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Month: September 2009

Petitioning Poorly

The Polanski petition doesn’t really cut it. I get the argument — that film festivals should be safe zones, because if you have a blanket policy of extradition then filmmakers from totalitarian regimes aren’t safe there. But no. This is not about free speech, this is about rape. It’s reasonable to make the distinction between types of crime; we do not need to protect rapists for the sake of protecting free speech.

Second Go-Round

The season two premier of Dollhouse got lousy ratings, which it deserved. The problem’s highlighted in the climatic scene, where Eliza Dushku is flipping through identities. You can’t really tell the difference between them. Which kick-ass identity is the meaningful one?

Kind of sad, insofar as Fran Kranz and Amy Acker knocked their scenes out of the park. Whedon just isn’t all that great at casting female leads, I guess.

Centralized Management

I woke up this morning thinking about FlashForward. (Jack Davenport, so big awesome potential. Susan notes concern that the show has absorbed all the British character actors, however, which could lead to a shortage over in the UK.) So I wanted to read some discussion on it, and I wound up missing Usenet.

Back in the day you could just go read the television newsgroup or the newsgroup and you’d get your fix of cranky geeks expressing poorly-formed opinions about new shows. These days, where do I go? I guess TWoP.

Kids, lawns, etc.

Political Poison

A moment of silence, if you will, for Deval Patrick. Setting aside the rather imperfect bill passed by imperfect legislators to fill Teddy Kennedy’s Senate seat, Governor Patrick is taking a sizable political chance in order to maximize the chance that health care reform will pass.

It’s not just that he’s associating himself with a bill that’s not all that popular in his home state. Yeah, Republicans are savoring the idea of hanging this sucker around his neck in 2010. The public glee is all about Patrick appointing Dukakis; make no mistake, however. If Paul Kirk is appointed, that’s going to be just as useful from a Republican standpoint. “Duval Patrick, doing the work of the Kennedys.” Raw meat for the Republican base.

So he’s got that to worry about. And he’s got Democrats who dislike the way the law was changed. But he’s also sitting in the middle of a party fight: does he go along with the rather blatant Kennedy push for Paul Kirk, or does he appoint Dukakis and make some of his key supporters happy, or does he choose someone else and make nobody happy?

(By the way — not smooth, oh Kennedy clan. Backing Patrick into a corner like that was unkind. The Dukakis camp didn’t fight their battle in the media.)

He could have avoided this. He’d have made Obama mad, and he’d have hurt health care reform, but he could have hidden behind the emergency clause and let 90 days pass. He maybe could have made life easier on his legislature and avoided passage of the bill entirely. Lots of options.

So when he makes his announcement at 11 AM today, I’ll have a moment of sympathy for the guy. None of this has been at all easy on him, and I think it’ll be the final straw on the back of his reelection campaign. I appreciate his decision to make sure the Democratic Party has another vote in the Senate.

Obvious Joke is Obvious

It’s the week for rich businessmen to enter the political fray, huh? Of the two, I find Linda McMahon’s decision more interesting. Stephen Pagliuca is a fairly bland guy with a fairly bland background. Linda McMahon is also fairly bland, and she’s going to face the same questions about her loyalty to her party, but her background has somewhat more spice.

Her Web site is funny. You can barely tell her last name is McMahon, which is probably for the best. It’s not about Linda McMahon, it’s about Linda, who is barely related to that guy who shows up on your TV on Monday nights yelling at wrestlers. The WWE is merely “a company,” not a sports entertainment juggernaut or anything like that. It’s a pretty tasteful chunk of the Web.

There’s very little there about her positions on the issues. We learn she’s a fiscal conservative, which is poorly defined insofar as she’s not yet committed to supporting anything. That’s about it. In particular, there’s nothing on abortion. She donated to the Republican Majority For Choice, which will be impossible to play down and may sink her in the primary. Pro-choice views are nigh required for a Republican to win in New England, though. Ask Mitt Romney. So I’ll be watching to see how she walks that tightrope.

She’s smart. A lot of the WWE’s business success is thanks to her. She is undoubtedly a better businessman than her husband, who reliably lets emotion get in the way of decisions. She’d be a fierce defender of free speech for obvious reasons. On the other hand, she’s complicit in one of the worst abuses of employees in the United States — the WWE’s “independent contractor” crap, which directly results in drug addictions, ruined lives, and deaths.

In the end, you’d have to guess she’d be a business-oriented Republican, who’d work to keep government small and limited. She would most likely be consistent in that she wouldn’t want the government dictating social mores either. Could be worse; I’ve just never seen any great value in keeping government small while allowing big corporations to flourish. Large organizations are large organizations.

I can’t see it getting that far, though. WWE television programming is a great platform, but the skeletons are too visible. In way too many cases, quite literally.

Walking for Prevention

This post may trigger.

On September 28th, 2008, my life changed. That was the day Wyatt killed himself; that was the evening Susan and I found Wyatt’s body on the third floor of our communal house. A year later, the grief has abated somewhat, although there are sharp moments of pain. The anger’s still pretty strong. So is the determination.

In 2006, 33,000 people killed themselves in the United States. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for adults between the ages of 18 and 65 years in this country. (15 to 24 year olds? Third leading.) Last year the rate of military suicides increased for the fourth year running. More than half of all violent deaths are suicides.

Two hotlines, if you are concerned about yourself or others:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Samaritans Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-877-870-HOPE (4673) (and in Boston: 617-247-0220)

On October 10th, we will be walking to raise money for suicide prevention. I expect to be working for this cause for the rest of my life. I barely saw Wyatt’s body; he’d fallen between his bed and the wall. I still won’t ever forget it.

I’m asking for donations. AFSP is a good, solid organization that does a huge amount of work to raise awareness. Anything you can give is wonderful. Little-known fact: my mother spent a lot of time in the 80s as a fundraiser for hunger causes, so I’ve seen how much difference the small donations make first hand. It adds up!

Also, if you’re moved to spread the word on this, or if you want to walk with us, that’d be completely wonderful.

Thank you.

Health Care and Illegal Immigrants

Once upon a time, we had a handle on tuberculosis. We had good drugs to fight the disease, we knew how to use them, and when we used them right, the disease was cured. Not only did people stop dying of TB, we were maybe going to be able to stamp the disease out entirely. Good stuff.

In the 80s, it turned out that we were probably never going to be able to get rid of TB, because we screwed up. To treat the disease properly, you have to keep treating it even after you feel like you’re all better. This means that if, say, most of the TB treatment centers in New York City close down because it’s a solved problem, the couple of hundred people who still get TB have to trek across two boroughs to get to the sole remaining center and they have to keep on doing this every week even after they feel like they’re not sick any more.

No big deal if you can take time off work or you have a car. Kind of a big deal if you’re living paycheck to paycheck and it takes two hours to negotiate public transit.

Thus, we wound up with a lot of people who were half-treating their tuberculosis. They killed off most of the TB bacteria. But not all; the ones that were left were the ones that were resistant to the usual run of TB drugs. End result was a nice breeding population of TB bacteria that couldn’t be treated as easily. Cases in New York City started to increase, dramatically.

Side note: there were other factors. HIV in particular didn’t help, because it messes up immune systems and makes it easier for those infected to catch TB. But the half-treatment problem was the biggie.

Fast-forward to today. Tuberculosis is an epidemic. Not one you hear a lot about, but the WHO is tracking it. It’s not the end of the world; it is a serious problem.

So back to health care. It turns out that infectious diseases do not respect citizenship. If an illegal immigrant has an infectious disease, a citizen can catch it. Denying health care to illegal immigrants doesn’t just affect the person who’s not getting health care; it affects you.

We’re not just talking about TB, either. Consider swine flu. Is there any way in which it is not in our best interests to get as many people as possible vaccinated?

And we’re not talking “oh, those filthy immigrants.” It’s not about a given segment of the population being more disease-ridden. That’s eliminationist rhetoric. If it’s a good idea to treat infectious diseases in citizens, then it’s a good idea to treat ’em in non-citizens within US borders. The ratio of people in each population with infectious diseases doesn’t need to differ for that to be true.

I.e., an illegal immigrant is not at greater risk of transmitting an infection. She’s at the same risk as a citizen with the same disease, and since we think it’s a public good to treat a citizen at that risk, it’s also a public good to treat someone who’s here illegally. This should be pretty obvious.

Health care isn’t just something we do for the benefit of the person who’s sick. We do it for society’s benefit. If you want to deny health care to illegal immigrants across the board, I gotta wonder why you want to increase my risk of illness.

Lightning Struck Itself

I finally coax eMusic into letting me download the bonus tracks from the new Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs. “Marquee Moon” is one of the songs. That’s most of why I wanted them. I play it.

For a moment I’m worried that my headphones are broken, as the guitar is isolated in my left ear. Then the rest of the music comes in to the right, echoing through my skull. Two guitars twine back and forth like snakes kissing. It is abbreviated, terse. Every time the chorus occurs, the notes extend out, bridging across austerity with sudden melody. Tom Verlaine and Richard Lloyd alternate solos… wait.

Matthew Sweet plays all the guitar himself. This is not a reinterpretation. This is a tribute. Richard Lloyd played guitar on his breakout album, Girlfriend. These cover albums of his aren’t just power pop meditations. The Who, Richard Thompson, Neil Young, Television, Eric Clapton: let us pause to honor our guitar heros.

For a few bars, Susanna Hoffs sings harmony. Not much. The final solo fades to nothing. The first verse repeats. Silence.

10 minutes, 50 seconds. The original is 10 minutes, 40 seconds.

I put the original song on. Lightning struck itself.

Fringes of Sanity

Because at times I grow concerned that common sense is dead on the right side of the aisle, I refer myself to The Next Right. Ruffini and Henke don’t agree with me on all that much, but they’re forthrightly critiquing World Net Daily, birthers, and conspiracy theorists of all stripes. Meanwhile, Little Green Footballs is taking aim at the people who don’t want Obama giving speeches to schoolchildren and calling Michele Bachmann a loon.

It’s OK, though. Glenn Reynolds hasn’t relented at all.