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Charles Olson:


It is a nation of nothing but poetry . . .


It is a nation of nothing but poetry
The universities are sties John Wieners
has suffered the most Catholics
have a shame of the body The soul
lives in the body until it escapes Main Street High Street Court
where my auto
threw itself over
the crosswalk The sign read

your body
is to drop
its load

Your body
is a holy
thing

Your body
is a wave
of Ocean

Your eyelids
will reveal your soul, your mouth will
your clothes will fall
as you do

November
1962

[info.chymes.org

]

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No-Brainer?

“Clemenceau famously declared that war is too important to be left to the generals. It’s a no-brainer to see that war is too important to be left to the likes of Bush… ” Robert Higgs, Senior Fellow in Political Economy at The Independent Institute and editor of The Independent Review, is concerned that

President George W. Bush has been reading a book. At least, he claims to have been reading one. I know what you’re thinking, but the First Shrub swears that he has been reading more than just the funny papers lately. We’d all be better off, however, if he had stuck to the comics.

In an interview with an Associated Press reporter, Bush said that on his vacation he had been reading a recently published book by Eliot A. Cohen, The Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen and Leadership in Wartime. Cohen is a well-known neocon war-hawk and all-around armchair warrior who professes “strategic studies” at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and, in his spare time, ponders mega-deaths (his own not included) with other lusty members of the Defense Policy Board. The quintessential civilian go-getter, he never met a war he didn’t want to send somebody else to fight and die in.

The Supreme Command consists of case studies of how four “statesmen” — Abraham Lincoln, Georges Clemenceau, Winston Churchill, and David Ben-Gurion — successfully managed to make their generals act more vigorously than those officers really wanted to act. By spurring their too-timid generals, these four micro-managing commanders-in-chief supposedly got superior results from their war-making efforts. The common soldiers who were fed into the consuming maw of war under these worthies might have given us a different opinion, but dead men don’t make good critics.

So what are we to make of Bush’s reading of this book, assuming that he really has been reading it? The short answer is that this is not good news for the world. Such reading seems calculated to bend the president’s mind, never a mighty organ in any event, toward thinking of himself in Lincolnian or Churchillian terms. Indeed, those of us who have had the stomach to observe his public strutting and puffing since September 11 might have suspected that his juvenile sensibilities would be drawn all too readily toward such a grandiose self-conception. After all, does he but speak, and mighty armadas are launched on a global war against evil? AlterNet [thanks, Walker]

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Caffeine ‘lotion’ protects against skin cancer. The experiments were done with mice; human trials are pending. “Although caffeine itself filters out UV, (the researcher) thinks the main effect of the substance is biological, triggering cancerous but not healthy cells to wither and die through a process called apoptosis. But how caffeine selectively targets cancerous cells is not known. Despite the success of the tests in mice, (the author) warns people against smearing their bodies with coffee or tea potions..” New Scientist

Years ago, a medical resident friend of mine died of disseminated testicular cancer for which he had rejected medical treatment in favor of the Gerson Diet, which relied heavily on raw vegatable and fruit juices but also on coffee enemas. As usual, extraordinary claims were made by proponents, and maybe the claims will turn out not to have been so misguided if caffeine turns out to be a robust anti-carcinogen, if it works systemically as well as cutaneously, etc. etc. From my vantage point at the time, however, it was a tragic direction for a father of two young children to take at a time when his cancer would have been readily treatable and was not rethought by him until it was far too advanced to salvage anything with conventional treatment. During medical school, I’d been one of those who had constantly harried the professors with disciplined skepticism about the dominant paradigms in medicine and polemicized about ‘complementary pathways’. But watching him die was one of the things that embittered me toward alternative medicine (especially when used in an alternative rather than a complementary fashion to conventional allopathic techniques) and emboldened me to start confronting the unsystematic, flaky thoughtlessness with which many evaluate their options when facing important medical decisions.

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Wooshful Thinking?

Row erupts over danger of ecstasy:

Warnings that ecstasy causes long-term brain damage are premature because the supporting evidence is too weak, say three psychologists… (T)he claims echo a New Scientist report in April. They appear in a review of ecstasy research in The Psychologist, the journal of the British Psychological Society.

But their criticisms are robustly challenged in the same publication by mainstream ecstasy researchers. “It’s insane to propose that ecstasy is not damaging” in the long term says Andy Parrott of the University of East London.

New Scientist

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The ABC of Psychological Medicine:

[Weary 1887 by Edward Radford (1831-1920)]

Fatigue can refer to a subjective symptom of malaise and aversion to activity or to objectively impaired performance. It has both physical and mental aspects. The symptom of fatigue is a poorly defined feeling, and careful inquiry is needed to clarify complaints of “fatigue,” “tiredness,” or “exhaustion” and to distinguish lack of energy from loss of motivation or sleepiness, which may be pointers to specific diagnoses… ” A review of the concept and medical implications, in the British Medical Journal Sharpe and Wilks 325 (7362): 480

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Time to Call for His Resignation

Nat Hentoff on General Ashcroft’s Detention Camps:

Now more Americans are also going to be dispossessed of every fundamental legal right in our system of justice and put into camps. Jonathan Turley reports that Justice Department aides to General Ashcroft “have indicated that a ‘high-level committee’ will recommend which citizens are to be stripped of their constitutional rights and sent to Ashcroft’s new camps.”

It should be noted that Turley, who tries hard to respect due process, even in unpalatable situations, publicly defended Ashcroft during the latter’s turbulent nomination battle, which is more than I did.

Again, in his Los Angeles Times column, Turley tries to be fair: “Of course Ashcroft is not considering camps on the order of the internment camps used to incarcerate Japanese American citizens in World War II. But he can be credited only with thinking smaller; we have learned from painful experience that unchecked authority, once tasted, easily becomes insatiable.”

Turley insists that “the proposed camp plan should trigger immediate Congressional hearings and reconsideration of Ashcroft’s fitness for important office. Whereas Al Qaeda is a threat to the lives of our citizens, Ashcroft has become a clear and present threat to our liberties.”

Hentoff concludes, aptly:

Meanwhile, as the camps are being prepared, the braying Terry McAuliffe and the pack of Democratic presidential aspirants are campaigning on corporate crime, with no reference to the constitutional crimes being committed by Bush and Ashcroft. As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis prophesied: “The greatest menace to freedom is an inert people.” And an inert Democratic leadership. See you in a month, if I’m not an Ashcroft camper. Village Voice

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First Scrimmage

Spellbound: “Every September, the office of the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee in Cincinnati issues a crisp new edition of Paideia, a comic-size booklet that lists thousands of obscure words that will appear in spelling bees across the country over the coming year — words that any competitive speller in America should know cold. Most families wait for their Paideia to arrive at school; but serious devotees know when the advance audio version of Paideia will go up on the Scripps Howard Web site. On that day each year, the Goldsteins of West Hempstead, N.Y. — Amy, Ari, J.J. and Amanda, along with their parents, Jonathan and Mona — assemble like the Von Trapps in a thunderstorm. The whole family squeezes into Amy’s bedroom and fires up the computer, and the familiar, baronial voice of the National Spelling Bee pronouncer, Alex J. Cameron, carefully enunciates each new addition to the list — aition, campanile, kittel, giaour. Each Goldstein sits with pen and paper in hand, as still and focused as a game-show contestant, and spells the words, one by one. It takes hours.” NY Times Magazine

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Win-Win:

Why the President Can’t Lose in November: “It sounds so Machiavellian, even treasonous, that no one at the White House would dare endorse such an outcome — at least not in public.

But many prominent Republicans, including some of President Bush’s most faithful backers, are convinced that the most certain way for Mr. Bush to continue to rise politically, and ultimately win re-election in 2004, is for Republicans to, well, lose in November.” NY Times That, and to have been the sitting President during an unprecedented terrorist attack…

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Accountable Predictions

Long Bets: This offshoot of the Long Now Foundation — the clock people, Danny Hillis, Stewart Brand, etc. — is intended “to improve long-term thinking. Long Bets is a public arena for enjoyably competitive predictions, of interest to society, with philanthropic money at stake. The foundation furnishes the continuity to see even the longest bets through to public resolution. This website provides a forum for discussion about what may be learned from the bets and their eventual outcomes.” Even odds, yes/no questions of societal or scientific importance are posed to thinkers who designate a charity to receive the proceeds of their bet if they win. “Set up as a form of giving, Long Bets engages long-term thinking and long-term responsibility in even more ways.”

Bets start at $1000, so that some of the yield from investing the money can go to the cost of “maintaining institutional and technical continuity to keep track of Long Bets and manage the whole service over decades and centuries…” The project was launched prominently in the April 2002 Wired magazine issue with some interesting bet subjects posed by Wired editors to celebrity bettors.

Here

are the recorded bets to date; “you can read the arguments written by each bettor in favor of their position, participate in discussion and place parallel bets.” Bets listed to date have terms ranging between 5 years and 148 years, although there’s one about whether the universe will eventually stop expanding with a ‘?’ listed for its duration. (Years have fto have ive digits to deal with the Y10K problem.)