Tuesday, January 31, 2006
That time in the sixties you made your point
And celebrated with a joint;
Protesters stood cheering by,
And everyone of them was high.
To-day, you dwell within that past,
Desperate that your theories last,
But sadly, they have been debunked,
And Marx himself has been depunked.
Smart man, to slip into a haze
Where always is the dialectic praised,
And all your dreams might come to be
Untouched by life's reality.
Eyes that glittered with fanatic passion
Cannot forever be in fashion,
And slogans chanted from those marches
Have given way to Golden Arches
Once you weren't just antiwar
You understood what you were for,
But then the shit, it hit the fan--
The cause had died before the man
And after all the echoes faded,
The deaths and miseries paraded,
The consequences of your cause
Its inhumane and fatal flaws
You choose to close your eyes instead,
It's not your fault they all are dead!
You'll find another cult as good--
Potentially in victimhood.
And when you finally face your death,
So close to breathing your last breath;
Consider all the pain and strife
Your ideals caused in real life.
UPDATE: Life imitates art. [OK, something akin to art]
In order to be certified as a "Category 1" CME program, certain standards have to be met in the presentation; the most important of which is that it be "free of commercial bias". This usually means that the speaker is not supposed to include his personal biases about one particular drug or another; and was responsible for presenting objective data and a neutral evaluation of that data.
Speakers know this in advance, and are also expected to disclose all the financial connections they have with various drug companies (including speaking for them; getting research money from them, etc.). This sort of thing used to be done on the "honor" system, but it was found that too much bias was seeping into medical education; and those lecturers getting large amounts of money from drug companies where under pressure to promote that company's educational agenda.
One of the ways compliance to these standards is measured is through an evaluation form filled out by the audience after each presentation. The evaluation specifically asks if any commercial bias was detected in the talk.
I have to say that the system works pretty well. When a presentation is billed as a "CME" lecture, then these criteria go into effect. Everyone understands that a non-CME lecture or conference does not have this kind of minimal oversight regarding bias or the promotion of certain drugs or pharmaceutical company agendas. and therefore, takes that information into account when evaluating how useful the presentation or conference is.
WHY CAN'T THIS BE DONE WITH NEWS REPORTING?
I propose that every news article published in the formal print media; every story reported on news TV and on newsmedia internet sites, have an evaluation form attached to them which asks the reader about detection of personal bias in the reporting. There should also be a "Disclosure" section in every newspaper and on every news show that openly lists financial donations or ties of any kind to political parties or identified partisan groups.
This should be the standard operating procedure for news organizations; and should be recognized as being absolutely essential to any claims of honest, fair, and unbiased journalism.
While not perfect, this process works for medical professionals and it keeps the information presented to them reasonably unbiased--or at least makes them aware of possible biases that they can take into account in assessing the information presented to them.
The "honor system" in journalism of full disclosure is not working very well these days. I don't see why a similar process couldn't work for anyone who expects to be taken as a professional in journalism.
Meanwhile, the media, mouthing phrases like "Article II authority," "separation of powers" and "right to privacy," are presenting the issues as if politics have nothing to do with what is driving the subject matter and its coverage. They want us to forget four years of relentless "connect-the-dots" reporting about the missed chances that "could have prevented 9/11." They have discounted the relevance of references to the two 9/11 hijackers who lived in San Diego. But not too long ago, the media itself reported that phone records revealed that five or six of the hijackers made extensive calls overseas.
NBC News aired an "exclusive" story in 2004 that dramatically recounted how al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar, the San Diego terrorists who would later hijack American Airlines flight 77 and fly it into the Pentagon, received more than a dozen calls from an al Qaeda "switchboard" inside Yemen where al-Mihdhar's brother-in-law lived. The house received calls from Osama Bin Laden and relayed them to operatives around the world. Senior correspondent Lisa Myers told the shocking story of how, "The NSA had the actual phone number in the United States that the switchboard was calling, but didn't deploy that equipment, fearing it would be accused of domestic spying." Back then, the NBC script didn't describe it as "spying on Americans." Instead, it was called one of the "missed opportunities that could have saved 3,000 lives."
She has lots to say about Congress also, and you should read the entire piece. But I want to focus for a minute on the MSM aspect of it.
How can we possibly forget the constant harping by the media on how little George W. Bush did in the first eight months of his administration to prevent 9/11 by "connecting the dots"? Even as they complained about Bush's lack of attention to terrorism, the same media gave Clinton a completely free pass regarding his actions in the previous 8 years. Nevertheless, when they finished beating that dead horse--having squeezed every possible bit of partisan whining out of it--they then proceeded to switch tactics and take the opposite approach, as Burlingame suggests; complaining about everything this President has done since that time to try to connect any dots at all.
This behavior, disguised by code words like "free speech" and "privacy", with the continual insinuations by all the serious media talking heads, that Bush is destroying our civil liberties and intent on establishing a police state-- borders on the schizophrenic rantings of the completely delusional (except that I wouldn't want to insult the mentally ill who, on the whole, are far more reasonable in most cases).
I realize this is just another case of media hypocrisy and partisanship--so what else is new? But this kind of contradictory discourse is something I have talked about before and it must be exposed for what it is: a fundamental distortion of the truth to make it conform to whatever the feelings du jour happen to be; and those feelings are almost always related to their rage at George W. Bush.
Their reporting--particularly on this issue-- demonstrates how truth is manipulated and distorted by their unacknowledged ideological biases; and any consistency found in their positions from one moment to the next is... purely accidental (and likely just as opportunistic).
They insist that all truth is relative anyway; so by applying their own standards, why should anyone bother to listen to them?
They are, of course, hoping you won't notice the blatant contradictions.
Monday, January 30, 2006
Perhaps an anger management course is in order? Or maybe they should just...moveon?
Sunday January 29, 2006--Forty-nine percent (49%) of American adults approve of the way George W. Bush is performing his role as President. Fifty percent (50%) disapprove.
It is not clear whether this uptick in Job Approval over the past three days is a lasting change or merely statistical noise.
The President earns approval from 81% of Republicans, 23% of Democrats, and 40% of those not affiliated with either major political party.
And you can count on this information not being bruited about in the MSM either. In fact, just a few days ago CNN was happily spouting this lttle tidbit of news.
In spite of the good news, the more I read them, the more the polls seem to adopt the personality of John "I was against it before I was for it" Kerry.
Based on the information given in most news reports about a particular poll, a reasonable person is not able to assess the scientific validity of the poll (i.e., the specific questions asked and exactly who was asked) by determining if there was bias in the question or the sample--unless they took quite a bit of time researching such things (such as this blogger) or reading this kind of research.
As someone who has developed and studied the results of questionaires and understand the limitations of this type of research, I have no illusions about either the reliability or validity of such [quasi]scientific types of endeavors. Among other factors, what people say and what they will do are often two separate and distinct things. Sometimes the research question about "performance" or "effectiveness" washes out and all you get is a bad measure of "popularity". Sometimes the research question of "popularity" can be washed out and all you get is a measure of the person's mood at the particular time you asked your question.
Aside from the scientific questions about a poll, I have continuing and deeply-held scepticism about the usefulness of political polls or questionnaires--except of course for the partisan purposes of both parties. The only polls that actually have demonstrable meaning in the real world are the ones taken by casting a ballot in a real world election.
And, one more thing I need to say. I find it contemptible to make policy decisions or determine actions that are based solely on maintaining a day-to-day popularity (as reflected in political polls) or approval rating. Don't tell me that this is how politics works. I understand that. It doesn't change that it represents extremely pathological behavior and speaks volumes about the fundamental narcissism and lack of integrity inherent in many people who go into politics on both sides of the political spectrum.
In my mind (and I have no illusions about how important my opinions are) this is the exact opposite of how politics should work. Whichever candidate wins the election--the one I supported or the one I opposed--I expect that he will do his job. This almost daily reciting of "approval ratings" seems to come from a abnormal need for constant reassurance, with all the false stroking and petting of self-esteem that is seen in elementary schools these days. Any candidate who needs to surround themselves in those illusions should make a living in Hollywood, not in Washington D.C.
Nevertheless, having said all of the above, if the blogshere did not report on polls that show Bush in a positive light, who would?
Have a great day! Back later.
UPDATE: The Boo (like most teens, I guess) prefers to sleep in late on days off, so I am informed that will go shopping later. So, don't be surprised if you see a few new posts pop up as I do my morning reading.
What next, Democrats? A Kerry photo-op with Zarqawi? Honorary membership in your party offered by Boxer to Bin Laden or Ahmadinejad? How about a friendly dinner whipped up by Dean to smooth things out with Kim Jung Il?
Let me cut to the chase. The Democratic Party has lost whatever anchor it once had in the real world and is blowin' in the wind. It has become the party of nothing; led by vapid nothings, who stand for nothing.
As evidence take the vague and distorted concept of "absolute moral authority"--a concept derived entirely from endless whining and perpetual victimhood. This is their highest ideal.
Without a doubt, Cindy Sheehan is the perfect spokesperson for the Democratic Party of the 21st century.
UPDATE: Scott Ott also sees her (and Hugo) as the spokespersons for the Democrats.
UPDATE II: SEND IN THE TROLLS! This post got linked by Salon.com. Expect to hear from a lot of angry people who are unable to tolerate any criticism of their irrational behavior since 9/11. They are under the impression that mindlessly destroying one's country for the sake of political power; enabling and encouraging the goals of the terrorist enemy who has vowed to destroy us; and expressing their visceral hatred of Bush in the process is somehow patriotic. Too bad I don't happen to agree. I suggest that they go fight the war on global warming they think is so important (preferably on the frontlines in Antarctica), since they are so completely useless in fighting terrorism. Godspeed.
UPDATE III: Well, just like the last time I was linked to by the compassionate liberal left, I will have to close my comment section on this thread. They are such nice people.
Army Forces 50,000 Soldiers into extended active duty.
This is the response at The Officer's Club:
For god's sake, knock it off Reuters. The army "forces" soldiers to do things all the time, the more appropriate term for it is "orders." That's what the military is, that's what they do. That's why service is a sacrifice, and that's why soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines are so special to the American people.
During the World War II years, soldiers deployed and -in many cases- didn't see home for two to three years. Reuters is acting like extended deployments are some new phenomena invented by the evil Bush administration.
Could we please PLEASE just stop the hysterics?
Just once I would like to see a MSM piece about the military that knows what it is talking about; where the
Gee, I bet that al qaeda has troop rotations that are much more humane and sensitive than ours.
Sunday, January 29, 2006
Why in the world would anyone think that the President and Vice President of the United States of America would be in a conspiracy with Islamofascists who openly state their intention of destroying both our country and our way of life? To what purpose? What could possibly be gained?
Don't expect a rational response to such questions. Questions like that only elicit further complicated conspiracy theories that are constructed around all of the shibboleths of the left--anti-capitalism; multilateralism; multiculturalism; poverty; victims of US imperialism; anti-Americanism etc. etc. If you put all the conspiracy theories together you will find a concatenation of bizarre and often contradictory components that should make any reasonably intelligent person roll on the floor with hoots of laughter.
Not only are such a beliefs perfect examples of the depths of insanity to which the liberal left has sunk; but the various theories of Bush's evil possess all the hallmarks of the intense political paranoia that highlights almost all of the left's behavior since 9/11.
When they aren't outright denying the reality of 9/11; they are downplaying its significance; and snidely suggesting that it is not a big deal historically speaking; and that the war on terror shouldn't even be on the priority list of things to do (see here). There has not been a single action by this administration on the war on terror and Islamofascism that has not been deliberately undermined and actively opposed, spun, and exploited for political gain on their part.
The Democrats and their liberal left members maintain that it is Bush and his supporters that are playing fast and loose with politics; and that they are using fear to manipulate America so that they can establish a fascist/theocratic state.
What do these lunatics imagine that they are doing when they describe an NSA program that targets international terrorists communications into the U.S. by referring to it as "domestic spying"? What do these clueless people imagine they are doing by constantly harping on the ridiculous comparisons of Bush to Hitler; or of Iraq to Vietnam? Of modern Christianity to religious fanaticism of Islam? All of these examples are excellent demonstrations of using fear to manipulate the public.
It is impossible for them to believe that anyone in politics would not play the game to maximize their hold on power (since that is what they would do if they were in power); and might actually take action because it is the right thing to do; or that it might be important for national security or in the national interest of America. What a concept!
All their rationalizations and rhetoric represent a classic case of projection, pure and simple. What is obvious to anyone who botheres to think about it, is that it has consistently been the liberal left who have been the appeasers and enablers and who have encouraged, aided and abetted the murderous activities of the Islamofascists--not Bush or Cheney, contrary to the depiction in the cartoon above.
In order to justify in their own minds the treasonous contempt they have toward their own country, they must constantly accuse the Republican in the White House--who is the recipient of the left's unadulterated hatred-- of behavior for which they themselves are guilty.
Indeed, it is the perfect paranoid moment.
As GM says, this kind of diagnosis is a "kick in the teeth." Life can certainly do that to a person. We never expect that it will be ourselves or someone we care about that gets kicked....
I know that if this can be licked, then GM will be the one to do it -- and not just overcome it; but overcome it with grace, wit and courage.
My thoughts and prayers are with you, GM.
Send your entries for next week's carnival to Dr. Sanity by 8 pm ET on Saturday for Sunday's Carnival. Only one post entry weekly per blogger, please. Thanks for all the submissions. I try to use as many as possible!
SO MANY INSANITIES! SO LITTLE TIME!
1. Hamas And Fatah Exchange Ideas About Responsible Governance, With Occasional Automatic Weapon Gunfire.
2. And speaking of people unclear on the concept of democracy.... Would you want this man to know your address? Or this woman to babysit your kids?
3. Sure, let's respect their decision and let's also let them live with the consequences.
4. Somehow, I don't think Marx had this in mind when he spoke of the proletariat rising to overthow their oppressors.
5. A perfect example of [unbelievable] rationalization (not to mention complete stupidity and poor judgment). No wonder this poor woman can't get dates.
6. Some advice on what songs not to download. And here's a handy little tool to find out the unidentified song that's stuck in your head!
7. Some serious yodeling? A good example of generally making a fool of yourself. Here's some advice on the best ways to make a complete fool of yourself in the blogsphere.
8. There are things that can challenge even the strongest friendship. And speaking of friendship, some of this guy's best friends are white chocolate.
9. Perhaps a countersuit is in order? Especially when you see these (CAUTION! Very Graphic).
10. This just doesn't make sense. But then, there is considerable evidence that government isn't big on making sense.
11. Who cares about a little distortion; or a little bias; or a lot ? I mean, it's true if they feel it's true, right?
12. It's in the Koran. Maybe so. But this is why we will ultimately win....
13. I'm sure this study has a lot of truth; but sometimes it is a lack of brain activity ( or here) that affects political bias.
14. The calculus of revenge.
15. Resolved: that lefties are witless relativism-shackled PC bores. Tim Blair argues for the affirmative. Anyone care to take the negative?
16. A new Axis of Evil ? Or just a Axis of Evil Enablers?
17. Ahhhhh. The ACLU ! How would we ever get along without them?
18. The design team was high on tequila !
19. A million little satires. And here's one.
20. Doesn't this sound like something from Jules Verne?
21. Hippocratic pablum.
22. Two examples of Iranian Insanity: compassion & love . And Pakistani paranoia as Pakistanis struggle against a marathon.
23. Like Crack, but legal and socially acceptable?
24. We interrupt this Rovian mind ray to bring you a moment of Democratic sanity..... not!
25. Oh no...I'm sure he can go much much lower.
Carnival of the Insanities can also be found at The Truth Laid Bear's ÜberCarnival.
If you would like to Join the insanity, and add the Carnival of the Insanities button to your sidebar (clicking on it will always take you to the latest update of the Carnival), click on "Word of Blog" below the button to obtain the html code:
Heard the Word of Blog?
Saturday, January 28, 2006
BEST COUNCIL POSTS:
Chaos or Community Done With Mirrors
Ronald Reagan -- A Personal Recollection Dr. Sanity
BEST NON-COUNCIL POSTS:
Just a Second -- It’s Not That Dark Yet (And We Have a Really Big Flashlight) Winds of Change
Second Place (A two-way tie!)
Malaysia and the Pact of Omar Maobi
The Coming of the Bomb The Belmont Club
Be sure to check out all the winners at the Watcher's site. The posts that are nominated and voted on are always excellent and worth your time.
NASA has evolved into a culture that does not tolerate criticism well. It is a place where being a "team player" means shutting up and doing what you are told, or else you will be marginalized and your career finished. That is not the sort of place where innovation --or safety-- thrive.
I still believe that space exploration and colonization is the destiny of humanity and that one day our decendants will fly from star to star the way we drive from city to city. I no longer imagine them flying in NASA spacecraft, however. The astronauts of Challenger and Columbia are some of the pioneers that slowly but surely bring us closer to that dream. To all of them I say, the dream is alive and well...but that NASA stopped dreaming a while back and is now just semi-comatose. We will make it into outer space to explore strange, new worlds; to seek out new civilizations and go where noone has gone before--but it will be through the courage of private citizens whose boldness is not limited by a risk-adverse and earth-bound government bureaucracy. I personally look to them to bring the future.
CHALLENGER: A FLIGHT SURGEON REMEMBERS
On January 28, 1986, I was at Cape Canaveral in Florida. As a NASA Flight Surgeon, I had been assigned as the Crew Surgeon for Mission 51-L (noone really wanted the job since many disapproved of having a civilian--the teacher in space--fly on a space mission). The crew had trained together for over a year, and I had come to know them all very well in the course of the training and medical preparation. I had been at the Cape for over a week and the launch had been scrubbed several times for a variety of reasons. I had been staying in a cheap motel in Cocoa Beach as we waited for weather to permit the launch attempt.
One of the memories of have of that time is a CBS Evening News broadcast with Dan Rather on January 27th, who in a snide voice wondered if NASA would ever be able to launch a space mission on time? He then proceeded to go down a long list of Shuttle missions that had been delayed. I remember being annoyed at the time because of the unspoken expectation by Mr. Rather that launching a complex space vehicle like the Shuttle was a simple thing.
We had scrubbed several times at the last minute, but everyone was fairly certain that we would get a "go for launch" on January 28th, since that was President Reagan's State of the Union address, and he intended to mention the teacher-in-space, Christa McAuliffe. The Agency would not want to disappoint the President.
When I woke up the morning of the 28th, it took me only a few minutes to begin thinking that the launch would again be postponed. It was 19 degrees outside. This was unusually cold for Cocoa Beach, even in January, and I had not even brought a sweater with me. In the 15+ minute drive to Launch Control, I continually shivered from the cold, because there was no heat in the car I had rented either. I wore just a cotton pantsuit with a very light jacket.
In Launch Control, there was a great deal of buzz about the temperature. The countdown was proceeding, but there had been ice spotted on the external tank, and crews were sent out to check it out. All of us there (I was at the Surgeon's console, which monitored crew health, and directed emergency medical operations in the case of a catastrophic event on the launchpad, or for an RTLS (return to launch site) abort. We joked and talked among ourselves, commenting on the crew talking (we were one of the few consoles that monitored the crew chitchat in the Shuttle before launch).
Much to all of our surprise, after a delay, the countdown was resumed. It had been decided that it was safe to proceed. I remember that we were surprised because no Shuttle had launched in such cold weather before, but we all assumed that had been thoroughly discussed at a higher level. We were privy only to the comments that were in the LCC (Launch Control Center). The Management Team had met outside the LCC. The countdown proceeded and Challenger was launched. As soon as it lifted off the pad, control of the mission was transferred to the MCC in Houston. It was at this point that most of the LCC team could relax and turn around to watch the Shuttle ascend. There were large windows in the roof which gave us a prime view of the entire ascent, from about 3 miles away. I watched with my usual awe, that humans had been able to contain such energy and put it to use in escaping the planet.
My awe was short-lived as we noticed an anomoly. Something seemed to have gone wrong with the SRBs (solid rocket boosters) and they detached from the ET (external tank) too soon. There seemed to be a big explosion, but none of us were certain what might have happened. I swung into action, because it seemed that we must be in an RTLS situation. I made a few commands to my emergency team, who were outside in ambulances, as I continued to watch the growing cloud of the explosion, waiting for the Challenger to appear from behind it heading back to the landing site, not far away. I waited and waited. The orbiter did not appear. I felt a momentary confusion, and then I think all the blood must have rushed out of my head as I realized what it meant. I knew they must have been killed. All of them. I had to hold onto the console for support. All I could think of was oh my God, oh my God.
The Launch Director cooly called for a lockdown. Noone was to leave the room until all information on at all consoles was safely secured. It was then that I was able to gather myself together again, as I realized that if the crew was gone, my responsibility was to take care of their families. I went to the Launch Director and asked to be allowed to leave, because the families were in Crew Quarters, about several miles down the road. After some discussion, the doors were unlocked and I was permitted out. I ran to my car and started down the road, but everyone on the highway had stopped and the road was blocked. People were milling around, still not accepting what they had just seen with their own eyes.
I was desperate to get to the families and do something useful. I wasn't sure what, but I felt they might need me there. I drove my car on the center divider and the grass between the lanes, and made my way through the crowds who had stopped to watch the launch. It took me some 20 minutes to get to Crew Quarters.
The next 12 hours were something of a blur. I had read about mass hysteria in textbooks, but that description was far too mild for what I found when I reached the place the crew called home prior to a launch. All the members of the immediate and extended family were there. Women were screaming; babies crying. People thronged around me, wanting to know if the crew had parachuted to safety. I was stunned that they had not yet grasped what had happened. One family member was certain that a rescue plane would find the crew in the ocean somewhere. Several people fainted. I needed help to medically manage the 30 or more family members who were there, but George Abbey, the dictatorial head of Flight Crew Ops would not permit me to call in any other doctor. He was in full damage control mode, and wouldn't permit any TVs or radios to be turned on either. Certainly, no phone calls. I needed to hospitalize one person, who had become disoriented and confused. Abbey said no. I said that I couldn't accept that, and did it anyway (that moment, I realized much later, ended my chances of becoming an astronaut myself--a dream I'd had most of my life). Abbey didn't want anyone to leave and head back to Houston (where everyone lived; and where their entire support was) until after Vice President Bush arrived. The Vice President arrived at about 8:00pm that night. By then I was exhausted and could hardly stand up. I barely remember being introduced to Bush and shaking his hand.
The closest I came to crying was when I heard the wife of the Shuttle Commander (Dick Scobee) say in a quavering voice to Bush that her husband would not have wanted space exploration to be halted because of what had happened that day. I realized that beyond the grieving was a fear that we all had at the time that this would hurt NASA.
After Bush left, most of the families were hustled onto NASA planes to go back to Houston. I had to remain, however, because person I had hospitalized at the nearby Air Force hospital would not be able to fly back until the next day, and I was to go with that family. By then, reinforcements had arrived as other astronauts had flown to the Cape from Houston. When the families left, I gratefully collapsed into bed at Crew Quarters. I flew home the next day with my patient and their family. On the afternoon of the 29th, I finally made it to my own home where my husband--who was waiting for me-- handed me about 100 phone messages from just about everyone I knew. When he took me in his arms, I finally started to cry and didn't stop for several hours.
For the next 5 years, I was unable to talk about what happened that day without becoming completely choked up and a blubbering idiot. I still get tears in my eyes as I remember it and the memorial service where I met President Reagan and his wife.
I watched NASA cope with this disaster using a combination of denial and intellectualization/rationalization. In the months that followed, I began to realize that the Agency I had idealized for so long as being one of the best and most competent, was actually corrupt and primarily concerned with covering its own mistakes. They were an Agency caught up in hubris, who believed in their own press far too much. Instead of making the changes in the culture that had led to this catastrophe, they were only concerned with making sure everyone thought they had made the changes. The appearance was more important than the reality. I had been a general flight surgeon before, and now, for the first time, I began to look at NASA with a psychiatrist's eyes. And what I saw disturbed me greatly. Especially in the way they handled the fact that the crew had NOT died immediately in the explosion as we all had thought, but were alive for some time as they fell into the ocean. (ED. NOTE: See this recent article on The 7 myths about the Challenger shuttle disaster from 1/26/06) I watched as they tried to hide that fact from the public and the families. I also watched as they carried out the motions of changing, but from the inside I saw no changes in attitude or behavior.
It has been 19 years since that cold morning changed me forever. When Columbia disintegrated on reentry, killing all the crew in 2003, many of my old friends called me to tell me that I had predicted that NASA would have another preventable tragedy. I would like to think that we learned something from the space missions we have lost--Apollo 1, Challenger, and Columbia -- but I fear that NASA has learned little. I refer you to Jim Oberg, an MSNBC space analyst and close friend, who has this to say today about all three disasters:
Spaceflight has its own inherent hazards, and if not respected, any of many factors can kill people. Recognizing this, engineers install backup hardware and escape systems and build in allowances for uncertainties -- all in an attempt to keep such external hazards at bay.
The debris from the disasters remained safely hidden away, comfortably out of sight and -- as experience would show -- tragically out of mind.
But the internal hazards -- what investigation boards have called the "flawed safety culture" -- have proven much more insidious. This is the realm of convenient assumptions, of complacency, of willfulness, of use of statistical superstitions, of a false familiarity with an unblinking foe. It is a culture made possible by an all-too-human aversion to facing unpleasantness.
It has become easy to look away from these horrible space disasters -- and I never call them "accidents," a term that relieves the people involved on the ground of ultimate responsibility.
NASA prefers to literally bury the wreckage in underground concrete crypts, to shove the investigation reports onto another bookshelf, and to allocate one day per year to honoring the dead while ignoring what killed them the other 364 days.
(ED. NOTE: read the entire piece - it remains relevant today).
I remember the Challenger and her crew frequently and with love. They are a part of me now. All of them represent the best within the American spirit, and always will. Since that day in 1986, I have come to see NASA as one of the greatest impediments to the Dream of space exploration; but I have never given up the Dream itself. Nor have I forgotten any of the pioneers who have died in the service of that Dream. Some day we humans will leave this small planet and joyfully play in all the corners of the cosmos.
I eagerly look forward to it.
UPDATE: The astronaut quoted in the introduction, Mike Mullane, now states that he did not say what the Guardian quoted him as saying; nor did he ever speak to the Guardian. I certainly don't dispute his denial. But I stand by my statement that, while the Shuttle many or may not be a "deathtrap", it is most certainly a "deadend" for space exploration.
Friday, January 27, 2006
Senator John Kerry has recently opined, “Why hasn't Osama Bin Laden been captured or killed, and how will he be destroyed before he next appears on tape to spread his disgusting message?”
Then the senator argued that bin Laden lives “because Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon didn't use American troops to do the job and instead outsourced the job of killing the world's #1 terrorist to Afghan warlords, this cold blooded killer got away.”
About the same time, Senator Clinton intoned of Iran, “I believe we lost critical time in dealing with Iran because the White House chose to downplay the threats and to outsource the negotiations. I don't believe you face threats like Iran or North Korea by outsourcing it to others and standing on the sidelines.”
This liberal saberrattling is born of an understandable desire to restore their lost credibility on national security, but they have failed to notice two problems with their newfound approach.
First, if the United States did seek to engage mostly indigenous Afghan troops or Pakistani soldiers, or if we did allow Britain, France, and Germany to run negotiations with Iran, then such “outsourcing” might be better described as “multilateralism.”
Such joint efforts are precisely what Democrat stalwarts like Kerry and Clinton prefer to the old “going it alone,” “unilateralism,” and “alienating our allies,” when the United States largely handles problems itself.
Later in the article, VDH points out:
For real appeasement and outsourcing, look at her husband and current adviser. Bill Clinton praised Iranian “democracy” at Davos in 2005. He compared it favorably to American and Israeli-style voting, urged us to defer to the European negotiations, and apologized to the murderous theocrats for the shah, for Saddam, for CIA plots in 1953, and for anything else he could think of. They were not impressed. And so we still had an Iranian nuclear program begin on his watch.
Read it all. I pointed out Hillary's moral bankruptcy on this particular issue here.
If we consider all of the current empty rhetoric and aggressive pandering displayed by both Kerry and Clinton, it seems to me that the two of them are not only bankrupt in the intellectual and moral department; they are deep into deficit spending.
The Intellectual and Moral Bankruptcy of the Left
Profiles in Intellectual and Moral Bankruptcy
Well, he didn't ask me, but I'm going to answer anyhow.
I like it just fine, herr Professor.
Guess what? I understand that you live in some ivory tower somewhere, Professor, but I choose to live in the real world. That means, among other things that things do not go perfectly all the time; nor do they go the way I (or Mr. Bush) might happen to want them to go.
I don't get into a snit about it like some, because I recognize that simple truth.
Democracy never promises perfection. Democracy has never promised anything--except choice. NEWSFLASH. People make bad choices. They make bad choices all the time. They don't even (gasp!) act in what is obviously their best interest an awful lot of the time. This is frequently referred to as "human nature".
Welcome to reality. There is no "stunning contradiction or hypocrisy" involved here--except perhaps on your part. The decades-long self-brainwashing of the Palestinian people is hardly likely to evaporate instantaneously. They will cling to their role as Islamic victim poster children for a quite a while, I suspect. They're comfortable in this role because it explains their pathetic situation.They are comfortable in this role because people like you have encouraged them in this role and have nodded knowingly as they blame the Jews; or the Americans; or just about anyone--rather than take responsibility for their own plight. It was people like you who supported Yasser Arafat and his brand of thugs for all these years.
So the Palestinians voted for a bunch of murderous thugs in their first free election in decades. Their choice was between two groups of them, in fact--one marginally less suicidal and homicidal than the other. What did you expect?
That's the way it goes sometimes. You give people a chance to make their lives better and they make the worse possible decisions. That's usually because they haven't ever had to take responsibility for the consequences of their choices. They have been shielded and buffered by well-meaning morons, who protect them from those consequences and who encourage them in their psychological projection and denial of reality by doing so.
The people of Germany voted rather enthusiastically for Adolph Hitler, you might recall. Look where that got them and the rest of the world for that matter. It was a big mess.
There was a chance--an ever so small one--that given a free choice, the Palestinians might do somthing to change their situation. They didn't. In fact, they have made their situation likely a lot worse.
Let me tell you about change. Change is very very difficult for people. You try being a psychiatrist sometime, Professor, and you will understand that.
Every day I deal with women who remain in abusive relationships; men who are addicted to substances and refuse to stop taking them, even when they are slowly being killed by them; people who persist in following a course of action that is self-destructive and harmful--usually not only to them, but to those who care about them. Sometimes it takes quite a while for them to turn the situation around, and the first step is usually after a major disaster, when they realize they have noone to blame for their situation but themselves. This is quite a painful experience--as insight usually is; but it can lead to positive change. And it is a process that will never happen if they are being told they aren't responsible for their actions. That it isn't their fault that they behave the way they do. That they are right to blame others for their actions, poor dears.
All of these patients want--no, they often DEMAND--that the psychiatrist make everything better. What they don't understand is that it takes hard work on their part to change things in their life. They want a magic pill. They are stuck with the reality that I don't possess one to give them.
Democracy isn't a magic pill. Bush never said it was a magic pill. He never promised them--or Iraq-- a rose garden. He simply saw democracy as providing the necessary gardening tools and the seeds to begin to plant one.
The Palestinians have always wanted a magic pill. They want to walk in the rose garden of a Palestinian state with all the benefits and perks already available. They will discover, like all those before have, that noone can give them that. Not Hamas, not Bush; and not even you, Professor. Especially not if their real goal is not to improve their own lot, but to destroy Israel.
But you know what? They have taken a first step in discovering that truth by making a helluva bad choice for their future. It will not make them happy and it might very well make them even more miserable than they are now. The world keeps offering the Palestinian choices that they very regularly screw up.
So, what else is new? Like some of my patients they will either develop some insight and begin taking personal responsibility from all of this, or they will suffer. Sadly, so will others. This is not much different than it has been over the last half a century for them, is it? Or over the last millenia or two in human history for that matter.
But there is a chance; a small one still; that they might wake up and make a different choice or take a different path. They can do that in a democracy. Perhaps not immediately. Perhaps not as quickly as you or I would like. But the potential is finally there for them to make a choice that has a better chance of leading to peace and prosperity.
I firmly believe as a psychiatrist who tries to help people change, that they could choose wisely. I firmly believe the same as a mother who watches a child grow to adulthood. I firmly believe it , as a human being who has free will.
Democracy is only an opportunity. What is the alternative, after all? The only alternative to individual liberty is enslavement to the collective. And the latter leads to even greater destruction and chaos because it doesn't recognize either the real world or human nature and distorts both.
At least it should be completely clear now to all the pro-Palestinian apologizers and enablers, that they are set on self-destruction and are not at this time particularly interested in peace. Nor have they had much motivation to alter their course when there have always been people like you who cheered their self-destructiveness on; or who were ready to blame Israel for their misery instead of holding them to account for their own behavior.
Even now, Professor, you appear to be holding President Bush responsible for their behavior; and for their lack of appropriate institutions to support democracy. By doing so, you let them off the hook and thus you continue to enable and encourage them in their poor choices. The U.S. has poured millions of dollars into the Palestinian cesspool which could have helped develop those institutions to support democracy; instead they only enriched the coffers of people like Arafat and built bombs.
When the Palestinians actually want a rule of law, or stable institutions, or basic economic security for the population; or checks and balances that forestall a tyranny of the majority - then perhaps they will do something to make that happen.
You say that in their "frustration" with the policies of Israel and the U.S., the Palestinians have "swung to the far right." I say that people like you have consistently rewared and praised the Palestinians for their technique of placing blame on the Jews and the Americans for their own situation. I say that it is YOUR behavior and people like you who have given the Palestinians every reason to believe that their grievances are sacrocanct and that their victimhood is absolute and gives them some special moral superiority no matter what they do.
You are like the spouse of an alcoholic. You complain bitterly about your loved one's drinking and the behavior that results from it, but you still go out and buy them the liquor and encourage them to drink it. Then you turn around and blame your psychiatrist because the antidepressant she gives you doesn't seem to be working; and your husband still beats you and things are still going poorly in your life.
Give me a break, Mr. Cole. Personally, I blame YOU and the rest of the enablers on the left (and some on the right) who have given the Palestinians every reason to believe there will never be any consequences for their behavior.
So let me get right to it!
Neo-neocon has a wonderful post up that is the latest in her "The Mind is a Difficult Thing To Change" series. If you haven't already read about her journey from the left, then you should--just to understand that she represents the kind of thinking liberal who is open to new ideas outside the ideological box.
The Gates of Vienna and Sigmund, Carl & Alfred have so many good posts, that I can't decide among them, so just scroll down at each site!
The Anchoress notes that some polls are easier to find than others.
Kobayashi Maru deals with Iran; and Jay at Stop the ACLU describes the heroic efforts of the ACLU to enable a boy to wear skirts to school. What would we do without the ACLU?
ShrinkWrapped has two provocative posts - "The Paradox of Liberalism in Wartime" and "Liberalism, Dependency and Adulthood".
Check them out, if you haven't already!
UPDATE: AJ Strata has a fantastic wrap-up of the NSA surveillance controversy. Thanks for putting it all together AJ.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
I will begin this second part of the discussion by quoting Richard Hofstadter again, from his essay "The Paranoid Style in American Politics":
What distinguishes the paranoid style is not, then, the absence of verifiable facts (though it is occasionally true that in his extravagaant passion for facts the paranoid occasionally manufactures them), but rather the curious leap in imagination that is always made at some critical point in the recital of events....
The plausability the paranoid style for those who find it plausible lies, in good measure, in this appearance of the more careful, conscientious and seemingly coherent application to detail, the laborious accumulation of what can be taken as convincing evidence for the most fantastic conclusions, the careful preparation for the big lep from the undeniable to the unbelievable.
The singular thing about all this laborious work is that the passion for factual evidence does not, as in most intellectual exchanges have the effect of putting the paranoid spokesman into effective two-way communication with the world outside his group--least of all with those who doubt his views. He has little real hope that his evidence will convince a hostile world. His effort to amass it has rather the quality of a defensive act which shuts off his receptive apparatus and protects him from haavaing to attend to disturbing considerations that do not fortify his ideas. He has all the evidence he needs; he is not a receiver, he is a transmitter.
What is missing from the paranoid style is not facts, but sensible judgment. And how can judgments be made--let alone be sensible--when the postmodern constraints on thinking (discussed here and here) demand moral relativity and decree that all truth is subjective anyway. Postmodernism practically celebrates paranoia, projection, denial and distortion as undeniable and fundamental truth.
Paranoid symptoms and the paranoid style may arise from biological or emotional (psychological) causes.
In my line of work I see many people who have an underlying physiological abnormality in the brain that predisposes them to develop psychotic symptoms, including paranoia. Some of the psychiatric disorders where paranoia can be seen include from schizophrenia, psychotic depression, mania and substance abuse. Paranoia may also be a symptom of medical disorders, and the list of them is quite long, but includes almost all medical problems that may affect the brain (e.g. infectious, neoplastic endocrine, nutritional etc.).
One patient I remember vividly was a young man in his 30's who came to the emergency room with careful documentation (literally hundreds of pages) of his fluid intake and urine output; (with careful descriptions of the color and consistency of the urine as well as several recent samples) for the last 3 years. This compilation of data was offered to me as the "proof" that someone had been slowly poisoning him. Recently, he had begun to realize, he told me, that the persons behind this were likely from some planet astronomers had not yet discovered.
Most of the medical and psychiatric disorders that lead to paranoia involve a disruption of normal brain physiology, which then leads to misperceptions and distorted thinking processes. In such cases, paranoia develops as the broken brain tries to make sense of a world that one's senses are saying has gone mad. In other words, the brain tries to use its rational faculty to develop a coherent explanation of the false or distorted perceptions that are brought about by the abnormal physiology.
I am not suggesting that all people who use projection or paranoia have a medical or psychiatric illness. Most non-clinical instances of paranoia stop abruptly at the point where the totally bizarre begins. The patient above had wandered into the bizarre with his inclusion of aliens into the paranoid mix and he suffered from a pathological disorder. The particular content of the paranoia--even in clinical disorders--may take on some of the psychological issues with which the individual is dealing at the time. For example, one high-functioning PhD level microbiologist that I treated in the past believed that there were "sub"microscopic organisms on his skin that jumped from him to other people and where the reason why he could not get andy dates with women.
One of the daunting aspects of political paranoia is that it is not entirely out of the realm of the possible; it is just unbelievable in its breathtaking scope to most reasonable people. In order to believe it, a person would have to accept some pretty far-fetched underlying assumptions - many of them fairly contradictory.
It simply boggles the mind to contemplate all the conspiracy theories constructed about George W. Bush and/or Karl Rove's evil genius. They are blamed even for the sad foolishness of some Democrats' behaviors. Recall, as just one example, the proposed theory that Karl Rove was the originator of the "fake but accurate" Dan Rather/Mary Mapes memo. The idea of this theory was that Rove did it to make Democrats look foolish since it was so obviously a forgery; and that they were "entrapped" into believing it to be real. Except, of course, that the same people who say that piece of nonsense are also unwilling to admit that the forgery is fake and believe there is some "underlying truth" to its contents. Go figure. But as Hofstadter has said, this is the hallmark of the paranoid style.
Science has shown that many purely psychological factors can also have a dramatic effect on brain physiology and alter perceptions.
Many conversion disorders (such as this classic case of hysteria I discussed in an earlier post) have no objective medical pathology, but are brought about by a traumatic psychological event in a person's life. Sometimes non-psychiatric physicians speak of of such symptoms in a belittling manner, calling them "all in your head" or "supratentorial" (suggesting that the person is making them up). But the truth is that psychological factors and how we react to the world have an enormous impact on our brain.
That is, after all, on of the main functions of the brain -- to perceive and respond to the external environment. When that environment or the real world overwhelms us psychologically, sometimes even a normal brain can malfunction. And sometime an otherwise normal brain may be used to filter out the unacceptable or the reality that overloads it.
All of the psychological defenses--including paranoia, denial, distortion and projection -- undoubtedly have a biological basis. We are only now just coming to understand some of the physiology that may be involved; and it is hardly surprising that it is the same physiology that underlies the analogous medical conditions. (See here, for example).
Clearly some people are more prone to develop extreme paranoid ideas that are completely out of the realm of possibility than others, but the only difference between paranoia from a medical or psychiatric etiology and paranoia from a psychological (or political) etiology is how one treats it.
In the former case, the underlying medical or psychiatric problem is diagnosed and treated. Most often, the paranoia will diminish, though not always as it is a very difficult symptom to entirely remove.
In the latter case, one must also treat the underlying problem, but in this case, it is not medication or other physical treatments that will do the job. The treatment for political paranoia is insight and self-awareness.
As recently as yesterday, some new studies were reported on that demonstrated how political bias affects brain activity. The key word is "bias". Or, to put it another way, deeply held political beliefs effect brain activity and can interfere with both judgment and perception. Most certainly, this is not unique to either Democratic or Republican brains.
All human brains have the potential to be biased, prejudiced, irrational, and, with reference to our topic--paranoid. The only psychological prerequisite to slip into this kind of deluded thinking is a perceived threat to one's sense of self; or any of the ideas or relationships one's sense of self is based on.
When faced with some extremely unpleasant aspect of reality, the individual mind immediately take steps to preserve its integrity. A common example of this is the situation where someone is told of a loved one's unexpected death. Such traumatic information cannot be processed instantaneously as it puts a person's whole world out of frame. It is too sudden to be fully digested.
So, the first and most normal response is the reflexive response to such news: "NO! That can't be true!" (denial) ; or even the more paranoid response: "No! You're lying to me! Why would you lie to me!"
Again, we are all capable of having paranoid ideas at times because paranoia is the extreme of the human mind's attempts to find connections; assign meanings; and develop rational explanations for events, thoughts and/or feelings.
In other words, the tendency to mistake coincidences for causes; or to blame other people rather than one's self for one's circumstances is a universal trait; but it is hardly a psychologically healthy one.
Here is the way that paranoia and projection work:
-You consider yourself a "peaceful" and non-violent person. Yet you feel violently angry at someone or some situation. This does not fit in with your image of yourself. With projection, you deny your own rage and insist that it is the other person who is going to attack you or has angry feelings towards you. PSYCHOLOGICAL RESULT: you don't have to acknowledge your own angry feelings which are unacceptable to you; and instead can attribute them to someone else.
-You are a successful person. But deep down you feel unworthy of your success or guilty of your talent or wealth. Instead of acknowledging this and trying to understand and deal with the origins of such painful self-recrimination (did you cheat others to obtain your wealth? Are you faking talent? Have poor self-esteem?); you begin to think that others are criticizing you and trying to impede your success. Or, alternately you engage in self-defeating or self-destructive behavior that you blame on someone else. Or, you take the position that wealth is evil or all talent is undeserved and extol mediocrity or poverty as morally superior in order to compensate for your guilt. PSYCHOLOGICAL RESULT: you don't have to deal with the reason behind your guilt and unworthiness; and can attribute such critical attacks on you to someone else or denouncing others with talent and wealth makes you feel worthy. For examples of this you can pretty much pick all of the Hollywood elite or many successful businessmen (George Soros comes to mind).
-You are an unsuccessful person or feel a failure in life. You have some shame and/or humiliation about your situation. Instead of dealing with what you are doing that makes you unsuccessful, you attribute your lack of success to the actions of some individual or group who is acting against you. PSYCHOLOGICAL RESULT: you don't have to take responsibility for your situation or acknowledge that your own actions brought you to it. It is not your fault, but someone else's. This is the mechanism behind most racist, sexist, homophobic and/or antisemitic behavior the world over. Islam, in particular, seems to specialize in this type of thinking about the Jews onto whom they project all their own inadequacies.
There is a reason that human beings experience suspicion, distrust and hyper- vigilance. That reason is because there is REAL danger in the world. Our ancestors in the caves knew this to be true. They lived with continual danger just to survive every minute of every day. Being able to logically "connect the dots" and extract meaning from the evidence of one's senses is a necessity for survival. Those who did not have this psychological capacity surely died out long ago.
The tools of the paranoid individual and the paranoid style that one can see dramatised in much political discourse these days are denial, distortion, and projection. These psychological defenses are almost always pathological when used by an adult to cope with the real world.
Those individuals who use these three primitive psychological defenses rearrange external reality (so that actual reality may be avoided); for an observer, the users of these mechanisms frequently appear crazy or insane. These are known as the "psychotic" defenses, common in overt psychosis, in dreams, and throughout childhood.
Denial is a refusal to accept external reality because it is too threatening. There are examples of denial being adaptive (for example, it might be adaptive for a person who has a terminal illness to use some degree of denial). But for the most part, denial is only useful as a short-term strategy, to permit a person to come to terms with reality. As a long-term strategy to protect self-identity, it is potentially lethal--since the person or group that uses it extensively is blinded to the real danger that might be out there.
Distortion is a gross reshaping of external reality to meet internal needs. The ongoing and bizarre accusations against the evil genius Karl Rove are typical of the distortion of the paranoid style. The most recent example is the accusation by the denizens of the Democratic Underground that the Osama tape was masterminded by Rove to justify the President's authorization of the NSA to intercept terrorist communications.
In a free society, it is reasonable to raise concerns about the trade-offs during a war of increased security and decreased freedom in some areas; and how far is it appropriate or necessary to go--balancing risks and benefits. But the paranoid left will not allow a rational discussion of this issue and insist that free speech is being taken away and that the President is mad with power. It is more to the point to say that they are mad with impotence.
It is my observation that most of the liberal left are so obsessed with controlling the speech of those who disagree with them (they refer to such speech as "hate" speech and generally accuse you of being "hate-filled"); that they are unable to recognize, let alone take responsibility for the hatred and anger that they are experiencing. Attributing their own feeling to others is much more acceptable since it allows them to continue to believe that they are champions of free speech; calm and rational ("reality-based"); when the greatest threats to free speech originate in their own policies which they demand be forced onto others; and the greatest threat to peace is in their own unacknowledged rage.
Granted that the conservative right--especially sometimes the religious right--suffer from the same paranoid style at times and can be equally obnoxious with wanting to force their policies and beliefs onto others. That this is so, does not take the liberal left off the hook for their unbelievably childish and incredibly foolish paranoid attempts to manipulate political rhetoric in a time of war; in a manner that enables our enemies to exploit exposed faultlines in American politics--and to do it solely for their own personal political gain.
When you try to engage them in discussion, the paranoid person will simply emote and vent his rage because he feels dispossessed, impotent and irrelevant. Two-way communication is impossible, as Hofstadter notes. Eventually, the paranoid will develop a conspiracy theory to explain away their feelings of rage and impotence and seek to punish the person or group they blame for their situation. You can see this in almost every thread at the Democratic Underground if you are so inclined to read them. You can see it in the inflammatory and over-the-top rhetoric about Judge Alito, an able and mainstream conservative jurist; whose detractors paint "end-of-the-world" scenarios if he were to be confirmed to the Supreme Court. "Women will die" and children will be sexually abused; you will lose all your personal liberties; and we will return to the days of the caveman; and so on.
It is easy to see how all these psychological manipulations work together to keep a person or a group insulated from reality. We witness such behavior all around us these days. It has a mindless quality that is indifferent to the societal damage that it wreaks.
The actual numbers of those on the liberal left who have fully embraced the paranoid style is actually relatively low. The damage they do; the deaths they must certainly take responsibility for are totally out of proportion to the actual size. Yet they have leveraged their power in the media and academic institutions well, and have come to dominate almost all of the programs of the liberal left.
So, what is the solution to this dilemma posed by the liberal left's paranoid style? They behave the way they do because they believe (falsely, I think) that it will gain them back their position of power and influence.
When--and if--the paranoid style fails to bring them back to the hall of political power in Washington and elsewhere, the left will have a motivation to change--just as the conservative right managed to look at itself in the 70's and 80's and curtail the paranoia that threatened to keep them powerless and keep the valuable ideas they had to contribute to American society out of the mainstream.
If the conservative right were able to develop a sense of insight and terminate the paranoid streak that ran through all its thinking in the 50's and 60's; then so too can the liberal left.
What is so dangerous at this particular time in history, is that the left seems to be escalating their paranoia instead of containing it. The entire world is in th midst of a potentially deadly crisis, brought on by a dangerous and lethal strain of Islamism that the paranoid liberal left refuses to acknowledge. They are only able to see the conservative right as the enemies they have to deal with, and are blind to the real danger.
This is worse than delusional. This is potentially life-threatening for American society. It must stop.
To regain health--both political and psychological--the liberal left must begin to take responsibility for their thoughts, feelings, rhetoric and behaviors that are enabling and appeasing Islamofascist murderers. Even if this is a painful process for the left (or a financially painful process), they must change their mindless opposition to everything that the conservative right proposes --especially in the area of national security. They must exert control over inappropriate behaviors that derives from their anger and resentment at having lost the last two elections to someone they despise. They do not have to love George Bush or Republicans, but they have to grow up and work with them for the sake of America. If they have alternatives that are consistent with national security and national interests, let them propose them instead of simply saying NO to everything that is proposed. Even if they hate the direction things are going, it was only a little over a year ago that the American people--the one's they say they serve--voted to go in Bush's direction. There is a job to get done, and they must do it together with their political opponents for the good of us all.
Paranoia, projection, denial and distortion are banished though the development of insight and self awareness. When these defense mechanisms are being used, some inner reality is distorting outer reality. It is the inner reality that has to be understood before a person can have control over their bias, prejudices and histrionic and rageful tendencies; which are the major stumbling blocks to a full grasp of reality. Only be taking down such impediments will the liberal left and the conservative right--working together-- optimally deal with dangerous world of the 21st century.
The conservative right wing of American politics may once have been the predominant users of the paranoid style in the 60's. But what we see today clearly demonstrates the severe paranoia of the liberal left wing as they try to come to grips with their own growing irrelevancy and confining worldview that keeps them anchored in the past and deeply afraid of the future.
Today, conservatives are actually more representative of true "progressive" thought; and will continue to be as long as the rhetoric and behavior of the liberal left is mired in the paranoid style.
American feminists generally do not become feminists because of some well-defined political goal. For example, in your email you enumerate several important political objectives. You want to vote. You want to be free to hold elective office. You want rape to be illegal. You want to be able to work. You don’t want to be forced to get and stay pregnant at all times. You want genital mutilation (of females) to be illegal.
I have an important newsflash, Daisy: You have already achieved all six of these political objectives. But, nonetheless, you continue to rant. And you continue to live in the past. That makes it difficult to take you seriously.
Amen, brother. Part II can be found here.
You know, it occurs to me that American women today need feminism like...oh, I don't know...like a fish needs a bicycle, perhaps?
Sometime in the mid to late-20th century, the women's movement became trapped in amber, and they stopped roaring. Today their petty grievances have the shrill character of mere petulant whining.
Get a real life, girls.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
I'm a Porsche 911!
You have a classic style, but you're up-to-date with the latest technology. You're ambitious, competitive, and you love to win. Performance, precision, and prestige - you're one of the elite,and you know it.
Take the Which Sports Car Are You? quiz.
My daughter was a Ferrari (which made her very happy because she just put together one of those massive Lego models of a bright red Ferrari!)
Richard Hofstadter, in his well-known essay on the paranoid style in American politics--first delivered as a lecture at Oxford in November, 1963-- presented numerous examples which clearly demonstrated that the conservative right wing of the political spectrum were the dominant users of the paranoid style. From the John Birch Society; to Joseph McCarthy; to the conspiracy theories related to fluoridation of water and other irrationally held beliefs of the time; the conservative right engaged in frankly paranoid thinking.
But Hofstadter noted even then, that conservatives and the right could not claim exclusive title to the paranoid style. In fact, American history was littered with examples of both sides utilizing the paranoid style in order to cope with painful truths about errors in ideology; and the consequent loss of political power and influence.
I submit that at this point in history it is now the liberal left that has willingly passed through the world of reality and entered the twilight realm of paranoia. They made this transition in order to hold onto some cherished beliefs that they were convinced had become unchangeable historical "facts"; "facts" that had been and still are essential to their very identity as a political party; but which hide essential flaws in their thinking.
In the 60's the liberal left and the Democratic Party became the champions of civil rights --a cause with which they were NOT historically associated, actually; but events of the time conspired to make them the standard-bearers of racial equality--an unaddressed social issue in this country that plagued and highlighted some of the hypocrisy in its high-minded and lofty values from the very beginning. It was definitely time to make the American promise that so clearly burned in the minds of the Founding Fathers real for all Americans.
Championing this cause was so successful for the Democrats as a political party, that they quite naturally took up the causes of other identified "victim" groups (women, the disabled; homosexuals, etc.); successfully leveraging their heroic stand on civil rights as proof of their concern for the oppressed and "the little guy".
Along the way, the Democrats picked up a few holy mantras ("Roe v Wade" and the whole abortion rights movement ; "Make Love Not War" and the entire antiwar crowd; etc.) and, about this time, they became very seriously infected with the Marxist virus that had already spread throughout Europe, despite being the cause of human misery as well as millions of deaths around the world.
Hence, the liberal left failed to notice that the American people rose to the challenge of equal rights and that society changed under the irrefutable logic of human freedom and equal opportunity for all. The promise of liberty was, after all, the founding principle of our nation.
But Democrats and the liberal left could only be threatened by the succes of their attempt to change American society. Blacks; women; and even Gays were making incredible progress in assimilation into society -- and could now move on to say and think what they pleased. They might even choose to become Republican; or disagree with some entitlement program; or challenge directly the ideology beneath the Democratic Party and the left ! Horrors!
Thus it is not so hard to understand that those who once championed the oppressed and encouraged them to be free and partake of all aspects of American society; now have become the most potent enablers of the victimhood cults that sprang up in each of these groups.
As I have pointed out elsewhere, those whose identity is tied-up inextricably with being the champions the oppressed, must be sure to maintain an oppressed class--constantly seeking new victims to heroically stand for; otherwise what or who will they champion?
Most Americans who are not indoctrinated into the Marxist worldview and obsessed with victimhood can clearly see the real progress of Blacks and women--indeed all minority groups-- in all aspects of society. They can appreciate individuals from those groups who forged into previously restricted areas and broke barrier after barrier, even if they are not Democrats or subscribers to leftist theories.
Not only did the liberal left exhibit almost complete blindness and fail to celebrate its greatest success , but they became more and more strident in their demands and denunciations of American society as a whole. This entire process coincided with their increasing irrelevance and loss of political power. In response, the left is trying to change the playing field to insure that they remain relevant by switching from demands for "equal opportunity" to an insistance on "equal outcome". Since it is impossible to achieve the latter--except in a totalitarian society, where everyone is made equally miserable; or in death itself--the left hopes to achieve new power and influence over a neverending victim class that they will have created through their policies. The paranoid style conveniently defends those policies and effortlessly maintains their defective worldview.
Of course, calling someone "paranoid", or insinuating that they have a "paranoid style" is definitely pejorative. Being paranoid has, as Hofstadter notes, "a greater affinity for bad causes than good ones." This is primaril because the paranoid--even when their cause has some merit--is actually trying to delude himself about some inner reality at the expense of, or detriment to, the cause. Their motivation is no longer about the cause anymore; it is about protecting themselves from an unpleasant reality that is making them question their foundations.
Any who oppose the "equality of outcome" logic are descibed as "racist". Those who disagree with them are "trying to shut down free speech" (watch and see whose behavior actually physically attempts to silence others). Those who point out the errors in their thinking are "evil". American society--arguably the freest and most tolerant in the world--becomes the source of all oppression and evil. This growing attitude condensed itself into an insane and irrational hatred for one man who came to symbolize their worst fear -- that their image of themselves was no longer true, but had become a well-loved and cultivated delusion. I mean, if GW Bush could be elected President (not once, but TWICE); and be considered the liberator of literally millions of people--what were they? Chopped liver?
Let me use an example that Hofstadter uses in his essay:
Again it is common knowledge that the movement against the fluoridation of municipal water supplies has been catnip for cranks of all kinds, especially for those who have obsessive fear of poisoning. It is conceivable that at some time scientists may turn up conclusive evidence that this practice is, on balance, harmful; and such a discovery would prove the antifluoridationists quite right on the substance of their position. But it could hardly, at the same time, validate the contentions of those among them who, in characteristic paranoid fashion have charged that fluoridation was an attempt to advance socialism under the guise of public health or to rot out the brains of the community by introducing chemicals in the water supply in order to make people more vulnerable to socialist or communist schemes.
A distorted style is, then, a possible signal that may alert us to a distorted judgment, just as in art an ugly style is a cue to fundamental defects of taste. What interests me here is the possibility of using political rhetoric to get a political pathology. One of the most impressive facts about the paranoid style, in this connection, is that it represents an old and recurrent mode of expression in our public life which has frequently been linked with movements of suspicious discontent and whose content remains much the same even when it is adopted by men of distinctly different purposes.
In the example of fluoridation, which was a major focus of paranoia in the 50's and 60's; science never confirmed that it was harmful and it is still used today all over the country. Nevertheless, it was not unreasonable to bring up concerns about the long-term safety of a public program that would impact almost every citizen in the country.
What was inappropriate and irrational, as well as an extreme example of "connecting the dots" to regain political power, was the use of the relevant scientific question as a basis for developing a rather bizarre conspiracy theory that connected it with another realistic concern at the time--the rise of communism and its easy acceptance and penetration into American culture.
In this case, "connecting the dots" was not the product of a rational thought process, but of a paranoia on the right; who in their political impotence came to emotionally conflate two important concerns with some degree of merit into one conspiracy theory that was totally off the wall. In the end, it completely discredited them in the minds of reasonable people.
The bizarre conspiracy theories that condensed around fluoridation are not dissimilar to the ones we hear over and over again concerning President Bush and his rationale for the war in Iraq and the war on terror in general.
Even if, hypothetically, every single justification for the war would be eventually proven not to have any basis ( and this is already demonstrably impossible); it would still not validate the absurd claims on the part of the left who, in characteristic paranoid fashion, have come up with all sorts of conspiracy theories and paranoid fantasies that connect dots in a much more irrational and delusional manner than what they accuse the President of doing.
The President simply acted on facts that were accepted at the time (even by the people now accusing him of lying); and responded appropriately to a real threat that had materialized on his watch and resulted in the murder of 3000 American citizens. The paranoia of the left can be seen in their attempts to undermine his actions by resorting to ridiculous connections that simply don't compute-- just as fluoridation being a plot of the communists didn't resonate with reality; neither does Michael Moore's fictional documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11, make the paranoid case for some underlying conspiracy.
While there is merit in debating how best to go about achieving our objectives in the war in Iraq and the GWOT; believing that terrorism is a conspiracy cooked up by Bush and Co. to consolidate power and institute (take your pick) a fascist state; a theocracy; or both; is simply a paranoid fantasy that consoles those of the liberal left who cannot cope with their loss of power and influence.
The hallmark of the paranoid individual and the paranoid style is constant anticipation or expectation of either attack or personal betrayal. Paranoia finds causal connections everywhere and in everything; for them, nothing is coincidental. They can develop complicated conspiracies about innocuous behaviors and seemingly irrelevant events. Their paranoia makes them constantly on guard, searching for hidden motives and meanings in everyone else's behavior. (Just go check out the Democratic Underground, where these fantasies on every action or inaction on the part of the Bush administration are immediately converted into conspiracies and plots). The tragic death of a reporter -- Bush et al had him killed because he knew too much. Osama's most recent tape -- a Rovian plot to show how frightened we should be. And so on.
Paranoia can be conceptualized as "rationality in the service of the irrational." Once fixed on a particular idea or explanation -- no matter how bizarre or irrational; the paranoid person looks for evidence to validate their prejudices. It is almost impossible to change their minds. Their entire concept of themselves is tied up with the paranoid idea or conspiracy. If it did not exist, or was proven to be untrue or false-- then they would need to question their underlying assumptions and ideas--and those are what usually form the foundation of who they believe themselves to be.
For example, a belief that one is important enough to be the subject of a determined (and often vague) FBI or CIA plot may be frightening, but is likely to be vastly superior to accepting that you have a severe and lifelong psychiatric disorder.
It is far easier to disregard reality; and/or to simply incorporate the person who tries to disabuse you of your idea or conspiracy into the complex paranoid fantasy itself, rather than deal with the trauma of a disintegrating self.
When setbacks occur, or when something goes wrong in the life of the paranoid, they will prefer to believe that another person or group is to blame, rather than accept any personal responsibility.
In Part II, I will discuss how paranoia can originate from both biological and psychological causes; and how the current political paranoia and rhetoric of the left have profound implications for our society. It has led to severe breaks in the social fabric that bind us together as a nation. I hope that these can, with time, be mended. But the worse effect of this paranoid style is that it seriously impedes those who express it from being able to appropriately face and respond to reality.
Thus, those who adopt the paranoid style in their rhetoric and their behavior not only are unable to help the rest of us deal with the very real threats we face in the 21st century; they actively undermine our efforts and enable our enemies.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
This latter response is usually is my emotional red flag telling me I'm feeling a little burned out about the insane world of American politics.
Check back tomorrow. I'm gonna play tonight.
Consider this an open thread (hey, if the big guys can do it all the time, then little ol' me should be able to!). Have fun yourself.
UPDATE: I will be back blogging this afternoon. I need to take a sick kid to the doctor among some other things. See you then.