Archive for November 20th, 2009
A medium-sized popcorn and medium soda at the nation’s largest movie chain pack the nutritional equivalent of three Quarter Pounders topped with 12 pats of butter, according to a report released today by the advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest.
The group’s second look at movie theater concessions — the last was 15 years ago — found little had changed in a decade and a half, despite theaters’ attempts to reformulate…
Very interesting article by Joanne Kenen in The American Prospect:
Year after year, Republicans try to pass legislation that would limit medical malpractice awards. Fix the tort system, they argue, and we fix rising health-care costs. And year after year, Democrats resist placing arbitrary caps on awards to people who may have suffered from an egregious medical error. The fight plays out like a predictable old Western — good guys versus bad guys. Depending on your politics, the villain is either the greedy doctor or the greedy trial lawyer.
Health reform invites a fresh look at malpractice. The Republican tort-reform agenda hasn’t magically fixed what ails American health care in states that have tried it. But progressives can test new models of medical malpractice reform because — done right — they may lead to a more consistent, more timely, and more equitable approach to compensating people who have been harmed. As Ezekiel Emanuel, a bioethicist and White House adviser on health policy, writes in his book Healthcare, Guaranteed:
There’s little question that the system is broken … Numerous studies have shown that the majority of patients who suffer a medical error are not compensated, while a select few win outsized awards. And on average, patients must wait nearly five years to resolve claims and receive payments from a malpractice case — six if the case is related to the delivery of a baby.
The experiences of individual patients and families in the legal system can be wildly inconsistent, creating what the Republicans with some justification call "jackpot justice." Meanwhile, doctors complain of malpractice premiums that vary enormously depending on the state and the medical specialty, from around $10,000 to $100,000 or higher. Beyond addressing these problems, new methods may also encourage a more vigorous "culture of safety" in a country where some 200,000 people die each year from medical errors, hospital-acquired infections, and avoidable complications — many of these safety challenges are systemic, not the fault of individual sloppy doctors.
Health-care reform isn’t just about covering more Americans and controlling costs. It’s also about quality. Repairing health care requires "delivery-system reform" — moving away from inefficient and inconsistent care and toward more coordinated, value-driven medicine. But it’s hard to get doctors enthused about adopting a "less is more" approach if they fear lawsuits from patients who think less is simply less and believe they have an inalienable right to more and more. More CT scans. More back surgeries. Even more colonoscopies. Overtreatment has many causes — the idiosyncrasies of a physician’s training, local practice patterns, the doctor’s bottom line. But many experts believe that limiting "defensive" medicine, which is notoriously hard to quantify, would at least remove one barrier to fixing the broken system. Economists may believe that "defensive medicine" is less of a problem than doctors do. But it’s the doctors who have to accept the new care models — and get their patients to follow…
For hunters of very small game (squirrels, rabbits, and the like), the combination .22 rifle and .410 shotgun has long been a mainstay. But now that has been taken to the next level: a bullpup design (receiver behind the trigger/handgrip). Take a look:
I think it looks awesome. The trigger guard is the cocking lever. Much more info and more photos here. This would be great if I lived on a farm with some acreage devoted to black-walnut trees (and thus squirrels).
Saying that critics are “understating the criminal justice system’s capacities,” two top Bush Justice officials came out in support of Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to try Khalid Sheik Mohammed and other Guantanamo detainees in federal court. Writing in the Washington Post, Jim Comey, former deputy attorney general and U.S. attorney in Manhattan, and Jack Goldsmith, a former assistant attorney general who now teaches at Harvard Law School, wrote that the move is “unlikely to make New York a bigger target” and that civilian courts are a proven venue for terror trials:
[T]here is no question about the legitimacy of U.S. federal courts to incapacitate terrorists. Many of Holder’s critics appear to have forgotten that the Bush administration used civilian courts to put away dozens of terrorists, including “shoe bomber” Richard Reid; al-Qaeda agent Jose Padilla; “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh; the Lackawanna Six; and Zacarias Moussaoui, who was prosecuted for the same conspiracy for which Mohammed is likely to be charged. Many of these terrorists are locked in a supermax prison in Colorado, never to be seen again.
In terrorist trials over the past 15 years, federal prosecutors and judges have gained extensive experience protecting intelligence sources and methods, limiting a defendant’s ability to raise irrelevant issues and tightly controlling the courtroom.
Comey and Goldsmith are hardly the first conservatives to support Holder’s faith in the U.S. justice system. In a joint statement prepared by the Constitution Project, David Keene, founder of American Conservative Union, Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, and former representative and presidential candidate Bob Barr wrote Sunday, “We are confident that the government can preserve national security without resorting to sweeping and radical departures from an American constitutional tradition that has served us effectively for over two centuries. … The scare-mongering about these issues should stop.”
Each of these is breathtaking in its own way, and I highly recommend clicking through on all three:
The GOP is simply not interested in governing and has no sense of responsibility. They are frivolous and some verge on actual stupidity: inability to think and grasp ideas, no sense of logical argument, and constantly contradicting themselves.
UPDATE: The Dick Armey one is so rich that I have to post the whole thing. It’s by Lee Fang at ThinkProgress:
Yesterday, the House Oversight and Government Reform committee held a hearing on the implementation of the Recovery Act, also known as the stimulus. Republican members invited former GOP Majority Leader Dick Armey, who now leads the corporate front group FreedomWorks, to testify as their expert witness. After listening to Armey argue at length about the merits of even having any government intervention in the economy, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) asked him if he supported the unemployment compensation provisions of the bill. Armey said he might, but conceded that he had not read that portion of the bill. Van Hollen then extracted a confession that Armey had not even read the bill at all, even though he was appearing as an expert and repeatedly goes before the press to criticize the stimulus:
VAN HOLLEN: Let me ask you think. You keep saying ‘if there were,’ did you read the Economic Recovery bill?
ARMEY: No I didn’t. I had no reason to read it, I wasn’t voting on it.
VAN HOLLEN: You’re commenting on it an awful lot, both here and in the press, about the Economic Recovery bill. We ask members of Congress to read it when they vote on it and are considering it. You’ve said a lot about it, so I’m a little surprised that you have not read it. [...]It seems to me we owe it to people we are communicating with we have an understanding an read the information.
Ironically, as part of an effort to obstruct and derail the bill, Armey launched an online petition called “ReadTheStimulus.org.” In another bit of irony, although he postures as a fierce ideological opponent of the stimulus, Armey actually worked as a lobbyist to help businesses gain from the stimulus. According to disclosures, he was paid to lobby on behalf of Cape Wind Associates and the Medicines Company on the stimulus. His son, Scott Armey, who runs his own lobbying shop, has also worked with businesses to gain stimulus funds.
That looks damn good to me. The perspective is almost Renaissance. (Full disclosure: I know little about art and its history.) Read about the painting in this article in The Independent by Tom Lubbock:
Classical art is often given a classic status. The works of the ancient Greeks and Romans have been taken up by many later artists as supreme examples. At least that’s true of their statues and buildings. But when it comes to paintings, there’s a problem. Very little remains, and what remains is puzzling.
For instance, we have no idea who painted this Still Life with Peaches. We have no idea what other works its maker did, and only a very limited idea about the works of contemporaries. The Roman still lives that have survived mostly come, like this one, from Pompeii and Herculaneum.
They were mural paintings, preserved (ironically) by the lava of Vesuvius, while the paintings in other cities, such as Rome itself, were destroyed or faded away. Was the art of these two provincial towns inferior to the art of the capital? If we saw real Roman painting, would that make the work that’s survived look very average? Or is this as good as it got?
The Still Life with Peaches comes from a room in Herculaneum. It wasn’t a …
Continue reading. And thanks to The Eldest for the pointer.
Something quite amazing happened yesterday in Congress: the House Finance Committee — in a truly bipartisan and even trans-ideological vote — defied the banking industry, the Federal Reserve, the Democratic leadership, and mainstream Beltway opinion in order to pass an amendment, sponsored by GOP Rep. Ron Paul and Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson, mandating a genuine and probing audit of the Fed. The Huffington Post‘s Ryan Grim has the best account of what took place, noting:
In an unprecedented defeat for the Federal Reserve, an amendment to audit the multi-trillion dollar institution was approved by the House Finance Committee with an overwhelming and bipartisan 43-26 vote on Thursday afternoon despite harried last-minute lobbying from top Fed officials and the surprise opposition of Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who had previously been a supporter.
Grim details how key Committee Democrats such as Frank — who spent the year claiming to support an audit of the Fed in the face of rising anger over its secret and bank-subservient policies — suddenly introduced their own amendment (sponsored by Democratic Rep. Melvin Watt) that would have essentially gutted the Paul/Grayson provisions. Banking industry and Fed officials, as well as the Democratic leadership, then got behind that alternative provision as a means of pretending to support transparency while protecting the Fed from any genuine examination. Notwithstanding the pressure exerted on Committee Democrats to support that watered-down "audit" bill, Grayson convinced 15 of his colleagues to join with Republicans to provide overwhelming support for the Paul/Grayson amendment. As Grim notes:
[Frank] urged a no vote, yet 15 Democrats bucked him, voting with Paul. Key to winning Democratic support was a letter posted early Thursday from labor leaders and progressive economists. The letter, organized by the liberal blog FireDogLake.com, called for a rejection of the Watt substitute and support for Paul.
Grayson was able to show Democratic colleagues that the liberal base was behind them.
"Today was Waterloo for Fed secrecy," a victorious Grayson said afterwards.
The bill still faces substantial hurdles in becoming law, of course, but yesterday’s vote has made that outcome quite possible, and it’s worth nothing several important points highlighted by what happened here: …
Interesting post. May have to get this someday. I do like the security feature.
The pharmaceutical industry-funded front group Center for Medicine in the Public Interest(CMPI) is helping its corporate funders fight health care reform by disseminating misinformation and orchestrating campaigns to generate fear about health care reform. CMPI arose out of the Pacific Research Institute, a corporate front group that worked with Philip Morris in the past to fabricate academic support for the tobacco industry. CMPI has been sponsoring anti-Obama Tea Party protests, producing attack ads against health care reform and creating Web sites that feature "horror stories" about citizens in countries that offer universal health care. CMPI is headed by Peter Pitts, the head of global health care for the international corporate public relations firm Porter Novelli, which specializes in helping drug companies evade FDA marketing restrictions by using stealth marketing techniques, like creating fake, unbranded "public service ads" nominally to raise awareness of diseases, but that really drive people to drug-company funded Web sites that advertise drugs.
You can trust businesses—to always do whatever they can to increase profits, regardless of morals, ethics, or the law.
Interesting post, and the College Alarm Clock for Windows looks quite good.
An intro from the redoubtable Gina Trapani:
More information here, including a $6 download of The Complete Guide to Google Wave.
Strongrrl is now in Japan with her daughter and husband, and she’s posting lots of great photos. Take a look.
One segment in the excellent movie The Union: The Business Behind Getting High was on the business of drug testing: it’s extremely profitable, and if the industry can just get states to legislate the requirement, they are in like Flynn. Over the years, they can gradually bring more and more groups into testing.
First it was people who had dangerous occupations that had to be tested: airline pilots and locomotive engineers and police officers. But then, how about professional athletes? Better do them, too. And amateur athletes—don’t leave them out. In fact, in the schools, give drug tests not only to every athlete, but to every student who participates in an extracurricular activity—since the activity is not required, the school can say, "If you want to participate, you have to take regular drug tests." So now we have kids who are in the elementary school chess club being required to pee in a bottle. And the industry is hoping, of course, to get legislation passed that requires every student in any public school to have to be regularly tested for drugs: so much money to be made.
Costs like these are simply another form of tax: more money spent by law. And the really bad thing about drug tests? Drugs like crystal meth and cocaine are out of your system after a couple of days, but marijuana use can be detected even 4 weeks later. So, the message: don’t use marijuana—if you want to get high, use crystal meth or cocaine.
Here’s the latest: "California adopts stricter rules for drug abusers in the health industry". Lots of new tests to be bought, over and over and over. Charles Ornstein and Tracy Weber in the LA Times:
In a major shift, California will impose tough new standards on drug-abusing health professionals, strictly scrutinizing those in treatment and immediately removing from practice anyone who relapses.
"The bottom line is we’re in the business of protecting consumers," said Brian Stiger, director of the state Department of Consumer Affairs, which announced the rules Thursday. "We’re not in the business of rehabilitation."
The rules will require nurses, dentists and other health workers in state-run recovery programs to take at least 104 drug tests in their first year — more than double any current requirement.
Health professionals will be automatically pulled from practice, at least temporarily, after a single positive result. And any restrictions to their licenses will be listed on public websites, easing the long-standing confidentiality protections that have shielded participants and kept their patients in the dark.
The changes appear to address problems raised in a July investigation by The Times and the nonprofit newsroom ProPublica, which detailed how registered nurses were able to treat patients without permission and steal drugs while participating in the confidential recovery program known as diversion.
Even when the state Board of Registered Nursing kicked them out, labeling them "public safety risks," it took a median 15 months to file public accusations, the investigation found.
The standards were drafted by a committee created by the Legislature last year after repeated audits revealed that the recovery program for doctors poorly monitored participants and failed to terminate those who relapsed. The Medical Board of California shut down that program June 30, 2008…
Very interesting review in The American Scholar by Sudip Bose:
On ULYSSES and Us: The Art of Everyday Life in Joyce’s Masterpiece by Declan Kiberd (W. W. Norton, $28.95)
Fifteen years ago, as an undergraduate at Cornell, I enrolled in a seminar devoted solely to James Joyce’s Ulysses. About 12 of us gathered for the first day of class, each anticipating a great journey, yet intimidated by the task that lay before us—for what other book was so forbiddingly complicated as to necessitate an entire semester for its study? (Finnegan’s Wake was not a course option.) Ulysses, so we all assumed, wasn’t a book to be read; it was a text to be deciphered. To discover every secret buried within, one needed to study it in conjunction with many other books, helpful guides offering explication of the impenetrable. No: mere “reading” was far more passive an activity than what we had all signed up for, eager young deconstructionists and poststructuralists that we were.
To be sure, few other books demand to be studied more closely; with its conflation of styles, experimental forms, rich allusiveness, and dense interior monologues,Ulysses requires and rewards patience. But, as Declan Kiberd, professor of Anglo-Irish literature at University College Dublin, argues in Ulysses and Us, Joyce had wanted his book to be accessible to everyone. All people in a true democratic culture, Joyce believed, should be able to read and derive pleasure from Ulysses. So how did the book end up missing its intended audience, finding favor instead with only a select group, a kind of priestly sect of the academy?
Joyce certainly didn’t help matters when he authorized the publication of detailed schemas that illuminated the Homeric structure underpinning Ulysses. These charts associated each of the book’s 18 episodes with a different character or section of the Odyssey (“Telemachus,” “Circe,” “Wandering Rocks,” “Penelope”), as well as with particular colors, artistic endeavors, scientific methods, and organs of the body. It was as if Joyce were inviting all the scholars into the fun house, tempting them with trick mirrors and trap doors. As a consequence, explication became the order of the day, and the common reader simply gave up.
Ulysses and Us is, among other things, a passionate plea for the amateur to reclaim Joyce’s epic. For one thing, Ulysses is eminently readable—something an earlier generation seemed to know better than we do. “My father loved Ulysses as the fullest account ever given of the city in which he lived,” Kiberd writes. “There were parts that baffled or bored him, and these he skipped, much as today we fast-forward over the duller tracks on beloved music albums. But there were entire passages which he knew almost by heart.” This suggests a more liberating way to read the book: since it isn’t possible to understand everything, it does no good to get mired in what frustrates us. Most important, we should not forget that the book contains deep wisdom. Joyce’s story of two Irishmen, the young Stephen Dedalus and the older Leopold Bloom, navigating through Dublin on a single day in June is an epic celebration of the common, of the everyday, of our mundane routines. And in it Joyce has a great deal to say on how to live a better life.
How to Walk the Streets
Interesting post by Timothy A. Pychyl, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, where he specializes in the study of procrastination:
People seldom do what they believe in. They do what is convenient, then repent. (Bob Dylan). I certainly agree with the first part of this Dylan quote, but I’m quite sure that there’s more to it than repentance, including: distraction, forgetting, trivialization, self-affirmation and denial of responsibility to name a few.
Since the 1950′s with Leon Festinger’s (and his students’) initial work oncognitive dissonance, psychologists have spent countless hours studying how acting counter-attitudinally leads to a negative emotional state. Why? Well, most people try to maintain a consistent and positive sense of self. Most people want to act competently, morally, and to be able to predict their behavior. When our actions and beliefs or even two beliefs are in conflict, they are dissonant. Dissonance is uncomfortable. We want to relieve ourselves from this negative state.
Traditionally, researchers have studied this relief in the form of attitude change. If my behavior conflicts with my attitude, change my attitude. That’s easy, and it’s common. It’s the road most traveled, as they say. I could also change my behavior. But, even Festinger has argued that this isn’t simple or easy (and it’s seldom the preferred route; it’s the road less traveled). As Dylan has noted above, it’s easier to do what’s convenient, not necessarily what we believe in, then repent.
I just finished reading a doctoral student’s proposal for her research on cognitive dissonance. It was a very good read, and she has proposed some interesting studies. Of course, I read her work through my "filter" of procrastination research, and this took me to different places.
That’s what I want to blog about today – cognitive dissonance and procrastination.
Not only do "people seldom do what they believe in" but all too often people don’t do what they intend to do. They do what is convenient (what they feel like). Then what?
When we intend to act, when we have a goal to which we’ve made an intention to act, and we don’t act (voluntarily and quite irrationally choosing to delay action despite knowing this may affect us negatively),we experience dissonance. This is one of the costs of procrastination.
Dylan says we "repent" afterwards. We could. I’ve even conducted some research on this repentance in the form of self-forgiveness. It happens, and it seems to help.
More often, I think we engage in alternative strategies to reduce the dissonance created by procrastination. This dissonance is commonly experienced emotionally as guilt, and we do whatever we can to get rid of this negative emotion.
Here are a few typical reactions that researchers have catalogued as responses to dissonance (and ways that we reduce this dissonance): …
I can’t wait to chow down on this:
Escargot, eat your tiny heart out. These snails would make a meal. Brian Merchant at Treehugger:
Malnutrition and iron deficiency are rampant problems in developing nations across Africa. They can lead to serious health issues and mortality, especially in young people. But a nutritionist in Nigeria has uncovered a remedy that could drastically improve extremely poor diets and help feed Africa’s youth–a recipe for giant snail pies. More nutritious than beef, and far more abundant, giant snails could be the key ingredient to a healthier Africa. Oh yeah, and evidently they taste great.
Ukpong Udofia of the University of Uyo recently completed her research on the nutritional content of the African Giant Snail, a resilient animal that has become a notorious invasive species around the world. The snail is incredibly common in swamps and forests of Africa, and is a popular novelty pet in the US. [Training them to fetch must be a hoot. – LG]
But it’s also rich in protein, iron, calcium, zinc, and many essential vitamins. According to Science Daily, Udofia’s study compared the snail meat to a beef steak, and found the snail to be superior in every way. It’s cheaper, more nutritious, and easier to obtain. Which means it could help address malnutrition in many more communities than beef, the typically pursued iron and protein source, ever could. It’s evidently best eaten in a sort of simple-to-make pie…
Continue reading. I bet you any money that it’s treyf.
Synaesthesia is a neurological condition in which there is a merging of the senses, so that activity in one sensory modality elicits sensations in another. Although first described by Francis Galton in the 1880s, little was known about this condition until recently. A renaissance in synaesthesia research began about a decade ago; since then, three previously unrecognized forms of the condition have been described, and a possible explanation for how it arises have been put forward.
Of all the forms of this fascinating condition, the least researched is time-space synaesthesia, but two new studies provide some insight into it. One is a case study of an individual whose time-space synaesthesia has an apparently unique characteristic. The second demonstrates that time-space synaesthetes have superior cognitive abilities than non-synaesthetes, and suggests that time-space synaesthesia may underlie the savant-like abilities of people with hyperthymestic (or "super-memory") syndrome.
Time-space synaesthesia is a form of visuo-spatial synaesthesia in which individuals experience units of time – such as hours, days, or months – as occupying specific locations in space relative to their own body. These associations are highly specific and are experienced consistently. For example, one synaesthete described her experience as follows: "When someone mentions a year, I see the oval with myself at the very bottom, Christmas day to be precise. As soon as a month is given, I see exactly where that month is on the oval. As I move through the year, I am very aware of my place on the oval at the current time, and the direction I am moving in."
Michelle Jarick of the Synaesthesia Research Group at the University of Waterloo in Ontario and her colleagues describe the case of an individual whose time-space synaesthesia has a previously undescribed feature. Like other time-space synaesthetes, the 21-year-old individual, known as L, experiences the time of day and the months of the year as being represented in the space around her body. She experiences the hours of the day in the form of a large "clock face", and her mental calendar consists of a giant number "7", which extends for approximately 1 meter around her waist, and on which the months of the year are arranged.
Uniquely though, L’s mental vantage point changes depending on whether …