Obama on child care

by Henry Farrell on November 14, 2005

I was at a “talk”:http://obama.senate.gov/speech/051110-remarks_of_senator_barack_obama_at_the_national_womens_law_center/index.html that Barack Obama gave last week at the National Women’s Law Center, and came away very impressed indeed. The speech began with standard politicians’ folderol, but kept on getting better. In particular, it focused on some of the political issues that “Kimberly Morgan”:https://www.crookedtimber.org/author/kimberly/ wrote about here earlier this year, but that “Democratic”:http://yglesias.typepad.com/matthew/2005/03/the_new_new_thi.html “politicians”:http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2005_03/005937.php seem to have done a fine job in ignoring. Not only that, but it linked these issues directly to economic inequality.

bq. And so women still earn 76% of what men do. They receive less in health benefits, less in pensions, less in Social Security. They receive little help for the rising cost of child care. They make up 71% of all Medicaid beneficiaries, and a full two-thirds of all the Americans who lost their health care this year. When women go on maternity leave, America is the only country in the industrialized world to let them go unpaid. When their children become sick and are sent home from school, many mothers are forced to choose between caring for their child and keeping their job.

bq. … In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society. But in our past there has been another term for it – Social Darwinism, every man and woman for him or herself. It allows us to say to those whose health care or tuition may rise faster than they can afford – tough luck. It allows us to say to the women who lose their jobs when they have to care for a sick child – life isn’t fair. It let’s us say to the child born into poverty – pull yourself up by your bootstraps

Between this and John Edwards’ “work on poverty”:http://www.thenation.com/docprint.mhtml?i=20051128&s=moser, I’m actually feeling hopeful about the US Democratic party. Centrists in the party actually seem to be getting interested in inequality again, and to be finding a language that can link it to moral values. It’s the kind of hope that knows it’s going to be disappointed, if not dashed completely, by experience – but still, that’s more than I’ve had for years.

Random observations on the US

by Chris Bertram on November 14, 2005

I’m in Madison Wisconsin for the week and enjoying my first experience of the US away from the east coast. As visitors are, I keep being struck by the micro-details of life and how they differ from the UK. Harry and I just had lunch in a student cafeteria. Having finished our sandwiches we got up to get some coffee from a machine and simply left our coats and bags by our table whilst we did so, even though they were not always in sight. The cafeteria was also organized with the tills at one end and the seating back in the same space as the self-service access to food. Everyone stands in line and pays before taking their seats. All of this is radically different from the UK where (a) one learns from an early age to hang on to all one’s property because otherwise it will be stolen and (b) where given an opportunity to take food from the university, sit down and eat it and not pay, many (even most) students would do so.

(On the downside, the built environment has far too much concrete, especially on roadways and pavements (flagstones would make such a difference) and people eat dinner barbarically early — 6pm!!).

(On the very downside, I tuned into Country Music TV in my hotel room and found no overlap whatsoever with the stuff that gets played by “Bob Harris”:http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio2/shows/bobharriscountry/index.shtml : Emmylou, Steve Earle, Gillian Welch — forget it — it is all wall-to-wall pap by people wearing cowboy hats. Appalling.)

Google and the quote doctors

by John Q on November 14, 2005

Via Jennifer Marohasy, I found yet another version of one of the blogosphere’s (and, more generally, the anti-environmentalist right’s) most popular doctored quotes reproduced this time by Frank Furedi who writes in the Times Higher Education Supplement

Appeals to a “greater truth” are also prominent in debates about the environment. It is claimed that problems such as global warming are so important that a campaign of fear is justified. Stephen Schneider, a climatologist at Stanford University, justified the distortion of evidence in the following terms: “Because we are not just scientists but human beings… as well… we need to capture the public imagination.” He added that “we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified statements and make little mention of any doubts that we have”.

Schneider’s statement was originally quoted in an interview in Discover magazine (not available online as far as I can tell). Read in full and in context, it’s an unexceptional statement about the difficulties of dealing with the media and their penchant for oversimplication and overdramatisation. However, the history of the quote, and its use by anti-enviromentalists is fascinating and, in many ways, a demonstration of Schneider’s point.

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