Wednesday, November 9, 2016

What Lies Ahead?

     As some of you may know my day job is that of a clinical psychologist. I have already been contacted today by a number of people from all over the world in which they are expressing their concerns and fears about what lies ahead for America and the world. For quite a while I have been amazed at seeing people repeatedly vote against their own selfish best interests. I know I do not fully understand the phenomena.
     As a therapist it has been my experience that people do not call to make an appointment because it is a good idea. There are perhaps three smokers somewhere in the world who don't know that smoking causes cancer. All the remaining millions of smokers do so even though they are causing themselves harm. It has been my experience that people do not call me to talk because they have heard that I am an interesting person to speak to. They do not call me because they are in a lot of pain. Most people are walking around with their own reservoir of pain. People call me when both their level of pain and their level of desperation exceed their capacity to endure. Such a moment will be experienced as a horror for both the individual and those that love him. While this is true it is also true that these are perhaps the only conditions under which there is an opportunity for change. I am not yet sure that most Americans are at this point at this time. It does appear that the coming months and perhaps years may bring us to that point. Since I believe it is an essential moment for us to get to I pray that it happens sooner rather than later and that whatever takes place between now and then does not destroy those aspects of our society that function for the greater good of all. I know that this too shall pass.
     It is perhaps now our task to seek out that place of goodness that resides in all of us rather than to focus on our need to emphasize differences and demonize the other.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Rev Ken

On 5/22 had had the good fortune to attend a Sunday service at Crathie Kirk Church. This is a very small church in Ballatar, Scotland. The service was led by Reverend Kenneth Mackenzie who is referred to as "Rev. Ken" by the members of the congregation. I met Rev. Ken the evening before as he attended a charity concert in which my wife was performing. He was friendly, talkative, and very much alive. This meeting gave me no indication as to what was in store at the service.
     Rev. Ken started the service by talking about numbers. He stated that the numbers one and two weren't really numbers at all. It was only with three that numbers started to have meaning. He spoke about how three was the beginning of diversity. He then spoke about the mystery of the trinity. He emphasized that this mystery could not be fully known. It could only be experienced. He then reemphasized the necessity of diversity. Diversity of experience, interpretation and people. He stated that it is only through such uncertainty, diversity, and necessity of experience could the trinity begin to be understood. He then spoke about the necessity of being of service to others as that was how the message of Christ could best be kept alive.
     So here sat this aging Hinjew in a Church of Scotland service with tears of gratitude in his eyes. The most difficult aspect of living in Nashville for me has been my introduction into a definition of "being a Christian" that horrifies me at best. In Nashville I've experienced a doctrine of absolute certainty. A doctrine that separates, excludes, demeans, diminishes, and causes so much needless suffering in the name of Christ. I cannot tell you how many clients I have here that are tortured by guilt and shame as a result of their religious experience. Last year a female Pastor asked a State Senate Committee to defeat a bill that would have expanded healthcare to the poorest people in Tennessee. She stated, "...let the people know that our (healthcare) coverage is the same as with Moses and the children of Israel when they went through the wilderness with only the divine providence of almighty God", (i.e. none). The legislators did their "Christian duty" and defeated the bill. Just last month that same legislature passed a totally unnecessary bill allowing counselors to refuse to see a potential client if that client's concerns went against their own religious beliefs.
     At the end of the service I had an opportunity to talk more with Rev. Ken. I asked him just how much of a weirdo he was within his church and he assured me that rather than being a weirdo he was quite mainstream. I then shared a bit of what is going on in Tennessee and told him how much it saddened me and scared the shit out of me. His immediate response was, "Amen."

Sunday, January 24, 2016

How Obscene

     I recently watched the movie "Spotlight." The movie is about the Boston Globe team that did an expose about the sexual abuse of children within The Catholic Church. As a sexual abuse survivor I wasn't sure that I was going to be able to view the entire movie. The movie is very well done and I had no difficulty with any evoked strong emotion except for the normal shock, horror and repulsion, that any human would have to the content. As the movie ended I was thankful that I was not overly upset. But my night was not over.
     I rarely watch the final credits of any movie. As the final scene faded to black they posted a sentence that stated that their research had revealed that similar events (to Boston) had occurred in the following locations... As I watched row after row, page after page unfold I got quite nauseous. I was aghast at the numbers.
     Every week our "great guardians of morality" seek to terminate funding for Planned Parenthood supposedly because one doctor misspoke about "selling fetal tissue." Regardless that subsequent investigation has clearly shown that Planned Parenthood is not in the business of selling body parts they remain steadfast in their moral indignation. The volume of their hypocrisy is amplified by their silence and inaction with The Church. 
     As I listen to the Republican contenders for the presidential nomination try to outdo each other with their war talk and repulsion for outsiders I remain totally dumbfounded that they claim to speak for God and morality. Yes, let's turn the desert into glass and carpet bomb everyone in the area. Yes, let's save a few dollars in Michigan by providing lead tainted water.  Yes, let's try to convince people that "big government and over regulation" are the problems.    

Friday, January 22, 2016

Republican Weather Reports

     One of the things that surprised me the most when I moved to Nashville from New Jersey was they way that people reacted to the weather. People seemed to freak out over the possibility of some form of precipitation. Unfortunately the presence of that precipitation highlighted the reality that the general population probably got their driver's licenses on the internet.
     Earlier this week there was a light dusting of snow in the forecast and that got all the juices going in the local TV stations. There were dire warnings about everything. The next day I watched a bit of the latest Republican debate and I was shocked to realize that it sounded exactly like the local weather forecasts. The style, tone, and even the words used all sounded the same.
     Modern day Republicans prey on fear, mistrust, and danger. They thrive on ignorance and prejudice. Of course there are times when people do need to be warned about real dangers both in weather and world events. But I would much rather live in a world that functions to engender understanding and compassion rather than hatred and mistrust.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

I Couldn't Agree More

Sometime during 2002-2003 I was contacted by a woman identifying herself as a producer for the Dr. Phil TV show. She wanted to know if I would do some marriage counseling for a couple that she knew and then come on the show to discuss their treatment. My response was to tell that woman that I did not view therapy as a spectator sport so I declined her invitation. A few years later one of my wife's favorite activities was to watch me scream at our TV while we were watching the HBO series, In Treatment. The therapist was so inappropriate in his behavior and there was no way for the viewing audience to know it. The following is a posting from today's Daily Beast written under the pseudonym of Russell Saunders entitled, "Doctor: Why Quack TV Docs Like Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil Need to Go."

Dr. Oz has come under fire due to his ‘egregious lack of integrity,’ but he pales in comparison to the fame-whoring Dr. Phil. Here’s why it’s time to get rid of the ‘daytime doc.’
Consider the plight of the televised health professional. There was a time when all it took was the right couple of letters in front of your name and the divine blessing of Oprah Winfrey, daytime TV’s resplendent queen, and you could find yourself hosting a hit television show. With just those advantages secured, both Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Phil McGraw landed themselves eponymous programs with which to dole out their wisdom to audiences at home.
Alas, the bloom has begun to come quite noticeably off those particular roses. And it may be time to ponder whether or not these shows, each proudly affixed with “Dr.” right in their titles, have exploited their stars’ professional credentials well past their sell-by dates.
For Dr. Oz, it’s been a hairy couple of weeks. His current woes started with a much-ballyhooed letter from ten physicians calling on the dean of Columbia University’s medical school to boot Dr. Oz from the faculty there. Citing his “egregious lack of integrity by promoting quack treatments,” among other malefactions, the authors deem his presence at such a prestigious institution “unacceptable.”
This comes the year after Dr. Oz was hauled before a Senate hearing to explain why he frequently touted worthless “miracle” weight-loss supplements. (I should probably take this opportunity to admit that I did not give Sen. Claire McCaskill nearly enough credit when I wrote about it at the time. She gave him far more of a grilling than I thought she would.) Then as now, he was forced to spin the nonsense he spouted as some kind of feel-good self-help mumbo jumbo rather than actual medical opinion.
As it happens, I share the skepticism of some about the motives of those ten physicians, who are enjoying far more celebrity now than they likely ever have before, and who couldn’t possibly have expected an Ivy League medical school to give a tenured department vice chair the heave-ho just because they wrote a letter. Dr. Oz has gone on the offensive about the possible conflicts of interest behind the letter’s writing, and it’s within his rights to question the motives of his critics.
But whatever the academic upshot to this new kerfuffle, it’s forced Dr. Oz to do some damage control. And I am not buying what he’s selling.In an interview with NBC, Dr. Oz strains credulity to the breaking point by maintaining that his is not a “medical show” and that in the logo the “OZ” is really big but the “Dr.” is eensy-weensy so as to make that distinction clear. If anyone believes that Dr. Oz did not leverage his credentials as a selling point for his program, or that his viewers do not tune in in large part because of the legitimacy those credentials presumably give his daily pronouncements, then please contact me about an exciting purchase opportunity for a bridge between Manhattan and Brooklyn.
But it’s within that same interview that Dr. Oz accidentally tells a little bit of truth.
“The purpose is not to throw at you the biggest articles published by doctors that week. Frankly it’s not very much fun to listen to [those], either,” he tells NBC. And he’s right.
Speaking as someone who regularly scours various medical news services for topics that may be of interest to a general audience, the vast majority comprise items that I find fascinating or useful as a physician, but would be crushingly dull to pretty much everyone else. Real, actual medical science is often made up of studies that add little bits to the accumulated body of knowledge already out there, or explore some small treatment effect. The bigger and splashier the supposed finding, the more rigorous the study must be to justify it. Most of the big claims turn out to be baseless garbage. What you don’t do is just report the garbage anyway. (Or, at least, I sure as hell try not to.) You don’t promulgate nonsense you know to be based on shoddy science. You don’t decide that the demand for ratings trumps your obligation to properly inform your audience. I understand that trying to keep the topics limited to those that truly withstand scientific scrutiny would mean The Dr. Oz Show would both struggle to find enough material to fill their airtime, and would probably bore the dickens out of its audience. So perhaps it’s time they drop the “Dr.” bit entirely, rechristen the program “Mehmet,” and have him join all the other daytime entertainers crowding the airwaves with general interest content. It would be a lot more intellectually honest. But one thing I’ll say for Dr. Oz: at least he’s not Dr. Phil.
Another Oprah protégé, Dr. Phil McGraw has used his show to become America’s confrontational truth-spewer-in-chief. Heavily reliant on the questionably effective tactic of “intervention” with his guests, Dr. Phil uses his PhD to gussy up what is really just one more salacious offering wherein people expose their flaws and bad decisions for the entertainment of the audience. Dr. Phil’s unseemly mélange of exploitation, celebrity parasitism and credential mining goes back years, at least until 2008 when he went to visit a hospitalized Britney Spears in the midst of her high-profile troubles then issued a statement about it, much to her parents’ dismay. A couple of years later, after having a pair of serial shoplifters on his program ostensibly for help but mainly just to get them to dish about their deeds, the judge who presided over their subsequent sentencing called him a “charlatan” and a “terrible, terrible man.” Apparently having learned nothing from the Spears fiasco, Dr. Phil has more recently decided to do a deep dive into the fine art of filming minor celebrities when they’re at their emotional nadir. Despite being visibly inebriated and in absolutely no condition to discuss his mental health on camera, Nick Gordon, the boyfriend of Whitney Houston’s comatose daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown, was subjected to one of Dr. Phil’s famous “interventions,” the clinical benefit of which was highly suspect. And following the interview, he took it upon himself to gab to the gossip program Entertainment Tonight about how it went, sharing salacious, highly personal details with ET’s voracious audience.
“He'd go from being able to talk like we’re talking now to just all of a sudden collapsing and wailing,” Dr. Phil told ET. “And then he would pull out his phone and turn on a Whitney song and just start crying.” In a few days, another episode is set to air in which he browbeats troubled Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Kim Richards about her recent arrest for public drunkenness until she runs off in tears, ending the interview.
Do these people need the involvement of trained professionals to deal honestly with their problems? Quite possibly. Does being confronted with the ramifications of their bad decisions have value for people with various mental health or substance abuse problems? Often it does. Is Dr. Phil actually accomplishing anything of benefit for his hapless subjects when he milks their travails for ratings? Not even slightly. Call this sort of celebrity bottom-feeding what you like, but please let’s not call it therapeutic. It’s a crass pantomime of psychology, no matter what Dr. Phil’s degree. He makes Dr. Joyce Brothers look like Carl Jung by comparison. Like Dr. Oz, if Dr. Phil wants to promote what his show is really about, he can jettison the “Dr.” jive, and take his place openly alongside Maury and Jerry and Montel. They all peddle the same prurient garbage, and he may as well be plain about it. I won’t tune in, but at least I won’t consider him a professional embarrassment. Junk doesn’t turn into worthwhile viewing just because you wrap a diploma around it, and it’s time Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil stopped pretending otherwise.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


Over the past weekend I had the good fortune to go see the movie, "Selma." After seeing the movie I too find it outrageous that it did not get one Academy Award nomination. But that is not the intent of this post. I am certainly old enough to remember the events of the 1960s. Nevertheless I cringed as I watched with horror the events that are portrayed. I found myself crying and I intuitively knew that my tears were coming from a very deep place that went beyond what I was seeing.

There is no doubt in my mind that if the situation was reversed and the majority of the population were people of color who were treating a minority white population in a similar fashion the subsequent events would have been quite different. It is my belief that in this hypothetical situation the United States would view the threat of ISIS as a very low priority. It is my belief that in such a situation the white people of America would have armed themselves with Uzis and they would be out indiscriminately killing as many black people as they could. I find the fact that this has not happened within the minority community with the reality of America to be astounding.

As I now watch the efforts to once again disenfranchise the minority communities under the guise of preventing voter fraud I am quite nauseous. So many politicians like to refer to America as the greatest country in the world. It really would be so lovely if one day this was true.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The State of America

I have never done this before but this article communicates what I'd like for you to read. It is from "The Nashville Banner" and was published on February 4, 2015.

The Republicans Eat Their Own

And other thoughts on Haslam's failed health initiative

Death to the legislation, which arrived on a stretcher anyway, came quickly. Gov. Haslam's plan to join ObamaCare, and insure hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans at virtually no cost to the state, came loaded with the political baggage of being tied to Obama. Tennessee's Tea Partiers seethed. Conservatives raged. The right-wing came unstuck.
To those in the fact-based community—moderate Republicans, businesspeople, those in the health care community—the facts were inarguable and arrived at a different analysis: at little to no cost, hospitals would stay in business and hundreds of millions of dollars would be pumped into the state's economy.
What's not to love?
On top of that, there was a public policy argument to tug on the heartstrings. For poor people, this was a solution. The plan would add a measure of comfort to thousands of the impoverished, and hey, isn't that what we humans are all about?
In the end, though, as even Haslam seemed to suggest when he called the session together, the death knell to the plan was its association with a Democratic president, one who is despised by many of our state lawmakers. Yes, the proposal might have seemed a no-brainer. But it is also true that no-brainer arguments are hard to intellectually absorb when you don't have a brain to begin with.
When the Senate was called into session to consider the Haslam plan, the preacher reading the invocation asked God "that we would not be forced into these edicts from Washington D.C." Instead the preacher prayed that we "let the people know that our (healthcare) coverage is the same as with Moses and the children of Israel when they went through the wilderness with only the divine providence of almighty God."
What is one to say?
Have we lost it?
Maybe, to extend the preacher's primitive religiosity, we should all abandon our health insurance. Maybe we should all go Paleo and descend into some pre-historic living undertaking, in which we commence to eating locusts, and commuting to Jimmy Kelly's after work on camels, and doing without any modern healthcare whatsoever because, darnit, if Moses could get by without a Blue Cross Card, then we all can.
Were one to identify positives, I can find one, optimist that I am.
Opportunities are always rare for Democrats. But here is some advice to the new Democratic Party chairwoman, Mary Mancini: Affix sign to door. "The Democratic Party is Open for Business."
Tell every health care company in Tennessee—and Nashville is ground zero for corporate health care in the United States—that the NEW Democratic Party here would like to see health care endeavors thrive, but that Republicans do not. Spread the same message to those in the construction industries, to small business owners, to Chambers of Commerce, and to doctors and nurses everywhere.
Now is an opportunity to announce on friendly terms the Democrats' willingness to work with business, because in a strangely cannibalistic way, the Republicans are avariciously chowing down on the hands that feed them. The mostly small-town, non-business-minded, religiously occluded conservatives in the party are in control; the more urban, urbane, business-oriented Republicans are left to suffer the consequences.
The moneyed poo-bahs of the GOP have taken a big hit. So Mary, go offer them a home. At the very least, outline a partnership where the quacks and the crazies aren't in control any longer.