Monday, February 29, 2016

The Dutch are euthanizing the mentally ill

Propaganda for Nazi Germany's T-4 Euthanasia Program: "This person suffering from hereditary defects costs the community 60,000 Reichsmark during his lifetime. Fellow German, that is your money, too."

NY Post
"In early childhood, the Dutch psychiatric patient known as 2014-77 suffered neglect and abuse. When he was about 10, doctors diagnosed him with autism. For approximately two decades thereafter, he was in and out of treatment and made repeated suicide attempts.
He suffered terribly, doctors later observed, from his inability to form relationships: “He responded to matters in a spontaneous and intense, sometimes even extreme, way. This led to problems.”
A few years ago, 2014-77 asked a psychiatrist to end his life. In the Netherlands, doctors may perform euthanasia — not only for terminal physical illness but also upon the “voluntary and well-considered” request of those suffering “unbearably” from incurable mental conditions.
The doctor declined, citing his belief the case was treatable, as well as his own moral qualms. But he did transmit the request to colleagues, as Dutch norms require. They treated 2014-77 for one more year, determined his case was, indeed, hopeless and administered a fatal dose of drugs.
Thus did a man in his 30s whose only diagnosis was autism become one of 110 people to be euthanized for mental disorders in the Netherlands between 2011 and 2014."

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Falling -- James Dickey

Based on a true story, as they say.

A 29-year-old stewardess fell ... to her
death tonight when she was swept
through an emergency door that sud-
denly sprang open ... The body ...
was found ... three hours after the
                              —New York Times

The states when they black out and lie there rolling    when they turn
To something transcontinental    move by    drawing moonlight out of the great
One-sided stone hung off the starboard wingtip    some sleeper next to
An engine is groaning for coffee    and there is faintly coming in
Somewhere the vast beast-whistle of space. In the galley with its racks
Of trays    she rummages for a blanket    and moves in her slim tailored
Uniform to pin it over the cry at the top of the door. As though she blew

The door down with a silent blast from her lungs    frozen    she is black
Out finding herself    with the plane nowhere and her body taken by the throat
The undying cry of the void    falling    living    beginning to be something
That no one has ever been and lived through    screaming without enough air
Still neat    lipsticked    stockinged    girdled by regulation    her hat
Still on    her arms and legs in no world    and yet spaced also strangely
With utter placid rightness on thin air    taking her time    she holds it
In many places    and now, still thousands of feet from her death she seems
To slow    she develops interest    she turns in her maneuverable body

To watch it. She is hung high up in the overwhelming middle of things in her
Self    in low body-whistling wrapped intensely    in all her dark dance-weight
Coming down from a marvellous leap    with the delaying, dumfounding ease
Of a dream of being drawn    like endless moonlight to the harvest soil
Of a central state of one’s country    with a great gradual warmth coming
Over her    floating    finding more and more breath in what she has been using
For breath    as the levels become more human    seeing clouds placed honestly
Below her left and right    riding slowly toward them    she clasps it all
To her and can hang her hands and feet in it in peculiar ways    and
Her eyes opened wide by wind, can open her mouth as wide    wider and suck
All the heat from the cornfields    can go down on her back with a feeling
Of stupendous pillows stacked under her    and can turn    turn as to someone
In bed    smile, understood in darkness    can go away    slant    slide
Off tumbling    into the emblem of a bird with its wings half-spread
Or whirl madly on herself    in endless gymnastics in the growing warmth
Of wheatfields rising toward the harvest moon.    There is time to live
In superhuman health    seeing mortal unreachable lights far down seeing
An ultimate highway with one late priceless car probing it    arriving
In a square town    and off her starboard arm the glitter of water catches
The moon by its one shaken side    scaled, roaming silver    My God it is good
And evil    lying in one after another of all the positions for love
Making    dancing    sleeping    and now cloud wisps at her no
Raincoat    no matter    all small towns brokenly brighter from inside
Cloud    she walks over them like rain    bursts out to behold a Greyhound
Bus shooting light through its sides    it is the signal to go straight
Down like a glorious diver    then feet first    her skirt stripped beautifully
Up    her face in fear-scented cloths    her legs deliriously bare    then
Arms out    she slow-rolls over    steadies out    waits for something great
To take control of her    trembles near feathers    planes head-down
The quick movements of bird-necks turning her head    gold eyes the insight-
eyesight of owls blazing into the hencoops    a taste for chicken overwhelming
Her    the long-range vision of hawks enlarging all human lights of cars
Freight trains    looped bridges    enlarging the moon racing slowly
Through all the curves of a river    all the darks of the midwest blazing
From above. A rabbit in a bush turns white    the smothering chickens
Huddle    for over them there is still time for something to live
With the streaming half-idea of a long stoop    a hurtling    a fall
That is controlled    that plummets as it wills    turns gravity
Into a new condition, showing its other side like a moon    shining
New Powers    there is still time to live on a breath made of nothing
But the whole night    time for her to remember to arrange her skirt
Like a diagram of a bat    tightly it guides her    she has this flying-skin
Made of garments    and there are also those sky-divers on tv    sailing
In sunlight    smiling under their goggles    swapping batons back and forth
And He who jumped without a chute and was handed one by a diving
Buddy. She looks for her grinning companion    white teeth    nowhere
She is screaming    singing hymns    her thin human wings spread out
From her neat shoulders    the air beast-crooning to her    warbling
And she can no longer behold the huge partial form of the world    now
She is watching her country lose its evoked master shape    watching it lose
And gain    get back its houses and peoples    watching it bring up
Its local lights    single homes    lamps on barn roofs    if she fell
Into water she might live    like a diver    cleaving    perfect    plunge

Into another    heavy silver    unbreathable    slowing    saving
Element: there is water    there is time to perfect all the fine
Points of diving    feet together    toes pointed    hands shaped right
To insert her into water like a needle    to come out healthily dripping
And be handed a Coca-Cola    there they are    there are the waters
Of life    the moon packed and coiled in a reservoir    so let me begin
To plane across the night air of Kansas    opening my eyes superhumanly
Bright    to the damned moon    opening the natural wings of my jacket
By Don Loper    moving like a hunting owl toward the glitter of water
One cannot just fall    just tumble screaming all that time    one must use
It    she is now through with all    through all    clouds    damp    hair
Straightened    the last wisp of fog pulled apart on her face like wool revealing
New darks    new progressions of headlights along dirt roads from chaos

And night    a gradual warming    a new-made, inevitable world of one’s own
Country    a great stone of light in its waiting waters    hold    hold out
For water: who knows when what correct young woman must take up her body
And fly    and head for the moon-crazed inner eye of midwest imprisoned
Water    stored up for her for years    the arms of her jacket slipping
Air up her sleeves to go    all over her? What final things can be said
Of one who starts her sheerly in her body in the high middle of night
Air    to track down water like a rabbit where it lies like life itself
Off to the right in Kansas? She goes toward    the blazing-bare lake
Her skirts neat    her hands and face warmed more and more by the air
Rising from pastures of beans    and under her    under chenille bedspreads
The farm girls are feeling the goddess in them struggle and rise brooding
On the scratch-shining posts of the bed    dreaming of female signs
Of the moon    male blood like iron    of what is really said by the moan
Of airliners passing over them at dead of midwest midnight    passing
Over brush fires    burning out in silence on little hills    and will wake
To see the woman they should be    struggling on the rooftree to become
Stars: for her the ground is closer    water is nearer    she passes
It    then banks    turns    her sleeves fluttering differently as she rolls
Out to face the east, where the sun shall come up from wheatfields she must
Do something with water    fly to it    fall in it    drink it    rise
From it    but there is none left upon earth    the clouds have drunk it back
The plants have sucked it down    there are standing toward her only
The common fields of death    she comes back from flying to falling
Returns to a powerful cry    the silent scream with which she blew down
The coupled door of the airliner    nearly    nearly losing hold
Of what she has done    remembers    remembers the shape at the heart
Of cloud    fashionably swirling    remembers she still has time to die
Beyond explanation. Let her now take off her hat in summer air the contour
Of cornfields    and have enough time to kick off her one remaining
Shoe with the toes    of the other foot    to unhook her stockings
With calm fingers, noting how fatally easy it is to undress in midair
Near death    when the body will assume without effort any position
Except the one that will sustain it    enable it to rise    live
Not die    nine farms hover close    widen    eight of them separate, leaving
One in the middle    then the fields of that farm do the same    there is no
Way to back off    from her chosen ground    but she sheds the jacket
With its silver sad impotent wings    sheds the bat’s guiding tailpiece
Of her skirt    the lightning-charged clinging of her blouse    the intimate
Inner flying-garment of her slip in which she rides like the holy ghost
Of a virgin    sheds the long windsocks of her stockings    absurd
Brassiere    then feels the girdle required by regulations squirming
Off her: no longer monobuttocked    she feels the girdle flutter    shake
In her hand    and float    upward    her clothes rising off her ascending
Into cloud    and fights away from her head the last sharp dangerous shoe
Like a dumb bird    and now will drop in    soon    now will drop

In like this    the greatest thing that ever came to Kansas    down from all
Heights    all levels of American breath    layered in the lungs from the frail
Chill of space to the loam where extinction slumbers in corn tassels thickly
And breathes like rich farmers counting: will come along them after
Her last superhuman act    the last slow careful passing of her hands
All over her unharmed body    desired by every sleeper in his dream:
Boys finding for the first time their loins filled with heart’s blood
Widowed farmers whose hands float under light covers to find themselves
Arisen at sunrise    the splendid position of blood unearthly drawn
Toward clouds    all feel something    pass over them as she passes
Her palms over her long legs    her small breasts    and deeply between
Her thighs    her hair shot loose from all pins    streaming in the wind
Of her body    let her come openly    trying at the last second to land
On her back    This is it    this
                                                          All those who find her impressed
In the soft loam    gone down    driven well into the image of her body
The furrows for miles flowing in upon her where she lies very deep
In her mortal outline    in the earth as it is in cloud    can tell nothing
But that she is there    inexplicable    unquestionable    and remember
That something broke in them as well    and began to live and die more
When they walked for no reason into their fields to where the whole earth
Caught her    interrupted her maiden flight    told her how to lie she cannot
Turn    go away    cannot move    cannot slide off it and assume another
Position    no sky-diver with any grin could save her    hold her in his arms
Plummet with her    unfold above her his wedding silks    she can no longer
Mark the rain with whirling women that take the place of a dead wife
Or the goddess in Norwegian farm girls    or all the back-breaking whores
Of Wichita. All the known air above her is not giving up quite one
Breath    it is all gone    and yet not dead    not anywhere else
Quite    lying still in the field on her back    sensing the smells
Of incessant growth try to lift her    a little sight left in the corner
Of one eye    fading    seeing something wave    lies believing
That she could have made it    at the best part of her brief goddess
State    to water    gone in headfirst    come out smiling    invulnerable
Girl in a bathing-suit ad    but she is lying like a sunbather at the last
Of moonlight    half-buried in her impact on the earth    not far
From a railroad trestle    a water tank    she could see if she could
Raise her head from her modest hole    with her clothes beginning
To come down all over Kansas    into bushes    on the dewy sixth green
Of a golf course    one shoe    her girdle coming down fantastically
On a clothesline, where it belongs    her blouse on a lightning rod:

Lies in the fields    in this field    on her broken back as though on
A cloud she cannot drop through    while farmers sleepwalk without
Their women from houses    a walk like falling toward the far waters
Of life    in moonlight    toward the dreamed eternal meaning of their farms
Toward the flowering of the harvest in their hands    that tragic cost
Feels herself go    go toward    go outward    breathes at last fully
Not    and tries    less    once    tries    tries    ah, god—

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Just Can't Get Enough -- Nouvelle Vauge, ft. Moby

Nice gimmick -- getting hot French chicks who don't speak English to sing '80s alternative hits.

When I`m with you baby
I go out of my head
I just can`t get enough
I just can`t get enough
All the things you do to me
And everything you said
I just can`t get enough
I just can`t get enough
We slip and slide as we fall in love
And I just can`t seem to get enough

We walk together
We`re walking down the street
I just can`t get enough
I just can`t get enough
Everytime I think of you
I know we have to meet
I just can`t get enough
I just can`t get enough
It`s getting hotter, it`s a burning love
And I just can`t seem to get enough

And when it rains
You`re shining down for me
I just can`t get enough
I just can`t get enough
Just like a rainbow
You know you set me free
I just can`t get enough
I just can`t get enough
You`re like an angel and you give me your love
And I just can`t seem to get enough.


Friday, February 26, 2016

High Heritability for ADHD, autism, and schizophrenia due in part to like-marrying-like (assortative mating)

"So, where did you meet your husband?"

"In line."

"Online? Like e-Harmony?"

"No, in line at the drug store. We were both picking up the same antipsychotic medication."

From Robert Plomin et al.'s editorial in JAMA Psychiatry (2/24/16)

"The topic of assortative (nonrandom) mating [which refers to people mating with people who share a particular trait] might seem esoteric or even salacious....Nordsletten and colleagues1 report the first general population study to date of assortative mating for psychiatric disorders, which may help to solve 3 puzzles in psychiatric genetics: Why are psychiatric disorders so highly heritable when they are associated with reduced fecundity? Why are some psychiatric disorders so much more highly heritable than others? Why is there so much genetic comorbidity across psychiatric disorders?
The research capitalizes on the powerful population registers in Sweden, which contain diagnostic information, including psychiatric diagnoses, on all individuals admitted to Swedish hospitals since 1973. The registers yield huge samples of cases (eg, more than 70 000 individuals diagnosed as having schizophrenia). Using other registers to track couples via their children, the investigators were able to measure assortative mating levels within and between 11 psychiatric disorders.
Although you can see assortative mating for physical traits, like height and weight, with your own eyes, the correlation between spouses is only approximately 0.20 for these traits. For personality, assortative mating is even lower at approximately 0.10. In contrast, Nordsletten and colleagues1 find an amazing amount of assortative mating within psychiatric disorders. Spouse tetrachoric correlations are greater than 0.40 for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and schizophrenia. The next highest spouse correlation emerged for substance abuse (range, 0.36-0.39). Assortative mating was significant but far less substantial for other disorders, such as affective disorders (range, 0.14-0.19)."


Thursday, February 25, 2016

Paying People to Have PTSD: The VA Disability System

You know why these disability claims took off around 2005? It wasn't just the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In part it was because the Baby Boomer Vietnam Veterans realized that Social Security was not going to see them through a comfortable retirement.

by Chris Hernandez, via breachbangclear
“In every other clinical setting, PTSD is considered pretty easily treatable with a relatively short duration of exposure therapy. But in the VA, it’s disabling for life. We pay people to be sick, and to stay sick. If you wanted to create a perfect way to keep people from getting better, you’d invent the VA compensation system...
...Dr. Christopher Frueh (pronounced “Free”)...was a VA psychologist for fifteen years, from 1991 to 2006. He was quoted in a 2014 LA Times article about PTSD malingering...and has spoken out about massive fraud in the system for years.
The VA wasn’t too happy with Dr. Frueh. “I kept getting pushback for what I was saying about PTSD fraud,” Dr. Frueh said. “The VA even assigned a handler to monitor everything I said during interviews. Then they told me I couldn’t do interviews at all. Eventually, after fifteen years of trying to fix the problems and running into a brick wall, I left the VA.”
A big part of the VA’s anger at Frueh came from his accusation that the VA engages in “collusive lying” with veterans obviously faking PTSD. “Some veterans tell obvious lies, their documents don’t support their claimed trauma, their behavior doesn’t match their reported symptoms, their psychologist reports them as malingering, and the VA approves disability benefits anyway,” Frueh said. “Psychologists are ordered not to question even the most egregious fabrications. Nobody is willing to stand up to the uproar that would come from both political parties, and from VSOs, if we acknowledged what everyone already knows: a lot of veterans are lying about PTSD to get free money.”
Malingering causes real, measurable problems. Verified veterans with verified problems have stopped coming to treatment, especially group therapy, because they don’t want to be associated with the obvious posers. VA treatment programs can’t be measured for effectiveness because almost every patient, whether they’re getting better or not, claims their symptoms are worsening until their rating reaches 100%. According to one study, 82% of those who max out on disability then stop attending treatment. If their problem is so terrible they’re completely disabled, why suddenly stop getting help?
“The VA doesn’t want to face this,” Dr. Frueh said. “We’re employing very expensive PTSD treatments which our own stats say are ineffective. From clinical studies outside the VA, we know those [PTSD treatment] programs actually are effective. But within the VA, either these proven programs don’t work or patients are skewing the stats by lying about their symptoms. The VA doesn’t want to acknowledge that the treatment works, but a huge number of patients are lying.” Dr. Frueh discussed that problem in a 2014 Psychology Today article: “Another open secret among clinical trial investigators is that veterans often acknowledge to researchers that the treatment has helped them, but ask them not to document in the record for fear of losing disability.”"

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Robert Trivers' Wild Life

I look forward to reading it, just for the "skewering" of Stephen Jay Gould

From David P. Barash's review in the LA Review of Books
"A notable characteristic of [evolutionary biologist Robert Triver's autobiographical] Wild Life is the author’s fearless, painfully honest willingness to share many aspects of his life. We learn, for example, of his lifelong struggle with bipolar disease, including treatment while still a college student at Harvard, at McLean Hospital, “a well-known private hospital outside Boston with a very heavy Freudian bias that specialized in keep­ing wealthy people in their care for long periods of time.”...
We are also made privy to painful aspects of Trivers’s wild loves, not least his long-standing fondness for ganja (Jamaican for marijuana), and for women...
Robert Trivers has in fact spent time in a Jamaican prison, and has had several near-death experiences in that tropical other-than-paradise, occasioned at least partly by his fondness for ganja, and his hard-drinking, bar-visiting inclinations, along with his deep personal involvement with the people of Jamaica, at least some of whom seem less than salubrious. A few readers might also be surprised — although at this point, perhaps not! — to learn that, although Caucasian, he was for a time a Black Panther, and a close friend of Huey Newton. We also learn of his more traditional associations, including with such other greats of what I call revolutionary biology, notably Ernst Mayr, William Hamilton, Richard Dawkins, G. C. Williams, and Irven DeVore, as well as a much-deserved skewering of Stephen Jay Gould."

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

"Ruling Minds": Psychologists of the British Empire

From a review of Erik Linstrum's Ruling Minds: Psychology in the British Empire

"The anthropologist Charles Seligman...tried to create a “global dream dictionary.” Seligman, a professor at the London School of Economics, worked with nearly two dozen missionaries and colonial officials to interview colonial subjects. This was no half-baked operation: He collected dreams from natives of Nigeria, Malaya, China, the Solomon Islands, Sudan, Uganda, India, and the Gold Coast. Many subjects had to be bribed with tobacco and rice — understandable since they were being asked to reveal intimate dreams to strange white bureaucrats from a foreign land. ...

This all sounds absurd, but it had real effects. At the time, natives in colonial holdings weren’t seen as having the deep inner life that psychoanalysis was supposed to plumb. As Linstrum puts it, “the myth of the ‘happy-go-lucky’ native, too simple-minded to experience depression or neurosis, was pervasive.” Sure, psychoanalysis made sense in the British salon, but not on the African plains. Seligman’s dream collection, as unscientific as it seems today, proved this wrong. Native people, it turned out, dreamed of sex, of dying, of falling — the same dreams as everyone else. Some were disturbing: One Ugandan chief dreamed over and over of being beaten by his British superior. These inner experiences led Seligman to say on the BBC, “The unconscious of all these races is qualitatively much the same” — a big deal at the time, puncturing as it did one of the myths of white supremacy.

...As ridiculous as collecting dreams or submitting soldiers to Jungian word-association tests might sound, the men and women doing this work were trying to be reformers. They were often the only ones arguing, No, there’s no such thing as “martial races” and Yes, mental states really are identical in Africans and Europeans. But they were also working, formally or informally, for an empire that treated their subjects as subhuman. Out of that crooked timber, it was impossible for them to really be “fair” or just."

Monday, February 22, 2016

Veterans with PTSD appeal for Honorable Discharges

"The military, in effect, criminalized mental illness.” -- Thomas Burke, USMC veteran

"Kristofer Goldsmith was discharged from the Army at the height of the Iraq war because he was not on a plane to Baghdad for his second deployment. Instead, he was in a hospital after attempting suicide the night before.
Instead of screening Mr. Goldsmith for post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, records show that the Army wrote him up for missing his flight, then forced him out of the military with a less-than-honorable discharge. When he petitioned the Army to upgrade his discharge, arguing that he missed his flight because of undiagnosed PTSD, it rejected his appeal.
In the years since, he has appealed twice more for an honorable discharge and has been denied both times.
Thomas Burke, 26, joined Mr. Goldsmith on his recent advocacy trip to Washington. Now a student at Yale Divinity School, in 2009 he was a Marine infantryman in Afghanistan, his second combat deployment in a year.
As he waited in a reception area to meet with a senator, he showed a picture on his phone of himself on patrol in Helmand Province: He was unshaven, with a dusty rifle in his hands, and 15 smiling Afghan boys were tagging behind him.
“These kids went everywhere with us; these are my kids,” he said. He smiled, lost in thought, then added, “I loved them.”
A few weeks after the photograph was taken, many of the boys were killed by an unexploded rocket-propelled grenade they found near their village. Mr. Burke and his squad were left to haul away the dismembered bodies.
Mr. Burke said he started smoking hash he bought from Afghans as an escape from stress and emotional exhaustion.
“The whole platoon pretty much did,” he said. “It was the only way we could get any sleep.” Another member of his platoon confirmed his account.
Mr. Burke was charged with misconduct for his drug use and was told he would be kicked out of the Marines. He tried to kill himself a few weeks later. “I though I could join the military and make the world a better place, and I had failed in every way,” he said. “I was so angry at God and so sad.”
The Marine Corps locked him in a psychiatric hospital, he said, and then gave him an other-than-honorable discharge without evaluating him for PTSD.
Soon after, he was told at a veterans’ hospital that he had PTSD. He applied for an honorable discharge in 2014 but was denied."

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Emily Running -- Robert Stolorow (2002)

"Don't forget about your finitude, Dad. And mine."

My favorite time of day
is walking Emily to school in the morning.
We kiss as we leave our driveway
so other kids won’t see us.
If I’m lucky, we have a second kiss,
furtively, at the school-yard’s edge.
My insides beam as she turns from me
and runs to the building where her class is held,
blonde hair flowing,
backpack flapping,
my splendid, precious third-grader.
Slowly, almost imperceptibly,
a cloud begins to darken
my wide internal smile—
not grief, exactly, but a poignant sadness—
as her running points me back
to other partings
and toward other turnings
further down the road.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

That's All -- Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1964)

I'm gonna tell you the natural facts
That the man don't understand the good book right and that's all
That's all

You know what?
We got to have more love
More understanding everyday of our lives
And that's all

When you see folks jump from this or that
They don't know they don't know where the devil's at
That's all
That's all

They got to have more love, more understanding
Everyday of their lives I tell ya that's all

Listen, people fighting one another
And think they're doing swell
And all they want is your money
And you can go to heeeeyyyyy

That's all
That's all

Ya'll got to have religion, yeah, I tell ya that's all
Now he can go to the college
Go to the schools
Haven't got religion he is an educated fool

That's all
Yeah, that's all

He got to have more love, more understanding
Everyday of our lives and that's all

Friday, February 19, 2016

Robert Stolorow on Healing Trauma

"What is the proper therapeutic stance toward such trauma and vulnerability? How can a therapeutic relationship be constituted wherein the therapist can serve as a relational home for unbearable emotional pain and existential vulnerability? Recently, I have been moving toward a more active, relationally engaged form of therapeutic comportment that I call emotional dwelling. In dwelling, one does not merely seek empathically to understand the other’s emotional pain from the other’s perspective. One does that, but much more. In dwelling, one leans into the other’s emotional pain and participates in it, perhaps with aid of one’s own analogous experiences of pain.
I have found that this active, engaged, participatory comportment is especially important in the therapeutic approach to emotional trauma. The language that one uses to address another’s experience of emotional trauma meets the trauma head-on, articulating the unbearable and the unendurable, saying the unsayable, unmitigated by any efforts to soothe, comfort, encourage, or reassure—such efforts invariably being experienced by the other as a shunning or turning away from his or her traumatized state. Let me give an example of emotional dwelling and the sort of language it employs from my own personal life.
My father suffered a terrible trauma when he was 10 years old. He was sitting in class, the kid sitting in front of him was horsing around, the teacher threw a book at the kid, the kid ducked, and the book took my dad’s eye out on the spot. For the rest of his life, he lived in terror of blindness—a terror that I remember pervaded our household when I was growing up. Sixty years after that terrible trauma, he was to have cataract surgery on his remaining eye, and his optic nerve was vulnerable to being knocked out in virtue of the glaucoma medication he had been using for decades.
When I went to see him just prior to the surgery, I found him in a massively (re)traumatized state—terrified, fragmented, disorganized, and deeply ashamed of the state he was in. Family members tried to offer him reassurance: “I’m sure it will be fine.” Really? Such platitudes only demonstrated to him that no one wanted to be close to him in his traumatized state. Having gone through my own experience of devastating trauma, I knew what he needed instead. I said, “Dad, you have been terrified of blindness for nearly your entire life, and there’s a good chance that this surgery will blind you! You are going to be a fucking maniac until you find out whether the surgery blinds you! You’re going to be psychotic; you’re going to be climbing the walls!” In response to my dwelling with his terror, my dad came together right before my eyes and, as was our custom, we had a couple of martinis together. The surgery was successful and did not blind him.
If we are to be an understanding relational home for a traumatized person, we must tolerate, even draw upon, our own existential vulnerabilities so that we can dwell unflinchingly with his or her unbearable and recurring emotional pain. When we dwell with others’ unendurable pain, their shattered emotional worlds are enabled to shine with a kind of sacredness that calls forth an understanding and caring engagement within which traumatized states can be gradually transformed into bearable painful feelings. Emotional pain and existential vulnerability that find a hospitable relational home can be seamlessly and constitutively integrated into whom one experiences oneself as being.
Absorbed for nearly four decades in the project of rethinking psychoanalysis as a form of phenomenological inquiry, Robert D. Stolorow, PhD, is the author of World, Affectivity, Trauma: Heidegger and Post-Cartesian Psychoanalysis (Routledge, 2011) and Trauma and Human Existence: Autobiographical, Psychoanalytic, and Philosophical Reflections (Routledge, 2007) and coauthor of eight other books. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Why are we so unhappy? Let's ask Max Weber.

It would take more than one lifetime to experience salvation, success, power, beauty, pleasure, and truth. Pick the one that's right for you, and go for it, understanding that doing so means sacrificing the others.

by Philip Gorski, Public Books

"In his magisterial essay, “Religious Rejections of the World and Their Directions,” the German sociologist Max Weber painted a tragic picture of our ethical situation.8 In the premodern world, he lamented, life and the world were of a piece. Abraham could die in peace, knowing that he had lived a life in full. He had been blessed with wives, progeny, and property. There was nothing more to want. But “cultural beings” (Kulturmenschen) such as ourselves can never experience this sense of completion. There is always more to know and experience. Nor is that the end of the tragedy. We also live in a world of multiple and competing “value spheres”: religious, economic, political, aesthetic, erotic, and intellectual, among others. Each sphere is held together by a particular value, an “ultimate value” that demands our total devotion: salvation, success, power, beauty, pleasure, truth, and so on. What to do? Some would be dilettantes, flitting from one experience to another, collecting stories along the way. That is perhaps the dominant ethos of the present age: “YOLO!” But that was not Weber’s creed. He longed for the unity of life that Abraham had enjoyed. The only way to achieve this, he believed, was to devote one’s life to a single god, the “daemon” that seized the very fibers of one’s being. Not monotheism, the worship of the one true god, then, but monolatry, devotion to one’s own true god—that was Weber’s ethos."

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Justice Scalia Slams Shoddy Psychological Research Supportive of Violent Video Game Ban

How much more "aggressive" do kids get after playing violent video games? About as much as they do after watching a Bugs Bunny cartoon, or after a seeing a picture of a gun.

Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association et al. (2011)
"Because the Act [California's attempt to ban sales of violent video games to minors] imposes a restriction on the content of protected speech, it is invalid unless California can demonstrate that it passes strict scrutiny—that is, unless it is justified by a compelling government interest and is narrowly drawn to serve that interest. R.A.V., 505 U.S., at 395, 112 S.Ct. 2538. The State must specifically identify an "actual problem" in need of solving, Playboy, 529 U.S., at 822-823, 120 S.Ct. 1878, and the curtailment of free speech must be actually necessary to the solution, see R.A.V., supra, at 395, 112 S.Ct. 2538. That is a demanding standard. "It is rare that a regulation restricting speech because of its content will ever be permissible." Playboy, supra, at 818, 120 S.Ct. 1878.
California cannot meet that standard. At the outset, it acknowledges that it cannot show a direct causal link between violent video games and harm to minors. ...
The State's evidence is not compelling. California relies primarily on the research of Dr. Craig Anderson and a few other research psychologists whose studies purport to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children. These studies have been rejected by every court to consider them,[6] and with good reason: They do not prove that violent video games cause minors to act aggressively (which would at least be a beginning). Instead, "[n]early all of the research is based on correlation, not evidence of causation, and most of the studies suffer from significant, admitted flaws in methodology." Video Software Dealers Assn. 556 F.3d, at 964. They show at best some correlation between exposure to violent entertainment and minuscule real-world effects, such as children's feeling more aggressive or making louder noises in the few minutes after playing a violent game than after playing a nonviolent game.[7]
Even taking for granted Dr. Anderson's conclusions that violent video games produce some effect on children's feelings of aggression, those effects are both small and indistinguishable from effects produced by other media. In his testimony in a similar lawsuit, Dr. Anderson admitted that the "effect sizes" of children's exposure to violent video games are "about the same" as that produced by their exposure to violence on television. App. 1263. And he admits that the same effects have been found when children watch cartoons starring Bugs Bunny or the Road Runner, id., at 1304, or when they play video games like Sonic the Hedgehog that are rated "E" (appropriate for all ages), id., at 1270, or even when they "vie[w] a picture of a gun," id., at 1315-1316.[8]
2740*2740 Of course, California has (wisely) declined to restrict Saturday morning cartoons, the sale of games rated for young children, or the distribution of pictures of guns. The consequence is that its regulation is wildly underinclusive when judged against its asserted justification, which in our view is alone enough to defeat it. Underinclusiveness raises serious doubts about whether the government is in fact pursuing the interest it invokes, rather than disfavoring a particular speaker or viewpoint. See City of Ladue v. Gilleo, 512 U.S. 43, 51, 114 S.Ct. 2038, 129 L.Ed.2d 36 (1994); Florida Star v. B.J.F., 491 U.S. 524, 540, 109 S.Ct. 2603, 105 L.Ed.2d 443 (1989). Here, California has singled out the purveyors of video games for disfavored treatment—at least when compared to booksellers, cartoonists, and movie producers—and has given no persuasive reason why."

[7] One study, for example, found that children who had just finished playing violent video games were more likely to fill in the blank letter in "explo_e" with a "d" (so that it reads "explode") than with an "r" ("explore"). App. 496, 506 (internal quotation marks omitted). The prevention of this phenomenon, which might have been anticipated with common sense, is not a compelling state interest.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Torturing Others is Bad for Your Soul

Header torture essay u1580563
The question is, how soon after he got "back to the World" did the blonde kid with the cigarette kill himself?

"Torturing someone is not easy, and subjecting a fellow human being to torture is stressful for all but the most psychopathic. In None of Us Were Like This Before (2010), the journalist Joshua Phillips recounts the stories of American soldiers in Iraq who turned to prisoner abuse, torment and torture. Once removed from the theatre of war and the camaraderie of the battalion, intense, enduring and disabling guilt, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance abuse follow. Suicide is not uncommon.
It is inevitable a relationship will develop over time between the interrogator and the person being interrogated. The question is the extent to which this relationship is desirable or undesirable. It could be prevented by potentially using interrogators who have low empathic abilities or by constantly rotating interrogators, so that they do not build up a relationship with the person who is being interrogated. The problem here, of course, is that this strategy misses what is vital about human interaction, namely, the enduring predisposition that humans have for affiliation to each other and our capacity to engage with others as human beings and to like them as individuals. And this in turn will diminish the effectiveness of the interrogation. It will even make it easier for the person being interrogated to game the interviewer, for example, giving lots of differing stories and answers to the questions. In turn, this makes detecting reliable information much harder. And significantly, the most empathic interrogators are also the most vulnerable to terrible psychic damage after the fact. In his book Pay Any Price (2014), The New York Times Magazine correspondent James Risen describes torturers as ‘shell-shocked, dehumanised. They are covered in shame and guilt… They are suffering moral injury’.
A natural question is why this moral and psychic injury arises in soldiers who, after all, have the job of killing others. One response might be that the training, ethos and honour code of the solider is to kill those who might kill him. By contrast, a deliberate assault upon the defenceless (as occurs during torture) violates everything that a soldier is ordinarily called upon to do. Egregious violations of such rules and expectations give rise to expressions of disgust, perhaps in this case, principally directed at the self.
This might explain why, when torture is institutionalised, it becomes the possession of a self-regarding, self-supporting, self-perpetuating and self-selecting group, housed in secret ministries and secret police forces. Under these conditions, social supports and rewards are available to buffer the extremes of behaviour that emerge, and the acts are perpetrated away from public view. When torture happens in a democracy, there is no secret society of fellow torturers from whom to draw succor, social support, and reward. Engaging in physical and emotional assaults upon the defenceless and eliciting worthless confessions and dubious intelligence is a degrading, humiliating, and pointless experience. The units of psychological distance here can be measured down the chain of command, from the decision to torture being a ‘no-brainer’ for those at the apex to ‘losing your soul’ for those on the ground."

Monday, February 15, 2016

Can you name the past 10 U.S. Presidents?

"Remember, man: You too must die."
More than 80% of American college students can't name, in order, the past 10 U.S. Presidents.
Try it right now. It's really easy -- or at least it should be.

By the year 2060, Americans will probably remember as much about the 39th and 40th presidents, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, as they now remember about our 13th president, Millard Fillmore,” predicts study co-author Henry L. Roediger III, PhD, a human memory expert at Washington University in St. Louis.
In each test, participants were provided a numbered list with blank spaces and asked to fill in the names of all presidents they could remember in the order in which they served. If they could remember names but not the order, they were instructed to guess or to put the names off to the side. Thus, the results could be scored for recall of presidents with or without regard to correct order.
Among the six presidents who were serving or had served most recently when the test was first given in 1973, Harry S. Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson and Gerald R. Ford are now fading fast from historical memory, whereas John F. Kennedy has been better retained. The study estimates that Truman will be forgotten by three-fourths of college students by 2040, 87 years after his leaving office, bringing him down to the level of presidents such as Zachary Taylor and William McKinley.
The rate at which college students forgot the order of recent presidents remained remarkably consistent over time and across different groups of college students. In 1974, nearly all college students recalled Johnson and his ordinal position (36), but by 1991, the proportion remembering him dropped to 53 percent and by 2009, it plummeted to 20 percent.
When asked to name the presidents in the order they served, we as a nation do fairly well at naming the last few presidents, but our recall abilities then fall off quickly, with less than 20 percent able to remember more than the last eight or nine presidents in order, the study finds.
"Out of the 150 college students we tested in 2009, only four of them were able to recall virtually every president and place each in the correct position,” DeSoto said. “It’s possible that these individuals used a mnemonic like a song or rhyme that they learned for the purpose of remembering the presidents.” [Or, they know a lot about American history.]

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Love Song: I and Thou -- Alan Dugan

Nothing is plumb, level, or square:
     the studs are bowed, the joists
are shaky by nature, no piece fits
     any other piece without a gap
or pinch, and bent nails
     dance all over the surfacing
like maggots. By Christ
     I am no carpenter. I built
the roof for myself, the walls
     for myself, the floors
for myself, and got
     hung up in it myself. I
danced with a purple thumb
     at this house-warming, drunk
with my prime whiskey: rage.
     Oh I spat rage’s nails
into the frame-up of my work:
     it held. It settled plumb,
level, solid, square and true
     for that great moment. Then
it screamed and went on through,
     skewing as wrong the other way.
God damned it. This is hell,
     but I planned it. I sawed it,
I nailed it, and I
     will live in it until it kills me.
I can nail my left palm
     to the left-hand crosspiece but
I can’t do everything myself.
     I need a hand to nail the right,
a help, a love, a you, a wife.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Girl From Ipanema -- Astrud Gilberto & Stan Getz (1964)

Heloísa Pinheiro, the Brazilian girl that inspired “The Girl From Ipanema”

Tall and tan and young and lovely
The girl from Ipanema goes walking and
When she passes, each one she passes goes "ah"

When she walks, she's like a samba
That swings so cool and sways so gentle that
When she passes, each one she passes goes "Ohhh"

Oh I watch her so sadly
How can I tell her, "I love her?"
Yes, I would give my heart gladly

 But each day, when she walks to the sea
She looks straight ahead, not at me

Tall and tan and young and lovely
 The girl from Ipanema goes walking and
When she passes, I smile but she doesn't see, doesn't see

Uw but I watch her so sadly
Yes I would give my heart gladly
But each day when she walks to the sea

Olha que coisa mais linda mais cheia de graça
ela menina que vem e que passa
Num doce balanço a caminho do mar

Moça do corpo dourado do sol de ipanema
O seu balançado mais que um poema
a coisa mais linda que eu j vi passar..

But I watch her so sadly
Porque tudo to triste
Yes, I would give my heart gladly

 But each day, when she walks to the sea
She looks straight ahead, not at me

Tall and tan and young and lovely
 The girl from ipanema goes walking
And when she passes, I smile but she doesn't see

Por causa do amor
She just doesn't see
Nem olha para mim
She never sees me
Por causa do amor