Oct 042013

Both MNsure and the federal exchange have experienced plenty of technical glitches since they launched on Tuesday. As I’ve written many times previously, these glitches aren’t unexpected, but they certainly don’t look good. Medicare Part D had similar issues when it launched and the bugs were fixed in subsequent weeks. I’m confident that the exchanges will address their technical problems with similar haste, but they will need to remind people that they have until December 15th to sign up for January coverage.

Plenty of smart people have worked long hours to get these systems up and running. They realize that the tech isn’t perfect, but they are committed to making it better.

Aug 272013

I just noticed that my blog had over 3,000 hits on a single day last week. And I have no idea why. As far as I can tell, no major site has linked to me and I certainly haven’t posted anything scandalous in recent weeks. Or years, for that matter. Strange.

Nov 192012

Slate columnist Dahlia Lithwick describes the current mood in Israel:

You want to hear about what it’s like here? It’s fucking sad. Everyone I know is sad. My kids don’t care who started it and the little boys in Issawiya, the Arab village I see out my window, don’t care much either. I haven’t met a single Israeli who is happy about this. They know this fixes nothing. The one thing we learned this week is how quickly humans can come to normalize anything. But the hopelessness seeps right into your bones as well.

The rest of her essay is worth a read. I don’t have anything insightful to add, other than to express hope that both sides can find a way to end the violence.

Aug 242012

Do you like videogames? Do you like 80s pop culture references? Do you like books about videogames replete with 80s pop culture references? Then Ready Player One might be for you. It tells the story of Wade, a teen living in the American Midwest circa 2041. Things are not going well in Wade’s future America; the economy is in permanent recession, the climate is wrecked, and most people live in miserable poverty. Wade lives in a suburban ghetto built from old trailer homes and cars. His only escape is OASIS, a highly sophisticated online environment that has its origins in games like World of Warcraft. Wade spends nearly every waking moment in OASIS, attending school, playing games, and hanging out with the avatars of friends he has never met in person. And like millions of other OASIS denizens, he is trying to solve a series of puzzles left behind by OASIS’ deceased founder, a reclusive genius. The first person to successfully complete the puzzle sequence wins complete control of OASIS and unimaginable wealth. Nobody has managed to determine the significance of the first clue in the years since the founder’s death until Wade experiences a pivotal eureka moment.

Author Ernest Cline isn’t afraid to let his geek flag fly and writes an affectionate tribute to gaming and pop culture obsessives. This is probably the only novel you’ll read that references Family Ties, Ladyhawke, and Cyndi Lauper. Much of the book is set OASIS, which allows for all sorts of narrative pyrotechnics. Cline sometimes makes the mistake of pushing the reader to be as enamored with the mechanics of his invented world as Cline so plainly is, but it’s a forgivable sin. Cline’s workmanlike prose keeps the tale of disaffected youth and nefarious corporations breezing along to a saatisfying end.

Aug 132012

Paul Ryan has probably read more books than Sarah Palin, but they’re both cut from the same far-right cloth. Nate Silver is probably right; Romney wouldn’t pick Ryan if he felt that he was sitting pretty with his base and positioned strongly for the upcoming election. Ryan is a pick designed to reassure conservatives yet again that Romney really, truly is one of them. Solidifying the base may be a good strategy in a close election, but Ryan’s plans for scaling back entitlements may give independents pause.

I doubt Ryan will do much to sway the election; people vote for a president, not their running mates. The debate between Biden and Ryan could be interesting, though. It will be the aw-shucks youthful reactionary versus the garrulous old-school liberal.

Jun 082012

Enjoy the weekend. I’ll be escaping the heat by paying a visit to a certain spaceship named Prometheus. The reviews seem positive enough to alleviate my fears that this will be another Alien 3. Perhaps I’ll post a review next week.

May 302012

If you’re planning on seeking admittance to the New York bar in 2013 or later, you’ll need to put in 50 hours of pro bono work first. While I certainly support instilling an ethic of volunteerism in new lawyers, I’m not sure this is the best way to do it. Not everyone is suited to doing pro bono work; making it a requirement will only compel some people to resort to deception to satisfy the bar. And then there’s the questionable wisdom of foisting hordes of unlicensed law students on low-income people with real legal problems. Proper supervision and oversight from experienced attorneys would allay my concerns, but I’m skeptical that will happen.

What do my fellow attorneys think?

Feb 282012

Harold Pollack has a great op-ed in the Times criticizing social conservatives for dragging people with disabilities into the latest round of the never-ending culture wars. He singles out Rick Santorum and Sarah Palin for their absurd claims that health care reform would lead to the forced euthanasia of people with disabilities. He then makes the case that such rhetoric jeopardizes the longstanding bipartisan cooperation that made landmark laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act possible.

I’ve written before about conservatives’ recent tendency to politicize people with disabilities for their own reactionary purposes. What upsets me most about comments like those Pollack cites is their breathtaking cynicism. Not only is the Affordable Care Act lacking any implicit or explicit reference to death panels, but it includes many provisions that will make life better for people with disabilities. Insurance companies will no longer be able to turn away families because someone has a disabling condition. More people with disabilities will be eligible for Medicaid without being forced to surrender their savings. States will have more flexibility to provide personal care services to people with disabilities. But since when have people like Santorum and Palin demonstrated any willingness to frame their arguments using facts?

Conservatives make these statements freely because they view us as a voiceless, helpless bunch who won’t call them out on their ravings. And that brings me to another frustration. I remember when plenty of disability activists were ready to burn Jerry Lewis’ house down when he made some offhandedly ignorant comments about disability. But the disability community has been weirdly reluctant to challenge these far more pernicious remarks from people who could actually be in a position to, you know, make policy. Have we become so fearfully protective of the gains we’ve made that we simply hunker down and wait for the craziness to blow over? If so, we’ve already lost. Keeping our silence now makes it all the easier for a future, more electable version of Santorum or Palin to make us unwilling puppets in their noble quest to “restore” America. And then we really will be fighting a rear-guard action to preserve our basic dignity and independence.

The only way to stop exploitation is to call it out for what it is. Other marginalized groups have learned this lesson well and do not hesitate to raise raucous hell when an elected official says something stupid. The disability community, once equally vocal ,has grown timid and cautious. It’s great that advocates like Pollack are willing to write op-ed pieces in the Times on our behalf, but we need to join the fray. The next time Santorum or another politician tries to portray hiimself/herself as the disability community’s white knight, we need to call shenanigans by blogging, tweeting, Facebooking, writing letters to the editor, and generally speaking the fuck up. We’ve come too far to let ourselves be used in a fight in which we have so much to lose.