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While We Still Have Time

In spite of the grimness of the times in which we live, there is still hope. If you feel, like I do, that the usual discourse about matters of critical concern tends to be superficial, misguided, and false, then you might find some solace and inspiration here. I will try to offer insight and a holistic perspective on events and issues, and hopefully serve as a catalyst for raising the level of dialogue on this planet.

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Location: Madison, Wisconsin, United States

I was born in 1945, shortly before atom bombs were dropped on Japan. I served in the U.S. Army from 1968 to 1971. I earned master's degrees in Economics and Educational Psychology, and certificates in Web Page Design and as a Teacher of English as a Second Language. I followed an Indian guru for eight years, which immersed me in meditative practices and an attitude of reaching a higher level of being. A blog post listing the meditative practices I have pursued can be seen here.

Monday, April 25, 2016

If Only...

Like millions around the world, I was stunned and saddened by the unexpected death of the popular musician Prince on Thursday. He was a force, both of personality and music, and appealed to likely the widest range of people that any performer has.

I first became aware of his talent when I heard the song "Purple Rain" in a bar full of U.S. Marines in Kailua, Hawaii, in 1984. It was a pretty unlikely place, but there I was in the Marine hangout, feeling completely alien until "Purple Rain" played over the sound system. The Marines sang along with it, turning it into a rousing drinking song. It was bizarre, but the song was so good that all sense of isolation departed. The Marines were from the nearby Kaneohe Marine Base, and they seemed to recreate en masse rather than dispersively.

Several years later I went to see the concert movie "Sign o' the Times," with Prince and Sheila E. doing some of the best rock 'n roll I have ever seen. He had it all - voice, guitar virtuoso, rhythm, personality, dance moves, and a sense of humor. I expected more of the same from him over the years, but have had a pretty passive approach, letting it come to me rather than pursuing it. My music tastes are more rootsy, by-and-large, and Prince's music tended in a more pop direction.

Then came the Superbowl Halftime Show in 2007. I generally don't watch the Super Bowl, having a growing revulsion for pro-football. The Chicago Bears were playing in the game, so I had some mild interest, still only watched about 10 minutes. But the halftime show with Prince, that was a must.

And he delivered. In a rain storm. These performances have grown into crass spectacles, but Prince went beyond spectacle, bringing it in, but transcending. The stage was wet with rain, and the downpour made playing an electric guitar a risky endeavor. Prince brought the rain in, and it became the backdrop of a blazing version of Purple Rain to finish with. I was in awe, witnessing on TV the most intense, sincere, and humble, really, performance I had ever seen. He poured his heart into that 12 minutes. It seems trite to say we will never see the like again, but I can't imagine anyone topping what Prince did that day.

Now he's dead. Reports are coming out about how he had overdosed on the pain-killer Percocet. He apparently was suffering from pain in one of his hips. He also had stayed awake for 154 hours before his death, which is curious, given that painkillers are sleep-inducing.

We will find out more in the coming days. Some are arguing that the media hysteria over Prince's death has gone too far, losing all sense of priority and proportion. There are many people drowning in the Mediterranean, desperate to escape war and poverty. Bombs are killing innocent people all over the Mideast. Terrorism is a looming threat. The Zika virus threatens us all. Climate change might render the human species extinct.

It will pass. The mass information media do what they do. Hyperbole, from which we get the word hype, is their stock-in-trade. In the case of Prince, there had to be hype, almost as if this were his final, over-the-top performance. We need our mythological heroes, and in an age where a crude rabble-rouser like Donald Trump is the most popular candidate for the presidency, attention to the legacy of Prince provides a healthy counterbalance.

Something we might want to consider, though, is the influence that pharmaceutical pain killers have on our society, and the role that pharmaceuticals in general play in our lives. PBS's Frontline aired a segment in February which showed death rates from opioid addiction are over 27,000 per year, 40% more than are killed in car accidents.

We are all at risk. I have had a few near-death experiences just from taking "normal" pharmaceuticals. As doctors are wont to say, they ALL have side-effects, and if you take too much of one, too little, or in combination with something that interacts negatively, you could suffer severe illness or death, and in a short time.

Luckily, I no longer have to take Warfarin, a blood-thinner that interacts badly with just about everything. I also no longer take Simvastatin, a cholesterol drug that I didn't need in the first place, and which caused a severe reaction that took a couple of years to recover from. It was horrendous. I was in intense pain from head to toe - joint and muscle.

I gradually healed from the Simvastatin episode by doing dietary changes recommended by a naturopathic physician, along with taking various supplements, doing yoga exercises, and use of a homeopathic cream called The Rub. Along with many other natural health products, it is available at Madison's Community Pharmacy. Other natural healing substances can be found at Willy St. Coop, so between the two of them I am able to minimize the use of pharmaceuticals. Meditation is also helpful.

A couple of months ago I had some dental surgery done that required, supposedly, that I take a series of antibiotics and a pain medicine, hydrocodone - one of the opioids that is killing so many people. The overuse of antibiotics in our food and in medical practice is reaching a crisis, as was depicted in a Frontline episode almost two years ago.

The oral surgeon who operated prescribed both of these medicines without pause or warning. It is standard practice, and until directed from above - licensing authorities, the Food and Drug Admininstration, the Centers for Disease Control, etc. - it will remain standard practice.

I took neither medicine. Trusting what I learned from naturopaths and other holistic care practitioners, and from my own experience, I reduced the pain by consuming moderate amounts of turmeric, a spice from a plant root that reduces inflammation. Instead of taking antibiotics I prepared my own concoction of raw onion and garlic, topped with olive oil in a piece of pita bread. I was out of pain in one day, and had no infection.

Back in the 1990s a primary care practitioner told me I had a condition known as acid reflux disease, or GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease). It's another way of saying chronic heartburn, but a fancy disease name makes it more official-sounding. And more inviting to pharmaceutical intervention. I was prescribed Lansoprazole, a protein pump inhibitor. This was followed over the years by other "prazoles" of various names. They all worked. At least if "worked" means they eliminated excess stomach acid. They eliminated ALL stomach acid.

Then I found out that these drugs are not particularly good for one's health if taken for extended periods. The body needs stomach acid. I changed my diet and stopped taking prazoles. A company named Urban Moonshine offers a selection of digestive bitters that help prevent heartburn. Another company, Enzymatic Therapy, offers deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) in tablets, which also helps with digestion. Other brands also offer this remedy. This just happens to be the brand that I have.

Better than these supplements, though, is organic apple cider vinegar. A small amount can stop acid reflux, and taking it before going to bed prevents it. Sometimes, if I eat something with extreme digestive challenges, I take all three remedies.

From the perspective of official medicine and its chief sponsor - the pharmaceutical industry - this approach is anathema. There isn't big money to be made from natural treatment of illness. The established, credible, approved, official world is the world to be believed in and obeyed.

Prince, for all his freedom of expression and pioneering artistry, apparently believed in the official approach to pain management. He might have had other things going on, like addiction and recklessness, but I can't help thinking that if he had tried a few natural treatments for his pain he would still be with us. A lot of us are angry about Prince's death. A good place to direct it is the amoral pharmaceutical industry. From there we can look at the panoply of other official myths that pass for truth these days. Like this.

Here is a series of Prince songs.

We are all flirting with the Apocalypse.

Here's an old song.

This song is by Maurice Williams and the Zodiacs, something we all wish Prince had done.

April 27 update: Here's an example of what Prince meant to other musicians.

May 4 update: There is another problem caused by our obsession with pharmaceuticals. When they leave our bodies they don't just disappear into the atmosphere. They get ingested by every form of life that is "downstream."

Prince apparently was scheduled to meet with a doctor who specialized in treating addiction the day after he died. Here's more info.

Prince also gave tens of thousands of dollars to an organization that works with orphans in Afghanistan, of which there are many, thanks to our "leaders."

Update, June 5: An article in Salon describes how overprescription of antibiotics is putting us all at risk. You may find Salon to be problematic. It has become a click-bait site, and will crash any browser. Some users seem to be able to navigate the site without problem by installing an ad blocker.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

After the Fall

As we have long suspected in Wisconsin, the real purpose of the voter ID law enacted by the "Republicans" in the state legislature is to suppress the vote. A former "Republican" legislative aide said so publicly last week, describing a planning meeting where one state senator said that all he cared about was winning elections regardless of the negative effects. A former state senator, who is now serving in the House of Representatives in Washington, let it slip that the intention of the law is to elect "Republicans." The Congressman, Glenn Grothman, also said "I think Hillary Clinton is about the weakest candidate the Democrats have ever put up. And now we have photo ID, and I think photo ID is going to make a little bit of a difference as well."

The same is true nationwide. Legislatures dominated by "Republicans" have introduced voter ID laws in 41 states since 2011, and 18 of them have been successfully enacted. A Frontline investigation in 2014 revealed how the laws are not about voter fraud, but to restrict voting.

Given the putrid candidates the "Republicans" are offering for president this year, the voter ID laws likely won't be enough to ensure victory. Still, they are confident that they can prevent Obama's Supreme Court nominee from being confirmed long enough for their presumed "Republican" president can nominate someone more to their liking, i.e., a "Conservative" sociopath.

What, I wonder, makes them so confident? What do they know that the rest of us don't know? Given that they have no qualms about suppressing the vote, and stole the 2000 and 2004 elections, it is an easy conclusion that they have something up their individual and collective sleeve(s).

It's not the end of the world. Donald Trump is right: the system is rigged. In a likely contest of Hillary Clinton versus whomever non-Trump candidate the "Republicans" come up with it will truly be a choice between the lesser of two evils. She will be a terrible president, as will be Cruz, Trump or Kasich. None of them will do anything that needs to be done, and all of them would do things that are harmful to people and the planet.

The "Republicans," of course, will be worse. The political parties are essentially criminal organizations, but they exist along a continuum. It is not the continuum of "left" to "right," but of perfidy and evil. What they have in common is the burning need to win elections. The "Democrats" rely on fooling the less-well-off and more-civilized, while the "Republicans" are more about crony capitalism, xenophobia and scapegoating. The lines of division between and among them are not drawn in stone, so there is plenty of crony capitalism and xenophobia on the "Democratic" side and plenty of fooling the less-well-off and more-civilized among the "Republicans."

Given the the two major parties are criminal and/or do-next-to-nothing parties, and that drastic climate change is encroaching, as well as the impending collapse of our infinite-growth economic system, one can easily conclude that they are speeding up the process of their own demise. The challenge for the rest of us is to find ways to prevent them from taking us with them.

How about another party? Today I attended the state convention of the Wisconsin Green Party. There were few attendees, and not much of significance went on. It's a party that has struggled for attention and impact over the years, reaching its pinnacle of sorts when Ralph Nader was its candidate for president in 1996 and 2000. Some still blame him for the "defeat" of Al Gore in Florida in 2000, when the real culprit was the "Republican" party, which suppressed the vote through various forms of chicanery, blocking people from voting, purging voter registrations, sending people to the wrong polling places, and various other methods of election fraud.

They had their chance. More than a chance. An abundance of chances. They squandered their opportunities, all in the name of petty narcissism and outright sociopathy. Their time is up. Let's get rid of them. The Green Party is small and ineffective now, but when people have had enough of the greater or lesser of two evils, they (we) might start looking elsewhere. The Green Party in Germany actually has people holding public office, with 63 representatives in the Bundestag, the national legislature.

Polar bears taking a break. They depend on our good will for their survivalIt isn't much, but it's a start. With increasing drought, forest fires, floods, storms, hurricanes, tornadoes,  rising sea levels, crop failures, species decline, the spread of disease, and worldwide economic collapse, something new will take the place of the old. Necessity is the mother of invention, and just as throughout history when circumstances converge, change takes place. The Green Party of the United States can be a catalyst and focal point for that change. On November 8 we "choose" a new president. On November 9 we can start planning for real change.

Here's a song. Here's another. And another. This too. And this.

R.I.P. Merle Haggard. This is my favorite of his songs. This is my second-favorite. Here's an alternate version. This was one of my mother's favorite songs. Alternate version. They even did this Merle song with the Beach Boys. Who'da thunk?

Update April 22 : Here's something we won't be seeing a movie about any time soon. It wouldn't conform with the manufacture of consent, which dictates the bounds of thinkable thought.

Meanwhile, back at the Great Barrier Reef.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Nowhere Men

British actress Helen Mirren is in a new movie, Eye in the Sky. She plays a colonel in some branch of the United Kingdom's military who is faced with an ethical and moral dilemma about ordering a drone strike. It is billed as a "thriller." In other words, it is a commercial production intended to make money by thrilling people. It is thrilling when big name actors are faced with ethical dilemmas.

Not so much for the thousands of people who have been killed and injured by drone strikes.

Mirren talked about the movie on the Charlie Rose Show last week, and said that since making the movie she has been told that many present and former authorizers of drone strikes agonize over ethical questions in exactly the same way as portrayed in the movie.

This of course doesn't match the historical record, which shows that U.S. drone strikes in Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan in one five-month period killed the wrong people 90% of the time. I suppose the people in these countries should be happy that so much agonizing over the ethics of these strikes took place. It could have been 100%.

But the movie is a thriller. Teeming hordes are supposed to flock to theaters to watch actors struggle with ethical and legal questions that in real life matter little, if at all. The movie serves its purpose. The good guys win again, as they (we) always do. Like Zero Dark Thirty and American Sniper before it, Eye in the Sky serves the propaganda needs of the Deep State, in this case a depiction of its British adjunct.

So it goes. The Deep State trudges on, making all its nowhere plans for nobody. The "leftist" approach to the Deep State is to whine and cringe in fear, giving it more power than it would have otherwise. I take a different approach. Let's look at what the future holds for the almighty Deep State.

The Deep State, or alternatively the National Security State, is just a collection of men. That there are many thousands of men in the Deep State doesn't make it any less or more than a plural of men. They have power, for sure, but it is the power of the bully. They can spy, kidnap, torture, start wars, bomb, assassinate, destroy, conceal and deceive with seeming impunity. They can prop themselves up with heroic movies and TV shows. But they all have feet of clay, all are fallible human beings with egos and weaknesses. They are all mortal, and time is not their friend. We are in an era where the industrial mandate of civilization has reached the point of self-destruction. The technical behemoth does not have the wherewithal to solve the problems it has created. The Deep State can by its very nature only make things worse.

So, rock on Deep State. See where it gets you. I can tell you in advance. Nowhere, man.

Here's a song.

Here's an update on the long folly of the Deep State.