Inhabitants Of A Class M Planet Say Goodbye To Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy Twitter

Above is the final tweet posted by Leonard Nimoy, who died yesterday. His twitter feed remains open, retweeting messages of condolence.

Among those with tweets in memory of Nimoy were Barack Obama, President of the United States and William Shatner, aka Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise:

George Takai posted this on Facebook:

Today, the world lost a great man, and I lost a great friend. We return you now to the stars, Leonard. You taught us to “Live Long And Prosper,” and you indeed did, friend. I shall miss you in so many, many ways.

From NASA:

Yesterday night I pulled out the Blu Ray remastered discs of Star Trek: The Original Series. The picture quality is amazing, and for a short time Spock lived. There will be additional material on television this weekend in honor of Leonard Nimoy. Syfy will devote five hours of programing to the memory of Leonard Nimoy with his appearance on The Twilight Zone, the two part story which he appeared on Star Trek: The Next Generation, and his last movie role with the original Star Trek cast. (He also had an appearance in the first J.J. Abrams Star Trek movie.) The following will be on Sunday morning:

9:00AM The Twilight Zone/”A Quality of Mercy” 9:30AM Star Trek: The Next Generation/”Unification: Part I” 10:30AM Star Trek: The Next Generation/”Unification: Part 2” 11:30AM Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country

Epix is running two interviews with Leonard Nimoy:

The premium netowrk will run A Conversation with Leonard Nimoy on Friday, Feb. 27 at 11 p.m. (ET), followed on Saturday at 5:40 p.m. and 10 p.m., as well as Sunday, March 1 at 8 p.m.

Nimoy looks back at his 50-year involvement with one of the sci-fi genre’s more famous franchises with Star Trek Into Darkness on Saturday at 10:15 p.m. and the following day at 8:15 p.m.

The following video is of Leonard Nimoy at Comic Con 2011:

Spock Is Dead–Sadly No Genesis Planet This Time

Leonard Nimoy

Sad news today: Leonard Nimoy died at age 83 of end-stage COPD. Nimoy, best known for playing Mr. Spock in the original Star Trek series and subsequent movies, lived long and prospered. His roles included Spock’s death in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Being science fiction, his death did not prevent him from returning to life on the Genesis Planet in Star Trek III: The Search For Spock. His movie death and funeral in Star Trek II are in the video below:

Nimoy directed two of the Star Trek movies (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home) and also appeared in the first J.J. Abrams reboot of Star Trek. He has also appeared in several other movies and television shows. This included playing William Bell on Fringe, who also had an on-screen death.

Landmark FCC Decision Is A Victory For Freedom Of Expression And Free Enterprise

In what PoltiFact calls ” a significant accomplishment for Obama” and a “Promise Kept,” the FCC has voted for major changes to help guarantee a free and open Internet. Net neutrality is important for freedom of expression, including helping small blogs such as this to continue, important for small business, and important to maintain the lifestyle we are becoming accustomed to, such as streaming video as an alternative to often exorbitant cable rates.

Net neutrality is a tremendous victory for freedom of expression and free enterprise. Not surprisingly, conservatives have been spreading the untrue talking points of the large telecommunications companies which fear seeing their power diminished. Whenever the goals of the powerful conflict with the best interests of the nation, we know which side conservatives will invariably side with.

There are all sorts of false claims being spread by conservatives about net neutrality, such as that it will lead to $15 billion in new taxes and will lead to either Barack Obama or the United Nations (depending upon the source) controlling the Internet. In other words, this sounds like lots of right wing conspiracy theories we have already heard.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler disputed conservative claims that the new regulations are intended to regulate communication on the Internet:

This is no more a plan to regulate the Internet than the First Amendment is a plan to regulate free speech. They both stand for the same concept: openness, expression and an absence of gatekeepers telling them what they can do, where they can go and what they can think.

The Fact Checker at The Washington Post called the claims of higher taxes false. Ron Wyden, who wrote the Internet Tax Freedom Act, debunked conservative claims that the FCC’s action would invalidate the law and result in higher taxes. This ban on taxes in will expire in October, but there is nothing stopping Congress from renewing it.

AP’s fact checking included the following:

THE CLAIM: “President Obama’s plan marks a monumental shift toward government control of the Internet.” — Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai.

THE FACTS: It’s a shift for sure, but the FCC hasn’t proposed regulating Internet content or controlling access to websites. The question is how to regulate Internet service so providers don’t block or slow web traffic for financial gain.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler says the only way to do that is to subject retail Internet service to Title II of the 1934 Communications Act. That would expand FCC power significantly by allowing regulators to step in if there were allegations of harm to consumers. But it’s a reach to suggest that these new powers equate to a government takeover.

Also worth noting is that the FCC is independent from the administration. While Obama has put pressure on the FCC to enact tougher regulations, and he appointed Wheeler to head the agency, this is not the president’s call.

After debunking additional claims, the article explained why this change is now needed, and not necessarily a break from previous administrations:

THE CLAIM: The FCC plan “represents a stunning reversal of the policies of the Clinton and Bush administrations.” It will backtrack on “decades of bipartisan agreement to limit Internet regulation.” — Former FCC commissioner Robert McDowell in an opinion article in The Wall Street Journal.

THE FACTS: The question of Internet “fast lanes” is far more pressing for Obama than it ever was for Clinton or Bush. In 2000, only 3 percent of American households had broadband access, compared with 70 percent by 2013, according to the Pew Research Center.

It wasn’t until President George W. Bush’s second term, in 2005, that YouTube became available and video services like Netflix became more popular. By the time the FCC voted in 2008 against Comcast for throttling Web traffic, Bush was nearing the end of his presidency.

For those who might find this all boring, here is a more entertaining explanation of net neutrality from John Oliver:

The Importance Of Net Neutrality To A Free Market

 Net Neutrality

A free and open Internet is essential both for many forms of communication and for conducting business. This is another example of Democrats supporting the free market against efforts of some Republicans who, despite their misleading rhetoric and false claims, have been pursing an agenda of destroying the free market in the United States to establish a plutocracy.

I have seen many more scholarly articles on the importance of net neutrality. For those who do not understand the repercussions, this explanation from Chad Dickerson, CEO of Etsy, might put matters in perspective. Following is an excerpt, but I suggest reading his full article:

“Free and open” was what made the Internet work then, and it’s a critical principle now. I didn’t have to ask permission to build my first websites. I had unfettered access to materials that helped me teach myself how to code. As I learned more, I quickly came to understand that the Internet was so much more than a network of cables and wires that connected computers around the world. It was a platform for the purest expression of freedom, openness and possibility that I had experienced in my life.

Those early experiences on the Internet inspired me to pursue a successful career in technology, and connected me with people and knowledge from all over the world. Mine is a common story and one we need to protect for future generations.

Etsy now hosts over 1.3 million sellers, 88% of whom are women, most of them sole proprietors working out of their homes. Individually they may be small, but together they sold over $1.35 billion worth of goods in 2013. That’s the power of the Internet. But it only works if net neutrality — the idea that all traffic on the Internet should be treated equally — is protected…

Without strong rules, Etsy and the people who depend on our platform would suffer. We charge just 20 cents to list an item and take only 3.5% of every transaction. If broadband companies can charge websites for priority access to consumers, we’d likely have to choose between increasing our fees or leaving Etsy sellers in the slow lane.

Make no mistake, speed impacts the bottom line. Research from Google and others demonstrates that delays of milliseconds have long-term negative impacts on revenue. If people click on an Etsy seller’s shop and perceive images loading slowly, they will click away, and that seller will lose the sale. This isn’t just about a high-bandwidth service such as video. It’s about any business that depends on the Internet to reach consumers, including the entrepreneurs on Etsy.

That’s why I, along with many others in the startup and public-interest communities, started encouraging the FCC to establish new rules protecting real net neutrality under the strongest legal authority available to them — Title II of the Communications Act — allowing them to ban paid prioritization, throttling and blocking. The previous rules were overturned by the courts because the FCC used the wrong legal authority to justify them. This time, we want them to get it right.

 

Seth Meyers Responds To Giuliani and Walker Regarding Obama’s Love For America

It is never good for a politician to become a frequent punchline of the late night comedians. Seth Meyers had the above response to Rudy Giuliani’s false claim that Obama does not love America, along with Scott Walker’s difficulty in responding to a question as to whether he agreed. (Media and graphic below via Mediaite).

Walker is complaining of being hit with gotcha questions but  he has made two major errors which a serious candidate for the presidency should not have made. At this stage in what used to be called the invisible primary, but now is very open, questions serve the purpose of dividing out the serious and not serious candidates. On the one hand a candidate does have to be able to handle difficult questions, including questions which might not be fair. On the other hand, in an era of 24/7 news and Twitter, it is hard for anyone to go for a couple of years without giving a poor response and seeing it spread instantly.

Walker’s problem is that he has recently given two bad answers which shouldn’t have been that difficult. He will face far more difficulty, and potentially unfair, questions if he runs for president. The worst response from Walker, to me, was on evolution. On the other hand, questioning evolution is a common view among Republican primary votes so it might not hurt him. The Democrats are not effective enough politically to capitalize on that in a general election.

The question of whether Obama loves America was also not difficult. Other Republicans have given answers along the lines that Obama loves America but his policies are bad for America. Obviously I disagree, but I see that as a good answer politically for a Republican. Most of the base will not object as they are still critical of Obama, and sane people will not see them as kooks for saying this.

It is still early and I doubt that this will be enough to derail Walker’s campaign. Plenty of other candidates will have bad moments before the first primary. This will only hurt if it is a trend which continues, in which case many Republicans will question whether he is ready for a national presidential campaign. If he continues to make such unforced errors, this will start to become how Walker is known by the general public and the campaign sign made by Seth Meyers will then stick:

Scott Walker I Dunno

Report Accuses Chicago Police Of Operating Domestic Equivalent Of A CIA Black Site

Spencer Ackerman of The Guardian has a report accusing the Chicago police of violating civil liberties, using a site comparable to CIA black sites used for terrorism suspects:

The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site.

The facility, a nondescript warehouse on Chicago’s west side known as Homan Square, has long been the scene of secretive work by special police units. Interviews with local attorneys and one protester who spent the better part of a day shackled in Homan Square describe operations that deny access to basic constitutional rights.

Alleged police practices at Homan Square, according to those familiar with the facility who spoke out to the Guardian after its investigation into Chicago police abuse, include:

Keeping arrestees out of official booking databases.
Beating by police, resulting in head wounds.
Shackling for prolonged periods.
Denying attorneys access to the “secure” facility.
Holding people without legal counsel for between 12 and 24 hours, including people as young as 15.

At least one man was found unresponsive in a Homan Square “interview room” and later pronounced dead…

The secretive warehouse is the latest example of Chicago police practices that echo the much-criticized detention abuses of the US war on terrorism. While those abuses impacted people overseas, Homan Square – said to house military-style vehicles, interrogation cells and even a cage – trains its focus on Americans, most often poor, black and brown.

Unlike a precinct, no one taken to Homan Square is said to be booked. Witnesses, suspects or other Chicagoans who end up inside do not appear to have a public, searchable record entered into a database indicating where they are, as happens when someone is booked at a precinct. Lawyers and relatives insist there is no way of finding their whereabouts. Those lawyers who have attempted to gain access to Homan Square are most often turned away, even as their clients remain in custody inside.

“It’s sort of an open secret among attorneys that regularly make police station visits, this place – if you can’t find a client in the system, odds are they’re there,” said Chicago lawyer Julia Bartmes.

Chicago civil-rights attorney Flint Taylor said Homan Square represented a routinization of a notorious practice in local police work that violates the fifth and sixth amendments of the constitution.

“This Homan Square revelation seems to me to be an institutionalization of the practice that dates back more than 40 years,” Taylor said, “of violating a suspect or witness’ rights to a lawyer and not to be physically or otherwise coerced into giving a statement.”

Much remains hidden about Homan Square. The Chicago police department did not respond to the Guardian’s questions about the facility. But after the Guardian published this story, the department provided a statement insisting, without specifics, that there is nothing untoward taking place at what it called the “sensitive” location, home to undercover units.

“CPD [Chicago police department] abides by all laws, rules and guidelines pertaining to any interviews of suspects or witnesses, at Homan Square or any other CPD facility. If lawyers have a client detained at Homan Square, just like any other facility, they are allowed to speak to and visit them. It also houses CPD’s Evidence Recovered Property Section, where the public is able to claim inventoried property,” the statement said, something numerous attorneys and one Homan Square arrestee have denied.

“There are always records of anyone who is arrested by CPD, and this is not any different at Homan Square,” it continued.

The Chicago police statement did not address how long into an arrest or detention those records are generated or their availability to the public. A department spokesperson did not respond to a detailed request for clarification.

Tracy Siska, executive director of the Chicago Justice Project and a criminologist was interviewed by Tanya Basu of The Atlantic

Basu: Why wasn’t the press covering it?

Siska: I think that many crime reporters in Chicago have political views that are right in line with the police. They tend to agree about the tactics needed by the police. They tend to have by one extent or the other the same racist views of the police—a lot of urban police (not all of them by any stretch, but a lot of them) embody racism.

Later in the interview:

Basu: Going back to the Guantanamo interrogation techniques associated with Homan Square, and just to be clear: These warehouses aren’t interrogating suspected terrorists, correct?

Siska: No, no, no, no, no, no, no. 99 percent of the people from this site are involved in some form of street crime: gang activities, drugs—urban violent crime. That’s what makes the site even worse. It takes Guantanamo-style tactics on urban street criminals and shreds the Bill of Rights.

Basu: To clarify: What do “Guantanamo-style” tactics entail?

Siska: Isolation, deprivation of food, other outside contact. It’s meant to be a lot of touchless torture. So they’re not touching you, which in the human-rights field is more powerful and scary because it doesn’t leave marks but leaves huge internal wounds. Most of the time, people aren’t physically abused. They’re cut off from society, not allowed phone calls, not fed as much. These are just tactics that are more sophisticated in urban-policing tactics.

Basu: What does it mean when Ackerman says records would disappear?

Siska: We changed that rule. What used to happen at Homan Square is that prior to a year ago, if you get arrested and you get brought down anywhere in any district, you would not pop up in the city computer as being arrested until they processed the police report, which could take anywhere from an hour to 15 hours. If they “arrested” you, then they have to report it. But if they don’t “arrest you,” nefarious things could happen and they could interrogate you without a lawyer. And they would move you around from district to district. So [for example] if the family shows up or the lawyer shows up and they say you aren’t here but you are, they’ve denied you access. But if they say you’re at [district] 17, then move you to 15, and then 12, they can question you without counsel. At Homan Square they don’t process paperwork about your arrest. You’re just gone. No one knows.

At some point they have to do the paperwork and prosecute you. After they get your confession, you wind up back in the paperwork.

MSNBC has posted a statement from the Chicago police denying the accusations, however most of the issues are not specifically addressed in the statement:

The allegations in this instance are not supported by facts. The vast majority of our officers serve the public with honor and integrity, and alleged actions of one individual decades ago are in no way indicative of the hard working men and women who put their lives on the line each day to protect residents.

The Chicago Police Department has zero tolerance for misconduct, and has instituted a series of internal initiatives and reforms, to ensure past incidents of police misconduct are not repeated.

Over the past three years, CPD created and implemented procedural justice training, which is mandatory for all police officers, built around understanding, fairness and respect.  CPD strengthened Internal Affairs, adding accountability measures to their work, adding more investigators, bringing Sergeants into investigations and giving the Bureau of Internal Affairs priority in selecting staff. Additionally, CPD has worked to ensure we have the right supervisors in place, and provided new training that reflects the values we hold, not just as a department but as a community. At the same time, we have made community policing the foundation of our policing philosophy and we have fostered stronger partnership with community leaders, faith leaders and residents.

Question of the Day: Jon Stewart On Lies About Iraq

Jon Stewart

“Never again will Brian Williams mislead this great nation about being shot at in a war we probably wouldn’t have ended up in if the media had applied this level of scrutiny to the actual f**king war.” –Jon Stewart

This again raises the question–if Brian Williams is now being punished for lying about Iraq, what about Bush and Cheney?

SciFi Weekend: The Americans; The Flash; Arrow; Agents of SHIELD; Doctor Who (The Doctor Dates Cinderella); 12 Monkeys; Big Bang Theory; Two And A Half Men Finale; Mad Men In The 70’s; Orphan Black; Kristen Bell; If Ayn Rand Wrote Harry Potter; Birdman Parody; Politics And The Oscars

The Americans Nina Gulag

One of the things which makes The Americans one of the top television shows now on is the manner in which several story lines involving different characters are carried out so well. Whether or not the different story lines become intertwined, one storyline often has lessons for another. On Dimebag, while Elizabeth and Phillip fought over whether Paige should become a spy, neither seemed to have thought that if Paige had been trained they could have used her to get information from Kimberly, the young daughter of the CIA’s Afghan group, instead of Phillip seducing her. Neither realized initially the degree to which they were in danger of losing Paige to her church–hardly acceptable if she were to be a good Communist. There is some similarity to how Pastor Tim is “recruiting” Paige to how Phillip is using Kimberly and the Russians want them to recruit Paige. Meanwhile in Russian, Nina might be saved due to Oleg’s family relationship to the future Russian oligarchs, and she went to work on her cell mate as Elizabeth would work on getting information. On top of this, the episode included a defector who might be double crossing them, an EST meeting, and a visit with an AA sponsor.

Keri Russell discussed the relationships with her character’s daughter and mother this season, and described the scene earlier this season in which Annelise’s body was packed into a suitcase:

IGN: I have to ask about that second episode and the scene of having to get rid of the body in that hotel room. First of all, there’s the “Oh my god!” of it all. And then also is it interesting for you to play a character who already had to compartmentalize everything, but this is a woman that her husband was sleeping with as a part of the job, and now she has the reality of that in front of her?

Russell: All I have to say is so many naked girls! Naked, beautiful actress, naked beautiful contortionist, yeah. Then on a second unit day of reshoots, a second naked beautiful girl. I was like, “There’s a lot of pretty, naked girls on this show!” Yeah, so bizarre! Really gruesome. I haven’t seen it. Does it play?

IGN: Oh yeah, it plays.

Flash Firestorm

Last week The Flash was both a back door pilot for Firestorm and further advanced the idea of time travel for Barry Allen. We saw once again how far Harrison Wells is willing to go, and his motives remain unclear. We should be learning more when the show returns in March.

Also on CW, we saw a reversal on Arrow, as the flashback took place in Starling City while the present day action took place back on the island. It was strange to see Oliver from the period when he was missing back around his home. Seeing Oliver snooping around Queen Consolidated gave the feeling of a time travel story in which a character is in their past but cannot risk being seen.  Meanwhile, on the island, there was a deliberate reference to Star Trek II, The Wrath of Kahn with Slade’s comment, “I’m going to leave you as you left me.”

Agents of SHIELD returns March 3. Marvel has released this synopsis of the episode:

After discovering an alien city with ties to his resurrection, Coulson and his team destroyed it before the forces of Hydra could claim its secrets, eliminating the villainous Whitehall (Reed Diamond) in the process. But new threats to the world have arisen, including Skye’s father, Cal (Kyle McLachlan), who now seeks retribution against Coulson for stealing his revenge against Whitehall; a disturbing alliance between former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Ward (Brett Dalton) and Agent 33; the enigmatic Raina (Ruth Negga), who struggles with her transformation into something inhuman by the alien Obelisk and seeks vengeance; and Skye (Chloe Bennet), who developed mysterious new powers from the Obelisk but whose lack of experience with her new abilities may threaten the safety of those she loves.

Meanwhile, Bobbi (Adrianne Palicki) and Mack (Henry Simmons) begin the next phase of a plan which seems to have grave repercussions for Coulson and his team, who are unaware that there’s another mysterious force moving against them. And as Hunter (Nick Blood) is forced to make the biggest choice of his life, Coulson will find his mission threatened by this shocking endgame.

In the midseason premiere, “Aftershocks,” Coulson’s team must deal with the consequences of their war with Hydra as shocking revelations threaten to tear them apart, and Hydra makes a dangerous move that may involve a traitor in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s midst.

Adrianne Palicki has been promoted to a series regular on Agents of SHIELD, which probably means that Will will not be getting back together with Doctor Sam on About a Boy anytime soon.

Lily James Matt Smith

The Doctor is dating Cinderella–Matt Smith has confirmed that he is dating Lily James. I don’t know if it has occurred yet in the US broadcasts of Downton Abbey so I won’t give any specifics, but I did like her character’s triumph in a late season episode. Of course anything is better than revisiting certain past events yet once again.

In other Doctor Who and related news, The BBC has announced that Michelle Gomez will return as Missy in a two part episode to open the next season of Doctor Who. Add Eve Myles to the list of those interested in another season of Torchwood.

Speaking of Lily James in Cinderella, Ellen DeGeneres has presented a mash-up of Cinderella and Fifty Shades of Grey. Video above.

I thought there was a chance that 12 Monkeys might be able to make it into the upper tier of genre shows with The Night Room last week but The Red Forest couldn’t keep up the same quality this week. Not that it was a bad episode, but it was too easy to fix the timeline when it simply came down to Cassie getting captured in our present, and saving her would fix things. There are still a number of questions raised last week which could provide interesting episodes. Plus they now know how important Cassie’s role is and will make sure that they do not change history involving her, ensuring that she can deliver the message for Cole before she dies.

Amazon has renewed Mozart in the Jungle (which I recommend watching, now about half way through the first season) and is going ahead with the adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle. I have intentionally held off on watching the pilot, preferring to wait until Amazon shows are released in full as opposed to watching the pilot months earlier, but reviews have been excellent for the pilot.

Last week’s episode of The Big Bang Theory seemed to throw far too much into a single episode, including the reopening of Stuart’s comic book store, a cameo by Nathan Fillion, and (the most amusing part of the show), Sheldon telling Penny how Amy was doing experiments on her. Then we learned what the episode was really about–a tribute to Carol Ann Susi, the voice of Mrs. Wolowitz, who died in November. There is a toast to her in the video above, and there is an unseen tribute to her in every episode:

After we had that impromptu memorial the morning she passed away, Johnny and I were hugging—like everybody was—and right then we found our prop person and asked to get a little picture of Carol Ann and we put it on the refrigerator [in Leonard and Sheldon’s kitchen] so she’s there in every episode now. It’s so small you wouldn’t even see it, but on the fridge is this tiny little wallet-size picture of Carol Ann that’s been there since the day she passed away.

It also appears that The Big Bang Theory is so subversive that China doesn’t want its citizens to be able to watch the show.

We are going into the final week of one of the best network sit-coms in recent years, Parks and Recreation. Last week we had the finale of Two And A Half Men, a multi-cam sit-com which over the last twelve years has shown everything wrong with the format. If anyone cares, Chuck Lorre explained his intentions for the finale. There were no apologies to the nation, but at least our great national nightmare is over.

Mad Men 70's

Mad Men enters the 1970’s for its final half-season, and from the music playing in the trailer it might even be doing a time jump to the mid 70’s. After that, I’m looking forward to the inevitable spin-off. Better Call Sally. Just kidding but considering how good Better Call Saul has been so far as a spin-off of Breaking Bad, it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if AMC went that route again.

AMC purchased 49 percent of BBC America, and this has implications for the promotion of the third season of Orphan Black. The show probably has many less viewers than a show of this quality might otherwise have due to not being seen on BBC America. In the hopes of increasing exposure, the third season premiere will be shown on all of AMC’s channels, including AMC, Sundance TV, IFC and We TV. The one problem with this strategy is that Orphan Black is not a good show to come into late. Perhaps they should have been rerunning the first two seasons on some other channels prior to the start of the third season.

Forget any thoughts of John Oliver taking over for Jon Stewart. HBO, perhaps thinking along those lines and wanting to lock him in, has signed Oliver for two more seasons of This Week Tonight, with 35 episodes a year. Meanwhile Jon Stewart, after having to put out new shows daily, near year round, might envy Oliver’s deal.

Kristen Bell has no tolerance for anti-vaxxers, and won’t let them around her children. “It’s a very simple logic: I believe in trusting doctors, not know-it-alls.”

morena_baccarin
Morena Baccarin (of Gotham, Firefly, V, and Homeland) has been cast as the female lead in another superhero adaptation, this time the movie version of Deadpool. I don’t know if this will impact her work on Gotham, but we know that sooner or later Jim Gordon has to get back with Barbara, or else Batgirl will never be born.

BoingBoing has pointed out an example of Harry Potter fan fiction by Mallory Ortberg, written as if it was written by Ayn Rand. Thus there are passages such as, “It’s also why I never water my plants in Herbology. They must learn to survive with or without me. Self-sufficiency is not just a human virtue. It is the highest virtue.”  Plus don’t miss the link to Mallory Ortberg’s reviews of children’s movies as if they were written by Ayn Rand. For example:

“Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”

An industrious young woman neglects to charge for her housekeeping services and is rightly exploited for her naïveté. She dies without ever having sought her own happiness as the highest moral aim. I did not finish watching this movie, finding it impossible to sympathize with the main character. —No stars.

“Bambi”

The biggest and the strongest are the fittest to rule. This is the way things have always been. —Four stars.

“101 Dalmatians”A wealthy woman attempts to do her impoverished school friend Anita a favor by purchasing some of her many dogs and putting them to sensible use. Her generosity is repulsed at every turn, and Anita foolishly and irresponsibly begins acquiring even more animals, none of which are used to make a practical winter coat. Altruism is pointless. So are dogs. A cat is a far more sensible pet. A cat is objectively valuable. —No stars.

Big Bird meets Birdman in the video spoof above. Birdman is considered a heavy favorite to win an Oscar for best movie.

When actors go on stage to accept Oscars tonight, many of them are contributing to the Democrats, and some to the Republicans. The Hill reports:

Democrats are the biggest winners when it comes to raking in political donations from Academy Award nominees.

Some of the Oscars’ most famous contenders — including this year’s hopefuls Reese Witherspoon, Edward Norton, Mark Ruffalo, Bradley Cooper, and Meryl Streep — are delivering big bucks for the left.

Norton plays an egotistical movie star in “Birdman,” — which snagged him a Best Supporting Actor nomination at Sunday’s awards — but the real-life film star is one of Hollywood’s biggest Democratic donor…

Witherspoon, who earned her second Best Actress nomination this year for “Wild,” has also donated generously to Democrats, according to Federal Election Commission records. The 2005 Oscar winner gave $1,500 to Warren’s camp in 2012. She’s also given in excess of $6,000 to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and $1,500 to then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.).

While Clint Eastwood, the director behind Best Picture nominee “American Sniper,” is known for his support of Republican candidates — famously delivering his “empty chair speech” at the 2012 Republican National Convention — the film’s star, Bradley Cooper, gave $750 to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential bid. Cooper is vying for Best Actor for his portrayal of real-life Navy SEAL Chris Kyle in the record-breaking movie.

The article later discusses how Democrats often use celebrities in fund raising campaigns while “Republicans have capitalized on conservative celebrity activists by encouraging them to run for office.”

Two Democratic Congressmen Propose Bills To Legalize Marijuana At Federal Level

It is probably only a matter of time until marijuana prohibition ends. Like gay marriage, we will reach a tipping point where conservative opposition loses its impact. Also, like marriage equality, the majority of Democratic politicians will probably lag behind the country in openly adopting more liberal views, but two House Democrats have introduced bills to end marijuana prohibition. Sam Stein reports:

Two congressmen filed separate House bills on Friday that together would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana at the federal level, effectively ending the U.S. government’s decades long prohibition of the plant.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) introduced the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act, which would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act’s schedules, transfer oversight of the substance from the Drug Enforcement Administration over to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and regulate marijuana in a way similar to how alcohol is currently regulated in the U.S.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) introduced the Marijuana Tax Revenue Act, which would set up a federal excise tax for regulated marijuana.

The bills would not force states to legalize marijuana, but a federal regulatory framework would be in place for those states that do decide to legalize it. To date, four states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana (however, D.C.’s model continues to ban sales), 23 states have legalized marijuana for medical purposes and 11 other states have legalized the limited use of low-THC forms of marijuana for medical use.

During the Bush administration, the federal government would often raid medical marijuana facilities which were legal in the states the states where they were legal, and the Obama administration was slow to turn this around. With Obama going to be out of office in a couple of years, it is becoming more important to change federal law. Hillary Clinton has been to the right of most Democrats on this (as well as most other issues) and we cannot trust either Clinton or her likely Republican opponent to continue the liberalization finally seen under Obama. While unlikely to be accomplished in the current Congress, it would be preferable to take this issue out of the hands of either Clinton or a future Republican president.

Last year The New York Times argued for legalization of marijuana. Jeffrey Miron discussed the case for marijuana legalization in op-ed at CNN:

Marijuana legalization is a policy no-brainer. Any society that professes to value liberty should leave adults free to consume marijuana.

Moreover, the evidence from states and countries that have decriminalized or medicalized marijuana suggests that policy plays a modest role in limiting use. And while marijuana can harm the user or others when consumed inappropriately, the same applies to many legal goods such as alcohol, tobacco, excessive eating or driving a car.

Recent evidence from Colorado confirms that marijuana’s legal status has minimal impact on marijuana use or the harms allegedly caused by use. Since commercialization of medical marijuana in 2009, and since legalization in 2012, marijuana use, crime, traffic accidents, education and health outcomes have all followed their pre-existing trends rather than increasing or decreasing after policy liberalized…

Federal law still prohibits marijuana, and existing jurisprudence (Gonzales v. Raich 2005) holds that federal law trumps state law when it comes to marijuana prohibition. So far, the federal government has mostly taken a hands-off approach to state medicalizations and legalizations, but in January 2017, the country will have a new president. That person could order the attorney general to enforce federal prohibition regardless of state law.

As long as marijuana is illegal at the federal level we will continue to have many of the adverse consequences of prohibition, including inhibiting the use of medical marijuana. This includes states where medical marijuana is legal under state law. Besides the previous problems of DEA raids, having medical marijuana illegal under federal law makes many physicians unwilling to treat patients who are legally using medical marijuana under state law.

I have seen many individuals who are taking medical marijuana legally under state law discharged from pain clinics which outright refuse to treat anyone using medical marijuana. This is both due to fears of violating federal law and due to personal biases.  I received a consult letter just last month from a pain specialist who opposed giving pain medications to a patient who was using medical marijuana, making arguments which are contradictory to the medical literature which demonstrates that using marijuana as part of a pain management regimen results in decreased opioid use and a decreased risk of overdoses.

CMS Announces Special Enrollment Period To Help Those Who Were Unaware Of Penalty

I recently discussed a flaw in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in which people who were unaware of the penalties for failing to obtain health insurance might not become aware of this until April, after the closing of the open enrollment period. It would then have been too late for them to purchase insurance. Some Democratic members of Congress were urging the Obama administration to extend open enrollment. Today they have announced a special enrollment period from March 15 until April 30. There are also a number of events, such as loss of coverage, which allow individuals to purchase insurance outside of the usual open enrollment period. Following is the release from CMS:

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced today a special enrollment period (SEP) for individuals and families who did not have health coverage in 2014 and are subject to the fee or “shared responsibility payment” when they file their 2014 taxes in states which use the Federally-facilitated Marketplaces (FFM). This special enrollment period will allow those individuals and families who were unaware or didn’t understand the implications of this new requirement to enroll in 2015 health insurance coverage through the FFM.

For those who were unaware or didn’t understand the implications of the fee for not enrolling in coverage, CMS will provide consumers with an opportunity to purchase health insurance coverage from March 15 to April 30. If consumers do not purchase coverage for 2015 during this special enrollment period, they may have to pay a fee when they file their 2015 income taxes.

Those eligible for this special enrollment period live in states with a Federally-facilitated Marketplace and:

 Currently are not enrolled in coverage through the FFM for 2015,

  • Attest that when they filed their 2014 tax return they paid the fee for not having health coverage in 2014, and
  • Attest that they first became aware of, or understood the implications of, the Shared Responsibility Payment after the end of open enrollment (February 15, 2015) in connection with preparing their 2014 taxes.

The special enrollment period announced today will begin on March 15, 2015 and end at 11:59 pm E.S.T. on April 30, 2015. If a consumer enrolls in coverage before the 15th of the month, coverage will be effective on the first day of the following month.

This year’s tax season is the first time individuals and families will be asked to provide basic information regarding their health coverage on their tax returns. Individuals who could not afford coverage or met other conditions may be eligible to receive an exemption for 2014. To help consumers who did not have insurance last year determine if they qualify for an exemption, CMS also launched a health coverage tax exemption tool today on HealthCare.gov and CuidadodeSalud.gov.

“We recognize that this is the first tax filing season where consumers may have to pay a fee or claim an exemption for not having health insurance coverage,” said CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. “Our priority is to make sure consumers understand the new requirement to enroll in health coverage and to provide those who were not aware or did not understand the requirement with an opportunity to enroll in affordable coverage this year.”

Most taxpayers, about three quarters, will only need to check a box when they file their taxes to indicate that they had health coverage in 2014 through their employer, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans care or other qualified health coverage that qualifies as “minimum essential coverage.” The remaining taxpayers – about one-quarter – will take different steps. It is expected that 10 to 20 percent of taxpayers who were uninsured for all or part of 2014 will qualify for an exemption from the requirement to have coverage. A much smaller fraction of taxpayers, an estimated 2 to 4 percent, will pay a fee because they made a choice to not obtain coverage and are not eligible for an exemption.

Americans who do not qualify for an exemption and went without health coverage in 2014 will have to pay a fee – $95 per adult or 1 percent of their income, whichever is greater – when they file their taxes this year. The fee increases to $325 per adult or 2% of income for 2015. Individuals taking advantage of this special enrollment period will still owe a fee for the months they were uninsured and did not receive an exemption in 2014 and 2015. This special enrollment period is designed to allow such individuals the opportunity to get covered for the remainder of the year and avoid additional fees for 2015.

 The Administration is committed to providing the information and tools tax filers need to understand the new requirements. Part of this outreach effort involves coordinating efforts with nonprofit organizations and tax preparers who provide resources to consumers and offer on the ground support. If consumers have questions about their taxes, need to download forms, or want to learn more about the fee for not having insurance, they can find information and resources at www.HealthCare.gov/Taxes or www.IRS.gov. Consumers can also call the Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596. Consumers who need assistance filing their taxes can visit IRS.gov/VITA or IRS.gov/freefile

Consumers seeking to take advantage of the special enrollment period can find out if they are eligible by visiting https://www.healthcare.gov/get-coverage Consumers can find local help at: Localhelp.healthcare.gov or call the Federally-facilitated Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596. TTY users should call 1-855-889-4325. Assistance is available in 150 languages. The call is free.

 

For more information about Health Insurance Marketplaces, visit: www.healthcare.gov/marketplace

CMS Blog: http://blog.cms.gov/2015/02/20/what-consumers-need-to-know-about-corrected-form-1095-as/