Monday, June 30, 2014

American High Schools Can't Even Produce Cannon Fodder



More than two-thirds of America's youth would fail to qualify for military service because of physical, behavioral or educational shortcomings, posing challenges to building the next generation of soldiers even as the U.S. draws down troops from conflict zones.
The military deems many youngsters ineligible due to obesity, lack of a high-school diploma, felony convictions and prescription-drug use for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. But others are now also running afoul of standards for appearance amid the growing popularity of large-scale tattoos and devices called ear gauges that create large holes in earlobes.
The military services don't keep figures on how many people they turn away. But the Defense Department estimates 71% of the roughly 34 million 17- to 24-year-olds in the U.S. would fail to qualify to enlist in the military if they tried, a figure that doesn't even include those turned away for tattoos or other cosmetic issues. Meanwhile, only about 1% of youths are both "eligible and inclined to have a conversation with us" about military service, according to Major Gen. Allen Batschelet, commanding general of U.S. Army Recruiting Command.
"The quality of people willing to serve has been declining rapidly," said Gen. Batschelet.
Each year, about 180,000 young men and women successfully volunteer for America's active-duty forces. An additional 110,000 join the services' reserve and National Guard units. Individual services manage their own recruiting and have the authority to grant waivers to applicants who don't meet broad standards.
When the military faced escalating foreign engagement in recent years, recruiting standards were loosened: In 2007, only 79% of those who enlisted in the Army had completed high school, compared with 90% in 2001, while the Army also accepted recruits with more excess body fat during the height of the Iraq war.
About a quarter of high-school graduates also can't pass the Armed Forces Qualification Test, which measures [VERY BASIC] math and reading skills, Gen. Youngman said. "They aren't educationally qualified to join the military in any capacity, not just the high-tech jobs," he said.
U.S. Army First Sgt. James Sawyer, who heads recruiting across a swath of Los Angeles County, said tattoos have become the most common cosmetic reason that applicants are disqualified. The Army already banned tattoos on the face, neck and fingers, but according to regulations in effect May 1, soldiers also can't have more than a total of four visible tattoos below the elbows and knees, and tattoos must be relatively small. The goal of the tattoo rules is to maintain a professional-looking Army, Sgt. Sawyer said. He added that "the average person in California has a tattoo."

Maybe we should just start hiring mercenaries from the barbarian tribes.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Burton Raffel, trans.)

An honest man
Need never fear.
But still, the third day, there
In my castle, you failed - and you felt that here.
'That belt you're wearing: it's mine, my wife
Gave it to you - I know it all, knight,
The kisses you took, and gave, and all
You did, and how she tempted you: everything.
For I planned it all, to test you - and truly,
Not many better men have walked
This earth, been worth as much - like a pearl
To a pea, compared to other knights.
But you failed a little, lost good faith -
Not for a beautiful belt, or in lust,
But for love of your life. I can hardly blame you.'

Part 4, lines 2343-2368

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Way You Look Tonight -- Frank Sinatra (1964)


Some day, when I'm awfully low
When the world is cold
I will feel a glow just thinking of you
And the way you look tonight

Yes, you're lovely, with your smile so warm
And your cheeks so soft
There is nothing for me but to love you
And the way you look tonight

With each word your tenderness grows
Tearin' my fear apart
And that laugh..wrinkles your nose
Touches my foolish heart

Lovely ... Never, never change
Keep that breathless charm
Won't you please arrange it? 'Cause I love you
Just the way you look tonight


And that laugh that wrinkles your nose
It touches my foolish heart

Lovely ... Don't you ever change
Keep that breathless charm
Won't you please arrange it? 'Cause I love you
a-just the way you look tonight

Mm, Mm, Mm, Mm,
Just the way you look tonight

Friday, June 27, 2014

Green Beret Major pulls a Colonel Kurtz in Afghanistan

ABC News

A legendary Special Forces commander was quietly forced to leave the U.S. Army after he admitted to a love affair with a Washington Post war correspondent, who quit her job to secretly live with him for almost a year in one of the most dangerous combat outposts in Afghanistan.
U.S. Army Special Operations Command never publicly disclosed that highly-decorated Green Beret Major Jim Gant was relieved of command at the end of a harrowing 22 months in combat in March 2012.
His commanders charged in confidential files that he had "indulged in a self-created fantasy world" of booze, pain pills and sex in a tribal village deep in Taliban and al Qaeda country with his "wife," journalist Ann Scott Tyson.
"Well, you see Willard . . . In this war, things get confused out there, power, ideals, the old morality, practical military necessity. But out there with these natives, it must be a temptation -- to be god. Because there's a conflict in every human heart, between the rational and the irrational, between good and evil. And good does not always triumph. Sometimes, the dark side overcomes what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature. Every man has got a breaking point. You and I have one. Walter Kurtz has reached his. And very obviously, he has gone insane."

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Terry Teachout on Art and Truth

Room in New York -- Edward Hopper (1932)


The artist whose chief goal is not to make everything more beautiful but to enlist his audience in a cause—no matter what that cause may be—is rarely if ever prepared to tell the whole truth and nothing but. He replaces the true complexity of the world with the false simplicity of the ideologue. He alters reality not to make everything more beautiful, but to stack the deck.
This is what Oscar Wilde meant when he said that no artist ever tries to prove anything, though I'd put it another way. Great art doesn't tell—it shows. And this act of showing is itself a moral act, a commitment to reality.
A man who thought otherwise said, "Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it." But Karl Marx, as usual, got it wrong. The greatest philosophers and the greatest artists seek not to change the world, but to see the world as it is, then show it to the rest of us with the transforming clarity that is beauty. That is a supreme act of freedom. It's what Shakespeare and Mark Twain and Flannery O'Connor did. What Rembrandt and Sargent and Edward Hopper did. What Mozart and Aaron Copland and Louis Armstrong did. They looked, they saw, they showed—and we understood.
In writing about art, I try never to moralize, nor do I look with favor upon artists who do. But I seek to be ever and always alive to the moral force of art whose creators aspire merely to make everything more beautiful, and in so doing to pierce the veil of the visible and give us a glimpse of the transcendently true.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Virginia brings back eugenics!

I'm pretty sure that the judge wants to sterilize him because of the neck tattoo.

RICHMOND, Va.— A Virginia man who has fathered children with several women has agreed to get a vasectomy to reduce his prison term by up to five years in a child endangerment case that has evoked the country’s dark history of forced sterilization.
None of the charges against Jessie Lee Herald, 27, involved a sexual offense. Shenandoah County assistant prosecutor Ilona White said her chief motive in making the extraordinarily unusual offer was keeping Herald from fathering more than the seven children he has by at least six women.
“He needs to be able to support the children he already has when he gets out,” she said, adding that Herald and the state both benefit from the deal, first reported by the Northern Virginia Daily.
Though Herald willingly — if reluctantly, according to his attorney — signed on to the deal, the agreement immediately calls to mind the surgical sterilizations carried out in Virginia and dozens of other states during the 20th century under the discredited* pseudoscience called eugenics, said Brandon Garrett, a University of Virginia law professor.
Some 8,000 people deemed genetically inferior or deficient were forcibly sterilized in Virginia from the 1920s to about 1970. Many other states also had eugenics programs but abandoned them after World War II when forced sterilizations became closely associated with Nazi Germany’s racial purity efforts.

*Discredited by whom? When? What's your citation? Which studies apparently"discredited" eugenics? The same studies that "discredited" Freud? I think what the law professor (who wouldn't know anything about science or "pseudoscience") meant is that eugenics is no longer fashionable. Eugenics is alive and well in the United States (see the +90% rate of elective terminations after in utero diagnosis of Down's Syndrome).

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Terry Teachout's Proposal for "The American Experience in Art"

The Veteran in a New Field -- Winslow Homer (1865)


Were I to be appointed Secretary of Education, I'd issue a prospectus for a compulsory nation-wide high-school course called "The American Experience in Art." Every student who took this year-long course would be required to read, view and listen to the following American masterpieces while simultaneously studying the aspects of U.S. history that they illustrate and illuminate:
• Two full-length novels, Willa Cather's "O Pioneers!" and Robert Penn Warren's "All the King's Men";
• One short novel, F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby";
• Two plays, Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" and Tennessee Williams's "The Glass Menagerie";
• A selection of poems by Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost and Langston Hughes;
• One group of paintings, Jacob Lawrence's "Migration Series," studied in conjunction with a selection of recordings by Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington;
• One dance, Martha Graham's "Appalachian Spring" (music by Aaron Copland);
• One musical, Leonard Bernstein's "West Side Story" (choreography by Jerome Robbins, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim);
• Three films, John Ford's "The Searchers," Orson Welles's "Citizen Kane" (music by Bernard Herrmann) and William Wyler's "The Best Years of Our Lives."
The main objective of this class would be to expose American students to a widely varied assortment of American masterpieces, none of them contemporary and none of which they would nowadays be likely to encounter outside of school. (Yes, even "Citizen Kane.") But what makes "The American Experience in Art" even more valuable is that it situates these masterpieces in the larger context of U.S. history.
You don't have to know anything about the Shakers to appreciate Mr. Copland's score for "Appalachian Spring" any more than you have to know who William Randolph Hearst was to understand "Citizen Kane." But one of the most effective ways to bring great art alive to those for whom it is terra incognita is to explain how it relates to the world they know. If I wanted to open a student's ears to prewar jazz, I'd start by talking about how Louis Armstrong, like hundreds of thousands of African-Americans, migrated from the Deep South to one of the major Northern cities between the world wars—and I'd play his 1928 record of "West End Blues" after first having used the "Migration Series" paintings to dramatize what it meant for a black sharecropper to turn his back on the past and move to Chicago or Los Angeles or New York.
That's the point of my course. It uses art to illuminate history—and vice versa. How better to hammer home the realities of war than to watch "The Best Years of Our Lives," one of whose characters is played by an actual World War II veteran whose hands were blown off? Or to explore the grubby intricacies of politics by reading "All the King's Men," with its fictionalized portrait of Huey Long?
None of the works on this list are fearsomely complex or intrinsically controversial. All should be familiar to every culturally literate American. All are well within the reach of ordinary high-school students. All could be adequately discussed in a well-written textbook. All could be studied in a year's time. Any takers?

Sounds like a great course. I balk at the "compulsory" and "nation-wide" aspects though.  And who's going to teach it? In most school districts it would probably be the baseball coach. (How much improved would American education be if you had to get at least 1200 on your SATs in order to be licensed as a high school teacher?)

I might substitute the paintings of Winslow Homer for the Migration Series. And nothing against Louis Armstrong, but I prefer Ella Fitzgerald. And they should read Ernest Hemingway's short stories (especially In Our Time). I can't complain about the film selections, or the musical. I appreciate his leaving out Walt Whitman.

By the way, if you aren't familiar with these works, it won't be too difficult to become familiar with them. At least now you have the list to work from. Or, you could continue plodding along in your cultural ignorance, a choice that seems both boorish and unpatriotic.

The Fox Hunt -- Winslow Homer (1893)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Nation's Mental Health System Should Just "Pull Itself Together"

The Onion

WASHINGTON—Saying that things are only going to keep getting worse unless it’s willing to step up and make some changes, millions of frustrated Americans wondered this week why the nation’s struggling mental health system couldn’t just snap out of its funk and pull itself together.

Citing reports that an estimated 91 million Americans live in areas where shortages of mental health professionals make getting treatment difficult and that the mental health system had lost $4.35 billion in state funding from 2009–2012, exasperated citizens from across the country said they had finally reached their limit with the network of medical professionals, inpatient facilities, and long-term treatment programs that apparently lacked the willpower to improve its situation.

“Look, I know it’s been a rough couple of years and things haven’t exactly gotten any easier lately, but this can’t go on,” said Oakland, CA resident Marissa Thomas, adding she had lost all patience waiting for the mental health system to stop wallowing in its struggles and make a concerted effort to get its act together. “Eventually, it’s got to want to fix itself.”

“No one’s going to waltz in one day, wave a magic wand, and make all these troubles disappear,” continued Thomas, who said she was “beyond exhausted” with the mental health system’s inability to accommodate the estimated 600,000 severely mentally ill individuals who annually end up homeless, in prisons, or dead from suicide. “It just keeps having the same issues over and over again and doesn’t do a thing about them. I’m pretty much numb to it at this point.”

As the nation’s mental health care system continues to sink deeper and deeper into despair, even failing to perform basic tasks such as routine mental health evaluations and emergency counseling services, Americans have reportedly begun to wonder if it has any desire at all to take responsibility for its current state or if it will just continue to burden the people close to it.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Not Waving But Drowning -- Stevie Smith (1957)

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Summer Wind -- Frank Sinatra (1966)

The summer wind, came blowin' in from across the sea
It lingered there to touch your hair and walk with me
All summer long we sang a song and then we strolled that golden sand
Two sweethearts and the summer wind

Like painted kites, those days and nights, they went flyin' by
The world was new beneath a blue umbrella sky
Then softer than a piper man one day it called to you
I lost you, I lost you to the summer wind

The autumn wind and the winter winds, they have come and gone
And still the days, those lonely days, they go on and on
And guess who sighs his lullabies through nights that never end
My fickle friend, the summer wind

The summer wind
Warm summer wind
Mmm, the summer wind

The song was prominently featured in The Pope of Greenwich Village (1984):

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Disadvantages of Being Educated -- Albert J. Nock (1932)

Education deprives a young person of one of his most precious possessions, the sense of co-operation with his fellows. He is like a pacifist in 1917, alone in spirit - a depressing situation, and especially, almost unbearably, depressing to youth. "After all," says Dumas’s hero, "man is man’s brother," and youth especially needs a free play of the fraternal sense; it needs the stimulus and support of association in common endeavor. The survivor of an older generation in America has had these benefits in some degree; he is more or less established and matured and can rub along fairly comfortably on his spiritual accumulations; and besides, as age comes on, emotions weaken and sensitiveness is dulled. In his day, from the spiritual and social point of view, one could afford to be educated-barely and with difficulty afford it perhaps, but education was not a flat liability. It netted enough to be worth its price. At present one can afford only to be trained. The young person’s fellows are turning all their energy into a single narrow channel of interest; they have set the whole current of their being in one direction. Education is all against his doing that, while training is all for it; hence training puts him in step with his fellows, while education tends to leave him a solitary figure, spiritually disqualified.
For these reasons: education, in the first place, discloses other channels of interest and makes them look inviting. In the second place, it gives rise to the view that the interest which absorbs his fellows is not worth mortgaging one’s whole self, body, mind and spirit, to carry on. In the third place, it shows what sort of people one’s fellows inevitably become, through their exclusive absorption in this one interest, and makes it hard to reconcile oneself to the thought of becoming like them. Training, on the other hand, raises no such disturbances; it lets one go on one’s chosen way, with no uncertainty, no loss of confidence, as a man of the crowd. Education is divisive, separatist; training induces the exhilarating sense that one is doing with others what others do and thinking the thoughts that others think.
Education, in a word, leads a person on to ask a great deal more from life than life, as at present organized, is willing to give him; and it begets dissatisfaction with the rewards that life holds out. Training tends to satisfy him with very moderate and simple returns. A good income, a home and family, the usual run of comforts and conveniences, diversions addressed only to the competitive or sporting spirit or else to raw sensation-training not only makes directly for getting these, but also for an inert and comfortable contentment with them. Well, these are all that our present society has to offer, so it is undeniably the best thing all round to keep people satisfied with them, which training does, and not to inject a subversive influence, like education, into this easy complacency. Politicians understand this-it is their business to understand it-and hence they hold up "a chicken in every pot and two cars in every garage" as a satisfying social ideal. But the mischief of education is its exorbitance. The educated lad may like stewed chicken and motor-cars as well as anybody, but his education has bred a liking for other things too, things that the society around him does not care for and will not countenance. It has bred tastes which society resents as culpably luxurious, and will not connive at gratifying. Paraphrasing the old saying, education sends him out to shift for himself with a champagne appetite amidst a gin-guzzling society.

Read the whole thing.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Disadvantages of Being Educated -- Albert J. Nock (1932)

The educated lad also likes to cultivate a sense of history. He likes to know how the human mind has worked in the past, and upon this knowledge he instinctively bases his expectations of its present and future workings. This tends automatically to withdraw him from many popular movements and associations because he knows their like of old, and knows to a certainty how they will turn out. In the realm of public affairs, for instance, it shapes his judgment of this-or-that humbugging political nostrum that the crowd is running eagerly to swallow; he can match it all the way back to the policies of Rome and Athens, and knows it for precisely what it is. He can not get into a ferment over this-or-that exposure of the almost incredible degradation of our political, social and cultural character; over an investigation of Tammany’s misdoings; over the Federal Government’s flagitious employment of the income-tax law to establish a sleeping-partnership in the enterprises of gamblers, gangsters, assassins and racketeers; over the wholesale looting of public property through official connivance; over the crushing burden which an ever-increasing bureaucratic rapacity puts upon production. He knows too much about the origin and nature of government not to know that all these matters are representative, and that nothing significant can be done about them except by a self-sprung change of character in the people represented. He is aware, with Edmund Burke, that "there never was for any long time a corrupt representation of a virtuous people, or a mean, sluggish, careless people that ever had a good government of any form." He perceives, with Ibsen, that "men still call for special revolutions, for revolutions in politics, in externals. But all that sort of thing is trumpery. It is the soul of man that must revolt."

Read the whole thing. Read it carefully, more than once. You will rarely encounter a more radical and subversive document.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Eddie Rickenbacker -- The Psychopath as Flying Ace


Eddie Rickenbacker...was America's most accomplished pilot of World War I, its ace of aces—an ace being defined as a pilot with five confirmed kills to his credit. Rickenbacker had 26, out of an American total of 110.  
His father, a day laborer, was killed in a drunken brawl, which left young Eddie with the responsibility for his family at age 13. But a defining moment occurred one day when he joined a crowd gawking at a brand-new Ford Model C parked on the street. The salesman, eager to prove to skeptical onlookers that this gleaming contraption was perfectly safe, offered the kid a ride. Rickenbacker was hooked and soon started hanging around at local garages. A born tinkerer, he learned to make his own parts at the lathe. "Machines have always talked to me," he later wrote. 
As a way of testing the new wonders, auto racing became the hot new sport, first as part of road races, then on purpose-built speedways. Crashes were plentiful, and harnesses to protect the racers nonexistent. Rickenbacker started his racing career as a "mechanician," riding with the driver to monitor the oil pressure and warn of challengers coming up from behind. Mechanicians had no steering wheel to cling on to and died at a rate three times that of the drivers. 
Rickenbacker's guts and diagnostic skills would earn him a place among the top drivers and team managers of his day.  
When the U.S. entered World War I, Rickenbacker suggested raising a squadron of racing drivers but was turned down by the Army brass, who did not consider the young man officer material. Instead he signed on as a driver for Gen. John Pershing and his staff in France, in which role he impressed Billy Mitchell, the commander of the Army's air-combat units, by fixing his broken-down car while in the field. Mitchell assigned him the job as chief engineer on the base outside the town of Issoudun, the most important of the American aerodromes in France, with the rank of master sergeant. His organizational skills earned him a promotion to officer and with it a course in advanced combat flying. 
A World War I biplane...was essentially a glorified canvas box kite covered in highly flammable lacquer, with an engine and a machine gun stuck on to it. The pursuit training program alone killed 11 out of every 100 pilots before shooting even started. Its bombing ability being negligible, the plane's main task was collecting intelligence on reconnaissance missions and denying the same to the enemy.  
With his unpolished manners, Rickenbacker encountered a good deal of arrogance from the privileged sons of Harvard and Yale, but after he had downed his first five enemies, criticism ceased. About Rickenbacker's killer instinct his colleague Reed McKinley Chambers had this to say: "Eddie wasn't the best pilot in the world. He could not put as many holes in a target that was being towed as I could, but he could put more holes in a target that was shooting back at him than I could." 
In September 1918, Rickenbacker took over command of the 94th, one of the 12 pursuit squadrons. As in his racing days, Rickenbacker knew how to play the flamboyant part expected of him, but with his men was cool and businesslike. He emphasized formation warfare rather than individual duels. Labeling air combat "scientific murder," he warned that "the experienced fighting pilot does not take unnecessary risks. . . . A fifty-fifty chance is the worst he will take or should take, except when where the show is of the kind that . . . justifies the sacrifice of plane and pilot." According to Billy Mitchell, Rickenbacker had "the rare combination of sound judgment and fighting spirit." 
After the war, having failed with his own car-producing venture, Rickenbacker became president of Eastern Airlines, where one of his bright ideas was to introduce regular flights between Washington and New York.
In 1942, Rickenbacker was sent on a mission by Gen. Hap Arnold, the commander of the Army Air Forces, to convey the Roosevelt administration's annoyance at Douglas MacArthur's loud criticisms of George Marshall, the army's chief of staff, and the policy of giving priority to the European theater. The plane ran out of gas in the South Pacific, and the survivors were only spotted after three weeks. Rickenbacker had kept them from despairing, sharing his belief that even when things look most hopeless, you must keep fighting. The daredevil lived on to the age of 83, a testimony to his skills in what we today call risk management.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Boko Haram's Soaring Toll in Trauma


MAIDUGURI, Nigeria—The last psychiatrists remaining in the heartland of Boko Haram squeezed in a few hundred patients one recent morning. The waiting room was packed and the power was out.

The war between the Islamist insurgency and a frazzled army has left 7,000 people dead since 2011, but it has also created a backlog of anguished survivors at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital here. Inside, the nine psychiatrists usually have just minutes for each patient, and little to offer beyond a prescription for antidepressants—before the mentally ill walk back out to rejoin what has become an ever-expanding and twisted conflict.

Some 52,000 patients have active files here, the hospital says—a case load that has doubled since Boko Haram launched its campaign of killing and kidnapping.

They include a 6-year-old girl who saw Boko Haram murder her parents, her file says, and now interrupts her class by shouting: "They're here!"

Boko Haram has burned down villages, shot rockets into homes, and beheaded drivers on highways in its campaign to impose Islamic law. It has forced both boys and girls into its ranks—and the recent abduction of nearly 300 schoolgirls brought the group global attention.

Nigeria's army, meanwhile, has routinely rounded up young men on slight provocation, shooting them in the streets, said human-rights groups and Western diplomats. The army denies the charges.

For all involved, the psychological toll is clear.

One of the doctors, Babagana Machina, says soldiers and suspected Boko Haram members alike have marched into his office, each of them exhibiting symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. After five minutes of therapy and a prescription for cheap antidepressants, they leave through the crowded waiting room.

"Some of them will tell you that they killed even their parents," said Dr. Machina, who qualified to practice psychiatry just last year. The sixth edition of the "Shorter Oxford Textbook of Psychiatry" lay open on his desk as he added: "I'm learning on the job."

He works with eight fellow psychiatrists at the clinic, and 20 are in training. Seven psychiatrists have resigned, one after narrowly evading a kidnapping attempt.

The doctors declined to disclose the identities of their patients—and many of the emotionally damaged here weren't able to speak for themselves.

But the doctors allowed a reporter to see the medical histories of patients, which are jotted into aquamarine folders that spill across the floor, putting words to the emotional cost of the conflict. "She witnessed a bomb blast," reads the opening sentence for a 45-year-old mother.

A hospital survey conducted last year estimated that between 10% and 20% of the population in the state needs mental-health services. Every day, 20 or 30 people show up for the first time here.

That the Maiduguri psychiatric hospital functions at all represents one of the oddities of northern Nigeria.

In many other ways, the state in this corner of the country has collapsed. Boko Haram has bombed police stations, torched government schools, ripped open the gates of jails, incapacitated an airport, carjacked army tanks and occupied many roads.

And yet the doctors at the psychiatric hospital have carried on—sometimes in the dark during power outages. They often treat security forces who have seen comrades beheaded, burned alive and maimed, both in video and in person.

Among those who show up at the psychiatric hospital, many can't afford medication. The doctors dip into their salaries to help out patients.

"We tax ourselves," said Dr. Machina.

The prospect of reinforcements for the doctors remains remote. It is nearly impossible to recruit people to the area.

But it is also hard to leave. Dr. Machina has twice deferred an acceptance letter to King's College London, he says, in order to treat the patients who clearly need him here.

Said Isa Rabebbe, the hospital's medical director: "This is what we do."

Monday, June 16, 2014

Paul McHugh speaks out against transgender surgery


The government and media alliance advancing the transgender cause has gone into overdrive in recent weeks. On May 30, a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services review board ruled that Medicare can pay for the "reassignment" surgery sought by the transgendered—those who say that they don't identify with their biological sex. Earlier last month Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that he was "open" to lifting a ban on transgender individuals serving in the military. Time magazine, seeing the trend, ran a cover story for its June 9 issue called "The Transgender Tipping Point: America's next civil rights frontier."

Yet policy makers and the media are doing no favors either to the public or the transgendered by treating their confusions as a right in need of defending rather than as a mental disorder that deserves understanding, treatment and prevention. This intensely felt sense of being transgendered constitutes a mental disorder in two respects. The first is that the idea of sex misalignment is simply mistaken—it does not correspond with physical reality. The second is that it can lead to grim psychological outcomes.

The transgendered suffer a disorder of "assumption" like those in other disorders familiar to psychiatrists. With the transgendered, the disordered assumption is that the individual differs from what seems given in nature—namely one's maleness or femaleness. Other kinds of disordered assumptions are held by those who suffer from anorexia and bulimia nervosa, where the assumption that departs from physical reality is the belief by the dangerously thin that they are overweight.
With body dysmorphic disorder, an often socially crippling condition, the individual is consumed by the assumption "I'm ugly." These disorders occur in subjects who have come to believe that some of their psycho-social conflicts or problems will be resolved if they can change the way that they appear to others. Such ideas work like ruling passions in their subjects' minds and tend to be accompanied by a solipsistic argument.

For the transgendered, this argument holds that one's feeling of "gender" is a conscious, subjective sense that, being in one's mind, cannot be questioned by others. The individual often seeks not just society's tolerance of this "personal truth" but affirmation of it. Here rests the support for "transgender equality," the demands for government payment for medical and surgical treatments, and for access to all sex-based public roles and privileges.
With this argument, advocates for the transgendered have persuaded several states—including California, New Jersey and Massachusetts—to pass laws barring psychiatrists, even with parental permission, from striving to restore natural gender feelings to a transgender minor. That government can intrude into parents' rights to seek help in guiding their children indicates how powerful these advocates have become.
How to respond? Psychiatrists obviously must challenge the solipsistic concept that what is in the mind cannot be questioned. Disorders of consciousness, after all, represent psychiatry's domain; declaring them off-limits would eliminate the field. Many will recall how, in the 1990s, an accusation of parental sex abuse of children was deemed unquestionable by the solipsists of the "recovered memory" craze.
You won't hear it from those championing transgender equality, but controlled and follow-up studies reveal fundamental problems with this movement. When children who reported transgender feelings were tracked without medical or surgical treatment at both Vanderbilt University and London's Portman Clinic, 70%-80% of them spontaneously lost those feelings. Some 25% did have persisting feelings; what differentiates those individuals remains to be discerned.
We at Johns Hopkins University—which in the 1960s was the first American medical center to venture into "sex-reassignment surgery"—launched a study in the 1970s comparing the outcomes of transgendered people who had the surgery with the outcomes of those who did not. Most of the surgically treated patients described themselves as "satisfied" by the results, but their subsequent psycho-social adjustments were no better than those who didn't have the surgery. And so at Hopkins we stopped doing sex-reassignment surgery, since producing a "satisfied" but still troubled patient seemed an inadequate reason for surgically amputating normal organs.
It now appears that our long-ago decision was a wise one. A 2011 study at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden produced the most illuminating results yet regarding the transgendered, evidence that should give advocates pause. The long-term study—up to 30 years—followed 324 people who had sex-reassignment surgery. The study revealed that beginning about 10 years after having the surgery, the transgendered began to experience increasing mental difficulties. Most shockingly, their suicide mortality rose almost 20-fold above the comparable nontransgender population. This disturbing result has as yet no explanation but probably reflects the growing sense of isolation reported by the aging transgendered after surgery. The high suicide rate certainly challenges the surgery prescription.
There are subgroups of the transgendered, and for none does "reassignment" seem apt. One group includes male prisoners like Pvt. Bradley Manning, the convicted national-security leaker who now wishes to be called Chelsea. Facing long sentences and the rigors of a men's prison, they have an obvious motive for wanting to change their sex and hence their prison. Given that they committed their crimes as males, they should be punished as such; after serving their time, they will be free to reconsider their gender.
Another subgroup consists of young men and women susceptible to suggestion from "everything is normal" sex education, amplified by Internet chat groups. These are the transgender subjects most like anorexia nervosa patients: They become persuaded that seeking a drastic physical change will banish their psycho-social problems. "Diversity" counselors in their schools, rather like cult leaders, may encourage these young people to distance themselves from their families and offer advice on rebutting arguments against having transgender surgery. Treatments here must begin with removing the young person from the suggestive environment and offering a counter-message in family therapy.
Then there is the subgroup of very young, often prepubescent children who notice distinct sex roles in the culture and, exploring how they fit in, begin imitating the opposite sex. Misguided doctors at medical centers including Boston's Children's Hospital have begun trying to treat this behavior by administering puberty-delaying hormones to render later sex-change surgeries less onerous—even though the drugs stunt the children's growth and risk causing sterility. Given that close to 80% of such children would abandon their confusion and grow naturally into adult life if untreated, these medical interventions come close to child abuse. A better way to help these children: with devoted parenting.
At the heart of the problem is confusion over the nature of the transgendered. "Sex change" is biologically impossible. People who undergo sex-reassignment surgery do not change from men to women or vice versa. Rather, they become feminized men or masculinized women. Claiming that this is civil-rights matter and encouraging surgical intervention is in reality to collaborate with and promote a mental disorder.

Dr. McHugh, former psychiatrist in chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital, is the author of "Try to Remember: Psychiatry's Clash Over Meaning, Memory, and Mind" (Dana Press, 2008).

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Garden of Proserpine -- Algernon Charles Swinburne (1837-1909)

The Abduction of Proserpine -- Bernini (1621)

Here, where the world is quiet;
Here, where all trouble seems
Dead winds' and spent waves' riot
In doubtful dreams of dreams;
I watch the green field growing
For reaping folk and sowing,
For harvest-time and mowing,
A sleepy world of streams.

I am tired of tears and laughter,
And men that laugh and weep;
Of what may come hereafter
For men that sow to reap:
I am weary of days and hours,
Blown buds of barren flowers,
Desires and dreams and powers
And everything but sleep.

Here life has death for neighbour,
And far from eye or ear
Wan waves and wet winds labour,
Weak ships and spirits steer;
They drive adrift, and whither
They wot not who make thither;
But no such winds blow hither,
And no such things grow here.

No growth of moor or coppice,
No heather-flower or vine,
But bloomless buds of poppies,
Green grapes of Proserpine,
Pale beds of blowing rushes
Where no leaf blooms or blushes
Save this whereout she crushes
For dead men deadly wine.

Pale, without name or number,
In fruitless fields of corn,
They bow themselves and slumber
All night till light is born;
And like a soul belated,
In hell and heaven unmated,
By cloud and mist abated
Comes out of darkness morn.

Though one were strong as seven,
He too with death shall dwell,
Nor wake with wings in heaven,
Nor weep for pains in hell;
Though one were fair as roses,
His beauty clouds and closes;
And well though love reposes,
In the end it is not well.

Pale, beyond porch and portal,
Crowned with calm leaves, she stands
Who gathers all things mortal
With cold immortal hands;
Her languid lips are sweeter
Than love's who fears to greet her
To men that mix and meet her
From many times and lands.

She waits for each and other,
She waits for all men born;
Forgets the earth her mother,
The life of fruits and corn;
And spring and seed and swallow
Take wing for her and follow
Where summer song rings hollow
And flowers are put to scorn.

There go the loves that wither,
The old loves with wearier wings;
And all dead years draw thither,
And all disastrous things;
Dead dreams of days forsaken,
Blind buds that snows have shaken,
Wild leaves that winds have taken,
Red strays of ruined springs.

We are not sure of sorrow,
And joy was never sure;
To-day will die to-morrow;
Time stoops to no man's lure;
And love, grown faint and fretful,
With lips but half regretful
Sighs, and with eyes forgetful
Weeps that no loves endure.

From too much love of living,
From hope and fear set free,
We thank with brief thanksgiving
Whatever gods may be
That no life lives for ever;
That dead men rise up never;
That even the weariest river
Winds somewhere safe to sea.

Then star nor sun shall waken,
Nor any change of light:
Nor sound of waters shaken,
Nor any sound or sight:
Nor wintry leaves nor vernal,
Nor days nor things diurnal;
Only the sleep eternal
In an eternal night.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Fly Me to the Moon -- Frank Sinatra

 I wonder what ever happened to pop music for grown ups?

Fly me to the moon
And let me play among the stars
Let me see what spring is like
On a Jupiter and Mars
In other words, hold my hand
In other words, baby , kiss me
Fill my heart with song
and let me sing forever more
You are all I long for
All I worship and adore
In other words, please be true
In other words, I love you
Fill my heart with song
Let me sing forever more
You are all I long for
All I worship and adore
In other words, please be true
In other words, I love you

In other words, I love you.

Friday, June 13, 2014

DARPA's PTSD brain implant study

A Marine sits through an eye blink study with sensors attached to his face while taking psychological tests at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, Calif., Sept. 29, 2009.

Defense One

How well can you predict your next mood swing? How well can anyone? It’s an existential dilemma for many of us but for the military, the ability to treat anxiety, depression, memory loss and the symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder has become one of the most important battles of the post-war period.

Now the Pentagon is developing a new, innovative brain chip to treat PTSD in soldiers and veterans that could bring sweeping new changes to the way depression and anxiety is treated for millions of Americans.
With $12 million (and the potential for $26 million more if benchmarks are met), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, wants to reach deep into your brain’s soft tissue to record, predict and possibly treat anxiety, depression and other maladies of mood and mind. Teams from the University of California at San Francisco, Lawrence Livermore National Lab and Medtronic will use the money to create a cybernetic implant with electrodes extending into the brain. The military hopes to have a prototype within 5 years and then plans to seek FDA approval.

DARPA’s Systems-Based Neurotechnology for Emerging Therapies, or SUBNETs, program draws from almost a decade of research in treating disorders such as Parkinson’s disease via a technique called deep brain stimulation. Low doses of electricity are sent deep into the brain in somewhat the same way that a defibrillator sends electricity to jumpstart a heart after cardiac arrest.

While it sounds high-tech, it’s a crude example of what’s possible with future brain-machine interaction and cybernetic implants in the decades ahead.

DARPA is looking for ways to characterize which regions come into play for different conditions – measured from brain networks down to the single neuron level – and develop therapeutic devices that can record activity, deliver targeted stimulation, and most importantly, automatically adjust therapy as the brain itself changes,” DARPA program manager Justin Sanchez said.


“Little is understood of how the brain’s neural circuitry relates to anxiety and other neuropsychiatric disorders. This project will seek to markedly improve that understanding by obtaining maps of the brain’s electrical activity at higher resolution than has been previously possible. The ultimate impact on the treatment of major depression, anxiety disorders, and other conditions remains to be seen, but a more clear understanding of the basis of these disorders is badly needed,” Edward Chang, a neuroscientist at the University of California at San Francisco told Defense One.

The device would record what happens when a subject transitions into a state of anxiousness or depression from a more normal frame of mind. Today, observing brain activity that fine requires a bulky brain-monitoring system like the moderately inconvenient but rather imprecise EEG cap to the much more robust magnetoencephalograph, MEG, which can take very detailed readings of magnetic brain activity millisecond by millisecond. But commonly available MEG readers are enormous, require several gallons of liquid nitrogen to stay cool and can cost around $4 million.

​“There is really no comparison between the vast amount of data you can get from an invasive deep brain implant (i.e. you cut open the skull and put one of more wires deep inside) versus the smeared slow trickle of information you can get from an EEG cap outside the​ skull. Chronic fMRI gives much more data, but is practically impossible on any longer time scales (even hours) due to the cost of using the machine and the required immobility of the subject,” University of Arizona neuroscientist Charles Higgins told Defense One.

If the DARPA program is successful, it will yield new brain-monitoring capabilities that are exponentially cheaper smaller, more useful and that collect data when the patient is most likely to actually encounter traumatic stimuli, not just when he or she is in a lab-making data collection much easier and the data more useful.

“With existing technology, we can’t really record anxiety level inside the brain. We can potentially record adrenaline and cortisol levels in the bloodstream to measure anxiety. However, if a deep brain implant is to be used (as proposed in this project), it might be possible to monitor activity in the amygdala, and this would be a direct way of monitoring anxiety,” said Higgins.

Using that data, the researchers hope to create models and maps to allow for a more precise understanding of the electrical patterns in the brain that signal anxiety, memory loss and depression. The data from devices, when they come online, will be made available to the public but will be rendered anonymous, so records of an individual test subject’s brain activity could not be traced back to a specific person.

In short, researchers will soon know much more about what causes anxiety and mood swings and will be able to predict those transitions in specific patients at specific times. They could then treat depression or anxiety, remotely via a device that pushes the brain to establish new circuits and areas outside of the traumatized regions. It may improve your mood in the future, even the thought of it is a bit distressing today.

First of all, how "voluntary" do you think this research is going to be, or will soldiers be compelled to participate? Secondly, is it really a good idea to make killing people (and watching your friends get killed) less traumatic? Thirdly, do you want white-coated technicians controlling your moods and anxiety levels via brain implants? Who thinks this is a good idea?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Marijuana kills (again) in Colorado

A Denver police dispatcher has been fired after failing to relay key information to officers responding to a woman who was killed 12 minutes into a 911 call.
Police have said the dispatcher had information—including that the woman's husband was getting a gun from a safe—that should have been given to responding officers. The dispatcher was fired Friday, a safety-department spokeswoman said Monday. She didn't release the dispatcher's name.
Police said Kristine Kirk, 44, pleaded in her call last month for authorities to hurry and send officers because her husband had asked her to get a gun and shoot him. She said Richard Kirk was hallucinating after having marijuana-infused candy and possibly pain pills, according to police reports. Mr. Kirk, 47, has been charged with first-degree murder. He hasn't entered a plea.

Their 3 kids were in the house at the time, by the way.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Cry Me A River: Julie London (on the Rosemary Clooney show)

Now you say you're lonely
You cry the whole night through
Well, you can cry me a river, cry me a river
I cried a river over you
Now you say you're sorry
For bein' so untrue
Well, you can cry me a river, cry me a river
I cried a river over you
You drove me, nearly drove me out of my head
While you never shed a tear
Remember, I remember all that you said
Told me love was too plebeian
Told me you were through with me and
Now you say you love me
Well, just to prove you do
Come on and cry me a river, cry me a river
I cried a river over you
I cried a river over you
I cried a river over you
I cried a river over you

And if you are around my age, this was how you first met Miss London:

Julie London as Nurse Dixie McCall on Emergency! (1972-1979)

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Forensic Psychology: Required Viewing

1. Taxi Driver (1976)

A mentally unstable Vietnam war veteran works as a night-time taxi driver in New York City where the perceived decadence and sleaze feeds his urge for violent action, attempting to save a preadolescent prostitute in the process. [This is the film John Hinckley watched dozens of times as he stalked President Carter and then President Reagan.]

2. Casino Royale (2006)

Armed with a license to kill, Secret Agent James Bond sets out on his first mission as 007 and must defeat a weapons dealer in a high stakes game of poker at Casino Royale, but things are not what they seem. [First rate portrayal of the psychopathic personality -- it's Bond, by the way, not Le Chiffre.]

3. Monster (2003)

Based on the life of Aileen Wuornos, a Daytona Beach prostitute who became a serial killer. [Yes, there are female serial killers, though there motives are usually different from those of male serial killers.]

4. In the Line of Fire (1993)

Secret Service agent Frank Horrigan couldn't save Kennedy, but he's determined not to let a clever assassin take out this president. [A nice tribute to Alfred Hitchcock with great performances by Eastwood and Malkovich. For the section on Stalking and Assassinations.]

5. End of Watch (2012)

Shot documentary-style, this film follows the daily grind of two young police officers in LA who are partners and friends, and what happens when they meet criminal forces greater than themselves. [From the cops' point-of-view.]

6. L.A. Confidential (1997)

As corruption grows in 1950s LA, three policemen - one strait-laced, one brutal, and one sleazy - investigate a series of murders with their own brand of justice. [Again, the cops' point-of-view, with some particularly gritty depictions of brutal crimes, and their aftermath.]

7. Primal Fear (1996)

An altar boy is accused of murdering a priest, and the truth is buried several layers deep. [Best ever protrayal of multiple personality disorder on film (Edward Norton). Richard Gere is great as the sleazy defense attorney who grows a soul.]

8. Silence of the Lambs (1991)

A young F.B.I. cadet must confide in an incarcerated and manipulative killer to receive his help on catching another serial killer who skins his victims. [The movie that started the serial killer hoopla and launched FBI "profiler" John Douglas into celebrity.]

9. No Country for Old Men (2007)

Violence and mayhem ensue after a hunter stumbles upon a drug deal gone wrong and more than two million dollars in cash near the Rio Grande. [My candidate for best film of the century, thus far. Other crime films by the Coen Brothers: Blood Simple, Fargo (the TV series is also great), and Miller's Crossing.]

10. The Battle of Algiers (1966)

In the 1950s, fear and violence escalate as the people of Algiers fight for independence from the French government. [For the section on terrorism, interrogations, and torture. For nearly half a century, a "How-To" film for both insurgents and counterinsurgents.]

11. The Day of the Jackal (1973)

A professional assassin codenamed "Jackal" plots to kill Charles de Gaulle, the President of France. [For the Stalking and Assassinations section. As they say, based on true events.]

12. The Godfather  (1972) & The Godfather, Part II (1974)

The aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son. [I used to simply assume that every one has seen these films but I have learned that it is wrong to do so. Being an American and not being familiar with these films is like never having heard the National Anthem played at a baseball stadium.]

Monday, June 9, 2014

Cannabis-Induced Psychosis, as related by New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd


The caramel-chocolate flavored candy bar looked so innocent, like the Sky Bars I used to love as a child.
Sitting in my hotel room in Denver, I nibbled off the end and then, when nothing happened, nibbled some more. I figured if I was reporting on the social revolution rocking Colorado in January, the giddy culmination of pot Prohibition, I should try a taste of legal, edible pot from a local shop.
What could go wrong with a bite or two?
Everything, as it turned out.
Not at first. For an hour, I felt nothing. I figured I’d order dinner from room service and return to my more mundane drugs of choice, chardonnay and mediocre-movies-on-demand.
But then I felt a scary shudder go through my body and brain. I barely made it from the desk to the bed, where I lay curled up in a hallucinatory state for the next eight hours. I was thirsty but couldn’t move to get water. Or even turn off the lights. I was panting and paranoid, sure that when the room-service waiter knocked and I didn’t answer, he’d call the police and have me arrested for being unable to handle my candy.
I strained to remember where I was or even what I was wearing, touching my green corduroy jeans and staring at the exposed-brick wall. As my paranoia deepened, I became convinced that I had died and no one was telling me.
It took all night before it began to wear off, distressingly slowly. The next day, a medical consultant at an edibles plant where I was conducting an interview mentioned that candy bars like that are supposed to be cut into 16 pieces for novices; but that recommendation hadn’t been on the label.