This Ruthless World

Adventures in absurdity

Archive for the month “March, 2012”

Some thoughts on marriage, regrets and mediocrity

A few days ago, I was at a business lunch where one of the participants was a freshly divorced man in his forties. So it’s not a surprise that the conversation inevitably, and irretrievably, turned to the subject of marriage and what a soul-crushing burden it is. Not the divorce, mind you — that was a liberation — but marriage. The man had no specific grievances against his wife, whom he described as a normal enough human being and a good mother, nor against his kids, whom he professed to love — he just wished he hadn’t married her or had them. Instead, he disparaged marriage in very general and metaphoric terms, pretty much as Bill Maher once had, when he described a married man as a broken horse “shitting in a bucket”. Read more…

What Does this Movie Mean? “A Serious Man” (2009)

I’ve really gotten sucked into blogging about politics for the last several weeks, so this Friday, I decided to do something fun. Every time my husband and I finish watching a “deep” movie, he turns to me and asks: “Okay, genius, in ten minutes or less: what does it mean?” Since I create these blurbs on a regular basis, I am going to start publishing them. These are not “reviews” per se, but just some thoughts on what I think these movies convey. Naturally, major spoilers follow, so read at your own risk.

A Serious Man (Coen Brothers, 2009)

This is one of the richest, deepest, saddest, most mysterious movies ever made. It is a philosophical and dramatic masterpiece, and interpreting it completely is an impossible challenge. But I’ll try interpreting it a little bit, anyway. Read more…

What’s Ailing American Law Schools

Last week, I learned that my law school is one of about a dozen sued in a class action for fraud in representing their graduates’ employment prospects. More law schools are expected to be named as defendants in the near future.

I am not sure how I feel about the lawsuit. If anyone is to blame for the totally erroneous perception of how well lawyers make out, it’s Hollywood (and, to a larger extent, popular culture itself). Don’t get me wrong, there are some very good reasons to go into law; it’s just that getting rich isn’t one of them. Even so-called “superlawyers” earn far less than specialists of comparable caliber in other traditionally lucrative fields (such as finance). White-shoe law firms, for their part, pay relatively well, but they are a cut-throat environment, and they treat associates like serfs. The overwhelming majority of lawyers, however, have modest incomes — at least relative to the effort and expense of acquiring legal education. Starting salaries for most are ridiculously low, hours are long, and career advancement proceeds at a snail’s pace. That, coupled with the crushing debt of student loans, means that most law school graduates look at a decade or more of living paycheck-to-paycheck. Read more…

Cutting Off The Nose To Spite The Face

The latest insane flurry of right-wing efforts to roll back women’s reproductive rights and push women out of civil participation and public discourse has left many liberals certain that come November, Republican women will leave the fold in droves. I am not so sure. There have already been and will continue to be some defections among women who are slightly right-of-center, but the trickle will not become a flood. I do hope history will prove me wrong, but I doubt it will happen in this political climate. Read more…

An Argument I Wish Liberals Would Not Make So Much

As the debate over contraception coverage continues, there is an argument that supporters of such coverage frequently rely on, that I believe should not be the centerpiece of the pro-coverage case. At best, it should be offered as a side dish. The argument is that some women need birth control pills for reasons other than preventing pregnancy.

Look, I know that a lot of women, even virgins, take hormonal birth control for certain gynecological problems, to control cramps, etc. Still, the primary purpose of such medication is to prevent pregnancy, and the majority of women who take such pills, take it for this reason alone. To rely on the off-label use as a justification for mandating coverage implicitly concedes the wingnut argument that sexually active women, even married women, should just “hold an aspirin between their knees” if they don’t want to get pregnant. It also concedes their argument that sex for pleasure, as opposed to procreation, is a morally reprehensible “lifestyle” choice that should not be countenanced by making birth control more cheaply available.

I strongly disagree with such a stance, for reasons stated below: Read more…

The False Distinction Between “Illness” and “Lifestyle”

There is a relatively new argument in the conservative arsenal of talking points as to why health care plans should not cover contraception: because pregnancy is not a “disease”, and so preventing it is not a medical issue, but a “lifestyle issue”. That’s right: conservatives have become so deranged, sex is now a “lifestyle”. Next thing you know, we’ll be hearing dire warnings about the “sex-haver agenda”.

But let’s think about the logical implications of this new conservative principle, that there should be no insurance coverage for “lifestyle”, only for legitimate “medical problems” over which the individual has absolutely no control. One obvious implication is that, since “pregnancy is not a disease”, there should be no insurance coverage for pregnancy, child birth or post-partum care. After all, having children is, like sex, a lifestyle choice, and pregnancy is “natural”. In fact, since there appears to be a sizeable contingent of moral conservatives who believe that all women who have sex — even within marriage and even for procreation — are irresponsible sluts who must be held accountable for using their lady-parts, I would not be surprised if there is conservative support for forcing women to endure painful and dangerous child-bearing, just as God intended. So I do suspect that in arguing that “pregnancy is not a disease”, conservatives are laying the groundwork for denying care related to child-bearing, not just contraception. Read more…

A Modest Proposal


People who don’t have money don’t understand the stress. Could you imagine what it’s like to say I got three kids in private school, I have to think about pulling them out? How do you do that?

Alan Dlugash, partner, Marks Paneth & Shron, LLP, on Wall Street’s reduced bonuses this year

But the great Bakhtiyar, preoccupied always with care for the welfare of the royal subjects, did his best to set up such laws in Bukhara, that not one penny would linger in the pockets of its inhabitants, but would pass immediately to the Emir — that is, so the citizenry could move about with greater ease, their pockets not burdened with money.

Leonid Solovyev, “The Tale of Hodja Nasreddin”

In 1729, Jonathan Swift wrote a satirical essay entitled “A Modest Proposal”, in which he argued that the poor Irish can alleviate their plight by selling their children to slaughter houses, where they would be turned into food. The solution would be a win-win: it would solve the Irish poverty problem, while meeting the need of the affluent for culinary innovation and rich food. Although my humble keyboard could never match the elegance and the sheer intellectual force of Swift’s pen, today I was nevertheless inspired to write a “Modest Proposal” of my own. Read more…

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