Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Vanished Library and "Agora"

At a friend's suggestion, I saw Agora two nights ago and I confess I'm still digesting it, but I can relate what mixed reactions I have so far.

Having long been an amateur student of this period, I found the subject matter and theme fascinating. I was reminded of a book I read long ago, The Vanished Library (Luciano Canfora), which didn't go into the story of Hypatia, but did develop the entire mystery of what happened to the Great Library of Alexandria, which was established by the Ptolemies who ruled after Alexander the Great, a repository of all knowledge in the ancient world.

I have no issues whatsover with any "artistic license" that was taken with historical fact.  The criticisms I've heard here are completely irrelevant to good storytelling with a message.  The message itself was both powerful and relevant to today.  Not just in regard to dangers of a resurgent Christianity, as some I know (not in this group) have mentioned.  Not just as a parallel to the rise of Islam in the modern world.  (The infiltration of Islam into Western countries with the spread of Sharia law, especially.) But metaphorically -- the barbarian, reason-hating Christians could just as well represent the post-Modern Left sacking the legacy of Western civilization and butchering Reason.

The directing was excellent, and stayed true to the "view from space" that was established in the opening sequence: there were many fascinating shots directly overhead the ancient Library of Alexandria, showing the Christians and other Alexandrians running, fighting, fleeing through the streets.  I felt the godlike perspective of watching the harmless, random, even childish antics of ants, and how whatever greatness the people of that time had achieved -- in the Library, in the Great Lighthouse of Alexandria (one of the seven Wonders of the ancient world), and more -- could have been reduced to such self-destructive behavior.

The art direction was possibly the finest I've ever seen.  I marvel at how they created the sets, mattes, CG and costumes.  I couldn't tell which I was looking at, but I felt like I was in 391 AD.  The cinematography and lighting direction were also superb -- almost every frame in that movie I could frame and put on my wall.
 
Where I'm mixed on the movie is the script and acting.  Neither were terrible--but neither were great.  The acting was competent, but I felt like I was watching something just barely a notch above a made-for-TV movie.  Most of the actors struck me as struggling to deliver their lines -- but honestly struggling, and trying to learn and do better throughout the film, as if they sensed they had been handed a great responsibility and were doing something important enough to demand their best.  Hypatia was a bit wooden, and perhaps the best of all, but for all the lead characters we needed the power of a Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix or the presence of a Connie Nielsen (by way of comparison to Gladiator).

Another big shortcoming of the script was that it needed a stronger love story.  Yes, the movie was about a woman who was devoted to ideas.  But should the archetype of ideas represent a Platonic Ideal, divorced from Earthly concerns?  Yes, the movie displayed Orestes' love for Hypatia, as well as the conflicted love of her slave, Davus.  But it all had a very Victorian quality: repressed and formal that was just barely compensated by Davus nearly raping Hypatia during the sacking of the Great Library.  Contrast, however, with the similar scene of Roark and Dominique in The Fountainhead.  (With Roark compared to Hypatia, and Hypatia compared to Dominique...)

What was very good about the script is what it attempted, how close it came to achieving it, and how it attempted it.  Hypatia's fascination with the heavens was a brilliant counterpoint to the earthiness of the barbarians. I felt this from the opening sequence as we viewed the Earth from space.  Not only did this make a subtle parallel to Hypatia's love of the Heavens that was only evident as the story progressed (and thereby her love of reason was heavenly...), but it conveyed that eerie sense I alluded to earlier, that I was in 391 AD.  This was aided by photography that had the feel of looking at a color photograph faded with age.

The only thing that took me out of 391 AD even slightly was the opening text crawl establishing the setting and period, and the text at the end describing Hypatia's fate. I can't criticize the need for something, given that it was a historical drama, but my temptation would have been to delete the text crawl at the opening, end the film on fade to black, wait 15 seconds, and then run all the text as a separate footnote to the story.

In general, the script was somewhat beyond the ability of the screenwriters. I say "somewhat" -- they didn't fail, but they didn't succeed spectacularly.  The action wasn't strongly motivated enough, the conflicts weren't developed enough, and the relationships didn't exhibit enough passion or impact. The dialogue did have it's moments, but were more about competence than brilliance. 

Overall, the motivation of the action could have been alleviated with more screen time (at least an extra half-hour), but the development of the human conflicts and dialogue simply needed a stronger writer.

Overall, it reminded me somewhat of 1492, Conquest of Paradise--a movie that wasn't bad, but was far from great, either, though which ended on one fine scene.  Columbus, back from the New World, is confronted by Sanchez in the court of Queen Isabella (if I'm remembering correctly), a "practical" man in the seat of government who held the idealistic Columbus in contempt: 
Sanchez:  [disgusted] You're a dreamer.
Columbus: [looking out a window] Tell me, what do you see?
Sanchez:  [pausing] I see rooftops, I see palaces, I see towers, I see spires that reach... to the sky! I see civilization!
Columbus: All of them built by people like me. No matter how long you live, Sanchez, there is something that will never change between us. I did it. You didn't.
If not for this final scene, I'd say 1492 wouldn't be worth watching.  But it did have this scene. Agora needed something like it to counter the terrible tragedy of the end, Hypatia's death.  However, Agora did have a stronger storyline, and while its best scenes were somewhat more diluted than the final scene of 1492, the overall effect was stronger, and this redeemed the movie with me.

As a last note, a day after watching Agora, I had an odd feeling -- of deja vu. I realized I identified strongly with, of all people ... Hypatia. It must be a sign of the times.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Robbaldi Prophecy

I thought this article on how foreign Donors are paying off the professors in our universities to work against American interests was interesting.
Adversaries have been buying sway in Congress and the public eye by funding American professors who advocate for them, to the tune of $600M.... When educators who are identified as professors from prestigious universities testify before Congress, write op-eds, and appear on public or media sponsored panels, most readers and listeners value their words more than those of others less credentialed. Perhaps this is especially the case when the subject is foreign affairs... For this reason, concern is growing that our universities, especially those highly regarded, have been receiving very large sums of cash from abroad, often from countries or citizens of countries which hold positions antithetical to our interests or engage in conduct shocking to our values.

I think it has some validity.  As if it wasn't bad enough that these prof's were working against us all on their own.  The monetary sums and scope of the actions aren't huge, but to me indicative of a larger pattern and the steady drip-drip of efforts to undermine the United States.  I still say there is a widespread organization behind it all (albeit driven by philosophies, religions, ideologies), and our country is completely helpless right now except for Objectivism.  That is, one major faction spans the Arab world (there are two sub-factions:  Iran and the Saudis, of which Al Qaeda serves both), another in Russia (who have seized de facto control of the U.S. government, in my opinion, based on a long-term plan that spanned over 50 years). If you can't win against superior firepower, you use a different kind of firepower.  The Chinese are primarily about stealing every bit of our technology to my observations, but the others are mostly about undermining our ideas and institutions as a means to their ends.  (The Chinese believe they can match us in firepower in 10 years or so.)

We could throw in the many other ideological forces, including the gullible Left in general, the less-gullible George Soros faction (which has some kind of connection to the Russian faction, but is more allied with the communist internationale in some way I haven't been able to directly divine), the Catholic Church (which may be the most philosophically organized, and certainly the most intellectual--they are behind the neo-cons), and here at home, the many nihilist/revolutionary post-modern/socialist/communist academics and the less intellectually organized bible-thumping Protestants (who are mainly puppets to the Vatican's schemes) -- but the sum total is a worldwide effort to destroy the United States that can only be prevented with philosophical inoculation of the right kind.  That is, the vaccine of Objectivism, if there's still time. (Is there?  Who knows.)

If you can forgive a superficial metaphor, so many of the players in all the "patriotic" factions inside the U.S. remind me of characters in the TV show "Alias" -- who didn't realize the supposed black ops group of the CIA they were working for (SD-6, Special Directorate 6), was actually part of "The Alliance", a world-wide network of the very enemy they thought they were fighting against. Ie, if you've seen the show, SD-6 pretends to be part of the CIA, and it's agents will do *anything* to defend the Republic (including murder), but instead of defending the country, their every mission had been to undermine and ultimately lead to the downfall of the U.S. 

The point of this metaphor is an early episode of the series, when CIA agent Vaughn rolls out a very large, detailed chart showing duped SD-6 agent Sidney Bristow (Jennifer Garner, for whom Vaughn is the "handler") that the web of SD-6 is massively more extensive than she ever suspected, spanning the entire planet -- it's a Medusa that can't be eliminated by lopping off the tentacle of one field office in L.A.  That's where we are with regard to all the conspiracies by foreign countries and interests now working to destroy the United States.  

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Obama's End Game

There have been people I know who belittled my suggestion that Obama is actually a Russian mole with the objective of eliminating the entire U.S. arsenal.  This article ("US reviewing nuclear arsenal with eye to new cuts") is another nail in that coffin.
 WASHINGTON – The Obama administration has begun examining whether it can make cuts to its nuclear weapons stockpiles that go beyond those outlined in a recent treaty with Russia. ...Arms control advocates say the United States is mired in Cold War-era thinking about nuclear deterrence and are pressing the administration to use the review to rethink U.S. nuclear requirements. They say the decisions will be a test of President Barack Obama's commitment nearly two years ago to put the world on a path toward eliminating nuclear weapons.
I'll make an even more radical suggestion -- don't be surprised if Obama attempts to unilaterally begin destroying nuclear weapons or delivery systems by executive fiat before his term is over.

I note also (once again) that his chief arms reduction negotiator, Rose Gottemoeller , is also, in my opinion, a Russian mole.  She completely fits the profile.  (Not that half his White House staff doesn't fit it also.) 
...the study could shape talks it has proposed with Russia on weapons not covered by the New START treaty. The administration wants to focus on stored nuclear weapons and those intended for short-range delivery, known as tactical nuclear weapons. But negotiations with Russia also could lead to further reductions in deployed long-range nuclear weapons.
Rose, I might add, is also an advocate of unilateral cuts in non-nuclear weapons and delivery systems.

In my opinion, even the new Start treaty puts this country seriously at risk for a nuclear first strike, when you factor in the number of warheads carried on single submarines or bombers, and simply calculate the number of targets you have to hit.  How many subs, airbases and missile silos do you have to hit?  A few hundred.  (Usually a third of the subs are in port at any one time, anyway.)

Then include all the stolen secrets (it's been a hemorrhage for 20 years) that increase the accuracy and lethality of enemy ICBMs to hit our hardened silos, or their ability to now track our submarines.  (A sub that's even 2000 feet underwater couldn't survive even a small nuke exploded on the surface -- pressure wave would crush the hull.)  I would bet that a credible war games scenario could show that at least 90% (and possibly much higher) of our nuclear deterrent could be taken out with high probability based on Obama's arms reduction objectives.

If the Republicans could get control of the Presidency and Senate, a priority at least as big as repeal of the Health Care bill would be, in my opinion, abrogation or repeal of the new Start Treaty.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Radioactive Cloud of the Times

This NY Times headline (see footnote below -- story disappeared) for March 15 is breathlessly sensationalizing the alleged radiation spike of 400milli-Sieverts per hour from the Fukushima nuclear plant crisis in Japan:
Japan Faces Potential Nuclear Disaster as Radiation Levels Rise
...Radiation measurements reported on Tuesday showed a spike of radioactivity around the plant that made the leakage significantly worse than it had been, with levels measured at one point as high as 400 millisieverts an hour. Even 7 minutes of exposure at that level will reach the maximum annual dose that a worker at an American nuclear plant is allowed. And exposure for 75 minutes would likely lead to acute radiation sickness...
But if you read this story in the next link below,
Radiation levels fall at stricken Japan nuclear plant
TOKYO Tue Mar 15, 2011 3:36am EDT (Reuters) - Radiation levels fell at Japan's quake-stricken nuclear power plant on the northeast coast, the Japanese government said on Tuesday, after an earlier spike in radiation.
   
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters that radiation levels at the Fukushima Daiichi complex, more than 200 km north of Tokyo, had fallen dramatically to 596.4 microsieverts per hour as of 0630 GMT.
   
That level is almost 700 times less than the levels reported in the morning, after two fresh blasts at the complex.
The Japanese government here is saying radiation levels are "currently" 596.4 micro-sieverts per hour, "700 times less than the levels reported in the morning."  You will note that 596.4 x 700  = 417milli-Sieverts/hr. You will also note that the "morning" in Japan was about 5 hours before the second story came out:

Now, I think it's fair to say that if the reactor had breached containment, radiation levels would not have declined since "the morning". How long did the high radiation levels last?  Take a look at the graphic I've included here, which is a radiation reading taken from Tokyo after the hydrogen gas explosion blew apart the reactor building surrounding the nuclear containment vessel. (That is, it blew apart the structure that keeps the rain off.)

Apparently the spike in radiation only lasted a couple hours and then went away.  This graph suggests to me it's the source of the "400milli-Sievert/hr" figure -- I suspect someone extrapolated from a geiger measurement in Tokyo.  Just a guess.   But at best this figure refers to the area around the plant, not in Tokyo.  If the plant radiation levels were measured, say, 1000 feet from the source, the levels in Tokyo (150 miles away) would have to be at least 500,000 times lower, if we are talking about direct radiation.

Of course, note that the levels returned to essentially background levels very quickly. This wouldn't happen from direct radiation. So my other guess is that when the hydrogen explosion occurred, the wind carried aloft a dust cloud filled with various short lived isotopes of debris in the seawater (think of whatever is in seawater ... minerals, seaweed, whatever) they'd been pumping through the reactor, and it drifted over Tokyo. That wouldn't be a lot of radioactive material. Then the wind changed.  Problem solved.

I also read that the Japanese government has ordered all radiation measurements to now be given in micro-sieverts to avoid "ambiguity".  That sounds to me like someone screwed up and translated "micro" to "milli" when the Japanese Prime minister made his morning announcement (confusing "micro" with "milli" is very common with non-technical people) and they didn't want it to happen again.

The Reuters story came out about the time NY Times went to press, but it hasn't stopped the NY Times from running their front page lead story about the radiation levels of 400milli-sieverts.

FYI, 1 milli-Sievert per hour = 0.1rem.  600micro-Sieverts (present levels at the Fukushima plant, at the time this is written, 4AM MDT) are about 0.06rem.  Almost exactly a chest x-ray.  1-3rem  is about the average annual dose someone will get at sea level. See http://www.ornl.gov/sci/env_rpt/aser95/tb-a-2.pdf   This will go up about 30-40 times if you fly a lot. That is, you gain about 1mrem per year for every 200 feet in altitude.  At my house, I suffer about 40mrems exposure per year.

Footnote 6 hours later:  The front-page link changed and the original story disappeared, so I've attached a copy below, but I note that if you google the headline (in quotes) you now get 14,700 hits for this article -- everyone on the the planet has linked it. It's spreading like the toxic cloud after a nuclear explosion.  The Times is continuing to spin this story, though, with front-page "info-videos" suggesting the inner containment building was breached, though it hasn't been according to other accounts I've seen so far.  We live in an age where journalism is more like a "dirty" bomb spreading radioactive debris of half-truths, mis-truths, rumor, innuendo, propaganda and outright lies.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/15/world/asia/15nuclear.html

Japan Faces Potential Nuclear Disaster as Radiation Levels Rise

TOKYO — Japan’s nuclear crisis verged toward catastrophe on Tuesday after an explosion damaged the vessel containing the nuclear core at one reactor and a fire at another spewed large amounts of radioactive material into the air, according to the statements of Japanese government and industry officials.

In a brief address to the nation at 11 a.m. Tokyo time, Prime Minister Naoto Kan pleaded for calm, but warned that radiation had already spread from the crippled reactors and there was “a very high risk” of further leakage. Fortunately, the prevailing winds were sweeping most of the plume of radioactivity out into the Pacific Ocean, rather than over populated areas.

The sudden turn of events, after an explosion Monday at one reactor and then an early-morning explosion Tuesday at yet another — the third in four days at the plant — already made the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station the worst nuclear accident since the Chernobyl reactor disaster a quarter century ago.

It diminished hopes earlier in the day that engineers at the plant, working at tremendous personal risk, might yet succeed in cooling down the most damaged of the reactors, No. 2, by pumping in sea water. According to government statements, most of the 800 workers at the plant had been withdrawn, leaving 50 or so workers in a desperate effort to keep the cores of three stricken reactors cooled with seawater pumped by firefighting equipment, while the same crews battled to put out the fire at the No. 4 reactor, which they claimed to have done just after noon on Tuesday.

That fourth reactor had been turned off and was under refurbishment for months before the earthquake and tsunami hit the plant on Friday. But the plant contains spent fuel rods that were removed from the reactor, and experts guessed that the pool containing those rods had run dry, allowing the rods to overheat and catch fire. That is almost as dangerous as the fuel in working reactors melting down, because the spent fuel can also spew radioactivity into the atmosphere.

After an emergency cabinet meeting, the Japanese government told people living with 30 kilometers, about 18 miles, of the Daiichi plant to stay indoors, keep their windows closed and stop using air conditioning.

Mr. Kan, whose government was extraordinarily weak before the sequence of calamities struck the nation, told the Japanese people that “although this incident is of great concern, I ask you to react very calmly.” And in fact, there seemed to be little panic, but huge apprehension in a country where the drift of radioactivity brings up memories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the haunting images of post-war Japan.

The two critical questions over the next day or so are how much radioactive material is spewed into the atmosphere, and where the winds carry it. Readings reported on Tuesday showed a spike of radioactivity around the plant that made the leakage categorically worse than in had been, with radiation levels measured at one point as high as 400 millisieverts an hour. Even 7 minutes of exposure at that level will reach the maximum annual dose that a worker at an American nuclear plant is allowed. And exposure for 75 minutes would likely lead to acute radiation sickness.

The extent of the public health risk depends on how long such elevated levels persist — they may have declined after the fire at No. 4 reactor was extinguished — as well as how far and fast the radioactive materials spread, and whether the limited evacuation plan announced by the government proves sufficient.
The succession of problems at Daiichi was initially difficult to interpret — with confusion compounded by incomplete and inconsistent information provided by government officials and executives of the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power.

But industry executives in close contact with officials in Japan expressed extreme concern that the authorities were close to losing control over the fuel melting that has been ongoing in three reactors at Daiichi, especially at the crippled No. 2 reactor where the containment has been damaged.

Tokyo Electric Power said Tuesday that after the explosion at the No. 2 reactor, pressure had dropped in the “suppression pool” — a section at the bottom of the reactor that converts steam to water and is part of the critical function of keeping the nuclear fuel protected. After that occurred, radiation levels outside No. 2 were reported to have risen sharply.

“We are on the brink. We are now facing the worst-case scenario,” said Hiroaki Koide, a senior reactor engineering specialist at the Research Reactor Institute of Kyoto University. “We can assume that the containment vessel at Reactor No. 2 is already breached. If there is heavy melting inside the reactor, large amounts of radiation will most definitely be released.”

Another executive said the chain of events at Daiichi suggested that it would be difficult to maintain emergency seawater cooling operations for an extended period if the containment vessel at one reactor had been compromised because radiation levels could threaten the health of workers nearby.
If all workers do in fact leave the plant, the nuclear fuel in all three reactors is likely to melt down, which would lead to wholesale releases of radioactive material — by far the largest accident of its kind since the Chernobyl.

Even if a full meltdown is averted, Japanese officials have been facing unpalatable options. One was to continue flooding the reactors and venting the resulting steam, while hoping that the prevailing winds did not turn south toward Tokyo or west, across northern Japan to the Korean Peninsula. The other was to hope that the worst of the overheating was over, and that with the passage of a few more days the nuclear cores would cool enough to essentially entomb the radioactivity inside the plants, which clearly will never be used again. Both approaches carried huge risks.

While Japanese officials made no comparisons to past accidents, the release of an unknown quantity of radioactive gases and particles — all signs that the reactor cores were damaged from at least partial melting of fuel — added considerable tension to the effort to cool the reactors.

“It’s way past Three Mile Island already,” said Frank von Hippel, a physicist and professor at Princeton. “The biggest risk now is that the core really melts down and you have a steam explosion.”

The sharp deterioration came after a frantic day and night of rescue efforts focused largely on the No. 2 reactor. There, a malfunctioning valve prevented workers from manually venting the containment vessel to release pressure and allow fresh seawater to be injected into it. That meant that the extraordinary remedy emergency workers had jury-rigged to keep the nuclear fuel from overheating no longer worked.

As a result, the nuclear fuel in that reactor was exposed for many hours, increasing the risk of a breach of the container vessel and more dangerous emissions of radioactive particles.

By Tuesday morning, Tokyo Electric Power said that it had fixed the valve and resumed seawater injections, but that it had detected possible leaks in the containment vessel that prevented water from fully covering the fuel rods.

Then an explosion hit that reactor. After a series of conflicting reports about what level of damage was inflicted on the reactor after that blast, Mr. Edano said, “there is a very high probability that a portion of the container vessel was damaged.”

The steel container vessels that protect nuclear fuel in reactors are considered crucial to maintain the integrity of the reactor and the safety of the fuel.

Mr. Edano, however, said that the level of leaking at the No. 2 reactor remained small, raising the prospect that the container was sufficiently intact to protect the nuclear fuel inside.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Monster Stalking the Tea Party

I highly recommend this superbly factual article by C. Bradley Thompson on the philosophy of the neoconservative movement.  What totally captures the essence of the neocons for me is this summary, that what the neocons uphold is

"...Platonic idealism is compatible with Machiavellian realism."

When you think how Platonism spawned most of the great philosophical/political evils today, including Marxism and Catholic theocracy, and that Machiavellian "realism" rationalizes the most egregious kind of power lust, it's a truly frightening identification.

To sum up what I get from this article in my own words, I would say the neoconservatives construct an intellectual Frankenstein's monster by stitching together the ideas of collectivism, fascism, religious authoritarianism, mysticism, subjectivism, altruism, unprincipled pragmatism, goose-stepping patriotism, and total self-sacrifice of the individual to the state with bits and pieces of Friedrich Nietzsche's √úbermensch (superman), and then dressing it up in a cotton print dress and a heavy layer of the mascara of "god, faith, tradition".  In a single word, I would characterize it as a soft form of Nazism, masquerading (for now) as some indefinable kind of "Americanism", to borrow Thompson's term.

Form your own conclusions.  To quote Thompson,
"...the neoconservatives reject the values and principles associated with Enlightenment liberalism—namely, reason, egoism, individual rights, material acquisition, limited government, freedom, capitalism, science, and technology. They are repulsed by the moral ethos associated with liberal-capitalism, and they praise the nobility of the 'barbarian' virtues such as discipline, courage, daring, endurance, loyalty, renunciation, obedience, and sacrifice."
The essence, for them, is that they hate the founding principles of the United States of America, but can't quite admit it to themselves. They call themselves "Conservatives", yet merely pay lip service to the Constitution, while rejecting everything it stands for.
"The neoconservative vision of a good America is one in which ordinary people work hard, read the Bible, go to church, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, practice homespun virtues, sacrifice themselves to the “common good,” obey the commands of the government, fight wars, and die for the state. ...The grand purpose of national-greatness foreign policy is to inspire the American people to transcend their vulgar, infantilized, and selfish interests for uplifting national projects."
"The neocons’ basic moral-political principle is clear and simple: the subordination and sacrifice of the individual to the nation-state. ...wise statesmen must learn to use “forcible restraint” and “benevolent coercion” in order to keep down the selfish and base desires of ordinary men. ...[They believe] it is entirely appropriate for a philosophically trained political elite to guide them to their true happiness and to prevent them from making bad decisions. The highest purpose of neoconservative statesmanship is therefore to shape preferences, form habits, cultivate virtues, and create the “good” society."
Shades of Michael Bloomberg.  Though I have no idea if Bloomberg is a neocon or a merely very liberal, at some point, what's the diff?  But if they have one foot in the modern conservative movement, the other foot has firmly stepped into a pile of some kind of Marxist-fascist doo-doo:
"The neocons take the “political community” or what Irving Kristol called the “collective self” as the primary unit of moral, social and political value ...ordinary people are irrational and must be guided by those who are rational. According to Irving Kristol, there are “different kinds of truth for different kinds of people... Neoconservatives believe the opinions of the nation must therefore be shaped by those who rule. To control ideas is to control public opinion... Morality is therefore defined as overcoming one’s petty self-interest so as to sacrifice for the common good..."
"They advocate using the coercive power of the state to regulate man’s economic life and his spiritual life... [and advocate] a new managerial state—a state controlled and regulated by a mandarin class of conservative virtucrats who think the American people are incapable of governing themselves without the help of the neocons’ special, a priori wisdom. They are the conservative version of FDR’s brain trust: they want to regulate virtually all areas of human thought and action."
As for the Nietzsche / Nazi allusion, the neocons embrace
"The grand purpose of national-greatness foreign policy is to inspire the American people to transcend their vulgar, infantilized, and selfish interests for uplifting national projects. The neoconservatives’ policy of benevolent hegemony. ...[Leo] Strauss and the neocons believe that life is or should be defined by conflict and that a state of ongoing peace and prosperity is morally degrading..."
Of course, many of the neocons would deny they are neocons -- they're just being politically pragmatic (ie, unprincipled on principle), and defending traditional religious "values".  But Thompson argues
"The neocons’ talk about moderation and prudence is really only meant to disarm intellectually their competitors in the conservative-libertarian movement who want to defend the Founders’ principles of individual rights and limited government. The neocons preach moderation as a virtue so that ordinary people will accept compromise as inevitable.
So the next time your hear a Republican open his mouth about "political reality" and giving up your selfish interests for the good of the nation -- grab a pitchfork, and get ready to storm the castle.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mass Extinction... So how do you feel about that?

 The drugging of America continues...  A long article from the NY Times, but worth reading.  They don't say it (institutional psychosis prevents them, I'm sure), but it's another example of how the government directed insurance market has destroyed a profession.

Well, it's psychiatry.  A sort of wanna-be profession.  But still.

It's even bigger than that, though.  The patient's own problems are so much about how the government schools, welfare and other policies has bred a populace ripe for chronic neurosis in need of therapy.  A symptom of a greater philosophical disease, of course.  But can a country survive for much longer like this???

Excerpts:
"...But the psychiatrist, Dr. Donald Levin, stopped him and said: “Hold it. I’m not your therapist. I could adjust your medications, but I don’t think that’s appropriate.”
I will be interjecting emphasis like that here and there.  Rather than swearing, that is.
"Like many of the nation’s 48,000 psychiatrists, Dr. Levin, in large part because of changes in how much insurance will pay, no longer provides talk therapy... Instead, he prescribes medication, usually after a brief consultation with each patient. So Dr. Levin sent the man away with a referral to a less costly therapist and a personal crisis unexplored and unresolved.

"...Dr. Levin, 68, first established a private practice in 1972, when talk therapy was in its heyday. Then, like many psychiatrists, he treated 50 to 60 patients in once- or twice-weekly talk-therapy sessions of 45 minutes each. Now, like many of his peers, he treats 1,200 people in mostly 15-minute visits for prescription adjustments that are sometimes months apart. Then, he knew his patients’ inner lives better than he knew his wife’s; now, he often cannot remember their names. Then, his goal was to help his patients become happy and fulfilled; now, it is just to keep them functional."
It's all so connected to the so-called ADHD "epidemic" and the goal of teachers, administrators, guidance "counselors" and parents who drug energetic children into passivity rather than treating the primary disease -- cognitive dismorphism built of anti-conceptual schooling and chronic, overwhelming boredom caused by it.
"Dr. Levin has found the transition difficult. He now resists helping patients to manage their lives better.  “I had to train myself not to get too interested in their problems,” he said, “and not to get sidetracked trying to be a semi-therapist.”
To grasp this one, try an analogy like, "I'm your doctor, I'm not trained  to get too interested in your injuries. I don't want to get side-tracked by healing you." 

Oh.  Wait.
...“I miss the mystery and intrigue of psychotherapy,” he said. “Now I feel like a good Volkswagen mechanic. I’m good at it,” Dr. Levin went on, “but there’s not a lot to master in medications."
I have to agree.  He's probably a good Volkswagon mechanic. Volk = "people".  Wagon= "bus them through".
"... A 2005 government survey found that just 11 percent of psychiatrists provided talk therapy to all patients..."

"...Recent studies suggest that talk therapy may be as good as or better than drugs in the treatment of depression ,"
Not so recent. At least 50 years. This has been known for decades. Aka, cognitive therapy.
"...but fewer than half of depressed patients now get such therapy compared with the vast majority 20 years ago. Insurance company reimbursement rates and policies that discourage talk therapy are part of the reason. A psychiatrist can earn $150 for three 15-minute medication visits compared with $90 for a 45-minute talk therapy session....

"...years ago, he often saw patients 10 or more times before arriving at a diagnosis. Now, he makes that decision in the first 45-minute visit. “You have to have a diagnosis to get paid,” he said with a shrug. “I play the game.”
Apparently not the 'game' of the Hippocratic Oath, however.  A game more like... tennis, perhaps.  They bounce into your office, and you bat them out with a prescription of Xanax or Ritalin. Game, set, match.