By Gus

TIME

The oldest and most impressive calendar (photo by Ankit Sood,-q0ZLK D7ngl- unsplash.jpg)

     Four hundred thirty-nine days after Julius Caesar introduced his calendar, replacing the old Roman Calendar, he was murdered on the Ides of March 44BC (E). Ironically the Ides was the traditional date on which all debts needed to be settled. 
     The Roman Calendar had advanced three months out of sync with the Solar Calendar and was really out of date, so to speak. Caesar hired a Greek astronomer/mathematician, Sosigenes of Alexandria, said by Pliny the Elder to be the smartest mathematician of the time.  His job was to create a new, more accurate way to keep track of the days, naming the 7th month after his boss (July) and the 8th month for the first and greatest Roman emperor, also related to Julius, Augustus Caesar. But even the smartest mathematicians make mistakes, and he, too, had overestimated the length of the year by 11 minutes and 14 seconds. By the mid-1500s, the seasons were about ten days ahead. Pope Gregory XIII revised the Julian Calendar. It became the Gregorian Calendar which now is the standard throughout the world except for the Greek Orthodox church, which still uses the Julian version. Because the earth’s path around the sun is precisely 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 45.25 seconds, an error of an extra day per century needs to be corrected. The Gregorian Calendar takes care of this and other minor errors by adding an extra day in February every 4th year unless the year is divisible by 400 (the leap year).
     Time is like a river. It flows past us. Time is, however, relative. It can speed up or slow down. It was Albert Einstein who calculated the faster we travel, the slower time passes. Theoretically, if you board a spaceship that travels near the speed of light, you will not age as fast as your twin who stays on earth. This has actually been proven experimentally. A super accurate atomic clock placed on a jet traveling as fast as a jet can, when brought back, was slower than the clock that remained on earth. Gravity also affects the speed time passes. The more gravity there is, the slower time passes. If you would wear an ankle watch and compare it to your wristwatch, it will consistently be slower because it is closer to earth and, therefore, more affected by it. Time even stops when exposed to the strongest gravitational field there is, a black hole. If we carry this to its (il)logical conclusion, time could actually reverse if exposed to more gravity or travel faster than the speed of light. Time travel? I would, however, not hold my breath for that to happen. We do not have the technology (yet) to achieve that!
     Since my retirement, time does not affect me nearly as much. Saturday or Sunday does not matter. All I know is that there is no mail on Sunday.
     The day I was born was a day like all days. The earth was at a certain place in its travels around the sun. So every revolution of the earth since then, when the earth passes that point, it is my birthday. That marks a year for most of us, regardless if you use the Roman, Julian, or Gregorian Calendar. It is the same place in earth’s orbit. Why is that important? I used to be excited because of the presents I received. Now I am not nearly as delighted to receive presents. After nearly 80 years, you have probably gotten all the gifts you need and a few you don’t, and see birthdays just like any other day except it marks one year closer to our demise! Why on earth would I celebrate that? As Shakespeare said, “To be or not to be, that is the question!” It is only a matter of time!
     That reminds me of my favorite joke. A salesman wanders along a country road and comes across a farmer feeding his pigs. The farmer has an apple tree and lifts each pig up to the tree so they can grab an apple and eat it. After watching this for a while, the salesman asks the farmer a question. Why don’t you shake the tree, the apples will fall, and the pigs can eat their fill of apples? It would save so much time! The farmer shakes his head and says, “Yes, I know it saves time, but what’s  time to a pig?”

      THE AZORES, A LOST PARADISE

In 1969 all men born between January 1943 and December 1950 received notice from the Selective Service System (the Draft Board) to report for duty in the military. I was born in 1943, so I was eminently qualified. I was in a Residency Training Program for General Practice that finished in July of 1970. In August 1970, I was sent to Witchita Falls, Texas, for basic training. I never thought that a doctor would be taught how to march, shoot, and crawl under barbed wire, with live gunfire above (at least that is what they told us), but I was. The US had just included Cambodia in the Vietnam War. I was expecting to go to Vietnam.   
   But then a miracle happened! I was sent to Portugal as an Air Force Captain. I was able to bring my wife, and we were stationed on Tercera, the third largest island in the Azorian archipelago, a virtual paradise. The Azores were the first place Christopher Columbus stopped on his transoceanic trip to discover the Americas. The church where he prayed for guidance still stands and was the site of many a picnic we had with our Air Force friends. Angra de Heroismo is the largest town of about 35,000 inhabitants. Frédéric Chopin also stopped there during his search for a place that would be better for his lungs, which were besieged by the Tubercle Bacillus. I even sat at the piano, where he gave an impromptu concert for Angra. If you ever get to Angra, you must try the regional specialty, “Alcatra Regional,” a beef stew cooked in an earthen pot on charcoal, which is absolutely outstanding.

Mary Jane

Our base was composed of about 4,000 troops, mostly Air Force, but there were also Marines who did the security, the Navy who surprisingly did the flying, and Air Force that did the support, including the hospital. I “fought the war” for the next two years on a semi-tropical island doing health care for basically healthy young people. We bravely kept every Viet Cong from making landfall there. I didn’t know it then, but it was probably the best time of my life. I was young, full of energy and enthusiasm. There was a lot of time to pursue hobbies. I learned to work with wood in their wood hobby shop. Mary and I built shelves using an Acacia tree, the hardest wood in the Azores, that was split just for us. We also built a copy of a 15th-century Savanarola Florentine chair. I became a more sophisticated photographer and even learned to Scuba Dive to look for treasure. Lobster was plentiful in the Atlantic just for the taking, and we did. The harbor near our house had been the scene of great battles between the English and Spanish with treasure ships laden with gold that were sunk by Sir Francis Drake.   Unfortunately, all we ever found was a few barnacles-encrusted canons and the occasional shark that lost its way. But sculpting was my favorite hobby. I had always loved to sculpt. My beautiful wife served as a model for several works, one of which is seen here.

What is a RINO (Republican In Name Only)?

RINO is a pejorative word for a Republican who is not as right as the ultra-right think one ought to be. By that I mean you do not support Trump, and want everyone to be vaccinated! Republicans used to be the party of Ronald Reagan, the party who believed in the conservative point of view, Capitalism, less government, fewer taxes, law and order, but now it has something to do with Donald Trump and whether you get vaccinated or wear a mask.
     Trump was once upon a time the leader that embodied the Reagan principles. He won the 2016 election because no one wanted Hillary Clinton, but then something happened. Trump clearly had a meltdown. The anti-vaxxers took over. Vaccination was now against freedom, against my rights over my body. But vaccination has nothing to do with rights, nothing to do with freedom, nothing to do with Anthony Fauci. It is a vaccine against a lethal illness, that has killed close to six and one half million people. The problem came about by the issue if you can mandate people to get vaccinated against their will. Somehow the Trumpists allied with the anti-vaxxers even though it was Trump that first pushed the vaccine, and even though he and all his family took it. But the far right saw it as an infringement on civil rights. Somehow the personal right to choose became mixed up with the right to protect yourself.
     As a physician and a scientist, I find this a curious position that I have failed to comprehend. When the Polio Vaccine came out, no one talked about personal rights. We all stood in line to get our vaccine and were very grateful to get it. One issue is that the Covid virus is very clever. It can change (mutate) quickly and gains new characteristics that make it more infectious and able to avoid the vaccines we have developed to attack it. This somehow has weakened the argument for vaccination in the eyes of the anti-vaxxers. Science is however not like religion. It is not absolute and it certainly is not the word of God. Science is the search for truth. If evidence points to a new discovery then that becomes the standard. Science is not wrong, it becomes better educated and then acts accordingly. In this pandemic we have learned that this virus has abilities that we didn’t think it had. It can change into other forms quickly. Last year’s version of the vaccine does not work as well against it. Yes, you need the latest version in order to be fully protected, and it will likely become a yearly ritual. The older vaccine still works, just not as well. It will keep you out of the ICU and likely keep you from dying, but the newer vaccine works better. Just like the latest version of the newest model Tessla has more buttons and more features than last year’s model. Some models keep you safer in a car crash than other models, just like some vaccines work better than others.   I do believe in personal choice but I also believe that if you want to ride next to me in an airplane or be a police officer or serve me food you must be vaccinated. You have the right not to get vaccinated but you can’t infect me either.
     Wearing or not wearing a mask is another thing I cannot wrap my head around. How  in heaven’s name does that have anything to do with your being a Democrat, Republican, RINO, or anything to do with political persuasion? It is just a mask, a piece of material that filters out the air you breathe in and out. Granted, it does not do as good a job as you think it should, but it does work which has been shown to be the case for the last 130 years. That is what the science shows over and over. How much evidence do you need, and it is why surgeons wear them when doing operations?   You can get better working masks but they must be fitted to you and are really uncomfortable.
     I have come to the conclusion that I am an ELMO, a combination of the elephant , symbol of Republicans but also have Rino features at the rear, just as my cartoon above shows. An ELMO is a conservative who believes in vaccination, keeps believing in the US Constitution, and thinks that Trump has voided his ticket to run for President a third time.

 It is Time to Find Better Candidates for President

Democrats and Republicans need to find other candidates for the 2024 presidential election. Both Biden and Trump are damaged goods and furthermore too old with extra baggage we do not need! I would advise, as Elon Musk, that they should ride off into the sunset. With all the smart people around, surely they can find someone who did not storm the US Capital with an armed group to reverse an election or a president who botched the withdrawal of US forces from a nation we had protected for 20 years, causing thousands of people to lose their life, condemning millions of women to a life of servitude and minority status, not unlike in the middle ages, not to mention stealing their educational opportunities and giving away trillions in military equipment.       
     Who was responsible for leaving Afghanistan in such a disorganized fashion when all his military advisers counseled against it? And who incited hundreds of people to carry weapons and threaten to hang the Vice-President, when all his advisers told him that he had lost the election. I can only think of two people, neither of whom listen to their counselors. Both are know-it-alls! They have lost my respect, and both forfeit their leadership roles, especially the most important position in our government. How can any reasonable person support either man who is so clearly unfit for the highest office in the land? If you succeed in getting either man elected, you will on the one hand, get a bumbling demented man who cannot put two sentences together without flubbing the teleprompter lines and on the other, a self-absorbed narcissist who is bent on avenging himself on all those that opposed him. Neither take advice nor listen to their advisers. Both of them lack good judgment. How about we find wiser candidates with new visions of a Country based on Freedom, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness for all who respond to their Electorate and Cabinet? The actions of both these two “loose canons” should clue you into their unhinged minds, regardless of cause, be it age-related cognitive problems or a personality disorder.  
     We especially do not need leadership that brings us 9.1% inflation with a looming recession. We do not need self-absorbed people who go through advisers like worn-out shoes, discarding them for the most inane reasons. We do not need octogenarians (I hasten to add that I am one of them). Many of that age have the beginning or worse of deteriorating cerebral cortexes, who cannot reason logically anymore, and have a variety of medical and mental issues that interfere with their function, like walking, talking, thinking, comprehending, or administering the largest most powerful nation in the world.
     At age 65, 20% of individuals have some degree of cognitive deterioration. It doubles every 10 years so that by age 80 about 50% have some cognitive malfunction. Does it make any sense to look for leadership in a group where half of the people have cognitive decline?
     We need to go back to our roots, our beginnings when the Age of Reason gave us men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin. Yes, these men had flaws, as we all do, but they were great thinkers who could overcome their prejudices and foibles. Our Constitution is still valid and a living document that has given us prosperity and justice for close to two and one-half centuries. I do not forget about slavery. That was, however, a worldwide plague that was not limited to this country, to racial divisions, or even that time. There is more slavery of black, white, and yellow races now than there ever was. We need to stay away from recent philosophies that have failed miserably, such as Marxism and Fascism, both of which I have had some close encounters. From personal knowledge, I can tell you, “be careful what you wish for. You may just get it!” All countries that have tried those philosophies, even in small doses, have failed and reversed their form of government, including England, New Zealand, the old Soviet Union, Israel, India, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, and Laos are the only countries still toying with Marxism. Even China and Vietnam are now mostly market-based economies, although still dictatorships. Who can forget the incomparable disasters of the two Fascist countries, Italy and Germany?  
     We are not perfect and never will be. There is still racial strife and feelings of superiority toward one over another. However, nothing like it was 200 years ago or even 50 years ago. We have taken great strides forward, and I doubt these issues can be solved quickly or even legislatively. There have been changes in our hearts and minds by leagues and we are continuing to do so. But I do know with certainty that neither Biden nor Trump are the right choices for us!  
           

WHY DO CHURCH AND STATE NEED TO REMAIN SEPARATE

Photo surreptitiously taken in the Sistine Chapel  and photoshopped by the Author     

     “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” That is the first sentence of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights. Thomas Jefferson wrote to a Baptist Church from Danbury, Connecticut, explaining the Establishment Clause very eloquently. “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.” 
     Over forty previous decisions of the Supreme Court have upheld this principle to the extent that it required the removal of the Ten Commandments from courtrooms across the country. Very prestigious Justices weighed in on this point, including Justice Bryer, Justice Souter, Justice Ginsberg, and Justice O’Connor. Sandra Day O’Connor made the very astute argument, “We are a religious people, but the separation between church and state was the very thing that freed Americans to practice their faiths.”
     It appears that the Supreme Court has again blundered into overstepping its authority to overrule a couple of hundred years of precedence, not to mention trampling on our Constitution. The Constitution has obviously had much more thought put into it by people of greater prestige and wisdom than our current Supreme Court has. It exposes the current Justice’s religious prejudices, and partisan politics, along with their personal opinions. As in the discipline of physics, every action will lead to an equal but opposite reaction, their poorly thought-out decisions will eventually come back to bite us. Court-packing evolving to a one-party rule is the next step. Relevancy of the Court will become an increasing issue making a shambles of the three branches of our government.
     Religion is based on writings going back at least three millennia. It is the infallible word of God. The problem comes in that each infallible scripture of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the dozens of the others, Buddism, Hinduism, Mormons, and all the other 4,300 religions of the world do NOT AGREE with each other on many points! Colorado’s Third Congressional District Representative Lauren Boebert in her learned wisdom, says she is tired of hearing this “Separation of Church and State junk!”
     If prayer were again allowed to be said in public schools, how many prayers would have to be recited to make it fair and equal, or would it just be the Evangelicals who would get that privilege? How would most Christians react if they were forced to participate in Muslim prayer, even if they did not have to touch the ground with seven parts of their body as the Quoran requires? An all-knowing God would understand that silence is golden under certain circumstances.
      Lauren further explains that the church should tell the state what to do, not the other way around. My question to her is, “Which church? Would it be the Baptists or the Anabaptists or possibly the Rastafarians?” Lauren only needs a turban, and she would then qualify to lead the Christian Taliban and realize her wish of a Full-On Theocracy like in the good old days. Was life so much better when we had the absolute certainty that we were the center of the Universe and the sun revolved around us? We almost burned Galileo at the stake which we did to his predecessor, Giordano Bruno for not following what the Holy Scriptures said. It gave us the authority to burn heretics and hang a few witches. It was not that long ago, in 1826,  when we executed the last heretic, Cayetano Ripoll, for teaching Deism.   
     Just look at the question of when life starts. The IRS does not allow a deduction for a baby in utero regardless of time from conception nor can a pregnant woman use the car pool lane by herself. It is not a person, our government says. Jews quote the Bible,  “And God formed the man of dust of the earth, and breathed upon his face the breath of life, and the man became a living soul.” Genesis 2:7. Therefore they believe life begins with the first breath. Muslims say ensoulment happens at 120 days, and Buddhists don’t believe there is a soul. I want a religion that has a direct line to God so we can rely on it to tell us what we should do, or should we just ask Lauren Boebert.
     It is considered unethical and even illegal for a student and teacher or a patient and doctor to have a sexual relationship precisely because there is an inequality that makes that indecent, immoral, and worse. Teachers have lost their jobs and doctors their licenses to practice over that issue. Along the same line, how then can it be acceptable for a football coach to pray on the 50-yard line encouraging the team to join him? Besides, what message does that send? I was unaware that God watched high school football, and if He did, He really shouldn’t be asked to take sides! Of course, it would be even worse if He answered the prayer by taking sides!

ASYLUM LIGHT

Bowen Building, the largest structure at Peoria State Hospital, supposedly haunted, before it was demolished in 2017

Asylum Light is a book about what was one of the larger Mental Hospitals in the country, Peoria State Hospital – with 7,000 inmates/patients on 200 acres before it closed its doors in 1973. My father worked there as a psychiatrist, and my family lived on the grounds of this Mega-Institution. I also became a physician with a background, since pre-teen years, of interacting with insanity. Dealing with the insane on a daily basis has given me a different perspective on the insane mind. If you look at the last decade of mass shootings, every one of them was caused by an insane person. The normal mind does not go into a school, workplace, mall, or anywhere and open fire on random people who had very little or nothing to do with the shooter.
     Take a look at the last school shooting at Uvalde, Texas. An 18-year-old first shoots his grandmother in the face, then heads to the school, texting his intent to kill children and then proceeding to kill 19 children and two teachers. To give you a window into this insane boy’s brain, he pointed the gun at a teacher, whom he did not know, said “good night” to her, then shot her in the head – no regret, no conscience, no filter – typical of the psychopathic personality. He was a psychopath long before then. His multiple fights at school, his bragging about cruelty to animals, his act of shooting a BB gun at random people from his car window, and his loner mentality were strong clues.  
     The most lethal school shooting in the US was at Sandy Hook School in Connecticut. Twenty children and six adults died from a 20-year-old gunman who also killed his mother that day. Do you think he might have been crazy? In 2017 another crazy person fired on a crowd attending the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas. He shot over 1,000 bullets from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel, killing 60 people and wounding 411. They were all unknown to him, and his motives are still unknown.
     But I know the cause. An insane mind does not need a logical motive.   The most recent shooting in Chicago was again done by a schizophrenic. It is interesting to me that few mentioned this obvious fact to me which is the root and only cause of this tragedy. His internet postings are classic. The references to his mission. His hallucinated preordained actions – “it is my destiny” are typical of his altered mind which no laws can change. The anti-psychotic class of drugs has the only hope of changing his delusional brain chemistry. The problem is that he must ingest them if they are to work.         
      Insanity remains a mystery. Brain scans and genetic studies hint at an alteration of brain chemistry. Unfortunately, insanity is not curable to date. Most gun laws will not prevent crazy people from shooting innocent children. The insane pay little heed to the law. Small capacity magazines, background checks, and red flag laws will make little difference to the insane person. THE MAJORITY, IF NOT ALL, OF THESE CRIMES, ARE DUE TO MENTAL ILLNESS! This is the main issue that needs to be addressed, and it is mostly ignored and hardly mentioned. It is not PC. It is considered reactionary and outdated.      
     Unfortunately, no psychotherapy, no pills, and no laws will fix it. Anyone who has demonstrated a risk to themselves or others needs some kind of restraint up to and including confinement in a facility for the good of themselves and society. For some, there is no other answer than institutionalization. It is not cruel. It is not unjust. It is necessary and cruel not to do it, and the only solution!  
    Recently a 27-year-old man from Califonia was apprehended near Justice Kavanaugh’s home, threatening to kill him. He had been on the phone with 911 expressing suicidal thoughts and death threats to Justice Kavanaugh. Crazy? Absolutely! John Hinkley who shot President Reagan in 1982 to call attention to himself, in order to impress movie actress Jodie Foster, was recently released, presumably cured of his mental illness. From what I know of mental illness, he will never be cured. As soon as he stops his medications, he will start his delusional thinking.      

     Keeping guns out of the hands of a crazy person certainly is an admirable goal, but with all the guns in circulation, that is a near-impossible task, but that is not to say that it should not be implemented. Certainly, an effort to identify insane people is a reasonable approach but difficult to enact. A history of strange behavior is a hint. Animal cruelty, a strong indicator of a psychopathic personality, is a good predictor of homicidal tendencies, which should be taken far more seriously than it is. Certainly, shooting at people with a BB gun should ring alarm bells and certainly must be reported to the police. Medications might have helped. A physician, especially one dealing with mental illness, is probably the best judge of homicidal tendencies. So a certificate from a doctor of mental stability might be a simple requirement to own a gun. It is easy to implement and not stepping on anyone’s rights. It works in Italy, and they also have their share of crazy people and guns.            
     An insane person who has homicidal thinking needs to be confined. His medications must be administered under supervision to ensure that he takes them. Just like a sex offender is monitored, an insane person who has demonstrated danger to others needs to be institutionalized. Peoria State Hospital for the Incurably Insane dropped the “Incurably Insane” part because it was not PC, but unfortunately, true. Asylums were life savers! Mass shootings were unheard of then. Our society will need to reconsider the only option that so far has a proven track record, bringing back the Asylum for the Incurably Insane.

LONG NEEDLE PINE AT LAKE VERMILION

The National Geographic Society considers Lake Vermilion, Minnesota, and its surroundings to be among the ten most scenic lakes in the world. I would never have found this spot on earth if I hadn’t married a girl whose Grandmother homesteaded on that lake in the late eighteen hundreds. Nettie Ethyl was one of four children of a dentist who set up practice in Boonville, Indiana, after the Civil War. He sheltered his offspring from most any social contacts to an almost pathological degree. Despite this, a handsome man from Kentucky came into town and swept her off her feet. She left her comfortable, serene home and close-knit family to take up residence in the North Woods on the shores of Lake Vermilion. They first lived in a tent and later built a cabin. Bear and Native Americans were their neighbors. Her husband eventually abandoned the family but not before he had fathered six children and, as it turned out, lived a double life as a bigamist, but worse than that, he hacked a man to pieces in a barroom fight. When I married into this family, little did I know an ax murderer was among my wife’s forefathers! But then, neither did my wife know this well-guarded family secret until both she and I researched the family tree by interviewing friends of Grandma Nettie Ethyl, who by this time were residing in the nursing home as none of the relatives shared this story with us.
In late summer, we often made trips to Lake Vermilion and stayed in the old cabin, enjoying the lake, the quiet peacefulness, the hikes on old Indian trails, the fresh Northern Pike caught that day along with the wild rice that grew abundantly in the shallow inlets of the lake, and the unbelievably good-tasting blueberry pie that only Grandma Nettie knew how to make from the buckets of berries we picked from the lush green underbrush of the woods. I did eventually discover her secret – lard.       Waterskiing was a particularly fun sport because the lake was so large and there were no people. The water was like glass. Speaking of glass, I need glasses for distant vision, which is not too useful in waterskiing. I almost skied into a moose more than once. There were numerous islands on the lake that was almost always devoid of people but always had plentiful blueberries. Mary and I would go out on our rowboat and spend hours on one of these islands eating the berries that we were supposed to bring home for Nettie to make a pie. But there usually were others who did. On one occasion, I brought along a set of pens and a sheet of bark from a birch tree. Bark from birch lent itself very well to making paperlike sheets. I picked a tree and started sketching. At home, I used some birch branches to fashion a frame for it.

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 that life begins 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 butt).

 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.