Monday, March 31, 2008

And They Had Such Clever Television Ads!

I try not to be as angry and cynical as my daughter's rant about pharmaceutical companies (caution: not work safe, especially if you work for Big Pharma). I don't regard Big Pharma as evil. America's pharmaceutical companies have been busily developing a lot of new and often quite effective drugs. Because of severe price controls in much of the rest of the world, American consumers have been paying for this development--creating a lot of really astonishing drugs, and subsidizing the rest of the world. Some day, I hope, the rest of the world will thank us for this.

That's why I get very upset when I see this report:
CHICAGO (AP) -- Full results of a failed trial on Vytorin, a medicine taken by millions of Americans to lower cholesterol, left doctors stunned that the drug did not improve heart disease even though it worked as intended to lower three key risk factors.

Use of Vytorin and a related drug, Zetia, seemed sure to continue to fall after the findings reported Sunday and fresh questions about why drugmakers took nearly two years after the study ended to give results. [emphasis added]
Gee, could it have something to do with the really, really clever ads that they have been running for Vytorin, selling a drug that apparently doesn't work [UPDATE: doesn't work any better than statins alone]? They were very clever ads--about how cholesterol can come from the food that you eat, and from genetics--and they would have "your Aunt Madge" dressed in a way that parallels some cholesterol-rich food.
"A lot of us thought that there would be some glimmer of benefit," said Dr. Roger Blumenthal, a Johns Hopkins University cardiologist and spokesman for the American Heart Association.

Many doctors were prescribing Vytorin without trying older, proven medications first, as guidelines advise.
The key message from the study is "don't do that," Blumenthal said. [emphasis added]
This really bothers me. Was there some financial incentive behind this?

UPDATE: A reader reports:

I think there was money somewhere.

I'm covered by Blue Cross. I took a different statin for cholesterol - Lipitor, for a few years, and had good control of my levels.

A couple of years back, my doctor switched me to Vytorin; my cholesterol levels are even better.

But the prescription formulary for Blue Cross eliminated Lipitor. I could still buy it, if I wanted to pay full price, about $112 for 30 tablets. Hmm; that price vs a $15 co-pay for 90 tablets. I guess I'll go with my doctor and the covered medication.

I don't know if Lipitor is back in the formulary for Blue Cross.

Vytorin works; here's just no evidence that adding ezetimbe to the statin works any better. I haven't spoken to my doctor about this yet.

What is "Priority Doctrine"?

One of the humbling aspects about running for public office is you discover how many aspects of public policy about which you know nothing. I received a questionnaire from the Idaho Farm Bureau today, and one of the questions that they asked was my opinion about "priority doctrine." What the heck is that?

It turns out that Idaho, unsurprisingly, has long had a policy that the first user of a water source has priority over later arrivals when it comes to arguing who gets how much. It appears that the Idaho Department of Water Resources had other plans.

My first reaction is to giving priority to the first user of a water supply is that this seems fair. I can imagine that there are circumstances where this might not be appropriate, and I'm sure that environmentalists would insist that the first user of some of these water supplies have scales.

Never Underestimate How Irritated Voters Are

I was in town today (or should I say, "in village?") and someone that I see pretty regularly approached me to ask, "Are you running for state senate?" I admitted to the crime of being a politician, and discovered that he shared my view that the incumbent is voting for bills like he represents Boise--not like he represents the very conservative people of his district. To my surprise (and perhaps I shouldn't be surprised), this voter knew that Senator Corder had introduced the "sexual orientation and gender identity" bill--and was not happy about it.


My wife has noticed that all the talk of recession seems intended to help the Democrats in the general election. Economist John Lott points out the historical record on media manipulation about this in a March 31, 2008 Fox News column:

During the 2000 election, with Bill Clinton as president, the economy was viewed through rose-colored glasses. According to polls, voters didn’t realize that the country was in a recession. Although the economy started shrinking in July 2000, most Americans through the entire year thought that the economy was fine.

But over the last half-year, the media and politicians have said we were in a recession even while the economy was still growing.


A little perspective on the economy would be helpful. The average unemployment rate during President Clinton was 5.2 percent. The average under President George W. Bush is just slightly below 5.2. The current unemployment rate is 4.8 percent, almost an entire half a percentage point lower than these averages.

The average inflation rate under Clinton was 2.6 percent, under Bush it is 2.7 percent. Indeed, one has to go back to the Kennedy administration to find a lower average rate. True the inflation rate over the last year has gone up to 4 percent, but that is still lower than the average inflation rate under all the presidents from Nixon through Bush’s father.

Gas prices are indeed up 33 percent over the last year, but to get an average of 4 percent means that lots of other prices must have stayed the same or gone down. On other fronts, seasonally adjusted civilian employment is 650,000 people greater than it was a year ago. Personal income grew at a strong half of one percent in just February.

Despite all that, this last week, Barack Obama claimed “As most experts know, our economy is in a recession.” Hillary Clinton made similar claims last fall. Yet, as any economist knows, a recession is two consecutive quarters of negative growth, and we haven’t even had one single quarter of negative growth reported. The economy slowed down significantly during the end of last year, but that was after a sizzling annual GDP growth rate of 4.9 percent in the third quarter.

Housing has obviously been a big drag on the economy, but many other sectors of the economy, such as exports, have been doing well, some extremely well. For example, aerospace exports increased by over 13 percent last year.

The media’s focus on the negative side of everything surely helps explain people’s pessimism. In a recent interview Fox’s Neil Cavuto claimed this bias “is all part of the media’s plan to get a Democrat in the White House.”

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Uninsured Idahoans

I saw a letter to the March 26, 2008 Idaho World from Walt Minnick, the Democrat intent on unseating Bill Sali, attacking Sali for his approach to solving the problem of uninsured Idahoans. In that letter, Minnick complained about "the 40% of Idahoans who don't have insurance." That sounded high, but I just assumed that Minnick is as careful as I am when making factual claims. I guess not.

Here's a website sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which wants everyone covered. It claims that the 2006 Current Population Survey data indicates that 14.7% of Idahoans are uninsured. That's actually better than the national average (although not by much).

Here's a report put together by Mathematica Policy Research for the Joint Legislative Oversight Committee last year. It estimates that 16-18% of the "non-elderly population" of Idaho is uninsured as of 2005. (People over 65 are covered by Medicare; hence the discrepancy with the 14.7% figure.)

Characteristics of the uninsured are unsurprising: the 18-24 and 25-34 populations seem to be especially prone to being uninsured, while only 10% of the 0-17 population are uninsured. My guess is that this is because large numbers of Idahoans graduate either high school (and don't go on to college) or graduate college, and because they are now either not full-time students, or are too old, are therefore no longer covered by the health insurance that their parents have. Been there, done that, long, long ago.

I'm not thrilled that 10% of the 0-17 population are uninsured, but it is pretty obvious from the numbers that 90% of children are insured, either privately, or through governmental insurance programs such as Medicaid or SCHIP.

Why are there Idahoans who are uninsured? I was uninsured for a few months, back when I was 19 years old, mostly because I wasn't thinking about it. I worked for an employment agency with no benefits (but they paid me so well that I couldn't spend money as fast as I made it) and I just never thought about the need for health insurance. After a few months, I did start to think about it, and I went out and bought individual health insurance that covered just hospitalization--figuring that I would pay everything else out of pocket. It made the coverage a lot more reasonable.

I'm guessing that many of Idaho's uninsured are in that situation because of poverty. I see that 49% of the roughly 45,000 adults with incomes below $15,000 per year are uninsured--and I would expect that most of these can't afford health insurance, and are too well off to qualify for Medicaid. Ditto for the 48% of the roughly 70,000 adults with incomes in the $15,000 to $25,000 per year range. Health insurance is going to run you, even for a very basic policy, at least $300 to $400 a month.

But there are still uninsured adults making more than $50,000 a year. Not as many, or as high a percentage--but whatever is causing 4% of people in this income bracket to be uninsured, poverty isn't likely the reason. That's a net income of about $3000 per month. You can afford to buy insurance with that kind of income--and if you can't, that's a foolishness problem, not a poverty problem.

Much of the problem seems to be with unemployed people, those living in rural areas, and working for small employers. Of employers with less than 10 employees, only a bit more than 30% offer health insurance to their employees.

Part-time employees, also unsurprisingly, are uninsured. Most group health insurance plans are only available to full-time employees (either 30 or 32 hours per week, depending on the plan).

If we want a solution to the problem, the focus needs to be on:

1. Reminding those that can afford health insurance, but don't have it, that this is really, really foolish.

2. Seeing if there something that can be done to make it possible for the group health insurance to be offered on some basis other than employers. I don't know all the details of how and why group health insurance is tied to employers and labor unions, but I know that the Bush Administration repeatedly tried to get federal law changed to allow Association Health Plans to cross state boundaries, for this very reason.

3. Pretty clearly, there are a lot of young adults who are not insured, and in many cases, may not be able to afford to pay for their own insurance. I'm not thrilled at the idea of the government going into the health insurance business. On the other hand, being uninsured just results in hospitals transferring costs from uninsureds that can't, or won't pay their bills to people who have insurance. Perhaps we could persuade health insurers to market a bare bones insurance plan that at least covered hospitalization and emergency room visits to these uninsureds?

There are some people covered by health insurance that is abominably bad. The health insurance that BSU offers to its students is really health insurance for those who aren't going to need medical care. If a private employer offered a policy this absurd, the left would be screeching about capitalists engaged in fraud.

The Part I Need To Make

The Part I Need To Make

This is the part that I need to make to replace the broken part.

UPDATE: The more I look at this, the more it just looks like a pain to make--lots of careful thought before I go on to each step. The biggest struggle is going to be making that .606" diameter hole. A 19/32" drill bit is .5938"--just a little small. There are .600" reamers available, and for only $27.38 from MSC Direct. I suspect that you start out drilling the hole with a 19/32" drill bit, then use the reamer to enlarge the hole.

Or it is possible that I can just use the 19/32" drill bit, and then put a great big piece of sandpaper on a smaller drill bit, and run it in and out of the hole until the sandpaper takes off .0061" of aluminum--which might happen pretty quickly.

What Ever Happened To The Big Bertha Rebuild?

What Ever Happened To The Big Bertha Rebuild?

This state senate campaign has just gobbled up way too much time (as you might expect), so something had to give--and what gave was Big Bertha 2.0. But I did receive the 4" wide aluminum channel, and after a bit of examination, I concluded that there really wasn't a need to epoxy the 1/8" thick piece of aluminum into the channel.

Here you can see the channel bolted to the tube rings:

Click to enlarge

Of course, none of the existing 1/4"-20 bolts were the right length (some too long, some too short).

Here you can see the top side of the channel, where the bolts holding the dovetail plate go:

Click to enlarge

And here's the saddle plate side:

Click to enlarge

There are a total of four 1/4"-20 bolts attaching the saddle plate to the channel, and since two should have been theoretically more than enough, four is way more than enough.

However: my wife is anxious to get the enormously huge Big Bertha 1.0 tube assembly out of the garage, so we went ahead and tried to put Big Bertha 2.0 on the Celestron CI-700 mount this afternoon. It turns out that:

1. I don't have enough counterweights to balance Big Bertha 2.0. I have two 23 pound counterweights that came with the CI-700, as well as an 11 pound, and an 8 pound weight that came with the Losmandy GM-8. It's close, with all 65 pounds at the end of the counterweight shaft, but not quite. So I need to buy some more counterweights. Probably one of the Losmandy 23 pounders should do the job, allowing the 11 and 8 pound weights to go back to the GM-8.

2. Remember that I knocked the CI-700 over a few weeks back, breaking one of the parts, which I then had to get welded? It turns out that the welds didn't survive the load of the counterweights on one end of the shaft, and Big Bertha 2.0 on the other end--and the parts that broke off the end, broke off again.

I had noticed when I got the part out last time that it was almost something that I could machine myself, if I needed to do so. It might not be as elegant as the original, but it would be close. I guess that I need to do so. I'm sure that if I machined this part from a solid piece of aluminum, it would be strong enough to handle the load. I confess that I am tempted to machine it out of a piece of steel, however, just to make sure. If I could find the part for sale, I would buy it.

Today being the Sabbath, I think I'm going to concentrate on relaxing instead.

Involuntary Commitment Laws

Involuntary Commitment Laws

I'm writing the chapter on how the pendulum on involuntary commitment laws has began to swing back--at least a little. Wisconsin, in 1996, added a fifth standard to their involuntary commitment law, allowing persons who were not in imminent danger to be committed if they were mentally ill, and were headed down a path of deterioration that could put them in imminent danger. This was upheld by the Wisconsin Supreme Court in State of Wisconsin v. Dennis H. (Wisc. 2002).

Does anyone know of any other states that have made similar efforts to ease involuntary commitment over the last twenty years?

There are a number of states that have adopted what are termed "involuntary outpatient commitment laws" over the last decade or so. These laws are a method of provided increased supervision over mentally ill persons short of hospitalizing them. In some cases, this means requiring them to accept treatment as a condition of staying outside of a hospital or jail.

Here in Idaho, some counties have something called Mental Health Court for mentally ill persons who have committed minor crimes, and which have the authority to require treatment to stay out of jail or prison.

New York has Kendra's Law, which applies to mental patients with a history of violent or self-destructive behavior. New York State Office of Mental Health, Kendra’s Law: Final Report on the Status of Assisted Outpatient Treatment, March 2005, is a detailed report on the results of the program.

California has something similar, although only some counties have implemented it. (San Francisco, of course, which has the most need to do so, refuses.)

Iowa, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, and the District of Columbia, all experimented with similar programs in the 1990s. If you can point me to any official documents or discussions of these programs, I would be much obliged. If you know of other states that have made similar efforts to reform involuntary commitment laws, please let me know.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

28th Anniversary

Today is our 28th wedding anniversary. Some day I should scan in some of the wedding pictures so that you can laugh at the silly 1980 clothes everyone was wearing. We went to dinner at Da Vinci's in Eagle--which is a local Italian restaurant a step up from Carino's or Olive Garden in ambiance, without quite the expense and pretense of Asiago's, the high end gourmet Italian restaurant in Boise.

An interesting twist is that like my wife, the waitress's undergraduate area of specialization was Victorian literature, and the two of them probably spent more time discussing Vanity Fair, Jane Austen, and related subjects, than they really should have.

You may recall that in the 1980s TV series Cheers, Shelley Long played Diane Chambers, a neurotic English literature grad student who worked in the bar. Alas, the world is full of overeducated English literature specialists working in food service. Along with the waitress tonight, my wife worked as a hostess at a country club when we first moved here. Her fellow employees kidded that she was the most overeducated restaurant hostess that had ever lived.

Quickie Burger

Quickie Burger

Eric Scheie over at Classical Values is in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and reports on a local burger joint called "Quickie Burger." Their symbol is a cowgirl riding a gigantic hamburger. Okay, there is some double entendre involved with the name, and it might not have been my first choice for that reason. The logo is perfectly wholesome--and there was a time when the logo and the name of the place would only have suggested (in all but the most dirty-minded) that this is a place for fast food.

There are people upset about the name, however, and the cowgirl riding the hamburger. Is it a bunch of narrow-minded fundamentalists? No! Eric links to this news account from the March 21, 2008 Michigan Daily of who is upset:
When the owners of Quickie Burger and Dogs chose their logo, they thought it would make patrons crave an order of chili cheese fries. But the logo, a busty woman in a tight shirt straddling a hamburger, has drawn criticism from campus groups.


The Stonewall Democrats, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender caucus of the University's College Democrats chapter, has taken offense with the restaurant's logo and recently began circulating a petition to sway the owners to change the logo.

LSA senior Kolby Roberts, a member of the Stonewall Democrats who has led the effort, said he finds the logo's message inappropriate and offensive.

"I have a problem that you take a women riding a hamburger and you put it next to the word 'quickie,' " he said. "It just seems like it's not putting a good message out there for the objectification of women."

Maria Arman, whose family owns the restaurant, said the logo was meant to invoke a cowboy theme.

"We were thinking beef, rodeo, so instead of putting a cowboy, we just picked a cowgirl," she said. "It's a rodeo-style cowgirl riding a bull, but instead, it's a burger. It was put together to be funny and different. No offense was meant to anyone."
Now, there are traditional morality groups that, if they complained about this, I would say, "Guys, I see your concern, but you are grasping at straws on this. This is writing parking tickets while ICBMs re-enter the atmosphere." But when a gay and lesbian group gets upset about insulting objectification of women, I can only say this: Why aren't you complaining about drag queens? My wife finds the entire insulting parody of women that drag queens do insulting, and I can see why, and agree.

One of the commenters over at Classical Values catches it very well (although you do need to have read George Orwell's 1984 to appreciate the wit of it):
"In a related story, gay campus activists today announced they were organizing a Junior Anti-Sex League to 'combat doubleplusungood expressions of sexism.' The activists also issued demands for U of M to include Newspeak in its core liberal arts curriculum, imposition of mandatory 'Two Minutes Hate' at noon each day, and the creation of a 'Vice-Provost of Love' to oversee student sexual activities, suppress vice and propagate virtue."

Friday, March 28, 2008

Time Is Getting Short

Time Is Getting Short

I mentioned a couple of years ago
the fossil evidence that life existed at least 3.4 billion years ago--and the presence of an oxygen atmosphere suggests photosynthesis was already at work (thus implying life) 3.8 billion years ago. I also mentioned that this creates an interesting problem for evolutionists--how in the heck did this happen so quickly?

Richard Talcott, "Earth's troubled adolescence," Astronomy, May 2008, 32-37, has one of those very nice simplified explanations of early Earth history that Astronomy is good at presenting. The article points out that the Earth had a catastrophic beginning, with a Mars-size impact at about 4.52 billion years ago that stripped away the atmosphere, created the Moon, melted the surface, and generally, would have ruined your whole day, if you had been on Earth at the time. More importantly, after 500 million years or so of relative calm:
That started to change approximately 4.0 billion years ago. For a period of 200 million years, the rate of impacts skyrocketed as the young planets made a final sweep of the inner solar system. Astronomers don't know for sure what caused this "late heavy bombardment" or where the objects came from....

In any case, the number of impacts spiked....

Although the damage visible on the Moon is sobering, what transpired on Earth would have been far worse.... The late heavy bombardment should have created roughly 40 craters with diameters around 600 miles (1,000 km) and several as big as 3,000 miles (5,000 km) across.

Each of these behemoths would have transformed our planet. The energy released by just one big impact would have vaporized the oceans and much of Earth's crust. The temperature at Earth's surface would have climbed higher than the inside of an oven. These effects could have lingered for 1,000 years.
As the article points out, at 3.5 billion years ago, there was life on Earth. So we're talking about as little as 300 million years and a maximum of 500 million years from the end of temperatures that would have sterilized the planet, to fossils. That's amazingly quick for a blind, random, and necessarily slow process.

It turns out that there is considerable argument about when our atmosphere first had substantial oxygen in it. Here's a book by Stephen E. Kesler and Hiroshi Ohmoto, Evolution of Earth's Early Atmosphere, Hydrosphere, and Biosphere--Constraints From Ore Deposits that argues that there is still consider uncertainty as to whether the atmosphere had free oxygen at 3.8 billion years ago, or not until much later.

A 3.8 billion year free oxygen atmosphere almost certainly requires photosynthesis--and therefore life. That would mean that from sterilizing heat to enough photosynthetic life to turn carbon dioxide into oxygen would be a period between 0 and 200 million years. Blind, random, luck, starts to look pretty unlikely.

Frances Westall and Maud Walsh, "Early Life on Earth : 3.5-3.3 Ga microbial remains from South Africa," Geophysical Research Abstracts points to the 3.5 billion year old microfossils, and observes something that should be making shivers run up the spines of those committed to a blind, random process for life:
The latter is a relatively evolved mechanism for obtaining energy to drive cellular processes. Given the fact that these are amongst the oldest microfossils yet discovered, this implies that these oldest probable microfossils are already far evolved from LUCA, the last universal common ancestor, and that traces of the earlier steps in the origin and evolution of life are missing on Earth (rocks older than 3.5 Ga are too badly metamorphosed to be used in microfossil studies).
Hmmm: "far evolved" not just from the first life, but from the last life that was still a common ancestor of all life. And somehow, we go from life-sterilizing heat, through a completely random, blind process that creates life, and is already "far evolved" in 300 to 500 million years.

Those who insist that Intelligent Design is based on religious faith need to start asking why they are so confident that their model doesn't required a bit of faith to hold onto with data like this!

It Has Been a Busy Day

And not because of the campaign. My day job involves keeping a collection of tools (about 170 scripts and programs, mostly Korn shell, but some Perl and C, probably totaling 20,000 lines) running. These tools bring together all the code that makes up a laser printer in a consistent manner, including verifying that whatever changes developers make don't break the overall product. It is an incredibly boring job, but someone has to do it.

I wrote some of this code, but much of it was written by other people, and it is sometimes challenging to figure out what particular parts of it are supposed to do. Adding to the aggravation, all the source code is stored in ClearCase, and a display of the all the different branches of this code is like a Los Angeles freeway map (although less logical and harder to navigate). Figuring out which printer is using which element on which branch--or at least which it is supposed to be using--is one of those frustrating exercises that I hate.

There are eight different laser printers under development using this toolset that I am responsible for keeping operational. Much of the time, I am waiting for tests to complete, or for people to respond to questions. There are days when I may only be doing something for a couple of hours--and there days like today, when toolset problems develop simultaneously on four different products--and then I am fully engaged for nine hours.

Most of the time, the work that I do involves analyzing why tools have stopped breaking--and sometimes, reproducing the failures is impossible. All I can do is an autopsy on the results, and hope that I can change the tools to give me more information the next they fail.

Today was, if busy, at least mildly entertaining in places.

Exceeded 75 Gigabit Bandwidth!

If you have been having trouble reading my blog, or visiting my campaign website--it is because I have exceeded the 75 Gigabit/month bandwidth I am paying for. My, I never expected that to be a problem! I'm working on getting my bandwidth increased.

UPDATE: Problem fixed; I made a one time purchase of $29.99 for unlimited bandwidth and 100 gigabytes of online storage. That should hold me for, oh, a few months.

Also, another volunteer from the army of Davids polished up the campaign web page.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Buying A Garden Implement

We needed to buy one of those gadgets for removing weeds, so we went to Lowe's after church Sunday. Unfortunately, the tool in question--called a "hoe," once upon a time--seems to have been renamed as a "garden implement." I fear that many young people are only familiar with the rap homonym for this word--perhaps the powers that be at Lowe's are afraid that giving the tool its proper name would cause too many facial muscle injuries to their younger employees.

One Of Those "Quotes" From Jefferson

This quote is all over the Internet--including in some places that you might expect had checked its accuracy, purportedly from Thomas Jefferson:
My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.
But I can't find this quote in the Thomas Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress, at the University of Virginia's Jefferson digital archive, or by searching through anywhere in the 19th century. The closest that I can find is this quote:
History, in general, only informs us what bad government is. But as we have employed some of the best materials of the British constitution in the construction of our own government, a knowledge of British history becomes useful to the American politician. There is, however, no general history of that country which can be recommended. [Thomas Jefferson, Paul Leicester Ford, ed., The Works of Thomas Jefferson (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1905), 10:416]
Maybe somewhere the quote above appears in Jefferson's writings. It is something that Jefferson could easily have thought, but there's something about the style that doesn't really sound like Jefferson. If you can find a verifiable source for this quote, let me know.

Pure Sleep Antisnoring Device Didn't Work For Me

I mentioned a few weeks back a device advertised on TV called the Pure Sleep antisnoring device, sold with a 30 day money back guarantee.

It arrived. You fit to your mouth by immersing it in boiling water for 60 seconds, pull it out for 10-12 seconds, then put it into your mouth to mold to your teeth. You are supposed to have your lower jaw as far forward as you can comfortably project it while doing so.

The first couple of nights it was somewhat uncomfortable--but worse, my wife indicated that I wasn't any quieter. So I remolded it, and tried again, with my jaw farther forward. Still didn't solve the snoring problem, and I didn't sleep very well.

In addition, a reader warned me that a somewhat similar device, prescribed by a doctor, because he had used it consistently for a very long time--caused his jaw to grow to the point where his teeth no longer fit together properly. Scary enough for you? Oh yes, they could fix it by breaking his jaw.

I have no reason to believe that the Pure Sleep device would suffer from this problem (which is probably while they ask a bunch of questions on their website about TMJ and other jaw-related issues). I was only planning to use it while my wife and I were on vacation anyway, so only a few weeks of the year--but it didn't work for me, so there was no point in continuing the effort.

A Fascinating Piece By A Johns Hopkins Professor

I mentioned a few days ago my revulsion at a partial sex change who is now pregnant--a pregnant "man" by his/her/its definition. A reader pointed me to this long and important article by Professor Paul McHugh, the head of psychiatry for Johns Hopkins University medical school--rather an expert, by the terms of such things. It is too long to summarize fairly, but he explains why he made the decision that Johns Hopkins would no longer do sex change operations, and why increasingly, other university medical schools are following suit:
The subjects before the surgery struck me as even more strange, as they struggled to convince anyone who might influence the decision for their surgery. First, they spent an unusual amount of time thinking and talking about sex and their sexual experiences; their sexual hungers and adventures seemed to preoccupy them. Second, discussion of babies or children provoked little interest from them; indeed, they seemed indifferent to children. But third, and most remarkable, many of these men-who-claimed-to-be-women reported that they found women sexually attractive and that they saw themselves as “lesbians.” When I noted to their champions that their psychological leanings seemed more like those of men than of women, I would get various replies, mostly to the effect that in making such judgments I was drawing on sexual stereotypes.


Two issues presented themselves as targets for study. First, I wanted to test the claim that men who had undergone sex-change surgery found resolution for their many general psychological problems. Second (and this was more ambitious), I wanted to see whether male infants with ambiguous genitalia who were being surgically transformed into females and raised as girls did, as the theory (again from Hopkins) claimed, settle easily into the sexual identity that was chosen for them. These claims had generated the opinion in psychiatric circles that one’s “sex” and one’s “gender” were distinct matters, sex being genetically and hormonally determined from conception, while gender was culturally shaped by the actions of family and others during childhood.

The first issue was easier and required only that I encourage the ongoing research of a member of the faculty who was an accomplished student of human sexual behavior. The psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Jon Meyer was already developing a means of following up with adults who received sex-change operations at Hopkins in order to see how much the surgery had helped them. He found that most of the patients he tracked down some years after their surgery were contented with what they had done and that only a few regretted it. But in every other respect, they were little changed in their psychological condition. They had much the same problems with relationships, work, and emotions as before. The hope that they would emerge now from their emotional difficulties to flourish psychologically had not been fulfilled.

We saw the results as demonstrating that just as these men enjoyed cross-dressing as women before the operation so they enjoyed cross-living after it. But they were no better in their psychological integration or any easier to live with. With these facts in hand I concluded that Hopkins was fundamentally cooperating with a mental illness. We psychiatrists, I thought, would do better to concentrate on trying to fix their minds and not their genitalia.
Professor McHugh has a detailed discussion of the characteristics of men who want to be women--and regular readers of my blog will not be surprised by what they found:
Most of the cases fell into one of two quite different groups. One group consisted of conflicted and guilt-ridden homosexual men who saw a sex-change as a way to resolve their conflicts over homosexuality by allowing them to behave sexually as females with men. The other group, mostly older men, consisted of heterosexual (and some bisexual) males who found intense sexual arousal in cross-dressing as females.
Now, some of you are going to say, "If it makes them happy, what's wrong with them doing this?"

1. Medical resources spent on this wrongheaded procedure are not available for legitimate medical problems. Even if the confused ones pay for this procedure entirely themselves, it is still using plastic surgeons who could be doing legitimate reconstructive surgery, hospital beds, and operating rooms.

2. In some cases, the taxpayers are paying for sex-change operations. San Francisco, which is self-insured, does so--up to $50,000 per employee, according to this February 18, 2001 New York Times report. Berkeley apparently did likewise last year, according to this account copied from the May 8, 2007 Contra Costa Times. This October 10, 2007 KTVB channel 7 report tells us that the federal courts have been wrangling over whether two Idaho prisoners have a right to a treatment for "gender identity disorder."

Really bad ideas don't seem to stay private; they soon became a constitutional right.

Stuck In The Past

Alan K. Henderson asks if Rev. Wright came to us through a time machine, based on some astonishing statements in a recent eulogy by him. Oh yes, he has to start out with some offensive ethnic stereotyping:
"(Jesus') enemies had their opinion about Him," Wright wrote in a eulogy of the late scholar Asa Hilliard in the November/December 2007 issue. "The Italians for the most part looked down their garlic noses at the Galileans.

"From the circumstances surrounding Jesus' birth (in a barn in a township that was under the Apartheid Roman government that said his daddy had to be in), up to and including the circumstances surrounding Jesus' death on a cross, a Roman cross, public lynching Italian style. ..." Wright wrote. "He refused to be defined by others and Dr. Asa Hilliard also refused to be defined by others.
Italians? Not Romans? Does he refer to the people that meet in the building with the Star of David on it as "Hebrews"? As Henderson points out, "lynching" is a term that we reserve for non-official killings; Jesus' crucifixion was most definitely official and governmental execution.

"The government runs everything from the White House to the schoolhouse, from the Capitol to the Klan, white supremacy is clearly in charge, but Asa, like Jesus, refused to be defined by an oppressive government because Asa got his identity from an Omnipotent God," said Wright.
Wow! White supremacy "is clearly in charge"! That's why we have a black Secretary of State. Actually, our second black Secretary of State. And yes, the Klan is clearly a dominant force in our society today.

If Obama just figured out that there's something offensive about Rev. Wright, then he lacks the judgment to be a member of a city council, much less President of the United States.

An Army Of Davids

That's the title of a book by Professor Glenn Reynolds about how new technology and market forces are allowing individuals who aren't powerful in themselves to combine forces and destroy the existing power structure of Big Media and Big Government. I sent out the call last night--and it is happening.

Contributions are starting to trickle in through the campaign web site, which became operational sometime during the night. Each contribution is relatively small--$25, $50--but collectively, they will become a mighty river of money.

A pro-gun blogger issues the clarion call
for pro-gun activists to put their money where their mouths are.

One of my readers is a graphic artist; he's putting together a logo for the campaign.

I needed a list of zip codes in the two counties that make up the district. No problem; another reader used his knowledge of GIS to pull that information together into a spreadsheet for me.

Another reader is a website designer; he has offered to polish up my rather basic campaign web site.

Win or lose--this is going to be fun!

How To Get A List of All Zip Codes In Two Counties?

Does anyone know of a place to download a list of all zip codes in Boise and Elmore Counties, Idaho?

This page gets you zip codes by city--but not for an entire county.

UPDATE: One of my readers used his skills with GIS to get me a spreadsheet with all the zip codes for those two counties.

UPDATE 2: Here's a page that will let you get a list of all zip codes in any county in any state. Unfortunately, it isn't very accurate!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Elk: I Never Realized How Important They Are!

Elk: I Never Realized How Important They Are!

I don't just mean the breeders who raise domestic elk for the table--I mean the antiwolf and prowolf crowd who argue about the wild elk. I'm doing my best not to stick my foot in my mouth on this issue--and more importantly, not in a wolf's mouth--while I am trying to understand this issue.

Someone sent me this YouTube video that claims that the introduction of the wolves has largely wiped out the wild elk population. As near as I can tell, the differing factions are:

1. People that want the wolves removed. They claim that the Canadian wolves introduced into central Idaho are substantially larger than the Rocky Mountain wolves that were originally here. (I don't know if this is true or not; I haven't had time to research this claim.)

One of these groups seems to be made up elk hunters who claim that the reintroduced wolves are taking vast numbers of elk, reducing the herds too dramatically. I notice that the person making that claim in the YouTube video is also in the elk hunt guide business. Hmmmm.

Another antiwolf group are those who use the wilderness and don't want their horses and dogs spooked by the wolves--and may prefer not being shredded themselves. The Idaho World had a report in the last week or two of someone's dog who was killed by a wolf near their home. If I had small children still at home, and I lived somewhere wilder than Horseshoe Bend, I might well be in this group myself. Wolves are like land sharks; extremely competent, and without the same soft and squishy feelings for our children and pets that the wolf-huggers have for the wolves.

Ranchers are concerned about wolves killing their livestock. I'm not sure that it is practical to fence in their livestock--wolves are pretty smart and powerful animals.

2. People that want the wolves here.

Some of these wolf-huggers, in love with nature, but who don't have to live in it.

Some of these seem to be more intelligent and serious ecologists who believe that wolves belong here to act as a natural restraint on the native prey. I will say that there is some merit to having natural predators at work, along with man. Wolves will take out some elk that human hunters might not--especially the sick, and the young ones that aren't quick enough. If the claim about the reintroduced wolves is correct, however, there might be a serious question if we are restoring the natural balance.

Some hunters seem to either accept the presence or the wolves, or see them as being an important part of the natural balance. This doesn't surprise me; a lot of hunters are, at heart, nature lovers. It has always been astonishing to me how Sierra Clubbers managed to create a gap between themselves and hunters--a group that has very similar views of the importance of nature.

As I said, I don't have an opinion on this yet (although I lean towards the idea that wolves perform a useful ecological role--but their numbers in populated areas need to be kept under control). Maybe it is wisest not to get in between these two factions. I will say that fear of wolves might encourage Sierra Club types to reconsider gun ownership while enjoying the Idaho wilderness.

"This Isn't Even Wrong"

"This Isn't Even Wrong"

So said the email from a reader pointing to me something that reads like either a horrifying piece of 1930s science fiction (except that no one would have thought this plausible), or a satirical piece from The Onion. This, unfortunately, comes from the March 25, 2008 National Post of Canada:
An Oregon man who used to be a woman says he is pregnant with a baby girl.

Thomas Beatie's first-person story appears in the April issue of The Advocate, a Los Angeles-based newsmagazine for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people.

According to the story, Mr. Beatie was born a woman but decided to become a transgender male and legally changed his sex to male. He had his breasts surgically removed and started bimonthly testosterone injections, but kept his vagina.

Now identifying as male, Mr. Beatie legally married Nancy Beatie, the story says. The pair wanted a biological baby but Ms. Beatie was unable to carry a child. So they decided Mr. Beatie would carry the child.

"How does it feel to be a pregnant man," Mr. Beatie writes in the article. "Incredible. Despite the fact that my belly is growing with a new life inside me, I am stable and confident being the man that I am. In a technical sense I see myself as my own surrogate, though my gender identity as male is constant. To Nancy, I am her husband carrying our child ... I will be my daughter's father, and Nancy will be her mother. We will be a family."

Before getting pregnant he stopped injecting testosterone, and his body "regulated itself after about four months," he writes in the Advocate piece.

One year and nine doctors later, the couple got access to a cryogenic sperm bank and purchased anonymous donor vials for a home insemination. Without the aid of fertility drugs, progesterone or exogenous estrogen, Mr. Beatie got pregnant, he says. But the pregnancy was ectopic, and rarer still, with triplets. After surgery, Mr. Beatie lost all his embryos and his right fallopian tube.

But the second pregnancy has been a success, writes Mr. Beatie: "We are happily awaiting her birth, with an estimated due date of July 3, 2008."
I think I disagree with my reader. If true, this is very wrong. Oh yeah, you can tell something of what the expectant couple are like from the name of the firm that they run:
Yesterday, the couple-- who run a T-shirt printing company called Define Normal -- refused to tell their story, citing U.S. deals with TV and print media outlets.
I won't "define normal" but I will certainly define sick, and this is it. Of course, if State Senator Tim Corder had his way with S.1323, an employer who refused to hire this pregnant "man" would be punished for discriminating based on "gender identity."

What Am I Missing Here?

What Am I Missing Here?
There has to be some reason that 11 members of the Idaho House voted against this bill. Maybe because they don't believe in a woman's right to choose? From the March 25, 2008 Idaho Statesman:
BOISE, Idaho — The House has passed a measure making it a crime to violently coerce a woman into getting an abortion.

Lawmakers voted 55-11 on Tuesday to approve the bill, a scaled-back version of an earlier proposal. The bill now goes to the Senate.

The measure would apply to anyone who threatens, conspires or inflicts physical injury or death on a pregnant woman.

The crime would either be a misdemeanor or a felony depending on whether the offense involves actual violence.

Republican Representative Bob Nonini of Coeur d'Alene says the bill would help protect pregnant women who are pushed to do something they don't want to do.
Oh, here's the explanation:
Opponents say the law is unnecessary since the threat of physical violence is already a crime.
And so having a second statute under which someone can be charged is a problem because....what? I would think that there are a number of situations where a person could be charged with different crimes for what is essentially the same offense.

Crossing The Line

Crossing The Line

I can understand why someone might feel that his conscience would be violated by filling a particular prescription. But this guy seems to have gone a bit beyond refusing to fill the prescription for birth control pills. An Associated Press story from the March 25, 2008 Idaho Statesman:
WAUSAU, Wis. — A state appeals court upheld sanctions Tuesday against a pharmacist who refused to dispense birth control pills to a woman and wouldn't transfer her prescription elsewhere.
The 3rd District Court of Appeals ruled that the punishment the state Pharmacy Examining Board handed down against pharmacist Neil Noesen did not violate his state constitutional rights, specifically his "right of conscience" to religiously oppose birth control.
According to court records, Noesen was working as a substitute pharmacist at a Menomonie Kmart in 2002 when a University of Wisconsin-Stout student sought to refill her birth control prescription.
Noesen testified he advised the woman of his objection to the use of contraception and refused to fill the prescription or tell her how or where she could get it refilled.
The woman was able to get the prescription filled two days later but missed the first dose of the medication, court records said. [emphasis added]

If Noesen ran his own pharmacy, I might be a bit more tolerant of his unwillingness to help her get her prescription filled. But he was working for someone else, and has an obligation to perform the duties set out by his employer. (And yes, that would include cases like this one, where as much as I sympathize with Mr. Peterson, there are consequences to refusing to obey company rules. No one said that following your conscience was guaranteed to be painless.) If those obligations are morally repugnant, then he needs to quit, or not take the job.

I'm Hoping This News Story Is Inaccurate Or Incomplete

I'm Hoping This News Story Is Inaccurate Or Incomplete

Because if it isn't, I'm pretty upset at the Bush Administration. From the February 5, 2008 San Francisco Chronicle:

Veterans have no legal right to specific types of medical care, the Bush administration argues in a lawsuit accusing the government of illegally denying mental health treatment to some troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
The arguments, filed Wednesday in federal court in San Francisco, strike at the heart of a lawsuit filed on behalf of veterans that claims the health care system for returning troops provides little recourse when the government rejects their medical claims.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is making progress in increasing its staffing and screening veterans for combat-related stress, Justice Department lawyers said. But their central argument is that Congress left decisions about who should get health care, and what type of care, to the VA and not to veterans or the courts.
A federal law providing five years of care for veterans from the date of their discharge establishes "veterans' eligibility for health care, but it does not create an entitlement to any particular medical service," government lawyers said.
They said the law entitles veterans only to "medical care which the secretary (of Veterans Affairs) determines is needed, and only to the extent funds ... are available."
The argument drew a sharp retort from a lawyer for advocacy groups that sued the government in July. The suit is a proposed class action on behalf of 320,000 to 800,000 veterans or their survivors.

BBC Discusses The Failures of Sex Change

BBC Discusses The Failures of Sex Change

This August 1, 2007 BBC report of course mentions that some of the critics of sex change surgery are radical feminists:
Radical feminists have ideological reasons for opposing sex change surgery.

To them, the claim that someone can be "born into the wrong sex" is a deeply threatening concept.

Many feminists believe that the behaviours and feelings which are considered typically masculine or typically feminine are purely socially conditioned.

But if, as some in the transsexual lobby believes, the tendency to feel masculine or feminine is something innate then it follows that gender stereotypical behaviours could well be "natural" rather than as the result of social pressures and male oppression.
But they also go on to admit that there is beginning to be significant non-ideological concern about this as well:
Claudia says she was referred for surgery after a single 45 minute consultation.

"At no time did I say to that psychiatrist that I felt like a woman. In my opinion what happened to me was all about money."

She is one of a small number of trans people who have publicly expressed their regrets about having had sex change surgery.

Another is Charles Kane who, as Sam Hashimi, was the subject of a BBC documentary One Life: Make me a Man Again, televised in 2004.

This showed Sam, a transsexual woman, undergoing surgery to become a man again.

She told the BBC that her desire to become a woman had developed following a nervous breakdown.

For her, these feelings were caused by a longing to retreat into a fantasy character rather than having a crisis of gender identity.

"When I was in the psychiatric hospital there was a man on one side of me who thought he was King George and another guy on the other side who thought he was Jesus Christ. I decided I was Sam."

Others, like Miranda Ponsonby, blame post-operative discontent on society's lack of willingness to accept transsexual people.

In her forthcoming autobiography, The Making of Miranda, she describes having a strong sense from a young age that she was a female trapped in a man's body.

However, like Claudia, she says that, since her surgery, she has lived a life apart.

She claims that she is no happier now than she was before the operation.

Her advice to those contemplating sex change surgery is "Don't do it."
The article does say that there are satisfied customers. Well, heck, there were satisfied customers who bought Yugos, too. Admittedly, you could get out of a Yugo a bit easier than a sex change.

Perhaps the greatest surprise to me in the article was this discussion of how happy the "customers" are:

It comes as something of a surprise to learn that the medical profession does not yet know the answer to this question.
According to a review carried out by the School of Health and Related Research at Sheffield University, the poor quality of research in this area means that "little robust evidence exists" on the outcomes for patients who have sex change surgery.
Dr Kevan Wylie, a consultant in sexual medicine and the head of the UK body looking into standards of care for sex change surgery patients, admits there have been difficulties.
"The problem is that we tend to lose touch with our patients after a relatively short period of time following surgery."
Some local health authorities now refuse to fund sex change operations on the basis that there is a lack of evidence about the surgical efficacy and psychological benefits of surgery.

A related BBC story from May 25, 2007 tells of a doctor being disciplined:
A doctor hailed as an expert in transsexualism has been found guilty of serious professional misconduct by the General Medical Council (GMC).

Dr Russell Reid, 63, had denied rushing five patients into hormone treatment and sex-change surgery without properly assessing them.

The tribunal concluded that the doctor had acted inappropriately and not in the best interests of his patients.
And yet, he is still allowed to practice medicine in Britain--although, with significant supervision. Look, if a doctor rushed into an appendectomy, or a tonsilectomy, putting his own interests ahead of the patient, we would be appropriately concerned. We would be talking about criminal charges if a doctor decided to do a masectomy without any better cause than "It's time to pay the Porsche insurance bill." But a sex change? That's a rather....dramatic change--and one that can't really be undone.

Imagine If They Were Searching For Pornography

Imagine If They Were Searching For Pornography

Then imagine the screeching from the left about these voluntary searches. From D.C.'s NBC channel 4, March 24, 2008:
Police are asking residents to submit to voluntary searches in exchange for amnesty under the District's gun ban. They passed out fliers requesting cooperation on Monday.

The program will begin in a couple of weeks in the Washington Highlands neighborhood of southeast Washington and will later expand to other neighborhoods. Officers will go door to door asking residents for permission to search their homes.

Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said the "safe homes initiative" is aimed at residents who want to cooperate with police. She gave the example of parents or grandparents who know or suspect their children have guns in the home.

Community leaders went door to door in Ward 8 Monday to advise residents not to invite police into their homes to search for weapons.

"Bad idea," said D.C. School Board member William Lockridge. "I think the people should not open your doors under any circumstances, don't even crack your door, unless someone has a warrant for your arrest."

Ron Hampton, of the Black Police Officers Association, said he doesn't expect many in the community to comply.

"This is one of those communities where the police even have problems getting information about crimes that are going on in the community, so to suggest, now, that the police have enough community capital in their hand that the community is going to cooperate with them, I'm not so sure that's a good idea," Hampton said.
Strictly speaking, there is nothing unconstitutional about the police asking permission to search homes. But there is something a bit too...European about this kind of "your papers, bitte" approach to policing.

The theory is that adults are reluctant to search their kids' rooms for guns and drugs. But somehow, "Oh yeah, I gave permission for the police to search your room" is going to go over better?

Monday, March 24, 2008

This Is Disturbing

This Is Disturbing

The government has been funding robotic research--and the combination of the buzzing sound from the motors, and positively animal-like behavior of "Big Dog" a quadruped robot reminds me of the 1954 sci-fi classic about giant mutant ants, Them! (which gave me nightmares when I first saw it).

I have confidence that robots will, in a generation or two, be doing most of the grubby work of farmworkers, and many of the backstraining hospital jobs now done by LVNs and nurse's aides. But perhaps we will have to get rid of all the giant mutant bug movies first, so that the next generation won't be freaked out by them!

Psychiatric Genetic Testing

Psychiatric Genetic Testing

An interesting article about a company that sells a bipolar disorder genetic test. Or more accurately, a genetic test that identifies for some people that they might be at heightened risk of bipolar disorder:
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- Dr. John Kelsoe has spent his career trying to identify the biological roots of bipolar disorder. In December, he announced he had discovered several gene mutations closely tied to the disease, also known as manic depression.
Then Kelsoe, a prominent psychiatric geneticist at the University of California, San Diego, did something provocative for the buttoned-down world of academic medical research: He began selling bipolar genetic tests straight to the public over the Internet last month for $399.
His company, La Jolla-based Psynomics, joins a legion of startups racing to exploit the boom in research connecting genetic variations to a host of health conditions. More than 1,000 at-home gene tests have burst onto the market in the past few years.
They quote some skeptics who are uncomfortable with these tests because the data isn't terribly complete yet on the claimed connection between the genes and the disease--and it turns out that only some people can use this test:
Psynomics will send patients' test results only to their doctors to avoid the risk of self-diagnosis.
The report that accompanies those results instructs doctors that a positive test means patients are two to three times more likely to have bipolar disorder. But the studies from which those figures come also show the gene variations themselves are rare even among those with bipolar.
The report also points out that for now, the test is valid only for whites of Northern European ancestry who show some behavioral symptoms and have at least one other bipolar family member.
I'm not keen on the use of genetic testing to "brand" people--especially since we don't entirely know what causes particular people to develop the disease in a full-blown form--and others do not. But there is some advantage to knowing that you are risk for a particular disease. For example, if you know that you are genetically predisposed to colon cancer, you may want more regular colon cancer testing than the average person.

What Is Left Out Matters

I was watching a powerfully depressing CBC/BBC documentary about Guatemala's soaring problem of murders of women. Women and girls being kidnapped, raped, murdered, mutilated, and beheaded--and with no prosecutions. According to the documentary, fear of retaliation keeps everyone silent, and the police seem to be going out of their way not to find the killers. The film also implies that traditional macho is part of the problem, and by mentioning the war against the Indians under various U.S.-backed governments of the past, they give you the impression that there might be some racial or class motives--although this leftist news source indicates:
The poorest parts of Guatemala, rural areas mainly inhabited by indigenous people, have lower violent crime rates than the rest of the country, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which warns in a new report that the murder rate -- one of the highest in the region -- has climbed steadily since 1999.

The violence tends to be seen in the less-poor municipalities where the majority of the population is not indigenous, which indicates the need to carry out a more in-depth analysis of the relation between violence and inequity, Arturo Matute, an expert from the Violence Prevention Programme, said in a press conference.
Hmmm. I think that this is how the left handles the problem that the facts don't fit into the leftist model of explaining bad things. It therefore requires more "in-depth analysis" to make it fit the "no justice, no peace" model.

Even more disturbingly, the documentary suggests that this lack of action isn't politically motivated--it's just gangs doing this. I found myself wondering if the lack of successful prosecution--or even serious attempt at it--might be because the police are also intimidated.

Part way through, I found myself wondering, "What is the murder rate for men in Guatemala?" The documentary mentioned 665 women murdered in Guatemala in 2005, in a nation of fifteen million people. That would imply that female victims are a bit under 5/100,000 total population. Yet the murder rate for both sexes combined is 47/100,000 total population. If anything, women are almost being ignored by the murderers.

There might still be a good case for being upset if the murders of women are being ignored by the authorities, while the murderers of men were being pursued. But I confess that watching a documentary that gives you the impression that women are subject to extraordinary victimization when this is not the case makes me wonder how accurately they are portraying the rest of the problem.

I sure wouldn't want to be a Guatemalan man or woman.

If Stupid, Don't Perjure Yourself

That just aggravates the problem. From Associated Press March 24, 2008:

DETROIT (AP) - Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, a one-time rising star and as Detroit's youngest elected leader, was charged Monday with perjury and other counts after sexually explicit text messages surfaced that appear to contradict his sworn denials of an affair with a top aide.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy also charged the popular yet polarizing 37-year-old mayor with obstruction of justice and misconduct in office.
Former Chief of Staff Christine Beatty, 37, who also denied under oath that she and Kilpatrick shared a romantic relationship in 2002 and was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice.
In all, Worthy authorized a 12-count criminal information.
"This case was about as far from being a private matter as one can get. Honesty and integrity in the justice system is everything. That is what this case is about," Worthy said at a news conference.
"Just when did honesty and integrity, truth and honor become traits to be mocked, downplayed, ignored, laughed at or excuses made for them? When did telling the truth become a supporting player to everything else?"
If you do something stupid, lying about it won't help for long. Lying about it under oath will turn "stupid" into "criminal."

Pledge of Allegiance

Pledge of Allegiance

Apparently some members of the press corps are choosing not to say the Pledge of Allegiance with the rest of those present in the Idaho House. The letter from Speaker Denney to the dean of the press corps says:
"Today we had media people on the Floor of the House during the Pledge of Allegiance. It was noted by several members of the Body and myself that they did not verbally participate in the Pledge.
"Please inform members of the press that if they choose not to participate in the Pledge they have ample time following the Pledge and before the 11th order to join us on the Floor."
My reactions are:

1. Perhaps the non-Pledgers aren't citizens of the U.S. (Not likely, but it is possible.)

2. Perhaps the non-Pledgers are showing us how they really feel about the U.S.

3. Perhaps the non-Pledgers regard the Pledge as a meaningless piece of symbolism.

If the answer is #2, I prefer the honesty of media people telling us where their loyalty isn't. If the answer is #3, they won't mind abiding by Speaker Denney's request, because it is just a meaningless piece of symbolism, right?

I am proud to say the Pledge of Allegiance (in spite of its socialist origins), but it is symbolism. It is part of the late 19th century and early 20th century's peculiar blending of jingoism and ritual into a pseudo-religious patriotism. Our elaborate procedures for how to display the American flag, and how to dispose of flags when no longer serviceable, are peculiarly ritualistic, with the flag treated rather like a religious icon.

I follow these rules because I do not want to offend others, and because there is an enormous amount about our nation that deserves respect--and therefore our flag and the ritual patriotism is also deserving of respect. But we should never forget that the symbols are not the nation, anymore than the map of Idaho is Idaho.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Toyota Prius--A Few More Comments

Toyota Prius--A Few More Comments

During the time that my wife and I drove a rental Toyota Prius, I grew to both love and hate different aspects of the car.


1. The rear view camera--it made it possible to get really, really close to the car behind when parallel parking without worry about colliding. Especially on a rental car, that's very cool.

2. It was very compact, which was excellent for D.C. traffic.

3. I averaged more than 41 mpg during the roughly 250 miles I drove it. On Interstate, it was consistently hitting about 50 mpg. Around town it was more like 25 mpg. Compared to the EPA estimate of 48/45 mpg, that's okay.

4. The touch screen display allowed you to display not only bar graphs of mileage over the last 30 minutes, but also showed a schematic of the battery, electric motor, and gasoline motor. It was easy to figure out from the schematic if you were operating entirely on battery, a combination of battery and gasoline motor running the wheels, or the gasoline motor recharging the battery.

5. How quiet it was when stopped. This took some getting used to, because my first reaction, and that of my wife when she drove it, was that the engine had stalled. No, there's just no need to run anything when you are stopped.


1. The touch screen display that it uses for the rear view camera, schematic display, mileage information, air conditioning controls, and stereo controls--is all one display. This means that you can't easily change one set of controls without losing information.

2. The driver should be able to set air conditioning or stereo controls without taking his eyes off the road to look at the touch screen display. Maybe there was a way to do this, but it sure wasn't obvious to me. This is potentially dangerous--especially on a rental car, where the person driving it is unlikely to have read the manual before driving away. A more conventional design--where you can adjust settings with knobs and no real need to look away from the road, would be safer. Or use the heads-up display that GM uses for some of their cars.

3. The touch screen display was not bright enough in direct sunlight to easily read. That's potentially a safety issue.

4. My wife was of the opinion that the touch screen display was distracting to the driver. I found myself having to force myself to not watch it--and under certain conditions, this might be a problem. You can turn it off, but this seems like a suboptimal situation--where you turn off a display that can provide useful information, because it is so active.

5. I found that to start the car, I had to put in the key, press the START button, then press it again to turn off the car, then press START again. Otherwise, there was no way to get it into gear. The first couple of times I thought that I had missed some step, but I was convinced by the end that this was intentional. Maybe there was a reason for this, but especially on a rental car, this seems stupid.

6. Having a button to put the car in Park separate from the Buck Rogers transmission selector works okay--but it is so different from the traditional automobile user interface that I am sure it is going to cause some accidents, somewhere along the way.

7. While it had plenty of punch for city traffic, it was a little disappointing merging on to freeways. Not really bad--but I suspect that passing on a two lane road at 60 mph might require considerable care. (Okay, the Corvette has spoiled me on this.)

I realize that the Prius is something of an experiment, but I'm not sure that this makes sense except for the trendily green. You are going to spend $21,000-$23,000 for a new Prius. A Chevy Cobalt can be yours for about $13,000-$15,000 (unless you gotta have the SS model).

The mileage on the Cobalt isn't as good as the Prius (and remember that there are plenty of similar sized cars that do better on mileage than the Cobalt). The EPA estimates for the Cobalt are 22/31; my daughter often gets in the high 30s on open highway, so the Cobalt is going to cost about three cents a mile more to operate than the Prius (at $3.25 per gallon). But with an $8,000 difference in purchase price, that will take 266,000 miles to recoup the difference. The Prius will probably hold its value better than the Cobalt--but still--that's a lot of miles.

One of the early concerns about hybrid cars was that the batteries, when they wore out, were going to be expensive to replace. This web site says not to worry--at least about the Prius:

And Toyota claims that not one has required a battery replacement due to malfunction or "wearing out." The only replacement batteries sold--at the retail price of $3000--have been for cars that were involved in accidents. Toyota further claims that the nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) battery packs used in all Prius models are expected to last the life of the car with very little to no degradation in power capability.

For those of us who have cell phones and other devices with NiMH batteries, that claim may sound unrealistic. Over time, the battery's charge longevity seems to wane, resulting in shorter and shorter usage between charges. Eventually, the battery becomes worthless and we buy a replacement.

But in the case of most electronic devices, the batteries tend to get fully charged, then nearly fully discharged before being charged again. For the power pack in the Prius, at least, Toyota says this would greatly shorten the life span of the battery.


According to Toyota, the life of the Prius battery pack is determined more by mileage than by time, and it has been tested to 180,000 miles. Supporting this are first- and second-generation Prius taxis in Canada that have reportedly traveled more than 200,000 miles without suffering any battery problems.
I suspect that at some point, the price of gasoline is going to make the Prius and similar hybrids make a lot more sense than it does now.

How To Win Friends and Influence People

Well, here's the exact opposite of the way to do that from Gateway Pundit:
EASTER MASS ATTACK!! Protesters Scream & Spray Fake Blood at Churchgoers

Leftist Protesters Attack Catholic Worshippers at Easter Mass in Chicago

They squirted fake blood around on the Catholics attending Easter Mass this morning!!

Anti-war protesters are led out of the auditorium after disrupting Easter services at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago on Sunday, March 23, 2008. (Tribune photo by Stacey Wescott / March 23, 2008)

The Chicago Tribune has video of this outrageous attack on Catholics.

Antiwar protesters disrupted an Easter Mass celebration in Chicago today SCREAMING and SPRAYING fake blood at church-goers!

Trade Associations

When I was in Washington last week, I was really impressed how many associations are there. I mean, if you are going to be lobbying Congress, that's where you need to be--but it is still startling how many thousands of these groups exist. Here's a picture from near our hotel in Alexandria:

Click here to enlarge

I had recent opportunity to chat with the lobbyist for the Idaho Elk Breeders Association. At this point, you may be asking yourself the same question I asked: "There is an association for that?"

Some of you may even be asking, "What's an elk?" We went looking for an elk herd a few weeks back a few miles north of our home. These are elk:

Click here to enlarge

So I decided to research the Idaho Elk Breeders Association, and I found this article about the controversy over a bill regulating the industry introduced by the state senator I am trying to unseat:
Friday's three-hour debate featured bickering elk ranchers who criticized the bill -- even though it had been drafted by members of their own industry association.

"The industry, regardless of what you've been told, 80 percent is totally against licensing," said Charles Warner, an elk rancher from Kellogg in northern Idaho and a board member of the Idaho Elk Breeders Association.

He said other members of the association came up with the licensing plan in secret.

Warner argued licensing was a violation of his property rights, especially when years of disease testing have shown no signs of chronic wasting disease, brucellosis or tuberculosis in domestic herds.

Two Republicans, Reps. Dennis Lake, of Blackfoot, and Jim Patrick, of Twin Falls, voted against the bill because they were against new regulation.

Meanwhile, three Democrats on the panel said the bill was too weak and they believed its failure could add momentum to a possible citizen initiative, like Montana's in 2000 that outlawed so-called "shooter bull" operations, to clamp down on elk ranches.

"(The bill) is a whitewash from industry," said Rep. Branden Durst, D-Boise. "It's a way they can inoculate themselves from a citizen initiative, and I think that's a travesty."

Idaho has 78 elk ranches that harvest elk for meat and antler velvet. Seventeen also allow fenced hunts for trophy bulls, which some hunting groups argue violates fair-chase ethics of wild hunts.
I'm still scratching my head trying to understand all the different players on this, and where I stand on this matter. It is still an astonishing little universe that most Idahoans doubtless don't even realize exists.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Not Hearing This In The Idaho Statesman, Are We?

Not Hearing This In The Idaho Statesman, Are We?

From The Australian, March 22, 2008:
Last Monday - on ABC Radio National, of all places - there was a tipping point of a different kind in the debate on climate change. It was a remarkable interview involving the co-host of Counterpoint, Michael Duffy and Jennifer Marohasy, a biologist and senior fellow of Melbourne-based think tank the Institute of Public Affairs. Anyone in public life who takes a position on the greenhouse gas hypothesis will ignore it at their peril.

Duffy asked Marohasy: "Is the Earth still warming?"

She replied: "No, actually, there has been cooling, if you take 1998 as your point of reference. If you take 2002 as your point of reference, then temperatures have plateaued. This is certainly not what you'd expect if carbon dioxide is driving temperature because carbon dioxide levels have been increasing but temperatures have actually been coming down over the last 10 years."

Duffy: "Is this a matter of any controversy?"

Marohasy: "Actually, no. The head of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has actually acknowledged it. He talks about the apparent plateau in temperatures so far this century. So he recognises that in this century, over the past eight years, temperatures have plateaued ... This is not what you'd expect, as I said, because if carbon dioxide is driving temperature then you'd expect that, given carbon dioxide levels have been continuing to increase, temperatures should be going up ... So (it's) very unexpected, not something that's being discussed. It should be being discussed, though, because it's very significant."

Duffy: "It's not only that it's not discussed. We never hear it, do we? Whenever there's any sort of weather event that can be linked into the global warming orthodoxy, it's put on the front page. But a fact like that, which is that global warming stopped a decade ago, is virtually never reported, which is extraordinary."

Duffy then turned to the question of how the proponents of the greenhouse gas hypothesis deal with data that doesn't support their case. "People like Kevin Rudd and Ross Garnaut are speaking as though the Earth is still warming at an alarming rate, but what is the argument from the other side? What would people associated with the IPCC say to explain the (temperature) dip?"

Marohasy: "Well, the head of the IPCC has suggested natural factors are compensating for the increasing carbon dioxide levels and I guess, to some extent, that's what sceptics have been saying for some time: that, yes, carbon dioxide will give you some warming but there are a whole lot of other factors that may compensate or that may augment the warming from elevated levels of carbon dioxide.

"There's been a lot of talk about the impact of the sun and that maybe we're going to go through or are entering a period of less intense solar activity and this could be contributing to the current cooling."

Duffy: "Can you tell us about NASA's Aqua satellite, because I understand some of the data we're now getting is quite important in our understanding of how climate works?"

Marohasy: "That's right. The satellite was only launched in 2002 and it enabled the collection of data, not just on temperature but also on cloud formation and water vapour. What all the climate models suggest is that, when you've got warming from additional carbon dioxide, this will result in increased water vapour, so you're going to get a positive feedback. That's what the models have been indicating. What this great data from the NASA Aqua satellite ... (is) actually showing is just the opposite, that with a little bit of warming, weather processes are compensating, so they're actually limiting the greenhouse effect and you're getting a negative rather than a positive feedback."

All We Are Saying, Is Give Spell Checker A Chance

All We Are Saying, Is Give Spell Checker A Chance

Zombietime again attends an antiwar rally in San Francisco, and shows us some astonishing reminders that spelling isn't one of the strong points of the left.

She also points to this amazing sign which brings to mind the famous saying, "This isn't right. It isn't even wrong."

What does Boise have to do with this?

Make sure you read the entire posting. For once, it is a worksafe set of images. The "Breasts Not Bombs" naked partial sex change bunch doesn't seem to have made it to this event.

A Devastating Critique Of Obama

A Devastating Critique Of Obama

Alan K. Henderson has a devastating critique of Obama's speech trying to defend his association with Rev. Wright:
Obama explains that he stays with his church because he knows about Wright a lot more than just a few selected quotes. But aren't those few quotes sufficient to identify serious moral flaws that call into question a man's qualifications as a spiritual leader. Wouldn't Fred Phelps' "God hates fags" sound bite be enough to tell me that investing 20 years at Westboro Baptist Church might not be a good idea?

I would not bemoan someone for associating with seriously flawed individuals like Wright or Phelps or Farrakhan if one refrains from aiding and abetting those flaws - see Romans 12:2. In the case of relations with dubious clergymen, that means not becoming regular members of the organizations through which they spread their iniquity.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Not Every Breakdown Stays Tragic

Not Every Breakdown Stays Tragic

Some times there are little victories. A reader found my blog while looking for a picture of the Moon. His story:
I live in Fife in Scotland.

I was looking for large and interesting desktop wallpaper images with Google and I found your blog by accident.

I'm a psychiatric day patient. I certainly don't carry a 'gun'. But I wanted to describe my last ten or so years:

In 1996 I was in London. I had a newly pregnant girlfriend. It was too much for my poor wee brain to take so I spent the year gradually going down the slippery slope til in early 1997 I was admitted to psychiatric hospital near where my parents live.

I had twenty months in-patient treatment then my first discharge into the local community. I had temporary accommodation for a while and took a local authority (public housing) tenancy in 1999.

To be honest, I really had a hell of a time, not in a good way. I walked out on the whole thing in 2000 and went off to find some peace travelling the country. On my return I made an attempt on my own life. New Year saw me back in the acute admissions ward.

In 2005 my neighbour murdered a young woman in his flat and I felt lucky to avoid losing my sanity.

Since then I've been in recovery. I attend the day hospital in a small town and I've learned how to use the system wisely. I have been in some very, very dark states of mind undoubtedly. Whether the medical folk ever considered 'throwing away the key' I don't know. But I'm now 99% certain that institutional care is no longer necessary for me. I think that the idea of community care is not new but that it takes a LOT of working out both from the staff side and from that of the service user.

There are cases of mad people doing bad things. Tragedies every one. But the freedoms we aspire to (American's above all, surely) are not really possible in a hermetic, clinical environment. Long-stay patients have an easy time of it which is as it should be. But all human beings have the capacity to engage more fully in society although as I've said it's a long journey to reach the destination. And even then it's simply a new beginning.

I have a friend in Cincinnati I met through the Internet site ''. She lost a son. He shot someone and then himself. Terrible. She has another son who she helps care for at home, who is going to a programme of some sort. With the little I've got to know him seems like a nice guy.

As psychiatric patients we suffer a lot of stigma as it is. Centuries-worth of it in fact. Don't let's be hasty to stifle the current drive for increased inclusion and opportunity. Sh*t happens, as I'm sure you will be well aware. Dangerous situations arise that tax the best and worst of us. In my opinion the way forward is forward, not back.

I do wish you well in your political life and I'm glad I found the web stuff. As it happens the image I downloaded for my desktop is a lovely full moon just as there is in the sky this evening. Perfect for lunatics and Republicans alike!

God's blessings. Happy Easter. Life is for living. Together we can do it, that's my belief.
Some people recover after treatment. By his own admission, he's not completely recovered, but he's well enough to live outside a hospital--an admirable aspiration for anyone struggling with schizophrenia. Certainly, if there is a way to make community level treatment work, that's the best possible choice. For some, it works, for others, it does not. His web page is here.

Bearded Legislator Analysis

Perhaps I am going to have to give up the beard. Adam Graham has crunched the numbers on this, and reports:
No State for Bearded Men

Looking at the State Senate, I see that of 29 male members, 3 have beards. In the House, there are 51 men, and 2 have beards. So, of a total of 80 male legislators, only five have beards, equaling 6.25% of the Male Legislators. I’d say that greater that a good 10-12% of men around these parts have beards (though I have no studies to back this up due to the failure of the mainstream media to report on the facial hair of Idaho men, so this is about what it seems like to me based on the people I’ve seen around town.) So, I think we can say that the beard is a detriment.

Mustaches seem to fair better. On the bright side, at least I know why I lost in 2004.
I know that for a lot of people who grew up in the 1930s, a beard was a sign that you were some sort of Communist or other dangerous freethinker. But I doubt that this could still be the reason.

I don't believe that there's anything about LDS theology that prohibits beards, but I've been told that the reason that few Mormon men have beards is that Brigham Young University requires its students to be clean shaven. (Well, the men at least.) And indeed, this document indicates that it is a requirement for missionaries. My guess is that Mormon men stay clean shaven thereafter out of habit. Because Mormons are a significant fraction of the voters in Idaho, being clean shaven may be something of an advantage at election time, not because clean shaven is a secret identifying code, but perhaps at a subconscious level there is an identification of clean shaven men with positive images. How Bill Sali (R-ID) got himself elected with that beard of his really makes me wonder!

Does "Typical Black Person" Sound Bigoted?

Does "Typical Black Person" Sound Bigoted?

Watching Barack Hussein Obama destroy himself isn't pretty:
610 WIP host Angelo Cataldi asked Obama about his Tuesday morning speech on race at the National Constitution Center in which he referenced his own white grandmother and her prejudice. Obama told Cataldi that "The point I was making was not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity, but that she is a typical white person. If she sees somebody on the street that she doesn't know - there's a reaction in her that's been bred into our experiences that don't go away and sometimes come out in the wrong way and that's just the nature of race in our society. We have to break through it. What makes me optimistic is you see each generation feeling less like that. And that's pretty powerful stuff"
Talk about condescending. I'm not sure why Obama is trying to distance himself from Rev. Wright's Afrocentric racist sermons. It sounds like Obama has absorbed just a bit too much of it. If only Dr. King could see this day--would he be upset.