Planning the Holidays

My favorite time of the year is upon us, and I’m preparing the holiday menu. We will be celebrating:

1. American Christmas;
2. New Year’s;
3. Our Christmas (January 6-7);
4. Old New Year  (January 13).

American Christmas will be themed chic and elegant. We will be having roast pheasants, mushrooms, and something called “a wine cake” that I never made before but N requested.

New Year’s will have a traditional Soviet theme. We will watch Soviet movies, listen to Soviet music, drink Soviet champagne, and eat traditional Soviet “salads”, Soviet stuffed eggs and Soviet desserts. Our favorite restaurant where we usually go for New Year’s countdown has closed, so we’ll have to do the Soviet version of the countdown at home. We will also listen to the New Year’s address by the President of Ukraine.

Our Christmas will be done in the Ukrainian style with Ukrainian dishes and traditions. The Old New Year still remains to be planned.

Yes. We know how to enjoy life.

Type 2 Diabetes and Social Class

I haven’t had Type 2 diabetes (yet) but I have experience with gestational diabetes which is treated almost exactly the same. And here is my conclusion: even with a very good insurance, this is not a cheap disease to have.

Copays for doctor visits, Metformin, insulin, lancets, test strips, syringes, syringe-disposal boxes, alcohol pads, skincare products, etc easily come up to  $150-200 per month. Diabetic – friendly diet of the kind that will help you not drop off with a heart attack in a few years is quite costly. Diabetics have to be physically active, so a gym membership is indispensable. And the best, most helpful thing for people with diabetes mellitus is psychological assistance of the expensive kind (meaning the drug-free one).

The problem, though, is that Type 2 diabetes is not an illness limited to the rich. It’s very likely to develop in people who are lucky to have any health insurance at all, let alone all the extra cash and resources that I enumerated.

Plus, it’s an illness that requires a very stable lifestyle and the capacity to control one’s routine to at least a degree. For instance, I met this woman with gestational diabetes whose boss wasn’t letting her have any snack breaks and constantly messed with her lunch break. And this sort of instability is very bad for diabetics.

Diabetes is not a rare disease. There are millions who are diabetic or pre-diabetic in this country. (Although the numbers have plateaued in recent years, which is good.)

The point that I’m trying to make is this: getting everybody health insurance is just the baseline. It’s crucial but insufficient. I would have never found out how deeply involved the disease is with issues of class if I hadn’t gotten it myself. And it’s important that everybody realize how much more difficult poverty makes treating illness even if people have insurance.

World News Digest

Slovenia rejected gay marriage in a referendum today. What a stupid country.

Spain elected its most fractured parliament yet. The Conservatives failed to get the needed majority number of seats that would allow them to avoid seeking a coalition, which is good. But stupid Putinoid Podemos did quite well, which is bad.

It seems that Ukraine will get its visa – free entrance to the EU. Let’s just hope there is an EU for Ukrainians to enter.

Russia is being quite secretive about the explosion at one of its nuclear reactors. The residents of the neighboring area are panicking.

Bernie vs Hillary: Higher Ed

Now let’s leave aside foreign policy and look at the differences in the candidates’ approach to a topic that is very dear to my heart: higher education.

On the issue of why tuition is going up, Sanders pointed to choices being made by colleges. “We have some colleges and universities that are spending a huge amount of money on fancy dormitories and on giant football stadiums…  And I understand in many universities a heck of a lot of vice presidents who earn a big salary.”

So Bernie is doing his favorite thing and suggesting that taking away money from a few rich individuals and spreading it around will solve the problem. In the process, he contributes to demonize colleges who, according to him, are making all those bad spending choices. What does Clinton suggest instead?

Clinton said that, by far, the top reason for rising college costs at public colleges is that “states have been dis-investing in higher education…. So states over a period of decades have put their money elsewhere; into prisons, into highways, into things other than higher education.”

Who is right? Obviously Hillary. My university right now (and that’s only just at the moment. Things will get much worse in the new fiscal year) misses $250,000,000 in state funding. Even if we fire every administrator on campus, that will not even begin addressing the problem. We are a state school, our administrators are not overpaid. And the only fancy thing we are building right now is a new science lab.

Bernie’s comments are relevant to expensive private schools. But their students don’t need help. Our students do! We had to raise tuition last year because the state of Illinois is dis-investing in higher ed. That’s the only reason for our tuition raises. But Bernie doesn’t notice our existence because that’s inconvenient and spoils his neat “the rich guy stole your pony” narrative.

Bernie’s college plan sounds cute but since Bernie doesn’t understand how things work, the plan will not address the real problems. His are simplistic, superficial suggestions that make people feel good by pointing out the enemy: rich folks, money-hungry administrators, evil hedge fund managers. There is zero difference between this approach and that of Trump. 

I hope people abandon the childish yearning for simplistic recipes and begin to understand that life is more complicated than this good guys vs bad guys fantasy.

Democratic Foreign Policy

Thus the major dilemma for Democratic voters in 2016: Do they support Sanders, a guy whose positions are in line with the party’s mainstream, but who obviously has a fairly superficial, ideologically rigid engagement with foreign policy? Or do they support Clinton, who has a more powerful, detailed, and nuanced command of the issues than any other candidate, but is also far more hawkish than most Democrats?

Absolutely. And here’s the deal: what the dunces call “more hawkish” is simply more active. Ignorance paralyzes and makes people close their eyes and pretend nothing is happening and a few magic incantations will make all problems go away. Knowledge prepares people to act.

Hillary is not afraid to act because she understands the complexity of the situation. Next to her, the other two contenders looked like lost little boys. The problem is that, for most voters, it’s easier to identify with the lost boys than with a competent adult.

Can You Buy Democracy?

From a great article on the prospects of democracy in Africa:

In order to attract more aid and budget support (resources useful in building patronage and security machines that can they can deploy to tighten their grip on power), African leaders have been willing to sing and dance to the tune the human rights crowd wants to play. So they have solemnly written and enacted lovely paper constitutions that send thrills up the legs of the gullible and easily pleased human rights community.

This is exactly what happened back in the former USSR. I wrote in my diary back in 1996, “Americans, what are you doing? Stop giving us money, stop sending ‘humanitarian aid.’ It just makes everything worse!”

You can’t pay people to establish democracy. You can’t talk them into it. They need to want it, and unless they do, it’s never going to happen.

And now look at Putin who first enriched himself by selling American humanitarian aid in Leningrad  (I hope nobody thinks it went to feed the hungry, do they?), used the money to consolidate his power, and can now stop keeping up the pretense of democracy.