Monday, April 30, 2007

eight clouds

tagging the candidates


The plural of anecdote IS data [part 1]

I've grown tired of that stoopid shibboleth: the plural of anecdote is not data. But I have grown even more tired of that other shibboleth: health care rationing. Just try to get good hard data on that from insurance companies. Pretty much leaves us with just anecdotes to analyze.

I, for one, do not believe we'd have a serious rationing problem if we went to single-payer universal health care. But if we did, I'd much rather the rationing get decided based on my fellow citizens' health care needs or even on a first-come-first-served basis outside of emergencies. I do not consider it right that rationing be based on the profit margins of corporations.

Besides, I'm old enough [just barely!] to remember when doctors were the medical experts, not accountants. I'm also old to remember when insurance companies really and truly sold you insurance, rather than just bet with you on the state of your health and then welsh on their bets. I'd really, really, really like to go back to that era. I'd even be happy with high-deductible, major-medical, guaranteed-coverage, for-profit insurance. That guaranteed coverage is a sticker though. This country has already gone way far past the point where we hold corporations to the same standard of responsibility that we demand of the fellow in the street.

Speaking of insurance company profits, check out the Industry: Health Care: Insurance & Managed Care Fortune 500 list for 2007.

So, anyways, excuse the tangential rant, back on topic: rationing. Anybody who doesn't think we already have rationing right now, here, today, in the good ol' US of A, hasn't been paying attention. Some of the forms that rationing takes:

  • waiting periods for coverage

  • partial coverage with none for pre-existing conditions

  • complete refusal of coverage because of particular conditions, past or present [asthma, once had anti-depressants prescribed, had cancer, ...]

  • not to mention deciphering all the gobbledygook in the fine print, which basically leaves them lots of weasel room when deciding how much of any one charge for any one service they will pay for [and argue with you about till you decide it's easier or cheaper to pay it yourself].

  • [add your example here]

Data to be updated periodically*

[compilation of anecdotes]

* I'm much better at starting projects than keeping up with them. If you didn't already know that, you haven't been paying attention.

Is his name



Sunday, April 29, 2007

Ezra Klein waxes eloquent on health care


And a resource: The Health Care Blog. My favorite comment at that blog:
Damn. What could be simpler than a single-risk pool Medicare-for-all system with no tricks of the trade, 100% coverage, no pre-existing disease issues, no wait times when changing jobs or even becoming unemployed, no COBRA, no employee questionairres to be later used to rescind an individual or group policy, and etc etc etc?

Will we ever get to be that smart?

Posted by: Jack Lohman | Feb 1, 2007 8:08:47 AM

From a Publishers Weekly editorial review of Maggie Mahar's Money Driven Medicine:
She traces how today's market-driven medical system emerged over the past century thanks to trends that gradually stripped power from doctors and gave it to corporations, turning patients into profit centers.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Fox news

with apologies to Jimmy Buffet
life is just a trampoline

"...a cross between Robert Louis Stevenson and Douglas Adams."

That's what one customer review says about Pirates of Pensacola. The others are blandly lukewarm.

Still... Douglas Adams died way too soon. If there's a possible replacement out there for him, I'm going to at least check it out. Adding this one to the list of "books I can wait for till they come to the public library."

Friday, April 27, 2007

I want one.

Gosh, it's cute.

i sense a recurring theme here...

Of jaguars and piano cats

Mexico is host to approximately 10% of all plant and animal species in the world. All those years I lived this || far from Mexico, and traveling into that country frequently, though mostly in the border towns. Places like Matamoros ... Nuevo Laredo ... Juarez. Places that, in spite of their physical beauty and cultural richness, I mainly rememeber for their poverty and violence. And people. Masses of people everywhere. The only animals I can associate with time spent in Mexico are the mental images I have of fly-covered cabrito in the open-air markets or the little carved onyx trinkets I bought: a bear, a burro, a turtle, some horses.

Among the thousands crossing the border from Mexico into the US, stealthy shadowy immigrants rarely seen, though, were jaguars. And ocelots. I'm thrilled to have discovered today, while saving the rain forests with just the click of a mouse, the jaguars of the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve.

As I understand it, Friday cat blogging is supposed to be all about taking one day off and lightening up from the angst of political blogging. As you can see, I have trouble leaving politics out of most anything. But now, in the true spirit of Friday cat blogging, I present: Nora.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

They have art in Angola?

Angola, for as long as I've ever heard of it has always been a place of war and pestilence, a place where lives truly are nasty, brutish, and short. They have art there?

Why, yes they do. Why wouldn't they? All art is a revolt against man's fate. Just the other day I stumbled into these woods, In the company of wolves, vaguely expecting something Arctic, I think. Instead, what I got was a fascinating trip to one corner of Africa.

Art isn't the only subject of the blog, nor is it exclusively about Angola, but you might enjoy the trip anyway.

Tonight is a two-fer. Mustang Bobby reminds us Why We Need Theatre.

The other reason I got my hair cut.

Snakes in a drain

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

One man's abortion.

DBB writes passionately and intimately about his abortion. True, it was his wife who had the abortion, but this one was a bit different. You should go read it.

He's also posted a heartwarming tale of their first pregnancy.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Daily Darfur


Take Back The Blog!

Mostly I'm either late to these things, or write pathetic posts, so I may or may not participate in this one. I like the idea, though, so if any of you feel motivated, do check it out.

found it here

Are they religious zealots, misogynists, or just plain idiots?

Lots of bloviating in the blogosphere as to whether this cartoon is anti-Catholic. I say it's not. Every single one of the Catholics on the Supreme Court voted to uphold the nation-wide ban on "partial birth abortion" [more properly referred to as intact D&E]. Every single one of the non-Catholics on the Supreme Court voted to to strike down that ban. It's the duty of editorial cartoonists to point out stuff like this, and to do so in a pointed manner too.

There's also the further bloviating on whether these Catholic judges really did let their religious beliefs influence their decision. I think it's very possible that they did, and I find this scary. If you read the entire opinion and the dissent, you can see that Supreme Court Justice Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion, expends a lot of words on "moral" issues. This isn't conclusive proof either, but it's suggestive.

However, I'll save you the morality bit, and move on to the part that's really bothering me. Kennedy thinks there's legitimate dissent in the medical community on the health risks associated with various abortion procedures. He gasses on at length about this too, but here's part of it:
Here, by contrast, whether the Act creates significant health risks for women has been a contested factual question. The evidence presented in the trial courts and before Congress demonstrates both sides have medical support for their position.

Respondents presented evidence that intact D&E may be the safest method of abortion, for reasons similar to those adduced in Stenberg. See 530 U. S., at 932. Abortion doctors testified, for example, that intact D&E decreases the risk of cervical laceration or uterine perforation because it requires fewer passes into the uterus with surgical instruments and does not require the removal of bony fragments of the dismembered fetus, fragments that may be sharp. Respondents also presented evidence that intact D&E was safer both because it reduces the risks that fetal parts will remain in the uterus and because it takes less time to complete. Respondents, in addition, proffered evidence that intact D&E was safer for women with certain medical conditions or women with fetuses that had certain anomalies.

These contentions were contradicted by other doctors who testified in the District Courts and before Congress. They concluded that the alleged health advantages were based on speculation without scientific studies to support them. They considered D&E always to be a safe alternative.

Ginsburg, on the other hand, goes right to the heart of that matter:
In this insistence, the [Supreme] Court brushes under the rug the District Courts' well-supported findings that the physicians who testified that intact D&E is never necessary to preserve the health of a woman had slim authority for their opinions. They had no training for, or personal experience with, the intact D&E procedure, and many performed abortions only on rare occasions.

So, which is it? Is Kennedy [and the other four concurring Catholics] too stupid to distinguish the real experts from the wannabe experts? Or did he just gloss over the opinions of the true experts because they didn't support his moral [read: religious] views?

Then again, it could simply be outright misogyny. Kennedy blathers on, in a most patronizing manner, about protecting the woman's fragile emotional state. Ginsburg blasts him for that too. In fact, she neatly tears apart all of Kennedy's legal, moral, and pseudo-scientific reasoning.

These are all disturbing thoughts, trying to discern the possible motivations behind the decision, but the scariest thing to me is that FIVE Supreme Court justices are either unwilling or unable to recognize who the credible experts really are here.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Partial Birth Abortion

In 1911, the elegant Grace Miller posed in fashionable clothes. She and a partner operated The Ladies Tailoring College. Grace secured her hat with a long hat pin, and a second pin was held ready between her teeth. A breeze could send a large hat flying away, and pins through the hairdo and hat kept the hat in place.

Dave Nalle gives us a description of the partial birth abortion ban and wonders which way the Supreme Court will rule. Well, we need wonder no longer. Pseudo-doctors Anthony M. Kennedy, John G. Roberts Jr, Samuel A. Alito Jr, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas, practicing medicine without a license, have decided that "partial birth abortion" is never medically necessary "... because other abortion procedures are still available."

Yes, the phrase "partial birth abortion" is used in the text of the law itself, rather than the medical term "dilation and extraction intact dilation and evacuation." You can read a good description of the procedure, and when and why it is used here.

The Partial Birth Abortion Ban, odious as it is, does at least include an exception for its use if the mother's life is in danger, but it does not allow a physician to use the procedure for saving the mother's health. Only her life is of value, not her health or well-being.

The procedure is gruesome, even when described coldly and clinically and devoid of all the loaded words and images favored by abortion opponents. However, from my [admittedly frivolous] reading of hundreds of murder mysteries and true crime books, I have learned that one quick jab of the Victorian woman's hatpin to the base of the skull and the poor guy never knew what hit him. Whether this is true or not, I don't really know, but it strikes me as a better way to die [if you're unlucky enough to be a fetus with with gross abnormalities and no hope of surviving] than being delivered by caesarian section and then dying.

Do they give the poor little things some kind of pain killer while they're lying there waiting for the Angel of Death to swoop down upon them?

If you can stand it, the video is of a baby being delivered by caesarian section.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Live long and prosper.

That does it. I'm moving to Andorra and I don't even know where that is. Failing that, I do know where Aruba is. I think I could stand to live there.

[please forgive the formatting. i'll fix it if i figure it out.]

Life Expectancy:
Rank Country Name Male Female All

1 Andorra 80.56 86.56 83.46
2 Macau S.A.R. 78.80 84.55 81.60
3 San Marino 77.57 85.02 81.14
4 Japan 77.51 84.05 80.70
5 Singapore 77.10 83.23 80.05
6 Australia 76.90 82.74 79.75
7 Guernsey 76.65 82.75 79.65
8 Switzerland 76.73 82.63 79.60
9 Sweden 76.95 82.37 79.58
10 Hong Kong S.A.R. 76.85 82.41 79.54
11 Canada 76.02 83.00 79.43
12 Iceland 77.19 81.77 79.39
13 Italy 75.85 82.41 79.03
14 Gibraltar 76.09 81.96 78.95
15 Cayman Islands 76.10 81.27 78.88
16 Monaco 74.88 83.00 78.84
17 Liechtenstein 75.16 82.47 78.81
18 Spain 75.32 82.49 78.79
19 France 74.85 82.89 78.76
20 Norway 75.73 81.77 78.65
21 Israel 76.57 80.67 78.57
22 Jersey 76.07 81.07 78.48
23 Greece 75.89 81.16 78.44
24 Faroe Islands 74.96 81.92 78.43
25 Aruba 75.00 81.90 78.37
26 Netherlands 75.40 81.28 78.28
27 Martinique 79.03 77.46 78.25
28 Virgin Islands 74.20 82.25 78.11
29 Montserrat 75.78 80.23 77.96
30 Malta 75.49 80.62 77.94
31 New Zealand 74.85 80.93 77.82
32 Belgium 74.47 81.30 77.80
33 Guam 75.51 80.37 77.78
34 Austria 74.52 80.99 77.68
35 United Kingdom 74.97 80.49 77.66
36 Saint Pierre and Miquelon 75.36 79.95 77.60
37 Man, Isle of 74.09 81.04 77.47
38 Germany 74.30 80.75 77.44
39 Finland 73.74 81.20 77.41
40 Jordan 74.94 79.93 77.36
41 Luxembourg 73.84 80.63 77.13
42 United States 74.24 79.90 77.12
43 Guadeloupe 73.82 80.30 76.99
44 Bermuda 74.89 78.86 76.94
45 Saint Helena 73.95 79.85 76.83
46 Ireland 74.06 79.74 76.81
47 Cyprus 74.43 79.10 76.71
48 Denmark 73.95 79.27 76.54
49 Taiwan 73.62 79.32 76.35
50 Cuba 73.84 78.73 76.21
51 Anguilla 73.22 79.09 76.11
52 French Guiana 72.77 79.60 76.10
53 Kuwait 75.27 76.92 76.08
54 Costa Rica 73.30 78.47 75.82
55 Portugal 72.24 79.49 75.75
56 Chile 72.43 79.22 75.74
57 Puerto Rico 71.05 80.30 75.55
58 Northern Mariana Islands 72.45 78.82 75.54
59 Panama 72.74 78.31 75.47
60 Montenegro 71.45 79.82 75.46

Ah, here it is, in between Spain and France, best skiing in the Pyrenees. A bit far from the sea, but I could be happy skiing.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Yes, there IS steam coming out of my ears.

Harvard panel on the AutoAdmit mess [audio]

Fun to listen to ivory tower inhabitants discussing trolls on the web. It's a lengthy file, and it's late, so I'll come back to it later.

found it at PrawfsBlawg

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

I need to get my hair cut. Now.

I can't go out of the house looking like Ann Coulter! Argh! I promise to not get it cut this short though.

Four dollars and eighty-seven cents? For a poster? Young Republicans are such cheapskates.

Back on the topic of bad haircuts: did we really used to look like this?

Well, ok, so none of y'all were alive then.

The Tax Man Cometh

TurboTax Rap

win $$

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Yes, Joe, it IS open season on Christians.

[y'all are right: he's an idiot and i don't need to be wasting my blog space on him.]

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Kinky fats.

It's been a while since everybody was up in arms over banning trans fats. What people didn't understand at first [maybe they still don't] is that -- for once -- no, the food nazis were not trying to keep you from eating calorie-laden food. Instead, the point is to make restaurants serve you food, not some chemically-altered something-or-other thought up by food scientists. That stuff'll kill you.

Anyways, I was going to go into some explanations of cis versus trans fat, but it's already been the Molecule of the Day elsewhere.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

"Our officers need more firepower."

"The bad guys are outgunning us."

So now we need to take pictures of everybody's license plates, even when they're not doing anything wrong. If you like red light cameras, you'll love this.

More here. YouTube has everything.

Veriplate website

US Petition for Public Access to Research

Check it out at Public Library of Science. Sign it, if not for yourself, then for me.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Public Library of Science

I hope this idea catches on and runs like wildfire through the entire scientific community.

PLoS is a nonprofit organization of scientists and physicians committed to making the world's scientific and medical literature a freely available public resource. All our activities are guided by our core principles.

I have long wished for, and argued for, complete and open [read: free] access to peer-reviewed science and medical journals. I get into lots of arguments in blogs, on message boards, in real life, in which I'm challenged to back up my statements. I'm almost always right [April Fools Day jokes notwithstanding], and a quick Google Scholar or other search often turns up just the right article[s] I need to buttress my point. Voila! Click on the relevant link and get directed to an abstract [or sometimes an abstract of an abstract] and a link to buy a copy of the article.

WTF?! Twenty or thirty dollars to buy one article?! At that rate I could spend my entire paycheck between coffee break and supper time.

  • Didn't my tax dollars already pay for you to not only do this research but also for you or your institution to subscribe to this [horrendously expensive] journal? Yes, they did, so don't tell me that's why you need to charge me such outrageous fees again.

  • Nor am I buying the "it costs big $$ to store all that information" argument. Google and YouTube, and many more sites like them, let me and countless millions of other folks blog and vlog for free. That's a lot of server space, dudes; if they can do it so can you.

  • And finally: No I do not trust the MSM* to read and accurately regurgitate scientific literature for me. I want to read it for myself.

* I've already forgotten which blog I saw it on, but we're being exhorted to stop calling it the "mainstream media" and start calling it the "corporate-owned media." It's a good idea, but MSM looks better than COM, and typing out the full phrase just increases my chances of making embarassing spelling mistakes. I'll be sticking with MSM for a bit longer I think.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

I'm still confused.


Apparently Michael Egnor is just an elaborate April Fools joke. Apparently I'm supposed to be mortified for believing that IDers are the same thing as YECies, or perhaps I'm supposed to be mortified for believing that a respected surgeon and medical school professor could be a YECie.

Bad on me for falling for that last one, believing that a respected surgeon and medical school professor could be a Young Earth Creationist, but the thing I'm still unclear on: to me it still looks like Egnor does in fact believe in Intelligent Design.

I don't have a problem with scientists, engineers, doctors et al, believing in God or believing that a supernatural Intelligent Designer does indeed exist and did create all of us.

I already know that YEC and ID aren't the same thing. YEC denies evolution entirely, and ID believes that antibiotic resistance in bacteria evoles but that flagella did not. Yes, that was facetious and simplistic, but not unfair.

The problem with both philosophies is that they want science to stop asking questions, to stop looking for natural explanations for the world around us when we reach points that we don't have answers for [yet], to teach in schools and colleges that [whatever] is so because God said so.

That's Philosophy, not Science, and the real joke they're going to play on us is if we let them get away with muddling the two.

UPDATE 4-2-2007: I need to just stop paying attention to these people. It's turning my brains to mush. Thanks for the tipoff, sparky.

Happy April 1, 2007, to you too!

everything you always wanted to know about TiSP but were afraid to ask