Saturday, November 22, 2008


Hi-ho, hi-ho, it's away we go...

Come 7 a.m. tomorrow, I'm climbing on a bus bound for Portland, to connect with a train going up to Mt Vernon, WA; thanksgiving week with friends. My sweetie-pie has to work, having finally landed a job. I deserve a little trip, is her thinking. I'm uptight, of course, before a trip. This time it's a bit more stressful.

A couple of months ago, we took a package deal from Qwest. The DSL service is fairly inexpensive, compared to the one we used to have. I think I know why. Their tech support seems to be in a far far away land. Switching over involved several hours' of phone calls and conversations. Now the outgoing mail server isn't working right; the tech person suggested I call either Microsoft or Macintosh for help on working out the configuration. This seems kind of odd. Since the DSL provider is Qwest...

However: I have to get up at 5:30 or so tomorrow. I'm not enthusiastic about doing that—years ago I spent years getting up at that hour. Life's too short get get more uptight about taking off tomorrow, early hour and all, and fuckall. Qwest can wait. Gmail works OK.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Circle the wagons! Here come the diagnoses!

America may have the most diagnosed population in the world. We’re filled with anxieties and anorexias, schizophrenias, paranoias and phobias, ptsd, adhd... and who knows what’s the next thing to come down the pike. Apathy Disorder? Who cares?

There’re several reasons for this: our society is crazy is probably the main reason. Greedy drug companies are running a very close second, and the insurance companies have an incredible demand for documentation on billing. There are too many paper pushers; there can be no blank spaces, every dime has to be justified before it’s reimbursed. And, the big AND, too many doctors are too close to too many drug manufacturers. That’s more than simply the opportunity for corruption.,0,5678764.story
From the Los Angeles Times
Wrangling over psychiatry's bible
By Christopher Lane

November 16, 2008

Over the summer, a wrangle between eminent psychiatrists that had been brewing for months erupted in print. Startled readers of Psychiatric News saw the spectacle unfold in the journal's normally less-dramatic pages. The bone of contention: whether the next revision of America's psychiatric bible, the "Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders," should be done openly and transparently so mental health professionals and the public could follow along, or whether the debates should be held in secret.

One of the psychiatrists (former editor Robert Spitzer) wanted transparency; several others, including the president of the American Psychiatric Assn. and the man charged with overseeing the revisions (Darrel Regier), held out for secrecy. Hanging in the balance is whether, four years from now, a set of questionable behaviors with names such as "Apathy Disorder," "Parental Alienation Syndrome," "Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder," "Compulsive Buying Disorder," "Internet Addiction" and "Relational Disorder" will be considered full-fledged psychiatric illnesses.

This may sound like an arcane, insignificant spat about nomenclature. But the manual is in fact terribly important, and the debates taking place have far-reaching consequences. Published by the American Psychiatric Assn. (and better known as the DSM), the manual is meant to cover every mental health disorder that affects children and adults.

Not only do mental health professionals use it routinely when treating patients, but the DSM is also a bible of sorts for insurance companies deciding what disorders to cover, as well as for clinicians, courts, prisons, pharmaceutical companies and agencies that regulate drugs. Because large numbers of countries, including the United States, treat the DSM as gospel, it's no exaggeration to say that minor changes and additions have powerful ripple effects on mental health diagnoses around the world.

Behind the dispute about transparency is the question of whether the vague, open-ended terms being discussed even come close to describing real psychiatric disorders. To large numbers of experts, apathy, compulsive shopping and parental alienation are symptoms of psychological conflict rather than full-scale mental illnesses in their own right. Also, because so many participants in the process of defining new disorders have ties to pharmaceutical companies, some critics argue that the addition of new disorders to the manual is little more than a pretext for prescribing profitable drugs.

The more you know about how psychiatrists defined dozens of disorders in the recent past, the more you can appreciate Spitzer's concern that the process should not be done in private. Although a new disorder is supposed to meet a host of criteria before being accepted into the manual, one consultant to the manual's third edition -- they're now working on the fifth -- explained to the New Yorker magazine that editorial meetings over the changes were often chaotic. "There was very little systematic research," he said, "and much of the research that existed was really a hodgepodge -- scattered, inconsistent and ambiguous. I think the majority of us recognized that the amount of good, solid science upon which we were making our decisions was pretty modest."

Things are different today, the new consultants insist, because hard science now drives their debates. Maybe so, but still, I shudder to think what the criteria for "Relational Disorder" and "Parental Alienation Syndrome" will be. And I'm not the only one worrying. Spitzer is bothered by the prospect of "science by committee." Others, like forensics expert Karen Franklin, writing in American Chronicle, warn that advocacy groups are pressing for the inclusion of dubious terms that simply don't belong in a manual of mental illnesses.

The row between Spitzer and Regier apparently dates to Regier's refusal to share the minutes of his task-force meetings with Spitzer, citing concerns about confidentiality that could jeopardize the integrity of the discussions. Regier insists, in personal correspondence that has since been made public, that the process is designed to ensure "input" from all interested parties. But Regier won't share any information except a handful of "periodic reports to the membership and media." Bypassed, conveniently, are the details of the debates themselves.

Spitzer counters that "the real purpose ... is to avoid possible criticism of the ... process." He has called the attempt to revise the DSM in secret "a big mistake" and a likely "public relations disaster."

I fear that I may have unintentionally contributed to Regier's excessively secretive behavior. Back in the 1970s, during the creation of the third edition of the manual, I published much of the correspondence that had circulated between committee members. Some of the exchanges were frankly hair-raising. They included proposals for the approval of such dubious conditions as "Chronic Complaint Disorder" and "Chronic Undifferentiated Unhappiness Disorder." When asked to define how he was using the term "masochism," one leading psychiatrist replied: "Oh, you know what I mean, a whiny individual ... the Jewish-mother type." And so it went for dozens of other terms that later became bona-fide illnesses.

Regier obviously wants to prevent any such embarrassment for his task force; he apparently fears the public will not find his committee's work entirely convincing.

I'm not interested in embarrassing anyone. My concern is the lack of proper oversight. If the proposed new disorders don't receive a full professional airing, including a vigorous debate about their validity, they will be incorporated wholesale into the fifth edition in 2012. Joining the ranks of the mentally ill will be the apathetic, shopaholics, the virtually obsessed and alienated parents. It's hard to imagine that anyone will be left who is not eligible for a diagnosis.

Christopher Lane, a professor of English at Northwestern University, is the author of "Shyness: How Normal Behavior Became a Sickness."

Monday, November 17, 2008


Iraq and international law...and karma

Here’s a little piece, from the Guardian, UK, on how the US and the UK may find themselves in international trouble. It would be appropriate. The US, certainly, lied as outrageously as any 20th or 21st Century nation over justifying going to war with Iraq. It’s shameful. That the Liar-In-Chief and his gang are unpunished is a sin—no matter how many people of Color we elect to office. The thing is: karma can be a bitch. What happened in the first, say, three hundred years of America’s existence is bad enough. We compounded that in the 20th Century with the use of the Atomic Bomb, the on-going existence of the KKK, the internment of Japanese-Americans—and, in the 21st Century, going to war against Iraq was/is just plain awful. There’s a big karmic debt to be paid.

Top judge: US and UK acted as 'vigilantes' in Iraq invasion
Former senior law lord condemns 'serious violation of international law'

* Richard Norton-Taylor
*, Tuesday November 18 2008 00.01 GMT
* The Guardian, Tuesday November 18 2008

One of Britain's most authoritative judicial figures last night delivered a blistering attack on the invasion of Iraq, describing it as a serious violation of international law, and accusing Britain and the US of acting like a "world vigilante".

Lord Bingham, in his first major speech since retiring as the senior law lord, rejected the then attorney general's defence of the 2003 invasion as fundamentally flawed.

Contradicting head-on Lord Goldsmith's advice that the invasion was lawful, Bingham stated: "It was not plain that Iraq had failed to comply in a manner justifying resort to force and there were no strong factual grounds or hard evidence to show that it had." Adding his weight to the body of international legal opinion opposed to the invasion, Bingham said that to argue, as the British government had done, that Britain and the US could unilaterally decide that Iraq had broken UN resolutions "passes belief".

Governments were bound by international law as much as by their domestic laws, he said. "The current ministerial code," he added "binding on British ministers, requires them as an overarching duty to 'comply with the law, including international law and treaty obligations'."

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats continue to press for an independent inquiry into the circumstances around the invasion. The government says an inquiry would be harmful while British troops are in Iraq. Ministers say most of the remaining 4,000 will leave by mid-2009.

Addressing the British Institute of International and Comparative Law last night, Bingham said: "If I am right that the invasion of Iraq by the US, the UK, and some other states was unauthorised by the security council there was, of course, a serious violation of international law and the rule of law.

"For the effect of acting unilaterally was to undermine the foundation on which the post-1945 consensus had been constructed: the prohibition of force (save in self-defence, or perhaps, to avert an impending humanitarian catastrophe) unless formally authorised by the nations of the world empowered to make collective decisions in the security council..."

The moment a state treated the rules of international law as binding on others but not on itself, the compact on which the law rested was broken, Bingham argued. Quoting a comment made by a leading academic lawyer, he added: "It is, as has been said, 'the difference between the role of world policeman and world vigilante'."

Bingham said he had very recently provided an advance copy of his speech to Goldsmith and to Jack Straw, foreign secretary at the time of the invasion of Iraq. He told his audience he should make it plain they challenged his conclusions.

Both men emphasised that point last night by intervening to defend their views as consistent with those held at the time of the invasion. Goldsmith said in a statement: "I stand by my advice of March 2003 that it was legal for Britain to take military action in Iraq. I would not have given that advice if it were not genuinely my view. Lord Bingham is entitled to his own legal perspective five years after the event." Goldsmith defended what is known as the "revival argument" - namely that Saddam Hussein had failed to comply with previous UN resolutions which could now take effect. Goldsmith added that Tony Blair had told him it was his "unequivocal view" that Iraq was in breach of its UN obligations to give up weapons of mass destruction.

Straw said last night that he shared Goldsmith's view. He continued: "However controversial the view that military action was justified in international law it was our attorney general's view that it was lawful and that view was widely shared across the world."

Bingham also criticised the post-invasion record of Britain as "an occupying power in Iraq". It is "sullied by a number of incidents, most notably the shameful beating to death of Mr Baha Mousa [a hotel receptionist] in Basra [in 2003]", he said.

Such breaches of the law, however, were not the result of deliberate government policy and the rights of victims had been recognised, Bingham observed.

He contrasted that with the "unilateral decisions of the US government" on issues such as the detention conditions in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

After referring to mistreatment of Iraqi detainees in Abu Ghraib, Bingham added: "Particularly disturbing to proponents of the rule of law is the cynical lack of concern for international legality among some top officials in the Bush administration."

* © Guardian News and Media Limited 2008


Some Newts are nice; others are deranged

I’m pretty certain Newt Gingrich has above average intelligence. For better or for worse he’s been a college instructor and apparently managed to develop a curriculum. He’s certain skilled at group dynamics.

I wonder if he’s crazy.

I mean, the following exchange between Gingrich and Bill O’Reilly is absolutely cracked. It’s as whacked out as anything Hitler dreamed up about the Jews having a secret agenda for world domination.

Yes, I realize that “fascism” is currently a buzz-word of the far right. I think this is because of projection. Projection happens, right, when people take parts of their own personalities they don’t like, don’t want, can hardly admit to having, and claim other people have it and that’s why those people are dangerous and need to be punished. Like the politicians and preachers who rant against homosexuals and predators and then get busted for...

Anyhow, there’s no doubt O’Reilly is a cynical manipulator of public opinion. That’s something that isn’t healthy. Gingrich, particularly in this interview shows himself to be just as bad.

Gingrich: "[T]here is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us"

Summary: Discussing actions by individual protesters of Proposition 8, Newt Gingrich stated: "I think there is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us, is prepared to use violence, to use harassment. I think it is prepared to use the government if it can get control of it. I think that it is a very dangerous threat to anybody who believes in traditional religion."

On the November 14 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, in reference to actions by individual protesters of Proposition 8, the recently passed California ballot initiative amending the state constitution to ban same-sex marriage, Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich stated: "I think there is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us, is prepared to use violence, to use harassment. I think it is prepared to use the government if it can get control of it. I think that it is a very dangerous threat to anybody who believes in traditional religion." Gingrich also stated: "[W]hen the radicals lost the vote in California, they are determined to impose their will on this country no matter what the popular opinion, no matter what the law of the land."

As Media Matters for America noted, after a caller said on the November 10 broadcast of The Savage Nation that "[h]omosexuals and homosexual marriage is a choice," host Michael Savage declared: "[I]t's a lifestyle or a death-style choice, depending upon how you look at it." Media Matters recently compiled numerous other examples of conservative talk radio hosts issuing smears pertaining to sexual orientation or targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans.

From the November 14 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

O'REILLY: OK, now, the culture war. I know you've been flying around the country, and you're doing stuff. In the last three or four days, this is really nasty stuff. I mean, you know, hyper -- we're gonna show you some of the video. A woman getting a cross smashed out of her hand. We had a church in Michigan invaded by gay activists. We're gonna show you the video on Monday of that -- we have exclusively. We had a guy in Sacramento fired from his job. We had boycotts called on restaurants.

I mean, it is getting out of control, very few days after the election. How do you assess that?

GINGRICH: Look, I think there is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us, is prepared to use violence, to use harassment. I think it is prepared to use the government if it can get control of it. I think that it is a very dangerous threat to anybody who believes in traditional religion. And I think if you believe in historic Christianity, you have to confront the fact. And, frank -- for that matter, if you believe in the historic version of Islam or the historic version of Judaism, you have to confront the reality that these secular extremists are determined to impose on you acceptance of a series of values that are antithetical, they're the opposite, of what you're taught in Sunday school.

O'REILLY: Are you surprised at the speed of it? You figure that there'd be --


O'REILLY: -- a two-week breathing, you know -- wham.

GINGRICH: No. I think -- I think when the left -- when the radicals lost the vote in California, they are determined to impose their will on this country no matter what the popular opinion, no matter what the law of the land. You've watched them, for example, in Massachusetts, basically drive the Catholic Church out of running adoption services, drive Catholic hospitals out of offering any services, because they impose secular rules that are fundamentally --

O'REILLY: Yeah, and that's -- right --

GINGRICH: -- sinful from the standpoint, you know.

O'REILLY: Of the church --

GINGRICH: And so I think, we need -- look, we need a debate. [Gingrich's wife] Calista [Gingrich] and I just did a YouTube video on the Capitol Visitors Center where there's also an effort to take "In God We Trust" out of the Capitol Visitors Center.

O'REILLY: OK, we'll talk about that when we come back.

GINGRICH: That's how bad it is.

O'REILLY: All right, so when we come back, I want to talk about the economy, which is frightening everybody. I want to talk about the illegal alien amnesty, and we'll talk about the "In God We Trust," all right. We'll have more with the speaker in a moment.

— L.K.A.

Posted to the web on Monday, November 17, 2008 at 02:26 PM ET

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Now THIS is really cool!

As the saying goes, check your local listings...

Sunday, November 16, 2008 - Page updated at 12:00 AM


"March Point"
10 p.m. Tuesday and 3 a.m. Saturday on KCTS-TV, as part of PBS' Independent Lens series.

Three Swinomish Indian Reservation high-schoolers turn the camera around

By Marc Ramirez

Seattle Times staff reporter

FOR THREE HIGH SCHOOL BOYS on the Swinomish Indian Reservation, the chance to make an environmental film at first seemed like a chance to get out of drug court and hang out with friends. The subjects of their film — the nearby Shell and Tesoro oil refineries on land that once belonged to their community — were just fixtures they'd grown up with.

But as Nick Clark, Cody Cayou and Travis Tom interviewed elders and learned about their history, they discovered that generations-old tribal traditions of crabbing and clam-digging had been jeopardized by years of chemical waste. More important, the process led them to discover themselves and the far-ranging power of their efforts.

"March Point," the result of their work, will air Tuesday on PBS. A project of Native Lens, which teaches digital media to youth in several local tribes, the film was named best documentary at Toronto's ImagineNative Film Festival.

Native Lens is among the programs offered by Seattle-based Longhouse Media, a nonprofit founded in 2005 to encourage youth to use film to address issues such as cultural identity, drug prevention and addiction.

"March Point" began as a short film about the effects of the refineries on the reservation, nestled between La Conner and Anacortes. But during a Swinomish community screening, producer Tracy Rector and director Annie Silverstein realized there was a better story to be told. The screening earned a standing ovation for the boys, who were mostly too shy to take the mic.

"We realized it was the boys' story," Silverstein says.

The final, feature-length product tells that story against a backdrop suggesting connections between the refinery issue and the challenges faced by reservation youth and the community as a whole.

The boys' questions created momentum, prompting community interest in an issue tribal officials had begun pursuing on their own. "It seems like every day, somebody's asking us about it," Nick, now 18, says in his squinty, molasses-paced manner.

In the film, he says: "If I didn't get involved with Native Lens, I don't know where I'd be. Probably out on the streets or locked up."

THE THREE BOYS, friends since childhood, were on shaky foundations when Native Lens came to them in September 2005, their outlook colored by deaths in their families and discouraging dropout rates among Native American kids at the high school they attend, La Conner High.

They'd found trouble in a place where, in their words, there was "nothing to do." Ennui bred smoking, and smoking turned to drinking. "After drinking," Cody says in the film, "that's where everything gets all messed up."

They moved on to drugs, but when the Native Lens opportunity arose, they made a deal with their drug counselor and arranged to get school credit. They'd hoped to make gangster movies and rap videos, but a chance was a chance: Soon they were in Native Lens' Swinomish offices, where a poster advertises "Smoke Signals," the 1998 movie based on the work of Native writer Sherman Alexie.

"All the kids we work with can recite it by heart," Silverstein says. "That's still the movie."

The boys vaguely understood that the Pacific waters bordering their lands had been a longtime source of clams, crab and fish. ("When the tide is out, the table's set," the saying used to go.) But they knew little or nothing about making a movie. "They were learning filmmaking as we were filmmaking," Silverstein says. "But that's what makes it so authentic."

"March Point," then, is built on imperfections, showing the boys' struggles as they learn filming and interviewing techniques, an often difficult, frustrating and time-consuming process. They grumble as equipment sneaks into view during a shoot and stumble through interrogations. "Ask me again, Nick," one interviewee says after one shaky outing.

But it was also empowering and eye-opening. They talk to the tribal chairman and general manager, learning how President Ulysses S. Grant ceded March Point away from the tribe — a move the tribe might contest in court — and how surrounding waters were tainted with chemical runoff from the refineries that eventually rose there. They talk to concerned local fishermen and residents. "When you have biologists telling you there's carcinogens in your fish," says tribal member Tony Cladoosby, "... it's scary."

A tribal health-clinic doctor says she's torn about what to tell patients. Fish is what their elders ate; it's healthy, generally. "But now I'm sorta caught," she says. "... It really is hard as a provider to know what kind of advice to give."

A Shell Oil spokesman tells them the plant more than adheres to current safety and environmental regulations. Craig Bill of the state Office of Indian Affairs encourages them to pursue the political process. But the boys come to see a pattern of petrol facilities located on or near reservations, and they begin to question. At one point, Cody realizes the complexity of the situation, sensing the potential negatives of refineries and oil production but knowing he could never give up his own car.

Though repeated requests for an interview with Gov. Christine Gregoire go unheeded, their inquiries ultimately take them to Washington, D.C., where they interview U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett. The trip feeds their maturity as young men as much as it does their growth as journalists, and they realize it's a life-changing occasion.

"All the way across the country," Nick says, as though he can't believe it.

"I've known these guys my whole life," adds Cody. "We're like brothers."

Before long, wrapped in their hastily purchased earmuffs on a cold February morning, they're on the National Mall, taking in the country's capital city and a world few of their peers get to experience. They're nervous as they roam the high-ceilinged government offices of the people they've come to see.

"There was a lot of rich people in there," Travis says as they reflect on a bench outside after one meeting, irritated and cold. "We were probably the only dark faces."

"We didn't fit in, because we didn't have suits on," Cody says.

Travis: "We felt out of the box."

Cody: "Yeah. Like we weren't supposed to be there or something."

But by the time they return home, they're comfortable being themselves in a place that's as far away from home as they could ever imagine, knowing they've achieved something even if they're not sure exactly what. "After we got back from D.C., a lot of things seemed the same," Nick says. "But we felt different."

Not long ago, the boys didn't like talking to anyone. Now they're doing interviews, pondering the environment and their place in it. Nick, who has his eye on the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, N.M., talks of making a film about life in high school, where cultural differences and social ills create challenges for Native youth inside and outside the classroom.

"People are seeing them as storytellers," Silverstein says. More significant, she says, is that not only are all three on track to graduate high school in January, but that Cody and Nick intend to go to college.

"They're still trying to figure out what kind of lives they want to lead, how to stay on a clean and sober path. What has really changed is how they see themselves."

Marc Ramirez: 206-464-8102 or

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Lenny Bruce, where are you now that we need you?

There really isn't a lot to say: it's all true, the world is all fucked up, the bad guys are everywhere, and what else is new...

Don't Freak Out: Paranoia Quite Common

By The Associated Press

posted: 12 November 2008 08:09 pm ET

LONDON (AP) _ If you think they're out to get you, you're not alone. Paranoia, once assumed to afflict only schizophrenics, may be a lot more common than previously thought.

According to British psychologist Daniel Freeman, nearly one in four Londoners regularly have paranoid thoughts. Freeman is a paranoia expert at the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College and the author of a book on the subject.

Experts say there is a wide spectrum of paranoia, from the dangerous delusions that drive schizophrenics to violence, to the irrational fears many people have daily.

"We are now starting to discover that madness is human and that we need to look at normal people to understand it," said Dr. Jim van Os, a professor of psychiatry at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. Van Os was not connected to Freeman's studies.

Paranoia is defined as the exaggerated or unfounded fear that others are trying to hurt you. That includes thoughts that other people are trying to upset or annoy you, for example, by staring, laughing, or making unfriendly gestures.

Surveys of several thousands of people in Britain, the United States and elsewhere have found that rates of paranoia are slowly rising, although researchers' estimates of how many of us have paranoid thoughts varies widely, from 5 percent to 50 percent.

A British survey of more than 8,500 adults found that 21 percent of people thought there had been times when others were acting against them. Another survey of about 1,000 adults in New York found that nearly 11 percent thought other people were following or spying on them.

Dennis Combs, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Tyler, has been studying paranoia for about a decade. When he first started conducting paranoia studies, mostly in college students, he found that about 5 percent of them had paranoid thoughts. In recent years, that has tripled to about 15 percent, he said.

In a small experiment in London, Freeman concluded that a quarter of people riding the subway in the capital probably have regular thoughts that qualify as paranoia. In the study, 200 randomly selected people (those with a history of mental problems were excluded) took a virtual reality train ride. They recorded their reactions to computerized passengers programmed to be neutral.

More than 40 percent of study participants had at least some paranoid thoughts. Some felt intimidated by the computer passengers, claiming they were aggressive, had made obscene gestures, or tried to start a fight.

Freeman said that in big cities, many ambiguous events can lead to paranoid thoughts. Because we constantly make snap judgments based on limited information, like which street to take or whether or not strangers are dangerous, the decision-making process is prone to error.

Van Os said Freeman's virtual reality experiment was solid and confirmed previous research. Experts say not everyone with paranoid thoughts needs professional help. It all depends on how disturbing the thoughts are and if they disrupt your life.

"People walk around with odd thoughts all the time," said David Penn, a professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina. "The question is if that translates into real behavior."

Van Os recalled a delusional patient who was convinced that the French singer Charles Aznavour was in love with her, and had been whispering to her before she went to sleep every night for more than two decades.

"You could call it a psychotic experience, but she was very happy about it," van Os said. "There isn't always a need for care when there's an instance of psychosis."

He hoped that being able to identify milder delusional symptoms in people could help doctors intervene earlier to prevent more serious cases.

The post-Sept. 11 atmosphere and the war on terror also have increased levels of paranoia in the West, some experts said.

"We are bombarded with information about our alert status and we're told to report suspicious-looking characters," Penn said. "That primes people to be more paranoid."

Traumatic events can make people more vulnerable to having paranoid thoughts. Since the attacks, Penn said Americans have been conditioned to be more vigilant of anything out of the ordinary.

While heightened awareness may be good thing, Penn said it can also lead to false accusations and an atmosphere where strangers are negatively viewed.

That can result in more social isolation, hostility, and possibly even crime. And it can take a toll on physical health. More paranoia means more stress, a known risk factor for heart disease and strokes.

Still, some experts said that a little bit of paranoia could be helpful.

"In a world full of threat, it may be kind of beneficial for people to be on guard. It's good to be looking around and see who's following you and what's happening," Combs said. "Not everybody is trying to get you, but some people may be."

Why We Are All Insane

By Robin Nixon, Special to LiveScience

posted: 26 August 2008 01:04 am ET

Natural selection wants us to be crazy — at least a little bit. While true debilitating insanity is not nature's intention, many mental health issues may be byproducts of the over-functional human brain, some researchers claim.

As humans improved their gathering, hunting and cooking techniques, population size increased and resources became more limited (in part because we hunted or ate some species to extinction). As a result, not everyone could get enough to eat. Cooperative relationships were critical to ensuring access to food, whether through farming or more strategic hunting, and those with blunt social skills were unlikely to survive, explained David C. Geary, author of "The Origin of Mind" (APA, 2004), and a researcher at the University of Missouri.

And thus, a diversity of new mental abilities, and disabilities, unfurled.

The Nature of joy

It might seem as though modern man should have evolved to be happy and harmonious. But nature cares about genes, not joy, Geary said.

Mental illnesses hinder one in every four adults in America every year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. And this doesn’t count those of us with more moderate mood swings.

To explain our susceptibility to poor mental health, Randolph Nesse in "The Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology" (Wiley, 2005) compares the human brain with race horses: Just as horse breeding has selected for long thin legs that increase speed but are prone to fracture, cognitive advances also increase fitness — to a point.

Let's take common mental conditions one-by-one.

People with aggressive and narcissistic personalities are the easiest to understand evolutionarily; they look out for number one. But even if 16 million men today can trace their genes to Genghis Khan (nature's definition of uber-success can be measured by his prolific paternity), very few potential despots achieve such heights. Perhaps to check selfish urges, in favor of more probable means to biological success, social lubricants such as empathy, guilt and mild anxiety arose.

For example, the first of our ancestors to empathize and read facial expressions had a striking advantage. They could confirm their own social status and convince others to share food and shelter. But too much emotional acuity — when individuals overanalyze every grimace — can cause a motivational nervousness about one's social value to morph into a relentless handicapping anxiety.

Pondering the future

Another cognitive innovation made it possible to compare potential futures. While other animals focus on the present, only humans, said Geary, "sit and worry about what will happen three years from now if I do that or this." Our ability to think things over, and over, can be counterproductive and lead to obsessive tendencies.

Certain types of depression, however, Geary continued, may be advantageous. The lethargy and disrupted mental state can help us disengage from unattainable goals — whether it is an unrequited love or an exalted social position. Evolution likely favored individuals who pause and reassess ambitions, instead of wasting energy being blindly optimistic.

Natural selection also likely held the door open for disorders such as attention deficit. Quickly abandoning a low stimulus situation was more helpful for male hunters than female gatherers, writes Nesse, which may explain why boys are five times more likely than girls to be hyperactive.

Similarly, in its mildest form, bipolar disorder can increase productivity and creativity. Bipolar individuals (and their relatives) also often have more sex than average people, Geary noted.

Sex, and survival of one's kids, is the whole point — as far as nature is concerned. Sometimes unpleasant mental states lead to greater reproductive success, said Geary, "so these genes stay in the gene pool."

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Where did their brains go?

Every time I hear one of Sarah Palin's sound bytes or one of John McCain's little folksy talks to the old guys at the Legion Hall, I wonder what happened to the Republicans. Once upon a time they had articulate and thoughtful members; back then, even though the speeches might not resonate with me, I could usually come away with something to think about. There would be points for consideration or reconsideration. Not any more.

It's like they all decided to read the sports' pages and get their ideas from Bill O'.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

The dumbing down of the GOP

Last updated November 14, 2008 4:24 p.m. PT


John Stuart Mill once dismissed the British Conservative Party as the stupid party. Today the Conservative Party is run by Oxford-educated high-fliers who are busy reinventing conservatism for a new era.

As The Economist's pundit Lexington sees it, the title of the "stupid party" now belongs to the Tories' transatlantic cousins, the Republicans.

There are any number of reasons for the Republican Party's defeat. But high on the list is the fact that the party lost the battle for brains.

Barack Obama won college graduates by two points, a group that George Bush won by six points four years ago. He won voters with postgraduate degrees by 18 points. And he won voters with a household income of more than $200,000 -- many of whom will get thumped by his tax increases -- by six points.

John McCain did best among uneducated voters in Appalachia and the South.

The GOP lost the battle of ideas even more comprehensively than the battle for educated votes, marching into the election with nothing more than slogans.

Energy? Just drill, baby, drill. Global warming? Crack a joke about Ozone Al. Immigration? Send the bums home. Torture and Guantanamo? Wear a T-shirt saying you would rather be waterboarding.

The Republican Party's divorce from the intelligentsia has been a while in the making. The born-again Bush preferred listening to his "heart" rather than his "head." He also filled the government with incompetent toadies like Michael "heck-of-a-job" Brown.

McCain, once the chattering classes' favorite Republican, refused to grapple with the intricacies of the financial meltdown, preferring instead to look for cartoonish villains. In a desperate attempt to serve boob bait to Bubba, he appointed Sarah Palin to his ticket, a woman who took five years to get a degree in journalism and was apparently unaware of some of the most rudimentary facts about international politics.

Republicanism's anti-intellectual turn is devastating for its future. Its electoral success from 1980 on was driven by its ability to link brains with brawn.

The conservative intelligentsia not only helped to craft a message that resonated with working-class Democrats, which emphasized entrepreneurialism, law and order and American pride. It provided the party with a sweeping policy agenda. The loss of brains leaves it rudderless, without a compelling agenda.

This is happening at a time when the American population is becoming more educated. More than a quarter of Americans now have university degrees. Twenty percent of households earn more than $100,000 a year, up from 16 percent in 1996.

The Republican Party's current "redneck strategy" will leave it appealing to a shrinking and backward-looking portion of the electorate.

Why is this happening? One reason is that conservative brawn has lost patience with brains of all kinds. Many conservatives -- particularly lower-income ones -- are consumed with elemental fury about everything from immigration to liberal do-gooders.

They take their opinions from talk radio and regard Palin's apparent ignorance as a badge of honor.

Another reason is the degeneracy of the conservative intelligentsia itself, a modern-day version of the 1970s liberals it arose to do battle with: trapped in an ideological cocoon, defined by its outer fringes and incapable of adjusting to a changed world.

The movement has little to say about pressing problems and expends too much energy on xenophobia, homophobia and opposing stem-cell research.

Conservative intellectuals are also engaged in their own version of what Julian Benda dubbed la trahison des clercs, the treason of the learned.

They have fallen into constructing cartoon images of "real Americans," with their "volkish" wisdom and charming habit of dropping their "g's."

How likely is it that the Republican Party will come to its senses? There are glimmers of hope. Business conservatives worry that the party has lost the business vote. Moderates complain that the Republicans are becoming the party of "white-trash pride."

One of the most encouraging signs is the support for giving the chairmanship of the party to John Sununu, a sensible and clever man who has the added advantage of coming from the Northeast.

But the odds in favor of an imminent renaissance look long. Richard Weaver, a founder of modern conservatism, once wrote a book titled "Ideas have Consequences"; unfortunately, too many Republicans are still refusing to acknowledge that idiocy has consequences, too.

From The Economist magazine. Copyright 2008 Economist Newspaper Ltd.

� 1998-2008 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Thursday, November 13, 2008


A proxy state disappears "fringe groups" and suspecrted communists....

Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that people are not out to get you. Two news stories, today, connected by a theme. The theme is government surveillance of groups deemed “suspicious,” and what can happen when government agencies—soldiers and/or cops—decide to do what they think needs to be done... Of course, it could never happen here...

Victims of Philippines dirty war
Unarmed students, farmers, even priests are being executed in a brutal campaign to silence opposition. Evan Williams reports

Thursday, 13 November 2008

It was 2am when Karen Empeno, 24, and Sherlyn Kadapan, 23, were dragged from their beds by armed men. They were tied up and thrown into the back of a jeep. That was on 26 June 2006. The girls' families have not seen them since.

Karen and Sherlyn were university students who had been interviewing peasant farmers for a thesis on social conditions. They had also been campaigning against government corruption. Witnesses have testified in court that the men who abducted them were Filipino soldiers.

Their families believe the girls are among the 199 people who have been "disappeared" and the 933 who have been killed in extrajudicial executions over the past seven years in a secret war. Human rights groups say the battle is being waged by the armed forces of the Philippines against left-wing organisations.
"Once you are an organiser, once you are an activist, they call you a communist," Karen's father, Oscar, said. "Once you are a communist, that means you are an enemy of the state and once you are an enemy of the state they can abduct you, they can harass you, they can kill you, anything. That's the killing machine of the President, of the military."

Maddow: New rule kicks Patriot Act foes 'right in the teeth'
11/12/2008 @ 8:47 am
Filed by David Edwards and Muriel Kane

The Bush administration has been planning since last spring to issue a final burst of federal regulations just before leaving office. ...

Although many of the regulations have to do with energy and the environment, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow noted on Tuesday that there's also "one that'll kick opponents of the Patriot Act right in the teeth."

The proposed regulation "would allow state and local law enforcement agencies to collect intelligence on individuals and organizations even if the information is unrelated to any criminal matter," Maddow explained. She added, "Even if they weren't already watching you -- they soon could be."

Maddow was joined by the Nation's sports correspondent, Dave Zirin, who began by complaining about Bush...

Zirin described how he had been involved in an episode where "the Maryland State Police sent people to infiltrate meetings I was in -- a very seditious organization called the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, where we planned such horrifying acts like tabling at the local farmer's market or planning rallies."

"Why were they spying on us?" Zirin continued. "Because the governor at the time, Bob Ehrlich -- a right-wing Republican who makes Sarah Palin look like Emma Goldman -- I mean, he's somebody who saw us as political opponents. He was for the death penalty, we were against the death penalty, therefore in his mind we deserved to be spied upon."

"We were entered into a database the heading of which was 'Terrorists/Anti-Government,'" Zirin noted angrily. "The person who organized all of this, the head of the Maryland State Police ... called us 'fringe people' in the hearings. He said we deserved it because we were fringe people.'"


Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Civil v. secular marriage

Sometimes I write letters to the editor of our local paper. Problem is, they only let you publish once a month. Some thirty-day periods are dry for me, other times I have a half-dozen topics. What usually seems to happen is that right after I get a letter in the paper, something really outrageous gets published and I'm out of action.

I just sent one off about the neo-con pundits claiming this is a center-right country. The problem is that we didn't elect the center-right candidate, we elected the center left candidate...

Today some of us were talking about the bruhaha over gay marriage. The opposition to same sex marriages comes not from legal scholars, but from the churches...

Marriage is a civil contract between two people. At least that’s where it starts. In many countries, if people want to get married they have a civil ceremony, then they have a church wedding—a blessing, really—if they want to submit to the protocols of a particular religious sect. Otherwise, how churches define marriage has nothing to do with the actual legal act of getting married or being married. That’s the way it should be.

The opposition to “gay marriage” comes from churches, as I said. If marriage was recognized as a civil commitment above all, then churches that are opposed to same-sex unions, simply wouldn’t perform them. It’s simple. America is a secular society; religion and state are two different things. That’s pretty much what the founders of this country had in mind.

Monday, November 10, 2008


The South: What is to be done with it?

The Idiot Season never ends—at least not in our fabled bastion of feudalism, the South. I thought that senator from Oklahoma was whacked—the one who claimed that raging lesbians were chasing innocent high school students into school bathrooms, but this guy has a considerable problem with reality, himself.

What is it, down there? The mildew from too much humidity? Aligator farts? Inbreeding? The bible? All of the above, I guess. Lincoln made a major mistake when he insisted the southern states should remain in the Union. I seriously think we would have been better off without them. By now the slaves would have revolted and offed the peckerwoods, and perhaps we could talk of reunification.

Georgia congressman warns of Obama dictatorship

Associated Press Writer

A Republican congressman from Georgia said Monday he fears that President-elect Obama will establish a Gestapo-like security force to impose a Marxist dictatorship.


Death threats and Sarah Palin and good ol' suthrun boys....

Over on FDL, there are comments about the Secret Service declaring Sarah Palin’s denunciations of Obama led to an increase in death threats against the president-elect.

This isn’t surprising. The name of game, as the neo-fasicsts see it, is “Nigger-Knocking,” also affectionately known as race-baiting. The Rethugnicans, ever since Nixon, have catered to the unreconstructed suthrun racists. It’s shameful. What was once the patrician party has become the gathering point for shit-kickers. The GOP would rather you didn’t have a Confederate flag on your pickup truck, but, hey, it’s a big tent...

And Sarah Palin was the side-show barker. She called them in like hogs. Worried that somebody’s gonna take away your phallic-symbol AK-47? Come on in! Afraid some black guy’s out to marry your sister (and take her away from you)? Hey, look what we got!

This campaign finished John McCain, at least for me. He supported those attacks. Silence equals complicity—or fear. I know he’s generally a pretty nice guy. I’d probably like knowing him. But, my liking someone doesn’t mean they’re, say, a good mechanic or an accomplished artist or angler or a good president. Fuck him.

And Sarah Palin? Don’t let the door hit you....

Sunday, November 09, 2008


Looking out through a new pair of glasses

Years ago, a famous member of Alcoholics Anonymous, Chuck C., wrote a book titled "A New Pair of Glasses." It was about seeing the world from a sober viewpoint; a new way of looking at reality. I presume it's still in print (AA has never been known to rush into anything nor to let go of very's kind of a contradiction). Rumor has it that ol' Chuck helped a lot of people get sober. A sidebar is that his son, whom we'll call Richard C., a semi-famous TV actor, happens to be gay. Chuck didn't like gay people (what he apparently really liked was groping younger women). But, as fortune would have it, many gay men flocked to Chuck C. hoping for his help in getting sober. Chuck's gone on to the great Twelve-Step Meeting in The Sky, so none of us know how he resolved his conflicts about sobriety and homosexuals...

The point of this is that since the election, a lot of people have begun looking around the country through a metaphorical new pair of glasses. Obama has won, and things look brighter than they have since the election of Jack Kennedy. It's about time, yes.

However, stupidity continues. Right: the conservatives believe Islam to be a religion of war and hate. Presumably, right-wingers believe the opposite about Christianity. Their brand of Christianity, anyhow. The truth is that any organized religion claiming a direct line to god believes other sects/belief systems/cults are crazed and wrong.

MATTI FRIEDMAN | November 9, 2008 12:06 PM EST | AP

JERUSALEM — Israeli police rushed into one of Christianity's holiest churches Sunday and arrested two clergyman after an argument between monks erupted into a brawl next to the site of Jesus' tomb.

The clash between Armenian and Greek Orthodox monks broke out in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, revered as the site of Jesus' crucifixion, burial and resurrection.

The brawling began during a procession of Armenian clergymen commemorating the 4th-century discovery of the cross believed to have been used to crucify Jesus.

The Greeks objected to the march without one of their monks present, fearing that otherwise, the procession would subvert their own claim to the Edicule _ the ancient structure built on what is believed to be the tomb of Jesus _ and give the Armenians a claim to the site.

The Armenians refused, and when they tried to march the Greek Orthodox monks blocked their way, sparking the brawl.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said police were forced to intervene after fighting was reported. They arrested two monks, one from each side, he said.

A bearded Armenian monk in a red-and-pink robe and a black-clad Greek Orthodox monk with a bloody gash on his forehead were both taken away in handcuffs after scuffling with dozens of riot police.

Six Christian sects divide control of the ancient church. They regularly fight over turf and influence, and Israeli police are occasionally forced to intervene.
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"We were keeping resistance so that the procession could not pass through ... and establish a right that they don't have," said a young Greek Orthodox monk with a cut next to his left eye.

The monk, who gave his name as Serafim, said he sustained the wound when an Armenian punched him from behind and broke his glasses.

Father Pakrat of the Armenian Patriarchate said the Greek demand was "against the status quo arrangement and against the internal arrangement of the Holy Sepulcher." He said the Greeks attacked first.

Archbishop Aristarchos, the chief secretary of the Greek Orthodox patriarchate, denied his monks initiated the violence.

After the brawl, the church was crowded with Israeli riot police holding assault rifles, standing beside Golgotha, where Jesus is believed to have been crucified, and the long smooth stone marking the place where tradition holds his body was laid out.

The feud is only one of a bewildering array of rivalries among churchmen in the Holy Sepulcher.

The Israeli government has long wanted to build a fire exit in the church, which regularly fills with thousands of pilgrims and has only one main door, but the sects cannot agree where the exit will be built.

A ladder placed on a ledge over the entrance sometime in the 19th century has remained there ever since because of a dispute over who has the authority to take it down.

More recently, a spat between Ethiopian and Coptic Christians is delaying badly needed renovations to a rooftop monastery that engineers say could collapse.

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