Thursday, December 26, 2002

Currently Reading: [Corrected Version] I'm just finishing an audiobook of Black Sunday, which I probably read when it came out back around 1975 -- I know I saw the movie with Bruce Dern playing the role of the Wacko Vietnam Vet. Yet this book written so long ago gives all of us a good warning of the militant fanaticism of Islamic terrorism that has been at war with civilization since the 1960s. While some things are out of date, the ideas behind it are frighteningly fresh.
"Citizens of America," she said, "today the Palestinian freedom fighters have struck a great blow in the heart of your country. This horror was visited upon you by the merchants of death in your own land, who supply the butchers of Israel. Your leaders have been deaf to the cries of the homeless. Your leaders have ignored the ravages by the Jews in Palestine and have committed their own crimes in Southeast Asia. Guns, warplanes, and hundreds of millions of dollars have flowed from your country to the hands of warmongers while millions of your own people starve. The people will not be denied.

"Hear this, people of America. We want to be your brothers. It is you who must overthrow the filth that rules you. Henceforth, for every Arab that dies by an Israeli hand, an American will die by Arab hands. Every Moslem holy place, every Christian holy place destroyed by Jewish gangsters will be avenged with the destruction of a property in America. We hope this cruelty will go no further. The choice is yours. We hope never to begin another year with bloodshed and suffering. Salaam aleikum."
The second book I'm also finishing up is also frightening -- this one however looks at a scourge below the radar. The book is by Dr. Meg Meeker, a doctor practicing in pediatric and adolescent medicine. In Epidemic: How Teen Sex Is Killing Our Kids Dr. Meeker lays out the "epidemic" facing this country's teenagers. Please note that I do not place the word epidemic in scare quotes -- this is how the Centers for Disease Control characterized the problem during the Clinton years. See, for example, this press release dated December 5, 2000. Dr. Meeker's not only gives the statistics and sources for her contention, but gives the anecdotal testimony of real cases she has seen, which makes this a compelling book. It seems that Dr. Meeker trusted the condom and birth control medication in the past, but the inability of these two legs to keep the stool upright has caused her to be a convert to the simple truth of abstinence.
Update Friday's NY Times has a story linking changes to various webpages within the government to the politics of the Right:
As for the disease control centers' fact sheet on condoms, the old version focused on the advantages of using them, while the new version puts more emphasis on the risk that such use may not prevent sexually transmitted diseases, and on the advantages of abstinence. . .
Yet, according to a
letter to Secretary Thompson from House Democrats said that by alteration and deletion, the disease control agency "is now censoring the scientific information about condoms it makes available to the public" in order to suit abstinence-only advocates.
Based on what I'm reading in the Meeker book I think it is the House Democrats who are censoring scientific information about condoms and STDs
[End Update]

The third book, which I'm just starting, is The Punch by John Feinstein, an in-depth look at the fight between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets in December 1977 and the blow by Kermit Washington to Rudy Tomjanovich which nearly cost Rudy T. his life.

I remember the Punch vividly -- I was a big Laker fan back then -- and the videotape played pretty regularly on the TV back then. At that time, I lived in the D.C. area, where Kermit Washington was from and I can tell you that he was thought of very fondly here. In fact, it was almost unusual how fondly he was thought of when you compare him to others from this area who went on to become bigger stars, like Austin Carr, who was from the same time period. Part of that is because Washington went on to play for tiny American University and went from being a non-starter in his senior year of high-school to a college All-American. A larger part of it was that Washington was a decent person who shouldn't be thought of in terms of the punch he delivered.

Yes, the blow was horrifying and, as Feinstein notes, nearly killed Rudy T:
Once it became apparent to Tomjanovich that he wasn't going to get to Washington, he and Vandervoort proceeded to the locker room. Dr. Shields had already gone ahead and placed a call to the pager of Dr. Paul Toffel, a thirty-four-year-old who specialized in head trauma. Toffel was at a pre-Christmas fund-raiser for the University of Southern California Medical Center at a hotel not far from the arena. When he called Shields back, Shields told him there had been a fight during the game at the Forum. "I've got a guy here who appears to have a severely broken nose and other facial injuries," he said. Toffel told him he would meet the player in the emergency room at Centinela Hospital as soon as he could get there.

"Do me a favor and tell them to get started right away on X rays," he told Shields. "That way I can see what we're dealing with as soon as I arrive."

At that moment Tomjanovich was sitting on a training table, with no intention of going to a hospital. He had a game to finish. "If my nose is broken, hook me up with a mask," he told Vandervoort. Firmly, Vandervoort told him there would be no mask and no more basketball on this night.

"There's an ambulance outside," he said. "Ambulance?" Tomjanovich said. "What the hell is that about?"

A few minutes later he was in the ambulance. Then he was in the hospital and they were making X rays. He wondered what he must look like, because the looks he was getting from the people in the emergency room were not that different from what he had seen on the court from Jerry West. "And these were people who were used to seeing stuff," he said.

Dr. Toffel arrived a few minutes later, still in his tuxedo. When he was given the X rays, his eyes went wide. "Oh my God," Toffel said to the emergency room doctor who had given him the X rays. "This isn't a sinus injury. The posterior portion of his face is way out of alignment." (Translation: the top part of his skull was actually about an inch off line from the lower portion.)

"Who is this guy?" Toffel asked. "Rudy Tomjanovich. Plays for the Rockets." Toffel knew the name, knew Tomjanovich was a very good player.

Tomjanovich was wondering when he was going to get to call his wife back home in Houston when Toffel, now wearing scrubs over his tuxedo, walked in carrying X rays. He introduced himself, put a glove on one hand, and told Tomjanovich that he was going to see if he could move his upper jaw.

"It moved very easily," Toffel said later. "Which confirmed what the X rays had shown. I knew then this was a very serious situation."

Tomjanovich was still trying to figure out the quickest way to get out of the hospital. He asked Toffel if whatever he was going to do was going to take long and, more important, if he couldn't play any more basketball that night, how soon would he be back? The Rockets had a game in Phoenix the next night. Could he play there?

Toffel looked Tomjanovich in the eye. "No, Rudy, you can't play tomorrow," he said. "You aren't going to play basketball for a while. You aren't going to play any more this season."

Tomjanovich, whose eyes were already swelling shut, looked at Toffel as closely as he possibly could. Even though they were slits, his eyes told him that Toffel was completely serious. Any pain he was feeling disappeared, replaced by rage. "Not play this season?" he repeated. "Okay, look Doc, I know you gotta do what you gotta do, but give me an hour. I promise I'll come right back. I need to go back and find the guy who did this to me."

In Tomjanovich's mind at that moment, he was about to walk out of the emergency room, hail a cab, and go back to the Forum. Not play for the rest of the season? Now he really wanted to get Kermit Washington, regardless of the consequences. "I can't ever remember being angrier than I was at that moment," he said.

Toffel's face didn't change expression. His voice was very soft. "Rudy, let me ask you a question," he said. "Do you have any kind of funny taste in your mouth?"

Tomjanovich's eyes opened slightly. "Yeah, I do," he said. "It doesn't taste like blood either. It's very bitter. What is it?"

"Spinal fluid," Toffel said. "You're leaking spinal fluid from your brain. We're going to get you up to ICU in a few minutes and we're going to hope your brain capsule seals very soon. Do you know what the ICU is, Rudy?"

Tomjanovich nodded. He knew what ICU stood for: intensive care unit. The rage was gone. It had been replaced by fear.
[This excerpt is taken from the first chapter, which is available online here.]

Like I said, I'm in the early stages of reading this one. However, since I've included a snapshot of the Punch, there's another photograph that also should receive wide circulation -- in fact, I hope that Feinstein can include it in the paperback. This was from USA Today. I can't deep link it -- go here to see it.

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