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?

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.

Professional ethics

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of “professional” and “professional ethics” in the past year, trying to come to grips with something I feel strongly about but haven’t quite identified yet. I’m pretty sure it’s the lack of the substance I’m feeling more than an abundance of it.

As I have absorbed the concepts over my lifetime, I now hold that professionals are those who have achieved a level of knowledge and competence in the application of that knowledge to be able to offer their services in their respective fields for pay or honor or even personal pleasure. A key to professionalism is that it concern a fairly specific, even if broad, field of knowledge; i.e., medicine, law, science, or other body of acquired knowledge that exceeds what would be commonly available to everyone in a culture.

Fields such as medicine and law are relatively easy to define, while others, such as journalism and accounting are much more difficult to circumscribe, involving so many gray areas. Yes, no, I don’t know aren’t always available resolutions to professional questions.

As a journalist purveying news to the general public, I consider myself a professional and I also consider that there are standards I need to apply in my public writing.
– consider public versus private writing — can I be less strict in what I write if it is not for public consumption? Gray areas.
– opinion is valid so long as it is so declared.

The internet brought up questions to me from the onset, mostly about source and validity of the content that became available. As an inter-university data exchange, the initial offerings were highly regarded, if weighted by scientific skepticism properly held for any set of data being exchanged. As the content grew from university to private supply, sourcing became more and more problematical.

The difference between the New York Times and my blog is huge. The paper owns a city block in New York City, has been in business since 1851, and has demonstrated it’s responsibility to factual reporting long enough to be trusted by those seeking news of the world. Biased? Perhaps, but in an institutional manner that is self-acknowledged and professionally handled in print.

While I have a demonstrable record of writing, it is known to very few people and not easily put to any test. You may like or detest what I have to say, but you have no reason to trust anything I say other than your personal knowledge of my professional standards and personal failings.

What I think is most important to being a professional is adhering to an external set of principles — guidelines and ethical considerations — that are particular to the profession. In medicine, the practitioner is under the elemental caveat to “Do no harm.” A lawyer’s first professional duty is to the client, not himself or any other party at interest.

A journalist is held to a wide variety of standards of ethical fact checking, news gathering and disclosure of points of view. It’s not that any professional cannot have opinions, points of view, holes in the knowledge base — it’s just that they are bound to acknowledge them and not act on them.

Business and the Economy

Reading Sonoma Biz, the county’s premier slick and glossy business magazine, created by and for very gung ho business supporters. Disclaimer: I have written articles in the far past for the magazine and they have some great stuff at times. This month’s lead off story is all about a new Chamber of Commerce led effort to create jobs — 4,000 or more in five years.

As usual, the first thing business wants to do is dip into the public trough to pay for it. The new byword is “public-private partnership” where the public funds private ventures. Politically, many of these folks are beating the “no taxes” drum as loud as possible and supporting the biggest group of dingbats I’ve ever seen on the campaign trail, but they never stop reaching in the public pocket when things get tough.

“The first phase of the project is to raise $3.5 million …” The project is designed to help the community and raise all boats, countywide, with all the money that will be spent locally by the new hires spending their money locally.

The Chamber promptly hired a Florida-based revenue raising consultant to survey 60 local government and business people to come up with a plan. I’d really like to how much money flowed out of Sonoma County to pay for that, and if any of it was provided by taxpayers.

The tap will be put on county and city governments to pony up for the jobs program. According to the article, Sonoma County’s supervisors voted the group $100,000 a year for the next two years with a two-year extension possible ($500,000 max). The grant will be funded by the county’s Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) which is designed to stimulate tourism through advertising and marketing. I can only speculate that the majority of jobs to be created will be in the hospitality/wine industry to justify sourcing the funds. Using that money to get outside businesses to move to the County might well fall inside the original intentions behind the tax.

The more subtle aspects of what the business community will be trying to do, among other things, is “create a positive environment in which to do business.” Read: reduce or eliminate environmental, health and other public safety regulation, reduce fees and taxes, and expedite all forms of paperwork.

Supervisor Shirlee Zane lamented the fact that Amy’s Kitchen, a hugely successful local business, expanded it’s East Coast operations in Greenville, NC. What wasn’t said was what concessions Greenville made to the company to get them there. Five to ten years suspended taxes? There is often a huge cost to taxpayers incurred with these deals that may never be recovered. Sure, people are hired and pay local taxes, but never enough to cover what a local company would have had to pay. There’s a reason for the taxes that the local companies are paying: they take a high level of public support to keep the roads open, police and fire, sewage, garbage, and other civilized functions operating to keep business running smoothly.

What you wind up with is less taxes being put in by the very people asking for more tax-based support to continue business. This is not a formula designed to solve our overall problems. Clever and stupid at the same time.