Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Losing it in a time of pandemic

I had a text conversation early today with a group of people, most of whom I probably offended. I’m trying to decide whether I’m sorry or not....

Maybe it’s not an excuse (my business after all), but I had just had phone conversations with three different violent psychotic criminals as I drank my first morning coffee. Illinois’ psychiatric plantations, including at least Elgin Mental Health Center, Chicago Read Mental Health Center and Chester Mental Health Center, are all on lockdown in the desperate hope of preventing corona virus from getting a foothold and turning into an unholy disaster. I’m told there’s at least one confirmed COVID19 case at Elgin already.

I’m also told that precautions are lax. Floors get mopped, but there is less attention to sterilizing surfaces on the clinical units than there was during the outbreak of MERS a year or two back. The pandemic is mostly a justification for more restrictive, punishing control over patients and violations of any inconvenient provisions in the Illinois Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Code. The prevailing attitude is suppressed terror and fatalism.

One out of three staff (maybe) wear masks on the units, and only intermittently. Keep in mind, this is a (so-called) hospital, but only staff are allowed to come and go. The (so-called) patients are locked in, and right now they are not allowed any visitors. The only possible source of the virus, if it gets in, is staff.

If it does get in, it will be a real shit show. Almost everybody is taking drugs that cause complex medical situations and put people at high risk for the virus. And of course, they’re all packed into the institutional milieu, eating together, sleeping in multi-bed rooms, with almost nothing to do but look at each other and interact crazily. It’s a made-to-order death camp. The people in charge have been pretending throughout their careers to be real doctors, but they’re bottom-of-the-totem-pole as MD’s, and they resent that fact and instinctively, subconsciously perhaps, take it out on the patients.

Anyway, I was thinking about all this as I got out of bed this morning, turned on the news and checked my phone. The group text chain, which I had started myself last week to put out some good news about the pandemic that somebody had sent to me, featured at least one new message. The group includes two of my sisters, two nieces, and three couples who are long and very close friends. They all know my views on mental health and the character of my legal work.

Here’s how it went.

SISTER #1: (Sending a picture, text over an abstract multi-hued background that might be peaceful water...) You know if you keep a glass of wine in each hand you can’t accidentally touch your face.

FRIEND #1: (“Loved” the image.)
FRIEND #1: A little early, don’t you think? 😜

SISTER #1: Everyone has their own standards. 🍷

FRIEND #1: (Sending a picture of a beautiful island scene, possibly from the Maldives or Bahamas, with text under it...) There is a massive upside to all this self isolation. With less travel, less pollution and less human activity, the earth is recovering and healing. This was Detroit this morning. 

SISTER #1: (Laughed at the image.)

ME: Looks like a disaster.
ME: We don’t need idyllic fucking island beaches. We need our vibrant, exciting and productive civilization back!! I’ve got a perfectly beautiful beach in my back yard.
ME: (Sending a URL to nice pictures of Detroit, the real city.) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Detroit?wprov=sfti1

SISTER #1: Well that was cheerful.

ME: 🙃
ME: I already spoke to two violent psychotic criminals this morning!

FRIEND #1: Go punch some pillows. 😜

SISTER #1: (Laughed at “Go punch some pillows.😜”)

FRIEND #2: Talk about contagious!

FRIEND #1: (Emphasized “Talk about contagious!”)

ME: You betchya! 😬😬

SISTER #1: Someone please send a spare Valium to the beautiful beach 🏖 

ME: Im thinking our wonderful system of “forensic psychiatry” is going to be an unholy disaster with virus outbreaks in facilities like Elgin & Chester looking like death camps.
ME: (I love Valium, btw.)
ME: (Especially I-V.)

SISTER #2: (Laughed at “Well that was cheerful.”

ME: Locking people up to “diagnose” and “treat” them for their thinking and behavior whether they like it or not will turn out to be at least as embarrassing as several things they did in Europe in the 20th century, and equally as criminal.
ME: We’re paying $800/person/day to screw around with fake “diseases” on unwilling “patients” ... while a real viral pandemic is killing people?
ME: Maybe we deserve to have great cities like Detroit reduced to desert islands.
ME: 😄
ME: There’s cheerful for you!

SISTER #1: You need more than Valium. Thanks for sharing your cheerful thoughts with everyone. I’m sure we all woke up this morning looking forward to a rant. Count your blessings.

FRIEND #1: Did you find a pillow to punch yet?

ME: Hey you guys just got lucky today. I’ll revert back to my more social self now.
ME: But just a quick parting comment (after a third conversation this AM with a violent psychotic criminal) to finish off the rant and refer to an historical perspective...
ME: ***Psychiatria delenda est!***

FRIEND #1: Please put (my wife’s name) on this text so she can keep an eye on you.😜

ME: No, that’s exactly why she’s not on it. But you’ll fucking rat on me, I know.😳

FRIEND #1: First chance I get! 😂

ME: 😘

SISTER #2: (Laughed at “First chance I get! 😂”)

Looking back over this text conversation, I’m mostly thinking I really like these people. I hope they all stay safe and healthy through the pandemic. I also hope that we all — all people in Illinois, and all people, including the six who have called me (by 2PM) today, begging me to help them not die behind the locked doors of the Elgin/Chester plantation — will soon be safer than we have been at the hands of the corrupt, sadistic, fraudulent system called “forensic psychiatry”.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Viruses, psychiatrists and Jack Crabb

I once answered an exam question about the borders of life. It may have been an undergraduate philosophy course final, or law school, I don’t remember which for sure. I wish I had a copy of the essay I wrote. A neighborhood social website conversation reminded me of this today. Somebody posted advice from a doctor about how to wash hands and clean surfaces to best avoid transmitting corona virus, which included the datum (from an MD, so of course true as “science”) that viruses are not alive.

Well, there’s a long and very interesting history of this issue. See, e.g., Scientific American, 2004.

The bottom line is, definitions and demarcations of life in terms of biology/chemistry/physics (let alone Western medicine) have some practical necessity and obvious uses, but they very quickly look arbitrary outside of their own limited contexts.

As I recall my essay answer to the exam question, it seems easiest to approach the question of what is alive on a purely experiential level. We all recognize outstanding human genius as strong evidence of life. The Beatles, Marylin Monroe, Einstein, Beethoven, Maimonides, Augustine, Sun Tzu... were proof that life is real. Life is certainly bright and distinguishable from pure solidity.

Then consider a level of just a bit less genius. Mario Cuomo, Anthony Fauci, Tom Zubik, Jitsy Wolf... these guys are certainly alive, with obvious influence and power way beyond what any inert object exerts.

Down the scale another step perhaps (apologies for any appearance of implied diminished value — just stand by, I’ll cure that shortly, I hope), we should consider retired uncles, circumstantially unemployed adults (there are suddenly a whole shitload of those!) and just ordinary people walking around or staying in their homes by order of the government, like the lady who forwarded the doctor’s advice about viruses this morning... these are all living human beings, unique and worthy of high respect. This is still easy enough to understand.

Below normal humans (again, bear with me) we relate to the disabled. Our ethics rightly demand that we acknowledge their fundamental humanity, but there is a long scale of disability from somebody who just has a touch of ADHD or depression, through the autism spectrum, to severe psychosis, Down’s syndrome and advanced Alzheimer’s dementia. Despite their humanity, these people do become less alive in a way, according to our honest experience.

Somewhere in the least fortunate depths of human disability, we may find ourselves embarrassed by our own higher affinity for nonhuman beings like our pets, or non-domestic animal species. Call of the Wild, Lassie, Black Velvet, Flipper and Old Yeller are not so fictional as to lack connection to honest emotions. I’ve known several Airedale terriers with whom I would rather hang out socially than a couple of my neighbors, not to mention members of my own family who spent excruciating years as hospitalized vegetables, (presumably, we hope for nobility’s sake) trying to die.

There’s a smooth transition from animals to plants, too. Coral looks entirely plant-like to me, but I know it’s part of the animal kingdom. Plants and animals are all alive, and we instinctively value them for that. I saw a Columbia cocaine smuggler shoot a beautiful dog for no good reason on the TV show “Narcos”, and it felt like a terrible crime. My son films ocean life for a not-for-profit, and to him it’s cruel whenever a fish in my saltwater aquarium dies.

Algae, and single cell plankton (are they plants or animals?) are clearly part of life. If we lose them, pretty soon nobody eats. We know we have to respect the Earth.

Bacteria are single cell life forms, too. They reproduce themselves asexually, by just dividing in half. We’d never say that they think — but lots of people wouldn’t believe my dogs think either. (And I know that’s wrong, at least as well as anyone knows what they even mean when they say “think”.)

Viruses have no cellular structure, but they do have DNA or RNA, and they can take over living cells, directing their activities and and using their structures and resources to replicate themselves. Viruses have certainly affected and contributed to the history and development of life on earth.

Other sub-cellular constituents like ribosomes, mitochondria and complex proteins are orders of magnitude larger and more interesting than simple molecules. However they are molecules nonetheless, they just have a lot more to do with life than simpler non-organic compounds

The smaller the particle gets, the more mechanical it may seem all by itself. But this is only true if you don’t get all the way down. Is an electron a particle or a wave? Quarks have spin and personality, according to physicists. Quantum uncertainty can’t really be deciphered and at the fringes of physics we have theories that seem as spiritual as they are physical. Solidity may be an illusion, things can always come further apart.

If the world really boils down to mathematical equations and probabilities, that’s not so far from pure opinions or subjective viewpoints, and experientially perhaps we’ve come around in a full circle, back to aesthetics and the genius.

My point is that there’s no objective fine line anywhere on this entire route to divide, e.g., superhuman from human, from subhuman, from animal, from life form, from organic, from molecular, from mathematical, from aesthetic, from superhuman once again. When we talk about life, that’s not any scientific, physics/chemistry/biology issue: it’s a philosophical issue. Physics, chemistry, biology (let alone medicine), for all their practical value in our regular world, cannot even conclusively settle whether our novel coronavirus is alive or not. We tell ourselves we are fighting a war with it, but we don’t even know if it’s alive!

In the movie “Little Big Man” Dustin Hoffman’s character Jack Crabb was told by the Souix medicine man whom he called Grandfather about the essential difference between the “Human Beings” (Comanche Souix) and the white man:

To the Human Beings everything is alive. Rocks, trees, water, animals... they are all alive. To the white man everything is dead, even (in an incredulous tone) PEOPLE!

Psychiatrists are the ultimate white men in this time of viral catastrophe. If we are in a war, may the human beings win!    

Friday, March 6, 2020

Yo, Joint Commission!

Today is probably your last day in this current inspection at Elgin Mental Health Center.

Think about all the possible stuff that will hit the fan between now and your next inspection, and the questions that will be asked, about why you were not interested or capable of effectively investigating, e.g.:

-  WIDESPREAD coverup of sexual abuse of the disabled at EMHC;
-  utterly endemic falsification of patient court reports which are filed as under oath;
-  a fundamental modus operandi of coercion, intimidation and dehumanization of patients.

Of course these are all generalities, as I state them here. I just want to be sure to get a word in before you leave EMHC today, all set to whitewash the plantation once again as a “hospital”.

But a former social worker was actually convicted of sexual abuse. There is ongoing civil litigation over the complicity and coverup. There is a treasure trove of facts that will be coming out.

A very senior administrator — none other than Dr. James Patrick Corcoran — has admitted in sworn testimony to covertly changing court reports over other clinicians’ signatures. This is perjury, one way or another.

I’ve spent 18 years hanging out at EMHC and teasing out evidence from patients and staff. The plantation is deeply, outrageously corrupt, and the public will know. Then they’ll ask why they fund your contract with the state, if you’re not doing your job.


You may call me if you like: 847-370-5410. (But I probably won’t hold my breath.)