The Nick Lezard controversy... new developments
13 minutes ago
The campaign, PinkStinks, started out with the aim of offering girls positive alternative role models, says Emma, "women who do amazing things. Scientists and sportswomen and musicians and businesswomen and activists." Trying to reverse the seemingly unstoppable tide of pink was simply another way, they felt, of challenging what they saw as rampant and unacceptable gender stereotyping, from earliest childhood.The imposition of color preferences seems to be arbitary, but it's the feminist deconstructionism that is the real danger to children. Children may choose a certain color because of certain associations; they may also reject it because it is known to be the preferred by members of the other sex. One does not have to be a cultural Marxist to acknowledge this. However, just as physical differences provide the matter for deeper differences between the sexes, so awareness of physical difference is the foundation of identity-formation; learning the virtues proper to one's sex is grounded upon this awareness of what one is. Those boys and girls who are outliers should undoubtedly be given careful attention so that they do not reject their sexual identity completely.
One word of caution, though: readers expecting me to offer them a ticket to Utopia are going to be disappointed. There’s a common notion that everything that’s wrong in the world is the fault of the institutions or personalities officially in charge, and can be fixed by replacing them with some other set of institutions or personalities. That notion has been tested more thoroughly by history than any other hypothesis I can think of in the social sciences, and it’s failed abjectly every time. Maybe we should finally get around to admitting that people will not behave like angels no matter how (or whether) they are governed, or who (if anyone) does the governing; and, in the process, admit that human beings are incurably human – that is, capable of the full spectrum of good and evil all by themselves – rather than moral puppets who can be expected to dance on command to the tune of a good or evil system.
It’s easy to come up with a perfect system of human society, so long as it doesn’t have to work in the real world, and it’s very easy to compare a perfect system on paper to the failings of a system in the real world, to the latter’s detriment. Nearly always, though, what John Kenneth Galbraith said about innovation in finance is just as true of innovation in political and social institutions: what gets ballyhooed as new and revolutionary thinking is normally the repetition of a fairly small set of fallacies that worked very poorly the last dozen or so times they were tried, and will work just as poorly this time, too. Those systems that function at all are fairly few in number, though there are a lot of minor variations on the basic themes, and the ones we’ve got now – representative democracy in politics, a market system in economics – have certain advantages. Though the current examples are troubled, corrupt, and at very high risk of being overwhelmed by the consequences of some very bad decisions made over the last few decades, the basic systems are noticeably less dysfunctional most of the time than most of the alternatives.
Recall, please, how the Senate was designed in the Constitution. If you want efficiency and quick turn around in governance and legislation, you want a very different system. Clog and delay were built in from the get go -- quite consciously. Guaranteeing minority rights was a central tenet of the design – as it is of democracy.
The filibuster is merely one of a thousand ways a small number of senators, even just one, can clog the system. Unlike the House of Representatives, the Senate was never intended to operate by majority rule; it was designed to operate by “unanimous consent.” That means, as we observed during the endless non-debate of the health care bill, that one senator can demand that the entire text of any bill or amendment must be read aloud – word by audible word – if one member simply utters the words “I object” at the appropriate moment. It also means that nominations, even bills, can be held up for days, weeks, even months before a majority leader tries to start what passes for debate in the Senate these days. And, it means any and all committee hearings must be shut down any time the Senate is in session – and a senator objects. The Senate rules are an almost endless opportunity for mischief, or worse, for any member or faction wanting to play the role – just like the racist Southern Democrats did in the 1960s when they stood, insistently and almost endlessly, in the way of civil rights bills.
The way the Senate operates also means that any senator with the brains and guts to hamstring George W. Bush’s blustering the country into war in October, 2002 could have done so. (But alas, there was no such senator.) It is a system designed, for good or ill, to permit a minority – sometimes tiny – to interpose itself, as obnoxiously or as honorably as they may choose.
Eliminate all that, and what do you get? You get the House of Representatives. If you want to fix the gridlock problem in Congress and fix it good, the best thing to do is to eliminate the Senate.
It’s a bad idea if you like democracy. As designed, the Senate has an important role: cooling the heels of excess, either from an overreaching executive or the House where the majority can run any tyranny it pleases.
Conservative Christians are right to complain that they are being persecuted by the government, and I do not have a solution to this grave problem except to suggest that they are wasting their time in trying to change the laws. Instead, they might consider the example of early Christians living under the pagan Roman Empire. Most Christians paid their taxes to Caesar, served in Caesar’s army, and were good neighbors and loyal citizens of Caesar’s empire. They did not engage in futile protests about infanticide, nor did they abuse and insult their pagan neighbors. They minded their own business, went to church, and prayed for the empire’s conversion. If today’s American Christians had the faith of a mustard seed, they would spurn the false prophets who have enslaved them to a party or political ideology and go about their Master’s business.
It is unquestionable that Pius XII intervened to save countless Jews at a time most nations--even FDR's America--refused to accept these refugees. He issued false baptismal papers and obtained visas for them to emigrate as "Non Aryan Catholic-Jews." He smuggled Jews into the Americas and Asia. He ordered the lifting of cloister for men and women to enter monasteries, convents and churches to hide 7,000 Jews of Rome in a single day.So is the issuing of false documents an instance of lying or not?
Certainly the Senate bill, and the only slightly less cruddy House version, with which it must be reconciled (let’s be clear here that the ultimate act, when passed, will much more closely hew to the Senate version than the House version, given the number of conservative Democrats in the Senate), does a few good things, such as increasing funding for community health clinics, expanding Medicaid, the health insurance system for the poor, and banning the current insurance industry practice of denying coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions. But these small positive steps pale in comparison to the truly noxious things this bill does, and the things it fails to do.
The most outrageous thing the health “reform” bill does is further consolidate the death grip that the insurance industry has over health care access and delivery in America. It does this by mandating that everyone buy health insurance, on pain of being slapped with a heavy fine by the IRS. Since most of the 47 million Americans without health insurance are younger and healthier than average, what this measure does is hand the private insurance industry a huge captive customer population who will be stuck with high-cost, low-benefit insurance that will generate huge profits for the industry. The industry will be further enriched by nearly half a trillion dollars in subsidies needed to help low-income people or small businesses buy their mandated health insurance--subsidies which will end up going directly to insurance companies, which will be offering in return wretched bare-bones plans that will only cover some 60% of actual medical costs.
Supporters say that mandating that everyone have health insurance is akin to mandating that every driver of a car buy liability insurance, but there actually is a huge difference. Driving is a matter of choice. If a person doesn’t want to buy car insurance, she or he can decide not to own a car. That reality at least forces auto insurers to compete in offering low-cost minimal insurance plans. Nobody can decide not to buy health insurance under this plan though. It is a historic first: a law requiring American citizens to buy a service from a private company.
Adding insult to injury, the bill does almost nothing to limit costs. This is why doctors, hospital and drug companies and the insurance industry, all of which spend millions of dollars lobbying for this law, love it (health insurance company shares jumped on word of Senate passage). Indeed, the government’s own Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), predicts that the law, if enacted, will cause US health care costs--already the highest in the world on a per capita basis and as a share of GDP by a factor of almost two--to rise faster than ever. Furthermore, to keep the projected costs of this bill at an alleged $871 billion over ten years, a huge amount of money is stolen from important existing programs, including $43 billion from payments to safety-net hospitals (mostly public institutions in urban centers which serve poor populations), and from cuts in Medicare funding that could for the first time lead significant numbers of physicians to stop seeing elderly patients on Medicare.
The reform plan is terrible for other important reasons too. In order to sell it to one lone hold-out Democrat, Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Senate leaders allowed strict limits to be put into the bill making it almost impossible for low-income women or families to buy insurance that includes payments for abortions. The bill also undermines trade unions by taxing, at a rate of as much as 40%, those health plans which, through years of negotiations, offered quality care to workers. As the group Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) points out, group health insurance costs are also largely driven by geographical and demographic considerations, and thus this penalty tax actually targets workplaces that employ more women, or that have older workers, or which are located in higher-cost regions such as New York or California.
But surely the worst thing about this bill is that far from putting the US on a course towards some eventual humane national health system like those that exist in the rest of the developed world, and even in many countries in the less developed world, it actually locks in the power of the insurance industry even more solidly, making achieving true health reform an even more difficult challenge than it has been.
Even with somewhat lower oil prices in 2009, the airlines still hemorrhaged losses in the billions, and if the oil price remains in the current zone some of them will fall back into bankruptcy in 2010. Oil prices may go down again in response to crippled economies, but then so will passengers looking to fly anywhere, especially the business fliers that the airlines have depended on to fill the higher-priced seats. I believe United will be the first one to go down in 2010, a hateful moron of a company that deserves to die.