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Guest Post - Warren during the financial crisis

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.13.19

Minivet writes: This seems appropriate, given how many comment threads we filled up during and about these same events.

Heebie's take: This is a fascinating read. Warren comes off as a hero.

This part is funny:

On Warren's first day, Geithner gave her a cop's hat--Warren had often referred to the CFPB as a "cop on the beat"--and invited her to lunch, as she recalled in A Fighting Chance.
"Put on your seat belt, Mr. Secretary," Warren told him on their way to a restaurant.
Explaining that the car was bulletproof and the driver was well-trained with a gun, Geithner replied, "I don't have to. ... We're safe here."
Warren replied: "What? Are you kidding?"
She recalled she might have raised her voice as she said, "What good is that if we get hit and this thing turns over a few times and you smash your head against that great bulletproof window?"
His seat belt remained unfastened, but he fastened it on the way back, she noted.

 

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LEEP

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.12.19

LEEP is apparently a really common way to deal with precancerous cells on the cervix, basically cutting them out. Apparently a certain number of women then lose their sex drive, and then descend into medical hell of not being believed, etc.

After previous patients had complained about LEEPs, Dr. Goldstein referenced a pioneering 2004 study led by Rutgers neuroscientist Barry Komisaruk, PhD, to theorize that some LEEPs cut too deeply into the cervix and sever vital nerve endings, silencing the genital connection to the brain. Komisaruk now speculates this could even have a numbing effect on the entire area, similar to the way nerves degenerate in the general area around an amputated limb. Simply put: A too-aggressive LEEP might scoop out a woman's cancer risk--but also some or all of her sexual feeling.
"Nobody teaches doctors or does quality control on how deep to go," says Dr. Goldstein. "There is no appreciation for the three very important nerves in the cervix...and that the deeper you go, the higher your chance of denervating the whole thing."

and

Much of Dr. Goldstein's research is considered "controversial," says Tami Rowen, MD, an ob-gyn at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center. Or as Dr. Andrew Goldstein puts it: "Dying from cervical cancer is horrific. We can write about how the treatment affects orgasms or we can write about how it saves millions of lives." (He clarifies that he doesn't want to downplay the sexual ramifications of LEEPs, and that doctors should not perform the procedure too "aggressively.")

It's not the only method - there's also a cryotherapy version.

I have to say that I'm a bit confused on why LEEP causes problems but not the entire removal of the cervix, which is pretty common as well (hi!). Or if that does cause problems as well in certain women, why the article is restricted to the LEEP procedure.


 

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Volfefe Index

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.11.19

That's a mash-up of volatility and covfefe, ie an attempt to measure the extent of the impact our decrepit president has on the markets.

Out of about 4,000 non-retweets occurring during market hours from 2018 to the present, only 146 moved the market.
Most of Trump's tweets come around noon to 2:00 pm, with a 1:00 pm tweet roughly three times as likely to arrive at any other hour of the afternoon or evening, according to J.P. Morgan's report.
Trump's 3:00 am tweets are also more common than 3:00 pm tweets, which can be a nuisance for U.S. rates markets, since overnight market depth tends to be thin.Trump is presumably asleep from 5:00 am to 10:00 am, according to the report, since there's a lull in tweeting activity during that time.

Like I said the other day, I find his erratic deterioration a lot more entertaining than his off-the-charts racism and bottomless greed.


 

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Guest Post - Popularized Culture

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.10.19

Momo Character writes: Copyright, fanfic, and a fun mini alt-hist, following the collapse of the Disney-Sony Spider-Man co-production agreement:

#SaveSpidey wasn't the only hashtag trending in the wake of the MCU announcement. There was also #SaveSpider-ManFromSony. Clicking on it, I encountered tons of fans deriding Sony for ripping or stealing Spider-Man away from the MCU, away from Tony, away from relevance. Countless of them disparaged the possibility of ever watching a non-MCU Spider-Man, and many hoped that Disney would solve the problem by just buying Sony outright. [...] When you're posting gifs of Thanos-as-Mickey Mouse acquiring corporations in the form of infinity stones, and positioning that as the HEROIC action, I don't know, that seems pretty much irretrievable? [...] This model of fandom where we stan corporations and petition them to give us a few crumbs here and there just feels totally alien to me. It's not my fandom.
Stupid nerd fights and culture wars on Twitter would be happening anyway, but I wonder how much worse it is because Hollywood's quest for risk management took it into nerd properties rather than, say, romantic comedy.

Heebie's take: blam! whammo!

On the subject of mild nerdery, I'm enjoying This Podcast Will Kill You (although it is firmly something to listen to at 1.25x or 1.5x speed). They pick a different disease each episode to tell you all about, from the history, to the ecology, to the microbiology, to the symptoms, prognosis, and treatments, as well as any controversies, and I find them reasonably charming as they do.


 

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Guest Post: Some thoughts on childbirth and death

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.09.19

Nworbie Werdie writes: I was at a thing in honour of Mary Midgley on Saturday and one of the topics that arose was her view that there are important differences between men and women, arising from biology. This led me off to google Shulamith Firestone and her dreams of a future in which women might be entirely emancipated from biology.

I know it's vulgar to point this out, but the most obvious thing about the Firestone future is that it's almost completely a fantasy. Except for the very beginning and the very end, pregnancy remains what it has been throughout human history. Anaesthesia, antisepsis, and the widespread availability of C sections have of course transformed the experience of birth in the rich world but up till then the business is the same. Similarly, the availability of IVF means that conception is now possible without sexual intercourse.

Nonetheless, the end and the beginning matter. Even if pregnancy remains, biologically the same process, medicine must have transformed its psychic valence in the last 90 years by largely removing the risk of death as a result. Childbirth, for most of human existence, was a dangerous moment and this must have coloured the attitudes of both men and women in ways we can't easily now imagine.

Take the example John Donne, who was obviously both highly sexed and utterly devoted to his wife [I've also been reading Walton's Life of him]. So when they are finally married, and have so far overcome the resistance of her father as to be able to live together, they started children. She had twelve in sixteen years. Two were stillborn; three died in infancy; she herself died five days after the last stillbirth. The amount of anguish in those statistics is hard to bear. There is also a famous story in Walton's Life of an apparition of her that he had in Paris when she had one of the earlier stillbirths and nearly died.

One of the emotional consequences, though, for a man as intelligent and sensitive as Donne, will have been the knowledge that every time they made love, he was threatening the life of the woman he loved. This has nothing to do with the penis as an instrument of aggression: that's another subject. That men can sometimes/often use women as mere things to wank into is irrelevant to what a loving couple like Anne and John Donne did in bed. What I am thinking about is the inherent violence of childbirth.

A quick poke through the statistics suggests that before antisepsis, there is something like a 1-3% chance of the woman dying in any given childbirth. That is still the rate in parts of Africa today. I don't think there is any comparably risky situation which any of us would force our loved ones into, still less as an expression of love. Yet this dumb thing is what men have done ever since the species developed big brains. Surely that must have had some effect on our psyches?

Wait! There's more patriarchy to come. Once antisepsis and medical intervention became a thing, it turns out that maternal mortality actually increased among the English upper/middle classes. From this absolutely fascinating paper, I extract this quote:

Infant mortality is known to be strongly related to social class; the highest rates are found among the working classes, whereas the lowest rates are among the professionals. From at least the 1830s, however, the risk of dying in childbirth was higher in social classes I and II (the upper and professional classes, respectively) than it was in social classes IV and V (the skilled and unskilled laborers, respectively). An example of this is shown in Table 2, which gives data for 1930-1932 (16). The only plausible explanation for this social class difference is that the upper classes were more often delivered by physicians and, therefore, more likely to suffer unnecessary interference, whereas the lower classes were delivered by midwives, almost all of whom were trained by 1930-1932.

In other words, it's not the penis, but the forceps that kill - though these are also wielded by men. Even more striking are some figures for Kentucky in the great depression, which show that hospital births were for white women almost as dangerous as being black* would have been and more than ten times as dangerous as giving birth at home.

*The maternal mortality rate for black/non-white women in the US at that time was almost exactly twice that for white ones. The disparity is now proportionately greater, but in absolute terms non-whites are hugely better off than they were, or than whites were in the Thirties, if you take national statistics.

Heebie's take: I think about maternal mortality and medical advances therein, and I think that contributes to young women's contemplation of whether or not to have an abortion. (I say young women because I'd guess that older pregnant women considering abortion are more likely to be aware of the medical risks of keeping the pregnancy.)

Leaving aside the opinions of all non-pregnant people, I would be really interested to know how the internal deliberations of pregnant women contemplating abortion in 2019 differ than those deliberations of women pre-Roe v Wade, and across differing amounts of availability post-Roe v Wade. Back alley abortions must have lost their salience as a reference point, but there surely must be stories and knowledge of black market RU-486 that have replaced it.


 

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Forever 2020

Posted by Stanley
on 09.08.19

According to this Washington Post poll, support-by-gender is distributed as follows:

Men
- Biden: 26%
- Sanders: 25%
- Warren: 17%

Women
- Biden: 31%
- Sanders: 15%
- Warren: 18%

Note that Bernie has less support among women; Biden has more support among women; Warren stays roughly the same, regardless of gender.

I have some half-baked, biased* theories about what might be going on here.

(1) There's a group of would-be Warren supporters, who are women, who are flocking to Biden as the perceived "safer" option.

(2) There's a group of would-be Sanders supporters, who are women, who are not supporting Sanders because he's a shouty man, and there are so many shouty men in the world, and we have one for president right now, and it's terrible.

(3) There's a group of would-be Biden supporters, who are men, who are flocking instead to Sanders, because his being a shouty man is perceived as a unique asset against the shoutiest man, Trump.

_____
*I'm on Team Warren.


 

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Weekend Longread Guestpost

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 09.08.19

Moschi Charschi writes: A lot of interesting stuff under the jargon and the shibboleths.

Heebie's take: Well this just makes me anxious to read about:

The speed and ease of access to credit through new mobile apps delivers cash to millions of Kenyans in need, but many struggle to repay. Despite their small size, the loans come with a big cost--sometimes as much as 100 percent annualized. As one Nairobian told us, these apps "give you money gently, and then they come for your neck."

but it is also very interesting:

Both the origins and durability of this story can be largely attributed to what is now East Africa's largest corporation, the telecommunications and financial services provider Safaricom. This corporation first drew international attention with the growth of the wildly successful and widely emulated service M-PESA, a mobile-to-mobile money transfer platform, but it has since grown far beyond this offering. Safaricom's growth has been enabled by the Kenyan state, which proudly provides a permissive regulatory environment in the service of innovation. M-PESA, for instance, received only a "letter of no objection" from the Central Bank of Kenya that permitted--but did not regulate--the telecommunications firm's entrance into the financial sector.
Since this entrée into payments, Safaricom has expanded to become a foundational infrastructure for lending. Growth was slow at first, but since 2016 its offerings have grown enormously. Its loan service, M-Shwari, launched with the Commercial Bank of Africa, has been replicated in partnerships with other banks. By mid-2018, M-Shwari alone had dispersed 230 billion Kenyan shillings (KSh) in loans. Its profitability depends, in part, on a discursive gymnastics that defines the 7.5 percent premium on borrowed funds as a "facilitation fee" rather than an interest rate. Were it judged to be the latter, it would be subject to a legal limit well below its current annualized cost of around 100 percent.
Safaricom offers other loans too. At the start of 2019, Safaricom inaugurated a new overdraft facility, Fuliza, which lends to M-Pesa subscribers who have run out of digital value. Users are alerted of their inability to pay, and Fuliza is proffered as a real time solution, offering subscribers access to small loans to bridge the gap at a premium. In its first month alone, it lent more than KSh 6 billion, with each customer charged an initial one percent fee plus a daily fee of up to KSh 30. Fuliza expands the logic of Okoa Jahazi, an airtime credit service through which around one-third of Safaricom's airtime is sold at a 10 percent mark-up to Kenyans short of cash. Okoa Jahazi is so popular, one investment banker told us, that were it regulated, it alone would make Safaricom one of the middle-tier banks in the country.

 

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