Friday, September 11, 2009

From Russia with...Color!

Oops, I almost forgot. Coolest thing I've seen on the web recently: color photos from pre-revolutionary Russia, shot by the royal photographer to Czar Nicholas II using what must have been a quite cumbersome process that involved taking separate red-, green-, and blue-filtered images and then combining them into a single full-color view of the subject. And my God, are they gorgeous. Coolest of the coolest: the only known color photograph of Leo Tolstoy. Must must must see. (h/t ProRev)

He's Not Dead (to me) Yet

Okay, it's been a month, might as well post something. I've been sick, busy, tired, and not a little despondent about public affairs, most particularly the healthcare reform debate. I'd been waiting for Obama's big speech; I had to miss it when it was given, but I saw it yesterday thanks to I had been dreading the spectacle of a speech where he continued the general trajectory that we've been seeing from his administration re. health care: moving further and further away from any public option, sucking up (bipartisanship!) to the same Republicans who've spent the last two months lying about him and his proposals, etc. Thankfully, the speech turned out better than I'd hoped, though it hardly made me jump for joy. He tepidly acknowledged the usefulness of a public option, at least, and he took a few dignified jabs at the lies and the lying liars who have told them. And it's cheering to see how quickly Joe Barton was told to apologize for his outburst; this suggests that even today's Republicans aren't that eager to forego traditional standards of decorum for the sake of temporary advantage. (Though perhaps they're thinking ahead to the scornful choruses that will grace President Palin's addresses should such breaks in decorum be normalized. Shudder.)

Still, I still get the impression that Obama's healthcare reform is going to wind up being a system that focuses more on helping insurance companies make money than it does on helping citizens get health care. Even The Daily Howler, never previously given to Naderite rhetoric, is now talking openly about "a world in which both major parties have agreed that we are a corporate democracy." Indeed, I was afraid that I would have little choice but to turn my back on Obama after Wednesday's speech; had he not at least made some vaguely pro-public-option noise, I was ready to write him off and resign myself to looking elsewhere in 2012. I'm still old-fashioned enough to think of us first as citizens of a democracy rather than as potential profit sources for corporations. If Obama won't push for a national health service, okay: other countries meet the goal of universal health care by other means, and I'm not particularly eager to create another huge government bureaucracy, anyway. If Obama won't push for single-payer public insurance, okay: this is what many other countries do to meet the goal of universal health care without nationalizing the entire healthcare industry, and it seems to me that it would be the most cost-effective option, but I'll accept Obama's claim that he wants to build on what we already have—and, for better or worse, we already have a for-profit insurance industry. (Surely the desire for campaign contributions from this industry has nothing to do with anything. Right?) But dammit, we ought to at least have a public option so that we citizens of a democracy aren't forced to go through profit-driven parasitical-middleman insurance companies in order to get health care. If all Obama manages to do is to create a system where the government serves as a big, well-armed public collection agency for the insurance industry, then #*@$ him and his hope and change. His speech on Wednesday made at least some of the right noises from my point of view, so I'm slightly less despondent today than I was on Tuesday. But I'm afraid that optimism about the Obama administration is still beyond me at this point.

I'm not sure whether I'm going to keep this blog running; I keep going back and forth between being energized about it and just having too many other things to worry about. Even the spirit for Random Flickr Blogging has eluded me lately. But here's a post for now, and in honor of the special day, I present what is quite possibly the worst poem I have ever read. To be fair, it comes from the newsletter for my elderly uncle's retirement community, so it's not like the writer is W.H. Auden or anything. Here it is, verbatim, odd passive voice, subject-predicate disagreements and all:

September 11, 2001

A new day of infamy
Will go down in history.
The shock has turned to anger.
The terrorist are in danger.
American has been saddened and stunned.
Unity has begun...
Shoulder to shoulder, Bolder to bolder.
Prayers are being observed throughout the land.
America will take a stand.
Terrorists put no value on bloodshed.
Throughout the entire world,
their actions we dread:
Causalities caused by crashes,
buildings burned to ashes.
Everyone involved working diligently.
The dastardly attacks witnessed on TV
There is rage and fury, you be the jury.
It is war against democracy.
America will them repay.

Now, to wash the taste of that out of your brain, go read Ani DiFranco's "self evident" again. You'll be glad you did.

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