Bush (Unintentionally) Got It Right Today

If I had stopped with the first paragraph, this would be the smartest thing I’ve ever heard from George Bush:

President Bush compared Congress’ Democratic leaders Thursday with people who ignored the rise of Lenin and Hitler early in the last century, saying “the world paid a terrible price” then and risks similar consequences for inaction today.

Yes, we do risk paying a terrible price for the inaction of the Democrats in not doing more to curtail the actions of George Bush. Bush already got us into an unnecessary and disastrous war which strengthened terrorist organizations and Iran while weakening the United States. Now Bush uses talk of World War III. The Democrats must take action to limit the ability of Bush to wage war before he makes his own prediction turn true. Democrats need to pay closer attention to history. We’ve seen how Bush abused the authority granted under the Iraq War Resolution and measures must be taken to ensure that the inaction of the Democrats do not result in further wars.

While there is a difference in degree, the lessons the world learned from the actions of Lenin and Hitler do provide important warnings about the dangers of someone like George Bush who utilizes military force when not appropriate and who ignores the rule of law.

Out-of-Body Experiences Simulated by Stimulation of Portion of Brain

During a week in which UFO’s were part of the Democratic debate, it only seemed to make sense that today’s issue of The New England Journal of Medicine would include an article on out-of-body experiences. The report shows the sensation of an out-of-body experience being simulated by stimulation of the posterior part of the superior temporal gyrus. Figure A (above) shows a three dimensional MRI reconstruction of the brain overlaid with clusters of significant increases in brain activity. From the discussion:

It has been suggested that an out-of-body experience results from a deficient multisensory integration at the temporoparietal junction on the right side.1 This hypothesis has been developed from data on lesions, the results of transcranial magnetic stimulation, and electrophysiological findings in healthy volunteers and patients with epilepsy,9 as well as from single-scan, ictal single-photon-emission computed tomographic imaging and interictal PET imaging in patients with epilepsy.1 We used functional neuroimaging with a controlled design to capture the regions of the brain that are engaged during an isolated, pure state of disembodiment. The consistency of the evoked out-of-body experience in our patient and its relatively long duration allowed for the use of PET scanning to visualize brain areas that were activated during the out-of-body experience.

The activation of the area at the junction of the angular gyrus and the supramarginal gyrus on the right side is probably related to the feeling of disembodiment and may be a consequence of disrupted somatosensory (mainly proprioceptive) and vestibular integration. The supramarginal gyrus on the right side of the brain in humans is involved in the processing of vestibular information for head and body orientation in space.10 Electrical stimulation of the angular gyrus on the right side induces vestibular and complex somatosensory responses,5 suggesting that the angular–supramarginal junction might be involved in the vestibular somatosensory integration of body orientation in space.

The general area of the superior temporal cortex has been thought to embody an internal map of self-perception, as one component of human self-consciousness.7 During disembodiment, self-perception is altered, but global self-consciousness is retained. In contrast, during depersonalization and derealization, both global self-consciousness and self-perception are retained, but the person feels dissociated from the surroundings.3 Imaging studies have revealed that dissociation and depersonalization scores in subjects with depersonalization disorder are significantly related to metabolic activity in the inferior parietal cortex (Brodmann’s area 7B), suggesting that spatial mislocalization of the self in relation to the physical body (disembodiment) is associated with activation of the angular–supramarginal junction, as we have shown, whereas spatial mislocalization of the self in the surrounding environment may be associated with somewhat more dorsally located inferior parietal activation.11

In addition, the precuneus has been implicated as part of a functional network generating reflective self-awareness as a core function of consciousness.12 PET imaging has shown that the angular gyrus, anterior cingulate gyrus, and precuneus are functionally connected and synchronously active during reflective self-awareness.12 The precuneus is reciprocally connected to both the posterior thalamus complex and the inferior parietal lobule–temporoparietal junction.13

For some reason I suspect that Deepak Chopra might have a different idea as to what causes out-of-body experiences.

Republicans Should Beware of What They Wish For if Bloomberg Runs

The Washington Times reports that many Republicans hope Michael Bloomberg will run for president as an independent as it would improve their chances at winning by dividing the Democratic vote.

“Ideologically, Bloomberg is much more aligned with the Democrat base than with Republicans,” says Republican direct-mail fundraiser Richard Norman. “The more effective his campaign, the more he spends, the more he hurts the presumptive Democrat nominee, Senator [Hillary Rodham] Clinton.”
A political operative close to the mayor’s operation says New York Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheeky and some top Bloomberg advisers are urging the billionaire mayor to make a bid for the presidency in 2008. Mr. Bloomberg repeatedly has said he will not do so.
“It’s about 50-50 that Michael will go for it, and if he does I think it would probably help Republicans,” says David Norcross, a friend of the New York mayor and chairman of the Republican National Committee’s Rules Committee

This might help the Republicans, but there is also the danger that they might regret hoping for Bloomberg to run. A lot will depend upon how the campaign plays out and who gets each party’s nomination. If John Edwards wins the Democratic nomination, a Bloomberg candidacy would probably draw off enough votes from affluent Democrats who object to Edwards’ populist campaign based upon class warfare and junk economics to give the Republicans a victory. Obama and Richardson would have a far better chance of holding together a wide based Democratic coalition, and how Hillary would do in a general election campaign remains difficult to predict.

The effect of a Bloomberg candidacy would differ in different parts of the country and among different types of voters. As suggested above, Bloomberg could attract the votes of some of the new Democratic voters who gave them their victory in 2006. Bloomberg could also cost the Republicans some votes. There are many Republican businessmen who do not support the social policies of the Republicans and are seeing that the war was a mistake. Some are voting Democratic, but there are many long time Republican voters who only see the Democrats as a threat to tax them more and are unlikely to vote Democratic under any situation. A socially moderate businessman such as Bloomberg could be attractive to many of these voters.

Ultimately it might make sense for Republicans to hope for anything which might shake up the race since, as things stand now, it appears that a Republican will have a hard time winning in 2008.

Medicare Paperwork and Business Planning

Ezra Klein has an interesting  quote on how Republican false claims become regarded as fact, quoting from Health Affairs:

ONE HUNDRED THIRTY thousand pages of Medicare regulations stifle provider innovation. We know that because conservative politicians such as Newt Gingrich tell us this every chance they get. The evidence? A decade ago, the estimable Mayo Clinic added up the pages; who, after all, doesn’t believe the Mayo Clinic? This nugget, demonstrating regulation run amok, even made it into the talking points that candidate George Bush used against Al Gore in one of their 2000 debates, although Bush managed to mangle the details.

The only problem is that the number 130,000 is wrong—not just a little wrong, but about 127,500 pages wrong. I know this because as a senior political appointee at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), I was selected to defend the number in a congressional hearing. In fact, most of what Mayo counted as pages of regulations were newsletters, nonprecedential payment appeal decisions, and other assorted tidbits, many going back fifteen years. Medicare-related? Yes. Regulations? Not even close.

Sure, Medicare is a government program and that means that lots of paper gets generated due to the bureaucratic mind set, even if the amount is greatly exaggerated. However that doesn’t mean it is all bad. Medicare, as well as all other payers, has rules about what they will pay for and under what circumstances. Thanks to all the paperwork generated by Medicare (with information also available on line) I have a far better chance at knowing how much Medicare will pay for a service and whether there will be any obstacles to getting paid.

Looking at my medical practice from a business perspective, this makes it far easier to plan decide upon business changes. That’s quite different from the conservative spin that Medicare’s regulations stifle provider innovation. Republican businessmen should understand the value of information for business planning and innovation.

Wired Reports on Criminal Acts in Support of Paul Campaign

Wired has reported on the recent investigations regarding the use of email spam to promote Ron Paul’s campaign:

If Texas congressman Ron Paul is elected president in 2008, he may be the first leader of the free world put into power with the help of a global network of hacked PCs spewing spam, according to computer-security researchers who’ve analyzed a recent flurry of e-mail supporting the long-shot Republican candidate.

“This is clearly a criminal act in support of a campaign, which has been committed with or without their knowledge,” says Gary Warner, the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s director of research in computer forensics. “The question is, will we see more and more of this, or will this bring shame to the campaigns and will they make clear that this is not a form of acceptable behavior by their supporters?” Warner pointed to provisions of the federal Can-Spam Act.

Ron Paul spokesman Jesse Benton says the campaign has no knowledge of the scam. Warner himself says that he has no reason to believe that the Paul campaign had anything to do with these messages.

Some participants in the online political world have long suspected Paul’s technically sophisticated fan base of manipulating online tools and polls to boost the appearance of a wide base of support. But the UAB analysis is the first to document any internet shenanigans.

The finding is significant, because Paul’s online support — as gauged by blog mentions, friends on social-networking sites such as MySpace and popularity in online polls — has garnered him wide mainstream print and television coverage, despite his relatively poor performance in offline polling.

The spamming allegations are based on a slew of e-mails captured by contributors to the university’s Spam Data Mining for Law Enforcement Applications project, a research venture that receives 2.5 million spam messages a day, and selects about 100,000 a week for analysis. The project receives its spam from other researchers with ties to ISPs, and in some cases from “trap” addresses that have never been used for any other purpose.

The report of such use of spam has received considerable coverage by bloggers undoubtedly as a consequence of our experiences with the abusive use of comment spam by Paul supporters who fail to realize how their tactics reflect poorly on their candidate.

The responses to the earlier report here, as well as on other blogs, demonstrate the mind set of Paul supporters. Even though the accusations are against abusive Paul supporters as opposed to the campaign itself, Paul supporters immediately began spamming blogs with denials. As is typical of comments from Paul supporters, their denials contain a combination of denial of the facts, incorrect information, specious arguments, and even paranoid conspiracy theories.

The conduct of Paul supporters reminds many bloggers of similar problems with some supporters of Howard Dean in 2003. While the problem from Dean supporters never reached the degree we are seeing from Paul supporters, Joe Trippi and many other Dean supporters did recognize how such conduct harms their candidate and did work to dissuade such actions. I am less hopeful of such action from either the Paul campaign or a meaningful contingent of Paul supporters. I fear that neither the Paul campaign or a significant number of his on line supporters are sensible enough to understand the problem.

Ultimately this is the result of the conduct of Paul and his supporters. If used properly and responsibly, the internet could be a valuable tool to promote a candidate. However when misused there is also potential to harm the candidate. When even libertarian-leaning blogs such as Liberal Values which initially treated Paul as a legitimate voice when the media ignored him now see both the candidate and his supporters as wackos we see how counterproductive the tactics of Paul’s supporters are.

More at Right Wing Nuthouse, Blue Crab Boulevard, The American Mind, The Van Der Galiën Gazette, Outside The Beltway

Dropping the “Bat-Shit Crazy” Party

John Cole of Balloon Juice has announced that he has dropped his registration as a Republican and is now a Democrat:

Long story short, I got up there to register as an independent, said “Fuck it,” and now I am a Democrat. I certainly don’t agree with all their positions, but they are not bat-shit crazy like the GOP. That has to count for something.

There’s a lot of us who have been voting Democratic lately who don’t agree with all the traditional Democratic positions. That’s why the Democrats took control of Congress in 2006, and why the Democrats will probably take the White House in 2008. The Republicans have become just too “bat-shit crazy” to be trusted with governing.

Having so many people begin to vote Democratic also changes what Democratic positions mean. The party has become more of a big tent. There are more fiscal conservatives (which is a good thing) as well as more social conservatives (which isn’t so good). Ultimately Cole sums it up in declaring the Republicans “bat-shit crazy.” While Democrats can disagree on a variety of issues, at least we have a common frame of reference for debating the issues.

The Republicans live in an alternative reality as they reject science (from evolution to climate change), reject rational economic theory (with fantasies that lowering taxes will always bring in more revenue and confusing corporate welfare for the free market), reject our nation’s history (such as with claims that the founding fathers did not intend for separation of church and state in the writing of both the Constitution and Bill of Rights), and reject reality in dealing with current problems (such as claims of WMD in Iraq and a connection between Saddam and 9/11). When Republicans so frequently deny reality there is no room for rational debate and it is difficult to seek compromise. As, like Cole, I don’t always agree with the Democrats I continue to consider myself an independent, but that becomes increasingly irrelevant as the Republicans become increasingly under the control of extremists who reject reality.