the important and the not-so-important, horribly conflated.

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In human behavior on January 11, 2011 at 11:36 pm

Some thoughts:

1) Gun rights advocates should probably stop arguing that more handguns would have a preventative effect. The data are not on their side. The American Journal for Public Health released a UPENN study in a late 2009—unique in that it explored a gun-holder’s safety and/or risk at the time of a shooting—that found “people with a gun were 4.5 times more likely to be shot in an assault than those not possessing a gun.”

2) Representative Giffords was shot while engaging in an event that gets close to the ideal of democracy—the hyper-local, issue-based community meeting. A suggestion: for one week, representatives of both federal chambers, with a member of the opposite political party present and engaged, should hold policy discussions with their constituents. The President and our new speaker, John Boehner, should set the tone by answering questions about health care, the budget, Afghanistan, etc. in front of  citizens of Ms. Giffords’ district. Don’t televise it. Don’t beem it over the radio. Don’t tweet about it. Just talk. Rationally. Together.

3) I don’t want to try to glean the motive of a young man who unloaded multiple rounds into that crowd on Saturday. Nor do I want to suggest that his underlying mental health condition (I was one DSM subcategory away from diagnosing him with Schizoaffective disorder simply from anecdotes—tendency to wear bright clothing, persecutorial delusions, etc—about him in a NYT article) can or should wholly explain this crime. But any constituent of a Republican house member should realize what repealing the Affordable Care Act would do to Mental Health support in America. Linked here is a list of provisions that the ACA includes to help reduce the stigma and improve the treatment of psychiatric disorders. Tell your congressperson that we need to not just keep these reforms on track, but continue to explore new ways to improve this specialized care modality.

4) Diagnosis and monitoring remains the toughest aspect to treating psychiatric disorders, so my last suggestion is directed at Google and Facebook: Use all that private profile information, partner with national mental health professionals to establish algorithms that could flag accounts that have profile-updating or search patterns consistent with the behavior of those effected by specific mental illness, and design some sort of outreach to these individuals.


Weekend Diversions

In distraction! distraction! distraction! on January 8, 2011 at 4:11 pm

To Watch: the hilarious new video for Destoyer’s “Kaputt,” the 70’s-sax-heavy title track of the canadian Dylan sound-alike’s upcoming LP: 

To Hear: Phillip Gourevitch, from a early episode of This American Life, discussing how Rwandan Hutus, while running from a genocide they committed in the early 90’s, used humanitarian aid groups to recast themselves as refugees and victims.

To read: Clancy Martin’s narrative essay on AA. It is exceptional for many reasons, foremost among them Martin’s ability to present all of the sides of the AA debate (concerning the efficacy of AA’s method, or its religiosity) not as a meta-analysis of alcoholism, but as a personal struggle to accept that the message or support he receives from AA shifts from meeting to meeting. Indeed, the meaning of sobriety comes in forms as diverse as the chain-smoking, coffee-chugging men and women that sit beside him.

To Jam out to: The first two singles off of the Smith Westerns’ Dye it Blonde. “Weekend” and “All Die Young” are just unfairly blithe—perfect pop-rock beemed down from some past or future summer, just in time for the coldest days of the year.




Eggplant Fries w/ Ginger Peanut Dipping Sauce

In foodstuffs on January 6, 2011 at 10:01 pm

These aren’t really “fries,” per se. If you cut them the size of large-ish baby carrots, they will keep their rigidity.

What you’ll need:

3 chinese eggplants, salt, garlic, olive oil, red pepper flakes, apple cider vinegar, creamy peanut butter, ginger, anise seed.

What you’ll do:

1) Preheat the oven to 350.  Slice each eggplant length-wise into 6 slender wedges. Salt generously and let sit in a bowl. Some of the eggplant’s bitter juices will seep out. After 10-15 minutes, rinse and pat dry.

2) While waiting, make your dipping sauce: dump a thumb-length of fresh, peeled ginger; 2 tbs of apple cider vinegar, a glug of olive oil, and several dollops of peanut butter into a blender. Blend until smooth. Refrigerate

3) Throw eggplant wedges into a plastic bag. Add 2 glugs of olive oil, and shake to coat the vegetables evenly. Add minced garlic (2 cloves), anise seed, and red pepper flakes and shake again to evenly distribute the spices.

4) Place the wedges on a baking pan. Bake until golden on both sides (flip halfway through the 20 minute baking time. Dip.

5 JAN 2011

In as seen by a liberal vegetarian english major in medschool with a subscription to the NYT on January 5, 2011 at 10:30 pm

“I was under huge pressure 2 cow down b4 rightest pressure on blasphemy.” Tweeted Salman Taseer, the governor of Pakistan’s Punjab region, shortly before he was assassinated by a religious zealot in broad daylight. “Refused.” he continued, nearing his 140 character limit, “Even if I’m the last man standing.” Taseer was murdered b/c of the attention he brought to the plight an elderly Punjab woman who could face a life sentence for “blasphemy”—an accusation often used in the region to seize a neighbor’s farmland or jail an overly moderate frenemy. If the governor were alive today, he would surely be firing up his Twitter account to comment on what has become the most controversial detail of his assassination: whether 9 or 24 bullets were found in his body. “9 or 24, 140 or 1, the # of bullets or characters doesn’t matter—truths or falsehoods, cowardice or passion come in all sizes” // A Palestinian woman killed over the weekend during a demonstration in the West Bank border town of Bilin may or may not have had a preexisting condition that exacerbated the suffocating effect of the cloud of tear gas that killed her. Israeli officials consider this a very serious question; Palestinians see the larger picture—resolving conflicting medical records of the 36 year-old’s death doesn’t reanimate this woman, and it certainly doesn’t reverse what could be called the perpetual “preexisting condition” of Palestinian life in the West Bank: poor medical care, a lack of economic opportunity, and a general dis-ease that emerges when checkpoints or the ghosts of lost sons and daughters hide behind every street corner. Who’s fault is that, Israel? // A study in JAMA found that one quarter of Americans with implanted defibrillators do not meet the guidelines to justify these $35,000+ procedures; at the same time, 100,000 qualified patients do NOT receive the defibrillators. Interestingly, those receiving defibs too early or outside of the AHA recommendations for implantation are predominantly Hispanic or African American. 2 correlates to take from these findings: 1) Hispanics and Blacks make up a large proportion of Medicaid recipients. The authors argue that the implantation procedure does not have a large enough reimbursement value to incentivize heart surgeons to do unnecessary procedures to make an extra buck—but it’s worth noting that these two groups have the lowest frequency of voluntary medical visits, so with a borderline at-risk patient in the office, surgeons do have a temporary marginal incentive to do the procedure (vs. sending them to a primary care physician for water pills or statins). 2) A guess: those not receiving defibs are most likely those underinsured individuals with plans that only provide minimal patient reimbursement for expensive preventative measures. // In other news, like Darth Vader, defib-implanted Dick Cheney appears to be making a political comeback. Please join twitter, former Vice President—if only for my amusement.

4 JAN 2011

In as seen by a liberal vegetarian english major in medschool with a subscription to the NYT on January 4, 2011 at 9:51 pm

Sorry for the break in posts… Happy New Year!

There are two presidents, still, in the Ivory Coast. The elected one, Alassane Ouattra, continues to watch diplomatic envoys shuffle in and out of discussions with the former one, Laurent Gbagbo. Gbagbo considers his divine right to the presidential palace as “non-negotiable” and sends roaming militias out to harass UN peacekeeping forces. Ivorians left watching this multi-state spectacle, and Gbagbo’s nationalistic rhetoric on state TV, must wonder if their sovereignty, as expressed in December’s election, has been ignored by both sides. Gbagbo could always just form a personally-selected 5 member court to reverse what UN elections observers confirmed—as Hamid Karzai has done in Afghanistan. Not content with the last parliamentary election, Karzai and the ethnic Pashtun majority he represents are trying to gain seats through judicial decree. It’s easy to write this development off, as most hawks do, as another example of a crazy tribal country that needs a continuing American presence to get anything done. But a more subtle reading reveals a different and perhaps more serious divide emerging in this embattled country: in the (relatively) safe cocoon of Kabul, the thinking of the capital’s politicians and  gov’t apparatchiks has become severed almost completely from the daily fears and struggles and violence faced by their constituents. Developing public faith in government can not, and should not, come from an occupying force. // President Obama looks like he may use a signing statement to get around congressional restrictions on Gitmo detainee transfers. Congress voted in Dec. to defund any attempt to move enemy combatants to US courts or prisons (= Habeus corpus only for those who can pay for their own plane ticket and prison accommodations). The restrictions were part of a larger Military spending bill—past iterations of which helped fund the production of the queer-baiting videos of (now former) Capt. Owen Honors.