Reviewing the Review: September 20 2009

Long ago I used to sit around on lazy days and read short stories by William Trevor, the august Irish author who turned 81 this year. I haven’t sat around reading William Trevor for a long time, but a gentle review of his Love and Summer by Thomas Mallon in the latest New York Times Book Review leaves me yearning to rediscover that pleasure:

Mrs. Eileen Connulty, a prosperous widow who ran a local lodging house for traveling salesmen, Number 4 The Square, and who, as death came near, “feared she would now be obliged to join her husband and prayed she would not have to.”

Who writes family stories like these anymore? Well, hmm, actually Joyce Carol Oates does, and I must be in an a receptive mood today, because Malena Watrous’s brief on the love-and-murder triangle (or, actually, pentagon) at the center of Little Bird of Heaven makes me want to read this one too, even though I haven’t picked up any of the twenty or thirty other books Oates has written this decade. Well, I’m looking forward to catching Joyce Carol Oates in a rare career-summary event at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC this Monday night, so maybe I’ll decide then whether to dive into her new one or not.

And, hell, I have to admit that I’ve never read an entire novel by Margaret Atwood, though I’ve enjoyed listening to her at live events. Jeannette Winterson’s cover article in the Book Review makes Atwood’s new The Year of the Flood, a scary vision of our future, sound like a must read.

How am I going to find the time to read even one of these books? I don’t see any lazy days coming up on my calendar soon. Hmmm …

I don’t think I’ll linger long here today, anyway, but I would also like to mention a few good articles on history and public policy. Ira Berlin provides a fascinating summary of Deliver Us From Evil, a book about the American Civil War by Lacy K. Ford that actually manages to deliver something new: an analysis of the intense internal debate about slavery that went on in the Southern states before they became the Confederate nation.

I’m a bit taken aback by Irshad Manji’s positive review of Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity For Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. I have heard of the oppressions and crimes detailed in this book, but it’s shocking to read that “gendercide” (a word I’ve never heard before) “steals more lives in any given decade ‘than all the genocides of the 20th Century'”. Is this true? If so, it’s an absolutely shocking fact, because if you include Stalin’s manufactured famines in the Ukraine and Mao’s manufactured famines in China along with the familiar horrors of Eastern Europe, Turkey, Rwanda and Cambodia, you’re talking about at least 50 million deaths. I have no reason to cast doubt on a subject I know nothing about, but if global gendercide kills 50 million women every 10 years, then this book should be on the cover of this weekend’s Book Review, not buried somewhere in the middle. In fact it should be on the cover of the New York Times, not just today but everyday. But I’m not sure I’m understanding the facts correctly. Another book I’ll have to read.

Finally, Ada Calhoun’s capsule review of T. R. Reid’s The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper and Fairer Health Care is highly relevant today, and worth quoting in full:

With all the hysteria over health care and the public option, it’s high time for the facts behind buzzwords like “socialized medicine” and “death panels.” Reid, a correspondent for The Washington Post, provides a lucid examination of health care around the world, and shows how the United States compares on coverage, cost, quality and choice. The results are humbling. In a humanizing twist, Reid details his own experiences as he tries to get treatment for a bum shoulder. At a $10 consultation in Versailles, he is told that he should have physical therapy but that he may choose surgery done by any doctor in France, on the national dime. In Japan he’s offered a vast range of treatments. When he asks about shoulder reconstruction, he is told: “Tomorrow would be a little difficult. But next week would probably work.” So much for national health care inevitably resulting in a lack of choice or endless waits. But not all the statistics and fun facts in “The Healing of America” are equally persuasive. Reid writes, for example, that “British women tend to have their babies at home; Japanese women, in contrast, almost always give birth in the hospital.” Actually, home births account for less than 3 percent of births in each country. Still, this doesn’t detract from Reid’s conclusion that every advanced nation in the world has a cheaper and fairer health care system than we do. He deftly counters the notion that “American exceptionalism” prevents us from successfully adapting another country’s system. Evidently, when it comes to health care, America is exceptional only in that it’s a rich country with a poor country’s approach to taking care of people.

2 Responses

  1. I lived in France for four
    I lived in France for four years, and I was in the French National Health System for those four years. Let’s call it “socialized medicine” just for fun, because “single payer system run by the government” doesn’t sound as scary as “socialized medicine”. Almost everyone in France has health insurance, and it is the same for everyone. There is no such thing as a “pre-existing condition”. I was self-employed, and I paid a very reasonable amount for health care, around 2000 euros per year, which is about 2800 dollars. My wife and I had regular doctor visits, and all prescriptions were paid. Doctor visits were 45 euros – 63 dollars. Tests like blood tests and x-rays are also very reasonable. I also was able to buy supplemental insurance, for about 1000 dollars per year, that covered what the government plan – the sécurité sociale – didn’t pay. The doctors are all top notch, there is no waiting for anything except rare specialists, and if you get sick the idea of dropping someone or raising their rates just does not exist.

    I have been back in the U.S. for about one year,I am also self-employed, and I pay four times what I paid in France for insurance that has a 5000 dollar deductible. This means that my insurance will never cover doctor visits (about 120 dollars), medication or routine tests. I will always be out of pocket, unless I get really sick and have to go to a hospital, in which case my insurance will pay 80%, after I pay 5000 dollars. A serious illness could wipe me out.

    So- give me “socialized medicine”! The “republicanized medicine” that we have now is killing me!

  2. ATTENTION!! Congress Has The
    ATTENTION!! Congress Has The Votes Needed To Pass A Public Option – TODAY

    Why A Strong Public Option Is Essential – By jacksmith – Working Class

    Robert Reich explains the pubic option:

    John Garamendi on the Public Option and the Grassroots:

    Howard Dean on the Public Option

    We’re Number 37! in quality of health care

    It’s not just because more than two thirds of the American people want a single payer health care system. And if they cant have a single payer system 77% of all Americans want a strong government-run public option on day one (86% of democrats, 75% of independents, and 72% republicans). Basically everyone.

    It’s not just because according to a new AARP POLL: 86 percent of seniors want universal healthcare security for All, including 93% of Democrats, 87% of Independents, and 78% of Republicans. With 79% of seniors supporting creating a new strong Government-run public option plan, available immediately. Including 89% of Democrats, 80% of Independents, and 61% of Republicans, STUNNING!!

    It’s not just because it will lower cost. Because a strong public option will dramatically lower cost for everyone. And dramatically improved the quality of care everyone receives in America and around the World. Rich, middle class, and poor a like.

    It’s not just because it will save trillions of dollars and prevent the needless deaths of millions more of YOU, caused by a rush to profit by the DISGRACEFUL, GREED DRIVEN, PRIVATE FOR PROFIT MEDICAL INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX!

    It’s not just because every expert in every field, including economist, and Nobel laureates all agree that free market based healthcare systems don’t work. Never have and never will. The US has the only truly free market based healthcare system in the World. And as you all know now, IT IS A DISASTER!

    It’s not just because providing or denying medically necessary care for profit motivations is wrong. Because it is WRONG! It’s professionally, ethically, and morally REPUGNANT!, Animalistic, VILE and EVIL.


    The public option is ESSENTIAL because over 200 million of you are trapped in the forest of the wolves. Which is the forest of the DISGRACEFUL, GREED DRIVEN, PRIVATE FOR PROFIT MEDICAL INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX! With no way out except through needless inhumane suffering, and DEATH. While the wolves tear at your flesh, and rip you limb from lib. Then feast on your lifeless bodies like a dead carcase for transplant parts.

    At the most vulnerable times of your lives (when you were sick and hurting), millions of you have had to fight and loose cruel, but heroic battles. Fighting against the big guns of the DISGRACEFUL, GREED DRIVEN, PRIVATE FOR PROFIT MEDICAL INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX! in the forest of the wolves. All because you have no place else to go. You have no other CHOICE!

    But the PUBLIC OPTION will give you someplace safe to go. And it will give us someplace safe to take you. The public option will be your refugium (your refuge). Where the wolves cannot get at you when your down, hurting, and vulnerable. Where everyone who needs it can find rest, security, comfort and the care they need. Protected by the BIG GUNS of We The People Of The United States. THE MOST POWERFUL PEOPLE AND COUNTRY ON EARTH.

    This is why it is so critical that we do not lead another 50 million vulnerable, uninsured Americans into the forest of the wolves, without the protections of a Strong Government-run public option. We The People Of The United States MUST NOT LET THAT HAPPEN to any more of our fellow Americans. If healthcare reform does not contain a strong public option on day one. YOU MUST! KILL IT. Or you will do far more harm than good. And millions more will die needlessly. Rich, middle class, and poor a like.

    To those who would continue to obstruct good and true healthcare reform for the American people, and who seek to trap millions more vulnerable Americans in the forest of the wolves. We will continue to fight you. We are prepared to wage all out war against you, and will eagerly DESTROY! you. Time…is…UP! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! No Co-op’s! No Triggers! NO INDIVIDUAL MANDATES! without a Strong public option on day one.

    Healthcare reform can be the GREATEST! Accomplishment of our time and century. A time when future generations may say of us, that we were all, AMERICAS GREATEST GENERATIONS.


    I therefore call on all my fellow Americans and the peoples of the World. To join us in this fight so that we may finish becoming the better America that we aspire to be for everyone.


    I have been privileged to be witness as many of you fought, and struggled to take your first breath, and your last breath on this earth. Rich, middle class, and poor a like. Life is precious.

    Whatever the cost. WE! MUST SUCCEED.

    God Bless You My Fellow Human Beings

    jacksmith – Working Class

    Things You Can Do To Help NOW!

    No Triggers!


    Krugman on heathcare (

    Senator Bernie Sanders on healthcare (

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