Monday, January 31, 2005

MedPol: Texas teens increase sex after abstinence programs

The study showed about 23 percent of ninth-grade girls, typically 13 to 14 years old, had sex before receiving abstinence education. After taking the course, 29 percent of the girls in the same group said they had had sex.

Boys in the tenth grade, about 14 to 15 years old, showed a more marked increase, from 24 percent to 39 percent, after receiving abstinence education.
The federal government is spending 130 milion dollars this year on abstinence programs that don't work. Maybe someday this administration will be more concerned about the health of our younger citizens and less concerned with adherence to willfully-ignorant ideology.

My favorite line from the article:
One program technique has been to try to bolster students' self-esteem, based on the theory that self-confident teenagers would not have sex.
What planet are these people from? Aren't the confident kids with decent self-esteem the ones that DO get play in high school?

Let's face it, kids. Sex is cool. Sex is fun. These things aren't going to change. People don't have sex just because they have low self-esteem or just because they feel pressured into it. They also have sex because they want to have sex.

Sex is, of course, dangerous when procured wrecklessly and without proper precautions. We can modify danger. We can't modify the drive to screw around. Let's stick to what we can actually improve!

High School: "First amendment? We don't need no stinking first amendment!"

We're all doomed.

It turns out the First Amendment is a second-rate issue to many of those nearing their own adult independence, according to a study of high school attitudes released Monday.

The original amendment to the Constitution is the cornerstone of the way of life in the United States, promising citizens the freedoms of religion, speech, press and assembly.

Yet, when told of the exact text of the First Amendment, more than one in three high school students said it goes "too far" in the rights it guarantees. Only half of the students said newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval of stories.

"These results are not only disturbing; they are dangerous," said Hodding Carter III, president of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which sponsored the $1 million study. "Ignorance about the basics of this free society is a danger to our nation's future."

The students are even more restrictive in their views than their elders, the study says.

When asked whether people should be allowed to express unpopular views, 97 percent of teachers and 99 percent of school principals said yes. Only 83 percent of students did.

The results reflected indifference, with almost three in four students saying they took the First Amendment for granted or didn't know how they felt about it. It was also clear that many students do not understand what is protected by the bedrock of the Bill of Rights.

Three in four students said flag burning is illegal. It's not. About half the students said the government can restrict any indecent material on the Internet. It can't.

"Schools don't do enough to teach the First Amendment. Students often don't know the rights it protects," Linda Puntney, executive director of the Journalism Education Association, said in the report. "This all comes at a time when there is decreasing passion for much of anything. And, you have to be passionate about the First Amendment."
Thanks to Ken for the link.

Higher Education: Mulletman owns at Asteroids.

It's a little after 4:00 p.m. EST, and I've ventured over here to the library to hop on EconLit--I'm scouring for journal articles on market structure effect on discrimination. As you probably expected, these articles come from the top econ journals and are predominantly esoteric. That is, it takes a substantial amount of power from my 486DX2 math-coprocessing equivalent brain to dissect what the hell these things are talking about (I've been thinking about upgrading to a pentium, but I don't know any surgeons to do the transplant).

I find a free computer and set sail on the ocean that is the world wide web. Much to my disdain, however, I quickly sense a disturbance in the learning environment. A man, deeply engaged in intergalactic warfare, captures my attention. I will describe him:

Mid 40's, unkept beard of the multicolor variety, dark eyes, slight build, gaudy clothing, distinct graying mullet, and an intense passion for space fights.

Usually, a harmless game of Asteroids in the library doesn't bother me, but this man has decided to implement ear goggles into his library gaming experience--and he's got 'em cranked to 11. Also of note is his gusto in absolutely mashing the fuck out of the keyboard. Each explosion rocks my concentration, which is particularly surprising since there is no sound in space. And as I sit without the ability to do any serious work, it dawns on me that most of the computing in this room is not of an academic nature. Which is fine, but I think it tells something about the student body, or perhaps the non-student body.

The moment I laid eyes on the guy, my sensory intake instantaneously formulated a very logical possibility...this man does not attend school here. I could move to another computer, but why? I've already moved from one station with a shoddy internet connection, so further migration seems silly at this point. Besides, it's almost time for Calc 3 now. Perhaps the most interesting part of this is that the guy could easily read everything I'm writing at this proximity.

What's the point of this post? Well, it leads me to a question. "What kind of computing activities do you guys notice at serious academic institutions?" A vague observation is fine, but a quantified answer would rock. For instance,

15% serious research
50% normal study
20% blogging when you should be working
15% dudes with mullets destroying ships from planet Zantar

MedPol: Bush supports information techonology (after he didn't support it)

Thank God we're back on track.

[Bush] declared that modernizing America's health care system with information technology was a priority. Taking patient records and prescriptions into the computer age from an era of paper and ink, health specialists agree, would make health care more efficient and reduce medical errors, saving lives and dollars.

Congress deleted the $50 million for Dr. Brailer's office in November in the omnibus appropriations bill, one of many cuts to try to contain the federal deficit. The move was criticized as a sign that the administration's support for health information technology was mostly a matter of words. Newt Gingrich, the Republican from Georgia who is the former House speaker, called the loss of financing support "a disgrace," given the administration's previous statements.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

MedPol: Bill to Curb Out-of-State Abortions

The article is a little too full of details for me to even try to summarize it, so I suggest you give it a quick read.

Basically, the bill is designed to make it illegal for 43-year-old Jim Bob to take his 14-year-old lover Peggy Sue across the border to get an abortion so her parents won't know that he's committing statuatory rape with their daughter. And that makes some sense. Jim Bob would now get a year in prison for transporting Peggy Sue to Ohio. And sure, that scenario isn't so nuts.

But, let's say 15-year-old Lucy Mae gets raped by 17-year-old Billy Ray, but is too embarrassed to go to the police about it. She tells Aunt Sally that she wants to head to Ohio for an abortion, but doesn't want her crazy shit parents to know about it. Now Aunt Sally can go to jail too!

The crux of the matter: abortions are HEALTH CARE! I don't see any bans on getting flu shots out of state. And minors are more than qualified to make most of their own health care decisions, and are legally allowed to do so.

It's this sort of total bullshit that makes me not be able to understand non-neanderthal Republicans. Plenty of Bush voters and fiscally-uber-conservative people have their heads out of their asses enough to realize that this sort of appeasing-the-religious-right-voting-bloc legislation is inexcusable. And yet, for the sake of "smaller government," for the sake of pro-business policy, for the sake of keeping the right to own an AK-47, for the sake of lower taxes, for the sake of pre-emptive strikes to make sure that the stock market and oil prices aren't destabilized by a terrorist attack, conservatives that know better sell women, minorities, poor folk, and the BLGT community down the river. And that's disgusting.

The Democratic party doesn't really stand for anything now anyway. So quit the Republican party, join the Democrats, and there you can work for your lower taxes and your hacking of the environment and your guns. Nobody's going to stop you unless you're from like California or Vermont or something. You can still act like a Republican on all the saner-Republican issues (it certainly works for the DLC, after all), but you won't have to vote to screw people like Aunt Sally.

I'm going to go take a cold shower now. Sorry for the rant.

Iraqi Elections: thrilled to be wrong

The so-called MainStreamMedia (which can report nothing good about the war, according to the Rascally Right) and even the Liberal 'sphere is gushing about the success of the elections (see Yglesias, Kevin Drum, et al). Of course, UM prof Juan Cole is a little more reserved, but I would expect nothing less. Kos (again, expectedly), has the most negative take. Most of the lefties seem to attribute the high turn-out to amazing security measures rather than any sort of symbolic political victory for Bushian democracy, but hey. We'll all take what we can get.

So no, the election wasn't perfect. No, the war isn't over. No, our kids don't get to come home yet. And no, the Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds don't particularly like each other yet.

But today at least seems like some sort of progress towards all these things, except maybe the last one. Let me be clear, neoconservative foreign policy is still maniacal, vengeful, and stupid. But that doesn't mean I won't celebrate their few good days with them.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Tennis: Nothing could be sweeter than a Hewitt loss in the Aussie Open finals.

I can't speak for everyone, but I'm fed up with Lleyton Hewitt's exponentially increasing asinine behavior at the 2005 Australian Open. Before the spitting controversy with Chela, I noticed a peculiar incident--that mild-mannered and former Harvard All-American James Blake reacted to Hewitt's "celebrations." Blake is a classy guy, and his mocking fist pump of Hewitt did not come without provocation.

Commentary from the booth (Patrick McEnroe, Dick Enberg, et al) leads us to believe that the players in general are not happy with the Aussie's antics, and his three signature taunts seem to be maximizing the "Piss off your opponents" function. I'll lay them out for you non-tennis watchers.

1.) "Come On!" This is a loud, cacophonous shout by Hewitt, usually heard several times during a match.

2.) The fist pump. Now, it's not that screaming "come on" or pumping a fist is bad, but doing it when your opponent makes an unforced error is questionable at best. This is why everyone's getting red.

3.) The lawnmower. Credit commentator Patrick McEnroe with this term, which describes Hewitt dropping to one knee and pumping his fist at the ground. It appears as though he's trying to start a $20 lawnmower, but the Australian Open is played on a hard surface, not grass. (See picture below)



Hewitt plays the incredible Russian Marat Safin in the final (Sunday on ESPN2, 3:30 a.m. EST and probably replayed at 2:00 p.m. EST), and I'm sure you can tell who I'll be pumping my fist for.

Medicine: NYMC revokes charter of BLGT group

New York Medical College, a private Catholic college affiliated with the Archdiocese of New York, is refusing to reconsider its ban on the student group (which means the group "will not receive funding, may not use space on campus for its activities, and may not use the college’s e-mail system").

The response from Brian Palmer, AMSA national president, is right on the money:

The actions taken by NYMC are inconsistent with the goals of medical education. Instead of creating more discrimination, there needs to be awareness of the health needs of LGBT patients. By disbanding its LGBT student group, NYMC harms both its own students and their future patients. Prospective students should seriously evaluate the quality of medical education they would receive at a school that openly discriminates.
Thanks to Liz for the link!

Dickheads: straight pride week?

College Republicans at the University of Central Oklahoma (yeah, I've never heard of them either) are posting fliers for Straight Pride Week, which read "we're here, we're conservative, we're out."

Congratulations, assholes. In other news, you're breathing, too.

NL Central: Sammy Sosa to the Orioles?

Or more appropriately for the med school crowd, from Pritzker to Johns Hopkins.

Go Cats: Chuck's back!

Despite a broken nose suffered from an elbow by Andre Patterson (another thug basketball player at UT, imagine that!), Chuck Hayes will be back in the lineup today for his 94th straight start for the Cats.

Go Chuck!



Iraq: elections tomorrow

The headlines are flying fast and furious. Iraq's president says most Iraqis won't vote for fear of dying, and that's probably pretty reasonable, since even Andrew Sullivan gives as his criteria for a successful election less than 500 Iraqis killed (which is pretty screwed up).

I don't know if elections conducted under such a situation will really the start of a stable democratic government or not. But I sure damn hope so. Even if the Iraq war is the result of malicious and purposeful idiocy by a wreckless administration, I'll be as happy as anybody if twenty years from now Iraq is a model of democracy in a place where people like me thought democracy could never work. I'll be thrilled if the highly-touted democracy domino effect actually has more merit than the 'zero' that I give it.

But if these elections turn out well with regards to turn out among the various ethnics groups and selection of someone that Iraqis actually like and who isn't a Saddam Hussein-level asshole, that's that much quicker our kids get to come home, and that much quicker that Iraqis can maybe walk the street without fear of something insanely horrible happenning to them. And that seems like only a good thing.

Blogs: Glenn Reynold's getting torn a new one

For this asinine post:

HATE-FILLED STUPIDITY FROM LEFT-LEANING ACADEMICS ISN'T NEWS anymore, which is why I haven't been paying much attention to the story of Colorado professor Ward Churchill's comparison of 9/11 victims to Eichmann. But go here and look at the picture.

Isn't he exactly what you imagined? Shoulder-length hair, grimly self-righteous expression, black turtleneck, Abbie Hoffman sunglasses. A man whose look, like his rhetoric, is frozen in the amber of 1969.

The same kind of guys, looking the same way, were saying the same kinds of things when I was younger than my daughter is now. When will the Left catch up with the times?

UPDATE: Heh. Check out this picture. Let's do the time warp, again!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Various lefty readers email to say that Ward Churchill is not the authentic face of the Left.

I wish I agreed with that. But, sadly, he is its very image today.

When Ted Kennedy can make an absurd and borderline-traitorous speech on the war, when Michael Moore shares a VIP box with the last Democratic President but one, when Barbara Boxer endorses a Democratic consultant/blogger whose view of American casualties in Iraq is "screw 'em," well, this is the authentic face of the Left. Or what remains of it.

There was a time when the Left opposed fascism and supported democracy, when it wasn't a seething-yet-shrinking mass of self-hatred and idiocy. That day is long past, and the moral and intellectual decay of the Left is far gone.

The post drones on and on and on and on in this same I'm-a-jackass style... and it really pisses off Oliver Willis and Kevin Drum.

For those not so invested in the blogosphere, Glenn runs one of the premier conservative blogs (although he pulls an O'Reilly-like "I'm an independent" spiel from time to time--because on a few issues, I guess he is), regularly writes a column alongside SuperLefty Eric Alterman on MSNBC, and is now a Fox News douchebag from time to time.

Reynolds is relatively sane most of the time, but when he makes an asshole of himself, he REALLY makes an asshole of himself. I think Oliver Willis' rant, while out of control (as he almost always is), is pretty on the mark, at least for a reactionary response.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Books: Progressive Book Club?

The Conservative Book Club has made best-sellers out of poorly-researched echo-chamber pieces of shit since the 70's, but I've never seen a liberal equivalent until now, but their website is awfully sparse. Does anyone know ANYTHING about the PBC?

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Politics: limiting the Patriot Act

Glenn Reynolds and his law buddies actually blog about something that makes sense: limiting the use of information gathered legally by the Patriot Act to cases actually involved with terrorism.

Politics: neocons going green?

Of course not. But passive aggression is still fun aggression when your policy involves beating up other countries cuz it's cool. I mean, I'm all up for screwing foreign oil and all, but ya know, I would put making the Earth a livable place also high up there on my list of priorities.

Robert Bryce explores why there are suddenly so many Priuses driving around with Bush/Cheney bumper stickers, a phenomena I'd noticed even in the liberal confines of Ann Arbor.

Last year when my beloved '93 Camry died, I cashed in all that surplus scholarship money from undergrad and found myself deciding between a 20-mpg Honda CRV or a 58-mpg Toyota Prius. My vehicle would have to last me a minimum of ten years while I'm practicing playing George W. Bush (i.e. spending money and taking out loans to do it) in medical training. Anticipating travelling with Derby-sized dog, moving at least a time or two in that time period, and the fact that I'd see months where getting above 32 degrees was really just a fiction, I went for the relative gas-guzzling Accord-with-a-big-ass CRV. Of course, I calculated the yearly gas budget based on a then-reasonable pre-Iraq average gas price of about $1.25/gallon and Prius tax breaks which have since expired. The fact that auto insurance companies, who don't have actuary tables on hybrid vehicles yet, were raping the hell out of Prius owners didn't help the Prius' case either.

But if you don't live in the Artic, don't have a dog whose cage takes up more room than the rest of your luggage combined, and want to screw over the Saudis and/or save the world, then a Prius may be right for you!

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Film: Oscar snubs and flubs

Like most of the people who vote on the Oscars and choose the nominees, I have only seen a fraction of the movies nominated. But that's fine, because the Oscars have never been about the best movies, but about the politics and aesthetics of Hollywood. And that, like any cinemophile, I feel comfortable on which to comment:

Eternal Sunshine snubs: As expected (even the Golden Globes snubbed Jim Carrey and Charlie Kaufman this time around), ES wasn't nominated for best picture (can't possibly have any sort of experimental film in best picture, and certainly can't nominate more than one movie that looks like a dark comedy). Jim Carrey gets no nod for best actor to make room for Hollywood's favorite overexposed Republican, Clint Eastwood. Bullshit. Anything Charlie Kaufman touches becomes my new hope for the future of cinema. Kate Winslet did receive a nomination for best actress, deservedly. Charlie Kaufman received a nomination for best screenplay, but at this point, best screenplay is rather minor league for a man whose work kicks that much ass.

Paul Giamatti: No best actor nomination, though Thomas Haden Church is up for best supporting actor and Sideways is up for best picture. Once again, Giamatti is obviously too "artsy" for the Oscars. Once again, Clint Eastwood anger. Grrrr!!!

Jamie Foxx overexposure: I haven't seen Ray, but did Jamie Foxx really need a nomination for best supporting actor for Collateral? Collateral was a good movie. Not a great movie. None of its characters were written well enough that any sort of Oscar winning performance could possibly be given by anybody.

Fahrenheit 9/11 Shut Out: This might be a good thing, since Michael Moore certainly didn't need any further feeding of his ego, and had he submitted F911 in the Documentary category, the selection would have a controversy unto itself, since at this point, Moore's politics, and not his film making, would be on trial. And the only nominee I've seen, Super Size Me, was a superior and more honest film. Though I have to root for the Tupac doc just a little bit, if only for Mike Hong.

And would someone explain to me why the best director and best picture categories aren't the same category? Or at least have all the same nominees?

Lastly, at least the nomination leader, The Aviator, represents something of a symbolic peak for Martin Scorsese, who joins Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock as other directors who rocked the shit out of everybody and never got an Oscar nod. I can't stand Leonardo DiCaprio, but I can't really knock his performance for Scorsese, who can take Hollywood's favorite castrati and turn him into something I can actually stand to watch for three hours. Scorsese deserves the Oscar, if only for that.

I REALLY need to see Sideways.

Monday, January 24, 2005

MedPol: presidential stem-cell lines contaminated

In a final blow to the president's ridiculous, asinine, and right down piss-me-off policy on stem cell research, some folks at UCSD have shown that all of those stem cell lines that the president said were OK for research are now expressing a murine sialic acid residue on their cell membranes, meaning that if they were injected into human tissue, the host immune system would play seek and destroy against the non-human markers. This apparently was a known worry when the president decided these were the A-OK stem cell lines, but as the president has obviously never worked in cell culture, I guess he figured it was some goofy science thing that he didn't need to worry about.

So the president's limits on stem cell research are officially DOA limits. Thanks, George!

If you get as violently angry over this as I do, feel free to rant in the comments section. Capital letters encouraged.

UK: why is POT a wind tunnel?

Nothing defines the University of Kentucky experience quite like the wind tunnel around the Patterson Office Tower. Finally somebody addresses the issue of why you WILL lose your umbrella, even if there answer is a little scant in details.

Politics: the KY democratic party mess

Daniel over at KyDem is raising one hell of a stir by posting an anonymous tip from a reader concerning Jean-Marie Lawson and Jerry Lundergan, who was just elected chairman of the Kentucky Democratic party in what seems to stink stink stink of the worst kinds of bullshit.

Jean-Marie responds to Daniel's posted accusations in the comment section. Some CRAZY stuff.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Politics: Austrian Greens want nothing to do with Schwarzenegger

In a largely symbolic move, Peter Pilz, a top official with the Austrian Green Party, says that the Austrian-born Schwarzenegger no longer is worthy of citizenship in his homeland because he recently approved a state execution. Capital punishment is illegal, and apparently unfathomable, in Austria.

Update: Bo links a strong article in the comments suggesting that the EU rules against capital punishment actually trump the wishes of a majority of Europeans in many nations.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Medicine: FSU School of Chiropractic?

Speaking of chiropractic, check out this "manipulation" by legislators in attempt to "force" a program of chiropractic into Florida State University much to the dismay of five hundred professors and two Nobel laureates.
Check out this article, complete with map!

Simpsons: betting on the "outing"

For those who haven't followed, Matt Groenig has promised that a character will come out this season. My bet is on Groundskeeper Willie. Here's the Vegas odds:

Marge's sister Patty was the favorite at 4/5 with Smithers trailing at 4/1 to be "outed." Ned Flanders is posted as 15/1, making the devout-Christian character a long shot; however, several large wagers have been placed on his character, which has come as a surprise to the bookmaker.

Politics: Jib-Jab's "Second Term"

Make sure you don't miss Jib-Jab's newest bipartisan smearfest, "Second Term." Not quite as great as their original video, but they haven't exactly jumped the shark either.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Film: Darth Tater!

Medicine: The Crossroads

Bill Frist isn't all bad. In this New England Journal of Medicine editorial, he hits the nail on the head about some of the major current failings of the health care system. Reflecting a thought I have had since my Econ/Premed days, the current healthcare system is enormously IT-(information technology)-ignorant.

Embracing IT would allow healthcare to do something every other major industry has done since the 1980s! Even though people hate Wal-mart, the sense of paranoia its employees wake up with in the morning, thinking they will be dethroned, is exactly what pushes them to be one of the most efficient companies in the world. But back to the point. Increasing efficiency with IT will at the least save healthcare from its downward spiral into the shackles of paperwork and bureaucracy.

But the most important point has to do with the new 80-hour work week. The reduced hours were implemented in order to reduce mistakes from trainees, and that has been the focus of most media reports concerning the new limit. However, no one gets to read about the loss in "continuity of patient care." The issue of continuity is almost as critical as the diagnosis itself, and one of the major problems of the 80-hr work week is that information is often times not correctly passed on from one on-call team to the next, adversely affecting patient care. Doctor-types being computer-dumb is no longer an excuse. Information technology is an adjunct to patient care and we need to treat it like one.

Medicine: Public Health What!

Heart disease has had a stronghold as the number one cause of death since the coming of antibiotics. So it is fascinating to see that because of a drop in the number of smokers, heart disease falls to second place behind the always competing cancer. And even though lung cancer is still by far the most devastating of the cancers, much can be said about the interventional effect public health initiatives have had on levels of smoking. From large taxes to public smoking bans, the increasing public awareness of the extent smoking harms us has never been higher!

Some would say heart disease has greatly benefitted from the enormously popular statin family of drugs (Lipitor, Zocor, Vytorin), but at the end of the day, the preventable causes are still the primary factors in occurrence and progression of both heart disease and cancer. I applaud this new statistic and hope we keep up the eating right and exercise!

Wednesday, January 19, 2005



Brand Democrat, From Oliver Wills.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

School: Clusterf**ked

Hematology/Oncology Exam.

The Bush Inaugural.

Last night got down to -14 counting windchill.

My cable and internet have been out since Friday.

With any luck, I'll get hit by a car walking home.

MedPolBLGT: Gay Conversion Chemical Weapon?!

The brilliant idea is that by hitting enemies with such a weapon, they would be so busy trying to hump each other, our forces would be able to trample them. Wow.

Medicine: Bureaucracy In Action

Overturning international law is no easy matter, but when the need to do so is obvious, it makes you wish the government was cooperative all the time. In this case, shipping fruitflies for research purposes is evidently illegal, according to a law made prior to the advent of fruitfly genetic research.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Medicine: evidence-based autobiography

Study Finds Depression Intensifies from One Generation to Next

As the medical community continues to more accurately diagnose depression and anxiety disorders, a new study sheds light on how these debilitating phenomena are passed down through the generations -- and may even intensify. Nearly 60 percent of children whose parents and grandparents suffered from depression have a psychiatric disorder before they reach their early teens, according to a new study by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and the New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI). This incidence is more than double the number of children (approximately 28 percent) who develop such disorders with no family history of depression.

Politics: this may come as a surprise

Our President can actually read. And not just The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Medicine: is that a cow in your stomach, or are you just trying to snuff yourself out?

Red and processed meat linked to colorectal cancer.

Medicine: snip... snip... zzz...

Yet another study links the long hours of training physicians to medical mistakes.

Kevin Drum points out that guys should be pretty worried about this, since who do you think is doing those circumcisions? He speculates that's why there are so many funny looking penises out there.

I'll take your word for it, Kevin.

I admit, I'm one of those crazy people who thinks that circumsision is mutilation and a barbaric remnant of bad psychology. At least for people like me. I don't spin a driedel, so I would really like to have my foreskin back.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Film: just in case you're wondering

Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle really is the best stoner movie ever.

And Kumar is playing Gogol in the adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake, directed by Mira Nair, who also directed Monsoon Wedding.

Now, I haven't read Lahiri's Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of short stories, Interpreter of Maladies, but The Namesake was one of the worst novels I've read in recent memory, just a little bit better than The Da Vinci Code. But the novel was bad because Lahiri seemed to take a really good idea for a short story, a disaffected Indian kid, the first son of an MIT SOBer, growing up into the American-Indian crossculture mess that's perfectly interesting and dying for representation in literature, and try to drag it into a terrible novel full of contrived, empty characters, all the unfunny Ivy League Indian stereotypes you could scrape out of a burnt samosa dipped in a turpentine lassi, with just really slow, pisspoor writing over all. But something tells me that any decent director (which Nair has shown herself adequate) could take this missed-dunk of a novel and make a fabulous movie out of it with just a little TLC.

I've never been so excited about a movie from a horrible book.

Well, unless you count The Da Vinci Code movie.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Politics: no kidding

Surprise! (or not)

The hunt for biological, chemical and nuclear weapons in Iraq has come to an end nearly two years after President Bush ordered U.S. troops to disarm Saddam Hussein. The top CIA weapons hunter is home, and analysts are back at Langley.

In interviews, officials who served with the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) said the violence in Iraq, coupled with a lack of new information, led them to fold up the effort shortly before Christmas.
Imagine that. No WMD in Iraq. Go CIA!

Politics: presidential double-speak

"I fully understand that the job of the president is and must always be protecting the great right of people to worship or not worship as they see fit," Mr. Bush said. "That's what distinguishes us from the Taliban. The greatest freedom we have or one of the greatest freedoms is the right to worship the way you see fit.

"On the other hand, I don't see how you can be president at least from my perspective, how you can be president, without a relationship with the Lord," he said.
Seeing as "the Lord" is a specifically Christian term for a higher being, I wonder if this precludes a Jew or even a Muslim from ever being president in GWB's America.

And while these statements aren't so troublesome in their own right (it's perfectly reasonable for a person to draw their strength from their faith, and speculate that doing their job without it would be humanly impossible), I wish Bush could find a rhetoric that was far more inclusive about faith and religion. I'm not even absolutely opposed to federal money going to faith-based groups with particular restrictions (i.e. anti-discrimination rules, etc.).

I simply believe Bush needs to recognize more clearly the diversity our country without merely lip-servicing the tolerance and protection of people who don't think like him.

Politics: another Rosenberg endorsement

Matt Yglesias has a much more comforting endorsement of Simon Rosenberg:

Simon's an impressive guy, personally, and I definitely get the sense that he gets it. But what does he "get?" He gets that the party needs a third way between the faction that says "everything's fine, we just need better ads" and the faction that says, "the sky is falling and we must surrender massively on all fronts." He gets, in other words, the right kind of shakeup for today's Democrats. Something aimed at breaking the stranglehold on progressive politics held by a smallish number of aging baby boomers who, despite many virtues, have basically been failing for decades. He gets that we need to build a real political party, and not just a collection of various groups that barely speak to one another and are basically unable to articulate a message -- an ideology -- that draws different progressive together into a communicable worldview. He gets that Democrats can't just live off the fumes of past successes or simply try to co-opt the ideas of the other side.
We'll see. I tend to trust Yglesias, and his criticisms of Dean's run are pointed and smart.

I guess I can at least take comfort knowing that the DNC chair, in all actuality, is a pretty damn unimportant job, and as many point out, Dean might be much more effective in the Senate in 2006.

Politics: stranger things have happened... I guess

Howard Dean's former right-hand man (and liberal icon in his own right) Joe Trippi has endorsed Simon Rosenberg for DNC chair:

If our party is to win in the 21st century, we have to have a strategist who knows how to practice 21st century politics. That means expanding participation, embracing technology, and building an apparatus that can counter the Republican machine. Simon Rosenberg was among the first in politics to acknowledge the power of the movement we built with Dean for America and he wasn’t afraid to speak up about how we were fundamentally changing politics. He knows that in the age of the Internet, our politics must be interactive and participatory to engage citizens. He knows the Internet is not just an ATM for candidates and parties, but a tool for bringing in millions of Americans who want to be a part of the political process. For Simon, building a new progressive politics for our time is not just lip service, it is a passion backed up by his record. I’m backing Simon for chair because I know I can work with him to help build a modern, winning Democratic party.
This rivals Hulk Hogan's switch to Hollywood Hogan in terms of unexpected (and possibly lucrative) about-faces in recent times.

Given recent posts on No Retreat. No Surrender. (The Case Against Simon Rosenberg and Simon Says: Bring Back Democrats' High-Dollar Addiction), Rosenberg seems like anything but Trippi's man. But I guess Dean is out, Rosenberg is in.

Sounds like something akin to the potential death of progressive politics for the next election cycle. But hey, maybe true progressives should take one for the team, right? Doesn't exactly sound exciting, but neither does 3 consecutive terms of dismantling the New Deal. If there's anything left after this one.

As expected, New Dem Daniel over at The Kentucky Democrat is all over this!

The best news is that John McCain probably isn't happy about this.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Politics: Gingrich open to 2008 possibility

Okay, so it's both old news and a bunch of hype. Still, I thought it was an interesting thought to chew over. In any case, MSNBC is reporting that Newt Gingrich is trying to pretend that he's exploring the possiblity of running for prez in 2008 in order to sell more copies of his book.

I honestly can't decide how I would feel about a Gingrich run. On one hand, he might be so incredibly awful as a candidate, he could have an Alan Keyes effect; the Democrats might sweep into office. On the other hand, if the Dems don't shape up and get their own house in order, someone as terrible as Gingrich could possibly win.

In short, I don't know whether to support a Gingrich run (and maybe even vote for him the primary) or fear it. Any thoughts?

Garrett Update: At least one staunch conservative fears a Gingrich run.

Morons: Daily Show's "America" book banned by some Mississippi libraries

"I've been a librarian for 40 years and this is the only book I've objected to so strongly that I wouldn't allow it to circulate," said Robert Willits, director of the Jackson-George Regional Library System of eight libraries in Jackson and George counties.

"We're not an adult bookstore. Our entire collection is open to the entire public," Willits said.
I think I'll let Mr. Willits words speak for themselves.

Update: After sufficient cries of Southern communo-fascism, America is back on the shelves.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Icons: Howard Zinn on The Daily Show

Howard Zinn talks about his new book Voices of A People's History of the United States on The Daily Show. Video under "What's New."

Politics: Ernie Fletcher's favorite books: the Bible and Atlas Shrugged

Blogging philosophy-guru Ben over at BlueGrassRoots writes how KY Governor Ernie Fletcher's favorite books are the Christian Holy Text and Ayn Rand's pseudoliterary thesis on rational self-interest.

I could try to say something literary and intelligent here, but I'm too baffled that any semi-intelligent human being could say that an Ayn Rand was among his favorites.

Sure, plenty of people do say that they love Ayn Rand. But most of them turn seventeen and get over it, and move on to stuff that isn't ideologically bloated and devoid of any real character development. Like, Dr. Seuss, maybe.

Medicine: Maryland legislature to partially subsidize malpractice premiums

Because the bill will require a tax increase on HMO premiums (and thus be passed on to medical consumers), Republican Governor Robert Ehrlich promises a veto. The legislature vows to overturn the veto. Complex situation, but give it a listen at NPR.

Random: Get your freak off

So says a California high school principal, who's not a fan of MTV's "The Grind:"

Principal Jim Bennett of Lemoore Union High School said he warned students at a winter formal dance last month to either quit dirty dancing or face the possibility of not dancing at all.

But he said the students continued "freak dancing," a form of sexually suggestive dancing that involves grinding the hips and pelvic area.
It all started in 1987 with Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Gray--perhaps redesigned by R. Kelly's "Bump 'N' Grind" (I think this is the age group he had in mind as well). Apparently this is getting too common, according to this conservative actitivist and writer (imagine that). Comments or opinions?

Saturday, January 8, 2005

Politics: what's a neocon?

If you're like me, you could lose hours of your life bouncing around Wikipedia. I was overwhelmed by the thoroughness of the article defining (or refusing to define) neoconservatism.

Friday, January 7, 2005

Humor: the real Gonzales hearing

From the fabulously funny folks at Bad Vernacular:

Senator Specter: Welcome Mr. Gonzales. Let me begin by asking you, Mr. Gonzales, do you support torture?

Gonzales: No, Senator.

Specter: Not even a little?

Gonzales: Well, look - it's not like I'm an extremist or anything.

Senator Leahy: Mr. Gonzales, do you or do you not think that placing electroids on people's genitalia is not torture?

Gonzales: I'm sorry, I was looking at that staff assistant, can you repeat the question?

Senator Leahy: Yes I can . . .

Senator Santorum: Objection! How many times does he have to answer your question, Senator?

Senator Leahy: But I . . .

Santorum: This is madness! Just like Man-Dog sex, which Mr. Gonzales opposes. I hope the people of New Hampshire are watching this!
It keeps going over at BV.

Media: Whitehouse paid Armstrong Williams 240K to promote No Child Left Behind in his 'news' broadcasts

The top Democrat on the House Education Committee, Rep. George Miller (news, bio, voting record) of California, called the contract "a very questionable use of taxpayers' money" that is "probably illegal." He said he will ask his Republican counterpart to join him in requesting an investigation.
The contract may be illegal "because Congress has prohibited propaganda," or any sort of lobbying for programs funded by the government, said Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. "And it's propaganda."
Ya think?

Media: Michael Moore on Leno tonight

Which wouldn't be significant at all, except the website shows a picture of Moore CLEANSHAVEN, HAIR-COMBED, and IN A SUIT!

Medicine: DOJ's rape treatment guidelines omit emergency contraception

Seeing as many pregnancy termination foes find the procedure palatable in the case of rape or incest, this seems like an ultimate act of political twistery. Emergency contraception is in no way abortion. Emergency contraception is health care. Emergency contraception is safe, prevents the situational need for an abortion, and psychologically reassures raped women who, last time I checked, need all the psychological support they can get. Hardly any woman wants to carry around the baby of a rapist for nine months, a constant growing reminder of violation and violence, and (although I don't necessarily find this to be a consistent ideology) most abortion foes seem to agree that she shouldn't have to.

The result is “a glaring omission in an otherwise thorough document,” the groups said in a letter sent to Diane Stuart, director of the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women.

Gloria Feldt, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, called the omission “a blatant example of politics taking precedence over the emotional and physical health needs of women.” Her organization, and other groups, contend that information about emergency contraception was included in an early draft of the guidelines, then removed from the final version because of political concerns.
To be clear with what I said above, I believe strongly that the termination of pregnancy for any reason is also health care. But abortion foes have often wrongly adopted emergency contraception into their circle of enemies, and Catholic aversion to birth control should be treated as a cultural anomaly for the purpose of health care guidelines for treating a traumatized woman.

Politics: questioning Gonzales on torture

An excellent indictment of Alberto Gonzales' past:

On Tuesday, a dozen retired generals, including a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, signed a letter expressing "deep concern" about Gonzales' position on torture. That position, the military leaders said, had damaged the United States' reputation around the world and exposed U.S. troops to increased risks of mistreatment by captors. Acceptance of torture, the letter states, puts the U.S. "on the wrong side of history."
It's a short and very to-the-point op/ed from the Eugene, OR paper.

Media: Tucker Carlson says goodbye at CNN, picked up by MSNBC

Bo catches me sleeping on the blogjob.

In other news, stock for Lame Bowties LLC closed up two and a half yesterday.

Thursday, January 6, 2005

Medicine: one of the causes of malpractice lawsuits is — surprise! — malpractice.

Kevin Drum blogs about a new study out of UC-SD that links medication errors to the busiest times of the month.

Wednesday, January 5, 2005

Politics: the 'truth' on tort reform

From a Kos diary:

So, Chimpy is doing a "live news event" in Collinsville, Illinois today, giving a speech on medical liability reform. And of course CNN is carrying it live. It's basically a campaign speech two months after the fact. But I was struck by how the words at the bottom of the screen did in no way match the words from Bush's mouth.

As Bush was speaking on the need for medical liability reform, four factoids flashed across the bottom of the screen. They were as follows:

"Medical malpractice payments have dropped 11% in the last 9 years."

"Medical malpractice insurance is less than 1% of overall medical costs."

"Between 44,000-49,000 Americans die every year from preventable medical errors."

"Preventable medical errors cost Americans $17-29 billion dollars every year."
Beautiful.

Media: Thomas Sowell calls homosexuality a "deathstyle in the AIDS era"

Thomas Sowell was one of the only columnists syndicated in my home town paper growing up, so I read him often, since he sometimes knows what he's talking about concerning economics, and he isn't normally on the forefront of dumbassery. But then he claims that

rather than marriage rights, what "homosexual activists" really desire is "the stamp of acceptance on homosexuality, as a means of spreading that lifestyle, which has become a deathstyle in the AIDS era."

Sowell continued: "They have already succeeded to a remarkable degree in our public schools, where so-called 'AIDS education' or other pious titles are put on programs that promote homosexuality."

Media: Savage on the tsunami

Michael Savage consistently makes Rush and Hannity seem like okay guys:

From the December 31 edition of Savage Nation:

SAVAGE: It is the Savage Nation out here on the West Coast. We've had rain for five days. We have another five days of it. I need some aid right now. International aid. Because I may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder if this keeps up. Maybe I should go to the U.N. [United Nations] and see if I can get some special psychotherapy and sun lamps.

We shouldn't be sending as much as we're sending. Bush has a lot of gall writing a check for 135 million dollars. This is more a UNICEF deal, it's a U.N. deal, it's a Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, George Soros, Bill Clinton bleeding-heart-liberal deal. I don't want to send them any money. You know, a few airplanes with some medical supplies and a little lip service would have been fine for me.

You could take the argument that it's God's will, it's too bad and let's move on. And then let others help them. They're not in our sphere of interest. Primarily, they hate our guts in plain English. All right, well, the argument is, well, if you send them money, they're gonna like us, show 'em we're not anti-Muslim. That is such rubbish. That is such rubbish. They're gonna hate you anyhow, no matter what we ever do.

It's not a tragedy. I wouldn't call it a tragedy. It's a human disaster. It's not a tragedy in that sense. But, the issue is, theological questions suddenly arise. ... Now, for you atheists, you have no questions about this. It's a pure accident of nature. You don't ask yourself, "Was it God's hand?"

If you are a God-believing, God-fearing person, I am sure at some point you ask yourself, wait a minute. The epicenter of this earthquake and the resulting tidal wave was adjacent to the sex trade island of Phuket, Thailand ... and then it knocked out many, many regions of Indonesia, some of which are the most vicious recruiting grounds for Islamic terrorists. That's a fact of reality. Then going the other way, it hit Sri Lanka, ex-Ceylon. And as you well know, Sri Lanka is a viciously anti-Western nation, the home of the Tamil Tigers, who are not only separatists but anti-Westerners, anti-Christians, etc. You could argue, maybe this is God's hand, because some of their brethren struck Christian America. Maybe God speaks the truth but waits. Seeks the truth and waits. I don't know. You could argue: God struck them. Now, I don't argue that because I'm not a theologian. Nor do I believe that God is omnipotent. I believe God is omnipresent. But I don't think God has control over every act because there would be no free will and I don't believe in that. ... But then again, who knows? I'm one man amongst billions of people, with one man's opinion.

Many of the countries and the areas in these countries that were hit by these tidal waves were hotbeds of radical Islam. Why should we be helping them destroy us? ... I think what we're doing is feeding our own demise. ... I truthfully don't believe in foreign aid.

We shouldn't be spending a nickel on this, as far as I'm concerned. ... I don't want one nickel of my money going over there. ... I am sick of being bled to death by every damn incident on the earth.

Politics: our 'disadvantaged' President

On AG nominee Alberto Gonzalez:

Bush “likes somebody he sees as having overcome potential disadvantages, because he sees himself as having done that,” says Paul Burka, executive editor of Texas Monthly magazine and a close follower of the president.
And Campaign Extra! points out the logical questions:
Which "potential disadvantages" would those be? Born into a family of Wall Street and oil field millionaires? Grandson of a U.S. senator? Son of a U.S. president? Forced to attend Andover and Yale despite mediocre grades? Bailed out of repeated business failures? Handed a major league baseball team in a sweetheart deal?

We wish they would have been more specific, with so many potential disadvantages to choose from.

Social Security: Krugman's latest

And further repetition of the new left buzz--the lack of a Social Security crisis.

But I prefer the secondary emphasis: that Medicare and Medicaid are in SO MUCH more trouble.

Politics: Frist Filibuster Douchery

Here's a nice article from the left-wing thinktank Center for American Progress on Bill Frist's recent running-of-the-mouth about filibusters, outlining some flip-flopping concerning his own filibustering during the Clinton administration.

CAP's labelling of the behavior as hypocritical and dishonest might be a little strong, though. Sounds pretty politics-as-usual to me, on both sides of the aisle. Now, I'm all about illuminating this sort of bullshot, since its obviously pretty cruddy behavior. But I think Bill Frist can be perfectly well deconstructed on the filibuster issue without referring to his past actions.

Medicine: top condom brands rated (and other reproductive fun)

Hey, why not?

[R]esults showed that the top brand, able to take the most punishment, was the Durex Extra Sensitive Lubricated Latex, according to the report.

Other top-performers include the Durex Performax Lubricated, Lifestyles Classic Collection Ultra Sensitive Lubricated and TheyFit Lubricated.

And in other super-obvious news concerning where people stick their genitals, another study proved what sentient sexual beings could have told you all along:
Providing women with easy access to the emergency contraceptive Plan B did not lead them to engage in more risky sexual behavior, a study of more than 2,000 California women has concluded.

The study did find that women given a supply to keep at home were more than 1 1/2 times as likely to use the drug after unprotected sex as those who had to pick it up at a clinic or pharmacy. The findings led the study authors to conclude that easy access to Plan B, also called the morning-after pill, could reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies while posing no apparent risk to women.
Which is about as obvious as the fact that secondhand smoke in the home slows down a kid's ability to learn.

But of course, we need these studies to prove to dumbasses that can't compute the obvious that sane people really are right.

Whatever: Britney as a CSI?

Best of luck to her. *Snicker*

And for those of you that actually read the article, can you even imagine Natalie Portman and Britney Spears having a conversation? What does an amazingly talented Harvard-educated liberal have to say to the producer-manufactured Republican Podunk Princess?

Medicine: painkiller fears getting out of control

From a BBC News article:

The risk of intestinal damage from common painkillers such as ibuprofen and aspirin may be higher than thought, research suggests.

Doctors found small intestine damage in more than 70% of patients who took non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug painkillers for more than three months.

Previously it was thought the risk of gut problems was low.
By whom??? Since when have we thought that there wasn't a real and significant chance of GI bleeding from NSAIDS? But I guess some half-assed science writer has to make his paycheck this week. Yes, last week they tried to crucify Naproxen w/ their shit headlines. Now Ibuprofen. I have a great idea. Let's give everybody morphine, or better yet, let them suffer and writhe in pain. Or just shoot people in the head when they get a migraine.

It's great to understand risks and all, and in this particular case, if it gets a patient to ask a haphazard doc for a proton pump inhibitor script, that's a step forward. But geez. Pretty soon, whiskey stocks will start rising, as it'll be the only painkiller left approved by the FDA.

Monday, January 3, 2005

Politics: GOP playing by the rules

Nice to see some balls on the other side of the aisle. Or rather, at least it's nice to see the majority party can't hoodwink America THAT easily.

House Republicans suddenly reversed course Monday, deciding to retain a tough standard for lawmaker discipline and reinstating a rule that would force Majority Leader Tom DeLay to step aside if indicted by a Texas grand jury.

Religion: Catholic school allowing the sons of two gay men to enroll at Catholic school

But DAMN the rest of the folks at the school are pissed! Apparently parents at the school have to sign some sort of pact that they'll live by traditional Catholic values, which papists of course don't believe includes being a loving homosexual couple. Luckily, there are more than enough seemingly intelligent people involved in this fiasco, pointing out that just because the parents are gay, that the kids aren't doing anything "wrong" (at least that's a relatively MODERATE view!), and this quote, from the Superintendent of the school:

But Father Gerald M. Horan, superintendent of schools run by the Diocese of Orange, rejected the idea of a parental covenant. If the school barred gay parents from enrolling their children, they would also have to ban children of parents who violate other church teachings, including those who are divorced, use birth control or weren't married in the church, he said.
Yay for tolerant (or at least getting there and trying) Catholics!

Media: MMFA's top ten most outrageous statements of 04

Rush Limbaugh on the Abu Ghraib photos: "I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You ever heard of need to blow some steam off?"

Ann Coulter: "[Senator John] Kerry will improve the economy in the emergency services and body bag industry."

Tony Blankley called philanthropist George Soros "a Jew who figured out a way to survive the Holocaust."

Michael Savage: "When you hear 'human rights,' think gays. ... [T]hink only one thing: someone who wants to rape your son."

Oliver North: "Every terrorist out there is hoping John Kerry is the next president of the United States."

Pat Robertson on gays and lesbians: "[S]elf-absorbed hedonists ... that want to impose their particular sexuality on the rest of America."

Pat Buchanan: "[H]omosexuality is an affliction, like alcoholism."

Bill O'Reilly to Jewish caller: "[I]f you are really offended, you gotta go to Israel."

Bill Cunningham (Clear Channel radio host who appeared as a guest on The Sean Hannity Show): The election is over because "Elizabeth Edwards has now sung."

Jerry Falwell: "And we're going to invite PETA [to "wild game night"] as our special guest, P-E-T-A -- People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. We want you to come, we're going to give you a top seat there, so you can sit there and suffer. This is one of my special groups, another one's the ACLU, another is the NOW -- the National Order of Witches [sic]. We've got -- I've got a lot of special groups."

Medicine: Would you like a clogged artery while you're here?

In what seems to be a tardy and fairly obvious action, the Cleveland Clinic is pushing to remove some fast-food restaurants from their food courts, perhaps in an effort to revitalize its heart-healthy image. The soon-to-be-gone McDonalds had little comment but to reply that they will try to offer Happy Meals that contain a salad and pedometer.

Saturday, January 1, 2005

Who We Are

Garrett Sparks founded the Sparkgrass Community during the 2004 election cycle.

Geoff Barnes, Matt Pepper, Matt Zuckerman, and Garrett were all medical students at the University of Michigan. Kyle Potter grew up in a neighboring county in rural northeastern Kentucky with Garrett.

Geoff, future cardiologist and likely leader in the LGBT movement, graduated from Washington University with a degree in Biomedical Engineering. He's an Internal Medicine PGY1 at the University of Michigan

Matt Pepper graduated from Duke University with a double major in Electrical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering. He's now a pediatrics intern back at Duke.

Kyle maintains his theology-rich blog, Vindicated. He graduated from Georgetown College with a degree in History, and is back in Lexington working on his thesis for an M.Th. from Oxford.

Garrett graduated from the University of Kentucky with degrees in Biology and English. He's also working on his masters in clinical research before he graduates from medical school and runs off somewhere to do a residency in psychiatry.

Matt Zuckerman graduated from the University of Arizona with degrees in Microbiology and Creative Writing. He's an Emergency Medicine intern at Brown, and his wife is an astrophysicist. For real.

Sparkgrass alumni:

Josh Blagg is finishing his masters in statistics at the University of Kentucky.

Anshu Jain is a medical student at the University of Kentucky.

Matt Keibler is a general surgical resident in southeast Michigan.

Steve Warnick is a resident in family medicine and psychiatry at the University of Cincinnati.