Tuesday, October 23, 2007

If You Want Something Done Right...

Do it yourself.

As amazing as it sounds, there is still a loud minority of pundits, thinktank jockeys, and other right-wing chickenhawks calling loudly for war with Iran as well as war with everyone.

They ought to send their children, see what develops.

Or better yet, go themselves.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Republican Nukes: From Filibuster to Bunkerbuster and Back

Today's Republican Party sure do love their nuclear war. They love to talk about blowing things up with "nucular" weapons. They do it all the time. There's no sense in denying it. These days they're dusting off the "bunker buster" nukes for a little pajama party in Iran, but it wasn't Iranians they were trying to use the nuclear option on a few short months ago. It was us, or at least our proxies, our elected representatives in Congress.

Despite being crippled by the Forgetting Everything Disorder, Americans should be able to recall that until 2006, the GOP controlled the White House, both houses of Congress, the Judiciary, the Majority of state governments, and the Major News Media.

It's hard to remember all that now, since the Democrats blew into town, firebrands waving, drove the privateers and lobbyists out of Washington, ended the war, beat back the forces of corporate greed, and restored a decent standard of living to the middle class and poor.

Anyway, back when the Republicans had grabbed and not yet squandered the closest thing to unchecked power in America they were likely see for fifty years, the only thing standing in their way, the only barrier to grabbing that brass ring in their hot, moist, delicate fists, seemed to be the opposition party's power of the filibuster.

For those of you who have a hard time grasping the purpose of the filibuster, picture this: if all but one of the senators in Congress were snatched by body snatchers and turned into pod-people, and they wanted to pass laws establishing death camps for any remaining humans, the one last heroic human senator could stall a vote on the measure for as long as he could manage to speak and hold the floor. Procedurally, there can't be a vote until debate has ended. This is a filibuster. The only way to shut him up and force a vote on the measure would be a cloture vote, wherein only a super-majority of 60 votes can halt debate. Of course, in my sci-fi scenario, cloture would be no problem, and the vote would be 99-1 and the human race would become extinct. But you get the idea.

To Cheney , these Democrats were drunk on power, stalling the inevitable victory of conservatism and the GOP (the Right excels at claiming to be under attack despite owning 90% of the pieces on the board, and the board itself). Something had to be done, and lo and behold, David Addington and a few other really fun guys had an idea. They'd been thinking about this for a decade or two.

They figured a way to outlaw the filibuster procedurally, and "blow it up," perhaps for good. They called it the "Nuclear Option." One big bang and the strong can finally eat the weak in the U.S. Congress, once and for all, forever.

But back to today. Democrats now hold majorities in both houses. They set the agenda for all congressional committees, and control the flow of legislation onto the floor for debate.

Suddenly, the Republicans, who have never shied away from speaking in moral absolutes and claim to despise "flip-floppers," don't seem to mind the filibuster so much after all.

Grab this: the current Republican minority now holds the record for the highest number of filibusters in any Congress ever.

Now THAT was a fast turn-around.

It's a good thing they're our moral superiors. Otherwise their behavior could easily be misconstrued as flip-flopping, and everyone knows, only a member of the Democrat Party does that.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Anonymous Gay Men of Minneapolis, Show Yourselves!

It would be tragic for Larry Craig if his entire political career turned out to be a massive overcompensation, a convoluted psychological defense against powerful, shameful feelings of lust he has, we come to find, felt for other males since his youth.

It would be more than tragic. A person who spends a career battling against the civil rights of gays while engaging in promiscuous gay sex in secret is worse than a hypocrite - he is a danger to the community. In the case of a United States Senator, it might be argued without much trouble that he is a danger to national security.

For the record, I don't think Sen. Craig is a hypocrite. He'd have to be far healthier psychologically to be capable of plain hypocrisy. What Sen. Craig is is tortured. He is tortured by a lifetime of shame and self-loathing and an elaborate career spent projecting his own unacceptable feelings onto others, whom he can then insult and cast out. A career spent methodically destroying the parts of himself that he could not live with - and a whole lot of other people's lives, too.

A man carrying this much shame and desperation for so many years should not be allowed near the room when legislation is being written that others have to live by. A guilt-steeped man is a ticking time bomb, especially when praise is heaped upon him year after year for being the very thing he knows deep down he is not. The more he succeeds in politics or business, the guiltier he feels. The more he is unable to suppress his desires, the guiltier he feels. The more men he sins with. The more energy he expends to hide his secret, the guiltier - and more panicked - he feels.

When guilt-ridden people in need of scapegoats band together to project our society's unacceptable traits onto others whom we can then destroy, they are called Republicans. And a Christian, anti-gay, anti-abortion, pro-NRA , pro-family Republican is the gold standard, the Republican's Republican.

That many of our current leaders loathe themselves and feel deserving of punishment is terrifying to me. They want us as a nation to feel the same unnameable, inchoate need to suffer. They get enraged when we don't wave the flag and cheer as we destroy ourselves in needless war, and shit ourselves in the eyes of the world.

Republican Group Fantasy, October, 2007: We're all sinners, and we all got to burn.

Now watch and see how a real man takes one for his country.

*** *** **** ****

So anyway, if Larry Craig had these anonymous sex partners, how come none of them has come forward to collect his cash award from the major media yet?

Soon, I think. Just wait.

It'll be an "I fucked Larry Craig" Christmas. Mark my words.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Gun-Toting Shrink, or Sticking Up For The Nervous Worker

As readers of this blog may remember, the Gun-Toting Liberal is only one of several personae of your truly, its creator. You may recall that for a living I am a clinician in a bustling New England psychiatric hospital.

I am called on today to advise an old friend who finds himself in a crisis. We'll call him "Jim" to maintain his privacy.

Jim finds himself, in his early forties, trapped in a cubicle job in a large anonymous company. He does not fit in but has made a go of it for the better part of a decade. His role in the company is to troubleshoot in-house problems - so as we can imagine, most of the time he's trying to help people who are angry, frustrated, and can't get their own work done. Demanding people. Impatient. He gets yelled at a lot.

Jim's chest began hurting a year or two ago, at work mostly, or at home when thinking about work. He began losing sleep, becoming depressed, having difficulty concentrating. He became irritable, his work suffered, he could not shake off his stress at the end of the day and was able to socialize less and less. Anxiety attacks came more frequently, again, mostly at work or when thinking about work. Stomach pain. Weird changes in appetite. The stress and pressure took on the character of a background hum, a drone almost, as the machinery of Jim's daily life and circumstances whittled away the marrow of the bones in his mind.

Vacations became life rafts. Petty workplace treacheries undid him.

Jim finds himself today unable to sleep. His chest hurts more and he thinks he might have to quit his job. He loses and gains weight. He smells the whiff of the long knives out for him at work, supervisors gunning to take him down, to get rid of this cog that hobbles the machine. Even though he does more work than those around him, he can't smile or play nice while doing it, and is frankly too much trouble for his managers. Though his competence is not in question, he is simply too irritable, too moody. He may have to go.

He is asked today to accept a new position, one with a lesser title but the same money, one which everyone around Jim will understand to be an upbraiding, a downdressing, in general a walking of the corporate gauntlet under the unmistakable banner of failure and shame. He calls me in the midst of this, a drowning man. He wonders if he has to take this position, this perp-walk to his new lower perch; he wonders if he would be eligible for unemployment if he turns it down.

Jim wants advice on anxiety cures. He wants to join the GTL at the range for some noise-and-hot-brass therapy, but I hesitate to put a gun in this man's hand.

Do you have disability insurance, I ask him. Yes, he answers. Short and long term? Who pays for it? I ask. I do, he replies, adding that he pays extra for better coverage. He has never made a claim.

Jim, and those of you in similar straits this evening, I say to you the following:

You have been entirely too long-suffering with this anxiety and depression, and entirely too brainwashed by the Machine into accepting a slow death by suffocation. Naturally, you feel trapped, hopeless, helpless, scared and angry - every bad feeling at once is in there, along with a deep lingering suspicion that maybe you ARE a lousy worker, a lousy human being. At times, who knows? Maybe you shouldn't even be alive...

Now your fantasy is to let failure happen, to shed the last vestiges of optimism and hope, and wait humbly by the kitchen door for some scraps of "unemployment compensation." Am I eligible, GTL? you ask.

What you are eligible for, dear reader Jim, is a disability claim. A totally legitimate, medically indicated claim of disability. Chest pain? Panicky thoughts of annihilation? Difficulty sleeping, eating, concentrating? The occasional wish to fly away, like a bird or the soul of a dead man? Only at work? Gradually increasing over a year or more, despite doctor's visits, diet changes, exercise, relaxation techniques?

Not enough, these self-help cures! (Though useful in staving off a breakdown for this long.) No surprise, as what Jim describes are the symptoms of a serious anxiety problem, of depression, of impending collapse.

My informal diagnostic impression: mood disorder, probably depression and/or an anxiety disorder. All with a poor prognosis and further decline if there is no treatment.

Now, of course, Jim feels embarrassed and ashamed when I talk this way. He thinks of a disability claim as some kind of a fraud, and not an important employee benefit he has earned and shared the responsibility of paying for for over half a decade.

Jim, if you're reading this, remember that your guilty feelings and desire to join in your own destruction are part of the syndrome, symptom-thoughts rather than true ones. Your mood disorder is feeding you poisonous negative thoughts right now. It wants you to bend and scrape at the door of the Korporate Kitchen for scraps. Please, sir, let me have some unemployment money, please sir...

Your symptoms want you to join your bosses in beating you down and not asserting your right to dignity, and to help when you need it.

So with both ears hear me: go in to work. If you have chest pains, see the nurse or a doctor. Be explicit in describing your symptoms. Hide nothing and say nothing but what is true and nothing more. Resist the urge to blame yourself or join with your superiors in painting you a bad worker who deserves to be shamed and called out. Ask for all the information there is on sick leave, including your rights to be sick in corporate America without fearing the loss of your livelihood (under the Family & Medical Leave Act), and how to go about accessing short-term disability if a brief sick leave does not help.

Remember that this problem did not develop in one day nor will it go away in a day.

You are no more a cog in a machine than a sunflower is. You are a person, and in trouble. This is your right.

In my clinical role I am asked on a daily basis to help patients with disability claims, short and long term, permanent and brief. Some are legitimate and I am happy to help. Others are spurious, or born of laziness, and I decline.

Jim's case is a no-brainer and one I would defend any time, anywhere. If Jim walked in to my office tomorrow these are the things I would tell him.

I hope he's out there reading - and listening.