan Leslie. “He has a crush on her. He is practically ecstatic, jumping up and down. Joan Leslie! Joan Leslie!”
         “Joss had very eclectic taste” as a student, Basinger said. For example, he later wrote her that he liked the values of “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” He liked Brian De Palma, but not “Masterpiece Theater” type movies, such as those made by Merchant-Ivory. “He didn’t like pretention … or anything cruel to teenagers. He’d fight to the death over those films.” She said later: “He gets really mad when he sees a movie that’s really stupid. He cares. … He takes it as a sacred responsibility to be a good storyteller.”
          Early on, she talked to someone about hiring Whedon and then warned him, “Joss, he’s going to kill you if you do anything wrong.” That night, Whedon dreamed she was chasing him with a knife. “This was my proudest moment as a teacher,” Basinger said, with the wry humor that colored her speech.
          In 1989, she got a letter from him in an envelope with a “Roseanne” logo. He had begun writing for that TV show. He described himself as a “television whore,” an “emotionally unstable” hermit whose hair was turning blond.
          “I’m making my way,” he concluded.
         Thirteen years ago, on June 24, Basinger attended his wedding to “a real warrior woman,” Kai Cole. Basinger danced with him. “We are fabulous and brilliant and should be on Broadway.”
          Although the “Buffy” movie greatly disappointed him, Basinger recognized his voice in lines such as: The Californian basketball coach tells his team, “Remember, you are a person. You are entitled to the ball.”
           Whedon called before the “Buffy” television series aired, saying, “It is my inevitable DNA that I’ll be doing a television series.” (He’s a third-generation TV writer.)
           “He was so excited.” He told Basinger: “Wait till you see the cast. I love these people. They’re so good. The only thing is that it will last only a few episodes and no one will see it.” He wanted to do the show his way, and he wanted Basinger to see it before it was yanked off the air. After the first episode, he asked her if she liked it, and she told him that she did. The show ran for seven seasons, and she always watched in real time. Her husband, an actor and teacher, commented: “ ‘Buffy’ is worthy of John Milton.”
           In the show, she could hear “his peculiar cadences, his wit, his aches and pains, his worries... I could feel his heart beat. I could feel his heart beat.”
          On her first visit to the Buffy set, she was scared on his behalf, the way she was when her daughter was learning to drive. She wanted to yell: “Watch out! This is a hard, tough business.” But she saw how proficient he was. “I’m so very proud of him.”
            She also loved “Firefly.” “It’s just fabulous.” But Fox executives pulled it before all 14 episodes aired. “If I could murder those people, I would.”
           Can't get enough? Check out Nikki Stafford's account.

Jeanine Basinger on Joss Whedon (by Suzie)

          Before Jeanine Basinger spoke at Slayage, she called Joss Whedon to ask what she should not say. The list grew longer and longer.
           “I’m not going to have anything left to tell them,” she told him.
           But Basinger ended up with plenty to say about the creator of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel,” “Firefly” and “Serenity.” Basinger, a renowned author and film-studies professor at Wesleyan University, spoke Sunday at the Slayage Conference on the Whedonverses* 3 in Arkadelphia, Ark.
           After her speech, I asked about feminism. She said Whedon was a feminist before he became her student, and she credits his mother, who was a librarian and teacher. But she does think she influenced his ideas on feminism.
           Basinger, who is in her 70s, was among the first women to get tenure at Wesleyan. She teaches women that, if men take the camera from them, they can take it back. She said she practices with them, if need be.
           Basinger recalled the first time she saw someone wearing a T-shirt that read: “Joss is God.”
          “This makes me one of the mothers of God. I’m comfortable with that, but is he really God?” Another reaction: “Joss? My little Joss?” He ignores stuff like the T-shirt, but she feels “a little appalled” by his deification. In Hollywood, she has seen the wreckage that ego causes. She considers Whedon remarkable for never losing his humanity, his perspective, his basic personality.
          “Today, Joss is exactly the same person as when I taught him. He is wearing the exact same T-shirt. He is wearing the exact same sneakers.
          “Joss is a very sensitive person. He would describe himself as a lonely, nerd-type teenager.” Although he had outgrown that description by the time he got to Wesleyan, he still felt – and feels – protective of teenagers, she said. “Joss is youthful in spirit and body and mind. I don’t think he has waked up to the fact that he isn’t a teenager.”
           She met him in 1983 or ’84 when he asked permission to take a class. They had a long talk. “It’s a conversation that’s still going on,” she said, and it’s one of the most important in her life. The feeling is mutual. Whedon once said: “I’ve had two great teachers in my life. One was my mother, and the other was Jeanine.”
           Asked if Whedon might become a teacher someday, she said it’s possible. “Joss is an excellent teacher,” she said, noting how he works with young actors.
           As a student, he already understood so much. She thought: “It’s all in there. It’s waiting.”
           When he graduated, she came to this realization: “He’s the tribal storyteller. I think, deep inside, he knows that he’s the tribal storyteller and that will be his destiny. We never say this out loud. It would be too noisy.”
            When he’s not telling a story, he’s restless, she said. She imagines him in cave days, wearing burlap and telling stories to guys in furs. Sometimes they would feed him, and sometimes they would beat him with a stick. But he would never stop.
          Basinger gave interviews about him when he became well-known. Then she stopped, feeling uncomfortable talking about a friendship marked by “dignity, always dignity.”#
           What does Whedon think of scholars who study his work?
            “I think this falls under the ‘And, for God’s sakes, don’t tell them’ category." But, she told the audience, “I’m not finding you too scary … too crazy. I think he thinks you do what you do and he does what he does. He has talked to me about it, but I promised not to talk about it.”
            She said she’ll tell him that he should go to the next Slayage. I’m thrilled because Joss is G… , umm, someone I admire.

* That’s like “universes.”
#From “Singin’ in the Rain.” 

Thursday, June 12, 2008

What I'm Re-Reading Today

Henry Fielding's Tom Jones. It takes some time to get into the language and spelling used in the book and to appreciate how recent the idea of novels was during the eighteenth century (though of course the genre of the novel is very old, starting from at least Lady Murasaki's The Tale of Genji). I enjoy parts of Tom Jones very much, while tend to race through others as if I was cramming for a college examination.

Is the book safe reading for a feminist, you might ask. Well, nothing is and everything is. But there are small glimpses of a pre-feminist awakenings in the book, if you dig hard enough. Absolutely no awakening about class and class privilege, though. Fielding expects his readers to agree that the upper classes indeed deserve better treatment because they are better people. He also takes it for granted that it's up to the poor lower class women to preserve their virtue against the unceasing attacks by the upper class twits, and should they fail in that they are Whores, to be sent to the workhouse, while nothing much happens to the squire who we might regard as guilty of rape.

Parts of the book are most excellently funny, though. For example, after Tom Jones has been injured:

She was proceeding in this manner, when the Surgeon entered the Room. The Lieutenant immediately asked how his patient did? But he resolved him only by saying, 'Better, I believe, than he would have been by this Time, if I had not been called; and even as it is, perhaps it would have been lucky if I could have been called sooner.' 'I hope, Sir,' said the Lieutenant, 'the Skull is not fractured.' 'Hum,' cries the Surgeon, 'Fractures are not always the most dangerous Symptoms. Contusions and Lacerations are often attended with worse Phaenomena, and with more fatal consequences than Fractures. People who know nothing of the Matter conclude, if the Skull is not fractured, all is well; whereas, I had rather see a Man's Skull broke all to pieces, than some Contusions I have met with.' 'I hope,' says the Lieutenant, 'there are no such symptoms here.' 'Symptoms,' answered the Surgeon, 'are not always regular or constant. I have known very unfavourable Symptoms in the Morning change to favourable ones at Noon, and return to unfavourable again at Night.

It goes on like that for a while, and I recognize the slippery eeliness of many experts in that speech. The Surgeon finally deserts the patient when he finds out that Tom Jones doesn't have much money. It's wonderful to contemplate which facts are clear-cut and which facts require a lot of hedging.

Anti-Feminism 101

Sometimes a person turns on a flashlight and directs it to the back brains of anti-feminists. When this happens we get a learning moment. Yeah.

Here is one such moment:

On the June 11 broadcast of San Francisco radio station KSFO's The Lee Rodgers Program, host Lee Rodgers said: "[T]he historical voting records show that Democrats have, historically, enjoyed a huge advantage in women voters. Why is that?" Rodgers continued: "Well, some women may be offended by this, but here's another dose of reality. We have a lot of women in this country who get knocked up and they don't have a husband. In effect, the government becomes Daddy in terms of paying the bills. And that accounts -- that's not all of it, but that accounts for a large part of that vote."

Now to tease all the different strands of that comment-knot apart:

First is the idea that people only vote for certain policies because of narrowly selfish goals, not because of wider ideals which might or might not have consequences of the voter. So all women who vote for, say, improved parental leaves only do so because they plan to use such leaves in the future. This idea is the way many wingnuts view the government, as a treasure trove to be ransacked. We can see how it is done by looking at the last eight years.

Second is the view of women as it filters through many murky layers of patriarchal thinking: Women are supposed to make babies for men and men are supposed to give bed and board to those women in return. Nobody else is supposed to enter that trade. Because this is how things are, women who vote for a larger government must be doing so to replace the god-given and evolutionarily predestined role of men in their lives. The role of men as providers and leaders of families.

Third is that odd sentence "We have a lot of women in this country who get knocked up and they don't have a husband." Note the passive way pregnancy is expressed. Rodgers doesn't say that a lot of women in this country get impregnated by men who are not their husbands. That's not necessarily a better way of stating his message, but it shows the manipulation in the original message. The focus is kept on the hussies.

Fourth is the strengthening of the wingnut memes about the government as a Daddy or as a Mommy, though it's not done right. Usually the wingnuts see the best government as a stern and punishing daddy, one who will whup you if you don't do your homework or clean your room. The bad government, in that conservative lexicon, is the government as a permissive mommy, one who gives you more pocket-money and tidies up your room behind the daddy's back. Rodger makes the daddy government something different. Perhaps it's a divorced daddy, turned into nothing but a pocket-book.

Fifth, is the total lack of evidence that the women who vote for Democrats are any more likely to be in the fertile stages of their lives than the women who vote for Republicans.

And so on.

I'm A Low-Hanging Fruit

I've been puttering around, humming that to myself today. It was Chris Matthews who gave me that new way of seeing myself when he said that women, politically speaking, are low-hanging fruits for Obama. All he needs to say that he's pro-choice and McCain is not, and, presto!, the election is in his bag.

Of course, the discussion about white men doesn't call them low-hanging fruits though that would seem more descriptive, actually. Nope, they need much more persuading to vote for Obama rather than McCain. They need a "palpably patriotic" VP for Obama. Are we all supposed to go and palpate that person, the way we might test melons for ripeness? Not sure.

This, my sweet readers, is the status of public commentary on American politics.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I Can't Believe This One

Fox News has called Michelle Obama Barack's "baby mama" in that text which runs at the bottom of the television screen. I did a search of the term and found these definitions of the term:

Peruse these definitions from

* “The mother of your child(ren), whom you did not marry and with whom you are not currently involved.”
* “Basically a woman you had a child or children with who you didn’t marry and are no longer involved with. Usually associated with hoodrats and trailer park b***hes.”
* “Like herpes, it won’t go away!!!!!”

Clearly the guys who thought of these definitions don’t think of the term “baby mama” as a compliment. They consider it a slur, as derogatory a term for women as ‘ho, the B-word and chickenhead. And no, you don’t want to know’s definition of chickenhead. But I’m sure a song extolling the glory of being one is on some singer or rapper’s must-do list.

Perhaps the usage has changed since 2005, the date of that article? But I doubt it.

So what do we have here? The anticipated mix of racism and sexism. The hint that Michelle and Barack are not legally married, that theirs is not a "real" family.

Joan Walsh of the Salon expects that Fox News will apologize. I expect nothing from them, to be quite honest, but if they are allowed not to apologize I will make a spell that gives everybody piles.

Oh no! Not Webb

Many on the lefty blogs really like Webb as Obama's VP candidate. I think choosing him would be a major disaster, for several reasons, but especially because of what he once wrote about women in the military:

[Women's] presence at institutions dedicated to the preparation of men for combat command is poisoning that preparation. By attempting to sexually sterilize the Naval Academy environment in the name of equality, this country has sterilized the whole process of combat leadership training, and our military forces are doomed to suffer the consequences. … [T]he system has been objectified and neutered to the point it can no longer develop or measure leadership. …

He also wrote this:

Military leaders are at best passive and at most often downright fearful when confronted by activists who allege that their culture is inherently oppressive toward females and that full assimilation of women depends only on a change in the mind-set of its misogynist leaders.

Webb has had many opportunities to clarify or to explain his views but he has not bothered. And this means that having him as the VP candidate would be very much like spitting in the eyes of all those women who voted for Hillary Clinton in the primaries. It would be a political gaffe of the highest order, because it would indicate that it's really true that the guy politicians are completely blind and deaf when it comes to what makes the female voters tick.

Henrietta the Hound. 1992-2008. RIP

What a beautiful dog she was, and intelligent. The dog with the most beautiful eyes in the whole world, the fiercest bark. She ran like the wind and you awed and ahed, and then she changed gears, got lower to the ground, overtook the wind and bit the clouds in the butt. When you look up to the sky and see someone biting a cloud in the butt, that's my Henrietta.

I miss her.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Save the snakes (by Suzie)


      In St. Petersburg, Fla., PETA is protesting the skinning of snakes and other reptiles for clothing and accessories. Once again, it's using women's bodies to make the point. A woman in underwear, painted like a snake, is lying on the sidewalk with her arms at her side. 
      One of the inane people who left comments on a newspaper's Web site suggested PETA paint an overweight woman gray to publicize the plight of the manatees. How very clever, except PETA prefers its naked female protesters to be slim and conventionally attractive.
       But, hey, I'm all for saving the snakes.

Are We Equal When

Women can be openly misogynist, too? It's a question well worth thinking about. Consider our main representative among prestigious political pundits: Maureen Dowd:

A Media Matters for America review of Maureen Dowd's New York Times columns between January 1, 2007, and June 8, 2008, reveals that Dowd has frequently characterized this election cycle's leading Democratic candidates -- Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and former Sen. John Edwards (NC) -- using gendered language, specifically characterizing Clinton as masculine, and Obama and Edwards as feminine. For example, Dowd wrote on March 3, 2007: "If Hillary is in touch with her masculine side, Barry [Obama] is in touch with his feminine side." On June 4, Dowd asserted: "Barry [Obama] has been trying to shake off Hillary and pivot for quite a long time now, but she has managed to keep her teeth in his ankle and raise serious doubts about his potency. ... Hillary's camp radiated the message that Obama was a sucker who had played by the rules on Florida and Michigan, and then reached an appeasing compromise, and that such a weak sister could never handle Putin or I'm-A-Dinner-Jacket." Besides characterizing Clinton as masculine, Dowd often portrays the New York senator and former first lady as domineering, having called her "Mommie Dearest" and "Mistress Hillary. Dowd also often compares Obama to a child, calling him "boy wonder" and "the Chicago kid." By contrast, Dowd rarely feminized the all-male Republican field, and, during the period Media Matters reviewed, has never feminized Sen. John McCain, whom she has referred to in one column as a "tough guy[]."

My usual reaction is to feel sorry for women who suffer from such immense self-loathing. But I actually doubt that Dowd loathes herself. It's the idea of femininity that she loathes, the idea of all that "womanhood", that enormous mass of weakness, moistness, vulnerability, scatter-brainedness, cattiness, stupidity, or whatever characteristics the popular culture has assigned to women over her lifetime.

Those messages are there still and they were there much more strongly a few decades ago. It's almost as if most young girls of Dowd's generation got a nice wholesome glass of cold misogynistic milk most days of their childhoods. No wonder that many of them accept the societal misogyny without really stopping to think that it applies to themselves, too. You don't get a pass just because you think you do. You don't get a pass even if your misogyny is all about your mother or those catty girls in your high-school or that woman who stole your sweetheart or those bitches at work. Other people will still apply that same misogyny to you.

Perhaps that is the first step into feminist class awareness, the awareness that if you are female you will often be treated according to the cultural rules which apply to that "womanhood", whether those cultural rules are fair or not and whether they reflect the kind of person you actually are.

The Song Of Many Voices

In a science-fiction or fantasy book, possibly by Sheri Tepper, a planet has an indigenous sentient species which tells its history by singing. One person might start a song about an event, but then another one joins in, adding details or counterarguments. This causes an amended duet, which is then changed by a third person singing, a fourth one joining in and so on, until at last the story is told so that everyone has had their say in the telling.

Doing that wouldn't be possible in, say, American politics, simply because the song would take too long. It would probably never end, given political pressure groups and advertising. But the basic idea has something in it which I miss, especially after spending so much time recently on reading stories which only tell one side. Or stories which present only some evidence.

I don't really like that. If a case I present is strong enough I should be able to discuss all the evidence, even the one that works against my arguments, and I should be able to explain why that evidence is either wrong or counts less than the other evidence which supports my conclusions. Reality is hardly ever clear-cut, few policies are all bad or good and nuances are important to address. But then one is boring, not passionate enough, so boring.

Still, as long as the opposition doesn't tell the whole story it's hard to see how we could, without coming across as appeasers. Heh. A double-irony there, given that we are supposed to be appeasers in one of those one-sided and biased tellings.

It's also loads more fun to write sharply and passionately and with one single story line weaving through the piece, getting stronger paragraph by paragraph. It's probably also more fun to read that than the kind of academic treatise one easily ends up with when writing nuance. Just as it's more interesting to read about some new and effective treatment for an illness than to read about the new treatment not being any better than the old ones. But the latter kind of knowledge is important, too.

So yes, I miss the song of many voices in politics. It doesn't have to be a harmony and it certainly doesn't have to end in some state in which everybody holds hands and agrees. It's more complicated and richer than the melodies (he-said-he-said) most press gives us these days.

Could it be done on blogs? I'm not sure. The maximum desirable length of a blog post appears to be shrinking all the time.

Yes, We Have No Tomatoes Today

Because tomatoes these days might give you salmonella. What with the recent spinach scare and the scare about pet food from China and on and on, it's hard not marvel at the inventiveness of the unregulated markets in these fields. We get so much at such a low price! Too bad that we get some things we don't want, because the incentive to keep costs low also opens up interesting avenues for saving a cent off there, a penny off here, by replacing safe but expensive ingredients with something cheaper or by not taking certain hygienic precautions which cost time and money.

It's all fun and games, in the manner of markets with incomplete information. Consumers can't check tomatoes for salmonella bacteria or pet food or medications for possibly poisonous substances. Well, they could if each consumer bought a small home laboratory and learned how to use it. But that's a very expensive way of guaranteeing safety in the food and medicine markets.

What's cheaper, then? Perhaps it just might be that old bugbear: government regulation. Even the Bush administration now seems to think so. Otherwise it would be hard to know why suddenly the idea of getting rid of FDA workers and labs has lost its lustre:

Two days after announcing a large-scale recall of raw tomatoes, the Bush administration asked Congress on Monday to give the Food and Drug Administration an additional $275 million in next year's budget to help improve the safety of the nation's food supply.

"I would like to once again strongly urge Congress to act quickly to enhance the safety of food and medical products," said Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt in an evening conference call with reporters.

With the added money, the F.D.A. would open offices in China, India and Central America and provide more inspections of food and medical products, Mr. Leavitt said. The agency would also hire another 490 people in addition to hires the agency already planned.

"We'll be able to expand the total workforce by 1,500 people, or 15 percent growth," the food and drug commissioner, Andrew C. von Eschenbach, said.

This is a 180 degree turn from positions this administration took just a few years ago. Remarkable.

Perhaps a tomato salad to celebrate?

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Terrorist Fist Jab

It's a silly, silly thing, having to do with a right-wing television person's reaction to this picture of the Obamas:

Here's where the "terrorist fist jab" enters the game:

Teasing a segment on the "gesture everyone seems to interpret differently," Fox News' E.D. Hill said: "A fist bump? A pound? A terrorist fist jab? ... We'll show you some interesting body communication and find out what it really says." In the ensuing discussion with a "body language expert," Hill referred to the "Michelle and Barack Obama fist bump or fist pound," but at no point did she explain her earlier reference to "a terrorist fist jab."

See how the memes are being forwarded? In any case, that gesture, whatever it might be, has been used by George The Elder (from Phillybits via Eschaton):

Much ado about nothing, but also a way to forward that idea of Obama as a Manchurian candidate. In any case, anyone who has done boxing might point out that those are not jabs.

Even More On Health Insurance

Recently I suffered a week or so of nightly migraines. When I was thinking about going to see a doctor (because of the sudden increased frequency) I got really scared, and the scariness was not the idea that I might have a brain tumor (though that thought passed my pained mind, too): It was the fear that nothing unusual was found to be wrong but that I'd be left with such enormous bills for all the tests and the reading of those tests and the rent of the rooms in which those tests are performed that I couldn't cope with my other financial obligations over this summer.

And yes, I do have insurance, and yes, I'm not among the poor. But the prices of health care services run in thousands, not in hundreds, where I live, and the insurance always seems to reserve the right to decide that I wasn't, after all, insured for this or that specific example, not to mention the covering of only "customary and usual charges", as opposed to the actual charges being made.

All this means that I don't feel insured. It may well be the case that all of those costs would have been covered by the insurer. That I don't trust that is because of my past experiences.

But the fundamental point of insurance is the idea of turning the risk of a large expense into a known but much smaller expense. The more we tinker with the system to change that the less insured, more unsafe, people feel.

On Mandates in Health Insurance

Barack Obama's health insurance proposal includes mandates for children, meaning that all children must have health insurance, but no mandates for adults. The reason why the latter are missing is probably that people don't like the idea of the government telling them what to do. The seat belt debate a decade ago went along those lines, too: Why should the government be able to determine if I buckle up inside my own car?

I can sympathize with that. But there's an intricate problem in any health insurance proposal which includes these two things:
a) no individual mandates
b) no denying insurance based on pre-existing conditions

Can you figure out the problem? Yup. A rational calculation will suggest to a young and healthy individual that it's ok not buy insurance. You can always buy it when you get sick. That way you save lots of money.

If enough healthy individuals think like that, what will happen? There will be less money in the insurance pool and more of the people covered by that pool will be spending it. All this makes it much more likely that the whole plan will fail.
Added later: Of course Obama's plan is a zillion times better than McCain's plan which is to go on doing what we have been doing to get into this mess in the first place. But should the Congress ever somehow gather the courage to actually try to do something about getting universal health insurance for all Americans that problem about mandates on the one hand and the pre-existing condition on the other must be addressed.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Open Yer Eyes

Digby has this to say about the sexism of the primary campaign:

Clinton's campaign ripped open a hole in our culture and forced us to look inside. And what we found was a simmering cauldron of crude, sophomoric sexism and ugly misogyny that a lot of us knew existed but didn't realize was still so socially acceptable that it could be broadcast on national television and garner nary a complaint from anybody but a few internet scolds like me. It was eye-opening, to say the least.

Eye-opening? Well, not for me. But then I have the stench radar set on a very sensitive level, after all these years of feminaziing. In fact, I could probably give you a pretty predictive list of various public people who don't really care much for women (except perhaps in the sense they care about a nice chicken dinner), and that list includes some people others don't seem to see in that light at all. Yet. But nope, I'm not posting that list, because I'm an Ethical Blogger. Well, semi-ethical, given that I hinted at its existence.

Or perhaps just a quarter-ethical, because I often assume the role of a naive onlooker in my posts. In a sense I AM that naive onlooker, a little pink alien creature just arrived on this earth and truly astonished by the stuff I see. But in another sense I'm weary and cynical. So some of that stance is assumed, not real. But the real stance would get us nowhere, and in any case it, too, is only half-real. (See where weekend posting gets me?)

To return to the topic of sexism in this primary campaign, Howard Dean made a statement about it. Late, true, but at least he made one. Here it is:

Even the Democratic National Committee chairman is avidly trying to make up for accusations that he allowed sexism in the race to pass unchallenged.

"The wounds of sexism need to be the subject of a national discussion," the chairman, Howard Dean, said in an interview. "Many of the most prominent people on TV behaved like middle schoolers" toward Mrs. Clinton.

Now we are gonna have a national discussion of the wounds of sexism? Is Keith Olbermann going to give one of his angry Specials on it? Hee. I'm looking forward to that one.

And what would he say? Hmm. Perhaps something about demon Hillary cheating and exploiting bitter old white women who are too stupid to see that they are being cheated and exploited?

That was really unfair of me, because I put one the common sexist/ageist memes in various blog comments into Keith's mouth. I'm sure he would do nothing of the sort, nevah.

More seriously, it has been fascinating to see the specific forms of misogyny that this campaign has sprouted, most commonly the idea of women who supported Hillary Clinton as old and bitter. Because if they weren't old and bitter they wouldn't have supported her. It's easy.

What will be much harder to explain away is the next stage of misogyny in the presidential campaigning. It will be directed towards the wives of the candidates, and at least in the case of Michelle Obama it will be a mixture of racism and sexism.

My policy has been not to write about the family members of politicians, as long as they have no public roles themselves. This is because I believe that even the families of politicians deserve their privacy, and also because attacks against the spouse or children of a politician are indirect attacks against him (it's mostly "him"), based on the assumption that he "owns" his wife and his children. That goes against my feminist thinking.

But I think I may have to suspend that policy, at least until the elections are over.

Don't Call It Rape

This is rather startling:

It's the only way Tory Bowen knows to honestly describe what happened to her.

She was raped.

But a judge prohibited her from uttering the word "rape" in front of a jury. The term "sexual assault" also was taboo, and Bowen could not refer to herself as a victim or use the word "assailant" to describe the man who allegedly raped her.

The defendant's presumption of innocence and right to a fair trial trumps Bowen's right of free speech, said the Lincoln, Neb., judge who issued the order.


"There's no law anywhere that allows courts to issue these kinds of orders against private citizens," Murphy said. "That doesn't mean judges aren't doing it."

Prosecutors may object, but rarely do they have the time and resources to stop a trial midstream to appeal, she said.

But in cases where the defendant's version of events is pitted against that of the alleged victim, "words are really important," Marquis said.

"To force a victim to say, 'when the defendant and I had sexual intercourse' is just absurd," he said.

Let me see if I got this right: If someone mugs you and steals your rings and bracelets you are supposed to call the mugging "an exchange of jewelry"? Because otherwise you are prejudicing the case against the accused? Why is "avoiding prejudicing the case" equal to presenting only the case of the defense?