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Top 10 Secrets They Don’t Want You to Know About the Debates

Connie Rice: “(10.) They aren’t debates!

‘A debate is a head-to-head, spontaneous, structured argument over the merits of an issue,’ Rice says. ‘Under the ridiculous 32-page contract that reads like the rules for the Miss America Pageant, there will be no candidate-to-candidate questions, no rebuttal to your opponent’s points, no cross questions or cross answers, no rebuttals, no follow-up questions — that’s not a debate, that’s a news conference.'”

Connie Rice is a commentator on NPR’s Tavis Smiley Show.

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How to Debate George Bush

Al Gore: “The biggest single difference between the debates this year and four years ago is that President Bush cannot simply make promises. He has a record. And I hope that voters will recall the last time Mr. Bush stood on stage for a presidential debate. If elected, he said, he would support allowing Americans to buy prescription drugs from Canada. He promised that his tax cuts would create millions of new jobs. He vowed to end partisan bickering in Washington. Above all, he pledged that if he put American troops into combat: ‘The force must be strong enough so that the mission can be accomplished. And the exit strategy needs to be well defined.’

Comparing these grandiose promises to his failed record, it’s enough to make anyone want to, well, sigh.” (New York Times )

The essay, which argues some fairly vehement points, surprisingly fizzles out in its concluding remark. And in arguing that Kerry should not be intimidated by Bush’s rhetorical style or debating track record but should be about the ‘beef’, it ignores the fact that many voters are taken in by Bush’s beguiling sophistry and unable to think about what substance there might be behind it. With the TV audience’s post-MTV attention span, Kerry’s appeal to Bush’s abysmal record might well meet with blank incomprehension in most of the flickering blue-lit living rooms.

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Counseling May Beat Sleeping Pills for Insomnia

“People with chronic insomnia are more likely to find relief with a few sessions of psychological counseling than with sleeping pills, especially in the long run, according to the results of a small study.

The investigators say their study findings show that counseling, in the form of cognitive behavioral therapy, should replace drugs as the insomnia treatment of choice.

‘You don’t have to live with insomnia, and the most effective treatments are non-drug,’ said lead study author Dr. Gregg D. Jacobs, an insomnia specialist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

When applied to insomnia, cognitive behavioral therapy aims to change people’s thoughts and behaviors regarding sleep. In short, it addresses the roots of a person’s sleep difficulties, Jacobs told Reuters Health.”

This comes as no surprise to those of us who consult to patients and their doctors about sleep disorders. Even when medication is prescribed, educating and counseling the insomniac on “sleep hygiene” measures, as they used to be called before CBT became such a buzzword, was de rigeur. The potential for a good night’s sleep is very sensitive to assumptions and expectations with which a person approaches bedtime, as well as certain controllable physiological parameters that ‘set the internal clock’. And most sleep medications are not only limited by the development of tolerance to their soporific effects (tolerance is the phenomenon whereby a given dosage becomes ineffective and the user needs more and more to achieve the same effect) but dependency-induced rebound insomnia, so that after some time on sleep medications, the insomniac not only does not sleep well if they skip their meds but they do not sleep well even if they continue to take them, and will often have even more difficulty when they go off the medication than if they had never taken it in the first place. Furthermore, medications that put someone to sleep, or keep them there, usually have effects more broadly on cerebral functions beyond affecting the sleep-wakefulness circuitry.

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Merck Obtains Rights to Drug That Tells the Body It’s Full

“Merck & Company has obtained rights to license an experimental drug to treat obesity that has generated scientific interest because it is based on a hormone used by the body to signal that it has eaten enough…

The drug is now in the earliest stages of clinical trials, meaning that, if found to be effective, it would probably take several years to become available to consumers.

The spray incorporates… a hormone made by the small intestine that is sent to the brain to signal satiety. There is some evidence that obese people make less of this hormone than leaner people, suggesting that their brains might be receiving only a weak signal to stop eating.” (New York Times)

I realize that the burgeoning science of obesity and weight reduction is a complicated and active field, and I do not presume to understand the intricacies of the regulatory mechanisms governing appetite and body weight, which become more complex the deeper we dig. However, if this is all that this hormone, and this drug, do, I am dubious about the role they will play in significant weight loss. Signalling satiety to the brain all you want is not going to stop most people from overeating, which is more influenced by cultural mores and psychological habits. When the average MacDonald’s customer super-sizes their order every time they patronize the place, is it because their body isn’t telling them it is full or because they are ignoring the signals that they are already receiving? People eat for comfort or pleasure far beyond the satiety point.

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Any Undecided Voters Left in Florida? Above the Waterline?

Here is a connection that ought to be made. As newsgawkers throughout the country watch the only issue that has recently displaced campaign derring-do from the lead spot — Florida devastated by four successive violent hurricanes — I am surprised Kerry is not making more of an issue of the association between global warming and hurricanes.

“The strongest hurricanes in the present climate may be upstaged by even more intense hurricanes over the next century as the earth’s climate is warmed by increasing levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Most hurricanes do not reach their maximum potential intensity before weakening over land or cooler ocean regions. However, those storms that do approach their upper-limit intensity are expected to be slightly stronger — and have more rainfall — in the warmer climate due to the higher sea surface temperatures.” (NOAA )

Let us not forget what an utter disaster the Bush misadministration has been for protection of the environment. While issues like his torpedoing of the prospects for the Kyoto Accords are abstruse to the average voter, they understand roofs being ripped off of their neighbors’ homes.

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We’re Being Scared to Death

“I wonder whether the politicians who are using fear to get themselves elected would stop if they knew the harm they may be doing to people’s health. Real physical harm. Making people sick. Perhaps even killing them. Not intentionally, of course, or knowingly. But this kind of ‘be afraid’ message does more than encourage people to think that you are the candidate who will make them safe. It creates stress and may be at least as much of a threat to public health as terrorism itself.” — David Ropeik, director of risk communication at Harvard University’s Center for Risk Analysis (LA Times op-ed)
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Still Seeking a Fair Florida Vote

“After the debacle in Florida four years ago, former president Gerald Ford and I were asked to lead a blue-ribbon commission to recommend changes in the American electoral process. After months of concerted effort by a dedicated and bipartisan group of experts, we presented unanimous recommendations to the president and Congress. The government responded with the Help America Vote Act of October 2002. Unfortunately, however, many of the act’s key provisions have not been implemented because of inadequate funding or political disputes.

The disturbing fact is that a repetition of the problems of 2000 now seems likely, even as many other nations are conducting elections that are internationally certified to be transparent, honest and fair.” — Jimmy Carter (Washington Post op-ed)

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Warning: nicotine seriously improves health

“Nicotine is known to switch on receptors on the surface of cells in certain parts of the brain, causing these neurones to release the neuro-transmitter dopamine, a chemical that is associated with feelings of pleasure. This effect leads to a person’s addiction.

More than 50 per cent of people suffering from clinical depression smoke, while the figure rises to 95 per cent for schizophrenics. But smoking among the general public has dropped to about 25 per cent. ‘The assumption is that people with psychiatric conditions are self-medicating,’ said McGehee. ‘They are smoking because the nicotine in particularly helpful in alleviating their condition.'” (Guardian.UK)

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Warning: nicotine seriously improves health

“Nicotine is known to switch on receptors on the surface of cells in certain parts of the brain, causing these neurones to release the neuro-transmitter dopamine, a chemical that is associated with feelings of pleasure. This effect leads to a person’s addiction.

More than 50 per cent of people suffering from clinical depression smoke, while the figure rises to 95 per cent for schizophrenics. But smoking among the general public has dropped to about 25 per cent. ‘The assumption is that people with psychiatric conditions are self-medicating,’ said McGehee. ‘They are smoking because the nicotine in particularly helpful in alleviating their condition.'” (Guardian.UK)

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iPod adds new dimension to existence (?)

Okay, I love my iPod too, but “a new dimension to existence“?? The writer feels connected to all the other earbud-wearers crossing the campus quad; they inhabit a new stratum of society participating in a smug technological superiority and enjoy their music collections in an unprecedented way that represents a major step in human cultural-technological evolution, to listen to this gushing essay. I have the opposite experience when I listen; that I am encased in a shell, oblivious to my social surroundings as well as a salient portion of the ambient environment, and this is not necessarily for the better. Maybe it is because I am not a student confining much of my perambulations to a college campus as the writer does, but I feel more and more that the contexts where I am willing to use it are more and more restricted, as time goes on. And, although it is good at screening out annoying environmental noise, an iPod cannot really be used for background music. I used to take it to the cafe I frequent to sit for a couple of hours with a pot of tea and a book, figuring I would enjoy my own playlist more than the neo-muzak the place plays. But the music from the iPod is so in-my-face that it is not possible to concentrate on a book. So I conclude that my iPod is more for active, deliberate listening, for example while out for a walk with the dog, taking a run or, most frequently these days, to have my entire music collection with me during a long road trip.

And as for adding a new dimension to my existence, probably not unless I add one of these things to my iPod…

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The Naked Emperor

I should have realized that my friend Dennis Fox, an incisive thinker who has taught social psychology (a field which, he concludes, “examines fascinating, important subjects in an incredibly silly, mind-numbing way”), would have some illuminating things to say in response to my Stanley Milgram item below. He focuses on Milgram’s more famous ‘obedience experiment’, whose implications he feels have often been misinterpreted:

“Milgram’s goal was not primarily to demonstrate that so many people obey orders to hurt others but to examine how to increase disobedience to those orders. His experiments varied conditions systematically, demonstrating, for example, that even one disobedient ally dramatically increases opposition to the supposedly evil scientist.”

This has had important implications for Dennis as a social activist, who cites the concept of pluralistic ignorance (“defined at the time as a situation where the majority of people in a community believe or do something that goes against community norms, but because everyone keeps their own behavior a secret, community norms are upheld”) and the implication that a vocal minority proclaiming that the emperor has no clothes can spur the majority to acknowledge their own doubts.

I think Dennis is saying, as he goes on to muse about his own disaffection with his field, that unlike Milgram’s work most social psychological experimentation, while it might demonstrate that things are not as commonsensical as they seem, does so with such trivial findings that it cannot be an important contribution to social change. Moreover, he hints at what is perhaps one of the limitations — that the field’s own professional hierarchy and norms (which replicate those of society at large) may contribute to the maintenance of the status quo, diverting attention from issues that might actually contribute to change.

Dennis’ musings both help me to understand the significance of Milgram’s work from an insider’s prespective and refresh my sense of the importance of the weblogging endeavor at its best in encouraging the subversion of the dominant paradigm (or, as Dennis puts it, undermining pluralistic ignorance). FmH is probably at its most useful when I write about the emperor’s nakedness in nontrivial areas of his anatomy.

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New Partnership

Tapped, the weblog over at The American Prospect, is reporting that:

“They’ve kept this pretty tightly under wraps for a while, but tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. the House Democrats are going to unveil a big splashy new position package, along the lines of the old GOP revolutionaries’ Contract With America (only, you know, without all the horrible ideas). I heard that the Dems were originally thinking about actually calling this thing the Democratic Contract With America, but they appear to have thought better of the idea and are now calling it the New Partnership for America’s Future.

This, just like Newt Gingrich’s old Contract, seems primarily to be a marketing gimmick, but here’s why you might want to get excited about it: The Dems who’ve been working on this for months are apparently very, very interested in improving the party’s effectiveness in framing issues and packaging positions in ways that resonate with voters. They’ve studied a lot of what Republicans have done over the last two decades and are making a conscious initial effort here to present a coherent, simple, bold agenda — just six points, I hear — that the caucus can get behind and promote and try to hammer into voters’ minds (it’s also a handy platform for congressional candidates to run on in November, just as Gingrich’s army of GOP freshmen did with the Contract in 1994). The folks in Nancy Pelosi’s Democratic leadership office who’ve been working on this apparently did lots of sophisticated polling and even enlisted the help of the Berkeley linguist and writer George Lakoff, author of this Prospect piece and this new book on the GOP’s effectiveness in framing issues. So whatever comes of this it’s at least heartening to see some real effort and attention to these issues on the Democratic side.”

I am particularly buoyed to see them using Lakoff’s — shall we say? — neurolinguistic programming techniques in crafting their message.

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An Experiment in Dream Telepathy with The Grateful Dead

In what has been called the largest parapsychological experiment to date, psychologist Stanley Krippner and associates explored ESP and the dream phase of sleep with the assistance of the audience of a famous Grateful Dead concert in Port Chester NY in 1971. (Journal of the American Society of Psychosomatic Dentistry and Medicine) Krippner, who was at that time the head of the renowned Dream Laboratory at New York’s Maimonides Medical Center, is an illustrious psychologist who has been uncommonly unafraid of anomalous experiences and altered states of consciousness. The Dead were apt collaborators in an investigation of telepathy given the uncanny and unparalleled psychic amalgamation they achieved in their playing (and, some would say, achieved with their audiences as well), especially at the further reaches of their jams. (“We’re not in the entertainment business, we’re in the transportation business. We move minds.” — Mickey Hart) You can also read about the studies here (Fortean Times).

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‘Excuse Me. May I Have Your Seat?’

The late, great social psychologist Stanley Milgram is well-known for several famous psychological experiments, about which I have written here from time to time. In one, he investigated how obedient subjects would be when, misled to believe they were experimenters, they were asked to inflict escalating pain on a supposed subject who was really a confederate of the researchers. (This has been described as the “How good a Nazi are you?” experiment and is one of the ‘great psychological experiments of the twentieth century’ described by psychiatrist and NY Times writer Lauren Slater in her controversial book of last year, Opening Skinner’s Box.) Another of Milgram’s studies established the renowned ‘six degrees of separation’ principle of social connectivity.

Thanks to several FmH readers who pointed me to this article from The New York Times. Milgram also sent his graduate students out onto the New York City subways with a simple directive — that they ask seated passengers for their seats. It was readily established that the proportion of recipients of such a request who would agree to give up their seat to an able-bodied stranger was surprisingly high, but the focus of the study was turned on its head in a fascinating way when it became apparent how difficult and anxiety-provoking the task was for the student investigators, some of whom became physically ill from the stress of doing so. Surprised at this, Milgram did it himself and confirmed how awful it made him feel. He speculated that one cause of the malaise may have been an unconscious need to be infirm to justify the request for a seat. I suspect that it is nearer to the truth to say that some of his investigators were experiencing viscerally the stress of violating what was apparently such a powerful unspoken social norm. Two NY Times reporters recently replicated this scenario and found that there has been no change in New Yorkers’ willingness to yield their seats upon request.

The discomfort it causes to make such a request dramatizes how differently wired the self-centered sociopaths among us must be, experiencing no compunctions as they routinely violate others’ rights in far more profound ways than depriving them of a subway seat.

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The World’s Most Dangerous Ideas

“With this simple conviction, Foreign Policy asked eight leading thinkers to issue an early warning on the ideas that will be most destructive in the coming years. A few of these ideas have long and sometimes bloody pedigrees. Others are embryonic, nourished by breakthroughs in science and technology. Several are policy ideas whose reverberations are already felt; others are more abstract, but just as pernicious. Yet, as the essays make clear, these dangerous ideas share a vulnerability to insightful critique and open debate.”

  • War on Evil By Robert Wright
  • Undermining Free Will By Paul Davies
  • Business as Usual at the U.N. By Samantha Power
  • Spreading Democracy By Eric J. Hobsbawm
  • Transhumanism By Francis Fukuyama
  • Religious Intolerance By Martha Nussbaum
  • Free Money By Alice M. Rivlin
  • Hating America By Fareed Zakaria
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Oh Ye of Little Faith…

Many hopeful people are looking to the debates to give Kerry a decisive push against Dubya. Ezra Klein tells us how to have faith:

“We know he beat the friendly, funny, charismatic Weld. But what’s rarely noted is that he also beat John Edwards in the series of one-on-one debates they held at the end of the primary. Edwads came off as nicer and funnier, sure, but he lacked the gravitas and policy knowledge of Kerry. I watched those confrontations expecting to vote for Edwards, but got up from the couch a Kerry supporter. It was clear to me then, as it is now, that the empathy and charm that pols like Edwards and Clinton possess are not applicable to elections fought on serious, scary ground. As I’ve said before, Bush only won (and he didn’t even do that) in 2000 because the country was at peace and the economy was doing well, voters were unconcerned and thus won over by the friendlier, funnier candidate — that was a popularity contest. But in a time when voters want serious leaders who demonstrate competence, strength and judgment, Bush’s glib moralizing and self-effacing jokes are not going to save him. In contrast, Kerry’s boring wonkishness and obvious thoughtfulness (not to mention his 4-inch height advantage — two of the debates are standing) just might.” (Pandagon )
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Kerry’s Once Sizeable Lead with Women Voters Slips

The Democrats have taken the ‘gender gap’ advantage for granted in the last few elections, but Kerry’s lead among female voters is fading. Speculation is that women have been put off as Kerry has tried to project strength on foreign policy. He has squandered a natural advantage on such issues as abortion rights and benefits parity by softpedaling.

‘Many women’s rights activists express astonishment that Kerry has not sought to capitalize on his longtime support for abortion rights or assailed the Bush administration’s policies on women’s issues, including a ban on U.S. aid to international family planning organizations that discuss abortion.

“The fact is that George Bush is the commander in chief of a war on choice,” said Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Kerry needs to smoke Bush out and he also needs to advance his own agenda.” ‘

Kerry may feel he has more to lose with swing voters than he has to gain with women by advertising his stand on abortion. His largely male group of advisors has prevented him from taking a more vocal position, apparently feeling the women’s vote was a given. (LA Times)

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Novak: Quick exit from Iraq is likely

Novak says that, regardless of the status of the insurgency, a reelected Bush administration would pull US forces out of Iraq early next year, right after the Iraqi elections. He cites unnamed but well-placed administration sources in saying that Condoleeza Rice and Paul Wolfowitz, who he predicts will head the Dept of State and the Dept of Defense respectively in the second term, will advocate for withdrawal. “Getting out of Iraq would end the neoconservative dream of building democracy in the Arab world. The United States would be content having saved the world from Saddam Hussein’s quest for weapons of mass destruction.” Novak says that president-elect Kerry would probably do the same thing as military leaders review the untenability of our situation there with him after his election, although this is more speculative than sourced. Of course Bush, who has a constitutional inability to admit a mistake, wiould not hint at such a plan until after the election. But it seems to me that Bush patsy Novak might spread this rumor regardless of its basis in reality, since it allows Bush supporters to have it both ways for the rest of the campaign in the face of Kerry’s attempts to make a focal issue of BUsh’s Iraq mistake. (Chicago Sun-Times)

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Respek!

How does Ali G keep conning famous guests?

“Ali G relies on his victims’ reluctance to challenge his intellectual credentials or Brit-hop patois. The joke won’t work when they know he’s a fiction. The only way to save Ali may be to send him even further afield—to find yet another country as pompous and credulous as America. But that’s a tall order.” (Slate )
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Banned Music

“A peer-to-peer collaboration that makes it impossible for the major record labels to ban or censor musical works. When record labels send legal threats to musicians, record stores, or websites, we will post the music here for download and publicize the censorship attempt. There is a clear fair use right to distribute this music, and for the public to decide whether current copyright law is serving musicians and the public, they need to be able to hear what’s being suppressed.”
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Think Wasabi Clears Your Sinuses? Think Again

New research with healthy volunteers shows it is actually probably a congestant. via increasing blood flow to the nasal mucosa. But, because it may stimulate nasal flaring, it gives the impression it is helping the person breathe more easily. (Yahoo! News ) During college, I spent three months vagabonding around Japan with a fellow student, bingeing on sushi whenever possible. Although I am not sure what role wasabi plays in this, we were convinced as we wandered around the phantasmagoric strrets of Shinjuku or Shibuya or the deer park in Nara that we had left the sushi counter ‘sushi-stoned’, a hitherto undocumented altered state of consciousness. And this was regardless of the extent to which we had been washing down our sushi with sake. Funny, there must be something lacking in American sushi because, although my friend and I attempt to recreate the experience whenever we get together these days in the US, we seem to be unable to do so…

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Defeat Bush: The Guide

“If George Bush is to be defeated this year, he’ll be defeated on the ground. He’ll be defeated because we want it more than they want it. He’ll be defeated because we swallow our fantasies of a candidate who doesn’t exist and recognize that John Kerry is a manifestly superior positive choice. And he’ll be defeated not just because we vote for Kerry, but because we urge cynics and undecideds to vote for him too. This work will not be easy or neat—new campaign finance rules make figuring out where to help a job in itself. But no one is overqualified for it. Don’t think blue-staters like us can’t make the difference in swing states. And don’t forget that even in New York, pluralities count—win or lose, every vote for Kerry makes us feel better and Bush look worse. There are still two or three weeks to register voters, and there’s plenty of follow-up to do in October. Examine the options outlined below and decide how you might best donate your time. Then tell your friends to do the same.” — Robert Christgau & Ben Reiter (The Village Voice via Outside Counsel)
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Shrinking to Fit

China Discovers the Couch: Interesting article on the emerging psychotherapy industry in China by an LA Times staff writer who ties the appeal of and opportunity for ‘the couch’ to the rapid changes in Chinese society, seemingly oblivious to the irony that classical Freudian psychoanalytic theory largely ignored social stresses in favor of internal ‘neurotic’ ones fueled by conflicts and ultimately referrable to upbringing. The Chinese situation offers a fascinating opportunity to observe the propagation of the ‘psychological-mindedness’ meme through a naive society, both for the similarities and differences from the late 19th century spread of the therapy paradigm in Euro-American society.

Watching this trend raises many fascinating questions for me. Is the transition from a ‘planned economy to a free-market system’, as the author suggests, really the source of a dawning recognition by masses of Chinese that they ‘just aren’t happy’? Is there more stress in the current ‘competitive’ society than there was under state socialism? The article mentions corruption, layoffs and unemployment, and increasing class distinction. The famous 19th century French social theorist Emile Durkheim wrote of the relationship between societal suicide rates and various types of social stress; we have a naturalistic laboratory here to test his theories prospectively instead of merely retrospectively. If social change is driving the Chinese to increased distress and the need for therapy, how explicit will the equation between personal distress and social conditions be made by Chinese therapists? This has been a longstanding agenda of the radical therapy movement in the West, combating the classical internal-conflict paradigm and having therapists play a role in consciousness raising and catalysis of social change? Can Chinese therapists who themselves were raised for most of their lives in a totalitarian, anti-individualistic system easily incorporate an analysis of role of their clients’ social situations in their distress, or will this be ignored?

In terms of the social stresses and psychological dsistress they induce, should the Chinese and Euro-American routes to the ‘free-market’ economy be considered different routes to the same final common pathway, or quite distinct? Which is more true: that therapy become more possible or more necessary in a capitalist system? What role might the therapy paradigm play in increasing class distinctions in Chinese society between the growing urban professional class and the rural peasants?

One of the changes noted is the rapid explosion in Prozac prescriptions in China in the past several years. I would like to see an examination of how Eli Lilly penetrated the Chinese market; I am sure that in recent years, as their market share and profitability withered in the US market with the expiration of their patent and the emergence of competing drugs, they had been salivating over the potential Chinese market. What role does securing Chinese receptivity to Prozac play in driving home the psychological meme in Chinese society? In general, one of the great unresolved debates for me in Western mental health care revolves around whether changing therapeutic options in a sense create the need for themselves. This may be economic — as in the arrival of Prozac creating a market for itself — or memetic, as in starting to see everything as if it is a nail once you have a hammer in hand.

The article mentions that the demand for therapy has been driven by the penetration of internet access and Western media into the Chinese middle class. However, the portrayal of emotional distress and mental health care in the Western media has been anything but favorable; how will that influence Chinese expectations and demand?

In a society where people venerate their ancestors more than we do in the West, will the psychotherapeutic exploration of one’s upbringing challenge tradition, or itself be minimized in Chinese therapeutic technique? (Certain Western therapy techniques almost entirely dispense with exploration of the past in favor of problem-centered or cognitive explorations; will these be favored?) What influence, if clients’ upbringing is explored, will China’s one-child-per-family policy be seen as having on psychological health. I am curious about the differences in a society in which there is virtually no notion of a sibling relationship; it seems to me an entire category of intimacy, and the lexicon that goes with it, has been surgically excised from a society’s psyche.

What will we see in terms of gender differences in presentations to or access to therapy? Can therapy practices paly a role in adjusting gender inequality in Chinese society? Will the growth of psychological-mindedness contribute to a feminist movement and other movements for social equality, e.g. gay rights? This is especially important in light of the burgeoning penetration of HIV/AIDS into Chinese society and its concealment by Chinese government policy.

In the face of a rapid explosion of the need for mental health services, can state-sponsored social and economic planning influence the development of a system for care delivery that would be more equitable and responsive than the ‘free-market’ mental health care system? Can a developing mental health care system avoid the trap of tailoring itself to clients’ ability to afford the services rather than to their need for services? How essential, as opposed to optional, will the right to mental health services and emotional wellbeing be seen as being?

Finally, if Bush is reelected, is there a market for my services in China that might make it attractive for a disaffected US psychiatrist to consider emigrating? <grin>

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Far graver than Vietnam

“Most senior US military officers now believe the war on Iraq has turned into a disaster on an unprecedented scale“, says Sidney Blumenthal.

“‘Bring them on!’ President Bush challenged the early Iraqi insurgency in July of last year. Since then, 812 American soldiers have been killed and 6,290 wounded, according to the Pentagon. Almost every day, in campaign speeches, Bush speaks with bravado about how he is ‘winning’ in Iraq. ‘Our strategy is succeeding,’ he boasted to the National Guard convention on Tuesday.

But, according to the US military’s leading strategists and prominent retired generals, Bush’s war is already lost. Retired general William Odom, former head of the National Security Agency, told me: ‘Bush hasn’t found the WMD. Al-Qaida, it’s worse, he’s lost on that front. That he’s going to achieve a democracy there? That goal is lost, too. It’s lost.’ He adds: ‘Right now, the course we’re on, we’re achieving Bin Laden’s ends.'” (Guardian.UK)

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Why You Should Ignore The Polls

The Left Coaster believes that Gallup greatly oversamples the Republican component of its poll participants, because of an unwavering assumption that a greater percentage of those turning out to vote will be Republicans than Democrats.

And Jimmy Breslin tells you you might as well make up the poll results yourself for all they are worth, making much of the fact that those will cellular phones instead of landlines are never polled by current methodologies, which means younger voters are disproportionately ignored. (NewsDay)

Pointed to by a reader in the comments, this site amplifies on Breslin’s point, mentioning VoIP customers who get to choose their area codes (although I suspect this a vanishingly small proportion of the electorate).

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Housekeeping

Is the commenting system broken, or is nothing I’m logging worth commenting upon? There haven’t been any comments here in days. Or is no one even visiting? Did everyone get out of the habit of reading FmH when I took several weeks off from making entries here this summer?

Let’s try something. Instead of you just answering the above questions in your comments to this post, why not make this an open discussion thread? Enter a comment about anything on your mind that you would like to discuss with other FmH readers, such as they might be…

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The War Room

FmH readers know I am a fan of fellow traveller and Wired contributing editor Steve Silberman’s writing. This new piece is, he wrote me, “the first look inside a new Pentagon-sponsored training program for soldiers headed to Iraq and elsewhere that immerses them in highly realistic virtual environments designed by Hollywood special effects artists.” Silberman’s article on this unholy alliance is all about the romance of the advanced technology being used and the cost savings to the Pentagon, which won’t have to waste so much ammunition in live fire exercises anymore. What I would have liked to see, and what is virtually absent from the piece, is something about the moral compunctions I imagine some of the Hollywood or computer-geek types might have about contributing to the war machine. Or are my expectations about a generation behind? Steve?

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Is ‘Florida’ synonymous with ‘hanky-panky’?

It is amazing, one would have thought that after the national outrage about the Florida ballot shenanigans of 2000, the state’s Division of Elections would have to tread lightly in 2004. But, no fans of subtlety, getting away with it in 2000 seems to have emboldened them to even more clumsy manipulations this time around. We have already heard about the mysterious visits uniformed officers have been paying to elderly African American voters suggesting some ill-defined investigation of their right to vote, in an obvious attempt to scare them away from the polls. Now, despite a court order against putting Nader on the Florida ballot, the Republican chief of the Division of Elections is using Hurricane Ivan as a pretext to do so anyway. If the hurricane interfered, the ballots could not be prepared in time if she waited for a Wednesday hearing on the court injunction, she ruled, so Nader’s name should appear just in case he wins the right to be there. If he doesn’t belong on the ballot, any Nader votes would just have to be discarded. (The American Prospect) See also this (BBC).

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FmH: ‘a classic blog with some humorous stuff’??

This weblogger known as Reinman, who has been writing a weblog for only 17 posts and one month, posted a review of FmH because, apparently finding my site at random, he was pleasantly surprised by the soft drink post below. This 20-year old Minnesota student and football fan whose tastes run to Fiddler on the Roof, Lawrence of Arabia, The Catcher in the Rye and The King James Bible, is kind enough to say that my anti-Bush sentiment (from his vast experience perusing the weblog universe, he puzzles about whether all bloggers are of that persuasion) doesn’t get in the way of his enjoyment of ‘some of the stuff on the site’.

He seems to be looking for ‘humorous references to pop. culture’ which (sound of headscratching) he seems to find best characterize the material at FmH. Funny, I didn’t think I was being all that funny all that often. However, he concludes in the last analysis that there isn’t much reason, other than the soft drink map, to come here, because “if… you’re craving… a classic blog with some humorous stuff”, he thinks he does it better. More power to him.

Tragically, he announces that his series on “blogging the bloggers” is to end with FmH, the fifth he reviews. He makes the curious comment that he is “not planning any prequels”, which allows him to come out with a witticism about how

“if I did make a prequel, I would have to call it something ludicrous, like “Blogging the Bloggers Part ¹/2” and that sounds eerily close to “The Lion King 1¹/2″ which I have not seen, but I can only imagine *shudder*”.

I think I get it. Come to think of it, this post may qualify as a ‘humorous reference to pop. culture’. I wouldn’t know how else to categorize it, so maybe Reinman is onto something.

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Iraq war was illegal and breached UN charter, says Annan

The US and its coalition attempted to use the violations of UN resolutions to legitimize the invasion. Now, as Annan finally breaks his ‘tactful silence’ and delegitimizes the war, coalition representatives continue to try to have it both ways, both insisting the war conforms to the UN charter and saying the UN is a useless agency obstructed by differences of opinion within its ranks. (Guardian.UK)

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The slacker’s new bible

The art and the importance of doing the least possible in the workplace:

1 You are a modern day slave. There is no scope for personal fulfilment. You work for your pay-check at the end of the month, full stop.

2 It’s pointless to try to change the system. Opposing it simply makes it stronger.

3 What you do is pointless. You can be replaced from one day to the next by any cretin sitting next to you. So work as little as possible and spend time (not too much, if you can help it) cultivating your personal network so that you’re untouchable when the next restructuring comes around.

4 You’re not judged on merit, but on whether you look and sound the part. Speak lots of leaden jargon: people will suspect you have an inside track

5 Never accept a position of responsibility for any reason. You’ll only have to work harder for what amounts to peanuts.

6 Make a beeline for the most useless positions, (research, strategy and business development), where it is impossible to assess your ‘contribution to the wealth of the firm’. Avoid ‘on the ground’ operational roles like the plague.

7 Once you’ve found one of these plum jobs, never move. It is only the most exposed who get fired.

8 Learn to identify kindred spirits who, like you, believe the system is absurd through discreet signs (quirks in clothing, peculiar jokes, warm smiles).

9 Be nice to people on short-term contracts. They are the only people who do any real work.

10 Tell yourself that the absurd ideology underpinning this corporate bullshit cannot last for ever. It will go the same way as the dialectical materialism of the communist system. The problem is knowning when…

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Burning Bushes

A reader’s guide to Kitty Kelley’s The Family: “Want the best (if somewhat dubious) dish from The Family, Kitty Kelley’s new treatise on the Bush clan? Follow Slate‘s reading guide straight to the good parts.” As others have noted, unfortunately there is nothing here that will bring down the Bush misadministration or even change the minds of those who are going to vote for him…

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Online Essays by Gary Snyder

  • Snyder on his relationship with Jack Kerouac

    “Jack was, in a sense, a twentieth-century American Lithographer. And that’s why maybe those novels will stand up, because they will be one of the best statements of the myth of the twentieth century. just as Ginsberg represents one clear archetypal aspect of twentieth century America, I think Jack saw me, in a funny way, as being another archetypal twentieth-century American of the West, of the anarchist, libertarian, IWW tradition, of a tradition of working outdoors and fitting in already with his fascination with the hobo, railroad bum, working man. I was another dimension on that.”

  • “Four Changes” 1970

    “We are the first human beings in history to have all of humanity’s culture and previous experience available to our study — the first members of a civilized society since the early Neolithic to wish to look clearly into the eyes of the wild and see our selfhood, our family, there. We have these advantages to set off the obvious disadvantages of being as screwed up as we are — which gives us a fair chance to penetrate into some of the riddles of ourselves and the universe.”

  • The Dhrma Eye of d.a.levy

    “d.a.levy – Darryl Levy – I try out his names, reaching to know the man; his poems, his polemics. I feel brother to Levy not only as poet but as fellow-worker in the Buddha-fields. Levy had a remarkable karma: he saw who he was, where he was, what his field of activity was, and what his tools were to be.”

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L’Shana Tovah

Since sundown last night, it has been year 5765 of the Jewish calendar. In Jewish tradition, that means 5765 years since the creation of the universe. Maybe this is inaccurate, but it emphasizes what order of magnitude we should place on each of our years anyway. It has always made sense to me to celebrate two new year’s days each year, one when the cyclical dimming of the days turns to the promise of renewal of the natural world at the winter solstice; and the other more aligned with the cycle of human activity, when the fallow time of late summer transitions into the renewed activity of the autumn, whether we are talking about the annual cycle of agricultural activity, of the school year or the world of commerce and the fiscal year.

The two types of new year’s celebrations also have a somewhat different emphasis. It has always seemed to me that the ritual of the Pagan New Year we celebrate in the winter, attuning oneself to the natural order of things, stands to invoke good fortune for the year to come. The Jewish New Year is more about setting oneself straight with manmade standards of right living, opening as it does the ten days of awe culminating in the Day of Atonement.

It is said that the life unexamined is the life unlived. This is a time to use in reflection on the year just past, in order to live the next fully. How much time was wasted? Were your days filled with life or dull routine? Was love expressed or left unsaid? Was there real companionship with those around you or a growing apart and a taking for granted? Were the kind deeds done or postponed? the gibes unleashed or the tongue held? Have you worked for peace and social justice as much as you could have? Did you acquire only things, or insights and knowledge as well? Have you freely asked for and granted forgiveness ? Did you deceive others? yourself?

Finding oneself wanting, as I do, in some or all of these regards helps in considering the uses to which one will put the year to come. What I do with my next year is important, because I will pay for it with a year of my life, and I hope I do not regret the price.

So, to all my readers Jewish and otherwise, a happy new year. I pray for assistance being kind to my fellow creatures and working for peace. I ask your forgiveness if I have wronged any of you reading this, and I absolve anyone of you who has wronged or offended me.

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Move Over, Hummer

US commercial truck maker touts ‘extreme’ passenger truck. Modelled after comercial haulage trucks and dump trucks, the International CXT will be the world’s biggest pick-up truck when it goes on sale later this year. 600-1000 of these babies are expected to be manufactured the first year, for the likes of tradesman and builders. But, at $95-100,000 apiece, aren’t we likely to see most of them snapped up by rappers and movie stars instead? Just when you thought SUVs were losing their appeal and it was safe to get back on the highway…

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Major Medical Journals Will Require Registration of Trials

“A group of leading medical journals yesterday released a plan to stop publishing the results of clinical trials unless a test is registered at its outset in a public database.


The plan, news of which had emerged earlier this week, represents a major policy shift by influential gatekeepers in the medical profession as they seek to increase the distribution and accuracy of research data. Too often, experts contend, medical studies with dramatic findings are highlighted as breakthroughs, while inconclusive or negative tests of the same treatment are ignored or undisclosed.


‘Honest reporting begins with revealing the existence of all clinical studies, even those that reflect unfavorably on a research sponsor’s product,’ the editors of the 12 publications stated in a group editorial that was released yesterday and will appear in the next issues of the individual journals. ‘Unfortunately, selective reporting does occur and it distorts the body of evidence available for clinical decision-making.’


The group, which calls itself the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, includes such high-profile publications as The Journal of the American Medical Association, The New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet and Annals of Internal Medicine.” (New York Times)

I join those in applauding this as an important first step toward full disclosure in clinical drug research. Anyone who is an intelligent consumer of medical research studies has no confidence in the body of literature. Biases in favor of publishing positive findings arise both from the simple fact that a positive finding is more ‘sexy’ to report and from the increasingly, and depressingly, consistent reliance for research funding on precisely those pharmaceutical companies with a stake in the outcome. Publishing preponderantly positive findings skews medical practice toward newer and newer (and more and more expensive) medications, of course. Several sorts of studies tend never to make it to the light of day. There are those which say that a particular treatment did not show benefits significantly different than placebo. Other studies show that a new medication is no better than the old standard reference medication against which it is being compared. And a third sort of study will show that adverse effects emerged, or a medication was not tolerated well enough, often enough that patients would not stick with it to derive therapeutic gains. When these studies are not published, the adverse reactions they describe, of obvious importance for a physician to know, are from that point potentially dead and buried forever.

The impact of this reform on the evidentiary basis for medical practice will depend on whether it is adopted far more widely than by just a handful of, admittedly influential, journals. (I see none of the preeminent journals in which psychiatric medication findings are published on the list, for one thing.) Of course, since the proportion of physicians who keep up with their field of practice by actually reading the refereed journals is so small and continues to decline, the pharmaceutical representatives’ ‘detail’ visits and the drug-company-sponsored dinner talks and junkets from which many physicians learn about new medications will be free to continue to spin the merits of their latest and greatest breakthrough drug with no pretense of being fair and balanced. Even among those consumers of the medical literature, we will have to face the inherent cognitive bias toward remembering and being influenced by positive findings as well.

Critics of the reform plan are asking for government regulations requiring this sort of registration database for clinical trials, rather than a voluntary system initiated by a fragment of the medical publications. A more profound step would be to get the pharmaceutical industry out of the role of funding the preponderance of drug studies and returning to the old system of government-funded research. Or perhaps pharmaceutical companies should pool their research funds and endow a foundation to give out grants rather than each doing it individually. It is hard to see what incentive the industry would have to do so and forego both the PR value of their research funding and the potential influence over the findings unless, again, there is some government mandate. This impetus for reform may well be the silver lining in the midst of the cloud of the furor about SSRIs and suicidality among adolescents and children, about which FmH readers doubtless know my position.

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NASCAR, How Proud a Sound!

“Many commentators have remarked that the United States is a nation of rank buffoons. Few, however, have carefully measured our nation’s recent and steep tumble into idiocy, much less attempted a unified theory to explain it. In its sixteenth issue, ‘Nascar, How Proud a Sound,’ The Baffler reveals the shocking breadth of American ignorance, and argues that the nation’s mental and moral decline-like that of the Roman Empire-is spreading from the better classes downward. In this highly readable issue, Tom Frank gets to the root of Ann Coulter’s mental infirmity. Nick Cohen examines Britain’s outbreak of millennial lunacy. Paul Maliszewski details the delusional narcissism of ‘the creative class’ and its theorist, Richard Florida. Jamie Kalven chronicles Mayor Daley’s Neronian cruelty to the poor of Chicago…”
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Winning minds, not hearts

Missile defense: “Why are countries falling in line with the Bush administration plan to field a yet-unproven missile defense system? Will the world’s complacency lead to more nuclear weapons, especially in Russia and China?” (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists)
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Round One for Women’s Health

“Three federal judges across the breadth of the country have now delivered a stinging rebuke to the potentially far-reaching assault by the White House and Congress on women’s health and reproductive freedom, declaring the Partial Birth Abortion Act of 2003 to be unconstitutional.


In the latest ruling, last week in Nebraska, Judge Richard Kopf found that the politicians who crafted the statute erred by failing to provide any exception for instances where a woman’s health is at stake – replicating a key defect that led the Supreme Court to invalidate a similar abortion ban in Nebraska in 2000. Judge Kopf, an appointee of President Bush’s father, also presided at the trial stage in that earlier case.


He devoted much of his lengthy new decision to a meticulous review of the extensive, freshly amassed evidence. He refuted Congress’s flimsy legislative ‘finding’ that the ill-defined procedure it bans ‘is never necessary to protect the health of the mother,’ and therefore no exception was needed. Judge Kopf said the evidence, to the contrary, was ‘overwhelming.’ He wrote, ‘In the absence of an exception for the health of a woman, banning the procedure constitutes a significant heath hazard to women.'” (New York Times op-ed)

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Generic Names for Soft Drinks by County

This US map uses color to depict the most popular term used in every county of the US — ‘pop’, ‘coke’, ‘soda’ or something else. The gross regional differences are pretty clear but what grabs my attention are the anomalies. Why are there single counties in the middle of Nebraska, North Dakota, Colorado and Idaho, for example, where ‘soda’ predominates in the midst of ‘pop’? And what is going on in the large, circumscribed regions of Nevada, northern Minnesota and New Mexico where some other term predominates, as well as scattered counties in North Carolina and Texas? Anyone from any of those regions reading? How do you refer to soft drinks there?? (via Incoming Signals)

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Hepster’s Dictionary

Are you hep to the jive? Cab Calloway did not invent Jive (the expressions, words, and general patois used by the musicians of Harlem in the Swing Era), but he was definitely the hardest jack with the greatest jive in the joint. I mean that old Cab Calloway had a hard spiel and a kopasetic line that was a killer-diller. You would never hear him comin’ up on the wrong riff or talkin’ in dribbles or comin’ up with no off-time jive. And if he ever did melt out, he’d just blasé up and say, ‘Mash me a fin, gate, so I can cop me a fry’. Then everything would be straight, with his fry, and his fine vines, and his main queen on his arm.” (via Incoming Signals)
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Coalition of the Disgusted

Kevin Murphy advises: “Aside from the Philippines, Nigeria, and Poland, the world wants John Kerry by a landslide. Undecided voters out there, you know how you can ‘Ask the Audience’ on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire when you’re stumped? Consider it like that.” (ghost in the machine)

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Heritage Forests Campaign:

Our Forests at Risk: For lovers of wilderness, this is an emergency.

“On July 12th, the Bush administration announced a proposal to repeal the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which was enacted in January 2001 to protect the last pristine thirty percent of our national forests from logging and road-building. The administration plans to replace the rule with a meaningless process that allows governors to petition for protection of roadless areas in their states — or for more logging, mining and drilling.

The day this proposal takes effect, millions of acres of our last wild forests will be immediately at risk. “

Get involved; bowing to public pressure, the administration has just extended the comment period through November 15. Check out what is at stake and send your own message directly to the relevant decision makers today.

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Texans for Truth

“Texans for Truth, established by Glenn W. Smith, executive director of the 20,000-member Texas online activist group, DriveDemocracy.org, has produced a 0:30 second television advertisement, ‘AWOL.’ The ad features Robert Mintz, one of many who served in Alabama’s 187th Air National Guard — when Bush claims to have been there — who have no memory of Bush on the base. In other words, Bush failed to fulfill his military duty while others were dying in Vietnam.”
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Hypnosis really changes your mind

Boing boing pointed to this New Scientist article showing measurable changes in brain function under hypnosis. It is described as significant because it shows that hypnosis is not just a parlor trick performed by stage magicians. But it has long been recognized that it is a truly altered state of consciousness, so it should surprise no one that it produces frank alterations in brain function. Readers of FmH will know that I am enamored of and tend to link to functional MRI studies that show which brain regions are active during particular cognitive tasks. For me, the accumulating evidence of localization of a given cognitive function is much more important than what I consider the trivial finding that brain function is altered when you perform the task. Yeah, so?

I haven’t read the research paper but the New Scientist article doesn’t describe the experimental design in enough detail to help me understand hypnosis any better. It does not even describe the nature of the cognitive taks that was used, called the Stroop test. Here is a link to a description of the Stroop, which essentiallly involves being given a list of color names printed in colored ink. A given word is printed in a color different from the color it names; for instance the word “blue” may be printed in orange. The test is a measure of a person’s ability to operate under conditions of cognitive interference, in that you must name the colors of the words successive cards without reading the words. It is not as easy as you think. In the current fMRI study, subjects performed the Stroop test first unhypnotized, and then again hypnotized; the performance of ‘suggestible’ (easily hypnotized) subjects was compared with those who were less susceptible to hypnosis. The susceptible group showed greater activation in the anterior cingulate gyrus and the left prefrontal cortex when performing the task under hypnosis. The New Scientist article does a further disservice of making some pat pronouncements about what these two implicated brain regions ‘do’. In fact, just as the cognitive changes in hypnosis are quite abit more complicated than you think, so too are the information-processing roles of these brain regions.

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Who Cares?

This is what Rafe Colburn has to say about the Bush National Guard issue. As usual, I think it is plain-speaking truth:

“I thought I’d post a little something about the Bush National Guard documents. People say they’re fake. I say, who cares? Why are Democrats so obsessed with this issue? Bush’s record as President should be enough to boot him out of office, why dwell on this 30 years ago stuff?” (rc3)

I would add that the Democrats could make hay if they pointed out that Kerry was staying above the fray and refraining from mudslinging in the way Bush has been doing with the Swift Boat issue. There’s an old neurolinguistic programming strategem called ‘talking in quotes’, in which you can both get your criticism across and yet maintain plausible deniability. Kerry should be saying, “Notice I’m not saying ‘Bush shirked his military duty and they’re concealing and lying about it’ the way he is talking about my war record in Vietnam. My campaign is about the issues, his is about diversion from his record.” See how that works? The criticism is ‘in quotes’ but Kerry’s not saying it.

Besides, although it appears to be counterintuitive, Kerry would do better taking a page from Karl Rove’s play book by attacking Bush’s perceived strengths rather than his recognized weaknesses. It is a simple issue to grasp; if someone hasn’t already gotten, or doesn’t care, that Bush was a shirker during Vietnam, there’s little chance of changing their mind at this stage and, as Coburn points out, it matters little. But taking the country down the drain during the past three and a half years in office is a different matter.

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Texans for Truth

“Texans for Truth, established by Glenn W. Smith, executive director of the 20,000-member Texas online activist group, DriveDemocracy.org, has produced a 0:30 second television advertisement, ‘AWOL.’ The ad features Robert Mintz, one of many who served in Alabama’s 187th Air National Guard — when Bush claims to have been there — who have no memory of Bush on the base. In other words, Bush failed to fulfill his military duty while others were dying in Vietnam.”
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Salvia divinorum

FAQ about this vision-inducing plant which is a member of the sage family.

Q. What is a Salvia divinorum experience like?

A. It is almost certainly not like what you expect. Even if you have considerable experience with other psychoactive drugs, you will find that salvia is significantly different from what you may have encountered before. Salvia is unique, and it is best understood on its own terms, and not by analogy with other substances. Salvia is not a recreational drug, rather, it is best used by those wishing to explore deep meditative states, spiritual realms, mysticism, the nature of consciousness and reality, or the possibilities of shamanistic healing. Experiences vary with the individual, set, and setting as well as with dose and route of administration. It produces a short-lived inebriation that is very different from that of alcohol. However, like alcohol it interferes with the ability to drive, produces incoordination (ataxia), and may produce slurred speech.

The inebriation, at low doses, can facilitate aesthetic and sensual appreciation. However, the experience is not marijuana-like, and salvia is not a marijuana substitute. At somewhat higher doses, visionary trances occur.

This ‘divine inebriant’ has a long history of sacred use in shamanic highland Mexican indigenous cluture. Pharmacologically, the active ingredient of Salvia, salvinorin, appears to be difficult to categorize and unlike other psychoactive compounds. One psychonaut has called the plant a ‘phantasticant’. Salvia is relatively easy to grow and entirely legal. Other members of the mint-like sage family also reputedly have psychoactive properties, although none as robust as those of Salvia. Interestingly, culinary sage itself containes thujone, the compound which is central to the vision-inducing properties of absinthe (derived from wormwood). Although, during the 60’s and 70’s, there was a folklore about getting ‘high’ by smoking sage leaves, they are probably better left for use as a spice, as thujone is thought to cause brain damage (although that may be just a typical scurrilous piece of anti-drug anti-visionary lore).

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MusicBrainz!

Welcome to MusicBrainz, “a community music metadatabase that attempts to create a comprehensive music information site. You can use the MusicBrainz data either by browsing this web site, or you can access the data from a client program — for example, a CD player program can use MusicBrainz to identify CDs and provide information about the CD, about the artist or about related information. You can also use the MusicBrainz Tagger to automatically identify and clean up the metadata tags in your MP3 collections….

Many MP3 lovers have a huge collection of MP3 files but often have a hard time finding the music to which they want to listen. The MusicBrainz solution for this is the MusicBrainz Tagger, a Windows application that uses acoustic fingerprints (TRMs) to semiautomatically identify tracks in your music collection and then write clean and accurate metadata to your music files.” [There is also a Mac version.]

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MusicBrainz!

Welcome to MusicBrainz, “a community music metadatabase that attempts to create a comprehensive music information site. You can use the MusicBrainz data either by browsing this web site, or you can access the data from a client program — for example, a CD player program can use MusicBrainz to identify CDs and provide information about the CD, about the artist or about related information. You can also use the MusicBrainz Tagger to automatically identify and clean up the metadata tags in your MP3 collections….

Many MP3 lovers have a huge collection of MP3 files but often have a hard time finding the music to which they want to listen. The MusicBrainz solution for this is the MusicBrainz Tagger, a Windows application that uses acoustic fingerprints (TRMs) to semiautomatically identify tracks in your music collection and then write clean and accurate metadata to your music files.” [There is also a Mac version.]