The contours of the alleged insurance fraud seemed unusual enough: The participants, men and women, were accused of improperly seeking Medicaid benefits for pregnancies, births and postnatal care.
That the defendants were Russian was, perhaps, not altogether unusual, given the number of recent prosecutions for similar insurance schemes perpetrated in New York by immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
But these were no ordinary Russians. They were diplomats posted to New York City, and their wives, accused of fraudulently applying for Medicaid benefits over the past nine years. Prosecutors characterized the scheme as an audacious swindle of the federal health benefits program for the needy, orchestrated by officials in the Russian Consulate in New York and its mission to the United Nations.
Imagine what they could have done if the Obamacare web site had been working sooner.
My husband and I have been married for 20 years and both also share our lives with additional life partners. We recently moved in with my life partner and our relationship tree is complex, as it so often can be when people are allowed a bit of freedom to love.
Rather than spend a lot of time dishing about what we are up to, who and how we love, and how fortunate we feel, I'd like to get right to my plea for support that I know you could offer. I want freedom. I want the freedom in my life that I want for you, the freedom that I vote for, and demand for anyone anywhere: to be able to live and love and talk about your actual life without being afraid that it could cost you your job, your kids, your family.
Having to live in the closet about who you really are is difficult and fearful and it takes something out of you. It hampers relationships, it stifles your life. I cannot say that it is as difficult for us as it is for someone who is LGBT. Truly that isn't where I am coming from at all. I did not know I was "Poly" as a kid. I never felt like I didn't fit in for that reason growing up—and I happen to agree with you that this is a relationship structure issue rather than something similar sexual orientation. There may be people who always knew they were poly and people who do it to please a partner and people who come to it later and wonder how they ever lived without it. It really does not matter, anyway. This isn't a contest about who suffers more, or where these things come from. For me this is simply about freedom, the ability to be honest and genuine about who we are and have it be OK so long as no one is getting hurt.
I know you caught a lot of flack from the Poly community over the question of orientation vs. structure, and I want to make a public plea that we all just agree it doesn't matter. Instead I think we should ask ourselves if we stand for the same things and if we can become a part of a movement toward freedom and equality for everyone even if some of the ways we choose to live and love are choices and some are not. Can we be added to the acronym, please? I have seen the P added but it is very rare and there seems to be a divide between the communities. Perhaps we honor could the differences with an ampersand?
I don't think you are the emperor of acronyms.... but maybe you should be, and that is why I am starting with you. What do you think of LGBT&P?
Thanks, Dan. Seriously, thank you. The progress we have made together toward a more tolerant world gives me hope that perhaps, one day, we could be next in line.
Privately Polyamorous Person
Just got a press release about this:
With the sad news of Nelson Mandela’s death, the Washington Global Health Alliance and Seattle Center are partnering for a public memorial to honor his life.
Please join us for a candlelight vigil in honor of President Nelson Mandela at the International Fountain at Seattle Center, at 6:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 7.
This kind of public show of respect and affection isn't just a tribute to a great and good man. It's a symbol of hope that one day the whole world can live up to his example.
Brad Johnson's opinion piece for US News and World Report today should be spread far and wide:
Today, Google is promoting a prominent speech by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who denies the reality of climate change and held the government hostage for weeks in a failed attempt to kill universal health care. Cruz, who has received $12,500 in campaign funding from Google, is the main attraction at this year's American Legislative Exchange Council summit in Washington, D.C...There is simply no squaring the moral ambition of the "Don't Be Evil" motto of Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin with funding for a group that promotes "The Many Benefits of Increased Atmospheric CO2." ALEC is exactly who Google Chairman Eric Schmidt was talking about when he said at a recent Google symposium: "You can lie about the effects of climate change, but eventually you'll be seen as a liar."
The Puget Sound Business Journal reports:
Real estate developer Greg Smith said he plans to build the tallest skyscraper in downtown Seattle on a site where the famous Metropolitan Grill steakhouse operates.
At 77 stories, it would be one floor taller than Seattle's tallest building, Columbia Center.
Sounds cool—but I'll believe it when the project actually has financing and a master use permit. Seattle's last boom cycle brought us tons of developers ballyhooing extravagant proposals without moving a teaspoon of dirt.
Moved up again because the deadline is 4:30 p.m.!
It's Day Four of the Macklemore & Ryan Lewis vs. Pearl Jam vs. Slog Holiday Charity Challenge! We, together—all of Seattle!—are raising money for YouthCare's Orion Center, which provides food, shelter, safety, and alternatives to homeless teens right here in Seattle. But whose fans are giving the most?! You can find that out in Dan Savage's longwinded post from earlier today.
But you want to know how to win a pair of VIP tickets to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis or Pearl Jam!!! Pearl Jam plays at KeyArena tomorrow, and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are at KeyArena December 10–12.
All you have to do is donate to the Orion Center right now—any amount counts!—then forward us your receipt with why it's so very damn important you're at the show. Donate and forward by 4:30 pm today to enter—the best reason why you've absolutely got to be there wins. Winners announced here tomorrow morning!
• Macklemore & Ryan Lewis fans: GO HERE TO GIVE and a chance for VIP tickets!
• Pearl Jam fans: GO HERE TO GIVE and a chance for VIP tickets!
The fans that raise the most for the Orion Center by December 24th WIN the title of the Best Fans of the Best Band Ever!
Seeing these two sculptures sitting together yesterday made me think of Ariel Levy's New Yorker story about adventurism and birthing a baby who lived only a few minutes during a trip to Mongolia. I've written first-person about the failure of a pregancy before, and it's a hard thing to do.
You can see more of Eva Funderburgh's sculptures here.
Former Planned Parenthood Northwest political director Dana Laurent has scored a bit of a coup in her race for Washington State Democratic Party chair by winning the endorsement of Joby Shimomura, Governor Jay Inslee's chief of staff. One of Inslee's closest advisors, it is hard to imagine that Shimomura would have publicly endorsed Laurent without first clearing it with the governor. So barring an Inslee endorsement of one of Laurent's opponents, it seems reasonable to interpret Shimomura's endorsement of Laurent as a polite proxy for the governor's.
As of now, the race to replace Dwight Pelz as party chair appears to have two clear frontrunners: Laurent and current party executive director Jaxon Ravens. Ravens, a long time Democratic Party activist who has worked for the state party since 2004, is well respected in the party and would represent a vote for continuity. It'll be interesting to see how this race ultimately plays out.
President Obama just gave a statement to acknowledge the passing of Nelson Mandela. Obama said his very first political act was a protest against apartheid, and that he's always taken inspiration from Mandela. Here's video:
There will be a number of tributes paid to Mandela over the next few weeks. Here's one of the first—the cover of the next issue of The New Yorker:
New Yorker's beautiful Mandela cover image is by legendary artist @KadirNelson (also created Drake's album cover) pic.twitter.com/1kg5ja4hOo
— Kia Makarechi (@Kia_Mak) December 5, 2013
In this week's Last Days, Dave Schmader writes about the disturbing 2013 trend of Americans needing help and other Americans responding by shooting them, killing the (literally) helpless. He wraps up one item, about a confused 74-year old getting shot by a skittish 34 year-old in Georgia, with the astute observation: "Let us simply note how nobody fears for his life like the holder of a loaded gun. Funny how that works."
It is funny—the people who hold the power in any given situation tend to be the ones who behave the most fearfully. That seems especially true of governments these days. The harder they pry at our lives, trying to make us completely transparent, the harder they work to make themselves opaque. Call it the law of inverse transparency: We should know increasingly more about you, but you should know increasingly less about us. For democracy's sake.
You can pick surveillance stories almost at random these days and see the contradiction at work.
Example one: The military has just announced it will no longer inform the public of the number of hunger strikers at Guantanamo Bay which, as the Washington Post puts it, "had long been an unofficial barometer of conditions at the secretive military outpost in Cuba."
Meanwhile, the Post also reports that the NSA is collecting massive amounts of cell-phone location data "on a planetary scale," with billions of records gathered every day. According to the Post, the NSA says it collects the records "incidentally," a legal positioning that "connotes a foreseeable but not deliberate result." Specifically, it's looking for relationships between people by analyzing patterns of how cell phones move.
CO-TRAVELER and related tools require the methodical collection and storage of location data on what amounts to a planetary scale. The government is tracking people from afar into confidential business meetings or personal visits to medical facilities, hotel rooms, private homes and other traditionally protected spaces.
“One of the key components of location data, and why it’s so sensitive, is that the laws of physics don’t let you keep it private,” said Chris Soghoian, principal technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union. People who value their privacy can encrypt their e-mails and disguise their online identities, but “the only way to hide your location is to disconnect from our modern communication system and live in a cave.”
If you thought the pedigreed hounds of yesterday looked like normal dogs and today's look weird, it's because they've been bred into sickly, misshapen fur statues. The tip comes via Fnarf, who says, "I KNEW there was something terribly wrong with today's German Shepherds compared to the ones I knew just a few decades ago."
Check out the side-by-side comparisons of yesterdogs and modern freakpets.
First things first: I can't stop trying to say duh-VORR-jacques, as in, the Czech composer.
The Dvorak keyboard, however, is named after a guy named August Dvorak, a human untrailed by diacritical marks of any kind. One must imagine that his name is to be pronounced duh-VORR-ock. Furthermore, he was born in Everett, Washington, and taught at UW.
What he invented is the Dvorak keyboard. The Dvorak keyboard might—might—change my life.
My husband just forwarded to me a 2002 story by Nicholas Thompson in Slate about the Dvorak keyboard. If you don't know, it's a layout of the letters on the board that's supposed to make eminently more sense—in terms of efficiency and ergonomy—than the Qwerty layout.
I have chronic pain in my hands, fingers, thumbs, and forearms that is most definitely caused by typing. I don't need to type faster. I just need to type less painfully.
If you were me, would you try to switch?
Before you answer that, here is my preexisting condition: I sometimes find myself pounding the keys without noticing. I'll also discover I have my shoulders glued up to my ears and all that sort of thing. (I also wear bizarre unconscious expressions on my face when typing, and this also happens when I am watching the movies, a time when I also make fists and perform other nearly involuntary hand tics. All my nervous action lives in my hands and face.)
Now that you know about my nervous action, do you think am I doomed with any keyboard?
We here at Slog are big fans of Seattlish, the GIF-happy city blog made up of former Seattlest staffers. If you want a peek behind the scenes, the newest Ordinary Madness podcast features an interview with Alex Hudson, Hanna Brooks Olsen and Sarah Anne Lloyd about Seattlish-ish topics ranging from Kshama Sawant, negative comments, and why eagles are total dicks. Go take a listen.
The New York Times has a seriously upsetting piece on the American AIDS epidemic, which, as Donald G. McNeil Jr. writes, " is rapidly becoming concentrated among poor, young black and Hispanic men who have sex with men":
Nationally, 25 percent of new infections are in black and Hispanic men, and in New York City it is 45 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the city’s health department.
Nationally, when only men under 25 infected through gay sex are counted, 80 percent are black or Hispanic — even though they engage in less high-risk behavior than their white peers.
According to a major C.D.C.-led study, a male-male sex act for a young black American is eight times as likely to end in H.I.V. infection as it is for his white peers.
That is true even though, on average, black youths in the study took fewer risks than their white peers: they had fewer partners, engaged in fewer acts of sex while drunk or high, and used condoms more often.
They had other risk factors. Lacking health insurance, they were less likely to have seen doctors regularly and more likely to have syphilis, which creates a path for H.I.V.
But the crucial factor was that more of their partners were older black men, who are much more likely to have untreated H.I.V. than older white men.
Read the whole thing here.
Tomorrow night in South Seattle, there's an art opening that feels like something you'd see in Berlin or Stockholm. Its curators are two European artists here doing residencies at the University of Washington at Bothell. They go by the joint name Salinas & Bergman, and their web site is full of good stuff.
Here's one of their works:
More on that piece, Abstract your shit is, is here.
Tomorrow night's show, from 7 to 10, features works involving parliamentary speeches, Operation Urgent Fury, and the Dow Chemical Plant in Midland, Michigan, by the unabashed Swedish artist Ulkrika Gomm.
King County Sheriff Deputy Patrick “K.C.” Saulet has been placed on administrative leave for an incident last summer involving a reporter for The Stranger, one of Seattle’s alternative newspapers. Sheriff John Urquhart confirmed Thursday that he placed Saulet on administrative leave just before Thanksgiving, just months after Saulet was demoted for his actions in a separate incident...
Urquhart’s recent decision to place Saulet on leave was connected to the deputy’s treatment of Stranger reporter Dominic Holden, who said Saulet threatened him for taking pictures on a public sidewalk.
Background on my complaint is over here. I hadn't heard these details, so props to KING 5's Linda Byron for getting the leak from the department. I could only dig up a little bit more info.
It turns out that Saulet is appealing some sort of discipline.
Reached by e-mail moments ago, King County Sheriff John Urquhart told me, "The investigation into your incident is complete but the discipline is pending because Saulet requested a Loudermill hearing." That hearing is essentially an officer's chance to appeal their recommended punishment directly to the sheriff. But that's a dicey gamble. As we just learned, a King County sergeant who was facing a 20-day suspension appealed to Sheriff Urquhart recently, and Urquhart made the punishment more severe—firing the sergeant for dishonesty.
Urquhart was tight-lipped about the rest of my complaint: "I can’t comment in the case, other than he is on administrative leave, with pay, pending the hearing." Sergeant Saulet's hearing will be held December 19. Stay tuned.
Look! It's a trailer for the sequel to the Spider-Man reboot series! I found the first one to be underwhelming and inept, but a lot of people seemed to like it—or at least it made a ton of money. So, quick! Back to the spider-trough!
One positive thing I do have to say about this trailer is that they finally got the costume exactly right. Spider-Man looks just like Spider-Man in the comics, which is great.
Yup, it's cold outside, but that has not stopped dozens of people from marching 15 miles from SeaTac to Seattle in support of a $15 an hour minimum wage. The marchers just recently reached Seattle city limits, where they were met with the following greeting:
Guy watching us #OnTheMarch up
MLK has a sign with a simple message: “Thank you!”
— Good Jobs Seattle (@GoodJobsSeattle) December 5, 2013
Meanwhile Seattle City Council member Jean Godden took to Twitter to remind voters that in addition to all its other benefits, "raising the minimum wage will help narrow the gender pay gap." Because a majority of minimum wage workers are women. (And disproportionately people of color, too.)
Or do. Then tell me if it made you jump.
Until the spring of 2011, Mexican writer Javier Sicilia was best known for his fiction, poetry, and essays. Then, on March 8 of that year, his son and six other friends were kidnapped, tortured, and suffocated by hit men for complaining about a theft in the parking lot of a narco-run nightclub.
The killers, Sicilia later explained, were from one of many gangs jockeying for dominance after narco boss Beltrán Leyva was killed by Mexican Special Forces in late 2009. (Coincidentally, a photo of Leyva's corpse, guarded by a masked soldier, wound up being the image that accompanied this Stranger article about US drug prohibition that ran just a few months before Sicilia's son was killed.)
After his son’s death, Sicilia began a series of protests against the runaway corruption and carnage of the drug war. The protests grew into a movement called “Estamos Hasta la Madre” (“We’ve Had It Up to Here”) that galvanized Mexico. Tens of thousands marched in cities across Mexico, including one march that started in Cuernavaca—not far from where both Leyva and Sicilia’s son were killed—and ended in Mexico City, 54 miles away, with 200,000 in attendance.
This fall, Sicilia came to Seattle with fellow activist Teresa Carmona, whose son was also killed by narcos, as part of a North American tour. We spoke shortly after he delivered a lecture at the Seattle University Law School. What follows is a lightly edited transcript of the conversation.
It's cold and it's First Thursday. Get out there. Here's what you'll see.
Tom Scocca's very long post on Gawker today about the enemies of snark makes for very interesting reading. I don't think this post will stand as a transformative manifesto, the way Heidi Julavits's argument against snark in The Believer's debut issue has become a serious topic of discussion in recent years. It doesn't so much work as a manifesto as a very long list of examples. But it does put a name to a very alarming internet trend: The press-release friendly, only-positive news sites that refuse to apply critical thinking when critical thinking is absolutely necessary. The word is smarm.
And that's exactly right. When he talks about smarm, Scocca is talking about BuzzFeed and Upworthy and other sites that refuse to be negative on all but the most safely unpopular topics, but he might as well be referring to advertorial neighborhood blogs, or tech blogs that play nice because they rely on access from the companies they're supposed to be covering, or cheerleading industry blogs that don't take a stand against anyone. These are outlets that I've complained about for years, but tagging them as smarmy is perfect; that one word articulates everything that I dislike about them. They're self-congratulatory and not at all helpful.
Here are a couple of relevant passages from Scocca's essay, but I encourage you to read the whole thing:
Smarm is a kind of performance—an assumption of the forms of seriousness, of virtue, of constructiveness, without the substance. Smarm is concerned with appropriateness and with tone. Smarm disapproves.
Smarm would rather talk about anything other than smarm. Why, smarm asks, can't everyone just be nicer?
At some point, in a piece like this, convention calls for the admission that the complaints against snark are not entirely without merit. Fine. Some snark is harmful and rotten and stupid. Just as, to various degrees, some poems and Page-One newspaper stories and sermons and football gambling advice columns are harmful and rotten and stupid. Like every other mode, snark can sometimes be done badly or to bad purposes.
Smarm, on the other hand, is never a force for good. A civilization that speaks in smarm is a civilization that has lost its ability to talk about purposes at all. It is a civilization that says "Don't Be Evil," rather than making sure it does not do evil.
I'm forever in Scocca's debt for weaponizing the word "smarm" as a catchall for the tumorous nicey-nice that's pervaded internet culture. Smarm is everywhere, and now it finally has a name.
What you will see in this image is one of the queens of the 90s wearing no clothes but a strange and very ugly sea creature. All of this has something to do with charity.
Also, bearded Driscoll: 80 percent less shiny!
(Thank you, Right Wing Watch.)
The sun killed this one...
The image is by the ESA and NASA.