Thursday, August 31, 2006


Melanie Phillip's sobering analysis:
Certain conclusions are now inescapable. First, hatred of Israel and the irrationality associated with that hatred have now reached unprecedented proportions within Britain and the west. Second, with a few honourable exceptions the mainstream media are no longer to be believed in anything they transmit, either in words or pictures, about the Middle East. It is only the blogosphere which is now performing the most elementary disciplines of journalism: to aspire to objectivity, to separate facts from prejudices, to apply basic checks to claims being made by partisans to a conflict, and to be particularly wary of those with a proven track record of lying. Third, the mainstream media must now be regarded as active accessories to the war being waged against the free world and therefore as a fifth column in that world – an enemy within. Fourth, the impact of the lies and distortions transmitted by the mainstream media in inflaming the already pathological hatred of the west within the Arab and Muslim world is incalculable. Fifth, the mainstream media’s vilification, demonisation and delegitimisation of Israel, based on outright fabrications and malevolent distortions, is imperilling the very existence of the country that is the front line of defence of the free world. Sixth, that vilification is also imperilling the safety and well-being of Jewish communities around the world, subject now to the double victimisation of attack by Islamists and attack by non-Muslims for belonging to a Jewish people that refuses to submit passively to a second attempt at genocidal slaughter and instead fights to defend itself.

To date, as far as I can determine, not one mainstream editor or proprietor has acknowledged this corruption of the western media. The scale of this corruption now threatens to have a lethal impact on the course of human history. Hatred now drives not just the jihadists but their western dupes, too. Truth and freedom are indivisible. The deconstruction of the former inevitably presages the destruction of the latter. This is the way a civilisation dies.

Not with a bang, but a whimper.


Talk about forced conversion to Islam! This is so laughably preposterous that I wonder how the comedy and high farce manage to elude muslims?
Pinocchio, Tom Sawyer and other characters have been converted to Islam in new versions of 100 classic stories on the Turkish school curriculum.

"Give me some bread, for Allah's sake," Pinocchio says to Geppetto, his maker, in a book stamped with the crest of the ministry of education.

"Thanks be to Allah," the puppet says later.

advertisementIn The Three Musketeers, D'Artagnan is told that he cannot visit Aramis. The reason would surprise the author, Alexandre Dumas.

An old woman explains: "He is surrounded by men of religion. He converted to Islam after his illness."

The Sanity Squad discusses the issue of forced conversion in its latest podcast, but amazingly we hadn't considered the ramification of forcing fictional characters to convert against their authors' wishes. How...reality-based.

Truly, all things appear to be possible when you're dealing with Allah--especially if you happen to reside in the realm of delusion and fantasy.

UPDATE: The Belmont Club has a post that is very relevant to this issue -- the process of altering the future by manipulating symbols in the present. Wretchard is discussing the forces political correctness and their willingness to distory reality to conform with their ideal--and isn't that precisely what is going on in the textbook alterations in Turkey? He quotes Jeff Jacoby:
You're a publisher of children's textbooks, and you have a problem. Your diversity guidelines -- quotas in all but name -- require you to include pictures of disabled children in your elementary and high school texts, but it isn't easy to find handicapped children who are willing and able to pose for a photographer. Kids confined to wheelchairs often suffer from afflictions that affect their appearance, such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy. How can you meet your quota of disability images if you don't have disabled models who are suitably photogenic? Well, you can always do what Houghton Mifflin does. The well-known textbook publisher keeps a wheelchair on hand as a prop and hires able-bodied children from a modeling agency to pose in it. It keeps colorful pairs of crutches on hand, too -- in case a child model turns out to be the wrong size for the wheelchair

Only in Islam's case, it is not 'sacrificing truth on the altar of diversity', but simply sacrificing truth for the sake of Allah. Both "diversity" and "Allah" are the gods for whose sake truth must be denied and distorted.


I'm going to be extremely busy most of the day with patients and teaching; so I thought I'd share some of what I have lined up for my students: How Psychological Defense Mechanisms work.

George Vaillant in The Wisdom of the Ego summarizes the different ways that defense mechanisms might disguise an internal conflict. I will paraphrase his example:

Let us suppose that the underlying conflict (expressed as a conscious idea, feeling or behavior) is, "I hate my father." The following examples are how that specific feeling might be altered when different defense mechanisms are used by the person experiencing it:

DEFENSE / Conscious Representation of thoughts, feelings or behaviors

No defense - I hate my father

Psychotic Defenses
Denial - I was born without a father.

Immature Defenses
Projection - My father hates me.
Passive Aggression - I hate myself (or, a suicide attempt).
Acting Out - Gets into fights with authority figures
Fantasy - Daydreams about killing giants or monsters

Neurotic (Intermediate) Defenses
Dissociation - I tell my father jokes.
Displacement - I hate my father's dog.
Intellectualization - I disapprove of my father's behavior.
Repression - I don't know why I feel so upset and angry.
Reaction Formation - I love my father; or, I hate my father's enemies .

Mature Defenses
Suppression - I am angry at my father, but I won't tell him.
Sublimation - I beat my father at tennis.
Altruism - I comfort father-haters
Humor - I make fun of fathers with jokes that make others laugh!
(note that not all humor is mature, but when used appropriately it is one of the most effective coping skills. Sadistic humor, for example arises from projection and is immature)

Each one of the above defense mechanisms (except the "mature" ones) can, under the right circumstances, be taken to pathological extremes and result in a psychiatrically diagnosable condition.

For example, the use of projection ("My father hates me") if used persistently as a coping mechanism can lead to a paranoid personality disorder. Or, use of the passive aggression defense (I hate myself) can lead to dysthymia or depression. Repression might lead to an anxiety disorder.

There is a clinical correlate for each of the defenses listed above, and the expression of that clinical disorder is dependent on a variety of factors such as the age/developmental stage of the user; the genetic, biological or physiological vulnerabilities of the user; the environment of the user, etc.

Valliant observes:
It is noteworthy that the denials and self-deceptions that result from the deployment of mature defenses result in no diagnosis--not everyone who practices self-deception appears ill to others. The oyster, after all, deals with the irritation of a grain of sand by creating a pearl.

Many people seem to think that ALL stress is bad for you and must be eliminated from your life. But this position fails to understand the importance and necessity of stress in our lives.

Where once our stress response existed merely to protect us from extreme danger (and still does); today it is a key biological element that can promote and and encourage psychological growth and development and help us to learn mastery over ourselves and our environment.

So this is the good thing about stress. Stress and our response to it can help us to mature and expand our capabilities. Without stress, there is little motivation to change or improve either ourselves or our environment. Too little stress and we stagnate. Too much, and we are at risk of falling apart. But just the right amount of irritation can encourage us to create a pearl!

Perhaps the greatest stress an individual can feel comes when they must deal with the loss of a loved one. Sadly, such an occurrence is inevitable in the course of life, and how each person deals with the losses he or she experiences has a significant impact on the psychological defense mechanisms they will use.

Love--in fact, most interactions with other people--are not pain free. Frequently the pain involved in interpersonal relationships can be the impetus that helps us to psychologically assimilate others, a process integral to human development.

Vaillant again:
We, too, sometimes forget that, contrary to folklore and psychiatric myth, loss in itself does not cause psychopathology. We forget that healthy grief hurts but does not make us ill. Grief produces tears, not patienthood. It is never having anyone at all to love that cripples us. It is the inconstant people who stay in our lives who drive us mad, not the constant ones who die. It is failure to internalize those whom we have loved, not their loss, that impedes adult development.(emphasis mine)

I say this over and over, but it bears repeating: psychological defense mechanisms (which include some relatively primitive psychological responses like projection - the mechanism involved in most forms of racism, for example) are not diagnoses.

You might think of the immature and dysfunctional ones as a psychological process utilized by the self/psyche that is parallel to the physical experience of a fever.

A mild fever suggests that the body is coping with an intrusion into its physical defenses. Most often the fever itself becomes self-correcting, setting off a series of defensive actions that lead to a return to normal functioning. If the fever persists and becomes too high, it becomes a red flag that something serious might be going on and the underlying cause needs to be found.

It is likewise when the ego deploys a psychological defense (especially one that persists despite reality; or one that is severely dysfunctional and causes great problems in the person's life). We do not say that "fever" is a diagnosis. It is a symptom that, particularly when it persists, makes us take action.

It is important to remember that psychological defenses are, for the most part, unconsciously deployed--i.e., people don't say, "Oh, I feel threatened, I think I will displace my fear about what is threatening me onto someone I'm not really afraid of." Their self, in a creative attempt at protecting the individual from feeling a paralyzing fear, automatically does it for them as a temporary strategy to deal with the frightening situation. It is up to every individual to monitor his or her reactions to life and use the conscious mind to find successful, long-term, non-pathological strategies to cope.

A defense mechanism is a symptom that suggests our psychological self is trying to cope with a disturbing reality. If an individual has insight and self-awareness (the ability to objectively observe and be conscious of one's own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and their meaning), then the defense mechanism can become a valuable tool with which to understand one's own fears and prejudices - just as a fever becomes the red flag that leads us to look for an underlying problem.

As I said in an earlier post:
We may not be able to help which defenses our egos deploy in every situation. Sometimes, when reality is threatening enough or our conflicts are intense enough, even the most mature individual may find him or herself using the more immature defenses like denial and projection. What matters is that we make a practice of examining our own behavior and appreciating the underlying issues and motivations that drive it. Or to put it another way, we reflect on those subtle factors that may be controlling our behavior outside our completely conscious awareness (and therefore our control) and make them fully conscious. This is called developing insight and self-awareness. It is probably the equivalent of the "holy grail" in psychiatric practice, and we psychiatrists are forever encouraging our patients to go on such quests of self-discovery.

By making the unconscious conscious, we gain control over our lives and are able to make choices and attack problems based on a clear view of reality. Yes, we may make the wrong choice, or screw up in dealing with the problem even so; we may even discover some unpleasant truths about ourself. But when our psychological defenses are distorting or obscuring reality to begin with, we are far more likely to ignore a problem or pretend that it doesn't exist and then suffer even more serious consequences.

Maladaptive psychological defenses that bring ourselves and others a great deal of unhappiness and misery, can evolve into mature and adaptive responses to the world that both enhance and protect our lives. Human beings are remarkable creatures. Sometimes their capacity for self-deception and delusion seems unlimited; and sometimes their incredible creativity and ingenuity in coping with all the trials and travails that life throws at them is worthy of appreciation and even awe.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


The 82nd Edition of the Carnival of Education --Special Theatrical Edition-- is being hosted by Thespis Journal this week.

The Carnival features articles submitted from across the Edusphere. Check it out !


From The Anchoress, discussing that "random, road rage incident" in San Francisco yesterday:
Can you imagine, if someone had (God forbid!) driven a car into 14 gay people, how quickly the press would have managed to cover the story? Can you imagine that Mayor Newsom would call it “road rage” and suggest that there really probably wasn’t a “hate crime” attached to the action?

What the hell is wrong with the press, what the hell is wrong with the leadership? Why are they so incapable of calling anti-semitism what it is, of calling a terrorist action what it is? Newsflash, folks, when someone decides to drive his car into people as they’re crossing the street, it’s the same as tossing a molotov cocktail at them, it’s the same as tossing a grenade. It is destructive, it kills people and terrifies communities, that is called t-e-r-r-o-r-i-s-m! Hey, guess what, fellas, we don’t need no stinking anthrax to kill and terrify…we can use our cars.

I swear, these people are tempting me to some vile language.

And then there's this from the world's #1 Holocaust denier; a person so completely obsessed with the Jews, one has to wonder if he may be denying his own Jewish ancestry (wouldn't that be interesting):
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that the Holocaust may have been invented by the victorious Allied powers in World War II to embarrass Germany.

The remarks by the outspoken Iranian president, who has repeatedly questioned the veracity of the Holocaust, came in a letter sent to Merkel in July whose contents have not been disclosed until now, according to the news agency Mehr as reported by AFP.

"Is it not a reasonable possibility that some countries that had won the war made up this excuse to constantly embarrass the defeated people ... to bar their progress," Ahmadinejad said in the letter.

"The question is if these countries, especially Britain, felt responsible for the Holocaust survivors, why they did not settle them in their own countries?" it said.

The full text of the letter to the German Chancellor can be found here.

The Iranian Reich seems to be on a roll. This is the second in a series of important letters that Ahmadinejad has written to world leaders (the 18-page letter to President Bush can be found here); and the Iranian president has challenged Bush to a "debate" so that Iran can "voice its point of view on how to end world predicaments."

Ahmadinejad also had the incredible gall to even put conditions on the debate, insisting: "But the condition is that there can be no censorship, especially for the American nation." This, from a man whose own people live under a regime of oppression that crushes individual freedom and speech.

Reading the two letters reminds me of one of my dirty little jobs at NASA. Because I was the only psychiatrist civil servant, most of the "crazy" letters that came into the Agency, no matter at what level, eventually found their way down to me to answer. There were 300 page missives from people who claimed to describing that elusive Unified Field Theory (of life, the universe, and everything) and wanted NASA to immediately hire them; letters proposing recycling astronaut's urine as drinking water; and letters with even more bizarre recommendations and analyses for NASA scientists. There were letters demanding that NASA stop monitoring the author's brain; letters that accused NASA of being in a world-wide alien conspiracy to take over the Earth; and letters that you absolutely wouldn't believe even if I told you about them.

NASA officials insisted that every letter have an "official" response (good PR, you know), so the "official" shrink was delegated to reply.

In other words, I have some experience answering the deluded and paranoid; the grandiose and psychotic when they write desperate letters to important people in order to enhance their visibility and shore up their disintigrating self.

Fortunately, none of those letters to NASA that ended up on my desk for a response, were attempting to facilitate the end of the world; and if they did, none seemed to have the means with which to accomplish it. I took a lot of care with the letters I composed, trying to be unprovocative and simultaneously encourging the letter-writer to get some psychological help.

But what is going on these days in our press, and on the left; as well as in the mind of delusional fanatics like the Iranian president, cannot be dealt with by sweet and soothing diplomatic words.

Ahmadinejad displays for all to see an unbelievable degree of paranoia and delusion in his rambling letters to world leaders. It is clear that he wants to be taken as a serious thinker and allowed into the halls of world power. He even believes his ticket into that hall is his delusion, and that he can get enough people in the clueless west to agree with him--or else just shut up about it. When that happens, there will be nothing that prevents him from acting on his desire to "solve" what he perceives as the world's most significant problem--the Jews.

It is useless to point out to him that he is insane with hatred. It is useless to expect an sudden epiphany of insight and self-awareness will strike this maniac down on the road to Damascus (or Tehran).

But I don't think it is too much to expect that our own media and our own intellectual elites take a good, long look in the mirror and come to appreciate how, little by little, they are actively contributing to the Islamic fanatics' agenda.

To further extend The Anchoress' thoughts: what the hell is wrong with the political left that they want to close their eyes to this evil as it spreads over the world even darkening areas of our own country?

The stench of denial is pervasive and toxic.

The media, the left, the Democrats--and even some on the political right-- all continue to behave as craven apologists for this new Reich; even as the tendrils of its sick ideology extend out and lock onto the souls of weakest in our society. The morally and intellectually bankrupt elite of the left, whose rage knows no bounds when hapless Republicans utter imaginary slurs like "maccaca", are strangely silent and complicit when real evil rears its head and emits its foul breath.

Ahmadinejad's mere existence is an embarassment to truth; but the apologists, appeasers and enablers for the murdering death cult of Islamic totalitarianism surely must make truth weep.


When I read Bill Kristol's editorial on "Bugs Bunny Democrats", the in the Weekly Standard recently, my initial response was that he wasn't being fair to old Bugs by comparing him to the gormless Democrats. So, it was interesting to see several other readers take him to task for this in the next issue:
"I MUST TAKE ISSUE with the characterization of the Euro-Democrats as "Bugs Bunny Democrats" in William Kristol's editorial ("The Bugs Bunny Democrats," Aug. 21 / Aug. 28). Although I realize Kristol's analogy is based on Bugs Bunny's diet, the carrots that the "European wing of the Democratic party" is so fond of offering are all the "EuroDems" have in common with the discerning and determined Bugs.

Bugs Bunny survives by outwitting his opponents. His probing catchphrase, "Eh, what's up, doc?" usually begins his exposition of their follies for all to see. He has demonstrated the willingness to eschew political correctness and directly confront his antagonists' intellectual failings. To Elmer Fudd's clueless, misdirected assertion that "Somethin's scwewy awound here," Bugs is quick to point out that it "could be you, doc."

Granted, Bugs Bunny does show patience with his antagonists, but only up to a point. Once the threat to his security becomes clear, he is willing to take action. He has been known to confront his tormentors with a definitive, "Of course you realize, 'DIS means war!" I doubt that any of the EuroDems have the grit to follow such an example.

Bugs Bunny's bravery is a matter of record. A member of the greatest generation, he took on World War II archvillains such as Herman Goering and even Adolf Hitler himself. In recognition of his fighting spirit, the U.S. Marine Corps awarded Bugs an honorary officer's commission.

Now, "Elmer Fudd Democrats" would certainly be an appropriate description. Perhaps even "Daffy Duck Democrats." But I think we can be sure that there is not a Bugs Bunny among them.

Haddonfield, N.J.


WILLIAM KRISTOL brilliantly analyzes the naive pacifism of contemporary liberalism, which focuses on foreign policy carrots to the exclusion of sticks. But tying the carrot metaphor to Bugs Bunny is unfair. Bugs always frustrated and defeated those trying to destroy him. Just ask Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam, Giovanni Jones, Marvin the Martian, and others who experienced Bugs's unique, and hilarious, forms of payback. A little bit Brooklyn, a little bit Bronx (as Mel Blanc, who supplied the voice, once put it), Bugs embodied America's fighting spirit at its best. Our political leaders and foreign policy elites could learn a lot from him.

Madison, N.J.

Both letter writers make excellent points. Bugs has long been a favorite cartoon character (I really like his, "What's up, Doc" line). He is cool and funny under pressure; and he makes his opponents look like complete idiots. You've got to admire that.

As one of the letter writers mentioned, Bugs was something of a war hero during WWII, pushing for War Bonds early in the war; and starring in a number of war-themed cartoons:
Several titles were designed to boost American morale by placing Bugs in wartime themes (such as airplane hijacks by mythical gremlins in "Falling Hare"(1943) and a few others had Bugs take on America's enemies, most notably the infamous "Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips", a now-rarely seen film with Bugs fighting the Japanese on a Pacific island.

It occurs to me that we could use Bugs these days to boost American morale here at home; and of course to mock the current crop of clueless Elmer Fudd's.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

THE SANITY SQUAD IS BACK (Whether You Like It Or Not!)

Usually it’s hard to get an opinion out of a therapist. But, The Sanity Squad featuring Neo, ShrinkWrapped, Siggy and I are never reluctant to comment on topical world and national events. Opinions? We've got em, along with some insight into the psychological dynamics behind the issues of the day. The podcasts are posted every Tuesday; and we guarantee you won’t ever have to talk about your mother—unless you want to!

And our fee is very reasonable--in fact, it's free.

This week the Sanity Squad takes an in depth look at the Islamic tradition of forced conversions; and Stockholm Syndrome: the Fox-Gaza variations.

Check it out. And check out all the previous podcasts here.

Comments and suggestions are welcome.


Quote of the day, from Thomas Sowell:
It is staggering that anyone could be so self-infatuated as to single out their own particular policy preferences as "anti-war." Anyone who is not a sadist or an idiot is anti-war. The only serious issue is how best to limit, deter or conclude war. But responsibility for confronting this issue is evaded by those preoccupied with the moral preening of being "anti-war."

In response to a Sowell column a few months ago, I wrote the following:

Many people have forgotten that one of the most well-known pacifists of all time--Gandhi--proposed that nothing should have been done about the holocaust or the Nazis. How many of his admirers have considered what the consequences would have been if the world had followed Gandhi's lead? How many millions more people would have died? How many today would live under the boot of the Nazi philosophy?

Antiwar protestors always make a point of questioning what war is good for? You have heard them chanting this query at almost every one of their peace marches. The truth is that no sane person wants war, but it may be the only possible response to evil. And in human history, there have been many evils far worse than war.

As Sowell mentions, there has been more attention paid to cease-fires; treaties; and prevention of war in the middle east than anywhere else on earth. The result has been the continued enabling and appeasement of an intolerable evil that thrives on hatred and that has grown strong and sure of its holy mission to kill.

If the peace movement really were a peace movement, its members would be denouncing the true threats to peace and trying their damndest to disarm and neutralize the likes of Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah etc. etc. Instead, they champion these groups, demand cease-fires with them (never acknowledging that there is no way to hold them to account when they break the ceasefire, as they inevitably do) and say little about their standard operational policies that deliberately target the innocent. But our brave peace activists march in solidarity with these foul groups; and proudly wear the latest "hate couture", thinking it shows how tolerant and compassionate and virtuous they are; not even appreciating that it serves instead to demonstrate the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of their pacifist ideology.

In today's world, where evil knows it can get away with practically any horror; that there will always be a large cadre of dupes who are willing to rationalize, excuse, or minimize any atrocity; the only thing pacifism is good for is to enable and support evil.

War is a always a terrible choice. No reasonable person could believe that it is benign or intrinsically "good" to wage war. Yet, it is sometimes a choice that reasonable people need to make simply because evil exists in the world and it cannot go unchecked--that is, not if you truly care about innocent human life.

Pacifists cannot deal with this simple truth. In reality, they don't care much about human suffering, misery or even death; let alone the legacy of evil in the world. Through a variety of psychological defenses, they have managed to deny, displace, distort, and project real evil away. There cannot be found even a trace of psychological insight among all those angry marchers who violently and adamantly demand peace at any price.

For the carefree members of the antiwar movement, the triumph of evil is unimportant when compared to their own narcissistic need to appear virtuous and good--their own moral preening.

Pacifism--what is it good for? It protects the user from having to make difficult moral choices in the real world; from having to deal with real human suffering in the here and now; and most importantly, from recognizing how meaningless their own lives are.

The track record of pacifism is horrendous. Not only do "peace movements" fail to bring peace; but by protecting, appeasing, and minimizing true evil, they ensure that war--when it inevitably comes--costs even more in terms of human suffering and lives.


This, from the Middle East Quarterly, is remarkable:
On October 22, 2005, the France 2 television talk show Tout le Monde en Parle aired an interview with writer Salman Rushdie and French actor and Islamist Sami Nacéri. Left on the cutting room floor was an ugly incident during taping when Nacéri accused Rushdie of debasing Islam. If an imam asked him to kill Rushdie, Nacéri went on, he would himself shoot the bullet into Rushdie's head. He then pantomimed firing a gun at Rushdie.

Philippe Val, editor of the French left-wing weekly Charlie Hebdo, described the omitted segment in the November 2 issue of the magazine. French reaction was minimal. While some journalists debated whether celebrities made appropriate commentators, there was little discussion of France 2's decision to delete the offending segment.

On February 28, 2006, in response to Nacéri's threat, France 2's censorship, and the decision of several newspapers not to publish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, twelve prominent Muslim and non-Muslim intellectuals issued a manifesto first published on the French website The translation, replicated below, was later published in the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten. The willingness of prominent thinkers, both Muslim and non-Muslim, to stand together suggests that intellectuals recognize the totalitarian nature of Islamism and are determined not to cede terms of the societal debates to Islamists.

Read on for the full statement, which begins: "After having overcome fascism, Nazism, and Stalinism, the world now faces a new totalitarian global threat: Islamism.

We, writers, journalists, intellectuals, call for resistance to religious totalitarianism and for the promotion of freedom, equal opportunity, and secular values for all."

As leading news organizations in the U.S. criticize the use of the term "Islamofascism" (hat tip: The Corner), it becomes clearer to anyone with a brain that the word precisely describes the threat of these religious fanatics.
The term has angered many in the Muslim world, who see it as tarring their entire religion -- and everyone who practices it -- as fascists. I think it's despicable," Middle East expert Juan Cole says.

"Linking Islam… with a pejorative term such as fascism is extremely unfair. In fact, it is a form of racism."

Quite frankly, I am sick to death of hearing about muslim rage and muslim anger, especially since those emotions seem to be primarily directed against reality itself. How about a little Muslim reason? How about Muslim behavioral control?

It is time to call a spade a spade; and to call these Islamic fanatics the totalitarian thugs they are. I'm glad to see some prominent Islamic intellectuals do so.

One can only hope that the clueless western media will overcome its fear and submission in time to do some good in this war.

UPDATE: The Anchoress sees the same kind of fascist totalitarianism in the liberal left. It explains a lot, of course.

Monday, August 28, 2006


Perhaps I was too harsh in my last post about the lack of insight in Palestinian society. Read the following, uttered by a Hamas (!) official:
Dismissing Israel's responsibility for the growing state of anarchy and lawlessness in the Gaza Strip, Hamad said it was time for the Palestinians to embark on a soul-searching process to see where they erred.

"We're always afraid to talk about our mistakes," he added. "We're used to blaming our mistakes on others. What is the relationship between the chaos, anarchy, lawlessness, indiscriminate murders, theft of land, family rivalries, transgression on public lands and unorganized traffic and the occupation? We are still trapped by the mentality of conspiracy theories - one that has limited our capability to think."
"We have all been attacked by the bacteria of stupidity," he remarked. "We have lost our sense of direction and we don't know where we're headed."

Now, that is some serious, soul-searching honesty. I particularly liked the realization that, by blaming others (i.e., the Jews/Israel) for all their problems--wallowing in victimhood and glorifying violence-- they have failed to take responsibility for the rampant thuggery and chaos that reigns in their society.

Could this be the start of some healthy psychological process in the Palestinian people and their leaders? Might we come to see some therapeutic alterations in world view and the adoption of...reality?

OK, maybe that's hoping for too much. The Palestinians have been dysfunctional for a long time, and there is considerable interest in the entire Arab/Islamic world in keeping them that way for a host of reasons that have little to do with what actually might be best for the Palestinian society.

But it is a good sign; and it seems to me as a therapist, that public statements like this are a move in the right psychological direction. The "bacteria of stupidity" that has infected Gaza and Palestinian territories has shown to be extremely toxic and very resilient; and it has led to much unnecessary death and suffering. But it can possibly be cured-- if the Palestinians are finally resolved to take responsibility for their own future; and if they begin to value life more than they value death.

Or, to paraphrase Golda Meir: Peace will come when the Arabs love their children more than they hate Israel.

UPDATE: Two days after I wrote this, Tony Blankley writes:
Some people of a theological bent see the current mess as a sign of God's imminent apocalyptic plans for us. And they may well be right. I prefer, however, to look on the optimistic side and consider that there may just be a politically curable stupidity bacteria in the air. But it certainly seems like a pandemic.

He's quite critical of the west's (including the Bush Administration's)inept handling of the pandemic. Worth reading.


Over at One Cosmos, Bob and Petey use Monty Python's Life of Brian to demonstrate how life imitates art (or at least comedy when it comes to the Palestinians).
It’s like a bad Monty Python skit. Imagine the brilliant discussion that went into it, probably not dissimilar to the dozen or so leftist revolutionaries in Life of Brian who spend the movie plotting how they are going to overthrow the Roman empire. In one scene, in the interest of diversity, they debate whether a man should be able to call himself Loretta and have babies:

LORETTA: It's every man's right to have babies if he wants them.

REG: But... you can't have babies.

LORETTA: Don't you oppress me.

REG: I'm not oppressing you, Stan. You haven't got a womb! -- Where's the fetus going to gestate?! You going to keep it in a box?!

LORETTA: [crying]

JUDITH: Here! I-- I've got an idea. Suppose you agree that he can't actually have babies, not having a womb, which is nobody's fault, not even the Romans', but that he can have the right to have babies.

FRANCIS: Good idea, Judith. We shall fight the oppressors for your right to have babies, brother. Sister. Sorry.

REG: What's the point?


REG: What's the point of fighting for his right to have babies when he can't have babies?!

FRANCIS: It is symbolic of our struggle against oppression.

REG: Symbolic of his struggle against reality.


PALESTINIAN #1: Let’s kidnap some infidel journalists and force them to convert to Islam on video!

PALESTINIAN #2: Why? What's the point?


PALESTINIAN #2: Oh, I get it. This is brilliant, Hassan. Just brilliant. Once they convert, the journalists can hold themselves hostage, so they can negotiate with themselves for their own release and leave us out of it. Maybe while they're at it they can hold a knife to their own throats unless the infidels vote for Ned Lamont.

PALESTINIAN #1: It is symbolic of our struggle against the Zionist occupation!

PALESTINIAN #2: Yeah, right. Symbolic of your struggle against reality is more like it.

The only problem I find with Bob's analysis is that the existence of "PALESTINIAN #2" is purely hypothetical. Palestinian society doesn't seem to encourage the development of individuals who are able to appreciate any aspect of irony or humor; nor do Palestinians exhibit on any degree of self-reflection or insight.

In fact, they are poster children, symbolic of pretty much the entire muslim world in this regard.

Fortunately, Bob has enough insight and humor for the entire Islamic ummah, and is willing to share.

UPDATE: It seems that most of the psychbloggers are on a roll:

neo-neocon has a post on Hezbollah; SC&A have a lovely piece that discusses his grandparents, war, and change--and the essentials that don't change from generation to generation. And, ShrinkWrapped has some important insights about information and the information war.

If you are up for so much wisdom on a Monday morning, check them out!


A great quote from Shelby Steele, writing about how western guilt blinds us to the nature of Islamic extremism :

All this follows the familiar pattern of a very old vice: anti-Semitism. The anti-Semite is always drawn to the hatred of Jews by his own unacknowledged inadequacy. As Sartre says in his great essay on the subject, the anti-Semite "is a man who is afraid. Not of Jews of course, but of himself."
It is worth your time to read his entire essay.

Yesterday, the Baron, who foolishly eggs me on in these sorts of things, challenged me to come up with new words to an old Elton John song. The result seems particularly appropriate to what Steele wrote.


Don't wish it away,
Just endure in the face of adversity;
Between you and me I could honestly say
All their foes have a certain perversity

And while Jews create,
Make the best of the demons inside,
It won't be too long till success
Stabs at heart of sick Arab pride

And I guess that's why they all hate the Jews;
Blame them for their failures; and kill them for news
Blow up their children, bask in confusion
Believe that their strengths are just an illusion--
And I guess that's why they all hate the Jews

Just look at the states
That surround Israel on the map.
Drowning in spite and self-victimization
Their life is all crap.

Then screaming in rage
That the problem is not in themselves--
They simply hate Jews
More than they love life itself.

And I guess that's why they all hate the Jews;
Blame them for their failures; and kill them for news
Blow up their children, bask in confusion
Believe that their strengths are just an illusion--
And I guess that's why they all hate the Jews

Sunday, August 27, 2006


Interesting. "Compliant and Subservient" are the words I might have used to describe Jimmy Carter. "Weak", "Passive-Aggressive" and "Piously Malevolent" also come to mind.

They are definitely not the words that I would use to describe Tony Blair.

My psychiatric radar is tingling.

FORCED CONVERSION TO ISLAM: Identification With the Islamic Aggressor

I am very glad that Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig were released and I wish them well in recovering from their ordeal (Malkin has details). But, must we all be subjected once again to psychologically traumatized people saying things under duress as if it means something other than the fact that their kidnappers are barbaric thugs?

I completely agree with Cliff May at The Corner.

I wrote about this the last time these Islamic soul murderers released a hostage. I think it is worth reprinting most of that post, because it discusses the psychological phenomenon that is at play in cases like this: Identification with the aggressor.

Many parents are familiar with a wide variety of children's games in which the children pretend to be wild animals or or even imaginary viscious creatures. Maurice Sendak's famous children's book, Where the Wild Things Are is a perfect example of such games. This kind of play by children psychologically allows them to do several emotional tasks at once.

First, the play allows them an expression of instinctual energy in a setting that is generally not particularly destructive or dangerous. With parents benignly watching over the play, children can literally get away with "monstrous acts" and if they are too rambunctious, they are easily controlled (as Max's mother does in the book).

Second, and just as important, the child through this play can transform their own intense anxiety about being attacked by "monsters" into an identification with the monster. In children's games, this is a pleasurable experience, and helps to lessen the normal kinds of fears and anxieties that are a part of childhood.

Thus we can see the origins of what has become known as the "Stockholm Syndrome" or Anna Freud's concept of "identification with the aggressor."

By taking on some characteristic of a thing which causes extreme anxiety, a child is using that identification (or introjection as it is sometimes called) as a means of reducing his or her anxiety by morphing from the passive role to the active role. With psychological identification, instead of being the object of a threat, you become the one making the threat.

In children this is considered a normal part of the development of the "superego" as children learn to master their anxiety. In fact, this capability of identification with another is essential for normal psychological development and when it is not brought about by excessively traumatic events in a child's life (i.e.,during the safety of play) the child can develop normally. The healthy result of this process is an introjection and assimilation of others leading to normal human relationships and empathy and understanding of other people.

When the process short circuits for any reason (i.e., abuse, trauma etc.) then more primitive alternatives come into play, including projection and full-blown paranoia. ShrinkWrapped has more on this phenomenon from an earlier post.

Roger Simon links to a site that quotes a recently released hostage in Iraq:
"I was treated very respectfully and courteously apart from the fact that I was detained against my will and threatened with beheading," Sands told The Associated Press on Saturday. "I was not beaten, starved or treated badly."

This was said of the people who threatened to behead the hostage in question.

In fact, it is not too uncommon for some people in such a hostage situation, particularly where their lives are at stake, to fully and completely identify with the side that is threatening them.

If you have been reading some of my posts on psychological defense mechanisms, you will realize that "identification with the aggressor" also involves the use of a particularly primitive defense called "projection", where one's own unacceptable feelings or behaviors are placed on another individual or group. Thus it is not at all uncommon for those who are sadistically traumatized to become sadistic themselves and carry on the trauma and to project their feelings of helplessness and trauma onto others as they create more victims. This mechanism explains why some abused children go on to become abusers themselves when they are adults. It also explains why someone of Jewish heritage would admire a Hitler and hide their ancestry; or why people in general might find themselves hanging around with and even imitating people who despise them or even might want to kill them.

Identification with the aggressor is only considered normal when it is innocuous --as in children's play.

When it occurs in adults in real life situations, it can literally transform those who unconsciously use it into the very monsters they fear the most, as they cope with their severe anxiety and dread.

I do not contend that coping in a healthy manner to traumatic circumstances is an easy thing to do. In fact, maintaining psychological health under those circumstances may be very difficult. One must do what one must to survive and get out of the deadly situation. Personally, I would say anything (even lying, if necessary) and do anything--right up to the point where it would betray my own fundamental values, without which I am not myself anyway) in order to survive.

But it is after the trauma--after the rescue--that the hardest and most painful part of coping psychologically will present itself. And to survive psychologically will require quite a bit of insight, self-awareness, and honesty; and even possibly the experience of some shame and/or guilt. And most of all, using one's rational faculty to help understand all that has transpired both externally and internally. In this way, one may permit one's self to tap into the terrible feelings of fear and humiliation and to deal with them --instead of repressing them, and letting them deal with you and thus, unconsciously control you and distort the reality of what happened to you.

An example of this is the case of the hostage above, who clearly dealt with his fear by identifying with his captors and projecting some of his own normality onto them-- as in, "they were so respectful and courteous to me"....

Yes, they were. As respectful and courteous as anyone could be when they are threatening to cut off your head or kill you if you don't accept their religion.


Image hosted by Time for the weekly insanity update, where the insane, the bizarre, the ridiculous, and the completely absurd are highlighted for all to see! This has been a week of rare idiocy (as always!). So, if you want to remain sane, the best thing is to poke some fun at the more egregious absurdities.

Send all entries for next week's carnival to Dr. Sanity by 8 pm ET on Saturday for Sunday's Carnival. Only one post entry weekly per blogger, please. And you might read this before submitting an entry.

Thanks for all the submissions. I try to use as many as possible! SO MANY INSANITIES! SO LITTLE TIME!!!

1. "A lace handkerchief fluttered in the face of reality" --what a perfect description.

2. It's only for peaceful purposes! And our response would certainly be, too! Meanwhile, the Kofi cuts out the middleman to negotiate a deal.

3. Reality imposes a death penalty ...but then again, there are perks to even the worse criminal behavior.

4. You don't understand! It's always Israel's fault. When human rights organizations learn to love human rights more than they hate the US and Israel, then they will be useful.

5. A scholarly course on how the media legitimized an anti-Israeli hoax. Read it and learn. All your fakes are belong to us?

6. Further evidence of Bin Laden's evil. If you needed it.

7. Getting back to hard-hitting journalism at the Times.

8. You gotta love Christopher Hitchens.

9. Coming Soon! To a blog near you! This guy is everywhere! (hat tip: Instapundit)

10. Fausta is fried and ShrinkWrapped is toasted.

11. Explaining things to slow-learning liberals. Meanwhile the Marines set the media straight.

12. It's always about him. I wonder if he's planning to go hunting with Joe anytime soon?

13. Avoid poverty by finishing high school, getting a job and postponing marriage and child-bearing until at least 21? What a ridiculous concept!

14. "Allahu Akbar-It's The New Sieg Heil!" And other counter-jihad slogans! But for some Germans, Bush=Hitler

15. All we are saying is give Pluto a chance! A fierce backlash has erupted !

16. The icecap may not be the only thing shrinking in the Arctic; and this is bad news for global warming fanatics.

17. Of hens and primates --and human bondage?

18. Numa nuts? And Gangster Raccoons.

19. Wicked, a musical starring Hilary, Ned, Jack, and Ray

20. Declare victory and get out--in Connecticut! Lamont gets some campaign help from aliens. Real aliens.

21. TV's worse Bosses ; and, are women their own worse bosses?

22. Stupid health tricks...for arthritis. (Don't do this at home!)

Carnival of the Insanities can also be found at The Truth Laid Bear's ÜberCarnival and at the BlogCarnival.

If you would like to Join the insanity, and add the Carnival of the Insanities button to your sidebar (clicking on it will always take you to the latest update of the Carnival), click on "Word of Blog" below the button to obtain the html code:

Heard the Word of Blog?

Saturday, August 26, 2006


ShrinkWrapped is exactly right about the root cause of the use of "root causes":
When "root causes" were wedded to the Marxist dialectic of oppressors and oppressed, any action taken by the less advantaged could be, and often has been, fully excused by those who are prone to this disorder of their thinking.

This use of the unconscious, "root causes", in this way is a perversion of Freud's ideas. He presented the goal of treatment to be increasing the understanding of the patient of their own unconscious motivations and processes so they could take more responsibility for their behavior, not as a way to avoid feeling responsible for what they do. Further, he recognized that there are always multiple determinants for any behavior and any particular manifest behavior can never be reduced to a single "root cause".

Whether we are talking about shoplifters or terrorists, the idea that their responsibility is lessened because their behavior has "root causes" serves primarily to weaken the ability of civilized people to ensure minimal standards of appropriate behavior.

Read the entire post.

The appropriation of Freud by the left to justify its marxist victimhood scam has always irritated me. Think about it.

When marxists began to realize that their ideology was completely unsatisfactory in creating wealth; or promoting human happiness, they turned their frustration toward the hapless proletariat, who, instead of rising up against their capitalistic oppressors, were busily all trying to be capitalists themselves and improve their standard of living pursuing their own happiness.

This betrayal of the perfect ideology had to be explained away, and these psychological giants seized on the idea of Freud's concept of the unconscious to identify what they thought was the "pathology" in this turn of events.

Capitalism, they concluded, was causing a redirection of psychological energy--which might otherwise be used to bring about that elusive revolution for the marxist utopia--toward creating wealth and creature comforts. These things were very bad, because all the brutal conflict and competition of the capitalistic society is masked by the contentment the poor, deluded "Joe Sixpack" has achieved. From Stephen Hicks (163-4), here is a description of life as the marxists see it in a capitalistic society:
Consider Joe Sixpack. Joe works as a low-level technician for a television-manufacturing company,, part of a huge telecommunications conglomerate. Whether he has ajob tomorrow depends on Wall Street speculators and the decisions of a corporate headquarters in another state. But Joe does not realize that: he simply goes to work each morning with slight sense of distaste, pulls the levers and pushes the buttons as he is told to do by the machine and the boss, mass-producing televisions until it is time to go home. On the way home he picks up a six-pack of beer--another mass-market product of capitalist commodification--and after supper with the family he plops down in front of the television, feeling the narcotic effect of the beer kicking in while the sit-coms and commercials tell him that life is great and who could ask for more. Tomorrow is another day.

Well, what is wrong with this gloomy analysis? I'm sure you have heard a variant of it somewhere in your educational pursuits. Modern man is "alienated" from the environment; he is in existential despair about the meaning of life, blah blah blah--and it is all capitalism's fault! This scenario perfectly explained to the revolutionaries in training why:
...capitalism in the 1950s and 1960s seemed to be peaceful, tolerant, and progressive--when, as every good socialist knew, it could not really be--and for why the workers were so disappointingly un-revolutionary. Capitalism does not merely oppress the masses existentially, it also represses them psychologically.

Frequent visitors to this blog might recall that I have written quite a bit about psychological defense mechanisms (and here, for example) which operate unconsciously for the most part; and that they exist in a spectrum from immature to mature. What is described above is not a process of psychological repression (a neurotic, lower level psychological defense), but a process of sublimation, one of the most mature defenses. And, it is not capitalism that is "causing" the use of this psychological defense, but life itself. And, it is capitalism and the capitalist system that offer a healthy channel for the redirection of negative psychic energy into something positive for both the individual and the group at large.

Something, I might add, that marxism, socialism and all its malignant variants completely fail to do. In fact, what they encourage are the use of unhealthy defenses (acting out, reaction formation, denial, projection, displacement to name a few) which, because such defenses are suboptimal and even self-defeating in the long-run, do nothing to improve the lot of either the society at large, or the individual unlucky enough to be living in it.

Societies, like individuals, can adopt mature defenses and deal with reality; or they can deny reality and look elsewhere for the source of their problems. Many countries, like individuals, prefer to put the blame for their own failures onto an outside source, since that is safer for the self-image. A "healthy" country, like a healthy individual will evaluate the facts and utilize mature defenses to cope with and change the situation they find themselves in. They are not afraid of their aggressive impulses because those impulses are reigned in by reason and not indulged in lightly. When necessary, healthy societies look inward. When necessary, they focus outward.

Freud can't be held responsible for a total misunderstanding and misapplication of his theories. Someone is repressed possibly, but I would beg to differ about whom and why.

In Civilization and its Discontents , Freud argued that human instincts are indeed out of sync with modern civilization; that aggression and other instinctual needs were once absolutely necessary for survival in a dangerous world, but that today these archaic impulses impede our ability to live happily in the present day and age. Among other innovative ideas from this short, but important work, Freud posits that the same aggression that was once directed towards survival, in the modern era is frequently turned inward, to the Self, rather than outward toward the environment, and causes the psychological phenomenon of depression. In psychiatry we refer to this as "aggression turned inward".

Our brains and bodies were designed for the "fight or flight" response--when in danger or threatened in any way, we physiologically respond with a burst of adrenalin (a hormone more formally known as epinephrine, a catcholamine); and that compound initiates a series of biological reactions that prepare us to either run away from the danger or to stand and fight.

It can be argued that depression and its concomitant emotional despair can be conceptualized as the inability--particularly in modern times-- to be able to "run away" or "fight" in the traditional sense. How effective would it be for the individual, do you think, if--called on the carpet by his or her boss--that individual responded by decking the boss or screaming and running out of the room? Bereft of these behavioral options in civilized society, we are still confined to the physiological response that such scenarios engender. This leads us to the concept of "stress".

What we know about "stress" and its long-term effects on our bodies and minds more than confirms Freud's psychological hypothesis. Freud was not optimistic about this situation, and believed that civilization's "discontents" were an unresolvable fact of life.

Please note that Freud did not say it was probably unresolvable for only those living in a capitalist society. Or, that it was unresolvable only for the proletariat. He said it was and is a fact of the human condition, and a problem that the human species has to deal with no matter what the economic or political system they find themselves living under.

Those systems that take into account the basic human nature that underlies Freud's hyposthesis, however, are more likely to be successful for both the individuals within it, as well as for the group as a whole.

Joe Sixpack has to deal with civilization with the same biological hardware that the postmodern elite possess. Of necessity, these elites don't consider themselves prone to the same psychological problems as the "proletariat" they hope to rule someday. That is why they are so often in denial about their own real motives and why their psychology betrays them.

These are the people screaming they are for "peace!" as they beat up those who support the military. These are the people that demand some abstract concept of "free speech"-- except when they are busy passing laws to ban it if it hurts someone's feelings. These are people who support oppressed minorities, but only as long as they remain oppressed--if they succeed and break from the party line, they have betrayed their minority group. And so on, and so on.

To say that these people have a handle on Freudian psychology--or any kind of psychology for that matter-- is like saying that the primitive savages in remote parts of the world have a handle on quantum mechanics.

So, if you want to get down to "root" causes: in the end, each individual is ultimately responsible for dealing with reality and for his or her own life. Understanding and gaining control over one's own unconscious motivations and processes in order to be able to take more responsibility for one's behavior--and not as a way to avoid feeling responsible for what they do--is one of the most important aspects of individual maturation and growth.

And, I might add, for the advance of civilization.

UPDATE: Gagdad Bob has an excellent post that extends and illuminates some of the points that ShrinkWrapped and I make. In particular, Bob shows the interplay between truth, free will, and human nature:
What largely defines man is his free will, which implies both intelligence and objectivity, for if we aren’t free, then we cannot really possess either truth or goodness. Animals cannot leave the closed system of cause and effect, whereas human beings clearly can. In our vertical aspect, we can see a range of potential choices before us, whereas the animal is simply spurred by the demands of instinct.

Thus, to call free will into question is to make us less than human, which is why humanism is always subhumanism. The most subhuman places on earth are specifically those places where free will was and is denied or atrophied: in communist countries, in the Islamic world, and in urban areas where free will has been eroded by 40 years of leftist brainwashing and social engineering. In the latter case, you might say that poverty does indeed cause crime--the impoverished metaphysic of the left.

Liberty in itself is an aspect of divinity in which we may either participate or not participate. This is a truth that our founders found to be be self-evident, and we can be sure that, in their wildest nightmares, they did not anticipate an illiberal counterrevolution from the left that actually denied the entire basis of the American ideal.

Read it all, of course.

Friday, August 25, 2006


Here. Don't pretend that you didn't expect this. The world has no intention of stopping Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

But by all means, let the farce continue. After all, the failure of diplomacy can actually be viewed as a triumph in a postmodern world.

Personally, I think the time is coming for some unilateral misbehavior. And I'm not talking about Iran.

UPDATE: Also see neo-neocon's post, "'Unsatisfactory' is diplomatspeak for bad, bad, bad"


Jonah Goldberg makes the following observation:
Ned Lamont’s primary victory against Joe Lieberman in Connecticut supposedly represented the triumph of the antiwar, anti-Bush “netroots” within the Democratic party. Alas, our troop presence in Iraq is increasing; it appears Lieberman, running as an independent, will trounce Lamont; and President Bush is having his best week in the polls in six months (which is not quite the same thing as saying he’s doing well in the polls).

So have the Lamonters and other victims of so-called BDS — Bush Derangement Syndrome — been routed? Not quite. Because BDS sufferers have a related secondary affliction: WMDS. This refers not to the unfound weapons of mass destruction but to Wal-Mart Derangement Syndrome. And the Democratic Party is ministering to these patients with reckless abandon.

The New York Times reported recently that the Democrats have, en masse, declared their party to be the enemy of the mega-box store.

Now, if only we could transform and sublimate all the Democrats' intense negative psychic energy into a force for Good...

See Eric Allie's cartoons here

UPDATE: Ace puts his finger on exactly why the Democrats (and the left) are completely irrelevant in today's world.


It has been a busy week for me professionally--one of those weeks, in fact, that occasionally make me wonder why I ever went into psychiatry to begin with. Usually when that thought pops into my head (and it does with some regularity) it is my red flag indicating I need a vacation or something, because I'm feeling a little burned out.

Many people have the mistaken impression that psychiatry is an "easy" medical specialty; and I suppose it is if you don't really care very much about the people you are seeing. Or, if you can't be bothered to really listen and take in what they are trying to tell you.

And that's the hard part. To do it right often means letting go to some degree of the internal boundaries we each set up that protect us and separate us from other people; opening yourself to another's pain in a way that makes you feel it yourself. And then sharing whatever strength you have to offer to help them deal with it.

The art of therapy is to become the other person, but not to lose yourself in the process; to immerse yourself in someone else's pain, but hold onto the objectivity and knowledge that can bring you both out of the wilderness whole.

I find the process extremely exhausting at times.

It would be very seductive to think of this profession as a simple matter of correcting altered or abnormal brain chemistry, because to some extent that is just what it is. And, as a biochemist, I have no problem with appreciating the physiological basis of behavior. But there is no question in my own mind that something more is going on; and that this added layer of complexity is completely compatible with the biochemistry, but at the same time is orthogonal to it.

One of my biochemistry professors in college passed on to me a powerful metaphor related to this that I have appreciated almost daily in my professional life. He and I were discussing my interest in how the brain works and the concept of consciousness; and whether it would be better for me to go to medical school or to apply to study graduate biochemistry.

Think of the brain as a beautiful, elegant, and melodious grand piano, he told me. Now imagine that someone had taken an axe to that lovely piano, chopping it into millions of tiny little pieces. Biochemisty, he said, is picking up one of those millions of pieces and attempting to appreciate the sound of the music that could be played on the piano. Imagine Beethoven's 9th Symphony or a Rachmaninoff piano concerto being predicted--or understood and appreciated--merely from the study of dopamine and norepinephrine pathways!

His point, I think, was that biochemistry, while it is one path to understanding, cannot begin to describe the vastly complex and intricate music of the human brain; and that it seems inconceivable that anyone could imagine all that the human mind is capable of from just a study of the interaction the small molecules within. At some point, the level of complexity reaches a certain threshold that makes it surpass the mere sum of its microscopic parts.

Music lover that I was, I decided to go to apply to medical school and eventually wound up in psychiatry (with a detour to get a graduate degree in biochemistry along the way as it happens).

About a year ago there was an article in the NY Times that said psychiatrists are beginning to believe in the reality of evil. Somehow, I was reminded of that professor's anecdote.

For a long time now, behavioral scientists have been somewhat overly giddy with the many practical successes in medicine and psychiatry directly attributable to understanding a few of the pieces of the chopped up piano. But however much they know and understand, they are no closer to really understanding either the human capacity to create beauty or its capacity to do evil.

Outside the ivory tower, though--here in the real world--we are able to feel awe listening to the chords of a symphony composed by a fellow human being; and likewise, we are also able to feel a parallel revulsion at the all too frequent evidence of human evil.

Psychiatry is the branch of medicine dealing with the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. We are the piano repairmen of the medical world. We willingly use the science of the biochemists who create the drugs; but we should never forget that we are dealing with more than a conglomeration of chemicals and electrical circuits.

Good and evil exist within all humans--the capacity to create life and the capacity to desstroy it. I don't think that antidepressants would have helped Hitler appreciate the Jews; nor would placing Saddam on antipsychotics have helped the Iraqi people. And, even if medications might have helped, neither of the two psychopaths-- nor thousands like them through history-- would have agreed to treatment.

There are some things that medication cannot fix. Some pianos that cannot be tuned--maybe because there is a crack in the baseboard; or the materials used in construction were warped; or even that those same materials were irreversibly changed by exposure to malignant environmental factors.

Any piano repairman will also tell you that some pianos start out as lemons (just as some cars) and cannot produce the same sounds as their peers. Some are so broken that even after repair they are not much more than junk.

It is possible we will never adequately be able to explain fully every aspect of human brain function--expecially what leads to good or evil--by resorting only to an appreciation of the chemicals and the electrical circuits. But maybe we don't have to in order to enjoy and appreciate the music.

Maybe it is just good enough to nurture the good and fight the evil, whenever we observe either in ourselves or in others.

[Note parts of this post were published earlier]

Thursday, August 24, 2006


MEMRI has the details as provided by the Al-Hesbah website.

On August 4, 2006, the Al-Hesbah website published instructions on "How to Kill a Crusader in the Arabian Peninsula." The document was signed by Amer Al-Najdi, and dated June 15, 2006.
Al-Najdi instructs his readers in some possible ways to kill a Westerner, from choosing the victim through following him through the stage of the actual killing.

Nice. Read on for cookbook-like details. I'm sure it will be an enlightening experience. Reminds me of an old Twilight Zone episode, but less ambiguous in its title.


From the WSJ today:
Two months ago the U.N. Security Council offered Iran a choice: Stop enriching uranium in violation of its treaty agreements, and the world would negotiate better diplomatic and commercial relations. Keep enriching the fuel for nuclear weapons, however, and face isolation and sanctions. Tehran's rulers have now given their answer: They won't stop enriching uranium, but they're happy to keep talking about it.

Yesterday, the Bush Administration said it is still studying the Iranian proposal but that the reply "falls short of the conditions set by the Security Council." You can say that again. After three years of Iranian stonewalling since their nuclear deception was discovered, the June resolution was deliberately written to make an end to enrichment a first-order obligation.

The carrots are supposed to follow, not precede, Iran's promise not to take further steps toward becoming a nuclear power. Iran's reply looks like a calculated attempt to conquer the Security Council by dividing its members with the promise that more talk might some day, down the road, in return for who knows what, lead Iran to stop going nuclear.

Does this happen to remind you of anything? The same game currently being played by Iran with the international community reminds me of Peanuts. Think of Lucy as Ahmadinejad and the hapless Charlie Brown as the U.N. (thanks to M.B.!)

But Charlie Brown, dupe that he is, believes her every time she promises that next time it will be different. So, he keeps going back for more only to discover that the same thing happens yet again!

I always felt sorry for poor Charlie Brown. He was, after all, a kid; and kids have a hard time learning this sort of thing.

Still, the supposed adults of the west should know better.
The obvious next diplomatic step is to show Iran that the world meant what it said by following through with the toughest achievable sanctions. A myth has developed in some circles that there are "no good options" available to pressure Iran, but that's more excuse than analysis. Iran's mullahs are unpopular at home and their citizens will notice if they are declared a global pariah state. Sanctions on travel by Iran's government officials, diplomats and sports teams may be largely symbolic, but such symbolism will not be missed on the Persian street.

But Lucy is persuasive in her maliciousness; and I have doubts that Charlie Brown will ever grow up or learn from his experiences. We shall see.

UPDATE: VDH has some thoughts on the learning curve: "Relearning Lessons in the War on Terror".

Judging Saddam

While awaiting a verdict in the first trial, a second trial of Saddam Hussein is underway in Baghdad, this time for genocide
The second trial of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein opened Monday in Baghdad on charges of genocide for a violent campaign against minority Kurds nearly two decades ago.

A defiant Saddam refused to state his name or enter a plea to the charges. The chief judge entered a plea of not guilty for him.

Saddam and his six co-defendants are charged in connection with Operation Anfal, an Iraqi military campaign that prosecutors said killed more than 180,000 Kurds in 1987 and 1988. The slaughter began after Kurds were accused of aiding Iran during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

Among Saddam's co-defendants is Ali Hassan al-Majid, who became known as "Chemical Ali" for allegedly ordering poison gas attacks against the Kurds.

Though the news coverage of this trial has been very limited, I listened to some of the testimony of Kurdish survivors of the chemical attacks describing the carnage; and watched Saddam's angry, defiant, and completely unrepentant face as he dismissed their testimony.

I wondered, not for the first time, how anyone could possibly support or admire this truly evil man, so obviously sociopathic, narcissistic and malignant?

Then I remembered this article by Fred Siegel from last year:
Back in the fall of 2003, when Dr. Dean was still riding high in the Presidential primary, I’d listened in on a conversation among undergraduate Deaniacs outside my office at Cooper Union in the East Village. "This just doesn’t feel like America any more," one of them said to a friend, who replied, "Fuck Bush," and pointed to a button on his jacket bearing the same slogan.

It’s an old professor’s habit, but I had to engage them. "What does that mean?" I asked the fellow with the button. "Bush is bullshit," he replied, "the most evil man in the world." When I said that wasn’t an argument and pressed him, he acknowledged that "Saddam isn’t a good guy," but "who are we"—he pointed both to me and his like-minded friend—to "judge Saddam Hussein?"

"Why not?" I asked. He replied with an answer right out of the postmodern playbook. Americans can’t judge another culture, he insisted, because there is no common morality. But if that’s the case, I asked, why then was George Bush "undoubtedly the most evil man in the world?" He seemed puzzled by the idea that his version of an emotional truth might seem incoherent to others.

Like the fascist writers of the 1930’s from whom their postmodern teachers had drawn their ideas, these Deaniacs were both engaged in politics and deeply cynical about democracy, which they saw as a game manipulated by nefarious forces led by Fox News. As they see it, there is little to argue; the only question is "which side are you on?" Doubtful that informed debate could settle much, they hoped to impose their will on a backward country that wickedly refused to see the appeal of a "Fuck Bush" platform.

I was taken aback by my conversation with the Deaniacs; their sheer coarseness stunned me. Even at the height of the "Ronald Reagan is going to blow up the world" mania of the 1980’s, I had never seen a "Fuck Reagan" button. But the coarseness was consistent with the dominant mood in academia outside of the sciences.

Recently, the professoriat has been embarrassed by a series of dustups exposing the irrationalist underside of academic life. After Hamilton College invited a former Brinks holdup terrorist to take a faculty position, it compounded its problems by asking "Indian" poseur Ward Churchill of the University of Colorado to speak, only to back off when he was found to have delivered a rant about how the people killed in the World Trade Center were "little Eichmanns." Columbia’s alumni, if not its administration, has been discomfited by the ravings of Joseph Massad, a professor so extreme in his support of Palestinian terrorism as to have labeled Yasir Arafat a collaborator with Israel. Harvard president Larry Summers has been forced to don the sackcloth and ashes after he commented reasonably that the differences between men and women might—and his stress, the transcript shows, was on might—be one part of the reason why there are fewer females in the sciences.

When professors at our institutes of higher learning, disguised as "academics", spend their time asking foolish questions like, "Who are we to judge Saddam Hussein?"; and engaging in kneejerk anti-American political activism--rather than in the pursuit of knowledge; it is hardly surprising that policymakers look elsewhere for a source of useful ideas. The academic role has been taken over by think tanks, which...well, think., as opposed to just emoting and spewing slogans. For the most part, the universities have become irrelevant except for the elites they cater to.

This transformation of our "intellectual" centers of knowledge into vast emotional swamps of multicultural victimhood, offended by any idea that they don't like is a disaster in the making if unchecked. Because they influence the minds of the young, and their legacy is a generation of adults who have abandoned critical thinking, reason, truth, and reality.

Like the radical professors discussed in the article, a large segment of our society is no longer bothered by pesky ideas, which might actually have to be defended by reason and logic. No, they rely almost totally these days on the primacy of their feelings, which they proudly point out need no defense, since they are honest feelings. We see it daily in the pronouncements of the left, and their political arm that used to be the Democratic party.

From their perspective as the purveyors of the virtue of eternal victimhood, academics can readily identify with poor Saddam, who is, after all, just another helpless victim of U.S. imperialism and unbridled aggression. Who are we to judge him, they ask blandly? Their underlying assumption, of course, is that we are the true evil; that Bush is worse than Saddam--or Hitler, or Bin Laden; that America is responsible for terror; not the terrorists, who are the ultimate victims in all this.

But we need not be perfect to see, understand, and judge evil. Indeed, as a moral society, we must make the critical distinction between striving for the good and making mistakes versus deliberately encouraging and enabling evil. This moral relativism abandons our anchor in the real world, and leaves us adrift in a profound and pervasive nihilism.

Running through the moral relativism of a question like "Who are we to judge Saddam"--like a river of denial and projection-- is a lack of insight and self-awareness so incredible and so blindingly transparent that it is almost awe-inspiring in its magnitude. The kind of mindless emoting that passes for deep thought in academia and the enforcement of intellectual "purity"--even as they celebrate "diversity"--on the part of large numbers of the "intellectual elite" is a Totalitarian's Dream! Their slogans and banners are the stuff of dictator's fantasies. For these professors and their minions, the mindset of Orwell's 1984 is a deliberate lifestyle choice.

Saddam must love these guys! If he were to go free and be absolved of his crimes against humanity, I can visualize many of our ivy league institutions aggressively competing to offer him some important academic position.

These are our brave new intellectuals. Is it any wonder tyrants like Saddam and Fidel--and now Hugo--are their heroes? Viva la revolucion!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


We're back, and this time we tackle the polls, personal responsibility, and apocalypse maybe.

If you are up for a dose of sanity today, go check out Siggy, neo-neocon, ShrinkWrapped and me opining about...well, just about everything.

It's possible we're finally getting the hang of these podcast thingies.


Fausta has an excellent post up (quoting all my favorite shrinks) about Children and Salvation. She notes:
There's the acceptance in the Western World, in the name of multiculturalism and who knows what else, of societies that indulge into what for most of us is inherently revolting, aberrant degeneracy: the weaponization of children. Children suicide bombers, children witnessing public acts of unspeakable barbarity, children used as shields during gun battles, and the corpses of handicapped children (link in French) used as (warning: graphic images) death porn in a propaganda war.

Go read it. Children are indeed our salvation, for they represent the continuity of life...

The batter swings and the summer flies
As I look into my angel's eyes
A song plays on while the moon is high
over me
Something comes over me

I guess we're big and I guess we're small
If you think about it man you know we got it all
Cause we're all we got on this bouncing ball
And I love you free
I love you freely

-Five For Fighting, The Riddle


Finally there is some news of the kidnapped Fox journalists, Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig. They are being held by a brand spanking new terrorist group (at least one never heard of before) called The Holy Jihad Brigades. Here is the ransom note that came with a video of the two kidnapped men:
"This is a statement directed to the infidels in general, without discrimination of their georgraphical location. This is an invitation to enter into the religion of God before a day comes when being an infidel will not do you any good. The victory of God's soldiers can only be achieved by God's help. Nobody can frighten us about our enemy and what it possesses. In the name of God and taught Adam the names. If they throw us in fire it would be cool and safe on us. And if they throw us in water then the whale would pick us up and take us to land. If they want to cut us up, God will save us by sending a sacrifice and deliver us to safety.

No nation can be defeated without the will of God. Quoting Mohammed: 'Do not be sad for God is with us.'

Therefore lords of infidelity and masters of darkness and injustice believe in God and you will be safe or else wait for your turn because we come to slaughter. And every soul will reap what it has done.

You have angered us and we are not the kind that is angered. We are subdued, but rather the fountains of Islam and faith spring up in us.

We now tell you this is the chance we give you. God knows how often this kind of chance can be repeated.

In exchange for the release of the Muslim prisoners, males and females in the prisons of America, with our prisoners.

Release our prisoners and we will do the same. This applies to all without exception. And every Muslim is more cherished and more generous that a 1,000 Bushes. But this is a tradeoff of equals.

We will grant you 72 hours, that starts as of noon today during which you can look into this and if you carry out our condition we will carry out our promise, or else wait and we will wait with you and it will be in God's hands. And God's order is higher than any other and most people do not know. 'Those who have been injust will find out the consequences.'

The time you have starts as of noon Wednesday the 29th of Rajab (the Islamic month) of the year 1447 (Muslim year) which is the 23rd of August 2006.

Our thanks to God, the most gracious." (emphasis mine)

"We Come To Slaughter"--could there be a more appropriate slogan for these sick psychopaths who kill in the name of God; and who cloak their desire for endless death and blood in sacred terms, thus profaning all of life and all that is living?

In a fundamental way, these fanatics have so little of real life in them, they may as well be dead. You can almost hear the flies buzzing around the remnants of their putrid souls.

They may be the new thugs in town, but they have the same message of unrelenting hatred with its pathological glorification of death and destruction.

I will say a prayer for Mr. Centanni, Mr. Wigg and their families; and hope that they come out of this safe and sound. But I am not Christian enough to be willing to say anything remotely prayer-like for the sick souls of their captors.

May they drown horribly in the stinking, bottomless pit of their own hatred; and may they reap ten times what they have sown. Amen.

UPDATE: Frank J thinks these guys flunked basic terrorism classes. Undoubtedly, but I think they are also seriously undermedicated.


Sorry, couldn't help myself AJ Strata has the latest on the race.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


It's midnight at the oasis and once again, that elusive 12th Imam has not shown up for the appointed apocalypse. But in keeping with the spiritual mindset of the occasion, the leaders of Iran have rejected demands to halt their nuclear efforts. OTOH, they appear to be ready to begin "serious talks".

Does anyone else find this ridiculously contradictory discourse familiar? In essence we are being treated to left's precious postmodern rhetoric, translated into Farsi.

Perhaps the left, wallowing in a cesspool of denial and fantasy, believe the Iranians really are "serious", and they should be given another chance by the international community before it takes the draconian step of imposing sanctions that are unlikely to have any effect anyway.

Well, I certainly wouldn't be surprised. When it comes to delusion, the Iranian leaders and the lunatic left have quite a bit in common.

The Baron suggests that I mock Ahmadinejad-- and I hear and obey!

(with apologies to Maria Muldaur)

Midnight at the oasis
Send your camel to bed
The mullah's smiling faces
Must be a little red.

They awaited an imam
12th in line by Allah
But he slipped off to a sand dune, last June
And won't be back, inshallah

Come on, Islam is our friend
We can bow and surrender
Up until the world ends
Till the world ends

The mullahs have the answer
There's no need to think
Mahmoud's their belly dancer, prancer
Can't you smell the stink?

I know your Daddy's that imam
Who's been hiding in a well
With fifty girls to attend him, they all send him
Deeper into hell

Mahmoud's got his halo, honey
Glowing round his head
And he won't need no virgins, no no
When he's finally pronounced dead.

Come on, Islam is our friend
We can bow and surrender
Up until the world ends
Till the world ends

Midnight at the oasis
Send your camel to bed
The mullah's smiling faces
Must be a little red.