the watch
bush lied, people died. escalate nonviolence.

Evict Bush!

Saturday, June 21, 2003  

Quick hits

Sometimes you gotta laugh: Searchin' Every Which A-Way for WMD (courtesy of theologicus on dKos).

One of the more interesting commentors (also in that same comment thread) is General Wesley Clark's son, Wesley Clark, Jr. I must say I'm impressed with his posts and if his dad is as good at expressing a solid progressive message, he certainly would be worth looking at some more.

I've got some questions for Dick Morris:

Who armed all these Islamic fundamentalists? Who poured money into Pakistan in the 80's? Who cut deals with the mullahs in Iran to fund terroism in Central America? Who tried to negotiate a pipeline deal with the Taliban AFTER they blew up the buddhas and forced jews to wear stars of David? Who goes and works for Halliburton and the Carlyle Group when they leave office (or continue working for them while in office)? Who allowed the Saudis to evacuate all members of OBL's family living in the U.S. right after 9/11? Who has blocked and prevented any After Action Review as to what happened on 9/11? Who tried to block the creation of a Department of Homeland Security? Who has not fired or brought to accountability a SINGLE PERSON for the intelligence failure that led to 9/11?

But the most important question of all - WHO WAS THE PRESIDENT FOR NINE MONTHS PRIOR TO SEPTEMBER 11TH?

The entire national security apparatus knew about OBL and the danger from Islamic fundamentalism prior to the Bush takeover. When my father left NATO (while Clinton was still in office) he said that the greatest danger to our country was terror arising from Islamic fundamentalism - this was felt very much across the board except for the Pentagon which was obsessed with Iraq and Hussein throughout the 90's.

In the United States Army, a commander is responsible for everything that happens under his command from the day he takes command. Sniveling about predecessors doesn't absolve a commander for dereliction of duty.

What exactly did Bushco do to protect the American people from Islamic fundamentalist terror for the first nine months of the administration? Zero.

The intelligence failure that led to 9/11 rests squarely on the shoulders of one man - George W. Bush.

Posted by Wesley Clark Jr. at June 21, 2003 10:29 AM

Very nice.

So what would you tell the DNC if you had a chance? Emma debated one on Atrios and has an excellent suggestion. (scroll down to the June 21st entry: Emma Debates the DNC)

I've been invited to join Steve Soto and a few other contributors in making the Left Coaster a group blog. I hope to use the offer to participate in more strategizing with Steve and the others. My first entry on Think Tanks is now up. I'll be posting to both blogs. The group blog concept seems to be catching on more because it provides a ready source of content even when the blog owner is not able to post. And people can afford to take vacations, concentrate on work when necessary and even just decide not to blog at all on some days.

I know I appreciate getting to blog with Natasha and James and now I get to blog with Steve too. For someone who has always been fascinated by politics, it is great to have virtual conversations with others who are also care about these things. I think that the internet world is going to make a difference in the next election and our blogging can build a community of activists with some good ideas to contribute to the fray. And perhaps DNCdoug will take Emma's advice. :-)

posted by Mary at 11:49 PM | PERMALINK |

Roving About

Go to Orcinus, start here, read down.

Over at Kos, Steve Gilliard talks about the growing Iraqi resistance, and why it's unlikely to be the result of pro-Saddam partisans.

Liberal Oasis on why seniors aren't buying Medicare reform, among other things, and also a piece on how conservatives are being allowed to define liberalism.

Mark Morford rocks: Oh my god, it's the gay Canadians, lock up the border, Pa. Why Walmart is evil. We need a president with libido. And finally, why the rest of the world hates Bush.

Counterpunch: The paramilitary bloodbath in Colombia continues unabated. In Brazil, President Lula da Silva is walking a fine line. The Iranian revolution, reloaded. Bush family historical revisionism, past and present. Will transgenic salmon outcompete the real thing?

Asia Times: Coming full circle, the US government now hopes to support communists to fight fundamentalists as part of their tone deaf meddling in Iran, while the true popular movement has no leader. Team Bush losing the peace in Afghanistan. Indian business leaders look for their share of China's growing market. Who will be hurt by sanctions against Burma.

TomPaine: Should corporations have first amendment rights? Why we have an estate tax. Progressives need a banner.

The Guardian: China is changing, will we in the west be able to wrap their heads around it? Has an air strike in Iraq finally taken out Hussein?

BBC: Russian pollution killing the Baltic. GM crops are jumping their pens. The Y chromosome isn't going anywhere, which, you know, is pretty cool. Hard brushing damages teeth. Maternal nutrition determines stroke risk.

Information Clearinghouse: We're missing a jet, everybody panic. Invading Iran; will we or won't we? Bush team blasts NGOs for not furthering their public relations goals. Not content with ticking off most of the known world, the Bush administration is now taking aim at Libya. The US hits new record in home foreclosures.

posted by Natasha at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK |

Friday, June 20, 2003  

Better Bloggers, Round Two

Wampum is back! And so is flashback Friday.

In a similar vein, Blog Baby takes on a longer flashback trip to last century's progressive movement.

Billmon has been on a blue streak over at the Whiskey Bar. All not well in Baghdad, though you'd never know it from a steady diet of Rumsfeld. He also points out the social justice of executive pay, brings us a footnote that may need to be tagged onto all of Bush's speeches, brings us the end of the world as we know it, and some very dedicated folks who've set themselves the task of cataloging Bush's lies about Iraq.

Mad Prophet, also on a tear, brings us the corporate invasion of Iraq, an amusing Arianna Huffington column, and a disturbing glimpse into Israeli PR policy.

ReachM High weighs in on the Republican desire to thwart the filibuster.

The Sideshow on yet another thing that the Democratic leadership needs to noodle.

To The Barricades finds another link (practically usable in court, by Dubya standards) between Republicans and cat killing.

Martin Wisse brings us a portrait of an American Conservative, and talks about secret detentions in the US. As Jim Henley noted, the phrase the US government engages in the practice of secret detentions should create a not inconsiderable amount of alarm.

Al-Muhajabah says that the problem with most applications of Shari'a law is that they strict enough, and if you go read the post that will make every bit of sense.

Plucky Punk: Bush Lied, People Died.

Over at Kos, RonK wants us to help Mallard Filmore find the T.P., and Steve Gilliard doesn't want to hear another word about the poor, dead Shia being used to justify the invasion of Iraq.

Ampersand responds to someone who has accused him of being unsympathetic towards Israelis.

And Angry Bear brings us dueling quotes on matters of government interference, as part of a political tennis match with a libertarian.

posted by Natasha at 7:48 PM | PERMALINK |

Fun Facts About Water

Water is called the universal solvent because of its proclivity to dissolve all manner of things. It can do this because the oxygen in H2O is a first-rate hog of negatively charged electrons. It keeps most of the negative charge at it's end of the molecule, leaving the hydrogen atoms at their ends with a slight positive charge. And as you probably remember from back in the mists of time, those charges will seek out opposite charges. When water meets up with other molecules or atoms that have any kind of charge, or that easily interact with oxygen, the water molecule wiggles in wherever it can. It can't dissolve fats, or any other compounds where the molecules are electrically neutral.

A small Texas town has had their water contaminated by trichloroethylene. But they probably don't believe that misery loves company.

About 70% of the planet is covered in water.

Critters that live in water are fast going extinct due to overfishing and pollution.

Only 1% of the Earth's water is available for use by humans and other land-dwelling organisms.

Glaciers which provide much of our fresh drinking water are shrinking worldwide at an alarming rate.

People really should have eight glasses of water a day for optimum health.

In some parts of the world, large numbers of people spend much of their day fetching and carrying water for basic needs.

Fresh water is regenerated through the water cycle, the process of evaporation and precipitation that creates glacial snowpack, and fills rivers, lakes, and aquifers.

Millions die every year due to conditions that could have been prevented by having access to an adequate supply of clean water and sanitation facilities.

posted by Natasha at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK |

Cheaper Drugs

No, not those drugs, these drugs. Congress will allow the importation of prescription medication from Canada, a country whose safety record and manufacturing processes are virtually identical with our own. Also, loads cheaper, as many seekers of telemedicine and cross-border travelers have discovered.

In addition, legislation was passed that reduces pharmaceutical companies' options in keeping generic drugs off the market. This will definitely reduce costs to consumers, and if you're one of those people who worries about whether the generics are 'as good', stop worrying. As long as the formulation is the same, the generic drug will be just as effective, thanks to that big gummint' regulatory body, the FDA. They may not be perfect, but they have their uses. If you're concerned about privatization of Medicare, however, the article notes some worrying trends.

I'd previously linked to a post from the Bloviator describing the pharmaceutical industry's lobbying plans, and it's good to see that the fox hasn't yet been put altogether in charge of the henhouse. But keep an eye out, because just like the media companies, their dream bottom line and your welfare do not always lie along the same path.

posted by Natasha at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK |

Do we have to know this for the test?

Summer quarter will start on Monday. I'll be taking 3 1/2 weeks of botany, followed by 3 1/2 weeks of inorganic chemistry. Basically, two 10 week, 6 credit science classes with lab included compressed into a little over 3 weeks each, and 4-5 hours a day, every day.

I'm not saying this to complain, because attending college has been a long-delayed goal, and I think it'll be fun to try a distilled version of these subjects. But one thing that I absolutely do not want to hear even once during this time period is one of my fellow students piping up with "Do we have to know this for the test?" Every time I hear that, I just want to scream. And maybe one of these days, I'll get up the gumption to explain my frustration to the next blockhead that attempts to ruin my learning experience with this line.

Your teacher knows that there's going to be a test. Why? Because they wrote it up themselves. They show up every day to try to help you get information from point A (book, whiteboard, notes) to point B (your noggin), in the hopes that you will be a credit to the work they've put in preparing you for whatever comes next. If they express a desire for you to learn something, please try and do so. They may even draw particular attention to certain topics, and suggest that the class really cover them. If you were listening instead of fidgeting like a bored high-schooler, you would probably already know what was going to be on the test.

You bring everybody down. I've never yet seen an instructor whose whole countenance fails to sink at the first hint of this question. I've yet to see a student look more engaged and interested when the inevitable discussion ensues about 'what you have to know.' I personally don't have to know any of this. I paid a good chunk of my own money to attend these classes to try and learn a new subject, and I already have an okay job. I actually want to know this information, because I'm looking forward to putting it to use, and I don't want that interrupted by your whinging. Also, it doesn't help me learn when my teacher feels like giving up on the lot of us because they think no one cares about the subject matter.

College is hard. It isn't impossible, unreasonably daunting, or scary, but it requires attention and commitment. Do not show up to class and be astonished when actual thought is required of you. Don't take up everyone else's time asking for a full chapter summary of the reading you were supposed to have already done, but figured you could slide on. And don't top this off by asking whether or not this 'hard' material that you haven't put any effort into studying will be on the test. Trust me, someone is beating back a desire to rub your nose in the (probably) expensive book that you haven't even cracked.

Learning is a comprehensive endeavor. Consider the possibility that in your laser focus to memorize which bits of trivia will be on the fabled test, you have overlooked something that would have helped the whole thing fall into place for you. Skipped over a concept which would have helped you build a mental framework into which these disconnected bits of trivia fit like puzzle pieces into a rational whole. When you do have to memorize things, it makes it ever so much easier when those things make some sense to you.

Therefore, if they say it, give you an assignment covering it, ask you to do a project on it, repeat it in class on at least two consecutive days, or write it down on the big, blank boards at the front of the room, just for love of god, try to learn that information and stop bothering everybody with inane questions. Indeed, if you would be so kind, ask questions about the material itself and participate in the discussion. And always assume that the answer to whether or not something will be on the test is "Yes."

PS - Yes, there are boring classes, bad teachers, and some classes are always going to be more important to you than others. But have some consideration for the rest of us, and complain to friends, who do all of us the invaluable service of volunteering to listen to their friends' complaints free of charge. Alternately, you could always blog about it, which is just as good ;)

posted by Natasha at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK |

Better Bloggers

Over at Eschaton, courtesy of Leah and Freelixir, we get the good news that congress overturned the FCC deregulation, or at least the most heinous parts. Yay, elected representatives. And Atrios points out that Aznar and Blair will be duking it out over Gibraltar, and no doubt arguing about who was more 'Willing' to go along with our Boy George's last crazy scheme.

Talk Left brings us news of a potential liberal cable channel, Joe Biden's latest betrayal of liberty in the guise of fighting crime, and the Republicans sneaky plan to block filibusters.

Dave Pollard comes up with (only?) 10 things that don't make sense, and immediately below that shares a poll with us comparing the attitudes of people living on either side of the borders of the US.

Left Coaster Steve Soto brings us the three latest Bush team outrages, and tells Terry McAuliffe to get off his bum and start acting like an opposition leader, or quit. And I'm sure that we can all agree that it would be a terrible shame if a guy who encouraged his party to act like Republican wanna-bes during the last election cycle, and thinks that labor unions are elitist, were to pass his job on to someone a little more, you know... liberal.

Magpie lets us know that a filing in Texas to re-open Roe v. Wade has been dismissed.

Ruminate This has more on the FCC deregulation rollback.

The Eyeranian talks about the wisdom of leaving Iran well enough alone, the dangerous ramblings of Michael Ledeen, and the People's Mujahideen (aka: MKO, Mujahideen e-Khalq,...).

Pandagon brings us the news that outspoken anti-war MP George Galloway was smeared, with at least some of the papers alleging ties with Hussein having been proven forgeries.

Go read Late Night Thoughts on corporate morality.

Jimm at FreedomCentury rambles intriguingly about fanaticism, how the EU has been able to accomplish with sweet talk what the US couldn't with threats, and also, California Republicans. Oh, how the party of Reagan has fallen.

Seeing the Forest talks about economic disconnects in the US, and points us to a recent speech by former Senator Max Cleland.

posted by Natasha at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK |

Quote of the Day

From the TNR article:

"What we must not do in the face of a mortal threat," Cheney instructed a Nashville gathering of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in August 2002, "is give in to wishful thinking or willful blindness." Cheney's admonition is resonant, but not for the reasons he intended. The Bush administration displayed an acute case of willful blindness in making its case for war.


posted by Mary at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK |

Descending into Mad Max's World

Tristero brought to my attention an article in the New Republic that is definitely required reading if you want to understand the serious misuse of the intelligence agencies and willful blindness of the Bush administration as they ignored and suppressed any information that did not allow them to justify their war.

Why it is really bad that they are allowed to get away with this is laid out in an interview that Tom Paine had with Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies.

TP.c: So we're in an era where might makes right, even if it may not be right. And it doesn't matter if it starts with a bunch of lies, because if you have the biggest military you can just bully your way through.

Bennis: Absolutely. The question is, are we going to be in a position in this country to hold our government responsible for those violations of international law as much as we hold it responsible for the violations of U.S. law? All of those things are important. If we allow our government to get away with this power grab, both domestically and internationally, we are setting the stage for a far graver loss of democracy, both in our country and around the world, than anything we have seen so far.

With the Republican-controlled Congress holding secret investigations, I suspect our ability to hold our government accountable is sadly lacking.

Yet, it will be up to us to keep this issue alive until we can find a way to stop this relentless march into lawlessness.

posted by Mary at 9:31 AM | PERMALINK |

Thursday, June 19, 2003  

Asperger's Syndrome
Pt. 2 - Hey, look, it's the...

People with Asperger's Syndrome, or Aspies, aren't defined by unusual physical characteristics, and though we may dress a bit on the geeky side, there's not much to catch the eye. But we open our mouths for 10 minutes... and there's sometimes no telling what will happen.

Asperger's could be called Late Bloomers Syndrome, and encapsulate much of the condition that falls into the notice of those who don't live with us every day. The most defining characteristic to the outside observer is diminished social skills, caused (as is commonly agreed) by having little to no natural ability at reading body language and social cues. As quoted from a virtually random Google result ;)

Studies done on how we communicate indicate that the overwhelming majority of all communication is in body language and tone of voice. One study said that only 7% of communication was in the words themselves, with 54% being body language and 39% in tone of voice and delivery. ...

Maybe not numbers to stake your life on (though we have a second vote), but probably pretty near the actual divisions. Every day when talking to people, the typical person gets about 90% of their information from non-verbal cues. That's a lot of data.

We get that 7% of word content, some portion of tone of voice, and very little body language. Maybe overall, we get 10-30% of the information that other people get probably 60-90% of. While this ability tends to improve with age, we may be years behind our peer group, and perhaps never fully catch up in all areas.

Turned back around the other way, the body language and tone of voice that we communicate to others may range from poorly to inappropriately expressive. The voice may be flat, unmodulated, movements and gestures stiff, the face may lack expression. Given sufficient attention, this too can be improved, but it doesn't come to us naturally.

Not Quite Shy

People with Asperger's may often be described as unsociable, shy, aloof, hermit-like even. Which doesn't entirely gel with the somewhat raucous or intent discussions, dry to arcane humor, and to some extent, easily familiar conversations that we exchange with like minded individuals.

It isn't that we don't like talking to anyone, but years of negative conditioning can teach even us that it's better to keep quiet than risk starting a commotion. When speaking in professional or academic settings on topics with which we're familiar, it might be hard to come to the conclusion that we're afraid to speak. Whether we're always good at it...

When young, Aspies may launch into long monologues covering obscure interests. (This tendency never *entirely* goes away, but usually gets moderated.) Other traits may include being blunt to the point of rudeness, so literal that it would try the patience of saints, having almost no concept of when we are being put on or lied to, inflexible in our habits and routines, hard put to understand hierarchies of authority, and stubborn beyond belief.

Even more frustrating for those in charge of me, I often refused to do anything without a reason given that sounded logical. I had declared war on "because" at a young age. Unable to pick up the signals that would indicate an adult was reaching the end of their patience, this (it's not a bug, it's a...) feature caused a lot of problems. I wasn't sure what it was, but I held a deep conviction that 'something' was seriously wrong with me.

As a young person, these traits made me the frequent target of jokes or gags, and earned the enmity of peers and adults alike. It's a little difficult to describe how it feels when your parents and teachers insult you in public, when peers whose friendship you've tried to win whisper about the 'idiot savant', when the few things you're proud of doing are a running joke.

It isn't as though every day were awful, as though no one spoke to me, or my family didn't care for me, but it was a prickly kind of life. And I became pretty prickly right back, probably pushing away some people who could have been friends to me. It took me a while as a child to figure out that the way I was sometimes treated by others was not the best type of behavior to imitate.


Very early, Aspies tend to construct complex fantasy lives, or bury ourselves in an obscure hobby. Often both at once.

For hobbies, being the hyperlexic critter I was, I lost myself in books. They weren't as confusing as people, they did not make bizarre, nonsensical demands. The toybox that my dad built for me at a young age was often emptied of all it's toys after I learned to read at the age of three. Then the books and me would occupy the box for hours.

I would not go anywhere without a book as a small child (and still often even as a teenager), and would sit reading quietly almost no matter what was going on when I was away from home. When I was reading in the backseat of the family car by myself during trips, my mom would sometimes look back to make sure I was still there. She was a little unsettled by me even then, a toddler sitting in the car, making no noise at all.

From children's tales, to archeology, to an intent interest in ancient Egypt, and later science fiction, I could hardly be pried away.

Look Out, School

After discovering in the lower grades that socializing was NO FUN, I started bringing books to school or checking them out at the library, and spent most of my time with them. I would walk while reading, lining up my feet with lines on the playground, looking up when peripheral vision indicated a change in terrain. I sat to the side, and seldom played with others. Mostly, I would read whenever I could, in place of homework, on the playground, and if I could get away with it, during lecture. In later grades, the librarians with whom I was always on a first name basis would let me check out my own books.

The only altercation I was ever in during all my school years was in 4th grade when a girl took off running with the book I was reading. (It was a $100 tome on Tutankhamen's burial treasures, loaned to me by a teacher.) I gave chase, and ended up putting her in a headlock until she handed it over. I didn't hit her, push her to the ground, or hurt her. She was just trying to hold on to the book, which I was terrified that she would damage to get me in trouble. When I had it, I went back to my bench. I expect she just wanted to see if there was any way to get my attention.

In fifth grade, my teacher caught me reading during class one too many times. I was forbidden to read at all that year, including during recess and lunch. She thought that it would be good for me to socialize more, or maybe she just disliked me, an opinion that even my parents came to concur with. Possibly, it was the worst school year ever. I did not have the coordination for sports. I had nothing to talk about with the other children, and they didn't much want to talk to me, either. Many insults were exchanged, arguments had, etc.

Eventually, I began going to the nurse's office frequently to get my temperature taken. If it was even one degree above normal (small child, moderate exertion, what are the odds) I had to stay in the office until my mom came for me.

Sixth grade, I went to another school. I didn't finish every assignment in a given week all year. My teacher devoted an entire vocabulary test to me a few months into the second semester. We had 20 words that we were supposed to have learned; he would say the word, make up a sentence for it, and we wrote down the proper spelling. After around ten "Shipwrecked: Natasha will be shipwrecked on the rocks of life" type pronouncements, I bolted the classroom to sit on the stairs.

Circle of Protection: Words

It's a wonder that I wasn't beat up or targeted for more bullying in grade school. This is the common fate of people on the high-functioning end of the spectrum, as well as anyone else that falls into the geek/freak/nerd categories, before their peers mature and become interested in other things. I was lucky enough just to be about as thoroughly and roundly shunned as possible, though I would occasionally pick up maybe one other outcast for company.

Imagine picking for teams in PE when you were in school. Dead last, behind the sickly kid, behind the one with the weight issues, and even the one that didn't take baths, that was when I got picked. Yet I managed to fend everyone off by being, unintentionally or deliberately, strange enough that no one really wanted to bother me.

I'd been told (remember what I said about the being literal) that it was my job as a good fundy to preach the gospel to everyone I could. Judging by the moderate social success of other children in my church, I think they figured out early on just how seriously to take this recommendation. Let your imagination run wild, it was possibly as bad as that.

Also, all that time reading had done its thing. I sounded like, and was often called, a walking dictionary (among other things.) It didn't take much time to figure out the power of very long words coming out of the mouth of a very small child.

I enjoyed the words, I loved them in all their polysyllabic rambling glory. They were beautiful, rolling, mysterious, gearbox creations of interchangeable parts and subtle grandeur. I couldn't understand people's reactions to them very well, but they would get the one response that I wanted out of most of these strange folks; to make them go away.

Other times, not talking at all would work. A certain kind of tormentor would get bored after a time and wander off to find a more interesting target. Though when confronted with extremes of emotion, or angry authority figures, I was frozen. In those cases, I barely had the choice to speak or not. Mumbled and repetitive phrases, or utter silence and a gaze firmly fixed on the floor or some inanimate object, were all that was left.

Between the extremes of pedantic chatterbox and stoic mute, I managed to fend off the worst bullies, get myself in trouble with most authority, and generally have a crazy time of things.

First Friends

Not until junior high did I find some other compulsive science fiction fans and embark on a teenage life that approximated normalcy.

My academic achievement was poor, though I tested into more advanced classes. I'd been given to expect by my family that college wasn't in my future, so there was no logical reason (I figured) not to spend all my time doing what I liked. I read between three to five novels per week, but I had people to talk to them about.

After school, after leaving behind the fundamentalist christianity I was raised in, I settled in with gamers & SCA people. And finally, after trying many strange philosophies, I gave up religion for politics, with a little eclectic spirituality on the side. Because for an Aspie, there's nothing that beats growing up and finding the rest of the oddballs.

Every year has been better after high school. To this day, I don't understand people who wish they could be kids again. I just think, "And go through all that again! What, are you crazy?"

Read Part 1 - Cranky Bodies

Read Part 3 - Grand Obsession

posted by Natasha at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK |

Democracy is Coming to the USA

Forget about sleep. Forget about clear thoughts. Forget about reserve. Sane men do not write essays in the dead of night about songs they really like. But today I heard this song for the first time. For eleven years this song existed and I didn't know about it. It filled me with such emotions I could not speak. What can this text--so mysterious I was initially bewildered--yet so effective I wept helplessly--what message could it bear? It was on an album of songs by Leonard Cohen that I found it. In interviews he was reluctant to elaborate what he meant by this song, and I don't blame him. For an artist, poetry and song is his voice; you can't make him clarify in another. But I think I understand what he means. I've struggled to write poems and I wouldn't really want to have to explain exactly what those meant, but poetry is not my easiest voice; and this entry will try to render some fragment of the meaning I perceived in this wonderful, disturbing song.

It's coming through a hole in the air,
from those nights in Tiananmen Square.
It's coming from the feel
that this ain't exactly real,
or it's real, but it ain't exactly there.

This describes the anaesthetized state we've been in for quite a few years--the sensation that civic life has been wholly devoted to denying the presence of the elephant in the bedroom. Pop theories abound to explain the frustration and alienation that has become so ubiquitous; but in the meantime, the institutions we've created to serve our needs had turned on us like a drunken Golem. The great wealth we've wallowed in, the great wealth that was so new to those champions in Tiananmen Square, is not enough to hide this.

From the wars against disorder,
from the sirens night and day,
from the fires of the homeless,
from the ashes of the gay:

The choice of words, "War against disorder," seems prescient--we certainly seem to be fighting a war against untidiness right now--but there's been a "War against Drugs" for years and a general mania to face each new-seen problem with a new regimentation.

Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.
It's coming through a crack in the wall;
on a visionary flood of alcohol;
from the staggering account
of the Sermon on the Mount
which I don't pretend to understand at all.

Democracy, here, means a spirit. It's not a revision of the constitution, or a change of political parties; it's love as the primary civic emotion, love trumping fear. The Wall (a movie inspired by the music of Pink Floyd) describes our mutual fear and aggrievement like a brick wall we build around ourselves. Will this insight come to the slobbering drunk (or to the stoned?) Or will it be an inflamed channeling of religious feeling? Will it be that which makes the crack in the wall?

And what about the Sermon on the Mount ( Matthew 5-7)? Can anyone pretend to understand it at all? Well, either one lives it or one scoffs at it. Or one doesn't understand it. There must have been a compelling reason why Jesus had high apostle turnover (John 6:44-66). Modern readers will assume he scared off a crowd of followers because they foolishly assumed he was talking about cannibalism. In which case, why did he make so meager an effort to clarify what he meant? Do you rejoice, and are you glad when others persecute you? Or "utter every kind of evil against you falsely"? Does it occur to you that Michael Savage is making us blessed? It doesn't occur to me often, and yet it's true.

It's coming from the silence
on the dock of the bay,
from the brave, the bold, the battered
heart of Chevrolet:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

The silence on the Dock of the Bay--could that be Otis Redding sitting in the morning sun? Could it be the harsh introspection of the unemployed? Could Leonard have just watched Roger and Me? After all, Moore's film is not so much a documentary as an emotional rant against the state of perpetual psychic anesthesia (that's why Moore juxtaposed, for example, vignettes of economic devastation with those in pursuit of thoroughly frivolous new careers). And yes, the firm pilloried in Roger and Me is General Motors.

It's coming from the sorrow in the street,
the holy places where the races meet;
from the homicidal bitchin'
that goes down in every kitchen
to determine who will serve and who will eat.

The "sorrow in the street" is reinforced by "the holy places where the races meet"--something they do entirely too seldom. But what on earth can Cohen be talking about when he speaks of the democracy coming from "the homicidal bitchin' that does down in every kitchen"? It's the place that President Harry S Truman advised the heat-averse to avoid. But Truman's metaphor was a bit too bland. Certainly the legislature of my state has witnessed "homicidal bitchin'... to determine who will serve and who will eat." All pretense of fairness or balance or decency is long gone. Perhaps that's where democracy will come from--when last in the dooryard lilacs bloomed, we turned away and forgot our tyranny of parsimony.

From the wells of disappointment
where the women kneel to pray
for the grace of God in the desert here
and the desert far away:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

Here Cohen's prescience is almost unbearable. This Isaiac vision of grace and hope amid the horror spills out from the music recorded eleven years ago into the blasted, arid parts of Iraq and Afghanistan. There's a button I've seen on pro-invasion blogs, the words "Democracy Whiskey Sexy" which one liberated Iraqi was said to declared he was eagerly anticipating in his country. A certain category of hawks there is, who thinks our vices--alright then, our unfettered appetites if you prefer--are a force of liberation from the tyranny of the mullahs. As if Nassau Senior lived for nothing, I guess.* In the event, Iraq and Afghanistan have clearly become, or remain, places where appeals to God are really the one recourse left to women.

Sail on, sail on
O mighty Ship of State!
To the Shores of Need
Past the Reefs of Greed
Through the Squalls of Hate
Sail on, sail on, sail on, sail on.

Cohen is not accusing us of being especially prone to these emotions, but likens them--in a delightful old metaphor--to the things that can injure democracy as an expression of civic love.

It's coming to America first,
the cradle of the best and of the worst.
It's here they got the range
and the machinery for change
and it's here they got the spiritual thirst.
It's here the family's broken
and it's here the lonely say
that the heart has got to open
in a fundamental way:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

The family Cohen speaks of is the same one he always speaks of--a family he usually believes--except in moments of profoundest despair--can be redeemed by this love, this philos and this agape** he alludes to so much. Despite the fact it incites widespread hilarity everytime I say this, here it is in print: we are a nation going mad from thirst for love. We stuff our mouths with comfort foods and wallow in the most mawkish romantic fantasies, follow leaders who caress our vanity and delude our sense,...and wonder, in print, "Why do they hate us?" Our foreign policy has become a either a vengeance on others for not loving us, or (among fools of my own persuasion!) an untapped potential to win love.

It's coming from the women and the men.
O baby, we'll be making love again.
We'll be going down so deep
the river's going to weep,
and the mountain's going to shout Amen!
It's coming like the tidal flood
beneath the lunar sway,
imperial, mysterious,
in amorous array:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

I realize this is a family blog, but Leonard's spirituality is like the odor of moist earth in a woodland creekbed of sensuality. This is not a song for the "self-actualized," but the holler of a prophet--a prophet whose ribs are visible from an epoch of mourning, even as his sensuality oozes. And I saw the truth of the ancient conceit of true prophets, that even when they fast in the most arid of wastelands, it is we who are truly parched--not they.

Sail on, sail on ...
I'm sentimental, if you know what I mean
I love the country but I can't stand the scene.
And I'm neither left or right
I'm just staying home tonight,
getting lost in that hopeless little screen.
But I'm stubborn as those garbage bags
that Time cannot decay,
I'm junk but I'm still holding up
this little wild bouquet:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A

FOOTNOTE: * There's been an extremely strong tendency among self-described "libertarians" in blogistan to favor both the invasion (which certainly was a big international scheme of income redistribution) and mysticism-purged world that a modern, consumerist society is supposed to provide. Nassau W. Senior (1790-1864) was a good representative of the Classical spirit of economics which libertarians are compelled to regard as sacrosanct. "Underconsumptionists" like the much vilified Keynes believe mature market economies don't consume everything they produce, in large measure because income is concentrated among the wealthy. Senior, inheritor of a great fortune in West Indian sugar, said that great holders of fortunes, through "abstinence from consumption," accumulated productive capital, thereby enriching society; whereas the destitute had the feckless tendency to consume what little they had. Senior wrote the Poor Laws of 1834 which remained in force for several decades. His goal, of course, was to reduce consumption.

** Philos is civil love, ties of loyalty and social affection. Your associations and friendships, the ones you honored and which defined you--these were animated by philos.

Agape is the sensation of holding something dear. It was translated in the KJV as charity, which is a horrible translation. Although awkward, "cherishing" or even "tenderness" (which, until pop love songs, meant exactly the same thing as agape) is far more accurate.

"NEITHER LEFT NOR RIGHT": Cohen (being wiser than I) shuns any sort of political label, and words shouldn't be put in his mouth--not when his own are more than good enough. But as a wonk and outed partisan, it seems to me there has to be something that wrecks our democratic credentials--something sufficient to make democracy something we thirst for, rather than have. And it seem to me that here is something the right and left can agree on: that we've relegated our choice to machine-line institutions. The right blames our state; fair enough, we at The Watch won't quarrel with that. The left blames our corporations--which certainly behave like have-a-nice-day nazis at times. But it seems to me that social critics of the two sides are arguing that the other is the partisan of the side that's the most sick. O, God, God, how weary, stale, flat and unprofitable seem to me the uses of this world! Fie on't, tis an unweeded garden that goes to seed: things rank and gross in nature possess us merely. Well, the state 'tis a tare and the corporation a nettle, and your true dull minds affect the one or t'other.

posted by James R MacLean at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK |

Wednesday, June 18, 2003  

Finally, credit where it's due...

I've been tremendously lazy about thanking Fred of Rantavation for the very cool javascript up above that's counting down the number of days we have left to clear the Shrub. (And it was what, like a month after he so kindly sent it that I put it up?)

So please steal this script, spread the news, and send Fred a nice thank you email.*


* Unless you actually want to help Bush get elected. In which case, write your own javascript.

posted by Natasha at 8:36 PM | PERMALINK |

Tuesday, June 17, 2003  

Worthwhile Readings

How religion and politics mix in the USA is the topic of a couple of interesting reads, one by Amy Sullivan in the Washington Monthly which says Democrats need to get religion if they want to win.

The other by Tristero reviews an interview with Jeffery Sharlet about his time spent with the Fellowship, an ultra-secret, yet very powerful group that sponsors those Washington Prayer Breakfasts. Frankly, after reading Sharlet's article, I'm not sure I want religion anywhere close to our politicians.

The goal [of The Fellowship] is an "invisible" world organization led by Christ -- that's what they aspire to. They are very explicit about this if you look in their documents, and I spent a lot of time researching in their archives. Their goal is a worldwide invisible organization. That's their word, and that's important because it sounds so crazy.

What they mean when they say "a world organization led by Christ" is that literally you just sit there and let Christ tell you what to do. More often than not that leads them to a sort of paternalistic benign fascism.

Who is part of this select? I was disappointed to see that ex-Senator Mark Hatfield had been one of the group. One question I didn't see answered was whether this select group of the truly elite were only males or if females were also welcomed. If women aren't welcome, then one way to diminish the power of this group is to vote a straight female ticket the next time. I'd just as soon have the First Amendment separation of Church and State be strongly supported rather than having to worry about these guys bringing about their "new world order".

Another don't miss read can be found at Buzzflash who has an excellent interview with John Dean. Perhaps this is why Bush has been talking about revisionist historians?

DEAN: Actually, I was stunned when I went back and pulled all of his pre-war statements about WMDs. None of them is the slightest bit equivocal. To the contrary, he speaks like a man who has actually seen the weapons. These pre-war declarative statements make glaring his most recent statement where he now has become equivocal. His last public statement was that Iraq had "a weapons program." A program, of course, is only a plan, not actual possession. This is an inconsistent statement that calls into question his prior statements. While the White House has tried to spin it, the president’s latest statement effectively undercut all his prior statements.

As lawyers know, when a witness gives inconsistent statements it is said he or she has been impeached. Once a witness is impeached it takes additional evidence to rehabilitate that witness. What the White House needs to rehabilitate the president is obvious: They must find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, or this president's credibility is in trouble.

Tristero had another fascinating post about spotting the Bush lies and introduced me to the writings of Dr. Renana Brooks who examines how Bush uses language to bully people into doing things his way.

As a psychologist who evaluates and treats problematic power patterns, I have learned to focus on how people use language, to watch not what people say but how they say it. Bush’s language structure has received little scrutiny and is modeled on a very powerful relationship-communication structure: the language of abuse.

She says Bush uses "personalization" where he firsts paints a very bleak and negative picture, and then sets himself up as the only person that can protect his target from the terrible boogie man that he has created. Somehow, we need to find a way to expose this abusive pattern and show the abused American public that they can find a way to break their co-dependence on this brute and to find other (more hopeful) solutions to our problems. Perhaps we should look at how people help battered women break away from their abusers and then start using the same language when talking about Bush.

posted by Mary at 11:15 PM | PERMALINK |

Better Bloggers

More comedy thanks to Easter Lemming.

Talk Left on how the RAVE act is already being used for political intimidation. And a big thank you for this travesty to Joe Biden, D-DE.

At Atrios, Lambert brings us Krugman, and Leah reminds us why outrage is appropriate regarding the FCC deregulation. Apparently the buzzards have already begun to file their merger plans.

This evening I've been catching up with The Sideshow, and while I'd comfortably recommend reading the whole thing, take particular note of Miller vs. Miller and Orrin Hatch's burning desire to destroy your computer (but only if you deserve it.)

At Kos, Steve Gilliard lays out the many troubles of Tony Blair.

Max suggest that we probably won't invade Iran. Not because someone in the White House has developed a sense of shame, but because we're already embroiled in two regional quagmires.

There are several good posts over at the Whiskey Bar, but my favorite is another collection on the record administration quotes, this time on the subject of those mysterious WMDs that we absolutely did find. Coming in pretty close are the comments of the latest Bush staffer to resign in disgust.

Road to Surfdom discusses the necessity of honesty in representative government.

Thanks to PLA, we find that Oliver Willis has kicked Bill O'Reilly right in the First amendment.

On a related note, Congressman Randy Duke Cunningham was quoted on the Daily Show last Wednesday as having said that "Some people, in my opinion, like to hide behind the First amendment."

Jon Stewart suggested that it was "Perhaps because they're being shot at by people hiding behind the Second."

posted by Natasha at 10:45 PM | PERMALINK |

Neighborhood humor site at it again...

In contrast to the rest of the nation's economy, the GOP is reporting record 2nd quarter profits. Let's turn the floor over to one of their main spokesentities for the joyous news:

..."Quarters like this don't come along very often," Republican Party CFO Dick Cheney said. "In a three-month span, we inked deals with more than 1,300 corporations, signing contracts to build everything from oil pipelines to surveillance equipment to aircraft carriers. We've also aggressively expanded into some lucrative new overseas markets. I honestly haven't seen a boom like this since the go-go early '90s."...

Area man Justin Wilmot withheld 95% of his opinions during a recent family gathering. Speaking of the experience, he said in part:

..."Once you let go of the need to express your thoughts to your family, you suddenly feel much lighter," Wilmot said. "You just float along blissfully, finally liberated from the burden of having any presence at all. It's sort of like getting to return to the womb. Which is way more enjoyable than trying to explain to a tableful of Celine Dion fans why you can't stand her."

And their person-on-the-street opinion gathering lets our fellow citizens weigh in on the FCC's media deregulation decision:

"Yeah? Well, if this is such a big problem, why aren't we hearing more about it on the news?"...

posted by Natasha at 5:14 PM | PERMALINK |

Take Two Minutes...

...and avail yourself of the last opportunity to try and save media diversity in America.

Congress will be voting tomorrow on whether or not to overturn the FCC decision to allow further media consolidation. Please ask them to just say 'no'.

posted by Natasha at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK |

Laura Ingalls Wilder was a Radical Feminist!?

So, the other day I was in the local Barnes & Noble, moving some copies of 'What Liberal Media' and 'The Clinton Wars' up to a display table to share some face time with 'Useful Idiots,' and I spotted an interesting looking book. It was called Abuse Your Illusions, and it seemed worth thumbing through.

So, while there's a number of nifty topics (as you'll see if you go to their website), I land at their essay about educational inequality. And I'm reading pretty much these same arguments, about which I should probably do some more homework. But here's the thing: after going on to describe how the US/western educational system is massively failing males, they pin it on too many female teachers and strict discipline in the classroom.

At which point, my mandatory childhood read of 'Little House on the Prarie' comes flooding back to me. If I recall correctly, though I may not, all of the frontier school teachers described in that series were female. They had rulers, and they weren't afraid to use them. There was no 'boys will be boys' in the classroom. There was no shifting around, no giggling, no talking, and no parents who would tell the teacher she was being hard on you. And there were plenty of the sort of rote tasks that are alleged to crush boys' spirits utterly.

Did those boys turn out to be uninspired problem children? Wimps? Ashamed of their masculinity? Yet by the standards of many mens' rights advocates, the sons of the Pioneers were subjected to a rabidly anti-male environment.

But we don't even have to go all that far back in our history to find an archetype of this rigid, female dominated classroom alleged to destroy the young male mind. How about the classic image of Catholic school:

"The thwack of rulers hitting knuckles. Towering, glowering faces cloaked in long black habits and skirts. Students cowering in their seats.

Despite the fact that Catholic nuns in general have undergone drastic changes over the past 30 years, those stereotypical images still come to mind for many people. ..."

While the article goes on to describe the changes that have come to these institutions, often held up as examples of quality education, there's a reason that people call the stereotypes to mind. My mother and her own two brothers went to Catholic school for a while, and I was told horror stories involving strict discipline, rulers, and rosaries used like precision ballista. (To be fair, she may have exaggerated the frequency with which these incidents occurred.) I'm not likely alone in being raised on these stories.

And yet no one of my folks' generation, to my knowledge, has accused Catholic school of ruining their sons chances of success in life. Or blamed it for destroying their own masculinity. In the 1950's, are you kidding me!?

Nothing To See Here. Move Along.

Are schools failing children of either gender? Are higher education's resources being stretched too thin, allocated to the 'wrong' people, or put out of reach of too many through discouragement? What level of discipline is optimal, and should it be uniform throughout the population of grade school children?

Well, I don't know. I won't pretend to know, or suggest that these are simple questions. In fact, each of them likely deserves a tremendous amount of attention and careful consideration.

But it seems a prima facie case can be made that disciplinarian female teachers at the primary school level are not the cause of whatever problems the author of the essay was describing. So move along, folks. We need serious answers to these questions. And pinning them on the favorite anti-feminist root cause for all that's wrong with the world won't get us much closer to figuring out what the real story is.

posted by Natasha at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK |

No taste for empire?

Steve Soto remarks on this Newsweek article which questions the competence of the Neo-Cons. Evidently people are starting to examine some of the assumptions that took us into the war on Iraq.

Speaking in the sober tones now coming out of the White House, one senior administration official sums up the problem: America has the power of a true empire, like Rome or like Britain in the 19th century, but not the taste for acting like one. “Look at us in Iraq—how much difficulty we have in saying we will not anoint people to run the country. Does anyone think the Romans or the Brits would have been deterred for one second?” he says. “People keep accusing the administration of being imperialist, or neo-imperialist, or seeking an American empire. It’s just not in our nature to be imperialist.”

How nice. Now that we are there for an unforeseen length of time.

Now [Wolfowitz] indicated that Iraq looked more complicated than Bosnia. “We’ve been in Bosnia for eight years,” Sen. Joseph Biden snapped back. “That would seem to compute that we’re likely to be in Iraq for a long time—a long time.”

At least the Roman Empire had a plan when they conquered a new country. Bushco's plan was to let the market rule. And rule it does. They just hoped it would work. But as the Army saying goes: Hope is not a plan. Can we find some adults to put in charge now?

posted by Mary at 7:02 AM | PERMALINK |

Monday, June 16, 2003  


The Guardian: AIDS pandemic multiplies starvation woes in southern Africa, leaving many families entirely dependent on aid now that breadwinners are too sick to work. Will evidence of government lying wake Australia's disengaged electorate? Two hundred and fifty very brave Iranians have signed a letter asking the Ayatollah to step down from his position as God's representative on earth.

From the Asia Times: How the Bush administration is playing into the hands of Iranian conservatives. Will oil producing nations jump ship on the dollar?

Christian Science Monitor: The marriage of Al Qaida with Bali's homegrown terrorists. In Bangladesh, family planners and conservative clerics are working together to help women plan the size of their families. Librarians dig in to fight budget cuts as demand for services soars.

The Village Voice: (warning: slow to load) Nat Hentoff discusses the stand that leaders of the black community in the US have taken against Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. Sydney Schanberg covers the news that dare not speak its name: the declining standards of US journalism, and the boardroom 'market made me do it' arguments that the press would gleefully skewer were they issued by other industries.

The Village Voice also listed the following headlines from other sources: The Boston Globe's editorial slant will now favor pro-life sensibilities when discussing abortion. Four in ten senators are millionaires. A group of French exchange students told to stay home after some families refused to house them. More comment on the prevailing belief that WMD have already been found in Iraq.

posted by Natasha at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK |

Better Bloggers

Angry Bear posts the letter of a Lucky Ducky who has generously offered to allow the suffering WSJ editorial page editors to switch places with him. I bet they're all hoping for the short straw in *that* office pool. He also points us to Amy S.' post where she examines an editorial in that paper where it's claimed that anti-war politicians need to be held accountable for inflating WMD claims. Yes, you read that right. They lied, and it's our fault. Click on over, try not to splutter too much.

Body and Soul talks about corporate involvement in human rights abuses, and why the US army needs to get out of the photo-op business in Iraq and let the established humanitarian organizations take over.

Brooke Biggs talks about the amazing, expandable, plastic, extendable contract of wonder and fun that's been granted to Halliburton to clean up Iraq's oil industry like the blessing of a benign and overindulgent parent.

Beautiful Horizons writes about malnutrition and poverty in Mexico, and on the Organization of American States' recent vote to reject a US candidate for a human rights panel overseen by the commission, and immediately below that post a summary of recent wranglings with Cuba.

Electrolite talks about the idolatrous aspects of the new flag-burning amendment.

Mark Kleiman wonders if the Bush administration is having fun with the tough choice between liberalism and democracy they are presented with in Iraq.

Mad Kane has revived Dubya's Dayly Diary. Heh.

Daily Kos notes that Gen. Wesley Clark gave what would be an excellent job interview for vice president on Tim Russert's show Sunday. Leah at Atrios has more.

Late Night Thoughts is very, very angry, and it sounds like she's given the matter some thought.

And head over to the Whiskey Bar to find the particulars of what probably keeps our reserve bank chairmen in their cups, namely, the US' massive debts and reliance on imports. Though it's unclear how soon a crisis point will be reached, because as he says:

...The sheer size of the U.S. debt also means that America’s foreign creditors have a vested interest in propping the system up. Or, as Keynes once put it, if you owe your bank $10,000 and you can’t pay it back, you’ve got a problem. But if you owe your bank $10 million and can’t pay it back, then the bank has a problem. In finance, at least, size does matter.

But while crisis can be delayed, it can’t be delayed indefinitely. The numbers are simply growing too enormous, as I explain below. Either American living standards will have to be adjusted downward, imperial ambitions will have to be curbed, or America’s foreign creditors will have to agree to some kind of a workout. ...

He has graphs and everything, so go read, and don't stop when you get to the comments.

posted by Natasha at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK |

Sunday, June 15, 2003  

Asperger's Syndrome
Pt. 1 - Cranky bodies

In response to a spate of recent interest in, and confusion about, Asperger's syndrome, I'll be writing a small series of posts on the topic. Not as a parent or caregiver, but as someone who lives with it, and remembers growing up with it.

A frequently overlooked issue in autism spectrum disorders, which include Attention Deficit Disorder on one end and profoundly affected individuals who never speak at all on the other, are physical symptoms. In part, the behavior ranging from quirky to unnerving gets all the attention. But the other side of that is an affected person who may be incapable of communicating pain or discomfort, or simply not realize that anyone should be told.

As a child, I suffered from headaches from the age of 8 or 10 on up. As a teenager, these turned into severe migraines that worsened and became more frequent with every year. I didn't really discuss them with anyone until the age of 24, when I realized that in fact, it was very odd to feel that your head was literally about to explode for hours on end. My doctor prescribed a bunch of medicine that didn't work, and some that kinda-sorta helped.

My younger sister had headaches starting about the same age, and she would tell our mother about them at once. When I was discussing what I'd found that finally stopped my migraines with my mother last year, she had been unaware that I'd ever even had them, and neither she nor my sister had ever mentioned her migraines to me. I had stopped asking for medication when in pain quite young, as it was simply ineffective. I assumed that it was simply a price I had to pay for reading a lot, which I wasn't about to give up.

My joints were often painful, I would get dizzy unaccountably, and was nauseated frequently. Extremes of heat exhausted me quickly, making summertime my most hated season. Extremes of cold were physically painful, but at least I could put on more clothes. My coordination was very poor, and not until I reached my twenties could I catch something small thrown to me across a room. I would trip a lot when young, but could right myself well enough to avoid more than usual injuries. Participation in sports was virtually out of the question.

I was starving all the time. Because I didn't have any weight or eating disorder, this seemed trivial. But when very hungry, I became indecisive, lethargic progressing to unavoidably sleepy, either very agreeable or decidedly grumpy, and could become disoriented. When also ill or worn out, I would get tremors, starting with my hands, progressing to body wide shivers. These symptoms would reverse within minutes of eating.

Insomnia has been a problem since I was a teenager, and my sleep generally poor for many years. Daytime sleepiness marked years worth of school and work, and I've had to select jobs and residences based on short commutes and non-repetitive activity out of self-preservation. Not until sometime last year was I able to sort out the cause well enough to wake in the morning after a full eight hours' sleep without still feeling completely exhausted, or to be able to feel tired enough to go to sleep at bedtime.

Course Corrections

A few years ago, before suspecting ADD, Asperger's, or anything like that, I sought medical help for these physical conditions which seemed to be growing worse every year. Taken alone, they are niggling, taken together, this collection of mounting aches, pains, and exhaustion (the above list is by no means complete) was debilitating, sometimes frightening.

My doctor at the time waved it all away. She had no interest in determining a cause, a reason, or even referring me to someone who might have a better idea. In desperation, I turned to a holistic healthcare practitioner, who told me on the first day that I should avoid milk, wheat, soy, and a number of other foods. Also, to be sure and eat a little something every two to three hours.

Within three days the migraines that had become a daily phenomenon stopped cold, recurring infrequently since. The aching joints gradually got better, and I stopped feeling like an elderly arthritis sufferer. My aversion to noisy environments was reduced, and I was a bit less sleepy.

Since then, I've gradually figured out what I can and cannot have, and what symptoms a given food causes. No wheat or gluten, no soy, no almonds, no bananas, no MSG or aspartame, rarely dairy, caffeine in extreme moderation, and sugar in even more moderation. I do well on a high protein diet with lots of fruit and vegetables. Also, and this was a hard one, I can't be exposed to forced air central heating that's become contaminated with (I'm guessing) mold.

Besides physical symptoms decreasing, I became better able to deal with stress. Less easily overwhelmed, less prone to giving up, more alert, more relaxed in the company of others.

Not Just Any Old Laundry List

I was referred at one point to grief counseling to speak about the possibility that I might simply continue to feel worse for the rest of my life. The person that I ended up speaking with also had a great deal of experience with autism spectrum, attention deficit disorders, and adults finally coming to terms with the fact that they just didn't seem to 'fit in' with people.

I was tested for attention deficit disorder, and on a scale of 0-120, I came in at 101. It probably would have been higher at a younger age, and as it is, practically falls off the scale in relation to typical behavior patterns which fall in the 0-50 range.

In a book by Temple Grandin, Thinking in Pictures, I recognized many habits of thought and relation. Particularly vivid to me were her accounts of puzzling out the byzantine complexity of typical systems of rules. But it was in an autobiography of high-functioning autistic Donna Williams, Nobody, Nowhere that I found the first clue that physical symptoms might be related to autism spectrum conditions.

Donna spoke of feeling more composed and less easily overwhelmed when she started a better dietary regime and taking certain vitamin supplements as a young woman. Physical symptoms (an undiscussed presence in her earlier life) were now notable by their absence. Certain that I was on to something, I found a book by a mother who had brought a profoundly autistic child back from silence and disconnectedness through dietary adjustments.

Unraveling the Mystery of Autism and PDD, Karyn Seroussi's account of tracking down physical interventions that reversed what were considered purely genetic symptoms was riveting. (For me, anyway.) The program doesn't work for every person on the spectrum, but has provided dramatic results for some. The description of physical symptoms, with digestive problems as a partial or main cause, seemed to fit very well. I got some better ideas of what I should be trying/avoiding, and had more incentive to be rigorous about my nutrition.

For those of you who aren't going to rush out and buy Seroussi's book, a summary of frequently asked questions can be found on her website. They have far more extensive recommendations there for dealing with unique dietary constraints, and where to find certain hard-to-get items. (Like allergen-free children's supplements.) If you end up having a hard time figuring out what to cook, try the Gluten Free Gourmet, Bette Hagman, who has several cookbooks out, including a collection of gluten-free bread recipes.

Suggestions For the Spectrum

If you are the caretaker of a child with ADD/ADHD, Asperger's, or more severe autism, at least give dietary and nutritional intervention a try. It may not instantly improve our conversation, make us popular in school overnight, or end our fascinations with quirky and arcane topics.

But it may instigate the first sound night of sleep in years.* It may keep joints from aching, heads from feeling like a group of insane little dwarves are trying to hammer their way out,** or stomachs from being constantly upset. It may improve balance and coordination, and reduce sensitivity to noisy public places. Remember that they may not be able or know to tell you that they hurt as other children would.

If you're an adult on the spectrum, hold your nose to the 'illogic' of feeling better because you stop eating bread and pasta. Just try it. If you feel better, you'll never want to go back, and eventually all that stuff will stop looking like food.

While wheat and milk are prime movers, other irritants can include soy, nuts, food dye (especially red, for some reason, and especially for hyperactive types), high phenolic foods (including bananas), citrus, and in some cases hypoglycemic type reactions may present themselves with immoderate sugar intake. Also, you will have to become a compulsive label-reader. Casein, whey - milk derived. Modified food starch - wheat derived. Modified vegetable protein, lecithin - soy derived. But buckwheat - totally safe, and not even vaguely related to wheat. If you don't know what's in it, don't eat it.

Vitamin absorption may be a problem, with B-vitamins and magnesium being most likely deficiencies. Take only hypo-allergenic supplements.*** Unless it says on the bottle that there is no wheat/milk/soy etc., assume that those items are present. If soy is a problem, vitamin E supplements must not be taken unless they specifically say 'no soy', as it seems to be the most common source for that vitamin.

It's hard in the beginning, but luckily, as Ms. Seroussi mentions, there are more and more gluten-free products available all the time. Mainly this is due to growing awareness of celiac disease, a hereditary inability to digest gluten, the main protein in wheat. Dairy is slightly easier to avoid if you read labels carefully, and some individuals can tolerate goat milk better. But most processed, pre-made foods are out of the question. You will find that your grocery store trips will mostly cover the 'edges' of the store, where fresh ingredients are found.

Pass It On

As someone who finally found my voice on these issues, maybe this narrative can be of help to others who are struggling in silence. If you know of individuals or families who have tried everything, maybe one more thing won't sound so bad.

*For sleeping disorders of any type, from sleep apnea, to restless limbs, to insomnia, the book No More Sleepless Nights is an indispensible reference. It also covers sleep disorders of the very young and very old, as well as the problems inherent to shift work, with tips for all.

**Migraines and other chronic headaches may also be exacerbated by chronic dehydration. Six to eight glasses of water daily are a must.

***And, as a cautionary note for all, avoid supplements with iron unless you are an adult woman, and be sparing even then. Men and children do not need more than trace amounts unless they've been specifically diagnosed with anemia. Adequate iron is almost always available to those who eat dark, leafy greens on a regular basis.

Update: Footnotes added.

Read Part 2 - Hey, look, it's the...

Read Part 3 - Grand Obsession

posted by Natasha at 10:24 PM | PERMALINK |