Sunday, March 27, 2005

SNL in '77, Karen Ann Quinlan, Major League, Frailty

Dennis Perrin writes...
from SNL's second season, February 26, 1977 -- an absurdist take on the Karen Ann Quinlan case from that period. You won't see today's SNL trying something like this... esp given that Michael O'Donoghue had a hand in writing the below bit. O'D's style of humor wouldn't make it on today's SNL. Hell, O'D himself would be banned from the building.
"Pull The Plug"
Doctor: Steve Martin
Mrs. Dionosopolis: Jane Curtin
Mr. Dionosopolis: Bill Murray
Buddy: John Belushi

[Open on interior, hospital room; Doctor stands with Parents in front of Buddy's bed, as Buddy lies in a coma]

Doctor: I'm sorry, Mr. & Mrs. Dionosopolis, but your son can't get any closer to death than he is right now.

Mrs. Dionosopolis: Tomorrow's his birthday.

Mr. Dionosopolis: Doctor, isn't there a chance that Buddy could come out of this coma?

Doctor: Well, let me put it this way - if you want to get Buddy something for his birthday, I would suggest moss for his north side.

[Mrs. Dionosopolis cries in agony]

Doctor: Hey! I'm just trying to lighten things up a little bit!

Mr. Dionosopolis: [comforting his wife] Thank you, Doctor! It's a good joke! It is. I'm sure that Buddy would have laughed.

Doctor: Well, I think you should know that the machine that keeps Buddy alive is costing you $500 a day.

[awkward pause]

Mr. Dionosopolis: I think you'd better pull the plug, Doctor.

Mrs. Dionosopolis: [outraged] Buddy!!!

Mr. Dionosopolis: Now, you heard what the man said. Buddy has no motor reflexes, his mind is gone. Do you think he's having fun? Look at that! [pointing to Buddy]

Doctor: Now, listen, uh.. according to law, I cannot deliberately pull the plug.

Mr. Dionosopolis: I see.

Doctor: Buuuut. . . if the plug were to, uh.. "accidentally".. be pulled from the wall, I don't think anyone's gonna make a federal case out of it. I think you know what I'm talking about, huh? [winks]

Mr. Dionosopolis: Mmm-hmm. Well, I think we should probably just put him out of his misery..

Mrs. Dionosopolis: [outraged] Honey!!

Mr. Dionosopolis: [calmly] Cathy, I never told you this, but about a year ago, Buddy came to me, and he said, "Dad, if I'm ever in a bad accident at work, and I'm hit in the head with a sledgehammer and lapse into a coma and have to kept alive by a machine, I want to die with dignity. So, please pull the plug."

Mrs. Dionosopolis: Wellll . . . if that's the way that Buddy wants it, then . . . pull the plug.

Doctor: Accidentally.

Mr. Dionosopolis: Accidentally.

Mrs. Dionosopolis: Accidentally.

Doctor: [begins his act] Okay! Well, hey, I've got to, uh, run up to surgery. I'm, uh, kinda late right now, so I'll probably be taking off! See you later -- they're calling me! [pretends to trip over the plug as he makes his exit, getting tangled in the cord] Oh, no! My leg is tangled in the cord! It . . . it could cut off the circulation! Help me!

Mr. Dionosopolis: [playing along] Okay, here, here . . . let me get your foot out . . .

Doctor: Yeah! Maybe you could just pull on it!

[both men struggle with the cord, yanking on it, putting their feet on the wall for leverage, but the plug will not come out of the electrical outlet]

[suddenly, Buddy opens his eyes and sits straight up in bed]

Buddy: Hi Mom! Hi Dad! I'm not in a coma anymore!

Mrs. Dionosopolis: Thank God!

Mr. Dionosopolis: [embarrassed] Buddy..? Buddy..?

Buddy: [sees the men tangled in the cord] Ohhhhh . . . what are you doing? Were you pulling the plug on me!

Mr. Dionosopolis: Buddy, the doctor told us you were a vegetable.

Doctor: I, for one, am baffled!

Buddy: But pulling the plug!

Mrs. Dionosopolis: Buddy, we were just doing what you told your father about "dying with dignity." You know? If you ever got hit in the head with a sledgehammer and had to be kept alive by machines? You remember!

Buddy: I never said anything like that, Mom.

Mr. Dionosopolis: Oh, yeahhh . . . you remember, don't you? It was that one day, remember? You weren't acting yourself, you were real strange. I thought, "Gee, that's not like Buddy, wants to die like that." But I figured, what the heck, okay! You said it, though! You said it. You just forgot!

Buddy: [laughing] I probably forgot about it!

Mr. Dionosopolis: Well, Buddy, do you feel good enough to go home?

Buddy: [excited, bouncing out of bed] Yeah, that would be just great!

Mrs. Dionosopolis: All right. I'll fix you a nice big lunch!

Mr. Dionosopolis: And we'll go hunting first thing next week, okay? [turns to Doctor, now with scorn on his face] Thanks a lot, Doctor! Thanks for almost killing little Buddy!

[family exits hospital room]

Doctor: [to camera] Well, excuuuuuuuuuuuuuse ME!!

No,Terri Schiavo's plight isn't funny, but for goodness sake, does it really need to be said that a society that can matter-of-factly allow for humor like this is a considerably healthier one than one where we have to look over our shoulder for the God Squad to come after us and tell everyone about how they're being persecuted by anyone who dares disagree with them(or not fawn over them) in the slightsest? I find it interesting, however, how the SNL sketch seems to predict the hearsay question about Schiavo's wishes re resucitation and how the question of money rears its head, the way it hasn't in the tv coverage, although there is this pretty good USA Today article.

the other night Major League(1989), one of my favorite movies, was on TV. I wonder if this scene[dialogue below] would've made it into the theatrical release nowadays.

Pedro Cerrano: Bats, they are sick. I cannot hit curveball. Straightball I hit it very much. Curveball, bats are afraid. I ask Jobu to come, take fear from bats. I offer him cigar, rum. He will come.

Eddie Harris: You know you might think about taking Jesus Christ as your savior instead of fooling around with all this stuff.

Jake Taylor: Harris.

Pedro Cerrano: Jesus, I like him very much, but he no help with curveball.

Eddie Harris: You trying to say Jesus Christ can't hit a curveball?

Innocent as it is(and its impact is softened by a later scene where Cerrano rejects Jobu, a scene that smells false), I wonder if nowadays studios would just pre-emptively nix such a scene to avoid trouble. I also wonder if the ending of Bill Paxton's Frailty(2001) was monkeyed with out of fear of incurring the wrath of the Christian Right. I don't know how to describe what I'm talking about without giving away the ending of the picture-- suffice to say the first 3/4 of the story is told(very effectively) in a matter-of-fact, naturalistic style, and the ending has a supernatural element which seems completely out of keeping with the rest of the picture, as if the filmmakers lost their nerve and were afraid of where their story was going. (Because where their story was going was basically an indictment of excessive religious zeal and excessively authoritarian parenting. I guess we can't tell those kind of stories anymore. I can only imagine what Flannery O'Connor would've thought of our present age.)

humor pt 1

Mike Gerber says:
A government study released this week said that Utah, Oregon and states in the deep South have the lowest rates of binge drinking in the country. “The data is clear,” President Bush said. “If we want our children to have a healthy relationship with alcohol, we must limit their access to uppity black folks.”



fifth estate
n. A class or group in society other than the nobility, the clergy, the middle class, and the press.

H.L. Mencken described Puritanism as “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”

meanwhile, in other news...

from the Independent:
Fresh details emerge of Iraqis' abuse by American soldiers:
Damning evidence of US soldiers abusing detainees at a second prison in Iraq has been made public...

and from Under the same Sun:
Due to Today's Developments, Tens of Millions of People Not-Named Terri Schiavo May Die.

Friday, March 25, 2005

world bank blog revisited

I'll have additional comments on the world bank blog on Monday. If you are a visitor from the world bank staff and wish to comment, I suppose you could register with blogger with some outlandish pseudonym and then do so. Yes, I know, blogger says in their user agreement you have to give them truthful info, but I don't see how they can enforce this, any more than the world bank blog can.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Schiavo pt 2

You've probably heard that the Fla. Supreme Court has refused to hear the Schiavo case, so maybe it will be over soon.

first some dry stuff, then some pictures:
a coma is NOT the same as a persistent vegitative state:

A coma is a profound state of unconsciousness. Patients are alive but unable to move or respond to their environment. There are several levels of coma and patients may, or may not, progress through them. The responsiveness of the brain lessens as the coma deepens and when it becomes more profound, normal body reflexes are lost and the patient no longer responds even to pain. The chances of recovery depend on the severity of the underlying cause.

Coma is also to be distinguished from the persistent vegetative state which may follow it. This is a condition in which the individual has lost cognitive neurological function and awareness of the environment but does have noncognitive function and a preserved sleep-wake cycle. Spontaneous movements may occur and the eyes may open in response to external stimuli, but the patient does not speak or obey commands. Patients in a vegetative state may appear somewhat normal. They may occasionally grimace, cry, or laugh.

from the med school at the Chinese University of Hong Kong:

the longer coma lasted the less the chances of regaining independent function. Only one patient who survived in coma for a week achieved a good recovery within a year. About 1/3 of patients who appeared vegetative at end of 1 day regained independent activity within 1 year; when vegetative state persisted for 1 wk or more the likelihood of achieving a mod disability or good recovery within 1 year declined to 7%

ComaRecovery.Org describes several neurological tests that medicos can perform to evaluate the comatose; here's one of them:

Glasgow Coma Score (CCS):
The simplest bedside clinical exam performed in TBI is the GCS, evaluating eye opening ability, vocal or verbal ability, and best movement ability. The score ranges from a low of 3 (no detectable function) to a high of 15 (fully alert). A score of 8 or less indicates coma. A single score has no predictive or prognostic value, but a series of scores over hours, days and weeks indicate a trend.

It occurs to me that maybe that's why some of the doctors who evaluated Schiavo were more interested in watching her on video than evaluating her in person-- it's more empirically valid. But you wont get that from watching CNN, et al; just talking heads opining about how insensitive those doctors are while the anchorman tut-tuts in agreement. But according to the Apple lawsuit I'm not a journalist but Kyra Phillips and her pals are.

have you seen the vibrant and truly uplifting Kate Adamson? She was on Fox with Hannity And His Pet Goat Monday night, and talked to Bill something-or-other on CNN this morning. It seems that she was in a coma for 70 days in 1995, but then she recovered and received tons of support and rehabilitation, wrote a book and went on the lecture circuit. She was on to offer her better than expert opinion about Terri Schiavo, say truly uplifting shit and talk about her book. So I had to do a search for her. She wasn't the first entry under "vibrant+truly uplifting", but then I tried "kate adamson" and that proved more helpful. Did I tell you she wrote a book?

from Adamson's website:

Well, at least she isn't smug.

Then, on the book page:

"Get it Now! Buying Motivational Crap Shows You Care!"

oh, ok, it doesn't say that-- but the first 4 captions are as per the site.
instead it says,
"It's an amazing, amazing story! -- Bill O'Reilly"
although I'd argue mine is just half a dozen stead o' six.

yes, I realize adamson was in a coma for 70 days, but Schiavo's been out of comission for 15 YEARS,with more than a coma. Maybe Adamson's hubby would've stuck around for that long a stretch without getting a girlfriend like Mike Schiavo did, I don't know (but neither does Kate Adamson.). Is Adamson suggesting that during the first 70 days after his wife's initial hospitalization in 1990 that Mike Schiavo was already messing around and campaigning for her DNR? How does she know? The press says he only started to do so after he won a judgement in 1997, the same year that he announced his engagement to his girlfriend. (which on the face of it doesn't cast him in an especially favorable light. It would be nice if Mr. Sciavo was an obviously upstanding fellow, but it seems to me that his motives don't have to be selfless for the case against the meddling of the pro-lifers to have merit. My impression is that Terri's parents are the only party who are sincerely acting according to their perception of her best interest, although I wonder if years of battling the husband has clouded their judgement.) It would also be nice if it occured to some of these Christian right SOBs that they probably shouldn't support tort "reform" and should've gotten angry about bankruptcy "reform" because both of these GOP-Party-of-Theocracy measures will make keeping cuddly white folks on life support for years on end more difficult. It would've also been nice if Kate Adamson pointed out to Sean Hannity that if we had more of a government funded social safety net more people like her who recovered from comas but who didn't have husbands who were lawyers would be able to be rehabilitated. Maybe she meant to but it slipped her mind. Then again, maybe I'll go to hell for saying crazy stuff like that, along with Muslims and Unitarians and Catholics like John Kerry(but not Catholics like Jeb Bush).

And yes, Bill O'Reilly did talk about Wanda and Sun Hudson yesterday, but not once did he suggest that the parameters of the discussion should be about anything other than whether or not Texas law was applied correctly,and for some reason he left out the part about how a patient's inability to pay is a factor in Texas law. I guess sometimes he's circumspect and sometimes he isn't. Do you think he reads HZ? Ok, I doubt it, but I imagine his staffers know about technorati.

And finally,from the Kalamazoo Gazette:
"Keep 'adultery police' out of end-of-life decisions"

a bill ... to be introduced in Michigan by state Rep. Joel Sheltrown, a West Branch Democrat...
Sheltrown said he plans to introduce legislation that would bar spouses from denying life-prolonging treatment to incapacitated husbands or wives if the healthy spouse is in an "adulterous relationship."

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Some New(To Me) Blogs, etc.

1. Sepia Mutiny, one of the most visually pleasing blogs I've seen in quite some time- it's a group effort by some Indian-American bloggers.

1a: Apul:"Musharraf visits India in April"

Apul also tells us about how India and Pakistan can settle their disputes with a high-stakes cricket match...

1b: Abhi: "Bloggable things just happen to me"
The bane of a blogger’s existence is that once you become one, once you descend into such a depraved state, EVERYTHING around you becomes a potential post. If you see a puppy you think, “how cute, but where is the blog angle?” Do something noteworthy puppy.
Abhi also tells us how he is a little wiser every time he goes to get a haircut.

2. DavidNunez.Com
david nunez is a prospecting fringefinder, maverick unrealist, shadetree artist, apocalyptic cyberhippie, amateur brain hacker, carnival technovangelist, dream accelerator, and reckless engineer.
Said description suggests that his blog is either very clever or very affected. Incidentally, one of my ex-roommates presently has a roommate named David Nunez, although I somehow doubt it's the same person. I've met the guy and he never mentioned anything to me about fringefinding.

3.A Fistful of Euros, another group effort.

scott martens: "Wolfowitz: The World Bank staff hate him already"
Martens notes that
there is a World Bank President blog and that "you can e-sign a statement of concern." sponsored by the European Network on Debt and Development

Eurodad? I can't help but note that the "statement of concern" was open for a fairly brief period of time, which makes me think that the blog in question may be a dog-and-pony show intended to demonstrate the warmth and reasonableness of the World Bank and its staff.

4. First Fight, by Bryan Sorens. Bryan is an ex-con who says the Texas prison system extended his sentence when they found out he wrote "articles for publication", although he doesn't elaborate, or at least he hasn't the last time I checked.

5. 2071.Org (and no,I have no idea what 2071 stands for.)
6. Bob's Links and Rants

jeez, look at that address:

Bob writes well, and the cartoons are invariably interesting, but I know that less than catchy URL must be a hindrance to Bob gaining wider recognition. My colleague in thoughtcrime Arvin Hill says that even would be a vast improvement.

7. speaking of inelegant URLs, you may have noticed that Steve Baum of Ethel the Blog has moved, here.
Myself, I don't care for his new host/template/interface but hey, it's his business. If you are a lefty Texas blogger and haven't heard of Ethel, you owe yourself a look, both at the current site and the original. Baum is a Texas A&M-College Station prof and the Godfather of Texas liberal blogging, having started in the late 1990s, which is like 50 or 60 years ago in internet time.

finally: do you have a blog you're proud of but which is getting overlooked in th' blogosphere? I'm by no means a prominent blogger, but if you write me care of my yahoo email address and tell me about your blog I may write it up if it strikes me as interesting-- or feel free to leave a comment and a URL at this post. I'll leave it up unless I think you're crazy or trying to sell viagra or pirated software, etc.

addendum, 8.2005: comments closed on this post due to comment spammers.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Terry Schiavo, Sun Hudson, and the republicans

There are a lot of things I'd like to say about the absurdity of living in a country that so indolently regards its butchery of Iraqis (and others) while aparently getting apoplectic about the legal status of a hapless woman whose brain effectively died over a decade ago, but I don't have the energy at present, and several others have already said it pretty well.

for example, Eric Boelert, here: "When Public Opinion Doesn't Matter"

Atrios/Duncan Black, here: "Spiro Nikolouzos"

George Bush signed the law which allows the hospitals to make this decision:

A patient's inability to pay for medical care combined with a prognosis that renders further care futile are two reasons a hospital might suggest cutting off life support, the chief medical officer at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital said Monday.
Dr. David Pate's comments came as the family of Spiro Nikolouzos fights to keep St. Luke's from turning off the ventilator and artificial feedings keeping the 8-year-old grandfather alive. St. Luke's notified Jannette Nikolouzos in a March 1 letter that it would withdraw life-sustaining care of her husband of 34 years in 10 days, which would be Friday.

(And yes, I think it's interesting that the Houston Chronicle article has disappeared.-HZ)

Zeynep Toufe, here: 'Terri Schiavo's Bulimia: Not on "The Agenda"'

and finally from Sandy at Light Up the Darkness, another Texas story, this one of Wanda and Sun Hudson. I guess you shouldn't have been born black, Sun. Maybe Fox News would've found you* more interesting if you hadn't done that.

courtesy Light Up the Darkness

*I also think it's interesting how Fox phrases their description of the 1999 law which then governor Bush signed:
"The dispute centers around the legal standard over hospital care in Texas. Under state law, a hospital must continue care if there is a reasonable probability that another hospital will admit the patient."
The law Bush signed allows hospitals to discontinue life support over the objections of parents and guardians if 1.the prognosis is that there is no chance of recovery and 2. the patient cannot pay, whereas previously Texas hospitals were not allowed to do this. But would you understand this from Fox's slippery verbiage?

Monday, March 21, 2005

from the Sunday Denton paper:

believe it or not, this photo was on the front page(!) the caption read:

"At the Courthouse on the Square Saturday, Vietnam-era veteran
David Honish protests the war in Iraq during a rally marking
the second anniversary of its beginning."

Sunday, March 20, 2005

"Secret tapes reveal George Bush's combative, even arrogant heart"

(arrogant? Really?)

via David Cogswell at Headblast antimedia:

"The Win-at-All-Costs President" by Howard Fineman.

what's interesting here is how the mainstream press discussion of the Wead tapes focused on GWB discussing his marijuana use(albeit obliquely), rather than his acknowlegdement that the Bushes smeared Dukakis and Gore. Likewise, I (would like to) think most Texas voters would want to know that Bush felt they were his to deliver or keep in his pocket. Anyone out there know if there's an online source for the Wead tapes? E-mail me, don't leave a comment.

Thursday, March 17, 2005


apparently bloggers aren't journalists but government shills are*.

(*or they aren't, but they don't have to tell you they're not. I'm getting dizzy.)
from your Alberto's Department of Justice:
on the front page:
"Visit DOJ's website, launched
to educate Americans about how we are preserving life and liberty by using the USA PATRIOT Act."
not on the front page:
the DOJ regarding VNRs("video news releases") (DOJ opinion saying the GAO can shove off.)
(I guess it's not very important.)

U.S. Life Expectancy About to Decline

from the UIC press release:

A team of researchers led by University of Illinois at Chicago professor S. Jay Olshansky is predicting a decline in life expectancy in the United States later this century. That prediction, which is based on the dramatic rise in obesity, especially among young people and minorities, is from a special report appearing in the March 17 issue in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The study determines that obesity currently reduces life expectancy by approximately four to nine months. "The magnitude of that effect may sound trivial to some, but in fact it's greater than the negative effect of all accidental mortality, such as car accidents, suicides and homicides combined," said Olshansky, who is professor of epidemiology in the UIC School of Public Health.

The researchers also predict that the rapid rise in obesity among children and teenagers in the past 30 years will have life-shortening effects in the future -- perhaps enough to offset any improvements in longevity from anticipated advances in biomedical technology.
The findings are contrary to what some scientists predict about human life expectancy, which assumes that past increases will continue indefinitely. Most forecasts of life expectancy are based on historical trends, but the authors conclude that such estimates fail to consider the obesity epidemic.

Olshansky and colleagues argue that current extrapolation models used to predict life expectancy do not take into consideration the health status of people currently alive.

Longevity predictions are crucial for health policy and for economic policy as well. "One of the consequences of our prediction is that Social Security does not appear to be in nearly as bad a shape as we think," Olshansky said. "The obese may be inadvertently 'saving' Social Security, but the obese themselves and the health care system that cares for them will pay a very heavy price in terms of higher death rates and escalating health care costs."

I'm just waiting for Bush to try to spin this into good news(and more proof that we need "personal" accounts).

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Terror suspects are buying guns — and it's perfectly legal!!!

Ok, they left the exclamation points out. However,that's the USA Today headline, and you may have noticed some lefty blogs noting their disapproval as well.

"How dare the NRA stand in the way of prohibiting people on terrorist watch lists from obtaining guns!"

The NRA's Wayne LaPierre has said no one should be denied the right to buy a gun unless there is a "good reason," and simply being on the terrorist watch list is not a good reason. (The scoundrel!)

Oh, please. I'll admit it feels odd to find myself on the same side of an issue as LaPierre, but for the most part I am.(I disagree with him about the Senate proposal to keep records of background checks for 10 years, which the NRA predictably enough opposes. At present the law requires that background-check info be discarded within 24 hours.)
I think a lot of people on the left are reacting based on simple learned response against the NRA here, rather than thinking this through. You can be on a terrorist watch list simply because of your associations, such as a room-mate whom you may have been assigned in college. A lot of the same people on the left who get (understandably) upset about the rights abuses of detainees at Guantanamo or even here in the US proper, nevertheless fail to see that this is also a civil liberties issue. People who are simply on these watch lists haven't actually been accused of anything, let alone tried, let alone convicted.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

no coffee or TaB

I am going out of town, so this blog will be hibernating for 5 days or so.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Larry Summers and Susan Polgar

I imagine you've already heard about the Lawrence Summers flap. If not: the Harvard president was attending a conference earlier this year where they were discussing the underrepresentation of women in the physical sciences and engineering, especially at the upper levels. Summers said that

1) Women want to have children, and as a result they don't put in the 80-hour work week that would make them competitive with their male peers; 2) the innate differences between men and women lead men to outperform women at the top end; 3) discrimination discourages women from pursuing science and engineering past their undergraduate education. (According to Nancy Hopkins of MIT, who walked out of his presentation, he ranked these reasons in order of descending importance......

Slate's Meghan O'Rourke suggests that Summers
"seems to have fallen prey to self-flattery's ugly twin: Because what I say offends the liberal dogmatist, it must be true. (And not only true, but courageous.)"

Summers's tweaking of liberal orthodoxy and propriety is nothing new. In 2004 he asserted that there were a million child prostitutes in Seoul, South Korea, in 1970 whereas there were "almost none" today, attributing the decline to free market capitalism. He was quickly called on this supposed statistic when it was pointed out that the total population of girls aged 10-19 in Seoul at that time was less than 700,000.

In 1991, when Summers was at the World Bank he wrote an internal memo saying that toxic wastes should be dumped on less developed countries-- a memo that was leaked to greenpeace and the world press. Brazil's then-Secretary of the Environment Jose Lutzenburger wrote to Summers: "Your reasoning is perfectly logical but totally insane... Your thoughts [provide] a concrete example of the unbelievable alienation, reductionist thinking, social ruthlessness and the arrogant ignorance of many conventional 'economists' concerning the nature of the world we live in... If the World Bank keeps you as vice president it will lose all credibility. To me it would confirm what I often said... the best thing that could happen would be for the Bank to disappear." Lutzenburger was fired shortly after writing his letter.

(Which undoubtedly says something about the sometimes malevolent influence of the World Bank, but that's another post.)

The problem with Summers's comments about gender and intellect is not that he doesn't have a right to his opinions.(of course so did Lutzenburger, but it didn't help him a lot.) Rather, as O'Rourke said,
Summers, as president of Harvard, has a stature and cachet few professors have. If he suggests in even the most nuanced way that women are innately inferior to men at top-level science and math, his words will inevitably be twisted...into something far cruder by those whose latent sexism is in search of intellectual validation.

would this cover story(7Mar2005) have existed without Summers's comments?

as an aside, here's another Slate article, "Harvard Inc. A new book on Lawrence Summers and the crisis of meritocracy*"

I found this quote from author Stephen Metcalf particularly amusing:
"As Harvard can afford to staff its faculty almost exclusively with superstars, and as superstars are loath to teach, the gap between the global power of the brand and the actual quality of the education delivered is quite large...But for many of its students, Harvard is not so much an experience as an entrée. For them, the Harvard name doesn't represent Veritas, but the current education mania on steroids, whereby the hyper-deserving earn the chance to enter the ranks of the hyper-rich."
(*a review of Harvard Rules, by Richard Bradley.)

but, back to women and their brains:
Brad DeLong notes--
In 1992, 2.8% of Asian-American women who took the Math SAT scored 750 or above.
In 1992, 2.1% of white men who took the Math SAT scored 750 or above.
In 1992, 0.4% of white women who took the Math SAT scored 750 or above.
In 1992, 0.2% of African-American men who took the Math SAT scored 750 or above.
Source: NSF, Science and Engineering Indicators 1993.

and, via Paul Goyette of Locussolus:

here's a nice profile of Susan Polgar, the top ranked woman chess player in the world.

Susan Polgar, who achieved Grand Master status while raising two kids

sundry chess women links:
about her sister Judit,here,
Wikipedia entry about the three Polgar sisters, here,
about Sofia,here,
an interview with Susan, here*
and a women in chess quiz, here.

*note the photo of the three young Polgar sisters, circa 1980 I'm guessing, with a certain well-known politician and his wife. The image evokes two contradictory emotions in me. I wonder what Rod Serling, or Fox Mulder or even Count Floyd would have made of this picture...

Thursday, March 10, 2005

son of lorna doone blogging:

"dammit Jim, Enterprise sucks and deserves to be cancelled!"

"what if they had an episode where I travelled back through time and had sex with Jolene Blalock?"

"Nobody wants to see that! Well, you do...but that's it!"

"Can I have some cookies?"

"For the last time, no!"

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

a simple story

leave us alone.

aw c'mon! we just want to attack you a little bit.
and besides,

we want to give you Freedom!*

you lie. this what you want to do to us,

and this is what you and your master really look like...

(*copyright 2003.)

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Woolcott: "the Vampires Descend"

"the Vampires Descend"
from James Wolcott, yesterday:

Steve Gilliard, Atrios, and--well, just about every liberal blogger in whose veins decency flows is sounding the alarm about oozing through the Senate.

This unleashing of legislative machinery to further crush and pauperize the weak and overwhelmed in America sent me back to one of the most depressing yet indispensible books I've read in recent years, Liberty Under Siege by the late Walter Karp, the brilliant, committed historian and journalist...

Liberty Under Siege covers the honeymoon glow and warm promise of Jimmy Carter's inauguration and how swiftly, brutally they were snuffed, not just by Republican opponents but entrenched Democrats with their honkers in the trough and the Washington press corps (esp the Wash Post), which set about to savage Hamilton Jordan and Bert Lance to teach the upstarts from Georgia who runs this town. Today, even sympathetic souls dismiss Carter as an "ineffectual" president who has done exemplary good works since, but Karp documents how the political establishment, military and Israeli lobbies, and media crippled Carter from the outset, cut him off at the ankles after his first few steps.

via The Daou Report.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

a Sunday miscellany

I'll post about Social Security later in the week. For now:

from Body and Soul, "democratic catechism":

Today's Los Angeles Times... notes that when credit card users end up in bankruptcy court, in most cases the company has already made a profit, and the user has already paid more than he originally borrowed (but hasn't been able to get out from under the bill because of added on fees.) Even if you ignore the fact that most people who can't pay their bills find themselves in that predicament through no fault of their own, we're still not talking about people unable to pay what they borrowed, but about people unable to pay much more than they borrowed. This bill is the essence of modern Republican values (and those of its Democratic enablers): Using government to aid rich and powerful robbers.
Taxes used to benefit the community aren't government theft. Courts helping businesses wring blood from stones -- that's theft.

and more on the hideous bankruptcy bill from Avedon, at "the party that hates americans", here.

(it's called the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act of 2005, which I suppose is a little like calling Bush's enviro plan the clear skies initiative.)

Avedon also has this excellent and lengthy post,"How you became crazy*"
two excerpts:

...if the people who are best educated and most aware of what is going on are more liberal, maybe that's because you have to be ignorant to swallow conservatism. What is really suggested by this "criticism" is that the alleged "bias" isn't bias at all, it's just a recognition of what is, and that bias is required to lean to the right of this "liberal" position....The real question is not, then, about a bias toward liberalism or conservatism, but rather a belief that "news" should make some attempt to serve the public rather than just the corporate hierarchy.... doesn't really matter whether more journalists are liberal or conservative if most of the self-identified partisan conservatives are acting as stooges in a Solomon Asch experiment. They come out every day with their talking points, some of which are masterworks of spin that leave all common sense behind. Someone has taken an obvious, well-understood fact (like that the point in an election is to count the ballots) and turned it on its head to the point that you soon have the entire news media declaring that the sky is not blue (or that trying to count the ballots is "stealing the election"). This can only happen if conservatives are prepared to insist - and never express the slightest doubt - on the "truth" of their talking points. The very uniformity of their group-think gives it a power that makes others lose their grasp on reality; the very ability to consider more than one possibility makes one vulnerable to infection by even the most corrupt meme.

*remind me to nominate this one for a Koufax next year. Seriously.-- and don't be lazy(like me); go read the entire post.

a new(to me)blog, Liberals Against Terrorism, via Abu Aardvark at "A courageous stand against half-naked Lebanese girls"

and finally, "Walmart's First Lady"(Village Voice)

via the ever intrepid Harry.

oh, all right-- here's Lebanese pop singer Maria:

Friday, March 04, 2005

Sidney Blumenthal, Social Security, Dubya and you

In "Recycled Rhetoric", Sidney Blumenthal says that

"Bush's huge gamble on dismantling the cornerstone of the New Deal will fail."

That's how I know we're in trouble. Whenever Sidney Blumenthal says things are looking good for the democrats you should worry. He peed all over himself over John Kerry's speech at the democratic convention last summer, when Kerry got up there and saluted like a dumbass toy soldier after running away and hiding from the Swift Boat guys, and naturally nothing happened to his poll numbers. Then in the fall Blumenthal chortled in triumph after the debates, and well, you know what happened after that. I have the utmost respect for Blumenthal as a person. I think he has a great deal of integrity and is a good guy, and I'm glad he's on our side. But he doesn't have a lot of sense. I hate to say that Sidney Blumenthal is a dummy, but he's a dummy. Blumenthal is like a canary from another reality-- if you send him down the mine shaft he'll breathe just fine in spite of the fumes that birds from our reality(and with more sense) would gag and die on-- he's almost reliably unreliable.

Sure, the democrats have the poll numbers on their side in the social security debate, but so what? In the spring of 2001, before 9.11 made everybody crazy, the poll numbers were against massive tax cuts for the wealthy. Nevertheless, in the summer, again before 9.11, we got massive tax cuts for the wealthy. The same dynamic is at work here; Bush doesn't care if he wins ugly-- with the possible exception of his walkaway 1998 reelection to the Texas governorship(buoyed by the healthy Clinton economy), I don't think Bush has ever won anything any other way (although he'll still be more than happy to call it a mandate.).

Democrats are afraid of making specific proposals to shore up social security that might involve tax hikes, even indirect tax hikes like raising the flatline point from the present ninety grand a year. And they think just saying "there is no crisis" is enough. Sorry guys, it isn't. As long as democrats run away from offering reasoned arguments in favor of raising the flatline point on the SS/FICA tax and just play defense, they'll lose. As long as democrats are afraid of offering specifics, republicans, along with the cowed, compliant press, will be more than happy to tell America what democrats stand for. I have specifics. I'll have more on social security in two days.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Hunter S. Thompson revisited

via Alex Jones at Prison Planet--

Newsday: ASPEN, Colo. -- Hunter S. Thompson's body was found in a chair in the kitchen in front of his typewriter with the word "counselor" typed in the center of the page, according to sheriff's reports. The word was typed on stationery from the Fourth Amendment Foundation, which was started to defend victims of unwarranted search and seizure, according to reports released Tuesday. [2.28.2005-HZ]

from the Toronto Globe and Mail:


Saturday, February 26, 2005, Page F9
Hunter telephoned me on Feb. 19, the night before his death. He sounded scared. It wasn't always easy to understand what he said, particularly over the phone, he mumbled, yet when there was something he really wanted you to understand, you did. He'd been working on a story about the World Trade Center attacks and had stumbled across what he felt was hard evidence showing the towers had been brought down not by the airplanes that flew into them but by explosive charges set off in their foundations. Now he thought someone was out to stop him publishing it: "They're gonna make it look like suicide," he said. "I know how these bastards think."

That's how I imagine a tribute to Hunter S. Thompson should begin. He was indeed working on such a story, but it wasn't what killed him. He exercised his own option to do that. As he said to more than one person, "I would feel real trapped in this life if I didn't know I could commit suicide at any time."

the first paragraph appears for free at the Globe and Mail's URL; the second paragraph and the rest of the story requires a (paid) registration. If the Globe and Mail is such an august journal, and if Roberts was indeed Thompson's friend, why are they exploiting his death, whether suicide or not, with such a teasing equivocation? Nevertheless, there are pieces that don't add up.(2nd paragraph courtesy Mack White's 2.27.2005 post,which I had difficulty hyperlinking.)

from CNN:

"I was on the phone with him, he set the receiver down and he did it. I heard the clicking of the gun," Anita Thompson told the Aspen Daily News in Friday's editions. She said her husband had asked her to come home from a health club so they could work on his weekly ESPN column -- but instead of saying goodbye, he set the telephone down and shot himself. Thompson said she heard a loud, muffled noise, but didn't know what had happened. "I was waiting for him to get back on the phone," she said. (Her account to Rocky Mountain News reporter Jeff Kass is slightly different: "I did not hear any bang," she told Kass. She added that Thompson's son, who was in the house at the time, believed that a book had fallen when he heard the shot, according to Kass' report.)

some additional links:

Liberty Think: "Thompson thought 9-11 was an inside job"

Total 911 Info

NY Times: 9-11 Report

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

a March 1st miscellany

Bill Scher: "Are we the next Syria?"

Arvin Hill: "Death in Iraq...and now, the weather!"

Andrew O'Hehir at Salon writes about "America's Forgotten Atrocity"