Patt Morrison

<em>Patt Morrison</em> is known for its innovative discussions of local politics and culture, as well as its presentation of the effects of national and world news on Southern California. Hosted by

Patt Morrison for

Patt Morrison for July 19, 2011

From This Episode


Raising a chimp as a human: the wild story & monkey business of Project Nim

Imagine if we could "free" a chimpanzee’s mind through a communicative vehicle. This is the goal that Columbia university researchers set out to achieve in the mid-1970’s. How? By raising a 2-week-old chimp like a human child, by a human mother, in a house of seven children. Because chimpanzees lack the vocal apparatus to speak, the communicative vehicle was American Sign Language—even though no one in the large family knew sign language. The project was the brain child of behavioral psychologist Herbert Terrace, and the human mother to raise the chimp was one of his graduate students, Stephanie LaFarge. The two back-handedly named the chimp Nim, after Noam Chomsky, the linguist who insisted that language is exclusively a human trait. The story of Nim is the subject of ’s, who won the 2009 Best Documentary Academy Award for Man on Wire, newest documentary. In theatres now, Project Nim has received raving reviews, won the best directing award for world documentary at Sundance, and been heralded already as a likely candidate for an Academy Award. But the story told within the film is a less happy one. LaFarge was not prepared for the “wild animal in Nim;’ and neither was her husband, who quickly realized the chimp’s hard-wired nature to compete with other males. As tension began to arise between Terrace and LaFarge, who had once been lovers, and because Terrace claimed LaFarge’s house lacked order and methodology, Nim was handed off to Laura-Ann Petitto, an attractive 18-year-old student who was highly motivated and organized. What happens next is a shocking and amazing story that involves both tragedy and joy—much as a human life does. The results of this experiment and film reveal as much about human behavior as they do about chimp behavior. Alongside heart-warming and tear-jerking moments of love and long-lasting chimp-human relationships, the film exposes arrogant and self-serving actions that are quite unsettling. At the heart of this film is the question of why humans feel so compelled to bring the “human” out of animals. Is the means of communication the missing link between humans and animals or is there simply not more going on in the minds of animals to be communicated? Was it wrong to bring an animal out of its natural habitat or is it important to test the scientific question that this experiment asked? And ultimately, was the experiment a failure or success?


Compromise, at last? Old Senate plan to reduce deficit by $3.7 trillion gets new life, breeds positive vibes

Over the past several weeks, negotiations on a deal that would raise the federal debt ceiling while also making deep cuts in spending, and possible increases in taxes, to close the $14 trillion budget deficit could be described as acrimonious, hostile and a times downright nasty. Perhaps that’s why a slight ray of hope is so welcome for the combatants on Capitol Hill, and that ray of hopeful sunshine did indeed materialize today in the form of an older compromise plan. The “Gang of 6” U.S. Senators, a bipartisan group that had been meeting informally for several months, produced the broad blueprint for a plan that would cut $3.7 trillion from the deficit over 10 years. It had been dismissed as politically untenable but it has new life, and even President Obama is into the idea, calling it “broadly consistent” with his own approach to the debt ceiling crisis. Several dozen Senators are now into the idea of a package of spending cuts and tax code reforms, Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte from Arkansas describing the meeting on the plan as “the vibe in the room was very positive.” The devil will be in the details, as there are a lot of them to work out to get to $3.7 trillion in deficit reductions. The plan will impose immediate spending cuts and caps that would reduce the deficit by $500 billion over 10 years; make changes to Social Security designed to keep the program solvent for 75 years; director congressional committees to find specific levels of deficit reduction within their areas of jurisdiction. There is also the very big question of whether this kind of package can pass the House, where Tea Party-inspired Republicans are still threatening to vote “no” on any increase in the debt ceiling. How long can the “positive vibes” last in Congress?


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Patt Morrison for September 5, 2012

We’ll hear the First Lady’s speech but what does her body language say? We’ll be reading it. And, what party muckety mucks are keeping away from President Obama and staying home from the Democrats’ big dance? We’ll do the Charlotte two step.

Patt Morrison for September 4, 2012

How do the conventions look to the rest of the world? And how well do foreigners understand the electoral college? We’re polyglot with the foreign press in Charlotte. And, what did Nancy Pelosi tell Comedy Congress about Clint Eastwood and his chair?

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