Saturday, November 25, 2006

Put Into Practice

Bringing freedom to the people of Iraq- a progressive ideal. Liberation is literally a *liberal* concept.

Using Iraq's oil to rebuild the country- a socialistic enterprise by its very definition.

Establishing a secular democracy in the Middle East- another progressive ideal. One seen by many as anti-religious.

Right-wing supporters of Bush and his war in Iraq use these progressive catch-phrases all the time, because they know these appeal to most Americans and because these hide the real reasons we have sent our young military service people there, which likely would not get the support of many Americans.

This is a war for oil and an attempt by Bush to play out his psychological turmoil on a global scale.

American families will not send their young off to die in the sands of Araby just so oil executives can in turn sell them $3.85-per-gallon gasoline.

But they will send them off to fight for progressive ideals like freedom and democracy. Hence the rightwing rhetorical sleight-of-hand.

It's conservative bait-and-switch. Unfortunately they have honed this technique over decades and have built a media presence that churns this rhetoric out by millions of print and broadcast words daily, so many American citizens are taken in by it.

This is a riff on ideas gleaned from reading George Lakoff.

I think that many of us on the political left correctly espress concern about the way the political right wing has co-opted many aspects of what passes for political debate in this country. Fox News and right-wing radio come to mind. It took many decades for the conservative movement to construct the media infrastructure and develop consistent messaging systems to attain dominance in political discourse.

It will be much easier for the left to re-enter media debate than it was for the right to establish their heavy presence there, because we on the left will not have to lie, which is another of Lakoff's ideas.

This is worth sharing around.

(The above was cross-posted and re-edited under another alias from an obscure small-town middle-America newspaper-based message board.)

Thursday, November 23, 2006


Since he was incontinent and needed a good cleaning-up we undid his wrist restraints so we could turn him from side to side. Of course the first thing he went for was the tracheostomy tube. He'd rip it right out of his throat in an instant if he had the chance. Then he'd go for the PEG tube.

A while back he was jumped at a bus stop and got clobbered in the head. He had a nasty blowout fracture of his left orbital and a subdural hematoma that had severely impaired his cognition. He was alert and would track us with his eyes, but he didn't follow simple commands such as "please do not pull out your tubes." He couldn't effectively swallow anymore.

I think maybe he wanted to die, and perhaps he thought his situation was rather hopelessly miserable and he didn't want to spend decades in an extended care center... maybe he thought that if only he could get those awful tubes out he would quietly fade away.

He was a young guy, in his late twenties, and he didn't have much else to look forward to.

Today I am excited. I will roast a turkey and share it with my family. I don't think this guy is feeling anything at all like that. Who gets excited about a can of Jevity running through a stomache tube?

He was not a U.S. citizen. He was not insured, and we couldn't get him covered due to his status as a Mexican national. So we deported him. It was a nightmare for the case managers who arranged his trip to Juarez, and it is an ongoing nightmare for the patient himself. Hopefully he will have family members there who can advocate for him and help him deal with the very difficult circumstances of his ruined life.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Free Books Post Paid

My spouse says that it's time to clear off a few inches on the bookshelf. Since we have limited space I am not allowed to accumulate books willy-nilly, as is my wont.

We have similar concerns regarding the CD collection. Someday we'll rip it all to a handful of I-Pods and be done with the storage issue.

Anyways, I have a few titles that I would be willing to mail to anybody who expresses interest in either reading these books themselves or finding another use for their contents. If you're just looking for flammable material to add to the woodstove then I politely suggest you contact these jerkwads.

Don't Think of an Elephant by George Lakoff. He succinctly explains what "framing" is, how conservatives have employed these concepts to their political advantage, and how progressives must counter these attempts to hijack political discourse. Short and easy.

The Republican Noise Machine by David Brock. This outlines the recent history of conservative media ascension, told by someone who was once an insider.

The Truth, with Jokes, by the inestimable Al Franken. Humor and history combined in such a way that even college freshman would stay awake to read the whole thing.

The Long Emergency, by my homeboy James Howard Kunstler. My mother used to live in the building where he maintains an office. Anyways, pay attention to this guy. He is "teh" bellringer regarding Peak Oil, sprawl, and the consequences that derive from our collective denial of the meaning of these.

Righteous, Dispatches from the Evangelical Youth Movement, by Lauren Sandler. Scary. Our youth is even more into the idea of state-as-religious-entity than many in government and religious heirarchy right now. I read this just before Ted Haggard (his church is noted in the book,) left the leadership of the New Life congregation and joined the Crystal Meth-odists.

Bush on the Couch, Inside the Mind of the President, by Justin A. Frank, M.D. A psychoanalysis of our sociopathological president. Most of this information comes as no news to those of us who read up on young Georgie, say in the Texas Observer, before he obtained national office but Frank's insights are penetrating and ring clear.

Big Lies, the Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How it Distorts the Truth, by smokin' Joe Conason. Nuff said. Intellectual ammunition, with the emphasis on truth and appeals to human decency.

And Conservatives Without a Conscience, by John W. Dean. I confess to once heckling Dean when he spoke at SUNY Plattsburgh back in the day. I was in highschool but visiting a friend there, and Dean was working through his Watergate involvement. Conservatives, or rather our modern corruption of them, have treated Dean and his spouse very badly lately, showing him their true colors, and most of his book contains psychological rather than merely political insight into conservative misbehavior.

These books all go very well individually or as a sustained course of reading. To me it's worth the ten or twenty bucks it may cost to pass these along.

You can e-mail me at with an address for you or another interested person and I will pop items in the mail on an as-come basis.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Good Mememanship

The conventional wisdon pouring like putrid fermented human bodily fluids from the mouths of the noise machine has it that "the Democrats are divided." It has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? And at first glance, since the Democratic house members have recently held an election, it might make sense, as in "the world is definitely flat" makes sense on primitive observation.

But let us examine the numbers.

Pelosi was elected unanimously. Steny Hoyer drew a 149 to 86 count to achieve the 2nd spot in the House. A little short of a 2/3rds majority, that.

Contrast this to the contentious Republican struggle to elect a House leader: Boehner won by a narrow 122 to 109 margin on the second round of votes.

In the bizzaro world of mainstream television and newspaper news a nearly-equal division is misrepresented as unity while unanimous and vast-majority results are mischaracterized as disarray.

Damn the latte-sipping elite liberal media. Can't they get anything right?!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Example Frame: Economic Refugees

Lately the work of George Lakoff and the Rockridge Institute has come to the attention of political progressives. We have come to realize that conservative ideas are indeed pervasive in all forms of media after those on the right wing have spent several decades and many millions; no, billions of dollars buiding their noise machine.

Lakoff says that the reason conservative thought has become widespread (though hardly this delusionally popular) is largely because they have correctly learned how to frame their pet issues in a way that makes these acceptable to the general public, even if such acceptance runs counter to their self-interests.

He would say that people vote their values, not their self-interests, and that the conservatives have framed their political goals in terms that appeal to those values all the while ignoring the interests of the vast majority of citizens and voters of this country. This is exactly "what's the matter with Kansas." The debate has been hijacked.

Tax relief. Social Security reform. Gay marriage. Illegal immigrants.

That last one got real big play in the recent elections, though the Republicans lackluster exploitation of this as a campaign issue seems to have bit them back. I think they were hoping it would play as well as their fierce but illogical prosecution of the gay marriage issue a cycle or two back, but it didn't for a variety of reasons.

Via Lakoff we come to many ways of reframing this issue. It could be properly labelled for what we, as progressives, believe it really is: not illegal immigration, but an issue of economic refugees.

This writer suggests we use the term "resident alien" and create a sub-class of easily deportable non-voting subsistence earners ripe for exploitation by employers who currently hire these people illegally.

"We can then allow our employers an easy way to legally put them to work. Let them pay Social Security and draw down only their contribution unless they become citizens. If they wish to become citizens, they need to follow the existing regulations.

If they commit felonies, they should be deported. If they refuse to get a resident-alien card, they will not be entitled to any benefits and would be subject to deportation."

You can see how I feel about that. It's cheaper than reinstituting slavery, I guess.

This writer has a slightly different take on the issue, presented from the ground level:

"One of her children is disabled. He is non-verbal. There is technology out there that could have an enormous impact on this little boy's life, enabling him to communicate.

However, I had to be the person to tell this mother that her son is not eligible to have "this better life" since he is not documented in the country. As she sat weeping, I wondered to myself: "There must be a better way."

Economic refugees.

If this woman and her disabled child were Cuban boat-people seeking refuge in Miami, they might be champions of Republican virtue and get some assistance. But they're not.

Sunday, November 12, 2006


Some time back there was much snickering going on regarding Bill Clinton being seen publically with George H.W. Bush. A lot of people on the left side of the blogosphere, if I recall correctly, weren't exactly sure what Bubba was up to.

"Bush Sr.’s motivations for helping his son are none too mysterious. But what about Bill Clinton? Why did he accept this offer?" So asked a BuzzFlash guest writer.

This really started to sink into the media in the aftermath of the the tsunami that devastated areas of 11 Indian Ocean nations. President Bush had pledged a ridiculously low really embarrassing amount of money to recovery and his father and Clinton probably had some voice in shaming Bush to commit more.

My spouse, cleverly and I think quite observantly, suggested that this was an example of the technique of triangulation. Clinton had used similar strategies during his tenure as president to distract and separate his numerous political opponents. By associating himself with Bush Senior now, he's put Bush at the odd point on the triangle.

This makes for an interesting frame. Of course it puts Bush at the usual odds against Clinton and all he represents. But by working with Daddy Bush, Clinton has also set many Republicans against the younger president and his irresponsible policies.

The psychological set-up is also bloody hell for Bush, framing him in irresistable Oedipal conundrums. The adults, Clinton and Daddy, are now to be seen in an interesting over-dog position as regards the lame president. Indeed, daddy now has sent men to rescue little Georgie again. Again.

I think this was a rather brilliant move on Clinton's part.

Naturally I am no big fan of the senior Bush, and I think very little of the people who served in his administration. I doubt Clinton is carrying water for any of them, though; this is just a wonderfully cynical ploy to exploit media imagery, deep frames, and psychology, all at the political expense of the worst president ever. Clinton is really kicking Bush in the teeth while he's down, all the while appearing as a conciliatory elder statesman willing to cross the aisle and work with Republican father-figures.

It's political genius. So good, I have to believe it's deliberate. Let us continue to watch this.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


At 6:00 a.m. there were about thirty people in line ahead of me, but things seemed to be proceeding evenly. I was in and out by 6:30. Like just about everyone else there, I had my own little election guide so I could move quickly through the myriad ballot propositions that face Arizona voters today.

People chatted respectably with those near them in line. Most of the chatter I overheard concerned Proposition 200, the "lottery" proposition. The general concensus seemed to be that anything that would get out the vote is good, even if it draws "uninformed voters."

"Like people who watch TV?" I sarcastically asked the couple just behind me in line. Safe Democratic votes there, I thought, but while I wasn't engaged in conversation with them they discussed a person named "Terry" (Goddard?! the state Attourney General?) who they felt had basically purged his downtown realm of openly gay lawyers. Disturbing, that.

"Cleaning house" is what they called it, but despite that the one person, a lawyer I think, said they'd still work for him.

Slow going is expected due to those numerous propositions. The polling place had many open tables set up, like a banquet hall, so they could process many more voters than if they had only been able to go through the private booths.

I was voter number 14. That's one of my lucky numbers. It's twice as lucky as 7.

The lady in front of me supplied her driver's license, her voter registration card, and also a utility bill. "You really came prepared!" thanked the poll volunteer. Then the woman turned to me and mumbled something about being hassled last time... she was African American.

Most people produced their voter registration card along with their photo ID. Like they were proud.

A woman a few steps ahead had a driver's license with an old address because the motor vehicle department hadn't sent her an updated license yet. She had a utility bill with an in-precinct address, and she was given a provisional ballot.

When I left the polling place parking lot was getting full but the line to enter the room had only a handful of people in it.

Now we wait. Kyrie eleison.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Break a Hip, See the World

Of course, we cannot trust our Canadian neighbors to the north with the manufacture of billions of dollars worth of medications; drugs that would undercut the price of those provided by U.S. companies. For that would threaten the bottom line of many members of Big Pharma.

But we can trust foreign countries' medical systems with the replacement of grandma's gamey old hip, because that would save the insurance companies a few bucks. Momentarily.

"... As an independent contractor for a small Coldwell Banker real estate franchise in Durant, Okla., she knew her privately purchased health plan would never pay up to $40,000 for the operation.

So she asked her boss about traveling to India where hip resurfacing alone would cost just $7,000. He not only gave her his blessing but offered to foot the bill, minus travel and hotels - making Gilmore one of the very first Americans sent overseas for surgery by an employer."

I was waiting for this. We're at peak oil, which means peak build-out, which further implies that everything, even your gall-bladder surgery, can be outsourced.

Now I realize the enormity of something I ran into about half a year ago while working with a particular patient at The Great Muffin Factory Institute. This one patient had been receiving rehabilitative, physical therapy, and skilled nursing services in Mexico, because it was cheaper. I do not recall how their insurance, or lack of it, played into this.

Unless you're a billionaire and can afford everything, you're underinsured.

"The studies found that most people who wind up in medical debt or bankruptcy -- two-thirds in the Commonwealth study and three-quarters in the Harvard study -- had health insurance when a family member got sick."

To resume the story, something about their condition had deteriorated so they skipped back north to the Valley for some patch-up work. I now assume that upon discharge they went back to Mexico to finish their run of physical therapy.

Travel out of the U.S. for hip-replacement or physical therapy is economical for two reasons only. Cheap labor and cheap fuel. We will probably have cheap labor forever. But the days of cheap fuel will be over in a couple decades.

Our leaders have driven us over a cliff, and now they are stepping on the accelerator pedal as we plunge. Down we go. Enjoy the view as it rushes by.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Sleep Well Alyssa

Please, join me in bowing our heads for Alyssa Peterson from Flagstaff, an Arabic-speaking Army specialist who died while serving in Iraq a while back.

Here’s what the Flagstaff public radio station, KNAU, where Elston now works, reported yesterday:

“Peterson objected to the interrogation techniques used on prisoners. She refused to participate after only two nights working in the unit known as the cage. Army spokespersons for her unit have refused to describe the interrogation techniques Alyssa objected to. They say all records of those techniques have now been destroyed. ...".

Apparently she was an enormously gifted 27-year-old with a keen ability to learn languages. Well, thanks to Bush and his botched and stupid war for oil, she's dead now.

War is about ruining people.

On the cheap, too, according to this from ", Today in the Military":

"The White House Office of Management and Budget rejected Army chief Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker's extraordinary plea by for the additional funds to pay for repairing and replacing thousands of worn out and blown up tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles and Humvees.

Instead of the $25 billion that Schoomaker says the Army needs just to keep doing what it's been doing with spit, adhesive tape and baling wire for the last five years, the Pentagon says the Army can have $7 billion."

Bush short-changes the troops so Paris Hilton and Tom Cruise can have their tax cuts.

Republicans, are you ashamed now? What more will it take?

I have spoken to some people about this story who have suggested that they doubt this was a suicide. Irregardless, her blood is on Bush's hands. He bathes in blood. He swims laps in an olympic-sized pool of blood. The Potomac flows blood in his dreams. His own heart, though, pumps sweet Iraq crude oil.