Click on the link to download the .pdf file of THE TWEETS OF 2015
Click on the link to download the .pdf file of THE TWEETS OF 2015
Like the rest of Tribune online content, my musings as well as my columns are very soon moving over to a wholly new web platform -- after the switch chicagotribune.com/zorn will work for a bookmark, as will chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/zorn.
Like all change, this one will take some getting used to.
For instance, there will be a new, threaded commenting system, one over which I'll have less oversight and no ability to jump in and add a "ZORN REPLY" to your comments.
Instead of one long comment thread, the new platform will allow for sub-threads where you can discuss particular points that have been raised without having to refer back to old points for clarity.
I will no longer assume ultimate responsibility for what goes on in comments, but I will be keeping an eye out for flagrant fouls Basic registration will be required and everyone I've ever banned, from the trolls to the spammers, from the haters to the pests, has a clean slate and fresh start (but, please, not carte blanche!)
It's important to me that you keep visiting and keep commenting, even if you don't care for all of the changes. We've built a robust community here since August, 2003, and the bosses and I hope not only to maintain it but to see it grow.
And subscribe to the newsletter if you haven't already. It's free, and free is good. Follow my Twitter feed as well. I'll be more active on that site than I have been (and you can preview the week's fine lines!)
The new platform is what they call "device agnostic," which means it works as well on a mobile device /tablet as it does on a desktop. For a lot of you that will add a signifcant dimension of functionality.
I'll pass along your site-related comments and suggestions to the responsible parties, though be aware that they've heard plenty of suggestions from me already during the beta testing period. They've acted on some of those and, like everything online, it remains a work in progress.
To any who decide not to make the transition with us -- and to all of you, really -- thanks for reading, for caring so much about what I write and what others in the commentariat write. It's sometimes been vexing, being the blogmaster here , but always well worth the time I've put into it -- an education, a pleasure, sometimes an inspiration.
Now on to the next big thing!
Friday's print column
You’d think licensed dispensaries for medical marijuana were all-ages opium dens from the wariness bordering on paranoia with which state and local officials are grudgingly preparing for them to open.
A year ago Friday, Gov. Pat Quinn signed into law a four-year pilot program allowing patients suffering from specific maladies to obtain, with a doctor’s OK, therapeutic doses of marijuana. The marijuana will be sold at dispensaries accessible only to patients.
The state law required the dispensaries to be located at least 1,000 feet away from a “public or private preschool or elementary or secondary school or day care center, day care home, group day care home … part day child care facility … (or) area zoned for residential use.”
You’d think our legislators were unaware that seemingly every few blocks in most communities in the state, businesses selling highly addictive drugs — narcotics, amphetamines, mood stabilizers and the like — have operated openly for years, even allowing children into their establishments.
I speak, of course, of licensed pharmacies.
You’d think they’d forgotten that most communities also host numerous establishments that sell, with no prescription required, an addictive substance that causes 88,000 premature deaths every year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
I speak, of course, of the restaurants, taverns and stores that sell alcohol.
Yes, these businesses are subject to zoning and other restrictions but nothing like the limits placed on medical pot dispensaries.
“I had no concern about these facilities being in our communities alongside other businesses,” said state Rep. Lou Lang, D-Skokie, chief House sponsor of the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act. “But remember, this bill passed very narrowly (61-57), so I had to make a lot of compromises.”
Lang said his colleagues expressed concern to him about possible increases in traffic and crime around dispensaries, so he added what he believed to be unnecessary restrictions.
And since then, local jurisdictions have been adding their own, additional and unnecessary buffer zones as the state awaits the opening of up to 60 dispensaries.
Wednesday, the Chicago City Council banned medical marijuana dispensaries — the city is slated to have 13 — from manufacturing districts and transportation corridors, from areas near parks and forest preserves, and from certain downtown areas.
Even this wasn’t enough to prevent our friends at the Sun-Times from splashing their front page with the alarming headline “Neighborhood joints: New zoning rules mean medical pot spots likely to pop up in busy areas.”
You’d think Illinois was the first state — not the 20th — to OK the medical use of marijuana. You’d think there were no data whatsoever about the impact, if any, of dispensaries in busy or even comparatively idle areas.
But police agencies and academics have looked at just these sorts of concerns over the years.
The Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C., has collected the results; nearly all of it reaches the same “hey, no big deal” conclusion reached by researchers from the University of South Florida, the University of Colorado and the New York City Criminal Justice Agency when they studied 275 medical marijuana distribution sites.
Despite all the advance warnings, they wrote in a paper published earlier this year, “these centers do not appear to have any impact on the urban landscape and, therefore, on the health of the communities in which they are located.”
True, the model law promulgated by the Marijuana Policy Project calls for dispensaries and cultivation centers to be located 1,000 feet from existing schools.
But Chris Lindsey, the organization’s legislative analyst, said that restriction is intended simply to protect medical marijuana businesses from enhanced federal penalties should the Drug Enforcement Administration of the U.S. Department of Justice decide to crack down on dispensaries, which remain illegal under federal law.
That tension between federal and state laws is why conventional pharmacies and hospitals can’t assume the responsibility for safe, medically approved distribution of the drug, the way they do with, say, OxyContin, Adderall and codeine.
You’d think we’d have a grip by now. You’d think that facts and experience, rather than residual “Reefer Madness” panic, would guide officials in their response to the prospect of relieving human suffering with clinical doses of marijuana.
But you’d be wrong.
New York Times: Few Problems With Cannabis for California, (10-13)
Marijuana Policy Project: Model legislation; Medical Marijuana Dispensaries and Their Effect on Crime
Denver Post: Slight increase in crimes near Denver medical-marijuana dispensaries (7/13) Medical- marijuana dispensaries in the city were robbed or burglarized at a lower rate last year than either banks or liquor stores (2010)
Colorado Springs Gazette: Marijuana shops not magnets for crime, police say (2010)
National Conference of State Legislatures: Updated list of state medical marijuana laws.
U.S. Centers for Disease Control: Alcohol Abuse Fact Sheet
The Illinois General Assembly: The Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act (2013, full text)
Los Angeles Daily News LAPD chief: Pot clinics not plagued by crime (2010)
San Jose Mercury News: San Jose medical marijuana dispensaries face tough new rules (2014)
Chicago Newsroom CAN TV: Ken Davis is joined by David Kidwell (Chicago Tribune) and Alex Richards (Chicago Tribune). They discuss the city's highly suspect red light camera system. i>You may subscribe to the audio version of the Chicago Newsroom podcast on iTunes
Other news review programs:
Connected to Chicago (WLS-AM)
Chicago Tonight, The Week In Review (WTTW-Ch. 11)
The Afternoon Shift (WBEZ-FM)
what's on your mind and in the media that we haven't covered here?
The Tweet of God, a popular parody feed, has two of the four finalists this week. Voting closes at noon Friday. Here is a direct link to the poll.
Opening paragraphs of the Tribune story on what the City Council plans to do about medical marijuana:
Aldermen took steps Tuesday to further limit where medical marijuana dispensaries could be located in the city.
The dispensaries would be banned from manufacturing districts, transportation corridors and many areas that are a mix of homes and smaller businesses, under an ordinance endorsed by the Zoning Committee and set to be considered at Wednesday's City Council meeting. They also could not operate near parks and forest preserves or in any building that includes residences.
Dispensaries would be able to set up shop in most business and commercial districts, as well as downtown locations that are not primarily residential or shopping-oriented, said Patricia Scudiero, the city's zoning administrator.
Opening paragraphs of the Sun-Times story:
Chicago medical marijuana dispensaries are likely coming to busy shopping areas, despite the city’s initial attempt to hide them away at the edges of the city.
That means a medical marijuana dispensary could potentially open next door to a tony restaurant on Randolph Street or in River North near touristy fast food joints, according to new zoning regulations approved Tuesday by a the Chicago City Council’s Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards.
Ald. Ed Burke, 14th, who championed the effort to create the zoning restrictions, said that if the initial state law were interpreted literally, dispensaries would be strictly limited to manufacturing districts. But the rules and regulations that came out in July after discussions with city officials broadened the possible locations, he said.
The ordinance approved by the committee Tuesday is a big change from what Ald. Ed Burke (14th) had originally proposed — to confine dispensaries and marijuana growers to manufacturing districts near the airports and the Lake Calumet area because it seemed, initially, that there were few areas in the city that met the location requirements dictated by the state.
I don't see any factual discrepancies between the two reports, but I'm getting a whiff off the Sun-Times of reefer madness -- hide the women and children! weed dealers are moving in next to tony restaurants! --that feels unwarranted.
An 86-year-old man who attempted to help police foil an armed robbery at a Crestwood phone store by firing at the fleeing suspect may not have broken the law, but firearms trainers say he ignored a basic rule of carrying a gun in public: Don't try to be a hero.
Had this unnamed senior brought down the suspect with a bullet between the shoulder blades, this would be a huge national story and exhibit A for backers of concealed carry.
On the other hand, if his wild shot had plugged or even nicked an innocent bystander, the story would be exhibit A for foes of concealed carry.
The decision not to file charges feels right to me, under the circumstances -- upstanding citien trying to do the right thing, heat of the moment, arguably defensible given the robber was armed and therefore a potential danger.
More proof that baseball needs to speed up its act last night at Wrigley Field:
This game, which took six hours, 27 minutes, was the longest game (by time) in Cubs’ history. It surpassed the previous record of six hours, 10 minutes that it took the Cubs and Dodgers to play 21 innings on Aug. 17-18, 1982.
The math, if I may:
1982-- 370 minutes / 21 innings = 17:37 /inning
2014-- 387 minutes / 16 innings = 24:11 / inning
Time to revive our conversation about how to speed up the national pastime.
1. Parenthood is the joy of holding your kid's hand while they skip down the street tinged with dread that they'll never let you do so again....Anil Dash
2. The state motto of Tennessee is "Where's my gun? I set it down there a moment ago. Did you take my gun? Well, somebody did ---damn it." ... Jason Miller
3. I need to be constantly told how great I am because even though I am omnipotent and omniscient I am emotionally needy. ... The Tweet Of God
4. All this killing in My name makes Me feel very loved..... The Tweet Of God
5. People who methodically type "3-0" seconds into the microwave, instead of a quick "33," cannot compete in today's cutthroat global economy....Adam Isacson
6. Here's how to get lucky:
1. Work hard
2 Teach others
3. Complain less
4. Share the credit
5. Show up on time
6. Be responsible
7. Stay teachable
7. Just found out that a random act of kindness does not count if you buy something for yourself....Albert Brooks
To which came this reply:
8. I call that "Paying It Inward."...Michael Corcoran
9. In cartoons, lobsters and other crustaceans that talk are typically drawn red. But they’re that color only after you boil them...Neil deGrasse Tyson
10. When a douchebag is an even bigger douche below the surface: Doucheberg....Tim Siedell
11. I would pay Apple an extra $100 for a version of OS X that didn’t lecture me about unplugging disks...Pinboard
12. "Woo, I'm on a roll today, baby!" -butter....Southpaw
13. Every billionaire suffers from the same problem. Nobody around them ever says, "Hey, that stupid idea you just had is really stupid."..... Marc Andreessen
Everyone says our dog -- a Chesapeake Bay Retriever -- is gorgeous. She is. She's also loyal, well-behaved and friendly. And, by dog standards, dim witted. She also suffers from the early onset of congenital joint problems and, at 7, not a great candidate to make double digits.
Wednesday's print column
1. The whole thing sounds like a middle-school science project.
Using one rubber glove dipped into a "bacterial broth" (yum!), and a sterilized second glove, a biochemist and a doctoral candidate at Aberystwyth University, Wales, shook hands, high-fived and fist-bumped, then assessed the germ-transfer rate of each greeting.
I've seen more ambitious experiments presented on tri-fold poster boards perched on cafeteria tables.
Germ transfer "was a whopping 90 percent lower when bumping fists" than when shaking hands, according to the university's news release.
Whopping? More like obvious and unsurprising given the brief and comparatively minimal skin-to-skin contact that occurs when knuckles collide. High-fiving was somewhere in the middle.
3. The Journal of Hospital Infection had this "scoop" last December.
In "Reducing pathogen transmission in a hospital setting. Handshake verses fist-bump: a pilot study," University of West Virginia researchers concluded that bacterial transfer in a handshake was four times greater than in a fist bump. They called for the elimination of handshaking at hospitals.
"If I were the authors, I wouldn't book my tickets to Stockholm to receive the Nobel Prize yet," wrote the anonymous retired surgeon who blogs as "The Skeptical Scalpel" for Physicians Weekly. He pointed out that the study was very limited and didn't establish that such an increase in bacterial transfer necessarily led to increased infection rates.
4. Zorn's Journal of Wholly Anecdotal Health Advice beat these scholarly publications to handshake phobia by several years. Or would have if I'd gone to press.
A while back I noticed a correlation between my participation in handshake-intensive social events and the subsequent appearance of cold or flu symptoms, and so I began carrying and using alcohol-based sanitizers. After such events I regarded my hands as toxic — keeping them far from my face — until I could avail myself of a splooch of off-brand Purell.
Ever since, I've had fewer colds. And I've joined the ranks of those who'd like to see the handshake ritual phased out.
5. The ickiness of handshakes is a perennial concern.
The electronic news archives reveal that virtually every time there's a flu scare, schools, churches and hospitals issue decrees suspending the practice of shaking hands. A Boston Globe report in early 2013 quoted a doctor in 1925 who told Time magazine that those who swapped "secretions" by shaking hands were "purveyors of death."
6. Most of us don't dip in bacterial broth before extending a friendly paw.
In 2008, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health swabbed the hands of many administrators before and after they shook hands with hundreds of honorees at the university's graduation ceremony. They reported very little evidence of pathogen transfer.
7. For the fist bump to supplant the handshake, our leaders will have to lead.
Those who object to the fist bump — or "dap" — in formal settings argue that it's disagreeably trendy. But I'm sure handshake skeptics said the same when President Thomas Jefferson began using it to replace the courtly nod of greeting that had been employed by his predecessors.
Nod enthusiasts no doubt groused that the handshake was a silly and overly intimate vestige of the days when strangers wanted to signal they were unarmed.
But with Jefferson's imprimatur, the custom became so entrenched that even the germ theory of disease couldn't come along and dislodge it.
Then-presidential nominee Barack Obama's happy fist bump with his wife, Michelle, on stage at the Democratic National Convention in 2008 made a surprising amount of news and caused handkerchiefs to flutter in conservative circles. Alas, however, as president, Obama has not tried to standardize it as a polite, everyday form of introductory human contact.
A "dap decree" to all members of his administration, under the banner of sanctimonious concern for public health of course, ought to do the trick. In a generation or two, shaking would join curtsying, hand-kissing and prostrating in the ranks of archaic greeting modes.
8. A simpler solution is for all of us to do a better job washing our hands.
I don't need a science experiment to tell me that's never going to happen.
From Andrew Sullivan's blog essay, Why Am I Moving Left?
From that first stimulus vote on, [Barack] Obama faced a unanimous and relentless nullification Congress. If he favored something, they opposed it. Despite Obama’s exemplary family life, public grace and composure, and willingness to compromise, they decided to cast him as a tyrant, a radical, a traitor and an incompetent. Their demonization of a decent, pragmatic man simply disgusts me to the core. And, sorry, if you do not smell any whiff of racism in all of this, you’re a better person than I am.
The Saginaw County Jail is replacing its orange prisoner jumpsuits with horizontal black and white striped jumpsuits because the popular prison life series "Orange Is the New Black" has led locals to make fashion choices inspired by the behind-bars set, a sheriff said.Next, make them wear tight-fitting jeans cinched at the waist.
A horse walks into a bar. The bartender asks, “Why the long face?”
“I was born into servitude, and when I die, my feet will be turned into glue,” replied the horse....
I also kind of like this one liner: "A first sign of the beginning of understanding is the wish to die. Am I right, ladies?"
Speaking of wry twists on classic jokes, Conan O'Brien labeled Simon Rich's essay "Guy Walks Into a Bar" as the funniest thing he's ever read.
The Rich essay is part of a trove of old New Yorker articles that are free online all summer. One of the best of the rest is The Itch by Atul Gawande, a medical story from 2008 that will make your skin crawl:
She had scratched through her skull during the night—and all the way into her brain.
Who can remember a time before the high five? And who knew that we can pinpoint the moment of its invention? This short ESPN video tells the intriguing tale.
It's so very hard to tell the difference between parody and earnest literary criticism. The following passage, for instance, from a serious paean to "Goodnight Moon," is meant to be taken at face value:
[The single, blank page that reads] “Goodnight nobody” is an author’s inspired moment that is inexplicable and moving and creates an unknown that lingers. How wonderful that this oddly compassionate moment, where even nobody gets a good night, shows up in the picture book that is the most popular! There is no template, ever. When writing, how do we allow those moments of impulse, of surprise? How do we not censor that kind of leap?
Mr. MJM points us to Satanic Temple wants religious exemption from anti-abortion laws:
An organization known as “The Satanic Temple” says the controversial Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision allows it to invoke a religious exemption from state-mandated informed consent laws on abortion which it says result in the distribution of "scientifically unfounded" and "medically invalid" materials to women.... The Satanic Temple says, in an “affront” to its religious beliefs, some of the materials distributed to patients by states have included mention of links between abortion and breast cancer and post-abortion syndrome, both of which the group says are unsubstantiated by the evidence.
From Sad and Useless: photos of the Most Depressing Home Offices Ever
Scientists at Aberystwyth University in Wales have shown that a shake transfers more bacteria than other forms of hand-on-hand action.
They are calling for the widespread adoption of the fist bump instead...
The findings, published in the American Journal of Infection Control, showed a handshake transferred 10 times as many bacteria as a meeting of fists, while a palm-to-palm high-five was somewhere in-between.
Hey, every custom started somewhere, right? And we can cast off old ones -- bowing, scraping. hand kissing and curtsying are outmoded (scraping, by the way ""refers to the drawing back of the right leg as one bows, such that the right foot scrapes the floor or earth," it says here).
And I say yes, let's convert to fist bumping.
(The logo, right is from StopHandshaking.com)