Saturday, January 1, 2005

Whatever you might think of those Bush-Hitler analogies,

they are getting harder and harder to ignore



Yeah, analogies only go so far, but the psychology behind fascists - regardless of the form in which the specific fascism is manifest - is remarkably similar. It's really the Strict Father worldview (see e.g., Lakoff's Don't Think of An Elephant) taken to its extreme. In the "strict father" worldview, the universe operates on a rigid hierarchy - God over humans, humans over nature, men over women, Whiteys over all other humans, etc. The strict father in family life is the head of the household who makes sure mom and the kids know their place. Kids are harshly disciplined in order to make sure they know right from wrong (as strict dad sees right and wrong) and when they come of age they are left to fend for themselves. The rigid order in fascist societies is much the same - the ruler and his political machine essentially operates as the strict father who must mete out discipline against unruly disidents, who governs from a very strict view of what constitutes right and wrong behavior, who makes sure that the laws favor those with wealth (they are presumably the "good people" on whom God has shined his light) and protect those "good" wealthy folks from all the rest of us. Those who don't toe the line are at best dismissed as irrelevant and if need be are eliminated altogether - Gulags, death camps, etc., can be used quite handily for dealing with uppity rabble. In international relations, the same approach is in operation - those other nations that act as "good kids" get rewarded, but all the others are punished either with sanctions or with war.



Yeah, Bush isn't exactly like Hitler - they just share the same basic worldview (a worldview shared interestingly enough by other despots such as Franco, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, Pinochet, etc.). Bu$hCo's "ism" utilizes different symbolism than Stalin, Mao, etc. - instead of Swastikas and Iron Crosses (or Hammer and sicle flags) the American flag, its national songs, the imagery associated with Protestant Christianity are hijacked and used to attempt to control the masses.

This year's word: Ubuntu

"Ubuntu", Humanist Declaration

It's a Bantu word we should make our own. It is so rich that linguists call a "crowditude" of other words to the rescue to express its nuances. "Ubuntu" is, in academic terms: "the quality inherent in the fact of being a person with other persons." When he uses it in his autobiography, Nelson Mandela translates it into English as "fellowship," literally camaraderie or, in the context "fellow citizenship." In fact, ubuntu means much more, well beyond that: a way of being human, a way of conducting oneself as a human being, a practice of mutual humanity. Also, far from being simplistic, Mandela's translation is at the heart of South African political invention, that unprecedented response anti-apartheid militants brought to the question every liberation poses: how to live together after hatred, after civil war, after crime against humanity? How to reconnect there where there was nothing but separation?



We know their response: by reconciling oneself to the truth. It will soon be ten years ago that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, chaired by Mgr. Desmond Tutu, was established by the South African Constitutive Assembly in 1995. Its power: to bestow individual amnesty, case by case, in exchange for complete revelation of their crimes, to the authors of serious violations of human rights associated with a political objective. No vengeance, no reprisals, but no oblivion, no getting off, no concealment. "Facing up" says the 1993 South African Provisional Constitution, to "a heritage of hatred, of fear" on the basis of a "need for ubuntu and not victimization."


There's more to read and ponder, all consistent with Lakoff's "nurturing parent" frame.

The "strict father" frame in action

For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath showed no mercy points to a pair of press releases from the Westboro Baptist Church (Topeka, KS) cheering the recent Tsunami as the "will of God". Here are the releases (as pdf files):



Thank God for Tsunami & 2,000 dead Swedes!!!



Thank God for Tsunami. Thank God for 3,000 dead Americans!



Get the impression these cats won't be donating any money for relief efforts?

No child left behind?

Cuba's educational system is the envy of the world. I kid you not:

"In [one particular] study, Cuba had the highest level of student achievement and the smallest variation in parents' educational attainment. Detailed analyses of the LLECE data revealed several factors in Cuba's success, including universal day care, more prevalence of home educational activities, smaller class sizes, higher levels of school and classroom material resources, better-trained teachers, greater parental involvement in school, a strong classroom disciplinary climate and relatively few multigrade or ability-grouped classes."

US "Generosity"

Putting it into perspective in the wake of the Tsunami that has killed so many:



The US's shameful response

..both on a per capita basis and as a percentage of the nation's wealth, America's emergency relief in Asia and development aid to poor countries actually ranks at the bottom of the list of developed nations...



...As of yesterday, the amount the United States has pledged is eclipsed by the $96 million promised by Britain, a country with one-fifth the population, and by the $75 million vowed by Sweden, which amounts to $8.40 for each of its 9 million people. Denmark's pledge of $15.6 million amounts to roughly $2.90 per capita.



The US donation is 12 cents per capita.




See also: Comparative Relief and The Nattering Nabob.

Something that caught my attention:

The Slippery Slope of Abortion



The clip of interest to me:

The act of getting pregnant is not a conscious one on the part of women. No amount of hoping to get pregnant or not get pregnant will alter whatever biological process results from sexual intercourse. Pregnancy, however, is an extremely conscious process regardless of whether or not a women is allowed the choice to carry the pregnancy to term or not. A woman knows if the fetus she carries will be a “wanted” or “unwanted” child. She knows this in her being or her soul. It will affect her hormonal levels during pregnancy and that in turn affects the development of the fetus. Is this difference measurable? I don’t know. I do know that “wanted” children get a birthright of great value.



Only one large longitudinal study looking at this question has ever been performed. It was in USSR controlled Czechoslovakia. Abortion was illegal but requests could be made to the state and in very rare instances would be granted. These women who applied for an abortion but had their requests denied were the control group for the “unwanted” children. Each of these women was matched with pregnant women of similar socio-economic status. All of the children who were studied for the next two decades were equally well cared for and not abused. Those who measured the development of the children were unaware of which children were in which group and may not even have been aware of the larger study question. Extraordinary care was taken to insure that all variables were well controlled for and the only significant difference between the groups was being “wanted” or “unwanted.” On the basis of social, emotional and cognitive development at every measurement point, there was a statistical difference between the two groups. The differences did not get smaller but larger over time. The differences were so striking that upon the completion of the study when the government was presented with the results, abortion was quickly legalized. My question is, how moral is it require the births of people who will be denied the birthright of being wanted by one’s mother?




A quote from Ursula Rucker (describing her poem about her brother "The Return To Innocence Lost" featured on The Roots' album, Things Fall Apart):

It is my belief that from the moment of conception, a human's life can be pre-determined. By pre-determined, I mean to say that a fetus, while still in the womb, can be greatly affected ... both physiologically and emotionally by his/her's mother's emotional experience. If abuse and declension have been the rule during the mother's pregnancy, then abuse and declension could very well rule the baby's life once born. In "Return To Innocence Lost" this happens to "First Son". Some can fight pre-determination. "First Son" succombs to demons, personal and peripheral, thus giving u[p] the fight quite early in life. "Return To Innocence Lost is also the story of a man who hides his innocence out of fear. A fear to face his own life. So he dons a cloak of bravado and a bad boy image pretending to be evil himself, when, really, he was never evil at all...just innocent.


I chose both quotes to try to humanize the sociological data a bit - to make it come a bit more alive for you, the reader. What the religious right-wingers refuse to do is to give a damn about the fetus once it is born. What the data described above (along with the brief description of Ursula Rucker's brother) is a sort of pre-determination. Let's face it - unplanned pregnancies are stressful under even the best of circumstances. Under circumstances in which the pregnancy is both unplanned and unwanted we have to realize that the mother is under even more emotional turmoil, and that her emotional turmoil occurs within a context regarding her own personal and financial resources, social stigma regarding sex outside of marriage, etc. The fetus, intimately connected to the mother via the umbilical cord is going to be affected by whatever is going on with the mother. Her stress produces neurochemical changes that in turn affect the fetus, and could have seemingly minute but later profound harmful effects on its neurological development (in terms of brain structure and function) and later its social development.



The fundies (who are largely guided by the "strict father" frame) of course don't care, and will likely stick to their "feel good" belief that good things happen to good people and that bad things happen to those who are bad - the overly simplistic just world belief. The mothers who would have otherwise terminated their pregnancies "deserve" the stress and torment that they suffer. They can also write off those fetuses who grow up to be adults who simply cannot fight their pre-determination as undeserving bad people, who will be punished from conception until the grave.



Marie's conclusion (based on a "nurturing parent" frame) bears repeating:

Women who choose to be mothers make better babies. Better babies become happier, healthier and more productive people. Doesn't the survival of the planet depend on happy, healthy and productive people?

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

You go through life with the reality you have

not the one you wish for. A terse Fiskian statement to introduce a Fisk column, In This Mire Of Death, Lies And Atrocities, We Glimpse The Ghost Of Vietnam, a few clips of which follow below:

It is difficult, over the past year, to think of anything that has not gone wrong or grown worse in Iraq. The electrical grid is collapsing again, the petrol queues are greater than they were in the days following the illegal invasion in 2003, and security is non-existent in all but the Kurdish north of the country.



[...]



Yet, still the invaders go on telling us that things are getting better, that Iraq is about to enter the brotherhood of nations. Bush even got re-elected after telling this lie. The body bags are returning home more frequently than ever - we are not supposed to ask how many Iraqis are dying - yet still we are told that the invasion was worthwhile, that Iraqis are better off, that security will improve or - my favourite, this one - that they will get worse, the nearer we get to elections.



This is the same old story that Bush and Rumsfeld used to put about last spring: that things are getting better - which is why the insurgents are creating so much violence; in other words, the better things are, the worse things are going to get. When you read this nonsense in Washington or London, it might make sense. In Baghdad, it is madness. I wouldn't want to try it out on the young American soldiers who were so arrogantly informed by Rumsfeld that "you go to war with the army you have".



[...]



Which leads us to the one clear fact about the last year of chaos and anarchy and brutality in Iraq. We still do not know who our enemies are. Save for the one name, "Zarqawi", the Americans - with all the billions of dollars they have thrown into intelligence, their CIA mainframe computers and their huge payments to informers - simply do not know whom they are fighting. They "recapture" Samarra - three times - and then they lose it again. They "recapture" Fallujah and then they lose it again. They cannot even control the main streets of Baghdad.



Who would have believed, in 2003, as US forces drove into Baghdad, that within two years they would be mired in their biggest guerrilla war since Vietnam? Those few of us who predicted just that - and The Independent was among them - were derided as nay-sayers, doom-mongers, pessimists.


Ah yes, I remember well...as a fellow nay-sayer (doom-monger, pessimist, etc.) I find myself saying over and over again "I told you so." Given the scope of the Iraq quagmire and the tragic consequences for countless tens of thousands of Iraqis and of course those "coalition" troops (and their families) I find being right to be unsatisfying indeed. The Iraq war was a violation of trust by Bu$hCo, by Blair. That Bu$hCo appears to have been rewarded for having so badly violated the trust his citizens give the office of President is all the more tragic. This is one sad story that will only continue to get worse until some sort of regime change occurs here in the US. I suppose Bu$hCo is sufficiently scandal-plagued to where the regime may simply implode, collapse under the weight of their collective hubris. That remains to be seen.

Trying to figure out what's wrong with the Preznit?

PHOTOS Show George W. Bush Seriously Ill Physically. This is something I've touched on before, so here's some more grist for the mill.

Saw some tsunami coverage on tv today

Not much I can say. Latest Reuters report has the death toll at 68,000 and climbing. Here's a link to check out if you want more info, want to know where to contribute $ to the relief effort, etc..

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Where's the conservative outrage to torture?

Nowhere to be found, apparently. What does that tell us about conservative values?

Remember this Democrats: Don't Think Like an Elephant

Steve Gilliard clearly gets it. Read No more of the same and Duh, we don't kill babies, we kill them and eat them

for proof. The former (with a classic Howard Dean pic) lays out what's at stake with the DNC chair election, and why having a reformer (whether Dean or someone else) is crucial. The latter post gets at the importance of being able to clearly articulate your ideas. There's an old expression that I recall from a Vonnegut novel (Cat's Cradle): "Any scientist who cannot explain his ideas to a nine year old is a charlatan." I'd say the same for any policy wonk or political consultant. It's obvious to me that the Democrats have plenty of charlatans advising them who need to be unceremoniously fired. Donna Brazile is merely one of them who needs to be avoided like the plague. It's simple: know your core values, be able to articulate those values, use those values for framing policy. The policies will flow coherently from those values - the frames will make those policies understandable to your audience.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Skeletons in Big Pharma's Closet

Big Pharma's Dirty Little Secret is Out



Some things that caught my attention:

The American healthcare system is the best in the world. Or so we are often told. But is it really true?



It is certainly the best system for drug companies, which can charge the highest prices in the world to some U.S. consumers. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that average prices for patented drugs in 25 other top industrialized nations were 35% to 55% lower than in the United States.



And it is a pretty good system for hospitals, insurance companies and others that deliver healthcare services. Americans spend about twice as much per person for healthcare as do Canadians, Japanese or Europeans, according to the World Health Organization.



But it's not a good system for American citizens. The U.S. has shorter life expectancies and higher infant and child mortality rates than Canada, Japan and all of Western Europe except Portugal, according to the WHO.



[...]



Our dirty little secret is that the drug industry already sells its products, right here in the U.S., at the same low prices charged in Canada and Europe. It's done through rebates. These are given to those with enough power to negotiate drug prices, such as the VA.

A 2001 study by the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen found that drug companies' favorite customers paid just a little over half the retail price. This leaves the 67 million Americans without insurance to pay cash, with no rebates, at double the prices paid by the most-favored customers.



The fight against re-importation of drugs is a fight to continue to charge our uninsureds full price while giving everyone else a rebate.




There's more...

Holy Crap!

From a news story via No Capital

Muslims planned to turn an old sod farm near Memphis into a cemetery, but angry neighbors protested, complaining the burial ground could become a staging ground for terrorists or spread disease from unembalmed bodies.



It was not the first time a group faced opposition when trying to build a cemetery or a mosque, but the dispute stood out for the clarity of its anti-Muslim rhetoric.



"We know for a fact that Muslim mosques have been used as terrorist hideouts and centers for terrorist activities," farmer John Wilson told members of a planning commission last month.

Top Ten Most Outrageous Statements of 2004

And with those wingnuts, you know this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Add Cuba to the list of countries Bu$hCo must invade

Castro Announces Crude Oil Discovery

HAVANA -- President Fidel Castro said a crude oil deposit has been discovered off Cuba containing up to 100 million barrels, good news for a country that imports about half the petroleum it needs.



"This is the first discovery since 1999," Castro said Friday in a speech to a closed session of the National Assembly. His comments were aired on state television Saturday.



Castro said the deposit was located off the coast of Santa Cruz del Norte, east of Havana, during an exploratory drilling. He said production at the site could begin during 2006.



Cuba currently produces 75,000 barrels daily, about half of what it needs. It imports most of the rest, much of it on favorable terms from political ally Venezuela.



Oil specialists believe Cuba's waters in the Gulf of Mexico could contain large quantities of crude, just as those of Mexico and the United States do. Earlier explorations turned up only modest discoveries.


Hmmmmm....I wonder how long before we hear the same neocongame that we've experienced over Iraq and most recently Iran.

Canadian Newsmaker of the Year

Seeking the Truth: How one man’s quest for justice is quietly reshaping a nation’s values and law

Who is Maher Arar? We all know the basic contours of his story. In 2002, U.S. officials detained the Canadian software engineer at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. They alleged that he was linked to al-Qaeda and secretly deported him to Syria, where he says he was tortured. When Arar was freed more than a year later and the public got a glimpse of him, he seemed to be a likable, hard-working family man caught up in a monstrous international screwup. Was there more? Simultaneously, officials, most of them anonymous, were leaking information and dropping hints suggesting that Arar was a security risk with something to hide.



Well, if Arar is a terrorist, he is unlike any other. In contrast to other suspects dispatched to harsh justice, Arar did not vanish into oblivion in his Middle East cell. Nor, after his release, did he recoil from public view. Instead, Arar, who has a modest home in Ottawa, has stepped into the spotlight as a vocal proponent of human rights in Canada, a symbol of how fear and injustice have permeated life in the West since 9/11. To this day, it has not been revealed why Arar was detained. And no one has pushed harder to shed light on his case than Arar. “I have nothing to hide,” he said in late 2003. “I want a public inquiry.”



Arar got his wish. His perseverance—not to mention the absence of evidence against him—helped prod Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan in January 2004 to create a commission to investigate the matter. There is more at stake than just learning the truth. The commission may come up with a new plan for overseeing the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which is accused of botching its end of the case. Arar has launched two gutsy lawsuits in 2004 targeting some of the most powerful people on the continent, including U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller, former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and R.C.M.P. Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli.



Whatever the outcome, Arar has forced Canada to rethink how it balances human rights and security concerns. His struggle has revealed troubling details about how Canada’s police and intelligence agencies share information with foreign governments. And his case is a disturbing reminder of America’s outsize role in the world, particularly since 9/11, and has prompted fresh debate on the harsh powers of Canada’s Anti-Terrorism Act. Before Arar’s situation surfaced, Canadians largely felt that security excesses were a “distant, complicated” problem, says Alex Neve, head of Amnesty International Canada. “It wasn’t until Maher came home that Canadians realized that this is also about us.”


There's more.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Dude, where's my vote?

The Sideshow has an excellent summary on the importance of votes and GOP reluctance to respect our voters' expectation that their votes will actually be counted.

Christmas present to my son

As I don't usually have a lot of spare money to play with, I don't have the means to buy a lot of toys for my kids. So instead I avail myself to them in other ways. Today I took my son to Crystal Cove State Beach (part of Crystal Cove State Park, where we walked along beach trails, did some tide pooling, and otherwise just grooved on the beautiful sunny winter weather along the coast. I took some pix, so hopefully will eventually have something scanned to post on the blog. The toys will be forgotten within a few weeks - the memories of spending a special day with dad will last a lifetime.

Keeping up the discussion on US human rights abuses

Loaded Mouth points to a summary of the memgate coverage by Dateline Bristol. Well-worth reading. This is a story that, since the Abu Ghraib photos made their appearance, refuses to go away despite the best efforts of our mainstream media and FauxNews propagandists. Kudos to the ACLU and a Bronx cheer to the what passes for journalism in the US these days.