Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Relativism from the Right

Tomgram: The immoral relativists of the Bush administration
And other distractions of the Age of Bush

Tom Engelhardt

...In his speeches, George Bush regularly calls for a return to or the reinforcement of traditional, even eternal, family values and emphasizes the importance of personal "accountability" for our children as well as ourselves. ("The culture of America is changing from one that has said, if it feels good, do it, and if you've got a problem, blame somebody else, to a new culture in which each of us understands we are responsible for the decisions we make in life.") And yet when it comes to acts that are clearly wrong in this world -- aggressive war, the looting of resources, torture, personal gain at the expense of others, lying, and manipulation among other matters -- Bush and his top officials never hesitate to redefine reality to suit their needs...

You sweep opponents up on a battlefield, but you don't want to call them prisoners of war or deal with them by the established rules of warfare. No problem, just grab that dictionary and label them "unlawful combatants," then you can do anything you want. So you get those prisoners into your jail complex (carefully located on an American base in Cuba, which you have redefined as being legally under "Cuban sovereignty," so that no American court can touch them); and then you declare that, not being prisoners of war, they do not fall under the Geneva Conventions...

Here's the strange thing, then: No one in our lifetime has found the nature of reality to be more definitionally supple, more malleable, more… let's say it… postmodern and relative (to their needs and desires) than the top officials of the Bush administration.

Hat tip to for my excerpts...

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Researchers help define what makes a political conservative

By Kathleen Maclay, Media Relations 22 July 2003 (revised 7/25/03)

BERKELEY – Politically conservative agendas may range from supporting the Vietnam War to upholding traditional moral and religious values to opposing welfare. But are there consistent underlying motivations?

Four researchers who culled through 50 years of research literature about the psychology of conservatism report that at the core of political conservatism is the resistance to change and a tolerance for inequality, and that some of the common psychological factors linked to political conservatism include:

Fear and aggression
Dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity
Uncertainty avoidance
Need for cognitive closure
Terror management

"From our perspective, these psychological factors are capable of contributing to the adoption of conservative ideological contents, either independently or in combination," the researchers wrote in an article, "Political Conservatism as Motivated Social Cognition," recently published in the American Psychological Association's Psychological Bulletin...

...The psychologists sought patterns among 88 samples, involving 22,818 participants, taken from journal articles, books and conference papers. The material originating from 12 countries included speeches and interviews given by politicians, opinions and verdicts rendered by judges, as well as experimental, field and survey studies.

Ten meta-analytic calculations performed on the material - which included various types of literature and approaches from different countries and groups - yielded consistent, common threads, Glaser said.

The avoidance of uncertainty, for example, as well as the striving for certainty, are particularly tied to one key dimension of conservative thought - the resistance to change or hanging onto the status quo, they said.

The terror management feature of conservatism can be seen in post-Sept. 11 America, where many people appear to shun and even punish outsiders and those who threaten the status of cherished world views, they wrote.

Concerns with fear and threat, likewise, can be linked to a second key dimension of conservatism - an endorsement of inequality, a view reflected in the Indian caste system, South African apartheid and the conservative, segregationist politics of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-South S.C.).

Disparate conservatives share a resistance to change and acceptance of inequality, the authors said. Hitler, Mussolini, and former President Ronald Reagan were individuals, but all were right-wing conservatives because they preached a return to an idealized past and condoned inequality in some form. Talk host Rush Limbaugh can be described the same way, the authors commented in a published reply to the article.

This research marks the first synthesis of a vast amount of information about conservatism, and the result is an "elegant and unifying explanation" for political conservatism under the rubric of motivated social cognition, said Sulloway. That entails the tendency of people's attitudinal preferences on policy matters to be explained by individual needs based on personality, social interests or existential needs.

The researchers' analytical methods allowed them to determine the effects for each class of factors and revealed "more pluralistic and nuanced understanding of the source of conservatism," Sulloway said.

While most people resist change, Glaser said, liberals appear to have a higher tolerance for change than conservatives do.

As for conservatives' penchant for accepting inequality, he said, one contemporary example is liberals' general endorsement of extending rights and liberties to disadvantaged minorities such as gays and lesbians, compared to conservatives' opposing position.

The researchers said that conservative ideologies, like virtually all belief systems, develop in part because they satisfy some psychological needs, but that "does not mean that conservatism is pathological or that conservative beliefs are necessarily false, irrational, or unprincipled." They also stressed that their findings are not judgmental. [italics mine]

"In many cases, including mass politics, 'liberal' traits may be liabilities, and being intolerant of ambiguity, high on the need for closure, or low in cognitive complexity might be associated with such generally valued characteristics as personal commitment and unwavering loyalty," the researchers wrote...

..."For a variety of psychological reasons, then, right-wing populism may have more consistent appeal than left-wing populism, especially in times of potential crisis and instability," he said.
Glaser acknowledged that the team's exclusive assessment of the psychological motivations of political conservatism might be viewed as a partisan exercise. However, he said, there is a host of information available about conservatism, but not about liberalism.

The researchers conceded cases of left-wing ideologues, such as Stalin, Khrushchev or Castro, who, once in power, steadfastly resisted change, allegedly in the name of egalitarianism.
Yet, they noted that some of these figures might be considered politically conservative in the context of the systems that they defended. The researchers noted that Stalin, for example, was concerned about defending and preserving the existing Soviet system.

Although they concluded that conservatives are less "integratively complex" than others are, Glaser said, "it doesn't mean that they're simple-minded."

Conservatives don't feel the need to jump through complex, intellectual hoops in order to understand or justify some of their positions, he said. "They are more comfortable seeing and stating things in black and white in ways that would make liberals squirm," Glaser said.

He pointed as an example to a 2001 trip to Italy, where President George W. Bush was asked to explain himself. The Republican president told assembled world leaders, "I know what I believe and I believe what I believe is right." And in 2002, Bush told a British reporter, "Look, my job isn't to nuance."


Hat tip to Blogging for Truth for this interesting article from UC Berkeley News.

Trivia for 50-somethings...

Today in 1951, the first commercial computer, UNIVAC I, was unveiled.

A little background from Infoplease: The first fully automatic calculator was the Mark I, or Automatic Sequence Controlled Calculator, begun in 1939 at Harvard by Howard Aiken, while the first all-purpose electronic digital computer, ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Calculator), which used thousands of vacuum tubes, was completed in 1946 at the Univ. of Pennsylvania. UNIVAC (UNIVersal Automatic Computer) became (1951) the first computer to handle both numeric and alphabetic data with equal facility; this was the first commercially available computer.

I wasn't around for another few years, but I remember UNIVAC...punch cards. Do not fold, spindle or mutilate. It was built with vacuum tubes, not transistors, and took up an incredible amount of space. Data was on magnetic tape. Guys in short sleeved white shirts, narrow black ties, pocket protectors and glasses walked around looking serious. Jeesh, things do change.
This one is called "Run for Daylight". It's a WOW. What an earth we live on... Posted by Hello
These two pics are from a friend's gliding experience along the Eastern Sierras in California. The two uploaded today are especially dedicated to Sandy from my NaturePaint group. Enjoy! Posted by Hello

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Which Would You Choose?

Object ive 1: June 8, 1789 - The Bill of Rights was first proposed, by James Madison.

Amendment IV from the Bill of Rights
[written in 1791 - 214 years on the books]
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

[Judicial oversight in the issuance of warrants is a check on the potential abuse of power by the government against individuals -- our founding premise was, and has been till now, individual liberty.]

Objective 2: Senate Committee OKs New FBI Powers
Tuesday, June 7, 2005 Posted: 9:16 PM EDT (0116 GMT)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The FBI would get expanded powers to subpoena records without
the approval of a judge or grand jury in terrorism investigations under Patriot Act revisions approved Tuesday by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Some senators who voted 11-4 to move the bill forward said they would push for limits on the new powers the measure would grant to law enforcement agencies...

[What would the newly-created US citizens of 1791 do if these governmental 'expanded powers' had been proposed then?]

Monday, June 06, 2005

War is a Racket: General Smedley Butler on Interventionism

This artticle posted by Jon Lebkowsky at reminds us all to be very careful about what we support our government doing...

...General Smedley Butler was the one of the most decorated war heroes in U.S. history, and received the Congressional Medal of Honor twice. His military genius (if not his politics) was greatly admired by Gen. Douglas MacArthur. The Marine base on Okinawa was named after him...

War is just a racket. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small inside group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the many.

I believe in adequate defense at the coastline and nothing else. If a nation comes over here to fight, then we'll fight. The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent. Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag.

I wouldn't go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.

There isn't a trick in the racketeering bag that the military gang is blind to. It has its "finger men" to point out enemies, its "muscle men" to destroy enemies, its "brain men" to plan war preparations, and a "Big Boss" Super-Nationalistic-Capitalism.

It may seem odd for me, a military man to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to. I spent thirty- three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country's most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle- man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.

I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the
service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.

I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912 ... I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.

During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.

One way to curb excesses like these is campaign reform. Check out these sites to see what each of us can do:

Real Campaign Reform

Public Agenda

Campaign Reform Information Center

Friday, June 03, 2005


June 3, 1989 - The Chinese government authorized its soldiers and tanks to reclaim Beijing's Tiananmen Square after 7 weeks of protests for democratic reforms. The army killed 2,000 protesters.

Word History

I love word histories. Here's one I ran across...

On June 2, 455 Vandals sack Rome. We still use the words: vandal, vandalize, vandalism. It must have been a memorable day to survive 1,500 years in our vocabulary.

Van·dal (vndl) KEY NOUN:

1) One who willfully or maliciously defaces or destroys public or private property.
2) A member of a Germanic people that overran Gaul, Spain, and northern Africa in the fourth and fifth centuries CE and sacked Rome in 455.

ETYMOLOGY: Latin Vandalus, Vandal, probably of Germanic origin

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man

In Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, published last fall, a former economist/consultant named John Perkins came clean about his two-decade career as an extortionist of developing countries. In order to convince them to accept loans from the World Bank which they could never possibly repay, economic hit men like himself parachuted onto the scene and cooked the books, Enron-style, to assure the local leaders they could. Then, in exchange for securing those loans,

Perkins and his cohorts extracted promises to hire U.S. companies, award concessions, etc. And when those countries ultimately couldn't pay (like Indonesia), the World Bank essentially foreclosed on them. Now, would you want Paul Wolfowitz sitting across the desk from you while you sign your mortgage? Thought so.

Hat tip to The Black Table. Great site.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Strongest Evidence Yet...

"The recent release of the Downing Street Memo provides new and compelling evidence that the President of the United States has been actively engaged in a conspiracy to deceive and mislead the United States Congress and the American people about the basis for going to war against Iraq," attorney John C. Bonifaz recently wrote to Conyers. "If true, such conduct constitutes a High Crime under Article II, Section 4 of the United States Constitution...

...The leak of the memo weeks ago, providing minutes from a high-level meeting that Prime Minister Tony Blair held with aides in July 2002, may be the strongest evidence yet that Bush is guilty of an impeachable offense. As Rep. John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, wrote in late May:

* "First, the memo appears to directly contradict the administration's assertions to Congress and the American people that it would exhaust all options before going to war. According to the minutes, in July 2002, the administration had already decided to go to war against Iraq."

* "Second, a debate has raged in the United States over the last year and one half about whether the obviously flawed intelligence that falsely stated that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction was a mere 'failure' or the result of intentional manipulation to reach foreordained conclusions supporting the case for war. The memo appears to close the case on that issue stating that in the United States the intelligence and facts were being 'fixed' around the decision to go to war."

Excerpted from Impeachment Fever and Media Politics by Norman Solomon at Common Dreams.

[I tried to comment on this, but there are no words that can convey my feelings here. I am truly beyond words.]