Saturday, August 30, 2003

Quote of the Day

"Someday, when the grown-ups are back in charge, they'll have quite a mess to clean up."

-- Paul Krugman

Friday, August 29, 2003

Thursday, August 28, 2003

What the 2004 Election Really Means

An excerpt that bears repeating (props to Group Think Central):

For the first time in 72(!) years, the Republican party has no place to run, no place to hide. It's their economy. It's their war(s). And, ultimately, their election. Thus, 2004 is perhaps the best opportunity we've had since 1932 to discredit the Republican Party and, more generally, conservatism in general. Ergo, instead of just focusing our guns on El Presidente, we should be tying his disastrous presidency into a broader indictment against the failures and excesses of conservatives and Republicans over the past 25 years. How income inequality has exploded since the 1970s. How income mobility has increasingly shrunken, thus imperiling the vaunted "American Dream." How fundamentalists (economic and religious) are actively working to undermine a century of progress. The goal isn't simply to undercut Bush, but to hack away at the very ideological ground that he and his minions stand on...

...By launching a sustained, highly focused campaign against the entire right-wing apparatus, the liberal-left will eventually be able to shift the political center of gravity in a more favorable direction. And that is what 2004 is all about.

Food for thought.

The Educational System Was Designed to Keep Us Uneducated and Docile

Props to Natasha of Pacific Views for providing the link.

One of the more disturbing quotes from the article:

I once consulted with a teacher of an extremely bright eight-year-old boy labeled with oppositional defiant disorder. I suggested that perhaps the boy didn't have a disease, but was just bored. His teacher, a pleasant woman, agreed with me. However, she added, "They told us at the state conference that our job is to get them ready for the work world…that the children have to get used to not being stimulated all the time or they will lose their jobs in the real world."

I think about the above passage and reflect on my childhood, and had I not lucked out and ended up in a fairly progressive school for much of my early education, I could easily have been a poster child for "ADHD", "oppsitional defiant disorder", or who knows what. I got bored easily, and if teachers weren't willing to take the time and effort to keep me both challenged and busy I found all sorts of creative ways to get into trouble. It's relatively convenient for the powers that be to conclude that a child's behavioral problems are due to some personal defect: no one has to question the educational system or the socio-economic environment in which that child exists. A system designed to produce docile fast-food employees is going to drive a kid with an above-average intelligence beyond the point of frustration, and that child will in all probability act out. The easy way out for the sake of maintaining the status quo is to drug the kid into a zombie-like state or to figure out a way to remove the troublesome child from the classroom altogether. I wonder how many kids we've short-changed (and I realize this is an understatement of gargantuan proportions) with our educational system as it now exists.

As I said, I got lucky. For the first several years of schooling I had access to teachers and a system that encouraged students to learn at their own pace and to begin the process of critical thinking. By the time I ended up in a more typical educational environment, the seeds had been sown. I also must give props to my parents for their willingness to provide me and my sisters with plenty of books and educational materials (not easy to do especially in those lean years where keeping food on the table was a struggle), and for unwittingly encouraging me to question authority figures -- I was a child of the 1970s and grew up in the shadow of Watergate and Vietnam, so my parents modeled critical thinking regarding authority during my formative years. I'm now blessed to pass down those experiences to my son (who's now 7) and my daughter, and to provide them with the tools they'll need to critically evaluate the world that they will confront.

Let Justice Roll Down

King Speech Shook America 40 Years Ago

Let's give props to Dr. King. Think of where we're at in the struggle today versus 40 years ago. We've come far. We have a long way to go to fulfill the dream.


The Global War on Terrorism: Franchised Like McDonalds, Taco Bell, Etc.

Interesting piece by Naomi Klein. Ms. Klein raises an issue that concerned me a couple years ago when the so-called "War on Terror" began in the aftermath of 9-11 -- namely that the WoT would be franchised out to despots everywhere as a means of silencing dissent. Surely we have seen this happen in Israel, where the WoT has provided a convenient smokescreen to continue their occupation of the Palestinian homeland; in Russia where the WoT could be used as a means to squelch the Chechnyan separatist movement; in China to continue oppressive treatment of Tibetans, Muslims in Western China, the Falun Gong; as well as countless other regimes outlined in Klein's article.

The Right is getting scared of Dean

Add to the list of thought provoking reads. The right wing of this country is so accustomed to a rather docile opposition that the very idea of a strong, in-your-face Democrat whose willing to rub their noses in the mess they've made of this country, that they simply flip out. If bereft of any ideas that might work, go for the personal attacks and smear campaigns.

This post on Talking Points on the Neocons is a must read.

Old lefties used to opine that you could never say that socialism or communisim had failed since they'd never really been tried. No need now to dip into that debate. But just before the start of the war I told a friend that you'd never be able to say the same about neoconservatism. This was really all their show, pretty much from soup-to-nuts. So at the end of the day the movement would either be vindicated in a very profound way or deeply discredited.

So were the neocons vindicated or deeply discredited? I think the answer to that is quite apparent: deeply discredited.

Just Say No

TV News Lies strikes again with some pertinent advice: answer the loaded questions of conservative & neocon pundits and fellow travelers with a simple, straight-forward no.

An example from the article:

Q: Aren’t Americans safer now than before the war?

A: (all together now): NO!

Q: Aren’t the “coalition” troops in Iraq defending our freedom?

A: (nice and loud): NO!

Q: Don’t you believe what your President says?

A: (suppress any smile): NO!

Q: Haven’t we won the war in Afghanistan?

A: (incredulous look) NO!

Q: Didn’t the rule of law have to change after 9/11?

A: (as strongly as possible) NO!

Check it out. A must read.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

And Today's Stupidest Soundbite of the Day Award Goes to:

Rush Limbaugh!

"We don't have to go anywhere to find them! They've fielded a Jihad All-Star Team."

Apparently he believes that Iraq can be a Terrorist Super-Walmart.

Way to go Rush! I knew you had it in ya!

For context:The Jihad All-Stars

Some Articles on Cocaine and the Nervous System

More on cocaine and the nervous system

Study shows cocaine can harm brain permanently

Cocaine addiction as a neurological disorder: implications for treatment

Among other things, cocaine addicts show a loss of brain cells that produce dopamine (the neurotransmitter that makes us feel pleasure), as well as decreased response to stimulation.

More food for thought.

Cocaine (and damage) lingers

Refer back to the Calpundit link earier with regard to alcohol, cocaine, and brain damage.

Heavy use of cocaine impairs memory, manual dexterity and decision-making for at least a month after the drug was last taken, according to a new study of drug users by researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

The study, published in the "Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience," adds to the evidence that the powerful high experienced by cocaine users is accompanied by long-lasting harm to brain functioning. The researchers said their work suggests that the brain damage caused by cocaine might set up a devastating spiral by making it harder for the drug user to quit. That is because the damage caused by cocaine occurs in the brain's prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for monitoring behavior and inhibiting bad behavior.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Co-Dependent No More

A quote to start things off:

Of course, lately, those oafish goons running America into the ground have been asking for help. Like sloppy drunks, making a big mess and then asking for help cleaning it up, the republicans running the whitehouse have made weak attempts to seek help from other nations and the UN. Appropriately, these failed leaders have been rejected.

The truth is, the whole world wants to help the US, but like loving family members dealing with a drug user or alcoholic (oh, that's right, George W. was both, wasn't he?) the best way to help is not to continue enabling the unhealthy behavior. There's a massive literature on codependency. You don't keep enabling someone to go on doing the kinds of behaviors that get them in trouble. If you try, you usually get hurt. That's what happened to the UN Baghdad mission. That's what will happen to the troops of countries that try to be supportive of the US now, while it is being run by fools who refuse to face up to their irresponsible, inept lack of planning on what to do after they won their easy, photo-op war.

One problem: we Americans have been tremendous enablers of our Faux President, our Great Misleader, the Commander in Cheat and his Reign of Error. He gets drunk with power, does something really stupid, such as get our country involved in a war based on shameless and transparent lies; or even better yet Laughing Boy and his Minions run up a huge deficit while on a power-drunken binge leaving the taxpayers to clean up the broken economy (complete the metaphor by imagining broken beer bottles, puke-stained carpet and furnishings, some bozo still passed out in the bathroom, and just whose undergarments are those scattered around the house?). But I digress. Yeah, we'll clean up the mess the best we can, deal with the inevitable hangover from a party gone out of control, and finally get fed up with all of the frat-boy shenanigans and verbal abuse ("You hate America"; "Are unpatriotic"; ad nauseum) leveled on any of us who dare to criticize the reckless behavior of the Boy who would be King. Maybe the voters get fed up enough to threaten to send him packing, but then he gets all apologetic, makes more grandiose promises that things will really be different, and like a bunch of co-dependents fall for it. Our Emperor-Lite is depending on it: codependency has worked out in his favor all of his life. My fear is that the American voters will fall for the same old lies all over again. My hope is that a critical mass of American voters will see the power drunk for who and what he is and always will be, and walk away for good.

It won't be easy, but America, this is for your own good. You cannot rescue this President any more. His administration is beyond hope, and beyond your control if you continue to enable these binges that have cost us so much in blood, fortune, and reputation. It's time to let Bush II continue his downward cycle of destruction somewhere else: preferably as a CEO for Halliburton. They deserve each other.

Bush may yet fall victim to the electors' revenge

Worth a read as a harbinger of things to come. Bush II has had it considerably easier here in the States than Blair in the UK; but whereas Blair is unlikely to be evicted from 10 Downing Street any time too soon, Bush II is looking increasingly vulnerable. Why? At least in part because the comparisons to the Vietnam quagmire are increasingly relevant, and in part because Bush the Sequel faces stronger opposition (e.g., the potential Gen. Clark candidacy) than Blair in upcoming election cycles.

The big thing, though, is this: Iraq is a war Americans bought into on grounds that turn out to be false. So far there are no WMD, and the Middle East gets rougher not smoother. Terrorism multiplies. The prophets of doom are, unfortunately, looking correct. After another year, the agent of world triumph, dressing in and out of his fake bomber jacket, could look ready for the electors' revenge.

My take-home message: let's boot the plastic faux action hero figure out of office before he does any more damage.

Here's one reference that I can find quite readily on the effects of alcohol abuse on the brain:

Parsons, O. A. (1975). Brain damage in alcoholics: Altered states of consciousness. In M. M. Gross (Ed.), Alcohol intoxication and withdrawal. New York: Plenum.

Prolonged alcohol abuse is associated with damage to brain cells, especially brain cells in the frontal lobes of the cerebral cortex -- that is, those centers of the brain that are most directly implicated in complex reasoning. Depending on the damage, we could be looking at atrophy (i.e., shrinkage) of the cerebral cortex.

The author of the comment I just posted is also correct in noting that the critical period for cerebral cortex development is during the adolescent years, and given that most alcoholics start in their teens, it is possible that the cerebral cortex development is stunted.

Yet another reason to question Dubya's competence. Food for thought.

A comment regarding the psychology of President Bush II

found on this Calpundit post. Scroll down and select the comments link (or just read the comment here):

I am not the first to note this, and there's no way to prove it short of an MRI, but long term alcoholism permanently damages the brain. In everyone. The question is of degree. (I am NOT talking about the "dry drunk" syndrome, blogged about on CounterPunch, which I don't think Mr. Bush has) The greater part of this damage is in the frontal lobes which are centers of judgment and insight.

These centers and their connections develop in adolesence, which is why teen-agers do such silly things. Haven't you been struck, sometimes, by the sheer immaturity of some of Mr. Bush's actions and statements?

Combine this with a background of wealth, which practically guarantees that Mr. Bush has always been surrounded by enablers, and the fact that this president is weak and arrogant is not surprising.

Add powerful, selfish and conflicting advisors and the power of the office to the poor judgement, limited world view, immature sense of entitlement, and limited managerial skills, and disaster is always a possiblity. It would not be inevitable, but with the people Mr. Bush has around him it seems very possible.

I also think that the fact Mr. Bush is personally charming makes it hard for people, including Mr. Bush, not to believe that, somehow, he can do as he pleases, and it will all be okay in the end.

What is disheartening is that, unlike a teen-ager in whom these areas have not developed, the damage of alcohol is permanent.

Cocaine also causes brain damage in other brain areas that impair critical thinking, but I don't know that this is permanent.

Hope this does not sound snarky. Wasn't meant to be. Would be better if it was.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Healing the wounds of war

Another for the must-read category. This article focuses on the injured soldiers who recover at Walter Reed Hospital. Several individual soldiers' stories are featured.

To put it in perspective:

More than 1,000 injured American soldiers have flowed through Walter Reed since the war in Iraq began, and another 300 have arrived from the continuing conflict in Afghanistan since it began in October 2001.

Victims of Groupthink?

Just a few tentative thoughts:

Why has the Bush White House made such amazingly bad foreign policy and economic decisions? My initial impulse when I read the headlines regarding the latest silliness from the White House is to think that these cats are either so out of touch with reality as to be psychotic or that in spite of all their fancy degrees and credentials that they are truly blithering idiots. Once I get past my fit of cynicism, I start pondering another possibility: the group dynamics among the Bush inner circle simply invites bad decision making.

Several decades ago, a social psychologist named Irving Janis coined the term groupthink (see the book Victims of Groupthink for a description of groupthink in relation to foreign policy fiascos). As conceptualized by Janis, groupthink is a tendency for members of cohesive work groups to act in ways that maintain a friendly atmosphere among group members. It's possible that what's going with the Bush cabal is groupthink in action:

1. The inner circle is highly cohesive -- not only ideologically (most of them are neoconservatives) but also personally.

2. This cohesiveness invites a high degree of conformity among members. This has the following effects:

a. Members are likely to suppress their own misgivings about a pet proposal agreed to by the majority.

b. Certain members of the group may act as "mind guards" to filter out information that is contrary to their pet policy proposals and to silence those who express viewpoints that are contrary to their chosen course.

Think about what's going on with the scandals in the US and UK (and also brewing in Australia) regarding the misuse of intelligence information provided to key decision makers regarding Iraq's WMD capabilities. Some one (or perhaps several individuals) in the inner circle did whatever they could to keep intelligence information suggesting Iraq posed a minimal threat from being considered and to keep the doubters of their war plan at bay. Perhaps members of the inner circle were willing to keep silent with regard to their own doubts because they assumed that their fellow "true believers" of the neocon dogma knew what they were doing.

3. Another feature of groupthink is to engage in stereotyped thinking with regard to opponents and enemies. Saddam Hussein was the living embodiment of all that was evil, while the US forces were to be viewed as on the side of righteousness. It was assumed that the Iraqi forces, in spite of their alleged sizeable WMD arsenal, would be easily defeated and that victorious US troops would be back home before summer. Similarly, look at how dissidents in the US were treated by the Bush administration: they were "America-haters", "terrorists", and so forth.

4. Without consideration of relevant dissenting viewpoints and intelligence, and with a view of themselves as on the side of "rightousness", it was easy to assume an illusion of invulnerability. The UN became "irrelevant" (most amusing given recent overtures to mend fences with the UN), and the US could largely go it alone because no one could touch them. Too few troops to do the job? Not a problem. We have the most powerful army in the world. Bring it on. The president is popular and his trump card is national security: no one would dare challenge this administration on its foreign policy. Pure hubris as it turns out, but hubris born of the illusion of invulnerability. The increasingly high-risk decisions were never seriously thought out..."we can do no wrong."

More to say later.