Tag Archives: Commentary

Hiking Through the Rhyolite

Many millions of years ago a volcano erupted with hundreds of times the force of Mount St. Helens.  Later the earth would push the remains upward leaving the volcanic rock exposed to all of the forces of erosion.  But the erosion was differential.  Softer materials washing away first. Leaving columns of stone.  Statues in precision alignment.  Sort of like the Moai on Easter Island.  Only here, they face inward to the center of the collapsed caldera.  Covered in desert scrub, it is difficult to imagine the explosive forces that once coalesced here.

The monoliths can also have disproportional heads where the boulders appear to balance mysteriously on much tinier pedestals.  All standing shoulder to shoulder like soldiers lining up on the parade grounds.

Chiricahua - 8-9-18 - 7

Before I enter these mountains, I sign in with the park ranger.  They need to keep track if people go missing.  Know whose body they may find days later if you don’t return.

They warn me that there is a high chance of rain, and the trails across the ridgetop I’ve chosen to hike will have me exposed to lightening.  But I don’t believe the Thunder-beings have any interest in hurting me.  They can be great messengers of the Earth and the source of replenishing energy.

I’m prepared for the 8-mile trek.  As much as I can be.  And as I wind my way through the monoliths I follow an undulating path.  Up and down, back and forth, snaking my way along switchbacks.  That image of the snake’s path accented by the mineral serpentine, mixed with green, blue and gold lichens, reddish rhyolites, and specks of glistening mica.  A colorful cacophony.  Discordant reflections of muted color that shift continually as the sun makes its daily journey across the sky.

Chiricahua - 8-9-18 - 13After a couple of hours, I reach the ridgetop.  Black char on skeletal trees, evidence of a fire from a decade ago, mixes with the light and dark greens of new pines and oaks.

 

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All of the washes and creeks are alive with a torrent of water.  Small waterfalls offer the perfect intonations for meditation.  Worn trails fragment as you hit flat rock.  And segments of it vanish completely.

There was a flash flood the night before and if there had been foot prints or trail markers they’ve all been washed away.  Erased as if no person had set foot here for eons.  And no one is here today other than myself.

Chiricahua - 8-9-18 - 10

Often, I find myself in the wilderness where there are no other people.  But I’m never alone.  A troupe of Painted Redstarts moves through.  Lizards scurry away.  Butterflies seek out precious nectar from the red and yellow columbine that burst forth sporadically.

I come upon a pine totally splintered from a bolt of lightning, probably from the day before because its needles are still deep green.  No sign of this timber having dried.  Totally debarked with pieces strewn in a thousand directions.  I pick up a small piece of this now energy laden bark and place in my shirt pocket above my heart.  You can feel the energy throbbing.

I hit another point on the ridge where the trail has cloaked itself.  There are at least ten directions I could go.  Four seem more likely.  I climb up on a boulder to get a better vantage point and to my surprise a solitary white-tailed deer is right below me.  The doe doesn’t seem to know I’m there.  The wind coming towards me carries my scent the opposite direction.

I watch her quietly graze on low-lying tree branches.  Then she raises her head and sees me.  Stares right into my eyes.  But I’m surprised by her actions.  I expect her to panic.  To run away as most deer would.  She’s unconcerned.  Apparently feeling no threat.  And instead offers to help.
Chiricahua - 8-9-18 - 11She alters her path and circles back toward me and loops to my left.  We lock gazes, and I follow her.  Her gentleness lures me to the right path.  And then she’s gone.  In an instant.  A blink.  As if she wasn’t there at all.  Her spirit saves me the time I would have spent trying to find the right route.  Time is life out here.

Descending from the ridgetop, I make it to the center of the monoliths.  How long have these statues stood?  Holding this ground.  Carved by forces that no human sculptor could match.  They’ll be here long after my physical body has departed.  Silently keeping watch.
Chiricahua - 8-9-18 - 15I hear an Owl in the distance.  Its affirmation tells me I am safe.  I can take a break here. Take the load off my back.  Hydrate and take in some calories to replace those consumed.  Breathe in the surroundings.

Native Americans used to inhabit this place.  It’s sacred Earth.  I offer thanks for being allowed safe passage.  I’m not the top predator here, after all.  Black beer and mountain lions call this their home.

An injury here can mean death.  Can’t let your guard down even as you grow weary.  Pay attention.

I hear a noise, and a Yarrow’s Spiny Lizard perches himself on a rock next to the path.  He does pushups and flares his neck in a display of dominance.  I stop to observe.  When I start to take my next step, I notice a large stone in the center of the path.  I had not seen it before and if I continued unaware I would have tripped over this stone and have possibly been injured.

Falling to right would have landed me on the switchback 20 feet below.  Falling to the left, into the rock wall there, could have meant a fractured skull.  Falling forward, a twisted or broken ankle.  I thank the lizard for his warning.
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Such is nature.  Be attentive.  If your soul is open, nature’s spirits will speak to you.  Warn you.  Protect you.  Give you energy.  Keep you on the right path.

The hike complete, it is time to center and reflect.  There are always forces around us at work.  This day was my mother’s birthday.  She passed away last year.  And I can’t help but think that maybe she is watching over me too on this day.  Protecting me from all the dangers that surrounded this solitary hike into the wilderness.

As I drive home, Hawks, Ravens, and Turkey Vultures line the telephone lines.  All facing inward.  Like the monoliths, soldiers.  These are the protectors, the shape-shifters, the visionaries.  And they guard my route.  Almost like a salute to a journey well completed.  So many of them.  Their numbers far exceeding and mingling with their prescribed territories.  An oddity?

Thank you, mom.  Love you and miss you.

***

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Photos: I took them all with a cell phone camera as I hiked 🙂

Published ! Thrilled and honored that my story was published by The Urban Howl on August 29, 2018, under the title “If Your Soul Is Open, Nature’s Spirits Will Speak To You.”

All Lives Matter

Does anyone see anything wrong with this title?  I mean sure, we can add other value judgments and say maybe that criminals’ lives don’t matter, as much.  Or perhaps terrorists?  Surely their lives don’t matter, as much – compared to those doing good in the world.  But those are relative comparisons and still don’t affect the overall message.

If you believe in the sanctity of life or truly practice any form of religion, then it is hard to get away from this statement.  And I would expand it beyond the limitation of only human lives and say this applies to all life – humans, animals, plants, etc.

A strange thing happened, which is why I brought this up today.  This phrase was used as an accusation that I was diluting a conversation because I put forth the implied notion that all lives matter when that person believed the subject had to be restricted to only women in certain situations, specifically health care treatment.

So how did we get from point A to point Z?  Good question.

You see, it’s like this.  An article was posted on a social media platform that can be summed up in its opening sentence: “Every year, thousands of women suffer life-altering injuries or die during childbirth because hospitals and medical workers skip safety practices known to head off disaster . . .”  I’ve no doubt this is true, and bad medical practice has not only been a topic of many articles I’ve gotten published, but it is a pet peeve of mine as an RN who was dedicated to providing safe and quality nursing care.

So, I responded with posting links to two other articles.  The first was a general article about the annual number of deaths in America attributed to preventable medical negligence.  We’re talking 200,000 to 400,000 preventable deaths caused by medical negligence each and every year in this country – shocking!

The second was an article about how a medical device company actually pays doctors to get them to use an implantable birth control device that has injured women.  This article was more specifically related to the topic of women receiving bad health care in relation to reproductive care.

So far so good.

Then a woman posted a comment about women receiving inferior medical care and claimed that men would automatically receive better care.  I pointed out that in my 24 years of experience in the medical arena I did not always find this to be true.  I observed, more generally, that people with better insurance receive better care, and I’ve witnessed plenty of men receiving inferior care as well.

The response was that plenty of research studies (none were cited) demonstrated women receive worse care than men and that person did not appreciate me “derailing” the conversation with my “all lives matter” comments.  Humm, let that sink in a little.  I will also note that the original person starting the discussion did not seem to have issues with the topic being broadened a bit.

I responded that I didn’t think I was derailing anything.  Remember, I agree with the posting.  Many women do receive sub-standard health care.  I just added that I was a first-hand witness to people of all sexes, races and ethnicities being treated badly in health care, and in general, health care can be a pretty iffy gamble for everyone.

What’s the deal here?  Was the objection related to trying to label the biggest victim?  Hey look at me, my group is treated worse than yours!  Is this some type of a bragging point?  I don’t know.

What I do know is I switched careers and became an attorney to specifically fight for anyone victimized by bad medical practice.  I advocated for my patients, women and men, when I was a nurse.  And I did the same as an attorney.  In fact, most of the medical malpractice law suits I handled involved women and children clients.  I support and have actually fought for women’s issues.

I’m not interested in labeling and segregating and trying to make claims about who might be the biggest victim of something.  I realize that all people are not treated fairly.  I realize there is real bigotry in this country and it can play out in all sorts of fashions.

I don’t believe, to be politically correct, that anyone should be expected to acknowledge only certain forms of discrimination over others.  I believe all people should be treated equally, and as an RN and compassionate human being, yes, all lives matter.  Sorry, I don’t see that as a deficiency.

***

Photo: I found this photo on the Internet in the public domain.  I traced it back to an online publication called Missouri Blogspot.  I had my own picture of an elk in Missouri, but it was an old photograph from the 70s and was very blurred out in my attempts to upload it to the computer.  The reason I wanted that Elk was it was actually in a fenced wildlife enclosure run by the state.  The week after I took its picture some idiot used the same observation platform I used to photograph it in order to shoot it with a bow and arrow to kill it.  The moron just wanted to kill something apparently and left the body of the defenseless caged animal there.  All lives matter and play their role in the ecosystem.

BTW: I posted this under the topic of health, but I suppose it could go under the topics of society or even politics.  It’s one of those issues that bleeds over into many subject classifications, but since the original discussion came out of a dialog on health care I placed it there 🙂

Woody Guthrie

A friend posted a link to a Woody Guthrie song on Facebook the other day.  He is a big music fan and appreciates a lot of the older musicians.  It was the anniversary of Guthrie’s birthday, July 14th.

I knew the song well, but I went to the link on You Tube to listen again and that’s when I noticed them.  The comments.

I look at a lot posts now days, not for the actual content, but for the comments.  It is sort of like taking the pulse of the public.  True, it is not a representative sample of the general public and one shouldn’t put too much emphasis or importance on these minority of remarks.  But it can be amusing at times.  Or enlightening.

Everything, and I mean everything, seems to be politically charged right now.  I saw a post about the FBI crime statistics and immediately people were trying to link crime with political party affiliation.  Heck, they should just look at the politicians themselves for that.  Plenty of criminals there.

But the average murder, I imagine, has more to do with passion, the heat of the moment, or a robbery or other crime, or something else much more mundane.  When I worked for the top court in my state, I had to review all of the state’s death penalty cases.  I can guarantee you not a single murder case I looked at had anything to do with politics.

But people see what they want to see.

I imagine the politicians are patting themselves on their backs.  They have successfully, maybe too successfully, divided the country into polar opposites and many people just can’t wait to add their commentary and witticisms to any thread on social media.  And I’ll give some credit, some of their remarks are actually smart and funny 😊

Insults have become popular, though, so there is a whole bunch of eye-poking and head-slapping going on out there.  I’ve generally quit trying to add rational thoughts to the mix as the responses are, well, just kind of out there in the ozone layer, what’s left of it.

Once, apparently not liking my ideas, a person fired back that they had my IP address and were going to come to my home, rape my mother and kill my whole family.  Another time, I was called a “Communist putz” because I had said something regarding the greed and materialism I see in the current culture.  The level of civil discourse sometimes deteriorates in cyber world.

I like the blogging world much better.  People are generally more positive here, more thoughtful in their presentations, and willing to have a real discussion.

At any rate, this song was no different from any other post.  It was politicized quickly.  It was a folk song about America, after all.  And forms of government became a point of contention.  Not surprising considering Woody Guthrie often had the words “This Machine Kills Fascists” written on his guitar.

It seems to me that the lines have been blurred between our form of government and our economic and maybe even our religious systems.  Democracy is not the same as capitalism.  Socialism is not the same as Communism.  People worshiping money or monetary systems are certainly not religious in any respect.

I did like one of the comments though because I thought it showed a level of balance so here it is:

“Considering human history and the teachings of the major world religions, it seems that your statement about greed being a natural human trait is largely true. It’s also been recognized as an evil impulse for thousands of years by virtually every strain of human thought. One way to view capitalism is the institutionalization of greed. It has benefits and drawbacks, and most world democracies have settled on a capitalist system with some governmental regulation as “the best of all possible worlds.” Those who advocate for unfettered socialism seem to be ignorant of or OK with losing all of capitalism’s early benefits: constant innovation; rewarding hard work, talent, intelligence, and risk; and a strong individual work ethic. Those who advocate for unfettered capitalism seem to be ignorant of or OK with the oligarchy that quickly overtakes it as the rich use their power to stifle innovation, fix markets, and disconnect the link between talent, hard work, and upward mobility. They seem to also be OK with the violent revolt of the disenfranchised that must surely follow.”     — Patrick Lollis

Any thoughts?

***

The Woody Guthrie song link:  This Land is Your Land

Feature Photo: I found this photo on the Internet in the public domain.  It was linked back to an NPR site with an interview about Woody Guthrie.

BTW: I added the Politics section to my blog because sometimes I’ll have to write something that wanders into this pasture.  But you may have noticed that I don’t post too often in this section.  I am still working on the art of presenting controversial topics neutrally.  I like to keep discussions alive and love to hear what others have to say.  Being extreme in one’s presentation may be provocative, but the discussion will usually deteriorate and die quite quickly that way.  I’d rather have an open mind and listen to well articulated ideas 🙂

 

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 . . .

***

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.

***

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.

***

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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Freedom Begins With Speech

It was the end of March and the cherry trees were in full bloom around the Tidal Basin.  Across the water on the south bank sat the Jefferson Memorial.  A fitting memorial for one of our Founding Fathers and the principle author of our Declaration of Independence.

We were preparing to march . . .

While many can recite the most famous sentence in our Declaration, regarding self-evident truths, being created equal, and the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, I wonder how many have read this document through.  For you see, it continues with a petition of grievances against the British government.  It is a protest.

And years later, to solidify the right to protest in this newly formed independent country, the First Amendment was added to our Constitution.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The group I was assembling with was a group of nurses, some 25,000 to 35,000 strong.  Here in D.C. to protest unsafe hospital staffing conditions and use of unlicensed personnel in place of registered nurses.  We were protesting to support every patient’s right to receive the finest health care treatment available.

Yes, protest is a fundamental right in this country.  It is one of those many rights that generations of our military have fought to protect.  It is not a right to be lightly discarded.  It is not a right to be denigrated if any individual group’s cause is not your own.  It is not an inconvenience to be suffered should a traditional public forum, such as the sidewalk or roadway, becomes crowded with picketers waving signs.  It is a right that should be respected and honored.

We gathered at the west front of the Capitol.  The planned march to follow presentations would proceed down Pennsylvania Avenue and end at the White House.

Capitol Protestors 8

Particularly troubling to me is an all too familiar refrain when petitioners draw light upon an issue, that if you don’t like something, that if you believe something could be changed for the better, that if you see a different way, that you should simply get out.  Leave the entrenched and established protocols alone.  Leave accepted bigotry and hatred be.  Leave injustice unaddressed.  Leave the very democracy that supports the right to protest.  “Love it or leave it.”

This attitude, of course, if accepted in the late 1700s would have kept this country a slave to the British Crown.  There would be no Declaration of Independence, just sheep meandering the pastures, herded by an occupying army.

Now, I’m not saying all causes are good causes.  But the right to petition, the right to peaceful assembly, the right to freely speak your mind are rights that should be held in reverence.  These rights form the pillars of democracy.

And march we did, united in our cause against corporate profiteering off the ill and suffering.

The March to the White House

We, unfortunately, seem to be living in a time of growing intolerance.  Where even our leaders act in bigoted fashion.  Where those who speak out, or adopt silent protest, are vilified.  If you have a different point of view you are told to leave.

But the “love it or leave it” mentality demonstrates a lack of a fundamental understanding of US Government – which was formed by dissenters from authoritarian rule and built upon the liberal principle of humanism.  The Constitution built in safeguards for states from federal government, safeguards for both the majority and the minority views.  And it allows for freedom of expression and the power to vote.  Saying people should leave if they do not conform to your viewpoint is communistic, not American.

And I can’t tell you how exhilarating it is to speak out for a cause you believe in, and to know you live in a country where this right will be protected.  I would strongly recommend that everyone in this country take a stand on something they believe in, to become active participants in our government.

Four generations of my family have served in the US military protecting our rights, and I am proud when people exercise those rights and protest.  That is what makes this country great.

***

Photos:  I took these during the Nurses’ March on Washington D.C. in 1995.

Post Script 1: In my late teens I also participated in a much smaller local protest regarding voting rights.  It seems the 18-year-olds we were drafting into our military were allowed to fight and die for this country in Vietnam, but they didn’t have the right to vote.  The voting age was 21 then.  Nation-wide protests were organized, and the country changed the law.  But even if the law had not changed, I would still have been proud to participate in this established system for redressing grievances.  Dissent and protest formed this country.  These are honorable traditions.

Post Script 2: The Constitution should be viewed as a contract between the government and its people.  The government cannot infringe upon the rights guaranteed in this document.  However, private employers, to the extent other laws do not apply, can infringe upon those rights.  Thus, we have the current controversy about the NFL requiring their players to stand for the national anthem and not engage in protest.  This action is legal because the NFL is a private club and not a government actor.  But I don’t believe this action should be condoned by any government official who is bound to follow the Constitution.  For a leader of this nation to express intolerance of the people exercising their fundamental rights as citizens, rights that our men and women in uniform have fought for and died to protect, borders on tyranny.  And as is expressed in our Declaration of Independence: “A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

Post Script 3: By the way, health care is still not recognized as a fundamental right in this country.  Sad.  In fact, the only law I am aware of that requires the administration of health care is the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA).  The law requires that a patient, upon presentation to an emergency room, be stabilized before they are transported to a different facility.  The law was designed to curtail the practice of “patient dumping.”  Ambulance services and hospitals were redirecting and dumping patients in state-run facilities once they found out they had no insurance.  This profit-based practice was endangering lives.

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.

A Return to Tribalism ?

I’ve been “retired” now for almost 2 years.  Wow!  I can’t believe that much time has gone by, and it appears a window in time for me is getting ready to close.

Because my “retirement” didn’t go as planned, I found myself trying to figure out the next step.  No new jobs were coming my way because of age discrimination and other factors I won’t get into for the moment.  So, I set my sights on finding a new home and a new location, and I gave myself 2 years to do it.  Fresh start.  New life.

But there are only so many ways to stretch a state pension, especially when the state plans on imploding it.  Time bomb’s a ticking.

Shock wave number 2, the price tag on housing has skyrocketed since the time I built the dream home with my second wife.  And the crash of 2008 didn’t really help much because housing costs were so inflated by that time that they haven’t returned to any level close to being reasonable.

I searched all over the country.  Systematically zeroing in on specific localities where I thought I’d like to live while comparing the available services, the climate, if the areas were reasonably progressive, and what the tax burden would be.  Yes, believe it or not, you can really get screwed by double taxation if you’re receiving a state pension and you move out of the state providing that pension.  Both states will tax you on the same income unless you find a tax-friendly state, and from what I could see there are only about 5 of those, three of which I don’t intend to set foot in.

And with the politicians looking at slashing and burning Social Security and Medicare, those of us with employee-earned pensions can’t count on much of a boost in income when the time comes to collect from the funds we’ve paid into for some 45+ years.  The politicians have stolen most of our investment in the SS Trust Fund for other pork-barrel endeavors, and they keep shrinking Medicare payments leaving us to pick up the lion’s share of ballooning medical costs.  Oh well . . .

Yes, the most affordable housing is in places where people generally don’t want to live and where services don’t exist.  And if you find that undiscovered oasis, look out!  It won’t be long before rich people discover it, take over, drive the home prices up along with property taxes, and the original home owners will become refugees, forced to vacate their home towns.  Better move quickly.

So, what happened in the twenty-plus years that had snuck by since I built the dream home that ex number 2 took along with all the cash?  One major thing was that wages have totally stagnated while the cost of living has been relentlessly climbing.  (See my post Balance)  And since pensions only provide a fraction of what wages are, the numbers don’t crunch so well.

But this trend is not just affecting people in my age group or who are living with similar circumstances.  Nationwide, people are losing the ability to afford housing.  The solution, being forced by sheer economics, is a return to tribal living.

There has to be multiple wage earners under one roof now, or there has be a form of piggy-backed housing on a single property where the multiple workers can reside.  I see this happening more and more, and it’s taking on a variety of forms.

For starters, we are starting to see a return to multiple generations living under one roof.  Grown kids are taking in aging parents who can no longer maintain a home on their own or who are ill.  Additionally, according to a study by the Pew Research Center, 33% of young adults between the ages of 25 through 29 are living with their parents or grandparents.  This is a three-fold increase since 1970 and is the highest in 75 years.  These numbers span all education levels, race, gender and religion.  It’s all about the all-mighty dollar.  Who has it and who doesn’t.  And these youngsters can’t afford to move out.

Another form of tribal living I’ve seen is simply renting out the spare bedroom, and not just the Airbnb way for short vacation stays.  A dear friend of mine referred to this as taking in “strays.”  If you know someone you can trust who can’t afford to rent an apartment, or much more buy a house, rent them a room.  It all equals more incomes under the same roof.  A variety of communal living.  Sharing meal and entertainment space and time.

Increasing in popularity is the “ancillary dwelling unit.”  These come with a variety of names including “tiny houses” and “granny flats,” and they can be framed units or a trailer, or an RV, or a modified shipping container.  ADUs can be subject to various zoning regulations, and they may “stand alone” in the sense that the occupier could have separate utility hookups and waste removal.  The common denominator here is the ADU dweller couldn’t afford a larger home on her or his own property, and the property owner sharing space receives some benefit in return.  Expenses have to be spread out somehow.

ADUs can also be rented out as guest houses for temporary stays, and this can be an appealing situation for a home owner that’s not quite making the bill payments on time.  I’m renting a place now where the retired landowners maintain 2 guest houses to supplement their income.

I can also foresee the restructuring of the traditional concepts of marriage and child rearing.  Will we see a return of polygamy?  I don’t know, but I can easily see 2 or 3 wage-earners living under one roof while an auxiliary spouse, partner, or whomever, stays home to take care of the children.  Child care expenses won’t be outsourced anymore.  Who can afford those?  And, we may see more homeschooling accompanying this sort of lifestyle.

Regardless of the form it takes, I envision more forms of communal living as time and economic pressures continue.  This may not be a bad thing in terms of increased socialization, but that’s hard to gauge too.  Will it result in a bringing together of more people or the formations of small clicks walling themselves off from the rest of the community – compounds instead of homes?  Who knows, but until the economy improves for the average wage-earner, I think we’ll see more forms of alternative housing and the growth of interesting social arrangements.

As for me, I’m now trying to decide between setting down roots or becoming a nomad.  Or just maybe I’ll find a tribe to join.  Time will tell.

***

Photo:  This photo was shot by my one of my Great Uncles in 1928 when he was in the Army Air Corps.  He was stationed in the Philippines at the time and he flew out into the jungle in a pontoon-style airplane, and landed to visit the native homes of the Tagalog.  Over time, he rose to the rank of Major General and he played major roles in WWII and the Korean War.

Links:  For further reading see:

The Great Urban Housing Solution That Has No Good Name
A Record 64 Million Americans Live in Multigenerational Households

Update November 30, 2018: I came across an interesting post today on LinkedIn about how AirBnB is going to start designing homes.  It seems the business world has coined a new buzzword – “Coliving” – to describe the growing trend of multiple income earners having to share the cost of housing.  I really don’t see anything new in the concept except that single home ownership is becoming more out of reach for the average wage-earner and this is, perhaps, driving the trend, as I pondered about above, even faster.  If you would like to read further, check out these articles:

U.S. Homes Prices Least Affordable in Almost a Decade

Co-living 2030: Are you ready for the sharing economy?

Link Rot: As with all links to the Net, I can’t guarantee how long they will be active, so apologies if the articles have disappeared into the void of cyberspace 🙂

 

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

 

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.

It’s Really About Outnumbering

Disclaimer: This piece is not intended as an attack on any religion.  What it tries to point out is how groups try to control and manipulate power.  I’m all for anyone who seeks spiritual awareness in any context.

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There has been a lot of controversy swirling about the new administration’s policies on immigration. And while the words “terrorism” and “extremism” have been thrown about as justifications for issuing unconstitutional, blanket bans on specific target groups, I do not believe this is the real reason behind such actions. And guess what, there has been no dramatic influx of radical terrorists without the unconstitutional ban.

It’s really all about “outnumbering.” Backtracking to an earlier time in this country, we can look at the history of abortion laws. How is this related? Well, it’s like this. Over a hundred years ago abortion was legal in this country and you didn’t need a doctor to perform it. Salons sprouted up offering these services. Two opposition groups developed. One was doctors, they were upset that they were not getting a piece of the pie. The protestants, the second group, were upset because white, middle and upper class, protestant woman were now getting frequent abortions. The original outlawing of abortion had to do with doctors wanting money, under the guise of controlling anything they would deem to be medical, and the fear the protestants had about being outnumbered by the Catholics. The Catholics weren’t as worried, abortion was strongly against their religious tenants and the obedient posed no threat, they were out there being fruitful and multiplying, even where the children could not be fed.

You see, religious leaders longed for the days when religion dominated government. In Republics, like ours, this was eliminated, but the easy solution was to outnumber other religions – control the populous. That way, the majority of elected officials would share your belief system and the laws would be shaped to reflect and enforce that singular religious set of values and morals over any other set. Americans, and their elected officials have, for a few centuries now, been dominated by white, European Christians. This has now changed because of immigration. And in another 30 to 50 years, for the first time in this country, white, European Christians will be in the minority. Not surprisingly, we see an increase in white, nationalist Christians wanting to solidify their powerbase, and the only way to maintain control for the long-term is to limit immigration. And what better way to package and sell this idea than FEAR. After-all, those in power don’t want to admit they are really opposed to other religious beliefs.

I don’t think the real fear is rooted in Islamic Extremism. I think the fear is that Muslims are growing in number world-wide, and growing in populous in the US. And those in control don’t approve of Muslim values and teachings – they are still fighting the battle of proving their God is the best and superior God – instead of actually acquiring any spiritual awareness. Terrorism provides a convenient excuse for other agendas, like “othering” an entire group of people on the basis of race, ethnicity, or religion to purposely discriminate and eliminate if possible. For example, terrorism has been an excuse used by the Russians to invade in the Ukraine and involve itself in Syria. And “fake news,” just like the label of “terrorism,” will now be used to discredit any source in opposition to any agenda being propagated by those in control. Almost all of the terrorism that has occurred in this country has been from home-grown terrorists – good white Christians. They all had their justifications.

People can choose not to act from the basis of fear and make intelligent and lawful choices, but will they? People are easily led by fear-mongering.  A couple of quotes come to mind:

“Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear–kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor-with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil at home or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it …” — General Douglas MacArthur.

“Of course, the people don’t want war…that is understood. But voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.” — Hermann Goering.

Next year, will there be too many Germans, Italians, or Chinese in this country? That’s why our forefathers designed the Constitution the way they did – to prevent all forms of discrimination and one of the primary means for preserving this country’s freedom has been to keep religion separated from politics.

Good luck playing the discrimination game, two generations from now this country will look a lot different than it does now. In another 500 years we may only have one race – what will the racists and bigots discriminate against then – oh yeah, there is still religion : – )

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Photo:  This photo was found on the Internet in the public domain.  I’ve been unable to find any other attribution for its source.

Hello Politics . . .

Well, eventually this topic was going to come up.  It’s hard to avoid, especially with today’s newsfeed continually ticking off the latest Congressional blunders.

The diverse topics that fit into this category can be so emotionally charged that I waited a little while before adding any commentary.  But I think some of the current political issues are worthy of discussion.  I’d just like to keep it civil.  Right now, I don’t see much civility on any side of these issues.

So, let’s start off with a note about the U.S. Constitution.  This amazing, and actually short, document ensures a lot of protections for the citizens.  What some don’t understand is that these protections only apply to the federal or state governments, not to the private sector.  The Constitution is like a contact between the government, and its actors, and the people.   The government cannot unreasonably infringe upon the rights guaranteed in the document.

This is why so many other federal laws exist.  Laws such as the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act, the Immigration Reform and Control Act, the Equal Pay Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Fair Housing Act, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.  These anti-discrimination laws extend to both the public and private sectors.

None of these laws would have been enacted, but for, the private sector having exploited people.  And now some of these laws are turned on their heads and have led to other forms of exploitation.  We can have a little fun talking about that later.

So just this week, the House voted to essentially gut the main provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  I don’t recall that being on any politician’s campaign platform during the election year.  I don’t recall the public demanding such action.  So why are politicians stripping away protections for the citizens to benefit big business?  And why aren’t people paying attention?  Read on to my first post in the politics section of my blog: “The Politics of Division.”

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