SocraticGadfly: 9/3/06 - 9/10/06

September 06, 2006

Timothy Treadwell was really fricking nuts

I mean, really.

I had read about Treadwell before was killed by grizzlies. When he was killed, I posted to a couple of environmental blogs that I believed was crazy. Not just “nutbar” in an everyday sense, but mentally ill in some way.

As I write this post, I am in the middle of watching “Grizzly Man,” and realizing just how crazy Treadwell was.

In addition to the bipolar disorder that his one girlfriend indicated he had, if I were a counseling psychologist, I would probably also diagnose him with histrionic personality disorder with delusions of grandeur.

If his parents were right that he had an apparently normal childhood, he seemingly regressed into a more childlike, or even more childish, state as part of this.

Director Werner Herzog, while not directly commenting so much on the mental illness, does use the word “paranoid” in talking about his worries about poachers. Knowing Treadwell, he probably considered legitimate hunters to be poachers, given that he thought bears in a large national park somehow still needed his protection.

On Treadwell as a naturalist, many people, such as the curator of an Aleut museum, I think correctly aver that he did more damage to bears, through habituating them to humans, than he benefited them. (This analysis applies in spades to the foxes he thought were puppies.)

Related to that is the question of hypocrisy, if the word “hypocrisy” didn’t overlook the huge blind spots into his own personality that Treadwell had. Treadwell at one point excoriates tourists for throwing rocks at a bear, apparently to get it to pose. Meanwhile, he has no problem playing with bears, touching bears, and otherwise disturbing bears.

He talks about “The Park Service … lets tourists in with their fucking cameras” while refusing to take a look in the mirror, or even realizing that he needs to take a look.

It’s clear that Treadwell was not a real expert on grizzly bears in particular or wildlife biology in general

I don’t mean it to sound like I believe in some sort of divine justice, or karma, but Timothy Treadwell did indeed get exactly what he deserved.

Herzog puts it best when he says at some point Treadwell’s movie filming moved beyond a wildlife movie to something greater, with himself as the subject.

If you’ve haven’t seen “Grizzly Man,” I heartily recommend it. The framing story Herzog tells about Treadwell, wrapped around Treadwell’s own video, is great.

Update, Sept. 10: On further reflection, I think Herzog pulled some punches in trying to get a grasp on the growing-up years of Treadwell, or whatever his given surname was. The degree of his various mental problems says to me they didn’t spring up overnight. How quickly he took to alcohol and drugs in college suggest that didn’t happen overnight, either.

In short, I don’t totally buy his parents’ claim about him having an idyllic childhood. Either they’re in denial, or they were missing some signs and clues while Treadwell was in high school.

Herzog pulls his punches by not interviewing high-school era friends, principals and teachers to try to flesh out the portrait of the adolescent Treadwell.

September 05, 2006

Democratic leader get hypocritical on free trade

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid try to claim the high ground on protecting workers’ jobs.

Reid pontificates:
”I think if you were to date this decline, it would have started in 2001.”

But the story correctly notes it started back in 1993.
Democratic opponents of trade deals cite a trade deficit that has risen from a little more than $100 billion in 1993, when the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada was approved, to more than $700 billion last year.

And the president then was… a Democrat named Bill Clinton… and both houses of Congress were controlled by Democrats. Yes, many Democrats initially opposed NAFTA. But, after Clinton gave them assurances about labor and environmental issues that weren’t even worth toilet paper, but were convenient fig leaves to take home at election time, they changed their tunes.

At least Reid didn’t vote for NAFTA. But Pelosi?

The future House Minority Leader voted yes after getting the promise of a Clinton executive order on labor rights and trade sanctions, an order that was never issued. Whether that’s Pelosi being naïve or disingenuous is at least somewhat open for discussion, but I vote for it being primarily the latter.

There’s plenty of additional proof to that. She voted in favor of GATT a year later, then in favor of a bailout for investors in Mexico. And prior to NAFTA, she voted against a resolution disapproving presidential fast-track trade authority, which set the stage for NAFTA and GATT.

Reid, to his credit, opposed both NAFTA and CAFTA.

But Pelosi? The more you read about her, you realize the GOP’s labeling of her as “ultraliberal” is just rhetoric. She’s not ultra-anything.

September 04, 2006

George Bush, the moron or liar of Peak Oil denial

Bush says it’s not Peak Oil or anything related in world oil supply that has driven prices up. No, it’s simply, or simplistically, that ‘they don’t like us.’
“The problem is we get oil from some parts of the world and they simply don't like us,” Bush said. “And so the more dependent we are on that type of energy, the less likely it will be that we are able to compete, and so people have good, high-paying jobs.”

Let me see, Saudi Arabia who buys billions of dollars of our arms and has incestuous corporate relations with BushCo associates, doesn’t like us? Kazakhstan, where we wink at President Nazarbayev literally boiling people in oil and we make not a peep about human rights? Kuwait, where we pulled their bacon out of the fire 15 years ago? Mexico, where we let their illegal immigrants flood our borders?

Oh, yes, “they simply don’t like us.” What a moron, or liar, not that those two are mutually exclusive.

September 03, 2006

More on The Dallas Morning News, Caveon, Texas Education Agency and rich kids cheating

I blogged yesterday about the impression The Dallas Morning News gave that rich kids don’t need to cheat on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, the state’s standardized test battery.

I talked with reporter Joshua Benton about the story and that particular line.

He defended it by saying that, because rich schools all have no problem because “on the TAKS, passing and failing is all that matters — no one cares if you pass by a little or pass by a lot.”

I partially but not totally conceded the point. And Benton himself discussed a study at Canada’s premier McGill University where a professor found that in chemistry class, top students were more likely to cheat than average ones. Why? Many of them were pre-med and had that extra pressure of competing for admission to med school.

To put my countering e-mail in a nutshell:

First, you don’t just get a pass/fail on TAKS — you get an actual score. Now, while that, as compared to SAT/ACT, is not a primary part of college admissions, it could be a part. This would apply more to applicants at state universities than, say, the Ivy League, but, for someone wanting in a prestigious program, such as, say, pre-med at The University of Texas, to riff on Benton and McGill, actual TAKS scores could be at least semi-important.

Related to that and riffing on McGill more, rich high school students obviously have the incentive to cheat on the SAT/ACT. (In my day, I know neither of them had assigned seating nor tests with variable question order, things used at McGill to fight cheating. Cheating, like other violations of the social order, has social pressures against it. Once the dam is first burst, those pressures fade away, lowering the bar for repeated violations.

Throw in two psychological factors, too. One is the thrill of rule-breaking, especially with the adrenalin rush of potential exposure. Two is a possible feeling of entitlement due to wealth.

Second, rich school districts have incentive to cheat. No, not to get the district and its individual schools to the “academically acceptable level” but to “exemplary” or even the level above that. Keeping that rating, especially for the district as a whole, attracts new home-buying parents with more money, more investiture in the school district, etc.

From the TEA point of view, it’s similar to that of rich school districts — it doesn’t want an image problem affecting schools. And, despite Senate Bill 1, the state still has a partial Robin Hood, so rich districts can speak louder. Don’t doubt that folks at places like Highland Park school district rang up Education Commissioner Shirley Neeley as soon as Caveon started flagging them.

And why? Well, the above facts, plus, riffing on Benton, the idea that “rich schools/students don’t cheat because we don’t need to! How dare Caveon assume otherwise.”