Thursday, June 11, 2009


Read all you want by going to

For the sake of all Americans, the time for reform has come
by Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.)

An imperative that can’t wait
by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

Avoiding partisan fireworks
by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)

How to compete with private insurers on level playing field
by Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.)

Greater risk-sharing promises lower costs with more security
by Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine)

For families, businesses — an option that promotes care and competition
by Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.)

Turn the pyramids right side up
by Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.)

Help fulfill the promise of America
by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas)

Take the time to get reform right
by Sen.Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.)

To GOP, reform is about wider access, lower prices, not government control
by Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)

First, do no harm
by Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas)

The need for a robust public option
by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.)

Reform lacks transparency, bipartisanship
by Rep. Charles W. Boustany, Jr (R-La.)

A back-door path to a government takeover
by Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.)

Bridging the divide over the ideological ground zero on care
by Tom Daschle

On public plan, it’s provider beware
by Newt Gingrich

Reform without creating a public insurance option is not real change
by Howard Dean

Health reform must include an aggressive cancer strategy
by Lance Armstrong

Why aren't women happy? Who knows?

Angelina Jolie's Oscar-winning, hot-looking existence is as good a reason as any.
Meghan Daum LA Times

Women, it seems, are bummed out these days.

A study released last month from the National Bureau of Economic Research and the University of Pennsylvania showed that even though men's and women's happiness levels have both gone down over the last few decades, women's "subjective well-being" has declined "both absolutely and relatively to men." The data came from a cross-section of ethnic and socioeconomic groups in several industrialized countries, and appeared to be big news primarily for one reason: When the same research was conducted in the 1970s, women reported higher levels of happiness than they do today.

Is that because feminism turned out to be a total dud? Or were women in the '70s hypnotized into serenity by those yellow smiley faces? No one seems quite sure.

The research paper, which was presented by economists Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers and will appear in a forthcoming issue of American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, is rife with hypotheses but resists drawing conclusions. But that doesn't mean the commentariat didn't immediately weigh in. People went a little nuts over this study, most notably New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, who offered up a handful of theories as to why women weren't as cheery as they'd apparently been in the days of avocado-green appliances.

"The achievements of the feminist era may have delivered women to greater unhappiness," Douthat wrote. He also pointed out that the steady advance and de-stigmatization of single motherhood "threatens the interests and happiness of women." Furthermore, in a display of rhetorical showmanship that I appreciated for its boldness if not its conclusion, he wondered if women, who "prefer egalitarian, low-risk societies," were made anxious by "the cowboy capitalism of the Reagan era."

In fairness, Douthat allowed that "all this ambiguity lends itself to broad-brush readings." He wasn't saying the study proved any of his musings. He was just, you know, saying.

And shortly thereafter, a lot of other people joined the chorus: other columnists, bloggers and, presumably, the women at book club meetings who would much rather discuss this sort of thing than discuss the book they're reading. Many of them took umbrage at Douthat's column, but more seemed intent on finding the source of this newly discovered malcontent. Was it over-scheduling? Over-parenting? A cultural obsession with physical appearance? Perhaps only Betty Friedan could know for sure.

The researchers, for their part, seem to have anticipated the avalanche of armchair analysis. In the paper, they address a handful of the more predictable assumptions and explanations, giving reasons as to why they're best kept within the realm of the theoretical.

Take, for example, two of the most common versus the actual wording of their paper.

Theory 1: The women's movement sold women a bill of goods. All it did was make them feel inadequate for not "having it all."

Stevenson/Wolfers: "If the women's movement raised women's expectations faster than society was able to meet them, they would be more likely to be disappointed by their actual experienced lives. As women's expectations move into alignment with their experiences, this decline in happiness may reverse."

Translation: "Having it all" is going out of fashion. When women stop trying to live up to that edict, they will be happier.

Theory 2: The demands on working mothers, particularly single mothers, are overwhelming and contribute to unhappiness.

Stevenson/Wolfers: "[When] we disaggregate the fertility results to consider trends in happiness separately among single parents and married parents ... we see similar trends in happiness ... casting doubt on the hypothesis that trends in marriage and divorce, single parenthood or work/family balance are at the root of the happiness declines among women."

Translation: Don't blame your kids, your job or your partner.

In other words, the upshot of the increase in female unhappiness seems to be that there's no upshot.

As a pusher of far-flung theories myself, I know how tedious it can be when the raw data don't line up with the stuff I yak about with my friends in wine bars. Like Douthat et al, when I first heard about the study, I immediately had a scapegoat too: Angelina Jolie. Her entire Oscar-winning, serial-adopting, Brad Pitt-snagging, plane-piloting, unattainably hot-looking existence makes women around the world feel hopelessly inadequate and therefore unhappy. I mean, duh.

But like all of these explanations, that's a little bit too easy even if, to some, it also seems a little bit right. And as many have pointed out, "happiness" is ultimately an abstraction (not to mention in the eye of the beholder) and may simply defy quantitative measurement.

So why is it so hard to resist making a sport of figuring out why we are or aren't happy? Maybe because it's just that, a sport. Maybe because, as most women in book clubs know, talking about what's wrong with your life can be rollicking fun. We may not be happy, but we know how to have a good time. And that includes blaming Angelina.

Supreme Court TV

How does Judge Sotomayor feel about cameras in the courtroom?

In 1996, Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter told a congressional committee that "the day you see a camera come into our courtroom, it's going to roll over my dead body.” Fortunately, Souter's impending retirement will spare his colleagues -- if not a television audience -- that spectacle. It also creates the possibility that his successor will join other recent appointees in opening the door wider to televised oral arguments.

So, after they are finished asking about abortion and wise Latinas, members of the Senate Judiciary Committee should elicit Judge Sonia Sotomayor's views of TV cameras in the court. President Bush's two nominees, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., didn't echo Souter's alarm. Roberts told the Judiciary Committee he had no "set view" on the subject. Alito recalled: "We had a debate within our [federal appeals] court about whether we would or should allow television cameras in our courtroom. I argued that we should do it."

Since their confirmations, Alito and Roberts have been somewhat more cautious. The justices as a group are divided in their personal attitudes toward cameras, but united in a preference to do nothing in the near future. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in 2000 that "I would not object, just for myself," but she added that cameras shouldn't be forced on colleagues who disagreed. Justice Stephen G. Breyer had this (too) judicious response in 2005: "I think there are good reasons for it and good reasons against it." Leading the naysayers are justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Thomas has undergone a post-confirmation conversion, telling senators in 1991 that he had no objection to cameras but arguing more recently that, after 9/11, televising the faces of justices would make them vulnerable to terrorism. Then there is Justice Anthony M. Kennedy's comment in 2007 that if cameras were present, he might suspect a colleague of "saying something for a sound bite."

All these objections have been convincingly refuted. Terrorists who wonder what justices look like can consult still pictures or videos of law school seminars. As for the idea that justices would show off to ensure a few seconds on the evening news: Federal judges serve for life; they don't have to rely on good Nielsen ratings. Moreover, courts that have allowed televised arguments -- as the California Supreme Court did for arguments on same-sex marriage -- haven't inspired judges to ham it up. Finally, the contention that cameras would alter the traditions of the court has been undermined by recent innovations such as the same-day release of audio recordings of high-profile arguments and the prompt posting on the Internet of transcripts.

An assertive advocate of cameras in the court could help nudge her colleagues to take the next step. How about it, Judge Sotomayor?

Source: LA Times