- Agnostication - A substitute for prognostication. Term used to describe the usually vain attempt to answer the question: "How long have I got, doc?" 
- ART - Assuming Room Temperature (dying)
- ATS - Acute Thespian Syndrome (the patient is faking illness)
- Bury the Hatchet - accidentally leaving a surgical instrument inside a patient 
- CNS-QNS - Central Nervous System - Quantity Not Sufficient. 
- DBI - Dirt Bag Index - multiply the number of tattoos by the number of missing teeth to give an estimate of the number of days since the patient last bathed. 
- Dermaholiday - dermatology, considered to be a less-busy department. See rheumaholiday
- Donorcycle - nursing slang for a motorcycle, so named due to the amount of head trauma associated with motorcycle accidents, but less so with the body, making the perfect candidate for organ donation
- GOMER - "get out of my emergency room" - a patient, usually poor or elderly, in the emergency room with a chronic, non-emergency condition. The name was popularized by Samuel Shem in his novel The House of God.
- GROLIES - Guardian Reader Of Low Intelligence in Ethnic Skirt. 
- Hasselhoff - a term for any patient who shows up in the emergency room with an injury for which there is a bizarre explanation. Original Source: Baywatch actor David Hasselhoff, who hit his head on a chandelier while shaving. The broken glass severed four tendons and an artery in his right arm. 
- Oligoneuronal meaning someone who is thick (not smart). 
- Polybabydadic - The state of having illegitimate children by several fathers, known or unknown.
- Pumpkin positive refers to the idea that a person's brain is so tiny that a penlight shone into their mouth will make their empty head gleam like a Halloween pumpkin. 
- Rear Admiral - a proctologist 
- Status Hispanicus - An overly agitated Hispanic patient (often Caribbean, seldom Mexican) who cannot stop screaming about their condition without providing useful information. 
- TEETH - tried everything else, try homeopathy.
- UBI - "Unexplained Beer Injury" 
- Vitamin H - A Haldol injection, used in the ER setting to rapidly sedate patients (often already drunk or high) who display dangerous or destructive behavior that threatens the safety of hospital staff and other patients.
December 5, 2009
A Hall of Fame, Forgotten and Forlorn
By SAM DOLNICK
On a leafy hilltop, dozens of busts of once-famous men stare mournfully at an empty walkway, their unfamiliar names chiseled in grand letters, their feats now obscure.
Josiah W. Gibbs? Augustus Saint-Gaudens?
In general, the honorees reflects the tastes of the high-brow electors. For example, the first cohort of 29 elected in 1900 includes botanist Asa Gray, to whom Darwin addressed the 1857 letter that established Darwin's precedence over Alfred Russel Wallace in developing the theory of natural selection.
Welcome to the Hall of Fame for Great Americans, a lonely outpost in the University Heights section of the Bronx.
When it was founded in 1900, it was the first Hall of Fame in the nation, local historians say, and the elections to induct members were covered by the national press. ...
But when the hall’s host, New York University, sold its Bronx campus in 1973, the collection languished. The 98 busts tarnished, soot gathered, and the Hall of Fame slowly slipped into irrelevance. An election has not been held since 1976.
Today, the colonnaded hall sits high above the city as an awkward appendage to the campus of Bronx Community College. To history buffs, it is a forgotten gem; to nearly everyone else, it is just forgotten.
While the college faculty has sought to integrate the Hall of Fame into the school’s curriculum, the disconnect between the honorees and the student body has grown only wider, leaving even the hall’s few defenders to acknowledge that it is in desperate need of a face-lift. More than half of the college’s students are Hispanic; the Hall of Fame, however, honors few women and even fewer minorities.
Actually, the number of women seems about right: I come up with 11% female. If you made up a list today of the 100 most distinguished Americans who have been dead over 25 years, would it be much more than 11% female? What about among living Americans? The first name that springs to my mind among living Americans as a worthy honoree would be Edward O. Wilson for accomplishments as a scientific specialist (ants), scientific generalist (sociobiology), writer, and conservationist. James D. Watson would rank up there, too. Noam Chomsky, as well. How many living women approach the Wilson-Watson level?
In this Hall of Fame, I count two blacks (Booker T. Washington and George W. Carver), no American Indians, and no Hispanics. Two American Indians were nominated (Chief Joseph and Sacajawea), but didn't make it to enshrinement.
In general, I suspect that in the future, the lists of famous Americans of the 20th Century will reflect the tastes of the current students of Bronx Community College, so the recent equivalents of Josiah Willard Gibbs and Asa Gray will be even more forgotten than their predecessors.
December 4, 2009
Killer with Low I.Q. Executed in Texas
By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.
HOUSTON — Bobby Wayne Woods was executed Thursday evening in Texas after his lawyers lost a battle to persuade the courts that he was too mentally impaired to qualify for capital punishment.
Mr. Woods, 44, was convicted of raping and killing an 11-year-old girl in 1997. He received a lethal injection and was pronounced dead at 6:48 p.m. in the death chamber at a state prison in Huntsville, Tex., after the United States Supreme Court denied a request from his lawyers to stay his execution. His last words, at 6:40, were: “Bye. I am ready.”
Tests administered to Mr. Woods over the years placed his I.Q. between 68 and 86, prompting a bitter debate between his lawyers and the state over whether he was too impaired to face execution. The state and federal courts repeatedly sided with prosecutors.
The debate reflects the gray area left by the Supreme Court in 2002, when it ruled that the mentally impaired were not eligible for the death penalty but left it up to state courts to interpret which inmates qualified as impaired.
Mr. Woods’s lawyers argued that his intelligence scores were low enough that he should be spared because of the Supreme Court ban in Atkins v. Virginia. Maurie Levin, a University of Texas law professor who represented Mr. Woods, said in a pleading that “his I.Q. hovers around 70, the magical cutoff point for determining whether someone is mentally retarded.”
“He’s transparently childlike and simple,” she said before the execution. “It’s a travesty.”
What's more like a child than rapist/murderer?
In its 2002 ruling, the Supreme Court said that to demonstrate that someone is mentally retarded, one must prove that the person has had low I.Q. scores and a lack of fundamental skills from a young age. The court said a score on intelligence tests of “around 70” indicated mental retardation.
But that standard has been applied unevenly by state courts, according to a study by Cornell law professors. Some state courts in Alabama, Mississippi and Texas have held that inmates with scores as low as 66 are not impaired, while an inmate in California with a score of 84 was declared mentally retarded.
How many people in California have IQs no higher than 84? Seven to twelve million?
As I pointed out back in 2002 when the Supreme Court made its ruling, that this decision reflects the lack of realism in elite institutions about the distribution of IQ in America. Any grandchild or nephew that a Supreme Court Justice has with an IQ below 70 is almost certainly organically retarded, with Down's Syndrome or other impairment that makes him what cynical obstetricians call an FLK -- Funny Looking Kid. In contrast, there are large swathes of American society where people with IQs below 70 are more likely just to be the slow one in the family.
Courts in Texas repeatedly rejected Mr. Woods’s claims of impairment, although the state’s highest criminal court halted his execution last year to allow more hearings. That reprieve was lifted in October, and this week, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted unanimously to reject a clemency request.
As a child, Mr. Woods struggled in school and dropped out in the seventh grade. He was barely literate and had to copy words from a spelling list to write the simple notes he sent his family.
His intelligence was tested twice in grade school, and he received scores of 80 and 78, but defense lawyers argued that those scores should be adjusted downward to account for the age of the tests. As an adult, he was tested just before his trial and scored 70. A second full-scale test done in prison in 2002 showed him with an I.Q. of 68. He scored higher on two short-form tests.
Still, the Texas attorney general, Greg Abbott, argued in a motion before the Supreme Court that the only times Mr. Woods had scored under 70 was when the test was administered by an expert for the defense. He also pointed out that Mr. Woods had successfully held jobs as a short order cook and a roofer.
“The only experts to ever conclude that Woods was mentally retarded did so after he had committed this murder and had motivation to underperform,” Mr. Abbott wrote in his brief.
Mr. Woods was convicted of killing his former girlfriend’s daughter. A jury determined he had abducted the 11-year-old girl, Sarah Patterson, along with her brother, Cody, from the family’s home in Granbury, Tex.. The girl was raped before her throat was slit. The boy was severely beaten and left for dead, but he survived.
I dunno, but I kinda figure that "Thou shalt not kill" isn't that hard to figure out.
By the way, Bobby Wayne Woods was white. That reminds me, when I went to Rice in Texas in the 1970s, I heard that the Houston cops would say that if they could just arrest a white guy named "Wayne" and a black guy named "Charles Williams," there would be no more crime in Houston. That was because every white guy they arrested said, "No, man, it wasn't me, it was Wayne," and every black guy they arrested said, "No, man, it wasn't me, it was that Charles Williams."
December 3, 2009
Leaked e-mails allegedly undermining climate change science should be treated as a criminal matter, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) said Wednesday afternoon.The e-mails, from scientists at the University of East Anglia, were obtained through hacking. The messages showed the director of the university's Climate Research Unit discussing ways to strengthen the unit's case for global warming. Climate change skeptics have seized on the e-mails, arguing that they demonstrate manipulation in environmental science.
Boxer, the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said that the recently released e-mails, showing scientists allegedly overstating the case for climate change, should be treated as a crime.
"You call it 'Climategate'; I call it 'E-mail-theft-gate,'" she said during a committee meeting. "Whatever it is, the main issue is, Are we facing global warming or are we not? I'm looking at these e-mails, that, even though they were stolen, are now out in the public."
Boxer said her committee may hold hearings into the matter as its top Republican, Sen. James Inhofe (Okla.), has asked for, but that a criminal probe would be part of any such hearings.
"We may well have a hearing on this, we may not. We may have a briefing for senators, we may not," Boxer said. "Part of our looking at this will be looking at a criminal activity which could have well been coordinated.
"This is a crime," Boxer said.
Does anybody know who hacked and/or leaked the emails?
British libertarian activist Sean Gabb tosses out a fun conspiracy theory: Vladimir Putin dunnit.
But the Russians had means and opportunity to do the job. Perhaps their security services are no longer as efficient and as well-funded as in Soviet times. But they are still there. Their mission is no longer to win the Cold War. But making life easier for Mr Putin and his friends is a large mission in itself. They no longer have an active network in British universities. But there must be any number of senior managers there whose activities back in the 1980s would merit an outing in The Daily Mail, and who therefore are open to blackmail.
And the Russians had the best motive imaginable. Anthropogenic global warming is, as said, a pack of lies. But there is huge money behind it. And it is conceivable that Western scientific ingenuity will find a “carbon free” energy source that both works and is economically viable. Now, where would that leave Russia? Without its exports of oil and gas, the place is little more than a bankrupt post-Soviet slagheap.
I can top that conspiracy theory! If I were Putin, I would want to discredit Global Warming theorists in order to make Global Warming more likely. It's too damn cold in Russia right now.
What a hero Putin would become to Russians of the future! Grateful Russians would annually celebrate the anniversary of his ascent to power on December 31, 1999 by, say, holding a huge beach volleyball tournament in Murmansk.
It would be like Lex Luthor's plan in Superman to own all the beachfront property in Nevada by having California fall into the ocean. Russia has 38,000 kilometers of coastline, much of it on the Arctic Ocean, which would become the new Russian Riviera.
The sharply contrasting careers of two Slavic-American artists who both died in 1987, the droll commercial illustrator Andy Warhol and the titanic sculptor Stanislaw Szukalski, illustrate much about how culture has changed over the last century.
For over 40 years, Warhol (1928-1987) has been famously famous for saying, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” Warhol’s own renown, however, is undying. Last week, for example, saw the opening of a musical with the onomatopoeic title POP! about Warhol’s shooting by an irate feminist in 1968.
In contrast, Szukalski (1893-1987) spent much of his life on the edge of poverty. Yet, Szukalski actually was suddenly famous in his native Poland in the late 1930s. Then, much of his life’s work was blown to smithereens during WWII.
The great screenwriter Ben Hecht, who had met him in Chicago in 1914, wrote of him in the 1950s:
His works are vanished. He is without public, without critics, and so complete is the world’s ignorance of him that he may as well have never existed.
Szukalski’s politics weren’t helpful. In Chicago in 1914, to which his blacksmith father had brought him a half decade earlier, he was training 20 Polish boys in the manual of arms, “So when the time comes they will be ready to go back and fight for the freedom of Poland.” Polish nationalism, however, was not exactly the most career-promoting ideological obsession for a 20th-century artist. To the right is his plate, Ahuman and Human commemorating the Soviet massacre of the young leaders of Poland at Katyn in 1940, which shows an ape in a Soviet Red Army uniform shooting a Pole in the back of the head.
Among his most strongly held (and extensively documented) theories was the notion that a race of malevolent Yeti have been interbreeding with humans since time out of mind, and that the hybrid offspring are bringing about the end of civilization. As proof of this, he pointed to the Russians.
Szukalsi dared the world that his stupendous talent would make it forgive his megalomania, obstreperousness, obsession with vicious apes, general craziness, and exquisitely bad manners, the way it had forgiven Beethoven, Wagner, and so many other artistic heroes.
It didn’t.Warhol, in contrast, invented a more consumer-friendly role for the artist in a culture tiring of greatness. Andy pointed out, “Art is what you can get away with.”
Read the whole thing there and comment upon it below.
In Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, Stephen Pinker responds to my description of him as occupying the “lonely ice floe of IQ fundamentalism”:
If you're going to wrestle with Harvard cognitive scientist Steven Pinker over who is a more credible authority on cognitive science, you should probably try to learn how to spell his first name, especially after the "igon values" fiasco.
By the way, that reminds me of why I'm going to go to my grave still using the adolescent-sounding name of "Steve." I noticed when I was a kid that it was hard for other people to remember whether my name was spelled "Steven" or "Stephen." For some reason, they just didn't care about the matter as much as I did. So, I eventually chose "Steve" to simplify matters for everybody.
Similarly, few can remember what the vowels in my last name are: Sailor? Saylor? Seiler? So when choosing my email address way back in 1996, I just left out the vowels from my last name: SteveSlr.
That's the kind of guy I am: just trying to be helpful.
December 2, 2009
From the Washington Post:
Blacks, poor lack access to banks
FDIC report finds one-quarter of U.S. households exist largely below radar of financial institutions.... On Wednesday, Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) proposed legislation aimed at encouraging banks to compete with payday lenders and provide small, short-term loans to unbanked and underbanked consumers. The legislation would establish a federal fund to guarantee up to 60 percent of those loans. In return, banks must cap the loans at $2,500 and the interest rates at 36 percent, among other requirements."As we consider changes to our financial system, we should include reforms that will help increase access to many of those who are left out," Kohl said in a statement.
Defying expectations, even after the fall of Lehman Brothers, the price bubble that had been inflating for post-war and contemporary art refused to pop for Pop. A silkscreen by [Andy] Warhol, 200 One Dollar Bills from 1962, a large canvas of facsimiles of dollar bills arranged across it, brought in over $43 million, far exceeding the pre-sale estimate of $8–12 million ...
December 1, 2009
We really don't know what to say except: you really, really want to watch this animated recreation of the Tiger Woods crash. It seems to be some sort of foreign newscast. And it is amazing.
See it here.
I don't really have much to say on the subject, except that Woods is reacting in a very old-fashioned way by not going on Oprah and having a cry about it or going into therapy or rehab or Twittering about it. He's just playing dumb and taking his lumps, probably how his dad, the old Green Beret Lt. Col., did when he screwed up.
Now, Gladwell goes on the attack against Pinker on IQ with exactly what you'd expect: the usual point and sputter about Six Degrees of the Pioneer Fund and all of that:
Still, you've got to admit that Gladwell has a point: if people can make more accurate than random predictions about which college quarterbacks will be better than other college quarterbacks, then they can make predictions about more politically incorrect things, too. Thus, Gladwell wages relentless war upon predictions, upon quantitative thinking, upon science, indeed, upon that ultimate evil: knowledge.
Advocating for Girls' Sports With a Sharp Tongue
by Katie Thomas
HAVERFORD, Pa. — Few girls who play sports in suburban Philadelphia would recognize Robert H. Landau, but many coaches and athletic directors know that spotting him in the bleachers could spell trouble.
With a sharp tongue, a refusal to compromise and a well-honed sense of injustice, Landau is that familiar breed of community activist with a knack for pushing public officials over the edge. His specialty is girls’ sports, and his targets are usually wealthy public schools from the Main Line suburbs that pride themselves on being progressive and fair in offering a rich array of opportunities.
No slight to girls is too small for Landau to take on. His victories range from the momentous to the less obvious, like forcing his daughters’ school district to provide more athletic choices, pressuring leagues to showcase their title games and getting a school mascot to perform at their games.
Landau’s complaint against Haverford High School — over issues like publicity for and scheduling of boys’ and girls’ basketball games — has upset even those who would otherwise support him.
“I am like: ‘Buddy, you know what? You just threw the wrong punch,’ “ said Bobbi Morgan, the women’s basketball coach at Haverford College, who used to coach the girls’ team at Haverford High School. “I never worked anywhere where it was better.” ...
Landau, who owns a lighting business, started as a parent activist and never stopped. Now 63, he has two daughters who have been out of school about 20 years and four grandchildren. ...
Landau is a rabid fan of Cheltenham High School girls’ basketball, and his commentary during games often turns heads. The coach, Bob Schaefer, said, “He’s yelling things that you might be thinking, but he just belts it out.”
When it comes to speaking out about unfairness, Landau can be just as passionate. He boasts that athletic directors regularly hang up on him, and relishes the time he made a cheerleading coach cry. ...
Girls typically played basketball in the afternoons, and the boys in the evenings. Cheerleaders performed only at boys’ games. Boys played their title games at arenas like the Palestra at the University of Pennsylvania, and girls were relegated to school gyms. His complainted have helped eliminate those inequities. ...
Landau has never been paid for his advocacy, but it worked in his favor in 1996, when he faced federal charges of defrauding a commercial loan company as the owner of a janitorial supply business. Landau repaid the $120,000 he owed the loan company, and later pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud. Although Landau was facing prison, the judge, citing his local involvement, sentenced him to time in a halfway house and under house arrest, according to news reports.
“I made a business mistake, I got snagged, and that was that,” Landau said. “I have no excuse. It makes me human. More human than most.”
I hadn't yet looked directly at Marty, but I had it figured out by now: Marty wasn't Martin Scorsese, as I'd first wondered, but Martin Landau, the master character actor. Then it occurred to me that about a decade ago, I had decided that Landau's portrayal of washed-up Dracula actor Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton's Ed Wood (with Johnny Depp as the world's worst movie director), was the best supporting performance I'd ever seen for comedy and pathos combined. Perhaps I can't fully justify that opinion, but it's not implausible: for that role, Landau finally won the Oscar at age 66.
How often, I asked myself, do you run into a person you've previously decided was Best.Whatever.Ever?
So, when my number was called, I stood up and said, "Mr. Landau, I just wanted to say that I've long thought your portrayal of Bela Lugosi" -- for about a quarter of a second he seemed uncertain as he mentally sorted through all the roles he's had (IMDB.com lists 158 different movies and television shows since 1956), then he smiled; yes, he remembered that role -- "was the best supporting performance I've ever seen." He thanked me very nicely, and I went and got my passport.
That reminded me that of the several dozen celebrities I've run into over the years, I can't think of anything I've observed more scandalous than that forty-something actresses aren't as glamorous-looking when they rush out to the store without their makeup on than when you see them in movies. It would be fun to have outrageous gossip to retail, but, in fact, most celebrities I've accidentally met have been superior in manners and comportment.
Most of the celebrities I've run into fall into that oxymoronic category of "famous supporting actors," so they are, almost by definition, good at acting gracious to civilians who, like I try to do, acknowledge them respectfully and unpresumptuously formally ... and then leave. But, it's also that to become a celebrity character actor like Martin Landau, somebody with a career distinguished enough that I'll finally attach a name to your face, you have to be a consummate professional over decades. To have Martin Landau's 53-year career, you can't be a mess like Bela Lugosi.
In summary, now that I think about it, Martin Landau isn't much like Robert H. Landau at all.
But, that's the point of having a blog, isn't it -- to be able to careen drunkenly from topic to topic without having to gin up a Deep Think justification tying together your randomness?
Cultural Rewind: No more Swedish minarets?
November 30, 2009
If the future of entertainment is interactive media, some minorities are still headed back to the past.
The first comprehensive survey of video game characters, encompassing the top 150 games in a year across nine platforms and all rating levels, and weighted by each title's popularity, shows that the video game industry does no better than television in representing American society.
In some cases, video games do worse, said study leader Dmitri Williams, a social psychologist and assistant professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication.
In his study, Williams cited research showing Latinos are making modest gains on television.
They are? Who knew?
Are there any Hispanic stars on HBO, the most prestigious network? I can't afford HBO, so I don't know. There sure aren't many on Mad Men. There are various Hispanic maids and repairmen on Curb Your Enthusiasm, with whom Larry David interacts awkwardly, but I can't remember Larry meeting any Latinos of his own class.
By contrast, fewer than 3 percent of video game characters were recognizably Hispanic, and all of them were non-playable, background characters. ...
"Latino children play more video games than white children. And they're really not able to play themselves," Williams said. "For identity formation, that's a problem. And for generating interest in technology, it may place underrepresented groups behind the curve.
"Ironically, they may even be less likely to become game makers themselves, helping to perpetuate the cycle. Many have suggested that games function as crucial gatekeepers for interest in science, technology, engineering and math."
Women, Native Americans, children and the elderly also were underrepresented. For example, only 10 percent of playable characters surveyed were female, though women now make up 40 percent of video game players.
African-Americans appeared in proportion to their numbers in the real world, but mainly in sports games and in titles that reinforce stereotypes, such as 50 Cent Bulletproof.
Males, whites and adults were overrepresented.
Williams noted that some newer games give players more options for customizing their characters. Those games were included in the survey, with characters chosen randomly.
The fact that random selection did not have a major impact on the results suggests that when players have a choice, their range of options is limited.The study itself was limited in two important ways. Many games feature non-human characters, and many are first-person games where the player never sees himself or herself. The study only included visible characters that were clearly human.
A century ago many leading leftists subscribed to the vile pseudo-science of eugenics, writes Dennis Sewell, and the influence of that thinking can still be seen today ...
Eugenics had been the brainchild of Charles Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton, and was developed in response to Darwin’s theory of natural selection. It was taken up as a programme of political action by Darwin’s son Leonard. The eugenicists aimed to replace natural selection with a planned and deliberate selection. They were alarmed by the fact that the poorest in society bred faster than the middle class, forecasting that this trend would lead to a spiral of degeneration in the gene pool. Their aim was to encourage the rich to have more children and the poor to have fewer. ...
For the Fabians, eugenics was not merely some eccentric hobby or sideline, but central to their social thinking. Beatrice Webb regarded eugenics as ‘the most important question’ of all, while her husband revealed the statist and dirigiste character of the movement with his declaration that ‘no eugenicist can be a laissez faire individualist… he must interfere, interfere, interfere!’ Even for George Bernard Shaw, ‘the only fundamental and possible Socialism’ was ‘the socialisation of the selective breeding of Man’. ...
Another Fabian eugenicist, the writer H.G. Wells, vented his frustration and indignation in a direct address to the working class. ‘We cannot go on giving you health, freedom, enlargement, limitless wealth, if all our gifts to you are to be swamped by an indiscriminate torrent of progeny,’ he complained, ‘...and we cannot make the social life and the world-peace we are determined to make, with the ill-bred, ill-trained swarms of inferior citizens that you inflict upon us.’ It was as if — as in the Brechtian joke — the Fabian left had lost confidence in the people and had determined to dissolve the people and appoint a new one. ...
The article skips some others, such as Winston Churchill during his Liberal Party years, Harold Laski (Britain's most prominent Jewish intellectual and chief ideologist of the Labour Party, he had been the golden boy protege of the elderly Galton), and statistician Karl Pearson (who changed the spelling of his first name from Carl to Karl to honor you-know-who). One interesting aspect of the article was a late enthusiast:
Eugenics was no quickly passing fad. The Eugenics Society reached its peak, in terms of membership, during the 1930s, and the cusp of the following decade saw the zenith of its prestige. The economist John Maynard Keynes served on the society’s governing council and was its director from 1937 to 1944. Once again, this was no casual hobby. As late as 1946 [the year of his death], Keynes was still describing eugenics as ‘the most important and significant branch of sociology’
Of course, now that I think about it, it's not at all surprising. After all, the distinguished Keynes and Darwin families intermarried, in the Galtonian manner: actor Skander Keynes, who plays Edmund in the Narnia movies, is a direct descendant of Darwin.
The funny thing is that Britain was just about the only advanced nation that didn't pass a law calling for the sterilization of mentally retarded people in the 20th Century. (The very progressive Swedes were doing this into the mid-1970s.) Why not? Largely, because another one of Darwin's relatives, a member of the Wedgwood family, took a strong stand against it in the House of Lords.
As for the point of Sewell's article in the Spectator, as best I can make out, he's arguing that the left of a century ago were worried that subsidizing the poor would create more of them, so they hoped that limitations on reproduction would heal the welfare state's Achilles heel.
It was during the late 1930s that much of the detailed planning for the welfare state was carried out. And a good deal of it was undertaken at meetings of the Eugenics Society. On the evening that the House of Commons met to debate the  Beveridge Report [outlining the post-WWII welfare state], Beveridge himself went off to address an audience of eugenicists at the Mansion House. He knew he was in for a rough ride. His scheme of family allowances had originally been devised within the Eugenics Society with a graduated rate, which paid out more to middle-class parents and very little to the poor. The whole point was to combat the eugenicists’ great bugbear — the differential birth rate between the classes. However, the government that day had announced a uniform rate. Beveridge was sympathetic to the complaints of his audience and hinted that a multi-rate system might well be introduced at a later date.
Which, presumably, never happened.
Sewell sums up his indictment of the welfare state. Unlike older conservatives who felt that the ideologues of the welfare state had been too optimistic about how well the work ethic would survive down through the generations under a welfare state, David Cameron's New Conservatives feel that the leftists of a century ago were too damn realistic:
Given the association of so many of its founding fathers with the dismal pseudo- science of eugenics, perhaps we should not be surprised that our welfare system has ended up preferring safety nets to trampolines [ouch], or that it prefers simply to warehouse the poor rather than give people who have fallen on hard times a chance to take responsibility for their own lives. Eugenics infected its adherents with a deeply pessimistic view of the poor, branding them as irredeemably genetically second-rate, and this view has cast a long shadow over social policy assumptions. Labour figures who mock the idea of ‘compassionate Conservatism’ or make light of David Cameron’s focus on our ‘broken society’ need to take a hard look at some of their own history and intellectual heritage. When it comes to who really can claim to care about the problems of the poor, the dividing lines are not so straight as Gordon Brown thinks they are.
Four years ago [Toby] Gerhart was a hotshot at Norco (Calif.) High, visiting USC on a recruiting trip with fellow runners C.J. Gable and Stafon Johnson, who are black. The Trojans told Gerhart they would love to have him—as an outside linebacker or a fullback to block for guys like Johnson and Gable.
That's a little like being told the leading role is going to another actor, but how'd you like to be his bodyguard? Says Norco High coach Todd Gerhart of his son, "Even today with all he's done I had a linebacker coach say to me, 'You give me one year with him, and I'll turn him into Junior Seau.'"...
For those who do reach the NFL, the path doesn't get any easier. In 2003 Brock Forsey was a Bears backup who started one game in place of injured starter Anthony Thomas and was spectacular, rushing for 134 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries. The next week Thomas returned to the lineup and Forsey went back to the bench, getting only three carries. He never started another NFL game. "It's hard to tell exactly what happened," says Forsey, who starred at Boise State and is now an executive at a title and escrow company in Nampa, Idaho. "No one ever said anything about race. But there may be some preconceived notions out there. A white guy from Idaho isn't what you have in mind when you envision an NFL running back."Evaluating players shouldn't be about what we envision but what we see. That lesson should have been learned from the decades of discrimination against black quarterbacks at colleges and in the pros. Despite the obvious parallels, no one seems to be as concerned that white tailbacks are getting the same treatment. "I did dozens of interviews about the lack of opportunity for an African-American to be a QB back in the 1980s and early '90s," says Richard Lapchick, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at Central Florida, "but this is only the second time I have been asked about the lack of opportunity for whites to be running backs."
But that raises the question of how much should you really want to be an NFL running back?
The most amazing running back I ever followed was Earl Campbell. Houston Oiler coach Bum Phillips came up with the ingenious strategy of having Earl just plain hurt the defenders for first three quarters so that by the fourth quarter, the 11 players on defense would be just so broke-down from tackling Campbell that his one man could run wild.
For Campbell's first three years in the NFL, this insightful approach worked brilliantly. After that, not so much. These days, Campbell mostly gets around in a wheelchair.
The good news about being an NFL running back compared to being a quarterback is that, unless you are Brock Forsey or somebody like that, you'll probably at least get to carry the ball a few times. Carrying the ball in the NFL is such a punishing line of work that coaches are always putting subs in during games to give star running backs a breather. And starting running backs are always getting hurt or just wearing out at age 26 or whenever, so there's a fair amount of work to go around.
In contrast, starting quarterbacks are expected to play every offensive down, except at the end of blow-outs. And quarterbacks can play effectively into their late 30s, or beyond. So, a backup quarterback might never get much of a chance to show what he can do during a real game.
Not surprisingly, Gerhart hoped to get selected high in last spring's baseball draft and pass up this season in football. But, his college hitting stats (.288 last season with a lot of strikeouts) suggests he's more of a prospect right now in baseball -- a huge, fast outfielder who doesn't always get his bat on even college pitching.
Or, Gerhart, who was valedictorian in high school, could, like Jay Berwanger, even get a job.
Blog has been removed
Sorry, the blog at mangans.blogspot.com has been removed. This address is not available for new blogs.
Did you expect to see your blog here? See: 'I can't find my blog on the Web, where is it?'
Mangan commented on a previous post of mine:
Tommy, thanks for mentioning it. I've only just discovered this and Google has not given me any reasons. If this is what I think it is, no one on blogspot should consider their blog safe from instant deletion. I have no back up, it's just gone. We'll see.
They offered me 64 different explanations for why Armenians are world-beaters at chess. Armenia’s heritage as a cog in the Soviet chess machine plays a part, although that alone can’t explain why it outstrips other former eastern bloc nations. Some of them emphasised education—Armenian literacy rates are higher than in the US or Britain. A few others pointed to Armenia’s tradition of creativity in many fields, including music and painting. Armenia is poor and chess is cheap, one man told me. Then—and this is a favourite rationalisation—there’s the individualistic nature of the game. Armenians take perverse gratification in their incompetence at team games. (Weight-lifting is the only other sport at which Armenia excels.) The British ambassador, whom I later met in Yerevan, pressed a more physical, less abstract explanation upon me. Armenia is so mountainous that there’s no room for football pitches and athletics fields—but chess needs only space for a small board.
Being poor and smart helps, along with having the government shove chess down your throats the way the Soviets did.
"Atlanta is a black city, a symbol to the world," Houck said. "Putting Mary's face on that picture would be hard for a lot of people to stomach."In other words, according to the Washington Post it's A-OK for blacks to vote in Tuesday's mayoral election purely on anti-white grounds.
One interesting point in the article:
Atlanta, with a population of about 500,000, saw its black population share decline from 61 percent to 57 percent between 2000 and 2007, according to the latest Census figures. During the same time period, the white population grew from 33 percent to 38 percent.
This reflects a trend I've noticed in competition to be the regional supercity, the acid test of which is attracting a larger white population. For example, Washington D.C. is increasingly white, with African-Americans driven out to loser cities like Baltimore. New York, the supercity of supercities, has had a declining population of American-born blacks since way back in 1979. In our increasingly winner-take-all world, you can expect certain cities in each part of the country to emerge as the winner with rising rents. They will use Section 8 rental vouchers to drive out African-Americans to surrounding loser cities, increasing the disparity between winners and losers.
This makes municipal politics particularly fraught, since victory in a mayoral race (e.g., Rudy Giuliani's victory over David Dinkins in 1993, or Richie Daley's over black candidates in 1989) is often seen as a symbol of whether the city will be friendlier to whites (and become a winner city) or blacks (and become a loser city). Much of intra-black politics consists of struggles between blacks who are willing to make deals with high rent whites versus low rent candidates (e.g., Washington D.C., where the federal government more or less staged a coup to regain control of the capital by arresting the very low-rent black Mayor Marion Barry).
November 29, 2009
The looming crisis in human genetics:
Some awkward news ahead
by Geoffrey Miller
Author of Spent
Human geneticists have reached a private crisis of conscience, and it will become public knowledge in 2010. The crisis has depressing health implications and alarming political ones. In a nutshell: the new genetics will reveal much less than hoped about how to cure disease, and much more than feared about human evolution and inequality, including genetic differences between classes, ethnicities and races.
About five years ago, genetics researchers became excited about new methods for “genome-wide association studies” (GWAS). We already knew from twin, family and adoption studies that all human traits are heritable: genetic differences explain much of the variation between individuals. We knew the genes were there; we just had to find them....
In 2010, GWAS fever will reach its peak. Dozens of papers will report specific genes associated with almost every imaginable trait—intelligence, personality, religiosity, sexuality, longevity, economic risk-taking, consumer preferences, leisure interests and political attitudes. The data are already collected, with DNA samples from large populations already measured for these traits. It’s just a matter of doing the statistics and writing up the papers for Nature Genetics. ...
GWAS researchers will, in public, continue trumpeting their successes to science journalists and Science magazine. They will reassure Big Pharma and the grant agencies that GWAS will identify the genes that explain most of the variation in heart disease, cancer, obesity, depression, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s and ageing itself. ...
In private, though, the more thoughtful GWAS researchers are troubled. They hold small, discreet conferences on the “missing heritability” problem: if all these human traits are heritable, why are GWAS studies failing so often? ...
But the genes typically do not replicate across studies. Even when they do replicate, they never explain more than a tiny fraction of any interesting trait. In fact, classical Mendelian genetics based on family studies has identified far more disease-risk genes with larger effects than GWAS research has so far.
Why the failure? The missing heritability may reflect limitations of DNA-chip design: GWAS methods so far focus on relatively common genetic variants in regions of DNA that code for proteins. They under-sample rare variants and DNA regions translated into non-coding RNA, which seems to orchestrate most organic development in vertebrates. Or it may be that thousands of small mutations disrupt body and brain in different ways in different populations. At worst, each human trait may depend on hundreds of thousands of genetic variants that add up through gene-expression patterns of mind-numbing complexity.
We will know much more when it becomes possible to do cheap “resequencing”—which is really just “sequencing” a wider variety of individuals beyond the handful analysed for the Human Genome Project. Full sequencing means analysing all 3 billion base pairs of an individual’s DNA rather than just a sample of 1m genetic variants as the DNA chips do. When sequencing costs drop within a few years below $1,000 per genome, researchers in Europe, China and India will start huge projects with vast sample sizes, sophisticated bioinformatics, diverse trait measures and detailed family structures. (American bioscience will prove too politically squeamish to fund such studies.) The missing heritability problem will surely be solved sooner or later.
Or will it? At present, we understand the genetics of lactose tolerance fairly well because they are simple. We don't understand the genetics of IQ at all well, presumably because they are complicated. It would be interesting to know what are traits are the most promising targets intermediate in complexity between lactose tolerance and IQ.
The trouble is, the resequencing data will reveal much more about human evolutionary history and ethnic differences than they will about disease genes.
As Matt Ridley once said, your genes didn't evolve to kill you.
More likely, we just won't hear much about it. For years, I've been hearing that as the evidence piles up, the dominant ideology will have to adapt to it. Why? Why not just lie more and persecute more? A lot of people find covering up the truth to be more emotionally satisfying than learning it.
Once enough DNA is analysed around the world, science will have a panoramic view of human genetic variation across races, ethnicities and regions. We will start reconstructing a detailed family tree that links all living humans, discovering many surprises about mis-attributed paternity and covert mating between classes, castes, regions and ethnicities.
We will also identify the many genes that create physical and mental differences across populations, and we will be able to estimate when those genes arose. Some of those differences probably occurred very recently, within recorded history. Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending argued in “The 10,000 Year Explosion” that some human groups experienced a vastly accelerated rate of evolutionary change within the past few thousand years, benefiting from the new genetic diversity created within far larger populations, and in response to the new survival, social and reproductive challenges of agriculture, cities, divisions of labour and social classes. Others did not experience these changes until the past few hundred years when they were subject to contact, colonisation and, all too often, extermination.
If the shift from GWAS to sequencing studies finds evidence of such politically awkward and morally perplexing facts, we can expect the usual range of ideological reactions, including nationalistic retro-racism from conservatives and outraged denial from blank-slate liberals. The few who really understand the genetics will gain a more enlightened, live-and-let-live recognition of the biodiversity within our extraordinary species—including a clearer view of likely comparative advantages between the world’s different economies.