Thursday Reads: Day After Christmas EditionPosted: December 26, 2013
Thank goodness it’s over! Now we just have to hold on until 2014 begins and the “holiday season” will recede into memory once more. Can anyone explain to me why we do this every year? Isn’t it all just a big con to allow American corporations to steal more of the ever-scarcer money of us 47 percenters? No matter how much I try to ignore it, I can’t help but be affected. There just isn’t any way to truly opt out unless you want to become a hermit with no social life at all.
I guess part of my problem is that my feelings about “the holidays” are so mixed. I have happy memories, longings for closeness, and heartfelt love for my family; and these feelings are stimulated every year by this orgy of commercialism and sentimentality. I’m grateful that I have a big family to love and be loved by. I’m grateful for all the hugs! But somehow every year “the holidays” wear me out.
I went to bed around 9:30 last night, but I still feel tired. Why? It has to be emotional, because I haven’t been doing heavy labor or anything. I also think I caught a little cold and so that is making me feel lethargic too. Anyway, it’s over for one more year.
This is going to be a quickie post, because there’s very little happening in the news and because I’m just plain tired. I hope all of you enjoyed yourself over the past couple of days, and that you emerged in one piece.
I liked this reminder from Michael Tomasky of what the ACA really means for our country: America Joins the Developed World, Thanks to Obamacare.
I’m sitting here very early Christmas Eve morning staring at a chart from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. You know the OECD—they’re the people who keep all those annoying stats about how the United States is 17th in this and 32nd in that, the kind that alas aren’t very surprising anymore except that they do make us shake our heads and wonder how we managed to come in behind even Belarus.
This chart is on an Excel spreadsheet, so I can’t provide a link, but it shows access to “health insurance coverage for a core set of services, 2009.” It then lists the 34 OECD member states, showing percentages of citizens with “total public coverage” and with “primary private health coverage.”
In 19 countries, 100 percent of the population is covered via public insurance. In 11 more, more than 95 percent are covered the same way. So all but four countries basically provide universal or near-universal public coverage. In Turkey, Mexico, and Chile, between 70 and 80 percent are covered—also publicly. In the United States, that number is 26.4 percent. That’s the seniors, the veterans, and the very poor who get direct public health care. We then add 54.9 percent who get private coverage. No other country even bothers with private coverage at all, except Germany a little bit (10.8 percent). Our two numbers add up to 81.3 percent, ranking us 31st out of the 34. The rest of the advanced world, in other words, with not all that much fuss and contention, has come around to the idea that health coverage is a right.
As I think back over 2013, in my sunnier moments, I try to think of it as the year that future historians will point to as the time when the United States finally and grudgingly started joining this world consensus. Sometime in the 2030s, after Medicare for all has passed and we’re finally and sensibly paying taxes for preventive cradle-to-grave care, people will note—with pride!—that the long process started with Obamacare…
That’s progress, folks. As much as Obamacare isn’t really what we wanted, it’s a start toward bringing this country into the civilized world. Next steps: get rid of the death penalty and cut down on gun violence.
Another interesting think piece by James Poulo at The Daily Beast: The Music Industry Is Dying? Great.
You know the kind of people who say “I’d never bring a child into this world?” That’s how some people feel about bands. That’s how I felt, for about five years. My first band—complete with the Rolling Stone music director handling management, and the ex-Napster COO ready to handle legal—melted down so “unexpectedly” that I fled to Washington, D.C., to write and to study political theory. Screw the music industry, I thought. This is doom.
But a funny thing happened on the way to becoming a Beltway Boy. I had a chance to move back to Los Angeles, and I took it. I hooked back up with my drummer. And we started writing new songs. And we started a new band.
And somehow, strangely, my life isn’t over yet.
That’s not to say there aren’t head-check moments. They happen every day.Shouldn’t you call it an early night? Shouldn’t you spend this time catching up on email? Doesn’t that riff rip off Capital Cities?
And then the big one: Isn’t the music industry more screwed than ever?
Fortunately, I have legitimate professional reasons to read up on the endless Internet debate at the intersection of music policy, music technology, and musical artistry. And the more I keep tabs on the dueling judgments of people like industry lifer Bob Lefsetz, ex-Gang of Four bassist Dave Allen, Talking Heads guru David Byrne, and the University of Georgia’s David Lowery (ex-Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker), the more I realize that the so-called demise of the music industry can actually work for musicians as a moment of liberating grace.
And for the rest of us, it can open our eyes to a form of economic life that doesn’t fill us with resentment or depression.
If you’re intrigued, check out the rest at the link.
Did you know an American was abducted by al Qaeda in Pakistan two years ago? I didn’t. From CNN: Captive American Warren Weinstein feels ‘totally abandoned and forgotten’.
Saying he feels “totally abandoned and forgotten,” kidnapped U.S. government contractor Warren Weinstein called on President Barack Obama to negotiate for his freedom in a video released by al Qaeda on Christmas.
The 72-year-old Weinstein was abducted from his home in the Pakistani city of Lahore in August 2011.
In the 13-minute video provided to the Washington Post, Weinstein appeals to the President, Secretary of State John Kerry, the American media, the American public and finally his family.
“Nine years ago, I came to Pakistan to help my government and I did so at a time when most Americans would not come here,” he said. “And now, when I need my government, it seems I have been totally abandoned and forgotten.”
Here’s another story I should have known about. Why didn’t I? From CNN: Alan Turing, code-breaker castrated for homosexuality, receives royal pardon.
Alan Turing, a British code-breaker during World War II who was later subjected to chemical castration for homosexual activity, has received a royal pardon nearly 60 years after he committed suicide.
Turing was best known for developing the Bombe, a code-breaking machine that deciphered messages encoded by German machines. His work is considered by many to have saved thousands of lives and helped change the course of the war.
“Dr. Turing deserves to be remembered and recognized for his fantastic contribution to the war effort and his legacy to science,” British Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said in a statement Tuesday. “A pardon from the Queen is a fitting tribute to an exceptional man.”
Turing’s castration in 1952 — after he was convicted of homosexual activity, which was illegal at the time — is “a sentence we would now consider unjust and discriminatory and which has now been repealed,” Grayling said.
Two years after the castration, which Turing chose to avoid a custodial sentence, he ended his life at the age of 41 by eating an apple laced with cyanide.
Another take from Peter G. Tachell at Huffington Post — Alan Turing: Was He Murdered By the Security Services?
I have this week written to the Prime Minister, David Cameron, urging a new inquiry into the death of the scientist Alan Turing, who has been finally granted a royal pardon for his 1952 conviction for homosexual relations.
Turing is generally believed to have been committed suicide following his conviction and chemical castration. However, the original inquest into his death was perfunctory and inadequate. Although it is said that he died from eating an apple laced with cyanide, the allegedly fatal apple was never tested for cyanide. Moreover, he was in an upbeat mood at the time of his death and making plans for the future – not the typical profile of a person who takes their own life.
A new inquiry is long overdue, even if only to dispel any doubts about the true cause of his death – including speculation that he was murdered by the security services.
Although there is no evidence that Turing was killed by state agents, the fact that this possibility has never been investigated is a major failing. Even if the security services did not kill him, did they pressure him and did this pressure contribute to his suicide?
From Think Progress, here’s your daily dose of stupid from the ongoing War on Women: Judge Who Once Called Rape Victim ‘In Control’ Sentences Abusive Boyfriend To Write ‘Boys Do Not Hit Girls’.
Montana District Judge G. Todd Baugh’s controversial remarks about a 14-year-old rape victim inspired a national petition and protests when he suspended the rapist’s jail sentence in August to a mere 30 days. This week, in a different case, Judge Baugh required an abusive boyfriend to write “Boys do not hit girls,” 5,000 times, in addition to a six-month jail sentence.
Pacer Ferguson, the man forced to write “boys do not hit girls,” had punched his girlfriend during a 2012 argument, fracturing her face in three places that still cause her occasional pain. According to the Billings Gazette, Baugh sentenced the man to the maximum time allowed for his misdemeanor assault and he must also pay the victim’s medical bills. While a jury acquitted Ferguson of more serious charges that would have led to a longer sentence, he will spend eight years in state prison serving a concurrent sentence for a robbery.
At least he’s going to jail, unlike the rapist Baugh let go with barely a slap on the wrist.
Before this case, Baugh had sentenced a former teacher for raping a 14-year-old who committed suicide before the trial. When Baugh delivered the sentence that reduced the man’s possible 20-years in jail to one month, he determined the victim was “older than her chronological age” and was “as much in control of the situation” as the teacher. The remarks sparked outrage calling for Baugh’s removal. Insisting that his remarks may have been inappropriate but the sentence was not, Baugh apologized, “What I said is demeaning of all women, not what I believe and irrelevant to the sentencing.”
Finally, a science story that once again emphasizes that we humans are part of the animal kingdom: Human Hunting Behaviour Similar To Sharks And Bees.
Human hunter gatherers have been found to apply similar foraging movements and tactics during hunting that many other animals such as sharks and honey bees do, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published in a study.
The foraging behavior of animals from sharks to honey bees can be turned into a mathematical model which also describes human hunter-gatherer movement, scientists said. But when you encounter animals that are considered pests, hire immediately for pest and wildlife control. Bats in your attic? Skunks and raccoons under your front stoop? Call Platinum Wildlife Removal for all your Oakland County wildlife control needs. They offer bat removal, bird control, racoon removal and more 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Levy walk, a pattern that is found in the movements of many animals, has been found to replicate the Hadza tribe’s movements while hunting, said University of Arizona scientist David Raichlen.
What the heck is levy walk?
“It shows up all across the world in different species and links the way that we move around in the natural world. This suggests that it’s a fundamental pattern likely present in our evolutionary history,” said Gordon.
The Levy walk consists of a series of short movements in one area and then a longer trek to another area. Humans make use of it during visits to amusement parks, according to PNAS.
The article doesn’t explain it to my satisfaction, but here’s a scholarly paper (PDF) about it. I haven’t read it yet, but I do plan to take a look at it.