Saturday, July 3, 2004

Lite Blogging Today and Tomorrow

Catching Fahrenheit 9/11 late this afternoon in Amarillo, and tomorrow expect to be out at a friend's ranch celebrating the Fourth.

Truthout Triple Feature

Today's triple feature inlcudes the headlining editorial by Paul Krugman, Moore's Public Service; Paul Fahri's Pop Culture and the 2004 Election, receives second billing; and rounding out the set is Max Castro's The Fahrenheit 9/11 Phenomenon. Plenty of reading on Moore's unexpected run-away hit.

A clip from Krugman:

And for all its flaws, "Fahrenheit 9/11" performs an essential service. It would be a better movie if it didn't promote a few unproven conspiracy theories, but those theories aren't the reason why millions of people who aren't die-hard Bush-haters are flocking to see it. These people see the film to learn true stories they should have heard elsewhere, but didn't. Mr. Moore may not be considered respectable, but his film is a hit because the respectable media haven't been doing their job.


Mr. Bush's carefully constructed persona is that of an all-American regular guy - not like his suspiciously cosmopolitan opponent, with his patrician air. The news media have cheerfully gone along with the pretense. How many stories have you seen contrasting John Kerry's upper-crusty vacation on Nantucket with Mr. Bush's down-home time at the ranch?

But the reality, revealed by Mr. Moore, is that Mr. Bush has always lived in a bubble of privilege. And his family, far from consisting of regular folks with deep roots in the heartland, is deeply enmeshed, financially and personally, with foreign elites - with the Saudis in particular.

Mr. Moore's greatest strength is a real empathy with working-class Americans that most journalists lack. Having stripped away Mr. Bush's common-man mask, he uses his film to make the case, in a way statistics never could, that Mr. Bush's policies favor a narrow elite at the expense of less fortunate Americans - sometimes, indeed, at the cost of their lives.

A clip from Farhi:

Few suggest these works will turn the election, but the profusion of Bush-bashing projects may suggest something about the mood of the country, says Mandy Grunwald, a Democratic consultant who devised Clinton's strategy of using appearances on MTV and "The Arsenio Hall Show" as a publicity tool in 1992. Grunwald recalls that the bestseller lists and talk radio were brimming with invective against Clinton before the 1994 midterm elections, which led to huge Republican gains that year. "The popular culture was reflecting where the country was at that moment," she said. "Now the culture is going the other way. I think it's telling us that the country is moving Democratic."

A clip from Castro:

Fahrenheit 9/11 derives its title from Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury’s classic science fiction novel about a repressive 24th century society in which books are banned. Ironically, Moore’s film was almost banned in the United States, not by the government but by the Walt Disney company, which refused to distribute it. Now conservatives are trying to prevent Moore from advertising the film. Judging by attendance during the first weekend after its release, the attempt to suppress the film has only increased its publicity and appeal. Last weekend Fahrenheit 9/11 led all films in attendance and grossed more than $20 million.

What moviegoers who go to Fahrenheit 9/11 will see is a no-holds-barred attack on Bush and his administration, from its debatable victory in Florida to the latest chaos in Iraq. Bush haters will say Moore pulls no punches; Bush lovers will claim Moore takes cheap shots. Reaction to the film will be as polarized as is the country under this President.


Moore’s guerrilla tactics, which he has deployed in earlier films in order to expose hypocrisy and shame the powerful into behaving decently, are in full display in this film. Moore points out that, despite all the patriotic posturing in Congress and the nearly unanimous vote in Congress giving Bush the authority to wage the war in Iraq, only one out of 535 members of Congress has a child in the armed forces in Iraq. This contrasts with the experience of a group of minority youths in Flint, Michigan, most of who have relatives in the war. Moore’s message, seldom subtle, is blunt here too: a war declared by the elite is being waged on the backs of the deprived. To hammer home the point, Moore accosts members of Congress on the street to ask them to get their children to enlist to fight in Iraq. He gets excuses but no takers.


One of the virtues of Fahrenheit 9/11 is that Moore does not shy away from showing the real cost of the conflict: the pain, the gore, the cruelty verging on sadism, in effect the ugly, bloody mess of war. The film shows images almost wholly absent from the sanitized version on American television (unlike coverage in other countries). Although at times it is an outrageously funny film, it’s not always a fun film, which makes the enormous attendance even more impressive. Some scenes are especially tough to watch. Moore’s camera does not flinch from showing amputated limbs or hideously injured children. But he does not dwell on these images and stops short of obscene manipulation.


Fahrenheit 9/11 documents the outrageous deeds and misleading words of an administration that will go down in history as the most disliked by the world and by a significant proportion of Americans. And, if this administration goes down in flames in November, Michael Moore, who intended his cinematic tour de force to be a factor in the campaign, will have made a significant contribution to its demise.

Thursday, July 1, 2004

From the Wilderness on the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas conference

Peak Oil Revisited – The Bill Collector Calls

Rather thought-provoking.

Party in New York - Coming Soon

Counter Convention

David Letterman Top Ten

Top Ten George W. Bush Complaints About "Fahrenheit 9/11"

10. That actor who played the President was totally unconvincing

9. It oversimplified the way I stole the election

8. Too many of them fancy college-boy words

7. If Michael Moore had waited a few months, he could have included the part where I get him deported

6. Didn't have one of them hilarious monkeys who smoke cigarettes and gives people the finger

5. Of all Michael Moore's accusations, only 97% are true

4. Not sure - - I passed out after a piece of popcorn lodged in my windpipe

3. Where the hell was Spider-man?

2. Couldn't hear most of the movie over Cheney's foul mouth

1. I thought this was supposed to be about Dodgeball

If only Al Gore had talked like this four years ago

Our Founders and the Unbalance of Power

But hey, better late than never, I suppose.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

US healthcare: condition critical

A Second Opinion

Some clips, starting with where we were at as of 2000:

"The fact is that the U.S. population does not have anywhere near the best health in the world," she wrote. "Of 13 countries in a recent comparison, the United States ranks an average of 12th (second from the bottom) for 16 available health indicators."

She said the U.S. came in 13th, dead last, in terms of low birth weight percentages; 13th for neonatal mortality and infant mortality over all; 13th for years of potential life lost (excluding external causes); 11th for life expectancy at the age of 1 for females and 12th for males; and 10th for life expectancy at the age of 15 for females and 12th for males.

She noted in the article that more than 40 million Americans lacked health insurance (the figure is about 43 million now) and she described the state of Americans' health as "relatively poor."

"U.S. children are particularly disadvantaged," she said, adding, "But even the relatively advantaged position of elderly persons in the United States is slipping. The U.S. relative position for life expectancy in the oldest age group was better in the 1980's than in the 1990's."

How about since 2000, when Junior Caligula ascended to the throne?

"It's getting worse," she said, noting, "We've done a lot more studies in terms of the international comparisons. We've done them a million different ways. The findings are so robust that I think they're probably incontrovertible."

The U.S. has the most expensive health care system on the planet, but millions of Americans without access to care die from illnesses that could have been successfully treated if diagnosed in time. Poor people line up at emergency rooms for care that should be provided in a doctor's office or clinic. Each year tens of thousands of men, women and children die from medical errors and many more are maimed.

It's more than a bit frustrating to be sure. To give the reader an idea - I'm an hour away from officially being promoted to Associate Professor from Assistant Professor. The new title comes with a pay increase (modest, but it helps) and we're expecting a 3% wage increase on top of that for the upcoming academic year. As I see it, that's great. Problem is, the bulk (if not all of it) of that will get eaten up by insurance costs - as the editorial points out, those are increasingly shifted to the employee. In addition, cost of medications has also increasingly shifted to the employee. Bad news when one suddenly goes from $25 co-pay every month and a half for one's spouse's anti-seizure meds to $100 co-pay every month and a half. And if anyone gets sick in our family, heaven help us.

Bottom line is that I've grown accustomed to foregoing routine healthcare for myself these last few years in order to make sure my wife and kids get their needs met, and have periodically gone through months of skipping meals and so forth to get through some tight periods where they had unexpected illnesses and whatnot. I've refused to let my kids go hungry during the lean months. That's my reality, and I'm one of the "lucky" ones who's insured. The odds of my getting a serious health condition properly diagnosed and treated in the early stages are (not surprisingly) reduced. If I get cancer, or have some undetected heart condition, well I'm just SOL. The fact of life is that those in charge of our declining healthcare system don't give a damn. Nor do most of the politicians for that matter.


GAO Rips Iraq Occupation a New One

Iraq's basic services worse now than before war, GAO says

I suppose that begs the eternal and ever-present right-wingnut question: why does the GAO hate America?

But serially, the news for basic services such as electricity is far from rosy.

Some of the findings:

• In 13 of Iraq's 18 provinces, electricity was available fewer hours per day on average last month than before the war. Nearly 20 million of Iraq's 26 million people live in those provinces.

How convenient. That's the vast majority of the people who are likely to be getting hot under the collar because they're - well, hot under the collar. Kind of hard to run an air conditioner or even a basic box fan without an electric current. I'm under the impression that summers get a bit on the warm side, so that can't be pleasant.

• Only $13.7 billion of the $58 billion pledged and allocated worldwide to rebuild Iraq has been spent, with $10 billion more about to be spent. The biggest chunk of that money has been used to run Iraq's ministry operations.

What's the holdup?

• The country's court system is more clogged than before the war, and judges are frequent targets of assassination attempts.

Hard for a society to operate without a decent court system, which means that civil and criminal issues get left unanswered. For more than would be the case otherwise, crime pays.

• The new Iraqi civil-defense, police and overall security units are suffering from mass desertions, are poorly trained and ill-equipped.

Along with the clogged court system that can't be good for promoting stability.

• The number of what the now-disbanded Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) called significant insurgent attacks skyrocketed from 411 in February to 1,169 in May.

Where have all the flowers gone?

Here's one of the more stupid things that I've read:

Danielle Pletka, the vice president of foreign- and defense-policy studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said other issues are more important than the provision of services such as electricity.

"It's far better to live in the dark than it is to run the risk that your mother, father, brother, sister, husband or wife would be taken away never to be seen again," Pletka said.

More likely, one gets to both live in the dark and run the risk that they or loved ones may disappear for good. Kidnappings of women and girls rose dramatically last year as I recall. And of course one easily runs the risk of ending up in some prison camp like Abu Ghraib and getting the distinct privilege of acting out Junior Caligula's homoerotic fantasies (euphemistically referred to as "interrogation").

But hey, the occupiers built a couple schools with inadequate electricity to power them, and inadequate security to ensure that the kiddies made it to and from classes safely. Progress, eh?

The Onion Presents Good Citizenship Tips

Quite a public service, I must say. I think one new guideline needs to be added: "Telling those who disagree with you to 'go fuck themselves' is an effective way of enhancing public discourse on the important issues, and it feels so Goddamned good."

Dressing up in Military garb is not unusual for Dynamic Leaders

While you're at it say hello to NoMoreBush.

The Marquis de Shrub


I've been making some minor changes to this blog's interface. One more notable change is an effort to make the comments link to each post more straightforward. Since I'm not much of a programming wizard, this took a bit of doing. Also added some fresh faces to the blogroll.

And for those of you who continue to visit, leave comments, etc., many thanks.

People Power

The Power of the People: Howard Zinn's Speech at The Progressive's 95th Anniversary Party

A clip:

If you ever get depressed, if you ever start to feel hopeless, just remember: The United States is just 4 percent of the world's population. I know we have all those guns and nuclear weapons and all those cell phones. But the truth is that the power of the people when it is organized overcomes whatever concentrations of money and military might there are.

We have seen this in history again and again, where governments that seemed all powerful, untouchable, that seemed to have total control of the country, suddenly you wake up one morning and the head of the government is on a plane fleeing the country, fleeing the Philippines with shoes. I admit it, every once in a while I have this fantasy. . . . I'm willing to chip in for the airfare.

There are wonderful signs of resistance all over the world, resistance to authority, resistance to governments, resistance to war. It makes me feel good when I pick up the paper and I see that seventeen Israeli pilots are refusing to fly missions any more.

You forget what power people have. Did you see that picture of that woman from Nigeria who was going to be stoned to death because of a sexual escapade? There was a worldwide protest against that, and the Nigerian government had to back down. People forget how powerful protest is, and how actually vulnerable these presumably powerful entities really are when people get together. We've seen this happen again and again in places where the all-powerful government wakes up in the morning and there are a million people in the streets, and that's it.

There's so much emphasis on hatred and fear in what passes for political discourse these days, so it's especially refreshing to get those messages of hope. Zinn certainly delivers in that regard. Where does political power come from? If those in power had their way, we'd believe their power was derived from God, "watery tarts distributing swords", or some such nonsense. Failing that, we might get some social Darwinist type message in which these "great leaders" contend that they are some equivalent to the Nietzschean Übermeschen and hence intellectually, morally, and/or genetically superior than we mere mortals. Failing that, there's always the aversive approach: "We've got bigger guns than you, so do what we say or else." The truth is a bit different - quite a bit different, actually. Those in position of authority are dependent upon their subordinates' consent if they are to remain in power. That, my friends, is the dirty little secret that those in power would prefer remain a secret along with whatever skeletons they may be keeping in their closets. The power rests with each of us rather than with those who happen to hold the titles or access to the most potent fireworks. And all it takes is for a few dissenters to make their voices heard in order to awaken others to alternatives to merely obeying their presumed master's voice (check out the classic experimental research on conformity by Solomon Asch and the classic obedience studies by Stanley Milgram; and also consider alternative histories outlined by Howard Zinn, Gene Sharp, and others who have plenty to say on the power of dissent and collective acts of disobedience).

The power rested within each of us all along. It doesn't belong to the powers that be. It doesn't belong to the terrorists. It belongs to each of us ordinary human beings. That's the message of hope. That may not make the struggle any easier, but it is precisely the candle in the darkness that is so sorely needed.

Knowledge is Power

A Guide to the Memos on Torture

See also The Interrogation Documents: Debating U.S. Policy and Methods

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

It was oil (or the lack thereof) that killed the USSR

I'm a fan of Occam's Razor - a basic principle in the social sciences that can be summed up as follows: we use the simplest explanation possible based on tangible empirical evidence. Take the USSR. The conventional wisdom is that Reagan's escalation of the Cold War in the 1980s led to a collapse of an economic and political system that was already strained by its own inefficiencies. As the author of Oil, Not Reagan, Ended Cold War notes, there is precious little evidence to support the conventional claim. Rather, a more parsimonious explanation is to be found underground: oil production in the USSR peaked in the 1980s and had rapidly declined by 1990. As that happened, the USSR stopped importing oil to its satellite countries, which forced to pay for oil at the going rate with hard currency subsequently collapsed economically and politically. It didn't take long for the USSR to follow suit. Perhaps we can view the Soviet Union's collapse as a harbinger for what could easily happen here given our heavy dependence on oil.

Neocons' fascist ancestry

Here's an interesting nugget that I stumbled on thanks to (see sidebar for their url). It's pretty much common knowledge at this point that many of the architects of the contemporary neoconservative ideology started out as Trotskyites. What is perhaps not so well-known is the fascist roots of the movement. In John Laughland's article, Flirting With Fascism, we get a peek into the Fascist leanings of one of the neocons' intellectual leaders, Michael Leeden.

For Leeden, it appears that Fascism was a genuine international revolutionary movement of the 20th century - one seeking a radical transformation of the global order. The article goes into Leeden's glowing expositions of early Italian Fascist ideologues and paints an eery picture of the influence that his fascinations with Fascism has on contemporary neocon theory and practice (an aside: the division of "new" and "old" Europe has fascist origins, as becomes apparent if you scroll down to the bottom of the article).

I consider this an important read for those wanting to understand a bit better the underpinnings of the authoritarian hardliners who've come to occupy the White House.

Counterpunch has lists

and lists of favorite albums. Ever wonder what we liberals, progressives, socialists, greens, and other fellow travelers dig for our musical kicks? Let's just say that there's an eclectic stew to be savored. Check out some of their lists, and maybe try something new (or rediscover something old).

One thing that did catch my eye was how many of these cats dig some really great jazzers - John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis, Pharoah Sanders, Sun Ra, Charles Mingus in particular are mentioned by several of the writers. Then again jazz is a music of freedom to be aspired to in a rather dark and oppressive time. Of course there's mention of a number of great rock, punk, folk, blues, hip-hop, funk, classical, and country albums: some fairly popular among mainstream audiences and some truly over-looked gems.

Just for kicks.

A Whirlwind Tour of Fahrenheit 9/11 Blogtopia Reviews

Fahrenheit 9/11 by Juan Cole

Fahrenheit 911, by Micah Holmquist

The American Chip, by Jordy Cummings

The Screed We Need, by Jonathan Rosenbaum

Good for Business, Bad for the People, by Daniel Patrick Welch

Fahrenheit 911 - Your Reviews, an open thread of sorts posted over at The Left Coaster

Unfairenheit 9/11, by Christopher Hitchins (note: if you're not familiar with Hitchins, he's a legit lefty)

Fondly Fahrenheit, by Billmon

That's a small sampler of some of the reactions (good, bad, and ugly) from the broader left end of the dial. I'll hopefully be seeing it later this week (plans are solidifying as of this writing), and subsequently have formed a much more informed opinion of the film than I can currently offer. One thing that I have noticed from looking at the reviews (in blogtopia, the news media outlets, etc.) and from personal conversations with friends and colleagues is that this film has become something of a political Rorschach test that may very well say every bit as much about those of us who view it (along with those who for whatever reason choose to protest or denounce it vocally without viewing it) as it does about the subject matter that Moore tackles.

I suspect that its broader impact will be hard to determine, at least in the short-term. One thing I do notice from the stuff I've read so far is that the demographic makup of the moviegoers to Moore's film is considerably broader than one might expect for such an ostensibly polemic film. Much of its influence will depend, I suppose, on the lattitude of acceptance that many filmgoers have to begin with and the extent to which Moore's film can fit within that lattitude of acceptance. For the converted, it's a done deal, but for the folks who are seeing it out of sheer curiousity or who are still in the process of making up their minds about Bu$hCo the film's influence is far from a done deal - although I would expect that if Moore did his job well enough it may very well touch a nerve for a broad range of Americans who, while not considering themselves liberals or progressives are concerned that something has gone dreadfully wrong in our great republic but can't quite put their finger on it. They may be waiting to be persuaded and hence quite receptive to Moore's message. Time will tell.

Monday, June 28, 2004

St. Patrick Drove the Snakes Out of Ireland, So the Legend Goes

Some Irish protesters drove a snake out of Ireland over the weekend - symbolically speaking, that is. Old Junior appears to be the first US president to get a hostile reception from the Irish public.


If it wasn't obvious enough already

Courtesy of Matt at Outside the Box

Stupid questions beget stupid answers from stupid people

Colmes and Coulter via the Hamster:

COLMES: Are all the American people that don't support him [President George W. Bush] dumb?

COULTER: No. I think, as I indicated in my last book, they're traitors.

An interesting thought piece in the New Republic via Smirking Chimp

The case against Bush, part 1: Closing of the presidential mind

Nothing radically new there for me, but a useful reminder of how Bu$hCo approaches policy. Namely these cats have a real problem with empirical approaches to arriving at policy decisions. It's not that they're not capable of doing so, but rather the ideologues and hardliners are openly hostile to the social sciences.

Regardless of my own ideological biases, I'm ultimately an empiricist. In the Missourian tradition, if a claim is made my slogan is "show me." And by "show me" I want hard data, tangible numbers. I may not necessarily agree with a person's interpretation of the hard data, but if we can at least agree on a set of methods we have a basis for conversation. Once policy becomes essentially "faith based" the opportunity for a rational discussion is lost. I think we've seen what a "faith based" approach to governing looks like, and the results have been far from positive. If Kerry does nothing else in the White House, my hope is that he and his inner circle will reaffirm a more solidly empiricist, data-driven approach to governing. I may be bugged by a lot of what Kerry does, but at least that a change back to a more social-science based tradition will be a big step in the right direction.

By the by, here's a clip that I especially liked:

By the mid-'70s, the Public Interest crowd hadn't just grown hostile to experts. It had grown hostile to social-science itself. As Judis writes, the neocons came to reject "the very idea of a dispassionate and disinterested elite that could focus on the national interest." In the end, they sounded a lot like their enemies on the far left. "While the new left rejected social science as being implicitly 'probusiness' and 'promilitary,' the new right and its think tanks rejected it for being 'antibusiness' and 'left wing.'" The term "New Class" has faded from intellectual fashion, but this conservative animus toward social science has only grown. Under Bush, a president who happily dismisses government experts as "bean counters," it has become a guiding ideology.

As a social scientist (in my case a social psychologist) I usually figure that we're doing our job if the extremists from all angles are pissed off with the work we do. The ideologues from all angles rarely dissapoint me in that regard.

This is just too funny

Courtesy of Busy, Busy, Busy.

Bush Quick Facts

Some points to ponder, and/or talking points for those post Fahrenheit 911 conversations.

Here's a gem from This Modern World's guest blogger

Great Thinkers Address Freedom Of Speech

"I have always strenuously supported the right of every man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies another this right makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it."

-- Thomas Paine, 1783

"Free speech exercised both individually and through a free press, is a necessity in any country where people are themselves free."

-- Theodore Roosevelt, 1918

"The truth is found when men are free to pursue it."

-- Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1936

"If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear."

-- George Orwell, 1945

"Any time we deny any citizen the full exercise of his constitutional rights, we are weakening our own claim to them."

-- Dwight David Eisenhower, 1963

"What is objectionable, what is dangerous about extremists is not that they are extreme, but that they are intolerant."

-- Robert F. Kennedy, 1964

"Go fuck yourself."

-- Dick Cheney, 2004

My editorial response to the Dick Cheney quote: Right back at ya, Dick.

The comic book subculture is not AWOL to Bush criticism

Anti-Bush Graphic Novels

Reviews two recent works in the genre, We the People and The Bush Junta.

The torture scandal never does go away

As we're all pretty well aware by now, the whole scene has expanded from a "few bad apples" at Abu Ghraib to bushels of apples tainted by bad ones at the very top.

In the post at titled Tortue Memo Enthusiastically Approved at Highest Levels; CIA Getting Cold Feet, one gets a whirlwind tour of the state of the scandal. Not only are the spooks at the CIA getting antsy about using whatever interrogation techniques they've been using, but the light of day is now shining on Count Dracula's the Veep's office as its efforts to cover up its involvement in the now infamous OLC (Bybee) memo unravel. We also get a friendly reminder that as much as ol' Dubya likes to portray himself as a "regular guy", he and his cronies sure have a funny way of showing it - that whole business about the White House being above the law sure seems rather elitist to me, and definitely makes their Dear Leader look more and more like another George whom our own revolutionary freedom fighters battled some nearly 230 years ago.

The emperor has no clothes?

Too funny.

The Gift of Democracy

What the artist says:

anti-war propaganda. The b52 reprezent the bush administration bringing war on behalf of democracy in irak.


( german 'gift' means 'poison')

Also, the artist notes that Irak is how the Germans spell Iraq (so, no, that's no typo).

Payday cannot happen soon enough.

Why? Because then I can afford the gasoline to go to Amarillo and the ticket (and requisite popcorn) for Fahrenheit 911. The good news is that the film is apparently doing quite well at the box office, so I won't have to concern myself with it being yanked right before I can see it on the big screen.

Go Titans!

Windsor, Suzuki lead Titans to CWS title

Cal State Fullerton was my alma mater for my Bachelors and Masters degrees. Their baseball team is consistently one of the better college teams in the US, and has three previous College World Series titles (1979, 1984, 1995, and now 2004). One of the more amusing little factoids is that CSUF's previous College World Series victories were accomplished under head coach Augie Garrido, who is now the Texas Longhorns head baseball coach (and the team that lost this year's World Series game to CSUF).

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Useful Health Advice via Pacific Views

Natasha posted the following article to Pacific Views: Eat Your Omega-3s. Apparently due to shifts in dietary and farming practices we get much less intake of the Omega-3 fatty acids than we once did. One consequence for this is quite possibly an increase in prevalence of various mental disorders (remember in my previous post when I mentioned possible environmental factors that could affect the prevalence of such disorders?). The fix is fairly simple: increase one's intake of seafood (which Natasha correctly has misgivings about due to the decimation of sea animals due to overly aggressive fishing) and/or dietary supplements which can easily be found in the health food stores or the pharmacy section of your local grocery store. Of course none of this will boost the profit margins of pharmaceuticals which would just as soon push tons of Prozac, Ritalin, and Thorazine. Then again, collectively we're better off as a society to the extent that we do a few things on the prevention side of the equation.


LIFE WITH BIG BROTHER: Bush to screen population for mental illness

Some clips:

President Bush plans to unveil next month a sweeping mental health initiative that recommends screening for every citizen and promotes the use of expensive antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs favored by supporters of the administration.


The commission said, "Each year, young children are expelled from preschools and childcare facilities for severely disruptive behaviors and emotional disorders."

Schools, the panel concluded, are in a "key position" to screen the 52 million students and 6 million adults who work at the schools.


Allen Jones, an employee of the Pennsylvania Office of the Inspector General says in his whistleblower report the "political/pharmaceutical alliance" that developed the Texas project, which promotes the use of newer, more expensive antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs, was behind the recommendations of the New Freedom Commission, which were "poised to consolidate the TMAP effort into a comprehensive national policy to treat mental illness with expensive, patented medications of questionable benefit and deadly side effects, and to force private insurers to pick up more of the tab."

Jones points out, according to the British Medical Journal, companies that helped start the Texas project are major contributors to Bush's election funds. Also, some members of the New Freedom Commission have served on advisory boards for these same companies, while others have direct ties to TMAP.

Eli Lilly, manufacturer of olanzapine, one of the drugs recommended in the plan, has multiple ties to the Bush administration, BMJ says. The elder President Bush was a member of Lilly's board of directors and President Bush appointed Lilly's chief executive officer, Sidney Taurel, to the Homeland Security Council.

Of Lilly's $1.6 million in political contributions in 2000, 82 percent went to Bush and the Republican Party.

Another critic, Robert Whitaker, journalist and author of "Mad in America," told the British Medical Journal that while increased screening "may seem defensible," it could also be seen as "fishing for customers."

Exorbitant spending on new drugs "robs from other forms of care such as job training and shelter program," he said.

When it comes to approaches to mental illness, I'm a bit of a moderate, and although I find the medical model useful [1] I also view it with a bit of skepticism. Part of the problem as I see it is the failure of the medical model to take into consideration various situational and environmental cues that can affect one's mental state that are independent of one's own biological predispositions. Take a disorder such as depression, for example. The symptoms for depression can be quite similar for most who are diagnosed, but it is conceivable that what causes that particular syndrome of symptoms for one person may not cause the same syndrome of symptoms for another person. Hence, whereas one person may actually need some form of medication in order to show an improvement in symptoms, others may in fact show a similar recovery using other approaches (such as cognitive-behavior therapy, changes in lifestyle, diet, exercise, etc.). My suspicion is that a similar analysis can be effectively applied to various other mental disturbances - and such an analysis can be found among those in the helping professions who use a theoretical approach known as the diathesis-stress model [2]. My guess is that the fast pace of our own society may be an important, and largely unaddressed, factor in the prevalence of many of the more common disorders (e.g., depression, anxiety disorder, etc.). Of course addressing possible social antecedents is not going to add to the profit margins of the pharmaceutical corporations, and not too surprisingly there is a tendency to turn a blind eye to such antecedents.

A bit of an aside: periodically I've noted that the current White House and its various enablers - especially the hardliners among these individuals - appear to have embraced a number of fascist concepts and policies. One of those includes corporatism, also known as economic fascism. It might be useful to refresh our memories of corporatism as it seems increasingly unclear as to what the boundaries between the federal government and the corporate world actually are. If nothing else, it does appear that an increasingly tiny circle of elites wishes to impose its own approach to "mental health" on the masses.

[1] The medical model in psychiatry is an approach that focuses on the presumed physiological causes of mental disorders.

[2] The diathesis-stress model approaches mental disorders as being caused by a combination of factors including biological (diathesis) and situational and environmental (stress). Most of these theorists will argue that one might have a predisposition to suffer from a disorder, but only if the environmental or situational stressors are sufficient to trigger the symptoms.

Thanks to ddjangoWIrE for the tip.

Pot + Kettle = Black

Hitler image used in Bush campaign Web ad

I catalogued numerous examples of Republicans using Hitler and Nazi imagery to characterize their political opponents. Looks like Bu$hCo could not resist the temptation to do so this campaign cycle. When you have no issues to run on, I guess it's okay to take a couple poorly done contest entries that had Hitler imagery, intersperse them amidst Democrats denouncing Bush, and then have a pleasant little slogan portraying Bu$hCo as not about "pessimism and rage" but optimism & steady leadership (though someone needs to give those clowns a script, given Dick "Go Fuck Yourself" Cheney's steadily disintegrating performance and Junior's increasingly incoherent babbling).


Are they losing it?

A column by Maureen Dowd via Steve Gilliard's Newsblog. I'll concur with Steve and note that this one dovetails nicely with that Capitol Hill Blue article that was circulating a few weeks back. I'm sure that Bu$hCo is under a lot of stress these days. I just don't have much sympathy for their plight.

A Dissenter’s Guide to Foreign Policy

Book review in World Policy Journal worth taking a look at.

Good message

Vote Sensibly

Before there was Junior Caligula, there was Grandpa Caligula

Stencil fun at the expense of Bush and Howard