Saturday, February 14, 2009

Darwin and Dingbats

I missed Charles Darwin's birthday last week; he and Mr. Lincoln share the twelfth. It was his 200th too. Two men with dour, full-bearded faces, etched into the annals of history. Their youth and education were vastly different- Darwin the son of a well-to-do doctor. Neither found much joy or comfort in 'the church.' Darwin's father, though, sent the young Charles to Christ’s College, Cambridge hoping that the lad would become a parson. There is no record of Lincoln attending church services at all.

Darwin toyed around with William Paley's idea of Natural Theology but was attracted to natural sciences rather than natural theology. The lure a 5-year voyage on the HMS Beagle snagged young Charles and sent him on a lifetime journey to study the laws and circumstances of nature.

One can only imagine the loss to science had the young Darwin spent his life as his father had wished- as an Anglican parson in some parish church in the English countryside. Lincoln's father, Doris Kearns Goodwin reports in her book, A Team of Rivals, wanted young Abe to work as a laborer on the farm all of his life. Luckily for us, young men follow different dreams than those of their father.

To all but the few cave-dwellers, Lincoln was a hero yet, as we all know, Darwin is both a hero and a villain, depending on the eyes of the beholder. To the scientist, Darwin is a legend who opened the doors of discovery to those who came after him. To the righteous church folks, he is evil incarnate.

On the website, RaptureReady, an article by Ron Graham boldly opens with this:

"When Charles Darwin wrote his famous book on the theory of evolution, he probably had no idea where that ugly lie would take mankind and what a major falling away from faith in God would occur."

Rapture Ready. Funny stuff, except for 'the believers.' By the way, that website has some reading information for some of us non-believers. Check out the section titled, Information For Those Left Behind. I didn't check into the info. I don't have time.

Well, Happy Birthday, Charles Darwin and thanks for your masterful works which help us to figure out who we are and where we came from.

The Grand Banking Scheme

The first guest on Bill Moyer's Journal on Friday evening was Simon Johnson, former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund and teaches global economics and management at MIT's Sloan School of Management. He presented a quite sobering view of the state of our economy. Bang off he stated:

"I think I'm signaling something a little bit shocking to Americans, and to myself, actually. Which is the situation we find ourselves in at this moment, this week, is very strongly reminiscent of the situations we've seen many times in other places.

But they're places we don't like to think of ourselves as being similar to. They're emerging markets. It's Russia or Indonesia or a Thailand type situation, or Korea. That's not comfortable. America is different. America is special. America is rich. And, yet, we've somehow find ourselves in the grip of the same sort of crisis and the same sort of oligarchs."

Oligarchy, he said. A small knot of very influential and wealthy people who wield tremendous power. They run America's banking system. And they have no intention of giving up their power nor their money, Johnson said. But, he added, they will take tax-payer dollars to shore up their banks and continue to accumulate more wealth and power in the process.

It was a bleak 20-minute segment to watch. Moyers asked, "Are you saying that the banking industry trumps the president, the Congress and the American government when it comes to this issue so crucial to the survival of American democracy?"

Although Johnson could not give a straight yes or no answer, he said, "I have this feeling in my stomach that I felt in other countries, much poorer countries, countries that were headed into really difficult economic situation. When there's a small group of people who got you into a disaster, and who were still powerful. Disaster even made them more powerful. And you know you need to come in and break that power. And you can't. You're stuck."

Then Johnson added,

"The correct people you should be asking this question to are people at the IMF. And I can tell you what they're saying is the policy that we seem to be perusing, of being nice to the banks, is a mistake. The powerful people are the insiders. They're the CEOs of these banks. They're the people who run these banks. They're the people who pay themselves the massive bonuses at the end of the last year. Now, those bonuses are not the essence of the problem, but they are a symptom of an arrogance, and a feeling of invincibility, that tells you a lot about the culture of those organizations, and the attitudes of the people who lead them."

Here is the full text of the final portion of the interview. Mr. Johnson tells Moyers that a process similar to the one used by the IMF could help with this banking fiasco:

Johnson: That's where you go and you check the bank's books, and you say, okay, not only do we use market prices, not pretend prices, not what you wished things were worth, what they're really worth, okay, in the market today. We use that to value your loans and the securities that you have, your assets, right?

And we also assess what will happen to the value of the things you own if there's a severe recession. So that's the idea, it's a stress test, like when you go to see the doctor, they put you on a treadmill, and make you run to see how your heart is going to behave under stress.

So you're looking at how the bank's balance sheets will look under stress. And then you say to them, "This is our assessment of the amount of capital you need to cover your losses, and to stay in business, and be able to make loans, through what appears to be a severe recession."

And, as the president said, we may lose a decade. So we've got to be very hard headed, and all the officials forecasters are still too optimistic on that. This is the amount of capital you need. Now you have a month, or two, to raise this amount of capital privately.

And when this was done in Sweden, by the way, in the early 1990s, they did it to three big banks. One of the three was able to go to its shareholders, raise a lot more capital, and stay in business as a private bank, same shareholders. That's an option. Totally fine. However, the ones that can't raise the capital are in violation of the terms of their banking license, if you like.

We have no problem in this country shutting down small banks. In fact, the FDIC is world class at shutting down and managing the handover of deposits, for example, from small banks. They managed IndyMac, the closure of IndyMac, beautifully. People didn't lose touch with their money for even a moment. But they can't do it to big banks, because they don't have the political power. Nobody has the political will to do it.

So you need to take an FDIC-type process. You scale it up. You say, "You haven't raised the capital privately. The government is taking over your bank. You guys are out of business. Your bonuses are wiped out. Your golden parachutes are gone." Okay? Because the bank has failed.

This is a government-supervised bankruptcy process. It's called, in the terminology of the business, it's called an intervention. The bank is intervened. You don't go into Chapter 11 because in that's too messy. Too complicated. There's an intervention, you lose the right to operate as a bank. The FDIC takes you over. I think we agree, everyone agrees, we don't want the government to run banks in this country.

BILL MOYERS: Never done it before.

SIMON JOHNSON: Never done it before. It's not gone well anywhere in the world. And the idea of getting your money out of the bank being like visiting the DMV to get your driver's license, it's not appealing, okay?

That's not what we're going to do. That's not what the Swedes did. That's not the state of the art - it's not what the real banking experts are going to tell you to do. They're going to say, you set it up, you set up the government intervention, and there's various technical ways to do this, so that you re-privatize very quickly.

Now, it might take three months, it might take six months. It'll depend on the overall macro economy turning around. But there's a lot of private money out there. Let's call it private equity.

These people would like to come in and buy these re-privatized banks. You would attach antitrust provisions to this, so the banks are broken up as part of this transaction. Senator Sanders has a great saying. He says, "Any bank that is too big to fail is too big to exist."

And he's exactly right. So, in this transformation, you're bringing in private equity. You're using, I think this is, to me, the right idea, and what we've learned in our country, is you're using part of the powerful financial lobby against another part. You're using private equity, that would do very well in this, against the inbred insider big bankers. And you're doing this in a way so that the taxpayer decides who the new owners are.

The new owners come in and do a lot of the restructuring. They're going to fire all of these managers. I can honestly assure you that. They're going to put in new risk management systems. They're going to have to make the banks smaller. And the taxpayer is going to retain a substantial equity interest. So as these banks recover the value of our investment goes up. And that's how we get upside participation.

BILL MOYERS: So you're not talking about nationalization, are you?

SIMON JOHNSON: I'm talking about a scaled up FDIC intervention. I think we need the FDIC to be empowered. And to have the political support necessary to get this job done.

BILL MOYERS: Splitting this one powerful interest group into competing factions, and taking them on one by one.

SIMON JOHNSON: That is classic oligarchy breaking strategy. Now I do admit that once you've done that, you have to worry about the new oligarchs. That's why you're breaking up the banks. You don't want to just change the owners of banks that are too big to fail, because they'll be coming around in five years for another handout.

The structure or banking system, the concentration of power in big financial institutions has to change. There's a lot of appeal to FDR and what he did in the Great Depression.

I would go back to Teddy Roosevelt 100 years ago, and think about trust busting. Okay? Now, the banks don't violate existing antitrust laws. That's 'cause our antitrust laws are 100 years old and need to be changed, okay? We need to break them up for exactly the same reason that Rockefeller and the oil interests, standard oil, at the end of the 19th century, was too powerful, economically and politically. And it had to be broken up. And breaking it up was the right thing to do. That's where we are with the banks today.

BILL MOYERS: Simon Johnson, thank you for being with me on the Journal.

SIMON JOHNSON: My pleasure.

Friday, February 13, 2009

And Now the GOP Prays that America Fails

As self-described 'Taliban,' the GOP is now hoping and praying that our nation enters into a deep depression so that they can claim 'victory' in not supporting the stimulus bill. Too extreme, you say? Obviously you haven't been paying close attention to the Republican lawmakers' comments.

Yes, rather than helping with the bailing of the water from our sinking ship, the righteous GOP sat on their hands and now wish the entire ship would sink to the bottom of the sea.

They are nothing more than ideologues who don't give a damn about the success of our nation. It's all about getting reelected in 2010.

God bless America.

"I'm not trying to say the Republican Party is the Taliban"

I am. Today's Republican Party and its tactics remind me quite a lot of the insurgents, aka Taliban. The quote in the title was from Texas representative Pete Sessions (R-TX), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. Chairman, is he? Of the GOP?

Wow! That former Grand Old Party is morphing itself into an insurgent group not unlike the Taliban, especially with their right-wing filled with Fundamentalists, just like the Taliban.

During the Civil War, southern insurgents were quite active in their business of causing havoc on the plans of the Union generals. They learned many of these tactics in Montreal, where they and southern-sympathizers planned raids and other covert activities against the Union forces.

As my previous post suggests, one wonders if The South, led by southern Republicans, are, in fact, insurgents looking to take down the Union once again.

Is Hate to Say I Told You So

Somewhere back in one of my 980 previous posts I fingered Phil Gramm.  Today, Time Magazine fingered him too: he's the #2 culprit in the Who's Who of the financial crisis. Just think: he was the chief financial advisor to John McCain.  Imagine where we'd be today with McCain in the White House!

And here is the indictment [the exact indictment I brought against Gramm many months ago]:

As chairman of the Senate Banking Committee from 1995 through 2000, Gramm was Washington's outspoken champion of deregulation. And he got it, by playing a lead role in the writing and passage of the 1999 repeal of the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act, which had separated commercial banks from Wall Street. Then he inserted a provision into the 2000 Commodity Futures Modernization Act that exempted derivatives like credit-default swaps from regulation.
Yes sir, the Glass-Steagall Act. Those wise legislators from the Roosevelt Era knew exactly what they were doing.  Yet, today's Republicans thought something else altogether.  >Today's Republicans.  Nuff said!

Does The South Want Another Civil War?

Not one House of Representatives member from The South voted for the stimulus bill.  Neither did the senators from Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Tennessee, South Carolina, Kentucky,  or Georgia.  Obstructionists or Secessionists?  

Added to these numbers are the Republican senators from North Carolina, Florida and Louisiana.  Is the Republican Party looking to break off from the Union?

Will Obama face the same shattering of the Union as Lincoln?  Does history repeat?  Is the Republican Party becoming the Confederate Party of 2009?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Gamble by Thomas Ricks

"Obama is stuck in Iraq."  So said Pulitzer Prize winning author Thomas Ricks on Hardball the other night. Ricks is the author of 'The Gamble,' his assessment of the Petraeus-led surge in Iraq 2006-2008.

LA Times book reviewer Tim Rutten says of the book:

  Ricks begins this sober -- and deeply sobering -- account with the military's heretofore secret report on the massacre of Iraqi civilians by U.S. Marines at Haditha, an incident that stands as exemplar for a strategy that not only was failing tactically but also seriously eroding the morale and morality of the American forces deployed to Iraq. The author then goes on to document the previously untold history not only of the failure of the White House and the Pentagon under then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld but also of the Joint Chiefs and the commanders.

The failure.  Perhaps that would have been a great subtitle for the book.

Surprisingly,  there are still many Americans who 'believe' that the preemptive invasion of Iraq was the right thing to do and they give Bush high marks for this war. The pre-war propaganda was intense and many absorbed it like a sponge.

Thank goodness, for our democracy, that the truth of this misadventure is getting out in many recent publications.  Those cheerleaders for war ought to get their hands on a book like this and read it.  Then, I'd like to hear their confession.

A Lincoln Poem

The melancholia of Abraham Lincoln is well-documented.  Today this mental state is called depression.  Lincoln's life was peppered with death; in short order he lost his mother, sister and his first love. Ann Rutledge.  His thoughts, poetically:

I hear the loved survivors tell
How naught from death could save.
Till every sound appears a knell,
And every spot a grave.

He also didn't expect an afterlife, either.  "I'm afraid there isn't.  It isn't a pleasant thing to think that when we die that is the last of us."

We Can't Even Trust GOP's Susan Collins

One of only two GOP Senators from the Northeast, Susan Collins played the 'centrist' role in moving the stimulus bill through the conference committee.  She seems so all-American with her Katherine Hepburn speaking style, her gratiousness, and calm demeanor.  Yet, the image of lipstick and swine float in my head.

The charming senator, TPM Muckraker reveals, stripped the final bill of whistleblower protection.  The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2007 has effectively  exposed fraud, greed and theft by corporations and whistleblower protection is key to running an effective detection program.  TPM says, " Collins is the ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs commitee, which, as an oversight committee, might be expected to see its role as protecting whistleblowers."

Business-first Republican.  Reminds me of those peanut executives on the Hill yesterday: profits before safety.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

GOP House Member from Ohio Blames the Great Depression on FDR!

Yes, I know.  He's nuts.  But that is no impediment to holding office.  House of  Representatives member Steve Austria {OH} said he supports a scaled-down federal economic-stimulus proposal, but the Beavercreek Republican told The Dispatch editorial board that the huge influx of money into the economy could have a negative effect.

Then he said, "When (President Franklin) Roosevelt did this, he put our country into a Great Depression," He continued,  "He tried to borrow and spend, he tried to use the Keynesian approach, and our country ended up in a Great Depression. That's just history."

Yes, that's just history Mr. Austria, but not the history that anyone else seems to know.  FDR was president in 1933 and the  the beginning of the Great Depression began shortly after the stock-market crash of 1929.

Revisionist history, Republican-style.

United States Foreign Policy

Why does the United States, under both
Democrats and Republicans, wage war and
bomb other countries and invade and occupy
other countries far more than any other
nation on the planet?

Conservatism is Dead: An intellectual autopsy of the movement

Conservatism Is Dead by Sam Tanenhaus, New Republic. The author appeared on MSNBC's Morning Joe today; he was not kind to today's Republican Party, neocons, and the class warfare that this party has been waging on America for the past 30 years.  Mr. Tanenhaus knows his facts.  In his second paragraph he writes:

 After George W. Bush's two terms, conservatives must reckon with the consequences of a presidency that failed, in large part, because of its fervent commitment to movement ideology: the aggressively unilateralist foreign policy; the blind faith in a deregulated, Wall Street-centric market; the harshly punitive "culture war" waged against liberal "elites." That these precepts should have found their final, hapless defender in John McCain, who had resisted them for most of his long career, only confirms that movement doctrine retains an inflexible and suffocating grip on the GOP.

That is quite the confession.  'Now go and sin no more,' might be the challenge from the parish priest, but will the Republican Party heed the mandate?  It will be difficult for many, impossible for some.  Tanenhaus goes on:

But what of the verdict issued on movement conservatism itself?There, conservatives have offered little apart from self-justifications mixed with harsh appraisals of the Bush years. Some argue that the administration wasn't conservative at all, at least not in the "small government" sense. This is true, but then no president in modern times has seriously attempted to reduce the size of government, and for good reason: Voters don't want it reduced. What they want is government that's "big" for them--whether it's Democrats who call for job-training programs and universal health care or Republicans eager to see billions funneled into "much-needed and underfunded defense procurement," as William Kristol recommended shortly after Obama's victory.

Tannenhaus sees a third possibility for the demise of conservatism:
Others on the right blame Bush's heterodoxy on interlopers, chief among them Kristol's band of neoconservative warriors at The Weekly Standard, who beguiled the administration into the Iraq war and an ill-starred Wilsonian crusade for global democracy.

Yet, says the author, what conservatives have yet to do is confront the large but inescapable truth that movement conservatism is exhausted and quite possibly dead. And yet they should, because the death of movement politics can only be a boon to the right, since it has been clear for some time the movement is profoundly and defiantly un-conservative--in its ideas, arguments, strategies, and above all its vision.

Above all its vision.  This morning Tanenhaus said in strong terms that the GOP went wrong when it engaged in the so-called culture wars.  He says that in this part of the article:  

Many have observed that movement politics most clearly defines itself not by what it yearns to conserve but by what it longs to destroy--"statist" social programs; "socialized medicine"; "big labor"; "activist" Supreme Court justices, the "media elite"; "tenured radicals" on university faculties; "experts" in and out of government.But, if it's clear what the right is against, what exactly has it been for?

His final page [of 6] makes this observation:

Though, inevitably, most conservatives vote Republican, they are not party loyalists and the party has to woo them to win votes. This movement is issue oriented. It will happily meld with the Republican party if the party is 'right' on the issues; if not, it will walk away." By this calculus, all the obligations flow in only one direction. Parties are accountable to movement purists, while purists incur no reciprocal debt. They determine the "right" position, and the party's job is to advance it. Kristol does not consider whether purists might be expected to maneuver at all or even to modify their views--for the good not only of the party but also the larger polity.

Lastly, he says:

Kristol went on, in this essay, to extol the contributions of two movement subgroups, the neoconservatives and the evangelicals. It was of course this alliance that most fervently supported George W. Bush during his two terms and remains most loyal to him today.

Most loyal to 'him' today as well as a strong voice in the GOP now.  Newly-elected GOP chair Michael Steele stated that he wanted to broaden the base of his party, to make it more inclusive.  The trouble is, as I see it, those neocons and evangelicals may not want to move over to allow new faces, new ideas, a broader ideology into their tent.

Conservatism is Dead: An intellectual autopsy of the movement

Conservatism Is Dead by 

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

'There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life'

Bendy-buses with the slogan "There's probably noGod. 
Now stop worrying and enjoy your life' are running on the streets of London. Time Magazine has the story, "Christians and Atheists Battle in London Bus Wars"  Looks like the Crusades are not yet over.
The story begins:

The word of God is on the move in London — literally. Beginning Feb. 9, three separate Christian groups will launch advertisements on more than 200 of London's buses to convince pedestrians of God's existence. "It may be unpopular and unpleasant, says David Larlham, the assistant general secretary of London's Trinitarian Bible Society, a group that distributes bibles worldwide, "but there is a whole lot of truth in the bible that people need to get to grips with." His organization has paid $50,000 to display posters on 125 of London's red double-decker buses that quote Psalm 53: "The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God."

Oh my, religious wars once again.  When will they ever learn?  The fool hath said...  Yes, fools have said lots of stupid stuff over the milenia, but that doesn't mean it's right.  What ever happened to tolerance?  Is lack of tolerance one of those 'grievous' sins?

Columnist Gwynne Dyer writes,  "If the objective was to undermine people's belief in God, then turning the atheist buses loose in Britain was largely a waste of time, because most British people don't believe in God anyway."

Dyer noted that a similar humanist campaign in D.C. brought this sign on busses there: "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness' sake"  He notes, "and there was little public outcry."

At the end of the article, Dyer says:

"The United States is not the same as Europe, but it is not invulnerable to the same trends—which may be why President Obama, while rhyming off the roll-call of America's religions in the time-honoured fashion in his election-night acceptance speech, for the first time added "and non-believers".

Pity the Poor Pig

"Pork!" they say.  "This bill is filled with pork!" cries a GOP senator.  "Nothing but pork!" cries another oh-so righteous Republican.  And so it goes, and goes...

When did the pig become the scapegoat, or rather the scapeswine?  Pork is the other white meat.  You never hear, "This legislation is nothing but chicken!"  Or mutton.  We have heard, "Where's the beef?"  Yet our lowly porcine friends always seem to be the butt of political sarcasm.

Swine!  I like to use that term.  The other day my grandson used it too and looked back at me to see my reaction.  Clever boy, that one.  He knows how to please his grandpa.

During my college days, I spent an evening at a pig farm in central Ohio. I was taking a summer field-study course at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, working on my masters degree. When I pulled into the driveway of the farm in my 55 Ford, the smell overwhelmed me.  Pigs!  Do they naturally smell or is it the confinement and the lack of indoor plumbing?  Whatever.  The mister was cutting alfalfa at the time and told me to go inside and 'set' a spell.  His wife offered me a piece of pie, which looked wonderful, but the pervasive swine odor forced me to refuse, thank you. 

Several hours later I pulled into the dormatory, well not exactly that but a bunkhouse with 12 beds, no walls.  Within minutes of my arrival, I was tossed out with demands that I strip down and take a shower.  Porcine aroma. "Burn those clothes!" someone shouted.

So goes the fate of the pig.  And the Republicans.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Math Question: How Many Dimensions In The Holographic Universe?

You may use your scientific calculators if you have one: How Many Dimensions In The Holographic Universe?ScienceDaily asks the question.  Just yesterday I told some right-winger that I was more interested in this question than the 2nd Amendment monologue he was spewing. He didn't care for my remark.  

OK, here goes:

We perceive the space around us as three-dimensional. According to Einstein, time and space are inseparabely linked. Adding the time axis to our three-dimensional space makes our space-time-continuum four-dimensional. For decades, scientists have been wondering about the existence of additional dimensions so far hidden to our senses. Grumiller and his colleagues are trying the opposite approach: Instead of postulating additional dimensions, they believe that our universe could in fact be described by less than four dimensions.

Quick: name those 4 dimensions! Never mind.  Recall the Beatle's hit, Yellow Submarine- the one in which we all live?  Seems that sub may in fact be a hologram as in, We all live in a multicolored hologram. Not as catchy as the original.

At this late time of the evening, my mind is mushy and I cannot hope to understand the rest of this article; in the morning, I probably won't either.

Porn Star v. Senator Vitter

Sen. David Vitter’s phone number was found in the records of the notorious D.C. madam. Now he faces re-election (and massive karmic payback) against a sultry adult entertainer named Stormy.  That's the opening line from blogger Max Blumenthal of the DailyBeast.

He goes on:

With 2010 midterm elections approaching, Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter is positioning himself as a leading conservative stalwart. In July 2008, Vitter joined accused bathroom-stall sex solicitor Sen. Larry Craig in co-sponsoring the anti-gay-marriage Marriage Protection Amendment, then addressed a massive antiabortion rally on the National Mall three days after Barack Obama's inauguration. Vitter was also the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's lone vote against sending Hillary Clinton's secretary of State nomination to the Senate floor.

Don't you love those hypocrites?

Peanut Butter Republicans

I enjoy metaphors and so 'peanut butter Republicans' works nicely here.  Ironically, Democrat Jimmy Carter was the peanut farmer.  The salmonella-laced peanut butter which has caused wide-spread health problems all across America was a result of ineffective health regulations.

Regulations: government interference in the business sector. Reaganesque. The banner of the GOP.  Too many damn regulations stifle business.  You know the scenario by now.  Free-up businesses without all of those restrictions!  The best government is no government! Frivolous law suits!

Been there; did that. Now we're on the abyss of an economic depression.  Republicans cut corporate America free from government oversight and, like uncontrolled adolescents, they burned down the house while the parents were away.

Peanut butter Republicans.  What a mess!

Stimulus will lead to 'disaster,' Republican warns

A headline from CNN this morning. The fear card.  Again.  Wolf,wolf! "Everybody on the street in America understands that," said Sen. Richard Shelby AL, the ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee. "This is not the right road to go. We'll pay dearly."  Even the ignorant villagers weren't fooled the third time.  Do these southern senators think that the rest of the nation is as ignorant as their constituents? 

Apparently Shelby, DeMint, Chambliss, Cornyn, McConnell, Corker, Graham and others believe that we citizens are delusional or something.  Or dumb.  Or easily fooled.  Well, we were with Iraq, but most of us have that one figured out by now.

This knot of conservative southern senators think that they have the 'solution' to the economic fiasco that is eroding every sector of this nation.  No doubt they will point to the Republican fiscal  policies of the past 8 years as the model for success and hope that no one noticed.  Tax cuts for the rich, no government regulation, and lower capital gains taxes.  There you have it.  Quite the formula.

Donald Rumsfeld used the term, 'dead-enders' to describe the Baathist supporters of Saddam Hussein after Shock 'n Awe. Dead-enders.  As President Obama said so succinctly the other day, "We tried it their way for 8 years; it didn't work."


Sunday, February 8, 2009

OCD, Mania and the Full Moon

My wife and I heard an owl hooting as we were gazing at the full moon tonight.  No doubt that double event had some magical significance in ancient folklore. It was significant for another reason to me.  All day long, comments appeared from a blogger who had been asked time after time NOT to post on my blog due to her bigoted, homophobia. Today, however, she must have been in a severe manic stage of her OCD, perhaps influenced by the full moon.

I checked the signs of mania on and here are some that fit in nicely with today's 'posting' events:

Signs and symptoms of mania (or a manic episode) include:

  • Increased energy, activity, and restlessness

  • Excessively "high," overly good, euphoric mood

  • Racing thoughts and talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another

  • Unrealistic beliefs in one's abilities and powers

  • Poor judgment

  • A lasting period of behavior that is different from usual

  • Provocative, intrusive, or aggressive behavior

  • Denial that anything is wrong
That last one, denial of any wrong-doing, always accompanies her posting-mania.  The aggression was noted in the [now] deleted remarks.

The Fundamentalist Christian, I have observed, is a prime candidate for suffering OCD.  The obsession with all things biblical- the sin, the damnation, the end-times scenario- constantly feed the obsession.  The compulsion, naturally, is in attempting to do exactly as the Bible demands, no ifs, ands or buts.  After all, the all-powerful One is always watching, always taking notes on behavior, thoughts, and deeds.  It is an all-consuming, draining task.

Yet, and compounding the obsession, is the fact that other people, the unclean, the fallen-away Christian, the pagan, the atheist must be corralled for God too.  These people need to feel the wrath of their sinfulness.  As a consequence, the obsession to preach to these sinners becomes a daunting daily mission.  This mission never ends; the unclean are all around and their souls need a thorough cleansing with the blood of Jesus.

The need for spiritual cleansing of self and others is much more severe than the typical and common germ-phobics who need to wash their hands excessively in order not to be infected. Treatment for the hand-washing compulsion, besides prescriptive medicine, includes behavioral therapies which will expose the patient to 'germ-laden' situations and require the patient to resist the washing compulsion.  Slowly, if successful, the patient begins to tolerate the germs that may be on their hands.

This behavioral psychotherapy, however, it much more difficult in cases of religious neuroses.  Because these obsessions and compulsions are intertwined in the individual’s religious life, it may be difficult for the individual to recognize that he or she has a psychiatric condition. Religious OCD suffers are among the least likely to seek treatment because of their difficulty in determining where the line is that separates the obsessive ritual from regular spirituality.

The cogitative-behavior therapy, if selected [in combination with anxiety-reducing drugs] helps the patient learn to manage their 'rituals' and impulses through gradual, controlled exposure. The patient needs to accept the intrusive thought but reject the compulsion.

Success rates for OCD are about 60% and, like alcoholism, is never totally overcome. Patients will be able to gain control of their illness to a large degree, however.  Data indicates that religious OCD is seen in 1 out of 50 OCD cases which, due to its relative infrequency, requires the patient to seek out 'specialists' in this field.

How Will the 'Tsunami of Populist Rage' Play Out?

Frank Rich writes in the NYT this morning, under the Oscar-induced title, Slumdogs Unite!

"The tsunami of populist rage coursing through America is bigger than Daschle’s overdue tax bill, bigger than John Thain’s trash can, bigger than any bailed-out C.E.O.’s bonus. It’s even bigger than the Obama phenomenon itself. It could maim the president’s best-laid plans and what remains of our economy if he doesn’t get in front of the mounting public anger."

Good point, Mr. Rich. I simply ask, When and Where?

Last evening my wife and I watched the tape of the Inauguration ceremony for the very first time [as we were on The Mall during the events]. It was an interesting experience not only to see what we had missed, but, more importantly, to watch the 'call to the citizens to unite in our struggle to fix the economy' in light of the obstructionist posturing of the Republican Party of the past 18 days. The contrast between idealism and reality was vast.

Our host said afterwards, "When do we take to the streets?" He talks revolution; the always has. His was the idea of the Great American Stall-out many months and one president ago. He proposed a wake-up call to the sleeping masses by asking motorists to abandon their cars at the intersections of the major American cities all across this nation at 8 AM local time. Just turn the engine off, open the hood, take the keys and walk away.

That marvelous French Revolution painting, La liberté guidant le peuple, by Eugène Delacroi comes to mind. Barricades in the street, 21-century style. Liberty leads the people. .
 I ask, when and where? I'll be there.

Echo Chamber as Brain Trust

In Democrat-led Toledo, talk radio still leans to right is the story in The Blade on this Sunday morning.  You [who have been paying attention] know the story so don't bother clicking over- nothing new. Summary: right-wing radio-echo chamber as brain trust.

One conclusion is that left-wingers, aka LIBeral, can't compete with talk radio as the right-wing dominates the radio waves.  Duh.  My observation is that those of us on the left side of the political spectrum are fast learners and don't need remedial lessons.

I've observed that there is a fine line between urban gangs and right-wingers. An odd pairing, indeed, especially as they seem to be 'natural' enemies. Yet, both engage in group-think, echo chamber rationale.

Both groups, in my estimation, need to grow up and exit their permanent adolescent stage of development.  Trouble is, neither group recognizes their current state in the maturity-process.

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