The Mango Stand

Thursday, March 31, 2005

I hate it when someone else has my great idea . .

. . . and manages to run with it before I can. I am referring to the new blog, Democracy Arsenal, which happens to combine two of my interests, foreign policy and Democratic politics, with the goal of turning one of the Democratic Party's historic (at least, since McGovern) weaknesses into a source of strength.

And it's about time the party started to organize around these issues. This is a case where the emperor (Dubya if you like, or perhaps the whole Repbulican party) is truly wearing no clothes. We are poorer, have fewer friends, and more and better trained enemies ever since Dubya became commander in chief. There's not one thing he's done right; and although Clinton was far from perfect in his conduct of foreign policy and national security, he did make a lot of progress on a lot of fronts while he was there. There's a lot to build on, people. Let's get to work.

Decline of the Professions

OK, so I wrote this post once before and attemped to save it as a draft, and instead my computer just deleted it. Oh well, several hundred words of deathless prose lost forever. Nevertheless, when you fall off the horse . . . So here goes, again.

The professions seem to be getting knocked around a bit. Most recently, it's pharmacists trying to not fill prescriptions, such as birth control or for the morning after pill, that they disagree with. But there has been similar turmoil with doctors, lawyers, who gave Bushco carte blanche to torture people, university professors, who may face an ideologial litmus test if some people get their way; and science teachers, who may be forced to teach intelligent design 'theory' alongside evolution. (The second set of quotes around "theory" was deliberate, as ID is less of a theory than a collection of antecdotes in support of a foregone conclusion). And don't get me started about the accountants.

Not all of these events are strictly comparable. Some, like the pharmacists and the doctors, are examples of some members of the profession wanting to carve out a conscience exception to their professional ethics clauses. The professors and science teachers are under attack from people who want to change what they do and how they do it. And what the accountants are doing is harly new, as they are simply compromising their professional ethics, and frequently, the law, in order to make a buck--a sin that all the professions can play, including pharmacists, lawyers, doctors, and professors, and of course, the universities that employ them.

What I think ties all of these examples together is that in each case, it's the professions themselves that are being undermined. Professions are more than jobs. They are frequently seen as vocations or callings. At the very least, they require their aspirants to master a complex body of specialized knowledge, frequently at great expense, and to pass some sort of state-sanctioned licensing process. More importantly, they are supposed to supply society with an incorruptible source of expertise-when a lawyer tells you that's the law, or a doctor tells you you have the flu, or an accountant tells you you owe $13 in back taxes, that's supposed to be the truth regardless of their personal, religious, or political leanings.

What these attacks are trying to do is change all this. They've tried gagging doctors before; now, it's the pharmacists that will give you a lecture on the evils of premarital sex rather than birth control, your doctor won't treat you because you sued a hospital, once, and your kid thinks that the world began six thousand years ago and people rode dinosaurs like horses back in the old days. This is just another front in the faith-based society, where our perception of the world becomes less and less what it really is and more and more what some people want it to be.

If you're trying to do something really radical, independent sources of knowledge are really dangerous. Lawyers will tell you it's illegal, accountants will tell you you can't afford it, your doctor will tell you it's bad for you, and your history professor will tell you when Harding tried it in 1922 it didn't work.

Independent, ethical professions are a brake on stupid behavior. For the most part, they're great to have around. But when they are undermined, by law, religion, or greed, we take one more step away from the reality based community and into the faith-based la-la land.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Rough day, yesterday

More posting to follow.

Monday, March 28, 2005

The Decline of Professionalism reminder

Note to self--write an article on the decline of professionalism. This article on pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions for morning-after pills and birth control seems to be just the latest event in a trend--such as the AMA proposal to stop treating medical malpractice attorneys, David Horowitz's attack on university professors, the insertion of Intelligent Design into school curricula, and so forth. All of these instances have in common the idea that an element of professionalism, here, their impartiality, duty to the public good, or intellectual freedom, can/should be compromised to serve a conflicting goal-whether financial (the doctors and the medmal attorneys), political (the professors), or religious (the pharmacists and ID proponents).

To me, this is war, in the Clausewitzian definition of it as "politics by other means." The proponents of these limits to professionalism are really trying to achieve their political and cultural goals by undermining the ability of people who disagree with them to live their lives w/o inconvenience. Moreover, the proponents of these limits have been very successful at coopting the rhetoric of the civil rights movement and victimhood--in not being allowed to trample on other people's rights, they are being deprived of theirs.

Framed in this way, this debate is hard to win. Framed another way, for example, that professions receive certain benefits from the state (accreditation and its accompanying limitations on competition), and therefore, owe a public good, which includes, among other things, deferring judgment on the lifestyles and motivations of the people they serve.

More later.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

mission statement, act II, scene 1

So here I sit, wasting the better part of an Easter Sunday afternoon, about to head over to my uncle's for Easter socializing, and I wonder: what are my goals in doing this?

I've let myself fall off a cliff. Not in any literal sense, but in a figurative sense that skills I have invested a great deal of time and money in developing have atrophied in the last few years. I have been, in no particular order: narcissitic, self destructive, full of self-pity/loathing, and miserable. I've wasted both time and money; and I have for myself a resolution: no more.

I can feel muscles I haven't used lately flexing themselves based on the last two posts. I used to be something; I can still be something. I want this blog to be an online journal so I can track my progress. I want it online so I can develop some self-discipline, and maybe get some support while I deal with this. I also feel I need to be pushed not to waste too much time with truly useless things (blogs can be a timewaster, but hopefully not truly useless).

Some resolutions:
1) When I get back tonight, all of my computer games are coming off my computer; all of the disks and paraphenalia are going in the trash.

2) Back on it: SPED--Something Physical Every Day. Endorphins are cheap.

3) When I get stuck--focus, focus, focus. Get unstuck and move on.

So here goes. Back up the cliff. Wish me luck.

Happy Easter!

On this holiday, the holiest day in the Christian calendar, and also since I am still nominally a member of this faith, some pseudo-religious observations. Principally, some reasons why I think there is, and am thankful for, the existence and benevolence of God:

1)This product. . I especially like the idea of emailing Fox's ten top emailers. I don't know if I am going to buy one for myself, but I think I know what I'm getting everyone I know for Christmas this year.

2) This site. Again, I'm somewhat new to this whole blogging thing (both as a reader and a poster), so I'm sure he's had this blog for quite a while and no one told me. It's great--obviously, mostly about his work and life (I especially liked the stuff about his long-running legal dispute with Todd McFarlane, of Spawn fame); with occasional forays into other stuff.

3) I just got done telling myself I wouldn't blog the Shiavo case, but I can't seem to avoid it. What I thank God for: our judiciary still has a lick of sense, and can stand up for itself. I was convinced that at least one judge, with some theoretical claim to juristiction, was going to step in and order an injunction.

4) The jazz trio as must-have hip accessory for Cincinnati hangouts. Is it just me, or are these things everywhere now? I think it adds a bit of boho sophistication to a city that seriously needs it.

more later . . .

Friday, March 25, 2005

Where I've been:

create your own personalized map of the USA
or check out ourFlorida travel guide

As for countries, I'm not the global traveller you might think I am:

create your own visited country map
or check our Costa Rica travel guide

Again, I'm working on it. Maybe I'll drive to Winsdor this weekend.


BTW: none of my blogroll links seem to work. Sorry--I'm trying to fix this.

Ten Laws we need NOW

If I was god, or Congress, or something, I would pass the following laws immediately, no debate, no argument. While our Congress has been dealing with the critical nonissues of bankruptcy "reform" (or, making the world safe for stupid credit card companies), how big to make the next tax cut, how best to destroy Social Security, and dare I mention, Terri Shiavo, the following problems have been getting worse. Enough. Those folks should grow up and get to work.

Granted, there are issues which are more complicated, issues that require a lot of thought, research and discussion, before you can say with any reliability what, if anything, should be done. These issues are not among them. These are, like the Terri Shiavo case, no brainers (OK, so I couldn't help myself). These proposed laws are hard to disagree with on principle--however, those people drawing a paycheck from their absence I'm sure could find some grounds to dispute them. Take your best shot.

This list is a grab bag of things, so it may be a little short on consistency. Here goes:

1. Outlaw payday lending. This is legalized loan sharking, people. If we allow this to continue the next thing is debtors prisons or workhouses.
2. Outlaw the use of antibiotics for livestock except for specific animals with a diagnosed illness. Antibiotics are given in large quantities to livestock animals when they are kept in close proximity, i.e., in factory farms. This does two things: it leads to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and it makes factory farming economically possible, which puts smaller, family-owned farms at a severe competitive disadvantage.
3. Close the Bermuda tax loophole.
4. Increase funding for IRS audits of rich people, instead of people using the Earned Income Tax Credit. Do this for the same reason Dillinger robbed banks--that's where the money is.
5. Mandate the use of modern IT in the medical industry. As many studies have shown, we don't really have a medical malpractice lawsuit problem in this country; we have an actual medical malpractice problem--there's way too much of it, as many as 100,000 DEATHS a year. One proven way to do it is to use lots of information technology--computerize and barcode everything, and people get the right medicine, at the right time, and don't have their kidney removed when all they needed was a knee job. There are well-documented problems with implementation, as well as a lot of resistance from the doctors themselves. My $0.02: fuck 'em. Make them do it or start disaccrediting hospitals. This saves money, and more importantly, lives, so it shouldn't be a matter of choice. You do it or you go out of business.
6. Outlaw the use of government funds for propaganda. I'm pretty sure this is already illegal, but let's put some penalties on it. I want to see people go to jail for this sort of crap.
7. Three words: Fuel Efficiency Standards (raise 'em).
8. Three more words: Journalist Shield Law.
9. Two additional words, just for kicks: Port Security.
10. PAYGO tax legislation--all new spending or tax cuts must be offset by new revenue or a corresponding cut in spending. No exceptions. If Bush wants another $80 billion for Iraq, he has to cut back on something else. Give the national credit cards a rest.

Stale Memes

OK, so this meme has run its course through the biographical blogosphere, but for what it's worth, here are 10 things I've done that you haven't:

1. I have stood on the top of the tallest manmade object in Belize( (OK, it might not be the tallest anymore, but it was when I was there)
2. I've been to Windows on the World (the bar that was on top of the World Trade Center) more than a dozen times
3. I've lived in Brooklyn
4. I've been tackled by a small bird (don't ask)
5. I've drunk Irish moonshine
6. I've seen Poi Dog Pondering play live three times in one month, in three different cities
7. I 've seen Appalachian Death Ride in concert
8. I've seen Xavier basketball games in eight different cities, and I didn't even go there

. . . and that's it. Not much, I know; I'm working on more. And the Brooklyn one is pretty pathetic: there are maybe two million people living there now, and probably tens of millions who, like me, have lived there at some point in their lives.

I think I'm going to join the circus or start a cult or something.

OK, So it's been three weeks . . .

. . . And I still haven't made a substantive post. So here goes:

The way I see it, you can classify blogs in a number of different ways--by political orientation, invective level, use of pictures/video, whether the blogger is anonymous or not, etc.

However, it seems to me that the most significant difference is between "substantive" and "biographical" blogs. Substantive blogs address issues directly with little or no discussion of the blogger, and are run as the bastard child of hard journalism, punditry, and talk radio (e.g. TPM, Political Animal, Instapundit), and the biographical ones are more about the blogger her/himself and address broader issues primarily as they impact the blogger (e.g. Profgrrrl).

This blog will certainly be more of a "substantive" blog, addressing the issues and topics which I find fascinating. These include, in no particular order:

  • law,
  • poltics,
  • science and nature (especially from a policy perspective)
  • whatever music I happen to be listening to at the time,
  • Cincinnati (where I happen to live).

If you happen to be reading this (which I strongly doubt, but who knows), please feel free to comment, or at least stick around. I promise to make it interesting.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

testing one two three--are you receiving me?

This is my first attempt at blogging. I'm still working out the kinks, so bear with me (if, indeed, anyone is actually out there, that bored, reading this infant blog site). Mission statement, blogroll, and maybe an interesting post or two to follow, hopefully.

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