Bostoniangirl writes: ColoradoCare:
My aunt and uncle were in town, visiting from Colorado, and I learned that Colorado has a single-payer initiative on this fall's ballot. It would be financed with Federal subsidies, and a 10% payroll tax (3.33% from the employee, 6.67% from the employer). It sounds pretty great in almost all respects.
Except for one big thing. Colorado law prohibits state funds being spent to pay for abortion.
So, here's my question. If single-payer is important enough to pass and we value abortion rights, what could be done to work around this? It turns out that a lot of Obamacare exchange plans don't cover abortion either. Here's the thing though: Abortion isn't that expensive. It's unaffordable for a lot of women, but it's cheap compared to something like open-heart surgery.
Is there some way that we could have a non-profit cooperative providing insurance for reproductive health care that women could pay into? And would such an entity be eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions the way that Planned Parenthood does now so that people who cared about reproductive freedom could find a way to subsidize women who couldn't afford/didn't have the income to contribute in advance? Anyone know?
Heebie's take: So you're saying that women would buy additional (cheap) abortion insurance, via a nonprofit? I think that that could be one component of a non-profit - like, Planned Parenthood could mostly run on grants and donations, but offer abortion insurance. It seems unlikely that enough women would sign up for additional coverage to make it practical as a general matter.
Nick S. writes: Worth it for the photographs alone -- profile of 6 people who were (possibly) recognizable figures from the British punk scene and now seem remarkably comfortable in their skin as middle-aged adults.
I'm sure my 20-year-old self would look at me and shout, "Sellout!" But I don't feel like a sellout. I'm just older and wiser. I'm 55 now. I'm old, fat and bald. When I tell people I was in a punk band, most just laugh and think I'm joking. But I'm very proud of what we did. In our own way, we helped Asian kids stand up and be counted for the first time in this country. Why wouldn't you be proud of that?
Maybe I'm just getting old, but that's lovely.
Heebie's take: I'm most struck by the idea that society could give you a few years to rock the punk scene without it then being prohibitively difficult to find your footing on a career track. What a nice idea.
(Yes it's possible here, but it certainly isn't part of the mainstream narrative very much. Also it becomes insanely difficult if you have kids at a young age and don't have a lot of access to wealth and help.)
It seems that I did a coding bootcamp and secured employment as a developer shortly thereafter. Part of me suspected it was a big scam even while I was doing it, but I have to admit I learned a lot, and way more than I would have with self-study, no matter how focused. And the interview practice, resume review, practice salary negotiations, and personal "outcomes" coach were things I couldn't have done on my own. Of course, it also cost a lot, and only the charm and prescience that allowed me to marry a doctor made it possible, but I'm going to make back the tuition in a couple of months.
I'll probably do a longer post about the business and the experience later, but for now I can recommend the specific program I did, and if you're considering a bootcamp and want tips for getting in and doing well, email me at the blog address.
Chris Y writes: Next time you need something less serious, you can introduce people to this gizmo.
Also, Rhik Samadder is a little known gem, and anybody looking for a time waster could do a lot worse than work through his back catalogue.
Heebie's take: He is a super charming writer!
Confidential to Chris Y: I recognize that you are addressing me in the first sentence, not all them out there. I, needing something less serious, am lazily redirecting.
Note: This is the rest of Mossy's Monday post. In general, we'll follow the schedule posted here. Which still has some spots available, if you're so inclined.
Mossy writes: 3: Read it and Weep, 1917
Tooze describes events in Russia and Europe, 1917. He argues that the interaction of domestic and international politics across Europe made peace a real possibility that year, while, in parallel, Russia came very close to a functional democracy; both outcomes might have been reached if the US could have stayed out of the war a little longer, and if Wilson had been more perceptive.
In Russia, the Provisional Government formed in February wanted peace, but only on fair terms: no annexations or indemnities, and self-determination (essentially the same as Wilson's proposals). There were major strikes in Germany, Italy, and Britain, and French mutinies in May. In Germany, Bethmann Hollweg's coalition was disintegrating; in July the Reichstag voted for peace on essentially the Russian terms. Britain and France remained bellicose, although with substantial left-wing dissent.
At this point American pressure might have pushed Britain and France across the line and led everyone to a peace on the Russian terms. However Wilson had by this time decided that a recurrence of war could be prevented only by the defeat of Germany, and [more importantly?] didn't want his big peace deal to be stolen by dirty socialists. So, Wilson refused to review Allied war aims, US government credit arrived just in time to revitalize Britain and France, and the chance for an early peace was lost.
Thus, Europe headed for a fight to the finish. Russia, though, was more complicated. The country was desperate for peace, but the Provisional Government felt bound to participate in the Entente offensives of 1917. Russia wanted to become a full member of the modern world, and retain its leverage over the actions of the Western powers; and leaving the army inactive all summer ran the risk of serious mutinies due to Bolshevik subversion. So Russia went on the offensive, and was catastrophically defeated. In Germany, this neutered the Reichstag peace movement, as victory again seemed possible; and in Russia the slide to the October Revolution began, with desertions and mutinies leaving the Provisional Government vulnerable to the Bolshevik coup.
Tooze argues that US policy had a severe failure of vision here. He thinks Russia should have been let off the hook, militarily: Wilson should have accepted that Russia was too fragile for offensive action, recognized the value of Russian democracy, and allowed Russia to remain quiescent for the sake of that democracy.
[Most of this chapter was news to me. I had never known how close everyone came to a negotiated peace, and I think that deserves to be more widely remembered. This is also the most straightforwardly convincing of Tooze's claims so far: there was a very concrete chance for peace, and the US had concrete tools for making that peace happen. The Russia argument is less convincing, because far less there was subject to American influence, but Tooze is right to emphasize that Russia did manage to hold free elections, and that a Bolshevik takeover was never inevitable. Missed opportunities are the theme of this whole book, but the weight of them in this chapter alone is staggering.]
4: Asia, 1911-17
Tooze sets out the situation in China and Japan. He argues that here, as in Europe, there was a window where these countries could have been functional liberal (for the time) democracies, but that the opportunity was lost, which might have been avoided without American bungling.
Japan in 1914 was a constitutional monarchy, heavily dependent on British finance, and semi-allied to Britain. Japan had conservatives, who favored a Russian alliance and expansion in China, and thought conflict with the US inevitable; and liberals who leaned strongly on the British alliance, but weren't necessarily opposed to expansionism. In 1914 a coalition Cabinet was formed, including both conservatives and liberals. Japan entered the war in 1914 and seized the German concessions in north China, and issued a series of demands to China amounting to a claim of supremacy over Chinese affairs. These were noisily rejected by the Chinese and the Western powers, and the liberal foreign minister resigned in mid-1915, leaving a conservative-dominated government, replaced in 1916 by a more conservative army-led government.
The conservatives initially destabilized China, backing rebels in 1916; but by early 1917 had switched to a clientage policy, hoping to control a centralized Chinese government mostly through finance. While they wanted to dominate China, they realized that they had limited ability to do so, and that the future belonged to the US, demanding caution. Meanwhile, Japan's balance of payments turned positive as it became a supplier and creditor to the Entente. Unlike the European powers, Japan comes out of the war strengthened, and not indebted to the US; as the postwar American world order would revolve around war debts, I think this will eventually weaken Tooze's overall thesis.
In China, progressives overthrow the monarchy in 1911; the army overthrows the progressives; a popular revolt overthrows the army government; and the progressives are reinstalled, in 1916. The new parliament was dominated by the Guomindang (or Kuomintang, in deference to my Wade-Giles-diehard hosts), but the government was led by a survivor from the army regime, who became Japan's ally in its clientage policy. Japan gave encouragement and loans to China for declaring war on Germany, which it did in mid-1917. There was wide popular resistance to cooperation with Japan. The Guomindang fled the capital for the south, where they would remain until the Northern Expedition; the government's unification efforts were sabotaged by its warlord allies; the following year Japan, increasingly wary of Chinese unification, attempted to mediate.
The Guomindang looked to the US for help, but were disappointed. While Wilson supported China in breaking relations with Germany, he was very dubious about an actual declaration of war. While Chinese progressives wanted to enter the war in order to get a place among the great powers at the peace conference, Wilson essentially told them to stay home and get their shit together. In discussions with Japan, he (without consulting China) affirmed the status quo in China, with an Open Door for all powers, and Japanese special interests in the north; internally, he considered making China a mandate under Japanese-led supervision. Late in 1917 Secretary of State Lansing proposed a package of loans for China, which was rejected by the Treasury for fear it would compete with Liberty Bond issues; a smaller private loan was rejected by Morgan's, which didn't want to operate in China without Japanese support. [Those loans would have totaled $150m, the Japanese loans that actually went through only $10m; compared to finances in Europe, this was chump change.]
Wilson was indifferent to China because he thought it barbarian, beneath contempt, and potentially a threat to white supremacy; more important, though, he was overridingly concerned with preserving his own policy, separate from the interests of the Entente, Japan, and their allies in America.
[On first reading I thought the Asian sections were far weaker than the rest of the book, and still think so about this chapter. Tooze seems to me to be searching for any place where better US policy would have prevented the disasters of the mid-century, and in Asia this leads him to advocate policies far removed from, and less plausible than, those argued for in the bulk of the book.]
[The counterfactuals here are further from reality than in the Europe chapters. When Tooze says this-or-that US policy would have made a difference in Europe, we know the Entente would have run out of money in weeks without US credit, and American terms would have been met; in China there was not such strong leverage. And what was US action to accomplish? In Europe, American money went to basically functional states already fighting a war; America could feed money into systems that were already running. China wasn't fighting and had no modern military to fight with; the proposed loans would go to 'railway improvements' and 'currency stabilization'. ]
[Tooze advocates here not just changes in foreign policy but active US involvement in someone else's state-building project. Setting aside America's terrible record at state-building, the warlord era in China was an epic disaster, and there is an argument to be made for such a project; but I don't see that that argument belongs in this book. Picking sides in a failed state is very remote from constructive use of actually-existing diplomatic leverage and financial systems, which Tooze is arguing for overall. ]
That we're also having the kitchen remodeled? We've been waiting for over a year to get on the contractor's schedule, and he finally had time for us right as this was breaking. So we'll be eating takeout for most of the month before Buck moves out.
Also, I have a job interview today and tomorrow. Wish me luck!
Turns out it works for divorces sort of like bankruptcies. Anyway, Buck and I are divorcing -- I found out about a month ago, but we just told the kids tonight. It seems odd making an announcement about it, but it's also been odd not talking about it, and there's not really a gradual way to say it.
Expect me to be a little on edge for a while. Or not -- I don't really know what I'm like under the circumstances. I've never been under these circumstances before.
The internet rant is a mostly dead genre, but this one from Atrios was pretty satisfying.
It's pretty impossible to react to Republican hypocrisy, because that implies that you thought anything they ever said was one iota sincere, which makes you a sucker.
AND YET! Two of the Republican most successful hyperventilation-campaigns were the pretend-Ebola crisis for the midterm elections and their ongoing fretting about unborn babies. The Zika virus is the love-child of these two things they pretended to care about, and yet...crickets. (Maybe Ebola and fetuses shouldn't have had a PSA-baby out of wedlock. I'm regretting this parenthetical already. But otherwise one of you would put it in the comments, and I want credit for at least recognizing the stupid joke ahead of time.)
"Why do all old statues have such small penises." In fact, it's even been mentioned on the blog. Is it crude to speculate that if one of your main forms of recreation is buttsex, you're much less likely to laud the large member? If only there were people we could ask.
Also, because someone will bring it up:
Priapus was a Greek fertility god cursed with a permanent erection, impotence, ugliness and foul-mindedness
My extensive hermeneutic training leads me to believe that "impotence" here means the inability to conceive.
1. Nick S. writes: it's always good to see a long story by Kate Fagan, and this one, about Brittney Griner and Diana Tuarasi playing together in Russia is very good.
For Griner, and for Taurasi when she was younger, playing in Russia is a "life experience" -- a lesson in how to handle change, challenge and cultural differences. And perhaps nothing defines the yearlong existence of WNBA players more than those hurdles. As soon as they leave college, they exist in a perpetual state of motion. For five months, they live in the U.S., playing during the summer (a season few associate with hoops), making an average salary of $76,500. (Low-level rookies make less than $40,000, the very best players about $109,500.) That's a decent, but not overwhelming, amount of money for a professional athlete, and because the rest of the year is wide open, about half the WNBA players go overseas for a second paycheck, from Italy to Turkey to Russia. They are like modern-day nomads: Have jumper, will travel.
Of course, the top women's basketball stars have been playing overseas for more than 30 years -- well before the start of the WNBA. But when the league, backed by the NBA, started 20 years ago, some believed female players had finally found a permanent home. It hasn't worked out that way, for complicated reasons.
2. J, Robot writes: Life imitates art.
But the FBI had not made a mistake, and the truth was so outlandish, it defied comprehension. Not only were their parents indeed Russian spies, they were Russians. The man and woman the boys knew as Mom and Dad really were their parents, but their names were not Donald Heathfield and Tracey Foley. Those were Canadians who had died long ago, as children; their identities had been stolen and adopted by the boys' parents.
Their real names were Andrei Bezrukov and Elena Vavilova. They were both born in the Soviet Union, had undergone training in the KGB and been dispatched abroad as part of a Soviet programme of deep-cover secret agents, known in Russia as the "illegals". After a slow-burning career building up an ordinary North American background, the pair were now active agents for the SVR, the foreign spy agency of modern Russia and a successor to the KGB. They, along with eight other agents, had been betrayed by a Russian spy who had defected to the Americans.
Most of you have probably already seen this article on non-Arabic speakers who memorize the Quran. (Which sounds really, really hard in a language you don't speak -- thousands of words of phonetically memorized nonsense? But I suppose people do it.) In any case, despite not speaking Arabic, Quran-memorizers are better at distinguishing grammatical from ungrammatical Arabic sentences than people who have learned Arabic in a classroom: apparently just immersing yourself in properly formed utterances in a language, you intuit the grammar rules even without understanding what's being said at all.
That seems impossible to me, but of course it seems impossible in the same way babies successfully learning language at all seems; it's an implausibly big body of information to memorize, but everyone does it.
(I've been vaguely trying to learn Spanish for years now, for no good reason other than that it's ridiculous to only speak one language. Even before I read this, I'd started listening to _Buenos Dias America!_, the Voice of America half-hour news broadcast, on the theory that it couldn't hurt. It's a weird feeling. My Spanish isn't good enough to understand a single sentence start to finish, but with a combination of proper nouns and my limited vocabulary, I can usually get the general topic of whatever they're talking about at any given moment.)
Note: Mossy's summary is sufficiently long that we decided to break it into two parts. I'll post Chapters 3 and 4 later this week, (unless people are finding it hard to keep up? in which case, speak up.)
Mossy writes: Well, this is long. I've summarized what Tooze says, with my comments in [square brackets].
Introduction: Preview of Coming Attractions
The US emerges from the war overwhelmingly and uniquely powerful, and awareness and fear of that power heavily influenced the calculations of all governments during and after the war. Uniquely, US nationalism was strengthened rather than weakened by WWI, so the US sought an order built around American beliefs, with itself as ultimate arbiter, whereas all others sought an order built around mutual interests. Further, the American beliefs underlying that policy were uniquely backward, rejecting expansion of the state and international commitments. As the man puts it:
This then is the central irony of the early twentieth century. At the hub of the rapidly evolving, American-centred world system there was a polity wedded to a conservative vision of its own future.
[Horrifyingly, this is essentially still true today]
All other powers, with basically liberal and progressive governments in all major countries (except Russia), recognized that the war had produced a newly interconnected and dangerous world, which required unprecedented cooperation. The gold standard, disarmament, and the Locarno treaties formed the center of such a cooperative system. The US, however, failed to participate constructively in this system. In the absence of America, Britain tried to run this system until 1923, but wasn't strong enough to do so; the system limped along until its total collapse in the 1930s.
Conveniently, Tooze lists his own key claims. I'll stick them here for reference:
...the problems of global leadership faced by the United States after World War I were radically new...
...the other powers too were motivated to search for a new order beyond imperialism.
America's problems with modernity were profound.
1: Stalemate, 1916
Tooze sets the scene in Europe, and introduces Wilson and his ideology. [But I'll cover the latter under chapter 2.]
Politically, all the European combatants were at least somewhat democratic, and included organized labor in their war coalition governments; and there was open talk of negotiated peace on all sides. Both sides held back for fear of antagonizing the US: Germany restricted submarine activity, and Britain didn't execute all the [unspecified - I would've liked more detail] fiscal measures it had planned against the Central Powers. In reaction to the British blockade, Wilson started a major naval expansion program.
Militarily, no-one got anywhere: in the west, both sides got stuck in slugfests at Verdun and the Somme; in the east there was movement but not progress: the Austro-Hungarian army was destroyed by the Russians, Romania was destroyed by the Germans.
Economically, the Entente depended heavily on supplies from the US, bought increasingly on American credit. All this activity was private sector, largely organized by J. P. Morgan. The scale was huge, dwarfing prewar commerce; and the loans were contracted in US dollars, so the Europeans wouldn't be able to inflate those debts away. The needs of the war produced unprecedented state involvement in finance, and in the Entente to unprecedented international cooperation, such as pooling of gold reserves, and Britain underwriting French and Russian debt.
In America, Wilson was opposed to involvement in Europe, thinking it Old World realpolitik to which the US should be indifferent; domestically, he was pro-tax, pro-labor, pro-inflation, and was accordingly hated by Wall Street. He ran on an anti-war platform in 1916, and was solidly reelected. Despite Wilson, the scale of American involvement with the Entente increasingly led all concerned to believe that the US could not afford to let the Entente lose; this sense of inevitability contributed to Germany's decision to escalate the war in 1917 with unrestricted submarine warfare.
[American reluctance to cancel war debts will be central to the whole book; I don't remember now, but the large fraction of debt that was private might have contributed to that. We'll see. Tooze emphasizes, as he will throughout, that WWI was not WWII, and that collective memory of the latter distorts understanding of the former. His overall argument is roughly that the democratic peace of the 1990s was possible in the 1920s: neither war nor despotism were inevitable. International economic cooperation is something Tooze will mention repeatedly, but never explore much; I'd have liked more, but I guess that needs books of its own.]
2: Introducing Sententious Donkey* Woodrow Wilson
Tooze introduces Wilson's ideology and peace policy, and the US as a reactionary power.
Wilson came from Reconstruction Georgia [that is, a country that wanted to turn the clock back], and he never outgrew that origin. He didn't believe in revolutions, but in slow incremental progress; similarly, he didn't believe that progress could be imposed on a culture from without.
He wanted American pre-eminence, not equality; what he wanted from his peace policy was Europe exhausted and broken, and America supreme by sheer moral authority. The US had to remain neutral in order to keep that moral authority, and in order to survive as a reserve from which Europe could be rebuilt, in order to confront other races; furthermore, fighting the war would require modernization of the American state, which Wilson abhorred.
A 'peace without victory', that is, without major gains by any side, would prevent revanchism, and an American-led league of nations could therefore maintain that peace without maintaining massive military forces as a deterrent. Without the need for armaments, the US again wouldn't need to modernize. Teddy Roosevelt called Wilson [correctly IMO, and I think in Tooze's] a copperhead: one who wanted a negotiated peace because war meant change.
What this meant for actual policy: Wilson tried to force an end to the war starting in late 1916. He opposed a new Anglo-French bond issue in New York, causing a run on the pound; he then called for a statement of war aims from both sides. The Entente was extremely vulnerable to US pressure, as they would have run out of cash in weeks without new bond issues; but they gambled that America could not afford to let them fail, and kept fighting. Germany made the same assumption, and didn't take the opportunity to negotiate a way out.
By April Wilson was pulled into the war anyway, following unrestricted submarine warfare and the Zimmermann telegram; but did so as an associate, not an ally, trying to preserve freedom of maneuver to shape a new order.
[Christ, what an asshole. The level of special pleading is extraordinary. Europeans are wicked imperialists, but Americans can do what they want Latin America; entering the war is a 'crime against civilization' while he wants to stay out, a war to 'make the world safe for democracy' as soon as he doesn't; America can dictate terms to the world, because it's just self-evidently special. Wilson really has a lot to answer for.
*I owe the donkey line to a great history lecturer I had - the one who turned me on to Tooze, in fact.]
Purdue's marketing of Oxycontin, starting in the 90s, hinged on the claim that it lasted for 12 hours. For people who needed additional pain relief, they recommended increasing the dose, not the frequency. In a substantial portion of people, the drug doesn't last more than 8 hours. This has probably contributed to millions of addictions. It's a frustrating read.
via some of you, over there
Hey you guys. I haven't been around because everything kid of sucks right now and I have been feeling ambivalent about talking about it. My older daughter has been wheelchair-bound (though able to walk around the apartment) since December now. Her doctors for real don't know what's wrong, after full-spine MRIs, weird blood tests, and every other damn thing. She was starting to do better on PT and stuff the night before she caught her sister's norovirus (girl y's entire grade got sick at a Malaysian resort. But, she got to see a young tapir, so, totally worth it. For real, way worth it.) Girl x had to be put back in hospital for five days, in a SIX-bed room who even makes those anymore is this World War fucking I, and each child had at least two people with them, and it was an inferno. I didn't sleep there with her; it's the first time I've just bailed on it and let my husband do it.
This is all compounding on her last Feb. admittance to hospital which involved removing an appendix that turned out to be fine. This was followed by colonoscopy, endoscopy and...no figuring out what's wrong. It looks fine. Every test, ever, of anything, looks fine. But she is very much not fine. She's in terrible, agonizing pain a lot of the time, especially when her previous painkiller is wearing off. She goes into fits of weeping, castigating me for my improvidence in having children when I and my family are obviously genetic disasters, or threatening to kill herself with an endlessly repeated litany of "I can't do this any more mommy, I can't do it, I just want to go to sleep, please, I can't do it" etc. I am inclined to think this is being overly dramatic in a 14-year-old way, but there's no rule that says you have to be a stoic rock when everything sucks in your life. Her friends were scattered a bit from last school year anyway, with her best friend going back to Korea, and people chancing not to have classes with her. In March her two remaining good friends transferred to the Japanese school, so they naturally have to go to cram school afters (almost another whole school day.) Result: totally cut off from everyone, and her homeroom teacher hasn't even ever sent her a single email to ask how she's doing.
Her doctors think she needs inpatient PT, which Narnia lacks entirely, so I'm in Oregon at my in-laws' establishing residency so we can get insurance and then...go to the Phoenix Children's Hospital with an intention to get her into the Mayo Clinic there. My sister-in-law lives in Phoenix and (in part) as thanks for my parents-in-law buying them a baller house, my brother-in-law has been researching and scheming and planning to use friends at the Clinic for help.
The thing is, she's too sick to fly. I worry she would melt down at hour ten or something, even on Narnian Airlines in business class which has fully flat beds now (for real it's awesome, I just flew in business for the first time in 8 or 9 years when we had to get out of NYC after the hurricane one-before-last. The idea was that I would vaguely, sort of, not really, have the energy for a six-day trip across the world.) And maybe we would be stuck in Narita forever, or in LA, with her flatly refusing to get on another plane ever. You can get medevac things where actual doctors and nurses dope you up and accompany you, but it's a bajillion dollars. Maybe it would end up actually costing less money to fly in the NA private suites while I throw fists-full of valium and xanax at her, and her instant-action painkillers for breakthrough pain. They are different from normal ones. I say normal but she's taking long-acting oxy with naxolone now, same as me, only at 1/3 or 1/2 the dose. I am down to one 20mg tablet per day from four or five a few years back, so I am succeeding in pushing it, but still. Why is she this sick? My sister was this sick at this age, but my sister is a seriously disabled person who has a poor quality of life. When I was girl y's age I could run around and leap and boogie board in big surf, and do cartwheels in the emerald grass of my graddad's lawn. I was already drinking and using drugs because I was a kind of broken person, but still. My daughter's a goody-two-shoes petrified about missing a whole semester of school, and maybe not even being ready in the fall to go back. Shit would have to change massively for that to happen; she can't sit upright for more than 15-20 minutes. She and I do fun crafts together like embroidery, doing historical hairstyles, re-making our Blythe dolls, sewing said dolls period-accurate 18th century clothes (my ceaseless hoarding of scraps of good fabric was a retroactive genius move on may part. Yay me!) But the best part of her day is when we play "talking games," where I narrate and play other characters and she plays her favorite characters from books, or some we invent out of whole cloth. She's started to pretend in the talking games that she's in a wheelchair, and it makes me sad. But usually it's a wheelchair made not out of science, or magic, but DETERMINATION. Powered by determination.