True, true, and related?

At the end of my sophomore year in Medical school we took part one of the National Boards. A favorite way to phrase a question involved two statements. Then you were asked the following: Is each statement true or false? Are the statements related? Thus there were 5 possibilities

1) True, true, and related

2) True, true, and unrelated

3)  True, False

4) False, True

5) False, False

Examples:

Statement 1: The heart is a pump.

Statement 2: Heart failure occurs when blood pools in the lungs.

Ans: True, true, and related

or

Statement 1: The brain is the seat of consciousness.

Statement 2: Einstein was very smart.

Ans: True, true, and unrelated

 

 

With that in mind, consider these two statements: 

Corporations are people.

Money is speech.

Now I would bet you that a fifth grader would select 5). False, False

Our Supreme Court has selected 1) True, true, and related

 

In The New Yorker Aug 25  Jill Lepore discusses money and corruption in politics. She wrote

In 1904 the New York Life Company, “through J.P. Morgan & Co., sent the Republican National Committee” almost $ 50,000 “(about a million dollars, in today’s money). As the historian Robert E. Mutch points out in his thoughtful and well-researched study Buying the Vote, this proof of what had before only been rumored occasioned an outcry. ‘So long as great corporations are permitted  to send their checks for $50,000 to campaign committee Treasurers we shall have, or be in great danger of having, a Government of the corporations, not a Government of the people,’ the editors of the New York Times, a Democratic newspaper, wrote.

The city’s leading Republican paper, the Tribune, went further:

In the United States the government is intended to be a government of men. A corporation is not a citizen with a right to vote or take a hand otherwise in politics. It is an artificial creation,brought into existenceby favor of the State solely to perform the functions allowed to it by its charter. Interference by it with the state and attempts by it to exercise rights of citizenship are fundamentally a perversion of its power. Its stockholders, no matter how wise or how rich, should be forced to exercise their political influence as individuals on an equality with other men. That is the basic principle of democracy.

 

Since the current Supreme Court of the United States disagrees, let’s hope the US Senate tomorrow votes to nullify the Citizens United decision and bring some semblance of sanity and fairness to electoral politics.

 

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Maybe I’m too old for the US Tennis Open.

From the time we got off the 7 Subway and began our walk to the Billie Jean King US Tennis Center our ears were assaulted by bullhorns loudly and harshly proclaiming

“If you have a backpack you will not be allowed in!”

“If you are carrying anything with two straps that fit over your shoulders, that is a backpack. You will not be allowed in.”

As we approached the complex another bullhorn, “Purses and bags to the left, no bags to the right.”  And we, who had no purse, much to my wife’s chagrin,(since the website said we would get in quicker!) were herded into a loading chute, where we stood for thirty five minutes until we were allowed to pass through one of two (TWO!) screening detectors. Then another line to have our tickets scanned by a harried attendant. We were in to the US Open! Where do we go?

“That way,” said a smiling US Open employee. “Just follow the crowd.”

An announcement “The 7 PM night session of the US Open is delayed. Evening attendees will be admitted 20 minutes after the current match ends.” We stood around and watched the “current match” end on a monitor and then followed the crowd (and I mean CROWD!) until we were stopped by our shear mass, packed as tight as sardines. Then we stood that way for 45 minutes. About 15 minutes into standing, another bullhorn. “Have your tickets out…Have your tickets out.” No information, no one circulating through the crowd with information.  Then we could see on a monitor Roger Federer and his opponent, Sam Groth, entering the court. Still we stood. Then they warmed up. Then they began play and the mass of humanity, thousands, began to move –  AWAY from the Arthur Ashe Stadium. We had to be routed around a fountain. Then finally we had our tickets scanned again and we were in. It was 8:30 when we arrived at our section. Section 120, row N, seats 7 and 8. But there are only rows to “M.”  So, two chairs on the walkway were provided for us. For $ 169 apiece we got to sit in the walkway. It was 3-3 when we finally started watching the tennis. At 6-4, 6-4, 6-4, a very predictable but entertaining match. We saw Groth hit a 147 mph serve. Impressive!

After an interlude, the Sharapova -Lisicki match began around 10:30. Not much of a match. Lisicki couldn’t match Maria’s power and consistency. As the second set began we thought it might be fun to sit courtside, as most were clearing out of the area.  We thought there would be no problem. Wrong! As we approached the entry to the lower level, we were told we had to have a free pass that they were giving out on the upper level we had just come from. By this time the second set was half over. So we went in search of the mythical “white pass.” We asked a member of the Event Staff. “She is around here somewhere but I don’t see her.” We gave up and expressed our frustration and were told to go to the office of Guest Services.  By this time Maria was well in control of the final set. “Oh! it’s too early to pass out the lower level passes, but please complain. We are so understaffed.”  Too early?? The match was almost over! We gave up and headed for the exit and were almost there when we heard the final roar of the crowd.

A few years ago we went to the Masters golf tournament. It is an experience that exceeded our expectations. We were greeted, informed, and made to feel special that we were there. That is missing at the US Open. If the US Open is going to charge exorbitant amounts for tickets and merchandise, it should at least be able to staff up and train the staff so that a memorable and pleasant experience is ensured. That is not the case. Much of it is our fault. We the public continue to buy into shoddy service and TV’s superficial glitter over substance. We continue to allow ourselves to be subject to mean, uncaring automatons (“We’re just doing our jobs”) while the Corporate Big Boys and Gliterati, unattached to the real world, collect and dole out the millions. Millions WE pay to tennis players who are granted the worship and adoration that real people who make a real difference in the world should receive. It’s our fault. As long as we accept being marginalized we deserve what we get.

Maybe I AM too old to go to the US Open!

Forgotten D.C. tragedy

The suspect in the high-speed chase between the White House and the Capitol Building was identified Friday by a law enforcement source as a dental hygienist from Connecticut with a history of mental issues. Oct 2013

Why did a 34 year old woman have to die? Was there no other alternative?

Situation – an unarmed woman in an Infinity with a child (admittedly both facts not know) driving erratically and dangerously leads to conclusion-“could be part of a violent terrorist plot.”

Response – Must be stopped at all costs. Kill her.

Rationalization – we didn’t know she was unarmed and had a child with her. Fair enough

More plausible conclusion and desirable scenario:

Situation – deranged individual in an Infinity driving erratically and dangerously -out of touch with reality i.e. psychotic.

More appropriate response – STOP HER – shoot out her tires, barricade, tire puncturing nails, surround her, etc.

Anybody with any sense could see from the outset that this was most likely an act of psychosis and a measured response was called for.

Are we so frightened as a nation that we will overreact to any threat? Shoot first and ask questions later?

Unfortunately the answer is yes. We have lost our way. When we begin shooting our own citizens, the terrorists have won.

(This faded from our consciousness and the news in a few days)

Mousetraps vs Cats

A friend of mine had a business building armored SUV’s. He had improved on those that were being used by our government in Iraq. More power and protection. He ran into a problem that little guys competing with the big guys often do. You may have a better mousetrap but the guy that owns all the cats will never let you prove it. He appealed to his elected representatives and was told, in so many words, by his senator’s office,” If you aren’t a contributor we can’t help you.”

Our politicians so often say,” That contribution had nothing with my vote.” How stupid do they think we are? Answer: not only stupid but apathetic and powerless. Money rules. Our Supreme Court has declared corporations are people and can contribute as much as they desire to political candidates and campaigns.

Justice Steven’s comment about McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission shows the fallacy.

“It’s a grossly incorrect decision. The very first sentence of the chief justice’s opinion lays out a basic error in this whole jurisprudence. He says that there is ‘no right more basic in our democracy’ than to pick our elected officials. But the case is not about whether individuals can pick their own congressman. It’s about giving lots of campaign contributions, picking other people’s congressman, not your own”                                                                                              The New Yorker April 24, 2014

The more you read and hear about tax and income inequality the more the possibility of an insurrection seems inevitable.  Marx said capitalism would implode on itself in a never ending drive for diminishing profits. Maybe,  maybe not. But when our CEO’s feel entitled to obscene amounts of compensation, at least 200 x the average worker’s salary, and we won’t even feed or give healthcare to all our citizens and our elected officials see nothing wrong with this picture something’s gotta give. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not in my life time but if the arc of history bends toward justice; the recoil when it happens will shake us to our core.

 

Spin,spin,spin

SPIN,SPIN,SPIN

 As things continue to deteriorate in Iraq, I looked back 12 years to someone I heard and something I wrote. Had either been heeded, we would have avoided the tragic mess Iraq is today.

The person I heard was Scott Ritter, one of the UN weapons inspectors, speaking to the Dallas Peace Center in 2002. He was certain that there were no WMD’s (weapons of mass destruction) in Iraq. He’d been there, he’d looked. He gave compelling reasons for his assertion.  He was discredited. The fact that he was later convicted of soliciting a minor on the Internet has not helped his stature. But time has proven him correct. Why was he not heard?

In the run up to the “war” that began in March 2003 I made a TOP 10 list. Not totally prescient but close enough.

 TEN REASONS FOR NOT ATTACKING IRAQ 

  • It will inflame the Muslim world and increase the chances of retaliation through terrorism and making the world riskier.
  • It will cost $ 50 billion putting our country into further recession
  • The Iraqi people already suffer terrible hardship and depravation of water, food, and medicine.
  • We do not know what Saddam has – our intelligence is spotty and unreliable at best. If “The American People” are to support any action we must know the extent of the threat. “He could have…” or “He might do …” are not sufficient. 
  • Containment worked in the Cold War – it should be given a chance to work here.
  • Oil prices will shoot through the roof.
  • Attacking a sovereign nation without clear provocation sets a very bad precedent.
  • Our allies are opposed.
  • Attacking Iraq will increase not decrease the chances of use of biochemical and chemical weapons by Iraq.
  • Americans will die in an ill defined mission – remember Vietnam?

David Haymes                                                                                  September 22, 2002  Continue reading Spin,spin,spin

Tears of Joy

Any of you who saw the end of the Women’s British Open last Sunday witnessed one of the great pressure golf shots of all time. 31 year old Mo Martin hit a three wood 240 yard to within six feet of the pin on the par 5 last hole. She then sank the putt for an eagle 3. She had to wait while two contenders, playing after her, had opportunities to tie or beat her. In a stroke of directorial brilliance, the camera honed in on Martin’s face just as she learned that they had failed and her caddie relayed the news. “You won!” The pure joy on her face brought tears to my eyes and, as freely admitted, the broadcasters in the booth. Why?

I never heard of Mo Martin. Why would some neurotransmitters in my limbic system, the seat of emotions and memory deep in the brain, rev up because someone I don’t know over 4000 miles away was happy? And why would I cry?

There is a lot of information about the neurophysiology of tears. The roles of the Trigeminal nerve and the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems* are well established. But I can find nothing expaining how an external event starts the cascade that ends in tears of joy or sympathy. There are evolutionary explanations involving tears as a sign to others of surrender or a signal of a need for help and support, but what is the initial stimulus?

My guess is that it has to do with consciousness, that intersection of brain and mind.  There is something in us that is non-linear and to my mind other worldly that we do not, and will never, understand. I think consciousness is the junction between this world and the other.  My friend and former partner Dr. Larry Dossey has written extensively about evidence for a universal consciousness, a modern day take on Jung’s collective consciousness. Just as Aspen trees share a common root system so too we may share a subliminal awareness of our interconnectedness. In a way when one suffers we all suffer. When one of us is joyful we all participate, even briefly, in that joy. And if the joy is intense enough, tears flow.

I reject the opinion that I am just a crybaby. Our tears have a much more noble origin!

* The Trigeminal is the fifth of twelve cranial nerves responsible for facial sensation and biting and chewing. The autonomic  nervous system, with sympathetic and parasympathetic components, acts below consciousnes to control bodily functions like heart rate and breathing.

Not like me

I have been thinking a lot about prejudice recently. Or maybe it has just thrust itself in front of me. Islam, racism, and homosexuality are three areas that seem to preoccupy many Americans.

I grew up in a time and place where I had little contact with Negroes. I played on a baseball team in Borger, Texas in the 50’s that was integrated.  Very little was thought or said about it. There were none in the high school I attended in Dallas. College, medical school, and Vietnam increased my exposure to African Americans. One particular instance stands out as an example of the overt racism of the 60’s. Surgical Grand Rounds at Parkland Hospital attended by faculty, staff, students, and numerous surgeons from the community. The chief of surgery was giving a presentation on wound infections. The talk included information on animal bites, including human bites. The professor described the germs that could contaminate a wound caused by a human bite. During the question and answer session a “town surgeon” stood and, with a chuckle, said, “Dr. Shires, I’ve always heard that the bite of a Blue Gummed Georgia N***** was fatal.  Any truth to that?” There was silence in the auditorium.  Dr. Shires, speaking rapidly and in generalities, tried to diffuse the situation even as an African American surgeon at the back of the room stood and asked to be recognized. Finally, in resignation, Dr. Shires recognized him. “Dr. Shires, I am from Georgia. I have blue gums. As child I even bit somebody. Nobody died and I strongly resent the question.” The meeting ended with the chuckling surgeon trying to apologize. How well do you think that went? Things have changed. We were out to eat last week with a delightful woman who referred to our First Lady as Mrs. Buckwheat. Things have changed… haven’t they?

I am a Presbyterian and, like a lot of mainstream denominations, the Presbyterian Church USA has been struggling with the issue of homosexuality. This has been settled in my mind for some time. To me the cited scriptural references referred to in-hospitality, temple prostitution, and idolatry more than a proscription against homosexuality, a term that was not even coined until the 1800’s. Every gay person I have ever talked to describes their sexual orientation as a part of their core being for as long as they could remember. Nevertheless, honest people disagree. Recently the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church voted (very closely) to allow individual churches and ministers to perform same sex marriages in states where this was permitted by law. Allow, not force. Individual conscience, which is very important to Presbyterians, still rules. I have always felt that the Church should be inclusive rather than exclusive. Nevertheless, individual churches and people will leave the Presbyterian Church and, again like other mainline churches, its membership will continue to dwindle.

I get several e-mails a week about Islam, none of them complementary. They describe the “death to the infidels” mentality that is common to all of Islam, with the instructions to “pass it on.” The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver has a term that may apply here. ”Bible dipping.” It refers to finding a passage in the Bible that support your viewpoint, your prejudice if you will. I have not read the Koran but I accept the fact that there are violent passages in it. There are violent passages in the Bible that could be “dipped” to show that Judaism and Christianity are violent. I want to believe that there is a difference between moderate Islam and radical fundamentalist Islam but I don’t know any Muslims well enough to know. So that is my prejudice. But assuming that is true, I do not know what we can or should do about radical fundamentalist Islam. I once thought that opportunity, education, and the chance for a comfortable life would counteract the insane ravings of the radical Muslim clerics. But many of the 9/11 terrorists were well educated. One was even a medical student.

Maybe Jesus and the Beatles are right. “All you need is love.” That may not be enough but in our daily lives dealing with one another it beats fear and hate.