Saturday, January 30, 2010

Disability and the Lap of Luxury

Setting Your Face Afire

You too can set your face on fire.

Start with blod-thinning medication designed to prevent a stroke. Wait 45 minutes to an hour for the medication to take full effect. Scratch the bridge of your nose. Ignore, initially, the sensation of blood streaming from your nose, through your beard,down your neck, and onto your chest where it pools after soaking your black, long-sleeve, pocketed t-shirt, leaving a permanent, albeit invisible stain, the approximate size and shape of Illinois, or Indiana.

A handful of paper towels will wipe up the largest part of the bloody mess. Though it seems to run with the breadth and depth of the Mississippi River, you will discover that the bleeding can be staunched with a cotton ball, its blood-soaked fibers matting like a second skin. Three or four Wet Wipes will make you presentable.

Go back to work. Forget about the cotton ball sitting, just out of sight-- out of sight: out of mind-- on top of your nose.

At this point, a critical variable will drive the outcome. Are you a smoker? Well, here's another reason to quit. If you are taking a blood-thinner, you are old and infirm. If you are old and infirm, you are miserly. If you are miserly, you'll scrounge through the ashtray looking for a butt long enough to relight. With any misjudgment at all, as you bring your lighter close enough to ignite the half-sized cigarette, your cotton ball will explode into flame, like kerosene-soaked tinder, setting afire your eyelashes, eyebrows, mustache, and beard as you bat at it. The cotton ball still forgotten, your attention is focused on the only salient fact: your face is on fire.

Re-purposing This Space

Re-purposing this space. That was then. This is now.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Krauthammer on P&O Steam Nav. Co.

Krauthammer couldn't find a more debatable lead: "If only Churchill were alive today, none of this would be happening." Or craft a more inscrutable follow-up: "The proud imperialist would have taken care that the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., chartered in 1840 by Victoria ("by the grace of God . . . Queen defender of the faith" on "this thirty first day of December in the fourth year of our reign"), would still be serving afternoon tea and crumpets on some immaculate Jewel-in-the-Crown cricket pitch in Ceylon."

Krauthammer raises the "obvious question of whether we want our ports, through which a nuclear bomb could come, handled by a country two of whose nationals flew into the South Tower on Sept. 11...." Never mind that if terrorists wanted to smuggle an awful weapon into the U.S., they would infiltrate the company that managed the port where the weapon was loaded, not where it was never to be unloaded.

According to Krauthammer, "an Arab-run company, heavily staffed with Arab employees, is more likely to be infiltrated by terrorists who might want to smuggle an awful weapon into our ports." Never mind that the Arab Emirates' intelligence assets are much better-suited than any American or British company, or either intelligence service, to vet Middle Eastern employees and to uncover terrorist plots of Middle Eastern origin.

Krauthammer allows that the government of the UAE, "which has been pro-American and a reasonably good ally in the war on terrorism," is unlike to offer its "cooperation" in a terrorist attack on American ports. Never mind that if they were of a mind to cooperate in such an attack, they wouldn't spend a fortune buying the contracts to manage the ports they wanted to blow up, just to make sure that their fingerprints were all over the attack.

But the "greater and more immediate danger," according to Krauthammer, is not Arab incompetents or idiots, but Arab sinistry and American naivete. He worries that P&O "will ... become privy to information about security," and "the holes in our security operations," and its employees might "pass this invaluable knowledge on to al-Qaeda types." I'll tell you a secret if you promise not to tell any al-Qaeda types: The Customs Service physically inspects two percent of imported cargo. The hole is bigger than the fabric of our port security operations, and it can't be plugged by inspecting containers berthed in New York Harbor. Whoever is pulling the trigger (likely by satellite phone from a cafe in Dubai) isn't going to have second cup of coffee while he waits for U.S. Customs to finish searching the ship after it docks.

Krauthammer allows that he can "sympathize with the President's stubborness," as though we would be anything but shocked if, just once, he did not sympathize with this particularly stubborn President. But this has nothing to do with the prospect of humiliating a moderate Middle Eastern ally, as Krauthammer imagines. The UAE would flip those six American port management contracts in a New York minute for a 10% profit. Bush is sticking to the deal for the same reason he let it happen, and for the same reason he is preposterously pretending no one told him about it -- it is sound strategy to give UAE a stake in the security of American ports because its intelligence service is uniquely capable of doing something about it.

Krauthammer bemoans the lack of "very good options." If the options were really limited to the mollification of an ally and the protection of national security, one would expect Krauthammer to be less sanguine about settling for the option that is "not nearly as clean as the Harriet Miers exit." Good Lord. Having bowed to Republican pressure to pull the nomination because she wasn't qualified to hold one vote on the Supreme Court, he left her in charge of the White Counsel's Office. Perhaps Krauthammer would be happier if Bush killed the P&O contract, and put them in charge of his administration's Middle Eastern trade policy.

Krauthammer rues the day when "Britannia stopped ruling the waves and it all fell to us," with the world-weary resignation of a nostalgic anglophile; but if Churchill were alive today, he'd be banking the President's appreciation for his help brokering the deal.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Anonymously unintimidated

I love the obligatory justifications that Post reporters come up with in keeping with the paper's policy of telling its readers "why unnamed sources refuse to be quoted by name," but this one takes the cake:

Preaching With a Vengeance
Pat Robertson's Fierce Rhetoric May Have Diminished His Political Clout

By Lynne Duke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 15, 2005; Page C01

* * *
Pat Robertson: The rhetorical hit man who opined several weeks ago that Chavez, the Venezuelan president, should be assassinated now has thrown down the gauntlet for senators who oppose Miers's nomination for the Supreme Court.
* * *
A Senate Republican source burst out laughing when told of Robertson's threat on the Miers nomination. "I don't know anybody on the Hill who's going to quake in their boots when Pat Robertson issues some sort of a threat or a decree," said the source, who requested anonymity to protect his boss.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Queer Cost Factor

Glen Whitman on Agoraphilia warns "liberals" -- parenthetically, sort of an afterthought -- that "it is only a matter of time before conservatives use public healthcare costs as the basis for further bludgeoning of homosexuals, since homosexual practices do in fact carry greater health risks."

Glen is conflating health risks and healthcare costs. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Development:
Pregnancies and childbirth-related conditions account for nearly a quarter of hospitalizations. Twelve percent of hospital stays are related to pregnancy and childbirth (the mother’s stay) and 11 percent are related to newborn infant births.

Nos. 1,2, and 5 on the Top 10 list of "principal diagnoses with the highest mean charges" are pregnancy- and childbirth-related. No STDs on the list.

Nos. 1,2 and 4 on the top 10 list of "principal diagnoses with the longest mean length of stay" are pregnancy- and childbirth-related. No STDs on the list.

But we're talking about public healthcare costs. So it's more significant that 6 of the top ten "principal diagnoses for Medicaid" are pregnancy- or childbirth-related. No STDs on the list.

And there's this from the National Women's Law Center: 71% of adult Medicaid beneficiaries are women, and Medicaid covers nearly 40% of all childbirths in the U.S.

On further reflection, maybe queer is cost-efficient.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Damages in Grokster

The Court remanded, with Souter observing that "although an exact calculation of infringing use, as a basis for a claim of damages, is subject to dispute, there is no question that the summary judgment evidence is at least adequate to entitle MGM to go forward with claims for damages and equitable relief."

Assume statutory damages are available. How do you measure them? Are the defendants liable for every infringing use, or just the infringing uses that they "actively induced"? If 90% of the P2P traffic is infringing, how much of that was induced by the defendants' advertising and promotion, and how much was induced by reading about P2P on, or at the lunch table in the high school cafeteria. Are defendants liable for only for their own active inducement, and are those specific infringements identifiable and provable? Or are they liable for the "network effects" that they set into motion?