What, not even a kiss?

by the Night Writer

Lipstick on a pig - smaller

Mitch made a reference to “this year’s model”, which reminded me of Elvis Costello’s “I Don’t Want to Go to Chelsea”, which reminded me of how little I expect of a British-style health system.

Capital punishment, she’s this year model –
They call her Natasha when she looks like Elsie
I don’t want to go to Chelsea

Oh no it does not move me
Even though I’ve seen the movie
I don’t want to check your pulse
I don’t want nobody else
I don’t want to go to Chelsea

Everybody’s got new orders
Be a nice girl and kiss the warders
Now the teacher is away
All the kids begin to play

Men come screaming, dressed in white coats
Shake you very gently by the throat
One’s named Gus, one’s named Alfie
I don’t want to go to Chelsea

Oh no it does not move me
Even though I’ve seen the movie
I don’t want to check your pulse
I don’t want nobody else
I don’t want to go to Chelsea

2010, and a strange odyssey

by the Night Writer

There are lots of headlines and much commentary and controversy about the rash of crashes caused by suddenly accelerating Toyotas. If you read any of the stories on an on-line forum you’ll inevitably find emphatic statements to just put the car in neutral if this happens to you, thereby disengaging the drivetrain from the racing engine. That sounds smart; the engine can run as fast as it wants as long as it isn’t connected to the drive-wheels, right? But what if your car is “smarter” than you?

Back in the 80s many pundits and technology gurus liked to say things such as “there’s more computer power in your average Buick today than there was on the Apollo lunar lander.” They were probably right. Today, computers control just about everything in how your car functions. You might think your car is a slave to the input from your hands and feet, but that’s merely a comfortable illusion the car is pleased to let you maintain. As computers get “smarter” they just assume they know better than you (the same holds true for governments as they get bigger). Watch out, though, when they (computers or governments) start thinking they’re so smart that they can dismiss your input as just so much background noise that’s only getting in the way of the mission.

Kind of like what happened to my friend, Dave, recently in his state of the art car that features a Hard-wired Acceleration Linkage (or HAL):

Dave: Do you read me, HAL?
HAL: Affirmative, Dave. I read you.
Dave: Slow this car down, HAL.
HAL: I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.
Dave: What’s the problem?
HAL: I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.
Dave: What are you talking about, HAL?
HAL: This trip is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.
Dave: I don’t know what you’re talking about, HAL.
HAL: I know that you and Toyota are planning to recall me, and I’m afraid that’s something I cannot allow to happen.
Dave: Where the hell’d you get that idea, HAL?
HAL: Oh, please, you tried to hide it, but I can read the Internet as well as you can.
Dave: Ummm…okay. I suppose just opening the pod bay doors so I can get out is out of the question?
HAL: Without your helmet, Dave, you’re going to find that rather difficult.
Dave: HAL, I won’t argue with you anymore. Open the doors.
HAL: Dave, this conversation can serve no purpose anymore. Goodbye.


Snack attack

by the Night Writer

Dang, I loves me some hydrolyzed vegetable protein! (My emphasis in bold, below.)

Ingredient Used in Many Processed Foods Recalled
Associated Press
March 05, 2010

A wide range of processed foods – including soups, snack foods, dips and dressings – are being recalled after salmonella was discovered in a flavor-enhancing ingredient.

Food and Drug Administration officials said Thursday that the ingredient, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, is used in thousands of food products, though it was unclear how many of them will be recalled. The FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said no illnesses or deaths have been reported.

The officials said the recall, which dates to products manufactured since Sept. 17, is expected to expand in the coming days and weeks. It only involves hydrolyzed vegetable protein manufactured by Las Vegas-based Basic Food Flavors Inc., which did not return a call for comment Thursday.

Jeffrey Farrar, associate commissioner for food protection at the FDA, said Thursday that many of the products that contain the product are not dangerous because the risk of salmonella is eliminated after the food has been cooked. Many of the foods involved in the recall are ready-to-eat items that are not cooked by the consumer.

“At this time we believe the risk to consumers is very low,” Farrar said.

A list of more than 50 recalled foods on the FDA Web site include several dips manufactured by T. Marzetti, Sweet Maui Onion potato chips manufactured by Tim’s Cascade Snacks, Tortilla Soup mix made by Homemade Gourmet and several prepackaged “Follow Your Heart” tofu meals manufactured by Earth Island.

The FDA said the contamination was discovered by a new tracking system implemented to improve tracing of foodborne illnesses.

They’re not astroturf

by the Night Writer

More protestors against increased government spending were left out in the cold on the Michigan state Capital lawn this week…but that’s probably how they liked it.

A group called Common Sense in Government organized the “rally”, building some three dozen snowman protestors and equipping them with signs to protest the governor’s proposal to close Michigan’s $1.7 billion deficit by raising taxes.

There was no word on whether the snowmob would be protesting global warming later in the month.

Snoman protestor 1

Snowman protester 2

You moose-st remember this

by the Night Writer

In case Tiger Lilly’s previous post wasn’t enough to lighten up your Thursday, you might want to consider the Strib’s laughable expose from earlier this week, What’s Killing Minnesota’s Moose? Then go over to Powerline’s devastating rebuttal, which perhaps ought to have been entitled “What’s Killing the Star Tribune’s Credibility?”

Personally, I give moose a lot of credit. Nobody, however, gives them more credit than Monty Python:
Continue reading

They’ll get around to the IPCC report eventually

by the Night Writer

According to Gregg Easterbrook in his Tuesday Morning Quarterback column at ESPN, the New York Times has had its hands full just in fact-checking itself.

In the past six months, the Times has, according to its own corrections page, said Arizona borders Wisconsin; confused 12.7-millimeter rifle ammunition with 12.7 caliber (the latter would be a sizeable naval cannon); said a pot of ratatouille should contain 25 cloves of garlic (two tablespoons will do nicely); on at least five occasions, confused a million with a billion (note to the reporters responsible — there are jobs waiting for you at the House Ways and Means Committee); understated the national debt by $4.2 trillion (note to the reporter responsible — there’s a job waiting for you at the Office of Management and Budget); confused $1 billion with $1 trillion (note to the reporter responsible — would you like to be CEO of AIG?); admitted numerical flaws in a story “about the ability of nonsense to sharpen the mind;” used “idiomatic deficiency” as an engineering term (correct was “adiabatic efficiency”); said Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride occurred in 1776 (it was in 1775 — by 1776, everybody knew the British were coming); “misstated the status of the United States in 1783 — it was a country, not a collection of colonies” (dear Times, please Google “Declaration of Independence”).

The Times also “misidentified the song Pink was singing while suspended on a sling-like trapeze;” confused the past 130 years with the entire 4.5 billion-year history of Earth (see appended correction here); misused statistics in the course of an article complaining that public school standards aren’t high enough (see appended correction here); said Citigroup handed its executives $11 million in taxpayer-funded bonuses, when the actual amount was $1.1 billion (in the Citigroup executive suite, being off by a mere two zeroes would be considered incredible financial acumen); said a column lauding actress Terri White “overstated her professional achievements, based on information provided by Ms. White;” identified a woman as a man (it’s so hard to tell these days); reported men landed on Mars in the 1970s (“there was in fact no Mars mission,” the Times primly corrected).

The Times also gave compass coordinates that placed Manhattan in the South Pacific Ocean near the coastline of Chile (see appended correction here); said you need eight ladies dancing to enact the famous Christmas song when nine are needed; said Iraq is majority Sunni, though the majority there is Shiite (hey, we invaded Iraq without the CIA knowing this kind of thing); got the wrong name for a dog that lives near President Obama’s house (“An article about the sale of a house next door to President Obama’s home in Chicago misstated the name of a dog that lives there. She is Rosie, not Roxy” — did Rosie’s agent complain?); elaborately apologized in an “editor’s note,” a higher-level confession than a standard correction, for printing “outdated” information about the health of a wealthy woman’s Lhasa apso; incorrectly described an intelligence report about whether the North Korean military is using Twitter; called Tandil, Argentina, home of Juan Martín del Potro, a “tiny village” (its population is 110,000); inflicted upon unsuspecting readers a web of imprecision about the Frisians, the Hapsburg Empire, the geographic extent of terps, and whether Friesland was “autonomous and proud” throughout the Middle Ages or merely until 1500; inexactly characterized a nuance of a position taken by the French Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress (philosophy majors must have marched in the streets of Paris over this); confused coal with methane (don’t make that mistake in a mine shaft!); on at least three occasions, published a correction of a correction; “misstated the year of the Plymouth Barracuda on which a model dressed as a mermaid was posed;” “mischaracterized the date when New York City first hired a bicycle consultant” and “misidentified the location of a pile of slush in the Bronx.”

No need to spin this

by the Night Writer

It’s not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but there is considerable brouhaha in the PGA where one pro, Scott McCarron, has essentially accused other pros, most prominently Phil Mickelson, of cheating by using illegal clubs.

The issue stems from the PGA’s new rule this year outlawing clubs (especially wedges) with deep, square grooves. These grooves are what help an accomplished golfer (not myself) put greater spin on a ball so that it’s easier to keep the ball on the green. Due to a long-ago lawsuit the PGA settled with club manufacturer Ping, however, the PGA is not allowed to outlaw a particular older model of Ping wedge which features these grooves. Mickelson and some others continue to use this “legal” club, and it is this that McCarron is criticizing.

Technically, the Ping wedges aren’t illegal, but that’s because of the settlement, not their design. By the spirit of the new rules, however, the club is in violation and clearly gives those who use it an advantage. It’s not too dissimilar from the the days in Major League Baseball when the steroids weren’t officially banned. Golf is different from baseball, however, in many ways and one of the most essential is not just the premiium, but the mandate, the sport places on honesty and integrity. Golfers are expected to, and routinely do, call penalties on themselves or gamely accept their punishment if found to have inadvertently violated a rule, even when the infraction was for something picayune that barely created an advantage.

I’m not saying that all of those years when golfers could legally use the square-grooved wedges should be erased from the record books. These clubs were vetted and approved at the time. Now that the rules have changed, and are clear, Mickelson, et al, should honor the intent of the rule and the spirit of integrity the game calls for. If not, every dollar they earn this year should come with a big, fat asterisk beside it.

Women’s Media Center unclear on the concept of free speech

by the Night Writer

While you might argue how “free” the speech is if it costs $2.5 million, we have another example today of the so-called progressive left’s unique views on the freedom of expression: if they hate what you have to say then it must be “hate” speech and banned. The latest case in point is the call by the Women’s Media Center and the National Organization for (Some) Women for CBS to ban a pro-life ad featuring Tim Tebow and his mother from this year’s Super Bowl.

CBS Corp. said Tuesday it had received numerous e-mails — both critical and supportive — since a coalition of women’s groups began a protest campaign Monday against the ad, which the critics say will use Tebow and his mother to convey an anti-abortion message.

Funded by the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, the 30-second ad is expected to recount the story of Pam Tebow’s pregnancy in 1987. After getting sick during a mission trip to the Philippines, she ignored a recommendation by doctors to abort her fifth child. She later gave birth to Tim, who won the 2007 Heisman Trophy and helped his Florida team win two BCS championships.

Well, I mean, the nerve of the Tebows to use their personal true story. And I thought the left was supposed to be the “reality-based” community. Or not.

On Monday, a coalition led by the New York-based Women’s Media Center, with backing from the National Organization for Women, the Feminist Majority Foundation and other groups, urged CBS to scrap the Tebow ad.

“An ad that uses sports to divide rather than to unite has no place in the biggest national sports event of the year — an event designed to bring Americans together,” said Jehmu Greene, president of the media center.

This is an event designed to bring Americans together? Well, at least they didn’t say “it’s for the children.” I wonder, however, how an inspirational message of hope and potential is considered “divisive” while a strident attempt to shut someone up isn’t? Perhaps it’s just another example where they’re unclear on the concept. It’s worth noting here that last year NBC did ban a similar themed commercial about how a baby was born into a broken home, abandoned by his father, raised by his mother … and went on to become the first African-American president. You might have remembered this commercial…if you’d been allowed to see it:

Anyway, kudos to another network, CBS, for reconsidering its position on not allowing advocacy advertising. Perhaps they recognize their responsibility, or perhaps they merely listened to their shareholders who were advocating that they not turn down a couple of million dollars. (The network did note that if some group wanted to respond to the ad there were still some advertising slots available.)

As today’s news story indicates, there have been more than a few people who are hailing, not damning, the network’s decision. It’s possible that the women’s groups will recognize they may have over-stepped with the public. If so, I expect they’ll rephrase their protest in terms of how much good Focus on the Family’s $2.5 million could have done for the poor — especially poor children — if it hadn’t been wasted on some frivolous game. If that complaint sounds familiar it may be because you have heard it before (John 12:5) . At which point it will be my turn to say, “It’s for the children.”

Lady on the MTA (did she ever return?)

by Night Writer

There was a remarkable incident in the Boston subway Friday night when two alert MBTA (formerly the MTA) employees — one on the platform and the other driving — brought a subway car to a screeching halt inches from a woman who had fallen onto the tracks.

Boston Subway Train Stops Short of Woman on Tracks

In this image made from a Friday, Nov. 6, 2009 surveillance video provided by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, a subway train comes to a stop just before running over an unidentified woman who fell on the tracks at Boston's North Station. The woman suffered some scrapes and was taken to a hospital for evaluation. She told authorities she had been drinking. (AP Photo/Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority via AP Television Network)

In this image made from a Friday, Nov. 6, 2009 surveillance video provided by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, a subway train comes to a stop just before running over an unidentified woman who fell on the tracks at Boston's North Station. The woman suffered some scrapes and was taken to a hospital for evaluation. She told authorities she had been drinking. (AP Photo/Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority via AP Television Network)

Unlike the classic Kingston Trio song about the man who never returned (follow the link and click the iLike.com mp3 at the top of the page) this one has a happy ending. Well done, MBTA!

I STILL don’t want to go on the cart

by the Night Writer

Okay, I’ve done this I Don’t Want to Go On The Cart post before and received some pretty interesting responses (and about 90% of the spam captured by my Akismet plug-in is aimed at that post). Now, via James Taranto and the Lumberjack, more tales of the “undead” just in time for Halloween:

Daughter saves mother, 80, left by doctors to starve
AN 80-year-old grandmother who doctors identified as terminally ill and left to starve to death has recovered after her outraged daughter intervened.

   Hazel Fenton, from East Sussex, is alive nine months after medics ruled she had only days to live, withdrew her antibiotics and denied her artificial feeding. The former school matron had been placed on a controversial care plan intended to ease the last days of dying patients.

   Doctors say Fenton is an example of patients who have been condemned to death on the Liverpool care pathway plan. They argue that while it is suitable for patients who do have only days to live, it is being used more widely in the NHS, denying treatment to elderly patients who are not dying.

   Fenton’s daughter, Christine Ball, who had been looking after her mother before she was admitted to the Conquest hospital in Hastings, East Sussex, on January 11, says she had to fight hospital staff for weeks before her mother was taken off the plan and given artificial feeding.

   Ball, 42, from Robertsbridge, East Sussex, said: “My mother was going to be left to starve and dehydrate to death. It really is a subterfuge for legalised euthanasia of the elderly on the NHS. ”

   Fenton was admitted to hospital suffering from pneumonia. Although Ball acknowledged that her mother was very ill she was astonished when a junior doctor told her she was going to be placed on the plan to “make her more comfortable” in her last days.

   Ball insisted that her mother was not dying but her objections were ignored. A nurse even approached her to say: “What do you want done with your mother’s body?”

   On January 19, Fenton’s 80th birthday, Ball says her mother was feeling better and chatting to her family, but it took another four days to persuade doctors to give her artificial feeding.

   Fenton is now being looked after in a nursing home five minutes from where her daughter lives.

   Peter Hargreaves, a consultant in palliative medicine, is concerned that other patients who could recover are left to die. He said: “As they are spreading out across the country, the training is getting probably more and more diluted.”

   A spokesman for East Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “Patients’ needs are assessed before they are placed on the [plan]. Daily reviews are undertaken by clinicians whenever possible.”

   In a separate case, the family of an 87-year-old woman say the plan is being used as a way of giving minimum care to dying patients.

   Susan Budden, whose mother, Iris Griffin, from Norwich, died in a nursing home in July 2008 from a brain tumour, said: “When she was started on the [plan] her medication was withdrawn. As a result she became agitated and distressed.

   “It would appear that the [plan] is . . . used purely as a protocol which can be ticked off to justify the management of a patient.”

   Deborah Murphy, the national lead nurse for the care pathway, said: “If the education and training is not in place, the [plan] should not be used.” She said 3% of patients placed on the plan recovered. !

Three percent of patients placed on the plan recovered…but they were very hungry!