Iconography and rage

The NY Times and other news outlets have published stories about protests surrounding a painting at the Whitney Biennial.  In this case the outrage is about the fact that a white woman, Dana Schutz, produced a painting of Emmett Till in his coffin based on photographs published at the time in Jet magazine.  I don’t understand the rage, since in the civil rights era many of the contemporary images were made by white photographers or white editorial cartoonists.  Still rage is a popular emotion.  We see rage when a white actor plays an Asian, though people ignore the fact that acting is make-believe and very few actors are what they play.  The original Captain Kirk in Star Trek was played by a Canadian.  Many foreign actors now do a fine job playing Americans.

To me the real issue is that the painting is simply ineffective.  If you don’t know original photographs, and I certainly didn’t, the image isn’t recognizable.  Painting is a form of communication, though when it comes to more non-representational work, what it communicates may be hard to put into words.  Contemporary art should communicate without the need of a dictionary or a road map.  Schutz’s point isn’t at all clear.   If you are going to send a message you must use the correct tools and techniques.  Modern art isn’t very good at this.  Even when you have a very powerful image, as you do with Picasso’s ‘Guernica’, that power doesn’t extend to an ability to send an anti-war message.  If you don’t know what ‘Guernica’ is about, you won’t get the point.   We do have people creating powerful images about society and politics today, most of them are cartoonists, who combine simple imagery with an ability to communicate precise ideas.  Schutz doesn’t do this.

Is the killing of Emmett Till still relevant in our society?  The specific crime that was committed has just about disappeared.  The world in which a black man could be killed for entertainment is gone.   Today race relations are complicated.  Freddie Gray died in Baltimore, a majority black city, and 3 of the cops involved were African-American.  We need to understand why integration of police forces hasn’t stopped the killing of African-Americans.  Could someone come up with imagery to express the anger within the African-American community? Yes, but Schutz is the person.  She doesn’t have the technique or the talent.

(I have purposely not included any imagery, since most will be unavailable almost as soon as posted.  So, you can find the appropriate images on the day you read this.)

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Don’t gloat

It isn’t time for the Democrats to gloat.  They have had a small victory in Congress, the Trump healthcare repeal was pronounced dead on the floor.   That wasn’t a victory for the Democratic values, but a victory for the New Democrats, the ACA is a Republican style band-aid that never attempts to change the fundamental values of the modern Democrat-lite party.  Obama accepted the values of the business world, in particular the values of our corporate style hospital system.   Obama also had close connections to the medical industry.  Michelle Obama worked for the University of Chicago Medical Center and Rahm Emanuel’s brother Ezekiel is an oncologist who is also a professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

The ACA took the approach of easy fixes.  For example it  let the children of the better off buy into their parents healthcare plans rather than paying for their own on the individual market. So, instead of having more young people contribute to the individual market pool, it contributed to the employer market, making premiums higher for those people who were new to the individual market.  The only true solution is a national plan (or set of regional plans) that takes over for the employer market.  That would be difficult because so many companies would want to keep salaries where they are after giving up the cost of healthcare.  We need price controls. The Europeans do this through negotiation.  We need to eliminate the fee for service system, which creates incentives to boost prices.   Many in the medical industry would ultimately accept this since it would end uncovered care that burdens so many hospitals.

The GOP will probably come up with an ACA killer law, it won’t be easy, but it is doable if the hinterland caucus (aka freedom caucus) can be neutered.

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Legacy – not!

There was talk about Obama’s legacy which, for some reason includes the Affordable Care Act, something that is neither affordable nor about care.  Obama’s legacy is limited.  His successful efforts to end an economic disaster should be remembered even if  his recovery program was too small and the recovery took too long.  The Obama cheering squad seems to think the ACA is part of his legacy, but if that is so, it is a very weak legacy.

Obama is a smart guy and a smart politician.  He understands how things get done, but his ideas are small.  Health insurance isn’t healthcare. Too many people have insurance that they cannot afford to use.  The Obama administration made no attempt to lower costs and there lies much of the failure.

We need to adopt a single payer tax-based system, perhaps something akin to Germany or France. Instead we got RomneyCare, but at the wrong time. If this was 1990, it might have worked, the economy was good enough, but prices in the medical field have increased so much that nothing but a total revamp will work for those who don’t have healthcare provided by an employers.

Obama was timid in his approach to the Middle East wars, given what we’ve achieved, we could have gotten the same results by leaving on day one.  Our alliances in the region make no sense at all.  We cannot both support the Saudi, which we do, and attack Sunni rebels in Syria, which we also do.

So after 8 years, what do we have?  Not much.

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President Trump?

As of midnight Eastern time, it looks like Trump will be our next president.  One wonders about our population.  Yes, the Democrats ran someone wildly unpopular with anyone other than Democrats, but Trump is as crass and dishonest person.  It is no surprise that the people who know him best, those in NY and NJ voted against him.  The real problem is the inability of the Democrats to connect with voters.  In MN, the Democratic party is call the DFL, or Democratic-Farmer-Labor party.  Today most farmers vote Republican. They want their farm programs, but vote for the party that regards farm programs as socialism. Our older folks, of which I am a part of, receive Social Security, yet they too vote Republican, the party that would cancel that program if they could.   The GOP offers Jesus and War.  I guess that wins.

Obama’s presidency, in the end, offered very little.  Yes, he helped stabilize the country after a financial disaster.  But, his solutions were failures.  The ACA is a joke, the cost is individual insurance is simply too high for most people who needed it and even if you can afford the premiums, you cannot use the policy.  The Bush Wars still exist. Obama didn’t solve the problem at all. I don’t know if anyone could.   Yes,  he had horrific opposition but his accomplishments are a joke.

So, I can guess why people voted for Trump, but they seem to be mostly throwing a dart at a blank wall.

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Comey is building his resume

The weekend news story about Clinton and Huma Abadin is one of the most confusing headline items I have every heard.  Made more confusing by  a precipitous announcement by a soon to be leaving head of the FBI.  Clinton’s emails have been heavily investigated already.  I assume the FBI knows what they are doing and so they would have already seen emails from Hillary to her aid, Huma Abadin.  So, why was there a story this weekend?  It cannot be news that Hillary Clinton emailed her aid.

I can only assume that James Comey is leaving his job and wants to create some goodwill in the GOP.  I would hope that Obama fires him on national television.

[edited to add]
Comey succeeded beyond his wildest dream. I am sure he will be kissy kissy with the orange man.

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Failure of the ACA – aka Obamacare

The ACA program is a failure.  The insurance that is being sold is too expensive for many who don’t have insurance and too expensive to use for many who have purchased the plans.   I don’t know if the plan could have been salvaged if both parties cooperated, but since they don’t, it simply cannot be salvaged.

GP salaries per country

GP salaries per country

Our system is expensive and everything we do seem to add to the expense.  Medical education is super-expensive and doctors must rake in the bucks once they start practicing.    Naturally US salaries are much higher for Doctors in the US than in other countries.  I was once treated by a doctor who was working in Little Falls, MN, while his family was in Kansas City.   It’s has to be expensive to have 2 households like that.  We all pay for those larger costs.  We all know that CEO salaries are outrageous in the US, that too and the salaries of other upper level managers adds to the cost of medicine in the US.  Another reason is the cost of prescription.  Prescription drug prices are rising at 10 times the rate of inflation. That isn’t natural.  (http://time.com/money/4406167/prescription-drug-prices-increase-why/)  Everything in the system is designed to bring in money, what is worse is that those who need healthcare are subsidized by those who pay for it and not society as a whole.  That is a critical flaw in the ACA plan.

No amount  of tweaking will fix this.  Perhaps the best thing to do would be to scrap it entirely.

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Brexit – some quick thoughts

If I were voting I would have voted to stay in the EU, but I can understand the frustration of many citizens.    Most people don’t understand exactly what the EU is or does.  Is the refugee policy something that has set by the EU?  The British have never abandoned the Pound so, unlike most of the European members, they control their own financial policy.

The vote is an acknowledgement that globalization isn’t working and most British subjects don’t see what they gain by having Polish or Greek worker helping drive down wages.    Much of what is good in Britain has nothing to do with the EU.   Still there are benefits, travel within Europe is much easier than it used to be and that is a real benefit.  The sense of real unity among European nations, is another benefit.

Terrorism is another issue, we now understand the problems that come with open borders.  The terrorists in France came from Belgium, so a weak member makes all members weak.

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Time for liberals to accept voter ID

Voter ID may be anathema to most Democratic voters, but its day is coming.  A Federal court in North Carolina upheld changes in NC’s voting laws that included the use of voter ID.   It is foolish for liberals to suddenly become originalists when talking about voter ID.  The fact that fraud is rare doesn’t make it impossible. All of us use photo ID all the time.  There is no reason why we aren’t expected to use it with something as important as voting.

The Democrats must be part of the solution and not live in the past.  Lets figure out what kind of ID a college student is likely to have and make that part of the forms of ID that are possible.   If there are large classes of people without ID, lets solve that problem instead of crying in our beer.  Most changes in laws affect poor or minorities because they are poor, more than better off white people.   Our society is far more conservative than it was in 1965. The Democrats have spent little time making their case and have let the Republicans win in the court of public opinion.  The need for a photo ID make sense to ordinary people.  The solution is to make getting an ID a painless process.

Many countries require some kind of photo ID.   The US needs to come up with a practical ID system that doesn’t discriminate against poorer folks.

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It’s time to lose racial categories.

Some years ago I listened to an program on NPR in which they attempted to show that racial categories had little validity in medicine.  For the most part the program made sense, though it did leave one hanging about a heart disease treatment that might have worked but was ignored.  After discussing health they dealt with the connection between race and athletic ability.  Their conclusion was the athletic ability was a byproduct of the lack of options in other areas and not in genetic skills related to racial categories.

We all know that in the real world medicine uses categories.  Nobody tests Norwegians for Sickle Cell Disease.   Sickle cell disease affects Africans, Arabs, some Mediterraneans and some from the Indian sub-continent.  When you plot the distribution of the disease on a map, it becomes obvious that geography has as much to do with this as race.   There are other diseases such as Tay-sachs that affect religious groups.  What has been called a race can be replaced by ethnic and geographic categories.

In the US we still categorize people by race.  In the NY Times there was an article about civil rights groups were condemning the desire of ‘white’ families to take their children out of the testing pool.

It is impossible to tell ourselves that racial categories have no meaning for some purposes and at the same time classify others by race.  Our current racial categories are almost meaningless since we lump Cubans with Mexicans or Indians with Vietnamese.  If we need to create special categories on the US Census Bureau to track  Native Americans or the descendants of slaves, let us do so, but lets stop with racial categories for any other purpose.

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Walt Disney Bio on PBS

When I was a child, the name Walt Disney was present everywhere.  It was on children’s books, it was on a weekly TV show, ‘Disneyland’, where Walt himself was the smiling host.   I assumed I knew everything about Walt Disney that I would ever want to know.  I was wrong.

The American Experience film: ‘Walt Disney’, shows that there is more to the story.   http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/walt-disney/.  Many of us already knew about Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, the first Disney hit that was eventually taken over by the distributor.  All of us knew about Mickey Mouse, his next idea and first great success.  His next big success was ‘Snow White’, his first full length cartoon.  Mickey Mouse may have made Walt a household name, but ‘Snow White’ made him a star.

I had not realized is how much over-budget it was by the time it was released.  It was estimated at 250,000 but came in over 1.4 million dollars.  I’ve seen estimates that it grossed over 9 million dollars during its first release.  Whatever the real numbers are, it made enough for Disney to use the money to build a bigger and better studio.  I did not realize that his next animated movies,  were not initially successful, at least at the box office.  His situation was made worse by the fact that WWII meant there was no money coming in from Europe.   By the late 1940s, the big full length cartoon was almost too expensive to produce, and it was certainly too risky to have as the main product of his studio.  So, Walt Disney moved more and more into live action movies.

In the 1950s, the ABC network needed a prestige product with a built-in audience and Walt Disney needed the money for his Disneyland project.   I had not realized how much Disneyland was a labor of love. I don’t think anyone realized how successful his parks were going to become.

The documentary show Walt Disney, warts and all. The warts are not very large nor were they unusual ones. Everyone in business tried to halt the unions.

What surprised me was how old and tired Walt Disney looked in the 50s and 60s.  He died at age 65 and he looked well over 70 when he did.









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