Thursday, May 31, 2007

A personal injury attorney?!?!!!

Image: sfgate

Stunning news on the jetsetting XDR-TB front:

Andrew Speaker, the Atlanta man with the drug-resistant TB who chose to expose hundreds of people to his disease, is both a personal injury attorney and the son-in-law of a CDC microbiologist who studies TB.

It is conceivable that his father-in-law knew nothing about his disease or his decision to fly in the face of his knowledge that he had a dangerous infectious disease.

It is, however, inconceivable that a personal injury attorney would be unfamiliar with the concepts of negligence and personal liability. Given his self-flaunted “well-educated” status and his profession, it must be concluded that he knew exactly what he was doing when he deliberately circumvented the CDC’s no-fly order by flying to Montreal and driving to the U.S. This leads directly to the conclusion that he should be held personally liable for all the costs incurred for his irresponsibility. There is simply no way that he can continue use naïveté as a defense for his choice to deliberately put others at risk of contracting his disease.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Image: University of Virginia Health Sciences Library
In today’s news we read that a man chose to fly against medical advice, knowing full well that he has extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB), the very worst, most dangerous sort of TB to have, and with the full understanding that he is infectious.

Just what was so all-fired important that he would deliberately put the lives of hundreds of strangers and family members at risk? Why, it was his wedding! And surely, that important social event (and the subsequent honeymoon) had to take precedence over all other considerations!

So, off he sped, to his wedding and honeymoon in Europe. Once there, he was contacted by someone from the CDC who “told him in no uncertain terms not to take a flight back.” But again, this edict interfered with the man’s own plans, so in a deliberate evasion of his CDC-ordered “no fly” status, he modified his itinerary to make Canada his destination, and then drove into the U.S.

What breathtaking disregard for the well-being of others! He took his sorry germs onto those flights and seeded the entire plane with a major life-threatening illness, merely so that he could enjoy the social events he had planned?

Ah, but it gets worse:
‘I’m a very well-educated, successful, intelligent person,’ he told the [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]. ‘This is insane to me that I have an armed guard outside my door when I’ve cooperated with everything other than the whole solitary-confinement-in-Italy thing.’
Well, mister, an armed guard is apparently what it takes to force you to behave responsibly.

This little vignette makes clear that voluntary quarantines are a thing of the past. When self-declared “well-educated, successful, intelligent” people take such brazen anti-social actions, and clearly cannot even comprehend that it even matters, it does not bode well for how an epidemic, natural or human-caused, will be controlled in this country. Yet in the event of such an epidemic, short of locking everyone up in “relocation” camps, there will be no way to ensure that quarantines can be effected. And this realization makes me even angrier: Because of idiots like this man, all of us may be made to suffer the consequences, of relocation instead of home quarantine, if or when an epidemic rolls through our midst.

At this point, this man should be treated as the pariah that he is. He should be identified and publicly castigated for his utter selfishness and his deplorable disregard for the safety of others. And if there are not laws forbidding such actions as he took, such laws should be written and passed. No one has the right to deliberately disseminate severe infectious diseases, simply for their own social convenience.

Oh yes: yet one more reason to stay off of airplanes (as if I needed any)…

UPDATE (h/t: commenter crfullmoon at Effect Measure):

In stark contrast to the privacy and accommodations accorded to the mystery XDR-TB patient who chose to fly hither and yon in commercial airliners, is the story of another, presumably less “well-educated” or “successful” man:
“[Robert Daniels] agreed to a voluntary quarantine in residential care. But Daniels violated his agreement when he went outside without a mask. [Therefore] Daniels has been forced to live in a hospital cell in complete isolation. His only visitors are medical staff. Sheriff's deputies have taken away his television, radio, phone and computer. He is under 24-hour surveillance and the light in his room is never turned off, even at night. His only contact to the outside world is a pay-phone.”
He is deprived of hot showers, and receives treatment “as any other prisoner,” and he could be there for the rest of his life. Keep in mind: Daniels has not committed any crime, and has not been convicted, and will not be tried. But he is, nonetheless, in jail, in solitary confinement, possibly for life, simply because he is sick and neglected to wear a mask when he went outside his home.

Breathtaking, is it not, the difference that a little “success” can have in one’s treatment by public health officials…

Monday, May 28, 2007

Bring them home, NOW

“When [soldiers] searched the bomber’s body, they found identification showing him to be a sergeant in the Iraqi Army. […] ‘What are we doing here? […] We’re helping guys that are trying to kill us. We help them in the day. They turn around at night and try to kill us,’ said Sergeant Safstrom, a member of Delta Company of the First Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division. His views are echoed by most of his fellow soldiers in Delta Company, renowned for its aggressiveness.”

New York Times, Memorial Day 2007

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Salmonella in my pantry?

The FDA reports a voluntary recall of MaraNatha Organic Sesame Tahini, because of possible Salmonella contamination. (This also applies to the Whole Foods 365 Organic Tahini.)

Vulnerability to biological contamination applies to ALL foods, organic or not, obviously. Perhaps I should start routinely consulting the FDA's website whenever I visit my pantry…


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Morons with guns

Not even the goats are safe from being shot down in Oakland.

Who would shoot 15 penned goats for “fun”? Only someone who should be locked up forever. There is no hope that such a “person” could ever be sufficiently civilized to live among us, so why even pretend otherwise.

Meanwhile, crime is up in my neighborhood, as the police succeed in driving it out of other, more typically crime-ridden neighborhoods. No goats nearby, so they just shoot people. And we wonder why more is spent on prisons than on education in this state. What the hell else can you do with those who have so little regard for life? There is no cure for those who would shoot down others, whether goats or people, in cold blood, whether for fun or personal gain. But goats. God almighty, why would anyone shoot a bunch of goats?!?!?

Monday, May 21, 2007


Add your and maybe you’d like to weigh in on Gonzales while you’re at it…

Friday, May 04, 2007

Bought and sold

Diploma courtesy of:
“Diablo Valley College on Thursday sent prosecutors the names of 74 students suspected in a cash-for-grades plot… Students paid about $600 per changed grade, police said, and as many as 400 grades were altered during the course of three years.”
When schools become remade as “businesses,” why shouldn’t students think that whatever they can do to get themselves ahead is acceptable? That’s certainly how it works in the business world. Sure, getting caught is a drag, but the savvy ones don’t get caught.

When the emphasis is placed on college degrees being mere tickets into the workforce rather than the traditional view of college being a place to engage in a life of the mind, and to become a scholar, and to be challenged to find the limits of one’s intellectual abilities, what, precisely, do we expect?

The universal lament among those toiling in the fields of higher ed is that the vast majority of students are not engaged, not even interested in the subject matter, but just in pursuit of a diploma that will allow them to get on with their money-earning lives. But again, when everyone is expected to attend college in order to earn a decent living, what other outcome could we expect? Because the fact is and always will be: people are not universally suited for, or interested in, the kind of learning that goes on in traditional colleges. The response among college administrators—most of whom are “Ed Docs” who, in common with most students, have no interest in academic pursuits—has been to demand that professors change their courses to “meet the demands” of this new breed of student. And, with their paychecks dependent upon their compliance, most have capitulated, to their chagrin and subsequent despondency.

So, in this changed institutional environment, where learning is no longer valued for its own sake and intellectual creativity is but a distant memory, the administrators who once facilitated teaching now instead dictate from on high about the need for improvement of “retention” statistics, and demand the same kinds of outcome “measures” that have irretrievably ruined the K-12 system.

The short version: academia is dead.

The shell still exists, and a dispirited shell it is. Teachers grasp at remaining tenuous strands of academic vigor while the enterprise shudders in its death throes, all the while under vicious assault from all who believe that “education” is a standardizable process that is administered to nameless and faceless fodder for the corporate enterprise. Learning is irrelevant. Persistence, and retention, and measured outcomes, and “full-time equivalent students,” and funding formulae, and minimum class sizes, and above all, aiming one’s teaching to the lowest common denominator: that is college today.

It is in this environment that students will buy and sell grades without compunction if provided the opportunity to do so, and will plagiarize at every opportunity, repeatedly, and even after having been chastised for doing so, will do it again. It is in this environment that over 50 percent of graduate students surveyed reported that they had cheated.

It has been a gradual process, but over the course of a generation or two, we have allowed higher education to become so debased that a majority of graduate students prefer to steal their diplomas, and presumably, they will be hired by others who stole theirs too. Can we really claim to be surprised that a group of lower division students at a community college seized the opportunity to “get ahead” when it was thrust into their faces by know-nothing administrators? Those who gave the students access to the computer grade change system are at least as guilty as the students themselves, because like the students in this ethically debauched era, the administrators knew full well the sort of temptations those computers offered, and still they chose to offer them, and to pretend otherwise is to stretch our credulity to the breaking point.