Sunday, January 31, 2010

TIC TACS? A RATHER DEPRESSING--BUT NOT UNEXPECTED FINDING

Regarding antidepressants:

Although the year is young, it has already brought my first moral dilemma. In early January a friend mentioned that his New Year's resolution was to beat his chronic depression once and for all. Over the years he had tried a medicine chest's worth of antidepressants, but none had really helped in any enduring way, and when the side effects became so unpleasant that he stopped taking them, the withdrawal symptoms (cramps, dizziness, headaches) were torture. Did I know of any research that might help him decide whether a new antidepressant his doctor recommended might finally lift his chronic darkness at noon?

The moral dilemma was this: oh, yes, I knew of 20-plus years of research on antidepressants, from the old tricyclics to the newer selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that target serotonin (Zoloft, Paxil, and the granddaddy of them all, Prozac, as well as their generic descendants) to even newer ones that also target norepinephrine (Effexor, Wellbutrin). The research had shown that antidepressants help about three quarters of people with depression who take them, a consistent finding that serves as the basis for the oft-repeated mantra "There is no question that the safety and efficacy of antidepressants rest on solid scientific evidence," as psychiatry professor Richard Friedman of Weill Cornell Medical College recently wrote in The New York Times. But ever since a seminal study in 1998, whose findings were reinforced by landmark research in The Journal of the American Medical Association last month, that evidence has come with a big asterisk. Yes, the drugs are effective, in that they lift depression in most patients. But that benefit is hardly more than what patients get when they, unknowingly and as part of a study, take a dummy pill—a placebo. As more and more scientists who study depression and the drugs that treat it are concluding, that suggests that antidepressants are basically expensive Tic Tacs.


Read it all.

I am actually not surprised by this. Don't get me wrong, antidepressants do work--the problem is in determining who might benefit from them and, under what circumstances.

My own theory is that, based on my reading of the literature (and about 30 years of clinical experience), that we physicians are prescibing antidepressants like lollipops--to anyone and everyone who expresses sadness that lasts for any length of time. The current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (IV) instructs us not to diagnose "Major Depression" unless the period of sadness had gone on for > 2 months.

There is a debate raging right now in psychiatry as the newer criteria for the DSM V are being discussed. That debate has to do with how we clinicians distinguish between normal responses to stress, bereavement and trauma; and pathological responses.

This problem is perhaps best summed up in this excellent book by Allan Horowitz and Jerry Wakefield, which is appropriately titled, THE LOSS OF SADNESS: How Psychiatry Transformed Normal Sorrow into Depressive Disorder.

In The Loss of Sadness, Allan V. Horwitz and Jerome C. Wakefield argue that, while depressive disorder certainly exists and can be a devastating condition warranting medical attention, the apparent epidemic in fact reflects the way the psychiatric profession has understood and reclassified normal human sadness as largely an abnormal experience. With the 1980 publication of the landmark third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III), mental health professionals began diagnosing depression based on symptoms--such as depressed mood, loss of appetite, and fatigue--that lasted for at least two weeks. This system is fundamentally flawed, the authors maintain, because it fails to take into account the context in which the symptoms occur. They stress the importance of distinguishing between abnormal reactions due to internal dysfunction and normal sadness brought on by external circumstances. Under the current DSM classification system, however, this distinction is impossible to make, so the expected emotional distress caused by upsetting events-for example, the loss of a job or the end of a relationship- could lead to a mistaken diagnosis of depressive disorder. Indeed, it is this very mistake that lies at the root of the presumed epidemic of major depression in our midst.


It is also very likely at the root of why many people only have a placebo response to antidepressants.

I had a rather long discussion last year with Dr. Wakefield about this very topic when I invited him to speak in Ann Arbor. The truth is that it is not only sorrow that tends to be pathologized by psychiatry, but other "diagnoses". And, until we can connect a psychiatric diagnosis with specific physiological anchors, the tendency is to pathologize everything that causes any degree of distress. This is considered compassionate and caring; but it has some important and long-lasting consequences; the most serious in my estimation, is in reinforcing a person's belief that the cause of their sad situation is "biological" and therefore outside of their control. This belief results in a tendency to ignore or minimize the psychological and psychosocial aspects of their situation, which they do have some control over.

ShrinkWrapped points out while discussing this same study:
The approval of Prozac in 1988 changed the entire field. Prozac, and the other SSRIs were far safer (almost impossible to use for a successful suicide attempt) and far easier to tolerate. With such a safety profile there was little reason to withhold such medications from patients who suffered from even mild Depression; to most people there was no downside. However, there has always been something missing in the reports on the efficacy of anti-depressants. Such medications are always given in the context of a relationship of the patient to the Doctor. Such therapeutic relationships have been recognized since antiquity as beneficial to the sufferer. Since Freud's day we have learned a great deal about the relationship and its impact on the people involved. Psychodynamic Psychotherapy is that treatment which mobilizes the unconscious aspects of the relationship in order to help the patient resolve previously poorly resolved conflicts. Such treatments are effective, though not for everyone, and offer long lasting benefits. [HT: NS]
Psychodynamic psychotherapy brings lasting benefits, new study finds
Psychodynamic psychotherapy is effective for a wide range of mental health symptoms, including depression, anxiety, panic and stress-related physical ailments, and the benefits of the therapy grow after treatment has ended, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.

Psychodynamic therapy focuses on the psychological roots of emotional suffering. Its hallmarks are self-reflection and self-examination, and the use of the relationship between therapist and patient as a window into problematic relationship patterns in the patient's life. Its goal is not only to alleviate the most obvious symptoms but to help people lead healthier lives.

"The American public has been told that only newer, symptom-focused treatments like or medication have scientific support," said study author Jonathan Shedler, PhD, of the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine. "The actual scientific evidence shows that psychodynamic therapy is highly effective. The benefits are at least as large as those of other psychotherapies, and they last."


There are several reasons that there exists so much less empirical evidence for the efficacy of the Psychodynamic Psychotherapies. There exists no way for a large corporation to make money off of the dispensing of such treatment and therefore little incentive to actually perform the studies. Psychodynamic Psychotherapy also typically takes a longer time that Medication and the short term treatments (like CBT) to show its effects (though there is evidence that the benefits are deeper and longer lasting.)


The newer antidepressants are indeed safe; and these days they are rarely withheld when a person comes in to a mental health clinic complaining of depression--even if that depression has an obvious psychological or social etiology. But think about this: what if everyone who came into a medical clinic complaining of a scratch or cut was automatically started on powerful antibiotics? (BTW, part of the reason that antibiotics become less effective is because they are used so pervasively even in cases where they are not needed, thus strengthening the microorganism's resistance to them--that's where "super" infections come from). The truth is that many causes of prolonged sadness have to do with something in a person's life that is troubling them; or that they are reluctant to change (if they even consciously identify it).
For those who use anti-depressants as a way to numb their unhappiness and allow themselves to remain in unhappy conditions, when such drugs do their partial work, it can interfere with the person's' ability or interest in actually resolving the causes of their unhappiness. The lost opportunity costs of the SSRIs can be considerable.


In point of fact, the opportunity to learn and grow from one's losses in life; to become a more mature and (possibly) wise individual is lost; and instead the individual learns the lesson that he/she is a victim of their own biology; doomed to wander the earth during their lifetime always vulnerable to "stress" and knowing that they cannot cope with it on their own.

Again, there is real and devastating melancholy that seems to have no connection to the outside world; the inner world is irrevocably off-track and the person is unable to function. Biological studies of such individuals may bring us closer to understanding the pathological expression of sadness, where what is normal crosses a biological and physiological line and, without some biological treatment, can never get back on track (much like a real psychosis).

As Shrink says:
To put it into more Psychobiological terms, the human brain exists in a web of relationships with other human brains, all with multiple feedbacks affecting their functioning. Imagining we can tamper with the chemistry of our brains without regard to the interrelationships involved is an oversimplification that ultimately leads to unnecessary suffering.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

WHEN DOES DENIAL BECOME SOCIOPATHY? WE WITNESSED THE PROCESS LAST NIGHT

For some obscure reason (not really), after watching the State of the Union address last night delivered by our President, I feel I must repost some material previously written about the relationship between denial, narcissism, and sociopathy.

I have written extensively on the pervasive psychological denial of the political left (see here, here , here, and here, for example). And, honesty compells me to admit (and also to frequently point out) that denial is an "equal opportunity" defense mechanism engaged in by all human beings (even on the right!); it is an involuntary, built-in psychic response designed to protect an individual from precipitously having to face unwanted, unacceptable or threatening feelings, thoughts or behavior. The mind simply blocks out reality and truth--and sees what it wants to see or becomes blind to reality.

Nevertheless, the degree of denial engaged in by the political left, particularly since the end of the last century has been limitless. I have mostly given the political left and its more clueless adherents, the benefit of the doubt, and assumed that their unwillingness to face reality (e.g., about terrorism; about the failures of socialism and communism in the real world; and about human nature) was unconscious; and was so pronounced and pervasive because they could not accept the truth that history and the real world had revealed about their beloved and bankrupt ideology.

That ideology, whether it is called Marxism, communism or socialism; whether it is applied heavily or lightly; and whether it is done with the best of intentions or the worst-- is fundamentally anti-human .

What happens when psychological denial ceases to be unconscious and becomes a deliberate, willful, and consciously evil behavior-- in spite of all the accumulated evidence of its malignant impact on real people in the real world?

At that point we can safely assume that we are no longer dealing with a purely defensive structure in the psyche; we are dealing with aggressive, unadulterated sociopathy.

Jay Nordlinger describes a perfect example of this:
Several readers have asked me to respond to Diane Watson. I do so wearily. She is the Democratic congresswoman from L.A. who said last week that President Obama’s health-care critics were racist — and who heaped praise upon a) Fidel Castro, b) Che Guevara, and c) Cuban health care. She said,
You need to go down there and see what Fidel Castro put in place. And I want you to know, now, you can think whatever you want to about Fidel Castro, but he was one of the brightest leaders I have ever met. And you know the Cuban revolution that kicked out the wealthy — Che Guevara did that. And after they took over, they went out among the population to find someone who could lead this new nation, and they found . . . an attorney by the name of Fidel Castro.

It was clear, from her tone, that she regards Castro as a kind of Christ figure. (To listen to the congresswoman, go here.)

I’m afraid I can’t say anything more about these subjects than I have already said. Let me offer a piece from 2000: “In Castro’s Corner: A story of black and red.” And a piece from 2007: “The Myth of Cuban Health Care: Michael Moore gives it a powerful boost.” And, in this FAQ column, you will find suggestions about what to read concerning Che Guevara.I’m afraid that mythologizing about Guevara, Castro, and the Communist dictatorship will never end. Indeed, it will get worse after the Castros and Cuban Communism pass. I used to think — I’ve had arguments with Armando Valladares about this (he is the heroic Cuban dissident who wrote Against All Hope) — I used to think that Castro-lovers in the United States were merely ignorant: They knew not what they said or did. How could all these “liberal Democrats” support a police state? A totalitarian dictatorship?

But, some years ago, I stopped thinking that: I had to swallow that these people — certainly some dismaying percentage of them — actually like it: actually like the dictatorship and all the murderous oppression that goes with it. You can’t remain entirely ignorant or naïve after 50 years of this dictatorship. And that is a very, very bitter pill to swallow.
One more point: Many of the leaders of the Cuban democracy movement are black — “Afro-Cuban.” President Bush gave the Medal of Freedom to one of them (the political prisoner Oscar Biscet). Many of Castro’s most ardent supporters in the United States are black: Charlie Rangel, Maxine Waters, Randall Robinson, and so on. What must the black Cuban democrats think of these Castro champions?

Very, very little, I can tell you. (Emphasis mine)


The traditional medical definition of sociopathy is a personality disorder characterized by a lack of social responsibility and failure to adapt to ethical and social standards of the community.

If we think about that definition for a moment, we can perhaps begin to understand what is going on in our world today; and the reason that a huge number of people have embraced a sociopathic lifestyle.

Under the pervasive influence of postmodern philosophy and rhetoric, the ethical and social standards of the community have, unfortunately, been slowly evolving and eroding.

In western culture, ethical and moral standards used to be anchored to the real world (i.e., to reality); but in the postmodern wilderness in which the political left and most of its most visible spokespeople--i.e., leaders in the Democratic Party-- wander aimlessly, ethics and morality are relative and "anchored" to feelings and whim; which inevitably unleashes the baser and more vile aspects of human nature.

The 20th century became the playground (and litter box) for the narcissist; and by the time the 21st century rolled around, malignant narcissism was not even considered deviant, it had gone mainstream. Since psychopathology continually evolves and worsens if it is not confronted and dealt with, what we have now in our culture, particularly the political system, is the endstage of psychological evolution under postmodernism: the sociopath who disguises his or her sociopathy by selflessness (now marketed as "hope and change").

These selfless sociopaths are people who couldn't care less about the individual human being. Individual human beings are expendable; even vast numbers of them--as long as they stand in the way of the implementation of the sociopath's great ideas and compassionate execution of those ideas. They are the fodder that can be used to build "great" societies, utopian fantasies and collectivist wet-dreams.

It used to be that with the rise of civilization, political sociopaths--selfless and selfless-- were (thankfully) few and far between. Even so, when they appeared in history, they wreaked havoc and destroyed lives with great abandon for "the greater good". Needless to say, a central aspect of the 'greater good' was always the advancement of their own glorious self and their ideas.

We can thank primarily the political left and its useful idiots for the persistent, unyielding, and willful celebration of--and ultimately mainstreaming of--malignant narcissism. We have entered the age of postmodern sociopathy and nihilism.

What does it matter if the lives and freedoms of so many individuals are sacrificed to the murderous oppressors of the world? If you "kick out the wealthy" then you have the wonderful socialist paradise of Cuba; or the magnificent utopia of North Korea with all their misery, poverty, oppression and leftist enlightenment!

Under the "enlightened" and "progressive" left, wealth will be redistributed and the human mind enslaved--but so what? As the eminent leftist and quintessential nihilist Joseph Stalin once remarked, "Death solves all problems - no man, no problem."

In the long run we are all dead anyway, right?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

POTUS SOTU

I am watching the SOTU. Can this man who was elected President of the US really believe the things he is saying?? That he can end partisanship by being....partisan in the SOTU speech?? That he is for fiscal restraint?? That we should be like China and Germany??

His tone is mocking and disingenuous. He insulted the Supreme Court who is sitting right in front of him. He has learned nothing from what happened in Massachusett and is doubling down on his ideology. He is counting on voter fatigue and amnesia now to get his agenda passed.

At one point, he says, "Let's try common sense." What an original idea. But yes, let's. Here's some reality:

WSJ:
As for the deficit, CBO shows that over the first three years of the Obama Presidency, 2009-2011, the federal government will borrow an estimated $3.7 trillion. That is more than the entire accumulated national debt for the first 225 years of U.S. history.


Or how about this reality from Michael Goldfarb on Twitter:
“Fact: Iran will build a new nuclear plant before we do.”


(H/T The Corner)

This man just doesn't have a clue...and it is rather frightening to watch. I'm going to go read something uplifting now; and cleanse my mental palate.

UPDATE: Neoneocon:
What Cohn seems to not understand is the fact that Obama’s words no longer matter.

They never did, actually, except as evidence of his intent. That worked when most of the American public was unfamiliar with his actions. Now we are only too familiar with the profound disconnect between the two.

Whatever Obama says, he is in precisely the position (in the metaphorical sense, anyway) of the alcoholic who has fallen off the wagon a thousand times and promises that this time, this time he’ll really quit for good. Such words are devoid of meaning, because trust has evaporated.


ShrinkWrapped had the same reaction I did:
Mrs. SW and I tried to watch the SOTU address. (Mrs. SW is temperamentally liberal leaning and was hoping he would impress.) After 20 minutes I gave up. I found him hard to listen to and wondered if he actually believed everything he was saying. When I checked back with Mrs. SW 10 minutes later, she was fast asleep.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

SCIENCE IN THE AGE OF POLITICAL CORRECTNESS, or The "Islamization" of Science

I recently discussed this issue here, but Phyllis Chesler has a rather terrifying example of how science can be used to further either a political agenda or an ideology (or both):
Lancet Study Blames Palestinian Wife-Beating on Israel
Does Not Mention Honor Killings, Forced Veiling, Arranged Marriages, etc.

It’s official. Britain’s premier medical journal Lancet has been completely Palestinianized. It no longer bears any relationship to the first-rate scientific journal it once was. Perhaps Lancet is no longer a standard-bearer but has become a follower in the global movement in which standards have plunged, biases have soared, and Big Lies now pass for top-of-the-line academic, scientific work.

The post-colonial academy is itself thoroughly colonized by the false and dangerous ideas of Edward Said (please read my dear friend Ibn Warraq’s most excellent book Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said’s Orientalism). However, I once believed that Said’s paranoid perspective had primarily infected and indoctrinated only the social sciences, humanities, and Middle East Studies. We now see his malign influence at work in a new article, just out today, by professors who work at the Department of Medicine at Harvard University; the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health at Minnesota University’s School of Public Health; The Boston University School of Medicine; the School of Nursing at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey; and at the School of Social Work and Social Welfare at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University.

Their study is titled: “Association between exposure to political violence and intimate-partner violence in the occupied Palestinian territory: a cross-sectional study.” And yes, they have found that Palestinian husbands are more violent towards Palestinian wives as a function of the Israeli “occupation”— and that the violence increases significantly when the husbands are “directly” as opposed to “indirectly” exposed to political violence.

I believe that Arab and Muslim men, including Palestinian men, are indeed violent towards Arab and Muslim women. I also believe that war-related stress, including poverty, usually increases “intimate partner violence,” aka male domestic violence. But beyond that, how does one evaluate this study?

First, let’s follow the money. This study was funded by the Palestinian National Authority as well as by the Core Funding Group at the University of Minnesota.


It's clear from these two examples--The American Journal of Public Health (from the first link)and Lancet--that PC has dumped its smoldering rot intofrom the social sciences and seriously infected health sciences and scientists. How long will it be before it warps the minds of physicists and astronomers? How long before we are informed by some new "study" that the laws of physics are not to blame for planetary movement through the cosmos, but it is the ultra-evil Israelis (or those demonic White Male/Conservative/Republicans/businessmen--pick your poison) who have altered the time-space continuum and put the universe at risk?

Of course, that is already a favorite Hollywood theme...and soon the "Islamization" of science will be showing at a university or college near you!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER

Michael Goodwin in the New York Post today:
We the people of the United States owe Scott Brown's sup porters a huge debt of gratitude. They didn't merely elect a senator. They ripped the façade off the Obama presidency.

Just as Dorothy and Toto exposed the ordinary man behind the curtain in "The Wizard of Oz," the voters in Massachusetts revealed that, in this White House, there is no there there.

It's all smoke and mirrors, bells and whistles, held together with glib talk, Chicago politics and an audacious sense of entitlement.

At the center is a young and talented celebrity whose worldview, we now know, is an incoherent jumble of poses and big-government instincts. His self-aggrandizing ambition exceeds his ability by so much that he is making a mess of everything he touches.

He never advances a practical idea. Every proposal overreaches and comes wrapped in ideology and a claim of moral superiority. He doesn't listen to anybody who doesn't agree with him.

After his first year on the job, America is sliding backwards, into grave danger at home and around the world. So much so that I now believe either of his rivals, Hillary Clinton or John McCain, would have made a better, more reliable and more trustworthy president.


Now that is really speaking the truth to power; and Goodwin has the facts to back it up--as do the American people after a year. Just listen to the ongoing delusions of the Administration and the left.

As Obama, the leftist ideologue, consoles himself that he only needs to do more of what he is currenly doing (i.e., work harder to force the economy to the left), the economy continues to sputter.

And as Obama fiddles around, the Islamization of the world proceeds apace:
You said the Wilders Trial reminds you of justice in your country of origin, Iran. Is that not somewhat exaggerated?

“The Netherlands, of course, is not comparable with Iran, but it's about perception. If you cannot say that Islam is a backward religion and that Mohammed is a criminal, then you are living in an Islamic country, my friend, because there also you cannot say such things. Here I'm free to say that Christ was a faggot* and Mary was a whore, but apparently I should stay off of Mohammed.”


Wretchard, writing about the Obama "magic", observes:
Here’s a President who may have made the mistake of putting politics, not policy at the center of things. And repeating the mistake with greater emphasis isn’t necessarily a solution. He can send for his conjurers again and create the mightiest permanent campaigning machine history has ever seen. But they won’t bring back the magic. That requires performance in the areas of policy and governance.

The really worrisome thing is if the President can’t change as opposed to won’t change. If politics is all he knows and all he is good at then 2010 will be a rough year indeed, not just for Obama, but for everybody.


The people are speaking truth to power (Note to Democrats and the political left: that's YOU).

Are they smart enough--or will they come out of their bubble long enough--to get the message?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

THE PROLETARIAT HAVE ARISEN !

I really like this, from Dr. Krauthammer, writing on the meaning of Brown:
You would think lefties could discern a proletarian vanguard when they see one. Yet they kept denying the reality of the rising opposition to Obama’s social-democratic agenda when summer turned to fall and Virginia and New Jersey turned Republican in the year’s two gubernatorial elections.


Go and read it all.

Yes, it is rather remarxible that the left is oblivious to the fact that the proletariat they have worshipped and depended upon for their revolution have finally arisen; but sadly, not in support of their ideas.

Quite the opposite.

Back in the mid 20th century, it became increasingly clear to dedicated Marxists that something was fundamentally wrong with the master's economic hypotheses. Like the followers of Jesus, they had been waiting a long time for the second coming,and they expected the collapse of capitalism at any moment. In fact, they were greatly encouraged by the Great Depresion and were certain that it was imminent.

But like a bad dream, capitalism just wouldn't go away, and instead of collapsing, it rebounded stronger than ever.

Why, they wondered anxiously, are the proletariat not rising up in rebellion against the oppressive forces of capitalism?

Far from rising up against their "oppressors", that same proletariat were buying into the capitalist system and the "American Dream" in large numbers. The sharp differences between the classes were slowly eroding, and more and more of those in poverty were finding their way into the middle class, thus gaining hope for themselves and their children.

Not only that, to the great astonishment of the socialists etc., the "oppressed" proletariat seemed relatively happy and content with their lot!

Happy and content people do not generally initiate violent revolutions nor rise up against their so-called oppressors--particularly when they don't feel oppressed, but feel empowered.

And, furthermore, much to the puzzlement and subsequent rage of these same intellectuals, in those places in the world where socialist and communist theory had triumphed, wealth was disappearing; initiative was in decline; and the human misery index was climbing. This was the legacy of Marx's "social justice".

Instead of creating a utopia for the proletariat, Marx and his theories only generated the conditions for societal suicide.

The clever capitalist system was actually co-opting the oppressed workers, and helping them enter the dreaded "middle class"!

Marx always expected that the middle class would disappear as capitalism developed, since he believed that the only sustainable positions were the ones of his dialectic.

That is not what actually happens in the real world as it turns out.

Whenever people are given political liberty and allowed to pursue their own happiness (and not the mandates of the state), the ranks of the middle class expand and grow stronger.

In fact, the values and ideals of this particular economic group have come to anchor society in the United States.

Far from wanting to ignite a worker's revolution as Marx predicted, they enjoy the creature comforts of the capitalist system and feel themselves empowered by it. They even like their health care system for the most part and don't want it overhauled by some monstronsity of a bill in Congress whose "cure" may be much worse than the actual disease.

But, even worse (from the communist/socialist's perspective who think they know best what is good for you and that you cannot be trusted to make the right decisions in pursuing your own happiness), the typical person in the middle class believes that he or she can better themselves by using the many opportunities offered by a liberal, capitalistic democracy.

The more frantically and desperately the left clenches its fists and tries to force their agenda on an unwilling populace, the more people will slip through their greedy and controlling little Marxist fingers.

How ironic that the worker's in Obama's paradise have finally begun to realize who the real oppressers are....



[John Trever, Albuquerque Journal]

Friday, January 22, 2010

SLIP-SLIDING AWAY

Uh-Oh. This is not good news about freedom in America:
The United States is no longer "free." That is not just a rant. That is an objective assessment based on an analysis of 10 economic factors in 183 countries.

The Heritage Foundation's 2010 Index of Economic Freedom is out, and the US slipped out of the "free" category and into the "mostly free" category, a category shared with 22 other countries such as Macau, Cyprus, Georgia and Botswana. We are now behind seven other countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Switzerland and Canada. Yes, Canada.

Just behind us, in the top 10, are Denmark and Chile. The US scored 78.0 and Denmark scored 77.9. Denmark. We are virtually tied with Denmark. And not much further behind, ranking 12 and 13 respectively, are Mauritius (an island just east of sub-Saharan Africa) and Bahrain (another island, in the Persian Gulf east of the Arabian peninsula).


The economic and political liberties that are our unalienable rights; and which were formally bequeathed to us by our Founders, are slip-sliding away. Is it any wonder that Americans in growing numbers are talking about a second "American revolution"? Or that grassroots movements like the Tea Party protests have been gaining more and more momentum as people become disgusted with both the Democrats and the Republicans?

Looking at the specifics of the Heritage Foundation report, here is the reason for the decline:
The United States’ economic freedom score is 78.0, making its economy the 8th freest in the 2010 Index. Its score is 2.7 points lower than last year, reflecting notable decreases in financial freedom, monetary freedom, and property rights. The United States has fallen to 2nd place out of three countries in the North America region.

The U.S. government’s interventionist responses to the financial and economic crisis that began in 2008 have significantly undermined economic freedom and long-term prospects for economic growth. Economic freedom has declined in seven of the 10 categories measured in the Index.


Read it all.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

HOPE AND CHANGE !

Hope and change is sweeping across America,...but not quite the way the left intended, alas. :-(

There will be a big surge in political post-traumatic stress (PPTSD) cases in the next few months as leftists everywhere watch their utopian fantasies fizzle and flame out as they come into contact with reality.

Nice.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"THAT'S HOW IT WORKS! ECONOMIC STIMULUS...TAH DAH!

Indeed.



And Democrats wonder why the American people are upset??

BTW, instead of calling this "crony capitalism", I'd call it "creeping fascism."

(h/t Vanderleun)

UPDATE: Scott Brown projected winner in Massachusetts. Coakley concedes. Tah Dah.

Monday, January 18, 2010

ROOT CAUSES

Victor Davis Hanson explains why Anwar Al-Awlaki--the Imam beind both the Fort Hood terror attack and the Christmas Underwear bomber-- "fits almost all the usual 9/11 characteristics that we have both become used to — and become used to hearing derided by the politically correct crowd. Awlaki suffered no poverty, but came from a well-connected, wealthy Yemeni family."

This bit of insight into Al-Awlaki's psychological motivations is particularly relevant:
....Awlaki, who like so many radical Middle Eastern Muslims wishes to enjoy the West and yet seems to hate the nourishing culture that excites his passions more quickly than Islam can repress them (Awlaki, in the stereotypical fashion of a radical Muslim in the West, had previously run afoul of the law for soliciting prostitutes).


Here we come to the "root" of "root causes" for terrorism: the shame culture of the Middle East which fuels the humiliation and anger of its members at the sight of Western success and externalizes the blame for their own cultural and societal failures and shortcomings. From a Frontpagemag.com article by David Meir-Levi in 2005:
To answer the question: “Why do they hate us?” we need look no further than at the Islamofascist leaders worldwide who are confronted with our success, threatened by our freedom, humiliated to the point of fury and violence due to their culture’s emphasis upon shame vs. honor. Rather than learn from us or work with us, they seek to destroy us.

They cannot admit to their followers or to us that their real motivation is their own shame and fear. Instead, they make up a long list of fictitious misdeeds in order to justify their hatred. Then they teach and preach to their societies, and especially to their young, the lies about why they hate us, and their children grow up believing such lies.

In addition, they are buttressed by Arab and pro-Arab intellectuals and professors in the West who re-write history in order to make us believe that this hatred is new and is a function of the fictional crimes of which we are accused.


In Shame, The Arab Psyche and Islam, I stated:
...one of the ways that those who fear shame protect their fragile self is to subjugate those who he perceives as weaker. By doing so, he can rationalize that he is superior to the subjugated individual. In fact, this is the only way he can maximize his honor. In Arab/Islamic culture, women are one of the primary instruments of achieving honor. Hence the bizarre and distorted attitude that the culture has toward women and the exaggerated means by which "honor" must be maintained. So strong is the cultural pressure, even women buy into the delusion (as eloquently demonstrated by Dymphna in this post)

Honor killings of women are all too common in Arab culture, and importantly are not dissuaded by the tenets of Islam.

Other expressions of the shame culture that are obvious is the rampant psychological projection and refusal to accept responsibility for the atrocities committed in the name of Islam. Not only are we regularly subjected to imams, religious leaders, and leaders of Muslim states stating even now that 9/11 or the London bombings were not committed by Muslims; they also regularly blame the Jews for such acts. In this way they can avoid the shame that taking responsibility for evil.

Additionally, the emphasis by CAIR and other Muslim organizations in demanding that any statement that criticizes or even suggests blame or responsibility by Islam for terror, be retracted or apologized for, is also just a part of the shame-avoidant dance that leads the culture into the blurry realms of delusion.

Finally, it is not surprising that the most murderous thugs espousing religious ideals as they brutally cut off the heads of infidels are hidden behind masks and dare not reveal themselves to the world. I suspect that on some deep level they know that their "pride" in their sick behavior would be more difficult to boast about if they were not anonymous. "If no one knows it is me committing these acts, then I am not shamed," after all.

While psychological health and self-esteem depend to some extent on overcoming shame and progressing to a level where taking responsibility for one's actions and accepting that there is an objective truth out there that is not determined by other people's opinions; both shame and guilt can be important reality checks to an individual--or to a culture.

When a culture determines that the avoidance of shame is necessary no matter what the cost, the result is a culture of fanaticism, bizarre behavior in the name of "honor"; and simultaneously the cultural oppression, subjugation, and humiliation of women and others perceived as "weak" (and therefore "shameful"). It also inevitably results in the projection of one's own unacceptable behavior and shameful feelings onto another individual or an outside group.

As Meir-Levi notes, it is essential that we understand our enemy and discredit the distortions and lies that are used to excuse and justify their barbaric actions. By getting to the root of "root causes" we can begin to discredit the false explanations, that in reality do not explain anything, but only serve to mollify and seduce us into believing somehow our behavior is the cause of the threat.

The root cause of terrorism is very simple. It is the interaction of a backward and aggressively misogynistic Arab culture with a rigidly medieval religion, within which its most sadistic aspects not only thrive, but are enshrined as religious doctrine.

Hanson concludes:
In short, we will have to experience a lot more upscale Awlakis until we admit that radical Islam is at war with us for who we are and what we represent rather than any oppression, poverty, or misery Americans purportedly inflict on the world — and are non-uniformed soldiers in an undeclared war rather than felons or “the other” with understandable grievances.


Once you get out of the Procrustean bed of the Marxist mindset, you can begin to see the reality of human nature a bit more clearly....

Sunday, January 17, 2010

WHAT YOU DON'T KNOW, CAN'T HURT YOU

Democrats in 2002 about "connecting the dots" on terrorism:
"Most people thought we didn't have a clue. Now it appears we had a clue," said Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb. "We obviously didn't do enough with it."


And, today, in the Obama Administration, Democrats have been able to come up with the perfect solution to that problem--completely hide the dots!



After all, what you don't know, can't hurt you. Right?

Friday, January 15, 2010

ISLAM: A CULTURE MEDIUM FOR PARANOIA, PROJECTION AND HATE

Recently an axe-wielding person of the peaceful Islamic faith was shot attempting to murder one of the Mohammed cartoonists. Kurt Westergaard, the object of the Somali jihadist's ire drew this depiction of Mohammed with a bomb in his turban which was deemed so offensive to Muslims that it warranted riots and death threats and, apparently, neverending violence against the hapless cartoonist:



The irony of engaging in exactly the kind of vilent and mindless behavior denoted by the cartoon is also, apparently, completely lost on those of the Muslim faith. Indeed, they are so lost to irony; or even the teensiest bit of self-reflection and insight that they can, without blinking an eye, come out with this sort of thing:
Hamas' terrorist TV channel -- which routinely indoctrinates kids by portraying Israelis as ghouls -- is launching a new cartoon series that depicts another enemy, the Palestinian Authority police.

A pilot episode shows a toadyish Palestinian officer watching as a Jewish character machine-guns a group of West Bank children to death and drinks their blood.

"You killed our children before my eyes," the officer says meekly. "I will respond with even more peace."

The grotesque six-minute pilot was a big hit when tested on Gaza Strip viewers this month by Hamas' video mouthpiece, Al Aqsa TV, and will be expanded next month, officials in Gaza City said.

....[T]he new Hamas series expands the hate-filled message by making monsters out of both the Israelis and the Palestinian security force, even though they have often clashed violently in the West Bank.

The pilot cartoon, called "A Special Mission," is built around Bahlul, a boot-licking police officer in the US-backed Palestinian Authority.

Hamas launched a civil war in 2007 against the authority's forces that ended with the terrorist group establishing iron control over Gaza and the authority retaining power in the West Bank.

Bahlul, whose name means "buffoon" in Arabic, obligingly kisses the feet and shines the shoes of an Israeli soldier, drawn with an enormous nose and pointed ears like a devil's.

He vows to "protect the [Jewish] settlements in the West Bank" and says he would shoot his brother, divorce his wife and arrest his relatives if the Israelis ordered him to do so.

In Gaza, this is ratings gold.

"We received hundreds of letters from inside and outside [Gaza] asking for the program to be shown again," a network official told Agence France-Presse.




It's perfectly ok to portray Jews as murderers who drink the blood of the children they massacre; but to even suggest as Westergaard's cartoon does that there is a violent streak in Islam deserves death by axing. Don't you think it's interesting that in the clip above, the child has been beheaded? What do you imagine that Westergaard's attacker intended to do with his axe?

Hmmmm...which culture is it that glories in beheading their enemies...?

In psychiatry the psychological distortion that allows the mind to accept with alacrity these kind of blatantly contradictory and objectively false beliefs about both themselves and others, is known as projection. Psychological projection is attributing to others the impulses, emotions, and behaviors you won't accept in yourself.

Of course, there is also the elements of displacement and passive aggression (when they aren't being overtly aggressive, as well as a rather dysfunctional sense of humor. In fact, as I have noted before, what the Islamic culture in the Middle East lacks more than anything are any of the more mature psychological defense mechanisms--such as empathy (a more healthy and mature expression of projection) or humor:
...[O]ne of the major problems with Islamic culture--the inability to step outside itself and see itself as others see it. If an individual is able to do that, then that person is usually mature enough to appreciate the healthiest and most appropropriate kind of humor, which absolutely requires a detached and observing self.


Cultures which indoctrinate their members into a rigid, dogma or ideology are not capable of seeing themselves as others see them. Such cultures become petri dishes which nurture paranoia, delusion and hate.

Islam has allowed itself to grow large colonies of each.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

MORTAL RISK; or How Science Can Be Manipulated For Ideology

Douglas Thompson has an excellent takedown of a study published in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) in December 2009. The statistical analysis of the study concludes that the uninsured have higher annual death rates than the insured, and it was widely heralded as evidence that Health Care Reform is necessary to prevent these deaths. From "How 4 Deaths Became 401,309":
Co-author Dr. David Himmelstein of Harvard Medical School proclaims in an interview with CNN that for those without health insurance, "it means that you're at mortal risk." Many news outlets discussed this study, with reports of 45,000 deaths annually being linked to lack of health insurance.


Thompson then carefully and systematically analyzes the data sets and discoveres that:
Insurance status has little to no impact on participants who die violently, as these persons would get emergency care, which is not dependent on heath insurance. If the four excess deaths we identified were from violent causes, there would be no underlying correlation between insurance status and early death.

We can identify forty persons who died from motor vehicle accidents (ICD-10 code 114) in the NHANES III study (participants #646, #1107, #1475, #2441, #2528, #3384, #3859, #3867, #4111, #5257, #9786, #10504, #12302, #12980, #13419, #13553, #16145, #16862, #18014, #18936, #19288, #19695, #19858, #33112, #33661, #36565, #39275, #40308, #42863, #43194, #43438, #46507, #46882, #47250, #47905, #49168, #49472, #51896, #52206 and #53476). The availability of insurance would have had little impact.

We can also identify eleven persons who died from suicide by firearm (ICD-10 code 125 -- participants #3947, #6138, #10655, #14336, #15860, #18222, #37902, #42061, #47057, #48163 and #48495). Health insurance would likely have had little impact on their deaths, either.

Statistical studies are onerous. The researchers of this study used the best available tools in very valid methods. Researchers must take into account that when looking at such small subsets of data (four additional deaths in nine years), claims of "mortal risk" become more difficult to ascertain regarding the population of the U.S. as a whole. Wilper, et al. should discount deaths from violent causes before making claims on the correlation of death and health insurance, especially when the net difference in deaths between the insured and uninsured groups is likely only four deaths during a nine-year study.


Please read it all.

I happen to agree with the co-author of the study: America is at mortal risk--but not because of a lack of universal health coverage. We are at risk because ideologues will use lies, damn lies and statistics and call their dubious conclusions "science" in order to advance an ideology. Like the global warming 'science' issue, causation cannot be implied from correlation; nor is it valid to ignore the question of how the people in the study died (as Thompson points out). Statistical methodology may be applied perfectly correctly and appropriately; but that doesn't mean that the data sets they are used on are valid to begin with.

Monday, January 11, 2010

'FOUL SOULS' AND UNCONSCIOUS BIGOTRY

"You see, good liberals occasionally slip in their parlance due to stress or by accident, and to no real worry; bad conservatives like a Lott or George Allen give valuable windows on their foul souls when they similarly lapse into insensitive speech." - Victor Davis Hanson

The Harry Reid, Joe Biden, and Bill Clinton lapses in racial sensitivity are intriguing mostly because it is always illuminating to discover what the "champions of the oppressed" REALLY think about blacks, women, gays, the handicapped, and other minority groups they supposedly "champion" (i.e., by "champion" they seem to mean that they intend to "help" them remain victims for life).

This is the kind of casual racism and sexism that has become the modern foundation of the Democratic Party. By manipulating Blacks, women, the Gays, and [insert your favorite victim group here] they have fashioned for themselves a 'rainbow coalition'--or to put it another way, a' politically correct' path to power that actually actively promotes racism, sexism--and any other prejudice they can think of--all in the name of eliminating or opposing racism, sexism and prejudice. Wow! Again, you have to marvel at the power of the unconscious. Their rhetoric says one thing, but their policies and their behavior end up doing the opposite.

In other words, they bring about and make worse the very thing they claim to be opposed to; but at least in the process they temporarily enhance their faux self-esteem and reinforce their sense of superiority and virtuousness.

As President Obama commented, what matters is that Reid (and presumably all the other Democrats who make racist, sexist or insensitive remarks about blacks, women or gays) is a "good person" and (get this) has "always been on the right side of history.". Or as some person on TV commented in an interview (I forget who), Reid can be forgiven because he's "always fought the good fight."

Honestly, these people are completely without shame. Even when they are defending themselves and claiming that, by their very nature DEMOCRATS ARE MORALLY GOOD, their underlying message is that the other side (i.e., Republicans etc.) ARE EVIL, MORALLY INFERIOR and therefore UNFORGIVABLE. But they--who have forgotten, rewritten or ignored their own history--are fundamentally good people who had a momentary lapse.

At least Republicans who fail to live up to their moral standards are ashamed when exposed and do the right thing (e.g., typically resign or end their public service) and their fellow Republicans encourage them to do so. Not Democrats!

They are far too psychologically blind and refuse to accept that they have any racist, sexist, or homophobic thoughts. Their belief in their own superior and virtuous moral righteousness borders on the delusional. I maintain that Democrat souls are just as "foul" as Republican ones; but when exposed, Republicans tend not to deny the reality that abruptly and inconveniently broke into their conscious awareness. The Democrats have been drowning in their self-delusion and denial for many years now.

Of course, that's exactly the reason they do (and have done) so much damage to the individuals and groups they claim to champion.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

CALIFORNIA WASN'T SACKED IN A DAY--or, How A Golden State Became A Failed State

Now that I have moved to the Golden State, I have been reading about how it came to be in its current economic and political decline. One very interesting article from The Claremont Institute summarizes the history of the decline over the last century and discusses the role that Progressivism has played:
Rome wasn't sacked in a day, and California didn't become Argentina overnight. Its acquired incapacity to manage its own affairs has been a long, complicated story, with many contributing factors rather than a single villain or tragic flaw. No analysis of California's political demise, however, would be complete without discussing how the Progressive legacy has undermined the state's ability to govern itself.

Hyperdemocracy
According to historian Alonzo Hamby, the framework for Progressive politics was the conviction that the political conflict was between "the people" and "the interests." It followed that the highest political duty was to help the people resist and ultimately triumph over the interests. One problem with this framework is that it lends itself better to the disdain than to the practice of politics. "The Progressives did not like politics," writes political scientist Jerome Mileur, because "the politics they saw was not about the public purpose of the nation, but was instead consumed by local interests and private greed, indifferent alike to the idea of a great community and the idealism of grand purpose."

As a result, Progressivism's anti-politics was designed for the people as they ought to be, not as they really are. Positing that the fundamental choice is between the people and the interests presupposes that the people are authentic only when they are disinterested. The Progressives' goal was to equip the people with the means to advance encompassing, lofty ambitions by thwarting the interests' narrow, selfish ones. The means to this end was to collapse the constitutional space between the people and the government, dismantling the political mechanisms that conferred unfair advantages on connected insiders. As the New Republic editorialized in 1914:
The American democracy will not continue to need the two-party system to intermediate between the popular will and the governmental machinery. By means of executive leadership, expert administrative independence and direct legislation, it will gradually create a new governmental machinery which will...itself be thoroughly and flexibly representative of the underlying purposes and needs of a more social democracy.

The California Progressives' reforms included the direct primary, the nonpartisan election of judges, the referendum and initiative, and recall elections. The results, a century later, cannot be what anyone who wishes democracy well had in mind. As journalist Peter Schrag argues in California: America's High-Stakes Experiment (2006), the state's people are groaning under the weight of all the weapons they have been given to fight the interests. California, he writes, has
seven thousand overlapping and sometimes conflicting jurisdictions: cities, counties, school districts, community college districts, water districts, fire districts, park districts, irrigation districts, mosquito abatement districts, public utility districts, each with its elected directors, supervisors, and other officials, a hyperdemocracy that, even without local and state ballot measures, confounds the most diligent citizen.


The analysis was extremely interesting, not the least because it goes on to demonstrate how, even a century ago, there was a tacit acceptance on the part of the utopian idealists of what we now know to be some of the underlying philosophical premises of postmodernism. Progressivism is essentially one more utopian fantasy in a long line of utopian fantasies; a;; adopted by idealistic crusaders whose goal was simply to improve the human condition by improving the species.

If you are interested, you should read the entire article, but this was a particularly fascinating bit:
In California, the political strategies of both conservatives and liberals concentrate on how to deal with that angry public. The conservative strategy is to get the public angry, and see that it stays angry. Conservative talk-radio hosts compete to identify the latest and most astounding outrage, and to see who can denounce it most stridently. The liberal strategy is, as noted, to avoid rousing that public to anger, but also, when the voters do put on their war paint, to wait for their ire to ebb due to the passage of time and the inevitable reappearance of life's many nonpolitical preoccupations. When the anger has passed, government-as-usual can resume without meddling by citizen-amateurs.

Three of California's last four governors, and six of its last nine, have been Republicans. The politicians who secured those victories immediately found it necessary to cooperate with a dominant opposition party; California is, in every other respect, a state that has been becoming more Democratic for as long as its oldest residents have been eligible to vote. California has not given its electoral votes to a Republican presidential candidate since 1988, or been represented in the U.S. Senate by a Republican since 1992. Of the 53 Californians in the U.S. House of Representatives, 34 are Democrats. In the past half-century, each of the two chambers of the state legislature has seen a Republican majority—once. The GOP's state senate majority endured for two years, the one in the lower house for less than a single year.

The evidence is incontestable: the liberal strategy of waiting for the public's anger to subside is far sounder than the conservative strategy of hoping it will gather strength. The liberal calculation rests on a shrewd assessment, not only of human psychology but also of modern mobility. California is not yet East Germany, which means that one of the ways Californians who are mad as hell can decide not to take it any more is by moving away. The Census Bureau shows that California, the state that used to be a magnet, has experienced negative "net domestic migration" since 1990. Between 1990 and 2007 some 3.4 million more Americans moved from California to one of the other 49 states than moved to California from another state.

States don't conduct exit interviews, so there's no way to tell how many ex-Californians left paradise because the taxes were too high, the public services too shoddy, and the unions too overbearing. Whatever the tally, one problem for conservatism in California is that the conservative critique of the state's governance argues as strongly for flight as it does for fight.[emphasis mine)


It seems that the same strategies are now being utilized on a national level by Democrats in Congress and their Republican counterparts. "[T]he liberal strategy of waiting for the public's anger to subside is far sounder than the conservative strategy of hoping it will gather strength..." and this is essentially the reason why Democratic leadership always seems to take "the position that when the voters reject tax increases, the correct response is to press for bigger ones..."

The Dems will pass Health Care Reform; raise taxes and curtail essential freedoms all because they count on a subsiding public anger and eventual loss of interest in these things. Timing is important--clearly they cannot do it too close to an election when public anger is apt to be translated into voting anger. And, that is why Democrats are so desperate to discredit and demonize by any means necessary a grassroots movement like the teaparties--which serve to extend public anger over their behavior.

People will forget. People have lives and things to do. They cannot forever participate in the hyperdemocracy and have counted on their elected representatives to do what is right to preserve their lives, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

But this modest goal on the part of the people conflicts with the progressive agenda. Instead, the Progressive movement has set up a interconnected maze of political elites and elitist organizations whose role is to claim to speak for the people.

These are Obama's beloved "community organizers"; and their lovely organizations like ACORN; and unions like SEIU etc. etc.

As citizens are increasingly treated like children who don't know what is best for them, they withdraw from politics altogether and engage in psychological or physical "flight" from the situation.

On a larger scale, this may be why Americans have generally become relatively passive--even when confronted with a threat to their very way of life, like that of Islamic fanaticism. In Fight, Flight and The Persistence of Evil, I wrote:
...[S]ince the dawn of civilization there has been a broadening of both the concepts of "Fight" and "Flight" to include the adoption of a wide variety of strategies and behaviors more complex than the simple alternatives which were available to our caveman ancestors.

For example (and this is not an exhaustive list), some modern "Fight" behaviors may include:

  • frankly aggressive, combative or violent behavior either in self-defense or proactively

  • argumentative, angry or hostile behavior

  • wars between nations or groups or gangs

  • the use of immature and neurotic psychological defense mechanisms such as displacement (which redirects the anger and combative behavior toward less threatening objects) or projection (which takes one's aggression and places it into others so that one can hide from it and disown it--a sort of indirect fight behavior)

  • use of mature psychological defense mechanisms such as humor and anticipation to prepare to defend one's self or others and to effectively mask anxiety

  • physical exercise; sports; competitions; art and other creative endeavors


  • "Flight" behaviors might include:

  • moving to a new location or abandoning a territory where the threat is too great
  • -e.g., leaving a stressful job that is taking a toll on your health for a new one
    - e.g., leaving a neighborhood where crime is high and moving to a better one
    -e.g., leaving a state or country where there is oppression and emigrating to a free country, or, "voting with your feet"
  • evading capture or submission to those who would oppress you (either physically by hiding) or mentally (by retreating into one's self)

  • the use of diplomatic and rhetorical skills to negotiate with enemies and opponents in order to compromise with them for one's survival; or to appease them; or to submit to them

  • social or psychological withdrawal to avoid dealing with the real world
  • -e.g., this option may include the use of substances to "run away" mentally from the real world
  • the use of immature psychological defense mechanisms such as denial or fantasy or wishful thinking to distort or minimize or eliminate the threat from consciousness

  • the use of neurotic psychological defense mechanisms such as hypochondriasis, reaction formation, passive aggression, displacement and intellectualization to distort or minimize or eliminate the threat from consciousness or to disguise it.

  • the use of mature psychological defense mechansims such as suppression and sublimation or others (for a full discussion of psychological defense mechanisms, see here) to transform the threatening situation into something that is able to be effectively dealt with.


  • "Flight" or any variation of running away can be a successful strategy particularly when you are able to run out of range of the available weapons of the enemy or out of the territory of the predator who wants to eat you. Such a strategy was extremely effective in the days of the caveman, whose weapons only included rocks, stones and spears. It's easy to outrun a spear; or to move out of the lands claimed by your enemy--do that and they will leave you alone.

    It's a bit harder to outrun or dodge a bullet; even more difficult to avoid a conventional bomb; and next to impossible to run away from weapons of mass destruction such as a nuclear or biological/chemical weapon.

    With the development of less personal and more long-range and impersonal tools of aggression, we begin to see how the hardwired strategy of "flight" may be reaching an evolutionary dead end--or, at least a limit to its effectiveness. "You can run, but you cannot hide" from today's weapons systems.

    Undoubtedly, this reality has only caused a escalation of the use of "flight"-equivalent strategies (e.g., appeasement and submission) since literally running away from the situation becomes less and less an option. Political strategies such as diplomacy, compromise, and outright appeasement come to the forefront. As Wretchard noted from the post quoted above, the increased aversion to fighting comes from an intense desire to prevent retribution--not only towards one's self, but also to protect loved ones. This has remained a viable and important strategy because it was effective and worked. Let me repeat that: appeasement works. Compromising with one's opponents and even one's enemies, works.


    Leaving a dysfunctional state such as California or Michigan can work for a time (in my own case, as some of you have noticed and commented; it is a bit like jumping "out of the frying pan, into the fire"!) But with Progressivism functioning at a national level, failed states like California are the norm. The U.S., by all economic and political measures is well on its way to becoming a failed nation.

    Perhaps more and more people are beginning to appreciate that the appeasement of enemies who want to destroy our very way of life is both "logical" and parallel to the passivity and appeasement that most Americans will opt for when it comes to national politics. The Progressive agenda depends on a short attention span and a narrowing of focus to the purely personal and emotional.

    John Maynard Keynes, a social progressive and economist probably articulated the essential nihilism of Progressivism best (albeit unintentionally) when he first uttered the (in)famous economic rule that, "The long run is a misleading guide to current affairs - in the long run we are all dead."

    And, in the long run--as long as progressive policies continue to dominate the national agenda--then so is the USA.

    UPDATE: After posting the above, I came across George Will's article on Sunday in the Washington Post: Fiscal Liberalism Has Tarnished California Gold. Go read it if you are so inclined. The demise of a once great state seems to be a popular topic.

    Saturday, January 09, 2010

    NOT A CLUE, Part II

    Good grief. Here is a perfect example of why traditional journalists (if you can call Thomas that) are becoming more and more irrelevant in the 21st century:



    Why would they want to do us harm??? The jihadists have always been perfectly clear about it, but I guess their pronouncements are simply too nuanced to be understood by the modern, ideologically-blinded journalist.

    Denial in the extreme. (And, note the incredibly pathetic response to her question by our chief counterterrorism guru).

    Thursday, January 07, 2010

    NOT A CLUE

    This, from John Lehman, a member of the 9/11 Commission is particularly relevant to the previous post on multicultural and PC insanity:
    “President Obama just doesn’t get it,” says Lehman. “I don’t think he has a clue....

    “President Obama continues to totally ignore one of the important thrusts of our 9/11 recommendations, which is that you have to approach counterterrorism as a multiagency intelligence issue, and not as a law-enforcement issue. He’s made a lot of commission’s members angry for dismissing our report and ignoring key recommendations.” Obama, he adds, has taken a “lawyer-like, politically-correct approach” to national security issues like terrorist watchlists and no-fly lists. “You got to blame the president for enforcing the politically-correct and legalistic policies that led to these failures.”


    Obama is representative of the leftist mindset, which is in complete psychological denial about terrorism, for many of the reasons discussed in this post.

    And, while we're on the topic of denial, all the mad hatters of the Obama Administration are also just a little out of touch with economic reality--in fact, most aspects of reality seem to be a bit hard for them to grasp....



    [from the Tribune editorial cartoons]

    Wednesday, January 06, 2010

    MULTICULTURAL INSANITY: The New "Realism"

    If you want to understand why American foreign policy seems so ridiculous and ineffective these days, you need look no further than the doctrines of political correctness and multiculturalism. Our society is drowning in sea of PC and a culture of multicultural BS.

    Wretchard once wrote that, it isn't "... the universal chorus of harmony" that the multiculturalists have propagandized, "but religious conflict at its most primitive level." He was speaking at the time about the the hysteria surrounding the Mohammed cartoons, but the same thought is easily applicable to all aspects of multicultural dogma, including the madness that is driving Obama foreign policy.

    The reality is that multiculturalism as a doctrine brings out the basist, most uncivilized and least admirable aspects of human nature.

    To the extent that immigrants to this country refuse to be assimilated into American culture and are actively encouraged not to do so by the diversity crowd, then the "melting pot"analogy that was once described the foundation of American strength and resiliance, has morphed into a swirling conglomeration of immiscible liquids. If the container in which they are held is fractured in any manner, each will flow his own way without regard to the other simply because they share no common bond or meaning that holds them together.

    Think about what multiculturalism preaches in its high-minded rhetoric. Then WATCH WHAT IT BRINGS ABOUT in real life. It is in the tribal and entitlement behavior that you begin to see the toxicity of this dogma; as well as the essential oppressive nature of the politically correct behavior that adherence to the religion of multiculturalism demands of us.

    Having given up any objective standard by which to mediate the vastly different perspectives and world views that each disparate group brings to the table; having encouraged the cannibal and looter cultures to imagine they are as worthwhile as the producer and creator cultures; having abandoned reason altogether in favor of expressing some feel-good platitudes about a supposedly essential "need to belong" to one's race, tribe, religion or group first and foremost; the outcome is what Stephen Hicks refers to as "group balkinization" --with all its inevitable and inescapable disunity, disharmony and conflict.

    Why, in other words, would universal brotherhood--or even peaceful coexistence for that matter--result from a dogma that is antithetical to the concept of the universalism of human experience that is the bedrock of civilization; and instead glorifies cultural and tribal differences, no matter how insane or irrational, violent or destructive are the cultural practices or beliefs that bring about those differences?

    Multiculturalism teaches that what is truly important above all else is belonging to one's sexual, racial, ethnic, or religious identity, and not that one also belongs to the family of humankind. If the former is held superior, then "social withdrawal" from community and a pervasive distrust of other groups follows quite naturally; including conflicts between different nations, religions and ethnic groups.

    The only "universal" that is shared under such circumstances is a committment to disharmony and, lurking beneath the overt moral relativism, is a grandiose sense of entitlement from each group as it jockeys for postion in the victimhood status heirarchy.

    We already see the same dysfunctional dynamics playing out on the world stage.

    In particular, Victor Davis Hanson, sums up the insanity of Obama's response to events going on in Iran exactly (emphasis mine):
    So what explains Obama's meek and timid response to the events in Iran? A number of factors, chief among them the adoption of a new "realism" that cloaks itself in nonjudgmental multiculturalism and tends, whether by intent or not, to extend a degree of unwarranted authenticity to any particular thug on the basis of his past anti-Bush, anti-American credentials and the hope that a uniquely qualified Obama can deal with these otherwise unpalatable autocrats.


    When it comes to dealing with tyrants and despots; terrorists and their irrationally violent religious beliefs, it is necessary to be extremely judgmental; and to always and everywhere denounce them in the strongest terms possible, while assiduously working on every front to support and defend freedom for all people.

    Samuel Adams wrote:
    The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil Constitution, are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors: they purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood, and transmitted them to us with care and diligence. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or to be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men.


    Today the world is being run by many "false and designing men" (and, there are a fair share of false and designing women--e.g., Nancy Pelosi comes immediately to mind) who are working hard to cheat Americans out of their heritage and to squander their inheritance. Is it any wonder that they could care less about the freedoms that are denied to millions in regimes like Iran; or that they seem only capable of giving lip service to our Constitution and are noticeably reluctant to defend it against attacks?

    In a world dominated by the dogmas of PC and Multiculturalism, there is little difference between liberty and tyranny; or between good and evil for that matter.

    UPDATE: Be sure to read this article by Michael Mukasey in the WSJ today. The highlight:
    Most recently we have had the promise of more rigorous searches at the airport, along with a White House summit meeting that featured a furrowed brow, an earnest injunction to "do better" at "connecting dots," an oddly benign reference to al Qaeda as our "agile adversary," and a promise to suspend the transfer of prisoners to Yemen because of the "unsettled" situation in that country, accompanied by an emphatic recommitment to closing Guantanamo.

    What the gaffes, the almost comically strained avoidance of such direct terms as "war" and "Islamist terrorism," and the failure to think of Abdulmutallab as a potential source of intelligence rather than simply as a criminal defendant seem to reflect is that some in the executive branch are focused more on not sounding like their predecessors than they are on finding and neutralizing people who believe it is their religious duty to kill us. That's too bad, because the Constitution vests "the executive power"—not some of it, all of it—in the president. He, and those acting at his direction, are responsible for protecting us.

    There is much to worry about if they think that the principal challenge of the day is detecting bombs at the airport rather than actively searching out, finding and neutralizing terrorists before they get there.


    The ongoing psychological denial of the PCMULTICULTIHOPEYCHANGEY crowd is simply amazing. If you are not scared yet, you should be.

    Tuesday, January 05, 2010

    A STRANGE MISHMASH THAT SIGNIFIES DENIAL IN THE EXTREME

    Victor Davis Hanson, writing on the unbelievable confusion exhibited by the Obama Administration on the Global War on Terror overseas... contingency operations... inconvenient reality:

    But more than one-third of all terrorist plots since 9/11 transpired in 2009 — despite loud chest-thumping about rejecting the idea of a war on terror, reaching out to the Muslim world, and apologizing for purported American sins. A non-impoverished Major Hasan or Mr. Mutallab (or Mr. Atta or KSM) does not fit with the notion that our enemies act out of poverty or oppression or want.

    In fact, what we are witnessing is a strange mishmash. On the one hand, after repeatedly trashing the Bush protocols in 2007–08, Obama has quietly adopted most of them — keeping the Patriot Act, intercepts, wiretaps, renditions, the concept of tribunals, Predator attacks, forward offensive strategies in Afghanistan, and the Bush-Petraeus timetable in Iraq.

    But on the other hand, the Obama administration has embraced largely empty symbolism — promising to "close Guantanamo within a year," mouthing euphemisms such as "overseas-contingency operations" ("this administration prefers to avoid using the term 'Long War' or 'Global War on Terror' [GWOT.] Please use 'Overseas Contingency Operation.'"), and "man-made disasters," while announcing showy new politically-correct moves (such as a public trial for KSM) and subjecting CIA operatives to legal hazard.
    [...]
    Apparently, the Obama administration came into office in January 2009 thinking that the notion of a "war on terror" was archaic and largely had been an excuse for the Bush-Cheney nexus to scare the nation for partisan political purposes. Given the long period of calm after 9/11, the somnolent "good" war in Afghanistan, and the sudden quiet in the "bad" Iraq theater, Obama preferred to focus on Bush's constitution-shredding rather than on national security. What vestigial danger remained could be changed by the charisma of Barack Obama, the obvious appeal of his ancestry to the Muslim world, and the ritual demonization of George Bush.

    But Obama has discovered that there really are radical Islamic threats; that Bush's record of seven years of security was no accident; and that the "good" war is heating up. Obama has been forced by events to quietly find ways of emulating Bush's successful anti-terrorism formula, while making loud but empty declarations to mollify his liberal base (which so far seems pacified that Guantanamo is "virtually" closed, and that KSM is "virtually" facing an ACLU dream trial).

    Yes, it is a strange mishmash of conflicting memes and confusing behaviors--not on the part of the terrorists, but on the part of Obama and friends, who seem intoxicated by the ideological brew they have served up to this country.

    It goes beyond mere intoxication; as someone once commented, the Democratic leadership long ago adopted the Alfred E. Neuman "What, Me Worry?" approach to national security; and their denial about the threat of Islamic terrorism has evolved into a near-catatonic state. The refusal to face the true nature of the threat is, by now, reflexive ("Don't jump to conclusions..."; ). Terrorism is just a four-letter word--BUSH!

    On an instinctive and fundamental level, Obama and friends understand that to confront the Islamic nature of the terror threat would cause an entire house of PC cards to come crashing down. And the last thing they want to do is to go there, because "going there" would force them to acknowledge some painful realities that they are not capable of dealing with.

    You could interpret all this behavior as symptomatic of a combined hysterical blindness, deafness and dumbness--but it is far too perverse and immutably out of touch with reality for it to be a simple neurosis. What we are witnessing is a collective cognitive catatonia that has makes the Democrats completely irrelevant to deal with the threats of the 21st century.

    Catatonia is a state of apparent unresponsiveness to external stimuli in a person who is apparently awake; and perfectly describes the present state of the Obama Administration and its leftist base--as well as most of the Democrats in Congress.

    The first signs of this dysfunctional collapse were clearly evident during the Clinton Administration:



    But I think a new picture like the one above is needed--updated with Obama and his merry cohorts assuming the "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil" position.

    As reality becomes ever more threatening, the process of denial has accelerated to a ludicrous degree--witness how Congress has been aggressively pursuing an agenda to keep the American people safe...from the evils of capitalism and the free market as they try to get their socialist-lite agenda passed lickety split.

    Last night, Charles Krauthammer, described as "insane" the decision to prosecute the Christmas underwear bomber in a civilian court. It was a decision that led to Abdulmulltalab immediately being lawyered up which caused him to stop talking about what he knew about future Al Qaeda plots against the US. Insanity is exactly the correct word to describe it.

    It doesn't take a psychiatrist (or a rocket scientist) to understand and appreciate the escalating denial of reality that is loosely disguised as our current national security policy.

    UPDATE: In case you are wondering why there is so much pervasive psychological denial about terrorism in the ranks of the political left (and a significant amount in some quarters of the political right, also), Wretchard's post explains:
    Henryk M. Broder, the editor Spiegel Online, argued that many European intellectuals have responded to an attack on Kurt Westergaard the author of the “Mohammed Cartoons”, by a Somali with links to al-Qaeda, by “de-escalating” their profile rather than denouncing the attack, in contrast to the somewhat vigorous defense of Salman Rushdie 20 years ago. Broder writes that “the West is choked with fear”.
    The attack on illustrator Kurt Westergaard wasn’t the first attempt to carry out a deadly fatwa. When Muslims tried to murder Salman Rushdie 20 years ago, the protests among intellectuals were loud. Today, though, Western writers and thinkers would rather take cover than defend basic rights.

    The attack on Westergaard is a textbook application of terror. Even the weapons chosen — an axe for example — contributed to instilling fear. Although Westergaard himself escaped unharmed, every European writer knows that the next victim may not be so lucky. And that next writer may be himself. The Somali also demonstrated the second object lesson of terrorist pedagogy. They reminded the world that they never forget. Salman Rushdie is still on the run. Westergaard will have to be guarded until the day that he dies. There is no statute of limitations on al-Qaeda’s anger. Blasphemy is forever.


    UPDATE II: Here's a link to Krauthammer's comments that I mentioned above (when I wrote the post originally, there wasn't one):
    On Abdulmutallab being accorded the rights of a civilian defendant:
    It is beyond disconcerting. It's insane. Here is a guy who . . . the administration has admitted was trained, armed in Yemen, recruited in London. We closed our embassy [in Yemen] this week, presumably because there are active threats emanating out of al-Qaeda, the same people involved in his [Abdulmutallab’s] mission.

    Here is a guy who presumably knows stuff. At least he knows who trained him and who armed him and who was around him. He says there were other plots. The idea that you give him his rights is simply unbelievable.

    Sunday, January 03, 2010

    LOL- NOT

    On New Year's day, I was channel-flipping and discovered among the hundreds of channels I now subscribe to there was a station that was playing classic TV westerns. In fact, they were doing 24 hr marathons of western series; and that day were showing my favorite western from when I was a child: The Virginian! Happily, I settled in to watch.

    The episode I happened on was mostly about the Judge (Lee J. Cobb) who had presided over the murder trial of a young member of a well-known outlaw family. The outlaw was found guilty by a jury and was awaiting sentencing--hanging--which was to be pronounced by the judge the next day. Into town saunter multiple members of the thuggish family; but instead of shooting up the town and freeing their relative, they decide to get him freed "using the law". There was "prejudice" among the jurors against their family, they claimed, having heard this from a lawyer. This fact, they argued, should cause the judge to completely set aside the verdict and free their clansman.

    Their legal argument was somewhat artificially bolstered by the fact that they then went around the town and intimidated and terrorized all the jurors and business owners; giving them a taste of what would happen if the Judge did not rule their way. They also casually mentioned to the Judge that they sincerely hoped his young daughter would stay healthy. They beat up the town sheriff, whereupon he decided it would be prudent to leave town. Soon all the townspeople were clamoring for the Judge to "do the right thing" and free the convicted murdered on the legal technicality. The jurors unanimously swore out an affadavit saying that they indeed had been prejudice against the family because its members had terrorized the town for years with their crimes and behavior.

    Well, you know how it ends. The Judge stands up to the town, telling them that if they give into the outlaws' terrorist tactics, then the outlaws will have the run of the town. He stands up to the outlaws on his own, and ends up shooting their leader dead, when the clan attempts to interrupt the sentencing; and then he proceeds to have the convicted murderer's sentence carried out, as his gun is trained on the rest of the family of thugs. The outlaws leave town with their dead; their heads bowed in defeat and their tails between their legs.

    That's how it worked in the old western classics. The good guys stood by their principles and refused to be intimidated by evil.

    This brings to mind an essay by Victor Davis Hanson a few years back:
    ...[T]he cowboy more often evokes marshal Will Kane of High Noon. When given the choice of riding out of Hadleyville for a much deserved retirement with his newlywed wife, the tired Gary Cooper instead turns back to face the Miller gang alone. Although his prospects of survival are slim, Kane won’t run or abandon his town that, in fact, would rather appease such killers. In that sense, for some it is not such a bad thing for cowboy Bush to confront regional bullies like Saddam Hussein, the Taliban, Kim Jong Il, or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — even if the Europeans, like the townspeople of Hadleyville, delude themselves that the Millers of our world would leave them alone if their stubborn self-appointed protector would just ride away. The recent unprovoked attacks by Hamas, Hezbollah, and the verbiage from Iran and Syria should disabuse any of that naiveté.
    [...]
    That Greek tragic theme — Sophocles’ dramas Ajax and Philoctetes center on the flawed hero that we both shun and need — is a Western constant. In the Magnificent Seven, the outcast hired guns ride into save a Mexican village from bandits. Then after the bloodletting, the surviving Yul Brenner and Steve McQueen depart knowing that they are not to enjoy the tranquility and order that they have alone been able to impart to others only through their gunplay.

    The truth is that we live in a global Hadleyville that has deluded itself that international communications, cell phones, or the Internet — like the onset of the 19th-century railroad and telegraph — equate to civilization. In fact, they are all only a thin flashy veneer atop a still wild and savage world in which outlaw regimes like North Korea , Saddam’s Iraq , or Iran push until stopped. After all, the present-day United Nations can protect nations and dispense justice about as well as the territorial marshal a three-day-ride away or the corrupt bought sheriff of a cattle baron’s town. And a Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mullah Omar, or Saddam Hussein listens to international warnings about as much as Liberty Valance paid heed to the bumbling coward of a sheriff, Link Appleyard.
    [...]
    So privately most appreciate an American Tom Doniphon, Shane or Will Kane who from time to time will appear out of nowhere to stand up to a Saddam, Taliban, or Kim Jung Il — or the recent crop of bullies in Lebanon, Syria, and Iran. The latter all may think that an exasperated lame duck George Bush, suffering from international rebuke and low approval ratings, has dropped his flashy cowboy veneer. Perhaps and probably for the better — but they should still beware: if the now brooding Bush really is a cowboy, then he may deal with a few more rogues before he leaves — caring not at all for our present approval but only for his own code and our future safety when he is gone.

    The cowboy hero of my youth was a simple man who minded his own business and valued his freedom. It would take a lot to stir him up, but once aroused, he was unstoppable. His talk might be drawling or lazy, but not his principles; and the violence which was always there under the surface of his placidity could be called on to defend and protect that which he valued. Then he would ride out into the sunset; his job done, his duty fulfilled. In The Virginian episode above, the Judge resigned his elected position as judge and began a new career as a rancher after the spectacle of watching his fellow citizens give into evil; and after risking his own life and saving them from it.

    The cowboy hero never turned away from what had to be done; and he never cared much for nuance or appeasement. He always understood and accepted the consequences of his actions, not caring if he was liked or loved; but doing what he thought was right, no matter what the cost.

    Today the American cowboy lives on in spirit in many aspects of our society. But if anything, there is even more contempt and anger heaped on him by our modern, cynical, and metrosexual society; who long ago stopped valuing the heroic and sees no need for cowboys in the new age.

    Today, any hint of unsophisticated cowboy heroics or clear talk of right and wrong, good and evil are met with scorn by the spoiled elites of the world, who perceive the modern cowboy as an unwanted anachronism and a genuine liability--his mere existence a frightening threat to the fantasy world of love and peace they have created in their minds.

    Mark Steyn in a column titled "The Joke's On Us" gives an excellent characterization of the mindset of our modern townspeople and today's outlaw terrorists--who aren't so different from the one's faced down by Judge Garth of The Virginian:
    On Christmas Day, a gentleman from Nigeria succeeded (effortlessly) in boarding a flight to Detroit with a bomb in his underwear. Pretty funny, huh?

    But the Pantybomber wasn’t the big joke. The real laugh was the United States government. The global hyperpower spent the next week making itself a laughingstock to the entire planet. First, the bureaucrats at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) swung into action with a whole new range of restrictions.

    Against radical Yemen-trained Muslims wearing weaponized briefs? Of course not. That would be too obvious. So instead they imposed a slew of constraints against you. At Heathrow last week, they were permitting only one item of carry-on on U.S. flights. In Toronto, no large purses.

    Um, the Pantybomber didn’t have a purse. He brought the bomb on board under his private parts, and his private parts weren’t part of his carry-on (although, if reports of injuries sustained in his failed mission are correct, they may well have been part of his carry-off). But no matter. If in doubt, blame the victim. The TSA announced that for the last hour of the flight no passenger can use the toilets or have anything on his lap — not a laptop, not a blanket, not a stewardess, not even a paperback book. I can’t wait for the first lawsuit after an infidel flight attendant confiscates a litigious imam’s Koran as they’re coming into LAX.
    [...]
    And remember, this was a bombing mission that “failed.” With failures like this, who needs victories?

    Joke, joke, joke. The only good news was that the derision was so universal that the TSA promptly reined in some of their wackier impositions a couple of days later. But by then Janet Incompetano, the homeland-security secretary, had gone on TV and declared to the world that there was nothing to worry about: “The system worked.”

    Indeed, it worked “smoothly.” The al-Qaeda trainee on a terrorist watch list, a man banned from the United Kingdom and reported to the CIA by his own father, got on board the plane, assembled the bomb, and attempted to detonate it. But don’t worry ’bout a thing; the system worked.
    [...]
    The real message was conveyed by Fouad Ajami, discussing the new administration’s foreign policy in the Wall Street Journal: “No despot fears Mr. Obama, and no blogger in Cairo or Damascus or Tehran, no demonstrator in those cruel Iranian streets, expects Mr. Obama to ride to the rescue.” True. Another Iranian deadline passed on New Year’s Eve, but the United States will set a new one for Groundhog Day or whenever.

    And, just as the thug states understand they now have the run of the planet, so do the terror cells.

    Read it all.

    It has been lucky for America that our modern cowboys in the law and military have continued to do what all real cowboys were born to do: allow us to sleep peacefully at night by being willing to do violence on our behalf.

    In fact, the only thing standing between civilization and the outlaws and terrorists who prey on the innocent and weak are those few cowboys who held to the Code of the West. Today's vapid and elitists leaders, including the holy Commander in Chief. and all the minions of the deluded left may hate and despise them for the violence of their methods--but civilization most certainly could not survive without their moral clarity and protection.

    That's what a real hero is all about. The western authors of the past, including those who wrote the episodes of The Virginian (and all the other wonderful cowboy series of the past) understood this fundamental truth about about this American icon.

    Sadly, these days the word "cowboy" is usually used pejoritively and as the ultimate insult by the intellectual and moral lightweights of modern politics.

    Haha. It would indeed be funny--if it weren't so pathetic.