truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
2017-09-23 08:46 am

Review: A Crime to Remember

Not about books, but definitely a review.

Hulu has episodes from 3 seasons of A Crime to Remember, which is an Investigation Discovery show. In my ongoing love/hate relationship with true crime media, ID stands out for their high production values and for about as unexploitative an attitude as you can have. (I wonder, perhaps unworthily, if part of what makes ACtR seem thoughtful rather than vulture-like is that the executive producer and a bunch of the writers & directors are women.) I have also been very fond of Homicide Hunter, partly because the show does not try to sugarcoat Lt. Joe Kenda at all. He's very good at his job, and he is a ruthless avenging angel, but he is not a nice man. I kind of adore him. (I'm pretty sure he'd hate me, but that's okay.)
But ACtR. All the episodes are period pieces. (I joked to my therapist that they must have come up with the idea because they wanted everyone to be able to smoke on camera.) I'm not super fond of the gimmick, in which every episode has a narrator who is a minor fictional character in the real crime being portrayed, but most of the time it works okay. (It works extremely well--give credit where it's due--in "The 28th Floor" (2.4).) The actors--"character" actors all--are excellent, and most of the time they even get the accents matched up to the region. (There are exceptions.) And the producers have interview clips with true crime writers who have written about the cases; with people who investigated the cases (when those people are still alive); with Mary Ellen O'Toole and other experts in various fields; with friends and family of murderers and victims alike. They frequently featured Michelle MacNamara before her death in April 2016--pretty obviously because she was very good at conveying information clearly but without sounding scripted. And, again, because they seem to look for women. They also have gotten Catherine Pelonero more than once. (I actually haven't been able to bring myself to watch the episode about Kitty Genovese, but Pelonero does a great job in the other episodes I have watched her in.)
My true, serious beef with ACtR is its insistent trope of the loss of American innocence. Almost every case is framed as something that destroyed a piece of American innocence, and this is infuriating to me for several reasons:
1. America has never been innocent.
2. The idea of the Golden Age, the before time just out of reach in which everything was perfect, is a very, very old fallacy. (The Romans were all over it.) I think it is pernicious, because it validates reactionary attempts to return to "the good old days," which are "good" (in 20th century America) only if you are white, middle-class or above, and it helps if you're male. ACtR does deal with racism, sexism, and classism, but it doesn't seem to recognize the contradictory position it puts itself in thereby.
3. Casting these crimes as destroyers of American innocence erases crimes that went before. I can give one very specific example: "Baby Come Home" (2.8) about the 1953 kidnapping and murder of Bobby Greenlease, who was murdered before his kidnappers ever tried to extort ransom from his parents. Now I am not at all denying that what happened to Bobby Greenlease is vile and horrible and an expression of the worst part of human nature, but claiming that Carl Austin Hall and Bonnie Heady somehow invented kidnapping children for ransom--or even just the worst and most cruel of bad faith negotiations after the child was already dead--erases what happened to, for one example, Charles Lindbergh, Jr. Or, for another example, Charley Ross. If there was any innocence to be lost in this particular genre of crime, it was lost in 1874, 79 years before Bobby Greenlease's death.
So, yeah. That's the one thing that I really think they get wrong. Otherwise, they do a lovely job, and they have taught me about murders I'd never heard of but I think should not be forgotten: the terrible deaths of Judge Curtis Chillingworth and his wife Marjorie in West Palm Beach in 1955; Charles Whitman's sniper assault on the students, faculty, and staff of the University of Texas in 1966 (which I knew about, but knew kind of wrongly); the bizarre murder of Betty Williams in Odessa, Texas, in 1961; the murder of Veronica Gedeon in New York in 1937, and how the case was largely solved by the editors of the true crime magazines she was a cover model for; the murder of Roseann Quinn in New York in 1973, which was the inspiration for Looking for Mr. Goodbar, and I deeply appreciate the way ACtR questions the LfMG myth and suggests that Theresa Dunn is a cruel travesty of the real Roseann Quinn and the reality of her death. If you are interested in criminology or American history (because nothing tells you more about a culture than its cause celebre murders), I commend this series to your attention.
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
2017-09-16 07:52 am

email to Senator Johnson, ACA repeal remix edition

Dear Senator Johnson:

I have been reading about the Graham-Cassidy ACA repeal bill, and the more I read, the more horrified I am. The premium hikes it allows for "pre-existing conditions" are unconscionable, and if you don't think Wisconsin will exploit those hikes, you have no understanding of your state's governor. Moreover, it's estimated that 32 million people will lose coverage within 10 years. Remember when you were arguing that 16 million was "better" than 22 million? Because I remember that very clearly.

Senator, this bill is a DISASTER. I am forced to choose between believing that you did not read or understand the bill that you have co-sponsored and believing that you understand it perfectly and just care that little about the well-being of your constituents and the rest of the American people.

Your party's obsession with repealing the ACA has been wasting time, energy, money, and other resources since the beginning of 2017--not to mention the resources and opportunities wasted by your party's childish obstructionism throughout the Obama administration, in which you are fully implicated. Repealing the ACA is fantastically unpopular and has failed repeatedly. And, honestly, the worst thing that could happen to the Republican Party is for this repeal bill to succeed. If it weren't for the catastrophe that would be brought down upon millions of people, I would almost want to let you have this monkey's paw. By all means, Senator. GET WHAT YOU WISH FOR.

However, I would much prefer it if you would join those of your colleagues who are trying to REFORM the ACA, even if you won't go so far as endorsing Medicare for all. In fact, I thought you HAD joined them, since you were participating in hearings about healthcare reform, and I am bitterly disappointed in you (yet again) by your co-sponsorship of the Graham-Cassidy bill.

I know nothing I say will change your mind, and certainly nothing I say will convince you to vote against your own bill. But I cannot remain silent and allow my silence to be counted as consent for this abhorrent, inhumane, and unethical bill. You cannot say you did not know that there was vehement opposition to the Graham-Cassidy bill among your own constituents, to whom, in theory, you are supposed to listen and whose interests, in theory, you are supposed to represent.

I am frankly ashamed to have you as my senator.

Sincerely,
Sarah Monette
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
2017-09-14 07:20 am

Another angry letter to Senator Johnson

Dear Senator Johnson:

Today you unveiled your proposed health care legislation. I am not impressed by it, especially in comparison to the health care legislation of Senator Sanders and Senator Baldwin. I know I cannot change your mind, or convince you that removing federal regulations is a catastrophe, not a solution, or that block grants to states, while perhaps a workable solution in some states, will be misused in every way possible in others to ensure that the money does not go where it is most needed. I count Wisconsin as one of those states. I do not believe the state government has its citizens' best interests at heart any more than I believe you do.

Republican senators have been trying and failing to repeal the ACA for all of 2017, despite intense opposition from their constituencies, while Senator Sanders' Medicare for All plan creates the reform you claim to want. You are wasting time, energy, money, and other resources that would be better spent on almost anything else--perhaps the opioid crisis you also claim to be concerned about.

I am disappointed and angry. You have betrayed your constituents again, Senator. And although this is just one more chapter in a book you are making longer by the day, I am still appalled by the stupidity and cruelty you continue to endorse. Even though Wisconsin is not my native state, I have lived and voted here for more than twenty years. I am ashamed that one of my senators has put his name on this bill.


P.S. You still have not made a public statement denouncing fascism, either.
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
2017-09-13 12:33 pm

UBC: Rosner, The Anatomy Murders

The Anatomy Murders: Being the True and Spectacular History of Edinburgh's Notorious Burke and Hare and of the Man of Science Who Abetted Them in the Commission of Their Most Heinous CrimesThe Anatomy Murders: Being the True and Spectacular History of Edinburgh's Notorious Burke and Hare and of the Man of Science Who Abetted Them in the Commission of Their Most Heinous Crimes by Lisa Rosner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


[library]

Up the close & down the stair / But & ben wi' Burke & Hare / Burke's the butcher, Hare's the thief / And Knox the boy that buys the beef.
--Anonymous doggerel

Read more... )
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
2017-09-05 06:58 am
Entry tags:

PATREON

MY PATREON IS LIVE.

As other people have said, do not think that $1 is an insignificant contribution. Dollars add up, and more than that, every person who makes that donation is telling me that they want me to keep telling stories. That's incredibly important.
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
2017-09-03 06:45 am
Entry tags:

PSA: Patreon

I am launching a Patreon on Tuesday. If you have suggestions about patron rewards, I would love to hear them.

(N.b., my book reviews will still go up at Goodreads and here, all content currently in the dreamwidth archive will stay there, and I will not be abandoning this blog, although the content may be mostly political for a while fuck you 2017.)
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
2017-08-26 10:32 am

UBC: Preston (and Spezi), The Monster of Florence [audio]

The Monster of FlorenceThe Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


[library]

Okay, so I'm going to start with something catty, for which I apologize, but it also serves as a pretty good tl;dr:

This book would be greatly improved by about 80% less Douglas Preston and a concomitant 80% more Mario Spezi.

I am NOT INTERESTED in Preston's story of the American naif whose romantic vision of Florence is ripped apart by his investigation of the Monster of Florence. This is a tired old plot--John Clute dissects it in The Darkening Garden: A Short Lexicon of Horror--and I don't think it works very well in nonfiction. It's so obviously a story about the blindness of privilege and Preston so completely fails to come to grips with the way he forces his friends into the roles he imagines their identities to be that I find it mostly a frustrating scaffold around the actual story. I am especially not interested in all the name-dropping and subtextual bragging about his obvious wealth. (Dude can afford to drop everything and move to Florence with his wife and two children on (a) a whim and (b) a moment's notice. This is a guy who is not worrying about his car payments, let's just leave it at that.) But ultimately, I just DON'T CARE about the perspective of a wealthy American bourgeois who waltzes into the story 40 years after its murky beginnings and foregrounds HIS anagnoresis & collateral angst over the story of either (a) Il Mostro & his victims or (b) the story of Mario Spezi, the Italian journalist who has been writing about Il Mostro since 1974, and who was actually arrested and imprisoned for his pursuit of the truth. (Preston was interrogated & threatened ... and allowed to leave Italy. Not quite the same.) I would be much more interested in a translation of Spezi's collected writings about Il Mostro, or even in a translation of the book Preston & Spezi wrote in Italian, Dolci colline di sangue--it's not the same as The Monster of Florence, since part of TMoF takes place around the publication of Dcds--possibly TMoF is just an expansion/translation of Dcds, but since Spezi gets equal billing in Dcds & is only a "with" for TMoF, I have some doubts. If Preston clarified this point in TMoF, I missed it.

LEAVING THAT ASIDE (and again I apologize for being catty), the story of Il Mostro di Fiorenze is trainwreck-fascinating, both the brutal unsolved murders and the absolutely lunatic theories of the official investigations and the terrible terrible damage they have done and continue to do to innocent people. Preston says, both in the book and in the vapid interview that was a bonus feature at the end of the audiobook, that he doesn't think the case will ever be solved, and I understand that belief. Unless Il Mostro himself confesses (and by now he may very well be dead), the truth may be hopelessly buried beneath conspiracy theories about organ-harvesting Satanists.

As I'm sure you're learning to expect from my reviews of audiobooks, I once again was driven nearly to distraction by the reader. He was so excellent for the most part that I was stupidly surprised that that's not what Douglas Preston actually sounds like, but whenever he was reading quotes (in English) from Italian speakers, whether they were speaking English to Americans, speaking Italian to Americans, or speaking Italian to other Italians, he used an Italian accent, complete with nasal sing-song, that was distracting as all fuck and just NOT NECESSARY. It's not like we're going to forget that the story is set in Florence or that everyone except Preston is Italian.



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truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
2017-08-20 08:55 am

Letter to Senator Johnson: Nazis are evil edition

Dear Senator Johnson:

I am very disturbed by your reaction to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA, August 11-12. You made a statement condemning "hate and violence" initially, but since then, you seem determined to make everyone forget that the rally ever happened, that white men carrying Nazi flags, making Nazi salutes, and chanting Nazi slogans marched through an American city--and that a woman is dead because one of them thought he could get away with ramming his car into a crowd of counter-protesters in broad daylight.

What's even worse is your reaction to President Trump's appalling speech. You have said you "don't think" Trump is a racist, although you can't offer any reasons for that belief, and the most negative thing you have yet said about his speech is that "it didn't move us closer. It certainly didn't put the issue behind us."

Senator, it's not clear to me what you think the "issue" is.

You have not spoken out against the racism of the rally. You have not condemned the white nationalist principles of its organizers. You haven't even gone so far as to say that you are anti-fascist. This isn't hard, Senator. "Nazis are evil" is not a complicated or difficult concept. And yet it's one you don't seem to grasp.

You want us to "put the divisive issues off to the side" and "accentuate the positive." By which you mean, you want there to be no consequences of this Nazi terrorist action. You want those of us who are not white men to, once again, swallow the insult and injury offered to us because we are being "divisive" by pointing out that these alt-right Nazis want us dead and are demonstrably ready and willing to kill us themselves.

That's what the fuss is about, Senator. That's why some of us are so unreasonable as to not yet be ready to "put the issue behind us."

Moreover, your call for unity is alarming. I'm willing to extend you the benefit of the doubt--perhaps you genuinely don't know this--but the root of the word fascism, and the concept at the movement's core, is the fasces, the bundle of sticks that is stronger together than any one stick would be by itself. Fascists are all about unity, and when you call for "unity" in the wake of a fascist attack, and when it is clear that by "unity" what you mean is that non-whites and non-males need to sit down, shut up, and stop rocking the boat, I think a person is justified in wondering what you, yourself, think about fascism.

So that's my question to you, Senator. Are you pro- or anti-fascist? It's a very simple question, requiring only a one sentence answer.

I eagerly await your public response.



[ETA: I have emailed this letter to Senator Johnson, and will send a hard copy tomorrow. Plus I have sent a shortened version of this letter both to my tiny local paper and to the Capital Times.]
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
2017-08-20 08:53 am

UBC: Schiff, The Witches [audio]

The Witches: Salem, 1692The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


[library]

To get it out of the way, I hated the audio book reader. HATED. She sounded like a local TV news reporter doing a "human interest" story (smugly supercilious, like she finds it all too precious for words), and she had this way of pronouncing sixteen ninety-two that drove me UP THE WALL ("Sixteen ninedy-twoo" is the best rendering I can give; it made me understand why non-Americans can find American accents grating.) When quoting anyone's testimony, she over-emphasized and poured sincerity over the words like maple syrup over pancakes, making everyone sound like Gertrude, who doth protest too much. And The Witches is a VERY LONG book, so I was trapped with this woman's voice for a VERY LONG TIME. (I would have stopped, except that I sincerely wanted to hear the book, moreso than I wanted to get away from ther reader's voice, but it was sometimes a very close call.)

Okay. Aside from that.

This is really an excellent book on the Salem witchcraft-crisis. I don't agree with Schiff at all points (e.g., she's clearly following Breslaw in her assessment of Tituba's testimony, and I don't agree that that's the tipping point of the crisis), but she has done something that no one else writing on Salem has done, and it's something that needed doing. Schiff traces the relationships between the participants and she traces the history of those relationships back from the 1690s to the 1680s to the 1670s. Boyer and Nussbaum made a start at this sort of analysis in Salem:Possessed, but Schiff demonstrates how limited their analysis was, as she examines the web of relationships between afflicted persons, accused witches, judges, ministers, all the way up and down the social ladder from the indigent Sarah Good to the governor of the colony, Sir William Phips. This is a researcher's tour de force, and Schiff is a good, clear writer whose explanations are easy to follow, even when heard instead of read.

My biggest quibble with her is the same quibble I have with almost all scholars who write about Salem. She ends up making it sound like the entire thing was a series of nested frauds rather than the result of anyone's genuine belief in witches and witchcraft. I've talked about this in other reviews, how to a modern reader, it seems almost impossible that it could be anything but fraud and how hard-bordering-on-impossible it is for us to understand, much less enter into, the Puritan worldview, their sincere belief that they were at the center of the cosmic struggle between Go(o)d and (D)evil (sorry, can't resist the wordplay) and their sincere belief that the Devil was real and walking in New England. Puritanism was a culture that enshrined delusions of persecution/grandeur and in that culture witchcraft made sense in a literal way it doesn't in ours. And some of it was fraud. Some of the afflicted persons confessed as much. But fraud alone did not kill twenty-five people (19 were hanged, 1 pressed to death, 5 died in prison, 2 of them infants), and that's the weak spot in Schiff's otherwise excellent book.



View all my reviews
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
2017-08-20 08:19 am

UBC: Sides, In the Kingdom of Ice [audio]

In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS JeannetteIn the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


[library]

This was extremely entertaining, and taught me a great deal about the WACKED-OUT science of the late 19th century, with its paleocrystic seas and thermal gateways. It also provides excellent competence porn, as George De Long, his chief engineer George Melville, and the ship's doctor James Ambler were all insanely good at their jobs, and had plenty of opportunities to show it in the two years the U.S.S. Jeannette was trapped in the Arctic pack ice. (There's a fabulous piece of CSI: Jeannette as Dr. Ambler tracked down the cause of the lead poisoning that was slowly killing the crew.) 20 of the 33 members of the crew, including De Long, died in Siberia after exhibiting more epic heroism than should have been allowed to end in failure (but history, unlike fiction, does not care about your heroism), and the Jeannette's voyage remains eclipsed by the Erebus and the Terror

Trigger warning: aside from the ghastly deaths of De Long, Ambler, and most of the crew, horrible and cruel things happen to sled dogs, polar bears, and innumerable Arctic birds.

The audio book reader was competent and mostly a pleasure to listen to, except for his habit of raising the pitch of his voice when quoting women's writing and lowering the pitch of his voice when quoting men. This makes all the men sound excessively MANLY, and makes Emma De Long sound like a simpering idiot, when it's clear she was anything but.



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truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
2017-08-20 07:51 am

UBC: Reis, Damned Women

Damned Women: Sinners and Witches in Puritan New EnglandDamned Women: Sinners and Witches in Puritan New England by Elizabeth Reis

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I hate starting a review with "this book was meh," but . . . this book was meh.

Reis' thesis is that in seventeenth-century Puritan New England, when everyone was obsessed with scrutinizing their souls for signs of damnation or salvation, and when a central event in a person's life was likely to be their conversion testimony (you stand up in front of the church you want to join and tell the church members how you came to realize that (a) you were a sinful crawling worm and (b) God had chosen you to be among the Elect regardless), while men tended to say that their sinful actions corrupted their souls, women were much more likely to say that their corrupted souls led them to sinful actions. She talks about how this led (or might have led) to women's confessions of witchcraft--if you view sin as a continuum, and if your corrupted soul means you cannot deny that you are sinful at heart, then how can you be certain that you aren't a witch?

Reis proves her thesis, and it's a subject I'm quite interested in, but the book itself just . . . meh. It was a book. I read it. If you're researching the subject either of Puritan witchcraft or the experience of Puritan women, it's definitely worth reading. Otherwise, not so much.



View all my reviews
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
2017-08-10 06:09 am

letter to Senator Johnson sent earlier this week (before Trump threatened N. Korea)

Dear Senator Johnson:

I am writing to ask you to persuade your Republican colleagues to abandon efforts to repeal the ACA. While I whole-heartedly believe that the American healthcare system needs to be reformed, repealing the ACA is not the way to begin. The ACA is not failing, is not in a death spiral, and would in fact be more and more successful if President Trump and Republican legislators would stop sabotaging it.

I am writing to ask you to reach out to your Democratic colleagues. I am writing to ask you to work on a reform process for the ACA that is built on bipartisan cooperation and includes committee work, public hearings, and the full, correct parliamentary procedure for Senate legislation.

There are so many other issues I am angry and/or frightened about, like President Trump's ban on transgender service people, the utter disgrace Jeff Sessions is making of the office of Attorney General, and this new and horrible attack on the rights of people in nursing homes, but I feel defeated by my prior knowledge that you are not interested in my concerns. I am writing anyway because it is something I can do in defense of my ideals and my country, unlike all the many things I can't.
truepenny: photo of the keyboard and raised lid of a 1911 Bluethner grand piano; the inside of the lid has inlaid brass letters reading BLUETHNER LEIPZIG (bluethner 1911)
2017-07-20 02:16 pm

playing the piano is exactly like rock climbing

So this year, after a gap of twenty-five years, I started taking piano lessons again, focusing--because I'm an adult and get to choose for myself--on ragtime. There's a bunch of stuff around this decision that does not need to be explored at this juncture, because what I want to talk about is one of the biggest fucking paradigm shifts I've ever experienced.

I learned piano very much in the traditional you-learn-pieces-and-perform-them-at-recitals-and-they-get-progressively-harder mode (also traditional is the nice Lutheran lady teaching piano in her living room), and one of the reasons I started again was that I could work with somebody who went to UW-Madison for music--somebody, in other words, who's been exposed to the theoretical underpinnings not just of music, but of teaching.

Dude rocks my fucking world, I tell you what.

Partly, this is because I'm an adult and I've been exposed to the theoretical underpinnings of teaching (I always know when a teacher is using a particular pedagogical technique on me--which interestingly doesn't always make it less effective). I learn differently now and with a different understanding of what "learning" is. This is the place where Csikszentmihalyi has been extremely helpful to me, because I can recognize how a successful learning engagement works. ("Learning experience" would be a better phrase, but it already has connotations that are really kind of the opposite of what I mean.) And the pressure to learn pieces for recitals is mercifully off, which helps, too. But partly it's because this guy approaches music completely differently, bottom up instead of top down.

But the thing that has changed my relationship with my piano is something my teacher said (and I can't for the life of me remember what it was) that made me understand--quite literally for the first time in my life--that fingerings aren't arbitrary and they aren't just put in music so that teachers can judge whether students are obeying them or not. Here's where playing the piano is exactly like rock climbing:

The notes in the score are like the hand, finger, foot, and toe holds used to set a route in a climbing gym. You work the fingerings out yourself, the same way that a climber works out her own solution to how to get to the top of the wall using the holds available. And he said, "This music is for playing." A weirdass chord progression or run is like a difficult sequence in a route; it's a game, a puzzle that a musician who's been dead for 100 years set for all the pianists who came after him to solve. You work out the fingerings (4-5-3-5 WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK) so that you don't hang yourself out to dry, the same way that a climber works out her holds so that when she has only her right hand free, the next hold isn't three feet to her left. When you make a mistake, you laugh and pick yourself back up and go up the wall again, because it isn't a pass/fail test. It's a game. You have a sense of glee that you share with the route setter about solving this incredibly intricate puzzle almost--in a weird way--together.

What that means is, (1) playing piano, which I have always loved, is now infused with a sense of fun that it truly has never had; (2) I know what I'm learning--not just "music" but the route up the wall, the game that underlies the performance; (3) when I'm fumbling through a new chunk of music, I know why I'm fumbling. It's not because I'm stupid or the music is stupid; it's because my brain is trying to process so much new information that it gets overwhelmed. That's why I miss easy chords and consistently play that damn C-sharp when the piece is written in G. Because THAT'S WHAT THE LEARNING PROCESS LOOKS LIKE.

But honest to god the idea of music as a game being played between composer and performer, and not a game like tennis, but a game like riddling--riddle set and riddle answered--is a seismic paradigm shift for me. Everything looks different now.
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
2017-07-18 01:59 pm

today's letter to Senator Johnson, tigers edition

Dear Senator Johnson:

Thank you for speaking out against Senator McConnell's methodology, which looks suspiciously more like tyranny than democracy. I hope that you will publicly refuse to vote to repeal the ACA with nothing lined up to take its place. McConnell's plan is catastrophic and could only be put forward by someone who neither knows nor cares anything about the healthcare needs of his constituents. I am strongly in favor of bipartisan reform for the ACA, and I hope that you will reach out to your Democratic colleagues to make that happen.

I know I will never persuade you that you are wrong about the effect of the free market, but, because I choose to believe that you are acting in good faith, I have to--in good faith--try again:

The problem with the free market is that it erodes ethics. Free-market capitalism says that ethics are irrelevant--if they're not actually a liability, making you less able to compete. This is why it is crucial that the government regulate corporations. The government doesn't need to worry about corporations making money. They'll take care of that part themselves. The government needs to ensure that they don't run roughshod over employees and consumers in the process. Deregulating everything and trusting to the free market to solve the problem is like opening all the cages and trusting the tigers to solve the food supply problem. Corporations, like tigers, will solve the problem for themselves. We need the government to make sure the problem is solved for everyone.

This is why we need government. This is why government should never be run on the corporate model. It is not a corporation, and if it is to succeed in providing justice for all citizens, it cannot be a corporation. It has to be the balance to the corporations, to keep their untrammeled free market competition from literally poisoning everything they touch. In the past fifty years, America has proved repeatedly that deregulation is not the answer. Deregulation only and always makes things worse, because--hey, wait for it--our country is not a corporation. Treating it like one merely destroys it.

This is why ethics are not something that can be discarded. Because without ethics, you get the Trump administration, and I have to tell you that, no matter how it looks from where you are, from where I am, all I see are tigers.



There's also email to Governor Walker about why isn't he one of the governors speaking out against ACA repeal?
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
2017-07-08 09:41 am

Today's letter to Senator Johnson, smug Republican apparatchiks edition

Dear Senator Johnson:

For most of this week, I've been too angry to write a letter. I'm angry at Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan and Steve Daines and all the rest of the smug Republican apparatchiks who think scoring points against Barack Obama is more important than the lives of tens of millions (if not hundreds of millions) of their constituents. I'm angry at the way the GOP is trying to bully the Congressional Budget Office into giving their healthcare bill a better score. And I'm afraid, Senator Johnson, that means that I'm angry at you.

Your weaseling around to try to make the CBO score "better" infuriates me. First because you're trying to change the rules of the game (to use Senator Daines' extremely unfortunate metaphor) so that you can reach the goalposts your party has moved with your actions this year. Second because, while l6 million people uninsured may be fewer than 22 million people uninsured, it is not BETTER.

I wish I thought I had any hope of making you understand that.

It appalls me that you have any say in the governing of our country. (You're not alone in that. I'm equally appalled that Paul Ryan has any say in the governing of our country. Not to mention Donald J. Trump.) It makes me cringe to think that when I say, "I live in Wisconsin," people will now immediately associate that with the guy who argued that 16 million people uninsured was a meaningful improvement over 22 million people uninsured. And it infuriates me that you, my elected representative to the United States Senate, demonstrably and out of your own mouth care not a single iota about my welfare, or the welfare of 99% of your other constituents.

We both know you won't read this letter. Honestly, that is the least of my disappointments in you.
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
2017-07-02 09:35 am

today's emails

Senate Republicans have sent the BCRA back to the CBO.

1. To Senator Ron Johnson:

Dear Senator Johnson:

You and I disagree fundamentally on what's wrong with the BCRA. This is only to be expected, given your belief in the power of the private sector, whereas my experience of being an American citizen for the past 42 years is that privatization and deregulation ALWAYS MAKES THINGS WORSE. *ALWAYS.* And your horrifying analogy between health insurance and car insurance gives me no confidence that you will ever understand my point of view.

However, I appreciate that you disagree with the BCRA, and I appreciate that you are willing to say so publicly. Please, even if we disagree on why it's wrong, continue to oppose the BCRA. The democratic process and democratic government only work with public and honest debate, NONE OF WHICH THE BCRA HAS HAD. Please vote against it. Please insist on public hearings.

Thank you.

2. To Senator Tammy Baldwin:

Dear Senator Baldwin:

Thank you for your opposition to the BCRA. This bill *TERRIFIES* me, both on my own behalf and on the behalf of my family and beloved friends. The BCRA threatens my ability to afford the health care I need to manage a number of "pre-existing conditions," including major depressive disorder, restless legs syndrome, and chronic migraines. Without management, these conditions will destroy my ability to be productive, and they will make my life a daily misery. I promise I am not exaggerating. My friends who are self-employed artists, who were only able to pursue their dreams because of the ACA, are now facing the loss of the health insurance (i.e., the access to affordable and sufficient care) they, too, desperately need.

Please continue to speak out against this cruel bill. Please continue to fight it.

Thank you.
truepenny: artist's rendering of Sidneyia inexpectans (Default)
2017-06-28 06:33 am

Yours truly, Jack the Ripper

Q1: More about Jack the Ripper! Who do you think did it?
Q2: Research -- do you plan your approach, or is it more freeform/serendipitous/falling down rabbit holes?
Q3: Are you exclusively reading true crime? If so, what's that been like? If not, what else are you reading?
[each from a different and lovely reader]


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