Archive for November, 2013

Obamacare Rolls Out

November 21, 2013

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After hearing all the horror stories about HealthCare.gov, I decided to use California’s exchange site, CoveredCa.com. I must say, it worked well, although it had an annoying habit of asking certain questions over and over again. (I’ve had this problem with websites before. Somebody needs to explain to web designers that it’s only necessary to ask a question once.) Within a matter of minutes I had applied for coverage. Not bad.

So how is it that the State of California, which has its own proud history of corruption and incompetence, was able to do a better job of the roll-out than the federal government was? The Obama Administration had over two years to prepare for this, and they did a lousy job. Perhaps this is a sign that Obama has never really cared about the health care crisis in this country. When he ran for president, he was pressured to come up with a health care proposal, so he opted for an idea that the Republicans came up with to try to derail calls for single payer. No doubt he decided it wasn’t worth the trouble to call for Medicare for All, and besides, that wasn’t what the insurance industry wanted.

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Amour

November 18, 2013

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Besides Amour, I have only seen two other films by Michael Haneke: The Seventh Continent and The White Ribbon. On the surface, Amour appears to be different from the others, but it actually deals with similar themes, in particular the question of how it is possible for ordinary people to do terrible things.

Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) are an elderly married couple living in Paris. One day, Anne suffers a stroke. Her doctors perform an operation on her carotid artery, but it is botched, leaving her paralyzed on her right side. For a time, she seems to be improving, but then her condition starts to rapidly deteriorate. Georges is forced to take care of her, which increasingly puts an emotional burden on him. His daughter, Eva (Isabelle Huppert), urges him to have Anne put in a hospital, but he refuses, because he promised Anne that he would never do that.

From the beginning, one can see the tragedy that this situation is moving towards. At times, Georges seems to sense this himself, but he seems incapable of acting any way other than he does. His devotion to Anne becomes a trap both for himself and for her.

This film has an emotional resonance for me. During the last ten years of his life, my father, who suffered from Type 2 diabetes, was almost continuously ill. This put a terrible strain on my mother and on other members of my family. At what point does letting go become the most humane thing to do?

The Guardian Advocates Saudi Exceptionalism

November 4, 2013

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The Guardian is my favorite newspaper. It often has articles that I find informative and thought-provoking. Every now and then, however, the paper makes an editorial decision that I find inexplicable. On Saturday, November 2, they ran an article by a Saudi Arabian man named Ahmed Abdel-Raheem titled Word to the west: many Saudi women oppose lifting the driving ban. In it he writes:

    If you read any western coverage of the recent protest of Saudi Arabia’s female driving ban, you probably thought, “finally, the kingdom is waking up”. But the problem is, that’s not what many Saudis think, including Saudi women.

Raheem goes on to claim that he conducted an informal survey of female college students in Saudi Arabia. He says:

    To my surprise, 134 (out of 170) respondents said female driving is not a necessity and that it opens the door for sexual harassment and encourages women to not wear the niqab under the pretext that they cannot see the road when driving. Some also fear that it gives husbands a chance to betray and agree with the assertion that it creates sedition in society.

That’s an interesting word there: sedition. Not long ago Saudi Arabia helped crush an uprising in neighboring Bahrain. I’d be curious to learn about the social backgrounds of these women, particularly if any of them come from families connected with the government. Raheem quotes one respondent as saying:

    Honestly, I don’t like women to drive. This will create sedition … I agree that there are already different kinds of sedition we see every day, but the right place for a woman is her house; this will really save her from what is happening in the outside world.

Sedition seems to be a big concern among some people. Raheem then writes:

    This stresses that the continuous attempts from the west to impose its values elsewhere are pointless. Western feminism is not only unlikely to take hold in countries like Saudi Arabia, it is not what many women in the kingdom want. Consider what Amany Abdulfadl, member of the Egyptian Centre for Monitoring Women’s Priorities, said in a 2007 piece in Al-Ahram Weekly: the west’s ”definition of equality cannot work in our Arab world because neither will our women find jungles to cut wood in, nor our men ever have breasts to feed babies.’

You see, the best way to make a point is with a non-sequitur.

    People in Saudi Arabia have their own moral views and needs. What works in other societies may not fit in Saudi (sic), and the reverse. In short, instead of launching campaigns to change the driving laws in the kingdom, the west should first ask Saudi women if they really want this or not, and western countries should accept the result, even if it’s not to their liking.

The next day – Sunday, November 3 – The Guardian ran an aricle titled Saudi Arabia ‘arrests Kuwaiti woman for driving diabetic father to hospital’. It tells us:

    The English-language Kuwait Times said that the woman had been driving in an area just over the border, with her father in the passenger seat, when she was stopped by police. The woman, who said that her diabetic father could not drive and needed to be taken to hospital for treatment, was being held in custody pending an investigation, the paper said, citing police.

Yet another reason why women shouldn’t be allowed to drive is that they might be tempted to drive their diabetic fathers to the emergency room instead of letting them die. This might work in other countries, but it might not fit in Saudi Arabia. (And, who knows, it could lead to sedition.)

According to his bio, Raheem currently lives in Poland, where the women are allowed to drive, and the men do not have breasts. (I swear, this is true.)