Saturday, October 11, 2008

Top GOP Strategist: Its Over, Obama Will Win In Landslide

Ed Rollins - GOP strategist - says it's over, and that it will be a landslide.

Psychology Today - Seven Deadly Sentiments

We tend to berate ourselves for having dark thoughts creating shame and low self-esteem, but evolutionary psychology contends these thoughts are part of our evolutionary history, and for good reason. So if your inner critic, like mine, is working overtime, you might want to check out this article, reprinted from the Jan/Feb 2004 issue of Psychology Today.

Some more thoughts below.
Seven Deadly Sentiments

Evolutionary psychology helps us understand why we are ashamed of having forbidden thoughts that make us feel like lousy people. It tells us that these shameful feelings are hardwired—strategies that led to success on the Pleistocene savanna.

By: Kathleen McGowan, Ken Gordon

In our confessional culture, it is socially acceptable—even fashionable—to disclose your sexual predilections, your husband's problem with painkillers, your penchant for high colonics. Our hypertherapeutic society lets it all hang out.

But plenty of feelings remain in the closet. In the privacy of our own heads, we cringe with dread when we meet someone in a wheelchair, wish our aged relatives would hurry up and die, smirk over our friends' bad taste and think babies are ugly and annoying. Meanwhile, we assure ourselves—and one another—that we're really very nice people.

Evolutionary psychology holds that these shameful feelings are hardwired—strategies that led to success on the Pleistocene savanna. If that's so, then why are they so hard to admit to? "Given that these emotions are shaped by natural selection and are innate, or at least pretty deep, why do we expend so much effort in denying them?" asks Dylan Evans, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom.

It's a good question. The persistence of forbidden feelings fascinated Freud, and provided the raw material for his controversial theory of repression and the all-powerful unconscious. Both psychoanalysis and Catholic absolution are rooted in the idea that confession can strip taboo thoughts of their crippling power. Whether or not you believe in Freud (or the Virgin Mary), one thing is for sure: Our efforts to banish or explain away these unmentionables can't keep them from roaring back—and making us feel terrible as a result.

Acting on a nasty impulse may be cause for shame. But why feel so guilty about a feeling that remains a mere fancy, harmlessly stashed away in your brain? Evans theorizes that this guilt really stems from the fear of exposure. We're braced for discovery, even though we haven't really done anything. "If you're discovered doing something wrong, and you immediately feel terrible about it, the offense is mitigated," he says. "So you better be ready to display guilt if someone discovers you."

Feelings of shame trigger deeper unrest than the simple fear of being found out does, says psychiatrist Michael Lewis, author of Shame: The Exposed Self. Guilt is a response to bad behavior. Shame, on the other hand, "is so powerful because it's about a defective self," he says. In shame, explains Lewis, the very self is "rotten and no good." That's why intense feelings of shame can actually drive people into shameless behavior, such as jealous rage.

Yet a bit of bad feeling can be good. Emotions like shame or pride can serve as psychic regulators, Lewis says, and a healthy amount of shame may prevent you from impulsively doing something you'd later regret, such as slapping your bratty son. "We don't want to live in a world in which there is no shame or guilt," he says. "We want just enough to help us not do some of the awful things we could do."

So how to cope with the realization that you bitterly resent your successful friends and fantasize about your wife's yoga instructor? According to Lewis, there are three lines of attack: Forget about it over time, confess it or laugh about it. In laughter, he says, "you can move away from yourself and look in, saying: 'Who could believe it! How stupid!'"

Read the rest of this article.

One of the problems we face at this point in our evolution is that the neocortex is not running the show - we are still too often at the mercy of our reptilian brains (especially the amygdala) and our mammal brains (limbic system).

Understanding this allows to have a little compassion for ourselves, but also to know that if we practice mindfulness, we are no longer equal to our thoughts.

[For what it's worth, the money thing (#5, I think) still haunts me -- that I'd be worth more if I earned more, even though I earn enough right now. Strange how those family-of-origin and cultural messages can be so prevalent.]

Scientific American - Searching for Intelligence in Our Genes

Cool article from SciAm about the quest to understand the genetic differences (if there are any) that account for individual intelligence.

Searching for Intelligence in Our Genes

IQ is easy to measure and reflects something real. But scientists hunting among our genes for the factors that shape intelligence are discovering they are more elusive than expected

By Carl Zimmer

Key Concepts
  • Researchers have powerful new technologies to probe genes and the brain, looking for the basis of intelligence differences among individuals.
  • Their work is providing a new understanding of what intelligence is, while also revealing unanticipated complexity in the interplay between genes and environment.
  • The more scientists learn about the role of genes in intelligence, the more mysterious it becomes, but the quest is still worth pursuing.

In Robert Plomin’s line of work, patience is essential. Plomin, a behavioral geneticist at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, wants to understand the nature of intelligence. As part of his research, he has been watching thousands of children grow up. Plomin asks the children questions such as “What do water and milk have in common?” and “In what direction does the sun set?” At first he and his colleagues quizzed the children in person or over the telephone. Today many of those children are in their early teens, and they take their tests on the Internet.

In one sense, the research has been a rousing success. The children who take the tests are all twins, and throughout the study identical twins have tended to get scores closer to each other than those of nonidentical twins, who in turn have closer scores than unrelated children. These results—along with similar ones from other studies—make clear to the scientists that genes have an important influence on how children score on intelligence tests.

But Plomin wants to know more. He wants to find the specific genes that are doing the influencing. And now he has a tool for pinpointing genes that he could not have even dreamed of when he began quizzing children. Plomin and his colleagues have been scanning the genes of his subjects with a device called a microarray, a small chip that can recognize half a million distinctive snippets of DNA. The combination of this powerful tool with a huge number of children to study meant that he could detect genes that had only a tiny effect on the variation in scores.

Still, when Plomin and his co-workers unveiled the results of their microarray study—the biggest dragnet for intelligence-linked genes ever undertaken—they were underwhelming. The researchers found only six genetic markers that showed any sign of having an influence on the test scores. When they ran stringent statistical tests to see if the results were flukes, only one gene passed. It accounted for 0.4 percent of the variation in the scores. And to cap it all off, no one knows what the gene does in the body.

Go read the whole article -- this is the cutting of current research into intelligence.

Chogyam Trungpa on Warriorship

Two quotes from Rinpoche, circulated by the Ocean of Dharma mailing list. I'm looking forward to getting the book these are from.


If victory is the notion of no enemy, then the whole world is a friend. That seems to be the warrior's philosophy. The true warrior is not like somebody carrying a sword and looking behind his own shadow, in case somebody is lurking there. That is the setting-sun warrior's point of view, which is an expression of cowardice. The true warrior always has a weapon, in any case....The definition of warriorship is fearlessness and gentleness. Those are your weapons. The genuine warrior becomes truly gentle because there is no enemy at all.

From the manuscript of CONQUERING FEAR: THE HEART OF SHAMBHALA. Forthcoming from Shambhala Publications in 2009.

* * * * *


When we speak of fearlessness, we are describing a positive state of being full of delight and cheerfulness, with sparkling eyes and good posture. This state of being is not dependent on any external circumstance. If you can't pay the electric bill, you might not have hot water in your house. The building you live in may not be well insulated. If you don't have indoor plumbing, you may have to use an outhouse. Millions of people in the world live this way. If you can raise your good posture of head and shoulders, then regardless of your living situation, you will feel a sense of joy. It's not any kind of cheap joy. It's individual dignity. This experience of joy and unconditional healthiness is the basic virtue that comes from being what we are, right now. You have to experience this natural healthiness and goodness personally.

When you practice meditation, that brings the beginning of the beginning of this experience. Then, when you leave the meditation hall and go out and relate with the rest of reality, you will find out what kind of joy is needed and what kind of joy is expendable. The experience of joy may be a momentary experience, or it could last a long time. In any case, this joy is an eye opener. You are no longer shy of seeing the world. You find that the joy of warriorship is always needed.

From the manuscript of CONQUERING FEAR: THE HEART OF SHAMBHALA. Forthcoming from Shambhala Publications in 2009.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Arrogant Bastard Ale

Clusterf#@k to the Poor House - Financial Crisis Cartoons

Jon Stewart at his best.

Conservatives on McCain

Interesting that his own party is turning on him for his disgusting campaign tactics -- but that's what happens when the Rovians are in control of things.
George Will on McCain - "Many millions of American households are gingerly opening envelopes containing reports of the third-quarter losses in their 401(k) and other retirement accounts — telling each household its portion of the nearly $2 trillion that Americans’ accounts have recently shed. In this context, the McCain-Palin campaign’s attempt to get Americans to focus on Obama’s Chicago associations seem surreal — or, as a British politician once said about criticism he was receiving, 'like being savaged by a dead sheep.'"

* * *

“Who Is John McCain?” - "He is not the McCain I endorsed. He keeps saying, ‘Who is Barack Obama?’ I would ask the question, ‘Who is John McCain?’ … I’m disappointed in the tenor and the personal attacks on the part of the McCain campaign, when he ought to be talking about the issues."

~ Former Michigan Republican Governor William Milliken

* * *

CNN contributor David Gergen (and presidential advisor during the administrations of Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton) said that the negative tone of these rallies is "incendiary" and could lead to violence.

"There is this free floating sort of whipping around anger that could really lead to some violence. I think we're not far from that," he told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Thursday. "I really worry when we get people -- when you get the kind of rhetoric that you're getting at these rallies now. I think it's really imperative that the candidates try to calm people down."

* * *

Christopher Buckley, son of William F. Buckley, endorses Obama - "John McCain has changed. He said, famously, apropos the Republican debacle post-1994, “We came to Washington to change it, and Washington changed us.” This campaign has changed John McCain. It has made him inauthentic. A once-first class temperament has become irascible and snarly; his positions change, and lack coherence; he makes unrealistic promises, such as balancing the federal budget “by the end of my first term.” Who, really, believes that? Then there was the self-dramatizing and feckless suspension of his campaign over the financial crisis. His ninth-inning attack ads are mean-spirited and pointless. And finally, not to belabor it, there was the Palin nomination. What on earth can he have been thinking?

All this is genuinely saddening, and for the country is perhaps even tragic, for America ought, really, to be governed by men like John McCain—who have spent their entire lives in its service, even willing to give the last full measure of their devotion to it. If he goes out losing ugly, it will be beyond tragic, graffiti on a marble bust."

I'm sure there are more -- Kathleen Parker, also of the National Review, has said Palin is simply not qualified for the job, and so has David Brooks, although he called her “a cancer on the Republican Party.”

Top 25 Censored Stories for 2009

This year's list from Project Censored.

Each link takes you to the Project Censored page for that particular story -- have fun learning about what the mainstream media didn't think was worth their time, while Britney and Bradgelina was. The MSM is an embarrassment.

Josh Marshall - The Gist of the ACORN Story

McCain and Palin (and a whole mess of conservatives) have their panties all in a bunch about some alleged voter fraud being perpetrated by ACORN. At least someone in the alternative media/blogosphere has the good sense to explain why this is simply part of an organized effort to generate hate, racism, and the conviction that good, God-fearing' Republicans had the election stolen from them by people with dark skin and/or low incomes.

Shameful is the word that comes to mind. And worse, this just draws attention away from GOP efforts to deny voting rights in other swing states, which I'm sure is part of the point.

The U.S. Department of Justice, for instance, this week said that Georgia's actions to verify identity and citizenship appear to violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

The Brennan Center for Justice has issued a new report criticizing the way voter "purges" are conducted: "Officials strike voters from the rolls through a process that is shrouded in secrecy, prone to error, and vulnerable to manipulation."

The New York Times reviewed state records and Social Security records and concluded that "(t)ens of thousands of eligible voters in at least six swing states have been removed from the rolls or have been blocked from registering in ways that appear to violate federal law" -- the six battleground states being Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Nevada, and North Carolina.

“These purges are in violation of federal law, including the National Voter Registration Act, which prohibits such purges of voters 90 days before a federal election," Laughlin McDonald, director of the ACLU Voting Rights Project said in a statement. “Of course, states should update their voter lists with accurate information, but they should do so in a way that complies with the law and is not driven by partisan bias and does not have an adverse impact on racial and language minorities. Regrettably, our past and recent history is filled with examples of partisan bias driving voter purging and vote suppression. If these practices are allowed to continue, we could see thousands of eligible voters show up on Election Day, only to find that they were removed from the rolls."

Hmmm . . . sounds like Florida in 2000.
Here is the full story on the ACORN part of things, from Talking Points Memo.

The Gist of the ACORN Story

10.10.08 -- 2:58PM
By Josh Marshall

The Republican party is grasping on to the ACORN story as a way to delegitimize what now looks like the probable outcome of the November election. It is also a way to stoke the paranoia of their base, lay the groundwork for legal challenges of close outcomes in various states and promote new legal restrictions on legitimate voting by lower income voters and minorities. The big picture is that these claims of 'voter fraud' are themselves a fraud, a tool to aid in suppressing Democratic voter turnout. But I want give readers a bit more detail to understand what is going because the right-wing freak out about ACORN happens pretty much on schedule every two years. The whole scam is premised on having enough people who don't remember when they tried it before who they can then confuse and lie to. And this is clearly important because I'm hearing from a lot of people whose heart is in the right place thinking some real voter fraud conspiracy has been uncovered and that Obama has to distance himself from it post-haste.

ACORN registers lots of lower income and/or minority voters. They operate all across the country and do a lot of things beside voter registration. What's key to understand is their method. By and large they do not rely on volunteers to register voters. They hire people -- often people with low incomes or even the unemployed. This has the dual effect of not only registering people but also providing some work and income for people who are out of work. But because a lot of these people are doing it for the money, inevitably, a few of them cut corners or even cheat. So someone will end up filling out cards for nonexistent names and some of those slip through ACORN's own efforts to catch errors. (It's important to note that in many of the recent ACORN cases that have gotten the most attention it's ACORN itself that has turned the people in who did the fake registrations.) These reports start buzzing through the right-wing media every two years and every time the anecdotal reports of 'thousands' of fraudulent registrations turns out, on closer inspection, to be either totally bogus themselves or wildly exaggerated. So thousands of phony registrations ends up being, like, twelve.

I've always had questions about whether this is a good way to do voter registration. And Democratic campaigns usually keep their distance. But here's the key. This is fraud against ACORN. They end up paying people for registering more people then they actually signed up. If you register me three times to vote, the registrar will see two new registrations of an already registered person and the ones won't count. If I successfully register Mickey Mouse to vote, on election day, Mickey Mouse will still be a cartoon character who cannot go to the local voting station and vote. Logically speaking there's very little way a few phony names on the voting rolls could be used to commit actual vote fraud. And much more importantly, numerous studies and investigations have shown no evidence of anything more than a handful of isolated cases of actual instances of vote fraud.

To expand on this point let me quote from Richard Hasen, one of the most experienced and concise commentators on this question, from a June 2007 column in the Dallas Morning News ...

At least in hindsight, the center's line of argument is easily deconstructed. First, arguing by anecdote is dangerous business. A new report by Lorraine Minnite of Barnard College looks at these anecdotes and shows them to be, for the most part, wholly spurious. Sure, one can find a rare case of someone voting in two jurisdictions, but nothing extensive or systematic has been unearthed or documented.

But perhaps most importantly, the idea of massive polling-place fraud (through the use of inflated voter rolls) is inherently incredible. Suppose I want to swing the Missouri election for my preferred presidential candidate. I would have to figure out who the fake, dead or missing people on the registration rolls are, then pay a lot of other individuals to go to the polling place and claim to be that person, without any return guarantee - thanks to the secret ballot - that any of them will cast a vote for my preferred candidate.

Those who do show up at the polls run the risk of being detected and charged with a felony. And for what - $10? Polling-place fraud, in short, makes no sense.

The Justice Department devoted unprecedented resources to ferreting out fraud over five years and appears to have found not a single prosecutable case across the country. Of the many experts consulted, the only dissenter from that position was a representative of the now-evaporated American Center for Voting Rights.

Again, there have been numerous investigations of this. Often by people with at least a mild political interest in finding wrongdoing. But they never find it. It always ends up being right-wing hype and lies. Remember, most of those now-famous fired US Attorneys from 2007 were Republican appointees who were canned after they got tasked with investigating allegations of widespread vote fraud, did everything they could to find it, but came up with nothing. That was the wrong answer so Karl Rove and his crew at the Justice Department fired them.

Vote registration fraud is a limited and relatively minor problem in the US today. But it is principally an administrative and efficiency issue. It is has little or nothing to do with people casting illegitimate votes to affect an actual election. That's the key. What you're hearing right now from Fox News, the New York Post, John Fund and the rest of the right-wing bamboozlement chorus is a just another effort to exploit, confuse and lie in an effort to put more severe restrictions on legitimate voting and lay the groundwork to steal elections.

It's that simple.

Late Update: McCain's sleaze and disgrace just runs deeper and deeper. This just in from TPM Reader DW ...

McCain's team has been pushing it on reporters today and just put out one of the most obvious web videos yet.

I say "obvious" because the implication of the 24/7 Fox coverage is made blatant. It's transference. It's saying to white voters, "we know you're angry about the economy. Don't blame Wall Street. Blame the n-----s."

McCain's going to lose, and he knows it. This is a 90-second ad aimed at the base who are watching Fox News. But he's setting up a large proportion (maybe the majority) of the GOP base to believe that scary blacks stole the election for Barack Obama. He's stoking race hatred. He is scum, and if in 10 years his name isn't synonymous with Lester Maddox and George Wallace than historians won't have done their job.

It's really true. The essence of McCain's campaign now appears to amount to prepping McCain's base to believe they didn't really lose the election. The election was stolen from them by Barack and his army of gangsters and black street hustlers.

SNL - Presidential Debate Skit

Funny, and a little weird.

The Banned SNL Skit on the Bail Out

Funny stuff -- too bad this didn't get on the air. They trash both sides on this issue.

The Hindu - To Feel or Not (Compassion)

Interesting post from The Hindu on compassion. Ahimsa -- a word in the article - is a sanskrit term for the avoidance of violence:
Ahimsa (Devanagari: अहिंसा; IAST ahiṃsā) is a Sanskrit term meaning non-violence (literally: the avoidance of violence - himsa). It is an important tenet of the religions that originated in ancient India (Hinduism, Buddhism and especially Jainism). Ahimsa is a rule of conduct that bars the killing or injuring of living beings. It is closely connected with the notion that all kinds of violence entail negative karmic consequences. The extent to which the principle of non-violence can or should be applied to different life forms is controversial between various authorities, movements and currents within the three religions and has been a matter of debate for thousands of years.
Here's the article:

To feel or not


Are we just being used when we are kind and compassionate?

Photo: Rajeev Bhatt

Turning away: We are unsure of how to respond to such appeals.

Several readers wrote in after reading “A Heart That Can Feel”. “I don’t like being unkind, yet the more compassionate I am, the more I am taken for a ride,” wrote one. “My heart always lets me down, I’m begi nning to get hard, but I don’t like being this way,” echoed another. Are we just being used when we are kind and compassionate? Does everyone think of us as prize fools?

Role model

My grandmother and my mother have been wonderful role models as I journey down the path of ahimsa .On my mother’s 70th birthday, our builder told her his daughter wanted to study medicine. Even though she had got a place in college, he could not afford the fees. My mother had exactly the amount he needed. She wrote a cheque and gave it to him.

I was not surprised but hoped that the girl would use her time in medical college well. Sadly, the man began a building project with the money. I was furious. When the girl came to my mother for the next set of fees, I almost threw her out. My mother showed great interest in her progress and did not say anything about her father. Of course she wrote out another cheque. When I threw up my hand in despair, she told me this story.

A holy man, bathing in the river, noticed a drowning scorpion. He lifted it out but before he could put it down, the scorpion stung him. The man was in great pain, yet he carefully placed it on the ground. People laughed at his stupidity. ‘What did you achieve? You spared the scorpion’s life only to get yourself bitten.” The man replied, “I did what I had to, according to my nature: rescue it from drowning and give it life. The scorpion did what it had to do according to its nature: sting me.”

I knew what my mother was trying to teach me and, since then, have used the lesson in my own life. Readers have commented on giving to beggars, servants, people who ask in emergencies, who tug at our heartstrings with sad stories. A man, dressed in rags, went from home to home asking for help. He looked frail and sick so many gave freely and generously. One day, one man saw the same man, now well dressed, sitting opposite him at a meeting. The man went to a Rabbi and poured out his anger. The Rabbi asked, “When he came to your door, how was he dressed?”

“In rags,” replied the man.

“So you did not know then that he was a rich man?

“Of course not,” he replied.

“Then don’t worry about it. Your heart did the right thing. It responded to the poor man’s pain. That is the main thing. If the man cheated you deliberately, he will have to answer for his sins.

Often we turn the other way from a beggar or an appeal for help because we don’t like to be cheated. Our hearts want to respond, but we are unsure if our help will actually reach them or if they will truly benefit. Once when we stopped at a traffic light, a young boy ran up to our car waving a packet of coloured wash cloths for the car. The person I was with shooed him away as I dug into my purse for some money. I was a little surprised by her ferociousness. The boy looked at me with soulful eyes. “Please buy a packet,” he said. “It’s for my books.”

Reach out

I know many children like him who sell flowers, car cloths, spinach and other things early in the morning before they go to school. Yes, they are a nuisance, they pester us at the wrong time, when we have no change or when we are stressed. Life is hard for them, but they go on hoping that today will be a better day… that they will sell one more packet than yesterday. Reaching out takes them a little nearer to the road of independence, economic stability and personal dignity.

Ahimsa people are not just those with hearts, but are those with hearts that ask for nothing in return.

Verbage - The Republican War on Words

From The New Yorker, a good look at the anti-intellectual element in the GOP and their "war on words." Or maybe they know just how powerful words can be, as discussed in this Scientific American Mind article. (The article is talking about gossip, but it does demonstrate that words - used correctly - have the power to shape thought. So maybe that's why the GOP fears words, because they'd rather use fear to shape thinking.)


The Republican war on words.

by James Wood

In recent elections, the Republican hate word has been “liberal,” or “Massachusetts,” or “Gore.” In this election, it has increasingly been “words.” Barack Obama has been denounced again and again as a privileged wordsmith, a man of mere words who has “authored” two books (to use Sarah Palin’s verb), and done little else. The leathery extremist Phyllis Schlafly had this to say, at the Republican Convention, about Palin: “I like her because she’s a woman who’s worked with her hands, which Barack Obama never did, he was just an élitist who worked with words.” The fresher-faced extremist Rick Santorum, a former Republican senator, called Obama “just a person of words,” adding, “Words are everything to him.” The once bipartisan campaign adviser Dick Morris and his wife and co-writer, Eileen McGann, argue that the McCain camp, in true Rovian fashion, is “using the Democrat’s articulateness against him” (along with his education, his popularity, his intelligence, his wife—pretty much everything but his height, though it may come to that). John McCain’s threatened cancellation of the first Presidential debate was the ultimate defiance, by action, of words; sure enough, afterward conservatives manfully disdained Barack Obama’s “book knowledge.” To have seen the mountains of Waziristan with one’s own eyes—that is everything.

Doesn’t this reflect a deep suspicion of language itself? It’s as if Republican practitioners saw words the way Captain Ahab saw “all visible objects”—as “pasteboard masks,” concealing acts and deeds and things—and, like Ahab, were bent on striking through those masks. The Melvillean atmosphere may not be accidental, since, beyond the familiar American anti-intellectualism—to work with words is not to work at all—there’s a residual Puritanism. The letter killeth, as St. Paul has it, but the spirit giveth life. (In that first debate, McCain twice charged his opponent with the misdeed of “parsing words.”) In this vision, there is something Pharisaical about words. They confuse, they corrupt; they get in the way of Jesus.

But we all need words, and both campaigns wrestle every day over them. Words are up for grabs: just follow the lipstick traces. For days, the McCain camp accused Obama of likening Governor Palin to a pig, because he likened a retooled political message to a pig with lipstick. Eventually, McCain (who had previously described Senator Hillary Clinton’s health-care plan as a pig with lipstick) was forced to fudge. No, he conceded, Senator Obama had not called Governor Palin a pig, “but I know he chooses his words carefully, and it was the wrong thing to say.” This was instructive, not least because it sounded like implicit praise: maybe I don’t choose my words very carefully, but he does, so he should have chosen them more carefully.

Meanwhile, the campaign that claims to loathe “just words” has proved expert at their manipulation, from reversals of policy to the outright lies of some of its attack ads (“comprehensive sex education”) and the subtle racial innuendo of a phrase like “how disrespectful” (used to accuse Obama of making uppity attacks on Palin). Karl Rove—along with predecessors like Lee Atwater and protégés like Steve Schmidt—long ago showed the Republicans that language is slippery, fluid, a river into which you can dump anything at all as long as your opponent is the one downstream. And, to be fair, those who affect to despise words have been more skillful than their opponents not just at amoral manipulation but at the creation of what Orwell called “a fresh, vivid, home-made turn of speech.” Pit bulls and lipstick stuck for good reason.

Or take McCain’s slogan “The Original Maverick,” now attached to many of the campaign’s ads. It cynically stipulates that politics is just merchandise, by sounding as close to a logo or a brand name as possible. But it also understands that consumers trust brands that sound like “quality.” Thus “Original,” which has the reassuring solidity of something like “Serving Americans of discernment since 1851,” or, indeed, “Levi’s 501: Original Jeans.” In such formulations, “Original” means eccentric, strange, unusual, and also first, best, belatedly copied by others. Better still, the phrase sounds like the tagline from a movie poster; not for nothing has McCain taken to announcing that “change is coming soon, to a district near you.”

If Obama is the letter (words, fancy diplomas, “authored” books), then the latest representative of the spirit is Sarah Palin. Literary theorists used to say that their most abstruse prose was “writing the difficulty”—that the sentences were tortuous because there was no briskly commonsensical way of representing a complex issue. Sarah Palin, alas, talks the difficulty. She may claim, as she did in last Thursday’s Vice-Presidential debate, that “Americans are cravin’ that straight talk,” but they are sure not going to get it from the Governor—not with her peculiar habit of speaking only half a sentence and then moving on to another for spoliation, that strange, ghostly drifting through the haziest phrases, as if she were cruelly condemned to search endlessly for her linguistic home: “I do take issue with some of the principle there with that redistribution of wealth principle that seems to be espoused by you.” And words do matter, after all: it matters that our Vice-Presidential candidate says, as she did to Gwen Ifill, that “nuclear weaponry, of course, would be the be-all-end-all of just too many people in too many parts of our planet.”

Read the rest of the article.

Satire - Extreme Weather Alert: Meteorologists Predict Intensely Brisk Autumn

Weather news from the Onion News Network.

Extreme Weather Alert: Meteorologists Predict Intensely Brisk Autumn

Coleman Barks - Rumi and the Play of Poetry

From UC Television videos, at YouTube.
Noted translator and poet Coleman Barks, a Distinguished Visiting Fellow in the UCSB College of Creative Studies, presents the poetry of 13th century Afghan-born Sufi mystic and poet, Jelaluddin Rumi. Bark's intense and artful translations convey Rumi's insights into the human heart and its longing for passion and daring. Barks performs the words of Rumi, accompanied by musicians Barry and Shelly Phillips.

Petraeus Talk Bolsters Obama

From The Washington Independent:

Petraeus Talk Bolsters Obama

While McCain Backs Petraeus, General Sounds Notes That Harmonize With Democratic Nominee.

By Spencer Ackerman

Gen. David Petraeus (WDCpix)

Gen. David Petraeus (WDCpix)

Throughout Sen. John McCain’s presidential campaign, the Republican nominee has wrapped himself in the mantle of U.S. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, proclaiming himself the leading advocate of the former commanding general in Iraq who devised last year’s controversial troop surge. Yet during a talk Wednesday about Iraq at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington policy organization, Petraeus repeatedly made statements that bolstered the foreign-policy proposals of Sen. Barack Obama, McCain’s Democratic rival, or cut against McCain’s own lines.

Petraeus relinquished command in Iraq last month. He assumes responsibility for U.S. Central Command later this month, putting him in charge of U.S. forces in the Middle East and South Asia.

Illustration by: Matt Mahurin

Illustration by: Matt Mahurin

As a serving military officer, Petraeus attempted to avoid any explicit political discussion. “I’m not walking into minefields now,” Petraeus said, to laughter, when asked a question that referred to Tuesday night’s presidential debate. In fact, the general averred that he didn’t watch the debate.

Yet Petraeus, whether intentionally or not, often waded into areas of dispute between Obama and McCain involving Afghanistan, negotiating with adversaries and other recent campaign controversies. Each time, the general either lent tacit support to Obama or denied tacit support to McCain.

Unbidden, Petraeus discussed whether his strategy in Iraq — protecting the population while cleaving apart the insurgency through reconciliation efforts to crush the remaining hard-core enemies — could also work in Afghanistan. The question has particular salience as Petraeus takes over U.S. Central Command, which will put him at the helm of all U.S. troops in the Middle East and South Asia, thereby giving him a large role in the Afghanistan war.

“Some of the concepts used in Iraq are transplantable [to Afghanistan] while others perhaps are not,” he said. “Every situation is unique.”

Petraeus pointed to efforts by Hamid Karzai’s government to negotiate a deal with the Taliban that would potentially bring some Taliban members back to power, saying that if they are “willing to reconcile,” it would be “a positive step.”

In saying that, Petraeus implicitly allied with U.S. Army Gen. David McKiernan, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan. Last week, McKiernan rejected the idea of replicating the blend of counterinsurgency strategy employed in Iraq. “The word that I don’t use in Afghanistan is the word ’surge,’” McKiernan said, opting against recruiting Pashtun tribal fighters to supplement Afghan security forces against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. “There are countless other differences between Iraq and Afghanistan,” he added.

McCain, however, has argued that the Afghanistan war is ripe for a direct replication of Petraeus’ Iraq strategy of population-centric counterinsurgency. “Sen. Obama calls for more troops,” McCain said in the Sept. 26 debate, “but what he doesn’t understand, it’s got to be a new strategy, the same strategy that he condemned in Iraq. It’s going to have to be employed in Afghanistan.”

McCain qualified that statement in Tuesday’s debate, but clung to it while discussing Afghanistan and Pakistan. “Gen. Petraeus had a strategy,” McCain said, “the same strategy — very, very different, because of the conditions and the situation — but the same fundamental strategy that succeeded in Iraq. And that is to get the support of the people.”

Petraeus also came out unambiguously in his talk at Heritage for opening communications with America’s adversaries, a position McCain is attacking Obama for endorsing. Citing his Iraq experience, Petraeus said, “You have to talk to enemies.” He added that it was necessary to have a particular goal for discussion and to perform advance work to understand the motivations of his interlocutors.

All that was the subject of one of the most contentious tussles between McCain and Obama in the first presidential debate, with Obama contending that his intent to negotiate with foreign adversaries without “precondition” did not mean that he would neglect diplomatic “preparation.”

McCain, apparently perceiving an opportunity for attack, Tuesday again used Obama’s comments to attack his judgment. “Sen. Obama, without precondition, wants to sit down and negotiate with them, without preconditions,” McCain said, referring to Iran.

Yet Petraeus emphasized throughout his lecture that reaching out to insurgent groups — some “with our blood on their hands,” he said — was necessary to the ultimate goal of turning them against irreconcilable enemies like Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Read the whole article.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

FiveThirtyEight - Electoral Projections Done Right

Interesting data: and a cool blog.

John McCain's Rage Issues

Huffington Post relates a story about McCain losing his temper while gambling, simply because a woman touched his arm at the craps table. Seems a little weird for him to be so reactive, unless he does have PTSD that remains untreated (a scary thought in a presidential candidate).

Here is a video looking more deeply at the issue.

French Writer Wins Nobel Prize in Literature

Never heard of this guy, but congratulations nonetheless.

October 9, 2008

French Writer Wins Nobel Prize in Literature

The 2008 Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded this morning to Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, a French writer whose more than 40 books deal with topics as varied as environmentalism, the impact of globalization, and the clash between European and non-Western cultures.

In announcing the award, the Swedish Academy described him as an “author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization.”

Mr. Le Clézio, who is the first Frenchman to win the prize in 23 years, will receive the award, worth about $1.4-million this year, at a ceremony in December.

His early work, influenced by existentialism and other popular postwar literary currents, was often experimental. In recent years, Mr. Le Clézio has turned to more personal themes in his writing, including his childhood, his father, and his family history. His work has also drawn from his lifelong wanderlust. He was born in Nice, but lived as a child in Nigeria and studied at Britain’s University of Bristol before earning a series of degrees at French universities.

The Nobel citation says that he has taught at universities in Albuquerque, Austin, Bangkok, Boston, and Mexico City, although it does not specify which institutions.

Mr. Le Clézio is probably best known for two prize-winning books: his first novel, Le Procès-Verbal (The Deposition), published in 1963, and Désert, published in 1980. Many of his books are available in English translation, including several published by university presses: The Mexican Dream, or, the Interrupted Thought of Amerindian Civilizations (University of Chicago Press, 1993), Onitsha (University of Nebraska Press, 1997), and The Round & Other Cold Hard Facts (Nebraska, 1997). —Andrew Mytelka

New Scientist - Why a Gift Speaks a Thousand Words

Ever notice how good it feels to receive an authentic gift from someone? Science might have an answer to why it feels so good. But I am left to wonder: Who cares? Why do we have to quantify everything, as much as I enjoy the science?

Why a gift speaks a thousand words

  • 08 October 2008
AS LOVERS know, a bunch of flowers speaks volumes. Maybe that's because the brain makes sense of such gestures in the same way that it processes language.

Kristian Tylén from the University of Southern Denmark in Odense and colleagues wanted to know which part of the brain was used to understand the meaning behind items placed in a symbolic manner. They used fMRI to scan the brains of volunteers as they viewed pictures of everyday objects arranged to communicate meaning, such as flowers left on a doorstep, followed by the same objects in less meaningful settings, such as flowers growing in the wild.

The symbolic arrangements prompted more activity in regions associated with verbal communication, such as the left fusiform gyrus, used in reading, and the inferior frontal cortex, linked to semantic meaning (Brain and Language, DOI: 10.1016/j.bandl.2008.07.002).

Less conventional arrangements, like an art installation, also affected a "verbal" area - producing a pattern of brain activity previously associated with unusual verbal metaphors.

Previous research shows that the brain processes body language and facial expressions in a similar way to verbal communication. "It shows that language is more than just the processing of words - it pervades many of our activities," says Tylén.

The Human Brain - With one hundred billion nerve cells, the complexity is mind-boggling. Learn more in our cutting edge special report.

From issue 2677 of New Scientist magazine, 08 October 2008, page 16

Robert Masters - The Non-Nonduality of Nondual Teachings

Adastra posted this in the Robert Masters pod at Gaiam -- a great essay by Robert. He has a way of cutting through the BS and getting to meat of things, which makes him one of our most important integral thinkers and teachers.

From Robert Augustus Masters' blog (May 3, 2007)


Before launching into this blog — which is still veined here and there with the rant that it once was — I’ll toss in something about the nondual, risking that my doing so will muddy rather than clarify my topic, given the severe limitations of language in trying to describe what transcends description.


To nondual being, the inherent inseparability of all that exists is neither a concept nor an experience, but rather an obviousness beyond understanding, consistently recognized to not only always already exist, but also to be none other than the consciousness that “knows” it. (This may be paradoxical to the mind, especially the rational mind, but is not to the heart.)

That is, not only is awareness naturally aware of itself here, but it also is obviously not apart from whatever may be arising, be such manifestation gross or subtle, ephemeral or long-lasting, peaceful or fearful.

No dissociation from phenomena, no strategic withdrawal from life, nowhere to go, no one to be, while “showing up” as all form, forever and everywhere and everywhen — such phrases, blooming with mind-transcending paradox (and the debris of exploded rationality), point to the unimaginable yet ever-present reality of the nondual, and point with unavoidable inaccuracy, given that there is not a fitting language for the nondual (because of the inevitably dialectical nature of language, not to mention the need for an ear that can “hear” and appreciate nondual statements).

The reality of non-separation is never not here, never not available, ever “inviting” us to awaken from the entrapping dreams we habitually fuel and occupy. We may conceive of it as a place, a stage, an achievement, a reward — but it is simply what we forever already are, already transcending (and simultaneously including) every would-be “us” that would attempt to assume the position of self.

The personality is no longer the locus of self, but it still persists — and why shouldn’t it? If one is at home “in” (and as) the nondual, then personality, like everything else, is but one more non-binding expression of nondual being, asking not for annihilation, but for recognition and acceptance. To the realizer of the nondual, everything, everything, is God — anger, joy, duality, personality, clouds, wonder, fear. There is only God, only the Self, only the Real, only the One, only the hyperbole-transcending reality of what we truly are. So what problem is there, really, if fear or any other undesirable state arises? From a nondual perspective, such arising is, to put it mildly, radically nonproblematic.

In the nondual, fear is not what is transcended; what is transcended is what was done with fear in nondual states or stages.

Okay, so here we go…


Some of the more rigidly dualistic — and dehumanizing — approaches to spirituality can be found in nondual schools, nondual paths, nondual practices and perspectives.
Behind the nondual half-smiles perhaps ever so gently flickering across the faces of more than a few nondual teachers — or sometimes self-proclaimed non-teachers, as what they teach cannot, they often insist, really be taught — something very personal, something decidedly non-nondual, something with measurable egoic emissions, may be seeking unmuted expression, which of course cannot be openly permitted (unless perhaps it’s clearly positive or pleasant), as it might taint or screw up the proceedings (exposing, for example, the attachments or anger or less-than-noble desires of the teacher).

But wouldn’t something other than recycled, far-from-fresh nondual — and more often than not obsessively impersonal — pronouncements and unrelentingly detachment be a huge relief?

Where has the wildness, the rawness, the full-blooded yes, of spirituality gone? Must it be caged, drugged, homogenized, reduced to squeaky clean teacherliness for hungry seekers? Must we play vigilant zookeeper to its edginess? Must we dehumanize it?

The spooning out of nondual pablum — pre-chewed for us — assumes that we have no teeth, no bite, no need for uncooked truth, and just need to keep our bibs on. Spiritual etiquette. Mind your manners if you want another spoonful of the understanding. But just because it’s easy to swallow doesn’t mean that it’s easy to digest!

It’s enough to stir up some revolutionary rudeness. If being off the path can be part of the path, then why so much emphasis on being spiritually correct? Equanimity sometimes is just sedation in spiritual drag. Who’s that behind the serenity shades?
Just as much of contemporary art has become more about the intellectualization — or, better, over-intellectualization — of art than about art itself, so too have many contemporary takes on nonduality fallen into the same trap. Many of those claiming to teach or offer nondual spirituality may cover their tracks with nondual wordplay — displaying, yes, attachment to the label “nondual” — but no matter how they say it, their separation from and refusal to truly explore and get down into (and it’s only “down” to preconceived “up-ness”) the dual, the personal, the idiosyncratic, the shadowy, and, yes, the unrepentantly egoic, keeps them (and their followers) up to their eyeballs in good old dualism, clinging to the idea (or ideal) of nonduality.

Premature claims to abiding in nondual awareness run rampant in modern spiritual circles — making spiritual real estate out of a moment of light — and how could they not, given that they arise in and are embedded in a culture slavishly devoted to getting it right now? Given the inevitably contingent nature of manifest existence, what else would you expect?

When we try to make too much out of a moment of genuine awakening, what we’re mostly making is just more of the very selfhood we are so eager to transcend.
We like our heroes to be a bit above us, so we can cut them down to size after we’re done romanticizing them. Having a nondually-oriented teacher telling us that we already are what we ache to be, and that our not getting this is just part of it, etcetera after predictable etcetera, may temporarily ease us, because it quiets our mind for a bit, but in most cases it’s really not very helpful and in fact tends to distract and strand us from the work we truly need to do, including facing, working with, and integrating our shadow elements (our fear, despair, aggression, promiscuity, greed, and so on).

The shadow of most nondualism is its unacknowledged dualism, the key symptoms of which include spiritual constipation, ego-transcending egoity, and resolute aversion to acknowledging the need to do any shadow-work.

An almost-universally acknowledged sage of the nondual like Ramana Maharshi spoke and acted from a nondual perspective simply because he couldn’t do otherwise. Just as importantly, he wasn’t looking for immunity from the raw stuff of life, and he sure wasn’t busy being clever or verbally elusive.

We don’t need any more regurgitated nondual teachings. We need the original thing, the firsthand transmission, the industrial strength dosage minus the usual mixers, but only if and when we are sufficiently ripe. And how do we get ripe? By living, really living, getting right into the messy stuff of Life, including that dualistic awakener and unparalleled exposer of neuroses and personal bullshit known as intimate relationship.

Just as scientific methodology tends to select for those who find comfort in the promise of a consensually validated remove (or emotional distance) from the object of study, nondual teaching opportunities tend to select for those who find comfort in the promise of a consensually validated (or emotional distance) from the personal. But the truly nondual nonproblematically includes — and not just in theory! — the dualistic and personal, and is not a solution to it!

Nondual teachings point out the pointlessness of searching for what was never really lost, but often overlook or underemphasize the fact that the search is not experienced as pointless until it actually has been undertaken.

So we might as well jump in, getting messy, getting attached, getting hurt, getting involved — we’ve made, and are making, an appearance here as humans, so let’s get into it! Only when we’re really in it and truly involved, can we leave it, and then, and only then, can we realize with our totality that where we were and where we are is precisely the same locationless location.

Those under the thumb of nondual teachings might say that there is nothing to do, because there is no one to do it, etcetera after colorless etcetera, thereby creating a philosophical dead-end (or hermeneutic drainhole) masquerading as spiritual wisdom. However, the non-doing of the true sage is far from the non-doing of the rest of us, and needs to be recognized as such.

And thus ends this piece, with a deep bow to the true teachers and embodiers of the nondual, in whose presence and love my words stretch beyond themselves, and in whose wisdom my arrogance evaporates, leaving nothing but What-Really-Matters.

- Robert Augustus Masters