Feb 172015
 

I’m late commenting on this, but I wasn’t too surprised when news broke that Hamline and William Mitchell law schools are merging. Even before the recession, it seemed unlikely that the Twin Cities could support four area law schools (St. Thomas and the University of Minnesota being the other two). The recession and subsequent decline in law school enrollment only hastened what was almost certainly inevitable. This merger could actually hint at brighter job prospects for future graduates from the remaining three law schools, although they are still likely to leave school with obscene amounts of debt.

Feb 112015
 

Why do my favorite things have to go away? When Stephen Colbert ended his show last year, I took some comfort in the belief that Jon Stewart would stick around for a few more years. And then came the news last night that Stewart will be leaving The Daily Show later this year. Now what will I binge-watch on the weekends? Sure, John Oliver is still doing brilliant stuff on HBO. And I’m trying to like Larry Wilmore’s The Nightly Show, but the panel segments can be grating.

The Daily Show will find a new host, but Stewart’s legacy will loom large over his replacement. His sharp yet humane wit made this messy and unfair world a little more tolerable. Whatever he decides to do next, I hope that he continues to poke a finger in the eyes of the powerful and the hypocritical.

Feb 062015
 

My new voicemail greeting is cooler than yours.

I gave money to LeVar Burton’s Reading Rainbow Kickstarter last summer and received a personalized voicemail greeting as a reward. This is likely going to confuse telemarketers and my parents, but I don’t care because OMG LEVAR BURTON FROM STAR TREK IS SAYING MY NAME!!!!!

Now, how much cash do I have to shell out for Gillian Anderson to have dinner with me?

Feb 042015
 

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler formally announced strong net neutrality regulations that would allow the FCC to regulate broadband providers as a public utilities. This move was widely expected, but it still reflects a major shift in the politics of net neutrality. A year ago, it was almost inconceivable that the FCC chairman, a former telecom lobbyist, would propose such a sweeping reclassification of broadband services. Net neutrality advocates did a masterful job of mobilizing public opinion to such an extent that the FCC had no other viable course of action.

The new rules don’t go as far as some would like. Broadband providers will not be required to lease their infrastructure to other companies interested in providing broadband service, which would do a great deal to increase competition and lower prices. However, the rules will require providers to treat all Internet traffic equally. I’ve noticed recently that Comcast has been throttling certain sites that I visit (such as digital comics seller Comixology), so these rules are certainly needed. The Internet has become too vital to daily life to allow telecom companies to continue operating in a completely unregulated environment.

Feb 032015
 

I tend to think of anti-vaxxers as highly educated liberal white people, so I’m a little surprised to see GOP presidential hopefuls pander to that crowd. But I also get that opposition to vaccines can be symptomatic of a deeper suspicion of government and/or science, characteristics that are deeply embedded into the DNA of the modern conservative. I’m just not sure that efforts to appeal to the relatively small number of people opposed to vaccines are worth the risk of being perceived as a kook by the rest of the electorate.

And yes, opposition to vaccines is decidedly kooky. Given the absolute lack of evidence showing that vaccines are harmful, along with the recent evidence that the decision not to vaccinate does  harm others, it’s difficult to understand how intelligent people can continue to hold such irrational beliefs. Of course, I often ask a similar question regarding people who are religious, which implies that I simply don’t under beliefs rooted in faith and nothing else.

Jan 282015
 

I’m spending a good portion of today exiled from my condo without my wheelchair. The reason: bedbugs! My cleaning guy found a few last week and an exterminator confirmed that I have an infestation. The treatment requires that my place be heated to a high temperature, including my wheelchair. So I’m camping out in my buiiding’s party room while I wait for the all-clear. Even worse, there’s no wi-fi here (I scheduled this post to go up today after writing it last night). I may be wasting away from boredom even as you read this.

My building has had previous bedbug infestations and I suspect that a few stragglers sought refuge in my unit. Unfortunately for them, amnesty will not be granted. This experience has also taught me that exterminators probably make a quite decent living.

Jan 272015
 

Over at Vox, Sarah Kliff looks at the growing number of Republican governors who are expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act—with conditions attached. GOP governors are negotiating with the Obama administration for waivers that allow them to give  their state Medicaid programs a more conservative bent. For example, some states use Medicaid dollars to purchase private insurance for low-income individuals. Other states require enrollees to pay an increased amount of cost sharing or they restrict access to certain benefits that aren’t deemed essential.

These waivers are expanding Medicaid to millions of individuals, which is better than not expanding coverage. Some of these conservative policies, like charging premiums to individuals with extremely limited means, seem to have less to do with promoting personal responsibility than with winning the favor of far-right state legislators who possess an almost pathological animosity towards the poor. But thanks to the Supreme Court, states are not obligated to expand Medicaid and they are in a much stronger position to seek concessions from the feds.

Jan 202015
 

I’m still not completely over the Packers’ loss to the Seahawks on Sunday. With three minutes left in the fourth quarter, I was fairly confident that I would be watching my team in the Super Bowl. And then it all went to hell. I don’t assign blame to any specific player or play; it was a bizarre confluence of events in which the Packers seemed like passive witnesses to their own self-destruction. Of course, it didn’t help that Packers couldn’t score touchdowns during some key moments in the first half.

What makes this loss even more heartbreaking is the fact that it may be a while before the Packers appear in another championship game. The team is likely to lose several players to free agency and that may result in a less competitive squad. Even so, I’ll still be a faithful fan next season, hoping against hope that my Packers get a shot at redemption.

Jan 162015
 

Apologies for the extended silence. The new year brought me a nasty cold that took a while to kick. But all is well now.

The Supreme Court seems poised to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide. I posted on Twitter that I’m expecting a 6-3 ruling unless Roberts gets a serious case of cold feet. Depending on how SCOTUS rules on the King v. Burwell case, June could be a month of both euphoria and devastation for us progressive Court watchers. I still have hope that the Court won’t stick a knife in the Affordable Care Act, but man, I’m nervous. It may be time to start that weekly delivery of lobster and caviar to Roberts’ chambers.

Dec 312014
 

A few brief thoughts on my year at the cinema:

  • Guardians of the Galaxy was the best popcorn movie of 2014. Like a lot of people, I had my doubts about whether Marvel could make a decent movie based on a third-tier comic book title, but they demonstrated that a strong script, stunning visuals, and charismatic actors can elevate the most obscure source material into a blockbuster. It still seems odd to me that we now live in a world where Chris Pratt is an action hero, but odd in a good way.
  • I liked Birdman, but it didn’t leave me enthralled. I could appreciate its technical prowess and it has some genuinely funny moments, mostly thanks to Michael Keaton and Edward Norton. I’m just not sure that’s enough to justify the raves it has received.
  • I still need to see Boyhood. Don’t tell anyone.
  • I wish I could have liked Interstellar more than I did.
  • Best movie that came out of nowhere: The Babadook.
  • My favorite time at the movies this year was seeing The Grand Budapest Hotel. Wes Anderson’s fussy movies usually leave me cold, but this story within a story about the final glory days of an Eastern European hotel is probably his best work. Ralph Fiennes is perfectly cast as the hotel’s solicitous manager and the plot concerning a stolen painting is zany while maintaining a dark and melancholy undertone. It’s a movie that rewards repeated viewings because of Anderson’s careful attention to detail and because of the many hilarious moments delivered by the cast. It makes me want to spray myself liberally with some L’air de Panache and take a holiday.