Thursday, April 29, 2004

Why Does The ACLU Fear The Patriot Act?

There's really nothing new in the Patriot Act, as it basically just clarified law that was already a part of our system. Personally, the only people who should be 'afraid' are those committing illegal acts. And even then, you're not likely to come under the radar of the Patriot Act. You'll notice that the civil complaints against the Patriot Act involve criminals who got caught, and subsequently attempt to use a 'technicality' in order to escape punishment.

Which brings me to my "what everyone in the world needs to work on" statement: taking responsibility for one's actions.

Gore Gives Money To Kerry As Opposed To Starving Kids

Via Luskin we have this little tidbit regarding a $6 million donation by Gore to Kerry (technically it's to the Democratic Party, but you get the idea). It was leftover money from his unsuccessful bid in 2000.

"Under campaign finance rules, he could also have given the money to a charity."

Now, this is certainly legal. But is it conscionable? Gore stored up some TAXPAYER dollars, let it sit for a few years, and then decided to hand it over to Kerry in his bid for the presidency. Would I be upset if Gore was donating his OWN money? Of course not, that would be his free choice. However, when presented with two options, 1) giving TAXPAYER dollars to Kerry, or 2) giving TAXPAYER dollars to needy children, starving adults, or another worthy charity, Gore went with the former.

This is the compassionate party? The party of the underdog? Tell it to the kids at the Ronald McDonald house.

Can We Find Patriotism Once More?

The following was sent to me by family, a veteran of Vietnam who provided honorable service (not to mention a few body parts) for the country he loves.

I was sitting alone in one of those loud, casual steak houses that you find all over the country. You know the type--a bucket of peanuts on every table, shells littering the floor, and a bunch of perky college kids racing around with longneck beers and sizzling platters.

Taking a sip of my iced tea, I studied the crowd over the rim of my glass. My gaze lingered on a group enjoying their meal. They wore no
uniform to identify their branch of service, but they were definitely "military:" clean shaven, cropped haircut, and that "squared away" look that comes with pride.

Smiling sadly, I glanced across my table to the empty seat where my husband usually sat. It had only been a few months since we sat in this very booth, talking about his upcoming deployment to the Middle East. That was when he made me promise to get a sitter for the kids, come back to this restaurant once a month and treat myself to a nice steak. In turn he would treasure the thought of me being here, thinking about him until he returned home to me.

I fingered the little flag pin I constantly wear and wondered where he was at this very moment. Was he safe and warm? Was his cold any better? Were my letters getting through to him? As I pondered these thoughts, high pitched female voices from the next booth broke into my thoughts.

"I don't know what Bush is thinking about. Invading Iraq. You'd think that man would learn from his old man's mistakes. Good lord. What an idiot! I can't believe he is even in office. You do know, he stole the election."

I cut into my steak and tried to ignore them, as they began an endless tirade running down our president. I thought about the last night I
spent with my husband, as he prepared to deploy. He had just returned from getting his smallpox and anthrax shots. The image of him standing in our kitchen packing his gas mask still gives me chills.

Once again the women's voices invaded my thoughts. "It is all about oil, you know. Our soldiers will go in and rape and steal all the oil they
can in the name of 'freedom'. Hmph! I wonder how many innocent people they'll kill without giving it a thought? It's pure greed, you know."

My chest tightened as I stared at my wedding ring. I could still see how handsome my husband looked in his "mess dress" the day he slipped it on my finger. I wondered what he was wearing now Probably his desert uniform, affectionately dubbed "coffee stains" with a heavy bulletproof vest over it.

"You know, we should just leave Iraq alone. I don't think they are hiding any weapons. In fact, I bet it's all a big act just to increase the
president's popularity. That's all it is, padding the military budget at the expense of our social security and education. And, you know what else? We're just asking for another 9-ll. I can't say when it happens again that we didn't deserve it."

Their words brought to mind the war protesters I had watched gathering outside our base. Did no one appreciate the sacrifice of brave men and women, who leave their homes and family to ensure our freedom? Do they even know what "freedom" is?

I glanced at the table where the young men were sitting, and saw their courageous faces change. They had stopped eating and looked at each other dejectedly, listening to the women talking.

"Well, I, for one, think it's just deplorable to invade Iraq, and I am certainly sick of our tax dollars going to train professional baby
killers we call a military."

Professional baby killers? I thought about what a wonderful father my husband is, and of how long it would be before he would see our children again.

That's it! Indignation rose up inside me. Normally reserved, pride in my husband gave me a brassy boldness I never realized I had. Tonight one voice will answer on behalf of our military, and let her pride in our troops be known.

Sliding out of my booth, I walked around to the adjoining booth and placed my hands flat on their table. Lowering myself to eye level with
them, I smilingly said, "I couldn't help overhearing your conversation.

You see, I'm sitting here trying to enjoy my dinner alone. And, do you know why? Because my husband, whom I love with all my heart, is halfway around the world defending your right to say rotten things about him."

"Yes, you have the right to your opinion, and what you think is none of my business. However, what you say in public is something else, and I will not sit by and listen to you ridicule MY country, MY president, MY husband, and all the other fine American men and women who put their lives on the line, just so you can have the "freedom" to complain. Freedom is an expensive commodity, ladies. Don't let your actions cheapen it."

I must have been louder that I meant to be, because the manager came over to inquire if everything was all right. "Yes, thank you," I replied. Then turning back to the women, I said, "Enjoy the rest of your meal."

As I returned to my booth applause broke out. I was embarrassed for making a scene, and went back to my half eaten steak. The women picked up their check and scurried away.

After finishing my meal, and while waiting for my check, the manager returned with a huge apple cobbler ala mode. "Compliments of those
soldiers," he said. He also smiled and said the ladies tried to pay for my dinner, but that another couple had beaten them to it. When I asked who, the manager said they had already left, but that the gentleman was a veteran, and wanted to take care of the wife of "one of our boys."

With a lump in my throat, I gratefully turned to the soldiers and thanked them for the cobbler. Grinning from ear to ear, they came over and surrounded the booth. "We just wanted to thank you, ma'am. You know we can't get into confrontations with civilians, so we appreciate what you did."

As I drove home, for the first time since my husband's deployment, I didn't feel quite so alone. My heart was filled with the warmth of the
other diners who stopped by my table, to relate how they, too, were proud of my husband, and would keep him in their prayers. I knew their flags would fly a little higher the next day.

Perhaps they would look for more tangible ways to show their pride in our country, and the military who protect her. And maybe, just maybe, the two women who were railing against our country, would pause for a minute to appreciate all the freedom America offers, and the price it pays to maintain it's freedom.

As for me, I have learned that one voice CAN make a difference. Maybe the next time protesters gather outside the gates of the base where I live, I will proudly stand on the opposite side with a sign of my own. It will simply say, "Thank You!"

*Lori Kimble is a 31 year old teacher and proud military wife. A California native, Mrs. Kimble currently lives in Alabama.

I'm not sure what to say to those who read this and feel nothing, except, God help you. Disagree with the war all you want, but remember that those men and women fighting for Iraqi freedom/WMDs/Oil, etc are still our American Brethren, and they deserve more than snide remarks about being 'baby killers' and 'mercenaries'. If you feel yourself still wanting to lash out, then use the following test to decide if what you want to say is appropriate:

1) would you say it to a friend?
2) would you say it to a family member?
3) would you say it to a Marine's face who has just returned from the Middle East after losing his best friend?

If you answer no to any or all of the above, the safe bet is to bury the thought and move onto something more productive.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Who Says Appeasement Doesn't Work?

bin Laden is back and offering a truce to Europe.

"I announce a truce with the European countries that do not attack Muslim countries"

I'm sold. Let's move everyone out.

You mean Iraq still isn't rebuilt? Too bad, bin Laden wants us out.

We don't negotiate with terrorists? Well, this is too good to be true. We can't have bin Laden on us forever, so we'll negotiate (cough cough obey orders cough cough) just this one time, and it will never happen again.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Drink To Your Health

This just in: Guinness can make you more healthy and more virile.

However, don't break out the six packs yet. In fact, the American Heart Association puts it as follows:

How alcohol or wine affects cardiovascular risk merits further research, but right now the American Heart Association does not recommend drinking wine or any other form of alcohol to gain these potential benefits.

Got that folks? I know, I know, this hurts your plans of justifying your drinking habit under the guise of 'being healthy'. Too bad. The studies are still inconclusive, not to mention that there are many things out there that will give us protective effects, but those effects almost never outweigh the negatives involved with said treatment.

For those interested in why alcohol prevents clots, you can either google it, or just take my word that it poisons platelets. Cheers.

Clarke: Your 15 Minutes Are Up

This speaks for itself. Dick, don't let the door hit you in the arse on the way out.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Atkins Sucks

I hate the 'new' Atkins craze, mainly because 1) it's far from 'new', 2) makes claims that are not backed up by current research and 3) the ads are simply annoying. But regarding research, the above 'study' is funny because there was a difference @ 6 months, but of course @ 1 year no difference existed. Did the Atkins people forget that? Probably came from the same guy that said Atkins gained 65 pounds from fluid resuscitation after his fall.

It's rather simple: consume less calories than burn and you will not gain weight. Where those calories come from are usually of little concern; as long as you burn them off they will not be stored as fat. Of course, if you are predisposed to heart disease, etc then eating high-fat diets is not a great idea (not a great idea for anyone considering atherosclerosis is a huge cause of hypertension). But the essential point is burn more than you consume.

As my girlfriend says, "I don't trust a diet where you can eat as much bacon and lard as you want, but fruits and veggies are considered off limits." Exactly.

Turning A Non-Issue Into A True Problem

Econopundit, I respectfully disagree with your point that "people can be trusted to make correct judgments when given product information -- even when presented with the slick, manipulative, entertaining, well-packaged product information typical of television pharmaceuticals ad." Even outside of pharamaceuticals I would not have as much faith in the consumer as Econopundit does to make valid decisions given any amount of information (if advertising didn't work to the company's benefit, it wouldn't exist). In my limited experience thus far, the majority of patients really cannot handle this sort of decision. Hell, many cannot even handle taking doses correctly, let alone decide which anti-diuretic would be most beneficial. This is why MDs get the script pad, not patients. It's very dangerous to start thinking the patient can do more with less, especially since mortality and morbidity lay in the balance.

Back up....need a little background on this post....

An issue close to my heart happens to be 'ethics' in medicine. I put quotation around 'ethics' because as it is taught @ the medical school I currently attend, 'ethics' appears to have correct and incorrect answers (or "best choice" answers as they are lovingly referred to). I always thought ethics was a complex mix of values, norms, etc. Nope, here (and on USMLE1) it is as predetermined as the physiologic response to nicotine. In effect, it comes off as more black and white, rather than as 100 shades of gray.

Example: A case we were given stated that a 'supplement' company has offered to pay off your student loans and give you 10% of all scripts you write for their supplements. Do you sign on? Well, I caused quite a ruckus when I said "Hell yes". In fact, not only were the other students looking @ me like I was from Mars, but the resident ethicist simply scoffed and said "No sir, that would be very wrong". Not enjoying being wrong, I proceeded to explain why I would do it. It boils down to me signing a contract that does not require me to prescribe the supplement, nor provide any sort of reference at all to the company. If the company wants to pay off my bills and entice me with 10% sales revenue, I'm all for it. However, in no way does that bind me to actually prescribing the supplement (which I obviously wouldn't do because of the inherent conflict of interest present). In fact, to me it was merely a way to pay off my student loans without doing anything at all. The way the situation was presented, the company involved was stupid (and apparently so were my classmates who failed to see what a great deal this would actually be for them). Suffice it to say, everyone still looked at me like I had no morals, and was doomed to merely 'scribing those drugs that I got after some free pens and dinners came my way. After a few minutes the ethicist finally realized that the situation, as presented, was deeply flawed and that I 'had a point'. Of course I did, I'm a finance/economics student. Hell, anyone with common sense would agree.

So why didn't the other students jump @ the same opportunity? I blame it on 1) not being very good in business (relates to having little common sense compared to the average american, a sad commentary on those currently in medical school) and 2) this inherent fear that whatever outside companies (i.e. Big Pharm, Insurance, etc) do within the medical field is inherently bad. Just look @ how students/doctors have shunned the historically common practice of Big Pharm sending students/doctors on trips, paying for dinners, etc. in exchange for listening to information regarding Drug A. My question is, when did this become so taboo?

Probably about the same time someone started complaining that drugs cost too much, and look, part of that cost comes from sending doctors on vacations to learn about the latest anti-depressant or ACE inhibitor. Solution == stop courting doctors and the drug costs will go down. Anyone think that worked? If you said 'yes', grab your dunce cap and visit the nearest corner for a few minutes (then come back and continue reading). In fact, in my opinion, the 'problem' that individuals were attempting to 'rectify' has actually now become a legitimate problem.

First off, Big Pharm still visits doctors. Dinners are still paid for, and trips are still paid for. It's not as open as it used to be, nor as commonplace, but it still occurs. So, the original 'problem' that needed solving still exists. Well done guys.

Secondly, Big Pharm has moved on to providing tons of free samples for their doctors in lieu of trips/dinners/hookers. Personally, I think that's a wonderful idea, and support it completely. Incidentally, the ONLY plus that came out of the incessant whining regarding Big Pharm exerting too much influence over physicians.

So if I agree with the above, where are the problems? Well they are two fold. First is the objection that doctors are 'bought'. This seems rather ludicrous to me, even after reading some research on behavior patterns associated with Big Pharm influence (see here, and here.). I know I have yet to enter the fray, but with family in the business (both med and pharm), I can see how doctors are not influenced, simply smart enough to realize a free ride. I know the studies show otherwise, and of course Big Pharm wouldn't continue to do this if it did not produce results, but to me that more readily demonstrates an inability by physicians to separate 1) business from 2) patient health/well-being and 3) advertising/sales pitches. Being a field that prides itself on 'correctness' (even to the point of keeping people alive that would be better served by death), I don't expect many physicians to admit this to themselves, let alone outsiders.

The other problem is that due to market forces being what they are, Big Pharm must still get their name and their drugs out. What does this mean? Well, instead of sales people visiting physicians, individuals who understand pharmacology, pharmacokinetics, SE, contraindications, etc., Big Pharm is now selling directly to the public. EEEGAADS!!! Talk about turning a non-issue into a large cluster f--k. Anyone who took a glance @ the superbowl saw a multitude of ads for 3 different ED drugs. Want to bet on how many men proceeded to call their doctors asking about their favorite PDE-5 inhibitor?

Talk about a bad dream. From non-issue to patients requesting name-brand drugs. The internet has done wonders for patients attempting to diagnose themselves (often to their detriment since 1) they are wrong and 2) cause increased anxiety in the process). We now have the second installment, whereby not only can a patient diagnose himself, but he can request the 'right' treatment for his condition based on a 30-second, obtuse collage of muzak and smiling faces. That's bass ackwards, even to an uneducated grunt like myself. Wonder how long this cycle will take to play itself out. I'm hoping sooner rather than later, but that probably means the exact opposite will occur.

Does the first paragraph make some sense now?

Record Use of "RECORD GAS PRICE" Rhetoric

Have you heard this one lately, whether on NPR (Bob Edwards being the notorious bewb that he is), your daily paper, CNN, Fox, etc? It appears to be the meme du jour around the blogosphere as well. Well, I'm tired of it. For those who are inclined, check this out.

Fun facts: in 1960, gas was 31 cents a gallon (regular, leaded), but in today's dollars, that would be $1.95. In 1980, it was $1.25 (unleaded, regular), or $2.82 in $2004. 1990, $1.16, or $1.65 today. The latest average is $1.72. There has also been a significant increase in miles per gallon. So cost per mile is lower on that account. If you're one of those enviro wackos, you don't want lower gas prices.

Did you get that? When adjusted for inflation, which anyone not attempting to make a complete fool of himself should do, we are nowhere near 'record' price levels. Absolute prices mean jack crap. Next time you hear someone use this, kick him/her in the shin (figuratively, of course). You might also want to mention that increased regulation, increased additives, less refining capacity, increased demand, etc are all placing upward pressure on the price of gas, not just the high price of oil.

And as with most stats, it's probably best to make comparisons against historical averages, something this notorious bewb should certainly consider doing, especially given his profession. More here.

Thanks to Econopundit for the pointer.

Have some fun with prices: Inflation Calculator

UPDATE: For those of you visual learners, try this on for size:

UPDATE2: Image removed for size purposes.

Health Insurance Same As Car Insurance?

Over @ Medpundit is a post throwing out the idea of requiring individuals to buy their own health insurance, much like car insurance. While an interesting idea, and one I agree should be included in the growing debate concerning the future of our healthcare system, I can say there is one huge problem.

Many people, even if required by law to purchase health care insurance, will not purchase it. Period.

And for those living in states where a larger percentage of the population chooses not to purchase the required coverage will get stuck covering the bill. Anyone who lives in a state with high car insurance rates understands what I am talking about. Regardless of the reason (ie. higher illegal immigrant/per capita, low wages, etc) [Illegal immigrant? How about 'undocumented'? It's against the law, therefore ILLEGAL. I hate PC pandering. Call a spade a spade.] there will oftentimes be people who refuse to comply with these laws, only serving to increase costs for those who do comply.

Do I think there are problems with the current tie-in between employment and healthcare? Sure, but that's only because nothing is perfect. I think that we should seriously consider tax breaks to small businesses that offer healthcare coverage; we should support HSAs; and we should work to reduce frivolous lawsuits that 1) serve to drive up malpractice costs and 2) drive up hospital costs due to physicians ordering tests NOT NEEDED FOR DIAGNOSIS, simply so said physician is protected against a slimeball lawyer asking "why didn't you order this PET scan since you knew our patient had a headache?"

However, I do not agree that removing this incentive/benefit and forcing people to purchase their own insurance (I prefer using HSAs and Major Medical Coverage) will help since those who cannot afford insurance will continue to ride on the backs of those who can. In essence, the system will not be any different from what we have currently.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Tort Reform? Anyone?

If this was an isolated incident of lawyers (and unprincipled doctors) making an undeserved buck, I might not be so concerned. However, this is a concerning trend (i.e. tobacco, medical malpractice, medical sexual assault, fast food companies, etc) quickly getting out of control.

For asbestosis, the diagnosis can be rather difficult. In fact, relying on pulmonary function tests and a simple chest film seems rather stupid in regards to making a true diagnosis. Go here for a quick rundown of the disease process, etc. Having said that, it's rather ridiculous that so many claims were rubberstamped through the system before someone finally said something. Go figure though, those 'big bad businesses' have endless amounts of cash to spend on litigation, even if the litigants are bringing false cases.

This highlights a severe problem in the realm of tort law, one that needs to be seriously reviewed and tended to before it spirals even more out of control. I agree that people need to be protected, but consumers must understand that the costs for frivolous lawsuits are not paid by the companies, but by the consumers in the form of higher costs.

Final Note: Just to get this point out there, I completely disagree with the judgment against the tobacco industry. There were warnings. People ignored those warnings, got cancer, then decided it wasn't their fault they got sick. Sorry, that doesn't work for me. Just like some obese patient coming in saying "Mcdonalds has too much fat and it's making me unhealthy" doesn't sit well with me. We all make choices, and we all must live with them. Passing the buck to some company is irresponsible.

Thanks to Medpundit for the link.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Constructive Criticism Serves A Purpose

In responding to this post, I boiled things down to a childish rant where nothing of substance was provided. Your opinion may differ of course, and guess what, that's allowed in this country. What I took issue with was the lack of constructive criticism provided. Am I expecting too much from political opponents of the current administration? I don't think so, but it appears that during this election cycle we will see more than our fair share of the above, and less of the ideal.

Why is that? Do we all inherently crap on others without offering substance because politics is about soundbytes and jabs; making the other side look worse by comparison without regard to truth, fact, "nuance", or substance? Or is it possible that those who criticize do not even know what constructive criticism is (as a product of public school, this does not seem outlandish)? Maybe we need a definition:


1. Serving to improve or advance; helpful: constructive criticism. 2. Of or relating to construction; structural. 3. Law Based on an interpretation; not directly expressed.

"Serving to improve or advance; helpful". If individuals are true to themselves, they can easily see that most (99%) of political criticism does not come close to being constructive (this includes both sides of the aisles, so stop pointing at the other guy). And suffice it to say, it has been my experience that those who offer nothing but critiques lacking in constructive responses are not to be taken seriously.

Should the current administration be criticized for their bumble-f--king around in Iraq? Sure. But in doing so, it might be best if commentators offered ideas on HOW TO MAKE IT BETTER. Stop using 20/20 hindsight to support 'gotcha' and 'I told you so' statements as no one appreciates that worthless crap. Seriously, how many communists have given up their support of a corrupt doctrine based on the 'I told you so' statements regarding the former USSR? Exactly.

For example, I would criticize the occupation for attempting to pacify the minority of Iraqis whose sole purpose was to stick around and screw up anything the US did. I never would have let Sadr get a leg up after the war, I would've covered the ground with so many marines that anyone THINKING of attacking coalition troops in hopes of starting an uprising would be 1) shot on site or 2) arrested and held until democracy took root (around 2010). I can understand the US not wanting to appear cold-hearted, which is likely why they let these groups continue to simmer (in hopes that local Iraqis would calm the storm, a premise almost as stupid as thinking a proud people would welcome being militarily destroyed in under a week). However, in the long run it only serves to embolden those who think we will not respond (i.e. Mogadishu). Now that their mistake has been realized, they are going about rectifying the situation in a perfectly satisfactory manner, which hopefully will bring about the end result of neutralizing these minimal threats. But I would stretch it further than just Fullajah, I would run a sweep of the entire nation. Get everyone, not just those insurgents who have played their hand early.

See, constructive criticism. It's really not that hard, except if one is more interested in flinging mud in hopes that it will stick, rather than identifying REAL problems and offering ideas for REAL solutions. Treat it like a business where you have a substantial interest in seeing success over failure.

I agree with Oliver that withdrawal is NOT an option, and never has been. The point is to 1) slowly turn over control to the Iraqis when they are ready, 2) support them as their fledgling democracy takes root and grows (i.e. trade pacts, etc) and 3) demonstrate that the US makes good on its word, even if it makes mistakes along the way. The last thing the US needs is another damn Mogadishu.

Final Note: There are plenty of sites out there that offer definitions of arguments and fallacies (straw men, etc.) After reading countless blogs during the past few years it has become painfully clear that many do not understand argumentation. So, as a reading assignment to everyone (including myself, never hurts to touch up), I offer the following. Read it; learn it; use it. We have enough to worry about with big media screwing things up without having commentators in the blogosphere doing the same (that especially goes for those who enjoy the personal attack, as nothing loses you an argument faster than "well, you're stupid....")

Banning Porn == Bad For My Weekends (weekdays, weeknights)

Banning porn is stupid. Period. Waste of time and resources, not to mention it will do jack crap to curb the appetite of those who really want it (similar to drugs, although I feel the 'War' on drugs is a more worthwhile venture than any War on Titties would be). Suffice it to say, it's rather embarassing that this is even an issue, unless Bush plans on sneaking in some Medical Tort Reform stuff into the bill , in which case I'd gladly suppor the *ban*.

Hans Blix: Nobel Peace Prize Winner

For me, the war on Iraq was more than part of the WOT, more than about possible nukes, more than about fixing our past implantation of that bastard, and more than about implanting Democracy in the Middle East. It was all of those things combined, plus a little f--k you to the rest of the world. After years of bowing to foreign pressure on everything from Kyoto (thank the Lord we didn't sign that one) to 'measured' responses when American interests abroad were attacked, we finally put the USA back on top.

Does this sound like patriotic flag waving? Yes. And I'm happy with that. All those other things were fine reasons as well, but earning back respect for the world's superpower after nuancing our way to chapped lips for over a decade was something I completely supported. And I have no misgivings, even with the high cost (money and human life, God Bless the Troops).

So, of course this statement by uberdouche Hans Blix doesn't sit well with me.

"The only positive point in this war is having gotten rid of a dictatorial regime which was covered in blood," he said.

That should've been it. Seriously, any moral person would say that, and nothing else. But of course, this follows:

"But the cost has been very high with all the lives lost, Americans and Iraqis, the destruction of the country and the emergence of terrorism in Iraq."

I'm sure the Iraqis love that. I mean, I can't tell you how many times I've heard Jewish friends say "You know, the only positive thing in WWII was getting rid of a fascist regime which was covered in blood, BUT the cost was rather high with all the lives lost, Americans, French, Germans, Brits, the destruction of countries and the emergence of terrorism in Iraq."

Hans Blix, wearing his appeasers badge with pride since 1884.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Pseudoscience American

If you want good old fashioned blowhards, this is a great place to start.

Basically, Shermer goes on a witch hunt, condemning 'smart' people for believing in things not supported by HIS science. My favorite is the following:

And for embracing alternative medicine, the percentages actually increase, from 89 percent for high school grads to 92 percent for college grads

This causes him concern? I wonder if this intellectual giant has bothered researching what he terms 'alternative medicine'. Does he know there are documented studies whereby acupuncture is accepted as 'effective' in treatment of acute back pain? The fact that it has been shown unaffective in chronic back pain means nothing in this context, just in case you were wondering. Are we to scoff at those who genuinely feel they gain something from chiropractics, etc merely because Shermer's 'science' has not adequately provided him the evidence HE needs to say "yes, this is true"? No.

The alternative is to say "F--K You, Shermer" and move on to more important issues, like actually paying for those medical visits when your insurance company denies coverage. What he misses, as do many other 'die-hard' scientists, is the notion that we are not capable of explaining many of the things in our world. Science, in and of itself, is a faith-based system (those who are intellectually honest will admit this to themselves, so be wary of 'scientists' who do not). Especially in medicine, where the 'placebo' effect is documented fact, physicians understand that science cannot explain what is going on, or why some treatments work wonders on patient a, but kill patient b. Can't explain it, nor do we really need to.

We can glean a deeper cause of this problem in another statistic: 70 percent of Americans still do not understand the scientific process, defined in the study as comprehending probability, the experimental method and hypothesis testing. One solution is more and better science education, as indicated by the fact that 53 percent of Americans with a high level of science education (nine or more high school and college science/math courses) understand the scientific process, compared with 38 percent of those with a middle-level science education (six to eight such courses) and 17 percent with a low level (five or fewer courses).

I included the above statement, which coincidentally fell immediately after my above quote, because of 1 word. Can you guess what word that is? PROBLEM, as in We can glean a deeper cause of this PROBLEM... If it's not clear to you that Shermer is seling something @ this point in the article, I can't help you. I had to fight just to continue reading this self-inflating crap. It's not bad enough that 'intellectuals' love to spar with those they deem 'below' them on any chance they get, but to write this sort of grandstanding, whereby scientists are put on a pedestal of all things 'right', free from bias, perversion, etc. is absolute nonsense. Maybe I should write an email linking the recent Lancet debacle whereby former MMR research 'scientists' disavowed their study due to the lead author working under the guise of a lawyer. Ahh, the sweet taste of hypocrisy in the afternoon.

Scientific American is decent to read sometimes, but they to easily get caught up in the "we're better than you because we're professional scientists" crap to actually be worthwhile in the long run. I'd suggest it to no one, unless you want ideas on how NOT to write/act.

Lord Help Us If Kerry Is Elected

there's really no other response to the entirety of Kerry's campaign rhetoric, including this jewel from Staff Seargent Stupid:

In an interview broadcast Wednesday morning, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry defended terrorist Shiite imam Moqtada al-Sadr as a "legitimate voice" in Iraq, despite that fact that he's led an uprising that has killed nearly 20 American GIs in the last two days.

put this together with the corporate tax 'reform' and other mindless campaign 'policies' and you've got a boring Mondale with no grasp on reality. that's without even mentioning his only consistent trait, being inconsistent.

UPDATE: and here he is yet again folks, your favority uppity, n.eastern liberal who when he's not screaming "SOB" @ security service professionals, or cutting in line @ movie theatres with a quick "do you know who i am?", is brandishing unsupported claims about the administration's motives for Iraq:

"I think the June 30 deadline is a fiction and they never should have set an arbitrary deadline, which almost clearly has been affected by the election schedule in the United States of America,” Kerry told National Public Radio in an interview to be broadcast Wednesday.

Of course, being as good as NPR is, there was apparently no follow-up for why the presumptive Democratic failure believed any of his own gibberish. Here's the article

PSII/XBox See Rise In Sales Thanks To Surgeons

As reported here, a study appears to have shown that "doctors who spent at least three hours a week playing video games made about 37 percent fewer mistakes in laparoscopic surgery and performed the task 27 percent faster than their counterparts who did not play video games."

Of course they made fewer mistakes, those surgeons were in the on-call room playing video games instead of performing surgeries. Seriously though, does this really surprise anyone who has played video games before? Since I grew up on Atari, Nintendo, Sega, etc. this hardly seems newsworthy, unless the end result is to introduce a "Video Gaming Class" during medical school for aspiring surgeons.

The study on whether good video game skills translate into surgical prowess was done by researchers with Beth Israel and the National Institute on Media and the Family at Iowa State University. It was based on testing 33 fellow doctors (sic) 12 attending physicians and 21 medical school residents who participated from May to August 2003.

Each doctor completed three video game tasks that tested such factors as motor skills, reaction time and hand-eye coordination.

I will admit that I have not looked this up on Pubmed (nor will I), and am going by this article, but those numbers aren't exactly robust. Very small sample size. Not to mention (here's the funny part to me), 36.36% of the participants were attendings, which implies they are in fact better at performing these surgeries than their residents. As I stated though, I haven't dug into the actual stats and teased out who did better (attendings or students), etc. I'm merely pointing out some obvious questions.

Conclusion: playing video games helps hand/eye coordination. We needed a study for this?! Seriously, this ranks up there with studies showing people feel better after having sex and reading helps vocabulary.

No Tax Cut For The Rich

Sounds like a left-wing protest, doesn't it? You know, where prags walk around with Palestinian flags and socialist rags.

From econopundit this morning we have a nice graph displaying those supposed tax cuts for the rich

Money Quote:
So far there appears no evidence whatsoever of the "tax cut for the rich" charge. Changing regulations have reduced the burden of each income quintile except that at the very top. From the standpoint of all federal taxes, 2001 represents increased income progressivity as compared with the previous decades.

In fact, from 79-01, the top quintile has increased its mammoth share almost 15% to a whopping 65.3%, while those in the bottom 4 quintiles have enjoyed a nice 20% decline in their burden (numbers are rounded to nearest whole number) to 34.7%. Remember folks, this means that 20% is carrying almost DOUBLE the tax burden of the other 80% of the country.

The next time someone spouts "No Tax Cuts For The Rich", you can respond "Damn Straight!!!! They carry a larger burden than ever before, those poor bastards!!" In fact, if you happen to run into a rich person, don't beg for a loan (they've already indirectly given you one), just say "Thanks for paying your taxes".

Final Note: I haven't seen the most recent numbers on this, but last time I checked (2001), the cutoff for being part of the top 5% was $93,300. Now honestly, if that's the top 5%, where do you think the top 20% income falls? As Bruce Bartlett said back in 2001: "They probably don't realize that when liberals talk about "the rich," they mean them."

UPDATE: i received a reply stating that if percentage of national income has increased for the top quintile, it naturally makes sense that their burden of taxation has gone up, although this doesn't mean effective tax rates have increased for those individuals. when share of income (pre-tax) changes are computed, we see a 15.16% (45.5% to 52.4%) increase for the top quintile, with a 12.66% (54.5% to 47.6%) decrease in the bottom four quintiles. so, the burden HAS kept pace with the relative increase in share of income for the top quintile, while the burden has DECREASED (on the aggregate) for the bottom four quintiles. interesting outcome, but still supports the claim that there have been NO tax breaks for the 'rich' as their burden has matched their increased share of national income, while all others have enjoyed a nice decline in their burden that surpasses their increasing percentage of national income.

have fun with the numbers here if you are so inclined.

Split Personality

Recently posted over @ Blogging Teen

During my short life so far, I have seen three types of people that attend the church.

1) A person that is not ashamed of the gospel in church as well as in the secular world.
2) The most common type of person is one who is ashamed of the gospel in the secular world, but is not in the church.
3) Finally, a person does not even believe the gospel, period.

I posted a question that went:

do you ever wonder why that is? are we more afraid to share the good news, or are we more ashamed to share the good news? or is it something else entirely?

I'd like to comment a little further on this, then open it up (since there are so many people flooding the comments section today /sarcasm). It doesn't require a seminary student to point out open religosity is rather anemic. In this day of secularism (or its opposite, militant religious extremism), religious individuals carefully parse their statements when outside the confines of church walls. Bringing up God @ work or school can bring callous cries of "creationist (as if this is an insult)", "bigot", "racist", "member of the VRWC", "Hitler Spawn", and on and on and on. While one can feel free to express love for God @ home, church, or somewhere private, most are ashamed to demonstrate this love (and fear) where someone might see. So which is it, fear of someone speaking out against us, or shame for having these beliefs? Both?

From a theological standpoint, I sometimes wonder if this is a result of The Fall. Once we were separated from God, did we not only become aware of our nakedness, our mortality, our falibility, but perhaps also, shamed for who we are and where we came from? When Adam lunged for cover, did that also represent things to come for man, constantly lunging and hiding from God in work, in carpools, in school....? Like I said, and Blogging Teen stated, it poses an interesting question/dilemma.

If we are to be good Christians, what sort of example does it send when we extol the virtues of Christ in Church, but nowhere else? It reminds me of a scenario where Ted Kennedy stands in front of ANSWER protestors screaming "BUSHITLER NEEDS TO GO!!". Sir, you're speaking to the choir, just as Christians do when they only praise the Lord in the company of other Christians.

Christianity has a great message, and it needs to be heard by others, not by your church elders.

On the same token, along with hiding our love and praise for God, most of us are very bad at molding Jesus to fit US. Sorry folks, that's not how it works (I'm just as guilty as the next person). You likely know this, but selectively ignore it so that you feel less guilty about 1) premarital sex, 2) homosexuality, 3) cheating on your taxes, 4) not helping your neighbor, etc. It's called 'hypocrisy', and it's what I used to 'preach' to my 'bible-thumping' friends before I became a Christian. Those youth group kids Blogging Teen mentioned, I knew them. Right after they finished it was off to drink beer, have sex, vandalize, etc. Mind you, not all the kids did this, but the majority did and it made it that much easier for me to write off what they had to say regarding the Lord.

Actions speak louder than words, so act like you love and fear God, don't just say that you do.

Why Have Grades In Medical School - Part I

In what is sure to become a running theme on this site, I will attempt to eschew the grading system that currently infects medical school institutions around the country. People are encouraged to offer their opinions so that I might better understand this entire issue.

First off, why have grades when students are in a post-grad institution? If someone could please provide me a valid reason, I would greatly appreciate it. To me, Pass/Fail is perfect for many reasons, including less pressure, less backstabbing, increased learning, etc. For each friend I have at an institution whereby there is an A,B,C/Honors,High Pass, Pass/Great, Average, Sucky system, I can provide countless anecdotes of 'missing library books', 'lack of student comraderie', etc. On the flip side though, I do not see this AS MUCH with students attending systems where Pass/Fail is the grade given in the grade book.

Now, could part of this be the culture of said institution? Of course. We'd be stupid not to consider that. However, when one does so one finds that many highly regarded institutions do not stratify their students. Maybe they know something 'lower' regarded schools do not. I am not trying to bash schools not listed in the top 25 medical schools, brought to us by the unbiased editors of USN&WR (until this thing gets going, and readers begin to understand my style, I will leave /sarcasm notation where applicable), merely pointing out some inconsistencies.

Having never been graded in only a pass/fail fashion, I agree it is rather difficult for me to praise it. However, having been under the stratification system for over 20 years, I am fully capable of crapping on that system. I can personally attest to it providing all of the downsides noted above, with no apparent upsides. Some might say, "the system encourages people to work harder". To that I say, if you are letting in students to medical school that still need a motherly figure standing over them screaming "DO YOUR HOMEWORK!! LEARN THOSE ARTERIES!!", then you might want to reconsider your admission policies. Part of becoming a doctor, and a responsible adult, is taking it upon yourself to study, read, plan, etc.

What about the "it's unfair for someone who puts forth 20% effort to gain the same credit as someone who puts forth 90% effort" response? Well, this is equally stupid in my mind. Think back to what your high school grades meant -- nothing. For a few seconds they were important while colleges read your application, but we all know SAT/ACT scores were the most important thing we did. Think back to what you college grades meant -- nothing. For post-grad work it's all about entrance exams (LSAT, GMAT, MCAT, DAT). So in essence, the grades you received served no purpose, except to stratify students, produce conflict, increase stress, etc. In those classes that were pass/fail, or provided no grade whatsover (participation meant passing), there was less conflict and less stress. Should we not be providing this sort of environment for higher learning?

To be continued....

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Why Does Krugman Still Have A Job?

In Luskinesque form, Gene Epstein writing in Barron's completely demolishes the farce that is Krugman's "unemployment rate has fallen since last summer...[is] entirely the result of people dropping out of the labor force" statement from a few weeks back. While Luskin gets his due for sticking it to Krugman on many turns, Epstein deserves note for using economics against a purported economics professor (of the ivy league persuasion, no less)! This is not a slander against Luskin, who offers many insights, both financial and economic, in his arguments. However, there's something about Epstein sticking it to Krugman with his own stats, then closing with "In sum, to make an historical comparison between now and 20 years ago, you either had to adjust the old data upward, or the new data downward. If you want to use these numbers to know what's happening in the real world, you have to know these things."

In short, I'd love to see Brad DeLong weigh in on this (in an academic sense), since he never really misses an opportunity to stick up for his closet-boyfriend.

Also, there was a recent post (memory is bad, forgetting who posted it; i will update when i remember) demonstrating just how inconsequential Krugman is as an economist. In an area where he is sometimes touted as the end all, be all (free trade), a review paper mentioned none of his work. In fact, they completely glossed over his 'home market' theory without a single remark. Hmm.....silence is not your friend Krugman, which is probably why you enjoy to hear your own shill remarks on a bi-weekly basis from the cover of ol lady gray.

One last note: as an economics student, throughout micro, macro, econometrics, foreign/trade finance, etc. I never once was introduced to the ideas/rantings of Paul Krugman. I was so shocked one day to read that he was a Bates Medal Winner in the field, and a virtual shoe-in for the Nobel prize in said area of study. Were ALL of my professors that obtuse, that blinded by the greatness that is Krugman that they failed to even MENTION his work? Or have his theories simply been shown demonstrably false since his heyday?

Procrastination Will Be The Death of Someone Else

As I attempt to study for an upcoming exam, my mind is far from pharmacology, histology and many other -ologies. It never fails; with a test around the corner I press on with less important activities such as blogging, cleaning house and staring at the trees. While this fault shows itself on a rather continuous basis with me, I was naive enough to believe medical school would punish that out of me. Point of fact though, it has not even come close. I still only study a few days before an exam. With boards coming up, I prefer the sound of Walter Beasley to the harsh text of First Aid. Sometimes I wonder if this will hurt me in the future (or rather, if it will hurt my patients in the future), which allows me to focus for another 5 minutes before quickly wisking myself away to the kitchen for non-existent delectables (remember, POOR medical student).

Now to the point: why do so many of us procrasinate? Do we only procrastinate those things forced upon us (whether forced by an outsider, or our own selves)? Arguably, most individuals can focus and get the job done when it is required. This leads into shoddy, last-minute work; the kind of work you are ashamed to turn in, choosing rather to blame it on a crying baby or a sick parent than accept the notion you merely put it off.

I'm sure we could come up with a thousand different reasons for 'why', all equally vapid as most excuses are. The point, however, is not to belittle the question of 'why', but rather to understand 'how'. 'How' do we get around it? 'How' do we deal with it so that it does not effect our lives in a large way? For some it's the lure of speed (a.k.a ritalin), which coincidentally also cures hyperactivity, etc. (If this blog goes long enough, my views on parents desiring complacent medication for their growing children will surely come out). For others it's the lure of completing a job; arguably the reasoning that most inclines me to work on the house, car, patient, etc. As I am sure there are many others, I am growing tired of this little rant.....