Saturday, December 12, 2009

If Reid and Obama Don’t Value The Peoples’ Lives More Than The Rules of the Senate, They Will Be Defeated by Anthony McCarthy

It must be so much easier to be a Republican. With Republicans you know what you get, an elitist party that never ceases on the track of extracting as much of the value out of the labor of the masses as possible in order to benefit the wealthiest, the elite that is their patron and which they aspire to join. They are so dedicated to that prime directive that they have subordinated everything to it, principle, integrity, and all else. They are so fixed on Job 1 that they have held their delicate noses and taken the most backward, ignorant, dangerous of the rabble under their umbrella in a gamble that they can throw just enough red meat to them to keep them from doing anything so unprofitable as to set up a copy of one of various unprofitable despotisms, though one that yields sufficient benefits is not unobjectionable to the “moderate” Republican.

Being a Democrat is harder because it is so much harder to organize around the idea of sacrifice for the common good than it is to motivate with selfishness, resentment and bigotry. It’s always been that way for progressive parties, parties that, at bottom, are more about common good won by giving something up as individuals.

I can hear the snickers, it’s hard to maintain the idea that the Democratic Party is about the common good with the irrefutable proof in the Senate this week that a large part of the Democratic caucus in the Senate and the House are in the pockets of the insurance, pharmaceutical and other industries that should have been regulated as a public utility a century ago. I certainly know this, I’ve always known it. The blue dogs have done what they’ve always done, made common cause with the part of the elite. As I recall, not having the script in front of me, a scene in the Frank Capra movie State of the Nation in which a reluctant Katherine Hepburn is having her ear chewed by the inebriated wife of a Southern Democratic Senator of the 1940s era. She jokes how they might have a D after their name but they vote reliably Republican when it comes time.

That was a depiction of the infamous Dixicrats, a minority of nominal Democrats concentrated in the South. Democrats by virtue of the regional resentment of the Republicans as the party that defeated them in the Civil War, but always a hindrance to the progressive part of the party.

With time and the conservative, Southern, Lyndon Johnson forcing through the Civil Rights legislation of the 1960s, they gave up the party affiliation and now dominate the Republican Party. That’s not news, Johnson knew that was a price the Democrats of that generation would pay for ending legalized apartheid in the United States.

Proving that the defects in human nature are distributed more homogeneously than makes for facile categorization, the blue dogs are the new Dixicrats hindering attempts at progress coming from within the Democratic Party. These neo-Dixicrats aren’t explicitly motivated by racism, though they aren’t notably progressive on that front in many cases, they are more aligned with the old style cleptocrats that have dominated the Republican Party, certainly since the Hayes administration.

With the election of Barack Obama, a good majority in the House and 60 Senators, nominally within the Democratic caucus of the Senate, we were supposed to get real change this year. But, despite a few welcomed improvements, that change is proving impossible. I fully believe that Nancy Pelosi would like to make progress, I still believe that Barack Obama wants to make more progress than it would appear he’s pushing for, despite growing reservations on that count. Why can’t they do it? There are a number of reasons but there is one important one that is pivotal to the failure to make progress today.

There is a big difference between now and the short period of progress from Franklin Roosevelt through Lyndon Johnson, there is no liberal-moderate wing of the Republican Party which will cross lines except on the rarest of occasions. Snowe and Collins are proof that the “moderate” Republicans of today will only cross over when it will cost them little and they have to in order to maintain the charade of “moderation” necessary to get elected from their home state. I don’t know if their part in destroying the possibility of real health care reform will cost them an election. Living in Maine, the electronic media here, including the public radio network, are solidly Republican propaganda efforts.

The Senate was set up by the earliest opponents of democracy in our history, the elites who wrote and adopted the constitution. Originally appointed, it was set up to not be proportionally representative on behalf of some of the most regressive state-based establishments of the time. That was allegedly done to protect minorities from the tyranny of the majority. And that minority was the wealthy. On rare occasions since then, it has had a role in protecting other minorities and prevented the excesses coming out of the House of Representatives and, on occasion, from the Executive Branch. But its major role hasn’t been that. As in the long years of Jim Crow, the Senate was often the roadblock towards ending the bloodiest and murderous oppression. If the House is hard to move, the Senate is set up to be a roadblock to progress, it has made itself into even more of one. Despite Frank Capra’s other movie, the filibuster is now the tool of the Republicans and their allies in the neo-Dixicratic wing of the Democratic Party which will prevent the death for profit machine that the insurance-pharma-for-profit medicine block is. The deaths caused by them are less dramatic than the terrorism of lynching, their victims are no less dead.

Harry Reid has earned himself a place in American history as the man who thought more of the rules of the Senate than the millions of uninsured people in this country. He obviously cares more about his own position than in actually doing something with it which will earn him a distinction that his past term has certainly not deserved. The Democratic Senators who maintain him in that position despite his proven and abysmal ineffectiveness share in the ignominious reputation that he has earned. They apparently don’t want a strong leader, the last two have certainly been about as weak as watered skim milk. Apparently they prefer being in the minority than giving up their petty fiefdoms within the senate. I don’t see any other way to view their keeping incompetent, ineffective leaders.

My growing doubts about President Obama stem largely from his inability to do what Lyndon Johnson was able to do, see that there are greater stakes than maintenance of the rules and traditions of the Senate and the sanctity of the dogmas of market economics. He is well on his way to blowing the greatest chance a Democrat has had to make progress since the first half of the 1960s. If he is going to turn it around he had better stop relying on his abilities to give an impressive speech and to do what Lyndon Johnson did, get down and dirty with the Senate and House. He has no progressive Republicans to work with, he’s going to have to do it with the Democrats, and I don’t include Lieberman, Nelson, Lincoln or the other neo-Dixicrats. If any of the domestic agenda, on which his reelection hopes ride, are to pass, he will have to pressure Reid and the rest of the Democrats to scrap the 60 vote rule and go with a simple majority in the Senate. That has been done before, through manipulation of the rules. It was done to put some of George W. Bush’s worst judicial candidates in office just a couple of years ago.

Barack Obama seems to mix that inability with what has signs of matching Johnson’s greatest flaw, his inability to extract the United States from futile and ruinous wars.

If Barack Obama and his allies in the Senate don’t get real health care reform passed, with a real public option of some kind, they will be defeated at the polls. They fear that passing real health care reform will defeat them. That might happen but I doubt it. If the American People got real national health insurance it would give them something they haven’t had for a long time, a real, every day, reminder of their stake in the political system.

If they fail, which they are on the verge of doing, if they pass the mandate to buy insurance without a real, public option, they will have insured something, the defeat of the Democratic Party in the next election and an ironic place for Barack Obama in history as a man who destroyed his historic opportunity for greatness by his lack of courage, vision and integrity.

Losing women editors (by Suzie)

Echidne's post Thursday on the closing of Editor & Publisher led me to its site, where I saw a story on three female editors resigning.
After those three depart, only two of the top 20 circulation daily newspapers will have women editors. Those are Nancy Barnes at The Star Tribune in Minneapolis and Susan Goldberg of The Plain Dealer in Cleveland.
The article notes that only six of the 18 board members of the American Society of News Editors are women.
"It is a difficult time in the industry and there are some concerns about diversity," says Goldberg. "We have never been able to get to a level of parity, and we have seen some backsliding. I think it is a huge cause for concern."

Barnes also believed [that] diversity was a problem, but did not think it was irreversible. "It is a brutal business for women, particularly women who want to have a family," she says. "There are just different choices you have to make. But I believe we will grow more women editors."
I'm not so hopeful. Historically, journalists have been expected to work long and uncertain hours, and this set-up favored men with stay-at-home wives. I never worked at Guild newspapers, which are uncommon in the South. As a reporter, I either didn't fill out a time card or was expected to lie. You risked your career if you went to the Labor Department. To add to the risk, there was dispute over whether reporters were salaried or hourly, exempt or non-exempt. I'm sure this is true of other businesses in which performance is subjective, and companies don't want to pay overtime.

Increasingly, journalists are expected to be proficient in different forms of media, within a 24-hour news cycle. That makes it even harder for women with family responsibilities to rise through the ranks.

One small sign of hope is that women have been less affected by the sweeping layoffs in the industry, according to an APME survey, although that may be because there are more men in more high-paying positions.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Dockers Wants Patriarchy Back

This seems to be our week for manly ads. Now Dockers has joined the team. The ad begins:

Once upon a time, men wore the pants and wore them well. Women rarely had to open doors and little old ladies never crossed the street alone. Men took charge because that's what they did.

Men took charge. Of what or whom? Given that men took charge who relinquished it? The ad then goes on towards shaming those effeminate modern men and ends with this:

It's time to answer the call of manhood. It's time to wear the pants.

So Dockers wants patriarchy back. They could just hire the Taliban to learn how that is done.


How about a campaign of our own? Don't fuck any guy who eats at Burger King. Don't fuck any guy who wears Dockers. Just Say No To Assholes.
You can contact the owners of the Dockers brand here.

Marketing to men (by Suzie)

Although I have a Mac, I dislike the ads portraying it as a young, handsome, hip dude vs. the older unhip PC guy that runs Windows. I prefer the Windows ads with real people; at least they include women as more than people to be wooed.

Whenever I see a great ad, especially for a large corporation, I remind myself that the same company may have some execrable ad, like the one that aired last Friday during “Dollhouse.” Microsoft played off the idea that the latest Windows is simplified, by giving a simplified version of the TV show: There are hot and sexy dolls! Fans vomited.

A male, feminist friend who works on PCs pointed out other bad ads, such as the one for Internet Explorer 8’s “privacy mode” for browsing. This allows people to keep private some of their favorite sites and some of the sites they’ve visited. This is less suspicious than erasing details of all the sites you’ve visited. It has been dubbed “porn mode,” and Safari (which I use) has had it for several years. Preston Gralla of Computerworld says
The ad features a squeaky-clean young married couple sitting at a kitchen table. The wife asks to use the husband's laptop, and when she does, she obviously sees some kind of grotesque porn on the screen, and begins vomiting, first on the floor, and then on her husband…

Microsoft says that it pulled the ad because some customers found it offensive. I'm sure that's true. But the entire controversy may well be a setup as a way to generate publicity --- the agency that created the ad and Microsoft may have known from the beginning they were stirring up trouble with the ad, and planned to pull it from the moment the ad was created.
It’s an interesting marketing ploy: Kill an offensive ad after it gets publicity, knowing that it will continue to exist on the Internet, and the controversy will drive up viewership. This is similar to making an offensive ad that runs only in a foreign country, knowing it will get back to the U.S. market. An example is the Burger King ad of the big sandwich heading toward the mouth of a wide-eyed woman.

(I usually write posts ahead of time. Just after I scheduled this one, I saw Echidne's post on another offensive BK ad in another country.)

For more sexist fun, watch NetworkWorld's slide show of vintage tech ads, courtesy of ITWorld. That’s where I got the ad above. And, no, I have no idea what the ad is about.

Question for the weekend (by Suzie)

As your holiday to-do list enters triage, what things are you giving up? I had planned to clean my house thoroughly in early November before a guest arrived from out of state. I then shifted this goal to December, before my sister visits. I’ll now be happy if I can remove safety hazards and give the impression of cleanliness.

Friday landscape blogging (by Suzie)

I love the red rocks of southern Utah. Jim Hulls, M.D., took this photo of Bryce Canyon. Left-click on it to enlarge it.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Shake Your Bits To The Hits

Burger King has a new ad campaign in the U.K.. It consists of a webcam of a showering woman (who wears bikinis the viewer can choose) and who gyrates like a stripper while taking a shower.

The idea is for the men of Britain to work up an appetite for breakfast (how, exactly? never mind) and then to satisfy that appetite at the nearest Burger King.

Here's how it's rephrased not to come across as light morning pron:

A Burger King spokesman explained the blatantly male bias of the campaign. He said, "Our research showed that breakfast is a male-centric audience for Burger King; it doesn't resonate as well with women -- we are targeting the people who are buying breakfast."

So. If women don't buy breakfast they can be the breakfast?

The End of An Era

The Editor&Publisher is closing. That is very sad. It has been a resource for me and for many others. I hate it when good newspapers die.

Added later: Here is what they themselves say. I sincerely hope that a way can be found for them to continue.

Who Put The Men in Menstruation?

That's not meant to be seriously! But last night, while trudging through the slosh, I noticed myself making little ditties like that to cheer my tired feet on, and it was all because I had just read Flow. The Cultural Story of Menstruation, by Elissa Stein and Susan Kim.

The book answers questions about what took the place of feminine napkins or tampons in the past (the answer: rags, moss, sponges and partly nothing but letting it flow!), discusses menarche, menopause and difficult periods and has an awesome collection of old ads about menstrual aids and devices. The coded language of the earlier ads is fascinating! It's as if the firms were trying to sell illegal drugs under some secret code.

Which is of course the ultimate point of any book like this. Menstruation, something which affects almost all women, has until recently been a public secret: Something no polite person would openly discuss. Both completely natural and completely taboo! And traditionally one of the main reasons for the fear and loathing of women, too. The Old Testament tells us that women are impure for large chunks of their lives and menstrual taboos have been common all over the world. A menstruating woman is as powerful as Satan, pretty much, and to be avoided if at all possible. But of course women can't avoid themselves.

While splish-sploshing through the wet snow (get it, eh?) I also thought how very difficult it must be to write a book on menstruation. Honest. How do you keep it on the healthy aspects of the monthly flow, especially given the way the cultures have indeed tried to "pathologize" that? How do you explain the mostly negative cultural connections without falling into a premenstrual psychosis of anger and rage? How do you discuss the science when so little of good science seems to have been carried out?

Stein and Kim don't do too badly, given that difficult setup, though I wish they hadn't been so very careful to distance themselves from feminist movements while applying the very lens those movements constructed. Still, their discussion of the corporate interests in this field is very good.

So is their treatment of the premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and its cultural connotations. I had no idea that it is predominantly Western women who seem to suffer from PMS or that men might suffer from it, too, if only it was labeled something else:

And who knows, maybe being cyclically moody is part of our human nature. In 1996, two researchers named Heather Nash and Joan Crisler came up with a study in which they listed classic symptoms of PMS, but replaced the term with the gender-neutral Episodic Dysphoric Disorder. A surprising number of men felt that they had suffered from it, and their female friends agreed with them.

This doesn't mean that PMS wouldn't consist of real symptoms for its sufferers. But self-diagnosis is not unaffected by the culture one lives in and the definitions of what is normal vary by culture, too. -- Much to discuss there, eh?
My copy of the book was provided free of charge. I received no other fee for this review and it was not commissioned by anyone. (Must add all this nowadays, sigh.)

A Dialogue In Two Parts

The first voice: Bart Stupak, in the New York Times:

OVER the past month there has been a great deal of discussion about the Stupak-Ellsworth-Pitts amendment in the House health care reform bill. Unfortunately, much of this discussion has been driven by misinformation about what our amendment does and does not do. I would like to set the record straight: Our amendment maintains current law, which says that there should be no federal financing for abortion

The second voice: Lois Capps responds at Rheality Check:

Reality: The Stupak-Pitts Amendment goes well beyond current law by contracting access to abortion services and is in no way the simple extension of the Hyde Amendment its proponents claim. It dramatically restricts consumers’ ability to purchase comprehensive health plans that include coverage for abortion services in the health exchange. In contrast the Capps Amendment, which was included in the original version of the House bill, continued the prohibition of federal funding of abortion services, but did so without restricting insurance coverage of this legal medical procedure when it is paid for with private funds. Reputable third parties, like a recent study from George Washington University, have found that the Stupak-Pitts Amendment would restrict coverage of abortion services even when paid for entirely with private funds.

You can continue reading the two pieces like that, paragraph by paragraph. Well worth the effort.

Stunning Statistics

This is really fun:

Here's the summary if you can't watch videos:

Well, here's the Rasmussen poll Fox & Friends cited. They asked respondents: "In order to support their own theories and beliefs about global warming, how likely is it that some scientists have falsified research data?" According to the poll, 35 percent thought it very likely, 24 percent somewhat likely, 21 percent not very likely, and 5 percent not likely at all (15 percent weren't sure).

Fox News' graphics department added together the "very likely" and "somewhat likely" numbers to reach 59 percent, and called that new group "somewhat likely." Then, for some reason, they threw in the 35 percent "very likely" as their own group, even though they already added that number to the "somewhat likely" percentage. Then they mashed together the "not very likely" and "not likely at all" groups, and threw the 15 percent who were unsure into the waste bin. Voila — 120 percent.

It looks to me like one of the people in the video sorta caught the error because he was going to say something about ninety percent of Americans there.

I went back in the chain of evidence and found something else rather stunning in that Rasmussen poll:

2* Do scientists agree on global warming or is there significant disagreement within the scientific community?

25% Most scientists agree on global warming
52% There is significant disagreement within the scientific community
23% Not sure

The percentages refer to how many respondents agreed with each of the three options.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Betting On The Pony Races

I do mind that approach to writing about politics, because it takes an unaffected spectator's view of outcomes which will affect all of us. Besides, it's not really impartial when politics is turned into horse races.

The example that got me going (again) has to do with the current step in the health care reform dance:

The odds now seem to be that any legislation emerging from the Senate will omit the kind of straightforward, immediately available public option originally envisioned by advocates, including President Obama. But if the deal announced by Mr. Reid holds, it is likely that a bill will be sent to the White House that includes a broader and more direct role for government in the health insurance market.

Supporters of the public option want it to remove the profit motive as an obstacle to medical care, and also to menace the private insurance companies that they generally view as greedy and mean. At times, some lawmakers seemed to favor the public plan simply because private insurers hate the idea.

In Congress, opponents view the public plan as a dangerous expansion of government, creating a new entitlement program that would ultimately drive the country further into debt. Even though the Congressional Budget Office said the plan would have little impact on insurance premiums, the opponents fought it as a grave threat.

What did you learn about the reasons why some people want a public option? That it's all about emotions, really. It might then come as a great surprise that there really are very good reasons for being wary of the private markets in health care.

I'm not sure if it's even worth discussing the public option, because it ain't "public" anymore (what with guaranteeing control to the private companies or being triggered only in some far-distant unlikely future) and it ain't an option for the vast majority of participants, either.

Music And Me

I'm slowly learning about music, going backwards in time and deciding on what I like or don't like. I grew up in the silent white snows and never really noticed much music, so this is an adventure for me. Yes, it's very weird.

One problem in such an academic endeavor is that I will miss all the emotional attachments people have to the music of their youth or of other important times in their lives. All I have to go is the actual tunes and the books written about the music.

Here's my short list of current favorites: Gregorian chants, Nina Simone and old blues.

Right now I'm listening to the Beatles. So far I find their music simple, catchy and a bit chewing-gummy. Janis Joplin is more to my taste, but a musician friend told me to give it time, so I will (sorry, neighbors).

The world of popular music is largely a guys' world (as are most worlds), and I notice the references to "girl bands" as opposed to just "bands." One woman seems enough for any basic band, because the female voice is seen as an instrument which men cannot provide. That is finally changing, but not in the musical history I explore.

Auction for WAM! (by Suzie)

An auction to benefit Women, Action & the Media is almost over. Check out the incredible merch, including a guitar autographed by Aimee Mann and a poster signed by Marge Piercy.

One caveat: My church used this auction service, and I paid almost $300 for a balloon ride, only to find that my church got little or nothing. If you want to make sure WAM! gets all the money you pay, go for the feminist items, not the generic ones. (If I get a clarification from WAM!, I'll post it.)

To get you in the mood, you can hear Marge Piercy reading "To Be of Use." Here are the opening lines:
The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

In Memory of John Lennon and Eva Cassidy

Added later: The Nelson-Hatch amendment has been tabled. So far so good.

The Bishops And Politics

Kathleen Kennedy Townsend has written an opinion piece on the topic of the Stupak amendment and the Catholic bishops for the Politico. It begins:

The Roman Catholic bishops need more time. That is the recent word from Sen. Ben Nelson — news reports noted that before he introduces his amendment to restrict women's access to coverage under health care reform, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops needs more time to review it.

All this sounds very odd to me. More like Iran with its Supreme Leader than the United States. Do the bishops have extra votes or some sort of a license to screen laws before they are debated? I guess so. That all those bishops are men makes it sound even odder.

The Nice, Polite Republicans...

That's NPR for you, coined by someone on the Internets. I have certainly smelled a change in their programming choices ever since the Bush administration put them in a squeezer, though they weren't exactly lefty before that, either.

Still, it IS pretty stunning that both Juan Williams and Mara Liasson work for not only NPR but also for Fox News. Though perhaps not that surprising, given the daily "Marketplace" which focuses on how well the capitalists are doing and no equivalent program for, say, the "Workplace."

There was a time when I thought that losing NPR would be a great shame, because at least they took reporting seriously and covered some topics in greater depth. I no longer think that way.

Meanwhile, in Iran

Caption: An Iranian opposition supporter gestures as she takes part in an anti-government demonstration at Tehran University in the Iranian capital on Monday. (AFP/Getty Images / December 7, 2009)

Demonstrators are taking to the streets again. It is very hard to get information about the actual situation, given the way the Iranian government is trying to block everything out. But it's pretty certain that women are plentiful among the demonstrators. They have many legitimate grievances, starting with their legally sanctioned second-class status in the country.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Hair Pulling Time Again

I've lost what little patience I had with the politicking over the health care reform and also over the humongous chasms between the parties. Now, the Democrats are nothing to crow about, the weasely lot, mostly. But the Republicans would like to live in some sort of a jungle (except with wingnut churches and wives, to take care of all non-battle stuff). I can't honestly see how this country can ever be run to the satisfaction of most, given the differences in almost all values. Or so it feels today.

Here's what I just read:

President Obama exhorted Senate Democrats on Sunday to put aside their differences and seize their moment in history by passing landmark health legislation. But senators said he did not mention sticky issues like abortion or a new government-run insurance plan.


Thorny unresolved issues include the proposal for a government-run insurance plan; insurance coverage for abortion; cost-control measures, including the powers of an independent commission to rein in Medicare spending; and requirements for employers to provide health benefits to workers or pay a penalty.

That last sentence has so much material in it that it would take ten books to spell it all out, by the way. But nobody tries to spell any of it out. In particular, nobody spells out what happens if those "thorns" are pruned out. To take just one example, look at the very end of the sentence, all about the requirement for employers to provide health benefits or to pay a penalty.

Suppose firms are not required to provide benefits, even though that IS the way Americans are predominantly expected to get their health insurance. Where will the workers go for their coverage, then?

The answer would be that fabled insurance exchange, where abortion might not be covered, even if it's medically necessary and where the policies which are offered might be only individual policies, always more expensive than group policies. All this ties into the question of a government-run option and into cost-control in general and so on.

Despite these grumbles, the proposal would cover many more Americans and that should be a good thing. But this is the Republican response:

The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said Mr. Obama needed support from every Democrat because the bill had "virtually no appeal to any Republican senator."

"Here we are a few weeks before Christmas, with Democrats trying to squeeze every single one of their members to swallow a pretty bitter pill for the American people," Mr. McConnell said.

I'd like an amendment which requires all politicians to use whichever health insurance system works the worst in the country. Now that would be a way to get some improvements.

Arrogance Is A Ballroom Dance

That comes from a poem I once wrote, because in ballroom dancing men lead and so they do in arrogance. Arrogance is a necessary ingredient for success and women, on the whole, have too little of it (except, possibly, in the field of child-rearing). I'm not going into the reasons for that here, partly because you can list them as well as I can. What I wish to address is the definition of arrogance in this post and why it matters.

For the duration of this post, then, arrogance means an untested and possibly baseless belief in one's own abilities. Arrogant individuals believe that they are great and that they can take on any task they are offered. Whether this is at all true depends.

Women tend not to have this kind of arrogance as often as men do, and this is one of the reasons why women submit fewer manuscripts to newspapers, send me fewer e-mails about their great blogs or in general push for the position, job or salary increase they might deserve. I think this may also be the reason why women sometimes appear to blossom later in life. Once you see what various arrogant individuals actually achieve you may start feeling freer about flaunting your own stuff.

That's how far I had thought out this topic before attacking the keyboard, but now it occurs to me that the definition of arrogance I'm groping for should include something about the competition. It's not just that some individuals have greater self-confidence in their own abilities; they also discount the abilities of others (or perhaps not to consider them at all). In some sense I've been the reverse of that, always expecting someone else to turn up with the arguments I wanted to read.

Now is this more common among women than men? It could be, which might also explain those lower rates of women agreeing to be the expert on some panel discussion, say. And if so, how can the "arrogance gap" be narrowed? Are women more afraid of the crash which will happen if the arrogance turns out unwarranted? Is that crash larger for women, on average?

I don't think the difference in arrogance is just a corollary of different risk-taking characteristics of the sexes, say, because my definition of arrogance is about an underlying difference in the reading of one's own abilities. Arrogant individuals are not just more eager to leap on the horse; they also believe that they are better riders. Whether they are or not doesn't really matter here.

Then finally to the reasons why I'm talking about arrogance rather than about a healthy self-esteem. The latter is insufficient if one esteems the skills of others too highly, and it's also insufficient if others esteem their own skills too highly. What we need is a spoonful of real arrogance.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Health care reform: The horse and the cart (By Skylanda)

There is an undercurrent to the current health care reform debate – a sneaking undercurrent of suspicion – that wonders if this nation can successfully insure every American when the health infrastructure does not exist to take care of every one of those individuals. Primarily among the deficits in the medical workforce are loci of primary care: family doctors, general internists, pediatricians, and mid-level providers like nurse practitioners and physician assistants who can effectively and efficiently take up the slack for busy offices.

This suspicion is not a paranoid fantasy. It is real, and the rush of patients into primary care if we did insure the 45 million currently uninsured Americans at large would put a rather onerous stress on clinics and providers currently in practice. The Washington Post ran a story this week on this very phenomenon, highlighting a small-town country doc in rural Texas whose bursting-at-the-seams solo practice would nearly double if the uninsured portion of the town (Texas has the highest uninsured rate in the nation) were to suddenly have paid access to his services.
"The system's going to be overwhelmed when everybody's insured," he says. "We're putting the cart before the horse. You've got your little insurance card and there's no doctor to show it to -- or you have to wait eight weeks to see one."
So this is the answer then: wait a generation or two until there are enough doctors for everyone, and then offer out insurance to the masses. Until then, understand that we can only service the lucky fraction that does have insurance, and hell with the rest. Yes?

No. This approach to the uninsured is a folksy-sounding, down-home, home-grown excuse for basic, unconscionable injustice. If we put the horse of sufficient providers ahead of the cart of health care reform, we are done for. Without the demand, primary care will continue to be considered the relatively low-paid, overworked dustbin of medical practices – the current circumstance that drives most medical school graduates to pick cushier practices like dermatology, anesthesiology, or the medical subspecialties. In the meanwhile, a growing number of uninsured Americans will be unable to access not only primary care, but also coverage for emergency care if needed. Overwhelmed primary care clinics will have to put the brakes on their own patient panels when they reach capacity – regardless of how many are clamoring at the door – until demand does it’s job in upping supply of providers. Keeping an underclass of uninsured patients around just to do the dirty work of deciding who gets priority in to see a busy provider in a small town is a cop-out of Herculean proportions: patients deserve insurance whether or not they have primary care access, because primary care is not the only measure of security that insurance provides.

It doesn’t matter which you label the “horse” or the “cart”: provider availability or insurance access. Whichever way it goes, one has to start moving, and dragging the other with it. If the horse can’t drag the cart, then the cart needs to give the horse a good strong shove. Leaving so many individuals uninsured simply means leaving the whole apparatus mired in a mud trap until neither is any longer viable. The horse and the cart have been stalled out for too long; it’s time to start flogging the both of them.

Cross-posted from my infrequently updated blog, Loose Chicks Sink Ships.

Weekly Poetry Slam Thread

Listening to Galli-Curci on Prima Voce

A Christmas Season CD Review by Anthony McCarthy

Prima Voce, you’d decided to try this week.
Yes, it’s true, as close to perfection as is possible,
even in these musical silhouettes that’s clear as the sound of her high range
Perfect sound at the service of superior intelligence.
You had heard the story of her irking Caruso
Impromptu reading of the score at the piano,
when the practice pianist couldn’t come in.
His pride hurt by this tiny woman turning out,
to be a lion of a musician.

The clarity of the coloratura evident,
no one, not even Sutherland or Sills
sang it as well.
Que la voce sua soave,
Will Bellini ever sound as right after this?
Not even Tetrazinni (you’ve got a disc of her too) matches it.
Astonishing flexibility mixed with accuracy.
Little pitch fudging, amazing for no takes.
The wind band accompaniment,
you get used to that.

Prima Voce is unconventional, to say the least,
the results are a justification of their method.
The genius of using a giant acoustic horn in a concert hall setting
Wonderful results for such a simple idea.
Am looking forward to the Eames-Plancon disc, reaching even farther back.
Something to do in the coming year.

Never Give Up What Is Rightfully Ours

Almost unedited thoughts by Anthony McCarthy

In the huge disappointments of the increasing troop deployments in Afghanistan, the blocking of real universal healthcare coverage and numerous other shortcomings in these first eleven months of the Obama administration it is tempting to give up. Indeed, you can hear that all over the leftist blog threads.

The story might be a myth, for all I know, but it’s one of the stories of my childhood , that when Abraham Lincoln proposed a “back to Africa” policy for freed slaves that Frederick Douglass said, no, that black people had a large hand in building the United States and so had a right to their part in it. It’s an unanswerable argument. Why should people who have built something not insist on their ownership of it? Why should the results of those years of toil and sacrifice be left to be enjoyed by others? It’s part of the necessity of justice that the results of labor are the property of the laborer. Lincoln, himself, said it best in an ambiguous statement in answer to arguments about racial inequality he said about a hypothetical black woman

“ her natural right to eat the bread she earns with her own hands without asking leave of any one else, she is my equal, and the equal of all others.*”

Why should the left, which put President Obama, the Democratic majorities in the Congress and Senate in office, give up eleven months into the present administration? It would be foolish for us to abandon what is rightfully ours, a position as a major player in shaping policies and laws, along with others who put these people into office. We’re not going to get everything, we won’t even get most of what we want. But the possibility to get something from these people is there, still. We have to insist on being heard and on getting what results we can. These people will lose without us. President Obama will be a one-term president, Democrats will lose their majorities in the House and Senate without us.

People seem to have short memories. Remember what George W. Bush was doing a year ago, stealing everything that wasn’t nailed down and much that was for himself and his cronies as he prepared to leave the office he gained by theft. He was doing so with the help of some of the same people who President Obama has foolishly kept on at the Fed and in Treasury. That was the biggest mistake he has made so far. There is push back from the left in the Senate, my heartfelt thanks to Senator Sanders (and a handful of Senate Democrats), may your hold on Bernanke’s renomination have an impact. My thanks to the members of the House and even in the Senate who have been agitating against the market idiocy of and making life difficult for Summers and Geithner, may your efforts prosper.

My thanks to the members of Congress and the Senate who are resisting the troop build up in Afghanistan. In the United States it is always a lot easier to get into a disastrous war than it is to get out of one. Afghanistan was a lost cause when Bush installed a corrupt crony from the oil industry to run it. Lots of us predicted it would be a disaster even before he invaded Iraq. Indeed, many on the left knew Afganistan would be a nightmare for the United States when Ronald Reagan began arming and training the worst of Wahabist fundamentalists and corrupt warlords, and we said so at the time.

If President Obama and his administration find it hard to resist the war mania that is promoted by the corporate media, that’s hardly new in this world. But it is a good thing to remember how we got started there and it was largely through the incompetence of Republicans and blue dog Democrats twenty five years ago that we find ourselves in this quagmire today. It is the right that is responsible for these disasters. You’ll hear mighty little of it on TV or in the major dailies, certainly not on hate talk radio or the useless NPR but the left has been warning about that going back to the beginning. We have been right on foreign policy, on military policy, on economic policy, on environmental policy, on health care, education, civil rights, justice, on literally everything. But you won’t find that reflected in the corporate media because doing the right thing results in economic justice, it’s economic justice which has been and always will be anathema to the rich and powerful, you can’t build up an obscenely rich oligarchy in a country which is founded in justice and which practices it. It is no surprise to us when a corporate media, concentrated based on welling itself to the highest bidder, does the bidding of their owners. They have sold us out, they use their freedom to freely serve The Peoples’ enemies here and abroad. President Obama’s decision to not re-institute media fairness, public service and other requirements essential for democracy might be the mistake that ends up in destroying his administration. He should forget what he learned in law school about that, the prevailing dogma on that issue is just too opportune for the opponents of democracy**. If there is one thing that is clear, he doesn’t understand that the corporate right of the media is subservient to The Peoples’ right to the truth in order for us to govern ourselves. Unless that basic misunderstanding is corrected, the misunderstanding of the relationship between the obligations of The Peoples’ right to self government and press freedom, democracy is doomed.

We don’t have an effective, democratic, media, we do have our votes and the power to influence our elected officials. We can have some influence with the Democrats in office by the power of our vote. We will never get the Republicans to do what we need and want. It’s a basic misunderstanding of many on the left that you would think forty years of political powerlessness would have corrected, we’re not going to be able to do more than influence decisions.. Not today. We have to do what we can, today. We’ve got to get through today to get to tomorrow. We’ve got to do what we can to get there. We don’t have any alternative to take disappointment and to fight on.

*While the full statement, itself, was hardly a model of racial or gender enlightenment, it was a lot farther along than those it was answering. Part of that was due to the exegencies of politics, without which any politician on the left will win major office. Here, as used by Mary Francis Berry, is a quotation from Carter G. Woodson on Lincoln’s changing positions:

Lincoln, as President of the United States, could not carry out his own personal plans. In a situation like this an executive must fail if he undertakes a reform so far ahead of the time that his coworkers cannot be depended upon to carry out his policies....
As the experiment had not been made, the large majority of Americans of Lincoln's day believed that the two races could not dwell together on the basis of social and political equality. A militant minority of the descendants of those Americans do not believe it now. The abolitionists themselves were not united on this point. Lincoln, moreover, gradually grew into the full stature of democracy.

It is our job to persuade President Obama that he not only can but must put more of our agenda into effect. It was never going to be easy to stop the two wars that were handed off to him or to fix the results of the thefts of the Bush II regime. But, as he, himself, said, one of the essential parts to making progress is by real healthcare reform..

** The libertarian superstition that giving the broadcast and cable media a free hand will be good for democracy is an experiment that has failed the test of reality. The media that has enjoyed virtually no restrictions has been the foremost tool used by the wealthy to destroy democracy. The dangers of regulation for democracy are more than matched by the dangers of concentration and the freedom to peddle opportunistic lies. The dangers of an elected government distorting reality through the media are real and possible, the dangers of an unelected elite doing so are an absolutely certain and now entirely predictable.