Friday, May 26, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Not Really a Work Day Edition

I had the kids home with me today, because our school district takes a four day weekend for Memorial Day. I worked this morning, or tried to. The kids were in the mood to fight with each other, and when they weren't fighting, they were interrupting me. So it wasn't my most productive morning ever. I quit even trying to work at lunch, and took them to the library and then to the skate rink. I rather enjoy the skate rink. It isn't as much fun as a rollerblade by the bay, but that wasn't an option today, and the rink is the next best thing. I skated with Petunia, while Pumpkin and a friend of hers skated and talked. I like watching the tween girls at the rink. They're all having a lot of fun, and are carefree and happy. It is nice to see.

Anyway, my work day was short and not very productive, and I only have a few minutes to get this post out before I need to start dinner. I'll have to find a time this weekend to try to get some work done. I'm struggling with the paperback cover of Hemmed In, my next Taster Flight collection. I keep failing to get the spine text in the right place, and I'm running out of time to get it right. I need to get a proof ordered! But I'll get it done, and I think the June 7 release date will stick. If you're interested in being an advance reader for this book, sign up here. I should have the ebook files ready to send out sometime next week.

On to the links:

Rebecca Traister's new interview with Hillary Clinton is worth your time.

So is Brian Beutler's take on what the Gianforte mess means.

But if you only read one of my links this week, make it Mitch Landrieu's speech on taking down Confederate memorials in New Orleans. It is brilliant and inspiring and I want more like this, please.

This look at when different cities will reach climate departure is really sobering. Climate departure is the point at which the coldest year in the new normal is warmer than the warmest year in the old normal. It isn't all that far away.

"My friend died $50 short"- why a GoFundMe campaign is no substitute for health insurance.

The Montana special election is over, but there will be more elections, and as this thread explains, the Native population has obstacles to voting:

You can donate to Western Native Voice to try to alleviate those obstacles.

Catherine Newman's post about being angry and being polite and being confused by it all rings really, really true to me.

Something happy to end on: some slides I'll have to seek out next time I visit San Francisco.

And of course, a bunny!

Happy weekend, everyone!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Down, Down, Down We Go, Where We'll Stop, Nobody Knows

By the time you read this, we'll probably know the results of the Montana special election. As I'm writing it, though, we do not. We do know that Greg Gianforte, the Republican candidate assaulted a reporter on the final afternoon of campaigning. The reporter had previously published an unflattering story about that candidate's investments in Russian companies under sanction by the US. The reporter was attempting to ask the candidate about the CBO report on the health care bill that was passed by the House Republican majority that the candidate is running to join. And we know that the candidate lied about the assault in a statement, and that a lot of Conservative commentators defended both the assault and the lie.

We know that most Republican elected officials have avoided comment on this topic, because let's be honest, we also know that if he wins the election, they will of course support him. All that matters is that R after his name. We know that spme Republican voters in Montana have told reporters that they don't care about the assault and think the reporters perhaps also deserve to be assaulted. And we know that the campaign says they raised more than $100,000 in the final day of the campaign, much of that after the news of the assault broke.

My reaction to all of this is just profound sadness. I am sad for my country. I am sad for the people who have so lost their sense of morals that they think a candidate's unprovoked assault on a journalist doing his job is not just not a problem, but an actual good thing. I am sad for a batch of Republican leaders who seem to have no principles beyond party power and cutting taxes for wealthy people.

Of course, none of this can be truly considered surprising anymore, given all the other horrible behavior that we're just shrugging off these days.

I want to ask the people defending Gianforte where the line is. They were OK with Trump calling the press the enemy of the people. They are OK with Gianforte actually assaulting a reporter. Where is the line, past which they will say that behavior is not OK?

How much will they tolerate in their pursuit of lower taxes and what they call "Christian values"? (Scare quotes because I don't think assaulting reporters should be considered "Christian values.")

And, then there is that CBO report. It was as bad as expected, and as Kevin Drum has pointed out, actually highlights that despite the supposed protections for people with pre-existing conditions who keep continuous coverage, if you live in a state that requests a waiver on the community rating provision and you have a pre-existing condition, you'll probably end up priced out of the non-group health insurance market even if you keep continuous coverage.

I have to admit, that last bit is weighing particularly heavily on me, for reasons I discussed a couple of weeks ago. Of course, I live in California, which is extremely unlikely to request a waiver. But what it would mean in practice is that if Mr. Snarky got a job offer in, say, Wisconsin (a state whose governor has said he'd probably seek a waiver), we'd have to consider my health insurance options before he took it. And I keep thinking about all of the people who live in states likely to request a waiver, and how they may find themselves facing a decision about whether to start looking to move. And all the people who will lose coverage outright because of the changes to Medicaid. I hate that we're doing this.

And I keep thinking of the fact the people pushing these unpopular, extreme ideas are not done. Trump's budget, although essentially dead on arrival at Congress, shows us that. They want to cut disability insurance, and food stamps, and on and on and on. And they will keep trying not to investigate the disturbing Russian interference in our election or the many problems happening with the intermingling of Trump's company and our national government to protect their chance to push through these unpopular ideas.

Again, I wonder, how far down do we go? How much evidence of collusion will we ignore? How many unethical business deals will we accept? How much corruption will we pretend we don't see? How much tax money will we let flow to Trump's businesses?

I keep thinking of this tweet I saw during the election:

I am fighting against feeling fatalistic about all of this. According to Nate Silver and his colleagues at 538, polling data indicates that Trump's base is eroding. I also listened to one of Ana Marie Cox's With Friends Like These podcasts that gave me some hope. It was the discussion with Ben Howe, and I can't really summarize it, except to say that I wish the people like him, and Evan McMullin, and David Frum, and so on would either start a movement to take back the Republican party or start a new party. Analysis and discussion is great, but I won't really believe it matters until I see some of the current group of Republicans getting primaried. I sincerely hope this happens. I cannot make it happen, because I do not support even the "normal" Republican positions. But the situation now seems to be that the Republican party is an unholy alliance between people who want extreme cuts to government programs and taxes, the theocratic right, and white supremacists, with each group willing to overlook the excesses of the others as long as they have some hope of achieving their own policy goals.

I have to say, from where I sit, it is a horrifying monster. I am not in the position to fight it from the inside, so I am expending my energy on trying to beat it at the ballot box. But as long as it exists, it will be a threat to our country. None of those groups has anywhere near a majority on its own, but if they keep their mutual assistance pact, they can get in power, especially if the more moderate people who sort of agree with their positions but wouldn't take them quite that far continue to hold their noses and support them. And that's sort of normal for our political system! It is a system that forces coalitions. But the members of this particular coalition are so extreme. It would be like me deciding to vote for someone who wants to nationalize our oil companies because I agree with them on raising the minimum wage, and doing so even though I knew another group in the coalition wanted to outlaw Christmas, and a third group was going to try to send all people of German descent "home" to Germany. It boggles my mind.

And so we continue to hurtle downwards. I hope we reach the limit of the moderates' ability to ignore the stench soon.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Stupid Head Cold Edition

It is a beautiful, sunny afternoon here. It would have been a great day for a rollerblade, but I did not go out, because I have a cold. And I will not get to go out for a rollerblade next Friday, either, because our school district takes a four day weekend for Memorial Day, so the kids will be home with me. I suppose at some point I should make plans for what we'll do on that day. Presumably, I can come up with something that will compensate for the lost rollerblade.

Today, my compensation was a nap.

I note with sadness that this was another week in which I didn't manage to write a post. I blame the cold, which has had me feeling not quite well since Tuesday. I am a believer in the power of zinc and so I credit my early use of zinc lozenges with the fact that the cold has stayed mild and while it has slowed me down, it hasn't knocked me out. (There is some evidence to support my zinc belief, and really, even if it is just a placebo effect, I'll take it, so don't bother arguing with me on this point.) But slowed down means that I'm now behind on several things, and it also means that the posts I've had swirling around in my head have stayed there, and not made their way into Blogger. Maybe I'll have better luck next week.

Anyhow, on to the links.

First, a little self promotion: I'm in the final stages of putting together my next Taster Flight. This one is called Hemmed In, and is a collection of classic short stories about women's lives. As usual, I'm looking for advance readers.

I'll assume you can keep up on the ever-accelerated cycle of big news stories about the Trump administration on your own. But here are a couple things that made less of a splash but are still worth some attention:

Internet security at the Trump properties is pretty crappy. This is not surprising, but is a problem given that he likes to spend his weekends at these properties and has already shown that he is happy to conduct sensitive business there.

I have grown increasingly irritated with the comparisons of Trump to a child, and Alexandra Petri perfectly captures why.

Allegra Kirkland has a nice summary of how a single question from Al Franken set up the chain of events that led to a special counsel.

Tom Nichols is hopeful that the special counsel is the end of Putin's winning streak. I suspect we have quite a bit more chaos ahead of us, unfortunately.

Ann Friedman on the five stages of the Trump news cycle.

In other topics:

A legislature that is polarized, but still productive.

I hate that the first word that came to mind to describe this essay by Janice Turner about caring for her elderly mother is "brave," but I am certain she will get a lot of nasty letters for it. It gives me the same feeling I get when I think about how we handle child care: like I can almost see a better way to arrange things, but can't quite get it to come into focus. I would love to read some sci fi or fantasy that imagines a world in which the care of the young and the elderly was less fraught.

It would be natural for me to link here to that Atlantic article by Alex Tizon, but I confess that I have not yet read it, so I will not.

Roger Ailes died. I think this thread captures what a lot of people feel (click through to read the whole thing):

None of my close family members fell into the Fox News information warp, but I know several people who feel like they lost a loved one to Fox News. That is an extraordinary thing to think: that a news channel took a loved one from you, but I have heard it and read it so many places, that I can't really dispute that something was happening there.

Jay Rosen considered the topic from a less personal angle and comes to a similar conclusion:

I don't have the right background to really evaluate all of this critically, but I have long thought that when future historians write about when things started going wrong for our society, they are likely to point to the time when we decided to make news into entertainment. I think the Trump era is a test for Democrats as much as Republicans. Can we resist the lure of conspiracy theories and news media designed more to make us feel good and keep us "hooked" than to inform us about the actual truth of what is happening?

One of the blog posts swirling around in my head touches on this topic, so I'll leave it there for now.

In lighter news:

Here is a project that is attempting to provide a list of companies that make women's clothes with pockets.

And here's a cute bunny!
Happy weekend, everyone.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Weekend Reading: The Holy Cow What a Week Edition

I'm just back from a rollerblade, and my mood is roughly 97% better. I need to remember to consider the mood improvement factor when I'm deciding whether or not I have time for my Friday afternoon rollerblade. I think I should have taken the rollerblade last week, to do list be damned.

Anyway, I needed the mood improvement because yikes, the news is horrifying right now. But I'm going to share some links about it, anyway. Sorry.

James Fallows, who started his career during Watergate, wrote about why the current situation is worse.

Matt Yglesias wrote about why a "good" replacement for Comey won't fix the mess.

Dave Weigel wrote about the cynical "Merrick Garland for FBI director" idea.

David Roberts turned his tweetstorm about how we overanalyze Trump into an article and it is terrifying and also rings terrifyingly true.

In other topics...

There are 27 National Monuments at risk in the review Trump ordered. This article lists which ones and tells how to comment on whether they should be saved.

And here's how to comment on the proposed gutting of Net Neutrality.

This story about how a couple deals with a serious mental illness is really good.

The psychologist who taught us about implicit bias is now working on how to fix it.

Mika McKinnon wrote about the physics of gala gowns.

I haven't had a chance to read this piece with eight writers talking about how Anne of Green Gables influenced them yet, but I'm looking forward to it. Pumpkin and I are working our way through the series. We've just started Anne's House of Dreams.

For my fellow Hamilton fans:

And for my fellow rabbit fans:

Happy weekend, everyone, and Happy Mother's Day to those celebrating it.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017


I am sitting at my car repair place, waiting for them to finish the standard service on our car. Their wi-fi isn't the best, and to be honest, neither is my ability to concentrate right now. So I've given up on the work I was trying to do, and am going to try to write out my feelings, with a vague and probably foolish hope that doing so will make it easier for me to concentrate once I get back to my office.

Yesterday, I heard an offhand mention that Trump had fired Comey as I was closing up after my last meeting and dashing for my car. I was late leaving, and needed to get to school as quickly as I could, so that I could pick up Petunia and take her to her art class. Once I'd settled her there, I went over to the nearby coffee shop, planning to write a post about healthcare. But then I really read the news about Comey, and that plan fell to pieces.

It feels like I'm constantly reassembling the shards of my plans these days. I wanted to write about healthcare to share what I'd figured out about pre-existing conditions. This was a very personal investigation. I already know that I oppose the AHCA because of what it does to Medicaid, but I needed to really understand what it would do to protections for people with pre-existing conditions, because I have one. I am lucky: my pre-existing condition is not life threatening, although it could become so if I lose the ability to treat my mild asthma and it worsens. However, I'm also lucky that my maintenance medication is something I could afford to pay for out of pocket, if it came to that: my maintenance inhaler would cost me ~$250/month, and I can pay that. To be clear, that would be more than I spend on groceries to feed my family for a week, but I could do it. I don't know the cost of the urgent care breathing treatments that I sometimes need to help me get over an upper respiratory infection, but since I need those infrequently, I could probably absorb that, too, if forced, particularly since all of the drugs needed for those more acute treatment sessions are old, and therefore available as generics.

But I know myself and I know what the research has shown about people choosing between a medical treatment that feels optional and keeping those thousands of dollars in their pocket, and I wonder if I'd get the breathing treatment less often that I really should. I want to stay insured.

I am old enough to remember not just the days before the ACA, but the days before there were any protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Then we got a law that said that as long as you kept continuous coverage, you could not be denied coverage for your pre-existing condition on an employer-sponsored plan. If you want to read a harrowing account of what that meant in practice for some people, read Kameron Hurley's account of her 2007 experience with diabetes. Unlike my asthma, that is a disease that really will kill you if you don't treat it.

Anyway, I wanted to know if we were back to the pre-ACA days of needing to keep continuous coverage, or if we were going back further still. I wanted to know because if we were going back further still, I'd seriously consider going back to having a "regular" job so that I would have two lines of defense against losing my coverage. And of course, there would be that little voice in the back of my mind suggesting that we could just move to New Zealand and not have to worry about losing access to basic healthcare.

But then I found the Weeds podcast that discussed the latest bill (the episode called AHCApocalypse III) and learned we'd actually be going to something a little better than pre-ACA: insurance companies couldn't underwrite (i.e., deny coverage or jack up rates) for pre-existing conditions as long as you kept continuous coverage, even if you were moving to the individual market. So, someone like me (i.e., relatively wealthy), will be OK.

But a lot of people will NOT be OK. Continuous coverage can be out of financial reach when someone loses a job, and the assistance the AHCA provides to lower income people is less than what the ACA provides. Also, as I heard Ana-Marie Cox explain on a Pod Save America podcast recently, if the pre-existing condition that you're dealing with is a severe mental health issue, there is a very real possibility that you would not have the capacity to fill out all the forms and do the other bureaucratic tasks required to keep your coverage.

One of the other useful things in that Weeds podcast was an aside Matt Yglesias threw in about why libertarian-leaning Republicans like the Freedom Caucus are opposed to the ACA. It is not just the taxes. It is that many of them genuinely believe we should not be using health insurance to cover routine healthcare. They think it distorts the market and is responsible, at least in part, for driving up the cost of healthcare. They think we should have catastrophic health insurance to cover truly unforeseen things and big surprises, but that "routine" things like my asthma treatment, Petunia's best friend's insulin and test strips, having a baby, and the like, we should pay out of pocket. There is a frequent comparison to car insurance, which does not cover oil changes or the sort of regular maintenance I'm waiting to have done right now.

The problem with this comparison to auto insurance is that we can't decide our healthcare maintenance is getting too expensive and that we should upgrade to a new, more reliable body. There is no equivalent of taking the bus for people who can't afford the cost of maintaining their bodies. We have the body we have. We can try to make good decisions and take good care of it, but we can't choose our genetics. We can't control twists of fate that make some children develop type I diabetes. Libertarians are fond of saying that the government shouldn't be choosing winner and losers, and that the market should decide. But leaving it all to the market just doesn't work in the case of healthcare. It is not government choosing winners and losers, it is genetics and luck. Government assistance with healthcare is the community deciding to even out some of the impact of that luck. My asthma doesn't care if I can afford the maintenance inhaler. A diabetic with a low-paying job still needs their insulin, or they die. A woman who gets pregnant is going to be pregnant whether she can afford to pay for prenatal care or not (particularly if some of these same people get their way and an abortion is difficult if not impossible to obtain).

I do not believe that the majority of Republicans, in Congress or at the voting booth, really want the libertarian vision for healthcare. But that is who they are letting drive their policy choices right now, and so that is what we're aiming for.

So anyway, that is what I wanted to say about healthcare. I convinced myself that I can keep trying to build a company, even if the AHCA becomes law. Wealthy people like me will mostly be fine. I'll still fight this law, because a lot of people won't be fine, but I don't have to start a job search.

But after last night, I'm back to thinking that maybe I should start a job search, because trying to focus on the sort of work I need to be doing to actually build a company is nigh on impossible right now. I'm using all my tricks, and I have some good days. But I have days like today, too. I have noticed that I find it easier to put my head down and work when I'm onsite at a client or focused on a client deliverable than when I'm trying to do "my own" things. Can I keep pushing into these headwinds and do what I need to do to make this company viable? If I'm just going to limp along, supporting the company (and myself) with contract work that is not that different from what I would be doing as a full-time employee, should I keep doing that? Or would I be better off cutting my losses and heading back to a company with benefits? I don't know. So far, I've chosen to lower my head and charge into the headwinds. I'm not sure how long I can keep doing that.


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