FREE POSTER: God is Love (with asterisk)

God is love. Period.

FREE POSTER: God is Love (with asterisk)

In case you were wondering what the fine print says: it’s the Sermon on the Mount (below). I wanted the primary meaning of this poster to address and challenge the notion that God’s love has a lot of caveats. I first thought to put up some random unreadable text, but quickly realized that Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount says it better!

* Matthew 5: Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them. He said: 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. 5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. 7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. 8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. 21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder,[a] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. 23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. 25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny. 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’[e] 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. 31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. 33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If
anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Chapter 6: “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9 “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us today our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. 14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. 16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy,[m] your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! 24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Chapter 7: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. 6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. 7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. 13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. 15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ 24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” 28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

Benefits of Immunizations – Just for the Health of It radio show

Below is the script for my public health radio show on immunizations.  You can listen to the half-hour immunization show here.  You can listen to the most current and all previous shows at the archive for Just for the Health of It public health radio show.

Today, I want to talk about vaccine-preventable infectious diseases, and I want to make it exceedingly clear that immunization with vaccines is of profound benefit to the 300+ million people in the United States and to billions of people around the world.  In fact, it is difficult to even imagine our world without vaccines.  I dare say that a world without vaccinations would be a scary place, far scarier than any picture painted by so-called “Anti-vaxxers.”

What would our world look like without vaccines?  Well, it wasn’t that long ago that we lived in a world without vaccines.  Smallpox killed over 300 million people in the 20th century.  Smallpox was eradicated by 1979.  I graduated from high school in 1979 and I have never known anyone with smallpox. Smallpox was eradicated.  ERADICATED!  That means that we don’t even have to immunize against it anymore!  I don’t have any tattoos, but I do have a cool scar on my left shoulder from my smallpox immunization as a kid in the 1960s.  This scar seems to me to be a small price to pay for a world without smallpox.  I’ll gladly wear this scar as a reminder of the power of public health and vaccines. For those of you who have never had to live in a world with smallpox, I’ll explain the reason for the scar.  The smallpox vaccine was not given with a hypodermic needle. It was not a shot, like many vaccinations. The vaccine was given using a two-pronged needle that was dipped into the vaccine solution. When removed, the needle retained a droplet of the vaccine. The needle is then used to prick the skin 15 times in a few seconds.  As the body develops a response to the vaccine, a scar is eventually formed.

If one devastating disease eliminated isn’t enough, how about a second – Polio.  Polio paralyzed or killed more than 500 million people in the 20th century.  Polio was eradicated from the Western hemisphere by 1988.  Just 30 years ago, the poliovirus was widespread across 125 countries, causing millions to endure lifelong paralysis.  Last year there were poliovirus infections in just two countries – Afghanistan and Pakistan – with only 33 confirmed cases reported worldwide.

Today, our reawakening awareness of vaccine-preventable diseases not being prevented is due to the current measles outbreaks affecting 22 states.  Measles was declared eradicated from the United States in 2000.  Unfortunately, occasional measles cases acquired during international travel have found a foothold in locales with lower immunization rates.  Borders don’t stop measles, vaccination does.  Back in 1963, at the time the measles vaccine was introduced, measles killed approximately 2.6 million deaths every year.  Today it has been reduced to 110,000 – that’s a 95% reduction.  I’ll talk a little more about the current measles outbreaks a little later in the show.

The bottom line: Overall, worldwide, vaccines continue to prevent an estimated 2 to 3 million deaths every year.

More recently, maternal and neonatal tetanus, an often fatal disease, has been eliminated in all but 13 countries because of vaccination of women before or during pregnancy.  And promising results from nations that have introduced the human papillomavirus vaccine early, suggests that cervical cancer is set to decline.

Further, new vaccines are on the horizon to protect against some of our most dangerous known pathogens. The Ebola vaccine has already played a critical role in controlling the spread of the current outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  Plus, the world’s first ever malaria vaccine is being piloted in routine immunization programs starting this month in three African countries.

I’d like to back up just a bit and review some of the currently available vaccines, which include:

Cholera
Dengue
Diphtheria
Hepatitis A
Hepatitis B
Hepatitis E
Human papillomavirus (HPV)
Influenza, or the flu
Several forms of encephalitis
Malaria
Measles
Meningitis
Mumps
Pertussis, or whooping cough
Pneumococcal disease, or pneumonia
Polio
Rabies
Rotavirus
Rubella
Tetanus
Tuberculosis
Typhoid
Varicella, or “chickenpox”
Yellow Fever

A couple of dozen other vaccines are in the pipeline.

For those of you unfamiliar with some of these diseases, you may want to thank the wonders of vaccines and the anonymity of prevention.  One of the inherent problems of public health is the anonymity of prevention.  When you prevent something from happening, people tend not to notice.  We focus a lot more on things that do happen.  This leads to an inevitable bias toward disease rather than disease prevention, sickness rather than health, and health care rather than public health.

So, I’ll highlight a few vaccine-preventable illnesses that may not capture much of our attention and often fly under the radar:

Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the Cholera bacterium. The annual burden of cholera has been estimated at 1.3 to 4.0 million cases and 21,000 to 143,000 deaths worldwide.

Dengue fever is from a mosquito-borne virus, with 40% of the world’s population at-risk.

Diphtheria is fatal in 5 – 10% of cases, with a higher mortality rate in young children.

Human papillomavirus (HPV) causes cervical cancer, which is the fourth most common cancer in women, with an estimated 266,000 deaths and 528,000 new cases worldwide in 2012.

Rotaviruses are the most common cause of severe diarrheal disease in young children throughout the world. About 215,000 children aged under 5 years die each year from vaccine-preventable rotavirus infections.

The reawakened interest in immunizations and infectious disease epidemics has been spurred on by the measles outbreaks occurring in the U.S. this year and continuing today.  For those of you who may not have followed this story, here is a quick review:

[CDC measles story]

 [Unvaccinated adult story]

Most of the people who avoid or delay vaccinations are best described as suffering from “Vaccine hesitancy.”  A much smaller group of people would describe themselves as “Anti-vaxxers.”  Vaccine hesitancy emerges from fear and doubt about vaccine safety or vaccine effectiveness, often from the prodding of “Anti-vaxxers.”  The relatively small but growing number of Americans who are infected by “Vaccine hesitancy” are driving vaccination levels down enough to allow vaccine-preventable diseases to re-emerge in the United States.  Ironically, the effectiveness of vaccines have been part of the downfall of immunization rates, as protection from a host of vaccine-preventable infectious diseases seems insignificant compared to worries about prevention somehow being worse than the disease.  To me, this seems like an odd use of a privileged condition of living in a society largely free of diseases which were a scourge in the past.

So…I’m going to tell a story about polio, a scourge of the past, almost eradicated.  I believe that this history will better inform our understanding of where we are today.

To tell this story, I am using material from Sciencehistory.org and Technologyreview.com

In the early 1950s, 25,000 to 50,000 new cases of polio occurred each year. Jonas Salk became a national hero when he allayed the fear of the dreaded disease with his polio vaccine, approved in 1955. Although it was the first polio vaccine, it was not to be the last; Albert Sabin introduced an oral vaccine in the United States in the early 1960s that replaced Salk’s.  The disease was finally brought under control because of these vaccines,

In the first half of the 20th century, summer was a dreaded time for children. Although they could enjoy the long days of unfettered play, summer was also known as “polio season.” Children were among the most susceptible to paralytic poliomyelitis (also known as infantile paralysis), a disease that affects the central nervous system and can result in paralysis. When exposed to a poliovirus in the first months of life, infants usually manifested only mild symptoms because they were protected from paralysis by maternal antibodies still present in their bodies. However, as hygienic conditions improved and fewer newborns were exposed to the virus (which is present in human sewage), paralytic poliomyelitis began to appear in older children and adults who did not have an infant’s benefit of immunity. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt is perhaps the most famous victim of the poliovirus. In 1921, at the age of 39, he contracted the disease, one of the thousands that were afflicted that year.

Jonas Salk invented the polio vaccine in 1953 but never patented it. He believed that, like the sun, a vaccine for polio belonged to the people.

Salk tested the vaccine on himself and his own family first and later went on to work on a cure for AIDS.  Salk is impressive, but he must be talked about along with Albert Sabin, who discovered a vaccine around the same time (and also didn’t patent it).  Salk and Sabin’s vaccines are still used to prevent polio today.

Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) played a big role in funding and awareness. FDR had contracted polio in 1921. In 1938 as President he helped to found the (now titled) March of Dimes Foundation. By the late 40’s the foundation was raising tens of millions a year with the help of celebrities like Mickey Mouse. The March of Dimes Foundation funded Salk, and helped him to become the first one to find a vaccine for Polio.

Still, having a vaccine is not enough by itself to deal with the scourge of infectious disease.  A vaccine needs to reach enough people across a broad swath of society to root our patterns of endemic infections and waves of epidemics.

In 1959, epidemiologists reported findings on the pattern of the disease. These suggested a shift in incidence according to age, geography, and race. By 1960, less than one-third of the population under 40 years of age had received the full course of three doses of the Salk vaccine plus a booster. Most of those who had were white and from the middle and upper economic classes. The disease raged on in urban areas among African Americans and Puerto Ricans and in certain rural locales among Native Americans and members of isolated religious groups.

The gap had to do with access to vaccination. Pediatricians were not well compensated. “This was the one thing they could do which was a guaranteed reasonable flow of cash.”  The physicians resisted losing that cash; they argued for a vaccine that required their professional training.

The practice of medicine perverted by the profit motive is an age-old story. However, other pediatricians were more public health minded…

Beginning in January 1962, pediatricians in two Arizona counties, Maricopa and Pima, containing the state’s largest cities, Phoenix and Tucson, conducted separate but similar voluntary mass immunizations using Sabin’s vaccine. “Previous programs in the county, using the Salk vaccine, had failed to bring polio immunization to a satisfactory level,” they reported a year later in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The program was called SOS (Sabin Oral Sundays). More than 700,000 people were immunized – 75 percent of the total population in both counties. The vaccine was given at the cost of 25 cents, for those who could pay. It was given to population groups that were socially, racially, and culturally diverse, on Indian reservations and military posts and in urban and rural areas. The program became a model for subsequent U.S. mass-immunization programs. By the mid-1960s, Sabin’s vaccine was the only one in use in the United States. It was the Sabin vaccine that closed the immunity gap and effectively put an end to polio in the United States.

If the story of public health efforts to end polio does not give you some reasonable level of confidence in the profound value of vaccinations, perhaps I’ll share the story of smallpox eradication in another episode.  Public health efforts are often far from perfect, yet the profound contribution that public health affords us, generation after generation, to this very day, is undeniable.

The bottom line: get vaccinated; get your children and grandchildren vaccinated; support your neighbors getting vaccinated.  Together, we can defend ourselves and each other from a host of infectious diseases that still inhabit the planet.

Now, I’m going to switch gears a bit, and talk a bit about the many forms of conspiracy beliefs and scientific illiteracy that drives anti-vaccination efforts.  First up, a more global perspective:

[Vaccinator shot in Pakistan story]

 Next up, a little closer to home, the small, exploratory study that pointed to a potential link between the MMR vaccination and autism.  You might call this the little study that wouldn’t die.

 [Lancet retract Wakefield article]

### end of show ###

JUST FOR THE HEALTH OF IT: Public Health Radio Show on WAKT 106.1 FM Toledo

JUST FOR THE HEALTH OF IT: Public Health Radio Show on WAKT 106.1 FM Toledo

Just for the Health of It - The Science of Health for ALL - PUBLIC HEALTH radio show, WAKT 106.1 FM ToledoJust for the Health of It is my weekly half-hour public health show on WAKT, 106.1 FM Toledo. You can listen at 9:00 AM Tuesdays and Thursdays (after Democracy NOW) on-air or on-line ToledoRadio.org.  To listen anytime you want online, below are links to the latest shows.

You can follow the program and shows on facebook here.

Just for the Health of It brings you fresh perspectives on the science of health for all; plus local, state, national, and global health news, as well as local guests for home-grown perspectives and connections to local resources. Just for the Health brings you the best of both social justice and personal health.WAKT Toledo 106.1 FM -- Just for the Health of It - Public health radio show

Just for the Health focuses on putting the JUST in Just for the Health of It

My aim is to equip you to live healthily in a healthy community on a just planet.

For you of those folks who are perhaps too busy to catch a whole show, or just want to sample my sense of humor, here are a few of my parody PSAs:

Parody PSA: Cory the Coronavirus

Parody PSA: TL20-squared VIRUS Pandemic

Parody PSA: Pla-ce-bo Pharmaceuticals’ Elimin-all

Parody PSA: PR Medica and Merciless Health Systems

Parody PSA: Health Care for ALL

HERE ARE LINKS TO THE LATEST SHOWS:

Week of September 21, 2020:

Featuring: Lucas County and Ohio COVID-19 update (2:08); CDC reports that dining out increases risk of contracting coronavirus more than other activities (6:02); CDC director says masks more guaranteed to work than a vaccine (8:57); as controversies swirl, CDC director is seen as allowing agency to buckle to political influence (10:07); top health official echoes Trump’s COVID-19 views, drawing accusations of politicizing U.S. mental health agency (19:33); polls show eroding trust in scientific and political institutions (29:46); America is trapped in a pandemic spiral, characterized by 9 conceptual errors — 1) a serial monogamy of solutions, 2) false dichotomies, 3) the comfort of theatricality, 4) personal blame over systemic fixes, 5) the normality trap, 6) magical thinking, 7) the complacency of inexperience, 8) a reactive rut, and 9) the habituation of horror (35:01).

Week of September 14, 2020:

Featuring: Lucas County and Ohio COVID-19 update (2:07); University of Toledo COVID-19 update (2:37); college football is coming and COVID-19 is already there (6:22); pandemic blind spot — it’s not easy to get coronavirus testing for children (14:21); COVID-19 hits men harder due to their weaker immune systems than women (17:58); obesity raises risk of death from COVID-19 among men (21:46); housing disparities and health disparities are closely connected (26:22); medical education needs rethinking to link medicine with public health (29:06); awareness of our biases is essential to good science (37:30); overcoming psychological biases is the best treatment against COVID-19 yet (44:08); the fires may be in California, but the smoke and its health effects, travel across the country (51:52); Des Moines river “essential unusable” for drinking water due to algae toxins (55:32).

Week of September 7, 2020:

Featuring: Lucas County and Ohio COVID-19 update (2:05); COVID-19 is leading cause of death among law enforcement officers, killing more than shootings (5;24); COVID-19 update for colleges and universities (7:34); new rapid COVID-19 test begins distribution to states this month (16:34); COVID-19 vaccine updates and issues (18:21); meatpacking companies dismissed years of warnings but now say nobody could have prepared for COVID-19 (30:02); thousands allowed to bypass environmental rules in pandemic (37:51); low-wage workers face retaliation for demanding COVID-19 safety measures at work (42:13); COVID-19 has likely tripled depression rate (46:46); COVID-19 sparks 12-fold increase in remote delivery of psychological care across the U.S. (50:14); LGBTQ youth say cost, parental permission pose major barriers to mental health care (54:15).

Week of August 31, 2020:

Featuring: Lucas County and Ohio COVID-19 update (2:06); first confirmed COVID-19 re-infections — what does this mean for us? (3:50); updates on university and school re-openings (9:53); Trump’s continued political attacks on scientific integrity and fragmented COVID-19 response (19:52); strain on health care system, even when not at capacity, kills more with COVID-19 (40:21); The U.S. Postal Service is a vital part of our health care system (44:47); more challenges, and some wins, in fight against racism in health care (47:04); Africa eliminates polio in historic health win (56:32).

Week of August 24, 2020:

Featuring: Lucas County COVID-19 update (2:08); some people listen to health experts, others ignore them — what it means for America’s future with COVID-19 (3:32); how miscommunication and selfishness hampered America’s COVID-19 response (11:39); cloth masks do protest the wearer — breathing in less coronavirus means you get less sick (19:02); your cloth mask won’t protect you from wildfire smoke (23:58); Trump regime moves to exempt teachers from quarantine requirements (26:33); not-so-remote learning — college students return to campus even as classes move online (27:38); coronavirus is spreading in schools, but the federal government isn’t keeping track (28:58); cellphone data shows how Las Vegas is “gambling with lives” across the country (36:39): nursing home cases up nearly 80% in COVID-19 rebound (52:45); Amazon gold mining drives malaria surges among indigenous peoples (54:02); new Ebola outbreak in Congo raises alarm (57:43).

Week of August 17, 2020:

Featuring: Lucas County COVID-19 update (2:07); seven months into pandemic, COVID-19 testing still falling short in Ohio (2:58); Ohio back-to-school plans amid COVID vary widely between metro, rural areas — statewide, over 1/3 returning to classroom (6:37); Ohio State steps up COVID-19 measures, including mandatory testing (7:57); when should schools use only remote learning? Massachusetts issues new metrics to help districts decide using COVID-19 infection rates (11:07); coronavirus testing plummets in Texas as school prepare to reopen (13:58); UNICEF finds 2 in 5 schools worldwide lacked handwashing facilities prior to COVID-19 pandemic (18:13); Florida sheriff bans masks as state COVID-19 death toll breaks new daily record (19:15); despite rise in COVID-19 cases, dozens of Tennessee Republican lawmakers continue to refuse to wear masks as required in special session (21:26); 26 states will soon face shortages of ICU doctors, and other shortages are growing in nurses, respiratory therapists, and pharmacists (23:51); winter is coming — why America’s window of opportunity to beat back COVID-19 is closing (25:49); CDC reports large increases in in mental health issues, substance use, and suicidal ideation during the COVID-19 pandemic (35:48); vaping linked to large COVID-19 risk in teens and young adults (38:11); black and other nonwhite NFL athletes report more pain, physical impairment, mood disorders and cognitive problems that white peers (40:54); globally, only half of women get treatment for preventable killer of newborns (45:59); Researchers say misleading whole grain labeling provides legal evidence to improve labeling regulations (49:43).

Week of August 10, 2020:

Featuring: COVID-19 and prisons (2:30) local and state COVID-19 update (4:52); local and national updates on school reopenings (17:50); ventilation should be part of the conversation on school reopening — why isn’t it? (33:25); poll — 35% of Americans, most Republicans would reject COVID-19 vaccine (41:03); U.S. obesity epidemic could undermine effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccine (43:30); health care workers of color nearly twice as likely as whites to get COVID-19 (47:32); telemedicine is booming — but many people still face huge barriers to virtual care (50:03); experts urge evaluation of diet at routine check-ups (53:21).

Week of August 3, 2020:

Featuring: worldwide whirlwind of COVID-19 (1:44); local COVID-19 update (6:44); states with stricter COVID-19 restrictions watch lax neighbors warily, knowing the virus does not respect borders (10:08); 79% say they support national face mask mandate (16:59); in Texas, more people are losing their health insurance as COVID-19 cases climb (18:03); about 20% of New Jersey prisoners could be freed to avoid virus (20:12); young kids could spread COVID-19 as much as older children and adults (22:08); contact tracing is failing in many states — here’s why (23:16); how effective does COVID-19 vaccine need to be to stop the pandemic? (30:07); those coronavirus vaccines leading the race? don’t ditch the masks quite yet (36:06); liberal group warns that U.S. is unprepared to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine (43:06); COVID-19 vaccines may cause mild side effects, experts say, stressing need for education, not alarm (45:15); poorer communities face double burden during pandemic as they stay home less (50:48); one in three children worldwide have unacceptably high lead levels (52:37).

Week of July 27, 2020:

Featuring: Lucas County, Ohio, and national COVID-19 update (1:55); new poll — 3 in 4 Americans back requiring masks, and other pandemic response support growing (9:26); COVID-19 will end up as a leading cause of death in 2020, CDC says (12:13); U.S. COVID-19 deaths back up over 1,000 per day (15:14); scientists publish findings from first statewide COVID-19 random sample study in U.S. (16:01); as long waits for results render COVID-19 tests “useless,” states seek workarounds (18:32); COVID-19 tests much easier to get in wealthier and whiter neighborhoods (26:03); U.S. prison population down 8% amid coronavirus outbreaks, mostly due to criminal justice system slowdown (30:07); what scientists know about how children spread COVID-19 (31:47); back to school? most major schools are heading to online class as COVID-19 cases spike (40:20); cost of preventing next pandemic equal to just 2% of COVID-19 economic damage (47:44); We are the first to applaud you regarding your efforts in COVID-19 — a message from the African diaspora to our brothers and sisters of Africa (50:14); after surgery, black children are more likely to die than white children (53:11).

Week of July 20, 2020:

Featuring: Lucas County, Ohio, and national COVID-19 update (2:18); “epicenter of the epicenter” — young people partying in Miami Beach despite COVID-19 threat (9:19); over 1,000 inmates at Texas federal prison test positive for COVID-19 (15:02); Texas nursing home COVID-19 cases jump 60% since July 1 (15:42); masks win political momentum despite GOP holdouts (16:53); Americans want evidence and data to drive COVID decisions — and they don’t believe that’s happening (19:46); public health groups denounce new Trump move sidelining CDC (23:17); testing is on the brink of paralysis — and that’s very bad news (27:48); world treating symptoms, not cause of pandemics, says UN (31:52); why are we so late responding to COVID-19? blame it on our culture and brains (36:02); the coronavirus-climate-air conditioning nexus (41:26); scientists’ warning on affluence (46:15); half of world’s population exposed to increasing air pollution (47;33); in shadow of pandemic, U.S. drug overdose deaths resurge to record (48:37); years-long push to remove racist bias from kidney testing gains new ground (50:06).

Week of July 13, 2020:

Featuring: lobbying brewing over access to COVID-19 vaccine (2:27); as U.S. buys up remdesivir, “vaccine nationalism” threatens access to COVID-19 treatments (5:51); COVID-19 vaccine research must involve Black and Latinx participants — here are 4 ways to make that happen (8:31); WHO, partners unveil ambitious plan to deliver 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine to high-risk populations (14:21); U.S. withdrawal from WHO threatens to leave it “flying blind on flu vaccines (17:42); rebroadcast of May 2019 episode on immunization history and benefits (25:15).

Week of July 6, 2020:

Featuring: national COVID-19 update (1:45); Lucas County and Ohio update (8:04); hollowed-out public health system faces more cuts amid virus (11:33); women in science are battling both COVID-19 and the patriarchy (21:20); structural racism is why I’m leaving organized psychiatry (29:31); expecting students to play it safe if colleges reopen is a fantasy (40:23); as COVID-19 tears through Navajo Nation, young people step up to protect their elders (47:18).

Week of June 29, 2020:

Featuring: local, state, and national COVID-19 update (1:53); “normal” is the problem (13:32); the emerging long-term complications of COVID-19, explained (24:14); “vaccine sovereignty” versus “a people’s vaccine” (39:12); lack of water fuels COVID-19 for 2 billion people around world and in the Navajo Nation within the U.S. (44:09); what “less lethal” weapons actually do (50:27).

Week of June 22, 2020:

Featuring: local, state, and national COVID-19 update (1:53); burgeoning activism (12:32) in journalism (13:08), among scientists (17:13), health care professionals (25:13), in scientific publishing (37:28), and connecting racism with environmental justice (42:32).

Week of June 15, 2020:

Featuring: local COVID-19 update (2;03); Ohio immigration detention facility has 100% COVID-19 positive detainees (9:07); COVID-19 spikes, but most governors signal they’re staying the course (13:39); Americans divided on return to regular routines (17:09); pandemic lockdowns saved millions of lives (19:03); face masks may reduce COVID-19 spread by 85% (22:48); black U.S. adults follow many COVID-19 news topics more closely, discuss the outbreak more frequently (28:12); researchers face hurdles in studying COVID-19 racial disparities (29:12); for a day. scientists pause science to confront racism (34;33); racism, not genetics, explains why black Americans are dying of COVID-19 (37:12); omission of air pollution from report on COVID-19 and race “astonishing” (46:10); George Floyd’s autopsy and the structural gaslighting of America (47:58).

Week of June 8, 2020:

A Double Special Edition on Racism and the dual epidemics of COVID-19 and police violence, featuring: Ohio Legislative Black Caucus declares racism a public health crisis (2:33); Physicians for a National Health program declare police violence and racism as public health emergencies (7:11); over 1,000 health professionals sigh letter saying, don’t shut down protests using coronavirus as an excuse (10:01); protest in top 25 hot spots ignite fears of contagion (11:23); protests draw shoulder-to-shoulder crowds after months of virus isolation (16:24); racism is the contagion in health care we need to eradicate (23:46); my nightmare — COVID-19 meets racism meets the killing of a Black person by police (27;41); the everyday health harms of racism (33:39); which death do they choose? — many Black men fear wearing a mask more than the coronavirus (42:17); tear gas is way more dangerous than police let on — especially during the coronavirus pandemic (48:58).

Week of June 1, 2020:

COVID-19 SPECIAL EDITION #12: Racism as a public health issue (2:08); amid COVID-19, U.S. should embrace the right to food (9:31); Bill Barr promised to release prisoners threatened by coronavirus — even as the feds secretly made it harder for them to get out (13:06); model testing blitz in San Francisco shows COVID-19 struck mostly low-wage workers (20:45); One-fourth of U.S. doctors are immigrants who, if they die of coronavirus, could have their families deported (27:27); COVID-19 cases shift to younger people (29:14); the latest on testing (33:17); the local situation (41:11); biopharma companies are spreading misinformation — and taking advantage of it (44:34); masks sold by former white house official to Navajo hospitals don’t meet FDA standards (50:45); status of Latin American epidemic (52:47); is defunding the World Health Organization really just a backdoor attack on sexual and reproductive health? (55:46)

Week of May 25, 2020:

COVID-19 SPECIAL EDITION #11: national situation (2:18); latest local news from Lucas County and Ohio (36:16); other news, including how bad is COVID-19 misinformation (48:06).

Week of May 18, 2020:

COVID-19 SPECIAL EDITION #10: national situation (2:48); what’s our status in re-opening and what does this mean? (11:11); latest local news (35:44).

Week of May 11, 2020:

COVID-19 SPECIAL EDITION #9: national picture (2:38); Toledo, Lucas County, and Ohio status and re-opening considerations (11:22); Americas has no plan for worst-case scenario of COVID-19 (26;34); coronavirus pandemic exposing long-term inequalities experienced by communities of color and in public health system (32:24); survey shows record high trust in government and widespread suspicion of businesses in COVID-19 responses.

Week of May 4, 2020:

COVID-19 SPECIAL EDITION #8: Donald Trump assures nation will continue to be full of baloney (2:07); status at prisons in Ohio and Lucas County (6:47); latest local update (13:08); national “non-plan” for testing (16:34); piecing together info on local situation (23:29); high-tech and low-tech COVID-19 treatment (28:29); what Jonas Salk would have said about COVID-19 — evolve socially (35:15).

Week of April 27, 2020:

COVID-19 SPECIAL EDITION #7: National and state roundup (1:43); jails could add 99,000 deaths to epidemic (14:42); physical distancing — how are we doing in U.S., Ohio and Lucas County (19:14); what it will take to get the U.S. open for business (29:08); what about antibody testing and immunity? (34:24); the latest on local testing and contact tracing (57:18).

Week of April 20, 2020:

COVID-19 SPECIAL EDITION #6: National roundup (2:05); local round up including county social distancing score from cell phone data, county COVID-19 response preparedness score, and nursing homes impact (9:57); thinking big and responding big (21:52); where are we with testing and what needs to be done? (32:50); where are we with contact tracing and what needs to be done? (46:42); more news on challenges facing (51:02); health inequities and racial disparities (55:18).

Week of April 13, 2020:

COVID-19 SPECIAL EDITION #5: Featuring: How does our local epidemic compare to the rest of Ohio and the rest of the country? (2:09); latest news and commentary (4:37); battle of the latest projections – a deep dive into the numbers racket (23:56); quick roundup of completely predictable bad news (57:13).

Week of April 6, 2020:

COVID-19 SPECIAL EDITION #4: Featuring my prediction – COVID-19 deaths will approach the leading cause of death this next year (1:45); good news – Ohio leadership (3:55); bad news – national lack of leadership (5;42); grade card on key interventions required to reverse epidemic (16:31); where is all of this leading? a look at the south going south (27:53); some lighter news (35:55); testing update – don’t expect anytime soon (37:52); drug treatments? “closed for cleaning”? should people wear masks? (50:01); pandemic will ravage lower-income countries (54:05).

Week of March 30, 2020:

COVID-19 SPECIAL EDITION #3: Featuring leadership bringing us to number 1 in the world (1:43); Ohio Sen. Rob Portman refuses call to advocate for a coordinated nationwide shelter-in-place strategy (4:31); my prediction two weeks ago that the U.S. will look like Italy in two weeks is panning out (7:10); local testing started — what does this mean? (9:14); a third of coronavirus cases may be “silent carriers” (18:45); playing the “hot spot” game is too little too late (18:45); the economy versus our public health is a false dichotomy and dangerous distraction (25:43); rationing and supply-line shortages will only worsen (34:32); multiple waves of epidemics from health care workers and other workers, institutionalized populations like prisoners, nursing home residents and active military, as well as homeless and displaced people worldwide (44:28); what would winning look like? (52:43).

Week of March 23, 2020:

COVID-19 SPECIAL EDITION #2: Featuring quick leadership assessment (2:16); the coronavirus paradox — our lowest point and finest hour (3:10); a terrified nation needs a leader during this crisis, not a salesman (8:03); World Health Organization expert explains why China’s cases of COVID-19 have declined and what we must learn from this (14:02); situation analysis of where we are right now and likely heading in the next few weeks (28:11); Lucas County local report on where we are at with testing, contact tracing and hospital preparedness, based on my interview with Eric Zgodzinski, Health Director, Toledo-Lucas County Health Department (33:01).

Week of March 16, 2020:

Featuring COVID-19 SPECIAL EDITION: good news/bad news (1:43); majority of Americans have at least one underlying condition that puts them at greater risk (3:19); the biggest thing to worry with coronavirus is the overwhelming of our health care system (5:57); chronically deteriorating funding of public health has crippled our ability to respond effectively to this epidemic (13:56); aggressive social distancing is seriously important even if you feel well (23:30); absence of a truly coordinated national response leaves those potentially exposed or sick confused about what to do (25:12); White House classifies coronavirus deliberations as secret which hampers response (41:19); Science magazine editorial — disrespecting science and the laws of nature confounds response (45:51); FTC and FDA cites 7 firms falsely claiming products treat COVID-19 (50:05).

Week of March 9, 2020:

Featuring as coronavirus spreads, the bill for our public health failures is due (1:53); coronavirus testing could cost some patients extra and impede response to epidemic (7:07); America is botching coronavirus testing (10:26); prisons and jails are vulnerable to COVID-19 outbreaks (12:17); Ohio ranks at bottom in new national drug trend report (20:46); air pollution is one of the world’s most dangerous health risks (21:25); climate change leads to more violence against women and girls (23:29); every country on Earth failing to provide world fit for children (30:35).

Week of March 2, 2020:

Featuring my coronavirus pandemic prediction (1:44); if coronavirus sweeps America, blame our brutal work and healthcare culture (3:08); how you can prepare for the coronavirus epidemic in America (14;35); Bayer CEO quits over Roundup lawsuits (26:53); here’s the Medicare-for-all study that Bernie Sanders keeps bringing up (27;43); Obamacare favorability hits record high (31:02); survival of the friendliest — how close friendships help us thrive (32:19).

Week of February 24, 2020:

Featuring a public health case study on coronavirus epidemic — where are we headed and what lessons can be learned? (1:50); no clear rationale for 45% of Medicaid antibiotic prescriptions (21:39); changing clocks is bad for your health, but which time to choose? (24:45); largest publicly-traded health insurers  profits grew by 66% in 2019 (28:39); 1 in 4 rural hospitals is vulnerable to closure, driven by states refusing Medicaid expansion (29:07).

Week of February 17, 2020:

Featuring Ohio gun safety laws get “D” on annual scorecard (2:19); puberty starts a year earlier for girls now than in the 1970’s (5:35); as out-of-pocket health costs rise, insured adults are seeking less primary care (7:02); Trump’s budget a non-starter for Great Lakes restoration (10:21); in agricultural giant Brazil, a new a growing hazard of illegal trade in pesticides (12:38); “Like sending bees to war” — the deadly truth behind almond growing (19:12); most Americans consider climate change the most important issue facing society today, with many struggling with eco-anxiety and changing their own behaviors (25:07); why sequencing the human genome hasn’t cured many diseases (27:46); Pittsburgh unveils master plan to significantly expand bike lanes (33:00).

Week of February 10, 2020:

Featuring Trump kept controversial pesticide on market and now its biggest manufacturer is ending production (2:18); spike in loneliness with two-thirds of adults feeling lonely (4:42); a sampling of interesting facts about what, when, and where America eats (10:07); consumers trust food and beverage corporations much less than other corporations (14:00); public health experts warn China travel ban will hinder coronavirus response (14:30); jail officials profit from selling e-cigarettes to inmates (19:43); the disturbing link between environmental racism and criminalization (23:20); female genital mutilation hurts women and economies (31:40).

Week of February 3, 2020:

Featuring Dicamba pesticide on trial (2:22); Trump regime forgets to renew its own opioid emergency declaration (4:13); putting the Wuhan coronavirus in relative perspective with the flu (5:14); containing new coronavirus may not be feasible, as experts warn of possible sustained global spread (10:27); FDA sunscreen report raises concerns over common sunscreen chemicals (14:54); hormone-altering chemicals threaten our health, finances and future (19:55); analysis of data gives insights into complementary health recommendations from U.S. physicians (34:55).

Week of January 27, 2020:

Featuring in opioid racketeering trial, pharmaceutical executive John Kapoor sentenced to 5.5 years (2:19); report finds most states lack crucial highway safety laws, with Ohio in bottom tier (5:17); the USDA never gives up on favoring corporate interests over kids’ health, in rolling back school food rules (8:38); new study debunks argument for weakening health school lunch rules (12:16); sepsis associated with 1 in 5 deaths globally, double previous estimate (14:34); Physicians for a National Health Program public letter on Medicare for All (16;49); The American College of Physicians’ endorsement of single-payer reform is a sea change for the medical profession (18:55); how non-compete clauses shackle physicians and hurt patients (22:01); the false promise of natural gas, aka, methane (25:21); world consumption of natural materials hits record 13 tons per earthling per year (35:02).

Week of January 20, 2020:

Featuring why drinking diet soda makes you crave sugar (1:44); slow carbs over low carbs – fiber matters (5:00); FDA and NIH let clinical trial sponsors keep results secret against regulations (9:02); putting air filters in classrooms could give student performance a serious boost (12:42); between 2005 and 2016, the shift away from coal saved an estimated 26,610 lives and 570 million bushels of crops (14:07); why Black doctors like me are leaving faculty positions in academic medical centers (16:42); McDonald’s in Black America (23:18); millions of “outdated” tests being performed on healthy females 15-20 years old (26:00); Kansas leaders announce breakthrough bipartisan deal to expand Medicaid (26:58); the most expensive health care option of all — do nothing (27:36); more Americans dying at home rather than in hospitals (33:17); helping patients prep mind and body for surgery pays off (34:35).

Week of January 13, 2020:

Featuring alcohol-related deaths have doubled since 1999, here’s why (2:18); 40% of gun owners reported not locking all guns, even around kids (6:25); Coca-Cola internal documents reveal efforts to sell to teens, despite obesity crisis (8:52); half of America will be obese within 10 years, unless we work together (10:48); more than one in three low- and middle-income countries face both extremes of malnutrition (13:48); Medicaid expansion linked to 6% decline in opioid overdose deaths (18:10); U.S. health care bureaucracy costs unnecessary $600 billion yearly (19:02); every American family basically pays a yearly $8,000 “poll tax” under U.S. health system (20:25); nurses get under 7 hours of sleep before a work shift — 83 minutes fewer than days off (25;40); health care providers are unrecognized victims of mass killings, and we are doing little to support them (28:26); U.S. cancer rate drops by largest annual margin ever (30:58); ecopsychology — how immersion in nature benefits your health (33:12).

Week of January 6, 2020:

Featuring Trump abandons sweeping vape ban with weak new rules (2:21); 7 women’s health topics we need to talk about in 2020 (5:48); advocates hopeful gun violence research funding will lead to prevention (12:16); long work hours linked to both regular and hidden high blood pressure (15:28); processed meat recalls rise dramatically as consumers bite down in metal, plastic and glass (16:48); animal agriculture cost more in health damage than it contributes to the economy (20:08); “completely unsustainable” — how streaming and other data demands take a toll on the environment (21:38); The IRS sent a letter to 3.9 million people and it saved some of their lives (22:32); “Medicare for All” ignores a bigger problem of community-level factors impacting health (25:22); Toledo needs to fix access to drug treatment centers (29:32); your DNA is not your destiny — or a good predictor of your health (33:04); huge drop in cholera cases worldwide as key endemic countries achieve gains in cholera control (35:10).

Week of December 30, 2019:

Featuring a special episode on conflicts of interest in health science research with: why scientists defend dangerous industries (2:32); scientists’ failure to disclose hundreds of millions by of dollars in conflicts of interest in federally funded health research (9:12); and how even public universities do a poor job of reporting their professors’ conflicts of interest (20:46).

Week of December 23, 2019:

Featuring context and broader perspective on Toledo’s reported ranking as #2 in mental health among American midsize cities, with wide look at Toledo health indicators compared to the U.S. as a whole (1:45), and how Ohio ranks compared to other states within another set of health indicators(10:00); and for Toledoans to feel relatively better, an in-depth report on the extraordinary danger of being pregnant and uninsured in Texas (15:44).

Week of December 16, 2019:

Featuring the latest Romaine lettuce outbreak — Just say NO (2:18); labeling foods with the amount and type of exercise needed to burn off the calories may encourage people to make healthier dietary choices (5:46); dramatic health benefits following air pollution reductions (8:03); climate change impact of hot temperatures shortening pregnancies (12:17); mental health and addiction care are poorly covered by insurance networks, even with parity law (13:42); half of homeless people may have experienced a head injury in their lifetime (17:04); large pharma companies don’t really provide drug development innovation (18:38); another generic drug company admits to price-fixing (23:31); how “Indian relocation” created a public health crisis (25:23); scientists take action to prevent sexual harassment and bias in STEM workplace (24:34).

Week of December 9, 2019:

Featuring no need for extra protein unless losing weight or gaining muscle (2:21); access to online grocery shopping can vastly reduce “food deserts” (3:47); Trump administration plays perfect Grinch with its new food stamp rules (5:31); red states expanding Medicaid points to its widespread political popularity (10:18); tobacco use among kids jumps from 3.6 million to 6.2 million in one year (14:48); the e-cigarette ingredient to really fear is nicotine (17:07); Ohio to test state drinking water supplies for “forever chemical” contamination (20:15); 1.9 million Michigan residents drink some PFAS as evidence mounts about its dangers (21:58); breast cancer linked to permanent hair dye and chemical hair straighteners, especially among black women (27:32); police killings of unarmed black Americans may effect health of black infants (29:39); how racism ripples through rural California pipes (35:08).

Week of December 2, 2019:

Featuring short-term air pollution linked to growing list of health problems (2:14); Americans’ drinking, drug use, despair wiping life expectancy gains (5:05); health care, mass shootings, 2020 election causing Americans significant stress (9:09); hospital alarms prove a noisy misery for patients (12:24); the $11 million Medicare tool that gives seniors the wrong insurance information (16:50); Mississippi forfeits a million dollars daily in Medicaid funds, severely affecting mentally ill (20:49); mental health studies limp transgender teens under one umbrella, missing clues to help them in the process (25:23); shooting victims have increased risk of mental harm long after physical injuries have healed (30:24); feeling loved in everyday life linked with improved well-being (32:24).

Week of November 25:

Featuring holiday commentary on eating for quality of life, and tips on mindful eating (1:43); public health case study — why the FDA was unable to prevent a crisis of vaping among youth (10:53); large health coverage expansions do not increase overall health care utilization (26:40); employees spending greater share of income on health insurance (28:58); Georgia waivers more costly and cover far fewer people than Medicaid expansion (31:10); Ohio Medicaid still hemorrhaging money to pharmacy middlemen (33:28); with half of brain removed, it still works pretty well (36:52).

Week of November 18:

Featuring new data-driven definitions of unhealthy yet persuasive ‘hyper-palatable’ foods (2:16); adult cigarette smoking rates hit all-time low in U.S. (5;37); e-cigarettes take serious toll on heart health, not safer than traditional cigarettes (7:18); High proportion of youth report using prescription opioids (8:51); vaping and prescription opioids — limbic capitalism in action (10:49); childhood trauma as a public health issue (18:47); getting a handle on self-harm (23:07); 35,000 Americans die of antibiotic-resistant infection each year (30:16); groundbreaking HIV vaccine design strategy shows promise in proof-of-principle tests (31:47); in a notoriously polluted area of the country, massive new chemical plants are still moving in (34:16); Delhi is engulfed by toxic pollution — why isn’t anyone wearing masks? (34:55)

Week of November 11:

Featuring how in health care so-called market competition and the “public option” is a poison pill (1:43); number of uninsured children rises for second year, topping 4 million (22:50); widely used algorithm for follow-up care in hospitals is racially biased (25:26); women scientists author fewer invited commentaries in medical journals than men (28:15); dementia impacts women more and new approaches are needed (29:03); tap water at Trump National Golf Course contaminated with toxic “forever chemical” (31:57); restoring native vegetation could cut air pollution and costs (34:22).

Week of November 4:

Featuring thousands of doctors paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by drug and medical device companies (2:20); pharma money paid to doctors is the cancer growing in cancer medicine (6:06); massive marketing muscle pushes more expensive 3D mammograms despite no evidence they save more lives (19:11); proposed opioid settlement could cost drugmaker only pennies on the dollar (14;12); Trump has already hired 4 times the former lobbyists than Obama had six years into office (15:13); wasted health care spending in U.S. tops annual defense budget (15:48); to treat chronic ailments, fix diet first (17;36); nutritious foods have lower environmental impact than unhealthy foods (20:42); study finds focusing on patient value and goals instead of problems yields better outcomes (23:02); in longer run, drugs and talk therapy offer similar value for people with depression (27:42); mentally ill die many years earlier than others (30:46); sleeps connection to gut microbiome reinforces overall good health (31:42); racial inequities in hospital admissions for heart failure (34:29).

Week of October 28:

Featuring the connection between pipelines and sexual violence (2:21); taking the cops out of mental health-related 911 rescues (5:42); when medical debt collectors decide who get arrested (7;22); children’s risk of dying before age 5 varies more than 40-fold (11:23); 7 million people receive record level of lifesaving TB treatment but 3 million still miss out (14:27); 2 out of 3 wild poliovirus strains eradicated (16;44); fear of falling — how hospitals do even more harm by keeping patients in bed (18:30); exercise can reduce artery stiffness even in those with heart failure (20:41); largest study finds greater reduction in cardiovascular disease and death from taking high blood pressure medication at bedtime rather than in morning (21;21); doctors argue for term limits to diversify medical school leadership (23:58); U.S. air quality was improving but is no getting worse (28:26); replacement flame retardants pose serious risks (31:07).

Week of October 21:

Featuring a call to eliminate all flavored cigarettes, not just the electric kind (2:18); JUUL announcement on certain flavored e-cigarettes is way too little way to late (6:32); Doctors are more likely to prescribe opioids later in the day, or if appointments run late (7:23); every hospital needs recovery coaches for patients with substance use problems (9:46); cultivating joy through mindfulness — an antidote to opioid misuse, the disease of despair (15:13); INVESTIGATIVE REPORT – inside the drug industry’s plan to defeat the DEA (19:03).

Week of October 14:

Featuring: lead scientist of controversial meat guidelines didn’t report ties to food industry front group (1:43); noise pollution as an emerging public health crisis (7:37); update on vaping recommendations (12:41); upcoming flu season may be fairly severe (14:33); STD rates hit record high in U.S. (16:22); global report on vision impairment (18:38); NIH funding disparity between black and white scientists (19:29); sheriffs avoid paying their hospital bills by foisting “medical bond” on sick inmates (21:33); unjustified drug price hikes cost Americans billions (25:31); antibiotic resistance in food animals nearly tripled since 1000 (27:20); EPA about-face lets emissions soar at some coal plants (28:24); PFAS levels rise in Michigan drinking water from Lake Erie (30:30); environmental and health harms are downshifting America’s obsession with the lawn (31:33).

Week of October 7:

Featuring the recent confusion around meat consumption research — a case study on nutritional science research (1:43); lack of sleep has detrimental effects on hunger and fat metabolism (19:00); smartphone dependency predicts depressive symptoms and loneliness (20:07); handgun purchasers with a prior DUI have a greater risk for serious violence (21:50); FDA refuses to classify ‘forever chemical” PFAS as hazardous substance (23:15); safe drinking water violations are higher for communities of color (27:50); role of racial stereotypes in assumptions that African-Americans are more violent (28:58); special series of articles in the American Journal of Public Health documenting role of slavery and racism in health inequalities that persist today (31:06).

Week of September 30:

Featuring American Heart Association statement condemning JUUL’s executive leadership change to long-time tobacco exec (1:45); how active shooter drills in schools are traumatizing our children (4:33); the Surgeon General’s deafening silence on gun violence (10:42); investigative journalist reveals startling flaws in generic drug industry, with FDA missing in action (14:20); World Health Organization calls for urgent action to reduce patient harm in healthcare (18:03); stressed out — Americans making themselves sick over politics (23:19); heart-healthy forager-farmers in lowland Bolivia are changing diets and gaining weight (25:35); many schools are putting brakes on making meals healthier for kids (27:52); some tea bags may shed billions of microplastics per cup (31:02); in continuing trend, S.C. Johnson joins Coca-Cola and PepsiCo in ditching ties to Plastics Industry Association (34:34).

Week of September 23:

Featuring Ohio initiatives to fight youth vaping (2:18); sexual trauma as a global public health issue (5:57); Defense Department as single biggest polluter on planet (12:00); 15 governors lobby for provisions in defense bill to limit toxic chemicals (17:10); deforestation is getting worse, five years after countries and companies vowed to stop it (19:12); Man vs. mosquito – at the front lines of a public health war (20:57); the connection between residential segregation and health (23:48); national support for “red-flag: gun laws could prevent many suicides (25;47); obesity epidemic grows and disparities persist (28:39); despite growing burden of diet-related diseases, medical education does not equip students to provide quality nutritional care to patients (29:52); House panel investigating private equity firms’ role in surprise medical billing (32:16); more women and children survive today than ever before — U.N. report (33:29).

Week of September 16:

Featuring suicide prevention awareness month info (1:43); lifestyle, not genetics, explain most premature heart disease, and multiple risk factors raise risk exponentially (7:23); flu vaccination linked to lower risk of early death in people with high blood pressure (8:43); it matters that Detroit broke federal law when it razed asbestos-laden building (11:25); Juul illegally marketed e-cigarettes (13:26); if Ohio can’t pass the simplest health care price transparency laws, how will Congress curb surprise bills (15:59); Physicians for a National Health Program diagnose politicians and pundits with Corporate Talking-Pointitis (23:06); only a fraction of costs of excessive drinking are paid for by alcohol taxes (30:12); STAT wins long legal fight clearing way for release of Purdue OxyContin files (32:50).

Week of September 9:

Featuring a case study in nutritional fads — vitamin D — with a study of high doses of vitamin D resulting in decreased bone density (1:43); emails show Monsanto orchestrated GOP effort to intimidate cancer researchers (8:24); how Ohio’s Chamber of Commerce killed the Lake Erie Bill of Rights (11:14); EPA to roll back regulations on methane, a potent greenhouse gas (12:41); sexism in health care — in men, it’s Parkinson’s, in women, it’s hysteria (14:53); overeating wastes far more food then we throw away (18:33); big pharma sinks to bottom of U.S. industry rankings (21:14); advocates sound alarm as uninsured rates rise under Trump (22:02); Obamacare health insurance exchange prices to drop in Ohio for first time (23:46); opioid treatment is used vastly more in states that expanded Medicaid (26:23); plant-based fire retardants may offer less toxic way to tame flames (27:43); water treatment cuts parasitic roundworm infections affection 800 million people (28:26); a quarter of the world’s population at risk of developing tuberculosis (29:45); FDA approves TB pill that cures more hard-to-treat patients (30:15); for the first time, clinical trial results show Ebola drugs improve survival rates (32:01).

Week of September 2:

Featuring an in-depth investigative report into industry influence of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines development process (1:47); and Ohio drug deaths plunge in Ohio, but up in Lucas County (29:50).

Week of August 26:

Featuring the two largest health factors in your personal health: smoking and diet (1:44); nearly 200,000 trans people have been exposed to conversion therapy (16:02); toxic furniture flame retardants may not stifle deadliest home fires (18:35); Health panel tells doctors to screen all adults for illicit drug use (20:31); spending on illicit drugs nears $150 billion annually, similar to alcohol (21:17); American Medical Association leaves coalition opposing single-payer Medicare for All (22:50); and programs work from within to prevent black maternal deaths: workers targeting root cause — racism (24:56).

Week of August 19:

Featuring Brazil’s Bolsonaro administration approving 290 new pesticide products for use (2:20); in echo of Flint lead crisis, Newark offers bottled water (4:31); summer in the city is hot, but some neighborhoods suffer more (5:32); up to half of patients withhold life-threatening issues from doctors (9:18); how #MeToo is changing sex ed policies – even in red states (10:04); 140,000 women could lose clinical abortion access in 1st year if Roe v. Wade were overturned (14:55); 250,000 fewer Ohioans on Medicaid, but even the experts don’t know why (15:38); Half-a-million years of Ohioans’ life expectancy lost to gun deaths (19:13); review of 33 years worth of medical studies reveals key areas for new research to explore concerning gun deaths (23:13); the dangers of the mental health narrative when it comes to gun violence (25:17); racist words and acts, like El Paso shooting, harm children’s health (29:46).

Week of August 12:

Featuring lower weight bias among physicians who regard obesity as a disease; BPA substitutes linked to obesity; call for radical reform to address 3.5 billion people worldwide with poor dental health; Coca-Cola pushing to get FDA let it add vitamins to drinks; amid teen vaping epidemic, Juul taps addiction expert as medical director; high radiation levels found near U.S. nuclear dump from weapons testing in Marshall Islands; moral injury and burnout in medicine requires collective action; and how judges added to the grim toll of opioids.

Week of August 5:

Featuring growing PCB claims adding to Bayer’s legal woes for Roundup; floods and fires stir up toxic stew posing long-term dangers; new tool for Michigan officials to use to remedy environmental injustice; Florida sugarcane burning could switch to green harvesting saving lives and boosting economy; U.S. could have averted 15,600 deaths if every state expanded Medicaid; Trump proposal to push 3 million Americans off food assistance; one-third of food grown never makes it out of fields; relatively low-dose radiation from CT scans and x-rays favor cancer growth; fitbits and other wearables may not accurately track heart rates in people of color; and seeing greenery linked to less intense and frequent cravings.

Week of July 29:

Featuring the corrupting influence of conflicts of interest in medical research; UT exhibit on protest and social change includes “Condoms STOP AIDS” poster developed by your humble host; widespread aspirin use despite few benefits, high risks; child drowning rates dropping two-thirds driven by better building codes concerning pools; vaccinating dogs for rabies worldwide could save the lives 59,000 people yearly; nations with strong women’s rights have better population health and faster economic growth; Medicare for All unlikely to raise hospitalization rates much, if at all; climate shocks, conflict and economic slumps drive rising world hunger; taps run dry for half of Zimbabwe’s capital city affecting millions.

Week of July 22:

Featuring keto diets and other diets that severely restrict carbohydrates, how there is little evidence for their effectiveness, especially considering their potential risks and sustainability issues both individually and ecologically, and how massive carbohydrate restriction hamstrings consumption of health-producing carbohydrates like beans, fruits, vegetables and unrefined grains; capping medical residency training hours does not hamper doctor quality; primary care needs to be encouraged; patients provide input for first time in mental health definitions; how to deal with anxiety about climate change; and protecting forests and watersheds to treat water cost-effectively and sustainably.

Week of July 15:

Featuring why there is so much commercial corruption in nutrition; fiber and health and fiber as a good marker for intake of whole foods; indoor carbon dioxide levels could be a health hazard; most kids on public coverage have parents who work for big companies; international drug development processes are irresponsible and must be reformed; the burgeoning benzo crisis; psychiatric diagnosis “scientifically meaningless”; and environmental activists declare victory after Detroit incinerator closes.

Week of July 8:

Featuring alcohol and cancer; bullying and weight bias; the Veterans Crisis Line; austerity and inequality fueling mental illness; EPA moves to phase out animal experiments which could mean end to toxics regulations; mini-biographies help clinicians connect with patients; new guidelines aim to enlist primary care physicians in transgender care; poll: most Americans favor Medicare for All if they can keep their doctors; and children’s cardiac care dangerous when mixed with corporatized health care.

Week of July 1:

Featuring the continuing public health case study that is the obesity epidemic, with a call to move beyond individual behavior and focus on social determinants driving obesity such as fat shaming and bias, and access to culturally-competent health services; plus, medical groups declare climate change as greatest public health challenge of the 21st century; Agriculture Department buries studies showing dangers of climate change; dangerous DDT levels 50 years after banning; and how banning dangerous chemicals could save the U.S. billions.

Week of June 24:

Featuring the question: Is public health in America so bad among the young, supposedly healthier people, that the U.S. may eventually not be able to defend itself militarily? Plus, the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s busiest year; childhood adversity’s link to mental illness, sexually transmitted infections continue unabated; world’s rivers awash with dangerous levels of antibiotics, the U.S. continuing to use pesticides banned in other countries; and Ohio River moves to voluntary pollution standards in face of massive petrochemical plant build-out.

Week of June 17:

Featuring the importance of happiness and purpose in driving health and well-being, and the epidemic of meaninglessness in work life; the role of sleep in health; the celebration of Men’s Health Month through using male privilege to help bring about gender justice and defeat patriarchy; the secret to Latino longevity; and how skyrocketing out-of-pocket health expenses, particularly among employer-based and private health insurance is costing health and lives.

Week of June 10:

Featuring a public health case study offering several perspectives on the many factors which form the perfect storm of the obesity epidemic — with a few tips for weathering the storm; and a series of articles regarding racism and racial disparities in health — with some good news.

Week of June 3:

Featuring continued coverage of the health effects of processed foods, including two new major studies; concerns about the potential risks of the exponential growth of nanoparticles in food processing; toxic chemicals used in food packaging and how to avoid them; and why cutting down on salt is health promoting,even if your blood pressure is fine.

Week of May 27:

Featuring continuing Mental Health Awareness Month coverage including suicide, supposed mental health parity, and appealing health coverage denials, and another in a series of mental health poems by local poet, Justin Samson, with this week’s poem on PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome; Media Watch segment on MercyHealth claiming that nurses mean the world ironically while their nurses strike; landmark study on processed foods and overeating, and a series of stories on air pollution as a public health emergency.

Week of May 20:

Featuring Mental Health Awareness Month coverage including the debut in a series of mental health poems by local poet, Justin Samson, with this week’s poem on major depression; public health news and research roundup coverage of dementia prevention recommendations, childhood cancer prevention, and basic sanitation as a critical public health issue in the U.S. and globally.

Week of May 13:

Featuring Mental Health Awareness Month coverage, public health news and research roundup coverage of the ongoing Monsanto Roundup™ saga plus other herbicide/pesticide/plastics toxins, prescription drug prices, and the debut of another parody PSA.

Week of May 6:

A whole show about vaccine-preventable infectious diseases.  SPOILER ALERT: immunizations profoundly improve the public health of our planet!

Week of April 29:

Featuring tips on cutting back on salt and sugar, and getting more whole grains into your diet. This episode debuts two new segments, Media Watch, looking at how public health is portrayed in the media, and Health Observances, April as minority health month, examining racism as the driving force in the so-called mystery of stubbornly high black infant mortality. The Public Health News and Research Roundup includes the health effects of fracking, and the effect of food waste on climate change.

Week of April 22:

Featuring “The three most dangerous food additives,” and good news in the Public Health News and Research Roundup. And look out for that parody PSA!

Week of April 15:

Featuring Public Health News and Research Roundup and a noncommercial break highlighting blood donation.

Week of April 8:

Featuring environmental health news and the question: Can you be a serious environmentalist without cutting down drastically on animal-foods, that is, cutting way down on meat, eggs, and dairy?

Week of April 1:

Featuring a far-reaching riff on epidemiology, the science of the distribution of health, disease and their determinants in populations; in laypersons’ terms, what are the most important things to consider in our community’s health. Regarding personal health, the show closes with a quick summary of evidence-based eating for health.

Week of May 25:

Featuring Public Health News and Research Roundup [not affiliated with Roundup™, the infamous human carcinogen].

Week of May 18: 

Featuring Medicare for all testimony and Toledo Democracy Day coverage, plus conferring the award for the MOST CONSTIPATED View of DEMOCRACY.

PILOT Show from December 2015: 

This is the original pilot show that started it all! This full hour show features an interview with local guest, Johnathon Ross, M.D., M.P.H., a local public health physician and former president of Physicians for a National Health Program.

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A Spiritual Autobiography

I wrote the below spiritual autobiography a dozen years ago as part of a servant leadership study group.  While it definitely needs updating, it serves well as a brief overview of my spiritual history and development over much of my life, particularly my early years.  Fortuitously, my humor remains righteously irreverent and my faith grows.

RUTTS
by Alex Haley
(that’s just my pun name)

The year was 1961. Preceded by John, a child was conceived, fathered by a closeted gay man, in Bethlehem, on the outskirts of the city of brotherly love. In my mother’s womb, I was transported to Haiti, where my parents, as doctor and nurse, were beginning their service as medical missionaries with the Mennonite Central Committee. A dozen (and a half) generations ago my ancestors had fled religious persecution and military conscription in Germany to settle in America. For a new beginning, they were gifted with land from William Penn. This land was some of the most fertile in the world; so fertile, in fact, that even gay men father children there! Though now in Haiti, they were soon to be counted again among the privileged of the world. I was born. And on this journey, Joseph followed. Continuing my heritage as a sojourner in a foreign land, I was born a true child of the 60s.

I have no specific memories of those first couple of years in Haiti. However, only in recent years have I realized my ideal vision of serenity as sleeping without a care late in the morning in a mountain cabin while the rain pounds on the tin roof likely came from memories as a baby (now, if only I can figure out why I have a pleasant association with the smell of skunk!). Also, I am told that I was scared of most white people. Strangely, I am still haunted by white people on occasion.

After a brief stint in Detroit, perhaps explaining my love of urban life, I grew up in a small town in Michigan. The town was Mennonite-free, so I was raised a United Methodist. My childhood was strikingly trauma-free (only striking in retrospect). I knew safety. I knew predictability and caring. Our family always ate meals together, beginning with a prayer too short not to recount here: “God is great. God is good. Let us thank him for our food. Amen.” A lot more theology in that prayer than I usually give credit. Our family participated in worship and church functions regularly. Worship was generally boring. One of my few memories was a teenager with a guitar, singing “Blowing in the wind.” I guess that would have been contemporary music, huh? And that was before Bob Dylan was a Christian. I attended Sunday school, vacation Bible school, and youth group. I only vaguely remember confirmation. I remember good times. Except for a desperately poor matching of gifts by placing me in a children’s choir – my first, and really only, experience with “playing hooky.” I loved summer camp. First there were church camps, then Boy Scout camps. My younger brother and I earned Eagle Scout ranking (the highest in Boy Scouts) in record time. Our scoutmaster was easygoing and playful. Perhaps paradoxically, it was easy to achieve in that environment. If “achievement” had been required of me, I probably wouldn’t have done it, or at least wouldn’t have enjoyed it so much. When we later moved and joined another scout troop, which was probably better organized and certainly more rigid, we dropped out after a while.

My understanding of diversity was child-like. I knew that Catholic families were the ones with five or six kids. Good families to play with. My best friend’s dad was Cuban. He also had two older half-siblings. In retrospect, this was the only somewhat non-traditional family I recall; though I don’t recall giving it much thought.

I was baptized at age eleven. Apparently, I was out of the country at the time such events usually occur. Fortunately, my understanding of baptism was still pretty much that of an infant, so it worked out well. I was confirmed a year later. About this same time, I was in little league baseball. In an attempt to deal with performance anxiety, I kept a pocket-sized New Testament in my back pocket. This crude attempt at spiritual osmosis was discovered by my brothers who with little affection labeled me “Bible boy.” I didn’t like this. I remember that my parent rebuked them.

When we moved to Dearborn, Michigan, before my ninth grade, my parents looked for a church nearby, but had little success – “too suburban” I think. Not surprising, considering we lived in a nice home with a pool, only 100 feet from a golf course. They decided to return to their church from earlier years, Central United Methodist Church in downtown Detroit, 20 minutes away. Central is the oldest Protest-ant church in Michigan, and has been called “the conscience of the city.” Always a leader in social justice, their most widely known pastor preached pacifism before, during and after World War II. I was soon to be raised on 45+ minute sermons, truly epic sermons. A turning point happened to me sometime during my high school years when my mom took me to a peace conference at church. My eyes were opened and my heart would soon follow.

I went to Hope College, a small, private, liberal arts school. It was a Christian College, as were most of its staff and students, mostly Reformed and Christian Reformed. However, it was unlikely that I would ever be Reformed; conservatively speaking that is. My college years began with my father lightly warning me of these Calvinists. I didn’t know what he was talking about. My first roommate and I, who were boyhood friends, unknowingly were matched because we were both Methodists – apparently, a rare breed thereabouts. Early on, I must have been an easy target for an overabundance of evangelism. A friend invited me to Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. I went to what turned out to be a practically diversity-free zone; even ALL of the other persons in my small group were named “Kathy” (though probably a diversity of spellings). Later, when I saw out my dorm room window the friend who invited me, I said, “hello.” She asked me what I thought of the meeting. I shouted from the second floor window something to the effect that it was “too religious.” I did like church, and I went willingly. I even went to chapel services three times a week – religiously. I was also on part-time staff of the campus ministry. Though a biology major, I was frequently mistaken for a political science or philosophy major. Apparently, I was succeeding at the liberal arts (or at least the art of being liberal).

I very soon got involved with a small group of students known as the World Hunger Committee. Being a United Methodist, I must have known that there would be a committee for that! This formally launched my work in social justice, and my personal interest in stewardship, vegetarianism and nutrition. That first year, God brought together this son of a Mennonite with a Hope graduate who was a Mennonite (perhaps the only one). I told him that I was concerned about President Carter re-instituting draft registration. He said, “Why don’t you start a peace group?” I said, “Yes.” Fortunately, I didn’t now what I was doing. So, I helped found “Hope for Peace.”

For my own concerns, I hooked up with a Viet Nam war-era draft counselor. To make a long story short, when President Reagan broke his campaign promise to end draft registration, I was identified in the Detroit News as a non-registrant. Being the only publicly-identified non-registrant in Michigan, I garnered much media attention. Eventually, the Reagan ‘get the government off your back’ regime and his Attorney General, Edwin ‘people are only hungry by choice’ Meese III, saw that out of millions of non-registrants, I was number 13 to be prosecuted. In the end, six years later, after heroically losing half a dozen pre-trial motions (with the help of a volunteer team of legal experts), my older brother dying, graduating from college, getting married, having a son, graduating from graduate school, and getting a job, I defended myself before a jury of my peers (though none of them were subject to the law I was defending myself from). I lost. But what did I win? (that is, beside three months room and board at the taxpayers’ expense) I learned to live in good conscience. I learned to refine my beliefs, even amidst great public scrutiny. I learned about civil disobedience, or as A.J. Muste, a great American pacifist and Hope College graduate would have said, “holy obedience” (in my write mind I say, “wholly obedience). I learned that the U.S. government has the absolute authority to draft any citizen regardless of conscientious objection. Any exception to this is due only to “legislative grace.” I learned to live by God’s grace even when it exceeds the grace of my government. Actually, I presented my case at the Detroit Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, in conjunction with a resolution to support young men’s consciences who were subject to draft registration laws, whether their conscience led them to register or not. The resolution failed. So, I learned to live by God’s grace even when it exceeds the grace of my denomination.

During college, after guest preaching at my home church in Detroit, someone came up afterwards and said, “I didn’t know that you were in seminary.” Nonetheless, I consider myself a theological mutt. I have drawn from many Christian traditions. I have studied Asian religions, and I am drawn to Buddhism. I am an amateur philosopher (that is, until someone pays me) and I am intrigued by the angst of existentialism. I have experienced a spiritual re-awakening in Alanon, which has given me things that my church could not. I believe that “religionism” may be the ultimate “-ism,” preventing us from experiencing the oneness of God. I may be a leading candidate to be voted, “most likely to be heretical,” by the powers that be. This is my orthodoxy. I believe that paradox lives in the neighbor of truth; and we should love our neighbors. In true Zen-like fashion, I find that irreverence is often the highest form of reverence. Among my heresies is my unabashed appreciation of “The Simpsons” (but, as the Hindus would say, “Don’t have a cow.”).

After an intense summer working for Bread for the World as an organizer, and days before my senior year began, my brother John was killed in an avalanche in Western Canada; but only after dropping out of college while on foreign study, wandering, rock-climbing and working (pretty much in that order) for a couple of years in Africa and the Western U.S. His death has given me a much greater sense of mortality and the preciousness of life each day. I actually find funerals as fruitful opportunities for reflection and renewing my sense of “living in the moment.” I have undervalued such opportunities. One of the few regrets in my life was missing three of four funerals of my grandparents.

My paternal grandparents were particularly religious. Only upon the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary (and doing the math) did I realize that my father was a near-bastard child to a teen mom. Years later, when my sister was pregnant and out-of-wedlock at age 19, my grandfather said, “The sins of the grandfather are being visited upon the granddaughter.” My thought: get over it! Well, at least, I can now understand why my gay father was closeted until his parents were either dead or demented. While I didn’t see healing in my grandparents, I saw that having an understanding of God under construction is a good thing, and sometimes demolition work is required.

That brings me to my marriage. To make a long, and usually happy, story short, my marriage of 11+ years ended 10 years ago. Nonetheless, we were blessed with two wonderful children, Joshua and Kathryn. I love being a parent. It may be the closest I’ve been able to experience what God must feel in His/Her unconditional love for us. Kate’s life is an ongoing miracle since she was born with multiple heart defects. She underwent two heart surgeries, and at one point with surgical complications, a doctor, trying to be optimistic, said, she has at least a 50/50 chance of living. A brush with death. There’s that mortality thing again. Not unlike death, I thought I had no problem with divorce – as long as it was happening to other people. Accepting our divorce was the most difficult thing I have ever dealt with.

Being out of a “relationship” for a number of years helped my re-develop my relationship with myself and with God. This came more through Alanon than church. Now, being in a relationship for eight years with a wise and beautiful woman has taught me to appreciate life as it comes, one day at a time – with both of us half single, half single parent; no longer with in-laws but ex’s. I’ve learned that God makes all things new, and often faster than I want. God never gives me what I want; God always gives me something better!

My career. God brought me to a career in public health, as I savored its roots in social justice. God brought me out of public health, re-naming me “Top Pun,” and appointing me as a jester for peace, where the pun is mightier than the sword, and justice is no yoke. My canvasses are buttons, T-shirts, bumper stickers, and the World Wide Web. My business, by definition, is good – that is, maximizing prophets. My business is exactly on schedule; though I don’t know what the schedule is.

God brought me to Central’s neighborhood, and a few hours later, to Central. Centralites were my kind of people. Some happened to be Christians who were gay. Through my social justice work, not my public health work, God brought me to work in the fight against HIV/AIDS. This opened further opportunities to work with persons who happened to be gay. My dad “came out.” My parents divorced. God had prepared me.

I have issues with money. I aspire to live simply, gracefully facilitated by my recent poverty-level earnings. Living with less financial security has inspired me to give today because I may not be able to give later. Whatever old car I’m driving facilitates my prayer life (of course, no “auto”-biography would be complete without a mention of my car).

I am a mystic at heart, journeying as a gifted rationalist, Caucasian, male, father, lover, businessman, American, etc., etc., yada, yada, yada. While embracing the enigmatic, I hope these few words will offer you a clue as to who I am. Hopefully, these few words will offer you a clue as to who we are. One of my favorite poems is from Muhammad Ali: “Me. We.”

In all, God has never left me; except for an instant in 1981, but that’s another story…

Friendly Rant: Voting FOR Jill Stein NOT Wielding “Privilege”

Oddly, with the presidential candidates from the two dominant and domineering political parties setting new records for low approval, voting for anyone else is met with bafflingly high contempt.  My friend, local activist, and Green Party Jill Stein supporter, Shannon Frye, nailed it with this recent facebook post:

Facebook friends, I don’t think I’ve been shy expressing my views on our current election cycle, but I have tried very hard to remain respectful of the decisions you might make when you step into the ballot box. Even if we have sparred, I have still maintained your ability to elect the candidate of your choice. Know that this prerogative is not born of some feigned Victorian politeness, but rather out of desire to see each of you better articulate your realpolitik and claim your stake in the building of a better future for us all.

That being said, I have not, nor will I ever, tolerate the erasure of my person, my experiences or my conviction in order to capitulate to terror, be it tangible or intangible. I will not bend my moral arc in order that you may rest easy. And if you attack my position based on any difference between us under the false assertion that in that difference lies weakness, I will turn your blunt argument into a pointy reckoning.

One such example lies below. A person, who shall henceforth be known as Mr. Charlie, asserted on Jill Stein’s Dank Meme Stash that white privilege was the driver behind her surge in popularity and would be thusly responsible should Drumpf win the presidency. He erroneously held that the Green Party was the enemy, luring POCs, LGBTQ people and the socioeconomically disadvantaged away from their true salvation, Hillary Clinton.

I lost my cool…

“Mr. Charlie, what particular variety of White Savior Complex do you suffer from to make such an ignorant and ill-informed statement?

I am a queer feminist of color and I fully endorse Jill Stein for president precisely because self-righteous idealogues like yourself have absolutely no clue as to the remedy my people desperately need in order to set in motion our uplift.

It boggles my mind how the ONLY political party willing to stand up for racial, gender, socioeconomic and environmental justice has been so maligned by white neoliberalism under the supposed banner of care. How dare you attempt to whitewash the contributions of Green POCs motivated by the grassroots organizing and solution-oriented policies that would bring us into a new era of justice based not on our social capital – of which we have very little – but upon the mettle of our conviction?

You are speaking from a place of fear. Fear of a mango-faced minstrel who shouts deplorable things. Fear of an imagined confrontation with the rage born of over 400 years of oppression reigning. Fear of losing the mask of white indignation that threatens to reveal the fragility of your baseless, store-bought identity. Fear that causes a paralysis of logic and compassion. Fear.

On the social justice platform alone I’d vote Green for life.

The Green Party advocates for the continual challenging of racism, sexism, Homo/bi/transphobia, ableism, ageism, classism and religious persecution. The DNC has at no point in this election cycle or in its history committed itself to fighting inequality on every front in the manner in which the Green Party has fearlessly undertaken. What we, the underrepresented and oft voiceless, have instead received is a piecemeal equality, which is no equality at all. Hillary Clinton and the current incarnation of the DNC has done nothing but pay lip service to creating a level playing field. Clinton’s support for her husband’s 1996 Crime Bill, which contributed to the largest surge in prison populations since the Reagan Administration , has done nothing but ensure the institutionalization and disenfranchisement of scores of POCs – this did us no favor. Clinton’s silence during her tenure as senator amid the growing body of research that proved the inherent bias and disparate impact of stop-and-frisk police tactics on communities of color perfectly ensconced her ambivalence toward the further destruction of the Black and Latinx family. Had she desired more than the occasional Harlem photo op, she would have used her considerable privilege in service to the people she so shamelessly panders to every few years.

On the subject of LGBTQ people, Clinton supported the Defense of Marriage Act and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell as First Lady; as a senator, Clinton could have been the alky she pretends to be and challenged her fellow New Yorkers to expand their definition of marriage, or at least advocate for the inclusion of domestic partnerships in benefit programs for state employees. She didn’t do this. In fact, as recently as April 2013, Clinton went onto CNN with Wolf Blitzer to assert her belief that marriage was an institution between a man and a woman; she didn’t throw her support behind marriage equality until the conclusion of several SCOTUS cases were completely forgone.

As for sexism, which the Clinton campaign loves to cry each time a reasonable critique of her ability to govern justly occurs, there is no better political organization than the Greens to address the systemic oppression of women in the US and beyond. Why would I support a white feminism that capitalizes on the rape of our natural resources, a gross, self-indulgent imposition of Western cultural norms across the globe, and the plundering of our social security net budget in order to fund an imperialist military force that does nothing but wreak havoc in Black and Brown nations in service not to democracy or liberation, but rather in service the corporate master class? Either your feminism is intersectional or its shit: And straight up, if you’re running for office and posturing aggressively against 2 nuclear powers and continuing to take money from and politically ally yourself with nations we know have direct ties to ISIS, then you are not a feminist.

Mr. Charlie, have you any idea what war DOES to women?

1. It kills the civilian population, namely women and children

2. War increases the aggressive violence against women: gang rape, genital mutilation & forced childbirth are all methods used by occupying forces to demoralize a people .

3. War restricts women’s freedom of movement: women, who wind up bearing the burden of being the sole provider for their families and often are hindered by curfews and checkpoints from gaining access to food, medicine, work opportunities and building effective social supports.

4. War forces civilian populations to flee from their homes: this displacement causes refugee surges all over the world, which only seems to respond with more aggression to those already traumatized. For the unwelcome refugee, war continues, as their labor and sexuality are often exploited due to lack of legal protections. Yes, war is a huge contributor to sex trafficking and modern human slavery.

6. War and imperialistic culture prioritizes weaponry over human services:The war machine makes victims all around. Me? I’ve gotten kicked off of Medicaid 4 times this year. But at least our military can afford to bomb the hell out of brown people in 7 nations right now.

As a feminist, I have no country. As a feminist, I want no country. As a feminist, my country is the world and I will do everything in my power to protect her. My question is, how can any woman look at Clinton’s trigger happy approach to foreign policy, her dogged pursuit of profit over the safety and well-being of our planet, and the furtherance of the destabilization of the 3rd world and actually vote to keep it going?

So again I ask, who in this conversation is wielding privilege? Certainly not my brothers and sisters in Green, who care enough about me and my continued existence to vote for the one candidate, the one party, that could help free me from this state of perpetual subjugation. Surely not Dr. Stein, whose mettle has been tested time and again and stills shines brilliantly, compassionately and with the strength of truth on her side. Surely it is not me.

Must be you.

Now take several seats, STFU, and let the grown folks discuss strategy. Your petty semantic games and sanctimonious neoliberal lies will not stop our revolution or my liberation.”

THIS.  Enough said.

POEM: Human Beans In A Chili World

What’s too like
To be
Human beans
In a chili world
Offering ourselves
As nourishing fare
In the face of
Ingrate full consumers
Somehow besting
Our pre-sumptuous purpose
Of going to seed
And razing our own
Only to be
Food agin and agin
As brood over
What incite us
And what has meaning
At the end of your daze
Is the same
What’s eating you
Those unpleasant spitting images

This poem is an ode to one of the deepest paradoxes in life: that you must lose your life in order to gain it.  No one really knows why they are alive until they know what they'd die for. MLK QUOTE BUTTONSuch a paradox is replete with metaphors of seeds, death and resurrection, of sacrificing that of great value for that of greater value.  Plus, in life there is no dress rehearsal: we won’t be food again!  Of course, that perplexing aspect of human life which is infinitely complicated is humans: ungrateful, self-centered, and irreducibly exasperating.  In my view, the best way to see more clearly in the fun-house mirror that is human life is to cultivate self-awareness of psychological projection, the powerful and cunning tendency to attribute to others what is subconscious in ourselves, particularly the bad stuff.  In laymen’s terms: spot it you got it!  Of course, such cultivation is mirror reflection if there isn’t any skin in the game — little is harvested with simply good intentions.  Pacifism - A Way of Life - Man Does Not Die By Bled Alone -- PEACE BUTTONSelf-sacrifice is inescapable if we are to unearth enduring meaning rather than perpetual mean-ings on earth.  The ubiquity of iniquity, the proclivity to project our own evil onto others (“Those unpleasant spitting images”) is the tragic root of writing people off as chaff rather than cultivating seed.  Would You Die For Common Ground PEACE BUTTONThe paradoxical solution is that by becoming food for others, and — as in vice versa — by becoming food for ourselves, we are awe saved.  Such wonderment eternally returns me to loving my enemy, a journey that can only be made within one’s self and never without others.  I find this mysterious process at the heart of social action — the nexus of the inner and outer journeys, joined at the hip — perhaps most succinctly described in the social activist creed and Mexican  Zapatista proverb: “They tried to bury us. They didn’t know we were seeds.”  Or, in an earlier version, from the Greek poet Dinos Christianopoulos:  “What didn’t you do to bury me / but you forgot that I was a seed.”  The counterculture reality embodied by Mr. Christianopoulos was as a homoerotic poet in the 1950’s, accompanied by its commensurately dangerous seed.  Whatever you may offer as a human bean in this chili world, may it be nourishing fare.

Old Hippies Never Die We Just Flower Year After Year POLITICAL BUTTON

POEM: Pâté Time Is Soon Over

She re-lied
Over
And over
Up on safety in numbers
A calculating codeness
Betraying her art
Sow low and be holed
In common denominations
A loan in security
As helled together
Buy fences
And dam banks
A laundering cache
Never coming clean
Wile every thing stat
Like awe get out
Eating it up
And getting
As goaled in goose eggs
Nothing
Fast
As pâté time
Is soon over

This poem addresses a familiar theme in my poetry: the hollowness of chasing money in the vain quest for security.  Love Greater Than Money (Heart) - POLITICAL BUTTONThe signature puns in this poem — “goaled in goose eggs” and “pâté time” —  serve as a bit of a screening mechanism to cull out those familiar with high society.  Many might recognize the golden goose reference from the fairy tale, as well as goose eggs signifying zero or zeroes.  Fewer will know what pâté is, a highfalutin French food that is mixture of cooked ground meat and fat minced into a spreadable paste.  Even fewer will know that goose liver is used in an even more highfalutin version of such swanky sustenance.  I suspect that awe will eventually know that none of this matters.  As Shakespeare so aptly noted, “All is vanity.”  Certainly, life doesn’t add up.  Though, life does seem better lived looking up.  May we find the value of life in such presents.

Feel free to browse my designs about the role and value of money in life and politics:

What Money Can't Buy - Medicine But Not Health, A House But Not A Home, Finery But Not Beauty, Luxuries But Not Culture, Amusements But Not Happiness POLITICAL BUTTONMoney is the Root of All Politics - POLITICAL BUTTONMake Love, Not Money POLITICAL BUTTON

If you want to know what god thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to. Dorothy Parker quote SPIRITUAL BUTTONYou cannot serve both God and money. (Matthew 6:24) Bible quote SPIRITUAL BUTTONThere Is No Gift Like The Present SPIRITUAL BUTTON

Someone Else Is Happy With Less Than You Have POLITICAL BUTTON

Human Rights are Universal and Inalienable, Interdependent and Indivisible, Equal and Nondiscriminatory

Human Rights Are Not Optional POLITICAL BUTTONHuman rights are inherent to all human beings. PERIOD.

Human rights are universal and inalienable, meaning that such rights cannot be taken away based on what people do.  Human rights are interdependent and indivisible, meaning that they work together as a whole, where the deprivation of anyone’s human right deprives us all, and the enhancement of anyone’s human rights enhances us all.  Human rights are equal and nondiscriminatory, meaning that they apply equally regardless of whatever our nationality, place of residence, sex, gender, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, language, or any other status.  Finally, human rights give rise to a fundamental responsibility to protect and promote human rights both for humans and their governments.

Globalize THIS - HUMAN RIGHTS [earth graphic] POLITICAL BUTTONIn 1948, the United Nations passed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The declaration had been drafted by representatives from around the world, coming from many different legal and cultural perspectives.  Since then, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has set the world record for the document translated into the most languages: 477.

The declaration has stood up quite well across its eight decades spanning two millennia, though I would better incorporate LGBTQ rights and change the document’s pronouns to gender neutral.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Preamble

Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,

Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,

Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,

Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in co-operation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,

Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,

Now, Therefore THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.

Article 1.

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2.

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3.

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4.

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

Article 5.

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 6.

Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

Article 7.

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 8.

Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Article 9.

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.

Article 10.

Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.

Article 11.

(1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
(2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.

Article 12.

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Article 13.

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

Article 14.

(1) Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
(2) This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 15.

(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality.

Article 16.

(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
(3) The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.

Article 17.

(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Article 18.

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19.

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 20.

(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

Article 21.

(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
(2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country.
(3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.

Article 22.

Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Article 23.

(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Article 24.

Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

Article 25.

(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Article 26.

(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

Article 27.

(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

Article 28.

Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.

Article 29.

(1) Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
(2) In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
(3) These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

Article 30.

Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.

Human Rights NOW POLITICAL BUTTONMay we each individually and collectively cherish our human rights as the foundation from which our humanity is ever more fully manifest.  One humanity.  One planet.  One love.

REAL POLITICS, REAL CANDIDATE: Jill Stein 2016 Platform

IF you want a progressive presidential candidate that you can get excited about voting FOR, then Jill Stein, the Green Party presidential candidate is worth serious consideration.  Jill Stein has selected her Green Party running mate, Vice President choice, Ajamu Baraka.  Mr. Baraka is an internationally recognized human rights activist, organizer and geo-political analyst with a deeply progressive resume.  Here is their platform:

Jill Stein 2016 Platform

Our Power to the People Plan

Climate Action: Protecting Mother Earth and Humanity

  • Enact an emergency Green New Deal to turn the tide on climate change, revive the economy and make wars for oil obsolete. Initiate a WWII-scale national mobilization to halt climate change, the greatest threat to humanity in our history. Create 20 million jobs by transitioning to 100% clean renewable energy by 2030, and investing in public transit, sustainable agriculture, conservation and restoration of critical infrastructure, including ecosystems.
  • Implement a Just Transition that empowers those communities and workers most impacted by climate change and the transition to a green economy. Ensure that any worker displaced by the shift away from fossil fuels will receive full income and benefits as they transition to alternative work.
  • Enact energy democracy based on public, community and worker ownership of our energy system. Treat energy as a human right.
  • Redirect research funds from fossil fuels into renewable energy and conservation.  Build a nationwide smart electricity grid that can pool and store power from a diversity of renewable sources, giving the nation clean, democratically-controlled, energy.
  • End destructive energy extraction and associated infrastructure: fracking, tar sands, offshore drilling, oil trains, mountaintop removal, natural gas pipelines, and uranium mines. Halt any investment in fossil fuel infrastructure, including natural gas, and phase out all fossil fuel power plants. Phase out nuclear power and end nuclear subsidies.  End all subsidies for fossil fuels and impose a greenhouse gas fee / tax to charge polluters for the damage they have created.
  • Protect our public lands, water supplies, biological diversity, parks, and pollinators. Ban neonicotinoids and other pesticides that threaten the survival of bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.
  • Support a strong enforceable global climate treaty that limits global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius and provides just financial compensation to developing countries.
  • Label GMOs, and put a moratorium on GMOs and pesticides until they are proven safe.
  • Support organic and regenerative agriculture, permaculture, and sustainable forestry.
  • Protect the rights of future generations. Adopt the Precautionary Principle. When an activity poses threats of harm to human health or the environment, in the absence of objective scientific consensus that it is safe, precautionary measures should be taken. The proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof.
  • Invest in clean air, water, food  and soil for everyone. Clean up America.
  • Enact stronger environmental justice laws and measures to ensure that low-income and communities of color are not disproportionately impacted by harmful pollution and other negative environmental and health effects.
  • Support conversion to sustainable, nontoxic materials and the use of closed-loop, zero waste processes.

 Jobs as a Right, and Key Support for Labor

  • Create living-wage jobs for every American who needs work, replacing unemployment offices with employment offices. Government would be the employer of last resort, and the unemployed would have an enforceable right to make government provide work. Create direct public employment, as the Works Progress Administration did,  in public services and public works for those who can’t find private employment.
  • Advance workers’ rights to form unions, achieve workplace democracy, and keep a fair share of the wealth they create.
  • Enact the Green Deal full employment program to create 20 million green jobs in sustainable energy, mass transit, sustainable organic agriculture, clean manufacturing and improved infrastructure, as well as social work, teaching, health care, after school and home care, drug rehabilitation and other service jobs.
  • Provide grants and low-interest loans to green businesses and cooperatives, with an emphasis on small, locally-based companies that keep the wealth created by local labor circulating in the community, rather than being drained off to enrich absentee investors.
  • Replace NAFTA and other corporate free trade agreements that export American jobs, depress wages, and undermine the sovereign right of Americans and citizens of other countries to control their own economy and political choices. Enact fair trade laws that benefits local workers and communities.
  • Repeal  the Taft-Hartley Act which banned secondary boycotts and permitted state “right-to-work” laws. Enact a federal just cause law (to prohibit firing without just cause,) and outlaw scabbing on striking workers.

 End Poverty:

  • Guarantee economic human rights, including access to food, water, housing, and utilities, with effective anti-poverty programs to ensure every American a life of dignity.
  • Establish a guaranteed minimum income.
  • Reform public assistance to be a true safety net that empowers participants and provides a decent standard of living.
  • Free universal child care.

 Health Care as a Right:

  • Establish an improved “Medicare for All” single-payer public health program to provide everyone with quality health care, at huge savings by eliminating the $400 billion annually spent on  the paperwork and bureaucracy of health insurance. No co-pays, premiums or deductibles. Access to all health care services, including mental health, dental, and vision. Include everyone, period. No restrictions based on pre-existing illness, employment, immigration status, age, or any other category.
  • Eliminate the cancer of health insurance, which adds costs while reducing access to health care.
  • End overcharging for prescription drugs by using bulk purchasing negotiations.
  • Eliminate health disparities in communities of color and low-income communities. Ensure easy access to health care in communities of color, including community health centers.
  • Allow full access to contraceptive and reproductive care.
  • Expand women’s access to “morning after” contraception by lifting the Obama Administration’s ban.
  • Avoid chronic diseases by investing in essential community health infrastructure such as local, fresh, organic food systems, pollution-free renewable energy, phasing out toxic chemicals, and active transportation such as bike paths and safe sidewalks that dovetail with public transit.
  • Ensure that consumers have essential information for making informed food choices by expanding product labeling requirements for country of origin, GMO content, toxic chemical ingredients, and fair trade practices.
  • Prioritize preventive health care, including physical activity, healthy nutrition and pollution prevention.

 Education as a Right:

  • Guarantee tuition-free, world-class public education from pre-school through university.
  • Abolish student debt to free a generation of Americans from debt servitude.
  • Protect our public school systems from privatization.
  • Use restorative justice to address conflicts before they occur, and involve students in the process.
  • Evaluate teacher performance through assessment by fellow professionals. Do not rely on high stakes tests that reflect economic status of the community, and punish teachers working in low income communities of color.
  • Replace Common Core with curriculum developed by educators, not corporations, with input from parents and communities.
  • Stop denying students diplomas based on high stakes tests.
  • Stop using merit pay to punish teachers who work with the most challenging student populations.
  • Restore arts, music and recreation to school curriculums.
  • Ensure racially inclusive, sensitive and relevant curriculums.
  • Use Department of Education powers to offer grants and funding to encourage metropolitan desegregation plans based on socioeconomically balanced schools.
  • Recognize poverty as the key obstacle to learning. Ensure that kids come to school ready to learn: healthy, nourished, secure and free from violence.
  • Increase federal funding of public schools to equalize public school funding.

 A Just Economy:

  • Guarantee a living wage job for all.
  • Set a $15/hour federal minimum wage, with indexing.
  • Break up “too-big-to-fail” banks and democratize the Federal Reserve.
  • Support development of worker and community cooperatives and small businesses.
  • Make Wall Street, big corporations, and the rich pay their fair share of taxes.
  • Create democratically-run public banks and utilities.
  • Provide full protection for workplace rights, including the right to a safe workplace and the right to organize a union without fear of firing or reprisal by passing the Employee Free Choice Act.
  • Ensure equal pay for equal work, ending discrimination based on race, gender, or generation.
  • Enact paid sick leave and family leave, strong overtime protections.
  • Take action against wage theft.
  • Oppose two-tier wage systems (e.g., for young people and individuals with disabilities).

 Freedom and Equality:

  • Expand women’s rights, including equal pay and reproductive freedom. Pass the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment).
  • Protect LGBTQIA+ people from discrimination.
  • Defend indigenous rights,  lands and treaties.
  • Support immigrants’ rights. Create a welcoming path to citizenship for immigrants.
  • Halt deportations and detentions of law-abiding undocumented immigrants, including the shameful practice of night raids being used to terrorize refugee families.
  • Improve economic and social conditions abroad to reduce the flow of immigrant refugees, in part by repealing NAFTA, ending the failed drug wars, and halting CIA and military interventions against democratically elected governments.
  • Demilitarize border crossings throughout North America.
  • Protect the free Internet. Oppose the Online Piracy Act and all other legislation that would undermine freedom and equality on the Internet.

 Criminal Justice Reforms

  • End the failed war on drugs. Replace drug prohibition with harm reduction. Legalize marijuana/hemp. Treat substance abuse as a health problem, not a criminal offense.
  • Release nonviolent drug offenders from prison, removing such offenses from their records, and provide them with both pre- and post-release support.
  • End police brutality, mass incarceration and institutional racism within our justice system. Support the Black Lives Matter Movement.
  • Demilitarize police. End use of SWAT teams and no-knock raids for drugs and serving papers.
  • Repair our communities rather than dump resources into the prison-industrial complex.
  • Establish police review boards so that communities control their police, and not the other way around. Appoint dedicated investigators to investigate every death or serious injury at the hands of police.
  • Enact laws to require independent outside legal representatives to investigate and prosecute any killing or brutality  by the police rather than prosecutors involved in the local criminal justice system.
  • Eliminate harsh  mandatory sentencing requirements which often result in unjustified sentences.

 Justice for All:

  • Enforce the Bill of Rights by protecting the right to free speech and protest, to be secure from unwarranted search and seizure and invasion of privacy, as well as our other Constitutional rights.
  • Terminate unconstitutional surveillance and unwarranted spying, close Guantanamo, and repeal indefinite detention without charge or trial. Repeal the unconstitutional provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act that give the president the power to indefinitely imprison and even assassinate American citizens without due process.
  • America’s youth should not be put in jail for offenses they commit.
  • End discrimination against former offenders who have paid for their crimes and should get a fresh start.
  • Abolish the death penalty.
  • End persecution of government, corporate  and media whistleblowers.
  • Issue an Executive Order prohibiting Federal agencies from conspiring with local police to infringe upon right of assembly and peaceful protest.
  • Repeal the Patriot Act that violates our constitutional right to privacy and protection against unreasonable search and seizure.


Peace and Human Rights:

  • Establish a foreign policy based on diplomacy, international law, human rights, and nonviolent support for democratic movements around the world.
  • Cut military spending by at least 50% and close the 700+ foreign military bases. Ensure a just transition that replaces reductions in  military jobs with jobs in renewable energy, transportation and green infrastructure development.
  • Stop U.S. financial and military support to human rights abusers. Barring substantial changes in their policies, this would include Saudi Arabia, Israel and Egypt.
  • End the US’ role as the world’s arm supplier.
  • End use of assassination as an instrument of U.S. foreign policy, including collaborative assassination through intermediaries.
  • End the destructive US economic and military intervention into the affairs of sovereign nations. Such intervention serve the interests of multinational corporations and  global capitalism over the interests of the vast majority of the citizens of those nations.
  • Freeze the bank accounts of countries that are funding terrorism, including the Saudi royal family.
  • US policy regarding Israel and Palestine must be revised to prioritize international law, peace and human rights for all people, no matter their religion or nationality. End US policies that have supported the worst tendencies of the Israeli government in its treatment of the people of Palestine.
  • Restore the National Guard as the centerpiece of our defense.
  • Ban use of drone aircraft for assassination, bombing, and other offensive purposes.
  • End the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, withdrawing troops and military contractors.
  • Join 159 other nations in signing the Ottawa treaty banning the use of anti-personnel land mines.
  • Lead on global nuclear disarmament:
  • Rejoin the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which the US dropped out of in 2002 when it installed missiles and missile bases in Turkey, Romania, and Poland.
  • Agree to Russia’s proposal to jointly reduce US and Russian nuclear arsenals to 1,000 nuclear weapons each. Also call for all countries to the table to negotiate a treaty for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons.
  • Remove US nuclear weapons in Germany, Belgium, Turkey, Italy and the Netherlands.
  •  Support Russia and China’s joint effort to open negotiations on a treaty to ban weapons in space.
  •  Pledge to end any further laboratory or sub-critical nuclear tests at the Nevada and Novaya Zemlya test sites, and end all nuclear weapons research, design, and modernization at the weapons laboratories.
  • The US must take the lead in nuclear disarmament by itself starting to disarm. We should create a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East region and require all nations in the area to join.

Empower the People: Fix our Broken Elections with Real Democracy

  • Eliminate the doctrine of corporate personhood that among other things has been used to justify unlimited corporate spending in elections with a constitutional amendment to clarify that only human beings have constitutional rights.
  • Enact electoral reforms that break the big money stranglehold and create truly representative democracy: full public election financing, ranked-choice voting, proportional representation, and open debates.
  • Protect voters’ rights by enforcing and expanding the constitutional right to vote (including a new amendment if necessary). Enact the full Voter’s Bill of Rights guaranteeing each person’s right to vote, the right to have our votes counted on hand-marked paper ballots, and the right to vote within systems that give each vote meaning. Make voter registration the responsibility of government, not a voluntary opt-in for citizens.
  • Restore Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, requiring preclearance by the Attorney General or federal district court of DC to election law changes in areas previously found to limit voting rights.
  • Abolish the Electoral College and directly elect the President using a national popular vote with ranked-choice voting..
  • Restore the right to run for office and eliminate unopposed races by removing ballot access barriers.
  • Guarantee equal access to the debates to all ballot-qualified candidates.
  • Provide equal and free access to the airways for all ballot-qualified candidates, not just those with big campaign war chests.
  • Eliminate “winner take all / first past the post” elections in which the “winner” may not have the support of most of the voters. Replace that system with ranked choice voting and proportional representation.
  • Enact statehood for the District of Columbia to ensure the region has full representation in Congress, and full powers of democratic self-rule.
  • Restore voting rights to offenders, including while in prison.
  • Replace partisan oversight of elections with non-partisan election commissions.
  • Reduce barriers to voting by making Election Day a national holiday.
  • Enact simplified, safe same-day voter registration to the nation so that no qualified voter is barred from the polls.
  • Protect local democracy by making clear that acts of Congress establish a floor, and not a ceiling, on laws relating to economic regulation, workers’ rights, human rights, and the environment.

A Humane Federal Budget with Fair Taxes

  • Increase government revenues for social needs by restoring full employment, cutting the bloated, dangerous military budget, and cutting private health insurance waste.
  • Require full disclosure of corporate subsidies in the budget and stop hiding subsidies in complicated tax code.
  • Rewrite the entire tax code to be truly progressive with tax cuts for working families, the poor and middle class, and higher taxes for the richest Americans.
  • Strengthen rather than cut Medicare and Social Security. Remove the cap on social security taxes above a certain level of income.
  • Maintain and upgrade our nation’s essential public infrastructure, including highways, railways, electrical grids, water systems, schools, libraries, and the Internet, resisting privatization or policy manipulation by for-profit interests.

Financial Reform

  • Establish federal, state, and municipal publicly-owned banks that function as non-profit utilities and focus on helping people, not enriching themselves.
  • Create a Corporation for Economic Democracy, a new federal corporation (like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting) to provide publicity, training, education, and direct financing for cooperative development and for democratic reforms to make government agencies, private associations, and business enterprises more participatory.
  • Democratize monetary policy to bring about public control of the money supply and credit creation. This means nationalizing the private bank-dominated Federal Reserve Banks and placing them under a Federal Monetary Authority within the Treasury Department.   Prohibit private banks from creating money, thus restoring government’s Constitutional authority.
  • Manage pension funds by boards controlled by workers, not corporate managers.
  • Regulate all financial derivatives and require them to be traded on open exchanges.
  • Restore the Glass-Steagall separation of depository commercial banks from speculative investment banks.

Housing   

  • Impose an immediate moratorium on foreclosures and evictions.
  • Offer capital grants to non-profit developers of affordable housing until all people can obtain decent housing at no more than 25% of their income.
  • Create a federal bank with local branches to take over homes with distressed mortgages, and either restructure the mortgages to affordable levels, or if the occupants cannot afford a mortgage, rent homes to the occupants.
  • Expand rental and home ownership assistance and increase funding for public housing.
  • Use Department of Housing and Urban Development authority to grant or withhold funds in order to encourage state and local governments to take positive steps to desegregate housing, including ending zoning laws that effectively prohibit multi-family housing, prohibiting landlords from refusing to accept Section 8 vouchers, increasing Section 8 voucher amounts so that poor people can move into middle income neighborhoods, prohibiting the use of Low Income Housing Tax Credits to increase low income housing in already segregated neighborhoods, and building new public housing in middle income communities that is high quality and mixed income.

We can build a better future together.

POEM: Zombie Apocalypse — Carry On

In habiting
That thin lyin’
Between living and undead
Pray and prey
Plodding for survival so chaste
Eerie reverence
For awe virtually unmoving
They’ve got
You’re numb-er
Too many to re-pulse
To take account of
De-sending from cubicles and proto-calls
Contracting art and sole
As-certain
As a ballad to ahead
Or souled heart for a song
Forging for a meal ticket
Having mist
The notice
Of the zombie apocalypse
Having all ready past buy
As things sow sterilized
And humanity’s fate sown up
In arms and sordid extremities
Have eaten
Half alive
Only too whither the storm
The moot in one’s eye
Of learned haplessness
And ever abating brains
Until getting the best of you
As present itself
As in genius solution
The just
Walk away
Hope realized as traveling light
And renouncing
Carrion

If a zombie apocalypse poem is particularly relevant for you on a Monday, then you may be suffering the blurring of your existence as living or undead.  The popularity of zombies in current culture strikes me as an apropos metaphor for the deep and abiding alienation present in much of everyday life.  Alienation is endemic in multiple spheres: alienation from our own humanity by being submersed in artificial and virtual realities; alienation from others by having life mediated by impersonal institutions and technologies; and alienation from nature and the natural world by working in cubicles, living in self-contained boxes, and traveling in mobile cages of steel, plastic, and rubber over rivers of petroleum byproducts.  Zombies seem to be the incarnation of our collective ennui and existential angst over our preternatural penchant for mistaking motion for progress and our banal disability in distinguishing between any vital life force and inanimate matter.  The titillating trepidation of slow, barely animated monsters overtaking us in our hurried existence gives freakish flesh to our fears.  The undead have some surreal power to overtake the caffeinated, if not sublimely discerning, protagonist humans slash food.  Their sheer number or inexplicable relentless hunger — fed by their will to unlive? — overwhelms any resort to our keen or ken.  We fatally mistake our presents as mere fuel or fodder saying chow to our humanity.   This helpless and hapless existence is, in fact, the fantasy, a projection of our fears, that inanimate forces haplessly set in motion are the ultimate arbiters of the human sphere.  Without resort to stale arguments about free will, human freedom and the like, I will only say that if the posers of zombie powers that be come to my door, I intend to say “Eat me!”

Carry on.

POEM: Corn Fed Politicians

We are surrounded
By corn fed politicians
Who don’t eat corn
But slaughter the herd
Fed only corn
In a round a bout weigh
In realty
And capitol punishment
Their hire power
Contracts executioners
To deal with every unwieldy beef
If one is to get to the bottom
Of their food chain
In locking up votes
With cheap gruel
And patronizing jobs
It is enough
To give you gas
But I’ll pass on
The magic
Of any half dozen
Of such human beans
So called
With their meat and greet
As giant he goes
Stalk, stalk, stalk
Chop, chop, chop
Nothing left to ax
Accept the sky falling
And the eminent crash
Hour only comfort
In the succor borne this minute
That they don’t know Jack
As we get out of
Dodge

Politicians make at least one thing easy; that is, to be cynical about politics.  This poem melds an ecological and vegetarian theme topped off with a Jack and the beanstalk climax.  Politicians often contract out their dirty work so they can maintain a veneer of respectability and civility.  Of course, they may be lazy-ass cowards too.  Radical politics often has two somewhat divergent strategies: 1) expose, confront, and bring down elitist and corrupt politicians and political systems, and 2) dodge the disastrous social consequences of power and money hungry politicians — along with nurturing humane and sustainable alternatives.  Mainstream politics is largely about securing specific interests, better crumbs from the flesh-eating politicians.  Usually its a lower level political crony handling the corn and crumb distribution.  The System Was Never Broken It Was BUILT That Way - POLITICAL BUTTONRadical politics is a more wholesale and holistic approach, recognizing that reforming a system that is fixed, not broken, needs to be fundamentally replaced.  Thus, there is plenty of work for all, bringing down corrupt systems and building up new sets of human relationships and community that serve all, not simply an elite.  Radicals are hold outs, rejecting the wholesale social contract that imprisons most people and holding out alternatives that can provide humane work and meaning for all.  Rather than simply hoping that we don’t crash or waiting for a crash, radical politics erodes the power and authority of dehumanizing systems as a way of life.  Please Pardon Our Peaceful Chaos As We Reboot Our Country's Operating System - OCCUPY WALL STREET POLITICAL BUTTONPlus, rather than simply trying to not be the next one to get the boot, radicals prepare for the reboot.  May you live your life in such a way that when the flesh-eating politicians come for you, you can happily retort, “Eat me!” — ever working for that day when we won’t be food again.

POEM: Speaking With Spoken Sword: Owed To Hungering Fore Anew ProMedica

The profit tiers
Some how a peer
To set the captives free
Going won after the other
Like mammon and famine
As to somehow heel the ravenous
As fiend and faux
As sow appetite for the pauper reproach
With such lack luster assurance
As hungering for
Corporate solutions
Like KoolAid™
For the poor
As food desserts
Like a cock tale
Wagging the dog
For mirrorly fucking bitches
The same owe same owe
As prophets of ode
Rapiers by daze
Templars buy eve
The paltry of knights
With chicken shit
Offering
A hundred and fifty bucks
Posing as dear
As if
Doing its doody
In sum fecund foundation
For just us
As financiers of poetic justice
And diets high in irony
For its undeserving marks
And omnipresent logos
As going in kitsch in sync
With awe that cannot be stomached
Paving roads with good attentions
In know name
Butt there own
Sitting a top the whirled
Of hell care
Reigning
Pennies from heaven
As coppers too familiar
To the indignant
And indigent
Of that speaking with spoken sword
Offering crumbs
Leading know where
Their droppings
As little balms
As met a sin
Requiring heart surgery
And prescribing
Take two aspirin
And call me in the mourning
And if that is not enough
Tact on
Take care
Your own
Busyness
Such self-determination
Only too be food agin
As so much on won’s plate
For what is whored
As up rightness
Only to be drug
By profits of owed
Living on exorbitant feeds
As the CEO my God
And the staff buy his side
Dis cuss policy
As their weighter
Serves there well fare
Wile others
Dine in the streets

Here is my decidedly unofficial entry in the ProMedica sponsored poetry competition so unintentionally named, “Revealing Hunger: Spoken (S)word.”  While it is the Big S poetry competition they are currently sponsoring, I’ll pass — though I’m quite sure it will be a gas.  ProMedica was sure to eventually reap the madness of my poetry, sow here it is.  ProMedica is always in the running for trying to coroner the market in buying good will to which it might be able to attach its moribund name.  Though the pathetic $150 price for a singular winning poem betrays how little they truly value good will and poetry.  If my words don’t speak well enough for me, then I invite ProMedica to eat me, should their hunger for justice suffer in digestion.

POEM: Halving No Interest

Wile a capital idea to sum
I halve no interest
In how you make a living
Rather
That which
Makes you
Come alive

I would dare say that most of life lost is in the chasm between making a living and doing that which makes you come alive.  I would even dare say that being distant from having to worry about basic needs — “having it made” — is a greater threat to coming alive than what life palpitates within us when we are connected to struggling for basic human needs.  This narrative runs counter to the liberal, artsy dream of not having to worry about money so you can be free to pursue “more important things,” presumably art as luxury rather than art as necessity.

The art of living is essentially doing that which makes you come alive.  This is where art is a necessary reflection of our overflowing aliveness, or, in less flowery language, art is a basic human need.  Art lives coequal with our basic material needs of food, shelter, health care, an environment free of violence and full of affection, and the long litany of human rights inalienable to humanity.  Art flowers in our connection to others and creation.  Revolutionary art serves as a critique of alienation and destruction, which often comes at the hands of money first — sometimes driving a cruel bargain for our humanity; more often offering a seductively easy price for our humanity.

Personally, my art is rooted in both the privileged experience of a first world nation and the surrounding larger reality of vast material deprivation more common than not on this planet we share.  I was literally born into this conundrum.  As a helpless baby, I was not helpless.  While I was born in Haiti, the poorest nation in the western hemisphere, I was not fated to live a life anything like the countless babies born within a stones throw.  I was born to well-educated, white Americans — a doctor and a nurse.  As a toddler, I would fly off in an airplane, already then cementing myself solidly within the experience of less than 1/20th of the world’s inhabitants.  My rant above is perhaps one of privileged hope.  I may never know for sure.  However, as I grow in my art of living, I find it much wiser and productive to root for humanity, not money.  The truth of any above assertions is probably best demonstrated by the fact that Haiti has the largest concentration of artists, predominantly painters, of any nation on earth.  Perhaps art is a necessity, not a luxury.

 

 

POEM: Reining In Global Warning

The economy was
Humming
Having change
Their tune
Given
The overabundance
Of hot water
And cell a-steam
Showering down
Hour earthly reign
In the scheme of things
In a call amity
Of biblical portions
They had everything
Save the earth
And after
Having one
Wore on the environment
Mother earth’s
Pursed lips
At the outpouring cache
A river bed
Tried to the bone
Of no use
Pointing fingers
As more than
Putting up
With money where mouth is
Re: tardily sane
As never too be
Ever food agin
Mouthing a mint
In perpetual bad taste
Sow un-full
Filling a void
That wee only have
Won planet
Wont of reign

Extinction Is ForeverYet another poem mourning the way we treat our beloved Mother Earth.  As global warning wrings out more lost species, extinct forever in the wake of our mindless consumption and heartless capitalism,  	 Only when the last tree has been felled, the last river poisoned and the last fish caught, man will know, that he cannot eat money. Cree Indian Prophecy quoteI am reminded wince again of the Cree Indian prophecy: “Only when the last tree has been felled, the last river poisoned and the last fish caught, man will know, that he cannot eat money.”  Can you help but ask weather when we put our money where our mouth is if it will be too late.  If mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy.  If mankind can’t let go of the crappy job he’s doing, mama will get unrule he   Let us not temp our mother.

POEM: A We Occupation

I get deeply cared away
Buy you being
On the same side as me
Conveniently not paying
A tension
To the under
Lying fact
That there is but
Won side
Which wee occupy

This short poem addresses a theme that underlies much of my poetry, that, in ultimate reality, we are one.  As Martin Luther King, Jr. so eloquently stated: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.  Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”  The ego, wed to its own independence, over and above interdependence, resists a shared destiny, routinely seeking to carve out its own apparent advantage over larger realities.  After experiencing one’s fair share of unpleasant events, and witnessing the sheer pervasiveness of such events in life, competing to rise above such a fray seems eminently natural — eat or be eaten, kill or be killed.  Only a deep humility and an unbound love for life can transform destruction of selves into self-realization.

Must life feed on life?  Of course, as one, what else could one feed upon?  As a literal example, our food comes from living beings.  Now, some meat-eaters employ this fact as a convenient rationalization that killing is normal, or at least a “necessary” evil, and lazily leap to a mode of thinking (and eating) where killing is of little consequence.  I see enlightenment of living beings gently resting on that thin line between eating and being eaten.  If life must feed on life, is there a way of feeding upon life that enhances life not diminish it?  I believe that life can get bigger or smaller, as a whole, and as a self within the whole.  How big or how small I’m not sure.  Nonetheless, that thin line, our consciousness, is where the expansion or contraction rests.  Is our consciousness, and conscientiousness, confined to our self, our family, our tribe, our species, our planet, or what?  Consciousness may very well be the heart of life itself.  In this case, increasing consciousness increases life and decreasing consciousness decreases life.

One construct of evil would be feeding on death, a level of (un)consciousness that does not recognize or share consciousness with other beings.  Evil consumes consciousness.  In a sense, what evil does share is unconsciousness or contracted consciousness.  Functioning with a shared unconsciousness reduces humans to mere billiard balls, a set, albeit complex set, of cause and effect relationships guided by causes (including others’ wills) outside our self.  In essence, “choosing” unconsciousness or declining to expand consciousness takes us out of the game (the game being enhancing consciousness, life).  Contracted consciousness is a set of relationships (a “contract”) created and maintained by our wills, consciously chosen.  It is these contracts that form the substance and style of our culture, ethical debates, and political fights.  Still, consciousness, and its creative existential force, the will, lies outside any particular set of relationships (material conditions) that can be chosen.  Expanding consciousness will necessarily run into this awareness, that any particular culture, set of social conditions, or ideology, cannot control our conscious free will.  The seemingly obvious exception to this is death, or more specifically, killing, presumably ending conscious free will.  Justified killing is included in most contracts among humans today.  What this often overlooks is that killing particular expressions of conscious free will does not eliminate conscious free will; most bluntly illustrated by the fact that this would require suicide (thus, the fascination of murder-suicide by existentialist writers).  No doubt, killing is a very blunt way of trying to reign in conscious free will.  Of course, many contracted belief systems include an afterlife, the survival of conscious free will.  If this is true, this radically alters the effectiveness of killing.  Unfortunately, sometimes the belief in an afterlife, rather than simply leading to bold living, serves in the rationalization of killing (e.g., “kill them all and let God sort them out”).

Conjoining our consciousnesses seems best served by the most profound precept: love your enemies.  That which is not you — or more aptly put, that which you do not want to be you — must be both transcended and entered into.  Each of us and all of us are best served by manifesting the courage to confront and reconcile both our own inner dark side and the darkness manifest in others.  Back to the eat or be eaten metaphor, the question is begged: what if you were the pray.  The more gently profound precept, have compassion on all living beings, spurs us to walk in another’s shoes and no what it is like for shoeless souls laid bare to the world.  May we all be grounded, and laid to rest, with such compassionate and conscious living.  I deeply appreciate the Zen story of the man encountering another man somewhat boasting in tales about his great relationship and love of animals, to which he interjects, “A fish once saved my life.”  The boaster’s curiosity was peaked to hear such a tale.  To which he was told: “Once I was lost in the woods and perilously hungry.  I found a fish in the stream, and I ate him.”  This signature Zen approach is transcendentally funny and, not coincidentally, enlightening.   He deflated pomposity.  Lauded the fish which saved his life.  Plus, he outflanked even the most compassionate ideology, witnessing to the mystery of mysteries needed to instill life into any chosen ideology.  The Christian take on dietary ideologies is less clever but makes a similar point: “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” (Matthew 15:11)

All great philosophies and the mysticism at the heart of all religions recognizes the irreducible, creative freedom present in humans.  The mystery of creation parallels the making of humans in God’s image as co-creators, romping around the created universe.  Creation focuses on the will, the power present in human consciousness, and presumably God’s consciousness.  However, consciousness is the prerequisite to experience itself, whereby meaning arises, even made possible. Consciousness gives rise to (the experience of) the other, the myriad of things, including our body and mind.  Consciousness, sometimes called “The third eye,” is the seat of all seeing, even able to see our mind from a vantage point other than the mind itself, the true “I.”  Consciousness enlivens existence with experience and we can meaningfully participate in the myriad of things (the created world) through our will.  I strongly suspect that the foundational importance of relationships, sharing, and creation spring out of the nature of God.  As I see it, God consciousness and will give rise (create) to the other so it can share the experience of an other.  Maybe God just got tired of self-consciousness (see my poem: An Answer to the Problem of Evil, which is much more playful than the weighty title might connote).  Giving/creating seems to be the foundational nature of sharing present in enlightened beings, which cements the centrality of relationships among others.  I am struck by the tripartite truth of consciousness of self, the palpable created reality in which we experience, and the irascibly creative will from which we add our own touches.  Granted, I may be touched.  Still, there is a spirit within me that will not rest until our created reality is won size fits awe.

 

POEM: A Royal Buzzkill

Bee
The change
That you wish
In the whirled
Too see
O Mother Earth
Undertaking
Men o’ pause
In-fertility rite
As nature fecund wanes
A roil buzzkill
Soon with death teeming
Wear is thy sting
Extincting that human race
Soully certifiable reproductions
Unfit as a specious
Forerunners to know end
Yet today, this solitary caged bird sings
Like a canary
In a cold mine
With its deadly presents
Colorless and odious executioner
The lynch pin of anonymous hoods
Haunting all
That which is called “natural”
Sow fumes miasma
Till hour last breath

This poem is another mournful environmental poem, with the steady decline of bees as the proverbial canary in the coal mine for the deathly threat to the ecology of the earth.  Of course, the stoic denial and fatalism of human-induced climate change through fossil fuel consumption reaps a Mother Earth whose only defense may be to open a Pandora’s box capable of “naturally” selecting the human race from an internal combustion race to a mere foot race, where humans are no longer large enough scale to crash the entire planet’s ecological system.  If we don’t change course and evolve into an ecologically-sustainable species, we will be devolved into a much less dominant species.  Whether this would represent an evolution or devolution would have to be reflected upon by many fewer homo sapiens.

While we as a species are still living high on the fumes of burning fossil fuels, the buzzkill of bee genocide may lead the way to the end of agriculture as we know it, and the end of human culture as we know it.  Our unchecked industrialism, fueled by the burning of carbon-based energy forms, may very well lead to our checking out as the predominant species on earth.  Could this bee the end of the world? as so aptly asked in an article of the same title (with a now extinct link!):

Albert Einstein once said: “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man would only have four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”

Einstein wasn’t an insect expert but he had a point. The humble honeybee is an integral part of the global ecosystem. Honey is just one aspect of what this entomological wonder does. As a pollinator it ensures crops reproduce, so although a world without honey would be a poorer place, man would survive. But without plants, we’d become extinct.

…On a global scale, it is estimated a third of the food we eat is pollinated by bees…

…The introduction to the 2010 UNEP [United Nations Environment Programme] report into global bee colony disorders puts the insects’ plight in context. It states, “Current evidence demonstrates that a sixth major extinction of biological diversity event is under way. The Earth is losing between 1 and 10 per cent of biodiversity per decade, mostly due to habitat loss, pest invasion, pollution, over-harvesting and disease.” It asked, “Has a ‘pollinator crisis’ really been occurring during recent decades, or are these concerns just another sign of global biodiversity decline?”

Unchecked domination is not the nature of nature.  Either homo sapiens will learn to live in harmony with nature as a whole, or our ability to dominate will be cut down to scale.  As throughout countless generations, we are faced with choosing harmony or destruction.  Nature has patiently endured our penchant for destruction.  Nature cannot be violated forever.  Nature’s feedback is gentle and generous.  Only fools destroy the hand that feeds them.  Will we be fools in the largesse weigh?

POEM: Bee The Sting

As in nature
I did stir
A kamikaze threesome
Of yellow-jackets
Making their presents known
Too me
Wherever egos
Joined by white-coats
Hopefully not fallowing me
As will bee
Or not to be
And little
Did they no
I would swell
With more than pride
At their deathly pricks
And the shock to come
Working best under
Lo pressure
A life long
Pursue it
A pin cushion
Buy day and night
Nature’s suicide cheated
Yet feeling
Thy sting
Eventually in choir
Sew what?

This poem is autobiographical, inspired by a bee sting, actually three yellow-jacket stings, that I got a couple of days ago.  Such a tale is made dramatic as I am allergic to bee stings, and without quick treatment I would be dead.  I was tearing out English ivy from my front yard bed when I felt three stings in rapid succession, probably within 5 seconds, before I even saw the attacking insects whose nest in the ground I had apparently disturbed.  At least one yellow-jacket followed me as I went into the house.  I had to deliberately maneuver to prevent it from following me into the house.

Fortunately, just two days earlier, I had picked up my epi-pen (to inject epinephrine/adrenalin) from the pharmacy.  Unfortunately, I had it sitting on the couch where I had planned to read the instructions at my leisure —  I had not (read, I had sufficient leisure).  Unfortunately, I was not entirely sure whether it was better to read the instructions and self-inject or seek emergency room treatment forthwith.  Being only five minutes from St. Vincent’s Medical Medical Center emergency room, I chose to race off to the ER.   I grabbed my epi-pen just in case things took a turn for the worse on the way. Fortunately, I was not experiencing any significant symptoms yet.  A yellowjacket chased me out to my car, and again I quickly maneuvered to keep it out of my car.

As I sped to the ER I could feel my hands tingling and getting itchy.  When I got to the emergency room, there was no intake person at the front desk.  She was at another desk taking down information from another patient.  I tapped the prescription box containing my epi-pen on the counter to get her attention and announced that I had been stung by bees several times, that I was allergic to bee stings, and that I would soon be going into shock.  She stated that she would need to collect my personal information first. I deftly and quite accurately tossed my prescription box to her and I said that it should contain the pertinent information.  She equally deftly caught the box — perhaps she was well-experienced with such procedures.  Fortunately, I had seen my new primary care physician within the last week or so, so my current information would be readily available on the computer.  I then carefully laid down in front of the reception desk as I had passed out in the ER the last time I was in this same ER for a bee sting reaction, and I did not want to add any injury to insult.  She asked why I was laying on the floor and I explained to her.  She said that they would get me in a wheelchair.  I said that I would get off the floor when I got a wheelchair.  She seemed discomforted by my lying on the floor.  I comforted her by saying that I am sure that their floors were clean enough for me to pass out on them.  By this time, I noticed that little white welts were forming on my arms and legs.  My whole body was flush and my heart was racing.  Given the circumstances, I think that I was rather calm; though I don’t think I was perceived as being the most patient patient.  I was not entirely convinced that the emergency room was necessarily best geared up for emergencies.  This was also based on my previous experience with a bee sting reaction in the same emergency room where they made me sit in the waiting room waiting for medical triage.  In this experience, as the shock took hold, I indicated to the intake person that I was getting light headed.  The next thing I remember I was being lifted onto a gurney, as I had passed out and slumped off my chair to the floor.  Fortunately, this did not add any additional injury; though I did take some insult in this.  The doctor later told me that she feared I had stopped breathing, which apparently moves you up the triage priority list real fast!  Later, I would half-joke that I would fake passing out in order to get seen more quickly.  Lying on the floor with full lucidity was my real-life compromise, given that this was no joking matter.

Okay, back to the situation at hand.  I started to feel pressure around my ears as the swelling and welts continued to bloom.  After a few minutes, a man came to me and asked me what I was doing on the floor.  I explained it to him.  He said that they did not have a wheelchair available, and he asked me to stand up.  I stood up and walked with him to the intake room, sat down in a chair next to a computer, and I started answering questions. He clacked away on the keyboard in what seemed to me a rather routine way.  After measuring my heart rate at 166 beats per minute (about what my heart rate would be if I was running full speed), his sense of urgency seemed to pick up.  He made a call.  Another person came and walked me to an exam/treatment room.  He left me there alone and said that someone would be there soon.  I couldn’t help but wonder how long.  I laid down on the exam table and waited for a couple minutes, though they seemed like very long minutes to me.  At this point, there we so many welts on my arms, legs, and body that they were beginning to merge into essentially one large metropolis of welts for each section of my body..

When a nurse arrived in the exam room, she started asking questions and attaching me to a blood pressure cuff, oxygenation sensor and EKG leads.  Then, a doctor arrived, asked some more questions (plus some of the same), and did some physical exams.  The nurse inserted an IV and the doctor ordered epinephrine.  I noted that the dose they gave me was identical to the dose in my epi-pen.  [They explained later that one should always inject the epi-pen immediately after an offending insect sting.  I know that now.  The nurse later offered to show me how to use the epi-pen and was confused by a different design than with what she had experience — apparently, a new technological, perhaps technical-illogical, innovation sometimes called progress.]  I couldn’t help but laugh at the absurdity of the front desk person coming in amidst all of this and having me sign their consent to treatment form.  Was their any expectation that I would read this legal document then and there?!   Perhaps my (im)patient antics to that point, as well as not refusing the ongoing treatment, constituted a legal definition of desire/consent for treatment, but the lawyers must have their way.  My only comfort in that absurdity is that the crooked, illegible, left-handed signature on the form will not likely garner the highest price on eBay upon my postmortem celebrity value.

They sat me up and gave me an oral dose of prednisone, a steroid to bring down the swelling.  Even with the fast-acting epinephrine in me, my reaction got progressively worse.  My face was swollen and numb, feeling something akin to that experience after dental anesthesia.  While I had no difficulty breathing, I did have substantial discomfort like gastric reflux pain at the base of the esophagus.  The doctor indicated that my abnormal EKG could be an indication of a small heart attack, though he did not state any connection to my “esophageal” pain.  I did remember all those ads for not mistaking a heart attack for mere indigestion.

At the height, or perhaps depth, of my reaction, my EKG went abnormal and my blood pressure was 56/30 (normal is 120/80).  The doctor said that the abnormal EKG reading might indicate a lack of oxygenation to the heart.  They were quite stunned and concerned with this extremely low blood pressure.  They were perhaps even more stunned that I was still conscious!  To provide additional motivation, I informed them that I am much more fun when I am alive.  Fortunately, my sense of humor was largely intact.  I was on the edge of consciousness/unconsciousness for perhaps five minutes or so, as they tilted the exam table feet up and inserted another IV for additional medication(s).  I definitely had a heightened concern during this time as I strongly prefer my unconsciousness to be long bouts of normal sleep.  While I meditated on the thought of my potential death for a few moments, I had a fairly high confidence that I was in good enough hands to keep me alive, if perhaps not conscious.  While getting the attention of a team of emergency room professionals may take some time, once you’ve got their full attention, they are quite capable. Fortunately, my EKG was normal within five minutes after the abnormal reading, and my blood pressure started to normalize.  The “emergency” had climaxed, and I was about to move into the chronic patient hood.

As I was recovering in the ER, the doctor explained that he would like to admit me to the hospital so they could quickly get a cardiologist consult in-hospital, who would likely order and conduct a cardiac stress test that next day.  They had already tested immediately for blood enzymes that would indicate a heart attack, which proved negative (which is good).  They did the same test again after two hours, which was again negative.  Still, the doctor explained that it could take 24 hours for the enzymes released from a damaged heart to show up on this blood test, and he wanted to repeat this test every six hours.  I inquired as to whether my state of anaphylactic shock might, in fact, be an “informal” cardiac stress test, and that an abnormal EKG under such conditions might actually be quite normal.  He said that could be the case, but that they like to have controlled conditions to interpret cardiac stress reactions.  The alternative would be to see my primary care physician, get a referral to a cardiologist, who would order a cardiac stress test if so desired.  Of course, this would all likely take several weeks.  I consented to being admitted, partly because of the simplicity and alleged speed of the process, but also because on the observation ward I might get better management and discharge planning for the allergic reaction which would take many days to treat and get back to normal.  I consented to being admitted to the hospital.

After about a total of five hours in the emergency room, I was admitted to the observation ward of the hospital.  It was almost 7 pm.  The nurse speedily did the appropriate intake just before the 7 pm shift change, put me in the one-size-fits-none hospital gown, hooked me up to monitors and various gadgets, and we were off.  To make another long story shorter, I could have managed my post-sting allergic reaction — the blooming of welts and itching — better at home.  As is well-known, sleeping well in a hospital is a lost cause.  For example, I wrote the above poem after being woke up by the phlebotomist at 3 am to take my blood and during the ensuing a 2-1/2 hour ordeal to get two over-the-counter pills (Benadryl), one at a time, to control my blooming welts and itchiness.

I was under an NPO order, which means you can’t eat or drink anything, due to potential testing needed the next day.  So, I was poorly rested and without food or water while waiting.  As I like to say: a hospital is no place for sick people!  Instead of the cardiology consult happening in the morning as they stated as their prediction, I didn’t see the cardiologist until after 2 pm and some uncertainty as to whether the order for the consult was put in.  This consult lasted less than 10 minutes, basically asking me if I had any heart difficulties when I exercise — of which I do not. He matter-of-factually confirmed that an abnormal EKG reading when in anaphylactic shock is quite normal, even expected. He still recommended a stress test but kind of laughed when I asked if they were going to do it that day.  I did manage to get out of there by 5 pm, even getting a meal in the hours waiting for discharge.

Fortunately, I have medical insurance, unlike in my previous hospitalization for a bee sting (when I learned the hard way that I was allergic to such insect venom).  I am curious to see the bill.  Nonetheless, I served society well as a job creator.  Plus, I am deeply grateful to live to see another day!  May we all cheat death occasionally and be patient with the annoying details…

POEM: The Meaning of Vex Lex

In a universe beyond apprehension
She caught herself
Vexing once again
Is there meaning?
Looking above
The stars just winked
Looking below
The grass said
“How can you stand it?”
Looking forward
Her next meal said
“Eat me.”
Looking back
She grasped so many broken peaces
Looking in
She divined an unfathomable whole
On her look out
Giving weigh
Too eternal vigilantes
Buy passing awe
The enduring
Rejoined her
Instead fast
As kin
Neighboring on
Know ledge
And good will
In solid-air-ity
Surfing
With lonely
A stout bored
For a pair a docks
To weigh anchor
In what was meant
For sailing
Weather a loan
Or going on and on
Con currently
Now and again
Making head weigh
When put to see
Awe to gather

This poem was inspired by a facebook post asking, “Is it the human curse to be constantly seeking meaning in life when there really isn’t any?”  This poem is for you, Polly, and all of angst-ridden humanity.  Of course, looking for ultimate meaning on facebook may be analogous to looking for love in all the wrong places.  Joking aside, I feel the existential pain of such questioning.  My conservative Christian college roommate warned that I shouldn’t take the philosophy course: Existentialism.  In a display of prudent Calvinistic theology, he said this is a place you shouldn’t go.  I was raised to question and explore.  One surefire way to raise my curiosity is to say you shouldn’t go there!  Banned books should probably well populate our reading list.  I never seriously questioned not taking the class.  Existentialism, nihilism, and the oft-elusive quest for meaning are frequent themes in my poetry and associated rants.  I would never say to not go there.  I would suggest that you not build a home there.  The profound freedom expounded upon by existential philosophers bids us travel widely and put scarce stock in a cozy number of questions or answers.

Rather than giving another pages-long rant on existentialism, or an extensive apologetic on meaning, I will let my poem due most of the work.  I will point out that I find some humor in this most serious of questions.  This poem launches with a series of anthropomorphisms, the stars, the grass, even your next meal, begging some equal standing with you to answer your question.  This is meant to be funny in multiple ways.  I find funniness a particularly good antidote to excessive seriousness.  However, for you philosophical types, projecting human qualities onto inanimate or “less animate” nature is often a first line of critique on the question of God.  I would agree that limiting your search for the supernatural in nature is setting the bar too low.  The mismatch in the adequacy of question to answer makes for a laughable pair of foolishnesses: looking to dirt to enlighten us and considering ourselves to be just dirt (albeit very complicated dirt).

Surely, we can fill a lifetime with learning about nature and its wonders, but we should look up the proverbial food chain rather than down it to find higher meaning.  Or, at a minimum, we should focus on the apparently most evolved life on earth, human beings.  If by happenstance humans are the most evolved conscious beings in our known universe, are we reduced to permutations of cannibalism, or is there some higher power to nourish us?  I find the metaphor of cannibalism as quite apt, since the first monarch of existentialist philosophers, John Paul Sartre, spoke forcefully and eloquently about two subjects never being able to connect, forever trapped in alternately being a subject and making the other an object, then being reduced to an object by the other.  Of course, any philosopher that claims that two subjects can never connect as subjects, besides permanently disabling human relationships, certainly precludes any human-God relationship (subject-Subject).   It is worth noting that later existentialist philosophers claimed that subjects can actually connect without reducing the other subject to a mere object.  Not to get caught in intractable discussions of God, it will suffice to say that I believe this, that subjects can connect with one another.  First, this recognizes that human relationships are the everyday stuff of subjective beings living out their nature.  This seems to imply that human community is foundational for human fulfillment.  More provocatively, this opens up the possibility, dare I say hope, that we can connect with some higher power (Subject) to facilitate our spiritual evolution and find greater meaning than that which can be deduced from mere facts/objects of the physical world/nature (or intuited from individual human subjects).

You may note that I consider subjects/subjectivity in the realm of the supernatural, transcending the natural (not negating it).  As confirmed by quantum physics, observers (subjects) influence and change the natural world without any evident contradictions in the deterministic aspects of the scientific world.  In short, at least some form of transcendence of the merely physical/deterministic world is allowed; in fact, necessary to account for quantum physical evidence.  Of course, this brings us full circle to where we began, leaving open the question of the nature of the indeterminate (e.g., free will) and determinate (e.g., physical) aspects of reality.  Basically, the accepted convention of modern science is that the indeterminate has no nature, which is represented by the concept of “randomness.”  Randomness is an indispensable component of the current understanding of Darwin’s evolution of species.  A relationship with nothing is necessary to stir up possibilities allowing for new configurations of life-forms [I don’t think that it was an accident that Sartre’s foundational work was titled, Being and Nothingness].  If evolution was fully determined then some form of God as a first cause with a specific nature would be necessary, and there could only be one outcome, the present reality.  I think this sort of view is rightly rejected as a poor representation of life as experienced and as any notion of God.  However comfortable you feel with the notion of randomness, evolution, as presently expounded, does a masterful job of explaining the origin of species.  However, evolution is silent, even impotent (which is key in any theory so thoroughly wrapped up in reproduction), in accounting for the origin of life itself.  This concept of randomness strikes me at least as problematic as assuming that there is any nature within the realm of indeterminacy.  While the concept of something coming from nothing has often been used to mock those of a spiritual inclination, this is an essential conundrum of modern physics, both in quantum indeterminacy and in a unifying theory for quantum physics, Newtonian physics, and the theory of general relativity which applies to astronomical scales.  The assumption that all truth lies within reductionistic science has been disproved by Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem, which is a mathematical proof that there are always predicates (true statements or facts) that lie outside any possible mathematical or rational system.  Those positing some form of metaphysics (spirituality) simply claim that there is some nature outside of facts and truths that can be ascertained by reductionistic science and assembled into any rational system.  Further, many claim that we can ascertain truths about the nature of reality through subjective experience, not fully verifiable by science.  This connection to other subjective/indeterminate realities can bring about a fuller understanding of reality.  In such ethereal undertakings, I seek in solidarity with others to incarnate such realities in our lives, thus making our lives fuller, more congruent with reality.

I posit that life itself encompasses the subjective, and that there is a nature to nature, a nature that transcends and lovingly gives birth to countless wonders.  Transcendent.  Loving.  Giving birth.  Wonder full.  This is the God I seek.  We need not leap from essential uncertainty to an abyss of meaninglessness.  We need not build arbitrary prisons to some cruel god of logic, while others walk and explore a world brimming with life and meaning.  Nor do we shrink from visiting those in the darkest of places, for even God overflows there.  I seek to worship a God that cannot fit in any box anyone can construct.  I leave such gods to the dustbin. The present is evident, even if the future is not.  Life is a gift.  Pass it on.  This is the nature of life.

For those of you who waded through my rantings, or those who were wise enough to read the last paragraph first, you are now titled to learn the meaning of vex lex.  Vex lex is a takeoff on rex lex, which means “Law is king.”  Vex, of course, means to distress or bother.  Thus, vex lex means to be distressed or bothered by the prospect of law ruling our lives as our ultimate authority.  Most of us recognize that legalism often strangles life.  The law can be government or any system of thought (ideology).  We are born to be free.  Our room to grow is unending…which can be vexing.  Game on!

 

 

POEM: My Brand of Value

My brand value
Has plummeted recently
So says sum consultant
As some seer into my pristine hide
Speaking a bout
Clashing symbols
In the mark it place
Some limbic game how logo
Soliciting every thing
That can be taut
As I must be
Scarred for good
Pimping my horrors
To a void
Tear attacks
Or fiscal fits
In a world lackeying so much
I’ll pass
Perhaps in tact
Or knot out live
Still
Forever chaste
Know thanks
I do believe
I’ll steer clear
Of dis figure or dat figure
And risk being
De-filed

In order to sell ourselves for a high price, we need to pay homage to our brand.  We often need to distort and simplify our deepest passions and interests so others can easily recognize our “value,” that is as such value may be determined at any given time and culture.  In the marketplace of our modern world, this typically means configuring our lives to maximally monetize ourselves.  Reducing our lives to money is a dangerous undertaking for our humanity.  This poem takes issue with the assumption that we should spend much of our life trying to sell ourselves.  What exactly would be a good balance?  Perhaps 15% slave, 15% whore, and 70% free range human would be a good compromise.  After meeting our basic physical needs, it strikes me that we should be devoting ourselves to the things that money can’t buy.  Even meeting our basic human needs can be much more human than often offered by modern, so-called civilization.  In fact, if we can trade, have mutual aid associations, grow some of our own food, build or repair our own stuff, we can loosen the grip that the moneychangers have over life, trading currency for the gloriously ineffable now.  Humans are not machines to be ever more standardized, even in the most complex and beauteous contraptions.  Rather than leveraging the seductive, money-making enterprise of simplifying and reducing humans to means to some financialized end, we should develop human relationships that harness the curiosity and appreciation of the unfathomably deep eccentricity and beauty of every human being.  Then, we can move from boredom and cynicism to enthusiasm and bounteous hopes.  This glorious movement from the bowels of an uncaring machine to a feral existence may be messy, even pricey.  Nonetheless, the value of living undomesticated lives is boundless, offering more than any mechanized existence, no matter how tamed, how well-trained, or how profitable.  Branding is not for the benefit of cattle or humans, and it is painful and scarring to boot!  Branding is for the ease of those who want to own and trade you and every commodifiable aspect of your existence, rather than taking the glorious time and robust effort to see you fully for who you truly are, worthy of avoiding all mean ends, and courageous enough to face being de-filed.

POEM: Throwing Up Her Arms in Disgust

She threw up her arms in disgust
He said that she might want to stick to finger food

This short, funny poem is a good case study into how my twisted mind works. First, I am not often put off by gruesome whimsy. Whimsy typically wins. Smiles trump frowns. Groans are not necessarily to be avoided.

This poem was spurred by witnessing someone putting her arms in the air with mild frustration. My dramatic flair and habitual scanning for multiple meanings did the rest. Throwing up is, of coarse, a classical crowd pleaser in elementary humor. Following the inescapable logic of throwing up one’s arms led to the sensible call for moderation, thus the suggestion of sticking to finger foods. If in this small digest, you don’t find justification for such a poem, please remember that it wasn’t me who bit off more than they could chew…