July 27, 2010 at 6:47 pm (By Amba)

Deep roots.  This is where J’s are.  The house where he was born, and where his mother died in the same bed, with us holding her hands, would be about half a block behind you.  (Except it’s gone now; it was pretty much stolen from us, and rebuilt into a hotel.)  The citadel (Bauernburg or “farmers’ fortress”) on top of the hill was where the whole village would retreat whenever there was an invasion across the plains from Central Asia, which was pretty often.  That’s how these Transylvanian Saxons, invited to farm and defend the foot of the Carpathians by a Hungarian king in the 12th and 13th centuries, got their broad streak of Mongolian genes.  A known ancestor of J’s mother was the leader of the town in the fortress in the 1400s.

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HERE’S Why People Hate the Jews!

July 22, 2010 at 2:15 am (By Amba)

From Christopher Hitchens’s recent interview with Hugh Hewitt:

My great friend, the late Jacobo Timerman, who was also disappeared for a considerable time, a Jewish newspaper editor in Buenos Aires, said that when he was being tortured in another private prison, his interrogators kept asking him so don’t you understand who our enemies are? Our enemies are Sigmund Freud, because he destroyed the Christian concept of the family, Albert Einstein, because he destroyed the Christian concept of the cosmos, and Karl Marx, because he destroyed the Christian idea of the organic economy. And do you think it’s coincidence all these three people are Jews?

I especially love “Albert Einstein, because he destroyed the Christian concept of the cosmos.”  It was all his fault!  What we didn’t know wouldn’t have hurt us!

Someday I’ll finish this damned foundation mission statement I promised to write for a friend 9 months ago, and then I’ll finally be able to write my piece for PJM tentatively titled “Science and the Crisis of Belief.”  I do believe that getting a look at the Hubble Deep Field has been a traumatic initiation for humanity.  Not only our universe but our conception of a God was way, way, way too small.  And in a universe so unencompassably vast, if there’s only one God (a legacy of being Jewish I can’t shake), can it really be “our” God?  What are we?  No, we have had a gnat’s conception of grandeur.  To merit its attention, to catch its reciprocal glance, we have to measure up, up, up.

Blame Albert for disturbing our larval sleep.

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The World Turned Upside Down

July 17, 2010 at 2:17 am (By Theo Boehm) (, , , )

Global-squalor campaigners seem to have have scored another victory in Rochdale in the UK.  (The town was made famous last year when pensioner and longtime resident Gillian Duffy voiced her concern over immigration to then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and was dismissed by Brown as a “bigoted woman.”)

In the name of un-Duffy-like cultural sensitivity, managers at the local shopping centre decided to install several squat toilets, otherwise known as a Turkish toilet or Nile Pan.  These have been the stuff of nightmares to generations of Anglo-Saxon tourists at French and Italian train stations, not to mention many other plumbing-challenged spots around the globe.

The Mail story quotes Philip Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley, as saying, “We in Britain are rightly proud of our toilets, and the onus is on people who come to this country to appreciate them for what they are….It’s absolutely ludicrous – Thomas Crapper would be turning in his grave!”

The article also mentions Mike Bone, of the British Toilet Association, who warned the washing facilities associated with squat toilets could pose a hygiene hazard. “We really don’t see a need for them,” he said.

Of course, we in the US have been reminded now for 40 years that we really shouldn’t see a need for ordinary flush toilets, either. It’s said that flush toilets are environmentally unsustainable, mostly because they waste water.  The British, green as they may be, seem to have fewer complaints of this.  Water falling from the sky on a daily basis has rendered them less anxious over its availability than we in our more parched climes.  As Dr. Johnson said, an Englishman “has more frequent need to solicit rather than exclude the sun.”  But we know too well an over-familiar acquaintance with that celestial body has its costs.

The damp British climate gave rise to the flush toilet—the earliest may go back to Elizabethan times—and the classic British loo, formerly viewed in many parts of the world as so many phenomena.  But flush toilets are now seen by environmentalists as wasteful and irresponsible. The more historically-minded may regard them as expressions of British plumbing imperialism, suited only to their rain-soaked home islands.

That said, I had a lesson in how attached the British are to their well-functioning toilets last time I was in Paris.  Coming out of the toilets near Sainte-Chapelle, one elderly English lady turned to another and said, “Those worked quite well, didn’t they?” The other replied, “Yes, one appreciates a Good Flush!”

I could barely contain myself, but realised later that I had a lesson in cultural sensitivity at least as great as that learnt by the managers of the Rochdale Shopping Centre. They ought to have known, given our own experiences here in the US with low-flow and other environmentally correct but miserable toilets, that a people inured to a Good Flush do not willingly give it up.

ADDED: There’ll always be an England: Thos. Crapper & Co., Ltd. are trading again!

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The Last Instrument fit for a Gentleman to Play

July 10, 2010 at 5:53 pm (By Theo Boehm) (, , )

(Cross-posted from A Quiet Evening.)

It’s the easiest thing in the world to “blog” by pointing to a YouTube video. Lame as it may from the standpoint of originality, I can’t help putting up something recent by Robert Barto, one of the great lute players of this, or I suspect, any other time.

The lute is another of those musical spectres who have found a way to haunt us and maybe tell a few ghost stories, but I hope not those that knock under tables or slam doors at midnight. This particular piece is an Entrée from a Suite in A major by S.L. Weiss, lutenist at the Dresden Hofkapelle, who was an almost exact contemporary of J.S. Bach, and who was a friend of Bach and his family, and a sometimes friendly competitor as well. Bach transcribed another movement of this Weiss piece for harpsichord, which he used in his violin sonata, BWV 1025.  I’ve blogged about Weiss and Bach previously here.

Here’s Weiss himself, who manages to look a bit like Barto, but with a wig.  I don’t know whose hair is worse:

Having considered Emerson a bit in my previous post, I’m working on another about Time, somewhat from the perspective of Emerson’s Vedantic philosophy, and which features Dresden, not so much as a symbol, but something deeply embedded in me. So, it seems nice to have a little quiet music from Baroque Dresden, before I treat you to firebombed Dresden.

And much as I admire Amanda Palmer, who grew up in the next town and frequently makes me wish I was young, none of this has anything at all to do with the Dresden Dolls.

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The Thing that Makes Me Quail

July 7, 2010 at 7:26 pm (By Amba)

— you could almost call it an existential challenge — is the silent, empty days when friends are sealed off in their lives somewhere, busy and preoccupied, without the magnanimous excess it takes to attend to us; when none of the bustle and substitute social life of hospice is scheduled (the two aides who bathe J would normally come today, but rescheduled for tomorrow); when we two might as well be the only people on a deserted planet.  There is no perspective, no matter how my mind tells me “This too shall pass,” “Tomorrow will be different.”  (It will!)  No, it is an eternal present, and it feels like the bedrock, the baseline, of our condition laid bare.  Everything else is a temporary reprieve, a weekend pass from prison, a kind lie.

J has been a little bit sick — aspiration bronchitis, I guess you’d call it — well short of pneumonia, but labored, rapid breathing and a low fever.  The hospice doctor agreed to an antibiotic, and he’s better.  But such episodes (pretty rare for now) remind me how little time we have.  Every day he’s weak and out of it like that, he loses double the ground from being unable to do the things that keep him going: sitting up in his chair, getting out of the apartment, doing a little bit of exercise, or going to the pool, for which he has to be strong enough to pull himself up by a grab bar while I hold him up by his waistband and two lifeguards quick swap the water wheelchair under him.  It will be a week or two before I’m confident that he’s regained enough strength even to try.  Too bad, because it’s the only thing worth taking him out for in this heat.

Hospice also convinced us to accept oxygen.  I’ve been nervous about having it in the house after the fire.  We do now have the whole nine yards, cylinders for portability and in case of a power outage, which is overkill since J can and mostly does live without it.  But there’s also a machine that takes it right out of the air.  When J’s breathing is compromised, he clearly doesn’t get quite enough oxygen to a brain that’s already in other kinds of deficit.  So I’ve been giving him both a nebulizer mask with bronchodilating meds and a nasal cannula with oxygen, as much as he’ll tolerate gadgets on his face, which isn’t much.  The oxygen gives him more mental energy, and that turns out not to be a particularly good thing.  It doesn’t dispel his confusions and delusions, just kind of supercharges them.  And today, it seemed to make him more aware of his boredom and purposelessness as I worked and swilled away at the engrossing social tit of the Internet while he sat there, propped up on the side of the bed.  He is blessed to be rarely depressed, but today I was concerned enough to ask him if he was, and he admitted it.

What do I do then?  Well, I go into overdrive.  I get him washed, dressed, and up, acting as busy and jolly and silly as a barrel of monkeys while crying inside, for him  (Ridi, Pagliacci!).  I shut the computer and resolutely put it away even though this blog post is already forming in my head.  I work out with him, doing my karate slowly while he, sitting in his chair, does the vestiges of his (often his left foot moves when he tries to send a message to his right one, or he can’t alternate left and right hands but uses both at once).  I make him an old faithful favorite thing to eat (three fried eggs) and an attractive new thing to eat (avocado and orange salad, slices alternating like flower petals).  I put jazz on the CD player.  He was probably depressed in part because he was hungry, having declined breakfast.  He is easily led back to enjoyment of the basic pleasures of life.  He reminds me of his mother, whose mild martyr complex could always, always be dispelled by a good joke.  Neither of them could ever resist an invitation to laugh.

Now he’s watching Silence of the Lambs, which I assure you will make him him very happy.  I’m about to go finish my workout, which, along with coffee, floats my boat.  And the day is over.  Tomorrow will be different.

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Essay After a Sonata

July 6, 2010 at 4:14 pm (By Theo Boehm) (, , , , , , )

I‘ve been listening to and thinking about the music of Charles Ives (1878-1954), one of the most original composers of this or any other country.

His father had been a bandmaster in the Civil War and later Danbury, Connecticut, and he gave young Ives an odd but thorough musical education. Ives took a degree in Music from Yale in 1898, where he was captain of the baseball team,  and where, the story goes, he was said to have muttered, “Goddam Brahms…Goddam Brahms…” under his breath as a kind of mantra during warm-ups.

Having thus studied the best European masters and their weak American imitators, he determined never to compromise his own startling, American, and original vision of music. He saw that making a living in music in the Gilded Age would entail nothing but compromise.  So, he went into business and became the co-founder of Ives & Co., later Ives & Myrick, a successful New York insurance agency.  He was an original thinker in business as well as music, and in fact pioneered the entire modern concept of estate planning.  Composers do not commonly write books titled, Life Insurance with Relation to Inheritance Tax, but Ives did in 1918.

Ives, while becoming wealthy in business, wrote an astonishing amount of music in such spare time as he created for himself. His music is beyond unusual for its day or any other, and, in fact, to say it was “ahead of its time” is the worst limp-wristed cant. Stravinsky put it best, I believe, in 1966:

C: Have you heard Ives’ Fourth Symphony yet, Mr. Stravinsky, and if so, have you any comments to register concerning it?

I.S.: I have found it to be rather less of a ‘gas’ than opinion led me to expect. Ives was not primarily a symphonist; the Three Places in New England are more of an entity than any one of the symphonies (besides which they contain much better music than the third and more consistently good music than the fourth). But the second movement of the fourth is an astonishing achievement. The inclusiveness, which is at the root of Ives’ genius (‘all things in their variety,’ as he quoted Emerson) reaches saturation point in these seemingly free-for-all pages; ‘seemingly’ because while this or that tune may suddenly burst out for no other apparent reason than joie de vivre, it is inextricable in the skein of the composition. But I will say no more. I know too little of this fascinating composer who was exploring the 1960s during the heyday of Strauss and Debussy. Polytonality; atonality; tone clusters; perspectivistic effects; chance; statistical composition; permutation; add-a-part, practical-joke, and improvisatory music: these were Ives’ discoveries a half-century ago as he quietly set about devouring the contemporary cake before the rest of us even found a seat at the same table. But to me personally these innovatory achievements are of less moment (artistic inventions not being patented, in any case) than my discovery in him, only very recently, of a new awareness of America.

–Igor Stravinsky and Robert Craft, Dialogs. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982, p. 66.

The original book is online here.

The second movement of another Ives symphony, the unnumbered “New England Holidays,” has always been close to my heart.  It paints a picture of Decoration Day (now known as Memorial Day) in a New England village when Ives was a boy, about 20 years before the turn of the last century. It’s filled, like most of Ives’ music, with quotes and snippets of popular songs, hymns, and Civil War tunes, which is what Stravinsky meant by “inclusiveness,” in reference to the second movement of the 4th Symphony.  Much of Ives’ commonplace music is unfamiliar to people today, but see what you can pick out.  Knowing some of Ives’ musical landscape adds considerably to the appreciation of the portrait he has painted with it as a background. Ives wrote of this piece:

In the early morning the gardens and woods around the village are the meeting places of those who, with tender memories and devoted hands, gather the flowers for the Day’s Memorial.** During the forenoon as the people join each other on the Green there is felt, at times, a fervency and intensity–a shadow perhaps of the fanatical harshness–reflecting old Abolitionist days. It is a day as Thoreau suggests, when there is a pervading consciousness of “Nature’s kinship with the lower order-man.”

After the Town Hall is filled with the Spring’s harvest of lilacs, daisies, and peonies, the parade is slowly formed on Main Street. First come the three Marshals on plough horses (going sideways), then the Warden and Burgesses in carriages, the Village Cornet Band, the G.A.R., two by two, the Militia (Company G), while the volunteer Fire Brigade, drawing a decorated hose-cart, with its jangling bells, brings up the rear-the inevitable swarm of small boys following. The march to Wooster Cemetery is a thing a boy never forgets. The roll of the muffled drums and “Adestes Fideles” answer for the dirge. A little girl on a fencepost waves to her father and wonders if he looked like that at Gettysburg.

After the last grave is decorated, Taps sounds out through the pines and hickories, while a last hymn is sung. The ranks are formed again, and “we all march to town” to a Yankee stimulant-Reeves inspiring Second Regiment Quickstep-though, to many a soldier, the sombre thoughts of the day underlie the tunes of the band. The march stops-and in the silence of the shadow of the early morning flower-song rises over the Town, and the sunset behind the West Mountain breathes its benediction upon the Day .

I can never listen to that, especially as I live near a cemetery filled with Grand Army of the Republic badges next to weathered marble headstones, without a lump in my throat.

Ives was a careful reader of the New England Transcendentalists, especially Emerson.  Ives’ one extended piece of writing, his Essays Before a Sonata, (another online version here) originally published in 1920, is filled with Emersonian ideas, filtered as they are through Ives’ atmospheric and sloppy prose. The lack of editing, both in his music and his writings, is perhaps Ives’ weakest point.  Considering he was a preoccupied businessman who managed to accomplish at least three lifetime’s work in his relatively short productive span, I think it’s worth plowing through a little hazy writing to get at the gems of Emersonian thought as applied to music, a subject on which Emerson wrote very little.

There’s also no little humor in Ives, both in his music and writing. In his “Introductory Footnote” he says, “These prefatory essays were written by the composer for those who can’t stand his music–and the music for those who can’t stand his essays; to those who can’t stand either, the whole is respectfully dedicated.” I’m afraid this particular blog post is focused on his more serious side, although there is no lack of subtle mockery of Bronson, for example, in the “Alcott” movement of the Sonata mentioned next.

The occasion of these Essays was the publication of his large, complex Second Piano Sonata, titled, “Concord, Mass. 1840-60.” It has four movements, each a portrait of a Concord author, plural in the Alcott instance:

1. Emerson (Part 1) (Part 2)
2. Hawthorn.
3. The Alcotts.
4. Thoreau.

The Sonata is an enormous work, and I won’t try to analyze it, except to quote Bernard Herrmann, the composer probably best-known for his music for Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho,” and who was a longtime friend of Ives:

The first movement, “Emerson,” is prefaced by the following comment:

There is an “oracle” at the beginning of the Fifth Symphony–in those four notes lies one of Beethoven’s greatest messages. We would place its translation above the relentlessness of fate knocking at the door, above the greater human-message of destiny, and strive to bring it towards the spiritual message of Emerson’s revelations–even to the “common heart” of Concord–the Soul of humanity knocking at the door of the Divine mysteries, radiant in the faith that it will be opened–and that the human will become the Divine!

This movement is divided into three sections, prose and verse and coda, the coda being one of the most superb pages in music. In its twilight mood, it is only comparable to the coda of the last movement of Brahm’s Symphony in F major. The scherzo tries to suggest Hawthorne’s fantastical adventures into the half- childlike, half-fairylike phantasmal realms–about the ghost of a man who never lived, or about something that will never happen, or something that is not. The third movement is a sketch in form of a free improvisation–of Beth Alcott at the old spinnet-piano, playing and improvising on old Scotch airs, hymn tunes, and on Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. This movement is constructed on simple, diatonic harmonies. The finale follows Thoreau’s thoughts on a day in Indian summer, at Walden. It is twilight, and the poet’s flute is heard out over the pond. “‘Tis an evening when the whole body is one sense.”

The links on the titles of the movements are to excellent performances of this Sonata by John Kirkpatrick, Ives’ first real piano champion, who played its public premier in 1938. The recordings are a transfer from a 1968 vinyl, I believe, so they’re a bit scratchy. But they really are the best readings I’ve ever heard of this piece, and I recommend spending some time with them.  You also might want to explore some of the CD’s available of this piece.

Here, also, is the YouTube file of the “Alcotts” movement, which is probably my favorite, as the character of Bronson Alcott and Louisa May (“Necessity’s Daughter”) have always affected me greatly. I drive by Orchard House almost every day on my way to work, and sometimes think I see the Shade of Jo and her sisters scampering behind the big tree, or Bronson sitting in the “Hillside Chapel” of his Concord School of Philosophy and Literature, ready to expound profoundly on any subject by the hour.

While this my be my usual effort at Music Appreciation, it also has something to do with the current situation of the American psyche, if I may use the term.  Ives is interesting to me, aside from his purely musical merit and the quality of his thought, because he was a genuine American of a sort I don’t know can exist any longer.

It seems our political and social thought and dialog, such as they are, have become crude travesties, in thrall to one or another rigid system, with too much of the country lapping up foreign and discredited ideas, the conflicts of which in the 20th century have wrecked a noticeable part of the ancient physical fabric of Europe and killed millions and the European soul in the bargain, while the Chinese, practical people as they are, finally withdrew from the brink before it ruined them utterly.

The other part of the country seems to be taken with such absolutes of private property and public economy as would have warmed the heart of an old Whig mill owner in Manchester in 1801.  Both sides, but particularly the first, seem intent on cutting off the nose of the country to spite the face of the other.  Where, now, is our American practicality and common sense?

Where in all this do we find thinkers and writers of the character of an Emerson? Where do we find artists with the independent, Yankee spirit of an Ives? Maybe they exist. I see very good political and social writing all the time, and know that there’s quite a bit of good, new music being composed. But everything I read or hear, despite my efforts at engagement, fills me, in some deep place, with dread. It’s as if I have stumbled into a terrible Dark Age, in which there are still clever people, ignorant as they may have become, but nowhere do I find essential spiritual comfort, wholesome-minded and renewing, as I do in Emerson or in Ives.

Ives was mainly a programmatic composer who evoked ordinary American life. He wrote music about small-town events, places he knew in New England, scenes in New York City, and pieces inspired by well-known American political and literary figures. In a sense, he had the outlook of a Norman Rockwell, but wedded to an astonishing avant-garde musical technique. More to the point, he had the outlook of the New England Transcendentalists, who found spiritual meaning in everyday life and in ordinary Nature.  Ives always had, behind his depictions of life and quotes from other music, a deeper, spiritual and cosmic purpose.

The thing that leads me to despair when I consider Ives, is the nearly complete absence of this today. Our artistic sensibilities, particularly in “serious” art or music, seem to be foreign and imported along with our left-wing politics, leaving little space for the genuinely American. Ives does not mock or condescend to small-town life, as journalists, writers and artists of all stripes do today. He does not sneer at the village band playing the Second Regiment Quick-Step, missing a beat or two, but instead surrounds them with a another story, deeper and more spiritual, that in itself springs from those ordinary people.

The condescension and self-loathing in American intellectual, political, and artistic life today is an acid that eats at my soul. I hope you don’t think it too self-indulgent to say this, while pointing to an example from the past that is so much different.

Perhaps it’s always been this way to those who must live through the anxieties of any particular time. I have found in Emerson a few words of ultimate comfort, as he inevitably has, to those of us Americans who despair at the present and think things are uniquely bad. I suppose we ought to be reminded there never was a Golden Age, but that this country may indeed represent the last, best hope for mankind and the renewal of the human spirit. Emerson gives us the full brunt of what always seems to have been wrong with America, and then his reasons why it should turn out well. I pray he was right:

I hate this shallow Americanism which hopes to get rich by credit, to get knowledge by raps on midnight tables. to learn the economy of the mind by phrenology, or skill without study, or mastery without apprenticeship, or the sale of goods through pretending that they sell, or power through making believe you are powerful, or through a packed jury or caucus, bribery and “repeating” votes, or wealth by fraud, They think they have got it, but they have got something else,-a crime which calls for another crime, and another devil behind that: these are steps to suicide, infamy and the harming of mankind. We countenance each other in this life of show, puffing, advertisement and manufacture of public opinion; and excellence is lost sight of in the hunger for sudden performance and praise.–Society and Solitude, Chapter 1.

Gentlemen, the development of our American internal resources, the extension to the utmost of the commercial system, and the appearance of new moral causes which are to modify the state, are giving an aspect of greatness to the Future, which the imagination fears to open. One thing is plain for all men of common sense and common conscience, that here, here in America, is the home of man. After all the deductions which are to be made for our pitiful politics, which stake every gravest national question on the silly die, whether James or whether Jonathan shall sit in the chair and hold the purse; after all the deduction is made for our frivolities and insanities, there still remains an organic simplicity and liberty, which, when it loses its balance, redresses itself presently, which offers opportunity to the human mind not known in any other region.–”The Young American.”


I can’t leave this without a few more words.

First, to my conservative friends, you should know that Ives was not one of you. As he was progressive in his music, so was he Progressive in his politics. My point about him in relation to modern politics is that he was an American and a New England Yankee, with everything those implied. He was as unlikely to follow the dictates of the Comintern in his day as to lap up ideas from the Daily Kos, were he alive now, and even less likely to listen to Rush Limbaugh for more than a few minutes.

There is a strain of American “progressive” thought, implicit in the New England Transcendentalists, that sought more perfect democracy, the Abolition of slavery, free and equal public education, governmental efficiency and elimination of corruption and favoritism, regulation of the influence of the “moneyed interest,”  Temperance, the protection of Nature for the common good, etc. These things were historically associated with the Republican Party in New England, who were heirs, ultimately, to the old Federalists.

These were not wild-eyed radicals in their love of some collectivist ideal. Neither were they Jeffersonian small-government Democrats, with their hypocritical cant of “each man under his own vine” and “States’ Rights” covering for the enslavement of millions.  New England Republicans, mocked in the past as “Goo-Goo’s” for their commitment to Good Government, trace their roots to the intensely communal Puritans and their version of a proper Christian life.

Puritans never passed up a chance to Do Good, individually or collectively, as they were impelled to as an external sign of their Christianity as part of  the Body of Christ. Yet, each of them had his or her own intensely personal relationship with God, and to a Salvation not meted out to Merit, but to Faith, and that by God’s unknowable Will alone.

Thus were the tensions between the individual and collective expressed in the very mothers’s milk of our own first, distinctively American, tradition of communal responsibility.  In modern New England, politicians such as Frank Sargent, William Weld, Olympia Snowe, and Joe Lieberman have been the uncomfortable heirs to this ambiguous and tense legacy, long since stripped of external signs of its Christian roots.

Charles Ives would have been, I think, more comfortable with these, and his own turn-of-the-century Republican Progressives, than any of the pro-crypto Marxist modern “progressives” or doctrinaire “conservatives” that otherwise pester us today.  From what I’ve read, Ives was a supporter of FDR and the New Deal, like many Yankee former Republicans, who found their liberal and reformist social ideas squeezed out of the 1920’s Republican Party, and taken up, however strangely and hypocritically, by the party of the Solid South and Jim Crow.

Such is another example our “pitiful politics.”

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July 2, 2010 at 11:18 am (By Maxwell James)

Icepick has a really great, moving comment over at Dave Schuler’s place (in a thread where I was behaving rather childishly):

As for addressing Medicare – I will do so just to spite you. The truth of the matter is that Medicare cannot be fixed. Forcing doctors and hospitals to take less money will insure shortages of coverage. No one will accept that. And failing to reduce costs will simply bankrupt the country. Obama and Co. are attempting another path, which is to destroy the whole goddamned US medical system. They’ll probably succeed. After all, if EVERYONE is getting crappy rationed medical care, then those old people can’t complain when we don’t give them anything.

Medicare won’t be fixed. It WILL go bankrupt, and soon. What happens after that wreck? Who knows? Personally I suspect that the effort to keep it afloat will end up destroying a large chunk of the American economy and will definitely destroy the last vestiges of the republic, slight as those vestiges are.

Mr. Schuler, how do you propose to means test Medicare? Most people don’t have retirement medical benefits, and those that do have such benefits are usually predicated on Medicare absorbing 80% of the costs. Removing that subsidy would bankrupt the private plans right quick.

Even those with good incomes would have trouble affording decent medical insurance. What is the fair actuarial cost for medical insurance covering an 82 year-old with a history of bladder cancer, osteoperosis, and many other issues? That’s really damned steep. You’re either going to exclude almost no one, thus gaining almost no benefit, or you will be exluding people solely with the intent of making them paupers. And that will not fly, politically.

(There are aspects of Medicare currently which do this as well. No one likes to talk about THAT topic much either, and most have no idea such things can even occur until it happens to a family member.)

Dave, in fine form, pivots and turns this into a great post about real healthcare reform – the kind we haven’t even begun to see yet. I don’t agree with everything in either the comment or the post, but they’re both extremely thoughtful and ask important questions without offering facile answers. Read it all, both of ’em.

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