By Gus

We Need a New Name for People of My Political Persuasion

     My Parents fled  Communism in 1941 under a Stalin death sentence and survived Hitler’s National Socialism by stealth. A year before, the Communists summarily executed my Uncle in the streets of Bucharest, and my Grandmother was imprisoned in a Siberian gulag for 13 years. Those life experiences have made me permanently and genetically allergic to socialist ideology. The Woke Politics remind me too much of what my family endured under the various flavors of Socialism. We have not taken the middle of the road as Biden promised but have taken a sharp left turn for the last two years. Biden and the “Squad” have shown themselves to have decidedly failed this country as I feared. The inflation, a looming recession, the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, the rise in crime, and the Covid-19 pandemic have not been handled with the results we were promised. I doubt we would have seen people falling off the evacuation planes in Kabul. We cannot sustain the steady influx of thousands of unregulated immigrants on our southern border. I do not think Biden knows how to deal with Putin. What happened to bringing the country together? The energy debacle alone and the gasoline prices are enough to prove the point. The 8.6% percent inflation rate results from a weak President who has been pulled further left by Bolshevik Bernie and the “Squad.” If the Keystone pipeline had been completed and none of our oilfields shut down, gasoline would not be $6.00 a gallon. We could supply oil to Europe, and we would not have to beg Venezuela or the murderer, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to give us more oil.
For a few years, I was in the Trump camp. His foreign policy with China, his economics, and his disdain for over-regulation was in alignment with mine. I was concerned about his praises for Putin and did not think we should abandon Europe or NATO. He was a President that had performed well enough up to the election, but then he had a severe mental lapse on January 6th.   I cannot ignore what I saw with my own eyes. While Rome was burning, the President appears to have been fiddling. This was instigated and fueled by him with numerous testimonies from the right and the left. His Vice President refused to follow the illegal order to stop the Electoral College vote count. This opinion was backed by multiple Constitutional lawyers, including the former Vice President under George Herbert Bush, Dan Quale, who told him not to break the law. Furthermore, Trump’s attorney told him he could not reverse the vote. He said the Supreme Court would go against him 9 to 0 if he tried. Even his daughter, Ivanka, testified that he knew his actions were illegal. His Attorney General, Bill Barr,  told him that he was not connected to reality. Despite his advisers telling him that he lost the election, despite the political leaders on both sides of the aisle trying to convince him that he lost, he persisted in claiming that he had won and was the rightful President. Prominent right-wing TV commentators, even family members, were frantically calling him to stand down and call back the rioters. Again he did not listen. Seven people died in this foolish effort. Sixty (60) lawsuits against the election results were either dismissed or lost. Many of those were under Trump-appointed judges. And the bags of fraudulent ballots never materialized. January 6th cannot be called anything else but an insurrection. I could no longer be a Trumpublican and had to join the other RINO’s, and now need to worry about all the RINO hunters with their AR-15s out there.
     However, now, I am not sure if, indeed, I still qualify as a RINO. I consider myself pro-life, but logic dictates that there must be an existing life for which to be pro. For eight hundred years, the church was influenced by the three “Super Saints,” St. Augustine, St. Jerome, and St. Thomas Aquinas, who all opined that personhood occurred at the time of quickening (when the mother feels movement), in alignment with the other world religions of Islam and Judaism that life could not be taken if no independent life existed. Then along came Pope Pius IX in 1869, who, now under trumped-up divine inspiration (pun intended), changed the assumption to live beginning when sperm and egg meet. As a scientist who believes in logic and everything I have learned in embryology and medicine, it seemed a bit farcical to me that two cells constitute a person. I liked what the “Super Saints” said better. After all, do precedents not count anymore? And that was 800 years worth. And did someone forget to bring a dictionary for the Supreme Court Justices to look up the meaning of “Stare Decisis”? My short stint as an Altar Boy did make an impression on me, after all.
To add more controversy to my thoughts, I am forced to agree with Mitch McConnell regarding the background checks and red flag laws to keep guns away from the crazy people. I just hope it works.
     Since I still believe that I am conservative by nature, I continue to have a lot of the party’s mascot, the elephant, in me, but now with RINO influences showing through at the rear. I think I have become an ELMO (an Elephant with a modicum of RINO Matter).

 WHEN DOES A FETUS BECOME A PERSON?

     This is a question that involves religion, philosophy, legal opinion, and cultural factors. It is, therefore, not an easy answer and cannot be answered by one segment of society, and that includes the Supreme Court, which is highly influenced by religious thinking, with five of the nine Justices being practicing Catholics. 
     Catholicism is strongly associated with the right to life, and Feminism is strongly associated with pro-choice. So who is right? That too is a difficult question to answer. It depends on when in history you ask the question.  Catholic thinking was not entirely pro-life when Saint Thomas Aquinas, Augustine of Hippo, and Saint Jerome were opining about it. Quickening was the dividing line. This is when the mother detects the first movement of the fetus. That is also not an exact point. It can be seen as early as 16 weeks and as late as 25 weeks.
     In the Roman era, abortion was practiced and not opposed by the church. It was not until the middle ages that it became an issue. The problem became more urgent because nuns were showing up pregnant, and not all of them were in that state by “divine impregnation” i.e., virgin conception. It was Pope Gregory XIV who determined (ex-cathedra) that ensoulment occurred at 166 days (24 weeks)  after conception. The three “Supersaints” Aquinas, Augustine, and Jerome did note that conception was God’s will, but it was not until ensoulment that determined that a fetus becomes a human person in the church’s eyes as to when abortion becomes the taking of a life, i.e., homicide. Prior to that, it was NOT a mortal sin.
     The whole idea of taking a human life then sprang from ensoulment, which also is a vague point in time. That and quickening roughly coincide in the writings and canons of the church. The pro-lifers historically cannot point to “early abortions” – before 24 weeks to taking of a human life, at least not on the cultural and historical data. And that did not change until 1869  when Pope Pius IX  proclaimed that Mary, Mother of God, was free from sin in the first instant of conception. From then on and not before, any conception that was terminated through human action was considered a homicide. It was not until 1869 that the church reversed the nearly eight-century position of ensoulment. For the last 150 years, a more radical position that any interference with conception, including even blocking conception (birth control – condoms, birth control pills, etc.) was a mortal sin.  
     What about other religions that legitimately have a voice in this moral dilemma? Jews are of the opinion that life does not start at conception. In fact, the status of personhood does not happen until birth. If the mother’s life is at risk because of the pregnancy, the fetus has to be destroyed in order to save the life of the mother. Over 80% of Jews support abortion for any reason.
     Islam also uses ensoulment as the point of personhood. The Prophet Mohammed has placed that to be at 120 days from conception. Protestants are not united in one stance on abortion. However, 60% support abortion rights, similar to Hindus, while Buddhists are overwhelmingly supportive of abortion at 82%. The overall support in the US for abortion is 60%, while 40% are opposed.
     The beating heart is not a sensible measure of personhood. The heart is not the seat of the soul, no matter what Aristotle claimed. If the contraction of an organ is the deciding measure, you might as well use the function of the colon as the determining factor. The human embryo has heart muscle that starts to contract at five weeks but cannot sustain life. A heartbeat can be detected at ten weeks by ultrasound, but the actual beating of the heart cannot be heard by the human ear until 20 weeks. I am not sure when ensoulment happens. I am not even sure I know what a soul is. I do know that after 24 weeks, the fetus can survive outside the mother’s womb. That would be what I would consider viability.
     What do we do with issues that divide us usually? We vote on it. I would put it on the ballot, and let the majority decide. On second thought, that didn’t work out so well last time.

A Book of Inspirations

A BOOK OF INSPIRATIONS

      My 11th book just went off to the printer. It will be out in July, and I hope to sell a lot of them. I think it is my best book to date. I WILL DONATE ALL THE PROFITS TO THE REBUILDING OF UKRAINE. It is amazing to me that one crazy person can do so much harm in such a short time. It took Hitler a decade and Stalin two decades to destroy the world. It took Putin only a few months.         
     This new book was my therapy to counter the evil of this insanity. Art and esthetic beauty have always calmed me down and given me new inspiration that things will get better. The book’s title is Muses and Inspirations and features works of two UKRAINIAN ARTISTS, my father and me. My father was motivated by the two-dimensional muse (painting), while I paid homage to the three-dimensional muse (sculpting).
     Each work is accompanied by a write-up of why, how, and what motivated us. I have been a Surgeon most of my life, so naturally, that was a major part of my inspiration and created the work you see below, the gloved hand of a surgeon making the first incision. It is held up by the scalpel, which was quite a feat to have it appear to come from above as if guided by some unseen force. Bronze is a metal of copper mixed with 12% tin and thus is quite heavy. It would collapse if held up by a bronze scalpel, so the knife is cast in stainless steel, a metaphor for the King of the Medical Arts.

      Blacksmiths were one of my Father’s favorite subjects to paint. Painting them spanned his entire career. He admired the strength of brawn and brain that allowed them to tame iron. A blacksmith’s work is never done! Iron and steel obey his every whim from shaping horseshoes to forging swords.

This Blacksmith was a friend of my father, and allowed him to paint him in his shop. Unfortunately, the Blacksmith was very fond of “the grape.” While shoeing a horse in his shop, he was kicked by the horse in the upper abdomen. He was too inebriated to get help and bled to death from a ruptured spleen. That ended not only his life but also his career as a model and friend to my father.

On one of my trips to Paris, France, I became enchanted by the “gargoyle.” That is a sculpting adorning many cathedrals of Europe. The word “gargoyle” comes from the Spanish word “garganta,” which means “throat.” Originally the gargoyle was used to divert water from the roof of a church and the water was channeled out of the mouth of the gargoyle. The legend claims that these hideous faces actually discouraged evil spirits from attacking. They protected the people and the cathedral. I, too, had to have one to protect my house. So I sculpted one, and so far, it has been successful. No evil spirits have infested our house. Here is my version of the gargoyle.

Winter is filled with fun and excitement:  Christmas, holly, mistletoe, sleigh rides, chestnuts, and sitting by toasty roaring fires. Snow is difficult to paint. It is white, that is true, but it has character, substance, and it is cold. To convey this with a brush on a canvas with white Zinc Oxide oil paint and make it believable is quite a trick. The New England Winter, 24″x36″ oil on canvas,seems to be inviting a horse-drawn sleigh with jingle bells to pass over the bridge. This painting comes from the Santa Monica period of Vladimir’s life. A time in sunny California, 1965 to 1974, which made Vladimir reminisce about his time in colder climates. He forgot how bad winter could be: the house calls to the farm at the very peak of the mountain in the Austrian Alps in waist-deep snow and the cold winters in Peoria when he was night physician on call for six thousand criminally insane (that is for another book). His car had to have an electric heating blanket covering the engine so he could start it.

     To my knowledge, I am the first sculptor to incorporate the artistic rendering with a real object. In this sculpting, I took a real violin and have bronze hands positioned as if playing the violin. I call this piece Air on the G-String. Sometime between 1717 to 1723, Johann Sebastian Bach wrote “Orchestration No. 3 in D Major.” Orchestration No. 3 did not get much exposure and languished in a drawer for around 150 years, very much like J.S. Bach’s other famous Opus, the six Brandenburg Concertos.

  A very talented violinist thought to be Germany’s best violinist, also a friend of Richard Wagner, discovered Orchestration No. 3 in D Major. He re-scored it so that he could play it on just one string on the violin by changing the key to C Major and lowering the entire score one octave. That string happened to be the lowest string on the violin, the G-string. His name was August Wilhelmj. Audiences came to use the name “Air on the G-string for it.” It was an immediate success and remains so still today. You would recognize it instantly as it is frequently played at weddings. The G-string has a more lusty connotation. To learn more about it, you will have to wait for the book. I shall put out a notice when it is available.         


  

GUNS

     Several years ago, precisely 22 years, I had a credible threat to my life. The man was arrested, spent a couple of weeks in jail, then was released and given back his 12 guns. The police said that he had not used them (yet), parenthesis added by me. I had never owned or shot a gun but decided if there was ever a time I should have a gun, it would be now. I bought one and got a permit to carry one. I had an active surgical practice that required me to see people in the middle of the night at three hospitals in the area. I had a good reason to have a gun and carry it.
     I was amazed by all the requirements with which I had to comply. I had an interview with the county sheriff. I needed to pass a test, both a written test and also a practical shooting exam. Since I had no experience with guns, I enrolled in a gun course taught by an ex-police officer who was a real “black helicopter guy.” I must admit that it was fun. Every Wednesday for several months, I went to the shooting range. I had to hit the target while on my belly, on my back, from behind a tree, running past the target, and of course, at 50 paces. I passed it at the level the LAPD officers had to pass it, something I still quote with some degree of pride. I had to be fingerprinted by the FBI and get mug-shots of my mug. After a couple of months, they issued me a “to carry” permit.
     The gun I chose was a titanium five-chambered 38 caliber Smith and Weston revolver because it was light and had enough “oomph” to stop a charging man dead in his tracks, so to speak. I carried it for a year. Despite it being a relatively “light” gun, it still became a burden. And every time I changed clothes in the surgeon’s dressing room, I had to re-tell the story as to why I was carrying a gun. According to a rumor, the man who threatened me had killed several people, but he mysteriously disappeared. So I gave up carrying the weapon, and I am luckily still here to tell about it. 
     The reason I tell you all this is that as a reputable person in my community, with the education that went to a post-graduate level with an M.D. behind my name, and a good reason to carry a gun, I still had to fulfill a number of hurdles to be allowed to do it. And the permit was only good for a year.
     I do believe that some people should and must have a gun and should have the right to carry one. But how is it that an 18-year-old who was certifiable, who self-mutilated his face for “fun” he said, who tortured animals and bragged about it, who was in frequent fights at school, had shot people with a BB gun from a car but was never charged for that act, walked into a gun store and bought two AR-15 guns with very little investigation? I understand that many of the proposed changes in the law would not have stopped him, but something certainly should have. For one, crazy people should not be able to buy guns of any kind, ever. We license driving a car, require a test, and after certain infractions, confiscate the license.
     Italy, which also has a gun culture, has not had one mortality due to mass shootings. What can we learn from Italians? They, too, require a person to be 18 years old to purchase a gun. In order to buy one, you must pass a written test on gun safety. You must register the weapon with the local police. You must have a written statement from your local doctor attesting to your mental stability and not have a history of drug addiction, and you must not have a criminal record. To shoot a gun, you must have a sporting or hunting license, and you cannot transport a firearm in your car unless you are in the act of going hunting or to a shooting range. If you threaten anyone with a gun, the police confiscate it. If you sell or give your gun to someone, you must report that to the police. I also know that people kill, not guns. And knives are also lethal, but it levels the risk considerably.
     Criminals will not get their guns registered nor carry a hunting license, but many of these shootings are spontaneous, spur-of-the-moment events. Also, criminals are criminal but not crazy, but mass shooters always are. And a physician might think twice about writing a letter for someone who likes to shoot BB guns at people from his car, and someone who threatened to use his gun would not get back his guns. Those are the people that these regulations would catch. We do need to come up with laws to reduce the risk of the insane robbing the lives of innocent grade school children! The Second Amendment said nothing about the right for crazy people to be armed.

SCAMMERS ARE SO CLEVER

 

A new scam presented itself to me, and I initially fell for it. Any human activity that involves money is vulnerable, and you must be vigilant. There is an Aesop Fable written 2600 years ago of the “Fox and the Crow.” A crow high in a tree has a piece of cheese in its beak. The fox below says to the crow how much he admires the singing of the crow, upon which the crow demonstrates his singing skills. Of course, he drops the cheese into the waiting mouth of the fox. Be careful about flattery. It just may be designed to get you to drop the cheese.     In my younger years, I was steeped in academia, teaching, and writing, a case report here, a book on the History of Surgery there. I wrote articles in well-known prestigious journals on various surgical subjects. Eight years ago, I wrote an article about Breast Cancer Detection. I recently got an e-mail which was very complimentary to me on my brilliant article, mentioning that they were well acquainted with my excellent work. They asked me to present my findings at the Seventh Global Insight Conference on Breast Cancer in Barcelona, Spain! And they would pay for my stay at a fancy hotel for two nights. What an honor! They are still looking at my articles and want me to present my findings.
     That is really “Cool,” I thought. My wife was skeptical. “Eight years ago? You are out of date!” she said. I reread the article I had published. It was not “that” out of date, I concluded. The symposium organizers are just very perceptive! In my mind, I started to prepare my presentation as to how to make it more interesting and try to address the aspects that needed a touch of updating. Besides, I had never been to Barcelona. Even my skeptical wife started to soften. We could do a little traveling from there, go to Madrid, maybe even Paris. After all, we would be there already.
   I went back and reread the e-mail. A few things seemed rather odd. The syntax didn’t quite jive. “We hope that you are good and safe.” Good and safe are not exactly the right words to use. Someone named “Paul Rutherford,” chairman of the Conference would know better. The clincher was at the end. A disclaimer statement said, “If you are not interested, please reply to us. We concern for it.” That sounded like a Google translation for something like “We respect that.” Concern and respect have sort of similar connotations in the Thesaurus, but someone who is not an English speaker wrote that because Google translated it that way.
      On further research into from where the e-mail was sent, it came from innovinc.org. Innovinc, on more investigation, turns out to be an outfit that practices what is known as predatory publishing and predatory conferences. They look for publications that they can scam. They put on conferences in attractive places worldwide. They round up a bunch of unsuspecting “sucker crows” and bait them by presenting their papers. You must realize that presenting papers at international conferences is a feather in one’s cap. One of the prized gold rings in academia is getting papers accepted for publication and then presenting those papers. Not only is it prestigious, but it is existential. “Publish or Perish!” is the mantra.  
     Not much attention is paid to who sponsors these “international” conferences. An Innovinc conference has the same weight as a University of Barcelona sponsored one on your resume. Academia is very self-centered and has its own borderline unethical business side. These predators have evolved into a business and involve you in their scheme. Of course, there are high registration fees that have to be paid. And I suspect the hotel is in the seedy part of town and not all that fancy. There are plenty of people that would shell out a couple of thousand or more to get to present at an international symposium, and you could even write it off on your 1040. The IRS, so far, has not figured it out either.
   Let the buyer beware! Question everything. Some of the red flags are the outfits that make contact you have never heard of. They flatter you with excessive complements, e-mail addresses that are strange, syntax that is not common, incorrect grammar or spelling, and of course, unreasonably high registration fees.
     In the words of P.T. Barnum, “There is a sucker born every minute!”

Not to Support Ukraine is to Support Putin

     I am shocked by the number of Representatives and Senators who are voting against aid to Ukraine, along with news anchors who have lost their way. Their reasoning for not supporting Ukraine is muddled and based on flawed thinking. I am sure there are reasons to hone and target the aid so as to be most effective without wastefully throwing money down the drain, but their logic is defective. I see any efforts to take support away from Ukraine as an effort to help Vladimir Putin. I hold to the principle that the enemy of my friend is my enemy.
     I must disclose that I am of Ukrainian descent. I cannot be convinced that ostrich-like behavior is in the best interest of our country. Isolationism didn’t work to contain Hitler, and it won’t work for Putin either. But I have a brain, and I have a family history (see my books Tales from my Hometown and Tales of a Country Surgeon) going back eighty years which makes me very knowledgeable about Putin’s mindset. He is just like Stalin, who almost murdered my parents, and imprisoned my grandmother in the Siberian Gulags for thirteen years. Stalin is the man whom Putin wants to emulate. Putin has, on numerous occasions, explained his thinking. Just listen to his speeches and read his essays of the last decade. His aim is to restore Russia to its former glory and strength. The world also failed to heed Mein Kampf, which outlined Hitler’s mindset. Do these dense politicians and news anchors not understand that this is a proxy war where Ukrainians are dying in our place? Putin, unless defeated, will continue his insanity. Moldova is next because Putin needs to protect the 500,000 people of Transnistria, the eastern breakaway sliver of Moldova, from the supposed “Nazis.” After that, the Baltics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania also need liberation by bombing them to smithereens. If he is successful, NATO is next. Now with Norway and Sweden at his doorstep, he is even more nervous. The real target is us. Putin controls 6,257 Nuclear Weapons, of the megaton flavor, with 1,357 pointed at us. That would be more than enough. He is a sick man physically and mentally. He does not care if he gets out of this alive. He will die regardless, and he does not care whom he takes with him. World War III does not frighten him. He wants history to remember him as the savior of Mother Russia.
     Eighty-one Senators voted for aid to Ukraine, but eleven Republican Senators did not! Those who opposed the plan were Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), John Boozman (Ark.), Mike Braun (Ind.), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Bill Hagerty (Tenn.), Josh Hawley (Mo.), Mike Lee (Utah), Cynthia Lummis (Wyo.), Roger Marshall (Kan.), Rand Paul (Ky.), and Tommy Tuberville (Ala.). The Senate is not the only body that has misguided members among them. These Republican Representatives are also challenged: Reps. Andy Biggs (Ariz.), Dan Bishop (N.C.), Warren Davidson (Ohio), Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Paul Gosar (Ariz.), Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), Thomas Massie (Ky.), Ralph Norman (S.C.), Scott Perry (Pa.), and Tom Tiffany (Wis.) voted against the bill. The stated objections were all mind-boggling non-sequiturs like we have no baby formula, the southern border is our major problem, and Fentanyl is the primary killer in this country we need to address. All true but not related. I would be very interested in how to get baby formula out of Howitzers. And how exactly will aid to Ukraine allow more illegal aliens to cross the Rio Grande? That will only be solved by a new administration running the border. Fentanyl overdoses have no relation to aiding Ukraine. That is a problem related to our permissive society and the drugs made in China which we allow the cartels to bring across the leaky border.
     Lack of oversight was another issue. How do you oversee Howitzers anyway? They are not going into someone’s basement to be sold off later. Even unsupervised Howitzers will help Ukraine defeat the man who wants to nuke us before he can push the button. Ukraine is fighting for Europe and us. If it were not for them, our boys would be dying over there.   If Putin wins, NATO will be forced to put boots on the ground, and guess what? We are part of NATO. Article five in the NATO charter states that if one member is attacked, all member states are obligated to come to its defense, and voilá, we are involved.

IN DEFENSE OF SUICIDE

A few years ago I attended the funeral of a man whom I have known since he was ten years old. I knew him and his family, parents, and siblings.  He had a rich life until about 4 years ago when he was in his mid-fifties. He was gainfully employed and enjoyed his profession, the fruits of which were recognized by his students and co-workers.  He did everything a normal human does, had a family, friends and hobbies, was very intellectual, athletic, very talented linguistically, and above all smart.  Four years ago he developed severe depression.  He tried everything to get help, doctors, psychotherapy, medications, even electro-shock treatments.  Nothing helped! He sank deeper and deeper.  He self-medicated with alcohol and drugs to beat his profound sadness.  His first attempt to end it all was with that.  He almost succeeded, but with heroic medical intervention, he survived.  A new treatment for the dying brain was utilized by cooling his brain, and him down to a temperature of around 33̊ C, and then slowly bringing it up to normal, near 37˚ C, over a couple of days.  I have been impressed by how well this works under the right circumstances and saw another dramatic success of this in one of my employees who had a cardiac arrest for over an hour caused by a heart attack.  With CPR he got to the emergency room with a still viable brain. He too survived and is back to work with all his marbles.

My friend resolved to beat this horrible illness but alas nothing worked. He decided since he suffered terrible pain and had no help, he could not live like this, especially since his previous life, prior to the dark curtain of depression descended on him, was so rich and enjoyable.  On New Year’s Eve 2019, he laid down on the railroad tracks of Amtrack near La Conchita and ended it. 

At first, I was devastated.   What a waste I thought.  At the service, multiple speakers came up to tell us what a wonderful person he was.  So many people were influenced in a positive way by him.  He was truly outstanding and a good human being. 

How can a wonderful person do such a horrible and hostile thing?  Suicide is a gruesome final act from which there is no recovery.  It is definitely definite! One thing his brother said at his memorial service struck a chord with me.  “I am not mad at you! You did a good job all your life and you deserve to be remembered as that person who brought enlightenment, joy, and laughter to so many.”

Depression is a dreadful illness, for which we still do not have all the answers. “Killing oneself is, anyway, a misnomer. We don’t kill ourselves. We are simply defeated by the long, hard struggle to stay alive.” (as quoted from Sally Brampton in Shoot the Damn Dog: A Memoir of Depression.) When a person dies who has endured cancer and finally is relieved of his suffering, we praise him for his prolonged torture and say he fought so hard and he is finally released.  Suicide is often not judged along those lines.  “He just gave up!”  We did not recognize nor appreciate the long-suffering that was relentless and not seen by us.  People who end it all do not make that decision lightly.  It is a conclusion they come to after much desperate thought, as there is no other answer to their pain and distress, and there are no other choices that they have not already tried and failed.

Ultimately it is our failure.  The failure to recognize the agony and pain of the depressed person, the failure of trying all the remedies we have at our disposal, the failure of the medications that just don’t live up to the promises they hand out in the television ads.  The failure of the society to understand the depressed person, the failure of medical science to recognize and treat this cancer of the mind, this illness without a proper diagnosis, without a precise explanation, and above all too often without effective treatment.

Painting by Marianne Stokes “Death and the Maiden” (Maiden photoshopped out) d’Orsay, Paris   

Roe v. Wade

Abortion is a divisive subject but not as divisive as you might guess. Most polls say that 60 % of the overall population favors continuing the status quo, 30% want to overturn Roe v. Wade, and 10% are undecided or don’t care whether to continue allowing abortion on demand before 24 weeks. Among Democrats, it is 70% for the status quo while Republicans are about half of that i.e., 35%. Women reflect the total population at 60%, while 55% of men favor abortion. Most of us would not favor killing the infant at or shortly after birth, something China has been practicing for years. That would no longer be abortion but infanticide and is generally considered uncivilized.
Since the debate swirls around killing babies, when does the fetus become a baby? Is it the morula, a solid ball of about 60 cells? Or is it the blastula or the gastrula? The answer mostly depends on your religion. Catholics declare there is humanity even before the sperm and egg meet. It is immoral to prevent conception! The idea of a fetus becoming human belongs to Aristotle, which St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine adopted. And that was when ensoulment happens at 40 days for males and 80 days for females. Don’t ask me why the female is double the time of a male. Islam puts that event at 120 days. Prior to that, no human life exists, and abortions were legitimately performed. It got a bit muddled with the invention of the microscope when Antonie van Leeuwenhoek made the erroneous pronouncement that sperm was in the shape of “tiny humans,” which suggested humans start much earlier than either Aquinas or Augustine taught. Yet both Thomas Aquinas and Augustine of Hippo pointed to the phenomenon of “quickening” as the definitive sign that the fetus had become a human. Prior to that, intentional abortion was always an act against God, but it was still pardonable, but once quickening happened, having an abortion was highly immoral and required a penalty, as for homicide, and also required ex-communication. Quickening usually happens at 18 to 20 weeks of pregnancy.          
I must confess that as a young doctor, I did hundreds of abortions. You would be surprised who actually opened the flood gates and brought abortions out of the back alleys into the sanctity of hospitals – Ronald Reagan when he was Governor of California. Reagan thought about abortion long and hard. And no one can say that  Reagan was a Godless baby-killer. I was a Resident at a Ventura County Hospital, learning the trade of General Practice. A very aggressive “Feminist” nurse took it upon herself to bring the new Reagan law into mainstream practice. She organized a clinic for young girls who found themselves pregnant at ages 11 on up. Initially, it was a necessary requirement that the life of the mother had to be at risk to comply with the law allowing abortion. That was easily sidestepped by having the girl claim to threaten suicide, and that was enough. Later that went by the wayside, and it was basically on-demand abortion. The only rule we had to abide by was that the fetus had to be under 500 grams. Over that it was murder. That, too, could be fudged. A few days of drying before the weighing would bring the weight down. I gradually found doing abortions troublesome and even started to question the morality, especially the late-term abortion, which required actively ending the baby’s life. I stopped doing all of them.
But then there is the question of the lesser of two evils rearing its ugly head in my brain. Is it not also evil to bring an unwanted child into the world with the inevitable years of maltreatment, malnourishment, pain, and suffering, the invariable increase of mental illness, crime, and a litany of other social ills that spring from throw-away children versus a 30-minute operation that undoes the evil? Other issues come into the mix like rape, incest, and risk to the life of the mother. And then there is the return of the back-alley coat-hanger abortions that killed young women! I saw my share of that especially egregious evil at LA County USC Medical Center during my internship. Birthing is only the beginning of a long process; feeding, housing, clothing, college tuition, vaccinations etc., that is what pro-life entails. Where are the pro-lifers for all that stuff? The moniker “pro-lifers” is a gross underestimation, and it should just be “pro-birthers.” Pro-life includes a lot of other things.
I have not gotten over my conflicted decision. It was John Milton in Paradise Lost who stated that if there is a choice between two evils, the lesser evil must be chosen. I must side with the lesser of two evils argument. I do think, however, that infanticide is homicide which I define as when the fetus can exist independent from the mother. This cannot be allowed to stand in a civilized society. It is an impossible decision as to when a fetus becomes a human, and my definition is prospective and for that reason not very useful. I must therefore go with the arbitrary wisdom of St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine of Hippo. Quickening is my cut-off, as it happens to coincide with viability. For me, that is 20 weeks, no more. Surely that is enough time to make a decision. I am surprised that the Supreme Court is so shortsighted and fails to see all sides of admittedly a difficult argument. Others besides Justice Alito have weighed in on this subject from Aristotle, Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Augustine of Hippo, Ronald Reagan, Martin Luther King, and 60 % of the US population. All have come up with a different view from Justice Alito’s Catholic opinion based on his narrow theological view of a canonical hypothesis that only he is imbued with the absolute truth. The other major world religions, Protestant, Jewish, and Islam, are much less dogmatic, more charitable, and more forgiving. They do not denounce it as murder until viability. Does one religion’s doctrine overrule all the others and require all others to obey their edicts? For half a Century, we adjusted and lived with a law, although imperfect, that could be justified, legally and morally for the majority. Do we really need this “stare decisis” (a legal term meaning “to stand by things decided” in Latin) issue that will undoubtedly be reactivated and cause harm, turmoil, and demonstrations in our already fractured society? Every dilemma has a bad or worse choice. We must exercise wisdom to pick. In a Democracy, the majority has a powerful voice, and the majority holds the opinion that more evil would be created by eliminating all abortion. The concept of viability is a compromise that gives both sides a bit of plausible defendability.
The majority will not likely accept judicial dogmatic imprudence no matter how well thought out the legal arguments are. There will be demonstrations, with possible violence from both sides. It will lead to moves such as attempts to rebalance the court and alteration of the country’s political landscape that eventually will manifest itself at the voting booth or congressional intercession. I predict the end result will eventually be no net change, except the destruction of one of our three pillars of government! That is why “stare decisis,” and precedence are such important principles.
Good going, Supreme Court! How many more nails will the Justices find to shut the lid on their own coffin?

Air on the G-String       

I have been a busy sculptor. My next piece combines a real violin with the sculpted bronze hands that are playing it. The note that is being played is on the G-String, hence the name of the sculpting. To let you in on the secret of how I named it is a true story that comes from history and has done its part to change it.      

Sometime between 1717 to 1723, Johann Sebastian Bach wrote “Orchestration No. 3 in D Major.” He composed this piece for his patron, Prince Leopold von Anhalt. Bach was in his early 30s and not yet an established composer, furthermore, the Anhalt family was not enamored with Bach’s music. Orchestration No. 3 did not get much exposure and languished in a drawer for around 150 years, very much like J.S. Bach’s other famous Opus, the six Brandenburg Concertos, that he composed as an application for a new job, with the Margrave of Brandenburg. Since his career with Prince Leopold von Anhalt was at risk, he tried to entice the Margrave to hire him. He sent the six Concertos to him, but just like the “Orchestration No. 3 in D Major,” the Margrave didn’t even listen to any of them, nor did Bach get the job when Prince Leopold unceremoniously fired him.      

Luckily a wise and music-savvy scientist named Carl Sagan was in charge of picking the music for a gold-plated CD that was to be sent into deep space for a future Alien to find. The second Brandenburg Concerto went out on Voyager I in 1977, but the job application to the Margrave of Brandenburg was just a few hundred years too late. The Orchestration No. 3 in D Major at least had a second chance to be heard sooner.

A very talented violinist, a friend of Richard Wagner and the son of Prussia’s Chief Prosecutor, thought to be Germany’s best violinist, discovered Orchestration No. 3 in D Major. He re-scored it so that he could play it on just one string on the violin by changing the key to C Major and lowering the entire score one octave. That string happened to be the lowest string on the violin, the G-string. His name was August Wilhelmj. Audiences came to use the name “Air on the G-string” for it.  It was an immediate success and remains so still today. You would recognize it instantly as it is frequently played at weddings. 

So how did the G-string get its other, more lusty connotation? The 1939 World’s Fair opened in the Queens district of New York. We did not enter World War II until 1941 on the Day of Infamy. The World’s Fair attracted 44 million people, including  King George V and his Queen, along with Albert Einstein, and many more notables. But it also attracted a less lofty group, strippers! Mayor Fiorello La Guardia made it the law for strippers to wear a Bikini-like bottom in New York when performing. First, Fredericks of Hollywood and then Victoria’s Secret repurposed the  G-sting in their naming of the skimpy garment. The G-string on the violin is just a thin wire, and it happens to be the lowest in position and sound of the violin strings. What could be a more appropriate name for Mayor La Guardia’s mandated tiny modesty vestment?   


What Constitutes Freedom

Freedom is the ability to do as you wish, go where you want, think what you want, eat whatever and when you want. Enjoy hearing the music you want to hear, and look at the art with which you identify. No one can tell you what you can or cannot see, hear, or touch. Basically, you can live your life without being told how, why, and by what means you may do so. This concept came from the Age of Reason. Descartes, Spinoza, Voltaire, Kant,  Rousseau, Jefferson, Washington, Paine, and many others laid down the foundation that man is his own master. Our brain knows what is best for us. But there must be boundaries. You cannot go around taking what is not yours, destroying things others have built, killing indiscriminately.

Those actions are characteristics of the uncivilized! We must adhere to the rules of life. This is how evolved forms of government regulated what civilized people can and cannot do. We have rights, but we also have responsibilities.

We do not have the right to harm other people by our actions unless we are under threat of bodily injury, and that includes getting infected by potentially lethal organisms. If you are going to sit next to me for whatever number of hours shoulder to shoulder, sharing the same breathing space, I want that you are as least likely to harm me by infecting me with your “cuties” as possible. That means you must be vaccinated, and you must wear a mask.

Much has been said about the effectiveness of masks. The largest study has been done and published. It is a peer-reviewed study conducted by Yale and Stanford University. Three hundred fifty thousand people were involved. One-third of the study group wore masks, and two-thirds did not. The mask wearers decreased the spread of Covid by 11%. Statistics would suggest that if all participants had worn masks, the benefit would be 33%. This is proven beyond doubt, and the numbers are very convincing. That is a significant benefit of masks. Of course, it would have been better to be 100%, but that is not how nature works. That folks is the best it can get, and I will take that because it is better than 0%.

Your body, your choice does not extend to giving me Covid-19 if possible. If you find it so onerous to wear a mask, find another means of transportation or get your own plane. I wore a mask for half a century almost every day as a practicing surgeon, as a protection for you so I would not give you my bugs, and I am still alive. Why would you not do the same courtesy for me? That is as far as your freedom extends. The Constitution and Bill of Rights do not mention your right not to wear a mask when it has been scientifically proven at a 33% efficacy! And the Stanford Yale study is as good as science gets. You have the right not to believe it, but the CDC’s rule of wearing a mask in a closed space is still applicable as long as we are in a pandemic and 500 people a day die of Covid. It supersedes your opinion. They give us the rules. A single judge also does not have the right to nullify that ruling. He is a judge! Not an infectious disease expert and does not have the moral, legal, or intellectual standing to overrule the CDC, an organization of 15,000 people (1,700 of whom are real scientists) charged with overseeing the public’s health. I am glad that the Justice Department has appealed the decision of a misguided judge.