Skull & Bones

August 19, 2017
I love my journal.  It’s the best therapist imaginable, free, doesn’t interrupt, argue, talk back, gossip, nag, or second-guess.  If more people kept journals, the world would be a saner place.

Ten years ago this month, when George W. Bush was still president, I purchased a “Collectors’ Edition” of the US News and World Report on “Secret Societies.”  The following journal entry was my take on “Skull & Bones,” the Yale club that claims the Georges Bush as members, among other famous power-brokers

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Sunday, August 26, 2007
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I bought a “Collector’s Edition” of the US News and World Report.  “Mysteries of History–Secret Societies.”  It has articles on the Masons, Rosicrucians, Skull & Bones, and numerous others.

Skull & Bones, the secret society at Yale that boasts multiple notable members– including George W. Bush and his father, George H. W. Bush–interests me only because it is an excellent example of a Good Ole Boy clique.  The article gives fuzzy details but for this:  Skull & Bones “puts its members through some strange activities and centers its program around ideas of death, power, and devotion to a goddess.  The influence of Skull & Bones is particularly noticeable in the area of public service, although it does no community service.”

I figure the public service is all done with other people’s money.  This is the plutocracy.  I wonder which goddess, or did they invent their own?  Is this some kind of Satanic cult American taxpayers have elected?  Is this the anti-Christ we’ve been waiting for?  Bush does walk around with a dazed look, as if he is figuring out he’s being perceived as the anti-Christ and doesn’t quite know how to play the role.

A skull and bones is the symbol for poison, so why would anyone choose to associate with a group that brags about being poisonous?  The flag that pirates carried?  I embrace life, not death.

Also, “Bones has each candidate recite his or her [?] sexual history right off the bat (September of his senior year).  By forcing them to share their most intimate confidences with each other, Skull & Bones binds its members together.”  Sounds like a cult of perverts, as well.  How does anyone know if they’re telling the truth?  Anybody ever refuse to join?

But America elected Bush, as well as others of this cult’s members.

What amazes me most is that anyone takes them seriously.  If this is what they’re learning at Yale, I withdraw my taxpayer contribution to education.

Secrecy is shame and shame secrecy.

The concept of Skull & Bones representing poison bears closer scrutiny.  My issues with public policy are strongly domestic:  The mis-management on the home turf, with poisons being pushed on people’s bodies and into the planetary ecosystem in massive quantities . . .

A more interesting article was about the Illuminati, an organization that may or may not exist, kept alive by belief that it does and that Jews are behind it.  Whether it exists is irrelevant to me.  The world is dominated by people who think they are smarter than everyone else, including each other, as current events show.  If they want to reassure each other that they are illuminated, just because they want it to be true, fine with me.  Just don’t expect me to pay for it.

Now Skull & Bones makes a big deal of public service with other people’s money, in true Plutonian style.

I would really like to know which goddess they pray to.  No wonder public policy feels like a gangbang.  Not enough women to go around.

I suspect they are all homosexuals and pedophiles, anyway.  Maybe the goddess they pray to is the one who can give them erections.  Someone more exciting than little boys.

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Their symbolism is interesting.  They adapt several masonic symbols having to do with building.   There are three “5”s in a triangle on their shield, which is a coffin.

They have west facing up – sunset – a 90-degree counter-clockwise shift of the south pole in a horoscope.

So that’s what we’re seeing on the world stage:  a group of self-proclaimed world leaders intentionally leading the world into self-destruction.  It makes no sense to me.

These people think they are smart?

 

 

 

 

Urban Gardening

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S. Squire Rooster and Lady Brownie Hen, standing around and on concrete block herb garden. Chickens don’t bother herbs, but they love worms, grubs, termites, roaches, lizards, and fiddlers. I keep my yard as free of artificial chemicals and traps as possible, but I can’t stop the county from dumping malathion on our heads.

August 18, 2017

As people starve in Venezuela and other places, I remind myself Americans don’t know what starvation feels like.  We suffer from the opposite problem, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, life-style-related diseases resulting from consuming too much of the wrong things.

 

My herbs begged for pruning the other day.  It took several hours to cut, sort, wash, chop, and store, but I got a half-gallon of mint-stevia tea and almost a pint of basil-chive pesto.  My mind is free when I’m doing finger-trained things like chopping herbs.  I thought about how easily herbs grow on my deck, and how even urbanites with window sills, balconies, or patios could grow food.

I thought about my “green footprint” and how all greenery—even so-called weeds—contribute to cooling the earth and re-claiming oxygen from CO2.  So even growing an herb or a potted tomato on the patio adds to your oxygen green print.  Citrus grows well in patio pots, too, depending on where you live.

When the government controls the food supply, it’s a set-up for famine.  Julius Caesar used that to advantage, and so have rulers the world over.  That’s what makes centralized power so fragile.  We’re seeing that now, with President Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela.   He has the military guarding the food.  I’ll bet lots of folks now regret leaving the farms to work in factories and oil refineries.  At home, they could grow their own food.

We have the same situation brewing in the USA, but here the strategy is more insidious. We can see it being played out in all the mergers and acquisitions in the food, drug, and poison industries.  Most notable is the planned purchase of Monsanto by Bayer, based in Germany.  So Monsanto will go underground, should these two poison giants (depending on your point of view) merge.  Second, a little different but no less significant, is the merger of Dow and DuPont, two chemical giants.  Dow has the trademark on Styrofoam and has its own versions of genetically modified (GM) corn and other patented plant products.

Finally, we have the impending merger of Swiss Syngenta, the world’s largest crop chemical producer, and China National Chemical Corp., a state-owned outfit.  More than half of Syngenta’s sales come from “emerging markets.”  At a $42 billion price, Wikipedia reports the purchase of Syngenta to be the largest for a foreign firm in Chinese history.

The farming industry (which is often distinct from and at cross-purposes with “farmers”) is supposedly opposed to the Montsanto/Bayer merger.  The opposition claims it will increase prices and reduce innovation.  The poison companies say they will increase research and development.  (That’s what scares me most.)

In the US, the ethanol mandate represents the biggest government power grab of the food supply to date.  GM corn manufacturers are now making “ethanol-grade” corn.  Well, folks, what does that mean to you?  It means to me that Monsanto, Dow, Syngenta, and other GM manufacturers are busy downgrading everyone’s food supply to generate electronic profits on Wall Street.  Of course Archer Daniels Midland, ConAgra, Cargill, and other Big Food are all for burning perfectly good corn whiskey in cars.  Cars consume it faster than alcoholics do, and the government gets more in taxes, so of course the FDA, CDC, and EPA are complicit.

So with the mergers of the world’s six largest seed, agrochemical, and biotech corporations, which are in the business of poisoning us from the ground up, it behooves all of us to start producing our own food, individual by individual, as space and sunshine allow.

 

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Deck herbs, some in concrete blocks, others in clay pots.  Cat litter boxes do a good job of catching water.  Can water and/or fertilize from the base.

Herbs are probably the easiest plants to grow, and many are perennial.  My chickens don’t like them, the deer don’t like them, and they are amazingly bug-resistant.  Stevia, chives, mint, oregano, and rosemary are all perennial.  The rosemary bush is taller than I am.  Since stevia was approved by the FDA as a natural sugar substitute a few years back, corporate marketing has improved its image. Less well known is that it’s a perennial extra easy to grow in a small clay pot.

So I harvested overgrown stevia, mint, chives and basil.  I made stevia-mint iced tea and basil-chive pesto.

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Set-up for making mint-stevia tea.  Mint is on the chopping board.  kco081717

I use a one-half gallon container for the tea, fill with cold water, let the water come to a boil, and turn the burner off.  I stir in the chopped mint and stevia, replace the lid on the pot, and let it steep all night.  In the morning I strain the tea and transfer it to the refrigerator container.

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Set-up for making basil-chive pesto.  Curved knife blade with rocking motion works best for fast and safe herb and veggie chopping.   kco081717

Making pesto is a breeze with a mini-food processor.  Pesto keeps weeks in the refrigerator and infinitely in the freezer.  I freeze fresh pesto and gouge chunks out of the mix as needed.  I use it in salad dressings, spreads, sauces, marinades, and Italian dishes of all kinds.

I use a standard blend of ingredients with whatever herbs I have.  Two to three cloves of crushed or chopped garlic, a couple of handfuls of chopped herbs, a handful of grated parmesan cheese, a handful of chopped nuts, and enough olive oil to make the processor work right.  I use soy sauce or olive brine instead of salt.  I like red pepper, too.  If you overdo the red pepper, extra olive oil helps a lot.

More traditional pesto recipes call for pine nuts, but they are expensive, somewhat hard to find, and not worth the price.  I prefer walnuts or almonds, but any nut will do.  Put them in the processor early, as they take time to grind up right.

Cheese is also variable.  Hard cheeses, like grated parmesan or romano, tend to last longer in storage, but I’ve used jack and cheddar, too.  Pestos are as versatile as your imagination.

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My version of pesto pizza.  Rye toast smeared with basil-chive pesto, topped with parmesan cheese and salad olives.  Broiled in toaster oven 3-5 minutes. kco081717

Crazies ‘R’ Us

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One of my alter-egos, Kookie the Shrink, with New-Age, eco-friendly, portable, non-pharmaceutical, public domain feel-good idea that hasn’t been invented yet.

Everyone knows psychiatrists are crazy.  Just ask my deceased mother, who claimed psychiatrists enter the profession to solve their own problems.  Fact is, I only began having problems in medical school.  My problems got worse after psychiatry residency, when I started practicing psychiatry in a “health care industry” so saturated with sanctimonious hypocrisy that I was astounded.  No one seemed to notice or care that externally imposed rules and expectations were making a mockery of the principles I was taught in training.  While everyone in the “health care industry” claims to be acting in the patients’ and public’s best interest, the so-called “healers” have become passive tools in a tidal wave of co-dependency that cripples to control and calls it “care.”

While “health care” professionals across the board have succumbed to this debilitating delusion, I feel particularly betrayed by the leadership in my own chosen specialty, because psychiatrists should know better.  I believe the psychiatric establishment has abdicated its philosophical foundations.  Instead of promoting mental health and self-reliance, it is busy kissing up to the profiteers in government, pharmaceutical and insurance industries, and seeking ever new ways to bind patients and the public to its mind-numbing agenda.

Two concurrent trends show how the psychiatric establishment–which depends on pharmaceutical advertising for its numerous professional publications—is desperately seeking relevance in a drug-pushing world.

The first trend, toward “medication-assisted treatment” for “opioid use disorder,” has been heavily embraced by the psychiatric establishment and the mainstream media.  The Friday, August 11, 2017 issue of USA Today claims “Opioids to be declared a national emergency.”  Here, we learn that President Donald Trump “’is drawing documents now’ to officially label the crisis as a national emergency.”  Such a designation would trigger specific tools for federal and state governments, including grants from the Public Health Emergencies Fund, a suspension of some of the patient privacy provisions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996, and waive Medicaid restrictions on federal funding for mental health hospital admissions.

The second trend is the ongoing fight by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and its state-level affiliates to stop the push by psychologists for prescription privileges.  This is an ongoing turf battle, with bills for psychologist prescribing introduced in multiple state legislatures every year.

The common denominator in these trends is that they are turf battles over drugs.  They have nothing to do with caring for patients, mental health, or the mind’s intrinsic self-healing potential.  The professional contestants, however, all claim they have patients’ best interests in mind.

Contributing factors abound.  In psychiatry, the shift from psychotherapy to medication management has been particularly devastating to professional self-esteem.  Psychiatry, now more than ever, seeks to align with the “scientific” foundations of medicine. Meanwhile, insurance and government have delegated “talk therapy” to less expensive psychologists and social workers.  What used to be 45-minute psychiatric consultations have become 15-minute “med checks.” Freud has been replaced by Prozac.

This follows a general cultural trend toward quick-fix solutions, with pills becoming the treatment of choice in all specialties except surgery.  The rise in illegal drug use can’t compare with the explosion of drugs for medical conditions, vaccines, and pseudo-conditions.  Over-medication is a major cause of accidents, drug interactions, and overdoses.  Unintentional injuries from falls and overdoses from prescription and illegal drugs are now the fourth leading cause of death in the US, according to one study.  Another study cites medical error the third leading cause in hospitalized patients.

The “opioid crisis” is attributed in part to Purdue Pharma’s misrepresenting OxyContin in 1997, when it was introduced, as having low abuse potential.  That same year, the FDA approved direct-to-consumer advertising. Pharmaceutical DTC advertising took off at the turn of the century.

That prescription painkillers fall in a different category from heroin—which cannot be prescribed in the US—bears mention, but they are linked by their black market affiliation.  OxyContin’s introduction on the market, and its aggressive marketing campaign to specialists and family practitioners brought Purdue Pharma $45 million in sales the first year.  That increased to $3.1 billion by 2010, or 30 percent of the prescription painkiller market.  In 2007, Purdue pleaded guilty in a federal lawsuit claiming it intended to mislead doctors and patients about its addictive properties.  It paid $600 million in fines.  The state of Kentucky, the state most ravaged by prescription painkiller and heroin use, has made 12 claims against Purdue, including false advertising, Medicaid fraud, unjust enrichment, and punitive damages.  OxyContin costs up to $1/mg on the street, or up to $80 for an 80 mg tablet.

Other reports say fentanyl, a prescription opioid that can be synthesized by drug traffickers, dramatically increases the risk of fatal overdoses.  Its deadliest component, carfentanil, is five thousand times stronger than heroin.  Add this to the fact that multiple common drugs and alcohol also depress the respiratory center, with a cumulative effect.  Benzodiazepines, like Xanax, are often taken along with opiates.

The “opioid crisis,” is now being traced to pharmaceutical companies and to the FDA, according to The Guardian’s latest report.  (www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/13/dont-blame-addicts-for-americas-opoid-crisis-real-culprits)

The collusion between the psychiatric community and the pharmaceutical industry to push drugs on a gullible public smacks of a cronyism that few seem to recognize.  The FDA-approved “medication-assisted” treatment for opioid use disorder contains two opioids—methadone and buprenorphine—which are also abused.  However, the psychiatric establishment, which has sub-specialties in addiction, has a piss-poor success record with addiction treatment and virtually ignores Alcoholics Anonymous and its spin-offs, like Narcotics Anonymous.  These are peer run, free, and have a better track record than the “experts” can claim, despite their education and degrees.  The APA also ignores non-pharmaceutical treatments like acupuncture, which even the NIH has admitted has utility in chronic pain.  Auricular acupuncture for substance abuse has a long and under-appreciated track record.

Where does psychiatric officialdom stand on the mental health advantages of low-stress lifestyles, nutrition, physical therapy, and exercise?  Ask, and let me know what you find out.

Crazies ‘R’ Us indeed.  The psychiatrists need to get off the drugs and learn to use their minds to heal themselves first.

 

Funding Deforestation

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Earth Island Journal  is a recent find in the world of periodicals.  It provides “News of the World Environment” and reports on a variety of assaults on the environment, from human intervention to natural disasters.  (www.earthislandjournal.org)

The Summer, 2017 issue’s cover story is about the “Toxic Footprint of America’s Prisons,” but the article that grabbed my interest, and my $5.00, was “Crisis Among the Palms,” by Jeff Conant.  The subtitle, “How Your Retirement Fund May be Fueling Rainforest Destruction,” supports my longstanding belief that people who have retirement accounts—especially accounts managed by large fund managers—often don’t know where their money is invested or how they are contributing to eco-rape and human rights abuses.

It stands to reason that fund managers, who control large pots of money, look for the most profitable investments.  They may not know or care how the individual companies or governments generate those profits, but even a superficial overview suggests that maximum profits come from squeezing labor and compromising the environment where the companies operate.  Compound this with the fiercely competitive market for the almighty dollar, and the fact that multi-national corporations have many levels of protective shells, as well as local government collusion, and it’s a set-up for disaster.  Foreign investment is notorious for bankrupting and/or corrupting third-world governments and devastating local environments.  (Rosaliene Bacchus’ most recent blog post,   “Guyana ties the knot with ExxonMobil” (https://rosalienebacchus.blog) reports on such a possibility with the June, 2017 deal between ExxonMobil and the government of Guyana.)

“Crisis Among the Palms” shows how this strategy works in the palm oil industry, but the same strategy is used in every commodity industry I’ve encountered.  The article gives specific examples in Liberia, Guatemala, and Indonesia, three tropical countries where the palm oil industry has grown up and thrived, consuming millions of acres a year over the past several decades.  Palm oil is now the most widely traded vegetable oil on the planet.

In May, 2015, in Butaw, Liberia, villagers who complained to the CEO of Golden Veroleum (subsidiary of Malaysian multinational Golden Agri Resources) about theft of family lands, grinding poverty, and bare subsistence level wages were brutally beaten and arrested by local police.  Homes were ransacked and looted.

A month later, in northern Guatemala, effluent from ponds on the property of a local palm oil company, REPSA, overflowed into the Pasion River, spilling enough malathion—an organophosphate pesticide–to kill hundreds of thousands of fish, an incident local courts would later call an “ecocide.”  The river has provided the lifeblood of the region that was until recently one of the world’s largest rainforests, now given over to plantations and cattle pasture.

Later that summer, Indonesia’s forests and peatlands burned out of control, forcing hundreds of thousands of people to evacuate to medical centers.  The fires were linked to the country’s expanding palm oil and pulpwood plantations.

Author Conant says “. . .the palm oil industry is a leading cause of rainforest destruction—and a source of both economic dispossession and wage labor for countless people—from the Congo basin to Malaysia to Peru . . .the industry has quickly grown to rely on global financing to fuel its expansion.”  Thus the companies that profit from the exploitation appear more and more on the world’s stock exchanges.

The financing of some of the world’s largest and most notorious palm oil companies comes from well known financial management companies, like Vanguard, Teachers Insurance and Annuity Associate (TIAA), BlackRock, CitiGroup, and California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS).  “What this means is that IRAs, pension funds, and 401Ks . . . are increasingly investing in an industry that is destroying the world’s last rain forests and impoverishing the people who live there.”

With the exception of Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland, and Unilever, the large palm oil juggernauts are mostly southeast Asian, says Conant.  He notes that the industry—almost unknown in the West ten years ago, is projected to be worth $88 billion by the year 2022.  Its growth was spurred in part by the US FDA ban on trans-fats, with 71 percent of production now going to the food industry, everything from Krispy Kreme donuts to Nestle’s chocolate to PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay snacks.  Sixteen percent of palm oil production goes to biofuels, and 12 percent to the chemicals industry.

Conant says the industry’s growth has coincided with two global trends in finance.  First is the massively increased investment in “emerging economies,” which grew by 30 percent just between 2011 and 2015.  Concurrently, there was a huge increase in “index funds” in which multiple companies are bundled into a fund that spreads risk and follows the fluctuations of the market as a whole. They are sold as low-risk funds. Between 2000 and 2014, money invested in index funds more than quintupled.

The article points out that deforestation causes up to 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and industrial agriculture drives an additional 13 percent.  A rather typical scenario is that “landowners who sold or otherwise gave up their land to agribusiness companies could be driven deeply into poverty.  In this sense, the palm oil boom has come to replace less environmentally damaging, subsistence livelihoods.  It has brought debt, wealth inequality, and, of course, ecological destruction on a vast scale.  In Indonesia, villagers frequently concede to relinquishing land to corporations because the plantation companies promise them roads, schools, and clinics.  But companies have by and large failed to fulfill the terms of community agreements  . . . .  Farmers often don’t know what they are getting into.  Lack of information and transparency are big problems.  ‘A company often collects the farmers’ land certificates, after which they become laborers on their own land.’”

 

 

In Defense of Carbon

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Carbon is the basic building block of life.  It is an element, indestructible.  We have the same amount of carbon on earth now as always.  It goes through a cycle.  Because it is so versatile, it can join with numerous other atoms to create complex structures.

I’m a climate change agnostic.  I know the climate changes every day and every season.  Whether human beings are changing the climate in a significant way is the subject of heated debate.  I do know humans are poisoning the environment, but the most dangerous chemicals involved are not carbon dioxide or methane.  These two are naturally occurring substances that are intimately involved in the cycles of life and death.

Organic chemistry is based on whether the compounds under study contain carbon.  Photosynthesis is the means by which plants use energy from light to convert water and carbon dioxide to food for the plant.  In this process, water is hydrolyzed (meaning broken down into its constituent atoms) with the hydrogen joining with carbon to form sugars, such as glucose and sucrose.  The sugars contain energy that fuels plant growth, maintenance and manufactures the substance of the plant itself, like cellulose.

That plants can make their own food from light, carbon dioxide and water is a marvel of solar technology, because all food ultimately comes from plants.  The mechanism of photosynthesis, according to my botany text (Botany:  An Introduction to Plant Biology, 6th edition, T., Elliot Weier, et al., 1982) took almost 200 years to be understood, and it still contains undiscovered secrets.  Researchers are now working on harnessing the 100% efficiency of plants to make electricity.  In contrast, solar panels are only between 15-20% efficient.

According to Botany, a series of discoveries beginning in 1700 led to the eventual understanding of how photosynthesis works.  In 1700, a Flemish physician and chemist Jan van Helmont grew a willow branch in measured soil and water.  It grew from five to 169 pounds in five years, but used only two ounces of soil.  In 1772, Joseph Fleming noted a sprig of mint could restore confined air that had been made impure by burning a candle, but in 1779 Jan Ingen-House noticed air was only revitalized when the green portion of the plant was exposed to light.  In 1782, Jean Sonebier discovered carbon dioxide was necessary in the “fixed air” supply of the green plant, and in 1796 Ingen-House determined the carbon went into the nutrition and structure of the plant.  In 1804, Nicholas Th. de Saussure observed water was also involved in the photosynthetic process, and in 1800 chemists discovered that carbohydrates were formed.  Experiments using “heavy oxygen” (oxygen with atomic weight of 18 rather than the usual 16) proved the oxygen liberated in photosynthesis came from water rather than CO2.

The basic chemical reaction for converting carbon dioxide and water to glucose is:

6CO2 + 6H20 +686 kcal –> C6 H12 O6 + 6O2

The oxygen is released into the atmosphere.  Plants also release water vapor through evaporation, and this induces liquids and nutrients to move upward through the xylem (the plant’s substance, including transportation “vessels”).

The glucose produced is used directly, or stored as insoluble starch.  It’s used to make cellulose and other structural components, or is combined with nitrogen, sulfur or phosphorus to make proteins.

When a plant or any life form dies, the stored carbon is either consumed by another life form or it is released as CO2 and methane (CH4), among other substances.

Igniting the hydrocarbon molecules reverses the photosynthetic process in a one-to-one ratio.  CO2 and water are re-created, and the energy bound up in the molecule is released as heat or used to do work.

The chemical reaction when the simplest hydrocarbon, methane (natural gas), is burned is:

CH4 + 2O2 –>  CO2 + 2H2O

Natural gas, oil, coal, ethanol, and plastic, to name a few, have the same carbon and hydrogen building blocks, in different combinations.  All have high energy contents and produce CO2 and water when burned.

Ethanol—which is now a federally mandated gasoline additive—has a lower energy content than gasoline so lowers gasoline efficiency. Ethanol, also called “ethyl alcohol,” is old-fashioned grain alcohol, the same substance distilled by farmers in Revolutionary War days, and the stuff that led to the Whiskey Rebellion when the whiskey tax was passed in 1791.

Plastic has a high energy content and burns hot.  Plastic waste is accumulating around the planet, in huge ocean “gyres,” as well as other bodies of water, sewage and drainage systems.  Its breakdown products are associated with endocrine (hormonal) changes in people and animals.

The main weakness of the climate change initiative is that the focus on “greenhouse gases” diverts attention from more immediate and ongoing threats to the planet.  The use of single-use packaging, for instance, uses valuable natural resources, such as paper, and environmentally harmful industrial products, such as plastic, that end up in landfill or in rivers, lakes, and oceans.

The ethanol mandate, passed in 2007, is a particularly toxic piece of legislation.  Under this scenario, farmland is used to produce corn, soy, or other carbon-containing plant matter, to be distilled into alcohol for burning in cars.  Not only does this deplete soil that might otherwise be used to grow food, but it requires massive amounts of water, time and money, so is a pox on the planet and on the engines that use it. It is particularly harmful in small engines, like lawnmowers, so conscientious users must use ethanol-free gas to protect their engines.  That Archer Daniels Midland, the main corporate beneficiary of the ethanol mandate, is set up to distill ethanol for cars as well as ethanol for drinking, should provide clues as to how regressive this mandate is.

In summary, I contend that, “climate change” includes changing the political climate to recognize that growing trees is better for the planet than giving corporations “carbon credits” not to cut them down.

Opiates: Crisis du Jour

Opiate abuse is the crisis du jour in the medical and psychiatric world.  I’ve seen reference to it in the psychiatric journals, in the New York Times, and in the Summer, 2017 issue of Utne magazine.  There are Continuing Medical Education credits available for it.

Do I believe opiate abuse is a new problem, or that it has suddenly grown into the gigantic epidemic the “authorities” claim?  I know there is a push for funding for substance abuse treatment.  Other than that, I believe the “crisis” is fueled by enablers who need to be needed.

First, the literature I read makes no distinction between heroin, which is an absolutely illegal drug in the US, and the other opiates.  There’s a vague claim that the heroin is coming in from Mexico, but I wonder if it’s coming home with troops from Afghanistan, too.  No one has asked that question.

The legal-with-a-prescription opiates are presumed to be used for pain, and apparently there is a growing trend to abuse prescription opiates.  Doctors who prescribe too many of them fall under the DEA’s watchful eye, so I wonder how many doctors are willing to risk their licenses to support an abuse habit.  There are pain clinics sprouting up around the country, specialty clinics in which opiate use is standard.  These are carefully monitored by the DEA, as are pharmacy records that show which docs are prescribing controlled substances.

A large number and variety of substance abuse treatment methods and facilities exist, but effectiveness over the long term is poor.  Most studies into substance abuse treatment only follow patients for a year.  Long term studies are rare.  Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and its spin-offs, like Narcotics Anonymous and Cocaine Anonymous—with their reliance on the 12-Step Program—have remained the standard since 1935.  These are free programs, peer supported, in which names and paperwork are not required.

My questions about this new “crisis” stems from my cynicism about our current drug-centered world.  The difference between “good” drugs and “bad” drugs is only a matter of legality, according to me.  Drug laws confuse the issue and create problems that needn’t exist.  Even the Psychiatric Times is beginning to take a fresh look at substances such as marijuana, looking to explore its potentially therapeutic effects.  There was a recent article suggesting hallucinogens like LSD and psilocybin might deserve more attention as therapeutic agents, under controlled conditions.

Unintentional injury from accidents and drug overdoses, according to one Continuing Medical Education (CME) course I took, is now in the top five causes of death.  The course didn’t distinguish how the overdoses occurred, but my experience tells me a surprisingly large number of people take ten or more medications, don’t know what they are taking, how to take them, or what they are for.  They don’t know about side effects, and their doctors don’t explain.  They take them “when I feel like I need them.”  or don’t take them at all if they can’t afford the cost.

Direct-to-consumer advertising by pharmaceutical companies has grown exponentially since it was approved by the FDA in 1997.  Pharma spent less than $800 million/year on advertising in 1996, but by 2000, that sum grew to $2.5 billion.  Of that, 20 percent was for psychiatric medications, and these constituted 10 percent of the top 100 selling drugs.

Obviously, there is a great demand for “feel-good” drugs, either over the counter or under the counter, and I have to wonder why.  From what I’ve seen, none of these drugs satisfies the long-term cravings of those who have lost their way.  The psychiatric drugs, like antidepressants, are not proving themselves over time, so there is a constant turnover of medications used to treat depression.  Yet advertising, the “health care industry,” and the world at large seems to believe there is a quick fix to problems, lifestyle problems, relationship problems, financial problems, employment problems, health problems, loneliness problems, and all the problems people’s fantasies tell them should respond to drugs.

As long as people put faith in solutions outside themselves, they will be disappointed, I believe.  Maybe a pill can help, temporarily, but there is no pill for financial problems, unless you’re selling it on the street.

That, in summary, may be the underlying impetus behind the “opiate crisis.”

July, 2007 Retrospective

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Ten years ago this month, I was working in a public mental health outpatient clinic, preparing to retire my medical and DEA licenses the following month.  These journal notes give a profile of my reasoning at the time.

GOSSIP AND SECRETS

Sunday, July 1, 2007 – I have been victimized by gossip more than once.  I tell patients therapy wouldn’t be necessary if not for gossip.

I remember excluding myself from cliques – the lunchroom crowd at Duke, composed of several girls in my dorm, and the group in medical school who gathered at lunch – because I didn’t like the mean-spirited gossip and chit-chat that characterized the gatherings.  I couldn’t sit with them without judging and seeing sides of them they couldn’t be proud of.

So I have been naive about gossip’s power.  In a culture built on hearsay, I am an odd duck, indeed.

Of course, my way is better, because it’s more practical.  I like forming my own opinions and always wonder what the gossiper’s agenda is.  I agree with Anne Scott, my history professor at Duke, who insisted on primary sources.  I believe in getting my information from the individual in question.  What he or she doesn’t tell or show me is none of my business.

In theory.  When people are plotting behind my back, it becomes my business, because I end up being the victim of their gossip.  I have been blindsided too often by those I trusted too much.

FREEDOM

Monday, July 2, 2007 – My unconventionality surprises me more than anyone.  Rather, I’m surprised to be growing so confident in it.   Perhaps I always knew it was there – that I was “different” – but it was unexpressed until revealed by the contrasts with the groupthink.  I live what others profess to believe, yet I am castigated for it by those who claim the beliefs most strongly.

No one attacks me directly, but they use triangulation, hurting things and people close to me, such that no one is safe.  I believe at some point the winds will shift, and I won’t stand so alone.  I will not actually lead, except in ideas and methods, as I feel I am already doing when opportunities arise.  After the fact, everyone wants to claim credit.  I don’t care who or how many people get credit, because everyone who takes a stand on her own behalf deserves credit for it.  I do for myself what I hope others will do for themselves, in commitment to self-reliance and freedom from bondage.

A PATIENT-CHURNING, PRESCRIPTION-WRITING MACHINE

Tuesday, July 3, 2007 – The more I work as a patient-churning, prescription writing machine, the more I hate it.  If they want to hire me to do staff development, groups, lectures, or anything that doesn’t involve writing prescriptions, we can spin it as education, and I won’t need a license.  I think these drugs are overrated and/or do more harm than good.  I spend all my time reducing meds and warning about side effects.

ON DRUG REPS

Wednesday, July 11, 2007 – Drug reps were lurking in the halls again today.

I’m reducing people’s meds, and they are grateful.  These folks seem healthier than the system.  Politically manufactured diseases justify churning tax dollars.

As psychiatrists like Dr. W (who plans to be a stay-at-home mom) and me (who plans to be a stay-at-home survivor) leave the system, the exploiters wring their hands in agony, wondering how they can perpetuate the illusions when the docs won’t cooperate.

ON THE HEALTH SNARE RACKET

Friday, July 13, 2007 – I undermine the system with every patient.  A hip replacement?  I ask.  Surgeons like to cut, and they have overhead to pay.  You need a hip replacement?  If you lost weight and restored some flexibility to your joints, your hip pain may not be so bad.  You’re thinking about replacing something living with something dead.  A living hip joint is infinitely more capable of regenerating itself than a plastic substitute.  Do you know how bacteria-infested hospitals are?  And bone surgery is the most invasive of all.  Microbes can hide and fester best in bones.

Your drug rep says you need to up your Cymbalta from 20 mg to 60 mg because that’s the standard starting dose?  But you feel better on 20 mg, and you’re super sensitive to meds?  Your drug rep wants to sell drugs.  Listen to your body.

Turn off the television to alleviate depression.  Dance for exercise.  Journal for self-discovery.  Reduce meds.  People treat side effects with more meds.

The whole world is crazy, so if you’re crazy, you’re normal.

bumpdocchoice0717

FOOD

Thursday, July 19, 2007 – In the check-out line at the grocery store, the man in front of me, an elderly black man, had several chicken pot pies and orange juice in a plastic container.  I think about the cost of all that packaging.

Several patients have gained significant weight, so I’ve begun to talk with them about diet.  They spend lots of money on food at restaurants like Applebee’s, but don’t get takeout boxes.  I’m watching what people buy in grocery stores.  People are using food stamps for things like bottled water and soft drinks.

One patient told me her food stamps go farther since she started eating more vegetables.  She weighs close to 300 pounds.

PFIZER REPS AND DRUG CULTURE

Wednesday, July 25, 2007 – The Pfizer reps were blocking the halls yesterday, flirting with the head nurse, who was laughing and flirting back. As I squeezed past her to collect my next patient, she loudly mentioned that the other doctor was late.  She couldn’t much stop me, could she, considering I was generating money.  And no, I will not sign my name for samples of those poisons.

Fortunately for me, my patients all showed up, and I had a blast with them while avoiding Pfizer at every turn.

They even brought lunch.  There must have been 20 boxes of pizza in the break room, and everyone but me gravitated to the food.  I heard the other doctor’s voice, so the Pfizer rep had his fish.

I was too busy seeing patients until 12:30 p.m., so they knew not to stop me

I have said over and over the drug reps shouldn’t be allowed to hang out in the back.  It’s unprofessional.  But this is the way business is conducted these days, in these “public-private partnerships.”

The drug culture?  Here’s what I think of the drug culture.  Grow it, just like you do food.  If you can’t grow it, you don’t need it.  Tobacco, corn for ethanol, marijuana.

Here’s an idea.  Individuals should be allowed to have private ethanol plants, formerly known as stills, to fuel their personal energy needs.  Whatever they sell, they can pay taxes on, if they must.

Same with tobacco.

Individuals could grow corn for their energy needs and sell designer corn liquor by the side of the road.  This would give farmers more value for their ethanol and save taxpayers from the middlemen.

Why, if investment bankers and oil companies can get government mandates and subsidies to force commercial ethanol plants, individuals should have equal status under the law.  Corporations don’t vote.  Individuals do.  Corporations vote behind the scenes, with money and favors, but the public pays the taxes and other costs for the fat cats’ deals.

THE TRUTH ABOUT THE DRUG COMPANIES, MARCIA ANGELL, MD, 2004, 2005

Friday, July 27, 2007 – I’m on the last chapter of The Truth about the Drug Companies:  How they deceive us and what to do about it, by Marcia Angell, MD.  I read about how the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) basically works for the pharmaceutical companies.  Far from protecting the public, the FDA protects snake oils, since approved drugs are not required to show superiority over current drugs, only over placebo.

Monday, July 30, 2007 – Dr. Angell castigates drug companies and FDA throughout the book but at the end, she recommends more legislation and more money for the FDA.  Of course she’s part of the establishment and can’t rock the boat too much and expect to be published.  A Boston Yankee, liberal Harvard elitist in an ivory tower, she depends on government for funding so is ultimately a GoverCorp slave.

And, she doesn’t mention insurance.  How does insurance, which costs more for giving less, get away with being so transparent?  Like with cellophane, you don’t recognize the costs until you’ve been shrink-wrapped and can’t breathe.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007 – So Dr. Angell is sadly naive about government and Medicare, either that or she chose to focus on one problem at a time.

Not I.  The FDA, for instance.  Waste of money.  Have the drug companies market directly to patients, starting with FDA employees, and pay them to participate in clinical trials. This could constitute true consumer marketing, drug company accountability, earning opportunities for all, and publicly supported large scale scientific research.  Capitalism in a nutshell.  They already do it in third world countries, under the pretext of giving free medications and vaccines to the poor.

Secrecy is the problem, and regulations make secrecy necessary to survive.  The more rules, the less anyone knows about cooperation.  Communication plummets, except by hearsay, and this further tangles networks.

Perhaps the FDA should focus only on safety and leave the efficacy to market-based consumer trials.  Abolishing drug laws would give taxpayers direct access to drugs of choice, and MDs could assume advisory and educational support but not have to play middleman in the government’s war on taxpayers.