Thursday, January 29, 2009


With his first bill signed as president, Obama made into law what was already a law.

Monday, January 26, 2009

A New Nation

Proving that being fired by Bill Clinton following a public scandal involving a prostitute does not qualify one to be a political pundit, Dick Morris writes the following about the beginning point of Barack Obama's presidency in the first paragraph of a recent post: "Simply put, we enter his administration as free-enterprise, market-dominated, laissez-faire America. "

Well, that certainly is simplly put, but one wonders how Mr. Morris came up with that, given that he is too young to have just awakened from a slumber that began in 1928. To speak of a "laissez-faire America" at a time when the public and private sectors have become hopelessly enmeshed truly inspires incredulity.

When the Bush administration spoke of regime change, who would have thought that the United States could be where it happened? After 8 years of government expansion in health care, education, the financial sector, and the automotive industry -- to list only the most obvious -- the question is not whether we will be a socialist country, but it is only what kind of socialist country we will be. The questions concern the extent, not the nature of, our descent into collectivism.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Knowing Something in Nashville

Congratulations to voters in Nashville, Tennessee, who soundly defeated a referendum yesterday that would have required all business of city government to be conducted in English.

Of course, as all city business is conducted in English, the expensive ballot measure represented a solution to a problem that does not exist.

That the measure lost is also a victory for Tennessee Republicans, though many would not recognize it as such. Since its founding before the Civil War, the Republican Party has always been home to a number of "Know Nothings," but that contingent has never been allowed to dominate. For the sake of the Party in Tennessee, it is good that they did not do so at this point.

Nashville attorney Nathan Moore deserves enormous credit for his effort at showing that passage of the measure was NOT a conservative cause. Mr. Moore took a lot of abuse for his work, especially from people who found insults to be their only recourse after they were unable to answer his arguments. It would have been easier for him to stay on the sidelines. That he did not represented an important service to the community and to local Republicans.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Running up the Score

Dallas Academy is a private school that serves students with "learning differences" such as dyslexia. They only have about 20 girls in their high school, so it is somewhat surprising that they are even able to field a girls varsity basketball team. They have a team, but it means having to play with some girls that do not have much basketball playing experience. They have not won a game in four years.

Last week, a much superior Covenant School team chose to keep their defensive pressure on throughout a game which they ultimately won by the score of 100-0.

Covenant basketball coach Micah Grimes, who presumably has something to say about the team's offensive and defensive strategy, is quoted in the Dallas Morning News as describing the outcome of the game as something "unfortunate" that "just happened."

No, coach, "unfortunate" would be the wrong word. Try "classless."

Update. According to an article today at the Dallas Morning News website, Coach Grimes has sent an email to the team stating that he disagrees with his school's apology over the incident. This one is simple. If Mr. Grimes, upon calm reflection, is incapable of understanding the difference between playing hard to win and humiliating an inferior opponent, then he is not morally or mentally suited for his position and should be dismissed immediately.

Lest anyone just think I am soft, I will point out the fact that I once took the unpopular position that a Little League coach was right to walk a good hitter in order to pitch instead to a handicapped child, who subsequently struck out to end the game. These are distinctions with a difference. It is right to teach kids to play hard and smart to win. It is not right to intentionally humiliate an opponent in the way that Micah Grimes did.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Cities without Newspapers?

Older readers can remember a time when most large metropolitan areas boasted multiple daily newspaper choices. Now, only the largest of metropolitan areas have more than one major offering, and many of the sorts of people that read news regret that lack of competitive news gathering. Given the seeming inability of dailies to redefine their roles in an era of technologically driven news sources, we may see a time when some large cities don't have any.

Is that where we are headed? If so, for all of my criticism of the media, we will be worse off for it.

I don't think that will happen in the metroplex anytime soon, if at all, but recent events point toward the likelihood of the collapse of the news business. As an example, in the face of rapidly declining circulation and advertising revenues, the Dallas Morning News has implemented a second price increase in less than a year, thus doubling the price of the daily paper from what it was a year ago.

I am sure that the number crunchers at DMN who are privy to all of the economic realities of revenues and expenses consider this necessary, and maybe it is, but it is also a recipe for decline. You don't have to be Adam Smith to recognize that raising the price of a product that is already becoming less valued by its consumers will accelerate the decline.

To increase revenue, the newspaper has to figure out how to increase its perceived value. Increasing prices for something that fewer and fewer people want is a formula for death.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

New Tennessee Speaker of the House

Immediate past Tennessee Speaker of the House Jimmy Naifeh (D-Covington), left, meets with new "Republican" House Speaker Kent Williams.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Walk Down Lobotomy Lane

"My Lobotomy" by Howard Dully is a stark, unapologetic look at the life of a boy whose mother had tragically died of cancer when he was only five and the devastation that had followed him when his father remarried a woman named Lou who was incapable of handling the affliction that plagued her step-son Howard that is simply known as "being a boy". After going to six different psychologists and psychiatrists, four of whom said Lou was the one with a mental disorder, she found Dr. Walter Freeman, the biggest proponent of psycho-surgery in America. Howard Dully was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was lobotomized at the young age of twelve.

After Howard recovered from the stupor associated with the brain mutilation, Lou became increasingly frustrated over the fact that the surgery didn't "work". In my opinion this begs the question, how can one cure normal? She sent her step-son out of the house where he spent the rest of his adolescent years in institutions, juvenile prison, and half-way houses. The book then goes on to tell of the numerous mistakes and legal complications Howard Dully, himself, had perpetrated during his adult life until he decided to turn his life around with the help of his wife Barbara.

The book is very compelling, and I appreciate the writer's candor in not sugar-coating what was done to him and the things he had been guilty of, and how he put his life on a track that gave everything meaning and how he has helped other victims of the tragic brutality of lobotomies. However, as a medical geek, I wanted more. As I read the book, I often wondered what his MRI would show. In the Afterword I was not left disappointed. He was approached by two research doctors who wanted to perform an MRI of his brain. Before the MRI was done, they thought maybe Dr. Freeman had changed his mind and not gone through with the surgery because of how completely normal, intelligent, and articulate Mr. Dully is. When they looked at the imaging results, they saw a severely damaged brain. Dully asked them if they had seen the MRI results without any foreknowledge of the patient what would they think. They told him they would think the patient would have to have been institutionalized for the rest of his life because it would have been impossible for him to have functioned in society. He would have been a vegetable.

After further analysis, what they discovered was that the parts of the brain that weren't damaged had grown stronger, which would not have happened with an adult brain. However, because Howard Dully was only twelve at the time of his operation, his brain had not finished growing, and it compensated for the damaged areas. This has compelled me to want to look further into the effects of lobotomies in adult brains. Unfortunately, I have gotten mixed results. While the prevailing wisdom is that lobotomies are barbaric and an unfortunate blight on our medical history, there are still case histories where it has stated in extreme cases of depression or OCD, it has had some benefit without damaging the patients' intellect, but it has had no effect on those with schizophrenia. So why in Dully's case it should have had a strong impact on intellect if he were an adult, but in other patients there was no affect?

I came across a study that was done in Japan on 8 schizophrenics that had had lobotomies some 40 or 50 years ago. For me this was especially exciting because not only did they post the MRI results, but they actually published the MRI pictures of three of the patients, and it was clear from looking at them that in all of them there was a certain amount of atrophy in the frontal lobes. However, because lobotomies were done in a "blind" fashion, there was no accuracy as far as how much or how deep the cutting was to take place. The study did not publish the outward affects of each of these eight patients, which is unfortunate, but I would surmise that the greater the damage, the greater the impact on cognition and certain abilities controlled by the pre-frontal cortex.

There is one other thing I am curious about and that is why did Harvard conduct lobotomies on 15 patients in the 1980's, what was the technique used, and what were the outcomes? So far, I have found nothing except mentions of it having happened, which begs another question- did it actually happen on our shores in such recent history or was it a rumor? I do know that there is now a more precise psycho surgery called the cingulotomy, which inserts a laser or live electric wire through the skull to destroy small areas of the brain, but it is only used with relative success on those who are resistant to other treatments.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Not Satirical Thursday

Economic depression has affected the libido of American adults. Larry Flynt says he wants to "rejuvenate the sexual appetite of America". Perhaps it is only his pocketbook he wants to rejuvenate as he and Joe Francis of "Girls Gone Wild" request a government bailout of $5 billion, or perhaps it is only a publicity stunt. Either way, they are looking at a 22% loss of sales on XXX DVDs.

Sure, we can live without banks, houses, and cars, but what are Americans going to do without their fake sex? Can we exist without the impact of this important industry?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Describing a Travel Experience from Hell

Yesterday afternoon, The Oracle set out to fly to Tallahassee for a meeting scheduled for this morning. The trip started smoothly, and my flight landed on time in Atlanta. Then, the fun began:

1) The flight from Atlanta to Tallahassee had been cancelled.
2) I found a customer service phone, where I learned that I had already been booked for the next day (today) on a flight that would get me to Tallahassee too late to attend the meeting that was the purpose of my trip. The CSR was pleasant, but we agreed that the only option was to put me on a flight to Dallas today.
3) I stood in line for over an hour in order to get my voucher for a hotel room.
4) I stood in a crowd -- occasionally a surly crowd -- for over an hour trying to get a shuttle seat to the hotel that the airport had provided a voucher for (if I had it to do over again, I would have paid for a cab, but events sort of moved along).
5) I finally managed along with 17 other people to get on a shuttle van with 12 seats. I was standing, and, because of the crowd, had my feet too close together to maintain balance. Going around a sharp curve, I nearly fell into the lap of a fairly attractive woman, which might have been ok, except she was already sitting in the lap of her husband.
6) At the hotel, I stood in a line for 45 minutes waiting to check in.
7) This morning, I arrived back in Dallas, only to find that Delta had not properly re-routed my bag. I was near the front of that line, so by noon, I had put in my lost bag claim.
8) I learn this evening that my lost bag boarded a plane to Tallahassee this afternoon, arriving in Florida after 6:00 pm. It supposedly will arrive in Dallas on the first flight tomorrow morning.

It has not been a good day.

Trillion Dollar Deficits

On the same day that President elect Barack Obama indicated that Americans can expect their federal government to run up annual trillion dollar deficits for several years, I finished reading Amity Shlaes' terrific look at the Great Depression, The Forgotten Man.

A few thoughts:

1. In the last year of the Clinton administration, the entire federal general budget was less than $2 trillion. That the Obama administration now thinks that we need deficits of half that amount for the foreseeable future is staggering.
2. The disclosure confirms and advances what I have perceived to be an ongoing trend in Washington: no one any longer cares what anything costs. This means that new entitlements, including health care reform, may be passed without any regard to their costs. This is not sustainable policy. At the risk of sounding alarmist, it would lead the country to financial ruin.
3. One hopes that Mr. Obama's much praised economic team will warn him that someone has to buy all of those treasury bills representing U.S. borrowing. If Americans have been concerned about the amount of American debt being financed by foreign governments, they should become more concerned. In addition, much of the current recession has been caused by the freezing of the credit markets. Increased U.S. government borrowing means that the government is competing for those scarce credit dollars.
4. Ms. Shlaes argues that the New Deal prolonged the Depression primarily for two reasons: a) the fact that investors will not make long term investments in an uncertain environment was aggravated by the constant tinkering and course reversals of the Roosevelt administration; and, b) public investment in make work jobs is not as efficient as private enterprise in expanding economic opportunity. It would appear that the economic ideas propelling the Obama administration risk repeating these same errors. Given the uncertain environment, who is going to invest in health care? Transportation? Energy? The Obama administration may be helping further a crisis by the very solutions that it is contemplating.

By the way, I thought Ms. Shlaes' book was brilliantly done. It is a must read for these times.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Nothing Like 1929 Quote of the Day

From Victor Davis Hanson:

"Greed and excess gave way to panic, as the primordial emotions broke free from their thin veneer of culture. Without a blink, we went back to 1929 — the only difference being that the baby-boomer generation blames everyone but themselves, under oath and amid clicking cameras, rather than privately and quietly jumping out the window."