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Wednesday, November 25, 2009


This little post is going to allow me to indulge some of my Bushie tendencies... Get ready...

The editorial on France Musiques this morning, presented by an excellent journalist, Thomas Cluzell, exposed the case of Rom Huben, who y'all must have heard about by now.

Rom only recently was discovered to be in full possession of his mental faculties although totally paralzyed following a car accident. For 28 years or so (or is this my confabulation ? my marriage has lasted this long, so I could be inventing...), Rom was considered to be in a vegetative coma, while he was hearing, and understanding EVERYTHING around him without being able to express himself.

Things are looking better for Rom these days since some white coat had the bright idea of checking out his mental state, and discovered that his brain was... totally normal. He has learned how to express himself in such a way as to be able to write a letter to his Dad who died while everyone thought he was a veggie (and he can't even cry... tough).
Rom is really an amazing person, the kind who can convince you that miracles really DO exist because... even though he STILL is totally paralyzed, he can express himself and enter into contact with his loved ones, and with the larger human world.
And JUST this, in a sense, is ALREADY a miracle, and a tribute to the human... soul ? spirit ?

This morning Thomas went on to NOT CASUALLY AT ALL mention the fact that diagnosing vegetative coma is definitely NOT the piece of cake that... all of the people living in liberalland who jumped on Georgie's case a few years ago would definitely LOVE TO BELIEVE...
It appears that there is up to 40% error in this kind of diagnosis, at this time.

I don't know about you, but those figures look REALLY alarming to me, in the face of Rom's experience. Here I ask you to use your imagination a little bit...
Imagine... the white coats sententiously getting ready to unhook life support for somebody who is TOTALLY CONSCIOUS of what is going on, and cannot express himself ?
Let's up the ante a little bit..
And if that person were.. YOU ?

Since I like to get on your case sometimes, Thai, and I can be a rather agressive kitty, I realize that all that medical care, the life support, etc etc, is REALLY EXPENSIVE...
But... how would YOU feel, being the person who pulls the plug in these circumstances, and in the light of Rom's experience ??

(Next post is NOT going to be about medecine. Next post is NOT going to be about medecine. Next post...)


Thai said...

Easy... And I agree with your comment that discerning coma is a rabbit hole. Indeed I remember clearly how the issue of coma and consciousness was the second instance of a fractal I saw in medicine years and years ago- e.g. a rabbit hole. It was coma and consciousness that actually had me asking "are there other fractals out there"? But that is another topic altogether.

I appreciate that you want to keep me alive, and I really don't mind as long as you make the quality of my coma experiences decent (costs $) and that you have no problem forcing your child to take care of me or you admit that taking care of me means that you will not get to retire, or your kids won't go to college, or you will give up something else that costs just as much, in order to do so.

Meet both these conditions and I say "do it".

But if you do not, Houston we have a problem.

... And I especially think you will appreciate your handcuffs if you know I created the circumstances that led to your misfortune myself. ;-)

... Now if you say you are willing to spend the money on me and stop spending money someplace else- such as stopping all the disability payments that have ballooned recent years, we would agree.

But if you are not willing to give up anything else for me then I have a problem... but then again, I might not be willing to give up anything else for you when it happens to you. ;-)

I do not want these funds spent on me at the expense of screwing my children, and that is most certainly what Europeans have chosen to do and what Americans are increasingly doing.

Again, I do not think I have the right to ask anything of everyone. Or let's say that I can, but I also realize others might not honor my request.

Again, we ask soldiers to die for you and me, why should others (including soldiers) ask any less of me?

Debra said...

Thai... you are just NOT appreciating that we are the very tail end of the... 30 glorious years. The final fallout.
You mean that YOU didn't have the feeling in the pit of your stomach on graduating from college that you were NOT going to be able to maintain your parents' lifestyle ?
I really KNEW it when I got that... English lit diploma that was my Daddy's secret dream : the... PROOF that he had managed to integrate the... aristocracy by procuration, at least.
Thai... no way in hell could I unhook you if you WANTED to live the way it looks like... Rom still does.
So... you're saying that you would pull the plug on him if his family said yes, even if HE wanted to continue ?
As far as going to college is concerned... I told my little bro a couple of weeks ago that there are OTHER things to do in life than... go to college.
It is NOT NECESSARILY the mind expanding experience it STILL was when I was there.
And... there are lots of other ways that you can learn lots of stuff, and important stuff these days without going to college.
The diploma machine is going to be one of the next to get... botched up. Certainly in France.

Debra said...

And... you've read me enough on Sudden Debt to realize that the rabbit hole looms on the retirement issue, i.e. the insurance type mentality (each for his own) socks it to social solidarity.

Edwardo said...


Tuition is high
In the ivy of my mind
Must self educate

Debra said...

Cool cool cool, Edwardo has temporarily deserted the steaming, overgrown jungle to add his sumptuous prose to our... saloon.
Welcome, Edwardo.
(something a little more meat and potatoes than... haiku, whimper ?)

Dink said...

Hi there, Edwardo. Welcome to the playground.

Re: College-

Knowledge Is Good (nod to Animal House). Colleges provide knowledge in an organized fashion. They used to be the only way to get organized knowledge (some people have a gift for self-organizing, but for most people pre-packaged was best). The internet is rapidly getting to the point where the free knowledge it provides will be organized well enough to compete with colleges. Interesting times.

Re: Comas

The Rom case...... well, the implications are huge. I'm happy for the guy if he's happy. In a world of endless plenty why not have him happy to the fullest extent he is capable. But we do not live in a world of endless plenty. I can see why many have this impression due to circumstances of the last few decades. But the last few decades were a perfect storm of unnatural events and wholly unsustainable. I'll be the first to admit that it was fun though ;)

Thai said...

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

I am in food coma right now an completely unable to have an intelligent thought (not that I ever had one before).

I hope your Turkey(s) are enjoyable and tasty!

Debra said...

LOL What turkey, Thai ??
Over here it is... Sainte Catherine.
Thanksgiving ? I dimly remember it.
I gave up on pumpkin pie a while ago after discovering less...étouffe chrétien desserts. (Etouffe chrétien means, suffocating a Christian, and it is used for food that hits bottom with a resounding thud.)

Dink said...

Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving too, Thai! The coma will likely break once the gravy digests in 96 hours or so ;)

Etouffe Non-deist was via salmon vs. turkey on this coast. We went to a nice place on Lake Union which had an interesing, uh, juxtaposition. Through the rain-splattered windows there were views of the lake, nice boats, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and Hooters(note to ex-patriot: Hooters is a "restaurant" with waitresses in small tank-tops). To sum up, America is weird.

Debra said...

So... is Street Dog in a post Thanksgiving coma ?
Radar silence...

Edwardo said...

The following is, as they say, OT, but think of it as a follow up to my modest haiku appetizer. Or was it an aperitif?

What is the purpose of an undergraduate university education? As near as I can tell, here in the United States, the perception of the purpose of an undergraduate education revolves around two ideas. The first idea involves the notion that an undergraduate education allows the not so (chosen) few to suspend, for the purposes of acquiring some modicum of maturity-maturity being broadly defined-their entrance into the drudgery and tedium of that most fantastical place known as "the real world."

A second, and by my runes, less compelling idea, comports with the view that, in attending and (hopefully) graduating from______University, mortarboard wearers acquire credentials of the sort that will allow them to garner a higher salary than their less well educated, non mortarboard wearing, coevals. While the first idea is mostly accurate, I believe the second one is in the process of taking it on the chin.

Leaving the hallowed halls of one's four year college or university with a low six figure debt in tow, which is the lot for many, if not most graduates, is hardly ample compensation for the privilege of working for, oh, say, 20 to 25K a year more than one would were one a mere high school graduate. And that, of course, assumes that one can even find a job in our present economic state of decrepitude.

When jobs were more plentiful, and provided more generous salaries back in the halcyon days of, oh, say, 2005, for example, the trade off -big debts for a reasonably well paying job- for the average college Joe or Josephine was marginally defensible.

Of course in an ideal world, more than just a few would value education primarily for its own sake, and would be less in thrall, and more importantly, less motivated by the dictates of our corporate oligopoly. Alas, that ideal world is worlds away, and so the cost of undergraduate education is fast becoming thoroughly untenable, or so it seems to me.

And with no real mitigating factors to act against the imperatives of our merciless marketplace, my sense is that in the next generation or two, higher education will, along with so many other vitiated industries, experience downsizing with a vengeance.

Harvard, Yale, and various and sundry other brand name behemoths will survive-albeit in streamlined form- but due to the general impoverishment about the land, save for a few execrable Wall Street firms, and as a result of "technological advances"-such that online education is catching fire faster than a a bit of high sierra underbrush after a record breaking drought- fewer institutions of higher learning will exist by the time our children are college age. I expect to see a a lot of "consolidation" such that, hypothetically speaking, The University of Mississippi and Mississippi State become one, and where the once fabulous California university system that I believe Thai availed himself of, becomes, due to consolidations and cuts, a good deal less fabulous.

Thai said...

Edwardo, we really do agree on a great many issues, and this is indeed one of them.

Of course the corollary to the death of SOME parts of higher education is other parts of our real economy will be much better off. There are a lot of very talented people in academics who could continue to do great things in other sectors of the economy.

Indeed my continued frustration in all this is the idea that some people complain that SOME in our economy are guilty in not looking out for the welfare of their fellow men (which I agree with by the way) when in fact all sectors of the economy have been guilty of the same crime. It does not matter whether you shine the light on education, law, medicine, economics, government, science, etc...

Complain about one but the fact is teamwork always requires everyone in the team to cooperate.

Asking that only a few give up a for the betterment of others also implies is often inadequate.

It may be just my own value system but at least to me, it is not somehow OK that some give up something so precious as say a few extra days on this planet so that their sacrifice can be squandered by others to play on the golf course, etc... We cannot do anything we want with the sacrifice.

In fact, as I think on this (and to appease Debra's desire for me to stop talking about medicine), I will write a post on it.

PS- Edwardo, where did you study as an undergrad?

Dink, where did you study?

We know Deb studied at Middlebury and Street Dog studied at Cal Tech.

Where is Street Dog by the way?

Thai said...

But since we are not on a new post yet, sharing the following link does not violate my promise to Deb.

I know we can accomplish wonderful things when we all cooperate. Make fun of me if you will, I do know this in my heart.

Debra said...

Edwardo, in MY book you need to ask Dink for posting privileges (not a big deal) and that way, WHAT YOU'RE SAYING IS NO LONGER OFF TOPIC, because magico presto, it's YOUR post, and you say what you want in it. (That's the way I work, anyway...)
Thai, you are insulting me by implying that I received a higher education from Middlebury College, the Ivy League school that was content to get its sticky fingers on my filthy lucre to farm me out to the French university system, basically (and which is... FREE FREE FREE). I got a BA in English Lit from.. Whitman College in Walla Walla, as dinky knows because he has probably driven through those wheat fields, pea fields, whatever.
And Whitman is one of those colleges that could really take the rap IF higher education starts tripping down the consolidation path that... the BANKS have blithely tripped down.
Consolidation leads to... DECADENCE and loss of variety in experience IN MY OPINION. It is... deadly to education. (Remember, I'm a BIG fan of Schumacher.)
So... Edwardo, write your post on education, and I will comment because... for me education is caught up in the incredible mine field of transmission (of values) and this INVARIABLY involves a form of... aristocracy, if only of ideas. And we will look at the way education fits in to the... WORK paradigm, too.

Debra said...

Thai, I read the first two paragraphs of your article, so I am a BAD reader, but THIS is what I have to say...
Stress is what killed my 57 year old Daddy with a heart attack.
Stress is ALSO what made ME (although congenital factors may have been at work too...) deliver 2 premature babies.
THIS subject is EXACTLY why I told that obtuse financial advisor 15 years ago that good prenatal care, a supportive non-judgmental environment for pregnant women, is ESSENTIAL for them to have... HEALTHY babies. And that, as such, it is a WISE INVESTMENT for the collectivity to make, in order to AVOID paying MUCHO FILTHY LUCRE further down the road to mop up the spilt milk.
STRESS STRESS STRESS. This is why so many.. white upper middle class working women are having problem pregnancies, and early deliveries.
And if this problem is so EVIDENT in this area... just what exactly are its effects in areas where it is less visible, AND COUNTABLE ??
One of these days I will write a post about how our society STILL continues to shit on women, to mine their confidence, to undercut their capacity to raise children, ALL TO AN INESTIMABLE COST TO THE COLLECTIVITY, as Rousseau was perceptive enough to realize many many years ago.

Debra said...

And... last comment this morning, I promise...
The capacity of the chiantific world to... magically discover truths that others discovered centuries, if not millenia ago, all to the sound of the fanfare of personal glorification, boggles my mind.
Who was it here who stuck down the funny link on this subject ? Was it you, dinky ? Ahhh, I remember, the link with multiple stab wounds to monkeys ???
Good job.

Edwardo said...

I received my B.A. from The University of Georgia.
At the time, I had it in mind to pursue Journalism, which was a strong department then. I have no idea where the j-school stands in the firmament these days, though I hear that the overall academic quality of UGA is quite high-relatively speaking-these days.

Debra said...

So, Edwardo, does that mean that you TOO were an English lit major ???
Is it possible ?

Thai said...

Well, you would have made a great journalist had you so chosen

Thai said...

Edwardo, I read the following post and thought of your Haiku.

Indeed the biggest smile of all came from the following statement:

"As long as we help pay for each other through Medicare, Medicaid, and assorted other subsidies, the aggregate health of the nation is a concern for taxpayers, not just individuals. But this isn't just about government. As long as most of us pay health-care premiums based on the average health needs of other people (and that's true for everyone receiving employer-based health coverage, and any other type of risk-pooled coverage), the health of others will be a financial concern for us."

I suspect we shall see a form of universal coverage pass. But then I also suspect that we will come to find that it is not as universal as we once thought.

How easy to be fooled by randomness, no?

The Most Fabulous Objects In The World

  • Hitchhiker's Guide To The Universe trilogy
  • Lord of the Rings trilogy
  • Flight of the Conchords
  • Time Bandits