right to rhetoric

This post from Digbysblog deserves to be reprinted in its entirity: (thanks to kos)

Tom DeLay of Texas says:

"Mrs. Schiavo's life is not slipping away - it is being violently wrenched from her body in an act of medical terrorism," DeLay said. "Mr. Schiavo's attorney's characterization of the premeditated starvation and dehydration of a helpless woman as 'her dying process' is as disturbing as it is unacceptable. What is happening to her is not compassion - it is homicide. She doesn't need to die, and as long as Terri Schiavo can breathe and her supporters can pray, we will not rest."

By now most people who read liberal blogs are aware that George W. Bush signed a law in Texas that expressly gave hospitals the right to remove life support if the patient could not pay and there was no hope of revival, regardless of the patient's family's wishes. It is called the Texas Futile Care Law. Under this law, a baby was removed from life support against his mother's wishes in Texas just this week. A 68 year old man was given a temporary reprieve by the Texas courts just yesterday.

Those of us who read liberal blogs are also aware that Republicans have voted en masse to pull the plug (no pun intended) on medicaid funding that pays for the kind of care that someone like Terry Schiavo and many others who are not so severely brain damaged need all across this country.

Those of us who read liberal blogs also understand that that the tort reform that is being contemplated by the Republican congress would preclude malpractice claims like that which has paid for Terry Schiavo's care thus far.

Those of us who read liberal blogs are aware that the bankruptcy bill will make it even more difficult for families who suffer a catastrophic illness like Terry Schiavo's because they will not be able to declare chapter 7 bankruptcy and get a fresh start when the gargantuan medical bills become overwhelming.

And those of us who read liberal blogs also know that this grandstanding by the congress is a purely political move designed to appease the religious right and that the legal maneuverings being employed would be anathema to any true small government conservative.

Those who don't read liberal blogs, on the other hand, are seeing a spectacle on television in which the news anchors repeatedly say that the congress is "stepping in to save Terry Schiavo" mimicking the unctuous words of Tom Delay as they grovel and leer at the family and nod sympathetically at the sanctimonious phonies who are using this issue for their political gain.

This is why we cannot trust the mainstream media. Most people get their news from television. And television is presenting this issue as a round the clock one dimensional soap opera pitting the "family", the congress and the church against this woman's husband and the judicial system that upheld Terry Schiavo's right and explicit request that she be allowed to die if extraordinary means were required to keep her alive. The ghoulish infotainment industry is making a killing by acceding once again to trumped up right wing sensationalism.

This issue gets to the essence of the culture war. Shall the state be allowed to interfere in the most delicate, complicated personal matters of life, death and health because a particular religious constituency holds that their belief system should override each individual's right to make these personal decisions for him or herself. And it isn't the allegedly statist/communist/socialist left that is agitating for the government to tell Americans how they must live and how they must die.

One of the things that we need to help America understand is that there is a big difference between the way the two parties perceive the role of government in its citizens personal lives. Democrats want the government to collect money from all its citizens in order to deliver services to the people. The Republicans want the government to collect money from working people in order to dictate individual citizen's personal decisions. You tell me which is the bigger intrusion into the average American's liberty?


homeopathy, not just for hippies

apologies for the lapse of writing - i've been suckered into doing more of my law reading than usual. but now it's friday, which means it's time to read about Science and other exicting things. New Scientist is a great place to start, with a very cool piece called 13 things that do not make sense. I found this one particularly interesting:

MADELEINE Ennis, a pharmacologist at Queen's University, Belfast, was the scourge of homeopathy. She railed against its claims that a chemical remedy could be diluted to the point where a sample was unlikely to contain a single molecule of anything but water, and yet still have a healing effect. Until, that is, she set out to prove once and for all that homeopathy was bunkum.

In her most recent paper, Ennis describes how her team looked at the effects of ultra-dilute solutions of histamine on human white blood cells involved in inflammation. These "basophils" release histamine when the cells are under attack. Once released, the histamine stops them releasing any more. The study, replicated in four different labs, found that homeopathic solutions - so dilute that they probably didn't contain a single histamine molecule - worked just like histamine. Ennis might not be happy with the homeopaths' claims, but she admits that an effect cannot be ruled out.

So how could it happen? Homeopaths prepare their remedies by dissolving things like charcoal, deadly nightshade or spider venom in ethanol, and then diluting this "mother tincture" in water again and again. No matter what the level of dilution, homeopaths claim, the original remedy leaves some kind of imprint on the water molecules. Thus, however dilute the solution becomes, it is still imbued with the properties of the remedy.

You can understand why Ennis remains sceptical. And it remains true that no homeopathic remedy has ever been shown to work in a large randomised placebo-controlled clinical trial. But the Belfast study (Inflammation Research, vol 53, p 181) suggests that something is going on. "We are," Ennis says in her paper, "unable to explain our findings and are reporting them to encourage others to investigate this phenomenon." If the results turn out to be real, she says, the implications are profound: we may have to rewrite physics and chemistry.

useful items:
specs of the experiment here
article about homeopathy controversy here
another article here
The favored explanation seems to be that homeopathy works by "structuring water", such that the dearth of actual molecules from the original solution are irrelevant. Put another way, water has a memory. If that's the case, how do you erase the memory? Are certain kinds of compounds more likely to impose a structure than others? Could you store information in water this way? Hmm.

check points

A journalist from the Christian Science Monitor has written about what a check point in Iraq is really like. Apparently, the set up is very confusing, so people don't understand when they are supposed to stop. Also, under Saddam, going slowly meant that you would get arrested for suspicious behavior. People are also afraid of opposition fighters on the road. Overall, a very bad scene.

sticks and stones

The good denziens at dailyKos have gotten their mitts on what we may affectionately call the Luntz Playbook (zip PDF). Frank Luntz is a top republican strategist. His research includes testing certain policy frames on audiences and keeping the methods that work best. He then publishes the results of his research in a book that is distributed to all Republican operatives. I highly, highly recommend taking a look at this item. Time to take the words out of their mouths...


Our nordic friends across the pond have established The Pirate Bay which they claim is the world's largest bit torrent tracker. I would like to draw your attention in particular to their Legal Threats page. The page contains many humerous and irreverent responses to the cease and desist letters that have been coming in. On the more serious end, here is an exerpt from their lawyer's reply to one angry movie studio:
We understand that you are familiar with Bit Torrent technology. Then you may, or may not, understand that none of the data that you hold the copyright to reside on thepiratebay.org's servers.

This raises the question of the reach of Swedish and European copyright law. It is the opinion of us, and the Swedish Supreme Court, that information about WHERE to obtain copyrighted material, which is the case with Bit Torrent, is not illegal. The '.torrent' files that are offered for download at the site in question contain nothing more than hash and checksum information. How this information could, in itself, possibly be an infrigement of your copyright is beyond us and apparently
the Swedish legal system agrees.
Our guess, since you did not provide us with adequate information on which laws and regulations that you feel are violated, is that you are referring to 'Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society'. Whether or not this act does indeed state that the information contained in '.torrent' files is a violation of the authors' intellectual rights or not is of little importance in the case at hand. The act does not have direct effect and calls upon the member states to take appropriate action in order to protect the rights refered to in the directive. Obiously the Swedish government, to this date, considers that it has done so and that all rights are protected under the current Swedish legalizlation. And as stated above our activity on the site in question and on our servers are not in violation of Swedish law. As law-abiding good upstanding citizens we do not question our wise government's policy.

I know nothing on the subject of the international reach of American copyright laws. It's my understanding though that right now, torrent links don't even violate American law, as they depend on p2p networks, but that could change when the Supreme Court rules on the Grockster case. When that happens, I would assume that nothing would change in Sweden, unless the US pushes some kind of intellectual property treaty. Either way, I am interested to see how the corporate entites go about responding to the increasing threats to their hegemony.

currency crisis

dailyKos has a good post about the bind that asian financial institutions are in right now; their US bonds are rapidly decreasing in value. if they sell, the whole thing rashes. if they don't sell, they're left with empty dollars. they are getting worried...


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