Tuesday, June 30, 2009

At the Beach
Aren't you jealous? Will be back with posts next week.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Good News
For all their painful questioning at oral arguments, the Supreme Court has ruled the strip search of the 13-year-old was unconstitutional, 8-1 no less (Clarence Thomas of course...). Haven't read the details yet - looks like a couple of concurring-in-part, dissenting-in-part opinions as well, but there you go. Decision here (pdf).

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

One truly messed up dude. I feel sorry for his family, and a little sorry for him - irrelevant personal dramas shouldn't have to be played out in public. Still, it's pretty stupid and inviting of scrutiny to abandon your job, with little warning, to address personal dramas.
No Public Option? No Money
This is good advice. I got that e-mail from McCaskill too.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Get 'Em While They're Hot
Obama Press Conference
Read the transcript here. No time to excerpt so you have to find the good parts on your own. I'm off...er...hiking the Appalachian Trail or something.

Monday, June 22, 2009

John Hodgman - who plays PC in the commercials for Mac computers and also author of The Areas of My Expertise - perhaps going over even better to the C-Span crowd than to the gathering of radio and TV correspondents hearing him in person. Either way, the President seemed to like his nerd humor.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Reporting From Tehran
A new piece from the NYTimes' brave Roger Cohen begins this way:
The Iranian police commander, in green uniform, walked up Komak Hospital Alley with arms raised and his small unit at his side. “I swear to God,” he shouted at the protesters facing him, “I have children, I have a wife, I don’t want to beat people. Please go home.”

A man at my side threw a rock at him. The commander, unflinching, continued to plead. There were chants of “Join us! Join us!”
Read the whole thing.

I don't know how effective these protests will be, whether they will - or even should be - continued (not anxious for another Tiananmen). But you have to be moved by the breath-taking, soul-stirring courage on display. They thought they were living under an Islamic Republic, but it has been shown to be a military dictatorship, a rule they are refusing to accept under pain of sticks and tear gas and bullets.

Here's hoping the sentiment of this commander is widespread and growing among police forces; that loyalty to conscience and to family convince them to turn their resentment away from the protesters refusing their demands, and onto those who order their beating.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Why Do I Do It?
Go see movies that I know are going to be bad, that is. Something about the summer makes me think a Hollywood action flick is just what the doctor ordered. Occasionally it works. It didn't tonight. Don't see The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3. For the first hour or so there were actually a couple of interesting moments, maybe even poignant in a psychological drama kind of way, but only a couple. The last 30 minutes quickly descend - gratuitous violence, pointless car crashes, logic-defying stupidity.

And what can you say about James Gandolfini? The guy is without question an amazing actor. He made The Sopranos great, and showed sweeping emotional range in the process. I can see why he doesn't want to take parts as a mobster, but why does he keep taking these shitty one-dimensional roles?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Read Robert Reich
And hope the President reads it too.
Lunkhead(s) of the Week
Richard A. Collins (CEO of UnitedHealth's Golden Rule Insurance Co.), Don Hamm (CEO of Assurant Health) and Brian Sassi (president of consumer business for WellPoint Inc.)

During a House Committee hearing this week, panels of people told horror stories about losing health coverage after getting sick when their insurance companies searched and searched and finally found some trivial oversight in their application. These 3 health industry executives earn Lunkhead of the Week honors for their unanimous one-word answer to a pointed question about this method of denying coverage. From the LATimes (via Kevin Drum)
Committee members took turns, alternating Democrats and Republicans, condemning such practices.

"When times are good, the insurance company is happy to sign you up and take your money in the form of premiums," said Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.). "But when times are bad . . . some insurance companies use a technicality to justify breaking its promise, at a time when most patients are too weak to fight back."

"I think a company does have a right to make sure there's no fraudulent information," said Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.). "But if a citizen acts in good faith, we should expect the insurance company that takes their money to act in good faith also."

Late in the hearing, Stupak, the committee chairman, put the executives on the spot. Stupak asked each of them whether he would at least commit his company to immediately stop rescissions except where they could show "intentional fraud."

The answer from all three executives:


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

If You Want to Have a Decent Day
Don't read this. And especially don't read any of the reports on this page.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

But Really
Having a gun in the house is a great idea.
Almost Forgot
Happy Bloomsday, for anyone who celebrates that.
Charter Schools
Kevin Drum has graphs showing exactly when to send your kids to charter schools, and when to remove them. I'm not sure I even understand the charter school phenomenon well enough to have much of an opinion. I'm glad though that locally we have very few, even if that seems about to change.
Oh Well
From the NYTimes
By now, it is a familiar litany. Study after study suggests that alcohol in moderation may promote heart health and even ward off diabetes and dementia. The evidence is so plentiful that some experts consider moderate drinking — about one drink a day for women, about two for men — a central component of a healthy lifestyle.

But what if it’s all a big mistake?

For some scientists, the question will not go away. No study, these critics say, has ever proved a causal relationship between moderate drinking and lower risk of death — only that the two often go together. It may be that moderate drinking is just something healthy people tend to do, not something that makes people healthy.

“The moderate drinkers tend to do everything right — they exercise, they don’t smoke, they eat right and they drink moderately,” said Kaye Middleton Fillmore, a retired sociologist from the University of California, San Francisco, who has criticized the research. “It’s very hard to disentangle all of that, and that’s a real problem.”
I always figured that by the time you found people who are disciplined enough to drink every day - but only ever 2 - you've got people disciplined enough to make lots of other healthy decision. But I never really thought through the ethical and practical problems in running a test thorough enough to settle the matter. The interesting bits of this article get into those difficulties.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Obama to Doctors on Health Reform
Read the speech here.
We know the moment is right for health care reform. We know this is an historic opportunity we've never seen before and may not see again. But we also know that there are those who will try and scuttle this opportunity no matter what – who will use the same scare tactics and fear-mongering that's worked in the past. They'll give dire warnings about socialized medicine and government takeovers; long lines and rationed care; decisions made by bureaucrats and not doctors. We've heard it all before – and because these fear tactics have worked, things have kept getting worse.
The other day, my friend, Congressman Earl Blumenauer, handed me a magazine with a special issue titled, "The Crisis in American Medicine." One article notes "soaring charges." Another warns about the "volume of utilization of services." And another asks if we can find a "better way [than fee-for-service] for paying for medical care." It speaks to many of the challenges we face today. The thing is, this special issue was published by Harper's Magazine in October of 1960.

Members of the American Medical Association – my fellow Americans – I am here today because I do not want our children and their children to still be speaking of a crisis in American medicine fifty years from now. I do not want them to still be suffering from spiraling costs we did not stem, or sicknesses we did not cure. I do not want them to be burdened with massive deficits we did not curb or a worsening economy we did not rebuild.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

All Hell [UPDATED]
may be about to break loose in Iran, so says Steve Clemons in a very ominous warning. Everyone who cares about democracy and who is moved by the courage it takes to - like Mousavi - stand up for reform amid an oppressive hard-line regime should be watching closely and fearfully for the fate of the voices of change.

[UPDATE: Shots fired, one killed, at Mousavi rally.]

Friday, June 12, 2009

Lunkhead of the Week
Frank Gaffney, for his take on President Obama's trip to the Middle East.
The man now happy to have his Islamic-rooted middle name featured prominently has engaged in the most consequential bait-and-switch since Adolf Hitler duped Neville Chamberlain over Czechoslovakia at Munich.
With Mr. Obama's unbelievably ballyhooed address in Cairo Thursday to what he calls "the Muslim world"...there is mounting evidence that the president not only identifies with Muslims, but actually may still be one himself.
Limbaugh made a strong push around the back stretch with his attempts to paint right-wing murdering hate-monger James von Brunn as a liberal. But he faded down the stretch, perhaps worn down by the brief challenge from actor Jon Voight's lunkheadishness. This let Gaffney - whose smears of the President in the Washington Times also got a mention in Krugman's latest column about the "big hate" - cruise in by a length.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Health Care Deep Thought
We need more on the Democratic side making noise about a single-payer plan so that merely a government-run option can occupy the moderate, compromise position. As it stands, Republican obstructionists (which is just to say, Republicans) are painting a competitive government option as left-wing crazy talk. We need to remind moderate Americans that there is actually a considerably more "left-wing" way to go that is in fact supported by a great number of liberal Democrats. The Obama-Kennedy plan would be quite a welcome change but it would not dismantle the insurance-based health care system by any means.
I'm Sure They Will Get Vests Now
But why does it take tragedy to motivate action? The security guard's union had been requesting bullet-proof vests for a couple of years.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sarah Palin Admits....
Her daughter "could be anyone's"? That's what I got out of her critique of Letterman anyway.
Home-Grown Terrorists
First Roeder, and now von Brunn. Just wondering, and obviously I don't have a bit of evidence here, but is there any doubt they both got their TV news from Fox?

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Food, Inc

I've seen this trailer a couple times at the local art house, but did not have the sense that it would likely become a cultural docu-event a la Super Size Me. If this NYTimes article about Food, Inc is any indication, though, it just may. When Martha Stewart is pushing your movie, people could pay attention. And it sounds like what they see will be fairly... uncomfortable to watch.
Viewers who haven’t thought much about how all that food in the grocery store got to be there will likely find it hard to toss a few packages of pork chops and some Froot Loops in the cart and call it a day. Some viewers will undoubtedly look away during the meat cutting and processing scenes. For parents the eye-averting moment will come during repeated slow-motion scenes of a 2-year-old’s last vacation. His mother, now a food-safety advocate, explains in a tearful voice-over the gruesome details of his death after he ate hamburger tainted with E. coli.
I understand why they want to do that, but it would be nice if we could convey a positive message of healthy, organic, locally grown, humane... without having to send viewers through a horrifingly graphic, emotional wringer to get there. Sounds like the film approaches the food problem from many different angles, so hopefully that's just one small element. Speaking for myself though, jarring disgust is not an effective long-term strategy for changing my behavior.

Monday, June 08, 2009

In Which I Turn A New Chapter in Life
Yesterday, for the first time, I bought a CD at Starbucks. No, it does not feel good to have fallen from grace in this way. Please deride me - and the new stage of middle-aged, yuppified, cultural irrelevance this no doubt represents - in the comments.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Lunkhead of the Week
Senator James Inhofe (R-OK). Remember the good old days when questioning the foreign policy - and indeed the patriotism - of the Commander in Chief while he is out of the country on a diplomatic mission (and while we're at war!) was considered a no-no? Inhofe has upped the ante and earned the coveted LOTW award by 2 lengths.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

You *Are* an Asparagus Lover
Pretty interesting
A team of researchers at U.C. Irvine studying implanted false memories asked 128 undergrads questions about how well they liked certain foods growing up. A week later, the students were called back and shown their results. But the researchers secretly changed the answers of one group of students to say that they loved asparagus the first time they tried it. When these students were later asked to order dishes on a hypothetical restaurant menu, those who had read falsified self-testimony about their childhood love of asparagus were significantly more likely to order it than they had been just a week earlier.
I suspect this tactic works better with a "team of researchers" than with a "team of parents", where you're maybe more likely to get an argument from your kids. But maybe not? Tell 'em they loved broccoli ever since they were born. You can read the study here.
Cairo Speech
Remarkable, I thought. But as you know I'm a sucker for such things. You can read it here. Or watch below.
Arresting the Crazies
One, anyway.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

CSpan Sez
Obama's speech in Cairo will start at 6 AM Eastern time. Get up, or stay up, depending on your circumstances...

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Al Gore is Wrong!!
The Atlantic's James Fallows has been on a mission the last 2+ years to correct the myth and castigate the myth-tellers when it comes to gradual temperature change. Thanks to Kevin Drum's post, I've just found his impressive work and am thoroughly convinced. See all of Fallows' related posts here.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Article 19 Summer Produce Buying Guide!
This is the time of year when we get delicious and plentiful red bell peppers. Here's a buying tip I, er, picked up today: Don't get one that has a hole - even a small one - and make sure you check! That brown goo that will undoubtedly be inside is probably not a tasty peanut sauce.
If You Didn't Already Know
Don't take Oprah too seriously.