Saturday, February 28, 2015

America (West Side Story) -- Stephen Sondheim

"Smoke on your pipe, and put that in!"

Puerto Rico,
My heart’s devotion--
Let it sink back in the ocean.
Always the hurricanes blowing,
Always the population growing,
And the money owing.
And the sunlight streaming,
And the natives steaming.
I like the island Manhattan,
Smoke on your pipe and put that in.

GIRLS (chorus)
I like to be in America,
Okay by me in America,
Everything free in America -

For a small fee in America.

Buying on credit is so nice.

One look at us and they charge twice.

I’ll have my own washing machine.

What will you have, though, to keep clean?

Skyscrapers bloom in America.

Cadillacs zoom in America.

Industry boom in America.

Twelve in a room in America.

Lots of new housing with more space.

Lots of doors slamming in our face.

I’ll get a terrace apartment.

Better get rid of your accent.

Life can be bright in America.

If you can fight in America.

Life is all right in America.

If you’re all white in America.

(an interlude of WHISTLING and DANCING)

Here you are free and you have pride.

Long as you stay on your own side.

Free to be anything you choose.

Free to wait tables and shine shoes.

Everywhere grime in America,
Organized crime in America,
Terrible time in America.

You forget I’m in America.

(An interlude of MORE DANCING)

I think I go back to San Juan

I know a boat you can get on.

Everyone there will give big cheer.

Everyone there will have moved here.

Music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.
© 1956, 1957 Amberson Holdings LLC and Stephen Sondheim. Copyright renewed.
Leonard Bernstein Music Publishing Company LLC, Publisher.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Who's afraid of using "secret surveys" to predict future criminal behavior?

"So, how'd I do on your test?"

"States are trying to reduce prison populations with secretive, new psychological assessments to predict which inmates will commit future crimes and who might be safe to release, despite serious problems and high-profile failures, an Associated Press investigation found.
These programs are part of a national, data-driven movement to drive down prison populations, reduce recidivism and save billions. They include questionnaires often with more than 100 questions about an offender's education, family, income, job status, history of moving, parents' arrest history — or whether he or she has a phone. A score is affixed to each answer and the result helps shape how the offender will be supervised in the system — or released from custody.
Used for crimes ranging from petty thievery to serial murders, these questionnaires come with their own set of risks, according to the AP's examination.
Many rely on criminals to tell the truth, and jurisdictions don't always check to make sure the answers are accurate. They are used inconsistently across the country, sometimes within the same jurisdiction. The same defendant might be scored differently in the same crime.
Supporters cite some research, such as a 1987 Rand Corp. study that said the surveys accurately can predict the likelihood of repeat offenses as much as 70 percent of the time if they are used correctly. But even the Rand study, one of the seminal pieces of research on the subject, was skeptical of the surveys' overall effectiveness. It's nearly impossible to measure the surveys' impact on recidivism because they are only part of broader efforts.
Some surveys have the potential to punish people for being poor or uneducated by attaching a lower risk to those who have steady work and high levels of education. [But being poor or uneducated are significant predictors of recidivism!] The surveys are clouded in secrecy. Some states never release the evaluations, shielding government officials from being held accountable for decisions that affect public safety.
"It is a vast improvement over the decision-making process of 20, 30 years ago when parole boards and the courts didn't have any statistical information to base their decisions on," said Adam Gelb, director of the Public Safety Performance Project at the Pew Charitable Trusts, which is working with the Justice Department to shape reforms nationally.

"Criminal sentences must be based on the facts, the law, the actual crimes committed, the circumstances surrounding each individual case, and the defendant's history of criminal conduct," Attorney General Eric Holder told the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers in August. "They should not be based on unchangeable factors that a person cannot control, or on the possibility of a future crime that has not taken place."
Cost savings, however, make these tools appealing to states.
North Carolina, for instance, could save $560 million by 2017, a Justice Department report concluded. Between 2011 and 2014, the North Carolina prison population decreased by more than 3,000 people, according to the state. These reforms, including the use of risk assessments, has saved the state nearly $84 million, and it plans to route $32 million of those savings for community treatment programs."

 Personality predicts behavior. That's science. Our measures of, say, psychopathy, are not perfect, and neither is our detection of criminal behavior, so, sure, there are going to be errors. THERE WILL ALWAYS BE ERRORS. That's why the only way to ensure that no innocent people are in prison is to not sentence anyone to prison. The use of predictive tools to guide parole decisions actually reduces the error rate: low risk people are more likely to be released, and high risk people are more likely to be retained. With regard to psychopathic personality, a psychopath is at least twice as likely to recidivate (i.e., commit the same crime again) as a non-psychopath. So if you're looking to reduce your prison population, who should you release? Let me give you a hint: Hang on to the psychopath. Can psychopathy be measured reliably and accurately? Well, just about as well as an MRI can detect a tumor growing in your brain. Which is to say -- YES.

That the Attorney General of the United States seems to be opposed to the use of scientifically validated instruments to predict future behavior is sad, but unsurprising. You don't have to know anything about science or statistics to be a lawyer, or a politician. In fact, it seems that the less they know about those subjects, the more successful they are.

See also: Parole Boards Use Software to Predict Recidivism


Thursday, February 26, 2015

How's that NGRI defense working for ya?

Mentally ill U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Eddie Routh

Eddie Routh's problem (aside from killing two people, of course -- including famed SEAL sniper Chris Kyle) was that he admitted to two things in his 90 minute videotaped confession:

1) he was "sorry" for what he did [i.e., he knew it was wrong]

2) he smoked a "wet joint" prior to the murders [i.e., a PCP-laced marijuana cigarette]

In Texas, if you are voluntarily intoxicated OR if you knew what you did was wrong, there simply is no NGRI -- that defense never had a chance.

By the way, Marcus Luttrell (the "Lone Survivor") is a great big a-hole, per his post-sentencing Facebook posting:
“To Eddie Ray Routh, you thought you had PTSD before .?? Wait till the boys in TDC [Texas Department of Corrections] Find out you killed a TX hero,” he wrote.
I'm not sure that anyone should be celebrating that we are sending yet another mentally ill human being into the hell that is the American penal system. He won't get the treatment he needs in prison; he won't be able to follow the rules; and, he'll end up doing time in a Segregated Housing Unit (solitary), which will make his mental condition even worse. Hooray! Cruel and Unusual Punishment is alive and well in the United States of America! Never mind the 8th Amendment.
The Washington Post has a good piece on the case.

"As noted in this Dallas Morning News piece, Routh had been in and out of Green Oaks Psychiatric Hospital in Dallas at least twice in the five months before Kyle and Littlefield were killed. The facility treats adults with conditions including suicidal thoughts, depression, psychotic thinking and bipolar disorder.
Routh had previously threatened to kill himself and his family, the Dallas Morning News reported. The Daily Mail of Britain, citing an interview with Routh’s father, also reported that the Marine veteran spent three weeks in a Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Dallas after having an episode near a lake."

The prosecution's expert witness [a clinical/forensic psychologist] said Routh has paranoid personality disorder and substance-induced psychosis (not schizophrenia). The defense's expert [a psychiatrist] said that he had paranoid schizophrenia. Even if the jury believed that Routh was schizophrenic, it wouldn't have mattered, because of 1) and 2) as stated above. Just because you are schizophrenic, it doesn't mean you get the NGRI acquittal.

As a side note, another defense expert who evaluated Routh, Dr. Charles Overstreet, had his testimony barred because he is neither a licensed physician nor a licensed clinical psychologist. He has a Ph.D. in something psychology-related but he is only a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, so the prosecution objected and the judge concurred.

In the battle of experts, a clinical psychologist triumphed over a psychiatrist in this case. J
It shows that juries don't care about your degree. They are looking at your suit. And that distinguished silver hair at your temples.

In any event, it was the videotaped confession that nailed Eddie Routh. And Texas's draconian NGRI statute.

 Will people be cheering when Eddie Routh kills himself in prison?


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?

Flannery O'Connor, Jane Austen, and Edith Wharton -- there's a lot to be said for "chick lit."

For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?

—Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Nietzsche on trauma


"Terrible experiences make one wonder whether who experiences them is not something terrible."

Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Maxim 89 [R.J. Hollingdale, trans.]

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Agony and the Ecstasy at Wesleyan

Twelve people at Wesleyan University overdosed on "Molly" (a rebranding of Ecstasy, i.e., a street hodgepodge of amphetamines and psychedelics). The vice-president for student affairs sent out this email message:
“First, and most importantly, please check in with your friends immediately to make sure that they are okay. Do this right now!”
Then the college president, sent this email a day later, as reported by the New York Times:
"But an email on Monday from Michael S. Roth, the college president, dispatched with the gentle dissuasive voice that some administrators prefer when speaking about drugs, instead resorting to a collar-grabbing warning.
Please, please stay away from illegal substances the use of which can put you in extreme danger,” he said. “One mistake can change your life forever.”
“If you are aware of people distributing these substances, please let someone know before more people are hurt,” Mr. Roth added."
To me, that still sounds pretty gentle and dissuasive. Not terribly collar-grabbing.

How about something like this?
"Wesleyan University is committed to producing graduates of character and good citizens of our Republic. Students are reminded that the possession, consumption, manufacture, or distribution of substances such as "Molly" are all felony criminal offenses. Therefore, the 10 students recently hospitalized have all been expelled and may never again pursue studies at our college. We wish them well in their recovery but are no longer interested in pursuing an association with them."
The first duty of a citizen is to obey the laws. The "look the other way" attitude of college administrators toward under-aged drinking and illicit drug use is a national disgrace. Let college presidents lobby for lowering the drinking age to 18 and legalizing drugs. Or, let them enforce real penalties for offenders on their campuses. Whichever. Please, please, let the hypocrisy end.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Te lucis ante terminum (Before the end of the light...)

A hymn/prayer against nightmares, mentioned in Canto VIII of Dante's Purgatorio.

"An old and venerable Ambrosian hymn from the 7th century for the close of day at Compline. This version is the one found in the Monastic Breviary and the Roman Breviary. The current version in the Liturgy of the Hours, which is given below, drops the second verse and replaces it with two other verses." [Source]
TE lucis ante terminum,
rerum Creator, poscimus
ut pro tua clementia
sis praesul et custodia.
TO Thee, before the close of day
Creator of the world, we pray
that with Thy wonted favor, Thou
wouldst be our Guard and Keeper now.
Procul recedant somnia
et noctium phantasmata;
hostemque nostrum comprime,
ne polluantur corpora.
From all ill dreams defend our eyes,
from nightly fears and fantasies:
tread under foot our ghostly foe,
that no pollution we may know.
Praesta, Pater piissime,
Patrique compar Unice,
cum Spiritu Paraclito
regnans per omne saeculum.
O Father, that we ask be done
through Jesus Christ Thine only Son,
who, with the Holy Ghost and Thee,
shall live and reign eternally.

From the Roman Breviary, translation by J. M. Neale (1818-1866).


Saturday, February 21, 2015

Waters of March -- Susanna McCorkle

É pau, é pedra, [A stick, a stone,]
é o fim do caminho [It's the end of the road,]
É um resto de toco, [It's the rest of a stump,]
é um pouco sozinho [It's a little alone]

A stick, a stone,
It's the end of the road,
It's feeling alone
It's the weight of your load

It's a sliver of glass,
It's life, it's the sun,
It's night, it's death,
It's a knife, it's a gun

A flower that blooms,
A fox in the brush,
A knot in the wood,
The song of a thrush

The mystery of life
The steps in the hall
The sound of the wind
And the waterfall

It's the moon floating free,
It's the curve of the slope,
It's an ant, it's a bee,
It's a reason for hope

And the river bank sings
Of the waters of March,
It's the promise of spring,
It's the joy in your heart

É o pé, é o chão, [The foot, the ground,]
é a marcha estradeira [The flesh and the bone,]
Passarinho na mão, [The beat of the road,]
pedra de atiradeira [A slingshot's stone]

É uma ave no céu, [A fish, a flash,]
é uma ave no chão [A silvery glow,]
É um regato, é uma fonte, [A fight, a bet,]
é um pedaço de pão [The range of a bow]

É o fundo do poço, [The bed of the well,]
é o fim do caminho [The end of the line,]
No rosto o desgosto, [The dismay in the face,]
é um pouco sozinho [It's a little alone]

A spear, a spike,
A stake, a nail,
It's a drip, It's a drop,
It's the end of the tale

A dew on the leaf
In the morning light
The shot of a gun
In the dead of the night

A mile, a must,
A thrust, a bump,
It's the will to survive
It's a jolt, it's a jump

A blueprint of a house,
A body in bed,
The car stuck in the mud,
It's the mud, it's the mud

A fish, a flash
A wish, a wink
It's a hawk, it's a dove
It's the promise of spring

And the river bank sings
Of the waters of March,
It's the end of despair
It's the joy in your heart

É pau, é pedra, [A stick, a stone,]
é o fim do caminho [It's the end of the road,]
É um resto de toco, [It's the rest of a stump,]
é um pouco sozinho [It's a little alone]

É uma cobra, é um pau, [A snake, a stick,]
é João, é José [It is John, it is Joe,]
É um espinho na mão, [It's a thorn in your hand]
é um corte no pé [and a cut in your toe]

São as águas de março [And the riverbank talks]
fechando o verão [Of the waters of March,]
É a promessa de vida [It's the promise of life]
no teu coração [It's the joy in your heart]

A stick, a stone,
It's the end of the road,
The stump of a tree,
It's a frog, it's a toad

A sigh of breath,
A walk, a run,
A life, a death,
A ray in the sun

And the riverbank sings
Of the waters of march
It's the promise of life,
It's the joy in your heart

São as águas de março [And the riverbank talks]
fechando o verão [Of the waters of March,]
É a promessa de vida [It's the promise of life]
no teu coração [It's the joy in your heart]

É pau, é pedra, [A stick, a stone,]
é o fim do caminho [It's the end of the road,]
É um resto de toco, [It's the rest of a stump,]
é um pouco sozinho [It's a little alone]

É pau, é pedra, [A stick, a stone,]
é o fim do caminho [It's the end of the road,]
É um resto de toco, [It's the rest of a stump,]
é um pouco sozinho [It's a little alone]

Friday, February 20, 2015

Can esoteric reading save the humanities?

Allan Bloom leading a class at the University of Chicago

From a review of an exciting new book on esoteric writing in The American Interest:
"I am much struck today by the total disarray of the humanities in American academia. The job market prizes quantitative skills far higher than qualitative ones; there is also a widespread feeling that while anyone can become an English or classics major, learning a “hard” skill like statistics or physics is far more difficult. The humanities as taught in many contemporary universities have only themselves to blame for the latter view: Under the influence of postmodernism and deconstructionism, textual interpretation has become lazy, arbitrary, indulgently expressive, and scornful of the idea that books have anything true to teach their readers. Esoteric reading reestablishes a discipline that has been lost, for it requires close and slow reading, and it restores an assumption that there is in fact a “true” interpretation reflecting the author’s intent that is not simply the whim of the interpreter."
I agree that majoring in a STEM discipline can be more difficult than majoring in the humanities. But that is largely because: 1) STEM teaching is generally atrocious, and 2) the course content is inherently less interesting, because STEM is largely concerned with things, not people.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Naval Academy English professor Bruce Fleming strikes again!

The best and the brightest

"The mission of the Naval Academy is “to develop midshipmen morally, mentally and physically and to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, honor, and loyalty,” How inspiring these ideals are!
There’s one problem. Nobody ever asks if we achieve these goals. I know after 28 years that we don’t.
The service academies in the new millennium are little more than military Disneylands for tourists. They are also cash cows for the brass who send their own children there at taxpayer expense: the children of multiple current and past administrators have gotten this taxpayer-supported present, which looks to me like (illegal) nepotism. And far from “imbu[ing] them with the highest ideals,” the service academies are in fact the graveyards of the ideals of students who come looking for something that transcends the watery values of secular humanism that are the best many other institutions can offer.
And they’re hardly, on average, the “best and the brightest.” In fact more than a quarter of the class has SAT scores below 600, and our average is lower than the nearby state school University of Maryland. Twenty percent of our class comes through a taxpayer-supported remedial 13th grade (another almost $50,000 per student for taxpayers). They fill our remedial courses (I am teaching some of these this semester, as a full professor)—a second try at getting them up to college level.  The top 10 percent are impressive. But they are the exceptions rather than the rule, and almost all (I know from talking to them) are deeply disillusioned by the Academy and by what they found there.
Few students come for the classroom experience (many come for the “free” college degree) and academics are a tiny part of life at the academies. Most students are annoyed they have to go to class at all. Almost all are sleep-deprived (first-year students aren’t allowed to take naps) and try to fall asleep as soon as they sit down. Mind-dump memorization is the norm. Many classes are mandatory, even those that won’t be used later (for example electrical engineering for Marines)—including classes in “leadership” (which almost everyone agrees is a waste of time) and elementary computer knowledge, rendered sexy as “cybersecurity,” which is outdated by the time they graduate. 
The relentless nature of the hype, and its hollowness, prove the pointlessness of these places.  “Leaders to serve the Nation,” say the flags on posts at Annapolis. Nobody defines what a leader is, or asks whether somebody like a Silicon Valley innovator might not be serving her nation as much as, if not more than, a desk jockey officer in a fruitless military endeavor in Iraq. Or a first-grade teacher. Or a doctor, or a violinist, or a scientist: we graduate almost none of these. Leaders? Really? Officers, sure, because we have the congressional power to make our graduates officers. That’s a bit circular. And about half leave the military after their obligation of five to seven years as a junior officer, and some are let go before as the military downsizes. At your expense.
Do we teach them “character” as we claim we do? Apparently not. In fact about a third of the commanding officers removed in 2012 for malfeasance—record numbers for Navy—were Academy graduates."

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Inferno, Canto XXX -- Dante


  E quando la fortuna volse in basso
  l'altezza de' Troian che tutto ardiva,
  sì che 'nsieme col regno il re fu casso,
  Ecuba trista, misera e cattiva,
  poscia che vide Polissena morta,
  e del suo Polidoro in su la riva
  del mar si fu la dolorosa accorta,
  forsennata latrò sì come cane;
  tanto il dolor le fé la mente torta.

And after fortune turned against the pride
of Troy, which had dared all, so that the king
together with his kingdom, was destroyed,

then Hecuba was wretched, sad, a captive;
and after she had seen Polyxena
dead and, in misery, had recognized

her Polydorus lying on the shore,
she barked, out of her senses, like a dog --
her agony had so deformed her mind.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

"What does God want from you?": Disgrace -- J.M. Coetzee

This is a great novel, but bleak, Bleak, BLEAK. David Lurie, the protagonist, is a bit less sympathetic than Humbert Humbert. I imagine that this novel is "taught" in college courses through the lenses of race/gender/class/colonialism, etc. This paper, which is actually okay, even describes the scene in which Lurie's daughter is gang-raped and he is set on fire as one in which he loses his "white male privilege." [I think that William Golding would have put it a bit differently.]
Well, that's too bad.
The book's actually about God, and the emptiness of modern life.
The only sensible and decent person in the novel is the father of the young woman that Lurie rapes. Lurie, the unbeliever, comes to the family to ask forgiveness (or, rather, to parade his faux-contrition). The father says, in the most important line in the book:
"The question is, what does God want from you, besides being very sorry."
The remainder of the book is a sad account of Lurie's inability to take seriously that (rather unsettling) question, and thus his failure to change in any meaningful way.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Deer -- Helen Mort


The deer my mother swears to God we never saw,
the ones that stepped between the trees
on pound-coin-coloured hooves,
I’d bring them up each teatime in the holidays

and they were brighter every time I did;
more supple than the otters we waited for
at Ullapool, more graceful than the kingfisher
that darned the river south of Rannoch Moor.

Five years on, in that same house, I rose
for water in the middle of the night and watched
my mother at the window, looking out
to where the forest lapped the garden’s edge.

From where she stood, I saw them stealing
through the pines and they must have been closer
than before, because I had no memory
of those fish-bone ribs, that ragged fur,
their eyes, like hers, that flickered back
towards whatever followed them.

In addition to being a poet, Ms. Mort also has an article in Psychological Medicine:

Mason, O., Mort, H., & Woo, J. (2014). Research Letter: Investigating psychotic traits in poets Psychological Medicine, 1-3 DOI: 10.1017/S0033291714002670

Neuroskeptic discusses the study here. It's on the relationship between psychosis and poetry.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Death -- W.B. Yeats (1933)

Nor dread nor hope attend
A dying animal;
A man awaits his end
Dreading and hoping all;
Many times he died,
Many times rose again.
A great man in his pride
Confronting murderous men
Casts derision upon
Supersession of breath;
He knows death to the bone --
Man has created death.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Since I Fell for You -- Fontella Bass (1965)

When you just give love
And never get love
You'd better let love depart
I know it's so, and yet I know
I can't get you out of my heart

You made me leave my happy home
You took my love and now you're gone
Since I fell for you

Love brings such misery and pain
I guess I'll never be the same
Since I fell for you

Well, it's too bad
And it's too sad
But I'm in love with you
You love me, then you snub me
But what can I do?
I'm still in love with you

I guess I'll never see the light
I get the blues most every night
Since I fell for you
Since I fell for you...

Friday, February 13, 2015

La Mer -- Chantal Chamberland

Natalie Wood looks like Chantal Chamberland sounds

La mer
Qu'on voit danser le long des golfes clairs
A des reflets d'argent
La mer
Des reflets changeants
Sous la pluie

La mer
Au ciel d'été confond
Ses blancs moutons
Avec les anges si purs
La mer bergère d'azur

Près des étangs
Ces grands roseaux mouillés
Ces oiseaux blancs
Et ces maisons rouillées

La mer
Les a bercés
Le long des golfes clairs
Et d'une chanson d'amour

La mer
A bercé mon coeur pour la vie

Près des étangs
Ces grands roseaux mouillés
Ces oiseaux blancs
Et ces maisons rouillées

La mer
Les a bercés
Le long des golfes clairs
Et d'une chanson d'amour

La mer
A bercé mon coeur pour la vie

La mer
La mer
La mer

Compare and contrast:

Thursday, February 12, 2015

From now on, let's keep firearms out of PTSD treatment, okay?

"The Doctor will see you now."


"Shortly before being slain, Chris Kyle, the Navy SEAL whose autobiography was turned into the hit movie "American Sniper," texted a friend next to him in a pickup truck that the man who moments later would shoot them both was "nuts," a defense lawyer said on Wednesday.
A Texas jury heard opening statements and the first witness in the trial of former U.S. Marine Eddie Ray Routh, 27. He is charged with murdering Kyle and Chad Littlefield, Kyle's friend and neighbor, in February 2013 at a shooting range about 70 miles (110 km) southwest of Fort Worth.

Routh was driven to the range by Kyle, who had been helping fellow veterans heal the mental scars stemming from combat.

As the three men sped over Texas country roads, Kyle, who was credited with the most kills of any U.S. sniper, sent a text to Littlefield that read: "This dude is straight up nuts," defense attorney Tim Moore told jurors.

Defense attorneys did not dispute that Routh shot the men but pressed their case that he should be found not guilty by reason of insanity. They said he was in a paranoid psychotic episode and did not know his actions were wrong when he shot the two men. They said Routh suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, caused by overseas deployments.
Kyle's widow, Taya...said she knew something was amiss when she spoke by phone to Kyle at the shooting range, a scenic location he often visited to help fellow veterans trying to manage PTSD.
Taya Kyle said bonding over target practice helped her husband discuss difficult matters with veterans trying to adjust to life after battle.
"They can really talk and commiserate and get some healing done," she said of the outings.
Erath County District Attorney Alan Nash said Routh shot the two men multiple times in the back and stole the truck and weapons, knowing it was wrong.
Nash said Routh served as a weapons tech in a safe zone in Iraq. The defense told the jury that Routh was severely affected mentally by his earthquake relief efforts with the Marines in Haiti in 2010.
The trial is expected to take about two weeks. If Routh is convicted, prosecutors said they would seek a life sentence."

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Looks like Chris Kyle's accused killer is going to try a Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity defense

Eddie Routh, former Marine accused of killing renowned SEAL sniper, Chris Kyle

STEPHENVILLE — A jury of two men and 10 women was selected Monday at the trial for Eddie Routh, the man accused of killing Chris Kyle and Chad Littlefield.
Opening arguments are expected to begin on Wednesday.
Defense attorneys have indicated they will try to show jurors that Routh is mentally insane.
Jerry Loftin, a longtime attorney who has handled high-profile cases for decades, says that is probably the only chance Routh has to be found not guilty.

Washington Post
"Either way, both sides will try to disentangle Routh’s complicated pre-war past from whatever mental scars he might bear.
Friends who knew him told the New Yorker in a riveting 2013 investigation that as a teen, Routh was a “standard troublemaker” with no respect for teachers:
 Kc Bernard, who was a security guard at the school for two of the years that Routh was there, said that Routh was “always ready to fight” and “had a chip on his shoulder.”
But his dispatches to family while he was deployed suggest that Routh was also haunted by the death he witnessed in the war zone, including one incident in which he might have killed someone while on patrol.
Routh served four years in the military and was stationed in Iraq from 2007 to 2008 and on a disaster relief mission in Haiti in 2010. He returned to the United States and worked odd jobs, and he was reportedly prescribed eight medications to treat a wide range of symptoms, including depression, mania and nightmares, according to the New Yorker.
His complex psychological profile and troubles with substance abuse that his family coped with upon his return are almost standard for people with PTSD.
“Other than depression, PTSD has more co-morbidities than any other mental disorder,” said Edna Foa, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania who developed a breakthrough treatment protocol for PTSD. “So it is very common to have PTSD and also depression and also other anxiety disorders, and many other morbidities.”
Though not everyone does, some people with PTSD experience flashes of anger as a symptom. When anger on rare occasions turns to violence, it could be because the person is experiencing a flashback, which might to them seem like a potent hallucination, Foa said."

I don't know -- I wasn't there and I've never examined Mr. Routh. Could severe PTSD contribute to a successful NGRI defense? Sure -- it has before. His lawyer is right, though -- compared to Chris Kyle, he's not a terribly sympathetic defendant. But those New Yorker snippets make him look to me like a pretty typical Marine Corps recruit, not a psychopath. I will say this: whatever treatment he received from the VA didn't work.

And let's hope that Chris Kyle's brand of PTSD-treatment -- taking veterans to gun ranges -- is abandoned forever in the wake of this tragedy.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

College professors should try teaching

"Like the downfall of an empire, the collapse of something as complex as the professoriate defies simple monocausal analysis. There is, undoubtedly, a multitude of factors that account for our plight. Many are beyond our control and culpability, like decreased public funding for higher education and America’s inveterate anti-intellectualism.
That said, we can and should be held accountable for all sorts of inanities...It was not unwarranted to pose political questions in our research. We erred, however, in politicizing inquiry to the extent that we did. There is nothing wrong with importing theory into studies of literature, art, cinema, and so forth. It was ill-advised to bring so much theory—and almost always the same dense and ideologically tinctured brand of it—to bear on our vast canon of texts and traditions.
But no decision we ever made could have been more catastrophic than this one: Somewhere along the way, we spiritually and emotionally disengaged from teaching and mentoring students. The decision—which certainly hasn’t ingratiated us to the job-seeking generation—has resulted in one whopper of a contradiction. While teaching undergraduates is, normally, a large part of a professor’s job, success in our field is correlated with a professor’s ability to avoid teaching undergraduates.
It follows from this contradiction that the more accomplished the scholar, the less she or he is required to engage with students. Prestigious institutions perpetuate this logic by freeing their most distinguished faculty members from classroom responsibilities. Such luminaries, of course, might be asked to teach a small graduate course in their area of microspecialization. Or they might speak at multitudes of underclassmen in a stadium-size auditorium. These stars will be shielded by a battalion of teaching assistants, lest they be disquieted by some sophomore’s imbecilic concern about her midterm grade.
Permit me to illustrate these contradictions with a personal example. When I was an adjunct, teaching at (criminally) underfunded public community colleges and universities, I would cobble together six courses in the fall and six more in the spring. When I won the lottery and received a tenure-track job at a midlevel institution, I graduated to a 3-3. After improbably hitting another jackpot and making it to an elite university, I now enjoy the luxury of a 2-1. I have never been so garlanded in my field as to receive the 0-1 or the vaunted "double zero"—the mark of exemplary scholarly achievement.
We live by the unspoken creed that teaching is, well, not really what one is supposed to be doing. Conversely, doing a lot of teaching is construed as a sign that one is not doing well. This perverse reasoning leads scholars to conjure up all manner of strategies geared to evading the lectern and maximizing undisturbed research time.


I submit a re-visioning of an American college professor’s job description: The successful candidate will be skilled in, and passionately devoted to, teaching and mentoring 18- to 22-year-olds, as well as those in other age groups. Additionally, she or he will show promise as an original and creative researcher."

Monday, February 9, 2015

Chinese gamer chops off his hand to cure his addiction

This Is How South Korean Children Battle Game Addiction
South Korean boot camp to treat video game addiction

Telegraph (UK)

"A Chinese teenager has been rushed to hospital after chopping off his hand in a desperate attempt to cure his addiction to the internet.
There are currently an estimated 24 million young “web junkies” in China according to official estimates and a growing number of clinics and military-style “boot camps” designed to rehabilitate them.
Campaigners say Asian countries such as China, which boasts some 649 million internet users, are in the midst of a major online addiction epidemic.
Tao Ran, an army psychologist who runs a well-known Beijing rehab centre for internet addicts, estimated that around 14 per cent of his country’s youth were now hooked.
Symptoms ranged from young people who skipped lessons at school to others who were so severely addicted that they rarely left their bedrooms and inhabited an almost entirely virtual universe.
“They only do two things: sleeping and playing,” said Mr Tao, who traced the crisis back around a decade.
Politicians are also starting to take note. Last month Taiwanese lawmakers approved changes to legislation that meant authorities could fine parents who allowed their children to spend excessive amounts of time using “electronic products”.
In Japan, internet “fasting camps” have been set up in response to claims that hundreds of thousands of teenagers are abandoning the real world for the virtual one."

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Thomas Merton's prayer

Thomas Merton (1915-1968) was an American Catholic writer and mystic. A Trappist monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani, Kentucky, he was a poet, social activist, and student of comparative religion.

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.  
I do not see the road ahead of me.  
I cannot know for certain where it will end.  
Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.  
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.  
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.  
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.  
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it.  
Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.  
I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

(From Thoughts in Solitude)

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The War Prayer -- Mark Twain


It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory with stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener.
It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety’s sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.
Sunday morning came — next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams — visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender!
Then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation:
God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest,
Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!
Then came the “long” prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory —
An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher’s side and stood there waiting. With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, “Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord and God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!”
The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside — which the startled minister did — and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:
“I come from the Throne — bearing a message from Almighty God!” The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. “He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import — that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of — except he pause and think. “God’s servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two — one uttered, and the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this — keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon your neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain on your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse on some neighbor’s crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.
“You have heard your servant’s prayer — the uttered part of it. I am commissioned by God to put into words the other part of it — that part which the pastor — and also you in your hearts — fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard the words ‘Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!’ That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory — must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!
“Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth into battle — be Thou near them! With them — in spirit — we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended in the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames in summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it —
For our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet!
We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.
(After a pause.) “Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits.”
It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

U.S. Marines killed hundreds of Filipino civilians in retaliation for the Balangiga Massacre (1901)

My Lai, South Vietnam, March 16, 1968
Azizabad, Afganistan (2008): UN confirms that U.S. AC-130 airstrike kills 90 civilians, mostly children


Friday, February 6, 2015

King Abdullah of Jordan is going to go all William Munney on ISIS's ass

Washington Examiner

"Members of the House Armed Services Committee met with Jordan's King Abdullah Tuesday not long after news broke that ISIS had burned to death a Jordanian pilot captured in the fight against the terrorist group. In a private session with lawmakers, the king showed an extraordinary measure of anger — anger which he expressed by citing American movie icon Clint Eastwood.
"He said there is going to be retribution like ISIS hasn't seen," said Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr., a Marine Corps veteran of two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, who was in the meeting with the king. "He mentioned 'Unforgiven' and he mentioned Clint Eastwood, and he actually quoted a part of the movie."
Hunter would not say which part of "Unforgiven" the king quoted, but noted it was where Eastwood's character describes how he is going to deliver his retribution. There is a scene in the picture in which Eastwood's character, William Munny, says, "Any man I see out there, I'm gonna kill him. Any son of a bitch takes a shot at me, I'm not only going to kill him, I'm going to kill his wife and all his friends and burn his damn house down."

IMDB has it slightly differently:

Will Munny: All right, I'm coming out. Any man I see out there, I'm gonna shoot him. Any sumbitch takes a shot at me, I'm not only gonna kill him, but I'm gonna kill his wife, all his friends, and burn his damn house down.

The good King might disagree, but I think the point of the movie was more about these lines:

The Schofield Kid: [after killing a man for the first time] It don't seem real... how he ain't gonna never breathe again, ever... how he's dead. And the other one too. All on account of pulling a trigger.
Will Munny: It's a hell of a thing, killing a man. Take away all he's got and all he's ever gonna have.
The Schofield Kid: Yeah, well, I guess they had it coming.
Will Munny: We all got it coming, kid.


Little Bill Daggett: I don't deserve this... to die like this. I was building a house.
Will Munny: Deserve's got nothin' to do with it.
[aims gun]
Little Bill Daggett: I'll see you in hell, William Munny.
Will Munny: Yeah.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Putin has Asperger's, say high-priced bullshit peddlers

On second thought, maybe there is something to this Movement Pattern Analysis...

"A study from a Pentagon think tank theorizes that Russian President Vladimir Putin has Asperger's syndrome, "an autistic disorder which affects all of his decisions," according to the 2008 report obtained by USA TODAY.
Putin's "neurological development was significantly interrupted in infancy," wrote Brenda Connors, an expert in movement pattern analysis at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I. Studies of his movement, Connors wrote, reveal "that the Russian President carries a neurological abnormality."
The 2008 study was one of many by Connors and her colleagues, who are contractors for the Office of Net Assessment (ONA), an internal Pentagon think tank that helps devise long-term military strategy.
Connors' program is called Body Leads. Military contract records show the Pentagon has paid at least $365,000 on outside experts to work with her since 2009. The two reports mention other work she and associates have done since Putin's rise to power, including a 2005 study called "An Act of Trust to Move Ahead" and studies in 2004-05 and 2008 by movement pattern analysis pioneer Warren Lamb.
Both reports, the 2008 study of Putin and a 2011 analysis of Putin and then-President Dimitry Medvedev, cite Putin's physical difficulties as shaping his decision making and behavior. "His primary form of compensation is extreme control," which "is reflected in his decision style and how he governs," the report said.
Military analysts first noticed Putin's movement patterns on Jan. 1, 2000, "in the first television footage ever seen of the then, newly appointed president of Russia," wrote Connors, who has been studying movement patterns for the Pentagon since 1996.
"Today, project neurologists confirm this research project's earlier hypothesis that very early in life perhaps, even in utero, Putin suffered a huge hemispheric event to the left temporal lobe of the prefrontal cortex, which involves both central and peripheral nervous systems, gross motor functioning on his right side (head, rib cage, arm and leg) and his micro facial expression, eye gaze, hearing and voice and general affect," the report said.
Movement pattern analysis means studying an individual's movements to gain clues about how he or she makes decisions or reacts to events. First developed in Great Britain in the 1940s by Rudolf Laban, a Hungarian movement analyst and dance instructor, the practice was expanded after World War II by Lamb, Laban's protégé and a British management consultant.
Experts believe each individual has a unique "body signature" that tracks how one body movement links to the next. These "posture/gesture mergers" can lead investigators to learn more about a person's thinking processes and relative truthfulness when combined with the person's speaking.
Lamb, who died last year at age 90, believed the patterns were unique as DNA to each person.
Since July 2011, the war college had paid more than $230,000 to Richard Rende, a Brown University psychiatrist [he's a psychologist, actually] and specialist in the field of movement pattern analysis, federal spending records show. Rende received a no-bid contract last year for his work on the Body Leads project. 
Timothy Colton, a Harvard University expert on Russia, has been paid $113,915 since 2009 for his research with Connors, military contract records show.
Rende, Connors and Colton published in September 2013 a paper in the academic journal Frontiers in Psychology that detailed the uses of movement pattern analysis to determine leaders' decision-making process. Such analysis, they wrote, "offers a unique window into individual differences in decision-making style."
"The premise of Body Leads," Connors wrote in 2011, "is that meticulous attention to nonverbal signals — to the physical movement of the body and its parts, as distinct from speech — yield insights into the behavior of individuals, including for present purposes political leaders.""