Thursday, September 24, 2015

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Climate Apocalypse and/or Democracy

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jedediah-purdy/climate-apocalypse-andor_b_8131368.html
 
09/13/2015

In the last week, a group of scientists and a prominent historian each predicted a climate apocalypse. The scientists, led by Ricarda Winkelmann of Germany's Potsdam University, issued a paper finding that, if humans burn the rest of the world's estimated fossil fuel reserves -- which might take only another 140 years at current rates of increase -- effectively all of the world's ice will melt, and sea levels will rise some 160 feet, enough to change the surface of the planet and drown, among others, New York, London, Shanghai, Buenos Aires, Tokyo, and all of Bangladesh.

Historian Timothy Snyder of Yale argued in the New York Times that climate change may bring us the next Hitler. If we ignore the warnings of science and don't start investing in clean technologies, climate shocks will push countries into panic-inducing scarcity, inspiring everything from ethnic and religious conflict in Africa and the Middle East to imperial land grabs by a hungry and worried China. The Nazi precedent is at the heart of Snyder's essay, which is titled "The Next Genocide." For him, Hitler's genocidal war for "lebensraum," or "living space" for Germans, is a paradigm of an anti-scientific response to an ecological crisis. Snyder emphasizes that Hitler rejected scientific measures to increase crop yields and called for Germans to colonize Ukraine and the rest of Europe's grain belt as protection against a food-poor future.

Taken together, these two warnings underscore the discomforting fact that the future of the planet is a political problem. The map of every coastline, the habitability or uninhabitability of the places where billions of people live today, will arise from policy decisions, as surely as if we were detonating those cities, or literally playing God and raising the seas with a word. This is only an especially vivid example of the new human condition, the Anthropocene, in which people are a geological force shaping the Earth. From now on, the world we inhabit will be the one we have made. We can't decide to stop shaping the planet, but only what shape to give it. And the only way to decide deliberately and explicitly is through politics. Nothing else can bind and direct us in the right way.

And, as Snyder emphasizes, ecological crisis can make politics horrible. It can power the worst politics imaginable, to the point of genocide. But avoiding that awful future isn't just a matter of accepting scientific guidance and opposing evil where it arises.

Instead, we can ask what kind of politics makes ecological crises less terrible. Amartya Sen, the 1998 Nobel laureate in economics, famously observed that no famine has ever taken place in a democracy. That is, a natural disaster isn't simply a matter of drought or crop failure; it is a joint product of these events and political decisions: who gets the food, whether to let people starve. No democracy has let its own people starve -- which is an abstract way of saying that democratic citizens have not let one another starve, or, more muscularly, have refused to be starved. There is a key here to a politics for the Anthropocene: a world of ecological crisis, where ecology is both a political problem and a political creation, must be democratic, or else it will be terrible.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jedediah-purdy/climate-apocalypse-andor_b_8131368.html

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Dark Side of Alternative Medicine and Holistic Healing

Alternatinve medicine is called quackery and is a dangerous fraud.  As Tim Minchin says "There is a word for alternative medicine that works...  Ah yes.  It's called medicine."

From Alternethttp://www.alternet.org/personal-health/dark-side-alternative-medicine-and-holistic-healing

Some forms of holistic healing come perilously close for blaming sick people for things beyond their control.

By Susan Sered September 4, 2015

Holistic healing sounds like a good thing. I certainly believe that each of us is far more than a cluster of discrete organs, bones and cells. I also believe that the thigh bone is connected to the hip bone; the mind and the body are a cohesive unit; that every illness experience is embedded in a wider social context; that environment matters; and that the manner in which a healer relates to a patient can result in widely different outcomes. And while we Americans may be suspicious that some brands of healing are nothing but quackery, unless the healer interferes with standard bio-medical treatment (for example, by telling patients they must stop receiving cancer chemotherapy) we tend to see holistic healing as benign” Even if it doesn’t “work” it helps people struggling with pain and disease feel better.

That assumption, I’ve come to see, needs to be looked at a bit more closely.

A number of years ago I conducted interviews with 46 Boston-area complementary and alternative medicine practitioners who told me during an initial phone call that they treat breast cancer patients. 
Their healing modalities ranged from acupuncture to Zen shiatsu therapy and from homeopathy to past life regression.

All of the healers explained that bio-medical treatment alone is insufficient because it only targets the symptom (cancer) and not the underlying causes of the disease. (Only a very few of the healers actively discourage their patients from continuing bio-medical treatment.) The deeper, root causes identified by the healers cluster into a few categories:

*Elements of the modern environment or lifestyle that cause or contribute to the rise in rates of breast cancer;  for example, air pollution, computers sending out electromagnetic rays which typically are parallel to the level of a woman’s breast, deodorants and antibiotics.

*Food and drink related causes such as alcohol abuse, dairy products, artificial sweeteners and gluten.
*Personal experiences and character traits including trauma, social isolation, lack of self-acceptance and feelings of resentment.

As I listened to healers (almost all of whom I very much liked on a personal level) I began to understand that through invoking these root causes the healers were actually reframing or expanding breast cancer from a discrete physical disease of a body part to a much larger problem potentially involving all areas of a woman’s life (and possibly her past lives as well). 

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/personal-health/dark-side-alternative-medicine-and-holistic-healing

Are Vitamins And ‘Natural’ Supplements Good For You?

From Popular Science:  http://www.popsci.com/nih-pledges-35-million-to-research-nutritional-supplements?src=SOC&dom=fb

The NIH just pledged $35 million to find out—but it may not be enough

By Alexandra Ossola September 9, 2015

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced on Wednesday that it will invest a total of $35 million toward research into dietary supplements. Five research centers will spend the next five years investigating the effectiveness of some of the most popular “natural” dietary supplements in the country.

This research is important because the medical benefits of many nutritional supplements are unproven, despite the fact that about one-fifth of Americans take them. Antioxidant supplements, for example, have been found to stave off cancer, among other diseases, in some patients but worsen preexisting lung tumors in mice. Fish oil contains Omega-3 fatty acids, which may help lower your risk of heart attack, or it could increase your risk of prostate cancer, or do nothing to stop cognitive decline. If any of these chemicals contains a miracle cure—or if health-conscious people are unwittingly hastening their demise—doctors should probably know.

Paul Offit, an infectious disease specialist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia who has written extensively about vitamins and nutritional supplements, sees the value in these sorts of studies, even if the result is negative—in the past, similar studies have shown that taking concentrated garlic doesn’t slow bad cholesterol, or that the herb saw palmetto can’t help an enlarged prostate. “When patients want to take [these supplements] physicians can say ‘Don’t do it, take a statin instead. And don’t take garlic because it’s “natural”—it just doesn’t work,’” Offit says. The term “natural” is deceiving, he adds, since most drugs are derived from compounds found in nature.

But Offit doesn’t think the NIH’s investment in research will solve the real issue with supplements: a lack of strict regulation. “The problem is getting a quality product in an unregulated industry. I cannot emphasize this more strongly—the FDA simply does not regulate [supplements],” he says. Though the FDA does claim to regulate supplements, studies in recent years have shown that the nutritional supplements sold in health food stores contain varying quantities of the active ingredient that is often different from what is on the bottle, plus a whole bunch of extra ingredients not even mentioned on the label. Earlier this year, the New York State Attorney General conducted an investigation, adding to the mounting evidence against the efficacy of these supplements.

Continue reading at: http://www.popsci.com/nih-pledges-35-million-to-research-nutritional-supplements?src=SOC&dom=fb

9/11

Fourteen years ago I still lived in Los Angeles.  I got up early that day because it was a primary election day for the Mayor of LA.

When I got into the polling place the election workers were closely watching a small television.

They said a plane had hit the World Trade Center. At first I thought it was an accident, like when a plane hit the Empire State Building. I did my civic duty, voted and went off to get my breakfast bagel.

I called Tina, who lived on Long Island at the time.  She was unaware of events but turned on the TV and filled me in on what was happening.  I hurried home, put on the TV and booted up my computer.
By that time the first tower had collapsed and the second followed. Events that would be replayed again and again.

Both Tina and I had met a woman, who was killed on one of the planes.  My cousin had friends killed at the Pentagon.  Tina knew a family whose daughter was in one of the towers.

I moved to Long Island a few months later.  I avoided Ground Zero.  Then I accidentally wound up exiting a subway near there.

Sometimes revenge is just another word for justice. I remember the videos of the Palestinians dancing in the streets. Hell if they had wanted to turn the entire Middle East (except Israel, our only real ally there) to glass the day after 9/11 I would have said go for it.

Now I think we would have been better off if we had acted more like Israel did after Munich in 1972. They had the Mossad hunt down and kill the Jihadi scum that had murdered their Olympic atheletes.

Hind sight is 20/20 and I went along with the rush to war.  So did 70-80% of my fellow citizens.  I can't blame Fox News I was reading the New York Times and News Day every day and they were rah-rah for war too.  Now we are mired in the 1400 year old wars between the Muslim world and the West, wars marked by imperialism on both sides.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The Natural Right of Self Defense

September 4, 2015. By Tenth Amendment Center

The right to keep and bear arms is actually part of a broader natural right to self-defense. No government, no document, no vote creates your right to self-defense. You have this right because you are a living, breathing human being.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Labor Day Or Any Other Holiday. What the Fuck Do They Mean Anymore?

I'm old, I'm tired of fighting.  I've become cynical.

I used to put up rousing pro labor music on Labor Day.

I'm nearly 70 years old.  I was born in the late 1940s and grew up in the 1950s, an era of optimism, despite what many would have young people believe about that era it was a good time.

World War II was over, Eisenhower was President. The Democrats ran Adlai  Stevenson, a total dweeb with the personality of a slug against him, twice. I wasn't supposed to like Ike because my parents were staunch Democrats.

Looking back on things I think Eisenhower was the second greatest Republican President ever.  He managed the US during one of the most dangerous periods in history and helped keep the nukes from flying.  He presided over rise of the civil rights movement.  Built the interstate highway system that drew the country together.  He saw to it that the promises of home loans and the GI Bill for vets saw the rise of the educated middle class in America.

Yeah I remember a lot of things about those days.

I remember how we had a parade on Memorial Day to honor those who gave their lives fighting to keep this country whole and defend ideals we shared.  Almost all the stores were closed except for one or two pharmacies.

I remember the Fourth of July when we had parades and a big gathering at a place called Fireman's Field that was a day of partying, speeches, bands and entertainment capped of with fireworks.

We had a parade on Labor Day too, all the stores and the paper mill closed that day too.

November 11 was Armistice Day, later as World War I faded from memory it became Veteran's Day.  We had assemblies in school where veterans spoke of the wars and their service.

I remember Thanksgiving, a day of showing gratitude, families gathering for a big feast.  As I grew older there was usually the Army-Navy Football game on the TV.

I remember Christmas and New Years as the Holidays.  People had their own religions and celebrated them differently including the days on which presents were exchanged.

Somewhere along the line something was lost.

That rising middle class became separated from the working class. The children of the generation of vets who were the first generation to go to college became the white collar elite. They became the privileged and started looking down on the people who built the buildings and roads, drove taxis, waited on them in restaurants.

With that condescension, perhaps even contempt towards working people came an anti-union rhetoric and stagnant or  even falling wages.

In the early 1960s I read a book by Vance Packard, The Status Seekers: An Exploration of Class Behavior in America and the Hidden Barriers That Affect You, Your Community, Your Future.  I wish I could remember it better as Vance Packard was a real sociological Cassandra warning of trends that threatened society and the well being of humanity.

I know I grew up questioning the rampant consumerism and status seeking of the privileged. I wanted adventure more than the rewards of conformity. I liked the bohemian life more than the status seeking games.

After the 1960s they blamed the hippies for every modern social problem, hippies became the universal scapegoat.

Some where along the line we stopped having parades on the Fourth of July and the LGBT rights parades celebrating the Stonewall Riot became the only parade most cities seemed to have.

Instead of parades and celebrations of important events and movements that affected the life of Americans we saw those days turned into orgies of consumption.  Days featuring huge sales kicking off yet another season of marketing during which people are supposed to assert their individuality and status by their spending and consuming.

I've worked in Big Box Stores where Labor Day marks the start of the Christmas Marketing orgy, with Halloween tossed in as an extra must consume and spend money on event.

While I was wondering if this is a universal given I learned through a Facebook Friend that they still have a Labor Day Parade in one of the small Adirondack villages I grew up in.  I learned there is/are small towns and cities that still hold Fourth of July parades and events.

We have a small business and know people who restore cars and houses, make real wood cabinets and the like.  We celebrate those who open and run their own restaurants unbeholding to and not following the rules of some corporate board of directors.

Some of us are looking at less being more with smaller homes, less status and more time even if only to loll around reading or watching TV.

We've been polarized as a nation and people by folks who are experts at the art of selling and propaganda.  After all if we are at each others throats over bullshit issues we might never notice how empty our lives as consumers and worker drones really are.

We might never ask how we go to a place where politician seem selected by big money, bought and paid for not to govern in the interests of the people but in the interests of the rich elites.