Tic-Tac-Toe Cleavage

Female Body Parts, Health Repeal, and Republican Death Wish

Major toe cleavage on display.

Wikimedia Commons

Major toe cleavage on display.

It’s come to this: toe cleavage.

And apparently, it’s a serious issue. While the rest of America is coming to terms with new anatomical designations ​— ​and exaltations ​— ​like the under butt and the side boob, House Speaker Paul Ryan and the Republican congressional leadership are still grappling with bare shoulders, sleeveless tops, and of course, the creeping scourge of toe cleavage.

For those who’ve never been, Washington, D.C., in the summertime is infamous for its 98 degree heat and 99 percent humidity. Body parts seek exposure there as part of the human body’s attempt to maintain temperature equilibrium. It goes without saying that this only became an issue when female body parts got involved. Perhaps in a more well-ordered universe, women would come equipped with no such distracting parts. Or at the very least, they would stay out of Congress. In recent weeks, we have learned, at least two well-known female reporters have been barred from the Speaker’s Lobby ​— ​presided over by the aforementioned Ryan ​— ​because of excessive shoulder exposure. The Speaker’s Lobby is where any self-respecting reporter goes to get fed the crumbs and tidbits that pass as news, so such banishment is consequential. Ryan is insisting upon appropriate and professional attire. Apparently shoes that expose the ravines separating women’s pedal digits are too provocative. Ryan ​— ​famous for supporting any bill that would deny 22 million Americans health care ​— ​is currently hard at work “modernizing” the dress code required inside the halls of Congress. Even Arizona Republican Rep. Martha McSally felt compelled to take to the floor of Congress to declare herself appropriately and professionally attired in “a sleeveless dress and open-toed shoes.”

We have two things to be grateful for. The first is that Ryan and Vice President Mike Pence — ​who is famous for refusing to eat or libate in the company of women not his wife — ​have not gotten around to creating the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, as now exists in Saudi Arabia. That sanctified group just briefly impounded a young Saudi woman who was seen in a video walking down the street wearing a miniskirt. The second thing is that Ryan ​— ​along with the entire Republican leadership ​— ​has failed utterly when it comes to crafting a repeal-and-replace bill for the Affordable Care Act.

For those of us who still believe in cause and effect, gravity, friction, and, above all, the role of rational self-interest, the implosion of repeal-and-replace was reassuring in the extreme. Four Republicans publicly defected, declining to drink the Kool-Aid that would have poisoned the vast majority of us. Not only would 22 million lose their insurance, but the greater impact would have been far worse. The latest Republican “reform” would have let the air out of the tires on which Medicare has been rolling for nearly 50 years. In Santa Barbara County, by way of illustration, that’s what covers one out of every three residents.

In the meantime, my Plan B is coffee. Drink more. Turns out people who drink two to four cups a day have an 18 percent lower death risk, particularly of digestive and liver diseases. They also tend to kill themselves less. This is according to a study by the National Cancer Institute and USC that tracked 185,000 people in the United States for about 20 years. That, combined with another study of half a million people in 10 European countries, suggests coffee consumption compares favorably with the impacts of the Affordable Care Act. For example, another study compared three states that expanded Medicaid with nearby states that didn’t. It found a 6.1 percent reduction in the relative risk of death among adults in states with expanded Medicaid. The biggest reductions, not surprisingly, were among the poorest. By adding 500,000 to the Medicaid rolls, 2,840 lives a year got saved. You do the math; I can’t. I just know that’s a lot of coffee.

Of course, the Republican Plan B is simply repeal, with no replace. If you can’t drive the car, crash it into the nearest K-rail on the freeway. The good news here is that three Republican senators ​— ​who just happen to be women ​— ​announced they would not support the repeal-only option, even with their distracting body parts. That’s one vote more than what’s needed to kill repeal. I’m not clear why health care is a gender issue. But apparently it is. Big thanks to senators Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Susan Collins of Maine. Thanks to them, people with preexisting conditions are still covered.

I wonder what kind of shoes they wear.  ​

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