Tag Archives: work

Clearing the Cobwebs

Well, I’m coming up to my one-year anniversary here on WordPress, and the blog has certainly helped me do what I set out to do with it.  It’s given me a creative outlet and provided incentive for me to write on a more regular basis.

That, in turn, has had many beneficial effects.  I do love to write, but I have to say, it is so easy to let time slip away with a million other things that it’s good to have something to help with my focus.  More importantly, I find writing to be very therapeutic for me.

The more I write, the better I feel.  And I have a lot of stories I want to get down on paper.  Some are a little hard to believe, but they’re true, and that makes them more fun.

I passed the 200-post mark a little while back and I realize as time goes on that my earliest posts probably aren’t being viewed by people anymore and I’ve decided to start taking them down.  They may get recycled at a later date in some form, but it’s time to clear the cobwebs off the blog, and out of my mind too.

New Year, fresh start.

I will keep up some of my personal favs, and some of those posts that everyone really liked.  And it may be time to start compiling some materials for a book.

Guess we’ll see what happens 🙂

***

Photo: An Orb-Weaver Spider, sometimes called a Yellow Garden Spider or a Golden Orb.  Orb spiders weave distinctive spiral webs.  I like to think that we, as writers, weave the stories we tell.  They go in all sort of directions, take many shapes, and have interconnections that will hopefully “capture our prey” – the attention and imagination of our readers.

spidy + spfx2

Coming Up: A little later today I’ll put up part one of my story that lost the writing contest I had entered it in.  (See my prior post “Loser.”)  I think it’s a good story from back in my road-living days of my early twenties.  It’s true too.  Hope you like it.

Winter Solstice

It’s that time of year.  Gray skies.  Light-time fades.  Contracting days.  A barren landscape.

It’s the first day of winter.  The season of dying, or the twilight of life as people sometimes analogize.

For me, it’s an appropriate time to end a cycle.  The death of a lifetime within a lifetime.

Continue reading Winter Solstice

Unfolding

Picture yourself unfolding some paper.  Perhaps opening a letter you just received from a great friend.  Or maybe it was scribblings from a time past that you crumpled up, cast aside, and you had forgotten what you had written.  Or maybe you’re opening a package.  It is Christmas time after all.

You’re not sure what you’ll find.

Now use that as a metaphor for today.  You are just beginning to discover what’s on the page of what will become another chapter in your memory.  You might think you have a plan for today, or for your life for that matter, but you don’t really know what you’re going to discover or what will really happen.

It’s unfolding.  In its own time and its own way.

That’s the way my day is starting.  Really, that’s the way all days start.  But I am truly amazed at how what appears to be a scattering of random things or events seems to coalesce into something that seems fateful.  Like something that was supposed to happen.  Set in motion by the Universe some time before, it keeps building into something more.  Something of real value.  A chain of events comes to fruition.  Physically or mentally or spiritually.

Insight.  Wisdom.  Compassion.  Forgiveness.  Love.

Continue reading Unfolding

If My Memory Serves Me

“White Crane Spreads Its Wings.”  “Repulsing the Monkey.”  “Grasping the Bird’s Tale.”

These phrases, in isolation, might give you a laugh, but if you’re familiar with Tai Chi, you’ll recognize these names right off as they refer to particular forms or moments that can be part of several different Tai Chi routines.  The words help construct an image of the movement that is not only descriptive but that helps you to memorize the parts of the form for practice.

In a multi-form routine, these word images help my poor brain remember what it’s supposed to do, and after a while, since this memory involves movement it can be incorporated into what’s called “non-declarative memory,” which requires no conscious awareness.

And thus, we have moving meditation 🙂

***

So, I’m back to studying about how our brains work and this time I’m reading about short-term memory.  Memory is kind of important for without it we might have died off as a species.

We learned that fire was great for preventing us from freezing to death and wonderful for cooking our food, but not so great if directly applied to our bodies.  We learned which berries were and weren’t poisonous, and how to hunt bison and mammoths without getting killed – probably by watching someone else die.  But then we remembered, passed the information on, and managed to propagate the species.

Although we might wonder a bit about the new wave of “flat-earthers.”

And I know the scientific community goes a little overboard with dissecting and labeling everything but here goes.

It seems we have two types of short-term memory, declarative, like being able to regurgitate specific facts like “sharks swim in the ocean,” and non-declarative, which is like the motor skills we use to ride a bike.  Declarative memory involves “effortful processing” or a lot of repetition.  Non-declarative memory does not require conscious awareness and is sort of automatic.  If we were asked, we probably wouldn’t list out every detailed step that goes along with riding a bike.   We just go through those motions once the brain locks on and our feet are on the pedals, and we use a simple phrase to embody all of those movements.

There are four steps involved in short term memory.  Encoding, storage, retrieval, and forgetting.  Encoding is defined as the conversion of external sources of energy into electrical patterns the brain can understand.  There are three types of encoding:

Semantic encoding – definitions,

Phonemic encoding – comparison of sounds – rhyming, and

Structural encoding – visual inspection of shapes.

The myriad of signals we receive from different sensory sources are registered in separate brain areas.  It’s a fragmented experience, called the “blender effect.”  There is no central storage or hard drive.  Parts of a single event are scattered and stored all over the cerebral cortex.  And a memory trace will lead you to the same parts of the brain where we originally processed the information.

The total number of brain changes to record an event or information is called an engram, and then comes the “binding problem” – how do we bring all of that sensory data back together from the various spots on the cerebral cortex where they were stashed to compose a complete memory?

While it’s counter-intuitive, it turns out, the more elaborately we encode, the more details and complexity surrounding the event, the better our retrieval of that memory.

Retrieval is also enhanced if we replicate the conditions where we experienced the event or came upon the data.  So, if I learned that sharks swim in the ocean while I’m swimming in the ocean, I will remember this bit of information best when I’m back swimming in the ocean.  How convenient.

It also seems that regardless of the setting where we encounter information, the majority of our forgetting will occur within the fist couple of hours that follows.  People usually forget 90% of what they’ve learned within 30 days of the learning experience.  Apparently, we discard what we don’t use quite quickly.

I know, I’ve forgotten much more over the years than I know right now 🙂

Spaced learning is more effective than massed learning and the more repetition cycles we have, the greater chance we’ll convert something to long-term memory.   Tai Chi again provides a great example because we are taught each form separately and then add that to the entire routine, which we then repeat and continually refine.

And something I mentioned before in the post Boring, teaching is more effective if it includes meaningful examples and experiences and emotion.  Real world situations familiar to the learner.  The more personal the example, the better the encoding because we are adapted to “pattern matching” the new information with what we’ve learned before.

So why am I writing about this today?  Because of the fascinating way we’re able to communicate and tell stories, of course.  When I tell a story I want to transmit my memory to you, the reader.  I use as many descriptive terms as I can think of to relay an experience – what I saw and heard, how something smelled, felt and tasted.  How objects sat in space in relation to where I stood or traveled.

We’re able to communicate because of that pattern matching principle.  I relate an experience to you and hope you’ve had enough similar experiences and gathered enough sensory data to “get it.”

Such is the challenge and art of writing.  If we can paint an image that others can see, detail the scent of a flower that the reader can smell, have someone salivating over a recipe or bracing for an explosive sound, or transmit the feel of the smooth, silky skin of another as we describe caressing their face, then we’ve succeeded.

A lofty goal.

And hopefully the experiences we relate will be as memorable to our readers as they were to us.

***

Photo: This is one of my daughter’s dogs, Harper.  He was over for a visit when I snapped this pic.  I etched out the bare patterns with the photo editor creating what I call the “Ghost Dog.”  Its an image descriptive of short-term memories.  We can hold onto basic concepts and sensations, but over time they may fade into the less distinct and more nebulous 🙂

Source: I used the book Brain Rules by John Medina as my source for this post.  Other posts of mine discussing the workings of our brains include:

Move Your Body, Move Your Mind

Writing to Survive

Wired

Boring

and,

Bailer’s Point

 

Transformation or Illness: How Would We Know?

I picked up a fun book tracing a historical perspective on the advancement of medicine, and it naturally included a section about the Hippocratic Oath (400 B.C.).  Hippocrates was the ancient Greek physician credited as being the father of Western Medicine.  He is famous for dismissing beliefs, more ancient than he was, that advocated the supernatural origin of disease.

The oath, which has frequently been summed up as “first do no harm” is actually quite lengthy.  It has been modified multiple times over the centuries and, as it turns out, was not, most probably, written by Hippocrates.

Another irony is that, while Hippocrates disavowed supernatural origins of disease, the original oath translated from Greek, begins by invoking supernatural beings: “I swear by Apollo the Healer, by Asclepius [God of Medicine], by Hygieia [Goddess of health and cleanliness], by Panacea [Goddess of remedies], and by all the gods and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will carry out, according to my ability and judgment, this oath and this indenture.”

The Hippocratic Corpus is a collection of texts associated with Hippocrates’ teachings, only part of which was authored by Hippocrates.  And perhaps in another irony, the Paneth Codex, another medical text that was completed long after Hippocrates had passed, contains some of his writings while using depictions of demons as metaphors for disease.

It seems that it was hard for even the most objective early practitioners of medicine to fully eliminate the supernatural from the corners of their medicine cabinets.  And maybe for good reason.  For the supernatural, once identified and defined, can become quite natural.

So just what is the supernatural and what is natural or normal when it comes to defining illness?

My background and careers are largely based upon science and logical reasoning.  Yet, I’m still willing to keep an open mind and recognize that science and human genius can’t always explain things.  As most people would attest, we’ve seen or experienced things that simply don’t fit neatly into the boxes and shelves of the “normal.”

To say it differently, I believe in the metaphysical realm.  I also believe in mind-body connections and what’s happening in the mind can find ways of manifesting itself in the body.

While I was working at a major research hospital, the doctors and nurses frequently described and linked personality types with specific diseases.  And not always in the most positive terms.  A more neutral example might be that “Type A” personalities were more likely to have heart attacks than “Type B” personalities.

Which brings me to today’s pondering.

Is every so called “unnatural” or “abnormal” condition truly an “illness?”  What’s the interplay between mental and physical illness?”  And what if instead of an illness that required treatment, people were really, in some instances, going through an evolution that should be allowed to progress?

And I guess before I dive in too deeply here, I should clarify that I’m not a mental health professional, nor am I a medical doctor.  If you’re needing a medical opinion, consult your primary care physician, and if you wish to learn more about mental health from a real professional, check out the site of my blogging friend Dr. Perry.

That disclaimer aside, most illnesses would fall outside the definition of normal and some seem relatively simple to diagnose and identify their causes.  Some are genetically related and some follow the pathogen-induced pathway.  Sounds simple, you’re born with the genetic makeup that can be expressed as a physical ailment or you encounter a virus or bacterium and you contract a disease.

But many people have “bad genes” or have close encounters with pathogens and they don’t become ill.  Why?  They are usually said to have healthier immune systems.  What makes a healthy immune system?  Besides good nutrition and exercise there are plenty of correlations to good mental health, positive thinking, and being happy to having a healthy immune system and healthy body.

The idea of illness originating in the mind, or from a body being out of balance might coincide more with some Eastern medical practices, while germ theory most follows Western medicine.  Although I will give Western medicine credit for having researched some things like meditation and meridians and finding scientific bases to support traditional Eastern or more holistic approaches to treatment.  And many Western pharmaceutical treatments come directly from old-fashioned herbal remedies from the Shamans of old.

So if one is encountering an illness, or deviation from normal physical or mental health, something not occurring naturally, then, despite Hippocrates’ claims, could there be a “supernatural” cause, and just what would that mean?

The definition of “supernatural” doesn’t only include references to spiritual entities, but it more basically means transcending the laws of nature or being attributable to an invisible agent.  So, before the advent of the microscope, a simple bacterium or a virus would not have been visible in the observable universe and an illness caused by such would have been a supernatural occurrence.  Consequently, depending on the limits of scientific measurement at any point in time, many causes of diseases could, by simple definition, be supernaturally caused.

And when referring to the supernatural, does it have to be an external source?  What about the person’s own spirit?  Can’t a damaged soul be expressed as a physical ailment?

Or maybe an enlightened soul is causing a physical evolution?

My daughter sent me an interesting article the other day called,  “Shamans Believe Mental Illness Is Something Else Entirely.”  The article focused on a West African Shaman of the Dagara people who proposes that some mental ailments, like depression and schizophrenia may actually be a step towards transformation – even meaning the birth of a healer.

The Dagara believe that some of what we in the West call mental illness is really what happens when people encounter, and don’t how to deal with, psychic phenomena and the spiritual world.  In their tradition, these individuals are seen as a bridge between physical and spiritual worlds.

This Shaman is said to have taken an 18-year-old suffering from hallucinations and depression back to his village.  After 8 months of healing rituals this person was acting quite “normal” and returned to U.S. society to earn a degree in Psychology at Harvard.

While this may be an isolated example, it’s an amazing concept to contemplate.  And I’m not saying that such non-traditional approaches would be a panacea for mental health treatments.  I’m just saying there is still more unknown than there is known.

Given our acculturation, if we were undergoing a positive physical, mental, or spiritual transition we might very well be totally confused as to what was happening and think we were ill.  Our doctors might be unable to come up with a definitive diagnosis and resort to traditional treatments or try to repress the evolution.  You might be labeled as being mentally ill, which could, in turn, send you down medical corridors forever obscuring the inner butterfly emerging from the cocoon.

As more advances are made, and as more ways to measure the currently unmeasurable become available, finer distinctions may emerge as to what constitutes good or “normal” health.  For the supernatural may be commonplace and just another source for healthy growth and development.

***

Photo: The book I picked up is titled: “The Medical Book” and it was written by Clifford A. Pickover.  This picture is a portion of a photo used in the book and comes from the Paneth Codex, completed in Bologna in 1326 A.D.   The book begins in the time frame of 10,000 B.C. moving through medical advances until 2008.  Medicine, indeed, has come a long way from bloodletting starting in 1500 B.C., and I believe it still has a long way to go.

I can personally attest to the advances made in the treatment of asthma since the 1960s when many doctors believed that asthma was a mental illness.  I had many a scary trip to the emergency room as a child, and when in full respiratory distress was even administered Thorazine, an antipsychotic medication, and knocked unconscious.  Oh, the many things we’ve been fortunate enough to survive:-)

Hypocrite: I feel compelled to mention that the word “hypocrite” does not originate from “Hippocrates,” even though it sort of sounds like it does.  Hypocrite comes from the Greek word hypokrites, meaning “an actor,” and translating more literally to “an interpreter from underneath” because actors at the time traditionally wore masks.  Figuratively, it meant someone who wears a mask to pretend to be someone they are not.  In early religious texts, its appears as “ypocrite” referring to those acting like they are morally good to deceive others.  Today, of course, we accept the meaning that it’s a person acting contrary to their stated beliefs.  In a loose sense, that could apply to Hippocrates – denouncing supernatural causes of disease while swearing to supernatural beings to practice good medicine 🙂

Update December 1, 2018: I stumbled upon another article today about this same subject and the Dagara. “A Mental Disease by Any Other Name.”

 
Link Rot Warning: No one can guarantee how long a link on the Net will last.  The US Supreme Court got into trouble over this.  One of the judges quoted from an Internet site, but after a couple of months the site was no longer there for reference.  I also once went to check out a link promoted on our local TV weather channel only to discover it had been hijacked by a porn site – Yikes!

Trust Me, I’ll Feel Guilty

As I’m waking up most mornings, I usually enjoy a cup of coffee in front of the computer while scrolling through various social media sites, picking up the news, and marveling over the commentary.  A while back LinkedIn started what it calls its “Daily Rundown” where it features select tidbits of business-related news and solicits comments.  The skew is usually pro-business and pro-employer, although you will also see pieces that are neutral or pro-employee.

The other day they featured an article about some research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology titled “Who is Trustworthy? Predicting Trustworthy Intentions and Behavior.”  The study used several economic games to measure the personality traits that predict if you can trust someone.  And what they discovered was that “guilt-proneness” was a powerful indicator of trustworthiness.

They distinguished “guilt-proneness” from “guilt” by defining it as the tendency to feel guilty about wrongdoing, thereby avoiding that wrongdoing, versus the negative emotion experienced when someone actually commits some transgression.  The gist of the article discussing the research was that if you wanted trustworthy employees, look for people with a high level of guilt-proneness.

The comments that followed ranged from equating guilt to perfectionism, extreme self-awareness, or having a conscience to guilt being a toxic form of shame that destroys self-esteem.  Some spoke of religion using guilt to control people.

One gentleman said, “I don’t do guilt – such a loser’s emotion,” although later he said he was being “tongue in cheek.”  One woman said, “Then employers should hire more young, white men.  For 50 years feminism has portrayed them as being Guilty of Everything.”  Oh dear, no backpedaling from her.

Yes, the commentary can get a bit dicey to say the least.  And it’s important to note how most of us seized on the word “guilt” as opposed to “guilt-proneness,” and seemed to miss the distinction the researchers were trying to make.  I looked at the verb form of the word myself.

Semantics can muddy the waters of any communication.

I’m not sure how an employer would go about measuring guilt-proneness.  In fact, it seems you would have to entice people to do something wrong and then measure their reaction – avoidance or commission.  Which is what the researchers did.  How would you do that objectively in a job interview or in the workplace after hiring someone?

I do know an employer locally that requires applicants to take a personality test.  I think that’s a bit extreme, and having worked for that employer in the past I imagine the purpose of the test is to screen out any non-conformists.  They don’t want to hire anyone who might question authority or their profit motivations.  I think they will end up screening out the most creative and adaptive applicants and end up with a hive of drones, but hey, that’s just my view 🙂  They may measure “trustworthiness” as a completely different concept – “blind loyalty.”

It is an interesting article and context is important.  Like I mentioned, I looked at the verb as in “guilting.”

When I was a practicing RN, I did a literature review of nursing management journals.  Forty articles out of four hundred – 10% – were dedicated to describing methods for employers to take advantage of, or abuse, their staff.  One in particular was titled, “Manipulation, Making the Best of It.”  The article focused totally on using guilt as a means to take advantage of the staff.  Guilt is a powerful motivator for caregivers and management was encouraged to guilt their staff into working additional 12-hour shifts, accepting ridiculous patient loads, floating to units where they did not have expertise, not taking breaks, and even into not getting paid for their work.

One winter, after an extremely heavy snowfall, my ex was guilted by her employer into trying to go to work.  We lived out in the country and the roads were impassable.   She barely made it out of the driveway when she tried and had to put both of our cars in the ditch to finally absolve her of that boss-instilled guilt.

So while the article focused on how the propensity to feel guilt can be a reflection of the trustworthiness of employees, the question I would ask is if we can trust employers, or anyone else for that matter, not to use guilt as a weapon.  Maybe that’s a better measure of trustworthiness 🙂

***

Photo: I wasn’t sure what pic to choose for this one, but decided this innocent, young buck was a good one.  I was at a distance and made a slight noise to attract its attention.  He warily observed me, not knowing whether he could trust me not to do him harm.  Our eyes met for a spell, after which, he leisurely resumed his grazing.  I guess I somehow communicated that I meant him no malice.

Sirdom

Me: “Hi, how’s it going”

Hiker: “Just great.  Beautiful day.”

Me: “It sure is, absolutely gorgeous.”

Hiker: “Well you have a good day Sir.”

Me: “Thanks, you too.”

A brief interlude as I was passing a fellow hiker on the trail.

“Sir”?

It seems I’ve been hearing this word a lot more lately.  “Excuse me Sir.”  “Hello, how are you doing Sir.”

I kind of want to look behind me to see who is standing there.

And it’s not that it’s bad.  It’s very respectful.  I’m just not used to hearing it, and why now?

This all seemed to start a couple of years ago, right after I turned 60.  Even saying that sounds weird to me, because I sure don’t feel old, or older.  In fact, I don’t think 60 is considered old anymore.  But suddenly people are calling me Sir.

When I think of the word “Sir,” I think of my father.  The Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force.  I think of esteemed people having earned that title by some trial by fire.  More akin to the titles of professor or doctor or judge.

I find it a bit ironic because it seems like when I was younger, I as always sounding like Rodney Dangerfield – “I don’t get no respect.”  I was working hard to try to earn it.  Still didn’t always get it.  My work was sometimes plagiarized too, so I didn’t get the credit for it.

But now, apparently, just by virtue of having aged, people are very respectful.

I guess I’ve reached “Sirdom.”

It was almost magical.  Happening overnight.  I’m not sure what exactly changed.  I’m retired now so no one is looking up to me for being a professional.  Perhaps it’s the gray in my beard?  That same beard that earns me the extra security checks at the airport 🙂

Of course, somehow, I also ended up on the senior mailing lists so I get offers all the time for some type of age-related service.  Long-term care insurance.  Reverse mortgages.  My favorite was the funeral insurance.  Their tag line being, “This will be the last insurance policy you’ll ever buy.”  Nice.

I think it’s great that we respect our elders.  They have so much offer in the form of wisdom.  And in some ways, it is amazing to see so many circles of the sun.  I just don’t feel like I’m an elder at the council fire.  And I’m not sure I have any wisdom to offer. Yet.

Whether you’re a “Sir,” or a “Mam,” or any variation thereof, I salute the divinity that is within you, and respectfully wish you a wonderful day.

***

Photo:  That’s Sir Me, somewhere in Wyoming.  Jesse, the border collie, belonged to the person whose home I was visiting.  I miss my old buddy, Taz, and I’ll probably get another dog someday myself.  Maybe I’ll name him “Sir.” 🙂

Framers, Federalists, and the Reality of the Administrative State

The Framers of the Constitution wanted to avoid the problems of the governments they were all running away from in Europe, so while they wanted a centralized government for certain functions, like taxation, printing a common currency and conducting wars, they also wanted less power in that centralized government to prevent abuses and more power vested in the individual states who theoretically would better be able to determine their specific jurisdictional policies and priorities.

They also wanted to form a Union, and concessions were required to get all of the states on board.

Of course, terminology in law is often stood on its head and “Federalism” has become one of those terms.  Federalism, generically speaks to the relationships between the federal and state governments and the original “Federalists” wanted some form of centralized government as opposed to those who did not.  But the term does not mean more “Federalization” of government, it means less.

The philosophy of the Federalist Society today advocates for a very limited federal government, for a strict constructionist view of the Constitution, and for strong adherence to the separation of powers doctrine.  That doesn’t sound so bad.

Except, “strict construction” and “strong adherence” are just as susceptible to legislative and executive manipulation and to judicial activism as is applying the “spirit” of the Constitution.  And laws and social policy are shaped and changed just the same by “textualists” as they are by “living documentalists.”

It is all a fight over words, definitions, and semantics, and it’s all highly partisan and politicized regardless of any faction claiming otherwise.

And, the reason I bring this up is because how this all intertwines with what has become the modern “Administrative State,” and the massive amount of power being wielded by federal and state agencies that weren’t created in the Constitution.  This seems not to have been contemplated by the Founders and certainly seems opposed to what modern-day Federalists all talk about.  So how did this come to be?

And again, standing language on its head we have the “Non-Delegation” doctrine flowing from Article I and the Separation of Powers doctrine.  So we have three branches of government that are supposed to stay put in their respective arenas, provide checks and balances, and not run around giving their authority away to the other branches or interfering with the authority of the other branches.

For example, Congress can’t pass a law that would allow the executive branch to pass legislation – they can’t delegate that authority away.  But the Non-Delegation doctrine has been stood on its head and has become a means of defining the opposite.  It is used to define just what authority Congress can delegate away and who gets to control that authority.

And while Congress largely gives away authority to the executive branch, it will at times, muck around with the authority of the courts by tinkering with structure and jurisdiction, and by dangling the power of the purse over the heads of the judiciary when they get upset over an unconstitutional law being struck down.

Turns out, the Constitution, over time, probably to the chagrin of the Federalists, has been interpreted to allow Congress to create executive branch level agencies.  They create agencies with what we refer to as “Organic” or “Enabling” statutes and while the agencies’ powers are limited by these statutes, Congress gave agencies a little boost by allowing them to promulgate “rules.”  And, gee whiz, rules, if properly promulgated, have the same force and effect as statutes.  Lawmaking.

When you think about it, Congress expanded the executive branch big time.  They created much more of it than the Constitution originally did and much more of it than people probably like.  And, then they delegated away some of their legislative power to the executive branch (rule-making), but we call this quasi-legislative authority.  And what the Legislature (Big “L”) giveth, it can taketh away.  Although changes may be slow.

This is true at both the Federal and State level and we have Administrative Procedures Acts at both levels to give agencies some guidance and fill in the gaps in the agency-specific Organic statutes.  And these procedures allow agencies to intrude into the Judicial branch too!  They give agencies quasi-judicial powers to hear and decide contested cases, subject to judicial review of course.

And guess what, since the executive branch enforces the law and agencies are by nature regulatory bodies, we naturally have executive prosecutorial functions as well.  So agencies can make the law, prosecute under that law, and convict you (so to speak) under that law, all under one roof.

Agencies do a little more than licensing and maintaining files of annual reports.

Of course, the legislature generally did not delegate any authority to agencies to run around imprisoning people as punishment for any types of violations, so once the agency “convicts” you, the only penalties agencies can implement have to be found in the statutes themselves or you have to go to court for yet another judicial proceeding.  The Sixth Amendment is still alive, for the moment.

Federal and State legislatures can’t be experts in everything and there is so, so much to regulate that we have evolved into a “Administrative State” that has multiple layers of regulation that come from authority delegated out to the Executive Branch by Congress or by State Legislatures.  And the executive agencies’ regulations and decisions are given considerable deference by the Courts because the agencies are the “experts” in their respective fields.

So while many people focus on the acts of the legislature, which is a good thing to do, they should also pay close attention to what’s happening at the state and federal agencies, because there is much more law and social policy setting going on there that has a much more immediate impact on the populous.  You can look at current environmental policies for example.

There, I just kind of laid out the framework for how agencies evolved.  I’m not trying to address how different administrations have used the agencies to implement particular agendas or the merits of specific agendas.  At least not today 🙂

***

Photo:  My pocket Constitution.  These things are good little tools to have and it might be wise to read the Document once and a while.  The Constitution is actually pretty short.  And pretty amazingly well done.  The development of the Administrative State has shifted major powers to the executive branch, and that is partly why administrations do receive so much attention – because of the dramatic effect they can have on people’s day-to-day lives.

BTW: On a personal note.  Federal and state agencies have administrative law judges to preside over the quasi-judicial functions and trials at the agencies.  For part of my legal career I was a state Regulatory Law Judge.

About a year and a half ago, I applied to make the registry of qualified applicants for Federal Administrative Law Judges.  My understanding is they get 12,000 applicants when they open the registry, which is only opened about once every five years.  And they whittle that number down to 200 with an objective examination process.

They have been doing this since 1920 to ensure they get qualified applicants and to minimize the politicization of the process.

The competitive application process consisted of a series of examinations conducted by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).  I made the list, scoring in that top 1.67% of the applicants 🙂 !! This didn’t guarantee me a position, but I could have been selected when there was a vacancy, subject to another interview process.

I recently received an email from the OPM informing me that our president, by executive order, terminated the competitive application process and eliminated the list of qualified applicants, thus doing what no other president has done since the registry’s creation and injecting politics into the selection process.  Selection by one, with no standard for qualifications.

Kind of sad, because the checks and balances set up by the Framers, and even those originally put in place by the independent branches, have been slowly getting whittled away, bit by bit . . .

 

 

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 🙂

Writing to Survive

A while back I wrote a piece about how movement, physical movement, was necessary for our creative minds.  In fact, this was a trait we learned and passed on by the forces of evolution.  To eat, we moved.  As we moved, we learned to think.  We had to be creative problem solvers on the move, and we survived.

That article was called, “Move Your Body, Move Your Mind.”  And there, I explored the first “rule” in the book, “Brain Rules,” by John Medina.  This guy, Medina, is a smart guy. He is a developmental molecular biologist.

This technique works for me, by-the-way.  I get some of my best story ideas when I’m out hiking on the trail and I allow my mind to drift.  Evolutionary vestiges repurposed.  I hunt for words as my food is all neatly packaged at the grocery store now.

Well, the second “brain rule” is our ability to engage in IMAGINATION!  More specifically, our ability to substitute objects in our minds so that one object can represent another, or maybe a whole bunch of different objects.  This has been called “Dual Representation Theory.”  More basically, SYMBOLISM.

It seems our fossil history shows that our ancestors evolved a lot physically since humankind’s estimated beginnings somewhere around 7 to 10 million years ago, but there wasn’t a lot of mental evolution going on until about 40,000 years ago.  And then.  Bam!  We went from stone axes to painting, sculpture, fine art and jewelry.  Soon, there would be mathematics and science.  And, of course, more advanced communication.  What caused this big change?

Apparently, it was the weather.

The changes weren’t fast, but they forced adaptation.  Brought us out of the trees and into the savannah when food sources shifted.  To become more streamlined and save energy we became bipedal.

In order to master survival in all of the biomes on the planet, our brains enlarged.  This brings in another concept – Variability Selection Theory.  Two powerful aspects of the brain developed.  A database and the ability to improvise using that growing database.

And since survival not only meant staying warm and eating, it meant not being eaten too, community concepts evolved.  There was safety and better hunting in numbers.  And this meant learning to negotiate.

This raises the “Theory of Mind” or the ability to make inferences.  To peer inside another person’s mental life and make predictions, to understand their motivations.  All necessary skills to develop allies, cooperative behavior, and group species survival.

This ability to draw upon our databases and make inferences reminds me of the “predictive processing framework,” described in my piece,“My Intuition Tells Me . . ..”

With basic survival skills being mastered, humans could focus on more advanced pursuits.  Those beyond only the four F’s – fighting, feeding, fleeing and fucking.  And thus, in addition to art, music, mathematics, and science, us modern-day bloggers have electronic storytelling.

I think most of us still like the fucking, we just have more time for more things beyond the big four now. 😊

Storytelling is an ancient art, and we wordsmiths spend a lot of time in the world of symbolic thinking.  We don’t use this creative process for basic survival like our ancestors did.  Or do we ???  Maybe writing and creating worlds is survival for some of us.  And I suppose some us actually do feed ourselves by writing, a lean diet that is . . .

But basically, every word we use is a symbol, either a subject or an action or a feeling.  Every word has to represent something tangible in the physical world or summon an image or feeling into the mind.

In fact, symbols can convey meanings or reveal details of reality beyond just a physical image.  Symbols can carry strong emotions.  They can summon memories of sounds and smells and touches.  Of happiness and laughter.

And as writers, we employ that Theory of Mind in multiple ways.  We try to look into our reader’s heads, make predictions, understand what drives them.  Figure out how to lead them through the story.

There are times when we want our words to evoke a particular image and have that image be universal for all readers.  But there are other times when we deliberately want those words to convey multiple meanings, to give the reader a choice.  Or to show contradictions between choices.  Maybe they’ll choose a meaning that even we never saw as a possibility.

If we are writing fiction, we have to develop the mental lives of the characters we create.  We add predictability and motivations for their actions, even providing historic context.  Their fictional life traumas that have helped develop their passions, their fears, their hatreds, their loves, their essence.  So the reader understands the next move on the chess board.

So, this survival skill of making inferences has evolved into us examining the minds of non-existent entities and developing believable characters based upon what we anticipate would be their universal actions.  Wouldn’t we do the same thing in the same situation?  And we do this for entertainment, not for negotiating the next mammoth hunt.

Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, the art of writing is stacking symbols in some sequence to complete a portrait.  And we want to draw the reader in so they feel like they are a part of the story.  A bystander.  A witness.  Or maybe even an active participant.

Symbols may relate to objects, but they don’t equate to objects.  They reveal essence.  Symbols are inclusive and expansive and evolve over time acquiring even more meaning from multiple sources.

Meanings may differ depending on peoples’ cultures.  The Owl, for example, to the Pawnee symbolized protection, while to the Ojibwa it symbolized evil and death.  To the ancient Greeks, the Owl represented wisdom.

Great Horned Owl - 6 - 25th Nov + Crop
According to Joseph Campbell: “Symbols are only the vehicles of communication; they must not be mistaken for the final term, the tenor, of their reference.”  This implies that no two people would experience the object of the symbol in the same way.  Maybe so, especially with cultural variations, but it seems the essence of the experience can be shared more universally with a symbol than with bare words.

With context, it seems to me that symbols are the supersonic highway of communication.  The brain is able to process a symbol as an all-encompassing experience in a nanosecond.  Faster than the blink of an eye, a complex story unfolds in images and associated feelings.

Symbolic thinking is said to be a uniquely human skill, and it allows us the ability to understand each other and coordinate within groups.  And with that, I’ll leave you with a few symbols to make of them what you will. 😊

What do these images inspire in your minds?

***

Note:  If you want to read more, there are some quotes on symbolism below.

Photos:  An angel inside an old Spanish mission.  The great Horned Owl.  A sculpture in an art gallery court yard.  Street sculptures in an eclectic small town.  A vulture crosses it’s folded wings to make a heart.

DeGrazia - Courtyard Statue     Bisbee - 25     Bisbee - 1BCrop
Bisbee - 27 + Crop     Turkey Vulture - Folded Wings 2+Crop Heart

A sort of Rorschach test 🙂

Quotes: 

“Symbolism is no mere idle fancy or corrupt egerneration: it is inherent in the very texture of human life.”
― Alfred Whitehead

“Things do not have meaning. We assign meaning to everything.”
― Anthony Robbins

“Symbols can be so beautiful, sometimes.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions

“If you have to ask what it symbolizes, it didn’t.”
― Roger Ebert

“In many college English courses the words “myth” and “symbol” are given a tremendous charge of significance.  You just ain’t no good unless you can see a symbol hiding, like a scared gerbil, under every page.  And in many creative writing course the little beasts multiply, the place swarms with them.  What does this Mean? What does that Symbolize?  What is the Underlying Mythos?  Kids come lurching out of such courses with a brain full of gerbils.  And they sit down and write a lot of empty pomposity, under the impression that that’s how Melville did it.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction

“A religion is a system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods in men [and women] by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing those conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic.”
― Clifford Geertz

“The same principles that make a spiral galaxy also create the structure of a seashell and unfurling of a fern.  This is why ancient spiritual people used natural symbols to convey universal concepts.”
― Belsebuub, Return to Source: How Enlightenment is the Process of Creation in the Universe in Reverse

“[A] symbol, like everything else, shows a double aspect.  We must distinguish, therefore between the ‘sense’ and the ‘meaning’ of the symbol.  It seems to me perfectly clear that all the great and little symbolical systems of the past functioned simultaneously on three levels: the corporeal of waking consciousness, the spiritual of dream, and the ineffable of the absolutely unknowable.  The term ‘meaning’ can refer only to the first two but these, today, are in the charge of science – which is the province as we have said, not of symbols but of signs.  The ineffable, the absolutely unknowable, can be only sensed.  It is the province of art which is not ‘expression’ merely, or even primarily, but a quest for, and formulation of, experience evoking, energy-waking images: yielding what Sir Herbert Read has aptly termed a ‘sensuous apprehension of being’.”
― Joseph Campbell, The Symbol Without Meaning

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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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 🙂