Friday, April 20, 2018

Weekend Reading, 4/20/18: Black Maternal And Infant Deaths, Capt. Tammie Jo Shults And Richard Cohen on Reverse Discrimination

1.  This is an excellent and upsetting article on the high black maternal and infant death rates in the United States.  The problem is not a new one, but not much seems to have been done about it.  Recent research has been able to rule out poverty, lack of access to prenatal care and different levels of pre-existing health problems as the only explanation that would matter.  Something else also matters, given that affluence, good access to prenatal care and high education levels do not seem to equalize the white and black maternal or infant death rates.

The first article I link to suggests that the combination of racism and sexism might be that missing explanation, both in the way black women have to live with both of those and in the way the health care system treats them*.

This is a problem we, as a country, must solve.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

On Babies in the Senate And On Child Care Expertise

It can be enlightening to  read two or more random news stories one after the other.

Today, for instance, I first read the story about Senator Tammy Duckworth's infant daughter, Maile Pearl Bowlsbey, and the rules in the US Senate which until now have barred children from the Senate floor:

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Short Posts 4/18/18: On Sean Hannity, James Comey and The End Of Online Privacy

These are "breaking the silence" posts.  Sometimes the political events of the day or of the week are like a smorgasbord with too much hard-to-digest food, and then I am like Buridan's ass:  I cannot choose what to write about but dither in silence.

1.  What to say about the journalistic ethics of Sean Hannity, the Fox News pundit, who has pontificated on the witch-hunt against Donald Trump* and against Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, when we learn that Hannity himself is Cohen's client?

I guess he has no journalistic ethics, because an ethical journalist would have recused himself from covering issues with such personal connections.

The American politics now resembles the fights between fans of different sports teams:  It doesn't matter what the facts are, it doesn't matter what bad things your side may have done; all what matters is to win at any cost, and your side is always right, by definition. 

Well, that's what I see from the right-wing.  Not so sure about what the left-wing is doing when they are not carrying out circular firing squads or practicing being invertebrates.

2. And then Comey and his book.  Comey the Saint, Comey the Satan, Comey the Pure, Perfect and Perfidious. 

I do not care for Mr. Comey, for reasons that Hecate describes very well here, and I am pretty sure that whether the original impetus came from the New York's office of Trump-loving FBI boyz or from somewhere else in the organization, an important subconscious bias against women in power fueled much of the Hillary-hunt.

Which, by the way, is still continuing.  Hillary must be put into prison.  Well, our Dear Leader tweets about the need to jail all sorts of private people.  That's how he uses the bully pulpit the presidency offers:  To attack his private enemies in bouts of narcissistic rage.

3.  Here's a missive from our dystopian future:  Facebook was/is planning to help people with a new initiative to combine medical data with Facebook data:

Facebook's pitch, according to two people who heard it and one who is familiar with the project, was to combine what a health system knows about its patients (such as: person has heart disease, is age 50, takes 2 medications and made 3 trips to the hospital this year) with what Facebook knows (such as: user is age 50, married with 3 kids, English isn't a primary language, actively engages with the community by sending a lot of messages).
The project would then figure out if this combined information could improve patient care, initially with a focus on cardiovascular health. For instance, if Facebook could determine that an elderly patient doesn't have many nearby close friends or much community support, the health system might decide to send over a nurse to check in after a major surgery.
Health policy experts say that this health initiative would be problematic if Facebook did not think through the privacy implications.
"Consumers wouldn't have assumed their data would be used in this way," said Aneesh Chopra, president of a health software company specializing in patient data called CareJourney and the former White House chief technology officer.
"If Facebook moves ahead (with its plans), I would be wary of efforts that repurpose user data without explicit consent."

I find this proposal equally hilarious and enraging.  Sure, we all know by now that what Facebook makes its money from is the private information users put online and the private information of other users they interact with.  But to sell that information to doctors and hospitals, especially without explicit consent?  And information which is aimed at one's friends and acquaintances, not at one's health care providers?

The example in the above quote is an inane one, by the way.  The health care professionals are supposed to ask patients preparing for surgery if they have someone at home or someone who can come in for a few nights, or if they need a visiting nurse. 

That is my experience, in any case.  To try to figure out something like that from Facebook posts is a total crapshoot, because people don't always tell the truth in social media.  As someone recently said, people put their best face forward to their friends in Facebook and their worst face forward to strangers on Twitter.

I also immediately thought of someone who might post a picture of a bacon breakfast on Facebook, a few weeks after heart surgery, and then the avenging health care angels would swoop upon him or her.

Finally, the system is supposed to be anonymized.  But depending on the particular medical conditions and particular geographic areas it can be possible to identify specific individuals from such data.

All this is spying if there is no consent.

It's also an interesting example of the way information about us, the users of the Internet, has become one of the major commodities that are traded online, without any of the money flowing into our pockets.  So who has the property rights to that information?


*  I have met witches, and you, Donald Trump, are not one.  For one thing, witches have a lot of training and knowledge. 

Besides, the real witch-hunts were arranged against people with very little social and no political power:  Old women without relatives who had land the neighbors wanted and so on.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Paul Ryan's Farewell

Paul Ryan is retiring*.  He is currently the Speaker of the House of Representatives, he is fairly young and he doesn't look ill**.  He states that he wants to spend more time with his family.   But that excuse is believed only of female politicians.

Why is he really retiring?  His party is in power everywhere, his party can do anything they wish, including ignoring democracy, and his party is now responsible for everything that happens.  Why wouldn't Ryan want to be one of the most powerful macho men in the universe?  Why wouldn't he want to create the kind of fundamentalist-capitalist paradise his people dream about, a mixture of the power of the almighty conservative god and the power of the almighty dollar?

Nobody is willing to say why he is really retiring, or at least taking a break,  at this point in time.  It could be that he needs to isolate himself from Donnie the Deranged for a year or two, before running again to take Donnie's throne.   He could watch from far the collapse of the Republican Party in the midterms and then get back in the saddle.

That explanation assumes something which may not be true:  That Trump is too deranged for a sufficient number of former Republicans who might therefore vote for a Democratic candidate even in safe red districts.

But the reverse explanation is equally possible:  He may have been told that he will not win another term because his voters have become so extremist that they are now holding arms or merging with the Alt Right.  Yes, perhaps the pretty extreme Paul Ryan is now not deranged enough for the new Trump Party.

The capitalist wing of the Republican Party and the fascist-religious wing of the Republican Party might be fighting for supremacy.  Ryan is the scion of the former, and other than as a source of all the funding,  the appeal of a party which works only for the one percent may be dying.  That appeal is replaced by something pretty frightening:  A party for Aryan men and the families they rule.

Okay.  That last paragraphs was courtesy of my own private nightmares.  But not knowing the exact reason why so many rats are leaving the sinking ship is worrisome.  Is it because the ship indeed is sinking?  Or is it because the current rat population is replaced by a more voracious and meaner population, driving away the old incumbents?


*  This post is entirely based on my own amateurish but divine opinions.  It's fun, for a change, to write something which does not involve an eternity of tedious research first.

**  On the other hand, he does look like a cute Mickey Mouse:

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Spring Is In The Air

In the Northern hemisphere. 

Christina Hoff Sommers And Closing The Gender Wage Gap

Christina Hoff Sommers, a famous anti-feminist,  is a good environmentalist.  To honor the Equal Pay day (which was yesterday) she recycled an argument she made four years ago:

I know that this is an old argument, because I answered her then, in a three-post series.  You should really read all three posts in that series (because they are not bad), but the proper answer to the above tweet is in the last post where I discuss why her proposal would do very little to close the overall wage gap.

Monday, April 09, 2018

On Arrogance

It's a fun topic to think about, arrogance.  I can spot several different kinds of arrogance, but not a single one is the kind of arrogance I would be allowed. 

To see why, let's define arrogance.  One dictionary defines it as "an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions."  Note the adjectives "overbearing" and "presumptuous."  Hillary Clinton or Elizabeth Warren would be viewed in that light, even if their attitude of superiority was manifested because they, in fact, were superior in some specific field.

In general, the level at which women are regarded as arrogant is much, much lower than the level at which men are so regarded, and women are quickly viewed as presumptuous or overbearing, even if they are only giving information about their own actual qualifications*.  And that's why I'm not really allowed any arrogance.  That's also why I have to be Greek goddess to get the kind of adulation I deserve and need for survival (divines who are not worshipped evaporate).

So I'm not very experienced in successful arrogant utterances, but I can still spot when others are arrogant.  Our Dear Leader is extremely arrogant, the stable genius that he is, though the best approach to understanding him is to view his reactions as "narcissistic rage."  

Andrew Sullivan is an example of a writer whose arrogance exceeds the size of the Pacific Ocean.  Here's an example from one of his recent columns (on race and genetics!**) where he criticizes what he has decided to be the lefty/feminist view of evolution:

Friday, April 06, 2018

The Song of Kevin, Brave And Bold

Kevin Williamson, for those who are not addicted to American political bickering, is a very very conservative journalist.  He was recently hired, for ideological diversity reasons,  by the Atlantic Monthly magazine which has a mostly liberal readership.  And then a few weeks later he was fired by them.

Some parts of the story are inside baseball, of real interest to only those who work in the field.  Other parts not so much.

Williamson is known as a very good writer in the troll genre.  You can get a taste of his trollery here.  But what caused the Atlantic Monthly to part ways with him was his assertion that women who have had abortions should be executed for the pre-planned, callous and clinical murder of the weakest among us*.  Preferably by hanging.