Sunday, December 31, 2006

Presidential psychopath? Here's a test

Many in the blogosphere and a few in the mainstream media have noted that, based on his public statements and actions, there seems to be something slightly peculiar about President Bush's behavior.

Some have even speculated that President Bush may have psychopathic tendencies.

One way to judge for yourself is to use the below standard evaluation form used by psychiatrists and see how your insight into the President's public behavior squares with the "psychopath" hypothesis. (You might have to wait a couple of seconds for the form to load.)

Note that you must check off all items before the evaluation can be made.

Added comment: Poll now closed and final results posted below.

In contemporary research and clinical practice, Robert Hare's Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R), below, is the psycho-diagnostic tool most commonly used to assess Psychopathy.

This version of PCL-R excludes items that cannot be determined from what is in the public record regarding President Bush. Those items are preselected as "Doesn't Apply" and their omission is factored into the final score. (Please note that the interactive poll functions are disabled.)


Behavioral Trait Doesn't Apply Applies Somewhat Fully Applies
Glibness/superficial charm
Grandiose sense of self-worth
Need for stimulation/proneness to boredom
Pathological lying
Lack of remorse or guilt
Shallow affect
Callous/lack of empathy
Parasitic lifestyle
Poor behavioral controls
Promiscuous sexual behavior (N/A)
Early behavioral problems
Lack of realistic, long-term goals
Failure to accept responsibility for own actions
Many short-term marital relationships (N/A)
Juvenile delinquency (N/A)
Revocation of conditional release (N/A)
Criminal versatility

FINAL RESULTS: Out of 6,595 evaluations submitted, the average score is 32.3850. Discarding both high (40) and low (1) scores produces 5,540 submissions with an average of 31.0404.

4,499 respondents out of 6,595 (68 percent) rated President Bush's public behavior as consistent with that of a psychopath by submitting evaluations with scores over 30.

A score higher than 30 supports a diagnosis of psychopathy (25 in some studies -- 5,566 [84 percent] placed Bush in this category).

US by state breakdown - all scores - (4,460 scores by identifiable state):

State Count Avg. Score
AK 17 31
AL 29 32
AR 15 35
AZ 68 32
CA 827 32
CO 141 31
CT 53 33
DC 41 30
DE 8 36
FL 140 32
GA 138 30
HI 25 34
IA 45 31
ID 13 32
IL 204 32
IN 44 31
KS 29 31
KY 18 29
LA 26 32
MA 230 31
MD 97 31
ME 17 35
MI 114 32
MN 81 30
MO 74 33

State Count Avg. Score
MS 9 35
MT 10 28
NC 100 31
ND 6 26
NE 20 35
NH 15 36
NJ 126 32
NM 18 29
NV 18 31
NY 336 32
OH 115 31
OK 25 28
OR 142 33
PA 124 32
RI 16 36
SC 27 30
SD 3 29
TN 39 34
TX 274 31
UT 26 32
VA 129 31
VT 12 33
WA 264 32
WI 95 32
WV 5 28
WY 12 27

Outside US by country breakdown - all countries with >3 submissions - (1,313 scores by identifiable country):

Country Count Avg. Score
Argentina 4 34
Australia 161 31
Austria 10 34
Belgium 17 33
Brazil 7 33
Canada 330 32
Chile 5 33
China 4 34
Czech Republic 6 28
Denmark 26 28
Finland 22 27
France 30 33
Germany 74 30
India 9 32
Ireland 22 33
Israel 5 27

Country Count Avg. Score
Italy 20 34
Japan 27 30
Luxembourg 4 34
Malaysia 4 35
Netherlands 41 34
New Zealand 36 31
Norway 19 33
Portugal 10 30
Singapore 9 29
South Africa 10 34
Spain 17 29
Sweden 17 31
Switzerland 20 31
Taiwan 6 29
Thailand 5 27
United Kingdom 330 31
Uruguay 6 32

Forensic studies of prison populations have reported average scores of around 22 on PCL-R; "normal" control populations show an average score of around 5.

Scores were adjusted for uncounted items.

Note this reflects only submitted evaluations and doesn't represent a truly random sample. Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Kidnapping 101

Watched the Sunday talk shows today, not all of them and not from start to finish. Who could stand that?

The consensus among the mixed bag of retired generals, the usual POV pundits, and partisan political hacks is that, "we're just going to have to surge our troops and embed more of them in the Iraqi Army and police so we can train 'em up," and "surrender is not an option."

Is anyone else's BS detector flashing Code Red?

At the same time our nation's bestest and brightest were nattering away, yet another group of Iraqis "dressed in Iraqi Army commando battle dress" kidnapped an undetermined number of Red Crescent workers from their offices in Baghdad.

The Red Crescent is the arm of the International Red Cross that operates in the Middle East. Currently, it is the only international non-governmental aid agency with the courage to stick it out in Iraq. That may not last much longer.

Stupid Question 1: What is the evidence that people dressed in Iraqi Army battle gear aren't actually Iraqi Army troops?

Stupid Question 2: If we accelerate the training of Iraqi Army and police and do a good job of it, what are the odds one of the important lessons they'll learn is how to be better kidnappers?

I leave it to the gentle readers to answer these questions for themselves. Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl


An exact match Google search for the name "Paul Van Riper" produces about 18,600 hits.

Van Riper is a retired Marine Corps general officer who became famous for demonstrating to the Department of Defense in July 2002 exactly what would happen, and how it would happen, when and if the U.S. invaded Iraq. See Tom Engelhardt's blog for one account, or do the Google thing.

Briefly, Lt. Gen. Van Riper was cast in the role of enemy commander (read "Iraqi insurgent commander" here) in the most costly Pentagon war game in its history, the $250,000,000 "Millennium Challenge 02" exercise.

Lt. Gen. Van Riper won. He won bigtime. He won using exactly the strategies and tactics used by the Iraqi resistance from the beginning of our Iraqi adventure through today. At least he won until the Pentagon stopped the exercise, turned the clock back, and decreed that he could no longer use those devilish tactics.

To his credit, General Van Riper stepped down in protest as "enemy commander".

So, to sum it up, not only did the Bush Administration suppress, distort and fake intelligence, ignore advice from foreign policy and military experts, they also refused to believe their own quarter-billion dollar demonstration of exactly how and why Operation Iraqi Freedom would fail.

Go figure. Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The name is Rosbaud, Paul Rosbaud

World War II's greatest allied spy died in 1963, yet nearly 62 years after the end of the war, while acknowledging we may have lost that war without Paul Rosbaud, British and American intelligence services still refuse to release details of his contributions, citing interests of national security.

Rosbaud's family is currently suing Britain's MI6 for release of files chronicling his wartime exploits.

A brief summary about what is publicly known of his career is available here. Ever faithful to his sense of honor, he destroyed his personal papers shortly before his death.

In the US the upper limit on classification of secret information is 25 years. Release of information regarding intelligence sources and methods may be delayed longer, but that is discretionary, and by no means prohibited.

Makes one curious about what could possibly still be sensitive about events that occurred more than half a century ago involving those long dead. Rosbaud was also deeply involved in spiriting Jewish refugees out of the Third Reich throughout the war. Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl


Former NSA director William Odom debunks what he calls 6 myths that underly the current debate about the Bush administration's "new way forward", as well as the ISG report, past and present policy on Iraq.

For an online copy of his commentary, “Six Brutal Truths about Iraq”, click here.

I don't mean to blow my own horn, but Gen. Odom's objections, originally published on December 11, pretty much parallel the objections I outlined on November 20th, except I pointed out 7 assumptions instead of 6 and was vastly more snarky. This may be a result of the inherent advantage in being a former NCO rather than a former General. [Snark]

Lieutenant General William E. Odom, U.S. Army (Ret.), is a Senior Fellow with Hudson Institute and a professor at Yale University. He was Director of the National Security Agency from 1985 to 1988. From 1981 to 1985, he served as Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, the Army's senior intelligence officer. From 1977 to 1981, he was Military Assistant to the President's Assistant for National Security Affairs, Zbigniew Brzezinski. Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl

Friday, December 15, 2006

Darned old technicalities

National Public Radio's Scott Horsley reported on Thursday, December 14, 2006 that a firm awarded a contract to build part of the border fence between San Diego and Mexico has agreed to pay nearly $5 million in fines because up to a third of their work force were illegal immigrants from Mexico.

Read the full story here.

Wonder if we need to reframe this problem so we can start getting a handle on it. The people we're referring to as "illegal immigrants", "illegal aliens", or "law breakers" aren't the evil types those terms conjure up. Look at their record of hard work and sacrifice after they arrive. If we need a more accurate description, how about "economic refugee".

For a variety of reasons, including a tradition of official corruption in Mexico introduced by Spain when Mexico was its colony, and our own one-sided exploitation of the NAFTA agreement with Mexico, the Mexican economy stinks. It's not able to provide jobs for its people at any wage, let alone a living wage. Mexico is perilously close to being a failed state.

Normally, most countries don't accord refugee status to those fleeing economic hardship. But the situation in Mexico is so severe that it may be time to reevaluate that policy. The severity should be obvious to anyone who can count.

I'm guessing ignoring it won't make it go away. Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl

Win-win, win-win

According to a March 11, 1998 online chat with Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy it cost, at that time, "about $2 billion" a year to run both houses of congress.

That sum had grown to about $3.5 billion by 2004, or an average of about $673,000 per Senator and Representative, according to a July 21, 2004 Heritage Foundation report.

You see where the trend is going.

The question is, could this activity be accomplished more economically and more efficiently? I would submit, absolutely!

$673K per body sounds a little high to me and, in keeping with the Congress's admirable drive to make each of us more COMPETITIVE by putting ALL of us into the GLOBAL ECONOMY without fear or favor, this seems the ideal candidate for outsourcing. Leading by example, all that.

Preferably, outsourcing will be to multiple call centers overseas where, in order to avoid any appearance of impropriety, the "Senators" and "Representatives" will speak only obscure languages entirely unknown to people who live in this country.

Since the only people who talk to Senators and Representatives are lobbyists who are forcing totally legal bribes on them so they will provide huge, totally legal Federal payouts to the lobbyists' clients, this could generate even greater savings over the course of a year.

Assuming a cost of $2.25 per hour for each "Senator" and "Representative", and given that their services will be required for about 100 days per year at 6 hours per day, this yields an annual cost of $702,000. Savings per year: $3,499,298,000 or 99.99 percent, nearly the entire current cost! Dare we call this "chump change"?

Note to self: have call center employees continuously crunch potato chips and pralines while on line and don't hire anyone who can count above 10, thereby letting even huger budget cuts ensue. (Charge employees for all snacks)

It is with sensible economies like this that we will very, very shortly be able to pay off the national debt, save Social Security, provide universal health care, and gift everyone with 2 Cadillac Escalades per year plus a trip to Las Vegas.

And, if we are smart enough to hire young Arab speakers and rotate them through the call centers on a weekly basis, we will automatically soak up the al-Queda labor pool, thus winning the war on terror .

Win-win, win-win. Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Deep in the heart of Texas

Everyone knows everything is bigger and better in the Lone Star State of Texas, including the belly laughs. Right?

As a former long-time Texas resident (Houston, Kingsville, Beaumont, and Friendswood, the funniest cities in the Nation) of the once biggest state in the Union, I have to admit I'm severely prejudiced.

For the disbelievers, I offer into evidence on the charge of excessive inducement of hee-haws, Exhibit A, the 2007 Texas Monthly Bum Steer Awards.

Case closed. Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Screaming meemies

In 1976 evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins coined a term he used to describe what he saw as shorthand for a "...unit of cultural information". The term was meme. According to Dawkins,

Examples of memes are tunes, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches.

Memes are supposed to be kind of like genes, only with an 'm' instead of a 'g' and act kind of like cultural building blocks, like genes act like the building blocks of pineapples and people. I'm not sure where the 'm' came from. I'd prefer 'b' or 'w', instead of the alphabetically neutral 'm'.

Making it 'm', however, did make it fit in neatly with an obscure alleged academic discipline named "memetics," popularized by Richard Brodie and Aaron Lynch, who at the time claimed never to have heard of Richard Dawkins. Talk about great minds. Memes are now big deals in memetics.

Mr. Brodie is a former Microsoft executive turned motivational speaker and professional poker player. Mr. Lynch worked on the Fermi lab PDP-11 project before moving into popular writing. The PDP-11 was an early, primitive computer.

Mr. Dawkins is most recently famous for his feature length film which documents him traveling to various countries where he seeks out religious believers, then explains to them how stupid they are.

You can see the difficulties beginning to rear their ugly little heads.

But, let's keep it real, OK? And simple. When you think about it, meme is so all-encompassing, it can be applied to anything, including itself: "The meem meem." You can't do that for the gene meme. Think about that for a second. Makes my head hurt.

Today, people arguing about something they don't know anything about, yet who want to demonstrate they've attended college or read an article in the Atlantic Monthly and therefore know best about everything in the known universe, frequently use the term meme trying to do just that.

For the rest of us, this is fortunate. It lets us know immediately the speaker using the word meme is an idiot we can safely ignore.

You can save a lot of time and aggravation knowing obscure little memes like this. Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Still crazy after all these years

Christopher Swann at is reporting that noted Medal of Freedom winner and recently anointed World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz is at it again.

Wolfowitz, reportedly one of the Pentagon whiz kids responsible for recruiting political hacks for the secret Puzzle Palace group that ginned up fake intelligence to justify invading Iraq, is now chasing away professional staff at the World Bank and replacing them with -- guest what -- political hacks.

Read the whackily predictable story here. Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl

This time of year

This time of year, nearly all cultures celebrate a holy day.

In America, we celebrate by shouting at each other about whether to call the season "Christmas" or "The Holidays", usually on cable TV and in internet blogs.

If we were Festivus celebrants, this would be known as the traditional "Airing of Grievances".

At Seattle, Washington's Sea-Tac airport, for example, they're having an Airing of Grievances regarding a local Rabbi's crusade to remove Christmas trees traditionally displayed over airport entrances.

The Port of Seattle, which runs Sea-Tac, took down the trees after the Rabbi, Reagan-like, figuratively thundered, "Mr. Port of Seattle! Take. Down. These. Trees!" The Rabbi had also engaged the services of a very persistent local attorney. Down came the trees.

"People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along?" These are the words of Rodney Glenn King uttered during a May 1, 1992 TV interview at the height of the L.A. riots sparked by Mr. King's near fatal beating at the hands of Los Angeles Police Department's Officer Laurence Powell, Sergeant Stacey Koon, and two others captured on video by bystander George Holliday.

Although uttered at a different time of year under entirely different circumstances, they are words that have resonated in our national psyche since, and their spirit of reconciliation does seem appropriate to the season.

Why do we have holy days in so many cultures at this time of year? Probably has something to do with the occurrence of the Winter solstice at this time, the shortest day of the year. Since the shortest day of the year is followed by increasingly longer and generally warmer days, most cultures associated this date with the birth or rebirth of their favorite diety or religious proposition.

At least, that's my own completely unoriginal theory.

The exact date of the Winter solstice shifts around a little from year to year due to something called the precession of the equinoxes, so religions that don't get the date exactly right deserve a little slack.

This year the Winter solstice is December 22. Merry Festivus!
Breaking news - trees back Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl

Monday, December 11, 2006

Here Toto, here boy

The New York Times reported on December 10 that Iraqi leaders were almost without exception trashing the Iraqi Study Group report even more directly than President Bush. And not in a good way.

Based on their behavior, I've come to think of our national leaders, from the White House to the Capitol building, as denizens of the Beltway Green Zone, with the President and Congressional Democrats and Republicans alike completely divorced from reality. This would now include members of the prestigious Iraq Study Group.

If you think about it, this makes sense. These are people who live in an artificial cocoon of wealth, servants, and assistants who know better than to let unpleasant truths obtrude.

The idea that the United States has any remaining control in Iraq, beyond the ability to shoot people at will, is a fantasy that borders on insanity. Yet it is a fantasy shared by all within the borders of the Zone.

The Republicans proved too craven to do anything about our mad President, now the Democrats are proving too cowardly. One needed a brain, the other needs a heart. Toto, where are we now? Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Serenity now!

According to a December 9, 2006 Los Angeles Times story...(portions redacted)

The conflict in [REDACTED] has entered a dangerous phase, and the next three to six months could prove crucial in determining whether the United States [REDACTED] can suppress a revitalized enemy - or will be dragged into another drawn-out and costly fight with an Islamic insurgency, according to senior military and security officials and diplomats.
"I think we are approaching a tipping point, perhaps early in the new year,"
said a Western diplomat in the region, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the situation publicly.

Question: What region of the world are we talking about, here?

Click here for the answer. Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Traffic cops needed

I wonder if anyone else sees the irony of the Bush administration granting themselves immunity from war crimes charges in one breath, then in the next, making it possible for themselves to be arrested without charge and imprisoned indefinitely since even they DON'T HAVE FOURTH AMENDMENT RIGHTS!

This was done in the same bill, the Military Commissions Act of 2006, signed by President Bush on October 17th, 2006.

In keeping with their tradition of efficiency and competence, there is a possibility that President Bush's team may have accidentally allowed him to veto the Act before he actually signed it. This would require resolution by the Supremes, who have yet to be asked to hem and haw on the issue.

But, this might work out OK, just the same. Forget about the "immunity", that's routinely stripped away by war crimes tribunals, anyway (example, Pinochet).

Let them build their new $37 million, two-courtroom, war crimes prison cum courthouse ("cum" is Latin for "with", so no flaming, OK?) down in sunny Gitmo. I think we all know who might be strolling through the side entrance sporting black hoods and leg chains come February 1, 2009.

I like the idea of the two courtrooms. Detainee Bush and his ex-staff being run through one while Detainee Cheney and his ex-staff are being run through the other. Stereophonic justice.

Some streets are always two-way. That's why we need traffic cops. Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Our thing

A stunning 80 percent of Americans believe our government's fight against corruption ranges from "Not effective" to "Does not fight but actually encourages it", according to the just released Transparency International Global Corruption Barometer for 2006.

More survey results:

  • 52% said corruption affects their personal and family life to a moderate or large extent

  • 87% believe corruption affects the business community to a moderate or large extent

  • 90% believe corruption affects our political system to a moderate or large extent

  • 47% saw political parties as "Extremely corrupt"

Of course, we Americans are notoriously optimistic.

A copy of the full report in PDF format is available here. For the geeky, report statistics are available as spreadsheets in a zip file!!! The surveys were conducted worldwide for Transparency International by The Gallup Organization. Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl

Friday, December 1, 2006

Balancing act

Partial transcript, Tucker Hurlsome Show, January 10, 2007...

TUCKER: My guests are Daily Standard writer, Peter Snark, and Washington Times columnist, Kevin Smoothly. Kevin wrote that rambling, psychotic piece two days ago that has the White House hopping mad, "10 Reasons I Hate The Decider," and Peter followed up yesterday with his calm, well-reasoned New York Times OpEd rebuttal, "11 Reasons To Burn Kevin Smoothly's Hair Off and How To Do It". Kevin, when did you become a Liberal in wolf's clothing?

KEVIN: Tucker, I haven't read Peter's piece yet, but...

TUCKER: Hold on Kevin. Let's give Peter a chance.

PETER: (pointing) Lookit, Tucker, the dweeb doesn't even wear a bow tie. How can he call himself a conservative columnist? He makes me literally sick. He couldn't carry the Decider's scum bags' scum bags.

KEVIN: This is so lame. You're both wearing the same suit and the same bow tie.

TUCKER: Hold on Kevin, we're running short on time. Five seconds. Why are you still in the closet? Go.


PETER: I'll tell you why, Tucker. He's literally a closet Liberal.

KEVIN: You guys are clones.

PETER: You are literally wrong. I've got the lighter fluid, he's got the match. (squirts Kevin's hair)

TUCKER: Sic semper traitorus! (throws lit match)

KEVIN: Yi! Yi! Yi!

PETER: Burn, baby, burn! Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl

Thursday, November 30, 2006


PRESIDENT BUSH: I'm announcin' today I've accepted the secret Baker Commission Report option everybody's callin' Plan F. Now, I can't tell you exactly what it is 'cause we don't wanna give our enemies a heads up, but I can tell you it involves cast iron bathtubs with those little feet and these clickers, you know, the kind they gave the parachute guys in that movie, what was it, D-Day or something? Questions.

FIRST REPORTER: Mr. President, will this result in starting to bring our troops back home anytime soon?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Boy, you guys really have your hobby horse, don't you? Those brave American soldiers and soldierettes are stayin' there until the job is done or die tryin', just like they want.

FIRST REPORTER: Followup, Mr. President. When you say, "cast iron bathtubs", would that be actual bathtubs or is that the name of a new weapons system?

PRESIDENT BUSH: I don't know how much cleaner I can make it. Call on Miss Coulter.

ANN COULTER: Mr. President, when will you or members of your administration start rounding up disloyal reporters and sending them to Camp XRay so they can be interrogated in a totally legal way like they so richly deserve?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Glad you asked that. Boy, I need that guy on TV, that Dog the Booty Hunter fella. I'll tell you later when we have that private meeting for our exclusive interview in the Washington Times.

ANN COULTER: Followup, Mr. President. Do you have the cigar or should I bring one?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Er, why don't you bring one just to be on the safe side again. Heh-heh-heh. Okay, that's it. (turns back and leaves)

SECOND REPORTER: Jeez, I didn't even get a chance to ask my clickers question. Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Now I lay me down to sleep

When I go to bed at night, I pray the next time I see a TV or cable news show featuring a spin doctor, they'll be hanging from the end of a rope flung over a branch of a Live Oak tree in rural Southern Maryland surrounded by flashing lights and yellow tape.

Not seriously, just saying.

What I'd prefer is the same scenario for the TV/cable news producers and executives who perpetrate this baloney, but they're harder to visualize.

The justification the TV/cable network perps claim is that they're providing “balance”, as if shrieking lies can inform the truth.

Where do these “experts” come from?

Many of them began their so-called lives as inept attorneys or failed academics and now live on a dole from think tanks funded by insane millionaires.

Others majored in Liberal Arts and, when they realized they had no marketable skills beyond supersizing, weaseled jobs as congressional gofers, then sidestepped into working for one of the many vanity political magazines funded by insane millionaires.

As you may have noticed, about the only things spin doctors have in common is that they aren't smart enough to get hired by a K Street lobbyist and, of the available career paths open to them, all involve, at some point, an insane millionaire.

Some of the insane millionaires make their money in the TV/cable news business.

Go figure.

By the way, if you live in rural Southern Maryland, my apologies. Just substitute rural South Texas, instead. Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The benefit of doubting

When is the first time you recall hearing a politician tell a lie?

My first time was 1960 when World War II hero, President Dwight David Eisenhower flatly denied Russian claims they had shot down a U.S. spy plane in Soviet airspace.

When the pesky Russians subsequently stood up CIA U2 pilot Francis Gary Powers in a Moscow press conference and also exhibited to the world's press parts of his aircraft clearly marked “Made in U.S.A”, President Eisenhower had to allow as how he might have been “mistaken”.

In their own minds, politicians never tell lies, they “make honest mistakes” or “mis-speak”.

To be fair, I am told there are many instances in recorded history in which a politician said something that was not a lie.

This suggests an interesting question: How can we tell the difference?

We Americans are generally very trusting people who, particularly when we have made an emotional investment in a politician or party by giving our vote to them, tend also to give them the benefit of the doubt when they claim something is true.

Europeans refer to this trait as, “naïveté”, the state of lacking experience or understanding and/or having a lack of sophistication; innocent simplicity.

In some circles in this country, this is also referred to less politely as being a “dumbass”. This is usually considered a negative trait.

For politeness sake, this trait will subsequently be referred to as being “naive”.

So, how can we avoid being naive when it comes to evaluating a politician's words? I'd like to suggest this is not, as they say, rocket science.

Instead of giving politicians the benefit of the doubt, what we should be doing is giving ourselves the benefit of doubting. To conquer our innate addiction to naivety, we need not a 12-step program but a simple three step plan:

  1. First, immediately assume politicians are lying (this will usually be correct).
  2. Next, accept each claim only after it is proved beyond a reasonable doubt by independent evidence.

  3. Finally, after ALL the evidence is in, apply a reasonableness test. Taken together, do the politician's claims and proposals make sense?

Sometimes this doesn't work. Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl

Monday, November 27, 2006

Lie detector test

Grant me the premise that all politicians are demagogues, here, there, everywhere.

Demagogues never do or say anything in public they think will threaten their position.

Instead, every public utterance and move is designed to protect and enhance their political power. It's why they have aides, speechwriters, and handlers.

Because of this, all their public statements, all their public actions, no matter where ostensibly directed, form a narrative that is, without exception, directed at their own constituencies.

Demagogues know their personal survival depends on their success in shaping popular perceptions in their favor, or latching on to a popular position that already exists.

They know, or ought to know, that when they misjudge popular perception through something as simple as hubris, their days are numbered.

This concept does much to clarify the stormy history of the Middle East.

For example, the history of failure with Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, and why the current Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire will fail.

Negotiators controlled by demagogues always talk past each other to their own populations.

Taking it one step further, it also explains why a fractured Iraqi population will not tomorrow awake with the light of peace shining in their eyes and lay down their arms.

Listen carefully to the narrative their leaders are feeding them. For Iraqi leaders, this is a zero-sum game where only the the most violent will survive, yet one more reason to remove our forces now.

Taking the concept just one step further, consider the confused and confusing narratives daily pushed at us by our own set of demagogues on this and other important issues.

Any questions?

Set your internal lie detectors on stun and stand by. Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Google your alter egos

Ever look up your name on Google? Tip: use only your first name and last name, surrounded by quotes:

"Sam Thornton"

Chances are, you'll come up with hundreds of hits. These are your alter egos (kind of). Here are some of my alter egos' activities (with one exception, none of these are anything I've ever done):

Cardiopulmonary Services Director
Chief Agronomist at bat guano factory
Bit player in two TV soap operas
Recently came in fifth in bridge tournament
Fictitious criminal in law student exam (maybe I can sue them)
Circulated petition to stamp out morons (first victim)
Came in second in rodeo calf tiedown (9.960 seconds)
Play baritone saxophone
Potato scientist
Spiritual teacher once "...frightened my ego senseless."
Played golf a couple of years ago, only lost one ball
Came in fifth in 5K race
Threw 10 strikeouts and drove in winning run for Yankees

I'm going to quit now. This is already way better than my real resume. Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Psychic confession

I don't know if I've mentioned it before or not, but I happen to be psychic. I've been able to read minds ever since I was struck by lightening at the age of 7.

The limit on my mind reading ability is kind of wierd. Except for one special case, I can only read the minds of very boring people. This limit provides a strong incentive for me NOT to read anyone's mind, please believe me. So I very seldom exercise this talent on purpose.

The exception is that I can nearly always tell any person what card they're thinking of, unless they have an extremely high I.Q. And strangely, it doesn't make any difference where that person is. They can be across the room or across the world. Any time of the day or night. I can be awake or asleep. Doesn't make any difference. And it works over the internet.

Don't believe me? Click here for the acid test. Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl

Friday, November 24, 2006

Are neocons the new communists?

Anyone who has been paying attention must be puzzled by the seemingly strange words and behavior of people who identify themselves as neo-conservatives, neocons for short.

Manipulating intelligence, engaging in preemptive war, threatening nuclear strikes, flouting international law, subverting civil liberties, implementing dictatorial powers, selective enforcement of the law, intimidation of the press, setting up secret gulags, using torture to coerce confessions, rigging elections, an endless stream of propaganda, subversion of science in favor of ideology, concentration of the economy into the hands of a narrow circle of cronies, universal surveillance of all citizens, secretly kidnapping "enemies of the state".

It's hard to tell where the list ends, at this point probably impossible. It's all quickly becoming secret, a matter of "National Security".

All these strange activities used to be in the ambit of a country known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, now defunct, then under the iron rule of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

There is one important difference. While Soviet citizens enjoyed things like universal health care, heavily subsidized food and housing, and guaranteed jobs and retirement, those particular items are definitely not part of the neocon agenda.

Quite the opposite. Granted that provision of these services to Soviet citizens was stunningly inferior, still, it was better than the nothing the neocons offer. The neocon agenda, in fact, seeks just the opposite, seeks to squeeze its comrades (that's us) for these and all other goods and services to our last nickle and beyond. They want to rule a nation of compliant serfs. Proof is in the bills they've rammed through a rubber-stamp congress and the Darwinian economic, labor and trade policies they've successfully pursued.

For neocons, the recent congressional election is a tragedy. But they're not dead yet. As you may have noticed they are busy concocting and spewing out the same big-lie propaganda that has served them so well in the past. Expect more of the same and worse in the coming years. And this time, no more Mister Nice Guy. Exactly like the old Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

If neocons are the new Soviet-style Communists and we find their goals and methods repugnant, what can be done about them?

Why not use some of the same methods we used to defeat the old Soviet Communists? Why not a new Cold War, but this time one to free us, instead of those formerly oppressed by the old Soviet regime.

Infiltrate, disrupt and compromise their organizations. Pursue their fellow travelers. Reveal their darkest secrets. Discredit their lies with truth. Attack their lines of communications and support. Destroy their will to continue their dark journey. Starve them out.

Either that or maybe we can get the European Union to declare Cold War on us.

P.S. Just saw on the CNN crawl that Iraqi strongman Muqtada El Sadr has threatened to withdraw support from the Iraqi government if Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki meets U.S. President George W. Bush in Jordan next week. I laughed until I cried. This is the reductio ad absurdum of the neocons' dreams of a puppet state in Iraq. Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Body count redux

When General William Westmoreland ("Generally Drifty", as he was known by his staff behind his back) was in charge of the Vietnam thing, he or one of his subordinates regularly hosted at MACV headquarters what came to be known as "The Five O'Clock Follies", in which an attempt would be made to spin the current military situation to an increasingly skeptical press.

One of the many peculiar features of those press conferences was the body count briefing. The body count was the way enemy and friendly casualties were toted up and compared to show that we were winning the war.

The comparison was always impressive, something like 10 to a 100 enemy kills for each friendly death, pretty consistently. Combine that with the fact that we never lost a major battle (quite true), then the conclusion that "we must be winning" should have been obvious to press and public alike. Or so reasoned the General and his bosses back in Washington.

Behind closed doors, however, what increasingly befuddled the leadership was that although all the numbers were on their side, they were obviously not winning the war. The solution they kept coming up with was "more of the same".

Eventually, what the body count comparisons served to do was publicize the staggering number of U.S. and Vietnamese combat deaths and injuries until a disgusted and disillusioned American public began marching and rioting against the war.

Fast forward.

I can't find a reference for this, but I believe at some point a Pentagon spokesman told the press that there would be no official comparisons of U.S. casualties to enemy casualties in Iraq. No "body count briefings", in other words. The military had learned at least this one small lesson from Vietnam.

However, to put it in the Rumsfeld vernacular, this particular metric is one that would naturally be consulted internally as an important measure of success or failure and is implicit in most of the official statements released and most of the military strategies advanced. Obviously, as in Vietnam, if we kill more of them than we lose on our side, we must be winning. If we aren't winning, then we must need more of the same.

This is important because it illustrates a very basic and neatly schizophrenic misunderstanding on the part of both our military and political leadership, from Vietnam to the present, as to how victory in war is achieved.

While our leaders tell us on the one hand that the only way the enemy can win is by us giving up -- "cut and run"; on the other hand, they tell us that the only way we can win is by killing as many of the enemy as possible -- "staying the course". Anyone see the disconnect here? Why are they applying different tests for winning to the opposing sides?

In The Art of War by 6th century BC Chinese general Sun Tzu, he famously remarks:

The acme of excellence belongs not to the one who fights and wins every battle but to the one who conquers without even waging a war.

Along the same lines, Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz advised:

The aim of a nation in war is to subdue the enemy's will to resist, with the least possible human and economic loss itself . . . our goal in war can only be attained by the subjugation of the opposing will . . .

various sources, Google Clausewitz

In other words, our focus and measure of winning in Iraq should be how effectively we are eroding the enemy's will, not by how many enemy are captured or killed, not by juggling the number of boots on the ground, not by moving troops around on virtual maps, not by embedding advisers in Iraqi units, not by standing up Iraqi units so we can stand down, not by begging Syria and Iran to bail us out, and not by pressuring the Iraqi government to do anything. All that is irrelevant blather. Unfortunately, our leaders genuinely don't seem to understand this and on the evidence of the last 40 years, never will.

That is why, it seems to me, the only sensible solution is to say, to hell with it, and remove our troops now. Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Cold fusion revisited

We all remember the cold fusion flap a few years ago. Chemists Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons announced at a press conference on March 23, 1989, at the University of Utah they had produced a radiation-free nuclear fusion reaction in an electrolysis cell on a lab bench – a discovery that implied a new source of cheap, boundless, commercial energy.

Their experimental results could not be reproduced by other scientists and both they and cold fusion were pretty much made laughinstocks in the scientific community.


Now Frank Gordon of the U.S. Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center in San Diego, California recently demonstrated the cold fusion effect (it's now known as "low energy nuclear reactions", or LENR) at the August 2, 2006 Naval Science & Technology Partnership conference in Washington, D.C.

Conferees were "astonished", according to a November 10, 2006 report on the conference by The New Energy Times *.

Important to note, Gordon's experimental results have not yet been replicated or peer reviewed by other scientists, the steps that led to the downfall of Fleischmann and Pons. Normally, this takes at least several months, so stay tuned.

* New Energy Times™ is a project of New Energy Institute, an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation which provides information and educational services to help bring about the clean-energy revolution, according to a notice on their website. Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Surfing the blogs

I noticed Blogspot's random surfing options, so I've been skipping through the blogspotosphere.

Wow, what a wealth of different stuff. My only objection is to the blogs that block out the "Next Blog" button. Screw them; hit that Alt-Left Arrow combo and go to the next one. There ought to be a law.

Most blogs seem to fall into fairly well defined categories.

  • Vanity blogs
    These are usually by Moms, Students, and 15-30 year old Single Females. The Moms often have some really interesting recipes with photographic documentation.

    The Studes mostly seem to be really, really bummed out, dude.

    The SF's share fascinations with hair, nails, shopping, sex, being sad, and dating and/or the absence thereof, not necessarily in that order. Some of them seem a little self-involved. Maybe that's why the Studes are bummed out.

  • Non-English blogs
    These are hard to figure out since I speekee only English. I usually skip them unless they have some quality art work. Some of them do.

  • My Internet Business blogs
    For some strange reason, many people seem to have simultaneously latched on to the delusion that they can make money by putting up a free blog and trying to sell stuff. Haven't they heard about EBay?

    There must be a book out there pushing this screwball idea. Something like, "How To Use The Internet To Make A Million And Not Really Do Anything".

    Maybe I'll put some click-through ads on my blog in hopes that the one person a month who accidentally lands here could potentially make me 2 or 3 cents.

  • Blogs in English by bloggers for whom English is not a primary language
    Most of these are pretty interesting and not that difficult to figure out. Here's an example.

  • Religious blogs
    At last! People with the God-given wisdom to show not only me, but everyone else in the world, the error of our ways.

    To be fair, many of these are the sincere musings of people grappling with the intricacies of their faith. You decide.

  • Family blogs
    Many of these are by young married couples with new babies (lots of pictures). They often report on their chronic sleep deprivation. Many of them feature posts written as if they were authored by the infants themselves!

  • Conspiracy blogs
    Rare but fascinating. These range from the clearly delusional 9/11 "Bush and Cheney did it" buffs (at least, I hope they're delusional), to the Area 51 freaks, to the still popular Kennedy assassination groupies.

    Actually, a couple of the latter seem to point to some fairly plausible theories, including a tantalizing photo of someone who just might be George Herbert Walker Bush skulking around outside the entrance to the Texas School Book Depository the day JFK was shot.

    For further info, Google the name David Sanchez Morales, a CIA employee widely identified as a professional assassin who may or may not have been the actual button man for not only JFK but RFK as well, according to some bloggers and to this BBC report.

    Amazingly, based on statements by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and others, there seem to have been links between the elder Bush and Morales during the period in question.

    John Simkin, former history teacher, internet journalist and Blogspot blogger, runs a widely respected history website in the U.K. that includes a section on the history of the JFK/RFK asassinations. He comes to many of the same conclusions as the BBC report.

    Interestingly, many people who think the Warren Commission Report on the assassination of JFK is a crock live in merry old England.
There are a ton of other possible blogger categories. You know who you are.

P. S. One blog I hit once in a while,, hijacks your browser and runs all your subsequent activity through a scammer site called Join me in complaining to Google about them (copy the URL in red and select SPAM site on the Google form). You can also flag them to Google as objectionable by clicking the FLAG BLOG button at the top of their page, if you're unlucky enough to hit their page. Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl

Monday, November 20, 2006

Staggering toward Armageddon

This was originally titled "Between Iraq and a hard place" until Google told me there were about 69,800 web pages using the same title. There's only one other page using the above. For now.

Everyone has their own take on what to do about Iraq. The national consensus, based on the November 7th election, seems to be, "We're screwed. Do something."

Here are the main options floating around, with some of the devils in their details:

  1. Increase U.S. troop levels to that necessary to achieve victory.

    And how many troops do we need? 250,000, 500,000? According to the CENTCOM commander, we can't even sustain an additional 20,000. Even if the higher numbers were possible, how would we use the additional firepower? Level Sadr City, shoot everyone in Fallujah? Senator McCain, the primary proponent of this approach, needs to change his brand of tabacky.

  2. Embed additional U.S. advisers in Iraqi military units so we can show them how it's supposed to be done. (CENTCOM's best advice.)

    Let's see, we've been at it for over three years and the situation on the ground is worse than when we rolled into Baghdad, growing steadily worse, day by day, month by month, year by year. What is it we're going to show Iraqi soldiers? How to screw things up the U.S. Army way?

  3. Really, really concentrate on training the Iraqi Army and police and as they stand up, we stand down. (Multiple authors on this one.)

    We've supposedly been doing exactly this for the last three years, according to repeated claims by the Administration and its generals. CENTCOM testified before congress last week that the number of Iraqi units able to "stand up" after three years of DOD training equals exactly zero.

    In three years, we can turn a raw U.S. recruit into a lethal Special Forces war fighter. Have our trainers been taking an extended lunch break all this time? I doubt it. The real problems probably revolve around things like the Iraqi Army's primary troop carriers are Nissan pickups, they're getting paid squat, and it's tough to get new recruits when they keep getting blown up at the recruiting stations.

    I seriously doubt the CENTCOM count of Iraqi troops is accurate in the first place. One of the common scams of ARVN generals during Vietnam was to collect the pay for twice the number of troops actually under their command and pocket the difference. Iraqi generals are at least as smart as the ARVN generals were.

    The third devil in this particular morass of details is the degree to which both the Iraqi Army and police forces have been infiltrated by the various militias, insurgent groups, and terrorist groups. From the evidence on the ground, it's presumably a high percentage. Standing up seriously compromised units effectively puts military control of the country into the hands of the very people we are supposedly battling. How dumb is that?

  4. Place more pressure on the Iraqi government to disarm the militias, compromise their sectarian differences, and take control of the situation. (Also many authors.)

    This is a real pipe dream. How can you pressure someone into doing something they can't do? If you had a gun to your head held by someone who demanded you immediately grow a third arm, how long would you last? This is the kind of non-solution propounded by people who think torturing farmers will get them a road map to the fabled Weapons of Mass Destruction.

  5. Through diplomacy, enlist the help of Syria and Iraq to pull our bacon out of the fire. (Advice of the Bush 41 Wise Men.)

    I can't understand why proponents of this theory don't include North Korea and Indonesia in this mix. Or the planet Uranus, for that matter. They're equally likely to help, unless they all just happen to drop dead laughing first.

  6. Nuke Iran to take the pressure off Iraq.

    This is widely held to be the Cheney Option, or close to it. Check out the Seymour Hersch article in the New Yorker. This might actually work if Bush/Cheney have the balls to also nuke everyone else in the neighborhood, including Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Pakistan. Do we have that many deliverable warheads left? Probably.

  7. Stay the course and/or "We'll succeed unless we quit." (authored by the usual suspects).

    If you find yourself in a hole, dig faster! Unfortunately, this is probably what will happen. There are simply no grownups in either political party, or at least not enough to make a difference.
So what's the answer? Sorry, I'm not smart enough to know, unless it involves simply getting the hell out. Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Lost in the forest

I've been running some of the political blogs today. This seems to be a popular pastime for people with too much time on their hands.

The blogs I gravitate to are those that seem more left of center and/or fact-based than not, if for no other reason than the spelling and grammer are less distracting.

I don't know why there seems to be some kind of correlation between the political left and more or less accurate spelling any more than I know why people who identify themselves as Conservatives always seem to look kind of wierd.

Surprisingly, The Huffington Post had some interesting articles and comments, as did the recently purged TPMCafe. One of the down sides of blogs that accept comments, as I'm sure you've noticed, is that there seems to be a vast supply of loony, vindictive, screwballs out there who live to trash talk. This can be a problem for blogs that are trying to attract grownups.

Oddly, loony, vindictive, trash-talking screwballs seem to view themselves as the sane ones. Everyone else is a dumbass. They are doing the world a service by pointing this out in the strongest language they can muster that will be understood by the dumbasses they are improving with their wit and wisdom.

While not a blog, is, for me anyway, a don't miss daily ritual. I find more articles there to get righteously upset about than nearly anywhere else, including Muckraker.

When I find a blog or newsy site I like, I bookmark it. This has become a problem. I've got so many bookmarks, folders, and subdirectories I can't remember the locations of the ones that were marginal, which ones were worthwhile, or which ones were really worthwhile. I need to take a weekend to sort this out. Digg Stumble Upon Toolbar propeller Furl