Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Mr. Deity and the Woman

Once again, he doesn't seem to have thought this through, does he?

Does CBS watch Michael Moore?

You may have watched Michael Moore's new movie, Capitalism: A Love Story, and if you did you may have noticed the discussion of "dead peasant" policies, a mechanism whereby an employer that hasn't wrung enough profit out of its workers in life can make money when the poor sucker dies.

It turns out you weren't the only one who noticed. Dead peasant policies were the central plot element in this week's episode of CSI: Miami. I never cease to be amazed at how willing the cops and prosecutors on TV shows are to be outraged at the depredations of big corporations.

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This is troubling

I have never been a daily reader of the Washington Post, but when I have read it I've generally thought that it was basically a small town paper, covering a town a bit smaller than Indianapolis, but with a different system of keeping score than the 500.

Still, the news today doesn't sound good. The Washington Post, in a significant retrenchment, is closing its remaining domestic bureaus around the country.

The six correspondents who work in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago will be offered reassignments in Washington, while three news assistants will be let go.

In the words of Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli, "We are not a national news organization of record serving a general audience."

Fair enough, but how many national news organizations of record do we have? We still need newspapers. We might not always need them, but we still need them now.

Maybe it's not my business, since I'm not buying the paper anyway, but it still seems like a loss.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Rights? What are you talking about?

Last week I posted a link to a debate about whether the Catholic Church is a force for good in the world. To me it's not a close call, but possibly the strongest argument in favor of the Catholic Church is the work it does for social justice: opposing war and the death penalty, supporting orphaned children, feeding the hungry, and the like. Why, they're so committed to social justice that they're pushing the health care reform bill in Congress, right?

Yes, with a big "but". They have supported health care legislation, but as we now know, they were willing to pull the plug on the whole thing without the Stupak amendment: no abortion for anyone who gets subsidized health insurance or health insurance through the public option or purchased through the insurance exchanges. And if the Congress wouldn't knuckle under to the bishops, no health care for anybody.

Now, an analysis by the George Washington University School of Public Health predicts that if the Stupak amendment becomes law it will affect not only women who receive insurance under the new law, but it will lead all insurance companies to drop abortion coverage.

"Under national health reform, millions of women, including women who are covered by small employers (as employees or spouses or dependents of employees) as well as those who are currently uninsured, will receive their coverage through health insurance exchanges. By barring the sale of subsidized products that cover medically indicated abortions as part of a broader package of benefits, the Amendment can be expected to cause the industry to re-design its offerings in order to avoid violating the legal restrictions on abortion applicable to exchange products that receive subsidies," said Professor Sara Rosenbaum, JD, lead author and Chair of the Department of Health Policy. "The Amendment also can be expected to chill efforts to develop supplemental coverage for medically indicated abortions, because it appears to prohibit the joint administration of both a basic and supplemental product," Rosenbaum noted.

Jeffry Toobin has an editorial about this issue in this week's New Yorker, and he has it exactly right. In a point that is often overlooked, he points out that the right to abortion is not simply a question of health care. "But, as Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg observed not long ago, abortion rights “center on a woman’s autonomy to determine her life’s course, and thus to enjoy equal citizenship stature.” Every diminishment of that right diminishes women. With stakes of such magnitude, it is wise to weigh carefully the difference between compromise and surrender."

Who else is supporting rights for women? Cosmopolitan. Yes, the "17 Tricks to Keep Your Man Begging for More" Cosmopolitan. In their current online version they are providing a link to a petition to support abortion rights for all women.

Don't think you're going to need an abortion, or don't think you're going to be relying on subsidized insurance? It still affects you, so sign the petition and push your legislators to get on board with this. The game is now in the Senate. 35% of all women are likely to need an abortion at some point in their lives. This issue is of vital importance for everyone.

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

When the Emperor Was Divine

When the Emperor Was Divine When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I read this for my book group, and we are discussing it on Wednesday, so it's possible my views will change. As it is, though, I wasn't impressed. Rather than being a real novel, tracing the lives and struggles of believable people, this book seemed to be essentially a didactic YA novel intended to illustrate what happened. I didn't see much of interest in the characters or their reactions to their experience.

I know that Vermont chose this as the Vermont Reads book this year. I question whether it makes sense to select what is essentially juvenile fiction to ask all the readers in the state to read and discuss. I just don't think there is enough to it for that.

View all my reviews >>

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Mr. Deity and Death

Could be worse.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Intelligence Squared Debate - Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry vs. The Catholics (Part 1/5)

The question is whether the Catholic Church is a force for good in the world. I would think it's a pretty easy question, but the two speakers on the "pro" side are so weak that it's even easier than it should be. Still, if you watch, you will probably agree with me that Hitch and Fry have the better of the argument.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Daniel Hauser is alive and cancer-free

Almost six months ago we posted here about Daniel Hauser, a teenager in Minnesota whose parents were trying to deny him the cancer treatment that might save his life. Fortunately for Daniel, a judge took custody of him, appointed a guardian, and required him to undergo the treatment.

Now that his treatment is finished, Danny's physicians reported that their tests show no evidence of the Hodgkin's lymphoma that was first diagnosed last winter, Zwakman said. Earlier, they had warned that the cancer probably would kill him if it went untreated.

Even the family appears to consider this good news:

"He's one happy boy now," family spokesman Dan Zwakman said. "His smile is back, his energy is back, and he may be out harvesting corn for the dairy cows this afternoon." Zwakman met with the family after Danny's final radiation treatment Friday at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis.

They appear to attribute his recovery not to the medical treatment he has received, but to dietary supplements and a strict diet. Still, we can all be glad that this boy's parents were not allowed to kill him.

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The end of the world

Three big elections today. The governor's race in New Jersey. The governor's race in Virginia. A special election for House across the lake in New York. If you've been reading the press reports, you know what these elections mean, right?

Exactly. If the Democrats lose these elections it means that Obama is all washed up, the Democratic Party might as well close down and surrender, and the Republican Party is now on top again, probably permanently.

All from three data points.

This is obviously nonsense. We are looking at three different elections, with three different sets of issues and personalities, and at least three different sets of reasons for whoever wins winning.

Let's take Virginia first, since we already know that the Republican won there. Virginia is a traditionally Republican state, and last year was the first time a Democrat won the presidential vote there since 1964. Although he was looking to succeed a Democratic governor, Creigh Deeds apparently ran a weak campaign, and wasn't able to generate the kind of turnout that Obama generated just a year ago.

Former DNC Chairman Howard Dean told TPMDC that Deeds "just did not run the kind of campaign we'd all hoped for," in part because he was a surprise winner of the primary.

"He had a lot of ground to make up in terms of finances," Dean said.

So Deeds lost, but nobody is surprised by that.

Next, let's look at New Jersey, the state where I grew up. Democratic incumbent Jon Corzine is trailing challenger Chris Christie and the AP has called the race for Christie. Still, in this race that has been personally nasty, the outcome is much more likely to be determined by who voters dislike more, Corzine or Christie.

Finally, in the NY-23 House race, a three-person race has been reduced to a two-person race, with Republican Dede Scozzafava dropping out and throwing her support to Democrat Bill Owens, leaving the conservative field to Conservative Party nominee Doug Hoffman. This is a district that never elects Democrats, and might not elect one this time. What we see here in microcosm, though, is the meltdown of the Republican Party, and Dede Scozzafava the latest victim of the purge of the Republican Party by the right wing extremists. Whatever happens, it doesn't look like bad news for the Democrats.

One final note about what this means for Obama. Exit surveys have asked voters what they think of Obama's performance so far. In Virginia, 50% of the voters say they disapprove of Obama's performance and 49% saying they approve, so he's basically breaking even there. In New Jersey, underscoring the impression that the election is being decided on personalities, 58% of the voters say they approve of Obama's performance, and even 25% of them are voting against the Democratic incumbent.

So are today's elections a referendum on Obama's performance? Like other myths that have been retailed as conventional wisdom lately (read: the public has rejected the public option) this clearly appears to be false. Instead, what we see is that neither Creigh Deeds nor Jon Corzine had the unprecedented combination of personal appeal, campaign organization, and a historic move for change that Obama was able to generate to put them over the top.

Maybe it's premature to measure Obama for his coffin.