Monday, June 20, 2005

Frist and the AMA

In response to my previous post about Senator Frist’s possible ethics violations concerning his video “diagnosis” of Terri Shiavo, Paco Delicious at “The Force Recon: In point of fact” has written a concise exposition of how precisely Frist has violated AMA ethics.

“The issue of Frist questioning the diagnosis of persistent vegetative state based on a viewing of the video is completely unprofessional on its face, but it wasn't the only, or indeed the first ethical breach in this case. Whoever taped her and then released the video, clearly did not do so to provide "therapeutic benefit" to Schiavo, nor were the objectives of the filming "first and foremost educational," the Council's other main criteria besides "informed consent" that might allow such filming.”

It is well worth a few minutes of your time to read.

Friday, June 17, 2005

There Are None So Blind...

According to Jon Trogmartin, medical examiner and board certified neuropathologist, who was in attendance at the autopsy (as pursuant to Florida chapter 406) of the late Terri Shiavo:

“Her brain was profoundly atrophied. The brain weighed 615 grams, roughly half of the expected weight of a human brain. This was due to diffused hypoxic ischemic damage. There was massive neuronal loss or damage. This damage was irreversible, and no amount of therapy or treatment would have regenerated the massive loss of neurons.

Of note, there was severe occipital lobe necrosis resulting in lateral geniculate nucleus (visual) demonstrated transneuronal degeneration with gliosi. Her vision centers of her brain were dead. Therefore, Mrs. Schiavo had what's called cortical blindness. She was blind, could not see.”

In spite of Dr. Throgmartin’s tongue-twisting medical jargon, the conclusions are stark – massive brain damage, atrophy and total blindness with no possible hope of recovery.

Like most of America this past spring, I was subjected to the heart-rending (and now known to have been carefully edited) videos of Terri Shiavo allegedly following a balloon waved by her father. The St. Petersburg Times has published a link to that particular clip where it becomes evident that Terri was not the only one in the room who had been blinded by her awful reality.

But, none was so blinded by the Terri Shiavo case (or was it ambition) than the Senate Majority Leader, Dr. Bill Frist. Frist, an MD and heart specialist, led the fight to intervene against pulling Schiavo’s feeding tube, claiming he was defending a “culture of life”. In a bid to bring her case into federal court, Congress held its emergency session and passed the Terri Schiavo bill, which allowed her case to be considered by a federal judge. President Bush flew back from his ranch Texas on Palm Sunday to sign it into law.

On March 17th, on the floor of the senate, Dr. Frist made this pronouncement:

"To be able to make a diagnosis of persistent vegetative state - which is not brain dead; it is not coma; it is a specific diagnosis and typically takes multiple examinations over a period of time because you are looking for responsiveness - I have looked at the video footage. Based on the footage provided to me, which was part of the facts of the case, she does respond."

NBC’s Today Show host Matt Lauer questioned Frist’s now infamous diagnosis in the wake of the autopsy findings. It seems that Senator Frist has now developed a case of amnesia that would delight a medical malpractice defense attorney.

LAUER: But when you stood on the floor and you said, She does respond, are you at all worried that you led some senators…

FRIST: I never said, She responded. I said I reviewed the court videotapes – the same ones the other doctors reviewed – and I questioned, Is her diagnosis correct?

Liar, Liar...Pants on fire Posted by Hello

You’re right Bill, you said, “she does respond”.

Representative Barney Frank (D- Massachusetts) in the New York Times said, “I think it will been seen at some point as a turning point in America about what’s going on with the Republican Party – namely that you have this fanatical party willing to impose its own views on people, and frankly, powerful enough to do it." Frank, who was among the most vocal critics of the Schiavo bill, continued, "This is particularly a problem for Dr. Frist. This is a direct refutation of his TV diagnosis."

Frist, who is viewed as a potential presidential candidate for 2008, has pandered to the right wing extremist elements of the Republican Party not only in the Schiavo case, but also in the debate over the use of the filibuster in judicial hearings when he appeared along with other far right Christian luminaries such as Tony Perkins and James Dobson on “Justice Sunday” where it was declared that the Democrats were attacking “people of faith”.

It seems the good doctor may arguably be in violation of AMA ethics opinion E-5.045 by his amateur video “diagnosis”. But, there is no doubt he has abandoned the Hippocratic Oath where he swore “I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.” Or, “this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.”

Perhaps the good doctor might want to consult the Bible he is so fond of defending and read Jeremiah 5:21:

“Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not:”

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Creationist Mythology Gains Acceptance at Tulsa Zoo

“For that matter, even religious worship would have been permitted if the proles had shown any sign of needing or wanting it. They were beneath suspicion. As the Party slogan put it: ‘Proles and animals are free.’’’

-George Orwell

Well, those crazy, cretinous creationists are at it again. Not satisfied with undermining scientific education in the schools, they have moved on to bigger and more public targets such as the local zoo.

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, the Park and Recreation Board voted this past Tuesday in favor of a Biblical display highlighting the myth of Genesis in which God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh at the Tulsa Zoo.

In spite of objections from zoo officials and scientists, the board voted 3 to 1 to include the religious display without regard to the fact that theology should not be part of a taxpayer-funded scientific institution.

Jesus loves me this I know... Posted by Hello

The lone dissenting board member, Dale McNamara, said the zoo is dedicated to animals and science, not religious beliefs. "I do not like the idea of scripture at the zoo," she said.

Exhibit curator at the zoo, Kathleen Buck-Miser, expressed misgivings about the zoo delving into theological debate. "I'm afraid we are going in the wrong direction," she said.

The move to have a creationist display was spearheaded by religious fanatic Dan Hicks, who has campaigned since the mid-nineties to have evolution-based displays removed. Hicks’ objection is to the statue of Ganesh, a Hindu elephant deity that stands outside the elephant exhibit. "I see this as a big victory," said Hicks, "It's a matter of fairness. To not include the creationist view would be discrimination."

Because the Bible tells me so! Posted by Hello

Zoo officials argued that the zoo, as a scientific institution, does not advocate religion and that displays like the elephant statue are meant to show the animal's image among cultures. The same exhibit includes the Republican Party's elephant symbol.

Tulsa’s conservative Republican mayor, Bill LaFortune supported the initiative saying the zoo already had religious exhibits referring to the Ganesh statue. But, more likely, the two thousand signatures Hicks had collected on a petition more heavily influenced the decision on the mayor’s part. After all, Mr. LaFortune is the man who declared March as National Caffeine Awareness Month in Tulsa.

The board agreed to post a disclaimer on signs around the zoo that reads, "There are many views on the origins of biological species and their behaviors. The information that accompanies our displays is based on evidence of the natural sciences. Because scientific knowledge is subject to change these displays may be revised as new information becomes available."

Another dark day indeed for science and progress.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

“This Important Good Law”

“It was not desirable that the proles should have strong political feelings. All that was required of them was a primitive patriotism which could be appealed to whenever it was necessary to make them accept longer working-hours or shorter rations. And even when they became discontented, as they sometimes did, their discontent led nowhere, because being without general ideas, they could only focus it on petty specific grievances. The larger evils invariably escaped their notice.”

- George Orwell

While most of America has been obsessing over the verdict of the Michael Jackson trial or the conversion of Katie Holmes to Scientology, our dear leader has been stumping at various events across the country urging lawmakers to make certain provisions of the Patriot Act permanent. He has called on them to disregard what he called “unfair criticisms of this important good law.”

Our Leader Posted by Hello

Traveling to various venues in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York, including the National Counterterrorism Center in Tysons Corner, Virginia, Mr. Bush has thrown down the gauntlet to legislators saying, "The Patriot Act has not diminished American liberties. The Patriot Act has helped defend American liberties."

Some civil libertarians disagree, saying the act passed with little debate in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 left some disturbing questions about its constitutionality. Its critics contend that the act’s broad powers of search and detention violate the Fourth Amendment. Ramesh Ponnuru, writing in the conservative magazine National Review, concedes the law should not be made permanent: “Moreover, the civil libertarians make a reasonable demand when they ask that Patriot be subject to periodic re-authorizations, so that Congress can regularly consider making modifications.”

Watch, ride and report Posted by Hello

While there have been draconian laws passed in times of emergency and war in our nation’s past, they have usually been struck down rather quickly after the emergency has passed. Lincoln, for instance, suspended the Writ of Habeus Corpus during the Civil War until the Supreme Court intervened. Every governor has the right to declare martial law in the event of civil unrest, rebellion or imminent invasion.

It is the chilling words of Mr. Bush that concern me; “For the sake of our national security, the United States Congress needs to renew all the provisions of the Patriot Act and, this time, Congress needs to make those provisions permanent".

Secure beneath the watchful eyes Posted by Hello

“Permanent” seems, well, so permanent.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Back to the Future Part 2

Welcome To Wal-Mart Nation

As the United States’ population approaches 300 million, the U.S. Department of Labor reports that there are only 10 million production workers on the payroll. And their numbers are declining.

What does this mean in the grand scheme of things? It means that the U.S. economy has been unable to create jobs in export and import-competitive industries. U.S. job growth is confined to non-tradable domestic services. In short, we are importing more and more goods from abroad producing less and less tangible goods for export thereby contributing to a staggering trade deficit that must be financed by foreign credit.

Clyde Prestowitz, author of the just published “Three Billion New Capitalists: The Great Shift of Wealth and Power to the East”, explained that America's prosperity is an illusion. Americans feel prosperous because they are consuming $700 billion annually more than they are producing. Foreigners, principally Asians, are financing US over-consumption, because we are paying them by handing over our markets, our jobs, and our wealth.

While the “de-industrialization” of American has been going on for three decades, it has accelerated in recent years with the advent of “globalization.”

One of the biggest culprits in the move to third world labor markets is the retailing behemoth, Wal-Mart. With their motto of “Always low prices. Always” they have grown into a retailing powerhouse with sales of $256.3 billion—more than the sales of Microsoft and retail competitors Home Depot, Kroger, Target, and Costco combined.

Wal-Mart: Always Low Wages. Always (AP Photo/April L. Brown)  Posted by Hello

Wal-Mart, which bills itself as a “family friendly” business, is not so friendly when dealing with its vendors:

“Pillowtex Corp. had more than 1.2 BILLION dollars in sales, with $450 to $500 million of it with Wal-Mart according to the company's former CEO. He was quite was bitter, as he described how Wal-Mart drove his prices lower and lower. Then the store had the nerve to firmly suggest he go off-shore to get his products made. In the end, he liquidated his company and was forced to fire ALL 14,000 employees. 14,000 people all unemployed.”

Of course, those 14, 000 workers have families, but the quest for profits apparently trumps the needs of American families.

Next: Allegations of abusive labor practices and the sweatshop economy.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Back to the Future Part I

The Long Slow Slide

“As short a time ago as February, the Ministry of Plenty had issued a promise (a ‘categorical pledge’ were the official words) that there would be no reduction of the chocolate ration during 1984. Actually, as Winston was aware, the chocolate ration was to be reduced from thirty grammes to twenty at the end of the present week. All that was needed was to substitute for the original promise a warning that it would probably be necessary to reduce the ration at some time in April.”
George Orwell

Do you ever wake up in the morning with a certain dread, a sense of impending disaster? Not the cataclysmic variety disasters such as a hurricane or tsunami, or something manmade like a nuclear plant meltdown, but rather the slow slide into a bleakness stamped with inevitability. In short, a realization that the future is not what it used to be.

Some of this is I blame on the malaise of middle age; that time in a man’s life when the horizons begin to constrict and the realization that the years behind you are greater than the ones that lie ahead. But, with advancing years comes a perspective of having decades, rather than years, to measure. And from this perspective comes a disheartening conclusion that “things” are not going well in our brave new world.

Like Orwell’s protagonist, Winston Smith, it is becoming increasingly apparent that there is a wider and wider gap between the message of the bleating duckspeakers on the evening news and the reality that is most of our situations. The chocolate ration has been cut; yet, we are told there will be plenty of chocolate to go around.

Two pieces of news recently that bring this point to mind: the recent announcement from the government about jobs creation and General Motors decision to eliminate 25, 000 mostly blue-collar jobs over the next three years.

Paul Craig Roberts of Counterpunch sums up the first story thusly,

“In May the Bush economy eked out a paltry 73,000 private sector jobs: 20,000 jobs in construction (primarily for Mexican immigrants), 21,000 jobs in wholesale and retail trade, and 32,500 jobs in health care and social assistance. Local government added 5,000 for a grand total of 78,000.

Not a single one of these jobs produces an exportable good or service. With Americans increasingly divorced from the production of the goods and services that they consume, Americans have no way to pay for their consumption except by handing over to foreigners more of their accumulated stock of wealth. The country continues to eat its seed corn.”

This was followed by a headline in the New York Times detailing GM’s biggest wave of job cuts since 1992. GM’s chairman and chief executive engaged in a bit of doublethink as he announced the planned cuts:

“Addressing such costs ‘will be challenging and discomforting, but it is clear that not addressing them will cause significant risk to the long-term viability of our business.’”

“Challenging and discomforting”, what a lovely euphemism for tossing twenty-five thousands souls into the ranks of the unemployed; the harsh reality is that these twenty-thousands will in all likelihood never regain the standard of living they once enjoyed. Yes, I would call that “challenging and discomforting”.

What is noticeably absent in the report is the ripple effect these cuts will incur. Hundreds of vendors and local businesses are dependent on the high wage levels of these manufacturing jobs. Anyone living through the huge dislocations in the manufacturing sector during the Reagan years, particularly those of us in the Midwest, will remember the double digit unemployment figures and the shuttering of many small and medium size cities, most of whom have never recovered to this day.

The alternative: part-time employment as a Wal-Mart Greeter for slightly more than minimum wage?

The future is not what it used to be... Posted by Hello

Monday, June 06, 2005

Damaging Books?

While perusing the various conservative magazines online recently, I came upon a disturbing article in the archconservative weekly Human Events entitled “Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries”. The lead paragraph explains:

“Human Events asked a panel of 15 conservative scholars and public policy leaders to help us compile a list of the Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries. Each panelist nominated a number of titles and then voted on a ballot including all books nominated.”

All the predictable villains are there, plus a few surprises:

1. The Communist Manifesto - Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels
2. Mein Kampf - Adolf Hitler
3. Quotations from Chairman Mao - Mao Zedong
4. The Kinsey Report - Alfred Kinsey
5. Democracy and Education - John Dewey
6. Das Kapital - Karl Marx
7. The Feminine Mystique - Betty Friedan
8. The Course of Positive Philosophy - Auguste Comte
9. Beyond Good and Evil - Freidrich Nietzsche
10. General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money - John Maynard Keynes

Honorable Mentions

The Population Bomb - Paul Ehrlich
What Is To Be Done - V.I. Lenin
Authoritarian Personality - Theodor Adorno
On Liberty - John Stuart Mill
Beyond Freedom and Dignity - B.F. Skinner
Reflections on Violence - Georges Sorel
The Promise of American Life - Herbert Croly
Origin of the Species - Charles Darwin
Madness and Civilization - Michel Foucault
Soviet Communism: A New Civilization - Sidney and Beatrice Webb
Coming of Age in Samoa - Margaret Mead
Unsafe at Any Speed - Ralph Nader
Second Sex - Simone de Beauvoir
Prison Notebooks - Antonio Gramsci
Silent Spring - Rachel Carson
Wretched of the Earth - Frantz Fanon
Introduction to Psychoanalysis - Sigmund Freud
The Greening of America - Charles Reich
The Limits to Growth - Club of Rome
Descent of Man - Charles Darwin

The question I have is, just exactly what is the purpose of such a list?
To be fair, I suppose you could find similar lists among those publications tilting to the extreme left, but as yet, I haven’t found them. But, orthodoxy is orthodoxy no matter what flavor it comes in. While Human Events holds back from telling its readers not to read these “evil” books, the implication is clear; books will damage you.

This is the fundamentalist mindset in a nutshell whether it is the variety that springs from the right or left, or the religious or non-religious. “We don’t like ideas that are different than ours,” therefore a list must be compiled. And, as it is too often the case in history, the list becomes a bonfire. Ideas, and after all, what are books but ideas in a portable form, are dangerous and must kept away from the true believers – whatever that belief may be.

Hitler Youth burning "un-German" books in 1933 Posted by Hello

Over the years I have read a fair number of the books listed above. And yet, I became neither a Stalinist nor Maoist nor Nazi. In fact, it was from reading such books that I learned to reject what Orwell labeled “smelly little orthodoxies”. A critical mind must.

In fact it was a Republican president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, during the height of the cold war era, who spoke most eloquently about the need for a liberal democratic society to maintain the free exchange of ideas:

“Don't think you're going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don't be afraid to go in your library and read every book, as long as any document does not offend our own ideas of decency. That should be the only censorship.

How will we defeat communism unless we know what it is, what it teaches, and why does it have such an appeal for men, why are so many people swearing allegiance to it? It's almost a religion, albeit one of the nether regions.

And we have got to fight it with something better, not try to conceal the thinking of our own people. They are part of America. And even if they think ideas that are contrary to ours, their right to say them, their right to record them, and their right to have them at places where they're accessible to others is unquestioned, or it's not America.”

Dartmouth College Commencement, June 14, 1953

I wonder if the editors of Human Events ever considered that they might have caused more damage than their intended targets?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Dream of the Astronaut

Local playwright Chip Gambill’s The Dream of the Astronaut opens tonight at the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) as part of the Cincinnati Fringe Festival.

It has been receiving some favorable notice from local papers, and if this play is as good as his previous efforts, it will be well worth the effort to go see.

"The play involves three stopovers in the journey of a man, which involve encounters with three women," explains Gambill. "And in these encounters we see how the thinkers among us conceive ideals: ideal people, ideal situations. Yet, because they're ideals they never quite get there."

Peter Karapetkov directs The Dream of the Astronaut and it stars actors Nick Rose and Jennifer Dalton. Gambill and Karapetkov have collaborated before when they worked together on a Cincinnati Playwrights Initiative workshop last summer.

If you only attend one play a year, this could very well be the one.

See Chip Gambill's latest at the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) June 2-11 Posted by Hello

Performances, all at the Contemporary Arts Center, 6th & Walnut, are:

Thursday, June 2 at 7:00
Saturday, June 4, at 9:00
Tuesday, June 7, at 7:00
Thursday, June 9, at 9:00
Saturday, June 11, at 7:30

Get tickets at:
or the Aronoff Center Box Office, Walnut between 6th & 7th.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

I'LL BE BACK...After a word from our sponsors

I would personally like to congratulate Arnold “The Governator” Schwarzenegger for breaking down one of the last barriers between our corporate masters and their political puppets.

In a recent advertisement endorsing his political agenda, the Republican governor of California has embraced the time-honored strategy of “product placement”.

"The TV ad, released in May, features Schwarzenegger talking to people in a lunchroom, and places Pepsi and Arrowhead Water in prominent spots next to the governor for 1/3 of the ad. Donors connected to Pepsi Co. and Arrowhead Water's parent company, Nestle, gave the governor a total of $279,800 in campaign contributions. Also recognizable on-screen are Ruffles, Sun Chips, Cheetos and a SoBe Beverage, all brands owned by Pepsi.”

Pepsi anyone? Posted by Hello

Product placement has been with us for years in movies and television. Marketing departments know that straightforward ads detailing the virtues of the particular product have been losing their impact in a media saturated world where the attention span of their audience is only slightly longer than that of a gnat. Entertainment, the only thing most Americans care about anymore, is riddled with corporate logos and gizmos used by characters in hopes that you are so enamored of fictional characters and what they value, you will rush out of the theater and purchase their brand.

Soon every aspect of our lives will have a corporate sponsor – “This funeral is brought to you by Hillebrand caskets” – so, why not our political arena? It has been corrupted by corporate money for years. Let’s see who is footing the bill. We can choose our candidates on the basis of their brand endorsements, which in truth would tell us as much, probably more than anything in their carefully scripted campaign speeches.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing to turn on the evening news and see a segment about the Iraq war that began with:

“This war has been brought to you by The Halliburton Corporation and Exxon-Mobil, serving global dominance for 50 years.”

P.S. By the way, please take a look at some of this blog's fine corporate sponsors!