Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Public Policy’ Category

Last night, amid a flurry of texts and Tweets, Bob and I were glued to the Democratic Debate. The Bride had asked us if we wanted to join their “watch party,” but I was determined to stay home and take notes. I knew adding two delightful children to that mix would completely throw me off my game. I was disappointed to see social media quickly turn snarky on Uncle Joe for his “record player” comment, and am still wondering what Bernie said to him as Castro pounded Biden again and again about “opting-in.”

While Castro was questioning his elder statesman’s memory, Bob was reminding me about the concept of “opting-out.” In case you forgot, behavioral economist Richard Thaler wrote a book about this very idea, about how to get people to do what’s right and is in their best interest! His groundbreaking book “Nudge” describes the ideas for which he won the Nobel Prize. Though not an entirely new concept, using psychology to mold public policy and marketing is new.

Prof Thaler’s central insight is that we are not the rational beings beloved of more traditional economic theory.

Given two options, we are likely to pick the wrong one even if that means making ourselves less well off.

Lack of thinking time, habit and poor decision making mean that even when presented with a factual analysis (for example on healthy eating) we are still likely to pick burger and chips.  https://www.economist.com/free-exchange/2017/10/09/the-nobel-in-economics-rewards-a-pioneer-of-nudges

Why? Because it’s our habit, it’s easy, and it tastes good. Climate change and our clogged arteries just don’t factor into a good burger! When Corey was asked if he would have all Americans adopt his Vegan diet, he said “NO” in two languages!

But if we apply Nudge theory to health care the answer is simple. Forget private vs medicare for all vs Amy Klobuchar who READ the bill; according to Thaler and Bob we enroll everybody in ONE healthcare plan! Give it a name and give people the option of “opting-out”…. and because it’s such a pain in the neck for most of us to change, the majority will stay on that plan.

My psychologist brother Dr Jim has said time and again, “There’s always that 10%!” Sure maybe 10-20% may opt-out for something better like a boutique, fancy schmantzy doctor plan, mostly people who are up around the 1-5% stratosphere. Some may just want none of this healthcare nonsense, they want to live like a hermit and prepare for the end of days. Doomsday preppers aside, this is what universal healthcare looks like in most of the G7-or even 8 countries.

My Friday morning quarterback, Dr Bob, has just told me that last night was “…Pure Posturing.” Granted his experience as an ER doctor and Director of his group, who also opened an Urgent Care and ran his own billing company for years gives him a unique “from the trenches” perspective, but when he talks the business of medicine I mostly listen! Because it’s still a “For Profit” business model – private insurers make 20% on every dollar paid for healthcare in this country, while Medicare makes 1%!!!! PLUS:

Bob insists that we are already paying for 80% of our healthcare in one form or another!

We already pay it in premiums (630Billion), out-of-pocket expenses (365B), and in state and Federal taxes (1.695Trillion) for Medicare, Medicaid, and the Military.

It’s only that 20% that businesses and unions pay that needs to be addressed, and think about it –  one political party wants to phase that into Medicare over 4 years, buy-in or buy-out or maybe even call it something else…. and the other party just wants to return to the past and forget about affordable healthcare. Think about what you would want.

Now who is the nudnik or the PAB in the room? Hint – he wasn’t on that stage last night.

This is us voting for the guy who didn’t win Nashville’s mayoral contest last night. Let’s nudge ourselves into picking a winner this time Dems!

146C4CEB-2AB7-46A2-97F8-33B2F11B837C

 

 

Read Full Post »

In the depths of a crisis, have you ever looked around and asked yourself how in the world you got there? How did Great Grandma Ada, a Jewish girl from Brooklyn, end up in Nashville for instance. I am less likely to examine the minutiae of my circumstances, maybe because I was tossed about from one home to another as a child. I had to learn to ride the waves of two families. Plus, I’m not one to live in the past; but I do love to see Shakespeare performed outside, amidst the sounds of birds and trains.

This past weekend our whole family bumped into “The Tempest” outside our restaurant window! We loved it so much, we came back the next day with lawn chairs. A deposed Duke Prospero, has been tossed onto an island in a storm with only his young daughter, Miranda, some sprites of course, and a strange, savage man named Caliban. So what does he do? He whips up an even bigger storm with his magic to payback his conniving brother and his court who are now shipwrecked alongside him.

Shenanigans begin!

When Bob and I first married and moved to the Berkshires, we would regularly attend Shakespeare at the Mount in Lenox. Edith Wharton’s “cottage” garden was the setting for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” our introduction to the Bard en plein air. Of course we became enamored of this comedy of errors, where sprites and fairies rule the roost and make mockery of love and lust. Puck is a most mischievous servant and of course magic plays a central role in this play as well.

Leaping ahead from the 17th Century to today, I wonder who will be the ultimate playwright of our turbulent times? We may not have dukes and kings and queens but we do have a president who would be king. He loves opulence and the fame reality TV brings, he yearns for power and adoring crowds of red-hatted people. Kim Kardashian-West seems to be the only person who has played him recently, successfully lobbying Mr T to enact the first criminal justice reform bill in recent history.

Now Kim, a perfect medieval sprite, is studying Law – and what does Shakespeare say about lawyers? And not the one about killing all of them:

I have neither the scholar’s melancholy, which is emulation; nor the musician’s, which is fantastical; nor the courtier’s, which is proud; not the soldier’s which is ambitious; nor the lawyer’s, which is politic; nor the lady’s, which is nice; nor the lover’s, which is all these: but it is a melancholy of mine own, compounded of many simples, extracted from many objects, and indeed the sundry contemplation of my travels, which, by often rumination, wraps me in a most humorous sadness.

Yes, lawyers can be political. Think about Gloria Allred’s daughter, the feminist lawyer, Lisa Bloom. She’s found herself in a bit of a Tempest while arguing FOR Harvey Weinstein in a memo she suggested they sully an actress’ reputation. Paint Rose McGowan to be unhinged, a “harpy” in Shakespearian terms. I’m heading over to Parnassus soon to get the new book, “She Said” by Jody Kantor and Megan Twohey. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/08/books/review/she-said-jodi-kantor-megan-twohey.html

Maybe this is how we can frame our troubled times. Pulitzer Prize winning journalists piece together the culture of abuse and obfuscation that dominates some of our most cherished institutions. And instead of a play, we will make a film. How did we end up caging children, separating families, and drawing Alabama into Hurricane Dorian with a Sharpie? How have we managed to separate ourselves from the natural world and our allies on this forlorn island?

Magically, we landed on a lawn in a park in the city to help ease our “humorous sadness.”

EA3935D1-51AD-437C-937C-DB9E421E16F1

Read Full Post »

I married a man, a doctor no less, who HATES golf. I’ve tried sweet talking him out, into the open air of a country club, to hit a “birdie” or a “bogey” or anything, just to give it a try, but nope, not happening, never, ever. He would always say he sees no reason to follow a tiny ball around a vast, grass wasteland, even if driving a golf cart might be fun.

On the other hand, we now have a President who cancelled a trip to Poland, then ventured out to his branded and manicured golf course – all while Hurricane Dorian raged – to “chip” away at his “links.” On the last day of his third August in the White House, this was Mr T’s 226th day of GOLF!

What happens when an ace journalist, Susan Glasser, collects the mega data of 3 years of AUGUST Tweets from our Golfer-in-Chief? You get a compelling picture of the escalating and devolving speech process (and therefore thought process) of a presidency that resembles a hurricane, even without an enhanced Sharpie diagram!

Mr T has gone from a Category 1 to a 5 faster than a toddler can disintegrate into tears because… well, pick a reason.

Trump not only makes us believe it now but, as we approach the three-year mark of his upset victory, in 2016, his project has succeeded in such a confounding way that it seems as though Americans will now believe anything—and nothing at all. Today there are few things too extreme not to have plausibly come out of the mouth, or the Twitter feed, of the forty-fifth President. In August, Trump called himself the “Chosen One” for his confrontation with China, grinned and flashed a thumbs-up during a photo op with the family of mass-shooting victims, accused Jews who voted for Democrats of “great disloyalty,” and called the chairman of the Federal Reserve an “enemy” of the United States. He cheered the robbery of a Democratic congressman’s home and labelled various critics “nasty and wrong,” “pathetic,” “highly unstable,” “wacko,” “psycho,” and “lunatic,” among other insults. The daily stream of invective was dizzying to keep track of, and so voluminous as to almost insure that no one could, in fact, do so.

https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-trumps-washington/trumps-wacky-angry-and-extreme-august-twitter

And is that the point, if he has a point? To create so much havoc, to take funds away from building schools for military personnel in order to build his border wall, to propose the next G7 happen at his Doral property? To reframe the American Dream in a thought bubble of nonsense? His helicopter summits elicit hyperbole rather than any real “Breaking News.” The number of times he has insulted a perceived adversary has multiplied threefold in the past three Augusts!

No wait, the number of direct insults from Mr T’s Twitter fingers went from 14 his first August to 52 last month! His list of humiliating monikers reads like a middle school diary: “Lunatic; “Crazy;” “Psycho;” “Pathetic;” and “Sleepy.”

The irony of listening to Democrats speak out about Climate Change while Trump, our Climate-Denier-in-Chief, played golf (as Dorian destroyed the Bahamas) was not lost on me. And the one thing the GOP picked out of CNN’s excellent environmental summit was that Bernie Sanders linked population control to Global Warming and therefore he wants less brown babies?!!

This is a real existential crisis, it is not a joke and it is NOT about straws, or plastic bags, or birth control. Our leadership must first accept science and enlist the rest of the world in its multifaceted solution if we actually want to save our planet, let alone our species.

We need a “Mulligan” I’m afraid. Or we could take a cake decorating class with our American Girl Doll?

IMG_6291

Read Full Post »

This was not your burn-your-bra-along-with-your-draft-card kind of weekend, then head for Canada. No.

This was the biggest single thing to hit Nashville since the advent of Country Music Awards. The NFL Draft on Broadway not only sacrificed some of our cherry trees, it drew overall 600,000 football fans across three days to the Honky Tonks, who spent well over $100M on merch, booze and housing. That’s a lot of cowboy boots!

And to round off the festivities, the Rock and Roll Marathon saw 30,000 runners sprinting up Rosa Parks Blvd, followed by Parrot Heads that evening at the Bridgestone Arena. It was a perfect storm sort of Spring awakening for this city and I was glad the Bride only worked the first night; with rain dampening the Draft, her ER shift went smoothly – one scooter injury here, one drinking injury there…

Then she and her family did what most natives and transplants alike did, they flew the coop. It was the first camping experience for the Grands and they loved it, scary stories and all.  A great way to dodge the Draft!

It wasn’t quite that simple for us because I got a severe case of the stomach flu. My daughter tells me it’s going around, which doesn’t help much. It knocked me out for 3 full days and nights, just when we were going to tackle all the boxes we’d shoved into all our closets so we could hold a Seder like Alice’s Restaurant; you know Arlo’s song, where you could get anything you want, except bread of course, there were no baguettes to be found, only matzoh.

(Here I could digress about how we used to attend Torah study in the Berkshires with Arlo Guthrie, but I won’t 🙂

My brother, Dr Jim, tells me that the Draft used to be a bunch of old, white guys sitting behind a big white curtain that would open to reveal all the new college picks in about an hour in each NFL city. Open and shut. That was back in the roaring 80s, when my brother Mike was President and General Manager of the MN Vikings. Today, from what I could gather between bouts of nausea, the Draft looks like Hasty Pudding skits put on by grown men. Guys dressed like Cardinals, or gunslingers, parading through the streets re-enacting some arcane tribal ritual. I didn’t get it.

But the team owners still charged fans 20 bucks back home, just to sit in their stadiums and watch the Nashville Draft on a jumbotron. So, you could dress up like a Patriot and stay in Foxboro, MA. Maybe I do get it.

As Passover was ending, another mass shooting was happening at a Chabad in Southern California. A research analyst at the Southern Poverty Law Center has this to say:

“ ‘We’ve started referring to them as the apocalyptic community, these online groupings that are marked by a sense of urgency’ about the perceived threat to white dominance.”

Lori Gilbert Kaye is the name of the woman who was shot protecting her rabbi from a nineteen year old with a gun. The rabbi insists it was a miracle that the terrorist’s gun jammed, preventing more from being slaughtered.  A border patrol agent who had recently discovered he wasn’t really Italian (a family joke) gave chase. The young killer surrendered to the police, wonder of wonder.

We can only imagine what would have happened to him if he was Black.

We can talk as much as we want about apocalyptic hate groups being radicalized online, but you cannot ignore the facts – New Zealand just banned assault rifles after 50 people were murdered in a mosque.

It’s time we Americans stopped dodging the truth. Stopped re-enacting Gunsmoke while our sons and daughters are actually martyred in places of worship, schools, theaters and malls. Our landscape has become a battlefield and our elected officials have no moral courage.

This was our Seder table, where we opened our door for Elijah.

IMG_5300

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

This week Ms Berdelle was rounding up the neighborhood so we could all tie ourselves to the cherry trees on the Cumberland River bank. But that’s another story

Cherry trees are exploding all over Nashville. There is new growth on every block; tulips coming while daffodils are going, backed by an orchestra of bird song. I can’t help but smile as I walk Ms Bean and wonder if passers-by are also euphoric over Spring, or are they just self/or/doctor/medicated? Passover and Easter are right around the corner and we are in the midst of starting over in our new home, the #PartyFarmhouse.

Like Chip and Joanna of HGTV fame, I’ve christened our urban oasis with its very own name – the Party Farmhouse is a simple, white shingle-style abode with black trim – built in the 1930s, the small side garden holds a gas fire pit and is adorned with party lights! Emptying the Pod yesterday was like Christmas morning; the Flapper’s Buddha, the French cupboard, old paintings and my ancient desk. In the midst of it all, I’d almost forgotten my hair stylist’s appointment.

There is nothing like a new do to make you feel alive and reborn, so of course I made a point of showing up because I love Chase! We always have the best conversations, and yesterday he told me that his dearly departed grandmother shared my name and my original hair color! We talked about one of his relatives who doesn’t believe in vaccinations, and I told him how I was lined up at Sacred Heart School to road test one of the very first polio vaccines. In my day, we still saw children who had been afflicted with polio in wheelchairs with wasted limbs.

Which is why I cannot abide by parents who are “anti-vaxxers.” I told Chase about the research I did on language acquisition in college at the Hartford School for the Deaf. Most of those beautiful pre-schoolers had been born to mothers who had contracted German measles during their pregnancy, also known as Rubella. There was no choice for these parents, not in the 1970s. The MMR vaccine today prevents Rubella and regular measles, aka Rubeola. Now thanks to certain communities in the US and all over Europe as well, measles is making a comeback.

“Italy and France have extended existing requirements (for school admission) with fines and restricted school attendance. And Germany is currently discussing making measles vaccine mandatory.

In New York’s Rockland County, unvaccinated children have been banned from public places for 30 days. But it is difficult to see how this could be effectively enforced and there is little evidence that mandatory vaccination is always the best approach.”   https://www.bbc.com/news/health-47800438

Whether you believe basically sentencing an unvaccinated child to house arrest for a month is constitutional, or not, this is a fine line for public health officials to cross. Most outbreaks have occurred in ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities thereby fueling anti-Semitic sentiments. But combined with Christian-Right homeschoolers, many children can no longer rely on herd immunity. A community needs a rate of 95% compliance in order to benefit from herd immunity.

My biological Father was a pharmacist who believed you could contract all these communicable diseases in a hospital, when in fact the measles virus floats around in the air droplets of an infected person and on surrounding surfaces for hours. It’s highly contagious and not worth risking a child’s life over unsubstantiated conspiracy theories, no matter what religion one subscribes to.

Well, it’s back to unpacking boxes for me. Ms Berdelle’s plan almost worked, since the cherry trees were not chopped down and now have another chance at life! Let’s hope most of the trees the city of Nashville transplanted to accommodate the NFL draft (and our massive voter petition) continue to bloom! We pick up the Grands today after school and just might be installing a fairy house!

IMG_5227

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

How to properly apologize should be an AP course in high school. Especially for boys, who seem to barrel through life taking no prisoners, like they are entitled to step on a few toes along the way. Girls and women apologize too much and too easily; what are we so sorry about anyway? “Excuse this mess…Sorry for the inconvenience…Please accept my…” You might think we were born with a need to make excuses for taking up space!

Certainly my Catholic education prepared me for a lifetime network worth of apologies. I’m not quite sure how they did it, but those nuns had us feeling guilty for any minor indiscretion, and made us write, “I’m sorry and I will never do X again” a thousand times on a blackboard. In proper cursive mind you. No wonder we all vied for the privilege of erasing the blackboard after school.

Bob and I watched the Cohen hearing with eyes wide open: I thought it was an act of redemption, while Bob focused on the broken-record belittling by the GOP. The most absurd moment came when Rep Mark Meadows (R-NC) had a Black woman standing in a white cape behind him. Rep Rashida Tlaib lashed out at this pathetic attempt to prove our Commander in Comedy is NOT racist because he hired her. Tlaib scolded:

Just because someone has a person of color, a black person working for them does not mean they aren’t racist,” Tlaid said. “And it is insensitive, and some would even say that the fact that someone would actually use a prop, a black woman, in this chamber, in this committee”—here she took a heavy sigh—”is alone racist in itself.”

Well did he take umbrage? Of course, he didn’t like this woman, the daughter of Palestinian immigrants, suggesting that he pulled a racist stunt. HOW DARE SHE! So she immediately apologized in a polite, that wasn’t my intent way, “To my colleague, Mr. Meadows, that was not my intention, and I do apologize if that’s what it sounded like. But I said ‘someone’ in general.” This is called a hedging your bets apology.

OK so I understand it takes a lot of guts for a freshman/woman legislator to call that old white guy to task in a public hearing, and it certainly takes a good amount of grace to apologize and later hug it out. But this morning the Twitterverse would like HIM to apologize to HER. We all know that will never happen, but what if it did?

May I present exhibit A on how to apologize… the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau!

In 2017 he delivered a speech on the floor of the House of Commons apologizing for the dehumanizing treatment of LGBTQ service members and other government employees throughout the second half of the 20th century. It wasn’t the common, half-baked apology, “If I managed to offend your poor little ego I regret it, it was not my intention…” Which is basically a “I’m really the good guy here and you need to grow a pair” kind of non-apology apology.

It was a good and proper apology, one that my old nuns would approve of, if they ever accepted the human race as sexual. It was eloquent and moving, hitting all the right notes, and I happened to read it again on a quilt last weekend. You can read the text here: https://nationalpost.com/news/canada/full-english-text-of-prime-ministers-apology-to-members-of-lgbtq-community

IMG_5027

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Growing up, I was always told it’s unbecoming “for a girl” to show anger. In fact, one of my earliest memories was getting angry at my foster parents for one thing or another, running into my bedroom, slamming the door and turning the crucifix around on the wall above my bed. After all, I didn’t want Jesus to see me like that!

But later, as a young feminist, I learned to appreciate and harness my anger. Why should I have to come home earlier than my brothers? Facing any injustice, I would tap into that feeling, because I knew that it was like the wind before a storm. And after a storm, the air would be pure and clean.

Well I hate to admit it, but I’m getting angry again, just like everybody else who’s been paying attention. And it’s not only at cable news and social media or our Liar-in-Chief. This past week Bob and I attended 2 “holiday” ie Christmas parties… and  our local Planned Parenthood Center has stopped providing abortions:

In a statement, Aimee Lewis, the Vice President of External Affairs and Chief Development Officer for Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi said: “We are 100% committed to meeting our patients’ family planning needs in Nashville, including abortion services. We believe that the ability to control fertility is fundamental to human health and well-being. We believe that your body is your own, and when it isn’t, you can’t be free, and you won’t be equal.”

They believe that statement, and I believe it to my core, except the clinic’s reasoning has been obscure – they are no longer accepting appointments for abortions since they are doing some quality control “…and will return with those services soon.”

Meanwhile the lovely state of TN has a 48 hour waiting period requiring 2 trips to a clinic. This is a costly and overtly Republican ploy to shame and humiliate women seeking such services. Nashville women will have to travel to Memphis or Knoxville twice.

And last night driving home from the Grands, I heard an ad on the radio about a convenient website for men seeking Erectile Dysfunction drugs – they could avoid the embarrassment of talking to a doctor by simply clicking on this wonderful website!!! A whole month of little blue pills will be delivered discreetly in the mail! How wonderful for men. I was almost surprised it wasn’t an App already.

So I say to myself, yes there will be more women in Congress next month. Michelle Obama wrote a wonderful book. The Love Bug told me she’s glad she’s a girl cause she won’t have to shave her face! Every night I list all the things I’m grateful for because I know that anger can consume you if you’re not careful.

The Atlantic published a compelling essay on the universal rage we Americans have been feeling for far too long. If the holidays seem a little too jovial about now, this might be required reading, “The Real Roots of American Rage” by Charles Duhigg:

Cable news, Twitter, politicians who now do more campaigning than governing—their every incentive is to keep us angry. But we own some of the guilt, too.

I’m not proud to admit that I know what it feels like to relish seeing an opponent get his comeuppance. I profess to hate what cable news is doing to the national conversation, but I still tune in. I decry the nasty discourse on Twitter, then check back the next hour to refresh my outrage. I deplore the nation’s rank partisanship, but I rarely split my ballot.

My anger has become a burden. Perhaps yours has too. And yet we can’t turn away. The anger impulse is too deeply encoded, the thrill too genuine. So where do we go from here? https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/01/charles-duhigg-american-anger/576424/

When they go low, you’ve got to fight as if your life depends on it. There is a storm brewing – suppressing our fundamental rights to vote, to govern our own bodies, to not get gunned down in a school or a mall. Are you angry enough yet?

This was a Victorian Christmas with our neighbors. I thought my 80s yellow leather jacket was a propos?!

IMG_4345

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: