Monthly Archives: June 2005

The Immoral Relativists of the Bush Administration

TomDispatch – Tomgram: The Immoral Relativists of the Bush Administration
For at least 30 years now, the right has fought against, the Republican Party has run against, and more recently, the Bush administration has claimed victory over the “moral relativism” of liberals, the permissive parenting of the let-them-do-anything-they-please era, and the self-indulgent, self-absorbed, make-your-own-world attitude of the Sixties. Since September 11th, we have been told again and again, we are in a different world… finally. In this new world, things are black and white, good and evil, right and wrong. You are for or you are against. The murky relativism of the recent past, of an America in a mood of defeat, is long gone. In the White House, we have a stand-up guy so unlike the last president, that draft dodger who was ready to parse the meaning of “is” and twist the world to his unnatural desires.

In his speeches, George Bush regularly calls for a return to or the reinforcement of traditional, even eternal, family values and emphasizes the importance of personal “accountability” for our children as well as ourselves. (“The culture of America is changing from one that has said, if it feels good, do it, and if you’ve got a problem, blame somebody else, to a new culture in which each of us understands we are responsible for the decisions we make in life.”) And yet when it comes to acts that are clearly wrong in this world — aggressive war, the looting of resources, torture, personal gain at the expense of others, lying, and manipulation among other matters — Bush and his top officials never hesitate to redefine reality to suit their needs. When faced with matters long defined in everyday life in terms of right and wrong, they simply reach for their dictionaries.

What the Bush administration has proved is that, if you have a mind to do so, there’s no end to the ways you can define “is.” No administration has reached not just for its guns but for its dictionaries more often, when brought up against commonly accepted definitions of what is.

As a group, the top figures in this administration have often seemed like so many aggressive children let loose in the neighborhood sandbox by deadbeat dads and moms. Does nobody wonder where those mommies and daddies, the people who should have taught them right from wrong, actually went? Certainly, their children are, in the best Sixties manner, all libido. Let me, in fact, suggest a label for them that, I hope, catches their truest political nature: They are immoral relativists.

Yet, even for the most self-absorbed among them, the ones most ready to twist reality (and the names we give it) into whatever shape best suits their needs of the moment, reality does have a way of biting back. Count on it.

Yup, karma is a bitch — and boy is she getting pissed off at these clowns….

So, what is bipolar disorder?

Desire — Justin Simoni

That was no beast that stirred,
That was my heart you heard
Pacing to and fro
In the ambush of my desire.
To the music my flute let fall.

— “Neither Spirit Nor Bird” (Shoshone Love Song), trans. Mary Austin

Since some folks were asking me about this, I thought I would post a little background on what bipolar disorder is, and how it is treated. Simply, bipolar disorder is a chemical brain disorder where the brain does not properly process neurotransmitter chemicals. In bipolar, this leads to a particular problem known as: desire. Whether it’s for stuff, sex, drugs, or just to feel better, bipolars desire things much, much more than other people. We feel more deeply, want things more desperately, and sometimes, just want to do anything to turn that feeling of desire off – but we can’t, not without the right drugs to balance us out. That’s why it’s so important to get the right treatment, because this is a genetic disorder, a physical disease with a very real cause.

University of California, San Diego: External Relations: News & Information: News Releases : Health
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine have identified a specific gene that causes bipolar disorder in a subset of patients who suffer from this debilitating psychiatric illness.

Published in the June 16, 2003 issue of the journal Molecular Psychiatry, the findings indicate that a mutation in a gene that regulates sensitivity to brain neurotransmitters such as dopamine, causes bipolar disorder in as many as 10 percent of bipolar cases. The mutation in this gene, G protein receptorkinase 3 (GRK3), occurs in a portion of the gene called the promoter, that regulates when the gene is turned on.

The research team hypothesizes that this mutation causes the individual to become hypersensitive to dopamine, leading to the mood extremes that characterize biopolar disorder.

A complex and variable illness, bipolar disorder is thought to be caused by multiple genes. Although previous research has suggested candidate genes or general DNA regions where faulty genes may reside, the UCSD study is the first to pinpoint a precise gene involved in the disease.

Also known as manic depression, bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme mood states alternating between euphoric peaks and terrible depression. Current treatments help many who suffer from bipolar disorder, but physicians estimate that one-third to one-half of the 1 million bipolar patients worldwide receive little benefit from existing therapies.

“One of the major limitations in bipolar treatment is the lack of new molecular targets for drugs,” said John Kelsoe, M.D., UCSD professor of psychiatry, a psychiatrist at the San Diego VA Healthcare System, and senior author of the study. “Our hope is that discovery of genetic defects that cause bipolar disorder will lead to new drugs that can be directed to those specific genes.”

During a year of screening DNA samples from more than 400 families with bipolar disorder, the study’s first author, Thomas B. Barrett, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry, UCSD and psychiatrist, San Diego VA Healthcare System, determined that there were six mutations in the promoter region of the GRK3 gene. One of these mutations, P-5, occurred three times more frequently in manic-depression patients than in non-afflicted individuals.

About dopamine, from Wikipedia:

Role in Pleasure and Motivation

Dopamine is commonly associated with the ‘pleasure system’ of the brain, providing feelings of enjoyment and reinforcement to motivate us to do, or continue doing, certain activities. Certainly dopamine is released (particularly in areas such as the nucleus accumbens and striatum) by naturally rewarding experiences such as food, sex, use of certain drugs and neutral stimuli that become associated with them. This theory is often discussed in terms of drugs (such as cocaine and amphetamines) which seem to be directly or indirectly related to the increase of dopamine in these areas, and in relation to neurobiological theories of addiction, which argue that these dopamine pathways are pathologically altered in addicted persons. The mechanism of cocaine and amphetamine is different. Cocaine is acting as dopamine transporter blocker to competively inhibit dopamine uptake to increase the lifetime of dopamine, while amphetamine is acting as a dopamine transporter substrate to competively inhibit dopamine uptake and increase the dopamine efflux via dopamine transporter.

However, the idea that dopamine is the ‘reward chemical’ of the brain now seems too simple as more evidence has been gathered. Dopamine is known to be released when unpleasant or aversive stimuli are encountered, suggesting that it is not only associated with ‘rewards’ or pleasure. Also, the firing of dopamine neurons occurs when a pleasurable activity is expected, regardless of whether it actually happens or not. This suggests that dopamine may be involved in desire rather than pleasure. Drugs that are known to reduce dopamine activity (e.g. antipsychotics) have been shown to reduce people’s desire for pleasurable stimuli, despite the fact that they will rate them as just as pleasurable when they actually encounter or consume them. It seems that these drugs reduce the ‘wanting’ but not the ‘liking’, providing more evidence for the desire theory.

Other theories suggest that the crucial role of dopamine may be in predicting pleasurable activity. Related theories argue that dopamine function may be involved in the salience (‘noticeableness’) of perceived objects and events, with potentially important stimuli (including rewarding things, but also things which may be dangerous or a threat) appearing more noticeable or more important. This theory argues that dopamine’s role is to assist decision making by influencing the priority of such stimuli to the person concerned.

In my case, I’m totally “normal” (well, most of the time) and functional these days on a wonderful drug called lamictal. I actually had to talk my shrink into prescribing this drug when I first found out about it. Now, everyone I know who is bipolar and on this drug is doing great. It literally stops the roller coaster of emotions and lets you decide how you want to feel instead of being overun by the feelings. I also occassionally take an anti-psychotic to turn off the “endless chatter” loop when the brain really gets going. This is a miserable phase where you just can’t stop thinking about things, and your mind won’t shut up. Usually I turn this off at night when I want to sleep. One of the truly nasty things that happen with bipolars is when your brain decides to keep you awake all night, you don’t get any rest, and you go into this downward spiral and eventually into a place where you’re essentially awake but dreaming – your mind acts as if everything is a dream and interprets things in that weird dream-like state, making strange connections. This is called psychosis, which is why you need to keep an anti-psychotic around if you’re bipolar and turn this off before it happens.

The other thing I use is a mood elevator called Effexor. I only take this when I’m falling into that other downward spiral known as depression, which in my case starts to rear its head as extreme crankiness and a “nothing is right” feeling. When that happens, I use Effexor to lift me back out of the mood. Between the three drugs, I’m now quite stable and in charge of my own mind and emotions.

Hey, I’m one of the lucky ones. I am smart enough and know enough to get a combination that works for me. But balancing this mix is what is so difficult about bipolar. I also generally avoid stress as much as possible in my life, since it is a huge trigger for me. People wonder at how calm I always am, and about the Tao I study, but for me, these things mean survival.

There is a lot of undiagnosed bipolar out there. If you recognize any of these kind of symptoms – an out-of-control desire for something, manic-depressive behavior, and severe emotional swings, get some help, really. You’ll feel so much better!

Can I get an Amen?

The sacred pieties of these “God-centered Jews and Christians” reduce the meaning of a human life to equivalence with a single cell or a mindless near-corpse, and then they bestow on it only that portion of grandeur they can borrow from an imaginary super-being. His irony is a fabrication; humanists don’t regard human life as worthless. Rather, one life in the here and now is all we get, and it is infinitely valuable. Furthermore, we don’t need to boost our fragile self-esteem by deprecating everything else—dolphins are great and beautiful creatures, as are spiders and sea anemones and scrub pines and E. coli. The universe is a wonderful place, huge and complex and diverse and largely independent of my existence, and I am greatly privileged to be one small but precious voice singing in a mighty cosmic choir. Embracing the majesty of existence does not make me a smaller man.


Volunteer your own damn kids before you ask for mine…

Tell you what, Dubya – send Barbara and Jenna right over, if you believe in your damn war so much. They don’t seem to be too busy.

“And to those watching tonight who are considering a military career, there is no higher calling than service in our Armed Forces. We live in freedom because every generation has produced patriots willing to serve a cause greater than themselves. Those who serve today are taking their rightful place among the greatest generations that have worn our Nation’s uniform. When the history of this period is written, the liberation of Afghanistan and the liberation of Iraq will be remembered as great turning points in the story of freedom.” – Dubya, asking for our kids to go to war and not his


Clarence Finley Boulter

No. No. No.
This ruins a child.

Children are one of the most precious aspects of life, and yet they often are mistreated and abused. If you are a parent, your most important task is to raise your child with as little trauma as possible. Firmness, consistency, and patience are essential. There will undoubtedly be times when you have to correct a child to prevent mistakes and bad habits. However, when it comes to a child’s curiosity, individuality, or initiative, there should never be any discouragement. In that sense, it is wrong to say no.

There is a legend about a thief who stole into heaven and took the peaches that gave immortality. He returned to earth and was about to eat them when he chanced upon two little boys. Taken with their intelligence, he asked them riddle after riddle about the deepest meanings of life and they answered with laughing ease. The thief decided to share his peaches with the boys, and they all became immortal.

If the boys had had their curiosity killed early in life, could they have answered well? If a thief could be kind to children, can’t the rest of us be too? And if the children never had an opportunity, could they have become immortals?

Deng Ming Tao, 365 Tao

The one thing I thought about most of all in raising my kids was their curiousity. How to encourage it, not stifle it, and let them develop their own interests and ideas. Needless to say, this turned out very well, and they think well and are very intelligent and rational human beings.

I think most people’s problems in life stem from having their curiousity stifled – by parents, by society, or by simply never getting the chance to follow their own interests intead of someone else’s demands. My kids rarely complained about boredom, and when they did, I always suggested some unpleasant chore in order to encourage themt o go find their own thing to do. This made getting chores done a bit difficult, but they certainly learned to follow their own interests.

I never rescued them from their own actions unless it was an urgent matter. They didn’t get the best grades in school once they were old enough to decided for themselves about homework, but they learned that there were consequences to their actions, including occassionally having to repeat a class. Once they figured that out, they did well enough to avoid the boredom of having to sit through a class all over again!

They think drugs and alcohol are stupid. They are polite and well-mannered, and would never take advantage of anyone. They simply know better, they didn’t have to be told this was the way to behave. So I know that letting people learn and decide things for themselves does work.

Of course there were limits. Kids need to know the limits in order to feel safe and secure. But the limits were always negotiable when they thought they were old enough to handle certain things. They followed the rules, and paid the consequences when they broke them, which was rare.

So now I have two young men who know themselves and are still curious about life and learning and discovering new things. And isn’t that what it’s all about, really?

Those who don't feel this Love – Rumi

Ode 314

Those who don’t feel this Love
pulling them like a river,
those who don’t drink dawn
like a cup of spring water
or take in sunset like supper,
those who don’t want to change,

let them sleep.

This Love is beyond the study of theology,
that old trickery and hypocrisy.
If you want to improve your mind that way,

sleep on.

I’ve given up on my brain.
I’ve torn the cloth to shreds
and thrown it away.

If you’re not completely naked,
wrap your beautiful robe of words
around you,

and sleep.

— “Like This” Rumi, Coleman Barks translator, Maypop, 1990

Meme me me me ….

Onanism Today tagged me with this most excellent meme, and as I just got back in from Tucson and am fairly tired with nothing better to do, it seems like something I can handle this evening. I don’t normally do these things, ya know…

Anyway, so here’s the questions:

1. What were three of the stupidest things you have done in your life?

Easy. Lost three of my best friends through various stupid maneuvers. In spite of being a married woman, I fell in love with two of my male friends in separate incidents several years apart, and managed to turn what I felt towards them into an obsession. This of course created many problems with each of them and eventually managed to screw things up so badly neither one would speak to me.

The loss of my best girlfriend was a fallout from one of these stupid love interests, indirectly, but that loss was probably actually the most shattering. Losing a guy from my life I could handle, after all, my husband stood by me through these traumatic episodes, bless him. But the girlfriend, well, girlfriends are special and irreplacable, it seems. I still don’t have another really close female friend in my life even now.

The root of all this drama was undiagnosed bipolar disorder, but it hardly matters to explain such things to the people you’ve hurt and who have hurt you in return. I’ve learned these type of episodes are pretty common in bipolar lives. Sad, but there is a lot of undiagnosed chemical brain disorder out there. I thank goodness for lamictal, which I had to talk my shrink into giving me. I think it’s a wonder drug for bipolar – I have two other bipolar friends who are on it as well, and none of us has any recent episodes. Great stuff.

Anyway, on to :

2. At the current moment, who has the most influence in your life?

That would be my wonderful hubby who has stuck by me through everything. He’s a sweetie…

3. If you were given a time machine that functioned, and you were allowed to only pick up to five people to dine with, who would you pick?

Thomas Jefferson would always be my first choice. My father, who I still miss terribly. Margaret Mead. Rumi. Rainer Maria Rilke.

4. If you had three wishes that were not supernatural, what would they be?

To have a real media and press corps in this country that would do their jobs.

To have a national health care system so no one would have to worry about family members without health care coverage.

To have people in this country be able to openly and honestly discuss real issues without the distortions of those who want to divide us and fill our heads with stupidity.

5. Someone is visiting your hometown/place where you live at the moment. Name two things you regret your city not having, and two things people should avoid.

I regret that San Diego doesn’t have any money and doesn’t have an honest city council headed up by mayor Donna Frye. I regret that our congresscreatures are total scum sucking maggots who care more about their pocketbooks that making sure the National Guard families have health care coverage and that our defense dollars are spent for things that do us some good instead of lining their buddies’ pockets.

People visiting San Diego should avoid moving here and adding to our housing problem. They should avoid Sea World and visit the Wild Animal Park instead. Sea World is a fake show and a farce, the Wild Animal Park is real animals in natural settings. And the lion cub exhibit is amazing.

6. Name one event that has changed your life.

My father’s death. It shattered my life and rearranged all the pieces. Before then, I thought a lot about career and resented being home with my kids. Afterwards, I realized family is the most precious thing in the world. And that means however you define your family, of course. Losing a loved one is always traumatic, but losing my dad meant the world no longer had any solid foundations for me. It took a lot of therapy to get through that. I still get sad this time of year around when he died 11 year ago, and even while I enjoyed visiting with my husband’s family this weekend, I think there was this underlying resentment that his family was still around to enjoy and mine was not. But of course, the traces of my mom and dad are around, in me, in my brother and sister and our children. I pulled out an old picture of my dad and I see the resemblance to my younger son. I look in the mirror and see my mother’s mouth, my father’s eyes. And their memory is always with me. But still, I’ll never have dinner with them again without that darn time machine.

7. Tag 5 people.

Not that they’ll respond, but:

1. kristin, to get her to write somethin’.
2. smoop, so kristin can’t tag her. ;^)
3. mac, because she’s just so cool.
4. jillian, cause she’s snarky.
5. pinko feminist hellcat, cause hellcats are neat.