Susan's Musings

These musings—blog entries—are for the year 2011. Other years can be accessed from the blog's home page, use the link in the upper right.

Better to do?
Doesn't Sarah Palin have anything better to do than criticize the official White House holiday greeting card? I read an article about her criticism in the LA Times. It amazes me that (1) she faulted the card at all, (2) the LA Times reported it, and (3) she criticized the inclusion of the family dog and the absence of "American foundational values" and a Christmas tree. What has American foundational values got to do with a pagan winter solstice holiday that was co-opted by the Christian church? (12-29-2011)
Diet and disease
In 1939 Weston A. Price, an Ohio dentist, published Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. This book presented his findings from over ten years' research into peoples around the world. It documented the sharp contrast between the excellent health of some people and the dreadful health of others, the sole difference between the two being their diet. The groups with the excellent health ate their traditional foods, foods that had nourished their ancestors for hundreds of years. The groups with the dreadful health ate industrial foods, what Price called the modern foods of commerce, the displacing foods of modern civilization. Excellent health was almost no dental cavities, uncrowded straight teeth, no deformities, and almost no illness. Dreadful health was many dental cavities, crowded, twisted teeth, facial and skeletal deformities, as well as mental and moral degeneration.

Price documented the physical and emotional effects of an industrial diet.

He studied "isolated remnants of primitive racial stocks in different parts of the world" and their modernized counterparts. He investigated "the Swiss in Switzerland, the Gaelics in the Outer and Inner Hebrides, the Eskimos of Alaska, the Indians in the far North, West and Central Canada, Western United States and Florida, the Melanesians and Polynesians on eight archipelagos of the Southern Pacific, tribes in eastern and central Africa, the Aborigines of Australia, Malay tribes on islands north of Australia, the Maori of New Zealand and the ancient civilizations and their descendants in Peru both along the coast and in the Sierras, also in the Amazon Basin."

In every case the people eating their traditional diet were healthy while the groups that had adopted industrial foods suffered deformities and disease, which worsened with each generation. To Price's disappointment, none of the healthy people ate a vegetarian diet.

In recent years statistical surveys have been conducted of modern American food consumption and, separately, illness. These surveys portray a clear pattern: as more and more industrial foods are eaten, illness rates increase.

The modern situation is the result of society's faith in capitalism and the widespread abilities of food corporations to control what you eat. The truth of diet as the basis for health is not a message that corporations want to become public. Similarly the medical industry has too much at stake to support that truth. Establishing and maintaining health is now done by individuals with considerable effort for the benefit of themselves and their families, an effort made in the face of corporate and political pressures. (12-13-2011)

I'm reminded of a phrase from a song in the musical "South Pacific" — "you've got to be carefully taught." That story was about a romance in the face of racial stereotyping and prejudice.

I wonder if all of us haven't been "carefully taught" to forget, and even vilify, the essential human cooperation that had to have been the social glue that enabled human evolution and civilization.

Humans only evolved within communities of extended families and willing friends to share the basics of survival and growth: food, shelter, clothes, medicine, education. They had to have relied heavily on each other, on cooperation, and the knowledge that ostracism led to death because you could not do it all by yourself.

What we've been convinced by corporate-funded PR is that the cooperation that is an intrinsic human trait and value is wrong, that what really matters is looking out for number one and let the Devil take the hind-most.

We have been so carefully taught that it is nigh impossible to imagine a way other than today's capitalism enabled by corporate oligarchy. The myth of rugged individualism may drown us yet.

Oh yes, subsistence living, so denigrated by industrialism while it hopes workers don't notice that they've traded subsistence on their terms with subsistence on industry's terms is . . . not the bogeyman it's been made out to be. In fact, as my dictionary reminds me, subsistence living is a life style where the necessities of life are obtained, albeit with little-to-no excess.

Is it not interesting that the lack of excess has been despised by the 1% (what a handy label!). They have successfully co-opted fundamental family values in order to justify, even celebrate, their own perversions.

I think I've gone further afield than I intended. My starting point is the great difficulty that we have imagining a different way of living. Is it possible to imagine cooperation as other than a financial transaction? (12-6-2011)

A 27-year old claret—delicious
Last night (10-28-2011) I drank a 1984 Château Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande of Pauillac. This wine was classified in 1855 as a Second Growth in the Médoc region of Bordeaux. It had been in my possession for about a year, a gift.

It was beautiful and delicious and fragrant. Medium bodied, graceful, with solid tannin. In the glass there was no hint of brown. At the end there was but the barest amount of sediment.

The cork was tightly seated and came out intact. The wine opened readily. Even in the newly opened bottle it shared itself with my nose, slowly. The fragrance and flavor courted the cooks while dinner was prepared and revealed themselves evenly throughout the meal.

A lovely wine, well-mannered and undemanding. I enjoyed it for itself and its exceptional pedigree. Thank you Gary! (10-29-2011)

What's wrong with greatness?
I just read a reference to a book by Tom Brokaw, The Greatest Generation, and was immediately repelled. Greatness is a comparison word, it refers to a comparison between two things. In a comparison one thing is more and the other less. I see no value in acting to be more than someone else, either as an individual, a generation, or a country. I prefer to focus on practices that support values, and not compare myself to anyone else. I don't want to be greater than someone else, I just want to be the best I can. (11-3-2011)
Where is the customer service, Amazon?
I want to ask Amazon why they refuse to pay the State of California sales tax on sales to CA customers. Today I am prompted on Amazon's home page to buy CA promotions, is this cheezy or what, given their explicit refusal to pay. But try to find a "contact us" and its sayonara baby. I guess they only want my money, not my questions or opinions. I am less than thrilled. (9-30-2011)
Obama is so over
Three-fourths through his Presidency, Mr. Obama has been found disappointing. Still a good speaker, he is surrounded by unfulfilled campaign promises. His claim as an effective compromiser has been disproved time and again as he abandons his party's position before it has to face even initial opposition. He is certainly no leader, offering at best clichés and generalities, when he offers anything at all. He conducted his campaign in seeming ignorance of the largest challenge to American stability since World War II—the economic collapse—and squandered his first year in office entrusting the economy to a team of people who disagreed on both the problem and the solution and whose actions proved to have little benefit to the working class. In short, Obama has proved he is just another politician, and not particularly adept. (8-26-2011)
Since I wrote this I've considered feedback, which mentioned the resistance Obama meets in Washington simply because of his skin color. That seems likely to me as my uncle in Pennsylvania told me, during Obama's campaign for the Presidency, that he would never live to take office. Frankly, that remark shocked me in California where I try diligently to be color-blind. I have had my fingers crossed ever since. And, voila!, Obama lives. But, he's not getting much in the way of cooperation. How can he persevere? I guess he has to outwit his opponents. While I see no evidence for this, perhaps the game is not over yet. Stay tuned. (9-8-2011)
And a third assessment, this on the eve of the 2012 presidential election towards the end of his fourth year in office. I still find Obama disappointing, even more so. He has demonstrated his loyalty to his financial backers, at the expense of the American people. He has not demonstrated any ability to secure the cooperation of Republican congresspeople. Worse, he has done poorly at countering their criticisms. The real issues plaguing the population are economic: good-paying jobs and affordable medicine. Obama has done nothing to resolve these. (7-9-2012)
Results Pilates
Pilates can be a highly effective practice and treatment. I met Carol shortly after a car accident. I found her an intelligent, thoughtful, and insightful person who uses Pilates as her tool to improve health in her clients. I recommend her to you without reservation. Results Pilates! (8-21-2011)
Guilty until proven innocent, coming to your neighborhood
Today's LA Times reports that the Supreme Court gave police the right to break into homes or apartments if they suspect the residents are destroying the evidence of illegal drugs. The article quotes Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. saying residents who "attempt to destroy evidence have only themselves to blame." Clearly, this Supreme Court Justice does not give a fig for the concept of innocent until proven guilty. Another step into the morass. (5-17-2011)
Why does the federal government subsidize businesses at the top of their food chain?

The envelope please:
1. Because they can. Congress folk have a substantial track record for granting subsidies after being encouraged by "donations," you know those things usually called bribes.
2. Because no one will notice. These subsidies do not make the front page. And no one gives press conferences to brag about them.
3. Because an industry representative, or a whole raft of them, has made the case that these poor businesses need to be encouraged and rewarded for some practice that makes the rest of us shudder.
4. Because the amounts either paid out by the government or not received in taxes will not be noticed. Even among the cries to reduce the deficit. Because they have been made invisible.
5. Because the government accounting practices make it impossible to find by the casual researcher.

In May 2011 some news outlets are publishing articles on:
a. the corporations that pay no tax
b. the corporations that receive tax credits (aka subsidies)

Are you reading these? Getting these? What part of zero-sum don't you get? For every dollar these corporations do not pay in taxes, you will be forced to pay. Do you really believe it is better for the country for you to pay than for them to pay?

I have recently been stirred up by an article on Alternet about the relationships between the price of gas and the subsidies to the oil companies (Jacked Up Gas Prices Are Creating a Windfall for Big Oil -- Time to End Their $4 Billion in Subsidies From Taxpayers). This strikes me as a sort of Catch 22. The oil companies get all the tax breaks and we get the pump fuck.

If it takes the price of gasoline to move us to act, better late than never. One of the many things we need is a version of the Alternative Minimum Tax that actually works to make highly profitable corporations pay their "fair share," by which I mean LOTS. (5-6-2011)

Disasters and the good old days
I've been remembering a song the Kingston Trio recorded in 1966 titled "The Merry Minuet":
  They're rioting in Africa, they're starving in Spain.
  There's hurricanes in Florida, and Texas needs rain.
  The whole world is festering with unhappy souls.
  The French hate the Germans, the Germans hate the Poles.
  Italians hate Yugoslavs, South Africans hate the Dutch.
  And I don't like anybody very much!

It seems disasters are common—natural disasters like earthquakes, technological disasters like Chernobyl, and sociological disasters like wars. Maybe the "good ole days" are merely the result of edited memories. (4-25-2011)

When local food is not enough or dangerous
I just want to point out, with regards to my advocacy of local food, the recent nuclear disaster in Japan illustrates one reason for not putting all our eggs in one basket, so to speak. We need food sources at greater distances as backup for crop failures and food poisoning. (4-16-2011)
Congressional polarization funded by corporate money and awash in ideology
There is a worth-reading interview on Alternet of Thomas Ferguson, Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, and a member of the Advisory Board of the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET). Ferguson presented a paper this month to the INET Conference at Bretton Woods titled "Legislators Never Bowl Alone: Big Money, Mass Media, and the Polarization of Congress". He explains that in 1994 Newt Gingrich, as Speaker of the the House of Representatives, installed a pay-to-play system in which Republican representatives were forced to compete to hold their positions on key committees and leadership posts by raising funds for the Republican party. The Democrats followed suit. This killed the seniority system and replaced it by a money-driven one. An increasing polarization of politics emerged. The Republican ideology of minimal restrictions on business, no taxes on the wealthy, and a determination to throw the rest of us to the dogs combined with a complete unwillingness to compromise becomes more visible day by day. Our political system is broken. Democracy based on representational government voted into office has been replaced by officials paid for by corporate contributions with the blessings of the major political parties. (4-16-2011)
A friend of mine recently emailed me the following litany of modern problems: Deficits, crumbling roads, bridges, schools. The "dead hand" of ever increasing debt. Skyrocketing pension, prison, and health care costs. Three unfunded wars. The utter failure of the 401(k) to provide retirement security. Corporate welfare. The depletion of the world's fisheries. Offshoring jobs and profits overseas. Growing use of undocumented labor. The entitlement mentality. Government as both umpire and player. Yea, there is plenty of blame to go around. Greed is the cause. The results are entirely predictable. A permanent and growing underclass with no loyalty to the current system is being created.

My reply: America is becoming a third-world country. I think in all the grandstanding about self-reliance, budget deficits, and smaller government there are some important issues that are being ignored: principally, what is the proper role of government? Some would have you believe that government should get out of the way and let business do its thing. Well, the current state of affairs is what happens in that scenario. Government hasn't attended to infrastructure etc. Businesses have attended to short term profit and are doing pretty well, especially when they extort and otherwise compel taxpayers into insuring corporate losses. Have you noticed that no business is willing to insure my losses? This is very much a one-way street. Wealth is rising to the top leaving 99% of the population with the dregs, at best. Our lives and our futures are being sucked dry. And now, would you like a little radiation with that? (4-15-2011)

Fukushima, a name I didn't need to learn
American politicians are adept at pushing our buttons for individualism, self-reliance, and self-responsibility. They skip quickly over the evidence for interdependence. They regret the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, thinking that their rarified elitism is enough to save them and their families from poisoned air and water. As for the rest of us, toughen up. The commitments to the Commons—the air and water that elude private ownership while being essential for life—prompted those Acts.

The possibility that the business practices of some American corporations might cause the sea levels to rise above some populated islands is of such insufficient political interest as to ensure America will not sign any international treaty on global warming until after Washington, DC is underwater.

The possibility that a nuclear power plant anywhere might release quantities of radioactive particles which will eventually circumnavigate the globe threatening the populations of all countries is of such insufficient political interest as to ensure there will never be an international treaty banning nuclear power—for the common good.

Or is it? Can we find nothing in our lives to impel us to consider the Common Good? What has happened to weaken our parental ferocity and our loving concern for our friends and neighbors? Why are we numb? Pray it is not permanent! (4-10-2011)

Magical thinking
As children we think if we cannot see something, it cannot see us—or hurt us.

We should have learned differently when we first looked through a microscope. Didn't your school have microscopes? If not, that was likely a result of the state's cutting funding to schools instead of raising taxes on the very rich. I mean, how important are microscopes anyway?

Being able to see things invisible to the naked eye is invaluable for realizing that things too small to see unaided really can hurt us.

And on to the next lie. Even though poison kills, there is some level below which it doesn't kill, below which it is safe, at least according to the FDA. So no problemo with that poisonous radioactive water Japan dumped into the ocean, it will be diluted and become safe.

Not so, the danger of radiation is the vibrational frequency of the radioactive particles, not their parts-per-million. In 1972 Dr. Abram Petkau, a Canadian scientist, discovered that low levels of radiation over a long period of time were more damaging than higher doses over a short period of time.

Japanese radiation is here now, in our bodies and in our food. There will be damage for generations (and you can bet the health insurers will find a way to duck the bills) but the good news is that you can act to protect and heal yourself. There are natural remedies which can help. See my entry for January 31 below. And I recommend the long discussion of radiation and remedies by Toni Reita, ND on her website; don't be put off by the spelling and factual errors (Chernobyl had been operational for two years before the explosion, not three months as Reita claims). (4-10-2011)

What goes around comes around
No, I'm not talking about deeds or thoughts or karma. Let me start with soap. You rub it on your skin and then rinse it off. You are, essentially, pouring it down the drain. Your local sewage treatment facility has to remove it from the wastewater before that water can be repurposed in landscape irrigation or released into waterways. The costs of that soap include the water purification and eventually the damage caused by its introduction into the environment.

If you're a label-reader, you know that many products labeled "soap" are not made of saponified fats (as are traditional soaps) but instead of chemicals like sodium lauryl sulfate. The life cycle of these chemicals begins with their manufacture in a factory and continues with them being poured down the drain and subjected to wastewater treatment.

This life cycle applies to all household cleaning products as well as personal hygiene and grooming products. Pharmaceutical drugs have a similar life cycle. After you consume them they are excreted, often only slightly changed, and flushed down the drain to the wastewater treatment facility.

It's almost as if we just buy these products and then pour them down the drain without using them. So what good do they accomplish when we use them and does their value exceed the cost of the wastewater treatment and environmental damage? (4-8-2011)

Tar sands of Alberta, boon or boondoggle?
This story connects to an earlier one about Idaho's Lochsa River (10-20-2010). I recently became aware of the documentary film H2Oil, which has a website you may want to study. Oil can only be extracted from tar sands with huge quantities of water, water which is no longer available for drinking or any other human and natural use—and is quickly becoming an endangered commodity. The by-products, including the so-called greenhouse gases, can last as long as 150 years; the tailings ponds, where the extraction water is dumped, are now so large they can be seen from space. They continually emit toxins which are leached into the soil and water table and evaporate into the atmosphere where they can drift around the globe. Is this the price you are willing to pay to drive your car a little longer? And if you are, are you willing to force others to pay the same price? (3-25-2011)
Shrink government, outlaw abortion
What do reduction in government spending and legislating morality have in common? The same people want both: far-right Republicans and Tea Partiers. They apparently want the government to leave business alone while controlling women and homosexuals and . . . Their inconsistencies make it clear that they are mere grandstanders. (3-2-2011)
Equal rights for women
Isn't there a connection between the unwillingness of the country to pass the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) guaranteeing equal rights for women and the willingnesss of the country to prohibit abortion? If women truly had equal rights, could they be forced to carry pregnancies to term against their will? (3-2-2011)
Reducing state spending, one idea
The State of California recently spent close to one million dollars to replace the death chamber at San Quentin prison in Marin County (where I live). Add to this the controversy about the availability of the drug for lethal injection and its cruelty. Why not return to hanging or firing squad? Or stop executions altogether? How can a bankrupt state justify spending such huge sums to execute prisoners? The 2011 budget for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) is over $9 billion and represents 7.2% of the entire state spending. The CDCR employs about 62,000 people and incarcerates 1.4 million people. Of the 11 major organizations in the state budget, the CDCR's budget is greater than six; its budget is change less than that of Higher Education, almost 50% more than that of Natural Resources, and over 6 times as much as Environmental Protection. Should prisons matter this much? (3-2-2011)
Overinfluential California prison employees union
Do you think if Wisconsin is successful in stripping its state employees of the right to collective bargaining, California might be able to do the same for its prison employees union members? (3-2-2011)
The lie that is the germ theory
Louis Pasteur is generally credited with formulating the germ theory of disease, that germs cause disease. This idea was not really new with him, but he did support it with his experiments and it provided the basis for his vaccines and the pasteurization process first used with milk. The germ theory seems to be well accepted these days, even though it has been disproved. It has been claimed that Pasteur recanted on his death bed, where he rose up on his elbow, said "Bernard was right, it is all about the terrain. The microbe is nothing!", and died immediately afterwards. (There are several variations of his utterance, and there are claims that there was no such recant. See my longer discussion for a reasonable non-confirmation.) Bernard was Claude Bernard, a French physiologist. Bernard championed the notion that terrain, what he called the milieu intérior, was much more significant than the germs in the onset of the disease. Later researchers found compatible explanations: Royal Raymond Rife (inventor of the Universal Microscope in 1933) concluded germs were the result of disease, not the cause; Gaston Naessens (inventor of the Somatoscope) agreed and also showed that DNA is not the "independent" ruler of life as it has been portrayed, but instead is built from bits that come before it, and specifically those bits correspond directly to the environmental vibrational energetic state (the terrain). This is described by Patrick Quanten, MD in his article "The Origin of 'Germs'". (2-13-2011)
Patriot Guard Riders
My father was a career Marine and served in WW II and the Korean War. He would not talk about his experiences. After his death my mother did away with all records of his achievements and medals.

My mother's brother joined the Navy before WW II and found himself in Honolulu on December 7, 1941. His submarine, with an unusually small onboard crew including my uncle, shot down one Japanese plane. My family did not talk about it.

What a marvel to meet the Patriot Guard Riders who go out of their way to honor military veterans at their passing. At my express invitation, suggested by one of their own, they stood vigil at my uncle's memorial service and burial. They were sincere in their honoring of a veteran's service to his country. They were quiet and peaceful and supported the seriousness and sadness of the occasions. They helped me face my loss and find pride in my uncle's wartime military service. I deeply appreciate the Patriot Guard Riders.

They were at all times respectful. Yes, they ride motorcycles, and although I could not resist Steppenwolf's "Born To Be Wild" playing quietly in my mind, a legacy of Easy Rider, their behavior was impeccable. (2-7-2011)

Radiation sickness
My two cats and I have radiation sickness of 3 years' standing. How is this possible? Each cat was deliberately treated with radioactive iodine, I-131, for a thyroid disorder. The treatment was successful. What was completely unexpected is that the radiation did not completely leave their bodies and it was transmitted to mine. We have suffered upper-respiratory problems for about two years and an increasing disability. My keen online researching skills have so far been unsuccessful in finding any discussion of this kind of situation. The company that sells the radioactive iodine treatment claims that the radiation disperses completely in a short time period. Other discussions of the treatment admit to "side effects" without discussing the persistence of the radiation.

As I-131 undergoes radioactive decay it is eliminated from the body. The half life is 8 days. Thus the medical profession assumes it is all gone in a matter of weeks. The EPA says "in the body, iodine has a biological half-life of about 100 days for the body as a whole." Another source says "iodine-131's short half-life of 8 days means that it will decay away completely in the environment in a matter of months."

Well, my experience is different.

Good news! As of March 2011 the radiation is gone, eliminated by use of Biosuperfood, an herbal supplement invented by a Russian doctor (Michael Kiriac) and used to treat the human and animal victims of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and two homeopathic remedies. What a huge relief. And just in time for Fukushima :( . (1-31-2011)

The Library of Alexandria
The Library was established about 290 bc by Ptolemy, Alexander's ex-general who governed Egypt. It became the primary and sometimes the sole repository of the written science, philosopy, and literature of the civilized world. It contained all that was known about the world. It was in large part destroyed in 392 ad by Alexandria's Christian community under the Patriarch Theophilus because it housed ideas foreign to theirs. Because its existence posed a challenge they could not withstand. Much of that lost scientific knowledge has been regained, some re-appeared 1300 years later. Undoubtedly some remains lost. The destruction of the Library heralded in the Dark Ages. Can we conclude that Christianity caused the Dark Ages? (1-22-2011)
Honor and sovereignty
When is it honorable to violate a country's sovereignty? When you think you can benefit in the short term? When you feel safe from reprisals?

Isn't this clearly a case of "might makes right"? And isn't this what we try to teach our children is wrong?

So why is it okay in the international arena? Okay, there really are two issues here: (1) what can you get away with and (2) what is honorable?

But, really, who cares about honor, about morality?

Actually people care. The people who live in the country whose sovereignty is violated. And even many of the people who live in the country doing the violating.

"Not in my name" is what many Americans implore and demand of government regarding its foreign policies. That's nice. And then the government pats you on the head and says "don't worry, we'll do the right thing."

Thank God for WikiLeaks. Some of the truths of US dealings with Pakistan have come to light. Now we can see the truth of how the US government is violating Pakistani sovereignty and placing us all at risk of nuclear retaliation. I suppose we should be grateful for the disastrous flooding which must have diverted the Pakistani attention from our misdeeds. For how long? (1-20-2011)

Obama and Palin on the Arizona tragedy
It is wrong to blame Palin for the violent, deadly action of Jared Loughner, the shooter in Arizona. He was solely responsible. However, nothing we do happens in a vacuum. Certainly Palin's inflammatory, gun-slanted talk could provide a context. So too could the chemical stew that constitutes much of modern food which Loughner is likely to have eaten. There are many elements in our society that bring out the worst in us.

Palin rightly stated she was not directly responsible. It was perhaps disingenuous of her to claim that her words, while couched in a violent militaristic metaphor, were, or should have been, understood differently. That she was only exercising her freedom of speech.

Our actions, including speech, have consequences. They establish a context in which others act and react. (Why do you think I am writing this blog?)

Obama's speech took a different tack. While he repeated that none but the shooter was to blame for the carnage, he talked at length about each victim and reminded us that a civil society is civil. He showed us a way to grieve, a way to understand, and a way to go forward that was inclusive.

He demonstrated a rare leadership based on goodwill.

Obama's words will barely cause the blamers to pause. They clearly are not interested in being soothed. Their need to spread their fear and agenda is paramount. Let us listen with our hearts open. (1-14-2011)

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