Weekend Update 04-02-2011

I’m not inclined to defend those who took out the loans, but we’re seriously going to let all the executives, loan officers, and companies involved in the massive mortgage fraud (and let’s call it what it was) that led directly to the global economic collapse walk while we prosecute one or two small fry? Reminds me of our response when our practice of torture in Iraq and elsewhere was made public. At that time I said, the test of whether or not it was official policy and whether or not we intend to change will be revealed by who is prosecuted. If it’s just a few enlisted people, we’re glossing over it. If we see staff and general officers on trial, then we’re serious about ending such practices. (And we all know how that went.) Same thing here. We’re headed for another meltdown because we have tacitly legalized financial fraud just as we’ve adopted torture as our official practice.

This study in a Wyoming community revealed the same prevalence of celiac disease (mostly undiagnosed) that other studies have found. Until you reach the point I reached, patient-reported symptoms simply aren’t a very good diagnostic guide. Most people do not have severe gastrointestinal symptoms, but the disease is slowly killing them nonetheless. Serologic testing (blood tests) readily detects the disease in the general population and the current blood tests are extremely accurate. In this study, endoscopic biopsies confirmed the blood tests in all but one individual. And even that one is not necessarily a false positive. With partial atrophy of the villi in the earlier stages of the disease, the endoscopy might miss taking a biopsy in an area where there is villous atrophy. Or, more rarely, the damage could be in a section of the small intestine that the biopsy can’t reach. How many more of these studies will it take before celiac serology becomes part of the standard screening blood work for a normal physical or well child visit? We screen for diabetes, after all, and studies show celiac disease is about as common and 90% undiagnosed.

Hmmm. Maybe this explains why the rich Republicans in the House want to cut the IRS budget. No other explanation makes any sense whatsoever.

I’m hardly a technophobe. I’ve been online for decades now and on the Internet since the early nineties. I’ve had computers available for my kids even back in the home computing stone age with interesting games and other activities on them. My oldest kids, at a fairly young age played around on some local BBS’s before the Internet became commonplace. Nevertheless, I’m disturbed about the degree of information people share publicly about their children and over time encourage their children to share about themselves. I definitely agree with Elizabeth Esther’s column this week. People need to be more careful what they choose to share in a public forum. That’s even more true when you are sharing things that involve your children. Words can leave an indelible mark.

A fun video montage of old game deaths. And yes, I am old enough to have played many of them, especially the first ones. In the arcade. For a quarter a game. I did master Space Invaders, though, the summer of my 14th year.

Sarah Kay: If I Should Have a Daughter. Beautiful. And sometimes I only know what I think or what I want to say when I’ve written about it.

Are American church-goers more obese than general population because American Christians have largely abandoned all Christian rules of fasting and resistance to gluttony? It’s an interesting question and observation. As with many complex questions, I tend to doubt a direct correlation exists. The beast called the “Western diet” is not only killing us, but every culture it infiltrates. In Christian terms, it is clearly a passion deliberately designed to bypass our will and rule us. As Christians, we have the language and heritage to recognize the work of a passion and centuries of tools available to fight it. At worst, then, it seems Christians — regular church-going Christians, not nominal Christians — ought to be in no worse condition than our general population. At least to my eyes, the fact that we are more susceptible to this particular passion is … troubling.

So … the more people with health coverage of some sort, the more the deficit falls. That should be intuitively obvious, but clearly it isn’t to many people. Is that because their intuition has failed or because they are being lied to and actively manipulated?

This is a good illustration of the way data can be cherrypicked to create the appearance of a correlation that doesn’t actually exist.

This news about a chef deliberately poisoning his celiac and gluten intolerant patrons brought to life a fear that has always lurked in the back of my mind when I’ve eaten out. My older son worked in fast food for a while once upon a time and I still remember the stories he shared. (Trust me, you don’t want to know.) Obviously I don’t eat fast food at all since being diagnosed, and I’ve always been picky about the restaurants I’ll risk. But I’ve always had this fear that the chef won’t take me seriously and be cautious. And, especially as “gluten-free” has gained some notoriety, I’ve worried that somebody would get irritated enough by it all to deliberately add gluten to my food. At home, with either my wife or I cooking the meal, I feel in control and safe. At restaurants, I’m placing my trust in someone I don’t know that the food they prepare for me won’t poison me. In other words, I’m vulnerable and I know it. For many reasons, that’s not a pleasant feeling for me. And something like this certainly doesn’t help. I think this open letter to the chef is one of the best I’ve read on this particular event. There’s a part of me who almost feels sorry for the man. He was petty and malicious and publicly bragged about it. But we’ve all made stupid mistakes in our past. At least I have. More than I care to consider. But this mistake will haunt him forever every time someone googles his name. With his new found notoriety, he’s probably not going to be able to continue working as a chef. But then I think about my two children who inherited this disease from me. (Thank goodness only some of my kids inherited it.) I think about the way I would feel if someone like this “chef” were to deliberately poison them. And it’s true. We tend to be more forgiving about wrongs done us than we are about wrongs, or potential wrongs, done to our children. And somewhere along the way, that man poisoned someone’s child. While I do pity him, I also think it’s a good thing if he’s forced to find another career. Perhaps this time he’ll find one where he can’t hurt people. And this has certainly been a hard lesson for him, but hopefully he’s learned something from it as well.

This offers another illustration of the way that facts and reality cannot penetrate ideology.

Unfortunately, it takes a long time to fix a morally bankrupt Supreme Court.

We’re likely headed for at least a double-dip recession (and the picture is still not radically different from the early years heading into the Great Depression) or at least one of the slowest “recoveries” in our history while the GOP policy approach appears to be to try to make it as bad as possible (probably for political gain). At least, that’s the only lens through which their budget-slashing, job-killing efforts at both the state and national level make any sense at all.

This is a perfect example of the sort of abuse that is actually encouraged by the horrible Citizens United Supreme Court decision. The facts are against them. The law is against them. So their plan is to use their immense wealth to change the law to legally maintain their predatory practices. There’s a pretty good chance they’ll be successful too.

Why are we pursuing the Mellon Doctrine again today? Didn’t the Great Depression thoroughly repudiate Andrew Mellon’s approach?

Of the 1%, by the 1%, and for the 1%. The GOP has pretty much achieved exactly what they have tried to accomplish for at least the past thirty years. Actually, we’ve even managed to exceed the concentration of wealth from the days of the Railroad Barons and the other Lords of Industry. It’s truly strange how successful Republicans have been at convincing people whom they have been robbing to further enrich the wealthiest to support them. If I hadn’t witnessed it with my own eyes over the course of my adult life, I wouldn’t have believed it was possible. When this happened in the latter half of the nineteenth century, it led to the Progressive Movement and gave us President Teddy Roosevelt. As far as I can tell, there’s little sign of a comparable movement today even though the inequalities are worse. Maybe that’s because we still have some of the labor laws from that era still more or less enforced so conditions haven’t gotten as bad as they were then. Of course, with Republicans actively campaigning to repeal child labor laws, kill meaningful safety regulation, strip workers of pay and benefits, and all the other actions they are taking, perhaps there’s still some hope that can change.

Republicans lack the seriousness to govern. To a large degree, they don’t even pretend to have serious proposals anymore. When the House majority leader sponsors the idea that the House can somehow unilaterally create law without the Senate or the President, you can’t call it a fringe element anymore.

The first Wisconsin Republican Senator recall election is officially on as soon as the signatures are verified. Start kicking the bums out and maybe the ones who are left will start listening to the people again.

The secret’s out of the bag! The Texas Republican plan for health care! (But hey, if you’re in the top 1%, what do you care? You’ll get the best care money can buy.)

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4 Comments

  1. Posted April 2, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Scott, don’t hold back on your anti-Republican bias! I just wish I thought there was some political alternative who has a decent thought. Even if it weren’t a politically viable option–like the Green Party or something–but just someone making a reasonable proposition that we the public could get hold of and promote.

    And here’s a celiac question: if I have Leaky Gut syndrome, so that I have all kinds of foreign molecules circulating in my bloodstream, will I automatically pop celiac on a blood test? Or is there a genetic test just for celiac that isn’t going to include someone with non-celiac severe digestive/absorption issues?

  2. Posted April 2, 2011 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    I’m an independent who has had enough of one-half of our viable political party options abandoning all serious intent to actually govern our country, telling blatant and transparent lies, and turning to such overt propaganda that their primary media arm cannot even legally broadcast in Canada. Our situation has gone past absurd.

    Before I was Christian, I primarily leaned Libertarian, though without the hard edge of social darwinism many who lean that way have. Now? I’m mostly disgusted with all the “options” we’re offered and Citizens United has made it even worse than it was. I used to vote for some Republicans, some Democrats, and a smattering of independents. In presidential elections I voted for Reagan (mostly because the young Southerner I was distrusted him less than Mondale) and George H. W. Bush my first two elections. But since then, given the choices I was offered, I’ve mostly voted either Democrat or for an independent candidate. After six years as Texas governor, I knew enough about GW to know I would never vote for him. In his two terms, though, he managed to exceed my worst expectations — sending the deficit skyrocketing by pushing through massive tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, conducting two foreign wars (one clearly an aggressive war) entirely on credit, and setting the stage for the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression (and we’re hardly out of the woods even now). And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You have to go back to Harding (the administration Karl Rove publicly admired in an early interview) to find an administration that was possibly more corrupt.

    I haven’t been offered a Republican candidate I could stomach in almost a decade. The party has degenerated into the ridiculous. I’m sure Lincoln (whom I have studied at length) is turning over in his grave. I’m not sure even a Teddy Roosevelt (another President I’ve studied in depth and admire) could salvage anything from what the GOP has become today.

    The whole health care reform example is an excellent illustration. The Democrats finally give up and pass a weaker version of the health care plan the Republican Party has pushed for the past four decades (beginning with Nixon) and the GOP wins Politifact’s Lie of the Year award by calling it a government takeover of health care. And it was the bloody Republican Party’s plan in the first place! They don’t like the plans the Democrats have endorsed over the past forty years and it turns out the modern GOP doesn’t even like its own plan. That’s just another example of the way they have abandoned even a pretense of governing.

    Frankly, they deserve to collapse and disappear like the Whigs did before them. Unfortunately, that appears unlikely.

    Well, that rant felt good. šŸ˜‰ Thank you!

    The specific blood test for celiac tests for auto-antibodies. If you test positive, you almost certainly have celiac disease. (As long as the right tests are run. They are only about 5-10 years old (I forget exactly) and the older tests were pretty inaccurate.) Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease, so it’s specifically the specific auto-antibodies the tests are checking to find. The genetic test for celiac disease does not tell you that you have it, but whether or not it is possible for you to develop it. If you don’t have certain genes, you can’t develop celiac disease. If you do have them, you will probably — but not certainly — develop it at some point in your life. Personally, I think it’s best use lies with family members of someone with celiac who don’t currently test positive. The genetic test can ease their mind (if it’s negative) about whether or not they are at risk of developing the disease.

  3. Posted April 2, 2011 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

    Thank you! Enjoyed your rant and your celiac answer was helpful. I’m gearing up to go see some kind of medical professional and thinking about what sorts of diseases, disorders, and syndromes demand a diagnostic rule-out. If I don’t go in with all these ducks in a row, I will end up just getting whatever tests will support that doc’s pet theories–or, at least, that’s been my experience with the last bazillion docs I’ve seen.

  4. Posted April 3, 2011 at 12:01 am | Permalink

    Celiac disease is relatively easy to diagnose as long as you haven’t been excluding gluten from your diet. The specific blood panel is here:

    http://www.celiaccenter.org/celiac/faq.asp#blood

    As the FAQ mentions, it’s the tTG-IgA that’s the most important. The others just support it.

    Various forms of non-celiac gluten sensitivity and intolerance are trickier to diagnose. No test for those, but their symptoms can still be severe.

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