Tag Archives: Blogging

Contagious Evil

The Moon shines no light of its own.  It merely reflects the light from another source, our sun.  It makes no conscious choice on what it reveals to us . . .

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For the moment I sit and seem to be without words.  So, I’m trying an exercise where I just write something, anything, just to see what shakes loose.  It’s strange, that the internal dialog in our minds never wants to shut up, but my writer’s voice goes away every once in a while.

At the same time I’m having trouble writing in this blogging format, I’ve been restraining myself from lashing back on other social media platforms.  Reining in those words. Humm, injustice inspires me to want to speak up against it.  But that doesn’t always bring out the best in my writing.  Better to stay calm and deliberate and write positively.

But deliberating about which words to use, or writing about how to write, is not the same as telling a story.  Or delivering a message.  Deliberating can turn into avoidance.  I watched many a doctor do this back when I worked in the hospital.  I called it WWDD – Watch, Wait, Debate, Do Nothing.  Ultimately, the patient dies.

Excuses right.  Always have a rationalization.  Don’t want to get too close to that edge.  The sun got in my eyes.  I tripped over a rock.  I was adjusting my medications.  Humm, most probably the later . . .

But I do have to say, the tone of the conversations permeating cyberspace in recent weeks, at least in my neck of the words, has been a bit disheartening.  It sort of left me speechless and maybe even a touch morose.  I never thought I see a time when so much anger and hatred would spread.

A sort of virus had taken over, and evil one.  It seems like people have stopped really communicating and are just sort of screaming at one another.  Whomever yells the loudest wins.  Wins what?  I’m not sure.

And one of my goals in blogging this time around has been to try to find ways to bring people into the conversation.  To keep the discussion going.  To have people actually consider other viewpoints.  But one wrong word choice can shut the whole thing down or explode it.

So how does one write positively when addressing evil?

I was reminded about some workplace research I had recently read about.  Contagious Evil.  Of course, the authors didn’t call it that.  They used terms like “corruption,” “spill-over effect,” “misconduct,” and “bad apple.”

The Harvard Business Review’s study determined that Contagious Evil (we’re going with my terminology) has a social multiplier of 1.59, meaning each time an incident of misconduct occurs, another event of misconduct will be triggered 59% of the time by peer effects.  The study focused on financial advisors, who it turns out are 37% more likely to commit misconduct if they collide with a co-worker with a history of misconduct.  And the effect can be stronger if the two doing the colliding are in the same ethnic group.

Interesting, if a colleague in your workplace lies, cheats or steals, and you are aware of this, you have a greater than 50% chance of joining in the violation or embarking upon your own dance of misconduct.  It’s as though the original evil one handed you a get-away-with-evil-free card.  A license to do bad, because, well, someone else got away with it.  Your chance to settle some imaginary score?  Get back at all those little injustices being perpetuated against you?  Perhaps.

This “spill-over” phenomenon has been witnessed in other contexts, like how one mass shooting or a suicide seems to trigger others.  A whole bunch of theories have been propounded to try to explain this contagious communal thinking.

Like the moon, an individual may not engage in any conscious determination of their actions, but merely reflect the thoughts, actions and beliefs of others.

One theory is simply called the “Contagion Theory,” where collective behavior is like a crowd induced hypnosis – irrational and emotional.  Another is “Convergence Theory.”  The crowd behavior reflects the beliefs of the individuals before they joined the crowd, so what pulled that crowd of like-thinking automatons together?  Maybe it was the media platform.

On the other spectrum, we have “Emergent Norm Theory.”  People, who are uncertain in how to act collectively, actually discuss how their behavior should be governed and allow order and rationality to guide them.  I haven’t seen much of that lately.

There is also the “Werther Effect,” so labeled from Goethe’s novel, “The Sorrows of Young Werther.”  Unrequited love ends with suicide and this was the inspiration for copycats.  The license theory – if it’s ok for someone else, they have granted me their approval and it’s ok for me too.

I don’t know if any of these equations can be applied to evil writing.  Collective thought and behavior put into words where the crowd only gathers figuratively.  Words of evil that for some reason seem to latch on to some imaginations.  Captivate and propagate more collagenous bile.  Will one person’s hateful rhetoric escalate, license and embolden?  Rising in a crescendo of a million voices, either echoing or repelling?  And can all of this hostility spill into the streets?  That seems to be what I’m seeing right now.

But then I think, just what is evil?  Evil is defined as profound immorality and wickedness and it takes on Biblical proportions when it has the qualities of a supernatural force.  But then we have the terms “immorality” and “wickedness” and who gets to define those terms?  We may all have different definitions, especially on morality.

We tend to look at things in the world with an eye of relativism not absolutism.  My crime was so minor when compared to murder, so I’m not a criminal.  Right?

And then there is the “Tonal” of times.  Morality changes over time.  Whatever the majority of the bee hive is thinking at this particular moment or era of time.  And that “Hive Think” can take over, be contagious.  Whether it is right or wrong.

We seem to be living in a time of rising intolerance, division, and social disintegration.  When I find myself speechless in the face of extreme ignorance though, I become concerned.  Are the differences so great now, the division so complete, that people think corrupting our democracy is worth the tradeoff of the loss of liberty?  The “my way or the highway mentality” feeding into authoritarianism.  Or instead of social consensus, is this merely reflecting a collective fear of deciding, of having to be responsible for one’s choices, so let’s have someone else decide, it will be their fault if it fails . . .

What do you think?  Is evil contagious?  Can the power of words be used to enhance the social multiplier, escalate collisions with “bad apples?”  Or provide a stamp of approval for behavior that is particularly wicked?

I don’t know if there is an off switch for what’s going on right now, but I do hope people will become more civil, will recognize truth, will compromise.  And hope they will start shining their own light, thinking and reasoning for themselves instead of being hypnotized with polarizing buzz words.  Be the reflection of themselves instead of becoming the reflection of other minds . . .

***

** So there, I managed to meander through my mind for a bit and put something reasonably coherent into kBs.  And hopefully I’ve done so having not offended anyone.

*** The “quoted text” is all my own.  I just wanted to set those lines off for rhythm 🙂

Photo: The moon doesn’t shine its own light. It reflects.

 

Once It’s Out There . . .

If you haven’t Googled yourself or your blog’s title in a while, you might just want to.  It’s fun.  I mean, I think all of us who are writing want exposure and want to develop a following, but you might be surprised to see what’s out there.

There has always been that ominous warning that once something is put out there on the Net, it’s out there forever.  Like it or not.  But that seems like a warning more appropriate for those crazy pictures people are inclined to put on their not-so-private Facebook pages.  Beware future employers 🙂

All things and words can fade with time.  Right?

You might want to rethink that before you put your next rant out there for the world to see.

When I was writing for newspapers and magazines in the 90’s, and then later blogging in the early 2000s, it seemed like my articles were perpetually floating around.  Now, those have virtually disappeared.  With a few interesting exceptions.

You see, other folks out there might snap up your writing up and use it for a purpose you never imagined.  Or, in one instance, I even received an “award,” or recognition,  I never knew about until years later.

In 1997, I authored a couple of editorials on vaccines.  Mind you, I’m not against vaccines.  All mine are up to date.  But I do believe people should retain their choice on whether they wish to have foreign chemical substances injected into their bodies.  Especially when toxic chemicals are added as preservatives.  And especially when those substances may be contaminated with other substances that you might not want in your body.  And especially since diseases can still be transmitted by those who are vaccinated.

I don’t believe in government coerced Kool-Aid.

At any rate, my articles might seem controversial.  I didn’t really think so since there was plenty of research to back up the data, and I believed the articles to be balanced in their presentation.  Nonetheless, they caused a bit of a stir when they were published.  And guess what, after all these years, they’re still floating about on the Internet.

I had published these articles with the Albion Monitor, and they had a great website.  Full attribution credit goes to them.  Here is their obituary:

R.I.P. Albion Monitor, born August 19, 1995 and passed away at May 5, 2009, at the age of slightly over 5,000 days, having published 13,000 articles, giver take. The corpse will remain on view indefinitely at http://www.albionmonitor.com and is survived by a handful of good on-line news operations, scads of blogs, and ten million tweets.

But, and this is a big BUT, after my articles were published on the Monitor some other webpages used my stories for their own purposes.  Purposes I would have never agreed to.

The first article was about contaminated polio vaccine.  It turns out I tied in 12th place for Project Censored 1999 Top 25 Censored Stories with this one.  You can find references to that here: 

https://books.google.com/books?id=dmvaVl_8yBwC&pg=PA60&lpg=PA60&dq=harold+stearley&source=bl&ots=RlpZicOuC9&sig=eulp91fdoRO_cdY9me9HvkLJKzI&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwibmZyt_LDbAhUS-6wKHbpUCPU4FBDoAQgoMAA#v=onepage&q=harold%20stearley&f=false

Or here:

http://projectcensored.org/12-millions-of-americans-received-contaminated-polio-vaccine-between-1955-and-1963/

And here are a few websites where you can still find my article now:

http://www.albionmonitor.com/free2/poliovaccine.html

http://fathersmanifesto.net/poliostearley.htm

http://www.rense.com/health/salk.htm

http://www.ioa.com/~dragonfly/vaccine2.html

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/soc.culture.zimbabwe/cb7cz3g0_ik

http://rubysemporium.org/health/body/polio-40yrs.html

The second article was about safety issues with the DPT vaccine.  And here are a few websites where you can still find either my article or references to it:

http://www.albionmonitor.com/free2/dpt.html

http://crazzfiles.com/vaccine-damaged-child-medically-kidnapped-when-parents-refuse-toxic-chemicals-and-choose-organic-foods/     Note:  They mistakenly called me a doctor in this one.

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!msg/autism-and-mercury-vaccines/XwZeXWt6KaY/1om-HRlhbcoJ

https://vactruth.com/2010/05/09/vaccines-cause-epilepsy/

http://whale.to/v/certain6.html

http://truemedmd.com/vaccinations-cause-autism/

https://vactruth.com/2010/07/23/fact-vaccines-have-never-eradicated-anything-ever/

The point being, once my articles were out there, I had no editorial control.  No one asked me for permission to use them or associate them with whatever their cause might be.  And it would not be an easy thing to get those sites to take down my articles.  Oh well.

I guess the message is write good content you’ll always be happy with no matter where it might show up 🙂

If any of you have had similar experiences, please feel free to share.

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Photo: An image I took of a unique location becomes its negative, or you might say an altered view with repeated printings – just like our stories can become over time 🙂

Note: All web links are subject to link rot.

By-the-way, I’ve been playing “Whack-a-Mole today with WordPress on spacing issues with this piece.  Each time I correct a spacing error, another is created, or a corrected line reverts back to an uncorrected state.  Or it takes two line spaces to create one.  Anybody else have these problems with WordPress?

***

And here are the articles and their references if anyone wants to read further.
The Forty Year Legacy of Tainted Polio Vaccine

In the late 1940’s and early 1950’s the polio virus was taking a savage toll on the American public. Thousands of children and adults were crippled or killed. In 1955, Jonas Salk performed a medical miracle when he discovered how to mass produce polio vaccine by growing it on the kidneys of rhesus monkeys. While there is no question that thousands were saved from the ravages of polio by the Salk vaccine, by 1960 a problem had surfaced — a problem which would come back to haunt the nation some forty years later.

The complication researchers had isolated in 1960 was a viral contaminate.

It seems that when the live polio virus grown on monkey tissues was extracted for vaccine production another virus was extracted as well, SV-40. When this monkey virus was injected into research animals it produced brain cancer. It appears our government didn’t wish to create a public panic or discredit the public health service, because instead of recalling the tainted vaccines, it quietly ordered the manufacturers to find a monkey free of SV-40 and continue production. As of 1963, the rhesus monkey had been replaced with the African green monkey for production of a safer polio vaccine, but between the years of 1955 and 1963 as many as 98 million Americans had received doses of live polio virus vaccines tainted with SV-40.

Jumping to the early 1990’s, Michele Carbone, Assistant Professor of Pathology at Loyola University in Chicago, isolated fragments of the SV-40 virus in human bone cancers and in a particularly nasty form of lung cancer called mesotheliomas. The viral contaminate from the 50s was back to haunt us, and appeared in 33% of the osteosarcoma bone cancers studied, in 40% of other bone cancers, and in 60% of the mesotheliomas lung cancers. Dr. Carbone believed this study could explain why 50% of the current mesotheliomas being treated were no longer occurring in association with their traditional cause of asbestos exposure.

Already sounding like a bad science fiction story, the worse news was yet to follow. An Italian team of researchers from the Institute of Histology and General Embryology of the University of Ferrara lead by Dr. Fernanda Martini discovered SV-40’s presence in various other tumors.

To be specific they found the monkey virus in 83% of choriod plexus papillomas, in 73% of ependymomas, in 47% of astrocytomas, in 50% of glioblastomas, and in 14% of meningiomas.

While the virus’s appearance in all of these types of brain tumors is mortifying, even more so is the fact that it materialized in 23% of blood samples and 45% of sperm fluids taken from normal individuals — normal meaning free of disease at the time of testing. The researchers determined the virus could be transmitted sexually and through blood transfusions.

As if to drive this point home, SV-40 has appeared in 61% of all new cancer patients — patients too young to have received the contaminated vaccine being administered forty years ago who are now believed to have been infected by human to human transmission. Being a blood born organism, it is also suspected that SV-40 is transmissible from mother to child during pregnancy.

The more this matter is researched the more startling the evidence. Senior epidemiologist at the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Howard Strickler, has plotted a geographic pattern to the cancers associated with SV-40 helping to confirm its link to the tainted vaccine. People who lived in Massachusetts and Illinois who received identified lot numbers of the contaminated vaccine administered in the 1950s are now demonstrating ten times the rate of the osteosarcoma bone tumors as those who received vaccine free of the SV-40 contaminate in other parts of the country.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandates that every American infant and child receive polio vaccinations. While public health officials continue to emphasize how current supplies of the vaccine are safe, Peter Reeve, FDA Virologist, has acknowledged that the administration abandoned independent testing of vaccine purity some fifteen years ago. The job of ensuring safety and purity rests squarely on the shoulders of those manufacturing the vaccines with no federal oversight. Wyeth-Lederle controls the supply of all the oral polio vaccine in this country, and last year’s sales totaled some $230 million dollars. Surely there would be no conflict of interest in allowing this corporation to be the sole agent of quality oversight of their own pocketbook?

The government may not have paid attention to the quality of these vaccines, but they had formulated a plan for their distribution. Federal vaccination policy advocated the use of live-virus oral polio vaccine (OPV) based on the belief the live virus shed in the body fluids of infants immunized with OPV could immunize others through contact exposure. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) insisted this was a safe practice, and emphasized that no one previously vaccinated could contract the disease in this manner.

The public was never informed of this strategy, however, and no consent was ever obtained from the unknowing participants in this vaccination scheme. One hundred and twenty people, many previously vaccinated, contracted polio as a result of this practice. To add insult to injury in 1994 the World Health Organization proclaimed polio was eliminated from the Western Hemisphere. Insult because for the past seventeen years the only cases of polio occurring in the United States have been caused by the vaccine itself, and injury because this victory will be paid for in blood from the cancers produced by the monkey virus spread with the vaccine.

One might ask just how such a thing could happen considering the injectable form of the vaccine (IPV) does not use a live virus and doesn’t transmit the disease it is designed to shield us from? Well, Wyeth-Lederle’s leading competitor Connaught produces IVP which could explain why Wyeth lobbied so hard against the CDC recommending increased use of IVP. In 1996 the CDC revised its recommendation from four doses of OPV to two doses of IVP followed by two doses of OPV, however, physicians have been instructed to give all four doses as OPV if they desire. The cost of IVP vaccine is $5.40 per dose, whereas OPV costs $2.32 per dose. With the difference in cost favoring the use of OPV, and the current climate of regulating health care costs, clearer guidelines must come from the government if they truly expect to increase the use of the safer IVP vaccine.

Well the story of contaminated polio vaccine is not over yet.

Microbiologist Howard Urnovitz, Ph.D. provided significant evidence at the Eighth Annual Houston Conference on AIDS that human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) is a monkey hybrid virus which was produced when 320,000 Africans were injected with polio virus contaminated with live simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) in the late 1950’s. Apparently, viral fragments combine easily with other viruses to produce these hybrids called “chimeras.”

This theory was confirmed by another research team headed by Dr. B. F. Elswood at the University of California in San Francisco. Interestingly enough, when researchers Cecil H. Fox and John Martin applied to the National Institutes of Health for grants to confirm the presence of SIV and simian cyto-megalovirus (SCMV) contaminates in polio vaccines their requests were denied. Dr. Urnovitz may have an explanation as he stated in the Boston Globe, “that almost 100 million Americans were exposed (to SV-40) through a government sponsored program, but for over 30 years, there has been virtually no government effort to see if anyone’s been harmed by the exposure.” He added, “The government will not fund science that makes it look culpable.”

Could it be our government, once again, is attempting to avoid a public panic while ignoring the great potential for harm these viruses could inflict. Time will tell. Harvard Medical School professor, Dr. Ronald Desroier points out that taking all known scientific evidence into account that the medical experts’ knowledge is limited to “perhaps 2% of existing monkey viruses.” Who knows what lethal virus may be discovered in our blood streams forty years from now as a result of good intentions….

References:

Berleur, M. P., & Cordier, S. (1995). The Role of Chemical, Physical, or Viral Exposures and Health Factors in Neurocarcinogenesis: Implications for Epidemiologic Studies of Brain Tumors.  Cancer Causes and Control, 6(3), 240-256.

Bookchin, D., & Schumaker, J. (1997). Tainted Polio Vaccine Still Carries Its Threat 40 Years Later. The Boston Globe, January 26.

Carbone, M., et al. (1996). SV-40 Like Sequences in Human Bone Tumors. Oncogene, 13(3), 527-535.

Elswood, B. F., & Stricker, R. B. (1995). Polio Vaccines and the Origin of AIDS. Medical Hypotheses, 42(6), 347-354.

Fisher, B. L. (1997). Workshop on Simian Virus 40: A Possible Human Polyomavirus. National Vaccine Information Center, January 27, On-line at http://www.909shot.com/polio197.htm>http://www.909shot.com/polio197.htm.

Krieg, P., Amtmann E, Jonas, D., Fischer, H., Zang, K., & Sauer G. (1981). Episomal Simian Virus 40 Genomes in Human Brain Tumors.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 78(10), 6446-6450.

Lednicky, J. A., Garcea, R. L., Bergsagel, D. J., & Butel, J. S. (1995). Natural Simian Virus 40 Strains are Present in Human choroid Plexus and Ependymoma tumors.  Virology, 212(2), 710-717.

Martini, F., et al. (1995). Human Brain Tumors and Simian Virus 40.  Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 87(17), 1331.

Martini, F., et al. (1996). SV-40 Early Region and Large T Antigen in Human Brain Tumors, Peripheral Blood Cells, and Sperm Fluids From Healthy Individuals. Cancer Research, 56(20), 4820-4825.

Pass, H. I., Kennedy, R. C., & Carbone, M. (1996). Evidence for and Implications of SV-40 Like Sequences in Human Mesotheliomas.  Important Advances in Oncology, 89-108.

Rock, A. (1996). The Lethal Dangers of the Billion Dollar Vaccine Business. Money, December, pages 148-163.

Tognon, M., et al. (1996). Large T Antigen Coding Sequences of Two DNA Tumor Viruses, BK and SV-40, and Nonrandom Chromosome Changes in Two Glioblastoma Cell Lines. Cancer Genetics and Cytogenics, 90(1), 17-23.

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The Tainted History of the DPT Vaccine

In his article, “Study: Media Unintentionally Distorts Child Vaccine Risks,” David Williamson reports on some of the controversy surrounding the safety of the Diphtheria, Pertussis, and Tetanus vaccination (DPT). The debate over the safety of this vaccine cocktail has raged for decades, not just in our country but around the globe.

There’s no question that DPT vaccinations save lives; they have lowered the annual pertussis deaths from about 1000 annually to less than ten. Unfortunately, as reported by the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), the form of the vaccine used and sanctioned by the Centers for Disease Control also kills as many as 900 children per year, and leaves one of every 62,000 children immunized with permanent brain damage. Are those acceptable risks?

To add insult to injury, a purified vaccine is available that’s virtually reaction-free, and has been produced and used in other countries for over 15 years, using technology the U.S. abandoned in the 1970’s. The catch: it costs $9 more per injection.

While most parents would happily cough up the additional nine bucks to ensure their children’s safety, drug companies have lobbied to delay the use of the purified vaccine (acellular) for as long as possible — it might cut into their inflated 50 percent profit margins per vaccination.

Before digressing too far into the politics and economics of the public health system in this country, a brief world tour of DPT’s tainted history is in order.

By 1972, six major US pharmaceutical companies had developed a purified (acellular) form of the pertussis vaccine which was virtually reaction-free. Unfortunately, the purification process yielded less of the active component necessary to confer immunity increasing the cost of production from cents to dollars per dosage. Acellular vaccine production was abandoned. In 1977, British researcher Dr. Gordon T. Stewart, of the Department of Community Medicine at the University of Glasgow, documented adverse reactions to DPT vaccine and evaluated the benefit to risk ratio for children in the United Kingdom. His research demonstrated that 1 of every 54,000 children receiving the vaccine suffered encephalopathy (brain disfunction) with rare instances of mental retardation ensuing. Other symptoms included fits of screaming, unresponsiveness, shock, vomiting, localized paralysis, and convulsions.

Of the 160 adverse cases he examined, 40 percent demonstrated hyperkinesis (increased muscle movements accompanying brain dysfunction), infantile spasms, flaccid paralysis, and partial or complete amentia (severe mental retardation).

He determined that adverse events were severely underreported or overlooked, that no protection from the disease was demonstrable in infants, and that claims by official bodies that risks of whooping-cough exceeded those of vaccination were very questionable. He estimated the risk of transient brain damage and mental defect to occur in 1 out of every 10,000 vaccinated, and risk for permanent brain damage to occur in 1 out of every 20,000 to 60,000 vaccinated.

Sweden banned the pertussis vaccine from its vaccination program in 1979, related to concerns of safety and its questionable effectiveness. This country decided it would rather endure the disease as opposed to the vaccine. (Mr. Williamson correctly points out that the United Kingdom experienced outbreaks of pertussis during this time period, however, 100,000 cases with only 36 deaths was viewed by many as minor compared to the potential loss from mass immunizations of millions of citizens with a defective vaccine — do the math yourself — a potential for 900 deaths annually in this country alone from the vaccine.)

In 1980, German researchers, Tonz and Bajc, compared incidences of seizures caused by the pertussis vaccine in Germany with those in America. German children suffered seizures at the rate of 1 per every 4800 infants immunized while American children demonstrated a rate of 1 seizure for every 600 infants immunized.

Concerns for safety prompted Japan to replace the traditional whole-cell pertussis vaccine with the purified, acellular vaccine. By 1983, studies indicated that the efficacy of Japanese acellular vaccines was equal that of the whole-cell vaccines, and complication rates had been cut by 83 percent.

In 1984 Austrian researcher, Dr. Gerhard Wiedermann, at the Institute for Environmental Medicine at the University of Vienna, evaluated the risks versus benefits of continuing the pertussis vaccination program and concluded pertussis vaccinations should be discontinued. His research team recommended that only DT vaccinations be given, and pointed out while no deaths from the vaccine had been confirmed in their country that, “pertussis offers many ailments, sufferings, and possibilities of damage.”

That same year, Dr. Alan Hinman of the Division of Immunization at the Center for Prevention Services, along with Dr. Jeffrey Koplan of the Centers for Disease Control, produced a simulated model of 1 million children to examine the risks versus benefits of pertussis vaccine in the United States. These researchers concluded the over-all benefits outweighed the risks — but they also documented the extent of damage this vaccine can cause. One minor reaction was predicted to occur with every 2.5 doses, one case of convulsions with every 1,750 doses, one child would collapse (shock) with every 1,750 doses, one case of encephalitis would occur with every 110,000 doses with a case of permanent brain damage with every 310,000 doses. Magnify these risks five times as each child receives 5 doses to complete the immunization schedule.

In 1992, Doctors Paul Fine and Robert Chen of the Communicable Disease Epidemiological Unit in London performed a re-analysis of studies on DPT which revealed previously under-reported complications. Their analysis of the British National Childhood Encephalopathy Study lead to a four-fold increase in the estimated risk of encephalopathy associated with DPT vaccinations. The investigators added that “(research) biases that underestimate risk have received less attention (than those over-estimating risks),” and “the fact that such biases do exist makes it difficult to demonstrate convincingly that a vaccine is not responsible for rare, severe, adverse reactions.”

Dr. Kathleen Stratton and her colleagues at the Institute of Medicine reported in 1994 the Diphtheria and Tetanus (DT) portions of the DPT cocktail had been causally related to anaphylactic reactions (severe allergic reactions), Guillain-Barre Syndrome (numbness of the extremities with severe forms producing various degrees of paralysis), and brachial neuritis (inflammation of the brachial nerve). It remains inconclusive as to whether or not these portions of the vaccine cause residual seizure disorders, demyelinating diseases of the central nervous system (infections of nerve cell linings causing muscle weakness and visual disturbances), mononeuropathy (single nerve inflammation), and arthritis. As of last year, the Institute reported that no controlled clinical trials had been conducted to rule out a causal link between DPT and encephalopathy, demyelinating diseases, Guillain-Barre syndrome, and anaphylaxis!

When the major vaccine manufacturers lobbied Congress in 1986 to pass the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act (NCVIA) to absolve them of all liability related to adverse reactions caused by their products, they obviously had plenty to worry about. With this Act, the National Vaccine Injury Fund was established by levying a user tax against citizens for immunizing their children. Since its creation the fund has compensated 579 vaccine induced deaths adjudicated through the Federal Court of Claims to the tune of $700 million dollars. Forty percent (227) of these vaccine induced deaths were originally misdiagnosed as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Mind you, the American taxpayer now compensates the victims of these defective products, while the major manufacturer and supplier of DPT in the U.S., Wyeth-Lederle, watched its profits soar 300 percent since the passage of this Act. Wyeth-Lederle earned $350 million in sales of DPT last year.

Mr. Williamson’s figures on the malpractice damage suits are somewhat misleading as well. There is a great difference between filing a malpractice case and having damages awarded to the victims of medical malpractice. All told, the dollar amount associated with litigation for negligent practice totals up to only one percent, or $10 billion dollars, of the total annual healthcare tab. (This is for all malpractice litigation, and vaccine litigation is but a small portion of this amount.)

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) confirms these figures which include all malpractice settlements, all malpractice insurance premiums, all legal fees, and all court costs. Furthermore, the Harvard Medical Practice Study revealed that of the one percent of patients estimated to be injured as a result of negligence only one-eighth ever discovered they were victimized and filed suit, and only one-sixteenth of those filing suits ever recovered any monetary damages. The damage awards themselves have been on a steady decline over the past ten years, and out of court settlements plummeted from an average of $2 million in 1993 to $1 million in 1994. Jury awards have decreased even further to an average of $500,000 per case.

It is probably correct that some 250 lawsuits were being brought against the manufacturers of vaccines by 1986 prior to the legislative relief granted to these companies. Problem is, there most probably should have been more — many more.

Most people don’t realize when they have been victimized by negligent practice or by defective products. Very few file suit, and when the cause of many of these deaths and disabilities are misdiagnosed it becomes very easy for this industry to write off its adverse reactions by saying they just happen to be a coincidence of normal childhood neurological disorders.

As pointed out earlier, 40 percent of the victims compensated after passage of the NCVIA had been misdiagnosed originally. This figure is consistent with many studies by pathologists documenting rates of misdiagnosis at 35 to 40 percent as to the cause of death in all range of ailments. An increase in autopsies appears to be indicated if one is to discount or subscribe to the coincidence theory.

While some argue the damage caused by these vaccines is rare, and over just how many have suffered these negative side-effects, it is clear that many adverse reactions go unreported, over-looked, or misdiagnosed.

(In one 20 month period alone, the National Vaccine Information Center documented 54,000 adverse vaccine reactions which included 700 deaths. Dr. David Kessler, now retiring commissioner of the FDA added that only 1 of every 10 adverse events associated with vaccines are reported.)

I personally can’t image too many crimes worse than destroying the life of a child with a product which is known to have negative side effects when there is a safer product available but simply not being pursued because there is not enough profit motive in it for the manufacturer — this is public health, not toasters which are being sold!

In 1996, the CDC approved using the acellular (purified form) of the DPT vaccine for use in 15 month-old children in the U.S., and it is now being evaluated in controlled trials. It is interesting to note that up until 1995, five of the nine representatives of the Centers for Disease Control Immunization Advisory Panel had financial ties to the industry. The Chairman, Dr. James Cherry, acknowledged the risks of severe brain damage and death from the DPT vaccinations in 1979, but by 1990 he had done an about face and declared these known dangers as being “myths.” Between the years 1980 through 1992, Dr. Cherry had received over a million dollars in unrestricted DPT research grants from Lederle — DPT’s largest manufacturer.

Some twenty-four years after the development of the purified vaccine, with the U.S. pursuing it once again, all that remains are the questions of the discarded victims and the fears of parents who must chose whether or not to immunize their children.

References:

Aoyama, T., Murase, Y., Kato, T. & Iwata, T. (1985). Efficacy of an Acellular Pertussis Vaccine in Japan. Journal of Pediatrics, 107(2), 180- 183.

Fine, P. E. & Chen, R. T. (1992). Confounding in Studies of Adverse Reactions to Vaccines. American Journal of Epidemiology, 136(2), 121-135.

Hallander, G. L. , Olin. P., & Storsaeter, R. E. (1996). A Controlled Trial of a Two-component Acellular, a Five-Component Acellular, and a Whole-Cell pertussis Vaccine. New England Journal of Medicine, 334(6), 391-392.

Hinman, A. R. & Koplan, J. P. (1984). Pertussis and Pertussis Vaccine. Journal of the American Medical Association, 251(23), 3109- 3113.

Rock, A. (1996). The Lethal Dangers of the Billion Dollar Vaccine Business. Money, December, pps. 148-164.

Stewart, G. T. (1977). Vaccination Against Whooping-Cough: Efficacy Versus Risks. The Lancet, 8005, 234-237, January 29.

Stratton, K.. , Howe, C. J., & Johnston, R. B. (1994). Adverse Events Associated with Childhood Vaccines Other Than Pertussis and Rubella. Journal of the American Medical Association, 271(20), 1602-1605.

Tonz, O. & Bajc, S. (1980). Zerebrale Krampfanfalle Nach Pertussis-Impfung. Schweizerische Medizinische Wochenschrift, 110(51) 1965-71. (English translation included)

Wiedermann, G., Ambrosch, F., Kollaritsch, H. & Kundi, M. (1984). Risks and Benefits of Vaccinations. Infection Control, 5(9), 438-444.

My bio for the Albion Monitor:

Harold Stearley, R.N., B.S.N., A.S.B., CCRN, has held various clinical and supervisory positions over his two-decade career.  His articles on “managed care” and the crisis in nursing have appeared in many nursing journals, and he was the author of “Nursing on the Edge,” a multi-part series which appeared in the Monitor last year.

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The Lesson of the Blue Jay

Forward:  Interesting.  Today I discovered that a group of Blue Jays can be called a “Charm,” a “Party,” a “Band,” or a “Scold.”  I think any of those terms could apply in relation to my story but Scold or Charm seem most appropriate 🙂  This article is bit longer than my usual posts at about 2140 words, but I hope you enjoy the read.

Publication Credit: It’s with great pleasure I note that my article was published in The Urban Howl on June 11, 2018, under the title of: “The Lesson Of The Blue Jay — How To Live Your Spirit Walk.”  If you’d like some great, uplifting reads on spirituality, imagination, soulful purpose and magic you should check out the Howl.

***

I heard what I thought was a Red Shouldered Hawk.  I was in one’s territory, and it would frequently make an appearance when I hiked this trail.  I once saw it on the ground and thinking it was injured I approached.  Instead, it quickly mantled the prey it had just caught, trying to conceal the now lifeless mole from me.  It showed no fear and I knew better than to try to get closer.  I said my hellos and continued on the path. But this wasn’t the hawk I was hearing today.

These last days of October felt like November, those days when it seemed a shade had been pulled over the sun, now hibernating until March.  It was one of those autumns where the conditions just hadn’t been right.  The moisture, temperature, sun light and the wind simply weren’t cooperating. Instead of the full spectral range of reds, oranges, yellows and pinks, mixed with the remaining traces of green, the leaves had rapidly browned out, and the wind hastened their descent to the now dormant ground.  Like charcoal drawings on canvas, the bare tree trunks and their branches silhouetted the gray, cloud-covered sky.

Although it wasn’t raining you could taste the humidity that thickly hung in the air.  That heavy air filled my lungs as I listened to my footsteps.  It was unusually quiet for this time in the woods.  It seemed all of the wildlife was napping, and then I heard it again.

I scanned the trees and located it in the lower branches of a bare hickory.  It was a Blue Jay mimicking the Red Shouldered Hawk.  The naturalists of old are said to believe that the Jay took delight in this deception.

But then they came.  More and more Blue Jays, and they were landing on both sides of the trail.  I found myself surrounded by an entire flock, all squawking at me.  Scolding me.  I had never seen so many Jays in a group before, perhaps twenty or more of them.  No other animal was in the woods.  No human other than myself.  I knew it was time to pay attention to the message being sent.  The Source was not going to let me ignore it.  And this message came at a particular time when I needed it.  I was sort of at a half-way point and needed to make that decision to push forward.

Once you do, there is no going back. The world will not be the same.

Blue Jay in Flight

For those of us believing in a more natural order in the Universe, there is a lot of “bird medicine” surrounding us.  And the Blue Jay has a particular lesson to teach, regardless if you subscribe to bird medicine or not.  But before we get there, we have to make note of the rising awareness that religion or spirituality is shifting in its definition and form.  It might be said that belief systems are returning to more tribal values and, perhaps, those are more valid and powerful because for many these systems hold more respect for the Earth and all life upon it.

I recently read the results from a study from by the Pew Research Center concluding that the American public is becoming less “religious.” Of course, being religious in this country is usually measured in terms of being a Christian, and my personal experience has taught me that many professing to be religious are living far from religious lives.  But I don’t think true believers and practitioners were screened out from the professors of religiosity in this study.

Putting mythological error, I mean methodological error aside, Pew surveyed over 35,000 “adults” (a topic for another day) and determined that a growing minority say they do not belong to any “organized faith.”  The overall Pew conclusion, which was partially attributed to the Millennial generation, was that: “Altogether, the religiously unaffiliated, also called the “nones,” now account for 23% of the adult population, up from 16% in 2007.”

“Nones.” What a strange term to apply.  While I understand the concept Pew was trying to capture, I think the terminology is off.  “Nones” implies non-spirituality and I believe many of these people are probably quite spiritual and probably much more faithful to their beliefs than many professed Christians, Muslims or Jews.  I just think spirituality is actually returning to its roots.  And there are many roots upon which spirituality grows.

The New Yorker recently published a piece about Anthony Kronman’s latest book titled: “Confessions of a Born-Again Pagan.”  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not endorsing this guy’s book, I haven’t even read it, doubt that I need to, but he is supposed to be smart guy – a Yale Law School professor with a Ph.D. in philosophy.  If you want to check out the article, you can find it here.

What I think is important are the thoughts behind this work.  Basically, people are combining philosophy, metaphysics, theology, law, biology, and history, along with their own unique experiences to compose a set of beliefs that is “spiritual.”  After all, “spiritual,” at its most basic level, simply relates to the spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.

And some fundamental and universal themes apply, like it’s not a good idea to go around senselessly killing living creatures.  This means all creatures as they all possess spirit.  There is also a common belief against raping the planet. It too, and every speck of dust upon it, possesses spirit.  It is alive, struggling under human kind’s relentless desire to exploit and poison it, but the Earth, and every part of it, is a living spiritual being.  No need to have someone wearing a special colored robe to tell us that, or to propagate the falsehoods that one creature is superior to another, or that particles of awareness exclusively belong to humans.

Being “pagan” is not some foreign concept, and maybe “born-again” doesn’t capture its increasing emergence in modernity.  It’s been around a long time and anyone can tap into that which is, ad lib. Being a “pagan,” minus all of the connotations applied by those whom might feel threatened by anyone not subscribing to their own particularized religious theory, means simply: “a person holding religious beliefs other than those of the main world religions” – the “Big Three.”

So yes, there is becoming more of an ad hoc, hodgepodge, create your own, make it up as you go along, system of “unorganized” spiritual beliefs.  And one can draw upon the Big Three, or Far Eastern religions that were around for centuries before the Big Three, or more native customs passed on through storytelling or apprenticeships.  I’m all for it because I believe that intuitively people know what it means to have a personal relationship with Great Mystery (just one term for the “Source” of all spirituality and life) than any one dogmatic doctrine could capture.  The more one gets in touch with and in tune with nature, the more one will touch, hear, feel and see the Spirit Source.

For me personally, this means an eclectic mix of Buddhism, Native American, Meso-American and Aboriginal teachings, and my own naturalistic contact with the Universe.  There are affirmations coming from nature constantly if one only pays attention and learns to interpret the language.  And this brings us back to animal medicine and particularly bird medicine and more particularly the Blue Jay.

Native cultures will teach that each living entity possesses its own personal power and the power described is frequently in terms of symbolism.  It is also symbolic in the cycle of life that if one species consumes another for survival, it absorbs or acquires the inherent power from that other species.  Symbolism is paramount, as with all religions and religious artifacts.  The symbols will differ, and so will their meanings and interpretations, but symbols are powerful.

If you think the Cross is a powerful symbol, you should take a ten-mile hike in nature and try to see and interpret all of the messages being delivered to you.  Some can be affirmations that you are on the right path, others warnings, others general lessons, many about recognizing true gifts and having gratitude.

Of course, having an “unorganized” system of beliefs leads to the criticism of “who gets to decide what means what?”  I’d say it’s up to the doctrines a person subscribes to plus that individual’s intuition, with one caveat, one must be “authentic.”  It’s not for others to decide for anyone else what someone should believe, but once a person decides what path, or combination of paths, they wish to follow, they should follow it (or them) and not constantly attempt to change the “rules.”  Master the doctrines or personal beliefs.  Don’t engage in a half-hearted horoscoping, cherry-picking and manipulating symbols to fabricate a self-aggrandizing prophecy of spiritual attainment or self-actualization.  Not all spiritual messages will be glossed over, ultra-positive, or rose-colored intoxicants.  Pursuing spirituality is hard work.  This is exactly what the bird medicine of the Blue Jay teaches us.

Interpreting symbolism can be a subjective endeavor, so drawing upon historical roots can be beneficial.  Personally, I like the work of Ted Andrews in his book “Animal Speak,” because he discusses historical and cultural interpretations of symbols and ties the common threads together to form a cohesive way of deciphering meanings; translating the language of nature.  His interpretations also seem to match my own personal experiences.  So, while some might say the Blue Jay signifies boldness, clarity, vision, truth, faithfulness, and solidarity, Mr. Andrews observes that this totem (an animal believed by a particular society to have spiritual significance) brings lessons regarding the “proper use of power.”  I would throw in the word “authenticity.”

Tracking the Latin and Greek origins of the word “Jay” and the symbolism of the bird’s markings and behaviors, Andrews notes the jay has the ability to “link the heavens and earth, to access each for greater power.”  While the Blue Jay can be fearless, the problem it presents it that it dabbles in both worlds, instead of becoming a master of either.  The Blue Jay is also a mimic.  So, when this animal totem brings its bird medicine message to you, it is time to decide if you are actually mastering ability in the psychic, metaphysical, and spiritual world, or if you’re dabbling.  Mimicking enough knowledge to give the impression of having mastered it.  As Mr. Andrews concludes:

“If the jay has flown into your life, it indicates that you are moving into a time where you can begin to develop the innate royalty that is within you, or simply be a pretender to the throne. It all depends on you. The jay has no qualms. It will teach you either.”

Blue Jay in Flight 2

Now this is taking a spiritual message and teaching it with authenticity.  It’s not all “feel-good” metaphysical-pseudo-religion, it is challenging you to take responsibility with the direction you take with your own spiritual path, regardless of what that may be – truly master it or mimic it, your choice.  It’s not a horoscopic prediction of finding your soul-mate or twin-flame.  It is saying that it’s time to get real.

Thus, the problem with the Pew study.  They didn’t measure authenticity.  If they had screened out the mimics, they might have found the majority to be less religious than believed, and the “nones” perhaps much more so.  That being said, I don’t wish to discredit any form of spiritual practice.  Regardless if you are a follower of one of the Big Three, or any of the Far Eastern Religions, or if you’re a Born-Again Pagan, if you can derive hope, kindness, and generosity from your practice; if you can demonstrate gratitude, tolerance, and compassion; if you can give unconditional love to every part and parcel of the spiritual creation, then you can become your authentic spirit.

At times, it may seem like we are always at a halfway point.  We’ve acquired knowledge, dabbled, and seem to be waiting for something to happen to us or for us.  I was at that point when the Blue Jays descended upon me.  Signaling it was time to decide.  And I did.

What we need to do is experience.  Practice what we believe to be the means to the spiritual path. It’s not about reciting, waiting, or even dreaming.  It’s about doing.  Doing will make you authentic.  Live your spirit walk.

If you want to talk, you can find me hiking through the many biomes, getting out of that comfort zone, exuding my unconditional love for all of life’s forms, taking a risk that this walking meditation will place my spirit in a place to confer with the Source.  There is no looking back . . .

***

Published in The Urban Howl on June 11, 2018.

Photos: I found these pictures on the Internet in the public domain.  It appears the feature photo was on flicker.com, although I could not replicate the search.  I was unable to track down a definitive source for the other two images.

Note: All weblinks are subject to link rot.

Morning Coffee

I can’t really explain time.

Right now, I know I’ve let days slip away without posting to my blog and it’s time to start writing.

Writing is sort of an addiction.  I love it.  And I am writing in my mind all the time.  But some days there are simply other things I need to do with my time, either to keep up with the mundane parts of life, or to find inspiration to bring stories to life.  Or maybe I should say, bring life to stories.  Creative time.

Of course, it’s not “my time” to begin with.  How could we possess something so ethereal?

Time has a way of standing still yet slipping by at the same time.  Especially when I’m with the people I love, or when I am taking time out in nature.  Time’s simply gone or was time there to begin with?  The true measure of time never really existed.  It is artificially set.  Having no more substance than turning hands on an arbitrarily numbered dial.

While time is an arbitrary concept, at least in the physical world, time is limited for us.  So, sharing that finite time with others is perhaps the greatest gift we can give.  Maybe we’ll have infinite time to share in the spiritual world.

For some reason we decided to define time by motion.  One day is equal to the time for the Earth to complete a full rotation on its axis.  To do that, the Earth is moving, rotating, at approximately 1,040 miles per hour.

In addition to its own rotational speed, the Earth is zipping around the sun at about 66,660 miles per hour.  A full rotation around our star takes what we’ve defined as a “year,” some 365 days in double rotational motion, more or less.

What’s more, the sun and our solar system are orbiting the Milky Way Galaxy at somewhere around 450,000 to 500,000 miles per hour.  This galaxy is huge.  It takes our sun about 225 to 250 million years of motion to complete that journey around the galaxy’s center – that’s called a “cosmic year.”

And if that’s not enough motion or time for you, our galaxy is moving in relation to other galaxies and is on a collision course with the Andromeda Galaxy.  These galaxies are moving toward each other at the rate of 252,000 miles per hour!

Are you dizzy yet?

And while time is an artificial concept based on motion, I can’t even tell you where I am at any given moment in time.  For I, and all of the atoms in my body, are in constant motion.

You see, under particle theory in quantum mechanics, anything, including us, have multiple probabilities of being in multiple places at the same time.  It is not until a measurement of some kind, often an observation of effect as opposed to seeing the actual subatomic particle, is taken that a “real” and yet temporary placement of anything or anyone can be defined.

My new goal is to be unmeasurable, so no one can place me anywhere at any given point in time.  I will remain in eternal motion.  How could I not be?

Actually, I’m really just having my morning coffee 😊

***

Photo:  My morning cup of coffee catches the first rays of the rising sun.

Philosophy Doesn’t Feed Me

But it does nourish me 🙂

So, I was nominated by my friend, Raynotbradbury, for the quote challenge, but she added a spin to it for us to pick an ancient philosopher for the quotes and to fill in any explanations we wanted.

The Rules:

• Choose the author or philosopher (it should be one from the Ancient Time).  Don’t know anyone?  Google it lol.  It shouldn’t be so hard.
• Choose 3 quotes of this author/philosopher.  The country of origin – doesn’t matter (Egypt, Greece…Italy).  Add any info or explanation if you like.
• Share those quotes and nominate 3 to 6 people.
• Oops, that’s not obligatory.
• The title for the post?  Choose something cool.  I know you are smart enough.

I really struggled with a title for this piece, I mean being “cool” is tough 🙂  I had put together an entire list I had to choose from.  But I like how the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence does nourish us, but not literally “feed” us.   And I explain the feature image and how I think it relates to the title below.

Bust of Socrates

I chose the Greek Philosopher Socrates (470-399 BCE) for a number of reasons.

For one, he is credited with being one of the founders of Western Philosophy and with being the first moral philosopher.  For another, a quote of his from his trial for impiety and corrupting youth has stuck with me ever since I first read about him, “An unexamined life is not worth living.”  And for another, I was subject to the “Socratic Method” of teaching when I went through law school.

Because Socrates didn’t put any of his thoughts in writing, what we know of him is from the accounts of others, like Plato.  I suppose, if you live by the axiom of “I write, therefor I am” Socrates may not have existed and was but a mere metaphor of analytic thought, a tale of others 😊

Regardless, his teachings have endured for centuries.

The Quotes:

I threw in an extra one.  Actually, two counting the one above.

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”
“Beauty is a short-lived tyranny.”
“The greatest way to live with honor in this world is to be what we pretend to be.”
“He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature.”

I picked these quotes because I think they represent true wisdom.  We should live our lives humbly with open minds, recognizing that material and superficial pursuits have no real lasting value, acting honorably, and having immense gratitude for all we have and all that surrounds us.

Socrates is a powerful representation because he was put on trial and sentenced to death for his thoughts.  Did the Greek democracy have the thought police?  Apparently so.  Socrates called out and questioned prominent Athenians, logically defeating their views and policies and publicly humiliating them.  The powers-that-be charged him impiety (not believing in the Gods of the State) and with corrupting the youth.  Yes, that ancient democracy felt so threatened they decided they must put free-thinkers to death and not let that cancer of thought spread.

The concept of “impiety” (religious persecution) was one of the reasons the Framers of the U.S. Constitution built in freedom of religion.  Thus, no State-sponsored favorite gods.

The Socratic Method of teaching used in law school works like this.  We were given our assignments in advance of class and then grilled by the professors in the class room.  The idea was to teach us the adversarial process and how to think on our feet – skills we would need in the courtroom.  There are many a good tale of personal humiliation inflicted by the professors, but you learned to be prepared.

My Nominees:

Little Joy Affair

Writer’s Choice

In The Middle of Somewhere

***

Photos:

Feature Image – DeGrazia – From the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun.  I’m not sure what the title of this painting is, but it depicts an Eagle and Indian, although the Eagle is somewhat vulturesque.  Is the great bird going to devour the Indian and feed on him or nourish him with knowledge.  This could be an image from a vision quest, after all.  The Eagle represents the illumination of the spirit, healing and creation.

I don’t think the full image shows with the format of the blog, so here it is.

DeGrazia - Eagle & Indian

Socrates – There are so many pics of sculptures of Socrates on the Internet in the public domain out there that I have no clue that there is anyway to provide an accurate attribution for this photo.

My Intuition Tells Me . . .

I bet you can complete this title.  And how many times has your intuition been correct? But just what is intuition?  Is it something instinctual?  Or simply a regular cognitive process? Is it rational to trust our “guts?”

I don’t know about you, but I continually try to tune into my intuition, and I believe it has saved my hide a few times.

I recently read a neuroscientist’s perspective on intuition.  To sum up her point of view, intuition is sort of a “predictive processing framework” whereby our brains are constantly taking in sensory information, comparing that information with accumulated knowledge and experience and then making a spontaneous decision based upon how these data “match” or align.  The process is said to be automatic and subconscious.

Intuition supposedly can be a sloppy process that can fail because it is based on outdated information.  However, analytical thinking, based upon more current information, can be too slow to allow a timely response and can also err when we over-think a problem or a situation.  These two types of “thinking” are theorized to work in concert giving us a good balance.  And there are times we use analytic thinking to make a post-hoc justification for a decision based on intuitive thinking.

That all sounds like a bit of over-thinking to me.

The neuroscientist says we can trust our intuition if we follow this thought algorithm:

“Thus, for every situation that involves a decision based on your assessment, consider whether your intuition has correctly assessed the situation.  Is it an evolutionary old or new situation?  Does it involve cognitive biases?  Do you have experience or expertise in this type of situation?  If it is evolutionary old, involves a cognitive bias, and you don’t have expertise in it, then rely on analytic thinking.  If not, feel free to trust your intuitive thinking.”

But none of this gives me a true understanding of how I just “know” I’ve hit my turn around point on the trail.  My gut tells me there is some danger out there if I continue and it’s time to go home.  As I leave, I hear a hunter’s shot ring out and a deer runs out of the underbrush and passes by me.  Or a large tree branch falls where I would have stepped next.

How about, when I walk into a business and I just get the vibe that something is about to go south there so I turn around and leave.  Then, I read in the paper the next day that there was a fight that broke out in that establishment and someone got shot.  Or the place was robbed just moments after I left.

Or I see a vehicle pass me on the road and just “know” something is amiss.  Then I later pass it as it sits a contorted mass, in a deadly embrace with a semitruck.

What about the times there is no danger?  But I “know” to follow a butterfly who leads me to a wonderous discovery.  An overlook into a canyon that was off-trail and thoroughly hidden. Inspiration and beauty, I would have walked right on by but not for my gut.

Or I meet a person and within seconds I’m sure they have a good heart.  As time passes, this assessment proves to be 100% accurate.  People seem to have that intuitive trust with me too, and often just open up to me and share very personal information before they know anything about me.  I can’t tell you how many times this has happened, and the person says to me, “I don’t have any idea why I’m telling you all of this.”

None of these situations appear to involve past or present sensory input that could lead to a predictive outcome.  It is merely a feeling or my “inner voice” that I have listened to.

As the Universe would have it, the same day I read the neuroscientist’s article I would be directed to another about the topic of what it means to be “clairsentient,” or to be someone who feels things very deeply.  Notice, this is not the same as being clairvoyant. Not the same as being able to “see clearly” or predict the future.

The author of this article lists out 25 traits that may accompany being clairsentient.  And I don’t want to oversimply a complex topic, but suffice it to say such a person is extremely tuned in.  Not only to their own feelings, but to the energy fields surrounding everyone and all things.  This hypersensitivity allows for acting on senses without necessarily having any discernable information.  Or it allows a different level of accessing and analyzing information to make predictive outcomes.  To act purely upon a subconscious process where we are fed information.  It is almost as though that information comes from an outside observer who has clairvoyance.

Or maybe that is precisely what this is.  Being hypersensitive may just mean being in tune with all of the spiritual energy surrounding us.  This allows for lightening fast decisions based not upon historical data accumulated in our brains, but on real-time or even future-time data coming from external sources.

Imagine that.

And since we are talking about the subconscious, let’s talk about consciousness for a moment and what that means.  To be conscious means we are presumably awake and aware of our existence, our sensations, our thoughts, and our surroundings.  The subconscious mind concerns “the part of the mind of which one is not fully aware but which influences one’s actions and feelings.”  While on the other hand, the unconscious mind is said to be “the part of the mind which is inaccessible to the conscious mind but which affects behavior and emotions.”  And being unconscious, well we all know what that means; lights out and nobody’s home.

But these are not the end descriptors of consciousness and subconscious processes because we also have “collectives.”  The collective conscious is “the set of shared beliefs, ideas and moral attitudes which operate as a unifying force within society.”  The “collective unconscious,” in Jungian psychology, is “part of the unconscious mind which is derived from ancestral memory and experience and is common to all humankind, as distinct from the individual’s unconscious.”

Now that’s a lot to wrap your brain around.  And maybe the collective unconscious could provide a source of data for our intuitive responses.  But how do we get that package of ancestral memory jammed in our heads?  Is that knowledge carried in our genetics?

Well, I have a different idea about the collective minds, or perhaps “energies” is a better word.  What if the collective unconscious was not ancestral memory?  What if the subconscious or unconscious minds of all were collectively linked, 24/7, in the present moment?  What if we could, through “intuition” or other means, tap into all that data and awareness?  What if being clairsentient meant exactly that, being tapped into this collective energy?  Wouldn’t that allow you to be extremely empathetic, to sense another’s innate qualities and characteristics, to perhaps perceive disruptions in the energy fields that tip you off to events unfolding?

I don’t know.

A number of years back I built a bridge.  It spanned a 22-foot, water-filled ravine that fed a lake on my property.  I arched it slightly and it had no supports underneath it to resist gravity or to support its own weight.  It was the biggest carpentry project I undertook, and I did it with virtually no experience or knowledge.  I drew the design out on a brown paper bag.  I was no engineer.

Each night before bed, I would formulate a question in my mind with regard to part of the project.  Usually a problem that needed to be solved.  And each morning I awoke with an answer in my conscious mind.  An answer that worked.  Now where did this information come from?

I had no inherent knowledge in my mind to process in my sleep with regard to bridge building.  Could it have come from some ancestral memory, really?  Or could I have tapped into a real-time collective of conscious, subconscious, or unconscious minds, or energy fields, that provided the answers.  I have no idea, but that bridge is still standing 22 years after I built it.

Bridge - 3 Winter
And it’s a nice metaphor too.  Bridging between conscious and subconscious and unconscious dimensions 😊

Of course, I don’t know that words can ever adequately describe such a process.  And you can call me crazy if you want to, but I do know that the times I didn’t listen to my inner voice were the times that I got into trouble.

So, I don’t know about you, but I’m trying to tune-in.  Tap into all that is out there.  And trust what my inner voice is telling me.

Pleasant trails, keep listening, and trust your gut.

***

Photos: I built this bridge in the summer of 1996 – winter and summer views.

Links: Here are links to the articles I read.  All links are subject to link rot.

Is it rational to trust your gut feelings? A neuroscientist explains

25 Signs You May Be Clairsentient — Someone Who Feels Things Very Deeply

Quotes: And here are a couple of nice quotes on Intuition:

“Intuition is seeing with the soul.”
― Dean Koontz

 
“The material world is simply an expression of the mind; that’s what so many fail to see. We’re so dependent on what is before us that we discount our intuition. Yet if one dismisses instinct, how can one understand or believe in a world that exists beyond one’s sight?”
― Megan Chance, The Spiritualist

 
“Intuition comes in several forms:
– a sudden flash of insight, visual or auditory
– a predictive dream
– a spinal shiver of recognition as something is occurring or told to you
– a sense of knowing something already
– a sense of deja vu
– a snapshot image of a future scene or event
– knowledge, perspective or understanding divined from tools which respond to the subconscious mind”
― Sylvia Clare, Trusting Your Intuition: Rediscover Your True Self to Achieve a Richer, More Rewarding Life

 
“Situations produce vibrations. Negative, potentially harmful situations emit slow vibrations. Positive, potentially life-enhancing situations emit quick vibrations. As these vibrations impact on your energy field they produce either resonance or dissonance in your lower and middle tantiens (psychic power stations) depending on your own vibratory rate at the time. When you psychic field force is strong and your vibratory rate is fast, therefore, you will draw only positive situations to you. When you mind is quiet enough and your attention is on the moment, you will literally hear the dissonance in your belly and chest like an alarm bell going off, urging you from deep within your body to move in such and such a direction. Always follow it. At times these urges may come to you in the form of internally spoken dialogue with your higher self, spirit guide, guardian angel, alien intelligence, however you see the owner of the “still, small voice within.” This form of dialogue can be entertaining and reassuring but is best not overindulged in as, in the extreme; it tends to lead to the loony bin. At times you may receive your messages from “Indian signs”, such as slogans on passing trucks or cloud formations in the sky. This is also best kept in moderation, to avoid seeing signs in everything and becoming terribly confused. Just let it happen when it happens and don’t try looking for it.”
― Stephen Russell, Barefoot Doctor’s Guide to the Tao: A Spiritual Handbook for the Urban Warrior

Your Castle, Your Bubble, and What You Can’t Do to Protect Them

This is not an article about gun control, it’s about controlling yourself with guns.  For as a Louisiana man just found out the hard way, you may think you have the right to fire a weapon at a someone, especially a criminal, but it all depends on the situation . . .

Disclaimer: The information in this article does not, in any way, constitute legal advice.  Everyone should consult their own states’ laws and/or an attorney of their choosing if they wish to obtain an expert legal opinion of the laws in their jurisdiction and how they apply to them.

When I was clerking for a State Supreme Court Justice, in addition to drafting legal memorandum and court opinions, I gave tours of the courthouse along with historical lectures.  Invariably, people on the tours would ask questions about the laws and how they worked, especially the most controversial ones.  Like how judges get elected or appointed, abortion, or guns laws.

As I learned quickly in law school, the law generally does not work the way it is commonly perceived or displayed on TV.  I’m sorry, but you can’t get a legal education by watching Judge Judy.

So, explaining the law is sometimes tricky.  A case in point.  On one of my tours, a man asked a question, or rather he made a statement, that I tried to assist him with.  Basically, he said that since the state was going to allow its citizens to carry concealed weapons that this would immunize anyone with a legal weapon from any form of liability.  And, of course, he was wrong.

But despite my explanation of what the law stated and what it didn’t state, he refused to accept the facts that even if you are justified with using a firearm, that does not give you a license to shoot innocent bystanders if you are negligent or even shoot at criminals if the tables have been turned and you have become the aggressor and not the defender.  There are good reasons for this, because if you own one of these tools you have to use it responsibly.

I will try to summarize these legal precepts based upon my state’s laws as they are written.

Self Defense

With a few exceptions, you are allowed to use physical force against another to the extent reasonably necessary to defend yourself or others from an aggressor if you reasonably believe the aggressor is using, or will imminently use, unlawful force against yourself or those others.  But you can’t use deadly force unless, you believe it is necessary to protect yourself or others from death, serious injury or a forcible felony.

Castle Doctrine

You can use deadly force if it is used against a person who unlawfully enters, or remains after unlawfully entering, or attempts to unlawfully enter a dwelling or residence that you lawfully occupy; provided that it is necessary for self defense as stated above.  “A [person’s] home is their castle.”

Extension of the Castle Doctrine

The Castle Doctrine was extended to vehicles you lawfully occupy.  And extended further to where you can use deadly force in the same circumstances above if you occupy private property where you’ve been given authority to occupy that property.

Stand Your Ground

There used to be a duty to retreat from a situation if you could without engaging in a confrontation, even to protect yourself.  But that duty was eliminated in the following circumstances.  There is no longer a duty to retreat from a dwelling or residence or vehicle or private property or any location where you have a lawful right to be.

Keep in mind, if you are standing your ground, to engage in self-defense using deadly force you must still face an imminent threat of death, serious injury, or be the victim of a forcible felony.

To sum it up, there is a bubble around you and you have the right to protect yourself within that lawfully-occupied bubble without running away, but only if you face an imminent threat.

So back to Louisiana and what you can’t do.  A home invader entered the residence with a gun, stole cell phones and fired the gun at the feet of one of the occupants.  The occupants gained the upper hand, took the gun, and one occupant pistol-whipped the intruder.  The invader broke away and ran to his vehicle.  Note, he is no longer the aggressor and no longer unlawfully inside the home.  One of the occupants then opened fire on the fleeing vehicle striking the would-be robber twice.

That’s where things went awry.  The occupant of the home was not under any imminent threat of physical force being used against him at the time he opened fire.  There was no one else that needed protecting.  The invader had fled and was no longer remaining in the residence after having unlawfully entered it.  There was no longer a forcible felony occurring.

The lawful occupant that wanted to play cowboy ended up being convicted of attempted manslaughter.  Understand, that doesn’t let the invader off the hook.  He will still be tried for his crimes.  But no one is given the license to become a criminal because of another person’s criminal acts.  None of these legal doctrines offer protection from criminal or civil liability unless your situation matches the specific instances where you are legally allowed to use force or deadly force.

If the occupant firing the weapon at the fleeing criminal had negligently hit an innocent bystander, then he would also be subject to a personal injury lawsuit by that bystander.  That would be a civil matter separate and distinct from the criminal matter for which he was tried and convicted.

Yes, we have a right to own firearms and, yes, we have a right to defend ourselves when we are within our lawful bubbles, but those rights are not unlimited and we are not allowed to play cop or vigilante.

I know a lot of people who own guns.  Sometimes that ownership becomes incorporated in their ego.  They imagine themselves to be bigger than they are, stronger, more in control, and powerful.  God-like in their ability to take a life.  And therein lies the problem, it’s not that they have more control over the circumstances surrounding them, they have a greater responsibility to control themselves.

***

Post Script:  I will be writing a piece on the 2nd Amendment before too long.  I had hoped to wait until the frenzy surrounding mass shootings and gun control had subsided, but it appears that, with the continual onslaught of gun violence, waiting for emotions to die down may not be possible.

Post Script # 2: After my post went up yesterday, a friend mentioned to be me she didn’t believe ego was always an issue with gun ownership.  And I agree.  Sometimes people find themselves in situations where they may be caught up in the moment or acting out of passion and not rationally thinking.  Other times a person may be confronted with a would-be perpetrator and that person has to hope they are making the best judgment call in the way they defend themselves because, while they have no desire to hurt another, they do not wish to become a victim either.  Who would?  The possible scenarios are limitless.  This all points to the need for good training and practice.  And the need to learn and understand the lawful uses of such weapons.

Photo: This photo was found on the Internet in the public domain.  A link to it traces back to the Virgin Island Free Press.

Link: Louisiana man convicted of attempted manslaughter for shooting at fleeing home invader.

Note: All links are subject to link rot.

Antimony, Stibine, Babies, and Death

Recently, I was tested for heavy metal poisoning and the tests showed abnormally high levels of 4 different metals, and not-so-good levels of another three.  One of the metals that was abnormally high was Antimony.  Now I remember this metal, barely, from college chemistry courses, but how on earth did it end up in me, and in an elevated amount?

It seems Antimony is used in fireproofing textiles and plastics.  It can be found in battery electrodes, ceramics, pigments, and gun powder.  It can also be found in soft plastic bottles used for water and the water can become contaminated depending on storage conditions.

Blankets, mattress covers, and even clothing have been treated with this chemical.  And much like the spraying of insecticides and fungicides (biocides) on clothing, manufacturers do this to extend the life of their products and theoretically increase public safety.  The big problem is that the toxic effects of all of these chemicals are being discovered later.  This stuff can be absorbed right through the skin, our largest organ.

No, not all things in life can be improved through chemistry.  In fact, some of this chemistry may prolong the life of our clothing and fabrics, but it may also be killing us and our babies.  It turns out, our clothing may remain long after our bodies return to dust.

You see, some New Zealand researchers proposed a hypothesis, gathered evidence, and then other experts set out to disprove their hypothesis and research.

Boiling this all down, the theory is like this:

Mattresses and mattress covers contain the fire retardant chemicals Antimony, Phosphorus, and Arsenic;

These chemicals can be broken down by molds to form the toxic gases of Stibine, Phosphine and Arsine;

In particular, Antimony can be broken down by the mold Scopulariopsis brevicaulis to give off the gas Stibine;

This mold is present in mattresses and mattress covers, especially once they become damp with a baby’s bodily fluids;

Stibine is a very powerful neuro-toxic gas that is heavier than air and in the breathing zone of infants;

A small amount of Stibine, when inhaled, can produce respiratory paralysis;

Infants dying from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (“SIDS”) have been confirmed to have elevated levels of Antimony in their bodies;

Although the “UK Expert Group on Cot Death Theories” could not substantiate and is said to have discredited this theory, in New Zealand, where parents followed a protocol of sealing up these mattresses and covers, no further crib deaths have occurred.

There are theories questioning the motivations and financing of the UK Expert Group.

Reading all of this information, I can’t say one way or the other if these types of fire retardants cause SIDS.  I can, however, say with reasonable certainly, that I am only one of many who are now contaminated with this chemical that does not belong in our bodies.  And because of multiple chemical exposures, my and other people’s bodies’ natural detoxification processes have become overwhelmed producing all sorts of disabling effects.

Another thing I can say is that I’ve never met a corporate entity that hasn’t put profits over people.  One just needs to look at the tobacco industry to guess how this will play out.

For years there will be denial that the product is unsafe.  Research will be stymied because of big money and influence brought to bear on regulating agencies.  Deaths will continue.  Maybe someday a plaintiff will prevail in a lawsuit.  In the meantime, fearing litigation, some producers may change their lethal chemical mix to another lethal chemical mix in order to keep moving the ball making it harder to make the connection between chemical exposures and illness.

Delay in correcting the problem equals more money for the companies and their shareholders, while increasingly turning the planet into a toxic waste dump.

If you’re interested in reading more, I have included some links.

***

Antimony-LIt seems Antimony was also used by the Egyptians in the form of Stibnite as a black eye makeup.

Postscript:  How these chemical exposures will ultimately affect us is a big question, but it can’t be good when toxins keep turning up in our bodies.  The CDC’s most recent report indicates that some 212 chemicals tested for, which are not supposed to be in our bodies, were in most people’s blood or urine.

***

Images:  These images were found in the Internet in the public domain and no other attribution could be found.  The feature image was linked to a webpage called Live Science.

Links:

Cot Death and Antimony

Has The Cause of Crib Death (SIDS) Been Found?

The report from the “UK Expert Group on Cot Death Theories”

SIDS: A Preventable Tragedy?

Six Deadly Chemicals You’re Carrying in Your Body

Health Effects of Chemical Exposure

National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals

 

Confirmation Bias – A New Personality Disorder?

Intro:  Yesterday, I read an excellent post by Robert on his blog Seven Spheres, which was on the topic of confirmation bias.  You should check out his blog because there are some really great posts on a whole range of topics about what makes this world tick.  His post reminded me of an article I posted on LinkedIn last year, and I thought I would include it on my blog.  Confirmation bias is something we should all think about, because it affects our judgments and decisions daily and we probably don’t even realize it.  Please read on . . .

***

I recently read an article titled: “Legal Ethics and Confirmation Bias.” The article begins its trek with a brief overview of how the practice of law is governed by its professional rules of conduct, provides a very good definition of “confirmation bias,” and then diverts down the road less traveled attempting to correlate racial discrimination and advancement within the legal profession. I’m not saying that the author didn’t have a legitimate point, she did. I would just like to address the elephant in the room she skillfully avoided and diverge down a different trail.

The definition of “confirmation bias,” as provided by the author, is “a phenomenon wherein decision makers have been shown to actively seek out and assign more weight to evidence that confirms their hypothesis, and ignore or under-weigh evidence that could disconfirm their hypothesis.” But applying this to a lawyer’s representation of a client, as the author first does (representation that is supposed to be zealous and one-sided in nature), and applying it to the determination of who gets a promotion in a law firm, as the author does next, seems to me to severely limit the application of the two most important words in the definition – “decision makers.” I will be happy to expand that application.

In the context of a discussion of legal ethics, you would think the author would discuss the elephant, or zebra or gorilla if you prefer, namely judges. I can’t think of any more important context than the individuals who “decide” the outcomes of legal disputes. If judges actively seek out information to confirm their biases, even if that behavior is so inherently ingrained they don’t realize what they are doing, as opposed to evaluating evidence openly and objectively, then certainly there will be no “justice” when a decision is rendered. This has, in fact, been one of the chief criticisms of the U.S. Supreme Court. Since that court exercises complete discretion over the cases it hears, it has been said that they only take cases that they have already decided. If true, I find that frightening in two respects.

First, the high court is not required to clear up discrepancies with the interpretation and application of federal law among the circuits of the federal courts of appeal. Thus, the federal law can be differently applied in different parts of the country – no uniform federal law for the land – and who cares, right, if that is politically expedient. Second, if the highest court only hears cases it desires and has prejudged them, and if confirmation bias permeates all of the judicial system, then there is ample ammunition for the criticism that the courts are purely political entities, with judges being mere puppets doing the bidding of their appointers or electors and not objectively applying the law as it is written. Deciding court cases is not playing pinball; these decisions have dramatic impacts on people’s lives.

Ok, I addressed the elephant, and now for my own divergence.

We first must recognize the obvious – that every individual is a “decision maker.” We all make countless decisions each day, as mundane as how often we brush our teeth or as magnanimous as whether to have children.  Next, there appears to be an overwhelming desire for people to categorize things as being black or white – not in the racial context – but an oversimplification of issues or subject matter. Where in reality there may be thirteen different alternatives, or various shades of gray in between them all, people like to think there is always either an A or B or right or wrong answer. There usually isn’t. Things aren’t that simple and sometimes the answer is all of the above.

In the age of social media this faulty logic has become epidemic, or to use the parlance – “gone viral.” It is, in reality, thinking backwards. People begin with a conclusion and seek out supporting “evidence” to validate themselves. The evidence is often questionable, and the positions fermented are polarizing; based more in inebriated blind faith than in reality.  This leads more to one-sided screaming and incivility than to any type of productive discourse. People have decided they are right, they have their evidence, and they will no longer consider any other contrary evidence. They have integrated their position, on whatever the subject matter may be, so strongly as part of very their own identity that being “right” is necessary to protect that identity – the position has become secondary. Being “wrong” would simply shake them at their core, spin their minds into a state of oblivion. They may even label the countervailing information, even if it is overwhelming, as “fake news” or “lies” or even claim it is “biased,” all the while discounting their own biases or the biases of the sources they consulted – if they had any to begin with. They are so intoxicated with the notion that their ideas are gospel and irrefutable they see no need to even hear any words but their own.

Overconfidence and an inflated view of one’s own self-importance is magnified in cyberspace where people can create their own forums and post with relative anonymity. There are no social repercussions for being rude and inconsiderate or, more to the point, being an asshole online. There is no peer group in the room to subtlety apply pressure to be civil or call out bad behavior – at least, not in a meaningful way. When “conversations” deteriorate to episodes of cyber-rage and the leveling of death threats, which I have experienced all too frequently online, I think we can safely say this is aberrant behavior – worthy of a diagnostic code in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

My advice is simple – wake up from your own delusions, think critically, speak civilly or hold your tongue and listen for a change, and be prepared to admit when you’re wrong – be thrilled to expand your point of view!

 ***

Photo:  I found this picture on the Internet in the public domain.  I could find no other attribution for it.

LinkedIn:  If anyone wants to connect on LinkedIn, you can find me at https://www.linkedin.com/in/haroldstearley/

Update: April 25, 2018 – The ABA Journal just published an article about research demonstrating judicial bias with traditional gender roles, and I discovered an older article about implicit bias.

http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/judges_expertise_may_correlate_with_more_gender_bias_in_some_cases_study_sa/?utm_source=maestro&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=daily_email

http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/implicit_bias_is_a_challenge_even_for_judges

 

What is Art?

What does the word “art” mean to you?

Traditionally, art was comprised of paintings, sculptures, and drawings.  And I think of the “Old Masters;” the fully trained painters prior to the 1800s.  But art forms have changed drastically over the years, and I’m sure all of us have questioned whether some of the modern forms are truly art – the giant badminton shuttlecocks strewn about the lawn of the Nelson-Atkins Art Gallery come to mind.

The reason I throw this question out there is, I’ve always wondered if people thought of photography as being true “art.”   You point a mechanical device at an object or landscape, push a button, and wallah, you have an image.  Not from your imagination or from an attempt to transform and express the external world by creating a new presentation through painting, drawing or sculpture – the actual use of the hands and the mind without mechanical assistance.  Isn’t nature the true artist here?

And if photography could be called an art, by observing the photographer does form a composition with what the lens will capture, and does make settings as to the shutter speed and aperture opening to regulate the amount of light and depth the image will reveal, what then of all the modern digital enhancements that can be made to an image once captured?  Clicking on more buttons on a computer screen.  Pre-programmed techno-algorithms that you can purchase in bulk.  Is thought and imagination even required for use of these programs?

Or, does altering the original photograph with all of the various mechanical features transform a simple image into a creative work of art?

While Merriam-Webster has a long list of definitions for the word “art,”  we can boil it down for purposes of this discussion to: the conscious use of skill and creative imagination” . . .  to produce “works as pictures, poems or songs” . . . and “creative visual works as painting, sculpting, and drawing.”  This definition certainly seems broad enough to encompass photography and all of its forms.

William Lesch - Light Storm Over Tucson

The feature image is a “photograph” by William Lesch called “Lightstorm over Tucson, Night and Day Thunderstorm Time (Montage).  My understanding is he uses time-lapse photography and color enhancements to produce his work, and I do think the picture is absolutely stunning.

But what do you think?  Is it “Art.”

***

 

Of Wolves and Hominids

Warning: I use a few sentence enhancers in this piece that might offend some. Not too many, but if you are easily offended you might want to turn back now. Apologies.

***

There’s a pretty crude joke out there about men that goes: “If they can’t eat or fuck it, they’ll kill it.” Now, that’s clearly a gross over-generalization and there are many good men out there that do not operate from this vestige instinct of the lizard brain. But there does seem to be an awful lot of killing going on, and men probably make up the biggest share of those pulling the trigger, or wielding the knife, or the tire tool, or the shovel, or whatever just happened to be lying around. Men have tempers, but worse, men often have big egos. Mix in some hormones and look out!

I remember reading a story a while back about a huge alligator in Florida. Of course, the first thing humans (and in this case men) do when they encounter such a magnificent animal is kill it. Now it doesn’t really matter what reason was contrived. It may have been rationalized as being for “public safety” or something else even more nebulous, but there are numerous examples of where people simply kill for the joy of killing, and more times than not, it’s the “man” doing the “killin.” And if wasn’t for “joy” then why string up the gator and take a picture standing next to it while smiling and broadcast it to the world?

It’s a “manly thing” to kill. I suppose it can make a man feel in control or superior in some fashion.

In my criminal law class there was a joke told about how in the South there is a justifiable homicide defense called “needed killin,” meaning if there was a just plain rotten person that terrorized the town (usually a man), then it was excusable to lay that person to rest. This, of course, is not in any criminal code, but apparently plays out in front a jury of the murder’s peers. And while I don’t agree with this defense, there are, after all, more lawful and moral solutions, that argument actually makes a little bit more sense to me than the trophy hunter trying to defend his need to prove how large his penis is.

Sorry, I don’t want to sound sexist, I realize there are women trophy hunters out there too, but I think the majority are packing testosterone and that fits better with my story today. I mean if we’re talking about men I can say stuff like, “Ok, how about this Mr. Big-game Slaughterer, why don’t you just stuff and mount your penis on the wall. I’m sure that would be impressive. And maybe you would calm down a little after that.” But hey, I won’t say that, because that’s crude 😊

The concept of being the top-predator is sort of traditional ideology and mythology that is perpetuated over and over again through socialization and acculturalization. This evolved over time where hunting was once required for sheer survival. Later, hunting was a skill for acquiring supplemental food, not the mainstay of the diet. For most, hunting eventually turned into a “sport” and spawned a sub-species of that sport; trophy-hunting. Killing for no reason whatsoever other than to mount a head on the wall and have bragging rights. And ofttimes, these senseless, violent practices are highly rewarded. All hail the great and powerful conqueror.

Hemingway captures this reward-rejection phenomenon in his short story, “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber,” where Macomber’s wife, Margaret, is enthralled by, and later shares a bed with, Macomber’s guide and big-game hunter, Robert Wilson. Macomber had shown fear and had run from a wounded lion, whereas Wilson showed no hesitation when he killed it, thus earning Margaret’s lust. Of course, Hemingway added the ironic twist of when Macomber later rises to the challenge and overcomes his fear, Margaret shoots him in the back of the head because she realizes he is now brave enough to leave her. He quite literally didn’t see that “reward” coming.

Now if some so-called trophy “hunter” (and I use that term loosely as they are usually led right up to the animal by a guide) could actually kill the lion or other large “game” (an ironic term itself, this is not a game) up close and personal and with more equal armament, I’d give them some credit. That would at least involve, strength and courage, and be more sporting than putting a bullet in the animal’s shoulder, lungs or heart from a quarter mile away, especially if camouflaged and hiding behind a blind. Can’t shoot the head for the most immediate and less painful kill, you know. That’s going on the wall.

And while I’ve been rambling a bit to get here, what brings me to be writing about the testosterone-fueled murder of innocent species was the killing of Wolf ’06. Wolf ’06 was a famous alpha female wolf roaming freely in Yellowstone National Park after the wolves were reintroduced to the region. The problem is, the wolves only have protection when they are within the boundaries of the park.

The U.S. has had a tortuous history with the wolf. Estimates put the country’s wolf population at anywhere from the hundreds of thousands to millions prior to European colonization. The International Wolf Center, proving the most detailed timeline for the gray wolf population in the U.S., states it is estimated that 100,000 wolves were killed every year between 1870 and 1877 alone. According to the IWC, in 1970, there were only 750 wolves in Minnesota, some scattered individuals in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and 18 wolves on Isle Royale.

It seems wolves were truly seen as being evil beasts of no value, and they threatened the profits of ranchers as livestock operations spread across the continent. Humans like to think that they are the superior predator and that their short-term gratification supersedes any other concern. Of course, this is ignorant. And that’s been proven time and again, and in a most dramatic way by reintroducing the wolf in Yellowstone Park.

The term used to describe the effects a major predator species has on the environment is “trophic cascade.” Nate Blakeslee was interviewed by National Geographic about his book “American Wolf,” and here is how he described the effects of reintroducing the wolves to Yellowstone:

“When they brought wolves back, it quickly changed and improved the landscape in ways that even the biologists didn’t anticipate. First and foremost, Yellowstone had way more elk than it could reasonably accommodate. Wolves brought that number back down to what it historically had been prior to Europeans arriving in Yellowstone.

They also began to see other species flourishing. The elk were no longer able to gather in the valleys in huge numbers and browse at their leisure; they had to be much warier and spend more time at higher elevations.

One of the effects was that streamside vegetation began to rebound. Aspen and willow returned, which in turn encouraged beavers to return to the park, as willow is their main food source. Beavers change the profile of a river, making it deeper by creating dams and pools, which in turn is healthier for fish.

Wolves also reduced Yellowstone’s coyote population, which was the densest in North America. Because of this, the rodent population had been kept artificially low. Once the wolves started to kill off some of the coyote population—not to eat them but to defend their own territories—there was a huge rebound in the rodent population.

As a result of that, other animals that eat rodents also rebounded, like large birds of prey, raptors, foxes, and badgers. The renaissance of all these species was a direct result of restoring the top predator.”

It’s also known, that natural predators cull the weak and the sick from the herds of their pray, actually strengthening their populations. Every species plays it role in this complex web of life. And each time a species goes extinct, humans are another step closer to their own extinction. I would think that modern humans would at least understand this principle, even if they never grasp that these animals, no different than the human animal, possess spirit.

But it just seems sometimes that humans just aren’t that far out of the cave.

Blakeslee tracked down the hunter that killed ’06. Basically, this guy was just happy to kill a wolf. “He considered it to be the pinnacle of his career as a trophy hunter to be able to shoot an animal that nobody had been able to legally shoot for a very long time.” He resented the wolves for decreasing the elk population and he was unable to kill an elk the season before. He also claimed he didn’t see the radio collar ’06 was wearing when she wandered out of Yellowstone’s protective boundaries.

So, because he blamed the wolf for preventing him from killing another animal, he was happy to kill a wolf. I don’t think there is any logic or wisdom there. Other species of predators don’t kill for joy or out of resentment. They don’t take pride in it. They actually do “hunt” and it’s for survival. There is no waste when other species hunt.

Just this past week, I read where the last male Northern White Rhinoceros has died. The Eastern Puma was also recently declared extinct. And how many other animals, plants, and other species are threatened or endangered? If we lose the bees perhaps humans will wake up because then we lose pollination and many of our food sources directly.

I’m not sure when humans will finally accept they are not top-dog. They produce no beneficial “trophic cascade.” Humans can’t exist without the other species on this fragile planet, yet they can exist without humans. It’s time to put ego aside. There is no place for a mythical, god-like, hunter figure that randomly takes life irrespective of the sanctity of that life and its interconnected purpose – survival of all species. Even cavemen were more advanced than this, they took what they needed for survival.

Since it is our species that has thrown the world out of its perfect balance, it is now our responsibility to restore it. One thing is certain, the one “species” that wouldn’t be missed at all, whose loss would not have a negative impact on the environment should it meet with its extinction, is the trophy hunter.

***

Wolf

Post Script: Wolf ’06 was killed in 2012. I only recently came across the January 2018 National Geographic article that got me thinking about this – thus, the time gap. Things are hopefully starting to change. The murder of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe by dentist James Palmer in 2015 brought world-wide attention to, and protests against, trophy hunting. I suppose you could say this “hunt” was more sporting because Palmer used a bow. But it was later discovered that he had not obtained the required permit, his guide team baited the lion to leave its protected wildlife preserve, and that Cecil suffered for 10 hours after he was first hit with an arrow before Palmer had the balls to approach him to finally kill him. I don’t think Palmer returned to the US as the conquering hero.

Photos: These are not my photos. I found them on the Internet in the Public Domain and have found no other attribution for them. Neither pic is of ’06. But I used the second one as the image for one of my tattoos.

**This is one of my longer pieces, but if you want more, I’ve included some quotes and links below just for fun 😊 All links are subject to “link rot” so I cannot guarantee how long any of those articles will be present on the web.
Quotes:

“The fascination of shooting as a sport depends almost wholly on whether you are at the right or wrong end of the gun.”
P.G. Wodehouse, The Adventures of Sally

“Sure, some find gunning down unsuspecting, innocent animals to be a real hoot. I mean, for Christ sake, they mantle the decapitated, formaldehyde-stuffed heads on the wall. Then, of course, there are the people who enjoy putting sunglasses or hats on it, even putting a blowout in its mouth as if it were an avid party animal. If it had any hands, there would surely be a plastic cup full of cheap beer in it, as well. We can’t forget that it would be named some horrendous name, such as Bill or Frank, something so plain, ordinary, and down-right ridiculous that makes me want to bitch-slap the perpetrators. ”
Chase Brooks

“Hunting and fishing involve killing animals with devices (such as guns) for which the animals have not evolved natural defenses. No animal on earth has adequate defense against a human armed with a gun, a bow and arrow, a trap that can maim, a snare that can strangle, or a fishing lure designed for the sole purpose of fooling fish into thinking they have found something to eat”
Marc Bekoff, Animals Matter: A Biologist Explains Why We Should Treat Animals with Compassion and Respect

“One saw a bird dying, shot by a man. It was flying with rhythmic beat and beautifully, with such freedom and lack of fear. And the gun shattered it; it fell to the earth and all the life had gone out of it. A dog fetched it, and the man collected other dead birds. He was chattering with his friend and seemed so utterly indifferent. All that he was concerned with was bringing down so many birds, and it was over as far as he was concerned. They are killing all over the world. Those marvellous, great animals of the sea, the whales, are killed by the million, and the tiger and so many other animals are now becoming endangered species. Man is the only animal that is to be dreaded.”
Jiddu Krishnamurti, Krishnamurti to Himself: His Last Journal

“I do not like the killers, and the killing bravely and well crap. I do not like the bully boys, the Teddy Roosevelt’s, the Hemingways, the Ruarks. They are merely slightly more sophisticated versions of the New Jersey file clerks who swarm into the Adirondacks in the fall, in red cap, beard stubble and taut hero’s grin, talking out of the side of their mouths, exuding fumes of bourbon, come to slay the ferocious white-tailed deer. It is the search for balls. A man should have one chance to bring something down. He should have his shot at something, a shining running something, and see it come a-tumbling down, all mucus and steaming blood stench and gouted excrement, the eyes going dull during the final muscle spasms. And if he is, in all parts and purposes, a man, he will file that away as a part of his process of growth and life and eventual death. And if he is perpetually, hopelessly a boy, he will lust to go do it again, with a bigger beast.”
John D. MacDonald, A Deadly Shade of Gold

“Wildlife, we are constantly told, would run loose across our towns and cities were it not for the sport hunters to control their population, as birds would blanket the skies without the culling services of Ducks Unlimited and other groups. Yet here they are breeding wild animals, year after year replenishing the stock, all for the sole purpose of selling and killing them, deer and bears and elephants so many products being readied for the market. Animals such as deer, we are told, have no predators in many areas, and therefore need systematic culling. Yet when attempts are made to reintroduce natural predators such as wolves and coyotes into these very areas, sport hunters themselves are the first to resist it. Weaker animals in the wild, we hear, will only die miserable deaths by starvation and exposure without sport hunters to control their population. Yet it’s the bigger, stronger animals they’re killing and wounding–the very opposite of natural selection–often with bows and pistols that only compound and prolong the victim’s suffering.”
Matthew Scully, Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy

“For us hunting wasn’t a sport. It was a way to be intimate with nature, that intimacy providing us with wild unprocessed food free from pesticides and hormones and with the bonus of having been produced without the addition of great quantities of fossil fuel. In addition, hunting provided us with an ever scarcer relationship in a world of cities, factory farms, and agribusiness, direct responsibility for taking the lives that sustained us. Lives that even vegans indirectly take as the growing and harvesting of organic produce kills deer, birds, snakes, rodents, and insects. We lived close to the animals we ate. We knew their habits and that knowledge deepened our thanks to them and the land that made them.”
Ted Kerasote, Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog

“The more a woman appreciates the hunting prowess of her man, the more he will kill for her.”
Michael DiMarco, Cupidity: 50 Stupid Things People Do For Love And How To Avoid Them

“These enthusiasts often like to hang signs that say “Gone Fishin'” or “Gone Huntin'”. But what these slogans really mean is “Gone Killing.”
Marc Bekoff, Animals Matter: A Biologist Explains Why We Should Treat Animals with Compassion and Respect

“Modern life conceals our need for diverse, wild, natural communities, but it does not alter that need.. if you want to feel what it is like to be human again, you should hunt, even if just once. Because that understanding, I believe, will propel a shift in how we view and interact with this world that we eat in. And the kind of food we demand, as omnivores, will never be the same.”
Georgia Pellegrini, Girl Hunter: Revolutionizing the Way We Eat, One Hunt at a Time

“The hunter, as Theodore Roosevelt defined him, a man who fights for the integrity of both his prey and the land that sustained it, is being too often overwhelmed by men concerned mostly with playing dress up and shooting guns.”
Gary Ferguson, Hawks Rest: A Season in the Remote Heart of Yellowstone

“This for many people is what is most offensive about hunting—to some, disgusting: that it encourages, or allows, us not only to kill but to take a certain pleasure in killing. It’s not as though the rest of us don’t countenance the killing of tens of millions of animals every year. Yet for some reason we feel more comfortable with the mechanical killing practiced, out of view and without emotion by industrial agriculture.”
Michael Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

“We have never understood why men mount the heads of animals and hang them up to look down on their conquerors. Possibly it feels good to these men to be superior to animals, but it does seem that if they were sure of it they would not have to prove it. Often a man who is afraid must constantly demonstrate his courage and, in the case of the hunter, must keep a tangible record of his courage. For ourselves, we have had mounted in a small hardwood plaque one perfect borrego [bighorn sheep] dropping. And where another man can say, “There was an animal, but because I am greater than he, he is dead and I am alive, and there is his head to prove it,” we can say, “There was an animal, and for all we know there still is and here is proof of it. He was very healthy when we last heard of him.”
John Steinbeck, The Log from the Sea of Cortez

“But it isn’t hunger that drives millions of armed American Males to forests and hills every autumn, as the high incidence of heart failure among the hunters will prove. Somehow the hunting process has to do with masculinity, but I don’t quite know how.”
John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley: In Search of America
Links

The Most Famous Wolf in the World Lived Hard and Died Tragically

Wolf Restoration – The National Park Service

Gray Wolf Biolouge – US Fish and Wildlife Service

The International Wolf Center

Wolf Wars: America’s Campaign to Eradicate the Wolf

The Fight for Northern Rocky Gray Wolves

Gray Wolf Conservation

The Psychology and Thrill of Trophy Hunting: Is it Criminal? Trophy hunting is gratuitous violence that can justifiably be called murder.