Lies and guilt — a family tradition

“But, please, you can’t tell mom!”
Or, sister brother dad daughter cousin cat.
Or all hell will break loose. The family will disintegrate, a person will be devastated, a relationship will dissolve, etc. The delicate balance of lies and guilt that ties the group together will come crashing down with momentous consequences.

Who hasn’t been party to one of these insider conversations, where dark secrets shared with some are shared with another because bearing them has become to great a burden. A burden now passed on to the newly ordained Keeper of the Secret.

Group dynamics — particularly family dynamics — often sort themselves out on who knows what. Select sharing of information creates an immediate subset of insiders and outsiders, and fractures the concept of group in the process. Mom and dad know stuff the kids don’t. Mom tells the oldest things that can’t be told to the young’uns. Parents vs children, Parents and oldest vs youngest, everybody vs the baby, mom and her sister against … the branches fork infinitely and with lightning speed.

While there are good reasons to delay communications: parents to kids, grandparents to grandkids, etc., there’s no reason to put it off beyond what is necessary — a personal call to be sure, but a CALL that eventually needs to be made.

It’s not meant to be antagonistic, but the consequences are inevitable. Once secrets are formed and shared, access is a currency, a bond and a weakness all in one. A secret has some of the feel of a valuable object: it’s heavy, and if you have it and someone else doesn’t, someone who probably would care about knowing, it’s like gold. If you cut it up and give it to everybody, it’s worthless. Regardless of the intrinsic value of the secret, the nature of it confers the gravitas.

Trust is the given currency of family. They are accorded the full level upon recognition of the concept. Life is a subtractive process for trust. You start out with 100 percent and wind up losing it, bit by bit, secret by secret, lie by lie, guilt by guilt.

Secrets are a great precursor to lying. In tight groups where communication occurs often and rapidly, having to avoid the subject of the secret often leads to misdirection and obfuscation in communications, conditions which themselves often give rise to suspicion and doubt. People who know each other well quickly detect deflection and evasion.

Well, some do.

Guilt arises when we are less than honest and forthcoming with people we expect to be that way with us. Short of being a complete sociopath, people acknowledge fairness as a semi-universal doctrine. “Do unto others …” and are quite aware — guilty — when they fail to live up to this all too basic standard of conduct. Bad enough with strangers; lying is intolerable within family.

Anxiety creeps in when our lies and evasions compound, as time is wont to bring about. Who can remember last month’s evasion? Oops, sometimes people do and we are trapped — hoist on our own petards — and consequences come into play.

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave …” is a platitude for a reason. It’s so true.

Life is gray, not chiaroscuro as the moralists would have it. Judgment is needed all the time. The day your brother’s cat is run over may not be the best time to tell him his best friend screwed his wife before she was his ex. Or, maybe it’s a great time … take his mind off the cat. You may never have occasion to share that secret. But in the long run, understanding reality is the clearsest way to learn how to grasp life, understand ourselves and deal with consequences in a rational manner. Why would anyone deny that to someone they profess to love or care for?

There’s more than a hint of superciliousness about making a decision over who needs to know what when.

Deciding to exclude some but share with a limited group is a comment on what you think of those who are excluded. It is using your personal star chamber to place distance and judgment from those excluded. How can this not lead to guilt and anxiety if you continue to relate to the excluded group? Or suspicion and estrangement once the whiff of exclusion is perceived?

In the bathtub

From my earliest memories, I always liked being in a warm bath. I can’t even begin to plumb that earliest memory, but I do have a sharp one ready for the word forge. It was adolescence, 13 I think, and just having been pulled out of my four-year reverie in Rock Creek Park where I owned the world. We’d moved to Dayton, Ohio, or Wright-Patterson AFB to be more precise, in Fairborn, a few miles East of the fabled midwestern technoburb — home of National Cash Register and other last-century techs. Then, it was the cutting edge of 1957 military technology, home of the Aerospace School of Medicine (my dad’s job) and soon to host a major Strategic Air Command, though not until after I left.

The age of 13 was as disturbing to me as I suppose it was to the rest of us. Confusing enough as a hormonal rite of passage, it was compounded by displacement into a low-brow cultural Gobi. No comics nearby, no wood fortresses just down the hill, no Rock Creek to forage. Just a brand new culture: Junior High School. Perhaps the most terrifying experience on Earth, and far beyond anything the proto-CIA could imagine, in those pre-chemical days.

Aside from a continuing sexual coming of age — I’d experimented a lot in Washington and even earlier — the social drives put me in an intolerable position of having to socialize and being terrified of coping with it. Fairborn Junior High School was a three-story red brick 1910 building that smelled of horses and chalk dust. Just walking in the first day was enormously depressing. I wanted to run away and hide but didn’t have a clue where to do that. The building was dark, the classes boring, and the classmates … strange. Nowhere near culturally diverse or expressive as my fellow inmates in Washington, and speaking idiomatic English I could barely understand.

We lived in a corner duplex in officer territory on the base; the Gamels, next door to the Hamels. The doublet houses were situated akimbo to the entrance to OfficerLand, adjacent to the golf course and a few blocks from the central Officer’s Club complex — indoor and outdoor pools, teen club, gym, steam rooms, and more I don’t even remember. I frequented them all, eventually. Many stories there, too.

Opon moving into the Ohio house, I was given a choice of living space and chose the third-floor attic, complete with bathroom. all with gabled ceilings, like the Paris attic I would inhabit many years later for a few months. Offered the heady choice of choosing colors for my digs, I picked midnight blue for the bedroom and lobster red for the bathroom, just to be adult and daring. To their everlasting credit, my parents let me do it, though I’ll never know if dad even checked in on that choice. Once done, it was mine, all mine. No one else in the family ever even wanted to come up there.

Those rooms were special in many ways. I’d been given my own room in DC after Dorothy left to get married, but that dispensation was driven more by the need to get me out of my sisters’ sleeping quarters as puberty knocked on my chubby carcass. Ohio was different. This was MY territory. I furnished it, arranged it and was free to indulge my solipsistic ways without fear of discovery or censure. It was mine.

I was a nerd before the class was invented. That’s a favorite conceit of mine. Truth told, all us geeks were being forged from fragile clay in the 1950s by dozens of science fiction writers, Popular Mechanics, Life and the Saturday Evening Post, all of which I devoured — ahem, voraciously. (Yes, I know today that the trend began in the 1880s with Verne, etc.) I started down this path in DC after I checked out my first book ever from the Chevy Chase Library at age 9. It was Robert Heinlein’s Rocket Ship Galileo, and I was hooked for life. Name any science fiction author publishing from 1936 to 1959 and I read almost everything they published, via Ace, Bantam, and every other pulp publisher who distributed to drug store book racks where I’d spend my $.35 every Saturday after the movie.

I remember this period well — it was DC — because I shifted from buying comics to books and had a really hard time deciding where to spend my very limited funds. Well, that’s not quite accurate. I had between $.50 and $1 to spend any given Saturday. I was a rich white kid. I could buy more than I could read in the next week, or at least read without seriously compromising my public life. Which I did more often than not. Which explains my grades.

Oh, about the warm bath … I’m in Ohio, just moved into my new, private digs in the attic of the corner duplex, listening to F101’s  firing up about 300 yards away to scramble aloft every morning to save us from Russian nuclear incursions (still haven’t connected those dots). My lobster red bathroom had a five-foot long clawfoot iron tub with an endless supply of hot water at the beck and call of my left foot where I could abandon all reality for as long as I wanted. Nobody cared when I disappeared. I’d been doing it for years in DC, leaving the house after breakfast on non-school days and not coming back until dinnertime. Just so long as nobody got nervous and called out the cops, I was good to be gone. This worked really well in Ohio. In DC, when I languished in the tub, 17 people would beat on the door after a half hour spent with my beloved kitchen pots and pans and tiny plastic submarines … Ohio was paradise!

I remember reading A.E. van Vogt’s Weapons Shops of Isher, Heinlein’s Door into Summer, and just about everything Andre Norton put between covers in those years. And those are just the clear memories. Just writing about it is bringing back a flood of memories of characters, plots, planets, all entwined with the smells of steamy pulp paper and my scent wafting out of the water. Powerful stuff those olfactory remonstrances.

Still prisoners of the Saudis – The Press Democrat

Still prisoners of the Saudis – The Press Democrat

Dealing with the Saudi’s has long been a sore point with me. After 911, George Bush had to hide the royals, including bin Laden’s relatives, at his parent’s ranch until they could be whisked out of the country. They have played a masterful game with the U.S. and Britain from the beginning, girding their loins with Wahabbist and Salafi extremists who would be the only likely successor to the eminently dictatorial and backwards regime, an unacceptable alternative to the West and viable insurance against western interference with anything they want to do.

Management or marketing?

This is strictly from the hip, reading a story in the Sonoma Index-Tribune on management/professional difficulties at the city’s new Community Health Center.

It seems the top three mental health professionals at the Center, two doctors and a family therapist were “let go” — ostensibly because they weren’t complying with new electronic record requirements. All three claim the head of the center is autocratic and unbearable to work with. The administrator has the favor of the Board of Directors and points to the Center’s ratings:

“If one were to ask the United States Department of Health and Human Services, however, fears about quality of care might be calmed. On Dec. 16, HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced that the Health Center was the recipient of more than $46,000 in Affordable Care Act grant funds, rewarded for quality and improvement in care in the 2012-13 year.

“Health and Human Services named the Health Center among the top 10 health centers in California for “quality” – noting that it exceeded national clinical benchmarks for chronic-disease management, preventative care and pre- and post-natal care. The Health Center was also named among the nation’s biggest “improvers” in patient health.”
“The Sonoma Valley Community Health Center was founded in 1992 by Cynthia Solomon and Heidi Stovall, with a mission to provide health care for the Valley’s uninsured and underserved residents – many are agricultural workers and their families, non-English speakers, and low-income residents including the homeless.
“Its importance to those it serves would be difficult to overstate. According to, Sonoma Valley is a federally designated Medically Underserved Population and a Health Professional Shortage Area.”

But interviews with some patients in the story found there was poor follow up in assigning new therapists and indications that the clinic is not running as smoothly as Washington thinks. There does not seem to have been a direct audit of the facility by the Federal bureaucrats, simply paperwork evaluation.
Of interest is that the Center received NO grants in the area of electronic records.
On the surface, it looks to me like the administrator is someone adept at obtaining Federal and State money, something the Board obviously appreciates, and the story itself equates size of grants to quality of care and notes the Federal evaluation is based on achieving “benchmarks” which is government speak for having the right boxes checked off on the paperwork. Tending to the sticky details of actual patient care may not be the administrator’s strong suit. While the grant paperwork may be immaculate, the day-to-day administration is definitely chaotic at the Sonoma-Valley Community Health Center.
That autocrats tend to be dismissive of knowledgeable underlings who question their fantasy paperwork to superiors does not require an exhaustive study.
I suspect another triumph of marketing over mission.

The Arab/Islam community needs to step up and the Saudi’s are at the bottom of the spread of intolerant Wahabbism. This appeared in the New York Times this morning.

The giant protest the world needs to see

resident Barack Obama was criticized for failing to attend, or send a proper surrogate to, the giant anti-terrorism march in Paris on Sunday. That criticism was right. But it is typical of American politics that we focus on this and not what would have really made the world feel the jihadist threat was finally being confronted. And that would not be a march that our president helps to lead, but one in which he’s not involved at all. That would be a million-person march against the jihadists across the Arab-Muslim world, organized by Arabs and Muslims for Arabs and Muslims, without anyone in the West asking for it — not just because of what happened in Paris but because of the scores of Muslims recently murdered by jihadists in Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq, Libya, Nigeria and Syria.

Abdul Rahman al-Rashed, one of the most respected Arab journalists, wrote Monday in his column in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat: “Protests against the recent terrorist attacks in France should have been held in Muslim capitals, rather than Paris, because, in this case, it is Muslims who are involved in this crisis and stand accused. … The story of extremism begins in Muslim societies, and it is with their support and silence that extremism has grown into terrorism that is harming people. It is of no value that the French people, who are the victims here, take to the streets. … What is required here is for Muslim communities to disown the Paris crime and Islamic extremism in general.” The truth is there is a huge amount of ambivalence toward this whole jihadist phenomenon — more than any of us would like to believe — in the Arab-Muslim world, Europe and America. This ambivalence starts in the Muslim community, where there is a deep cleavage over what constitutes authentic Islam today. We fool ourselves when we tell Muslims what “real Islam” is. Because Islam has no Vatican, no single source of religious authority, there are many Islams today. The puritanical Wahhabi/Salafi/jihadist strain is one of them, and it has more support than we want to believe.

Ambivalence runs through Europe today on the question of what a country should demand of new Muslim immigrants by way of adopting its values. Is Stratfor’s George Friedman right when he argues that Europeans adopted multiculturalism precisely because they didn’t really want to absorb their Muslim immigrants, and many of those Muslim immigrants, who went to Europe to find a job, not a new identity, didn’t want to be absorbed? If so, that spells trouble.

Ambivalence runs through Washington’s ties with Saudi Arabia. Ever since jihadists took over Islam’s holiest shrine in Mecca in 1979, proclaiming that Saudi Arabia’s rulers were not pious enough, Saudi Arabia has redoubled its commitment to Wahhabi or Salafist Islam — the most puritanical, anti-pluralistic and anti-women version of that faith. This Saudi right turn — combined with oil revenues used to build Wahhabi-inspired mosques, websites and madrassas — has tilted the entire Sunni community. Look at a picture of female graduates of Cairo University in 1950. Few are wearing veils. Look at them today. Many are wearing veils. The open, soft, embracing Islam that defined Egypt for centuries — pray five times a day but wash it down with a beer at night — has been hardened by this Wahhabi wind from Arabia.

But U.S. presidents never confront Saudi Arabia about this because of our oil addiction. As I’ve said, addicts never tell the truth to their pushers. The Saudi government opposes the jihadists. Unfortunately, though, it’s a very short step from Wahhabi Islam to the violent jihadism practiced by the Islamic State. The French terrorists were born in France but were marinated in Wahhabi-Salafi thought through the Web and local mosques — not Voltaire.

Also, the other civil war in Islam — between Sunnis and Shiites — has led many mainstream Sunni charities, mosques and regimes to support jihadist groups because they’re ferocious fighters against Shiites. Finally — yet more ambivalence — for 60 years there was a tacit alliance between Arab dictators and their Sunni religious clergy. The regimes funded these uninspired Muslim clerics, and these clergy blessed the uninspired dictators — and both stifled the emergence of any authentic, inspired, reformist Islam that could take on Wahhabism-Salafism, even though many Muslims wanted it. An authentic reformation requires a free space in the Arab-Muslim world.

“Muslims need to ‘upgrade their software,’ which is programmed mainly by our schools, television and mosques — especially small mosques that trade in what is forbidden,” Egyptian intellectual Mamoun Fandy wrote in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat. “There is no choice but to dismantle this system and rebuild it in a way that is compatible with human culture and values.”

In short, jihadist zeal is easy to condemn, but will require multiple revolutions to stem — revolutions that will require a lot of people in the Arab-Muslim world and West to shed their ambivalence and stop playing double games.Thomas Friedman is a columnist for the New York Times.

I couldn’t agree more with the sentiments expressed in this article. I believe that there is a complete inability in most of the Muslim world to cope with the intolerance of Wahabism. The secular governments are too weak and corrupt to extinguish it and the moderate religious elements are not up to the task.

World must confront Salafi teachings 
The day French police killed the terrorists who attacked Charlie Hebdo, the liberal Saudi blogger Raif Badawi was publicly flogged in Jeddah for insulting Islam. The two cases are bookends.
The terrorists, who apparently had links to al-Qaida and ISIS, murdered 10 journalists in the name of Islam because the journalists “insulted” the prophet Muhammad. Badawi, a brave human-rights activist, was sentenced to 15 years by a Saudi court — and 50 lashes once a week for 20 weeks — because he critiqued the way Saudi clerics interpret Islam.
The Saudis export their harsh Wahhabi version of Sunni Islam, which disdains or denounces other religions or variants of Islam.The terrorists just take that ideologyone step forward, killing for the faith.
As the debate begins about lessons to be learned from the attacks in France, I’d urge people to focus on the blogger Badawi along with the French victims. He fell afoul of the extreme Saudi religious ideology that, like virulent cancer cells, has spread through many parts of the Muslim world.
Badawi’s website was called Free Saudi Liberals, and his goal was to create a public forum to discuss how to modernize Saudi Islam. After his arrest in 2012, he appealed an initial seven-year sentence and 600 lashes, but the judge made the punishment harsher. Then his lawyer was sentenced by an antiterrorism court to 15 years in jail.
The irony is that the Saudis denounce al-Qaida and are frightened by ISIS, which has threatened their regime and pledged to take over the holiest Muslim cities, Mecca and Medina. Belatedly, the Saudi rulers cracked down on government foundations that fund Islamist terror groups, and they have donated $100 million to the United Nations to fund a counterterrorism agency.
But the Saudis’ rivalry with Iran has led them to fund almost any Sunni Islamist group in Syria willing to fight the Tehran- backed regime of Bashar al-Assad.
Moreover, the Saudis refuse to recognize that their extreme, literalist version of Islam underlies the terrorists’ thinking.
Most Muslims do not embrace Wahhabism, a variant of the Salafi doctrine whose adherents seek to live like the earliest Muslims. So, for decades, the Saudi kingdom has spent hundreds of millions of dollars proselytizing across the Muslim world. It has funded religious schools and textbooks from Central Asia through the Arab world to Pakistan and beyond, sending out imams who spread its intolerant thinking. Tens of thousands of Egyptians and Syrians, who came to work in Saudi Arabia, also absorbed Salafist ideas.
Private Saudis still fund satellite TV channels that are watched throughout the Arab world, where Salafi sheikhs denounce all infidels and spew out hatred toward the West.
Meantime, at home, the Saudi government has made only the feeblest attempts to cleanse textbooks of diatribes againstother religious groups or to broaden the religion- heavy curriculum. And, as the Badawi case shows, the regime is unwilling to permit any open discussion of religion at home.
All this money and rigid religious propaganda have had a powerful impact. At a time when the Arab world is in disarray and government corruption is rampant, when the Arab spring revolutions have failed, many youths are looking for new answers. So are alienated young Muslims in France and elsewhere in Europe.
These youths need only look to the Internet or take a trip to Syria or Yemen, where they can learn to put the supremacist precepts of Salafi ideology into practice, seeking to overthrow Arab governments or attack the West. In 2003, according to the State Department, the six terrorist groups causing the most casualties globally all operated in Muslim countries. Indeed, most of the victims of Islamist terrorism are Muslims.
The Islamic world is in a poor position to fight back. The Sunni world has no pope or grand ayatollah with the clout and legitimacy to counter Salafi religious propaganda.
“There are some moderate people within the Sunni tradition calling for reform,” says Zainab al-Suwaij, executive director of the American Islamic Congress, whose grandfather was a leading Iraqi cleric, “but they are small groups, and they don’t have the power.”
Badawi tried to promote reform, and it brought him the lash.
Many Arab leaders denounced the Charlie Hebdo murders, but their legitimacy is shaky. Egypt’s president, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, called for a “revolution” in Islam to reform outdated interpretations of the faith, but he will have trouble implementing it. And to reinterpret the faith, he must rely on the 1,000-year-old Al-Azhar University, a government religious institution that no longer has the broad clout it once had as a center of Islamic teaching.
Washington and its European allies can no longer wait around for Saudi Arabia (or other Arab states or Pakistan) to root out the Salafist ideology that inspires terrorists. It is past time to pressure countries that are supposedly our allies to stop dispensing this ideological poison. The flogging of Raif Badawi, as much as the Paris murders, signals a threat that endangers us all.Trudy Rubin is a columnist and editorial- board member for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Friday, December 21, 2012

No surprise, I’m alive. We mostly all are, in spite of the egregious media hype over the Mayan calendar.

Most importantly, Bobby McDonald is alive and hopefully may be for the next two years. He was very ill earlier in the week and had a lot of fluid taken out of his lungs. An x-ray promoted a cat scan and turned up lung cancer, advanced. He was moved to Kaiser San Rafael and has been in intensive care for the past two days. An earlier, bleak report had him on death’s bed, but today’s oncologist found him feeling much better and he may come home in a couple of days and live anywhere from a few weeks to two years. sigh.

I worked on web sites mostly today, for the Vineyards Inn and Rose Ranch Organics. Fun but frustrating. I’ve been having more grief with passwords and mail sites that don’t work as advertised. I can’t get new mailboxes on Colleen’s ipad., Argggh.

Sonic net said nobody was around because of their office party, at least until 5 p.m.

I went to Nigel’s End of the World party at 5 p.m. –an early arriver, for sure, and saw a lot of good Kenwood People, including the Peters, bob alderson, and a whole lot more, even Richard Wenn and his lady friend. the party got too warm and too loud. I became dizzy talking to Gary Rosenfield and left early. Dropped in the VI, but it too was hot and noise. Doug del Fava and tom petarian were heading down to Murphy’s to hear (goddamn memory is failing fast) Jamie Jameison blues band with Dennis Cordellos. I was in no mood for that trip and came home to listen to Katie’s message (see above).

I’m drinking a rum and eggnog. the dizzy is probably sugar overdose by now.

June 28, 2014

Postscript; Bobby died two years ago of cancer that killed him within two months of his retirement. It was sudden and vicious, but he died at home in the arms of Katie. So sad. Bobby was full of life and would have really enjoyed his retirement, traveling and playing golf and generally becoming a curmudgeon.