Author Archives: katharineotto

About katharineotto

I vote with my big mouth, boycott packaging as much as possible, shop with a canvas "Acupuncture" bag, read to understand Humanland, do as much of my own cleaning, cooking, gardening, landscaping, clothes making, and home repairs as possible. My home is my laboratory, where I invent things out of the dribs and drabs of inheritance from my pack-rat parents. I also conduct animal behavior studies on three chickens and a cat, who study me while I feed all the other wildlife that likes chickens and chicken food, including mice. Mice like to eat wiring, too. There were no mice when my rat snake was still around, but I kept losing eggs.

Sermon on the Mound

CHURCH OF THE HOLIER THAN THOU, INCORPORATED

A for-profit religion where nothing is sacred, and human sacrifice is obligatory

 SERMON ON THE MOUND
Eve of 2007

The following sermon was delivered at a 2007 New Year’s Eve bonfire

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Dear Worried Souls:

Take Heart! the Worst is yet to come.  Witness this miserable mound of machine age offal.  Wasted resources compounded daily–advertising, packaging, junk mail, paperwork, broken equipment—a sorry heap of worthless Trash reviled by all.  The costs have become unbearable.

It does not live so cannot die.  We must dispose of it anyway, and we aim for the Sky.  We plead for help from the great Mother Earth and Father Sun. Open our senses to the stench of Burning Plastic.  Burn our Lungs with Particulates and Smoke. Singe our eyes with the Motes we scatter.  Spread sparks of Common Sense wherever Smog may go.

On this eve, the Church of the Holier than Thou, Incorporated ignites this sacrificial pyre, in humble apology to the Planet we call Home.  As long as we can live and breathe on this speck of Cosmic Dust, we give Thanks for our Success and Vow to Make Sin Pay.

Thank you, Mother Earth, for deflating false profits and reducing their costs. Our debt to you is incalculable.

Thank you, Father Sun, for your clean nuclear power, the solar system’s eternal source of centralized energy output.

The Loving Lambs of Church of the Holier than Thou, Inc. have watched in Horror as the TechnoDemons befouled the Earth.  Their numbers numbed us.  Their profits (er . . . prophets) preached Winning by Losing, and promised Eternal Hell.  Machine Noise rocked the planet and rattled the Tectonic Plates.  We Bleated in Horror, Fear, and Rage, but there was Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.   We prayed for Peace and Quiet.

We sighed as they Drowned Porpoises, Paved Neighborhoods, Spilled Oil, Dumped Chemicals, Bulldozed Wildernesses, Polluted Oceans, Pipelined Tundra, Gobbled up Farms, Obscured the Stars, and Obliterated the Sounds of Birds and Breeze.  We cried for Mercy as Global Temperatures Rose, Tempers Flared, Ice Caps Melted, the Ozone layer dissipated, and Dynamite collapsed mountains and hills.  We watched Mutations and Health Problems Created for Profit and spreading like Cancer.  We searched in Vain for Recycling centers, Compost piles, and Locally produced goods.

This Mound of Refuse–papers, plastics, boxes, wraps, junk mail, bubbles, baubles and bills–represents countless Murdered Trees and Earthly Treasures that died for junk mail, propaganda, advertising, photo-ops, cellophane, and disposable containers.  Swallowed in the glut (er  . . . gut) of Human Consumption, these plundered assets Writhe in Pain.  Their pitiful Pleas reach us from Roadsides and Garbage cans, raising Taxes for waste removal.  “Stop this Plague upon our Souls,” they cry in tortured sobs.

We at the Church of the Holier than Though, Incorporated, know a Natural Solution when we see one.  We will find a way to uplift this junk into Something Useful, so we can Make Sin Pay.

Yes, the Savvy Saints of the Church of the Holier than Thou, Incorporated have lit the solar flares, at last, but we are weary, wary of yet another trick, a Light too Bright to be Natural.  But Fear no longer.

The TechnoDemons’ Hot Stocks have Cooked their Geese.  The Gold weighs heavy in their Stomachs and Blocks their Bowels.  Take Pity, and sell them fresh Vegetables.

We at CHT, Inc. mean Business.  We will grow the Economy to Scale.  Green leaves and Roughage will prevail.  Put methane in cars, corn in stomachs, trans fats in wheel bearings, and soy in tofu.  Put the mercury back in thermometers and the lead back in batteries.  Shade roofs with solar panels. Generate energy from Landfill. Triple postage rates on junk mail. Clean the ditches with tax collectors. Hire prisoners instead of illegals.  Transform scrap metal to passenger trains.  Make synthetic hormones from oxidized plastic.  Sift sand for silicon.  Collect rain on roofs, or whatever it takes, to Make Sin Pay.

We Lobby you, great Mother Earth and Father Sun, to grant our request for Survival Skills Technology.  Light our way through the Sewers of Human Degradation, as we seek Natural Markets for these discarded Treasures.  We pray for a Healthy Return.

May Sparks from the Fire of this Pyre seed new Trees of Knowledge, wherever particulates drift.  Too cumbersome to be mulched, too poisoned to nourish, too diseased to be safe, this Trash has no Market Value, no place to Go but Up.

With a Match and a Blessing, the Church of the Holier than Thou, Incorporated–where nothing is sacred and human sacrifice is obligatory– sets this Sacrificial Offering ablaze.  We Pray this Fire will spread Sparks of Enlightenment wherever the Smoke may Blow, and dispel the Mind Pollution that hides the Bottom Line.

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What is Truth? What is Real?

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Climate change?  Does it matter?   The storm surge from Hurricane Irma flooded my crawl space, water heater, and outside air conditioner, and I’m still cleaning up the debris.  kco091117 

Information.  Misinformation.  Disinformation.  News.  Fake News.  Opinion.  Generalization.  Prediction.   Propaganda.  Lies.  Advertising.  Gossip.  Second guesses. Stereotypes.  Assumptions.

I feel overwhelmed by the glut of demands on attention and allegiance.  What to believe?  What not to believe?   To believe everything and nothing at the same time?  To trust my own judgment or to doubt?  I long for escape, to screen it all out, to hear only the sounds of birds and wind through the trees, to see only the clouds floating by or the filigree of Spanish moss.  Nature speaks her own language, full of mystery, but without hypocrisy.

Consensual science says the climate is changing, and it’s man’s fault.  “Climate deniers,” some with the same education and backgrounds, say the whole idea is a hoax.

The public and the media seem obsessed with the president of the United States, as if he alone has the power to bring on the Apocalypse.

I look at my immediate, media-avoidant home and see the reality of today’s chores awaiting me. The frenzy that has gripped the world in fear of terrorism, Congressional bickering, North Korea, “climate change,” the latest hurricane, and what gaffe the “Orange Tweet” has committed now. . . all seem far away, surreal, and not my concern.

My “scientific inquiry” has a more practical bent.  How to repair the broken handle on my favorite plastic thermal mug, so that it will hold.  Scientific experiment number one only worked a few days.  Scientific experiment number two added rubber bands to hold the handle while epoxy dried.

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The word “science” comes from the Latin, “sciere,” “to know,”  but I contend knowledge is forever evolving and changing, based on new data, new perspectives. Lately, I’ve had to accept that much of what I thought I knew no longer applies.  Not only that, I’ve found those who speak with the most authority often believe they know more than they do.  Are they lying?  Not if they believe they know.  Who knows?

They say “knowledge is power.”  I’ve found knowledge also brings the responsibility for decisions about what to do with it.  Each action or non-action leads to unforeseen probabilities.  We can never know the paths not taken.

Lately, I’ve had to question everything I’ve been taught, especially within the field of medicine, but also regarding history and politics.  While they may seem to be different areas of concern, they have merged as two inextricably linked paradigms regarding the human body and mind, as they relate to the greater social family of humanity.

I feel a greater need to understand than to know.  To understand is eventually to love, according to one of my favorite philosophers.  To believe I “know” is an exercise in hubris, maybe, and this is where official “science” and I part ways.  How do you know you know?

Maybe I’m psychic.  Maybe I’m psychotic.  Maybe there’s no difference, from an internal perspective.  I’ve always relied on what I call a “vibrational perception” that tries to attune to “energy fields” of emotion:  the frenetic human angst in the city, the mood of a room, the quality of the sounds in the atmosphere, the body language of someone I’ve unwittingly offended.  I feel things I can’t verify.  I dream of things—usually minor things—before they happen.  I believe I live many lives, not in a sequential way, but in a group of parallel lives in a “spacious present” where “bleed throughs” regularly occur.  I believe time is an illusion, so we are all essentially immortal, thrust together in multiple contexts until we figure out how to get along.  I believe ghosts talk to me, although I’ve never seen one.  I feel them in my “vibe space.”  They like to mess with me.

I can’t “prove” any of this, nor do I care to try. Maybe it’s imagination, but imagination gives things their own validity. I still have a physical body in the physical world we breathing human beings agree exists, the “reality” that depends on physical senses for information.

I contend there is no objective reality, that we are all subjective, with unique perspectives, experiences, orientations.  I believe life is universal and provides the energy of the cosmos.  Some people call it god.  Some call it “qi.”  Some may not think of it at all.

I read today that many people feel a strong need to be “right.”  They screen out conflicting evidence and dig their heels into defending ossified conclusions.  That was my father’s way.  He was a proud “rational scientist,” scornful of the “emotional irrationality” of women, generally, and my mother, specifically.  To be wrong around him was a character flaw, never to be lived down, so it became an exercise in pride never to admit error.  Ghosts don’t exist, he claimed, until he became one, witnessed by a friend of science, after he died.

So who really knows?  Maybe we’re in the throes of a massive paradigm shift, in which the desire to understand begins to surpass the futile attempt to know.  I don’t believe the future is fixed or predictable.  There are many probable futures, I hope, but the present is a good place to start.

No Secrets

Secrets are hot commodities these days.  I just finished reading The Secret History of the CIA, by Joseph J. Trento, 2001.  Concurrently, I just received the latest issue of my Duke Alumni Magazine, “The Secrecy Issue.”

In my former life as a psychiatrist, confidentiality was the premise upon which the “therapeutic alliance” relied.  There was a time when confidentiality could be assured, but no more.

I make a distinction between “privacy” and “secrecy.”  Also, definitions of “secrecy” differ with respect to individuals vs. groups.

Through all the hubbub, I wonder what might lead an individual or a group to keep secrets.  One reason is that they know what they have done or are doing is wrong, so they feel ashamed.  Another possible reason is that they are afraid.  They keep activities secret for fear of judgment.

I used to tell patients that if it weren’t for gossip, therapy wouldn’t be necessary.  As soon as information of any kind leaves your lips (or typing fingers), you lose control of it.  Not only that, there is no guarantee your secret will be communicated intact.  There is always the temptation to embellish, distort, or otherwise use information to serve another agenda.

In health care, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), promulgated as a means to protect patient privacy, has done just the opposite.  Because of the exceptions, everyone who controls even a portion of the payment has justification for prying into patient records, for every conceivable reason.

What ultimately results is that information, misinformation, obsolete information, and gossip are mixed in a basket of data that has minimal relevance to the person whose medical, school, employment, or legal records implicate.

It is said “knowledge is power,” but ignorance is also power, the power of denial.  Secrets are burdensome to those holding them, whether owner of the secret or her confidante.  Sharing the secret unburdens the carrier.

Secrets within a group, such as in secret societies, or within an organization like the CIA, create a morass of confusion, with personal agendas creating internal conflict, information hoarding, and intrigues within the organization.  Government secrecy has become a “transparent” issue.

Certainly if the government were not allowed to operate in secret, it would become more accountable.  However, every truth and partial truth has its “spin.”  People will believe what they want to believe and will refuse to see what they don’t want to see.

Possibly the biggest secrets are the most obvious ones.  Perhaps the universe has no secrets, for those who want to see.  Maybe this is the biggest secret of all.

 

 

 

 

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
katharineotto.wordpress.com
writerbeat.com

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.’”