Saturday, April 30, 2016

Cheek to Cheek -- Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald (1956)

Heaven, I'm in heaven
And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak
And I seem to find the happiness I seek
When we're out together dancing cheek to cheek

Yes, heaven, I'm in heaven
And the cares that hung around me through the week
Seem to vanish like a gambler's lucky streak
When we're out together dancing cheek to cheek

Oh I love to climb to mountain
And reach the highest peak
But it doesn't thrill me half as much
As dancing cheek to cheek

Oh I love to go out fishing
In a river or a creek
But I don't enjoy it half as much
As dancing cheek to cheek

Now mama dance with me
I want my arms about you
That charm about you
Will carry me through

Yes, heaven, I'm in heaven
And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak
And I seem to find the happiness I seek
When we're out together dancing cheek to cheek

 Take it Ella swing it

Heaven, I'm in heaven
And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak
And I seem to find the happiness I seek
When we're out together dancing cheek to cheek

Heaven, I'm in heaven
And the cares that hung around me through the week
Seem to vanish like a gambler's lucky streak
When we're out together dancing cheek to cheek

Oh I love to climb a mountain
And reach the highest peak
But it doesn't thrill me half as much
As dancing cheek to cheek

Oh I love to go out fishing
In a river or a creek
But I don't enjoy it half as much
As dancing cheek to cheek

Come on and dance with me
I want my arms about you
That charm about you
Will carry me through

To heaven, I'm in heaven
And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak
And I seem to find the happiness I seek
When we're out together dancing cheek to cheek

Dance with me
I want my arms about you
That charm about you
Will carry me through

To heaven (heaven), I'm in heaven (I'm in heaven)
And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak
And I seem to find the happiness I seek
When we're out together dancing cheek to cheek

 Cheek to cheek
Cheek to cheek
Cheek to cheek


Friday, April 29, 2016

Marijuana and Early Mortality

Swedish male military conscripts who had used pot 50 times or more before the age of 18 were 40% more likely than their abstemious peers to be dead by age 60. Legalize it if you want, but don't call it "safe." And, yeah, yeah, correlation can't prove causation, but correlational studies are how we know that tobacco isn't safe. You can't randomly assign some people to smoke a lot of dope and then others to serve as a control. There are underlying factors at work as to why some Swedish kids became potheads and others didn't AND there are underlying reasons why some people smoke cigarettes for 20 years and others don't.

American Journal of Psychiatry

Cannabis, Psychosis, and Mortality: A Cohort Study of 50,373 Swedish Men
, M.D., Ph.D., , Ph.D., , M.D., Ph.D., , M.D., Ph.D., , M.D., Ph.D.

The authors assessed 1) the overall risk of death among cannabis users compared with nonusers and the extent to which psychosis affects excess mortality; 2) mortality among persons with psychotic disorders and the extent to which cannabis use affects excess mortality; and 3) the interaction effect of cannabis use and diagnosis of psychotic disorders on mortality.

This was a longitudinal study of 50,373 Swedish male military conscripts (ages 18–19) who were followed in the National Cause of Death Register up to around age 60. Cox proportional hazard modeling was used to assess risk of death in relation to baseline cannabis use and diagnosis of psychotic disorders.

Subjects with a baseline history of heavy cannabis use had a significantly higher risk of death (hazard ratio=1.4, 95% CI=1.1, 1.8) than those without such a history. The authors found an excess mortality among subjects with psychotic disorders, but the level did not differ between those with a history of cannabis use (ever users: hazard ratio=3.8, 95% CI=2.8, 5.0; heavy users: hazard ratio=3.8, 95% CI=2.6, 6.2) and those without such a history (hazard ratio=3.7, 95% CI=3.1, 44). No interaction was observed between cannabis use and diagnosis of psychotic disorders with regard to mortality.

The results suggest that individuals with an early history of heavy use of cannabis are at a higher risk of death than those with a history of no use of cannabis. Although the authors adjusted for several confounders at baseline, the results should be interpreted with caution because of a lack of information on confounders in the period after conscription.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Racial Discrimination and the Death Penalty

New Yorker
"In 1972, the Supreme Court struck down capital punishment, in Furman v. Georgia, leading to a four-year moratorium on the penalty in the United States, thanks to a winning strategy devised by the Inc. Fund lawyers. They argued that, despite declining public support for the death penalty, states were keeping it so that they could impose it on marginal groups, including the poor and the powerless as well as blacks.
Five years later, in Coker v. Georgia, the Court decided that “the sentence of death for the crime of rape is grossly disproportionate and excessive punishment, and is therefore forbidden by the Eighth Amendment as cruel and unusual punishment.” The Inc. Fund was lead counsel. (The Court struck down capital punishment for rape of adult women in that case. In 2008, it ruled that capital punishment for child rape is unconstitutional.) The opinion for the Court did not mention race or racial discrimination, even though, of the four hundred and fifty-five men executed for rape between 1930 and 1967, four hundred and five were black, and almost all had been convicted of raping white women. It also took no notice of a brief by Ruth Bader Ginsburg—filed on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Organization for Women Legal Defense and Education Fund, and other groups—arguing that punishing rape with death was tied to Southern traditions that “valued white women according to their purity and chastity and assigned them exclusively to white men.” The Court avoided addressing the racial disparity in capital rape cases, and it avoided addressing the racial disparity in capital cases in general. That did not make the problem of racial discrimination go away."

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Dorothy Parker and Suicide

She said of Scott Fitzgerald at his funeral, "The poor son-of-a-bitch" (i.e., dying of drink at age 44). It took her many more years to drink herself to death but she finally managed it.

NY Books

"“Big Blonde” reveals the desperate life of a fading party girl who’s run out of steam and tries, and fails, to kill herself. It’s convincing in its verisimilitude and deployment of pathos, but finally it comes across as a masterly performance rather than a reverberant vision of life. (Compare it to Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth.) It’s also Parker dealing with her own failed suicide attempts—slashed wrists, Veronal (Big Blonde’s drug of choice). Suicide was a constant reality for her. The novel she began was to be called Sonnets in Suicide. One of her most famous poems, “Résumé,” summed things up:
Razors pain you;
Rivers are damp;
Acids stain you;
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful;
Nooses give;
Gas smells awful;
You might as well live.

Death and suicide are never far from her thoughts—she titled her collections Enough Rope, Sunset Gun, Death and Taxes, and Not So Deep as a Well, the first of them a major best seller in 1926, confirming her fame."

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Eugenics alive and well in sperm bank selections

Sorry but selecting a sperm donor for a 160 IQ and an absence of schizophrenia and criminal history is eugenics.

"When Angela Collins and her partner wanted to have a child, they reached out to a sperm bank in Georgia to look for potential donors. They thought they had found the perfect match in Donor 9623, described as a man with an I.Q. of 160 who was healthy and working toward his Ph.D.
But in 2014, about seven years after Ms. Collins gave birth to their son, she and her partner, Elizabeth Hanson, made an upsetting discovery after learning the man’s identity through a donor sibling group. The donor had a history of mental illness and a criminal record, and had exaggerated his educational accomplishments, they say.
“It was like a lead ball went to the bottom of our stomach for both my partner and I,” Ms. Collins said in a radio interview last week with “As It Happens” on the Canadian network CBC.
She added, “We know nobody is perfect, but we didn’t sign up to choose knowingly that our donor had schizophrenia.”
Ms. Collins and Ms. Hanson, who live in Port Hope, Ontario, about 70 miles east of Toronto, were among three families who filed lawsuits in Ontario Superior Court this month accusing the sperm bank, Xytex Corp., in Augusta, Ga., of misleading them about the donor. The suit says the company failed to describe him accurately or disclose that he had a mental illness and a criminal record.
The three lawsuits are the first in an expanding group of cases that go to the heart of privacy and health issues as more would-be parents — many of them single or in same-sex partnerships — seek donors to help them conceive, said Nancy Hersh, a lawyer in San Francisco who is representing Ms. Collins and the other families.
“This is a huge problem,” Ms. Hersh said in a telephone interview. “Lots of people will avail themselves of sperm banks, and it is important that the public will be educated about the risks. It is a public health issue.”
Ms. Hersh said at least a dozen other American, Canadian and British families were planning lawsuits related to Donor 9623. The 15 families she represents have conceived 23 children using the donor’s sperm, all with “a genetic predisposition to schizophrenia, which nobody knew at the time they purchased his sperm.”"

Monday, April 25, 2016

Why is the U.S. Suicide Rate Rising?

"WASHINGTON — Suicide in the United States has surged to the highest levels in nearly 30 years, a federal data analysis has found, with increases in every age group except older adults. The rise was particularly steep for women. It was also substantial among middle-aged Americans, sending a signal of deep anguish from a group whose suicide rates had been stable or falling since the 1950s.
The suicide rate for middle-aged women, ages 45 to 64, jumped by 63 percent over the period of the study, while it rose by 43 percent for men in that age range, the sharpest increase for males of any age. The overall suicide rate rose by 24 percent from 1999 to 2014, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, which released the study on Friday.
The increases were so widespread that they lifted the nation’s suicide rate to 13 per 100,000 people, the highest since 1986. The rate rose by 2 percent a year starting in 2006, double the annual rise in the earlier period of the study. In all, 42,773 people died from suicide in 2014, compared with 29,199 in 1999.
...The data analysis provided fresh evidence of suffering among white Americans. Recent research has highlighted the plight of less educated whites, showing surges in deaths from drug overdoses, suicides, liver disease and alcohol poisoning, particularly among those with a high school education or less. The new report did not break down suicide rates by education, but researchers who reviewed the analysis said the patterns in age and race were consistent with that recent research and painted a picture of desperation for many in American society."

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Obit -- Gilbert Highet (1963)

What shall we say about him in the papers?
Stepped out into the path of a speeding car
No. Not such a stupid end for a man of mind.
In Claremont Hospital after a long illness
Among his scholarly works the most important
He had continued yes yes yes no. No.
Suddenly, by a stroke, after a class
No. Not that either, although possible.
Yesterday on the third floor of the library
Among the immortals speaking silent Greek
That would be peaceful, yet perhaps too pat.
But no, the air is wrong, the place is wrong:
Where are the heights, the trees, the wind, the birds?
Write in the notice: on the slopes of—what?
Some insignificant hill, it doesn’t matter,
But climbing, with the wind around him and
The sky above and his remembering head
Quite full of poetry and music, climbing
Together with his one true friend and love
Up through the stalwart trees to timberline—
After a life of effort, rest and sleep.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Hey Ya! -- Postmodern Jukebox, ft. Sara Niemietz

One, two, three!
My baby don't mess around
Because she loves me so
This I know fo sho!

But does she really wanna
But can't stand to see me walk out the door
Don't try to fight the feeling
Because the thought alone is killin' me right now
Thank God for Mom and Dad
For sticking to together
Like we don't know how

Hey ya! Hey ya!
Hey ya! Hey ya!
Hey ya! Hey ya!
Hey ya! Hey ya!

You think you've got it
Oh, you think you've got it
But got it just don't get it when there's nothin' at all
We get together
Oh, we get together
But separate's always better when there's feelings involved
Know what they say -its:
Nothing lasts forever!
Then what makes it, then what makes it
Then what makes it, then what makes it
Then what makes love the exception?
So why, oh, why, oh
Why, oh, why, oh, why, oh
Are we still in denial when we know we're not happy here


Friday, April 22, 2016

Trump in a landslide

Get used to it.

I heard a social psych talk the other day that had something very interesting to say about leadership, with possible implications for the 2016 U.S. election. According to some theory (the name of which I don't recall), groups show preference for leaders who:

1) Are "one of us"
2) Do it for us (i.e., not their own self-interest)
3) Have a sense of us (understand us)
4) Give us meaning

So that means that voters are weighing (emotionally and intuitively, not rationally - because we rarely do anything rationally) these questions:

Which candidate is more like a prototypical American?

Which candidate wants to be President for our sake?

Which candidate better understands what it means to be an American?

Which candidate has a message that transports me beyond myself?

So I'll call it today, April 22, 2016:

Trump in a landslide.

(Not an endorsement: a theory-based prediction -- we'll see how it holds up.)

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Memoir by Survivor of Atomic Bombing of Nagasaki

A lot of people know the Enola Gay but no one remembers the Bockscor.

"When the city sounded the air raid warning, I ran as fast as I could to the cave the government had dug into the side of a hill for us students. I always made it to the shelter ahead of the rest of my class. I say always because Nagasaki had been bombed five times before that day....
We thought the warning on August 9 would be like the others. That’s why a lot of the girls just hung around the school. At that point, the government had not announced the atomic bombing of Hiroshima three days before. The teachers made us all leave the classrooms, telling us to run to the shelter. I did, but most of the others just stood around talking in the schoolyard. It was not that unusual to see B-San [‘Mr. B’] flying over. That’s what most of us called a B-29. A single B-San had never caused trouble — just checking the weather or taking pictures of the coast, we assumed.
When the bomb exploded, it caught me standing in the entrance to the shelter, motioning for the pokey girls to come in. First came the light — the brightest light I have ever seen. It was an overcast day, and in an instant every object lost all color and blanched a brilliant white. My eyes couldn’t cope, and for a little while I went blind.
A searing hot flash accompanied the light that blasted me. For a second I dimly saw it burn the girls standing in front of the cave. They appeared as bowling pins, falling in all directions, screaming and slapping at their burning school uniforms. I saw nothing for a while after that.
Immediately, a powerful wind struck me. It propelled me farther into the cave; then in an instant it threw me out the front entrance. I guess the shockwave hit the back of the cavern and bounced. It took me with it and others who had sought refuge in the shelter. We came tumbling out onto the ground.
What a terrible feeling! I could see nothing. My hands and face singed, intense pain gripped my body. I tried to walk a little and stumbled over a fallen tree. I lay there, not knowing for sure where I was or whether something else might happen to me.
When my senses, including my sight, began returning, I heard crying from the girls in front of the shelter. ... The face and hands of the other girls quickly turned bright red. I guess my being partially inside the cave provided some protection because my stinging began to disappear before long.
... Fires started all around us. Flames leaped from paper and wood scraps, some from collapsed structures. Thick smoke and dust filled the air. The fires gave the only real illumination. Even the noontime sunlight, filtering through the clouds, darkened. ...
‘Let’s go back to the school. It’s only a couple hundred meters,’ one of the classmates suggested. We traveled slowly because each step caused pain. Our thoughts were that a bomb must have gone off near the shelter and burned a short distance around us. We didn’t even dream what devastation covered our entire city.
The route to the school seemed strangely flat and empty. Someone asked, ‘Weren’t there houses here when we came to the shelter?’ The whole world appeared so surreal we just accepted that structures could disappear off the face of the earth. We were living a terrible nightmare.
My classmate Fumiko scampered about 50 meters ahead of us. When I looked up to see why she was calling, I saw her pointing to a large form on the ground.
‘Look over there,’ she shouted. ‘It has escaped from the zoo. It’s an alligator.’ It lay in our path to the school, so we approached with caution. Fumiko found a rock.
She drew back the rock above her head as she approached the creature. Then, Fumiko froze in her tracks, screaming hysterically. I ran to her side. The face looking up at us from the crawling creature was human. The shrieking in my ear kept me from hearing what the face was trying to say. I could just see it pleading for something — probably water. No clothes or hair were visible, just large, gray scalelike burns covering its head and body. The skin around its eyes had burned away, leaving the eyeballs, huge and terrifying. Whether male or female I never found out.
The head fell forward — face in the dirt. It didn’t move after that. Fumiko crumbled to the ground and I dropped beside her.
We were both 15."

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Psychological Profiles of Foreign Leaders: Hitler

It seems that Columbia University classics professor Gilbert Highet wrote his psychological study of Hitler before Harvard psychologist Henry Murray wrote his.

"[Gilbert] Highet’s American career was just beginning to soar when he was called up to serve in the British Army at the outbreak of World War II. From 1941 to 1946 (on leave from Columbia) he served in the British Mission to the United States, in the British Intelligence Center in New York, and in the British Zone of occupied Berlin. Under Sir William Stephenson, the Canadian special operations executive, he carried out many missions, shrouded in mystery over the decades by the British Official Secrets Act. During the war he pioneered the art of preparing psychological profiles of Nazi leaders such as Hitler, Goebbels, Goering, and Himmler—based on his psychoanalysis of Roman emperors. With limited information about his German subjects, he succeeded in predicting their behavior under different circumstances, in documents regarded as highly significant in those days. As America armed herself for battle, he shuttled between New York and Washington, and traveled to Canada and South America and Great Britain on military airplanes and ocean liners. On the shores of Lake Ontario, in a secret Canadian training facility, he prepared the first draft of the recently released volume The Secret History of British Intelligence in the Americas. As a member of the British Army of Occupation, he entered the smoldering remains of Hitler’s bunker and became responsible for helping to recover the gold reserves hidden by the Nazis. During the war he also completed his three-volume translation from the German of Werner Jaeger’s Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture, still the classic model of the translator’s art."

Monday, April 18, 2016

Legendary Teacher: Gilbert Highet

Best teaching advice I ever got: "Never be boring."

Columbia University Alumni Magazine
"When Gilbert Highet entered the classroom, one felt as though the curtain were going up on a Broadway play, with a living legend in the lead. He reminded students (not surprisingly) of a British Army officer— of the kind portrayed by Jack Hawkins in motion pictures—tall, erect, handsome, clean-shaven, and impeccably dressed. He consistently gave his audience a commanding performance, whether he spoke or sang or stood or walked, with a presence comparable to that of Laurence Olivier or John Houseman. With his Scottish-English burr and his riveting, rapid-fire delivery, he dazzled students with his dynamic lectures, brilliant in their organization and brimming with critical insights. The inspired anecdotes, the poignant pauses, and the sudden bursts of laughter formed part of a magnificent, comprehensible structure that gripped the heart and held one spellbound. He loved Vergil and taught the Aeneid (in the original Latin) every year to packed classes; he loved his “darling” Juvenal and the Roman satirists for exposing decadence and corruption. He detested Plato and Julius Caesar—the one, for outlining the principles of dictatorship; the other, for becoming the accomplished dictator who crushed the life out of the Roman Republic. Imitating a Roman soldier, he brandished a window pole; impersonating Marius at the gates of Rome, he crouched down, then sprang across the floor to battle his great rival Sulla. With his powerful and speculative mind, he gave his students an extraordinary intellectual experience, capped by a showmanship perhaps unparalleled in the American college classroom."

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Losses -- Randall Jarrell

Berlin, December 1943. Civilian victims of a bombing raid are laid out for identification.

It was not dying: everybody died.
It was not dying: we had died before
In the routine crashes-- and our fields
Called up the papers, wrote home to our folks,
And the rates rose, all because of us.
We died on the wrong page of the almanac,
Scattered on mountains fifty miles away;
Diving on haystacks, fighting with a friend,
We blazed up on the lines we never saw.
We died like aunts or pets or foreigners.
(When we left high school nothing else had died
For us to figure we had died like.)

In our new planes, with our new crews, we bombed
The ranges by the desert or the shore,
Fired at towed targets, waited for our scores--
And turned into replacements and woke up
One morning, over England, operational.

It wasn't different: but if we died
It was not an accident but a mistake
(But an easy one for anyone to make.)
We read our mail and counted up our missions--
In bombers named for girls, we burned
The cities we had learned about in school--
Till our lives wore out; our bodies lay among
The people we had killed and never seen.
When we lasted long enough they gave us medals;
When we died they said, 'Our casualties were low.'

They said, 'Here are the maps'; we burned the cities.

It was not dying --no, not ever dying;
But the night I died I dreamed that I was dead,
And the cities said to me: 'Why are you dying?
We are satisfied, if you are; but why did I die?'


Saturday, April 16, 2016

Yes I'm Ready -- Barbara Mason (1965)

[Male backups:] (Are you ready?)

[Female backups:] [Yes I'm ready]

[Male backups:] (Are you ready?)

[Female backups:] [Yes I'm ready]

I don't even know how to love you
Just the way you want me to
But I'm ready [ready] to learn (to learn)
Yes, I'm ready [ready] to learn (to learn)
To fall in love, to fall in love, to fall in love with you

I don't even know how to hold your hand
Just to make you understand
But I'm ready [ready] to learn (to learn)
Yes, I'm ready [ready] to learn (to learn)
To hold your hand, make you understand
To hold your hand right now

I don't even know how to kiss your lips (kiss your lips)
At a moment like this
But I'm going to learn how to do
All the things you want me to
(Are you ready?) Yes, I'm ready
(Are you ready?) Yes, I'm ready
To fall in love, to fall in love, to fall in love right now

(Are you ready?) Yes, I'm ready
(Are you ready?) Yes, I'm ready
(To kiss me?) Yes, I'm ready
(To love me?)
To kiss you, love you, and hug you
Baby, I'm ready

Songwriter: Barbara Mason

Friday, April 15, 2016

Bronze Age archelogical discovery: The Battle of Tollense

Science Magazine

"About 3200 years ago, two armies clashed at a river crossing near the Baltic Sea. The confrontation can’t be found in any history books—the written word didn’t become common in these parts for another 2000 years—but this was no skirmish between local clans. Thousands of warriors came together in a brutal struggle, perhaps fought on a single day, using weapons crafted from wood, flint, and bronze, a metal that was then the height of military technology. 
Struggling to find solid footing on the banks of the Tollense River, a narrow ribbon of water that flows through the marshes of northern Germany toward the Baltic Sea, the armies fought hand-to-hand, maiming and killing with war clubs, spears, swords, and knives. Bronze- and flint-tipped arrows were loosed at close range, piercing skulls and lodging deep into the bones of young men. Horses belonging to high-ranking warriors crumpled into the muck, fatally speared. Not everyone stood their ground in the melee: Some warriors broke and ran, and were struck down from behind. 
When the fighting was through, hundreds lay dead, littering the swampy valley. Some bodies were stripped of their valuables and left bobbing in shallow ponds; others sank to the bottom, protected from plundering by a meter or two of water. Peat slowly settled over the bones. Within centuries, the entire battle was forgotten.
At the time of the battle, northern Europe seems to have been devoid of towns or even small villages. As far as archaeologists can tell, people here were loosely connected culturally to Scandinavia and lived with their extended families on individual farmsteads, with a population density of fewer than five people per square kilometer. ... And yet chemical tracers in the remains suggest that most of the Tollense warriors came from hundreds of kilometers away. The isotopes in your teeth reflect those in the food and water you ingest during childhood, which in turn mirror the surrounding geology—a marker of where you grew up. Retired University of Wisconsin, Madison, archaeologist Doug Price analyzed strontium, oxygen, and carbon isotopes in 20 teeth from Tollense. Just a few showed values typical of the northern European plain, which sprawls from Holland to Poland. The other teeth came from farther afield, although Price can’t yet pin down exactly where. “The range of isotope values is really large,” he says. “We can make a good argument that the dead came from a lot of different places.” 
Ancient DNA could potentially reveal much more: When compared to other Bronze Age samples from around Europe at this time, it could point to the homelands of the warriors as well as such traits as eye and hair color. Genetic analysis is just beginning, but so far it supports the notion of far-flung origins. DNA from teeth suggests some warriors are related to modern southern Europeans and others to people living in modern-day Poland and Scandinavia. “This is not a bunch of local idiots,” says University of Mainz geneticist Joachim Burger. “It’s a highly diverse population.” 
As University of Aarhus’s Vandkilde puts it: “It’s an army like the one described in Homeric epics, made up of smaller war bands that gathered to sack Troy”—an event thought to have happened fewer than 100 years later, in 1184 B.C.E. That suggests an unexpectedly widespread social organization, Jantzen says. “To organize a battle like this over tremendous distances and gather all these people in one place was a tremendous accomplishment,” he says."

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Kant’s What is Enlightenment?

Consumerism, which fosters dependency and keeps people acting like sheep and not citizens, doesn't just involve shiny new gadgets, as the author suggests. I would add "free health care," "security from terrorists and other criminals," "Social Security benefits for retirees," "the volunteer military," and "public education and free-college-for-all" to the list of consumer goodies dangled before would-be adult citizens. Wouldn't it be more grown-up to commit to caring for your own health (which includes preparing for own inevitable death), taking responsibility for your own personal security, saving for your own old age, participating first hand in any necessary wars (but refusing to serve in foreign adventures), and ensuring that your own children are well-educated? Modern government "services" ARE consumerism.

"Kant’s most famous essay, What is Enlightenment?, defines it as reason’s emancipation from its self-imposed immaturity. We choose immaturity because we are lazy and scared: how much more comfortable it is to let someone else make your decisions! ‘If I have a book that takes care of my understanding, a preacher who takes care of my conscience, a doctor who prescribes my diet, I need not make any effort myself. I need not think, so long as I can pay; others will handle the business for me.’ With a familiarity surprising in a man who had no children, Kant discusses the ways in which children learn to walk. In order to do it they must stumble and fall, but to eliminate their bruises by keeping them in baby carriages is a recipe for keeping them infantile. Kant’s target was not overprotective mothers but authoritarian states, which have an interest in keeping their citizens from thinking for themselves.
We’re often unwilling to summon the energy or run the risks – even the risk of embarrassment! – that thinking for ourselves would demand. It’s easy to see why this is the message that teachers emphasise when they teach What is Enlightenment? in high schools. Surely the young should not be led to think there’s anything wrong with society that a little effort on their part can’t fix? Thus Kant’s message became a neoliberal mantra that only strengthened existing orders: any dissatisfaction you may feel with the world around you is your own fault. If only you could get rid of your own laziness and cowardice, you could be enlightened, grownup and free. No wonder Germans of a certain age, who had to memorise the essay in school, roll their eyes and groan at the very mention of ‘self-imposed immaturity’.
Oddly enough, though the essay is one of Kant’s most readable, few people bother to read, or at least to remember, much beyond those first few sentences. If they did they’d discover that Kant did not believe your dissatisfaction is your fault alone. You may tend, as I do, to laziness and cowardice, but Kant says these tendencies are abused. There are guardians who have taken over the task of supervising the rest of us, by convincing us that independent thinking is not only difficult but dangerous. This is a radical and powerful political message. Our inability to grow up is not, or not only, our fault. The social structures within which we live are constructed so as to keep us childish:  grownup citizens are more trouble than they’re worth. The state’s desire for control and our own desire for comfort combine to minimise conflict.
Which guardians did Kant have in mind? Kant was living in feudal times when even enlightened rulers were paternalistic, and ‘paternalistic’ was not yet a term of abuse. It’s easy enough to see how feudal structures kept their subjects infantilised. Those who think Western democracies have done away with that sort of thing have forgotten de Toqueville’s warnings about the power of public opinion in market-dominated societies, in which ‘the body is left free, and the soul is enslaved safely at bay’. Without recourse to the paternalistic and authoritarian measures available to the guardians in Kant’s time, how might a modern democratic society work to keep us infantilised?
...Those who rule society promote our dependency, cultivating our taste for luxuries to distract us from thinking about the real conditions of our lives. You can walk into any electronics store and choose from a dizzying number of smartphones. How many choices can you make about the government that represents you, or the corporations to which it is indebted?"

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Pot Available to Researchers is Ditch Weed

Marijuana is going to be Schedule I restricted (like LSD and heroin) until some actual medical use can be demonstrated. But it's tough for researchers to acquire Schedule I drugs, so that research is not often attempted. And, the pot the government supplies to researchers is nowhere near the potency of the drug used by today's consumers, so any research that's done is of questionable value.
"[Marijuana] can be legally purchased for recreational use in four states and sold for medicinal purposes in two dozens others, but researchers who want to conduct federally approved clinical trials can only use pot purchased from the federal National Institute on Drug Abuse, whose lone supplier is the University of Mississippi.
Despite the DEA's 2014 decision to increase the amount of pot the government makes available — the government ordered 650 kilos — scientists continue to gripe that they can't get the marijuana the need in a timely fashion.
After members of Congress echoed the supply concerns in public hearings, the DEA responded by showing a ledger of the university's inventory, organized by the potency of each strain. The university's growing program has more than 130,000 "marijuana cigarettes" available at varying potencies, according to the memo. On top of that, it has 185 "batches" of bulk marijuana in quantities ranging between just a few ounces and more than 20 pounds.
The disconnect seems to be a question of quality versus quantity.
The primary psychoactive compound that gives marijuana it's euphoric oomph is called Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. The more THC, generally, the stronger the buzz.
The most powerful strain on the DEA ledger, a "reprocessed" batch numbered 1304-1, tops out at 13.7 percent THC. Most batches in the "high THC" section of the inventory are less than 8 percent.
The University of Mississippi's supply is essentially stuck in the 1970s, when THC content rarely broke the double digits.
Compare that to the potency available at dispensaries in Colorado, which recently legalized recreation pot. Having had years to experiment in medical marijuana industry, which has been legal for more than a decade, horticulturalists there have produced varieties packing 30 percent THC or more. The average THC level in retail stores is 18.7 percent, according to a state-sponsored study."

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Academia v. The Real World: Rodney Dangerfield in Back to School (1986)

And don't forget this scene from Contemporary American History class.

The Hobbesian
"Rodney Dangerfield points out that when using widgets one is not taking into account things like whether they are fungible and that every industry has certain characteristics which need to be taken into account. By the way, here is a link to a youtube clip of the scene which I think is a superb criticism of how academic economics can be completely out of touch with real world business practices.
I like that scene from “Back to School” a lot because it excellently captures the problem of widget economics, the professor, speaking in an arrogant and pedantic British/Aristocratic accent confidently outlines his model of a fictional firm.  Meanwhile, the unsophisticated, yet business savvy character played by Dangerfield tears into the professor’s lecture, pointing out all of the unique costs and considerations that go into any kind of business model which the professor seems to completely leave out.  This of course points to the very real fact of how many of the so called experts in business who sit in their academic halls and think tanks, have no actual experience in running a business themselves, and can be profoundly ignorant of many of the real life pressures which go into running a business.  I believe that there is something to be said for the fact that there are times when businessmen, living and working in the real economy on a daily basis, can have real insights into how economies work, insights which are often lost on the highly educated, yet experientially deficient academics."

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Killer of Kitty Genovese Is Dead

"An inordinate fascination with ants."

"Winston Moseley, who stalked, raped and killed Kitty Genovese in a prolonged knife attack in New York in 1964 while neighbors failed to act on her desperate cries for help — a nightmarish tableau that came to symbolize urban apathy in America — died on March 28, in prison. He was 81. 
Mr. Moseley, a psychopathic serial killer and necrophiliac, died at the maximum security Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, N.Y., near the Canadian border. He had been imprisoned for almost 52 years, since July 7, 1964, and was one of the state’s longest-serving inmates.
His life behind bars had been relatively eventful. [What an interesting understatement.] Mr. Moseley was condemned to die in the electric chair, but in 1967, two years after New York State abolished most capital punishments, he won an appeal that reduced his sentence to an indeterminate life term. While at Attica Correctional Facility, in 1968, he escaped while on a hospital visit to Buffalo, raped a woman and held hostages at gunpoint before being recaptured. He joined in the 1971 Attica uprising; earned a college degree in 1977; and was rejected 18 times at parole hearings, the last time in 2015. 
...Ghastly as the details of Mr. Moseley’s attack were — selecting Ms. Genovese at random, stabbing her at least 14 times as she screamed and pleaded for help, retreating into the shadows as lights went on in apartments overhead, returning to rape and finally kill her — they by themselves might not have placed the case, or the Moseley name, into the annals of crime. 
...Two weeks later, The Times published a more extensive, though flawed, front-page account quoting the police and Ms. Genovese’s neighbors. “For more than half an hour 38 respectable, law-abiding citizens watched a killer stalk and stab a woman in three separate attacks in Kew Gardens,” it began. 
“Twice the sound of their voices and the sudden glow of their bedroom lights interrupted him and frightened him off. Each time he returned, sought her out and stabbed her again. Not one person telephoned the police during the assault; one witness called after the woman was dead.” 
“I didn’t want to get involved,” a witness said, using a phrase that was thought to encapsulate the age. 
While there was no question that the attack occurred, and that some neighbors ignored cries for help, the portrayal of 38 witnesses as fully aware and unresponsive was erroneous. The article grossly exaggerated the number of witnesses and what they had perceived. None saw the attack in its entirety. Only a few had glimpsed parts of it, or recognized the cries for help. Many thought they had heard lovers or drunks quarreling. There were two attacks, not three. And afterward, two people did call the police. A 70-year-old woman ventured out and cradled the dying victim in her arms until they arrived. Ms. Genovese died on the way to a hospital. 
Psychologists and criminologists called the reluctance of witnesses to involve themselves the “bystander effect,” or the “Kitty Genovese syndrome.” Studies discerned a “diffusion of responsibility,” finding that people in a crowd were less likely to step forward and help a victim."
...Captured five days later during a burglary, Mr. Moseley confessed to the murders of Ms. Genovese and two other Queens residents: Annie Mae Johnson, 24, who had been shot and burned to death in her South Ozone Park apartment in February, and Barbara Kralik, 15, who had been stabbed in her parents’ Springfield Gardens home the previous July. Both women had been sexually assaulted.
...At his own trial, Mr. Moseley pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in the killing of Ms. Genovese, but was found legally sane, convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death at a time when New York State still employed the electric chair. (The state abolished the death penalty in 1965 for all but limited circumstances.)
As spectators cheered the verdict, the presiding judge, Justice Irwin J. Shapiro of State Supreme Court, said he did not believe in capital punishment, but added: “I must say I feel this may be improper when I see this monster. I wouldn’t hesitate to pull the switch on him myself.”
Winston Moseley was born in Manhattan on March 2, 1935, to Fannie Moseley. Her husband, Alphonse Moseley, was not his biological father, a fact withheld from the boy until late in his childhood. His parents were often separated. Winston grew up a bright but troubled boy, who had an inordinate fascination with ants."

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Restaurant Overlooking Lake Superior -- Louis Jenkins (b. 1942)

I am a priestess of the lake, of the Infinite.

Late afternoon: only a few old men at the bar drinking and talking quietly. Waitresses for the evening shift begin to arrive. One stands a moment at the far end of the dining room and looks out the window facing the lake. Snow is falling. The lake is completely obscured, but still customers will ask for tables near the window. A few early diners begin to arrive, then others. Soon the room is filled with sounds, people talking, the rattle of dishes, the waitresses hurrying about. The lake is a great silence beneath all the noise. In their hurry the waitresses don’t look out the window. Yet, they are in her service, silent a moment as they fill the glasses with water.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

You Were On My Mind -- We Five (1965)

Can't say the lyrics are particularly brilliant, but I have always found this song rather arresting. In some ways, it's a bit borderline-y, a proto-version of this song.

When I woke up this morning
You were on my mind
And you were on my mind

 I got troubles, whoa-oh
I got worries, whoa-oh
I got wounds to bind

 So I went to the corner
Just to ease my pains
Yeah, just to ease my pains

 I got troubles, whoa-oh
I got worries, whoa-oh
I came home again

 When I woke up this morning
You were on my mi-i-i-ind and
You were on my mind

 I got troubles, whoa-oh
I got worries, whoa-oh
I got wounds to bind

 And I got a feelin'
Down in my sho-oo-oo-oes, said
Way down in my sho-oo-oes

 Yeah, I got to ramble, whoa-oh
I got to move on, whoa-oh
I got to walk away my blues

 When I woke up this morning
You were on my mind
You were on my mind

 I got troubles, whoa-oh
I got worries, whoa-oh
I got wounds to bind


Friday, April 8, 2016

What happens to people found Incompetent to Stand Trial? Sometimes they escape.

They were being held at a forensic psychiatric facility because they had been arrested on serious charges and found incompetent to stand trial (unable to assist their attorney and/or unable to understand proceedings against them; Dusky v. U.S., 1960). They would have been held there until "restored to competency" (usually with antipsychotic medication) and until they had been held for no longer than the maximum sentences they faced (Jackson v. Indiana, 1972). Don't think that Washington's Western State Hospital is any easier to escape from that a regular jail. Jail breaks happen.

ABC News

"Washington state police said two mentally ill patients have escaped from Western State Hospital.
Anthony Garver and Mark Alexander Adams were last seen at around 6:00 p.m. Wednesday at the hospital's dining hall, according to Lakewood police. Hospital staff learned they were missing at 7:30 p.m. and notified police.
Police said both men were at the hospital on a 180-day court commit out of Snohomish County to treat mental illness and both arrived at the hospital in February 2015. Authorities believe the men escaped through a loose window in their room. Hospital staff say they are considered "dangerous to others."
Garver, 28, was arrested in 2013 for first-degree murder but was found not competent to stand trial. He is 5-foot-8 and weighs 250 pounds with brown, curly hair and a beard.
Police say Garver was accused of gagging a woman with a ball of cloth and stabbing her 24 times in the chest before slashing her throat.
Adams, 59, was sent to the hospital to receive treatment on a domestic violence arrest from 2014 where he was also found not competent to stand trial. He is 6-feet tall and weighs 210 pounds with long blond hair, according to authorities. Police say Adams might try to flee to California."

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Veteran suicide by self-immolation

This is where a Navy veteran died by self-immolation on March 24, 2016. Clinically, most cases of suicide by self-immolation seem to be related to bipolar illness, but I have no knowledge of this poor fellow's case. I do think that VA facilities should have evening and weekend hours. And I think that veterans should be free to pursue care wherever they wish.

RCP, Michelle Malkin
"While President Obama sashayed in Buenos Aires two weeks ago, proud Navy veteran Charles Richard Ingram III, 51, made his last life's journey. He walked nine miles from his home in Egg Harbor Township, N.J., to the curb in front of the Northfield, N.J., VA clinic on New Road.
With a large blue wooden cross looming on the side of a chapel in the background, Ingram stood on the lawn, poured gas all over his body and lit a match. A firefighter told The Daily Beast that the retired chief petty officer, known as "Rich" to family and friends, was "100 percent burned." A bystander had rushed to his side with blankets to snuff out the flames and first responders arrived within minutes.CPO Ingram leaves behind a grieving wife, two young children ages 3 and 5, and a charred patch of brown and blackened grass 75 feet from the entrance of the VA's Atlantic County Community Based Outpatient Clinic.
The bloated VA system now employs nearly 400,000 people to carry out its purported "mission of caring." The CBOCs were established to "to more efficiently and effectively serve eligible veterans and provide care in the most appropriate setting," according to the feds. But nobody from Ingram's CBOC -- one of 800 such offices run by the VA, which boasts a record $150 billion budget -- was there to help on that Saturday when Ingram perished.
Why not? Because the facility is closed on weekends. Its daytime, weekday hours (8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) serve the convenience of the government employees, not of the men and women who put their lives on the line for their country.
Area veterans' advocates and local officials in both political parties have pushed for years to address chronic understaffing and Soviet-era wait times. The Atlantic City Press reports that there is just one lone psychologist to provide therapy to 200 veterans on any given day.
"To make matters worse," local Democratic state senator Jeff Van Drew (who worked in the VA system as a dentist) pointed out last week, "there are no Veterans Affairs hospitals in the region, so even if a veteran is able to schedule a timely appointment at the nearest VA hospital, he or she would have to travel hours to Philadelphia, Penn., northern New Jersey or Delaware to receive care."
Would it have been too much to ask the VA's employees to open for just one day of weekend appointments and one weekday of late-night appointments? Apparently, that was too much of a sacrifice for the 8-to-4:30-ers. Vets' groups petitioned for extended hours for years. Nothing happened.
How about a pilot program to free the VA's hostages and allow vets to receive health care from personal doctors and local hospitals, as Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., has long proposed? There must be no escape hatches, anti-privatization special interests have decreed. All must suffer for the Greater Good."

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Erik Prince helping the Chinese exploit Africa

President Trump's Secretary of Defense?

WSJ, 1/24/14
"Erik Prince—ex-Navy SEAL, ex-CIA spy, ex-CEO of private-security firm Blackwater—calls himself an "accidental tourist" whose modest business boomed after 9/11, expanded into Iraq and Afghanistan, and then was "blowtorched by politics." To critics and conspiracy theorists, he is a mercenary war-profiteer. To admirers, he's a patriot who has repeatedly answered America's call with bravery and creativity.
Now, sitting in a boardroom above Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour, he explains his newest title, acquired this month: chairman of Frontier Services Group, an Africa-focused security and logistics company with intimate ties to China's largest state-owned conglomerate, Citic Group. Beijing has titanic ambitions to tap Africa's resources—including $1 trillion in planned spending on roads, railways and airports by 2025—and Mr. Prince wants in.
With a public listing in Hong Kong, and with Citic as its second-largest shareholder (a 15% stake) and Citic executives sitting on its board, Frontier Services Group is a long way from Blackwater's CIA ties and $2 billion in U.S. government contracts. For that, Mr. Prince is relieved.
"I would rather deal with the vagaries of investing in Africa than in figuring out what the hell else Washington is going to do to the entrepreneur next," says the crew-cut 44-year-old.
His advice for Washington: "Stop committing suicide." Lawmakers should "get out of their heads this idea that they can recklessly spend money that they don't have," he says. "The United States government is too big in all areas. . . . It's time to make the entire thing a lot smaller." That would include doing everything from allowing Americans to buy incandescent light bulbs to reining in domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency.

"Look," he says, grasping to end our talk on an optimistic note, "America can pull its head out at any time. That happens at the ballot box. Ballot boxes have consequences still in America." He continues: "But the American electorate has to actually pay attention, has to turn off the Xbox long enough to pay attention. Otherwise they're going to continue to elect the government they deserve.""

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Slaying Hero (e.g., Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Audie Murphy, Chris Kyle) versus the Saving Hero

"2d Lt. Murphy commanded Company B, which was attacked by 6 tanks and waves of infantry. 2d Lt. Murphy ordered his men to withdraw to prepared positions in a woods, while he remained forward at his command post and continued to give fire directions to the artillery by telephone. Behind him, to his right, 1 of our tank destroyers received a direct hit and began to burn. Its crew withdrew to the woods. 2d Lt. Murphy continued to direct artillery fire which killed large numbers of the advancing enemy infantry. With the enemy tanks abreast of his position, 2d Lt. Murphy climbed on the burning tank destroyer, which was in danger of blowing up at any moment, and employed its .50 caliber machinegun against the enemy. He was alone and exposed to German fire from 3 sides, but his deadly fire killed dozens of Germans and caused their infantry attack to waver. The enemy tanks, losing infantry support, began to fall back. For an hour the Germans tried every available weapon to eliminate 2d Lt. Murphy, but he continued to hold his position and wiped out a squad which was trying to creep up unnoticed on his right flank. Germans reached as close as 10 yards, only to be mowed down by his fire. He received a leg wound, but ignored it and continued the single-handed fight until his ammunition was exhausted. He then made his way to his company, refused medical attention, and organized the company in a counterattack which forced the Germans to withdraw. His directing of artillery fire wiped out many of the enemy; he killed or wounded about 50. 2d Lt. Murphy's indomitable courage and his refusal to give an inch of ground saved his company from possible encirclement and destruction, and enabled it to hold the woods which had been the enemy's objective."

Mark Greenblatt, City Journal
"Analyzing lists of Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, Lindberg spots a trend: the percentage of citations that include a life-saving narrative has escalated markedly in the modern era. “The increasing emphasis on life-saving activity over time is so starkly apparent that it is tempting to conclude that no one will get the Congressional Medal of Honor any more simply for exacting a price on the enemy,” he writes. “Absent the saving function, the chance of a medal being awarded now seems vanishingly low.”
If the American military—the most powerful fighting force in the history of the world—reserves its highest honor not for killing the enemy but for saving lives, “then we have perhaps reached the point in the development of the modern world at which the modern, saving form of heroism has eclipsed the vestigial forms of classical heroism and their slaying ways for good,” Lindberg observes. And that raises a haunting question for the author: what if a slaying hero (or villain) arises outside of the modern egalitarian West? Considering the rise of ISIS, the assertiveness of Iran’s mullahs, and the belligerence of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, those anti-Western heroes may have arrived already. “Do we,” Lindberg asks, “generous in spirit and reluctant to slay as we are, have the capacity and will to resist?”"