Saturday, January 29, 2011

Jesus violence

Just when you thought things couldn't get any crazier, House Republicans (and a Democrat) have come up with a new definition of rape—or rather, what isn't:
Republicans propose that the rape exemption be limited to "forcible rape." This would rule out federal assistance for abortions in many rape cases, including instances of statutory rape, many of which are non-forcible. For example: If a 13-year-old girl is impregnated by a 24-year-old adult, she would no longer qualify to have Medicaid pay for an abortion.

On a lighter note, the founder of a British fundamentalist group has been accused of being a maniacal prick:
Green, 60, is founder and director of Christian Voice, a fundamentalist group he set up in 1994, whose website thunders against the vices — family breakdown, crime, immorality and drink among them — that are ruining the lives of ‘real people’. Green’s pronouncements are often outrageous. For example, after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005 and killed more than 1,600 people, he claimed it was a result of God’s wrath and had purified the city.
‘He told me he’d make a piece of wood into a sort of witch’s broom and hit me with it, which he did,’ she recalls, her voice tentative and quiet. ‘He hit me until I bled. I was terrified. I can still remember the pain.'
‘My eldest son was hit with a broomstick and kicked on the back of his legs. He still has scars on his shins. On one occasion Stephen beat him so hard with a piece of wood that we thought he might have broken his arm. When we took him to hospital, my son pretended he’d fallen because he didn’t want to incur his father’s anger.’
But it all has a happy ending:
[Green] met a Kenyan woman 25 years his junior at a Pentecostal meeting after his divorce and they married last summer.

Friday, January 28, 2011

RatCave Book Club—Heal Thyself

Last updated 2011.08.24

"Physician, heal thyself"—Luke 4:23

"You'd PAY to know what you REALLY think"—Dobbs

One night as I was leaving work during my sojourn at the now world-famous software company (circa '95), I saw the guy who ran the junk, er, antique store down on the first floor standing over a pile of boxes in the trash zone out back. It turned out that he'd just bought an entire collection of books at a local auction and was going through them looking for something he could sell. There must have been 10 or 12 boxes. I really wanted to take a look for myself but I played it cool. We talked for a couple of minutes and then surprisingly, with only half a dozen books of no particular interest in hand, he left for his shop, telling me to take whatever I wanted. Thank you, "Bob".

It was glorious—rummaging through junk always has this effect on me—though most of what I saw was crap. I can't remember what other books were there because when I got to one particular box I knew I'd hit paydirt and forgot all about the rest. That box contained an entire collection of self-help books. Old self-help books. And crazy old psych stuff. As I scanned through the titles I couldn't believe my luck. A first edition by Ida Rolf! Quackpot!

I can't remember which Rolf book it was. I think it was Rolfing: Integration of Human Structures. I don't have the book anymore (I traded it for an antique lamp I'm very fond of) but I remember leafing through page after page of Rolfesque jargon with many of the same illustrations being used repeatedly throughout the book. A quick web search turns up plenty of "trained" Rolfing® practitioners—here's one with lots of woo-speak:

The human body is a quantum particle structure completely at the effect of gravity. It is an array of atoms, ions, and molecules in a three-dimensional pattern. It is a functional field of recurrent, radiant energy. The movement of electrons within the human atomic and molecular structure continuously travels at an unbelievable rate. When you change and re-mold the shape and configuration of a random structure into a more vertically appropriate pattern within gravity, everything about that structure and its vitality renews, improves, and revivifies.

And here's woo-loving Dr. Oz bringing Rolfing® to a whole new audience.

I hear the best part is having a finger shoved way up your nose.

Note that I haven't actually bothered to read any of these books but I figured you'd get as big a kick out of them as I did (click the pictures to see the fine details). As I started Googling them I uncovered more than I expected...

Be Glad You're Neurotic by Louis E. Bisch, M.D., 1936

The book is rather out of date. For example, Bisch uses the deprecated psychoanalytical term "id". The lone reviewer on Amazon thinks it's still fantastic. It is more progressive than a lot of psych books from the same era. It includes such chapters as "Are Your Glands on Friendly Terms?" and "Of Course Your Sex Life Is Far from Satisfactory". Naturally there's a test in the back of the book to help you determine how neurotic you are.

Autoconditioning: The New Way to a Successful Life by Hornell Hart, Ph.D., 1956

What more can I say about a book that has this on the cover:
"Featuring instructions on how to use the famous MOOD-METER. A single, scientific method for measuring the degree of you happiness or unhappiness. Developed at Duke University, after 15 years of research."
The covers feature rave reviews, including one by John Schindler, M.D., author of one of the early self-help books, How to Live 365 Days a Year. Sadly, I don't one a copy of that one. You can preview it here and download it here.

As for Autoconditioning, it's is not available on-line. But that's not all there is to say about Hart. It turns out that he was convinced of the existence of ESP by the PSI research of J.B. Rhine, one of the earliest scientists to test ESP in the laboratory and who, like so many to follow, allowed himself to be conned into believing in it. Hart contributed a chapter touting Rhine's research to the book Man's Destiny In Eternity entitled "Psychical Research and the Life Beyond Death" which discusses ESP and the existence of the soul. He even coined a buzz-word:
It was Hornell Hart who, in 1959, first used the term "super-ESP," writing: "the dramatizing power of the unconscious, making use of a comprehensive form of telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition and retrocognition (which I shall call super-ESP) may create pseudo spirit personalities, which convince wishful believers, but which give no genuine evidence of survival beyond bodily death." 
In the Fifties Professor Hart had a run-in with alcoholic bully Senator Joe McCarthy, who had a very small penis.

Find Your Perfect High by John Armstrong Marshall, 1978

As you may have noticed Marshall looks like he's high on something. The badge on the front cover reads, " absolutely essential book in a culture that loves to drink... Richard B. Stolley, Managing Editor, People magazine." The back cover says in part:
"Based on the latest scientific discoveries, THIS BOOK WILL TEACH YOU TO USE THE FEELINGS YOU DON'T TRUST, THE UNTAUGHT, INTUITIVE RIGHT HEMISPHERE OF YOUR OWN MIND...the spontaneous, sensual, self-expressive part of us that we find in the Great American Drinking Standard. At last, THE RIDDLE IS UNRAVELED! WE DRINK LIKE WE THINK!"
He's still in business. His main gig appears to be helping alcoholics using the intuitive vs. logical, right/left brain duality that was so popular in the Seventies with its emphasis on right hemisphere development.

Twenty Steps to Power, Influence and Control Over People by H.W. Gabriel, 1962

I feel like eating raw meat already. Like so many books of this genre there's hype all over cover. It continues on the front flap, the back flap, and the back of the cover. And there's a folded leaflet inside with even more hype. I managed to find a copy of the book online, but it's in EspaƱol.

Where to begin? Chapter 19, section 6: Wade through the woodpussies; don't avoid them
The woodpussies present quite a different problem from those of the tramplers and the beagles. The tramplers and beagles try to demean you when they are face to face with you but the woodpussies seldom do; in many cases they fawn over you when they face and then do their demeaning behind your back.
Chapter 11, section 10:
When a self quote slips by you, even a supposedly unimportant one, such as, "I said yesterday it would rain today." kill it as a quote at once. Treat it as an introductory statement and immediately append something to it. For example! "and to make sure it would I had my car washed." Or, "because that barometer I got for Christmas hasn't been wrong yet."
Chapter 8, section 11:
When a person issues you a command, even a small one (such as: "Hand me that ashtray."), promptly say, "Did you ask something?" Unless the person is one who is being deliberately rude, he or she will change tone and manner and say, "Yes. I asked if you would hand me that ashtray."
Where the person is one who is being deliberately rude he or she is likely to instead reply, "Yes, I said to hand me that ashtray." When this happens quietly say, "Sorry. I thought you had asked me something." And then immediately continue the conversation, reading, or whatever you had been engaged in when interrupted.
At this point the rude individual will either (a) apologize and ask for the ashtray; (b) exasperatedly get it himself; (c) say "are you or aren't you going to hand me that ashtray?" or (d) repeat his or her command.
Where it is either of these last two that happens, quickly say, "Whomever you are speaking to evidently doesn't hear you. If you care to ask me, maybe I can help."
Absolutely brilliant. I've been doing that last part (and things like it) for years. I should read the entire book just to find out if there's anything I've missed. Fuck the woodpussies.

Going Sane: An introduction to feeling therapy by Jornell Hart, Ph.D., Richard Corriere, Ph.D. and Jerry Binder, Ph.D., 1975

Note that this isn't the cover picture to my paperback edition—I found this hardback slipcover on some "bad books" site. What a hip looking bunch of Seventies guys...

I begin with Martin Gardner (Are Universes Thicker Than Blackberries?):
There have been several tragic spinoffs from [Janov's] primal therapy. In 1971 a Center for Feeling Therapy made its appearance in Los Angeles, founded by two defectors from Janov, Joseph Hart and Richard Corriere.
It turns out that this innocuous book belies a sinister history:
In September 1987 The longest, costliest and most complex psychotherapy malpractice case in California history came to an end when the Psychology Examining Committee of the California Board of Medical Quality Assurance revoked the licenses of Joseph Hart and Richard Corriere, former heads of the Center for Feeling Therapy...
...the stories eventually collected...were so nightmarish and bizarre that at first investigators found them hard to believe. A man whose therapist told him he was "living his life like a baby" had been required to spend several weeks living like one — eating baby food, wearing diapers, sleeping in a crib. An overweight woman had been told she "looked like a cow" and was ordered to take off her blouse and crawl on the floor mooing. A woman had been ordered to go to her father's grave and tell him he had "made her crazy" and then to confront and humiliate her mother. Women who already had children had been told to surrender custody because they were too "crazy" to care for them; those who became pregnant were informed kids were "a suck" and were pressured to have abortions. And patient after patient recounted instances of sex with therapists, of being hit, kicked, punched, ordered to strip, called "dead," "insane," of being told how often to have sex and with whom, where to live and work, how much to weigh, what to eat, what to think, what to feel. 
...this had not been some hidden, far-out sect. The men who had run the Center held Ph.Ds from Stanford and the University of California... From 1975 to 1980, they had been regulars on the talk show circuit, speaking of their theories and work on literally hundreds of television and radio shows, including The Tonight Show, Tomorrow, Merv Griffin, The Mike Douglas Show and Good Morning, America.
...the Center had its own public relations firm, Phoenix Associates. "The image you want to convey (not say) about them," ordered its manual, "is that Dr. Richard Corriere and Dr. Joseph Hart are the Freuds of today. They are future Nobel Prize winners." ...gushed a Honolulu paper, "may be onto the biggest thing to hit psychotherapy since Freud kicked cocaine."
"All I can think of is the word fucked," says Lisa. "There was always this severe, severe personality flaw -- you were 'fucked' in some area. You were almost gone. You were seriously ill. It was real serious."
You have to read the entire article. I'd heard about this sort of pathological "therapy" before but had forgotten most of what I'd read until I began writing this "book report".

Here are some examples of what passes for wisdom taken at random from the book:
By countering the patients defenses and demanding a feeling present, the therapist gives direction. The fight has no meaning unless the therapist, by being an ordered human, can help the patient know when he is being taken over by disordering and when and how he can begin to fight for himself. If the patient chooses not to respond to the therapist, he removes himself one step further from the present. In doing this he gives in to insanity and nonsense; he has less expression and less feeling. This is quite different than when the patient fights for his feeling—then he feels the strength and magnitude of his own disordering process.  
The session lasted for another hour and half. During that time the patient continued to fluctuate between feeling how he literally went crazy as a child and feeling totally insane in the present. Throughout this session, it was only the deep contact with the therapist that provided the base of reality. When all defenses are torn away, the full impact of a seemingly simple disorder is felt, as logic and image reality are reduced. All that exists is the feeling contact with the therapist to guide the individual through the ruins of his life. This experience, while terrifying, opens the individual to a new level of feeling consciousness which expands life in the present.
This text takes on a quite a different light when you know how pathological this "therapy" was. It also make me wonder whose library these books came from. I could go into the greater history of related pathological therapies but I'll save that general topic for another post.

More books to come. Stay tuned...

There's a list of all my books reviews here.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

HIV denialism

A woman and her daughter...

The woman was an HIV denialist.

She passed HIV onto her daughter who died. Then she died.

And "Mothering" magazine is still trying to kill children.

That hasn't stopped the denialists, though. They're going strong and getting stupider by the minute:
Deepak Chopra has been praising Luc Montagnier, the Nobel prize winning co-discoverer of the human immunodeficiency virus, for tumbling down the walls of science — which ought to be enough to condemn the poor guy right there. But I had to take a look at exactly what Montagnier is claiming, and I'm afraid the only thing tumbling is his credibility.
Awesome, isn't it? He uses a laptop PC with a Soundblaster audio card for analog to digital signal conversion, plugged into a hifi amplifer, which is in turn hooked up to a coil of copper wire. A vial contain the solution to be tested is dropped into the coil. Un-freaking-believable.

HIV denialism is popular. Pop stars have played benefits for it. I won't even bother to mention how popular it is in parts of Africa right now, along with witchcraft, exorcism, etc., all bolstered by big-name American evangelists.

"The death of one is a tragedy, the death of millions just a statistic"—Marilyn Manson

Christ, it's Ted Haggard again

Like a dose of evangelical clap, (former) pastor Ted Haggard just won't go away:

"At first I thought, Man, I don't wanna go to no faggot's church," Art says. "But the first day I was here, Pastor Ted looked at me and said, 'You've been struggling with drugs, haven't you? Today you walk free.' I haven't touched it since."
"In Ted's mind, though, he's never been more capable, more called, than he is now. He has walked through the fire and emerged with family and faith restored. He's "less broken now," he says, more whole, spiritually and psychologically. This may be true. But "less broken" doesn't necessarily equal "redeemed." And what he's working to repair may not be the sort of thing that can be fixed."

At least he's not a young earth creationist and he admits he's bi (or would be if he were younger). On the other hand, there's his far more doubtful claim of having been "cured" of his homo/bisexuality after three weeks of EMDR. What exactly is EMDR? (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing):
The therapy was discovered by therapist Dr. Francine Shapiro while on a walk in the park. (Her doctorate was earned at the now defunct and never accredited Professional School of Psychological Studies. Her undergraduate degree is in English literature.) It is claimed that EMDR can "help" with “phobias, generalized anxiety, paranoid schizophrenia, learning disabilities, eating disorders, substance abuse, and even pathological jealousy” (Lilienfeld 1996), but its main application has been in the treatment of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). No one has been able to adequately explain how EMDR is supposed to work. Some think it works something like acupuncture (which allegedly unblocks chi): rapid eye movements allegedly unblock "the information-processing system." Some think it works by a sort of ping-pong effect between the right and left sides of the brain, which somehow restructures memory. Or perhaps it works, as one therapist suggested, by the rapid eye movements sending signals to the brain which somehow tame and control the naughty part of the brain which had been causing the psychological problems. I heard the latter explanation on a television news report (December 2, 1994). The television station provided a nice visual of a cut-away head with sparks flying in the brain. The anchorman warned us not to try this at home, that only licensed mental health professionals were qualified to give this kind of therapy.
Skepdic (dotcom)

Although further research on EMDR is warranted, such research will likely be impeded by the prohibitions placed on the open distribution of EMDR training materials (Acierno et al. 1994). For example, participants in EMDR workshops must agree not to audiotape any portion of the workshop, train others in the technique without formal approval, or disseminate EMDR training information to colleagues (Rosen 1993). It seems difficult to quarrel with Herbert and Meuser's (1992, p. 173) contention that although "this procedure is justified to maintain 'quality control,' such a restriction of information runs counter to the principle of open and free exchange of ideas among scientists and professionals."
Skeptical Inquirer, January/February 1996 (not available on-line—sorry)

What a racket. On a tangentially-related note, the mortgage crisis is closing churches all over the US:
"Religious organizations may be subject to the laws of God but they are also subject to the laws of economics"
The Wall Street Journal

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

States of the Union

It's business as usual in the VA General Assembly. Some clown wants to legalize castration for sex offenders:
The bill would apply to sexually violent predators. Hanger objects to an increase in the civil commitment program to $70 million over the next two years.
Of course, the bill would also cost millions in legal challenges after being challenged as cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment.
Turley's Blog

Meanwhile, in Giles County:
The Ten Commandments will hang in public schools, the Giles County School Board unanimously decided Thursday afternoon despite the school district attorney's recommendation and precedent from the U.S. Supreme Court.
Education Week

Not to be outdone, Utah lawmakers have proposed making the Browning M1911 semiautomatic pistol the official state gun:
"Tragic events happen because of bad people in this world. But handguns, and firearms in general, do not kill people," Sandstrom said. "We need to stop demonizing firearms."
Associated Press

Last night Obama gave his State of the Union address. Afterwards came the GOP response from Rand-tard Paul Ryan:
Rand developed the objectivist philosophy, which values the self, capitalism and laissez-faire economics. Ryan, the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, reportedly requires staffers and interns to read her opus, Atlas Shrugged, and gives out copies as gifts.

After that came the Tea Party rejoinder by historical revisionist Michelle Bachmann. I didn't watch any of it but she gave a daft speech in Iowa over the weekend:
Now, she didn't leave out the history of slavery; she just prettied it up: Slavery was a "scourge," she admitted, but "we also know that the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States."
Salon (dotcom)

Thus the whitewash of American history was given a new coat last night.

Ideological Immunity

The general acceptance of a new basic idea on causality may take decades, centuries, or millenniums. Nearly 1,500 years ago a physician from India wrote a paper on malaria and its cause. He identified the carrier of malaria to be a tiny flying insect — the mosquito. The physician was Susruta, who flourished in the 5th Century (Walker, p. 261). At the time his idea of causality did not make a sufficient impact and was soon forgotten.  
More than 13 centuries later the American physician, Josiah Nott, published several papers in the New Orleans Medical and Surgical Journal. He claimed that malaria and yellow fever are two different diseases and that they are not transmitted by poisonous marsh vapors but by insects and possibly mosquitoes. The learned men of medicine who read the paper agreed: That can’t be the cause of transmission. Thirty-three years later the Cuban physician, Carlos Finlay, who never heard of Susruta or Nott, published a paper naming a specific mosquito species as the carrier of yellow fever. Finlay was ridiculed by the professionals in medicine for the absurdity of his idea.
After the experimental achievements of Reed and his staff, the scientific evidence corroborating Finlay’s mosquito theory was indisputable. In spite of the overwhelming evidence, the experts, along with those they influenced, rejected the correct explanation of the cause of the number-one killer of man. Meanwhile millions of mosquitoes continued to inject millions of victims with their deadly venom of malaria and yellow fever. Many deaths from yellow fever and malaria could have been avoided, but the experts, the authorities, the educated, all agreed: The mosquito can’t be the cause of these frightful epidemics. Their rejection of demonstrable truth remains one of the great catastrophes in the history of human action. Their actions give rise to this paramount question: Why do most people refuse to accept new revolutionary explanations of causality, especially when these explanations are supported by a preponderance of scientific evidence?
Read on at eSkeptic

Scientific progress does not occur in a smooth, linear fashion although that is the impression given by textbooks and the view firmly entrenched in the imagination of the public who conceive of it as a steady, assembly-line-like process. In reality the history of science is one of inching forward, occasional bursts of activity, retrograde motions, extended periods of virtual inaction and the extremely rare paradigm shift, with the vast majority of new ideas ending up on a scrap heap; the shoulder of the highway of scientific history is littered with the debris of what failed to be.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Paging Dr. Strangelove

An epileptic woman has devolped Alien Hand Syndrome after her corpus collosum was severed.

Starbucks has a new cup size that's larger than an empty human stomach (scroll down for comparison chart).

Acne bacteria may infect the brain.

A hickey has partially paralyzed a woman in New Zealand.

Three cases of involuntary confinement in a mental ward.

A disabled man has been banned from using his off-road 'tank wheelchair'.

Bath salts—the new PCP?

A Florida politician wants to make it illegal for a pediatrician to ask parents "do you have a gun in the house?" (includes a $5 million fine).

Training day

A youngish-looking idiot videos a train passing over him. No doubt his friends egged him on.

This was not shot in North America. Note the high-pitched whistle and the concrete sleepers ("ties" in these parts).

This is very dangerous. Trains sometimes have objects dangling underneath them.

Take it from an old railfan who's chased Norfolk-Southern trains for years: the fool was lucky this time.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Two, nay, THREE more victims

We have more victims of the Tucson tango. Franklin Graham is all upset about the shocking lack of respect the Almighty received from the so-called "victims" at Obama's memorial speech:
"Graham believes the victims of the Tucson shooting, those who knew and loved them and all who wanted to show solidarity with them -- Catholic, Jewish, Protestant and beliefs unknown -- were scoffing at God as they wept and cheered the speakers."

Not to be outdone, Rush Limbaugh has arrived at the Final Solution:
"If we did those three or four things, I can't tell you what a sane, calm, civil, fun-loving society we would have. Take guns out of the possession, out of the hands of liberals. Take their typewriters and their keyboards away from 'em. Don't let 'em anywhere near a gun and control their speech, and you would wipe out 90 percent of the crime, 85 to 95 percent of the hate and 100 percent of the lies from society."
Another classic case of desperate projection.

There you have it. Add "god" and non-liberals to the list of victims.

Add gun rights activists to the victim list, too. Some comic book publisher threatened violence against "politicians and their staff" on his blog so the cops took his guns and ammo away. Here's the money shot (click to enlarge):

Unfortunately his blog is now inaccessible and wasn't cached. Quelle dommage.

Cue the 2nd Amendment chorus....

The religious wrong—again

U.S. Christians finish last in a Pew Forum poll:

A disturbing poll by the respected Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reveals that U.S. atheists and agnostics, as well as Jews and Mormons, know more about religion than do most of the strong majority of Americans who are Protestants and Catholics. Fewer than half of Americans can name the four Christian gospels, according to the Pew survey of 3,400 adult Americans. That's the same grim statistic that describes how many know the Dalai Lama is Buddhist, the Koran is Muslims' holy book and that Martin Luther inspired the Protestant Reformation.
One-third of Americans falsely believe, according to other polls, that evangelist Billy Graham delivered the Sermon on the Mount. (It was Jesus.) And more than half of Americans do not recognize that Judaism is a religion.
Religious knowledge surveys are good at serving up black humour too. An early poll showed one in 10 Americans believe Joan of Arc was Noah's wife. Another one in five believe that Sodom and Gomorrah were a married couple.
The Vancouver Sun

You can take an abridged version of the poll. I dare you to. I scored 100%. Here's how I compare to the great unwashed masses:

I have "some college". Next...

Make that "not since I was 18" for me. Next...

Put me down as "non-believer".

We're a nation of religion-touting imbeciles. There's nothing surprising about any of this; Americans do just as poorly when asked about the number of stars on the flag.