Mar 162015

Sarah Kliff of Vox offers an excellent explanation of Republican plans to transform Medicaid into a block grant. Instead of guaranteeing to cover a fixed percentage of all enrollees’ medical expenses, the federal government would give each state a specific amount of money to spend on Medicaid coverage. Republicans claim that this would give states more flexibility to tailor coverage to meet the needs of their residents. But by placing a specific dollar limit on Medicaid spending, millions of people would likely lose coverage. In other words, “block grant” is a euphemism for deep cuts.

Republicans are deeply hostile to any Medicaid spending that benefits low-income adults because they see it as a disincentive to work. These are the people who are most likely to suffer under Medicaid block grants. And many of them work low-paying jobs that don’t provide affordable health insurance. It would remove an already frayed safety net from those who dwell on the economic margins of society. The elderly and people with disabilities are also likely to see substantial cuts in services, so everyone will feel some pain if block grants are implemented.

Republicans will do their best to disguise the true human cost of their policy proposals, which is why explanatory posts like Kliff’s are so important. We can’t allow conservatives to put innocuous labels on their terrible ideas.

Mar 122015

Rogue One, the first Star Wars spinoff movie announced today, has me intrigued. The title hints that it may focus on X-wing pilots, which presents all kinds of interesting storytelling possibilities. And it could have a woman as the lead character, which may demonstrate that Disney is trying to expand the franchise’s appeal to a wider audience. While we have yet to see whether any of these movies will actually be good, I’m impressed thus far with Disney’s handling of the property. They seem to be making real efforts to create a movie universe that could be just as interesting as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which has worked out quite well for them.

Feb 272015

Leonard Nimoy’s Spock has long been a touchstone and role model for me. In Spock, I saw an outsider like myself who still managed to earn friendship and respect despite his alien attributes. His accomplishments were rooted in his intelligence, but he was no robot. He abhorred cruelty and a strong undercurrent of compassion ran beneath his cool facade of logic. I will never be as smart or rational as Spock, but I could do my best to follow his example. I could be another outsider who manages to find a place in the world and achieves some degree of success. I could try to approach problems thoughtfully and remain calm when things go wrong. I could be serious without being humorless.

It might have taken me a lot longer to figure this out if I hadn’t met Mr. Spock via reruns on TV. And I’m so saddened that Nimoy, the man who breathed so much humanity into the alien, is now gone. But Spock endures and that gives me some comfort. As long as people strive to be a little more rational and a little more decent to each other, Spock endures.

Feb 202015

I’m excited to see what director Neil Blomkamp does with the Alien franchise. District 9 is one of my favorite science fiction films of the last few years and an Alien movie could be a great showcase for his gritty, shakycam-fuelled sensibility. And if his movie chooses to ignore the mess that came after Aliens, even better. Based on some of the concept art that Blomkamp previously shared on his Instagram feed, we could get to see the return of Ripley and a grizzled Corporal Hicks. I’m also taking bets on what role Sharlto Copley will play and whether his character will survive until the end of the movie.

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.