Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Religion is not merely "Good medicine" but real poison.

Letter or OP Ed submission, response to Pat Fagan, "Religion Good Medicine for America’s social ills,"(Herald-Leader, Jan 6, 2007, p. A15) :

HEADING Religion is being used to divide America into faithful and non-faithful by preachers and politicians

Fagan (Jan 6) by stressing some social benefits of religion states only a half-truth. He ignores the vast misuse of religion by humans everywhere, at home and abroad throughout history and right now.

Religion in the West has been a benefit mainly for the white males, particularly those in power, political or religious. We used religion in this country, “The Bible says so,� to justify slavery and states rights, then Jim Crow with much inequity.

The religion of the founding fathers was of no benefit to the native Americans we found living here. The First Nation as they are called in Canada, were driven and slaughtered in order to drive them West and then further again out of territories given them such as the Oklahoma territory settlers craved. Jefferson wrote the Bill of Rights, but kept his slaves.

We have used religion to kill, torture, discriminate, ostracize and terrorize those who believe differently throughout history. Witch hunts in America continue in the biblically inspired meanness against citizens who discover their sexual orientation differs from the majority. When divorce occurs at a rate of 50% in this society, it is absurd to imagine that human rights to partner benefits for gay couples is some kind of threat to the institution of marriage.

The books of the Bible and the study of God (theology). until recently, have all been written by males. The feminine perspective is still under-rated and mostly ignored.

Beware of any person, particularly a person in power, pulpit or White House, who talks about a special relationship with God. Beware--because he is likely to use his religion to justify war, denial of human rights and any extension of executive privilege he can imagine. God, we tend to believe, supports only our own views.

The first outcome for any human who has truly met God (not merely their self-justifying concept of God) is, I suggest, humility and gratitude. This means a refusal to use one’s faith to judge another’s belief system. That is the meaning of religious freedom which cost our founding fathers greatly.

The Founding Fathers did not use religious concepts to justify rights. They appealed to human reason and natural law. This is the model our divisive religious conversations today ignore.

The world is divided into two groups of people, the devoutly religious and the non-religious, and it is the religious who do the dividing. They sincerely believe they are justified in doing so. Yet. freedom of religion is a self-denying axiom. It also means that we have no right to impose our view of religion on any other person..

Paschal Baute Pastoral Psychologist tel 293-5302

One other possible paragraph, if space permits?
Today right-wing preachers use the pulpit to condemn most American institutions as corrupt and godless, from federal agencies that provide housing and welfare, to public schools and the media. They further declare those who disagree with them to be enemies of God and even traitors. This is a benefit for our society?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Baby Einstein and Bush: Similar Frauds

Baby Einstein and the Bush Administration: There's More than Meets the Eye
by Susan Linn

It's fitting that Julie Aigner-Clark was singled out by President Bush in his State of the Union Address as a stellar example of entrepreneurship. The Baby Einstein Company, which she sold to Disney for more than $20 million in 2001, has a lot in common with his administration. Both specialize in brilliantly crafted, hugely successful, false and deceptive marketing to promote their brands. Both exploit fear as a tool for marketing. Both rely on building a passive and accepting media audience.

Preying on parental concerns about children's development, Baby Einstein brought in over $200 million to Disney in 2005 through unsubstantiated claims that its videos were educational for babies and by hyping a link that doesn't exist between its brand and learning (In 2006, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood filed a Federal Trade Commission complaint against Baby Einstein for false and deceptive marketing; that complaint is pending) . The most horrifying example of the Bush administration's deceptive marketing and manipulation of fear is the war in Iraq--sold to us through unsubstantiated claims of weapons of mass destruction and by hyping a link that didn't exist between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden.

In making this comparison, I do not mean to trivialize the damage done by this administration or the ongoing tragedy of the carnage in Iraq. Certainly no infant has died watching Baby Einstein. At best baby videos look like fun, and they appear at worst to be merely inane. But the fact is that media companies like Disney, which deceptively market screen time as beneficial to babies, are doing actual harm.

By targeting babies, companies are marketing not just products but lifelong habits, values and behaviors, hardwiring dependence on media before babies even have a chance to grow and develop and removing them further and further from the very experiences that are essential for healthy development-and for democracy.

Research suggests that -- for babies -- TV viewing interferes with cognitive development, language development and regular sleep patterns. It can also be habituating. For older children, hours of television watched are linked to bullying, poor school performance and childhood obesity.

Particularly relevant to the future state of our democratic union is research showing that the more time babies spend in front of TV, the less time they spend in one activity which we know is educational--creative play. Losing, or never acquiring, the ability to play may not sound like much until you realize that play is essential not just to learning, but to democracy. It's through playing that children learn skills essential to thriving in, and protecting, a democratic society. Critical thinking,-initiative, curiosity, problem solving and creativity are capacities that develop through play, as are the more ephemeral qualities of self-reflection, empathy, and the ability to find meaning in life.

And what do children learn from the more than forty hours a week they spend with a commercially dominated media? They are being taught the corporate values embraced and promulgated by the Bush administration--unthinking brand loyalty, impulse buying, and a belief that consumption is the solution to all ills. Remember, this is the administration that told us to go shopping after the World Trade Center was attacked.

Meanwhile, the baby-media industry is booming. In the U.S., according to reports from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 68 per cent of children two and under engage with screen media for an average of two hours daily. About 19% of babies under the age of one have a television in their bedroom. Despite the fact that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children under two, about half of U.S. parents harbor the erroneous belief that videos like the Baby Einstein series are very important to a young child's education.

One potential consequence of the baby-media industry's success in scamming American parents is that screen-saturated, play-deprived, babies will grow into screen-dependent adults, without the will or capacity to question what they're being sold. And that's exactly where this Administration wants them. During the build-up to the Iraq war, Andrew Card, the President's chief of staff, was asked why the administration waited until September to promote the invasion. He replied, "From a marketing point of view you don't introduce new products in August."

Do we want to raise a generation of die-hard consumers trained from birth to buy into war as just another product, or do we want to raise democratic citizens? We know which the Bush Administration-and Disney-prefer.

Susan Linn, Ed.D. is co-founder of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and author of Consuming Kids.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Addictive Personality traits (+) of George W. Bush.

January 12, 2007

The Neuropsychology of George W. Bush

By Abbas Sadeghian, Ph.D.

"Why don't they have Bibles? Can we get them Bibles? Would they like Bibles?"
The most reported inquiry by George Bush about the fate of the US Air crew of the American surveillance plane downed over China.
Newsweek, April 23, 2001, Atlantic edition

When I read of the above quote in the papers during the Chinese stand off, I was happy to find the missing link in understanding George Bush.

The incident occurred five months before 911. An American spy plane collided with a Chinese fighter plane, forcing the American plane to land on an island off of China. The crew had infuriated the Chinese by remaining locked in the plane until they had destroyed sensitive material and equipment. When they emerged, they were taken prisoner and were held for 22 days while America negotiated for their release.

As State Department officials worked on the situation, President Bush made the above comment, which was considered the most reported statement of the event.

Considering the fact that the situation was quite tense and there were so many possibilities of an escalating crisis. Hearing that the president is worried about them having access to the Bible and exercise equipment was simply astonishing.

However, this event was a quite useful in learning about Bush and his psychological make up. President Bush had already admitted to having had severe alcohol problem during his younger years and that he stopped drinking when he was confronted by his wife and mother. The Chinese incident showed me that like many other recovering alcoholics Bush is using physical exercise and hyper religiosity to keep himself sober.

Why Exercise?
Research on prolonged exposure to drugs and alcohol indicates that the brain of an alcoholic is often permanently harmed by the chemicals and loses its ability to maintain necessary levels of endorphins. Endorphins are the famous natural opiates that the body produces to deal with physical and emotional pain. Not having enough natural opiates makes the person vulnerable to physical and emotional pain, which can potentially push the person towards a relapse. Recovering alcoholics have a lot of difficulty in dealing with physical and emotional pain unless they find a way to produce endorphins in a natural manner. Psychologists routinely encourage patients to turn to vigorous exercise.

President Bush is perhaps the fittest president in history; however, he is not a "Health Nut." He is just obsessed with exercise. If he was seriously devoted to his health he would not have abused alcohol, or indulge in activities like overexposing himself to the sun and eating what is reported to be his favorite snack, pretzels (at least, that's what he choked on while watching television).

Why the Bible:
A recovering alcoholic has to deal with the cognitive aspects of alcoholism as well. The cravings for alcohol are quite strong and potentially overpowering. Some successful recovering alcoholics deal with the cravings by replacing their obsession of drinking with hyper religiosity.

Both supporters and detractors agree that the President is a religious man, unwavering in his beliefs. He refers to his work as a 'crusade.' He abhors the idea of abortion, homosexuality and, of course, gay marriage. He openly admits that he makes his decisions based on biblical teachings.

Learning disability:
There have been many reports that the president suffers from Dyslexia (severe difficulty with reading and writing). Most people suffering from Dyslexia eventually learn how to read and write, however in some cases, reading remains a chore and they get little pleasure from it. President Bush seems to belong to this group. He does not like to read books or newspapers and relies heavily on others to do it for him. For example, Bush said he believed that the CIA memo that warned of an imminent Al-Qaeda attack on 9/11 was 'read to him.'

The president has very poor penmanship. His handwriting is not bad like a doctor; rather, it is primitive hand writing like that of a child. A thank you card he sent to Dick Clark had only one sentence ... but it took both sides of a 4x6 card to write it. Bush has been questioned on this issue numerous times, and he continues on denying it. However, his response to one of these questions is most revealing:

"The woman who knew that I had dyslexia - I never interviewed her." - Orange, Calif., Sept. 15, 2000

President Bush's language deficit does not seem to be limited to Dyslexia. He often mixes two words to come up with a meaningless term, such as "misunderestimate." Entire books have been written about his malaprops (the misuse of words). He also has problems with verbal memory and syntax. The latest one of these errors was:

"We got an issue in America. Too many good docs are gettin' out of business. Too many O-B-G-Y-N's aren't able to practice their...their love with women all across this country." - Poplar Bluff, Missouri, Sep 7, 2004

George W. Bush has never been a good student and, in fact, he takes pride in being a self-described 'C' student. When he took his pilots' exam to enter the National Guard, he scored at the 25th percentile. That is the lowest passing grade for a pilot.

Prior to taking office, the President did not show any desire to know about other countries. He had never traveled abroad. After taking office, the White House press corps complained that, unlike other Presidents, this one traveled into a country on government business and straight back out with no time to explore or learn about the country. When he traveled to Africa, he did three countries a day. He has never had a thirst for knowledge, once referring to Bob Woodward as a "fancy-pants intellectual."

A person's vocabulary and syntax have a high correlation with his general IQ. The problem of poor vocabulary is quite evident in Bush's communications. He demonstrates this difficulty vividly when explaining his point on important matters. In the absence of the right word, he often uses strong facial expressions to make his point. Considering Bush's poor vocabulary and syntax, one can postulate that his general IQ is probably at the lower end of the average range.

Throughout his life, President Bush has learned different methods to compensate for his language deficits and average IQ. He accomplishes this task by becoming charming and personable.

Other indicators of shortcomings evident throughout Bush's life.
(1) Poor reading skills and lack of desire for general knowledge has made him almost intellectually illiterate. He required heavy tutoring in history, geography and international affairs before his run for office. Condoleezza Rice and Dick Cheney worked with him for a year to prepare him for the job. And since then these deficiencies have caused him to become dependent on his advisers for decision making. In the relationship between Vice President Cheney and President Bush, the more mature Cheney has become the dominant figure. Consequently, he has difficulty making decisions without Chaney (remember the seven minutes in the classroom while America was under attack?)

(2) A Bush characteristic that he is proud of and his supporters refer to as his advantage is his "resolve and stubbornness." While in psychology terms we refer to this phenomenon as "concrete thinking", which is common among people with alcohol history, making them inflexible, harsh and difficult.

(3) He has a strong sense of divine mission, he believes that he is doing Gods work and refers to his actions as a crusade. He has been told by many of his advisers not to use such statements and he has made public announcements that he will not call himself a crusader anymore but it looks like he just can not help it.

____ copied from Op Ed News, Jan 12

Abbas Sadeghian. I Am a Clinical Neuropsychologist. I work mostly with people who have suffered from a stroke or other neurological conditions. My minor in college has always been History. I am an Assistant Proffessor of Psychology in North Eastern Ohio University College of Medicine.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Get Real on Iraq

Past Time to Get Real on Iraq

We’ve been down this road before. This time, it has to be different.

There have been too many times that President Bush has promised a new strategy on Iraq, only to repeat the same old set of failed approaches and unachievable objectives. Americans need to hear Mr. Bush offer something truly new — not more glossy statements about ultimate victory, condescending platitudes about what hard work war is, or aimless vows to remain “until the job is done.�

If the voters sent one clear message to Mr. Bush last November, it was that it is time to start winding down America’s involvement in this going-nowhere war.

What they need is for the president to acknowledge how bad things have gotten in Iraq (not just that it is not going as well as he planned) and to be honest about how limited the remaining options truly are. The country wants to know how Mr. Bush plans to end its involvement in a way that preserves as much of the nation’s remaining honor and influence as possible, limits the suffering of the Iraqi people and the harm to Iraq’s neighbors, and gives Iraqi leaders a chance — should they finally decide to take it — to rescue their country from an even worse disaster once the Americans are gone.

The reality that Mr. Bush needs to acknowledge when he speaks to the nation tomorrow night is that the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki is feeding rather than restraining Iraq’s brutal civil war. The Iraqi Army cannot be relied on to impose order even in Baghdad, while the Iraqi police forces — dominated by sectarian militias — are inciting the mayhem.

Mr. Bush must acknowledge that there is no military solution for Iraq. Whatever plan he offers needs to start with a tough set of political benchmarks for national reconciliation that the Iraqi government is finally expected to meet. It needs to concentrate enough forces in Baghdad to bring some security to streets and neighborhoods, giving Iraq’s leaders one last opportunity to try to bargain their way out of civil war.

His plan needs to lay out tight timetables in which the Iraqis must take major steps to solve fundamental issues, including equitably dividing their oil wealth and disarming vengeful militias. There must also be a clear and rapid timetable for achieving enough stability in Baghdad to hand back significant military responsibilities to the Iraqis.

The last time America presented Mr. Maliki with a set of political benchmarks, he bluntly rejected them. If he does that again, there is no way America can or should try to secure Iraq on its own. Mr. Bush must make clear to both Iraqis and Americans that without significant progress, American forces will not remain.

We’re under no illusions. Meeting those challenges is going to be extremely tough. And Iraq’s unraveling may already be too far gone.

For Mr. Bush, this means resisting any vague Nixonian formula of “peace with honor� that translates into more years of fighting on for the same ever-receding goals. Democrats in Congress should also resist euphemistic formulas like “phased redeployment,� which really means trying to achieve with even fewer troops what Washington failed to achieve with current force levels.

Nor can America simply turn its back on whatever happens to Iraq after it leaves. With or without American troops, a nightmare future for Iraq is a nightmare future for the United States, too, whether it consists of an expanding civil war that turns into a regional war or millions of Iraq’s people and its oil fields falling under the tightening grip of a more powerful Iran.

Mr. Bush is widely expected to announce a significant increase in American troops to deploy in Baghdad’s violent neighborhoods. He needs to explain to Congress and the American people where the dangerously tapped-out military is going to find those troops. And he needs to place a strict time limit on any increase, or it will turn into a thinly disguised escalation of the American combat role.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that just under 23,000 Iraqi civilians and police officers died violently in 2006, more than 17,000 of them in the last six months. That is a damning indictment of the Maliki government, and of current American military strategy.

That is the Iraq that Americans want Mr. Bush to deal with tomorrow night.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

RElgion: private medicine, social benefits but politically dividing.

Note to CLN-KY group. This is an Op Ed response to Fagan’s panegyric on the value of religion in Saturdays Herald Leader. Draft #3. Jan 8. Please comment and make suggestions. My subject is the complexity of talking about religion in public life.

OP Ed submission, response to Pat Fagan, “Religion Good Medicine for America’s social ills,� (Herald-Leader, Jan 6, 2007, p. A15) :

Suggested heading: Religion: private medicine, social benefit but politically dividing.

Most of us can say “yes� to Pat Fagan’s Op-Ed essay “Religion Good Medicine for America’s social ills,� (Herald-Leader, Jan 6, 2007, p. A15) but he states only one side of the issue. Fagan ignores what is actually happening in America that most mainstream media does not address. That is the complexity of the public uses of faith and religion with the attempts of many politicians and preachers today to use religion to divide us. . For example:

When a Kentucky state legislator publicly attacks the Hebrew faith of a fellow legislator but receives no reprimand from the Ethics committee likely because the majority of the body is also Christian..

When in Kentucky, public funding of a new professional school is proposed despite that school’s faith view forbidding equal and fair treatment to a class of people regarded as inherently sinful by the school’s mission and authority.

When politicians eagerly endorse new laws and restrictions because a large number of religions people believe to grant equal partner benefits to people of gay and lesbian orientation is somehow a threat to the institution of marriage–even though 50% of heterosexual marriages end in divorce anyway.

When a President uses his faith to justify his decision to wage war on a country that did not attack us despite advice from many religious leaders, contrary to principles we signed as part of the United Nations and against our own traditions.

When Christmas displays on public property become illegal. When does public posting of the Ten Commandments become a endorsement or establishment of a particular faith view? The Supreme Court has stated: sometimes no, sometimes yes.

When the Supreme Court endorsed public funding via tuition vouchers for parochial schools and funding for other religious charities– when does that become endorsement of a particular religion? Yet the G.I. bill after World War II allowed veterans to select their own colleges and universities and many of these were religious.

When White House funding of Faith Based Initiatives funded only conservative Christian projects while rejecting requests from other types of religious organizations? When the former director of this program resigns in protest and disgust of the personally observed political manipulations from inside the White House?

When politicians (including the President, in the Schiavo case) rush to endorse one particular faith view over others, over all others, is this an public endorsement of one view over others?

When pulpits, both Protestant and Catholic , are used to endorse one candidate or one party is this a mis-use of their exempt tax status? Please note that the legal prosecution of such cases occurs only when the pulpit view is contrary to the prevailing conservative religious thrust of the Powers that be. (In California)

When we disallow any talk about God, Providence, the role of faith and religion in our history, public life or in cultural affairs, are we, in fact, endorsing a legal secularism by contemporary political correctness? Founding Fathers and many presidents, have invoked God and believed our national project was especially blessed.

When the President holds a daily prayer meeting inside the White House and staff are invited, is this not an implied endorsement of one faith view, social pressure with an intrusion in the personal faith views of staff who may feel or believe differently?

Are the graduation ceremonies of tax supported organizations open only to the prayers of those I who represent the majority faith view? Can that public pulpit be used to promote a particular faith view?

To what extent should religious entities be exempt from taxes while they preach America is a Christian Nation and anyone who resists that notion is either un-Christian, blindly wrong or an agent of the devil?

When military commanders use their rank to promote a particular faith view with their troops? When Air Force and Army generals and colonels in uniform at the Pentagon appear in a promotional video distributed by the Christian Embassy, a radical Washington based group dedicated to building a “Christian Nation�

When chaplains used by legislative bodies to open their deliberations employ specifically Christian concepts? When the Pentagon holds or allows bible sessions with by its own count some 40 generals with weekly prayer breakfasts in the executive dining room each Wednesday at 7 to 7:50 a.m. ? Is this a form of social coercion for younger officers? (See Truthdig, Christ Hedges: America’s Holy Warriors)

When right-wing preachers use the pulpit to condemn most American institutions as corrupt and godless, from federal agencies that provide housing and welfare to public schools and the media? Then declare those who disagree with them as enemies of God and even traitors?

Are we overlooking the mass movement being built by the Christian right as fascist at its core, since it does not believe in dialogue, brooks no dissent, and judges anyone who differs as evil?

We are naturally divided in the role of religion in public. Others follow their own faith but we ourselves surely and sincerely follow the right path! We forget the sad history of religious persecution. We forget that the practice of slavery was justified by the Bible and most all religious denominations for almost two thousand years. We forget the great human cost of our own Civil War.

Primarily, we overlook the vast temptation to use religion for political purposes in a pluralistic society. Temptations of human pride and power give us rose-colored glasses blind to our own partisan bias.

Our founding fathers were aware of this tendency. James Madison was sure that freedom of religion would itself prevent mis-use and bias. The Baptists of Virginia disagreed and said . “You may trust the Anglicans but we don’t. We want it written down.� They refused to send Madison to Congress unless he endorsed the Bill of Rights.

Contrary to his declared intention, Madison did. Ironically it was the Baptists of Southern Virginia who obliged him to do this. They were 40% of his vote. (See Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, forum on The Christmas Wars with scholars Novak and Meachem, Dec 12, 2006)

Not only should we debate the role of religion in public life, but our founding fathers have debated it from the very beginning. The problem today is one of aggressive Christianity. People genuinely believe that there is a war on Christianity in this country. And they feel they are losing and this is a recipe for extremism.

Liberty is our fundamental value. But what is its source? It comes from the view that liberty is rooted in the human conscience. That truth came from Judaism and then Christianity and most other religions do not get to that. The beauty of this, as Michael Novak says, is that it is a self-denying rule. Neither Christians or Jews by this very principle have any right to impose on anyone else. This is the beauty of our American Way. We shall continue to debate its application

Paschal Baute is a pastoral psychologist and facilitator of the Spiritual Growth Network of Kentucky, an interfaith group. He also leads an interfaith group of volunteers who teach spiritual tools of change to addictive offenders at the Fayette Detention Center.
Tel 859.293.5302.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

What is your "story"? What story are you living?

The Power of Story
Suffering, death, life and hope.

People die or survive because of the stories they believe--their values and belief system. In every age. Still today. In many places. Suicide bombers.

Crusaders, Muslims, Protestants, Catholics, heretics and the orthodox who persecuted them all suffered and died because they were fighting for their One True God, whom they believe they owned. Their personal stories gave them the right to judge others as further from God than themselves with such certainty that others had to be insincere.

I know seven persons, including several bright and compassionate professionals who committed suicide. We can say their story did not include hope or ways to survive their set-backs, addictions and despair.

Victor Frankel survived the Nazi concentration camps because of this vision of his wife’s love. Eli Wiesel survived many such torture camps because of his care for his father and his stubborn refusal to surrender hope.

Most people are about as happy as they choose to be because they choose the stories they live by, and because time is a healer. Yet most of us do not have ways to cope with setbacks of diverse types, health, fortune, family, and career.

The Israelites, after being overrun by one empire after another survied by the magnificent stories their writers, prophets and poets created in the 7th century B.C. Their stories gave meaning to their identity and guidance for survival.

Many good people and many Christians and Jews and Muslims spent their energies helping others because their personal story or belief system summons that service.

I once asked many years ago, in the midst of my own Christian conversion to my Crucified Lord, of a Jew sitting next to me on a bus of Navy Reserve Chaplains, "How does a Jew deal with suffering?" His answer was remarkably simple: "Ahh. We suffer because we are Jews. To be a Jew is to suffer." And he smiled. That was 1961 and I have never forgotten that event.

Every story in the Bible we can say is about a vision of faith and hope, a way to be, to become, to live. On the other hand, for the Buddhist, simply to live, to be human, means to suffer. Suffering is an inevitable part of being human.

What is your "story"? What gives you hope and meaning in the midst of setbacks that every life will encounter?

To be Continued.
Paschal, Jan 6, 2007