July 14, 2017

NYTimes Picks

Russian-American Lobbyist Attended Meeting Organized by Trump's Son (20170714)
https://nyti.ms/2ujalhA

Liars who, when caught lying, simply lie some more. And when those lies are found out, lie some more and lie to blame someone else. Why do we keep granting the Trumps the benefit of the doubt we would not grant the most mendacious child? And since when did immature, compulsive moral depravity become exculpatory? If they are lying it is not because they can't help it; they are lying because they did something, perhaps many things, they know very well will get them in big, big trouble.


The North Korea-Trump Nightmare (20170421)
https://nyti.ms/2pJJINX

I'm unsure how younger Americans feel, who have not lived through this before, but I distinctly don't appreciate waking up every morning wondering if my country's leaders are mad enough or sufficiently belligerent and incompetent to precipitate a nuclear war or. short of that, simultaneous conventional wars on the top of ones we are already fighting without Constitutional authorization.

Neither do I appreciate having to wonder whether the President, Vice President, U.N. Ambassador, the Cabinet, and the U.S. military and military command are all on the same page, in the face of evidence that they decidedly are not. It is very disturbing that Captain Wrongway Peachfuzz seems in command of Trump's "armada" or that Trump himself is the orange-haired reincarnation of that Rocky & Bullwinkle Show Cold War cartoon character.

One did not have to agree with President Obama to rest assured that, at least, someone was in control who was appropriately cognizant of the risks in foreign policy and military action. Neither did one have to agree with President Bush to rest assured that someone (Vice President Cheney; Secretaries Rice, Rumsfeld, Powell) was in control who was appropriately cognizant of the risks in foreign policy and military action. If American citizens must worry, our allies must be worried. And that is even more worrisome.

Agree or not - and we can't know with whom or with what we are agreeing or not - this administration is failing in fundamental, dangerous respects.


Manhood in the Age of Trump (20170402)
https://nyti.ms/2nLWgng

Good column, though the usual focus on Hollywood misses the mark. You are a bit unfair to the male stars you cite, all of whom have made efforts to play less cliched macho roles. Just to mention two: Dwayne Johnson is at root a comedian, a thoroughly ironic muscleman; and Ryan Gosling is where he is today for an on-point performance in "Crazy, Stupid, Love" as a pick-up artist in full emotional meltdown in bed with a woman he can't just take as another conquest. Hollywood contributes but fairly cravenly serves a market for extreme gendered roles that preexists.

Your memories of high school, particularly physical education and athletics, are more on target. High school is the crucible in which the Man Box (and girls' adulation for its walls) is forged. There we take adolescents at their most sexually insecure and rigorously separate them for "education" specific to their physicality, while turning on the full power of peer on peer pressure. One doesn't have to be a gay man to remember that the P.E. locker room was the most humiliating and dangerous place to be "less than a manly man." High school football and high school dances are often apiece, organized and scheduled as a concerted effort to make "young men and young women."

This is where the current transgender bathroom issue is a very good thing, despite the grotesque cliches the transgendered typically take for the gender they are. It forces on schools a nut they cannot crack with the same old pernicious machinery.


House Republicans Unveil Plan to Replace Health Law (20170306)
https://nyti.ms/2n8OAdf

The provision that creates a 30% barrier to reentry into the health insurance market virtually guarantees that, over time, with vicissitudes of employment and unexpected expenses, fewer and fewer people will have insurance and that those who do will be sicker and sicker. In other words, it legislates a death spiral in the individual market, at the same time that eliminating the requirement that large employers offer coverage to full-time employees forces more people on to it. It would be hard to devise anything more certain to reduce coverage and still call it a national health care plan. It will be interesting to see if major insurers remain silent or speak up against this planned rapid, destructive contraction of their industry.


First, Sex Ed. Then Death Ed. (20170219)
https://nyti.ms/2lwXJik

Before adding Death Ed. to Sex Ed., how about reviving Civics Ed., before we lose both and Science Ed. in the bargain.

Raoul

August 2, 2000

Baja, San Quintin

Baja, San Quintin To the left is VANITY...
And her name is MARGARITA.

She's the reason I have very few pictures from a recent camping trip to Baja California, to San Quintin, except that she's in them. I planned to photograph the place, the people, the wildlife, the incredible Baja sea and landscape. But every time I went for the camera, there she was. She pleaded. She insisted. She demanded. She jumped up and ran to get in the way. She stamped her feet and got very, very angry. It's just that, from her perspective, any use of film other than on herself seemed an outrageous waste of time, money, and opportunity--her time, her money, her opportunity. She's working on a set of photo albums for when she's 80. So she can't stand the idea of missing a chance, any chance, to see then what she looked like right now, and right now, and right now, and right now. Beauty fades with each passing minute....

Margarita is my wife, so I'm in no position to argue. Besides, there's no arguing with Russian women once they're set. "No" is meaningless, just an empty sign of some vast, vague and entirely irrelevant male conspiracy against all things that really matter, especially personal vanity, its endless accoutrements and attendant privileges. And since she's also my venture capitalist, supporting me in whybother.org and other web adventures, who am I to say she can't have a page or two of flattering photos of herself? Believe me, just starting to post these photos is already making my life much easier.

Three of us took a week off and drove down to San Quintin on a whim...Margarita's whim, needless to say. Our friend Lucio (more recently "One must imagine Sisyphus happy" at My12Steps.com) had been traveling back and forth to Baja for some time, staying in various places and basically enjoying solitude, meditation, his books, and his writing. But as he was about to start another hermit stint, he made the mistake of hinting that Margarita might want to come along. She leapt for it, or maybe it was her hint in the first place. In any event, it would be a chance to realize her favorite English phrase since arriving in America nine years ago. "Let's go... let's go... let's go." Somehow I suspect that's her favorite phrase in any language.

Baja, San Quintin

Of course, there were complications. Lucio confessed he had second thoughts, half-wishing he hadn't offered to take Margarita, assuming he ever really did. There was simply no way that going down to Baja with Ms. Letsgo was going to be either simple or peaceful. But there was no backing out. And so I had to go, too, for full measure and to serve as a buffer between Lucio's dream of solitude and Margarita's urge to go on and on and on. Nice solution all around, but before we came up with it we made the mistake of trying to talk her out of going, telling her there'd be absolutely nothing to do where we were going, that Lucio just wanted to play hermit, that she'd be bored. Of course, she didn't believe any of it and got furious and hurt and furious again.

Continue reading Baja, San Quintin
Raoul

February 24, 2017

GOP Healthcare and the Social Contract

Republican harping on God and Freedom, representing Government as a fairly unabashed evil, would have us forget the fundamental analysis of the Social Contract theorists that undergirded our founding generation's political understanding.

The fault of perfect Liberty is that it is unenjoyable, incommensurate with Life and the pursuit of Happiness, in the State of Nature. God may endow these unalienable Rights, but it is men who must secure them by banding together, consenting to renounce perfect Liberty to institute Governments.

This understanding is inscribed right in the Declaration of Independence:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. -- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

Republicans would have us remember the first part and forget the dash-bound second part. The absolute Freedom for each to choose and tailor their own healthcare is incommensurate with Life and the pursuit Happiness for all. Such a heedless absolute Freedom is nothing to which all would consent as a legitimating end of government. Republican healthcare would cast us back toward the State of Nature, which Thomas Hobbes represented as a "war of every man against every man,' wherein human life is "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."

(Comment on Paul Krugman, "Death and Tax Cuts" https://nyti.ms/2mfD97f)

Raoul

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