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October 26, 2007

Bob the Angry Flower's Classic Literature Sequels

Atlas Shrugged 2: One Hour Later -- We're all gonna have to TILL the SOIL!!!

(via the Three-Toed Sloth)

Tough questions

Kevin Drum, one of the most reliable Friday catbloggers and one of the most intelligent political bloggers, takes on the tough questions:

A crucial question from the previous post: is the proper idiom "wild hair up his butt" or "wild hare up his butt"? The latter sounds unlikely, but what do I know?

Small political magazines get rate hike, Time Warner off the hook

Last week I got a letter from one of the publications I subscribe to, the High Country News.  It said their annual bill for mailing the magazine would increase by $28,000 because of rate hikes approved by the Postal Service Board of Governors.

No big deal, I thought.  Postal rates are rising all the time.  That's part of life.

But it turns out there's more to this story.  The rate hike for HCN and other smaller publications, including the left-wing Nation and the right-wing National Review, is going to be a lot larger than the rate hike for publishing giant Time Warner.  In effect, the postal service is subsidizing the largest publishers at the expense of the smallest.  It should come as no surprise that the plan essentially grew out of a proposal by none other than . . . Time-Warner.

"At the heart of the debate is whether the Postal Service should be a
market instrument that benefits the most efficient players or a
distribution system that levels the playing field to create a free flow
of ideas."

Our media voices are already too few, too large, and too homogenous.  For example, all 175 publications in Rupert Murdoch's empire editorialized in favor of going to war in Iraq.  Time-Warner's publications cannot be reliably counted on to give voice to opinions contrary to Time-Warner's business interests (which as a large publisher are largely the same as Rupert Murdoch's).  This is why we all benefit from the independent media.  They are more free to tell us things that challenge the status-quo, whether from the right or the left.

Efficiency may be the highest virtue when you're talking about running errands or manufacturing widgets.  Other virtues, like heterogeneity, should rank higher when we're talking about political journals and newspapers.

EDIT: On October 30th, a congressional subcommittee will be revisiting this issue.  You can click here if you want to weigh in on the side of truth, justice, Mom, and apple pie.

Getting rid of my TV

I'm getting rid of my TV.

Ok, not exactly.  I'm simply trying to get it out of my way.

After weeks of consciously and unconsciously  ruminating about what to do with my apartment in order to make it a space that inspires me to do what I want to do -- read and write, do yoga, cook, sleep -- I've realized that the TV has to go.  Into a closet.  Behind some boxes.  On a shelf.

But it can't continue to take up space on the floor of my just-large-enough studio apartment.

Since I moved in more than a year ago, I've almost never turned it on.  Once or twice to play Doom.  Once or twice to watch sports.  Once or twice to watch "Check, please!"  And that's it.
The rest of the time, the TV has occupied space that I could use for a comfy reading chair, a table to throw my mail on, or a bit of carpet to do push-ups on.

It's not that "there's nothing good on TV."  On the contrary, there's plenty of good stuff, like Battlestar Galactica.  There just isn't enough good stuff on consistently enough to make me watch consistently.  Old B5 or Twin Peaks episodes are on DVD.  Since I don't have the money or the time to subscribe to cable, I usually can't watch hockey on TV anyway.

So the TV has to go.  I'm rearranging the shit in my closet to make room for it.  I'll still pull it out every now and then to kill some floating eyeballs, but all other times it'll be out of sight and out of mind.

October 25, 2007

Emergency physicians heat up the pages of romance novels

Via GruntDoc, this account of a letter published in this week's Lancet:

In an offbeat letter published in Saturday's Lancet, [Brendan] Kelly describes the typical plot structure and characterisation in 20 randomly-selected medical romance novels. Of the male protagonists, six worked in emergency medicine, five in surgery and three in obstetrics, neonatology and paediatrics, he found.

"There was a marked preponderance of brilliant, tall, muscular, male doctors with chiselled features, working in emergency medicine," says Kelly, a University College Dublin psychiatrist.
....

Tongue firmly in cheek, Kelly says ER doctors and nurses clearly run the risk of unleashing "uncontrolled passions" when they wield their stethoscope and need urgent training in how to cope with this peril.


EDIT: I can personally recommend this gem from Jennifer Crusie as an introduction to the genre.

October 23, 2007

Books too bad to finish

When I start reading a book, I usually try to finish it. Ever the optimist, I'm always telling myself: "I wouldn't feed this much of the book to my dog, but maybe the author can turn it around by the end."

Some books, though, defeat me.

Wraeththu, by Storm Constantine, is one of them.  A story about a hermaphroditic post-human society, with a neat painting on the cover, this book looked good on the bookstore shelf.

But it sucked.

Another throw-it-in-the-garbage tome was Forest Mage by the previously successful author Robin Hobb.  I liked Hobb's previous series.  I even sort of liked the first book in this series.  But this book sucked.  So badly that I had to get rid of it. 

Both of these books suffer from the same unforgivable flaw.  They're boring.  Nothing happens.  And in the world of genre fiction (any fiction?) that's unforgivable.  Plot holes?  Inconsistencies?  Wooden characters?  Too bad, but at least give me some action.

PS: As I was thinking about these books, I realized one other thing (besides being boring) that these books share.  They were both written by women.  Please, tell me why this is just coincidental.  My feminist side is deeply troubled...

October 15, 2007

More popular

Agrarianism must be getting more popular.  Stephen Colbert is mocking us now:

Our nation is at a Fork in the Road. Some say we should go Left; some say go Right. I say, “Doesn’t this thing have a reverse gear?” Let’s back this country up to a time before there were forks in the road — or even roads. Or forks, for that matter. I want to return to a simpler America where we ate our meat off the end of a sharpened stick.

In other news, over the last two weeks I've taken advantage of my light schedule to post on this blog again, but tonight I start a seven-day (at least) stretch of 12-hour night shifts. I'll try to keep posting, though. Wish me luck.

October 13, 2007

EMTALA and the torture memos



Just as no one ever expects the Spanish Inquisition, I'm sure no one ever expected that EMTALA would be used like this....

Jack Goldsmith, now a law professor at Harvard, used to head the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel.  He's famous for having retracted John Yoo's "torture memo" of August 1, 2002, on the grounds that it was "legally flawed, tendentious in substance and tone, and overbroad and thus largely unnecessary." [p. 151]

One of the ways that it was flawed, Goldsmith reveals in his book about his time at OLC, was its definition of torture.  According to the memo, in order for pain inflicted on a prisoner to amount to torture, it "must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death."  Goldsmith doesn't think this assertion had very much legal authority to back it up.  Which isn't surprising, given that the description of pain was not derived from any authority having to do with torture, but instead was lifted from EMTALA's definition of the kind of pain severe enough to constitute an "emergency medical condition" triggering a requirement for most US hospitals and doctors to provide certain kinds of medical treatment.  Goldsmith calls this use of EMTALA's language in the Torture Memo  "clumsy definitional arbitrage" that "didn't seem even in the ballpark" for definining what kinds of severe pain might amount to torture [p. 145]

Fascinating.  Creative use of authority like this is why some lawyers make the big bucks, are given top-level jobs in government, and occasionally suffer professional humiliation.

October 12, 2007

A few books

Over the many weeks that I've neglected my blog, I've read all the books that used to be on my sidebar. Now that I've got a few moments, let me tell you about some of them.
The most striking thing about Robert E. Howard's Conan stories is either a) their generally high quality, or b) the racism that Howard seems to have been unconscious of and that was probably almost unnoticed by his early readers. The bad guys in Conan stories are invariably "dark skinned" and frequently compared with monkeys, both in appearance and in behavior. Lest we try to pretend that Howard didn't have Africans in mind when he wrote about the "savages" that Conan takes out, he frequently describes their "kinky hair" and "wide nostrils." It's the sort of thing that hopefully will disgust most modern readers and leave them grateful that things have changed somewhat for the better since Howard was alive.

This racism is even more disappointing because the stories themselves are so good. They're lean and taught -- something that I wish more of today's fantasy authors might try to emulate more often. Howard never forgets that his readers want action. He gives them plenty of that, with just enough characterization and plotting to make the action make sense.

Atul Gawande is one of my role models, demonstrating that a doc can be a clinician and an informed, thoughtful citizen and writer at the same time. (For a funny look at what you often get with health care providers, read this post by another good writer and ER resident.) Better is a collection of several separate essays that are loosely connected by the theme of improvement -- getting better. There's a great discussion of how one hospital has cut its rate of nosocomial infections by emphasizing handwashing, and another discussion of what kinds of chaperoning to use when you're examining a patient. There are no overall lessons, but the individual essays are well-written and fun to read.

Richard Epstein's Overdose is classic Epstein that feels just a little too classic for me. It isn't that Epstein's writing isn't clear or his arguments weak. It's just that, well, they're so damned predictable. You suspect before you even read the book that the pharmaceutical companies will end up being blameless victims of nefarious collectivist schemes, and when you read that yes, they've been unfairly victimized by collectivists, you sigh and wonder why you had to do all that reading to get there.

Epstein's bigger mistake is that he sings to his choir a bit too much, instead of presuming that his reader will disagree with him. Perhaps he's been thinking like this for so long, he's lost the ability to truly imagine someone who say, "yes, but why shouldn't we trade off some amount of innovation for greater access to the drugs that have already been developed?"

October 11, 2007

Dynasties

You just knew this had to be a Daniel Larison post:

Geoffrey Wheatcroft has reminded us that we do not actually have either a functioning democratic or republican system, but instead suffer through a series of inept family-based cliques in a kakistocratic oligarchy (there are certainly no aristoi in our political class) in which connections are decisive and merit painfully irrelevant.  The latest example of this is the accession to the throne presidential campaign of Clinton.  In other words, things are running much as they have done for much of my lifetime (and almost certainly longer than that).  The idea that Bush-Clinton fatigue will set in among voters this time derives from the average pundit’s impatience with the dreariness of dynastic cycles and the continued belief that democracy results in generally better, more dynamic and less squalid government.  Our system keeps doing its best to prove that belief wrong, but it persists anyway.
"Kakistocratic."  I've been looking for a word like that for, oh, almost eight years now....

Agrarian responsibility, and why that means we can't ignore the world news

Agrarianism, like any other -ism, is shorthand for an enormous number of practices, ideas, and commitments. But if I were going to sum it up as briefly as possible, I might say that agrarianism is what happens when you take "responsibility" seriously. (You could make similarly suggestive but incomplete statements about other -isms, for example, that libertarianism is what you get when you take "freedom" seriously, or that fascism is what you get when you take "authority" seriously. Obviously a whole lot more needs to be said, but these statements are accurate and provocative starting points.)

Our non-agrarian society makes it very difficult to take full responsibility for what we do. According to the agrarian writer Wendell Berry,

When there is no reliable accounting and therefore no competent knowledge of the economic and ecological effects of our lives, we cannot live lives that are economically and ecologically responsible. [Berry, "The Whole Horse"]
Berry thinks that in modern society there is in fact "no reliable accounting," and "no competent knowledge" of what we are doing.
We are thus involved in a kind of lostness in which most people are participating more or less unconsciously in the destruction of the natural world, which is to say, the sources of their own lives.  They are doing this unconsciously because they see or do very little of the actual destruction themselves, and they don't know, because they have no way to learn, how they are involved. [Berry, "Two Minds"]

The reason that we "see or do very little of the actual destruction ourselves" is that the nature and scale of our work in the modern economy diffuse the effects of our actions over enormous distances and long time periods.  So enormous and so long, in fact, that we have almost no way of actually observing these effects and seeing that they are the results of what we've done.  We see the consequences only in the aggregate -- newspaper articles decrying rainforest destruction in Brazil, videos of starving sweatshop workers in Malaysia, lamentations for the disappearance of butterflies in Alabama.  And we wonder, from our kitchen tables in Chicago or Colorado, how any of that could possibly be connected to our own 45-mile commute in to work from the suburbs each day, or to our weekly trips with the kids to Wal-Mart for some of those low, low prices.  Even if we do make the imaginative leap required to believe that our spending money at Wal-Mart contributes incrementally to the abuse of child laborers halfway around the world, we'll find it hard to say that in any sense we're "responsible" for that outcome.  And even if we get that far, it's hard to convince ourselves to alter our comfortable behaviors for the sake of people we know only as abstractions and who we'll never meet, much less love.

It is different in a local (agrarian) economy.  When the local clothing store locks its workers, who are also your neighbors, in its stores overnight so that it can shave five cents off the price of a t-shirt, you're much more likely to see the connection between your patronage of that shop and the mistreatment of your neighbors.  You're much more likely to feel some responsibility for the person living across the street named Bob than you are for "malaysian sweatshop workers" in a nation you'd be hard pressed to find on a map.

There are many other examples implicating the deleterious effects of over-large scale and hyperspecialization on our capacity for taking responsibility.  Let's say you're a small-town lawyer.  You take a case defending the local factory from a lawsuit brought by its employees after an explosion that killed two workers and put five more in the hospital.  The same questions about whether it's ethical or not to take that case arise for the lawyer who works for a five-hundred person law firm representing a multinational company sued by the same workers, for the same explosion, in a state fifteen hundred miles away.  But the first lawyer is better able to take responsibility for his actions.  He lives close enough to the accident site to see what the damage has done.  He may know, as a citizen of the community, whether the factory owners have acted fairly or rapaciously in the past.  He is more likely to work on the whole case from start to finish than if he were an associate at a big firm, who may never actually meet the clients and whose participation may be limited only to drafting a few memos covering narrow aspects of the discovery in the case.  Both lawyers may decide to work on the case or not, but it's extremely unlikely that the big firm lawyer will really have taken responsibility for his decision.  How can he?  He can't see the effects of his work, and he has no real connection with the place that those effects are felt.  The same problems confront virtually all of us who work in the modern "global economy."

This need to take responsibility for our actions leads Rick Saenz to advocate dealing with righteous people that we've met and know well, and Wendell Berry to suggest that we broaden the context of our work by narrowing its scale.  This, and not some purely esthetic preference for small farms, is what lies behind the agrarian opposition to the global economy and the preference for the local.

Saenz goes further, in his post on "knowing your neighbors."  When I finished reading the post I found it hard to decide if I liked it enough to recommend it, or hated it enough to post an argument against it.  I suppose that it's both.

In the course of arguing that we ought to pay attention to the local landscape, Saenz also says that we shouldn't concern ourselves with the "affairs of nations and empires"; that we shouldn't bother to "form opinions about the causes of war and famines and prosperity and tyranny," and that we shouldn't "track natural disasters in far-off places."  Why?  Because we can't actually do anything about these things anyway, and any time spent paying attention to these things distracts us from paying proper attention to our local environment.

I disagree.

Someone less charitable than I could easily read Saenz as arguing against curiosity, and for a strictly instrumentalist use of our powers of perception and wonder -- "if we can't use information, we're better off not having it at all."  I won't do that.  But I think Saenz fails to understand that his own agrarian project is profoundly dependent upon our paying even closer attention to the news around the globe than most of us normally do.

If agrarianism is not simply to be just an esthetic preference, we have to make the effort to understand how we are responsible, by our participation in the modern economy, for things that we can't easily see or easily trace back to things that we've done.  The problem with globalization is that at the same time that it gives us each some small power to improve or degrade a landscape half a world away, it makes it extremely hard to see or know exactly what we're doing.  Those sweatshop laborers in Malaysia suffer what they suffer because we choose to buy their employers' products.  If we shop at Wal-Mart, we need to pay attention to the news from Malaysia or we are shirking our responsibility.  And even if, as Saenz suggests, we refuse to shop at Wal-Mart, we'll still need to understand what's going on in Malaysia.  Any close attention that we pay to our local environment will inexorably -- since we don't live in an agrarian economy, yet -- reveal that it is caught up in an economic system that ties it to Malaysia and other places.

Until we no longer live in a global economy (and I'm doubtful that this will ever happen), we will have to expend more -- not less -- effort at understanding the ties between our local place and places on the other side of the globe.  To use one of Saenz' examples: let's say your city council is about to "waste another few million of our tax dollars."  These days, that's likely to be because it's contemplating cutting a deal with BestBuy to level two or three square blocks of homes to make way for a new mega-store parking lot, or because it wants to let Kodak off the hook for millions of dollars of taxes to entice it to relocate locally rather than move to Malaysia where the government there is paying death squads to kill labor organizers in order to keep wages low.  No one who ignores, as Saenz suggests we do, the news from Malaysia is likely to really understand what their own local city council is doing.

The problem with globalization, as Wendell Berry tells us, is that it combines huge-scale activities with myopic vision.  The answer is not to increase our myopia.  To take proper responsibility means that we must make even more of an effort to understand what we're doing.  And even if, like Saenz suggests, we opt out of the global economy and try to do for ourselves, we will still find ourselves living in communities that are tied into the global economy (and even Saenz recognizes that this "opting-out" will often have to be done piecemeal).  Attention to the local demands that we pay attention to the global, or, as Wal-Mart would prefer it, we won't understand what's going on globally or locally.

October 08, 2007

Rick Saenz on agrarianism

Over at Dry Creek Chronicles, Rick Saenz has been putting together a series of posts on "the lost tools of living." Together, they amount to a fairly comprehensive (if idiosyncratic) explanation and defense of agrarianism:

Responsibility
Many hands make light work
Knowing your neighbors
Training up children
The family economy
Supplying our needs
Introduction

Any of my readers who have ever wondered what the heck this whole "agrarianism" thing is that I'm always on about ought to read through this series of posts. I agree with much of what Saenz says; my disagreements are mostly around the edges -- points of emphasis, esthetic considerations, and the like. Occasionally we disagree profoundly about a central point of doctrine (if we even want to call it that), but that's what's going to make responding to Saenz so much fun.

I'm looking forward to posting more about this soon; I'll try to cram it in among all my residency obligations. Wish me luck! For now, all I'll say is that I think the idea of responsibility is the most fundamental of all the agrarian ideals Mr. Saenz has described so far. Until next time, have fun reading his posts. . . .

October 07, 2007

It's art, right?

I've been considering what to hang on my walls. I like a lot of stuff. Brom, for example:

And recently, I've found Phil Hale:

Advice for Erwin Chemerinsky

The TaxProf Blog has been running a series of posts by legal luminaries giving advice to Erwin Chemerinsky, the first Dean of the new UC Irvine law school.

My favorites are from John Mayer. . .

The single biggest thing that students crave is more feedback. Imagine if you took a job where you were paid at the end of 15 weeks based on your performance -- better performance = more pay, but you weren’t told how well you were doing until the end of the 15 weeks. That’s law school. Students are studying hard, but they aren’t sure that they know what they know until the results of the final exam are in. . . . If instructors want to read really excellent final exams, then you have to make sure that students are on track throughout the semester. The surprises you get reading the finals are no less disconcerting than the surprises that the students get when you grade it.

. . . And from David Hoffman. . .

The Bar's accreditation standards increase the cost of legal education and reduce competition between lawyers. They make it impossible to create a true laboratory of law schools, competing for student dollars by offering the best value. Thus, the "single best idea" for reforming legal education is the one that makes all others possible: to eliminate the Bar's accreditation role. This is not to say that we don't need any kind of accreditation – we do, but it should not be one run by our guild. Instead, we should seek an accreditor that would embrace an experimental approach to legal education.

And now for an absurdly untimely comment

There are some issues that irreconcilably divide the world's people into one side versus another. Pro-life or pro-choice. Cats or dogs. Beach or mountains.

Pro- or anti- Anthony Ciolli.

Me? I think the decision by Ciolli's old law firm to rescind its offer of employment is nauseating. Not unexpected, but nauseating. At least Ciolli never claimed to be something he wasn't. Hypocrisy wasn't one of Ciolli's sins, but a biglaw firm preaching primly about "the kind of language exhibited on the message board" that Ciolli was affiliated with, while at the same time doing what most biglaw firms do -- whore itself out for absurd amounts of money defending corporate clients that harm people in ways far worse than Ciolli ever did -- is nauseatingly hypocritical, if rarely remarked upon.

Now, I don't know everything about the AutoAdmit scandal. I don't know exactly what was posted by the people who were eventually sued by Rosen/Lemley/et.al. I certainly don't know whether the plaintiffs in the lawsuit couldn't get a job because of what was posted on AutoAdmit, or because their grades sucked. But as a former poster on the previous iteration of AutoAdmit (when it was still run by the Princeton Review), I believe that participants on this board have clear warning about what kind of juvenile/infantile/potentially dangerous climate they're getting into when they post there. And they have to be idiots not to know that the kinds of employers they're angling to attract -- risk-averse and often hypocritical Biglaw firms -- might act stupidly and take what was posted on AutoAdmit as an excuse not to hire them, for whatever reason.

Even, allegedly, because some anonymous poster calling himself The Ayatollah of Rock-n-Rollah said that the plaintiff had a lesbian affair with the admissions director at Yale Law School. To believe that even a Biglaw firm would take that claim seriously is a stretch. Look, a lot of things were said about me by fools and morons when I posted on xoxohth.com. That was one of the things that made it fun. But when a biglaw firm didn't give me a job, I assumed (naively, perhaps), that it was because they had other applicants that they liked better than me, for substantive reasons, like, say, law school grades and an enthusiasm for golf. Suing xoxo would have been too embarrassing to contemplate. Apparently, not for everyone.

I admit, I'm a mountain guy. I like cats. I'm pro- legal abortions (but not because I'm "pro-choice" -- that's the worst justification in the world for fighting to keep abortion legal). And I'm a free-speech guy. No one should think getting a Biglaw job is such a shoe-in that "it must have been those xoxo posters who ruined it all for me." I bet if your resume were a bit stronger you'd have gotten a few more offers. Or, conversely, you should have realized that the hiring committees at Biglaw firms really are stupid enough to pay attention to some anonymous dumb ass calling himself Pauliewalnuts.

October 06, 2007

Cubs change nothing; lose in 3

The easiest way for a team to win in the playoffs is to play the Chicago Cubs.

I'm sick of them. Go Rockies.

On Charlie Trotter's 20th anniversary

Tomorrow, Ferran Adria, Thomas Keller, and other top chefs will serve up food at the 20th anniversary celebration (the actual anniversary was August 17) of my favorite restaurant, Charlie Trotter's in Chicago. Despite the impressive crop of new and red-hot restaurants in this city, Charlie Trotter is still Chicago's flagship chef. And yet, some are asking whether he still has his edge. That anyone would even ask this question after twenty years suggests the answer is yes. A visit to his restaurant confirms it.

I've had the good fortune to eat at Trotter's twice, most recently in the summer of 2005. I've also eaten at Alinea, Moto, Avenues, Avec, and Tru. I've loved every one of these restaurants, but of all the places I've eaten -- including the French Laundry -- Trotter's has been the best across the board. Moto may have been more fun, Alinea more expensive, and the French Laundry more famous. Trotter's, though, had no weak spots. The service was the best I've ever seen. Attentive but not stuffy. Formal but with just enough of a sense of humor to keep it unobtrusive, so that I could concentrate on the food. The food, of course, was beautiful, in what we'd now have to call a "classic" style after the El Bulli-via-Moto-and-Alinea "molecular gastronomy" craze. But those restaurants are always flirting with gimmickry, whereas Trotter's presentations are just unobtrusive enough to highlight the flavor of whatever's on the plate. The only place that may have surpassed Trotter's food was Graham Elliot Bowles' Avenues -- and Bowles, like Achatz and Homaro Cantu, are Trotter's alums.

So, happy 20th anniversary to Charlie Trotter's restaurant. If you ever have the chance to eat there, don't miss it.

October 02, 2007

Op ed roundup

I've just finished up a streak of 9 straight 12-hour shifts in the ER at Mt. Sinai Hospital on Chicago's West Side.  It's been draining, but fun.  I've intubated a few people without having to be told, step-by-step, what to do next.  I sucked fluid out of some guy's swollen knee all by myself.  I failed to extract any CSF from a lady that I LPd, but my attending couldn't get any CSF either.  Basically, I feel like a second-year resident: the procedures are easier than they were as an intern, but I know that I've got a ways to go before I can run the whole room like an attending.

Tonight I hosted journal club at my apartment, and the turnout was pretty good for me being down in Hyde Park (it's not like our main hospital is there or anything...).  Our two faculty toxicologists showed up to help us discuss some tox articles, and I think I ordered enough food so that people didn't go away hungry.  As a host, that means journal club was a success.  I still don't have anything up on my walls yet.  (How come everything I want costs upwards of five hundred dollars?  Why can't I just be satisfied with the "just say no to crack" posters?)

Anyway, second year is going well so far.  I missed out on seeing some old friends of mine from Alaska last weekend, but apart from that I've got no complaints.  We wouldn't have even had a chance last year, because I would have been on call and couldn't have even answered the phone, let alone arranged to meet them downtown for drinks.  As it is, I'll get another chance to see them soon, and I'm hoping to watch some more episodes of Battlestar Galactica with some law school friends in the next few weeks.  Now that I'm through with intern year, I'm really living it up.

So.  In the middle of all that, I've managed to read a few good opinion pieces on the big newspaper websites.  For example:

Eugene Robinson says, in the course of his piece on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas:

Black America has never been monolithic in its views, but black Americans do vote almost monolithically for Democrats. That wouldn't necessarily be the case if Richard Nixon hadn't built an electoral strategy on a race-based appeal to Southern whites -- and if every Republican presidential candidate and party leader since Nixon hadn't followed suit.

The surprising thing isn't that there are black conservatives, but that there are black Republicans.  Conservatism may be colorblind, but the GOP has most definitely not been.

I'm not usually a fan of Thomas Friedman, but he hits one out of the park with this one:

We can’t afford to keep being this stupid!  We have got to get our groove back. We need a president who will unite us around a common purpose, not a common enemy. Al Qaeda is about 9/11.  We are about 9/12, we are about the Fourth of July — which is why I hope that anyone who runs on the 9/11 platform gets trounced.
And I couldn't help but think, reading this article on an innovative new engineering school, that we need a similarly innovative school for physicians:
Olin came into being, Miller told me last spring in his office on campus, to make engineers “comfortable as citizens and not just calculating machines.” Olin is stressing creativity, teamwork and entrepreneurship — and, in no small part, courage. “I don’t see how you can make a positive difference in the world,” he emphasized, “if you’re not motivated to take a tough stand and do the right thing.”
And by that I mean that doctors ought not to limit their public-policy participation to trying to increase physician payments from Medicare.  The public is not going to follow us if the only issue we ever take a stand on is physician payments, or limiting our liability in tort suits.  For me, the AMA is still the Mordor, the Empire, or the Cylons of the health policy debate.