Saturday, July 17, 2004

Weekend Science Update: Fun With Pseudoscience And Other Oddities

Happened upon this post by Ben at the blog nmb: Pseudoscience, Death By Cards, and Aliens. All sorts of fun links to check out. The one most relevant to my neck of the academic woods is the last one in the post:



Merely thinking about traumatic memories can be stressful, with a whole host of bodily responses accompanying the memory, from a faster heart rate to increased sweating and so forth. These reactions are often interpreted by people as some kind of indicator of the truthfulness of the memory. But a new study on alien abduction “survivors” by the fine folks at Harvard seems to indicate that a bodily response to any kind of account—be it a contrived memory or a genuine one—depends only on whether or not the account is traumatic, not whether or not it’s truthful. (Psychological Science / EurkeAlert: “Probing the world of alien abduction stories” [June 21, 2004])




That caught my attention as yet another piece of evidence that so-called recovered memories are not what they may appear to be on the surface. We assume a memory is truthful if it's vivid, detailed, accompanied by emotional intensity (including changes in physiological arousal), and the individual has a high degree of confidence in the accuracy of the recovered traumatic memory. Thing is, such memories can be as fallible as any other kind of memory, and the factors mentioned above have no bearing on the memory's accuracy. In fact, some of the conditions in which traumatic memories are recovered themselves can invite inaccuracies, because they make the person more impressionable, more vulnerable to manipulation. My guess is that many of the recovered alien abduction memories have their origins in hypnosis or guided imagery sessions, or due to a drug-induced or possible psychotic hallucination.



A quick aside: Psychological Science is an excellent general psychology journal, and well worth a look if you want to get an idea of the state of the art in psychological research. The organization behind this journal, American Psychological Society, is an advocate for those of us in the psychological sciences who make our living as researchers and/or instructors. In particular APS has been valuable in lobbying for extra federal research grant funds as well as a vocal opponent of Bu$hCo's cultural war against the sciences.

The Power of the Spoken Word

The fighting poets



Reading the article I was reminded of a few lines from a Last Poets rap "Blessed Are Those Who Struggle" from their album Delights in the Garden:



Blessed are those who struggle

Oppression is worse than the grave

Better to die for a noble cause

Than to live and die a slave




That appears to be the sentiment expressed by the Iraqi resistance. Ignore at your own risk.

A quote

You're not to be so blind with patriotism that you can't face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.

– Malcolm X



While we're on the topic of human rights

The stories of child sexual abuse at Abu Ghraib are beginning to resurface.  As Bill C. of American Samizdat notes, the stories of Iraqi boys being soddomized by prison guards were being hinted at back in May of this year. Since then, journalist Seymour Hersh - the guy responsible for breaking much of the Abu Ghraib story earlier this year - has been describing what he's seen of the torture footage that has not yet made its way public. Holden at Eschaton posted a handy compendium of a Hersh speech were he lays out the details. Steve Gilliard also has some cogent remarks on his blog in a post titled Sexual torture at Abu Ghraib. Juan Cole also has some brief comments on the developing story, including a note of the irony of our government sanctioning sodomy in US run prison camps while trying to prevent consenting homosexual adults from marrying in the US.



From my own perspective, this is the sort of thing that should have us all climbing the fucking walls. There simply is no excuse for any of the Abu Ghraib torture to begin with. Having worked at one point in my life as a childcare worker at a group home facility that housed a number of sexually abused adolescent males, I can safely say that being raped by adults under any circumstances has terribly detrimental psychological consequences for the victims. We're talking the sorts of experiences that will require years of psychotherapy for the victims - which of course is in short supply in Iraq. Going beyond the impact on the victims, we can well imagine that the impact on US relations in the region - among denizens of the Arab world and more broadly practitioners of Islam - will be understandibly negative. Thanks to having a bunch of perps in the White House, in Military Intelligence, and among the prison guards, the whole lot of us will be written off as pervs in large portions of the rest of the world. Nice going Georgie, and those who enabled Bu$hCo.

Well, at least the Iraqis don't have to worry about being killed by their leaders now that Saddam is gone.

Ooops, my bad. Just saw this article in the Sydney Morning Herald: Allawi shot prisoners in cold blood: witnesses.



A clip:







Iyad Allawi, the new Prime Minister of Iraq, pulled a pistol and executed as many as six suspected insurgents at a Baghdad police station, just days before Washington handed control of the country to his interim government, according to two people who allege they witnessed the killings.



They say the prisoners - handcuffed and blindfolded - were lined up against a wall in a courtyard adjacent to the maximum-security cell block in which they were held at the Al-Amariyah security centre, in the city's south-western suburbs.



[...]



One of the witnesses claimed that before killing the prisoners Dr Allawi had told those around him that he wanted to send a clear message to the police on how to deal with insurgents.



"The prisoners were against the wall and we were standing in the courtyard when the Interior Minister said that he would like to kill them all on the spot. Allawi said that they deserved worse than death - but then he pulled the pistol from his belt and started shooting them."



[...]



Given Dr Allawi's role as the leader of the US experiment in planting a model democracy in the Middle East, allegations of a return to the cold-blooded tactics of his predecessor are likely to stir a simmering debate on how well Washington knows its man in Baghdad, and precisely what he envisages for the new Iraq.




In his post Flogging the Allawi Story, Holden offers some reasons for why this story is important:



Why is it important?

  • Human beings were allegedly murdered in cold blood.  The victims were detainees who were denied due process.
  • Our tax dollars should not be used to support a murderous thug.
  • The War on Iraq was based on lies.  The assertion that the people of Iraq are better off now than they were under Saddam evaporates in the face of this accusation.  

Why is the story credible?

  • McGeough names the place that the alleged summary executions occurred, Al-Amariyah security centre in the southwestern suburbs of Baghdad.
  • The story names three of the seven victims, Ahmed Abdulah Ahsamey, Amer Lutfi Mohammed Ahmed al-Kutsia, and Walid Mehdi Ahmed al-Samarrai.  Unless these were "ghost detainees", with their names and the place of detention we should be able to find out if these three men were in the security center in late June.
  • As McGeough writes, "The two witnesses were independently and separately found by the Herald. Neither approached the newspaper. They were interviewed on different days in a private home in Baghdad, without being told the other had spoken."  I'd call that careful reporting.









We'd be fooling ourselves to believe that removing a dictator with a reputation for brutality while simultaneously so badly destabilizing the now-occupied nation would lead to anything but a replacement dictator who is as brutally authoritarian as the last one. This is precisely the scenario we now have in Iraq. So, let's look at the Bu$hCo record in Iraq:

  1. WMD? Nope.
  2. Saddam in on the 9/11 terrorist attack with Al-Qaida? Zilcho.
  3. Imminent threat to the US? Not on the planet where all of us except Bu$hCo live.
  4. Build a model democratic and human rights utopia in Iraq? Fat chance.

With success like that, we sure as hell don't need failure, eh?

Shorter Karl Rove

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This is what I think of your stinkin' U.S. Constitution!

Friday, July 16, 2004

Inside the Preznit's Addled Brain

Scandals and character flaws tend to have long half-lives, especially where public figures are concerned. The scandals are at varying levels in the news, undoubtedly to a greater degree than Junior Caligula and his enablers prefer and to a lesser degree than what many of the rest of us would prefer. The character flaws, on the other hand, haven't received that much play as of yet in the mass media although they do seem to be drifting ever closer to the surface.



For example, let's take the Bush's mental state, which has been grist for the mill on message boards, political scandal sheets such as Capitol Hill Blue, and occasionally Counterpunch. Slowly the topic of the Preznit's mental state is filtering into the more obscure echelons of the mainstream press and on the bookshelves. Let's take a quick review of what's being said.



First, we'll start out with a few clips from Douglas Yates of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner who recently published a column titled, Is Bush's past now present?

By his own admission, Bush was a heavy drinker for more than 20 years. While more than 10 million Americans are similarly afflicted, only one has been elevated to the presidency. Though it is reported that he stopped drinking in 1986, at the age of 40, Bush's policies and judgment appear linked to alcohol addiction.



A growing number of professionals in psychopathology and alcohol counseling claim that Bush exhibits characteristics of "dry drunk" syndrome. A term adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous, a dry drunk is a person who shows impaired behavior, although not actually imbibing. While technically "dry," such individuals are not truly sober. Dry drunks tend to extremes while also displaying increased anxiety, irritability, resentment, impulsive anger and lack of empathy. They are rigid, judgmental and often present an inordinate sense of entitlement.



Katherine van Wormer, a professor at the University of Northern Iowa and co-author of "Addiction Treatment: A Strengths Perspective," points to Bush's language as a way to see through the smoke.



"First there were the terms--'crusade' and 'infinite justice.' Next came 'evil doers,' 'axis of evil,' and 'regime change' ... the polarized thinking and the obsessive repetition reminded me of many of the recovering alcoholics/addicts I had treated," van Wormer writes.




I'm familiar with some of van Wormer's writings on the topic of "dry drunk syndrome" with regards to Bush, and although I'll acknowledge a bit of skepticism it's worth considering. We do know, for example, that chronic alcohol abuse can lead to brain damage - in particular the prefrontal cortex of the cerebrum. The prefrontal cortex of the brain is responsible for much of what we consider rational thought, and damage to this part of the brain can manifest itself in terms of rigidity of thought, poor impulse control, etc.



Going back now to Yates' column:

Other researchers cite the president's black-and-white view of the world. Although one of the first principles of leadership is the ability to consider opposing points of view, Bush can't muster such perspectives. In regard to foreign policy, Bush has said, "... my job isn't to try to nuance. I think moral clarity is important ... this is evil versus good."



Mark Crispin Miller, a professor of communication at New York University, examined Bush's language for evidence of distorted thinking. Author of "Dyslexicon: Observations on a National Disorder," Miller initially intended an amusing catalog of Bush's verbal gaffes. Played for laughs by many, some view Bush's stumbling speech as an endearing tic.



However, in reading the transcripts of his speeches, Miller realized something more serious was going on. Bush's garbled and confusing sentences may actually reveal a hidden personality disorder.



Miller builds the case that Bush's gaffes occur only when he's speaking about things that mean little to him. Topics such as the poor, idealism or compassion are often twisted beyond meaning.



However, writes Miller, "He has no trouble speaking off the cuff when he's speaking punitively, when he's talking about violence, when he's talking about revenge. When he struts and thumps his chest, his syntax and grammar are fine. This is a guy who is absolutely proud of his own inflexibility and rectitude."




Think back to the infamous State of the Union Address of January 28, 2003 (an aside - my birthday now coincides with two national disasters: the crash of the Space Shuttle Challenger, and that speech and its 16+ words worth of lies). Junior Caligula seemed to stumble through the "humanitarian" parts of his speech but became rather eloquent (for him) and impassioned once it came time to talk about war.



Next let's check Arianna Huffington's summary of the recently published book, Bush on the Couch, by Justin A. Franks, M.D.:

Poking around in the presidential psyche, Frank uncovers a man suffering from megalomania, paranoia, a false sense of omnipotence, an inability to manage his emotions, a lifelong need to defy authority, an unresolved love-hate relationship with his father, and the repercussions of a history of untreated alcohol abuse.



[...]



One of the more compelling sections of the book is Frank’s dissection of what he calls Bush’s “almost pathological aversion to owning up to his infractions” — a mindset common to individuals Freud termed “the Exceptions,” those who feel “entitled to live outside the limitations that apply to ordinary people.”



[...]



But you don’t make it as far as W. has without some psychological defenses of your own — especially when it comes to insulating yourself against your own fears and insecurities.



Raised in a family steeped in privilege and secrecy, and prone to the intense aversion to introspection and denial of responsibility that are the hallmarks of a so-called dry drunk — one who has kicked the bottle without dealing with the root causes of the addiction — Bush has become a master of the psychological jiu-jitsu known as Freudian Projection.



For those of you who bailed on Psych 101, Freudian Projection is, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a defense mechanism in which “the individual deals with emotional conflict or internal or external stressors by falsely attributing to another his or her own unacceptable feelings, impulses or thoughts.”



In layman’s terms, it’s the soot-stained pot calling the kettle “black.”





Huffington then goes on to catalogue some of Junior's own flip-flops on a range of issues to demonstrate that his contention that Kerry flip-flops can be discounted as mere projection, rather than as a substantive critique of a political opponent.



Without addressing the claims of psychopathology, I've periodically added my own take on what may be behind Junior's thoughts and deeds. To make the story as short as possible, Bush's psyche can be best summed up as that of a right-wing authoritarian. Authoritarians are characterized by a number of traits (see Altemeyer, 1981, 1988, 1996, for more details):

  • Conventionalism - a tendency to go along with the prevailing societal norms, especially those norms sanctioned by authority figures in the home, church, etc. This same trait is also characteristic of most conservatives, although typically not carried to the extreme as is the case with authoritarians.
  • Authoritarian Submission - a tendency to essentially do what one is told without question, as long as it's sanctioned by an authority figure. Right-wing authoritarians will readily submit not only to authority figures whom they like and respect, but also to those whom they do not like (they may gripe a bit in the latter case, but will do what they're told regardless).
  • Authoritarian Aggression - authoritarians are no more or less prone to aggression and violence than the rest of us. However, they are a rather vengeful and punitive lot who will commit acts of aggression or violence if they perceive that such acts are endorsed by relevant authorities. Right-wing authoritarians also tend to view the world as a dangerous place, in which there are enemies lurking behind practically every corner, and such worldviews tend to facilitate acts of aggression - especially against out-groups (e.g., ethnic minorities, gays, liberals, etc.).
  • Rigidity of Thought - To these first three traits I'd like to add this fourth trait based on the observation that right-wing authoritarians are not known for their cognitive complexity. They tend to see the world in black and white, in terms of absolutes. They are not generally interested in looking for the nuances in an argument, or for handling the ambiguities that characterize life in a diverse democratic republic. In some of my own research, I've looked at bivariate correlations between scores on Altemeyer's Right-Wing Authoritarianism Scale and Petty & Cacioppo's Need for Cognition Scale and have found a significant negative correlation between those two scales. Higher authoritarian scores are associated with lower need for cognition scores, suggesting a tendency for authoritiarians to be less cognitively complex.

There's more that can be said, of course. Whether one accepts that Bush has some sort of psychopathology or is simply very highly right-wing authoritarian, the consequences of his first (and hopefully last) term remain the same; and both perspectives would likely make strikingly similar predictions about how Bush would handle a second term (in either case, I'd suggest getting the guy back to his ranch in Crawford for good rather than risk yet another several years of disaster).





Update (December 7, 2004): Because the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner does not have the original Yates column archived, Yates has kindly provided me with the text of that column and it is now hosted at my homepage. So I've updated my link to his column to reflect this change. Since I omitted the word "Daily" from the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in the original post, I have corrected that error as well.

And now this message

brought to you by The Left End of the Dial. Between now and an impending and much needed vacation toward the end of this month I will be increasingly swamped. Don't be too terribly surprised if there are days in which I make myself scarce (work waits for no one, it seems). I have no shortage of opinions and a desire to express those opinions, and blogging is definitely addicting (in a good way) in that regard. Hence, expect that between now and July 28th, that I'll likely be posting semi-regularly (and there will be days where most of you will not even notice that I'm preoccupied with other matters). From July 28th through the first two or three days in August, I'll be visiting family and will be far, far away from my computer. There are tons of excellent blogs to be found in my blogroll, so feel free to visit them during my occasional absences (come to think of it, by all means pay these cats a visit any way).

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Osama Wins! Election Postponed!

Dave Lindorff has a few things to say about the potential of election day "postponement". One passage that especially caught my eye:



It's also an invitation for spectacular abuse. Just imagine if Bush were down 10 percent in the polls days before the election. With defeat assured, imagine the pressure Republican tacticians like Karl Rove could put on the FBI and CIA to let some terror plot slip through, so they could shake things up and garner another couple months' time to try and turn things around.




Think about it: an administration turns a blind eye to a terror plot near election time, or perhaps even assists a plot in order to maintain and strengthen its grip on power. Far-fetched? Hardly. It has been done before, and the one thing we can count on despots to do is to rely on fear, on terror if you will, in order to drive legislators and voters into embracing authoritarianism. Here's one example:



The Reichstag fire



On February 27, Hitler was enjoying supper at the Goebbels home when the telephone rang with an emergency message: “The Reichstag is on fire!” Hitler and Goebbels rushed to the fire, where they encountered Hermann Goering, who would later become Hitler’s air minister. Goering was shouting at the top of his lungs,



This is the beginning of the Communist revolution! We must not wait a minute. We will show no mercy. Every Communist official must be shot, where he is found. Every Communist deputy must this very day be strung up.



The day after the fire, the Prussian government announced that it had found communist publications stating,



Government buildings, museums, mansions and essential plants were to be burned down... . Women and children were to be sent in front of terrorist groups.... The burning of the Reichstag was to be the signal for a bloody insurrection and civil war.... It has been ascertained that today was to have seen throughout Germany terrorist acts against individual persons, against private property, and against the life and limb of the peaceful population, and also the beginning of general civil war.





So how was Goering so certain that the fire had been set by communist terrorists? Arrested on the spot was a Dutch communist named Marinus van der Lubbe. Most historians now believe that van der Lubbe was actually duped by the Nazis into setting the fire and probably was even assisted by them, without his realizing it.



Why would Hitler and his associates turn a blind eye to an impending terrorist attack on their national congressional building or actually assist with such a horrific deed? Because they knew what government officials have known throughout history — that during extreme national emergencies, people are most scared and thus much more willing to surrender their liberties in return for “security.” And that’s exactly what happened during the Reichstag terrorist crisis.




Defending our civil liberties requires vigilance. Expecting a cabal of power-hungry jackals to play fair is a mistake with potentially tragic consequences for all. That was a mistake many of the more moderate members of the Reichstag made in the early 1930s. They (as Preznit Junior Caligula would put it) "misunderestimated" the Hitler and the Nazis. I've been in awe at how consistently the moderates and moderate conservatives (which is pretty much what makes up the Democrat Party) have underestimated the GOP brass' capacity to do whatever it takes to maintain and expand power at all costs. I'd say the best strategy is to not trust those in power any more than one could throw them.

Political cults

The topic of the day for Justin Raimondo in his essay, The Cult of Power, where Mr. Raimondo goes into gory detail the intellectual heritage of the neo-cons, in the process showing how the neo-cons and Trotskyites are not different in kind but only in degree. Raimondo, on a street level, also does a decent job of characterizing the psychology of political cults.



Oddly enough, he appears to see some parallels between the Manson Family (although explicitly he would deny that, I read it in the subtext) and the sort of political cults like the neo-cons and the Objectivists (the cult surrounding the writings of Ayn Rand). Makes for a worthwhile read. I found that amusing as I once speculated in a reply to a comment on this blog that in a different context one could readily imagine Preznit George Dubya Bush citing the Book of Revelations and the Beatles White Album as having important hidden messages all the while babbling on and on about "Helter Skelter." Although I was being snarky, I get the feeling it's not that far removed from the truth. Something to ponder.



Note: Raimondo strikes me as a die-hard Libertarian from the rhetoric in most of his essays. I find some of his characterization of this entity that he refers to as "the left" to be a bit grating, nor do I find much use for the laissez faire baggage that typically goes along with Libertarians generally (although I will gladly acknowledge that I have a pronounced libertarian orientation on many issues). All that said, often I find Raimondo's writing to be refreshing, unpretentious, and more often than not right on the money.

Science Wednesday

Sistine Chapel of the ice age revealed



A clip:



With its drooping bill and beady eye, the ancient bird looks like a cross between a podgy curlew and a dodo.

The strikingly realistic image was etched into the soft limestone roof a Nottinghamshire cave by a paleolithic artist around 13,000 years ago.



He or she (or some contemporary colleague) also carved a menagerie of birds, bison, deer and bears on the same roof in a gallery that has caused the jaws of experts to drop with amazement.



These relics of a land still shivering in climatic change came to light in the bright sun of a spring morning in the 21st century and are now hailed collectively as "the world's most elaborately carved cave ceiling ... the Sistine Chapel of the ice age".



[...]



"These are masterpieces," said Dr Ripoll. "These people had a very good knowledge of the animals they hunted. They had looked at them for many hours and knew their shapes very well. So they could represent them exactly on the walls of caves."

A cautionary tale, part two

Machine at Work, by Paul Krugman.



Yet another look at the protofascist elements within our midst:



But you shouldn't conclude that the system is working. Mr. DeLay's current predicament is an accident. The party machine that he has done so much to create has eliminated most of the checks and balances in our government. Again and again, Republicans in Congress have closed ranks to block or emasculate politically inconvenient investigations. If Enron hadn't collapsed, and if Texas didn't still have a campaign finance law that is a relic of its populist past, Mr. DeLay would be in no danger at all.



The larger picture is this: Mr. DeLay and his fellow hard-liners, whose values are far from the American mainstream, have forged an immensely effective alliance with corporate interests. And they may be just one election away from achieving a long-term lock on power.




Hence the importance of getting this election cycle right.

A cautionary tale

How Hitler Became a Dictator



Authoritarian and totalitarian dictatorships do not spring up overnight. They typically require a combination of social, economic, and political conditions over a period of time in order to gradually immerse the population into the darkness of fascism.



For another take, from the perspective of a citizen who was immersed in the Zeitgeist of the Nazi era, read, They Thought They Were Free. That essay gives a hint of what the psychology of the average German might have been like during those dark days, and again can act as a cautionary tale of what could happen here if we are not sufficiently vigilant.



While you're at it, check out What is Fascism?



Food for thought.



Update: Kurt Nimmo offers yet more food for thought with his post, Messing with Elections, the Hallmark of Fascism, which is also worth taking a look at.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

I'll have to admit, this is good:

Mary Beth Cahill to Ken Mehlman: Release the Bush Records



From one campaign manager to another. I'd been wondering if Kerry and his staff would have the necessary fortitude to run an aggressive campaign against Bu$hCo. No more doubts on that score. The whole thing is a fun read. The ending in particular is classic:



We also wanted to wish you a happy anniversary. As we are sure you and the attorneys representing the President, Vice-President and other White House officials are aware, today marks one year since Administration sources leaked the identity of a covert CIA agent to Bob Novak in an effort to retaliate against a critic of the Administration.



In light of the fact that the Administration began gutting the laws protecting the nation’s forests yesterday, we hope you will accept the paper on which this letter is written as an anniversary gift. (The one year anniversary is known as the “paper anniversary.”)




Quite civil (no "go fuck yourself" passages) yet vicious.



Say hello to some other Okie blogs

Okiedoke: Vintage Okie Opinion, Numskullery, So Blog Me!, there it is, Okie Funk: Notes From The Outback, JMBzine, BartCop (one that I've had bookmarked for a while and really need to add to me faithful ol' blogroll), Braised Lambchop, and Great Googly Moogly.





There are indeed plenty o' bloggers in Oklahoma who are not drinking the Bu$hCo kool-aid, and that's OK.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Worth a look

The Parting Shot: for Bush the fascist and Blair the appeaser

This makes for an interesting read

The Trillion-Barrel Tar Pit: an article on the reserves of heavy oil in Canada. I'm not sure yet how all this fits into the discussion of the oil peak or how far that reserve will go in staving off an inevitable energy crisis. Let's not forget the long-term picture: our current dependence on petroleum for our energy (among other) needs is ultimately not sustainable. Better to plan for the inevitable and gently ease ourselves off than to wait for Mother Nature to impose a much more drastic ending.

Shorter GAO to Department of "Homeland Security"

"Stop making shit up."



Source: Reuters article via No Capital

I can't make this stuff up:

The single greatest event of my life.



Here's a clip:



Sean had to go back to work (he snuck out to join in the fun), so we drove him back to my place where his car was, then me, Adam, and Brendan went to another spot along the highway that we had spied earlier. A friendly Kerry supporter named Mr. Shenk let us use his front yard to display our banners. Now comes the good part. After waiting around for about 45 minutes, the motorcade passed by us again. A few police cars, followed by a van or two, drove by. Then, a Bush/Cheney bus passed, followed by a second one going slower. At the front of this second bus was The W himself, waving cheerily at his supporters on the other side of the highway. Adam, Brendan, and I rose our banner (the More Trees, Less Bush one) and he turned to wave to our side of the road. His smile faded, and he raised his left arm in our direction. And then, George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States of America, extended his middle finger.



Read that last sentence again.

I got flipped off by George W. Bush.



A ponytailed man standing next to us confirmed the event, saying, "I do believe the President of the U.S. just gave you boys the finger." We laughed probably for the next half hour, and promptly told everyone we knew. Brendan actually snapped a picture of Bushy in action, but the glare and the tint of the bus windows make it difficult to see him at all. Nonetheless, it was the best possible reaction.



We pissed George W. Bush off. We are true patriots.




I nearly fell out of my chair reading this. First we have Dick "fuck yourself" Cheney and now Der Führer Preznit Bush goes around flipping the bird to protesters. Did these clowns ever graduate Junior High? Serially, is this what ol' Junior meant by "restoring honor and dignity" to the White House? Makes me long for the days of stained blue dresses.

Some more on the election "postponement" or cancellation possibility

Suffice it to say, there's plenty of discussion to be found:



Starting with Digby, here's two posts that might be of interest - Covering their bases, and Tin Foil Government. The latter post touches on an article in the Atlantic Monthly called The Armageddon Plan. Apparently these cats in the White House have been planning for at least a couple decades strategies for installing a new "president" in the event of a nuclear attack (and apparently later a terrorist attack). If I wanted a disturbing explanation for why Bu$hCo has behaved as it has in the aftermath of 9/11, I've clearly found it. Give it a read. Digby's summary is quite succinct:



What a huge mistake it ever was to let these paranoid wierdos have any control of the US Government. No wonder they all bought Myleroie's nutball theories.



If this is any guide at all, there is absolutely no reason to believe that they would hesitate to suspend elections, institute martial law and stage a coup. Indeed, it appears they've been training to do just that for more than 20 years.




Bu$hCo is certainly freaky-deaky (and not in the good meaning of the term as you might find in various funk tunes), and much in need of some serious heavy-duty doses of thorazine.



The blogging collective Seeing the Forest has also had a series of posts on the issue: Dave Johnson's White House Won't Guarantee Elections in November, which documents an exchange between WH spokesman Mclellan and a member of the WH press corps; Questions at the Left Coaster Too;



John Emerson has these offerings: I think that we should have a Presidential election this year, Will there be an Election? (Part III); and Election Futures Market, II, which links to several sources, including CNN and Newsweek articles on the possibility of an election day postponement.



Riba also has some cogent remarks in her post A republic, if you can keep it.



Basically, to me the upshot is this: To the extent that bringing up election postponements and vague terrorist threats can be considered "trial balloons" I'd agree with the general consensus that these trial balloons addressed as aggressively as possible. We need to do whatever is needed to debunk the mentality behind giving the White House carte blanche to postpone elections on a whim. I also agree that it is critical to get a public concession from all sides that in the event of a Kerry victory the outcome of the election is still legitimate (clearly I think there's a real potential for a number of folks in wingnut circles to question the legitimacy of a Kerry election even in the face of a landslide). The Democrat party brass will also need to show a great deal more courage in the event of election disputes than they have shown at any time in the recent past. On this point, I'm naturally skeptical of the Democrat leaders' ability to stay the course and defend their own. Doing so will be crucial because the goon squad in the White House is clearly willing to do whatever they can get away with in order to keep in power. Josh Marshall a while back referred to Bu$hCo as akin to a cornered wounded animal - with survival at stake they'll fight with everything they've got. That power they currently possess, they believe, is their Divine right - a notion that is alien to our Constitution (remember that little document; you know, the one that acts as a blueprint for our great experiment in elected representational government?).

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Civil Liberties Watch, Continued: American Authorities, The Paranoid and Racist

Humiliated, Angry, Ashamed, Brown.



I suppose a little background would help. The Hiram M. Chittenden Locks are a bit of a sore subject with me. I’d been over at the Locks earlier in the quarter, back at the beginning of April, taking photos of the picturesque landscape surrounding this prominent local landmark. I’d even left my subject and returned with more film just to try to get the right shot. Being new to photography, I made careful notes of my camera’s settings.



Within a half an hour of my returning home I found myself confronted by two uniformed Seattle Police officers, both of which had their hands casually resting on their sidearms. (This is definitely not something you want to see at the door of your home.) I was sincerely surprised and alarmed to learn they were looking for me!



They asked if I was taking photos of the train bridge, and I couldn’t help but laugh. I quickly pulled my notebook from my back pocket and explained that I was a new photography student over at Shoreline Community College, and showed them all of my notes — a list of exposures, subjects, f-stops, and shutter speeds. I think I talked to them for about five minutes, setting things straight and giving them all of the background information I could. They clarified that I hadn’t done anything wrong. I thought we were done.



“Can I see some ID?” one of the cops asked. I was really confused by this request. I’d already provided all the information I’d felt I’d needed to. If I hadn’t done anything wrong then why did they need to see my ID?




Suffice it to say, it goes downhill from there. The whole story can be found in Ian Spiers' artist's statement, which is back online. It's quite a chilling tale, capturing the paranoia and racism inherent in the American approach to real and imagined terrorist threats.



I've said it once, and I'll say it again. Americans are afraid of the wrong damn things. To paraphrase a line from Gil-Scott Heron, it's still winter in America.



Update: Before I forget, props to Damon Taylor on of the harbingers at American Samizdat, for his post, brown = terrorist, and don't forget to check out Ian's photography while you're at it. He's pretty good.

Some quotes to ponder

First, from Robert Reich via xymphora:



"The great conflict of the 21st century will not be between the West and terrorism. Terrorism is a tactic, not a belief. The true battle will be between modern civilization and anti-modernists; between those who believe in the primacy of the individual and those who believe that human beings owe their allegiance and identity to a higher authority; between those who give priority to life in this world and those who believe that human life is mere preparation for an existence beyond life; between those who believe in science, reason, and logic and those who believe that truth is revealed through Scripture and religious dogma. Terrorism will disrupt and destroy lives. But terrorism itself is not the greatest danger we face."




Next, Gwynn Dyer, in her column titled, Terrorism: We've Got Them Right Where They Want Us:



In fact, the Sept. 11 attacks were not aimed at American values, which are of no interest to the Islamists one way or another. They were an operation broadly intended to raise the profile of the Islamists in the Muslim world with the further specific goal of luring the United States into invading Muslim countries.



The true goal of the Islamists is to take power in Muslim countries, and their problem until recently was that they could not win over enough local people to make their revolutions happen. Getting the United States to march into the Muslim world in pursuit of terrorists was a potentially promising stratagem, since such an invasion would produce endless images of American soldiers killing and humiliating Muslims. That, in turn, might push enough people into the arms of the Islamists to get their long-stalled revolutions off the ground.



Specifically, the al-Qaida planners expected the United States to invade Afghanistan and get bogged down in the same long counterguerrilla war that the Russians had experienced there, providing years of horrifying images of American firepower killing innocent Muslims. Osama bin Laden and his colleagues were simply trying to relive their past success against the Russians and get some more mileage out of the Afghan scenario.




I think both quotes contain some kernels of truth. On the one hand, I think Reich has a point that there is a struggle between modernists and anti-modernists, although I'd temper that by suggesting that such a struggle has been with us for quite a long period of time. The dynamics of that struggle may be changing a bit as the Age of Enlightenment continues to recede into the historical backwaters, and perhaps that's what Reich is picking up on. What Dyer brings to the table is the notion that much of these struggles are basically local or at most national in their character rather than global. I suspect she may well be right that among the militants in the Middle East and Central Asia the US is at most merely a useful tool for persuading folks to side with right-wing fundamentalists bent on establishing "Islamic" theocracies, just as Al-Qaida is merely a tool for persuading Americans to side with right-wing fundamentalists bent on establishing a "Christian" theocracy here in the States. To the extent that the fearmongers succeed in persuading the masses that there is some vague external threat to their way of life, they win. I won't speak for the denizens of the Middle East and Central Asia, but I will say this about America: the real terrorist threat is located in the White House.

From the "Say it isn't so, Joe" Department:

Bush Cartel Talks of Steps to Potentially Cancel ("Postpone") the Presidential Election: This is For Real Folks!



What I most dislike about the Bu$hCo regime is its propensity for causing reasonable people to have to sound like the tinfoil hat brigade. Given the lengths Bu$hCo has gone to secure its own goals for unlimited power, however, I am cynical enough to expect that in a fit of desparation the regime would do everything possible to cancel the elections if the polls appeared to be going against them later this fall. If nothing else, it would be in character.



Speaking of acting "in character" I'd also expect that if Congressional Democrats are presented with "emergency legislation" that would authorize Bu$hCo's henchmen to cancel elections, they will cave in as they typically do. Daschle, who has about all the backbone of an amoeba, would sign his own death warrant if the GOP brass demanded it. Unfortunately many of his colleagues in the Senate and House Democratic caucus are similar to Daschle in the courage (or lack thereof) department, and so I would expect the worst from them. Naturally, this speaks to one of the hurdles facing the Democrats in winning the hearts and minds of otherwise sympathetic independent voters: we've been disappointed too many times, and whatever good will that the Democrat party brass has garnered in recent months will vanish if their elected representatives fail to stand up for basic liberty yet again. Whether the Democrat brass is truly up to the task of containing the only tangible terrorist threat this country faces - namely the current White House occupants - remains to be seen. Ever the good Missourian, my suggestion to Democrat Senators and Representatives is to "show me."

New John Fogerty Tune To Be Released Soon

John Fogerty's 'Déjà vu' song critical of Iraq war



Nice to see he's still writing and recording.