Saturday, October 4, 2003

Brownshirt Tactics From The Ahnuld Camp

The truth is available only on AM talk radio these days, and I think a couple of recruits in Arnold's Army did what they had to do. They spotted protest signs in the crowd and goose-stepped over to take care of business.

Not that they could have known, but the signs were carried by two Catholic nuns in their 60s. According to the nuns, their attackers snatched them away.

The silencing of dissent, coming just a day after Arnold denied reports that he once said he admired Hitler, had the nuns trembling.

"A sign was ripped from my hands," said Jo'Ann DeQuattro, a Holy Name sister whose sign said, "Groping Equals Sexual Harassment."

"I was assaulted physically," said Sister Jo'Ann.

...Sister France said she gave a "groping" protest sign to a man who held a "Recall Arnold" sign, and watched as he was set upon and had the sign ripped away from him.

"People began fighting with him, and he was escorted out," said Sister France.

As for her own sign getting swiped, Sister France said:

"I believe a woman standing behind me grabbed it. A whole group of people were around us saying, 'Go home' and things like 'Get a life.' "

Sister France still had the "Grope Free Zone" sign taped to her when they decided to leave the rally, so Sister Jo'Ann suggested an exit strategy.

"She was afraid there was going to be more of it, so she said, 'We've gotta get out of here,' and walked behind me, real close behind, so Schwarzenegger followers wouldn't be hitting me as we left."

Seems to be pretty familiar tactics among those from the political right wing. When faced with dissent, silence the dissenters by any means necessary.

And Greg Palast reminds us once again that Ahnuld is in bed with Enron

and how California stands to lose $9 billion if he becomes governor

Besides the fact that Ahnuld is a serial sexual predator, his apparent fondness for Ken Lay and Enron may very well mean that a $9 billion lawsuit against the corporation for jacking California's consumers may be unplugged.

Great quote:

But if Arnold is selected, it's 'hasta la vista' to the $9 billion. When the electricity emperors whistle, Arnold comes -- to the Peninsula Hotel or the Governor's mansion. The he-man turns pussycat and curls up in their lap.

I asked Mr. Muscle's PR people to comment on the new Enron memos -- and his strange silence on Bustamante's suit or Davis' petition. But Arnold was too busy shaving off his Hitlerian mustache to respond.

Arnold doesn't deserve our vote

The Oakland Tribune's editorial. Originally they recommended a vote of "no" on the recall, but gave Ahnuld a tentative endorsement as the cat to vote for if the recall should succeed. Now that the light on his sexual predatory behaviors is shining brighter than the flash of a nuclear bomb, the Trib has decided they can no longer recommend him in good conscience. The Trib's editorial is hardly a resounding endorsement of Gray Davis, who deserves no enthusiastic recommendation in my opinion, but acknowledges that at this point in time (as was true in November) he is the best of a bad field of candidates.

So What Has The Republican Party Become?

Well, the first thing I've gotta say is: "character" my ass.

Check it out. After nearly a decade of angry white males endlessly chanting the mantra of "character matters" as the veins in their necks and foreheads bulged, we are finding that these cats must have some serious issues with the English language. I don't know about these fools, but I do know that when I think of the term "character," I tend to think of something synonymous with honesty and integrity. In other words, to take a line from Harvey Keitel's performance of The Wolf in Pulp Fiction: "Just because you are a character doesn't mean you have character." Know what I'm sayin'?

So who's running the show in the GOP Big Tent? Looks to me like a three ring circus populated by thick-necked square-headed Neanderthal thugs, Frank Burns wannabes (think of the tv series MASH), and hypocritical old hens who composed the Harper Valley PTA. Character? Nah. Just a bunch of wacked out characters who sold their souls to Enron and Halliburton ages ago.

What's the shakedown then? As far as I am concerned, the "character matters" card is no longer in play, and will no longer be in play as long as you have Jokers like Dubya and Ahnuld and Rush as your figureheads. Til then, your party is little more than a ship of fools that's been lulled by the siren song of quick profits and raw power. But y'all are dangerously close to some serious rocks, dig? And if the ship sinks in those shark-infested waters, I sure ain't throwing you no rope. On second thought maybe I will -- both ends.

Yo Arnold (From Margaret Cho's Blog)

Check her blog out, and dig this entry from today:

What you talkin' 'bout ARNOLD?!!! Yo Terminator!You need to stop goosestepping up to the gubernatorial race because you have to terminate your campaign. What the fuck is wrong with you? Bodybuilding is alright and everything, but you are not doing multiple reps, you are making multiple missteps. I got nothing against Austria. I got mad love for Vienna Sausage and shit, but you need to stop grabbin' on ladies and wipe that steroids eating grin off your face. All these women came forward to talk about how you were harassing them, and will not say their names because they are afraid you are gonna fuck them up like Sarah Connor. This is way worse than Clarence and Anita. We are not talking about a pubic hair on a Coke and unsolicited movie reviews of Long Dong Silver. You didn't get some head from a hot and willing intern, you molested ELEVEN women who did not show you some thong to pump you up, and if it is just six that had the bravery to step up, then I suspect there are a lot more waiting in the wings getting the courage up to call you out What I see in you is testosterone od, and if you don't get yourself into some x chromosome management program, you are going down. You don't need to check yourself because you have already wrecked yourself.

What up with the Nazi shit? If there is one person you cannot give a shout out to, it is Hitler. Nobody wants to hear about that. I understand that your father was a Nazi, and I don't blame you for that, because you didn't choose the family you were born into, unless you did it on purpose because you are from the future. How can you stand by the remarks about how Hitler overcame a lot of obstacles in his rise to power - like he didn't have a formal education. What?!!! He didn't need a Ph D to kill six and a half million innocent people, perpetrate some of the worst crimes against humanity ever known, delegated the most awful shit to the ultimate posse comprised of evil motherfuckers from the other side of the river Styx - the most dangerous 'hood in all mythology, gave genocide a new #1 single, dupe the German people into thinking he was doing something good, invented the Volkswagon, gave vegetarians a bad rap and commit suicide like the coward he was when he got caught. He wasn't even a good artist!!! Thomas Kinkaid could kick his ass. I shudder to think what Hitler could have done if he had a degree - or even got his GED. Talk about political scandals. You don't have Donna Rice on your lap, it is Eva Braun. You need a total recall right about now, before you get elected, because people are stupid enough to vote for you, and all this shit coming down on you now isn't a smear campaign. It is the media actually doing society some good for once by giving us the truth that your publicists have been being paid to sit on for years. I don't give a shit about the OUI magazine stuff. Orgies to me do not reflect on the moral fiber of a human being. Plus OUI was a mad 70s publication anyway. It seems like a cross between LIFE and Hustler. I know you are thinking "Arbeit macht governor", but it ain't gonna work fool.

Spotted On Another Blog

This is just one of those things that I wish I had written. But hey, it doesn't matter who says it, just that it gets said:

Remember when Republicans used to say "character counts?"

Of course, at that time they were referring to the last popularly elected president, Bill Clinton. Now that they've unleashed some of the worst dirtbags ever to hold positions of great influence in our beautiful land, well, they've kind of lost interest in the topic.

Let's take an inventory of Republican figures whose lack of this attribute has received so much play in the news in the last month:

1) G W Bush: Possibly reformed alcoholic, multiple arrests, suspected drug abuser, drunk driver, draft dodger who later deserted his post in Texas's posh Champagne Division, inside trader, failed businessman, proven liar, aided and abetted the cover-up of Saudi Arabia's role in the 9-11 terrorist attacks, 42% vacation rate prior to 9-11 (why do our candidates never talk about this?), responsible for committing American troops and treasure to the most disastrously conceived foreign military adventure since Viet Nam.

2) Rush Limbaugh: Liar, abusive racist, facing arrest for illegally obtaining and abusing large quantities of the drug OxyContin.

3) Karl Rove: Serial liar. Widely suspected of having committed the crime of treason through exposing the identity of an undercover CIA agent. currently being investigated by the FBI and Justice Department for treason.

4) Arnold Schwarzenegger: Hitler fanboy, serial molester with fully documented incidents spanning the last 25 years, drug abuser, steroid repository.

Character counts in the Republican Party? You'd have to be high on the stuff Limbaugh takes to believe that.

How to talk to your conservative brother-in-law

An excerpt from Michael Moore's upcoming book. Funny and right on target.

Shaking the House of Cards

To which I say, Amen!

No wonder the sky-high poll numbers for President Bush have collapsed. The fiasco in Iraq is only part of the story. The news on one substantive issue after another could hardly be worse. It's almost as if the president had a team in the White House that was feeding his credibility into a giant shredder.

Despite the administration's relentlessly optimistic chatter about the economy, the Census Bureau reported that the number of Americans living in poverty increased by 1.7 million last year, the second straight annual increase. During those two years, the number of poor Americans has grown by 3 million.

Belt-tightening is also in order for the middle class. The median household income declined by 1.1 percent, a drop of about $500, to $42,400. It was the second straight year for a decline in that category as well.

Per capita income decreased, too. It dropped by 1.8 percent, to $22,794 in 2002, the first decline in more than a decade.

Boom times these ain't.

On Monday we learned that there had been a steep increase last year — the largest in a decade — in the number of Americans without health insurance.

The international outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas is reporting that job losses in the U.S. have resulted in a sharp decline in the number of dual-income families, particularly for those with children under 18.

And so on.

With the federal government piling up massive deficits and local governments struggling to provide the most basic of services (some areas are closing schools; others are releasing prisoners prematurely), Mr. Bush is asking the nation to go much further into debt in the service of some vague notion of a civic renaissance in Iraq.

Even Republicans are beginning to ask what the heck is going on.

Contributing to the growing sense of unease in some quarters and outrage in others is the blatant war profiteering in Iraq by politically connected firms like Bechtel and Halliburton — profiteering that is taking place with the scandalous encouragement and connivance of the Bush administration.

A front-page article in The Times on Tuesday said: "A group of businessmen linked by their close ties to President Bush, his family and his administration have set up a consulting firm to advise companies that want to do business in Iraq, including those seeking pieces of taxpayer-financed reconstruction projects."

Iraq is proving to be a bonanza for the Bush administration's corporate cronies even as it is threatening to become a sinkhole for the aspirations of ordinary Americans.

The vicious release to news organizations of the identity of an undercover C.I.A. officer could serve as a case study of the character of this administration. The Bush II crowd is arrogant, venal, mean-spirited and contemptuous of law and custom.

The problem it faces now is not just the criminal investigation into who outed Valerie Plame, but also the fact that the public understands this story only too well. Deliberately blowing the cover of an intelligence or law enforcement official for no good reason is considered by nearly all Americans, regardless of their political affiliations, to be a despicable act.

According to an ABC-Washington Post poll, nearly 70 percent of Americans believe a special counsel should be appointed to investigate the leak.

Now that so much has gone haywire — Iraq, the economy, America's standing in the world — the tough questions are finally being asked about President Bush and his administration.

Perhaps foreign policy was not Mr. Bush's strength, after all. And even diehard Republicans have been forced to acknowledge that the president was surely wrong when he insisted that his mammoth tax cuts would be the engine of job creation. And nothing has ever come of Mr. Bush's promise to be the education president, or to change the tone of the discourse in Washington, or to deal humbly and respectfully with the rest of the world.

Americans are increasingly asking what went wrong. How could so much have gone sour in such a short period of time?

Was it incompetence? Bad faith?

Loud warnings were ignored for the longest time. Now, finally, the truth is becoming more and more difficult to avoid.

Angry Women Launch Anti-Schwarzenegger TV Ad

Props to and Code Pink for their efforts to shine a light on Arnold.

By the by, it looks like three other women have come forward with harrassment claims since the first six did earlier this week.

Businesswoman Colette Brooks told Friday's news conference that in 1981, while she was working as an intern at CNN, Schwarzenegger remarked on her "nice ass" and groped her buttocks. Brooks did not report the incident at the time because she feared for her job.

"How can we support someone who puts more value on my ass than the assets I have to contribute to the state of California?," Brooks said.

Rank and Bile

George W. Bush has violated a cardinal rule of despotism: "Thou shalt not offend the military."

The mess he's made in Iraq coupled with efforts to cut veterans' benefits and Iraqi soldiers' pay are precisely the sorts of actions that can get a critical mass of the US armed forces pissed off. Lose their backing, and lose the White House.

Friday, October 3, 2003

Traitor Rove In Over His Head

More on the hubris that dominates the simple minds in the White House.

Ahnuld's the Poster Boy of Trash Politics

Some snippets from a GOP operative with some semblance of integrity:

Arnold Schwarzenegger has become the poster child for the newest form of trash politics: a political system so corrupt and undemocratic that a compulsive sexual deviant was anointed the de facto nominee by California GOP bosses in a smoke-free backroom.

How much did Schwarzenegger's campaign team know about his egregious sexual behavior? Did they intentionally attempt to conceal this pattern of sexual harassment from voters? Did leaders of the California Republican Party look the other way in their desperation to win back the governorship?

...Simply put, Schwarzenegger is unfit to be governor.

GOP leaders playing trash politics attempted to fool the voters — including many conservatives in their own party — by hiding the candidate's three-decade sickness and now by obscuring the line between his personal sex life and his nonconsensual sexual groping of women.

But he's been exposed. The victims of Schwarzenegger's harassing, if not criminal behavior, had the courage to expose his actions and possibly help save the GOP from making the wrong choice.

For the victims' sake, California voters must now unite and, next Tuesday, vote for anyone but Schwarzenegger.

As much as I disagree with the GOP generally, I will say this much: the Republicans in California deserve much better than some thug with a noticeable sexual impulse control problem. As long as the GOP brass keeps backing candidates like Arnold, I will not be willing to respect them or their party. Same goes for the voters who are willing to pretend this pervert's sexual predatory tendencies will just go away once he's in office. To regain this voter's respect, the GOP must run people who are willing to discuss issues and to do so with some integrity. Republicans will still find it next to impossible to get my vote, but to me integrity is priceless.

On a related note, this article from In These Times from Sept. is worth a peak (note that there is also a picture of a naked or topless woman on Arnold's shoulders. Hence if you are under 18, you should not go to this link as you will go blind, insane, yadda yadda yadda): Tits or Ass?. Yet another piece to the puzzle, for those of my GOP readers who might be judgmentally challenged when it comes to evaluating one of their own. Couple Arnold's lack of any sort of policy positions with his personal baggage and I'd say California is about to be pinched and groped by a wannabe emperor who wears no clothes and would just as soon that any attractive female within his reach do likewise.

Study: Wrong impressions helped support Iraq war

Click on the graphic below for an interesting article. This is the sort of thing we social scientists love.

See also We Report, You Get It Wrong

You can read the report here. Note that it is a pdf file and you will need to use Adobe Acrobat Reader to view it. Well worth the effort.

There Are No Shining Weapons Of Mass Destruction In Iraq

But at least Dubya got a street in Tikrit named after him. Isn't that special.

Thursday, October 2, 2003

Well, The California Recall Election Keeps Getting Nuttier By The Minute

Let's see here, just Arnold Schwartzenegger is kicking off his bus tour, all sorts of lovely revelations come out of the woodwork.

First, there is the sex scandal in which at least six women have publicly accused him of sexual harrassment (the link above features one of the women who is among the six to speak out), making the California GOP's annointed one look positively Clintonesque. Of course GOP voters, being the principled characters that they are, will recall how they were revolted by Clinton's various sexual escapades (one of which led eventually to his impeachment) and will do the right thing by voting against Arnold. By the way, I also have this bridge in Brooklyn that I just put up for auction at EBAY.

Then there is this nugget which recaps the above and further digs up an interview in which Arnold states that Hitler was one of his heroes:

Asked who his heroes are, he answered, "I admired Hitler, for instance, because he came from being a little man with almost no formal education, up to power. I admire him for being such a good public speaker and for what he did with it."

He is quoted as saying he wished he could have an experience, "like Hitler in the Nuremberg stadium. And have all those people scream at you and just being total agreement whatever you say."

Of course he cannot remember saying any of this. Big surprise. Y'know I also admire people who have minimal formal education but who manage to become successful in their endeavors (political, business, etc.). Hitler is not on that list. Yeah, Hitler rose to power from a modest background, only to expose his ignorance, sociopathy, and rigid racist and fascist ideology for the world to see, and in the process managed to kill millions of people. A real stand-up kinda guy. And Arnold admits to admiring this?

Finally, this little nugget has emerged: Arnold has no use for minor inconveniences such as campaign finance laws.

Schwarzenegger has loaned his two campaign committees $4.5 million, despite a voter-approved law that was supposed to restrict such loans to $100,000 in order to limit post-election fundraising. By loaning funds, candidates can tap donors after they're in office to repay the debt, and voters won't know before Election Day who really is paying for the campaign.

And this is the guy who is committed to campaign finance reform? How much brain damage does years of popping steroids cause?

I'd be remiss if I did not also mention the rumors circulating that Cruz Bustamante is considering dropping out of the race. I'm not quite sure to make of this. To be sure, Cruz appears to me to have run a most underwhelming campaign. I wonder if deep in his unconscious if he has some desire to lose the race. Perhaps he hopes that if Davis is recalled and Arnold wins the bid to replace Davis, that Arnold will send some of those buxom babes his way. Here's a tip for you Cruz: it won't happen. My advice is for you to lose some weight, take rogaine, and get some much-needed psychotherapy in the hopes that some day you too may have a personality. Then maybe you too can be a babe magnet. In the meantime, run like there's no tomorrow, because if Davis loses the recall and Arnold wins your political future will be about as promising as that of a Klansman in Compton.

Boxing George Into A Corner in 2004

One I overlooked. Worth a read.

Meme time: "remember the surplus?"

Goodbye cruel world

As a cat person, this one caught my attention due to its focus on the rapid decline in population of the lion (one of the big cats that conservationists had not worried much about until the revelation that their numbers had declined 90% in approximately two decades). The article also focuses on other large mammalian species that have been pushed to the edge of extinction, as well as the countless small species of animals and plants whose contributions to the ecosystem are unknown.

I remember reading this sci-fi short story (wish I could remember the title and author), in which this guy travels back in time for a prehistoric safari. The rules he was told to follow to the letter: do not interfer with the animals and plants in this prehistoric environment, and stay on the path that had been created specifically for the expedition (how all that was set up w/o causing interference escapes me, but hey I read this thing over 20 years ago). Well, suffice it to say, the guy does stray from the path and unwittingly steps on and kills a small butterfly. His guides were quite upset with him, but he could not fathom any significance to killing a small insect. When they return back to their original time and place, they discover that the killing of an insignificant butterfly had at least some significance: life was somehow a bit different -- his fellow humans behaved a bit differently, spoke a different language, and so forth. Something so small can have profound consequences.

A quote from the article:

even the most conservative biologists tell a bleak story: this, they say, is the sixth great extinction of life in the history of the planet. The first five extinctions, recorded in the ancient rocks, were all natural: from volcanic catastrophe, climate change, asteroid impact, or even deadly radiation from an exploding star. But this one, they all agree, is the unwitting work of humankind.

Nothing good can come from this. I suppose it's a matter of how bad it will be.

Wednesday, October 1, 2003

Vitriol sullies Boy Scouts' 'patriotic rally'

This caught my eye while surfing today's news and editorials. An official Boy Scout fundraising event in Georgia (or more properly pronounced "Jaw Jaw") has for its invited guests Ollie North and the rather colorful Ann Coulter. Some of the quotes were rather interesting:

"The cowards and quislings of the Democratic Party have been exposed as the Neville Chamberlain of their day," Coulter said, setting the tone with her discussion of Iraq. "That will be the historic legacy of the Democratic Party. Apparently they think that's worth a warm handshake by Susan Sarandon."

What the columnist finds curious and I have to concur here is why an organization that considers telling the truth to be a core value would have two notorious truth twisters invited to speak.

And of course since my son is currently in Cub Scouts and will probably be into Boy Scouts, my wife and I can look forward to the day when he goes to an official Boy Scouts-sponsored event and be told over and over again by some FoxNews talking head about how his mom and his dad are terrible traitors for daring to openly question Herr Dubya's policies. This is going to be fun.

Fresh Beefheart

From the Guardian. Granted, Captain Beefheart only provides a short track, but it does mark a return of sorts to the recording studio. Will there be more new Beefheart tunes in the offing?

Other than those caused by death, the longest and most profound silence in popular music has been that of Don Van Vliet, the maverick blues-rock musician known to the more adventurous fans of 60s and 70s music as Captain Beefheart.

It is 21 years since Beefheart delivered the final recorded evidence of his musical career, an album called Ice Cream For Crow, before retreating to a remote part of northern California to begin a successful second career as a painter.

Beefheart's music, much championed by John Peel, was a strange, cantankerous mixture of country blues and avant-garde jazz. His singing voice was unmistakable: he roared, groaned and yelped, veering in a single phrase from dry humour to a frustrated rage. He gave the members of his Magic Band wonderful stage names - Zoot Horn Rollo, Winged Eel Fingerling, Richard Midnight Hatsize Snyder - and drilled them pitilessly in exotic musical routines.

His song titles became catch-phrases among the cognoscenti: Old Fart At Play, Big-Eyed Beans from Venus, The Past Sure Is Tense, A Carrot Is As Close As a Rabbit Gets to a Diamond. After you listened to a Beefheart album, particularly his 1969 classic Trout Mask Replica, most other rock music sounded hopelessly banal.

So large was the void left by Beefheart's disappearance that various unorthodox ways of filling it had to be found. A couple of years ago, for example, a Dutch photographer named Rudy Vanderlans published a handsome book of photographs of the places in and around Los Angeles where the Magic Band rehearsed and recorded Trout Mask Replica, accompanied by a CD of ambient sounds - traffic, wind, birdsong - recorded at those locations.

Although Van Vliet has built a considerable reputation as an artist, his health has been a constant source of speculation. (He was said at one time to be suffering from a fatal disease caused by contact with his paints.) But now Peel, Vanderlans and their fellow adherents can enjoy their hero on record once again. Captain Beefheart provides the epilogue to a CD titled Where We Live, released to benefit Earth Justice, a campaign for the universal right to clean air and clean water, including performances by the likes of Lou Reed, Tina Turner, Norah Jones, Willie Nelson and the Neville Brothers - an a cappella version of Happy Birthday. Retitled Happy Earthday, it lasts a mere 38 seconds but provides solid evidence that, should he ever decide to emerge resume his musical career, the Captain's unique larynx is in fine shape.

Richard Williams

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Theodore Vs. Britney

Found on a message board. Enjoy!

"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American Public."

-Theodore Roosevelt (7 May 1918)

"Honestly, I think we should just trust our president in every decision that he makes and we should just support that, you know, and be faithful in what happens."

-Britney Spears (3 September, 2003, CNN interview)

Are Wingnuts Getting Nuttier? The Attack of the Kooky Conservatives

Back in the day, oh say 20 years ago, the British had their "Loony Left." Today, it's our turn in the US, with our "Kooky Conservatives." Although I am a bit troubled by the notion of armchair diagnoses, I do think there are some worthwhile points in Maureen Farrell's column. The thing of it is, the cats being referred to as "wingnuts" are not crazy: certainly not psychotically out of touch with reality in the clinical sense. The problem, rather is that they are blinded by their own ideology. They are to take a term from a classic book by Eric Hoffer, "true believers." How might Hoffer characterize the neocon crowd? To wit:

all mass movements strive to impose a fact proof screen between the faithful and the realities of the world. And, that that faith becomes the things the fanatic declines to see. He avers how startling it is to realize how much unbelief is necessary to make belief possible, and that faith manifests itself not in moving mountains, but in not seeing mountains move. He say's that in the context of mass movement's faith should not be judged by its profundity, sublimity, or truth but by how thoroughly it insulates the individual from himself and the world as it is."

Let's face it: reality is messy. It's full of ambiguities and situations where there is no easy "correct" answer, no obvious truth. The ideological rigidity demonstrated by the Bush crowd serves as a buffer between themselves and reality. Ideas and events that threaten to permeate that ideological buffer scare them shitless. So they react with anger, hatred, threats, smears, and physical assaults if necessary in order to protect their illusions. And from on high, our true believers may very well sincerely believe in rigtheousness of their cause, and that the end is justified by any means necessary.

We can take a look at the consequences. So many illusions held by the Bush crowd are shattering before their very eyes. The war in Iraq is not working out as planned, and is taking longer and costing more in human life and treasure than anticipated. The justifications for the war have been exposed as fiction. Afghanistan is also far from being a democratic "Garden of Eden" and in fact is still a hotbed of terrorism. The economy has failed to recover in the way that matters most: jobs. Add to that the tremendous budget deficits caused by two ill-conceived tax cuts and war expenses, and we see the beginning of a meltdown. For the true believer, these must be frightening times indeed.

I've often wondered about the extent to which the actions of the Bush White House reflect a cynical desire to have power to benefit themselves and their cronies and to treat the various facets of our government as their own personal amusement park, on the one hand; and the extent to which these same cats really believe that they are doing great things. I'm guessing that there's probably some truth to both angles. However, I think the "true believer" angle may dominate here, as even cynical self-serving types would figure out when to jettison failing policies -- something that the current Administration appears utterly incapable of doing. Instead, we are witnessing a group of people who are running the show at the moment who are apparently blinded to the fact that everything they've touched has turned to bovine fecal matter. They just have to believe that somehow they will be vindicated with their glorious achievements that are "just around the corner" and are prepared to fight as dirty as possible to hang on to that illusion.

Want A Reason To Dump Bush In 2004?

How about one thousand reasons?

Monday, September 29, 2003

Finally Viewed A Beautiful Mind

I took me long enough. Thanks to a student who was kind enough to loan me her dvd, I got a chance to check out the film and some of the other bonus material. It's a very nicely done film that definitely deserves viewing by anyone who wishes to better understand mental illness. One of the take-home messages I get from the film is simply this: to facilitate recovery, those who have schizophrenia need social support -- family, friends, familiar hang-outs, routines. Dr. Nash's recovery is about as best-case a scenario as one can imagine and it is unrealistic to expect similar sorts of recoveries. However, one's life can be considerably enhanced if sufficient support is in place. I often think of a couple of my college friends who developed paranoid schizophrenia. One of them was estranged from his family when his major break-down began. Last time I saw him he was homeless and had been pretty well abandoned by everyone. The other person had a family that seemed to be quite supportive. He had a stable environment, and as long as he stayed on his meds seemed likely to lead a stable existence (law school was probably out of the question for him, but I could at least imagine him as a political activist).

Another take-home message: many of the destructive behaviors demonstrated by Nash (and schizophrenics generally) are due not to some sort of violent or evil streak but usually due to disorientation, and confusion. It's best to understand such actions in that context. Keep in mind too that schizophrenics tend to be less violent than "normal" people.

Finally, I was once again reminded of what a valuable resource the late Sen. Paul Wellstone was. He gets mentioned in some of the bonus material for his work as an advocate for the mentally ill.

Fun With Message Boards

A quote from one of the message boards I frequent:

the biggest difference between clinton and bush is this thing called "integrity." bush has more in his little finger than clinton has in his entire body. so yes, comparing clinton to ANY republican does indeed make me want to vomit. just his sexual escapades alone made the man pathetic and brought shame to the presidency. he became a joke to other countries thus causing most people around the world to lose respect for the office of "commander in chief" of the greatest country in the world. say what you want.

Well at least now I know what the topic of conversation will be at the next Republican Party bulimia banquet. But seriously, how does one put the terms "Bush" and "integrity" into the sentence and keep a straight face? We've seen how the Bush spin machine works as events in Iraq have unfolded, we've seen possibly treasonous criminal activity among his inner circle (outing CIA staff is grounds for heavy duty prison terms), and we have seen what Bush and his cronies are willing to do to "win" elections. It's hard to see where integrity fits into the equation unless we're in Hell, and Bush is espousing Satan's moral and ethical principles. As for Clinton being an embarassment to the US and to the Presidency, well, let's say this: I never really cared much for Clinton's policies and I thought the whole Monica Lewinsky affair was sleazy. However, I sincerely doubt that in the history of humanity that a blowjob has ever directly led to the deaths of thousands of civilians in another country. On the other hand, we have Bush's lies that have directly led to the deaths of thousands of civilians in Iraq (not to mention US & Brit soldiers who are dying every day as the occupation there continues). Add to that the arrogant insults of potential allies, and now that the policy in Iraq has fallen flat on its face, it's pretty embarassing to watch this same president begging unsuccessfully for handouts. And of course if sexual antics are the litmus test for "integrity", let us not forget that one of Clinton's biggest impeachment advocates, Newt Gingrich, was carrying on an extra-marital affair as that sad episode in US history unfolded (Freud would call Newt's case one of projection); we have Schwartzenegger who if elected in this sham of a recall election in California will be dubbed "Governor Gangbang" or "Governor Grope"; and let us not forget Dubya's brother Neil who apparently has had more hoochie than he can even remember. But apparently that's all okay if you're a Republican. Gotta love it.

I could rant about this, but I'd rather not.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

Why the Media Don't Call It as They See It

The article starts with this simple T/F question:

True or false: Saddam Hussein helped plan the Sept.11 attacks.

Well, we know from the polls what approximately 70% of Americans believe -- i.e., that Saddam is linked to 9-11 (factually this link is false). Why are so many of our peers here in the States fooled into believing this nonsense? Well, it turns out that the administration uses a rhetorical device:

This is an example of what scholars of rhetoric call enthymematic argumentation. In an enthymeme, the speaker builds an argument with one element removed, leading listeners to fill in the missing piece. On May 1, speaking from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, President Bush said, "The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September the 11th, 2001, and still goes on. . . . With those attacks, the terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States. And war is what they got." This is classic enthymematic argumentation: We were attacked on Sept. 11, so we went to war against Iraq. The missing piece of the argument -- "Saddam was involved in 9/11" -- didn't have to be said aloud for those listening to assimilate its message.

As I noted in the comments over at the Not Geniuses Blog: That is an interesting rhetorical trick, and one that works because it capitalizes on an important feature of the human cognitive system: we use mental shortcuts to help us fill in the blanks when we are presented with text or situations that do not provide complete information.

The article goes on to note that these shortcuts are referred to as heuristics (or rules of thumb) that generally work well enough to allow us to function in a complex social world, but also create biases in our thinking and judgments that can lead to errors. In the case of Hussein and 9-11, this appears to be a classic example of a phenomenon called the illusory correlation: i.e., a tendency to connect two or more pieces of information together if we can recall them together. The 9-11 WTC and Pentagon bombings are certainly still very much a part of the American consciousness. Saddam Hussein has been an enemy of the U.S. since Poppy Bush invaded Iraq some 13 years ago, and has a certain reputation as a brutal Stalinist dictator for terrorizing his own people. Add to that explicit attempts by Dubya's people to connect the two together in the immediate aftermath of 9-11, and we find that triggering one event can easily trigger the other set of memories. Fast-forward to May 2003, and we see that a clever speech-writer can capitalize on the neural pathways that have already been burned into the brains of many Americans by invoking the 9-11 tragedy w/o explicitly connecting Hussein, but yet still induce us to connect the two. You see the WTC towers collapse and you see a defiant Hussein image. That's all Bush's handlers have needed.

Behold the Lord High Executioner

Man, these cats at the White House are really obsessed with the death penalty. Of course then again, Dubya's tenure in the governor's mansion in Texas gave us the slang term "Texecution" as the state was hell-bent on breaking some sort of records for number of executions per year. Never mind the data that strongly suggests that executions do not work as a deterrent for violent crimes.

The Bush administration is so bent on juicing up the number of state-sponsored executions in the United States that apparently it is attempting to nationalize capital punishment. Federal death-penalty law is so loosely written -- 60 different crimes can land a man or woman on federal death row -- that Attorney General John Ashcroft has been emboldened to yank cases out of the hands of local district attorneys and drag suspects into federal court and charge them with capital crimes. Most repugnant of all, Mr. Ashcroft is following this course in states like Massachusetts where there is no death penalty.

Bush on path to ruin U.S. legacy of prosperity and liberty

The Bush Legacy in a nutshell: incompetence and lack of accountability. Four more years of this b***sh*t? NO.

Casualty Count

Courtesy Ed Stephan of Western Washington State University

Quick Headline Round-Up

There's that old Chinese curse: "may you live in interesting times." To say these times are interesting is an understatement. So here's the round-up:

Retired Gen. Zinni refers to the US war in Iraq as a "brain fart', which pretty well sums it up.

The CIA has asked the Justice Department to investigate allegations that the White House broke federal laws by revealing the identity of one of its undercover employees in retaliation against the woman's husband, a former ambassador who publicly criticized President Bush's since-discredited claim that Iraq had sought weapons-grade uranium from Africa. As I understand it, the CIA takes care of its own, and if someone outs one of their employees they get Medieval.

Chaos reigns supreme in Iraq. Dubya says he takes a stand, but he's standing on quicksand, all bling with no strap on, wack like president Nixon, all hype but no head, lied and thousands dead.

A bit about the anti-war crew in England.

And even conservatives like James Pinkerton diss Bush foreign policy.