Archive for October, 2009

Legalize medical hemp!

2009/10/26

Legalize medical hemp!  That is right, hemp.  Let’s quit beating around the bush and come clean with each other.  Marijuana is hemp, (well, okay, marijuana is the archaic Hispanic slang word for the flowers of the hemp plant.  But it is still hemp!)  Hemp has been cultivated by humans for thousands years because it is so beneficial.  For nearly that long, people have used it for its medicinal qualities.  Because smoking hemp alleviates a very large number of ailments, from pain to menstrual cramps.

In this day of high drug prices, many people can find help for their problems without having to spend large amounts of money, if they have access to medical hemp.  It may seem strange to think of smoking grass to ease a medical condition, but it works, and far better than any man-made drug, in many cases.  The biggest result of legalizing medical hemp will be the reduction in profits of the big drug companies, because hemp will replace many over-the-counter remedies as well as some prescription drugs.

The federal government, in the guise of the Attorney General, has announced that is no longer going to persecute growers and users of medical marijuana if they are complying with state laws.  This is a clear call for the states to establish enlightened laws regarding the use of hemp for medicinal purposes.   Hemp and all of its products were legal less than 100 years ago, and would still be legal except for the greed of a small number of powerful people many years ago.  Those people managed to win a propaganda war that turned the country against something which it had never heard of, marijuana, allowing the passage of legislation which made growing marijuana illegal.  Marijuana is hemp, and hemp was a major commodity at the time.  But, through legal maneuvering, continuing propaganda, and various other strategies, these people kept hemp off of the market, which is what their goal was.

The entire concept of marijuana causing extreme behavior was cooked up by this group, as a means of confusing the public.  If they had come out and openly called for a ban on the production of hemp, they never would have gotten anywhere.  So, our current beliefs and attitudes about marijuana are the result of propaganda.  We need to ignore the propaganda, and restore a wonderful drug to our medicine chests, one that will not cost us our retirement to use.

Peace through understanding.

2009/10/24

Dick Cheney, angry that he is no longer in government, has been lambasting President Obama for being ‘wishy-washy’, and indecisive regarding the war in Afghanistan.  Perhaps this is because Dick Cheney exemplifies the kind of thinking that has gotten us into conflict with the Arab world.  He seems to believe that the United States can be protected from terrorists by sending our military to anywhere that seems opposed to our views of the world to root out the ‘extremists’.

This is the philosophy of ‘peace through strength’, which was the operational mode of the Cold War.  We were so strong that no one dared attack us.  Our huge military protected us from every threat.  Even though this type of thinking was seriously refuted during the Vietnam police action, many people have never given it up, perhaps because they see aircraft carriers as profit centers, not defensive weapons.

But we no longer face military threats, at least of any credibility.  Iran might threaten its neighbors, but it is no where near developing the technology to drop nuclear weapons on the U.S.  But we do face threats, from people who are willing to give their lives so that the American godless horde can be diminished somewhat.  These people can not be stopped by military might, nor are they likely to be stopped by technology.  Because they are a single individual among billions, identifying them is difficult.

But maintaining peace by threatening to blow up anyone who disagrees with us is an unsustainable course.  The more conservative we become, the more people we alienate.  The less willing that we are to change, the more determined people are to make us change.  The more tightly we police our borders, the less secure we are.

Few people seem to be aware of this, but one of the greatest reasons why the U.S. is reviled in the Middle East is because of our support of Israel in oppressing the Palestinians.  In spite of our hosting peace talks, we have never put any serious pressure on Israel to allow the creation of a Palestinian state.  We have not objected forcefully when Israel has allowed its citizens to establish settlements in areas promised to the Palestinians.  Nor have we exerted any effort to prevent the frequent military actions against the Palestinians.

So, we say that we support a Palestinian state, but we do nothing to bring it to pass.  Apparently, we actually do not care about the Palestinians, or any of their fellow Arabs.  All we are interested in is oil, at the lowest possible price.  We toppled a ruthless dictator, not because he was ruthless, or a dictator, but because he was preventing us from having access to his oil.  Before that, we blatantly threw out an honestly elected government, and put our puppet in its place.  When our puppet finally became too old to run the country that we had given him, that country rebelled, and took a bunch of Americans hostage for over a year.

These kinds of actions do not win friends.  They instill fear, anger, determination.  We need instead to be fostering understanding, accepting that we have made poor choices in the past, and expressing willingness to work with Arabs in addressing the Palestinian issue.  This may sound like betrayal to Dick Cheney, but I think that someone whose actions are creating enemies of the United States is betraying that country.

Can’t you feel the rage?

2009/10/20

Seems like these days, when someone gets upset, they completely fly off of the handle.  Minor annoyances become life-threatening catastrophes, and driving is an exercise in combat avoidance.  People blow up for no apparent reason, then become distraught because they have over-reacted.  Polite conversation hovers on the edge of the abyss, threatening to fall into discord and conflict at any moment.  The intensity of people’s emotions can be physically difficult to tolerate when they lose themselves again in their anger.

Far too many people have bottled up their depression, frustration, jealousy, and anger, so that they can appear calm and reasonable.  But they lose control over their feelings when they repress them, and are easily overwhelmed when something triggers them.  It is almost like they willingly cast away any control over themselves for a few moments, seeking the single-mindedness of rage.

All too often, I encounter people who cannot even recognize their own anger and frustration, who are at a loss to explain their outbursts.  Watching them go from relaxed and smiling to screaming and thrusting their fists in the air in a matter of seconds truly frightens me, because I have so little control over myself when I get that mad.  I am afraid for these people, that they might do something that they have never done before, and so end up in trouble.

We are constantly under pressure through the media to live lives that are productive and happy, by buying things, spending money, pushing the economy along.  Yet, most of us have little extra money to spend, and we often are putting off purchases that we really want.  On the one hand, we are encouraged to spend, spend, spend, and, on the other hand, we are reluctant to part with one more dollar, because we have already spent more than we should have.

Tuning out the programming, avoiding the stress, requires staying away from electronic media.  Evaluating our goals and aspirations in light of what we have experienced is a hard come-down from the euphoria of youth, but we only set ourselves up for a fall when we continue to expect life to be filled with pleasure and distractions.  We have to understand that there are people who want us to chase those pleasures and distractions, irregardless of whether we can afford it.  Their affluence depends greatly on our pretending to be affluent, so they use every trick there is to get us to spend, including making us feel inferior if we can not.

The years ahead are going to be filled with unmet expectations and shattered dreams.  We came to believe that we were entitled to luxury and instant gratification, when we are not.  Much hard work will have to be done before the average American is going to spend freely on non-essential items, but the whole time people will be angry over what they think they are being denied.  Accepting ourselves as we are, right now, is essential to getting away from the rage.  We will always feel unhappy and angry if we don’t like who we are.

Survival is bad for business!

2009/10/19

Reading about the debate surrounding U. S. Senate action on climate change, I kept thinking that there are people in this country who are willing to sacrifice the future in order to keep what they have today.  Not just their own futures, but everyone’s future.  To protect the profits that they are making right now, they resist any kind of change which could reduce those profits.

Denying change is a common attitude in people, but it is one which can not be allowed to exist in a business organization.  Maintaining profitability means anticipating change and preparing for it, altering methods as required, rather than trying to cope just for the short term.  American business has become so entrenched in its ways, so conservative, that it denies the future constantly.

Millions of dollars are being spent on lobbyists in hopes of prevent legislation from passing, because that legislation will hinder current methods of doing business.  But the intent is to try to insure that there will be business to be done in the future, instead of desolation.   Somehow, we must counteract the tendency in American business to ignore unpleasant facts until they bankrupt us.   What is needed right now is innovation, experimentation, not stubbornness and obstructionism.

Will we ever learn?

2009/10/18

The Obama administration is trying to figure out how to deal with our involvement in the country of Afghanistan.  But Afghanistan has outlasted many foreign armies, including one of the most powerful in the 20th century, the Soviet army. So, we have a choice:  To either become the invader, raining death and dismemberment down on the Afghan people; or to become the loser, the next in the long line of military forces which have failed to subdue Afghanistan.

Apparently, we are unable to acknowledge that we have made a mistake, and that our continued presence in the region is only inciting further violence, because our military is trying to make preparations for more violence.

Our military power has been diminished by our willingness to use it to try to get our way.  Spending untold billions, and hundreds of billions, trying to bring ‘democracy’ to nations which believe that ‘democracy’ is a synonym for ‘Godless heathens’, is a waste of money we don’t even have anymore.

Getting involved in another war where the enemy and our allies all look alike is completely stupid.  Getting involved in another war that has nothing to do with our national security is completely stupid.  Getting involved in another war to justify being able to go to war is completely stupid.  We must learn from our mistakes, and stop throwing our military into every part of the world on pretenses.  We have lost the respect of most of the international community, and we are in danger of losing the trust of that community, if we have not already.

Fouling the nest.

2009/10/18

Up until recently, a business could always find a haven from environmental regulations somewhere in the world.  Governments eager for growth would gladly allow a pit mine, smelter, blast furnace, or chemical plant.  But the leaders of nations today are more aware of the long-term costs of industrialization, and the whole world is waking up to the consequences of producing large amounts of carbon dioxide.

The technology that has become the lifeblood of our modern economy is beginning to threaten our existence.  Do we sacrifice the benefits of advanced technology to survive, accepting life without automobiles, computers, or  washing machines?  If making something means destroying something irreplaceable, what is the real cost of that product?  Currently, only a fraction of the world’s population enjoys the standard of living of the average American citizen.  Yet, we are producing greenhouse gases weighing billions of tons every year.  Energy consumption is nearly equal to the available supply.  What will happen as more and more of the world’s billions try to improve their standard of living?  Does raising the living standard of one person require the reduction in another persons?

If we treat our planet as a closed system, with finite resources, and limited ability to repair environmental damage, is there any hope for a peaceful future?  Greed and jealousy motivate people to take whatever they can, even if it belongs to someone else.  Will we let our cherished comforts be taken by someone else without a struggle, or will we fight tooth and nail to go on enjoying a shower every day?  Are we willing to sacrifice our solitary ride to work to allow someone in another country to survive?  Is there any alternative to treating our planet as a closed system?

Without the Sun, there would be practically no energy on Earth, because there would be no plants growing, no evaporation of water to make rain, nothing except heat from volcanoes and radiation.  So the Earth is not a closed system.  And the Earth exists in a neighborhood which is rich in material resources.  Everything from hydrogen, the lightest of all the elements, to uranium, one of the heaviest, exist in abundance in our Solar System.  There is unimaginable amounts of energy available, the constant output of the small star we call the Sun.

People perceive space exploration in many ways, perhaps as a search for knowledge of the origins of the Cosmos, or maybe as a quest for places to create colonies independent of Earth.  But one thing unites these perceptions;  the belief that they have nothing to do with everyday life, with the average person.  Nothing could be further from the truth, because space exploration is the only way that we are going to be able to continue the lifestyles we have come to take for granted.  It may take a few generations, but, eventually, all of humanity will sink back to primitive ways, as the resources needed for our advanced ways of life become prohibitively expensive.

In that same span of time, we can secure our future forever, by tapping into the resources all around us, and performing our industrial processes outside of the Earth’s environment.  Lifting our industries into space will only cost a fraction of the world’s annual income, while creating new wealth in excess of all that has ever existed.  People think of space travel as being hugely expensive, which it is, compared to travel on Earth.  But the actual costs are a tiny fraction of what is spent on the world’s military every year.  What is spent on cosmetics every year in the United States would finance the construction of a permanent base on the Earth’s moon in 20 years or less.

The solutions to the world’s problems do not exist in the world.  Only by going outside of our world can we solve our energy shortages, greenhouse gas production, and pollution problems.  We are fouling our nest, just as young animals do in nature.  But we must grow, as they do, and venture beyond our nest, into the outside.  Or we will die in our nest, destroyed by our own wastes.  Space exploration is not science fiction, it is not fantasy, it is here today, albeit in its infancy.  Lifting our industries into space will take many years, as we learn to move about easily in this new environment, and how to survive there.  But waiting to start will only make the starting less likely, as resources become even more precious.

Halloween plans?

2009/10/17

Probably, if you intend on celebrating Halloween, you are making your plans.  What costume to wear, which party to go to, how you are going to get home, that sort of thing.  But there is another way of celebrating this strange pagan holiday, one which is much older than costume parties, Trick or Treating, and drunken brawls.

This is a good time to remember those who have passed on, the parents, grandparents, old friend, trusted advisor.  All about us, here in the Northern Hemisphere,  Autumn is taking hold, and the Life Force is withdrawing from the land.  So it is natural to think of the dead at this time of year, to remember them to others, to refresh our own memories, by reading letters, looking at pictures, listening to music.  Tell your children about your grandma, or uncle, and the things that you remember them doing.

And celebrate the fact that Nature is balanced, that there is some force which counter acts the incredible drive of the Life Force.  Because, without Death, there would be no room for new life, nothing for living things to eat, no change to make way for new, and possibly better, adaptations, mutations.

To many ancient people, this was the end of the year, when every thing hibernated, or became dormant, or just plain died, leaving behind eggs, or seeds, to great the next Spring.  This was a time of conservation of resources, because the long climb to when there will be food around is just beginning, with many months to survive.  After Halloween, people stayed indoors, and spent the few hours of light working on handicrafts, and thinking about the people that they loved, living and dead.

If you don’t feel inclined to go out drinking, or attending some huge costume party, remember that there are other ways of celebrating this ancient and strange (to us) holiday.

My hat is off to Apple!

2009/10/16

At the request of a friend, I met a friend of hers who had just purchased a new Apple iMac computer.  She was concerned about getting a program written for Windows to work on the Mac.  We investigated several options, and I told her that I considered the best one to be a dual-boot system, where the computer can boot up into either of two operating systems, thus allowing her to run Windows when she wanted to use her specialized software.

Come to find out, Apple has included that option in their new operating system, ‘Snow Leopard’.  It will automatically divide the hard disc drive into two virtual disc drives, and then allow you to install your Windows disc on the other one.  This is astonishingly mature  for a company in such a cut throat industry as Apple is.  But they have recognized that Windows users want to be able to enjoy the benefits of running a Mac, without having to sacrifice the advantages that come from using the operating system that almost all applications are written for.

This method allows the Mac user to enjoy the incredible design of these new computers, while still being able to run proprietary software for Windows.  And I have never seen a Windows machine like this!  It is beautiful, functional, and easy.  It is also probably very expensive.  But, if I had the money, I would certainly buy one!

Not more money, more CARE!

2009/10/12

The saddest thing to me about the current health insurance debate is the drive to throw more money at the problem.  The problem is that we are spending too much money on health insurance.  For what we pay, we should have universal coverage, full dental, vision, and mental as well.  Our health care costs are the highest in the world, even though only a small part of the population enjoys the very best health care.

Instead of reigning in the profits that the insurance companies reap off of health plans, the Congress seems intent on finding more money to give them, to compensate for the supposed losses that they will face if everyone has insurance.  But our current bill for health insurance is far beyond what we should be paying if everyone did have insurance.  Because the larger the pool, the lower the risk that the insurer faces of a big number of substantial claims.  Most people don’t need expensive health care in their lives.  And even fewer would require such expenditures if proper preventative medicine and dentistry were the standard form of health care that most people consumed.

Congress is trying to preserve the health insurance industry as a profitable business, irregardless of where that profit comes from.  If we are going to spend even more money on health insurance, we should buy out the share holders, over a span of several years, so that they can realize their profits from their investments while still allowing the government to eliminate the profits, reducing the costs of the care that we receive.

Every patient who sees a doctor is receiving a service, which should be rewarded.  Doctors should be able to set their fees within a market value, and be paid in a reasonable period of time.  This is not what has made health care so expensive.  It is the fee that the insurance company adds to every transaction between the doctor and patient, and fees which do not involve doctors services at all, but the services of the insurance company instead, which has helped drive the costs of the care that we receive beyond sustainable levels.

Candy, costumes, ghosts, and goblins

2009/10/09

The stores are bulging with candy to hand out on the upcoming pagan celebration at the end of the month.  This is probably the weirdest, most convoluted, mixed-up celebration in America, a day when we send our children out to do the exact opposite of what we normally tell them, a day when we want to be haunted, a day that everyone seems inclined to recognize.  What is this ‘all hallowed saints day eve’ celebration, any way?

Halloween, or All Hallowed Saints Day Eve, is the residue of one of the most spiritual of the ancient celebrations, or sabbats, on the witchcraft calendar.  As with other pagan holidays, what we know today is the Christian church’s attempt to bring the ancient celebration into the religious framework of the  church.  Christmas is another one, and some calendars still mark Candlemas on February 2nd.  These are celebrations which pre-date Christianity by thousands of years, and which are deeply ingrained in the psyche of people of Western European descent.

On the Wheel of the Year, early November is a time when Death is recognized and celebrated.  This sounds strange to us today, because Death has been ignored, hidden, and denied for most of modern history, but to ancient peoples, Death was as immediate, everyday, and essential as Life.  Without Death, Life cannot continue, for Life feeds on Death, and Death makes room for new Life.  Death was viewed as a doorway into another realm, not as an ending.  Death was not associated with any kind of judgment, nor with reward or punishment.  When people died, they became part of a spiritual realm, still able to influence the realm of the living, but removed from it.

Because the dead were considered to be still aware of the living, and able to influence events in the realm of the living, the living recognized the dead, venerated them, worshiped them.  The dead were remembered by the living, through rituals, story telling, the passing on of family heirlooms and treasures.  Because Death is all around us during the late Autumn, that was the time to remember and to cherish the dead.  It was commonly believed that the veil, or curtain, between the realm of the dead and the realm of the living was partially pulled back during that time, as the Life Force ebbed from the land.

Even today, the Day of the Dead is celebrated in Mexico, a deeply ritualistic, formalized remembering of the ancestors.  In spite of the Christian church insisting that there was NO spirit realm, that the dead were unaware of the passage of time between their death and the Day of Judgment, many peoples in Western and Northern Europe clung to their ancient customs, afraid of offending their forebears by ignoring them.  This was the most spiritual time of the year, when many people experienced communion with dead persons, or at least, felt the presence of loved ones who had passed on.

In order for the Christian church to bring a celebration into the church, it had to designate a reason for it, a justification for the celebration.  With the Yule Tide, it was the fiction that Christ had been born on the day of the celebration of the return of the Sun, just after the Winter Solstice.  With the celebration in witchcraft of those who had passed on, an aspect of Life that we call Death, a catchall was created.  The holy day of November first is the celebration of the lives of any person who was considered a saint, even if they had never been sanctified by the church.  This all-inclusive category allowed family members to venerate loved ones, under the pretense that the loved one was ‘as a saint.’

That is the reason for the holy day, or holiday.  That is why ghosts are a part of the celebration.  But the spin that the Christian church put on the whole affair had nothing to do with the original celebration, or sabbat, and does not reflect its intent.  It was probably one of the most peaceful, loving, contemplative sabbats, of the eight on the Wheel.  People were already conserving their resources, knowing that there were many months to go before food would be easily found, and the weather often was cold and bleak.  Harvest celebrations, themselves a recognition of the importance of Death in life, had been held just a few weeks before, so people were not anxious to see each other, as they would be by the time of the Yule.  There was no evil associated with this time, no fear of the unknown.  We have created those things in modern times, perhaps out of our frustration at not being able to observe what was probably one of the oldest annual celebrations on the Wheel of the Year.