Bad Craziness

In my years of teaching, I've come across many students who were creationists. I've even come across one who outright refused to believe in plate tectonics. But this video shows someone even crazier:

It's hard to know where to start with such extreme anti-scientific craziness.

Scientology & Swordsmanship

A man was recently shot at the Scientology Celebrity Centre in Los Angeles while approaching with two samurai swords. It was a good effort, although it is a shame he was put down before he did any real mischief. In a just world, Scientology centers would be under daily assaults of this nature.

Scientology is not only a cult, but a particularly nasty and vicious cult that gives false hope to thousands while sucking their money into its ravenous maw. Scientology takes advantage of vulnerable people in the worst ways.

While assuming the trappings of science--Hubbard claimed he invented a "science of the mind"--Scientology practices none of the methods or skepticism of real science. Its bizarre mixture of "e-meters" and "engrams" and aliens seems like a laughable parody of a cult--until one sees the the grim seriousness of its proponents.

In civilized parts of the world, Scientology is recognized as a cult, and taxed appropriately. However, in the United States, the Church of Scientology is afforded a religious exemption from taxation. We Americans go to extreme lengths to defer to religion of any conceivable form. In this case, and in the case of the Mormon Church--which directly intervened in politics by financing California's Proposition 8--their tax-exempt status should be revoked.

If people really want to believe crazy things, fine. But does their folly have to be subsidized by everyone else? As the great P.Z. Myers so frequently points out, "Religion poisons everything."

Michael Crichton Has Died

Not soon enough.

Crichton was trained as a medical doctor; although he was not a research scientist, he had at least taken a great number of science classes. His pseudoscientific writings, however, disparaged and distorted science at every opportunity.

In Crichton’s 1969 novel The Andromeda Strain, a NASA probe returns to Earth tainted by extraterrestrial germs, which then spark a deadly pandemic. The widespread success of this book sparked fears among the public about the upcoming Apollo 11 lunar mission, and caused the protocols for returning astronauts to change. According to Apollo 11 capsule commander Michael Collins, the lengthy quarantine and isolation protocols the astronauts experienced after returning to Earth were a direct result of public fears stoked by The Andromeda Strain, rather than by NASA’s assessment of the real danger of “space bugs.”

In Crichton’s 1990 book Jurassic Park, rogue geneticists recreate dinosaurs in the eponymous theme park. Although it is possible to extract short, fragmented segments of DNA from recently-dead animals, the scenario of resurrecting dinosaurs by such methods is laughably implausible. One can see the science of Jurassic Park as merely literary device in order to have dinosaur-human interactions. However, Crichton’s real theme in Jurassic Park was science out of control, science playing God, science in the service of profit rather than the benefit of mankind. These views are profoundly anti-science.

In the 2002 Prey, Crichton’s paranoia about science extends to nanotechnology. Prey tells the story of an evil nanotechnology company whose now-sentient product escapes the confines of its lab and evolves deadly traits. Those mad scientists are off again, ruining the world for everyone else.

All this could be forgiven and dramatic devices for selling novels. However, in State of Fear, Crichton misrepresents the science of global warming. State of Fear describes environmentalism—which Crichton calls a religion—as a dangerous and fanatical belief system held by terrorists bent on mass murder. In what one reviewer called a “postmodern view of science,” Crichton implies that science exists only in the service of partisan ideology. State of Fear involves plots by environmental terrorists to manufacture what seem to be natural disasters in order to advance the cause of global warming. Crichton’s novel used footnotes, two appendixes, and a twenty-page bibliography to promote fringe ideas about global warming.

Rather than earning Crichton universal ridicule, State of Fear garnered Crichton an hour-long, one-on-one conversation with President Bush. This time dwarfed the attention given by Bush to the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; they did not earn an hour’s audience, yet a novelist who distorted scientific research to advance a fringe agenda did. This fact is a sorry commentary on the importance given by the Bush administration to ideas generated in the “reality-based community.”

The Text Message of Obama

This morning, 23 August 2008, at 1:03 am, I had the following exchange via text message:

Obama: Barack has chosen Senator Joe Biden to be our VP nominee. Watch the first Obama-Biden rally live at 3pm ET on Spread the word!

Me: k, lol

Obama: Um… why do you find Biden funny?

Me: nOOb. jK.

Obama: I’m afraid I don’t…

Me: MacCne pwns Obma

Obama: Look, if you, as a voter, have something constructive to say about my vice-presidential choice…

Me: Zzzz. YGTbKm? Biden = old, wrkly

Obama: I was hoping that Senator Biden’s experience would add gravitas, especially in the realm of foreign affairs.

Me: |-O. W/evr.

Obama: Frankly, I was anticipating this reaction from some of my supporters. However, polling data indicate that Biden will complement what the public perceives as my vulnerabilities vis-a-vis John McCain.

Me: Hold on, need WC.

Obama: If you want to continue your critique of Senator Biden later, at a more convenient time for you…?

Me: NP, just #1. Does Bdn 4:20?

Obama: Excuse me?

Me: lmao! w33d!

Obama: I’m not sure this is going in a productive direction.

Me: Yr br8kng up w/me?

Obama: jK.

Blogging That Matters

Most blogs are bullshit.* Although most people tend to think highly of their uninformed opinions, the reality is that almost no one is interested in other people's thoughts, experiences, observations, or insights. Even in conversation, Americans don't listen to other people; they just wait until it is their turn to talk.

So it is refreshing when a blog actually does something good.

The New York Times recently profiled Karen Gadbois, a women who moved to New Orleans in 2002. Ms. Gadbois came up with a brilliant idea: Why not drive around New Orleans to see if the houses that city hall claims have been restored from Hurricane Katrina actually have been fixed?

It should surprise no one that very few of the homes she inspected actually received reconstruction work. Houses claimed to have been renovated were later demolished as uninhabitable. In one case, an entire city block that city hall claimed had been restored did not even exist. Money had, of course, been spent. $1.8 million. Federal funds have been distributed for work that was never done. A good place to look for it might be in the bank accounts of the city leadership.

Rarely does blogging have any real effect. But this time it has: The FBI has raided the offices of the reconstruction agency, and Mayor Nagin is being investigated for possible corruption charges. Someone, after all, received the money that has gone missing.

Karen Gadbois has done a great job and a great service to New Orleans. It is shameful, however, that the local mainstream journalists seem so unable to do such a basic thing as their jobs.

*including, of course, this blog

Dream of the HIdden

In my dream, I'm crawling through an old, abandoned military fort. It reminded of Battery Mendell, in the Marin Headlands north of San Francisco, where once I engaged in an epic hide-and-seek game with schoolmates. We seemed to spend hours hiding and hunting among the crumbling concrete bunkers, probing the dark recesses with flashlights in search of giggling friends.

In this dream, I am alone in this empty fort. I am searching for something, but I don't know what it is. As I dig in the darkness among the rubble and exposed wires, I find an opening and crawl through. It is a completely dark. But as I crawl through it, I find that I am descending into a water. I can see light through the water, and against better judgment, I dive into the water to see what I can find. This is still part of the fort, and there is an open door I can swim through into a pocket of air.

As I surface, I realize that I have found a completely new part of the fort, one that is isolated from the rest. There is a gigantic bedroom, with 4-post canopy bed. Everything is wet and moldy. The high walls are covered floor-to-ceiling in antiquarian books. I pull off a few titles and examine their moldy, smelly pages.

I discover that I am not alone. There are a few other people there, but strangely I do not feel threatened. I suspect that they are trying to steal souveniors and are not much concerned by my presence.

As I leave this strange area, I see dozens of blue-shirted people descending upon me. They grab me under water and pull me to the surface, where I am placed under arrest for trespassing.

The Value of a Whiner's Life

It was recently revealed that the EPA has discounted the value of an American life by nearly $1 million. While this move does not have an immediate, practical effect--your boss isn't going to cut your salary because of this--it does have a longer term effect of reducing the amount of environmental protections available to Americans.

According to the macabre calculations of the Bush-era EPA, if a new environmental regulation is going to save lives, then the value of these lives must be assessed against economic losses to businesses. A similar grim arithmetic was part of Fight Club; if recalling a dangerous part on a car will cost more than paying out damages to the likely number of victims, then car companies prefer to pay damages rather than prevent the injuries.

This mentality mirrors that of Sen. Phil Gramm, a McCain advisor, who also recently complained that Americans had become "a nation of whiners" suffering not from a real economic downturn, but only from a "mental recession."

What these ideas have in common is a rejection of the nature of reality. In Sen. Gramm's world, thinking positive has the effect of making the world positive. It's as if our thoughts have the ability to reshape reality. Among many religious people, of course, this thought is common; prayer to a diety for intercession is a common way of imagining that our mental energies have the ability to transform reality.

According to Sen. Gramm, if our economy is in a nosedive, this is only because so many people think negatively. For instance, if you are laid off, then it's your fault for bringing down your comapny with your negative energy. If your mortgage payment or rent goes up 25% in one month, the blame lies with you and your bad chi, not with your avaricious landlord.

Imagining that environmental regulations can be rewritten according to an arbitrary recalculation of the value of a human life is likewise a fantasy, a profound divorcement from reality. Environmental regulations getting you down? Just say that the people the regulations are protecting are worth less, and--poof!--the regulations evaporate.

There can be legitimate arguments about the economy and about the balance of regulation and business interests. But what these two items show is that America has lost its collective mind and entered into a dangerous zone of fantasy.

Moving On

A recent NYT article revealed a major reason why so much of the debate over public education in this country is so utterly divorced from the realities of the classroom.

In urban school districts, typically 30-50% of the school population changes schools per year. In economically-devastated cities such as Flint, Michigan, the percentage is closer to 75%. That's right--teachers in Flint see only one out of four of the same students from one year to the next. One Flint school had 300 of its 500 students switch in a single year.

The effects on students who change schools are clear: trouble assimilating with a new set of peers, trouble with starting curriculum midway, trouble with not being at grade level and having unfamiliar problems in an unfamiliar setting thrust upon them.

The effects on the classroom from such a high turnover are also clear: teacher time sapped to help new students catch up, experience working with individual students and gaining their trust wiped away, instability of the classroom group.

These problems are largely economic; Flint, Michigan, for example, was so annihilated by GM plant closings that it might simply be better for parents to relocate out of an area that does not have nearly the jobs to support its current population.

However, a large part of the problem is the way students are assigned to schools. In the current system, what matters most for school assignment is the location of the parent's home. The student is treated as a population statistic rather than as a learner.

The structure of this system guarantees failure, for it mandates that poor students attend schools with other poor peers, while wealthier kids segregate into schools with wealthier peers. Any attempt to integrate schools in terms of economics will meet with howls of resistance from parents in gated communities, decrying that their children shouldn't have to mingle with "undesirables." Any attempt to assign students in a stable way to schools or teachers who best meet their individual needs will elicit cries of student tracking.

The 4th season of The Wire followed a group of students/drug hoppers and a new teacher through a year of their trials and tribulations on and off the mean corners of Baltimore. The Wire--perhaps one of the greatest television series ever--made clear just how unrealistic the goals of No Child Left Behind are when confronted by the crucible of the streets. By the end of the season, and the school year, viewers felt like they had followed these students through a war. The reality is, though, that within that year most of the students would have switched schools.

Rachel Ray, Terrorist

The Devil and John McCain

Senator Clinton's Islam Update

Games of Life & Death

Today's NYT had an article about a strange, grim lottery taking place in Oregon.

Ninety-one thousand Oregon residents have put forth their names into this lottery in order to win health care. The state lottery has slots for only 7,000 Oregonians. Those aren't good odds.

Many people visit the area around Bend, Oregon, for recreation, for Bend is unusually-blessed with volcanoes and forests and wild rivers. What these vacationers don't realize is that almost 20% of the people living in the region do not have health care.

What does it mean to not have health care in modern America?

Not so long ago, Mr. Bush proclaimed, “I mean, people have access to health care in America. After all, you just go to an emergency room.”

What this misstatement ignores is the fact that once an emergency room saves your life, you still get the bill. Even a brief hospitalization can quickly accrue hundreds of thousands of dollars. For many people in the income brackets that tend to not have health care, such a bill is so far beyond their ability to ever pay that might as well be for a trillion dollars. A sickness then, even if one recovers, becomes a life-ending event.

What Mr. Bush's statement also misses is the fact that by waiting until the last minute to go to an emergency room, by waiting until the pain is unbearable, or the victim has lost consciousness, diseases that were easily treatable become untreatable. Diagnoses that could stave off later problems are not made. People die because they do not have health insurance, despite Mr. Bush's snide assurances.

Oregon's lottery is about more than just getting health care. It is literally a matter of life and death.

What kind of society decides the life and death of its citizens by chance?

Shirley Jackson answered this question in her famous story, "The Lottery." (Although everyone knows "The Lottery," I think Shirley Jackson's book We Have Always Lived in the Castle is even more worthwhile.)

In "The Lottery," a small-town meeting turns out to be a gathering for human sacrifice, the victim of which is selected by lot. There is never any reason stated for the murder in this town; it is simply tradition. And this is the real meaning for modern America: There is no rational reason for people in Oregon to have to wager for their lives. There is no rationale, no defensible argument one can make, for Americans not to have universal health care.

We Americans now are as superstitious as the Shirley Jackson's villagers. As long as we cling, through tradition and fear, to our dangerous and cruel practices, we are no better than savages cutting-out human hearts to appease a blood-thirsty god--in fact, we are worse, because we know there is no such god and yet still perform the sacrifice.

I am an alumnus of Cal State Hayward, which is now officially known as Cal State East Bay, although no alumni call it by that name. As an alumnus, today I feel quite ashamed of the actions of CSUH in regards to one of its teachers, Marianne Kearney-Brown.

Ms. Kearney-Brown is a veteran math teacher--a instructor, in other words, in a field in which everyone seems to agree there is a desperate shortage of qualified teachers. But rather than encouraging her academic pursuits, CSUH fired her for inserting the word "non-violent" in her loyalty oath.

Loyalty oaths?

Weren't those something out of the McCarthy era? Well, yes. What possible reason could there be for a loyalty oath today? Well, none, of course. But once bureaucratic instruments are in place, they have a strange longevity; perhaps this is because administrators fiercely defend their work. If they didn't have forms to fill-out and loyalty oaths to collect, why would a school need to have petty administrators on the payroll? Therefore, the forms and oaths must stay so that they can keep their jobs. None of this, of course, has anything to do with the business of running a university, and constitutes a steady and completely-unnecessary drain on school resources and the time of of those teachers who actually do the work of the school.

You would think that, in 2008, loyalty oaths would be a thing of the past, if for no other reason than the publication of Joseph Heller's Catch-22, one of the greatest books of the 20th century. (I also think Heller's Something Happened deserves similar accolades, although this book is far less read, perhaps because it is so tragic, so heart-rending, and so true that few readers can stand its bleak portrait of the meaningless suffering of life.)

In Catch-22, Heller skewers military and bureaucratic life. This book is so good that during Vietnam soldiers had their copies of Catch-22 confiscated; there probably is no higher praise for an intellectual than to be banned by the American military. In Catch-22, one of the legion of petty bureaucrats governing the lives of Air Force men comes up with the idea of making all the men sign loyalty oaths.

Almost overnight the Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade was in full flower, and Captain Black was enraptured to discovering himself spearheading it. He had really hit on something. All the enlisted men and officers on combat duty had to sign a loyalty oath to get their map cases from the intelligence tent, a second loyalty oath to receive their flak suits and parachutes from the parachute tent, a third loyalty oath for Lieutenant Balkington, the motor vehicle officer, to be allowed to ride from the squadron to the airfield in one of the trucks. Each time they turned around there was another loyalty oath to be signed. They signed a loyalty oath to get their pay form the finance officer, to obtain their PX supplies, to have their hair cut by the Italian barbers ... When other officers had followed his urging and introduced loyalty oaths of their own, he went them one better by making every son of a bitch who came to his intelligence tent sign two loyalty oaths, then three, then four; then he introduced a pledge of allegiance, and after that 'The Star-Spangled Banner," one chorus, two choruses, three choruses, four choruses."

"Without realizing how it had come about, the combat men in the squadron discovered themselves dominated by the administrators appointed to serve them. They were bullied, insulted, harassed and shoved about all day long by one after the other. When they voiced objection, Captain Black replied that people who were loyal would not mind signing all the loyalty oaths they had to. To anyone who questioned the effectiveness of the loyalty oaths, he replied that ... the more loyalty oaths a person signed, the more loyal he was."

"...he returned and found his way blocked by a wall of officers waiting in line to sign loyalty oaths. At the far end of the food counter, a group of men who had arrived earlier were pledging allegiance to the flag, with trays of food balanced in one hand, in order to be allowed to take seats at the table. Already at the tables, a group of that arrived still earlier was singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" in order that they might use the salt and pepper and ketchup there."
One of the more depressing things in life for me is that fact that even when someone like Heller so brilliantly flays open ludicrous incompetence, that ludicrous incompetence pops up in another form, another way, another time. Liberal education posits that by reading great literature or seeing great art, people will become educated, changed for the better. This is true in some cases. But most people do not listen; they merely wait until it is their turn to talk. People do not learn; they merely read the required material in order to pass the test, hating every minute of it, and absorb none of its truths. The idea of "speaking truth to power" is doomed because administrative power is deaf.

In the case of Marianne Kearney-Brown, she did not refuse to sign the loyalty oath. She merely followed her religious convictions by altering the oath to specify non-violence as her form of protecting the Constitution. Ms. Kearney-Brown is a Quaker, a pacifist group whose non-violent ways were respected even during WWII (although not WWI). But now we have the War of Terror. Religious pacifism isn't patriotic enough for post-9/11 CSUH. Violence is required, even of math teachers.

When scientists went to war in the Manhattan Project, the military was concerned that they were insufficiently ready to defend their country by physical force. It never came to Nobel-laureate physicists being forced to do push-ups in the mud at Los Alamos, but it nearly did. Richard Feynman recalls a mock calisthenic/calculus drill where the physicists were harangued with, "Men! Pencils out! Pencils at the ready! On the mark, integrate!"

One hopes that Ms. Kearney-Brown will settle with CSUH for a large sum of money. However, only someone who has not read Catch-22 thinks that anything will actually change.

Torquemada on the Potomac

Mr. Bush would like you to know that America does not torture.

You might hear a different story, though, if you ask the journalist Sami al-Hajj, also known as Internee #345. Al-Hajj is a Sudanese national currently being held in Guantanamo, which has been his home since being arrested by the US in December 2001. Mr. Al-Hajj is a journalist with the Al Jazeera network.

While being held in Guantanamo, Mr. Al-Hajj has been beaten, starved, and sexually tortured. Because of the physical abuse he has received at the hands of United States interrogators, he can no longer flex his knees. A doctor prescribed a special toilet seat for this condition, but officials have now removed it in order to humiliate him. According to Reporters Without Borders, Mr. Al-Hajj’s throat cancer, in remission since 1998, has returned, but he is being denied medical treatment.

It may surprise you to learn that no one thinks Mr. Al-Hajj is a terrorist. He has never been charged with terrorism. The Bush administration does not believe him to be in any way involved with terrorism or pose a risk. We know this because the administration has already promised him immediate release on one condition—if he were to spy on Al Jazeera. It is unclear how, even in a misreading of the Constitution worthy of Scalia, the United States can assert the right to detain and torture a foreign national for not being a spy.

According to Clive Stafford’s book on Guantanamo, Mr. Al-Hajj was not picked up by mistake, but rather for the express purpose of turning him into an informant against a television network Mr. Bush deemed hostile. Mr. Al-Hajj actually asked to be interrogated about what he was accused of having done.

To protest, and perhaps to end, his 6-year incarceration in this Kafkaesque nightmare, Mr. Al-Hajj is engaging in a hunger strike. The US now roughly and forcibly inserts a feeding into his nose daily and force-feeds Mr. Al-Hajj in order to avoid the embarrassment of having a Guantanamo prisoner starve to death. According to Mr. Al-Hajj’s lawyer, this tube sometimes is smeared with the blood of other Guantanamo inmates also being force fed.

This is what the United States has become.

The roots of torture in America are a deep part of our culture. Even before we were a nation, the Salem Witch Trials provided an outlet for American sexual sadists to strip, hurt, and torture women while pretending to protect the security of their neighbors. The DSM-IV defines sexual sadism as a replacement of normal sexual gratification with pleasure derived only by the infliction of pain; put simply, sexual sadists can only become aroused by cries of pain rather than passion, by hitting rather than fucking. Make no mistake about it--what happened in Abu Ghraib has deep psychological roots in our culture.

What is happening this very day in Guantanamo is part of this American sickness. Everyone else in the world see us for what we truly are; most Americans, as repressed and incurious as ever, have little idea what is being done in their name. Ask yourself this question, and answer honestly: Had you ever heard of Sami Al-Hajj before reading this?

It is all well and good to say that when those who authorized and operated Guantanamo become prisoners themselves, in US prisons facing charges with lawyers at their sides, then justice will be done. It is all well and good to say that when the cowardly judges who have abdicated their duties and their souls by deferring in every way to the evils of the Bush administration are removed from their positions and disbarred, then justice will be done.

But in reality, it is already too late. The new face of Uncle Sam is the hood of the torturer.

The Great Crash

Robert Reich, the former Secretary of Labor, sees the recent American economic downturn as a long-delayed symptom of underlying economic disease afflicting this country.

Reich brilliantly explains how the upcoming tax “rebates” will do nothing to slow America’s spiraling descent into, possibly, Argentine-style economic chaos. The problem, as Reich sees it, is that we Americans have finally run out of ways to spend more than we earn.

The first problem is the decline in real wages—that is, wages adjusted for inflation. Wages have been flat over the last 35 years; although actual dollar amounts have increased, because of inflation the purchasing power of these dollars is the same as if was 35 years ago.

Compounded on this problem is the fact that average wages are falling; the "middle mark" is sliding toward the poverty end of the income scale. Thirty years ago, the median male worker in his 30’s earned 12% more than he does today. This is largely the result of the migration of high-paying manufacturing jobs, and their replacement by no-skill, no-benefit retail work.

To maintain “middle class” lifestyles amid this decay, American families have increasingly relied on women to work outside the home. This trend began in earnest in the 1970s, and resulted in a terrible personal time deficit for many women. Arlene Hochschild has written eloquently about the deleterious effects of this in her book “The Second Shift.”

Having both parents work soon became not enough in the face of declining wages, Reich writes. The next stage involved increasing working hours, both within one job and by the addition of other jobs. Americans now work 350 more hours/year than Europeans.

This trend, too, had a limit; one cannot work more hours than there are in the day. So how to maintain lifestyles in the face of declining wages? In the 1990s a trend began for large numbers of workers to take out home equity loans, using their still-mortgaged houses as collateral. This is a like taking out a new credit card to pay minimum payments on another maxed credit card. And now, of course, with the collapse of the housing market, this last aspect has hit Americans like a freight train.

Even those of us who rent are being affected; increasing numbers of apartment dwellers across the country are arriving home to find 72-hour eviction notices because their landlord cannot make minimum mortgage payments. One thing woefully lacking from proposed congressional legislation protecting home owners from foreclosure is some manner of protection to renters—who have paid on-time and in good faith, and yet through no fault of their own find themselves homeless at a few day’s notice.

This crisis is long in coming.

Since the 1960s, manufacturing in America has been in precipitous decline. There have been several plateaus—the 1990s Internet Boom, the 2000s housing boom—but the long-term trend is dismal. We are going broke.

To understanding just how bankrupt America actually is, consider our $9 trillion national debt. With a population of 300 million Americans, this $9 trillion debt saddles every man, woman, and child in America with a $30,000 payment. However, this number does not consider that we pay interest on this $9 trillion debt; this interest effectively doubles the national debt burden.

Congress can pass a balanced budget, and this would reap lower interest rates, as we saw during the Clinton years. However, even a balanced budget does not begin to pay down this vast national debt, a burden which makes balanced budgets difficult because of the interest which must be paid right now. As our interest payments balloon, the funds available for everything else the government does must inevitably suffer. Soon our federal budget will fund unnecessary wars, Social Security payments, and little else.

How did it come to this?

Roar for Entitlement

Just when everyone thought Mark Geragos could not possibly find a client more odious than the child molester Michael Jackson or the wife killer Scott Peterson, Geragos decided to represent Amritpal and Kulbir Dhaliwal. The reckless actions of these drunken jackasses led to the destruction of Tatiana, a beautiful 4-year old Siberian tiger.

Now that the Dhaliwal brothers have confessed to provoking the tiger who attacked them on Christmas Day, the transcripts of the 911 call from the SF Zoo shed further light into the unsavory character of these individuals.

Kulbir Dhaliwal placed the first call at 5:16 pm from in front of the cafeteria at the SF Zoo. He was apparently having an argument with the manager of the cafe:

Kulbir: I'm talking to the manager here, the stupid a- doesn't want to get me a towel ...

The towel was presumably to staunch bleeding. Of course, in Kulbir's thinking, the manager should have exposed himself and his employees at the cafeteria to the danger of a prowling tiger, despite the Zoo's policy of locking down buildings during an escape.

911: The ambulance, the police are at the front.
Kulbir: Get them out here already!

He was apparently quite impatient with the response time, which was on the order of 10 minutes. This is a fairly quick response time in SF for a life and death emergency; times in East Bay cities such as Oakland and Richmond can be twice that, and there are instances where dispatched ambulances and police do not arrive at all to crime scenes. In other words, if you live in underfunded cities such as SF or Oakland, which have about half the police force of comparable cities in other states, then you should be thankful if you can just get through to 911 without being put on hold.

911: OK, the ambulance is staging. I need you to understand. That if the ambulance people, paramedics ...

Kulbir: What do you mean? ... My brother's going to die out here!

911: I'll stay on the line with you. If the paramedics get hurt they cannot help your brother, so you need to calm down and ...

Kulbir: Send more paramedics then!

Lovely. Kulbir thinks he is a general ordering more troops into the breach, damn the danger. No one else's life matters except his brother's. It does not matter to him if a paramedic is killed as a result of his stupidity in taunting the tiger.

Kulbir: Can you fly a helicopter right here? Because I don't see no f- ambulance here.

What a sense of entitlement! He screws up and now he thinks he deserves helicopter attention. Helicopter "Life Flights" are not usual for SF because no hospital in SF has helicopter landing facilities. Life Flights are more of an East Bay phenomenon.

These transcripts, the refusal of these brothers to cooperate with police, their documented effort to conceal what occurred that day, all speak to egomania and a prince-like expectation of entitlement.

What a pity Tatiana was not allowed time to finish her snack.

Obama & Race

Some have said that the seriousness of the candidacy of Barack Obama is a sign that American culture is now ready to consider a black man for the post of first citizen.

Consider, however, the recent WST op-ed piece by Karl Rove. Rove criticized Obama's rhetoric, claiming that it was, "an unattractive carryover from his days playing pickup basketball at Harvard."

Or consider Andrew Cuomo's recent criticism of Obama. Cuomo stated that Obama could not "shuck and jive" his way to the White House.

Such blatantly racist statements, even from Democrats like Cuomo, should not startle us. These remarks remind me of Lenny Bruce's famous sketch, "How to Relax Your Colored Friends at Parties," in which a well-intentioned liberal, trying to "mingle" during the civil rights era, degenerates into crass stereotypes.

Clearly, we have a long way to go.

Brit Brit's Suicide Note

Ding-dang, y'all.

According to Perez Hilton, Britney Spears recently wrote a suicide note:

"The letter was very sad," says a friend. "It was filled with reasons why she shouldn't live, included lines from poems about death."

Wonder what it said? What literary allusions did Unfitney conjure in her thanatopsis? Well, wait no more: My secret sources have found a copy of this note! I reproduce it here:

'Sup y'all, So I'm like dead or whatev' So like Sylvia Plath wrout it rite :

The frost makes a flower,

The dew makes a star,

The dead bell, the dead bell,

Somebody's done for.

And she was all like:

The woman is perfected
Her dead

Body wears the smile of accomplishment,

The illusion of a Greek necessity

Flows in the scrolls of her toga

Her bare

Feet seem to be saying:

We have come so far, it is over

So like when the pap-paps all take my pikture, I'm all like

I have suffered the atrocity of sunsets.

Scorched to the root

My red filaments burn and stand, a hand of wire.

Now I break up in pieces that fly about like clubs.

A wind of such violence

Will tolerate no bystanding: I must shriek.

I'm like exactly like Sylvia Plath, y'all. Here's my poetry

Gimme gimme more, gimme more

Gimme gimme more, gimme gimme more

Gimme more more

You see? That's like litachur an shit.

As my last well and testimoney, I leave all my mony and worldly posesions to Leona Helmsley's dog. Piece out, Brit Brit X(


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