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The contents of this website are for contemplative purposes only. No medical advice will be given, and emails asking for medical advice will be ignored.

Although patient vignettes are based on my experiences with real individuals, I liberally change details to maintain patient confidentiality.

I also reserve the right to change old postings to correct errors, and to delete comments that include obscene language or that I deem abusive to me or other commentators.  If you are looking for a open mind, I suggest you consult a neurosurgeon.

Katrina Blog Project

Why Would a Woman Who Was Sexually Harassed Wait So Long to Come Forward?

This is the question of our day.

My answer: I don’t know. Every woman who has been through something like that has her own reason for remaining silent. Every situation is different.  The main thing to remember is that remaining silent is not proof that the accusation is false. A woman could wait awhile to come out with an accusation if she chose to. Logically, the passage of time proves nothing. People who suggest it does are making a lot of assumptions about the person who has come forward, assumptions that are nothing more than base speculation.

Some women may be afraid of retaliation. Others may feel that if they weren’t physically harmed by the action, at least not permanently, it may be better to let it go. Some don’t want to embarrass their spouses or children. A woman who is raped may fear her relationship with a spouse or boyfriend may change after an assault.

Some women may be career-focused, feeling they have to “suck it up” for the sake of maintaining their careers, taking a cue from women in earlier eras who negotiated harassment without resorting to legal measures. Even if the complaint is factual, there may be a professional or personal price to pay for coming out publicly with a such a complaint.

Imagine an employer saying of a potential hire: “This woman accused her boss at her last job of sexual harassment. I definitely want an assertive employee like that.”  Can’t imagine that? Neither can I.

This leads us to the people who argue that women who wait to complain must be lying because no woman who is abused would just keep it to herself. This is a self-contradictory argument. An abused woman hesitates  to come forward because she fears she will not be believed. When she finally comes forward and is not believed, this only proves her reasons for not coming forward were justified.

Punishing women for coming out “too late” does serve one clear purpose, however. It is an effective way to hush up victims. It puts women in the impossible situation of choosing between lodging a complaint immediately and risking retaliation from the perpetrator, or waiting for the safety of the passage of time and being accused of making it up. That is a lose-lose proposition if there ever was one.

How much time has to pass before it is “too late”? Who gets to decide this? There may be a statute of limitations on legal punishment, but there is no statute of limitations on the truth. That Julius Caesar was assassinated 2,000 years ago doesn’t change the fact that he was assassinated. A complaint alleged about an event 20 years ago deserves the same attention as one that happened yesterday.

Everyone knows sexual harassment happens. “She’s a liar” can’t be an acceptable defense to one of the most common crimes in existence. Imagine if “you are lying” were a sufficient defense for armed robbery. How many Americans would agree to that?

People who doubt women who come forward after many years need to ask themselves this question: Is there ever a good time to accuse someone of sexual harassment? There is always a price to be paid for standing up to a bully.


Features of the New Tax Bill You Didn’t Know About

Actual page of tax bill, as passed by the SenateYou may be aware that Congress just passed a new tax bill, designed to supercharge our economy and make us all billionaires. Here are a few little known provisions of this brand-new law.

  • 14 year old girlfriends can now be claimed as “temporary dependents”
  • New Schedule SX form to organize your sexual harassment deductions
  • New deduction for “affair diamond” allows husbands to placate wives after “misunderstandings”
  • Annual reduction in business tax by 2% a year. When the rate falls below zero, businesses will be paid 2% a year, money will be taken from the middle class
  • Rat meat will be subsidized, but only for people who buy food with food stamps
  • “Billionaire Playboy” is now a tax-exempt charitable institution
  • Black Lives Matter and Antifa will now share the same tax status with Nazis, because there is bad behavior on both sides
  • The Arch in St. Louis will be renamed the Laffer Curve National Monument and Temple
  • Kneeling during the National Anthem is taxed at a rate of $10,000 per second
  • Evangelical preacher private jet subsidy
  • Sexual harassment payments are now tax deductible
  • Anything written in the margins by drunk Senators after midnight during debate applies only to non-white people
  • Illegal immigrants must pay taxes, but politicians are legally allowed to say they don’t, and journalists must agree
  • Fox News is the only tax-exempt media company
  • New carbon tax on mosques only
  • Final article which reads “Anything above that can be construed as detrimental to rich white men is null and void in any court of law”

For those who are worried about injustice to the poor, worry no more. This new law will deprive the poor of citizenship. That takes care of that.

But we are thankful to have this legislation. I know as a white male of means, I worry about being discriminated against, and this will protect my God-given rights.


Guns: A Love Story

We live in a civilized society. At least I think we do. Living in a civilized society means there are certain conventions — rules of good behavior — that we follow to make life easier. Traffic laws, rules about privacy, and respect for private property are all examples of social conventions that make life in a community easier. 

Living in civilized society also means certain conveniences. It means I can go to the grocery store with money in my pocket to buy food instead of having to bring two dozen eggs and a couple of chickens to barter. It means when someone is indebted to me, I can solve the problem through the legal system instead of having to show up at my neighbor’s door with a pistol.

I once had a conversation with a man who informed me that “an armed society is a polite society.” He was arguing, in effect, that if people are in fear of being physically harmed, they are likely to behave better. While it may be true that there are a few people who will not follow the rules without the threat of violence, this is an astonishingly cynical view of humanity in general. I highly doubt the reason your neighbor waved hello to you earlier today was out of fear of being shot. Nor it is likely that he or she would be more likely to wave if you were armed.

No. For the most part he had it exactly backward. An armed society is not a polite society — it is a fearful society. In a civilized society, people are not polite because they fear violence; they are polite because violence is not necessary.

I live in civilized society not because I am allowed to carry a firearm, but precisely because I don’t have to. If we all lived in the jungle without any law, we could all arm ourselves. Being able to carry a weapon is certainly not a hallmark of civilization, since every uncivilized land in the history of the world has been armed. A civilized society — a society of rules — is a place where it  is not necessary to settle disputes with violence.

What kind of society would we live in if you couldn’t go to the grocery store, or the movies, or even sit at your desk at work without having a loaded gun within easy reach? Why have laws in such a society? You have the means to settle any problem in your own pocket. The Supreme Court is your trigger finger.

Being at home means having the ability to rest comfortably without worrying about someone stabbing you in the back. Civilized society extends our homes beyond our doorsteps. We ought to be able to walk the neighborhood or go to the dentist without carrying a firearm. Isn’t that what we want to mean when we say, “This city is my home”? We want to mean that we live there, are comfortable there, and feel safe there. We want to mean that our hometown is a community where we don’t obtain parking spots with an exchange of bullets.

Who would want to live in a society where everyone was armed? Where every fender bender could escalate into an exchange of gunfire, or where you are afraid to challenge the amount of your lunch bill because the gun the waiter is toting is bigger than yours?

Civilized society is based on trust. Gun culture is based on distrust. A society that substitutes bullets for trust is not a society worth living in.

There is a misperception that guns are a kind of equalizer. That one person may be stronger than another, but if the weaker person has a pistol, well then, it’s all even. So guns help the weak to be strong. But this is the wrong way to look at it.

Recently, one man rented a hotel room in Las Vegas and rained bullets on 23,000 people for more than ten minutes. One can imagine that if the paths of escape for the 23,000 were cut off, so no one could escape from the killing field, this man could have continued to mow down innocent people as long as he wanted to. As it was, he was picking off people trapped in a blind alley. The only reason he killed 58 people instead of 5800 people was that he didn’t have enough time. He had enough bullets.

This is a bizarre situation. We have one person holding absolute power over 23,000 people for ten minutes. Twenty-three thousand against one should be a mismatch, but not when the one has a 48 AR-15s, thousands of rounds of ammo, and 12 bump stocks. This isn’t equalization. It is tyranny. It is one person holding the power of God in his own hands for almost a quarter of an hour.

When do you consider changing the rules of society? According to our Founders, the ones who wrote the Constitution (and that odd Second Amendment), you consider changing the rules of society when one entity (a king, a dictator, an oligarchy) exercises too much power over a large group of people. When the few, or the one, have dictatorial powers over the many. When that happens, the Founders said, it is time for a new government. Tell the king to take a walk. Send Parliament home. At least that’s what the Declaration of Independence says.

Unrestricted freedom to arm gives people who choose to buy 48 semiautomatic rifles and 12 bump stocks absolute power over others. That is what tyranny is — absolute power. Needless to say (at least, it should be needless to say), a man who holds the power of death over 23,000 people with no limits is a tyrant, and that kind of tyranny has no place in a democratic society. Or a civilized one.

Now, some would argue that when that happens, everyone else should just buy guns of their own and it will be even. But then civilized society goes out the window. In such a case, people are not buying guns because they want to, they are being forced to buy guns because other people have them. In other words, tyranny. Because of people like the Las Vegas shooter, I am supposed to bring my trusty Glock 9mm with me to the grocery when I want pretzels for the football game. A lone nut with a gun dictates the rules of society.

I don’t think so. That isn’t freedom. That is the exact opposite of freedom.

Restricting the ability of people to arm themselves isn’t taking away rights. It is resetting the balance of power, so a crowd of 23,000 no longer has to fear a psychopath with a gun.

Resetting the balance of power is what democracy is supposed to be for.


Protesting the National Anthem

About this this kneeling at sports contests business: The main objection to athletes doing this seems to be that they are at work, and shouldn't be allowed to protest at work.

Well..I work too, and never in my work career have I been asked to stand up and sing the National Anthem. There is nothing in any pro athlete's contract that requires him or her to pay respect to the National Anthem at the beginning of games. They are paid to play football, or baseball, or basketball.

There is a reason for this arrangement, for not saying the Pledge of Allegiance or singing the Anthem at work. First, not all employees are American citizens. There is a such thing as a green card, and asking a Canadian, for instance, to sing the Anthem at work is silly. Second, work is about getting work done, not about patriotism. Business owners and workers know they can say the Pledge any time they want to, when they are off. There is no reason to clutter work with patriotic ceremony. And finally, a company isn't the government or society. It is the government's and society's job to inspire patriotism, not the night manager at CVS pharmacy. Businesses intelligently see no need to bring up matters at work that have nothing to do with getting the job done.

As much as we all yearn for common ground, including respect for the flag and the Anthem, forced patriotism is not patriotism. Making people do what they are not inclined to do builds society on a lie.

I don't like public disrespect for sacred objects either, but I am not so stupid as to think that forcing people to do what they do not want to do is the answer. It doesn't change anything. In fact, the more you suppress feelings like this, the more resentful the protesters become. Doesn't anyone remember the 1960s?

Isn't it true that the more people comment negatively on the kneeling, the more it is happening? Of course it is. After Trump's whine fest yesterday, a baseball player did it for the first time. Now that Trump has engaged Steph Curry, it is almost certain to become more common at basketball games as well.

Just let it go. People will always protest. It human nature to protest, and complain, and whine, and make grievances known. The way to make it go away, if that is your goal, is to listen to them in the first place. Most reasonable people feel less need to protest, or to support other people's protests, when concerns are heard.

If you want to stop this, listen. Listen, hear, and reflect compassionately.


Farewell, Steely Dan

This past week Walter Becker, half of Steely Dan, died. The band of smoky rhythms and salty lyrics, jazzy-but-not-jazz, probably the best band of the nineteen seventies. Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, the duo that called themselves Steely Dan, take time to get to know, introverted in music as they were in life. But the best ones always are. In art, to be the best you have to be knowable, but not easy to know. The ones easy to know aren't usually worth knowing, Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde excepted. Art doesn't have to be personal, but if you put a lot of yourself into something, even if it is not you, it will be like you, tending to wind complex and deep like a network of cypress roots.

Becker and Fagan forgot more about recording than I ever could know. It is said that their 1977 best-selling album Aja was so sonically perfect that engineers use it to test audio systems for flaws. And yet for their formidable skills in the mixing booth, they never went for electronic or digital effects, instead seeking to make music sound like music and not like something else. No electronic sound effects, no synthesizers -- the electric piano was the most exotic sound they sought; their sound was natural instrumentation. They were interested in recording music, not making recordings, and there is a difference.

This traditiona approach appeals to me. Always has. Steely Dan’s adherence to standard voice and musical instruments, pure and clean, no distortion or overdrive or vocal filtering — music and nothing but — was a traditional approach to music. Music that could be replicated onstage with standard equipment, provided the musicians had the nerve to perform songs that were so clean and sonically transparent that mistakes were inconcealable. This traditional style may have limited the breadth of their sound, a slick blend of jazz and rock, but tradition notwithstanding, the tracks they laid down sounded only like them.

That is my theory of art as well -- you get more mileage out of stretching traditions than breaking them. I don't get much from music that takes a vocal note and electronically washes it into something that sounds like an electric violin. I don't go for the helicopter sounds, or the sound of a car squealing to a halt transformed into a closing coda. I like musicians to be musicians and to stick to their instruments. That doesn't mean I reject modern sound techniques. But I don't like them, sonically, as much as I like a really good guitarist squeezing the last drop of timbre out of his instrument. Like the guitar solo in "Rikki Don’t Lose that Number," for my money the finest guitar lead in rock history.

And chord changes. Slinky, grooving chord changes. Chord changes are what really make music, because without them all you have is a beat, and a beat is not music. Melody is music, but entirely too thin to hang a song on. You can whistle a tune but not a chord, which is why no one ever pays money to listen to someone whistle, or even to hear a solo instrument that can’t bang out two notes at the same time. No, it takes harmony to bring music to life, and a chord is harmony.

Chord changes are harmony going somewhere, and Steely Dan was in love with chord changes. Chord changes in popular music tend to be simple, so simple as to be non-existent, I to IV to V and back to I, with the occasional minor chord thrown in -- the simplest changes possible (trust me if you don't know music, I-IV-V chord sequences are is the first thing you learn). But they doesn't turn me on like the wicked G6/9-F#7#9-F6//9-E7#9-Eb6/9-D7#9 business that opens “Peg.” This sequence is not simply the musical tension typical of jazz, with the ninths and the sharps going for it, but also a smooth stepdown from beginning to end, G-F#-F-E-Eb-D, a half-step with each change, that ease-on-down that is the spirit of jazz slink.

Becker and Fagan wanted to produce good music, and they wanted music that sounded good on every level. Isolate the drums, the bass, keyboards, anything on a Steely Dan song, and there is enough going on to listen to that single thread all the way through. Even on paper, all those sharps and flat look better, like something’s goin’ on.

It looks like thought went into it. Like you can trust it. When a master artist works, you can trust that every stroke is intentional — nothing is happenstance, no effect unintentional, every word or gesture or brushstroke or musical note meant to be there. The jazz giant Thelonious Monk famously said that the best music comes from mistakes, but he didn’t mean that he made errors in his work and then made the best of them. He meant that in a great work of art, the eccentricities of the work were meant to be there and belong, every bit as much as the more comprehensible parts. He meant that every note in a really good song matters, and they all play off each other. No mistakes, only happy faults — abnormalities that belong in the overall plan just as much as the more conventional elements do, like the way a knot in a plank of wood makes it look more real than if the entire board is made up of flawless wood fibers running the same way.

When a master artist goes to work you know the mistakes were meant to be there. The discord is just as intentional as the harmony. You can listen to it, think about it, without concern that you are wasting your time considering an accidental effect, one that never occurred to the artist. You can trust that the mistakes belong.

That's what it is — trust. I trust Steely Dan. Trust them anew with every re-listen.

Photo of Steely Dan at the Pori Jazz Fesival courtesy of Kotivalo, posted in Wikicommons.