Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Secret (by Phila)

If you're a woman -- and you must be, or you'd be bowhunting or watching porn instead of reading this blog -- you've probably spent a lot of time wondering what motivates you to have sex.

Thanks to important new research of some type, undertaken somewhere in Texas, the mystery is solved...for the moment. It seems that unlike men, straight women have sex for a baffling variety of reasons, which include extorting household chores out of their partners, extorting presents out of wealthy men, and yielding to male demands for sex in order to "keep the peace."

Science also informs us that while some women have sex out of pity, they're more often motivated by a selfish desire for something other than sex.
While it may not come as welcome news, some women have sex out of sympathy, with one admitting: "I slept with a couple of guys because I felt sorry for them."

But many have more selfish motives, with financial or material rewards a major factor.

In one survey of students, nearly one in 10 women admitted to "having sex for presents". Others said: "He bought me a nice dinner", "he spent a lot of money on me early on", "he showed me he had an extravagant lifestyle".
It's not clear how many "others" you have to add to "nearly one in 10" to get "many." But who cares? The important thing is that women are a bunch of goddamn gold diggers, by and large.

Changing the subject, did you know that some women pursue sex for its own sweet sake?
And rather than love or romance, for many women sex is just about fun.

Six in 10 university students said they slept with a male friend who was not their boyfriend. "Life is too damn short to be waiting four years to have sex again," one said.
With that strange quote, this article -- which is called "Secret's out: why women really have sex" -- ends as mysteriously as it began. Did any of the six in 10 women who slept with non-boyfriends do it for presents, or a nice dinner, or out of pity? We'll probably never know, though we can certainly speculate. The one thing we can be pretty sure of is that some many most women are deceitful schemers.

Don't let that color your impression of their survey responses, though. It's likely that they're telling the truth here, for once, since they're just confirming what the people who matter have always suspected. And besides, why would anyone lie about this?
One woman even admitted to having sex just so her husband would put the rubbish out.
If he were asked, her husband might admit that he puts the rubbish out just so he can have sex. But I suppose that wouldn't be nearly as interesting to the average reader...especially since the article is about women's convoluted psychosexual problems, rather than men's funny little quirks.

Besides, suggesting that the sexual division of labor might have some bearing on a lot of these "findings" would instantly transform the article from an informative look at current scientific research to a shrill feminist polemic. Which would be unprofessional, at the very least.

The article makes no sense at all, as journalism. But considered as a sort of ideological peep show, articles like this one do follow a certain lurid carnival-barker logic. Just like at some carnival striptease, the Mystery of Womanhood is revealed to the rubes with clockwork regularity, as often as the market will bear. And just like at a carnival, the mystery is as phony as the revelation. Still, as long as people continue to line up for it, it's as true as it needs to be.

So various adaptations to male demands are portrayed as a glimpse at the "reality" of female desire. And since reality can't be reduced to this portrayal, there's a nagging feeling, again, of some persistent mystery, and the whole cycle starts over: What are women really like? What do they really want?

One approach to the problem would be to consider the role that male domination plays in formulating these questions, let alone socially acceptable answers to them. But since a journalist can't acknowledge our culture's bone-deep misogyny without forfeiting the objectivity upon which all really serious people insist, whatever theory fits the available facts must be close enough to correct. As Sherlock Holmes said, "After eliminating the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, is the truth."

Meanwhile, in Yemen

The traditions about how to raise children are different:

A 12-year-old Yemeni child-bride died after struggling for three days in labor to give birth, a local human rights organization said Saturday. Fawziya Abdullah Youssef died of severe bleeding on Friday while giving birth to a stillborn in the al-Zahra district hospital of Hodeida province, 140 miles (223 kilometers) west of the capital San'a.

I am not trying to be flippant here. The story is horrible. But the contrast to my earlier post is so striking in some ways. What adulthood means varies enormously by culture. It's pretty easy to spot the extreme interpretations (marry off eight-year old girls or ask someone to supervise a party given by a 24-year old) but much harder to say what the golden mean might be, the age at which we can all agree a person has turned into an adult.

The above quote is not a good example of that because it's all intertwined with the inequality of women. But my recent travels made me more aware of the cultural underpinnings of so many of those values which are taken for granted within any one culture.


The New York Times writes today about when children are old enough to walk to school unattended. Note that this article appears in FASHION AND STYLE! As if it was only of interest to women. That's an important clue to the society we live in.

So when can a child walk alone to school? The current cultural answer seems to be somewhere around the age of twenty-one. The beginning sets the tone:

TO get to school, the child leaves home by herself, proudly walking down the boulevard in a suburb of a small city in upstate New York. The crossing guard helps her at the intersection. She lives only a block and a half from school. Yet she walks by older children waiting with parents for buses to the same school.

She is 7, a second-grader, and her mother, Katie, hears the raised-eyebrow remarks: " 'Are you sure you want to be doing this?' " Katie said friends ask.

" 'She's just so pretty. She's just so ... blond.' A friend said, 'I heard that Jaycee Dugard story and I thought of your daughter.' And they say, 'I'd never do that with my kid: I wouldn't trust my kid with the street,' " said Katie, a stay-at-home mother, who asked that her full identity be withheld to protect her children.

There it is, in a nutshell. The pederasts and sickos are all out there, waiting for your child to be kidnapped and possibly murdered. There's nothing worse for a parent to think about, and the media certainly fans the flames of those fears. Every tragic event is in the news 24/7, and not only in the informative sense but in the emotional sense of what-if-it-happened-to-you? So we are pre-prepared to worry about child abductions, and as the article points out, the societal disapproval of parents who don't act according to that norm is enormous. At least in the affluent areas where one parent is able to chauffeur the children all day long (guess which one it usually is).

But here's the paradox: Pederasts and sickos are not that common and defending children against that possible danger by driving them everywhere might actually endanger them more:

The fear of abduction by strangers "has become a norm within middle-class parental circles," said Paula S. Fass, a history professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of "Kidnapped: Child Abduction in America." "We try to control our fears to the nth degree, so we drop our children off right at school. It's a confirmation that 'I'm a good parent.' "

In 1969, 41 percent of children either walked or biked to school; by 2001, only 13 percent still did, according to data from the National Household Travel Survey. In many low-income neighborhoods, children have no choice but to walk. During the same period, children either being driven or driving themselves to school rose to 55 percent from 20 percent. Experts say the transition has not only contributed to the rise in pollution, traffic congestion and childhood obesity, but has also hampered children's ability to navigate the world.


Critics say fears that children will be abducted by strangers are at a level unjustified by reality. About 115 children are kidnapped by strangers each year, according to federal statistics; 250,000 are injured in auto accidents.

I don't think anyone decided that it would be time for American parents to start reallyreally fearing strangers abducting their children, but that's how the way those cases are treated works out. The coverage is emotional, forcing the viewers all the time to experience this most horrible of events as something that might very well happen in their own families. But note that the danger can be avoided! And the emotional relief when you realize that! Just shepherd your children 24/7 until they can vote.

It is this type of hyper-parenting that has become the upper-middle-class norm. When you add to it the more and more common arguments for homeschooling you get something that a feminist blogger must address: We are making 'ideal' parenting (well, mothering, obviously) into a job that doesn't even fit within a 24-hour day. Nobody doing all that has time for anything else, and if that's what you are planning to do for twenty years or so, why go to college or graduate school?

Note that I'm not blaming any individual parents. The society tells us that good parents drive their children everywhere. If you don't, you are a bad parent. And all that emotional priming makes it tremendously hard to let your child go anywhere on her own. If something happened you couldn't live with yourself. Besides, there are badly-behaving cars everywhere and nary a sidewalk in sight and many of us live in areas where we don't know the neighbors that well, if at all.

But take a step back to see the wider society. What is it doing to make parenting easier? That, after all, is how you make a more child-friendly world.

What I mostly see is the idea that it's the individual parents (read: mothers) who are responsible for everything, not the society. Let's not have good sidewalks or bike paths. Let's cut back on school buses to save money. Why not just let the school system collapse? Moms can always home-school, and that way everybody else saves lots of money.

People differ in how they wish to bring up their children. But what I don't like about all this is the societal pressure brought upon any parent who cannot take on the hyper-vigilant role:

Last spring, her son, 10, announced he wanted to walk to soccer practice rather than be driven, a distance of about a mile. Several people who saw the boy walking alone called 911. A police officer stopped him, drove him the rest of the way and then reprimanded Mrs. Pierce. According to local news reports, the officer told Mrs. Pierce that if anything untoward had happened to the boy, she could have been charged with child endangerment. Many felt the officer acted appropriately and that Mrs. Pierce had put her child at risk.

There you go. The police officer saw Mrs. Pierce as the guilty party. I wonder why that officer isn't keeping the streets safe so that children can walk to soccer practice.

Friday, September 11, 2009

9/11 (by Suzie)

This was taken by David Lubin, M.D.

Friday critter blogging (by Suzie)

Chloe, my sister's St. Bernard, is scared of lightning. During storms, she climbs into the tub, where she seems to feel safe.

I, too, have a great fear of lightning, inherited from my mother, who got it from her grandmother, who raised her till about age 5. When a storm approached, her grandmother would direct her to get under the bed while she hid in the closet. My best guess is that some Irish ancestor lived on a hill in a house made of tin.

When we lived in a trailer (?!) and then an apartment, there was only one room without windows, and thus, considered safe from lightning. The bathroom. We didn't climb into the tub. But Mom and I would sit on the floor and play Scrabble during storms, while our dog watched.

You may be thinking that my sister taught Chloe to fear storms. But no, my sister loves storms. When we all lived together to care for our father with Alzheimer's, we once heard a tornado siren. My sister grabbed a chair and hurried Daddy and his walker into a closet. (Getting him to sit on the floor would have been harder.) I was stuffed into another closet with Chloe. Then my sister ran outside in hopes of seeing the tornado.

Happy Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month! (by Suzie)

"Who is NED and why does everyone want a nice slow dance with him?" asks EyesOnThePrize, a nonprofit that provides gyn cancer support and information. NED stands for "no evidence of disease." That's what doctors say when they can't detect any signs of cancer, but don't feel comfortable proclaiming a patient cured. Some of us relish our relationship with NED.

Six gynecologic oncologists formed a band named NED, and they rocked the San Antonio convention center at the annual meeting of the Society of Gyn Oncs in February. I joined the young 'uns, jumping up and down by the stage.

Their first CD, "Rhythm Heals," went on sale Tuesday, with proceeds going to the Gyn Cancer Awareness Movement. In the clip above, Dr. Joanie Hope sings lead vocals on the title song. This is what their record company says:
The mission of the band is to enhance knowledge about gynecologic cancers and bring hope through rhythm for women undergoing treatment. The doctors strongly believe music heals. In fact, more than 250 journal articles report findings investigating the beneficial effects of music on pain, anxiety or depression. In a recent study at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, investigators found that patients who received music therapy while undergoing chemotherapy reported 37% less mood disturbance than other patients and 28% less anxiety. Other studies have shown that music can assist patients in coping with difficult illnesses. N.E.D. is focused on using music to convey this comfort.
If you know nothing about gyn cancers, you may want to take a moment to familiarize yourself with symptoms. Here's an example of a common myth, from the Women's Cancer Network:
Historically, ovarian cancer was called the “silent killer.” That’s because symptoms were not thought to develop until the chance of cure was poor. Recent studies, though, have shown this term is not accurate. The following symptoms are much more likely to occur in women with ovarian cancer than women in the general population: bloating; pelvic or abdominal pain; difficulty eating or feeling full quickly; urinary symptoms (urgency or frequency).
If you think it's silly to have months dedicated to various causes, perhaps you've never had to fight to get your existence recognized. That brings me to my only criticism of the band. On its page that details gyn cancers, I wish it would mention sarcoma. I've written before on women, cancer and politics.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


My apologies for the title of this post, but that's what this is:

A California lawmaker who resigned after he was caught on tape bragging about his sexual exploits with two women, one of them reportedly a lobbyist, denied on Thursday that he was having extramarital affairs.

Mike Duvall stepped down from the California Assembly on Wednesday, one day after a videotape surfaced in which the married legislator is heard telling a colleague that he enjoys spanking one of the women -- who he boasts is 18 years younger and favors skimpy, "eye-patch" sized underwear.

"I want to make it clear that my decision to resign is in no way an admission that I had an affair or affairs," Duvall, a 54-year-old family-values Republican from Orange County, said in a statement posted on his website.

"My offense was engaging in inappropriate storytelling and I regret my language and choice of words. The resulting media coverage was proving to be an unneeded distraction to my colleagues and I resigned in the hope that my decision would allow them to return to the business of the state," he said.

Let's take him at his word, then. So what he is saying that it's less serious to tell made-up sex stories of two women who in fact did not have sex with him? And he's only concerned about his colleagues!!!!

What about the women whose lives he has wrecked this way? They are both married, after all, and both in careers where his insinuations certainly would not help them.

I have no idea what the truth is. But I think telling made-up stories is a violation of the women in the stories. A big one, too.

Silvio Berlusconi And The Geishas

Berlusconi is such a clown that it's sometimes hard to take him seriously. But he's a man of great power in Italy, and so his pronouncements on women and himself do matter.

And what pronouncements those are!

Premier Silvio Berlusconi brushed off questions about any possible resignation over his sex scandal, saying Thursday that he has been Italy's best premier ever.

Berlusconi also said he was considering suing the woman at the center of the scandal. Patrizia D'Addario, a self-proclaimed prostitute, claims she tape-recorded Berlusconi during a night she says they spent together at the premier's home last year.

The left-leaning newsweekly L'Espresso obtained copies of the tapes, including one in which a man it identified as Berlusconi is heard telling D'Addario to wait for him on the big bed while he showers.

Berlusconi said Thursday he was considering taking legal action. He said he had been the "victim of an attack by a person who wanted to create a scandal" — an apparent reference to D'Addario.

Berlusconi repeated his insistence that he "didn't pay a lira, a euro, for a sexual favor" and never had.

He spoke at a news conference with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero after an Italian-Spanish summit on Sardinia.

"I say this also because, for those who love to conquer, the joy and the most beautiful satisfaction is in the conquest," Berlusconi said, as an expressionless Zapatero looked on. "If you have to pay, I ask you, what joy is there?"

Here we get that "sexual conquest" idea again. Berlusconi is the invading army! Berlusconi is the huntsman with the quiver and the bow! And he wins! The prey is caught, the enemy surrenders, all voluntarily. And how sweet it it.

Now, to pay for all that would be like having someone scare the pheasants into the air before rich tourists take pot-shots at them, right? Well, it would perhaps be more like availing oneself of the services of well-trained geishas:

The scandal broke last spring, when the 72-year-old premier's wife, Veronica Lario, said she was divorcing him, citing his presence at the 18th birthday party of Naples model Noemi Letizia and his party's lineup of TV starlets as candidates for European Parliament elections.

Berlusconi said Thursday that three candidates who attended a course his party offered had all been well-educated, multilingual, sophisticated women who were doing a fine job representing Italy in Europe.

After Lario's accusations, several young women including D'Addario went public with stories that they were paid to attend parties at Berlusconi's homes by a Berlusconi acquaintance, Gianpaolo Tarantini.

Tarantini has apologized for creating a scandal for the premier. He says he reimbursed the women for travel and other expenses but that Berlusconi never knew about it.

The premier on Thursday confirmed that he had been at a few functions with Tarantini, but he stressed that the "beautiful women" Tarantini brought along were his own friends, not Berlusconi's.

That's my take on Berlusconi's defenses. He still doesn't see women as people, and he thinks that viewing them as prey in the hunt of love or as well-trained geishas is a compliment.

On Holding Hands Across The Aisle

Obama's speech was full of references to bipartisanship, though he didn't use that exact term. I sat there, squirming, every time I heard the compromises he suggested with the Republican Party: The party that has been running after me and others like me with a large napkin tied around its neck and a fork and a knife raised up in the air.

So it's hard for me to feel bipartisan gentleness, hard to see the bartering that goes on, because some of that bartering might end up meaning: "No, Echidne doesn't get totally eaten, but you can cut off a few chunks here and there." Am I paranoid? Sure! I blog, after all.

But it's possible to feel skeptical about bipartisanship more generally, for at least three reasons:

First, Grover Norquist called it "date rape," and I'm sure that many Republicans agree with that definition. Joe Wilson calling Obama a liar is not bipartisanship. The Republicans booing is not bipartisanship. Most of the Republican statements I have heard in the context of health care reform are not about bipartisanship. They are about destroying any possibility of reform.

Second, I saw only minimal bipartisanship during the Bush years, minimal, and I suspect that bipartisanship now is something that is stressed only because the Republicans are temporarily out of power. Once they are back in we will never hear that term again. In short, I don't believe that the Republicans want to be bipartisan. Not in the true sense of the word, though of course they'd like to get their policies executed by the other side of the aisle. Who wouldn't?

Third, I'm seriously wondering if there IS a middle in American politics. Many people think that this is how the political picture in the US might look: Most people are in the middle:

(The vertical axis in my interpretation measures the relative numbers of people with various beliefs. The horizontal axis measures increasing conservatism or liberalism)

But I'm not so sure. I think this might better describe the U.S. political views:

Note how the middle is almost empty? Note how the two concentrations (where the relative mass of people might lie) are apart from each other?

My theory might be wrong, but I'd like to explore it a little, because IF it is right, bipartisanship is much, much more difficult than we imagine. Much more must be given away to lure the other side to participate.

This doesn't make the task impossible, and I can well understand how at least talking bipartisanship might help with the unaffiliated voters. But what bipartisanship means for them might not be what it would end up meaning in the Congress.

Stuff That Might Interest You. Including Krugman On Public Option.

1. Would you like to participate in a study that looks at attitudes concerning mothers and feminism? If so, check the study and its requirements out here. I have no connection with the study and only post the information here as a public service.

2. Every homeless pigeon has a home somewhere. Thus, John Stossel joins his clones at Fox. How nice. Too bad that the other side of the political aisle never takes care of its mouthpieces. Nooo, we are supposed to sink or swim in the cold waves of the free market, while the free market acolytes are tucked into safe beds at conservative think tanks and Fox News and Washington Times. I have never quite understood that.

3. This piece by Paul Krugman on why the public option matters is still worth reading. Because the reason is not that it's some sort of a fetish of the mad, mad left.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

An Itchy Post on Obama's Health Care Speech

I ended up biting my scales off and slithering nervously around the Snakepit Inc., trying to understand why I couldn't just sit down and write a straightforward post on the speech. I watched it and all, including those nasty Republican interruptions (could they have anything to do with the race of the president, hmmm).

But I can't just do the usual open-a-lymph-vein-and-write post. Cannot. And the reason is that this happens to be a field I know. It's like someone showing me their brand new car and pointing out the exquisite detailing while all I can think of is the crappy engine under the hood. So what I really want to write about is the engine. The speech, however, did not give enough information for me to model the events. Hence the itchiness.

As a short summary, I think the cost aspects of the proposal will not be good but the access aspects probably are satisfactory. We are going to revisit the high care of health costs until Americans get over their fear of the single-purse model of health care provision.

Will that ever happen, I wonder? I listened to the BBC news on the speech tonight and giggled at the British reporter's inability to understand the arguments about socialism and such in this country, as if just having a public option would bring the ghost of Stalin back to life (with bloody fangs, too). One person the program interviewed mentioned the American distrust of the government as something self-evident. It may well be, but what about the distrust of large insurance companies and monopolized medicine? True, bureaucracy can be a problem with the government but the insurance forms I'm filling in right now are not exactly non-bureaucratic. And we have learned of the denial of care not from some communist bureaucrats but from our friendly insurance providers.

The fear of the public option is odd given that over fifty percent of all health care expenditure already takes place via federal, state or local governments, and although only the VA does more than hand out money to private companies, it is still a fact of the American life that government is the biggest individual player in health care. So why pretend that this is not the case?

Sigh. I will probably never be able to really understand this particular aspect of the U.S. culture. But I can certainly tell you that neither illegal immigrants nor malpractice suits are anywhere near sizable contributors to the high health care costs in this country. They may have political power, but getting rid of all malpractice suits and denying care to all illegal aliens would save very little money.

Does that make any sense? Yes, the car looks great! But no, that doesn't matter very much until I can take it for a test-drive. And I haven't got the keys yet.

The Golden Rule

The political version: The one with the gold is the one who rules.

That's why I'm not very happy to hear that the Supreme Court is considering letting corporations and unions spend freely on election campaigns. Yes, I know that corporations are sorta like persons in the United States. Or at least like zombies, because they cannot be killed and they don't bleed. But they are zombies with rights! Including possibly the right to free speech, which somehow turns out to mean the right to spend money to get the corporate viewpoint through.

Here's the thing: The democratic ideal is "one person, one vote." But how that person votes depends on what she or he knows, and that, in turn, can be influenced by campaign advertising. Money is not spread evenly over everyone in this society. Indeed, corporations have lots of it, and that allows them to spend more on "corporate-friendly" messaging. It's hard to counter that if you don't have the same resources.

I'm pragmatic enough to know that money matters a lot in politics, and that those in power usually had money to get there. But the more openly we accept the power of commercialism in democracy, the further away we drift from its basic ideals.

Incidentally, is Justice Kennedy really this naive?

Justice Anthony Kennedy, often the high court's swing vote, but a firm opponent of many campaign restrictions, at one point told the government's lawyer, "Corporations have lots of knowledge about environment, transportation issues, and you are silencing them during the election."

Probably not. He's just paving the way for the New Era where the IBM, General Electric and Monsanto fill your television with pre-election campaign messages. He's also for the zombie free speech rights.
Picture source.

We Do Like A Good Fight! (Yesterday's Angry Post II)

Don't we, now? Never mind if it is a completely made-up fight, and never mind if the vast majority of Americans are not affected by it one single bit. A good example of such a fight, stoked by the media in that they gave extra time and space for nutters to explain what their fears were, was the Obama speech to schoolchildren. So we are to sincerely believe that president Obama (that Blue Dog Democrat or something to the right of that, that bipartisan friend-maker who wants everybody to join in a circle-song) is going to talk to schoolchildren about socialism!

Socialism my ass. And even if he had done such a very odd thing, would an hour of his voice have been enough to mesmerize all those little children into Maoists or something similar? Would they have all gone out to get abortions and to burn flags then?

I understand that there are people that crazy in this country. But what I don't understand is the media paying attention to them, taking them seriously and presenting all this as appropriate public discourse when it's something that should have been kept within the office walls of a therapist.

But that's just a prelude to what I really am angry about: The utterly inane health care debate. And this is the reason:

How can people debate something they know so little about? Sure, we all have our personal stories about health care. But fixing the SYSTEM requires understanding the current system and it requires understanding the alternatives. It requires someone to actually give the necessary facts before any debate can even begin.

And I don't see that. What appears to be happening is an obfuscation, not a clarification. The more people debate, the more false claims are entered into the riot and nobody much mentions that they are false. All arguments are suddenly equal! Or opinions are suddenly equally worthy of being taken as facts!

When something like this happens, people pick on an emotional basis. And the Obama administration isn't doing its job in this particular matter in terms of the leadership that is needed by explaining the basic facts, the basic problems which the system has. This has allowed the opposition to frame the issues and the media has decided that the plot of this particular story is all the grassroots opposition to any changes in the health care system.

I hope that tonight's speech will change this. Perhaps president Obama will suddenly grow that fire in the belly that is needed for pushing a real reform through. Perhaps, and I sincerely hope so. But as things stand right now, the obfuscators are winning because they have more belly fire. They care more. And that is bad news for all those who want real health care reform more than they want to sit back with a bucket of popcorn and watch yet another silly political fight.

Eye-Patch Duvall

Is a guy who likes to joke about his "sexual conquests." He's also a Fambly Values Republican legislator in California and has sex with lobbyists. That would be people who try to influence him. The eye patch refers to the way he describes one lobbyist's underwear.

Having sex with lobbyists seems kinda unethical to me, but what do I know. The reason I'm writing about this is Duvall's obvious belief that talking about his sexual "conquests" is perfectly AOK, that there's nothing odd about being all for conservative family values and at the same time boasting about the number of scalps (or whatever) he has managed to gather on his adventures.

I'm trying to imagine a reversal to this story, a female legislator boasting about the number of male lobbyists with thongs or whatever. Maybe in another thousand years.
Addendum: It finally occurred to me (and Moe before me) that we have no actual proof of any of this philandering happening. Just Mr. Duvall's say-so.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

No Angry Post II Today

My deepest apologies on that. I have been busy with goddessing duties. Perhaps tomorrow would suit you as well? There's plenty to be angry about and as long as it's kept to the righteous anger and the sheering* light of truth it's all good. Right?

A combination of searing and shearing, err.

The Baucus Plan

I haven't read it in detail, yet, but what I have skimmed so far suggests that it's more patching of the frock that is the existing health care system. A big patch put on that fraying hem: Let more poor people on Medicaid, the state system which covers health care needs of certain poor people right now. This isn't a bad thing to do, of course, except that Medicaid already is in deep trouble and in many places a physician who accepts Medicaid payments is as rare as those hen's teeth.

Besides, Medicaid reimbursement levels are set by the states (though federally subsidized), so they differ widely across states. But never mind. I guess this patch is better than nothing.

The Baucus plan requires that everyone is covered, either through an employer, the government or through a private policy, but the policy doesn't actually help the people who are pushed into the private health insurance market very much at all.

So that's the summary for access. All people would be covered but what they are covered for might vary greatly.

How would these changes be paid for? This is how:

Fees on insurance companies, drug makers, medical device manufacturers and insurers. Tax of 35 percent on insurance plans costing above $8,000 for individuals and $21,000 for families, applied to premium amounts over the threshold. Cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. A fee on employers whose workers receive government subsidies to help them pay premiums. Fines on those who fail to get coverage, up to $950 for individuals, $3,800 for families.

I haven't studied those suggested fees yet, but I'm skeptical that any of these would bring in enough money. Cuts to Medicare and Medicaid would sorta work against the idea of increasing the number of people eligible for Medicaid, would it not? What, exactly, would be cut there and whom would it hurt?

And the rules of the game? How would they be changed in the Baucus plan for the insurance companies? Note that there would be NO public plan, only the introduction of consumer co-ops into the system. Those might not be a bad idea, because they would not be run on the profit motive so we'd get some control for its effects in this market full of information problems. But consumer co-ops don't have price setting power, don't get quantity discounts and cannot take on pharmaceutical companies or big hospitals. So I think the industry can relax here.

But this is a good change in the game rules:

BENEFITS PACKAGE: The government would set four benefit categories ranging from coverage of around 65 percent of medical costs to about 90 percent. No denial of coverage based on pre-existing conditions. All plans sold to individuals and small businesses would have to cover basic benefits, including primary care, hospitalization and prescription drugs.

It is good because it tries to standardize the product people buy in insurance, and banning the denial on the basis of pre-existing conditions is a necessary change.

But what does that banning mean in practice? Will people with pre-existing conditions get insured but only at an incredible high premium? That wouldn't be change we can believe in, would it?

Perhaps I get the answers I need from a careful study of the plan itself.

Today's Angry Post I

1. Politics is not a computer-game. It's not baseball. It's not football. To win at any cost in politics usually means that you lost something much more important than the game. Politics. Has. Real. Consequences.

And to turn all that into some play about greed and power and the pure glee of making someone else suffer is disgusting.

2. Politics is not something you buy at the mall, preferably in your size and in pink. No, you can't return the Congress to the store if you don't like what they do. No, you can't whine when things go bad, because you didn't vote for those causing teh badness. It's not consumerism. You get some group in power whether you want or not.

3. Politics is not entertainment for you. It's not smart to write about it all as if it was a horse-race, to rank the players as if they were Reality Show contestants, America's talent, to be giggled at and pointed at because they have screechy voices or unbecoming suits.

Nobody is required to make politics fun for you, to make difficult concepts easy or to take care that you are not misinformed. But those who write on politics should at least get the barest facts right. You know, boring facts, the ones which don't play baseball, don't go to the mall, don't crack jokes. It is those facts which will ultimately have the power to hurt or help real people.

4. It's easy to see why so many don't want to participate in politics. Same-old-same-old, and the poor get poorer while the rich get a second chance to ruin the market. But not participating IS participating: Just as you can't buy a political option and then not-buy it if you don't like it, we always get politics rain upon us, whether we vote or not. Always. The non-participants participate by handing their keys to someone else.

5. Indeed, what politics IS, at its basest level is self-defense.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Who Wears The Pants?

That is of course shorthand for who the dominator in the family might be. But in Sudan it's a real issue:

A Sudanese woman who wore pants in public was fined the equivalent of $200 but spared a whipping Monday when a court found her guilty of violating Sudan's decency laws.

The woman, Lubna Hussein, an outspoken journalist who had recently worked for the United Nations, faced up to 40 lashes in the case, which has generated a swarm of interest both inside and outside Sudan.

Mrs. Hussein vowed to appeal the sentence and even marched into the court in Khartoum, Sudan's capital, wearing the same pair of loose-fitting green slacks that she was arrested in.

Manal Awad Khogali, one of her lawyers, said the judge hearing the case called only police witnesses to testify and refused to allow Mrs. Hussein — who has pledged to use her trial to bring attention to women's rights in Sudan — to defend herself.

The whole article is worth reading, especially for this part:

It was the potential lashing, customarily carried out with a plastic whip that can leave permanent scars, that seemed to raise so many eyebrows. On Monday, diplomats from the British, French, Canadian, Swedish and Dutch Embassies showed up at the Khartoum courthouse, along with a throng of women protesters, many wearing pants. Witnesses said several bearded counterprotesters in traditional Islamic dress also arrived and yelled out "God is Great."

Riot police broke up the demonstration and carted away more than 40 women. Sudanese officials said they were released shortly later. Witnesses said the police beat up at least one woman.

It tells us how very important it is that women work together to change things. Sadly, it also tells us a story about the power of violence.

Trousers are not discussed in the Quran, by the way. Even literalists seem to use their holy books rather creatively when it's in their interest.

Should You Wish To Labor Today...

Which is a joke about the fact that today the United States has a public holiday called Labor Day (not in honor of birthing women, by the way), and not a great one. But if you don't want to enjoy the beach or the barbeques or whatever rings your bells, you might read Paul Krugman on "How Did Economists Get It So Wrong?"

Then tell me what he says, because I have been too lazy to read it all. See what powers we bloggers have? Though I did read enough of the first part (confusing beauty and truth) to strongly agree with Krugman. When I was but a little sprout of a goddess and studied economics it seemed totally obvious to me that models were one thing and reality another, and that though the two do relate they are not the same thing, and if the model fails to explain reality then it's the model that has to be changed, not reality.

Imagine my surprise when I found many fellow students not making that distinction at all. Very odd.

If you don't want to labor over economics, you might prefer getting all angry about this article: "Women's Role In Sex Crimes Resurfaces As Issue." It's not the article itself that made me angry but that inane headline. What is the most common role women have in sex crimes, after all????? To discuss women who commit such crimes, usually together with men, as the sum total of women's roles in sex crimes is stupid.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

A little listening fun (by Suzie)

Mary, a friend since childhood, sings lead vocals for the band Merry and the Mood Swings. She is towering above the band members on the CD cover. No, she doesn't usually wear her hair like that.

Instead of the Empire State Building, they've substituted the Reunion Tower in Dallas. Mary's holding Big Tex.

Here's their song "Metrosexual."

Some Sunday Sasha

How the time flies! Little puppies become bigger puppies, but every bit as charming. Picture by Doug.