"Man on Fire" - Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
Ah the week is done. The lawyer gig is really eating into my blogging these days. I'm finding myself a little bit worn out for writing and a little bit uninspired. Part of it is that we are heading into the election silly season and I am already finding the endless horse race crap annoying. The notion of six straight months of this is hard to take. It's going to be polls, polls, and more polls, with the media doing precious little to actually educate the public on the issues at hand. I am going to try to avoid getting sucked into this too much as it really ceases to be interesting and extremely difficult to say anything new or interesting.
- Having said that, I do think that although the recent Ann Romney kerfuffle was largely a lazy made for TV drama cynically flogged by the right, it did expose the fascinating Republican divide on the virtues of stay-at-home motherhood. The always excellent Katha Pollitt -- who would really improve any of the major op-ed pages in the U.S. -- has a great take on how the value placed on stay-at-home mothers is fraught with class and racial implications. As Pollitt puts it:
But the brouhaha over Hilary Rosen’s injudicious remarks is not really about whether what stay-home mothers do is work. Because we know the answer to that: it depends. When performed by married women in their own homes, domestic labor is work—difficult, sacred, noble work. Ann says Mitt called it more important work than his own, which does make you wonder why he didn’t stay home with the boys himself. When performed for pay, however, this supremely important, difficult job becomes low-wage labor that almost anyone can do—teenagers, elderly women, even despised illegal immigrants. But here’s the real magic: when performed by low-income single mothers in their own homes, those same exact tasks—changing diapers, going to the playground and the store, making dinner, washing the dishes, giving a bath—are not only not work; they are idleness itself. Just ask Mitt Romney. In a neat catch that in a sane world would have put the Rosen gaffe to rest forever, Nation editor at large Chris Hayes aired a video clip on his weekend-morning MSNBC show displaying Romney this past January calling for parents on welfare to get jobs: “While I was governor, 85 percent of the people on a form of welfare assistance in my state had no work requirement. And I wanted to increase the work requirement. I said, for instance, that even if you have a child 2 years of age, you need to go to work. And people said, ‘Well that’s heartless,’ and I said, ‘No, no, I’m willing to spend more giving daycare to allow those parents to go back to work. It’ll cost the state more providing that daycare, but I want the individuals to have the dignity of work.’”
Ah, work will set you free -- where have I heard that before? Any of us who have raised children know how hard the work can be. My wife, who resumed full time work in a new career four months after our son was born, and I used to laughingly say "thank God it's Monday" as we looked forward to a leisurely moment with a cup of coffee in a quiet office, enjoying the company of adult colleagues and the psychic rewards of having status. I would never deride what Ann Romney did as not being work. But I would note that she never had to worry about the decision to forego income or career, never had to grapple with the difficulty of paying the rent or a mortgage on one income, and no doubt had the wherewithal to afford just about any kind of help she ever might have needed. In that sense, she, like her husband, is hardly representative of any of us. I am pretty confident that the GOP esteem for motherhood extends only to the right kind of women -- "good girls" as Amanda describes them -- not the millions of single or lower income mothers trying to scrape by in an exceedingly harsh economy.
- I found this piece on the conflict between unions and environmentalists over the XL Pipeline in the Nation to be interesting. Although its author, Jane McAlevy, expresses sympathy with the quest for jobs motivating union leaders, she still seems to have difficulty grasping why the various building trades unions whose members will build the pipeline are angry at its opponents. Confession: I have avoided writing about the pipeline because I support it and I know this is not likely to be the most popular of positions around these parts. I support the pipeline for reasons that are simple and possibly a bit venal: 1) because it will provide thousands of really good paying jobs to people I represent for a living; 2) because the notion that not building the pipeline will somehow prevent further exploitation of the Canadian tar sands oil is hopelessly naive; 3) because I believe that the claim that the building of the pipeline itself will be environmentally destructive is largely trumped up by people who simply object to the notion of more oil being made readily available domestically -- to which I would respond that the country is covered with tens of thousands of miles of pipelines [Update: here is a link to a pipeline map] that have minimal impact on the environment and that, as noted above, this oil is going to be used by someone in the world market. The conversion to a reliance on non-petroleum based energy is just too far away to practically stop an energy source of this magnitude from being used. The union leaders that McAlevy castigates are elected by their members to help them secure work with favorable terms. Many of these unions are suffering from prodigious rates of unemployment right now. As democratically elected leaders, they see their first obligation as being to their constituents. I think that building trades leaders are also frustrated with what they perceive to be an overall indifference to job creation by environmental groups -- that even alternative energy projects involving wind and solar technologies tend to run into opposition when they get to the actual building stage.
- The Democratic Party continues to lag badly with white working class men. Although I understand that this is demographically a less and less significant group, it nonetheless pains me deeply to see this.
- This article on the continued widescale usage of asbestos in the developing world, on the other hand, seems like an area where environmentalists and labor groups should easily find common ground. It is hard to exaggerate just how devastating asbestos can be to workers -- especially those who smoke.
- Reading LeVon Helm's obituary the other day, which was really an interesting piece, -- check out the photo of The Band, who look like the living antidote to phsychedia -- I was struck by the fact that he died at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital, New York's world class cancer facility. (As, by the way, did Danny Federici of the E Street Band.) I am quite familiar with MS-K and can attest to its excellence. But I also know that it charges $4,000 a night for a semi-private room. It seems to me that it would make much more sense for cases like this to be handled in a much lower cost hospice setting or with home hospice care, where the expertise in pain relief would really be the essential element. We really need to look at these end of life care issues with a clearer head if we are ever going to get a handle on runaway medical costs.
- And finally, yesterday was the hundredth birthday of Fenway Park. It's been forty-five years since I first went to a game at Fenway, during the magical 1967 season, when I was all of seven years old -- a game the Red Sox lost to the light-hitting but stingy Chicago White Sox. Last night I was running through the list of some of the players I had seen there -- Hall of Famers like Mickey Mantle (in 1968, his final season), Harmon Killebrew, Rod Carew, Al Kaline, Luis Aparicio, Reggie Jackson, Goose Gossage, Rollie Fingers, Rickey Henderson, Ferguson Jenkins, Tom Seaver, Orlando Cepeda, Dennis Eckersley, and, of course, Carl Yazstremski, Jim Rice, Carlton Fisk, and Wade Boggs -- and sadly, I fear, non-Hall of Famer Roger Clemens -- as well as guys who didn't make the Hall but burned bright for a time: Frank Howard, Freddie Lynn, Vida Blue, Willie Horton, Norm Cash, Denny McLain, and Tony Olive leap to mind and Red Sox stalwarts like Luis Tiant, Dwight Evans, Bill Lee, and Rico Petrocelli. (More recent Sox stars I've primarily seen at Camden Yards -- I've only been to Fenway once in the last decade or so.) It was kind of a fun exercise, although things have blurred a bit in my mind as to whether I saw certain teams at Fenway or since I moved down here. Update: Oh my God -- I am watching the Red Sox blow a nine run lead to the Yankees. Their bullpen is a special kind of bad. Jon Papplebon, come back, all is forgiven. I think Bobby Valentine may have an exceedingly short stay in Boston.
Alright, it's in your hands.