Saturday, May 31, 2008

Dr. BioBrain on McClellan's book

I think that Dr. BioBrain has a very good response to Scott McClellan's book:

I actually disagree with the idea that McClellan should have said something when he still worked for the Whitehouse. Because when you’re hired for a job, you’re not speaking for yourself. You’re speaking for your boss. And if you don’t like what that boss has you say and he makes you say it anyway, you only have one choice: Resign. That’s it. But no matter what, you don’t get to use the position they gave you as a podium to state your own personal opinion. When a Press Secretary speaks, he’s only speaking for his boss; not himself.

I think the media were hoping that Scotty would have been braver. They wanted him to be on THEIR side. And actually when Scotty squirmed and sweated they believed that he was trying to show them the truth with out the actual words,
"Hey I'm LYING! If you just ask the exact right question I might spill my guts! You can SEE that I'm REALLY uncomfortable. I REALLY want to tell you the truth, but I can't. I'll lose my JOB!"

Why did the media think that Scott might spill his guts while at the WH?

Because they have had that experience with other people. Now these other people they talked to would sometimes accidentally spill the beans or had a response that revealed the truth. The REALLY smart ones would make it look like it was an accident, "Wow, you heard that from the source that Iraq has biolabs? Well, now that you heard that I'll confirm it as long as you don't use my name just yet." Well as we all know that info from Curveball was fed to Judy Miller and that was the same info that the WH would say they heard. So now the reporter had two sources! Thundercats are go! *

Some of the press have worked people until they cracked. But the game at the White House was different and it was because of how they White House saw the media. They were a group to be manipulated. They were a group that they would punish for trying to get information. They knew which buttons to push with the media and if they couldn't get the buttons pushed the way they wanted they went to their bosses. (See MSNBC and the firing of Donahue) it wasn't that hard. You want to keep your job? You do what the bosses want, just like Scotty. So it is really obnoxious for them to expect Scott to be more courageous then they were. It's easy to tell someone else to "do the right thing" when you don't have to pay the price for doing that thing.

I think Dr. BioBrain's ending was spot on too.

Why We Shouldn't Expect More of This From Other Bushies

It's totally unlikely that other Bushies like Tony Snow will also dish-out these sort of tales. McClellan was different from the rest of them: He was actually human. And this is one reason he was a HORRIBLE press secretary. While Ari was a cruel robot who could explain in a thousand different ways why he wouldn’t answer any questions and Snow was a mocking anchorman who truly enjoyed duping reporters, McClellan always seemed to actually struggle to answer the questions. And because there were no good answers to give, he came off real shitty. And I think that’s one reason why he’s telling all, because he really wanted to give the right answers and felt betrayed by the Bushies; which makes it acceptable to him for him to betray them.

I’m quite positive that they picked him because he had been with them for so long and didn’t feel they could trust an outsider, but he was a really poor choice. Of all the press secretaries, he was the only one I felt sorry for, even while I laughed at his poor performance. And so it’s no surprise that he’s the guy who would tell-all in a book. He was much too human for the job, and continues to act like a human. That’s not to say he’s not also a douchebag, as he totally is. But he’s a human douchebag, and that’s made all the difference.

If you want to see the good Dr's whole post it is here. (link)

Hmm. Dr. BioBrain, Dr. Zaius, clearly brains floating in jars and non-human intelligences are the more insightful beings in the universe.

*If you haven't seen the move Juno yet, do so. It's great.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Pelosi Honors California Vets who Died

Dignity. Respect. Honor.

Today the third most powerful elected official in America sat in a windswept plaza in San Francisco and listened respectfully as the names of California veterans who have died were read aloud in a memorial service.

She spoke too, but as one gentleman said to me. "Bunch a other politicians would speak and dash off, but not Nancy. She stayed. She listened. She honored them."

In addition to the ones who died in Afghanistan they also read the names of vets who died in Iraq and on the streets of San Francisco. Some took their own lives. We can't know all the reasons people commit suicide, but many of the vets were struggling with trauma from their experiences in war. That's a cost of war that isn't always calculated in the spreadsheets of the new weapons systems and armor.

Maybe it's because I'm a Vulcan, but I have to say that I could hear the emotion very clearly in the voices of the readers.

I heard a tall black woman with short cropped hair start crying as she read the names of war dead.

I heard a powerful dignity in the voice of an Iraq war vet as he read the names of the dead from his company.

At 12:41 pm they read the name of one of the vets from California who died in April of 2004. Name? Casey Sheehan. I jumped a bit because it was a name I recognized.

A few minutes later they read MY name.

That really sent a chill down my spine.
You know how when you are at a party and someone says your name in a conversation and you hear it out of all the background noise? In brain research we call that the cocktail party effect (that's the technical name).
Someone with my exact same name died in the Iraq war. Did he die because I didn't work hard enough to make sure he didn't have to go to Iraq? Yes.

It can be very hard to be connected to a war that is taking place thousands of miles away that has dropped off the front pages.

Maybe if I had been smarter or worked harder he wouldn't have had to go to Iraq. It's too late for him, but maybe someone with YOUR exact same name is still on duty. It makes the whole "bring the troops home" story a lot more personal if you know you are working to get YOURSELF out of Iraq.

Maybe you'd like to check to see if someone with your name died (Link) I don't know how to check to see if someone with your name is still in harms way. But given there are over 150,000, there now and more ready to be rotated over, the odds are good someone with your name needs your support in which ever fashion you feel will best show your concern.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Mind Control, The Song!

I found this video when I clicked a link from a commenter over at Digby's place, The topic was Chris Matthews and members of the media praising him.
The commenter MarkC of, made a point that I've seen before but bears repeating:
What I think both Chris M. and Rick H. suffer from is a lack of appreciation of the institutional biases built into the government and media, naively assuming that personalities matter most. So whether Chris M. is a jealous Clinton-wannabe or a guilty Catholic is irrelevant to the fact that the media as a whole doesn't cover the way big business dictates the legislative agenda, and the defense industry spins our foreign policy.
The Defense industry spins our foreign policy is an interesting comment. The industry has a lot of power and it would be nice if we as a people could say, "Hey we gave you all that money to make stuff to protect us and blow stuff up, so when the people doing the protecting and blowing stuff up are damaged, could you please use some of that money to help 'em out? Thanks, signed The American Taxpayers.

It is really sad when veterans groups have to sue the government for timely treatment for Vets suffering from PTSD and psychiatric injuries.

When someone suffers from PTSD they are suffering from a form of mind control. They can't control their own mind.

Images and thoughts are burned into the brain, overwhelming the normal processes. The chemicals of the brain interact with the synapses to lock memories in place. (The process is described in a great book, The Paranoia Switch: How Terror Rewires Our Brains and Reshapes Our Behavior--and How We Can Reclaim Our Courage by Martha Stout).

The memories and experiences are so vivid and the feelings are so strong that whenever you are up against experiences that are similar you flash back to that experience. Just the thought of being in a similar situation makes you dread it and work to blunt the memory or avoid it.

Imagine a group of people, so callous that they want to evoke PTSD in people in order to get what they want. A group of people who actively wanted people to relive their worst nightmare (9/11) in order to achieve something that would NOT help the nightmare go away. The people they want to relive the nightmare are us. Keep that in mind when you read about Scott McClennan's new book. McClellan knew.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Indy! Mind control! Crystal Skulls! Hats!

Just saw Indiana Jones IV: Franchise This!

It was okay. Too much, "And this happened and then this happened and then this happened."

I was talking to my movie companion about if afterwards (which is one of my favorite things in the world to do, besides talking about books and ideas.)

I know that often we see art through the lens of our culture and our current preoccupations. I had asked NTodd and some folks over at Atrios' place if Spielberg and Lucas slipped in any subtle comments about the current world situation. Yep. In some cases it was fairly heavy handed and other cases more subtle. Directors have learned that unless you are making a message movie, you have to be entertaining (and even in a message movie entertainment helps get the message across). A good story well told can be the most powerful way to get a message across.

Ferengi Mind Control Device. Not available in stores! Send your gold-pressed latinum directly to DaiMon Bok, P.O. Box 174, Tower of Commerce, Ferenginar

A lot of this movie was about mind control (which was a supposed interest of Stalin according to a character in the movie). I thought about how real mind control is managed in today's world. For one thing it's just not CALLED mind control anymore. That is one of the tricks. What you CALL things makes a difference. Mocking and destroying perfectly good words is part of the game. Flipping meanings or redefining is another. (I'm reading Geoffrey Nunberg's new book, Talking Right which covers this in detail)

I was watching Frontline show about marketing and I saw how some of this new "mind control" is done.

Mind control that they talked about in the movie or from the late 50's and early 60's was a product of their time, they saw it as overpowering and used terms like brainwashing. Someone would force their will on people. People would have no conscious control, they would do what the controllers wanted. But that was really hard to do.

So the marketers started looking at how they can convince people that what they wanted people to do is REALLY what the people themselves wanted to do. If you dig down you can often find a thread in everyone that is selfish, mean, greedy, fearful or hateful. So they used and appealed to some of our strongest emotions to get what they wanted. They appealed to our hate, fear, greed, self-interest, ambition and pride.

Now there are whole religions that are dedicated to NOT embracing our most selfish selves. That tell us that the happiest people are those who "live for others" or care for the poor. Religions where it's not about looking out for number one, but for connecting to others who are our neighbor. There are religions where it's really about serving the will of god and not their own will.

But what if the messages of those religions get in the way of the message that the marketers really want? Answer: Find the sub-set of some religion that embraces what they want. Need a religion that says it is okay to kill people? Boom, you got it. Want to have someone on your TV show who is pro-assassination of foreign leaders? Call Pat Robertson. That is the easy way to SAY that you have a religious perspective when what the show is really embracing is a bizarre offshoot that agrees with a view the show wants to promote. And even if those views only represent 7 percent of the people in that entire religion, if they are the ones who do 99 percent of the talking, people start to think that maybe that IS what that religion stands for. Especially to those outside the religion.

I believe it was George Lakoff who talked about how think tanks and their wealthy funders on the right have no problem spending money on infrastructure and messages. The right-wing think tank's ROI for the wealthy is the spread of their ideas.

On the left they brag about how much money they give directly to help others. "Low administration costs" is a selling point. They aren't looking to provide ROI for their donors money, they are looking at how well it was spent to make the world a better place. I kind of laugh at the groups like the AEI (home of Lynne Cheney) or the "Competitive Enterprise Institute" who don't turn a profit. "Hey CEI if you were are REALLY a good competitive enterprise you would figure out a way to be self-sustaining instead of having to keep getting money from Scaife and the oil companies." Now I know that lots of groups are designed to stand on their own and make a profit, but it is just hilarious in a way that one named the Competitive Enterprise Institute doesn't.

They know that the ROI they provide their funders are the "ideas" speeches, tv appearances and op-eds that in some cases are just designed to muddy the water. No light, just mud. No truth, just FUD.

At the end of the year they just go back to the oil companies and say, "We helped convince people that fossil fuels don't really have a big role in global warming, give us more money and we'll keep up the FUD."

(Interestingly I noticed that when I read "mind control" I want to go back and change it to something softer, like persuading but I decided to keep control because the harsher sounding word connotes the more aggressive end goal of the marketers.)

No spoilers, but in the movie the desire to wield the power to control people's mind was too much for one person to handle. The quest for mind control, like the quest for gold, led to tragedy. If looks like a lot of the Indy film are about the quest for power, the desire to have it and control it, vs. Indy's quest for knowledge-- to understand it and to share it. In the movies the power has a very physical destruction on the person trying to wield it. In real life it would be easier if the person who attempts to wield too much power would just melt. Of course instant justice is for the movies, in the real world it doesn't work that way. But still people CAN see the effects of people wielding the power that they shouldn't have. Power that has been taken by force that they have no legitimate claim to.

We can't close our eyes and hope that the power will destroy the person wielding it, because we can't count on the power melting the face of the person using it. We have to act. Of course we could tell the person we are stopping that we are doing it for their own good. "Hey, put that down or your face will melt and you will die." but they won't listen. What we can do is appeal to all the people who have been damaged by the unwise wielding of power and say, "This is for OUR own good. This has to stop." And then we act. And to look good when doing it? Get a cool hat.

From Hats In the Belfry

The Armed Man, "A Mass for Peace"

The Armed Man is the name of a Mass by Welsh composer Karl Jenkins, subtitled "A Mass for Peace". The piece was commissioned by the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds for the Millennium celebrations and was initially dedicated to victims of the Kosovo crisis. Like Benjamin Britten's War Requiem before it, it is essentially an anti-war piece. Also like Britten's work, this piece is based on the Christian Mass which he combines with other sources, principally the fifteenth century folk song L'homme armé in the first and last movements.

The text includes words from the Islamic call to prayer, the Bible (e.g. the Psalms and Revelation), the Ordinary of the Mass (e.g. Kyrie Eleison, Sanctus), texts from authors such as Rudyard Kipling and Alfred Lord Tennyson, as well as a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing.


Video by request. Thanks GradeSchoolTeach.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I am Not a Communist.

I am also not a fascist.
I am also not a Stalinist.

I just want everyone to know that. I'm a member of the Democratic party.

That is all.

Teddy Kennedy's Eulogy of Bobby Kennedy

After the announcement of the brain cancer of Teddy Kennedy someone directed me to his eulogy of his brother. It's beautiful and very moving.

Friday, May 16, 2008

You troglodyte homunculus!

See more funny videos at CollegeHumor

This is pretty darn funny. Behind the scenes with Bill O'Reilly's producer on Inside Edition. Here is a transcript of my favorite part.

Bill O'Reilly: "We'll do it live!"

Producer: "You can't even get it right after five takes, why would I agree to do it live?

BillO: "We'll do it live! F**k it!

Producer: No F**k YOU! We're not going to do it live

Bill O: We'll do it live. I'll write it and we'll do it live.

Producer: How are you going to write it? You can't even read it you troglodyte homunculus!

WARNING clip contains Bill O'Reilly and his producer using the f-word.
The College Humor site contains semi-naked men and women and some x-rated content.
This clip won't take you there, but be advised if you want to go to that site. Note this was NOT broadcast over the public-airwaves, which has long accepted restrictions on language and indecency with the corresponding appropriate fines.

Friday Funnies: Lamott on Colbert. Time Traveling Obama!

I've read some of Anne Lamott's books, she's pretty funny. Turns out Lamott is speaking this Sunday, May 18th in Oakland if anyone wants to see her live. (link)

Another funny clip is from Colbert's story about Edward's endorsing Obama. I especially liked the ending where Colbert calls Obama out as a time traveler. Being a time traveler myself I just want to say that I don't remember seeing Obama back in the 1930's but hey, my tricorder burned out before I could scan ALL the news so I could have missed him.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Sigler's Infected Me!

Cory Doctorow, at boing boing, suggested I listen to Scott Sigler's new science fiction podcast so of course I did.

I'm enjoying the interludes of imaginary high-tech biology in the podcast (RSS link here). I find some of the scenes cringe worthy because of the self surgery (shutter), so be aware this is not for the squeamish. It also has x-rated words (gasp!), but since it is not broadcast over the commercially supported, publicly-owned radio or tv spectrum, that's cool. I actually enjoy Sigler's blatant self promotion because he clearly is having fun with it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Tricks of Memory

I love This American Life.

I love reading about how the brain works or doesn't work. And I like animation.

So you can imagine how much I would enjoy this clip. Oh, and if you don't listen to This American Life, do so. I just listened to two great recent episodes. One on the mortgage crisis (The Giant Pool of Money) and a very funny one on TV (What I learned from Television).

Listen to the money one for free this week.

I'd love for Ira to do a story about me because he loves Star Trek and radio and so do I. Sadly I don't have one of those profound quiry ending that they love that reveals something about life.