Saturday, October 15, 2011

Against Medical Marijuana: A civil liberties argument against a humanistic farce (by Skylanda)

In 2007, medical marijuana became legal under a physician’s directive in New Mexico, one of sixteen states allowing some variation of medical use of ­­Cannabis sativa. Since then, regulation of medical marijuana in the state has swung with the political tides: founded and liberalized under former Democratic governor Bill Richardson, then tightening under current Republican governor Susan Martinez, who made a campaign vow to reverse the move toward medical legalization of marijuana altogether.

Caught in the middle of these political tides are the physicians who are asked to make the judgment call as to whether a patient is an appropriate candidate for medical marijuana. Predictably, medical providers fall into largely political camps in the decision whether to engage with the medical marijuana question at all – many refuse to sign the paperwork on an ideological basis, a few will sign any patient’s paperwork out of reverse ideological concerns, and a good number want nothing to do with it simply because they do not want the word to get out that every weed toker in town then come knocking on their door. The guidelines about who can prescribe for which conditions are only marginally helpful: a tangle of specialists needed for one condition, primary providers sufficient for another, and dual requirement from both for yet other conditions. The unifying theme behind these guidelines is that there is virtually no evidence behind a single one of them – to guide what conditions are covered, under what circumstances, and under the guidance of which specialists. In the era of evidence-based medicine, this is problematic.

But this problem is not accidental. Evidence is not a god-given entity; it is a good that must be gathered through clinical trials and observational data and then run through the grist mill of statistical analysis. The dearth of evidence for the safety and efficacy (or lack thereof) of one of the most frequently used mind-altering substances in the United States is due in no small part to a quirk of the way that the Drug Enforcement Agency classifies illicit substances: the schedule of controlled substances under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act. This law attempted to sort out serious drugs (and serious drug offenses) from drugs of more minor import, as well as drugs that have some dual role in both medicine and abuse. Schedule I drugs are the most serious offenders, with high potential for abuse and no role in medicine (they cannot be prescribed under any circumstance and theoretically cannot be permitted for research, though this rule is sometimes not strictly adhered to); Schedule V drugs are minor offenders with widely overlapping medical applications, and Schedule II-IV runs the spectrum between. You may be surprised to know that marijuana occupies a premium spot in the Schedule I category, right beside heroin, GHB, LSD, and ecstasy. You may be even more surprised to find that cocaine and methamphetamines are considered squarely less dangerous than marijuana, in the still-venerable Schedule II category (cocaine is used in some ear/nose/throat procedures; amphetamines are too close to a cluster of ADHD medications to make a useful distinction – thus the placement in Schedule II). Essentially, the DEA is far more vested in eradicating the scourge of marijuana than ridding the streets of methamphetamines and cocaine. (Interestingly, tobacco and alcohol were never rated by the DEA, probably because they are legal substances.)

It is because of this Schedule I placement that the feds take marijuana so seriously, and why state laws legalizing medical marijuana so flagrantly flout federal statute – and will likely eventually force a constitutional read of the issue at the SCOTUS level. (Several years ago, an acquaintance investigated the quandary of what to do with a notoriously brown-thumbed tenant who was producing a substantial quantity of the moldy pot plants in the drafty attic of his old San Francisco Victorian with a questionable grower’s license; in the course of his investigations, the landlord discovered that the city police didn’t care, the state law enforcement office reacted with studied indifference, the local housing authorities told him not to bother to get involved, but that every branch of the feds he contacted simply wanted to know the address so that they could initiate a bust immediately.)

It is because of this Schedule I status at the federal level that there is notably scarce data in the formal literature on the effect of marijuana on chronic pain, PTSD, depression, inflammatory conditions, asthma, palliative care, weight loss associated with cancer and AIDS, and the other conditions for which patients routinely request it of myself and hundreds of other physicians in the states where it is legal. American researchers are critically restricted from effective study of the medical effects of marijuana (except in the purified form of THC marketed as Marinol, marketed as an appetite stimulant and universally panned for its ineffectuality beside the supposed panacea of real marijuana) because forty years ago the federal government declared – in a nearly heroic accomplishment of circular reasoning – that there is no medical indication for marijuana.

And thus we set the stage for the farce that is medical marijuana. In New Mexico, physicians actually have a list of approved indications, which includes chronic pain, inflammatory arthritis, PTSD, glaucoma, painful peripheral neuropathy, and (in an ironic nod to the state’s epic battle with injection drug use) the discomfort associated with hepatitis C. We have no evidence that this substance is effective for any these conditions (nor any evidence that it is ineffective, or that it is harmful, nor that it is ineffective for a long list of excluded conditions), but someone came up with a list of inclusionary and exclusionary criteria, and there we are.

Because it is not produced uniformly and studied legally, I cannot come up with a reasonable dosing regimen at which I can expect results or move on to a different medicinal approach. I know roughly what twenty milligrams a day of Lipitor should do to your cholesterol, and how many milligrams of ibuprofen can reasonably be expected to turn off your headache pain before you risk an ulcer, but I can’t even hazard a guess at how many ounces of Mary Jane should evaporate your back pain, or alleviate your anxiety, or lighten up your mood. Because it is so poorly studied, I cannot give a patient a list of contraindications, side effects, or even long-term dangers (some claim, for example, that inhaled cannabis works well as a bronchodilator for asthma; not only do I find this disingenuous if there is no evidence to back it, there is reasonable cause to suspect that chronic marijuana smoking may be a culprit in emphysema just as well as cigarettes).

Without any kind of dosing standardization or quality control, handing out medical marijuana cards is essentially the equivalent of telling patients to open up a bottle of Jack Daniels, insert a straw, and start drinking until you feel better. Except that instead of properly bottled whiskey, make it the stuff that some guy stilled in an old bathtub out back of his cabin: it may be authentic, but the public health department isn’t exactly looking in to ensure he washed his hands first. (The state of New Mexico does license growers, but they are not inspected and regulated the way the FDA watches over pharmaceutical factories. Indeed, one of the little-spoken health concerns about marijuana is that large-scale illicit growers are not exactly environmentalists: you might be smoking some of the most potent pesticides and fertilizers on the market when you inhale a crop produced under the duress of a growing seasons shortened by the threat of federal surveillance.)

So what then to do with the patients who claim benefit from marijuana in all is chemical glory? Well, I say let ‘em smoke it. Or eat it, or vaporize it, or spread it on their toast in the morning in the form of weed butter. But get me out of the middle of it.

The medicalization of marijuana has been a shrewd and well-calculated move by the pro-legalization crowd to crow-bar the power of compassion for the terminally ill and fatefully traumatized into political capital toward the normalization – and eventually legalization – of marijuana. And fundamentally, I agree with that goal. Many decades ago, this country decided that the social cost of restricting your right to a mildly mind-altering substance was not worth the crime wave that came with trying to enforce temperance; prohibition only serves the task-master of organized crime, and in my lifetime I would like to see the United States of America come to the realization that if drinking a fifth of vodka does not warrant ruining one’s life with a jail sentence and one’s community with organized crime, neither then does smoking a joint.

But I don’t appreciated being used as a tool toward that end. The medicalization of marijuana means that I am forced into the farce of pretending that marijuana is modern medicine. Marijuana is medicine only in the way that opium poppies are medicine: there’s something in there that’s awfully potent, but I wouldn’t feed it to patients straight up if wanted a predictable effect from a set dose – which is the essence of what separates modern medicine from the stuff your great grandma boiled up in her kitchen to treat the neighborhood nose bleeds and fevers. Marijuana is medicine only in the way that that proverbial bottle of Jack is medicine: it sure does something, but as a doctor, I’m pretty sure that is a something I don’t want to be responsible for prescribing.

The medicalization of marijuana means that I spend appointment time with complex patients discussing – ad nauseum – the intricacies of who needs to sign the annual paperwork for their cards for their particular condition, instead of focusing on actual medical conditions. The medicalization of marijuana means that I field a fair number of patients who establish care only to ask for this service (only some proportion of whom are actually ill), who are severely put out to discover that I cannot provide it to them under the current guidelines and who are unafraid to tell me so in angry and explicit terms. The medicalization of marijuana means that I spend public dimes at the community clinic where I work explaining and re-explaining the guidelines and limitations of this program, verifying and re-verifying the changing landscape of requirements which – I think it is only mildly paranoid to suspect – the current right-wing regime in the state may one day use to punish physicians who veer at all from the exacting nature of the program. The medicalization of marijuana fundamentally means a large bureaucratic headache for an issue that I fundamentally feel is none of my business (and as a primary care physician, bureaucratic headaches are something I do not require any more of than I already have). Unless they are troubled by it or using it to an extent that is causing medical or mental health issues, I do not feel that marijuana use by my patients is my business, pro or con – much as a glass of wine with dinner does not concern me.

My only entry in this dog and pony show is as a half-hearted civil libertarian (of the kind that appreciates being left alone if I’m not hurting anyone else, but recoils at the rather horrifying spectacle of Tea Party libertarianism), and a fulltime harm reduction-ist, of the sort that heartily supports needle exchange programs and drug treatment over punishment for those in the throes of addiction. The full legalization of marijuana fits both those bills: get the government out of the business of busting people for a drug that is fundamentally about as harmful as alcohol and tobacco, and take the breeze out of the sails of the organized crime that has been the sole beneficiary (alongside, perhaps, the terrifyingly profitable privatized prison industry) of this late-date Prohibition. But the medicalization of marijuana defeats all these purposes: creating new headaches and bureaucracies without tackling any of the social ills of prohibition. Moreover, medical marijuana disingenuously asks doctors to play the mediator in the age-old cat-and-mouse game between stoners and law enforcement – trying to suss out whose pain is real, who is not just looking for a get-high-no-jail card – a role that I have no aptitude for and even less desire to engage in.

It is high time that the pro-marijuana crowd step up to the plate and aim their efforts at their true goal: legalization. (Or, in the interim, moving cannabis off the Schedule I list to somewhere more reasonable.) And please, spare me being shoe-horned into the middle of your efforts – I appreciate the core sentiment, but I do not appreciate the paperwork, the headache, or being used for purposes that defy the calling of my profession.

Let the ill have their relief and the hedonists have their day. And please: let the physicians practice their craft without pretending that unrefined herbiage is part and parcel of modern medicine.

Cross-posted from my recently relocated and relaunched blog, America, Love it or Heal It.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Reports From The Womb Wars

Abortions will not be covered under the new health insurance rules if the US House has its way. It probably will not. For that it must wait until a wingnut is, once again, firmly in control of this country.

But what the Republican-controlled House wants is a system where:
Providers that offer abortion coverage would have to set up identical plans without abortion coverage to participate in the health insurance exchanges to be set up under the new law.


Under the law, federally subsidized health care plans can offer abortion coverage but they have to set up separate accounts to segregate federal funds from funds that can be used for abortion coverage.
Pitts said these are nothing more than “accounting gimmicks” that won’t stop taxpayer money from being used to fund abortions.
Pitts is being silly, of course. Or not silly enough. Money is fungible, so any money spent on abortion anywhere could be construed as having come from taxpayer money if the person making the expenditures also got, say, a mortgage deductions in taxes. It's all about banning abortion by other means.

Here's the real beauty of the forced-birth thinking:
Democratic opponents were particularly upset about the conscience clause, saying it would lead to pregnant women being denied emergency treatment. “When the Republicans vote for this bill today they will be voting to say women can die on the floor and health care providers don’t have to intervene,” said Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California.
“This bill is putting the religious leaders’ views right there in the surgery room,” said Jon O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice.
They said it would override the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act, which requires that all people have access to emergency services.
Pitts’ office said they were codifying a 2004 amendment to a spending bill that protects doctors who object to performing abortions. It said that there has never been a case where a doctor cited these protections to refuse necessary care and that Catholic hospitals, even with their strict standards, allow doctors to perform necessary procedures that could result in the death of a fetus.

Bolds are mine. Those sentences tell us so-very-clearly what Pitts thinks about the rights of pregnant women to get emergency care: They can just rely on whatever provider's conscience they happen to encounter! No need to codify the rights of the incubators, none at all.

The Anti-Capitalist Argument

I keep hearing various right-wing politicians and pundits state that the Wall Street Occupation is anti-capitalist, as if they were saying that it's against mom and apple pie*. Everyone is supposed to frown upon such an awful act of disrespect against capitalism!

Capitalism has somehow clawed itself up on a pedestal, right next to the Christian God in this country, as something we no longer debate at all. It's not a system we can tinker with. It's a religion.

After all, didn't Ronald Reagan gird himself and ride upon a white steed to kill the dragon of communism? Now we are all capitalists!

Except, of course, that the capitalist system does not mean anything of the sort. Capitalism gone haywire is a pretty terrible system, using child-labor in mines or whatever makes the profits highest possible ones. In its extreme form it barely differs from feudalism, except for the marker of what constitutes the upper classes.

I'm a muddy-middle kind of goddess (the middle naturally defined by me!), and I have never been able to fathom why people would want a world of child-labor in mines or a Banana Republic, unless they are so deluded that they believe in their own divine right to belong to the small group of capitalists. And of course a truly unbridled capitalism would kill off most of the would-be-capitalists, too. It's a winner-take-all system.

What's so bad about mixed economies? They do very well in international comparisons. They combine the best aspects of collective and individual systems.

Though I admit that having a Mixed Economy as the label on a pedestal doesn't sound very exciting.
*"Mom and apple pie" isn't exactly a neutral myth, either, as I have stated before. But you get the meaning.

Today's Musical Interlude

More Speech As A Response To Misogynist Speech

I thought of "more speech" as the answer to "bad speech" the other day. It is a common argument for how to fix racist or misogynist speech: Don't stifle it but present alternatives.

In theory it works. Say, someone writes a long screed about how women are nothing but holes to be plugged and should never have power. Then others can write long screeds in the defense of the ridiculous idea that women are people! That will naturally take hours if not days, and will require putting down humongous amounts of evidence that women indeed have done lots of good stuff, as a class.

Given the "more speech" argument, all the time others crawl from the primeval mud and chime in with their ideas of how c**tish women are and so on. A cacophony results. It's a bit like saying that "bad music" should result in "more music", all instruments going on at the same time in the same room.

You are only going to hear the loudest one, most likely give up and go away. Who knows what your final conclusions are on the heinous nature of women in general.

Of course the initial "more speech" response could have been not writing that long epistle with evidence but simply blurting out that men are prickish Q-tips which should be kept in a bathroom cabinet when one does not need them, what with their violent over-emotionality and so on. But that, my friends, is another type of "bad speech." Are we to fight "bad speech" with more "bad speech?"

Or we could tell the misogynist that he should shut up. That, of course, is exactly what one is NOT supposed to do in the "free marketplace" of ideas.

The mature reaction is to ignore woman-haters and their comments. I have been told this many, many times.

This means that my Internet use is like sitting at a public library having low-toned conversations with clever people, while, once every few minutes, some guy with staring eyes walks past yelling "c***s, I hate them." On my blog I ban these visitors. Elsewhere I cannot do so.

It's not just an inconvenience, either. If your neighbor walked around with staring eyes muttering about his hatred of women you might feel the need to do something, to suggest that he gets help, to talk to his family and so on. But the mature reaction on the Internet is to ignore all that.

This troubles me.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Not For Women. That's Dr Pepper's New Diet Drink.

Advertising unisex products for men-only is not a new trick. The British did that with chocolate bars and it worked. But it's not enough to state that a particular product drips with testosterone. What these campaigns mostly share is an explicit statement that women are not allowed to consume the advertised product. The newest example is Dr Pepper's Manly-Man Drink:
Dr Pepper is going out of its way to appeal to men — and potentially offending both sexes in the process. After market research revealed that men eschew diet sodas because they aren't "manly," the soda company decided to launch a 10-calorie soft drink called Dr Pepper Ten that aims to be more masculine. The can is gunmetal gray, and an extensive campaign for the beverage boldly declares that "it's not for women."
Here ya go:

There's a Facebook page for this manly new diet drink, too:
"A Facebook page for the drink contains an application that allows it to exclude women from viewing content, which includes games and videos aimed at being 'manly,'" the story explains. "For instance, there's a shooting gallery where you shoot things like high heels and lipstick, for example."
It's not made clear why appealing to men includes using deadly weapons to destroy symbols associated with women.
So it goes. The video is meant to be sarcastic, I believe, and it's quite funny in that context. But what is not so very funny is that need to exclude women in order for something to be regarded as masculine. Any taint of the girls' cooties makes big guys run, it seems.

Masculinity is defined as subtractive. It's whatever women don't do. That definition is what requires the No Girls Allowed sign. And sure, it's funny and pretty unimportant when it comes to some silly soft drink and how it is advertised. What's not so funny is the nasty underpinnings that are revealed.

Because those same underpinnings apply to other fields of human endeavor. The subtractive nature of the way we define masculinity means that any advances by women into new fields look like shrinking ground for manly men.

The other real danger that lurks behind silly ads like this one is what they bring up from the bottom mud of that large ocean of humanity. When I checked the Facebook page, one of the first comments I read there was a truly disgusting one:
Robert, see its in the woman's cunty nature to btch and whine for no reason. their reaction to this ad is a perfect example why women should only be used as a "plug-gable hole" and never be allowed any power. Women are weak emotionally, intellectually, physically and tend to over-react to everything.
Other comments scolded the writer of this one. But I'm not so sure that having this Facebook page and what is going on there will be good publicity for Dr Pepper.

Those who quite like the ad campaign find it funny and hilarious and point out that there are all sorts of ads aimed specifically at women.

But I'm not aware of actually unisex products which have been marketed to women with the statement that men are not allowed to buy them. It's that exclusionary aspect, having to do with the subtractive nature of masculinity and the resulting fear from any advancement in women's status that is the real problem. That, and the misogyny.

The Poor Traders of Wall Street.

A story:
Did no one but herself notice the poor on the streets of London? she wondered. And again she felt that uncomfortable feeling of isolation as she assumed she was probably the only person in society who did notice. Geoffrey, dear Geoffrey, did have some idea. He had told her that only the other day, the Duke of Devonshire had been visiting a bazaar with his agent and had stopped at a stall displaying wooden napkin rings and the duke had asked his agent what they were for.

"Napkin rings," said the agent. "Middle-class people keep them on the table to put their table napkins in between meals."

Said the astounded duke, "Do you mean that people actually wrap up their napkins and use them again for another meal?"
"Certainly," said the agent.

The duke gasped as he looked at the stall, "Good God!" he exclaimed. "I never knew such poverty existed."

I have read the same story about an English king.

Another story:
Bankers aren’t optimistic about those gains. Options Group’s Karp said he met last month over tea at the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York with a trader who made $500,000 last year at one of the six largest U.S. banks.
The trader, a 27-year-old Ivy League graduate, complained that he has worked harder this year and will be paid less. The headhunter told him to stay put and collect his bonus.
“This is very demoralizing to people,” Karp said. “Especially young guys who have gone to college and wanted to come onto the Street, having dreams of becoming millionaires.”
This (via Eschaton) looks to be a true story and not part of a novel. At least it is reported in a respectable newspaper.

There's much I could write about the article which contained that pearl about How To Become Demoralized, including sharp commentary on this:
That isn’t diminishing lobbying efforts to soften rules mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act, which would reduce risk, curtail proprietary trading and force more transparency in the $601 trillion derivatives market. Large financial institutions have been “exceedingly aggressive at trying to roll back reform” and have largely succeeded, said Greenlight Capital Inc. President David Einhorn, 42, who bet against Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in the months before that firm’s collapse.
But I'm going to restrain myself to just stating that if these efforts have been largely successful then we little people are f***ed.

It's all pretty startling, to realize how blind people are how they come across to us, the little people, how insular these high-fliers truly are and how unaware they seem to be of the rest of the world. Just one final example, suitable for a feminist blog:
Uncertainty didn’t stop some on Wall Street from profiting during the U.S. housing collapse, when Deutsche Bank AG trader Greg Lippmann helped create and profited from a multibillion- dollar market in subprime-based derivatives. He said Wall Street will have fewer exotic products to sell and trade, drawing an analogy to the popular no-reservations restaurant Torrisi Italian Specialties.
“No choosing, great food, low price, no pizzazz,” said Lippmann, co-founder of New York hedge fund LibreMax Capital LLC. “A couple of years ago, the hottest place to go would be someplace that they just spent $5 million decorating and they’ve got three or four models answering the phones. People want stripped-down now.”

On Sentimentality, Frustration and Other Mixed Emotions

The other night a catastrophe happened:

I had no new reading material. So I ended up re-reading Oscar Wilde's De Profundis, and his definition of sentimentality struck me as meaningful:
"A sentimentalist", Oscar Wilde wrote Alfred Douglas, "is one who desires to have the luxury of an emotion without paying for it.
Like having a nice cry while watching a sad movie?

What do you think of Wilde's definition there?

I have always been fascinated by the mixed emotions, or emotions which appear mixed to me. Frustration is a good example: It clearly has aspects of anger in it but also something else, most likely boredom? Or is it just a diluted form of anger? Can those kinds of emotions be split into their constituents parts?

I'm sure wiser minds have written on all this and it's of no real importance. But fun to think about. So what are the parts of feeling that something is "fun"?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Today's Fun Graph

It's this one (via rm-Zlist):

It reminds us of the reason for the slogan "We are the 99%," and it also reminds us of the fact that bad economic conditions do not bite us all equally. Some of us have lots of cushioning for that fall. Others look down into the open maws of a shark.

What the graph does not reveal is the power of those on the extreme right in that graph. Most politicians belong to that income group. Most politicians get their campaigns funded by others in that income group. Most media corporations are owned by people in that group. And those people are cushioned, which explains why they can worry about the federal budget deficits and how on earth we can pay for Social Security in fifty years' time.

Soggy Toast. David Brooks As The Real Radical

David Brooks has chimed in on the Wall Street Occupation movement. He thinks the protesters are soggy-toast radicals who hate Murka and capitalism and that the real radicals look surprisingly like David Brooks.

I love this! It shows how desperate the 1% is getting.

Most of Brooks' column creates straw-people which he then strikes down: The 99% are Not Virtuous! The 1% are Not Nefarious! And this:
They will have no realistic proposal to reduce the debt or sustain the welfare state. Even if you tax away 50 percent of the income of those making between $1 million and $10 million, you only reduce the national debt by 1 percent, according to the Tax Foundation. If you confiscate all the income of those making more than $10 million, you reduce the debt by 2 percent. You would still be nibbling only meekly around the edges.
As Paul Krugman points out, those small figures come from comparing one year's additional tax intakes to all of national debt:
I read David Brooks citing the Tax Foundation this morning, and I thought he must have misread them. They couldn’t possibly have compared one year’s take from higher taxes on the rich with the total stock of debt, could they? They can’t possibly be that stupid, or think that their readers are that stupid, can they?
Yes they did. They actually find that their version of the “Buffett rule” would collect $120 billion a year, which is a seriously significant sum. But they try to make it look small by comparing one year’s revenue with the total debt outstanding.
But isn't it wonderful how Brooks frames the problem: If taxing the rich won't solve all our problems, let's not tax them. They are so few, even if they have most of the wealth in this country! But then taxing me, for instance, would solve even fewer of our problems so let's stop taxing me! And I'm only one single person, too small to matter.

What Brooks doesn't get is that the protests are ultimately about fairness and the way the society has reneged on its implicit contracts, always in the direction of benefiting the 1%.

Working hard will not help you when jobs are outsourced abroad, when collective bargaining is attacked and when all that is left to you is something called "The Right To Work" which gives all the rights to the employer.

Getting an education does not make finding a job that much easier, what with that outsourcing, the cuts in public spending on state levels and the nonexistent consumer demand today. But those student loans still must be paid.

Many middle class families are a few paychecks from being homeless. The security net has frayed and Brooks would like to fray it even more:
The U.S. economy is probably going to stink for a few more years. It is beset by short-term problems (low consumer demand, uncertain housing prices, too much debt) and long-term problems (wage stagnation, rising health care costs, eroding human capital).
Realistically, not much is going to be done to address the short-term problems, but we can at least use this winter of recuperation to address the country’s underlying structural ones. Do tax reform, fiscal reform, education reform and political reform so that when the economy finally does recover the prosperity is deep, broad and strong.
Make no mistake: Brooks means to unravel the safety net when he talks about those reforms. But note how the pain and suffering of people is something he glides over in a few sentences, concluding that not much is going to be done to address that pain and suffering, but that we should use the opportunity to cause even more pain and suffering by altering the system in ways which guarantees it to become permanent.

Job Creators

This is the new term for corporations. Indeed, this term is used for all the wealthy, whether they spend their money in this country or abroad and even if they hoard it under their beds (which creates no jobs anywhere).

They still count as job creators! Most current evidence suggests that giving these so-called job creators more money or fewer regulations cannot make them create jobs.

And the reason is a very obvious one: You, the consumer, are also a job creator! How about that?

Imagine if suddenly many extra consumers walked into the local car dealership and bought new cars. Imagine this continuing for a few months. The car dealership would have to start hiring more people to serve all those customers, and there would be extra demand for more cars to be produced. Rinse and repeat for all types of consumer goods and services.

People are not spending. Spending people are job creators, too.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Today's Second Asshat

That would be Long Island Republican Congressman Peter King, though he made his statement a few days ago. But asshattery sticks. Here is what he said about the Wall Street Occupation:
“The fact is these people are anarchists. They have no idea what they’re doing out there,” King told host Laura Ingraham. “They have no sense of purpose other than a basically anti-American tone and anti-capitalist. It’s a ragtag mob basically.”


“We have to be careful not to allow this to get any legitimacy,” he said, adding “I’m taking this seriously in that I’m old enough to remember what happened in the 1960s when the left-wing took to the streets and somehow the media glorified them and it ended up shaping policy. We can’t allow that to happen.”
Mmm. Here's Peter King's own history of giving movements legitimacy:
In the 1980s, King actively supported the Irish republican movement, and frequently traveled to Northern Ireland to meet with senior members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, many of whom he counted as friends.[8][19] In 1982, speaking at a pro-IRA rally in Nassau County, New York, King said: “We must pledge ourselves to support those brave men and women who this very moment are carrying forth the struggle against British imperialism in the streets of Belfast and Derry.”[8][20] "In 1985, he convened a press conference before the start of New York City's St. Patrick's Day parade (for which he was Grand Marshal), and offered a defiant defense of the IRA: 'As we march up the avenue and share all the joy,' he declared, 'let us never forget the men and women who are suffering and, most of all, the men and women who are fighting.'"[21] Regarding the 30 years of violence during which the IRA killed over 1700 people, including over 600 civilians, King said, "If civilians are killed in an attack on a military installation, it is certainly regrettable, but I will not morally blame the IRA for it". King compared Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams to George Washington and asserted that the "British government is a murder machine".[22]

He called the IRA "the legitimate voice of occupied Ireland."[23] A Northern Irish judge ordered King ejected from the former's courtroom, describing him as “an obvious collaborator with the IRA”.[8] King called himself "the Ollie North of Ireland."[21] King did not meet Gerry Adams until 1984, four years after his open support for the IRA began.[24] He became involved with NORAID, an organization that the British, Irish and US governments accuse of financing IRA activities and providing them with weapons.

Today's First Asshat

Would that pass the censors? And how do you write "censors" so that they are not those pots you wave about to get nice smells?"

This is one of those deep and open comments which we all yearn to hear so very much: me a sexist pig, if you’d like, I just don’t want to hear a female voice describing a football game.
I'm insulted on behalf of all the pigs who are smart animals and do not deserve the horrible treatment we give them.

I bet you anything that the comments to that post have someone stating that they quite agree even though they are female themselves. Which means that not wanting to hear women describe a football game cannot be sexist. Because, you see, if women (or people posing as women) say it, it cannot be sexist! No woman has ever hated on all the other members of her sex.

This reminded me of an old comment by Andy Rooney who just retired from Sixty Minutes.

He once argued that women should not report on men's games because they never played the game themselves. Of course that logic implies that no man should ever be an obstetrician. Nor any woman who has not herself given birth.

What makes this comment asshattery is that I don't share every stupid thought I have, thinking it's worthy of wider distribution. I have never told you how much I hate raisins, how raisins have no place sitting on our plates, looking like rabbit poop or dead flies, and how it is clearly obvious to every sane person that raisins should be rounded up and exterminated.


Whose Money Is It, Anyway?

Paul Krugman writes on some negative commentary about the Wall Street Occupation, and then points out the reason for it:
What’s going on here? The answer, surely, is that Wall Street’s Masters of the Universe realize, deep down, how morally indefensible their position is. They’re not John Galt; they’re not even Steve Jobs. They’re people who got rich by peddling complex financial schemes that, far from delivering clear benefits to the American people, helped push us into a crisis whose aftereffects continue to blight the lives of tens of millions of their fellow citizens.

Yet they have paid no price. Their institutions were bailed out by taxpayers, with few strings attached. They continue to benefit from explicit and implicit federal guarantees — basically, they’re still in a game of heads they win, tails taxpayers lose. And they benefit from tax loopholes that in many cases have people with multimillion-dollar incomes paying lower rates than middle-class families.

This special treatment can’t bear close scrutiny — and therefore, as they see it, there must be no close scrutiny. Anyone who points out the obvious, no matter how calmly and moderately, must be demonized and driven from the stage. In fact, the more reasonable and moderate a critic sounds, the more urgently he or she must be demonized, hence the frantic sliming of Elizabeth Warren.

Here's the crucial point: There were reasons to bail out the banks when the financial markets collapsed. Some of those reasons were not worth of moral applause. For example, that some firms were "too big to fail" should have taught us something about how we should regulate those markets in the future: Don't let the behemoths swallow us all.

Still, I could see why the government bailed out the banks. HOWEVER, nobody ever advocated bailing out the very same banksters who caused the crash. But that is exactly what happened!

Add to that the hardly-any-strings-attached bit, and you can see why people are furious (if they are awake).

The banksters are still running those banks and the regulations we sorely need are not put into place because the banksters (who are in power!) don't want them! They want the government money, the same-old lawlessness and to be left alone, too.

Whatever the legal status of this arrangement, it is morally wrong. If those who lost their houses in the housing market collapse are getting their just desserts, what do you call what the banksters are getting?

The financial markets need proper regulation. That we are not getting it done tells me all I need to know who really is in power in this country.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

A Guest Post by Anna: A Literary Canon of Women Writers, Part Eleven: Into The Nineteenth Century

Echidne's note: Earlier parts of this series can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 ,Part 5, Part 6, Part 7,Part 8, Part 9, and Part 10)

Jane Austen (16 December 1775 - 18 July 1817) was an English novelist whose works of romantic fiction are critically acclaimed and very popular and influential.

Austen's works critique the novels of sensibility of the second half of the 18th century and are part of the transition to 19th-century realism. Her plots, though fundamentally comic, highlight the dependence of women on marriage to secure social standing and economic security, and are often considered feminist.

Her work brought her little personal fame and only a few positive reviews during her lifetime, but the publication in 1869 of her nephew's A Memoir of Jane Austen introduced her to a wider public, and by the 1940s she had become widely accepted in academia as a great English writer.

Her novels include Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814), Emma (1815) Northanger Abbey (1818, posthumous), and Persuasion (1818, posthumous). They are widely available in English.

Mary Russell Mitford (16 December 1787 – 10 January 1855), was an English author and dramatist. She was born at Alresford, Hampshire. She is most noted as the author of Our Village: Sketches of Rural Character and Scenery. This series of about 100 literary sketches of rural life was based upon life in Three Mile Cross, a hamlet in the parish of Shinfield, near Reading in Berkshire, where she lived. It was originally published during the 1820s and 1830s, and first appeared in The Lady's Magazine. It is widely available in English.

Sarah Margaret Fuller Ossoli, commonly known as Margaret Fuller, (May 23, 1810 – July 19, 1850) was an American journalist, critic, and women's rights advocate associated with the American transcendentalism movement. She was the first full-time American female book reviewer in journalism. Her book Woman in the Nineteenth Century is considered the first major feminist work in the United States.

Born Sarah Margaret Fuller in Cambridge, Massachusetts, she was given a substantial early education by her father, Timothy Fuller. She later had more formal schooling and became a teacher. In 1839, she began overseeing what she called "conversations": discussions among women meant to compensate for their lack of access to higher education. A number of significant figures in the women's rights movement attended these "conversations", including Sophia Dana Ripley, Caroline Sturgis, and Maria White Lowell.

Margaret Fuller became the first editor of the transcendentalist journal The Dial in 1840, before joining the staff of the New York Tribune under Horace Greeley in 1844. By the time she was in her 30s, Fuller had earned a reputation as the best-read person in New England, male or female, and became the first woman allowed to use the library at Harvard College.

Her seminal work, Woman in the Nineteenth Century, was published in 1845. A year later, she was sent to Europe for the Tribune as its first female correspondent. She soon became involved with the revolution in Italy and allied herself with Giuseppe Mazzini. She had a relationship with Giovanni Ossoli, with whom she had a child. All three members of the family died in a shipwreck off Fire Island, New York, as they were traveling to the United States in 1850. Fuller's body was never recovered.

Fuller was an advocate of women's rights and, in particular, women's education and the right to employment. She also encouraged many other reforms in society, including prison reform and the emancipation of slaves in the United States. Many other advocates for women's rights and feminism, including Susan B. Anthony, cite Fuller as a source of inspiration. Many of her contemporaries, however, were not supportive, including her former friend Harriet Martineau. She said that Fuller was a talker rather than an activist.

Shortly after Fuller's death, her importance faded; the editors who prepared her letters to be published, believing her fame would be short-lived, were not concerned about accuracy and censored or altered much of her work before publication. “Woman in the Nineteenth Century” is widely available in English, as are her letters.

Jacobine Camilla Collett (née Wergeland) (23 January 1813 – 6 March 1895) was a Norwegian writer, often referred to as the first Norwegian feminist. She was also the younger sister of Norwegian poet Henrik Wergeland, and is recognized as being one of the first contributors to realism in Norwegian literature.

Her most famous work is her only novel, Amtmandens Døtre (The District Governor's Daughters) which was published anonymously in two separate parts in 1854 and 1855. The book is considered one of the first political novels in Norway and deals with the difficulties of being a woman in a patriarchical society in general and forced marriages specifically. It was the first book to address directly social problems in Norway (in particular marriage and the treatment of women) and was a major force in the creation of the Norwegian feminist movement.

She also wrote a number of essays and polemics, as well as her memoirs. Her literary models included female writers such as Rahel Varnhagen and George Sand, as well as Edward Bulwer Lytton and Theodor Mundt. Her complete works are available online in Norwegian here: The District Governor's Daughters is available in English as “The District Governor's Daughters (Norvik Press Series B),” translated by Kirsten Seaver.

Charlotte Brontë (21 April 1816 – 31 March 1855) was an English novelist and poet, best known for the novel Jane Eyre which she wrote under the pen name Currer Bell.

In May 1846, Charlotte and her sisters Emily and Anne published a joint collection of poetry under the assumed names of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. Although only two copies were sold, the sisters continued writing for publication and began their first novels. Charlotte used "Currer Bell" when she published her first two novels.

Of this, Brontë later wrote:"... we did not like to declare ourselves women, because —without at that time suspecting that our mode of writing and thinking was not what is called 'feminine' – we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice; we had noticed how critics sometimes use for their chastisement the weapon of personality, and for their reward, a flattery, which is not true praise."

Jane Eyre is a literary classic which is sometimes regarded as an important early feminist (or proto-feminist) novel due to the title character's personality. It is widely available in English.

Emily Jane Brontë (30 July 1818 – 19 December 1848) was an English novelist and poet, best known for her novel Wuthering Heights. She published under the pen name Ellis Bell. Although Wuthering Heights received mixed reviews when it first came out, and was often condemned for the vicious actions of some of the characters, it is now considered an English literary classic. In 1850, Charlotte edited and published Wuthering Heights as a stand-alone novel and under Emily's real name. It is widely available in English.

Anne Brontë (17 January 1820 – 28 May 1849) was a British novelist and poet. She wrote two novels, Agnes Grey (based on her own experiences as a governess) and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was an instant phenomenal success, sold out within six weeks.

Its depiction of alcoholism and debauchery were profoundly disturbing to nineteenth century readers. It is also a noted feminist novel. Anne's heroine eventually leaves her husband to protect their young son from his influence, as he is a cruel alcoholic. She supports herself and her son by painting, while living in hiding, fearful of discovery. In doing so, she violates not only social conventions, but also English law. At the time, a married woman had no independent legal existence, apart from her husband and could not own her own property, sue for divorce, or control custody of her children. If she attempted to live apart from him, her husband had the right to reclaim her. If she took their child with her, she was liable for kidnapping. In living off her own earnings, she was held to be stealing her husband's property, since any income she made was legally his.

As for Agnes Grey, George Moore praised it as "the most perfect prose narrative in English letters," and went so far as to compare Anne's prose to that of Jane Austen.

Both novels are widely available in English.

Rosa Campbell Praed (27 March 1851 – 10 April 1935), often credited as Mrs Campbell Praed (and also known as Rosa Caroline Praed), was an Australian novelist in the 19th and early 20th centuries. She has been described as the first Australian novelist to achieve a significant international reputation.

In 1880 she published her first book, An Australian Heroine, which had been twice returned to her for revision by Chapman and Hall's reader, George Meredith. It was well-reviewed and established her as an author. This book was followed by Policy and Passion (1881), one of the best of her earlier books, which went into at least three editions. An Australian reprint was issued in 1887 under the title of Longleat of Kooralbyn. Nadine; the Study of a Woman, was published in 1882, Moloch; a Story of Sacrifice, in 1883, and Zero; a story of Monte Carlo, in 1884.

As her fame grew, the Praeds moved from Northamptonshire to London. Celebrities such as the writers Oscar Wilde, Rudyard Kipling and Bram Stoker visited them. In 1884 she began her friendship with Irish politician, historian and writer, Justin McCarthy, a friendship which continued for the rest of his life. He was 20 years her senior, with an established reputation as a literary man. They collaborated on three political novels, The Right Honourable (1886), The Rebel Rose (issued anonymously in 1888, but two later editions appeared in their joint names under the title The Rival Princess ), and The Ladies' Gallery (1888). Another joint work was The Grey River (1889), a large-format book on the Thames, illustrated with etchings by Mortimer Menpes. Clarke describes it as "an early example of the 'coffee-table' genre".

In 1894-95, she returned to Australia, visiting Japan on her return to England. As a result of this visit, she wrote Madame Izàn: A Tourist Story (1899) in which she "raised the then daring subject of an interracial marriage between a Japanese man and an Irish woman".

In 1899, she began collaborating with medium Nancy Harward, with whom she lived for thirty years. During this time she wrote her novels about the occult and reincarnation, starting with Nyria (1904).

Praed's husband died in 1901, and in 1902 she published My Australian Girlhood, an account of her life in the country before her marriage. Towards the end of 1912 Praed published Our Book of Memories: Letters of Justin McCarthy to Mrs Campbell Praed, with connecting explanations. Her last years were spent at Torquay. In 1931 she published The Soul of Nyria, which purports to be an account of life in Rome over 1800 years ago as set down by a modern woman in a medium’s trance. This record was written down by her between 1899 and 1903, but was not published until nearly 30 years later. Her novel, Nyria, was based on these experiences. She died at Torquay on 10 April 1935 and was survived by her daughter who later died in a mental asylum.

Her books are widely available in English.