Wednesday, December 10, 2008

One - ok, a couple of bad apples....

So by now the whole country is marveling at soon-to-be-former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, and the blatant cockiness amidst his corruption charges. Given the presidential election and other distractions, I had not been keeping tabs on much with respect to local politics, but my wife has been quietly whispering in my ear about the dubious character of Blago for a couple of months now. She expressed her concerns that finding a candidate to fill Obama's vacant Senate seat might not happen in the most upstanding way... but I never realized how low our Governor could go.

Apparently Illinois has a "long tradition" of corruption in the government, most recently with former Governor George Ryan, currently in jail on a six-year sentence (also for corruption) and with some officials moving for his sentence to be commuted. Now people are talking like Illinois is a haven for corrupt officials, and how glad they are to not be residents of this state.

Personally, however offended I am at these actions by our officials, I'm proud of my Illinois heritage. I won't let a couple of bad apples spoil my whole impression of this state. I look forward to January 20th, when our president-elect can strut his stuff and demonstrate the integrity we should expect from officials from the Land of Lincoln.

In the meantime, it continues to be an embarrassment that Blago will not resign. Apparently, his lawyers plan to plead "not guilty," and have indicated that a resignation would look like guilt. But I'll be waiting with bated breath while they try to explain away his machinations toward selling Obama's Senate seat to the highest bidder, among the other charges. Especially when they have his own voice on record from Justice Department-approved wiretaps. And on the very eve of the FBI's actions to bring up charges, we have his smug-faced invitation to have his phone lines tapped, his sincerest assertion that he is clean as a whistle.

Yeah, that one may be more worm than apple, but I'll keep my support behind the rest of Illinois. After all, if you dig deep enough there's probably not a single state that is free from its embarrassments. Not even shiny, white-frost covered Alaska. You know, that state that is so close to Russia.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Political rant #1 - gay marriage

Ever since the heavy pre-election coverage this year, I've been drawn back into the medium that captures the essence of the hot news and presents it in an entertaining format - political satire, frequently well-represented by The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report, both on Comedy Central.

Tonight Jon Stewart had Mike Huckabee (former Republican presidential candidate) on, and engaged him in a mini-debate on gay marriage. As usual, the conservative and liberal viewpoints were framed in different perspectives and they had to agree to disagree. The arguments at their most basic seemed to be: (C) - "We must preserve the sanctity of marriage as defined between a man and a woman," and (L) - "Gay people should have the same rights and benefits granted to heterosexuals."

It was quite gratifying to listen to Stewart present a very cogent argument, and I won't hide my own support for gay marriage. I was quite disappointed with the referenda this November that shot down attempts at legalization of gay marriage in multiple states. Huckabee made reference on the show to the "fact" that 68% of the population is against passing such legislation. I won't take issue with numbers because I have no idea how that polling was conducted, the demographics, how recently it was done, or any of those details. Most of us have heard the expression "lies, damn lies, and statistics" - and that holds true more often than not; depending on how you ask the question, let alone grouping and analyzing data, you can twist numbers to support your argument either way.

To be honest, I really don't care about the numbers because THEY DON'T MATTER. I don't care if 80% of the population is against something. Just because a group of people want something - or want to prevent something - doesn't mean that it is appropriate. The reason we have government is to protect citizens and deliver services that would otherwise be unlikely to happen. If it wasn't mandated by the government, how many of us would contribute money to pay for police, infrastructure, and other social services? How many people would put money aside for their retirement? But we accept taxes and social security deductions because that is a part of our responsibility in supporting the government that protects us. And it protects us in ways we did not anticipate over 200 years ago - look at the relatively recent strides in equal rights for women & blacks, and new protections from discrimination based on handicaps and religion. Those anti-discrimination statements in many systems include "sexual orientation" - an obvious evolution of the concept to protect this portion of our population.

It was a laughable moment in the VP debate in October, when Joe Biden went on a mini soapbox talking about equal rights for partners including hospital visitation, workers benefits, etc. - that [gay] partners will have (paraphrasing) "the exact same rights and privileges as spouses" - but when asked point-blank by the moderator if the democratic ticket was supporting gay marriage, he said no. It is a sad statement that - in order to minimize alienation of a portion of the electorate - the Democratic ticket had to set aside pushing that component of the agenda.

But at its heart, the issue really is about equal rights. If people were interested in legislating about the sanctity of marriage, we'd talk about the divorce rate and banning same-day marriage (i.e., running off to Vegas), requiring "marriage classes" (like some religions do), and maybe even raising the minimum consenting age. If the issue is really about parenting and establishing a family unit for raising children, we would talk about mandated parenting classes or even more aggressive regulations about who is allowed to procreate (or adopt), and when. (Both of these arguments are exemplified with the "Brittany Spears" example used by Stewart) We know it could not possibly be about preserving a religious definition of marriage, thanks to the separation of church and state. So what is left? What possible reason is there to deny two men or two women from legally committing to each other, and being granted ALL the legal and social recognition that accompanies that?

It seems to me to be the downside of tradition, the part that is slow to change simply because "it hasn't been that way before" or "we've never done it that way." Just because religious-based organizations oppose it, or because stubborn people or not ready to accept homosexuality as a fact of our society, does not mean that our goverment can ignore this component of our population or choose not to protect their rights on this issue.

The last point I'll make is again something well-stated by Stewart - opposition to gay marriage is often based on the assumption that it is a choice to be gay. Just like choosing to convert between religions may mean changing what you eat, or how you interact with people - "choosing" to be gay means denying yourself legal recognition of a union. But religion is one of those cardinal protections, and society is barred from denying you rights based on something that is undeniably a choice. But is homosexuality a choice? Many say no - and if you are guaranteed equal rights whether you are born a man or woman in our enlightened age, the same should hold true whether you are born gay or straight.

But again - the answer to THAT question is really irrelevant. Equal rights are equal rights. How can you select out something the law should NOT apply to?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

music as art

Here is a great image (click on it to get a bigger version) - sort of a puzzle relating to the music industry. First saw this in 2006, just getting around to posting it now. Unfortunately, par for the course....

Don't scroll down yet - how many bands can you identify?

No cheating!

Ok, below is a list of what I got initially (with almost no help):

the scorpions, dinosaur jr., crannberries, the beach boys, prince, the police, iron maiden, men at work, pink, korn, deep purple, hole, radiohead, alice in chains, the eagles, nine inch nails, rolling stones, 50 cent, the gorillaz, the pixies, U2, cake, queen, whitesnake, white zombie, phish, blondie, the cars, garbage, red hot chili peppers, blind melon, ratt, B-52s, eminem, green day, smashing pumpkins, pet shop boys, matchbox 20, led zeppelin, guns & roses

after looking at a list of answers, i *should* have also found (band names i recognize):

lemonheads, sex pistols (hehe), BeeGees, seal, madonna (w child, painting), crowded house, white stripes, black crowes, wings, ... maybe a few more. not too bad. many i could have guessed but did know the band names (black flag? yellowman?).

Here is a version of the answers - don't know how complete it is, and I'm not gonna bother counting if "74 bands" are listed. But I think it is a pretty cool image / puzzle. Hope you like it too!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Back to the blog!

Wow - it's been a while since I've even pretended to write anything.
Don't think I have / had much readership anyway... but what do you expect with such sporadic postings? Would be nice to know if any stragglers are still out there - drop me a comment if ya have the time.

Since I started this blog, have had many changes in my life - graduated medical school, relocated to Chicago, started work as a surgical resident, got married, and gained a couple of belt sizes, to name a few - and life is still throwing curves at me. The biggest stress in my life at this point is being jobless. After a hectic two years of residency and frustration over my temporary employment (preliminary residency), I dropped the ball on a disappointing job hunt and had no workplace to call home starting in July '08.

Tried to pick up where I left off on the job hunt back then, ran into some more roadblocks and limited choices, so I dug in my heels and tried to make progress in other areas. Got my third and final component of the licensing exam out of the way, completed paperwork to obtain my license, got back on the wagon of attemping to become more physically fit, and started tossing out decade-old junk in my apartment (I'm an incurable pack-rat, inherited from my dear old dad). Have re-immersed myself in the job hunt two more times, with poor results and depressed spirits. No weight lost with the new exercise routine, but I do feel my endurance is improving at least.

Now I'm back in the market - have two promising leads for jobs starting in July '09... but nothing is at all secured yet, and need something in the meantime or I'll be as good as bankrupt by the time I try to relocate. But moving forward from here. My wife happened to catch sight of a job fair poster, so I'll check that out and see what else comes out in the wash. If nothing else, I'll see about getting "fries with that."

In the meantime, I'm trying to continue cleaning out the apartment (what a slow process), working out as much as I can get motivated for, and spending quantity time (too much?!?) with the wife. In my pseudo-retirement, I let myself get a little overly-involved emotionally with the presidential race, so I am SO GLAD that that is now decided. It has, however, reawakened my passion for some controversial issues - I'll try to address these in upcoming posts.

I will try to keep up a little better with this blog. A while back I had started a second blog to try to document my life as a resident (Dr. Bonzo), so I will keep that one dedicated to medical professional life and (if there is interest) in talking about health issues. This one is more of an online journal, sort of a pop-off valve for my brain and a little window for those who choose to peer in to get to know me better. Hopefully, at the end of the day, it is a little diversion to the grind of life, and maybe even a bit of entertainment.

More to come soon!