Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Obama Addresses Congress, the Nation

So tonite we got our first chance to listen to President Obama address the nation as, well, President. Here are my thoughts;

1) Still refreshing to hear a President not stumble over his own words. I know this doesn't mean a lot to some of you, but to me it was glorious. No longer do I have to be embarassed.

2) It appears he has taken a cue from his critics and decided to be more positive towards the situation. Not overly so, he's still embracing the reality of the situation, but atleast putting a nicer spin on it. I'm not sure I like that-I really liked his blunt honesty approach, even if there is anecdotal evidence that it was weighing on investor confidence to not have him shouting roses and sunshine.

3) Nancy Pelosi was a thrashing tonite. Someone might want to tell her she's on camera.

4) I came out of it convinced that something needs to be done, but still not convinced that the "stimulus" package passed was the answer. I just don't believe it will do what he says, and that it was a Democratic version of looking out for their buddies. (see: Bush, George W.)

5) I get it, healthcare is a major drain. And I agree, but what are you going to do? I like that it's his next priority, but I really worry about what his solution will be.

6) Joe Lieberman just looked creepy.

7) Loved the faux applause and very grudging standing ovation for Ted Kennedy. It was just seething with disdain.

8) Education? I get fixing the economy, I get addressing healthcare (as the baby boomers are about to start retiring en masse), but education? Forget for a second how fucked it is, and forget that its more of a local issue than a national one. Education seems like a reach considering all the other bullshit.

9) Still loving the promise to halve the deficit by end of his first term. Likewised loved the proclamation that torture by the US is done.

10) Overall impression: he has a grasp on the magnamity if the situation, is willing to be honest and discuss it, and has a (admittedly vague) plan to tackle it. I'm not sure that I agree with him, I've got serious doubts, but it's atleast somewhat refreshing to have the President actually admit to the problems at hand and propose something.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Woman With 14 Kids

As the news breaks today that the firm representing this woman, Nadya Suleman, the one in the news recently for giving birth to octuplets, is abandoning her as a client on account of the death threats both the client and the firm are recieving, I thought it a good time to write a little bit about this incendiary issue. Truth be told, I'm a little surprised its become incendiary as it has because normally people distance from saying anything remotely bad when it comes to babies. Then again, this story has so many angles it really shouldn't be surprising. In short, the story goes like this:

Single and unemployed mother of six children decides that she wants to have more children. She had used IVF to conceive of children in the past and decides to use it again (still can't figure out how an unemployed single mother of six can afford that, but I digress). In the past they'd implanted six embryos and the result was one child, this time the doctor implants eight embryos. Except this time all eight embryos turn into baby humans, and voila-9mos later this woman is now the proud parent of 14 children, still unemployed, and thus the cost of raising these children will be the responsibility of the State of California in addition to whatever money she can get from private or religious institutions. So this story is basically the perfect storm of controversy. And I thought it might be fun to go down each one of those avenues of controversy.

First and foremost, you have the IVF debate. Once an expensive and rarely used tool to help parents unable to conceive naturally to have children, it has since become fairly commonplace and well accepted by society. The problem though, is that it's fairly un-predictable and doctors continue to push the envelope by using "controversial methods" which increase the success rate, except that they sometimes increase the success rate into twins or, in this case, octuplets. Then you've got the unused embryos which are eventually destroyed (much to the chagrin of the anti-abortion folks). IVF is the poster-boy for how far are we, as a society, comfortable with science going, and with the debate of just because we can do something, does that mean we should? Adding another layer to that debate, in this case, is that this women would never be approved to adopt a child, but it's somehow perfectly acceptable for her to go see a doctor and have more children artificially implanted in her.

Then you've got the people upset because these children are now financially the responsibility of the State of California. The fact that this woman, who already has the state on the hook for six children, can then go out and have more not naturally-but artificially-and as soon as they leave the womb she now gets a bigger check from the state every month to feed, clothe, and house them and the state is also saddled with eight more children is has to educate (albeit poorly, most likely) from ages 6 to 18.

And finally, you've got the practical question of how does a single mother create a nurturing and loving environment in which to actually raise 14 children and give them any chance in hell?
Its a really tricky subject, one that not only stokes the flames of people's opinions on issues that are important to them, but also because is there any reasonable action that can be taken to prevent this in the future?

I've always found it odd that in this country where you need 16 permits to sell alcohol, a permit to drive a car, a permit to work on your house-basically a permit to do practically anything, there is absolutely no restrictions on having a child, or six, or sixteen. Of all the supposed freedoms and "unalienable rights" that American government is supposed to grant us, its odd to me that procreation is the lone one that remains unmolested. I mean it makes sense, no one likes the idea of the government telling what you can do with your body (i mean, except anti-abortion people), or telling you that you can't have children when your creator endowed you with the abiity to do so (except for in the cases that you can't, hence IVF). There would be riots in the streets if the government actually tried to restrict procreation, and as such, despite the sheer impracticality of allowing people to procreate at will, we continue to do so.

And not only do we allow it, the government actually subsidizes it. If you're poor (enough), the government will actually mail you a check, and that check gets bigger for every child you have. And while it's a tired cliche often employed by conservatives that this country is just packed with people exploiting the system and popping out babies to pay for their crack habit (there's no doubt its happening, but not nearly as systemically as the Limbaugh's of the world would like you to believe), the fact of the matter is the potential for doing so is there-and that time and time again the American people will side with the State because, after all, it's not these kids fault that their parent(s) is batshit insane/a piece of shit/an addict and thus its not "fair" to blame the kids for their parent(s) irresponsibility in bringing them into this world despite having no means by which to support themselves, let alone their children.

It's really a thorny issue. No one likes the spectre of the State regulating procreation (a la China), but at the same time it's really hard not to be appalled when something like this happens. No one wants to see these innocent children suffer on account of their parents, but how do you balance that with a system that encourages deadbeats to procreate so they can suck at the government teet? And I'm really not sure there is an answer besides what we do now, but I'll be damned if it isn't a really shitty answer.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Wire: Season 2

If you are a fan of film of any kind, be it film (like those people who have an illogical disdain for television but enjoy movies), or myself (list of movies I need to see is lengthy, but am a tv snob), I still can't recommend enough giving The Wire a shot (and I'd be happy loan it to you) and the TV hating people I know (including vegan neighbor who has the tiniest color tv known to man) will back me up here. It's engaging, it's enthralling, it's got compelling characters and compelling storylines that reach into the deepest reaches of our shame and our guilt and brings them alive. The humanity and the realization that this is the world is what makes the show all the more compelling, and being 2/5 of the way through I'm fairly confident that I've found a winner, especially considering the dozen emails I got after singing its praises last.

Ok, so here's the deal:




Alright, I'm not going to spoil everything, but with a program as intricate as this I feel it to by neigh impossible to discuss without giving away something. That said, I was asked to update when I finished season two, and while I'm a little late (i've actually finished season 3 too, but i will write about that tomorrow)

It was good. Was it as good as season one? No, but being from a non-union and non-port city (Dallas) I do think a lack of being able to relate was a factor, as was having a bevy of classic Northeastern US jack-ass characters, which again aren't entirely relateable as a Texan. We have our share of Ziggy's down here, but it's not quite what it's like in the Northeast, and he was an instant turn-off as a character to me.

Much like season one, I thought season two started off a little slow and it took me three or four episodes to really start to get a grasp on the characters. With the "good guys" (i use that term loosely) spread amongst several deparments of BPD, a new cast of characters in the stevedores, Deangelo and Avon in prison, and the introduction of The Greek and his crew-it just took me a while to wrap my head around who everyone is. That said, once I did the season was greatness.
Using the harbor as ground-zero for the season turns out to be a great idea, as there is actually enough that goes on at the harbor to make it almost as interesting as west baltimore had been in season one. I really didn't think there would be, but between the insane drunken-ness, the smuggling of women and drugs, and the politics of it all paired with their desperation as a dying union, there proved to be plenty of good storylines coming out of the harbor, and more than enough to make a compelling season when paired with Stringer taking over Avon's crew, Stringer's taking up with Deangelo's girl, and finally Deangelos death-to saying nothing of Omar and Brother Mozone.
I didn't like it as much as Season One, but at the end I was definately ready to jump right into Season 3. I'm not sure how people were able to take the suspense of waiting weeks/months between episodes, because there've been a couple 3 hour stretches of The Wire for me as I get enthralled by the storylines.

Wow, has it already been a week?

I can't believe it's already been a week, and I've got serious backlog of blogging that needs to get done, not the least of which are a couple guest columns I've been asked to do over at The Blend, which I've been working on (albeit slowly) for the past week. To say nothing of the two seasons of The Wire I've churned through (hence the lack of blogging, hehe) over the past few weeks, a sake review, and some sports stuff over at Cockfighting In Texas with this A-Rod stuff.

Point being, I'm not dead, and I've got some writing on the stove, I just need to finish it.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Super Bowl interrupted by....porn?

In some weird cosmic twist, it seems that once again the broadcast of the Super Bowl has become ground zero for broadcasters and what they're responsible for. We all of course remember the Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction" from back in 2004, and this time its porn being broadcast during the game.

As the story goes, Comcast subscribers in the Tucson, AZ area were watching Larry Fitzgerald part the seas on an amazing catch and run when the signal becomes interrupted and then replaced with a porn star shaking his thang for 30 seconds before the the station returns to the game. You can view the video here (without a it being blurred out) or here if you prefer not looking at a giant penis-either way it's most certainly NSFW.

Comcast is claiming that it was a "malicious attack" on their signal, you can read their release here, to which I wonder if I were going to commit what I'm sure is a federal crime, I'd most certainly have chosen a better porn clip. That said, how how uncomfortable that must be-can you imagine sitting next to your grandmother or child and that popping on during the Super Bowl? It's awesomely hilarious.