the watch
bush lied, people died. escalate nonviolence.

Evict Bush!

Saturday, June 28, 2003  

Bush and the Death Penalty

When Bush was the governor of Texas, 152 people were executed under his watch. As governor, he was responsible for reviewing every case and deciding whether or not there was sufficient grounds for clemency. Throughout his six years, in only one case did he think perhaps there was sufficient cause to intervene, and in that case, there was proof that the accused had not been in the state during the time of the crime. In this month's Atlantic Monthly, an article talks about the evidence that Bush used when reviewing the cases of the prisoners the morning of their scheduled execution and what information his legal counsel, Alberto R. Gonzales presented to him.

Alan Berlow requested and obtained the memorandum that Gonzales prepared for Bush for 57 of the death-penalty cases. Berlow's review of this memorandum shows that the cases Gonzales prepared ignored critical data and extenuating information that might have led Bush to recommend clemancy. As Gonzales is considered to be one of the leading candidates for nomination to the Supreme Court should a vacancy occur while Bush is President, the way he performed this role is important to examine. It appears that rather than "bothering" Bush with information that might raise troubling questions about whether the death-penalty was appropriate, Gonzales provided material that was prosecutorial in nature and so reinforced the notion that the penalty was justified.

This past week the Supreme Court overturned a death penalty conviction for a Maryland man which has eery similarities to one of the cases Bush did not find sufficiently troubling. From the Maryland case:

The high court said two inexperienced Baltimore County public defenders failed their client, a borderline retarded man, because they didn't tell jurors that he was severely sexually abused as a child. If jurors had known of the abuse, they might not given Kevin Wiggins a life sentence instead of sending him to death row, the majority said.

In Texas, the case of Terry Washington was another where mental retardation and severe abuse were relevant factors that should have been considered:

Most important, Gonzales failed to mention that Washington's mental limitations, and the fact that he and his ten siblings were regularly beaten with whips, water hoses, extension cords, wire hangers, and fan belts, were never made known to the jury, although both the district attorney and Washington's trial lawyer knew of this potentially mitigating evidence. (Washington did not testify at his trial or his sentencing.)

So, it appears that Bush made his decisions on these cases based on faulty and/or incomplete information. Bush's decision making has been a topic I'd explored before here and here. How often is the information being given to Bush faulty? What does this say about him that his advisors feel free to not provide him a complete picture? How much of it is because Bush really doesn't want to worry about the details? He prides himself on his decisiveness, but this can be a very bad trait when the decisions are made without insight and/or thoughtfulness. For Bush, it seems to be yet one more case where a basically lazy and unreflective man relies on his gut feelings and his supreme self-confidence in his own capabilities. That and the fact that God tells him what to do.

posted by Mary at 7:47 PM | PERMALINK |

Essential Reading

South Knox Bubba has the rundown on the prescription drug benefit. It's boring, tedious, buried in technicality, and as usual, very, very important.

Billmon is very concerned about the message that DMZ troop redeployment is sending to North Korea, and he isn't the only one.

Democratic Veteran brings us an interview with Jerry Springer on the topic of his Senate bid.

The Mighty Reason Man on why he supports Howard Dean. He makes some good points, and I very much agree with him on the gun issue. But, as Max Sawicky points out, it's too early in the game to be excessively worried about electability. I'm opting at present to support a more progressive candidate, in hopes that the party higher ups, and the eventual winner, will take the hint.

Wampum has more to say about the medicare reform package, and comments on the MoveOn primary.

Notes on the Atrocities has additional MoveOn commentary.

Beautiful Horizons talks about the evaporation of the free press in Afghanistan, the meeting between Bush and Lula, affirmative action in Brazil, and a host of other interesting topics. It's one of the few unalloyed benefits of blogger that you can just scroll all over an archive page once a post has gone past its sell-by date, without having a destination topic in mind.

Two Tears in a Bucket suggests that California Democrats need to be concerned about overreaching.

Brad DeLong on why our society is not a contract, but an estate.

Magpie had fun wandering the web, and brings us some news about the demonstrations and crackdowns in Iran. And she pointed us to Lady Sun, an Iranian blogger, who had a great deal more to say on the topic of the demonstrations.

Over at the Left Coaster, Mary (hi Mary!) posts on the free market showcase that was supposed to be Iraq, and CA Pol Junkie talks about the mess we're making of Iranian foreign policy. That country comes up a lot, yes, but it's 1) geographically pivotal, 2) resource rich, 3) has one of the world's few high performing stock markets, and 4) wields significant military and diplomatic mojo.

Talk Left indicates that there may be a sane member of the Bush administration, in the person of the deputy attorney general, and points out that Americorps funding is on the chopping block.

Brian Linse encourages readers to support True Majority, an activist group founded by Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's.

George Paine supports and admires our troops but is getting very worried about things like this, and wrote a while back on the reincarnation of Total Information Awareness which is a topic that's started to drop below the radar.

How To Save The World brings us an excellent commencement address, and a review of Fareed Zakaria's take on democracy.

Note: So, this weekend I have to finish a series of essay questions for class, try to catch up on work for my client, and hopefully find time to transcribe my notes from a community coffee meeting held by Rep. Jay Inslee. He took questions, gave us answers, & promised to have his staff respond to additional questions that we were encouraged to hand in if we didn't get enough time to raise them during the meeting. (There were well over a hundred people, and we had about an hour & fifteen to ask questions. They got a lot of comment cards.) It was pretty neat, & I'm looking forward to telling you all about it.

But probably not today. In the meantime, enjoy the great bloggers linked in this post, & check up and down the sidebar over there. We add new folks now and again, and it might be the case that there are some great sites listed that you haven't visited yet. And when you get there, poke around on their blogrolls, too. The one here reflects equal portions habit and laziness on the part of the Keeper of the Roll. Make today the day that you go find one blog that's new to you, or maybe an irregular read, and stop by. There are too many good ones to keep up with & it's hard to rotate when you get into a groove, but hey, you never know what you're missing.

posted by Natasha at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK |

Friday, June 27, 2003  

Feeling the Pain

This is what's happening in my home state, in response to the budget crunch.

Gov. Gary Locke yesterday signed a cost-cutting bill that greatly reduces the amount of assets a married couple can keep in order for one of them to qualify for Medicaid long-term-care coverage.

Beginning Aug. 1, the healthy spouse will be permitted to keep no more than $40,000 in addition to a home, car and certain other necessities. Currently, and until Aug. 1, that figure is $90,660. The amount the ailing spouse is allowed — $2,000 — won't change.

Critics say the governor's signature on the measure — House Bill 2257 — could push some married couples into divorce in order to avoid impoverishment and still qualify the ailing spouse for Medicaid. ...

You want to think about how much it costs to live after retirement these days, and then think about how far $40,000 dollars will go. That's a cat food diet and taking your heart medication only every other day for years. That's needing to think about selling everything and moving in with your kids. And as the article mentions, that's needing to think, after several decades of marriage, about getting divorced for financial reasons.

These are our grandparents, this is how we're treating them. Thanks to Bush's compassionate conservatism, wrenching choices like this are being forced on all of our state governors. They're going to face heat from the voters, curses from the media, and every kind of opprobrium. But when it comes down to it, they're division chiefs, middle managers, and many of them are operating under mandatory balanced budget amendments.

The voting public needs to remember the people at the top who are responsible for presenting us with this problem, we can hold them accountable in the next election.

posted by Natasha at 9:08 PM | PERMALINK |

Essential Reading

Kos talks about his conversation with Terry McAuliffe, and asks for feedback, Gilliard on the deteriorating situation in Iraq (I'm running out of new things to call it, and quick), and we have Kos again, who gets the distinct impression that the troops don't feel very supported.

Digby responds to Kos' commentary about the political leanings of the military, and had an interesting take on what would cause no-talent, middle aged white guys to spew bile in public.

Over at Atrios, Lambert has the lowdown on the enormous fundraising gap between Democrats and Republicans. Scroll down for more good stuff on all sorts of topics like the mismanagement of Iraq, Bush administration denial and obfuscation, what it means to live on minimum wage, as well as the final roundups from yesterday's Savage thumping.

Go to Body and Soul for some commentary on socialized medicine, and scroll down a couple posts for links that continue the theme of distributed responsibility that ultimately becomes no one's responsibility, including this great commentary from Late Night Thoughts.

I don't visit MaxSpeak nearly as often as I should, so here's some catch-up. Max brings us the prophet from Crawford, an exhortation to favor the most liberal candidate possible at this early stage of the electoral process, and makes a case for Kucinich. That last post was very influential in my MoveOn vote yesterday, though I was too pressed for time to remember to blog about it.

posted by Natasha at 6:46 PM | PERMALINK |

Identify This

And now, for a word from our philosophers, emphasis mine:

" of the fundamental characteristics of man's attitude towards himself and to all his surroundings... [is] ...his constant 'identification' with what at a given moment has attracted his attention, his thoughts or his desires, and his imagination.... A man identifies with a small problem which confronts him and he completely forgets the great aims with which he began his work. He identifies with one thought and forgets other thoughts; he is identified with one feeling, with one mood, and forgets his own wider thoughts, emotions, and moods....

...The difficulty of struggling with identifying is still further increased by the fact that when people observe it in themselves they consider it a very good trait and call it 'enthusiasm,' 'zeal,' 'passion,' 'spontaneity,' 'inspiration,' and names of that kind, and they consider that only in a state of identifying can a man really produce good work, no matter in what spere. In reality of course this is illusion. Man cannot do anything sensible when he is in a state of identifying....

G. from "In Search of the Miraculous" - P. D. Ouspensky

A couple weeks ago, James wrote an excellent post on the need to be specific in criticism of the government, lest that criticism seem to the reader as though it were a broad indictment of every US citizen. This post will not argue with the wisdom of that suggestion, but will try and look at why it's so important.

We identify with groups, with events in our lives, with movements, with ideas, with other people. And we may do so to such an extent that our very sense of self feels attacked when this external group, idea, or object is criticized. But this is most commonly the way criticisms are made, and I would suggest that it stems directly from the critic (whoever it is) having the tendency of humans everywhere to speak of other people and groups to which they are not attached in the same way that they speak of the ones to which they are attached.

When we speak of race, a virtually fictional concept, it's almost always from the perspective of an identification with one of these mostly artificial groups. When talking of politics, we can, from moment to moment, be wholly identified with a country, a party, or even a candidate. And the list of things we can get completely wrapped up in is endless.


When I was not yet wise enough to stop being angry about the religion I was raised in, I used to question people who professed a faith about all the things that religion had done to people. Particularly Christianity, because there's almost never anyone as angry as a defector. And I'd almost always get some version of 'Well, they weren't really practicing Christianity.'

This isn't a theological discussion, though. And so the instances discussed, and a conclusion about whether or not the people in question were really Christians, will not happen here. A more interesting question is why was there enough of a concept of group identity and accountability extant in both conversational partners that the issue was a) brought up, and b) defended as though it were meaningful?

And perhaps another question. Why is it that we can always see the fallacy of group accountability (can't judge all of us by one of us) when directed at a group we identify with, but with patchier success when directed at a group we feel no kinship for?


At present, the world faces highly disruptive climate change, the effects of which have been obscured by a spate of massive fires which also accelerated the process. Our global society will also need to deal with human rights abuses, pollution, weapons proliferation, water shortages, food shortages, and a host of other issues.

Most of my readers will have some familiarity with these topics, but I'm not talking directly about these issues, either. I'd rather discuss the actors, governments and corporations, in the main. Two types of fictional entity, acting together, gradually creating an environment that becomes progressively more inhospitable for non-fictional beings.

Corporations are allowed to do things that, if they were persons, would get them jailed, fined, executed, or perhaps burned at the stake by an angry mob. Except that the previous statement is bogus, because corporations can't do anything, only people can. Everything that any 'corporation' has ever done, was done by a person with a name. All the good, all the bad, all individuals.

But we've created these group identities, these associations of limited liability, to ensure that people will be held minimally accountable for collective action. We've even created life goals for these creatures of our own devising; they must profit above all alse. Elevating the sin of greed to the status of a life-affirming virtue.

On the other side of this ethical looking glass wander large and hungry beasts who must consume ever more, extract ever more, and whose very lives depend on Shareholder Value. But, say the beasts, the Profit made me do it. And the fictional entities we call governments wash their hands of judgement, largely because they have become just as faceless, unaccountable, and dependent on Profit.

Don't doubt that there are people who have committed murder in the name of a fictional entity for the goal of securing money, and not in the context of a war, who will never see a trial. Could it be because we allow each other to assume an identity with a larger entity, where the individual becomes merely an appendage? Where the responsibility for bad behavior is so diffuse as to be practically nonexistant?


Why do I get mad when someone insults liberals? I mean, I call myself a liberal, but I doubt that I mean the same thing by that as would someone who breathlessly includes or implies the word "traitor" after the word liberal every time they say it.

And why does the conviction grow every time I listen to popular conservative commentators talk about Americans, that they don't mean me, in my self-identified status as a liberal? Why is it that the more I become drawn into answering their arguments or behavior, the more likely I am to say 'America' when I mean to criticize conservative politicians or a particular government official? The more likely I am to unwittingly, and unwisely, step on someone else's sense of self.

In fact, it seems that in the game of identity politics, the aggregate of media loud-mouths representing conservatism have managed to appropriate the American identity. And somehow, when I listen to them, I know and respond to it. Maybe not consciously, but probably enough to react from it, this feeling of identity theft.

Their words have more and more made America something that doesn't include self-identified liberals. They have taken it, wrapped themselves in it, and made it something that deep in my gut, I feel reluctant to attach any sense of self to. Their words have marked their ideological territory, woe to the competition who smells the piss on the fencepost and doesn't back off.

Taking It Back

Is this the reaction that people intuit when they describe liberals as America haters? I don't know, but it wouldn't surprise me. Just as it was a surprising realization to come to, that this no longer feels like my country, and why I felt that way. Because, of course, this is my country, in every sense of the laws under which we've all agreed to live.

My head is full of fiction, and my instinct and emotion can't seem to tell the difference between that fiction and reality. They react to it anyway. I feel powerless to exclude the people I disagree with from my half-conscious concept of America, so I've excluded myself instead. I've allowed a fictional identity and subtext to manipulate my reactions, to make me an exile living at home.

But in a way, there is no America to be excluded from. Only a dream of a land of the free laid down a couple hundred years ago, and we aren't quite there yet. We're a work in progress. An aggregate of individuals, some pushing, some pulling, some standing to the side, participating in an experiment, a long-standing argument. All of us responsible to one extent or another for who wins the latest round.

Because in the end, there is no 'church', no 'corporation', no 'government', only us. I'm taking my identity back, and my accountability, and giving away my belief in fictional entities that are supposedly bigger and more powerful than I am. Entities that get to behave like antisocial delinquents, because they don't have bodies or proper names. They're just groups of individuals, and I'm holding them accountable, too.

"White Houses do not talk. Buildings do not speak." - Donald Rumsfeld

Exercise: To what extent do you resent or agree with the 'we' statements made above? Why?

posted by Natasha at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK |

Money Where Our Mouths Are

For those of you that voted in the MoveOn primary, and for anyone else who already has a favorite candidate, please take this opportunity to support that candidate. Go to their website, make a contribution, and offer to volunteer if you can. We (and I'm not using the royal we, here) need to be involved at an early date in supporting people that we feel are getting our issues out there.

My early vote is with Kucinich so far, but my 2004 vote will be for The Democrat. So support your favorite Democrat today. Let's clear that Shrub.

posted by Natasha at 2:52 PM | PERMALINK |

Thursday, June 26, 2003  


Electrolite on the prospect that world leaders will eventually be seen to have done that which [they] did, a day that can't come too soon. And read the comments.

Making Light on the virtue of homemade liqueur.

Head to the Whiskey Bar for the war crimes update, and the full report on Bill Frist, senator, surgeon, kitten-killer, amnesiac.

Thanks to the fine folks at Eschaton, I find that they're getting ready to implement paperless voting in my own state of Washington. Very uncool. Also, Leah wants us to take a closer look about the Bush administration's failure to pay attention to terrorism threats on coming into office.

The Left Coaster has more to say about the missed opportunities to get Bin Laden, and the damaging leaks that are revealing the story to the public, also, more GOP hypocrisy.

CalPundit talks about decreasing income mobility.

A Rational Animal (permalinks bloggered) went on a grueling tour of the latest news from Iraq this last Tuesday. One awful thing after another.

Digby points up a John Edwards speech that made me want to stand up and cheer. The eventual Democratic nominee needs to take this line and run with it.

Wampum on the latest developments in the Indian Trust Fund case, wherein it's now being proposed that individual claims may be unilaterally settled by Gale Norton at the Department of the Interior. As she says, it would be "like having Ken Lay square up the Enron shareholders accounts."

At Daily Kos, you can read about the RIAA's plans to sue 57 million Americans, the Supreme Court's decision to overturn a Texas sodomy law, an update on the quagmire, and how a failure to respect local custom is getting British and American soldiers killed.

Dennis Kucinich has put forward a bill to abolish the death penalty, Talk Left has the details.

Over at Orcinus, you can read about the summer camp from hell, and then you might want to continue on down.

Finally got around to putting up this good Rittenhouse post on copyright law, with some good advice for bloggers. I consider myself warned.

Avedon tells us about America's first commie, Benjamin Franklin, who came up with the batty idea of having a publicly funded fire department.

Dennis Kucinich has a blog.

posted by Natasha at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK |

Taking His Name In Vain

Michael Savage Jingleweinerschmidt,
That's my name, too.
Whenever I go out, the people always shout,
"There goes Michael Savage Jingleweinerschmidt"

As you may know, Michael Savage is apparently suing certain websites in part because they allow people to do this over the internet. Moron.

Now, normally, I'd consider it rather rude to call someone a moron. But on the other hand, some kid (right around the age where you end up in sixth grade) called into Savage's show and told Savage that he was the kid's biggest hero. And you might be wondering what this guy has done to deserve this honor, and it was this: Because of the Savage Nation radio program, this kid's dad told him that it was alright to go to school and call other kids morons if he felt they deserved it. The bellicose loudmouth then told the kid that he was one of the "cool kids" now.

Surely, this is a social legacy to be proud of. Some people inspire young artists, writers, or scientists, some people inspire a devotion to civic service, others mentor the business leaders of the future. Michael Savage is trying to inspire a nation full of put down 'artists' who trust in the kindness of sixth graders. A nation full of schoolyard bullies with the mentality of a hungry wolf pack. A savage nation indeed.

Check out the websites on the last line of our jingle for the day, learn about the lawsuit, complain to MSNBC, the whole shebang. It's time to put a full stop to this jerk.

*To the tune of John Jacob Jingleheimerschmidt, if you missed that song when you were small.

posted by Natasha at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK |

Wednesday, June 25, 2003  

Quick Note

Michael Kinsley always has a gentlemanly, yet insightful voice. His column Untethered By Reality is no exception.

As someone who manufactures opinions for a living, it is my job to be sure. And my standards for the ingredients of an opinion are necessarily low. There may be a few ancient pundits such as George Will who still follow the traditional guild practices: days in the library making notes on index cards, a half-dozen lunches at the club with key sources, an hour spent alone in silence with a martini and one's thoughts -- and only then does a perfectly modulated opinion take its lovely shape. Most of us have no time for that anymore. It's a quick surf around the 'Net, a flip of the coin and out pops an opinion, ready to go except perhaps for a bit of extra last-minute coarsening. (Emphasis added)

All I could think was, oh geeze, he sussed me out. (Sometimes that quick Google search brings up an article that doesn't quite support the opinion expressed. Oh well.)

I felt the same when I read this piece by him from last year. That was before I became seriously addicted to blogs. Back then I still had time to watch TV.

posted by Mary at 11:26 PM | PERMALINK |

In the Nation:

Confronting empire, by Arundhati Roy.

...We can reinvent civil disobedience in a million different ways. In other words, we can come up with a million ways of becoming a collective pain in the ass. When George Bush says "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists," we can say "No thank you." We can let him know that the people of the world do not need to choose between a Malevolent Mickey Mouse and the Mad Mullahs. ...

Let weapons inspectors in. Here.

More on the cancellation of Donahue. This bit is an excerpt from his last show:

...And when Donahue asked why anyone should take what celebrities say about war seriously, O'Donnell came back, "Nobody wants to interview the mother of the two kids in my daughter's class who feels the same way. ... I'm not speaking as a celebrity. I'm speaking as a mother and I'm speaking for the mothers who don't have the option of an hour on the Phil Donahue show." ...

The scoop on the Domestic Security Enhancement Act. Shiver.

...It provides that any citizen, even native-born, who supports even the lawful activities of an organization the executive branch deems "terrorist" is presumptively stripped of his or her citizenship. ...They would then be subject to the deportation power, which the DSEA would expand to give the Attorney General the authority to deport any noncitizen whose presence he deems a threat to our "national defense, foreign policy or economic interests." ...

A US citizen stripped of his citizenship and ordered deported would presumably have nowhere to go. But another provision authorizes the Attorney General to deport persons "to any country or region regardless of whether the country or region has a government." And failing deportation to Somalia (or a similar place), the Justice Department has issued a regulation empowering it to detain indefinitely suspected terrorists who are ordered deported but cannot be removed because they are stateless or their country of origin refuses to take them back. ...

Read all about the administration's shameless willingness to bribe and threaten other countries, and the less than polite history of US strong-arming at the UN.

Why has the media failed to report on deregulation of the media?

posted by Natasha at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK |

Courtesy of Atrios, we're pointed to Body And Soul's examination of the riots in Nigeria, popularly attributed to a news editorial about the Miss World pageant. Yet another likely example of the public getting fed a lot of hooey.

posted by Natasha at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK |

Julie Burchil wonders why domestic violence against women is tolerated at rates that violence against gays or minorities would not be.

posted by Natasha at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK |

More Essential Members of the Left Coalition: Christians

A few weeks back I was talking about what a Democrat would need to do to get elected:

I think that the real fight will end up being over fear of the future vs hope for the future. The Republicans need to have people focused on the immediate future (we must be afraid because "they" are waiting to destroy us). The Democrats need to have people believing that there is a future and they need to vote their hopes for a better one. I think that the real battle will be on those grounds.

Today I found a wonderful new blog that expresses the same thought (but oh, so nicely):

Unless progressives can begin to employ imagery that inspires, incites, moves, unites, consoles and strengthens, we will fail. Beginning with Reagan, the Right has been very adept at exploiting the wistful longing of many people for an idealized past that never was. As progressives, our difficult assignment is to focus people on moving toward a better future. That's not easy in our culture where so many are already frightened by the pace of technological, economic and social change. It will take poetry--powerful poetry--to overcome an increasingly dominant desire on the part of many Americans to go hide in the past.

Even better, The Right Christians: answering the Christian Right also addresses the point made by Amy Sullivan. She asserted that the Democrats need to engage religion in order to combat the religious right.

Words that can lift and inspire people, words that create enough hope to go on, these are what we need in our confusing and frightening times.

Many of us feel as if we live in a time when prophecy and dreams have dried up. Our best hope is that things don't get too much worse than they are now. If that dreaming community of Third Isaiah could find the courage to dream in the face of their hardships and rejections, so can we progressives find the strength to dream again and imagine a beautiful and wonderful new heaven and earth where shalom (peace, prosperity, wholeness) and mishpat (justice, fairness) flow like rivers.

And he uses George Lakoff to illustrate the ways the Christian Right tries to create conforming families (ie: two heterosexual parents with dad in charge).

I've been thinking lately that one of the better ways to confront the Strict Father metaphor for morality is to show how Christianity as defined by the New Testament actually is a powerful example of the morality described by the Nuturant Parent metaphor. When reaching a broad cross-section of Americans, messages that resonate with the beauty and compassion that can be found in the Bible, I believe will have the ability to cut through the piety of those like Bush who forget the second basic law was to love thy neighbor as thyself.

posted by Mary at 12:25 AM | PERMALINK |

Tuesday, June 24, 2003  

Better Bloggers & Etc.

Wampum talks about what's really starting to worry the public about our occupation of Iraq.

Frog N' Blog has finished parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7, of an aesthetic manifesto that rambles engagingly about God, the Universe, and Everything. (You can start at 1 and scroll up to 3, then skip to 4 and scroll up to the rest)

Plucky Punk brings us some distressing news on the state of feminist consciousness.

Over at ReachM High, there's an entry called How to win a war, and lose our soul, but I'd have to disagree with the title. It appears to be almost entirely about how to regain soul, security, and our connections with others. And he links to this blog, A Rational Animal which is required reading for anyone seeking to motivate their humanist impulses.

Al Muhajabah updates us about her legal internship, and pointed out a post about Howard Dean's foreign policy views concerning Middle East issues.

Just when a person might think that they were up to date on the latest outright fabrications published in the mainstream media, Ampersand draws our attention to a Greg Palast article on how Cynthia McKinney was smeared (Ampersand uses a less polite term, which I can't fault him for) for something she never even said.

Late Night Thoughts wonders why the massive sense of entitlement that leads to lawsuits against affirmative action never seems to get snagged on the ethics of legacy admissions or Football Uber Alles policies.

Before heading off to move, Lisa at Ruminate this checked in to point out some good posts.

TalkLeft posts a compare and contrast, Kucinich vs. Dean, and I have to say that Kucinich comes out ahead in my book.

Jesse at Pandagon brings us Ann Coulter in all of her unvarnished glory, talks about diversity, and offers an opinion on Gebhardt's recent abuse of language.

Notes on the Atrocities has bloggered permalinks, but head over to read her comments on the affirmative action issue, pointers to good posts, and a reminder that war is, you know, dangerous.

Asia Times: Iraq to be open for business. China and India talking and trading again, but trying to avoid pushing hard on their border dispute. The peace movement lives and breathes.

The Guardian: Blair is hurting Labour in the polls. Six British soldiers die in Iraq. Syria downplays a clash near their border where their troops came under US fire during the bombing of a convoy thought to be transporting Hussein. Naomi Klein's much quoted column on the Republican establishment's war on NGO aid organizations.

Navy Times: Republicans dig in against child tax credit for combat troops. Also, more on the current wrangling over VA funding.

Government Executive: While saying that they have no plans to outsource FAA jobs, Bush has threatened to veto legislation that would block the outsourcing of FAA jobs. Ten states have received additional first responder funding; New York isn't on the list, but Florida and Texas are. Senator calls for CIA documents on Iraq to be declassified. Bush flack at OMB declares complete opposition to any efforts to block the piecemeal sale of civic responsibilities to the private sector.

And Furthermore: That's about all for today, but I'd like to leave you with this observation. There's nothing to utterly destroy a person's faith in the modern medical establishment like sitting in classes with pre-med, medical assisstant, and pharmacy students. Many are blindly obsessed with getting A's, and have zero interest in learning.

Today we went on a field trip to a local park, and seizing and opportunity to connect, our brave botany teacher took some questions about a willow tree as an opening. After mentioning that the family name for willows is Salicaceae, reminding these former chemistry class attendees of a substance called salicylic acid, and reminding them that salicylic acid is aspirin, he got this response: "They named the trees after aspirin?"

While it might not be especially common knowledge that salicylic acid is derived from white willow bark, in context this is just insanely frustrating. It is perhaps the most commonly used and known medications in the US. This type of thing should not be obscure arcana to the people who are going to be treating me and filling my prescriptions.

Plants: They're where the drugs come from. People with aspirations towards the medical field who are unaware of this basic connection are moving towards the Deserving of Undying Scorn category.

But really, should they be held wholly responsible for this? Perhaps not. For admission into medical school, the requirements are truly grueling. Punishing, even. And after all that, they do not ask that the prospective practitioner of the medical arts know anything whatever about nutrition. They instead ask for, and mostly get, hoards of people who've trained themselves to memorize tons of disconnected facts and repeat them back on tests.

We're all of us lucky that a fair number of truly dedicated folks put up with this torture and do their best to help the rest of us anyway. But I'd like to submit that we are not best served by the way medical staff are trained at university.

Update: Body and Soul has returned, go check out this post on the Congolese war, and as usual, read on down.

posted by Natasha at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK |

Monday, June 23, 2003  

CNN Note

In an event worthy of attention all by itself, I saw something unusual on CNN Headline News a bit ago. They were talking about a speech given by Bush today, and I'd tuned out, and then they mentioned the protests outside & I actually turned to look. They were showing pictures, but not the usual ones of the One Weirdo in every crowd. It was mentioned that most of the protestors were women, and it was a mix of anti-war and abortion rights activists. They read one of the signs, "Bombs Drop, Bush Profits."

A few minutes later, they actually showed Howard Dean speaking out against administration policies. His statements were allowed to stand without comment or rebuttal, and he was portrayed as a serious candidate.

Wonders will never cease.

posted by Natasha at 8:53 PM | PERMALINK |

Asperger's Syndrome
Pt 3 - A Life of Grand Obsession

After talking about how our bodies may be cranky, and how our social lives (particularly when young) may be disappointing, readers might wonder if I'm describing a life of unrewarded misery. But happily, no. Looked at from the inside out, I've largely enjoyed my life, and managed to have a pretty good time. By my reckoning, anyway.

Much has been said about the intent, and often single-minded, interest of aspies in one to several specialized topics or interests. When occupied with these, speaking for me at least, life is good. Happily able to entertain myself for hours to days at a time without significant extraneous activity, I'm my own stereo entertainment system.

(Note: BOOK(tm) and COMPUTER(tm) plug-ins optional, not included with original packaging. Plug-in upgrades periodically necessary as Tasha v. 1.509 neural network assimilates new information.)

Which is not to say that I dislike interacting with others. But that it doesn't seem to be as entirely necessary to me as it is to other people, that I can more easily go without if the kind of contact that I prefer is unavailable. And more usually, I tend to maintain a small number of contacts at any given time, because the whole enterprise seems like loads of time-consuming work. Really, it's for the best, for everyone.

Retreating To Where?

As noted, I had a tendency while growing up to retreat into my own world. My own emotions were confusing, virtually alien. The emotions of other people, well... you people, and I mean this in the nicest possible way, really do seem like Martians much of the time. My body often felt like the most confounded and contrary of darned squeaky, wheel-grease-needing, hard-to-steer shopping carts. And when I'm physically worn out, the noise, the lights, the massive amounts of information included in someone trying to make eye contact and get me to answer even simple questions is enough to make me want to curl up and hide.

But where to go? Because walking away from other people isn't always an option, and walking away from your own body is never an option, the obvious step is to unplug. To not pay attention, to be as completely absent as possible. When I started my intermittent sabbaticals, I was a bit too young to be able to know for sure if it was intentional, accidental, or instinctual. But it was very attractive, though less so as real life has become more engaging.

The first books I remember really enjoying were about fairy tales or mythology. It didn't much matter which, and later, this played into an interest in archeology. Science fiction wasn't far off, with offworld adventure stories making regular appearances in my latter grade school reading. All of this served as backdrop to develop my own stories when I ran out of books, or ran out of adult forbearance with my incessant reading.

I designed civilizations, different races, different societies, dozens before high school. Some stories I wrote down, some just stewed. I'd incorporate things I was reading about from virtually any topic or subject, or just make it up as I went. Virtually all of it was certainly rubbish, but very entertaining at the time.

As a teenager, I'd finally settled on a favorite civilization. Before leaving home, I was working on a vocabulary, illustrations of 'important historical events' and personages, family trees, and long narratives of battles and betrayals. It was clear early on that other people weren't interested, yet it was a wonderful instant holiday from church, school, or endless lectures about an obscure and wholly fictional entity called 'Your Potential.'

Your Potential, or so I was informed, lived in the Up (wherever that was), and seemed also to solely inhabit a portion of the Up directly behind my head. At any rate, I never could seem to spot it, or perhaps was never very interested in looking. It was suggested that I hook up with it, but it sounded like a very dull playmate, with no interest whatever in dragons, dinosaurs, spaceships, ancient civilizations, interesting rocks, mythology, pretty insects, or alien royalty. Bugger that.

And so, my main interest as a young person in real world topics was to gather enough information to flesh out an engaging virtual world. I became progressively better at going on search and retrieval for fun tidbits, and along with the characteristic collections of treasured objects, my favorite collection was a mountain of semi-random trivia floating around in my head. A veritable just-add-water kit for an immediate vacation.

Some Company

The only fellow traveler in this episode of early and fantastic exploration was my younger sister. During the day, we typically got along poorly. We had some of the usual sibling problems, and some unusual ones, including my often being otherwise occupied. But sometimes when we'd both run out of things to do, or when she would be in the mood to imagine dolls instead of play with them, we'd get together and cook up somewhat outlandish improv fantasy role playing games.

When it was time for lights out, though, we'd often stay up for hours telling each other stories. The more time went by, the more it was me making things up to tell her, but she had this interest in having company and I thought it was kind of nice to have someone to try out my latest concoction on. And being no creative slouch herself, though not obsessively interested in pure fiction, her feedback made things more fun.

She 'humanized' me a great deal, just by playing my games with me. Though of course, I didn't realize it at the time. Her enjoyment of random sounds and imaginary words added an extra element of interest to imagining foreign/alien species. (She always favored softer sounding words with what I considered to be overlong strings of mushy vowels, and I tended to like jawbreaking constructions with loads of pointy consonants.) And that drew me into participating in a microcosmic sub-dialect of english with her once we got old enough to stop spending our waking hours mostly tormenting each other.

The first word in our sub-dialect, consisting mostly of compressed and acronymed words whose parents we'd utterly worn out, was p'Tike. Which is a shorthand way of saying "So, pretend like..."

But Whatever Will We Do Now?

At some point around the age of twenty or so, I realized that I'd accidentally developed a useful skill. (Good God, man, do you know what this means...!?) While having little interest in follow-through for most activities, and being very disorganized as I went about it, I could pick up new topics easily enough to put them to passable use at a job. I got around the interminable boredom aspect of actually doing any one thing for very long by skipping around a lot. Often to some occupation at least a little more rewarding than the last.

Over a period of about three years, with a bit of training at work and informal night classes, I worked my way into web authoring. All the time, feeding my jones for science trivia. And now, some years later, I find myself in college having just about the best time ever. I may even be in the process of discovering something to do that would be engaging for more than a couple of years.

My interest in collecting odd words has been quite useful, as is a measure of skill at constructing internal models, and trying to pull disconnected facts into a coherent narrative. Classmates don't care whether or not I'm popular, in fact a measure of social anonymity is quite easy to maintain. And if I study with someone else, a single-minded attention to the topic at hand is actually appreciated. Teachers aren't worried about whether I spend enough time with other kids on the playground, or if I read 'too much.'

Some Kind Of Freak

I used to wonder a lot if I was just a freak, or maybe a subtype of geek. But now that I know I am, I feel much better about the whole business. I went suspiciously into grief counseling, and came out feeling like I'd finally found my own kind. My life made more sense, and even the unpleasant parts seemed bearable.

There are those who dismiss the whole idea. Including bonafide geeks among whom there will often be significant arguments about whether or not ADD/ADHD, or even Asperger's, are real conditions which require attention, an overdiagnosed excuse, or just a continuation of society's seemingly endless efforts to demonize an uncommon personality subtype.

Indeed, a purely circumstantial observation could be made that many individuals diagnosed with these conditions seem to fall into the NT quadrant of the MBTI. (Though NTj's might be especially inclined to deny the existence of any disorder, or indeed, the personality test yet devised that could trap them.) The NT type makes up only 5-7% of the population at best, and it isn't an entirely irrational argument that certain aspects of these 'disorders' could be seen as a reaction to social alienation.* As the author of Reciprocality says, "The way a monkey's hair falls out if one pokes it with a stick for long enough came to mind." (Random Keirsey vs. Meyers-Briggs essay.)

In that vein, Tony Attwood talks about the difference between a person with Asperger's syndrome and an Aspie:

...If Asperger’s Syndrome was identified by observation of strengths and talents, it would no longer be in the DSM IV, nor would it be referred to as a syndrome. After all, a reference to someone with special strengths or talents does not use terms with negative connotations (it’s artist and poet, not Artistically Arrogant or Poetically Preoccupied), nor does it attach someone’s proper name to the word syndrome (it’s vocalist or soloist, not Sinatra’s Syndrome). Focusing on strengths requires shedding the former diagnostic term, Asperger’s Syndrome, for a new term. The authors feel that Aspie, ..., is a term that seems right at home among it’s talent-based counterparts: soloist, genius, aspie, dancer....

Hmmm, imagine that. A talent instead of a curse, what ever will they think of next? But I'll leave the last word to the Wired article that represented a significant 'coming out' milestone, The Geek Syndrome. It opens thusly:

Nick is building a universe on his computer. He's already mapped out his first planet: an anvil-shaped world called Denthaim that is home to gnomes and gods, along with a three-gendered race known as kiman. As he tells me about his universe, Nick looks up at the ceiling, humming fragments of a melody over and over. "I'm thinking of making magic a form of quantum physics, but I haven't decided yet, actually," he explains. The music of his speech is pitched high, alternately poetic and pedantic - as if the soul of an Oxford don has been awkwardly reincarnated in the body of a chubby, rosy-cheeked boy from Silicon Valley. Nick is 11 years old. ...

When Nick gets older, he'll probably end up participating in a not insignificant number of conversations just like this. And he'll probably have a good time, as he reckons it, even as certain adults despair of him. In the end, provided that we allow ourselves to enjoy it, it's good to be a geek.

Read Part 1 - Cranky Bodies

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

* That statement should not be confused with the erroneous, and hurtful, idea once propagated that autistic spectrum syndromes were caused by a lack of maternal love.

posted by Natasha at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK |

Sunday, June 22, 2003  

Better Bloggers & Etc.

Digby is back! We were all worried, but it turns out that he was just hopped up on Rush, Hannity, O'Reilly, Savage & friends, and was therefore temporarily unable to come back to the real world. Start here, read down.

PeaceTreeFarm talks about the shifting tactics of the Iraqi opposition.

Skippy reminds us about the man who was arrested for protesting Bush. Or, more specifically, for carrying a sign that said 'no blood for oil' at a location where the president was due to show up.

Neal Pollack generously explains revisionist history.

Over at the Left Coaster Steve Soto tells us all about how the 'liberal' New York Times has exonerated Bush of lying.

Making Light indicates that Team Bush may finally have found someone to blame for their failure to find any Iraqi weapons: looters. And when you're done believing that, I have a fine real estate deal to tell you about in an alley behind the local watering hole. Also, more about the missing antiquities. She's waiting for apologies from the people who were delighted at an early report that 'only 33' objects went missing, but isn't holding her breath.

Baku Today posts an editorial on microfinance in Azerbaijan.

posted by Natasha at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK |