Thursday, April 24, 2014

What Portion of Blame Does S. Korea President Share with Ferry Captain who Took Only Lifeboat and Left 300 School Children to Drown?

South Korean President Park 
The first April 16 news reports announced that the S. Korean Coast Guard, fishermen and other vessels had rushed to the scene of an horrific accident.  A ferry carrying 475 passengers, most of them children on a school trip, had capsized. But thankfully they had all been plucked from the icy waters, save a few.  I woke up the next morning and clicked on GOOGLE News. Those headlines screamed a ghastly and shockingly different story. Nearly 300 children were still missing in the ferry accident, but that the Captain had taken the only life boat. The global media and I (here and here) have covered the details at length.  But what might any of this have to do with South Korean President Park Geun-Hye, who rather boldly described the Captain's behavior "as being akin to murder."

Let's re-wind this tape a bit. This accident did not occur within seconds or even minutes.  It took two hours for the listing ship to sink.  Nor did it happen in the dead of night, but rather at 9 o'clock in the morning, on a calm sea, according to observers.  The Coast Guard first learned of the accident not from the Captain but from a child huddling below deck where all the children had been ordered to wait, using his cell to call the S. Korean equivalent of 911.

Within this two hour window in which those young lives could have been saved we've heard nothing about the actions of S. Korea's Head of State.  Was she informed?  How could she not have been?  Did she call out reinforcements to the Coast Guard, the Navy, the Air Force, whomever?  Or was she eating breakfast and couldn't be disturbed, in a meeting plotting strategy against North Korean lunatics and couldn't be disturbed, planning her next political campaign and couldn't be disturbed?

Whatever she was doing, the President had far more power at her disposal to save those kids than that disgraceful jellyfish of a captain once he had abandoned the ship (although that man remains a mass murderer in my book).  For the next week, hours and days after the survival window for those children had slammed shut, the news channels were  inundated with  rescue efforts, including hundreds of divers risking their lives, equipment,  and vessels of all sorts and sizes.   Was this macabre pseudo-rescue performance put on to soothe the  hearts of the anguished families or to make grieving parents the world over feel that this tragedy was being competently handled?  I don't understand.  I really don't understand.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What was South Korean Government Doing to Save Drowning Children WHILE Ferry Was Sinking Not After?

Grieving South Korean Parent
It took two hours in the middle of a clear morning on calm seas for the ferry named "Sewol" to sink with nearly three hundred South Korean school children huddled below deck. They were there because the Captain Lee Joon-seok had taken the only life boat and the ship's communication's officer had thought ordering the children below deck rather than having them don life vests and wait to be rescued was a better idea, not having had time to read the safety manual. But this man did find time to scamper aboard that one life boat, himself. 

As all of South Korea is mourning and looking for answers, I should probably keep my mouth shut. But this has become a heart-rending tragedy of global proportions and the more we're learning about this nightmare the more sleepless nights it's causing parents everywhere in the world within a click of GOOGLE News. 

South Korean President Park Geun-hye angrily called the actions of the ferry Captain "akin to murder." I would certainly agree with that. In fact I would go so far as to suggest that this despicable excuse for a human be set out in a rowboat and scuba gear in the middle of the Indian Ocean and given the task of searching for Malaysia Flight 370 and told not to come back until he had found it.  But that isn't to say that when all is said and done, the President might not herself have to answer some very pointed questions.

What was the President, herself, doing during those critical two hours, in which 300 school children were huddled below deck waiting to be rescued?  Was she coordinating the S. Korean Coast Guard and other efforts to get them out of there? How about the country's navy and other rescuers?

The earliest  media reports out of South Korea claimed that everyone had in fact been rescued.   Who concocted these reports and why?   For how many hours were urgent rescue attempts delayed by these false reports? Were the children drowning one by one as these shameful falsehoods were going out over the wire services. And bytheway, how long does it take for a child to drown?  The information is on the Internet.  If you really must know, go look it up yourself. But I've just eaten my breakfast. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Maybe School Children Drowning Deaths in South Korea Ferry Disaster Caused by Something Other Than an Accident

South Korean Ferry Sunk with 300 Children Aboard
At what point does the sheer magnitude of cowardice, greed, graft and  incompetence involved in precipitating a tragedy make it something for which the word "accident" no longer applies?  Parceling out blame will not bring a single one of those drowned South Korean children back to life. But maybe it will
contribute to the kind of soul-searching that might prevent such accidents in the future.  When his ferry began to list to the side, Captain  Lee Joon-seok, 68, hopped on the only life boat, while the second in command instructed 300 school children, who were traveling on a school trip,  to remain below deck.  The children waited for two hours before the ship sank. Divers have still not recovered most of their bodies because of the odd position of the wreckage and fast currents.

The communications officer was stymied because he hadn't gotten around to reading the safety manual. Thus he awaited an evacuation order from the Captain, which was not forthcoming because the Captain was in the lifeboat, pretending to be a regular passenger, according to the Doctor who examined passengers as they reached shore.

The ferry may also have been overloaded. According to the Chinese news agency Xinhua :
"The vessel was loaded with 180 cars and trucks and 1,157 tons of freight, far exceeding the reported figure of 150 vehicles and 657 tons of goods respectively."
 It is true that a series of safety checks had been performed by the Korean Register of Shipping.  The ferry, named the "Sewol" passed all of these safety tests, including one which showed that it would stabilize immediately were it to capsize.  However, as it turns out, the safety check was paid for by the owner of the ferry company.

The curse of the Internet is that I'm sucked into grieving a heartbreaking tragedy, which I might not even have known about before the World Wide Web.  And what it also means is that I will paying special attention to whether everyone involved in this ghastly tragedy is swiftly brought to justice.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Why Does God Devote So Much Time to Concocting Ebola, HIV, H1N1 and Other Deadly Viruses?

Creationism vs Evolution
I'm not a theologian. So, I may have my facts confused. Maybe Satan concocts the viruses and God, with the aid, of hard working medical researchers, searches for the cures. Well, actually, that can't be right either, since God would already have the cure. Whatever the case as far as viruses are concerned, this blog post is really about creationism. I only began by mentioning viruses to make the point that the law of evolution governs all living organisms, whether we like them  or not.

Why are African-Americans susceptible to sickle-cell anemia and European-Americans to cystic fibrosis?  In both cases their immune systems have evolved to protect them from pathogens in their respective environments.   For black Americans it was a protection against malaria, common to their tropical homeland, which was fatal in other human beings who had not inherited this immunity.  And for Europeans the genetic configuration that causes cystic fibrosis  in some, conferred an immunity for most to the Plague, which killed more than half of Europe in the Middle Ages.

Clearly the melanin in our skin evolves as an adaptation to the environment in which we find ourselves.  Since all human beings began in Africa, or even if  Creationists insist the Garden of Eden was in Jerusalem or somewhere else in the Middle East, does that mean that the first humans had pale skin, blond hair and blue eyes?  If differences in melanin are not the result of evolution, then how did the rest of us get so dirty?  I was just wondering.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

White Mothers Worry Most About Children with Chronic Illness, While Black Mothers Fear for their Strong, Healthy Sons

Prosecutors Misusing Rap Lyrics 
Whites fear healthy black males.  White juries sometimes convict them of crimes they did not commit and at other times acquit their murderers of crimes they did indeed commit, claiming it was self-defense.  This is so even though the victim was unarmed. So what's a black mother to do -- pray that her son catches polio?
I don't care how tired people are of hearing of the Trayvon Martin case. It will remain upper most in the minds of black mothers like myself until society sees fit to explore its pathological fear of young black males.  That fear is expressed in the shockingly disproportionate size of the black male prison population, in incidents of profiling and now in bizarre prosecutor tactics of pinning violent crimes on rap singers.  What. . . rap singers. . . what does that have to do with this discussion.  Well, it turns out that prosecutors have found out that little old white ladies find gangsta rap lyrics shocking and downright sinful.  Such songs have now become admissible in certain courts as evidence that the singer perpetrated whatever type of crime he is singing about.  It's an amazingly effective way of putting even more young black males behind prison bars.  

A recent article in The New York Times  describes the growing trend amongst prosecutors across the nation to use gangsta rap lyrics as so-called confessions in charging crimes and trying young black men primarily for crimes allegedly committed based on gangsta rap lyrics.  The article entitled  Legal Debate on Using Boastful Rap Lyrics as a Smoking Gun explained:

[There have been] more than three dozen prosecutions in the past two years in which rap lyrics have played prominent roles. The proliferation of cases has alarmed many scholars and defense lawyers, who say that independent of a defendant’s guilt or innocence, the lyrics are being unfairly used to prejudice judges and juries who have little understanding that, for all its glorification of violence, gangsta rappers are often people who have assumed over-the-top and fictional personas.
Rap music like opera is a powerful, emotive form of artistic expression.  Maybe the jury selection process should dispense with all the questions and merely have jurors tested on the dance floor to determine whether they truly are a  grouping of these young men's peers.   

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Let's Bus Inner City Kids to White Suburban Schools to Prevent School Shootings

Real life is a trillion times more ironic than any comic book plot.  Let's take for example the tragic example of school shootings.   Just as educators and law enforcement agencies are racking their brains to find a way to prevent the next such rampage, so are parents.  So here is my idea.

Upper and middle class suburbs need to bus youngsters from inner city neighborhoods to attend their white schools.   In parts of the country where there are no nearby inner cities, wealthy communities should build a certain number of low-income housing units in order to attract poor people to their communities. And they should welcome these people,  for after all, the newcomers may be saving their childrens' lives.  Have I lost all of my marbles or what?

Observers have known for sometime what the profile of a school shooter is . But it is only in the past few years that they have come to understand why.  And each new incident, reinforces that profile.

 Michael Kimmel and Cliff Leek offers one of the most insightful analyses of school shooters in an article entitled: The Unbearable Whiteness of  Suicide-by-Mass- Murder.  The authors observe:

In the last 30 years 90% of shootings at elementary and high schools in the U.S. have been perpetrated by young white men. . .they want to destroy the entire world in some cataclysmic, video-game, and action movie-inspired apocalypse. If I'm going to die, then so is everybody else, they seem to say. Yes, of course, this is mental illness speaking: but it is mental illness speaking with a voice that has a race and a gender.One must feel a sense of aggrieved entitlement to pick up a gun and go on a rampage, yes. But that sense of aggrieved entitlement must also be grandiose if you are going to make them all pay.
So pervasive has this white, privileged male rage become associated with the mass murder of school children that criminologists have given it a name:  aggrieved entitlement.   

And this brings me back to my idea about busing inner city kids to white suburban and small town school districts.  "Aggrieved entitlement" is a function of racial homogeneity.   It is precisely the lack of diversity that creates such a warped sense of victimization among the privileged. What do we expect from kids who have never been exposed in an every-day-sitting-next-to-at-school-way with poor kids, or maybe a classmate  whose parents were just deported, or someone whose older brother was falsely arrested because of profiling, or a friend whose family just got evicted.  I really don't mean to sound maudlin and melodramatic here.  I'm merely trying to say that the value of diversity is that it helps children find their own place in the world by observing  and therefore learning from the experiences of others.

It is therefore not surprising that these school shootings occur in so-called "safe" communities.  Children go from a school environment that bears no relationship to the complexities of the real world, to a video game environment that bears no relationship to anything even human. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

If You Want to Know What's REALLY Going on in Ukraine You Had Best Talk to Barbie

 Human Barbie Offers Scary Insights into Russian-Ukraine Crisis
I was confused at first with the latest international crisis ping-ponging from the Ukraine, to Crimea, to Russia and back to another region of the Ukraine. And now someone was even talking about nuking someone else. That's when I sat up and took notice.  It turned out the business about the nukes was bogus.  But I did happen upon an insightful interview in GQ Magazine with a Ukrainian lady who calls herself the Human Barbie.

Her name is Valeria Lukyanova and believe you me, she's no diplomat.  In fact, since she appears to be from the ethnic Russian side (rather than an actual Ukrainian), I fear Vladimir Putin may already have lost "the hearts and minds" of everyone who hears more about this woman's views. In the interview, Ms. Barbie bragged that she had only had plastic surgery on her breasts.  But the reason women were getting uglier and uglier, and thus more in need of plastic surgery was because of "race mixing."     According to Barbie, who bytheway is also repulsed by kids (although hopefully not as repulsed as the woman in Utah who killed her seven newborns, stuff them in shoeboxes, and forgot them in her garage when she moved). Sorry, I did get off topic.  In any case Ms. Barbie said:

     "For example, a Russian marries an Armenian. They have a kid, a cute girl, but she has her dad's nose. She goes and files it down a little, and it's all good. Ethnicities are mixing now, so there's degeneration, and it didn't used to be like that. Remember how many beautiful women there were in the 1950s and 1960s, without any surgery? And now, thanks to degeneration, we have this. I love the Nordic image myself. I have white skin; I am a Nordic type—perhaps a little Eastern Baltic, but closer to Nordic."

I'm almost ready to apologize to the Tea Party for labeling them "Nazis," now that I'm glimpsing a bonafided version of that European-rooted mindset. At the same time, I do feel a sadness and sorrow for this young woman.  I hope she is able to use this thoroughly creative opportunity she built for herself to escape the little doll house she inadvertently imprisoned herself in.  

Monday, April 14, 2014

I'm Not Religious, But Maybe There's an Advantage to Calling Perpetrators of Crime -- EVIL

I know.  "Evil" sounds so. . . well. . .  medieval.  But I was driving to work this morning reflecting on this weekend's news.    Police discovered the decomposing corpses of seven newborns in a Utah woman's garage. Megan Huntsman had killed the babies, then apparently left their remains stacked up in cartons.  Newspaper article after article screamed why?  Just a day or two before, the media was yelling "why" over the stabbing rampage of a sixteen year old student at Franklin Regional High School in Pennsylvania. After all, his childhood had been described as one in which he grew up in a  Brady Bunch family.  The gargantuan question mark in last year's Newtown massacre of elementary school children hung on which subtle combination of mental illnesses did this teen from this "Leave it to Beaver Family" suffer from.  As for the Columbine teens, and the Colorado movie theater shooting, mental health professionals are still parsing the wheres and whereforths of these young peoples' mental crises. 

And now finally I come to this business of "evil."  I have never in all my sixty-four years on this planet read a news article that asked  "why" a black teenager committed a crime.  Although, if the crime is sufficiently sensational the perpetrator morphs from a criminal into a terrorist.

If we started labelling the perpetrators of all crimes  "evil," then at least the media would have to halt that most irritating tendency of making racial distinctions between whites who commit crimes (they must be mentally ill) and blacks, who must be . . . well. . .  criminals.  

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Will Destroying Its Templates Stamp Violence out of Our Human Natures?

Human Aggression
  Candace Plattor's thoughtful piece Stop Pretending You Don't Know Reason Behind High School Violence lays out what we might call "the usual suspects" --  violent video games, violent movies, violence on t.v.   But the older I get, the more I see of human nature, the less sure I am of her underlying pacifist premise.  

  Off the top of my head I can think of several motives for Alex Hribal's stabbing rampage at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville, Pennsylvania.    Schizophrenia flips the neurological switch in seemingly normal children sometime between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five.  Another possibility is that he might have been relentlessly bullied and sought revenge.   Or maybe he's a psychopath and only now got around to expressing his true character.

 But apart from mental health issues, I also find Candace Plattor's pacifist premise, to be naive, utopian and possibly even dangerous.  Wouldn't it be nice, if we could stamp out violence in human society by banning all violent depictions (movies, rap songs, video games, operas, toys, paintings)?   It is true that many pacifist communities and religious traditions exist throughout the world.  But there is a reason why every last one of them from Quakers to the Amish and Jains are nestled in the midst of well-armed societies.  Human beings are by nature, territorial, aggressive and, well. . . violent.

People do not need pornographic literature to figure out how to have sex.  And without any graphic pictures at all there would still be seven  billion humans inhabiting our planet.  Nor do young people require a template like violent video games, violent movies and violence on television in order to learn aggression.  Before such imagery existed there were, after all, gory wars, genocide, gladiatorial combat to the death. 

Just as the sexual aspect of our human natures needs to be controlled in order to foster civilization, so does our aggression and violence.  But do we accomplish that goal by pretending those elements of our humanity do not exist?  I am a gun control fanatic.  But my views reflect a realistic understanding of the dangers inherent in allowing a large segment of the population access to weapons when they lack self-discipline and have so little control over their all too human emotional impulses and aggression. 


Friday, April 11, 2014

Are We Wasting Too Much Time Going After Schoolyard Bullies?

Martial Arts as Anti-Bullying Tool
Maybe I'm missing something here. But nowadays everyone seems obsessed with the evils of  "bullying" and creating zero-tolerance programs for bullying in schools   The  tragedy at Franklin Regional High School in which sixteen year old Alex Hribal went on a slashing rampage, has called even more attention to the subject.  That is, the search for the teen's motives has led some observers to speculate that he may have been bullied.  Being bullied is no defense against attempted murder.  But the subject did get me thinking.

Is it not possible that this conversation on bullying has become far too lopsided. I'm beginning to wonder whether all this programmatic talk about getting rid of bullies is becoming a tad too Biblical, like ridding the world of sin.  And we all know how well that worked out.

A far better course of action might be teaching those children who are most vulnerable to being bullied how to stand up for themselves. I don't mean by fighting back, but rather by learning how not to wear a "victim" sign on their backs. Even if their teachers could do a better job protecting them from bullies in school, when they grow up, who's going to protect them from bullies in the workplace and in life?

I love watching the three to five year old "Little Dragons"  train at the Martial Arts School my son attends.  They're as adorable as can be and would never pick a fight.  But there is something in their posture, something even in the way they tell you their names, that makes you know a bully, who is essentially a coward, would go picking on someone else.
Let's stop wasting so much time and attention on the bullies, whose character traits aren't going anywhere and find ways of drying up the pool of victims.  One of the most effective ways to instill the kinds of self-esteem in children that can protect them from any form of assault is through the mental and physical discipline that martial arts training confers.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

PA. School Stabbing did Major Damage to NRA Credibility

Gun violence & stabbings are not the same
One of the 24 victims of the Pennsylvania stabbing attack at Franklin Regional High School in Murrysville remains in very critical condition.  The others have been treated and released or are expected to make full recoveries from the stabbing rampage orchestrated by sixteen year old Alex Hribal.  One of the teen heroes of this nightmare, who pulled the fire alarm while himself being stabbed in order to get the other kids out of the building, even took a selfie of himself at the hospital.

So, what does any of this have to do with the National Rifle Association.  Members of the NRA have flooded the Internet with snarky remarks about when is President Obama going to regulate or confiscate kitchen knives.  But the damage has been done. This stabbing attack taught the public the remainder of a lesson they had only learned fifty percent of at the time of the Sandy Hook massacre of elementary school children.  And that lesson is this.  In any population of human beings there will always be someone who is sufficiently unstable mentally, drugged, or ideologically  motivated to engage in a mass killing.  The number of coffins sold and families who will be left inconsolable is a function of the availability of guns in that society.

In countries where sanity rules, a kid goes berserk and stabs as many others as he can find, usually killing no one.  But America prides itself in its exceptionalism.  When our kids go on a maniacal rampage, they aim fully loaded AR-15s grabbed from under the bed and murder dozens.

It is sometimes difficult to argue in the abstract.  But the difference between a teen with a bandage on his wrist taking a selfie and a mile-long funeral procession of elementary kid coffins is hard to miss.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

My Experience Trying to Lose Weight with Qsymia

I went to the doctor last week for a check up. The news was not what you would call great. My blood pressure was up. My cholesterol was up.  My blood sugar was up. My weight was up.  Of course at the age of 64, a contributing factor might be that my age "was up" as well.  Nothing was in a catastrophic range because I do watch my diet (slightly).  But in the past year, joint pain had made me give up my favorite pursuit -- walking. 

But what this blog is really about is a medication the doctor gave me to try, called Qsymia. A neighbor had taken it during drug trials last summer.  Oddly enough, she had been chosen because she suffered from high blood pressure and diabetes, which are usually counter-indicated with diet medications.   She told me a horror story about it causing withdrawal symptoms from the Prozac she had taken for chronic depression. She went into a frightening tailspin of despair, pulled out of it after a few days, continued taking the drug and did indeed lose weight.  Well okay. I don't know whether that was a recommendation or not.

I'm somewhat wary of diet pills, because my body cannot handle any type of stimulant, which is what most of them are.   I cannot even drink tea or coffee without getting sick. But I'm not as closed to the "concept" of diet pills as some folk.  The reason is because overeating is a disease or a cluster of diseases triggered by something other than lack of will power and laziness. I've lived in Asia, and been around people who love to eat, but do not have food cravings.  I'm no medical researcher.  But I would posit, that the toxic effects of our western diets might even begin in utero, so that the insatiable appetites that outstrips the body's actual need for food is out-of-kilter from the beginning or early on.  The symptoms may begin to appear as we age and our digestive and other physiological systems become less efficient.  

My point in all this is that a certain arrogant scolding permeates all discussions that thin people in our society engage in with fat people.  Whether spoken aloud or silently, it's about character issues. But millions of people in industrialized Asian countries do not go around starving themselves, living miserable deprived lives.  Their relationship with food is neither stressful nor a battle of will power against choco-demons.   

I will not give you my first week's results, which were wonderful.  Everyone will dismiss the weight loss as "water."     So, I will weigh in with you the same time, next month. But the experience was interesting.  When I took the pill around 9 a.m. I kept waiting for something to happen. I went to work, wasn't in the mood for my usual bagel and 2 yogurts.  By lunchtime I was still waiting for the pill to kick in.  But I had one carton of yogurt anyway.  I worked all afternoon, picked at a salad I had brought from home.  For some reason, I was in the mood for a nice, juicy apple when I got home rather than a dish of ice cream. That evening my husband brought home a Domino's pizza. I ate a sliver. And I was still waiting for that darned pill to kick in.  
So, do wish me luck.

P.S.  The caveat with any pharmaceutical is that we don't know the long range effects, whether it causes birth defects, or has other counter-indications.  The answers to these questions will only become clear as more and more people take the drug.  In short we are the guinea pigs.   

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Rwanda Genocide, the Holocaust and Human Nature

"Never again" has become an evil counter-cliche, reminding us to expect some manner of  genocidal rampage every sixty years or so, and at least one act of ethnic cleansing in the interregnum.   The moral tsk-tsking on the part of spectators to these horrifying moments in history irritates me almost as much as the wholesale slaughter of innocent human beings.  But why?  The reason is that if we truly believe that we're morally superior to the genocidal maniacs, we really haven't learned anything at all from history.  And furthermore, when history swings around and gives us or our descendants a turn at the bat, we will be no more prepared to change the outcome than were the Nazis who perpetrated the Holocaust against 6 million Jews, the Israelis who have been trying to rid themselves of the Palestinians ever since, the Turks who came close to annihilating 1.2 million Armenians between 1915 and 1920.  And if you don't believe what I'm saying go ask the ghosts of the Native Americans whom we wiped out in order to achieve our "Manifest Destiny."

As for Rwanda, the Hutus slaughtered a million of their Tutsi neighbors in a period of 3 months beginning on the 6th of April, 1994.  The horror was unspeakable.  But tragically so was that of the incidents I am listing below. I could have listed more events but left the cut off point at 20th century occurrences:
But let me end this on a reflective note.  There may be one way to end genocide. It is to recognize the murderous beast lurking within the darkest corner of the human soul, rather than pretending that only some cultures or ethnicities are capable of atrocities and others are not.  Being a Jungian of sorts, I wonder what it would be like to make friends with it.  Maybe the only solution is for us all to take up the martial arts and learn first to dance with the beast within ourselves.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Advantages of Being a Religious Fanatic

A Westboro Church Protester
What if I knew that there was no one coming to save me or humanity.  We had to get along as best we could, make as wise decisions as we could, and assume responsibility for them including the mistakes.  Now that is stressful.  If we continued to heat up the atmosphere with greenhouse gases, and deplete the ozone layer, the Earth would eventually look like Venus. and no one would even be around to care or pick up the pieces. 

But what if, on the other hand, I believed that none of this was going to happen.  Climate change was a hoax because it wasn't mentioned in the Bible or any other holy book.  A heavenly figure would rescue me no matter what I did, no matter whom I did it to, so long as I called out his name at some point in the process.  Now that sounds like the road to sublime peace.  However, there is a catch.

What if I told everybody I believed in the latter scenario, but because it was a bit farfetched, my belief was always wavering. In short, every now and then I had an itty-bitty doubt.  I would, in such a case, have to cajole as many people as possible into believing as I do, so as not to allow any negativity to spoil my serenity.   In fact I might have to get downright nasty, and insulting to those who refused to go along with my picturesque worldview, because it could so easily be punctured.  Sometimes people I loved would stray from my community but then I would have to cut them off so as not to contaminate the landscape that I had so painstakingly built up.  

So what does all this mean?  Life is stressful, whichever path you choose.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Saddest Lesson I Learned from the Search for Malaysia Flight 370

Spy Satellite
There's probably no point in setting up a scale of misery and heartbreak surrounding the tragic disappearance of Malaysia Flight 370. The pain their families have continued to suffer is truly unimaginable and my heart goes out to them. But something else also brought me to the brink of tears the more I reflected on it. Even though international coordination was slow to get off the ground, I was amazed at how many countries had spy satellites, scouring images from the missing flight.  It was not merely the United States, Russia and China, but Iran, England, India, Afghanistan, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Israel as well. 

So I ask: throughout history what has been the fastest way that humans have transferred new technologies from one side of the globe to another? I would like for the answer to be trade. But the real answer is of course war.  These machines flying around the planet every 90 minutes or so are for purposes of gathering military intelligence. Had the world been at peace, it might have been centuries before countries invested the billions of dollars required to thrust satellites into the stratosphere, which also allows us to have cellphones.

Our species is a magnificent work of creation. There are so many things we yearn for and some endeavors we will attain. But when it comes to technology, what drives human societies first and foremost to invest in innovative ideas is war. In modern times that has brought us from duct tape and jet engines to the Internet.  And who knows what technological heights we might achieve if only we don't destroy ourselves first.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Irrational Hatred of Obama May Be Easy to Fathom

Hatred of President Obama
I just finished reading Cynthia Tucker's thoughtful piece Irrational Hatred of Obamacare is Hard to Fathom.  But what made the experience truly educational were the flood of comments at the end of the article.  One commenter declared:  
"It isn't hard to fathom [why I hate Obamacare] when you are a person like me and have healthcare costs that average out to less than $20 a year for the last ten years and I am now [ten years older and] facing an increase to $4,000 per year just for premiums."
Another opined:  "OBAMACARE is illegal."  And a third insisted: Of the 7 million enrolled, how many lost their insurance due to Obama Care? How many lost their jobs due to Obama Care?"

These comments were a fairly representative sampling plucked from several thousand.  Of course the level of venom in these comments show that Cynthia Tucker was not exaggerating the "irrational hatred."

For years, I have pondered a similar question from watching Obama's election being called illegitimate by those claiming his birth certificate was forged, to the government being shut down, while some members of Congress worked to ruin America's credit rating as a means of destroying the Obama presidency.  But I may have stumbled upon the truth, although it is an unsavory one.  Please be patient as I lay this out. 

A small but not abnormal segment of American society, by psychological standards,  suffers from paranoia.
A small but not abnormal segment of American society, by psychological standards, suffers from anti-social behavior disorders.
A small but not abnormal segment of American society, by sociological standards, suffers from exceedingly high levels of aggression.
A small but not abnormal segment of American society, by sociological standards, suffers from authoritarian personality disorders.
A small but not abnormal segment of American society, by sociological standards, is virulently racist.
A small but not abnormal segment of American society, by sociological standards, is virulently sexist.
A small but not abnormal segment of American society, by sociological standards, is virulently homophobic.
A small but not abnormal segment of American society, by sociological standards, are religious fanatics.
A small but not abnormal segment of American society, by sociological standards, are anti-science/primitivist advocates.
A small but not abnormal segment of American society, by sociological standards, believe that education is evil.

Whereas once these groups may not have been as noticeable within political discourse because their members were distributed equally between the two main political parties, the minor political parties and many were apolitical.  They were, as a consequence, drowned out by what all parties agreed to be an acceptable standard of discourse.  But that no longer exists.  Every last one of these groups has  found a home in the GOP. Many intelligent, thoughtful, rational people remain in the Republican Party. But their voices are muted.  This rather embarrassing situation has been helped along by Rupert Murdoch's FOX News.  I am not saying this to be cruel, but rather to analyze what happened to the political party into which I was born and that I once embraced. I feel sorrow and shame for highly educated, patriotic Republican politicians who thought they were devoting their lives to public service only to find out too late that they were running a home for the societally handicapped, and for a couple of screwball megalomaniacs within their own ranks.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Fort Hood Could be Seen as Secret NRA Experiment

An NRA Nation
The Fort Hood shooter had not been to Iraq, and therefore did not suffer from combat related mental illness, and had no previous evidence of violent behavior or thoughts.  He just got it in his head to walk around the army base and kill as many people as he could.  Now this is very interesting indeed from an National Rifle Association point of view, or at least it should be.

I would like to propose an experiment.  What if the NRA loaned a weapon to every man, woman and child in America, maybe skip the toddlers.  The adults could lug around AR-15 semi-automatic rifles.  The kids would just get loaded pistols.  The NRA would also provide free gun safety classes and for good measure, gun safes for each and every home.

I'm no mathematician, but I will propose a math problem.  What percentage of normal people with no known mental problems would just "go off" one day because . . . well because you cut into their lane. . . . . . they hadn't eaten breakfast. . .the coffee didn't have enough cream in it. . . you grabbed their favorite blue crayon.  By my calculation, we might have a thousand or two souls standing within a month's time and within a year our nation would be toast.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Media Should Adopt Ethical Guidelines for Parents Who Publicize Dying Kids

In the summer of 2013, the parents of young Sarah Murnaghan launched a successful  social media
Sarah Murnaghan
campaign and court case to get lungs for their dying daughter, who suffered from cystic fibrosis.  They did so because donated lungs are in such short supply, that the medical protocols had placed other patients in front of her, who would have derived more benefit from them. Sarah's body rejected the lungs in less than four hours, but she was then given another pair.  The discarded lungs might have saved additional lives. Nearly a year later, Sarah is still ventilator dependent, at a cost to Medicaid of $15,000  a month, while other children, who remained on the list and received lungs after Sarah are back at school.  However, the Murnaghans and their supporters are using Sarah's "miraculous" recovery to pressure change in organ donation procedures.

A Nebraska mother has now turned to the Internet with the story of her one year old son suffering from a chromosomal disorder, who will die if she does not raise sufficient money for him to receive a lung transplant.  Medicaid has refused to pay for the surgery and the story has been picked up by ABC News.

But what is really going on here?  These parents are making darned sure that we don't find out, by publicizing their children's cases while keeping their medical records sealed.  In this way they can control the narrative, and make whatever claims they wish in terms of progress or miraculous recoveries.  Of course the public would still feel sorry for parents with a terminally ill child having  no real chance of recovery. But they wouldn't expend time nor money on such hopeless situations, which proffer a future of painful procedures, and expensive hospitalizations until the child finally succumbs. 

And then there is the case of thirteen year old Jahi McMath, who was declared brain-dead after complications from tonsil surgery in December 2013. Her parents launched a social media campaign to keep her on a ventilator " giving her time to wake up."   Within a week they had raised $53,000 on  But those expenses were subsequently taken over by the Terry Schiavo Foundation.   The child's decomposing body is still hooked to a ventilator, while the parents continue to receive prayers and donations from around the country.  The "respected" Los Angeles Times had a momentary dip in journalistic sanity and published the photo of a manicured hand, which it claimed to be that of the brain-dead Jahi. It offered no independent verification that the photo was what it purported to be.

Unconfirmed hand of brain-dead Jahi McMath
What gave both the Jahi McMath, Sarah Murnaghan, and now the Nebraska social media campaigns legitimacy was the fact that they spilled over into the mainstream media, that is, the television networks and newspapers.  While it might be all but impossible to ban pleadings for dying children from the Internet, these cases should, at the very least, not be given further legitimacy by the print and television media.   I have therefore laid out a simple protocol for how such cases should be handled.

Minimal Journalistic Guidelines for Stories Involving Sick Children

1.  If the story has public health implications,  the parents must waive privacy rights in regard to the child's medical records in order to allow independent verification of the child's condition.  If permission is not given, legitimate media outlets should refuse to run the story.   

 2. The media should report who is paying for the medical procedures.  

Sunday, March 23, 2014

L'Wren Scott Lost Her Bet with Mormonism

L'Wren Scott with her Mormon family
  L'Wren Scott's greatest mission in life was to prove to her Mormon family that she could escape her Mormon upbringing.    But there is no escape from the indoctrinations of our childhood.  And in the end L'Wren found herself too emotionally wounded by the life she had chosen, to face that truth.  We can embrace our families' morés or fling them in a ditch.  But in choosing the latter, we will be oblivious to the fact that those devious little critters crawl back out of the mud, grab and cling onto the underside of our psyches like lice. L'Wren wanted it all.  But when her business failed, her relationship with Mick Jagger hit the rocks, she was childless at the age of forty-nine and remained by the vocabulary of her strict upbringing,  a "spinster," the fashion designer admitted defeat.  It was not by our terms, but rather by the standards still pinging within the depths of her psyche that caused this celebrity in her own right to commit suicide.

Within Mormonism, the road to happiness for women is chastity until marriage and having lots of children.    However, Luann Bambrough, who had been adopted as an infant by a Mormon family, chose a different path.  She escaped from her little hometown of  Roy, Utah in her twenties, or at least thought that she had.  The ambitious young woman changed her name to L'Wren Scott and moved to California where she became a stylist working with Elizabeth Taylor, Madonna, Julia Roberts.  L'Wren launched her first collection as a fashion designer in 2006. Her business appeared to take off as she dressed celebrities like Angelina Jolie, Nicole Kidman, Sandra Bullock, Uma Thurman, First Lady Michelle Obama and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, wife of the former French prime minister. 

Since L'Wren's death, Mick Jagger has been pumping the air waves and cyberspace with paid shills claiming that he and L'Wren Scott were engaged, blissful and about to settle down.   But in truth, their relationship had soured to such a point that one gossip columnist hauntingly foreshadowed the grief-stricken L'Wren's death three days before it actually happened.  

Mick Jagger is not to blame for L'Wren's death.  It was her decision not his.  But it didn't take much for the man's philandering, rock-star karma to bludgeon her fragile, Mormon karma to death.  

RELATED POST:  Mick Jagger's "Moving" Tribute to L'Wren Scott Rings False

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Disappearance of Flight M370 no Longer a Mystery

Pilot of  Flight 370 Wearing Opposition Party T-Shirt
I hope that the families of the missing passengers on Malaysian airlines flight 370  find closure this week. The Australian government may have spotted debris from the airliner in the Southern Indian ocean.  Search vessels are converging on that spot, but it might take days to find and identify the wreckage. Whether or not this latest effort proves definitive, this mystery is finally resolving itself, at least in my mind.

  The 53 year old senior pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah,  was a fervent supporter of Malaysian opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim. In fact, the two men were distantly related in-laws and had met on several occasions at political events.  On the morning of the day of the fateful flight, the pilot storned out of a Malaysian court room enraged by a Court of Appeals decision sentencing the opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, to five years in prison for engaging in homosexual acts. In the Malaysian penal code, homosexual sex, even if consensual, was  punishable by up to twenty years in prison. Both the accused opposition leader and his wife claimed that the charges were fabricated, politically motivated attempts to discredit him. 

That evening pilot Zaharie Ahmad Shah boarded flight 370 bent on humiliating Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. And he knew precisely how to do it.   

This pilot's act of vengeance has just ended any future aspirations of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. The man may be many times more democratically-minded, incorruptible and politically astute than the present Prime Minister.  But who would ever cast a ballot for a leader who commanded such fanatical loyalty from his supporters that one of them might murder 239 men, women and children, 238 of whom were innocent of any crime whatsoever?