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September 29, 2005


Chicago Honors The Spirit Of Saul Bellow

Saul Bellow: Nobel Prize Diploma

It was, said the rabbi, a service "in the simple, traditional manner that Saul would have wanted."

There was the haunting cadence of the 23rd Psalm, chanted in the traditional Hebrew. The soaring voices of opera singers boomed three of his favorite arias against the vaulted ceiling of The University of Chicago's Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. Chicago's mayor spoke well of him. And there was just the right amount of levity.

To remember Saul Bellow--their friend, their teacher, their colleague, their relative and often all of that together-- a large crowd gathered Tuesday, September 27th, in Rockefeller Memorial Chapel to honor the Nobel Prize-winning novelist who died April 5 at the age of 89 in his home in Brookline, Mass.

It was an achingly beautiful afternoon on the elegantly graceful campus of The University of Chicago, with a blue sky, green grass and the mellowed comfort of massively impressive Gothic buildings, weathered by a century of demanding weather. It was also a time to link Bellow to a city whose virtues, vices, foibles and fancies he made known to the world.

"Saul understood Chicago like no one else, its beauty, its aspirations, its history. He appreciated that Chicago was built as a city of immigrants and that diversity is an enormous strength," noted Mayor Richard Daley, who was one of eight speakers at the 90-minute service.

The mayor also recalled, with a chuckle, that Bellow once had accompanied him on the campaign trail, at one point regaling an audience with 40 minutes of amusing tales of the city he loved. To get a chance to talk, Daley said, "I had to remind him that it was, well, my election campaign."

Others spoke of Bellow's "lifelong preoccupation with the large questions" of life, the "conjuring quality of his prose" and his brilliant observational skills as "a first-class noticer." Novelist Richard Stern, a longtime friend, noted "his ability to shuttle
comfortably between the faculty lounge and the pool hall.

"What a kick Saul would have gotten from this afternoon," Stern added, looking out from the chapel's podium at the "people who remember him in the streets, the classrooms and the living rooms of Hyde Park," his favored venues for much of his literary and academic career.

One of the most influential American novelists of the 20th Century, Bellow taught at The University of Chicago from 1963 to 1993 as a member of the university's renowned Committee on Social Thought, where he was the Raymond W. and Martha Hilpert Gruner Distinguished Service Professor. He had also attended the university during the 1930s.

In 1993, he left a second time, at the age of 78, for a teaching position at Boston University, to be near his beloved country retreat in rural Vermont. Yet he remained ever identified with the city that sourced so much of his work.

Though Bellow's works--a dozen critically acclaimed novels and works of non-fiction--"are timeless, that does not mean they are place-less," said Rabbi William Hamilton of Congregation Kehillath Israel in Brookline, Mass., who also officiated at Bellow's funeral service in April in Brattleboro, Vt.

Bellow was "a divinely gifted creative force," Hamilton said. "Chicago was the home, is the home, from which soaring words, sorrowful sentences, were launched," he added.

During what was described as a service "of celebration and comfort," soprano Susanna Phillips, baritone Quinn Kelsey and pianist Alan Darling from Chicago's Lyric Opera Center for American Artists performed two arias from Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro" and one from Handel's "Julius Caesar." "They were his favorites," said Danny Newman, a Lyric Opera emeritus executive and longtime friend of Bellow.

Seated in the front rows during the service, along with university officials, were members of Bellow's family, including his fifth wife, Janis Freedman Bellow, who--as several speakers noted--had saved Bellow's life several years ago during an incident of food poisoning at a Caribbean resort.

As others suggested, one hallmark of Bellow's legacy is an enduring optimism, even during periods of personal travail.

For author Eugene Kennedy, the mark of Bellow was that "he could survey the parade of the lofty and the lowlifes, the professionals and the pretenders, the seeker and the psychopath--all who had eaten the apple of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden of Chicago--and murmur, what a species."

Among the speakers was one of Bellow's four children, his oldest son, Gregory, 61. His father's idea of a university, he said, had nothing to do with "minds down and pencils up." A good mind, my father suggested, should be restless.

Growing up in a household where adults loved to kick around big ideas, "my singular goal was to emulate their ability to analyze an argument," he said. Now, "to perpetuate my father's spirit," he urged, "all we have to do is to keep asking questions."

September 28, 2005

Copyright 2005, The Chicago Tribune


Simon Wiesenthal: In Remembrance of His Monumental Service to Humanity

Simon Wiesenthal: 1908-2005
Simon Wiesenthal, a Holocaust survivor known for his work bringing Nazi war criminals to justice, passed away last week in Vienna at the age of 96. He is destined be remembered as one of the giant figures of the past century.

After surviving personally intense suffering through the period of Nazi persecution, Simon Wiesenthal spent much of the rest of his life fighting tirelessly, and often successfully, to bring many Nazi war criminals to justice. His relentlessly committed labors were of almost singular importance in creating an empathic world focus upon the atrocities committed by the Nazis, as he fought to recover or maintain our memories of the six million Jewish people and other minority persons who were murdered during the Holocaust.

Further, the Simon Wiesenthal (Memorial) Centers that he was intrumental in establishing throughout the world serve as powerfully evocative means for the narrative induction of subsequent generations into the master narrative of the plight of the violently destructive tragedy murderously inflicted upon the Jewish people by the Third Reich. Fearing that the memory of this European catastrophe of genocide might fade from collective memory and be repeated, Weisenthal continuously emphasized and turned our thoughts to the memorably striking phrase "Lest We Forget." The master narrative of Shoah or the Holocaust necessary leads to feelings of melancholia, rather than to mourning and "working-through" in the collective memory of this murderous event. However, this is an especially unique sense of melancholia that provides an invaluable adaptive and soothing function as "restorative nostalgia," which is of singular importance in enabling the recollection of the enriched experiences and times that existed for many Jewish people before the Nazi's tragic mass infliction of genocidal disaster.

Simon Wiensenthal made sure that the world will never forget the Holocaust. We will never forget, and we will never forget Wiensenthal's monumental service to humanity.

September 22, 2005


American versus European Universities

Ancient versus Modern Universities

For those of a certain age and educational background, it is hard to think of higher education without thinking of ancient institutions. Some universities are of a venerable age—the University of Bologna was founded in 1088, the University of Oxford in 1096—and many of them have a strong sense of tradition. The truly old ones make the most of their pedigrees, and those of a more recent vintage work hard to create an aura of antiquity.

And yet these tradition-loving (or -creating) institutions are currently enduring a thunderstorm of changes so fundamental that some say the very idea of the university is being challenged. Universities are experimenting with new ways of funding (most notably through student fees), forging partnerships with private companies and engaging in mergers and acquisitions. Such changes are tugging at the ivy's roots.

This is happening for four reasons. The first is the democratisation of higher education—“massification”, in the language of the educational profession. In the rich world, massification has been going on for some time. The proportion of adults with higher educational qualifications in the OECD countries almost doubled between 1975 and 2000, from 22% to 41%. But most of the rich countries are still struggling to digest this huge growth in numbers. And now massification is spreading to the developing world. China doubled its student population in the late 1990s, and India is trying to follow suit.

The second reason is the rise of the knowledge economy. The world is in the grips of a “soft revolution” in which knowledge is replacing physical resources as the main driver of economic growth. The OECD calculates that between 1985 and 1997 the contribution of knowledge-based industries to total value added increased from 51% to 59% in Germany and from 45% to 51% in Britain. The best companies are now devoting at least a third of their investment to knowledge-intensive intangibles such as R&D, licensing and marketing. Universities are among the most important engines of the knowledge economy. Not only do they produce the brain workers who man it, they also provide much of its backbone, from laboratories to libraries to computer networks.

The third factor is globalisation. The death of distance is transforming academia just as radically as it is transforming business. The number of people from OECD countries studying abroad has doubled over the past 20 years, to 1.9m; universities are opening campuses all around the world; and a growing number of countries are trying to turn higher education into an export industry.

The fourth is competition. Traditional universities are being forced to compete for students and research grants, and private companies are trying to break into a sector which they regard as “the new health care”. The World Bank calculates that global spending on higher education amounts to $300 billion a year, or 1% of global economic output. There are more than 80m students worldwide, and 3.5m people are employed to teach them or look after them.

All this sounds as though a golden age for universities has arrived. But inside academia, particularly in Europe, it does not feel like it. Academics complain about “the decline of the donnish dominion” (the title of a book by A.H. Halsey, a sociologist), and administrators are locked in bad-tempered exchanges with the politicians who fund them. What has gone wrong?

The biggest problem is the role of the state. If more and more governments are embracing massification, few of them are willing to draw the appropriate conclusion from their enthusiasm: that they should either provide the requisite funds (as the Scandinavian countries do) or allow universities to charge realistic fees. Many governments have tried to square the circle through tighter management, but management cannot make up for lack of resources.

So in all too much of the academic world, the writer Kingsley Amis's famous dictum that more means worse is coming to pass. Academic salaries are declining when measured against similar jobs elsewhere, and buildings and libraries are deteriorating. In mega-institutions such as the University of Rome (180,000 students), the National University of Mexico (200,000-plus), and Turkey's Anadolu University (530,000), individual attention to students is bound to take a back seat.

The innate conservatism of the academic profession does not help. The modern university was born in a very different world from the current one, a world where only a tiny minority of the population went into higher education, yet many academics have been reluctant to make any allowances for massification. Italian universities, for instance, still insist that all students undergo a viva voce examination by a full professor, lasting an average of about five minutes.

What, if anything, can be done? Techno-utopians believe that higher education is ripe for revolution. The university, they say, is a hopelessly antiquated institution, wedded to outdated practices such as tenure and lectures, and incapable of serving a new world of mass audiences and just-in-time information. “Thirty years from now the big university campuses will be relics,” says Peter Drucker, a veteran management guru. “I consider the American research university of the past 40 years to be a failure.” Fortunately, in his view, help is on the way in the form of internet tuition and for-profit universities.

Cultural conservatives, on the other hand, believe that the best way forward is backward. The two ruling principles of modern higher-education policy—democracy and utility—are “degradations of the academic dogma”, to borrow a phrase from the late Robert Nisbet, another sociologist. They think it is foolish to waste higher education on people who would rather study “Seinfeld” than Socrates, and disingenuous to confuse the pursuit of truth with the pursuit of profit.

The conservative argument falls at the first hurdle: practicality. Higher education is rapidly going the way of secondary education: it is becoming a universal aspiration. The techno-utopian position is superficially more attractive. The internet will surely influence teaching, and for-profit companies are bound to shake up a moribund marketplace. But there are limits.

A few years ago a report by Coopers & Lybrand crowed that online education could eliminate the two biggest costs from higher education: “The first is the need for bricks and mortar; traditional campuses are not necessary. The second is full-time faculty. [Online] learning involves only a small number of professors, but has the potential to reach a huge market of students.” That is nonsense. The human touch is much more vital to higher education than is high technology. Education is not just about transmitting a body of facts, which the internet does pretty well. It is about learning to argue and reason, which is best done in a community of scholars.

This review argues that the most significant development in higher education is the emergence of a super-league of global universities. This is revolutionary in the sense that these institutions regard the whole world as their stage, but also evolutionary in that they are still wedded to the ideal of a community of scholars who combine teaching with research.

The problem for policymakers is how to create a system of higher education that balances the twin demands of excellence and mass access, that makes room for global elite universities while also catering for large numbers of average students, that exploits the opportunities provided by new technology while also recognising that education requires a human touch.

As it happens, we already possess a successful model of how to organise higher education: America's. That country has almost a monopoly on the world's best universities, but also provides access to higher education for the bulk of those who deserve it. The success of American higher education is not just a result of money (though that helps); it is the result of organisation. American universities are much less dependent on the state than are their competitors abroad. They derive their income from a wide variety of sources, from fee-paying students to nostalgic alumni, from hard-headed businessmen to generous philanthropists. And they come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, from Princeton and Yale to Kalamazoo community college.


1. Harvard University
2. Stanford University
3. University of Cambridge
4. Univ. of California/Berkley
5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
6. California Institute of Technology
7. Princeton University
8. University of Oxford
9. Columbia University
10. The University of Chicago

*Rankings based upon academic and research performance, Nobel prizes and number of articles in respected publications.

This review suggests two pieces of advice for countries that are trying to create successful higher-education systems, be they newcomers such as India and China or failed old hands such as Germany and Italy. First: diversify your sources of income. The bargain with the state has turned out to be a pact with the devil. Second: let a thousand academic flowers bloom. Universities, including for-profit ones, should have to compete for customers. A sophisticated economy needs a wide variety of universities pursuing a wide variety of missions. These two principles reinforce each other: the more that the state's role contracts, the more educational variety will flourish.

The Economist, September 8, 2005

September 21, 2005


Moral Righteousness: The Dark Side

One might propose that the main political and philosophical opposition confronting us today is that between modernism and fundamentalism and between the cultures that embrace modernity and those which attack it. Critiques of this position have been made along the lines that this viewpoint encourages splitting, an omniscient attitude, and possible avoidance of the necessity to own our own tendencies to split good and bad.

One might support a differing perspective that argues boldly and simply that what would “solve” the dilemma is a psychopolitical shift toward understanding the world as We rather than Us and Them—to do this not as a denial of destructiveness but as a way of transcending splitting. The We position is the basis for nonviolence, which formulates a positive connection to the “Other” à la Martin Luther King.

However, psychically, the quandary is how to do this while still remaining aware of the potentially intense destructiveness of fundamentalism. More daunting still is the problem of how one might practically work toward acceptance of the nonviolent attitude in our society. Precisely what impedes such nonviolence are the fundamentalist tendencies that make the destructive superego supreme.

For example, in a number of left wing political groups it is not uncommon to observe that when someone hurls the accusation of badness and wrongness and calls for a purge of the politically incorrect, everyone jumps into line frantically lest they be accused of haboring impure thoughts (sexist, racist, etc.).

This susceptibility to righteousness mirrors the ostensible other side, the right-wing accusations of unpatriotic/soft-on-our-enemies (communism). Resisting such fundamentalist intimidation requires a clear understanding that fundamentalist tendencies are not identical with the apocalyptic nihilism of terrorists, though it might be proposed that they may contribute to it and are perhaps on a spectrum with it.

Again, this involves the matter of bearing guilt, tolerating the accusation that one is bad—and how to take this on without resorting to nihilism, nose-thumbing, or posturing. And yet can we learn something from postmodern culture, the satisfaction of hearing “bad” used to mean “good”?

It is clear that many political and philosophical representatives have been stymied by the fear of being labeled unpatriotic and thus become intimidated not to exercise opposition, such as to attacks on civil liberties. Overcoming such fears requires that we confront our own fundamentalist tendencies to externalize and attack “badness,” and learn to embrace the fact of life's contradictions. Otherwise, fundamentalist tendencies here will win out. The moment fascism was defeated in Europe, the witch hunts began here.

There is a tendency to deny the dark side of the modern and post-modern Enlightenment, its association with arrogance and its claim to the right to rule over others while denying that it is doing so. If the human condition requires us to confront our drive for omnipotence and the impossibility of truly asserting control, then surely this is a problem that has not been solved in the West, even as it has been left untouched in the East.

Splitting is everyone's problem. That said, it would be naîve to dispute the dominance that fundamentalism is now enjoying in the Arab world or that the Muslim world never went through the lengthy process of Reformation and religious wars that, in Europe, culminated in the Enlightenment.

Even those who adopt the position that splitting is far from resolved in Western societies must still reflect on the degree of difference that characterizes terrorism and those who support it. Clearly, the most unmodulated forms of splitting are associated with terrorism, in which the world is seen as needing to be purified of evil through violence.

September 13, 2005


Considerations: On Making Amends


From a personal perspective, my reaction to the bombings of Afghanistan, even somewhat Iraq, was to experience feelings of guilt. I am aware of how linked this feeling was to that of fear: that having inflicted this suffering we deserved some retaliation. In other words, I observed myself and others as we experienced first hand the link between guilt and terror once we began to retaliate. I wondered how much of the anxiety being publicly expressed, such as about anthrax, reflected this guilt. And how much did this have to do with our government's inability to express remorse and responsibility for past and present destructiveness, for causing suffering, and thus leaving us all individually to contain immense guilt?

My thoughts then focussed upon a parallel association, a link between guilt and responsibility. It seemed to me that the intense aversion to the idea of governmental responsibility, perhaps all socially organized responsibility, in America—-for instance, Republican reluctance to take responsibility for those put out of work by industrial change and downsizing,as well as for other widespread public tragedies—-might be related to the suspicion that any assumption of responsibility is a tacit admission of blame.

But why is blame so onerous? Does the avoidance of blame throw doubt on the contention that recognizing one's destructiveness is not “hitting rock bottom,” that destructiveness may be only the externalization of the unbearable experience of helplessness? Then again, is the accusation of indifference in the face of suffering in some way conflated with causing it, as when the abused blames the witness, whose refusal to mentally receive and recognize the abuse is felt to be as great a betrayal as the abuse itself?

In any case, it seems that only when it is almost totally clear that there is no posssible onus of responsibility (blame) on themselves, as in external attacks or natural disasters, can Americans react responsibly or demand that their government do so. I wonder if the call for responsibility might be the most subversive one in America at this time, perhaps more to the point than “peace.” In these times, it is extremely doubtful that we have in our grasp anything approaching an adequate understanding about what would enable America, or its government, to find a new relationship to responsibility.

September 08, 2005



Katrina Black Ribbon
The high winds of blame continued to circulate around the abhorrently deficient level of Hurricane Katrina federal relief efforts. Echoing the frustrations of local officials who have complained for days of slow federal response, the major New Orleans Times-Picayune newspaper called for the removal of every official at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA):

"We're angry, Mr. President, and we'll be angry long after our beloved city and surrounding parishes have been pumped dry," the newspaper said this past Sunday in an open letter to President Bush. "Our people deserved rescuing. Many who could have been were not. That's to the government's shame."

In another development, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco refused to sign over control of the National Guard to the federal government and instead called on a Bill Clinton administration official, former Federal Emergency Management Agency chief, James Lee Witt, to help run the relief efforts. Is this a possible premonition that the Republicans could be beginning to lose their stranglehold on the Southern states, that the "Red" states might begin to shift once again to their historic designation as strongly identified "Blue" states?

More on the Bush family's disdain for the poor and disadvantaged:

On Monday, former First Lady Barbara Bush toured the Houston Astrodome and observed the Louisiana evacuees. In remarks to PBS, she "cheerfully" stated: Almost everyone I've talked to says, "we're going to move to Houston." "What I'm hearing is they all want to stay in Texas," she said. "Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underpriviledged anyway, so this {Chuckle}, this is working very well for them." However upon further reflection about the poor and underpriviledged actually moving to Houston, she backtracked and added that such a notion was a very scarey thought!

On a more empathic note, Gulf Coast native Jimmy Buffet played two Labor Day weekend shows at the Chicago Cubs' Wrigley Field, in the very heart of Chicago. Both shows were completely sold out, and they ncluded a compassionate, deeply heartfelt commemoration of the New Orleans disaster. At one point in both of his shows, Buffet and his band played Steve Goodman's (Chicago's late, nationally recognized folksinger) most renowned work "The City of New Orleans." As Buffet sang the song, a large, blue-tinted series of pre-hurricane photographs of some of New Orleans' most historic buildings was displayed. The overflow crowds reacted with intense emotional sadness, and Steve Goodman's mother and sister were seen in the audience as they openly wept over their reminiscent memories of the generous and humane Goodman, as well as about the tragedy incurred by New Orleans.

September 04, 2005


Contemporary Psychotherapy in Residential Treatment

Historic Chestnut Lodge
The image of Chestnut Lodge represents one of the early mental health facilities in the United States that attempted to provide individual and milieu care for those with seriously disturbed emotions (as opposed to "state asylum" or simply back-ward custodial care). For decades, Chestnut Lodge provided long-term residential care for emotionally disturbed adults, and later adolescents. Some of the renowned mental health staff members included Frieda Fromm-Reichman, Harry Stack Sullivan, Harold Searles, Ping Pau, E. James Anthony, Wells Goodrich and many others.

Enriching the lives of children and adolescents has always been the historic mission of residential or group care services for young persons. This mission continues, despite the prevailing public policies and managed care constraints that function to strangle the often desperately needed mental health care for children and adolescents.

The following list of books, journals and other references represent valuable contributions to essential readings related to some of the complexities of residential treatment, various aspects of contemporary psychotherapy, and the provision of psychotherapy for children and adolescents in residential treatment and group care. All of them also may be understood within a broader context of expressions that all convey a sense of hope and compassion, each in its own particular manner, for our own strivings to achieve a rich, metaphoric sense of "self."

Listing of Books and Journals:

(1). The Forsaken Child: Essays on Group Care and Individual Psychotherapy (Haworth Press, 2000), D. Patrick Zimmerman, PsyD.

(2). Transitions from Group Care: Homeward Bound (Haworth Press, 2003), D. Patrick Zimmerman, PsyD., and Richard A. Epstein, M.A. (Eds.).

(3). Psychotherapy in Group Care: Making Life Good Enough (Haworth Press, 2003), D. Patrick Zimmerman, PsyD., Richard A. Epstein, M.A., Martin Leichtman, PhD., and Maria Louisa Leichtman, PhD.

(4). Residential Treatment (W. B.Saunders/Harcourt-Brace, 2004), Bennett L. Leventhal, M.D., and D. Patrick Zimmerman, Psy.D. (Guest Editors).

(5). Relational Child Psychotherapy (The Analytic Press, 2002), Neil Altman, Ph.D., et al.

(6). The Beast in the Nursery (Harvard University Press, 1998), Adam Phillips.

(7). The Analyst in the Inner City (The Analytic Press, 1998), Neil Altman, Ph.D.

(8). Psychotherapy with Young People in Care: Lost and Found (Routledge, 2001), Margaret Hunter.

(9). Relationality: From Attachment to Intersubjectivity (The Analytic Press, 2000), Stephen A. Mitchell, Ph.D. The late Stephen Mitchell's final work, exploring areas of clinically relational responsiveness with respect, grace and compassion.

(10). Ritual and Spontaneity in the Psychoanalytic Process (The Analytic Press, 1998), Irwin Z. Hoffman, Ph.D. A seminal classic on modern individual psychotherapy.

(11). The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment: Studies in the Theory of Emotional Development (International Universities Press, 1965/1994), D. W. Winnicott, M.D.

(12). A Home for the Heart (Alfred A. Knopf, 1974), Bruno Bettelheim, Ph.D. Bettelheim's final attempt to present the story of an innovative therapeutic community, where the way people live and work together can create a setting that will benefit all who are, whatever their role, a part of it.

(13). Freud's Vienna and Other Essays (Alfred A. Knopf, 1990). Bettelheim's last work containing eighteen essays, many of which reminisce about the influence of Vienna's cultural and historical ambience, as well as the impact of the physical and psychological horrors inflicted by the Holocaust and Nazi persecutions.

(14). Porn: Myths for the Twentieth Century (Yale University Press, 1991), Robert J. Stoller, M.D. An honorable capstone to the career of the late Robert Stoller, who at the time of his unexpected death was Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles. As Otto E. Kernberg, M.D., praised it, this is " outstanding contribution to the psychoanalytic exploration of the erotic and...of mass culture...." This extraordinary document allows the reader to witness a rare, sensitive, and empathic talent for interviewing persons in situations of extreme degradation. It teaches us the possibility of hope in our efforts to reach an understanding of how persons might be trying to seek underlying wishes for personal salvation and self-validation through the self-destructive potentials that they present to us.

(15). The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (Bantam, Reissue 1993), Carson McCullers. At first glance, this might appear to be an unusual recommendation. However, readers of this brilliant first book by Carson McCullers consistently fail to recognize the underlying metaphoric theme as a strong plea regarding the wishes by those in emotional pain for an ever-attentive listener, who will also provide them with the security of a supportive sense of confidentiality. This is a sad and tragic story, but also at the same time a radiant, poignent classic novel.

Journals Representing Similar Interests:

1. Residential Treatment for Children and Youth (Haworth Press). To receive a free sample copy of RTCY, go to:

2. Journal of Infant, Child, and Adolescent Psychotherapy (The Analytic Press).

3. Psychoanalytic Dialogues (The Analytic Press).

4. The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child (Yale University Press).

5. The International Journal of Therapeutic Communities (Association of Therapeutic Communities, UK).

6. Child Youth Care-Online (

7. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins).

8. Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America (Elsevier Press).


Bush Scampers Around to Exploit Series of "Photo-Ops"

Who's He Fooling?
There isn't much to add to this obviously opportunistitic and scurrilous behavior, as Bush makes clearly superficial efforts to repair his political "image."

Who really believes that he genuinely cares about the plight of those who are suffering in New Orleans? This is but another example of a man who values currupt political power far more than empathic care and support for the unfortunate.

September 03, 2005


The French Quarter: Reminiscent Sadness

The French Quarter: Increasing Storm Damage
The unbelievable devastation of New Orleans is almost beyond human comprehension. The almost complete destruction of an entire city by Hurricane Katrina, the loss of huge numbers of lives, the ravaging of the property and lives of so many--especially the poor and disadvantaged--is a tragedy of monumental proportions.

One can only pity the "grand" gesture of President Bush taking a few moments from his conservative crusades to take a "fly-over" peek at it. Actually, more than pity, one can only hope that more of the American public will see him as the narcissitically evangelical zealot that he is, almost totally lacking in any genuine sense of empathy for those who are not members of his special sycophantic crowd of the extremely wealthy corporate world.

For myself, I am particularly saddened by the damage suffered in the French Quarter. Those who read an earlier posting that I made about the French Quarter (1/23/2005) will appreciate my deep affection for that small, but major, piece of American life. It holds a truly remarkable, historically important atmosphere that attracted some of our country's major creative artists, including William Faulkner Tennessee Williams and many, many others.

It stands as a symbol of tolerance for diversity and differing life-style orientations. It has always reflected a special admixture of craziness, sober reflection, experiences of great joy and immense sadness. The French Quarter always reminded me, in a metaphoric way, of the Queen of the South. The Queen who always paraded herself in extremely elegant and regal gowns, but ones that always seemed to reveal the worn tatters that represented the sufferings of the history of the South.

September 02, 2005


Hard Right, Faint Left: Rove, Delay & Thomas

Freud's Couch
By Bryant L. Welch, J.D., Ph.D

Carl Rove's recent assault on the patriotism of liberals after 9/11 for allegedly wanting to provide counseling and understanding to the enemy and the faint Democratic response to it capture a fundamental change in national politics over the last decade.

While the change was presaged in the 1988 Bush campaign with Lee Atwater and the now infamous Willie Horton ads, it became much more pronounced after the 1994 Republican election-sweep characterized by Newt Gingrich's Contract with America. Over the decade from 1985 to 1995 I worked for the American Psychological Association in a role that was essentially political strategist and spokesperson for Organized Psychology.

Much of my time was spent on Capitol Hill working amongst other things to gain eligibility for psychologists to participate in Medicare. We worked with both Republicans and Democrats to do so. At the time the tone on the Hill seemed partisan and rancorous. From today's restrospective view, however, it was within moderate limits that have been made apparent only by their evaporation in today's political climate.

1994 caused a sea change in the degree of partisan hostility. One small personal event epitomized the change for me. Politics is full of the fickle. Almost as soon as the election results were in announcing the Republican sweep, the political action committee associated with the APA began to court the newly-elected Republicans with several fund-raising efforts. Substantial money from psychology was going to some remarkably conservative characters. Political winds shift.

Whatever the merits of the specific giving, I became concerned that we might go too far in the direction of supporting people who had never worked with us previously while neglecting our long-standing allies in Congress. (I was also dubious of the potential returns). Accordingly, I wrote in one of my monthly columns in the APA Monitor a cautionary piece saying that reports of President Clinton's political death and certain defeat in the 1996 election were premature, and that it was important we not simply turn our back on long term friends on the Hill (most of them Democrats) simply because of current political fortunes.

A few days later Psychology's political action committee hosted a ten thousand dollar fundraising event for Congressman Bill Thomas, a Republican from California who had just assumed the chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Health subcommittee. He is currently Chair of the whole House Ways and Means Committee. I had never met Representative Thomas until that evening. When I introduced myself, I was quite startled by his quick response, "Yeah, I've been reading some of your articles."

Since my work has never been exactly recognized as seminal literature in Congressional circles, at first, I was simply taken aback and puzzled that he seemed to be saying that he had actually read something I'd written. As I processed this fact, I gradually absorbed his follow-up sentence which helped to clarify my initial bewilderment. "We're going to show people like you that it doesn't pay to make contributions to Democrats."

I had been in advocacy battles since I was seventeen-years- old, but to capture the body language and tone of Mr. Thomas, I had to go back to the fourth grade playground with the proverbial older bully threatening to throw me into the wall and deck me with a hard right if I didn't surrender my own basketball to him.

His demeanor and tone were definitely designed to physically menace. I replied with what I truly felt was the most remarkable aspect of the encounter by saying, "You're [bothering to] threaten ME?" My genuine, if less than prototypical alpha male response, seemed to leave him with little more to say, so he simply reasserted himself by saying,"Don't forget what I've said," and sauntered off.

I didn't forget Mr. Thomas's warning. In fact, I followed with astonishment his ascendancy to the chairmanship of the full Ways and Means Committee, making him one of the most powerful members of Congress. And every time I saw his superior in the Republican hierarchy, Tom Delay, I thought of Mr. Thomas and realized that Delay's tactics are systemic in the Republican Congress and not simply idiosyncratic to Delay.

Ruth is the traction that attachment gives to morality. Before the 1994 neoconservatives offered up their Contract with America, there were certainly 3 differences between the parties and all manner of underhanded dealings. They were not, however, so pervasively characterized by the ruthlessness that I experienced so viscerally from Bill Thomas that night.

Few moderates or liberals in this country are unaware of the remarkable achievements of Karl Rove, Fox News, and the Swift Boat Veterans in the last election. They managed to make George Bush's seemingly non-existent phantom war record superior to John Kerry's and depicted George Bush as a stronger leader than Kerry (because Bush took us to war). They made gay marriage a bigger issue than the economy, jobs, education, and health care all rolled into one.

It is true, of course, they simply could not have done this without the equally impressive inability of the Democrats to throw any punches themselves or to in any way hoist the neoconservatives on their own petard. Even more fundamentally, however, the Democrats did not seem to get it that Karl Rove operates on a totally different plane of thought (and morality) from the traditional American political strategist.

Karl Rove has a much more sophisticated and radically different understanding of the mind than any other American political strategist of any era (although one must certainly acknowledge his indebtedness to Lee Atwater). He understands that the mind is not ruled by logic or even the self-interest that has primarily driven the campaigns of both political parties from their inceptions. Instead, he understands that when given the option the mind works on the basis of highly primitive fears tied to whatever primitive psychological boundaries are threatened at the moment.

Rove also knows that at the level of the mind where communications about these issues take place, the communication system is not verbal, it is symbolic. To raise such an issue, one need not verbally articulate it. One can operate exclusively on the primitive communication level of symbols as Lee Atwater so successfully did. Rove also knows that the mind, especially under times of stress, absorbs best that which is repeated and said forcefully and with certainty. You hammer nails rather than speak with reason. The numbing drum beat is the persuasive mode.

Karl Rove has reaped the significant advantage that comes from exploiting these facts with a totally amoral and absolute ruthlessness. He is the intellectual component to Bill Thomas and Tom DeLay. If one crossed him, as Ambassador Joe Wilson did, everything was fair game, even Mr. Wilson's CIA operative wife. It's scary for people to see this.

Bryant L. Welch is a clinical psychologist and attorney living in Hilton Head
Island, SC. Email:


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