This picture is a 0.8 sec exposure. The paths are captured from reflected bubbles in the water. I think I like these more than most Samefacts readers.
I don’t know why people are focused on President Trump, when I have cool cartograms of which U.S. counties are down to only one ACA marketplace plan.
The cartogram is weighted by population, and illustrates four important facts about America and health reform:
- The standard U.S. map does not accurately reflect the experience of most people. Americans cluster on the coasts and in densely-populated metropolitan areas. Sparsely-populated areas such as northern Nevada or Montana that cover many square miles are over-represented in the standard maps. And these maps distort our understanding. If cattle and corn fields bought health insurance, we’d have a reasonable fear that ACA is collapsing. That’s not the reality.
- Democrats are terrible at winning down-ballot elections away from the bicoastal liberal states. That’s a huge political consequence of the Obama era.
- Republicans are terrible at operating successful ACA exchanges. Only one big blue metropolitan area-Philadelphia, PA, was down to one plan. Basically, every other major struggling area is in a red state. Huge sections of the deep south, Arizona, Oklahoma, and the mountain states are down to one marketplace plan.
- Rural areas such as northern Nevada are terrible places for marketplace competition. They are too sparsely populated to support real competition.
ACA marketplaces may never work very well in sparsely-populated rural areas. Hence a great irony. Trump country may be the locale in greatest need of a Medicare or Medicaid alternative to private plans. Democrats would face a knife fight to enact a public option. Once it’s enacted, I suspect Trump country would never let it go.
More from me here, at healthinsurance.org.
I am grateful to Xenocrypt for directing me to the cool site Our World in Data, run as a public good by Oxford University. The above is based on that site’s data on social spending, defined as “health, old age, incapacity-related benefits, family, active labormarket programmes, unemployment, and housing”.
Independent of the surprising pattern, I wonder how many people react to these sorts of data entirely by attempting to defend their priors, e.g., “There is no way Reagan spent a higher proportion of GDP on social spending than LBJ!” (Or Cameron than Brown in the UK).
It’s very hard to overturn strongly held beliefs, perhaps even moreso in a Twitterized world where people instinctively defend them without really thinking.
You wouldn’t get a blog post about plinths anywhere else, would you?
Hear me out. Memorial statuary normally consists of (a) a statue and (b) a plinth. The plinth raises the statue above street level, making it more visible. It also triggers instinctive associations of height with power, dignity and respect. It works even better if you throw in a horse, as with Lee at Charlottesville and Peter the Great in St. Petersburg.
The problem with the Confederate memorials is that they make a racist statement that the Confederate rebellion should not just be remembered, but remembered with respect and admiration. The statement depends as much on the plinth as the statue itself.
So here is a suggestion for dealing with the statues of Confederate soldiers, mass-produced in Northern foundries, that dot hundreds of public spaces in the old Confederacy:
Bring them down to street level.
In the street, they become bronze fellow-citizens, and the gullibility and racism of the men they represent can become as much a part of the civic conversation as their bravery and sacrifice. If they are unpopular, they will be defaced. If they become objects of ridicule, they will sprout frat ties, silly hats and dildos. Them’s the breaks. Let’s see how it works out.
That leaves an empty plinth or two. Don’t spend a fortune taking them away. There’s an empty one in Trafalgar Square in London: it is used for temporary exhibition. Or you can hold a competition for a statue of something or somebody that everybody wants to honour. The Northern foundries will retool to supply as many versions of Martin Luther King as the South commissions.
Footnote for art wonks
There is one striking exception to the plinth norm. When Auguste Rodin cast the famous group of the Burghers of Calais, he lost a battle with the city fathers to install them at ground level. What Rodin wanted was to replace the usual historical distancing from a tragic and violent event with immediacy, shock and empathy. He was rightly confident that the quality of his work would still make the sculpture effective. There is little risk that the mediocre Confederate statuary will compensate in the same way for being brought down to earth. The Burghers have now been brought back down, and stand on a compromise mini-plinth.
Democrats from Joe Manchin to Bernie Sanders are doing a great job uniting in defense of the Affordable Care Act. Moving forward, there is a risk we will form a circular firing squad around support or opposition to single-payer health care. A better approach is to unite around universal coverage, and around various forms of the public option, so that consumers can buy into Medicare or Medicaid if they so choose.
More from me here, in a tome at Democracy Journal.
Today is the 50th Anniversary of the release of an incredibly well-made, influential, and entertaining American movie, in honor of which I re-post my review from several years ago.
Hollywood studios were in a rut in the late 1950s and early 1960s, struggling to cope with the rise of television, the loss of control of movie theaters after the Paramount case, and a widening cultural chasm between modern audience tastes and studio traditions. In desperation, the studio chiefs opened up filmmaking to a wave of young actors, directors, producers and writers who re-energized American movies, making them arguably the world’s trendsetters from the late 1960s through mid-1970s. One of the pivotal movies from this fertile period in American cinema is this week’s film recommendation: 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde.
The story opens with a bored, sexually frustrated small town girl (Faye Dunaway) meeting a charming bad boy (Warren Beatty). She questions his courage and masculinity, and he shows off by drawing a gun and committing a robbery. They flee her backwards hometown together, intoxicated by freedom, danger and each other. More daring robberies follow, and with it growing fame for Bonnie and Clyde. Soon they gather other people around them, including a slow witted ne’er do well (Michael Pollard), Clyde’s older brother Buck (Gene Hackman) and Buck’s prim, God-fearing wife Blanche (Estelle Parsons). The law of course comes after them, spurring epic gun fights and a wild cross-country chase sparked with episodes that are surreal (the mesmerizing family reunion scene, which was shot by putting a window pane in front of the camera) and comic (the best of which features Gene Wilder, in his first movie). The story’s conclusion, which I will not spoil, is justifiably one of the most famous scenes in the history of American cinema.
The sexuality and graphic violence on display here is light years apart from what Hollywood films had ever done before. This is one of the first movies to use squibs and to show bullet wounds spouting blood. The impact of the violence is further amplified through use of the choppy editing style popularized by the French New Wave. Also, in a striking reversal of the typical gender roles of films in the 1950s, the woman is the confident sexual aggressor and the man is sexually timid and indeed non-functional (in early drafts of the script, Clyde was in a gay relationship with one of the men in his gang, but in the final version he instead is impotent). The point of view of the story was also novel and in keeping with the rebellious spirit of the times: The heroes are murderers who mow down police officers without compunction.
But it is not just the sexual and violent themes that make Bonnie and Clyde a landmark American film, it is also the movie’s meditation on fame. The criminals’ exhilaration in their notoriety, their self-conscious pursuit of increased publicity and the way they are hero-worshiped by strangers highlight the absurdity of American celebrity culture in supremely effective fashion.
As for the acting, under Arthur Penn’s direction, the entire cast explodes off the screen. Parsons won an Academy Award for her performance but any of the leads and supporting players would also have been worthy choices. Last but certainly not least, Burnett Guffey’s “flat style” camerawork — a complete inversion of his remarkable work in prior RBC recommendations My Name is Julia Ross and The Sniper — is one of the lasting achievements in Hollywood cinematography. That Guffey could early in his career thrive in the deep focus, shadowy, stylized world of film noir yet later became a leading exponent of unadorned, naturalistic cinematography shows that he was truly one of the giants of his profession.
The backstory to this film has also become part of its legend. Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were of course real-life bank robbers in Depression-Era America. The script of this film was brilliantly adapted from their exploits by David Newman and Robert Benton, with uncredited help from Robert Towne. (The latter two of these men, like so many of the people associated with the film, soon became major figures in American cinema). The writers tried unsuccessfully to recruit a French New Wave director to make the movie, but none of them were ultimately interested. Fortunately, Warren Beatty saw the potential of the story and bought production rights, eventually signing Penn as the director. As a sign of how out of touch studio executives were with 1960s audiences, the suits at Warner Brothers were so sure it would bomb that they were comfortable promising Beatty 40% of the gross receipts. They barely released and minimally promoted the picture, and were not surprised when establishment movie critics sneered at it. But it hit audiences like a thunderbolt, becoming a massive box office hit. Remarkably, some chastened film critics went so far as to publicly apologize for their dismissive reviews and to write new reviews praising the movie (except for the New York Times’ insufferable Bosley Crowther, who campaigned against the film so vigorously that his bosses finally realized that it was time to find a more discerning critic). Many years later, this initially unwanted, disregarded and disrespected film became one of the first movies selected for preservation by the National Film Registry.
p.s. If any film prefigures Bonnie and Clyde in American cinema, I think it’s Joseph Lewis’ extraordinary 1950 movie Gun Crazy. If you have time for a double feature, that’s the film to pair with this one. And if you have time for a triple feature, throw in Lewis’ My Name is Julia Ross to appreciate the incredible range of cinematographer Burnett Guffey.
Columnist Salena Zito wasn’t very candid with me in a recent Twitter exchange. That’s annoying. More important, she’s missed a real opportunity to contribute genuine reporting on the rural opioid crisis.
Twitter generally conveys the emotional warmth of a contentious economics seminar without the intellectual rigor. Still, I’ve come to value my Twitter engagements with kindred spirits and others with whom I deeply disagree whose insights I value.
Ms. Zito is one person I hoped to learn from across the usual partisan and ideological lines. She is a conservative reporter and commentator who writes for the Washington Examiner, New York Post, CNN, and other outlets. Ms. Zito is most famous for her aphorism that “the press takes [President Trump] literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.” This is a genuinely valuable insight into how political professionals underestimated Trump’s electoral appeal. (It is also a profound moral evasion, but that’s another matter.)
Some time ago I made a speculative case that if and when the Republicans in Congress decide to ditch Trump as a fatal political liability, the 25th Amendment is a more attractive route than impeachment: it’s much quicker, and insulates the GOP more from its golem master. A lot of dirty linen on Russia would be aired in the long-drawn-out impeachment process, possibly implicating Republicans not part of Trump’s campaign.
The suggestion fell on deaf ears. Mark’s reaction was typical. But Trump’s behaviour keeps raising doubts over his mental capacity. For three:
- In the recently leaked transcript of Trump’s conversation over the Nauru refugees with the Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull in January, Trump seemed simply not to understand Turnbull’s simple and repeated position.
- In his famous sabre-rattling tweet, Trump threatened North Korea with “fire and fury” if it persisted with threats to the United States. Pyongyang promptly called his bluff, leading to a massive loss to American face. Tillerson and Mattis had to walk the tweet back, restating longstanding American policy that retaliation would follow actual attacks on US allies, which Kim is no more likely to engage in than his predecessors in the dynasty. But Trump repeated the language about retaliating to threats. The latest tweet includes:
If he utters one threat, in the form of an overt threat . . . or if he does anything with respect to Guam or anyplace else that is an American territory or an American ally, he will truly regret it, and he will regret it fast.”
- Trump’s media staff are required to present him daily with a folder of press cuttings and media screenshots with only positive coverage of him personally. This is on a par with Marie Antoinette playing at shepherdesses with her ladies-in-waiting at the Trianon. Contrast the Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid, who is said to have walked the streets of Baghdad in disguise at night to hear what his subjects were really saying about him: a legend that conveys the truth that autocrats, as much as democratic politicians, must keep an accurate watch on the real currents of popular sentiment. See also Kipling on the more impressive Akbar and a real bridge he built.
Are you still comfortable with dismissing the 25th Amendment out of hand? Continue Reading…