Thursday, June 30, 2005

LGBT: ... or Spain!!

Spain could have it's first same-sex marriages by early next week - how exciting!!!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

LGBT: Yet another reason to move up north

Here is yet another reason why Canada looks so appealing...

Monday, June 27, 2005

Medicine: new prescription drug benefit won't cover benzodiazepines

Since the government, not your doctor, decides what treatment (or complete lack thereof) is right for you.

For the non-medical folk, or ppl who just take Valium on the weekends with their Jack and Coke, here's the wikipedia summary of the drugs.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Religion: This Week in Evil

A Romanian priest is unrepentant for the crucifixion death of a nun, insisting that "exorcism is a common practise in the heart of the Romanian Orthodox church and my methods are not at all unknown to other priests."

That's right. She was crucified and gagged both as punishment and as an exorcism rite, as the priest and convent considered her apparent schizophrenia to be the work of demons.

The devil is very busy these days, it would seem.

GetReligion offers some commentary and informs us that "
Father Daniel faces both criminal and ecclesial sanction for his action." I doubt the latter, as he was somehow allowed to celebrate the woman's funeral mass. I also find it very odd that she got a mass, but her body could not actually enter the church: “She can’t be laid in the church because she was possessed.”

Tom Butler, Bishop of Southwark, makes some short and insightful comments about the problem of witchcraft, or rather the fear of it, in the BBC's Thought for the Day:

And so, there's no point in seeking better health care, better farming methods, better education, because everything can be ruined by the belief that someone has put a powerful spell upon you or your family. No, what you must do is, through the agency of an even more powerful wizard, find the culprit and turn aside the spell. And so a net of suspicion and terror is woven which fragments the community and immobilises its members.
I don't have much commentary on this. It's obviously evil. Bishop Tom makes a good point about evil being found in the ones obsessed with snuffing out the devil, rather than those thought to be possessed by him.

What I find really interesting (to say nothing of sad) about these things is that in my study of the Christian scriptures and the birth of that movement, the basic Kingdom message of Jesus was that God's reign, and with it a fresh act of love and power was being brought to bear on the world, and he was going to recreate it. (It is a matter of some debate whether he was mistaken, of course.) The apostles who followed after proclaimed Christus Victor: that Jesus himself was the renewal, and that his death and vindication by God was the defeat of the forces of evil.

In short, both theology and practice are far removed from ancient Christianity, monotheism, or even Israelite henotheism: their "god" is just one more demon in a world swimming with them, which they must cajole and puff up to so he can be more powerful than the others. There is no biblical source for such belief and practice.

Of course, I could would put the same conclusion in a piece about American politics, but that is an essay for another time...

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Medicine: Childbirth at Home as Safe as Hospital Delivery

For LOW RISK pregnancies, that is.

"The data we have so far suggests that over-medicalizing the process of labor and delivery adds cost without improving outcomes," said Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center and an associate clinical professor of epidemiology and public health at Yale University School of Medicine.
Of course, for OB/GYNs who have seen uncomplicated pregnancies turn into life or death situations at the drop of a hat, no statistical analysis will be convincing. The article notes that most births in Canada and Europe still occur by midwife, and by the numbers, a properly screened pregnancy could likely take place at home with minimal increased risk.

Politics: Schiavo Vendetta

Didn't Jeb run out of straws at which to grasp a few months ago?

Gov. Jeb Bush said Friday that a prosecutor has agreed to investigate why Terri Schiavo collapsed 15 years ago, citing an alleged time gap between when her husband found her and when he called 911.

Bush said his request for the probe was not meant to suggest wrongdoing by Michael Schiavo. "It's a significant question that during this ordeal was never brought up," Bush told reporters.

In a statement issued by his lawyer, Schiavo called the development an outrage.

"I have consistently said over the years that I didn't wait but 'ran' to call 911 after Terri collapsed," Schiavo said in the release.

In a letter faxed to Pinellas-Pasco County State Attorney Bernie McCabe, the governor said Michael Schiavo testified in a 1992 medical malpractice trial that he found his wife collapsed at 5 a.m. on Feb. 25, 1990, and he said in a 2003 television interview that he found her about 4:30 a.m. He called 911 at 5:40 a.m.

"Between 40 and 70 minutes elapsed before the call was made, and I am aware of no explanation for the delay," Bush wrote. "In light of this new information, I urge you to take a fresh look at this case without any preconceptions as to the outcome."
So now Florida has to waste money on an investigation to find out why Michael Schiavo can't remember the exact time of the most panicked moments of his life? Amazing. I especially appreciate the "oh we don't think he did anything wrong, we're just wondering what happened" lines. Dumbass.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Sociology: Study Ties State Laws, Unwed Child Births

Tough child support laws may dissuade men from becoming unwed fathers, as states with the most stringent laws and strict enforcement have up to 20 percent fewer out-of-wedlock births, a new study shows.

Researchers at the University of Washington and Columbia University said Friday that child support laws' power to reduce single parenthood is an unintended consequence of a policy designed to help children and cut public welfare costs.

"Often the unintended effects are bad, so it's refreshing to see that," said lead study author Robert Plotnick, a University of Washington professor of public affairs. "Women living in states that do a better job of enforcing child support are less likely to become an unwed mother."
I'd like a bit of subset analysis on this study, as I imagine that first-child husbandry isn't affected much at all by these sorts of laws. Now, a guy would surely think twice the second time around when he knows his pocketbook is going to get nailed if he doesn't put that condom on. However, I also wonder if women in these states are placed under excessive pressure by their husbands to have abortions they may not want to have, as the father would have greater financial fiscal interest in pushing such an abortion.

As a primary purpose, laws which demand child support have no excuse for laxity. But we do live in a doublethink society, even in the liberal realm. The liberal (and my personal) push allows women to have absolute control over their bodies and their reproductive rights. As a baseline, progression towards that ideal is positive.

But feminists and gender studies folk have little answer for the male role in all of this other than ignoring it. Is it proper that a man loses all control over his reproductive rights the moment his sperm leaves his body? Should a man who would choose an abortion for a child, if it were his decision, be liable to pay child support?

The answer, as a necessity to the child's well-being, seems to be a resounding yes. But I think we disservice ourselves if we believe we are making absolute progress of equality by merely negating male control over reproduction and transferring it wholly to the female realm. History has places the ball unfairly in the court of masculinity, and that's tragic in and of itself. But simple reverse unfairness doesn't quite seem to be the ideal either.

To summarize any convolution, practical matters demand that any man who contributes to the a child entering into the world should be prepared to take at least financial responsibility for that child's well-being. But, as intellectuals, we should be well aware of the dissonance this creates as we advocate for the advancement of the rights of women to include absolute control over her reproductive potential.

Women still have a long way to go, and I don't mean to imply any hesitancy towards advancing the rights of women. But I imagine that if women are finally given full control over their own bodies, there will be new issues to tackle regarding the diminished role of the male. Those issues currently are moot, and tossed around by social conservatives often enough, as women aren't anywhere close to where they need to be. But if we're all lucky, these are issues we will one day have to address.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Medicine: it'll get you one way or another

The activity of male hormones, androgens, can give rise to acne during adolescence, but may also protect against coronary heart disease in adulthood, UK researchers report.
However, androgens also appear to be associated with an increased risk of dying from prostate cancer, the study in the American Journal of Epidemiology suggests.
You have to love this entirely out-of-context research reporting. But at least it looks like I have a lower risk of prost(r)ate disease.

The (r) is there in honor of all the patients who have talked about their prostrate operations this past week.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

LGBT: Mitt Romney = narrow-minded

Mitt Romney announced that he's supporting a new state constitutional ammendment to ban both same-sex marriage AND civil unions. And why, becuase his marriage might be threatened? Because he's got a pea-sized brain that doesn't understand that he's discriminating his fellow citizens? Becasue he's just a mean man? I can't answer those, but I do know that he really pisses me off!!

LGBT: A teen blogs about attending a gay-to-straight conversion camp

This is a newspaper article about a teen being sent to a gay-to-straight conversion camp and the blog that he's using to chronicle the ordeal. The whole things just makes me sick!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Brain Damage: The lunatics are on the grass

Pink Floyd, including prodigal socialist bass player/cry baby Roger Waters, will be reuniting for at least one night:

Guitarist David Gilmour, drummer Nick Mason and keyboard player Richard Wright will be on stage with bassist Roger Waters for their first public performance since they played at London's Earls Court in 1981.

The rock legends will join a star-studded line-up including Coldplay, Elton John and Paul McCartney at the Live 8 concert in Hyde Park, organized by activist rocker Bob Geldof to pressure rich nations to ease African poverty.

"Like most people I want to do everything I can to persuade the G8 leaders to make huge commitments to the relief of poverty and increased aid to the third world," said Gilmour.
For sake of trivia, Geldof played "Pink" in the film version of The Wall.

LGBT: A nice article about a sensible straight couple

Here is a nice article about a sensible and supportive straight couple. Who knew they existed outside of Ann Arbor?

Diversions: Baby Name Voyager

Nominal crack. Garrett was the 85th most common name in the 80's? Don't believe it. The other day, someone said my name was weird, and asked me if my parents were hippies (my parents couldn't be less hippie-like). Later that day she invited me to a paid position playing bass at her presbyterian church (knowing only that I played fretless). But anyway, the Baby Name Voyager. Fun stuff.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Medicine: abuse patterns often begin in the teenage years

Among those surveyed, 13 percent of teenage girls, admit to being physically injured or hit and one in four report being pressured to perform oral sex or engage in intercourse, according to the survey by the private research group Teenage Research Unlimited.
I'd be somewhat interested in the rates of teenage guys, as I imagine it might be much higher than in adult males. Teenagers are vulnerable period, and the issue might be an entirely different one within the volatility of adolescence.

LGBT: Ah, Texas

This is the sort of crap I might expect from the dopes in my hometown newspaper editorial section. The fact that a governor of a massive state could say something like this is wholly beyond comprehension.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry suggested that gay veterans unhappy with the proposed anti-gay constitutional amendment should move elsewhere.

"I'm going to say Texas has made a decision on marriage and if there's a state with more lenient views than Texas, then maybe that's where they should live."

Wednesday, June 8, 2005

WTF?: digital breast reductions?

So just in case anybody wasn't totally annoyed and turned off by Lindsay Lohan, Disney makes sure she won't do the trick for you in Herby the Love Bug.

Disney technicians were forced to plough through numerous scenes - especially those showing the busty actress jumping up and down at a motor racing track, reducing her breasts by two cup sizes and raising revealing necklines on her T-shirts.
Proving once and for all that cosmetic plastic surgeons are mostly perfectly good wastes of oxygen and medical education.

Link via the squirmin' German Kevin Swikert.

Fem: rogue feminists rat trapping rapists

Straight from the authoritarian minority wing of the feminist movement:

Furious South African women have called for a controversial new anti-rape device, dubbed a “rat trap”, to be banned by the Government.

The tampon-like device, invented by a woman, supposedly protects women from rapists by cutting into a man’s penis.

It has sparked an empassioned debate over the high number of rapes committed each day in the country and the authorities’ apparent failure to tackle the issue.

Activists are outraged and want to stop it going on sale alongside tampons in chemists and supermarkets next month.

Charlene Smith, a leading anti-rape campaigner, said: “This is a medieval instrument, based on male-hating notions and fundamentally misunderstands the nature of rape and violence against women in this society. It is vengeful, horrible, and disgusting. The woman who invented this needs help.”

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. But what is a ton of dumbassery worth?

Politics: rhetorical disaster

Did Howard Dean take a class somewhere along the line teaching him how to word things in the absolute most offensive way possible?

Dean told a forum of journalists and minority leaders Monday that Republicans are "not very friendly to different kinds of people, they are a pretty monolithic party ... it's pretty much a white, Christian party."

Challenged on that during the NBC interview, Dean said "unfortunately, by and large it is. And they have the agenda of the conservative Christians."
Not that Dean's statement is without some truth. But if you're a white Christian (which has to be the largest demographic in the nation), and the Democratic chairman is telling you that the other party is the party for you, you're pretty likely to believe him.

Dean's best move would be to only speak via satellite with about a ten second delay, with more rhetorically sensitive people at the controls of the "cut feed" button.

Tuesday, June 7, 2005

LGBT: Corporate America & LGBT rights

As we keep hearing about conservative organizations that boycott LGBT-friendly businesses, it was nice to stumble along this report about corporate America from the Human Rights Campagin suggesting that coverage for LGBT employees continues to steadily improve.

A few facts of interest (both good and bad) mentioned in the report:

1.By the end of 2004, 82% of Fortune 500 employers included sexual orientation in their non-discrimination policy. The higher a company was on the Fortune 500, the more likely sexual orientation was to be included. 51 of Fortune 500 companies had clauses protecting employees from being discriminated against based on gender identity. This was almost a doubling from 2003, when only 27 of Fortune 500 companies protected employees based on gender identity.

2. 49 of the top 50 4 year colleges have non-discrimination clauses including sexual orientation (Notre Dame is the only of the top 50 that doesn't).

3. Unfortunately, there is still no federal law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. As of March 2005, 11 States prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the Public sector only (ie. Protect lesbian, gay, and bisexual workers from being fired simply because they are LGB): Alaska (2002), Arizona (2003), Colorado (2003), Delaware (2001), Indiana (2001), Kentucky (2003), Louisiana (2004), Michigan (2003), Montana (2000), Pennsylvania (2003), Washington (1993). 16 States have non-discrimination policies for LGB individuals in both the public and the private sectors: California (1992), Connecticut (1991), Hawaii (1991), Illinois (2005), Maine (2005), Maryland (2001), Massachusetts (1989), Minnesota (1993), Nevada (1999), New Hampshire (1997), New Jersey (1992), New Mexico (2003), New York (2002), Rhode Island (1995), Vermont (1992), Wisconsin (1982). Currently, only 6 states (Minnesota, California, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Illinois, & Maine) as well as the District of Columbia have laws prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity that extend to private employment. Both Kentucky and Pennsylvania prohibit gender identity discrimination in the workplace in the public sector only.

4. By April 13th, 2005, 83 of the Fortune 500 offered same sex domestic partners equal benefits offer to employees’ heterosexual spouses in the following areas: (bereavement leave, medical leave, COBRA, supplemental life insurance, relocation assistance, adoption assistance, retiree medical coverage, employer provided life insurance, and automatic pension benefits for a partner in the case of an employees’ death. Unfortunately, vague language in anti-same-sex marriage amendments (such as the one in Michigan), are making it a tenuous situation at best for more employers—particularly those in the public sector—to extend benefits to same-sex partners.

Monday, June 6, 2005

LGBT: not wasting anytime

Today's various forms of dissolution of marriage, free unions, trial marriages as well as the pseudo-matrimonies between people of the same sex are instead expressions of anarchic freedom which falsely tries to pass itself off as the true liberation of man.
In our two part series today on missing the point, kudos to Pope Benedickt for this contribution to the handbook on how to be an oppressive jerk.

Medicine: Missing the point

The U.S. Supreme Court Monday ruled doctors can be blocked from prescribing marijuana for patients suffering from pain caused by cancer or other serious illnesses.

In a 6-3 vote, the justices ruled the Bush administration can block the backyard cultivation of pot for personal use, because such use has broader social and financial implications.

"Congress' power to regulate purely activities that are part of an economic 'class of activities' that have a substantial effect on interstate commerce is firmly established," wrote Justice John Paul Stevens for the majority.

Justices O'Connor, Rehnquist and Thomas dissented. The case took an unusually long time to be resolved, with oral arguments held in November.
Thanks, Supreme Court, for taking an issue like, oh, say the suffering of cancer patients, and turn it into some sort of states rights vs. federal rights power of Congress bullshit issue. Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce my ass. Congress' right to stick its nose up an asshole it doesn't know not to sniff, more like it. Pitiful when legalism trumps forthright, evidence-based compassion.

Sunday, June 5, 2005

Medicine: Those crazy Dutch heroin addicts

I'm as opened minded as any likely future psychiatrist to creative and sensitive drug addiction therapies. But somehow prescribing heroin to heroin addicts doesn't seem like the best idea:

There are strong reasons to support the practice of prescribing heroin to drug misusers, researchers claim.

A University of Amsterdam team says the treatment is cost-effective, even though it is expensive.

The British Medical Journal study found the cost to health services was offset by savings linked to crime reduction.

Supervised medical prescription of heroin - a class A drug in the UK - is controversial. UK experts said a range of treatments should be available.

Previous research has shown supervised medial prescription of heroin improves the physical and mental health, and ability to function normally in society, of users who cannot be successfully treated using just methadone - a synthetic narcotic used to treat heroin addiction.
Part of recovering from drug abuse implies that an incentive to quit is in place. In most cases, the incentive is something that resembles a normal life, a life that doesn't hurt your loved ones or keep you in a life of crime where you're liable to get blown away. Something about giving heroin to heroin addicts seems to negate that incentive, and heroin isn't exactly a healthy thing to be injecting into your body. If somehow the threshold for using this sort of therapy were exceptional, i.e. the addicted person couldn't just say, "screw the methadone, I want the real stuff so I don't have to scrounge," and have that wish met at a whim, then maybe there's a place for this approach.

Or maybe we should just ship them all over to the Netherlands.

Friday, June 3, 2005

LGBT: The gay fruit fly gene

Researchers have found a single gene that causes female fruitflies to begin courting other female fruitflies... can they do the same for humans? Who wouldn't pay to have loads of fellow men or woman going googoo and gaga over them? :)