Monday, August 31, 2009

Our huge deficit could invoke the "D" word: go back to the film IOUSA

On Sunday, Aug. 30, The Washington Post “Outspoken” Section published a couple of stern pieces on p B3 about the federal deficit (one by Joseph Stiglitz: “Thanks to the Deficit, the Buck Stops Here”, and including the “Outspoken” column, “A Conversation with David Walker”, who helped make the film “I.O.U.S.A.” reviewed here. The Post reference is here.

Walker goes on to compare our level of debt today, at 85%, with that level right around the Revolutionary War, about 40%. And he warns of full scale Depression (the D word, and "D" really isn't a passing grade) if we don’t change our ways.

Then, Monday Aug. 31, the Post led off with an editorial warning about how the deficit problem will call any sensible health care reform to unravel, and leave some people out. It is beginning to sound like conservative ideas of mandatory health savings accounts and mandatory but private retirement accounts for younger people make more sense.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

H1N1 affects older people less: an ethical issue?

Sometimes, with all the panic discussion about masks and gloves and sanitizers and H1N1, I wonder if we wouldn’t be better off if we got exposed, got over it, and move on.

Of course, we should get vaccinated as soon as possible (as long as the vaccine is safe – and we can’t be sure right off hand). But most healthy adults who don’t get sick much (those “presenteeism” workers who do the nightcall shifts without compensation in IT shops) are “healthy” because they’ve been exposed to “everything” already, and don’t get very sick from germs.

I was sickly as a boy, and outgrew it. Why? I developed resistance. I had severe Asian influenza in October 1958 as a sophomore in high school: I remember going home from biology class with a sudden fever, and my nose swelled shut. I’ve never had anything as severe sense (the 2002 attack in California was novel but still mild by clinical standards). Same thing with GI tract bugs. When food poisoning went through a dorm at KU in 1966, I had only very mild symptoms, because I had been exposed to salmonella before.

OK, this is so selfish: we all known that some people are much more vulnerable. Young people may have more severe illness from H1N1 than normal flu because it is novel and may burrow a little more deeply into lungs. But it seems to be dangerous to people with diabetes, obesity, and various other medical problems (HIV might be a factor, as would chemotherapy). And it is very dangerous to pregnant women late in term. That's why "social distancing" proposals, which could cause real "sacrifice" for many businesses and many "healthy people" are controversial. It does seem that closing schools (and colleges) won't stop spread; but what about sports (although that's mostly outside) and even movie houses or bars? "Common good" can sound a lot like Maoism quickkly.

This time, the older people are indeed more resistant, probably because of early life exposure to proteins resembling those in Spanish flu or this round of H1N1. Sometimes age is more important than or “better than” beauty.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

"Cash for Clunkers" results in some interesting stats

I thought some visitors would enjoy reading the results of the “cash for clunkers” (or is it “clunkers for cash”?) program and see which manufacturers gained the most sales. I recently bought a Ford Focus, which is #5, but my car did not qualify as a “clunker”.

The AOL link is here. The program resulted in the sale of almost 700000 cars.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Is health care a "fundemantal right" or "just" a "social right"?

Is health care, as Senator Ted Kennedy had asserted, a “fundamental right”? Most constitutional theorists would call it a “social right”. That is, it is offered to people (who can’t pay the market price) only by setting up a government-driven mechanism to redistribute wealth so those can have it. It might be more appropriate to call it a “social contract right”. And that's not the same animal as a "privilege."

But in most western countries (outside the USA) where there is a large single-payer component to health insurance, tax supported or at least heavily regulated, people in practice tend to feel little sense of “sacrifice” – except in situations, still a matter of dispute, where care is “rationed”. In May 2001, I remember talking about health insurance with a French family at the train station in Toulouse, and they said, about publicly funded health care, “It works for us.” Even paid family leave and especially paid parental leave, which would sound like it would come from the pockets of the childless, tends to cause little controversy. That may be due to a liberal social climate, long vacations, and stable public infrastructure, even if conservatives rightly question how sustainable all of this is.

Both medicine and social values have changed, but medicine may start bringing social values back toward how they used to be. That’s because medicine can extend lives (even of the young in some cases) with radical treatments of previously quickly fatal diseases. For example, medicine has made HIV/AIDS manageable and returned people to work and independent life. But it has, more recently, also sometimes created circumstances where adventurous treatment is practical only when there are other family members around to share sacrifice.

Lifestyle counseling and preventive medicine seems predicated on the idea that health is primarily a matter of personal responsibility. But the extension of life with better lifestyle choices may not necessarily save “money” for health care costs in the long run, as debilitating illness eventually occurs. That’s where “family values” or at least “village values” come into play. Morality demands not only that people take care of themselves, but also that they take care of one another inasmuch as there are always people for whom need exceeds “choice and consequences” the way an objectivist individualist sees things. The health care and eldercare debate may get us back to family structure and stability whether we like it or not. Gay marriage could actually add to this needed stability.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

White House warns that budget deficits are much larger than previously forecast

ABC News is reporting Tuesday morning that the Obama administration has upped the 10-year cumulative budget deficit projection to about $9.051 trillion, up from its February projection of $7.1 trillion.

ABC also reports that the official unemployment rate will top 10% toward the end of 2009 and remain there for some time in 2010. This dire story contracts earlier reports that we were turning the corner on recession.

The link is here.

The White House fact sheet was released at 9:30 AM today here. ABC had the link, which does not yet appear on the White House web site.

Other bad news is that up to 50% of Americans may be infected by H1N1 this season, and there could occur 90000 deaths rather than about 35000 as in a typical flu season. The administration may encourage or authorize less fully tested vaccines to be used in September.

Curiously, the stock market was not yet tanking, since housing data had been reported as improved today.

Ironically, the Tuesday morning Washington Times had led off with a story by Patrice Hill, "White House slashes deficit forecast for '09; bank bailouts not so costly", link here. The newspaper updated this with several stories during the day later Tuesday.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Fraudulent defamation judgment against Ohio man from DC helps argue for tort reform

A news story leading off the Metro section of The Washington Post today (Aug. 24) argues indirectly for tort reform. By Del Quentin Wilber, the story is “Man lives 2nd nightmare as his molester fakes lawsuit; D.C. judge is duped in defamation conspiracy against Ohio victim”, link here. This is the most outrageous example of poor judicial behavior in Washington DC since the infamous dry-cleaner lawsuit a few years ago. After leaving prison in Ohio and moving in with his mother in Washington DC, the offender conspired (even using a fake paralegal) to file phony suit and get a fraudulent defamation judgment against the original victim. The perpetrator has been indicted for obstruction of justice.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Kids' and teen's brain development presents paradoxes for educators

Education commentator Gabriella Brown has another story on kids’ learning on p 16 of The Washington Times Family Section on Aug. 23. Her title is “Kids’ brains not ready for analytical thought; factual building blocks are needed for students to answer questions” and in print there is the headline “Think About It.”

True, students need facts first, and the hippocampus, deep within the brain, develops faster. That’s why we used to memorize multiplication tables. (And that’s why in Enriched Chemistry in my senior year of high school I once said “all learning is memorizing”. It probably is so, in organic chemistry and in medical school.) As the cerebral cortex develops, students learn to correlate facts and develop ideas. It’s this non-linear kind of mental relationship building that helps some kids develop computer and programming skills very early in the teen years, and probably accounts for some astonishing teen and early young adult innovations (including Facebook). So her article is a a bit dualistic. Here is the link.

On p 17, facing, there is an article by Kate Tsubata “Real-life lessons in saving money” that ultimately seem to argue for almost Amish values, about buying relatively little and making things yourself, and developing real familial and social cohesion and attachment. But this process does not always argue well for maximum cognitive development of the individual teen.

The study of teen brain development might also help us understand – and medically prevent – cognitive loss in the elderly, which is becoming a major public health problem very quickly with demographics.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Obama debunks health insurance reform myths; OFA town hall forum video available

President Obama this morning gave a six-minute address here where he debunked many of the attacks against his health care reform proposals. It's called "Myths and Morality in Health Insurance Reform".

He denies that abortions would get new coverage, that illegal aliens would be covered, that the government would pick doctors, or that “death panels” would convene. He also says that the public option is just that – an “end user option” – although he admits that insurance companies may object to it.

Here is the OFA National Halth Care Forum with the President. Governor Tim Kaine, DNC chairman, presides. The banner (one hour 17 minutes long) is “Health Insurance Reform Now” and YouTube says that the video comes from the president’s website.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Will health care reform "really" give government control over life and death decisions?

Michael Gerson sums up some of our health care dilemma today in an op-ed “When Planners Decide Life” in the Aug. 21 Washington Post. The title suggests that planning health care expenses at end of life (or beginning) is something like planning a lab session in organic chemistry. Or perhaps it recalls Soviet “five year plans” etc. The link is here.

Technology is both a blessing and a challenge. It gives us the knowledge of good and evil. So we’re faced with issues like whether to deny federal support to private insurers that would cover abortion.

At end of life, Gerson points out that decisions about risky and expensive and uncertain interventions get made by insurers, employers and sometimes families now. He rightfully questions turning this over to government, although experience in, say. Britain isn’t as bad as we think.

In fact, we already have a “largely” single payer system for the elderly, Medicare. And the US Medicare system is rather generous with allowing extreme measures to prolong and try to improve life quality at advanced age and in difficult circumstances. It could be more demanding of a cohesive family for support. Technology has given us heroic measures for younger people (bone marrow transplants, for example) but often they cannot be done with some sacrificial support from other family members. I’m not sure that it will all be in the hands of government bureaucrats as so many people fear.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ocean, Gulf of Mexico water temperatures at record highs

The Alabama Press Register and Ocean City Topix are reporting that world oceans have hit record temperatures, and that the Gulf of Mexico has hit 90 degrees F. The AP story was carried in the Alabama paper here.

The global ocean temperature for July hit 62.6 degrees.

The Gulf was at about 88 degrees when Hurricane Katrina formed, jumped Florida, and intensified suddenly in the Gulf in late August, 2005, leading to catastrophe.

The fear is that sudden Gulf hurricanes could develop at any time now.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

MSN offers visitors Eight Grade Math test: it's hard!

The Illinois Department of Education has a “standards of learning” eight grade math test that Dell and Microsoft MSN published today to tease adult visitors. Some of the problems sound like they could be on “Want to be a Millionaire”? Or maybe Jeopardy, kids day.

The link for the test is here.
Yes, I passed it.

This reminds me of the Fox show, “Are you as smart as a fifth grader?”

Again, I think sports can make for some good test questions, such as the dimensions of a baseball outfield. Why are so few baseball outfields laid out as squares? Hint: Phythagorean Theorem. Center field would be too deep.

I think that President Obama, his wife and daughters would pass this test fine.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

H1N1 vaccination may progress more slowly than needed

The Centers for Disease Control recently updated its vaccine H1N1 information page here.

The CDC is also reporting that it is taking longer to grow the H1N1 virus in eggs than some other flu viruses, so vaccination will have to start in October and be rationed to groups most at risk, as explained in the web site. One of the most at risk groups is pregnant women late in pregnancy, because of reduced lung space.

Persons over 65 (actually persons over 50) without other complications seem to be at much less risk of severe disease. It seems as though older people have received indirect exposure to the 1918 H1N1 antigens and have some protection, and generally have only very mild, self-limiting symptoms. The influenzas of 1957 and 1968 were more severe, but of different strains.

I experienced a bizarre influenza (resembling H1N1 as described) while traveling in California in February 2002 despite vaccination that season, and believe it was an unusual, animal strain. It came and went for about a week before going away. It was pretty uncomfortable. It’s possible that this atypical exposure might have given me some protection.

Social distancing could come back as an issue, particularly because different groups vary in susceptibility to severe disease, with resistant people able to transmit to those who are more at risk.

A company supposedly has a new method for H1N1 vaccine production but it will not be available for two years.

All groups should get the regular flu shot, to prevent the possibility that the H1N1 can comingle with older viruses in the same person and produce new strains.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Atlantic issue plays with more libertarian solutions to health care dilemma; Britain's NHS isn't so bad, is it?

David Goldhill weighs in on the health care debate with a long article in The Atlantic (September 2009), “How American Health Care Killed My Father”, link here . However tragic the anecdote, the title of the story is beside the point.

He quickly launches on a long prescription, to pseudo-privatize health care, with mandatory health savings accounts, with health insurance policies to cover true catastrophes with a $50000 floor. He does liberalize the rules for HSA’s, allowing them to be passed on to heirs, more or less. Some anticipated events, like pregnancy and childbirth, are paid for the way cars are, with credit. (Even now, in our credit crisis). In a way, I can believe that his system would actually work!

He also dismisses the various European systems as unreliable for the future, without much evidence.

I presume that he could even replace Medicare with HSA’s, and even force individuals and families to plan for their own long term care, as well as repeated critical illnesses as people age.

Megan McCardle as a “libertarian” article on health care, “A lesson in practical philosophy”, here.

ra Darzi and Tom Kibasi have an op-ed in the Aug. 17 Washington Post, “In Defense of Britain’s Health Care System”, link here in which the authors maintain that Britons have the choice of doctor and can see specialists and get need care for life-threatening or activity-threatening illnesses or injuries quickly (he talks about two weeks for cancer, which sounds slow by our standards).

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Katrina-like storm found on Titan, Saturn's "earth like" moon

NASA has found a tropical storm, based on methane chemistry, on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. In comparison to Earth scales, it is larger and more destructive than was Hurricane Katrina.

The news story on AOL is here.

A NASA diagram of a cutaway of Titan is here. SVG’s cannot be pasted into Blogger directly

In angels needed a dugout or staging area, Titan would make for good real estate. Watch your movie trailers.

The AOL news story title reminds me of Arthur Benjamin's "Storm Cloud Cantata" from Alfred Hitchcock's "The Man Who Knew Too Much."

Attribution link for NASA image of Titanclouds.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The US Federal government deficit for 10 months of the 2009 fiscal year is $1.27 trillion, or over $4000 for every person in the U.S. Jake Tapper reported on this matter Wed. Aug. 12 in this video on ABC World News Tonight.

ABC also takes up the deficit in a blog that it calls “Clem’s Chronicles” here, "The World Newser".

The deficit helps fuel the fear and anger in the health care town halls, as voters suspect that cuts in spending will inevitably be made in end-of-life situations.

I recall discussions about the deficit during the Reagan years, and then during G.W. Bush. Bill Clinton, remember, gave us a budget surplus, and he was a Democrat (or Republicrat).

On Thursday morning, Yahoo! Was reporting that new jobless claims rose to 558000, suggesting a double dip recession.

Even so, the DOW was up this morning. Investors don’t see that the deficit impacts earnings forecasts, but they probably should. The definitely should.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Washington Times hits hard the media's disinterest in marital intimacy, promotion of sex education

The Washington Times this week hit the topic of sex education and the devaluation of marital sex in an article critical of sex education in public schools and the promotion of condoms.

Rebecca Hagelin has a piece dated Aug. 10, 2009 in the Washington Times “Assaulted by Sex-ed: cultural challenge of the week: immoral sex education” She lashes out against SIECUS , The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. She mentions a book by Miriam Grossman “You’re Teaching My Child What?: A Physician Exposes the Lies of Sex Ed and How the Harm Your Child” (Regnery – what do you expect?) and the caption mentions her book “30 Ways in 30 Days to Save your Family” (also Regnery). She mentions how important and great marital sex is – for others besides the couple. The article link is here.

The theme about the media’s sudden queasiness about marital passions (WB’s “Seventh Heaven” [rev. Camden says "sex is for married people"] and ABC Family’s “Kyle XY” showed almost no real marital physical intimacy and seemed to present family values in moral terms only) showed up a lot in this newspaper about a year ago. Perhaps this an artifact of the biological reality that as people get older (have what Dr. Phil calls “tissue loss”) they don’t come across as idols for Hollywood’s ideal for sexual attractiveness (for men or women). We want people to be good and strong, after all, don’t we? One is reminded of David Skinner’s June 1999 Weekly Standard piece “Notes on the hairless man” (you can buy it here. This all sounds like the heterosexual world's implementation of "body fascism."

Back on Aug. 15, 2008 Kelly Jane Torrance had an article about conservative movie reviewer Michael Medved’s call to see more of the “Song of Solomon” in television and movies, here. The Paper shows a photo of Justim Timberlake and Janet Jackson beside the article.

There had appeared a similar article by Marybeth Hicks on the Aug 6 2008 Washington Times here.

There are policy implications for the social supports of marriage in this sense. There is a corollary that everyone shares intergenerational responsibility and that parents gain social and “political” control of this process within the families that they form when they are interested as well as faithful. For example, parents with more than one child expect sibling loyalty and that if tragedy befalls one sibling with their grandchildren, other siblings will step up and raise them.

Cheryl Wetzstein had weighed in on this perspective with a piece about marital honesty on Aug. 31, 2008 here.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Some public school systems still allow spanking; disabled students get corporal punishment more often; shocking!

Sam Dillon has a shocking New York Times article Aug. 10 “Disabled students are spanked more”, link here . Twenty states still allow corporal punishment, a fact which shocked me. Virginia does not (and I think the other jurisdictions in the DC area do not), but some states in the Deep South do. The “spanking scene” in the film “The Music Within” comes to mind.

When I was substituting, I was criticized for not being an effective “authority figure” that people (kids) would obey just out of deference to their relationship (?) to me. Interesting.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

US birth rate fell in 2008 with recession

The United States birth rate fell by 2% in 2008, largely because of recession, as discussed in a short piece by Ignatius Reilly on Right Pundit. California and Florida had less immigration, and indirectly lower birthrates. But as Phillip Longman and others point out, the cost of raising kids gets even more expensive. But down the road, so will the cost of caring for elderly parents, especially for people who did not have kids. The messages about teen pregnancy and opportunity cost may be getting through all too well.

The New York Times article from Aug 6 by Sam Roberts is here.

The CDC had published a similar article back in 2003; look here.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Is America "slouching toward fascism"?

Sara Robinson, of the Campaign for America’s Future, has an interesting perspective published this morning in AlterNet, “Is the U.S. on the Brink of Fascism?” link here.

The essay describes four stages, and includes steps like the rejection of reason by group emotion, and the development of internal spies.

It strikes me that fascism could evolve surreptitiously out of hyper-individualism, if the point of the individualism is self-expression of certain kinds of value-sets, particularly those related to “virtue’. We probably think of radical Islam as overly obsessed with personal “virtue” (the value system of Sayyid Qtub), and in a slightly different sense we perceive the American “religious right” (the Jerry Falwell variety) the same way. We become concerned with “right and wrong” as values in their own right, even if in a free or pluralistic society we have different ways of defining these concepts. Eventually, people who are less “right” as individuals are left behind or allowed to somehow be put down. Some conservatives have been critical of President Obama’s health care program as promoting rationing and the possible denial of services to people who present too much costs partly because of behavioral or values-related issues. One can imagine that this could lead to something that sounds like fascism, and both conservatives and liberals have some reason to fear that it could develop down the road if there are excesses of anything. Ponder, if you will, our obsession with "body fascism" and our opines against obesity.

Nevertheless, whatever all this speculation, the fascist movements of the past, as in Germany and Italy, did not come about because of “personal freedom”; they came about because of economic stresses (like war reparations) and political or structural vulnerabilities in the systems of these countries that allowed asymmetric takeover by figures like Hitler and Mussolini. Instead, it seems that the excesses of personal indulgence and consumption tended to promote communism instead, with the most extreme example being Mao’s Cultural Revolution in Communist China in the 1960s, where “spoiled” intellectuals were forced to “pay their dues” by taking turns and becoming (“exploited”) peasants.

Perhaps we need to realize that freedom and absolute self-righteousness are a bit incompatible. Freedom always implies accepting some risk, some uncertainty, some mess.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Some people don't try to collect unemployment when they "can"

Michelle Singletary, in her “Color of Money” column, takes up the odd topic of some people not wanting to collect unemployment to which they are legally entitled, in The Washington Post today, title “for the fortunate, consider what you can afford before filing for unemployment”, link here. Unemployment is not "welfare"; it is government sponsored insurance; but people sometimes do not want to take it out of "pride" -- or maybe because they do want to sit at home and do whatever they want (more likely).

When I was laid off at the end of 2001 in Minnesota, I was told that I couldn’t collect unemployment while the severance was paid out, which was substantial in my case. It turned out that the rules were pretty complicated. Actually, you were supposed to apply right away, but you couldn’t start collecting until toward the end of the severance payout. But if you waited to end of severance before filing, it turned out, somewhat unjustly, that you could draw unemployment longer.

If you worked part time, you were limited to 32 hours a week, and your benefit that week was reduced by a formula, but the payout time could go longer because the maximum allowable benefit remained the same.

Singletary explains who unemployment insurance is funded, usually by a tax on employers on the first portion of an employee’s earnings. The benefits have federal and state components, with the state contribution varying a lot around the country. Only a few states tax workers for part of the insurance premium.

State unemployment offices require beneficiaries to look actively for work and attend help sessions. Sometimes there are requirements that an beneficiary be willing to accept 80-85% of the former salary. There can be disagreements as to the type of work. If a person worked as a computer programmer in a life insurance industry, should he or she be willing to consider selling life insurance, an activity that may go against his or her values or temperament?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

H1N1, SIV, organ donation chains: public health stories burst from the media

There were several public health stories jamming the media today, so many that it’s not practical to spoonfeed links for them.

The Obama administration is saying that it is not likely to pressure school systems to close to control H1N1, unless the virus turns deadly. So far H1N1 is more transmissible than ordinary influenza types, but does not produce more severe disease, except possibly in pregnant women who lose lung capacity near full term. Older adults apparently were exposed to antigens similar to H1N1 back in the 50s, and seem to be at less risk. School closings can cause tremendous economic losses for parents

However it will probably have to ration the vaccine at first, protecting pregnant women, babies, and health care workers.

In Argentina, however, social distancing was undertaken this “winter” and theaters were closed down for some time, resulting in disruptions and major losses.

In Cameroon, a woman was apparently infected with SIV, very similar to HIV, from contact with a gorilla in lowlands. The University of California has already reported that mountain gorillas pose no threat to tourists.

In China, there was a report of plague in a rural area, that was quarantined.

Then there is a story on NBC Nightly news about a chain letter of kidney donors, in order to get one person in need of a kidney to stop end stage renal disease, sometimes from diabetes. It is amazing to find people willing to sacrifice an organ into a chain, not even for a relative, so that someone down the chain can live. Beyond blood donation (or perhaps marrow sometimes) we haven’t thought of organ donation, except perhaps posthumously, as a community obligation. But I can remember filling out an organ donation p.h. card in the 1970s, long before HIV made gay men ineligible as donors of anything.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Math summer camp is fun -- for some

Gabriella Brown has a nice “Sunday Read” article in the Aug. 2 Washington Times, “Math camp counts on fun: with smaller class sizes, school goes ‘really deep’ to help build confidence.” The newspaper url link is here.

Yup, with math, confidence is everything. It becomes mental agility, it becomes part of your evolutionary survival or competitive strategy – that you can run your numbers in your head. You do it out of enlightened self-interest, Ayn Rand style, and you don’t need to memorize (except maybe those trig identities derivative formulas).

Some teens take to math because of the abstraction: a certain kind of teen (especially male) likes the idea of a world that can be controlled, deterministically, like a chess board (even if we can’t calculate all permutations of the Benko Gambit). Likewise with java programming, and even computer games (even simulations of batted baseballs).

The other way to ground kids in math is music – whether the pop bands like the Jonas Brothers, or young classical composers and entertainers like Dominik Maican and Timothy Andres. Mozart, after all, was all about math. And so was Bach, really.
But of course the article is about math education in younger kids – days when I remember learning the 6’s, the 7’s, etc. I thought that 49 was an odd number to be a perfect square.

Attribution link for Mandelbrot set picture and computer code on Wikipedia. It looks like a budding retrovirus.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

CNN: junk foods hijack people's brains

Today, Saturday August 1, the CNN Newsroom had Ali Velshi interview David Kessler, the author of “The End of Overeating” (Simon & Schuster, 2009). He talked about how the brain is hijacked by fat, sugar and salt. People need medical rehab to end bad eating habits, he said. But Dr. Gabe Mirkin used to say that from his radio talk show in suburban Maryland in the 1990s, where he advocated extremely low fat diets.

Kessler talked about the color coding of food in the company cafeteria at Google, as green, yellow and red, with the red foods having hundreds of calories per bite (not byte).

I think about this when a red fox appears in the yard, and I realize that the fox would get diabetes if people fed him; if he lives on what he can catch by hunting, he stays healthy. The same is probably true for bears.

The Wall Street Journal has a sharply worded editorial in the Weekend Aug. 1 issue, p A10, "The Fat of the Land: A soda pop tax and government health care won’t cure obesity." The link is here. The letters on that page, especially one by Peggy O'Shaughnessy, is particularly blunt, talking about teasing of obese kids (bullying) and the emerging "attitude of superiority and disdain" about weight that is similar to that about cigarette smoking. The random nature of genetics doesn't figure into the moralizing. My own father would remark privately about people, "pot belly, no ambition ...." sometimes. And he wasn't talking about the movie "Babe". And, early in my working career, people would joke about the "fat, decadent bourgeosie".

The irony is that on a gay disco floor you see the values of superiority indeed, the outcomes of "body fascism". In that universe, for a male at minimum drinking age 21 the expected waist line for a six-footer is about thirty inches. Hollywood has provided the role models for how young men are supposed to look: Zac Efron, Tom Welling, Jared Padalecki, and the former Marky Mark.

We have our other pariahs, too, like deadbeat dads. Given our demographic winter, I wonder if we're about to add deadbeat adult children.

Six months into a supposedly "liberal" administration, those of us who are far less than perfect find ourselves awating the new medical (and family-code) Gestapo.