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Saturday, December 29, 2007

George Bush = Drunk Rat?

posted by on December 29 at 19:20 PM


Slog tipper Josh detects a series of digs directed at George W. Bush in Paul Steinberg’s op-ed in today’s New York Times. The op-ed is about the long-term impact of binge drinking on rats and the possible implications for human binge-drinkers, current or long-since reformed. And Steinberg’s piece, writes Josh, uses several phrases that—well, let’s just go to the source. But first here’s the experiment…

When put into a tub of water and forced to continue swimming until they find a platform on which to stand, the sober former binge-drinking rats and the normal control rats (who had never been exposed to alcohol) learned how to find the platform equally well. But when the experimenters abruptly moved the platform, the two groups of rats had remarkably different performances. The rats without previous exposure to alcohol, after some brief circling, were able to find the new location. The former binge-drinking rats, however, were unable to find the new platform; they became confused and kept circling the site of the old platform.

Hm… so rats that were binge drinkers have difficultly adapting to new information or changing circumstances on the ground/in the tub. Hmm. Back to Steinberg’s op-ed:

The more we have binged—and the younger we have started to binge—the more we experience significant, though often subtle, effects on the brain and cognition.”… The binges activate an inflammatory response in rat brains rather than a pure regrowth of normal neuronal cells. Even after longstanding sobriety this inflammatory response translates into a tendency to stay the course , a diminished capacity for relearning and maladaptive decision-making

The forebrain—specifically the orbitofrontal cortex, which uses associative information to envision future outcomes—can be significantly damaged by binge drinking… One can easily fail to recognize the ultimate consequences of one’s actions

Does the research on rats have relevance for the more complex brains and behavior of humans? We have come to think so… we not only learn specific skills during these years, with our brains having developed more fully, we also learn in a more subtle way how to deal with ambiguity. Ambiguity comes into play when the goalposts are moved. Can we change course? Can we deal with this ambiguity and with nuances?

Our Dear Leader, of course, is a recovered—supposedly—boozer who, despite years of sobriety, has difficulties changing course, dealing with ambiguity, and the fruits of his seriously maladaptive decision-making processes are everywhere to be seen.

But this line is the real real kicker, says Josh:

The one piece of good news is that exercise has been shown to stimulate the regrowth and development of normal neural tissue in former alcohol-drinking mice.

Writes Josh:

Is this op-ed coded? Am I the only one reading it this way? “Stay the course” is a peculiarly evocative phrase right now. “Change course,” too. Lack of foresight? Check. Lack of nuance? Check. But what’s with the bizarre orthogonal pivot onto exercise? Could this explain why it is so frequently observed that Bush is an obsessive exercise freak?

Perhaps. But seeing as Steinberg’s point is that exercise repairs the damage done by binge drinking, and seeing as Bush, despite his avid exercise routine, retains a strong tendency to stay a failed course, shows no capacity for relearning, and continues to demonstrate his maladaptive decision-making skills, I’d say it’s a coincidence. Unless Steinberg intended to offer the president a subtle compliment, which seems unlikely.

But Josh makes a persuasive case…

RSS icon Comments


I'd say his bike-riding, etc. is just a physical manifestation of "became confused and kept circling." As far as his workout routines with Condi are concerned (she is said to kneel down on his feet when he does sit-ups) I will not speculate.

Posted by Jim Demetre | December 29, 2007 8:34 PM

So what they're saying is that there's no point in quitting drinking, since you're still going to have a booze-addled brain anyway? Hoo boy, pass that bottle!

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | December 29, 2007 8:47 PM

#1 - Condi is lez

You have a dirty mind

Posted by Karla | December 29, 2007 9:07 PM

no mention of protracted coke use

and with his money - beaucoup

Posted by Essex | December 29, 2007 9:08 PM

this of course, supposes that bush is a former drinker.

Posted by thehawke | December 29, 2007 9:33 PM

Or also what kind of drinker was he.
Was he a fun drinker to be with. Was he smartly witty or did he just steal peoples jokes.
did he try to out talk everybody at the bar, or was he reserved.
Did he mingle with the crowd or did he sit back in a dark corner contimplating his moments.
Did he throw up and say "I'll never drink like that again"
or was he the one who laughed at the guy who did that and say" Ha Ha, you were soooooooo drunk last night, here want another to get rid of that hangover?
Being the president of the United States , I don't think he gives a rats ass. oops.

Posted by drinker | December 29, 2007 9:45 PM

I wonder how many abortions Bush has forced Condi to have? Oh, what a tragedy, not Condi’s abortions, but our middle east policies. Bush is a believer, that is for sure, but he did not write the policy papers” Plan for the New American Century,” or “Securing the Realm.” These two articles are the blue print for what is happening now. Who is to say everything is not happening as it is suppose to? This war is not over, and the Muslim world is not destroyed and laying prostrate at America’s and Israel’s feet. Bush is not a booze addled rat, he is a man with a plan that is unfolding as it should.

Posted by JerseyJew | December 29, 2007 11:38 PM

Right on JerseyJew.

Who says Bush is incapable of changing his mind? Only people that think he should.

He is doing exactly what he set out to do and its not because he is or isn't an alkie, but because he is an asshole.

Posted by patrick | December 29, 2007 11:51 PM
Posted by M'thew | December 30, 2007 3:06 AM

There is much to hate about Bush, but using a cultish term like "dry drunk" is not helpful. If he really has stopped drinking then he is as legitimally sober as someone who goes to 12 step meetings every day. Stopping use of a substance is all one needs to do to be considered sober. Duh.
Please note I am not defending anything about Bush or his actions. Just pointing out that not using is the only step required to become fully sober. Since when is a disease treated by attending meetings?

Posted by Merlin | December 30, 2007 5:56 AM

"Since when is a disease treated by attending meetings?"

@10, that statement is either disingenuous or extremely naive. Some alcoholics can quit on their own. Many, many more have found the support of a twelve-step program was the only thing powerful enough to help them save their own lives (my father, for one).

Quitting booze is one thing; staying off it is another. It's not nearly as simple, for most people, as you make it sound.

Posted by Irena | December 30, 2007 8:47 AM

It wasn't me that wanted to invade Iraq, it was the it was the booze a talkin'!

Posted by W | December 30, 2007 9:02 AM

Bush is a tool. Like Reagan, but without the polish. A true lowest common denominator president that only the GOP could create, and only a Republican could vote for - which is why they had to steal the election. The real power is behind the throne.

I think history will show him as a pitiful character: A failure in everything he ever attempted, cursed by his families wealth, unable to rise above it and create a legacy of good for himself, as so many of the Kennedys have been able to do.

Bush is the ultimate example of the destructive force of inherited wealth. If that was suddenly taken away, he couldn't get a Job selling refrigerators at Sears. Or if he could, he wouldn't be able to keep it.

It's really the stuff of opera, when you think about it.

Posted by catalina vel-duray | December 30, 2007 9:02 AM

Just one more year to go of inane extrapolations like this to bash George W. Bush. He's a lame duck, get over it! It's getting boring.

Posted by raindrop | December 30, 2007 9:22 AM

@#11 I do not even believe it is a disease. Medical Experts are by no means in agreement about the disease theory. It is a choice. People drink because of the pleasure they get from drinking.

The rate of success for abstaining from booze is the same for AA as it is for stopping by yourself. About 5-10% are still sober after a year.

The 12 step approach is really about faith healing. It is a religion that teaches the false doctrine that we are powerless over addictions. We are not powerless. We need not "turn over" anything. Least of all our own confidence that we can learn to stop self destructive behavior on our own.

Posted by Merlin | December 30, 2007 9:29 AM

Merlin sounds like someone that went to 12-step meetings until he figured out how to stop drinking...then when no one would have sex with him he stopped attending meetings and decided they were all a bunch of evangelical bastards.

That's ok. It's not mandatory. If it works, great...if something else works better, (your version sounds like Ayn Rand Anonymous) then do that.

Whatever it takes.

Posted by patrick | December 30, 2007 10:03 AM

I never attended even one meeting my entire life. I drank like a fish for almost a decade. A few years I ago a made a plan and decided to never drink again for the rest of my life. Therefore the label "alcoholic" no longer applies to me. I am now a teatottler. Thats what I put on insurance forms, medical papers and legal documents.
The sick behaviour stopped when the drinking stopped. I have no need to talk about it all for the rest of my life in meetings. If meetings work for people then go for it. 12 steps are not the only game in town

Posted by Merlin | December 30, 2007 10:17 AM

Personally, I loathe AA's general philosophy. The disease philosophy. You're powerless; quasi-religious overtones. It all sounds like such bullshit to me.

But you know what? It works for a lot of people. I may think it's crap, but the statistics back them up. I may not buy their philosophy, but I'm completely pragmatic. If it works as well or better than anything else, which statistically it does, then more power to them.

Posted by SDA in SEA | December 30, 2007 12:06 PM

Hey, AA saved my life and was there when I needed it. I no longer need it and can, indeed, enjoy a couple drinks without the urge to get shitfaced. In AA, that's called a relapse. I call it being able to drink normally.

For me, it's all in the motive associated with the drinking. Before, I drank to forget horrendous abuse suffered as a child. Once I dealt with that, I no longer needed the crutch of alcohol to get thru life.

Now I drink because I happen to like the taste of a good tequila. But I usually stop at no more than 3 because I no longer enjoy getting (or need to get) shitfaced.

Posted by thehawke | December 30, 2007 12:55 PM

The article (and the link I posted) really were not about AA and/or the 12-step method. They're about the long-term damage that a human brain suffers because of addiction to alcohol, and how it purportedly shows in W. Just to be on the safe side, even if the jury is still out on the phenomenon of 'dry drunk', I'd rather not see someone with a past like that in a powerful position like W occupies just now.

Posted by M'thew | December 30, 2007 1:31 PM

Check out the op-ed author's own website where he brags about his Bush-bashing article:

Cheap journalism and really not very funny - pretty juvenile actually, masquerading as something else in "code". Did everyone figure it out and that is why the Times liberal readership made it the Number 1 emailed story in the last 24 hrs?

I agree with the comments that the exercise fanatic that W is, is not really reconciled very well.

Posted by googler | December 30, 2007 6:06 PM

Todd Snider's "You Got Away With It (A Tale Of Two Fraternity Brothers)"

The tale of two brothers...a memoir
Remember that kid we beat up back in college
Me, you, and Thompson out in front of the frat
And that hippie went home crying to his parents
I can't believe you got us out of that
How sweet was that
God we were drunk
Drove around all night after it with that keg in the trunk
And when the cop pulled us over
You talked us out of that, too

You got away with it
You got away
You get away with
The things that you say

I had to quit partying about a year and a half after you did
I don't regret it though, I think it was fun
Besides, it was the 70's
We were a couple of rich kids
And aside from that one hippie
We never really hurt anyone
Well, there's that other thing that I won't even say
As God as my witness I'll take that to my grave
Cause that was an accident
And you did what you had to do

You got away with it
You got away
You get away with
The things that you say
I worry forever
Never for you
You'll get away with it
You always do

You never did tell me what happened with you and your brother down there in Florida
I heard they gave you a hell of a time
Everybody around here was afraid you might lose
I told them not to worry cause I knew you'd be fine
Had me out here to Camp David a few times over the years
I think the first time we were teenagers sneakin' beers
Look at you now you old son of a bitch
You got the run of this place

You got away with it
You got away
You got away with
The things that you say
I worry forever
Never for you
You'll get away with it
You always do
You'll get away with
This new thing too

Posted by max solomon | December 31, 2007 7:40 AM

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