Flimsy Sanity: August 2008

Flimsy Sanity

In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule. - Friedrich Nietzsche

Sunday, August 31, 2008


I think single issue voters are rather naive when they are gun or abortion ones, but I am seriously considering becoming a single issue person myself. I think torture is such a horror that POW McCain's former maverick stand against it was the one thing that redeemed him. Now that he is an advocate for the same, I have come to believe all the stories about his preferential POW treatment because he was the son of an admiral. I just don't see how anyone who was supposedly tortured could ever agree to do it to others unless it was the detachment that comes with PTSD in which the victim no longer has empathy - which should make him too unstable to be President.

As to torture itself, media devotes a little attention to waterboarding but the psychological things are worse. Take sleep deprivation for one example.

This American Life is in my humble opinion the most interesting thing available on any media. This week's episode (on most NPR stations on Sunday night and available free next week on the site) contains a segment interviewing a winner in the Longview Texas Patterson Nissan "Hands on a Hardbody" contest in which people get a free pickup if they can be the last one standing. He talks about how you go insane without sleep. The contest is no longer held because of this settlement over a suicide.

Most people think that the suit was frivolous because the contestants volunteered to remain sleepless. This comment on the case is especially interesting:
We are the trial lawyers who prosecuted and settled the Patterson Nissan “Hands On A Hardbody” case for the widow, infant son and mother. It never fails to astound either of us when yahoos are willing to read a few lines of a news article and make immediate, outrageous conclusions about things they know very little or in some cases absolutely nothing about.

Simply stated, those who are condemning this suit and the settlement this family received have the distinct advantage of not being encumbered by any of the relevant facts…….
Are you aware that multiple previous contestants lost their sanity while in this contest? One thought he was in Oklahoma, another thought a jet plane was landing in the parking lot, another jumped a fence and ran out into traffic, another thought he was pushing daisies down on the hood of the car, while another thought temporary power cables were huge black snakes that were coming after the contestants.

The contest had been so bizarre in the past that a full length documentary (Hands On A Hardbody, directed by S.R. Bindler, 1997) had been made. Using sleep deprivation to bring on forms of insanity gained notoriety when the North Koreans used it to get information from our soldiers in the Korean War. Scientists have discussed the seriousness of sleep deprivation for years. See: Current Biology 2007 “Human Brain without Sleep” where a study by doctors from Harvard University Medical School and The University of California, Berkley used radiologic findings to link sleep deprivation to “…mood disorders (including bipolar disorder) and losses in the ability to react appropriately to negative stimuli …”. Martin C. Moore-Ede, M.D., Ph.D. is one of, if not the, the leading sleep deprivation experts in the world. Dr. Moore-Ede wrote a very detailed report to the Court in this matter explaining that proper, recognized safety procedures were not followed by the dealership; people suffering from insomnia have a four-fold higher rate of attempted suicide according to a 1984 published study; a 1997 study concluded that with only 24 hours sleep deprivation people are impaired as if drunk; and 80% of people suffer hallucinations by 48 hours according to a 1989 study.

Ironically, the effect of sleep deprivation steals the contestants’ ability to make a logical decision to drop out of the contest once they begin to loss mental capacity, leaving some contestants trapped.

The balance test for liability in this type of case compares the possibility of harm and the gravity of harm on one side of the scale and the costs of avoiding the risk on the other. A simple exit strategy in which a qualified health care professional cleared contestants to leave would have avoided all of the examples I listed and many more. Without this precaution someone in the contest was destined to either harm themselves or another.
Blake Bailey, Tyler , TX
C.D. “Chuck” Cowan, Tyler, TX

Inducing insanity is so much more cruel than drowning a person since I think most people would prefer death to destruction of their sanity.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Pepsi or Coke

I find it kind of ironic that the Democratic convention was held at the Pepsi Center. The Republican/Democratic preference and the Coke/Pepsi debate is an easy analogy. No matter which you choose you will be drinking the corporate cola.

For example I cannot believe how many democrat blogs believe Georgia was innocent in the recent Russian "invasion". Can't they read? How can they call themselves political junkies? I know the Republicans depend on Nixon pal Roger Ailes's Fox news and the Moonie Washington Times, but where do Democrats get their biased news? Oh well, so goes the Pepsi generation.

Spent the morning watching Nader's speech in front of 4000 Denverites while sipping some tap water. Great. No sugar rush (or should I say corn syrup rush) but although some may say it is flat and boring, at least it is not horrible if you let it linger awhile.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Your Brain on Stress - PTSD

The Pentagon is going to spend $300 million on researching PTSD and brain injuries. I could possibly see spending that much money researching some phenomenon that has never been seen before but child abuse, spousal abuse, homeless Vietnam veterans, any number of traumas leading to this syndrome are as common as dirt and develop when an individual is helpless to control his/her situation. John Read, in Models of Madness explains that the majority of mentally ill have been abused or lived extremely stressful lives. Psychiatry used to attempt to help people deal with problems, but now they just prescribe a pill for chemical imbalance that dulls rather than resolves the problem. Unfortunately the pill usually brings a basketfull of metabolic changes with it. The Wikipedia entry on PTSD is all about brain changes with little space devoted to the causes.

Regarding "changes in the brain": Of course, stress causes all kinds of body changes - and historically not remedied by a medical solution. In the book, The Trouble with Testosterone and other Essays on The Biology of the Human Predicament by Robert Sapolsky, he talks about how poor people's corpses (in a previous, interesting section on grave robbing and unscrupulous morticians) were used exclusively for early medical training.
Consider the adrenal gland. When the owner of the organ is in a fight or flight state, the adrenal gland excretes adreneline and a class of steroids known as glucocotticoids which speed up the heart rate and the metabolism. People who live in chronically stressful conditions place a constant demand on their adrenal glands to produce the hormones and the glands may grow larger in compensation...But medical scientists before the 1930's did not know this fact. Physicians, examining cadavers predominantly of the poor, thought they were learning what a normal adrenal gland looks like, instead and unknowingly, they were observing the physiological effects of a lifetime of poverty, On the infrequent occasion when the body of someone with a higher income was examined, it was noted that the adrenal glands seemed oddly undersized - lighter in average weight than the ones mentioned in pathology journals and not at all like the ones observed in medical school. Unfamiliar with the appearance of a normal adrenal gland, physicians invented a new disease to explain their discovery: idiopathic adrenal atrophy...This "disease" flourished in the early twentieth century.

When a person is in a state of stress, the hormones secreted by the adrenal glands suppress the immune response. The chronic stress experienced by poverty-stricken people eventually can cause glands essential to the immune system, such as the thymus, located in the throat, to shrivel away to virtually nothing. As a result a disproportionately large amount of autopsy material - derived as it is from people with diseases caused by chronic stress and deprivation - included atrophied thymus glands. Thus what was regarded in the 1930's as a normal sized thymus was actually a greatly shrunken one. The stage was set for a horrendous medical blunder.
For some time pediatricians had identified a relatively new disorder known colloquially as crib death and now sudden infant death syndrome...A pathologist named Paltauf working at the end of the nineteenth century, adopted a logical course of research. He carefully autopsied SIDS infants and compared the results with autopsies on non-SIDS infants. It is perfectly obvious today what was occurring. The latter group, of course, had died of chronic, stressful illnesses that caused thymic atrophy, whereas the former had died suddenly. In examining the SIDS infants, Paltauf was the first pathologist to be systematically observing normal-sized thymuses.

But he had no way of knowing this, and Paltauf framed a hypothesis for the cause of SIDS that got normal and abnormal confused. In some infants, it seemed to him, the thymus was so abnormally enlarged tht during sleep it pressed down on the trachea, suffocating the infant. By the turn of the century the disorder had a name, status thymicolymphaticus, and by the 1920s all the leading pediatric textbooks were offering the same advice: To prevent SIDS infants' throats should be irradiated to shrink the menacing thymus. The treatment became the pediatric fad, persisting well into the 1950s. The spurious cure for this spurious disease eventually led to tens of thousands of cases of thyroid cancer.

Wouldn't establishing many local weekly meetings modeled on the AA peer counseling model be more useful to people who should talk about things in a safe, non-judgmental environment over and over until even they get bored with it and move on? A great many of the people who suffer from wartime PTSD do so because they feel guilty about what they did or helpless to stop atrocities and this does not harmonize with being treated as a hero upon returning to their homes. Of course, a child being abused is in a worse predicament because he/she is alone - not surrounded by buddies - but society as a whole suffers from victims of PTSD because a major coping mechanism is detachment. There are reasons why most violent criminals come from abused childhoods and why PTSD soldiers cannot cope with returning and turn to suicide and street fighting. No studies needed here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Blog Comments

I like to read other blogs besides my sidebar favorites. Not the ones that are really popular but the ones that are just little people like me that like to write and hope that someone will read it and find it worthy of a little discussion. Since a comment to me is like a pet is to my dog Harriet, I usually try and comment on other people's even if sometimes I disagree. Sometimes I will read their past entries and there are months that have gone by with no comments, but they still have all these roadblocks. I just cannot believe that so many people are so inundated with spam that you have to go through that horrible verification process of smashed together letters. I took it off long time ago, and honestly I don't get spam and if I did, it is so simple to delete. The only thing worse is the comment moderation where the blogger has to approve of what you say. Why all the protection when people are writing under made up identities anyway? What word would you find so offensive that others would be ruined forever so you have to check it like a teacher before you let people see it? Who is so frightened of an opposing opinion that they have to squash it? End of rant.

Drinking Age

College administrators are recommending that the drinking age should be lowered so that students would drink more responsibly instead of dying from binge drinking.

Since the 60's, we have been dragging out that old "If you can die for your country, you should be able to drink." How about this? If you are old enough to drink, you are old enough to die for your country. I think that a underage drinking conviction that results in automatic military enlistment would be a wonderful way to cull the college herd while at the same time replenishing the depleted military. Unlike the draft, the recruits would self select. The military needs people that are aggressive (like drunks - you seldom see pot smokers fight) and irresponsible enough to damn the consequences. Any more, most poor folks cannot afford to send their kids to college so it might seem a little unfair to the rich jerks, but heck, that might just put an end to senseless wars.

Race Relations in a Nutshell

Found this as a comment:
wtf!... i was born in the U.S.A and im still mexican and im NOT an imigrant! you freaking white people dont understand that mexican people only come here to work ... we dont wanna harm you or anything!.. but you white people are just gay.. and yeah .. F*** all of you mexican haters!!!!!!.. and we dont say anything to you white asses when you go to mexico for "spring brake" so why do you guys hate us so much!?.....im mexican and i dont have a problem with white people!.. but i hate people from WATEMALA!!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sharon Brown vs Osteen

Barbara Ehrenreich's latest blog post is about evangelist Joel Osteen's wife throwing a hissy fit about a dirty armrest and shoving the stewardess for not cleaning it up quickly. The stewardess is suing them for 10 percent of their huge fortune because she lost her faith and got hemorrhoids from the incident. Making them tithe and saying they are a pain in the ass...priceless. I hope this Sharon Brown wins or at least gets her own comedy show.

UPDATE: Damn, she lost. Good try anyway and the hemorrhoid thing was a nice, bold move - if she were a fraud, she would have said a bad back cause that is so hard to prove, unlike...well, you know.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Lesser of Two Evils

Whenever you bring up Nader's name among Democrats you always get the crap about how he took votes from Gore and that is why we are in two, going on three (or more) wars and on the brink of economic collapse. How naive can one be? It is just more of the "kiss up, kick down, find a little someone (preferably a woman) to fall on the sword" absolution theory that works so well. It is why Lyndy England, Susan McDougal, Janis Karpinski have name recognition.

Politicians always use sports terms, and it IS all a game. Take abortion for example. This is an issue that is guaranteed to bring voters to the polls because they think that something so horrible and clearcut as murdering babies needs to be stopped. For awhile, republicans had control of the three branches of government and it would have been easy for them to make abortion illegal for this group of supporters, but they did not. It is a valuable, reliable vote-getting tool and they did not want to discard it. Same with the democrats and their feigned concern for working people. They initiate a minimum wage law that won't take effect for years in a time of rapid inflation. How bold a move unlike impeachment for an insane administration because that would mean the reduction of powers that soon might be theirs, theirs, theirs! Remember it was a democratic administration that threw the social security fund in with the general fund. It is the democrats who engage us in the most wars.

Republicans seem to act and then the second team democrats react. I hate sports but even I know that is called offense and defense. McCain's website had a counter counting how long it has been since Obama visited Baghdad, so Obama makes the trip. McCain says Obama is over-exposed so Barack goes on vacation in the middle of a campaign. All democrats try to show that they are hawkish so that they won't appear weak even though polls show the country is overwhelmingly anti-war and an obvious winning voting issue. David Brooks had an essay on how the Asian mentality is hive like and Americans are individualistic. More yellow peril crap and some social scientist (check Metafilter a couple days ago) called him on all the references he misinterpreted but you have to admit a hive mentality gets things done. What is more hive like (and less individualistic) than the military (the darling of the lawn order republicans) or how the republicans support McCain (who many hate). So maybe the Republicans are more evil just because they are more focused and accomplish evil at a faster pace.

Diagnosing evil levels is difficult so it is a good thing we have Hitler. Killing rich people is the crown jewel of "evil". We don't usually mention the mentally ill, homosexuals, gypsies, Communists, or the Jehovah Witnesses that the Germans exterminated also. That is the way we all operate when we judge evil - by the victim's economic class. 9-11 was so horrific because it was stock brokers, not sheepherders. The Titanic was so heartbreaking because it was the failure of a LUXURY ship not a slave trader's boat. Hitler is judged worse than King Leopold. 6 million jews tops 8 million niggers.

America doesn't have a vast history of goodness, in fact if it wasn't for Hitler we wouldn't have anything to brag about. We have our own indigenous people holocaust, slavery, the atomic bomb on Japan, nearly continuous wars, and I fear a coming Mexican immigrants killing/imprisonment when our economy fails and the anger of the poverty stricken white trash is directed against an even poorer class who won't matter when we tally up "evil". I think it was Linda Ellerbee that used to sign off with "so it goes".

I am not so stupid to believe that someone like Nader could make much of a dent in so corrupt a system but I think he is not evil and he would probably write his own speeches. Of course he won't win, but that is precisely why he is free to tell some truth rather than pandering. The news media will not cover him, but he has a site that all can read and anyone still listening to mainstream media is a drone anyway. I am so thankful he is in the race so that I can have a protest vote counted provided of course the media mentions the "also rans" independents.

The Disaster Bubble

The Disaster Bubble

Excuse me my 4 faithful readers, but I sometimes use my blog as a file cabinet for really great articles. I used to use del.icio.us but I forgot my password so I just stuck this on-line section of Naomi Klein's book here.

I sometimes think the surveillance business is not about ferreting out terrorists in the least. Remember how J Edgar Hoover did not pursue the Mafia because they had information about his peccideillos. Good way to shut up dissenters. A paranoid might think that is why so many left leaning bloggers have quit.

Investor Mind

Propaganda as usual

New York Times spreads the progaganda
As part of an all-out Western media campaign to bury the simple fact that Georgia invaded South Ossetia a week ago today -- an act of aggression which led, subsequently, to Russia's response -- Thursday's NYT's top headline helps to further instill the lie, at home and abroad, that Bush and the U.S government are truly concerned about the welfare of Georgians and human beings generally.

On July 15, Reuters reported (and MSNBC.com published, though the page has since "expired") that "one thousand U.S. troops began a military training exercise in Georgia on Tuesday against a backdrop of growing friction between Georgia and neighbouring Russia." The report continues: "The main purpose of these exercises is to increase the cooperation and partnership between U.S. and Georgian forces," Brigadier General William B. Garrett, commander of the U.S. military's Southern European Task Force, told reporters. This was reported on July 15, one month ago.

And from Don't Know Much About History... By Alexander Cockburn in CounterPunch:

I don’t believe for a moment there was a carefully rounded US plot to lure Putin into his foray into South Ossetia, maybe as cover for an impending attack on Iran. That’s nonsense. But there are obviously American players with an identifiable motive for encouraging Saakashvili to believe that his onslaught on South Ossetia would receive support more substantial than some pro forma quacks of protest from George Bush, dragging his eyes from comely volley ball players in Beijing to the anodyne text placed in font of him by his advisors. Republican contender John McCain needs bare-knuckle confrontations with America’s enemies. In such eyeball-to-eyeball crises he can strut before the cameras as the seasoned warrior with “experience”, unafraid to lead America to the very brink of nuclear Armageddon. Ever since Harry Truman in 1948, it’s been a reliable way of getting elected as President.

McCain’s chief foreign policy advisor, a rabid hawk called Randy Scheunemann, has until recently worn two hats, acting as McCain’s lead foreign policy man and also as a lobbyist for Georgia. Filings by the McCain campaign and reports to the US Department of Commerce required of all lobbyists acting for foreign governments show that between Jan. 1, 2007, and May 15, 2008, the McCain campaign paid Scheunemann nearly $70,000 and, across the same period , the government of Georgia paid Scheunemann’s firm,Orion Strategies, $290,000 in lobbying fees. Scheuneman has since quit the lobbying firm, a 2-man operation.

So Scheunemann indubitably had the ears of both Saakashvili and of McCain. What advice he tendered his patrons is a matter of speculation, but any advisor to McCain would certainly regard a vintage cold-war era confrontation between the United States and Russia as potentially a huge plus for McCain. The Republican candidate certainly seized the opportunity for manly bluster about Russia’s conduct.

According to a Daily Kos entry Black soldiers wearing American emblems were killed in Georgia.

It seems very, very likely that there are Blackwater personnel fighting in Georgia against Russian soldiers. This is so wrong in so many ways.

...this has the potential to involve the United States in a fight against the choosing of our elected government because a bunch of fuckwits want to go play soldier of fortune. If they are in fact Blackwater, why they hell are they wearing American emblems. What right do they have to claim the protection of the US government while fighting in a war to which we are not a party?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Waterboard Him Til He Confesses

This was Interesting

Michael Moore's prescription for a Democratic win. I don't respect Moore as much as I used to because he turned on Nader; however he can write a good essay.

I was riding the bus today and a clearly Democratic old woman said that she was not going to vote this year because if a neegro got in there would be race riots. So it goes here in the middle of racism America where bigots rent planes during the fair to fly around "deport illegals" banners.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Would a Depression Readjust our Values?

I read somewhere that the economy tanks about every 80 years, about the time that all the old people who remember the last one die. My mom talks about the 30's and how they lived with no money. They mined their own coal (crappy but supplied some heat), canned their own meat and vegetables, home brewed, entertained themselves by barn dances with live band music from the neighborhood, lived within a few miles of their relatives and visited with their neighbors and exchanged labor with both. She talks of being so poor that they carried lunches made of lard sandwiches to school but that everyone else was also poor. I really think the music of the times reflects the attitudes of the era and the kids listened to crooning love songs.

Now we are in the era of kids who look like they are getting chemo or modeling themselves after Nazi skinheads, arms look like they are from a tribe of masochistic headhunters, and music that is so misanthropic and angry that I feel violated just listening to it. The favorite dog breed seems to be the pit bull. Easy money with no work seems to be the goal. I read the reviews of the documentary "Cocaine Cowboys" and all the young people love it because of all the scenes of massive drugs and stacks and stacks of money and the never ending bragging. (Don't bother renting it as it is pretty boring - my review.)

There is a slim chance that people will band together to survive, but I think the surly young people I meet would kill you for a can of corn and do a little Mexican hunting for entertainment.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The History of GDP

Harper's excellent article on Our Phony Economy or as Edward Abbey said, "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell".

More Stuff I Never Knew

750 Million Dollar House sold to Russian. Originally built by King Leopold for a mistress. Did your history books ignore this little tycoon? Here is a little from Amazon:.
King Leopold of Belgium, writes historian Adam Hochschild in this grim history (King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa), did not much care for his native land or his subjects, all of which he dismissed as "small country, small people." Even so, he searched the globe to find a colony for Belgium, frantic that the scramble of other European powers for overseas dominions in Africa and Asia would leave nothing for himself or his people. When he eventually found a suitable location in what would become the Belgian Congo, later known as Zaire and now simply as Congo, Leopold set about establishing a rule of terror that would culminate in the deaths of 4 to 8 million indigenous people, "a death toll," Hochschild writes, "of Holocaust dimensions." Those who survived went to work mining ore or harvesting rubber, yielding a fortune for the Belgian king, who salted away billions of dollars in hidden bank accounts throughout the world. Hochschild's fine book of historical inquiry, which draws heavily on eyewitness accounts of the colonialists' savagery, brings this little-studied episode in European and African history into new light. --Gregory McNamee

And from a review:
In a tour de force of characterization, Hochschild portrays Leopold as a petulant and greedy monster who decided at a young age that the way to wealth was ownership of an African colony and the subjugation of its inhabitants. Leopold initially made his profits through the exportation of ivory, but his bureaucrats struck gold with the expansion of the international rubber market.

The victims were the natives, who lost not only their land and their freedom, but often their lives. There is no pretty way for Hochschild to tell this story: Leopold's officials used unbelievably harsh methods to force the locals to collect rubber--all in the name of bringing them European civilization, Christian charity, and a Western work ethic. In addition to taking wives and children hostage (in subhuman conditions) until the men made their quotas, soldiers would torture or kill the inhabitants if they faltered. One of the most grisly aspects of this calculatingly orchestrated version of modern slavery was the severing of hands--and their collection into baskets as proof of killings--as a means of terrorizing the population. The wonder of it all is that Leopold and his agents managed to keep most of these deeds secret and even disguised his colony as a charity for the benefit of "pagan" African natives.

Prisoner Boxes

US puts Iraqi Prisoners in Boxes Desert heat must make them pretty bad. It is as though every movie about Nazi Germany, Russian Gulags and prison guard cruelty is just a recipe to the powers that be.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Found while Browsing

Tomorrow is here. The game is over. The crisis has passed -- and the patient is dead. Whatever dream you had about what America is, it isn't that anymore. It's gone. And not just in some abstract sense, some metaphorical or mythological sense, but down in the nitty-gritty, in the concrete realities of institutional structures and legal frameworks, of policy and process, even down to the physical nature of the landscape and the way that people live.

The Republic you wanted -- and at one time might have had the power to take back -- is finished. You no longer have the power to keep it; it's not there. It was kidnapped in December 2000, raped by the primed and ready exploiters of 9/11, whored by the war pimps of the 2003 aggression, gut-knifed by the corrupters of the 2004 vote, and raped again by its "rescuers" after the 2006 election. Beaten, abused, diseased and abandoned, it finally died. We are living in its grave....

"How does it become a man to behave toward this American government to-day? I answer that he cannot without disgrace be associated with it." – Thoreau

.....The time has passed for ordinary political opposition, "within the system." The system itself has been perverted and converted into something else; it is now impossible to "work within the system" in the old understanding of that term, because that old system is gone. To work within the current system is to collaborate with evil, to give it legitimacy.

Thoreau's answer should be taken up by every person in public life, beginning with the Senators and Representatives in Congress, and radiating outward to all other elected officials in the 50 states, and to civil servants and other government employees, law enforcement agencies, judges, universities, contractors, banks, and on and on, throughout the vast, intricate web that binds the lives of so many people directly to the federal government. There should be non-compliance, non-recognition of this illegitimate authority, disassociation from taking part in its workings.

But we must also recognize that the kind of civil disobedience that Thoreau preached – and practiced – is immensely more difficult today, because the power of the state is so much greater, far more pervasive, more invasive…and much more implacable, more inhuman. No one would have dared put Thoreau in "indefinite detention" without charges, or torture him, or delegate some underling in intelligence apparatus (which didn't exist then) to kill him as a "suspected terrorist." Of course there were many egregious suspensions of Constitutional liberties and draconian measures during the Civil War; but these occasioned fierce fights in Congress, investigations, lawsuits, and outraged protests on the streets – the worst, by far, in American history, dwarfing the urban riots and war protests of the Sixties. But only the most ignorant fool – or devious liar – could compare these short-lived, ad hoc, inconsistently applied, frequently reversed and much-disputed depredations, carried out in the midst of a massive insurrection by fully-fledged armies on American soil, with today's thorough-going, systematic creation of an authoritarian state, on the basis of a zealous ideology of an unrestricted "unitary executive," operating in a nebulous, self-declared "state of war" that we are told will last for generations.

Neither Thoreau – nor any Northern opponent of the Civil War – confronted anything like this. (In fact, neither did the insurrectionists of the South, who were treated as lawful prisoners-of-war when captured – or often simply allowed to return to their homes on parole, in exchange for a simple statement that they would fight no more. No Southerner was ever subjected to indefinite detention, none were tortured, none were liquidated by secret agents.) The technology available to the government today amplifies the scope of repression immeasurably, both in the pinpoint, surreptitious targeting of individuals and in larger-scale operations.

In a land crawling with armed – and armored – SWAT teams, with operatives from innumerable federal agencies packing heat and happy to use it, a land where more than 2 million people languish in prison (many of them captives of an endless "war on drugs" that has done nothing to curb substance abuse but has greatly augmented the power of the state and the criminal gangs whose laundered money enriches Establishment elites), a land where almost every transaction is wired up to some national grid, where national ID cards are now being imposed – a land where you literally cannot exist without placing your liberty, your privacy, your very life at the mercy of a government apparatus besotted with violence, coercion and intrusion, there is no place left for the kind of action that Thoreau advocated. His way – and that of Gandhi and King, who took so much from him – envisions a state opponent which one could hope to shame into honorable action by the superior moral force of principled civil disobedience. But the very hallmark of the present regime is its shamelessness, its utter lack of any sense of honor or principle, its bestial addiction to raw power.

It is pointless – and counterproductive – to simply throw yourself under the wheels of such a monstrous machine in futile spasms of rage and despair. The machine doesn't care. It will gladly chew up your life and move on. For the action of the ordinary individual to have an effect, it must be amplified by a larger social movement. And it is difficult to imagine such a movement arising in America today, in a society atomized by the engines of profiteering, its communities gutted or abandoned by elites seeking greener pastures – and cheaper labor – elsewhere, its citizens isolated from one another, locked in their own bubbles of electronic diversion, and their own struggles to keep their jobs (unprotected by unions, subject to the arbitrary whim of local bosses, or faceless corporate masters, or predatory hedge funds, etc.), hang on to their health insurance (if they've got it), and stay out of the hell created by the bipartisan Bankruptcy Bill for the benefit of the credit card companies.

And despite the deep unpopularity of the regime, there is still a widespread reluctance to recognize its true nature, and what it will require to restore our constitutional republic. And truth to tell, there are a great many people uninterested in doing so. As long as the diversions keep pouring through the latest gadgetry, the monthly paycheck manages to cover the bills, and their own bodies are not subjected to the tyrant's evil, many people are happy to accept the authoritarian system. (This is not unique to Americans, of course; it is a constant in human history.) But even where there is an interest in discerning the reality of our times, and a yearning for change, again there is no broader movement to leverage an individual's dissent into a form large enough to thwart the tyrannical machine. And there is no American Sakharov on the horizon, someone to arise from the very center of the machine to denounce its workings and call for genuine liberty, genuine democracy, genuine economic and social justice.

So whatever we can do, we must do it ourselves. If we have no power or influence, if we cannot take large actions, then we must take small ones. Every word or action raised against the overthrow of the Republic will find an echo somewhere, from one person to another to another to the next -- each isolated, individual voice slowly finding its way into a swelling chorus of dissent.

It might be too late. It might not work. But failure – and much more horror -- is guaranteed if we don't even try.

As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn once wrote – in a context that is growing less dissimilar all the time: -- it is impossible that evil should not come into the world; but take care that it does not enter through you.

"What is the price-current of an honest man and patriot today? They hesitate, and they regret, and sometimes they petition; but they do nothing in earnest and with effect. They will wait, well disposed, for others to remedy the evil, that they may no longer have it to regret." –Thoreau.

-Chris Floyd at Chris Floyd dot com

Edwards vs Suskind

The Edwards sexploits overshadowed the Suskind news that the administration had forged the letter that tied up a few loose ends regarding Hussein's evil and why war was necessary. Massive media attention could possibly have shamed the Democrats into "putting impeachment on the table". I believe that there is some level of outrage that would make America rebel.
According to an article in Politico Suskind's book The Way of the World is to be published Tuesday.

According to Suskind, the administration had been in contact with the director of the Iraqi intelligence service in the last years of Hussein’s regime, Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti.

“The White House had concocted a fake letter from Habbush to Saddam, backdated to July 1, 2001,” Suskind writes. “It said that 9/11 ringleader Mohammad Atta had actually trained for his mission in Iraq – thus showing, finally, that there was an operational link between Saddam and al Qaeda, something the Vice President’s Office had been pressing CIA to prove since 9/11 as a justification to invade Iraq. ”
Suskind contends Cheney established “deniability” for Bush as part of the vice president’s “complex strategies, developed over decades, for how to protect a president.”

“After the searing experience of being in the Nixon White House, Cheney developed a view that the failure of Watergate was not the break-in, or even the cover-up, but the way the president had, in essence, been over-briefed. There were certain things a president shouldn’t know – things that could be illegal, disruptive to key foreign relationships, or humiliating to the executive.

“They key was a signaling system, where the president made his wishes broadly known to a sufficiently powerful deputy who could take it from there. If an investigation ensued, or a foreign leader cried foul, the president could shrug. This was never something he'd authorized. The whole point of Cheney’s model is to make a president less accountable for his action. Cheney’s view is that accountability – a bedrock feature of representative democracy – is not, in every case, a virtue.”

I first heard Suskind on this segment of NPR. In the interview he says he has tapes of the CIA agents who told him about the request for the forged letter that came to the CIA on administration stationery. Now these agents are saying they never said it. Unfortunately when it comes to lying, we are more enthralled with infidelity and denial (stop the presses) than high crimes.

Regarding Edwards, if you check the timelines, Slate has been talking about this affair for a long time so it is curious why main stream media exposed it now.
I'll admit I am a bit curious about the Edwards thing (heh, heh) too. I want to know why a 44 year old "party girl" gets pregnant (or why anybody that old decides to start childbearing and raising a teenager in their 60's) unless it means lifelong payments. The Huffington Post dissects the whole timeline pretty well. I of course feel sympathy for the wives - Edwards and the aide's who "fell on the sword". I favored Edwards for the Democratic candidate because of his worker stances, but my loyalty faltered with the haircut business and disappeared when my cousin told me he invested in hedge funds so he was not a working man's savior. Expect plenty of moral outrage and probably some reward for the neo-con's out of this. This short part of a lecture by Thomas Frank describes how the backlash works.

Friday, August 08, 2008

A Free Market Question

Why is it that the free market freaks are against illegal immigration? In a free market it is desirable for manufacturing to seek the cheapest labor, so why isn't it also free market for labor to seek the best paying work?

I've said it many times, but it makes me laugh that the Indians are reclaiming America...even though Mexicans are a different tribe it just seems just to me. Ha Ha Ha

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Criminal Hijinks

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

More on Mr. Patsy Ivins

And what had originally been leaked as the sinister-sounding claim that Ivins maintained “a post office box under an assumed name” transformed into the much more innocuous revelation that he did so in order to surreptitiously receive porn — behavior that isn’t exactly unusual given that “revenues for the world pornography industry hit an estimated $97 billion in 2006, overshadowing the revenues of the top technology companies — the likes of Microsoft, Google, Yahoo! and Apple — combined.” Bruce Ivins isn’t the only American male surreptitiously using pornography, to understate the case drastically. The FBI’s need to demonize Ivins as a creepy, porn-loving drunk suggests that their actual evidence is far from convincing.

All sorts of similar questions are raised by the onslaught of other FBI leaks. Dr. Jasenosky told me that he finds claims of some “ground-breaking” new DNA technique, or some “big breakthrough” to be “quite strange,” given that what the news accounts have described is nothing more than an incremental extension of molecular analysis techniques that have existed for several years and which, at most, appear to have only enabled existing techniques to be conducted more rapidly. He further emphasized that even the most sophisticated DNA tests could never link anthrax to any particular scientist, and that no assessment of the FBI’s assertions is possible without a thorough review of its underlying data. Dr. Meryl Nass said the same thing today: “Let me reiterate: No matter how good the microbial forensics may be, they can only, at best, link the anthrax to a particular strain and lab. They cannot link it to any individual.”

And then there is the issue of Ivins’ mental state. The New York Times reported today that part of the FBI investigation was so heavy-handed that it actually entailed showing gruesome photographs of the anthrax victims to Ivins’ adult children, telling them that their father is the one who did that, while trying to entice them to turn on him with promises of a reward. As Rep. Holt indicated this morning, is it any wonder that any person — guilty or not — would experience severe psychological distress when targeted by the FBI that way? Moreover, this morning’s Frederick News Post (doing some of the best reporting in the country on this case) reported that it was FBI agents who told Jean Duley to seek a protective order against Ivins — the action that then created the record used by most media outlets to depict Ivins as a crazed psychopath.
The FBI’s Emerging, Leaking Case Against Ivins by Glenn Greenwald

We cannot get good police or FBI work until they are expected to personally pay for "testilying". The millions paid to Hatfill should have come out of FBI salaries. Just another example of what is euphemistically called "moral hazard" (Moral hazard is the prospect that a party insulated from risk may behave differently from the way it would behave if it were fully exposed to the risk. Moral hazard arises because an individual or institution does not bear the full consequences of its actions, and therefore has a tendency to act less carefully than it otherwise would, leaving another party to bear some responsibility for the consequences of those actions.-Wikipedia) Just too convenient that Ivins is dead and not shopping for a lawyer.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Paying the debt

Then the inevitable happened. The market worked. Lenders stopped lending to the banks and investment houses because no one knew what their derivatives were worth. The music stopped and there weren’t enough chairs for all these seers of Wall Street.

The result was predictable. Bush (the taxpayers) was forced to save them (his constituents?) from their over- leveraged risky investments by stepping in with $29 billion of taxpayers money to save Bear Stearns. Without that, the financial market might have come totally unraveled. And that may be only the first of many such likely scenarios, e.g. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, in which profits are privatized and risks socialized.

Most of the worst abuses could have been avoided if Alan Greenspan had not slavishly followed the Bush ideology and remembered the warning from William McChesney Martin, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board from 1951 to 1970, that the function of the Fed was to take the punch bowl away when the party got too exuberant. What did Bush do? He took enforcement power away from the SEC, a law enforcement agency, weak though it may be, and handed it to the Fed, which has been a cheerleader for the big banks and wouldn’t think of being an enforcement agency. While it is true that we should rethink the jurisdiction and power of the financial regulatory agencies, that’s a longer term issue. But anyone who has been involved in Washington problems can tell you, that the best solution is to go in quickly, clean out the mess and don’t let it linger.

Unfortunately, government agencies are led by people who don’t believe in policing the market and don’t understand that a free market only works when there are clear rules. Until there are such rules, and until they are enforced and people are held personally responsible for their actions, we will stagger from crisis to crisis.

Business will suffer too because the longer the financial mess lingers and hurts more and more people, the more likely some draconian action will be taken. A classic example is commodities market regulation. Many believe the so-called “Enron loophole” that allows traders to make unreported commodities trades offshore has added to the speculative increase in oil prices. Bills introduced to halt oil speculation could adversely affect all commodities trading. It would have made sense for the Administration to move to close this loophole earlier; now it’s too late. Of course, as long as traders were making a lot of money by exploiting the loophole, the Administration decided to rely on the “free market” to correct any problems.

The same problems appear in taxes. Everyone agrees that the current tax code is too complicated. According to a recent investigation by the Senate Permanent Investigations Subcommittee, there are about $100 billion in uncollected personal taxes because of offshore tax abuses. Yet, the IRS is so understaffed that it can pursue only a few offenders even when it knows about the tax evasion.

UBS, a leading global wealth manager, reports having about 19,000 U.S. taxpayer accounts in Switzerland. American law requires that ownership of such accounts be made public but most have not been and the IRS doesn’t have the resources to go after more than a few of them. The extent of lost corporate revenue is much greater. Every IRS Commissioner who has testified about the transfer pricing system used by multinational corporations to shift profits to tax havens has admitted that the IRS cannot police the system, but the IRS refuses to support using a unitary accounting system that would be simpler and more effective in collecting taxes and leveling the playing field between multinational corporations that don’t have to pay taxes and domestic companies that do.
Martin Lobel

The US also owns a lot of public land and should charge market value for the ore, timber and oil instead of the giveaways that go on now. CRP is renting the land from farmers for conservation purposes and now that farm prices are high, the CRP farmers want to be let out of their contracts. Seems to me the government should be subleasing that land and putting the profit into paying some of the debt that their agriculture subsidies cause.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Too bad. so sad

As America jumps from one bubble to another, many people hoped the next one would be alternative energy. Too bad it is to be food and water.
Crisis Looms as Corporations Seize Control of Commodities by Barbara L. Minton

Some onlookers blame the financial speculators for driving up the prices of commodities related to agriculture as wealthy investors have piled on looking to cash in on the rising stock prices. And in many ways, today’s commodity market resembles the dot.com boom seen at the turn of the century, as well as the housing boom now in the throws of its bust.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission recently held a hearing to investigate the role that index funds and hedge funds are playing in driving up the prices of agricultural commodities. Total public fund investment in corn, soybean, wheat, cattle and hogs has risen by 37 billion dollars since 2006. This figure does not include the huge investments of hedge funds which don’t have to make such disclosure. It also doesn’t include the massive world wide investments in farmland made by the wealthy.

Of course the other commodity you can’t get along without is water, which is now the focus of huge multinational companies seeking to privatize water world wide, perhaps even patent it as Monsanto did with seeds.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

An interesting book soon to be released

In his previous book (What's the Matter with Kansas), Thomas Frank explained why working America votes for politicians who reserve their favors for the rich. Now, in The Wrecking Crew, Frank examines the blundering and corrupt Washington those politicians have given us.

Casting back to the early days of the conservative revolution, Frank describes the rise of a ruling coalition dedicated to dismantling government. But rather than cutting down the big government they claim to hate, conservatives have simply sold it off, deregulating some industries, defunding others, but always turning public policy into a private-sector bidding war. Washington itself has been remade into a golden landscape of super-wealthy suburbs and gleaming lobbyist headquarters—the wages of government-by-entrepreneurship practiced so outrageously by figures such as Jack Abramoff.

It is no coincidence, Frank argues, that the same politicians who guffaw at the idea of effective government have installed a regime in which incompetence is the rule. Nor will the country easily shake off the consequences of deliberate misgovernment through the usual election remedies. Obsessed with achieving a lasting victory, conservatives have taken pains to enshrine the free market as the permanent creed of state.

Stamped with Thomas Frank’s audacity, analytic brilliance, and wit, The Wrecking Crew is his most revelatory work yet—and his most important. - Amazon

In an essay in the August issue of Harper's magazine, adapted from the book, Frank adroitly weaves the actions of Abramoff and his pals into a vastly larger ideological framework.

"Fantastic misgovernment is not an accident," he writes, "nor is it the work of a few bad individuals. It is the consequence of triumph by a particular philosophy of government, by a movement that understands the liberal state as a perversion and considers the market the ideal nexus of human society. This movement is friendly to industry not just by force of campaign contributions but by conviction; it believes in entrepreneurship not merely in commerce but in politics; and the inevitable results of its ascendance are, first, the capture of the state by business and, second, what follows from that: incompetence, graft, and all the other wretched flotsam that we've come to expect from Washington.

"... The conservatism that speaks to us through its actions in Washington is institutionally opposed to those baseline good intentions we learned about in elementary school. Its leaders laugh off the idea of the public interest as airy-fairy nonsense; they caution against bringing top-notch talent into government service; they declare war on public workers. They have made a cult of outsourcing and privatizing, they have wrecked established federal operations because they disagree with them, and they have deliberately piled up an Everest of debt in order to force the government into crisis. The ruination they have wrought has been thorough; it has been a professional job. Repairing it will require years of political action."

Friday, August 01, 2008

The Anthrax Killer

Some comments from Metafilter:

Still so many loose ends in this case. A now dead suspect only makes this case more baffling. The total absence of any known motive on the part of Ivins is troubling. I would still like to know, among other things, who tried to frame the biowarfare researcher Dr. Ayaad Assaad, if the 10/9/01 postmarked letters sent to Daschle and Leahy were indeed meant to prod them into passing the Patriot Act (as they appear to have been), why these anthrax letters were all written with fake Islamic terrorist messages, and how NYC hospital worker Kathy Nguyen wound up a victim.
posted by ornate insect at 11:03 PM on July 31 [2 favorites]

I'd also like to point out that if you had gone back in time to October-November 2001 and told everybody that the "Praise Allah" anthrax letters would eventually be traced back to a US Army Research Lab and a top-level US scientist, they would have called you an America-hating conspiracy-nutter.
posted by Avenger at 11:25 PM on July 31 [17 favorites]

Which makes one wonder, why everyone with any access to an U.S. Anthrax lab wasn't rounded up, sent to Gitmo, and water-boarded to prevent another attack? I've used this argument against rabid Republicans to show them how weak and cowardly their hero Bush really is. Like the feckless Bill Clinton, I would say "Bush treated this terrorist act like a criminal investigation, instead of a war."
posted by three blind mice at 2:44 AM on August 1