Archive | January, 2008

On hiatus

25 Jan

I’ll be taking my United States Medical Licensing Exam (Step 1) in June, so I’m putting the blog on hiatus until then.  Be sure to check out the presidential series and tell your friends.

the Lancet Student Podcast

19 Jan

My interview on the Lancet Student podcast.

Especially (not) in Michigan… oh Mitt

15 Jan

Is there something in the water in Massachusetts that makes you flip and flop like salmon? The two most famous (non-Kennedy) politicians from the former Puritan theocracy are the doubly unimpressive John Kerry and former governor, Mitt Romney.

Mitt Romney’s old man was a progressive Republican Michigan governor who fought for civil rights and desegregation and against the death penalty back in the Sixties. A former CEO of American Motors (the last independent non-Big Three car company), he represented the automobile industry that made Michigan one of the richest states in the country. From these progressive loins came Mitt the liberal out-gay righting Ted Kennedy in 1994, Mitt the centrist governor of Massachusetts, and Mitt the hardline social conservative who applauds and will strengthen the Bush death grip on the Constitution. He defends the institution of marriage he does.

Flip… flop?

Mitt (ask Mitt anything) of the perfect hair, family, education, and breeding is floundering. Mitt the $300 million man got beat by former fatass Reverend/Governor Huckabee in Iowa despite throwing money left and right, only to come home to New England to get whacked by John McCain (of dubious sanity on the Iraq issue) in New Hampshire. What can Mitt do to make his suffering home state of Michigan see the value of putting a filthy rich capitalist in the White House tonight?

He tells them that the jobs will come back, GM/Ford/Chrysler will rise from the death without government taking over health care (Slate described the Big Three as a social welfare and retirement system funded by selling cars). And he’ll undo the mandated increases in fuel efficiency that will reduce our oil imports. I thought it was fuel efficiency and better cars that allowed Toyota to whip our ass, but wtf do I have on Mitt’s wisdom. And free trader Mitt will save every job, I tell you, every single auto job and bring back the glory days of his father.

The free market will save Michigan? Whisper that one Mitt; your buddies in Wall Street are getting bailed out by the government investment funds of China, Singapore, Kuwait, and Abu Dhabi.

Issue XIV: Lancet Student on Border Health

14 Jan

I wrote up my trip last month to Brownsville, Texas with Frontera de Salud for the Lancet Student, and it got published. The Lancet is a famous medical journal (up there with the New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association, and British Medical Journal) in Britain. The student website focuses on global health issues like the Lancet does. Anyway, check it out.

the Lancet Student: US- Mexico Border Health

Issue XIII: Cadillac Dixie?

6 Jan

I’ve written about the possible collapse of the United States in Issue VIII mostly based on economic mismanagement and poor political leadership after reading Jared Diamond’s great book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. I forgot to mention environmental mismanagement and failure to adjust cultural attitudes in the specific cases of the Southwestern United States, and I’ve been inspired to write after reading about the current Georgia drought and the growth of the American West while the northeastern and Midwestern United States dies slowly from depopulation.

One of the top 100 nonfiction books of the 20th century is a book called Cadillac Desert: American West and Its Disappearing Water written in 1986 by Marc Reisner. In it Reisner shows how the entire United States western United States has developed on faulty assumptions and premises that were known to John Wesley Powell, the man who first mapped the region. The western United States, basically, is a desert civilization. But unlike Egypt, backed by the huge Nile, the entire region has to rely on the shitty Colorado River which most years doesn’t even empty out into the sea.

Meanwhile
millions upon millions of people move to the driest states in America while the water laws used (and the assumptions of plentiful rain behind these laws) in these areas come from British common law and the eastern United States. Furthermore, the people who move from the East to the West want to maintain grassy lawns and play golf all year long, using scarce water in a region that in no way could possibly support the population it has much less the lawns and tremendous agribusiness that has developed on irrigated land. Meanwhile fish and marine estuary life suffer from too much river water being diverted so big agribusiness can grow sugar beets in the desert WHILE we pay farmers in the east to not grow crops because there is a crop surplus.

Little known fact: California’s number one industry by billions of dollars is not movies, music, software, or defense contracting. It’s agriculture.

California, and Los Angeles in particular, are a fiction built from imported water from dams on the Colorado River and the other puny rivers in the area. California itself wouldn’t really exist without federal government support via the Bureau of Reclamation and the aqueducts which the LA Department of Water and Power built at the turn of the century. Reisner describes the first aqueduct made by Commissioner Mulholland (ever heard of Mulholland Drive?) as being the work of the anti-Moses. “Instead of parting the sea to bring his people to the desert, he parted the desert to bring water to his people,” he wrote.

The aqueducts deliver spring water from the mountains which have ice packs that melt in the spring, but I wonder if with global warming, the amount of ice that lasts the winter would reduce the amount of water at the time that the population is growing.

And apparently Georgia has the same problem too! No planning for the future population swelling in the past is blamed for the water shortages in Georgia, not to mention incredible traffic headaches.

What’s the solution? Move back to Michigan and the Midwest where there is plenty of water, and no people. Northerners can’t move south and west and expect to take their water with them. Or can they?

Links:
Salon.com – “How to solve America’s water problem
Salon.com – “Turn on the lights Michigan
Washington Post – Kenya to lose drinking water in 25 years when Mount Kilamanjaro glacier melts away
Wikipedia – California water Wars
Jared Diamond – “What is your Consumption Factor?

Oh, and see Jack Nicholson in Chinatown. It’s about water in LA too. And badass wardrobe.

The Year in Review

3 Jan

I know you are all glued to C-Span for tonight’s Iowa caucuses, but here is some year in review stuff from people who aren’t me.

  • TIME magazine picked Russian president Vladimir Putin as their Person of the Year. The award goes for the most important person in the news, whether “bad” or “good.” Undistinguished winners in the past have been Nixon, Stalin, Hitler, Chiang Kai-shek, Henry Kissinger, and George W. Bush. There’s also an interesting article about a bouncer at a club in Moscow for the new ultra-rich in Russia (53 billionaires and 119,000 millionaires). I concur with TIME’s decision.
  • Doctors without Borders announced its 10 most underreported humanitarian crises in the world for 2007. Hear anything about Zimbabwe in the media?
  • I hope you all heard about the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, head of the Pakistan People’s Party. The best writing I’ve seen on her death comes from the radical Pakistani journalist Tariq Ali in the Guardian.
  • Independent journalist in Iraq Dahr Jamail writes his end of the year review of Iraq: “2007 Worst Year Yet in Iraq.” Calculate the number of internally displaced people and refugees from Iraq from the total population of 25 million. It comes out to 18% of Iraqis removed or fled from their homes. The point in short: the surge in troops was to give time for the Iraqi government to settle political differences between the ethnic groups. There has been a fall in violence, but the government hasn’t stopped ethnic bickering at all.
  • And tonight is the Iowa caucuses. I’m not here to write about stupid horse race stuff because that is all the media does, but I will make one prediction: Hillary will not come in first place. If you want smart commentary from a guy who was able to call Iowa correctly in 2004 check out Al Giordano’s election blog, the Field.
  • And when will someone talk about cutting military spending in the United States? We now spend 56% of all “defense” spending IN THE WORLD. We spend ten times what number 2, China, spends ($623 billion versus $65 billion). It was too much in 2000 when we were spending over $300 billion. See more at Glenn Greenwald’s blog on Salon.com.

Enjoy the New Year!