41. Regarding a University Course on “Truth in Communication”

April 28, 2017

Recently my college announced an on-line course for alums given by a leading professor on the topic of “Truth in Communication”.

Being an old guy I had some trouble figuring out how to enroll, given that it seemed to be making use of several of the social media I do not use. But I responded with what I thought was a post to the upcoming discussion site, in which I said this:

Scattered factoids:

The latest neurobiology suggests that in each human brain there is a function that could be called, “the storyteller”.  That part of the brain takes in a few bits of sensory information, adds it to a stew of memories and makes up a story of “what is going on around here” at this very moment.  This process has also been called “confabulation” and is perhaps most easily exemplified by what happens when we are waking up in a bedroom not our usual one. 

Say the bathroom light or the window are not where they are usually found.  The hypnopompic brain first makes note of that data, then searches its memory, remembers that we are on a trip and that we stopped at a motel, and tells us that we are in the Best Western in Santa Barbara… or wherever.

It is useful and usually in our best interests to have this information be accurate, or “true”.

Let’s assume our interactions with others may be collaborative or adversarial.  When collaborative,  others will probably intend to mislead us the least.  When adversarial,  they will probably attempt to mislead us the most, and in a direction which serves their needs rather than ours.

Therefore I suggest that to characterize the present era as “post-truth”, (as the course description and other sources have characterized the times in which we live), makes the unwarranted assumption that there was ever an era of “truth”.  Whereas I suggest that all those who wish to shape the behaviors and beliefs of others tell lies in order to make others act against their own self interest, or at least in the interest of the speaker.

When have we ever expected a politician to tell the truth?  The old one-liner goes, “If you can’t trust a used car salesman, who CAN you trust?”

I do suggest that whereas we had gone through a period when journalists self-imposed certain ethical standards upon themselves, that era has passed.  I have thought of the process as the Jerry Springerization of the news.  After the very popular reception of the Springer television format, wherein he invited disgusting people to come and have their family fights on live TV, all programming began to emulate that style, until now it is difficult to find a news broadcast that doesn’t feature violently opposed ideologues interrupting and yelling at one another.

Moreover, what used to be reports of events that have happened has become three seconds of that information followed by hours of oracular speculation about what might happen in the future.  When these speculations are presented as fact, as they often are, since no one can actually know the future, those statements are inevitably lies serving the ideological agendas of the presenters. 

To me it seems that that verbal conflicts based upon different predictions of the future, since they can never be resolved in their own terms but must resort to other factors, like anger, bullying and intimidation, are basically fighting presented in the guise of discussion, which they clearly are not.

I look forward to what promises to be a real discussion when this course begins.

AB ’54

(For I had responded good two weeks before the course was due to begin.)

A Response from a Presenter

The next day one of the course organizers wrote to me, saying:

Great to hear from you, and thanks for the interesting comment! I think you’re quite right that the general preoccupation with truth in politics and in the media is somewhat misplaced. Not in the sense that the obfuscation of truth in politics and the media doesn’t matter, because it obviously does, and it’s obviously changing in really problematic ways. But I say it’s misplaced because the role of truth in communication has never been unproblematic, as you suggest.

This is the ultimate thing that I think we’ll tackle in this course–not merely whether the media is telling us the truth, but even when you and I are talking to each other, how does truth enter into it?

Is there one truth that reflects reality and that our communications are based on when we’re trying to be truthful? If that’s the case, then when we’re trying to be truthful with each other, we’re trying to triangulate on some solid foundation that we both might be able to agree on.

Or are there separate truths based on our perceptions or feelings–one for you, and one for me? If it’s the latter, then isn’t even truthful communication a kind of “fighting,” … because we’re trying to impose our disparate truths on each other?

And those scenarios assume truthful communication: actors who think they know the truth and are trying to communicate it. Obviously it’s even more complicated if you’re not sure about what the truth is, but argue something anyway, or if you are trying to manipulate someone into believing something that you think is not true…

Looking forward to the class beginning as well!

To which I responded on the same day:

Thanks for your reply.  Nice to make your acquaintance. 

You ask:  “Or are there separate truths based on our perceptions or feelings–one for you, and one for me? If it’s the latter, then isn’t even truthful communication a kind of “fighting,” as you call it, because we’re trying to impose our disparate truths on each other?”

Yes, it is certainly easy to slip over the line, from sharing one’s personal “truth” to feeling one must persuade others to have the same point of view, forgetting that even in a debate it is not the opponent who must be convinced.  [con-vince … literally to conquer with argument]  It is the judges.

If one shares one’s personal viewpoint, never forgetting to preface or end it with, “in my experience, in my view, according to my observation, or IMHO”, and if one takes a deep breath and detaches from trying to effect a particular outcome, or if one says the Serenity Prayer, asking for the serenity to accept the things one cannot change, then in my experience the encounter remains a discussion and can avoid being any kind of fight. This, of course, is all…in my view! 😉

Some people, and perhaps all people sometimes, view human interactions as a zero-sum game.  They think if they acknowledge the other person is right, they themselves must be wrong.  Whereas if we each confabulate our separate realities, many opposing views may all be “right”.  Or perhaps none of them are.

In fact whenever someone claims to know the “truth” about anything especially in advance of or in the absence of compelling evidence, I suspect there is a game afoot to control others with it.


Upon reflection since that writing, I would now add the following:

In the general environment of community interactions there is probably always a competition to control group behavior, in which competitions the need to “know” (to guess most accurately) the future is perhaps the most powerful component. In oracular statements about what will happen next there is not even a remote possibility of knowing the “truth”. In the utter absence of any authority among coequal adults to know the future, speakers will nearly universally resort to tricking listeners into believing that they themselves have a special knowledge, or that they speak with the magical knowledge and the words of a higher authority. I offer all of the prophetic religions as prime examples of this phenomenon. Or, the Wizard of Oz!

For individuals it may be too frightening to be in the world and not know what is going to happen next. To imagine this feeling I think of a four-year-old alone in the wilderness. A child depends for his sanity on the reassurances of a parent. Adults, in whom that child still enjoys an inner existence, may imagine the words and reassurances of a parent no longer present, in order to stave off overwhelming fears of adverse consequences, up to and including that of experiencing death. Those imaginings may manifest themselves as a belief that their personally confabulated story about ‘what is going on around here’ is Actually True. And they may defend that Truth as if to be wrong is to die.

Not long ago I learned that Earnest Becker had developed something like this theory in a book called, “The Denial of Death”.


That was the story Becker confabulated about “What is going on around here?”

And all of this has been the story I have confabulated to answer the same question in the context of truth and lies.

An important question to ask might be why we confabulate this on-going series of answers to, “What is going on around here?”.

I think it is because we need to make decisions every moment about what to do next. Therefore we need to establish what for us is “real” at this moment and what is likely to happen in the next, depending upon our current choices.

In the early 1980’s, after entering into the state of prolonged bliss produced by a week-long contra-dance camp, I undertook a thousand-mile motorcycle trip south, down Highway I, along the cliffs over the ocean, to Santa Barbara for one last contra dance there before returning to work in the Bay Area. On the way back up the coast the day after the dance, I stopped unannounced and without plan at Esalen, the hippy-style, more or less Gestalt community in Big Sur. The young man on the gate regretted to inform me that absolutely no one was granted admission without having signed up for one of the week-long workshops.

He was a nice fellow and, in my blissful state, accepted that I could not enter, but sat resting astride my BMW while I asked him a few questions about the Institute. It was midday and there was no other traffic in or out. I think he must have been pleased to have a little company at his lonely post. After a few minutes he said, “You know, everyone is in the dining hall. Why don’t you just go in and have lunch before you drive on.”

Which I did. A lunch a young woman sat down next to me who turned out to be a staff member. We chatted and, knowing the story of how I came to be there, she suggested that I go with her to her next session before driving on, which was a class in Esalen Deep Massage. “Like Rolfing”, someone later explained, “except that Ida Rolf won’t let us use her name on it.”

Listening to the massage teacher describing the reasoning behind the efficacy of the technique: that the massage actually broke down the fascial adhesions between the back muscles, allowing the recipient to make the postural shifts attendant to the process of personal transformation. Thus, it was said, the massage facilitated the process of transformation, often with deep emotional feelings evidenced by weeping.

I felt myself stiffening in resistance to this “theory”. I had been a co-therapist in a Transactional Analysis group for four years and believed that people could indeed transform themselves with therapy, and that postural changes were clearly a part of that process, but I had also been a surgical first-assistant during back surgery on many occasions, and had literally separated sheets of back muscle by “blunt dissection” with my fingers. My mind was telling me that there was no possible way this could be done by massage from outside, through more than a half-centimeter of the thickest skin on the human body.

I could feel my brain blocking the words of the massage teacher. At that moment I made a decision. In order to hear the teacher without blocking, I mentally added, “IT IS AS IF….” in front of every statement, changing his every assertion into a simile in order to remind myself it was a metaphor.

I still had a problem with the painful nature of deep massage, suspicious that it was a form of abuse, but because I was able to voice that concern respectfully rather than as an accusation, the teacher assured me the massage was supposed to just approach, but not reach, the level of pain. At which I assented to become one of the test subjects and discovered it was not, after all, actually painful to me.

Then, somehow I was invited to enjoy the famed Esalen hot tubs, situated part way down the cliffs looking South over the sea. After which it was too late to drive on, and I was given dinner and a bunk for the night in one of the cabins. Now, thirty-five years on, I don’t even remember exactly how all that happened.

Awaking at about four in the morning, from a dream that I was back at dance camp in Mendocino, hearing our Seattle caller, Sandy Bradley, singing out, “Chain the LAY-dies!”, I could not regain sleep. So I got up and again climbed down the cliff trail to the hot tubs, where I soaked alone while watching the world become light.

There I experience a remarkable perceptual optical illusion.

As the sky and sea grew silvery-gray there was a deep Pacific swell from the south. The famed kelp beds produced dark blobs on the very slowly moving hills of water that marched in ranks towards the high cliffs where I sat in the hot spring water. Suddenly the rolling hills of water looked like ranges of Catskill foothills in winter, dotted with dark evergreen trees. I had hiked those mountains as a teen in high school. And for my mind it was, for a moment, difficult to turn the perceived image back into waves on the Pacific ocean three thousand miles and thirty years to the west of those mountains.

Once I had done so, I turned the image back and forth a few times, sea to mountains to sea to mountains. Eventually the light grew stronger, the color of the sea changed and the optical illusion was lost.

In the context of a discussion of “truth”, the trick the brain plays in the “Young Girl – Old Woman” illusion, and others like the mountains-waves illusion, further illustrates the idea of an individually confabulated reality.

young girl old woman

Which suggests that even when the intention is to convey the “truth”, that reality may differ from one person to the next. For myself, I find it convenient to accept this form of relativity by thinking of versions of the truth as metaphors, and easier to accept, remember and communicate that they are metaphorical if I mentally convert them into the more literal similes they represent.

As an allopathic physician used to thinking of my profession as evidence-based, it is easier to hear a chiropractic or acupuncture diagnosis without growing angry, if I preface it with, “It is as if…”. Of course the more difficult thing to accept is that allopathic medicine and indeed every scientific “fact” is also merely the most complete and consistent metaphor we are able to come up with at the moment.

It seems to me that if all is metaphor, even this essay, it is good to remember that all metaphors are provisional and not permanently true.  It is also good to remember that not all metaphors are equally accurate and useful, lest one slip into a state of complete moral and physical ambiguity.  And lest one should become the victim of the metaphors of others intent upon controlling those around them.


40. Do Some Illegal Immigrants Have a Right to Stay in the US ? – A Theory

February 12, 2017

Has our government, by decades of intentional neglect, granted that right?

If we can actually stop illegal entry within a year or two by virtue of a wall and of funding for enforcement on the border, and by prosecution of those who hire illegals, could we not have been doing it all along? Does that not prove that neglecting to prevent illegal entry and the use of illegal labor was systematic and intentional, no matter what anyone says about it? Was it not de facto intentional ?

What does fair mean and how does it relate to how we feel ?

Neuroscience has recently informed us that from the limbic structures of the brain that generate our emotions, there seems to arise a sense of fairness: that when events violate that sense of what is right we are warned by feelings of anger, fear and sadness. Moreover man cannot, as the Victorians thought, take sole credit for this ethical sense, for there are now proofs it may well exist in other creatures, certainly primates and some higher mammals. If the test for an ethical sense are to be found in displays of emotion in response to situational inequities, it follows that these can be detected in any animals in which we believe we can perceive anger, sadness, fear or joy.

The common usages of language seem to put that limit at the line between the warm-blooded and the cold-blooded, (e.g. we speak of a “cold-blooded” person when we mean one without perceptible feelings), a much wider category than most western religions have claimed for the soul, though Buddhists, animists and pantheists have been more generous.

Therefore it seems to me that it is not religion that gives humankind a sense of fairness, its moral sense. Rather it is a biologically-based sense of fairness that informs the philosophies of the prophets and profiteers who invent religions.

I am not a lawyer and never have been one, but I was once, more than sixty years ago, literally a legal scholar for two years, the first at the University of Chicago and the second at Rutgers University. Which has been of a certain value to me in the years since, given that in the sea of controversy over daily events, an amorphous universe in which we all swim, I have been in the habit of actually reading the laws and legal decisions that often serve to clarify, crystalize and define the core issues.

To give credit to all of my teachers for whatever ability I may possess for understanding “what is going on around here”, shortly after leaving law school, circumstances, (being drafted into the Army and designated an Information Specialist), forced me to spend two years as a working newspaper journalist. As a journalist it was my job to observe, then organize and describe the relevant facts surrounding important world events.

Between the two I think I may have fulfilled my astrological destiny as a Libra, to take a balanced view of matters before me.

There is one other event in my life, or rather the life of my father, that I think may have some relevance to my thoughts this morning on the matter of illegal immigration. After only one year of college at Duke, and a single year at Dana Law School, now Rutgers, my father “read law” in the office of a local magistrate and then passed the bar as an attorney in the state of New Jersey. After a mandatory five years of practice he took, and in an unusual feat, passed the first time, the Counselor’s exam, admitting him to the Bar of Equity. In New Jersey at the time, that allowed him the greater privilege of arguing in the “courts of equity”, and in the highest appeals court in the state. As a small boy he tried to explain that arcane abstraction to me, and to this day all I retain is a small boy’s understanding, but I gathered it meant that where the common law and the statutes were unclear, contradictory or incomplete, there were courts in which one could argue concerning what was fair and equitable, and where matters of the state Constitution could be heard.

Concerning the issue of illegal immigration, while I have sympathy for honest, hard-working and law-abiding long-term illegals, I have believed that the law was clear on what should be done with them: they should be deported.  However my habitual need to understand the whole story and untangle its complexities, (or perhaps it was that spicy snack at bedtime),  caused me to awaken this morning mulling over a different idea.

Which leads me to the proposal that there may be a legal argument that crystalizes and explains the seemingly inexplicable and indefensible: that open-border advocates believe that people who came here illegally and have even broken laws in order to stay and work here, should be allowed to stay and be Americans once they are eventually discovered.

I have intentionally avoided doing any internet research on this point, preferring to work out my thoughts on the basis of a general feeling about what it fair under the law as I remember it.

Squatters’ rights, adverse possession and the creation of an easement.

In the common law there was a principle that helped deal with the sometimes confusing succession of ownership of real property. I have never heard another soul make this argument explicitly, but it is implied in the vague notion that some illegal immigrants have been here so long it may be inequitable, and therefore wrong, to make them leave.

The way it worked was this. If a landowner noticed that people were crossing his land as a shortcut to town and, for whatever reason, tolerated it. And after a certain number of years he sought to put up a fence across the path in order to block their way, he could be estopped from building the fence on the grounds that he had, by his previous lack of action, tacitly granted permission for the use, with the eventual creation of an Easement, or right-of-way to the travelers. And that they had, by Adverse Possession of his land, eventually acquired the right to cross it.

As I recall, but it was more than sixty years ago, there were also cases where a person may have built a dwelling on the land of another, who did not object or evict him, until eventually, the squatter obtained the right to stay, again by Adverse Possession of the land.

It seems to me, unless an actual lawyer can tell my why it isn’t so, that illegal immigrants from Mexico may have obtained the right to stay and work here by Adverse Possession, and the creation of what is analogous to an Easement.

In other words, there is a time-honored legal principle that appears to me to support the right of illegal immigrants who have been here a long time to stay here as long as they wish, other things being equal. Naturally, those other things would include the legality of their behavior while living here, and the balancing of their overall contribution as members of the community against the harm caused by breaking whatever laws they may have violated.

It will take a real lawyer to decide whether this argument could actually be made, but I would rather see the issue argued head-on within the existing system of jurisprudence than fought out in the push and shove of the streets or the battle of the false narratives that constitutes political arena.

Now it’s time for me to do some reading to see whether this approach is possible.


39. The Deportation of Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos – A Discussion

For those who don’t want to take the time to read this whole letter, you might want to read the observations of a state welfare benefits worker, in the final indented segment at the end.

February 11, 2017

For the past several days our Phoenix-based discussion group had a brisk and sometimes heated on-line discussion of the case of Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, Mexican mother of two teenaged girls living illegally in Phoenix for the past fifteen years and the first deportee under a new Trump Executive Order changing ICE deportation guidelines. Her arrest and removal has featured in the national TV news.

The discussion began when a member of the group posted the URL for a February 8 story in the Arizona Republic, written by Daniel Gonzales and Johana Restrepo, about the protests surrounding the arrest of the woman, headlined:

PROTESTERS RING ICE IN PHOENIX: Could woman in custody be the first deported because of Trump’s orders ?

Mother taken into custody after decades in U.S.; 7 arrested in Phoenix protest after trying to block her apparent transfer.

For four years, federal immigration authorities have given Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos a pass to remain in the US. rather than deport her back to Mexico.

That changed Wednesday when Garcia de Rayos went to check in as usual at the Central Phoenix offices of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. instead of being released, she was taken into custody, while her husband, two children — both U.S.-born citizens — and a group of supporters watched in tears.

And by Wednesday night, her case had become the latest epicenter of the national debate over immigration enforcement. …

A member of our discussion group asked of this situation:

“I don’t understand this. If you marry a legal can’t you stay? Or checking in for four years at the phoenix office of immigration and customs enforcement and getting a “pass”. Did everyone get a pass?”

Having read the whole story as far as it was then known, and watched a few TV news clips, I was able to respond:

Will people never get tired of falling for the false narrative?

1. The story cited said that the woman’s husband was also illegal, and that they came here as teens.

2. The story said that she had been arrested during a raid four years ago.

4. The Story said that the new guideline is to deport people convicted of a crime other than illegally entering the country.

5. Those who scoffed at 50 police arriving to deport one woman intentionally misled the readers of the story. The police were there to control a orchestrated crowd of 200 protesters, who did indeed quiet down after the police arrived and arrested several of them.

I don’t know whether the woman should have been deported. And neither does anyone else who does not know for what she was arrested four years ago. The point is that an emotionally charged false narrative was concocted to support an entirely untenable thesis… that any person from another country has a “right” to be here solely because he or she wants to. This is a totally insupportable argument, which is why the Left throws up an emotional smokescreen based upon a selcted set of incomplete facts.

If the left had a legal, rational or moral leg to stand on they wouldn’t use the tactic they routinely employ: to concoct a plausible lie the moment an event occurs and before any of the pertinent facts are published. …

A day later there came a salvo from a British member of the discussion group who says he is a naturalized U.S. citizen, who regularly expresses his contempt for Americans, and said once again after the Trump election, that Americans are too stupid to be allowed to vote.

Are You Proud or Ashamed to be an American?

Mexican mother Garcia de Rayos is now in Nogales, Mexico due to the fine work of ICE (http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/latest-woman-deported-mexico-amid-phoenix-protests-45380160 ). In less than 24 hours!!! Aren’t you proud how well our legal system works; now you can sleep safely tonight! The Bully Bureaucrat Boys (BBB) are really effective in protecting us from these rapist killers from down south.

Garcia de Rayos’ broken family, two kids and husband, are still in Phoenix. Let’s hope the BBB are keeping an eye on them too.

I just returned from gracious dining at my local Walmart/McDonalds. It’s on the south side of Thomas Road – the Mexican border (we’re waiting for the Trump wall down Thomas Rd.). I enjoy the many nice family people there. And I was very lucky – not attacked tonight – never have been! I just wonder how many of those mothers are fearful that the BBB may pick them up on the way home and split up their families too.

I realise I’m a leftist liberal wimp so, in fairness, let me present …

And he reprinted my post seen immediately above, adding sarcastically (his default mode), “So now you’ve got both sides – sleep well.”

As additional facts of the matter were gradually revealed, it became known that the woman had been arrested in a sweep for illegal aliens by then County Sherif Joe Arpiao, while she was working as a custodial employee at a local amusement park, where half the employees were also found to be illegals. At the time she was convicted of using the names and social security numbers of several U.S. citizens, the lowest class of felony in Arizona, but a felony nevertheless. Under Obama’s guidelines, ICE and the DOJ had opted to allow her to stay in the U.S. on the basis that her crimes were non-violent, somehow trivializing identity theft by characterizing it as “victimless”, to which my rejoinder in the discussion was this:

I caught part of a TV update on the Mexican woman deported the other day. One thing I saw were signs carried by her supporters that said “Migration – a Human Right!”. How unsophisticated of her poor and ignorant supporters to actually reveal the the absurdity of their agenda, by denying the right of a nation to have borders at all. I actually feel quite sorry for them. But the truth is that they simply don’t understand the abstract idea of national sovereignty. I don’t know where they would stand on the idea of a stranger invading the sovereignty of a private home, and like Goldilocks, simply crawling into the bed of an absent owner.

There has also been a little more information today about the arrest four months ago of the deported woman. When arrested, she was working using the name and social security number of several other people. She was charged with a form of identity theft, a Class 6 felony. With the revelation of this information, open border advocates are now claiming that her crime, the lowest class of felony, was a victimless one and shouldn’t get her deported.

As I recall, felonies, even the lowest ones, are crimes that may be punished by a year or more in jail. One of the problems with illegal workers is that because they cannot get honest documents, they steal the identities of other folks, as a consequence of which honest working folks whose identities are stolen are not infrequently done serious economic damage. In this particular case, the man whose social security number she stole has not yet noticed any adverse consequence, but that risk is why theft of identity is classified as a felony, a more serious crime than a misdemeanor.

Open borders advocates have shifted their defense to, “her crime was non-violent”.

Most of us have experienced some form of identity theft or credit-card fraud, and know that “non-violent” is not the same as “not serious” or “not significant”. Non-violent is not the same as victimless. It can take a victim months or years to expunge the very troubling consequences of a theft of identity.

I am not angry with this Mexican woman, and I’m really sorry she got herself and her family into this pickle, but I will not blame the sheriff, ICE, or the U.S. for decisions that she alone made. There may be more information yet to be forthcoming about this case.

“Migration – A Human Right!” is a false statement, a canard. Assuming that “migration” on this sign is the Spanish equivalent of “immigration”, under international laws formalized by the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, flow between countries is at the consent of the receiving country. To advocate for open borders is anarchy and contravenes long-established international law. Not many actually think anarchy is a good idea. Or globalism, which is an idea not yet, and may never be, ready for prime time.

There followed this brief exchange:

To our sarcastic, self-styled communist-capitlalist British member, from a middle-aged member who has struggled to find and keep work for the past several years: “What part of “illegal alien” do you not understand? She and others like her are taking jobs away from American citizens. They are also a large burden on the welfare system, that we taxpayers are paying for.”

From the hypercritical Brit: “Thanks for your question re “illegal alien”. Beyond the superficial it’s a very tricky and subtle topic re Legality versus Just. I recognise the practical need for Laws but they are created and managed by the elite and sometimes do not reflect a higher Justice. Jim Crow laws are a simple, if moderate, example. Garcia de Rayosis is a “little” person with few resources or options. 24 hours and Garcia de Rayos was out of the country.

“Compare her treatment with that of, say, the Trump family transgressions.

“We clearly need Laws but I feel they should be focussed on the underdog rather than the super privileged. The underdogs need more protection. The powerful simply pass on to their legal teams.”

And finally, word-for-word from the soft-spoken fellow who doesn’t usually say much, but who for the past couple of years has been working in the office that distributes state welfare benefits, came the definitive answer on the question of illegal immigration and its effect upon the American worker:

Okay, let’s start at the beginning.

Mankind did not originate in the Americas. The ancestors of the Native Americans migrated here, tens of thousands of years ago. They just arrived before the rest of us.

The idea of the Noble Savage, living in harmony with the environment, is just a myth. Many scientists believe that the early arrivals were, at least partially, responsible for the extinction of many species of animals. When was the last time you saw a giant ground sloth or a wooly mammoth? As for peacefully co-existing, the Incas, Mayans, and Aztecs brutally conquered their neighbors, and killed them in bloody sacrifices to their gods. Just watch the movie Apocalypto. Many of the first European settlers were massacred by the Native Americans, or left to starve. A few members of one tribe in New England did help the Pilgrims, in an attempt to use the Pilgrims in their battles against other local tribes. Some Pilgrims survived, thanks to their help. Many died of starvation and disease. We all know the story of Pocahontas, saving Captain John Smith from being executed.

As for (the British immigrant), after you went to all of the effort, and spent the money, to live here legally, aren’t you at least a little upset about the millions of illegal aliens who are living here just by crossing the border? As for the term illegal alien, I have seen posters saying that no human being is illegal. That might be true, but their living here is an illegal act.

America is a nation of laws, and the laws are there to protect the citizens, including the little people. However, by being here illegally, these undocumented immigrants are not subject to that protection.

Big Business wants the undocumented visitors here, as a cheap labor source, which is why they were not rounded up and deported by the past couple of Administrations, like Presidents have done by executive order in the past. This was done during the Great Depression and at the end of the Korean War, so that the jobs could be filled by American citizens. You can Google this if you do not believe me.

From your lofty position of being retired and living off of your investments, you have been insulated by the reality that I have experienced in the last several years.

In the aftermath of the Great Recession, I had trouble finding a job. More than once, I failed a job interview because I am not fluent in Spanish, so I would not be able to pass on Management’s instructions to the employees who only spoke Spanish. As for learning the language, I took a year of Spanish in high school, but that does not make me fluent. Hablo Espanol un pocito.

The 11 million or so illegal aliens are not committing a victimless crime. They have taken not just the jobs that Americans do not want, like picking crops, but all of the low-paying jobs, and many higher-paying jobs. Many jobs pay a bonus if you are bilingual. By willing to work for less money, they have knocked several rungs out of the pay scale ladder, dropping the pay for the jobs above minimum wage. Jobs that paid $20-25 per hour 20 years ago now pay $12-15 per hour. I am speaking from my experiences in job hunting.

I have friends who are in construction. That was formally a high-paying field, for experienced help, craftsmen. Now the positions are filled by these immigrants, who work for one-third to one-half of the pay. The results of their work may not be at the same quality level, and they usually have to do it more than once to get it right, but, at the lower rate of pay, the construction companies still wind up paying less in salaries. One of my friends had to take a demotion, and a cut in pay, because he refused to take a class to learn Spanish, so he could supervise all of the illegals who were being hired by his company. He did not have the time to take evening classes, after working all day, and factoring in the commute times to and from the remote construction locations.

My 1st real job, other than mowing yards, back in high school, was in the kitchen of a Mexican food restaurant. These low-paying jobs used to be taken by high school and college students. Now they are filled by these immigrants. The employers would rather hire them, because they are willing to work for less money, and are more reliable, as they are working to support their families.

These jobs were never meant to support a family of 6. Now the minimum wage has gone up, so the businesses have had to increase their prices, to compensate for the higher payroll costs. For instance, the Tempe Cinemas used to cost $3 during the week, and $2 on Tuesdays. Now it’s $3.50 during the week, and $2.50 on Tuesdays. The prices for the drinks and snacks have increased, too. The same has happened at stores and restaurants. This is a huge increase in inflation, being felt by all of us who have to budget our spending.

Now I am interviewing people for welfare benefits. I worked two Saturdays in January, working on the backlog of cases that were waiting for information to be supplied before the benefits could be approved. These were State-wide. I kept a tally. Over half were Hispanics who were not born here, and half of the Hispanics who were born here, one or both parents were not born here.

I am seeing that the Dream Act is a myth. The majority of the now adult illegals who were brought here as children are not using the opportunity to go to college and become productive members of American society. The woman drop out of high school at 15 to start having children. Both the men and woman, if they work at all, are in low-paying jobs, and receive welfare benefits. They are part of a low-paid working class.

The welfare benefits I approve allow them to survive while working at minimum wage jobs. We taxpayers are subsidizing the businesses that hire them. There are aid groups, mostly Christian, who assist them, and coach them, as to how to complete the forms, and answer the questions, so as to maximize their benefits amounts. Some are former employees of my division. One of my coworkers just retired, and she is now working for one of these aid groups.

Almost every kitchen of almost every restaurant in town, no matter the ethnicity of the cuisine, has illegals working in the kitchen. I know, I see their paychecks. The Italian restaurant chain Buca Di Beppo prints out their paychecks en Espanol.

As (referring to the writer of this essay) mentioned, the woman who was deported was using fake IDs in order to work. This is not a victimless crime. Several times a month, I see the results. The people whose ID the illegals are using are liable to pay the taxes on the income earned against their Social Security numbers. They are required to go to the IRS and Social Security offices, fill out the proper forms, and file a police report, for each city where their ID was used at an employer. I interviewed one man with a common Hispanic name. We showed 19 jobs for him in the last 6 months. Two were his, his previous and current jobs. The other 17 were from people stealing his identity. I told him that somebody is selling his ID out of a van in a Walmart parking lot. This is a huge headache for these victims.

I am thrilled to see that Trump is taking steps to change the enforcement of existing laws, and beginning to deport some of these who are living here illegally, and breaking our laws.

Our laws are to protect the little people, and, finally, these laws are starting to be used to protect the little people who are American citizens.

The American people cannot continue to afford to have the millions of them taking our jobs, and receiving billions, if not trillions, of dollars in welfare benefits.

As for Muslim refugees, we are seeing many in our office every day, as there is a large HUD apartment complex nearby, where the Federal Government has placed many of them. An article in the Arizona Republic said that there are over 7100 Somali refugees in AZ. It seems, at times, that all of them come into our office.

As for attempting to stop the flow of refugees, I agree, we need to look more closely at the backgrounds of those who the Christian aid groups are trying to bring in from the selected countries. We do not want another San Bernardino massacre. This was real, not like Bowling Green. Look at what is happening in Europe, with the tsunami of refugees that are coming in, and the terrorist acts being committed.

I mentioned the aid groups. I have seen these documented on 60 Minutes and other TV programs. There are Christian aid groups who do the paperwork to bring these refugees in. I can tell a Somali refugee, as every one has the birthday of January 1st. Since there is no real Somali government, there are no birth certificates issued. People know the year they are born, but, with no proof of the actual birthday, the paperwork filled out to bring them in shows January 1st. When they arrive, they are already set up for food stamps, medical, Cash Assistance, and free HUD housing.

Once again, the American taxpayers are paying billions, if not trillions, of dollars for these refugees to live here.

Not too many years ago, when immigrants arrived, they did not receive Government help. They were on their own, and had to used their wits and hard work to survive. Now it is all being handed to them. True, some do find jobs and support themselves, so as to wean themselves off of Government aid. However, many do not fit in, or have health issues, so we taxpayers support them. Many come here just to receive medical care, and qualify for Social Security disability benefits.

It is going to be interesting to see how well Trump succeeds in protecting the American people, both from the criminal activities of the illegal immigrants, and the possible terrorist acts committed by the Muslim immigrants, coming here legally. I believe some of the recent court decisions are illegal, and will be overturned.

The burden on the taxpayers for all of these immigrants, legal or illegal, is huge, more than enough to fix all of our roads and bridges.

I feel sorry for the young Americans just finishing school. They must make a quantum leap from nothing to a higher-paying job, with no steps in between, as most of the lower-paying jobs are being filled by illegal immigrants. Not everybody can work at Starbucks.


38. A Strategy to Impede a New President

January 18, 2017

Wall-to-wall coverage of the Senate confirmation hearings for Trump cabinet appointees having ended on the cable news channels, yesterday I tried C-SPAN to catch the inquisition of Betsy DeVos by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Unfortunately my timing was off, and I caught only the last few minutes of a three-hour and ten minute session. On the basis of what may not have been a representative segment of the questioning, I had the impression that Ms DeVos was the most nervous and least prepared candidate of the few I have seen.

To be fair, I was hearing only the adversarial questioning of Democrat senators, but I thought Ms DeVos’ answers were tangential to and evasive of the questions actually asked. That she answered difficult questions like a politician did not recommend her to me, but there is much about her I do not know, which was why I tuned-in in the first place.  Again, to be fair, some of the questions were leading, compound, or were obvious traps that richly deserved not to be answered.

Personally, I tend to be critical of public education and focus on its failings in the inner city, but my daughter-in-law is a dedicated and extremely hard-working grade school principal and I am very respectful, not to say in awe, of the resource that she and her teachers represent. I have read that the present system of micro-management and ‘quality control’ in public schools is cruelly erosive of the spirit of good teachers, who, like many good people, work for appreciation and respect rather than salary alone, and I just don’t know whether the charter school and voucher system DeVos is likely to favor will make the plight of public school teachers worse, increasing burnout and throwing the resource baby out with the bureaucratic bathwater.

However the tail end of the hearing produced an interesting procedural drama that I found more fascinating than its substantive content. In the news during the past few weeks Democrats had threatened to delay the approval of cabinet appointees by the only road open to a minority party that had previously, when it held a slim majority, shot itself in the foot by voting to end the sixty-vote-for-cloture rule. With the filibuster not available, Democrats had said they would slow Trump’s roll by demanding every jot and tittle of a candidate’s paperwork and dragging out the questioning as long as possible prior to the confirmation vote they were sure to lose.

Apparently, before I started watching, one of the Democrats had asked for a “second round” of questions for each committee-person. Which Had been denied by Chairman Lamar Alexander, Republican from Tennessee, on the grounds that the members would have as much time to vet DeVos as had been allotted in any of several previous years of confirmation hearings, for instance of President Obama’s appointees.

Therefore, as the hearing was about to be closed, Democrat senators, including Colorado’s Michael Bennett again raised the matters of a “second round”, and of requiring the candidate to provide her tax returns, objecting to the closing of the hearing. On the matter of tax returns, the Chair had apparently earlier ruled that if the committee wanted to change the rules to require returns of future candidates, it could take that matter up after the hearings. When the request for a second round of questions was again denied by the Chair, on the same grounds as earlier, Elizabeth Warren made an additional argument for a “second round”, and when that also didn’t work, cited an obscure Senate rule requiring that time be given to hear testimony from “minority witnesses” before closing.

Chairman Alexander, saying that he respected Warren’s record as a renowned professor of law, nevertheless held that the rule she cited had never been observed within memory, and with that as a precedent, declined to honor it now. It was never clear whether there were actually any such witnesses ready to testify, but the appearance was that Warren had raised the issue merely to prolong the hearing.

Tennessee’s Senator Alexander is also formerly governor of that state, the founder of a law firm and founder of Corporate Child Care, the largest provider of work-site child care. Although he tipped his hat to Warren’s academic credentials, in his friendly, country-lawyerly way, he didn’t seem at all intimidated by them.

Of course, the Chairman’s decision may open the door to challenging DeVos’ confirmation, if that is the result of the Senate vote.

I should mention that in addition to her three hours and ten minutes on the hot-seat, DeVos had met with each senator individually for a half hour. She had offered them more time when requesting the meetings in December, but they were “too busy” to meet with her that month. And the senators have all submitted questions in writing that DeVos says she will try to answer before the Senate votes on her appointment. However, she is not actually required to answer all of those questions. The only risk being that senators who don’t like her anyway might not vote for her, which they won’t anyway. The matter of written answers became clear when former (and some say still current) clown, Minnesota Senator Al Franken, with what I perceive to be his usual empty bluster, tried unsuccessfully to bully the Chair into promising that DeVos would answer the questions by a certain date,

We will have to see how delaying strategy works out for the Democrats, but it seemed to me that with all their effort, they were able to achieve a delay of only about ten minutes when their thrusts were parried by an experienced and well-prepared Republican chairman.

[Ed.  September 27,2020:  This all seems tame from the perspective of the Kavanaugh hearing and the impending upcoming fight over the pre-election-day appointment of Trump’s third Supreme Court Justice.  Senator Schumer and other minority leaders have said, with histrionic and feigned moral indignation, that now, “the gloves are off”, and they will use any means available to frustrate the appointment of the president’s nominees.  After the brutal Kavanaugh hearings, and the savage treatment of Judge Amy Coney Barrett by Senator Feinstein when Barrett was appointed to the federal appeals bench, it makes the gorge rise to hear any Democrat infer that etiquette of any kind has, before now, played a role in their resistance to anything Trump seeks to accomplish.]



January 7, 2017

Five Killed, Eight Wounded in a Florida Airport.

I spent several hours Friday and Saturday watching the coverage of the airport shooting in Fort Lauderdale.

Of course the factual information came in at a rate of just a few seconds per hour, so I did doze through some of the vapid and irrelevant speculations offered by “talking heads”.

However I believe I have developed a picture that some others may have missed, possibly because they are so horrorstruck or defensive that they do not hear the salient points, or because I have treated a number of state hospital patients who have committed murder while in a psychotic state, and one or two who were rampage killers.

Twenty-six year old Esteban Santiago is said to have had an altercation on the Delta flight, though not importantly enough that he was met by security upon landing. He had checked his bag containing a handgun and ammunition, displaying no longer valid military I.D. during the check-in. I have checked a firearm several times when traveling by air between two points at which it was legal for me to possess it. Anyone can do it. You don’t need a military I.D. It is perfectly OK to check a handgun on to a flight and that happens in the U.S. an estimated “thousands of times a day”, so long as the passenger secures an unloaded weapon in a locked container and separate from any ammunition. When the bag itself is hard-sided and lockable, that may constitute the container. Otherwise, a small lockable container or two may be employed, one for the weapon and the other for the ammo.

After boarding in Anchorage, Santiago’s bag was transferred to the second aircraft when he changed planes in Minneapolis. Upon arriving in Fort Lauderdale, Santiago retrieved his bag. Then he went to a men’s room and retrieved and loaded the handgun. After which he walked back to the baggage carousel and, without speaking a word, began shooting people, almost all of them in the head. Five have died, eight are surviving at this writing.

Possibly having changed magazines in mid-rampage, he then surrendered quietly when accosted by sheriff’s deputies.


He had been deployed to Iraq with a National Guard unit from Puerto Rico. And joined the Alaska National Guard when he moved to Anchorage, where he worked as a security guard.

However, he had been given a “General” discharge (less than Honorable) from the Alaska Guard when he failed to show up for drills beginning last summer.

It may be pertinent to his self-image that he was working as a security guard and that he kept and, although it was quite unnecessary, exhibited his invalid Army I.D. when he checked in the bag containing his pistol.

About the same time that he stopped going to Guard drills he had walked in to the FBI and told someone there he was hearing CIA voices telling him to go and join ISIS. The FBI referred him to a mental health facility for evaluation. A former FBI assistant director said this evening on TV that there was “nothing else they could do or should have done”. This assertion, it seems to me, lies at the heart of the problem.

When I heard he was living in Alaska and had been arrested twice for “domestic disputes” I thought he might be the kind of Alaskan antisocial/psychopathic misfit you can see any night on the Alaskan State Troopers reality TV show. And that he was probably involved with drugs… specifically with methamphetamines considering the got into a dispute on the plane before landing. Touchy because of stimulant abuse, I thought.

But the voices, and going in to complain about them to the FBI, along with being unable to get to the Guard drills, suggest what is called “decompensation”, and a descent into a disorganized state associated with the onset of schizophrenia. The peak incidence of the first appearance of symptoms of schizophrenia is in males in their late teens and early twenties.

Of course it is true that drug use can mimic schizophrenia, even producing paranoia and hallucinations. I had one such patient who got into an argument in a bar in Sacramento, pulled out a pistol and shot another man to death on the spot. And another meth addict patient who had stabbed his infant daughter to death because he thought she was controlled by the devil and would kill everyone in the family.

So there may be no practical way to be sure whether, in the case of Esteban Santiago, the psychotic state was produced by drug usage, or whether it is from the brain mis-wiring of schizophrenia. That question can only be resolved by clearing the body of drugs and waiting to see whether or not the psychosis persists.

The fact that he stopped shooting and sat quietly when approached by deputies suggests that Santiago’s episode was of schizophrenic rather than chemical origin.


As in the case of the UCSB college student in Isla Vista, the police were under notice that he was acting crazy. And like the police in Isla Vista, the FBI apparently did nothing beyond referring him to a mental health resource.

As in the cases of the Gabby Gifford shooter in Tucson, and the Aurora shooter in Colorado, both had been flagged as acting crazy, and had been seen by mental health professionals, and yet no one had made a report to any agency that could prevent them from obtaining firearms, or could remove firearms already in their possession.

It seems self evident that there needs to be a requirement that when people are reported to the police, by themselves or others, to be suffering from symptoms or exhibiting behaviors indicating a mental condition that makes it probable that they could be dangerous, that fact alone needs to trigger a legal process to separate them from firearms until a judge hears clear and convincing medical evidence allowing them to be declared safe to possess firearms.

The trigger can’t be AFTER they’ve shot twenty people. Understanding that there’s a risk of unwarranted accusations being made by people who are angry with the individual, when a guy walks into the FBI and says he hears voices telling him to go and join ISIS, that should be enough!



The federal Health Insurance Portability and AccountabilityAct, (HIPAA) was written to protect the confidentiality of medical information by controlling the circumstances in which it may be shared among various members of the treatment team and others, particularly the insurance carriers who underwrite the cost of that care, but also including employers, family members and government agencies.

The need for strict confidentiality is especially important with regard to conditions people find embarrassing, or that could give rise to adverse social or economic consequences. It is in the interest of the health and safety of the public that people with such conditions be honest in their discussions of these matters with their doctors. Protection of such communications makes such honesty more likely.

The logic of this reasoning has, in the past, been most evident in the case, for instance, of venereal diseases, as well as other communicable diseases like tuberculosis. The key being that some diseases endanger the public if they remain secret and undiagnosed.

This is also the case with some manifestations of mental illness.

The dilemma is that the greater the need is for the right people to know, the greater also is the need is that the information not reach those who might use it to cause unwarranted harm to the sufferer.


In 1976 the decision in the case of Tarasoff v. Regents of the University of California established a precedent that has since spread to statutes in all but six states, first stating that a therapist who knew of a threat to a third party owed a “duty to warn” that person of the risk. Within two years the courts had enhanced that imperative to a “duty to protect”.


“As of 2012, 33 states have adopted a mandatory duty to protect for mental health professionals in statute or common law, 11 states have a permissive duty, and six states are described as having no statutes or case law offering guidance.[5] A duty to warn or protect is mandated and codified in legislative statutes of 23 states, while the duty is not codified in a statute but is present in the common law supported by precedent in 10 states.[6]” — Wikipedia

Still, stupid, irresponsible, indecisive or bleeding-heart psychiatrists, citing HIPAA, are reluctant to report patients who are clearly dangerous to others without absolute proof… which is almost never forthcoming until after the patient has killed someone. In HIPAA, though mental health personnel are permitted to reveal case information when authorized by the patient or required by law, there is no mandate that they do so. In order to achieve maximum protection for the public against insane rampage killers, the failure to warn victims and police needs to become a serious crime itself in all 50 states. If a few doctors do some jail-time, the reluctance to report those with a manifested risk for harm to others will go away.

By the way, the reporting requirements need to be federal. As it is, even in states that require reporting to the state DOJ, in some states, the state DOJ is not required to report the dangerous person to the federal NCIC database to prevent acquisition of firearms. At the present time, in most states, only hospitals are required to report people who are a danger to others, and not individual practitioners.

Not to fix the reporting requirements only means that these incidents will continue to occur, and hoplophobic fools will continue to blame them on the existence of guns.


In the Florida case this past week one former ATF official offered the observation that ATF Form 4473, the one filled out for the transfer of any firearm, offers no protection against the mentally ill rampage shooter.

Question 11 f asks: “Have you ever been adjudicated mentally defective, (which includes a determination by a court, board or commission, or other lawful authority that you are a danger to yourself or others or are incompetent to manage your own affairs) OR have you ever been committed to a mental institution ? (See instructions for Question 11.f.)”

The ATF official averred that even when the applicant has answered in the affirmative, and even if the applicant were to sign an authorization for the release of mental health information, the institution is not obligated to provide any medical information. According to the HIPAA rules the custodian of records may, but is not obligated to provide information covered by an authorization given by the patient. This is likely because HIPAA was not written with the acquisition of firearms by dangerous mental patients in mind, but for an entirely different set of problems.

The HIPAA regulations are so voluminous and arcane, and so intimidating, as to cause health care providers to decline to reveal information even when they might be legally entitled to do so.

HIPAA regulations are basically designed to allow insurance companies to make payment for services, and are so byzantine that HIPAA training courses for medical office personnel are marketed at $1000 per person.

Moreover, at this time ATF Form 4473 does not include any sort of Authorization Form for medical or mental health records, meaning that the only information available to those making decisions on applications for the purchase of firearms is that which comes from the individual applicant.

In Germany, draconian privacy laws like HIPAA prevented the German aviation authority from receiving any information about the mental illness of the Germanwings pilot who crashed a planeload of passengers into the Alps. According to reports, a mental illness was known to his company and to several treating physicians. But the physicians were not permitted to reveal that fact that to the aviation authority.

One possible means of reducing the number of rampage killings perpetrated by mentally ill individuals would be to routinely deny permission to purchase a firearm to anyone regarding whom there is information from any source about a mental condition that could reasonably be expected to produce a “danger to self or others”, allowing for the denial to be challenged by documented evidence from experts, presented to a court, that the mental health problem was no longer a factor.

Cases falling under the Tarasoff rule should be made a specific exception to HIPPA requirements, reporting to the NCIC made mandatory, and physicians fulfilling the duty to warn or protect should be specifically exempted from any criminal or civil liability for doing so.

Finally, if it had been mandatory for mental health professionals to report patients who had, even briefly, been a “danger to self or others”, to a database to which the ATF also had access, a great many of the rampages by the mentally ill that have distressed us all in the past several years could have been avoided, leaving only those very few perpetrated by individuals who have never come to anyone’s professional attention prior to manifesting their lethal behavior.


36. Anti-white Racism in 2016

December 31, 2016

“What can you expect from white people?”

This past Thanksgiving my daughter prepared a delicious turkey dinner with all the trimmings to which I was invited, and which was attended by my college-student grandson. After dinner we were joined for desert by a couple of his high-school pals, now also college students.

In retrospect I realized that the three students were all sophomores, and how that might have foretold the tone of the discussion. Two other factors may have played a part. One, though I am the more conservative member of the family, I was a guest at the table, and therefore constrained against being overly confrontational. And, two, I abstain from alcohol, though a little wine was served, and alcohol may have contributed to others talking more freely. (I really didn’t notice whether anyone else had a drink and only wondered about it later.) The balance, I thought, made for a longer, less contentious discussion, which therefore provoked more thought than outrage.

Being old and deaf I miss a lot of the high-speed verbal exchanges conducted by young folks, but as far as I had gathered the conversation had included concerns over the political changes wrought by the 2016 election of Donald Trump, recently concluded, and there was dissatisfaction over what is currently portrayed as the “white privilege” that has purportedly gotten us to where we are now.

I was only half-listening when my grandson’s chum asked scornfully, “Well, what do you expect from white people?”

That woke me up!

Whoa”, I exclaimed, “I am a white person!” And sat down in the conversational circle to ask questions and pay close attention to the answers.

The young man explained the thesis he appears to have acquired in college, that, as I understood it, it was the nature of white society in Western Europe, their disdain for other races the their characterization of non-white people as inferior or even sub-human that drove the rise of slavery in America and elsewhere. The implication was that it was this “original sin” and the centuries of “white privilege” it spawned that is now responsible for the racial backlash following the unseating of the first Black American President.

It is as if by blaming the white race as a whole for the phenomenon of slavery he seeks to atone for being white himself.

In order to counter the idea that there is something genetically defective in the moral fabric of the white race specifically, ironically, as racist a concept as there ever was, I pointed out that the African slave trade was made possible by the taking of slaves in raids between African tribes, and the brokering of those slaves by west and north African arab muslim traders, whose religion renders unbelievers “fair game” for trafficking. And that during the time when a total of 388,000 African slaves were sent to North America, the Barbary Pirates in North Africa took hostage some 600,000 to 1.5 million European and American merchant seamen, selling the un-ransomed into slavery in the Middle East. The new American Government paid a million a year, about a quarter of its income, in ransom and tribute to the Barbary states, until finally Jefferson sent the five ships of its new navy, along with their Marines, to Tripoli to sink the pirates, blockade and subsequently attack the city, and end the piracy and enslavement.

Not to expiate the British and Portuguese, and lesser participants like Holland, Denmark and Sweden, from their guilt in driving the slave trade that transported 12 million Africans to the Caribbean and South America, but the full participation of black African tribes and brown North African nations in the trade suggests that the ethical defect that permitted them to engage in the trafficking of humans was not defined by white racial genetics.

If not race, what is it that allows one culture or group to enslave the members of another?

The answer to that question requires that one consider what it is that drives, constrains and shapes the behavior of a culture. What is it that defines what it is right and what it is wrong to do within a family, tribe, herd, community, city or nation state, or union?

Personally I am of the school that thinks that basic senses of fairness and wrongness are inherent in the architecture of the human brain, and even that of lower mammals according to some studies: that they are biological in origin. And that simple ethical principles are arrived at in some form or other by consensus among even the most primitive and least organized human groups.

Moreover, historically, when people with a slightly greater need to control others seek to persuade them of which behaviors should be adopted and which avoided, they have employed the argument that their beliefs came from a deity and were therefore much more powerful than any mere human belief.

It seems to me that, crossing racial boundaries, it is religion that supports the view that some people are less than fully human and may be treated accordingly.

This is certainly the case in the more obviously prophetic religions, though one can easily find examples in polytheism and animism. One might conclude that it is probably in the nature of man and woman to falsely claim the “authority” of a god or gods to bring the more reluctant members of the group into agreement with a less than persuasive belief.

In reading the founding documents of the prophetic religions it becomes apparent that they are prescriptions for behavior in every-day community life. This had escaped me until I attended the Bar Mitzvah of the son of a Jewish colleague, and the reading chosen for him to translate from the Torah that day, dealt entirely with the question of how many witnesses were required in the trial of a person accused of a capital crime.

Prophetic writings were the antecedents of secular laws, and laws are prescriptions for behavior.

Consider also the duality described by the inclusive idea of community. The very neurotransmitters responsible for bonding of infant and mother, and one member of a community to the others, inevitably also excludes those who are not members of the community. Any distinguishable mental state or physical feature can become the means to sort out “us” from “not us”, including sex, skin tone, language, costume or belief versus disbelief in a given ideology.

For four reasons it is not surprising to me that religions should constitute the very foundation and moral justification for the enslavement of one human by another:

1. People who start and maintain religions always have the grandiose idea that it is their job to control the thoughts and behavior of others.

2. Religions take it upon themselves to define for its members precisely what is ethical and moral and what is not, including hierarchies of mastery and servitude. [Typically in order to ascend to the thrones of Europe, anointment with “holy oil” by the high priest was, and still is, the required final step. It is the step by which the monarch becomes a “god”.]

3. While religions can serve to define a community, inevitably they thereby also define, and always in a lower category, those outside that community, who are not among their believers.  There cannot be a category called “us”, without there also being a matching category called,  “not us”.

4. Religions usually incorporate many of the mores prevailing at the time when they coalesce and crystalize, even when that zeitgeist includes the practice of enslavement.

Given that there has never been a time when the zeitgeist did not include provocations and warring, religions almost inevitably include justifications for the punishment and killing of both individuals and of large groups of people.

All three of the major prophetic religions prescribe the conditions under which slavery is permitted.

John Locke, one of the social philosophers upon whose ideas the founders of the American Republic relied, was a major investor in the Royal African Company, established by the British monarchy in 1672 and heavily engaged in the slave trade until trading in slaves was abolished in England in 1807. Yet in the chapter on slavery in his Second Treatise on Government he says that the only possible state of slavery is the extension of the state of war between a lawful conqueror and a captive, when the captive has been forced into obedience.

From Locke’s two treatises it seems clear to me that even for him this susceptibility to slavery depended upon an agreed state of war between individuals or larger groups, because the consequence of slavery is justified by “war”: the real and declared threat and intent to kill or enslave the one who was the eventual conqueror. The modern-day example that springs to mind is Guantanamo. Once you have captured a group of men who have vowed to try until their dying breath to kill you, what do you do with them?

It is difficult for me to see how this definition could include the trafficking and sale of humans to third parties. And it is inconceivable that 12 million African captives were all taken in pursuit of such clearly self-defensive ends. I think those intending to justify the slave trade as a source of labor for the first sugar plantations in Barbados will have had to look elsewhere than John Locke for validation.

Whereas when Jefferson and Adams went to London to inquire of the ambassador of Tripoli the grounds for the Barbary Pirates making war on those who had never harmed them, they reported he had replied “it was written in their Koran that all nations which had not acknowledged the Prophet were sinners, whom it was the right and duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave; and that every mussulman who was slain in this warfare was sure to go to paradise.”

To this day, Islamic doctrine treats unbelievers the same way, and holds women in a state of virtual slavery to men. Nor, despite claims to the contrary, is there a single word in the Koran that offers peace to ‘unbelievers’ or tolerance of any who hold a religious belief other than Islam.

White Europeans certainly participated heavily in the slave trade of the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries, but they neither originated nor dominated it.

For centuries, the Catholic Church claimed belief in its doctrines was the only possible path to heaven and, again, and considered that unbelievers were “heathens” who could be treated as less than human until they converted to its beliefs. Famously, the protestant sects of New England did the same thing to the Polynesians that Catholics did to the indigenous peoples of Central and South America.

My argument is that it is not something endemic to the white race or its Western European origin that gives rise to slavery. It is something in the human brain, often resonating with a religious doctrine, that supports slavery, expressing the desire to control and exploit others to one’s advantage. Some strange amplification and enhancement of the difference between “us” and “those who do not believe as we do”, allows “believers” to exclude some groups of people from the circle of those protected by our biologically-based sense of fairness.

Blaming slavery upon white Western Civilization represents a false narrative that serves only the agenda of those who seek revenge and retribution against a particular race, the living members of which were not even alive at the time of the original insult.  And the ancestors  of the majority of whom had nothing to do with slavery.

It is particularly ironic that the recent generations of American white people, the ones currently being “guilted” over slavery, were the ones who presided over its abolition in America, in a war that cost more lives than in any other American war.


35. Presidential Body Watch

November 20, 2016

You know how crazy people often don’t know they’re crazy? Technically it’s called, “lack of insight”.

That is how the tizzy in the press has seemed to me for the past week. Reporters and commentators of nearly every stripe were aghast and alarmed when President Elect Trump and his family decided to go to “21” for dinner without notifying them.

This set off specific discussions among the press, who were already generally horrified at having been utterly unprepared for the eventuality of his election. They were so in the bag for liberals that they had discounted any and all signs that Trump might actually do well at the polls. The real polls, not the pseudo-statistical ones.

Therefore when he “ditched” them (their word, from high school as I recall), and went to dinner with his family, and later when he met in his home with the prime minister of Japan, in transit through NYC, they convinced themselves they were righteously indignant over his breach of what they think of as their “right” to stalk him like paparazzi in pursuit of some half-naked starlet out on the town.

Senior journalists explained with great gravity that the Presidential “pool” is a small selection of press representatives designated to what is known variously as, “the Presidential protection pool” and “the Body Watch”. This, several explained without even gagging, was instigated after the November assassination of JFK in Dallas, and exists so that the public would have immediate access to first-hand eyewitness accounts and photos should some similar catastrophe befall the sitting president. Or, as those who have the good grace to find themselves ashamed of that admission add as an afterthought, should some other newsworthy event intrude upon this particular day of his life. This necessity, they allege, is based upon what they characterize as “the public’s right to know”, as if that phrase included knowing everything, immediately.

One cannot hear this shameful rationale without thinking how ghoulish it sounds.

And from whence did this imaginary right of the public to immediate access arise? A little reflection suggests that the assumption of this non-existent right sprang from the public’s own abandonment of any claim to privacy, as it has, for several years, e-mailed, facebooked, tweeted and insta-thissed and insta-thatted micro-second by micro-second of its own physical and mental state into the internet void.

From which the Fourth Estate appears first to have inferred, then reified, a reciprocal right for everyone to know, this second, everything about the life of another… in this case the president, with or without that person’s assent.

In other words, THEY FUCKING MADE IT UP, because it serves their agenda, to feed the appetite they themselves have created in the public for the consumption of “news” at a rate much higher than actual “news” occurs.

Now, because the press has the attention-span, memory and perspective of a gnat, or because they think we do, they speak of it as if it were a REAL right against which the President-elect has given offense.

Well, it started my day off well. It’s always a pleasure to laugh and shake one’s head at people who think they’re really smart, who are acting stupidly, and who don’t have a clue about it.


34. Talk of Killing an Opponent…

Election Day

November 8, 2016

This is going to sound a little bit like New York City’s 99th mayor, Fiorello LaGuardia reading the Sunday funny papers to kids on the radio during the newspaper strike in the summer of 1945. He read the words in the cartoon balloons and described the action in the pictures. I know it will sound like that because I heard him do it at the time.

Last evening, on the eve of today’s presidential election, someone forwarded to me a photograph, with added dialog balloons, that is apparently making the internet rounds.

In it, one of the actors who played James Bond, wearing a tux, is walking in an elegant palatial interior setting, a couple of paces behind the elderly Queen Elizabeth.

In his balloon he is asking, “….. & DONALD TRUMP, MA’AM?”

Her poker-faced response, is, “MAKE IT LOOK LIKE AN ACCIDENT, OO7”

Sure, I laughed at the cartoon at 3 am, before clicking the e-mail into the trash without a responding comment.  But in my peri-hypnopompic state on Election Day morning, I detected the echo of a subliminal shudder, the epicenter of which became apparent when I unearthed the joke from the trash file and took another look.

In earlier times a cartoon about the assassination of a presidential candidate would have been shocking, and I find it sad that a leading candidate has somehow made it every-day and mundane.  The implied threat is, after all, merely a slight escalation from his own threat to imprison his rival.

I see the nature of the present political campaign as the logical extension of a decades-long process of Jerry Springerization of the news and of public discourse, which has been a primer in how to turn any discussion into a physical fight:  the antithesis of conflict resolution — Springer has popularized conflict escalation.

Nearly twenty years ago I led a group therapy session among forensic patients at a state hospital, all committed to our locked ward after having been found guilty of some terrible act or other, but not criminally culpable because of a mental defect or disorder — “not guilty by reason of insanity”.  Included in the group were several murderers, as well as perpetrators of other grave but non-fatal assaults. As is often the case, the underlying interpersonal dynamic was easier to spot when dealing with the most extreme stories.  Perhaps because it is more difficult to deny and dismiss than when the elements are more subtle but still significantly damaging.

Jumping right to the heart of the matter, the single ground rule to which all who would engage in peaceful interactions must agree, whether interpersonal or international, is the assumption and the granting of the sovereign jurisdiction of each person over his or her thoughts, feelings and opinions, and of each nation over all that occurs within its borders.  This is a concession of powers and rights, that declares that all unwanted and uninvited intrusions across personal and national boundaries are invasions, and are a priori wrong in the eyes of the world.

In the case of nations, that principle was established in 1648 in the Treaty of Westphalia.  In the case of persons in the United States, it is established by our laws defining adulthood and competency, and is at the core of all our laws against interpersonal assaults and attacks.  All questions appertaining thereto are decided by judges in courts of law.

One can fairly say that while it is not legal to prevent others from speaking their opinions, it is also fundamental that, after the age of majority, no one is in any way obligated to listen to any unsolicited opinions, from any other person. Much less is anyone obliged to accept any touching or other physical intrusion upon person or property without giving concurrent and continuing consent.

Perhaps the most common tactic people employ in order to force their opinion upon another is to claim they must listen “because it is the truth”.  When “in truth” it is likely that everything presented as truth is merely opinion.  Even what we commonly call “scientific truth” is actually someone’s theoretical model or metaphor and subject to regular revision or outright change when it no longer describes all the observable phenomena.

“Religious truth”, when foisted upon a second party of a different belief, is merely an opinion, often the product of an outright delusion or hallucination, coupled with an appeal to a higher authority: an authority that doesn’t actually exist, except through a personal decision in the mind of the believer, to believe that it does.  If an effort is made by a first party to force a second party to acknowledge the superiority of any idea, or behave according to that idea, that constitutes the imposition of pure power across a personal, sovereign boundary, and violates both our laws pertaining to freedom of belief, and what have become international norms regarding personal rights and freedoms. Under that construct, for example, slavery itself becomes a special case of infringement by force and by the assertion of a false right, upon the personal sovereignty of another person.

When it becomes acceptable to make jokes about killing a political opponent, we have slipped across an important line, between persuasion and the imposition of intimidation and physical force.  I find it ironic that in this instance the side making the joke is the one theoretically averse to taking things by force. At the same time it is not actually surprising that the joke of the putatively more peaceful faction, the anti-war, anti-gun party, makes reference to murder by the icon of stealth and perfidy, the international spy with a “license to kill”.

I conclude that the only difference between the faction that talks peace and the one that advocates confrontation, is the degree to which the motives of the former are less overt, and their aggressions  more passive and concealed.

As if, of the cartoon they might later say, “Oops! Did I say that out loud?”

If the over-arching concept is personal sovereignty, is making or repeating a joke about killing someone less offensive than making a joke about committing a sexual assault upon someone? Is such a joke merely political locker-room talk?

As a good mom would say when the kids are fighting . . . “Use your words!”


33. More on the Medical Marijuana Myth

September 3, 2016

During the political season I often watch CNN or FOX news with the sound off, just to see the non-political headlines on the “crawl” at the bottom of the screen.

Today, another marijuana item caught my eye. New York legislators are considering increasing the number of Medical Marijuana dispensaries to 40, state-wide; allowing nurse-practitioners to prescribe marijuana; and widening the acceptable medical indications to include “chronic pain”.

As I asked in my previous post, is there anyone in the world who does not think “medical” marijuana is merely s subterfuge to make marijuana available to anyone who wants it, circumventing or ignoring the federal and state proscriptions against its use?

The Medical Marijuana Myth

It is possible that herbal marijuana may prove to have some few medicinal benefits, but at present that assertion remains merely anecdotal and informal. It has never been subjected to the well-established formal and legal methodology by which such beliefs are forged into scientific medical judgments, has never undergone the process that protects the public against magical or delusional theories, and against fraud in the form of medical quackery. Several decades ago a study done inLos Angeles found that 50% of marijuana sold on the street was adulterated in order to give it a more palpable kick. At the time the most common adulterant was phencyclidine (PCP). Now the vendors have many more choices and the buyers have even less of an idea what they are smoking.

It is a sad irony that the vast majority of people protected by the intricate and careful process of bringing a medication to market haven’t a clue what it is, why it exists or how it works. As a result of which they fail to offer it the respect it is due. Only this week the FDA ordered the removal of 19 ingredients from antibacterial soaps marketed for nearly half a century, on the basis that their makers have failed to offer scientific proof of their possessing any greater efficacy than plain soap and water, and that, moreover, the substances may contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant strains of pathogenic bacteria.

The only promising indication I have seen of a major and unique medical benefit of marijuana is in the treatment of children with nearly a hundred seizures a day, by the Charlotte’s Web strain.

From Discover science magazine:

A new strain of marijuana has motivated hundreds of families with epileptic children to pack up and move to Colorado to legally obtain the drug. The jury is still out on whether this special pot strain does indeed have measurable benefits, or if it’s even safe, but drug companies are racing to replicate its effects in pill form.

The therapeutic pot strain, called Charlotte’s Web, is bred not have THC­—the active ingredient in marijuana. Its namesake is 5-year-old Charlotte Figi, a Colorado girl who has Dravet’s syndrome. Charlotte reportedly went from having 300 seizures a week in 2010 to being virtually seizure-free two years later after connecting with a nonprofit that grows and produces an oil infused with the special marijuana strain.

Charlotte’s story has renewed curiosity among researchers in a particular chemical in pot, cannabidiol (CBD), which could have anti-epileptic properties in humans.

Marijuana is also reputed to be an effective anti-nauseant in people receiving cancer chemotherapy. This is a very narrow usage, and might not be as attractive as a some pill form of the active ingredient to those who do not smoke, or who do not smoke marijuana. See the pros and cons of this indication.

In particular, odansetron is more effective than marijuana and is readily absorbed if placed between lip and gum, important when comparing with inhaled marijuana because swallowed medications and those administered by rectal suppository are likely to be expelled before they are absorbed when the patient is vomiting and having diarrhea.

Earlier reports of shortened gestational duration (0.8 weeks) in marijuana users have been questioned, and later studies have not found any significant adverse effects, but some study designs may not have detected anything less than a five-fold increase in birth defects. Therefore, caution is still indicated, recalling that thalidomide for nausea and vomiting of pregnancy made it all the way through FDA testing and to the market before it was discovered that babies were being born with flippers instead of arms and legs.

Chronic Pain and the Harm Reduction Philosophy

The New York state proposal to include chronic pain may add to a big problem.

Between three and four decades ago, a medical advocacy, consisting of a small number of loud voices, arose to “stop under-treating” people with chronic pain. Because many physicians were reluctant to treat pain for which they could find no medical cause or reason, this imperative gave rise to special “pain clinics”, operated by the few physicians who did believe that chronic pain was usually a real entity. (The alternate belief being that persistent pain was often the result of treating acute pain for too long a period and with too high doses of opioid pain medications and other addicting substances.)

The result, over the past thirty years, has been a huge and ever-growing increase in the number of opiate addicts, leading to a warning last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the Department of Health and Human Services, for physicians to be far more careful in prescribing medications for pain. The general conclusion has been that physicians, and “pain clinics” have been responsible for the dramatic 30-year increase in prescription pill addictions.

All I can say is that this conclusion comports with my own observations during forty-plus years of medical practice, in which I personally treated many patients carelessly and unnecessarily addicted to opiates by their physicians. Within a number of days or a very few weeks of treatment with opiates, a pain patient will re-expeience the pain whenever an attempt is made to reduce the dose of the opiate… long, long after any physical cause for the pain has completely healed.

Along with the prescription of opiates for pain, a major industry has developed, based upon the theory of “harm reduction”, that treats heroin addiction with maintenance methadone and buprenorphine, both synthetic opiates. The problem with the “harm reduction” theory is that by removing adverse consequences, motivation of both patient and physician to end the addiction are reduced or removed, if not reversed. The patient keeps the pain in order to obtain a drug he wants. The physician keeps the patient in order to pay for his new sailboat.

I see the growing movement by cynical marijuana users and growers: to circumvent the law by arguing, without any consensus of medical opinion, that marijuana has medicinal benefits, as analogous to the corrupting influence of the “chronic pain” and “harm reduction” theories of its predecessors. This is a thinly disguised political ploy that is bad enough for that reason alone, but also corrupts and sacrifices the integrity and honesty of the medical profession as “collateral damage” to its cause. We have created a small army of doctors who have become content to make a very good living writing prescriptions for methadone, buprenorphine and pot. They make no ‘good faith’ examination of the “patients”, and are content, in the case of opioids, to create or maintain an addiction that keeps their patients coming in like clockwork to get their drug of choice. Ca-ching!

In the case of marijuana, though the addiction rate is arguably far smaller than with opioids, the people who will let nothing stand between them and their drug, and who are willing to pay some ‘wink-wink, nod-nod’ practitioner to write them a script for it, are gradually expanding their control, state by state, over the health policies and once-proud health care system of a nation. By their very actions, those people are displaying some of the identifying characteristics of addiction. And as a community, we are increasingly enabling the inmates to run the asylum, with predictable results.


32. Marijuana

August 19, 2016

Although I would listen to anyone who thinks he or she has an argument against it, I submit that everyone knows that the whole “medical marijuana” movement is just a thinly disguised and contemptuous subterfuge to use marijuana “recreationally”, the true meaning of which is, “at will”. The news story about Canadian use in Monday’s New York Times seems to support that position.


Personally, as a physician, with only a couple of exceptions, I have always been very skeptical of claims regarding the purported superiority of the medicinal benefits of marijuana plant over pharmaceutical medications. For example, it seemed to me that it may be a better option as an anti-nauseant for people undergoing cancer chemotherapy. But not, say, for nausea in pregnancy.

While it has also seemed to me that there should be vigorous scientific research into the actual benefits and disadvantages of medical marijuana use, it is clear that the political movement advocating its use has pushed far out ahead of any research efforts.

Without going to the trouble of collecting specific examples, because I don’t think facts are the issue for those who favor marijuana use, I will merely mention that in my on-line Continuing Medical Education reviews I see about one research abstract per week describing yet another adverse brain-health effect from marijuana use. I see few if any research papers supporting its safety and efficacy.

Reported are also very close correlations between marijuana use and earlier onset of serious brain disorders, like bipolar disease and schizophrenia. But those, I think, have not been shown to be causal, though that is sometimes the implication.

We are in the presence of a massive, profit-driven “natural experiment”. In which people are volunteering their brains to test the long-term results of THC intoxication. The only thing of which I am sure is that the likeliest chance of damage is to the developing brains of teens, whose forebrains, ironically, do not yet have the capacity to foresee and judge the risks. In another example of ‘experimental’ cart before ‘brain development’ horse, of 12 to 17-year-olds who die huffing solvents, 22% are trying it for the first time.

In the Canadian story one of the profit-driven dealers was appealing a denial of his license application for a shop that was not sufficiently distant from a school. Which was itself ironic, since the proximity rule seems laughably arbitrary and inadequate. What kid can’t walk the length of a football field?