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Posted by wmmbb in Life Experience.
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Yesterday I was went into hospital for a renal biopsy My specialist doctor had spoken to me about the risks involved – the worst case, I could lose a kidney – so I was disinclined to have the procedure, along with my usual extreme squeamishness about medical operations, including blood tests,which I have had many.

This is the latest chapter in a medical story that started over two years ago. I remember the frustration I experienced when I knew both that there was something wrong and the general practitioner I consulted at the time did not recognize the symptoms. So I had to find my way past that roadblock. As it was, by pot luck, I consulted an Indian doctor who by listening to my heart could tell it was not beating in consistent rhythm. He referred me to a cardiologist, who organized Computerized Tomography which indicated I had an enlarged spleen. I was then referred to a haematologist who arranged for my spleen to be removed. The biopsy of the spleen was indeterminate. Subsequently, I had various tests, including two bone marrow biopsies, and then urine tests which indicated protein leakage, and in February this year and two days ago higher than the normal range of potassium ions in the blood.

Following the urine test results, I have now been going to a renal (kidney) specialist. He has put the onus on me to decide on taking the kidney biopsy, which made me wonder on the basis of three results I was making the right decision. The first reading of protein leakage was high, the second was reduction by 50%, and the third reading was high again. I looked at the figures, I came to the conclusion that I had to have the biopsy. Of the four doctors I have spoken to, including the one who performed the procedure, has ever had any doubt about that decision.

It just goes to show that in medicine we are not dealing with statistical probabilities. It is more like reading the numbers on the dashboard of a car indicating the state of the system.

With the protein leakage, I have also been experiencing hypertension – high blood pressure. It is somewhat disconcerting to feel wobbly on your feet at Central Station. Mind over matter in this case does not work. For the hypertension, I have been put on tablets that protect and help the functioning of the kidneys, but have the possible side effects of raising the level of potassium ions in the blood which has the unfortunate effect of debilitating the muscles. Fat I am advised does not contain potassium.

The actual procedure, performed under a local anaesthetic, was not too bad. I laid face down while an ultra sound was used to specify the kidney targets areas for the collection of samples using a long thin needle. I did not know what to expect so I was pretty anxious. The worst thing was the application of the local anaesthetic – a sharp sawing pain. Even with the technology, the doctor misfired so I had three injections.

As it turned out, I do not appear to have suffered from any ill effects, either bruising or bleeding. Nevertheless, as a precautionary measure, I was required to stay overnight in hospital. I could not get out of there fast enough. In the renal unit the doors were left open, for easily discernible reasons. I was reduced to watching television – a very boring and frustrating experience overall – and I did get to sleep.

I suppose the medical advantage of hospital is that measurements can be taken over a period, the patient can be observed, and the patient is close to assistance should anything happen after the procedure. Rather than complain about the situation, and as a public, non fee paying public, I should be appreciative of the availability of this service, which I do.

One of the advantages of staying in hospital was the opportunity to be visited by nutritious who not only provided assistance with forming a low protein, low potassium diet. Most food contains potassium, and it is a matter of getting the right mix by been aware of those that have high, medium and low levels. She also identified potential muscle loss. The story was that a person can become so weak from effects of potassium that they cannot pick up a pencil.

On reflection, I know that doctors are trained and have to be able to speak to people in clear language, I notice that my almost complete ignorance about such matters as kidney function gets in the way of my understanding. Naturally renal doctors know more about kidney function than most doctors, so I miss the subtlety of what is said, even though it is expressed plainly.

But my renal doctor, not my specialist but a medical register, did link the bone marrow biopsies with the kidney biopsy. It seems it is all part of the same picture, the long march of a subtle miscue in the producing of blood in the bone marrow through the body, from the spleen to the kidneys, with complications arising from medication and side effects, which have not always been accurately diagnosed. To know whether this thesis is correct, we will have to wait for the results from the biopsy. I hope it is not a null reading.

To consider how fortunate and privileged I am, not because of any personal merit, or even prudence on my part, I just have to compare my experience with the circumstances of the current health system in Iraq.(via Juan Cole).


MORE ON SORE THUMBS November 13, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Life Experience.
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Sore thumbs are apparently a curse of the digital age.

The Sydney Morning Herald has more. 

GERALD FORD (1913- November 13, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Modern History.
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With the resignation of Richard Nixon in 1974, Gerald Ford became president until his defeat by Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Now it seems Gerry Ford has out lived all other presidents, as this BBC News report advises. The story notes:

A statement released by his office read: “I thank God for the gift of every sunrise and, even more, for all the years He has blessed me with Betty and the children, with our extended family and the friends of a lifetime.”

Which, at least for me, raises two questions. Are social relationships critical to well being and health for everyone, for all personality types? Is it sufficient for the President to be a good person, given the nature of the office? I suspect not.

Gerald Ford presided over the withdrawal of the troops from Vietnam.

IRAQ PETITION November 13, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Iraq Policy.
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CeasefireCampaign.org has a petition to stop the war in Iraq. They explain:

. . . we want to place ads in US and UK papers with a new global petition calling upon the Coalition to accept a larger role for the international community and a phased withdrawal of all its troops from Iraq. We’ll publish the number of signatures we get in the ads, so we need AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE to sign the petition.

This is our chance to make sure the pressure of global public opinion is being felt by Coalition governments as they rethink their war in Iraq, pressing them to accept a larger role for the international community and to withdraw their troops.

We know why it’s so important to act. A shocking study released by Johns Hopkins University last month suggested that hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians have been killed in Iraq — more than anyone thought — and experts warn that the civil war is about to pass a point of no return. October was the worst month yet for civilian casualties, with death squads moving house to house. The killing could place Iraq alongside Darfur as one of the greatest human catastrophes of our new century.

The terms of the petition are as follows:

Call Upon the US-led Coalition to Give a Larger Role to the International Community, and Withdraw from Iraq:
The pursuit of a Coalition military victory in Iraq is driving the country to ruin and a vicious civil war. Thousands of Iraqi civilians are dying every month. The Coalition must accept that there will be no military victory in Iraq, and that it long ago lost the legitimacy necessary to bring peace. We call upon the Coalition to accept a larger role for the international community in bringing peace and stability, and to implement a phased withdrawal of all Coalition troops from Iraq.

Go here to add your name and your voice.

FUSION VOTING November 12, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Global Electoral Politics.
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In the recent midterm elections, one ballot question in Massachusetts proposed the adoption of fusion voting. This voting method is modification of the simple plurality, winner take all, voting system that allows minor parties and interest groups to appear on the ballot paper nominating a candidate of a major party. For example in the recent election in New York, voters for The Working Families Party recorded their votes, which were then added to the total won by their nominee Senator Hilary Clinton. The Massachusetts initiative was defeated by a 65% No vote.

Thus it seems that inertia and the status quo won over change. At least two major newspapers expressed opposition. The Boston Herald merely said that this modification to the two party system would benefit the left, a more significant argument than it first appears. The Boston Globe premised its editorial on three grounds. They argued that competition between the major parties could be better achieved by other measures, such as campaign finance reform, as if parties in a democracy were not about other values such as participation, access to power, interest aggregation, and the formulation of government policies and programs. They argued that voters would become confused, a doubtful proposition since voters usually revel in any opportunity to cast strategic votes. Then they suggested, as the experience in New York shows, that such voting would be used to buy favors, thus ignoring the fact that size of the campaign chest held by the major parties is taken as a direct indicator of the number of votes that will be won.

According to Wikipedia:

Electoral fusion was once widespread in the United States. In the late 19th century, however, as minor political parties such as the People’s Party became increasingly successful in using fusion, Republican-dominated state legislatures enacted bans against it. One Republican Minnesota state legislator was clear about what his party was trying to do: “We don’t propose to allow the Democrats to make allies of the Populists, Prohibitionists, or any other party, and get up combination tickets against us. We can whip them single-handed, but don’t intend to fight all creation.” (Spoiling for a Fight, 227-228). By 1907 the practice had been banned in 18 states; today, fusion as conventionally practiced remains legal in only seven states.

Democrats, as in North Carolina, also successfully sought to make fusion voting illegal, and thereby critically weaken their opponents.

In the Tar Heel State [in the last decade of the nineteenth century], the Populist and Republican parties disagreed on certain national issues, such as the tariff, the gold standard, and silver coinage. The parties, however, agreed on many state issues, including education, voting rights, and restoring the charter of the Farmers’ Alliance.

It became apparent in 1892, when Democrat Elias Carr (1839-1900) won only a plurality of 48.3% votes in the three-way race for governor, that Democrats were in trouble. Rather than entertain growing Populist demands for economic reform, county self-rule, and increased educational funding, the Democratic legislature spitefully repealed the charter of the North Carolina Farmers’ Alliance (which was blamed for the emergence of the Populist Party) and instituted tighter restrictions on the election process.

On August 1, 1894, the Populist Party convention endorsed a combined slate for state offices. On August 30, the Republican Party convention followed suit. The die was cast.

In the 1894 election, the Fusion alliance of Populists and Republicans swept the state. Fusionists won control of the legislature, elected several Congressmen, and secured some statewide offices. . . Perhaps the greatest legislation of Fusionist rule was ensuring that all political parties were represented by election judges at the polls and requiring designated colors and party insignias on ballots so that the illiterate had a political voice. The reforms were highly successful and popular. The election law alone led to an increase of registered voters by over 80,000. . .
In November, the Fusion legislative victory was impressively larger than in 1894. The entire statewide slate of Fusionist administrative officers was elected. Republican Daniel L. Russell handily won election as governor.For the first time since Reconstruction, Democrats were totally out of power. There were only twenty-six Democrats in the 120-member House, and only seven in the fifty-member Senate. All statewide offices were in the hands of Republicans or Populists.

One of the most interesting aspects of Populist-Republican Fusion rule was the service of African American office holders. There were approximately 1,000 elected or appointed black officials, including Congressman George H. White (1852-1918). Although black Tar Heels were still underrepresented, the presence of black officials troubled Democratic white supremacists.

In the 1898 “White Supremacy Campaign,” led by future U.S. Senator Furnifold M. Simmons (1854-1940), chairman of the Democratic Executive Committee, the Democratic Party used identity politics to regain power. “Negro rule” and “Negro domination” became the catchphrases of the campaign. Josephus Daniels (1862-1948), editor of the Raleigh News and Observer, was the unabashed press spokesman for white supremacy. Red Shirts, reminiscent of the Klan, intimidated blacks and thereby limited the number of Republican votes.

Shortly after a resounding victory, Democrats disfranchised African Americans and thereby ended a possible Republican resurgence.

Thus this story suggests that it was not so much that fusion caused confusion to voters, or otherwise did not work, but that it worked too well for the powers that were dislodged, whether they were Democrats or Republicans.

The problems of the existing voting systems typically go unnoticed, as does history. In the last two elections in the United States, the recent midterm and the presidential election, 40% of the potential voting population cast ballots. One way to increase participation might be to increase the viability and vitality of third parties providing challenge to entrenched power holders from fringe groups whose numbers are not effectively counted since perhaps many of them do not vote. In 1992, Ross Perot and the Progress Party, achieved 19% of the vote in the presidential election, but in the past two elections only 2% voted for minor parties. Given the winner take all voting system, voting for minor parties is widely considered a wasted vote.

Despite the failure in Massachusetts, fusion is alive and well in New York, despite the criticisms from The Boston Globe. The Working Families Party, which sounds to me like a Labor Party, is achieving potential tangible and intangible gains for its members. They report access to candidates and office holders which would otherwise not be so accessible. Furthermore, I was struck by Hilary Clinton’s victory speech, which seems to me to provide evidence that their policy agenda is taken seriously.

Senator Clinton’s speech is here:

The question for an office holder with fusion becomes the margin of victory, because in this system a minor party can withdraw its support or decide not to give it

It is true that fusion voting, as a modification to the first past the post system, is seen as inferior to other potential voting systems, including preferential voting. And as Ross Perot demonstrated in 1992, and to some extent Senator Lieberman demonstrated in Connecticut this year, with the support of New York Mayor Bloomsberg’s machine, third parties do not lack for support.

Voting systems are not accidents. They are the products of history, of circumstances and opportunistic choices, as much as constitutional arrangements. There is a conflict between top-down legislative measures, which typically restrict voting, and bottom-up democratic initiatives. The sticking point is that bottom-up electoral reform is essentially about providing rights for minorities, or those otherwise marginalized by the existing status quo. So achieving 35% for the Ballot Question in Massachusetts was about as much as could be expected.

REMEMBRANCE DAY November 11, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Modern History.
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I had a youtube Remembrance Day, which meant that I could see how others, I suppose in the main the Canadians, remembered the 11th day of the 11th month when the bloodbath of the First World War was brought to an end.

Two memories of Remembrance Day stand out for me. I remember the pedestrians stopping in Perth on this day many years ago. This has significance for me because my grandfather’s brothers died in that war, although I do not know their details or other names. Some years ago I was working at the NSW Office of State Revenue when they held the one minute of silence and piped in the last post.

I suppose as mentioned at Lavatus Prodeo , sentimentality is difficult to avoid. Perhaps that sentiment is evident in these two videos:

The Band Played Waltzing Matilda:

Willie McBride. . . Did the pipes play ‘The Flowers of the Forest’?

In some ways these remembrances tend to reinforce our nationalist identities rather than the human failure and tragedy that all wars represent, for all people involved, now as much as then. Wars should cause more anxiety when they are objectively not the last resort and ignoble in their political motivation.


If, like me, you have never heard of “The Flowers of the Forest”, you can catch a bagpipe version here. I suspect there may be no one at my funeral, but I suggest that they avoid this music, if there were to be anybody and music was played. (And I think I have managed a subjunctive, speculative but not fantastical)


Posted by wmmbb in Blogroll.
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Intuitively, I believe that dogs, as with humans, have a preference for high ground so they can see more what is happening. Whether this is true, it gives me the advantage to be able to spot approaching people or animals. Otherwise I am dependent on hearing.

Other than when I have to descend steep inclines, the dogs are usually leading. I understand from watching clips of the Dog Whispher, Cesar Milan, this is not the right thing to do. I feel I am restricting them enough by keeping them on their leads. (Special thanks to Mickey’s Musings for the reference.)

Sasha and Dexter surveying. 05 November 2006 Posted by Picasa

Overview. 05 November 2006 Posted by Picasa

Climbing up the hill. 06 November 2006 Posted by Picasa

Dexter looks over the side. 06 November 2006 Posted by Picasa

Sasha up close. 06 November 2006 Posted by Picasa

Forward in due course. 06 November 2006 Posted by Picasa

Purpose. 07 November 2006 Posted by Picasa


Sasha relaxed and alert. 07 November 2007 Posted by Picasa


Taking it easy. 07 November 2006 Posted by Picasa


Sasha relaxes. 07 November 2006 Posted by Picasa

Sasha holds her footing. 09 November 2006 Posted by Picasa

Dexter at his ease. 09 November 2006 Posted by Picasa

The sound of motor bikes. 09 November 2006 Posted by Picasa


A Place to Park. 10 November 2006 Posted by Picasa

Exploring. 10 November 2006. Posted by Picasa

This week I have taken extra trouble to enable these photos to be enlarged by clicking onto them. There is a small surprise with a swop in photos. Needless to observe, I hope it works.

As usual we will seek to board Modulator’s Friday Ark#112 and join up with the Carnival of the Dogs at Mickey’s Musings.


Posted by wmmbb in Category to be ascribed, Global Electoral Politics.
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“We have peoples reputations at stake . . . I’m the decider and I decide what is best . . .”

And the decider immediately changes his mind following the midterm elections:

“I did not want to make a major decision in the final days of the campaign. The only way to answer that question, and get it on to another question, was to give you that answer.”

“In other words, he lied to the press for political purposes”, via Truthdig.

In times past,  for voters to cross check whether a politician lied, it was almost always necessary to check the written record, now they can refer to the video record. This idea could catch on.


Posted by wmmbb in Global Electoral Politics.
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The Independent has some numbers in its report with references:

Almost 79 million people voted in Tuesday’s election, with Democrats drawing more support than Republicans for the first time in a mid-term election since 1990.

The overall turnout rate, reflecting a percentage of voting age population, was 40.4 per cent, compared with 39.7 per cent in 2002, according to an Associated Press vote count and an analysis by American University’s Centre for the Study of the American Electorate.

It seems that American elections, especially midterm ones, seem to be determined by who turns out and who decides to stay at home.


This election has been significant and very dramatic in changing control of Congress. I cannot get past the fact that only 40% of the electorate participated – how democratic is that? 

RESULTS OF MIDTERMS November 8, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Global Electoral Politics.
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Here is a summary of the results, via Political Animal (Kevin Drum)


Assuming these figures hold, and they are consistent with the polls, they represent a change in dynamics in American politics with flow-on effects especially for Britain and Australia. Blair, it is to be hoped, will eventually go, but Howard will need to recalibrate the message, even as the Republican playbook recordings have developed static. Who knows what congressional oversight might uncover?

Postscript: 09 November 2006

BBC News confirms that the Democrats have taken Virginia and completed a rout of the Republicans when the House results are taken into consideration. It is not necessary to be an expert in American politics to realize the truth of this contention it hardly matters, subject always now with two independent senators that the Democracts have the numercial advantage, and given the fact, as I have come to realize that executive oversight is not exercised primarily on the floor of the chamber, but through the committee system.

The fact that ABC News Online runs a story suggesting that the two sides of Australian politics are in dispute over the outcome seems witless to say the least. No doubt in the spirit of Fox News they are attempting under their new managerial/government directive to fair and balanced.

IRAQ TESTIMONY November 8, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Iraq.
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Dr Dahlia Wasfi gives her personal testimony at a forum on Iraq, via Tim Dunlop at Blogocracy.


Posted by wmmbb in Global Electoral Politics.
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With 62% of the vote counted, Daniel Ortega is polling 39% of the vote in a field of five. Should this lead be maintained, Ortega will avoid the run off election and ascend to the presidency of Nicaragua, much to the chargin of the Americans.

His opponents are claiming election irregularities. The claim has been denied by the Carter election oversight group.

It appears to me that Nicaragua has a winner-take-all voting system with provision for a run off election if the leading candidate does not obtain 35% of the vote.

The Independent says the election will be an embarrassment to the Americans, who actively campaigned against Ortega. The Washington Post has a slightly different spin:

If the results from Sunday’s vote hold, they will mark a stunning comeback for the Cold War icon, who has failed twice to regain power since 1990, when voters disillusioned by a decade-long war with U.S.-backed insurgents and government abuses cast his Sandinista National Liberation Front from office.

Ortega’s return to Nicaragua’s presidency would also constitute an embarrassing setback for the Bush administration. American officials have recently made thinly veiled threats that the United States would impose economic sanctions and other punitive measures if Ortega was reelected, arguing that Ortega has not changed despite his embrace of Catholicism, pronouncements in favor of a market economy and efforts to cast himself as the candidate of “reconciliation.”

U.S. officials appeared motivated in part by concerns that Ortega would be an eager partner in pushing an anti-American alliance with Venezuelan President Hugo Ch?vez. Ortega’s return is particularly galling to many in the Bush administration who devoted their careers to getting rid of him in the 1980s.


Posted by wmmbb in Duckspeak, Global Electoral Politics.
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Gore Vidal proclaims that these midterm elections are the most important elections in his lifetime – “which does not quite extend back to that of Abraham Lincoln, but it is pretty close”.

Vidal ranges across the menance of voting machines and the stupidity of the human race.

So, my fellow countrymen, as I sit here, not yet at Gettysburg, I have a notion that this is the most important vote that you’ll probably ever cast. Because should this gang of thugs continue in the two houses of Congress, there isn’t any chance of getting the Constitution back….

Let us see how the “November surprise” works out.

Here supposedly is how the blackbox rigging can happen (there is scepticism from the commenters):

I understand with electronic voting, unlike going to the fruit and vegetable shop you are not given a receipt, there is no paper trail. Such an obvious design fault, if true, could not be an oversight?

The Boston Globe has the graphic information of the voting procedures on offer, including the Diebolds et al.


Posted by wmmbb in Environment.
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Since the parents, and the circumstances they inhabit, seem to determine much of what the child can become, how or should the State intervene?

A report by Leon Feinstien and Ricardo Sebates for the University of London’s Institute of Education suggests, according to Marie Woolf in The Independent:

By age five, it is possible to identify over one-third of those who will experience multiple deprivation 25 years later in adulthood.

Children who were truants at age 10, who wet the bed, or who had fathers who showed a “dismissive attitude”, had a far higher chance of having problems later in life. Those with poor communication skills as children had worse prospects than keen talkers.

“It is possible to accurately identify children and families who would benefit from appropriate and effective intervention, were such interventions available.”

The die is cast even before we are born. The report does not describe the methodology, and as far as I know no leading citizen has dismissed the study as unscientific – perhaps because it does not matter, it will not directly affect the distribution of wealth in society, and the problems of incompetent and ignorant parenting can easily be socialized in the form of prisons.

Still the question remains, if the findings are accepted, what skills are required for effective intervention, and what social agencies should undertake the task. Schools after all are purely responsible for basic education, such as the teaching of reading by phonetics.

BLOGOCRACY November 6, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Blogging in general.
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After one days posting, Tim Dunlop appears to have made a seamless transition to The Australian. It seems to me to be an astute move on the part of the management of that paper.

There seems to me to an general attitude of disparagement by some journalists towards bloggers, in some ways an understandable human reaction for several reasons. Blogs might be seen as challenging elite position of journalists in the main stream media given anybody can be a blogger and can say anything.

We ordinary garden-type bloggers, including myself, are learning as we go along. The problems we face as writers, not that we are necessarily good writers, give us respect for good journalists. Whether it the rare journalist who goes out and in an informed way observes what is happening on the ground in Iraq, or else comprehensively covers questions and issues related to the conviction of Saddam Hussein, my variety of blogger truly appreciates. We can link to the report or column, and sometimes cut and paste, which for the most part should be taken as a compliment, for there is much journalism that merely repeats the propaganda, or duckspeak, of the protagonist without comment. While there are egregious examples, the names of the guilty should be withheld, but this list would never include our ABC News Online.

One of the most disappointing aspects of blogging, which might be its emblematic democratic triumph, is the tiresome flow of discourse, which one observes mostly, but not always, on the comment threads. I may not have contributed much myself. And I suppose that argument against the person, and all the rest, some straight out of the Republican/shock jock playbook, is to be expected given that we operate from different emotional frames.

In my opinion this development represents the state of the norms of our democracy. We have lost sight of the fact that disagreement, perhaps a paradoxical feature, is at the heart of democratic debate, and our purpose is to discover a better truth, or at least a better way, with the even more alarming prospect that any individual might contribute to the outcome, and should if he or she could. The latter point sounds better when expressed poetically as the spiritual priesthood of the believers from the mouth of any individual God might speak. Democracy is no more problematic than in its practice.

The role of the media seems to be changing. We are witness to increased concentration and integration of forms of media, and yes that seems to be including blogging. There was a time, in the mythic past, when it was believed that a principle role of the media, other than to make money and therefore win an audience or readership, was to hold the government to account. Now this principle seems to have been overturned. Governments, as a matter of political competence have not only learned to manage the news cycle, but not only that they have learnt to intimidate the media as well as to plant their framing of issues as viruses in the minds of journalists. No major paper seems immune. Is The New York Times, for example, being courageous, or cannily casting the electoral winds to support only Democrats for the midterm elections?

I can talk of The New York Times because it and other world media have become to a degree accessible and therefore familiar through the Internet. I do not know the significance of that change in our lives will make in the long term. Blogs have other potentials, that we are experimenting with, while dimly appreciating the potential they might have, such as networking which can possibly be translated into political action on a local, national and global scale.

Now Tim is embedded in the MSM, bringing with him his blogging knowledge, despite misgivings, it will be interesting to see what unfolds.


Posted by wmmbb in Duckspeak.
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George Lakoff is Professor of Cognitive Linguistics at UC Berkley and Senior Fellow, Rockridge Institute who wrote “Don’t Think of an Elephant”. He has raised the issue of framing of issues, and deep framing that explains why our emotions are captured by deep framing. He explains the theory in this panel discussion, What Are Americans Voting For, at some length, as well as money invested in the Republican edge with regard to scientific duckspeak and propaganda. (The commentary on this link is delightfully partial and incomplete, and somewhat boring for that, much like this blog can sometimes be, illustrating that two people will often take away two different stories from the same event.)

When Richard Nixon said, “I am not a crook”, we immediately think, perhaps not consciously, he must be a crook, “using a negative activates the frame”. The spin doctors, according to Lakoff, have fallen into the same trap with respect to their dodge to pull out of “staying the course”. Similarly, I suspect, their attempt to reframe ” the war on terror” failed.

Photo via BBC News
One of the spin offs of the panel discussion was observation that framing is adopted by reporters. Just consider this example profiling Nancy Pelosi by BBC News. There is repeated reference that she represents one of the most liberal districts in California, and consequently her ascent to Speaker of the House of Representatives, if it happens, is likely to stir fears in conservatives and to be a subject of controversy.

Framing ignores alternative explanations and appeals. In a referendum on the Iraq Occupation, voting against the invasion might be seen as a positive for Pelosi. There is no mention that women are voters who might well like to see one of their gender with power the to appoint members to committees. Nor, is there an appreciation that many people are wholly conservative, or wholly liberal. Fairness, for example, is an important value.

These reports do the work, in this case, for the Republicans. And they may explain the effectiveness of attack advertising, and thus the value that Karl Rove put on the Republicans

MYSTERY PHOTO November 4, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Life Experience.
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I do not how it works, other than it has got to do with how Picasa stores and transfers photos.

Be shocked, as I was, click onto this photo.

Posted by Picasa

On reflection, the effect is I think created by superimposition of one photo on top of another, which happened accidentally, so I cannot reliably redo this effect again.


Posted by wmmbb in Iraq Policy.
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Rosa Brooks observes in The LA Times that the military does not look like America. Shock, horror, even despite himself Senator Kerry may have been speaking the truth. Obviously that must be a gaffe.

She observes that the percentage of members of Congress with military experience has halved. The children of the the upper classes do not get stuck in Iraq, nor do they do the dying and suffer the traumas and injuries of combat. There was a recent suggestion to hire mercenaries, much like the Roman Empire, as distinct from the private militias supplied by companies.

However, Rosa Brooks makes the point that the military is a product of recruitment and selection that excludes the bottom social groups as much as the upper ones, but there is a skewed regional demographic with more people from the South and Southwest, and rural areas. She writes:

Demographically, the military is profoundly different from civilian society. It’s drawn disproportionately from households in rural areas, for one thing. For another, the South and Southwest are substantially overrepresented within the military, while the Northeast is dramatically underrepresented.

Compared to civilians, members of the military are significantly more religious, and they’re also far more likely to be Republicans. A 2005 Military Times poll found that 56% of military personnel described themselves as Republicans, and only 13% described themselves as Democrats. Nationwide, most polls suggest that people who define themselves as Democrats outnumber those defining themselves as Republicans.

And though the average member of the military is neither poor nor uneducated, social and economic elites are dramatically underrepresented in the military.

I suspect there is more than class politics involved here, there is moral corruption. The fact that soldiers stayed in Vietnam long past the date it was apparent that war was lost, and that soldiers died because of that accept the truth, was moral wrong. In my judgment, given the changed circumstances of selection and recruitment, staying in a similar way in Iraq is a greater moral wrong.

Senator Kerry defends himself, but it does not cut through in the media, in particular CNN.

Postscript: 04 November 2006

Dave Lindoriff observes at CounterPunch that John Kerry did not get the joke he was supposed to give, as an example of a fake political facade whose content is determined and run by spin doctors and script writers.

ICEBERG ALERT November 3, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Environment.
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Picture / NZ Defence Force

The New Zealand Herald reports:

A giant flotilla of 100 icebergs is passing just 260km off the coast of the South Island – the closest the glacial masses have been to this country for 70 years.

Dramatic pictures taken yesterday show the largest of the icebergs stretches 2km and towers 150 metres above the sea.

Mike Williams, physical oceanographer at the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, said it was the closest recorded iceberg to New Zealand since 1931.

The article goes on to suggest that this phenomenon is probably not due to global warming – although I would think that might be possible, and it is unlikely to be eighty years before another example is manifest.

“THERE IS BUT LITTLE HARM . . .” November 3, 2006

Posted by wmmbb in Global Electoral Politics.
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How the world has changed since Abraham Lincoln said in Lawrenceburg, Indiana on, February 12, 1861

If the politicians and leaders of parties were as true as the people, there would be little fear that the peace of the country would be disturbed. I have been selected to fill an important office for a brief period, and am now, in your eyes, invested with an influence which will soon pass away; but should my administration prove to be a very wicked one, or what is more probable, a very foolish one, if you, the people, are but true to yourselves and to the Constitution, there is but little harm I can do, thank God!

That confidence might be supposing that Congress and the Supreme Court were acting as checks and balances, and before all democracies became suspectible to intimidation, duckspeak and propaganda.

Hence the contemporary definition of a lame duck presidency, or government, as not so much a president with a strangled vocal chords of the inarticulate or the non-contemplative, but rather one subject to legislative and legal accountability, which ought to be the normal course of events.

In these matters, voting merely changes the actors, not the script.

Source: Quotation from Malcolm Muggeridge reviewing the 1964 Johnson presidential campaign via BBC News.