Stupid Idea For Readers To Destroy

Posted September 12, 2017 by Tom
Categories: Health Care, Uncategorized

Tags:

David Anderson’s post at Balloon-Juice got me thinking on single payer vs. universal coverage — I’m with David (and Elie). Don’t care how we get to health care for all Americans, as long as we get there.

So here’s my stupid idea: a move in stages.*

Stage one: Medicare For All Kids.  Same program, just for every kid up to the age of 18–or 26, to match current ACA practice.

The reasoning in my wholly non-expert addled brain being twofold: first, kids are, as a group, cheap to cover, so the financial lift here is presumably manageable.  Second: this has an aspirational frame that can be used to persuade.  I don’t know about you, but I’ll take (I took) risks on my own behalf I would never have done had I my son to keep safe when I started my own small business.  I don’t know how many people have deferred or abandoned dreams because they couldn’t go insurance-naked for their kids.

That’s anecdata, but David Leonhardt made much the same argument way back in 2010 in defense of the bill that became Obamacare. Medicare For All Kids, presented as a way to unleash Americans’ entrpreneurial spirit, would be a proposition on which I think Democrats could go to town.

The next stage is to take the step that didn’t find our David’s 218-51-5 support in the last go-round:  Medicare (buy-in?) For All Over 55.  This is a form of public option, and it would expand the single-payer approach to more and more of those either utterly unable to take on health risk themselves (kids, the post-work elderly) and those whose age-adjusted risk is growing to the point where it threatens to become unmanageable.   Again, this would require persuasion, but the idea that older but not old folks who might face, say, a 2008-like crisis of employment should find a ready avenue to coverage is, again, a case that can be made (by a better political rhetorician than me).

That leaves 27-55 year olds on their own — or rather, within the existing Obamacare/expanded Medicaid universe.  But it establishes a template for a single payer form of coverage without requiring a wholesale change over of a system with tons of interested parties and rent-seekers eager to defend their turf.

So — to steal Ta-Nehisi Coates’ old line: talk to me like I’m stupid.

What’s wrong with a crabwise walk towards increasingly universal health care, along these lines or better ones? For both politics and policy, what would be wrong w. introducing, say a Medicare For All  Kids bill in this Congress, just to get that ball rolling?

David? Anybody?

*”We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

Image: Edvard Munch, The Sick Child, 1907

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A Handful Of Quick DACA-Related Thoughts

Posted September 5, 2017 by Tom
Categories: Moral Trumpitude, Republican knavery, Stupidity, Things that actually matter, Two Parties -- Not the Same, Uncategorized, Who thought that was a good idea?, Why Do They Hate America So?

Tags: ,

 

Others have said what needs to be said about the Coward Trump and his DACA debacle.   Here’s my PGO addition:

1: To reinforce a point Charles Pierce made today: DACA folks are Americans. Full stop. They may not be citizens, but they are us; members of our society, our community.  They are not strangers.

Any attempt to frame them as aliens, or criminals — or as developmentally delayed moral agents who need (as John’s former elementary school teacher put it) being taught right from wrong — is both wrong and vile.

2: Task one is whatever we can do to “help” our Republican friends in Congress to fix the steaming pile of rodent droppings the leader of their party just dumped in their punchbowl

Task two, of course, is to teach every national Republican, no matter what goodness may reside in their hearts, bless their hearts, the lessons California GOPsters learned post Prop. 187.

To me that means that the first priority for any political action centers on voting.  I’m going to call my local town Democratic committee first, and see what I can do there to register folks.  Given that my town votes 2-1 D every election, with good turnout, I’m hoping they’re making the same connections they do every election with Ds who need help in New Hampshire.  If I get no joy there, I’ll contact folks directly in neighboring states.

After registration, it’s voter education and then turnout.  That’s it.  The unintended consequence of Trump’s reign of misrule is that a lot more people have become aware that politics does in fact matter where each of us live.  It’s incumbent on all of us to make sure that realization doesn’t go to waste.

Last: again, this isn’t an issue in my home town of Brookline, MA — but this is why we need Democrats running in every office, down to assistant dog catcher.  Neighbors seeking votes mobilize voters as no one else can; if we have people doing so for every office, that’s a big part of the battle right there.  So I’ll be doing what I can to tell those up the food chain in the party that we gotta do what the Republicans, to their tactical credit, have long understood to be vital.

That’s it.  My motto going forward: Get (Stay) Mad. Get (More Than) Even.

Over to y’all.

Caravaggio, Supper at Emmaus 1601.

Grifters All The Way Down

Posted September 3, 2017 by Tom
Categories: Republican follies, RICO Trump, ridicule, Thieves, Uncategorized

Tags:

Here’s what I don’t get.  Trump’s Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, is a rich guy. Seriously rich: on the order of a half a billion in net worth, w. a cool $70 million in 2016 earnings.  If he wants to check out a cool event — a total eclipse, say, a desire I wholly understnd — he can afford to do so at any level of comfort he chooses, and never miss the lucre.

Instead, he scams:

Last week, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin took Mitch McConnell, some other Republican lawmakers, and his wife, Louise Linton, to Kentucky, ostensibly to touch large piles of gold at Fort Knox. Coincidentally, Kentucky also happened to be one of the best places to watch the total solar eclipse, which happened to occur on the day of their trip.

This trip had already attracted a bit of unwanted attention (back in those halcyon days before Melania’s stiletto adventures) after Linton instagramed the following:

“Great #daytrip to #Kentucky! #nicest #people #countryside,” Linton wrote, according to a screenshot of the now-private post, before tagging the labels she was wearing “#rolandmouret pants, #tomford sunnies, #hermesscarf #valentinorockstudheels #valentino #usa.”

Nothing says populist like that kind of fashion profile, eh?

Now, however, it turns out that drawing eyes to the family outing might have been more than a mere PR flub:

The U.S. Treasury’s Office of Inspector General is reviewing the flight taken by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and his wife, Louise Linton, last week to Louisville and Fort Knox, Ky., following criticism of their use of a government plane on a trip that involved viewing the solar eclipse.

“We are reviewing the circumstances of the Secretary’s August 21 flight . . . to determine whether all applicable travel, ethics, and appropriation laws and policies were observed,” counsel Rich Delmar wrote in a statement to The Washington Post late Thursday.

“When our review is complete, we will advise the appropriate officials, in accordance with the Inspector General Act and established procedures,” Delmar added.

Yo! Mnuchin! Pay attention here.  The Air Force is not your personal air taxi service. You want to take a day off? Fine. You’re the boss. You can play hooky to join millions jazzing on the sun’s waltz with the moon.  And you can pay for it your own damn self, just like I did, my brothers, and everyone I know.

More seriously:  someone who actually takes public service as service knows not to give even the appearance of putting one’s hand in the cookie jar.  And it’s not as if this puts Mnuchin through any hardship.  As noted above, he is far and away rich enough to pay for all his pleasures; there’s no meaningful gain to him to sleaze a little grift off the top.  But apparently, he can’t help himself.

These guys: scum floats — but how can you tell when it’s scum all the way down?

Image: Elihu Vedder, Corrupt Legislation (detail), mural in the Library of Congress, 1896.

You Know You Have A Problem…

Posted September 2, 2017 by Tom
Categories: Republican follies, ridicule, Stupidity, Trump Crime Syndicate

Tags:

…When you say sh*t like this:

“As he puts on plastic gloves to serve food at NRG Stadium…President Trump turns to press and says: “My hands are too big!”

Dude.  Special pleading like this only makes it harder to ignore the obvious inference. Seriously, Donald. Can we talk? I don’t care about your sense of adequacy, or its absence. Just let it lie, you know. This whole subject.

In other quotes from the nation’s Disaster Tourist in Chief, we find this gem:

Leaving the shelter, Trump told the survivors and gathered reporters to “have a good time.”

Ummm.

I’m sure everyone there felt the love.

Lastly, here’s the sober sitrep from a guy who, we were told by The New York Times, is all over the long-term impact of water on structures:

When asked about the devastating flooding still covering much of the region, he replied: “The flooding? Oh, yeah, yeah, there’s a lot of water, but it’s leaving pretty quickly. But there’s a lot of water, a lot of water, but it’s moving out.”

I’m not even going to get into Melania’s Stiletto-gate, Take Two (AKA Spikes of Compassion). Who cares? She has her job to do, which seems mostly to involve distracting the Ferret-Heedit Cheeto-Faced Shit-gibbon from obsessing over his hand size.

I’m thinking that all those stories about how Harvey would give Trump the platform he needed to become, at last, a president are aging well. Don’t you?

Image: Rembrandt van Rijn, The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp, 1632.

Stray Thoughts and Mental Misdemeanors

Posted August 16, 2017 by Tom
Categories: Awesomeness, The Good Fight, War

Tags: , ,

I’ve been quiet for the last several days* for several reasons. I’ve been heartsick; paralyzed with rage, unable to form sentences;** and, perhaps most to the point, unable to add much, if anything to what everyone else has been saying.

What’s more, I’m well behind on my book project, and just about ever last erg of writing energy I may have by rights has to go there. Plus I’m heading off this weekend eclipse chasing, then off-the-grid resetting (a place in NE California that lacks cell signal and any form of internet, 13 miles from the nearest hamlet, no town electricity or services at all.  IOW:  paradise).  So I’m not going to be adding much to the conversation for a while yet, as in for some months.

But I don’t want to remain completely uncounted, so here I’ll just say two things.  First, of course, is to sign on to what so many have already said:  Donald Trump is not just a bad president. He’s an existential danger to the US and the world — and he is allowed to be so by a Republican Party that is wholly complicit in his failure, his corruption, and in accepting his embrace of evil.  As we do our best not just to resist but to overcome, we must aim not just for Trump’s fall, but for salt to rain on the fields of the entire, and thoroughly misnamed Grand Grotesque Old Party.

And second, because not even dire political straits can be navigated by rage and desperation alone, here’s a treat I discovered as I took one of my winding journeys through the ‘tubes.

That is:  I’m writing (inter alia) about the South Sea Bubble.  I was, for reasons that, trust me,*** make perfect sense in context, trying to discover a little more about the forestalled first voyage of the South Sea Company ship the Royal George.  Googling around that I was led to an image of the so-called South Sea shilling — part of a coinage in several denominations minted in 1723, three years after the Bubble, using silver the Company found in one of its few successful maritime ventures.

That led me to Spink and Son’s website to see if I could pick up such a coin as a curio and a keepsake.  Spink’s is a fabulous too-English establishment, with retail premises in London not far from the British Museum, and an astonishing collection of rare coins and medals.  It’s not really the right place to look for my coin — South Sea shillings are way too common and plebian, it turns out, and Spink’s likes to quote numbers with way too many zeroes in it for my bank balance.  But you know how it is.  Once there one can’t help mouse around — and cruising over to their private sale page, I found this:

The Dickin Medal

Awarded to 3 year old pigeon NURP.41.SBS.219 The Duke of Normandy, 21st Army Group, D-Day 6/6/44, AFS, No. 1086, DM No.45.

Here’s Spink’s photo of his grace’s medal:

The Duke of Normandy’s citation reads:

“For being the first bird to arrive with a message from Paratroops of the 21st Army Group behind enemy lines on D-Day, 6th June 1944 while serving with the APS (Allied Pigeon Service).”

That would have been the crucial information that paratroopers had managed to secure a key German battery overlooking Sword Beach in time for the D-Day assault on that position.

BTW:  if you want that bauble, it’s offered at £15,000.

Here’s the Duke himself, a fine specimen of pigeon-hood:

Some of y’all are likely much better informed than I am, but for me, the Dickin Medal was novel territory, so some further research was clearly required.  Of course in idle surfing, that means a quick trip to Wikipedia.  It turns out that the Dickin Medal is often termed “the animal Victoria Cross,” which apparently makes the human Victoria Cross people rather cross, which ISTM is their problem.

The Dickin Medal has been awarded 67 times since it was instituted in 1943.  The first went to the pigeon White Vision, who flew into headwinds for nine hours to deliver a message that led to the rescue of the crew of a flying boat that was forced down near the Hebrides.  The most recent award went, posthumously, to Reckless, a Mongolian mare who served with the US Army in Korea.  Here she is under fire…

And here in happier days:

She was, apparently, something of a character:

Out of a race horse dam, she was purchased in October 1952 for $250 from a Korean stableboy at the Seoul racetrack who needed money to buy an artificial leg for his sister. Reckless was bought by members of the United States Marine Corps and trained to be a pack horse for the Recoilless Rifle Platoon, Anti-Tank Company, 5th Marine Regiment1st Marine Division.[1] She quickly became part of the unit and was allowed to roam freely through camp, entering the Marines’ tents, where she would sleep on cold nights, and was known for her willingness to eat nearly anything, including scrambled eggs, beer, Coca-Cola and, once, about $30 worth of poker chips.

She served as an ammunition resupply horse–which is itself a reminder that for much of the twentieth century mechanized war was a hell of lot less internal-combustion-powered than you might think.  See, e.g., this glimpse of German resupply on the Eastern Front in 1942:

Back to Reckless: her medal-winning feats came during the Battle for Outpost Vegas, during which she made 51 trips, covering 35 miles, ferrying over four and half tons of artillery ammunition to the front lines.  She was wounded twice, and received two battlefield promotions, to corporal and then sergeant, and survived the war to live out a comfortable retirement in the United States.

As with the Victoria Cross, it’s not uncommon for Dickin Medal winners to have died in the action which earned them their award for valor, and many of the most recent winners have been dogs trained in the discovery of IEDs.  Here’s Buster, an RAF sniffer dog who, thankfully, survived his service in Iraq in 2003 to make it to the very respectable age of 16:

All of which is to say that there are so many much better creatures in the world than the vileness currently infesting the Oval Office, and all those who in any way made or make that continuing disgrace possible.

But we knew that.

So to close:  here’s to the Duke, to White Vision, to Reckless and Buster and the rest of their gallant company — and to all those who keep us company, who are, if unable to banish Trump, are still able to ease our spirits, the better to fight the bastards again tomorrow:

Let’s try to have some fun.  We’ll all need it.

*not on Twitter, TBH.

**with more than 140 characters

***in general, whenever you hear that, or even more, Trump’s favorite imperative, “believe me,” put both hands on your wallet.  Someone’s lying to you.  But not this time.

Images: Spink and Sons, Duke of Normandy Dickin Medal.

Paradata, The Duke of Normandy,

Camp Pendleton Archives, Reckless Under Fire,

US Marine Corps history division, Sgt. Reckless, Camp Pendleton

Bundesarchiv, German Supply Wagon in Mud1942

Me, Tikka, Hairy Eyeball, 2017

 

 

Eclipses Make People Crazy, Daniel Defoe Edition

Posted August 6, 2017 by Tom
Categories: Art and science, astronomy, History, Uncategorized

So:  some folks choked on Annie Dillard’s perhaps overly magniloquent response to her eclipse, so here’s something quite different for the more Augustan among us.

For reasons not relevant to this post, I am this morning nosing around Daniel Defoe’s writing from the late 1710s, and just a few minutes ago I stumbled upon this hoot of a passage from the second volume of The Family Instructor:

It happen’d once, that a Discourse began between the Father and Mother about the Eclipse of the Sun, which fell out in April 22. 1715.

The Eclipse of the Sun was the Subject of all Con|versation at that time, having been, as is well known, so Total, and the Darkness so great, as that the like had not been known in that Age, or some hundreds of Years before.

The Wife had enquired of her Husband, what the Nature of the Thing was, and he was describing it to her and the Children in a familiar way; and, as I said, that a kind of Reflection upon one another was the usual Issue of their common Discourse, so it was there; the Husband tells her, that the Moon was like a cross Wife, that when she was out of Humour, could Thwart and Eclipse her Husband whenever she pleased; and that if an ill Wife stood in the Way, the brightest Husband could not shine.

She flew in a Passion at this, and being of a sharp Wit, you do well, says she, to carry your Emblem to a suitable height; I warrant, you think a Wife, like the Moon, has no Light but what she borrows from her Husband, and that we can only shine by Reflecti|on; it is necessary then you should know, she can Eclipse him when she pleases.

Ay, ay, says the Husband, but you see when she does, she darkens the whole House, she can give no Light without him.

Ʋpon this she came closer to him.
Wife.

I suppose you think you have been Eclips’d lately, we don’t see the House is the darker for it.

Husband.

That’s because of your own Darkness; I think the House has been much the darker.

Wife:

None of the Family are made sensible of it, we don’t miss your Light.

Husb.

It’s strange if they don’t, for I see no Light you give in the room of it.

Wife.

We are but as dark as we were before; for we were none of us the better for all your Hypocri|tical Shining.

Husb.

Well, I have done shining, you see; the Darkness be at your Door.

It’s evident that both meant here, his having left off Family-Worship; and it is apparent, both were come to a dreadful Extremity in their Quarrel.
Wife.

At my Door! am I the Master of the Fami|ly! don’t lay your Sins to my Charge.

Husb.

No, no; but your own I may; It is the Retrograde Motion of the Moon that causes an E|clipse.

Wife.

Where all was dark before, there can be no Eclipse.

Husb.

Your Sin is, that my Light is your Darkness.

Wife.

That won’t excuse you, if you think it a Sin; can you not do what you please without me?

My advice to the husband? Don’t throw shade when your own wit is so poorly lit.

Image: Edmund Halley, A Description of the Passage of the Shadow of the Moon over England In the Total Eclipse of the SUN on the Day of April 1715 in the morning.

Darkness At Noon (Well, A Little After 10 a.m. From Where I’ll Be Standing)

Posted August 5, 2017 by Tom
Categories: astronomy, rare sincerity, Uncategorized

Tags:

This is a follow up to what I’ve been hearing from some folks about how they plan to take in the eclipse of 2017.  My family’s headed out for Oregon in a couple of weeks, basing ourselves with relatives in Portland before heading a little south and east in the very wee hours of the 21st.

We’re putting ourselves in the hands of the cloud-cover forecast as to how far east we go (or try to), and in those of our cousins for local knowledge of roads and routes. There Will Be Traffic, which is why my hunch is that we’ll be en route not much after midnight.

That’s my plan.  What follows is for those of you in or near the path of the partial eclipse, and plan to stay there.

I’ve got just one thing to say to y’all:

Reconsider.

A total eclipse is a completely different beast from a partial one.  Partial eclipses are weird and cool.

Something comes along and takes a bite out of the soon, and the sheer wrongness of that is emotionally powerful, and produces its own truly odd visual effects:

 

BUT…

Totality is a completely different beast.

Here’s Annie Dillard, testifying:

I had seen a partial eclipse in 1970. A partial eclipse is very interesting. It bears almost no relation to a total eclipse. Seeing a partial eclipse bears the same relation to seeing a total eclipse as kissing a man does to marrying him, or as flying in an airplane does to falling out of an airplane. Although the one experience precedes the other, it in no way prepares you for it….

The sky’s blue was deepening, but there was no darkness. The sun was a wide crescent, like a segment of tangerine. The wind freshened and blew steadily over the hill. The eastern hill across the highway grew dusky and sharp. The towns and orchards in the valley to the south were dissolving into the blue light. Only the thin river held a trickle of sun.

Now the sky to the west deepened to indigo, a color never seen. A dark sky usually loses color. This was a saturated, deep indigo, up in the air. Stuck up into that unworldly sky was the cone of Mount Adams, and the alpenglow was upon it. The alpenglow is that red light of sunset which holds out on snowy mountain tops long after the valleys and tablelands are dimmed. “Look at Mount Adams,” I said, and that was the last sane moment I remember.

I turned back to the sun. It was going. The sun was going, and the world was wrong. The grasses were wrong; they were platinum. Their every detail of stem, head, and blade shone lightless and artificially distinct as an art photographer’s platinum print. This color has never been seen on earth. The hues were metallic; their finish was matte. The hillside was a nineteenth-century tinted photograph from which the tints had faded. All the people you see in the photograph, distinct and detailed as their faces look, are now dead. The sky was navy blue. My hands were silver. All the distant hills’ grasses were finespun metal which the wind laid down. I was watching a faded color print of a movie filmed in the Middle Ages; I was standing in it, by some mistake. I was standing in a movie of hillside grasses filmed in the Middle Ages. I missed my own century, the people I knew, and the real light of day…

From all the hills came screams. A piece of sky beside the crescent sun was detaching. It was a loosened circle of evening sky, suddenly lighted from the back. It was an abrupt black body out of nowhere; it was a flat disk; it was almost over the sun. That is when there were screams. At once this disk of sky slid over the sun like a lid. The sky snapped over the sun like a lens cover. The hatch in the brain slammed. Abruptly it was dark night, on the land and in the sky. In the night sky was a tiny ring of light. The hole where the sun belongs is very small. A thin ring of light marked its place. There was no sound. The eyes dried, the arteries drained, the lungs hushed. There was no world. We were the world’s dead people rotating and orbiting around and around, embedded in the planet’s crust, while the earth rolled down. Our minds were light-years distant, forgetful of almost everything. Only an extraordinary act of will could recall to us our former, living selves and our contexts in matter and time. We had, it seems, loved the planet and loved our lives, but could no longer remember the way of them. We got the light wrong. In the sky was something that should not be there. In the black sky was a ring of light. It was a thin ring, an old, thin silver wedding band, an old, worn ring. It was an old wedding band in the sky, or a morsel of bone. There were stars. It was all over.

      — Annie Dillard, “Total Eclipse”, from Teaching a Stone to Talk

My own experience was similarly uncanny, impossible to anticipate.  The first film that was really mine, the first on which I had sole producer and writer credit, was an episode of NOVA broadcast in 1992 called “Eclipse of the Century.”  It documented the 1991 eclipse whose a path of totality tracked directly over the Big Island of Hawaii — and hence over the deep-space telescopes placed atop Mauna Kea.

It was a hell of a first film to attempt — we ended up with a crew of over 20, 12 cameras, insurance from Lloyds of London against the possibility that clouds would doom the film — something like $5,000 against $250,000 on four minutes or so of clear skies — and so on.

I had a ton of help, of course:  a supervising producer, a proper director, a great assistant, and above all, wonderful camera people and their crews, in many ways a who’s-who of the top documentary shooters of the day.  Without them the whole farrago would have collapsed in hideous ignominy.

As it turned out, nature gave us great drama — clouds rising, threatening to cover the sun minutes before totality and then…

Well, take a look at this clip.*

For myself — I was with the crew that was filming the adventures within the control room of the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope.  That was headed by Jon Else, for those of you who follow documentary stuff, and though I was nominally his director, Jon needed no guidance from a rookie to do his usual brilliant work. About 90 seconds into totality he turned his head and told me to get onto the catwalk to see the matter for myself.

I did.

I’m not going to tell you what I felt.  As the Dillard passage above suggest, it seems to me, words can carry something of the emotional intensity of the moment, but the experience itself is unsayable.  Mimesis ain’t in it here; there’s no representation that captures the reality anyone other than the writer would perceive.

In purely descriptive terms, the shift in colors that Dillard describes is the overture, the phenomenon that alerts you to the strangeness under way.  But when the moon’s disc fully covers the sun you get something else altogether, a darkness that isn’t quite the darkness of night (especially if you’re high up, with a truly distant horizon, because you can then detect a kind of lightening all around you at the edges of your viewable frame).

And most of all, you get the corona, the solar atmosphere. The human eye can see it out to a distance of at least 10 solar diameters, maybe more.  But because the brightness falls off so sharply from near the limb of the sun to hte diffuse, outer corona, most  most photographs, and certainly in the video linked above, don’t begin to do justice to what you’ll see for yourselves.

Luc Viatour / https://Lucnix.be

All of which is (a) to prove the point that words are poor guides to what happens during totality and (b) if you have a chance, check it out.

*I can’t find the whole film on the web anywhere.  That’s no surprise — in 1992 we weren’t clearing rights for an internet that wouldn’t properly exist for years to come.  One cool thing about that eclipse that you’ll see if you do look at the clip were those two giant solar prominences.  Don’t see that every time.

Images: George Stubbs, Eclipse at Newmarket with Groombefore 1789.

Photos of a partial eclipse of the sun taken in Yunnan province, China, 1999

Luc Viatour, Total Solar Eclipse, 1999