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Generic Confusion

When you leave, my blog just fades to grey
Nu ma nu ma iei, nu ma nu ma nu ma iei

News? Check. Politics? Check. Music? Check. Random thoughts about life? Check. Readership? Ummm.... let me get back to you on that. Updated when I feel like I have something to say, and remember to post it.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Anti-vaccination stupidity

In this TCS article, Glenn Reynolds highlights the recent mumps outbreak and the resurgence of other similar diseases. He concludes with the following:

If I were to start a drug company, and peddle a drug with no more evidence of its safety and efficacy than anti-vaccine activists and their media allies had to peddle their approach, and if as many people were made sick, or killed, as a result, I'd probably be in jail now. So where's the accountability for the people whose bogus claims and hysterical coverage led to this situation? Nowhere in sight. With that sort of an incentive structure, we're lucky that we're not in worse shape. Thank God.

He brings up one of the problems with our litigious society. We look to cast blame when something we do goes wrong. We do nothing when something we don't do goes wrong.

In this case, people who have heard anti-vaccination propaganda choose not to vaccinate their children, and in this case, their lack of decision renders these children susceptible to diseases that can cripple or kill.

We need protection for vaccine manufacturers against lawsuits related to their vaccines. Yes, a vaccine can kill in rare cases, but so can crossing the street to get to the doctor's office. Consider the consequence of a society where no company wants to manufacture flu shots: a human-to-human transmittable new flu strain, sickening millions and killing tens of thousands. The tragedy of inaction demands this protection so that we can see this positive action.

A friendly reminder... BUY!

Demonstrate the purchasing power of America's citizens, legal residents, and legal visitors by making as many purchases as possible tomorrow. Stock up on groceries for the week. Fill the tank. Take your family out to eat. Buy that electronic doodad you've had your eye on.

Maybe I'll pick up a copy of An Army of Davids. It sure seems like an appropriate purchase.

As an additional bonus, it's an affront to the world's unrepentant Communists to gratuitously display the power of capitalism on May Day!

Save the country from Big Shoe!

When Lolita Grabovitch complained yesterday to Trump Tower neighbor Esther Shoppingale about the rapidly escalating price of Jimmy Choo to-die-for pedipretties, she never fathomed that congressional care would come so quickly.

Yet sure enough, by dinner U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) had announced a wide-ranging investigation into price gouging by shoe designers, shoe stores and shoe leather producers, domestic, foreign and terrorist.

"Who is this Choo, anyway, and how much did he pay himself last year," Schumer snarled. "No one can tell me this leopard print is worth anywhere near $700. It's a slingback and doesn't even have laces. I'm going to drop the other Rockport on this, and if President Bush is involved, well, that's what Impeachment is for. We all know who is to blame for this outrage."

Check out the rest of this hilarious spoof from CFIF.

All eyes on Suri

So TomKat's baby girl is named Suri, Hebrew for "princess" or Persian for "red rose."

But with pretty much any word, it means different things in other languages. A poster to an anime forum notes that Suri is Japanese for "pickpocket."

In the future, when she's shopping in Tokyo and everyone is keeping a close eye on her, you'll know why.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

A modern day tragedy

Charles Cullen, a despicable creature, is in prison, and will never be free again. He was convicted of killing many patients while working as a nurse in various facilities in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He admitted to killing as many as 40 people over 16 years.

Sadly, these deaths could have been prevented. Suspicious deaths were tied to Cullen, who would leave one nursing job and find another without difficulty, thanks to the tight job market. Yet employers were not willing to share their suspicions, for fear of being sued.

From Wikipedia:
Cullen was largely able to move from facility to facility undetected, experts say, because of lax reporting requirements and inadequate legal protection for employers. New Jersey and Pennsylvania, like most states, required health care facilities to report suspicious deaths only in the most egregious cases, and penalties for failing to report incidents were minor. Many states did not give investigators the legal authority to discover where a worker had previously been employed. Employers feared to investigate incidents or give a bad employment reference for fear that such actions might trigger a lawsuit.

Now, I place the responsibility for Cullen's actions solely with him. He may have had a rough childhood and depression, but he knew right from wrong, and chose to do wrong. There is no excuse for murder. Most people on my side of the political spectrum would agree with this assessment.

But then, there is the other side, and many of them don't see things the same way. They place the blame for heinous criminal acts not on the criminals themselves, but on racism, or childhood abuse, or, famously, even radio talk show hosts.

I've searched the news, but strangely, I haven't found these same people laying the blame for this mass murderer at the feet of trial lawyers and the fearful, litigious society they've created.

Charles Cullen was free to kill again and again because trial lawyers will sue, no matter how reasonable the employer's action. Employers are left afraid of stating honest, unbiased fact. "This former employee has been investigated over suspicious deaths. The outcome of this investigation [is XXX]/[has not been determined]." True, I would hate to have something like that over my head, were I interviewing, but that is fact, not a malicious aspersion on one's character.

Charity care on the decline

Facing greater financial and time pressures, physicians across the country are less likely to provide charity care than in past years, according to a national study released today that looks at the percentage of doctors caring for those without health insurance.

Not wholly unexpected. But the interesting part of this article came later:

He estimates that charity care results in about $300,000 a year in uncollected fees for the practice. He added that caring for the uninsured has its challenges -- one is dealing with patients who in some cases could afford insurance.

Gabrielsen said he recently treated an insurance agent who didn't have health insurance. "He just wanted to save that money."

Those sorts of cases have prompted the small practice to start screening nonemergency patients to see if they have the ability to pay or are eligible for government programs.

In a perfect world, every person would recognize it is his duty to take care of his own medical care. Those who could afford it would buy insurance, those who are covered by government programs will use them, and charity can help the people who fall through the cracks.

But consider that the world, and the humans in it, is far from perfect. People like this insurance agent add to the health coverage crisis through their selfish behavior.

Having people pay, or enroll in government healthcare programs, is a good thing. A similar situation was observed in Massachusetts, which recently mandated insurance. Of the large number of people who did not have insurance, quite a few either chose not to buy coverage, or could already be covered by government health care programs.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Anti-war conspiracy in North Carolina

Early Wednesday the ROTC buildings at UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State University were vandalized with anti-military statements, spurring investigations from police at both schools.

Two statements - "F--- off" and "We won't fight your wars" - were painted on the doors of UNC-CH's ROTC building, the Naval Armory, said Lt. Col. Elizabeth Agather of the Army ROTC program.

Red paint also had been spilled on the steps of the building, at the corner of South Columbia Street and South Road.

Vandalism may not be a big crime, but this should be prosecuted as a conspiracy.

There are right ways and wrong ways to express one's opinion. If you don't recognize that this is a wrong way, then do the world a favor and stay home.

If you really want to state your opposition to war in a forceful way, try doing this in daylight, and accept the consequences of your criminal act.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Do drugs, lose financial aid

Tonisha Mauldin had more than her clean record at stake when campus police found marijuana in her IUPUI student apartment last fall.

A drug conviction could have forced her to drop out of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Mauldin said, because she depends on loans and scholarships to pay for school.

Federal law strips financial aid from college students with drug offenses. That law has hit Indiana harder than any other state since it took effect six years ago, according to an activist group that has joined a nationwide push to overturn the law.

I support this law. It is well within the government's rights to place any legal restrictions on its programs. Besides, it's a lesson students need to learn. You need to play by the rules, especially when someone is giving you something for free. In the real world, you have to abide by any number of restrictions that are a lot worse than simply obeying the law and avoiding a little gratification. You don a suit, you put in overtime, you do uninteresting assignments because that's what the boss said to do. In academics, you publish and work for tenure. As a business consultant, you need to build relationships and bring in new clients in order to become a partner.

Really, you have to wonder about the future educational success for someone with the bad judgment to risk thousands of dollars of scholarships in exchange for an evening of getting high.

An advocacy group called Students for a Sensible Drug Policy opposes this law. Rather than simply call for an end to this restriction, this organization (along with other libertarian and liberal pro-legalization groups) could support these students who have their scholarships and financial aid withdrawn. Follow these students in college and beyond. Where denied financial aid would remove them from college, this donation would allow them to complete college, and open doors that would otherwise be denied. In ten years, when these students are successful young adults, trumpet the fact that "Drugs didn't ruin our lives." Maybe then, people will see concrete examples of how some drugs aren't dangerous.

That plan will only work, of course, if people do turn out successful. The stereotypical pothead is not a person inclined to strive and seek great accomplishments. And as long as that image persists, you're not likely to see a majority in favor of any drug legalization.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Michael Moore should be #1!

I certainly disagree that Michael Moore's films deserve to win Best Documentary or Best Picture. But here's one award Michael Moore should have won. How he lost, I'll never know.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Cute picture

There's more at CuteOverload.

Easter treat

Here's an Easter treat fit for American overindulgence:

The Easter Turducken!

(Via Apostropher and Riding Sun)

Daylight Savings Time: an economic boon!

Dad's Ice Cream shop just landed an unexpected marketing partner for its business: daylight.

When the sun is out, even a glimmer on the horizon, it's like a free advertisement urging customers to stop in for a creamy hot fudge sundae.

"We didn't really expect it, but people are coming in later and later," said Lea Rebennack, store manager at Dad's Ice Cream on Thompson Road. "We had no idea people would be wanting ice cream at 9 p.m."

But they are, thanks to an extra hour of evening daylight captured when Indiana turned its clocks forward for daylight-saving time for the first time in three decades. Since the time change took effect two weeks ago, Dad's has readjusted its hours to grab the swirl of customers hitting its store later in the evening. It has extended its closing time by an hour to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Add Dad's to a list of retailers who weren't exactly expecting a big jump in business due to the time change but say they've gotten it in the past two weeks.
So not only does Daylight Savings Time save lives, it's improving Indiana's economy. And to think people didn't want it!

I enjoyed a nice walk this evening. By the time I got back from running errands, it would have been too dark, were it still Standard Time.

I remember, in my youth, walking to a nearby ice cream store during summer. (This was California, so nice weather lasted quite some time.) We didn't do it when it was dark, though.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I guess it was bound to happen

Someone decided to take the catchphrase "Leggo my Eggo" as meaning "Lego my Eggo." I caught an ad for Lego-shaped Eggo waffles.


Global Warming is over

For many years now, human-caused climate change has been viewed as a large and urgent problem. In truth, however, the biggest part of the problem is neither environmental nor scientific, but a self-created political fiasco. Consider the simple fact, drawn from the official temperature records of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, that for the years 1998-2005 global average temperature did not increase (there was actually a slight decrease, though not at a rate that differs significantly from zero).

The article makes the point I've long made:

The reality of the climate record is that a sudden natural cooling is far more to be feared, and will do infinitely more social and economic damage, than the late 20th century phase of gentle warming.

I do not want glaciers to crush my home, which they did in the last Ice Age.

(Via Instapundit)

Annex Mexico!

That's the suggestion of Glenn Reynolds, who identifies one of the key reasons America has illegal immigrants:
In fact, they're leaving Mexico because its corrupt and thuggish political culture stifles economic growth and opportunity. The people there are smart and hardworking, after all, and they tend to do just fine when they get here. They're leaving because being smart and hardworking is enough to get you ahead in the United States, but not in Mexico.

I would love to see Mexico embrace a culture where civil servants do not take bribes, where access to markets is not restricted to those with connections, and all can work to improve their lot in life.

Monday, April 10, 2006

No DNA evidence....

I was wondering if we'd see something like this:

DNA testing failed to connect any members of the Duke University lacrosse team to the alleged rape of a stripper, attorneys for the athletes said Monday.

Citing DNA test results delivered by the state crime lab to police and prosecutors a few hours earlier, the attorneys said the test results prove their clients did not sexually assault and beat a stripper hired to perform at a March 13 team party.
We'll have to wait for confirmation, but this revelation is troubling. Could this entire case be a fraud? Could it be nothing more than typical frat-boy drunkenness and raucousness, with nothing crossing the line to criminal behaviour?

If so, what happens to the team whose season was cancelled, the coach who resigned, and the school whose reputation was tarnished?

Now that's a phone bill!

A Malaysian man said he nearly fainted when he received a $218 trillion phone bill and was ordered to pay up within 10 days or face prosecution, a newspaper reported Monday.

Yahaya Wahab said he disconnected his late father's phone line in January after he died and settled the $23 bill, the New Straits Times reported.

But Telekom Malaysia later sent him a $218 trillion bill for recent telephone calls along with orders to settle within 10 days or face legal proceedings, the newspaper reported.

Now that's a big bill! Now, check out the hilarious next paragraph:

It wasn't clear whether the bill was a mistake, or if Yahaya's father's phone line was used illegally after his death.

The mainstream media is often criticized for not having a whole lot of expertise outside of journalism. For example, they can't tell the difference between an artillery shell and a missile, and they can't see the difference between a computer-generated document and a typed document.

If anyone at the Associated Press could do basic arithmetic, they would know the $218 trillion figure must be an error. Let's assume the phone was connected, 24/7, to an extremely expensive 900 number, at $100 a minute. 100 days, 24 hours a day, 60 minutes an hour, at $100 per hour, is $14.4 million.

If the phone were connected this entire time period, the reported phone bill would mean the charge per minute was over $1.5 billion!

If journalists don't have a concept for how big a billion or trillion dollars is, how can they be counted on to understand amounts on the level of the U.S. budget?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Bias in hiring and firing

The ugly truth, according to economics professors Daniel Hamermesh of the University of Texas and Jeff Biddle of Michigan State University, is that plain people earn 5 to 10 percent less than people of average looks, who in turn earn 3 to 8 percent less than those deemed good-looking.

Size matters, too. A study released last year by two professors at the University of Florida and the University of North Carolina found that tall people earn considerably more money throughout their careers than their shorter co-workers, with each inch adding about $789 a year in pay.

Every time I hear complaints about racial discrimination or sexism in employment, I think to the many forms of discrimination that persist, and will persist forever. We have made a lot of progress towards a colorblind society, where skin color or gender are not considered as impediments towards doing the job.

However, humans are hardwired to appreciate attractive people, who will forever have certain advantages.

There are advantages to civil service exams, in that they eliminate a lot of these subjective determinations. Yet nothing is perfect.

It should go without saying that if you're involved in hiring, take some time to describe why you prefer one candidate over another.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

So what character does the Dear Leader play?

This announcement about the RPGA's Living Greyhawk campaign (a Dungeons and Dragons campaign played throughout the world) is only of interest to its players, and practically speaking, only to those players in the affected regions or those who have the money to fly across the Pacific:

The Living Greyhawk campaign is happy to announce the return of the Ratik region to the campaign.

While the original region was comprised of only Hawaii, the new Ratik, however, encompasses far more territory. While the Hawaiian Islands return to the region, they are joined by Japan, New Zealand’s South Island, Australian Capital Territory and the Australian states of New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania. Ratik is part of the Nyrond and Her Environs metaregion (Metaregion IV), headed by John Jenks.

The new Ratik’s real world boundaries change the boundaries of Perrenland. The new Perrenland encompasses the Australian’s North Territory, and the states of Queensland, South Australia, and Western Australia, along with Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong and Guam. Perrenland continues to be part of the Iuz Border States metaregion (Metaregion III), headed by Chris Tulach.

The original version of the announcement was a lot more humorous, when instead of South Korea, it was announced that North Korea would be joining the campaign. (Stupid typo!)

I know that Dear Leader, Kim Jong Il, loves American movies, and fancies himself an actor. But who knew he enjoyed Dungeons and Dragons too?

Since President Bush plays too, our two nations' differences could be resolved over a little dungeon crawling and the roll of a few twenty-sided dice.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


Friends who watch a lot more movies than I do swear by Netflix. It sounds like a great service, exceptionally convenient, but I don't feel I would get my money's worth, given how little I watch movies. (That same rationale kept me from getting a cell phone for a long time.)

I would suspect certain kinds of movies are more popular with Netflix than others. Hard to find movies would be one example: your local Blockbuster might not have them, but from a thorough list maintained by Netflix, you can find anything. A ratio of (Netflix rentals)/(video chain rentals) would be interesting to see.

There's another, well known, film that I suspect would have a high Netflix ratio. Coming out on video this week, including available for legal download, is multiple Oscar nominee Brokeback Mountain. I suspect a lot of people who would never be caught in public renting the movie would still be interested in checking it out. If anyone maintained such a ratio, I'd be interested in seeing if experience bears out my suspicion.

I get horribly behind on my reading...

...but occasionally, I find something that wouldn't have meant much had I read it on time.

An article congratulated Sean May, formerly of UNC's men's basketball team, for winning the Anthony J. McKelvin Award for ACC Male Athlete of the Year.

Second place? Matt Danowski, Duke lacrosse.

Daylight Savings Time: a lifesaver!

I was in California this past weekend, so I missed out on all the fun downtown with the Final Four. I also missed out on a severe storm that damaged the One Indiana Square skyscraper (the Regions Bank building):

In the Indianapolis Star blog of Matthew Tully, he makes the following comment:

Because consider what my colleague Ted Kim pointed out this morning: Daylight-saving time meant Sunday's free John Mellencamp concert ended an hour earlier than it otherwise would have. Without DST, the storm would have hit during the concert -- and before roughly 80,000 people headed home.

There you have it. Daylight Savings Time: Not only does it curtail confusion for people elsewhere in the country, it saves lives.

In all seriousness, I'm glad people got to safety, and that there were few injuries.