Wandering Eye: The politics of medical specialists (including Rand Paul), a new bio on Grace Hartigan, and more

Shyam Biswal, a professor in the department of environmental health sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, is overseeing an online survey of electronic-cigarette users. The results, according the survey page, will be used to help the research team learn "about what types of electronic cigarettes people use and why they use them," and "will be kept anonymous." The questions ask about brands used and the nicotine concentrations of favorite juices, whether or not e-cig users also smoke cigarettes or whether they used e-cigs to quit smoking, vaping habits, any health changes since starting e-cig use, and some basic demographic information.(Disclosure: this writer quit smoking with e-cigs, and hasn't smoked a cigarette in 10 months after more than 30 years of heavy smoking.) It's refreshing to see Biswal's research heading in this direction, because he was the primary author of a recent study that found e-cig vapor produces about 1 percent of the harmful constituents found in cigarette smoke, yet, since the vapor increased the risk of lung infections in mice, concluded this was a bad thing, and thus prompted alarmist headlines. E-cig users who worry that politicized science is undermining the important task of weighing the real public-health issues surrounding this burgeoning technology should go ahead and take Biswal's survey, as the results may end up exploding his apparent bias against e-cigs. (Van Smith)


Did you know that Rand Paul, the Kentucky senator running for president of the United States, is also an ophthalmologist? HuffPo takes that fun fact and spins it into a Theory of Medical Specialist politics that makes perfect sense—especially to those who've marveled at the presidential aspirations (and crazy-sauce beliefs) former Hopkins brain surgeon Ben Carson has espoused. Specialists such as Paul and Carson tend to make fuck-tons of money via fleeting contact with patients. They "tend to be conservative and support Republicans, whether you measure this by self-described political affiliation or by campaign contributions," HuffPo reports. General practitioners (and psychiatrists), by contrast, make less money and spend much more time dealing with patients and their whole fucked-up lives. They tend to be liberals and Democrats. Don't believe HuffPo? Look at the list of congressional doctors. Ten of the 15 Republicans are specialists. None of the four Democrats are. (Edward Ericson Jr.)


A new bio of Grace Hartigan, the great abstract expressionist painter and MICA professor, isn't shy about the excesses of her bohemian lifestyle. Sibbie O'Sullivan's review in The Washington Post leads with "The American painter Grace Hartigan (1922-2008) drank like a fish, cursed like a sailor, slept with whomever she wished, and let nothing interfere with her belief that she was a great artist." The short review mentions several lovers, including Franz Kline—and the time that Frank O'Hara wanted to sleep with her, even though he was gay. It's not that we mind reading about Hartigan's sexual exploits, but the Post review tells us more about them than her painting, which is a little too common when dealing with artists who are also women. (Baynard Woods)

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