Republicans Are Bad For Your Health

Posted October 29, 2014 by Tom
Categories: Health Care, Republican follies, Republican knavery

Tags: , ,

This is just a drive-by sidelight on Richard Mayhew’s brief over at Balloon Juice — but its worth taking a look at this explainer from the Upshot.

The good news:  Obamacare is doing what it set out to do.  Kevin Quealy and Margot Sanger-Katz write that

The biggest winners from the law include people between the ages of 18 and 34; blacks; Hispanics; and people who live in rural areas. The areas with the largest increases in the health insurance rate, for example, include rural Arkansas and Nevada; southern Texas; large swaths of New Mexico, Kentucky and West Virginia; and much of inland California and Oregon.

Each of these trends is going in the opposite direction of larger economic patterns. Young people have fared substantially worse in the job market than older people in recent years. Blacks and Hispanics have fared worse than whites and Asians. Rural areas have fallen further behind larger metropolitan areas.

Women are the one modest exception. They have benefited more from Obamacare than men, and they have received larger raises in recent years. But of course women still make considerably less money than men, so an economic benefit for women still pushes against inequality in many ways. [all links in the original]

Rembrandt_Christ_Healing_the_Sick

The bad news:  it sucks to be ruled by the Republican cabal.  Or rather, it’s great if your state government actually managed to get used to the idea of Free Money! (h/t the indispensable Charles Pierce):

Despite many Republican voters’ disdain for the Affordable Care Act, parts of the country that lean the most heavily Republican (according to 2012 presidential election results) showed significantly more insurance gains than places where voters lean strongly Democratic. That partly reflects underlying rates of insurance. In liberal places, like Massachusetts and Hawaii, previous state policies had made insurance coverage much more widespread, leaving less room for improvement. But the correlation also reflects trends in wealth and poverty. Many of the poorest and most rural states in the country tend to favor Republican politicians. Of course, the fact that Republican areas showed disproportionate insurance gains does not mean that only Republicans signed up; there are many Democrats living in even the most strongly Republican regions of the country.

But for the rest…

There are still a lot of uninsured people remaining, many in the places that had high uninsured rates last year.

Where would those folk be?  Check out the last map in the piece.  No one here will be surprised.

Image: Rembrandt van Rijn, Christ Preaching (Christ Healing the Sick — the hundred guilder print)1646-50.

I Hear There’s A Sporting Contest Today…

Posted October 26, 2014 by Tom
Categories: baseball, Writing

Tags: , ,

That would be, of course, the fifth game of the World Series.  So, in advance of the stirring triumph by the Sons of Willie Mays,* here’s a nice bit of baseball reporting and writing, one that captures something of the difference of the game fans watch and that which the players play.

Even a Boston-fan-in-adulthood like me knows the lore.  Ted Williams announced on September 26, 1960 that he was going to retire at the end of the season, two days later.  That would be it for  a major league career that had begun in 1939. (For those who are counting, that’s a career that spans four decades, and includes hiatuses for active duty in two wars.)  That season, aged 41, he wasn’t too bad:  a .316 batting average, an OPS of 1.096, 29 home runs in 113 games.  The numbers are a little down from his career averages (sic!), but you’d have to say that the Splendid Splinter could still play.

But he had decided he was done — and who could blame him — and according to every report I’ve ever read, when Williams set his mind, that was it.  So September 28, when the Baltimore Orioles faced the Red Sox at Fenway Park in the last home game of the 1960 season, the crowd knew it would be watching the last of the greatest ball player ever to wear the B on his cap.**

What happened that day is pure Boston sports legend.

John Updike wrote what many think is a classic of baseball writing about that game.  For me, it doesn’t re-read well; too much of what Steinbeck called hooptedoodle for my taste.  The one truly fascinating fact Updike records is the attendance. On the last occasion to see Ted Williams, all of 10,454 people showed up at a park that could seat over 30,000.  Admittedly, the 1960 Boston team sucked, but still…

But most of Updike’s piece is elegant hagiography, utterly focused on Williams…which is fine; Ted was the reason he was there, and Ted gratified the genteel and rabid fan in Updike by delivering the kind of narrative that wouldn’t have been believed had Updike snuck it into a novel.  It was a dank, cold day, a lousy one for hitting, and Williams didn’t do much for a while:  a walk and a run scored in the first, two fly ball outs in the third and the fifth (that second one had a chance, but fluttered down at the warning track).  He came up for what was obviously the last time in the eighth and…well, here’s Updike:

Fisher, after his unsettling wait, was wide with the first pitch. He put the second one over, and Williams swung mightily and missed. The crowd grunted, seeing that classic swing, so long and smooth and quick, exposed, naked in its failure. Fisher threw the third time, Williams swung again, and there it was. The ball climbed on a diagonal line into the vast volume of air over center field. From my angle, behind third base, the ball seemed less an object in flight than the tip of a towering, motionless construct, like the Eiffel Tower or the Tappan Zee Bridge. It was in the books while it was still in the sky. Brandt ran back to the deepest corner of the outfield grass; the ball descended beyond his reach and struck in the crotch where the bullpen met the wall, bounced chunkily, and, as far as I could see, vanished.

Yup.  As every baseball fan knows, Williams went out with the stuff of dreams, a home run in his last at bat in the only home stadium he had ever known in a baseball life as long (and now as long ago) as Methuselah’s.  As Updike notes, he was even able to allow himself to skip the final series of the 1960 season, away games at Yankee Stadium.  A home run, a standing O, no curtain call, and out.  That’s the story.  Full stop.

Except…s another guy had something to do with the moment, the antagonist to Williams’ hero’s role.  That would be Jack Fisher, the pitcher who served up the fateful fastball.

Scientific_American_1886,_Cut_C

There’s Updike’s tale of heroic inevitability (it’s always necessary after the fact), the literary gloss on that routine confrontation between pitcher and batter.  And then there’s the way the guys standing 60 feet 6 inches apart see it.  Which is why I found delightful this brief report from the mouth of Mr. Fisher himself, written up by Elon Green  for Updike’s venue, The New Yorker, on May 1 of this year.  In it, we learn that Fisher didn’t see TED WILLIAMS at the plate.  He saw a guy he knew how to pitch to:

One of the sportswriters looked it up, and he said that Williams lifetime was two for thirteen off of me. So I did all right against him.

Here’s how Fisher remembers the crucial at-bat itself:

As you probably heard, it was a very cold, dank day type thing. Williams earlier had hit a ball off of me to right field—a fly ball that our right fielder, Al Pilarcik, caught back close to the warning track. So Williams had hit the ball pretty well that time, and I thought, Uh oh, but it was an out. So, it’s the seventh inning, and he comes up, and Jackie Jensen was their next hitter, right-hand hitter, and with the short left-field wall there, I thought, There’s no way I’m gonna pitch around Williams.

I think the first pitch was a ball. The next pitch—he swung and missed—was another fastball. The next pitch I just went to another fastball and he hit it out. Made the score four to three.

I mean, all I was trying to do was win the ballgame. The fact that he hit the home run wasn’t that big to me because I’d actually had pretty good success against him.

Love it.

Talk about whatever.

*I hope I may be forgiven my partisanship.  My first pro sports experience was surviving Candlestick as a nine year old, or so.  Saw Mays, McCovey, Marichal, Cepeda, Bonds the elder, even Gaylord Perry.  I switched allegiance to the A’s after a bit — East Bay kid and all that — but I earned (though never grabbed) my Croix de Candlestick, and so there you have it.  Go Giants!

**Was Babe Ruth a better ball player? Probably.  But, of course, that greatness happened mostly in a Yankees uniform.  Goddammit.

Image: Artist unknown, Diagram of the Method of Giving the Rotary Motion to the Ball, from Scientific American, The Art of Pitching in Baseball, July 31, 1886, page 71.

Fables Of The Reconstruction: Cue The World’s Tiniest Violin Edition — Plus: Bonus For A Good Time On The Cape!

Posted October 25, 2014 by Tom
Categories: Art

Tags: ,

Attention conservation notice (term stolen from Cosma): What follows is mostly purely Levenson-domicile maundering.  The good stuff is at the end; great art by someone I love.  Now you know.

I’ve gone silent on our kitchen renovation farrago, for the obvious and very good reason:  it’s the eternal return of the same, and thus boring. Everyone who’s lived through (or, FSM-forbid, DIY’d) a major house project knows the one universal truth: it sucks.  It’s like parachuting without the thrill:  August 1 at 7 a.m. we were riding a perfectly functional airplane had a perfectly functional kitchen.  By 8:30 we’d jumped.

And the usual followed:  the house is filled with dust; we’ve broken so many glasses in our makeshift sink that we’ve finally given up and gone to plastic; and as the weeks go by the house looks more like a communal grad-student flop than I ever thought I’d inhabit again.

But there’s hope.  Yesterday — all in one day! — saw the transition from this:

IMG_1876

 

To this:

IMG_1881

 

Of course, the resulting upsurge in that sweet feeling that suggests, yes, this may someday end, is “hope” only in the sense that Robin Williams describe here. (Round about 1:48 for the reference.)   Yeah, the room finally looks more or less like a room again — but now we’re going head on into the fiddly stage, where two or more skilled craftspeople will nudge something or other into some precise configuration that takes hours to work out, for an indefinite and seemingly unending future.  Again…tiny violin time.

Never mind.  We still cook — this week I managed a lamb stew, even, browning the meat on the gas grill — in the midst of a thunder squall — before finishing everything else on 12o0 watt burner on the hot plate:

IMG_1874

Tasted fine.

There’s HOOOOOOOOPE (18 f**king times!)

Meanwhile, of course, life continues to do its thing — and given that, can I draw your attention to something that makes me very happy, and that I think (as I should) shows real power as a work of art.

That would be the new installation show my wife, Katha Seidman, is about to open with two other artists at the Cotuit Center for the Arts — calling all Cape Cod-proximate Balloon Juicers!.

Inspired by and in conversation with Giacometti’s The Palace at 4 a.m. (to be seen at MOMA in New York), the installation opens tonight.  Details on the card:

ecard

Lots more on the installation (with photos of both the stages of creation and some of the more sculptural elements) can be found at its Facebook page.

I’ve seen it go through all the stages of gestation, from sketches and models to huge bits and pieces, some of which we trialled on our lawn.  It’s (in my no-doubt utterly unbiased opinion) a deeply conceived and executed work of art, powerful as spectacle and more so as I’ve lingered with what its elements say in themselves and with and through each other.  So, if you happen to be passing anywhere near that way in the next month, check it out.

Last, just for grins, here’s a picture of me, singing cooking in the rain:

IMG_1873

Ah well. It’s sunny today, at least.

Winner Of The “I Need A (Chocolate) Cigarette After Reading That” Award

Posted October 22, 2014 by Tom
Categories: seriously, Sharp thinking, Stupidity

Tags: , ,

Chris Kluwe on Gamergate:

Dear #Gamergaters,

Do you know why you piss me the fuck off?

Because you’re lazy. You’re ignorant. You are a blithering collection of wannabe Wikipedia philosophers, drunk on your own buzzwords, incapable of forming an original thought. You display a lack of knowledge stunning in its scope, a fundamental disregard of history and human nature so pronounced that makes me wonder if lead paint is a key component of your diet. You think you’re making piercing arguments when, in actuality, you’re throwing a temper tantrum that would embarrass a three-year-old.

Pieter_Quast_Jansz._-_Cellar_Interior_-_Google_Art_Project

Read the whole thing.  It’s a truly righteous rant.  The man has a gift for invective.  One more brief sample:

There’s this herd of people, mainly angsty teenage caucasian men (based on an informal survey of 99 percent of the people who feel the need to defend this nonsense to me on Twitter), who feel that somehow, their identity as “gamers” is being taken away. Like they’re all little Anne Franks, hiding in their basements from the PC Nazis and Social Justice Warrior brigades, desperately protecting the last shreds of “core gaming” in their unironically horrible Liveblog journals filled with patently obvious white privilege and poorly disguised misogyny. “First they came for our Halo 2’s, and I said nothing.”

I liked his use of the term “slackjawed pickletits” too.

(PS:  I know I’ve been even more conspicuous by my absence lately than my usual absent self.  This is kind of a peace offering.  I promise something at least a little bit more substantive (and hopefully not about Ebola) in the near future.)

Image Pieter Quast Jansz, Cellar Interior, 1636.

Ebola Derangement Syndrome…Some Context

Posted October 8, 2014 by Tom
Categories: Guns, public health

Tags:

As of October 5  — the period covered by the World Health Organization’s latest Ebola Situation Report [PDF]  — there have been 8,033 cases of Ebola identified, with 3,879 deaths.  The one US Ebola death isn’t in that total yet — it will show up in next week’s report.

Using 2011 numbers (I can’t dig up more recent CDC data), forty weeks worth of gun deaths in the US would produce almost 25,000 men, women, kids, dead by homicide, dead in domestic battles, dead by accident, dead of the misery that leads to self-murder.

37.42

A single US Ebola case has completely deranged the Republican party and their pack of running dogs.  There have been calls for summary execution of the ill and scorched earth assaults on some of the world’s poorest; someone managed to conflate Ebola and ISIS; a truly timorous sour (when did the GOP become such cowards?) now demands panic [h/t Edoroso] in response to this (genuinely) terrible disease that has, just to go back to the numbers again, the death of one person on American soil.

None of these trembling, vicious GOP hacks offers anything remotely so…determined…in the face of stories like this.  Or these. [PDF].  Or all those documented here, until the slaughter became too much for witnesses to bear.

Ebola is a terrifying disease.  It is doing immense damage to extremely vulnerable people and societies.  We should bring all we can to bear to block further transmission, to care for those already infected, and to discover whatever there is to be found to treat or prevent it.  But as we do so, it’s worth remembering that there is an epidemic disease claiming the lives of  more than eighty Americans a day, and we aren’t doing anything to stop it.

Image:  Alexandre-Gabriel Decamps, The Suicidec. 1836.

Girls Just Want To Have Fun — China “Red Princess” Edition

Posted October 2, 2014 by Tom
Categories: Oops

Tags: ,

I’ve not commented at all about Hong Kong and the umbrella protests because I don’t know enough to add anything to what much more informed people have saying.  As noted in Anne Laurie’s post this morning, old China hand Jim Fallows has been tracking the story closely, and has been writing himself and keeping tabs on other smart takes on the situation.  Here I’ll highlight from that list only the rather meta essay Henry Farrell put up at the Monkey Cage blog on the perils of explanatory journalism in cases, like this one, when the explaining journalist can fall afoul of his or her unknown unknowns:

Explainer journalism rests instead on the authority of the person doing the explaining.

The problem with this is twofold. First, the explainers are sometimes going to get things wrong. This is especially likely in international politics, where the explaining journalist is supposed to have expertise in far more countries and far more issues than any human being can possibly know much about. Second, the explainer is going to have difficulty in admittingthat he or she has gotten something wrong. If your authority and livelihood as a writer rests on your supposed ability to explain, you are not going to want to admit that you got things seriously wrong, even if you did.

Very useful correctives to keep on hand as we read just about any source on just about any kind of story.

So, my ignorance stipulated and reiterated, let me just add this to the mix.  If I’m CY Leung, the head of the Hong Kong government, facing an unprecedented level of protest and demands for more transparent, more democratic, and more open government, I probably really, really, don’t want to read a post on my 22 year old daughter’s Facebook page saying this:

The necklace on my profile pic is not a dog collar, silly!!!” she said. “This is actually a beautiful necklace bought at Lane Crawford (yes – funded by all you HK taxpayers!! So are all my beautiful shoes and dresses and clutches!! Thank you so much!!!!).

Collier,_Evert_-_Vanitas_Still-Life_-_1705

And I’m really, REALLY sure I would wish she hadn’t added this:

Actually maybe I shouldn’t say ‘all you’- since most of you here are probably unemployed hence all this time obsessed with bombarding me with messages.

In the context of stories like this one, this is just so much not what any senior official would want to see splashed across headlines around the world.  I have no idea how this moment of scandal (or simply gaucherie) will play into events on the streets of Hong Kong and in government offices there and in Beijing.  But damn…that’s some spectacular buffoonery from someone who I guess fits the definition of a red princess.

Image: Evert Collier, Vanitas Still Life 1705.

I Like To Think Of This As The Universe Expressing An Opinion About Today’s Incarnation Of The Party Of Lincoln

Posted October 2, 2014 by Tom
Categories: astronomy, geek humor, Snark

Tags:

I mean, this picture sure seems to make a cosmic viewpoint clear:

Keyhole_Nebula_-_Hubble_1999 crop

Ah well.  It’s back to work for your humble bloghost.

Image:  NASA, The Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI) – Space Telescope Science Institute, Keyhole Nebula, crop of the feature known as “God’s Birdie,” 1999.


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