Friday, December 28, 2012

Violence Against Women - Knows no Borders

RIP:  Two innocent women, tragically dying this week.
Christmas Eve, our town
Lost a cop, shot on duty
By her war vet spouse.
Lingering two weeks,
After gang rape unspeakable,
India riots – too late.

Tragedies like these. Too many of them!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Disentangling Guns and Mental Health

Where to begin?

#1. Violence cannot be predicted. Even a “mental health evaluation” prior to buying, using, acquiring, even borrowing a gun could not assure. Unless such a person indicates in a clear and convincing way that they intend immanently to harm a person or persons or an identifiable property, there is no way to predict violence other than self-report. That would include violence against themselves, of course. Don't believe me? Go and read the extensive literature on the prediction of violence: In the absence of a specific threat, there is no way that violence can be predicted. No matter how mentally ill, deranged, or criminally inclined the person may be. (Mental illness is no predictor!)

#2. Mental health professionals, in the course of their normal work, are legally obligated to protect confidentiality. Why? Well, in addition to the right to privacy guaranteed patients by the Constitution, psychotherapy simply cannot be conducted except under the most confidential circumstances. Trust is vital for a psychotherapy relationship. If you imagine, as gun adherents would like you to believe, that the mental health system should function like a system of parole officers, complete with surveillance capability, then you have swallowed a “red herring” argument. Don't be fooled!

#3. Mental health services, especially services for the severely mentally ill, are sorely in need of expansion and improvement in this country. But that is a separate issue, totally apart from the crying need to regulate and decrease gun purchases, ownership, and use in this country – which is a job for law enforcement and legislators, not mental health professionals.

#4. Any proposed evaluation of persons for the use or possession of firearms should be conducted ONLY by trained law enforcement individuals, for example police psychologists or other trained law enforcement investigators. This would shield mental health professionals from being put in the position of signing affidavits or applications related to firearms. (This is not their job!) It would also put gun owners, purchasers, or users on notice that the police will have their name on file, that the desire to exercise second amendment rights, at the very least, has some connection with a well regulated militia (as stated in the Constitution).

Pie in the sky? Frankly, I don't care. For it's high time the real issues were addressed. Frankly. And goodness, if the military can account for every rifle issued, and can revoke that rifle if a service person shows signs of misusing it, then we as a society have the right to know that our local police department, sheriff's office, local FBI (you name it) knows the whereabouts of every firearm in the vicinity and has a record of everyone who proposes to use a gun in that vicinity or elsewhere. This is only common sense!

#5. You want to get some revenue? Then include a cost for all this. It costs $465 to file for a green card now or to make use of the new presidential order allowing young residential aliens to have an immunity period. Assess a similar cost and use a similar lengthy process when it comes to firearms. Yearly renewal license fees would yield additional revenue. And very high penalties, monetary and legal,should accompany falsification of documents or illegal retention (or use) of firearms, etc. With strong enforcement of those penalties.  Oh, and let's not forget the limitation of ammunition and the fee to purchase that as well.

It goes without saying that any type of assault weapon, any type of large magazine, would be banned across the board.

Make this process costly. Make it onerous. Provide monetary incentives for those who turn in weapons rather than pay the costly fees every year. I suspect it would ultimately decrease weapons in circulation.  (In our state it now costs $75 for yearly car registration.  How many folks could afford to spend that on multiple weapons?  That alone should reduce the number of unnecessary arsenals.)

Maybe another time I'll design a good mental health system...

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

SPORTS rifles! And the WAR on Logic

It was during the previous president's administration that I first took notice of the war on logic.  I didn't have a blog then.  But I wrote about it.  I'm talking, of course, of the Orwellian language the right uses so often.  (They must have whole teams of people sitting around developing new terms, as the need arises!)  To confuse the populace...

A tiny divergence:  As a young child I read and reread Animal Farm many times.  Among other influences I think it turned me into a leftist in righty household.  It fitted so perfectly with the parochial school teaching as well!  Ah.... the insidious nature of religious training - which outwits even the hierarchs sitting in Rome.  (I think the book was included in a set of children's literature that came along with the Encylopedia:  Subversive influences, unbeknownst to them - Robin Hood and A Tale of Two Cities and others like The Prince and the Pauper and Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn. Also Uncle Tom's Cabin?)  Boy, did I get an education from those surreptitiously "smuggled-in" books.

But I digress...

I learned this morning that killing-machines - assault weapons - are actually "sold" as Sports rifles.  Together with the tactical reality "world" which these freedom-loving "folks" are encouraged to imagine they live in.  It's important, apparently, for us now to "get to know" this alternate reality - a world of Paranoia in which killing is sport.  Well... they wouldn't agree with that conclusion, but indeed, when you translate the language:  sports = assault = killing.  There's no getting around it!

The sad deaths of so many tiny children... taking us to so many unexpected dark alleys.  This is becoming like a Hydra - where hideous heads blossom each time we think we've nailed a new and horrible fact that's come to light.  And it's worth returning to Greek mythology, given that Cerberus Capitol (owner/maker of the so aptly named Bushmaster, apocalyptic killing machine - sold for "sport") has now concluded that being the Top Gun maker has some liabilities attached to it...

Tiny liabilities, whose names, tolled one by one... in funerals and on black-bannered TV screens will never leave us.  Ever.

Watch out for the WAR on logic!  You can see it in the fights over taxes.  The fights over a so-called fiscal cliff.   And now, of course, particularly in this "joined battle" over killing-guns... ugh ... sports rifles.

Watch out for alternate realities!  Where global weirding never comes.  Where guns (not people!) do the killing.  Or if people do it, they're deranged ... so it's simply a mental health problem, not a gun problem. 

Watch out for the word "Freedom"!  Cerberus Capital calls its gun division "Freedom."  Supposedly more and more guns - even in the hands of teachers - would guarantee children their freedom.  Or else the little ones can be trained to defend their freedom via rushing a sportsman taking target practice - using them.

Monday, December 17, 2012

My Heart is Walking Around

President Obama gave the address of his life last night. Part speech, part sermon, part call to arms – if by arms we mean reaching out with love.

As he spoke I could see the “case” he was building. Slowly... Gently... A trail of love from one's own children to all the children. From one's own personal love for a baby to care and responsibility for one another. For the children's sake. Those who are now lost but whose tragic deaths must remain a beacon of light – showing the way. Those alive and growing. Those yet to be born. And the child in all of us.

It seems to me the president has not only found his voice but has sketched out a unifying theme for his second term. A theme which touches on every piece of important legislation facing us as a nation.

It is time to put away tools of violence. Be they metal or verbal. Time to turn our hearts to healing. Time to care for all God's children. Here. There. Everywhere.

In old age – I think I'm now qualified to know – it's so easy to resume the timelessness of childhood. Spending a day with a two year old, for example. Living in the now. A state you could call enlightenment having been granted along with increasing years.

So engrossed in the “now” was I on Friday that I knew nothing of the tragedy. Until my beloved little one had been collected by his mother. Wearing his new socks and shoes that had just been delivered to my door that day. Oh, yes, he is not mine – but my heart is walking around in him. My heart will be warm - in the snowsuit and mittens that came the day before.

Somewhere I read that “clothing” someone – in biblical terms – means “encircling with love.”

That's what Obama is talking about:  As a society we must reach out and encircle with love.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Democratic Convention & the America I Love

I still can't get over my joy of the Dem Convention!  I watched - transfixed - during its three nights.  I loved the speeches.  And I particularly loved it when the camera panned to show me the audience.  I loved the diversity!

It brings me joy just to recall the diversity.  

Most of all the convention gave me the America I love.  People of all ages, races, creeds, incomes, cultural groups, genders, persuasions.  All types of workers.

It was beautiful!  It made my heart swell.  With a sense of oneness.  All these people...   Not just a picture of our country's diversity.  But like a picture of our world.

For weeks now I've been wanting to write this post.  Not quite sure where it was leading me.  Letting my thoughts and feelings ripen...

I bet I'm not the only person for whom the Democratic Convention continues to matter.  And I bet that's what a bounce means.  It means you felt uplifted at the time.  And you continue to feel uplifted.  As your memories coalesce and strengthen.  Into a really good feeling for what our country can be - how we can all come together.  Work together.  For the common good.

So much has led to this moment. 


I honestly think the Occupy Movement had a powerful impact.

In its own way it changed the conversation.

Romney/Ryan - So the Rich get richer!
Indeed it started conversations!

It encouraged a sense of community.

Contrast that with the alternative....

Take a good long look at the logo.   (Click to enlarge.)

Which is your America?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Right Questions for Campaign 2012

In Grad School I learned the importance of asking good questions.  I learned that doing research.  And I learned that doing psychotherapy. 

So here's our task:  What questions should we be asking ourselves this campaign season?  And how do we find them?

I'd say we have to start with a good metaphor for where we've been over the past 4 years.  And that metaphor came to me a few days back, when I was examining the fallacious reasoning of the republican ticket:  Our current economic crisis is like being on a forced march.  Or like having to climb a mountain when we didn't pick the task.  When we simply have to slog on as a nation during a period of economic austerity.  So we're on this "forced march" - this uphill climb.  Together.  That's the key.  To my mind.  (Another useful metaphor.)

Asking the right question, I'd say, assumes something about how we're all in this together.  Versus the republican question, which, not surprisingly assumes each individual is like an independent atom - with its own orbit.  As if the atom individual (See Ayn Rand.  Or don't.) could independently assay the past 4 years, pronounce judgement (do you judge it for yourself alone?  or do you presume to make a judgement for us all?), and then cast a vote accordingly.  As if that was ALL that mattered.... (N.B.  Ryan-Romney are asking the wrong question.)

Ok, so back to finding the right question.  I'd say the question is something like this:  Since we're all in this together, and since we are facing difficult odds as a nation (due to over-runs of 2 wars and tax breaks for the wealthy under Bush and a stalled economy due to financial wizards making huge mistakes and saddling us all with gigantic loans to bail them out...  Grrrr!!!)...  here comes the question:   
How far have we come?  And who do we TRUST as a leader - for the next 4 years of our slog?  Do we stick with our current leader or find another?  

To me, it comes down to the issue of trust:
Who are the most trustworthy companions and leaders - if we're all in this together?  Who understands companionship?  Who best understands what it means that we're all in this together?  
Who can we trust to lead us in our togetherness?  Who understands togetherness?  Who will tell us the truth about that?

For me, the choice is clear.  In two ways:  
Affirmative: Barak Obama. 
Negative: Willard Weasel, AKA Mitt Romney
                  - one of those very financial wizards, hiding money offshore, avoiding taxes onshore.

Need a humor break?  Or a blessing?  Two for one here.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Cognitive Dissonance and Campaign 2012

Ok, so the new theory the Romney folks are now trying to implement is based on cognitive dissonance. 

What is cognitive dissonance you may be asking yourself?  And why does it matter?

Cognitive dissonance relates to decision-making.  Especially to making difficult decisions.  Where a person may go back and forth.

Cognitive dissonance is also related to how a person feels when they've chosen a given product or path.  A car.  A journey.  A marriage.  And, it's now being assumed, a vote for president.

When cognitive dissonance is operating, it means that despite many problems, once a person has chosen a given path, they tend to stay on it.  Despite difficulties.  And that efforts to dissuade them otherwise actually work in reverse.  So, if you're climbing Mt. Everest, and you've invested tons of money and effort into that project, you may persevere in your climb even when prudence suggests you turn around and wisely go back to base camp.

The Romney camp is assuming that because the economy is so bad, they can convince voters to give up on Obama and ...  well that's the other side of the problem.  Because there has to be a choice which is so convincing that it's worth giving up what you've already got.

Even in an abusive marriage, it is extremely difficult for an abused spouse to give up hopes and dreams for the person who still manages - even if only from time to time - to be a positive partner.

The Romney camp is assuming that Obama is like a Lemon vehicle or an abusive spouse.  Which he's not - even if over and over they have tried to portray him that way.

So who's the villain in this story the republicans are spinning?

The Romney camp wants to portray Obama as the villain.  But that's a false premise.  The economy is one villain.  And actually, the republican effort to harry, humiliate and defeat Obama - rather than cooperate for the good of the country - is another.

The decision people have to make?  The few remaining persuadable voters are those trying to figure out who they actually trust.  A mendacious Mitt is not trustworthy.  Even republicans, who are committed to voting for him, will do so just as they'd swallow a bitter medicine.  That's where cognitive dissonance operates for them:  Die hard partisans will stick with the republican candidate no matter how difficult the slog or how wooden the leader.  Except for those republicans who see Mitt as really bad news for the country.  (And I suspect there are some, even some republican pundits, who are coming to that conclusion.)

But your average voter?  If they voted for Obama and they recognize that it's the economy they are up against - not Obama - then Obama's sunny smile, engaging chuckle, optimistic outlook, and honesty about what we're up against is likely to save the day.  They're highly likely to stick with the present course, the known quantity.  And the cheerful leader.

Here's an example:  If you're on a forced march - as we are in this economy - most of us recognize that Obama is not forcing the march.  And we recognize how hard republicans have worked to worsen the march.  They've been miserable companions.  They've sniped and told lies.  They've spent hardly any time encouraging or cooperating.  They simply haven't made the case that letting them lead would be anything but bitter medicine.

There's a lot of research on how students react to professors.  And guess what?  After just a few minutes, even less than a minute, they're able to assess whether they like someone.  And their emotional reactions, first impressions, are highly indicative of how they will grade the professor's performance at the end of the semester.

People have had a long time to get to know Obama - as a cheerful and predictable individual.  Yes, some are prejudiced against him.  (And I do mean prejudiced.)  But those who are connected now... are highly unlikely to give up on that positive connection for a shifty person who, everyone admits, just can't make the sale of himself.  Especially when first impressions are so powerful.  And Mitt has had many, many years of being the same smarmy weasel - a guy who can't connect but is so desperate to please that he has no inner core but deception.

Cognitive dissonance?  My predictions:  First, those connected to Obama will stay connected.  And efforts of the Romney campaign to change that will backfire.  (Cognitive dissonance will work against that type of pressure.   Plus, efforts to play on voters' supposed guilt will really work against them, for it's a putdown...)  Finally, first impressions of Mitt as a woefully poor candidate, as someone who simply can't connect, will endure.  And possibly strengthen...  as a choice between a known, upbeat personality versus a carping, shifty, bullying, wooden guy becomes clearer and clearer.

If we, as a nation, have to keep slogging up what seems an almost impossible climb...  most of us will choose the sunny leader.  And not the guy who'd put a dog into a cage on a forced drive.

Cognitive Dissonance.  I predict it's gonna work in Obama's favor!  And against Mitt. 

Example:  Only 20 million tuned in for Mitt's speech?  I'd say cognitive dissonance had a say in how many tuned out!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

What went SO WRONG for Mitt?

One of Obama's great strengths is that all his life he has cultivated mentors.  And this, to my analytic mind, suggests both humility and a capacity to make use of the wisdom of others.   Thus, when Obama recognizes that we all build on the shoulders of others, he isn't just stating an assertion, he is recognizing his debts to society and to those, along the way, who have dealt him a helping hand.

Mitt Romney, on the other hand, mocks such wisdom.  He asserts that success is the measure of one's personal efforts alone.   Now I used to think that this was just one more of Mitt's political nostrums.  But it's clear now, after Mitt's self-inflicted London skewering, that Mitt truly believes and acts as if his own counsel is all he needs.  Mitt needs the limelight.  He doesn't want to share it. He doesn't seek mentors.  And, from all accounts, he regularly over-rules not only his own campaign advisers but his own party's offers of wisdom.  Refusal to release his taxes being just one unwise example.

If you look back in Mitt's life, it's clear he prefers to be the leader of a gang.  And he makes use of such leadership to prey on others.  Fellow students.  Companies.  Opponents.  Such leaders require subservient accomplices.  We call such people bullies actually.  And bullies do not take direction.  They do not take advice.  They do not share the limelight.  They do not seek mentors.  And they don't second-guess themselves.  Or apologize.

This is exactly the kind of behavior we saw on display in London.  Mitt went there with only a small team.  He ignored the advice of his own campaign strategists to stay away from a foreign trip.  He must have trusted his own instincts for how to handle himself when he arrived there.  For he didn't seem to have a plan for how to behave or what he was trying to accomplish.  So what did he do?  He put his own self-importance on display:  His MI6 gaffe.  He couldn't share the limelight:  So he ridiculed the Brit's Olympic preparation.  He couldn't apologize - despite being given many, many opportunities to do so.  And he left most of his advisers at home, so he had no one to turn to...  as he lurched from gaffe to gaffe.

Hour after hour in London Mitt just made things worse for himself.  But he carried on, as if in denial of his totally self-inflicted humiliation.  Indeed, he seems to be a man who is incapable of recognizing his own errors - while all too ready to pin those same errors on others.  Just watch how often he does this.  How so many of his lies are based upon projection, that is seeing in others the sins of oneself.  It requires a certain level of delusion to fail to see one's own faults, while at the same time bullying an opponent with false accusations - of the disavowed sins of oneself.  This is Mitt to a "T"!

So what went wrong for Mitt in London?  First of all, he was a man without a gang.  A man ready to go it alone.  A man ready for a prize-fight.  And with no one to stop him, he threw punch after punch.  What happened, when the British press went after him, when even British politicians joined in, was the kind of pile-on Mitt has dealt out to others from high-school on.  The amazing thing when you think about it is this:  Due to his own arrogance and spitefulness, as well as to his lack of humility and inability to cultivate and use mentors, Mitt's Misbehavior actually sparked a gang of opposition.  The opposite of what he's experienced all his life.  So instead of him being the gang leader, he offered himself as a perfect target.

As I've said before, the man has serious character flaws.  Flaws which prevent him from cultivating or following the wisdom of mentors.  Flaws which were all too much on display in London.  Flaws which may be covered up when he is surrounded by a gang of sycophants.  But sycophants, like Uriah Heep, have agendas of their own.

There are all too many hidden agendas within the campaign of Mitt Romney.  Some of them pertain to his own flawed method of leadership via gang attack - based on disavowed flaws within himself, which he projects onto others.  Some of them lie within the sycophants he cultivates, people who give him money or people who fawn.  A man with character flaws such as Mitt's is all too easy for others to manipulate.  He views himself as the sole architect of his own success.  But while he avoids mentors and rejects wise advice, Mitt's need for the limelight - his need for a gang of sycophants - opens the door to (covert) manipulation.  Could be foreign:  As he makes himself the tail to Israel's dog. Could be domestic:  His need to appease the right wing, the evangelicals, the libertarians, and the monied.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Romney 2012: A Study in Why Ethics Matters

This post draws substantially on a post of mine from the 2008 election.  In that post I used a VP candidate's behavior to illustrate some ethical problems.  This time, sadly, I must use a presidential candidate, Mitt Romney.  For I think his behavior exemplifies certain ethical lapses - which strike at the heart of why his campaign is currently experiencing so many difficulties.  Let me set the scene with some paragraphs from the prior post:
"Most professions offer some training in ethics. But an ethics code, no matter how detailed, is no substitute for extensive training in ethical decision-making. And many people who enter politics may stumble seriously for lack of sensitivity to ethics. Awareness of boundaries and the ability to draw firm boundaries goes a long way toward protecting oneself from ethical lapses. I doubt politicians get any training in that. And then we’re just left with the person’s own ethical understanding. That, to my mind, is exactly why character and temperament are so important in picking leaders.
"What follows is a list of general problems, which may arise from a failure to draw boundaries (borders) between professional roles and duties versus private or personal roles and duties. Many of the examples in this list relate to [Mitt Romney] specifically, but they are typical of the kinds of problems any politician, bureaucrat, or other professional might face."
In the case of Romney, I'll also be adding some other issues relating to his failure to draw boundaries between the personal, the business, and the political realms.  And perhaps what I have to say will throw light on the conflicts currently boxing Mitt in, some of which I have already detailed here.

Please excuse the numbering below.  It should read 1 and 2, but the software and I are incompatible!  (At least I can recognize a boundary violation when I see one.)
  1. "When a politician mixes personal and professional [and political] roles, he or she is not looking out for the citizens’ interests so much as for his or her own." 
  • Romney, for personal reasons, wants to withhold releasing years of taxes.  His personal reasons?  Shame, it would appear.  He is putting this before a fiduciary duty to voters.  (Interestingly, he should feel ashamed not to do as his father did.  So there's another role conflict in his tangled inner torment.)
  • Romney, for similar personal reasons is trying to disclaim responsibility for 3 or 4 years of his tenure at Bain, even though business and government records indicate his involvement.  And even though his prior role as Chairman, CEO, and Sole Owner would have set the tone and business plan for his company's conduct during those years.  His reason?  Again, to avoid shame.  This time on both the personal and the professional (business) levels.
  1. (#2) "Drawing boundaries helps a person make ethical decisions.
  • It seems that Romney is unable to recognize that political obligations - transparency related to the fact that he has put himself forth as a candidate for the highest office in the land – supersede personal wishes
  • And he fails to recognize that his obligations to the voters supersede his own needs or preferences as a private individual.
  • If Romney could draw boundaries between his various roles here, he would be able to accede to the public's right to know as well as to the pleas of members of his own party, whom he is stubbornly ignoring - due to putting personal pride ahead of fiduciary duties.
Let's go back to my prior post for a few more choice paragraphs (under which are discussion bullets related to Romney's ethical difficulties):
"In my view people who can draw boundaries have one of the single most important qualities of a good leader or good supervisor, no matter where they might work. These are people who grade fairly and treat students or employees or children equally. Who can place professional responsibilities above personal needs. Who recognize that authority is not a power to wield but a responsibility one discharges. That the one with greater power always has greater responsibility to draw boundaries and exercise special care for those they serve or who serve under them."
  •  Romney shows a failure to draw boundaries as early as his time at Bain.  Recall the photo where he, as CEO, shares with his employees a group prank.  They all have $$$ coming out of their pockets.  This may seem a small thing.  But it indicates that he, as a manager, has failed to lead.  He is joining with them, perhaps even put them up to this, in behaving like a schoolboy.  (Behavior which was also evident in high school and college - when he organized gangs to bully fellow students.)
  • Likely there are other examples from Romney's life.  We may soon see them, as I suspect we have not seen the last of press investigation or opposition research.  (Or could be a trip to foreign lands...)
  • Yup!  Romney:  Disowned by venture capitalists.  His lack of transparency and conflicting claims (in business dealings) contribute to a culture of mistrust and corruption.  Boston Globe digs deeper, finds more blurred boundaries.

Friday, July 6, 2012

My brush with Mitt

Sometimes a "mystery" is explained.  I have the evidence!

Till recently, I only had the mystery.

Some years ago, I purchased pads of paper.  They were in a lovely graph paper design.  And the paper quality was exceptional!  I used them for writing up therapy notes.  Which meant that I needed a pretty good supply of good paper.  And I went through a lot of it.

Even though I'd purchased this paper in plastic-wrapped packages of a dozen or so... eventually my supply ran low.

That's when I had my brush with Mitt.  Though I had no idea who he was or how his behavior impacted my small business, so to speak.

First a digression.  Why graph paper? ... you may be asking.  Well, in Europe they always had these nice writing pads in a graph paper design.  And when I found some, right here in the USA, at a time when I needed a lot of writing paper of good quality, I was delighted!

But I was not delighted when I tried to replace my dozens of shrink-wrapped writing pads.  Instantly, I could see the difference!  The paper was flimsy.  The printing was poor.  Same company.  Same product name.  But the quality was terrible!  And I had pads of the formerly good paper left over.  So I could prove it to myself.  Over and over.

I was so bothered by this, as I'd really enjoyed writing on that nice paper... and I still had lots more writing to do... that I phoned the company.  To complain.  They were very apologetic.  And sent me 3 replacement packages (with a dozen writing pads each).  To make up for it.  I still have some of them.  All these years later.  For:

The replacements were identically terrible.              

That was in the mid 90's, I'd guess.

Fast forward to 2012.  Mitt Romney is running for president.  Bain Capital is on the radar screen.  And upon that radar comes the name AmpadThat name rings a bell.

Folks, I can personally demonstrate the effect of Mitt Romney's Bain Capital upon Ampad.   And upon me.  

Did I ever purchase from Ampad again?  Nope!

Mitt Romney ran that company into the ground.  He likely destroyed its customer base.  And believe me, I would have been a very loyal customer!  For I needed a lot of that good paper.  Which never came back. 

So if Mitt thinks he's a great businessman, I have news for him.  I can prove it!