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When a Budget Hole's Too Big, a Guy's Too Short and a Gal's Too Tall

First, the budget. It's the second time since the Depression that we've issued IOUs. Our credit rating's in the tank. And still no budget agreement in the offing on how to raise or cut $26 billion.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, says it's got to be about across-the-board cuts, not any new taxes, not even the five-cent-a-drink tax that the governor had suggested a while back.

Kennedy laid out how she thinks the state can save hundreds of millions by ending fraud in social services -- the ''waste, fraud and abuse'' theme the governor's been hitting lately. She also said that Republicans and Democrats are united in opposing big cuts to the prison budget -- something our subsequent guest, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg flatly contradicted. And she acknowledged that it'll also take what some call accounting gimmicks, like shifting paydays from June, the end of a fiscal year, until July, the beginning.

Steinberg says Democrats have already given over billions in social services cuts, and would even be willing to have elderly patients fingerprinted to prevent fraud, but he doesn't think that's where the problem can be solved. He also doesn't think it can be solved in the ''Big Five'' meetings of the governor and four legislative leaders any longer.

Democrats say they're speaking for the state's Democrats and Republicans say the same thing on their no-tax policy, but a lot of you who called were more nuanced in your ideas for fixing the fiscal disaster.

I was astonished at the revelations in the book ''Norman at Any Cost: Tall Girls, short Boys and the Medical Industry's Quest to Manipulate Height.'' I'd heard of treatments to stimulate growth in children found to be too short because of some medical problem.

But the idea of a ''cosmetic endocrinology'' industry -- what a chilling phrase! -- took me aback. For a couple of decades, as the authors wrote, parents took their healthy but short sons to doctors for human growth hormone treatments, believing that a couple of extra inches would make a huge difference in the quality of their lives. And parents took their growing daughters for estrogen or artificial estrogen treatments to make sure they didn't get too tall, lest that interfere with their chances for marriage!

This went beyond treating people with disorders like hypo-pituitary dwarfism, as was the case with our guest, sports journalist David Davies; even so, the medical consequences have been devastating for some. At least two dozen people in this country have died because, years ago, they were treated with the ground-up pituitary glands of cadavers, some of which transmitted Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, aka mad cow.

No, ''cosmetic endocrinology'' was about some doctors persuading parents that too much height or too little was a kind of disease that could be easily treated with these handy pills or injections. Co-author Christine Cosgrove was subjected to that herself, and she said women who were treated with the synthetic hormone DES to keep them from getting too tall are reporting medical problems to this very day.

Coming tomorrow: part of Van Nuys wants a divorce and would rather marry up with Sherman Oaks. The neighborhood councils in both have said ''no,'' but the City Council could overrule them next week and say yes. It's all part of the city of LA -- so why do we have these self-christened neighborhoods, and why is there such a name game around who gets to call itself what?

-- Patt Morrison

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