Sep 25

Marijuana: Benefits and Dangers

In Brief—A discussion of marijuana and other drugs examines the facts, the myths and the misunderstandings surrounding the acceptance of and resistance against consciousness-altering substances.


America’s Erratic Drug Policies—

I have a confession. I have used consciousness-altering drugs until 2011 when a tumor and an operation ended my use. I drank wine, an occasional dram of single malt whisky and an even more occasional margarita. I used these drugs in moderation or sometimes not at all. However…

All these drugs—and they are drugs—are legal, regulated, readily available…and dangerous. They contain alcohol. Alcohol kills thousands every year through disease, accidents and overdoses while contributing to violence, addiction, homelessness, physical abuse, rape, divorce and other societal ills. Alcohol costs America billions of dollars per year in costs, social, medical, law enforcement and judicial. These costs come out of your pocket.

Marijuana:medicalMeanwhile, the mild hallucinogen marijuana is classified as a federal Schedule 1 drug—along with truly dangerous drugs like heroin—and far too often results in imprisonment for small amounts, even paraphernalia…and yet it is relatively harmless AND medically valuable. Deaths from marijuana overdoses? Zero!!

The United States is, to say the least, erratic when it comes to drugs. Some states allow marijuana, some allow medical marijuana but limited or no personal use, and some states allow neither. Regardless, the federal government’s Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) continues to arrest and prosecute people who use this mild hallucinogen despite the fact that they may hold a legitimate medical marijuana card (as Tommy Chong does) or use the drug in the privacy of their own living quarters.

And heaven help you if you happen to be a minority. The ACLU has documented that black people are arrested nearly four times as often as white people even though they use the drug less. Hispanics are similarly targeted. The enforcement agencies deny that race is a factor. Yeah, sure. If it walks like a duck, has feathers like a duck, etc.

lllegal Drugs—

Earlier I stated that I had used a consciousness-altering drug in the form of legal alcohol. I also confess I used illegal consciousness-altering drugs: primarily marijuana and hashish but also small amounts of psilocybin (magic mushrooms), peyote (once; it tastes awful) and LSD (once; a positive experience). Simultaneously, my use of alcohol dropped to nearly nothing. By the way, did I mention I’m white?

Given my personality, I researched the bejeezus out of these drugs before using them. I even read material from as far back as the mid-19th century. I could find no support for the government’s ludicrous scare stories. Although I would double-check if the government announced the sun rises in the east, since these drugs are Schedule 1 drugs, I avoided cocaine and all the harder drugs because they didn’t pass my research muster.

I used marijuana and the other mentioned drugs on weekends for about fifteen years. One day I simply decided to not use them any more. I had expanded my senses, loosened up and benefitted from their use, but the life of the mind became more important to me. That fact alone knocks the government’s addiction and dependence nonsense into a cocked hat. As I said, government pronouncements kick my skepticism into high gear. I advise healthy skepticism for you, too.

Of all my friends, acquaintances and associates, only two individuals refrained from using marijuana. However, musicians, doctors, lawyers, judges, police officers and college students all used marijuana. Without exception, everybody was stoned at every party I attended. I observed the joints and bongs being passed around. Anybody who tells you they never smoked weed is probably lying.

 Dangers of Marijuana—

  •  Arrest and prosecution!! This is particularly true for people of color. Be very careful whatever your skin pigmentation. This is also true in Sweden which propagandizes even now.
  •  Youngsters whose brains are not yet fully mature should not use. It is reported that the brain is not mature until a human is about 21. Children should NOT use…Period!
  •  Mentally unstable or dependent personality types probably shouldn’t use. Check an honest, unbiased and knowledgeable drug expert on this.

 Benefits of Marijuana—

  •  Food, sex, and music are enhanced. I’d even say they were great.
  •  Numerous medical conditions are treatable or improved: anti-cancer chemotherapy weight loss; chronic pain; post-traumatic-stress-disorder (PTSD); sleeplessness; arthritic pain; epileptic seizures; glaucoma; multiple sclerosis; colitis, approaching death anxiety and more.
  •  Tax revenues can improve state and federal budgets.
  •  Law enforcement and judicial costs can be reduced. A side-effect might be that inasmuch law enforcement no longer targets minority people, race relations might improve.

At the top of this piece, I said that the U.S. government was erratic in its treatment of drug violations. To see just how erratic they are while being entertained, click on the link below to see four comedians discussing the treatment of Tommy Chong, formerly of the comedy team of Cheech and Chong, explain his imprisonment for….paraphernalia (bongs). It’s hilarious, but it’s mind-boggling to learn that federal agents threated to imprison Chong’s wife unless he pled guilty. This is just a glimpse at America’s discombobulated drug laws. Funny but enraging. Click on the link below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3zNlok4BWo

The whole point of this piece is that marijuana is a mild hallucinogen that has never killed a soul, but there it sits on Schedule 1 as a dangerous drug. You have to wonder whose interest keeps it there.

Follow the money” suggests that your representatives are dancing to someone else’s tune, not yours. So what are you going to do about it?

Sep 18

D is for Deity Delusion

In Brief—A review of the origin and delusion of belief in a deity. This review demonstrates a delusion, a dangerous and deadly delusion.

—————————————————————————————————————————-

Humans believe what they choose to believe—

Our ancestor, George, was walking along not being careful where he was putting his foot. A rock tripped him. Since humans are said to be pattern-seeking creatures, George believed that the rock deliberately tripped him and therefore the rock must be inhabited by a spirit. Patterns, remember? George believed that the rock’s spirit must be placated. Thus, prayer came into being.

Abstract:ReligionsAlthough this is a fictitious abbreviation of the process, it’s an illustration of the process that led humanity to the belief systems that surround us today. Many of these belief systems are what we call “religion.” The spirit in that rock has been transformed into the deities that plague humanity today.

I have written about how those early deities were the product of the humans who created them. Over the millennia, those deities have evolved as a result of power struggles, mistakes, promotion by the faithful believers—all men, by the way—designed to attract the ignorant humans in the area. Although many were gullible, some were forced at the point of a sword to adopt the belief system peddled by the guy in charge. The deities demanded obeisance or death. How’s that for a choice?

So what are the factors that drove belief—or the factors that drive belief today? My theory is that the motivators are Fear, Ignorance and Brainwashing, the FIB Theory.

Wait a second! For three years, I have been politely telling believing readers that they must use their brains and logic in determining the non-existence of a deity. The believers either let me do my dance or they ignore me altogether. They either believe I’ll be punished by that loving God for using the brain that he gave me—how’s that for illogic?—or they get back to other diversions without weighing the illogic.

By the way, this piece isn’t directed at those who already disbelieve. The seculars add up to roughly 16% of the people on the planet, the third largest and growing group in the world. (Whoopie!) It is directed at Christians and Jews who together make up only about 32% of the world’s believers. It’s also directed at the worshipers of Islam, about 23%. What must the non-Christians, non-Jews and non-Muslims of the world think of the God/Jehovah/Allah worshipers? Who’s wrong? Hm-m-m.

Let’s peer around at what we can see wherever we look. Humans of all ages suffer from cancer and a whole litany of painful diseases. Did the good, all-seeing and all-powerful deity create these people and diseases? Humans kill one another because “The Other” is different and has another view of the good life. Every group does it, and the worshipers of Islam are particularly good at killing their kin. Did the deity create these differences? Starvation abounds. Was the deity resting that day and didn’t want to be disturbed? Humans drown trying to escape privation and corruption. Does the deity care?

What do we fear? In earlier times humans primarily feared natural disasters, enemies, outbreaks of disease or other simple threats. Today, we fear ostracism, abandonment, change, being different.

How has ignorance limited us? In early times, humans were ignorant of physiology, disease, history, human nature and a host of other conditions that science and education have answered. Today, we are unfortunately ignorant of many of the same conditions, we accept the pronouncements of demagogues who prey on that ignorance, but most of all we are ignorant of how our brains work, of our psychological make-up.

How are we brainwashed? In earlier times, humans were led to believe nonsense taught to them by parents, teachers, holy men and society. Today, we are brainwashed by the same influences as in the past. We haven’t progressed. Brainwashing has humanity by the throat. Fear. Ignorance. Brainwashing. To a greater or lesser degree, these lie at the root of the human delusion that a deity exists and that deity looks over everything, even the fallen sparrow.

This by no means implies that non-believers are without fault. We are all humans with many of the same strengths and flaws. Many are good and many are less so, but some take to heart the belief that they want to leave the world better than when they arrived. The sooner the ones who believe in a deity give it up, they will at least be standing on their own two feet free of one more delusion.

As Bertrand Russell once said, “Even if the open windows of science at first make us shiver … in the end, the fresh air brings vigor, and the great spaces have a splendor of their own.”

Sep 11

Dupes Are Born Every Minute

In Brief—With apologies to P.T. Barnum (sorta), the author points out how humans will believe what they want to believe despite solid evidence that they are wrong, whether it’s politics, religion or science.


“There’s a sucker born every minute.” (falsely attributed to P.T. Barnum)—

Machiavelli deceveYou can dress it up and put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig. You can grind up the leftovers of a slaughtered pig and make baloney, but it’s still baloney. Similarly, a politician’s slick lies, a preacher’s promises of salvation and surcease from pain or a demonstrator’s belief that a fertilized egg denotes pregnancy is baloney. Believing does not make it a fact. Those who accept this baloney are dupes.

A naked majorette can march down Main Street ahead of a sixty-piece band and a huge float carrying large signs and banners proclaiming reality, but all the crowd will notice is the naked majorette. I can write dozens of pieces giving enough facts and evidence to choke an elephant, but like that crowd and the majorette, people will believe what they want to believe, see what they want to see. I might as well be shouting into a rain barrel.

My blog pieces on the FIB Theory illustrating how fear, ignorance (NOT stupidity) and brainwashing are the basis of belief might as well be written in a foreign language. Most readers will nevertheless believe what they want to believe.

Governments, ISIS, the Taliban, Boko Haram and other extremist groups recruit cannon fodder who may experience patriotic feelings but are still dupes. I can hear the cries of outrage from here, so what follows will explain how these people are dupes.

What is a dupe? A dupe is defined as one who is deceived, gulled, misled or fooled. Such a person may be sincere but s/he is blinded by some form of belief. Government propaganda or religious convictions can easily lead someone to become a dupe. The deceiver plays on a person’s belief, needs or fears. No matter the motivation, the person is not using his/her brain to decide whether it’s a lie or not. That person is being duped.

America pumps out propaganda that is slavishly reported by the mainstream media telling us how our society and our very existence is threatened, what we should believe, how we should act. The films America produces, its TV, the fashion world all contribute their fair share to the all-inclusive propaganda designed to dupe us.

Similarly, extremists throughout the world inflame the devout with the belief that death and destruction will result in victory for their group. Many believers accept this and sign on the dotted line. Frightened civilians are subjugated or killed by the extremists in the belief that these acts of violence assure that their side will win. Belief is the key. They are dupes.

The Israeli government believes that expanding into Palestinian land and that killing the oppressed and angry Palestinians will assure peace. Trampling free expression, they falsely shout “anti-Semitism” intended to destroy the BDS movement because it threatens their policy. Many Israelis and politicians believe these lies. Belief is the key. The Israelis who believe this and those in other countries who support the Israeli government’s lies are dupes.

Former football player Pat Tillman and all those who bought the government’s line may be patriotic, but they are dupes. Those who believe that military service will put bread on the table while ignoring the risk of death or injury are dupes. They hold the belief that they are serving their nation. In fact, they are serving the rich investors who profit from war. They are dupes.

Somebody with a degree in geology tells us that climate change is a fraud. Some preachers tell the faithful that a fertilized egg denotes pregnancy. Both are peddling lies. A corporation assures one and all that dynamiting the tops off mountains for the coal beneath or that injecting chemicals into the earth to extract the oil are telling lies in order to assure their profits. These are dangerous lies that condemn all inhabitants of Earth to destruction. Anybody who accepts this claptrap is a dupe.

A politician who takes part in obstructing rational progress toward the future is acting in his/her own self-interest or adhering to pure partisanship instead of acting in behalf of the nation. Voters who accept this behavior are dupes.

A voter who hasn’t the faintest idea what the party platform sets forth, what his/her representative votes for or stands for and merely votes for the party is not using his/her independent brain. This voter is a dupe and probably stupid, i.e., willfully ignorant.

Religious believers who listen to and believe so-called holy men, priests, preachers, rabbis or imams and repeat the traditional prayers are not using their independent brains. They are dupes.

Are we all dupes to believe without question what we are told, what we read or hear? Are we failing to use our rational minds to logically question what’s done in our behalf? Are we dupes?

Sep 04

Dishonesty, Sex and Abortion

In Brief—The author presents the facts showing—whether sincere or duplicitous—that reproduction is governed by both scientific reality and human nature. Believing in myths does not make something true.


Sex is Popular Because It’s Centrally Located—

True or False? Pregnancy occurs when the egg is fertilized by a sperm cell.

Facts in circleThis is False. Though many otherwise sincere people—as well as dishonest opponents of abortion—contend that as soon as a female egg is penetrated by a sperm cell pregnancy occurs. This is known as fertilization, but it does not mean a female is pregnant.

Virtually all educated people know that pregnancy does not occur until the fertilized female egg implants in the uterine wall. The medical profession and science agree on this. If the fertilized egg does not implant in the uterine wall, it will be expelled from the female body naturally. Several contraceptives prevent the fertilized egg from implanting OR the egg can simply not attach naturally and will be expelled from the body.

Despite the false belief that contraceptives preventing uterine implantation are abortions, they are not. Contraceptive pills and IUDs merely prevent the fertilized egg from implanting in the uterine wall. As stated above, belief in a myth does not make it a fact.

True or False? Planned Parenthood (PP) devotes most of its efforts to abortions.

This is False. Many abortion opponents believe that Planned Parenthood (PP) devotes most of its efforts to carrying out abortions. They are glaringly wrong…or pandering politicians. Though they may sincerely believe this hogwash or consciously lie in the pursuit of their goal of ridding America of all abortions—they are spouting falsehoods. Only 3% of PP’s activities are abortion services. The overwhelming majority of PP’s services are devoted to sex education, reproductive health such as PAP smears and breast examinations, treatment of sexually transmitted diseases (STD) and family planning. Put clearly, PP is important to America’s health.

True or False? PP profits from the sale of fetal tissue derived from abortions.

This is False. Despite tons of independent proof of blatantly doctored footage of hidden camera interviews, opponents and hostile Republican politicians continue to attempt PP clinic closures, defunding the organization and even attacking cell researchers by falsely claiming that PP profits from their sales to researchers. This is not only false but injurious to the states pursuing PP and to researchers. Indeed, it is injurious to America’s health.

It’s interesting to note that a Texas grand jury cleared PP and instead indicted the abortion opponents and their leader, David Daleiden, for committing a felony. Repeat: PP was given a clean bill of health while the abortion opponents were indicted. Republican politicians choose to ignore this…and surprised Texas prosecutors are squealing and appealing.

[Time out here for a fist pump and a Yeah!!]

True or False? A fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks after implantation.

This is False. While this assertion is falsely reported to be controversial, it’s not controversial at all. The scientific consensus is that a fetus does not feel pain before 27 to 30 weeks after implantation. Abortion opponents are placing wishes ahead of scientific fact.

Please note that the abortion opponents specifically say that a fetus feels pain from 20 weeks AFTER FERTILIZATION. This, of course, fits their plan to establish pregnancy as the moment of fertilization. This is absolutely anti-science baloney, morally corrupt and typical of the dishonesty of the anti-abortion efforts. See my first point above.

Furthermore, many abortion opponents and conservative Catholics who adhere to Catholic doctrine want to outlaw not just abortion but contraception as well. Put clearly, they want to make any form of contraception illegal. It’s important to remember that. They want to overthrow the Supreme Court’s holding in Roe vs. Wade and take us back to the olden days of government interference in what we do in the privacy of our bedrooms…and to dangerous back alley abortions. Do you want somebody else’s religion forced on you?

Who are the PP clients, where and how do they operate?

PP’s clientele includes not just millions of mature females but teenagers and men as well. Working with high-quality partner organizations, they provide information on reproductive health throughout the world, not just in America. Many of PP’s clients are low-income people who are provided with top-notch services at low or no cost. Often, PP is the only source of reproductive health, pregnancy prevention and education available to the people they serve.

 Conclusion—

Despite PP’s essential services, the anti-abortion and anti-contraceptive opponents continue their attempts to prevent PP from providing their services. Unfortunately, in their zealous pursuit of PP, the opponents too often resort to lies, duplicitous behavior and even violence or murder.

To say we must oppose these underhanded methods is not enough. We must close all the doors to their underhanded efforts. The partisan Supreme Court conservatives stand ready to support such unscientific and duplicitous methods, so it’s essential to vote for forward-looking candidates who will reduce the power of conservatism whether on the court or in legislative corridors. Only an aroused electorate can stop the dishonest people who would force us back to the ugly past.

Support Planned Parenthood and Vote for truth.

 

Aug 28

How to Make an Enemy

In Brief—A examination of American policy on assassinations and how they have served to make more enemies than they kill.


Hypocrisy Fosters Contempt—

drone w: multiple rocketsA wedding celebration turns into a scene of horror. If the attack were only one wedding celebration it could be claimed that it was a tragic mistake, but American policy has assured that this horror has happened more often in more than one Middle Eastern country. On each occasion, American missiles have blown innocent men, women and children to pieces. Hospitals are targeted, too.

The mistake by the celebrants was in gathering to celebrate a special occasion. The attacks by the American military transform a mistake into a cold report falsely claiming that hundreds of “The Enemy” (EKIA) were killed in the strike. The American government quietly pays blood money to relatives. Will dollars replace a loved one? Is it even remotely possible that the citizens of that country will feel benevolent toward the United States?

A Nation of Laws?—

Executive Orders 12333, 11905 and 12036 make it a crime to assassinate an individual unless that individual poses an “imminent threat” to the nation. International law, the Geneva Conventions and the U.N. Charter all state that a nation can use military force only in immediate self-defense. Despite this— and along with the Israeli government, the Obama administration is a leading practitioner—American officials say such killings are legal. Saying so doesn’t make it legal. That fits the definition of propaganda.

What follows are simply two high-profile examples of the American assassination policy. Imagine what this suggests about lower targets of the policy and the innocents who happen to be in the target zone. In fact, are the targets there by mistake?

Anwar al-Awlaki—

Anwar al-Awlaki, a dual American and Yemeni citizen who preached that America was the enemy, was assassinated by a drone missile on a remote road in Yemen. His 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, was similarly assassinated two weeks later. The killings were authorized by President Obama who acted in disregard of the Due Process clause and the First Amendment of the Constitution. On a president’s say-so alone, a person can be killed. The “Rule of Law” is hollow rhetoric. That’s where America is today. What about tomorrow and the next president, or the next?

Because of the remote location, there appears to be evidence that Awlaki and his two companions could have been captured but were killed instead. It’s possible that they might have resisted, but capture was never even contemplated. The killing of Awlaki’s son was claimed to be a mistake, but it has never been explained. An illegal “mistake.”

Osama bin Laden—

The U.S. government has issued several different stories about the killing of Osama bin Laden suggesting that the government believes that smoke will work to obscure the truth. Put the varying stories together and the simplest answer appears to be that bin Laden was deliberately assassinated.

One of several versions put out by the government is that the Naval SEAL who assassinated bin Laden claimed that bin Laden was captured unarmed and offered no resistance, but he was nevertheless “tapped.” Indeed, we have never been shown bin Laden’s body. Again, the simplest answer appears to be that it was more convenient to kill bin Laden rather than try him and allow him to present a revealing defense.

Osama bin Laden, the founder of al-Queda, was America’s creature in opposing the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He and his mujahideen fighters were trained and financed by America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The CIA has denied this, but a variety of reliable sources confirm the story. One wouldn’t expect the agency to admit that they and the ever-duplicitous Saudis financed the mujahideen fighters. The Saudis, by the way, made a pact with the devil in promoting the extremist ultra-conservative Wahabbi form of Islam. Thus were born ISIS and the Taliban.

This snake pit of conflicting claims ignores the attitude by the United States government that the people of other countries—in this case Middle Easterners—are insignificant, that they are “The Other” who must dance to the American tune. They must die if needs be to maintain the belief that America is the savior of the world and entitled to whatever it wants.

Whether it is wedding parties or community meetings, the mere suspicion that they are terrorists is enough to warrant the death penalty. All those humans killed in this arrogant belief become “the enemy.” Makes no difference if the victims are a mistake, innocents, women or children, they are all “the enemy.” Seems America is in the business of creating enemies.

This is America. Are you willing to accept this?

Aug 21

Men Crying—Personal or Cultural?

In Brief—The author looks at his own history and whether his tears represent just one man or whether the display of emotion is imposed by culture or environment.


Tears are the silent language of grief. (Voltaire)—

”Oh, God! That’s the last news I ever wanted to hear!”

As I write this, it’s been four months since I learned that my old friend, Lionel, is dead. Those are the words I wrote when I received the news of his untimely death. My initial tears are dry now and warm memories of times past have replaced the pain.

Gender InequalityWas I crying because of his pain? No. My tears were because he would no longer make me smile. We would no longer share our hopes and frustrations. We would no longer exchange messages and feelings. It was about me. Something has changed beyond the passage of time. There’s a wall blocking any tears. Is that me or is it the culture that shaped me?

In every loss there is an unexpected gift. The gift wrapped in this personal loss is the thoughts and questions that have surged through my head: When have I cried before? Are the feelings the same or different? Will they last or mellow with time? Is this just me or might it be part of America’s culture, of the world culture?

Tears of the Past—

We have all cried as children, but what about in adulthood? Memories whisper to me of a few occasions.

I have no recollections of love gone sour, but a clear memory of when John F. Kennedy was murdered in Dallas. ”Kennedy’s been shot.” Stunned, I drove to my office. Television sets blared the appalling news. Tears burst from my eyes then and later during the funeral cortege. Now, it’s tearless history. To many it is just words in a school book as distant as Abraham Lincoln.

Two airliners hit the New York Trade Towers. Fiery death, bodies plummeting to the plaza below. Thousands of people died. I wept as the tragedy unfolded. Today, it’s history that has resulted in perpetual war and thousands more deaths, grist for politicians. But no tears. Anger at the senseless waste, but no tears.

The old family dog was euthanized. No more walks in the forest. No more snowball chasing. Tears flowed. A dog. A loved family member. All that’s left today are fond memories and twinges of remorse at my occasional loss of patience, but no tears.

Åsne Seirestad’s searing book, ”One of Us” recounted Anders Breivik’s cold slaughter of innocents, of vacationing teenagers. I remained dry-eyed until the coroner zipped a youth into a body bag. Suddenly, sobs wracked my body and tears coursed down my cheeks.

I shed tears of frustration at my disability and the unfulfilled desire to die after nearly five years of this. Only the desire for eternal sleep. Lionel’s sleep. Nothingness. Tears, yes. But will time dull the sharp edges of the pain?

Cultural? Environmental?—

Why do we cry and when? Family or societal messages? Is it recognition of our own mortality? Will we miss the person or creature who will no longer warm our lives? The depravity of our fellow humans? Why not drowned refugees? Why not war victims? Why? The answers are as different as the humans inhabiting Earth.

My future wife cried quietly as the singer poured her heart into ”Send in the clowns.” Beside her sat the man she loved who was lost in the past. I suddenly realized what those tears meant, but my eyes were dry. A woman’s tears told me what I was missing.

Her tears met my heated wish for death. Her tears, not mine. The woman whose warm body next to mine would never be again. Her tears, not mine.

As I was growing up, I learned that men don’t cry, that I was expected to be strong, that only females cry. Despite this, leaders throughout history in all corners of the globe have shed tears, particularly when defeat has humbled them. Still, it is not considered manly to cry.

This may be changing. Researchers have shown that health and self-esteem improve with the freedom to shed tears when the occasion merits it. The old ways still exist and may in some respects be useful, but fortunately the stiff upper lip is giving way to a less judgmental mind-set and greater acceptance of shedding tears when the occasion warrants it. But it hangs on. I am proof of that.

I miss Lionel and mourn the loss. What will I do now that he isn’t there to make me laugh, to inspire me, to make me think? He has shown me the meaning of heartache.

I’m just one person, doubtless softer than many, but the old ways still live. They still cripple men, still cripple society…stiill live inside me. How do we end this harmful tradition? Will it ever end?

Aug 14

Chronicle from the Old Folks’ Home—Part 9

In Brief—Change comes to the warehouse where the author lives.


The One Unchanging Thing in the Universe is Change—

Sign (head-on)Bengt may never run away again. He looks shrunken. He sleeps a lot. The vigor and sense of humor seems to be gone. The man I saw as active and alert now sits sleeping while lunch is prepared. His children may have been right to put him in our warehouse. His plaintive “Is this where I’m expected to die?” echoes in my head.

This is a place of concern, of anxiety, these days. Another company will take control in October. Three experienced members from the next department will be leaving in July and nobody has come forward to replace them. Rumors abound. The pay is said to be lousy and people don’t want to work in elder care because of the responsibility and,,,well-l-l, old folks are hard to care for, particularly the demented.

After several days of weakness where nothingness beckoned, a bit of energy returned, so I took a walk through the next department. Once-friendly folks sat eating at new tables, none smiled and waved back, one even turned away from me. The only cheerful person—a short-timer, so to speak—was a staff member who happily reported she has only four weeks left before her departure. Change is in the wind.

As I write this, it’s a gloomy day promising rain. I look out the window past the verdant greenery of spring to see men working on a home renovation nearby. Children scamper about at the day care center across the street. What kind of world will they grow up in?

Turning my attention to the computer, I scan the fading New York Times past ubiquitous commercials of Russian women who want to meet eligible men…only to find chaos: Gays out for a night of fun are shot down in cold blood by a hater; decent cops are executed by another hater; without bothering to express condolences, an inexperienced billionaire liar takes credit for predicting the carnage; war and destruction in the Middle East; the depredation of climate change; the death of a great fighter; England on an anti-immigrant bender votes for withdrawing from a Europe that has its own problems. What kind of world are we bequeathing to the children across the street?

My wife returns from Wales after enhancing her knowledge of art. The family dog adjusts to the city after a month of living in the country free of her leash. Friends and family in the U.S. deal with sick dogs, questionable marriages, dying mothers and graduations. And here I am in the warehouse scribbling a blog and wondering if tomorrow is my last day or if my genes doom me to years more of this.

I spit in my ever-present bucket, my back hurts like hell, showering and getting dressed is more difficult, every day is much like the one before it and I sleep more than I used to. Along with this is my concern as to whether this will be my last episode of the Chronicle. Then comes the memory of my wife’s admonition, “If you can’t change the situation, change your attitude.”

Should I change my attitude while the world goes crazy?

Change is the one unchanging thing in the universe.

Aug 07

Cannon Fodder: Draftee or Volunteer

In Brief—A discussion of the author’s experiences and views on whether a mandatory draft of men and women is preferable over an all-volunteer military.


Frying Pan or Fire—

I sat there in my suit and tie talking to a young man who had just received his draft notice. I might as well have been speaking Swahili because the young man was looking at me quizzically as if he had very little idea what I was talking about.

Selective Svc emblemUnlike the others, I was the only one dressed in the attire of the corporate office where I had worked until recently. I knew the Selective Service law backward and forward thanks to the education I had received from the professional draft lawyers at the Los Angeles Free Clinic, but now I was an associate in a law office devoted to the draft and talking to a young man who wanted me to save him from the killing fields of Vietnam.

Until recently, I had worked in the belly of the corporate beast for thirteen years. Rather than searching for a job I would hate, I was highly recommended by my mentors at the Free Clinic to a small law firm specializing in draft and military law. Right place, right time. Suddenly, I was sitting across from a young man who faced military service in Vietnam. I was entering the happiest period of my life, but my client was legitimately afraid for his.

After first speaking to my young clients in corporate-law-speak, I soon realized my approach was wasteful of his and my time, so from then on I spoke in terms clients could understand. Along with that change, bell bottomed trousers and flowered shirts replaced the suit and tie.

After considerable success in the courts and on the seething streets of America, the war ended with America’s defeat and the Selective Service System went out of business as we planned. The country transitioned to an all-volunteer military.

With that change, I weighed the wisdom of the draft versus the all-volunteer military. I began questioning whether the draft was better than the monster that began growing out of the ashes, conservative anger and recrimination that followed in the wake of the lost war.

My thoughts are more relevant than ever with the current move by the Senate to reinstate the draft now that the military has begun accepting women in combat roles. Got to feed that voracious hunger for warm bodies so America can fight its wars.

Middle-and-upper-class parents have or can get the money and possess the knowledge of the system. They will hire a draft lawyer to keep their child out of the military. Others rely on influential cronies who can pull strings to get their child into a safe reserve organization as was the case with George W. Bush. Some flee to other countries like Canada or Sweden rather than becoming cannon fodder for the U.S. military. A few would injure themselves in order to qualify as unacceptable for military service. The truly brave ones like David Harris burned their draft cards and went to prison for their beliefs.

Alternatively, the current all-volunteer military relies on two sources: 1) the patriotic dupes like Pat Tillman who are swayed by government propaganda that they must put their bodies on the line so the investor class will continue to profit from war; 2) the disadvantaged and poor, predominantly minorities, who see military service as a way to earn money. They never think—and are certainly not told by a recruiter— that a roadside bomb might blow them to pieces or rob them of limbs.

As a lawyer with experience in the area and as a realist who has looked at human nature, I have weighed the pros and cons of both sides. Meanwhile, America stands astride the world with a mighty military and the deluded belief that its society is the best of all possible worlds. It will not change. Even as it sinks into irrelevance, it clings to the ways that once worked but no longer do. For me, it comes down to picking the lesser of evils.

The Draft Wins—

In this case, my conclusion is that the lesser evil is the draft. If the draft resumes, the knowledgeable with money will still hire a draft lawyer. The powerful will still rely on influential cronies to keep their sons and daughters from becoming cannon fodder. Some will flee to safe havens…although that’s easier said than done these days. Some will use other means to render themselves unacceptable while the brave ones will go to prison for their beliefs.

With the military owning America and getting billions of dollars from the sychophantic politicians in congress, they will get their warm bodies. Draft boards will be run by individuals who will do everything short of gang-pressing youths to fill the quotas for the month. The military wins whether there’s a draft or not, but at least there’s a chance that a draft will moderate the militarization of America. And the U.S. will still continue to fade into history.

My experience in the military and as a draft lawyer make me a realist and a cynic on this issue. I’ve barely scratched the surface of the subject, but I have given you my conclusion to consider. Let me know your views. I’ll elaborate in my responses.

Jul 31

Books, Movies and More—Part 3

In Brief— A further continuation of the author’s lists of some of the books, movies and even music that have helped shape the person he is. Has this series put your mind into high gear and kept you awake at night yet? It might.


You Are the Sum Total of All Your Experiences—

Film & NotesI have said that a film is able to shape the viewer’s character in the same way as a book, but whereas a reader can picture the characters and environment, a film takes away that ability and substitutes the director’s vision. Sometimes that’s better, sometimes not. Moreover, music can make or break a film. In any case, here are some additional films and even music that have shaped me. Others may follow as my sleepless nights bring them to mind.

MOVIES—

Groundhog Day directed by Harold Ramis. The film’s theme of repetition until you get it right stuck with me. My friend Lionel’s favorite line was, “I’m only going to show you this one more time.”

Seven directed by David Fincher. Two cops, one an old timer and the other an arrogant newcomer, match wits with a mass murderer who kills his victims based on the seven deadly sins. I believed this film to be filled with violence only to find that that the violence was in my head. The film raises the question of what you would do.

Patton directed by Franklin Schaffner. George C. Scott, masterfully portraying Gen. George Patton, is at his best in front of a huge American flag. A monumental figure made bigger by the performance. The echoing trumpets behind Patton’s musing over past lives shows how music can make a film.

Amadeus directed Miloš Forman. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, his incomparable music and his death. If music makes a film, as it does here, then this is the film for you. Powerful images. Powerful music. Which brings me to my next subject.

MUSIC—

Playwright William Congreve said that music has charms to soothe a savage breast. I don’t know about the savage breast, but certainly music can make or break a film. The last two of the films above use music in different ways. Patton uses music to create a mood while Amadeus is built around the music of Mozart.

I’ve chosen here to include music that reaches me and is illustrative of not only the eclecticism of my interests but the times and phases of my life. Your comments can tell us of the music that appeals to you.

Gregorian Chants—Unaccompanied sacred male choral singing found in the Catholic Church. Emotionally moving and powerful.

Joan Baez—Folk and protest songs sung by Ms. Baez playing the guitar. Beautiful voice. Committed person.

Luciano Pavarotti—Probably the best tenor in opera. He filled the hall with his incomparable voice. He made opera live.

Janis Joplin—The raw, uninhibited voice of my hippie days. She made the blues live for me. Her Cheap Thrills is on my iPod.

Ella Fitzgerald—A voice like silk. With an ability to improvise, she blew me away me as I listened entranced in the wings.

Eva Cassidy—Gone too early, she sang blues, gospel and more. Play her “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” at my funeral.

Andrés Segovia, Julian Bream, Manitas de Plata—Show me a talented guitar player, whether classical or flamenco, and I’ll show you an aficionado.

Jaqueline du Pré—a classical cellist, her ability to make that cello talk was celebrated worldwide. It’s on my iPod.

The Bagpipes—The skirl of the pipes lives inside me. Must be my Scottish heritage showing.

Hair—The song “Hair” and that stage play got me through law school. I saw it seven times during my transition to hippiedom.

Riverdance—It was a stage show, I know, but that staccato, precise stepdancing set to Irish music gets my toes to tapping.

Swan Lake—Sublime music. Lovely ballet.  Nureyev and Fonteyn. Watching them was like watching art in motion.

This is just a sampling of my wide-ranging musical interests. It’s a good way to close this series about the influences that helped shape me. I could go on with stage plays, dancers, artists, teachers and more, but I’ll stick with this as a way to tell you a bit about me.

Although this is just a partial list of my interests, it is important to always remember that everything a person experiences from those final days in the womb to our death adds to the person we are…to the person we are becoming.

You are invited to share your interests. You will not only reveal some of what you are, but your revelations can inspire the rest of us.

Jul 24

Books, Movies and More—Part 2

In Brief— A continuation of the author’s listing of some of the books, movies and more that have helped shape the person s/he is. This is guaranteed to put your mind into high gear and keep you awake at night.


You Are the Sum Total of All Your Experiences—

Books wrapped in filmIt is said that that a reader lives a thousand lives before dying while the non-reader lives but one. I believe it’s necessary to add “what you have viewed” to that saying.

In Part 1, I listed several books that have helped shape the person I am today, but I suddenly remembered a few others that cry out to be added to that list. However, I must warn you that still others may follow. Right now, the books. Films will follow.

MORE BOOKS—

Beyond Words by Carl Safina. After you read this book, you will never again think of them as “dumb animals.” Elephants, wolves, dolphins, orcas, chimps, dogs and others not only think differently (and in some cases, better) than humans, but they have talents never before realized. Scientist Safina relates his studies of these amazing species in non-scientific language. Frans De Waal’s “Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?” is a good follow-up.

Sweet Swan of Avon by Robin P. Williams. The subtitle says it all: “Did a Woman Write Shakespeare?” Mary Sidney Herbert, the Countess of Pembroke, was an extraordinarily educated and talented woman in the court of Elizabeth. Williams presents facts that can depose Shakespeare, about whom we know very little, as being the author. Check out the Mary Sidney Society site on the internet and see if you, too, are convinced.

Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne. This may be a story that you read to your children, but it’s not only entertaining to children, it is charming for an adult reader. Winnie, Piglet, Eeyore, Kanga, Roo and the other characters will capture everybody’s hearts.

The Presidents Club by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy. Based on extensive documentation, you will learn how retiring presidents guide incoming presidents, for good or ill, to take on the task of running America. You may discover that the past and incoming men are not what you have thought. Political junkies will find a feast, but all readers will learn more than expected…some of it unpleasant.

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. A children’s book that tells the fantastic adventure of lonely James and his unconventional friends. You and the kids will love it. “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” is a winner, too.

Shōgun by James Clavell. This novel of feudal Japan relates the story of a British sailor who navigates an alien society to serve a feudal lord. Fascinating albeit romanticized look at early Japan.

Illusions by Richard Bach. This slim book has provided me with thought-provoking quotations and continues to do so. I highly recommend reading it. Seemingly simple, it’s anything but…and you can’t put it down.

MOVIES—

Images on film and performances admittedly don’t allow you to create the characters and scenes in your head as books can, but they can nevertheless move you emotionally and will inevitably lodge themselves in your brain to help build the person you are. These are some of the many films that have added to the person writing these lines.

A Man for All Seasons directed by Fred Zinneman. Every frame of the film is so beautiful that all qualify as art. Superb cinematography. Paul Scofield plays Thomas More and Robert Shaw plays Henry VIII. Extraordinary performances. I was so impressed by this film that it wasn’t until recent years that I learned Thomas More was a religious fanatic responsible for numerous deaths. That said, it’s a fabulous film.

2001 directed by Stanley Kubrick. A tour de force of evolution from distant past to future. A cinematic masterpiece. Kier Dullea and Gary Lockwood travel the blackness of space bound for Jupiter. Only HAL, the computer running the ship, stands in the way. Guaranteed to make you think: What is its message? What do the images convey?

The Godfather directed by Francis Ford Coppola. One of the few films (a trilogy) that was better than the book. Marlon Brando played the godfather, Vito Corleone, with Al Pacino as the son and heir. Widely recognized as one of the best films ever made, it captured the somber tone of the genre. Powerful films that transfixed me.

Lawrence of Arabia directed by David Lean. The burning sun and barrenness of the desert provide the omnipresent background for Peter O’Toole’s performance as T. E. Lawrence in this historical recreation of the man who led the British forces to victory over the Turks but was politically betrayed. Abandoned by his allies, Lawrence returned to England where he died in an accident years later. Powerful images that will live in memory.

Remains of the Day directed by James Ivory. One of the most memorable performances I’ve ever seen. The scene between Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson regarding a book Hopkins is reading is one of the most breathtaking moments in cinema history. The electricity was palpable. This scene alone will stick in my head as long as I live. A superb film with superb performances by Hopkins and Thompson.

Being John Malkovich directed by Spike Jonze. This weird comedy written by Charley Kaufman, a comedian I don’t normally care for, gives you a glimpse of the zany part of my sense of humor. A nerdy puppeteer discovers a hidden portal into the head of actor John Malkovich. This is one of those films I recommended that was rejected as not at all funny. You can’t win ‘em all.

As noted above, these books and movies are just a few of those that captivated me. Don’t be intimidated by my selections. Remember, they’re mine and reflect my peculiarity. Your list should present those that have influenced you. Now’s your chance to share yours with us. It’s also a gold mine of tips for the rest of us. If you’re not a film-goer, no sweat, some of these may tempt you to subscribe to Netflix.

Tune in next week to see what might be featured. After that, who knows what awaits?

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