American Power Moves Beyond the Mere Super:

…The global arms race is over, with the United States the undisputed heavyweight champion. Other nations are not even trying to match American armed force, because they are so far behind they have no chance of catching up.The great-powers arms race, in progress for centuries, has ended with the rest of the world conceding triumph to the United States.

Now only a nuclear state, like, perhaps, North Korea, has any military leverage against the winner.

Paradoxically, the runaway American victory in the conventional arms race might inspire a new round of proliferation of atomic weapons. With no hope of matching the United States plane for plane, more countries may seek atomic weapons to gain deterrence.” — Gregg Easterbrook, senior editor of The New Republic and a contributing editor of The Atlantic Monthly, NY Times

Rx for Music Industry:

Seek Out the Old Geezers:

The industry line has been that file-sharing caused these declines. Others point to the fact that boomers may have finally bought, on CD, copies of all the music they had already purchased on vinyl. And Andreas Schmidt, of the music giant Bertlesmann, said the unsayable: “We didn’t put that much good stuff out.”

Nobody, let’s remember, twisted the arms of the record and movie industries into focusing their product and their marketing muscle almost single-mindedly (if that’s not being too generous) on people in their teens and early 20’s.

They seemed like a great market: easily persuaded, with the free time and the free-floating enthusiasm to see films repeatedly and line up at midnight for sneak releases of “hot” new recordings.

As events have proved, there is one crucial problem with this demographic cohort: it has much more time than money. And, if these music lovers are enrolled at a university, they probably also have access to a superfast Internet connection, which makes the usually cumbersome process of downloading music files as easy as checking your e-mail.

Many people over the age of 25 have been moaning for years, correctly, that nobody is putting out records for them. These people have families, church and community meetings to attend, golf to play and cooking to do. They have careers and disposable incomes. All this makes them far more likely to opt for the convenience of stopping by the record store than trying to figure out how to work Kazaa or Gnutella or any of the other strangely named avenues of Internet commerce avoidance. — Harry Shearer, NY Times

Political Filtering:

Forest Service Blocks E-Mail Comments: “In a move criticized by both environmentalists and business groups, the U.S. Forest Service is rejecting public comments on proposed rule changes when they come from certain e-mail servers or on preprinted post cards.” ABC News I’m of two minds about this. While one-click opinionation certainly indicates some interest or passion, taking the trouble to formulate and articulate your own position leads to a more meaningful public discourse. Of course, such filtering would have to be applied fairly…

After warblogging:

Paul Hoffman with a useful terminological suggestion: “Now that even the Bush administration agree that this is an occupation, not a liberation, we need to change our vocabulary a bit. From here on out, blogging about the US and British occupation of Iraq is occublogging, not warblogging. It is likely that occublogging will last much, much longer that warblogging did…” Lookit

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“From phrenology to polygraphs, criminal investigators have long been obsessed

with the idea of ‘reading’ an individual’s expression or character. Paul Ekman,

described by Oliver Sacks as the most astute analyst of emotions since Darwin,

tracks the history of uncovering truth in gestures, and suggests some methods

of his own.” Guardian-Observer

‘Iraq has fallen. So — can we, like, go home now?’

The Empire Slinks Back: “Why Americans don’t really have what it takes to rule the world.” — Niall Ferguson, professor of financial history at the Stern School of Business, New York University, senior research fellow of Jesus College, Oxford, and author of Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power, NY Times Magazine Ferguson ends:

So long as the American empire dare not speak its own name — so long as it continues this tradition of organized hypocrisy — today’s ambitious young men and women will take one look at the prospects for postwar Iraq and say with one voice, ”Don’t even go there.”

Americans need to go there. If the best and brightest insist on staying home, today’s unspoken imperial project may end — unspeakably — tomorrow.

For him, this appears to be an exhortation that we accept our manifest destiny and go forward boldly to build the American empire. Could he still be reeling from the collapse of enlightened, superior, civilized and civilizing British empire?

The Rorschach Test —

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What’s Wrong With It?

Last month, a quartet of academics published ”What’s Wrong With the Rorschach?” — attacking a test administered to more than a million people worldwide each year. According to recent surveys by the American Psychological Association, 82 percent of its members ”occasionally” and 43 percent ”frequently” use the test, in which subjects speculate about five colored and five black-and-white inkblots. Test-givers in turn interpret the answers to diagnose mental illness, predict violent behavior and reveal suppressed trauma. Their conclusions are applied to everything from child-custody disputes to parole reviews. According to James M. Wood, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Texas at El Paso and one author of the book, tarot cards would work almost as well.

Wood and his colleagues level basic criticisms against the inkblot test’s foundations. They say it lacks accurate norms to serve as benchmarks for comparing healthy and sick patients. Reliability is also at issue, because many scores are determined by test-givers’ subjective interpretations. And last, they contend that virtually none of the scores are scientifically valid, because they neither measure what they claim nor can be consistently correlated with other tests or diagnoses. The Rorschachers simply harbor a ”romantic” devotion to the test’s efficacy, Wood says, one based on ”an uncritical, even gullible, acceptance of ridiculous claims that the Rorschach is like a medical test, a sort of brain scan.” NY Times Magazine

As a psychiatrist, I am sometimes considered old-fashioned for my appreciation for, and frequent recourse to, “projective tests” such as the Rorschach which, by asking the patient to interpret ambiguous stimuli, bypass the usual censorship they apply when explicitly questioned about their mental contents to reveal unconscious content. Since I usually deal with severe, often psychotically, distressed patients, one might question whether one need use a test to get at subtle underlying unconscious processes at all when the dramatic findings are right out front. And one might wonder if my appreciation for the Rorschach is biased by the fact that psychotic thought disorder shows the most consistent relationship with Rorschach findings. The answers — yes and no, respectively. First, psychosis is not a yes/no question but a matter of degree and quality of “reality-testing” . It has urgent diagnostic and treatment implications but may be a subtle finding, not necessarily evident. Secondly, even in dramatic psychosis, the data derived from testing not about the presence or absence of a psychotic thought disturbance but about underlying character structure, personality patterns, and characteristic ways of doing business with the world (coping strategies, dynamics and defense mechanisms) is equally important, if not more.

To dismiss the methodology of projective testing because its interpretation is subjective is emblematic of the reductionism that castrates the field of psychiatry and the realignment of expectations of its practitioners in the eyes of its payors, corporate clients and to some extent, the public — that they be something more akin to technicians than artists or artisans. Throughout medicine, most so-called objective measures such as radiological findings or blood test results require subjective interpretation by someone who is clinically astute and familiar with the individual’s condition, unless the diagnostic question at hand is answered by a simple yes/no finding. Psychological testing can be good or bad depending on the training, experience and thoughtfulness of the testing psychologist. I’ve seen both insightfully good and uselessly bad test reports. My challenge has been to know how to be an intelligent consumer of these tests, weighing them in the balance. I would venture to say that most critics of the Rorschach are not challenged daily to care for desperately ill patients, needing to draw inferences from inherently faulty and partial data, and can safely criticize from a theoretical vantage point.

Indeed, despite its name, psychological testing is less like laboratory testing than it is like another time-honored aspect of medical treatment — that of the second opinion or consultation with a specialist. One hardly expects that to be “objective”; in fact, trusted consultants are sought precisely for their subjectivity. Moreover, since in psychiatry in particular the bodily systems in question are precisely those of thinking, feeling and relating, only a subjective relationship can get at the clinically pertinent parameters of the patient’s function and dysfunction. Let us hope I can remain old-fashioned, having skilled psychological test consultants to rely upon, as long as I continue to practice…

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“If you were a White House hardliner and you wanted to make life intolerable for a moderate Secretary of State who’s been semi-miserably soldiering on in a sad attempt to wait out a foreign incursion until it’s politic to resign, who would you bring back from the dead to sic on his ass? That’s right, it’s disgraced far-right poster boy and zombie hatchetman Newt Gingrich. Let the good times roll!” — Bill Barol

Rise of Conscientious Objection:

“Although only a handful of them have gone public, several hundred U.S. soldiers have applied for conscientious objector (CO) status since January, says …The Center on Conscience and War (CCW), which advises military personnel on CO discharges…

The military granted 111 soldiers CO status in the first Gulf War before putting a stop to the practice, resulting in 2,500 soldiers being sent to prison, says Bill Gavlin from the Center on Conscience and War, quoting a report from the Boston Globe newspaper.

During that war, a number of U.S. COs at the U.S. Marine Camp LeJeune in North Carolina were “beaten, harassed and treated horribly,” Gavlin says. In some cases, COs were put on planes bound for Kuwait, told that they could not apply for CO status or that they could only apply after they’d already gone to war. ” AlterNet [via Brooke, who shares my sense of the importance of tracking this underreported trend]

Administration moves ahead on nuclear ‘bunker busters’: “Demonstrating a significant shift in America’s nuclear strategy, the Bush administration intends to produce — not just research — a thermonuclear bunker-busting bomb to destroy hardened, deeply buried targets, the Pentagon has acknowledged for the first time.

The weapon — known as the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator — would be a full-power hydrogen bomb that would throw up enormous clouds of radioactive dust while wreaking large-scale damage and death if used in an urban area. It would be thousands of times more powerful than the conventional ‘bunker busters’ dropped on Baghdad in an attempt to kill former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.” San Jose Mercury

GOP letting Santorum twist in the wind?

“National and statewide Republican officials willing to comment are supporting U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., as he defends comments equating gay relationships with bestiality and with priests molesting teens.

His remarks stirred a public furor. Some Democrats, liberals and gay rights groups have called for Santorum’s ouster as third-ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate leadership. Critics also said his remarks were inappropriate, coming from the state’s most powerful Republican.

But Santorum’s defenders are under a gag order. Officials at the White House and Republican National Committee told GOP insiders yesterday, by conference call, voice mail and e-mail not to comment about Santorum’s comments, letting him speak for himself.”

I ‘m sure many GOP fellow travellers believe much the same as Santorum, but are starting to realize how unclever it is to let on in public until you’ve assured yourself none of the infamous, reviled ‘liberal press’ are there to hear.

Addendum: It would seem Dubya is not so smart, in case you were wondering. Yahoo! News

On the other hand, my analysis may not be so astute. GOP officials may not feel that Santorum is in the same kind of trouble Lott was. They may be telling supporters to stay mum so they don’t cross a line that he stayed shy of. He’s safe, they should take care that they remain so too. That’s essentially what editor Dan Savage suggests in an op-ed piece in the New York Times the other day. Outrage about Santorum may be impotent rage.