lundi 2 février 2009

It snows, and I can't see the winter sports

What kind of sense does that make?


Satellite depends on nearly perfect weather, but cable, like natural gas, real public transportation, or any household necessities, is not available here. We only got high-speed Internet access about 4 years ago, while it ran contentedly past us about 4 km away. I don't know what made them decide to take pity on our 400 residents, along with the handful over in Méricourt, and the two handfuls in Moisson.

Saturday evening, we had dinner at the Paris home friends of my husband's parents. At the end of the evening, our hostess looked at Audouin and said something that I knew from the word or two that I caught and the look on his face as he nodded "yes" had to have been something like, "But surely you don't wish to stay there forever?" I heard him acknowledge that he did, but that I surely did not. She looked rather beseechingly at me, hoping for proof that I was not hopeless, beyond her comprehension and reach.

Non, non, I reassured her, I could not imagine finishing my life here. I knew I would pay for that without even having to look at my husband. It came the next morning while we were putting the groceries away.

"Where else would we have the advantage of warmth when it is cold everywhere else? Look. There we were, chatting comfortably with the neighbor at her window, when in the grocery store parking lot, only a few kilometers away, it was so much colder?" The question was not rhetorical.

Of course, I had to admit that it is true that it is several degrees warmer here owing to the southern exposure and the protection of the chalk cliffs behind us, from which the space for our road and chain of houses along it is cut, but that is not all that makes one happy in life.

I don't think that our hostess would see fit to trade her little (dust-free) corner of Paris away for several additional degrees warmth in all seasons.

She has a grocery store across the street, and I bet she can watch a dust-free television whenever she chooses, which, knowing our hostess and the lack of a television in evidence in their tidy apartment, is not likely too often. Ah, but Paris offers so many other enchantments, nearly all of which I have forgotten how to enjoy.

I am getting old, and I am discouraged. Don't feel sad for me. That's just the way it goes when you have lost sight of what is actually important and how to be a decent person.

No, it's true, I have. I know it, and I am often reminded of it by any number of snags and pangs of conscience.

I am unable to be sufficiently charitable towards my husband's youngest children (long story that no one benefits from the telling), my contractor, my new president or myself. Impatient and not particularly well-suited or positioned to make a difference as far as the Big Issues that concern me are themselves concerned. Growing lazier by the day, but not proportionately indifferent (necessary to stability and harmony with the self and others). Philosophical, but not stoic. I know that nothing gets done if you don't start doing it. I know that. But what if I don't actually want it enough to do it, ever?

Take the couch. It's a wreck. It embarrasses me. I try to see the room without seeing it. And the same has come to be true for the garden, my bedroom, the petit salon, myself. I dream of being as efficient and content as Hunka Munka, broom in hand at the threshold to her tidy, comfortable little home in the hollow tree on a spring morning. Steady in the regularity and asperity of application, which always achieves its results. But, I can't see Audouin and I shopping for a new couch. Even once the room is done. I just can't. So, what's the point of thinking about how I want the room to be and doing the drawings, especially when the workers never come, always for perfectly good reasons?

Sort of.

Take health care. It's a wreck, and the supporters of single-payer argue amongst themselves over whether to stress morality or economics (Must we choose? Didn't that get us precisely where we are?), while Daschle is revealed to have ties to Big Health Care and made millions giving advice to insurers and hospitals, among others, according to the January 31 Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune:
The disclosure of Daschle's tax problems coincided with the release of the financial statement he submitted to the Office of Government Ethics, which details for the first time exactly how, without becoming a registered lobbyist, he made millions of dollars giving public speeches and private counsel to insurers, hospitals, realtors, farmers, energy firms and telecommunications companies with complex regulatory and legislative interests in Washington.

Or today's New York Times:
Beyond the ramifications for Mr. Daschle’s ascent to the cabinet, the disclosures about Mr. Hindery and the many clients Mr. Daschle advised on public policy offers a new window into how Washington works. It shows how in just four years an influential former senator was able to make $5 million and live a lavish lifestyle by dint of his name, connections and knowledge of the town’s inner workings.
The NYT article goes on to site some specific clients, such as:

Another client paying for his policy advice was UnitedHealth, a giant insurance company with many issues pending before the Department of Health and Human Services. About a third of its $81 billion in revenue last year came from federally regulated sales of Medicare Advantage and Medicare supplement and prescription drug plans.

The company boasted in its annual report that “one in five Medicare recipients participates in a UnitedHealth Group Medicare program.” (Mr. Daschle has said he will recuse himself from matters involving former clients.)

Oh. OK.

Not so hard in that light to see why single-payer is "off the table" and "unrealistic" for America, is it?

Oh, I don't mean he is necessarily a bad guy, just that a lot of good guys believe what they tell themselves so they feel better when they tie their tie in the morning.

And while House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman of California is the guy to go to to get health care reform moving, single-payer supporters are certainly not going to find an ally there, according to Physicians for a National Health Program's January 30 post, "Waxman Ready to Move -- But Where?", citing an article from the same date in The Washington Times, "Waxman to push '09 health care reform":

The top House lawmaker in charge of writing health care legislation said Thursday he is committed to passing a universal health care package by the end of the year…

“This is our time, we need to move forward, we need to get this job accomplished this year and get the bill to the president,” said House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman at a conference sponsored by Families USA…

“The economic times which are so difficult is another reason why we need to do it right away,” he told reporters after his speech. “The health of our economy depends on a great extent on our dealing with the health of our health care system.”

But Mr. Waxman said private insurers would play a significant role in the implementation of universal health coverage, adding that relying solely on a Canadian or European-style single-payer system is unrealistic in the United States.


Don McCanne, MD -- providing the comment for PNHP -- writes in his comment following the post:

If a U.S. model based on private plans were as effective as the Swiss and Dutch systems, it would still leave about 7,600,000 individuals without insurance, which certainly tests the definition of universal. With much higher health care spending in the United States, the premiums for private plans, even with generous subsidies, certainly would test the definition of affordability. U.S.-style private plans, designed to enhance business success by creating patient barriers to care and payment for care, certainly tests the definition of social insurance.

Maybe James Clyburn did let slip the dark secret of the Washington reformers. If we were to continue with only incremental reforms, we would end up with a system that will leave many without insurance, that will leave health care unaffordable for many more, and that will leave in place an industry that takes away health care access and choice to further its own financial interests. Hmmm… Looks like another con job. Go the incremental route, but call it universal.


It just depresses me.

People I respect beg me not to be the fool of those who back a bad bill -- H.R. 676 -- that is destined to lose, even as they join their support for single-payer to mine, and without Waxman on board, they caution, nothing is going to happen. He's the man you have to convince. Conyers carries no weight for health care reform; he does not sit on the committee with jurisdiction.

Don't, they implore, undermine the the support we need to give President Obama, who has just made the Elena Kagan appointment to Solicitor General at the DOJ, (selects cases for advocacy in the Supreme Court and advises other federal agencies on selecting cases for other courts) and Neal Katyal to Principal Deputy Solicitor General (recommends cases and actually argues them in the Supreme Court), adding:
in all of American history, Neal Katyal ranks among the most important people ever, on the scale of preserving the Constitution and Rule of Law. He's the fellow who single-handedly took down the entire Bush Administration about Guantanamo. He sued and on behalf of a prisoner, Salim Ahmed Hamdan, arguing that the entire war powers views of Bush and Rummy re imprisonment and trial were unconstitutional. He personally argued the case before the Supreme Court, in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld.

He won, and the Bush Administration's neo-fascist views were dead that day.

I broke into tears when I learned of his appointment last week.

And I wasn't even paying attention.

I will continue to back single-payer. I will continue to read and to educate myself, and I will continue to share what I learn, as well as my private embarrassments, suffered at the hands of those who do know more than I do, and do have more experience.

To Q, and you know who you are (if you read this), I say, go ahead, disparage, challenge, deflate my spirits if it is truth that you are speaking because we'll get nowhere otherwise. Who recently said -- ah, it was Harvard University -- that the point of a liberal education is to make young people uncomfortable, to take their world view apart, shake up everything they think they know so that they will have to reorder it all for themselves. Pain is growth, or growth is pain. I want nothing more than to shy away, take refuge in my corner of the countryside, a book in hand, but then I feel only... depressed. I have to return to turn on my computer and see what you have said and give it consideration.

Ah, but cheer up... there's still Colbert!


The Audacity of Nope
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Cars and trucks have traveled the street along the house this morning, but none stop here, discharging the balcony.

It's precipitating mixed snow and freezing rain.

Another wasted day.
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Update: February 2, 2009 New York Times Editorial, updated February 3,

The Travails of Tom Daschle

Mr. Daschle is another in a long line of politicians who move cozily between government and industry. We don’t know that his industry ties would influence his judgments on health issues, but they could potentially throw a cloud over health care reform. Mr. Daschle could clear the atmosphere by withdrawing his name.
I agreed, and I am heartened, like the NYT editorial board, that Mr. Daschle has withdrawn his candidature, as well as resigned from the position of health care reform czar. We didn't need to start reforming health care under a cloud of doubt, even if a brother in political arms wrote -- and I am sympathetic to this viewpoint -- "I'm so bummed out about the Daschle thing, I actually sent off the following story idea to The Onion:

Jesus Christ Returns!
Pays Back Taxes, Resigns From Deity
Ghandi Rumored Ineligible Because He Shuns Limos

"Now the "honeymoon" for Obama ends abruptly;" he continued, "we'll see how well he recovers. Healthcare, already down for 8 counts, takes yet another hit. It's time for Obama to address the nation on values, just as he did on race during the campaign."

I know that we aren't any of us working in a perfect system, unsullied by the reality of the workplace and the legislative place, where power, money and law meet.

We can't change it over night, or see the white knights sweep in from the Great Forest astride their mighty steeds, radiant perfection in human form.

I wish. That would be like Aragorn come to life with Gandalf and Frodo at his side, smiling proudly and benevolently at me, and I'd be 13 again, walking in the snow to school, imagining that I, too, walked silently and carried the ring.

But, we can do our human best to uphold the standards we say we will employ.
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