Saturday, April 30, 2005

Bernard Lewis on Islamic Concepts of Freedom and Justice

Bernard Lewis has an absolutely fascinating essay up at Real Clear Politics/Commentary: Freedom and Justice in the Modern Middle East.

The second stage of political upheaval in the Middle East can be dated with precision. In 1940, the government of France surrendered to Nazi Germany. A new collaborationist government was formed and established in a watering place called Vichy, and General Charles de Gaulle moved to London and set up a Free French committee. The French empire was beyond the reach of the Germans at that point, and the governors of the French colonies and dependencies were free to decide: they could stay with Vichy or rally to de Gaulle. Vichy was the choice of most of them, and in particular the rulers of the French-mandated territory of Syria-Lebanon, in the heart of the Arab East. This meant that Syria-Lebanon was wide open to the Nazis, who moved in and made it the main base of their propaganda and activity in the Arab world.

It was at that time that the ideological foundations of what later became the Baath Party were laid, with the adaptation of Nazi ideas and methods to the Middle Eastern situation. The nascent party's ideology emphasized pan-Arabism, nationalism, and a form of socialism. The party was not officially founded until April 1947, but memoirs of the time and other sources show that the Nazi interlude is where it began. From Syria, the Germans and the proto-Baathists also set up a pro-Nazi regime in Iraq, led by the famous, and notorious, Rashid Ali al-Gailani.

The Rashid Ali regime in Iraq was overthrown by the British after a brief military campaign in May-June 1941. Rashid Ali went to Berlin, where he spent the rest of the war as Hitler's guest with his friend the mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini. British and Free French forces then moved into Syria, transferring it to Gaullist control. In the years that followed the end of World War II, the British and the French departed, and after a brief interval the Soviets moved in.

The leaders of the Baath Party easily switched from the Nazi model to the communist model, needing only minor adjustments. This was a party not in the Western sense of an organization built to win elections and votes. It was a party in the Nazi and Communist sense, part of the government apparatus particularly concerned with indoctrination, surveillance, and repression. The Baath Party in Syria and the separate Baath Party in Iraq continued to function along these lines.

Since 1940 and again after the arrival of the Soviets, the Middle East has basically imported European models of rule: fascist, Nazi, and communist. But to speak of dictatorship as being the immemorial way of doing things in that part of the world is simply untrue. It shows ignorance of the Arab past, contempt for the Arab present, and unconcern for the Arab future. The type of regime that was maintained by Saddam Hussein--and that continues to be maintained by some other rulers in the Muslim world--is modern, indeed recent, and very alien to the foundations of Islamic civilization. There are older rules and traditions on which the peoples of the Middle East can build.

Just go and read all of it for a several hundred year perspective on Middle Eastern Islamic society.

Cirque du PA

In light of this; the cartoon below seems about right.

From Cox and Forkum Posted by Hello

Mind-Boggling Abundance

From The Belmont Club:

While professional journalists may be tempted to poke fun at these early efforts the quantity of these observer-provided stories is likely to grow and its quality likely to improve. The sheer volume of information that will become available is going to make the world both more and less opaque. More opaque because the relatively simple plot lines provided by the mainstream media will be replaced by a flood of filings telling literally all sides of story. Whereas one used to be able to "understand the world" by reading the New York Times lead and grooving into the standard world view, no such simple, consolidated tales will be served up by the oncoming news avalanche. There will be no suggestive lead, no magisterial peroration, no drastic simplification. Instead there will be detail in mind-boggling abundance. The good news is that the world will become more transparent to anyone with the tools and services needed to sift through that deluge of information. The existence of so much collateral information will make it very difficult to lie on any scale. It will be possible to "know" something about an event in detail inconceivable a decade ago. There will never again be a new Walter Duranty who can foist a fraud on a reading public for any length of time from the vantage of privileged access. In short, the world threatens to become a news reader's nightmare and an intelligence analyst's paradise.

Since I stopped reading newspapers (except for what they post online), I have definitely been impressed with the "mind-boggling abundance" of information. My quest for information began after 9/11 when I began to feel that my usual sources were somehow lacking. I couldn't really put my finger on what had been bothering me about the information I was reading, but it definitely came to a head after 9/11.

Most of my adult life I have been a newsaholic--subscribing to multiple newspapers (usually a local paper, a big city paper, and the NY Times). I would read Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report; I would watch CNN and Headline News every evening.

Yet, with all that reading, somewhere about the turn of the century, I began to notice they were all saying the same thing--and it always seems negative and/or hostile--especially toward the Republican Administration in the White House. I realized that in all those varied news sources, I was getting only one, uniform perspective. Then I started noticing that the front pages of my newspapers were running opinion pieces disguised as news pieces. I remember calling up the local editor of the Ann Arbor News, who told me, "Well, everybody does it now--even the New York Times."

Then, one day, while I was on the internet checking my email on AOL, I decided to look at several news stories there. Within no time, I was clicking on some original sources for news stories I was reading. Then a friend suggested that if I wanted some variety, I should check out Instapundit and tune into Fox News.

I discovered blogs.

A whole new world opened up to me and, as Wretchard so eloquently put it, "the mainstream media [was] replaced by a flood of filings telling literally all sides of story."

I have found this situation not at all a nightmare; although it is rather time consuming. One of the side-effects for me has been an increase in my focus on certain things, as I adjusted my priorities. Where before I might read every little story in the newspaper, now I tend to focus on getting as much information as possible on a specific subject that interests me. For example, I hardly ever read anything on gay marriage. I just don't care much anymore one way or the other. Sometimes something will catch my eye on the subject, but for the most part, it has become very low on my list of priorities.

I read everything from every perspective, however, on Iraq, Afghanistan, Islamic fundamentalism and the War on Terror. I am also very well-infomed about issues related to freedom of speech on campus; and North Korea. The wealth of information available on all these subjects is indeed, mind-boggling. Lies and distortions are exposed daily. What politicians said in the past comes back to haunt them regularly. And everybody had a different opinion or a different take on things. You can decide for yourself who are the fools and who are the wise.

And finally [perhaps even most importantly!] anyone can join the fray. From a world where news and information used to be held by a few elites, now we get live-blogging from the sources of news stories. Now we get opinions from many instead of from a few. I started with Instapundit, and now I read maybe 50 -100 blogs a day; read news stories from hundreds of different sources; and read op-eds from maybe 20 different newspapers.

Personally, I find the new media wonderfully exciting and endlessly fascinating. To have so much knowledge and information at one's fingertips is not just an intelligence analyst's dream--it is the ultimate dream for a compulsive news junkie.

So much information, so little time!

Friday, April 29, 2005

The Horrible Injustices Suffered By Redheads....

I'm a day behind on this, but it's too good to pass up! From James Likeks: (hat tip: Betsy's Page)

First, consider "The Interpreter." It's a big-budget suspense thriller, a movie that examines that august body of international concord, the United Nations, and how it deals with a terrorist threat. In real life, the answer would be "lunch." But since the film contains large portions of Sean Penn, one of the more cringe-inducing intellectual exhibitionists of the thespian profession, you know you're in for it.

The movie's terrorists blow up a bus in New York City. Their origin? The fictional African nation of Matobo. The producers didn't even have the nerve to use a faux Central Asian province, like Inventistan. No, they go to that hotbed of global insecurity, Matobo.

"We didn't want to encumber the film in politics in any way," Kevin Misher, the producer, told The Wall Street Journal.

Perhaps he means this: For some, the very act of mentioning Islamist terrorism is a political act, since it plays into the Bushitler/RoveCo Hate Axis scheme to shove McDonald's hamburgers down everyone's falafel hole. We can make movies about brave soldiers fighting Islamist extremists when Hillary's in power -- until then, ixnay on the Uslimsmay.

Hence this strange silence. It's like making a movie at the height of the civil rights era about the horrible injustices suffered by redheads. Originally, the terrorists of "The Interpreter" were from the Middle East. Likewise the terrorists who set off a nuclear bomb in "The Sum of All Fears"; they were changed to neo-Nazis. It's a miracle the 2001 film "Pearl Harbor" didn't show Hawaii attacked by militia members outraged over Waco.

How true.

The Ivory Tower Needs More Like This Guy

I really like Professor Adams' agenda (here's a peek, but read the whole thing):

The university is also stealing your money by charging you $175 for parking every year and not providing you all with a parking space. Currently, there are four students for every parking space. Pardon my language, but that really sucks. Expect to immediately receive a 75% reduction in your parking fees. Next, I will build a parking deck on campus. When I am finished, you will be able to park there for free.

The new parking deck will be in the place of the Cultural Arts Center, which is currently being built on the edge of campus. Let's face it, that center will probably be filled with sculptures of vaginas and African Warlords within a year. Since, no one cares about that artsy-fartsy crap, I plan to tear it down even before it is even finished.

Remember that administrators just fund these diversity projects to pad their vitae in order to get the next administrative job that pays more money. And, let's face the facts: No other school is going to hire me after I 'm done with this place
Adams is the author of Welcome to the Ivory Tower of Babel: Confessions of a Conservative College Professor. This is a fascinating book that I enjoyed thoroughly (especially coming as I do from the academic environment). It is a collection of essays on the campus culture wars. Anything that is "politically correct" is grist for Adams' mill.

The Council Has Spoken !

Image hosted by
This week's winners in the Watcher's Council are now posted at the Watcher's site. Every week the Council nominates posts from the blogs of the Council members, and posts from around the blogsphere. The Council then votes to select the "Best" of all these posts.


1. Silence of the Sheep Gates of Vienna

2. China's Time Bombs: The Banking System The Glittering Eye


1. Los Angeles Marketed as Part of Mexico by LA Hispanic Station The Blue State Conservatives

2.The EU and the Arabs IV -- War, Oil, EAD American Future

Check out all the winners!

The Human Wrongs Commission

A potent example of everything that is wrong in the world today can be found in a single Commission of the UN: The Commission on Human Rights. Anne Bayefsky at NRO gets to the heart of the idiocy and evil that the Commission symbolizes:

The dynamic reveals a great deal about the underlying U.N. pathology. With no democratic pre-conditions for membership, the commission, like the general assembly, is a forum through which non-democracies can trump democracies. Furthermore, situating democracies in an organization where relationships with non-democracies provide leverage over other democracies divides democratic states rather than bringing them together. Though the EU relishes the role of middleman between the state sponsors of terrorism or genocide and the United States, the halfway point is not where the U.S., or its fellow democracies, ought to be.

In March, Secretary-General Kofi Annan proposed saving the credibility of the U.N.'s primary human-rights body by scrapping it and creating a human-rights council. It would be elected by a two-thirds majority of U.N. members, and "those elected to the Council should undertake to abide by the highest human rights standards." This suggestion ignores the fact that states will not relinquish geographic distribution on such a U.N. body, and the vote trading and slates of regional groups means the likes of China will simply reappear. There are no democratic and rights-respecting criteria for membership. And the inevitable relationship of the council to the General Assembly — with its full panoply of despotic regimes in the front row — spells an absence of real change.

As Bayefsky points out, this is every dictator's dream -- international validation of their regime as an equal to all free nations. Why else would thugs like Saddam and Fidel go to such great extremes to showcase their "democratic" elections (in which they get 99.999% of the vote) if not to show the world how humane and free they are and that they are just as legitimate as real democracies?

By giving every two-bit thug an international podium and equal status and voice with the freedom-loving, democratic nations, the UN has managed to turn the original concept that led to its founding topsy-turvy and become a force for evil.

On the Human Wrongs Commission the dictators' dream is the entire world's nightmare.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Hate Speech: How to Criminalize One's Political Opponents

This is one of the best and most succinct discussions of the desire to criminalize "hate speech":

This push must be, and will be, resisted by all who care deeply about freedom of speech because, at the end of the day, "hate speech" is really a very subjective judgment that very much depends on the eye of the beholder, or, if you will, the ear of the listener. Extreme examples are easy to identify, but most liberal experts in this field neglect to point out that obscene and so-called "fighting words" that invoke extreme emotion are already not protected as speech under current Constitutional jurisprudence. That being the case, the "extra" protection afforded by "hate speech" codes really are illusory. What is really going on here is an attempt to declare beyond debate certain subjects that the Left finds offensive.

More mundane examples, however, are likely not to produce such unanimity of judgment. Is Little Green Footballs and invaluable political forum that focuses on the plans and deeds of Islamic Fascists? Or is it a racist hate-site that the government should shut down? We suspect the answer to that question very much depends on one's political views.[....]

We understand that freedom of speech is painful to liberals. We know what you're going through, having had to live through the era when you controlled the public debate and no dissenting voices to liberal orthodoxy were allowed into the hallowed halls of CBS News or the New York Times.

Hate speech codes are nothing more and nothing less than an attempt to criminalize one's political opponents and should be resisted by all who care for liberty, be they right or left.(Emphasis mine--please read the entire post at New Sisyphus!)


Crushed Again

Ah well. Crushed again. I will be seeking therapy for my press conference elevated expectation trauma (PC-EET). Posting will resume after my cure--or in a few minutes whichever comes first.

Wishful Thinking?

OK, the rumor mill has started, all because Bush is having his first press conference in a year. I'm really hoping this particular rumor is true, and that Bush will announce it. Or, maybe he'll say that the troops really did get Zarqawi and not just his laptop? Image hosted by

Wishful thinking? Yes, certainly. But I can dream, can't I? And who knows? I was going to watch anyway, but now I feel much more interested in what is going to be said....

Sinking Ship

From Cox and Forkum. Posted by Hello

According to the most recent FoxNews poll:

Overall, fully 79 percent of the public think people under age 55 should have the right to choose between keeping all of their Social Security contributions in the current system and investing a portion of their funds. That support goes up to 84 percent among respondents under age 55.

On the personal level, 53 percent say they want the choice to invest a portion of their contributions, up from 48 percent in early February — soon after President Bush spoke in his State of the Union address about offering investment accounts. Among those under age 55, almost two-thirds (64 percent) want the option to invest.

More generally, when Social Security is not mentioned, most Americans say they trust themselves (77 percent) over the government (15 percent) when it comes to making retirement investment decisions.

I recently requested and received a statement from Social Security (if you would like to do so, go here). I have worked all my life and since graduating from medical school have earned a very comfortable living, even when working part-time. I was mildly surprised --both positively and negatively--by my statement.

Positively because it was nice to see that all the money I have paid into this system I would get some of it back when I retire. Negatively because I am getting so little of it back despite the large amount I have contributed over the years (anywhere from 25%- 33% of my annual income each year).

I am certainly very relieved that I have had the opportunity to keep a separate private retirement account throughout my professional life. Let me be very upfront: I am absolutely lousy with money. Ask my husband. Ask anyone in my family.

I have done all the wrong things that investment people caution against. For example, I have at various times actually cashed out some of my retirement funds for various things (e.g., when my family moved to the much more expensive Ann Arbor area from Texas a few years ago). This is a BIG no-no according to financial experts, and it wasn't the first time I did it.

All in all, I would say that I could have at this point in my life almost double what I do have in a personal retirement account-- if I had not withdrawn it for non-retirement purposes. Also over the last 5 years I have noticed a significant decrease in the amount of return on my various mutual fund investments, but have been too lazy to do anything about it. In summary then, I represent the worse possible case of indifference, idiocy, and ignorance related to investing in the market.

And yet, the interest on the amount of money I have saved in that personal account will give me more than double what Social Security will every month.

Like most reasonable people, it is hard for me to see this as a bad thing.

A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste

Over at Beautiful Atrocities, an in-depth analysis of the Air America juggernaut, as it tries to take over the radio world--one Leftist mind at a time. Hilarious, and very perceptive.

P.S. You might listen to Air America once to understand how loathsome it is, but for your mental health, I wouldn't recommend it more than that. A mind is a terrible thing to waste!

The Paranoid Style

LGF is worried about the media's obsession with Abu Ghraib and wonders if this is obsessive compulsive disorder and whether it is time for an intervention.

Well, the diagnosis is incorrect. This is not Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, although there is an element of obsession about it. Think of it this way. Abu Ghraib symbolizes to the true anti-American paranoid everything they believe about America, American values and morality, and American evil. They are obsessed with Abu Ghraib precisely because they want it to prove that they have been correct about America all along.

One of the hallmarks of the paranoid, and paranoia in general, is the ability to fixate (or obsess) on one particular point to the exclusion of all other reality and to select that point as the "evidence" of their predetermined delusion.

The paranoid is actually quite perceptive--rigidly so; and they focus their attention only on those details that give support and credence to their beliefs.

David Shapiro, in his book "Neurotic Styles" comments on the Paranoid style:

In the paranoid person, even more sharply and severely than the obsessive compulsive, every aspect and component of normal autonomous functioning appears in rigid, distorted, and, in general hypertrophied form....[The]paranoid person's attention is so purposefully and narrowly directed as to amount, not merely to rigidity, but to a fixed bias.

Normal people are able to see things in context and their judgement is therefore more reliable and unbiased. The paranoid's pre-existing bias distorts his judgement and makes him unable to place facts or events in any appropriate context.

Note also all the conspiracy theories and deeply held conviction that the abuses exposed at Abu Ghraib are part of a massive government and military plot to deliberately commit atrocites and that the plot goes up the military heirarchy to the Secretary of Defense and through the Department of Defense to the White House itself. Of course, this belief pre-dates Abu Ghraib, but firmly became attached to that place when it was perceived that what happened there could be used to prop up the belief system.

So, we should not confuse this incredible paranoia concerning the behavior of a few misanthropes and sadists at Abu Ghraib, with the relatively milder preoccupations of an obsessive compulsive.

The treatment? Such people cannot be talked or reasoned out of their delusional preoccupations, because they are too central to their identity. Sometimes medication can help, but since they don't believe they have a problem, getting them to try it is usually a waste of time. There is very little insight and even less motivation to change, since reality would be too threatening.

Prognosis: Poor.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

At Risk

Wretchard at the Belmont Club has a great series of posts up about Iran and the nuclear threat it poses to the U.S. and the world (here, here, and here). The last post emphasizes the poor intelligence the U.S. had prior to the Iraq war and our dependence on--of all things--German intelligence that was known by the Germans to be inadequate (they just didn't bother to mention it at the time); and points out that our information about Iran must be better for us to be able to act effectively there:

Command post at a hotel. Waiting for clearance to use a source that had never been directly seen. And nobody told me. Leaving aside the possibility that Mr. Tenet was set up by an allied intelligence service, nothing illustrates the poverty of the CIA's human intel than this reliance on a German controlled source to which the CIA did not have direct access yet used for one of its most critical assessments. The cupboard was bare. Given that level of failure, a certain amount of "indirect" confrontation with Iran is probably necessary to fill out an intelligence picture that is probably full of blanks before attempting anything further.

He who knows the enemy, knows self will never be at risk;
Does not know the enemy, knows self will win some and lose some;
Knows neither the enemy nor self will always be at risk.

-- Sun Tzu

Very worth reading all three posts.

What A Concept !

Believe me, this kind of thing really irks me, too. It gives Psychiatry and Psychiatrists a bad name. It seems that more and more "therapy" offered to the public by so-called "professionals" simply has as its goal the creation of a new subclass of victims.

Once you create the new subclass (e.g., women abused by their female bosses; upset parents whose kids are out of control; students who get bad grades (oh, the trauma!) by mean teachers; political parties that lose an election; Albino farmers with sensitive skin) you can milk it for all it is worth, to gain sympathy and understanding from all--and, of course, some sort of recompense for your suffering. Victimhood Rules! You are not alone! Your suffering was CAUSED by SOMEONE or SOMETHING! YOU ARE NOT TO BLAME! IT'S SOMEONE ELSE'S FAULT.

The key point [and probably the main attraction] to such victimhood therapeutics is that YOU don't have t change. It's not YOUR fault! Blame is carefully placed on external factors and the goal is to find a way to make those external factors change! Taking a pill. Or, passing a law is always a good idea, if you can get a large number of people to buy into your victimhood. Even better if you can file a lawsuit! Then you can be a rich victim.

I hear it over and over again. It's. Not. My. Fault! I will accept that they feel that way and even empathize. I even believe that there are physiological correlates in many cases. But part of my job is to help them to see that often (not always--but often) they actually have quite a bit of control over what happens to them in the world. That they have made some CHOICES that have led to the situation they are in. Now they are in a position to make some NEW CHOICES--if they really want to change things.

There are a lot of people who are truly at the mercy of forces outside their control. Children, for example. People caught up in natural disasters or accidents. Those who have severe biological vulnerabilities. But even in those cases, people can make some different choices.

The unhappy reality is that most members of the victimhood clubs only feel that they cannot control events. Typically, they can make important changes in their life that would alter their circumstances, but for various reasons have chosen not to.

It is a poor therapist indeed, who, having empathized with the feelings of helplessness on the part of their patient--never helps them to take responsibility for their behaviors. This is one of the problems with "pop" psychology. Besides oversimplifying the underlying psychological theories and rendering them rather meaningless; they often stop at the "feeling" stage (it is OK to have these feelings) and neglect the next--and equally, if not more important phase of therapy (YOU are responsible for your own life. YOU are the one who must take steps to change things).

People generally don't have much control about what they feel--emotions are fundamental physiology. BUT THEY DO HAVE CONTROL OVER HOW THEY BEHAVE. This is called Personal Responsibility.

I urge you to read this post on RESPONSIBILITY from ShrinkWrapped.

As I have pointed out to patients on many occasions: When you do not know why you behave the way you do, or feel the way you feel, you can not change anything. It is only once you understand why you are feeling the way you feel and why you do the things you do, that you have the choice of changing the behavior that causes you, and others, grief. In brief, the goal of psychoanalysis is to enlarge the area of mental life, feelings and behavior, that a person can take conscious responsibility for.

ShrinkWrapped is speaking as a psychoanalyst (a special type of psychotherapist), but all psychotherapy has a similar goal. Psychoanalysis works to change the deeper character structures and hence behavior. It is very intense and often goes on for a long period of time. But even psychoanalysis doesn't always work. One professor I remember during training, who was himself a psychoanalyst used to say, "Sometimes when you take a schmuck and analyze him, all you'll get is a well-analyzed schmuck."

Remember that old joke? How many psychiatrists does it take to change a lightbulb? Just one. But the lightbulb really has to want to change. Like all good humor, it hints at a fundamental truth that isn't ofen acknowledged.

Psychotherapy is a two-way street. No matter how brilliant the therapist, the person in therapy basically has to want to change.

All effective psychotherapy has the goal of changing behavior. And works by helping people --who want to change and take control of their lives --learn to take responsibility for their thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

What a concept.

The Neverending Temper Tantrum

John Podhoretz is quite accurate about the current mental state of the Democrats:

IN 1955, William F. Buckley Jr. famously declared that the purpose of conservatism was "to stand athwart history, yelling 'Stop,' at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it."
That astoundingly witty remark was a rueful acknowledgement of the uphill challenge facing the nascent American right, half a century ago — trying to halt the forward movement of a self-confident liberal left that was utterly certain it could make the world a better place through government action and forced social change.

Who could have imagined, reading Buckley's words in 1955, that 50 years later the liberal left would have adopted Buckley's screaming "Stop" as its mantra? Only there's nothing whimsically philosophical about the Democratic "Stop," as there was in Buckley's case. Rather, there's something primal about it, something desperate, something heartbroken and enraged.

Judges appointed by a twice-elected president who received the greatest number of votes in American history? STOP!

Find new sources of domestic oil to combat our dependence on Middle East petroleum? STOP!

A nominee for U.N. ambassador who has been confirmed four times previously by the Senate and whose views clearly dovetail with the president who nominated him? STOP!

And on and on it goes. How else to explain the wild enthusiasm, indeed the almost romantic praise, expressed by Democrats and their cheerleaders in the media for the Senate filibuster — a legislative maneuver created by a quirk in Senate rules that was most famously used to block civil-rights laws in the 1940s and 1950s?

There is something altogether childish about the continuous chorus of "No! No! No!" emanating from the minority party. Barbara Boxer and Teddy Kennedy have the whiny, petulant, foot-stomping of the spoiled brat down perfectly.

Sort of like a neverending temper tantrum.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Was I Prescient, Or What?

Here is a post from March 18, in which I highlighted the Galveston County retirement program. Today President Bush was in Galveston (in Levy Hall at the University of Texas Medical Branch, where I was an Assistant Dean and on the faculty of Psychiatry) to talk about their rather unique and successful program.

No matter what Barbara Boxer or Harry Reid say (and I heard them say a lot about the "failure" of this plan)--it has brought a return of THREE TIMES what the individuals who opted for it would have received from social security. Check it out at the link above.

And here's a piece by John Tierney which discusses the successful retirement plan in Chile, of all places.

After comparing our relative payments to our pension systems (since salaries are higher in America, I had contributed more), we extrapolated what would have happened if I'd put my money into Pablo's mutual fund instead of the Social Security trust fund. We came up with three projections for my old age, each one offering a pension that, like Social Security's, would be indexed to compensate for inflation:

(1) Retire in 10 years, at age 62, with an annual pension of $55,000. That would be more than triple the $18,000 I can expect from Social Security at that age.

(2) Retire at age 65 with an annual pension of $70,000. That would be almost triple the $25,000 pension promised by Social Security starting a year later, at age 66.

(3)Retire at age 65 with an annual pension of $53,000 and a one-time cash payment of $223,000.

You may suspect that Pablo has prospered only because he's a sophisticated investor, but he simply put his money into one of the most popular mutual funds. He has more money in it than most Chileans because his salary is above average, but lower-paid workers who contributed to that fund for the same period of time would be in relatively good shape, too, because their projected pension would amount to more than 90 percent of their salaries.

By contrast, Social Security replaces less than 60 percent of your salary - and that's only if you were a low-income worker. Typical recipients get back less than half of their salaries.

Someone send an alert to Paul Krugman, who as usual, is without a clue.

More Than Real Evidence Ever Could....

The next allegation against Bolton? I wouldn't be at all surprised. Posted by Hello

Meanwhile, LGF has some interesting information on one of the accusers and some of the other absurd claims.

This whole Bolton brouhaha reminds me of an episode of the Simpsons ," Bad Man", where Homer is accused of sexual harassment and suffers a trial by media as everyone seems jump on the bandwagon of saying what a bad man he is. A media circus then ensues with coverage of Homer's depravity on every channel. In particular, there is a daytime-television talk show, with the theme "mothers and runaway daughters reunited by their hatred of Homer Simpson."

One woman is sobbing and says, "I don't know Homer Simpson, I -- I never met Homer Simpson or had any contact with him, but -- [cries uncontrollably] -- I'm sorry, I can't go on." The interviewer responds, " That's OK: your tears say more than real evidence ever could."

Yeah. That about sums it up.

The Rumors of America's Demise Are Greatly Exaggerated

Victor Davis Hanson thinks that the most recent predictions of America's demise are as incorrect as previous ones over the last 100 years:

During the Cold War, hard-core socialists pontificated that the (soon-to-collapse) Soviet Union was ascendant, inasmuch as it had realized Karl Marx's triumphant New Man who was reborn from the ashes of capitalism.

In President Jimmy Carter's days of “national malaise,” the state-subsidized industries of Japan Inc. were supposedly making us all wage slaves to Sony and Toyota — until the Asian financial meltdown.

Now a new generation of pessimists is warning that it is the turn of the European Union, flush with trade surpluses, a small defense budget and a strong euro. Larger in size than us, with a greater population, a better-educated youth and a supposedly more humane social net, will Europe gradually nudge the United States from its world pre-eminence? Or does the new Asian axis of 2 billion in China and India instead foretell American decline?

Some long-term indicators here at home are indeed worrisome. The deficit is again spiraling. Our trade debt is enormous. The dollar is weak. Materialistic Americans are buying more consumer goods than their global scorecard might otherwise warrant — all predicated on borrowed money from Asia that could be recalled with little warning. Few of the huge container ships from China, Japan and South Korea that dock in California return to Asia stuffed with American exports.

However, such pessimism is premature. Other indicators generally point in our favor. Interest rates are steady. Rates of real economic growth are strong. Unemployment and inflation are both low.

Without denying that there are real economic issues that need to be addressed, VDH goes on to discuss several empirical indicators that suggest we are doing fairly well. I would add that we are doing fairly well considering that we are in the middle of a war.

I grew up with many many stories of what life was like during WWII. The daily sacrifices that families made; the shortages they had to deal with. And the fact that for the first three years, things went badly on the battlefield for the U.S. and its allies. My grandmother told me how scared she was that we would lose the war to the Japanese and Germans. She escaped from Italy before WWI, and was particularly concerned about German and Italian fascism, which she despised. The thought of living under such oppression was dismaying to her, to say the least.

Yet here we are today, complaining about high oil prices (the lowest in the world actually); complaining about how many Americans are being killed in Iraq (the lowest in any war); while we drive our SUV's, watch our color TV's (one in every room); play our Xboxes and use our Blackberrys.

What have we had to sacrifice on a daily basis for this war on terrorism?

Except for our brave soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and their families here at home, what do we know of sacrifice? So many of us whine and complain; moralize and pontificate about the evils of war; violently rage and rail against violence; and oppose everything on some pseudoprinicple or another.

So, let me summarize. We are doing well--very well, in fact. There are both short- and long-term economic problems that will need to be addressed, but they are no worse than thsoe we've had in the past. We are making great progress, with minimal loss of life in the war on terror. Freedom is spreading throughout the world. Challenges remain, and there is much still to do to eradicate Islamofascism from the face of the earth. Finally, we have not had a terrorist attack in the last 3 1/2 years. Now is not the time to pull back. Now is the time to push forward with everything we've got.

As VDH suggests, the rumors of America's demise are greatly exaggerated.

Academic "Professionals" ?

David Horowitz writes about his experience giving a talk at the University of Hawaii and the boorish and hostile reception he received at the Department of Political Science, one of the supposed "sponsors" of the talk. I recommend you read the entire article. The part that struck me the most was the following:

The first thing I noticed was that the Chairman's office door was adorned with a large Anti-Iraq War poster. I have made a personal campaign against such political statements on professorial offices. Students go to theste offices for counseling. Such partisan statements create a wall between the professor and the student who it is his or her professional responsibility to help. They serve no purpose but to vent the spleen of these tenured individuals who are apparently so frustrated as to be unable to maintain minimal self-discipline in the presence of a captive audience students who -- if they disagree with the statements -- have no choice but to suffer them. I asked Jamie, who is a senior and whose father served this country in the military, if he had ever taken a course with Professor Hiller. When he said no, I asked him why. He pointed at the sign.

When we go to our doctors' offices we don't expect to see signs on their office doors making political statements attacking the war in Iraq or attacking those who oppose it. That's because doctors are professionals and have taken an oath to minister to all their patients regardless of their political beliefs. Why can't we expect the same professionalism and decency from our professors?

I've wondered the same thing. If I saw a political poster like that up in a doctor's waiting room, I'd leave that office as fast as my feet could take me. How could I entrust my life to someone who felt compelled to spew his political beliefs to helpless patients coming to him (or her) for relief of their suffering?

Likewise, how can we entrust the vulnerable minds of our young people to the rabid emotions of professors who want to indoctrinate, rather than teach those minds? Sometimes, whether you are young or old, it is hard to tell the difference between the two, but permitting a student the freedom to make up his or her own mind when presented with the facts, is a clue that being taught to think is the goal; as opposed to being forced to regurgitate a professor's thoughts.

True respect for the developing mind means you don't have to pressure them to think a certain way, nor would respect entail putting up posters to make sure they know what they are supposed to think in your department. Even the dimmest bulb is going to eventually wonder why anyone who thinks differently is automatically labeled a Fascist.

The definition of Fascism is "a political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of all opposition." This is exactly the behavior in academia that Horowitz and many others are speaking out against.

The protestor signs that said "No Academic Freedom for Fascists" is undoubtedly a rather blatant psychological projection on the part of a dictatorial academic regime whose leaders wish to completely control all ideas and suppress anything and anyone they don't like.

You might say that a psychological corollary to Godwin's Law is that whoever first brings up the whole Hitler/Fascism thing is conveying the structure of his own psychological defensive processes; more than saying anything of particular value about someone else.

Monday, April 25, 2005

A Breath of Free Air

Arthur Chrenkoff has a great column up, of which I will quote just a little from the Iraqi comment it contains:

Here's Saad, 32, sound engineer from Basra: "Iraqis are feeling better. They are breathing the air of freedom. They read, watch and say what they want. They travel, work and receive a living wage. They use mobile phones, satellite dishes and the internet, which they did not even know before. . . . As for terrorism, we are now beginning to unite against it and to defeat it."

Noura, 32, a computer engineer from Baghdad and a Christian: "While we lost security after Saddam's fall, we gained our freedom and a chance to build a new society."

Nada, 32, a government worker from Mosul: "We never imagined that the Turkmen community would have a political party representing them in Iraq, but this is happening now."

Kaban, 31, electrical engineer from Baghdad: "There have been many changes since the fall of Saddam's regime, but the most important change was that we feel free. . . . However, those who say that security was better in the past are completely wrong. It is true we did not have suicide car bombings in Saddam's era, but our homes did not feel safe from the intrusion of Saddam's security men, who came in the middle of the night to kidnap, kill or rape."

Waala, 25, a schoolteacher from Baghdad: "The Sunnis in Iraq do not live in isolation from the political and social circles of life, as many people outside Iraq seem to believe. Nothing has affected our relationships with each other--we face the same problems. This applies to Sunnis or Shia, Christians or Muslims, Arabs or Kurds. Unfortunately, the refusal by some Sunnis to participate in the elections was the cause of some political isolation."

Imad Mohammed, 25, a university graduate from Baghdad: "I am no longer worried about losing my dignity or my life. And I am also getting a higher income, like most Iraqis."

Now, go and read the rest of his roundup of good news from Iraq!

Adrift and Losing It

Posted by Hello Meanwhile:

Since taking over as chairman of the Democratic National Committee earlier this year, the former presidential candidate has been quoted in newspapers making unusually caustic remarks about Republicans.

Dean has suggested that they are "evil." That they are "corrupt." He called them "brain-dead" during a stop in Toronto -- and while the Terri Schiavo case was still in the news. He has tagged Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) as a "liar." Last week, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that he mimicked a "drug-snorting Rush Limbaugh" at an event there....

"It's odd that Howard Dean says he wants to earn the respect of those who live in the red states, but chooses to not only attack their views but attack them personally," RNC spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt said. "Americans want to hear an agenda, rather than name calling."
(Emphasis mine)

How sad it is that the Democrats seem capable only of calling their opponents names(since the Bolton hearings, you can add "mean" to Dean's list of descriptive terms).

Of course, by Democrat standards, calling Republican's "evil", "corrupt", "brain-dead", "liars" and "mean" does not qualify as being mean in and of itself, which would clearly disqualify Dr. Dean from any national position--but, ONLY IF HE WERE A REPUBLICAN!

Can you possibly imagine the hysteria of the national press if, say Karl Rove or the RNC Chair were to label the poor Democrats in such terms? Why, they would have to be heavily sedated.

But then what do you expect from a political party that is completely adrift, with no ideas that aren't 50+ years old? Like castaways on a desert island, delerious and starving for some--any!--intellectual sustenance, they are completly losing it.

By The Numbers

From the Associated Press yesterday:
As of Sunday, April 24, 2005, at least 1,568 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. At least 1,191 died as a result of hostile action, according to the Defense Department. The figures include four military civilians.

The AP count is three higher than the Defense Department's tally, last updated at 10 a.m. EDT Friday.

The British military has reported 86 deaths; Italy, 21; Ukraine, 18; Poland, 17; Spain, 11; Bulgaria, eight; Slovakia, three; Estonia, Thailand and the Netherlands, two each; and Denmark, El Salvador, Hungary, Kazakhstan and Latvia one death each.
(Emphasis mine)

Meanwhile, in 2003 in the U.S. there were 42,263 traffic deaths; 42,800 in 2004. In Michigan alone in , there were 1,158 traffic deaths (down 10% from the previous year)
The number of U.S. Motorcycle deaths in 2003 were 3,661; in 2004: 3,927.

If we switch to Alcohol-related deaths, there were 17,013 in 2003 and 16,654 in 2004 in the U.S.

The Insurgents have in less than a year killed nearly as many native Iraqis in the new Iraqi security forces as they have killed Americans (a little over 1000).

Although difficult to estimate (for reasons discussed here) the total number of Iraqi civilians killed by "insurgents" is roughly estimated at 6000, while 16,000 are estimated wounded over the last two years.

Nothing makes a man more aware of his capabilities and of his limitations than those moments when he must push aside all the familiar defenses of ego and vanity, and accept reality by staring, with the fear that is normal to a man in combat, into the face of Death. --Major Robert S. Johnson, USAAF

If man hasn't discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live.
--Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

No man is an island, entire of itself...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.--John Donne

Sunday, April 24, 2005

An Outcome Devoutly To Be Wished

This is interesting:

Is it just old-age stiffness, or is Fidel Castro ailing?

Steven Aftergood, an eagle-eyed analyst with the Federation of American Scientists, notes that recent reviews of Castro speeches released by the CIA's Foreign Broadcast Information Service concluded the 78-year-old Cuban dictator has problems using his right hand.

The service, which follows Castro's activities very closely, first noted that the right-handed leader had shifted to using his left hand to gesture and shuffle cards in February, and in two speeches this month clearly had difficulty moving his right arm from the shoulder to the elbow.

Here's a news photo I found of Castro from February 2005, which would go along with the above.

Actually, from a medical perspective, one might wonder if the dictator might have suffered a stroke on his right side? Or is this just the result of poor medical care from a fall in October 2004, when he broke his right arm and left leg?

It will be interesting to see what happens in Cuba when this guy dies. As one lawyer succinctly put it:
Outside of Robert Mugabe and Kim Jung Il, it is hard to think of anyone who has willfully beggared a rich land and proud people more effectively than Castro. Even those regime adherents who dream of succeeding Castro must be getting to the point where they rediscover just enough religion to pray that his passing is sooner rather than later.

Kofi Annan Will You Please Go Now! [Reprise]

[Parts of this were posted some weeks ago, but I feel strongly that it needs to be said at least one more time. And, since it is my blog, there is nothing (except good taste, I guess) to prevent me from posting it again with a few updates!]

As we watch the incredible spectacle of John Bolton's career being trashed for being such a meanie and disagreeing aggressively with some of his subordinates; Kofi Annan--who presided over the biggest, most costly fraud in the history of the world; and whose lack of leadership and oversight have resulted in encouraging the death and oppression of innumerable innocents--is considered a decent guy.

Contrary to popular belief, the Volker Report did not exonerate the Secretary General (although he, himself seems to think so). While the Bush Administration is not exactly calling for Annan's resignation (the devil you know...etc. etc.); they have nominated someone who will be unlikely to make the Secretary General's life more comfortable. And, if nothing else, the Democrats' incredible hysteria about Bolton's nomination would seem to suggest that they believe the UN has become such a sensitive, fragile and breakable entity, that sending someone who might actually disagree with its policies would cause its ultimate destruction.

Meanwhile,there has been pressure applied to the Secretary General to resign, which he --so far-- has managed to bravely resist. Check out here, here, here, and here, for example. And here is an editorial documenting the reality of Annan's "leadership" (hat tip: Free Thoughts).

Kofi Annan may go down in history as the one man who has done more to lead the UN into total political irrelevancy and international scandal. He has presided over its descent into a reckless disregard for universal human rights by its consistent anti-American and anti-freedom policies.

In his defense, Kofi does bring a sense of humor to the job. Here he is preaching responsibility and accountability to the US. And here, in a blazing flash of insight, Annan notices that the UN "human rights" body isn't doing anything to support human rights! Ha. Ha.

So again, it is time to call for Annan's ouster. The UN has become a Kofi-Klatch that is now responsible for creating the kind of international evil it was originally formed to combat.

Kofi must go. Let me spell it out form him, since simple language is perhaps best.(with apologies to Dr. Seuss and Marvin K. Mooney)

The time has come.
The time has come.
The time is now.
Just go.
We don't care how.

You can go to hades.
You can go ker-plow!
Kofi Annan, will you please go now!

You can go to Iraq
You can march with the Lebanese
You can go to Iran or Sudan,
But please go. Please!

We don't care.
You can take a hike.
You can go on a political retreat if you like.
If you like you can go visit Kojo in a zoo.
Jut go, go, GO!
Please do, do, DO!

Kofi Annan, we don't care how.
Kofi Annan, will you please GO NOW!

We said GO and GO we shout....
The time has come.
Kofi, get OUT!

Carnival of the Insanities

Image hosted by Time for the weekly insanity udate, where the insane, the bizarre, the ridiculous, and the completely absurd are highlighted for all to see! This has been a week of rare idiocy. Be sure to send in your entries to the Carnival, which will be posted every Sunday. Entries need to be in by 8 pm on Saturday to make their way into the list that week.

1. Vatican Shocker!

2. Here's one reason to really like the new Pope. And here's another.

3. Bill Gates, Muslim imposter? Google insanities.

4. Top 10 Reasons why Saudi women can't vote.

5. #4 above is funny. This is not.

6. Israeli dogs detained. I had a dog once who was much smarter than the police in this story.

7. Soon to be published: Ward Churchill for Dummies. Or was it Dummies for Ward Churchill? I forget.

8. A disease that kills journalistic integrity? It must be an epidemic. And here. And here.

9. This cell phone craze has really gone too far!

10. Would the term "poetic justice" have an application here?

11. Government pork. The real thing.

12. The elephant in the

13. News stories passing like ships in the night.

14. Cue the Imperial theme music.

15. A most ingenious paradox.

16. His ontology, his telos, his raison d’etre, his essential nature has been taken away....

17. More trashing of subordinates.

18. Overreacting? Ya think?

19. Guaranteed not to offend anyone, and therefore meaningless.

Not Asking Questions

Ali at Free Iraqi wonders why Arabs and Muslims don't ask enough questions:

I think one of the main problems in Arab-Muslim communities is that the vast majority from the illiterate to even highly educated people do not ask enough questions. On the other hand, I've noticed (mainly through blogging ) that westerns in general and Americans in particular always have so many questions to ask and rarely settle with one point of view and accept it as the truth.

But an important question here is, why Arabs and Muslims do not care a lot about searching for answers?

...Every time western scientists announce a scientific discovery, Muslim scholars kill themselves searching for a verse in the Koran that can be twisted to match it and then say, "Hey, we had it all the time and we didn't know!" and we have books and TV shows dedicated for showing how all these great inventions were mentioned in a way in the Koran, but we just didn't care to search harder!

'True Muslims' believe that Mohammed knew *everything*, and I've argued with many friends of mine many times about this point. I asked if they thought Mohammed knew how to manufacture a computer or to build space shuttle for example, and the answer was "absolutely". But he could not reveal all his knowledge to the people at that time because they wouldn't have understood it.

This makes one wonders why he was given such a useless knowledge in the first place! Most Muslims don't bother to answer this question and just think that Mohammed is perfect (which by the way is NOT mentioned anywhere in the Koran) and therefore he must know everything.

I asked if Mohammed knew the future and again I got the same answer. But what then makes God superior to Mohammed? The answer was a faked Hadeeth that does not address the question but it does state that Mohammed had this ability. And questioning that Hadeeth would be unacceptable for most Muslims because the Hadeeth is a basic corner of today's' belief for most Muslims and they simply can't imagine themselves abandoning it.

So all questions were answered already including the ones that have not been asked yet, so what's the point of seeking knowledge from another source! They don't know 1/million of what Mohammed and his descendants had and these not here to ask them. But they did left us what can give us some answers.

That's why those who study Islam are called scientists, and in some sects like Wahabism they're considered the only scientists. You hear the word scholars describing these people but the literal AND the actual translation (from Muslims point of view) would be "scientists".

This is why most Muslims' search in other fields of knowledge like medicine was always a 'blind' one in my mind. Because it did not improve or alter these researchers general understanding of life as a whole. I know many fellow Iraqi physicians, and very good ones in fact, who their knowledge did not make them any less superstitious or any more rational in their lives than illiterate people.

There's a lot more and it is very interesting reading.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

The Perpetual Sore Loser Strikes Again

This really cracks me up.

A fuming John Kerry had "daggers in his eyes" after a fellow Democrat promoted Hillary Rodham Clinton for president — suggesting the 2004 loser is green with envy at a potential rival.
The flap was touched off two weeks ago when Clinton spoke at a Minneapolis Democratic dinner and Sen. Mark Dayton (D-Minn.) told the cheering crowd that he was introducing "the next great president of the United States."

Two days later, Kerry came over to Dayton on the Senate floor "with daggers in his eyes and said, 'What are you doing endorsing my 2008 presidential opponent?' . . . He was very serious," Dayton told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Clinton's office declined comment but a friend tut-tutted: "Boys will be boys, even when they are senators

Guess there's trouble in Democrat paradise.... But the best is saved for last:

Meanwhile, Kerry — and his outspoken wife Teresa Heinz Kerry — are increasingly claiming he was robbed last November and should have won.

This is taking poor loosership (is that a word?) to astronomical levels where it has reached galactic victimhood status. What an awful, awful man. I don't like Hilary at all myself; but if I were her, I would have the brakes on my cars checked regularly and be on the lookout for poisoned chocolates and such.

The Weather is Delusional

WINTER STORM WARNING? 6-8 inches of SNOW??????? I can't believe it is April 23rd! My daughter has a soccer game tomorrow. We were going to have a picnic outside. It was 80 degrees a few days ago. IT'S SPRING, isn't it?


Friday, April 22, 2005

In the Presence of Evil

I would like to thank New Sisyphus for his most recent post, which captures the contempt and anger I feel about the great, holy Islamic warrior-cowards. Who shoot helpless women and children; cut off the heads of people whose hands are tied behind their back; and murder wounded crash survivors -- and then keep a videotape record of their glorious deeds.

The nature of our enemy could not be made any clearer. From Beslan, to Manhattan, to the field in which the helicopter’s passengers met their doom, one theme is constant: the absolute cowardly and craven nature of the Islamic Fascists themselves.

Say what you will about the old fashioned German variety; at least they knew how to fight and fight bravely. These new fascists cannot kill anything that isn’t rendered helpless or unaware first. And, when they are fought head to head they more often than not fall to their knees and beg for forgiveness. Or commit suicide, which, despite what you’ve read at Daily Kos is not a sign of bravery but yet the ultimate in cowardice.

I am a psychiatrist and I couldn't do this work unless I really cared about people and believed the best of them. The only time in my career where I regularly encountered individuals that I could not connect with was during a several year stint working in a county jail. Not all the people there were bad--many were just plain stupid. But fairly regularly I would meet up with the ones who --well, to put it bluntly--raised the hair on the back of my neck and sent shivers down my spine.

Practicing psychiatry as long as I have, I no longer try to talk myself out of this kind of negative response to someone. No, I have learned over the years to trust my instincts in such matters. When I feel this way, I know I am in the presence of something bad. I usually then search for something to connect to in the people who stimulate that reaction--some elemental living thread that makes me feel that I am talking to someone who is also a member of the human species. I try to feel sympathy, even if my normal empathic response eludes me.

Likewise, I have forced myself to watch the awful beheading videos and other assorted visual evidence that the cowardly Islamofascists so narcissisticly make of their despicable actions. Only someone truly evil could even possibly imagine that such technological reproductions of their depravity could be seen by anyone with human DNA without feeling utter revulsion and outrage toward the perpetrators. I have tried to find something in their behavior that I could understand on any level. But these Islamic fanatics have taken me one emotional step further than even the serial killers I have interviewed.

In addition to the feelings I mention above, I have felt a growing coldness and an increasing sense of grim determination. When I watched today the al-Jazeera video of the injured pilot from the helicopter that was shot down being brutally murdered, after asking help to stand; his body riddled with bullets, while the brave soldiers of Allah the magnificent mindlessly shouted (off-camera) "Allah Akbar"--I finally understood. I had understood this on an intellectual level for some time, but the psychiatrist in me had still been searching for something-- anything--that would make it possible for these monsters to be able to live in a human world.

They are vermin. They feed off of death and destruction. They glory in nothing but death. Once maybe when they were children they were human. Now they teach innocent children to hate as they steal their souls from them. They are cowards and subhuman troglodytes; remnants of a medieval culture that should have died a thousand years ago. The complete, total and irrevocable extermination of this evil and its adherents MUST be the goal of anyone who is civilized.

I don't advocate torturing them or even humiliating them (maybe humiliating them).I don't advocate even hating them. It isn't a worthwhile expenditure of emotional energy. Just kill them without any great fuss or angst. And send them and their ideology to whatever hell awaits such pathetic and deformed souls. We owe it to whatever is great and good in the human spirit to do no less. And it is no more than what such creatures deserve.

When you are in the presence of true evil, you have only one real choice. You must face it coldly, ruthlessly and with unswerving determination and loyalty to Life.

Because in every way that matters, this is a battle of Life and Death.

But They All Ate Organic Rice !

Most of you are aware of the sudden backpedaling of the CDC on its OBESITY = DEATH meme. What you might not be aware of is that being UNDERWEIGHT causes more deaths than being OVERWEIGHT. Here's the scoop:

Apart from this huge downward revision in the numbers of people supposedly dying from fat, there are several things in this study which signal the end of any legitimate linkage between obesity and premature death. First, for the merely overweight with BMI's from 25-30 there is no excess mortality. In fact, being overweight was "associated with a slight reduction in mortality relative to the normal weight category." Being overweight not only does not lead to premature death, something that dozens of other studies from around the world have been saying for the last 30 years, but it also carries less risk from premature death than being "normal" weight. In other words the overweight=early death "fact" proclaimed by the public health community is simply not true.

Second, for individuals aged 25-59 the risks of premature death from being underweight are substantially greater than those of being overweight and they are also slightly greater than those of being obese. For those aged 60-69 the risk of dying from being underweight is much higher than from being even significantly obese, that is with a BMI > 35. Again, the total number of premature deaths due to obesity is 25, 814, while the mortality attributable to being underweight is 37, 746. If anything this points to an epidemic of not fat but thin caused death.Third, the increased mortality risks from obesity were concentrated in a small sub-section of the population, the morbidly obese (BMI>35), who comprise only 8% of Americans. Yet the obesity hysteria of the public health establishment consistently tells us that 65% of Americans are overweight and headed to an early death.

Fourth even the 25,814 deaths per year from obesity needs to be taken not just with a grain of salt but with enough to keep Chicago's streets ice-free for an entire winter. That's because the results are in many cases not statistically significant, though the authors don't mention this. For example, in the 25-59 year old group the confidence interval for increased risk for the obese with BMI's up to 35 is 0.84-1.72, meaning that we can't be confident that even for this group there is any increased risk of early death. The same is true for those with BMI's up to 30. Moreover, the RR figure -- the Relative Risk for dying from obesity - is, in the authors' words, "in the range of 1-2." This means that there is at the very best a very weak association -- notice, not a causal connection -- between obesity and death.

This is definitely NOT good news for the intrusive nannies who want to control what other people eat; nor is it good news for the a$$holes who hope to cash in on the current fast food victimhood trend.

Many obsessive dieters and exercisers that I have met over the years have firmly believed that they had discovered the secret of eternal life. They are encouraged in this belief by the gurus of thin and their legions. How sad for them to discover that death still patiently awaits them, even though they are thin and buff.

This all reminds me of several scenes from Woody Allen's 1973 movie, Sleeper:

Dr. Melik: [T]his morning for breakfast, uh, he requested something called wheat germ, organic honey, and tiger's milk.
Doctor: Oh yes. Those are the charmed substances that some years ago were thought to contain life preserving properties.
Dr. Melik: You mean there was no deep fat? No steak, or cream pies, or hot fudge?
Doctor: Those were thought to be unhealthy. Precisely the opposite of what we now know to be true.

and, my favorite:

Dr. Orva: You must understand that everyone you know in the past has been dead nearly two hundred years.
Miles Monroe: But they all ate organic rice!

The Council Has Spoken !

This week's Best Post Winners are up at the Watcher of Weasel's site! They are truly a great collection to read, so I urge everyone to check them out.

Here are the winners:


First Place: Founding Brother Right Wing Nut House
(a great history of Paul Revere, and the truth about his famous ride)

Tied for Second Place: Dean Promises to Use Dead Woman as Political Tool. Media Yawns. The Sundries Shack; and,

Narcissism and Society: Part I - The Psychology of the Self Dr. Sanity
(I'm starting to get an inferiority complex--this must be the fourth week in a row that I've come in second!)


First Place: A Change in Tactics Terrorism Unveiled

Second Place: Unholy Alliance: Mubarak & the Muslim Brotherhood Rantings of a Sandmonkey

Congratulations to all the great winners this week!

Oh, and by the way, the Watcher has a seat opening on the Council, and is looking for a few good blogs. Go over to the site and let him know if you are interested.

A Compass In The Heart

Peggy Noonan describes in real life something I described in theory in my three-part essay on Narcissism and Society. She writes about why she thinks people streamed out of building and ran to St. Peter's Square when they heard the bells ring announcing the selection of a new Pope:

Why did they run? Why did this ancient news--"We have a pope"--representing such irrelevant-seeming truths and such an archaic institution--send them running?

Why did they gather? Why did they have to hear?

The faith is dead in Europe, everyone knows that. So why did they come?
You say, "They just wanted to be there. It's history. People are experience junkies. They wanted to take pictures with their cell phones."

That would be true of some. But why did so many weep as the new pope came out? Why did they chant "Benedict, Benedict" as he stood at the balcony? Why were they jubilant?

Why were so many non-Catholics similarly moved? And why in America, where the church is torn in divisions, did people run to the TV and the radio when word spread?

People are complicated. You can hit distracted people with all the propaganda in the world, you can give it to them every day in all your media, and sometimes they'll even tell pollsters they agree with you. But something is always going on in their chests. Some truth is known there; some yearning lives there. It's like they have a compass in their hearts and turn as they will, this way and that, it continues to point to true north.

We want a spiritual father. We want someone who stands for what is difficult and right, what is impossible but true. Being human we don't always or necessarily want to live by the truth or be governed by it. But we are grateful when someone stands for it. We want him to be standing up there on the balcony. We want to aspire to it, reach to it, point to it and know that it is there.

Because we can actually tell what's true.

We can just somehow tell.

In Narcissism and Society: Part I, I wrote:

A healthy Self has two fundamental and equally important parts:

1) Self-Esteem – or a sense that one has a right to Life and success; ambition; a healthy exhibitionism and comfort with one’s body. This part of the Self supplies the instinctual fuel for ambition and purpose; and for enjoyment of Life’s activities.

2) Ideals – a belief in something outside the “Self” that guides and gives meaning to one’s Life. Having ideals make developing one’s goals in Life possible. It is this part of the Self that also makes healthy interpersonal relationships possible.

The development of BOTH parts is essential to psychological health. When one part develops at the expense of the other—it has grave consequences for the individual and society.

Too many people in our cynical society imagine they can get through life with only the former and ridicule and reject the latter. Schools glorify self-esteem as if it is the only essential ingredient in producing a "healthy" child (see here for an opposing view). Self-esteem is indeed essential, but humans require meaning in their life--they yearn for it desperately; and if no meaning is forthcoming, then self-esteem is hard-pressed to get you through, as important as it is.

I should make a disclaimer at this point. I am NOT a religious person. I was raised as a Catholic and was very religious as a teen, when I tried to bargain with God about my parent's marriage. He didn't come through; and I'm afraid to say my faith foundered. And yet....When I go sometimes to church with my husband and the Boo, I find I cannot get through mass without choking up; the tears flow continuously--even at the joyful parts. I recognize this as an breach in my defenses that demonstrate my hidden, but intense desire to believe in God. As Noonan suggests, it is as if a compass in my heart tells me that this way is true--and I know I should go in the direction it points.

The reasons I have never given into the desire are complicated and deeply personal and I won't share them with you as I'm not entirely sure I understand myself.

But getting back to my point--healthy Narcissism necessary suggests to us that we require meaning outside of the "Self" for optimal fulfillment in our lives. Many things can make-up this void: God, Religion, Ideology, Charismatic people; drugs--almost anything can take on the role of the Ideal. But traditionally, religion came into being primarily to serve this purpose for humanity. We want a spiritual father.... Someone who will take the place of that "perfect other" most of us experienced as infants. Someone who completely understands us and each and every one of our needs; someone who accepts and loves us unconditionally.

Unfortunately, sometimes when we follow that compass in the heart we are led to the dark side of the human soul. To a place where our "god" justifies the most unbelievable evil and dehumanizes us in the name of our faith. Death becomes stronger and more important than life in this place.

But sometimes....sometimes...the compass points us to a place like no other. Where the incredible greatness of the human spirit is free and anything is possible.

That is why the tears come to my eyes when I contemplate God. That is why I become choked up when I see something heroic and good. That is also why all those people ran to St. Peter's when they heard the bells and felt such joy. Because for just a brief moment--on that balcony--they knew they would catch a glimpse of the wonderful place so deeply hidden in their soul.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Throw It Out The Window !

I absolutely love this post at Polipundit: "Maserati Capitalism" from yesterday; about some of the joys of capitalism. The post concludes with a great quote from a Jonah Goldberg column:

Well, let’s examine how poor people are doing in America:

The typical “poor” American, according to census data, has a car, air conditioning, a refrigerator, a stove, a VCR and a color TV. It should go without saying -but usually doesn’t -that in, say, 1960, someone who had a color TV, a refrigerator, air conditioning and a car would not be considered poor....

Here’s how relative our understanding of poverty is: The average poor person in America is richer than many entire villages in Africa or Asia, where they still have no phones, refrigerators, and very little food.

Many on the left -particularly those still in a Marxist haze -reject the idea that poverty should be viewed in absolute terms. But when you think about it, they have to. If we all agreed that many of the poorest people in America live with the material prosperity -cars, phones, air conditioning, the caloric intake of a Roman emperor -we associated with millionaires just a few generations ago, most of the liberal agenda would have to go out the window

In the spirit of H.L. Mencken--who defined Puritanism as "the haunting fear that someone somewhere may be happy"--see previous post--one could define the "liberal agenda" (which has a strong Puritan-streak, since all those do-gooders know what is best for everyone) as the "haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be making the wrong choices in their life!"

I say throw the liberal agenda out the window, and as Miss Frizzle (of the Magic School Bus)series says, "Take chances,... make mistakes, and get messy!" In other words, enjoy life!

Nothing To Do With Justice

Dymphna explains Shar'ia over at the Gates of Vienna - "By the Book":

Shar'ia, Islamic law, is concerned with three ideas: punishment, prevention by example, and retaliation. Rehabilitation is no more a part of the judicial vocabulary than, say, the word "democracy," unless one considers fear of the consequences a type of rehabilitation.

Read on. If you dare.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

A REALLY Boring Day

Well, it has been a boring day, so I HAD to do something to liven it up (see previous post). I also took this ridiculous, geeky quiz that Ace linked to find out what kind of polyhedron I am (do you begin to understand how desperate I was?). Here are my results:

I am a d20

You are the large, round, friendly d20! (You probably didn't know this, but the shape of the twenty-sided die is called an Icosahedron.) You are the friendly, outgoing, outspoken, leader of friends. You are often looked up to, even though you don't normally deserve it. Most other types secretly wish they were you, and you'd give them tips on how, if only you had a clue yourself. Your charisma is often all you need, but you have your occasional moments of brilliance as well--just never when it's actually needed. You are the all-around good guy, a dependable chum, a respectable foe, and an inspiration to those who need one. Who says you can't get by on a smile and good looks alone?

Take the quiz at

Now see if you can do better!


Two of the healthiest psychological defense mechanisms are SUBLIMATION (transformation of negative emotions or instincts into positive actions, behavior, or emotion) and HUMOR (overt expression of ideas and feelings --especially those that are unpleasant to focus on or too terrible to talk about--that gives pleasure to others).


(Oh, I forgot that FANTASY is also involved!)

This wonderful site, called NetDisaster lets you type in the address of any website that you'd like to punish, or whose destruction would bring you bliss and delight, or just fun. You can even choose your disaster--meteors, Mars Attacks, floods, vermin infestation--and many more. Choose one, then choose another! You can make the site you target for destruction suffer from any of these over and over and over again.

I did it already to the Democratic Underground; Daily Kos; Noam Chomsky's, Paul Krugman's and Juan Cole's websites; the home page for several major Universities. I'm saving Maureen Dowd till later. As advertised, it was pure BLISS!

Yes, Yes. This is childish. This is petty. This is very immature. This is cool. This is also fun and completely harmless. Enjoy!

Pro-Democracy Students in Iran Need Your Help !

Stefania at Free Thoughts asks you to help the Iran Student Movement! This is a group of pro-Democracy advocates, opposed to the terrorist regime of the mullahs in Iran. I have linked to them in my sidebar for some time, but they recently lost their web host and need money to continue.

I can't think of a better way to support the spread of Democracy in the world. Go to Stefania's site and read more about how to help.

Liberty is NOT Slavery

In George Orwell's best known book,1984 ,we are introduced to "doublethink" and "newspeak" which have been combined in modern usage into "doublespeak". Basically the meaning of "doublespeak" is: language used to deceive usually through concealment or misrepresentation of truth. Orwell's examples in the book are the mottos:
Ignorance is Strength
War is Peace
Slavery is Freedom

This use of words to mean their opposite is usually a deliberate--and effective--way to be unobtrusive about your desire to make people believe something that isn't true. Even if the juxtaposition of the words makes an oxymoron, it is touted as a new "breakthrough" in understanding.

For example, I was completely taken aback when I ran across this site proclaiming Noam Chomsky as a "Libertarian Socialist". And then I noticed in Pejman's Yousefzadeh's TCS column on "Choice and its Enemies" discussed the phrase "libertarian paternalism" which is the term some are using to limit freedom of choice. Here is an excerpt from that excellent column:

H.L. Mencken famously defined Puritanism as "the haunting fear that someone somewhere may be happy." Being a libertarian-conservative means being possessed of the haunting fear that someone somewhere is itching to play busybody on a level one might have once thought was inconceivable.

That fear becomes justified when one reads articles like this one by the New York Times ("Choice is Good, Yes, No or Maybe?"), which informs us that there is a movement afoot to limit our choices as consumers and citizens. You see, the fear is that we may not have the capacity to "choose properly" or that we may simply "refuse to choose." As a result, "government should limit people's choices. That is, choose for them." This is because "More choice can be worse than less choice," according to Columbia University psychologist Sheena Iyengar.

Given that the article begins by informing us that "choice has claimed a prominent new position as a policy tool: the prescription for everything from improving public schools to paring bloated health care costs to saving Social Security," one can be forgiven for suspecting that this new effort to limit the choices of the citizenry by advancing the premise that the citizenry does not have the capacity to "choose properly" is a political effort designed to take various and sundry policy options -- like "improving public schools" through increased school choice of "saving Social Security" through the introduction of greater personal choice -- off the table. Two advocates of the effort to limit choice -- Richard Thaler, an economist at the University of Chicago and Cass Sunstein, who teaches at the University Of Chicago Law School -- even have a name for this nascent busybody program; "libertarian paternalism." "Libertarian paternalism," according to Professor Thaler, is based on the belief that "[p]eople have to know what their preferences are and they have to know how the options they have map onto their preferences."

It takes an incredible amount of chutzpah to advocate this kind of anti-choice movement while claiming that there is anything "libertarian" about it.

Chutzpah is too kind a word for this sort of language abuse. This is Doublespeak--the worse kind of PROPAGANDA. It is a deliberate attempt to mislead and to disguise the real motives of the speaker. If you link the idea of socialism with liberty enough; or the idea that making choices for people's own good is a form of freedom--some people may actually begin to believe that socialism and paternalism are aspects of LIBERTY. Let us be clear. They are not. They will never be.

But by saying the two words together, the speaker hopes to disguise his real agenda. And do you imagine that his real agenda is to actually increase freedom for the individual? No? I don't either.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Blessings of Liberty

"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."- Preamble to the U.S. Constitution

The Constitution of the United States of America is one of the greatest documents in world history. Because of it, a fledgling country, devastated by war with the world's greatest power at the time, was able to become itself a great world power and a beacon of Liberty to people from around the globe. That this fledgling country still has the greatest freedom and productivity among all countries is a remarkable achievement of this Constitution and its writers, who envisioned a land where an indvidual's life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness was a given.

Recently, Yale Law School hosted a conference "bringing together leading figures in American law to catalyze debate among progressives about the Constitution's future". Basically the goal of this conclave was simply to change the Constitution to conform to the agenda of the Left.

John Hinderaker (of Power Line) has a column in the Weekly Standard that discusses what went on in that conference (read the entire piece): "What Liberals Want". Here's an excerpt, but you should read the whole thing if you want to get a flavor of the kind of changes they are aiming for:

The left makes no secret of its intentions where the Constitution is concerned. It wants to change it, in ways that have nothing to do with what the document actually says. It wants the Constitution to enshrine its own policy preferences--thus freeing it from the tiresome necessity of winning elections. And how will the Constitution be changed? Through a constitutional convention, or a vote of two-thirds of the state legislatures? Of course not. The whole problem, from the liberal perspective, is that they can't get democratically elected bodies to enact their agenda. As one of the Yale conference participants said: "We don't have much choice other than to believe deeply in the courts--where else do we turn?" The new, improved Constitution will come about through judicial re-interpretation.
LGF also has some comments on this convention, and points out that it was funded primarily by George Soros. Of course, as you would expect the Leftists at the Daily Kos call the agenda of this a conference "delicious".

How delicious for Leftist ideology it would be if the United States of America didn't exist! If, in its incredible economic and political successes it didn't prove beyond any doubt that Freedom and Capitalism work better than any other system known to humanity; and demonstrate the moral, political and economic bankruptcy of all those "ideal" societies that promise a human paradise, but provide only mass graves.

Clearly they can't make the U.S. go away, so the next best thing is to work to erode the Constitution--or if possible--to make it reflect their own ideology!

If they succeed in doing so, then the blessings of Liberty will no longer be ours, and will surely be absent for our posterity.