Sad Day…

The front page of the Boston Globe is dismal today:

  • With heart attack victim aboard, T train stops twice: “A man suffering a heart attack yesterday morning was kept aboard an MBTA commuter train that made two scheduled stops before reaching waiting paramedics at Back Bay Station in Boston as horrified passengers implored the crew to bypass the stations.” [Addendum: this link does not seem to be available anymore at the Boston Globe website.]
  • The beached whales return to shore; many die despite rescuers’ futile efforts, to the horror of throngs of vacationing onlookers. [And to think I was jubilant yesterday…]
  • Massachusetts is cutting reimbursement rates for “MassHealth” (Medicaid) prescriptions, prompting the three pharmacy chains that together account for the bulk of Massachusetts prescription fulfillment to threaten to stop filling MassHealth patients’ prescriptions. The Speaker of the House sneers that the “taxpayers” have had enough of subsidizing the poor in this way. Admittedly, MassHealth expenditures are growing at around 10% a year and are already the single largest expenditure line in the state budget, but if Medicaid recipients can’t fill their prescriptions in their neighborhoods, thousands will go without medications, literally consigning some to death.

    Instead of squeezing Medicaid recipients between the rock and hard place of the “taxpayers” and the profit margin of the retail pharmacy chains, Massachusetts (which was one of the states that was most adamant about going after Big Tobacco when Scott Harshbarger was attorney general), ought to go to the source — this is largely a problem of the rapacity of the pharmaceutical manufacturers. Putting pharmacies out of business, gouging ‘bottomless’ entitlement programs, and using poor medication-dependent patients as life-and-death pawns are just business as usual, until pricing policy for Medicaid patients’ drugs is made an issue just as the pricing of AIDS drugs for Africa has been.

Integrity or Political Gambit?

By Attacking Bush, Kerry Sets Himself Apart: “For many Democrats, the war on terrorism has made that kind of frontal assault on Bush foreign policy seem risky, if not politically suicidal. But not for Mr. Kerry. A decorated Vietnam veteran and potential presidential candidate, he has lustily attacked the administration on policies like trans-Atlantic relations, Pentagon spending, Middle East negotiations and even Mr. Bush’s greatest triumph, Afghanistan.” NY Times

Can you picture that? “Here you can take a pre-chosen image, alter it how ever you like and post it for others to view, vote, comment and submit their own versions. The images that we select for editing can come from anywhere, such as news, sports, a random keyword search, anything!”

Double Jeopardy

After Treatment for Mental Illness, Fight for Insurance Often Follows:

“The social stigma surrounding mental illness may have eased, but many insurers are still reluctant to issue individual policies to people with a psychiatric history — be it depression, anxiety or more serious conditions like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

A record of treatment for any of those conditions can make a person ineligible for long-term disability insurance and complicate efforts to obtain health insurance. Though life insurers rarely decline people with psychiatric problems, they may refuse to offer the low-cost “preferred” rates intended for healthy nonsmokers.” NY Times

Living Museum:

A Protected Space, Where Art Comes Calling:

If Dr. Janos Marton ran the world, there would be protected spaces everywhere for people with mental illness to create paintings and sculptures, drawings and lithographs, installations, murals and collages, poetry and novels, songs and symphonies.

The abandoned buildings on the grounds of old state hospitals would be turned into sheltered workshops.

Warehouses in urban centers, where the mentally ill pace the streets and scrounge meals from garbage cans, would become safe harbors, working studios filled with color and form.

Delusion and hallucination, pain and sorrow, fear and manic exuberance would find their outlet in something quite simple, the creation of works of art.

Dr. Marton’s vision is hardly an idle one. At the Living Museum, housed in Building 75 of the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens, the state hospital’s former main kitchen and dining areas, he is the director of just such an “art asylum,” a refuge where in the 19 years since the museum opened more than 800 men and women have shed their identities as psychiatric patients and bloomed instead as artists…

In a recent interview, Dr. Marton discussed the museum’s goals and the relationship between art and mental illness… NY Times

NIH Licenses New MRI Technology

Detailed Images of Nerves, Other Soft Tissues: “A new technology that allows physicians and researchers to make detailed, three-dimensional maps of nerve pathways in the brain, heart muscle fibers, and other soft tissues has been licensed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The new imaging technology, called Diffusion Tensor Magnetic Resonance Imaging (DT-MRI) was invented by researchers now at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). DT-MRI may allow physicians and researchers to better understand and diagnose a wide range of medical conditions such as stroke, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), multiple sclerosis (MS), autism, attention deficit disorder (ADD), and schizophrenia.” National Institutes of Health press release

Medical myth, marketing opportunity?

NPR’s The Connection considers Andropause: “If you’re over forty and a man, it could be coming to your body soon. Andropause, or male menopause. Symptoms include fatigue, moodiness, and decreased sex-drive.

But wait, from the industry that can lift you up, calm you down, re-grow your hair, even give Bob Dole back his sex life, comes the latest effort to medicalize the living.

Death and taxes may be certain, but not middle age, if you believe the hype from the makers of testosterone replacement therapies. Take “T” and regain the form and function of a twenty year-old.” A discussion between Dr. Jerome Groopman of Harvard Medical School, who authored a New Yorker article, “Hormones for Men”, which is apparently no longer online; and geriatric endocrinologist Dr. John Morley of St. Louis University. [Listen].

F-16s Pursue Unknown Craft Over DC

“Military officials confirm that two F-16 jets from Andrews Air Force Base were scrambled early yesterday after radar detected an unknown aircraft in area airspace. But they scoff at the idea that the jets were chasing a strange and speedy, blue unidentified flying object.

…At the same time, military officials say they do not know just what the jets were chasing, because whatever it was disappeared. “There are any number of scenarios, but we don’t know what it was,” said Maj. Barry Venable, another spokesman for NORAD.

… Radar detected a low, slow-flying aircraft about 1 a.m. yesterday, according to a military official. Controllers were unable to establish radio communication with the unidentified aircraft, and NORAD was notified. When the F-16s carrying air-to-air missiles were launched from Andrews, the unidentified aircraft’s track faded from the radar, the military official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

… (One observer) remains convinced that what he saw was not routine. “It looked like a shooting star with no trailing mist,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”Washington Post

Let’s see, it appeared on radar, so it wasn’t an optical illusion. The civilian’s observation that it looked like a ‘shooting star with no trailing mist’ suggests it may indeed have been a meteor, which disappeared when it vaporized. At least it’s probably not Al Qaeda [although of course if you’re not with us you’re against us].

Fears that Saudi Arabia could fall to al-Qaeda

“Saudi Arabia is

teetering on the brink of collapse, fuelling Foreign Office fears of an extremist takeover of one of the West’s key allies in the war on terror.

Anti-government demonstrations have swept the desert kingdom in the past months in protest at the pro-American stance of the de facto ruler, Prince Abdullah.

At the same time, Whitehall officials are concerned that Abdullah could face a palace coup from elements within the royal family sympathetic to al-Qaeda.

Saudi sources said the Pentagon had recently sponsored a secret conference to look at options if the royal family fell.” Guardian UK

Learning to love Big Brother

Daniel Kurtzman, San Francisco writer and former Washington political correspondent: Bush channels George Orwell: “Here’s a question for constitutional scholars: Can a sitting president be charged with plagiarism?

As President Bush wages his war against terrorism and moves to create a huge homeland security apparatus, he appears to be borrowing heavily, if not ripping off ideas outright, from George Orwell. The work in question is “1984, ” the prophetic novel about a government that controls the masses by spreading propaganda, cracking down on subversive thought and altering history to suit its needs. It was intended to be read as a warning about the evils of totalitarianism — not a how-to manual.” SF Chronicle


William Safire’s take on “Blog” in his On Language column in the Sunday New York Times. Nothing special here, except that it took him so long to notice.

I was disappointed that he hasn’t caught wind of my use of blink, originally suggested to me by my friend Abby shortly after I started FmH. It is probably time for my annual reexplanation for FmH readers who may puzzle over this idiosyncratic usage of mine — which as far as I can tell has only caught on with one other weblogger. Blink: Just as a blog is a weblog, a blink is a web link. Continuing the wordplay, just as “we_blog” (instead of logging), “we_blink” (instead of simply linking).

The voice of the lonely crowd

Martin Amis on the relevance of fiction after 9-11:

‘After September 11, then, writers faced quantitative change, but not qualitative change. In the following days and weeks, the voices coming from their rooms were very quiet; still, they were individual voices, and playfully rational, all espousing the ideology of no ideology. They stood in eternal opposition to the voice of the lonely crowd, which, with its yearning for both power and effacement, is the most desolate sound you will ever hear. “Desolate”: “giving an impression of bleak and dismal emptiness… from L. desolat-, desolare ‘abandon’, from de- ‘thoroughly’ solus ‘alone’.” ‘ Guardian UK

Ear to the ground

Elephant feet made for talking?: ‘Elephants may be listening to and communicating with each other through their feet.

Recent research by US scientists supports previous claims that elephants can interpret slight vibrations they pick up in the ground.

Speaking to BBC World Service, Stanford University biologist Caitlin O’Connell-Rodwell, said: “For people who have spent time studying elephants, this is a relief.

“They finally understand some strange things that were happening with elephants and they really are excited about it.’ BBC [via RobotWisdom]

Via loose association, a piece about someone who doesn’t have his ear to the ground:

The Rogue Elephant: Bush Jr.’s Nuclear Sabre-Rattling — Francis Boyle on his contempt for international law. Counterpunch [also via RobotWisdom]

Hit Where It Hurts

Jorn Barger repost to of a new tactical article by Ted Kaczynski, with ambivalently supportive response from Green Anarchy Collective which originally published it.

There are five books that we can recommend

to our readers that will help get them started on the

process of deconstructing their faith in and

allegiance to technology. They are:

The Technological Society by Jacques Ellul

(out-of-print, but readilly available in any good

used bookstore)

Technics and Human Development: The Myth Of The

Machine Volume 1
by Lewis Mumford

Technics and Civilization by Lewis Mumford

My Name Is Chellis & I’m In Recovery From

by Chellis Glendinng


Four Arguments For The Elimination Of Television by

Jerry Mander, which focuses on the destructive

impact of a very specific technology but which also

offers an incredibly strong critique of

technological mediation which has a much wider


Happy belated Bloomsday:

Get ready for another big stink:

A new, huge “corpse flower” is expected to bloom this week at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Last year’s bloom of a Titan arum drew tens of thousands of visitors to the UW Botany Department greenhouse to see the exotic plant whose rare, purplish flower can grow as big as 4 feet wide – and many times that size in its native habitat, the Indonesian rain forests.

Fewer than 15 blooms had been recorded in the United States before last year’s flower at UW, which tied the record at 101 inches tall.

The new corpse flower is from a plant that came from the same seed source as the other one and has been at UW for about seven years. It grew 14 inches in a week and is now 59 inches tall and growing.

It grows from a tuber that can weigh up to 170 pounds, and it gets its name for the stench it puts out to attract carrion beetles, dung beetles and sweat bees to pollinate it.” Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel [via higgy]

I posted a blink to the story, and a live webcam, the last time one bloomed last year. The flower will reportedly again get a web presence, sans smell, this time around.

Bad Faith Healing?

California Medical Board Suspends Internet Doc’s License: “Jon Opsahl, M.D. will appear before a California administrative law judge July 25 in a hearing about alleged violations of a state law that requires physicians to perform a “good faith” examination before prescribing certain medications for patients, reports The Sacramento Bee. Opsahl allegedly wrote more than 8,000 prescriptions for antidepressants and painkillers over the course of a year for patients that he had spoken with on the phone rather than seen in person. The Bee reports that the complaint against Opsahl charges he received $60 for each of the phone consultations, which were referred to him by a now-closed Texas-based Web site.” Today in E-Health Business

Autism and Autoimmunity:

Vijendra K. Singh, Sheren X. Lin, Elizabeth Newell, Courtney Nelson: Abnormal Measles-Mumps-Rubella Antibodies and CNS Autoimmunity in Children with Autism : “Stemming from this evidence, we suggest that an inappropriate antibody response to MMR, specifically the measles component thereof, might be related to pathogenesis of autism… ” Journal of Biomedical Science This has been a persistent speculation; findings have been contradictory. Obviously, important public policy decisions about childhood immunization depend on getting a better bead on this issue.

The Upside of the Down Market

Corporate Corruption Has its Advantages, says P.J. O’Rourke. “(It) endangers everything in which we have, over the past many years, invested our time, effort, and money–particularly Republican control of the House of Representatives. And our 401(k) plans aren’t doing so well either. In this period of gloom–with liberals seeking to make hay from capitalist foibles and our own capitalist foibles reduced in value to bales of ditto–it behooves us to look for a moment at the bright side of corporate corruption.” The Weekly Standard

Ubicomp and 911:

A speech (scroll down about half a page) Bruce Sterling gave at a design conference in Brussels last week, to which I was pointed by Joe Katzman’s piece on his Winds of Change. Sterling describes “a rather extensively worked-out vision in worldbuilding from the point of view of ubiquitous computation in the 21st century”, and a notion he calls None of this really appears well-worked-out to me, which he actually acknowledges apologetically several times in the speech, because he’s just a science-fiction writer, folks:

“The actual September 11 event, 9/11, was a rare and remarkable thing. And, with fewer than 3,000 people dead, it’s just not that big a deal as genuine catastrophes go. Politically, theologically and militarily it was huge, but a workaday wouldn’t fret much about terrorism. Instead, it would have to deal mostly with floods, fires, climate change, earthquakes, volcanoes and (let’s hope never) asteroids and weapons of mass destruction.

So, basically, with, we are describing a social re-definition of computer geeks as firemen. Native twenty-first century computer geeks as muscular, with-it, first-responder types. I think this would be pretty good for the computer industry. We all need to take the dysfunctional physical world far more seriously. This week, Italy’s flooding, Texas is flooding, Colorado’s on fire. This morning, the brand-new wilderness forests around the site of the former Chernobyl are on fire, spewing radioactive ash hither and yon. Chunks of Antarctica the size of Rhode Island have fallen into the sea. I could go on.

“…This is the sort of activity that humanity is required to deal with

in this new century. If we build a successful method with which to do

this, those useful tactics will spread across the fabric of our

civilization. I believe they are already spreading. An innovation like will likely serve as a camel’s nose in the tent for a whole

series of ubicomp [ubiquitous computing] applications across society…”

Tom Clancy meets Revelations:

Fundamentally unsound:”Left Behind, the bestselling series of paranoid, pro-Israel end-time thrillers, may sound kooky, but America’s right-wing leaders really believe this stuff…There is probably very little overlap between Salon‘s readership and the audience for apocalyptic Christian fiction, but these books and their massive success deserve attention if only for what they tell us about the core beliefs of a great many people in this country, people whose views shape the way America behaves in the world. ” Salon [via Walker]

Life on six bucks an hour

A portrait of Barbara Ehrenreich’s unlikely bestseller Nickel and Dimed, an ‘undercover’ view of the working poor:

“Her experiences, however, have had a lasting effect on her own conscience. ‘I used to have a boyfriend who thought we should have a cleaner. I couldn’t explain why I was opposed to the idea – it just seemed emotional on my part. Then I did the job and I knew why I felt so uncomfortable with it. Do I still eat out? Yes, but remember: even in an expensive restaurant, where the waiters do well in tips, there are still the dishwashers and the other people in the background.

‘My perception really has changed. Now, when I see a woman behind the counter in a convenience store, I have so many questions. How long has she been on her feet? What does she get paid? Who does she go home to?’ ” Guardian UK Books [via Walker]

Forecast Exchange

NewsFutures is a game. Similar to fantasy stock market games, this one lets players trade on news events. You predict the outcome of various real-world news events we supply. So the more you know, the more likely you are to predict correctly and win. And it’s not just how much you know. You can benefit from the bad predictions of others.

Win what? NewsFutures won’t make you rich, but it will give you the ability to bid for a variety of prizes using the “eXchange dollars” (X$) you earn from playing.’ “Seriously addictive!” — Bruce Sterling

"An important component in the construction of the sense of self…"

Special Nerves Register the Emotional Context of a Pleasurable Touch:

“Scientists announced a study today that shows humans have a special set of nerves for feeling pleasure at a mother’s caress or a lover’s embrace.

These nerves are sensitive to the soft touch of fingers gliding over a forearm or a parent’s soothing hand, but not to rough touches, jabs or pinches. Scientists speculate that the nerves might be designed to guide humans toward tenderness and nurturing — a theory bolstered by the fact that the nerves are wired to the same brain areas activated by romantic love and sexual arousal. Although these special nerves, which have thin fibers and send relatively slow signals to the brain, had been identified in animals and humans, their role had been unclear…” Washington Post [thanks, Norton!]

A Plague on the White House:

“A dead crow discovered on the White House grounds was infected with West Nile virus, health officials said after the bird was tested.

The crow is one of two found near a fountain on the South Lawn this week. The first was discovered late Sunday by Secret Service officers, who then found the second early Monday….An additional 45 dead birds in the city have tested positive for West Nile so far this year, according to the city’s Health Department.” Boston Globe

The Culture of Liberty:

Mario Vargas Llosa:

“Cries of Western cultural hegemony are as common as they are misguided. In reality, globalization does not suffocate local cultures but rather liberates them from the ideological conformity of nationalism.” Foreign Policy

OTOH (from June, 2000): Assault of the Earth:

‘Sitting in the Phoenix offices one recent afternoon, the essayist Pico Iyer smiles and admits that his new book — The Global Soul: Jet Lag, Shopping Malls, and the Search for Home — might be a bit “discombobulating.”

No kidding. The literary equivalent of a red-eye flight, the book flits between Los Angeles and Atlanta, Hong Kong and Toronto, England and Japan in an attempt to fathom the human cost of globalism.

As Iyer sees it, our shrinking planet — with its drop-of-a-hat intercontinental travel — has led to a new breed: the Global Soul, a “full-time citizen of nowhere” who dashes around the planet in a sort of cultural limbo. “His memories might be set in airports that looked more and more like transnational cities,” Iyer writes, “in cities that looked more and more like transnational airports. Lacking a binding sense of `we,’ he might nonetheless remain fiercely loyal to a single airline.” ‘ Boston Phoenix

Antsy Up:

Ant-bite case yields $5.35M award: “A 79-year-old woman who was found swarmed by fire ants at the nursing home where she lived was awarded $5.35 million by an Alabama jury.

Linda Law, an employee of Greystone Retirement Community in Huntsville, Ala., made the shocking discovery when she entered Lucille Devers’ darkened room to deliver clean laundry. Ants covered Devers’ body, her bed and the walls of her room. Devers, who was sitting, stood up and Law saw ants flowing from her mouth, nose, ears and hair.” National Law Journal [via Romenesko’s Obscure Store]

The State of Starbucks:

How Much Is Too Much? “Perhaps it means something that in San Francisco, there are now more Starbucks outlets than publicly traded Internet companies. Everybody knows that one day the franchise’s caffeinated growth rate will have to slow, but the numbers argue that it might not be soon.” One Morgan Stanley analyst indicates the saturation point beyond which further growth would hurt the company might not come until there are 3 stores for every 100,000 in the North American population. And then there’s the rest of the world… Business 2.0

Cosmic freeway …

…could transform space travel: “An elaborate matrix of paths scattered throughout the entire solar system can dramatically cut the amount of power needed for spacecraft to explore our celestial neighborhood, NASA announced this week…

Past space wanderers have already tested the space road, including asteroids and comets. Comet Shoemaker-Levy, for example, collided with Jupiter “when it took an off-ramp toward the giant gas planet,” NASA said.

Some scientists theorize that a killer asteroid traveled along the highway when it smacked into Earth and wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. ” CNN

Update on Dissipated Royalty:

Jeb Bush’s daughter fails drug program:

“Gov. Jeb Bush’s 24-year-old daughter Noelle has failed to meet the conditions of a drug treatment plan ordered by a court, the governor said Wednesday.

Noelle Bush was arrested in January at a pharmacy drive-through window for allegedly trying to buy the anti-anxiety drug Xanax with a fraudulent prescription. She was admitted to a drug treatment center in February, with the possibility the charges would be dropped if she completed the program.

It was not immediately clear how she violated the conditions of the program and what the consequences would be.” CNN

New species?

Giant squid washes up on beach: “Scientists in Australia are investigating what may be a new species of giant squid, after one of the deep sea creatures washed up on a Tasmanian beach over the weekend.

The squid weighs up to 250 kilograms and, including tentacles, measured almost 18 meters (60 feet), the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported on Monday.” CNN Still nowhere near It Came From Beneath the Sea sizes, for those who remember the ’50’s monster picture, but getting big enough to account for the legendary battles with whales which sometimes wash up onshore dead with large sucker scars.

Yale turns Princeton in to the Feds

Yale Tells FBI of Rival’s Breach of Web Site:

“Yale University complained to the FBI today that admissions officers from Ivy League rival Princeton University broke into Yale’s online admissions notification system and snooped on student files.

Princeton issued an immediate apology and suspended its associate dean of admission.

Yale accused Princeton of viewing confidential decisions regarding 11 candidates who had applied to both schools — in some cases, doing so before the students had learned whether they were accepted.” Washington Post

Manhattan Humberts, Watch It!

Listen up, fellows: Rich, bored teenage girls in New York City are on the prowl for twentysomething (and in some cases, thirtysomething) men. And this time, they’re not just arming themselves with fake ID’s. Young women barely past puberty—and before, ahem, the age of consent—are sashaying onto the Internet, researching adult life, and constructing elaborate alter egos designed to dupe men all too willing to believe their lies.” The New York Observer

What, Me Worry?

“Recession, terrorist threat, clogged arteries, a hole in the ozone the size of France? Fuhgeddaboutit! While lots of conscientious Americans are frantically juggling their finances and questioning their doctors, many are responding by simply not responding.” NY Times

Not What It Used to Be

“In the seemingly staid world of physics, time travel is all the rage. Some of the giants of physics like Kip S. Thorne of the California Institute of Technology, John A. Wheeler of Princeton University (who coined the term black hole) and the world’s best-known physicist, Stephen W. Hawking of the University of Cambridge, have written books in the last few years with speculations about time travel.” NY Times

PCs under attack

Hollywood hacking bill hits House:

“Copyright owners would be able to legally hack into peer-to-peer networks, according to a bill introduced in the House of Representatives on Thursday.

…(T)he measure would dramatically rewrite federal law to permit nearly unchecked electronic disruptions if a copyright holder has a “reasonable basis” to believe that piracy is occurring.

The bill, sponsored by Reps. Howard Berman, D-Calif., and Howard Coble, R-N.C., would immunize groups such as the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) from all state and federal laws if they disable, block or otherwise impair a “publicly accessible peer-to-peer file-trading network.” CNET

Cloning machines go on sale on the web

DiY cloning is with us at last, and you can buy it on the web. Well, sort of. If you look here, you will find that for the bargain price of $9,199 ex shipping you can buy an RMX2010 Clonaid direct fusion, umm, thingummy.

It is, apparently, a device used for embryonic cell fusion, and we get the impression that it is more efficient than the chamber method, which we confess we hadn’t heard of either. But if you have a ready supply of ovums and cellular scrapings from the individual of your choice, we deduce that this is all you need to produce your very own duplicate person. Well, apart from a womb, that is. We reckon you probably need one of those too.

Clonaid, you may be aware, is an interesting operation. It was founded by one Raël, also founder of the Raëlian Movement, and although the man himself no longer runs Clonaid he still figures prominently on the front page of the site. This tells us that “life on Earth was created scientifically through DNA and genetic engineering by a human extraterrestrial race whose name, Elohim, is found in the Hebrew Bible and was mistranslated by the word ‘God’. The Raelian Movement also claims that Jesus was resurrected through an advanced cloning technique performed by the Elohim.” The Register

Somebody shoot this guy and put him out of his misery…

Ron Borges writes for NBC Sports and covers boxing and the NFL for the Boston Globe.The Spike Report pointed me to this piece — Great feat, but not a great athlete — about Lance Armstrong’s Tour de France victory. The reader poll on the page disagrees with him 96% to 4%, and I agree with Spike that this has got to be a deliberate provocation. Even taking into account the fact that he might actually have to like boxing to cover it for a major media outlet, could he possibly really be so dense as to believe that cycling is just “pumping your legs up and down while your feet are strapped to bicycle pedals”, variations on which theme he repeats over and over like a mantra in this piece? And, if “for my money, being the greatest athlete in the world involves strength, speed, agility, hand-eye coordination, mental toughness and the ability to make your body do things that defy description”, which of those are not true of a world-class cyclist? Maybe Borges’ wife was unfaithful to a real man like him with some sissy cyclist or something…

"Now comes the hard part."

New Rules on Accountants, but Also Questions: “The legislative agreement approved today by a vote of 423 to 3 in the House of Representatives and 99 to 0 in the Senate sets up a new and potentially far-reaching regulatory apparatus for the accounting profession. But it leaves crucial details to the discretion of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which is about to undergo a potentially stormy transition.”NY Times

Who is "I"?

From economist and science fiction aficionado Brad DeLong’s Semi-Daily Journal:

I have never been a strong believer that there is a single “I”. Those times when you get in the car to go to the grocery store, and find ten minutes later that you are pulling into your office parking lot: who–or what–has been driving the car in the meantime?

There is a story that Neils Bohr’s wife once at the start of a party sent him upstairs to change his tie; an hour later she found him, asleep, in bed; taking off the tie had triggered the going-to-bed subroutine[?] reflex[?] entity[?] and had overwhelmed the express conscious purpose. I remember author David Brin once saying that he could not switch from finger-typing to voice-writing, because the raconteur who spoke through his mouth was vastly inferior at plot, characterization, and structure to the writer who communicated through the hands.

My daimones–as Walter Jon Williams calls them–do boring things like drive to the office. Teresa Nielsen Hayden, however, has a daimon that makes good omelettes… [more]

Back Door Man:

Joshua Micah Marshall:

“The White House just should not use the terrorism card to muscle through an ideological wish-list that it lacks the courage to push on its own terms.

So why no … outrage at the Bush White House for doing (that)?

The White House is insisting on a Homeland Security bill with virtually all the civil service and collective bargaining rights of federal employees stripped out of it? The excuse of course is that the DHS is just too important to pussyfoot around with the sort of loafers who slide by under the civil service regime. But this argument — though superficially plausible — doesn’t bear much scrutiny, especially since these protections now apply to people doing just the same kinds of work throughout the federal government.” Talking Points Memo

Kausal Links

Kaus also points to <a href=”

“>this recent preoccupation of Lloyd Grove in the Washington Post:

Mutually Assured Dysfunction? Only a matter of time: Two like-minded magazines, the liberal-thinking American Prospect and the peace-oriented Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, are paying lawyers to try to resolve a dispute that erupted when the Prospect used an image of the Bulletin‘s copyrighted “Doomsday Clock” on its July 1 cover without permission — and, worse, changed the time. Bulletin publisher Stephen Schwartz, who noted that the Prospect set the clock at 4 minutes to doomsday, while the correct time is 7 minutes to doomsday, told us yesterday that his magazine sent a letter of displeasure, and that he isn’t entirely satisfied with the Prospect‘s correction, which appears in the latest issue. “What were they thinking? Schwartz demanded. “Something there must have broken down.”

You can just hear Kaus’ raspy palms rubbing together in glee at this specter of a dispute among the “liberal-thinking”

and the “peace-oriented”, although he disses TAP with that ultimate insult, “obscure” (which, at least to readers of FmH, it certainly is not…). Kaus really reaches escape velocity over Grove’s final point:

We hear a settlement might involve a favorable article about the Bulletin in a future issue of the Prospect. Our call to Prospect Editor Bob Kuttner was not returned.

Mickey the Rhino chomps at the bit [sorry to mix my metaphors with Krugman’s… — FmH]:

Wouldn’t that be a violation of, you know, journalistic ethics? (Imagine if the NYT or WaPo settled a libel suit by promising to publish a favorable article about a plaintiff.) Surely TAP wouldn’t do anything like that …

Wouldn’t that depend on exactly what Grove meant by “…a settlement might involve…”? Too bad Kuttner has yet, if ever, to weigh in on this one. At one extreme, The Bulletin might have demanded a favorable article as a condition of not bringing suit. At the other, might a conciliatory TAP have cited their preexisting admiration, proffering their intention to profile The Bulletin that may have predated the dispute? Most retractions I’ve seen in the press bend over backwards to compliment the source you might otherwise have been perceived as disparaging; that’s precisely what you are trying to achieve with a retraction in the first place. And it would be reasonable to claim you want to write about The Bulletin long about now. A venerable old slumbering giant of the disarmament movement since concerns about the nuclear arms race dropped off most people’s radar screens (a complacent self-delusion I’ve noted with concern here) after the collapse of the Soviet Union, it has been receiving a wave of fresh attention since the warmongering Son of a Bush has taken office, since we abrogated the ABM treaty to restart the nuclear arms race with NMD, since 9-11 and the WoT®, and since the loose cannons have been rolled into position along the Indian-Pakistani line in the sand. If you’re curious, scroll past the references to the Bulletin‘s own pages in this Google search to see some of the ‘net attention they receive these days…

And what’s up with Kaus’ continual references to the Washington Post as “WaPo“? Is it just me, or does it seem he’s enjoying evoking resonances to “wacko” just abit?

A sumptuous feast:

Site for a seven-week Kurosawa and Mifune Film Series at New York’s Film Forum this summer with all-new 35 mm prints, many with new translations and subtitles. Yojimbo, Sanjuro, Stray Dog, Red Beard, The Bad Sleep Well, Drunken Angel, Throne of Blood, I Live in Fear, High and Low, Hidden Fortress and of course Rashomon and Seven Samurai. Go see them all…


New York Times film critic Elvis Mitchell on the retrospective:

Kurosawa used the action genre more luxuriantly than any other director because he unleashed Mifune as a force of nature — the havoc he wrought was as frightening as we could imagine because the director allowed us to understand what Mifune’s victims were up against. Despite all the derring-do of Hong Kong martial-arts films, none of their directors ever lingered on the deadly physicality of the stars. Kurosawa let Mifune’s oaken arms say as much about his ruined amoral samurai in Sanjuro (Aug. 27-29) as the actor’s murderously swift shifts of facial expression did. NY Times

Ah, to be in New York this summer with time on my hands! In the Good Old Days, Boston’s late lamented Park Square Cinema would have a samurai film festival, oh perhaps on an annual basis, but this beats all… A new print of Yojimbo (which I watch over and over again on an nth-generation copy of a VHS tape)?? [thanks, Abby]


Pointed to by Rebecca Blood, this entry in Jeff Gates’ Life Outtacontext responds to the recent New Scientist item about eccentricity growing with age (to which I blinked) with a list of his own eccentricities. Nice enough; he sounds like someone I’d love to meet. But scroll down to the end for a worthy discussion of his own random acts of kindness… and be inspired.

Funding Difficult Partners:

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Hilton L. Root: The Political Roots of Poverty:

“This essay has two purposes. The first is to lay out some empirical evidence about the relationship between economic aid and systems of governance. The second is to address the problem of how the U.S. government should deal with difficult partners. On the first task there is a wealth of data that suggests some surprising connections between the length of political tenure, the nature of governance, and the role of aid money. That data and those connections, in turn, can help us to think through the second task.”

Does Western-style development fueled by foreign aid defuse the potential for terrorism embodied in the rage of the dispossessed? “In a world where development is state-driven, what will happen to countries without minimally functioning states? What institutional alternatives should we be thinking about where an effectively functioning state is a distant reality?”The National Interest

True Confessions

“… (W)hat tends to do in the wrongly convicted is the kind of evidence that seems clinching, that often is clinching—namely, eyewitness identifications and confessions. But the human memory is not a video recorder; eyewitness testimony is notoriously flawed. And although most of those who confess are guilty, people can and do confess to crimes they did not commit… Two simple measures could go a long way toward ensuring that findings of criminal guilt are genuine“, says Margaret Talbot, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation

. She suggests that lineups of criminal suspects be conducted sequentially instead of en masse, under the direction of police personnel who do not themselves know which of those in the lineup is the suspect; and that all interrogations be videotaped so that later reexamination can detect how much coercion had been used. The Atlantic

Better Fewer, but Better

‘Some books are necessary, some are wonderful, few are both. In that select group belongs Joseph Epstein’s Snobbery: The American Version… With Snobbery, Epstein undertakes a book-length essay in a series of interconnected essays, each of two dozen chapters addressing a different type of snobbery. The amazingly alert and perceptive author pursues snobbishness from its spotlighted stages to its hidden breeding grounds and discovers striking varieties in crannies the rest of us would have overlooked.” LA Times Calendar

"Non scriverò piú."

Reading Cesare Pavese:

“Non scriverò piú.” With these solemn words, which mean “I will not write anymore,” the Italian novelist, short-story writer, and poet Cesare Pavese (1908-1950) concluded his diary, and killed himself nine days later by taking an overdose of sleeping pills.

Of what is a writer’s suicide emblematic? Of writing’s inability to save a life? Ardent lovers of literature may even find it hard to believe that a talent like Pavese’s could not somehow have kept on producing, plunging anew into the toils of composition as a way of resolving perfunctorily (or at least of putting off) the comparatively minor problems of unrequited love and daily living. But of course I am waxing ironic. It is arresting and, I daresay, grimly informative that Pavese’s extraordinarily lucid and pessimistic diary is entitled Il mestiere di vivere (1952), a book translated into English as This Business of Living and all too significantly emphasizing the “métier” or “trade” of living–as in, say, “Mastering the Trade of Living.” Context

Human Development in the Arab World

“Under the joint auspices of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development a recently published report, Arab Human Development Report 2002 (Creating Opportunities for Future Generations), diagnosed human development in 22 Arab countries in a forthcoming and even blunt manner.

The UNDP has customarily measured the Human Development Index (HDI) in terms of four variables: life expectancy, adult literacy, education enrollment ratios and gross domestic product per capita. This report transcends the UNDP’s traditional criteria and measures human development in terms of three deficits: the freedom deficit, the women’s empowerment deficit, and the human capabilities/knowledge deficit relative to income…” Middle East Media Research Institute


Ishle Yi Park: Sa-I-Gu: “Since I’ve written Sa-I-Gu, I’ve performed it in New York, California, and Minnesota. Reading it is always a visceral experience for me–I try to relive the emotions I felt while writing it, so rage, grief, and hope rise to the surface while performing it. It contains fragments of our story–my story–the story that has been ignored or denied by the media. The point of it is to communicate this experience, so people of all backgrounds feel it, with their minds and hearts.” In the Fray

Tolerating Intolerance:

The Challenge of Fundamentalist Islam in Western Europe

…Owing partly to different immigration patterns, but partly also to America’s genius for turning immigrants into proudly integrated citizens with realigned loyalties, Muslims in America tend to be more affluent, more assimilated, and more religiously moderate than their co-religionists in Europe…

…For various reasons, Western European Muslims are more likely than their American counterparts to live in tightly knit religious communities, to adhere to a narrow fundamentalist faith, and to resist integration into mainstream society. The distance between mainstream society and the Muslim subculture can be especially striking in the Netherlands and in the countries of Scandinavia, whose relatively small, ethnically homogeneous native populations had, until recent decades, little or no experience with large-scale immigration from outside Europe….

To an American, such a generation-by-generation perpetuation of outsider status can only make one think of the enduring social marginality of many American blacks. Yet at least we Americans have been taught by our bloody history that “separate but equal” is not a viable democratic option, but a cruel delusion… Partisan Review

"The Truth" About Sanctions in Iraq:

Matt Welch: “Critics of sanctions against Iraq undermine their case by exaggerating estimates of the impact of sanctions in infant mortality, for the truth is bad enough“:

There have been no weapons inspectors in Iraq since 1998. As a result it is exceptionally difficult to know with precision what nuclear and biological weapons Saddam actually has on hand or in development. From the beginning, economic sanctions have been tied to what foreign policy analyst Mark Phythian described in World Affairs as ‘the first attempt to disarm a country against its will’. After September 11, the issue of an America-hating tyrant arming himself to the teeth has seemed more pressing than easing an embargo that blocks his access to money.

Yet the basic argument against all economic sanctions remains: namely, that they tend to punish civilians more than governments and to provide dictators with a gift-wrapped propaganda tool. Any visitor to Cuba can see within 24 hours the futility of slapping an embargo on a sheltered population that is otherwise inclined to detest its government and embrace its yanqui neighbours. Sanctions give anti-American enclaves, whether in Cairo or Berkeley or Peshawar, one of their few half-convincing arguments about evil US policy since the end of the Cold War.

It seems awfully hard not to conclude that the embargo on Iraq has been ineffective (especially since 1998) and that it has, at the least, contributed to more than 100,000 deaths since 1990. With President Bush set to go to war over Saddam’s noncompliance with the military goals of the sanctions, there has never been a more urgent time to confront the issue with clarity. Policy

Decline and Fall (cont’d):

‘There are more votes in vulgarity than in the denunciation of it. Does that mean it is destined to be ever victorious?’ Self-Regulation and the Decline of Civility: ‘Theodore Dalrymple is probably best known for his weekly columns in The Spectator and his essays in the American quarterly City Journal. He is a psychiatric doctor working in an inner city area in Britain where he is attached to a large hospital and a prison. His columns report on the lifestyles and ways of thinking of Britain’s growing underclass, and in his latest book, Life at the Bottom, he warns that this underclass culture is spreading through the whole society. Peter Saunders interviewed him for Policy:

PS: Let me be slightly mischievous. You talk in the book about tattooing and body piercing and studs through the navel. When I was 16 and came home with a pair of Cuban-heel boots my father said ‘I’m not having them in the house, they’re common!’ You’re now saying that navel-piercing is ‘common’. But I wonder if some of what you are picking up on is harmless fads and fashions? Maybe you’re just being a bit crusty?

TD: It would be harmless if people understood that it is just fashion, and that it belongs in its place. But they understand it as a right, so now, for example, in my hospital ward there’s a male nurse, he’s actually a nice chap. But he insists on having his face full of ironmongery, he has 17 earrings in his ear, and it’s probably not very hygienic. Anyway, eventually the hospital administration, which is far from repressive, said ‘Look, you can’t come to work like that’, and his attitude was, ‘If I’ve got a right to do it, I’ve got a right to do it anywhere.’ So there’s no limitation. Neither is there any acceptance that if you’ve got ‘F*** Off’ tattooed on your forehead, that means you can’t really serve in a shop! They say, ‘You can’t discriminate against me.’ So nobody’s prepared to accept the consequences of their eccentricities or of what they do. If we lived in a culture where you accept that, if you have a ring through your nose, you can’t get a job in a merchant bank, that would be fine. But the demand now is that nobody should be allowed to draw any inferences from anything.

PS: The sort of concerns you are expressing are often popularly associated with being ‘right-wing’, or even ‘extreme right-wing’. Do you think of yourself as ‘a man of the right’, and do you think that the right has an exclusive claim over these kinds of concerns?

TD: I don’t think of myself as ‘right’, let alone ‘far right’. I’m culturally conservative in that I do feel cross about people who constantly claim to discover wrong in the past as if there’s nothing good about it. I’m strongly aware of the enormous effort it has taken for people to make the discoveries that we now take for granted, so that is one of the lessons that we should be teaching in history. So I’m conservative in that sense. I don’t think it’s particularly right-wing, or even exclusively right wing, as I think it’s perfectly possible for people to be economically left-wing and culturally conservative. Poor people need social rules much more than rich people. Their life is much worse if they don’t have those rules. So what I object to is the cultural liberal’s view that they are being kind to the poor when actually they are making their lives hell…’ [thanks, David]

Palestinian Cease-Fire Was in Works Before Israeli Strike

“Tanzim, the Palestinian militia connected to Yasir Arafat’s Fatah faction, was preparing to announce a unilateral cease-fire with Israel before an Israeli warplane dropped a one-ton bomb early Tuesday on a Hamas leader’s home in Gaza City, Palestinian officials and Western diplomats said today.

Israeli officials acknowledged that they had known of a possible Palestinian cease-fire proposal before the bomb was dropped, but they dismissed it as a futile attempt by Palestinians without influence over terrorist groups.

Several Palestinian factions, including groups belonging to Tanzim, have vowed retaliation for the bombing…” NY Times

Embattled, Scrutinized,

Powell Soldiers On: “A string of internal policy differences and defeats have set off speculation that Secretary of State Colin L. Powell might not last through President Bush’s term… Tensions with the White House and Pentagon hawks that Secretary Powell has long sought to minimize are no longer possible to disguise.” NY Times

Buying Trouble

Racial profiling, algorithms, and the perils of shopping: “Could the items on your grocery list make the authorities see you as a potential terrorist?” Another argument not to use those frequent-shopper cards [to incentivize your opt-in to which the supermarket chains (and drugstores, and etc. etc.) are so eager to hand out discounts to to you], which have apparently been the source of this information about you.

The final destination of all that data scares Ponemon and other civil libertarians, defenders of the Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable search and seizure. (Larry) Ponemon (CEO of the consulting firm Privacy Council and a former business ethics professor at Babson College and SUNY), for one, suggests federal authorities are plugging the information into algorithms, using the complex formulas to create a picture of general-population trends that can be contrasted with the lifestyles of known terrorists. If your habits match, expect further scrutiny at the least.

“I can’t reveal my source, but a federal agency involved in espionage actually did a rating system of almost every citizen in this country,” Ponemon claims. “It was based on all sorts of information—public sources, private sources. If people are not opted in”—meaning they haven’t chosen to participate—”one can generally assume that information was gathered through an illegal system.” Village Voice

Inside Al-Qaeda

This edition of the NPR talk show The Connection is guest hosted by All Things Considered co-host Robert Siegel while the tiresome Dick Gordon is away. It consists of a conversation between Rohan Gunaratna (author of Inside Al-Qaeda, research fellow at the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, University of St. Andrews) and Andrew Higgins (Moscow Bureau Chief, Wall Street Journal). Essentially, Gunaratna finds Al-Qaeda to be a scarily disciplined tightly organized organization with worldwide reach and impeccable strategy and resources which has not been diminished but, indeed, strengthened by the dismantling of its Afghan training camps. . Higgins, who analyzed the Al-Qaeda computer which came into the WSJ‘s possession, contends they are an “almost shambolic”, largely ineffectual ragtag movement, if an organization by that name even exists. Uhh, would it be fair to say that the truth certainly lies somewhere in between?? The quality of the listener calls struck me as particularly lame, especially the woman who “greatly appreciate(s) and agree(s) with your experts.” As for the promised “prescription for combatting the first multinational terrorist organization,” Gunaratna suggests that we should promote educational reform and strengthen the political and economic hand of the moderates in Arab countries to counter Islamist influence, which I find a dubious premise. Higgins agrees on the educational reform…

Twice as Bad as Hoover

“George W. Bush is shattering records for the worst first 18 months in office for a U.S. president as measured by the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500. In his first year-and-a-half in the White House, Bush presided over a 36.9 percent decline, almost twice the percentage drop of Herbert Hoover, the president who led the nation into the Depression…

Ironically, given the Republicans’ business-friendly reputation, the four worst performing stock-market presidents in the first 18 months are all Republicans. Ronald Reagan’s 15.3 percent decline joins Hoover, Nixon and Bush at the bottom. The top two performing presidents, as measured by the S&P in their first 18 months, are Democrats, Lyndon Johnson at a plus 27.5 percent and Franklin Roosevelt at 55.1 percent…

Though some presidents reversed the early returns of the stock markets, Bush has so far failed to inspire confidence either with his personal performance or his policies. The stock market has greeted speech after speech by Bush with double-digit declines in the Dow.” The Consortium

I Can’t Help; I’d Lose Votes…

Bush Holds U.N. Family Planning Funds

The Bush administration, in a victory for social conservatives who oppose abortion, will withhold $34 million that had been earmarked for U.N. family planning programs overseas. Instead, the money will go to international child survival and health programs of the U.S. Agency for International Development, officials said Monday.

Critics of the decision said it was driven by politics and vowed to fight to ensure funding for the U.N. program. NY Times

Cosmologists: "…often wrong but never in doubt…"

In the Beginning …: ‘In the last few years… a funny thing has happened. Cosmologists are beginning to agree with one another. Blessed with new instruments like the Hubble Space Telescope and other space-based observatories, a new generation of their giant cousins on the ground and ever-faster computer networks, cosmology is entering “a golden age” in which data are finally outrunning speculation.’ NY Times

Remaining U.S. C.E.O.s make a break for it:

Band of roving chief executives spotted miles from Mexican border: “Unwilling to wait for their eventual indictments, the 10,000 remaining CEOs of public U.S. companies made a break for it yesterday, heading for the Mexican border, plundering towns and villages along the way, and writing the entire rampage off as a marketing expense.”

“CEOnista Martha Stewart (Martha Stewart Omnimedia) was one of the few executives captured. Her mask is made from recycled Christmas paper wrapping.” SatireWire [thanks to David]

In related news, ‘the U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that corporate earnings statements should be protected as works of art, as they “create something from nothing.” ‘ also SatireWire

"The more you suffer, the higher you stand."

“There is a definite hierarchy in residency programs, and the more you suffer, the higher you stand.” A ‘diary’ entry by a graduating medical resident:

Residency is generally considered an unpleasant time of life, but there are varying degrees of unpleasantness, depending on the specialty you’ve chosen and where you do your training. There are “cush” programs where call is once a week, from home, even for surgeons, and there are “malignant” programs, where call is every other night for the interns and you never sleep and you are treated like dirt. In New York City, the programs have had to go a little easier on the residents since the famous Libby Zion case, where a young girl died. It was a complicated case, and whether or not the fatigue of the resident caring for the patient contributed to her death is still controversial. Nevertheless, it did call attention to the long hours residents work. New York passed a law limiting residents’ work hours, and recently an advisory committee to the American Medical Association recommended revising resident work schedules to shifts of no more than 12 hours straight. This would be a radical change. The word “resident” comes from the fact that medical trainees used to actually live in the hospital. For years, the misery of residency was perpetuated, whether because of tradition — ”the old “I suffered, you should suffer, too” philosophy — ”or, as some people say, because it allows for the most amount of training in the least amount of time. Slate

And let’s not forget perhaps the strongest incentive for the ‘training’ system — that it gives the lucky teaching hospitals the most work possible from the cheapest pool of physician labor. It has often been said that medical training does not prepare emerging doctors for the economic realities of modern healthcare. To consider the issue, as this graduating resident does, only from the perspectives of ‘tradition’ or ‘training needs’ is a graphic illustration of the ways in which alienated labor doesn’t even see that it is alienated!

Men resistant to the one-upmanship entailed in a visit to the doctor

Letters to the Editor: ‘The main reason men don’t come to doctors is because doctors do not know how to interact with patients as equals…

I can multiply examples, but suffice it to say our medical training is so imbued with learning through endless one-upmanship that it is second nature for doctors to try to be winners all the time. Starting from a disdain for the patient’s time, making them wait as if we were as high and mighty as judges, doctors never deal with patients on a level field, the way barbers or bartenders do with their clientele.’ AMA News

Kronos Crashes

The quartet butchers Mexican music: “With the recently released Nuevo, a collection of mainly Mexican and Latin American tunes, the Kronos Quartet is no longer the same group of pioneers who warranted attention for their commitment to contemporary music and for their on-stage fire. They’re a group of sonic clowns. And a hapless one at that.” Slate

Fiddling while Rome burns:

The Relevance of Sex in a City That’s Changed: “Tonight Sex and the City begins its fifth season on HBO in a world solemnized by terrorism and, apparently, newly appreciative of the joys of marriage. What does this mean for a show that has relied on an unending sense of youth and blitheness? Has Sex become irrelevant?” Who cares? Was it ever anything but an icon of frivolous decadence? This NY Times puffpiece describes a pitiful effort to exploit the new opportunities for poignancy in the post-9/11 City.