A Warning; Madness and liberty; Kipling and Longfellow


View 754 Wednesday, December 19, 2012


A WARNING clip_image003

I got this email today:

: Warning: My email was hijacked by a SPAMBOT

This morning I opened an email from an old friend. It held one line that said "Hey, check this out" and a link to an article on MSN. I opened the article.

Evidently the article was a SPAMBOT. Soon thereafter I found numerous MAILER-DAEMON "DELIVERY FAILED" notices in my inbox. The evidence is that the SPAMBOT illegally used my e-address to propagate SPAM to those on my address book.

If you see an email from me in your inbox with the subject "Hey!", DO NOT OPEN IT! Delete it.

Thank you.

As it happens I had already received the deadly message purportedly from him, and I had marked it to be looked at later when I had time. I had not opened it but I might have. I don’t know what would have happened. In another time I’d have gone to a quarantined machine and opened it just to see what would happen, but I don’t do so much of that any more.

The site that leads to is http://msn. msnbc. msnbc- news3. com/jobs/ which I include so you can see that on first look it appears harmless, but on examination is fairly suspicious. In any event, stay away from it unless you are an expert at this sort of thing.

The subject of the message (at the moment) is Hey!  The message will come from someone who has your email address.  I think not from me; I never visited that site and I see no signs of anything out of the ordinary here. But be careful.


I am working on my essays, but I have been slowed down by many matters, some pleasant and some not so much so.

I also have to do a piece on the state of “mental health science” and the impulse to change the law. The Newtown school massacre has sparked two movements for federal legislation: one to limit possession of guns, the other to expand federal control over persons likely to commit crimes and expand federal power on “helping” people with “mental health problems.” Both are pernicious. The states have plenty of power in these matters. There is no need for new Federal legislation.

Of course the greatest influx of assault weapons into the hands of criminals was Operation Fast and Furious in which a Federal Agency under the supervision of the Department of Homeland Security arranged for more than 2500 AK-47 Assault Rifles to be passed along to Mexican criminal organizations. I don’t know the exact numbers, but I would bet that more than 27 people have already been killed by those Us Government Issued weapons than were killed at the Connecticut school – and of course the Fast and Furious count is not done yet.

As to the confiscation of weapons, it was said well enough long ago. http://www.jerrypournelle.com/archives2/archives2mail/mail269.html#copybook

Kipling’s poem, which we ought to read at frequent intervals, is also here, with some appropriate illustrations: http://andstillipersist.com/2012/11/the-gods-of-the-copybook-headings-illustrated/

And when we disarmed they sold us
And delivered us bound to our foes…


When I was in graduate school I became involved in the movement to limit mental health detentions. As Professor Cole put it, do not people have a right to be punished, rather than locked up forever for their own good? One case was that of a man who pleaded guilty to a sex crime for urinating on a school wall at a time when there were pupils present but he wasn’t aware of that: they were peering at him through a hedge. He was sent to Atascadero essentially at the pleasure of the State of California, and remained there for 10 years until he finally found someone interested in taking his case. He was drunk on beer at the time, and it was 0830 in the morning. He had not exposed himself to anyone before and was embarrassed. He had not realized that his guilty plea was to a sex crime and made him a lifetime sex offender.

Fifty years ago there were many cases like that, madhouses full of people who had long since ceased to be threats to themselves or others, but who were very useful as unpaid orderlies and attendants (trustees, of course) in the asylums.

We also had the Cold War, and the famous cases of people in the USSR sent to mental health hospitals for treatment for their dissent from Communism.

The result was a movement that did justice to a number of people who possibly deserved punishment, but their punishment became life sentences. Unfortunately the pendulum swung too far. From prohibiting imprisonment of sane people in madhouses it swung to abolishing the madhouse as if there were no madmen.

In those days before the reforms a panel of three, one policeman, one psychiatrist, and one official of an institution for treatment of mental disorders could commit someone for years. No judge and jury. Just a panel of experts.

Again the pendulum swung too far. Rather than tighten up the criteria for involuntary commitment, and possibly inserting some kind of judge and jury into the system for long term commitment particularly in cases in which there had not been a crime, only odd behavior, it became very difficult to put away people who were clearly out of their minds, and almost certainly dangers to themselves if not others – dangers to themselves if only because they could not refrain from driving others, like shop keepers, into fits of rage.

None of this is simple. Locking people away is a serious matter. So is madness. And the state of the sciences is such that we really don’t know what we’re doing. It is true that psychiatric medicines – meds – have changed schizophrenia from dementia praecox – young onset dementia – into something that can be ameliorated and possibly controlled. At one time a diagnosis of schizophrenia was essentially a diagnose of lifetime psychosis since there was no known cure or even amelioration, either on the medical side or among the various schools of psychotherapy from Freud to Rogers to Horney to – well, you get the idea.

Now the MD’s can prescribe meds which sometimes have real effects. They don’t precisely cure but they do arrest the deterioration, and some people on meds can function in a way nearly indistinguishable from those who don’t have one or another of the disorders. I decline to get into specifics here. I’m way out of date. The DSM didn’t really exist when I studied abnormal psychology in grad school. Of course there is a good argument that the DSM was essentially a device for the convenience of insurance companies and mental health practitioners who could put in labels for getting paid by someone other than the patient; but that’s another conversation.

I don’t think anyone has a solution to the problem of detecting and deterring mad killers. I do think that leaving it to the states, with some possibilities of intervention by the federal courts on behalf of those involuntarily committed, is a deeply flawed system – but far better than anything we could get from a Congress advised by “mental health experts.”

We are, after all, dealing with fundamental matters of freedom. What is one free to do? At what point have you made it clear that you are a real danger to the world although you have not yet harmed anyone? These are matters of deep concern for those who love freedom.

Freedom is not free. And eternal vigilance remains the price of liberty.


We do not teach poetry in school any longer. When I was in school from first grade through high school graduation we read numerous poems, and were required to memorize and recite some of them. It is a practice that might be reinstituted. See my references to Kipling’s Gods of the Copybook Headings above.

I was recently reminded of this by Longfellow. At one time half the people in this nation could have recited it. Many who have never heard the entire poem will find familiar lines and phrases.


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

                    SAID TO THE PSALMIST

    TELL me not, in mournful numbers,
        Life is but an empty dream ! —
    For the soul is dead that slumbers,
        And things are not what they seem.

    Life is real !   Life is earnest!
        And the grave is not its goal ;
    Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
        Was not spoken of the soul.

    Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
        Is our destined end or way ;
    But to act, that each to-morrow
        Find us farther than to-day.

    Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
        And our hearts, though stout and brave,
    Still, like muffled drums, are beating
        Funeral marches to the grave.

    In the world’s broad field of battle,
        In the bivouac of Life,
    Be not like dumb, driven cattle !
        Be a hero in the strife !

    Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant !
        Let the dead Past bury its dead !
    Act,— act in the living Present !
        Heart within, and God o’erhead !

    Lives of great men all remind us
        We can make our lives sublime,
    And, departing, leave behind us
        Footprints on the sands of time ;

    Footprints, that perhaps another,
        Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
    A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
        Seeing, shall take heart again.

    Let us, then, be up and doing,
        With a heart for any fate ;
    Still achieving, still pursuing,
        Learn to labor and to wait.


As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man—
There are only four things certain since Social Progress began:—
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;

And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!






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