Please Spread the Truth about the Affordable Care Act. Trump is Lying, Again

It’s not a surprise that Trump is calling the passage of the tax bill a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. He takes full credit for things he had little to do with and exaggerates them to the point of lying. I think that was a chapter from the book he had written for him, The Art of Manipulation, I think it was called. What’s stranger is he apparently thinks the money collected from people who went without insurance and paid the fine funded the ACA, which demonstrates ignorance about the law. The Affordable Care Act is still the law of the land. The thirteen million people the CBO projects will lose coverage with the repeal of the individual mandate is just that, a projection. Opinions vary. Some experts expect that the law has been in place long enough that people have learned it is a benefit. Those subsidies are still there for people who qualify for them. That’s what puts the “affordable” in The Affordable Care Act. We all have a right to purchase insurance at a price that doesn’t exceed a certain percentage of our income. Trump is lying, again. He’s telling the American people the ACA has been repealed, which it hasn’t. His hope is people will feel discouraged or outright confused and not take those available subsidies, so he can feel right, I guess. This post isn’t about how flawed Trump is as a leader and person. We know that. If you have friends and family who depend on the ACA to get their insurance be sure they understand the truth. Uninsured people are more likely to die, that’s a statistical reality. So it’s good for them to have health insurance but it’s also important for the health insurance system, the only one we have, that healthy people are maintaining health insurance. “Healthy people” should probably be “potentially healthy people.” The healthy today could be the sick tomorrow, which is why we want to be a country where more people have health insurance, so our sick can receive care when they need it.


My Yeti Cup

The last birthday present my mom would receive from her sister was a Yeti cup. She came for an expected last visit early in the summer and we all chatted about these cups that could sit all day in a hot car and keep a beverage so cold the ice wouldn’t melt. (Allegedly, this hasn’t been tested, by me.) Then one arrived as her birthday present in late July. For the last month of her life that Yeti cup was kept full of water and kept cold and by her chair in the living room or, more often, as the days passed, at her bedside upstairs. When my sisters came to visit, intending to stay for the funeral, my mom held up her Yeti cup and had my sister take a picture of her with it and send it to my aunt. My mom wanted to include her sister in all of us being together. My sister had to send a text ahead warning her to be prepared of how our mother would look. She died a couple of days later.

That Christmas my sister sent me a Yeti cup. I opened it and it was like opening a memory of our mom. My sister said she knew I’d take it that way that’s why she wanted it to be a surprise. With my Yeti cup, I get a refill coffee for just a dollar at the gas station near my house. It stays hot all morning while I work, on days off, and when I take one to work it’s still hot during my first break. I use it every day and always think of my mom.

The other day, I left it somewhere. Not in my car, nowhere in my house. I drove back to the last place I’d been, which was work, and retraced my steps. No Yeti cup. I came back home and thoroughly searched my house before I called my sister and broke the news to her. I think the Yeti cup is gone. They’re known to be expensive cups, so someone might have seen it abandoned and swiped it. I didn’t think anyone I work with would have but I might have left it out where people shop. I was surprisingly forgiving of my mistake in misplacing it but still distraught. I had to keep reminding myself it’s just an object. I can buy another one. Would I still be upset about losing the original a month later? The answer felt like yes.

I mentioned to my manager at work what happened and asked her to let me know if the cup turned up. “The cup is valuable but it also has sentimental value.” She said she’d have our assets protection person look it up on camera. So on video, I set my Yeti cup and book on a counter above the time clock. I left and went to write in the coffee shop. I return later (for my jacket) and notice my book on the counter and grab it. My Yeti cup had already been grabbed by someone else who has a cup just like it. So it was tracked down, and I have it back. In the meantime I had accepted its loss and realized at an emotional level that my memories of my mom are not in a cup. Which turned into an opportunity to remember her. Plus I now have my cup back to remind me of her, and it’s literally like brand new because the person who had it washed it and knows a trick I don’t to get it sparkling clean.

What Tribalism Is, What Tribalism Isn’t

The idea of tribalism goes back to ancient times when bands of hunter-gatherers were following the animals they ate and searching for edible plants and fruits. Peoples clashed. They probably didn’t always clash, but if food scarcity was at levels that threatened survival, they certainly would have clashed. Compassion was enough of an instinct that killing would have troubled them, so they needed to carry a tribal god with them that told them they were a select group and other groups they ran into were not in that select group, which gave them permission to kill that other group without guilt or with diminished guilt. There are remnants of the tribal god thinking in the Western religions, which derived from the hunter-gatherer style of living. In the Bible, there are lists of foods appropriate to eat. These lists are worse than arbitrary, these were lists of the foods these people were already eating, so that when they ran into peoples eating different foods, they could kill them for violating religious law. There are other lists in the Bible, for how to sew etc. The Western religions (Christianity, Islam, and Judaism) have adapted to a more unified globe and now teach messages of peace, but this tribalism origin shows in their texts and that influence probably affects our thinking, whether religious or not, we’re all influenced by Western religion.

A close equivalent to tribalism, in modern times, might be people who take sports rivalries way too seriously and imagine the campus of a rival college team or the city of a rival team a completely other set of people, even when everything else about those two cities or campuses would point to them having a lot in common (similarly sized, same region of the country, etc.). Tribalism would be if I eat Wheaties for breakfast and I have a neighbor who easts Mueslix, and I think, What kind of an asshole eats Mueslix for breakfast? I don’t even have an issue with this neighbor, I’m just looking for arbitrary distinctions so that when the end of times comes if we’re down to one loaf of bread and one bottle of water between the two of us I can not share without guilt.

The problem with explaining the divide in America today with tribalism is that it attempts to establish a false equivalency, kind of a buzz phrase through the 2016 election and continuing after, but a buzz phrase because the tactic is used constantly. There is a tribal element to the divide in America, because those Western religion influences are so powerful, but the distinctions of tribalism exist solely so that there are distinctions. They exist to create us and not-us, other. What divides America today is where we align on actual issues and what the influence of tribalism allows us to ignore is that there are objective truths behind those issues. This predates Trump. Jenny McCarthy used a study, later determined to be based on manipulated data and fraudulent research, to convince people vaccines cause autism. Many probably still believe this. Vaccinating a perfectly healthy baby is frightening, so it can be tempting to believe someone who tells you not to do it, but read up on how terrifying Polio was before a vaccine to prevent it existed. Climate change, caused by human activity, is no fun to think about, so when someone claims we’re just in a natural warming period, it’s tempting to believe. If you’re a Trump supporter, believing, as he said, that millions of people in California illegally voted for Clinton is tempting to believe, because winning the popular vote would be a nice feather in the cap of the person you voted for. Similarly, believing his inauguration was more well attended than Obama’s.

The scientific method allows us to eliminate our biases in how we observe. It has ways of eliminating that we might like to believe Trump’s inauguration was more well attended than Obama’s with what we can clearly see in pictures, that it wasn’t. Science has ways of studying how and why the planet is warming and was able to establish an extreme likelihood that digging up millions of years’ worth of fossil fuels and releasing them into the atmosphere as a gas is, inconvenient as it is to learn, the how and the why. Science establishes extreme likelihoods because science doesn’t deal in certainties. Certainty ends the search for potential new information and our ability to integrate that new information with what we already believe or to change what we already believe completely. We seem to be in a new age where people are comfortable believing whatever they choose to believe, and those people take advantage of science not dealing in certainties and use that to create irrational doubt, which is not the same as skepticism.

Soon after Trump was elected, he made the claim Obama had wiretapped him. An interviewer made every effort to nail him down on this, as Trump tried to be oblique, as he likes to be, you might remember this clip, Trump kept saying “you can figure it out,” and the reporter said, “I want to know what you think, you’re the president.” At one point, Trump said, “I don’t stand for anything,” and then he told the reporter, “I can have my own opinions. You can have your own opinions.” This is the problem in America, and Trump is just an expression of that problem. Whether or not Obama was illegally wiretapping Trump is not a matter of opinion, it either happened or it didn’t. That clip is here; it’s hard to watch:

After Trump’s win, a lot of Americans questioned how people could have voted for him and the response to that questioning was often, “Apparently people aren’t entitled to an opinion anymore.” That’s nonsense. Of course, everyone is entitled to an opinion but respecting others’ opinions doesn’t require not questioning them. As much as people were entitled to vote for Trump and defend that vote, I was and am entitled to state that they voted wrong. Russian paid for millions of ads on facebook manipulating Americans into being for Trump and against Clinton and, more relevantly, which doesn’t get the mention it deserves, those ads were shared by American citizens millions of times. We got duped. Russia rigged our election for president taking advantage of our willingness to believe whatever we like to believe.

If we’re not allowed to challenge each other to be better voters, our democracy is threatened. I hope everyone who’s read this far reads the quote below from David Foster Wallace. What comes through even more than his wish for his fellow citizens to maintain a Democratic Spirt is his compassion at how difficult it truly is, how we all fail, sometimes, how the trap of failing to maintain a Democratic Spirit is universal. Compare how his words below try to unite us at the same time as they try to make us better. Compare that to how our current president uses that same trap to try to divide us and make us worse.

“A Democratic Spirit is one that combines rigor and humility, i.e., passionate conviction plus a sedulous respect for the convictions of others. As any American knows, this is a difficult spirit to cultivate and maintain, particularly when it comes to issues you feel strongly about. Equally tough is a DS’s criterion of 100 percent intellectual integrity – you have to be willing to look honestly at yourself and your motives for believing what you believe, and to do it more or less continually. A Democratic Spirit’s constituent rigor and humility and self-honesty are, in fact, so hard to maintain on certain issues that it’s almost irresistibly tempting to fall in with some established dogmatic camp and to follow that camp’s line on the issue and to let your position harden within the camp and become inflexible and believe that the other camps are either evil or insane and to spend all your time and energy trying to shout over them.” – David Foster Wallace, from a 1999 article, “Authority and American Usage”


The GOP Tax Plan is a Disaster

The disaster known as… “The GOP tax plan.”

Unlike our president who likes to call the Affordable Care Act a “disaster” when really he knows little about it other than that he doesn’t like it, I’m going to explain why I am of the opinion that the GOP tax plan is a disaster. Trump grasps superficially to the ideas around issues that confirm what he wishes to believe. He probably truly thinks this tax plan is great, he also probably truly knows little about it. He can just be told what about it he would like and he’ll sign it.

Like their attempt to repeal and replace the ACA, the primary goal of this tax plan is to deliver tax breaks to the GOP’s wealthy donors. This tax plan is your work buying pizza “for everyone” but the managers and bosses get to eat the pizza and everyone else gets to eat their crusts. Except some of the lower level employees wouldn’t even get to eat crusts but they will have to chip in to pay for the pizza.

After McConnel announced everyone in the middle class would see a tax break, this statement was exposed as a lie. On average the middle class would see a break but depending on where you live, you might end up paying more. He later came out and admitted this.

The tax plan the GOP is putting forth is (hold your surprise) centered around the floated but never proven theory of “trickle down economics.” If the wealthy have even more money they’ll invest it in growth of the economy, which will create more, higher paying jobs, so that money will trickle down to the rest of the country. The best response to that I heard was from someone on one of the Sunday morning news shows, who said that theory would make this tax plan defensible if we were in a recession, if unemployment was high. The economy is doing well, which means the people who will see most of the breaks in taxes already have money to use to invest and grow the economy and raise wages, if they wanted to. The wealthy don’t invest because they have money lying around. They invest to capture business opportunities and increase their profit. Whatever they would be doing with the extra money the GOP is about to transfer to them, they already are doing with the profits they’re making from the economy currently thriving.

The GOP is rallying around their inability to get a major achievement passed in the first year of Trump’s presidency as a reason to feel desperation to pass this. If we don’t get something done, after not repealing and replacing the ACA, we’re going to struggle in 2018. So their plan is to push an unpopular tax plan on voters to show them they can get things done and expect that to win them votes in 2018? Do you believe that? This doesn’t smell like that. It reeks, but it doesn’t smell like that. This is the GOP appeasing their wealthy donors and they’ll worry about damage control later.

This plan will add 1.5 trillion dollars to our national debt. They claim that economic growth will make up that 1.5 trillion, but we have other resources than just the political group highly motivated to believe generous estimates they come up with to justify the bill they want to pass. Nonpartisan groups run these numbers and give more objective analyses. Those groups do not expect increased growth to be significant enough to make up that 1.5 trillion dollars. So once again the “fiscally responsible” GOP is acting fiscally irresponsible, or at least reckless, in order to deliver money to their donors. They’re funneling so much money to their donors that they failed to stay under the 1.5 trillion dollar cap, so they’re also tacking on a repeal of the individual mandate, part of the Affordable Care Act. This tweak, the CBO, says will result in thirteen million people losing insurance and a 10-20% rise in premiums. They originally didn’t intend to attach healthcare changes to this tax plan, but they have because they needed to find more money: $338 billion. And while Paul Ryan will surely talk publicly about how this is America and he’s all for people having choices, this “tweak” isn’t about giving Americans choices, it’s about that money. These will be healthy people who “choose” not to buy insurance. It’s naïve for one individual to forego health insurance in hopes they won’t get sick or injured, but that one individual might not fall injured or ill. (That doesn’t matter, with insurance you’re buying the right to care if you need it, not the care you get if you need it.) It’s egregious for the government to pass this off on us when out of thirteen million people they absolutely know some portion of that thirteen million will fall injured or ill. When they do, they’ll get worse, more expensive care in the ER, most of which will be covered by taxpayers. Shouldn’t that concern the fiscally responsible GOP? It should but those extra expenses don’t fit into the 1.5 trillion dollar mark they have to stay under to get this law passed.

This is dumb governing anyway you look at it. Having a majority across the board might allow you to shove through some stuff but that’s a short term fix. (A short term fix is all you need if your actual goal is to win the favor of your donors and not to pass functional governing policies.) The GOP has made no attempt to bring any Democrats in since gaining majorities in both houses of congress and now the presidency. Wily Mitch works around needing the two-thirds majority and tries to pass things on purely partisan lines. Is that sustainable, to have a government where the minority party is just ignored? Particularly when you’re pushing unpopular laws, you’re bound to lose that majority and have the other party undo what you’d done. (Again, if your real goal is to show your donors your homework and get paid, then that’s not a problem.) And no, Obama and the Democrats didn’t do “the same thing” when they passed the ACA. Obama tried to work with Republicans, the ACA itself was a compromise to meet across the aisle with Republicans. The ACA ended up passing without Republican support but only because the Republicans intended to obstruct. The Democrats might be in obstruct mode, too, but how would we know? They’ve been completely cut out since Trump got sworn in.

Which leaves us with Trump, who besides riling everyone up with racist rhetoric also promised magic fixes to people struggling. Many people voted for Trump, not because of his racist rhetoric but in spite of it because they were frustrated with the struggle of living day to day. Trump promised them relief. He’s going to try to sell this as that relief delivered. Look how much I cut taxes, no one likes taxes, right? Look at how easy it will be to do your taxes on this postcard that I’m going to kiss. Have a look at the tax breaks Trump stands to receive personally and compare those to the break you’ll receive. He’s eating pizza and you’re eating his crusts. Trump is a deeply selfish human being. He’s only going to pretend to try to help you if he sees that it will help him. You missed that about him during his campaign, but don’t get married to that oversight.


Trump’s Response to Terrorism Resonates, which is the Problem

Every American is heartbroken at the announcement of the next mass killing. All of us. Then we wonder who was responsible. It shouldn’t be the first thought, the first thought should be empathy for the victims and their families, but that’s more abstract. Who did it is where we tend to first go. I recently confessed to a friend how guilty I feel for always immediately hoping it wasn’t a foreigner, who is Muslim, with ties to ISIS. He made me feel better by letting me know I wasn’t alone in that feeling. I’m still troubled by that response. It shouldn’t matter, but it does because we have a president who does the opposite. He hopes the killer is a Muslim foreigner, because it fits the narrative he campaigned on and the xenophobic agenda he’s trying to push. He “counts his hits and ignores his misses,” which is gamblers’ logic. We know because of how he responded to the Orlando shooter during the campaign and when comparing his responses to the Vegas shooter and the driver from the recent attack in New York. He’s not alone. His xenophobic campaigning got him elected. At least some of those voters think the same way. The statistics don’t lie. The majority of these like clockwork random mass murders are committed by white Americans but in these cases the same people who immediately jump to tightening our already strict immigration policies are the first to say there’s nothing we can do about our lax gun laws because that would restrict Americans’ freedoms. That is not a valid opinion, that’s flawed thinking. But what is actually a statistical outlier validates Trump’s agenda and presidency, it lets people who voted wrong for president feel what they desperately want to believe: that they voted right. This is how democracies continue down the wrong path.


NFL Boycott: I wouldn’t kneel for the Anthem but I will stand with a man who chose to

Football is the only sport I still follow through the regular season. There are too many games in the other sports, so I only pay attention to the playoffs. Sunday afternoons watching football in the fall is a great unwind for the weekend, and I think the Browns were going to have a great year. But I have to give that up because of the NFL’s treatment of Colin Kaepernick.

It’s really difficult to argue that Kaepernick didn’t deserve even a look from a team. For a short while, he was looking like a premiere quarterback in the league. He’s still in his twenties. Think of some of the former solid quarterbacks who have at least gotten looks as potential backups. Think of some of the baggage some of those players carried and still got hired. (Michael Vick, as an example.) So we know why he didn’t get the shot. He knelt during the National Anthem.

This either upset the NFL powers that be or the powers that be of the NFL determined this upset enough of their fan base that they decided the controversy of shunning him outweighed the controversy of allowing him to play. The fans offended by Kaepernick’s kneeling for the National Anthem have all entered his mind and determined that he is disrespecting the flag of the country and everyone who fought and died protecting the freedoms that flag represents. Because to recognize that he is actually exercising one of the freedoms that our country was founded on by choosing a form of protest that would, and undeniably did, draw attention to an issue in this country genuinely important to him, and one he was willing to risk his livelihood on, which it has ultimately cost him, would prove they’re being self-righteous, which those fans are motivated not to do.

We actually don’t know what motivates Colin Kaepernick to kneel during the National Anthem, not for sure, but everything points to him being a man of integrity with the legitimate issue of instances of blacks consistently receiving unfair treatment, including getting shot and killed, by some portion of the nation’s police force at statistically anomalous rates. Wherever we stand on that issue, no one can point to it as trite.

So this is about the NFL, either by capitulating to a portion of its fan base or acting on its own set of beliefs, telling an individual he must stand for the country’s anthem. Forced displays of loyalty to the country, besides being oxymoronic, are in direct opposition to everything America stands for, which ironically seems to me more disrespectful to the flag and to the people who died protecting the country. By supporting the NFL, we’re supporting forced displays of loyalty. So I feel I must withdraw all support from the NFL. For me, this won’t be too hard. I maybe watch ten games a season. For other people this will be a lot harder. I would suggest doing what you can. If everyone gives a little less time, attention, and money to the NFL this season, they’ll get the message that we stand with Colin Kaepernick’s right to kneel during the Anthem. They’ll get the message that we won’t continue to support a multi-billion dollar business while it flouts one of the principles this nation was founded on.


Why the Confederate Flag Should Go

People are sincerely asking about the Confederate flag and other symbols, statues of leaders from the South during slavery, being taken down. A lot of this can be explained by correcting the common misconception that there is such a thing as a private language. Language is by its very nature public. You can take a very enjoyable trip down the rabbit-hole on this by reading an essay by David Foster Wallace, “Authority and American Usage,” which is an essay about usage dictionaries that is gobs more fun to read than you just imagined when you read “an essay about usage dictionaries.”

Symbols, like the Confederate flag, work the same way. What the public thinks of at the sight of an image matters over private opinion. This will make more sense when we look at an even more extreme symbol, the swastika. The swastika was a symbol of peace the Nazis stole because they thought it looked cool. No one would get away with wearing a swastika on his or her shirt with a message underneath saying, If you find this shirt offensive, you don’t know your history (because it started as a symbol of peace.) But probably just about everyone has seen someone wearing a shirt with a Confederate flag on it, accusing us of not knowing our history if we’re offended. Whether or not people who wear those shirts truly feel they’re celebrating their heritage or not is irrelevant, because symbols, like language, are not private.

Then people are saying, Who’s next? If we take down the Robert E. Lee statues, what about George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, they were slave owners? Personally, I’m not a huge fan of either one of them. John Adams is my favorite founding father; he was an abolitionist, when being an abolitionist was rare and unpopular. Some of the things I’ve read about Washington and Jefferson leave me feeling they are over-glorified, but that is irrelevant because it’s private. The public thinking of Washington and Jefferson are of the ideals of America, that’s what they represent in the public view. That matters.

If this all sounds too arbitrary, I’ll invite you down a second rabbit-hole and answer the Who’s next question. As a childhood fan of Cleveland’s baseball team, I’ve had a challenging relationship with that team’s name and especially its mascot. I stopped wearing the hat, but it was only after I spent a few hours reading studies that I finally committed to Change the name, change the mascot. In brief, scientific study shows that the image of a caricature of a minority groups decreases a person’s sensitivity to all minority groups. How do they know? They have questions that reveal that sensitivity level and ask them to two groups, one that receives a primer of a Chief Wahoo image and one that receives a neutral image. They’ve studied this backwards and forwards. They’ve had to because the results get mostly ignored. And when Native Americans see the image, they score lower on levels of self-esteem. This is a group of people with much higher suicide rates. They even went so far as to select Native Americans who claim to not be bothered by the Chief Wahoo image being used for Cleveland’s baseball team and those people still scored lower on self-esteem after being primed by the image.

I’ve never gone down the rabbit-hole on the effect of seeing the Confederate flag. It would surprise me if the findings weren’t similar to the numerous studies corroborating this effect from seeing the Chief Wahoo image. I brought it up to illustrate the point that the argument that people finding something offensive is their problem because to the person wearing that shirt or flying that flag or putting that statue on a pedestal the image means something else is null and void. Symbols don’t work like that.


Why ‘I don’t usually get political but’ should be cut from political posts

There is a quote I like to apply broadly to life: “My vocabulary is perfect. Yours is either deficient or pretentious.”

It’s sarcastic, but makes the point that we tend to get fixated on ourselves and forget that other people have reached different conclusions about how to live, the words people choose to use being just one example. Do some people, sometimes, intentionally use 50 cent words to appear impressive? Sure. Are some people’s vocabularies so deficient they’re poor communicators? Also sure. Our current president’s limited vocabulary is a legitimate concern. He uses words like “great” and “terrible” and fails to articulate to the extent that people don’t know where he stands on important policy issues. We can change the quote to “I post about politics at the correct times. Other people either post too often about things that aren’t that important or they fail to post when they should.”

I’ve been told to my face that all I ever post about is how much I hate Trump. (Kind of jokingly but there’s a little truth in every joke.) First of all, that’s not accurate. That’s an impression someone’s formed whose thinking matches the point that quote illustrates. People don’t really know why I post what I post, so their guesses about my motivations say more about them than me. I’m probably like most people who lean left, I posted a handful of times my concerns about Trump and my support of Clinton leading up to the election. I didn’t want to make a contentious political season any more contentious than it already was. I expected Clinton to win and for the country to heal from the stress of an election season. Then Trump won and besides being deeply upset, I felt deeply guilty. I didn’t have a Clinton/Kaine sign in my yard to counter the Trump/Pence one across the street. I didn’t have a Clinton/Kaine bumper sticker on my car. So I decided I wanted to be more involved. I made an effort to get to the Women’s March in Washington D.C. I ended up at the Cleveland Women’s March instead. And I’ve been posting my thoughts and opinions more freely than I’m comfortable posting them.

I don’t expect to be hailed for pushing out of my comfort zone and posting more about politics, but I also get the sense that those of us posting about Trump are viewed as being bitter about the election or cynical or intentionally obnoxious. If a post is obnoxious to someone that doesn’t mean that the person who made the post was trying to be obnoxious. That’s essentially what “I don’t usually get political but” is trying to convey, that I’m not one of those obnoxious types who post about politics to be obnoxious, I have a genuine opinion I feel is important enough to share. It’s the equivalent of saying, “I don’t usually use 50 cent words but I’m about to use one but I’m not like the pretentious “other people” who use them.

If Trump has crossed a new line that motivates you to post about him, if it’s the banning transgender people from military service that’s done it, then welcome. Share that opinion. But why separate yourself from those of us who had that same reaction to Trump at an earlier point and made that same decision to put ourselves out there, just at a different time? Because there’s someone else who’s still going to judge you for putting your opinion out there, now. “I don’t usually get political but” isn’t going to spare you that judgment.

That judgment is deeply flawed anyway. When I approach any situation that involves other people, I’m always, subconsciously or consciously, well or poorly, evaluating how I choose to behave with how my behavior will affect other people. I don’t intentionally choose to act in ways that will annoy other people, but I also don’t allow other people to control my behavior to a degree that makes me uncomfortable. Well or poorly, I put that thinking behind every post I make. I try to assume other people do, as well. I’ll assume you did if you cut the “I don’t usually get political but” from the beginning of your post and just share your opinion.


What Makes Us Girls

Young girls mature into women under the male gaze. This probably feels like intense scrutiny, how much so and what influence this has on ego development will vary widely, but this isn’t an experience men have with anything close to the same degree or frequency. Lana del Rey writes from the perspective of someone affected by an especially piercing male gaze. This is my interpretation.

Watch me in the swimming pool, watch me in the classroom, bathroom, slipping on my red dress, putting on my make-up

The lyrics partly stand out because I know my niece is a fan. For Christmas, she got me a copy of Honeymoon. It felt a little odd to get a CD with a Parental Advisory Explicit Content warning on the cover from my fifteen-year-old niece, but I love that she’s a fan. Because Lana del Rey’s song lyrics I find troubling don’t offend me, they don’t make me like her less, and they don’t make me think she would be a bad influence on my niece. Her lyrics aren’t misogynist, they wouldn’t be if I wrote them; they reflect the misogyny still influencing us. They’re insights, whether through characters, her author persona, or her personal reflections, into how misogyny potentially affects young women.

The last track of Born to Die particularly makes me think of my niece listening, “This is What Makes Us Girls.”

Sweet sixteen and we had arrived, walking down the street as they whistle hi hi

They feel they’ve “arrived” at the age of sixteen and the confirmation of their arrival is being cat-called on the street. But the line I find haunting is: running from the cops in our bright bikini tops, screaming ‘get us while we’re hot, get us while we’re hot.’

Get us
While we’re hot

They’re running from cops but the subtext is hard to ignore. They’re perceiving of themselves as objects under men’s gazes, being wanted gotten, aware, already, that these same men think of them as having a brief shelf life of ‘being hot.” What makes them girls is this common experience. I hope my niece grows up with that influence feeling less pronounced, but I don’t see any drawback in her being exposed to honest writing from someone who seems to have grown into a woman with that influence pronounced. It can only broaden her life perspective and if she does identify it will help her feel less alone. My niece is probably never going to choose to share with Uncle Greg her experience of becoming a woman under the male gaze and it’s not a subject I can broach with her, but she knows I like Lana del Rey, so maybe she thinks her uncle Greg gets it. Maybe one day she’ll read this blog and know I’m on her side.


How we got here with health care

I was seventeen when I had my first brain surgery. I’m an extremely lucky unlucky person because my issue was easily fixed with “a machine,” really a shunt, that I just had to trust to keep working. I got to leave the hospital to live as a healthy person, but I have a vivid memory of my doctor telling me to get a job with a big company and be sure to keep it.

At the time, I had no intention of building a life around making sure I maintained health care coverage. I mostly forgot about the machine that kept me alive. Then I got a nagging headache and my health history came back to mind. I decided I better pick up health insurance. The preliminary information some company sent me had a list of ailments and mine was on there, so I called and asked what that meant. I would go into the high-risk pool. My health insurance would cost close to two-thousand dollars a month. That headache turned out to be nothing, but my life plan of not building a life around maintaining health insurance went mostly out the window. Since then I’ve worked for two big companies and stressed about maintaining the average hours necessary to stay on their health care plans, which wasn’t always easy and would have been impossible if I’d had a condition that caused me to miss work. I’m a lucky unlucky person.

I was a naïve kid when that doctor told me to get a job with a big company and keep it. What he was essentially saying was that I’d better be careful because I’m going to turn out more expensive than I’m worth. He was right. My various insurance companies have spent way more on me than they’ve gotten back in premiums paid by me and my employers. But I’ve helped. What people who haven’t been sick probably don’t know is how much of the burden of paying for health care falls on the sick. My brain machine broke on separate occasions six months apart but on separate calendar years. I paid my maximum annual deductible both times, at that time $5,000, for a total of $10,000, out of my pocket.

The easy scapegoat is insurance companies, certainly where I directed my ire for many years, but insurance companies are just forced to maximize profit, like every other company. The problem is capitalism. Fitting health care into a capitalist system is like putting your washing machine under the cupboards above the kitchen counter where the microwave goes. The pressure has been mounting for decades in the form of rising premiums and more cost put on the sick. There is something synergistically devastating about being sick and getting the mail and finding bill after bill that you don’t know how to pay. There are people who stop taking the care because they don’t want to face the bills. Some of them risk stroke by not taking prescribed blood thinners, others just let themselves get sicker and sicker and then die.

The Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” didn’t solve all these problems. It wasn’t perfect, but it improved the situation by getting health insurance to a record number of Americans. These are all people who, when they get sick, are now able to go to the doctor and not the ER, which costs more money for worse long-term care that has to be covered by all of us. The claim by the GOP is that the American Health Care Act will give more choice to Americans but if you look at the details its real aim is just to fall back on the old way of hiding the problems with our health care system by leaving them for the sick minority to worry about. One of the details that stuck out to me in the new plan is a projected sixty percent hike in what insured people who get sick will have to cover themselves. The “death spiral” Paul Ryan always says “Obamacare” was in, even though the CBO reported it was not in a “death spiral,” is expected to hit especially older Americans most likely to need care. People sixty-years-old would be forced to spend half of what they make on premiums, which means they’ll forego coverage. Our ERs will have to accommodate that. People will get worse care at ERs at a higher cost that will be covered by everyone else when they can’t pay all so that a tiny percentage of the richest Americans can receive tax breaks.

The hunting and gathering days often get romanticized. When a member of a tribe, family to many of the rest of the tribe, got sick and couldn’t hunt, the tribe shared. They expected that member would get better and be back to helping the tribe and when someone else got sick the help he or she gave would be returned. Some members of these tribes were surely wounded or sick past being able to return to help hunt. That’s when human empathy kicked in. The human instinct to sacrifice to give aid but there are other human instincts like greed and selfishness. Sometimes those instincts won out. Some of these injured or sick ancient peoples were almost surely dragged out of the village and left for dead. If the countries of the world are the different villages and communities of ancient days, America is lagging in accepting the challenge of committing to caring for everyone who is a member of our village. The passage of the Affordable Care Act was a step in the right direction. The GOP’s bill is going backwards, leaving more of the sick to die unnecessarily.