You Can Call Him Al
The guest on this week’s Al Franken podcast are Andy Slavitt and Laurie Garrett. The two are among the top experts on the pandemic, and they talk with Al about the question “The End of the COVID Emergency?” and where things actually stand where we are right now.
Last Week Tonight Last Night
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver returned last night. If you missed it, their Main Story was about LSD and other psychedelics, but more specifically how they're used in therapy. They look at the convoluted past (including how it was demonized), current efforts and what lies ahead. It's a very interesting report, covering both the positives and risks, and as you can imagine, it was also a fertile ground for a lot of humor.
The other day, I was at the grocery story standing in line to check out. A fellow behind me started getting chatty. As I turned to reply, I wasn't overly thrilled about it, but made the best of the situation. In fairness, he was trying to be nice and even complimentary, but the direction things were going just wasn't for me, as you'll see.
I mean, yes, he did start out nice, saying how good it was that I was wearing a mask indoors, adding that it was necessary inside though not outside because, after all, you can't get COVID outdoors. Much as I wasn't anxious to join the conversation, I thought this wasn't something to let slide, so -- as politely as I could -- I said, well, no, that wasn't true. He thought about this a moment, and then politely nodded, "Yes, you're probably right, if you're close enough."
I nodded in return, and then turned back. I figured that was the end of the conversation -- but no. He passed along another compliment. "I see you're wearing one of those N95 masks. They're the best. Good for you." I agreed with him that, yes, they are the best...though added that, no, this wasn't an N95. It was a KN95. (Those look completely different and have totally different straps.) "Oh, yes, right." he replied.
It struck me that the conversation wasn't going to end any time soon, and I just didn't want to continue this one, and so began looking around to see if another line was shorter, figuring if I moved there it was seem more polite, having a good reason. And happily, yes, there was a shorter line, so off I went. Mind you, I'd have gone even if the line was twice as long.
By the way, just to let you know that I wasn't being overly rude and that my desire to leave the line was without cause. When I said above that the direction of the conversation wasn't going well, it wasn't because of the incorrect compliments he was giving me about COVID mask safety -- it came early the moment I turned around. It's because, for all these lovely, if incorrect compliments...he wasn't wearing a mask.
I just knew the conversation wasn't for me. Sometimes you just can't social distance far enough...
Oh, What a Relief It Is
This is sort of remarkable. It's kind of a page out of John Oliver who did something like this a year or so ago as a joke to make a point. But the Toledo City Council did it on a massive scale.
Last night, the Toledo City Council approved $800,000 to purchase the medical debt of those in the city who qualify,
There are 270,000 people in Toledo. That means it cost only $3 per resident for the city council to create around $160-240 million in debt relief. Worth noting, too, is that the money is being made available by using some of the federal recovery dollars the city has received -- thanks to the Biden Administration and Democrats.
Here's an article on the story and the television report from station WTVG in Toledo.
Last Week Tonight Last Night
If you missed Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, the Main Story was LGBTQ Rights, with a focus on transgender rights. The particular perspective was the attack on these rights by the GOP, and how Republicans have tried to use them as a wedge issue in elections. It's a well-done piece that has some very good humor mixed in.
I'm only sorry that the video cuts off before the show's closing credits because it had me laughing throughout -- basically, it was images the report used earlier of odd, undersea creatures that they called "God's mistakes" as a beatific recording of "Ave Maria" played and the credits rolled. I know that doesn't sound especially funny, but it was.
The House of Stewart
Last Friday, my pal Mark Evanier posted a segment form a recent episode of The Problem with Jon Stewart, which streams on Apple TV+. It was part of an interview with the Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, and deals with the state's decision to ban gender-affirming medical care for minors, the first in the country to do so..
The clip only runs about six minutes. Stewart is incredibly polite, totally respectful and utterly scathing. As Mark describes the freeze-frame image on the video, "That is the face of a woman who deeply regrets having agreed to sit for this interview. And it gets worse for her in the whole conversation…"
You can watch it on Mark's site here.
The only disappointment with the interviews is that he didn't have at his fingertips the information about the “experts” that the state had called to oppose the conflicting testimony of such major medical groups as the American Medical Association, the American Association of Pediatrics, and the Endocrine Society. When Stewart asks about who Arkansas' experts were, and Attorney General Rutledge doesn't recall, but explains it's in their legislative history and briefs, which she says she'll send.
I bring this up here, because this woman, Alajandra Cabarallo -- who works at Harvard Law Cyberlaw Clinic in the area of gender and techs -- filled in that gap on Twitter. She has a thread looking at each of the Arkansas “experts” -- and it’s devastating.
If you do watch the video above, it's highly-worth reading this follow-up thread, by clicking here.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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