Different River

”You can never step in the same river twice.” –Heraclitus

January 4, 2005

If they’re shooting at us, they must be alive

Filed under: — Different River @ 11:12 pm

Unreal. I’d normally think this is a hoax, but the BBC is rarely hoaxed. Not never, but rarely.

An Indian helicopter dropping food and water over the remote Andaman and Nicobar Islands has been attacked by tribesmen using bows and arrows.

There were fears that the endangered tribal groups had been wiped out when massive waves struck their islands.

But the authorities say the attack is a sign that they have survived.

Well that last part is fairly obvious, don’t you think?

Getting arrested, for profit

Filed under: — Different River @ 9:41 pm

I’ve heard so many stories about burglars suing their victims after tripping in the dark and getting hurt, that I wonder if they’re all urban legends. But this one is not.

Overlawyered reports that a guy getting chased by police crashed his car into a utility pole, and is now suing the police for damages. Translated into plain language, his arguement is basically that if he drives fast enough, the police are supposed to give up. He did, they didn’t, he got hurt, so they should pay him. Never mind that he was breaking the law in the first place, and driving “fast enough” is illegal, too.

And this is not an isolated case — it’s at least the fourth similar lawsuit in recent years, at least one of which resulted in an $11 million jury award..

The whole concept is wrong

Filed under: — Different River @ 8:17 pm

A very long time ago, I heard an ad on the radio, I for Apple Computers (as Christmas presents), which contained the following dialog from the return counter of a fictional department store:

Customer: I’d like to return this “Home Salad Bar.” It’s wrong.

Store Clerk: What’s wrong with it?

Customer: The whole concept is wrong!

There have actually been occasions when I’ve imagined having a salad bar at home would be a good thing, but I was reminded of that ad when I saw the following.

Here, the whole concept is completely wrong, and utterly hilarious!

Without further ado, we present: The Portable Cellular Phone Booth.

Of course, here’s something even more wrong.

Eating Ice

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:43 pm

Here’s something I never would have guessed: An excessive desire to eat ice has a name: “pagophagia.” And it can be a sign of anemia due to (for example) gastrointestinal bleeding.

The Iraq War in Perspective

Filed under: — Different River @ 7:05 pm

David Adesnik over at OxBlog has an interesting post on the Arab response to the Iraq War. You guess which one. :-)

Missing the Obvious

Filed under: — Different River @ 2:14 am

The Washington Post is running story entitled “More Women Opting Against Birth Control, Study Finds.” The story open with the following “alarming” statements:

At a time when the medical community has been heartened by a decline in risky sexual behavior by teenagers, a different problem has crept up: More adult women are forgoing birth control, a trend that has experts puzzled — and alarmed about a potential rise in unintended pregnancies.

Buried in the government’s latest in-depth analysis of contraceptive use was the finding that the number of women who had sex in the previous three months but did not use birth control rose from 5.2 percent in 1995 to 7.4 percent in 2002. That means that as many as 11 percent of all women are at risk of unintended pregnancy at some point during their childbearing years (ages 15 to 44).

Apparently, it has never occurred to these “puzzled experts” — never mind to this Washington Post reporter — that, um, perhaps some women want to become pregnant. Why would anyone want such a thing? Well, maybe some women want to have “children.” You, know, “children” … those things that normally come about from pregnancies.

The article continues,

In analyzing previous reports by the National Center for Health Statistics, Trussell has determined that half of all unintended pregnancies occur among the more than 95 percent of women who used some type of contraception, probably because the method failed or was used improperly. That means the other half of unintended pregnancies came from the sliver of the population not using birth control.

“That is why this is of enormous concern,” he said in an interview. “This tiny minority contributes half of all unintended pregnancies.”

Amazing, women having sex without birth control account for more than half of all pregnancies! Who’da’ thunk it? I’m sure glad we have experts to tell us these things. Did I mention that the study that prompted this article was funded by your taxpayer dollars? And this was not just a funding grant given to a professor someplace, the study was actually conducted by the federal government, through the National Center for Health Statistics.

Now, the article does specify that those are unintended pregnancies, but I have to wonder if they really know that, or if they just say that out of habit. In that entire article, there is only three places where the word “pregnancy” or “pregnancies” occurs without the word “unintended” preceding it, and in one of those case the preceding words are “risk of” and in another case the preceding word is “preventing.”

One of the “experts” does concede that is it “possible” that more women are trying to conceive, but this possibility is quickly dismissed in favor of the explanation that women find “the cost of birth control burdensome.” (He thinks pregnancy and parenthood are cheaper?) And, of course, the rest of the article is filled with more anti-natal explanations:

Other analysts called the spike a troubling development that translates into at least 4.6 million sexually active women at risk of conceiving a child they had not planned on.

“[A]n increase of even two percentage points is worrisome,” said John S. Santelli, a professor of population and family health at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. Even as he cheered the news that a growing number of teenagers are using contraception, Santelli wondered whether doctors are neglecting women.

“Maybe we’re failing with women over 21,” Santelli said.

Physicians, statisticians and advocates who specialize in reproductive health had several theories for the rise in ["]unprotected["] sex. They pointed to possible factors such as gaps in sex education, the cost of birth control, declining insurance coverage, fears of possible side effects of contraceptives and personal attitudes about childbearing.

I guess they think that there is something wrong with ” personal attitudes about childbearing” if those attitudes are positive.

“Because the number of uninsured has increased, these women might be on the short end of that stick,” [Blumenthal] said.

“It is absolutely unconscionable that women have a co-pay of $20 or $25 [a month] for contraceptives and men are getting off scot-free,” Jensen said.

Many physicians put partial blame on federally funded abstinence-only education programs …

Then, of course, there is the appeal to costs, and the notion that a desire to prevent pregnancy is “conservative”:

Family planning is a “fiscally conservative policy,” countered Jensen of the Women’s Health Research Unit. For every $1 spent on contraceptive services, he said, $3 is saved in other government programs such as Medicaid, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, welfare and education.

Yes, if we prevent conception, there won’t be any more kids, so we’ll save lots of money on schools and pediatricians. Does that sound like a reasonable way to make a decision like this? I mean, to anyone by Mr. Jensen? In fact, if Mr. Jensen’s goal is to save money on children’s health care and education, I have a better idea: put contraceptives in the drinking water, outlaw sex for women between the ages of 15 and 44 (married or not), and get rid of that archaic notion of “pro-choice” and require abortions for anyone who happens to get pregnant. I predict that if these policies were adopted tomorrow, this would completely eliminate all of those costs within 19 years. Of course, it would also cause the complete collapse of the social security system in about 30-40 years, since there won’t be any younger worker to pay the taxes necessary to fund Mr. Jensen’s retirement. Of course, Mr. Jensen probably has enough money to save for his own retirement, so he has nothing to worry about.

OK, enough sarcasm. I’ll have more on the “fiscal conservatism” of health care in a future post.

But the truth is, someone reading that article who didn’t know what the word “pregnancy” meant could easily conclude that it was some sort of horrible disease. In fact, if you replaced every occurrence of the word “pregnancy” with “syphilis” nearly the entire article would still make sense, except for the one obligatory quote from the “other side”: “Pregnancy is not a disease. . . . The women making these choices are making a conscious choice. They are not stupid,” said Leslee J. Unruh, president of the Abstinence Clearinghouse.

Then again, there are people who think pregnancy is a disease. One of these people is Warren M. Hern, M.D., who wrote an article entitled, “Is Pregnancy Really Normal?” in the journal Family Planning Perspectives (Vol. 3, No. 1, Jan. 1971, pp. 5-10) in which he claimed:

The foregoing discussion should allow us to abandon the erroneous assumption that pregnancy is per se a normal and desirable state, and to consider instead a more accurate [sic] view that human pregnancy is an episodic, moderately extended chronic condition with a definable morbidity and mortality risk to which females are uniquely though not uniformly susceptible, and which:

  • is almost entirely preventable through the use of effective contraception, and entirely so through abstinence;
  • when not prevented, is the individual result of a set of species specific bio-social adaptations with a changing significance for species survival;
  • may be defined as an illness requiring medical supervision through (a) cultural traditions, functional or implicit, (b) circumstantial self-0definition of illness or (c) individual illness behavior;
  • may be treated by evacuation of the uterine contents;
  • may be tolerated, sought, and/or valued for the purpose of reproduction; and
  • has an excellent prognosis for complete, spontaneous recovery if managed under careful medical supervision.

(Boldface added.) In other words, pregnancy is a disease, it can be treated by an abortion, but without “treatment” there’s a decent chance of a “spontaneous recovery” — under careful medical supervision. No mention of childbirth, except the concession that some people might “tolerate” or even “value” this “disease” “for the purpose of reproduction.” And certainly no mention of the fact that millions, maybe billions of cases of this “disease” resulted in “spontaneous recovery” centuries before there was such a thing as “careful medical supervision.” (I know, the chances of a good outcome are much better nowadays, but medical supervision — while a good idea — is not a necessary precondition to a good outcome in every case.)

I suppose it shouldn’t surprise anybody that Dr. Hern wrote that article when he had a government position — he was a U.S. Public health Service Trainee, and by the time the article was published, he was Chief of the Program Development and Evaluation Branch of the Family Planning Program, Office of Economic Opportunity. And the journal in which the article appeared is published by the Alan Guttmacher Institute.

Now, 24 years after the article was published, Dr. Hern is Director of the Boulder Abortion Clinic, “Specializing In Late Abortion.” I trust this does not surprise anybody either.

UPDATE: James Taranto has more on this at OpinionJournal.

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