Thursday, March 31, 2005

Not Reality-Based

From the AP: "Jacobson, who has been playing religious and patriotic music outside the hospice for the past three days,said he didn’t really believe that Terri was dead.

“I’m not believing the report of man,” the bearded man said. “God will raise her from the dead, and all the world will see it.”

Taking My Oyster for Walkies

A bit too much seriousness here, so I'm going to point to an MP3 file of a funny old song.

I'm Taking My Oyster For Walkies (MP3 file, mono, 3:32 min; 2.5+ MB.) written by Bill Oddie.
Discover Simple, Private Sharing at
From the BBC radio show "I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again" aka ISIRTA.

Though there's conflicting information, I believe this was originally broadcast April 1964.

The identity of the singer is also at issue. The announcer introducing the song in the program says the singer is [Bill] Oddie, though in looking around the internet, the singer of this song is usually identified as Graeme Garden. [Edited to add: I'm sure now that the singer is the composer, Bill Oddie--thanks to Jess and Paul Haden in comments for their knowledge.]

I don't know these things. But I do know that I enjoy this very silly song.

Maybe later I'll point to "It's a Long Way From Amphioxus."

---Edited August 2006 to add lyrics:
Well over a year later, this page has a few visitors. I wanted to make out the words as well as I could anyway, so I may as well post my transcript below.

Here are the lyrics as I hear them. There is one garbled line, because I'm sure that I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again didn't have a lot of rehearsal time. Still, it's a hilariously silly song.

by Bill Oddie

I often go out walking on a Sunday
I like to take a stroll down by the sea
There's a little shellfish stall
Down by the harbor wall
And there I stop and say hello
and think of how a year ago...

I bought myself a quite delicious oyster
I thought I'd save it for a special day
But gradually I found
It was nice to have around.
So now on Sundays if it's dry
the people stop and stare as I [... am ...]

Taking my oyster for walkies
She's really incredibly sweet
We walk very slow
because as you know
an oyster has very few feet [... if any...]
I'm talking my oyster for walkies
and my oyster is taking to me.

{whistle and confusion interlude}

I admit I've had affairs with other molluscs
Well, mussels have a certain sex appeal
And I well recall the twinkle
When I first saw a 'winkle
And surely nothing can conceal
The candor of a jellied eel

Alright! I caused a scandal with a scallop
But I'm really not so shellfish anymore
Cause a lovable crustacean
Has expended my frustration
You can stuff your cockles
'Cause instead I'm happy in my oyster bed

I'm taking my oyster for walkies
How I wish I could marry the girl
If only she could see we'd
be as happy as could be we'd
have an excellent chance of a pearl.. (let's try)
I'm taking my oyster for walkies
And my oyster is taking to me.

Taking my oyster for walkies
She's the daintiest dish ever made
With barnacles on it
in her oyster bonnet
she's the queen of the oyster parade
[she's lovely]

I'm taking my oyster for walkies
and my oyster is taking to me


Well I've been locked up with a limpet
And I thought it was swell
I've had relations with a lobster
And that was all very well
But ooo you should see my oyster
When she comes out of her shell

I'm taking my oyster for walkies
and my oyster is taking ..
my oyster is taking..
my oyster is taking to me

Give us a kiss (oyster kiss and cough) .. oooh, sorry.

Thank you Bill Oddie, for this spectacular song .. and for Springwatch.

-- Update Dec. 2009

Thanks to several commenters I've cleaned up and filled in one or two of the lines. Kudos to Martin Keegan and ChrisTheNeck.

This is the only version I've ever heard. I caught it on a BBC 7 rebroadcast of ISIRTA and I couldn't make out every last jot of it. It's a pleasure to get the help from people with a bit more familiarity with the tune.

I would say that it's great people are visiting this over four years after I posted it -- and it is-- but of course it's even better that people are still searching for this small silly song over 45 years after it was broadcast on a BBC comedy program. Quite lovely. -- riffle, December 2009

More Doctors

One more post about physicians involved in the Schiavo case, since we've covered Hammesfahr pretty thouroughly. There are two more doctors who go against prevailing scientific and medical thought:

1) Dr Fred Webber
Webber played a part in an earlier part of the legal saga in this case. In June 2001, Dr. Fred Webber wrote a very schematic affidavit. The courts acted, apparently based largely on this affadavit. Webber's affidavit was removed from the Schindler's site but is available here.

A few points about Dr. Webber:
* His degree is as a D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathy). While not a slam, it's worth noting that he is not a Doctor of Medicine (MD).
* He's not a neurologist. In his remarkably skeletal affidavit, he makes no claim to be a neurologist.
* He states in his affidavit that he had not examined Ms. Schiavo.
* At the time he wrote his affidavit, Webber was working for the less-than-stellar Dr. Hammesfahr.
* After writing this affadavit and getting the judicial wheels to move, amazingly he did not appear in the trial subsequently. Very odd indeed, as the Guardian ad Litem noted:
By May of 2002, the physicians were selected by both sides but no agreeement could be reached about a fifth, so the court selected one. Curiously and surprisingly, Dr. Webber, who had served as the basis for this entire process at the 2nd DCA did not participate in the exams or the procedure.

* Dr. Webber says that he practiced in "the Minneapolis area" from about 1975 until sometime in the year 2000. Apparently the only physician licensed in Minnesota with the name Fred Webber is Fred Lawrence Webber. If this is indeed our affiant, then the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice lists that he has an (unspecified) disciplinary action. (To confirm, go here, and search for either
Licensee Name: Fred Lawrence Webber
License Number: 22801 )

* As a further note, the Guardian ad Litem identifies him as an osteopathic physician, which matches with the Minnesota physician (D.O.) who has the disciplinary action noted above.

2) Dr. William S. Maxfield.

* Dr Maxfield is not a neurologist, either. He's usually cited in press reports as a radiologist and/or a hyperbaric physician. Here's his CV.
* His affadavit (as above, it's removed from the Schindler's site but is available here) doesn't report any evaluation based on radiology. It begins: "As provided in the court order, I visited Terry Schiavo at your [ the Schindler's] request to make an independent assessment of her physical status without actually examining the patient. " So he admits he didn't examine Ms. Schiavo.
* He then reports a series of observations and extrapolations that do not rely upon his expertise as a radiologist or hyperbaric doctor.
* It does, however, appear that Dr. Maxfield is hoping to push hyperbaric therapy, ("I would then suggest a trial of Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy for one or two sessions with the SPECT brain scan then being repeated. ") which, as the Judge noted in his opinion, has no tested application to Ms. Schiavo's condition.

Once again, one has to appreciate Judge Greer's ability to assess untested therapies versus tested ones.

But the thin empirical gruel from these fellows feeds many news cycles. I would bet, however, that those commentators who find these guys compelling in the case of Ms. Schaivo would somehow find other practitioners to treat their family members if they were in medical crisis.

Bernadine Healey: will you hire Drs Hammesfahr, Webber, or Maxfield to treat you or your relatives when they have a serious neurological disorder?

I sure wouldn't, but then I haven't been implying that their work had any empirical validity. Over to you, Dr. Healey.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Hammesfahr Redux

My post about Dr. Hammesfahr below has provoked some questions via email. So, before I stop writing about him I thought I'd encapsulate more his story in a bullet-pointed post here. Some of this is in my previous post, but some is new.
  • Yes, Dr. Hammesfahr is an M.D., and he's a board certified neurologist.
  • No, he was not truly nominated for a Nobel Prize. At this writing, his claim of being Nobel Nominated is on his web page, meaning he is forwarding this misinformation himself.
  • He was disciplined by the Medical Board of Florida for charging for services he did not provide.
  • He has not published in legitimate peer-reviewed journals. Indeed, a 1999 St. Petersburg Times piece notes "His articles have been turned down by well-known medical journals," so it's not for lack of trying.
  • He is listed as one of the "Promoters of Questionable Methods" on, and an analysis of his treatments is posted there as well.
  • The only journal he's published in is one which is on a domain that's registered to his office (and for which the administrative contact phone number is his own office phone). He is on the editorial board, as is an employee of his and another Hammesfahr, likely a relative. The submission guidelines for this journal are laughable to anyone who has actually seen guidelines for a true medical or scientific journal.
  • The therapeutic regimen he has proposed has not been tested in any rigorous scientific manner; everything I've seen written about it is anecdotal.
  • He makes wild claims about his therapy being useful for a wide variety -- literally dozens -- of etiologically unrelated neurological and psychiatric disorders, without scientific validation.
  • He has not treated Teresa Schiavo: he examined her as one of five MDs which a Florida court asked to evaluate her. Two MDs were selected by Michael Schiavo, two (Hammesfahr, a neurologist, the other a radiologic/hyperbaric physician) by the Schindlers, and one neurologist was appointed by the court. All the neurologists except for Hammesfahr found her in a persistent vegetative state (the hyperbaric MD agreed with Hammesfahr that she wasn't). Here's what Theresa Schiavo's Guardian ad Litem (his report [PDF] is extremely worthwhile reading) wrote about the medical evidence of these five physicians (PDF File; pp. 16-17):
    The scientific quality, value and relevance of the testimony varied. The two neurologists testifying for Michael Schiavo provided strong, academically based, and scientifically supported evidence that was reasonably deemed clear and convincing by the court. Of the two physicians testifying for the Schindlers, only one was a neurologist, the other was a radiologist/hyperbaric physician. The testimony of the Schindler’s physicians was substantially anecdotal, and was reasonably deemed to be not clear and convincing.

    The fifth physician, chosen by the court because the two parties could not agree, presented scientifically grounded, academically based evidence that was reasonably deemed to be clear and convincing by the court.
    Following exhaustive testimony and the viewing of video tapes, the trial court concluded that no substantial evidence had been presented to indicate any promising treatment that might improve Theresa’s cognition. The court sought to glean scientific, case, research-based foundations for the contentions of the Schindler’s physician experts, but received principally anecdotal information.

    Evidence presented by Michael Schiavo’s two physicians and the fifth physician selected by the court was reasonably deemed clear and convincing in support of Theresa being in a persistent vegetative state with no hope for improvement.

  • On his webpage, Hammesfahr posts the following as an apparent selling point for his therapy:

    Dr. Hammesfahr has been identified as

    In fact, this quote is taken from the disciplinary action (PDF of the record of that proceeding) that found Hammesfahr had not provided services for which a patient had paid. Another issue in the disciplinary action was whether Hammesfahr had actually engaged in false advertising by claiming his results were "peer-reviewed" and for saying he was the first to use this treatment to help patients. The paragraph from which Hammesfahr extracted the quote above is, in full:

    The Judge essentially finds that, since Hammesfahr had run his so-called results by some friendly peers, he had actually had his results "peer-reviewed" in that narrow sense. And, since he was the first (and at the time, only) to use his therapies and some of his patients got better during the time he was treating them, the strict wording of his advertising was true.

    It's hard to believe, but the guy is using that snippet, from a Judge in Florida which indicates that no other doctors are using his therapy, as a testament on his webpage. Amazing.

    Also, the judge basically finds that his therapy is "alternative," which is protected under Florida law about alternative medicine. Thus we begin the slide to allowing doctors to use untested therapies.

Finally, to address a broader issue, many people seem to wonder why scientific evaluation should be necessary, if it seems that Dr. Hammesfahr is "helping people."

Since Dr. Hammesfahr resorts to anecdote, I'll illustrate the issues that arise with an anecdote. Let's say a patient was seen by Dr. Hammesfahr and given a treatment regimen to take home and have her physician implement. When this patient returned home, her doctor refused to administer the drugs Hammesfahr had indicated. She improved greatly anyway.

Would she likely have improved even more without paying for Hammesfahr's therapy? Would she have improved less, or the same amount? Would his therapies impede or improve her progress? These questions cannot be answered by a collection of anecdotes, no matter how high they mount. They must be assessed with rigorous, scientifically oriented, peer-reviewed studies.

Then, at least those who pay Dr. Hammesfahr money would know if they're throwing it away.

UPDATE: Here's a report by Dr. Ronald Cranford about the Schiavo case. It's interesting overall, and it includes lot more information about Hammesfahr, as well as other health care personnel who diverge from the overwhelming medical consensus in the case. Predictably, Dr. Cranford has been slimed for his medical expertise. I suppose he's not surprised.

FURTHER UPDATE: A look at two other doctors hired by the Schindlers. And a challenge to Dr. Bernadine Healey.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Dr. Hammesfahr, Clown or Quack?

David Brock's Media Matters has written about some issues with William M. Hammesfahr, the MD who claims that Terry Schiavo's condition is "not that bad." He's also been disciplined by the Florida Board of Medicine. [It seems it's pretty hard to get disciplined in Florida, but that's pure hearsay. ] Hammesfahr was retained by Terry Schaivo's parents, the Schindlers, ito evaluate her in 2002. And here's a great post about his faux Nobel Prize "nomination." keeps an eye out for questionable medical therapies. Lo and behold, they have a piece up, apparently from 2000, about Dr Hammesfahr's therapy. The analysis is not laudatory. It's also written by a Assistant Professor of Neurology at Yale University School of Medicine, no less.

It concludes: "The theoretical basis for Hammesfahr's vasodilation treatment for stroke clashes with current knowledge about stroke physiology. In fact, the prevailing current belief is that such treatments should worsen stroke outcome, not improve it. I believe that vasodilation treatment for stroke patients should be done only as part of an approved peer-reviewed protocol that includes informed consent about the treatment's experimental status and possible risks. Because of the potential risk, I doubt that an institutional review board would permit such a study unless animal studies can demonstrate that the treatment is safe and potentially useful."

Hammesfahr is listed on's Promoters of Questionable Methods page.

Also, look over Dr. Hammesfahr's own website. It's got a few things that remind one of quackery. One is that his treatment doesn't just work for one disorder, it works for many.
In 2000, this work resulted in approval for the first patent in history granted for the treatment of neurological diseases including coma, stroke, brain injury, cerebral palsy, hypoxic injuries and other neurovascular disorders with medications that restore blood flow to the brain. It was extended to treat successfully disabilities including ADD, ADHD, Dyslexia, Tourette's and Autism as well as behaviorally and emotionally disturbed children, seizures and severe migraines. [emphasis added]
It's a floor wax and a dessert topping for damaged brains!

Another hint of the questionable nature of his therapy is the section purportedly giving supporting evidence for success. His site has two pages of what he calls "reviewed results." One of these pages consists of five letters (written by three different individuals) touting his treatment. The first four letters have -- to say the least -- methodology that's difficult to divine.

Letters three (2 pages long, from 2001) and four (one page long, from 1999) on that page are written by a psychologist named Alexander T Gimon. These letters, despite their indecipherable methodology, claim to report results of Dr. Hammesfahr's treatment, tout his "successes" and claim he "discovered" that strokes could be treated with cardiac drugs. By coincidence, Alexander T Gimon appears as coauthor on a paper with Hammesfahr from 1996-7 at a purported peer-reviewed medical journal named L ifelines. (More about Lifelines below.)

The last letter on this page , relating a visit made to Hammesfahr's office, hardly even rises to the level of anecdotal. It's from a professor (a podiatrist and osteopath, not an M.D.) at Nova Southwestern University's Department of Family Medicine. Nova Southwestern doesn't offer a Doctor of Medicine degree. (Nova trains osteopaths, pharmacists, optometrists, allied health practitioners, dentists, and "biomedical scientists." The terminal degree at Nova's College of Medical Sciences is a Masters in Biomedical Science.)

Hammesfahr's "peer-reviewed" page consists of links to ten items he's submitted to a medical journal called Lifelines at Lifelines doesn't appear to have a very rigorous review process, but I'd be interested in what others may know about the site. It also has a strange dating: for the Hammesfahr/Gimon paper I mentioned above, the copyright is 1996-7, but there is a note that it was revised in 2002. I'm not sure how a scientific journal can proceed when you can revise papers six years after they've been published with no indications of the changes.

Lifelines claims to be "one of the longest lived Peer Reviewed Medical Journals in existence." Huh? That comment is just bafflingly ludicrous, even as a flackish statement.

It appears that Lifelines is the only journal in which Dr. Hammesfahr has published. He has no writings indexed at the National Library of Medicine's PubMed, though others with his surname are listed there. However, he has been on Fox News.


Update: A bit more on Lifelines, the dubious medical journal which is the only place Hammesfahr has published.
  • Dr. Hammesfahr is on the Editorial Board of Lifelines.
  • Another Hammesfahr, Dr. J.F. Hammesfahr, is also on the Editorial Board.
  • Alexander T. Gimon, the psychologist mentioned above who wrote the "evaluation" letters on Hammesfahr's web page and who coauthored a paper with Hammesfahr, is also on the Editorial Board.
  • Every member of the Editorial Board is from Florida (many from Tampa or St. Petersburg area), with the exception of J.F. Hammesfahr, who practices in the neighboring state of Georgia.
  • One member of the editorial board, Donald D. Adkins, an EEG Tech, lists on his C.V. that he is employed by William Hammesfahr.

And to go from the ridiculous to the abjectly hucksterish, the site that hosts Lifelines is Here's a screenshot of the registry information for this domain:
The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.
600 Druid Rd. E in Clearwater is also the office address listed in the c.v. of Dr. William Hammesfahr, M.D. The phone number and fax number listed for the adminstrative contact are those of Hammesfahr's office.

This looks like a vanity medical faux-journal that Dr. Hammesfahr is running out of his own office.

Finally, to get a whiff of the type of MD we're dealing with here, look at his Lifelines journal article titled To a new understanding of personnality,behavior and neurological disease [sic].

Yes, that title is howlingly grandiose, especially considering the mispelling. But look at the list of disorders he claims to treat with vasodilators. From the footnotes (we like how he calls it a "partial listing"):
What follows is a partial listing of diseases that have been successfully treated:

In the Psychiatric/Psychological arena:

Depression, Impulsive Rage Disturbances, Irritability, Emotional Lability, Psychosis, Autism, Attention Deficit Disorder and its variants, Memory Loss, Tourette's Syndrome, Transient Global Amnesia

In the Neurological/Physical arena:

Stroke, Grand Mal Epilepsy, Absence or Petit Mal Epilepsy, Psychomotor Epilepsy, Headache, Closed Head Injury, Post Concussion Syndrome, Vertigo, Ataxia, Tinnitis, Aphasia, Apraxias, Visual Loss, Visual Blurring, Blindness, Stuttering, Vasospasm after Sub-Arachnoid Hemmorhage, Vasospasm after Intracranial surgery not associated with trauma or Sub-Arachnoid Hemmorhage, disturbances of Word substitution and Word Finding, Dyslexia, Photophobia, Hyperaccusis, Tremor, Multiple Sclerosis, Multiple Sclerosis-Like Syndrome, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, Vertebrobasilar Insufficiency, Vertigo, Cerebral Palsey, Vertebrogenic Syndrome, Syncope, Multi-Infarct Dementia, "Alzheimer's" Syndrome, Whiplash Induced Headaches, Headaches in general, TMJ Headaches6 Steroid Induced Migraines, Steroid Induced Psychosis, Fibromyalgia, Prinz-Metal Angina, Neuro-cognitive changes associated with electrical and lightning injuries.

That's quite a list! And yet he can't get published in a medical journal that isn't connected with his own office.

When you see a list like that, coming from one MD and with no published research to back it up other than in his own so-called "journal," I offer a clue: don't believe it.

Here's a piece from the Saint Petersburg Times about Hammesfahr's controversial treatment. Note the abundance of anecdote and lack of scientific testing of his therapy.

The piece concludes:

Hammesfahr says he hasn't done the rigorous clinical studies because he's too busy treating patients and because he feels it would be unethical to withhold the treatment from some patients in order to study them.

But Novella said that is not a good enough reason.

"That is the absolute standard response of all snake oil salesmen - 'I'm too busy curing my patients to study my treatment,' " Novella said. "If his treatment does work, then it's still unethical because he's depriving all of the hundreds of thousands of patients that would benefit from it if we knew that it worked."

Nowadays, of course, rather than taking the time to test his therapies he's out grabbing facetime on cable news channels. It's possible that enhancing his name recognition could enhance his revenue, while actually scientifically testing his therapies could do who knows what.

UPDATE: I've summarized this post and added more information in the next post.

counter statistics

Sunday, March 20, 2005


A former prosecutor (appointed by John Ashcroft), apparently gets heavily into drugs in his late forties and is murdered over three weeks of unpaid rent (paying rent by the week is a bad sign in itself).

Sad story all around.

Rush Limbaugh, there but for the grace of great wealth go you.

And Ashcroft, I guess that annointing didn't take.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Bunkum, Bunk, Hokum, and Debunk

During the heated debate concerning the Missouri Compromise in 1820, Representative Felix Walker from the North Carolina County of Buncombe gave a disjointed and largely irrelevant speech. His colleagues begged him to yield but he refused, saying his speech wasn't for congress but for those in his home county.

Thus Buncombe (county seat Asheville) lends its name to bunkum, meaning claptrap, hot air, or empty asinine talk. Bunkum (combined with hocus-pocus to make hokum) is sometimes shortened to bunk, and in 1923 the word debunk entered the language based on the above.

Thank you, Felix Walker, for wasting time and giving us several nice words derived from a place name.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Scientists Named Steve

This post: features the quote:
The Discovery Institute, which is ground zero for the intelligent design movement, gathered at last count the signatures of 356 scientists who question evolution.

In response, the National Center for Science Education, which strongly defends the science of evolution, got 543 scientists named Steve to sign a defense of the theory.
Hilarious. And true. Here's the Project Steve home page at the NCSE site; it's named in honor of Stephen Jay Gould. They even have t-shirts for sale.

They're still accepting signatories named Steve (or Stephen, Steven, Esteban, Stienne, or Stephanie). Currently they're at 551 signatories. Surely there are more Scientist Steves than that. C'mon Steve!

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Administration Rejects Ruling On PR Videos

We're from the government --no need to mention that -- and we're here to lie to you
The Bush administration, rejecting an opinion from the Government Accountability Office, said last week that it is legal for federal agencies to feed TV stations prepackaged news stories that do not disclose the government's role in producing them.

Gee, why would they want to create news packages that are from the administration but do not disclose that fact?

Bush says he wants to bypass "the filter," but this makes it obvious he wants to be the filter -- and filter out impotant information in favor of flackery.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Five Times

Smell of the Greasepaint in the Social Security lyiing tour:
"The night before the event, the chosen participants gathered for a rehearsal in the hall in which the president would appear the next day. An official dispatched by the White House played the president and asked questions. 'We ran through it five times before the president got there,' Darr said.

Monday, March 07, 2005

It Ain't Pretty

Financial Times story on Warrent Buffett's annual letter to investors:
"Mr Buffett stepped up his warning about the US trade deficit and the need to finance it with foreign investment, devoting more than two full pages of the annual report to the topic.

“This force-feeding of American wealth to the rest of the world is now proceeding at the rate of $1.8bn daily, an increase of 20 per cent since I wrote you last year,” he said. “Consequently, other countries and their citizens now own a net of about $3,000bn of the US”

In particular, he warned that this meant a sizeable portion of what US citizens earned in future would have to be paid to foreign landlords.

“A country that is now aspiring to an “Ownership Society” will not find happiness in – and I’ll use hyperbole here for emphasis – a “Sharecropper’s Society,” added Mr Buffett. “But that’s precisely where our trade policies, supported by Republicans and Democrats alike, are taking us.”"
The full letter to investors is linked from that story. Not a pretty picture.

My favorite Buffett opinion about Bush Administration economic policy: ""If it's class warfare, my class is winning."

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Abbott & Costello at Blockbuster

At McSweeney's, Chris Gavaler's riff on Who's on First?


Reminds me of a similar bit -- based on the names of rock bands -- done by The Credibility Gap (Richard Beebe, Harry Shearer, David L. Lander, and Michael McKean) in the seventies. Go to this page on Shearer's site and scroll down to the "Who's on First" link for the Real Audio file.

And I see that a site called has audio, video (!) and text of the original Bud Abbott and Lou Costello routine.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Drastic Horrors

Bush today:
"March 4 (Bloomberg) -- President George W. Bush, facing a decline in public support for private Social Security accounts, said ``something drastic has to happen'' to fix the retirement safety net that has served workers for decades."
Drastic, huh? For him, the most drastic possible thing would be increasing revenue (taxes) so the US can restore fiscal sanity.

But is fiscal sanity drastic enough for Bush? Don't bet on it.

The profligacy of this administration is infuriating.

The Battle Is Joined

In the past couple weeks, there have been notable sighs of relief from Democrats about the Social Security debate. Frist said "maybe next year," polls showed Bush's support dropping, and the whole idea of private accounts seemed to be getting no traction.

But the past is prelude -- the battle is about to be joined. And there's no telling what verbal and mathematical trickery, fake "grassroots" (i.e. astroturf) organizations, more-or-less celebrity [cough] spokespeople, parliamentary maneuvering, kissing of Democrats while hiding the shiv, and hyping of unrelated events will be brought to bear to dessicate one of the most successful programs in the history of the United States.

Josh Marshall, who deserves a medal and an enormous cash prize for his dilligent work on Social Security for months now, realizes the stakes. I urge you to read Josh's post.

The ideological fixations of the Republican Party throughout the 20th Century are now focused on the retirement income of millions of Americans in the decades to come. They are using both the shaky claim that we can't afford to support the elderly as we've done in the past combined with a promise that their plan will do better, when they know they cannot ensure that promise can be supported by the market.

In short, they're making an unsupportable promise about the future and reneging on a long-standing promise made every decade since FDR.

And, of course, they're pushing risk onto middle- and lower-income individuals and increasing the benefits for the most wealthy in the nation.

This is going to be a long and tiring fight. But it's one we can and must win. While Democrats argue about many things, I can't think of a true Democrat who would want the repeal of the social contract developed in the New Deal.

So, in this instance if no other, let's all pull in the same direction. Social Security must stand basically as it is now.

Bush should fix the horrible problems he has caused himself (like the general fund crisis ) and not create new problems for individual Americans in the future, as he is attempting to do.

It's a vitally important fight, and it's just beginning.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Damned Food

Recipes Of The Damned

Amy Stephenson has collected "real scary recipes from real scary vintage cookbooks," including a discursive little essay along with each. Some are intended to use a specific modern manufacturer's products, such as the majestic and elaborate HyPower Chile Con Carne with Noodles, and some are venerable dishes like Jugged Hare.

From the intro to the latter, I was surprised to learn that there was apparently a small regional chain in the US that served fried rabbit. It seems it didn't last long -- at least not the franchise near the Purdue campus.

I've seen sites that focus mainly on photos from old cookbooks or food packaging, but being a cooking buff, I find Recipes of the Damned more satisfying. I may even try some of them.

Science Political

This little blog-ditty titled Intellectual Diversity at Stanford has been well-linked, and it's quite clever. Here's the opening, but click through since it's funny and not long:
A shocking recent study has discovered that only 13% of Stanford professors are Republicans. The authors compare this to the 51% of 2004 voters who selected a Republican for President and argue this is “evidence of discrimination” and that “academic Republicans are being eradicated by academic Democrats”.

Scary as this is, my preliminary research has discovered some even more shocking facts. I have found that only 1% of Stanford professors believe in telepathy (defined as “communication between minds without using the traditional five senses”), compared with 36% of the general population. And less than half a percent believe “people on this earth are sometimes possessed by the devil”, compared with 49% of those outside the ivory tower. And while 25% of Americans believe in astrology (“the position of the stars and planets can affect people’s lives”), I could only find one Stanford professor who would agree. (All numbers are from mainstream polls, as reported by Sokal.)
That funny post resonated with this one I saw at Unfogged. While discussing his observations about the differences between humanities and social science people versus hard science people, Bob tosses this off:
When right-wing blowhards get all bunched up over the radicals on the tenure track, generally they're not referring to chemistry departments. Yes, every natural-scientist I know is hard-left as far as electoral politics go.
While I don't consort with academics that much anymore, I've found that true. Mathematicians, physicists, chemists are generally quite left, while those in the life sciences (biology, zoology, botany) are reliably progressive, too. [Computer science, which is arguably not a hard science, seems to have a bit higher ratio of conservatives.]

Even most scientists who have punctured some categories of leftists are generally very progressive. Physicist Alan Sokal (parenthetically mentioned in the first link above) who gave such a kick to the "academic left" with his hilarious Sokal Affair, is himself a leftist. Biologist Paul Gross and Mathematician Norman Levitt, the authors of Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels With Science, reveal in the book that they are pretty hardcore lefties, too.

These leftwing scientists and others are doing a great service to the left by trying to drive sloppy thinking, outright falsehoods, and superstitious tendencies from some doctrinaire leftists. I'm sure they gave some aid and comfort to conservatives who use their works to make fun of the "pomo" academic lefties, but sometimes the truth hurts.

Lefties criticizing lefties. That's something I've been noticing recently. Maybe I'll post about it sometime.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Not one "My Cheerleader Uniform Won't Fit"

I rarely read Molly Ivin's columns, but this one from Sunday really packs a punch.

There's a bill in the Texas legislature to change parental notification of minor abortion to parental consent. Molly spends most of her column reprinting solicitations to judges to bypass, as provided by law, the current notification rule. Here's just one:
Social worker for a 13-year-old: "She ran away from her foster home and was gone for eight weeks. Now she's in an emergency shelter and is pregnant. Her mother is deceased. Her father raped her when she was 8 years old and is still in prison for it. I knew her when she had to testify against him. I don't know if I can convince her to go back to court, but she definitely wants an abortion."
They're all heartbreaking.

Thanks to Mousewords for the liink.
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