Monday, February 28, 2005

Evil Empire: Walmart's CEO trying to make people think that Walmart doesn't screw its employees

And Timothy Noah does a great job taking the air out of his balloon.

Now, sure, I don't like Walmart, but that's mostly for its blatantly illegal workers' rights violations. And I won't necessarily hold it against Walmart that they legally exploit their employees as well, because hey, all's fair in love and capitalism. Walmart didn't write the laws (they probably just bought the Congressmen to write the laws for them, which is of course perfectly within the bounds of the American system, and Democrats and Republicans have been utilizing this method since Paul Revere opened a fried chicken chain in Lexington and Concord).

I think I could forgive a lot of Walmart's failures if the places weren't such wrecks all the time. The Walmart in Ashland, back in the day, was once that wondrous retail store where there was always an employee within ten feet of you that could answer any question, even if the answer were 42. The floors were spotless, every item was evenly spaced on every shelf, and well-groomed six-year-olds danced through the aisles hand-in-hand singing in French.

Those were my days of my retail innocence!

Our last Walmart purchase was a Sunbeam breadmaker back in July. We received about two hundred and seventeen sets of sheets from our very generous and softly sleepy friends and relatives as wedding gifts. A few of these sets came from Walmart, so we returned them, and thought it'd be neat to have a breadmaker, which I believe we've used twice since July. So it goes. According to Walmart's website, they certainly stock this guy.

The first two or three Walmarts we visited (and since there are none in Ann Arbor, these were significant trips), there were none of these breadmakers to be found. The next few, they at least had a display model that'd been beaten like an Abu Ghraib prisoner. I believe at our seventh or eight Walmart, in Cheboygan, MI, we finally found one Sunbeam breadmaker in a box that hadn't been chewed on by small children. And this was on the way back from our honeymoon something like eight miles off the highway coming home.

A blind monkey could find whatever bread maker he wanted at Target in less than thirty seconds. Even more amazingly, so could I! So boo for Walmart.

Update: Courtney informs me that we have in fact only used the breadmaker once. I think we made raisin bread. It was yummy. Mmm... raisin bread.

Med School: Today will be the first of many days

when I will get to shove my lubricated latexed finger up another man's asshole.

I bet you're jealous, and want to drop EVERYTHING you're doing to come to med school, right?

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Oscars: to remove all doubt

The Oscars are a disgusting crock of hypermotile bowels.

And Marty Scorsese officially just had that crock dumped on his head.

At least Charlie Kaufman won best original screenplay, and Alexander Payne best adapted screenplay. Perhaps the screenplay categories should be renamed to "the best movies that old irrelevant movie farts didn't like because they hadn't seen the same thing before a hundred times."

Unforgiven was GREAT.

Mystic River was AMAZING.

Million Dollar Baby was a five dollar handjob in a back alley by a really ugly crack whore.

Clint Eastwood: Making money out of mediocrity since 2004.

Science: I wonder if it's carbon-based

The ESA wants a new mission to Mars to look for signs of life. If there were any there, they think it would be "bacterial." I wonder if they'd add another day to our Infectious Disease sequence called "extraterrestrial organisms."

Film: Million Dollar Baby sucks

Skip Bayless at ESPN's Page 2 gives it the thrashing it deserves, and vows never to watch the Academy Awards again if MDB wins.

The rest of us know the Oscars are BS, and won't be surprised if hack sentimentalist film making wins over at least three MUCH better films--Sideways, Finding Neverland, and The Aviator.

Satire: If Faulkner were writing the Bush White House

Sam Apple's spoof is nothing short of amazing.

Film: Sideways rocks the Independent Spirit Awards

The big winners at the ISAs were Sideways, Maria Full of Grace, and The Motorcycle Diaries. Something tells me that the ISAs are a better indicator of the future of quality American cinema than the Oscars will be.

Pollitics: Too Little, Too Late

All the sudden, Dianne Feinstein is pushing to renew the Assault Weapons Ban that expired a few months ago after ten years. Given that the AWB was pretty darn ineffective (even the NRA thought so!) because slightly altered versions of the assault weapons could stay on the market, this seems pretty empty. New Assault Weapon Ban legislation? THAT'D be sweet. But simply renewing the crappy old one? Eh. It smells too much like politics and not enough like actually protecting the citizens of our country.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

MedPol: Kansas Attorney General Seeks Late-Term Abortion Records

Don't you just love when Republicans decide that patient privacy isn't as important as pushing their political agenda in the guise of "prosecuting crimes"? UM and other institutions told Hoppin' John Ashcroft to shove it when he demanded similar records. Hopefully Kansas clinic docs do the same.

Politics: Mitt Romney, confirmed homophobic jerk

Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, probably gearing up for a 2008 presidential run, has already begun the "I've gotta be an asshole to gays" campaign:

Speaking Monday to fellow Republicans in Spartanburg, S.C., Romney said same-sex couples "are actually having children born to them. ... It's not right on paper. It's not right in fact."
For those of you with a question mark as to how lesbian couples can have a child that is biologically related to both parents, Momma A donates an egg for fertilization, which is then implanted into Momma B. Both parents are thus biologically and legally related to the child.

And you know what? That's absolutely super. One of the anatomy faculty at UMich and her partner are one of the lesbian couples who have benefitted from this approach, and I'm absolutely sure that their kid will grow up to be one of the most well adjusted, compassionate, happy, and statistically speaking, probably straight, kids you could imagine. His mommies are wonderful human beings, which seems to be a much greater qualifier for being a good parent than merely having a penis when your partner doesn't, or vice versa.

So Mitt Romney gets the "fuck you, you homophobic asshole" award for the week.

Go Cats: Vitale gushes on Cats

As he damn well should.

Politics: Kansas on my mind

Krugman's latest:

The slime campaign has begun against AARP, which opposes Social Security privatization. There's no hard evidence that the people involved - some of them also responsible for the "Swift Boat" election smear - are taking orders from the White House. So you're free to believe that this is an independent venture. You're also free to believe in the tooth fairy.
Beautiful.

Medicine: 10 panelists in painkiller vote had ties to makers

Stories like this are so tiresome. While it'd certainly be nice if medical science and the drug industry weren't connected in a way that created the potential for such conflicts of interest, the last line of the story sums up the whole situation rather well:

Because drug companies fund many studies, it is not unusual for researchers to have ties to manufacturers, although some have questioned the practice.
So ho hum. Yet the headline obviously implies otherwise. Hurray for a purposefully misled public in the spirit of journalistic capitalistic depravity! Hip Hip Hurray!

Literature: Hunter S. Thompson's last day, his wife's perspective

Some insight into the last days of a beautiful man.

Politics: separation of church and state (in a different sort of way)

Kyle has one heck of a thread going over on his blog. He's quite pissed (rightfully I think) about the way that Baptists in particular equate patriotism with following the teachings of Jesus. A favorite quote:

But whenever the Church considers allegiance to Jesus and the State to be somehow equivalent, she loses her critical eye for the policies of the State that are destructive of human dignity, and in its unchecked, unchallenged rule, the State will turn on the people of God. It happened in Germany, and it may well happen here.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Law: Why guys prefer girls who swallow

This is both funny and sad. In Illinois, a woman was found liable for the emotional pain of the father of her child. The reason: he never knew he was fathering a child with her. In fact, the two of them never even had intercourse; she just took the sperm after an episode of oral sex. I think the scariest part of the story for me is that the woman in this case was a family practice doctor. I guess I better be careful about any late night callroom trysts.

Politics: Alabama ban on marketing sex toys upheld

Article here.

Feministing.com's headline sums it up quite nicely:

Brilliant.

Politics: Don't Ask, Don't Tell

Don't ask and they won't tell about the cost of replacing gay service men and women in the military who are discharged for being gay or lesbian. Is the "risk" of serving with an openly gay soldier really worth the cost we are enduring?

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Medicine: Swedish no-fault malpractice insurance a fit for the US?

Certainly seems possible. Even if it's not necessarily cheaper, it certainly seems conducive to better health care.

It might be that we must create an alternative to our present lawsuit-oriented malpractice system. Perhaps the most intriguing possibility is what malpractice wonks call a "no-fault" system. A no-fault system would compensate those who have been harmed without assigning blame—a process easier for patients and less traumatic for doctors. In our present system, to win restitution, a harmed patient must prove not just that a doctor or hospital erred, but that the error was caused by neglect or incompetence so severe it amounts to a breach of the doctor's or hospital's legal duty of care. In short, the patient must prove not only an avoidable error but gross negligence or incompetence. In a no-fault system, the patient need prove only the avoidable error. The question of whether the doctor was negligent or incompetent—the accusatory crux of our present system, and the part that so humiliates and infuriates doctors—would not pertain. A separate disciplinary agency or panel would handle cases of gross negligence, incompetence, or breach of duty.

Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and New Zealand have used no-fault malpractice systems for 20 to 30 years, with admittedly mixed results. Yet several academics, most notably Harvard's David Studdert and Troyen Brennan, have studied these countries' systems and concluded that a U.S. system modeled on that of Sweden could more consistently compensate victims of avoidable mishaps and more effectively reduce error and incompetence—all for the same cost. No-fault would also make doctors and patients allies rather than adversaries when something goes awry.

Medicine: as if dermatologists didn't have it easy enough

A new study from some dermatologists in Switzerland says that docs who diagnosed treatment for leg ulcers remotely using first-generation camera cellphones did pretty much just as well as docs in the same room as the patient. Insert your own bitter joke about dermatologists here.

Religion/Politics: Pope goes overboard again

In another less than "loving" move, the Pope has described gay marriage as part of "a new ideology of evil" and even compared abortion to the genocide during the holocaust. Come on! If he had taken any time to talk with a same sex couple and their children before writing this book, I think he'd have a tough time finding any evil in that relationship. And if he is really trying to unite the various world religions, he's not thinking about the ramifications of what he's saying :(

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Medicine: New guidelines for treating (or better yet, NOT treating) intersex babies

A great rundown on some of the issues surrounding children born intersex, and the tragedy that has been foisted upon them for years by doctors too eager to perform surgery to arbitrarily determine sex based on genitalia alone.

Nutjobs: Shrek? Say it ain't so?

One of those wacky "family" groups is now targeting Shrek 2.

Politics: the Rove-Bennett-USANext attack on the AARP

The entire lefty blogosphere (Oliver, Yglesias, Atrios, Kevin, Josh Marshall) is going ape shit over this ad currently running on the right column of The American Spectator:

I think the ad speaks for itself. Slimeballs.

Update: USANext has pulled the ad.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Medicine: Surgeons Remove Baby's Second Head

What an intriguing article. It kind of pisses me off that the name for this condition is craniopagus parasiticus....and they repeatedly refer to the second head as a parasite...as in "We had to study how the blood supply of the parasite is working..."

Regardless, second heads like this are capable of smiling and blinking! Its terrible to think that such a thing is a parasite, although for most of us future medical professionals, the technical definition of a parasite is fitting in this situation. However, other human beings may not agree on the terminology.

Science: Einstein@Home

If you're tired of letting your computer search for extra-terrestrial life or a cure for cancer while you're away, here's your chance to let your computer analyze gravitational waves from space to test Einsteinian physics.

Blogging: Sparkgrass goes gangsta'

No, really.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Media: Hunter S. Thompson Takes Life

Breaking news. Sad, but if you've read the first page of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, you wouldn't be too surprised.

Blogfriends: Caption Contest at BlueGrassRoots


Ben over at BGR has this picture up for a caption contest. They look so happy! I can't think of anything funny to say about it (I think it speaks for itself), but go play there if you can improve upon my own lack of wit.

Simpsons: Gay Marriage Legalization Tonight at 8:00!!!

Springfield: a place where everyone can marry — even dudes.

And we finally get to find out which character comes out! All odds point to Marge's sister Patty, while Smithers seems a close second.

My bet is on Groundskeeper Willy.

Courtney's bet is on Moe the Bartender.

Even if you never comment, now is the time! Leave your thoughts!

Politics: tapes of private Bush phone calls before the 2000 election

Bush Jr. apparently turned to friend and former aide to his father, Doug Wead, quite a few times before the 2000 election. Wead taped these phonecalls, which include strategizing about playing the religious right, threatening to hold support from Steve Forbes if he won the nomination, and, surprise, he's a pot smoker!

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Media: What liberal media?

A Media Matters analysis of those crazy liberal folks at the CBS Evening News broadcasts since November 2 found that the program featured Republicans and conservatives more often than Democrats and progressives. Check out the complete breakdown.

Politics: Archaeologic discovery supports Bush doctrines


Stockton and Tweed have the scoop.

Friendblogs: "complicated Christianity"

Old friend, theology guru, and swell human being Kyle Potter IM'ed me today after probably two years of us being out of contact, and I found out that he's quite the avid blogger.

People like Kyle keep Christianity safe from idiots. Hurray for him.

KY Sport Blogging: Stansbury a wannabe, Dean a pimp, and Larkin more a Red than the jerks in the Cincinnati front office

--First off, Andy Katz gives a much deserved nod to UK's absolute dominance over the SEC over the last five years. But the most memorable quote of the article comes from Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury, who is 1-6 against the Cats in his tenure at MSU:

"Kentucky is always the school to measure up against in this league," Stansbury said. "I think we've become their rival in the SEC since we won the tournament and they beat us in the finals once. But I'm not sure if that's good or bad."
In other news, Rick Stansbury couldn't hold Chuck Hayes' jockstrap. That douchebag thinks he and his overrated SEC West parasites are Kentucky's rival? They aren't even the best team in the SEC West! Stansbury is an arrogant prick, his style of ball doesn't fit in the SEC (reminds me of Big East play a few years ago--beat up the other team and hope they're too injured at the end of the night to hit any big shots), and if it weren't for a certain inconsistent transfer from Baylor, crap recruiting would be exposed as well. Rival my ass. We play their sorry asses Saturday at 9:00 on ESPN at Rupp. As long as John Clougherty isn't officiating, the freshly-ripped Cats (rumors of 6:00 AM shooting practices after Tuesday's premature ejaculation @ South Carolina) should explode in Rick Stansbury's mouth.

And if not, well, MSU still sucks.

--50 miles East, Rick Pitino's #3 scorer and all around senior stud guard Taquan Dean will continue playing despite coming down with a case of Mono! That is so pimp. Mad props to the kid. That's a worthy basketball player for the state of Kentucky.

--Across the river, it slipped my attention, but earlier this week Barry Larkin announced his official retirement after 19 seasons as a Red. The Reds' new front office chodewads decided to turn the shortstop position over to younger, more inadequate players, which is generally consistent with the shitty decisions they've been making since holding a fire-sale last season. Larkin has taken a front office position for the Washington Nationals. Larkin with another team, you say? Never! Well, Jim Bowden's their new-ish GM, and Bob Boone and Jose Rijo are also serving as assistants to Bowden. So the Washington Nationals are now more Cincinnati Reds than the Cincinnati Reds are. Barry Larkin rules.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Medicine: Check out yours truly!

Go to www.uky.edu, and click on "Students Step Up Tsunami Relief Efforts" to see yours truly!

Also, if anyone is still interested in making a donation, I would be happy to accept it on behalf of our college fundraiser, or I can provide you with some good info on excellent organizations working in the tsunami-stricken areas!

School: Fascist Computing Services Policy

Medicine: Placebo Gazette #29 is up

Click here for a Placebo.

Humor: Feburary 15 To Be Designated National Judge William H. Pryor Day

The latest from Opinions You Should Have.

Bumper Sticker: Revenge is at hand!!!

There is a clan of douchebags at my apartment building who, when the parking lot is full, refuse to park on the street (it's a very out of the way area, and there is TONS of room on the street--no parallel parking required, even). Instead, they park blatantly in front of the BRAND NEW No Parking: Fire Lane signs. I might post pictures to show how asinine their parking is, because it doesn't come across well in text. The worst offender is a 12-ton Mountaineer with Ontario plates--driven by some Asian dude and chick who like to try to run over people in the parking lot and cause accidents (this I've witnessed first hand).

But revenge is at hand! Check out IParkLikeAnIdiot.com.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Politics: Sen. Clinton Pushes for Voting Holiday

A federal holiday would encourage voter turnout and make it easier for those with less leverage in their jobs to actually vote. While federal law "requires" employers to allow employees time to vote, somehow I doubt that law sees strict adherence. And given the long lines I saw at the last election, if an employee "had the chance" to vote, but didn't actually get to the ballot, there's not much the employee can do besides get a lawyer. And when you're fighting to put food on the table, that's probably not your number one priority.

In addition to creating a federal holiday for voting, the bill would:

Require paper receipts for votes.

Authorize $500 million to help states make the changes in voting systems and equipment.

Allow ex-felons to vote. Currently an estimated 4.7 million Americans are barred from voting because of their criminal records.

Require adoption of the changes in time for the 2006 election.

Politics: Condoleezza Rice isn't the only loyal Administration lap dog returning


Barney, the President's Scottish Terrier will be returning to post as White House dog. Many feel Barney should be answering questions about disastrous first term decisions and his role in formulating the Iraqi invasion. Answers to those questions are unlikely. Jeff Gannon is apparently not the only Bush ally ready to lob softball questions:

Mollie from Purdue asks: My dog, Percy, and I are thrilled that you will be in the White House another four years! As First Dog, you are an exemplary role model for all American dogs. What are your plans for this next term?

Barney's Reply: Bark, Bark, Woof.

Can you get any more softball than that?

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Politics: The Fighting Moderates

Paul Krugman's latest, and one of the smartest analyses on Howard Dean as DNC chair that I've seen.

MedPol: FDA to Create Advisory Board on Drug Safety

Which sounds like a good idea, right? So, instead of creating a separate agency to do the extra work, we just realign the Food and Drug Administration, give them a new task that will cost a few ten-millions extra on top of what the FDA already doesn't have the money to do, give them no new funding to do that task, and expect results?

If I remember learning nothing else in my first year of med school, I learned that the FDA has an operating budget less than the University of Michigan. With that budget, the FDA is supposed to monitor all drug development, attempt to oversee all the alternative herbal crap on the market, and even fight the tobacco industry (which it doesn't even bother trying to do, because there's no point without sufficient funding).

Smoke and mirrors. The FDA is one of the few parts of our government that I feel consistently tries to work apolitically and objectively to protect the patient-citizens of our country (with a few very noteable exceptions regarding women's health). And that's saying something, given that the FDA is monitoring drug companies that A) produce great drugs that they deserve to be compensated for so they can continue to research new drugs, and B) produce bad drugs that cause more harm than good but that could still be profitable if they can dupe the FDA into allowing them to kill people for profit.

So FDA Advisory Board on Drug Safety. It might make Congress happy, it might shut up the media, but it's not making Brand New Pill X any safer for you.

Medicine: Coffee 1, Cancer 0

A study of more than 90,000 Japanese found that people who drank coffee daily or nearly every day had half the liver cancer risk of those who never drank coffee.

The American Cancer Society estimates that 18,920 new cases of liver cancer were diagnosed in the United States last year and some 14,270 people died of the illness. Causes include hepatitis, cirrhosis, excess alcohol consumption and diseases causing chronic inflammation of the liver.
Watch for Smirnoff Ice Java at a liquor store near you!

Monday, February 14, 2005

Politics: Kevin Drum's private accounts plan

Readers of Washington Monthly are used to Kevin's number crunching to show that the Bush privatization scheme is fiscal insanity.  Today, he outlines the private account plan that he could live with.

Medicine: anti-obesity in the South?

Fighting fat in the lands of deep-fried rice cakes.

Medicine: Conversion Therapy doesn't work for Penguins

Since conversion therapy doesn't seem to work on gay penguins, why is it still being used for gay people? Perhaps it failed because the penguins haven't read the Bible.

Education: RFID in school

Getting tagged with radio frequency identification chips in school is probably not a great step towards teaching American youth about thier civil liberties.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Medicine: AMA supports NYMC's ban of LGBTPM group

The president of the AMA has come out in support of the New York Medical College and their decision to ban the LGBTPM group (original post). If that wasn't disappointing enough, he went so far as to compare this group's ban to BYU's decision to ban Coca-cola on campus:

The president of the American Medical Association this week defended a decision by New York Medical College to ban a gay students group from campus, calling it a decision by a private institution to uphold its standards and likening it to Brigham Young University's decisions to ban Coca-Cola from campus and to suspendfour athletes accused of raping a 17-year-old girl.
It may just be me, but the decision to drink a soda is somewhat trivial in comparison to one's sexuality and the support the LGBT community needs from health care professionals. Hopefully AMSA will reiterate it's disappointment with NYMC's decision. We can't let both nation-wide medical associations abandon patients' rights.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Politics: Bush's Class-War Budget

Paul Krugman's latest.

Books: Haruki Murakami's latest

The NYT review of Marukami's latest novel, Kafka on the Shore.

Academia: Ward Churchill, tenured jerk

I've been slow to post about the U of Colorado Ethnic Studies professor because I don't know how to balance condemning someone for saying very stupid things with their right to do so within a peer-reviewed academic context. But this passage from a Dahlia Lithwick piece seems tempered fairly in line with my feelings:

Churchill's 9/11 comments were patently offensive. But they were not hate speech, they were not treason, and they were not in any sense a call to imminent violence on the part of his listeners. Read in context, his words are the purest form of political speech. Does that mean students have to take his classes? No. Does it mean any university needs to invite him to speak or even hire him in the first place? No. But does it mean that the governor or the board of regents are entitled to remove him now, simply because some "taxpayer money" goes to pay his salary? No. That would make virtually every professorship in the land subject to a heckler's veto.
The rest of the article ain't so bad either (subtitled: Why is Bill O'Reilly chairing our faculty meetings?). And the picture of the guy. What a douchebag.

Lit/Tragedy: Arthur Miller dead at 89

Drama and literature today loses one of its greatest voices to heart failure: the University of Michigan alum responsible for some of the most important Jewish and anti-capitalist literature of the 20th century. Watching him on a public access interview not to long ago at UM, he seemed as bright and driven as ever. A beautiful, beautiful man, and the first author we've lost during my lifetime that nearly brings me to tears.

When I lose Kurt Vonnegut, I will cry. Hard. And Arthur Miller probably deserves the same mourning. Genius.

Humor: Makers Of Zoloft To Create New Pill Based On Bush's Outlook

Opinions You Should Have often outdoes itself:

The manufacturers of Zoloft, a popular antidepressant, announced today that they would begin work on a pill that encapulates President Bush's mental disposition. "No matter how bad things are, this pill will make you believe everything is really great," said Betty Garland, a spokesman for Pfizer. "We think this pill will be a best seller."

Indeed, preliminary research indicates that the so-called "W is for Wonderful" pill will induce a state of blissful, ignorant euphoria among its users. The idea for the pill arose after polls showed that a whopping 77 per cent of the American people who watched Bush's address felt that "all was right with the world" after hearing the speech. This same group of listeners felt that their most pressing concerns involved choosing a new upgrade for their riding mower and finding a dishwashing detergent that doesn't cause "unsightly spotting."

The pill will be marketed under the slogan, "Come on! Drink the Kool-Aid!'

Side effects of the pill include blindness, dizziness, addiction, deafness, hypocrititis, ovationoriasis -- an inability to refrain from giving a standing ovation to the most shallow homily --as well as ever-increasing debt and susceptibility to a military draft.
Click on the link to give Tom his deserved traffic, but I just wanted to make sure nobody missed that.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

MedPol: White House wants to ban use of hallucinogenic tea in religious services

The link here. A fictitious White House aide was overhead saying, "if these people need hallucinations, they can watch FoxNews like everybody else."

Firefox: Yahoo! releases Firefox Toolbar

Further demonstrating that the browser is gaining some serious marketshare from IE.

Download Firefox. Do it. Do it. Do it.

Bo, how much longer till we get a Google Toolbar? I've been dying for a Blogger button for Firefox!

Medicine: Canada suspends sales of Adderall, FDA pissing pants

A few kids being treated for ADHD with Adderall have died of sudden cardiac symptoms, but the stats don't seem to add up. Yet.

Medicine: should everyone get an HIV test?

Previous medical conventional wisdom said that testing everyone for HIV was silly because of the insane number of false positive tests (lots of 50 year old monogamous women w/ no IV drug use or history of transfustion getting a positive back) and the costs of following up on those tests would outweight any health benefit of a massive screening program. But two new studies in the NEJM suggest that the benefits of a mass screening program, allowing prevention of transmission and earlier dispensing of anti-retroviral cocktails and such, would more than outweigh the costs of the program. Want medicine to change? Blink!

Politics: Or Not

So Al Franken ISN'T running for the Minnesota seat. So sad.

I really just wanted to see what Bill O'Reilly would say about the whole thing.

Politics: Al Franken to run for MN Senate in 06!

From Oliver Willis, who sites the AP (but no article).

Well, at least we know he'll win the Lake Woebegone district, where everyone is above average.

Update: Here's a real article. Franken will be running for the seat that will be available as first term senator Mark Dayton has decided not to run for re-election.

Danger Will Robinson: N. Korea finally admits to having nukes.

Well DUH!

International news from swissinfo, the Swiss news platform reports that North Korea has publicized their nuclear weapons program. North Korea fears aggressive action from a Bush lead United States. They claim that their nuclear weapons program is carried out n the name of national defense.

I wonder where they got the idea to be afraid of the US?

Wednesday, February 9, 2005

Police State: pull up your pants!

Virgina state legislators are proposing a bill that would prevent people from wearing their pants in a way that exposed their underwear.

How sad is it that this is the most blogworthy article in the past three days that I've seen?

Monday, February 7, 2005

Politics: sayonara, Pataki!

Apparently polls show it'd be pretty impossible for George Pataki to beat Eliot Spitzer for Governor or Hillary Clinton for her Senate seat in 2006. While Guiliani could probably win either seat if he so chose to run, his 2008 presidential aspirations will probably mean a return to blue for NY.

Politics: The Budget

or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Deficit.

Darn that pesky budget. Who knew that when Bush made campaign promises like cutting the deficit in half, people would actually expect him to follow through? Add on funding more community health clinics, homeland security spending, and increasing the Pell Grants (nevermind that he will just decrease the number of students eligible for them), and the budget is really starting to get stretched thin. Lucky for Bush, math has never been as much of a hard and fast rule for him as it is for all those other people.

As CNN's Lou Dobbs pointed out on his show tonight, Bush is being quite creative when it comes to spending. He is decreasing veteran's health benefits, cutting programs that help inner city children get into college, and best of all, not counting spending on Iraq, Afghanistan, or his social security overhaul. At this rate, I bet he can get the next year's budget down to $1. Heck, that's like a surplus! Let's cut taxes again!

Best quote on this issue goes to Sen. Kent Coprad (D-ND): None of this adds up. I mean, this isn't even close. None of this adds up. And the result is, I think, going to be very, very serious damage to the fiscal strength of our country.

Friday, February 4, 2005

Politics: Chairman Dean!

Looks like Dean has obtained the necessary pledges to place him in the seat for next DNC Chair. And I'm ecstatic. Rosenberg has dropped out and pledged support to Dean. Fowler hasn't yet, but is expected to do so sometime in the next week. Results on February 12!

Why is this good? At the least, Dean has the voice and the attitude to create the appearance of a united front in the Democratic Party. Soon, we will have a national base leading new democratic initiatives--at a particularly sensitive time I might add, as Bush seeks to spend his newfound political capital on Social Security privatization. Dean will be breathing fire in a few short weeks, and I can't wait!

Politics: John Edwards watch

Good for him! (Sorry there's no link. It's from his email list).

As you may know, our family is planning on moving back to North Carolina after Emma Claire and Jack finish the school year. North Carolina is our home, we want our kids to grow up there, and we are very excited about going back.

North Carolina will also be playing a significant role in what I do next. The University of North Carolina has been a big part of my life because it's where I learned the tools I've used all my life to help the people who needed help the most.

I am very proud to say that I will be joining UNC to launch its new Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity, which will examine innovative and practical ideas for moving more Americans out of poverty and into the middle class. The fact that millions in this country go to work every day and still live in poverty is wrong and unacceptable. This is personal to me, and I believe that it is one of the most important moral issues of our time.

Together with UNC, I will work hands-on to explore creative approaches to the difficulties that families in poverty face every day. We may not have all the answers right now, but I can promise you this: we will be asking the hard questions. We will work tirelessly so that America's bright light of opportunity shines on all of us.
Update: a Yahoo! article.

Gvt: It's good to know that you're not as likely to disappear forever these days...

It looks like a Bush run government is a kinder, gentler government. Or maybe it's bad business to disappear someone who is a local media icon and had a Discovery Channel produced show about them. Chuck Clark, a Nevadan and avid observer of both the sky and the secret air base "Area51", will be released from federal custody on a form of probation known as a "pre-trial diversion", reports The Register.

Clark and associates discovered a network of motion sensors in the Nevada desert surrounding the base, which still does not officially exist. Some of these sensors were placed on public lands commonly visited by campers, hikers, and UFO enthusiasts. When one of the sensors went missing, the government raided Clark's home and took him into custody. Clark agreed to pay for the missing sensor and will be on probation for one year.

In the past Mr. Clark would likely have been aprehended, never to be heard from again. The government doesn't like to remember silly things like the "Constitution" or "Civil Rights" when one fools around with things that the government really cares about (just ask Philip Kramer, dead bassist for Iron Butterfly). I suppose the lesson here is to make sure you get lots and lots and lots of media attention if you ever go nosing around something the government thinks you shouldn't. You're more likely to return in one piece.

WTF?: JL421 Badonkadonk Land Cruiser/Tank

WTF?

And that's not all.

Thursday, February 3, 2005

Medicine: Crazy Bears (and the stigma of mental illness)

The health and well being of people suffering from mental illness is a topic near and dear to my heart. Recently, the Vermont Teddy Bear Company has come under fire for its "Crazy Bear". I realize that to many a bear in a straightjacket complete with a commitment report might not be offensive. However, it angers me that the company is still planning to make profit on this bear after they admit that the product is offessive to some. In fact, after a little Ebay search the scandal has raised the asking price of the bear. I guess some people have no moral objection to making some profit off of mental illnes stigma. If things like this bother you as much as they do me, maybe you should join NAMI StigmaBusters. I will get off my soapbox now. Oh, if you are looking for a last minute gift for the kiddies how about these wonderful bears. Ha-ha a little too hairy for my taste.

Education: Cracker Jack Box University in serious trouble?

I'm not sure how frequent the use of bogus degrees occurs, but probably much more than I'm wanting to imagine. Anyway, the Department of Education has compiled a list of accredited institutions for employers, and the FTC is providing tips for spotting these ringers. Surprisingly, though, "diploma mills" are legal--I did not know that. For example, I could probably get a degree from "Harverd University" for an easy payment of $499.95 and still be within the bounds of the law.

According to congressional testimony, more than 200 diploma mills operating in the United States or foreign countries rake in at least $200 million a year from selling bogus degrees.

Diploma mills have become increasingly savvy at posing as legitimate schools, creating Web sites and providing fake transcripts for their "alumni." They often use names similar to those of accredited schools and offer degrees largely based on a person's "life experience." Some simply sell degrees for a flat fee.
Imagine (just for fun) if a very large percentage of the labor force actually acquired employment by means of the cereal box degree. We would tend to see rising real wages and falling productivity, although by looking at data (% of workforce holding a degree) we'd expect productivity to rise. In fact, it would be to employment what the Dot.com bubble was to the stock market. The strange thing is that, in the very short run, this might bolster the economy. Real GDP could catch up with and surpass potential because of increased income and falling productivity. Of course, this would soon reverse itself since a bunch of comic book collectors would be holding down high skill positions. I think something can be said about nepotism creating a similar effect, and it probably happens much more often.

Wednesday, February 2, 2005

Medicine: the neocon revolution

This LA times article has been making some rounds as it outlines the neoconservative approach to revolutionizing how people pay for their health care. As a rule, treating health care like any other economic commodity seems like an absolute disaster to me, especially as most market worshippers seem oblivious to the idea that there are, in fact, other human values besides efficiency. Justice, dignity, and equality come to mind. And a transition to catastrophic insurance/health saving accounts seems to favor efficiency over any other human value.

Which isn't to say there might not be a place for this model, and that some aspects of a pretty complex plan won't have merit. Forty-five million folks in this country have no insurance whatsoever, and that's an American indignity. I see no mention of what happens to someone whose health savings account runs out and whose "catastrophic" insurance won't pick up the bill, just as I see no mention of what happens to a senior whose investments run amok and can't afford groceries under a social security privatization/private accounts/personal accounts/flowers and rainbows plan.

Which is scary, given today's report that hundreds of thousands of Americans file for personal bankruptcy each year because of medical bills - even though they have health insurance. This seems to suggest that the prognosis for American health care would suffer under the HSA/"catastrophic" insurance approach.

Here's the MSNBC version of the HSA story, along with smart rebuttals to the schema:

[F]orcing individuals to make payment choices about their health coverage will mean many poorer individuals put off a trip to the doctor, or skimp on important surgeries or check-ups to avoid depleting the funds in their accounts.

And younger, healthier people who use health services only occasionally will opt into these plans because it benefits them financially, leaving older, sicklier patients in traditional insurance plans, where they could see their health-care premiums rise.
And Rep. Pete Stark (D-Hayward), a leading lawmaker in California health care, has a pretty straight-to-the-point criticism of the HSA/"catastrophic" approach:
One danger with this is that people will not get needed care because they want to save a few thousand bucks. Healthcare isn't like buying a Chevrolet. You can go to Consumer Reports and read about the new Malibu, but if I asked you to describe a regimen of chemotherapy for someone who has colon cancer, you'd be out of gas. We are talking about highly technical services that 99% of the public doesn't even know how to spell the names of. Secondly, there is no uniformity within the medical community as to what services ought to be used. It's a 'by guess and by gosh' sort of practice.
We're making real headway in evidence-based medicine towards clarifying appropriate standard of care, but regardless, there's a reason why physicians train for ten to fifteen years to practice medicine. There's a lot of stuff to learn. And while health care providers do their very best to distill all of that knowledge into a ten minute clinic consult so that patients can make their own educated choices, something is always lost in translation.

Of course, maybe we shouldn't worry about everyone having health care. Besides, people should just work harder so they can afford these medical concierge services, right? I'd have no problem with rich people being able to pay for SuperCare if it weren't for the fact that, despite insanely high tuition at medical schools, the actual cost of medical education is still subsidized to a heavy degree by the public. And that, by nature, means that every doctor is a public servant to some degree bought and paid for by the American people. All of the American people. And specialized services that discriminate so heavily based on socioeconomic status will be appalling to me for as long as our country has one of the highest infant mortality rates among developed nations.

Priorities. We need them. We don't have them.

You can also find this post at BlueGrassRoots.

Medicine: baby boys contracting herpes from circumcision

Just another reason why I think every man has a right to his foreskin.

Social Security: Fuzzy Math

Paul Krugman points out privatization doublespeak:

[Social Security privatizers] can rescue their happy vision for stock returns by claiming that the Social Security actuaries are vastly underestimating future economic growth. But in that case, we don't need to worry about Social Security's future: if the economy grows fast enough to generate a rate of return that makes privatization work, it will also yield a bonanza of payroll tax revenue that will keep the current system sound for generations to come.
The rest of the article, as Krugman SS articles always do, skillfully break down macroeconomics into bits understandable to English majors.

But hey, maybe it won't even matter. Harry Reid, in his Gandalf-versus-the-Balrog moment, swears he can kill any Bush privatization plan right now.

Lefty blogs love to make fun of Republicans for constantly renaming social security privatization into more friendly phrases. Kevin Drum sums up the whole linguistic lunacy in three paragraphs.

Tuesday, February 1, 2005

HotDocs: TV's hottest docs

I couldn't pass this one up. From 365gay.com. I promise, even if you're straight like me, you'll have some fun.

Bark Bark: Puppy Bowl!

Puppy Bowl
Sunday, Feb. 6, at 3 p.m. ET.

Check out the short promo clip. This has to be the coolest thing ever!

Evidence-Based Community?

Reality-Based Community (From Wikipedia):

"Reality-based community" is a term that became popular among Internet bloggers in the fall of 2004, generally in the phrase "proud member of the reality-based community," used to suggest the blogger takes an objective and empirical view of events. The term has been defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from [their] judicious study of discernible reality." Some bloggers have gone as far as to suggest that there is an overarching conflict in society between the reality-based community and the "faith-based community" as a whole.

The source of the term is a quotation in an October 17, 2004, New York Times Magazine article by writer Ron Suskind, quoting an unnamed aide to George W. Bush:

The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."
Evidence-Based Medicine (From Wikipedia):

Evidence-based medicine is a medical movement based upon the application of the scientific method to medical practice, including long-established existing medical traditions not yet subjected to adequate scientific scrutiny. According to the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine (http://www.cebm.net/), "Evidence-based medicine is the conscientious, explicit and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients."


Put the two together, and you get The Sparkgrass Community.