My blog contains a large number of posts. A few are included in various other publications, or as attached stories and chronicles in my emails; many more are found on loose leaves, while some are written carelessly in margins and blank spaces of my notebooks. Of the last sort most are nonsense, now often unintelligible even when legible, or half-remembered fragments. Enjoy responsibly.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Do you have Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder? Better ask your Doctor

The story behind the “discovery” of PMDD illustrates how an unknown, unofficial and, for some, unreal condition can be pushed from the back pages of the psychiatrist’s manual into glossy magazines and onto TV screens.

Cut to the 1999 TV commercial:

An anonymous woman tries to disentangle a shopping cart from an interlocked row of them, outside a suburban store. She is frustrated and angry. She becomes even more exasperated when another shopper enters the frame, calmly unhooks a cart and glides smoothly on her way. Watching this TV advertisement unfold, it might look like the woman is experiencing little more than a normal bout of tension or stress. But the folks at the drug company Lilly know better. This woman may need a powerful antidepressant because she is suffering from a severe form of mental illness known as PMDD. “Think it’s PMS? It could be PMDD,” intones the voiceover. This remarkable disorder was discovered right as the patent for Prozac was about to run out. So Lilly decided to repaint Prozac in attractive lavender and pink and rename it Sarafem.

In a recent study by Dartmouth College analyzing some seventy drug company ads in ten popular magazines, they found that almost half tried to encourage consumers to consider medical causes for their common experiences, most often urging them to consult a physician. The ads targeted aspects of ordinary life including sneezing, hair loss and being overweight - things many people could clearly manage without seeing a doctor - and portrayed them as though they were part of a medical condition. The researchers speculated that advertising was increasingly medicalizing ordinary experience, and pushing the boundaries of medical influence far too wide.

This medicalization of everyday human experiences is allowed to happen because the drug companies are allowed free reign of both medical funding, medical advertising, and an overly welcoming drug approval process. So in accordance with both the drug companies and the compliant FDA, I would like to officially announce my new miracle drug called Repressitall for Living Includes Frequent Experiences or LIFE. Repressitall deals with LIFE in a way that allows an individual to exist without actually having to “experience life”. The new miracle drug will give people the power to travel through life in a state of complete ignorant bliss all for the low price of $300 a week with 15 small pills a day. I hope to have FDA approval by next week.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Entry for November 20, 2006

I’m in the process of reading Richard Dawkins new book The God Delusion, and he developed the classic Bertrand Russell Teapot (or the Celestial Teapot) a bit further:

If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.

The reason organized religion merits outright hostility is that, unlike belief in Russell's teapot, religion is powerful, influential, tax-exempt and systematically passed on to children too young to defend themselves. Children are not compelled to spend their formative years memorizing loony books about teapots. Government-subsidized schools don't exclude children whose parents prefer the wrong shape of teapot. Teapot-believers don't stone teapot-unbelievers, teapot-apostates, teapot-heretics and teapot-blasphemers to death. Mothers don't warn their sons off marrying teapot-shiksas whose parents believe in three teapots rather than one. People who put the milk in first don't kneecap those who put the tea in first.

It’s odd that certain long held understandings have moved back and forth from mythology for so long without an open discussion as to both the viability and sustainability of most organized religions. I believe that it was Joseph Campbell that once said, “every religion is true one way or another. It is true when understood metaphorically. But when it gets stuck in its own metaphors, interpreting them as facts, then you are in trouble”.

As our worlds religions fight back against scientific advances with a call for intellectually laziness and apathy towards questioning of the unknown, I wonder if we are to keep reliving the same dark ages and renaissances of our previous generations. With each major advancement in knowledge evolution the major religions are reorganized to suit the needs of keeping people in check – but at some point will that no longer be necessary? Do you believe that we will outgrow our need for religion as a intellectual thought becomes harder and harder to subvert – or will organized religions always evolve to keep pace?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

It's beautiful Bubba - SHOOT IT!!!

This weekend is the start of the hunting season here in Michigan and the single white doe are out in force unaccompanied. It seems that all of the local bucks are out in the woods, armed with semi-automatic weapons, camouflage, electronic deer tracking systems, attempting to outsmart a creature that eats grass.

This is a hobby that I will never understand. There is no more of a challenge in hunting dumb creatures as there is in playing chess with a retarded person. Sure you’ll beat the less intelligent creature, but what do you actually get in return? Are you that sad of a person that you need to kill something with an IQ less then 30 to feel good about yourself? And don’t even try to use that “we hunt for the meat” crap – because the amount that hunters spend on supplies far outweighs what they could have just paid to buy the meat. Also, if you need to get away from your wife that badly, maybe you should spend that weekend thinking about why that’s so.

So this weekend, as I’m scoring with your wife, I hope you have fun with the guys in the woods, drunk off your ass, reconnecting with your primal instincts by slaughtering bambi. Or as you might say, grunt grunt growl grunt small penis grunt.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die

As we slowly decide what to do with the increasing civil war in Iraq I’m reminded of John Kerry’s April 23, 1971 Senate Foreign Relations Committee speech where he asked the now famous question: “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam?” It was an open omission that we had lost the war in Vietnam and a called for an immediate solution. At the time that speech angered and garnered approval from both sides. Those who refused to admit that the war in Vietnam was lost were upset, and those who saw the situation as lost were glad that Kerry said what they did not have the voice to say.

Now, as the war in Iraq winds down to an unfortunate conclusion a similar situation is building. Both sides now clearly admit that the war did not go as planned, has gotten out of hand, and is unwinable – although no public official of any rank will come out and say such. So again we head back to history to look at the Vietnam War for hints as to what will come next. To do so all we have to do is to look back at my November 30 blog post from 2005. It is posted below, unaltered, for both posterity and point:

Vietnamization is the term for President Richard Nixon’s policy in the early 1970s to turn the job of defending South Vietnam back to the South Vietnamese government. The policy was part of a broader plan to reduce and eventually withdraw American troops from the Vietnam War. America did pull out of the war in 1973, but South Vietnam survived on its own only until 1975 at which time it collapsed and was taken over by North Vietnam.

Iraqization is the future term for President George W. Bush policy in 2006 to turn the job of rebuilding Iraq over to an unprepared Iraqi country. The policy will be part of a broader plan to reduce and eventually withdraw Americans troops from the War on Terror in Iraq. Iraq will quickly crumble due to its lack of sustainable economy, underdeveloped government and the War on Terror in Iraq will cause Iraq to become a heavy source for future terrorist cells and recruitment.

This was blatantly obviously a year ago to me – a political outsider who only had access to the mass market news sources and a decent education. The only thing that was not easy to predict was what they would call this new Iraqization. So here we all sit, waiting with bated breath, waiting for what we now know will be called “phased redeployment” and thinking of that parallels of Vietnam once again. Again we the people do not have a good solution and spend our days arguing over what can and should be done in our lost war. And again, I think that a version of John Kerry’s 1971 speech is not called for. Except this time, confused, angry, and looking to find a politically acceptable term, let us change his saying to fit the time. So now I ask you, how do you ask a man to be that last one to die for a phased redeployment?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Entry for November 11, 2006

This week NASA released some pictures and a short video of a super hurricane measuring 5,000 miles across on the South Pole of Saturn.

This prompted a couple of the news stations brilliant flaxen-haired media personalities to prophetically postulate on whether or not it was a black hole on the surface of Saturn.

So in response to their brilliant question, I would like to answer them here publicly:

No, sweetheart, it's not a hurricane and here are a couple reasons why:

There's light near where the Schwarzschild radius would be, the gravitational pull would collapse the planet, there are particles obviously traveling up and down, and it doesn't seem to have a density of matter that has become too great in the self-accelerating process to warp four-dimensional space time to a point singularity wherein the Enterprise could clearly travel through it.

I hope that explains it.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Bush Names 2 New Enemy Combatants

At 1pm EST on Wednesday November 8th, President Bush signed an executive order naming the both Jim Webb from Virginia and Jon Tester from Montana as enemy combatants and had them shipped out of the country. Both Democrats had thin margins after the voting yesterday was completed, yet both Democrats were close enough for Republicans to challenge the vote totals. The former potential representatives are rumored to now be somewhere in a secret prison in Uzbekistan. Meanwhile, Congress moved quickly to fill those holes with what majority leader Dennis Hastert called “reasonable representatives” by brining back both Tom DeLay and Mark Foley to fill the two new vacancies. In Bush’s statement he said, “What the hell did you think I had Congress throw out that habeas corpus thingy for anyway? I’m the king dammit, and I’ll stay my own course”.

Monday, November 06, 2006

What to Recall, What to Forget Nov. 7

The latest New York Times/CBS poll shows that only 29 percent of Americans approve of how President Bush is handling the war in Iraq.

That's terrible news for Republicans on the eve of mid-term elections. While some frantically try to distance themselves from the president, others are frantically trying to distract voters.

Please worry about illegal immigration, they say.

Worry about gay marriages.

Worry about income taxes.

Worry about the stand-up comedy career of John Kerry.

But please, please put the ongoing debacle in Iraq out of your mind when you walk into the voting booth.

Just try.

October was the bloodiest month for coalition forces in almost two years. According to the Pentagon, 105 U.S. soldiers were killed, most of them by improvised bombs.

Don't think about them November 7th.

Don't think about all the funerals at Arlington. Don't think about the months of rehab at Walter Reed, learning how to walk with prosthetic legs or eat with prosthetic arms.

Don't remind yourself of that day, so long ago, when Bush posed on the aircraft carrier and announced that major combat was over. Mission accomplished.

Don't remind yourself of how Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld belittled the insurgency in Iraq, and predicted we'd make short work of it.

Don't ask yourself what those arrogant fools were thinking when they dreamed up this war.

Please don't think about the phantom weapons of mass destruction, or about the obliging and unquestioning members of Congress -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- who bought the hype.

Don't think about what happened at Abu Ghraib prison, or how it helped turn so many Iraqis against us.

Don't ask yourself how Afghanistan, haven for the guys who planned the 9/11 attacks, got shoved to the back burner. Don't clutter your head with thoughts of Osama bin Laden, still very much alive and spewing hatred -- in hiding nowhere near Iraq.

And please don't think about where we are today, stuck in the middle of a religious civil war between the Sunnis and Shiites, with violent fanatics on both sides. Also, don't worry about Iran waiting on the sidelines, juicing up its nuclear program.

When Bush stands up at a campaign rally and says America is safer now than it was five years ago, don't think about the National Intelligence Estimate completed by 16 U.S. spy agencies. Their conclusion: The occupation of Iraq has galvanized Islamic radicals and actually increased the global threat of terrorism.

That, from the top intelligence officials in our own government. Their report was done last April, but kept under wraps until the details began leaking in September.

Here's something else not to think about on Election Day: A 2005 study by the National Intelligence Council saying that since the invasion, Iraq has become the main training camp for the next generation of terrorists and future leaders of al Qaeda.

Every day the war comes home in a crushing way to another American town, to heartsick wives or husbands and to children. The finest soldiers in the world are fighting their guts out in a place where they are increasingly viewed, and treated, as invaders.

The same politicians who got us into the war promise to get us out, but they can't say how or when. They're more comfortable ranting against lesbian weddings and illegal farm workers than talking about the 105 coffins that were shipped home last month from Iraq.

They'd prefer that the war wasn't a big campaign issue, and that voters didn't wonder about the doubts of our own top generals or the bleak assessments from our own intelligence networks. Or about the president himself, grinning like a Muppet while defending the competence of Cheney and Rumsfeld.

Try not to think about that on Tuesday.

Just try.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Politics: A Wealthy Gentlemen’s Game?

There are those that always speak of Adam Smith when talking government, elitists, and support for candidates who believe in the “invisible hand”. These quotes and arguments all seem to miss Smith’s (2003) caveat of “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices”. Extremely wealthy businessmen have but one reason to enter politics and it is usually to extend their wealth to friends, family, or business associates. I would like to think that I’m wrong and that their philanthropic nature is what’s compelled them to work for lower pay – but I live in the real world.

Here in Michigan we have a race going for governor where one of the candidates is the son of the billionaire Amway founder, one of the top 5 campaign donators and fundraisers for his national party over the last 7 years, and has spent over 40 million dollars of his own money on this election. Now I have nothing against billionaires, but there is always something fishy when someone who owns several billion dollar corporations, an NBA basketball team, and who has been personally drug before the FCC and sanctioned for running an almost illegal pyramid scheme, decides to get into politics. Anyone with that much money and power usually only gets into government for one reason – and it’s not good.

One really has no further to look then to the fall of Rome to know from where and to what ends government corruption springs forth when the state is captured by elites who use it for their own purposes. And just like in Rome, our state is subject to the same variables of a religion overstretching to weakening the bonds of government, excessive governmental bloat, attacks by barbarians, and a general culture of corruption. Edward Gibbon, in his monumental work The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (2005), concludes that "The story of its ruin is simple and obvious; and instead of inquiring why the Roman Empire was destroyed, we should rather be surprised that it had subsisted so long." The story itself is one of slow growth, bringing a high quality of life to a large percentage of the masses – which made them apathetic towards governance. This, in turn, allowed their politicians to do all sorts of horrible things. Couple this with a religion imposing itself through the state and you see the eventuality of most powerful governments throughout history.

Arthur Gordon once said "Some people confuse acceptance with apathy, but there's all the difference in the world. Apathy fails to distinguish between what can and what cannot be helped; acceptance makes that distinction. Apathy paralyzes the will-to-action; acceptance frees it by relieving it of impossible burdens.” These acceptances of an increase in the inherent level of government creep, especially when times are abundant, are counterbalanced by the natural tendencies towards either revolution or constant flux that delays the inevitable outcome of weight that fell Rome.

All of it reminds me of our own beginning and a specific comment from my favorite demigod who, upon leaving the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia on September 18, 1787, was accosted by an anxious lady named Mrs. Powel who asked of Benjamin Franklin, "What type of government have you delegates given us" to which he replied, "A republic, if you can keep it”.

Smith, A. (2003). The Wealth of Nations. New York, NY: Bantam Classics.

Gibbon, E. (2005). The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Norwalk, CT: Easton Press.

Isaacson, W. (2003). Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.