If it bleeds, it leads…

And apparently, it can pay dividends: School shootings beget more school shootings. And unlike the days of Parkway South — which I bet you never heard of unless you knew somebody who was there — news coverage may be why. From the CNN article:

Researchers gathered records of school shootings and mass killings from several data sets and fit them into a mathematical “contagion model.” The spread they found was not dependent on location, leading researchers to believe that national media coverage of a mass shooting might play a role.

If you’re the kind of person who prefers to look at the research rather than the media coverage of it, good for you: here it is. Left to your imagination is whether other crimes might be subject to the “contagion model” described by the researchers. My guess is “probably.”

In Closing: dinosaur feathers; apparently he had a heart after all (no loss); stand and deliver all your ideologues.

Shorties Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse

Hope everyone had a safe Halloween. Happy All Saints Day.

Dave Johnson Telling the Truth: on the economy; on secret trade deals.

Enough to drive you crazy: Meat is bad for you, unless it isn’t; calories are the only thing that matter, but what the study says depends on who is reporting. The researchers concluded “When compared with dietary interventions of similar intensity, evidence from RCTs does not support low-fat diets over other dietary interventions for long-term weight loss.”

Unlikely source: The Economist isn’t where you would expect to find a report on a new canid species.

All Asking For It: On average, police in America killed 3 people every day of October. ThinkProgress has some highlights of police brutality.

Damned Liberal Media: with their facts and bias.

Pretty In Pink: Even the editors of the Las Vegas Sun noticed the pinkwashing of girls Halloween costumes and toys, publishing this NYT article.

TIL: Some cultures have a “Toilet God.”

Gilligan!: 22 shipwrecks found off the archipelago of Fourni.

See everyone tomorrow for some Music Monday!

More Ferguson

The ASSociated Press has published a little article which my local news picked up. The first paragraph reads:

The fatal shooting of a black 18-year-old by a white police officer has opened a debate over what level of force is appropriate when law enforcement confronts a citizen perceived to be a threat.

Let’s back up just a moment. The question that should be asked in Ferguson and perhaps elsewhere is this:

What should a police officer consider a threat?

We now know that the young man was in fact running away from the officer when the confrontation began. Is someone running away a “threat”? At the very least, the officer can no longer use the “he was headed straight for me” defense without expecting laughter.

Backing up further, is a “thief” who shoved a store clerk a “threat” (even though everyone agrees that the cop didn’t know about the alleged incident)? Well, since it turned out that the theft was trumped up and the film that supposedly proves the young man was a Very Bad Man actually shows him paying, no.

Are photographers and journalists a threat? How about churches?

I leave you with three more Ferguson thoughts. First, what the press might well report if Ferguson were overseas. Second, Ferguson appears to have a rich heritage of discriminatory legal practices. Finally, the police have all kinds of new crowd control toys. One, Taser brags, can incapacitate anybody who happens to be in a target area. Forgive me for wondering how you make a crowd disperse by incapacitating them.

In Closing: I don’t know, maybe you could try doing things voters like?; on privacy and metadata.

Triple Play

It used to be that the saying “the elephant in the room” meant “the big thing that’s really important but nobody wants to talk about.” And that’s the sense that Time Magazine meant this week: the Republican Party might be controlled by its far right wing, yet voters would rather elect more centrist pragmatists like Chris Christie.

For a nice double play, the elephant is the mascot of the GOP. Get it? Elephant in the room? And he’s a Republican? Ha.

And ok fine, Chris Christie is overweight. Even Chris Christie knows he’s overweight. The triple play is that he’s [not quite] big as an elephant [and shrinking]. But you know what? I bet the first time he looked at that cover he said to himself “Yes! Made the cover of Time!” rather than “Aw, Time Magazine made a fat joke about me.”

Maybe some people need thicker skins.

In Closing: Here, enjoy the latest crop of NSA, Snowden, privacy, and assorted related issues links (heaven help me, I mostly agree with Richard Stallman); heh, how dare she say pro-life people should care about the living; on health insurance and the ACA website; Too Big To Give a Damn about the Law; neuromuscular junctions; the truth about the economy, with pictures; unwritten rules; on President Obama; Millennials; Deming = Roswell?; poverty; and Japan’s other nuclear reactor.

Back to School Time is Back to the Vaccine Debate Time

So my local CBS affiliate is trying real hard to do the fair-and-balanced two-sides-of-every-issue thing.

In one corner, we have a highly respected local pediatrician who works in a local hospital pointing out that he’s seen 4 cases of whooping cough in the last 2 months, adding “Vaccines are one of the most important advances in the field of pediatrics in the last fifty years….”

In the other corner, we have a “Holistic Physician” — whose degree, source of expertise, and workplace are undisclosed — saying whoa, just hold on a minute, there are “factors to take into consideration as to if you should vaccinate, when you should vaccinate and what are the alternatives to vaccination.” Apparently “holistic physicians” believe you can prevent measles and other diseases with a proper diet. Seriously.

A little research shows that this “doctor” is a chiropractor, with online reviews that range from good, up to “sounds like it might have been written by a staffer”, down to abysmal. As nearly as I can tell, the scope of practice for chiropractors in Nevada does not include prescribing rights or the ability to perform injections. That would of course include administration of vaccines. At least he’s not a “Naturopathic Physician.” Remember kids, ND means Not a Doctor.

At least nobody brought up that discredited “research” showing vaccines “cause” autism.

Look folks, here’s the alternative to vaccines: your kid could get sick and possibly die from a completely preventable disease. Vaccination doesn’t take long to do, the complication rate is very low, and your kid’s school probably requires it anyway. In this day and age of protecting kids from the imaginary predator around every corner, what excuse is there for not getting it done?

So what’s next, local news? What topic can you pretend there are two sides to present and take up a few minutes of airtime? Here’s an idea for you: Murder! Police and safety experts say it’s bad, but killers say some people just gotta get whacked. You decide!

In closing: “Hey, calm down!”



Or, you know, we could “Just Say No”

Yesterday, USA Today published a delightful piece of “journalism” on car buying called “Tips to avoid car dash systems that’ll drive you crazy.” The second paragraph makes the following observation:

The best of the systems reduce distraction. They make driving easier and more pleasant. The worst can infuriate customers and devastate an automaker’s reputation.

No kidding. Glad somebody got paid to write those 3 sentences.

What’s interesting is that just last week, I read this commentary on a Bloomberg item that can briefly be summarized:

A $1500 or more device added to a car that (1) has out-dated maps the day it’s released, (2) if it can be updated at all costs a fortune to do so on a regular basis, (3) is slow, buggy and frankly has a user interface designed by Frankenstein?

You’re surprised that people buy a $20 suction cup or airvent clip and use their phone instead?

Where the hell have you been?

I know a man who swore a year ago that he would never again own a car with any sort of touch screen device in it — not even the radio! He correctly pointed out that it was a distraction to reach over and do anything on such hardware. However, Detroit has decided to channel Rhett Butler and frankly, not give a damn. You’ll have that hardware in your car and you’ll like it! I’m not willing to go so far as to agree with Mr. Denninger and speculate that “I’m sure the NSA finds this not only interesting but an actual goal.  Remember, if you never do anything wrong (like visit a hooker, smoke a joint, have one too many beers, etc) then you don’t care if big government knows literally every single thing you do — right?”

Look. I don’t need a lot out of that thing in the middle of my dashboard. It should play music, either via radio, CD, or from MP3s on my phone. I have grown to like bluetooth integration on my phone, but it must be absolutely painless and stay synced properly. I don’t need it to give me directions: I have a smart phone, a map book, and a functional brain, thanks. I don’t need to give it voice commands: my aforementioned smart phone takes voice commands quite well, I can pull over to make a call when needed, and I often have a co-pilot who can dial. And the device absolutely must have physical buttons that always exist in the same location when I need them. I can’t imagine why it hasn’t occurred to anybody in Detroit that looking to the console to see where the appropriate button is could be, you know, dangerous. But then, these are the guys who can’t imagine why you would put the car in park and not want every single door to unlock.

Don’t give me a fast ration about how I will learn to love the additional features I don’t need. Please, I managed 5 years as a Realtor without any damnable navigation system telling me when to turn left.

So next time I buy a car — which will hopefully be years from now — I will do the Nancy Reagan and Just Say No to expensive features I just don’t want or need.


Alright, by now everybody and his or her dog has heard the latest about Angelina Jolie, right?

Only a fraction of breast cancers result from an inherited gene mutation. Those with a defect in BRCA1 have a 65 percent risk of getting it, on average.

Once I knew that this was my reality, I decided to be proactive and to minimize the risk as much I could. I made a decision to have a preventive double mastectomy. I started with the breasts, as my risk of breast cancer is higher than my risk of ovarian cancer, and the surgery is more complex.

On April 27, I finished the three months of medical procedures that the mastectomies involved.

Needless to say, this has sparked much online discussion. Here’s a featured item on BlogHer by a woman considering the same decision. Here’s one from a Professor of Pediatrics (is he also a doctor of medicine? probably?) who points out that this sort of surgery comes with risks and without promises of a cancer free life.

And do you know what I don’t see mentioned much? Time and money.

Most of us don’t have the ability to be in and out of surgery and recovery for three months — more if there are any sort of complications. Heck, many of us can’t really afford to take 2 days off from work (or school, or taking care of family…). Ms. Jolie is truly blessed that not only could she free up her busy schedule to do this, but also that her loving husband Mr. Pitt was able to be there by her side, and further that they were able to arrange adequate childcare for their six children — ranging in age from 5 to 12 — during this stressful time.

Another area where Ms. Jolie is truly blessed is money. Many women can’t justify spending the “approximately $3000” to see if she has the 1 in 100 chance of ridiculously higher breast cancer risk. In a time and country where it can be difficult to figure out exactly how much any given hospital service is going to cost, she didn’t have to worry about it. She knew that the money was in the bank. Perhaps she did get her insurance company to pay for it; after all, this has to be cheaper than cancer treatments followed by reconstructive surgery!

Some people simply have more options than others.

In Closing: transparency and accountability, and why big brother won’t work; it wouldn’t be a bad idea to retire these; austerity, unemployment, and job creation (for the record, I am currently not in the workforce and not officially “unemployed,” more on that later in the week); mobility; interesting point; the law of supply and demand (and why we desperately need a public option).

Shorties Awakening

When Al Jazeera points this out, it’s a problem: School to Prison Pipeline. If you find this topic interesting (or horrifying, whatever), the ACLU is a great place to start.

Old Flowers: In this case, 32,000 years old. For those keeping track, that’s over 5 times as old as young-Earth creationists think the world is. <sarcasm> Miracle, or Satan’s lies? </sarcasm>

The Last Ninja: Is an engineer who admits that most of what he learned has no place in the modern world.

Break it down: Here’s where Google’s ad revenues come from.

Burnout: Half of doctors report some signs of it. I’m really disappointed that they didn’t even try to look at why they might feel that way.

It’s not your imagination: The middle class earned less than they did a decade ago.

Apparently Alabama law allows death threats on the job: Seriously.

That can’t be good: For all the news coverage of Romney talking about his energy plan, he specifically refused to go into details where the press might hear it (If this is true, shame on the press for not pointing out that they have an incomplete story). So, does he plan on making up details to suit his audience, or is his plan so out there that he doesn’t dare risk the general public learning the details? Either way, do we want him in charge? What is already known is attracting criticism from many places.

Get the popcorn…

Somebody once said that all politics is local. Local meets nationwide today in a city called Sparks.

So the Nevada GOP and the National GOP are having a little disagreement. The RNC has threatened not to seat Nevada’s delegates to the national convention if there are “too many Ron Paul supporters.” The Nevada party, on the other hand, says that we have a set of rules we agreed to and we are going to follow them, regardless of the outcome.

Our caucus was held all the way back at the beginning of February, and there were simply more candidates then. The Experts decided that “Romney is supposed to get 20 now and Paul eight….” However, The Experts don’t get to pick the delegates to the national convention; the delegates selected in February to go to the state convention today do that. State officials agree that there will be no “loyalty test” for those selected to represent Nevada in Tampa. This clears the way for Ron Paul’s supporters to take over.

Maybe not, but it will be a train wreck.

In closing: unemployment and labor participation; somebody smack Nancy upside the head with reality; and it’s a sad day when Ted Koppel thinks that Comedy Central has the best news reporting.