Tina K. Russell

December 30, 2008

“Kicking the Bucket,” by Harold Pinter

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 8:39 pm

Harold Pinter, Playwright of the Anxious Pause, Dies at 78 – Obituary (Obit) – NYTimes.com

I saw a few Pinter plays when I was a kid. My crazy art teacher in high school (whom I hated, and I imagined that, it I took over the school, my first decision would be to fire her; and if you’re reading this, no, I’m talking about another crazy art teacher at my high school) took us to a round of avant-garde plays a few times, and I found them excruciatingly awful. The Pinter plays we saw, supposedly emblematic of his work, were the worst. Let me repeat the experience for you:

This is a blog.

I am writing a blog.

You are reading a blog.

Why are you reading a blog?

The other day, I was reading a blog.

It was called, “Mittens.”

I have more lines.

So, I’m not shedding too many tears. But, I think it’s only proper to honor his passing with a moment of racuous noise.

(I’m sincere in that I believe his plays to be awful. I’m sick of art that’s so painfully bad, so devoid of even the most insipid content, that it must be brilliant.)

December 23, 2008

Vice precedent

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 2:33 am

Letters – A Tax on Sugary Sodas? – NYTimes.com
To the Editor:

Re “Miracle Tax Diet,” by Nicholas D. Kristof (column, Dec. 18):

It may very well be that a higher tax on sugary soda would shrink Empire State waistlines as it fattens Albany’s coffers. But what ultimate price, in terms of individual freedom, shall we pay if the state starts dictating our dietary and lifestyle choices?

Using the rubric of better overall health as a “sweetener” for government intrusion in citizens’ private lives could damage our liberties in the same way that high-fructose corn syrup may have had on our body-mass measurements.

I’m happy to have government give me information with which I can make informed decisions, but let the choice be mine — untaxed and unfettered, please.

Mark A. Kellner
Columbia, Md., Dec. 18, 2008

I may have mentioned this before (I don’t remember), but John Stuart Mill had a few things to say on this in his essay, On Liberty. He spends good chunks of the essay condemning government attempts to limit individual choice, even bad choices, if they do not affect others. But, on the subject of vice taxes (see chapter 5, paragraph 9), he notes that governments have to raise money, that taxes are best levied on items that are nonessential, and that a vice is, by definition, nonessential. If it’s actively harmful to us, it’s something we can spare from our budgets, and therefore a good option for a tax.

As it happens, government actively subsidizes candy and fast-food through our ridiculous farm subsidy system, and a subsidy is a reverse tax. Government already influences our nutritional habits, and the question is whether or not they’re doing so in good faith.

December 22, 2008

Maddie and Meowth

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 1:24 am

Awesomed By Comics: R.I.P. Maddie Blaustein
Maddie once told me the story of how she was inspired to fully transition from male to female (and to come out to her co-workers as transgender) by an episode of Pokemon. In the episode “Go West, Young Meowth” her character travels to Hollywood to make it big. There, Meowth falls in love with another Meowth, who spurns his advances. He decides to learn how to speak and to stand upright in order to impress her – but she rejects him for being a “freak.” Meowth was a human trapped in a Pokemon’s body.

That episode was extremely dear to me as a kid! I’m happy to know it was part of her story, her inspiration. We all have lessons to learn from Maddie, certainly.

Meowth was a lovable cat gangster with a gold coin charm on his head and a bad attitude. He’d follow up every Team Rocket “motto” with his signature “Meowth, that’s right!” He had boundless energy and an affinity for bad puns, and was often seen pulling the levers of the latest improbable Team Rocket contraption. For a sample of Maddie’s work on Meowth, see the catchy Meowth’s Party, a GameCube tech demo used as a special musical segment. Maddie, thanks for touching my childhood with your warmth and charm, and my adulthood with your intelligence and courage.

Dear Maddie

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 1:08 am

Life According To Maddie (According To Me)

Maddie Blaustein died this week. I… I don’t know what to say. She was an accomplished comics writer (I know she did Static, among others) and voice actress, having roles on Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and yes, some Sonic games. She was one of my heroes, and I always dreamed I’d write to her and, because we’re both transsexual, she’d feel a certain kinship and write back, and I’d treasure her response forever.

There’s a huge hole in me now. I guess this is one of those lessons about how now is the best time to do anything, since you don’t know what will happen tomorrow. But also, I just lost a woman I’ve had immense respect for, a woman who showed me what I can become. Rest in peace, Maddie… I already miss you deeply.

Victorious Transsexuals: Bülent Ersoy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 12:34 am

Middle East Online
ISTANBUL – A Turkish court Thursday acquitted a famed transsexual singer of charges of turning the public against military service, citing clauses protecting free speech, Anatolia news agency reported.

Bulent Ersoy, 56, was put on trial after she said in February that if she had a son, she would not send him to the army to fight Kurdish rebels, whose 24-year campaign for self-rule in the southeast has claimed about 44,000 lives.

The court ruled that the alleged offence had not been committed and the defendant had exercised her right to freedom of expression, Anatolia said.

FREE SPEECH WIN! I hope this gives Turkey some serious EU points, with the possibility of many more if they reform the law itself.

December 20, 2008

You’re no Jack Kennedy Lite

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 10:15 pm

Letters – The Famous Name and the Senate Seat – NYTimes.com

My honest opinion of Caroline Kennedy is, well… I’m angry. Whenever I read about why she’s qualified to be a Senator, it’s that she has connections and a valuable fund-raising machine. Whether or not that kind of politics is necessary—and I do not think it is to this absurd extent, anyway—I wish I could at least more often read an acknowledgment that it is bad, and emblematic of everything wrong with politics.

You can think that someone is good, a hard worker, a smart person with an unlikely and inspiring story, and still not be comfortable with this person being appointed to the most powerful legislative body in the nation. Barack Obama was short on a political résumé, so he campaigned for two years to prove he was ready for the job, that he had the intelligence, the firsthand knowledge, and the experience required. Double that for Al Franken. Both, in my opinion, succeeded. We have no reason, no vantage point, to think that this woman is similar, nothing that sets her apart as a prodigy, no harsh public vetting process of a campaign, no case that she even has to make to the public. My impression, from the articles I’ve read about her, is that she is exquisitely qualified to warm a seat. I like that she sits on boards of charities, and her time on the board of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund particularly appeals to me. I’m not sure what that brings to the Senate, though; I mean, I do want my legislators grounded in real-world issues, but it’s just part of the package. I didn’t vote for Barack Obama just because of his three years as a Chicago community organizer, certainly. It helps, but it’s not everything.

All that could be assuaged if she ever had to make a case to the public, ever had to defend her non-record, ever had to demonstrate why she’s ready for this office. Just look at these sniveling excuses in the letters page linked above. I’m waiting to hear that it would hurt her feelings not to get the appointment. Your deep sympathy for someone does not make them qualified. Absent any new information, I’m inclined to say that the caricature is right: this is old-school nepotism at its worst, and exactly what makes people so cynical about politics.

Footwear and its trajectory

Letters – When a President Is Treated With Disrespect – NYTimes.com
I’m appalled that Arabs are celebrating the act of a disrespectful Iraqi journalist directed at a president of the United States. If an Arab leader were treated with such disdain in the United States, the Arab world would react violently against all Americans.

That’s an amazingly dumb statement! Let me unpack it.

  1. Wait a second, we’re required to look at all leaders the same? The difference with President Bush is that they hate him. I don’t condone throwing footwear at world leaders, but you have to admit he’s a man after many people’s own hearts. (This journalist—and yes, journalists should not be inserting themselves, or their shoes, into their stories this way—reminds me of the old woman who took a hammer to a Comcast call center. I don’t condone what she did, but man, she did something many of us wish we could have done ourselves. They’re both proxies for our very real frustrations.)
  2. Um, you do realize that Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia University, was an outright jerk to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when he visited in 2007? There wasn’t a violent uprising, then (of course, part of that might have to do with the fact that Moodly-Bob isn’t very popular back home, either).  Ahmadinejad is a nutcase and a horrible man, to be sure, but Bollinger was both being a jerk to a visiting head of state and possessed none of the underdog status or the truth-to-power element of the shoe-tossing journalist. (He also endangered any future opportunities for students to get to see visiting heads of state, a valuable opportunity even—or perhaps especially—when these leaders are reprehensible.) You should really check these things, sometimes.

I think this argument boils down to “if things were different, wouldn’t they be different?”, which is not an argument I’m fond of. It’s like saying, why are you cheering that your home football team won? You’d be angry if the other team won. Stupid, stupid.

December 18, 2008

Looking back on Proposition 8

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 2:56 pm

Letters – When Your Beliefs and My Civil Rights Collide – NYTimes.com
To the Editor:

The deep repugnance and aversion to homosexuality held by the black church-going community revealed in the passing of Proposition 8 in California are not a wedge in the progressive agenda. They are simply a very common human failing. It is human to scapegoat.

This is an opportunity to make the tent even bigger, if it is construed as an opportunity to examine prejudice from the other side.

Progressives should invite the black church community to engage in the dialogue. The result would allow all those in the tent to feel and work better with each other. The tent would become an even better tent.

It would even make it easier to reach out to those still outside the tent. Name-calling means we have learned nothing.

Catherine Barinas
New York, Dec. 7, 2008

It’s sad the way the media consistently frames the post-Prop. 8 debate as “gays vs. blacks” (props to Stephen Colbert for excellently lampooning this). The truth, beyond the fact that the Obama surged actually hurt, rather than helped, Proposition 8, is that there is a deep well of social conservatism in older black and Hispanic communities. The problem that poses to gay rights is not insurmountable, and it’s important; just imagine you were gay, as well as black or Hispanic, and you were in the closet, or your were afraid to discuss your significant other, or people assumed you didn’t exist because you aren’t white. How would you feel?

We all underestimated the threat of Proposition 8, and the finger-pointing is understandable. My feeling is that we never spoke to the concerns of these communities that vote Democratic but aren’t necessarily thrilled about same-sex marriage. We never countered the arguments of the scaremongers, we never established that the same-sex marriage ruling doesn’t have any effect on schools or churches, we never claimed the mantle (as we should have) of strengthening marriage, love, and commitment for all Americans. It’s tough to establish the very real, and very sad, links between Jim Crow separate-but-equal laws and the idea of a separate institution for gay “civil unions” when gays are stereotyped as being white and well-to-do. If the truth got out—that whether or not you know, gay people are in your family, among your teachers, among your coworkers, among all the people you love and admire—it would change the dynamic entirely.

Prop. 8 might still get thrown out on the grounds that the California Constitution does not allow such sweeping changes to it without a Constitutional convention. Let’s hope the California Supreme Court rules the right way and strikes down this loathsome, opportunistic ballot measure. I shouldn’t have to tell you that Supreme Courts are there to protect fundamental rights, whether or not they’re in vogue; these are the kind of rights than cannot be invalidated by simple majority. Either way, though, I think I speak for us all in saying that I hope we learn as we heal from this debacle.

Dogbert economics

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 2:22 pm

Dilbert comic strip for 12/13/2008 from the official Dilbert comic strips archive.

It’s rather scary when an entire global financial crisis can be so accurately represented by a snarky, three-panel Dilbert comic. Anyway, this comic inspired me to use the Dilbert.com strip editor to tell the rest of the story. The first link below is to the above strip, but with new dialogue by me in the last panel. The second link is to a different strip, but I’ve rewritten the whole thing to make it a “sequel” to this one. Please read!

AAA Rated

Dead Cow Crisis

December 16, 2008

Making the call on treatment — Plus! Your mission

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 3:26 pm

Daschle Will Lead Health Care Overhaul – NYTimes.com
At the heart of the health care system, Mr. Daschle wants to establish a Federal Health Board, an independent entity like the Federal Reserve. The board would make coverage decisions for federal health programs. It would, he says, “reduce or deny payment for new drugs and procedures that aren’t as effective as current ones.”

The board could have a “spillover effect” in the private sector, he said. Private insurers already follow many of Medicare’s coverage decisions. Mr. Daschle said Congress could go further and link tax breaks for private insurance to compliance with the board’s recommendations — a step that would give the government far more influence than it now has.

That sounds like a great idea! Obviously, the board will have to be super-independent, with legislation to ensure they aren’t being moved by free gifts or implicit career offers from HMOs or drug companies. Still, it’s an enormous problem, and one source of our stratospheric healthcare costs, that there doesn’t seem to be any check on the cost or utility of new drugs or devices. A popular drug may have a generic equivalent that doctors or patients stubbornly aren’t using. A hospital may have purchased an MRI machine and wants to recoup the costs by using it to investigate headaches (a breach of the enormous trust patients place in their doctors). A big new drug may be just like an old one, different enough only as to warrant a new patent. And, of course, there’s the rush for drug companies to create “blockbuster drugs” for non-clinical ailments that everybody has, like sometime anxiety or difficulty sleeping under stress, rather than treat actual ailments with actual medicine that would only reach a limited market (the sick).

Anyway, I hope this board puts human interest at the forefront when it makes its selections. Another problem with our healthcare system is that profit, not utility, governs what is covered in a for-profit healthcare plan, and HMOs have an incentive to deny as much care as they can under existing prices. So, simply a new definition of what medicines and procedures warrant coverage would be refreshing. As it happens, the sick are presently the worst off in our healthcare system (besides, you know, being sick), as they tend to be “uninsurable” and most likely to be denied coverage due to technicalities.

What’s in it for me? Well, as I understand, most nations with universal healthcare cover treatment for transsexuality. As it happens, gender identity disorder is in the DSM IV and has been an established condition in medical literature for decades, and the international medical consensus is that it should be treated with therapy and, if the patient so chooses (and if it is right for the patient), physical transition with hormones and surgery. It’s time to bring the US up to international standards in this regard!

As soon as this board forms, your mission, my fellow transgender people and allies, is to press for this it to give the standard medical procedures for gender identity disorder its formal endorsement. It would be an enormous step toward making sure transsexuals live full, productive, happy lives, that we live for our potential, that we contribute our full extent to the economy, and that young trans children are not tempted to go into sex work solely to pay for their healthcare, or are forced to choose between their health and a college education. It would be a weight from our shoulders, a blessing in our lives, a decades-overdue gesture of recognition, and the start of transsexuality finally being something normal in society. It would mean the world to me.

Join us!

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