A Perversion of Psychiatry

So, Mike and I are back to the awful topic of genocide, relating specifically to the participation of psychiatrists in this heinous crime. We are particularly offended by the grotesque misapplication of psychiatric theory and practice to the political field, justifying murder of the “other.”

Two psychiatrists, Jovan Raskovic and Radovan Karadzic, were responsible for utilizing psychiatric theory as a justification for Serbian domination of the Yugoslavian federation of governments. Composed of 6 states and even more ethnic groups, as well as diverse religious groups including Roman Catholics, Orthodox churches, and Muslims, and with the recent history of the Nazi occupation and complicity of some Croats with the Nazis, the challenge of peaceful coexistence in Yugoslavia was overwhelming. And it broke down after the death of Marshall Josep Broz Tito in 1980. The Serbs believed that they were  naturally disposed to rule, and a psychological construct was developed, based on a bizarre misapplication of Freudian theory, to support their position. Raskovic’s view was that the Serbs bore an Oedipal complex which compelled them to kill the “Father”, the government of Yugoslavia. Their reward would be the “Mother”, symbolized by the land of Yugoslavia. He said the Croats had a “fear of castration” which rendered them incompetent to exercise authority and hold power. He published a manifesto, Luda Zemlja, had great success in promulgating his theories and, whipping up the Serbs to a frenzy of aggression, established the Serbian Democratic Party.  As his health was failing, he put his protege, Karadzic, another psychiatrist, as head of the party.

Karadzic used his knowledge of psychiatry to inflict terror on the groups that he persecuted, particularly the Bosnian Muslims. Now known as the “Butcher of Bosnia,” he used rape as a tool of intimidation and social disruption. As his troops killed, maimed, and raped, he terrified the victim population not only to flee, but to not want to return to the scene of their horrific experience as an element of his “ethnic cleansing” program. The raped Muslim women were socially disgraced, not accepted by their communities, and many committed suicide. This anticipated result was designed to among other things, reduce the reproductive capability of the Bosnian Muslims. Karadzic was convicted of war crimes for his role in the Srebenica Massacre and other massacres of Bosnians.

The Nazis had their own whacked out theories of their ethnic superiority, and convinced themselves that they were more suited to rule (and exist) than others. They carried the characterization of the “other” groups to subhuman extremes as a justification for genocide against the Jews, Romani, and the slaughter of homosexuals, intellectually disabled persons, schizophrenics, epileptics, and others whom they considered undesirables. They found little difficulty in gaining the cooperation of psychiatrists in their madness. Six months after Hitler became chancellor of Germany, a compulsory sterilization law was passed requiring the sterilization of individuals with various neurologic and psychiatric diseases. Among these was “hereditary alcoholism.”

The background of support for this kind of idea was the eugenics movement which had gained great popularity in the United States during the early 20th century. This is not to say that the characterization of Jews as racially defective began at that time, because it did not. Jews had been characterized by the composer Richard Wagner, among others,  as “parasites” and “vermin” decades earlier, and was a direct influence on Hitler, who used the same terms in his manifesto, Mein Kampf. The term eugenics was originated in 1883 by Sir Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin. The aim of this philosophy was to “breed out” human disease and suffering by promoting the reproduction of people with desirable characteristics, and sterilizing those who had undesirable attributes. It should be noted that this idea was first proposed by Plato in his classic work, The Republic. In the US, the American Breeders Association was formed in 1903 to further the cause of eugenics. In 1911 J. H. Kellogg, the corn flakes guy, founded the Race Betterment Foundation which established a pedigree registry. Laws were passed in several states forbidding marriage of different classes of “defectives” and mandating sterilizations of mentally ill persons. The US Supreme Court upheld the practice in a 1927 decision in which Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote that “three generations of imbeciles is enough.” It took 15 years for this decision to be overturned, but not before tens of thousands of men and women were sterilized.  And while not official policy, an extraordinary number of Native American women were sterilized, many without their consent (such as during an appendectomy.) In Hitler’s  Mein Kampf, dictated while he was imprisoned, he mentions the eugenics movement in America, and he strenuously advocated for the purity of the Aryan gene pool, using whatever means necessary, including genocide.

During the 1930s Germany’s mental hospitals were overcrowded, with most of the patients diagnosed with schizophrenia. In a paper published in Germany in 1925 entitled Permission for the Destruction of Unworthy Life, written by attorney Karl Binding and psychiatrist Alfred Hoche, it was suggested that some persons are “on an intellectual level which we only encounter way down in the animal kingdom.” The economic burden of caring for such persons was a major aspect of their argument. Another psychiatrist, Berthold Kihn, wrote in 1932 that mentally ill individuals were costing Germany 150 million Reichsmarks per year. His paper was entitled The Eradication of the Less Valuable from Society.

Although the killing of mental patients was under discussion in Germany throughout the 1930s, it was not until 1939 that action was undertaken. On September 1, 1939, the same day that Germany invaded Poland, Hitler issued an authorization for the killing of mental patients. After carefully accounting for all the hospitalized mental patients, along with their diagnoses, plans were made to carry out the exterminations. Early in 1940 the first 20 such patients were made to undress and led into a “shower room” at the Bradenburg Asylum where they were killed with carbon monoxide gas. Their gold fillings were removed and the bodies cremated. Over the next 1 and 1/2 years over 70,000 patients had been killed in this manner in the program known as Aktion T-4. A total of 6 killing centers had been constructed, and they competed with each other. One center had a special celebration to mark the killing of the ten-thousandth patient. All employees received a bottle of beer. Nor was gas the only means of killing. Many were dispatched by shooting, drug overdose, or starvation. In fact, it is thought that of the approximately 250,000 mentally ill patients killed, at least 100,000 were starved to death. As many as 10,000 of the murdered were children. And once the gassing of mental patients was found to be so effective and efficient, as we all know, they instituted the program at the concentration camps to implement “The Final Solution” to the elimination of the Jewish population. Another doctor, Josef Mengele, ” was a notorious sadist who carried out gruesome experiments on inmates at Auschwitz. It is so disturbing how entire societies can degenerate into madness, and how complicit in the madness doctors can be, especially psychiatrists.  Don’t doctors take an oath to do no harm?

And on a happier note, I can report that Mike had a good report from one of his oncologists this week. He will have a telehealth visit with his other oncologist next week. I expect good news there as well. In fact, I expect good news for an extended period of time. Let’s have prayers, please for Mike’s friend Ellis, who starts radiation next week for prostate cancer. At his stage of life now many of Mike’s friends have been treated for cancer, and right now things are going well for all of them. Good medical care, a cooperative patient, and prayer energy make for a powerful combination. I hope all of you are well, and that you continue to take the coronavirus seriously. If you don’t it might just take you seriously. Don’t forget to love your neighbor, be positive and hopeful, and pray for world peace. Until next time, so long from Happy Meadows.

Good Golly, Miss Molly

So, just a few days ago “Little Richard” Penniman died at the age of 87. He burst onto the popular music scene in the 1950’s, and successfully crossed the race line that had divided popular music up to that time. His brand of music was innovative, bawdy, and had a pounding rhythm. Mike was an instant fan. Mike and Judy saw him perform not that many years ago in Mableton, Georgia, and enjoyed themselves immensely. Mike recalls he did a little preaching as well as performing his music. As with many people who are thrust into stardom from a simple life, Little Richard had more than his fill of drugs, sex, and wild and weird experiences.  He was one of the greats.

So, a few days ago a story came on line about a Chinese study investigating whether the COVID-19 virus could be recovered from semen. While possibly not the most pressing COVID-19 issue, it still could be of some interest or importance. The investigators identified 50 male patients aged 15 or older who were or had been hospitalized with the COVID-19 infection during a 3 week period early in 2020. They were able to obtain semen samples from 38 patients. The other 12 were reported to be either comatose, dead, or otherwise unable to have an erection. They did identify the virus in the semen of a few hospitalized patients, and in 2 convalescent patients. So, this could be a new STD. However, just because they found viral particles in the semen it does not mean that the particles were necessarily infectious. Further studies are warranted.

So, after a cold, wet spring  we went almost 2 weeks with no rain. But now we are back to cool and wet again. The flowers are beautiful this year. Here are a couple of our iris, and our neighbor’s magnolia.




The iris are just about done, but there is always a nice sequence of blooms of one sort or another to enjoy.

Mike, Judy and I are walking every morning. Mike and I go out again in the afternoon. We are averaging over 3 miles per day, and Sunday we did 5. I might let Mike go out by himself on the afternoon walks as it gets hotter. He just signed up for Sirius streaming, so he won’t be much company any more if he gets into his talk radio shows. He hasn’t listened to Sirius since he has been confined in March because he only had it on the car radio.

Mike sees his doctors later this week. I’ll let you know how it goes, but we are not expecting anything particularly newsworthy.

So, I have a couple of more serious topics to go into, but I don’t want to spoil the mood now; so, it can wait. I hope that wherever you are the sky is blue, the birds are singing, and the flowers are beautiful and fragrant. Don’t forget to pray for world peace, love your neighbor, and be safe, safe, safe. So long from Happy Meadows!



Baseball and Bernoulli

So, to follow up on my blurb last time about baseball and spitting, Mike and I watched a couple of innings of Korean baseball on TV, and indeed, nobody was seen spitting. The game was pretty good, but not up to major league standards. On one play the batter hit a long fly ball to center field. The center fielder misjudged the play completely, turned the wrong way to go catch the ball and wasn’t even close to it when it fell in the outfield. The bases had been loaded, and everyone scored, the batter stopping at third base with a triple. The pitching was pretty good. Mike thinks that the hardest thing to accomplish in sports must be to hit major league pitching. It’s not like golf, an easy game where the ball just sits there on the ground, motionless, waiting to be struck a blow. No, in baseball the pitch is moving, and fast. The batter has less than a second to decide whether to swing or not, depending partly on whether he thinks it will be a ball or a strike, and whether it will curve or not. He has to aim his bat for where he thinks the ball will be in a few one-hundredths of a second.

Mike says things have changed some in pitching since he was a kid. The pitchers throw harder, and don’t throw as many innings in games so they don’t ruin their arms. It used to be a badge of honor to pitch a complete 9 inning game. Back in the olden days pitchers threw mostly fastballs, curve balls, and change-ups. There were a few who threw knuckle balls, and a variation of that was the opposite, a palm ball. These latter two pitches came out of the pitcher’s hand with no spin, supposedly causing an irregular and unpredictable flight. Sliders were introduced as well, and are still popular. Almost everyone throws a slider, a sort of half-curve ball. A few other trick pitches, like a screwball, were tried by a few pitchers. Another trick pitch appeared in the 1970’s, the split-fingered fastball. It was first mastered by Bruce Sutter who used to be a relief pitcher for the Chicago Cubs. The pitch seemed to drop like a rock just as the batter was taking a swing. He was so effective that twice that we know of he came in to pitch in the 9th inning and struck out three batters while throwing a total of 9 pitches. Mike saw him do it against Cincinnati, and his friend Jack saw him do it against Montreal, I think. Youngsters who want to become famous and wealthy pitchers are throwing harder and harder at a younger age, many of them injuring themselves in the process. I don’t know if it is true or not, but Mike says he read somewhere that one-third of all pitchers wind up having Tommy John surgery because of ligament strain or rupture. And yes, that is the same Tommy John who put his name on men’s underwear.

But, there is controversy. Mike recalls listening to a baseball broadcast with his father when the announcer  said the pitcher had thrown a sharp-breaking curve ball. Grandpa Moe derisively commented that it was impossible for the thrown ball to curve sharply. He said it had to be an optical illusion. The reason that it was impossible for the ball to curve sharply was Bernoulli’s Principle. He would tell Mike’s friends that there was no such thing as a sharp-breaking curve ball, and Mike’s friends would graciously refrain from contradicting him. I personally couldn’t say whether a ball can curve or not, but it sure looks as though it does on television.

So, what did Grandpa Moe think Bernoulli had to do with it? It is worth noting that Grandpa Moe had a PhD in Chemical Engineering, and used to take advanced math courses for fun when he was in graduate school. He failed to pass along the talent for math to Mike, who nevertheless managed to earn B’s in his college chemistry classes through a combination of luck and hard work. Daniel Bernoulli was a Swiss mathematician who lived in the 1700’s. His Principle, or Theorem, states that in fluid dynamics the total mechanical energy of a flowing fluid remains constant. The mechanical energy is comprised of the kinetic energy of the flowing fluid, the gravitational potential of elevation, and the energy associated with fluid pressure. So, he said, at points along a horizontal streamline, higher pressure regions have lower fluid speed, and conversely, lower pressure regions have higher speed. I have absolutely no idea what this means, and, I can assure you, neither does Mike. Apparently, though, it has many engineering applications including in aerodynamics. According to what Mike has read, no airplane would ever get off the ground if not for Professor Bernoulli and his Principle. So, maybe Grandpa Moe, for reasons unclear to us, was right. But I do know this: good amateur baseball players will never be successful professionals unless they learn to hit a curve ball, sharp-breaking or not.

You may or may not have seen the new “Solutions” section in yesterday’s newspaper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. They are featuring articles by guest writers who have a solution to offer about something possibly of use or interest to their readers. One of the 2 writers in this inaugural venture was none other than my pal, Dr. Michael C. Gordon. He wrote about the challenge of staying sober for addicts and alcoholics under pandemic conditions, and offered suggestions. You might enjoy reading it. I will try to figure out how to add a link, but in the meantime, it is in the Monday, May 11 edition if you want to look for it. The best thing about this was that they put in a plug for my blog, and for my grandfather’s autobiography as well.

So, there is always more to say, but it will have to wait for another day. We are eating, sleeping, and feeling well here in Happy Meadows, and I hope you all are too, wherever you may be. Take good care of your cats and dogs, love your neighbor, and every day pray for world peace. Mike read this morning in his thought for the day email that peace arrives when you get rid of fear and anger. Sounds right. Until next time, don’t let life throw you a curve ball, and if it does, hit it out of the park! So long from Happy Meadows.

This Has (Almost) Nothing to Do with Mother’s Day

So, I have learned that Mike can wonder about something for a long time before he looks into it, if he ever does. There is a tree in front of our house that bears the mark of a prior surgery to prevent a trunk from toppling over. Here are pictures.


This picture shows what looks like a tree with two trunks, but could be 2 trees originating from 2 seeds that germinated in close proximity to one another. You can see the surgical result better in the next picture, taken from the opposite side.



Mike has always wondered what kind of tree it is, but has never bothered to find out. I suppose being confined to quarters, so to speak, he has looked at the house and yard more closely, and has had way more time to do so. Another thing Mike has wondered about is the tree by the deck behind the house, specifically, what kind of tree it is. Not very long ago he made the startling observation that they are both the same kind of tree. You might wonder how a person could live in a house for over 35 years without noticing something like that. But, the discovery stimulated Mike to action, and within no time it was determined that they are both red maple trees. What is strange about this, among many other things, is that Mike always thought the tree in front was some kind of maple, and he never once considered the possibility that the tree in the back might be a maple. I don’t know about you, Mike!

Baseball is back, in Korea, sans fans, with a major rule change. Because of the coronavirus epidemic, spitting is no longer allowed. Talk about unintended consequences! In yesterday’s paper Steve Hummer had an informative and entertaining article about baseball and spitting. One day, and maybe soon, people will wonder with horror about how such disgusting behavior could be considered tolerable. Indeed, some people have been aghast about this forever. But spitting is so common as to be part of the game. Of course, it has its origins in the use of chewing tobacco by baseball players. Mike has several recollections of spitting or other tobacco related events in his life. He went to a baseball game in Milwaukee in 1983, the year before he moved to Georgia. At that time Harvey Kuehn was the Milwaukee manager. Mike used to bring binoculars to games, and he recalls scanning the Milwaukee dugout just at the time that Kuehn was letting go of a thick brown rope of saliva that reached from his mouth almost all the way to the ground before it dropped. Watch your step, y’all! I should mention that tobacco is not a particularly  health-forward substance. Among other things, it causes cancer, heart disease, and arterial disease, even if it isn’t smoked. Poor Harvey Kuehn had serious health problems including diabetes and heart disease. He had to have a leg amputated because of an arterial blockage, and died several years later at age 57. I’m not saying that the chewing tobacco habit caused all of his health problems, but it certainly didn’t help. Mike recalls a 25 year old patient that he treated for alcoholism who had cancer of the tongue. He was a baseball player, and had chewed tobacco since age 14. Not good. Mike knew a priest back in Wisconsin who used to bring communion to shut-ins at their homes. Back in those days the communicants would open their mouths and stick out their tongues, rather than accept the communion wafer in their hands. Father Tom told Mike it was commonplace for the men to have a mouthful of snuff, which at least for him diminished the spirituality of the occasion. Mike also recalls one day many years ago playing golf with a man who was in the Georgia legislature. At the beginning of the round, the fellow put a big cigar in his mouth. Although he never lit it, nevertheless it got shorter and shorter as time went on. Mike says he ate the whole damn cigar, and on the back nine started in on a new one! Mike admits that he used to smoke, but quit for good in 1974.

And, speaking of things that Mike didn’t know, he found out recently that from about 1907 to 1913 Galveston, Texas was a significant port of entry to the United States for Jewish immigrants. The Jewish Benevolent Societies, particularly in London, were trying to steer Jews away from New York where there were diminishing opportunities and very crowded conditions. It is estimated that about 10,000 Jews came in at Galveston during those years. They mostly settled in the American West or Midwest. Mike’s grandparents on his father’s side came in through Ellis Island. On his mother’s side, her mother was born in America. Her father told Mike he came in with his mother and siblings through Quebec. From there they took a train to Duluth, Minnesota, where his father and his older brother and sister had already established residence. Mike isn’t sure where they entered the country. Maybe Detroit. He says he never thought to ask. His grandfather’s family was stuck in Quebec for a week because of a problem with their tickets, and slept in the train station. When Mike and Judy got married they honeymooned in Quebec, and passed through the station, I imagine the same one his grandfather had been stuck in 90 years previously. Carl Cowl used to tell a story about a man with a fruit cart who gave him a banana there. He had never seen a banana in Lithuania. Carl suffered terribly from hunger as a child. Every time he told this story Carl would tear up, thinking of the kindness of the man, and how hungry he had been. Mike also recalls that his grandfather was a speed eater. by the time everyone else at the table had just about picked up their forks, his grandfather had cleaned his plate.

So, it has been downright cold the past few days, although mostly sunny. Mike and I seem to be taking longer walks recently. I think he is getting stronger as he recovers from that bone marrow transplant. We hiked over 4 miles yesterday, a record for us. We go see his doctors the week after next, and I hope they have good news. I believe they will. I suppose there is more going on in Happy Meadows, but I can’t think of anything else right now. So, let me say adios to you all, and wish you all good health, peace of mind, and a very Happy Mother’s Day. Don’t forget to be kind to your neighbors and loved ones, and to pray for world peace. Bye, bye!


Sock It to Me

So, the other day Mike ordered some socks on line. He was running low on athletic socks which are all he wears any more. He ordered 4 pairs of socks, or at least thought he did. When they arrived he found 4 bundles containing 6 pairs of socks each. I think Mike doesn’t always read things carefully. He now has a lifetime supply, unless he gives 2 or 3 bundles away, which I think he should. Pay attention, Mike!

While on our walk this morning, Mike got to wondering, as he has on and off for the past 60 or more years, about why the Bill of Rights was not a part of the original Constitution. He never took a college course in history, and his high school education was abysmal, partly through poor courses and teachers, and partly because of his lack of effort. This is off-topic, but there is a reason that his teachers were sub-par. Mike grew up in Chicago and went to South Shore High School, which was in the next neighborhood south of Hyde Park. Some years prior to Mike’s attending South Shore, the Hyde Park neighborhood was transitioning from a white to a black population.  South Shore High opened in 1940. By the time Mike got there in 1956 the (all white) teaching staff was comprised of a great many older teachers from Hyde Park High School who got the positions based on seniority, not merit. He says some of his teachers were average, some were below average and a very few were outstanding. Over the past many years South Shore has undergone several changes, and is now a college prep magnet school. Less than 1% of the students are Caucasian. During Mike’s tenure at South Shore High there was not one black student, based entirely on the boundary lines for the schools. At that time, and possibly still today, Chicago was one of the most racially segregated cities in the country. Another factoid: James Watson, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA with Francis Crick, attended South Shore High School.

So, back to the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. Mike says that the reverence for the Constitution that one often hears expressed is somewhat undeserved, given that it legalizes slavery and denies women the right to vote, among other things eventually corrected through a combination of war and the amendment process. It turns out that unsurprisingly, the original 13 colonies were not uniform in their political preferences, and many individuals in the colonies had their own agendas. So, like everything else, a resolution was accomplished through negotiation and compromise. The agreement was that the constitution would go forth as originally written, and that a bill of rights would be added. In 1789 James Madison introduced a bill of rights in Congress that consisted of 12 items, 10 of which were included in the final Bill of Rights which were ratified in 1791. One item never made it, and the 12th, which regulates the compensation of members of Congress, wasn’t ratified until 1992 (!!) as the 27th Amendment. Mike gets irritated by politicians who hold themselves out as strict defenders of the constitution, because the constitution didn’t do much to protect the rights of women and it legalized slavery. It is true that it included a process for amendment which did fix some of the more grievous omissions, but not others. It took a bloody civil war to be won by the North in order to pass an amendment to delegitimize and ban slavery.  Much of the Constitution is constructed to prevent the abuse of power, such as had been experienced by the colonies courtesy of the King of England. Abuse of power is nothing new (vide infra).

This week’s Torah portion contains the core of the ethical behavior expected of the Hebrews. Found in the physical center of the Torah, Leviticus chapter 19 contains such pearls as giving to the poor, protecting the widow, the orphan, and the stranger, not mocking or abusing the physically disadvantaged (don’t curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind), avoiding gossip, telling lies, holding grudges, judging a case in a biased fashion (abuse of power), and failing to render assistance to someone in need. It is also where the Hebrews are admonished to love their neighbors as themselves. None of this would have been necessary if people behaved properly in the first place.  The fact that this section occupies the physical center of the Torah suggests that it is central to Jewish belief and obligation, an interesting point made by Rabbi Holtz in Mike’s Torah study yesterday. It is extremely difficult for people to not advocate for their own self-interest, even when it diminishes that rights or opportunities of others. Our country is engaged in a great struggle of this type right now. May God Bless America, and may we arrive at a just and equitable structure where everyone has equal voice and opportunity. Every week I ask people to pray for world peace, but really peace needs to start at home, and it has to start with loving each other and doing the right thing including using power fairly. A good example of the unfair use of power was when Senator Mitch McConnell as Senate Majority leader failed to act on President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, an effective but shameful move supported by all 11 Republican members of the Senate Judiciary committee.

Out walking this morning, we had time to muse upon and discuss local matters as well. For one thing, I let Mike know that the cat he called Ruff, one of Big Fluff’s posse, prefers to be called Amaryllis. So, Amaryllis it is. We said hello to a lady walking 2 medium sized dogs, one of which has a heavy coat thanks to its Saint Bernard mother. She said Bernie doesn’t tolerate the hot weather well, and Mike suggested a shave. I think a lion cut would be perfect. Well, I am for now running out of momentous proclamations and opinions. Stay tuned, as there will be more, I am certain. Until next time be well, be safe, count your blessings, love your neighbor, and pray for world peace. We love you all! So long from Happy Meadows.