#amreading: Talk of the Town, The New Yorker, December 19 & 26, 2016

. . .  congressional Republicans are feeling bullish about finally achieving a goal that they’ve sought for years: getting rid of federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides health services like cancer screening and contraception, as well as abortion. If a Trump Administration succeeds in dismantling the Affordable Care Act, or simply in eliminating the mandate that health plans include contraception coverage, many more women will lose access to health care and, especially, to more expensive, but also more effective, long-acting contraceptive methods, such as the I.U.D.


Under Jeff Sessions (new Attorney General), the Justice Department is unlikely to provide robust protection for abortion clinics.


For Labor Secretary, Trump has in mind Andrew Puzder, the C.E.O. of the company that runs Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s. An opponent of raising the minimum wage and of expanding overtime pay, Puzder, referring to the company’s ads, told the magazine Entrepreneur, “I like beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis. I think it’s very American.”

Trump won the Presidency despite a well-documented penchant for the vulgar belittlement of women, and with the help of a fan base energized by chants of “Lock Her Up.”

#amreading: Ryan Lizza’s New Yorker Article on Kellyanne Conway, “Taming Trump” (17 October 2016)

Conway went to Trinity Washington University, a Catholic college in Washington, DC, and received a law degree from George Washington University. She pointed out that, while Hillary Clinton failed the D.C. bar exam in 1973, before passing in Arkansas, Conway was allowed into the D.C. bar after passing the exams in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Conway said she thought about that during the first debate: “Boy, she really can cram a lot of information into her head for one performance. How the heck did she fail the D.C. bar?”

#thatlastquestion #snark

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: Vanity Fair, the Hive

University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato is not sure whether this (Sean Spicer vs. the Press) is a long-term strategy or a tactic designed to divert attention from self-generated controversies.

He’s proven the ‘value of devil figures’, says Sabato. “Against all odds, he catapulted into the Presidency by skilfully using a series of devils (Obama, Clinton, Mexicans, Muslims, China). To keep his 46% together, he must continue to target a great big devil figure. The news media does nicely.”

(James Warren, Chief Media Writer, Poynter.org, writing for the Warren Report in Vanity Fair’s Hive, 23 January 2017)

Quote of the Day: Graydon Carter, Editor’s Letter, Vanity Fair, December 2015

The political arena has always held its attractions for business leaders who believe that wisdom picked up at the coal face of American industry can be applied to civics. On the surface, this seems like a natural transition. But it isn’t. Most people who succeed at business do so with a relentless, single-minded ego thrust that crushes the opposition and tosses aside the weaklings who stand in the way. Wait, that does sound like what it takes to win at national politics.

What’s interesting is . . .  the way voters keep seizing on the idea that someone from the business world (Lee Iacocca? Ross Perot?) is the ideal candidate to lead us into the Promised Land when the only real business titan we’ve ever had as president was Herbert Hoover. And look how that worked out.

A Surgeon’s Life

Fascinating review by Joshua Rothman in The New Yorker of 18 May 2015 (Self is sooo behind in her reading!) of a memoir by London neurosurgeon Henry Marsh. It’s an unflinching look by Marsh at his medical career and the failures that haunt him (“It’s not the successes I remember, but the failures.”) Incredibly, so much of his success or failure depends on, not training, not intelligence, not skill, but luck.

Rothman compares a neurosurgeon’s life to a soldier’s. Both are “deeply shaped by” something called “moral luck.” To perform under the burden of this awareness is impossible unless Marsh can successfully control “his own emotions. If he can’t control how a surgery turns out, he will control how he feels. He tries not to let his feelings add to his patients’ fear and unhappiness; at the same time, he tries never to lie. He yearns for feelings that are strong but realistic, fully voiced but even-keeled.”

In writing his book, “Marsh has seemingly violated his code; he expresses many of the feelings that he’s worked very hard to keep hidden.”

Fascinating.

Marsh’s book is called Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death, and Brain Surgery.

Subsequent research on Goodreads shows that it’s garnered a number of nominations and one prize: the J. R. Ackerley Prize for Autobiography.

Stay tuned.

The Syrian Refugee

The New Yorker, 26 October 2015:

Syria, 2014: Assad wins re-election with eighty-eight percent of the vote. His victory, he declared, was “a bullet directed toward the chests of the terrorists.”

The going price to smuggle a refugee out of Turkey: $5,000.

In late May 2015, a smuggler named Jamil announces on WhatsApp that a boat is available to take 154 refugees to Italy (Self multiplies $5,000 by 154 and comes up with $770,000. And that’s just one boatload)

The boat is “a white trawler, thirty-eight feet long, with a knee-high railing around the bow.”

The refugees are shocked. One, a pregnant woman named Reem, says “It was a very small boat for a trip to Italy.”

The overloaded boat can’t manage the trip and heads back to Turkey, where the smugglers abandon ship before the Turkish police get there. The refugees return to Mersin, pool their money and “rent a cheap apartment . . .  Once again they were stuck, and the boredom was excruciating.”

The smuggler Jamil re-surfaces and dangles another trip but refuses to return anyone’s money.

A Syrian refugee named Ghaith makes another attempt. This time the smugglers use hand pumps “to inflate a twenty-five-foot black raft” to which an outboard motor is attached. A smuggler asked “if anyone knew how to steer.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Kelly Stout in “Shouts and Murmurs,” The New Yorker, 22 February 2016

Self knows it is really lame that she’s just now getting to her New Yorkers of February 2016. Nearly a year ago. But she’s so anal about it. She refuses to throw away a single issue she hasn’t read. That’s a very big pile she’s staring at, right now.

On to “Shouts & Murmurs.” It doesn’t always work. Sometimes it feels like whoever’s doing it is trying too hard to be satirical. Because that is the whole point of “Shouts & Murmurs”– to be satirical. Some people have satire in their blood, and some people can’t be satirical to save their lives. Some people can point to a stick of butter and make the gesture itself seem satirical. Others can say Moo Moo and ape a cow and pretend to be giving birth to a stick of butter and everyone would just look at them and say, Wut?

But, as usual, self digresses.

Here’s one that works: Kelly Stout conjures a judge giving jury instructions.

Jurors, I remind you that part of your duty today is to avoid discussing the details of this case with anyone outside this jury. Do not, for example, Gchat with your best friend from college, because she lives in Philly and doesn’t know any of the restaurants around here, and always says dumb, unhelpful stuff like, “Falafel isn’t as healthy as you think.”

Information from the news or from social media must not influence your finding in this case. For example, do not use Instagram to try to figure out whether Rob’s friend Warren got a Skrillex haircut or if it just looks like that because of the light. Also, Warren may not even be able to come, because his stepmom is in town.

You are allowed to make reasonable inferences, as long as they are based on the evidence. It is OK to speculate that Rob’s roommate may get on your case for being pro-Hillary and have literally zero sense of humor about it when you call him a Bernie Bro, because that is what happened when you guys met up for dim sum.

(How nostalgic self gets when she reads of pre-election chatter like the above!)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The New York Times Magazine, 1 January 2017

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Comfort the mind with this wonderful excerpt from Jonathan Mahler’s “Search Party,” in the 1 January 2017 New York Times Magazine.

Our most famous self-investigator is, of course, our incoming president, Donald J. Trump; perhaps no one is more committed to embracing and trumpeting unproven claims from the internet. Six years ago, as he flirted with the idea of running for president, he became especially preoccupied with a theory being advanced by a right-wing extremist named Joseph Farah. A self’described ex-Communist, Farah presided over a nonprofit organization, the Western Center for Journalism, which was dedicated to promoting “philosophical diversity” in the news media, and now runs a popular website, WorldNetDaily, which bills itself as “America’s Independent News Network.” The Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that monitors U.S. hate groups, has a different point of view, calling Farah “the internet king of the antigovernment ‘Patriot’ movement.

Farah had floated plenty of specious arguments in the past, among them the claim that gay men orchestrated the Holocaust, and that Muslims have a 20-point plan for conquering the United States by 2020. But the Farah campaign that captured Trump’s imagination held that America’s first black president, Barack Obama, might have been born outside the United States.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

2nd Quote of the Day: Will Schwalbe in WSJ, 25 November 2016

We overschedule our days and complain constantly about being too busy. We shop endlessly for stuff we don’t need and then feel oppressed by the clutter that surrounds us. We rarely sleep well or enough. We compare our bodies to the artificial ones we see on television. We watch cooking shows and then eat fast food. We worry ourselves sick and join gyms we don’t visit. We keep up with hundreds of acquaintances but rarely see our best friends.

— Will Schwalbe’s Books for Living is just out from Knopf.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Spin, Spin, Spin

Kellyanne Conway, speaking to reporters following the first Presidential debate, on 26 September 2016:

“I love the fact that he restrained himself tonight and he was a gentleman toward her. He definitely could’ve gone where a lot of America was thinking he should or could go, which is to talk about her husband and women, and he did not. He restrained himself, and you know what? Restraint is a virtue, and it is certainly a Presidential virtue, and I think many voters today, particularly women, probably saw that and respected that a great deal.” — from the article “Taming Trump,” by Ryan Lizza

Woman, what planet are you on?

Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin, Kellyanne Conway: the new triumvirate of ridiculous

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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