Thursday, March 31, 2005

Medicine: The Separation of Church and Pharmacy

By way of MediaMatters, The American Center for Law & Justice has a good piece on the rise of so called "conscience clauses" being passed in several states. These laws permit doctors, pharmacists, or other health care workers to not provide access or information on anything they find morally offensive. Such laws have already been used to refuse prescriptions for Ritalin, emergency contraception for a rape victim, and birth control refills. One pharmacist not only refused to give out the birth control, but even refused to return the prescription slip.

MediaMatters points out:

Though "conscience clause" advocates prefer to focus on birth control pills -- and the media reports that cover the controversy do likewise -- their position that pharmacists need not fill prescriptions they disagree with has far-reaching implications. By the same rationale, a pharmacist who believes, as the Rev. Jerry Falwell once claimed, that AIDS is "God's punishment for homosexuals" could refuse to fill a prescription for an AIDS patient. Pharmacists could refuse to fill prescriptions for heart medicine for the elderly, antidepressants for a suicidal patient -- anything.
Luckily the Michigan government defeated a bill to introduce these clauses, but there's no telling what might happen in the future.

At what point do people simply realize that when their career choices might conflict with their moral views, maybe they should find a different profession?

Technology: "Signposts in Cyberspace"

Here is what a one million dollar technology study will get you these days.

Schiavo: "A recipe for illusion, terror, and the killing of the soul"

Garrett has allowed me to join his Sparkgrass party.

These bones shine with brightness.

So aside from concurring with Garrett's comment on the Schiavo case, I offer for your consideration this excerpt from the Archbishop of Canterbury's Easter Sermon. It wasn't about Schiavo and assorted players, but I think it relevant...

Paul does not say that we shall live for ever; he says that we shall die and that we shall be raised as Jesus was raised. Forget spiritualism and cryogenics; forget supposed evidence for ‘survival’. Paul doesn’t think we are going to survive but that we are going to live again because of God’s action. Here and now, we must indeed once to terms with the reality of death, and we must put to death all in us that binds us to our narrow self-interest. Indeed, you could rightly say that Paul’s teaching is really that we must put to death our refusal to die, because that refusal to die, that fearful denial of our limits, is the root of our selfish and self-paralysing habits of sin. A healthy human environment is one in which we try to make sense of our limits, of the accidents that can always befall us and the passage of time which inexorably changes us. An unhealthy environment is one in which we always look for someone to blame and someone to compensate us, and struggle to maintain fictions of our invulnerability to time and change.

Societies as well as individuals fall victim to these diseases. We react so often with panic and hostility to the presence of persons and cultures who are different and blame them for our own dysfunctions. We maintain a ludicrous confidence in technology to solve the environmental problems it has itself intensified because we can’t believe that our capacity to generate wealth and comfort for ourselves is anything other than infinite. We fantasise about a state of security so complete that nothing and no-one will ever threaten us. We need to hear that all this is really the denial of death - that it is what Paul elsewhere calls ‘the works of the flesh’, the closing up of ourselves in the face of a reality we can’t fully control.

What Paul is telling us is this. If your hope is that this life will be protected and prolonged, that your comfort zone as you understand it will never be challenged, that you will never have to face the reality of being mortal and limited, God help you. It’s a recipe for illusion, terror and the killing of the soul. But that doesn’t mean that your ‘real’ life only begins on the far side of death. Rather it means that here and now you learn to live not by self-defence but by opening up to what God gives.
Read it all if you wish. The emphases are mine.

Love,
Captain Sacrament

Schiavo: the end

Peace be with the Schindler's.

And may God have mercy on the souls of all of the assholes who exploited this family and their situation in order to push their supposedly pro-life politics down our throats.

LGBT: So it's ok to discriminate as long as God's on your side?

New York Medical College, which refused to sanction a gay student group, is exempt from Westchester County's anti-discrimination law because of its connection to the Roman Catholic Church, the Human Rights Commission has ruled.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Comedy: Daily Show's Iraqiversary

A beautiful clip.

Sparkgrass: Openings

We at Sparkgrass pride ourselves on (mock)diversity. We currently consist of six white dudes, two Indian dudes, three married dudes, a Catholic dude who can't get married in quite a few states after the last election, two Jewish kids, two progressive Baptists, two engineers, two literature majors, two vegetarians, two econ majors, four kids from rural Kentucky, two Michiganders, an osteopath student, one chubby kid, an Arizona grad who doesn't know who Lute Olson is, one guy who went to medical school just so his name would coincide with a soft drink, and a poker player (who isn't even Jewish).

The following positions are now open. Leave a comment to apply:

-an angry feminist
-a happy feminist
-a lesbian (can coincide with above)
-a Muslim (bonus: a Muslim lesbian feminist--angry or happy welcome)
-a Jew who actually practices
-a public health student
-a graduate of an obscure liberal arts school (obscure majors (or political science) welcome)
-a gay Jew (if practicing, even better)
-a nihilistic philosophy major
-anyone with ovaries, a uterus, or vestiges thereof
-a transgendered/transsexual individual
-an environmentalist who bathes regularly
-anybody that thought Death Race 2000 was a KILLER movie
-anyone who has dreamt of snipering Rick Santorum or Tom DeLay
-a gun control nut (to counteract sniper)
-a liberal theologian

Great salaries! Fun work environment! Free health care from stupid medical students!

What I'm Reading


I am currently reading (aside from the USMLE books) Radio: An Illustrated Guide. It's a comic book about how This American Life is made and how you can make your very own radio stories. It's a quick read at around 32 pages.

Politics: Schiavo case may be bearing fruit

In Vermont, a Bid to Legalize Physician-Assisted Suicide: "In a Zogby poll conducted in Vermont in December, 78 percent of 500 randomly selected adults said they would support a bill to allow terminally ill patients to get medication from their doctors to hasten death." The bill still hasn't made it out of committee, but at least it's a start.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

What We're Reading

(Most recently updated at top)

Steve
Overdosed America, John Abramson
Arrowsmith, Sinclair Lewis

Garrett
The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini

Anshu
The Scalpel and the Silver Bear, Lori Alvord

Aashoo
White Noise, Don Delillo

Zuckerman
1776, David McCullough
How to Be Good, Nick Hornby

Geoff
Deception Point, Dan Brown
101 Biggest Mistakes 3rd Year Medical Students Make, And How To Avoid Them, Samir Desai

Erin
Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke

Keibler
Phantoms in the Brain, V.S. Ramachandran
Rock of Ages, Stephen J. Gould
The Essential Neruda

Pepper
Transmission, Hari Kunzru

Irony: those moralless courts

"Today's ruling further confirms that the judicial branch of our government is nearly bereft of any moral foundation," said Tom Minnery, Focus on the Family's's vice president for government and public policy.
This quote wasn't on Terry Schiavo, but rather on a Colorado court case in which the judge decided that the death penalty could not be used after jurors used the Bible (rather than, ya know, THE LAW) to decide whether to give the death penalty or not (despite, ya know, the whole "eye for an eye" thing being a supposed vestige of Judaic law supposedly fulfilled by Jesus Christ, who pined for people to turn the cheek instead...)

Yup, a court that does whatever it can to avoid giving the death penalty is totally bereft of moral foundation. Right.

LGBT: Do we need a Gay/Lesbian Unit of our Police Dept?

Do we need a dedicated LGBT Unit in the Police Department? Washington DC things so...

Monday, March 28, 2005

MedSchool: Psych Cinema

Reason #3421 why I want to go into Psychiatry.

I can't see Internal Med docs sitting around watching Rushmore, Secretary, and Donnie Darko together.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Politics: Latest casualties in Iraq: Ethnic jokes

Is nothing sacred? Not even "a Sunni, a Shiite, and a Kurd walk into the casbah..."

Tech: Technology Will Always Prevail

So a man in Oklahoma has made a device that filters out Fox News. Now there's a great idea. Now if only we could filter what goes into people's ears and brains and not just what comes out of their TV. But wait, that would make us as bad as them. It's like the dark side: if you use their tactics to fight them, you could become them!

Schiavo: here's your "Nobel-prize nominated" neurologist

Not too surprising.

Hammesfahr, who was disciplined in 2003 by the Florida Board of Medicine, testified during an October 2002 court hearing on the Schiavo case that his claim to be a Nobel nominee is based on a letter written to the "Nobel Committee for Physiology or Medicine" by Rep. Mike Bilirakis (R-FL) recommending Hammesfahr for a "Nobel Peace Prize in Medicine." But that award does not exist (the Nobel Assembly awards separate prizes in peace and medicine), and assuming Bilirakis intended to nominate Hammesfahr for the prize for medicine, as Hammesfahr claims, the nomination is meaningless because Bilirakis is not qualified to nominate anyone for that award.

According to an explanation of the nomination process posted on the Nobel Prize website, the Nobel Assembly sends out invitations to approximately 3,000 people who are allowed to propose candidates for the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine. The 3,000 are "mainly members of the Nobel Assembly, previous prize winners, and a selection of professors at universities around the world" -- not U.S. congressmen. Furthermore, the Nobel Assembly's "Nomination and Selection" criteria make clear that "[i]nformation about the nominations, investigations, and opinions concerning the award is kept secret for fifty years," so if Hammesfahr had received an actual nomination, he presumably would not know about it.

Dumbass.

Dumbasses: NRA Leader Advocates Guns for Teachers

Worst.

Idea.

EVER.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Schiavo: et tu, Ralph Nader?

Ralph just boarded the "Save Terri" train.

I'm realizing that I'm not a fan of the remove-the-feeding-tube method. As Terry Schiavo has no cognitive processes, she experiences no pain that is not simple reflex. But it's awfully hard on people to watch. But of course, it's not technically legal to give a morphine order to "titrate to pain," especially when the patient isn't experiencing cognitive pain. Though I'm pretty sure that'd be the most ethical method.

Wow: Remember the Ultimate Warrior?

Dude.

He retired from wrestling and how he's a HARDCORE, TRADITIONAL, PURE CONSERVATIVE (quote from bottom of page).

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Pooping: Single-Sex Single-Use Toilets illegal?

Today I wasted away in a corner at Starbucks studying High Yield Anatomy. Needing to #2, I ventured to the bathroom and found the door locked. No big deal. Until the dude sitting at the table next to the bathroom explains to me that some chick just went in the men's restroom, and he was pretty sure the women's room was open, so I should just go in there for my business. This was sorta ironic, since I was just telling Courtney about this article, and about how it totally makes sense for places to only have unisex single use bathrooms.

A few feet from my office, Yale Law School every day violates our nation's civil rights law by needlessly discriminating on the basis of sex. And people walk by this violation day after day and never say a word.

There are two single-use restrooms side by side. One is designated for use solely by men; the other solely by women. This might seem innocuous. But it's a clear violation of Title VII, our core federal civil rights law that prohibits private employers from discriminating on the basis of sex. Yale is discriminating on the basis of sex in the conditions of my employment. I can't use this women's bathroom because I'm a man.
Of course, the ridiculous thing about this might be that he very well could use the women's restroom if he wanted to, and get in absolutely no trouble. People might think he's a little weird, but hey, most men are used to that. Especially men who would write an article like this. I'm not sure if the signs in the front of restrooms are absolute gender requirements (like white/black water fountains in the South--you could get arrested for that'un), or if they're simply suggestions, like "We at Starbucks honorably and nondiscriminately suggest if you urinate out your (penis/vagina) that you might find this restroom to suit your needs for comfort and cleanliness instead of that other one."

Of course, the feminist movement may have not jumped on this one because we all know that women's restrooms are a lot cleaner than men's restrooms. Women don't have to aim when they piss, and men usually don't bother. That sets up a nice dynamic right there. Maybe women have to wait a little extra longer sometimes, but hey, better to piss on yourself than a toilet covered in the urine of the dude that came out right before you.

Just so you know, I waited until the woman came out of the men's restroom. I couldn't quite bring myself to go deposit my bounty in the women's can.

Politics & Religion & Medicine: Schiavo has a new Savior

In addition, in a petition by the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), a neurologist who examined Schiavo's medical records found she was "most likely in a state of minimal consciousness," rather than the persistent vegetative state previous doctors have diagnosed. According to the petition, the agency's board-certified neurologist, Dr. William Polk Cheshire, has information "that seriously challenges the diagnosis that Mrs. Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state," as courts have upheld.
I was curious, wanted to make sure this Dr. William Polk Cheshire is actually a doctor (and has never claimed to have been nominated for the Nobel Prize). Turns out he is, and is even board certified in Neurology. Works at Mayo in Jackson and is a bioethics faculty there. Click here for full record. He's also kind of a religious nut. Having authored, "Returning to the Judaic Roots of the Christian Faith". He's also published in more mainstream journals, arguing that media coverage of human embryo research is biased against life and that Jesus Christ is responsible for the advent of hospitals.
Concerned readers should take notice when any category of humanity becomes subject to prejudicial and disparaging language and the value of vulnerable human life is trivialized alongside sensational assertions of anticipatedmedical cures (Am J Bioeth. 2004 Winter;4(1):1-5.)
The emergence of hospitals during the first few centuries of the Christian era testifies to the earnestness and, if the reader will accept it, also the validity of the conviction of their founders that Jesus of Nazareth, descendent of Abraham and David, the wounded healer of Isaiah 53, assuredly was thelong-awaited Messiah of Israel (Ethics & Medicine. Highland Park: Fall 2003.Vol.19, Iss. 3; pg. 143)

Medicine: Australia Scientists Grow Adult Stem Cells from Nose

For those of us who are blessed with larger than life schnozzes, we may possess an overflowing reservoir of accessible stem cells!

More importantly, this represents a possibility at completely avoiding the pitfalls of stem-cells harvested from embryos. This article does not make any characterization or comparison of the quality and adaptability of the two types, so I don't think it should be taken as a substitute, but more or less an additional option.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Schiavo: the misleading tape

This piece from Reuters does a great job explaining how the movements Schiavo makes on the infamous tape do not imply any sort of cognitive activity.

Religion: South Officially a "No Science" Zone

CNN is reporting (by way of AP) that several southern cities will not show an IMAX film about volcanoes. The reason? The movie references evolution when talking about DNA in underwater microbes. Apparently, theater owners were worried that this would alienate patrons due to religious beliefs.

In a related story, Planet of the Apes will be pulled from all Blockbuster shelves in the South and Galileo will now officially be known only by his church name, "Satan McLyingstein."

Go Cats: Movin' On Up

UMass is expected to name Eastern Kentucky coach Travis Ford as the new Minutemen basketball coach Thursday. Come back and visit, Travis.

MedPol: Quote of the Week

On Harvard-trained transplant surgeon Bill Frist's comments that Terry Schiavo isn't really brain dead:

Medical ethicists like Dr. Kenneth Prager, chairman of the Medical Ethics Committee at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, say it's "inappropriate" for Frist to make an armchair diagnosis. "A diagnosis should be made bedside by a neurologist. He's not a neurologist, and he wasn't bedside," Prager said.
OUCH!

The worst part is that Frist genuinely knows better.

LGBT/Politics: End to Don't Ask. Don't Tell?

A little weight is being put behind ending the armed forces ban on gays and their discriminatory Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.

New York City Council is expected to vote on a resolution calling on Congress to abolish the ban on gays in the military.

The proposed resolution was debated today in a committee hearing.

"It is long overdue for the Council to speak out about this unfair and discriminatory policy," said Council Member Alan Jay Gerson, the prime sponsor of the resolution.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Politics: the Dean dilemma (on Terry Schiavo)

Bo has a scathing but fair post on Howard Dean and the DNC's inability to effectively deal with the Terry Schiavo situation.

I certainly take issue with his assertion that "the 'Democratic wing of the Democratic Party' (which Dean claims to represent) wants Schiavo to die." Terry Schiavo is already dead by any reasonable medical definition. Ask neurologists worth their salt, and they'll likely agree.

President Bush claims that:

In cases like this one, where there are serious questions and substantial doubts, our society, our laws, and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life.
If I represent the 'Democratic wing,' which I believe I do in this case, I don't reasonably believe there are serious questions or substantial doubts for a secular government. For better or worse, we do have legal definitions of death based on neurological definitions. Neurologists agree that Terry Schiavo in fact does fit those definitions (I'm having trouble finding the specific language of the Florida law to make my point, though I know I saw it in an article a few days ago).

I won't dare to be so presumptious as to say that the only valid definitions of life and death are neurologically based. Certainly cultural or religious ideas of metaphysical matters are at least as valid, and I don't question the passion or the wisdom of those who really do believe that Terry Schiavo is alive and that removing her feeding tube is akin to murder. I will certainly question their medical knowledge, however. The law is strictly unambiguous in the matter, and empirical evidence suggests a drastically different conclusion than is being reached by those who prefer to view life in strictly metaphysical terms.

Politics: GOP anti-labor? surprise!

As if labor weren't still recovering from Reagan, apparently if you're a state employee in a state with a newly elected GOP governor, you don't deserve the right to negotiate your labor conditions en masse:

Republican governors in a few spots across the country are angering state employees by removing one of organized labor's strongest tools — the right to collective bargaining.

Governors in three states who've taken the step say it's about making government more efficient or being fair to non-union workers. Critics say it's political payback for labor's traditional support of Democrats and part of a wider shift to undermine workers in favor of big business.

Within hours or days of taking office this year, Mitch Daniels in Indiana and Matt Blunt in Missouri eliminated collective bargaining agreements for state employees, affecting about 50,000 workers. Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher did the same when he took office in 2003. In each case, the agreements had only been granted by executive order, not by law.

In Mississippi, where state employees don't have collective bargaining rights, GOP Gov. Haley Barbour supports a legislative effort to eliminate existing civil-service protections. In Oklahoma, the GOP-controlled state House approved a measure to repeal a law granting collective bargaining to municipal employees.

Blunt said the union rules of the business world should not apply to government. "Fundamentally, public employees are different than private sector employees — their employer is the people of Missouri," he said on his first day in office. "Taxpayers should not be bound by collective bargaining agreements."
So apparently if your employer is the people of Missouri, Kentucky, Indiana, Mississippi, etc., your rights as an employee don't mean too much. Besides, it's obviously beneficial to the state to underpay their employees, as that prevents from having to sift through all those pesky job applications. And you don't have to worry about getting Christmas gifts for anybody at the office, because nobody will be staying until Christmas anyway. And we all know that the state is inefficient at doing all things, so we might as well fulfill that prophesy by turning an able workforce into a workforce of the folks that not even Wal-mart would hire.

And I especially like the absolutist nature of that final statement, as if 1 Capitolism 2:39 says, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, bargaining collecitvely shall not be done by my chosen people, oh great nation." I would love to see a real argument for why taxpayers should not be bound by collective bargaining agreements, other than simple anti-labor whim by the Grand Ole Party newest wave of despicables.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Politics: MI's bid to join the Bible Belt

HB 4433 seeks to allow the display of the 10 commandments on public (namely government) property. Now, I argue that Proposal 2 only passed due to homophobic religious rhetoric that seeks to impose a particular close-minded bigoted biblical interpretation. Others say that it's pro-family and pro-marriage, though it seems to exclude families and marriages. Well, I guess legislation to display the 10 commandments on government property is pro-separation-of-church-and-state and has nothing to do with religion either. The summary of the bill can be found here: "A bill to allow the display of the Ten Commandments on public property". It's only been referred to committee and we'll see if it gets to the full MI House for a vote.


Casperson (left) with his life partner and two children

Rep. Tom Casperson, the primary sponsor of HB 4433 isn't all bad though. He's also introduced legislation to repeal MI motorcycle helmet laws (see HB4505). The medical readers of this post will be pleased to hear of since it means more organs for donation. Hell, I don't recall the bible ever mentioning motorcycle safety, so I guess ol' Casperson figures it isn't necessary.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Politics: pushing all the right buttons

Matt Yglesias and Jessica at Feministing ponder why Republicans don't support legislation designed to reduce the number of abortions in this country. Excellent posts worth the two seconds needed to read them.

Politics: Sully gets it right

Andrew Sullivan laments conservatism come undone:

So it is now the federal government's role to micro-manage baseball and to prevent a single Florida woman who is trapped in a living hell from dying with dignity. We're getting to the point when conservatism has become a political philosophy that believes that government - at the most distant level - has the right to intervene in almost anything to achieve the right solution. Today's conservatism is becoming yesterday's liberalism.

Politics: pro-life or pro-vegetativeexistence?

For the love of humanity, let the girl die and be at peace!

Employing an "extraordinary congressional" maneuver, House Republican leadership early Friday made a last-ditch effort to keep doctors from removing Terri Schiavo's feeding tube.

Schiavo is scheduled to have her feeding tube removed at 1 p.m. today, under court order.

"Later this morning, we will issue a subpoena, which will require hospice administrators and attending physicians to preserve nutrition and hydration for Terri Schiavo to allow Congress to fully understand the procedures and practices that are currently keeping her alive," a statement from the House Republican leadership said.

That statement was released by House Speaker Dennis Hastert, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis. Details of the subpoena were not immediately clear and it was not revealed whom it actually targeted.

"The Committee on Government Reform has initiated an inquiry into the long- term care of incapacitated adults, an issue of growing importance to the federal government and federal healthcare policy," the statement said.

"This inquiry should give hope to Terri, her parents and friends, and the millions of people throughout the world who are praying for her safety. This fight is not over."
What's to understand, Congressman? The girl has no cerebral activity, and cerebral activity is consciousness and life as we know it. Lower brain reflexes that some incorrectly attribute to consciousness might make the neurologically-ignorant think there's something still there, but there's not. What, are senators suddenly all going to go back to college, take pre-med courses, go to med school, and spend four years doing a neurology residency?

Pro-life or not, there's simply no issue here for the mildly educated, and the whims of the ignorant or amateur theologians have no place in a government of rational representation.

Evil Empire; Wal-Mart settles illegal worker suit for $11 million

As if that were its only labor exploitation.

LGBT: Gay man denied a funeral

Here is an excerpt from an article:

From the San Diego Daily Transcript:

A member of the Greater San Diego Business Association and owner of two gay bars has been denied a funeral at the University of San Diego and in any Catholic church or chapel in the Diocese of San Diego. John McCusker, 31, owner of Club Montage and ReBar, two local gay nightspots, died early March 13. McCusker suffered an apparent heart attack while at the Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort on vacation.

A 1996 graduate of USD, McCusker's family wanted to have the funeral service there, but was denied after church officials received information about him and his businesses.....

Joyce Marieb, executive director of the Greater San Diego Business Association, called McCusker, "a great leader and the kind of guy that people love to see because he gives back and is very generous to the community."

"We all know what this is about," Marieb said, who knew McCusker for the past five and a half years. "They [the Catholic Church] claim they've buried other gay people and that it's because of the bar aspect."

A statement released earlier Thursday by Rodrigo Valdivia, chancellor for the Diocese of San Diego, explains the church's actions.

"The facts regarding the business activity of John McCusker were not known by church officials when arrangements were requested for his funeral. When these facts became known the bishop of San Diego concluded that to avoid public scandal Mr. McCusker can't be granted a funeral in a Catholic church or chapel in the Diocese of San Diego."

So what about McCusker would cause a public scandal?

"His business is adult entertainment, which is inconsistent with Catholic teaching" Valdivia said. "People would be scandalized that the church granted a funeral to a person who had this type of business activity."

This is crazy - why does the Catholic church have to be so bigoted?

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

History: Happy St. Patrick's Day (a little early)

Leave it to The Onion to tell it like it is. And I thought the Jews had it bad!

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Dog Blogging: Woof

Medicine: New recommendations for 60-90 minute exercise programs

Of course, since we were so good at implementing the 20 minute (late 90's) and 30 minute (since then) recommendations, obviously they should be jacked up a little higher.

Law: Breaking it, NCAA style

Slate has the rundown:

Most forms of gambling, including betting pools, are illegal in nearly all states. (The law often exempts certain licensed charitable organizations, such as churches that sponsor raffles; and of course some states allow casino gambling and sponsor lotteries.) In Vermont, however, residents can legally participate in NCAA tournament pools: Just last year, the state passed a law allowing people to participate in so-called noncommercial forms of betting, in which a winner (or a charity) receives all the money.

No matter where you live, however, it is illegal to make interstate telephone calls to participate in a betting pool, and probably illegal to use the Internet to do so. The 1961 federal Wire Act prohibits using phone lines to place or accept bets across state lines; each violation can carry a two-year prison term and a fine up to $5,000. Whether this law applies to the Internet is unclear, though the federal government has used it as justification for prosecuting some companies that run Web-based gambling sites. Last November, the Senate passed a bill that aims to ban Internet gambling more definitively; the bill has been referred to a House subcommittee for consideration.
I guess the Feds could prosecute office betting pools, since they've obviously solved all other problems in our great nation.

Econ: Krugman Krugman Rah Rah Rah

The argument over Social Security privatization isn't about rival views on how to secure the program's future - even the administration admits that private accounts would do nothing to help the system's finances. It's a debate about what kind of society America should be.

And it's a debate Republicans appear to be losing, because the public doesn't share their view that it's a good idea to expose middle-class families, whose lives have become steadily riskier over the past few decades, to even more risk. As soon as voters started to realize that private accounts would replace traditional Social Security benefits, not add to them, support for privatization collapsed.

But the Republicans' loss may not be the Democrats' gain, for two reasons. One is that some Democrats, in the name of centrism, echo Republican talking points. The other is that claims to be defending average families ring hollow when you defer to corporate interests on votes that matter.
And with friends like this, who needs enemies?
So anyone who repeats the $600 billion line is helping to spread a lie. That's why it was disturbing to read a news report about the deputy commissioner of the Social Security Administration, who must know better, doing just that at a pro-privatization rally.

But in his latest radio address, Mr. Bush - correctly, this time - attributed the $600 billion figure to a "Democrat leader." He was referring to Senator Joseph Lieberman, who, for some reason, repeated the party line - the Republican party line - the previous Sunday.

My guess is that Mr. Lieberman thought he was being centrist and bipartisan, reaching out to Republicans by showing that he shares their concerns. At a time when the Democrats can say, without exaggeration, that their opponents are making a dishonest case for policies that will increase the risks facing families, Mr. Lieberman gave the administration cover by endorsing its fake numbers.

Onion: Iraq Exit Strategy-- We'll go through Iran!

Thank you, Onion!

LGBT: An unsuspecting ally

Sometimes the irony is just so sweet...

Supporters of same-sex marriage found an ally in San Francisco Judge Richard Kramer - a Catholic Republican appointed to the bench by a former GOP governor.

Medicine: Acid trip--all day, every day

Neurologists have some cool stories to tell (even if they ARE being replaced by MRIs and drunken Canadian monkeys named Babinski):

Imagine every time you hear the telephone ring, you taste a burrito with jalapeño and guacamole. Believe it or not, some people -- synesthetes -- experience things just like that.

For them it's like being hooked up to a weird virtual-reality machine. The number 7 may look green, or the color red might smell of soap. G-flat on the piano might look like broken glass.
Note to self: become synesthete. Except I'm not a big fan of guacamole. Or olives. Or pickles. I hope nothing I hear tastes like olives or pickles.

Monday, March 14, 2005

MedPol: Medicaid in the Cross Hairs

A nice summary of the Medicaid situation from NYT.

Wednesday, March 9, 2005

Prayers: for Kolonay's brother

Sparkgrass contributor Jeremy Kolonay's brother is in the ICU with a less than pleasant prognosis. Drop him a note of encouragement.

Politics: U.S. Misses Soldier Reimbursement Deadline

And hawks wonder why the 'loony left' thinks they're heartless and power hungry?

The Defense Department hasn't developed a plan to reimburse soldiers for equipment they've bought to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan despite requirements in a law passed last year, a senator says.

In a letter sent Wednesday to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., asked details on the Pentagon's progress setting up the reimbursement program and questioned why it was not in place yet.

"Very simply, this is either negligence on their part, because they were not happy with this when it passed, or it's incompetence," Dodd said. "It's pretty outrageous when you have all their rhetoric about how much we care about our people in uniform."

Awesome: Video game icons honored on 'Walk of Game'

Mario! Mario! Mario!

LGBT: gay couple featured in USANext hate ad suing to the tune of 25 million

The ad attacking the AARP, first covered on Sparkgrass here, featured a wedding picture of an Oregon gay couple.

I hope they get every penny.

Humor: GOP To Make Law Giving Everyone's Money To The Rich

The latest from Opinions You Should Have, including a "quote" from Mitch McConnell.

Sparkgrass Community's First Caption Contest!!!

Rick Santorum is an easy nomination for the sickest bastard currently elected to public office. And for some reason, this picture, that plastic face, the spray on hair, the extended digit... gives me the willies!


"I'll raise the minimum wage...
IF you let me massage your prostate!"


So here's the contest: make up the funniest/freakiest/wrongest caption you can think of for this picture. Winner gets... umm... a free rectal exam from Sen. Man-on-Dog himself!

Update: Thanks to Ben over at BlueGrassRoots for co-sponsoring this caption-contest!

Monday, March 7, 2005

Politics: how cute

From AP, about alpha Bush and Clinton on the Tsunami World Tour:

Bush, 80, said Clinton offered ahead of time to give the older former president the bedroom so he could lie flat and avoid paining his body. Clinton, 58, decided to play cards in the other room that night.

The next morning, Bush said he peeked in and saw Clinton sound asleep on the plane's floor.

"We could have switched places, each getting half a night on the bed, but he deferred to me. That was a very courteous thing, very thoughtful, and that meant a great deal to me," Bush said.

Bush said he and Clinton are not close, but have been compatible on the tour, partly because Clinton respects his age.
Awwww. Wouldn't you pay a zillion bucks for a picture of Bill Clinton asleep on the floor of a plane? Probably not his first time, but still!

Politics: liberal mock outrage

Okay, I think Trent Lott got what he deserved, and I admit I don't know all that much about Lindsey Graham. Maybe he has some racist history I don't know about. But as a Red State refugee, I can totally find the humor in Graham's joke to a Tennessee Lincoln Dinner crowd:

“We don’t do Lincoln Day Dinners in South Carolina,” Senator Graham told a Lincoln Day gathering in Tennessee Saturday. “It’s nothing personal, but it takes awhile to get over things.”
And people are PISSED!

Now, I'm not saying I tolerate the racist crap that comes out of some of these Southern senators' mouths from time to time. But come on, kids. THIS isn't exactly a smoking gun. It's actually kinda funny! Southerners don't like Northerners, and it has nothing to do with taking away their easy-to-identify farm labor, but everything to do with the way Northerners sit in Starbucks at Barnes and Noble making fun of Southerners all the time. It happens! And they know it!

So are Southerners a bunch of xenophobes? Sure. But so are Northerners. Northerners just don't understand that the rest of the planet (besides the US South) isn't exactly just like them. Ignorance is bliss in that regard.

Politics: Bush vs. Science

Kevin Drum blogs about the calling out of the Bush camp in quoting studies that support their policies. Actually, quoting studies that don't support their policies, but quoting them anyway and hoping nobody finds out. Amazing.

Medicine: a happy marriage makes happy wound healing

Blah blah blah stress blah blah blah glucocorticoids blah blah blah immunosuppression blah blah *yawn*.

But wait! Check out the methods to this study from those Illinois-beating sickos at Ohio State:

In the wound healing study, 42 couples agreed to let researchers use a suction device to create several minor blister wounds on their skin in two sessions about two months apart. The first time, couples were told to discuss a neutral topic; the next time they were given half an hour to resolve an issue or two on which they disagreed. Their discussions were monitored.

Researchers also checked participants' wounds over the next few weeks and their production of three proteins created in wound healing.

The outcome: "Even a simple discussion of a disagreement slows wound healing," says psychologist Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, who did the study with co-author Ronald Glaser of Ohio State University College of Medicine.
The moral of the story: be nice to your bleeding husband or wife. And Ohio State sucks.

Politics: Rick Santorum ready to give the 40 hour work week a rectal it doesn't need

So you've heard it all over the news. The Democrats want to destroy small business in three easy payments of 70 cents, while the GOP wants to give small business a gentle prostate massage to the tune of 55 twice. Neither plan probably gets anybody over the poverty line.

But whatever. Low wage earners need all the help they can get, and if in the days of these absurd politics, we can get blood from the stone, that's great. It probably won't pass the uber-conservative House, who think the economy will collapse if poor people suddenly have money to eat after they pay their cable and cell phone bills.

But why won't Sparkgrass's evil nemesis, Sen. Man-on-Dog himself, Rick Santorum, quit trying to steal overtime from wage earners? Doesn't Wal-mart have ENOUGH tricks with which to screw its employees without giving them another weapon the in arsenal, all wrapped in some sick pro-family visage? Oh yeah, and people who work for tips? Up their arses! And up their doggies' asses too!


Don't let this creepy man touch you.
He'll turn you to stone.

LGBT: Why do the kids get it, but the adults don't?

Why does it make sense to kids but not to adults? Sometimes maybe we should listen to the wisdom of innocence :)

LGBT: Growing support for same-sex marriage?

This Detroit News Editorial seems to think there is growing support among heterosexuals for same-sex marriage. Let's hope so!

LGBT: BGLAM gets publicity

UMMS's BGLAM has gotten some great publicity for the upcoming LGBT Health Awareness Week. Posted on this gay-news blog and found on other gay-news compilations, hopefully the turnout for the week's events will be great.

Sunday, March 6, 2005

Politics: Democracy apparently doesn't work

This removes all doubt.

Medicine: Placebo Gazette #30

Doug has the latest PG up now.

Blogging: however you find your way

I noticed on StatCounter that someone got here with a Google search for Million Dollar Baby sucks, for which Sparkgrass is the no. 5 hit. We're doing something right, kids!

Saturday, March 5, 2005

Entretenimiento: Denise Richards pide el divorcio a Charlie Sheen

La actriz Denise Richards ha pedido el divorcio al actor Charlie Sheen, señalando diferencias irreconciliables, de acuerdo con documentos presentados en corte el miércoles.n

Polygamyst Relocation: Polygamous prophet may move flock from Ariz.-Utah border to Texas

And some people say that Texas is close minded when it comes to alternative non-nuclear families.

Polygamous prophet may move flock from Ariz.-Utah border: "Observers of the FLDS church, however, are convinced church prophet Warren Jeffs - who has a reported 50-70 wives - is culling his flock and preparing the most devout followers for the move to Texas to avoid prosecution in Utah on allegations of forced child marriages, sexual abuse, welfare fraud and tax evasion. "

Med Ethics: O'Reilly Explains It All

Bill O'Reilly has solved the age old dilemma between patient confidentiality and, well, Bill O'Reilly. And guess who won? His name rhymes with Phil O'Reilly. Next week, O'Reilly will delve into the deeper conflicting issues surrounding Assisted Suicide.

March Madness: Eastern Kentucky get OVC automatic bid

The Colonels are coached by former Kentucky sharpshooter and white boy heart throb Travis Ford. That's their first bid since 1979.

Absurdity: If AARP is wrong, then I don't wanna be right.



So, this is probably old news, but apparently USA Next is claiming that liberal AARP is against the troops and pro-gay marriage. The subversive seniors. After I stopped laughing, I did something I thought I'd never do. I joined AARP. Well, I might in 25 years when I'm old enough. I can tap into a liberal think tank and get a discount at Sea World.

Reading more on the USA Next site, I learn that blacks don't have it so good under the current system. In an "article" entitled Minorities and Women Vs. AARP it says:

Black men, for instance, tragically die earlier than the national average in large numbers. The median life expectancy for black males born today is 65.8 years, well short of the planned increase to age 67 of full eligibility for Social Security. That means half of these men born today never will collect a penny of Social Security benefits despite a lifetime of paying into the system. Thus, for millions, the expected rate of return on Social Security is minus 0.82 percent.
Well, in that case, let's let African American's invest in private accounts. That way we don't have to look into the causes of the life expectancy gap. Hell, lets stop researching health/economic/judicial disparities right now, problem solved.

Thursday, March 3, 2005

Misogyny: from Texas with love

Jessica at Feministing found this one:



So the idea is that women send in semi-nude pictures of themselves, and people vote on the website who "deserves" to get "pimped," i.e. loads of plastic surgery.

Now it's fine if rednecks in Texas love muscle cars and curvy women. But somehow equating the two seems a bit, well... who am I kidding? It's Texas, right? Geez. These people are brain damaged.

Politics: now maybe I'm just a silly little kid

But has ANYTHING good ever come from comparing someone in politics to Hitler? If it has, I'd love to know. And if it hasn't, I really wish people would friggin' quit doing it!

Wednesday, March 2, 2005

Politics: Legalized Same-Sex Marriage in Washington?

An interesting look at the process of challenging the DOMA laws in Washington State in the hopes of legalizing same-sex marriage. I found the most interesting part of the article to be the section describing the way the supreme court approaches the decision making process for all of their cases.

Tuesday, March 1, 2005

Too much free time: the new nickel


This story was on NPR today as I was driving home from school, and it was just gosh darn that neat!

Politics: Supreme Court Ends Death Penalty for Juveniles

"The age of 18 is the point where society draws the line for many purposes between childhood and adulthood. It is, we conclude, the age at which the line for death eligibility ought to rest," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion."
While I'm certainly glad to see any defeats for the death penalty, I think the very arbitrary nature of the age of 18 says a lot about its morality. While I think it's perfectly reasonable for our society to set an arbitrary point for the beginning of life, somehow I find setting a designated time at which the state can choose to terminate a life rather distressing.

Politics: Just Say No

Krugman's latest:

We have a huge budget deficit, largely caused by Mr. Bush's decision to cut taxes while waging war. Any realistic plan to bring the budget deficit under control will have to include tax increases, especially if we want to avoid the harsh cuts the administration is trying to impose on Medicaid and other essential programs.

There may be a place for a rise in the payroll tax maximum in such a plan: AARP, among other groups, has proposed such a rise as one way to improve the Social Security system's long-run finances. Devoting the extra revenue to the trust fund would also reduce the overall budget deficit.

But if the revenue from a rise in the payroll tax maximum was used to subsidize private accounts rather than to bolster the trust fund, it wouldn't address any urgent priorities: it wouldn't help the long-run finances of Social Security, it wouldn't reduce the budget deficit, and it wouldn't support crucial programs like Medicaid.

Evil Empire: Don't Blame Walmart

Robert Reich, former labor secretary under Clinton and author of the excellent Reason: Why Liberals Will Win the Battle for America, has an excellent editorial in the NYT explaining why we should have laws that allow our values as consumers to match our values as workers and citizens.

Politics: Well at least he's not homophobic

I have to admit that I'm cracked up that Colorado State Congressman Bill Cadman (R-Colorado Springs) told one of his colleagues on the House floor: "If you try that again, I'll ram my fist up your ass." I for one am glad to hear that at least someone in politics is saying EXACTLY what he means!

LGBT: Pro-LGBT Legislation introduced in MI

Pro-LGBT legislation is being introduced in Michigan by none other than Ann Arbor's own Rep. Chris Kolb. Let's hope this is a step forward for the state as it tries to correct for that nasty misjudgment last November.

One bill will add sexual orientation to the state's anti-discrimination laws for employers. The other will add sexual orientation to the hate crimes law. In my opinion, both are sorely needed to protect LGBT persons from undue discrimination in this state.