Sunday, April 27, 2008

You might not want to eat the fish

Interesting series, Nuclear Waste?, about Patoka Lake, Indiana:
part 1
part 2
part 3
part 4
part 5
part 6
part 7
part 8
part 9
part next-to-last
part ___

I've collected all of them [so far] for you in order, but you'll have to check back later yourself at Pax Americana for the last post in the series, sine it isn't up yet.

Dear Congressional Democrats:

Yes, “We all know there is not enough money to do all this stuff,” too, so get busy and pass Medicare For All. Now. This year. 2008. It'll be cheaper, I promise ya.

Also, it could get you re-elected.


Saturday, April 26, 2008

A lengthy C&P for you

Getting the Facts Right: Why Hillarycare Failed
By Vincente Nacarro [sic]
Professor of Health and Public Policy
The John Hopkins University

In his article “The Hillarycare Mythology” (The American Prospect, October 2007, pp. 12-18), Paul Starr, a senior health policy advisor to President Bill Clinton and a leading figure in Hillary Rodham Clinton’s White House task force on health care reform, analyzes the origins, development, and final outcome of the Clinton administration’s health care reform — referred to by Republicans as “Hillarycare.”

Starr dates the origins of Bill Clinton’s commitment to health care reform to the special congressional election held in Pennsylvania in November 1991, when Harris Wofford won against all odds by making reform of the health care sector a major campaign issue. According to Starr, this event triggered a great deal of interest in health care reform; even the American Medical Association (AMA) and the Health Insurance Association of America (HIAA) supported some types of reform such as an employer mandate to provide health benefits coverage. As noted by the editor of JAMA, “there was an air of inevitability about health care reform.” It was this surge of interest that candidate, and later President, Clinton tried to capitalize on by developing a proposal to provide universal health care coverage for all Americans (meaning all U.S. citizens and residents).

Once elected, Bill Clinton established the 500 member White House task force, led by Mrs. Clinton, to work on the details of a proposal developed within a framework defined by the President. According to Starr, the proposal failed when President Clinton presented it to the U.S. Senate after completion of, rather than before, the budget discussions. The Senate did not support the proposal, because it would require extra revenues (making senators susceptible to Republican charges of fiscal irresponsibility) and particularly because — again, according to Star — the proposed benefits coverage was too extensive and too large for many senators to swallow. The final message of Starr’s article is that it was President Clinton’s fault, rather than Hillary’s, that the reform proposal failed.

Starr reproduces a widely held interpretation of the failure of the Clinton health care reform that (limiting the analysis to the relationship between the President and Congress) attributes this failure to a calendar error — bad timing — and to the excessive generosity of the proposed health care benefits. I believe there is a need to correct such an interpretation of the events that led to the death of the reform proposal and to challenge the assumptions behind the interpretation. This is important because we might face a similar situation very soon. The majority of the U.S. population is dissatisfied with the funding and organization of the health care sector, and this dissatisfaction has reached unprecedented levels. Once again, all indicators show that people want change. But we could face another failure unless some major changes take place in the U.S. — changes that, I admit, are unlikely to occur with the current correlation of forces in the country and in the Democratic Party.

Let’s start with some corrections to Starr’s assumptions. The commitment of the Democratic Party and candidate Bill Clinton to universal health care coverage for all citizens and residents started much earlier than Starr suggests. It began in the presidential primary campaigns of 1988, when Jesse Jackson (for whom I was senior health advisor), running for the Democratic nomination, made a commitment to universal, comprehensive health care benefits coverage a central component of his platform. This proposal was dismissed by the Democratic Party establishment as “too radical,” but it had already mobilized large sectors of the party’s grassroots (especially labor unions and social movements) to support Jackson, with more than 40% of the delegates at the Democratic Party Convention in Atlanta. This shook the Democratic establishment and stimulated responses from Governor Clinton, Senator Al Gore, and Congressman Richard Gephardt to block this rise of the left in the Democratic Party, which they did by establishing the Democratic Leadership Council, among other interventions. (Gore and Gephardt have changed since then; Bill Clinton hasn’t.) (I describe these effects of Jackson’s health proposals on the Democratic Party in “The 1988 Presidential Election,” in The Politics of Health Policy: The U.S. Reforms 1980—1998, Blackwell, 1994. pp. 99-110.) To control this growth of the left, something had to be done. And as liberals always have done when faced with the left, they recycled its progressive proposals, adopting much of their narrative but emptying them of their content. This is what Clinton did in his 1992 campaign. He used the title, narrative, and symbols of Jesse Jackson’s campaign, calling his platform “Putting People First” (the title used by Jackson in 1988) and including the call for universal health care benefits. As the perceptive Financial Times wrote, “Clinton [has borrowed] extensively from Jesse Jackson 1988. He sounds like a Swedish social democrat.” While borrowing the language and the symbols, however, Clinton changed the content dramatically.

Whereas Jackson had called for a single-payer program similar to that in Canada, Clinton chose the opposite pole of the political spectrum: managed care competition. Managed care competition basically meant the insurance companies exercised full control over health care providers, with doctors working in group practices called Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs). As stated by Paul Elwood, a leading member of the White House task force, “insurers-controlled HMOs, under managed care competition will stimulate a course of change in the health care industry that would have some of the classical aspects of the industrial revolution — conversion to larger units of production, technological innovation, division of labor, substitution of capital for labor, vigorous competition and profitability as the mandatory condition of survival” (“Heath Maintenance Strategy,” Medical Care, 9 (1971), p. 291). This industrial revolution in medical care would indeed have revolutionized the practice of medicine.

It is important to note that the idea of managed care competition was first proposed as a solution to the irrationality of the U.S. health care sector by Alain Enthoven, personal advisor to U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara during the Vietnam War. Enthoven was in charge of developing the “body count” as an indicator of military efficiency. After the Vietnam fiasco, Enthoven retired to the Rand Corporation, choosing to focus his intellectual efforts on the reform of U.S. health care. A strong ideologue and market fundamentalist, and completely ignorant of the mechanics of the medical care sector, Enthoven thought the best way to control out-of-control costs in the health sector was to increase competition in the sector, letting health insurance companies compete for consumers — meaning patients — based on the price of services. The problems with such a naïve and unrealistic scenario are many. First, patients do not determine the cost or price of medical care services. Second, patients have very little choice in the U.S. health care sector: employers choose which plans are available to employees. Third, the market does not exist in the health care sector. Fourth, the insurance industry’s financial viability depends on its ability to discriminate against heavy care-users. I could go on and on detailing just how wrong Enthoven’s proposals were.

Not surprisingly, managed care was the proposal chosen by the insurance industry and by employers. As Bill Link, Executive Vice President of Prudential and one of the highest-paid CEOs in the country, stated: “for Prudential, the best scenario for reform — preferably even to the status quo — would be enactment of a managed competition proposal.” Link envisioned the corporatization of U.S. medicine, breaking the long dominance of health care providers in the medical care sector. As Enthoven wrote in an article co-authored with Richard Kronick, another leader of the White House health care reform, “what about traditional fee-for-services individual and single specialty group practices? We doubt that they should generally be compatible with economic efficiency. . . . Some would survive in private solo practice without health plan contracts, serving the well-to-do.” It could not have been put more clearly: managed care competition was corporate assembly-line capitalism for the masses and their health care providers, with free choice and fee-for-service medicine for the elites.

This proposal was actively promoted in the White House task force by the staff of Democratic Representative Cooper and members of the so-called Jackson Hole Group, who even distributed the group’s manuals on implementing managed care competition to task force members. They were particularly active in the Governance of the Health System (chaired by Richard Curtis, who had been an official of the HIAA) and Global Budgeting working groups. Outside the task force, managed care competition was actively promoted by the insurance companies. Mr. Weinstein, a disciple of Enthoven and a member of the editorial board of the New York Times (a third of the Times board members then had connections with insurance companies), wrote nine editorials in support of managed care competition.

Paul Starr sold managed care to candidate Bill Clinton. Of course, Starr and another leader of the White House task force, Walter Zelman, were aware of some drawbacks of this scheme, and they modified it to allow for some form of regulation of the ill-defined market forces — without specifying, however, who would do the regulating. They spoke of Health Alliances that would regulate the rate of growth of premiums and would allow, in theory, for consumer choice of health plans, with large employers operating on their own outside the regulatory process but still within the framework of managed care competition (with budget constraints); health insurers and health care providers could be integrated in the same organization, or Health Plans. While managed care competition was the proposal favored by insurers and large employers, it was not favored by health care providers. Providers had already had enough experience with insurance companies to know that they could be more intrusive, abusive, and nasty than government. And managed care was certainly not the choice of the grassroots of the Democratic Party — labor unions and social movements.

Concerned that managed care was not backed by the majority of the progressive base of the Democratic Party, Jesse Jackson, Dennis Rivera (then president of Local 1199, the foremost health care workers union), and I went to see Hillary Clinton. We complained about the commitment to managed care competition without due consideration of a single-payer proposal supported by large sectors of the left in the Democratic Party. We emphasized the need to include this proposal among those to be considered by the task force. Mrs. Clinton responded by asking Jackson and the Rainbow Coalition to appoint someone to the task force with that point of view. And this is how I became a member of the White House task force. I later found out that there was considerable opposition from senior health advisors, including Starr and Zelman, to my becoming part of the task force. According to a memo later made public and published in David Brock’s nasty book The Seduction of Hillary Clinton, Starr and Zelman disapproved of my appointment “because Navarro is a real left-winger and has extreme distaste for the approach we are pursuing”— which was fairly accurate about my feelings, but I must stress that my disdain for managed competition and the intellectuals who supported it did not interfere with my primary objective: to make sure that the views of the single-payer community would be heard in the task force. They were heard, but not heeded. I was ostracized, and I had the feeling I was in the White House as a token — although whether as a token left-winger, token radical, token Hispanic, or token single-payer advocate, I cannot say. But I definitely had the feeling I was a token something.

It was at a later date, when some trade unions and Public Citizen mobilized to get more than 200,000 signatures in support of a single-payer system, that President Clinton instructed the task force to do something about single-payer. From then on the battle centered on including a sentence in the proposed law that would allow states to choose single-payer as an alternative if they so wished. In Canada, after all, single-payer started in one province (Saskatchewan) and later spread to the whole nation. I have to admit that I made that proposal with considerable misgivings, since the insurance companies can also be extremely influential at the state level. For example, Governor Schaeffer (a Democrat) of Maryland had asked insurance companies to interview the various candidates for state insurance commissioner. Still, including this proposal was a step toward giving single-payer a chance in the U.S.

It is interesting that in my debates with Alain Enthoven, he dismissed my proposals with the comment that “the U.S. Political System is incapable of forcing changes in such powerful constituencies as the insurance industry.” Such candid admission of the profoundly undemocratic nature of the U.S. political system was refreshing. The splendid opening of the U.S. Constitution, “We the people . . . ,” should be amended with a footnote reading “and the insurance companies.” Actually, Enthoven’s statement came very close to Marx and Engels’ Communist Manifesto, which defines democracy as a class dictatorship in which the corporate class controls the state. Empirical support in the U.S. for that statement is strong. But the statement is not 100% accurate. I lived under a dictatorship in my youth (in Franco’s Spain) and I recognize a dictatorship when I see one. The U.S. is not a dictatorship. People in the U.S. do have a voice. Marx and Engels (and Enthoven) were not completely right: U.S. history shows that people’s mobilizations can win the day. But, while not a dictatorship, U.S. democracy is profoundly undermined by the enormous influence of the economic and corporate lobbies, components of the corporate class. I documented this in Medicine Under Capitalism, published in the 1970s. And things have become much worse during the Reagan—Bush Sr.—Clinton—Bush Jr. era. The huge limitations of U.S. democracy are evident in the difficulty with which the importance of people’s voice gets noticed. And this is why the Clinton proposal failed. He did not include in his plans any effort to mobilize people in support of the reform. Quite to the contrary. He allied himself with the major forces responsible for the sorry state of the U.S. medical care sector — the health insurance industry. The insurance companies ultimately opposed the final proposal because of its regulatory components, added by Starr and Zelman. But, apart from these components, the insurance companies would have continued to manage the health care system.

Starr’s explanation of why the reform failed is dramatically insufficient. The failure had little to do with timing, with when and where President Clinton presented the proposal. It had to do with how the Clintons related to the progressive constituencies, including labor and social movements. No universal, comprehensive coverage will ever be achieved in the U.S. without an active mobilization of the population (especially progressive forces) so as to balance and neutralize the enormous resistance from some of the most important financial lobbies in the nation. Starr’s social engineering approach, lacking any understanding of the dynamics of power, explains failure as a consequence of problems of the electoral calendar or the types of benefits offered.

In reality, the Clinton administration ignored the majority of the country’s progressive forces from the very beginning of its mandate. President Clinton made his first priority a reduction of the federal deficit (a policy not even included in his program), approved NAFTA (against the opposition of the AFL-CIO, the social movements, and even the majority of the Democratic Party), and committed himself to perpetuation of the for-profit health insurance system — the primary cause of the country’s inhumane medical care system. When NAFTA was approved, Clinton signed the death certificate for the health care plan, and for the Democratic majority in Congress. The number of people who voted Republican in 1994 was no larger than in 1990 (the previous non-presidential congressional election year). The big difference was in the Democratic vote. Abstention by working-class voters increased dramatically in 1994 and was the primary reason why Democrats lost their majority in Congress. This is a point that Starr ignores. The Gingrich Revolution of 1994 was an outcome of voter abstention, particularly among the working class, who were fed up with President Clinton. But NAFTA was also the death knell for health care reform. One could see this in the White House task force. NAFTA empowered the right, and weakened and demoralized the left.

A continuing shift to the right (erroneously called the center) has been the Democratic Party’s strategy for the past 30 years, abandoning any commitment to the New Deal and the establishment of universal entitlements that make social rights a part of citizenship. David Brock writes in his book “that Navarro had told Mrs. Clinton that if the President went ahead with a managed care competition plan, it would cost the election to the Democratic Party.” Brock’s credibility as a reporter is extremely limited, but on that point he was right. I told Mrs. Clinton that the only way of winning, and of neutralizing the enormous power of the insurance industry and large employers, was for the President and the Democratic Party leadership to make the issue one of the people against the establishment. It was a class war strategy that the Republicans most feared. My good friend David Himmelstein, a founder of Physicians for a National Health Program, told Mrs. Clinton the same thing. And as I judged by her response, she seemed to think we did not understand how politics works in the U.S. The problem is, we understood only too well how power operates.

This, then, is why the Clintons failed. And unfortunately, Hillary Clinton will fail again if she lacks the courage to confront those responsible for the predicament in the nation’s health care system. The insurance-controlled system imposes enormous pain on the population. It is not just that 46 million people are now without health insurance, but the system also fails the huge numbers of people who have insufficient coverage and don’t discover this until they need it. This cruel system has been supported by large employers because it gives them oppressive control of the labor force. When workers lose their job, they lose not only their income but also health benefits coverage — for themselves and their families. The alliance of two of the most powerful forces in this country — insurance and large employers — is at the root of the problem.

A final observation. Love of country is measured by the extent to which one promotes policies that support the well-being and quality of life of the population and, most particularly, the working and middle classes that make up the vast majority of the population. Judged by this standard, most super-patriotic, right-wing forces fail miserably on the love-of-country front. People in this nation die due to lack of health care. The estimates vary from 18,000 to 100,000 a year, depending on how you measure preventable deaths. But even based on the most conservative number of 18,000 (from the conservative Institute of Medicine), this is six times the number of people killed on September 11, 2001, by Al Qaeda. And these deaths continue year after year. The deaths on 9/11 are rightly seen as the result of enemy action. But why do the 18,000 deaths each year go unnoticed? Why aren’t they seen as the outcome of hostile forces, whose love for their country is clearly nil? Mark Twain said, “You cannot love people and then go to bed with those who oppressed them.” Why is it so difficult to understand such a basic truth?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

People are just...


Grainy math

Speculation is/isn't driving up your food prices and mine, and we can't grow enough ethanol to power the US, let alone the whole world.

Just out of curiosity, I did some back-of-the-envelope calculations [no, I'm not going to show my work]. Last year the world produced enough grain and soybeans [I didn't use any other foodstuffs in my calculations] to feed every man, woman, and child on the face of this earth, all 6.6 billion of us, 2000 calories every single day, provided all of it goes directly to feeding humans, no intermediary livestock, and alas, no cat food or dog food. Or saving for a rainy day, or prolonged drought, as the case may be.

This left enough extra corn to make ~30 billion gallons of ethanol, which would provide us, just us here in the US, with about 20% of our gasoline use, assuming a 1:1 substitution of ethanol for gasoline. 

In case you're curious, that 30 billion gallons of ethanol would have provided ~120 days food for 
the entire world.

dent corn, aka field corn

Sunday, April 20, 2008

funny dog pictures

When next you cast your vote for President...

or in one of the remaining Democratic Party primaries, think on this:

If John Edwards were to magically re-enter the race and get elected President, I might actually be able to get health insurance, and by extension, health care.

If Hillary Clinton is elected President, there's a reasonable possibility that I'll be able to get health insurance.

If Barack Obama is elected President, I might eventually get health insurance, but it likely won't be anytime soon.

If John McCain is elected President, I might as well curl up and die. Or move to China [h/t andante, in comments].

And while I fully expect you to not make your voting decision based on how much you may or may not love me, you might keep in mind the fact that one day your situation could more closely resemble mine, especially if companies keep laying off employees. You could be next.

PS. Really we just need to bypass the for-profit insurance companies altogether. Write to the candidate of your choice and suggest they switch to promoting single-payer national health insurance instead.


Back when I used to do real science for a living, my job largely entailed the care and feeding of microbes, specifically those that were living wild in the environment that could be selected to withstand, and even thrive on, those chemicals that would normally kill them. Including antibiotics.

So, educating people about overuse of antibiotics in factory farming, not to mention the whole idea of factory farming, has been one of my pet projects for ages. A few selected quotes for you from the Union of Concerned Scientists FAQ on this topic:

Are antibiotics used in animal agriculture only when animals are sick?

No. Like people, animals occasionally get sick and animals with bacterial infections are often treated with antibiotics. But among U.S. livestock, it's actually healthy animals -- not sick ones -- that receive the lion's share of the drugs. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that 70% of antibiotics in the U.S. are fed to healthy pigs, cows, and chickens to promote growth and prevent disease (the term "antibiotic" is used here in the general sense, to include antibiotics and functionally similar compounds).

70% of all antibiotics in the U.S. are fed to healthy livestock. Just thought I'd point that one out. Also, fish farmers use antibiotics. And the farms that raise those cute little pet turtles, but you can look for the links yourself.

Does the use of antibiotics in agriculture have any connection to infections that are resistant to antibiotics in people?

Yes. While agricultural use of antibiotics may not be the greatest contributor to antibiotic-resistant infections in people, it is significant. The American Medical Association has adopted a formal resolution opposing the nontherapeutic use of antibiotics (i.e., their use in healthy animals). Other expert groups, including the American Public Health Association, the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, and the American College of Preventive Medicine, have taken similar stances. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) considers animal use of antibiotics, for example, to be the major cause of foodborne illnesses that resist treatment with antibiotics. The World Health Organization has called for an end to the growth promoting uses of animal antibiotics important to human medicine.

Here's just one study. And you just thought you knew why you need to hold your breath downwind of a hog farm.

Should we defer action to reduce antibiotic overuse until we have more studies linking agricultural use of antibiotics to problems in human medicine?

No. There is overwhelming evidence that drug resistance is developing in bacteria as a result of use of antibiotics in animal systems. Further studies will only continue to confirm the link between antibiotic use in agriculture and the emergence of resistant bacteria and difficult-to-treat disease. Waiting for studies or better monitoring should not become an excuse for inaction. Resistance is worsening in the interim. The responsible course is to act now.

Or, you could just be a professional doubter and get written up in Slate.

Is it possible to produce the huge amount of meat necessary in this country without using antibiotics?

Yes. Animal production levels have not been affected in European countries that have banned the use of antibiotics in healthy animals. And, many European farming operations are large-scale, just as they are in the U.S. Broiler production has more than doubled in Sweden since the ban was first put into place. Also, a growing number of U.S. companies are successfully producing meat products without the routine use of antibiotics.

Don't we need antibiotics in agriculture to reduce animal waste?

No. Some in the pharmaceutical and agricultural industries claim that if antibiotics are reduced in animal agriculture, the amount of feed needed for animals to reach market weight will increase and as a result so will the manure output from food animal production. This perspective ignores the fact that the problem with livestock manure is not the total amount of manure produced but its concentration and handling. Manure itself is a valuable resource as fertilizer. Only when it is restricted to relatively small areas does manure become a waste problem and potential environmental contaminant.

The huge amount of manure coming from industrial animal factories has become an enormous environmental issue. Resistant bacteria, seeping from the manure lagoons into underlying groundwater supplies and running off into surface water, are potentially placing drinking water at risk. But the solutions to the manure problem are dispersal of animal production facilities and better treatment methods -- not continued dependence on antibiotics.

We can probably convince farmers to quit using antibiotics in animal feed [as part-owner of a farm, I can assure you that any chance to buy fewer chemicals is welcomed] and consumers would probably be happy to buy antibiotic-free animal products [especially if you say you're doing this to reserve the use of antibiotics for humans] but Big Pharma is gonna have a cow, man.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The trouble with a kitten is that

eventually it becomes a cat.

One of the good [not really good, I know] things to come out of Hillary Clinton's campaign for President is that an awful lot of people are having to wake up to the fact that misogyny is not dead, and we are not living in a post-feminist world.

Even better, some of the younger women, many of whom have been reluctant to listen to us old fogies from the second wave, have noticed that they don't have quite as much power as they thought they did and they're starting to make plans on what to do about that [h/t Molly Ivors].

Good for them.

Dear Mssrs Lieberman and Kristol:

Yes, it's a good question and No, Obama is not a Marxist. He's s nice, sometimes-left-leaning centrist. You'll like him, I promise.

A Real Lefty

How's that gold-plated HMO working out for ya?

And your prescription drug co-pays?

McCain: Recession is really kind of a technical term

used by people who are economists and people who aren't married to $100 million heiresses.

But now McCain finally admits we might be in a recession, which perhaps explains why his campaign manager is cozying up to some big-time lobbyists.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

John McCain's tax policies

would benefit mostly the wealthy and corporations.

Just a highlight or two ---

Yes, the AMT is going to hit more middle class families, but the solution to that little problem is to raise the income level at which the AMT kicks in, not abolish it altogether. The idea of an alternative minimum tax was to keep the rich from using various loopholes to get out of paying all but a token amount of taxes.

McCain wants to make it harder for Congress to raise taxes. Me, I'd like to see it harder for Congress to lower taxes, especially all those tax breaks they've been giving to the rich.

Carnival of Allies

I'm not sure I'm the kind of ally that PoC would want, seeing as how I think Obama's race speech was a start on that conversation we ought to be having, but that it leaned too much toward reassuring white people that, while they had reason to be angry in the past, from now on black people will only ask politely for their rights. I seem to be the only person in the entire United States -- white, black, liberal, conservative, or orange with green polkadots -- who feels this way.

Still, it's a worthy cause, and The Angry Black Woman asks a fair question: Is it easier for an unenlightened person of privilege to empathize with, and change their behavior toward, an oppressed group if another, enlightened person of privilege explains it to them, rather than their having to stoop to listening to the actual oppressed ones? After years and years of living here in the Deep South, beating my head against this wall, my guess is: No, people with power and privileges don't want to give them up and won't listen to anybody who's proposing that they share, but I may take a stab at it anyway.

If you're a member of some privileged group, not necessarily whites, and feel like you may be an effective ally of a less-privileged group, you have until May 5 to join the Carnival of Allies.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

My new blog project:

point out at least one bad thing about McCain every time I blog.

First up, John McCain on Human Dignity & The Sanctity of Life:

Overturning Roe v. Wade

John McCain believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned, and as president he will nominate judges who understand that courts should not be in the business of legislating from the bench. Constitutional balance would be restored by the reversal of Roe v. Wade, returning the abortion question to the individual states. The difficult issue of abortion should not be decided by judicial fiat.

However, the reversal of Roe v. Wade represents only one step in the long path toward ending abortion. Once the question is returned to the states, the fight for life will be one of courage and compassion - the courage of a pregnant mother to bring her child into the world and the compassion of civil society to meet her needs and those of her newborn baby. The pro-life movement has done tremendous work in building and reinforcing the infrastructure of civil society by strengthening faith-based, community, and neighborhood organizations that provide critical services to pregnant mothers in need. This work must continue and government must find new ways to empower and strengthen these armies of compassion. These important groups can help build the consensus necessary to end abortion at the state level. As John McCain has publicly noted, "At its core, abortion is a human tragedy. To effect meaningful change, we must engage the debate at a human level."

Thursday, April 10, 2008

funny dog pictures

Bang bang! You're a racist!

I've done a few of the tests at Project Implicit, and each time the results have been inconclusive or I seem to show no preference. I've been skeptical of their tests [but haven't taken the time to deconstruct them], seeing as how I'm pretty much ambidextrous, but most of the population, being pretty much right-handed, also seem to get measured as having implicit biases. So, what I'd like to see is their results broken down by handedness of the participants.

However, like I say, until recently I didn't care enough to do something about it. Then I saw this:

To my horror, I turn out to be a racist.

Now, I don't know Nicholas Kristof from Eve's house cat, but I would have bet he's one of the least racist persons on the face of the planet. So I decided to take a closer look at this 'test.'

It's another one where I thought handedness might figure into the result, so after going through the test the first time as instructed --- right hand shoots, left hand holsters the gun --- I went through it a couple more times: shooting all 100 the next time through, and not-shooting all 100 the third time through. Both of those two trials, instead of reacting as quickly as possible, I did two things: looked only at the hands [no faces], and waited until I was sure what the object was before hitting the key.

All 3 times I had roughly the same results as Kristof, but after studying the images a little more closely, I'm convinced that the designers of that test need to re-evaluate their images. It looks to me like [and I saw a similar comment in that huge thread on Kristof's blog]

the images of blacks holding guns are readily apparent as such and the images of whites holding not-guns are just as readily apparent, but the images of blacks holding not-guns and whites holding guns are more difficult to decipher.

I'd like to see somebody do a rigorous test of that possible confounding variable before labeling another huge chunk of us as implicitly racist.

Wassup widdat?

Back in the day [way back], I was a rabid fan of Daily Kos, though only as a lurker, so possibly I'm just an inept user of the site's various features. Anyways, either from my own page, or from using the general search function, I can find this comment that I made back in February, but not these two comments that I made earlier this month.


In 1258, the Mongols descended on Baghdad and emptied the libraries into the Tigris, ending the city's scholarly preeminence enjoyed for nearly 500 years. "Hence the legend developed," as one scholar wrote, "that the river ran black from the ink of the countless texts lost in this manner, while the streets ran red with the blood of the city's slaughtered inhabitants."


The sacking of the library that began April 11, 2003, was a bad one. The current Director of Iraq's National Library and Archive, Dr. Saad Eskander, estimates that over three days, as many as "60 percent of the Ottoman and Royal Hashemite era documents were lost as well as the bulk of the Ba'ath era documents.... [and] approximately 25 percent of the book collections were looted or burned."

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Failed State

The Florida Senate, in their infinite stupidity, has come up with their idea of a budget:

The Republican majority rejected several amendments offered by Democrats to cushion $3 billion in cuts that are part of the Senate's proposed version of a nearly $66 billion state budget. Attempts to close corporate tax loopholes that could have raised hundreds of millions of extra dollars - or tap road building funds - to offset cuts to the court system or health care were resoundingly defeated.

They also propose cuts in funding for schools, community colleges, and universities, child abuse investigators, and corrections and parole officers. I'm not in the least opposed to deep cuts in the prison-industrial complex [although I'm not really expecting this to actually lead to fewer prisons] and I guess we won't need to investigate child abuse since we can just shoot them at their hangouts now, so why even bother to educate them?

Bang bang! You're dead!

I'm back in the minority again, having voted NO in the poll that accompanies this article on Florida's newest We're The Wild West Of The East Coast law.

The article quotes a few pro- and anti-guns-at-work folks, but I especially love this rationale:

Jay Dewing, owner of Dewing's Fly and Gun Shop in West Palm Beach, said the bill passed should have gone further, and that being able to have a gun in one's car isn't enough.

"Let's say I'm in the mall and there's a mall shooting," he said. "The only reason I see to have [a gun] there is for moments like those and you won't have it."

Because we have, like, tons of mall shootings here in Florida. Oh wait, while it's not a non-zero number, we have so few mall shootings here that we're reduced to reporting on kids firing their Tasers and apparently heaving cinder blocks at each other. Not that we shouldn't be doing something about kids with Tasers, but arming Jack Bauer wannabes isn't going to fix that problem.

Let's just step inside Dewing's fantasy for a moment and say you do have a gun and a permit and job at a mall, do you shoot the shooter?

Monday, April 07, 2008

Ticking time bomb

Dude thinks there's too many women doctors, recklessly dragging quality standards up, not to mention that at some point they might actually start outnumbering the men. I'm having some difficulty feeling sorry for him.

Also, I voted NO in the poll last night, and was gratified to find that I was voter number 666.

update, 4/9/2008--darn it, they changed the poll. they're no longer asking if there are too many women graduates in medicine.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Persons who are bigger and more worthy than you are

CEO pay is not only outrageously high, it's handed out based not on performance but on ability to schmooze and scheme.

Monsanto already controls, and tinkers with the genetics of, a huge portion of our food supply, starting with some staple commodities like corn and soybeans, extending to milk, and now they want to produce novel, value-added vegetable seeds.

Speaking of novel, how about those new, improved, modernized financial instruments that have served the average homeowner, and the general economy, so well?

Drug companies track which drugs doctors prescribe, bribe doctors to prescribe certain drugs over others, and want to be able to lie and cover up their failures and mistakes.

The internet is spying on you.

If you don't know what the insurance companies are up to you haven't been paying attention, but here's yet another pie they've got fingers in: 'disease management' for Medicare patients. Yes, they really do claim they can cut Medicare costs by applying their expertise to helping direct the patients’ care.

KBR's human rights are being violated because some of their female employees think that submitting to being raped shouldn't be part of their job description.

Corporate personhood, the now-legally-enshrined idea that corporations are people just like you and me, entitled to the very same Constitutional rights, may not be directly responsible for each of the above abuses, or the many more I've left off the list, but it has unleashed a scourge upon us that we're going to have a hard time digging out from under.

Government of the people, by the people, and for the people requires some work on the part of the people. You can start by checking out which of your elected officials have voted for such "reforms" as tort reform and the bankruptcy bill and reminding them that they work for you, not for corporations.

Humorous Pictures

Friday, April 04, 2008

Dr Jekyll and Ms Hyde

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?
Created by OnePlusYou

Just a little something to counterbalance my NC-17 rating.

Update: the link to the original blog-rating page doesn't work any longer; try this one. I've dropped down to R, apparently because now I'm only mentioning death, torture, abortion, and hell, without the sex.

This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:

  • death (4x)
  • abortion (3x)
  • torture (2x)
  • hell (1x)

Eh, what the heck, since red seems to be theme color of this post:


I think the only reason I scored this high is because I'm good with both guns and baseball bats.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Toothpicks! We'll need toothpicks!

Dan Gelber gets it ---
The litany of problems facing our state is well known.

We are home to the worst high school graduation rate in the nation. One in five children lacks health insurance. Homeowners are paying way more than their fair share in property taxes and are faced with property insurance rates that are spiraling out of control. Family incomes have flat lined over the last decade, and declining sales tax revenues have caused multi-billion dollar deficits in our already stretched and tattered state budget.

So what did we spend seven hours talking about today?

Limiting a woman’s right to make a choice about her body and her health care.

Why the majority of my Republican colleagues believe they know more about a woman’s health decisions than does the woman is beyond me.

Unfortunately, the Florida House, in all its Republican-controlled wisdom, did not listen and has decided that all women seeking abortions must first be required to pay for --- and view --- an ultrasound of the fetus.

To top that off, they also passed a 'fetal homicide' bill that says anyone who caused a pregnancy to be terminated by assaulting or killing a woman could be prosecuted for murdering the "unborn child" — even if they didn't know the woman was pregnant.

Sure, the first one is being touted as a way for women to obtain health care, and that last one is being touted as a way to protect unborn children from drunk drivers, but in reality both of these measures are just two more of the many insidious ways that conservatives are trying to keep from women from having sex until the men in their lives decide that it's time for them to produce heirs.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


IN MAI datetime GIMME date LIKE DATE


IZ __name__ KINDA LIKE "__main__"?






Posted by WHAT TIME'S THE GAME ON? 03/31/2008 @ 1:43pm | ignore this person

I rescued the above comment, by Frosty Zoom [my new favorite person on the interwebz], from the sea of comments on the blog post Finland Comes to Vermont over at The Nation. If that doesn't make you jealous of the Finns, then you should read the rest of the links in Senator Sanders' newsletter that arrived in my inbox just recently.

Issue April 01, 2008 -

Speaking to a standing-room-only crowd of some 350 people at Burlington City Hall last night, Senator Bernie Sanders thanked Ambassador Pekka Lintu of Finland for visiting Vermont to discuss what Sanders called “one of the best economic and social models in the world.” The ambassador met with students and faculty at the University of Vermont, where he focused on education. He lunched with business leaders, and in the evening the senator and ambassador appeared at the packed town hall meeting.

“We should do our very best to learn as much as possible about the best kind of economic and social models that exist throughout the world and, where these models make sense, we should see how we can adopt them to this state and this country. This is especially true today when the United States faces so many difficult problems,” Sanders said.

To read the senator’s remarks, click here.

To read The Burlington Free Press coverage of the town hall, click here.

To read about the ambassador’s trip to Vermont in The Nation, click here.

To read about Finland’s education system in The Wall Street Journal, click here.

Finland, home of the Karelian bear dog [yes, you've met them before], the epic poem The Kalevala, and the just-barely-classifiable language that inspired JRR Tolkien. Also home of an apparently civilized society. I got an A in Turkish class, I could probably learn enough Finnish to get by if I moved there.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Spring is here!

Last year it was petunias [and kittens], white and some shades of purples, the years before it was various herbs, parsleysagerosemaryandthyme and some others.

This year I've gone whole hog, so to speak, and planted both flowers and herbs. Marigolds and salvia, mint and oregano, nasturtiums and lavender, and some aloe vera.

I'm --- just barely --- resisting the urge to plant a rock garden. In the aloe vera section of the garden shop were all those cute little furry cactuses and other alien-being looking little succulents, all of them cute as bugs, and all of them pricier than a gallon of hormone-free, antibiotic-free, free-range, locally-grown, organic milk.

I'll let you know later this summer if the glowball is warming or cooling this year.

Oh, and speaking of flowers... here, have a poppy.

The welfare system

Our present system of public welfare is designed to save money instead of people, and tragically ends up doing neither. This system has two critical deficiencies:

First, it excludes large numbers of persons who are in great need, and who, if provided a decent level of support, might be able to become more productive and self-sufficient. No fed­eral funds are available for millions of men and women who are needy but neither aged, handicapped nor the parents of minor children.

Second, for those included, the system provides assistance well below the minimum necessary for a decent level of ex­istence, and imposes restrictions that encourage continued de­pendency on welfare and undermine self-respect.

A welter of statutory requirements and administrative prac­tices and regulations operate to remind recipients that they are considered untrustworthy, promiscuous and lazy. Resi­dence requirements prevent assistance to people in need who are newly arrived in the state. Regular searches of recipients' homes violate privacy. Inadequate social services compound the problems.

A few years ago I was doing volunteer work with kids and single moms trying to get being kicked off of welfare. The above words describe pretty darn accurately the roadblocks that were constantly being thrown up as these moms and kids tried desperately to survive in a world where those of privilege take this as a license to ignore, or even perpetuate, poverty --- other peoples poverty, of course.

Those words that I quoted above were written in 1967.