The Revolution Will Not Be Twitter-ized

The medium is the message.  Books and pamphlets gave us depth of thought and expression.  Newspapers gave us context, but also sensation.  Radio gave us intimacy.  Television gives us sensory overload and 30-second sound bytes.  The Internet gives us community and the ability to “drill down.” 

Twitter gives us spitballs. Exhibitionism and spitballs.  

Don’t feel sorry for Ezra Klein.  As the cops would say, he had no expectation of privacy. 

Besides, there is a huge constituency of Tim Russert-haters out there who will turn him into a martyr if NBC decides not to keep him around.  This might be the making of Ezra Klein’s punditry career.  


Parents’ Nightmare: A Misdiagnosis of ADHD

chris-kaman.jpgThis story, from Tuesday’s LA Times, frightened and relieved me at the same time. 

Los Angeles Clippers’ center Chris Kaman is an exceptional person.  Only a few men at any given time are capable of playing center in the NBA.  There are hardly enough qualified centers to go around.  Physical gifts like size, speed and shooting accuracy must combine with the ability to process rapidly the flow of the game, the positions of all the players, the coach’s designs. 

Coming up as a ballplayer and student, Kaman had to learn all that, under the influence of powerful psycoactive medications he didn’t need — Ritalin and Adderall — from age 2 1/2 through high school for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  However,

Kaman, who had trouble remembering plays and concentrating on the court in college and in the pros, disclosed Sunday that he was misdiagnosed.

Kaman actually had an anxiety disorder that caused him to over-analyze situations and scenarios.

“Growing up, I had to take the medication my whole life,” said Kaman, who said he grew so frustrated taking the medication that he would come home from school and cry.

“I can’t take back time. I wish I could. But I can’t. It really bothered me to take the medication every day. I felt I had to take the medication to make me feel like a regular person. It was kind of backward.”

His misdiagnosis was discovered in July by Hope139, a 5-year old organization based in Grandville, Mich., that studies the brain. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, between 3% and 5% of children have ADHD, with symptoms that include hyperactivity and impulsiveness.

According to Hope139’s research of about 40,000 patients, up to 15% of those on medicine for hyperactivity do not have the affliction.

You got kids?  You get the impression as a parent that it’s a lot more than 3 to 5 percent of kids who are being diagnosed with ADHD. If your kid seems intelligent but gets bad grades, is rambunctious, talks too much, is forgetful, the ADHD diagnosis seems to linger in the air with every doctor visit.

Raising my son, I made up my mind to strap myself to the mast and get us through adolescent and not listen to any such diagnosis.  As frustrating as raising my son could be at times, I did not want him taking these medications.  I figured the cure to what seemed to be ailing him was merely to grow up.  Which, at 17, he’s showing signs of doing, to our relief.

What happened to Kaman is exactly what I worried would happen to my son:

The medication Kaman took had the opposite effect on him, said Dr. Tim Royer, the organization’s chief executive.

Kaman’s brain was already working in overdrive, and the medication provided an added stimulus. The dosage was increased to the point that Kaman’s mind became overloaded and he became less animated. “He stopped being a behavioral problem, but he got too much medicine and it shut him down,” Royer said.

Kaman stopped taking medication once he entered college at Central Michigan because he no longer had to sit in one place for more than a couple of hours.

But his concentration in college, and once he signed with the Clippers, was still lacking. He could focus on the man he was guarding but not on weak-side defense, or as Royer put it, “He could see the tree in front of him, but not the forest.”

How is this generation of parents, pediatricians and psychologists going to be judged?  Kaman’s story is going to become better-known soon, and we’ll all be taking a second look at how these medications were sold as the panacea to so many families.

Kaman is hoping to become a spokesman for children who are misdiagnosed or are simply looking for another alternative instead of taking medication for hyperactivity. “I’m using my resources as much as I can to try and help people,” he said. “I was trying to see if it worked first. I’m on a platform being in the NBA where I can help people.”

New Hampshire Theories


Here are a few theories.

Like the Washington Post‘s Jon Cohen and Jennifer Agiest, I don’t buy the so-called “Bradley Effect” in 2008.

A more likely culprit than the role of race in the New Hampshire election was the “likely voter” modeling, with pollsters perhaps over-counting the boost of enthusiasm among Obama supporters following his victory in Iowa. Another possibility is that independents opted at the last minute to participate in the Republican primary, depriving Obama of crucial voters.

A further potential source of error stems from New Hampshire ballot rules. In previous contests, the state rotated candidate names from precinct to precinct, but this year the names were in alphabetical order, with Clinton near the top and Obama lower down. Stanford Professor Jon Krosnick, a survey specialist and expert witness in a lawsuit about ballot order in New Hampshire, has estimated a three percentage point or greater bounce for a big name candidate appearing high on the ballot. Therefore, if pre-election polls randomized candidate names, as most do, they would have underestimated Clinton’s support by at least three points.

Tim Russert reportedly said internal campaign tracking polls were as wrong as the public ones. Obama’s people were telling him he had a 14 point edge; Clinton’s were telling her he was ahead by 11.

Another underestimated factor — a frequently underestimated factor:  Early absentee ballots.  How many Democrats cast their ballots before the Iowa results?  Hillary’s campaign emphasized rounding those up. 

Anyway.  As I said earlier, Obama needs to be tested while the public’s watching.  Recovering from unexpected disappointment is a good next test.

DVD Tip: The Good German

the-good-german.jpgThe Good German (2006), which starred George Clooney and Cate Blanchett, didn’t get many good reviews.  Critics seemed to use the movie’s release as a chance to complain about director Stephen Soderbergh’s career.  The film’s homages to The Third Man, Casablanca, and Italian neorealism (and probably more references a more serious film buff would get) seem to have annoyed reviewers.  There was probably an element of jealousy, too.  When not making arty period films in black and white, Soderbergh and Clooney collaborate on the glitzy Oceans 11-12-13 franchise.  Soderburgh gets respect and big bucks. Clooney lives in an Italian villa and dates gorgeous women. 

Leave all that aside.  I saw The Good German on DVD over the weekend and I loved it.  Yes, the steals from old black and white films are, at times, pretty blatant.  But I love those films, and the use Soderbergh makes of his allusions to them heightens his story. 

Soderbergh, under a pseudonym, also edited the film, which means he is responsible for an astonishing scene near the end of the film involving a marching band, a crowd, a paid assassin and the movies’ two main characters.  

The final scene is very close to the airport scene in Casablanca, but also inverts it.  In Casablanca, Bogart’s Rick discovers his soul at the moment that Ingrid Bergman’s Ilsa leaves his side.  In The Good German, the two main characters also split up at the airport, but for the opposite reason.  (Watch it and you’ll see what I mean.)

Curiously enough, some reviews knocked the cinematography because it wasn’t precisely like the black and white 40’s flicks, with Soderbergh’s film using higher contrast than his models did.  Well, yes, that’s right.  It’s different.  It’s also very effective, focusing our attention on the characters’ eyes, mouths and posture, the conveyors of emotion.  It also allows a better blending with the archival footage by which Soderbergh represents postwar Berlin. 

At the same time, the sharp contrasts are ironic.  We’re in a world of gray in The Good German. It is a microcosm of the moral ambiguity of the Cold War, capturing the U.S./Soviet drama at a point very near its beginning, in a tug-of-war over a German rocketeer who is also a war criminal.  To keep him away from the Russians, some American officials want to keep his evil deeds a secret.  Rockets “that can go halfway around the world” armed with atomic bombs are “the future,” explains a buffoonish Congressman.  And so they were.

Clooney represents the moral certainty that Americans brought into WWII.  His disillusionment at the end covers not just the postwar activities of the US government, but the whole notion of human goodness.  And that disillusionment is written on Clooney’s high-contrast face, in a devastating long take that closes the movie.  The Good German, a cinematic treat on many levels, also bucks “the greatest generation” myth, showing how WWII injected moral relativism into the bloodstream of our national security apparatus, and eventually our body politic.  To a degree scarcely acknowledged in pop culture, that war brutalized the Americans who fought it. It changed us. Maybe we were the last innocents, but after the war, there were no innocents.  Just the decieved.

I foresee this film’s reputation rising in the near future.  Get in now at the ground floor.

Oh, Mama, Could This Really Be the End?

hillary-and-bill.jpgI’m running into a lot of blog posts and articles like this:

(T)o watch Obama v. Clinton is to be reminded of watching Ali v. Foreman. The de facto knockout blow is about to be delivered tomorrow in the snowy streets of New Hampshire. Hillary Clinton certainly won’t drop out after her loss; she will stagger on but prove unable to stop Obama. And to watch the Clintons’ rage and desperation grow in the last days of this campaign will not be pretty. They will lash out at everyone, including Obama, the media, her own campaign, and maybe, eventually, each other.

This is a couple not known for their grace or for holding lightly to their grip on power.

There are many things to say about the deeper meaning of this moment and what its passing will signify. Suffice it to say that it will be good, very good, for us to say farewell to the couple that brought you Carville, Begala, Blumenthal, and Ickes; the “war room,” the use of private investigators, and attacks on women like Dolly Kyle Browning, Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers, and Kathleen Willey; impeachment for perjurious, false and misleading testimony to a grand jury; contempt of court findings; the promiscuous smearing of those whom they viewed as threat to their power; the charges of a “vast right-wing conspiracy” and assurances that “I did not have sexual relations with that woman”; and so much more.

Or, more pithily:



Get your kids out and put them in front of the TV: The Clinton Era officially ended at 9:34 p.m. EST when Edwards paired with Obama to bury Hillary as a non-agent of change.

Wow, again.

bush-and-bush.jpgI’d expand it.  We’ve reached the end of what will be called the Bush-Clinton Era.  You can’t explain the Clintons without the Bushes.  You can’t explain Bush without the Clintons.  It’s been going on since the conventions of 1988, when George H.W. Bush said “Read my lips,” and Bill Clinton said much, much more in a horrible nominating speech for Michael Dukakis, then went on “The Tonight Show” to make fun of himself.  

The Bush “machine” and the Clinton “machine” each run much the same way; a thin veneer of idealism over a “back off, chump” culture of intimidation.  Kennedys, but without the charm and poetry.   

Bush’s presidency ushered in Clinton’s in many ways.  His success in the Gulf War scared off stronger and more qualified Democratic challengers like Mario Cuomo, who thought a second Bush term was a foregone conclusion.  Bush’s victory over Dukakis had already convinced some Democratic leaders that the party’s 70s-era liberalism needed to be moderated if the party was ever going to win again.  Only with those two developments could a Clinton nomination have been possible.

Then add Ross Perot.  It’s pretty clear that his presidential campaign of 1992 had as much to do with harming Bush as advancing an agenda. There was some bad blood there — some dark and probably well-earned grudge against the Bush clan.  If Perot hadn’t have been on the ballot as an independent in 1992, Bush probably would’ve won.  (Perot’s presence on the ballot also denied Clinton a majority in 1996.) 

Clinton’s cycles of failure and success incubated George W. Bush’s political career.  The second Bush copied key elements of Clinton’s success while exploiting his failures.  He governed Texas as a moderate, and ran in 2000 as a “compassionate conservative,” a kind of tribute to Clinton’s “Third Way.”  Like Clinton, Bush was a candidate of confessions, but he did Clinton one better by pronouncing Christianity as his salvation from the bottle.  

Still, Bush would’ve had no chance against Al Gore if it wasn’t for the political damage inflicted on him by Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky affair and the various fundraising scandals.  All the other conditions were perfect for Gore’s success.  But he couldn’t capitalize because he was tainted by Clinton sleaze.

Who wasn’t tainted by Clinton sleaze?  Surprisingly, Hillary Clinton.  In what must have struck Gore in the middle of many nights as a horrible irony, he lost but Bill’s wife won a seat in the Senate.

Then 9/11/01 happened.  Much of the politics of the past seven years has been reacting to that event.  Both the incumbent but relatively new Bush Administration and the predecessor Clinton Administration were implicated for policy failures that led directly to the terrorist attack’s success.  How much each Administration was to blame became a defining political dynamic ever since. 9/11 empowered Bush to invade Iraq, which he couldn’t have done without getting nervous Democrats like Hillary to support him.

Hillary Clinton’s vote (as well as John Kerry’s) to grant Bush war authority was like a poison pill for her presidential ambitions.  Her only strategy for getting elected in 2008 was “inevitability,” but the war vote was a chink in that armor that a candidate not implicated in the war could exploit.   And Barack Obama has done that — and so much more.

But the real reason the Bush-Clinton era has ended?  We’re just tired of these people.  We’re tired of criticizing them and we’re tired of defending them.  We’re tired of how every day of the past three Administrations, stretching back 20 years, has been about a permanent campaign.  We’re tired of the “derangement-syndromes” each family has stimulated in the body politic — the conspiracy theories, the name-calling, the gossip, the investigations. Yes, we’re glad to wave goodbye to Carville, Begala and the rest, but we’re also glad to send Karl Rove and Dick Cheney off with them.  All these despised family retainers.

So what about this video?

Is she crying because she knows her time has come and gone?  Hillary’s favorite phrase to describe herself was “tireless advocate,” but she looks awfully tired.  You know she won’t let go of the hope that her campaign can succeed, but Clinton is no longer capable of being the underdog.

It’s dismal to be where she is right now — in free-fall, according to the polls, running against a candidate, Obama, who is almost immune to criticism right now no matter what happens.  How does she keep going…knowing that defeat is almost inevitable?

Union Station, Cathedral of Rail

After dropping my son off Thursday evening for his annual winter trip to San Diego, I walked back to my car, turned around, and saw this:


Isn’t it cool how Metro has revived this architectural gem? The lobby was full of people.  I remember when going to Union Station felt like coming to a Greyhound station.  My son’s 17.  Seventy years from now, he’ll remember it not as a museum, but as that lively place where he caught the train to Nana’s.